List Of Contents | Contents of Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie
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preserves and pickled cucumbers, dainties found in every native
Canadian establishment.

Besides gaining a little money with my pen, I practised a method
of painting birds and butterflies upon the white, velvety surface
of the large fungi that grow plentifully upon the bark of the
sugar-maple. These had an attractive appearance; and my brother,
who was a captain in one of the provisional regiments, sold a great
many of them among the officers, without saying by whom they were
painted. One rich lady in Peterborough, long since dead, ordered
two dozen to send as curiosities to England. These, at one shilling
each, enabled me to buy shoes for the children, who, during our bad
times, had been forced to dispense with these necessary coverings.
How often, during the winter season, have I wept over their little
chapped feet, literally washing them with my tears! But these days
were to end; Providence was doing great things for us; and Hope
raised at last her drooping head to regard with a brighter glance
the far-off future.

Slowly the winter rolled away; but he to whom every thought turned
was still distant from his humble home. The receipt of an occasional
letter from him was my only solace during his long absence, and we
were still too poor to indulge often in this luxury. My poor Katie
was as anxious as her mother to hear from her father; and when I did
get the long-looked-for prize, she would kneel down before me, her
little elbows resting on my knees, her head thrown back, and tears
trickling down her innocent cheeks, eagerly drinking in every word.

The spring brought us plenty of work; we had potatoes and corn to
plant, and the garden to cultivate. By lending my oxen for two days'
work, I got Wittals, who had no oxen, to drag me in a few acres of
oats, and to prepare the land for potatoes and corn. The former I
dropped into the earth, while Jenny covered them up with the hoe.

Our garden was well dug and plentifully manured, the old woman
bringing the manure, which had lain for several years at the barn
door, down to the plot, in a large Indian basket placed upon a
hand-sleigh. We had soon every sort of vegetable sown, with plenty
of melons and cucumbers, and all our beds promised a good return.
There were large flights of ducks upon the lake every night and
morning; but though we had guns, we did not know how to use them.
However, I thought of a plan, which I flattered myself might prove
successful; I got Sol to plant two stakes in the shallow water, near
the rice beds, and to these I attached a slender rope made by
braiding long strips of the inner bark of the basswood together;
to these again I fastened, at regular intervals, about a quarter of
a yard of whipcord, headed by a strong perch-hook. These hooks I
baited with fish offal, leaving them to float just under the water.
Early next morning, I saw a fine black duck fluttering upon the
line. The boy ran down with the paddles, but before he could reach
the spot, the captive got away by carrying the hook and line with
him. At the next stake he found upon the hooks a large eel and a

I had never before seen one of those whiskered, toad-like natives of
the Canadian waters (so common to the Bay of Quinte, where they grow
to a great size), that I was really terrified at the sight of the
hideous beast, and told Sol to throw it away. In this I was very
foolish, for they are esteemed good eating in many parts of Canada;
but to me, the sight of the reptile-like thing is enough--it is
uglier, and far more disgusting-looking than a toad.

When the trees came into leaf, and the meadows were green and
flushed with flowers, the poor children used to talk constantly to
me of their father's return; their innocent prattle made me very
sad. Every evening we walked into the wood, along the path that he
must come whenever he did return home, to meet him, and though it
was a vain hope, and the walk was taken just to amuse the little
ones, I used to be silly enough to feel deeply disappointed when we
returned alone. Donald, who was a mere baby when his father left us,
could just begin to put words together. "Who is papa?" "When will he
come?" "Will he come by the road?" "Will he come in a canoe?" The
little creature's curiosity to see this unknown father was really
amusing; and oh! how I longed to present the little fellow, with
his rosy cheeks and curling hair, to his father; he was so fair,
so altogether charming in my eyes. Emilia had called him Cedric
the Saxon; and he well suited the name, with his frank, honest
disposition, and large, loving blue eyes.

June had commenced; the weather was very warm, and Mr. T--- had
sent for the loan of old Jenny to help him for a day with his
potatoes. I had just prepared dinner when the old woman came
shrieking like a mad thing down the clearing, and waving her
hands towards me. I could not imagine what had happened.

"Ninny's mad!" whispered Dunbar; "she's the old girl for making a

"Joy! Joy!" bawled out the old woman, now running breathlessly
toward us. "The masther's come--the masther's come!"


"Jist above in the wood. Goodness gracious! I have run to let you
know--so fast--that my heart--is like to--break."

Without stopping to comfort poor Jenny, off started the children and
myself, at the very top of our speed; but I soon found that I could
not run--I was too much agitated. I got to the head of the bush, and
sat down upon a fallen tree. The children sprang forward like wild
kids, all but Donald, who remained with his old nurse. I covered my
face with my hands; my heart, too, was beating audibly; and now that
he was come, and was so near me, I scarcely could command strength
to meet him. The sound of happy young voices roused me up; the
children were leading him along in triumph; and he was bending down
to them, all smiles, but hot and tired with his long journey. It was
almost worth our separation, that blissful meeting. In a few minutes
he was at home, and the children upon his knees. Katie stood
silently holding his hand, but Addie and Dunbar had a thousand
things to tell him. Donald was frightened at his military dress,
but he peeped at him from behind my gown, until I caught and placed
him in his father's arms.

His leave of absence only extended to a fortnight. It had taken him
three days to come all the way from Lake Erie, where his regiment
was stationed, at Point Abino; and the same time would be consumed
in his return. He could only remain with us eight days. How soon
they fled away! How bitter was the thought of parting with him
again! He had brought money to pay the Y---y's. How surprised he was
to find their large debt more than half liquidated. How gently did
he chide me for depriving myself and the children of the little
comforts he had designed for us, in order to make this sacrifice.
But never was self-denial more fully rewarded; I felt happy in
having contributed in the least to pay a just debt to kind and
worthy people. You must become poor yourself before you can fully
appreciate the good qualities of the poor--before you can sympathise
with them, and fully recognise them as your brethren in the flesh.
Their benevolence to each other, exercised amidst want and
privation, as far surpasses the munificence of the rich towards
them, as the exalted philanthropy of Christ and his disciples does
the Christianity of the present day. The rich man gives from his
abundance; the poor man shares with a distressed comrade his all.

One short, happy week too soon fled away, and we were once more
alone. In the fall, my husband expected the regiment in which he
held his commission would be reduced, which would again plunge us
into the same distressing poverty. Often of a night I revolved these
things in my mind, and perplexed myself with conjectures as to what
in future was to become of us. Although he had saved all he could
from his pay, it was impossible to pay several hundreds of pounds
of debt; and the steam-boat stock still continued a dead letter. To
remain much longer in the woods was impossible, for the returns from
the farm scarcely fed us; and but for the clothing sent us by
friends from home, who were not aware of our real difficulties,
we should have been badly off indeed.

I pondered over every plan that thought could devise; at last, I
prayed to the Almighty to direct me as to what would be the best
course for us to pursue. A sweet assurance stole over me, and
soothed my spirit, that God would provide for us, as He had hitherto
done--that a great deal of our distress arose from want of faith. I
was just sinking into a calm sleep when the thought seemed whispered
into my soul, "Write to the Governor; tell him candidly all you have
suffered during your sojourn in this country; and trust to God for
the rest."

At first I paid little heed to this suggestion; but it became so
importunate that at last I determined to act upon it as if it were
a message sent from heaven. I rose from my bed, struck a light,
sat down, and wrote a letter to the Lieutenant-Governor, Sir George
Arthur, a simple statement of facts, leaving it to his benevolence
to pardon the liberty I had taken in addressing him.

I asked of him to continue my husband in the militia service, in
the same regiment in which he now held the rank of captain, which,
by enabling him to pay our debts, would rescue us from our present
misery. Of the political character of Sir George Arthur I knew
nothing. I addressed him as a man and a Christian, and I
acknowledge, with the deepest and most heartfelt gratitude,
the generous kindness of his conduct towards us.

Before the day dawned, my letter was ready for the post. The first
secret I ever had from my husband was the writing of that letter;
and, proud and sensitive as he was, and averse to asking the least
favour of the great, I was dreadfully afraid that the act I had
just done would be displeasing to him; still, I felt resolutely
determined to send it. After giving the children their breakfast,
I walked down and read it to my brother-in-law, who was not only
much pleased with its contents, but took it down himself to the

Shortly after, I received a letter from my husband, informing me
that the regiment had been reduced, and that he should be home in
time to get in the harvest. Most anxiously I awaited a reply to my
application to the Governor; but no reply came.

The first week in August our dear Moodie came home, and brought
with him, to our no small joy, J. E---, who had just returned from
Ireland. E--- had been disappointed about the money, which was
subject to litigation; and, tired of waiting at home until the
tedious process of the law should terminate, he had come back to
the woods, and, before night, was reinstated in his old quarters.

His presence made Jenny all alive; she dared him at once to a trial
of skill with her in the wheat-field, which E--- prudently declined.
He did not expect to stay longer in Canada than the fall, but,
whilst he did stay, he was to consider our house his home.

That harvest was the happiest we ever spent in the bush. We had
enough of the common necessaries of life. A spirit of peace and
harmony pervaded our little dwelling, for the most affectionate
attachment existed among its members. We were not troubled with
servants, for the good old Jenny we regarded as an humble friend,
and were freed, by that circumstance, from many of the cares and
vexations of a bush life. Our evening excursions on the lake were
doubly enjoyed after the labours of the day, and night brought us
calm and healthful repose.

The political struggles that convulsed the country were scarcely
echoed in the depths of those old primeval forests, though the
expulsion of Mackenzie from Navy Island, and the burning of the
Caroline by Captain Drew, had been discussed on the farthest borders
of civilisation. With a tribute to the gallant conduct of that brave
officer, I will close this chapter:--


  A sound is on the midnight deep--
    The voice of waters vast;
  And onward, with resistless sweep,
    The torrent rushes past,
  In frantic chase, wave after wave,
  The crowding surges press, and rave
    Their mingled might to cast
  Adown Niagara's giant steep;
  The fretted billows foaming leap
    With wild tumultuous roar;
  The clashing din ascends on high,
  In deaf'ning thunders to the sky,
    And shakes the rocky shore.

  Hark! what strange sounds arise--
    'Tis not stern Nature's voice--
  In mingled chorus to the skies!
    The waters in their depths rejoice.
  Hark! on the midnight air
    A frantic cry uprose;
  The yell of fierce despair,
    The shout of mortal foes;
  And mark yon sudden glare,
    Whose red, portentous gleam
    Flashes on rock and stream
  With strange, unearthly light;
    What passing meteor's beam
  Lays bare the brow of night?

  From yonder murky shore
    What demon vessel glides,
    Stemming the unstemm'd tides,
  Where maddening breakers roar
    In hostile surges round her path,
  Or hiss, recoiling from her prow,
    That reeling, staggers to their wrath;
  While distant shores return the glow
    That brightens from her burning frame,
  And all above--around--below--
    Is wrapt in ruddy flame?

  Sail on!--sail on!--No mortal hand
    Directs that vessel's blazing course;
  The vengeance of an injured land
    Impels her with resistless force
  'Midst breaking wave and fiery gleam,
    O'er-canopied with clouds of smoke;
  Midway she stems the raging stream,
    And feels the rapids' thundering stroke;
  Now buried deep, now whirl'd on high,
    She struggles with her awful doom,--
  With frantic speed now hurries by
    To find a watery tomb.

  Lo, poised upon the topmost surge,
    She shudders o'er the dark abyss;
  The foaming waters round her hiss
    And hoarse waves ring her funeral dirge;
  The chafing billows round her close;
    But ere her burning planks are riven,
  Shoots up one ruddy spout of fire,--
    Her last farewell to earth and heaven.
  Down, down to endless night she goes!
    So may the traitor's hope expire,
  So perish all our country's foes!

  Destruction's blazing star
    Has vanish'd from our sight;
  The thunderbolt of war
    Is quench'd in endless night;
  Nor sight, nor sound of fear
  Startles the listening ear;
    Naught but the torrent's roar,
  The dull, deep, heavy sound,
  From out the dark profound,
    Echoes from shore to shore.
  Where late the cry of blood
    Rang on the midnight air,
  The mournful lapsing of the flood,
  The wild winds in the lonely wood,
    Claim sole dominion there.

  To thee, high-hearted Drew!
    And thy victorious band
  Of heroes tried and true
  A nation's thanks are due.
    Defender of an injured land!
  Well hast thou taught the dastard foe
    That British honour never yields
  To democratic influence, low,
    The glory of a thousand fields.

  Justice to traitors, long delay'd,
    This night was boldly dealt by thee;
  The debt of vengeance thou hast paid,

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