List Of Contents | Contents of Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie
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banks we ascended to the platform above the river on which Mr.
Y---'s house stood.

It was a large, rough-looking, log building, surrounded by barns and
sheds of the same primitive material. The porch before the door was
covered with hops, and the room of general resort, into which it
immediately opened, was of large dimensions, the huge fire-place
forming the most striking feature. On the hearth-stone, hot as was
the weather, blazed a great fire, encumbered with all sorts of
culinary apparatus, which, I am inclined to think, had been called
into requisition for our sole benefit and accommodation.

The good folks had breakfasted long before we started from home,
but they would not hear of our proceeding to Stony Lake until after
we had dined. It was only eight o'clock a.m., and we had still four
hours to dinner, which gave us ample leisure to listen to the old
man's stories, ramble round the premises, and observe all the
striking features of the place.

Mr. Y--- was a Catholic, and the son of a respectable farmer from
the south of Ireland. Some few years before, he had emigrated with
a large family of seven sons and two daughters, and being fond of
field sports, and greatly taken with the beauty of the locality in
which he had pitched his tent in the wilderness, he determined to
raise a mill upon the dam which Nature had provided to his hands,
and wait patiently until the increasing immigration should settle
the townships of Smith and Douro, render the property valuable,
and bring plenty of grist to the mill.

He was not far wrong in his calculations; and though, for the first
few years, he subsisted entirely by hunting, fishing, and raising
what potatoes and wheat he required for his own family, on the most
fertile spots he could find on his barren lot, very little corn
passed through the mill.

At the time we visited his place, he was driving a thriving trade,
and all the wheat that was grown in the neighbourhood was brought
by water to be ground at Y---'s mill.

He had lost his wife a few years after coming to the country; but
his two daughters, Betty and Norah, were excellent housewives, and
amply supplied her loss. From these amiable women we received a most
kind and hearty welcome, and every comfort and luxury within their

They appeared a most happy and contented family. The sons--a fine,
hardy, independent set of fellows--were regarded by the old man with
pride and affection. Many were his anecdotes of their prowess in
hunting and fishing.

His method of giving them an aversion to strong drink while very
young amused me greatly, but it is not every child that could have
stood the test of his experiment.

"When they were little chaps, from five to six years of age, I made
them very drunk," he said; "so drunk that it brought on severe
headache and sickness, and this so disgusted them with liquor,
that they never could abide the sight of it again. I have only one
drunkard among the seven; and he was such a weak, puling crathur,
that I dared not try the same game with him, lest it should kill
him. 'Tis his nature, I suppose, and he can't help it; but the truth
is, that to make up for the sobriety of all the rest, he is killing
himself with drink."

Norah gave us an account of her catching a deer that had got into
the enclosure the day before.

"I went out," she said, "early in the morning, to milk the cows,
and I saw a fine young buck struggling to get through a pale of the
fence, in which having entangled his head and horns, I knew, by the
desperate efforts he was making to push aside the rails, that if I
was not quick in getting hold of him, he would soon be gone."

"And did you dare to touch him?"

"If I had had Mat's gun I would have shot him, but he would have
made his escape long before I could run to the house for that, so I
went boldly up to him and got him by the hind legs; and though he
kicked and struggled dreadfully, I held on till Mat heard me call,
and ran to my help, and cut his throat with his hunting-knife. So
you see," she continued, with a good-natured laugh, "I can beat our
hunters hollow--they hunt the deer, but I can catch a buck with my

While we were chatting away, great were the preparations making by
Miss Betty and a very handsome American woman, who had recently come
thither as a help. One little barefooted garsoon was shelling peas
in an Indian basket, another was stringing currants into a yellow
pie-dish, and a third was sent to the rapids with his rod and line,
to procure a dish of fresh fish to add to the long list of bush
dainties that were preparing for our dinner.

It was in vain that I begged our kind entertainers not to put
themselves to the least trouble on our account, telling them that
we were now used to the woods, and contented with anything; they
were determined to exhaust all their stores to furnish forth the
entertainment. Nor can it be wondered at, that, with so many
dishes to cook, and pies and custards to bake, instead of dining
at twelve, it was past two o'clock before we were conducted to
the dinner-table. I was vexed and disappointed at the delay, as
I wanted to see all I could of the spot we were about to visit
before night and darkness compelled us to return.

The feast was spread in a large outhouse, the table being formed
of two broad deal boards laid together, and supported by rude
carpenter's stools. A white linen cloth, a relic of better days,
concealed these arrangements. The board was covered with an
indescribable variety of roast and boiled, of fish, flesh, and
fowl. My readers should see a table laid out in a wealthy Canadian
farmer's house before they can have any idea of the profusion
displayed in the entertainment of two visitors and their young

Besides venison, pork, chickens, ducks, and fish of several kinds,
cooked in a variety of ways, there was a number of pumpkin,
raspberry, cherry, and currant pies, with fresh butter and green
cheese (as the new cream-cheese is called), molasses, preserves, and
pickled cucumbers, besides tea and coffee--the latter, be it known,
I had watched the American woman boiling in the frying-pan. It was a
black-looking compound, and I did not attempt to discuss its merits.
The vessel in which it had been prepared had prejudiced me, and
rendered me very sceptical on that score.

We were all very hungry, having tasted nothing since five o'clock in
the morning, and contrived, out of the variety of good things before
us, to make an excellent dinner.

I was glad, however, when we rose to prosecute our intended trip up
the lake. The old man, whose heart was now thoroughly warmed with
whiskey, declared that he meant to make one of the party, and Betty,
too, was to accompany us; her sister Norah kindly staying behind to
take care of the children.

We followed a path along the top of the high ridge of limestone
rock, until we had passed the falls and the rapids above, when we
found Pat and Mat Y--- waiting for us on the shore below, in two
beautiful new birch-bark canoes, which they had purchased the day
before from the Indians.

Miss Betty, Mat, and myself, were safely stowed into one, while the
old miller, and his son Pat, and my husband, embarked in the other,
and our steersmen pushed off into the middle of the deep and silent
stream; the shadow of the tall woods, towering so many feet above
us, casting an inky hue upon the waters.

The scene was very imposing, and after paddling for a few minutes in
shade and silence, we suddenly emerged into light and sunshine, and
Clear Lake, which gets its name from the unrivalled brightness of
its waters, spread out its azure mirror before us. The Indians
regard this sheet of water with peculiar reverence. It abounds in
the finest sorts of fish, the salmon-trout, the delicious white
fish, maskinonge, and black and white bass. There is no island in
this lake, no rice beds, nor stick nor stone to break its tranquil
beauty, and, at the time we visited it, there was but one clearing
upon its shores.

The log hut of the squatter P---, commanding a beautiful prospect
up and down the lake, stood upon a bold slope fronting the water;
all the rest was unbroken forest.

We had proceeded about a mile on our pleasant voyage, when our
attention was attracted by a singular natural phenomenon, which
Mat Y--- called the battery.

On the right-hand side of the shore rose a steep, perpendicular wall
of limestone, that had the appearance of having been laid by the
hand of man, so smooth and even was its surface. After attaining a
height of about fifty feet, a natural platform of eight or ten yards
broke the perpendicular line of the rock, when another wall, like
the first, rose to a considerable height, terminating in a second
and third platform of the same description.

Fire, at some distant period, had run over these singularly
beautiful terraces, and a second growth of poplars and
balm-of-gileads, relieved, by their tender green and light, airy
foilage, the sombre indigo tint of the heavy pines that nodded like
the plumes of a funeral-hearse over the fair young dwellers on the

The water is forty feet deep at the base of this precipice, which
is washed by the waves. After we had passed the battery, Mat Y---
turned to me and said, "That is a famous place for bears; many a
bear have I shot among those rocks."

This led to a long discussion on the wild beasts of the country.

"I do not think that there is much danger to be apprehended from
them," said he; "but I once had an ugly adventure with a wolf two
winters ago, on this lake."

I was all curiosity to hear the story, which sounded doubly
interesting told on the very spot, and while gliding over those
lovely waters.

"We were lumbering at the head of Stony Lake, about eight miles from
here, my four brothers, myself, and several other hands. The winter
was long and severe; although it was the first week in March, there
was not the least appearance of a thaw, and the ice on these lakes
was as firm as ever. I had been sent home to fetch a yoke of oxen
to draw the saw-logs down to the water, our chopping being all
completed, and the logs ready for rafting.

"I did not think it necessary to encumber myself with my rifle, and
was, therefore, provided with no weapon of defence but the long
gad I used to urge on the cattle. It was about four o'clock in the
afternoon when I rounded Sandy Point, that long point which is
about a mile a-head of us on the left shore, when I first discovered
that I was followed, but at a great distance, by a large wolf. At
first, I thought little of the circumstance, beyond a passing wish
that I had brought my gun. I knew that he would not attack me before
dark, and it was still two long hours to sundown; so I whistled, and
urged on my oxen, and soon forgot the wolf--when, on stopping to
repair a little damage to the peg of the yoke, I was surprised to
find him close at my heels. I turned, and ran towards him, shouting
as loud as I could, when he slunk back, but showed no inclination
to make off. Knowing that he must have companions near, by his
boldness, I shouted as loud as I could, hoping that my cries might
be heard by my brothers, who would imagine that the oxen had got
into the ice, and would come to my assistance. I was now winding
my way through the islands in Stony Lake; the sun was setting red
before me, and I had still three miles of my journey to accomplish.
The wolf had become so impudent that I kept him off by pelting him
with snowballs; and once he came so near that I struck him with the
gad. I now began to be seriously alarmed, and from time to time,
shouted with all my strength; and you may imagine my joy when these
cries were answered by the report of a gun. My brothers had heard
me, and the discharge of a gun, for a moment, seemed to daunt the
wolf. He uttered a long howl, which was answered by the cries of a
large pack of the dirty brutes from the wood. It was only just light
enough to distinguish objects, and I had to stop and face my enemy,
to keep him at bay.

"I saw the skeleton forms of half-a-dozen more of them slinking
among the bushes that skirted a low island; and tired and cold, I
gave myself and the oxen up for lost, when I felt the ice tremble
on which I stood, and heard men running at a little distance. 'Fire
your guns!' I cried out, as loud as I could. My order was obeyed,
and such a yelling and howling immediately filled the whole forest
as would have chilled your very heart. The thievish varmints
instantly fled away into the bush.

"I never felt the least fear of wolves until that night; but when
they meet in large bands, like cowardly dogs, they trust to their
numbers, and grow fierce. If you meet with one wolf, you may be
certain that the whole pack are at no great distance."

We were fast approaching Sandy Point, a long white ridge of sand,
running half across the lake, and though only covered with scattered
groups of scrubby trees and brush, it effectually screened Stony
Lake from our view. There were so many beautiful flowers peeping
through the dwarf, green bushes, that, wishing to inspect them
nearer, Mat kindly ran the canoe ashore, and told me that he would
show me a pretty spot, where an Indian, who had been drowned during
a storm off that point, was buried. I immediately recalled the story
of Susan Moore's father, but Mat thought that he was interred upon
one of the islands farther up.

"It is strange," he said, "that they are such bad swimmers. The
Indian, though unrivalled by us whites in the use of the paddle, is
an animal that does not take readily to the water, and those among
them who can swim seldom use it as a recreation."

Pushing our way through the bushes, we came to a small opening in
the underwood, so thickly grown over with wild Canadian roses in
full blossom, that the air was impregnated with a delightful odour.
In the centre of this bed of sweets rose the humble mound that
protected the bones of the red man from the ravenous jaws of the
wolf and the wild cat. It was completely covered with stones, and
from among the crevices had sprung a tuft of blue harebells, waving
as wild and free as if they grew among the bonny red heather on the
glorious hills of the North, or shook their tiny bells to the breeze
on the broom-encircled commons of England.

The harebell had always from a child been with me a favourite
flower; and the first sight of it in Canada, growing upon that
lonely grave, so flooded my soul with remembrances of the past,
that, in spite of myself, the tears poured freely from my eyes.
There are moments when it is impossible to repress those outgushings
of the heart--

  "Those flood-gates of the soul that sever,
  In passion's tide to part for ever."

If Mat and his sister wondered at my tears, they must have suspected
the cause, for they walked to a little distance, and left me to the
indulgence of my feelings. I gathered those flowers, and placed them
in my bosom, and kept them for many a day; they had become holy,
when connected with sacred home recollections, and the never-dying
affections of the heart which the sight of them recalled.

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