List Of Contents | Contents of Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie
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as far as my sister Mrs. T---'s. The day was like our destiny, cold,
dark, and lowering. I gave the dear invalid his crutches, and we
commenced our sorrowful walk. Then old Jenny's lamentations burst
forth, as, flinging her arms round my husband's neck, she kissed
and blessed him after the fashion of her country.

"Och hone! Och hone!" she cried, wringing her hands, "masther dear,
why will you lave the wife and the childher? The poor crathur is
breakin' her heart intirely at partin' wid you. Shure an' the war is
nothin' to you, that you must be goin' into danger; an' you wid a
broken leg. Och hone! Och hone! Come back to your home--you will be
kilt, and thin what will become of the wife and the wee bairns?"

Her cries and lamentations followed us into the wood. At my
sister's, Moodie and I parted; and with a heavy heart I retraced my
steps through the wood. For once, I forgot all my fears. I never
felt the cold. Sad tears were flowing over my cheeks; when I entered
the house, hope seemed to have deserted me, and for upwards of an
hour I lay upon the bed and wept.

Poor Jenny did her best to comfort me, but all joy had vanished with
him who was my light of life.

Left in the most absolute uncertainty as to the real state of public
affairs, I could only conjecture what might be the result of this
sudden outbreak. Several poor settlers called at the house during
the day, on their way down to Peterborough, but they brought with
them the most exaggerated accounts. There had been a battle, they
said, with the rebels, and the loyalists had been defeated; Toronto
was besieged by sixty thousand men, and all the men in the backwoods
were ordered to march instantly to the relief of the city.

In the evening, I received a note from Emilia, who was at
Peterborough, in which she informed me that my husband had borrowed
a horse of Mr. S---, and had joined a large party of two hundred
volunteers, who had left that morning for Toronto; that there had
been a battle with the insurgents; that Colonel Moodie had been
killed, and the rebels had retreated; and that she hoped my
husband would return in a few days.

The honest backwoodsman, perfectly ignorant of the abuses that had
led to the present position of things, regarded the rebels as a set
of monsters, for whom no punishment was too severe, and obeyed the
call to arms with enthusiasm. The leader of the insurgents must have
been astonished at the rapidity with which a large force was
collected, as if by magic, to repel his designs. A great number of
these volunteers were half-pay officers, many of whom had fought in
the continental wars with the armies of Napoleon, and would have
been found a host in themselves. I must own that my British spirit
was fairly aroused, and as I could not aid in subduing the enemies
of my beloved country with my arm, I did what little I could to
serve the good cause with my pen. It may probably amuse my readers,
to give them a few specimens of these loyal staves, which were
widely circulated through the colony at the time.


  Canadians! will you join the band--
    The factious band--who dare oppose
  The regal power of that bless'd land
    From whence your boasted freedom flows?
  Brave children of a noble race,
    Guard well the altar and the hearth;
  And never by your deeds disgrace
    The British sires who gave you birth.

  What though your bones may never lie
    Beneath dear Albion's hallow'd sod,
  Spurn the base wretch who dare defy,
    In arms, his country and his God!
  Whose callous bosom cannot feel
    That he who acts a traitor's part,
  Remorselessly uplifts the steel
    To plunge it in a parent's heart.

  Canadians! will you see the flag,
    Beneath whose folds your fathers bled,
  Supplanted by the vilest rag[1]
    That ever host to rapine led?
  Thou emblem of a tyrant's sway,
    Thy triple hues are dyed in gore;
  Like his, thy power has pass'd away--
    Like his, thy short-lived triumph's o'er.

  Ay! Let the trampled despot's fate
    Forewarn the rash, misguided band
  To sue for mercy, ere too late,
    Nor scatter ruin o'er the land.
  The baffled traitor, doomed to bear
    A people's hate, his colleagues' scorn,
  Defeated by his own despair,
    Will curse the hour that he was born!

  By all the blood for Britain shed
    On many a glorious battle-field,
  To the free winds her standard spread,
    Nor to these base insurgents yield.
  With loyal bosoms beating high,
    In your good cause securely trust;
  "God and Victoria!" be your cry,
    And crush the traitors to the dust.

[1] The tri-coloured flag assumed by the rebels.

This outpouring of a national enthusiasm, which I found it
impossible to restrain, was followed by


  Huzza for England!--May she claim
    Our fond devotion ever;
  And, by the glory of her name,
  Our brave forefathers' honest fame,
    We swear--no foe shall sever
  Her children from their parent's side;
    Though parted by the wave,
  In weal or woe, whate'er betide,
    We swear to die, or save
  Her honour from the rebel band
  Whose crimes pollute our injured land!

  Let the foe come--we will not shrink
    To meet them if they dare;
  Well must they fight, ere rashly think
  To rend apart one sacred link
    That binds our country fair
  To that dear isle, from whence we sprung;
    Which gave our fathers birth;
  Whose glorious deeds her bards have sung;
    The unrivall'd of the earth.
  The highest privilege we claim,
  To own her sway--to bear her name.

  Then, courage, loyal volunteers!
    God will defend the right;
  That thought will banish slavish fears,
  That blessed consciousness still cheers
    The soldier in the fight.
  The stars for us shall never burn,
    The stripes may frighten slaves,
  The Briton's eye will proudly turn
    Where Britain's standard waves.
  Beneath its folds, if Heaven requires,
  We'll die, as died of old our sires!

In a week, Moodie returned. So many volunteers had poured into
Toronto that the number of friends was likely to prove as disastrous
as that of enemies, on account of the want of supplies to maintain
them all. The companies from the back townships had been remanded,
and I received with delight my own again. But this re-union did not
last long. Several regiments of militia were formed to defend the
colony, and to my husband was given the rank of captain in one of
those then stationed in Toronto.

On the 20th of January, 1838, he bade us a long adieu. I was left
with old Jenny and the children to take care of the farm. It was
a sad, dull time. I could bear up against all trials with him to
comfort and cheer me, but his long-continued absence cast a gloom
upon my spirit not easily to be shaken off. Still his very
appointment to this situation was a signal act of mercy. From his
full pay, he was enabled to liquidate many pressing debts, and to
send home from time to time sums of money to procure necessaries for
me and the little ones. These remittances were greatly wanted; but
I demurred before laying them out for comforts which we had been so
long used to dispense with. It seemed almost criminal to purchase
any article of luxury, such as tea or sugar, while a debt remained

The Y---y's were very pressing for the thirty pounds that we owed
them for the clearing; but they had such a firm reliance upon the
honour of my husband, that, poor and pressed for money as they were,
they never sued us. I thought it would be a pleasing surprise to
Moodie, if, with the sums of money which I occasionally received
from him, I could diminish this debt, which had always given him
the greatest uneasiness; and, my resolution once formed, I would
not allow any temptation to shake it.

The money was always transmitted to Dummer. I only reserved the
sum of two dollars a month, to pay a little lad to chop wood for
us. After a time, I began to think the Y---y's were gifted with
secondsight; for I never received a money-letter, but the very
next day I was sure to see some of the family.

Just at this period I received a letter from a gentleman, requesting
me to write for a magazine (the Literary Garland) just started in
Montreal, with promise to remunerate me for my labours. Such an
application was like a gleam of light springing up in the darkness;
it seemed to promise the dawning of a brighter day. I had never been
able to turn my thoughts towards literature during my sojourn in the
bush. When the body is fatigued with labour, unwonted and beyond its
strength, the mind is in no condition for mental occupation.

The year before, I had been requested by an American author, of
great merit, to contribute to the North American Review, published
for several years in Philadelphia; and he promised to remunerate me
in proportion to the success of the work. I had contrived to write
several articles after the children were asleep, though the expense
even of the stationery and the postage of the manuscripts was
severely felt by one so destitute of means; but the hope of being of
the least service to those dear to me cheered me to the task. I
never realised anything from that source; but I believe it was not
the fault of the editor. Several other American editors had written
to me to furnish them with articles; but I was unable to pay the
postage of heavy packets to the States, and they could not reach
their destination without being paid to the frontier. Thus, all
chance of making anything in that way had been abandoned. I wrote to
Mr. L---, and frankly informed him how I was situated. In the most
liberal manner, he offered to pay the postage on all manuscripts to
his office, and left me to name my own terms of remuneration. This
opened up a new era in my existence; and for many years I have
found in this generous man, to whom I am still personally unknown,
a steady friend. I actually shed tears of joy over the first
twenty-dollar bill I received from Montreal. It was my own; I had
earned it with my own hand; and it seemed to my delighted fancy to
form the nucleus out of which a future independence for my family
might arise. I no longer retired to bed when the labours of the
day were over. I sat up, and wrote by the light of a strange sort
of candles, that Jenny called "sluts," and which the old woman
manufactured out of pieces of old rags, twisted together and dipped
in pork lard, and stuck in a bottle. They did not give a bad light,
but it took a great many of them to last me for a few hours.

The faithful old creature regarded my writings with a jealous eye.
"An', shure, it's killin' yerself that you are intirely. You were
thin enough before you took to the pen; scribblin' an' scrabblin'
when you should be in bed an' asleep. What good will it be to the
childhren, dear heart! If you die afore your time, by wastin' your
strength afther that fashion?"

Jenny never could conceive the use of books. "Sure, we can live and
die widout them. It's only a waste of time botherin' your brains wid
the like of them; but, thanks goodness! the lard will soon be all
done, an' thin we shall hear you spakin' again, instead of sittin'
there doubled up all night, desthroying your eyes wid porin' over
the dirthy writin'."

As the sugar-making season drew near, Jenny conceived the bold
thought of making a good lump of sugar, that the "childher" might
have something to "ate" with their bread during the summer. We had
no sugar-kettle, but a neighbour promised to lend us his, and to
give us twenty-eight troughs, on condition that we gave him half
the sugar we made. These terms were rather hard, but Jenny was so
anxious to fulfil the darling object that we consented. Little Sol.
and the old woman made some fifty troughs more, the trees were duly
tapped, a shanty in the bush was erected of small logs and brush and
covered in at the top with straw; and the old woman and Solomon, the
hired boy, commenced operations.

The very first day, a terrible accident happened to us; a large log
fell upon the sugar-kettle--the borrowed sugar-kettle--and cracked
it, spilling all the sap, and rendering the vessel, which had cost
four dollars, useless. We were all in dismay. Just at that time
Old Wittals happened to pass, on his way to Peterborough. He very
good-naturedly offered to get the kettle repaired for us; which,
he said, could be easily done by a rivet and an iron hoop. But
where was the money to come from? I thought awhile. Katie had a
magnificent coral and bells, the gift of her godfather; I asked the
dear child if she would give it to buy another kettle for Mr. T---.
She said, "I would give ten times as much to help mamma."

I wrote a little note to Emilia, who was still at her father's;
and Mr. W---, the storekeeper, sent us a fine sugar-kettle back
by Wittals, and also the other mended, in exchange for the useless
piece of finery. We had now two kettles at work, to the joy of
Jenny, who declared that it was a lucky fairy who had broken the
old kettle.

While Jenny was engaged in boiling and gathering the sap in the
bush, I sugared off the syrup in the house; an operation watched by
the children with intense interest. After standing all day over the
hot stove-fire, it was quite a refreshment to breathe the pure air
at night. Every evening I ran up to see Jenny in the bush, singing
and boiling down the sap in the front of her little shanty. The old
woman was in her element, and afraid of nothing under the stars;
she slept beside her kettles at night, and snapped her fingers at
the idea of the least danger. She was sometimes rather despotic in
her treatment of her attendant, Sol. One morning, in particular,
she bestowed upon the lad a severe cuffing.

I ran up the clearing to the rescue, when my ears were assailed by
the "boo-hooing" of the boy.

"What has happened? Why do you beat the child, Jenny?"

"It's jist, thin, I that will bate him--the unlucky omadhawn! Has
not he spilt and spiled two buckets of syrup, that I have been the
live-long night bilin'. Sorra wid him; I'd like to strip the skin
off him, I would! Musha! but 'tis enough to vex a saint."

"Ah, Jenny!" blubbered the poor boy, "but you have no mercy. You
forget that I have but one eye, and that I could not see the root
which caught my foot and threw me down."

"Faix! an' 'tis a pity that you have the one eye, when you don't
know how to make a betther use of it," muttered the angry dame,
as she picked up the pails, and, pushing him on before her, beat
a retreat into the bush.

I was heartily sick of the sugar-making, long before the season was
over; however, we were well paid for our trouble. Besides one
hundred and twelve pounds of fine soft sugar, as good as Muscovado,
we had six gallons of molasses, and a keg containing six gallons of
excellent vinegar.

Fifty pounds went to Mr. T---, for the use of his kettle; and the
rest (with the exception of a cake for Emilia, which I had drained
in a wet flannel bag until it was almost as white as loaf sugar),
we kept for our own use. There was no lack, this year, of nice

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