List Of Contents | Contents of Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie
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perfectly helpless. When I was again able to creep from my sick bed,
the baby was seized with an illness, which Dr. B--- pronounced
mortal. Against all hope, he recovered, but these severe mental
trials rendered me weak and nervous, and more anxious than ever to
be re-united to my husband. To add to these troubles, my sister and
her husband sold their farm, and removed from our neighbourhood.
Mr. --- had returned to England, and had obtained a situation in the
Customs; and his wife, my friend Emilia, was keeping a school in the
village; so that I felt more solitary than ever, thus deprived of so
many kind, sympathising friends.


  Oh, thou great God! from whose eternal throne
    Unbounded blessings in rich bounty flow,
  Like thy bright sun in glorious state alone,
    Thou reign'st supreme, while round thee as they go,
  Unnumber'd worlds, submissive to thy sway,
  With solemn pace pursue their silent way.

  Benignant God! o'er every smiling land.
    Thy handmaid, Nature, meekly walks abroad,
  Scattering thy bounties with unsparing hand,
    While flowers and fruits spring up along her road.
  How can thy creatures their weak voices raise
  To tell thy deeds in their faint songs of praise?

  When, darkling o'er the mountain's summit hoar,
    Portentous hangs the black and sulph'rous cloud,
  When lightnings flash, and awful thunders roar,
    Great Nature sings to thee her anthem loud.
  The rocks reverberate her mighty song,
  And crushing woods the pealing notes prolong.

  The storm is pass'd; o'er fields and woodlands gay,
    Gemm'd with bright dew-drops from the eastern sky,
  The morning sun now darts his golden ray,
    The lark on fluttering wing is poised on high;
  Too pure for earth, he wings his way above,
  To pour his grateful song of joy and love.

  Hark! from the bowels of the earth, a sound
    Of awful import! From the central deep
  The struggling lava rends the heaving ground,
    The ocean-surges roar--the mountains leap--
  They shoot aloft,--Oh, God! the fiery tide
  Has burst its bounds, and rolls down Etna's side.

  Thy will is done, great God! the conflict's o'er,
    The silvery moonbeams glance along the sea;
  The whispering waves half ripple on the shore,
    And lull'd creation breathes a prayer to thee!
  The night-flower's incense to their God is given,
  And grateful mortals raise their thoughts to heaven.




  We trod a weary path through silent woods,
  Tangled and dark, unbroken by a sound
  Of cheerful life. The melancholy shriek
  Of hollow winds careering o'er the snow,
  Or tossing into waves the green pine tops,
  Making the ancient forest groan and sigh
  Beneath their mocking voice, awoke alone
  The solitary echoes of the place.

Reader! have you ever heard of a place situated in the forest-depths
of this far western wilderness, called Dummer? Ten years ago, it
might not inaptly have been termed "The last clearing in the world."
Nor to this day do I know of any in that direction which extends
beyond it. Our bush-farm was situated on the border-line of a
neighbouring township, only one degree less wild, less out of
the world, or nearer to the habitations of civilisation than
the far-famed "English Line," the boast and glory of this terra

This place, so named by the emigrants who had pitched their tents
in that solitary wilderness, was a long line of cleared land,
extending upon either side for some miles through the darkest and
most interminable forest. The English Line was inhabited chiefly
by Cornish miners, who, tired of burrowing like moles underground,
had determined to emigrate to Canada, where they could breathe the
fresh air of Heaven, and obtain the necessaries of life upon the
bosom of their mother earth. Strange as it may appear, these men
made good farmers, and steady, industrious colonists, working as
well above ground as they had toiled in their early days beneath it.
All our best servants came from Dummer; and although they spoke a
language difficult to be understood, and were uncouth in their
manners and appearance, they were faithful and obedient, performing
the tasks assigned to them with patient perseverance; good food and
kind treatment rendering them always cheerful and contented.

My dear old Jenny, that most faithful and attached of all humble
domestic friends, came from Dummer, and I was wont to regard it
with complacency for her sake. But Jenny was not English; she was
a generous, warm-hearted daughter of the Green Isle--the Emerald
gem set in the silver of ocean. Yes, Jenny was one of the poorest
children of that impoverished but glorious country where wit and
talent seem indigenous, springing up spontaneously in the rudest and
most uncultivated minds; showing what the land could bring forth
in its own strength, unaided by education, and unfettered by the
conventional rules of society. Jenny was a striking instance of the
worth, noble self-denial, and devotion which are often met withand,
alas! but too often disregarded--in the poor and ignorant natives of
that deeply-injured, and much abused land. A few words about my old
favourite may not prove uninteresting to my readers.

Jenny Buchanan, or as she called it, Bohanon, was the daughter of a
petty exciseman, of Scotch extraction (hence her industry) who, at
the time of her birth, resided near the old town of Inniskillen. Her
mother died a few months after she was born; and her father, within
the twelve months, married again. In the meanwhile, the poor orphan
babe had been adopted by a kind neighbour, the wife of a small
farmer in the vicinity.

In return for coarse food and scanty clothing, the little Jenny
became a servant-of-all-work. She fed the pigs, herded the cattle,
assisted in planting potatoes and digging peat from the bog, and
was undisputed mistress of the poultry-yard. As she grew up to
womanhood, the importance of her labours increased. A better reaper
in the harvest-field, or footer of turf in the bog, could not be
found in the district, or a woman more thoroughly acquainted with
the management of cows and the rearing of young cattle; but here
poor Jenny's accomplishments terminated.

Her usefulness was all abroad. Within the house she made more dirt
than she had the inclination or the ability to clear away. She could
neither read, nor knit, nor sew; and although she called herself a
Protestant, and a Church of England woman, she knew no more of
religion, as revealed to man through the Word of God, than the
savage who sinks to the grave in ignorance of a Redeemer. Hence
she stoutly resisted all ideas of being a sinner, or of standing
the least chance of receiving hereafter the condemnation of one.

"Och, sure thin," she would say, with simple earnestness of look and
manner, almost irresistible. "God will never throuble Himsel' about
a poor, hard-working crathur like me, who never did any harm to the
manest of His makin'."

One thing was certain, that a benevolent Providence had "throubled
Himsel'" about poor Jenny in times past, for the warm heart of this
neglected child of nature contained a stream of the richest
benevolence, which, situated as she had been, could not have been
derived from any other source. Honest, faithful, and industrious,
Jenny became a law unto herself, and practically illustrated the
golden rule of her blessed Lord, "to do unto others as we would they
should do unto us." She thought it was impossible that her poor
services could ever repay the debt of gratitude that she owed to the
family who had brought her up, although the obligation must have
been entirely on their side. To them she was greatly attached--for
them she toiled unceasingly; and when evil days came, and they were
not able to meet the rent-day, or to occupy the farm, she determined
to accompany them in their emigration to Canada, and formed one of
the stout-hearted band that fixed its location in the lonely and
unexplored wilds now known as the township of Dummer.

During the first year of their settlement, the means of obtaining
the common necessaries of life became so precarious, that, in order
to assist her friends with a little ready money, Jenny determined
to hire out into some wealthy house as a servant. When I use the
term wealth as applied to any bush-settler, it is of course only
comparatively; but Jenny was anxious to obtain a place with settlers
who enjoyed a small income independent of their forest means.

Her first speculation was a complete failure. For five long,
hopeless years she served a master from whom she never received a
farthing of her stipulated wages. Still her attachment to the family
was so strong, and had become so much the necessity of her life,
that the poor creature could not make up her mind to leave them.
The children whom she had received into her arms at their birth,
and whom she had nursed with maternal tenderness, were as dear to
her as if they had been her own; she continued to work for them
although her clothes were worn to tatters, and her own friends were
too poor to replace them.

Her master, Captain N---, a handsome, dashing officer, who had
served many years in India, still maintained the carriage and
appearance of a gentleman, in spite of his mental and moral
degradation arising from a constant state of intoxication; he still
promised to remunerate at some future day her faithful services;
and although all his neighbours well knew that his means were
exhausted, and that that day would never come, yet Jenny, in the
simplicity of her faith, still toiled on, in the hope that the
better day he spoke of would soon arrive.

And now a few words respecting this master, which I trust may serve
as a warning to others. Allured by the bait that has been the ruin
of so many of his class, the offer of a large grant of land, Captain
N--- had been induced to form a settlement in this remote and
untried township; laying out much, if not all, of his available
means in building a log house, and clearing a large extent of barren
and stony land. To this uninviting home he conveyed a beautiful
young wife, and a small and increasing family. The result may be
easily anticipated. The want of society--a dreadful want to a man of
his previous habits--the absence of all the comforts and decencies
of life, produced inaction, apathy, and at last, despondency, which
was only alleviated by a constant and immoderate use of ardent
spirits. As long as Captain N--- retained his half-pay, he contrived
to exist. In an evil hour he parted with this, and quickly trod the
downhill path to ruin.

And here I would remark that it is always a rash and hazardous step
for any officer to part with his half-pay; although it is almost
every day done, and generally followed by the same disastrous
results. A certain income, however small, in a country where money
is so hard to be procured, and where labour cannot be obtained but
at a very high pecuniary remuneration, is invaluable to a gentleman
unaccustomed to agricultural employment; who, without this reserve
to pay his people, during the brief but expensive seasons of
seed-time and harvest, must either work himself or starve. I have
known no instance in which such sale has been attended with ultimate
advantage; but, alas! too many in which it has terminated in the
most distressing destitution. These government grants of land, to
half-pay officers, have induced numbers of this class to emigrate
to the backwoods of Canada, who are totally unfit for pioneers;
but, tempted by the offer of finding themselves landholders of what,
on paper, appear to them fine estates, they resign a certainty, to
waste their energies, and die half-starved and broken-hearted in
the depths of the pitiless wild.

If a gentleman so situated would give up all idea of settling on
his grant, but hire a good farm in a favourable situation--that is,
not too far from a market--and with his half-pay hire efficient
labourers, of which plenty are now to be had, to cultivate the land,
with common prudence and economy, he would soon obtain a comfortable
subsistence for his family. And if the males were brought up to
share the burthen and heat of the day, the expense of hired labour,
as it yearly diminished, would add to the general means and
well-being of the whole, until the hired farm became the real
property of the industrious tenants. But the love of show, the vain
boast of appearing richer and better-dressed than our neighbours,
too often involves the emigrant's family in debt, from which they
are seldom able to extricate themselves without sacrificing the
means which would have secured their independence.

This, although a long digression, will not, I hope, be without its
use; and if this book is regarded not as a work of amusement but one
of practical experience, written for the benefit of others, it will
not fail to convey some useful hints to those who have contemplated
emigration to Canada: the best country in the world for the
industrious and well-principled man, who really comes out to work,
and to better his condition by the labour of his hands; but a gulf
of ruin to the vain and idle, who only set foot upon these shores
to accelerate their ruin.

But to return to Captain N---. It was at this disastrous period that
Jenny entered his service. Had her master adapted his habits and
expenditure to his altered circumstances, much misery might have
been spared, both to himself and his family. But he was a proud
man--too proud to work, or to receive with kindness the offers of
service tendered to him by his half-civilised, but well-meaning

"Hang him!" cried an indignant English settler (Captain N--- was
an Irishman), whose offer of drawing wood had been rejected with
unmerited contempt. "Wait a few years, and we shall see what his
pride will do for him. I AM sorry for his poor wife and children;
but for himself, I have no pity for him."

This man had been uselessly insulted, at the very moment when he was
anxious to perform a kind and benevolent action; when, like a true
Englishman, his heart was softened by witnessing the sufferings of a
young, delicate female and her infant family. Deeply affronted by
the captain's foolish conduct, he now took a malignant pleasure in
watching his arrogant neighbour's progress to ruin.

The year after the sale of his commission, Captain N--- found
himself considerably in debt, "Never mind, Ella," he said to his
anxious wife; "the crops will pay all."

The crops were a failure that year. Creditors pressed hard; the
captain had no money to pay his workmen, and he would not work
himself. Disgusted with his location, but unable to change it for
a better; without friends in his own class (for he was the only
gentleman then resident in the new township), to relieve the
monotony of his existence with their society, or to afford him
advice or assistance in his difficulties, the fatal whiskey-bottle
became his refuge from gloomy thoughts.

His wife, an amiable and devoted creature, well-born, well-educated,

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