List Of Contents | Contents of Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie
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cold, hard, dry, and inscrutable. If it had any expression at all,
it was an unhappy one. Such were the impressions created by his
appearance, when the observer was unobserved by him; for he had
the art of concealing the worst traits of his character in an
extraordinary degree, and when he suspected that the curious
hieroglyphics which Nature had stamped on his visage were too
closely scanned, he knew well how to divert the investigator's
attention to some other object.

He was a humorist, besides, in his way, because he found that jokes
and fun admirably served his turn. They helped to throw people off
their guard, and to conceal his hang-dog look.

He had a hard head, as well as hard heart, and could stand any
quantity of drink. His drinking, however, like everything else about
him, had a motive; and, instead of trying to appear sober, like
other drunkards, he rather wished to appear a little elevated. In
addition to his other acquirements, Q--- was a most accomplished
gambler. In short, no virtuous man, who employs every passing moment
of his short life in doing good to his fellow-creatures, could be
more devoted and energetic in his endeavours to serve God and
mankind, than Q--- was in his endeavours to ease them of their spare

He possessed a great deal of that free-and-easy address and tact
which distinguish the Canadians; and, in addition to the current
coin of vulgar flattery which is found so useful in all countries,
his quick eye could discover the high-minded gentleman by a kind of
instinct, which did not seem quite natural to his sordid character,
and, knowing that such men are not to be taken by vulgar adulation,
he could address them with deferential respect; against which no
minds are entirely secure. Thus he wriggled himself into their good
graces. After a while the unfavourable impression occasioned by his
sinister countenance would become more faint, while his well-feigned
kindness and apparent indulgence to his numerous debtors would tell
greatly in his favour.

My first impression of this man was pretty nearly such as I have
described; and, though I suspected and shunned him, I was sure to
meet him at every turn. At length this unfavourable feeling wore off
in some degree, and finding him in the best society of the place,
I began to think that his countenance belied him, and I reproached
myself for my ungenerous suspicions.

Feeling a certain security in the smallness of my available capital,
I did not hesitate in applying to Mr. Q--- to sell me a farm,
particularly as I was aware of his anxiety to induce me to settle
near C---, for the reasons already stated. I told him that 300
pounds was the very largest sum I could give for a farm, and that,
if I could not get one for that price, I should join my friends in
the backwoods.

Q---, after scratching his head, and considering for a few minutes,
told me that he knew a farm which he could sell me for that price,
particularly as he wished to get rid of a set of Yankee rascals who
prevented emigrants from settling in that neighbourhood. We
afterwards found that there was but too good reason for the
character he gave of some of our neighbours.

Q--- held a mortgage for 150 pounds on a farm belonging to a certain
Yankee settler, named Joe H---, as security for a debt incurred for
goods at his store, in C---. The idea instantly struck Q--- that he
would compel Joe H--- to sell him his farm, by threatening to
foreclose the mortgage. I drove out with Mr. Q--- next day to see
the farm in question. It was situated in a pretty retired valley,
surrounded by hills, about eight miles from C---, and about a mile
from the great road leading to Toronto. There was an extensive
orchard upon the farm, and two log houses, and a large frame-barn.
A considerable portion of the cleared land was light and sandy; and
the uncleared part of the farm, situated on the flat, rocky summit
of a high hill, was reserved for "a sugar bush," and for supplying
fuel. On the whole, I was pleased with the farm, which was certainly
cheap at the price of 300 pounds; and I therefore at once closed the
bargain with Mr. Q---.

At that time I had not the slightest idea but that the farm actually
belonged to the land-jobber; and I am to this day unable to tell by
what means he succeeded in getting Mr. H--- to part with his

The father of Joe H--- had cleared the farm, and while the soil was
new it gave good crops; but as the rich surface, or "black muck," as
it is called, became exhausted by continual cropping, nothing but a
poor, meagre soil remained.

The early settlers were wretched farmers; they never ploughed deep
enough, and never thought of manuring the land. After working the
land for several years, they would let it lie waste for three or
four years without sowing grass-seeds, and then plough it up again
for wheat. The greater part of the hay raised on these farms was
sold in the towns, and the cattle were fed during the long severe
winter on wheat-straw. The natural result of this poor nourishment
was, that their cattle continually degenerated, and great numbers
died every spring of a disease called the "hollow horn," which
appears to be peculiar to this country. When the lands became
sterile, from this exhausting treatment, they were called "worn-out
farms;" and the owners generally sold them to new settlers from the
old country, and with the money they received, bought a larger
quantity of wild lands, to provide for their sons; by whom the same
improvident process was recommenced.

These early settlers were, in fact, only fit for pioneers to a more
thrifty class of settlers.

Joe H---, or "Uncle Joe," as the country people call any
acquaintance, after a fashion borrowed, no doubt, from the Dutch
settlers of the State of New York, was, neither by his habits nor
industry, likely to become more prosperous than his neighbours of
the same thoughtless class. His father had worked hard in his time,
and Uncle Joe thought he had a good right to enjoy himself. The
nearest village was only five miles from his place, and he was never
without some excuse for going thither every two or three days. His
horse wanted shoeing, or his plough or waggon wanted "to be fixed"
by the blacksmith or carpenter. As a matter of course, he came home
"pretty high;" for he was in the constant habit of pouring a
half-tumbler of whiskey down his throat, standing bolt upright at
the bar of the tavern, after which he would drink about the same
quantity of cold water to wash it down. These habits together with
bad farming, and a lazy, slovenly helpmate, in a few years made Joe
as poor as he could desire to be; and at last he was compelled to
sell his farm to Mr. Q---.

After we had got settled down on this farm, I had often occasion to
drive into C---, for the purpose of buying groceries and other
necessaries, as we then thought them, at the store of Mr. Q---. On
these occasions I always took up my quarters, for the time, at the
tavern of our worthy Yankee friend, Mr. S---. As I drove up to the
door, I generally found S--- walking about briskly on the boarded
platform, or "stoop," in front of the house, welcoming his guests
in his own peculiar free-and-easy style, looking after their horses,
and seeing that his people were attentive to their duties. I think
I see him now before me with his thin, erect, lathy figure, his snub
nose, and puckered-up face, wriggling and twisting himself about,
in his desire to please his customers.

On stopping in front of the tavern, shortly after our settlement on
the farm, Mr. S--- stepped up to me, in the most familiar manner
imaginable, holding out his hand quite condescendingly,--"Ah, Mister
Moodie, ha-a-w do you do?--and ha-a-w's the old woman?"

At first I could not conceive whom he meant by this very homely
appellation; and I very simply asked him what person he alluded to,
as I had no old woman in my establishment.

"Why, YOUR old woman, to be sure--your missus--Mrs. Moodie,
I guess. You don't quite understand our language yet."

"O! now I understand you; she's quite well, I thank you; and how
is our friend Mrs. S---?" I replied, laying a slight emphasis on
the MRS., by way of a gentle hint for his future guidance.

"Mrs. S---, I guess she's smart, pret-ty CON-siderable. She'll
be right glad to see you, for you're pretty considerable of a
favour-ITE with her, I tell you; but now tell me what you will
drink?--for it's my treat."

As he said these words, he strutted into the tavern before me,
throwing his head and shoulders back, and rising on his tiptoes at
every step.

Mrs. S--- had been a very handsome woman, and still retained much
of her good looks. She was a most exemplary housewife and manager.
I was often astonished to witness the incessant toil she had to
ensure in attending to the wants of such a numerous household.

She had plenty of Irish "helps" in the kitchen; but they knew as
much of cookery as they did of astronomy, and poor Mrs. S---'s
hands, as well as her head, were in constant requisition.

She had two very pretty daughters, whom she would not suffer to do
any rough work which would spoil their soft white hands. Mrs. S---,
no doubt, foresaw that she could not expect to keep such fair
creatures long in such a marrying country as Canada, and, according
to the common caution of divines, she held these blessings with a
loose hand.

There was one sweet little girl, whom I had often seen in her
father's arms, with her soft dark eyes, and her long auburn ringlets
hanging in wild profusion over his shoulders.

"I guess she likes pa, SOME," Mr. S--- would say when I remarked her
fondness for him.

This little fairy had a natural genius for music, and though she was
only four years old, she would sit for an hour at a time at the door
of our room to hear me play on the flute, and would afterwards sing
all the airs she picked up, with the sweetest voice in the world.

Humble as the calling of a tavern-keeper may be considered in
England, it is looked upon in the United States, where Mrs. S--- was
"raised," as extremely respectable; and I have never met with women,
in any class of society elsewhere, who possessed more of the
good-feeling and unobtrusive manners which should belong to ladies
than in the family of this worthy tavern-keeper.

When I contrast their genuine kindness and humanity with the
haughty, arrogant airs assumed by some ladies of a higher standing
in society from England who sojourned in their house at the same
time with ourselves--when I remember their insolent way of giving
their orders to Mrs. S---, and their still more wounding
condescension--I confess I cannot but feel ashamed of my
countrywomen. All these patronising airs, I doubt not, were assumed
purposely to impress the minds of those worthy people with an idea
of their vast superiority. I have sometimes, I confess, been a
little annoyed with the familiarity of the Americans, Canadians as
well as Yankees; but I must say that experience has taught me to
blame myself at least as much as them. If, instead of sending our
youthful aristocracy to the continent of Europe, to treat the
natives with contempt and increase the unpopularity of the British
abroad, while their stock of native arrogance is augmented by the
cringing complaisance of those who only bow to their superiority in
wealth, they were sent to the United States, or even to Canada, they
would receive a lesson or two which would be of infinite service to
them; some of their most repulsive prejudices and peculiarities
would soon be rubbed off by the rough towel of democracy.

It is curious to observe the remarkable diversity in the accounts
given by recent emigrants to this country of their treatment, and of
the manners and character of the people in the United States and in
Canada. Some meet with constant kindness, others with nothing but
rudeness and brutality. Of course there is truth in both accounts;
but strangers from an aristocratical country do not usually make
sufficient allowance for the habits and prejudices of a people of a
land, in which, from the comparatively equal distribution of
property, and the certain prosperity attendant on industry, the
whole constitution of society is necessarily democratical,
irrespectively of political institutions. Those who go to such a
country with the notion that they will carry everything before them
by means of pretence and assumption, will find themselves grievously
deceived. To use a homely illustration, it is just as irrational to
expect to force a large body through a small aperture. In both cases
they will meet with unyielding resistance.

When a poor and industrious mechanic, farmer, or labourer comes here
without pretensions of any kind, no such complaints are to be heard.
He is treated with respect, and every one seems willing to help him
forward. If in after-years the manners of such a settler should grow
in importance with his prosperity--which is rarely the case--his
pretensions would be much more readily tolerated than those of any
unknown or untried individual in a higher class of society.

The North Americans generally are much more disposed to value people
according to the estimate they form of their industry, and other
qualities which more directly lead to the acquisition of property,
and to the benefit of the community, than for their present and
actual wealth. While they pay a certain mock homage to a wealthy
immigrant, when they have a motive in doing so, they secretly are
more inclined to look on him as a well-fledged goose who has come to
America to be plucked. In truth, many of them are so dexterous in
this operation that the unfortunate victim is often stripped naked
before he is aware that he has lost a feather.

There seems to be a fatality attending riches imported into Canada.
They are sure to make to themselves wings and flee away, while
wealth is no less certain to adhere to the poor and industrious
settler. The great fault of the Canadian character is an
unwillingness to admit the just claims of education and talent,
however unpretending, to some share of consideration. In this
respect the Americans of the United States are greatly superior to
the Canadians, because they are better educated and their country
longer settled. These genuine Republicans, when their theory of the
original and natural equality among them is once cheerfully
admitted, are ever ready to show respect to MENTAL superiority,
whether natural or acquired.

My evenings on visiting C--- were usually spent at Mr. S---'s
tavern, where I was often much amused with the variety of characters
who were there assembled, and who, from the free-and-easy
familiarity of the colonial manners, had little chance of concealing
their peculiarities from an attentive observer.

Mr Q---, of course, was always to be found there, drinking, smoking
cigars, and cracking jokes. To a casual observer he appeared to be a
regular boon companion without an object but that of enjoying the
passing hour. Among his numerous accomplishments, he had learnt a
number of sleight-of-hand tricks from the travelling conjurors who

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