List Of Contents | Contents of Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie
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    And may the deed immortal be.
  Thy outraged country shall bestow
    A lasting monument of fame,
  The highest meed of praise below--
    A British patriot's deathless name!



[For the poem that heads this chapter, I am indebted to my
brother, Mr. Strickland, of Douro, C.W.]

  Dark, heavy clouds were gathering in the west,
    Wrapping the forest in funereal gloom;
  Onward they roll'd, and rear'd each livid crest,
    Like Death's murk shadows frowning o'er earth's tomb.
  From out the inky womb of that deep night
    Burst livid flashes of electric flame.
  Whirling and circling with terrific might,
    In wild confusion on the tempest came.
  Nature, awakening from her still repose,
    Shudders responsive to the whirlwind's shock,
  Feels at her might heart convulsive throes,
    And all her groaning forests to earth's bosom rock.

  But hark!--What means that hollow, rushing sound,
    That breaks the death-like stillness of the morn?
  Red forked lightnings fiercely glare around,
    Sharp, crashing thunders on the winds are borne,
  And see yon spiral column, black as night,
    Rearing triumphantly its wreathing form;
  Ruin's abroad, and through the murky light--
    Drear desolation marks the spirit of the storm.


The 19th of August came, and our little harvest was all safely
housed. Business called Moodie away for a few days to Cobourg.
Jenny had gone to Dummer, to visit her friends, and J. E--- had
taken a grist of the new wheat, which he and Moodie had threshed
the day before, to the mill. I was consequently left alone with
the children, and had a double portion of work to do. During their
absence it was my lot to witness the most awful storm I ever beheld,
and a vivid recollection of its terrors was permanently fixed upon
my memory.

The weather had been intensely hot during the three preceding days,
although the sun was entirely obscured by a blueish haze, which
seemed to render the unusual heat of the atmosphere more oppressive.
Not a breath of air stirred the vast forest, and the waters of the
lake assumed a leaden hue. After passing a sleepless night, I arose,
a little after day-break, to superintend my domestic affairs. E---
took his breakfast, and went off to the mill, hoping that the rain
would keep off until after his return.

"It is no joke," he said, "being upon these lakes in a small canoe,
heavily laden, in a storm."

Before the sun rose, the heavens were covered with hard-looking
clouds, of a deep blue and black cast, fading away to white at their
edges, and in the form resembling the long, rolling waves of a heavy
sea--but with this difference, that the clouds were perfectly
motionless, piled in long curved lines, one above the other, and
so remained until four o'clock in the afternoon. The appearance
of these clouds, as the sun rose above the horizon, was the most
splendid that can be imagined, tinged up to the zenith with every
shade of saffron, gold, rose-colour, scarlet, and crimson, fading
away into the deepest violet. Never did the storm-fiend shake in
the face of a day a more gorgeous banner; and, pressed as I was
for time, I stood gazing like one entranced upon the magnificent

As the day advanced, the same blue haze obscured the sun, which
frowned redly through his misty veil. At ten o'clock the heat was
suffocating, and I extinguished the fire in the cooking-stove,
determined to make our meals upon bread and milk, rather than add
to the oppressive heat. The thermometer in the shade ranged from
ninety-six to ninety-eight degrees, and I gave over my work and
retired with the ones to the coolest part of the house. The young
creatures stretched themselves upon the floor, unable to jump about
or play; the dog lay panting in the shade; the fowls half-buried
themselves in the dust, with open beaks and outstretched wings;
all nature seemed to droop beneath the scorching heat.

Unfortunately for me, a gentlemen arrived about one o'clock from
Kingston, to transact some business with my husband. He had not
tasted food since six o'clock, and I was obliged to kindle the
fire to prepare his dinner. It was one of the hardest tasks I ever
performed; I almost fainted with the heat, and most inhospitably
rejoiced when his dinner was over, and I saw him depart. Shortly
after, my friend Mrs. C--- and her brother called in, on their
way from Peterborough.

"How do you bear the heat?" asked Mrs. C---. "This is one of the
hottest days I ever remember to have experienced in this part of
the province. I am afraid that it will end in a hurricane, or what
the Lower Canadians term 'l'orage.'"

About four o'clock they rose to go. I urged them to stay longer.
"No," said Mrs. C---, "the sooner we get home the better. I think
we can reach it before the storm breaks."

I took Donald in my arms, and my eldest boy by the hand, and walked
with them to the brow of the hill, thinking that the air would be
cooler in the shade. In this I was mistaken. The clouds over our
heads hung so low, and the heat was so great, that I was soon glad
to retrace my steps.

The moment I turned round to face the lake, I was surprised at the
change that had taken place in the appearance of the heavens. The
clouds, that had before lain so motionless, were now in rapid
motion, hurrying and chasing each other round the horizon. It was
a strangely awful sight. Before I felt a breath of the mighty blast
that had already burst on the other side of the lake, branches of
trees, leaves, and clouds of dust were whirled across the lake,
whose waters rose in long sharp furrows, fringed with foam, as if
moved in their depths by some unseen but powerful agent.

Panting with terror, I just reached the door of the house as the
hurricane swept up the hill, crushing and overturning everything
in its course. Spell-bound, I stood at the open door, with clasped
hands, unable to speak, rendered dumb and motionless by the terrible
grandeur of the scene; while little Donald, who could not utter
many intelligible words, crept to my feet, appealing to me for
protection, while his rosy cheeks paled even to marble whiteness.
The hurrying clouds gave to the heavens the appearance of a pointed
dome, round which the lightning played in broad ribbons of fire.
The roaring of the thunder, the rushing of the blast, the impetuous
down-pouring of the rain, and the crash of falling trees were
perfectly deafening; and in the midst of this uproar of the
elements, old Jenny burst in, drenched with wet, and half-dead
with fear.

"The Lord preserve us!" she cried, "this surely is the day of
judgment. Fifty trees fell across my very path, between this an' the
creek. Mrs. C--- just reached her brother's clearing a few minutes
before a great oak fell on her very path. What thunther!--what
lightning! Misthress, dear!--it's turn'd so dark, I can only jist
see yer face."

Glad enough was I of her presence; for to be alone in the heart of
a great forest, in a log hut, on such a night, was not a pleasing
prospect. People gain courage by companionship, and in order to
re-assure each other, struggle to conceal their fears.

"And where is Mr. E---?"

"I hope not on the lake. He went early this morning to get the wheat
ground at the mill."

"Och, the crathur! He's surely drowned. What boat could stan' such a
scrimmage as this?"

I had my fears for poor John; but as the chance that he had to wait
at the mill till others were served was more than probable, I tried
to still my apprehensions for his safety.

The storm soon passed over, after having levelled several acres of
wood near the house and smitten down in its progress two gigantic
pines in the clearing, which must have withstood the force of a
thousand winters. Talking over the effects of this whirlwind with my
brother, he kindly sent me the following very graphic description of
a whirlwind which passed the town of Guelph in the summer of 1829.

[Written by Mr. Strickland, of Douro.] "In my hunting excursions
and rambles through the Upper Canadian forests, I had frequently
met with extensive wind-falls; and observed with some surprise
that the fallen trees lay strewn in a succession of circles, and
evidently appeared to have been twisted off the stumps. I also
remarked that these wind-falls were generally narrow, and had the
appearance of a road, slashed through the forest. From observations
made at the time, and since confirmed, I have no doubt that
Colonel Reid's theory of storms is the correct one, viz., that
all wind-storms move in a circular direction, and the nearer the
centre the more violent the force of the wind. Having seen the
effects of several similar hurricanes since my residence in Canada
West, I shall proceed to describe one which happened in the
township of Guelph during the early part of the summer of 1829.

"The weather, for the season of the year (May), had been hot and
sultry, with scarcely a breath of wind stirring. I had heard distant
thunder from an early hour in the morning, which, from the eastward,
is rather an unusual occurrence. About 10 A.M., the sky had a most
singular, and I must add a most awful appearance, presenting to the
view a vast arch of rolling blackness, which seemed to gather
strength and density as it approached the zenith. All at once the
clouds began to work round in circles, as if chasing one another
through the air. Suddenly the dark arch of clouds appeared to break
up into detached masses, whirling and mixing through each other in
dreadful commotion. The forked lightning was incessant, accompanied
by heavy thunder. In a short time, the clouds seemed to converge to
a point, which approached very near the earth, still whirling with
great rapidity directly under this point; and apparently from the
midst of the woods arose a black column, in the shape of a cone,
which instantly joined itself to the depending cloud. The sight was
now grand, and awful in the extreme. Picture to your imagination a
vast column of smoke, of inky blackness, reaching from the earth to
heaven, gyrating with fearful velocity--bright lightnings issuing
from the vortex--the roar of the thunder--the rushing of the
blast--the crash of timber--the limbs of trees, leaves and rubbish,
mingled with clouds of dust, whirling through the air;--you then
have a faint idea of the scene.

"I had ample time for observation, as the hurricane commenced its
devastating course about two miles from the town, through the centre
of which it took its way, passing within fifty yards of where a
number of persons, myself among the rest, were standing, watching
its fearful progress.

"As the tornado approached, the trees seemed to fall like a pack of
cards before its irresistible current. After passing through the
clearing made around the village, the force of the wind gradually
abated, and in a few minutes died away entirely.

"As soon as the storm was over, I went to see the damage it had
done. From the point where I first observed the black column to rise
from the woods and join the cloud, the trees were twisted in every
direction. A belt of timber had been levelled to the ground about
two miles in length, and about one hundred yards in breadth. At the
entrance of the town it crossed the river Speed, and uprooted about
six acres of wood, which had been thinned out, and left by Mr. Galt
(late superintendent of the Canada Company), as an ornament to his

"The Eremosa road was completely blocked up for nearly half-a-mile,
in the wildest confusion possible. In its progress through the town
the storm unroofed several houses, levelled many fences to the
ground, and entirely demolished a frame barn. Windows were dashed
in; and, in one instance, the floor of a log house was carried
through the roof. Some hair-breadth escapes occurred; but, luckily,
no lives were lost.

"About twelve years since a similar storm occurred in the north part
of the township of Douro, but was of much less magnitude. I heard
an intelligent settler, who resided some years in the township of
Madoc, state that, during his residence in that township, a similar
hurricane to the one I have described, though of a much more awful
character, passed through a part of Marmora and Madoc, and had been
traced, in a north-easterly direction, upwards of forty miles into
the unsurveyed lands; the uniform width of which appeared to be
three quarters of a mile.

"It is very evident, from the traces which they have left behind
them, that storms of this description have not been unfrequent
in the wooded districts of Canada; and it becomes a matter of
interesting consideration whether the clearing of our immense
forests will not, in a great measure, remove the cause of these

A few minutes after our household had retired to rest, my first
sleep was broken by the voice of J. E---, speaking to old Jenny in
the kitchen. He had been overtaken by the storm, but had run his
canoe ashore upon an island before its full fury burst, and turned
it over the flour; while he had to brave the terrors of the pitiless
tempest-buffeted by the wind, and drenched with torrents of rain.
I got up and made him a cup of tea, while Jenny prepared a rasher
of bacon and eggs for his supper.

Shortly after this, J. E--- bade a final adieu to Canada, with his
cousin C. W---. He volunteered into the Scotch Greys, and we never
saw him more; but I have been told that he was so highly respected
by the officers of the regiment that they have subscribed for his
commission; that he rose to the rank of lieutenant; accompanied the
regiment to India, and was at the taking of Cabul; but from himself
we never heard again.

The 16th of October, my third son was born; and a few days after,
my husband was appointed pay-master to the militia regiments in the
V. District, with the rank and full pay of captain.

This was Sir George Arthur's doing. He returned no answer to my
application, but he did not forget us.

As the time that Moodie might retain this situation was very
doubtful, he thought it advisable not to remove me and the family
until he could secure some permanent situation; by so doing, he
would have a better opportunity of saving the greater part of his
income to pay off his old debts.

This winter of 1839 was one of severe trial to me. Hitherto I had
enjoyed the blessing of health; but both the children and myself
were now doomed to suffer from dangerous attacks of illness. All the
little things had malignant scarlet fever, and for several days I
thought it would please the Almighty to take from me my two girls.
This fever is so fatal to children in Canada that none of my
neighbors dared approach the house. For three weeks Jenny and I were
never undressed; our whole time was taken up nursing the five little
helpless creatures through the successive states of their alarming
disease. I sent for Dr. Taylor; but he did not come, and I was
obliged to trust to the mercy of God, and my own judgment and good
nursing. Though I escaped the fever, mental anxiety and fatigue
brought on other illness, which for nearly ten weeks rendered me

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