List Of Contents | Contents of Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie
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broken window, dragging the long white candle after him. I flew to
the door, and pursued him half over the field, but all to no
purpose. I can see him now, as I saw him then, scampering away for
dear life, with his prize trailing behind him, gleaming like a
silver tail in the bright light of the moon.

Ah! never did I feel more acutely the truth of the proverb, "Those
that go a-borrowing go a-sorrowing," than I did that night. My poor
boy awoke ill and feverish, and I had no light to assist him, or
even to look into his sweet face, to see how far I dared hope that
the light of day would find him better.


A song

  Oh Canada! thy gloomy woods
    Will never cheer the heart;
  The murmur of thy mighty floods
    But cause fresh tears to start
  From those whose fondest wishes rest
    Beyond the distant main;
  Who, 'mid the forests of the West,
    Sigh for their homes again.

  I, too, have felt the chilling blight
    Their shadows cast on me,
  My thought by day--my dream by night--
    Was of my own country.
  But independent souls will brave
    All hardships to be free;
  No more I weep to cross the wave,
    My native land to see.

  But ever as a thought most bless'd,
    Her distant shores will rise,
  In all their spring-tide beauty dress'd.
    To cheer my mental eyes.
  And treasured in my inmost heart,
    The friends I left behind;
  But reason's voice, that bade us part,
    Now bids me be resign'd.

  I see my children round me play,
    My husband's smiles approve;
  I dash regretful tears away,
    And lift my thoughts above:
  In humble gratitude to bless
    The Almighty hand that spread
  Our table in the wilderness,
    And gave my infants bread.



  "A nose, kind sir! Sure mother Nature,
  With all her freaks, ne'er formed this feature.
  If such were mine, I'd try and trade it,
  And swear the gods had never made it."

After reducing the log cabin into some sort of order, we contrived,
with the aid of a few boards, to make a bed-closet for poor Tom
Wilson, who continued to shake every day with the pitiless ague.
There was no way of admitting light and air into this domicile,
which opened into the general apartment, but through a square hole
cut in one of the planks, just wide enough to admit a man's head
through the aperture. Here we made Tom a comfortable bed on the
floor, and did the best we could to nurse him through his sickness.
His long, thin face, emaciated with disease, and surrounded by huge
black whiskers, and a beard of a week's growth, looked perfectly
unearthly. He had only to stare at the baby to frighten her almost
out of her wits.

"How fond that young one is of me," he would say; "she cries for joy
at the sight of me."

Among his curiosities, and he had many, he held in great esteem a
huge nose, made hollow to fit his face, which his father, a being
almost as eccentric as himself, had carved out of boxwood. When he
slipped this nose over his own (which was no beautiful classical
specimen of a nasal organ), it made a most perfect and hideous
disguise. The mother who bore him never would have recognised her
accomplished son.

Numberless were the tricks he played off with this nose. Once he
walked through the streets of ---, with this proboscis attached to
his face. "What a nose! Look at the man with the nose!" cried all
the boys in the street. A party of Irish emigrants passed at the
moment. The men, with the courtesy natural to their nation, forbore
to laugh in the gentleman's face; but after they had passed, Tom
looked back, and saw them bent half double in convulsions of mirth.
Tom made the party a low bow, gravely took off his nose, and put it
in his pocket.

The day after this frolic, he had a very severe fit of the ague, and
looked so ill that I really entertained fears for his life. The hot
fit had just left him, and he lay upon his bed bedewed with a cold
perspiration, in a state of complete exhaustion.

"Poor Tom," said I, "he has passed a horrible day, but the worst
is over, and I will make him a cup of coffee." While preparing it,
Old Satan came in and began to talk to my husband. He happened to
sit directly opposite the aperture which gave light and air to
Tom's berth. This man was disgustingly ugly. He had lost one eye
in a quarrel. It had been gouged out in the barbarous conflict,
and the side of his face presented a succession of horrible scars
inflicted by the teeth of his savage adversary. The nickname he had
acquired through the country sufficiently testified to the
respectability of his character, and dreadful tales were told of
him in the neighbourhood, where he was alike feared and hated.

The rude fellow, with his accustomed insolence, began abusing the
old country folks.

The English were great bullies, he said; they thought no one could
fight but themselves; but the Yankees had whipped them, and would
whip them again. He was not afear'd of them, he never was afear'd
in his life.

Scarcely were the words out of his mouth, when a horrible apparition
presented itself to his view. Slowly rising from his bed, and
putting on the fictitious nose, while he drew his white nightcap
over his ghastly and livid brow, Tom thrust his face through the
aperture, and uttered a diabolical cry; then sank down upon his
unseen couch as noiselessly as he had arisen. The cry was like
nothing human, and it was echoed by an involuntary scream from the
lips of our maid-servant and myself.

"Good God! what's that?" cried Satan, falling back in his chair, and
pointing to the vacant aperture. "Did you hear it? did you see it?
It beats the universe. I never saw a ghost or the devil before!"

Moodie, who had recognised the ghost, and greatly enjoyed the fun,
pretended profound ignorance, and coolly insinuated that Old Satan
had lost his senses. The man was bewildered; he stared at the vacant
aperture, then at us in turn, as if he doubted the accuracy of his
own vision. "'Tis tarnation odd," he said; "but the women heard it

"I heard a sound," I said, "a dreadful sound, but I saw no ghost."

"Sure an' 'twas himsel'," said my lowland Scotch girl, who now
perceived the joke; "he was a-seeken' to gie us puir bodies a wee

"How long have you been subject to these sort of fits?" said I. "You
had better speak to the doctor about them. Such fancies, if they are
not attended to, often end in madness."

"Mad!" (very indignantly) "I guess I'm not mad, but as wide awake as
you are. Did I not see it with my own eyes? And then the noise--I
could not make such a tarnation outcry to save my life. But be it
man or devil, I don't care, I'm not afear'd," doubling his fist very
undecidedly at the hole. Again the ghastly head was protruded--the
dreadful eyes rolled wildly in their hollow sockets, and a yell more
appalling than the former rang through the room. The man sprang from
his chair, which he overturned in his fright, and stood for an
instant with his one-eyeball starting from his head, and glaring
upon the spectre; his cheeks deadly pale; the cold perspiration
streaming from his face; his lips dissevered, and his teeth
chattering in his head.

"There--there--there. Look--look, it comes again!--the devil!--the

Here Tom, who still kept his eyes fixed upon his victim, gave a
knowing wink, and thrust his tongue out of his mouth.

"He is coming!--he is coming!" cried the affrighted wretch; and
clearing the open doorway with one leap, he fled across the field at
full speed. The stream intercepted his path--he passed it at a bound,
plunged into the forest, and was out of sight.

"Ha, ha, ha!" chuckled poor Tom, sinking down exhausted on his bed.
"Oh that I had strength to follow up my advantage, I would lead Old
Satan such a chase that he should think his namesake was in truth
behind him."

During the six weeks that we inhabited that wretched cabin, we never
were troubled by Old Satan again.

As Tom slowly recovered, and began to regain his appetite, his soul
sickened over the salt beef and pork, which, owing to our distance
from ---, formed our principal fare. He positively refused to touch
the sad bread, as my Yankee neighbours very appropriately termed the
unleavened cakes in the pan; and it was no easy matter to send a man
on horseback eight miles to fetch a loaf of bread.

"Do, my dear Mrs. Moodie, like a good Christian as you are, give me
a morsel of the baby's biscuit, and try and make us some decent
bread. The stuff your servant gives us is uneatable," said Wilson to
me, in most imploring accents.

"Most willingly. But I have no yeast; and I never baked in one of
those strange kettles in my life."

"I'll go to old Joe's wife and borrow some," said he; "they are
always borrowing of you." Away he went across the field, but soon
returned. I looked into his jug--it was empty. "No luck," said he;
"those stingy wretches had just baked a fine batch of bread, and
they would neither lend nor sell a loaf; but they told me how to
make their milk-emptyings."

"Well, discuss the same;" but I much doubted if he could remember
the recipe.

"You are to take an old tin pan," said he, sitting down on the
stool, and poking the fire with a stick.

"Must it be an old one?" said I, laughing.

"Of course; they said so."

"And what am I to put into it?"

"Patience; let me begin at the beginning. Some flour and some
milk--but, by George! I've forgot all about it. I was wondering as
I came across the field why they called the yeast MILK-emptyings,
and that put the way to make it quite out of my head. But never
mind; it is only ten o'clock by my watch. I having nothing to do;
I will go again."

He went. Would I had been there to hear the colloquy between him and
Mrs. Joe; he described it something to this effect:--

Mrs. Joe: "Well, stranger, what do you want now?"

Tom: "I have forgotten the way you told me how to make the bread."

Mrs. Joe: "I never told you how to make bread. I guess you are a
fool. People have to raise bread before they can bake it. Pray who
sent you to make game of me? I guess somebody as wise as yourself."

Tom: "The lady at whose house I am staying."

Mrs. Joe: "Lady! I can tell you that we have no ladies here. So the
old woman who lives in the old log shanty in the hollow don't know
how to make bread. A clever wife that! Are you her husband?" (Tom
shakes his head.)--"Her brother?"--(Another shake.)--"Her son? Do
you hear? or are you deaf?" (Going quite close up to him.)

Tom (moving back): "Mistress, I'm not deaf; and who or what I am is
nothing to you. Will you oblige me by telling me how to make the
mill-emptyings; and this time I'll put it down in my pocket-book."

Mrs. Joe (with a strong sneer): "Mill-emptyings! Milk, I told you.
So you expect me to answer your questions, and give back nothing in
return. Get you gone; I'll tell you no more about it."

Tom (bowing very low): "Thank you for your civility. Is the old
woman who lives in the little shanty near the apple-trees more

Mrs. Joe: "That's my husband's mother. You may try. I guess she'll
give you an answer." (Exit, slamming the door in his face.)

"And what did you do then ?" said I.

"Oh, went of course. The door was open, and I reconnoitred the
premises before I ventured in. I liked the phiz of the old woman
a deal better than that of her daughter-in-law, although it was
cunning and inquisitive, and as sharp as a needle. She was busy
shelling cobs of Indian corn into a barrel. I rapped at the door.
She told me to come in, and in I stepped. She asked me if I wanted
her. I told her my errand, at which she laughed heartily."

Old woman: "You are from the old country, I guess, or you would know
how to make milk-emptyings. Now, I always prefer bran-emptyings.
They make the best bread. The milk, I opine, gives it a sourish
taste, and the bran is the least trouble."

Tom: "Then let us have the bran, by all means. How do you make it?"

Old woman: "I put a double handful of bran into a small pot, or
kettle, but a jug will do, and a teaspoonful of salt; but mind you
don't kill it with salt, for if you do, it won't rise. I then add as
much warm water, at blood-heat, as will mix it into a stiff batter.
I then put the jug into a pan of warm water, and set it on the
hearth near the fire, and keep it at the same heat until it rises,
which it generally will do, if you attend to it, in two or three
hours' time. When the bran cracks at the top, and you see white
bubbles rising through it, you may strain it into your flour, and
lay your bread. It makes good bread."

Tom: "My good woman, I am greatly obliged to you. We have no bran;
can you give me a small quantity?"

Old woman: "I never give anything. You Englishers, who come out with
stacks of money, can afford to buy."

Tom: "Sell me a small quantity."

Old woman: "I guess I will." (Edging quite close, and fixing her
sharp eyes on him.) "You must be very rich to buy bran."

Tom (quizzically): "Oh, very rich."

Old woman: "How do you get your money?"

Tom (sarcastically): "I don't steal it."

Old woman: "Pr'aps not. I guess you'll soon let others do that
for you, if you don't take care. Are the people you live with
related to you?"

Tom (hardly able to keep his gravity): "On Eve's side. They are my

Old woman (in surprise): "And do they keep you for nothing, or do you
work for your meat?"

Tom (impatiently): "Is that bran ready?" (The old woman goes to the
binn, and measures out a quart of bran.) "What am I to pay you?"

Old woman: "A York shilling."

Tom (wishing to test her honesty): "Is there any difference between
a York shilling and a shilling of British currency?"

Old woman (evasively): "I guess not. Is there not a place in England
called York?" (Looking up and leering knowingly in his face.)

Tom (laughing): "You are not going to come York over me in that way,
or Yankee either. There is threepence for your pound of bran; you are
enormously paid."

Old woman (calling after him): "But the recipe; do you allow nothing
for the recipe?"

Tom: "It is included in the price of the bran."

"And so," said he, "I came laughing away, rejoicing in my sleeve
that I had disappointed the avaricious old cheat."

The next thing to be done was to set the bran rising. By the help of
Tom's recipe, it was duly mixed in the coffee-pot, and placed within
a tin pan, full of hot water, by the side of the fire. I have often
heard it said that a watched pot never boils; and there certainly
was no lack of watchers in this case. Tom sat for hours regarding it
with his large heavy eyes, the maid inspected it from time to time,
and scarce ten minutes were suffered to elapse without my testing
the heat of the water, and the state of the emptyings; but the day
slipped slowly away, and night drew on, and yet the watched pot gave
no signs of vitality. Tom sighed deeply when we sat down to tea with
the old fare.

"Never mind," said he, "we shall get some good bread in the morning;
it must get up by that time. I will wait till then. I could almost

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