List Of Contents | Contents of Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie
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you for bread," said Joe, gravely. "We are both family men. Don't
you see that 'tis your duty to cut down the tree?"

The lad swung the axe to and fro in his hand, eyeing Joe and the
tree alternately; but the natural kind-heartedness of the creature,
and his reckless courage, overcame all idea of self-preservation,
and raising aloft his slender but muscular arm, he cried out,
"If it's a life that must be sacrificed, why not mine as well as
another? Here goes! and the Lord have mercy on my sinful sowl!"

The tree fell, and, contrary to their expectations, without any
injury to John. The knowing Yankee burst into a loud laugh. "Well,
if you arn't a tarnation soft fool, I never saw one."

"What do you mane?" exclaimed John, his dark eyes flashing fire.
"If 'tis to insult me for doing that which neither of you dared to
do, you had better not thry that same. You have just seen the
strength of my spirit. You had better not thry again the strength
of my arm, or, may be, you and the tree would chance to share the
same fate;" and, shouldering his axe, the boy strode down the hill,
to get scolded by me for his foolhardiness.

The first week of March, all the people were busy making maple
sugar. "Did you ever taste any maple sugar, ma'am?" asked Monaghan,
as he sat feeding Katie one evening by the fire.

"No, John."

"Well, then, you've a thrate to come; and it's myself that will make
Miss Katie, the darlint, an illigant lump of that same."

Early in the morning John was up, hard at work, making troughs for
the sap. By noon he had completed a dozen, which he showed me with
great pride of heart. I felt a little curious about this far-famed
maple sugar, and asked a thousand questions about the use to which
the troughs were to be applied; how the trees were to be tapped, the
sugar made, and if it were really good when made?

To all my queries, John responded, "Och! 'tis illigant. It bates all
the sugar that ever was made in Jamaky. But you'll see before
to-morrow night."

Moodie was away at P---, and the prospect of the maple sugar
relieved the dulness occasioned by his absence. I reckoned on
showing him a piece of sugar of our own making when he came home,
and never dreamt of the possibility of disappointment.

John tapped his trees after the most approved fashion, and set his
troughts to catch the sap; but Miss Amanda and Master Ammon upset
them as fast as they filled, and spilt all the sap. With great
difficulty, Monaghan saved the contents of one large iron pot. This
he brought in about nightfall, and made up a roaring fire, in order
to boil in down into sugar. Hour after hour passed away, and the
sugar-maker looked as hot and black as the stoker in a steam-boat.
Many times I peeped into the large pot, but the sap never seemed to

"This is a tedious piece of business," thought I, but seeing the lad
so anxious, I said nothing. About twelve o'clock he asked me, very
mysteriously, for a piece of pork to hang over the sugar.

"Pork!" said I, looking into the pot, which was half full of a very
black-looking liquid; "what do you want with pork?"

"Shure an' 'tis to keep the sugar from burning."

"But, John, I see no sugar!"

"Och, but 'tis all sugar, only 'tis molasses jist now. See how it
sticks to the ladle. Aha! But Miss Katie will have the fine lumps of
sugar when she awakes in the morning."

I grew so tired and sleepy that I left John to finish his job, went
to bed, and soon forgot all about the maple sugar. At breakfast I
observed a small plate upon the table, placed in a very conspicuous
manner on the tea-tray, the bottom covered with a hard, black
substance, which very much resembled pitch. "What is that
dirty-looking stuff, John?"

"Shure an 'tis the maple sugar."

"Can people eat that?"

"By dad, an' they can; only thry it, ma'arm."

"Why, 'tis so hard, I cannot cut it."

With some difficulty, and not without cutting his finger, John broke
a piece off, and stuffed it into the baby's mouth. The poor child
made a horrible face, and rejected it as if it had been poison. For
my own part, I never tasted anything more nauseous. It tasted like a
compound of pork grease and tobacco juice. "Well, Monaghan, if this
be maple sugar, I never wish to taste any again."

"Och, bad luck to it!" said the lad, flinging it away, plate and
all. "It would have been first-rate but for the dirthy pot, and the
blackguard cinders, and its burning to the bottom of the pot. That
owld hag, Mrs. R---, bewitched it with her evil eye."

"She is not so clever as you think, John," said I, laughing. "You
have forgotten how to make the sugar since you left D---; but let us
forget the maple sugar, and think of something else. Had you not
better get old Mrs. R--- to mend that jacket for you; it is too

"Ay, dad! an it's mysel' is the illigant tailor. Wasn't I brought up
to the thrade in the Foundling Hospital?"

"And why did you quit it?"

"Because it's a low, mane thrade for a jintleman's son."

"But, John, who told you that you were a gentleman's son?"

"Och! but I'm shure of it, thin. All my propensities are gintale.
I love horses, and dogs, and fine clothes, and money. Och! that
I was but a jintleman! I'd show them what life is intirely, and
I'd challenge Masther William, and have my revenge out of him
for the blows he gave me."

"You had better mend your trousers," said I, giving him a tailor's
needle, a pair of scissors, and some strong thread.

"Shure, an' I'll do that same in a brace of shakes," and sitting
down upon a ricketty three-legged stool of his own manufacturing,
he commenced his tailoring by tearing off a piece of his trousers
to patch the elbows of his jacket. And this trifling act, simple
as it may appear, was a perfect type of the boy's general conduct,
and marked his progress through life. The present for him was
everything; he had no future. While he supplied stuff from the
trousers to repair the fractures in the jacket, he never reflected
that both would be required on the morrow. Poor John! in his brief
and reckless career, how often have I recalled that foolish act of
his. It now appears to me that his whole life was spent in tearing
his trousers to repair his jacket.

In the evening John asked me for a piece of soap.

"What do you want with soap, John?"

"To wash my shirt, ma'am. Shure an' I'm a baste to be seen, as black
as the pots. Sorra a shirt have I but the one, an' it has stuck on
my back so long that I can thole it no longer."

I looked at the wrists and collar of the condemned garment, which
was all of it that John allowed to be visible. They were much in
need of soap and water.

"Well, John, I will leave you the soap, but can you wash?"

"Och, shure, an' I can thry. If I soap it enough, and rub long
enough, the shirt must come clane at last."

I thought the matter rather doubtful; but when I went to bed I left
what he required, and soon saw through the chinks in the boards a
roaring fire, and heard John whistling over the tub. He whistled and
rubbed, and washed and scrubbed, but as there seemed no end to the
job, and he was a long washing this one garment as Bell would have
been performing the same operation on fifty, I laughed to myself,
and thought of my own abortive attempts in that way, and went fast
asleep. In the morning John came to his breakfast, with his jacket
buttoned up to his throat.

"Could you not dry your shirt by the fire, John? You will get cold
wanting it."

"Aha, by dad! it's dhry enough now. The divil has made tinder of it
long afore this."

"Why, what has happened to it? I heard you washing all night."

"Washing! Faith, an' I did scrub it till my hands were all ruined
intirely, and thin I took the brush to it; but sorra a bit of the
dirth could I get out of it. The more I rubbed the blacker it got,
until I had used up all the soap, and the perspiration was pouring
off me like rain. 'You dirthy owld bit of a blackguard of a rag,'
says I, in an exthremity of rage, 'You're not fit for the back of a
dacent lad an' a jintleman. The divil may take ye to cover one of
his imps;' an' wid that I sthirred up the fire, and sent it plump
into the middle of the blaze."

"And what will you do for a shirt?"

"Faith, do as many a betther man has done afore me, go widout."

I looked up two old shirts of my husband's, which John received with
an ecstacy of delight. He retired instantly to the stable, but soon
returned, with as much of the linen breast of the garment displayed
as his waistcoat would allow. No peacock was ever prouder of his
tail than the wild Irish lad was of the old shirt.

John had been treated very much like a spoiled child, and, like most
spoiled children, he was rather fond of having his own way. Moodie
had set him to do something which was rather contrary to his own
inclinations; he did not object to the task in words, for he was
rarely saucy to his employers, but he left the following stave upon
the table, written in pencil upon a scrap of paper torn from the
back of an old letter:--

  "A man alive, an ox may drive
    Unto a springing well;
  To make him drink, as he may think,
    No man can him compel.

                "JOHN MONAGHAN."


A Canadian ballad

  The waves that girt my native isle,
    The parting sunbeams tinged with red;
  And far to seaward, many a mile,
    A line of dazzling glory shed.
  But, ah, upon that glowing track,
    No glance my aching eyeballs threw;
  As I my little bark steer'd back
    To bid my love a last adieu.

  Upon the shores of that lone bay,
    With folded arms the maiden stood;
  And watch'd the white sails wing their way
    Across the gently heaving flood.
  The summer breeze her raven hair
    Swept lightly from her snowy brow;
  And there she stood, as pale and fair
    As the white foam that kiss'd my prow.

  My throbbing heart with grief swell'd high,
    A heavy tale was mine to tell;
  For once I shunn'd the beauteous eye,
    Whose glance on mine so fondly fell.
  My hopeless message soon was sped,
    My father's voice my suit denied;
  And I had promised not to wed,
    Against his wish, my island bride.

  She did not weep, though her pale face
    The trace of recent sorrow wore;
  But, with a melancholy grace,
    She waved my shallop from the shore.
  She did not weep; but oh! that smile
    Was sadder than the briny tear
  That trembled on my cheek the while
    I bade adieu to one so dear.

  She did not speak--no accents fell
    From lips that breathed the balm of May;
  In broken words I strove to tell
    All that my broken heart would say.
  She did not speak--but to my eyes
    She raised the deep light of her own.
  As breaks the sun through cloudy skies,
    My spirit caught a brighter tone.

  "Dear girl!" I cried, "we ne'er can part,
    My angry father's wrath I'll brave;
  He shall not tear thee from my heart.
    Fly, fly with me across the wave!"
  My hand convulsively she press'd,
    Her tears were mingling fast with mine;
  And, sinking trembling on my breast,
    She murmur'd out, "For ever thine!"



  "She died in early womanhood,
  Sweet scion of a stem so rude;
  A child of Nature, free from art,
  With candid brow and open heart;
  The flowers she loved now gently wave
  Above her low and nameless grave."

It was during the month of March that Uncle Joe's eldest daughter,
Phoebe, a very handsome girl, and the best of the family, fell sick.
I went over to see her. The poor girl was very depressed, and stood
but a slight chance for her life, being under medical treatment of
three or four old women, who all recommended different treatment
and administered different nostrums. Seeing that the poor girl was
dangerously ill, I took her mother aside, and begged her to lose no
time in procuring proper medical advice. Mrs. Joe listened to me
very sullenly, and said there was no danger; that Phoebe had caught
a violent cold by going hot from the wash-tub to fetch a pail of
water from the spring; that the neighbours knew the nature of her
complaint, and would soon cure her.

The invalid turned upon me her fine dark eyes, in which the light of
fever painfully burned, and motioned me to come near her. I sat down
by her, and took her burning hand in mine.

"I am dying, Mrs. Moodie, but they won't believe me. I wish you
would talk to mother to send for the doctor."

"I will. Is there anything I can do for you?--anything I can make
for you, that you would like to take?"

She shook her head. "I can't eat. But I want to ask you one thing,
which I wish very much to know." She grasped my hand tightly between
her own. Her eyes looked darker, and her feverish cheek paled. "What
becomes of people when they die?"

"Good heavens!" I exclaimed involuntarily; "can you be ignorant of a
future state?"

"What is a future state?"

I endeavoured, as well as I was able, to explain to her the nature
of the soul, its endless duration, and responsibility to God for
the actions done in the flesh; its natural depravity and need of
a Saviour; urging her, in the gentlest manner, to lose no time in
obtaining forgiveness of her sins, through the atoning blood of

The poor girl looked at me with surprise and horror. These things
were all new to her. She sat like one in a dream; yet the truth
seemed to flash upon her at once.

"How can I speak to God, who never knew Him? How can I ask Him to
forgive me?"

"You must pray to him."

"Pray! I don't know how to pray. I never said a prayer in my life.
Mother; can you teach me how to pray?"

"Nonsense!" said Mrs. Joe, hurrying forward. "Why should you trouble
yourself about such things? Mrs. Moodie, I desire you not to put
such thoughts into my daughter's head. We don't want to know
anything about Jesus Christ here."

"Oh, mother, don't speak so to the lady! Do Mrs. Moodie, tell me
more about God and my soul. I never knew until now that I had a

Deeply compassionating the ignorance of the poor girl, in spite of
the menaces of the heathen mother--for she was no better, but rather
worse, seeing that the heathen worships in ignorance a false God,
while this woman lived without acknowledging a God at all, and
therefore considered herself free from all moral restraint--I bid
Phoebe good-bye, and promised to bring my bible, and read to her the
next day.

The gratitude manifested by this sick girl was such a contrast to
the rudeness and brutality of the rest of the family, that I soon
felt a powerful interest in her fate.

The mother did not actually forbid me the house, because she saw
that my visits raised the drooping spirits of her child, whom she
fiercely loved, and, to save her life, would cheerfully have
sacrificed her own. But she never failed to make all the noise she
could to disturb my reading and conversation with Phoebe. She could
not be persuaded that her daughter was really in any danger, until
the doctor told her that her case was hopeless; then the grief of
the mother burst forth, and she gave way to the most frantic and

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