List Of Contents | Contents of Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie
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obliged to you to give them to me,' I should then acknowledge you as
a common beggar, and treat you accordingly; give or not give, as it
suited my convenience. But in the way in which you obtain these
articles from me, you are spared even a debt of gratitude; for you
well know that the many things which you have borrowed from me will
be a debt owing to the Day of Judgment."

"S'pose they are," quoth Betty, not in the least abashed at my
lecture on honesty, "you know what the Scripture saith, 'It is
more blessed to give than to receive.'"

"Ay, there is an answer to that in the same book, which doubtless
you may have heard," said I, disgusted with her hypocrisy, "'The
wicked borroweth, and payeth not again.'"

Never shall I forget the furious passion into which this too apt
quotation threw my unprincipled applicant. She lifted up her voice
and cursed me, using some of the big oaths temporarily discarded for
conscience sake. And so she left me, and I never looked upon her
face again.

When I removed to our own house, the history of which, and its
former owner, I will give by-and-by, we had a bony, red-headed,
ruffianly American squatter, who had "left his country for his
country's good," for an opposite neighbour. I had scarcely time
to put my house in order before his family commenced borrowing,
or stealing from me. It is even worse than stealing, the things
procured from you being obtained on false pretences--adding lying
to theft. Not having either an oven or a cooking stove, which at
that period were not so cheap or so common as they are now, I had
provided myself with a large bake-kettle as a substitute. In this
kettle we always cooked hot cakes for breakfast, preferring that to
the trouble of thawing the frozen bread. This man's wife was in the
habit of sending over for my kettle whenever she wanted to bake,
which, as she had a large family, happened nearly every day, and
I found her importunity a great nuisance.

I told the impudent lad so, who was generally sent for it; and asked
him what they did to bake their bread before I came.

"I guess we had to eat cakes in the pan; but now we can borrow this
kettle of your'n, mother can fix bread."

I told him that he could have the kettle this time; but I must
decline letting his mother have it in future, for I wanted it for
the same purpose.

The next day passed over. The night was intensely cold, and I did
not rise so early as usual in the morning. My servant was away at a
quilting bee, and we were still in bed, when I heard the latch of
the kitchen-door lifted up, and a step crossed the floor. I jumped
out of bed, and began to dress as fast as I could, when Philander
called out, in his well-known nasal twang--

"Missus! I'm come for the kettle."

I (through the partition ): "You can't have it this morning. We
cannot get our breakfast without it."

Philander: "Nor more can the old woman to hum," and, snatching up
the kettle, which had been left to warm on the hearth, he rushed out
of the house, singing, at the top of his voice--

"Hurrah for the Yankee Boys!"

When James came home for his breakfast, I sent him across to demand
the kettle, and the dame very coolly told him that when she had done
with it I MIGHT have it, but she defied him to take it out of her
house with her bread in it.

One word more about this lad, Philander, before we part with him.
Without the least intimation that his company would be agreeable,
or even tolerated, he favoured us with it at all hours of the day,
opening the door and walking in and out whenever he felt inclined.
I had given him many broad hints that his presence was not required,
but he paid not the slightest attention to what I said. One morning
he marched in with his hat on, and threw himself down in the
rocking-chair, just as I was going to dress my baby.

"Philander, I want to attend to the child; I cannot do it with you
here. Will you oblige me by going into the kitchen?"

No answer. He seldom spoke during these visits, but wandered about
the room, turning over our books and papers, looking at and handling
everything. Nay, I have even known him to take a lid off from the
pot on the fire, to examine its contents.

I repeated my request.

Philander: "Well, I guess I shan't hurt the young 'un. You can
dress her."

I: "But not with you here."

Philander: "Why not? WE never do anything that we are ashamed of."

I: "So it seems. But I want to sweep the room--you had better get
out of the dust."

I took the broom from the corner, and began to sweep; still my
visitor did not stir. The dust rose in clouds; he rubbed his eyes,
and moved a little nearer to the door. Another sweep, and, to escape
its inflictions, he mounted the threshold. I had him now at a fair
advantage, and fairly swept him out, and shut the door in his face.

Philander (looking through the window ): "Well, I guess you did me
then; but 'tis deuced hard to outwit a Yankee."

This freed me from his company, and he, too, never repeated his
visit; so I found by experience, that once smartly rebuked, they did
not like to try their strength with you a second time.

When a sufficient time had elapsed for the drying of my twenty
bushels of apples, I sent a Cornish lad, in our employ, to Betty
Fye's, to inquire if they were ready, and when I should send the
cart for them.

Dan returned with a yellow, smoke-dried string of pieces, dangling
from his arm. Thinking that these were a specimen of the whole, I
inquired when we were to send the barrel for the rest.

"Lord, ma'am, this is all there be."

"Impossible! All out of twenty bushels of apples!"

"Yes," said the boy, with a grin. "The old witch told me that this
was all that was left of your share; that when they were fixed
enough, she put them under her bed for safety, and the mice and the
children had eaten them all up but this string."

This ended my dealings with Betty Fye.

I had another incorrigible borrower in the person of old Betty B---.
This Betty was unlike the rest of my Yankee borrowers; she was
handsome in her person, and remarkably civil, and she asked for the
loan of everything in such a frank, pleasant manner, that for some
time I hardly knew how to refuse her. After I had been a loser to a
considerable extent, and declined lending her any more, she
refrained from coming to the house herself, but sent in her name the
most beautiful boy in the world; a perfect cherub, with regular
features, blue, smiling eyes, rosy cheeks, and lovely curling auburn
hair, who said, in the softest tones imaginable, that mammy had sent
him, with her compliments, to the English lady to ask the loan of a
little sugar or tea. I could easily have refused the mother, but I
could not find it in my heart to say nay to her sweet boy.

There was something original about Betty B---, and I must give a
slight sketch of her.

She lived in a lone shanty in the woods, which had been erected by
lumberers some years before, and which was destitute of a single
acre of clearing; yet Betty had plenty of potatoes, without the
trouble of planting, or the expense of buying; she never kept a cow,
yet she sold butter and milk; but she had a fashion, and it proved a
convenient one to her, of making pets of the cattle of her
neighbours. If our cows strayed from their pastures, they were
always found near Betty's shanty, for she regularly supplied them
with salt, which formed a sort of bond of union between them; and,
in return for these little attentions, they suffered themselves to
be milked before they returned to their respective owners. Her mode
of obtaining eggs and fowls was on the same economical plan, and we
all looked upon Betty as a sort of freebooter, living upon the
property of others. She had had three husbands, and he with whom she
now lived was not her husband, although the father of the splendid
child whose beauty so won upon my woman's heart. Her first husband
was still living (a thing by no means uncommon among persons of her
class in Canada), and though they had quarrelled and parted years
ago, he occasionally visited his wife to see her eldest daughter,
Betty the younger, who was his child. She was now a fine girl of
sixteen, as beautiful as her little brother. Betty's second husband
had been killed in one of our fields by a tree falling upon him
while ploughing under it. He was buried upon the spot, part of the
blackened stump forming his monument. In truth, Betty's character
was none of the best, and many of the respectable farmers' wives
regarded her with a jealous eye.

"I am so jealous of that nasty Betty B---," said the wife of an
Irish captain in the army, and our near neighbour, to me, one day as
we were sitting at work together. She was a West Indian, and a negro
by the mother's side, but an uncommonly fine-looking mulatto, very
passionate, and very watchful over the conduct of her husband. "Are
you not afraid of letting Captain Moodie go near her shanty?"

"No, indeed; and if I were so foolish as to be jealous, it would not
be of old Betty, but of the beautiful young Betty, her daughter."
Perhaps this was rather mischievous on my part, for the poor dark
lady went off in a frantic fit of jealousy, but this time it was not
of old Betty.

Another American squatter was always sending over to borrow a
small-tooth comb, which she called a vermin destroyer; and once the
same person asked the loan of a towel, as a friend had come from the
States to visit her, and the only one she had, had been made into a
best "pinny" for the child; she likewise begged a sight in the
looking-glass, as she wanted to try on a new cap, to see if it were
fixed to her mind. This woman must have been a mirror of neatness
when compared with her dirty neighbours.

One night I was roused up from my bed for the loan of a pair of
"steelyards." For what purpose think you, gentle reader? To weigh
a new-born infant. The process was performed by tying the poor
squalling thing up in a small shawl, and suspending it to one of
the hooks. The child was a fine boy, and weighed ten pounds,
greatly to the delight of the Yankee father.

One of the drollest instances of borrowing I have ever heard of was
told me by a friend. A maid-servant asked her mistress to go out on
a particular afternoon, as she was going to have a party of her
friends, and wanted the loan of the drawing-room.

It would be endless to enumerate our losses in this way; but,
fortunately for us, the arrival of an English family in our
immediate vicinity drew off the attention of our neighbours
in that direction, and left us time to recover a little from
their persecutions.

This system of borrowing is not wholly confined to the poor and
ignorant; it pervades every class of society. If a party is given in
any of the small villages, a boy is sent round from house to house,
to collect all the plates and dishes, knives and forks, teaspoons
and candlesticks, that are presentable, for the use of the company.

During my stay at the hotel, I took a dress out of my trunk, and
hung it up upon a peg in my chamber, in order to remove the creases
it had received from close packing. Returning from a walk in the
afternoon, I found a note upon my dressing table, inviting us to
spend the evening with a clergyman's family in the village; and as
it was nearly time to dress, I went to the peg to take down my gown.
Was it a dream?--the gown was gone. I re-opened the trunk, to see if
I had replaced it; I searched every corner of the room, but all in
vain; nowhere could I discover the thing I sought. What had become
of it? The question was a delicate one, which I did not like to put
to the young ladies of the truly respectable establishment; still,
the loss was great, and at that moment very inconvenient. While I
was deliberating on what course to pursue, Miss S--- entered the

"I guess you missed your dress," she said, with a smile.

"Do you know where it is?"

"Oh, sure. Miss L---, the dressmaker, came in just after you left.
She is a very particular friend of mine, and I showed her your
dress. She admired it above all things, and borrowed it, to get the
pattern for Miss R---'s wedding dress. She promised to return it

"Provoking! I wanted it to-night. Who ever heard of borrowing a
person's dress without the leave of the owner? Truly, this is a
free-and-easy country!"

One very severe winter night, a neighbour borrowed of me a
blanket--it was one of my best--for the use of a stranger who was
passing the night at her house. I could not well refuse; but at that
time, the world pressed me sore, and I could ill spare it. Two years
elapsed, and I saw no more of my blanket; at length I sent a note to
the lady, requesting it to be returned. I got a very short answer
back, and the blanket, alas! worn threadbare; the borrower stating
that she had sent the article, but really she did not know what to
do without it, as she wanted it to cover the children's bed. She
certainly forgot that I, too, had children, who wanted covering as
well as her own. But I have said so much of the ill results of
others' borrowing, that I will close this sketch by relating my own
experience in this way.

After removing to the bush, many misfortunes befel us, which
deprived us of our income, and reduced us to great poverty. In fact
we were strangers, and the knowing ones took us in; and for many
years we struggled with hardships which would have broken stouter
hearts than ours, had not our trust been placed in the Almighty,
who among all our troubles never wholly deserted us.

While my husband was absent on the frontier during the rebellion,
my youngest boy fell very sick, and required my utmost care, both
by night and day. To attend to him properly, a candle burning
during the night was necessary. The last candle was burnt out;
I had no money to buy another, and no fat from which I could make
one. I hated borrowing; but, for the dear child's sake, I overcame
my scruples, and succeeded in procuring a candle from a good
neighbour, but with strict injunctions (for it was HER LAST),
that I must return it if I did not require it during the night.

I went home quite grateful with my prize. It was a clear moonlight
night--the dear boy was better, so I told old Jenny, my Irish
servant, to go to bed, as I would lie down in my clothes by the
child, and if he were worse I would get up and light the candle. It
happened that a pane of glass was broken out of the window frame,
and I had supplied its place by fitting in a shingle; my friend
Emilia S--- had a large Tom-cat, who, when his mistress was absent,
often paid me a predatory or borrowing visit; and Tom had a practice
of pushing in this wooden pane, in order to pursue his lawless
depredations. I had forgotten all this, and never dreaming that Tom
would appropriate such light food, I left the candle lying in the
middle of the table, just under the window.

Between sleeping and waking, I heard the pane gently pushed in.
The thought instantly struck me that it was Tom, and that, for
lack of something better, he might steal my precious candle.

I sprang up from the bed, just in time to see him dart through the

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