Senator Allan, Mr. Frost and Gentlemen,
If I say that I am overwhelmed by this wonderful surprise which you have prepared for me, I am but faintly expressing the truth. I wish that I could tell you all that is in my heart, but at least please let me assure you that this mark of spontaneous warm friendship is and ever will be very, very precious to me - and to my husband and my children, and may I add - to our mothers too.
As to the splendid gift itself, you could not possibly have chosen anything which we would have valued more - for this collection of works of art, beautiful in themselves, could not but have a special value to me as being the handiwork of a number of those Canadian women workers with whom I have so many cherished associations of affectionate sympathy and mutual co-operation for common aims and common work. But apart from this, the places and subjects depicted will be a constant living memory of the surroundings intimately connected with those various Canadian homes which have become so dear to us - As we look at these pictures and call on our guests to admire them at our high festivals, our thoughts will fondly travel again to the great Dominion, and will wander from East to West, fondly lingering on remembrances brought afresh to our minds by scenes from city and country life alike.
Again we shall hear the sweet notes of the Canadian robin and blue bird heralding the spring in the woods of Rideau Hall - we shall hear the whirr of the wild geese sweeping over our lovely British Columbia lakes and mountains, and again our sportsmen will be pursuing the canny brown prairie chicken across their vast domains. His Excellency will once more find himself landing a salmon on the Restigouche and our children will be loading their boats with spoils from the water of the Pacific or the Atlantic. How often shall we long for the exhilaration of a toboggan slide on a brilliant Canadian winters' day! How we shall listen for the splash of the paddle as the canoe glides up a stately river amidst sunshine and beauty! And now we shall be speeding over the myriad-hued prairies and anon we shall find ourselves in deep woods amidst the haunts of the wild flowers, whose loveliness we see delineated before us!
But after all, was it kind of you to give us such vivid pictures of scenes which have grown so closely around our hearts and from which we must be severed? I can scarcely answer that now. I will tell you better when you come and see us over there, as I hope you will from time to time, in that old country to which I trust we shall return stronger and better fitted for duties new and old, because of what we have learnt here.
Our time here has been a very rich chapter in our lives and its very richness must cause us many heart pangs as we turn over the last page.
I have spoken of the voices of forest and prairie, of river, lake and mountain, which will haunt us in our Scottish home, but there will be a deeper undertone of voices speaking of the human love, friendship, of the generous confidence and encouragement which has allowed us to come so near the heart and inner life of this country. Those voices will form the choir invisible which will make the truest music in our souls as we think of Canada - and of all that that one word means to us - and of all that we pray that it will mean more and more to the world.
Gentlemen, I wish that I could convey personally to every one of the Members of the Senate and House of Commons who have combined in this conspiracy some adequate expression of my grateful thanks - I wish there were opportunities of seeing much more of you each and all. But it cannot be - but please believe that I am only saying what I feel when I say that you have strengthened and beautified my whole life by your action this day.
May I say God bless you, my friends.
(A copy of this reply is found in the presentation book given to the Countess of Aberdeen, 1898.)