List Of Contents | Contents of Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie
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their eggs in Mrs. O---'s hen-house. She used to boast of this as an
excellent joke among her neighbours.

On the 9th of June, my dear little Agnes was born. A few days after
this joyful event, I heard a great bustle in the room adjoining to
mine, and old Dolly Rowe, my Cornish nurse, informed me that it was
occasioned by the people who came to attend the funeral of Phoebe
R---. She only survived the removal of the family a week; and at her
own request had been brought all the way from the --- lake plains to
be interred in the burying ground on the hill which overlooked the

As I lay upon my pillow I could distinctly see the spot, and mark
the long funeral procession, as it wound along the banks of the
brook. It was a solemn and imposing spectacle, that humble funeral.
When the waggons reached the rude enclosure, the coffin was
carefully lifted to the ground, the door in the lid opened, and
old and young approached, one after another, to take a last look
at the dead, before consigning her to the oblivion of the grave.

Poor Phoebe! Gentle child, of coarse, unfeeling parents, few shed
more sincerely a tear for thy early fate than the stranger whom they
hated and despised. Often have I stood beside that humble mound,
when the song of the lark was above me, and the bee murmuring at my
feet, and thought that it was well for thee that God opened the eyes
of thy soul, and called thee out of the darkness of ignorance and
sin to glory in His marvellous light. Sixteen years have passed away
since I heard anything of the family, or what had become of them,
when I was told by a neighbour of theirs, whom I accidentally met
last winter, that the old woman, who now nearly numbers a hundred
years, is still living, and inhabits a corner of her son's barn, as
she still quarrels too much with his wife to reside with Joe; that
the girls are all married and gone; and that Joe himself, although
he does not know a letter, has commenced travelling preacher. After
this, who can doubt the existence of miracles in the nineteenth


  I kneel beside the cold grey stone
  That tells me, dearest, thou art gone
  To realms more bless'd--and left me still
  To struggle with this world of ill.
  But oft from out the silent mound
  Delusive fancy breathes a sound;
  My pent-up heart within me burns,
  And all the blessed past returns.
  Thy form is present to mine eye,
    Thy voice is whispering in mine ear,
  The love that spake in days gone by;
    And rapture checks the starting tear.
  Thy deathless spirit wakes to fill
  The faithful heart that loves thee still.

  For thee the day's bright glow is o'er,
  And summer's roses bloom no more;
  The song of birds in twilight bowers,
  The breath of spring's delicious flowers,
  The towering wood and mountain height,
  The glorious pageantry of night;
  Which fill'd thy soul with musings high,
  And lighted up thy speaking eye;
  The mournful music of the wave
  Can never reach thy lonely grave.
  Thou dost but sleep! It cannot be
    That ardent heart is silent now--
  That death's dark door has closed on thee;
    And made thee cold to all below.
  Ah, no! the flame death could not chill,
  Thy tender love survives thee still.

  That love within my breast enshrined,
  In death alone shall be resign'd;
  And when the eve, thou lovest so well,
  Pours on my soul its soothing spell,
  I leave the city's busy scene
  To seek thy dwelling, cold and green,--
  In quiet sadness here to shed
  Love's sacred tribute o'er the dead--
  To dream again of days gone by,
    And hold sweet converse here with thee;
  In the soft air to feel thy sigh,
    Whilst winds and waters answer me.
  Yes!--though resign'd to Heaven's high will,
  My joy shall be to love thee still!



  "O'er memory's glass I see his shadow flit,
  Though he was gathered to the silent dust
  Long years ago. A strange and wayward man,
  That shunn'd companionship, and lived apart;
  The leafy covert of the dark brown woods,
  The gleamy lakes, hid in their gloomy depths,
  Whose still, deep waters never knew the stroke
  Of cleaving oar, or echoed to the sound
  Of social life, contained for him the sum
  Of human happiness. With dog and gun,
  Day after day he track'd the nimble deer
  Through all the tangled mazes of the forest."

It was early day. I was alone in the old shanty, preparing
breakfast, and now and then stirring the cradle with my foot, when
a tall, thin, middle-aged man walked into the house, followed by two
large, strong dogs.

Placing the rifle he had carried on his shoulder, in a corner of the
room, he advanced to the hearth, and without speaking, or seemingly
looking at me, lighted his pipe and commenced smoking. The dogs,
after growling and snapping at the cat, who had not given the
strangers a very courteous reception, sat down on the hearth-stone
on either side of their taciturn master, eyeing him from time to
time, as if long habit had made them understand all his motions.
There was a great contrast between the dogs. The one was a brindled
bulldog of the largest size, a most formidable and powerful brute;
the other a staghound, tawny, deep-chested, and strong-limbed. I
regarded the man and his hairy companions with silent curiosity.

He was between forty and fifty years of age; his head, nearly bald,
was studded at the sides with strong, coarse, black curling hair.
His features were high, his complexion brightly dark, and his eyes,
in size, shape, and colour, greatly resembled the eyes of a hawk.
The face itself was sorrowful and taciturn; and his thin, compressed
lips looked as if they were not much accustomed to smile, or often
to unclose to hold social communion with any one. He stood at the
side of the huge hearth, silently smoking, his eyes bent on the
fire, and now and then he patted the heads of his dogs, reproving
their exuberant expression of attachment, with--"Down, Music; down,

"A cold, clear morning," said I, in order to attract his attention
and draw him into conversation.

A nod, without raising his head, or withdrawing his eyes from the
fire, was his only answer; and, turning from my unsociable guest,
I took up the baby, who just then awoke, sat down on a low stool by
the table, and began feeding her. During this operation, I once or
twice caught the stranger's hawk-eye fixed upon me and the child,
but word spoke he none; and presently, after whistling to his dogs,
he resumed his gun, and strode out.

When Moodie and Monaghan came in to breakfast, I told them what a
strange visitor I had had; and Moodie laughed at my vain attempt to
induce him to talk.

"He is a strange being," I said; "I must find out who and what he is."

In the afternoon an old soldier, called Layton, who had served
during the American war, and got a grant of land about a mile in
the rear of our location, came in to trade for a cow. Now, this
Layton was a perfect ruffian; a man whom no one liked, and whom all
feared. He was a deep drinker, a great swearer, in short, a perfect
reprobate; who never cultivated his land, but went jobbing about
from farm to farm, trading horses and cattle, and cheating in a
pettifogging way. Uncle Joe had employed him to sell Moodie a young
heifer, and he had brought her over for him to look at. When he
came in to be paid, I described the stranger of the morning; and
as I knew that he was familiar with every one in the neighbourhood,
I asked if he knew him.

"No one should know him better than myself," he said; "'tis old
Brian B---, the still-hunter, and a near neighbour of your'n. A
sour, morose, queer chap he is, and as mad as a March hare! He's
from Lancashire, in England, and came to this country some twenty
years ago, with his wife, who was a pretty young lass in those days,
and slim enough then, though she's so awful fleshy now. He had lots
of money, too, and he bought four hundred acres of land, just at the
corner of the concession line, where it meets the main road. And
excellent land it is; and a better farmer, while he stuck to his
business, never went into the bush, for it was all bush here then.
He was a dashing, handsome fellow, too, and did not hoard the money,
either; he loved his pipe and his pot too well; and at last he left
off farming, and gave himself to them altogether. Many a jolly booze
he and I have had, I can tell you. Brian was an awful passionate
man, and, when the liquor was in, and the wit was out, as savage and
as quarrelsome as a bear. At such times there was no one but Ned
Layton dared go near him. We once had a pitched battle, in which I
was conqueror; and ever arter he yielded a sort of sulky obedience
to all I said to him. Arter being on the spree for a week or two, he
would take fits of remorse, and return home to his wife; would fall
down at her knees, and ask her forgiveness, and cry like a child. At
other times he would hide himself up in the woods, and steal home at
night, and get what he wanted out of the pantry, without speaking a
word to any one. He went on with these pranks for some years, till
he took a fit of the blue devils.

"'Come away, Ned, to the --- lake, with me,' said he; 'I am weary of
my life, and I want a change.'

"'Shall we take the fishing-tackle?' says I. 'The black bass are in
prime season, and F--- will lend us the old canoe. He's got some
capital rum up from Kingston. We'll fish all day, and have a spree
at night.'

"'It's not to fish I'm going,' says he.

"'To shoot, then? I've bought Rockwood's new rifle.'

"'It's neither to fish nor to shoot, Ned: it's a new game I'm going
to try; so come along.'

"Well, to the --- lake we went. The day was very hot, and our path
lay through the woods, and over those scorching plains, for eight
long miles. I thought I should have dropped by the way; but during
our long walk my companion never opened his lips. He strode on
before me, at a half-run, never once turning his head.

"'The man must be the devil!' says I, 'and accustomed to a warmer
place, or he must feel this. Hollo, Brian! Stop there! Do you mean
to kill me?'

"'Take it easy,' says he; 'you'll see another day arter this--I've
business on hand, and cannot wait.'

"Well, on we went, at the same awful rate, and it was mid-day when
we got to the little tavern on the lake shore, kept by one F---, who
had a boat for the convenience of strangers who came to visit the
place. Here we got our dinner, and a glass of rum to wash it down.
But Brian was moody, and to all my jokes he only returned a sort of
grunt; and while I was talking with F---, he steps out, and a few
minutes arter we saw him crossing the lake in the old canoe.

"'What's the matter with Brian?' says F---; 'all does not seem right
with him, Ned. You had better take the boat, and look arter him.'

"'Pooh!' says I; 'he's often so, and grows so glum nowadays that I
will cut his acquaintance altogether if he does not improve.'

"'He drinks awful hard,' says F---; 'may be he's got a fit of the
delirium-tremulous. There is no telling what he may be up to at this

"My mind misgave me, too, so I e'en takes the oars, and pushes out,
right upon Brian's track; and, by the Lord Harry! if I did not find
him, upon my landing on the opposite shore, lying wallowing in his
blood with his throat cut. 'Is that you, Brian?' says I, giving him
a kick with my foot, to see if he was alive or dead. 'What on earth
tempted you to play me and F--- such a dirty, mean trick, as to go
and stick yourself like a pig, bringing such a discredit upon the
house?--and you so far from home and those who should nurse you?'

"I was so mad with him, that (saving your presence, ma'am) I swore
awfully, and called him names that would be ondacent to repeat here;
but he only answered with groans and a horrid gurgling in his
throat. 'It's a choking you are,' said I, 'but you shan't have your
own way, and die so easily, either, if I can punish you by keeping
you alive.' So I just turned him upon his stomach, with his head
down the steep bank; but he still kept choking and growing black in
the face."

Layton then detailed some particulars of his surgical practice which
it is not necessary to repeat. He continued--

"I bound up his throat with my handkerchief, and took him neck and
heels, and threw him into the bottom of the boat. Presently he came
to himself a little, and sat up in the boat; and--would you believe
it?--made several attempts to throw himself in the water. 'This will
not do,' says I; 'you've done mischief enough already by cutting
your weasand! If you dare to try that again, I will kill you with
the oar.' I held it up to threaten him; he was scared, and lay down
as quiet as a lamb. I put my foot upon his breast. 'Lie still, now!
or you'll catch it.' He looked piteously at me; he could not speak,
but his eyes seemed to say, 'Have pity upon me, Ned; don't kill me.'

"Yes, ma'am; this man, who had just cut his throat, and twice arter
that tried to drown himself, was afraid that I should knock him on
the head and kill him. Ha! ha! I shall never forget the work that
F--- and I had with him arter I got him up to the house.

"The doctor came, and sewed up his throat; and his wife--poor
crittur!--came to nurse him. Bad as he was, she was mortal fond of
him! He lay there, sick and unable to leave his bed, for three
months, and did nothing but pray to God to forgive him, for he
thought the devil would surely have him for cutting his own throat;
and when he got about again, which is now twelve years ago, he left
off drinking entirely, and wanders about the woods with his dogs,
hunting. He seldom speaks to any one, and his wife's brother carries
on the farm for the family. He is so shy of strangers that 'tis a
wonder he came in here. The old wives are afraid of him; but you
need not heed him--his troubles are to himself, he harms no one."

Layton departed, and left me brooding over the sad tale which he had
told in such an absurd and jesting manner. It was evident from the
account he had given of Brian's attempt at suicide, that the hapless
hunter was not wholly answerable for his conduct--that he was a
harmless maniac.

The next morning, at the very same hour, Brian again made his
appearance; but instead of the rifle across his shoulder, a large
stone jar occupied the place, suspended by a stout leather thong.
Without saying a word, but with a truly benevolent smile, that
flitted slowly over his stern features, and lighted them up, like
a sunbeam breaking from beneath a stormy cloud, he advanced to the
table, and unslinging the jar, set it down before me, and in a low
and gruff, but by no means an unfriendly voice, said, "Milk, for
the child," and vanished.

"How good it was of him! How kind!" I exclaimed, as I poured the
precious gift of four quarts of pure new milk out into a deep pan.
I had not asked him--had never said that the poor weanling wanted
milk. It was the courtesy of a gentleman--of a man of benevolence
and refinement.

For weeks did my strange, silent friend steal in, take up the empty

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