List Of Contents | Contents of Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie
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It was a bright, clear afternoon, the first week in October, and the
fading woods, not yet denuded of their gorgeous foliage, glowed in a
mellow, golden light. A soft purple haze rested on the bold outline
of the Haldimand hills, and in the rugged beauty of the wild
landscape I soon forgot the purport of our visit to the old woman's
log hut.

On reaching the ridge of the hill, the lovely valley in which our
future home lay smiled peacefully upoon us from amidst its fruitful
orchards, still loaded with their rich, ripe fruit.

"What a pretty place it is!" thought I, for the first time feeling
something like a local interest in the spot, springing up in my
heart. "How I wish those odious people would give us possession of
the home which for some time has been our own."

The log hut that we were approaching, and in which the old woman,
R---, resided by herself--having quarrelled years ago with her son's
wife--was of the smallest dimensions, only containing one room,
which served the old dame for kitchen, and bed-room, and all. The
open door, and a few glazed panes, supplied it with light and air;
while a huge hearth, on which crackled two enormous logs--which are
technically termed a front and a back stick--took up nearly half the
domicile; and the old woman's bed, which was covered with an
unexceptionally clean patched quilt, nearly the other half, leaving
just room for a small home-made deal table, of the rudest
workmanship, two basswood-bottomed chairs, stained red, one of which
was a rocking-chair, appropiated solely to the old woman's use, and
a spinning wheel. Amidst this muddle of things--for small as was the
quantum of furniture, it was all crowded into such a tiny space that
you had to squeeze your way through it in the best manner you
could--we found the old woman, with a red cotton handkerchief tied
over her grey locks, hood-fashion, shelling white bush-beans into a
wooden bowl. Without rising from her seat, she pointed to the only
remaining chair. "I guess, miss, you can sit there; and if the
others can't stand, they can make a seat of my bed."

The gentlemen assured her that they were not tired, and could
dispense with seats. Mr. --- then went up to the old woman, and
proffering his hand, asked after her health in his blandest manner.

"I'm none the better for seeing you, or the like of you," was the
ungracious reply. "You have cheated my poor boy out of his good
farm; and I hope it may prove a bad bargain to you and yours."

"Mrs. R---," returned the land speculator, nothing ruffled by her
unceremonious greeting, "I could not help your son giving way to
drink, and getting into my debt. If people will be so imprudent,
they cannot be so stupid as to imagine that others can suffer for
their folly."

"Suffer!" repeated the old woman, flashing her small, keen black
eyes upon him with a glance of withering scorn. "You suffer! I
wonder what the widows and orphans you have cheated would say to
that? My son was a poor, weak, silly fool, to be sucked in by the
like of you. For a debt of eight hundred dollars--the goods never
cost you four hundred--you take from us our good farm; and these,
I s'pose," pointing to my husband and me, "are the folk you sold
it to. Pray, miss," turning quickly to me, "what might your man
give for the place?"

"Three hundred pounds in cash."

"Poor sufferer!" again sneered the hag. "Four hundred dollars is a
very SMALL profit in as many weeks. Well, I guess, you beat the
Yankees hollow. And pray, what brought you here to-day, scenting
about you like a carrion-crow? We have no more land for you to seize
from us."

Moodie now stepped forward, and briefly explained our situation,
offering the old woman anything in reason to give up the cottage and
reside with her son until he removed from the premises; which, he
added, must be in a very short time.

The old dame regarded him with a sarcastic smile. "I guess, Joe will
take his own time. The house is not built which is to receive him;
and he is not a man to turn his back upon a warm hearth to camp in
the wilderness. You were GREEN when you bought a farm of that man,
without getting along with it the right of possession."

"But, Mrs. R---, your son promised to go out the first of

"Wheugh!" said the old woman. "Would you have a man give away his
hat and leave his own head bare? It's neither the first snow nor the
last frost that will turn Joe out of his comfortable home. I tell
you all that he will stay here, if it is only to plague you."

Threats and remonstrances were alike useless, the old woman remained
inexorable; and we were just turning to leave the house, when the
cunning old fox exclaimed, "And now, what will you give me to leave
my place?"

"Twelve dollars, if you give us possession next Monday," said my

"Twelve dollars! I guess you won't get me out for that."

"The rent would not be worth more than a dollar a month," said
Mr. ---, pointing with his cane to the dilapidated walls.
"Mr. Moodie has offered you a year's rent for the place."

"It may not be worth a cent," returned the woman; "for it will give
everybody the rheumatism that stays a week in it--but it is worth
that to me, and more nor double that just now to him. But I will not
be hard with him," continued she, rocking herself to and fro. "Say
twenty dollars, and I will turn out on Monday."

"I dare say you will," said Mr. ---, "and who do you think would be
fool enough to give you such an exorbitant sum for a ruined old shed
like this?"

"Mind your own business, and make your own bargains," returned the
old woman, tartly. "The devil himself could not deal with you, for I
guess he would have the worst of it. What do you say, sir?" and she
fixed her keen eyes upon my husband, as if she would read his
thoughts. "Will you agree to my price?"

"It is a very high one, Mrs. R---; but as I cannot help myself, and
you take advantage of that, I suppose I must give it."

"'Tis a bargain," cried the old crone, holding out her hard, bony
hand. "Come, cash down!"

"Not until you give me possession on Monday next; or you might serve
me as your son has done."

"Ha!" said the old woman, laughing and rubbing her hands together;
"you begin to see daylight, do you? In a few months, with the help
of him," pointing to Mr. ---, "you will be able to go alone; but
have a care of your teacher, for it's no good that you will learn
from him. But will you really stand to your word, mister?" she
added, in a coaxing tone, "if I go out on Monday?"

"To be sure I will; I never break my word."

"Well, I guess you are not so clever as our people, for they only
keep it as long as it suits them. You have an honest look; I will
trust you; but I will not trust him," nodding to Mr. ---, "he can
buy and sell his word as fast as a horse can trot. So on Monday I
will turn out my traps. I have lived here six-and-thirty years; 'tis
a pretty place and it vexes me to leave it," continued the poor
creature, as a touch of natural feeling softened and agitated her
world-hardened heart. "There is not an acre in cultivation but I
helped to clear it, nor a tree in yonder orchard but I held it while
my poor man, who is dead and gone, planted it; and I have watched
the trees bud from year to year, until their boughs overshadowed the
hut, where all my children, but Joe, were born. Yes, I came here
young, and in my prime; and I must leave it in age and poverty. My
children and husband are dead, and their bones rest beneath the turf
in the burying-ground on the side of the hill. Of all that once
gathered about my knees, Joe and his young ones alone remain. And it
is hard, very hard, that I must leave their graves to be turned by
the plough of a stranger."

I felt for the desolate old creature--the tears rushed to my eyes;
but there was no moisture in hers. No rain from the heart could
filter through that iron soil.

"Be assured, Mrs. R---," said Moodie, "that the dead will be held
sacred; the place will never be disturbed by me."

"Perhaps not; but it is not long that you will remain here. I have
seen a good deal in my time; but I never saw a gentleman from the
old country make a good Canadian farmer. The work is rough and hard,
and they get out of humour with it, and leave it to their hired
helps, and then all goes wrong. They are cheated on all sides, and
in despair take to the whiskey bottle, and that fixes them. I tell
you what it is, mister--I give you just three years to spend your
money and ruin yourself; and then you will become a confirmed
drunkard, like the rest."

The first part of her prophecy was only too true. Thank God! the
last has never been fulfilled, and never can be.

Perceiving that the old woman was not a little elated with her
bargain, Mr. --- urged upon her the propriety of barring the dower.
At first, she was outrageous, and very abusive, and rejected all his
proposals with contempt; vowing that she would meet him in a certain
place below, before she would sign away her right to the property.

"Listen to reason, Mrs. R---," said the land speculator. "If you
will sign the papers before the proper authorities, the next time
your son drives you to C---, I will give you a silk gown."

"Pshaw! Buy a shroud for yourself; you will need it before I want a
silk gown," was the ungracious reply.

"Consider woman; a black silk of the best quality."

"To mourn in for my sins, or for the loss of the farm?"

"Twelve yards," continued Mr. ---, without noticing her rejoinder,
"at a dollar a yard. Think what a nice church-going gown it will

"To the devil with you! I never go to church."

"I thought as much," said Mr. ---, winking to us. "Well, my dear
madam, what will satisfy you?"

"I'll do it for twenty dollars," returned the old woman, rocking
herself to and fro in her chair; her eyes twinkling, and her hands
moving convulsively, as if she already grasped the money so dear to
her soul.

"Agreed," said the land speculator. "When will you be in town?"

"On Tuesday, if I be alive. But, remember, I'll not sign till I have
my hand on the money."

"Never fear," said Mr. ---, as we quitted the house; then, turning
to me, he added, with a peculiar smile," That's a devilish smart
woman. She would have made a clever lawyer."

Monday came, and with it all the bustle of moving, and, as is
generally the case on such occasions, it turned out a very wet day.
I left Old Satan's hut without regret, glad, at any rate, to be in a
place of my own, however humble. Our new habitation, though small,
had a decided advantage over the one we were leaving. It stood on
a gentle slope; and a narrow but lovely stream, full of pretty
speckled trout, ran murmuring under the little window; the house,
also, was surrounded by fine fruit trees.

I know not how it was, but the sound of that tinkling brook, for
ever rolling by, filled my heart with a strange melancholy, which
for many nights deprived me of rest. I loved it, too. The voice of
waters, in the stillness of night, always had an extraordinary
effect upon my mind. Their ceaseless motion and perpetual sound
convey to me the idea of life--eternal life; and looking upon them,
glancing and flashing on, now in sunshine, now in shade, now
hoarsely chiding with the opposing rock, now leaping triumphantly
over it, creates within me a feeling of mysterious awe of which I
never could wholly divest myself.

A portion of my own spirit seemed to pass into that little stream.
In its deep wailings and fretful sighs, I fancied myself lamenting
for the land I had left for ever; and its restless and impetuous
rushings against the stones which choked its passage, were mournful
types of my own mental struggles against the destiny which hemmed me
in. Through the day the stream still moaned and travelled on,--but,
engaged in my novel and distasteful occupations, I heard it not;
but whenever my winged thoughts flew homeward, then the voice of
the brook spoke deeply and sadly to my heart, and my tears flowed
unchecked to its plaintive and harmonious music.

In a few hours I had my new abode more comfortably arranged than
the old, although its dimensions were much smaller. The location
was beautiful, and I was greatly consoled by this circumstance.
The aspect of Nature ever did, and I hope ever will continue--

"To shoot marvellous strength into my heart."

As long as we remain true to the Divine Mother, so long will she
remain faithful to her suffering children.

At that period my love for Canada was a feeling very nearly allied
to that which the condemned criminal entertains for his cell--his
only hope of escape being through the portals of the grave.

The fall rains had commenced. In a few days the cold wintry showers
swept all the gorgeous crimson from the trees; and a bleak and
desolate waste presented itself to the shuddering spectator. But, in
spite of wind and rain, my little tenement was never free from the
intrusion of Uncle Joe's wife and children. Their house stood about
a stone's-throw from the hut we occupied, in the same meadow, and
they seemed to look upon it still as their own, although we had
literally paid for it twice over. Fine strapping girls they were,
from five years old to fourteen, but rude and unnurtured as so many
bears. They would come in without the least ceremony, and, young as
they were, ask me a thousand impertinent questions; and when I
civilly requested them to leave the room, they would range
themselves upon the door-step, watching my motions, with their
black eyes gleaming upon me through their tangled, uncombed locks.
Their company was a great annoyance, for it obliged me to put a
painful restraint upon the thoughtfulness in which it was so
delightful to me to indulge. Their visits were not visits of love,
but of mere idle curiosity, not unmingled with malicious pleasure
at my awkward attempts at Canadian house-wifieries.

The simplicity, the fond, confiding faith of childhood is unknown
in Canada. There are no children here. The boy is a miniature
man--knowing, keen, and wide awake; as able to drive a bargain
and take an advantage of his juvenile companion as the grown-up,
world-hardened man. The girl, a gossipping flirt, full of vanity
and affectation, with a premature love of finery, and an acute
perception of the advantages to be derived from wealth, and from
keeping up a certain appearance in the world.

The flowers, the green grass, the glorious sunshine, the birds of
the air, and the young lambs gambolling down the verdant slopes,
which fill the heart of a British child with a fond ecstacy, bathing
the young spirit in Elysium, would float unnoticed before the vision
of a Canadian child; while the sight of a dollar, or a new dress, or
a gay bonnet, would swell its proud bosom with self-importance and
delight. The glorious blush of modest diffidence, the tear of gentle
sympathy, are so rare on the cheek, or in the eye of the young, that
their appearance creates a feeling of surprise. Such perfect
self-reliance in beings so new to the world is painful to a thinking
mind. It betrays a great want of sensibility and mental culture, and

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