List Of Contents | Contents of Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie
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and deserving of a better lot, did all in her power to wean him from
the growing vice. But, alas! the pleadings of an angel, in such
circumstances, would have had little effect upon the mind of such a
man. He loved her as well as he could love anything, and he fancied
that he loved his children, while he was daily reducing them, by his
favourite vice, to beggary.

For awhile, he confined his excesses to his own fireside, but this
was only for as long a period as the sale of his stock and land
would supply him with the means of criminal indulgence. After a
time, all these resources failed, and his large grant of eight
hundred acres of land had been converted into whiskey, except the
one hundred acres on which his house and barn stood, embracing the
small clearing from which the family derived their scanty supply of
wheat and potatoes. For the sake of peace, his wife gave up all her
ornaments and household plate, and the best articles of a once
handsome and ample wardrobe, in the hope of hiding her sorrows
from the world, and keeping her husband at home.

The pride, that had rendered him so obnoxious to his humbler
neighbours, yielded at length to the inordinate craving for drink;
the man who had held himself so high above his honest and
industrious fellow-settlers, could now unblushingly enter their
cabins and beg for a drop of whiskey. The feeling of shame once
subdued, there was no end to his audacious mendacity. His whole
time was spent in wandering about the country, calling upon every
new settler, in the hope of being asked to partake of the coveted
poison. He was even known to enter by the window of an emigrant's
cabin, during the absence of the owner, and remain drinking in the
house while a drop of spirits could be found in the cupboard. When
driven forth by the angry owner of the hut, he wandered on to the
distant town of P---, and lived there in a low tavern, while his
wife and children were starving at home.

"He is the filthiest beast in the township," said the
afore-mentioned neighbour to me; "it would be a good thing for his
wife and children if his worthless neck were broken in one of his
drunken sprees."

This might be the melancholy fact, but it was not the less dreadful
on that account. The husband of an affectionate wife--the father of
a lovely family--and his death to be a matter of rejoicing!--a
blessing, instead of being an affliction!--an agony not to be
thought upon without the deepest sorrow.

It was at this melancholy period of her sad history that Mrs. N---
found, in Jenny Buchanan, a help in her hour of need. The heart of
the faithful creature bled for the misery which involved the wife
of her degraded master, and the children she so dearly loved. Their
want and destitution called all the sympathies of her ardent nature
into active operation; they were long indebted to her labour for
every morsel of food which they consumed. For them, she sowed, she
planted, she reaped. Every block of wood which shed a cheering
warmth around their desolate home was cut from the forest by her
own hands, and brought up a steep hill to the house upon her back.
For them, she coaxed the neighbours, with whom she was a general
favourite, out of many a mess of eggs for their especial benefit;
while with her cheerful songs, and hearty, hopeful disposition,
she dispelled much of the cramping despair which chilled the heart
of the unhappy mother in her deserted home.

For several years did this great, poor woman keep the wolf from the
door of her beloved mistress, toiling for her with the strength and
energy of a man. When was man ever so devoted, so devoid of all
selfishness, so attached to employers, yet poorer than herself,
as this uneducated Irishwoman?

A period was at length put to her unrequited services. In a fit of
intoxication her master beat her severely with the iron ramrod of
his gun, and turned her, with abusive language, from his doors. Oh,
hard return for all her unpaid labours of love! She forgave this
outrage for the sake of the helpless beings who depended upon her
care. He repeated the injury, and the poor creature returned almost
heart-broken to her former home.

Thinking that his spite would subside in a few days, Jenny made a
third effort to enter his house in her usual capacity; but Mrs. N---
told her, with many tears, that her presence would only enrage her
husband, who had threatened herself with the most cruel treatment
if she allowed the faithful servant again to enter the house. Thus
ended her five years' service to this ungrateful master. Such was
her reward!

I heard of Jenny's worth and kindness from the Englishman who had
been so grievously affronted by Captain N---, and sent for her to
come to me. She instantly accepted my offer, and returned with my
messenger. She had scarcely a garment to cover her. I was obliged
to find her a suit of clothes before I could set her to work. The
smiles and dimples of my curly-headed, rosy little Donald, then
a baby-boy of fifteen months, consoled the old woman for her
separation from Ellie N---; and the good-will with which all the
children (now four in number) regarded the kind old body, soon
endeared to her the new home which Providence had assigned to her.

Her accounts of Mrs. N---, and her family, soon deeply interested
me in her fate; and Jenny never went to visit her friends in Dummer
without an interchange of good wishes passing between us.

The year of the Canadian rebellion came, and brought with it sorrow
into many a bush dwelling. Old Jenny and I were left alone with the
little children, in the depths of the dark forest, to help ourselves
in the best way we could. Men could not be procured in that
thinly-settled spot for love nor money, and I now fully realised the
extent of Jenny's usefulness. Daily she yoked the oxen, and brought
down from the bush fuel to maintain our fires, which she felled and
chopped up with her own hands. She fed the cattle, and kept all
things snug about the doors; not forgetting to load her master's two
guns, "in case," as she said, "the ribels should attack us in our

The months of November and December of 1838 had been unnaturally
mild for this iron climate; but the opening of the ensuing January
brought a short but severe spell of frost and snow. We felt very
lonely in our solitary dwelling, crouching round the blazing fire,
that scarcely chased the cold from our miserable log-tenement, until
this dreary period was suddenly cheered by the unexpected presence
of my beloved friend, Emilia, who came to spend a week with me in
my forest home.

She brought her own baby-boy with her, and an ample supply of
buffalo robes, not forgetting a treat of baker's bread, and
"sweeties" for the children. Oh, dear Emilia! best and kindest of
women, though absent in your native land, long, long shall my heart
cherish with affectionate gratitude all your visits of love, and
turn to you as to a sister, tried, and found most faithful, in the
dark hour of adversity, and, amidst the almost total neglect of
those from whom nature claimed a tenderer and holier sympathy.

Great was the joy of Jenny at this accession to our family party;
and after Mrs. S--- was well warmed, and had partaken of tea--the
only refreshment we could offer her--we began to talk over the news
of the place.

"By-the-bye, Jenny," said she, turning to the old servant, who was
undressing the little boy by the fire, "have you heard lately from
poor Mrs. N---? We have been told that she and the family are in a
dreadful state of destitution. That worthless man has left them for
the States, and it is supposed that he has joined Mackenzie's band
of ruffians on Navy Island; but whether this be true or false, he
has deserted his wife and children, taking his eldest son along with
him (who might have been of some service at home), and leaving them
without money or food."

"The good Lord! What will become of the crathurs?" responded Jenny,
wiping her wrinkled cheek with the back of her hard, brown hand.
"An' thin they have not a sowl to chop and draw them firewood; an'
the weather so oncommon savare. Och, hone! what has not that BASTE
of a man to answer for?"

"I heard," continued Mrs. S---, "that they have tasted no food but
potatoes for the last nine months, and scarcely enough of them to
keep soul and body together; that they have sold their last cow;
and the poor young lady and her second brother, a lad of only
twelve years old, bring all the wood for the fire from the bush on
a hand sleigh."

"Oh, dear!--oh, dear!" sobbed Jenny; "an' I not there to hilp them!
An' poor Miss Mary, the tinder thing! Oh, 'tis hard, terribly hard
upon the crathurs, an' they not used to the like."

"Can nothing be done for them?" said I.

"That is what we want to know," returned Emilia, "and that was one
of my reasons for coming up to D---. I wanted to consult you and
Jenny upon the subject. You, who are an officer's wife, and I, who
am both an officer's wife and daughter, ought to devise some plan of
rescuing this poor, unfortunate lady and her family from her present
forlorn situation."

The tears sprang to my eyes, and I thought, in the bitterness of my
heart, upon my own galling poverty, that my pockets did not contain
even a single copper, and that I had scarcely garments enough to
shield me from the inclemency of the weather. By unflinching
industry, and taking my part in the toil of the field, I had bread
for myself and family, and this was more than poor Mrs. N---
possessed; but it appeared impossible for me to be of any assistance
to the unhappy sufferer, and the thought of my incapacity gave me
severe pain. It was only in moments like the present that I felt the
curse of poverty.

"Well," continued my friend, "you see, Mrs. Moodie, that the ladies
of P--- are all anxious to do what they can for her; but they first
want to learn if the miserable circumstances in which she is said to
be placed are true. In short, my dear friend, they want you and me
to make a pilgrimage to Dummer, to see the poor lady herself; and
then they will be guided by our report."

"Then let us lose no time in going upon our own mission of mercy."

"Och, my dear heart, you will be lost in the woods!" said old Jenny.
"It is nine long miles to the first clearing, and that through a
lonely, blazed path. After you are through the beaver-meadow, there
is not a single hut for you to rest or warm yourselves. It is too
much for the both of yees; you will be frozen to death on the road."

"No fear," said my benevolent friend; "God will take care of us,
Jenny. It is on His errand we go; to carry a message of hope to one
about to perish."

"The Lord bless you for a darlint," cried the old woman, devoutly
kissing the velvet cheek of the little fellow sleeping upon her lap.
"May your own purty child never know the want and sorrow that is
around her."

Emilia and I talked over the Dummer scheme until we fell asleep.
Many were the plans we proposed for the immediate relief of the
unfortunate family. Early the next morning, my brother-in-law, Mr.
T---, called upon my friend. The subject next to our heart was
immediately introduced, and he was called into the general council.
His feelings, like our own, were deeply interested; and he proposed
that we should each provide something from our own small stores to
satisfy the pressing wants of the distressed family; while he
promised to bring his cutter the next morning, and take us through
the beaver-meadow, and to the edge of the great swamp, which would
shorten four miles, at least, of our long and hazardous journey.

We joyfully acceded to his proposal, and set cheerfully to work to
provide for the morrow. Jenny baked a batch of her very best bread,
and boiled a large piece of beef; and Mr. T--- brought with him, the
next day, a fine cooked ham, in a sack, into the bottom of which he
stowed the beef and loaves, besides some sugar and tea, which his
own kind wife, the author of "the Backwoods of Canada," had sent.
I had some misgivings as to the manner in which these good things
could be introduced to the poor lady, who, I had heard, was reserved
and proud.

"Oh, Jenny," I said, "how shall I be able to ask her to accept
provisions from strangers? I am afraid of wounding her feelings."

"Oh, darlint, never fear that! She is proud, I know; but 'tis not
a stiff pride, but jist enough to consale her disthress from her
ignorant English neighbours, who think so manely of poor folk like
her who were once rich. She will be very thankful to you for your
kindness, for she has not experienced much of it from the Dummer
people in her throuble, though she may have no words to tell you so.
Say that old Jenny sent the bread to dear wee Ellie, 'cause she knew
she would like a loaf of Jenny's bakin'."

"But the meat."

"Och, the mate, is it? May be, you'll think of some excuse for the
mate when you get there."

"I hope so; but I'm a sad coward with strangers, and I have lived so
long out of the world that I am at a great loss what to do. I will
try and put a good face on the matter. Your name, Jenny, will be no
small help to me."

All was now ready. Kissing our little bairns, who crowded around us
with eager and inquiring looks, and charging Jenny for the hundredth
time to take especial care of them during our absence, we mounted
the cutter, and set off, under the care and protection of Mr. T---,
who determined to accompany us on the journey.

It was a black, cold day; no sun visible in the grey, dark sky; a
keen wind, and hard frost. We crouched close to each other.

"Good heavens, how cold it is!" whispered Emilia. "What a day for
such a journey!"

She had scarcely ceased speaking, when the cutter went upon a stump
which lay concealed under the drifted snow; and we, together with
the ruins of our conveyance, were scattered around.

"A bad beginning," said my brother-in-law, with a rueful aspect, as
he surveyed the wreck of the cutter from which we had promised
ourselves so much benefit. "There is no help for it but to return

"Oh, no," said Mrs. S---; "bad beginnings make good endings, you
know. Let us go on; it will be far better walking than riding such a
dreadful day. My feet are half-frozen already with sitting still."

"But, my dear madam," expostulated Mr. T---, "consider the distance,
the road, the dark, dull day, and our imperfect knowledge of the
path. I will get the cutter mended to-morrow; and the day after we
may be able to proceed."

"Delays are dangerous," said the pertinacious Emilia, who,
woman-like, was determined to have her own way. "Now, or never.
While we wait for the broken cutter, the broken-hearted Mrs. N---
may starve. We can stop at Colonel C---'s and warm ourselves, and
you can leave the cutter at his house until our return."

"It was upon your account that I proposed the delay," said the good
Mr. T---, taking the sack, which was no inconsiderable weight, upon
his shoulder, and driving his horse before him into neighbour W---'s
stable. "Where you go, I am ready to follow."

When we arrived, Colonel C---'s family were at breakfast, of which

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