List Of Contents | Contents of Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie
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gladly closed with his offer; and, during the time he remained with
us, we had every reason to be pleased with the arrangement.

It was always a humiliating feeling to our proud minds, that
hirelings should witness our dreadful struggle with poverty, and the
strange shifts we were forced to make in order to obtain even food.
But John E--- had known and experienced all that we had suffered,
in his own person, and was willing to share our home with all its
privations. Warm-hearted, sincere, and truly affectionate--a
gentleman in word, thought, and deed--we found his society and
cheerful help a great comfort. Our odd meals became a subject of
merriment, and the peppermint and sage tea drank with a better
flavour when we had one who sympathised in all our trials, and
shared all our toils, to partake of it with us.

The whole family soon became attached to our young friend; and
after the work of the day was over, greatly we enjoyed an hour's
fishing on the lake. John E--- said that we had no right to murmur,
as long as we had health, a happy home, and plenty of fresh fish,
milk, and potatoes. Early in May, we received an old Irishwoman
into our service, who for four years proved a most faithful and
industrious creature. And what with John E--- to assist my husband
on the farm, and old Jenny to help me to nurse the children, and
manage the house, our affairs, if they were no better in a
pecuniary point of view, at least presented a more pleasing aspect
at home. We were always cheerful, and sometimes contented and even

How great was the contrast between the character of our new inmate
and that of Mr. Malcolm! The sufferings of the past year had been
greatly increased by the intolerable nuisance of his company, while
many additional debts had been contracted in order to obtain
luxuries for him which we never dreamed of purchasing for ourselves.
Instead of increasing my domestic toils, John did all in his power
to lessen them; and it always grieved him to see me iron a shirt, or
wash the least article of clothing for him. "You have too much to do
already; I cannot bear to give you the least additional work," he
would say. And he generally expressed the greatest satisfaction at
my method of managing the house, and preparing our simple fare. The
little ones he treated with the most affectionate kindness, and
gathered the whole flock about his knees the moment he came in to
his meals.

On a wet day, when no work could be done abroad, Moodie took up his
flute, or read aloud to us, while John and I sat down to work. The
young emigrant, early cast upon the world and his own resources, was
an excellent hand at the needle. He would make or mend a shirt with
the greatest precision and neatness, and cut out and manufacture his
canvas trousers and loose summer-coats with as much adroitness as
the most experienced tailor; darn his socks, and mend his boots and
shoes, and often volunteered to assist me in knitting the coarse
yarn of the country into socks for the children, while he made them
moccasins from the dressed deer-skins that we obtained from the

Scrupulously neat and clean in his person, the only thing which
seemed to ruffle his calm temper was the dirty work of logging;
he hated to come in from the field with his person and clothes
begrimed with charcoal and smoke. Old Jenny used to laugh at him
for not being able to eat his meals without first washing his
hands and face.

"Och! my dear heart, yer too particular intirely; we've no time
in the woods to be clane." She would say to him, in answer to his
request for soap and a towel, "An' is it soap yer a-wantin'? I
tell yer that that same is not to the fore; bating the throuble
of makin', it's little soap that the misthress can get to wash
the clothes for us and the childher, widout yer wastin' it in makin'
yer purty skin as white as a leddy's. Do, darlint, go down to the
lake and wash there; that basin is big enough, any how." And John
would laugh, and go down to the lake to wash, in order to appease
the wrath of the old woman. John had a great dislike to cats, and
even regarded with an evil eye our old pet cat, Peppermint, who had
taken a great fancy to share his bed and board.

"If I tolerate our own cat," he would say, "I will not put up with
such a nuisance as your friend Emilia sends us in the shape of her
ugly Tom. Why, where in the world do you think I found that beast
sleeping last night?"

I expressed my ignorance.

"In our potato-pot. Now, you will agree with me that potatoes
dressed with cat's hair is not a very nice dish. The next time
I catch Master Tom in the potato-pot, I will kill him."

"John, you are not in earnest. Mrs. --- would never forgive any
injury done to Tom, who is a great favourite."

"Let her keep him at home, then. Think of the brute coming a mile
through the woods to steal from us all he can find, and then
sleeping off the effects of his depredations in the potato-pot."

I could not help laughing, but I begged John by no means to annoy
Emilia by hurting her cat.

The next day, while sitting in the parlour at work, I heard a
dreadful squall, and rushed to the rescue. John was standing, with a
flushed cheek, grasping a large stick in his hand, and Tom was lying
dead at his feet.

"Oh, the poor cat!"

"Yes, I have killed him; but I am sorry for it now. What will
Mrs. --- say?"

"She must not know it. I have told you the story of the pig that
Jacob killed. You had better bury it with the pig."

John was really sorry for having yielded, in a fit of passion, to do
so cruel a thing; yet a few days after he got into a fresh scrape
with Mrs. ---'s animals.

The hens were laying, up at the barn. John was very fond of fresh
eggs, but some strange dog came daily and sucked the eggs. John had
vowed to kill the first dog he found in the act. Mr. --- had a very
fine bull-dog, which he valued very highly; but with Emilia, Chowder
was an especial favourite. Bitterly had she bemoaned the fate of
Tom, and many were the inquiries she made of us as to his sudden

One afternoon John ran into the room. "My dear Mrs. Moodie, what is
Mrs. ---'s dog like?"

"A large bull-dog, brindled black and white."

"Then, by Jove, I've shot him!"

"John, John! you mean me to quarrel in earnest with my friend.
How could you do it?"

"Why, how the deuce should I know her dog from another? I caught the
big thief in the very act of devouring the eggs from under your
sitting hen, and I shot him dead without another thought. But I will
bury him, and she will never find it out a bit more than she did who
killed the cat."

Some time after this, Emilia returned from a visit at P---. The
first thing she told me was the loss of the dog. She was so vexed at
it, she had had him advertised, offering a reward for his recovery.

I, of course, was called upon to sympathise with her, which I did
with a very bad grace. "I did not like the beast," I said; "he was
cross and fierce, and I was afraid to go up to her house while he
was there."

"Yes; but to lose him so. It is so provoking; and him such a
valuable animal. I could not tell how deeply she felt the loss.
She would give four dollars to find out who had stolen him."

How near she came to making the grand discovery the sequel will

Instead of burying him with the murdered pig and cat, John had
scratched a shallow grave in the garden, and concealed the dead

After tea, Emilia requested to look at the garden; and I, perfectly
unconscious that it contained the remains of the murdered Chowder,
led the way. Mrs. --- whilst gathering a handful of fine green-peas,
suddenly stooped, and looking earnestly at the ground, called to me--

"Come here, Susanna, and tell me what has been buried here. It looks
like the tail of a dog."

She might have added, "of my dog." Murder, it seems, will out.
By some strange chance, the grave that covered the mortal remains
of Chowder had been disturbed, and the black tail of the dog was
sticking out.

"What can it be?" said I, with an air of perfect innocence. "Shall I
call Jenny, and dig it up?"

"Oh, no, my dear; it has a shocking smell, but it does look very
much like Chowder's tail."

"Impossible! How could it come among my peas?"

"True. Besides, I saw Chowder, with my own eyes, yesterday,
following a team; and George C--- hopes to recover him for me."

"Indeed! I am glad to hear it. How these mosquitoes sting. Shall we
go back to the house?"

While we returned to the house, John, who had overheard the whole
conversation, hastily disinterred the body of Chowder, and placed
him in the same mysterious grave with Tom and the pig.

Moodie and his friend finished logging-up the eight acres which the
former had cleared the previous winter; besides putting in a crop of
peas and potatoes, and an acre of Indian corn, reserving the fallow
for fall wheat, while we had the promise of a splendid crop of hay
off the sixteen acres that had been cleared in 1834. We were all in
high spirits and everything promised fair, until a very trifling
circumstance again occasioned us much anxiety and trouble, and was
the cause of our losing most of our crop.

Moodie was asked to attend a bee, which was called to construct a
corduroy-bridge over a very bad piece of road. He and J. E--- were
obliged to go that morning with wheat to the mill, but Moodie lent
his yoke of oxen for the work.

The driver selected for them at the bee was the brutal M---y, a man
noted for his ill-treatment of cattle, especially if the animals did
not belong to him. He gave one of the oxen such a severe blow over
the loins with a handspike that the creature came home perfectly
disabled, just as we wanted his services in the hay-field and

Moodie had no money to purchase, or even to hire a mate for the
other ox; but he and John hoped that by careful attendance upon the
injured animal he might be restored to health in a few days. They
conveyed him to a deserted clearing, a short distance from the farm,
where he would be safe from injury from the rest of the cattle; and
early every morning we went in the canoe to carry poor Duke a warm
mash, and to watch the progress of his recovery.

Ah, ye who revel in this world's wealth, how little can you realise
the importance which we, in our poverty, attached to the life of
this valuable animal! Yes, it even became the subject of prayer, for
the bread for ourselves and our little ones depended greatly upon
his recovery. We were doomed to disappointment. After nursing him
with the greatest attention and care for some weeks, the animal grew
daily worse, and suffered such intense agony, as he lay groaning
upon the ground, unable to rise, that John shot him to put him out
of pain.

Here, then, were we left without oxen to draw in our hay, or secure
our other crops. A neighbour, who had an odd ox, kindly lent us the
use of him, when he was not employed on his own farm; and John and
Moodie gave their own work for the occasional loan of a yoke of
oxen for a day. But with all these drawbacks, and in spite of the
assistance of old Jenny and myself in the field, a great deal of the
produce was damaged before it could be secured. The whole summer we
had to labour under this disadvantage. Our neighbours were all too
busy to give us any help, and their own teams were employed in
saving their crops. Fortunately, the few acres of wheat we had to
reap were close to the barn, and we carried the sheaves thither by
hand; old Jenny proving an invaluable help, both in the harvest and

Still, with all these misfortunes, Providence watched over us in a
signal manner. We were never left entirely without food. Like the
widow's cruise of oil, our means, though small, were never suffered
to cease entirely. We had been for some days without meat, when
Moodie came running in for his gun. A great she-bear was in the
wheat-field at the edge of the wood, very busily employed in helping
to harvest the crop. There was but one bullet, and a charge or two
of buckshot, in the house; but Moodie started to the wood with the
single bullet in his gun, followed by a little terrier dog that
belonged to John E---. Old Jenny was busy at the wash-tub, but the
moment she saw her master running up the clearing, and knew the
cause, she left her work, and snatching up the carving-knife, ran
after him, that in case the bear should have the best of the fight,
she would be there to help "the masther." Finding her shoes
incommode her, she flung them off, in order to run faster. A few
minutes after, came the report of the gun, and I heard Moodie halloo
to E---, who was cutting stakes for a fence in the wood. I hardly
thought it possible that he could have killed the bear, but I ran to
the door to listen. The children were all excitement, which the
sight of the black monster, borne down the clearing upon two poles,
increased to the wildest demonstrations of joy. Moodie and John were
carrying the prize, and old Jenny, brandishing her carving-knife,
followed in the rear.

The rest of the evening was spent in skinning, and cutting up,
and salting the ugly creature, whose flesh filled a barrel with
excellent meat, in flavour resembling beef, while the short grain
and juicy nature of the flesh gave to it the tenderness of mutton.
This was quite a Godsend, and lasted us until we were able to kill
two large, fat hogs, in the fall.

A few nights after, Moodie and I encountered the mate of Mrs. Bruin,
while returning from a visit to Emilia, in the very depth of the

We had been invited to meet our friend's father and mother, who had
come up on a short visit to the woods; and the evening passed away
so pleasantly that it was near midnight before the little party of
friends separated. The moon was down. The wood, through which we had
to return, was very dark; the ground being low and swampy, and the
trees thick and tall. There was, in particular, one very ugly spot,
where a small creek crossed the road. This creek could only be
passed by foot-passengers scrambling over a fallen tree, which,
in a dark night, was not very easy to find.

I begged a torch of Mr. ---; but no torch could be found. Emilia
laughed at my fears; still, knowing what a coward I was in the bush
of a night, she found up about an inch of candle, which was all that
remained from the evening's entertainment. This she put into an old

"It will not last you long; but it will carry you over the creek."

This was something gained, and off we set.

It was so dark in the bush, that our dim candle looked like a
solitary red spark in the intense surrounding darkness, and
scarcely served to show us the path.

We went chatting along, talking over the news of the evening,
Hector running on before us, when I saw a pair of eyes glare upon
us from the edge of the swamp, with the green, bright light emitted
by the eyes of a cat.

"Did you see those terrible eyes, Moodie?" and I clung, trembling,
to his arm.

"What eyes?" said he, feigning ignorance. "It's too dark to see
anything. The light is nearly gone, and, if you don't quicken your

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