List Of Contents | Contents of Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie
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uneasy about you for some days past, and am afraid that all is not
right at home."

Whence came this sudden fear? Why at that particular time did his
thoughts turn so despondingly towards those so dear to him? Why
did the dark cloud in his mind hang so heavily above his home?
The burden of my weary and distressed spirit had reached him;
and without knowing of our sufferings and danger, his own responded
to the call.

The holy and mysterious nature of man is yet hidden from himself; he
is still a stranger to the movements of that inner life, and knows
little of its capabilities and powers. A purer religion, a higher
standard of moral and intellectual training may in time reveal all
this. Man still remains a half-reclaimed savage; the leaven of
Christianity is surely working its way, but it has not yet changed
the whole lump, or transformed the deformed into the beauteous child
of God. Oh, for that glorious day! It is coming. The dark clouds of
humanity are already tinged with the golden radiance of the dawn,
but the sun of righteousness has not yet arisen upon the world with
healing on his wings; the light of truth still struggles in the womb
of darkness, and man stumbles on to the fulfilment of his sublime
and mysterious destiny.

This spring I was not a little puzzled how to get in the crops. I
still continued so weak that I was quite unable to assist in the
field, and my good old Jenny was sorely troubled with inflamed feet,
which required constant care. At this juncture, a neighbouring
settler, who had recently come among us, offered to put in my small
crop of peas, potatoes, and oats, in all not comprising more than
eight acres, if I would lend him my oxen to log-up a large fallow of
ten acres, and put in his own crops. Trusting to his fair dealing, I
consented to this arrangement; but he took advantage of my isolated
position, and not only logged-up his fallow, but put in all his
spring crops before he sowed an acre of mine. The oxen were worked
down so low that they were almost unfit for use, and my crops were
put in so late, and with such little care, that they all proved a
failure. I should have felt this loss more severely had it happened
in any previous year; but I had ceased to feel that deep interest in
the affairs of the farm, from a sort of conviction in my own mind
that it would not long remain my home.

Jenny and I did our best in the way of hoeing and weeding; but no
industry on our part could repair the injury done to the seed by
being sown out of season.

We therefore confined our attention to the garden, which, as usual,
was very productive, and with milk, fresh butter, and eggs, supplied
the simple wants of our family. Emilia enlivened our solitude by her
company, for several weeks during the summer, and we had many
pleasant excursions on the water together.

My knowledge of the use of the paddle, however, was not entirely
without its danger.

One very windy Sunday afternoon, a servant-girl, who lived with my
friend Mrs. C---, came crying to the house, and implored the use of
my canoe and paddles, to cross the lake to see her dying father. The
request was instantly granted; but there was no man upon the place
to ferry her across, and she could not manage the boat herself--in
short, had never been in a canoe in her life.

The girl was deeply distressed. She said that she had got word that
her father could scarcely live till she could reach Smith-town; that
if she went round by the bridge, she must walk five miles, while if
she crossed the lake she could be home in half an hour.

I did not much like the angry swell upon the water, but the poor
creature was in such grief that I told her, if she was not afraid
of venturing with me, I would try and put her over.

She expressed her thanks in the warmest terms, accompanied by a
shower of blessings; and I took the paddles and went down to the
landing. Jenny was very averse to my "tempting Providence," as she
termed it, and wished that I might get back as safe as I went.
However, the old woman launched the canoe for me, pushed us from
the shore, and away we went. The wind was in my favour, and I found
so little trouble in getting across that I began to laugh at my
own timidity. I put the girl on shore, and endeavoured to shape
my passage home. But this I found was no easy task. The water was
rough, and the wind high, and the strong current, which runs through
that part of the lake to the Smith rapids, was dead against me. In
vain I laboured to cross this current; it resisted all my efforts,
and at each repulse I was carried farther down towards the rapids,
which were full of sunken rocks, and hard for the strong arm of a
man to stem--to the weak hand of a woman their safe passage was
impossible. I began to feel rather uneasy at the awkward situation
in which I found myself placed, and for some time I made desperate
efforts to extricate myself, by paddling with all my might. I soon
gave this up, and contented myself by steering the canoe in the path
that it thought fit to pursue. After drifting down with the current
for some little space, until I came opposite a small island, I
put out all my strength to gain the land. In this I fortunately
succeeded, and getting on shore, I contrived to drag the canoe so
far round the headland that I got her out of the current. All now
was smooth sailing, and I joyfully answered old Jenny's yells from
the landing, that I was safe, and would join her in a few minutes.

This fortunate manoeuvre stood me in good stead upon another
occasion, when crossing the lake, some weeks after this, in company
with a young female friend, during a sudden storm.

Two Indian women, heavily laden with their packs of dried venison,
called at the house to borrow the canoe, to join their encampment
upon the other side. It so happened that I wanted to send to the
mill that afternoon, and the boat could not be returned in time
without I went over with the Indian women and brought it back.
My young friend was delighted at the idea of the frolic, and as
she could both steer and paddle, and the day was calm and bright,
though excessively warm, we both agreed to accompany the squaws
to the other side, and bring back the canoe.

Mrs. Muskrat has fallen in love with a fine fat kitten, whom the
children had called "Buttermilk," and she begged so hard for the
little puss, that I presented it to her, rather marvelling how she
would contrive to carry it so many miles through the woods, and she
loaded with such an enormous pack; when, lo! the squaw took down
the bundle, and, in the heart of the piles of dried venison, she
deposited the cat in a small basket, giving it a thin slice of the
meat to console it for its close confinement. Puss received the
donation with piteous mews; it was evident that mice and freedom
were preferred by her to venison and the honour of riding on a
squaw's back.

The squaws paddled us quickly across, and we laughed and chatted
as we bounded over the blue waves, until we were landed in a dark
cedar-swamp, in the heart of which we found the Indian encampment.

A large party were lounging around the fire, superintending the
drying of a quantity of venison which was suspended on forked
sticks. Besides the flesh of the deer, a number of musk-rats were
skinned, and extended as if standing bolt upright before the fire,
warming their paws. The appearance they cut was most ludicrous. My
young friend pointed to the musk-rats, as she sank down, laughing,
upon one of the skins.

Old Snow-storm, who was present, imagined that she wanted one of
them to eat, and very gravely handed her the unsavoury beast, stick
and all.

"Does the old man take me for a cannibal?" she said. "I would as
soon eat a child."

Among the many odd things cooking at that fire there was something
that had the appearance of a bull-frog.

"What can that be?" she said, directing my eyes to the strange
monster. "Surely they don't eat bull-frogs!"

This sally was received by a grunt of approbation from Snow-storm;
and, though Indians seldom forget their dignity so far as to laugh,
he for once laid aside his stoical gravity, and, twirling the thing
round with a stick, burst into a hearty peal.

"Muckakee! Indian eat muckakee?--Ha! ha! Indian no eat muckakee!
Frenchmans eat his hind legs; they say the speckled beast much good.
This no muckakee!--the liver of deer, dried--very nice--Indian eat

"I wish him much joy of the delicate morsel," said the saucy girl,
who was intent upon quizzing and examining everything in the camp.

We had remained the best part of an hour, when Mrs. Muskrat laid
hold of my hand, and leading me through the bush to the shore,
pointed up significantly to a cloud, as dark as night, that hung
loweringly over the bush.

"Thunder in that cloud--get over the lake--quick, quick, before it
breaks." Then motioning for us to jump into the canoe, she threw in
the paddles, and pushed us from shore.

We saw the necessity of haste, and both plied the paddle with
diligence to gain the opposite bank, or at least the shelter of the
island, before the cloud poured down its fury upon us. We were just
in the middle of the current when the first peal of thunder broke
with startling nearness over our heads. The storm frowned darkly
upon the woods; the rain came down in torrents; and there were we
exposed to its utmost fury in the middle of a current too strong
for us to stem.

"What shall we do? We shall be drowned!" said my young friend,
turning her pale, tearful face towards me.

"Let the canoe float down the current till we get close to the
island; then run her into the land. I saved myself once before
by this plan."

We did so, and were safe; but there we had to remain, wet to our
skins, until the wind and the rain abated sufficiently for us to
manage our little craft. "How do you like being upon the lake in a
storm like this?" I whispered to my shivering, dripping companion.

"Very well in romance, but terribly dull in reality. We cannot,
however, call it a dry joke," continued she, wringing the rain from
her dress. "I wish we were suspended over Old Snow-storm's fire with
the bull-frog, for I hate a shower-bath with my clothes on."

I took warning by this adventure, never to cross the lake again
without a stronger arm than mine in the canoe to steer me safely
through the current.

I received much kind attention from my new neighbour, the Rev. W.
W---, a truly excellent and pious clergyman of the English Church.
The good, white-haired old man expressed the kindest sympathy in all
my trials, and strengthened me greatly with his benevolent counsels
and gentle charity. Mr. W--- was a true follower of Christ. His
Christianity was not confined to his own denomination; and every
Sabbath his log cottage was filled with attentive auditors, of all
persuasions, who met together to listen to the word of life
delivered to them by a Christian minister in the wilderness.

He had been a very fine preacher, and though considerably turned of
seventy, his voice was still excellent, and his manner solemn and

His only son, a young man of twenty-eight years of age, had received
a serious injury in the brain by falling upon a turf-spade from a
loft window when a child, and his intellect had remained stationary
from that time. Poor Harry was an innocent child; he loved his
parents with the simplicity of a child, and all who spoke kindly to
him he regarded as friends. Like most persons of his caste of mind,
his predilection for pet animals was a prominent instinct. He was
always followed by two dogs, whom he regarded with especial favour.
The moment he caught your eye, he looked down admiringly upon his
four-footed attendants, patting their sleek necks, and murmuring,
"Nice dogs--nice dogs." Harry had singled out myself and my little
ones as great favourites. He would gather flowers for the girls, and
catch butterflies for the boys; while to me he always gave the title
of "dear aunt."

It so happened that one fine morning I wanted to walk a couple of
miles through the bush, to spend the day with Mrs. C---; but the
woods were full of the cattle belonging to the neighbouring
settlers, and of these I was terribly afraid. Whilst I was dressing
the little girls to accompany me, Harry W--- came in with a message
from his mother. "Oh, thought I, here is Harry W---. He will walk
with us through the bush, and defend us from the cattle."

The proposition was made, and Harry was not a little proud of being
invited to join our party. We had accomplished half the distance
without seeing a single hoof; and I was beginning to congratulate
myself upon our unusual luck, when a large red ox, maddened by the
stings of the gad-flies, came headlong through the brush, tossing
up the withered leaves and dried moss with his horns, and making
directly towards us. I screamed to my champion for help; but where
was he?--running like a frightened chipmunk along the fallen timber,
shouting to my eldest girl, at the top of his voice--

"Run Katty, run!--The bull, the bull! Run, Katty!--The bull,
the bull!"--leaving us poor creatures far behind in the chase.

The bull, who cared not one fig for us, did not even stop to give
us a passing stare, and was soon lost among the trees; while our
valiant knight never stopped to see what had become of us, but made
the best of his way home. So much for taking an innocent for a

The next month most of the militia regiments were disbanded. My
husband's services were no longer required at B---, and he once more
returned to help to gather in our scanty harvest. Many of the old
debts were paid off by his hard-saved pay; and though all hope of
continuing in the militia service was at an end, our condition was
so much improved that we looked less to the dark than to the sunny
side of the landscape.

The potato crop was gathered in, and I had collected my store of
dandelion-roots for our winter supply of coffee, when one day
brought a letter to my husband from the Governor's secretary,
offering him the situation of sheriff of the V--- district. Though
perfectly unacquainted with the difficulties and responsibilities of
such an important office, my husband looked upon it as a gift sent
from heaven to remove us from the sorrows and poverty with which we
were surrounded in the woods.

Once more he bade us farewell; but it was to go and make ready a
home for us, that we should no more be separated from each other.

Heartily did I return thanks to God that night for all his mercies
to us; and Sir George Arthur was not forgotten in those prayers.

From B---, my husband wrote to me to make what haste I could in
disposing of our crops, household furniture, stock, and farming
implements; and to prepare myself and the children to join him on
the first fall of snow that would make the roads practicable for
sleighing. To facilitate this object, he sent me a box of clothing,
to make up for myself and the children.

For seven years I had lived out of the world entirely; my person had
been rendered coarse by hard work and exposure to the weather. I

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