List Of Contents | Contents of Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie
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tide had left half full of water. Those who did not possess
washing-tubs, pails, or iron pots, or could not obtain access to a
hole in the rocks, were running to and fro, screaming and scolding
in no measured terms. The confusion of Babel was among them. All
talkers and no hearers--each shouting and yelling in his or her
uncouth dialect, and all accompanying their vociferations with
violent and extraordinary gestures, quite incomprehensible to the
uninitiated. We were literally stunned by the strife of tongues. I
shrank, with feelings almost akin to fear, from the hard-featured,
sun-burnt harpies, as they elbowed rudely past me.

I had heard and read much of savages, and have since seen, during
my long residence in the bush, somewhat of uncivilised life; but
the Indian is one of Nature's gentlemen--he never says or does a
rude or vulgar thing. The vicious, uneducated barbarians who form
the surplus of over-populous European countries, are far behind the
wild man in delicacy of feeling or natural courtesy. The people who
covered the island appeared perfectly destitute of shame, or even
of a sense of common decency. Many were almost naked, still more
but partially clothed. We turned in disgust from the revolting
scene, but were unable to leave the spot until the captain had
satisfied a noisy group of his own people, who were demanding a
supply of stores.

And here I must observe that our passengers, who were chiefly
honest Scotch labourers and mechanics from the vicinity of
Edinburgh, and who while on board ship had conducted themselves
with the greatest propriety, and appeared the most quiet, orderly
set of people in the world, no sooner set foot upon the island than
they became infected by the same spirit of insubordination and
misrule, and were just as insolent and noisy as the rest.

While our captain was vainly endeavouring to satisfy the
unreasonable demands of his rebellious people, Moodie had discovered
a woodland path that led to the back of the island. Sheltered by
some hazel-bushes from the intense heat of the sun, we sat down by
the cool, gushing river, out of sight, but, alas! not out of
hearing of the noisy, riotous crowd. Could we have shut out the
profane sounds which came to us on every breeze, how deeply should
we have enjoyed an hour amid the tranquil beauties of that retired
and lovely spot!

The rocky banks of the island were adorned with beautiful
evergreens, which sprang up spontaneously in every nook and
crevice. I remarked many of our favourite garden shrubs among
these wildings of nature: the fillagree, with its narrow, dark
glossy-green leaves; the privet, with its modest white blossoms
and purple berries; the lignum-vitae, with its strong resinous
odour; the burnet-rose, and a great variety of elegant unknowns.

Here, the shores of the island and mainland, receding from each
other, formed a small cove, overhung with lofty trees, clothed from
the base to the summit with wild vines, that hung in graceful
festoons from the topmost branches to the water's edge. The dark
shadows of the mountains, thrown upon the water, as they towered to
the height of some thousand feet above us, gave to the surface of
the river an ebon hue. The sunbeams, dancing through the thick,
quivering foliage, fell in stars of gold, or long lines of dazzling
brightness, upon the deep black waters, producing the most novel
and beautiful effects. It was a scene over which the spirit of
peace might brood in silent adoration; but how spoiled by the
discordant yells of the filthy beings who were sullying the purity
of the air and water with contaminating sights and sounds!

We were now joined by the sergeant, who very kindly brought us
his capful of ripe plums and hazel-nuts, the growth of the island;
a joyful present, but marred by a note from Captain ---, who had
found that he had been mistaken in his supposed knowledge of us,
and politely apologised for not being allowed by the health-officers
to receive any emigrant beyond the bounds appointed for the
performance of quarantine.

I was deeply disappointed, but my husband laughingly told me that
I had seen enough of the island; and turning to the good-natured
soldier, remarked, that "it could be no easy task to keep such wild
savages in order."

"You may well say that, sir--but our night scenes far exceed those
of the day. You would think they were incarnate devils; singing,
drinking, dancing, shouting, and cutting antics that would surprise
the leader of a circus. They have no shame--are under no
restraint--nobody knows them here, and they think they can speak
and act as they please; and they are such thieves that they rob one
another of the little they possess. The healthy actually run the
risk of taking the cholera by robbing the sick. If you have not
hired one or two stout, honest fellows from among your fellow
passengers to guard your clothes while they are drying, you will
never see half of them again. They are a sad set, sir, a sad set.
We could, perhaps, manage the men; but the women, sir!--the women!
Oh, sir!"

Anxious as we were to return to the ship, we were obliged to remain
until sun-down in our retired nook. We were hungry, tired, and out
of spirits; the mosquitoes swarmed in myriads around us, tormenting
the poor baby, who, not at all pleased with her first visit to the
new world, filled the air with cries, when the captain came to tell
us that the boat was ready. It was a welcome sound. Forcing our way
once more through the still squabbling crowd, we gained the landing
place. Here we encountered a boat, just landing a fresh cargo of
lively savages from the Emerald Isle. One fellow, of gigantic
proportions, whose long, tattered great-coat just reached below the
middle of his bare red legs, and, like charity, hid the defects of
his other garments, or perhaps concealed his want of them, leaped
upon the rocks, and flourishing aloft his shilelagh, bounded and
capered like a wild goat from his native mountains. "Whurrah! my
boys!" he cried, "Shure we'll all be jintlemen!"

"Pull away, my lads!" said the captain. Then turning to me, "Well,
Mrs. Moodie, I hope that you have had enough of Grosse Isle. But
could you have witnessed the scenes that I did this morning--"

Here he was interrupted by the wife of the old Scotch dragoon,
Mackenzie, running down to the boat and laying her hand familiarly
upon his shoulder, "Captain, dinna forget."

"Forget what?"

She whispered something confidentially in his ear.

"Oh, ho! the brandy!" he responded aloud. "I should have thought,
Mrs. Mackenzie, that you had had enough of that same on yon

"Aye, sic a place for decent folk," returned the drunken body,
shaking her head. "One needs a drap o' comfort, captain, to keep up
one's heart ava."

The captain set up one of his boisterous laughs as he pushed the
boat from the shore. "Hollo! Sam Frazer! steer in, we have
forgotten the stores."

"I hope not, captain," said I; "I have been starving since

"The bread, the butter, the beef, the onions, and potatoes are
here, sir," said honest Sam, particularizing each article.

"All right; pull for the ship. Mrs. Moodie, we will have a glorious
supper, and mind you don't dream of Grosse Isle."

In a few minutes we were again on board. Thus ended my first day's
experience of the land of all our hopes.


A Canadian Song

  Oh! can you leave your native land
    An exile's bride to be;
  Your mother's home, and cheerful hearth,
    To tempt the main with me;
  Across the wide and stormy sea
    To trace our foaming track,
  And know the wave that heaves us on
    Will never bear us back?

  And can you in Canadian woods
    With me the harvest bind,
  Nor feel one lingering, sad regret
    For all you leave behind?
  Can those dear hands, unused to toil,
    The woodman's wants supply,
  Nor shrink beneath the chilly blast
    When wintry storms are nigh?

  Amid the shades of forests dark,
    Our loved isle will appear
  An Eden, whose delicious bloom
    Will make the wild more drear.
  And you in solitude will weep
    O'er scenes beloved in vain,
  And pine away your life to view
    Once more your native plain.

  Then pause, dear girl! ere those fond lips
    Your wanderer's fate decide;
  My spirit spurns the selfish wish--
    You must not be my bride.
  But oh, that smile--those tearful eyes,
    My firmer purpose move--
  Our hearts are one, and we will dare
    All perils thus to love!

[This song has been set to a beautiful plaintive air,
by my husband.]



  Queen of the West!--upon thy rocky throne,
    In solitary grandeur sternly placed;
  In awful majesty thou sitt'st alone,
    By Nature's master-hand supremely graced.
  The world has not thy counterpart--thy dower,
  Eternal beauty, strength, and matchless power.

  The clouds enfold thee in their misty vest,
    The lightning glances harmless round thy brow;
  The loud-voiced thunder cannot shake thy nest,
    Or warring waves that idly chafe below;
  The storm above, the waters at thy feet--
  May rage and foam, they but secure thy seat.

  The mighty river, as it onward rushes
    To pour its floods in ocean's dread abyss,
  Checks at thy feet its fierce impetuous gushes,
    And gently fawns thy rocky base to kiss.
  Stern eagle of the crag! thy hold should be
  The mountain home of heaven-born liberty!

  True to themselves, thy children may defy
    The power and malice of a world combined;
  While Britain's flag, beneath thy deep blue sky,
    Spreads its rich folds and wantons in the wind;
  The offspring of her glorious race of old
  May rest securely in their mountain hold.

On the 2nd of September, the anchor was weighed, and we bade a long
farewell to Grosse Isle. As our vessel struck into mid-channel, I
cast a last lingering look at the beautiful shores we were leaving.
Cradled in the arms of the St. Lawrence, and basking in the bright
rays of the morning sun, the island and its sister group looked
like a second Eden just emerged from the waters of chaos. With what
joy could I have spent the rest of the fall in exploring the
romantic features of that enchanting scene! But our bark spread her
white wings to the favouring breeze, and the fairy vision gradually
receded from my sight, to remain for ever on the tablets of memory.

The day was warm, and the cloudless heavens of that peculiar azure
tint which gives to the Canadian skies and waters a brilliancy
unknown in more northern latitudes. The air was pure and elastic,
the sun shone out with uncommon splendour, lighting up the changing
woods with a rich mellow colouring, composed of a thousand
brilliant and vivid dyes. The mighty river rolled flashing and
sparkling onward, impelled by a strong breeze, that tipped its
short rolling surges with a crest of snowy foam.

Had there been no other object of interest in the landscape than
this majestic river, its vast magnitude, and the depth and
clearness of its waters, and its great importance to the colony,
would have been sufficient to have riveted the attention, and
claimed the admiration of every thinking mind.

Never shall I forget that short voyage from Grosse Isle to Quebec.
I love to recall, after the lapse of so many years, every object
that awoke in my breast emotions of astonishment and delight.
What wonderful combinations of beauty, and grandeur, and power,
at every winding of that noble river! How the mind expands with
the sublimity of the spectacle, and soars upward in gratitude
and adoration to the Author of all being, to thank Him for having
made this lower world so wondrously fair--a living temple,
heaven-arched, and capable of receiving the homage of all

Every perception of my mind became absorbed into the one sense
of seeing, when, upon rounding Point Levi, we cast anchor before
Quebec. What a scene!--Can the world produce such another?
Edinburgh had been the beau ideal to me of all that was beautiful
in Nature--a vision of the northern Highlands had haunted my dreams
across the Atlantic; but all these past recollections faded before
the present of Quebec.

Nature has lavished all her grandest elements to form this
astonishing panorama. There frowns the cloud-capped mountain, and
below, the cataract foams and thunders; wood, and rock, and river
combine to lend their aid in making the picture perfect, and worthy
of its Divine Originator.

The precipitous bank upon which the city lies piled, reflected in
the still deep waters at its base, greatly enhances the romantic
beauty of the situation. The mellow and serene glow of the autumnal
day harmonised so perfectly with the solemn grandeur of the scene
around me, and sank so silently and deeply into my soul, that my
spirit fell prostrate before it, and I melted involuntarily into
tears. Yes, regardless of the eager crowds around me, I leant upon
the side of the vessel and cried like a child--not tears of sorrow,
but a gush from the heart of pure and unalloyed delight. I heard
not the many voices murmuring in my ears--I saw not the anxious
beings that thronged our narrow deck--my soul at that moment was
alone with God. The shadow of His glory rested visibly on the
stupendous objects that composed that magnificent scene; words are
perfectly inadequate to describe the impression it made upon my
mind--the emotions it produced. The only homage I was capable of
offering at such a shrine was tears--tears the most heartfelt and
sincere that ever flowed from human eyes. I never before felt so
overpoweringly my own insignificance, and the boundless might and
majesty of the Eternal.

Canadians, rejoice in your beautiful city! Rejoice and be worthy of
her--for few, very few, of the sons of men can point to such a spot
as Quebec--and exclaim, "She is ours!--God gave her to us, in her
beauty and strength!--We will live for her glory--we will die to
defend her liberty and rights--to raise her majestic brow high
above the nations!"

Look at the situation of Quebec!--the city founded on the rock that
proudly holds the height of the hill. The queen sitting enthroned
above the waters, that curb their swiftness and their strength to
kiss and fawn around her lovely feet.

Canadians!--as long as you remain true to yourselves and her, what
foreign invader could ever dare to plant a hostile flag upon that
rock-defended height, or set his foot upon a fortress rendered
impregnable by the hand of Nature? United in friendship, loyalty,
and love, what wonders may you not achieve? to what an enormous
altitude of wealth and importance may you not arrive? Look at the
St. Lawrence, that king of streams, that great artery flowing from
the heart of the world, through the length and breadth of the land,
carrying wealth and fertility in its course, and transporting from
town to town along its beautiful shores the riches and produce of
a thousand distant climes. What elements of future greatness and
prosperity encircle you on every side! Never yield up these solid
advantages to become an humble dependent on the great

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