List Of Contents | Contents of Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie
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forced to retreat thither, we could hear all the wickedness and
profanity going on in the next room. My husband, disgusted with the
scene, soon left it, and retired into the parlour, with the few of
the loggers who at that hour remained sober. The house rang with the
sound of unhallowed revelry, profane songs and blasphemous swearing.
It would have been no hard task to have imagined these miserable,
degraded beings fiends instead of men. How glad I was when they at
last broke up; and we were once more left in peace to collect to
broken glasses and cups, and the scattered fragments of that hateful

We were obliged to endure a second and a third repetition of this
odious scene, before sixteen acres of land were rendered fit for
the reception of our fall crop of wheat.

My hatred to these tumultuous, disorderly meetings was not in the
least decreased by my husband being twice seriously hurt while
attending them. After the second injury he received, he seldom went
to them himself, but sent his oxen and servant in his place. In these
odious gatherings, the sober, moral, and industrious man is more
likely to suffer than the drunken and profane, as during the delirium
of drink these men expose others to danger as well as themselves.

The conduct of many of the settlers, who considered themselves
gentlemen, and would have been very much affronted to have been
called otherwise, was often more reprehensible than that of the poor
Irish emigrants, to whom they should have set an example of order and
sobriety. The behaviour of these young men drew upon them the severe
but just censures of the poorer class, whom they regarded in every
way as their inferiors.

"That blackguard calls himself a gentleman. In what respect is he
better than us?" was an observation too frequently made use of at
these gatherings. To see a bad man in the very worst point of view,
follow him to a bee: be he profane, licentious, quarrelsome, or a
rogue, all his native wickedness will be fully developed there.

Just after the last of these logging-bees, we had to part with our
good servant Mary, and just at a time when it was the heaviest loss
to me. Her father, who had been a dairyman in the north of Ireland,
an honest, industrious man, had brought out upwards of one hundred
pounds to this country. With more wisdom than is generally exercised
by Irish emigrants, instead of sinking all his means in buying a
bush farm, he hired a very good farm in Cavan, with cattle, and
returned to his old avocation. The services of his daughter, who was
an excellent dairymaid, were required to take the management of the
cows; and her brother brought a wagon and horses all the way from
the front to take her home.

This event was perfectly unexpected, and left me without a moment's
notice to provide myself with another servant, at a time when
servants were not to be had, and I was perfectly unable to do the
least thing. My little Addie was sick almost to death with the
summer complaint, and the eldest still too young to take care of

This was but the beginning of trouble.

Ague and lake fever had attacked our new settlement. The men in the
shanty were all down with it; and my husband was confined to his bed
on each alternate day, unable to raise hand or foot, and raving in
the delirium of the fever.

In my sister and brother's families, scarcely a healthy person
remained to attend upon the sick; and at Herriot's Falls, nine
persons were stretched upon the floor of one log cabin, unable to
help themselves or one another. After much difficulty, and only by
offering enormous wages, I succeeded in procuring a nurse to attend
upon me during my confinement. The woman had not been a day in the
house before she was attacked by the same fever. In the midst of
this confusion, and with my precious little Addie lying insensible
on a pillow at the foot of my bed--expected at every moment to
breathe her last--on the night of the 26th of August the boy I had
so ardently coveted was born. The next day, old Pine carried his
wife (my nurse) away upon his back, and I was left to struggle
through, in the best manner I could, with a sick husband, a sick
child, and a newborn babe.

It was a melancholy season, one of severe mental and bodily
suffering. Those who have drawn such agreeable pictures of a
residence in the backwoods never dwell upon the periods of sickness,
when, far from medical advice, and often, as in my case, deprived of
the assistance of friends by adverse circumstances, you are left to
languish, unattended, upon the couch of pain.

The day that my husband was free of the fit, he did what he could
for me and his poor sick babes, but, ill as he was, he was obliged
to sow the wheat to enable the man the proceed with the drag, and
was therefore necessarily absent in the field the greater part of
the day.

I was very ill, yet for hours at a time I had no friendly voice to
cheer me, to proffer me a drink of cold water, or to attend to the
poor babe; and worse, still worse, there was no one to help that
pale, marble child, who lay so cold and still, with "half-closed
violet eyes," as if death had already chilled her young heart in
his iron grasp.

There was not a breath of air in our close, burning bed-closet; and
the weather was sultry beyond all that I have since experienced.
How I wished that I could be transported to a hospital at home,
to enjoy the common care that in such places is bestowed upon the
sick. Bitter tears flowed continually from my eyes over those young
children. I had asked of Heaven a son, and there he lay helpless by
the side of his almost equally helpless mother, who could not lift
him up in her arms, or still his cries; while the pale, fair angel,
with her golden curls, who had lately been the admiration of all
who saw her, no longer recognized my voice, or was conscious of my
presence. I felt that I could almost resign the long and eagerly
hoped-for son, to win one more smile from that sweet suffering
creature. Often did I weep myself to sleep, and wake to weep again
with renewed anguish.

And my poor little Katie, herself under three years of age, how
patiently she bore the loss of my care, and every comfort. How
earnestly the dear thing strove to help me. She would sit on my
sick-bed, and hold my hand, and ask me to look at her and speak to
her; would inquire why Addie slept so long, and when she would awake
again. Those innocent questions went like arrows to my heart.

Lieutenant ---, the husband of my dear Emilia, at length heard of
my situation. His inestimable wife was from home, nursing her sick
mother; but he sent his maid-servant up every day for a couple of
hours, and the kind girl despatched a messenger nine miles through
the woods to Dummer, to fetch her younger sister, a child of twelve
years old.

Oh, how grateful I felt for these signal mercies; for my situation
for nearly a week was one of the most pitiable that could be
imagined. The sickness was so prevalent that help was not to be
obtained for money; and without the assistance of that little girl,
young as she was, it is more than probable that neither myself nor
my children would ever have risen from that bed of sickness.

The conduct of our man Jacob, during this trying period, was marked
with the greatest kindness and consideration. On the days that his
master was confined to his bed with the fever, he used to place a
vessel of cold water and a cup by his bedside, and put his honest
English face in at my door to know if he could make a cup of tea, or
toast a bit of bread for the mistress, before he went into the field.

Katie was indebted to him for all meals. He baked, and cooked, and
churned, milked the cows, and made up the butter, as well and as
carefully as the best female servant could have done. As to poor
John Monanghan, he was down with fever in the shanty, where four
other men were all ill with the same terrible complaint.

I was obliged to leave my bed and endeavour to attend to the wants
of my young family long before I was really able. When I made my
first attempt to reach the parlour I was so weak, that, at every
step, I felt as if I should pitch forward to the ground, which
seemed to undulate beneath my feet like the floor of a cabin in a
storm at sea. My husband continued to suffer for many weeks with the
ague; and when he was convalescent, all the children, even the poor
babe, were seized with it, nor did it leave us until late in the
spring of 1835.


  Rise, Mary! meet me on the shore,
  And tell our tale of sorrow o'er;
  There must we meet to part no more--
    Rise, Mary, rise!

  Come, dearest, come! tho' all in vain;
  Once more beside you summer main
  We'll plight our hopeless vows again--
    Unclose thine eyes.

  My bark amidst the surge is toss'd,
  I go, by evil fortunes cross'd,
  My earthly hopes for ever lost--
    Love's dearest prize.

  But when thy hand is clasp'd in mine,
  I'll laugh at fortune, nor repine;
  In life, in death, for ever thine--
    Then check these sighs.

  They move a bosom steel'd to bear
  Its own unwonted load of care,
  That will not bend beneath despair--
    Rise, dearest, rise.

  Life's but a troubled dream at best;
  These comes a time when grief shall rest,
  Kind, faithful hearts shall yet be bless'd
    'Neath brighter skies!



  Oh Nature! in thy ever-varying face,
    By rocky shore, or 'neath the forest tree,
  What love divine, what matchless skill, I trace!
    My full warm heart responsive thrills to thee.
  Yea, in my throbbing bosom's inmost core,
    Thou reign'st supreme; and, in thy sternest mood,
  Thy votary bends in rapture to adore
    The Mighty Maker, who pronounced thee good.
  Thy broad, majestic brow still bears His seal;
  And when I cease to love, oh, may I cease to feel.

My husband had long promised me a trip to Stony Lake, and in the
summer of 1835, before the harvest commenced, he gave Mr. Y---,
who kept the mill at the rapids below Clear Lake, notice of our
intention, and the worthy old man and his family made due
preparation for our reception. The little girls were to accompany

We were to start at sunrise, to avoid the heat of the day, to go up
as far as Mr. Y---'s in our canoe, re-embark with his sons above
the rapids in birch-bark canoes, go as far up the lake as we could
accomplish by daylight, and return at night; the weather being very
warm, and the moon at full. Before six o'clock we were all seated
in the little craft, which spread her white sail to a foaming
breeze, and sped merrily over the blue waters. The lake on which
our clearing stood was about a mile and a half in length, and about
three quarters of a mile in breadth; a mere pond, when compared with
the Bay of Quinte, Ontario, and the inland seas of Canada. But it
was OUR lake, and, consequently, it had ten thousand beauties in
our eyes, which would scarcely have attracted the observation of a

At the head of the Katchawanook, the lake is divided by a long neck
of land, that forms a small bay on the right-hand side, and a very
brisk rapid on the left. The banks are formed of large masses of
limestone; and the cardinal-flower and the tiger-lily seem to have
taken an especial fancy to this spot, and to vie with each other
in the display of their gorgeous colours.

It is an excellent place for fishing; the water is very deep close
to the rocky pavement that forms the bank, and it has a pebbly
bottom. Many a magic hour, at rosy dawn, or evening grey, have I
spent with my husband on this romantic spot; our canoe fastened to
a bush, and ourselves intent upon ensnaring the black bass, a fish
of excellent flavour that abounds in this place.

Our paddles soon carried us past the narrows, and through the rapid
water, the children sitting quietly at the bottom of the boat,
enchanted with all they heard and saw, begging papa to stop and
gather water-lilies, or to catch one of the splendid butterflies
that hovered over us; and often the little Addie darted her white
hand into the water to grasp at the shadow of the gorgeous insects
as they skimmed along the waves.

After passing the rapids, the river widened into another small lake,
perfectly round in form, and having in its centre a tiny green
island, in the midst of which stood, like a shattered monument of
bygone storms, one blasted, black ash-tree.

The Indians call this lake Bessikakoon, but I do not know the exact
meaning of the word. Some say that it means "the Indian's grave,"
others "the lake of the one island." It is certain that an Indian
girl is buried beneath that blighted tree; but I never could
learn the particulars of her story, and perhaps there was no tale
connected with it. She might have fallen a victim to disease during
the wanderings of her tribe, and been buried on that spot; or she
might have been drowned, which would account for her having been
buried away from the rest of her people.

This little lake lies in the heart of the wilderness. There is but
one clearing upon its shores, and that had been made by lumberers
many years before; the place abounded with red cedar. A second
growth of young timber had grown up in this spot, which was covered
also with raspberry-bushes--several hundred acres being entirely
overgrown with this delicious berry.

It was here annually that we used to come in large picnic parties,
to collect this valuable fruit for our winter preserves, in defiance
of black-flies, mosquitoes, snakes, and even bears, all which have
been encountered by berry-pickers upon this spot, as busy and as
active as themselves, gathering an ample repast from Nature's
bounteous lap.

And, oh! what beautiful wild shrubs and flowers grew up in that
neglected spot! Some of the happiest hours I spent in the bush
are connected with reminiscences of "Irving's shanty," for so the
raspberry-grounds were called. The clearing could not be seen from
the shore. You had to scramble through a cedar-swamp to reach the
sloping ground which produced the berries.

The mill at the Clear Lake rapids was about three miles distant
from our own clearing; and after stemming another rapid, and passing
between two beautiful wooded islands, the canoe rounded a point, and
the rude structure was before us.

A wilder and more romantic spot than that which the old hunter
had chosen for his homestead in the wilderness could scarcely be
imagined. The waters of Clear Lake here empty themselves through a
narrow, deep, rocky channel, not exceeding a quarter of a mile in
length, and tumble over a limestone ridge of ten or twelve feet in
height, which extends from one bank of the river to the other. The
shores on either side are very steep, and the large oak-trees which
have anchored their roots in every crevice of the rock, throw their
fantastic arms far over the foaming waterfall, the deep green of
their massy foliage forming a beautiful contrast with the white,
flashing waters that foam over the shoot at least fifty feet below
the brow of the limestone rock. By a flight of steps cut in the

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