List Of Contents | Contents of Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie
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pace, and cross the tree before it goes out, you will, perhaps,
get your feet wet by falling into the creek."

"Good Heavens! I saw them again; and do just look at the dog."

Hector stopped suddenly, and, stretching himself along the ground,
his nose resting between his forepaws, began to whine and tremble.
Presently he ran back to us, and crept under our feet. The cracking
of branches, and the heavy tread of some large animal, sounded close
beside us.

Moodie turned the open lanthorn in the direction from whence the
sounds came, and shouted as loud as he could, at the same time
endeavouring to urge forward the fear-stricken dog, whose cowardice
was only equalled by my own.

Just at that critical moment the wick of the candle flickered a
moment in the socket, and expired. We were left, in perfect
darkness, alone with the bear--for such we supposed the animal
to be.

My heart beat audibly; a cold perspiration was streaming down my
face, but I neither shrieked nor attempted to run. I don't know how
Moodie got me over the creek. One of my feet slipped into the water,
but, expecting, as I did every moment, to be devoured by master
Bruin, that was a thing of no consequence. My husband was laughing
at my fears, and every now and then he turned towards our companion,
who continued following us at no great distance, and gave him an
encouraging shout. Glad enough was I when I saw the gleam of the
light from our little cabin window shine out among the trees; and,
the moment I got within the clearing I ran, without stopping until
I was safely within the house. John was sitting up for us, nursing
Donald. He listened with great interest to our adventure with the
bear, and thought that Bruin was very good to let us escape without
one affectionate hug.

"Perhaps it would have been otherwise had he known, Moodie, that you
had not only killed his good lady, but were dining sumptuously off
her carcass every day."

The bear was determined to have something in return for the loss of
his wife. Several nights after this, our slumbers were disturbed,
about midnight, by an awful yell, and old Jenny shook violently at
our chamber door.

"Masther, masther, dear! Get up wid you this moment, or the bear
will desthroy the cattle intirely."

Half asleep, Moodie sprang from his bed, seized his gun, and ran
out. I threw my large cloak round me, struck a light, and followed
him to the door. The moment the latter was unclosed, some calves
that we were rearing rushed into the kitchen, closely followed
by the larger beasts, who came bellowing headlong down the hill,
pursued by the bear.

It was a laughable scene, as shown by that paltry tallow-candle.
Moodie, in his night-shirt, taking aim at something in the darkness,
surrounded by the terrified animals; old Jenny, with a large knife
in her hand, holding on to the white skirts of her master's garment,
making outcry loud enough to frighten away all the wild beasts in
the bush--herself almost in a state of nudity.

"Och, masther, dear! don't timpt the ill-conditioned crathur wid
charging too near; think of the wife and the childher. Let me come
at the rampaging baste, an' I'll stick the knife into the heart of

Moodie fired. The bear retreated up the clearing, with a low growl.
Moodie and Jenny pursued him some way, but it was too dark to
discern any object at a distance. I, for my part, stood at the open
door, laughing until the tears ran down my cheeks, at the glaring
eyes of the oxen, their ears erect, and their tails carried
gracefully on a level with their backs, as they stared at me and the
light, in blank astonishment. The noise of the gun had just roused
John E--- from his slumbers. He was no less amused than myself,
until he saw that a fine yearling heifer was bleeding, and found,
upon examination, that the poor animal, having been in the claws
of the bear, was dangerously, if not mortally hurt.

"I hope," he cried, "that the brute has not touched my foal!"
I pointed to the black face of the filly peeping over the back
of an elderly cow.

"You see, John, that Bruin preferred veal; there's your 'horsey,'
as Dunbar calls her, safe, and laughing at you."

Moodie and Jenny now returned from the pursuit of the bear. E---
fastened all the cattle into the back yard, close to the house. By
daylight he and Moodie had started in chase of Bruin, whom they
tracked by his blood some way into the bush; but here he entirely
escaped their search.


  Oh! BEAR me from this savage land of BEARS,
    For 'tis indeed UNBEARABLE to me:
  I'd rather cope with vilest worldly cares,
    Or writhe with cruel sickness of the sea.
  Oh! BEAR me to my own BEAR land of hills,[1]
    Where I'd be sure brave BEAR-legg'd lads to see--
  BEAR cakes, BEAR rocks, and whiskey stills,
    And BEAR-legg'd nymphs, to smile once more on me.

  I'd BEAR the heat, I'd BEAR the freezing air
    Of equatorial realm or Arctic sea,
  I'd sit all BEAR at night, and watch the Northern BEAR,
    And bless my soul that he was far from me.
  I'd BEAR the poor-rates, tithes, and all the ills
    John Bull must BEAR, (who takes them all, poor sinner!
  As patients do, when forced to gulp down pills,
    And water-gruel drink in lieu of dinner).

  I'd BEAR the BARENESS of all barren lands
    Before I'd BEAR the BEARISHNESS of this;
  BARE head, BEAR feet, BEAR legs, BEAR hands,
    BEAR everything, but want of social bliss.
  But should I die in this drear land of BEARS,
    Oh! ship me off, my friends, discharge the sable wearers,
  For if you don't, in spite of priests and prayers,
    The BEARS will come, and eat up corpse and BEARERS.


[1] The Orkney Isles.



  Can a corrupted stream pour through the land
  Health-giving waters? Can the slave, who lures
  His wretched followers with the hope of gain,
  Feel in his bosom the immortal fire
  That bound a Wallace to his country's cause,
  And bade the Thracian shepherd cast away
  Rome's galling yoke; while the astonish'd world--
  Rapt into admiration at the deed--
  Paus'd, ere she crush'd, with overwhelming force,
  The man who fought to win a glorious grave?

The long-protracted harvest was at length brought to a close. Moodie
had procured another ox from Dummer, by giving a note at six months
date for the payment; and he and John E--- were in the middle of
sowing their fall crop of wheat, when the latter received a letter
from the old country, which conveyed to him intelligence of the
death of his mother, and of a legacy of two hundred pounds. It was
necessary for him to return to claim the property, and though we
felt his loss severely, we could not, without great selfishness,
urge him to stay. John had formed an attachment to a young lady in
the country, who, like himself, possessed no property. Their
engagement, which had existed several years, had been dropped, from
its utter hopelessness, by mutual consent. Still the young people
continued to love each other, and to look forward to better days,
when their prospects might improve so far that E--- would be able to
purchase a bush farm, and raise a house, however lowly, to shelter
his Mary.

He, like our friend Malcolm, had taken a fancy to buy a part of our
block of land, which he could cultivate in partnership with Moodie,
without being obliged to hire, when the same barn, cattle, and
implements would serve for both. Anxious to free himself from the
thraldom of debts which pressed him sore, Moodie offered to part
with two hundred acres at less than they cost us, and the bargain
was to be considered as concluded directly the money was

It was a sorrowful day when our young friend left us; he had been a
constant inmate in the house for nine months, and not one unpleasant
word had ever passed between us. He had rendered our sojourn in the
woods more tolerable by his society, and sweetened our bitter lot by
his friendship and sympathy. We both regarded him as a brother, and
parted with him with sincere regret. As to old Jenny, she lifted up
her voice and wept, consigning him to the care and protection of all
the saints in the Irish calendar.

For several days after John left us, a deep gloom pervaded the
house. Our daily toil was performed with less cheerfulness and
alacrity; we missed him at the evening board, and at the evening
fire; and the children asked each day, with increasing earnestness,
when dear E--- would return.

Moodie continued sowing his fall wheat. The task was nearly
completed, and the chill October days were fast verging upon winter,
when towards the evening of one of them he contrived--I know not
how--to crawl down from the field at the head of the hill, faint and
pale, and in great pain. He had broken the small bone of his leg.
In dragging, among the stumps, the heavy machine (which is made in
the form of the letter V, and is supplied with large iron teeth),
had hitched upon a stump, and being swung off again by the motion
of the oxen, had come with great force against his leg. At first he
was struck down, and for some time was unable to rise; but at length
he contrived to unyoke the team, and crawled partly on his hands and
knees down the clearing.

What a sad, melancholy evening that was! Fortune seemed never tired
of playing us some ugly trick. The hope which had so long sustained
me seemed about to desert me altogether; when I saw him on whom we
all depended for subsistence, and whose kindly voice ever cheered
us under the pressure of calamity, smitten down helpless, all my
courage and faith in the goodness of the Divine Father seemed to
forsake me, and I wept long and bitterly.

The next morning I went in search of a messenger to send to
Peterborough for the doctor; but though I found and sent the
messenger, the doctor never came. Perhaps he did not like to incur
the expense of a fatiguing journey with small chance of obtaining
a sufficient remuneration.

Our dear sufferer contrived, with assistance, to bandage his leg;
and after the first week of rest had expired, he amused himself with
making a pair of crutches, and in manufacturing Indian paddles for
the canoe, axe-handles, and yokes for the oxen. It was wonderful
with what serenity he bore this unexpected affliction.

Buried in the obscurity of those woods, we knew nothing, heard
nothing of the political state of the country, and were little aware
of the revolution which was about to work a great change for us and
for Canada.

The weather continued remarkably mild. The first great snow, which
for years had ordinarily fallen between the 10th and 15th of
November, still kept off. November passed on, and as all our
firewood had to be chopped by old Jenny during the lameness of my
husband, I was truly grateful to God for the continued mildness of
the weather.

On the 4th of December--that great day of the outbreak--Moodie was
determined to take advantage of the open state of the lake to carry
a large grist up to Y---'s mill. I urged upon him the danger of a
man attempting to manage a canoe in rapid water, who was unable to
stand without crutches; but Moodie saw that the children would need
bread, and he was anxious to make the experiment.

Finding that I could not induce him to give up the journey, I
determined to go with him. Old Wittals, who happened to come down
that morning, assisted in placing the bags of wheat in the little
vessel, and helped to place Moodie at the stern. With a sad,
foreboding spirit I assisted to push off from the shore.

The air was raw and cold, but our sail was not without its pleasure.

The lake was very full from the heavy rains, and the canoe bounded
over the waves with a free, springy motion. A slight frost had hung
every little bush and spray along the shores with sparkling
crystals. The red pigeon-berries, shining through their coating of
ice, looked like cornelian beads set in silver, and strung from bush
to bush. We found the rapids at the entrance of Bessikakoon Lake
very hard to stem, and were so often carried back by the force of
the water, that, cold as the air was, the great exertion which
Moodie had to make use of to obtain the desired object brought the
perspiration out in big drops upon his forehead. His long
confinement to the house and low diet had rendered him very weak.

The old miller received us in the most hearty and hospitable manner;
and complimented me upon my courage in venturing upon the water in
such cold, rough weather. Norah was married, but the kind Betty
provided us an excellent dinner, while we waited for the grist to
be ground.

It was near four o'clock when we started on our return. If there had
been danger in going up the stream, there was more in coming down.
The wind had changed, the air was frosty, keen, and biting, and
Moodie's paddle came up from every dip into the water loaded with
ice. For my part, I had only to sit still at the bottom of the
canoe, as we floated rapidly down with wind and tide. At the landing
we were met by old Jenny, who had a long story to tell us, of which
we could make neither head nor tail--how some gentleman had called
during our absence, and left a large paper, all about the Queen and
the Yankees; that there was war between Canada and the States; that
Toronto had been burnt, and the governor killed, and I know not what
other strange and monstrous statements. After much fatigue, Moodie
climbed the hill, and we were once more safe by our own fireside.
Here we found the elucidation of Jenny's marvelous tales: a copy of
the Queen's proclamation, calling upon all loyal gentlemen to join
in putting down the unnatural rebellion.

A letter from my sister explained the nature of the outbreak, and
the astonishment with which the news had been received by all the
settlers in the bush. My brother and my sister's husband had already
gone off to join some of the numerous bands of gentlemen who were
collecting from all quarters to march to the aid of Toronto, which
it was said was besieged by the rebel force. She advised me not to
suffer Moodie to leave home in his present weak state; but the
spirit of my husband was aroused, he instantly obeyed what he
considered the imperative call of duty, and told me to prepare him
a few necessaries, that he might be ready to start early in the

Little sleep visited our eyes that night. We talked over the strange
news for hours; our coming separation, and the probability that if
things were as bad as they appeared to be, we might never meet
again. Our affairs were in such a desperate condition that Moodie
anticipated that any change must be for the better; it was
impossible for them to be worse. But the poor, anxious wife thought
only of a parting which to her put a finishing stroke to all her

Before the cold, snowy morning broke, we were all stirring. The
children, who had learned that their father was preparing to leave
them, were crying and clinging round his knees. His heart was too
deeply affected to eat; the meal passed over in silence, and he rose
to go. I put on my hat and shawl to accompany him through the wood

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