List Of Contents | Contents of Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie
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was dignified by the title of a gentleman. He was, however, a man
of good education, of excellent abilities, and possessed a bitter,
sarcastic knowledge of the world; but he was selfish and
unprincipled in the highest degree.

His shrewd observations and great conversational powers had first
attracted my husband's attention, and, as men seldom show their bad
qualities on a journey, he thought him a blunt, good fellow, who had
travelled a great deal, and could render himself a very agreeable
companion by a graphic relation of his adventures. He could be all
this, when he chose to relax from his sullen, morose mood; and, much
as I disliked him, I have listened with interest for hours to his
droll descriptions of South American life and manners.

Naturally indolent, and a constitutional grumbler, it was with the
greatest difficulty that Moodie could get him to do anything beyond
bringing a few pails of water from the swamp for the use of the
house, and he often passed me carrying water up from the lake
without offering to relieve me of the burden. Mary, the betrothed
of Jacob, called him a perfect "beast"; but he, returning good for
evil, considered HER a very pretty girl, and paid her so many
uncouth attentions that he roused the jealousy of honest Jake, who
vowed that he would give him a good "loomping" if he only dared
to lay a finger upon his sweetheart. With Jacob to back her, Mary
treated the "zea-bear," as Jacob termed him, with vast disdain, and
was so saucy to him that, forgetting his admiration, he declared he
would like to serve her as the Indians had done a scolding woman in
South America. They attacked her house during the absence of her
husband, cut out her tongue, and nailed it to the door, by way of
knocker; and he thought that all women who could not keep a civil
tongue in their head should be served in the same manner.

"And what should be done to men who swear and use ondacent
language?" quoth Mary, indignantly. "Their tongues should be slit,
and given to the dogs. Faugh! You are such a nasty fellow that I
don't think Hector would eat your tongue."

"I'll kill that beast," muttered Malcolm, as he walked away.

I remonstrated with him on the impropriety of bandying words with
our servants. "You see," I said, "the disrespect with which they
treat you; and if they presume upon your familiarity, to speak to
our guest in this contemptuous manner, they will soon extend the
same conduct to us."

"But, Mrs. Moodie, you should reprove them."

"I cannot, sir, while you continue, by taking liberties with the
girl, and swearing at the man, to provoke them to retaliation."

"Swearing! What harm is there in swearing? A sailor cannot live
without oaths."

"But a gentleman might, Mr. Malcolm. I should be sorry to consider
you in any other light."

"Ah, you are such a prude--so methodistical--you make no allowance
for circumstances! Surely, in the woods we may dispense with the
hypocritical, conventional forms of society, and speak and act as
we please."

"So you seem to think; but you see the result."

"I have never been used to the society of ladies, and I cannot
fashion my words to please them; and I won't, that's more!" he
muttered to himself as he strode off to Moodie in the field. I
wished from my very heart that he was once more on the deck of
his piratical South American craft.

One night he insisted on going out in the canoe to spear maskinonge
with Moodie. The evening turned out very chill and foggy, and,
before twelve, they returned, with only one fish, and half frozen
with cold. Malcolm had got twinges of rheumatism, and he fussed, and
sulked, and swore, and quarrelled with everybody and everything,
until Moodie, who was highly amused by his petulance, advised him
to go to his bed, and pray for the happy restoration of his temper.

"Temper!" he cried, "I don't believe there's a good-tempered person
in the world. It's all hypocrisy! I never had a good-temper! My
mother was an ill-tempered woman, and ruled my father, who was a
confoundedly severe, domineering man. I was born in an ill-temper.
I was an ill-tempered child; I grew up an ill-tempered man. I feel
worse than ill-tempered now, and when I die it will be in an

"Well," quoth I, "Moodie has made you a tumbler of hot punch, which
may help to drive out the cold and the ill-temper, and cure the

"Ay; your husband's a good fellow, and worth two of you, Mrs.
Moodie. He makes some allowance for the weakness of human nature,
and can excuse even my ill-temper."

I did not choose to bandy words with him, and the next day the
unfortunate creature was shaking with the ague. A more intractable,
outrageous, IM-patient I never had the ill-fortune to nurse.
During the cold fit, he did nothing but swear at the cold, and
wished himself roasting; and during the fever, he swore at the heat,
and wished that he was sitting, in no other garment than his shirt,
on the north side of an iceberg. And when the fit at last left him,
he got up, and ate such quantities of fat pork, and drank so much
whiskey-punch, that you would have imagined he had just arrived
from a long journey, and had not tasted food for a couple of days.

He would not believe that fishing in the cold night-air upon the water
had made him ill, but raved that it was all my fault for having laid
my baby down on his bed while it was shaking with the ague.

Yet, if there were the least tenderness mixed up in his iron nature,
it was the affection he displayed for that young child. Dunbar was
just twenty months old, with bright, dark eyes, dimpled cheeks, and
soft, flowing, golden hair, which fell round his infant face in rich
curls. The merry, confiding little creature formed such a contrast
to his own surly, unyielding temper, that, perhaps, that very
circumstance made the bond of union between them. When in the house,
the little boy was seldom out of his arms, and whatever were
Malcolm's faults, he had none in the eyes of the child, who used to
cling around his neck, and kiss his rough, unshaven cheeks with the
greatest fondness.

"If I could afford it, Moodie," he said one day to my husband,
"I should like to marry. I want some one upon whom I could vent
my affections." And wanting that some one in the form of woman,
he contented himself with venting them upon the child.

As the spring advanced, and after Jacob left us, he seemed ashamed
of sitting in the house doing nothing, and therefore undertook to
make us a garden, or "to make garden," as the Canadians term
preparing a few vegetables for the season. I procured the necessary
seeds, and watched with no small surprise the industry with which
our strange visitor commenced operations. He repaired the broken
fence, dug the ground with the greatest care, and laid it out with a
skill and neatness of which I had believed him perfectly incapable.
In less than three weeks, the whole plot presented a very pleasing
prospect, and he was really elated by his success.

"At any rate," he said, "we shall no longer be starved on bad flour
and potatoes. We shall have peas, and beans, and beets, and carrots,
and cabbage in abundance; besides the plot I have reserved for
cucumbers and melons."

"Ah," thought I; "does he, indeed, mean to stay with us until the
melons are ripe?" and my heart died within me, for he not only was a
great additional expense, but he gave a great deal of additional
trouble, and entirely robbed us of all privacy, as our very parlour
was converted into a bed-room for his accommodation; besides that, a
man of his singularly dirty habits made a very disagreeable inmate.

The only redeeming point in his character, in my eyes, was his
love for Dunbar. I could not entirely hate a man who was so fondly
attached to my child. To the two little girls he was very cross,
and often chased them from him with blows.

He had, too, an odious way of finding fault with everything. I never
could cook to please him; and he tried in the most malicious way to
induce Moodie to join in his complaints. All his schemes to make
strife between us, however, failed, and were generally visited
upon himself. In no way did he ever seek to render me the least
assistance. Shortly after Jacob left us, Mary Pine was offered
higher wages by a family at Peterborough, and for some time I was
left with four little children, and without a servant. Moodie always
milked the cows, because I never could overcome my fear of cattle;
and though I had occasionally milked when there was no one else in
the way, it was in fear and trembling.

Moodie had to go down to Peterborough; but before he went, he begged
Malcolm to bring me what water and wood I required, and to stand by
the cattle while I milked the cows, and he would himself be home
before night.

He started at six in the morning, and I got the pail to go and milk.
Malcolm was lying upon his bed, reading.

"Mr. Malcolm, will you be so kind as to go with me to the fields for
a few minutes while I milk?"

"Yes!" (then, with a sulky frown), "but I want to finish what I am

"I will not detain you long."

"Oh, no! I suppose about an hour. You are a shocking bad milker."

"True; I never went near a cow until I came to this country;
and I have never been able to overcome my fear of them."

"More shame for you! A farmer's wife, and afraid of a cow!
Why, these little children would laugh at you."

I did not reply, nor would I ask him again. I walked slowly to
the field, and my indignation made me forget my fear. I had just
finished milking, and with a brimming pail was preparing to climb
the fence and return to the house, when a very wild ox we had came
running with headlong speed from the wood. All my fears were alive
again in a moment. I snatched up the pail, and, instead of climbing
the fence and getting to the house, I ran with all the speed I could
command down the steep hill towards the lake shore; my feet caught
in a root of the many stumps in the path, and I fell to the ground,
my pail rolling many yards a-head of me. Every drop of my milk was
spilt upon the grass. The ox passed on. I gathered myself up and
returned home. Malcolm was very fond of new milk, and he came to
meet me at the door.

"Hi! hi!--Where's the milk?"

"No milk for the poor children to-day," said I, showing him the
inside of the pail, with a sorrowful shake of the head, for it was
no small loss to them and me.

"How the devil's that? So you were afraid to milk the cows. Come
away, and I will keep off the buggaboos."

"I did milk them--no thanks to your kindness, Mr. Malcolm--but--"

"But what?"

"The ox frightened me, and I fell and spilt all the milk."

"Whew! Now don't go and tell your husband that it was all my fault;
if you had had a little patience, I would have come when you asked
me, but I don't choose to be dictated to, and I won't be made a
slave by you or any one else."

"Then why do you stay, sir, where you consider yourself so treated?"
said I. "We are all obliged to work to obtain bread; we give you the
best share--surely the return we ask for it is but small."

"You make me feel my obligations to you when you ask me to do
anything; if you left it to my better feelings we should get on

"Perhaps you are right. I will never ask you to do anything for me
in future."

"Oh, now, that's all mock-humility. In spite of the tears in your
eyes, you are as angry with me as ever; but don't go to make
mischief between me and Moodie. If you'll say nothing about my
refusing to go with you, I'll milk the cows for you myself

"And can you milk?" said I, with some curiosity.

"Milk! Yes; and if I were not so confoundedly low-spirited
and--lazy, I could do a thousand other things too. But now,
don't say a word about it to Moodie."

I made no promise; but my respect for him was not increased by
his cowardly fear of reproof from Moodie, who treated him with
a kindness and consideration which he did not deserve.

The afternoon turned out very wet, and I was sorry that I should be
troubled with his company all day in the house. I was making a shirt
for Moodie from some cotton that had been sent me from home, and he
placed himself by the side of the stove, just opposite, and
continued to regard me for a long time with his usual sullen stare.
I really felt half afraid of him.

"Don't you think me mad!" said he. "I have a brother deranged;
he got a stroke of the sun in India, and lost his senses in
consequence; but sometimes I think it runs in the family."

What answer could I give to this speech, but mere evasive

"You won't say what you really think," he continued; "I know you
hate me, and that makes me dislike you. Now what would you say if I
told you I had committed a murder, and that it was the recollection
of that circumstance that made me at times so restless and unhappy?"

I looked up in his face, not knowing what to believe.

"'Tis fact," said he, nodding his head; and I hoped that he would
not go mad, like his brother, and kill me.

"Come, I'll tell you all about it; I know the world would laugh
at me for calling such an act MURDER; and yet I have been such a
miserable man ever since, that I FEEL it was.

"There was a noted leader among the rebel Buenos-Ayreans, whom the
government wanted much to get hold of. He was a fine, dashing,
handsome fellow; I had often seen him, but we never came to close
quarters. One night, I was lying wrapped up in my poncho at the
bottom of my boat, which was rocking in the surf, waiting for two of
my men, who were gone on shore. There came to the shore, this man
and one of his people, and they stood so near the boat, that I could
distinctly hear their conversation. I suppose it was the devil who
tempted me to put a bullet through the man's heart. He was an enemy
to the flag under which I fought, but he was no enemy to me--I had
no right to become his executioner; but still the desire to kill
him, for the mere devilry of the thing, came so strongly upon me
that I no longer tried to resist it. I rose slowly upon my knees;
the moon was shining very bright at the time, both he and his
companion were too earnestly engaged to see me, and I deliberately
shot him through the body. He fell with a heavy groan back into the
water; but I caught the last look he threw upon the moonlight skies
before his eyes glazed in death. Oh, that look!--so full of despair,
of unutterable anguish; it haunts me yet--it will haunt me for ever.
I would not have cared if I had killed him in strife--but in cold
blood, and he so unsuspicious of his doom! Yes, it was murder; I
know by this constant tugging at my heart that it was murder. What
do you say to it?"

"I should think as you do, Mr. Malcolm. It is a terrible thing to
take away the life of a fellow-creature without the least

"Ah! I know you would blame me; but he was an enemy after all;
I had a right to kill him; I was hired by the government under
whom I served to kill him; and who shall condemn me?"

"No one more than your own heart."

"It is not the heart, but the brain, that must decide in questions

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