List Of Contents | Contents of Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie
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looked double the age I really was, and my hair was already thickly
sprinkled with grey. I clung to my solitude. I did not like to be
dragged from it to mingle in gay scenes, in a busy town, and with
gaily-dressed people. I was no longer fit for the world; I had lost
all relish for the pursuits and pleasures which are so essential to
its votaries; I was contented to live and die in obscurity.

My dear Emilia rejoiced, like a true friend, in my changed
prospects, and came up to help me to cut clothes for the children,
and to assist me in preparing them for the journey.

I succeeded in selling off our goods and chattels much better than
I expected. My old friend, Mr. W---, who was a new comer, became
the principal purchaser, and when Christmas arrived I had not one
article left upon my hands save the bedding, which it was necessary
to take with us.


  The magic spell, the dream is fled,
    The dream of joy sent from above;
  The idol of my soul is dead,
    And naught remains but hopeless love.
  The song of birds, the scent of flowers,
    The tender light of parting day--
  Unheeded now the tardy hours
    Steal sadly, silently away.

  But welcome now the solemn night,
    When watchful stars are gleaming high,
  For though thy form eludes my sight,
    I know thy gentle spirit's nigh.
  O! dear one, now I feel thy power,
    'Tis sweet to rest when toil is o'er,
  But sweeter far that blessed hour
    When fond hearts meet to part no more.




  Adieu!--adieu!--when quivering lips refuse
    The bitter pangs of parting to declare;
  And the full bosom feels that it must lose
    Friends who were wont its inmost thoughts to share;
  When hands are tightly clasp'd, 'mid struggling sighs
  And streaming tears, those whisper'd accents rise,
    Leaving to God the objects of our care
    In that short, simple, comprehensive prayer--

Never did eager British children look for the first violets and
primroses of spring with more impatience than my baby boys and girls
watched, day after day, for the first snow-flakes that were to form
the road to convey them to their absent father.

"Winter never means to come this year. It will never snow again?"
exclaimed my eldest boy, turning from the window on Christmas Day,
with the most rueful aspect that ever greeted the broad, gay beams
of the glorious sun. It was like a spring day. The little lake in
front of the window glittered like a mirror of silver, set in its
dark frame of pine woods.

I, too, was wearying for the snow, and was tempted to think that it
did not come as early as usual, in order to disappoint us. But I
kept this to myself, and comforted the expecting child with the
oft-repeated assertion that it would certainly snow upon the morrow.

But the morrow came and passed away, and many other morrows, and the
same mild, open weather prevailed. The last night of the old year
was ushered in with furious storms of wind and snow; the rafters of
our log cabin shook beneath the violence of the gale, which swept
up from the lake like a lion roaring for its prey, driving the
snow-flakes through every open crevice, of which there were not a
few, and powdering the floor until it rivalled in whiteness the
ground without.

"Oh, what a dreadful night!" we cried, as we huddled, shivering,
around the old broken stove. "A person abroad in the woods to-night
would be frozen. Flesh and blood could not long stand this cutting

"It reminds me of the commencement of a laughable extempore ditty,"
said I to my young friend, A. C---, who was staying with me,
"composed by my husband, during the first very cold night we spent
in Canada"--

  Oh, the cold of Canada nobody knows,
  The fire burns our shoes without warming our toes;
  Oh, dear, what shall we do?
  Our blankets are thin, and our noses are blue--
  Our noses are blue, and our blankets are thin,
  It's at zero without, and we're freezing within!
            (Chorus)--Oh, dear, what shall we do?

"But, joking apart, my dear A---, we ought to be very thankful that
we are not travelling this night to B---."

"But to-morrow," said my eldest boy, lifting up his curly head from
my lap. "It will be fine to-morrow, and we shall see dear papa

In this hope he lay down on his little bed upon the floor, and was
soon fast asleep; perhaps dreaming of that eagerly-anticipated
journey, and of meeting his beloved father.

Sleep was a stranger to my eyes. The tempest raged so furiously
without that I was fearful the roof would be carried off the house,
or that the chimney would take fire. The night was far advanced when
old Jenny and myself retired to bed.

My boy's words were prophetic; that was the last night I ever spent
in the bush--in the dear forest home which I had loved in spite of
all the hardships which we had endured since we pitched our tent in
the backwoods. It was the birthplace of my three boys, the school of
high resolve and energetic action in which we had learned to meet
calmly, and successfully to battle with the ills of life. Nor did I
leave it without many regretful tears, to mingle once more with a
world to whose usages, during my long solitude, I had become almost
a stranger, and to whose praise or blame I felt alike indifferent.

When the day dawned, the whole forest scenery lay glittering in a
mantle of dazzling white; the sun shone brightly, the heavens were
intensely blue, but the cold was so severe that every article of
food had to be thawed before we could get our breakfast. The very
blankets that covered us during the night were stiff with our frozen
breath. "I hope the sleighs won't come to-day," I cried; "we should
be frozen on the long journey."

About noon two sleighs turned into our clearing. Old Jenny ran
screaming into the room, "The masther has sent for us at last! The
sleighs are come! Fine large sleighs, and illigant teams of horses!
Och, and its a cowld day for the wee things to lave the bush."

The snow had been a week in advance of us at B---, and my husband
had sent up the teams to remove us. The children jumped about, and
laughed aloud for joy. Old Jenny did not know whether to laugh or
cry, but she set about helping me to pack up trunks and bedding as
fast as our cold hands would permit.

In the midst of the confusion, my brother arrived, like a good
genius, to our assistance, declaring his determination to take us
down to B--- himself in his large lumber-sleigh. This was indeed
joyful news. In less than three hours he despatched the hired
sleighs with their loads, and we all stood together in the empty
house, striving to warm our hands over the embers of the expiring

How cold and desolate every object appeared! The small windows, half
blocked up with snow, scarcely allowed a glimpse of the declining
sun to cheer us with his serene aspect. In spite of the cold,
several kind friends had waded through the deep snow to say, "God
bless you!--Good-bye;" while a group of silent Indians stood
together, gazing upon our proceedings with an earnestness which
showed that they were not uninterested in the scene. As we passed
out to the sleigh, they pressed forward, and silently held out their
hands, while the squaws kissed me and the little ones with tearful
eyes. They had been true friends to us in our dire necessity, and I
returned their mute farewell from my very heart.

Mr. S--- sprang into the sleigh. One of our party was missing.
"Jenny!" shouted my brother, at the top of his voice, "it is too
cold to keep your mistress and the little children waiting."

"Och, shure thin, it is I that am comin'!" returned the old body,
as she issued from the house.

Shouts of laughter greeted her appearance. The figure she cut upon
that memorable day I shall never forget. My brother dropped the
reins upon the horses' necks, and fairly roared. Jenny was about to
commence her journey to the front in three hats. Was it to protect
her from the cold? Oh, no; Jenny was not afraid of the cold! She
could have eaten her breakfast on the north side of an iceberg, and
always dispensed with shoes, during the most severe of our Canadian
winters. It was to protect these precious articles from injury.

Our good neighbour, Mrs. W---, had presented her with an old
sky-blue drawn-silk bonnet, as a parting benediction. This, by way
of distinction, for she never had possessed such an article of
luxury as a silk bonnet in her life, Jenny had placed over the
coarse calico cap, with its full furbelow of the same yellow,
ill-washed, homely material, next to her head; over this, as second
in degree, a sun-burnt straw hat, with faded pink ribbons, just
showed its broken rim and tawdry trimmings; and, to crown all, and
serve as a guard to the rest, a really serviceable grey-beaver
bonnet, once mine, towered up as high as the celebrated crown in
which brother Peter figures in Swift's "Tale of a Tub."

"Mercy, Jenny! Why, old woman, you don't mean to go with us that

"Och, my dear heart! I've no band-box to kape the cowld from
desthroying my illigant bonnets," returned Jenny, laying her
hand upon the side of the sleigh.

"Go back, Jenny; go back," cried my brother. "For God's sake
take all that tom-foolery from off your head. We shall be the
laughing-stock of every village we pass through."

"Och, shure now, Mr. S---, who'd think of looking at an owld
crathur like me! It's only yersel' that would notice the like."

"All the world, everybody would look at you, Jenny. I believe that
you put on those hats to draw the attention of all the young fellows
that we shall happen to meet on the road. Ha, Jenny!"

With an air of offended dignity, the old woman returned to the
house to re-arrange her toilet, and provide for the safety of her
"illigant bonnets," one of which she suspended to the strings of
her cloak, while she carried the third dangling in her hand; and
no persuasion of mine would induce her to put them out of sight.

Many painful and conflicting emotions agitated my mind, but found no
utterance in words, as we entered the forest path, and I looked my
last upon that humble home consecrated by the memory of a thousand
sorrows. Every object had become endeared to me during my long exile
from civilised life. I loved the lonely lake, with its magnificent
belt of dark pines sighing in the breeze; the cedar-swamp, the
summer home of my dark Indian friends; my own dear little garden,
with its rugged snake-fence which I had helped Jenny to place
with my own hands, and which I had assisted the faithful woman in
cultivating for the last three years, where I had so often braved
the tormenting mosquitoes, black flies, and intense heat, to provide
vegetables for the use of the family. Even the cows, that had given
a breakfast for the last time to my children, were now regarded with
mournful affection. A poor labourer stood in the doorway of the
deserted house, holding my noble water-dog, Rover, in a string.
The poor fellow gave a joyous bark as my eyes fell upon him.

"James J---, take care of my dog."

"Never fear, ma'am, he shall bide with me as long as he lives."

"He and the Indians at least feel grieved for our departure," I
thought. Love is so scarce in this world that we ought to prize it,
however lowly the source from whence it flows.

We accomplished only twelve miles of our journey that night.
The road lay through the bush, and along the banks of the grand,
rushing, foaming Otonabee river, the wildest and most beautiful of
forest streams. We slept at the house of kind friends, and early in
the morning resumed our long journey, but minus one of our party.
Our old favourite cat, Peppermint, had made her escape from the
basket in which she had been confined, and had scampered off, to
the great grief of the children.

As we passed Mrs. H---'s house, we called for dear Addie. Mr. H---
brought her in his arms to the gate, well wrapped up in a large fur
cape and a warm woollen shawl.

"You are robbing me of my dear little girl," he said. "Mrs. H--- is
absent; she told me not to part with her if you should call; but I
could not detain her without your consent. Now that you have seen
her, allow me to keep her for a few months longer?"

Addie was in the sleigh. I put my arm about her. I felt I had my
child again, and I secretly rejoiced in the possession of my own.
I sincerely thanked him for his kindness, and Mr. S--- drove on.

At Mr. R---'s, we found a parcel from dear Emilia, containing a
plum-cake and other good things for the children. Her kindness never

We crossed the bridge over the Otonabee, in the rising town of
Peterborough, at eight o'clock in the morning. Winter had now set in
fairly. The children were glad to huddle together in the bottom of
the sleigh, under the buffalo skins and blankets; all but my eldest
boy, who, just turned of five years old, was enchanted with all he
heard and saw, and continued to stand up and gaze around him. Born
in the forest, which he had never quitted before, the sight of a
town was such a novelty that he could find no words wherewith to
express his astonishment.

"Are the houses come to see one another?" he asked. "How did they
all meet here?"

The question greatly amused his uncle, who took some pains to
explain to him the difference between town and country. During the
day, we got rid of old Jenny and her bonnets, whom we found a very
refractory travelling companion; as wilful, and far more difficult
to manage than a young child. Fortunately, we overtook the sleighs
with the furniture, and Mr. S--- transferred Jenny to the care of
one of the drivers; an arrangement that proved satisfactory to all

We had been most fortunate in obtaining comfortable lodgings for the
night. The evening had closed in so intensely cold that although we
were only two miles from C---, Addie was so much affected by it that
the child lay sick and pale in my arms, and, when spoken to, seemed
scarcely conscious of our presence.

My brother jumped from the front seat, and came round to look at
her. "That child is ill with the cold; we must stop somewhere to
warm her, or she will hardly hold out till we get to the inn at

We were just entering the little village of A---, in the vicinity of
the court-house, and we stopped at a pretty green cottage, and asked
permission to warm the children. A stout, middle-aged woman came to
the sleigh, and in the kindest manner requested us to alight.

"I think I know that voice," I said. "Surely it cannot be Mrs. S---,
who once kept the --- hotel at C---?"

"Mrs. Moodie, you are welcome," said the excellent woman, bestowing
upon me a most friendly embrace; "you and your children. I am
heartily glad to see you again after so many years. God bless you

Nothing could exceed the kindness and hospitality of this generous
woman; she would not hear of our leaving her that night, and,
directing my brother to put up his horses in her stable, she made
up an excellent fire in a large bedroom, and helped me to undress

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