List Of Contents | Contents of Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie
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sunset, and we were rapidly descending a steep hill, when one of the
traces that held our sleigh suddenly broke. D--- pulled up in order
to repair the damage. His brother's team was close behind, and our
unexpected stand-still brought the horses upon us before J. D---
could stop them. I received so violent a blow from the head of one
of them, just in the back of the neck, that for a few minutes I was
stunned and insensible. When I recovered, I was supported in the
arms of my husband, over whose knees I was leaning, and D--- was
rubbing my hands and temples with snow.

"There, Mr. Moodie, she's coming to. I thought she was killed. I
have seen a man before now killed by a blow from a horse's head in
the like manner." As soon as we could, we resumed our places in the
sleigh; but all enjoyment of our journey, had it been otherwise
possible, was gone.

When we reached Peterborough, Moodie wished us to remain at the inn
all night, as we had still eleven miles of our journey to perform,
and that through a blazed forest-road, little travelled, and very
much impeded by fallen trees and other obstacles; but D--- was
anxious to get back as soon as possible to his own home, and he
urged us very pathetically to proceed.

The moon arose during our stay at the inn, and gleamed upon the
straggling frame-houses which then formed the now populous and
thriving town of Peterborough. We crossed the wild, rushing,
beautiful Otonabee river by a rude bridge, and soon found ourselves
journeying over the plains or level heights beyond the village,
which were thinly wooded with picturesque groups of oak and pine,
and very much resembled a gentleman's park at home.

Far below, to our right (for we were upon the Smith-town side) we
heard the rushing of the river, whose rapid waters never receive
curb from the iron chain of winter. Even while the rocky banks are
coated with ice, and the frost-king suspends from every twig and
branch the most beautiful and fantastic crystals, the black waters
rush foaming along, a thick steam rising constantly above the
rapids, as from a boiling pot. The shores vibrate and tremble
beneath the force of the impetuous flood, as it whirls round
cedar-crowned islands and opposing rocks, and hurries on to pour its
tribute into the Rice Lake, to swell the calm, majestic grandeur of
the Trent, till its waters are lost in the beautiful bay of Quinte,
and finally merged in the blue ocean of Ontario.

The most renowned of our English rivers dwindle into little muddy
rills when compared with the sublimity of the Canadian waters. No
language can adequately express the solemn grandeur of her lake and
river scenery; the glorious islands that float, like visions from
fairy land, upon the bosom of these azure mirrors of her cloudless
skies. No dreary breadth of marshes, covered with flags, hide from
our gaze the expanse of heaven-tinted waters; no foul mud-banks
spread their unwholesome exhalations around. The rocky shores are
crowned with the cedar, the birch, the alder, and soft maple, that
dip their long tresses in the pure stream; from every crevice in the
limestone the hare-bell and Canadian rose wave their graceful

The fiercest droughts of summer may diminish the volume and power
of these romantic streams, but it never leaves their rocky channels
bare, nor checks the mournful music of their dancing waves.

Through the openings in the forest, we now and then caught the
silver gleam of the river tumbling on in moonlight splendour, while
the hoarse chiding of the wind in the lofty pines above us gave a
fitting response to the melancholy cadence of the waters.

The children had fallen asleep. A deep silence pervaded the party.
Night was above us with her mysterious stars. The ancient forest
stretched around us on every side, and a foreboding sadness sunk
upon my heart. Memory was busy with the events of many years. I
retraced step by step the pilgrimage of my past life, until arriving
at that passage in its sombre history, I gazed through tears upon
the singularly savage scene around me, and secretly marvelled,
"What brought me here?"

"Providence," was the answer which the soul gave. "Not for your own
welfare, perhaps, but for the welfare of your children, the unerring
hand of the Great Father has led you here. You form a connecting
link in the destinies of many. It is impossible for any human
creature to live for himself alone. It may be your lot to suffer,
but others will reap a benefit from your trials. Look up with
confidence to Heaven, and the sun of hope will yet shed a cheering
beam through the forbidding depths of this tangled wilderness."

The road now became so bad that Mr. D--- was obliged to dismount,
and lead his horses through the more intricate passages. The animals
themselves, weary with their long journey and heavy load, proceeded
at foot-fall. The moon, too, had deserted us, and the only light we
had to guide us through the dim arches of the forest was from the
snow and the stars, which now peered down upon us, through the
leafless branches of the trees, with uncommon brilliancy.

"It will be past midnight before we reach your brother's clearing"
(where we expected to spend the night), said D---. "I wish, Mr.
Moodie, we had followed your advice, and staid at Peterborough. How
fares it with you, Mrs. Moodie, and the young ones? It is growing
very cold."

We were now in the heart of a dark cedar-swamp, and my mind was
haunted with visions of wolves and bears; but beyond the long, wild
howl of a solitary wolf, no other sound awoke the sepulchral silence
of that dismal-looking wood.

"What a gloomy spot!" said I to my husband. "In the old country,
superstition would people it with ghosts."

"Ghosts! There are no ghosts in Canada!" said Mr. D---. "The country
is too new for ghosts. No Canadian is afear'd of ghosts. It is only
in old countries, like your'n, that are full of sin and wickedness,
that people believe in such nonsense. No human habitation has ever
been erected in this wood through which you are passing. Until a
very few years ago, few white persons had ever passed through it;
and the Red Man would not pitch his tent in such a place as this.
Now, ghosts, as I understand the word, are the spirits of bad men
that are not allowed by Providence to rest in their graves but, for
a punishment, are made to haunt the spots where their worst deeds
were committed. I don't believe in all this; but, supposing it to be
true, bad men must have died here before their spirits could haunt
the place. Now, it is more than probable that no person ever ended
his days in this forest, so that it would be folly to think of
seeing his ghost."

This theory of Mr. D---'s had the merit of originality, and it is
not improbable that the utter disbelief in supernatural appearances
which is common to most native-born Canadians, is the result of the
same very reasonable mode of arguing. The unpeopled wastes of Canada
must present the same aspect to the new settler that the world did
to our first parents after their expulsion from the Garden of Eden;
all the sin which could defile the spot, or haunt it with the
association of departed evil, is concentrated in their own persons.
Bad spirits cannot be supposed to linger near a place where crime
has never been committed. The belief in ghosts, so prevalent in old
countries, must first have had its foundation in the consciousness
of guilt.

After clearing this low, swampy portion of the wood, with much
difficulty, and the frequent application of the axe, to cut away
the fallen timber that impeded our progress, our ears were assailed
by a low, roaring, rushing sound, as of the falling of waters.

"That is Herriot's Falls," said our guide. "We are within two miles
of our destination."

Oh, welcome sound! But those two miles appeared more lengthy than
the whole journey. Thick clouds, that threatened a snow-storm, had
blotted out the stars, and we continued to grope our way through a
narrow, rocky path, upon the edge of the river, in almost total
darkness. I now felt the chillness of the midnight hour, and the
fatigue of the long journey, with double force, and envied the
servant and children, who had been sleeping ever since we left
Peterborough. We now descended the steep bank, and prepared to
cross the rapids.

Dark as it was, I looked with a feeling of dread upon the foaming
waters as they tumbled over their bed of rocks, their white crests
flashing, life-like, amid the darkness of the night.

"This is an ugly bridge over such a dangerous place," said D---,
as he stood up in the sleigh and urged his tired team across the
miserable, insecure log bridge, where darkness and death raged
below, and one false step of his jaded horses would have plunged us
into both. I must confess I drew a freer breath when the bridge was
crossed, and D--- congratulated us on our safe arrival in Douro.

We now continued our journey along the left bank of the river, but
when in sight of Mr. S---'s clearing, a large pine-tree, which had
newly fallen across the narrow path, brought the teams to a

The mighty trunk which had lately formed one of the stately pillars
in the sylvan temple of Nature, was of too large dimensions to chop
in two with axes; and after about half an hour's labour, which to
me, poor, cold, weary wight! seemed an age, the males of the party
abandoned the task in despair. To go round it was impossible; its
roots were concealed in an impenetrable wall of cedar-jungle on the
right-hand side of the road, and its huge branches hung over the
precipitous bank of the river.

"We must try and make the horses jump over it," said D---. "We may
get an upset, but there is no help for it; we must either make the
experiment, or stay here all night, and I am too cold and hungry
for that--so here goes." He urged his horses to leap the log;
restraining their ardour for a moment as the sleigh rested on the
top of the formidable barrier, but so nicely balanced, that the
difference of a straw would almost have overturned the heavily-laden
vehicle and its helpless inmates. We, however, cleared it in safety.
He now stopped, and gave directions to his brother to follow the
same plan that he had adopted; but whether the young man had less
coolness, or the horses in his team were more difficult to manage, I
cannot tell: the sleigh, as it hung poised upon the top of the log,
was overturned with a loud crash, and all my household goods and
chattels were scattered over the road.

Alas, for my crockery and stone china! scarcely one article remained

"Never fret about the china," said Moodie; "thank God the man and
the horses are uninjured."

I should have felt more thankful had the crocks been spared too;
for, like most of my sex, I had a tender regard for china, and I
knew that no fresh supply could be obtained in this part of the
world. Leaving his brother to collect the scattered fragments, D---
proceeded on his journey. We left the road, and were winding our way
over a steep hill, covered with heaps of brush and fallen timber,
and as we reached the top, a light gleamed cheerily from the windows
of a log house, and the next moment we were at my brother-in-law's

I thought my journey was at an end; but here I was doomed to fresh
disappointment. His wife was absent on a visit to her friends, and
it had been arranged that we were to stay with my sister, Mrs. T---,
and her husband. With all this I was unacquainted; and I was about
to quit the sleigh and seek the warmth of the fire when I was told
that I had yet further to go. Its cheerful glow was to shed no
warmth on me, and, tired as I was, I actually buried my face and
wept upon the neck of a hound which Moodie had given to Mr. S---,
and which sprang up upon the sleigh to lick my face and hands. This
was my first halt in that weary wilderness, where I endured so many
bitter years of toil and sorrow. My brother-in-law and his family
had retired to rest, but they instantly rose to receive the way-worn
travellers; and I never enjoyed more heartily a warm welcome after
a long day of intense fatigue, than I did that night of my first
sojourn in the backwoods.


  Dark, rushing, foaming river!
    I love the solemn sound
    That shakes thy shores around,
  And hoarsely murmurs, ever,
    As thy waters onward bound,
      Like a rash, unbridled steed
  Flying madly on its course;
  That shakes with thundering force
      The vale and trembling mead.
  So thy billows downward sweep,
    Nor rock nor tree can stay
    Their fierce, impetuous way;
  Now in eddies whirling deep,
     Now in rapids white with spray.

  I love thee, lonely river!
    Thy hollow restless roar,
    Thy cedar-girded shore;
  The rocky isles that sever,
    The waves that round them pour.
      Katchawanook[1] basks in light,
  But thy currents woo the shade
  By the lofty pine-trees made,
      That cast a gloom like night,
  Ere day's last glories fade.
    Thy solitary voice
  The same bold anthem sung
  When Nature's frame was young.
     No longer shall rejoice
  The woods where erst it rung!

  Lament, lament, wild river!
    A hand is on thy mane[2]
    That will bind thee in a chain
  No force of thine can sever.
    Thy furious headlong tide,
  In murmurs soft and low,
    Is destined yet to glide
  To meet the lake below;
    And many a bark shall ride
  Securely on thy breast,
    To waft across the main
    Rich stores of golden grain
  From the valleys of the West.

[1] The Indian name for one of the many expansions of this beautiful

[2] Alluding to the projected improvements on the Trent, of which
the Otonabee is a continuation. Fifteen years have passed away
since this little poem was written; but the Otonabee still rushes
on in its own wild strength. Some idea of the rapidity of this
river may be formed from the fact that heavy rafts of timber are
floated down from Herriot's Falls, a distance of nine miles from
Peterborough, in less than an hour. The shores are bold and rocky,
and abound in beautiful and picturesque views.



  Man of strange race! stern dweller of the wild!
  Nature's free-born, untamed, and daring child!

The clouds of the preceding night, instead of dissolving in snow,
brought on a rapid thaw. A thaw in the middle of winter is the most
disagreeable change that can be imagined. After several weeks of
clear, bright, bracing, frosty weather, with a serene atmosphere and
cloudless sky, you awake one morning surprised at the change in the
temperature; and, upon looking out of the window, behold the woods
obscured by a murky haze--not so dense as an English November fog,
but more black and lowering--and the heavens shrouded in a uniform
covering of leaden-coloured clouds, deepening into a livid indigo at
the edge of the horizon. The snow, no longer hard and glittering,
has become soft and spongy, and the foot slips into a wet and
insidiously-yielding mass at every step. From the roof pours down a
continuous stream of water, and the branches of the trees collecting

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