List Of Contents | Contents of Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie
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its trials and privations, she would look upon me as a friend.

She seemed surprised and annoyed, and I found no small difficulty
in introducing the object of my visit; but the day was rapidly
declining, and I knew that not a moment was to be lost. At first
she coldly rejected all offers of service, and said that she was
contented, and wanted for nothing.

I appealed to the situation in which I beheld herself and her
children, and implored her, for their sakes, not to refuse help from
friends who felt for her distress. Her maternal feelings triumphed
over her assumed indifference, and when she saw me weeping, for I
could no longer restrain my tears, her pride yielded, and for some
minutes not a word was spoken. I heard the large tears, as they
slowly fell from her daughter's eyes, drop one by one upon her

At last the poor girl sobbed out, "Dear mamma, why conceal the
truth? You know that we are nearly naked, and starving."

Then came the sad tale of domestic woes:--the absence of the husband
and eldest son; the uncertainty as to where they were, or in what
engaged; the utter want of means to procure the common necessaries
of life; the sale of the only remaining cow that used to provide the
children with food. It had been sold for twelve dollars, part to be
paid in cash, part in potatoes; the potatoes were nearly exhausted,
and they were allowanced to so many a day. But the six dollars she
had retained as their last resource. Alas! she had sent the eldest
boy the day before to P---, to get a letter out of the post-office,
which she hoped contained some tidings of her husband and son.
She was all anxiety and expectation, but the child returned late
at night without the letter which they had longed for with such
feverish impatience. The six dollars upon which they had depended
for a supply of food were in notes of the Farmer's Bank, which at
that time would not pass for money, and which the roguish purchaser
of the cow had passed off upon this distressed family.

Oh! imagine, ye who revel in riches--who can daily throw away a
large sum upon the merest toy--the cruel disappointment, the bitter
agony of this poor mother's heart, when she received this calamitous
news, in the midst of her starving children. For the last nine weeks
they had lived upon a scanty supply of potatoes; they had not tasted
raised bread or animal food for eighteen months.

"Ellie," said I, anxious to introduce the sack, which had lain like
a nightmare upon my mind, "I have something for you; Jenny baked
some loaves last night, and sent them to you with her best love."

The eyes of all the children grew bright. "You will find the sack
with the bread in the passage," said I to one of the boys. He rushed
joyfully out, and returned with Mrs. --- and the sack. Her bland and
affectionate greeting restored us all to tranquillity.

The delighted boy opened the sack. The first thing he produced was
the ham.

"Oh," said I, "that is a ham that my sister sent to Mrs. N---; 'tis
of her own curing, and she thought that it might be acceptable."

Then came the white fish, nicely packed in a clean cloth. "Mrs. C---
thought fish might be a treat to Mrs. N---, as she lived so far from
the great lakes." Then came Jenny's bread, which had already been
introduced. The beef, and tea, and sugar, fell upon the floor
without any comment. The first scruples had been overcome, and the
day was ours.

"And now, ladies," said Mrs. N---, with true hospitality, "since you
have brought refreshments with you, permit me to cook something for
your dinner."

The scene I had just witnessed had produced such a choking sensation
that all my hunger had vanished. Before we could accept or refuse
Mrs. N---'s kind offer, Mr. T--- arrived, to hurry us off.

It was two o'clock when we descended the hill in front of the
house, that led by a side-path round to the road, and commenced our
homeward route. I thought the four miles of clearings would never
be passed; and the English Line appeared to have no end. At length
we entered once more the dark forest.

The setting sun gleamed along the ground; the necessity of exerting
our utmost speed, and getting through the great swamp before
darkness surrounded us, was apparent to all. The men strode
vigorously forward, for they had been refreshed with a substantial
dinner of potatoes and pork, washed down with a glass of whiskey, at
the cottage in which they had waited for us; but poor Emilia and I,
faint, hungry, and foot-sore, it was with the greatest difficulty we
could keep up. I thought of Rosalind, as our march up and down the
fallen logs recommenced, and often exclaimed with her, "Oh, Jupiter!
how weary are my legs!"

Night closed in just as we reached the beaver-meadow. Here our ears
were greeted with the sound of well-known voices. James and Henry
C--- had brought the ox-sleigh to meet us at the edge of the bush.
Never was splendid equipage greeted with such delight. Emilia and I,
now fairly exhausted with fatigue, scrambled into it, and lying down
on the straw which covered the bottom of the rude vehicle, we drew
the buffalo robes over our faces, and actually slept soundly until
we reached Colonel C---'s hospitable door.

An excellent supper of hot fish and fried venison was smoking on the
table, with other good cheer, to which we did ample justice. I, for
one, never was so hungry in my life. We had fasted for twelve hours,
and that on an intensely cold day, and had walked during that period
upwards of twenty miles. Never, never shall I forget that weary walk
to Dummer; but a blessing followed it.

It was midnight when Emilia and I reached my humble home; our good
friends the oxen being again put in requisition to carry us there.
Emilia went immediately to bed, from which she was unable to rise
for several days. In the meanwhile I wrote to Moodie an account of
the scene I had witnessed, and he raised a subscription among the
officers of the regiment for the poor lady and her children, which
amounted to forty dollars. Emilia lost no time in making a full
report to her friends at P---; and before a week passed away, Mrs.
N--- and her family were removed thither by several benevolent
individuals in the place. A neat cottage was hired for her; and, to
the honour of Canada be it spoken, all who could afford a donation
gave cheerfully. Farmers left at her door, pork, beef, flour, and
potatoes; the storekeepers sent groceries and goods to make clothes
for the children; the shoemakers contributed boots for the boys;
while the ladies did all in their power to assist and comfort the
gentle creature thus thrown by Providence upon their bounty.

While Mrs. N--- remained at P--- she did not want for any comfort.
Her children were clothed and her rent paid by her benevolent
friends, and her house supplied with food and many comforts from the
same source. Respected and beloved by all who knew her, it would
have been well had she never left the quiet asylum where for several
years she enjoyed tranquillity and a respectable competence from her
school; but in an evil hour she followed her worthless husband to
the Southern States, and again suffered all the woes which
drunkenness inflicts upon the wives and children of its degraded


  Pale matron! I see thee in agony steep
  The pillow on which thy young innocents sleep;
  Their slumbers are tranquil, unbroken their rest,
  They know not the grief that convulses thy breast;
  They mark not the glance of that red, swollen eye,
  That must weep till the fountain of sorrow is dry;
  They guess not thy thoughts in this moment of dread,
  Thou desolate widow, but not of the dead!

  Ah, what are thy feelings, whilst gazing on those,
  Who unconsciously smile in their balmy repose,--
  The pangs which thy grief-stricken bosom must prove
  Whilst gazing through tears on those pledges of love,
  Who murmur in slumber the dear, cherish'd name
  Of that sire who has cover'd his offspring with shame,--
  Of that husband whom justice has wrench'd from thy side
  Of the wretch, who the laws of his country defied?

  Poor, heart-broken mourner! thy tears faster flow,
  Time can bring no oblivion to banish thy woe;
  The sorrows of others are soften'd by years.
  Ah, what now remains for thy portion but tears?
  Anxieties ceaseless, renew'd day by day,
  While thy heart yearns for one who is ever away.
  No hope speeds thy thoughts as they traverse the wave
  To the far-distant land of the exile and slave.

  And those children, whose birth with such rapture was hail'd,
  When the holiest feelings of nature prevail'd,
  And the bright drops that moisten'd the father's glad cheek
  Could alone the deep transport of happiness speak;
  When he turn'd from his first-born with glances of pride,
  In grateful devotion to gaze on his bride,
  The loved and the loving, who, silent with joy,
  Alternately gazed from the sire to his boy.

  Ah! what could induce the young husband to fling
  Love's garland away in life's beautiful spring,
  To scatter the roses Hope wreath'd for her brow
  In the dust, and abandon his partner to woe?
  The wine-cup can answer. The Bacchanal's bowl
  Corrupted life's chalice, and poison'd his soul.
  It chill'd the warm heart, added fire to the brain,
  Gave to pleasure and passion unbridled the rein;
  Till the gentle endearments of children and wife
  Only roused the fell demon to anger and strife.

  By conscience deserted, by law unrestrain'd,
  A felon, convicted, unblushing, and chain'd;
  Too late from the dark dream of ruin he woke
  To remember the wife whose fond heart he had broke;
  The children abandon'd to sorrow and shame,
  Their deepest misfortune the brand of his name.
  Oh, dire was the curse he invoked on his soul,
  Then gave his last mite for a draught of the bowl!



  The future flower lies folded in the bud,--
  Its beauty, colour, fragrance, graceful form,
  Carefully shrouded in that tiny cell;
  Till time and circumstance, and sun and shower,
  Expand the embryo blossom--and it bursts
  Its narrow cerements, lifts its blushing head,
  Rejoicing in the light and dew of heaven.
  But if the canker-worm lies coil'd around
  The heart o' the bud, the summer sun and dew
  Visit in vain the sear'd and blighted flower.

During my illness, a kind neighbour, who had not only frequently
come to see me, but had brought me many nourishing things, made by
her own fair hands, took a great fancy to my second daughter, who,
lively and volatile, could not be induced to remain quiet in the
sick chamber. The noise she made greatly retarded my recovery, and
Mrs. H--- took her home with her, as the only means of obtaining for
me necessary rest. During that winter and through the ensuing
summer, I only received occasional visits from my little girl, who,
fairly established with her new friends, looked upon their house as
her home.

This separation, which was felt as a great benefit at the time,
greatly estranged the affections of the child from her own people.
She saw us so seldom that she almost regarded us, when she did meet,
as strangers; and I often deeply lamented the hour when I had
unwittingly suffered the threefold cord of domestic love to be
unravelled by absence, and the flattering attentions which fed the
vanity of a beautiful child, without strengthening her moral
character. Mrs. H---, whose husband was wealthy, was a generous,
warm-hearted girl of eighteen. Lovely in person, and fascinating
in manners, and still too young to have any idea of forming the
character of a child, she dressed the little creature expensively;
and, by constantly praising her personal appearance, gave her an
idea of her own importance which it took many years to eradicate.

It is a great error to suffer a child, who has been trained in the
hard school of poverty and self-denial, to be transplanted suddenly
into the hot-bed of wealth and luxury. The idea of the child being
so much happier and better off blinds her fond parents to the
dangers of her new situation, where she is sure to contract a
dislike to all useful occupation, and to look upon scanty means and
plain clothing as a disgrace. If the re-action is bad for a grown-up
person, it is almost destructive to a child who is incapable of
moral reflection. Whenever I saw little Addie, and remarked the
growing coldness of her manner towards us, my heart reproached me
for having exposed her to temptation.

Still, in the eye of the world, she was much better situated than
she could possibly be with us. The heart of the parent could alone
understand the change.

So sensible was her father of this alteration, that the first time
he paid us a visit he went and brought home his child.

"If she remain so long away from us, at her tender years," he said,
"she will cease to love us. All the wealth in the world would not
compensate me for the love of my child."

The removal of my sister rendered my separation from my husband
doubly lonely and irksome. Sometimes the desire to see and converse
with him would press so painfully on my heart that I would get up in
the night, strike a light, and sit down and write him a long letter,
and tell him all that was in my mind; and when I had thus unburdened
my spirit, the letter was committed to the flames, and after
fervently commending him to the care of the Great Father of mankind,
I would lay down my throbbing head on my pillow beside our
first-born son, and sleep tranquilly.

It is a strange fact that many of my husband's letters to me were
written at the very time when I felt those irresistible impulses to
hold communion with him. Why should we be ashamed to admit openly
our belief in this mysterious intercourse between the spirits of
those who are bound to each other by the tender ties of friendship
and affection, when the experience of every day proves its truth?
Proverbs, which are the wisdom of ages collected into a few brief
words, tell us in one pithy sentence that "if we talk of the devil
he is sure to appear." While the name of a long-absent friend is
in our mouth, the next moment brings him into our presence. How
can this be, if mind did not meet mind, and the spirit had not a
prophetic consciousness of the vicinity of another spirit, kindred
with its own? This is an occurrence so common that I never met with
any person to whom it had not happened; few will admit it to be
a spiritual agency, but in no other way can they satisfactorily
explain its cause. If it were a mere coincidence, or combination of
ordinary circumstances, it would not happen so often, and people
would not be led to speak of the long-absent always at the moment
when they are just about to present themselves before them. My
husband was no believer in what he termed my fanciful, speculative
theories; yet at the time when his youngest boy and myself lay
dangerously ill, and hardly expected to live, I received from him a
letter, written in great haste, which commenced with this sentence:
"Do write to me, dear S---, when you receive this. I have felt very

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