List Of Contents | Contents of Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie
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prosperous men have risen from obscurity to affluence without going
through the mill, and therefore have a fellow-feeling for those who
are struggling to gain the first rung on the ladder.

Men are allowed in this country a freedom enjoyed by few of the more
polished countries in Europe--freedom in religion, politics, and
speech; freedom to select their own friends and to visit with whom
they please without consulting the Mrs. Grundys of society--and they
can lead a more independent social life than in the mother country,
because less restricted by the conventional prejudices that govern
older communities.

Few people who have lived many years in Canada and return to England
to spend the remainder of their days, accomplish the fact. They
almost invariably come back, and why? They feel more independent and
happier here; they have no idea what a blessed country it is to live
in until they go back and realize the want of social freedom. I have
heard this from so many educated people, persons of taste and
refinement, that I cannot doubt the truth of their statements.

Forty years has accomplished as great a change in the habits and
tastes of the Canadian people as it has in the architecture of their
fine cities and the appearance of the country. A young Canadian
gentleman is as well educated as any of his compeers across the
big water, and contrasts very favourably with them. Social and
unaffected, he puts on no airs of offensive superiority, but meets a
stranger with the courtesy and frankness best calculated to shorten
the distance between them and to make his guest feel perfectly at

Few countries possess a more beautiful female population. The women
are elegant in their tastes, graceful in their manners, and naturally
kind and affectionate in their dispositions. Good housekeepers,
sociable neighbours, and lively and active in speech and movement,
they are capital companions and make excellent wives and mothers. Of
course there must be exceptions to every rule; but cases of divorce,
or desertion of their homes, are so rare an occurrence that it speaks
volumes for their domestic worth. Numbers of British officers have
chosen their wives in Canada, and I never heard that they had cause
to repent of their choice. In common with our American neighbours, we
find that the worst members of our community are not Canadian born,
but importations from other countries.

The Dominion and Local Governments are now doing much to open up
the resources of Canada by the Intercolonial and projected Pacific
Railways and other Public Works, which, in time, will make a vast
tract of land available for cultivation, and furnish homes for
multitudes of the starving populations of Europe.

And again, the Government of the flourishing Province of Ontario--of
which the Hon. J. Sandfield Macdonald is premier--has done wonders
during the last four years by means of its Immigration policy, which
has been most successfully carried out by the Hon. John Carling, the
Commissioner, and greatly tended to the development of the country.
By this policy liberal provision is made for free grants of land to
actual settlers, for general education, and for the encouragement of
the industrial Arts and Agriculture; by the construction of public
roads and the improvement of the internal navigable waters of the
province; and by the assistance now given to an economical system of
railways connecting these interior waters with the leading railroads
and ports on the frontier; and not only are free grants of land given
in the districts extending from the eastern to the western extremity
of the Province, but one of the best of the new townships has been
selected in which the Government is now making roads, and upon each
lot is clearing five acres and erecting thereon a small house, which
will be granted to heads of families, who, by six annual instalments,
will be required to pay back to the Government the cost of these
improvements--not exceeding $200, or 40 pounds sterling--when a free
patent (or deed) of the land will be given, without any charge
whatever, under a protective Homestead Act. This wise and liberal
policy would have astonished the Colonial Legislature of 1832, but
will, no doubt, speedily give to the Province a noble and progressive
back country, and add much to its strength and prosperity.

Our busy factories and foundries--our copper, silver, and plumbago
mines--our salt and petroleum--the increasing exports of native
produce--speak volumes for the prosperity of the Dominion and for the
government of those who are at the head of affairs. It only requires
the loyal co-operation of an intelligent and enlightened people to
render this beautiful and free country the greatest and the happiest
upon the face of the earth.

When we contrast forest life in Canada forty years ago with the
present state of the country, my book will not be without interest
and significance. We may truly say, old things have passed away,
all things have become new.

What an advance in the arts and sciences and in the literature of
the country has been made during the last few years. Canada can
boast of many good and even distinguished authors, and the love of
books and booklore is daily increasing.

Institues and literary associations for the encouragement of
learning are now to be found in all the cities and large towns in
the Dominion. We are no longer dependent upon the States for the
reproduction of the works of celebrated authors; our own publishers,
both in Toronto and Montreal, are furnishing our handsome bookstores
with volumes that rival, in cheapness and typographical excellence,
the best issues from the large printing establishments in America.
We have no lack of native talent or books, or of intelligent readers
to appreciate them.

Our print shops are full of the well-educated designs of native
artists. And the grand scenery of our lakes and forests, transferred
to canvas, adorns the homes of our wealthy citizens.

We must not omit in this slight sketch to refer to the number of fine
public buildings which meet us at every turn, most of which have been
designed and executed by native architects. Montreal can point to her
Victoria Bridge, and challenge the world to produce its equal. This
prodigy of mechanical skill should be a sufficient inducement to
strangers from other lands to visit our shores, and though designed
by the son of the immortal George Stephenson, it was Canadian hands
that helped him to execute his great project--to raise that glorious
monument to his fame, which we hope, will outlast a thousand years.

Our new Houses of Parliment, our churches, banks, public halls,
asylums for the insane, the blind, and the deaf and dumb are
buildings which must attract the attention of every intelligent
traveller; and when we consider the few brief years that have
elapsed since the Upper Province was reclaimed from the wilderness,
our progress in mechanical arts, and all the comforts which pertain
to modern civilization, is unprecedented in the history of older

If the Canadian people will honestly unite in carrying out measures
proposed by the Government for the good of the country, irrespective
of self-interest and party prejudices, they must, before the close
of the present century, become a great and prosperous nationality.
May the blessing of God rest upon Canada and the Canadian people!

Susanna Moodie

Belleville, 1871



[This chapter was originally intended by Mrs. Moodie for inclusion
in the first edition of Roughing it in the Bush but was instead
published in the periodical Bentley's Miscellany, in August 1852.]

  "Ah, human hearts are strangely cast,
    Time softens grief and pain;
  Like reeds that shiver in the blast,
    They bend to rise again.

  "But she in silence bowed her head,
    To none her sorrow would impart;
  Earth's faithful arms enclose the dead,
    And hide for aye her broken heart!"

Our man James came to me to request the loan of one of the horses,
to attend a funeral. M--- was absent on business, and the horses
and the man's time were both greatly needed to prepare the land for
the fall crops. I demurred; James looked anxious and disappointed;
and the loan of the horse was at length granted, but not without a
strict injunction that he should return to his work the moment the
funeral was over. He did not come back until late that evening. I
had just finished my tea, and was nursing my wrath at his staying
out the whole day, when the door of the room (we had but one,
and that was shared in common with the servants) opened, and the
delinquent at last appeared. He hung up the new English saddle,
and sat down by the blazing hearth without speaking a word.

"What detained you so long, James? You ought to have had half an
acre of land, at least, ploughed to-day."

"Verra true, mistress. It was nae fau't o' mine. I had mista'en the
hour. The funeral didna' come in afore sun-down, and I cam' awa'
directly it was ower."

"Was it any relation of yours?"

"Na, na, jist a freend, an auld acquaintance, but nane o' mine ain
kin. I never felt sare sad in a' my life, as I ha' dune this day.
I ha' seen the clods piled on mony a heid, and never felt the saut
tear in my e'en. But, puir Jeanie! puir lass. It was a sair sight
to see them thrown doon upon her."

My curiosity was excited; I pushed the tea-things from me, and told
Bell to give James his supper.

"Naething for me the night, Bell--I canna' eat--my thoughts will a'
rin on that puir lass. Sae young--sae bonnie, an' a few months ago
as blythe as a lark, an' now a clod o' the earth. Hout we maun all
dee when our ain time comes; but, somehow, I canna' think that
Jeanie ought to ha' gane sae sune."

"Who is Jeanie Burns? Tell me, James, something about her."

In compliance with my request, the man gave me the following story.
I wish I could convey it in his own words, but though I can
perfectly understand the Scotch dialect when spoken, I could not
write it in its charming simplicity: that honest, truthful brevity,
which is so characteristic of this noble people. The smooth tones
of the blarney may flatter our vanity, and please us for the
moment; but who places any confidence in those by whom it is
employed. We know that it is only uttered to cajole and decieve,
and when the novelty wears off, the repetition awakens indignation
and disgust; but who mistrusts the blunt, straightforward speech of
the land of Burns--for good or ill, it strikes home to the heart.

"Jeanie Burns was the daughter of a respectable shoemaker, who
gained a comfortable living by his trade in a small town in
Ayrshire. Her father, like herself, was an only child, and followed
the same vocation, and rought under the same roof that his father
had done before him. The elder Burns had met with many reverses,
and now helpless and blind, was entirely dependant upon the charity
of his son. Honest Jock had not married until late in life, that he
might more comfortably provide for that wants of his aged parent.
His mother had been dead for some years. She was a meek, pious
woman, and Jock quaintly affirmed, 'That it had pleased the Lord
to provide a better inheritance for his dear auld mither than his
arm could win, proud and happy as he would have been to have
supported her when she was no longer able to work for him.'

"Jock's paternal love was repaid at last; chance threw in his way
a cannie young lass, baith guid and bonnie: they were united, and
Jeanie was the sole fruit of this marriage. But Jeanie proved a
host in herself, and grew up the best natured, the prettiest,
and the most industrious lass in the village, and was a general
favourite both with young and old. She helped her mother in the
house, bound shoes for her father, and attended to all the wants of
her dear old grandfather, Saunders Burns; who was so much attached
to his litle handmaid, that he was never happy when she was absent.

"Happiness is not a flower of long growth in this world; it requires
the dew and sunlight of heaven to nourish it, and it soon withers,
removed from its native skies. The cholera visited the remote
village. It smote the strong man in the pride of his strength, and
the matron in the beauty of her prime; while it spared the helpless
and the aged, the infant of a few days, and the parent of many
years. Both Jeanie's parents fell victims to the fatal disease,
and the old blind Saunders and the young Jeanie were left to fight
alone a hard battle with poverty and grief. The truly deserving are
never entirely forsaken. God may afflict them with many trials, but
he watches over the still, and often provides for their wants in a
manner truly miraculous. Sympathizing friends gathered round the
orphan girl in her hour of need, and obtained for her sufficient
employment to enable her to support her old grandfather and
herself, and provide for them the common necessaries of life.

"Jeannie was an excellent sempstress, and what between making
waistcoasts and trousers for the tailors and binding shoes for the
shoemakers, a business that she thoroughly understood, she soon
had her little hired room neatly furnished, and her grandfather
as clean and spruce as ever. When she led him into the kirk of a
Sabbath morning, all the neighbours greeted the dutiful daughter
with an approving smile, and the old man looked so serene and
happy that Jeanie was fully repaid for her labours of love.

"Her industry and piety often formed the theme of conversation to
the young lads of the village. 'What a guid wife Jeanie Burns will
mak',' cried one. 'Aye,' said another, 'he need na complain of
ill-fortin, who has the luck to get the like o' her.'

"'An' she's sae bonnie,' would Willie Robertson add with a sigh.
'I would na' covet the wealth o' the hale world an she were mine.'

"Willie was a fine active young man, who bore an excellent
character, and his comrades thought it very likely that Willie was
to be the fortunate man.

"Robertson was the youngest son of a farmer in the neighbourhood.
He had no land of his own, and he was one of a very large family.
From a boy he had assisted his father in working the farm for their
common maintenance; but after he took to looking at Jeanie Burns at
kirk, instead of minding his prayers, he began to wish that he had
a homesstead of his own, which he could ask Jeanie and her
grandfather to share. "He made his wishes known to his father.
The old man was prudent. A marriage with Jeanie Burns offered no
advantages in a pecuniary view. But the girl was a good honest
girl, of whom any man might be proud. He had himself married for
love, and had enjoyed great comfort in his wife.

"'Willie, my lad,' he said, 'I canna' gi'e ye a share o' the farm.
It is ower sma' for the mony mouths it has to feed. I ha'e laid by
a little siller for a rainy day, an' this I will gi'e ye to win a
farm for yersel' in the woods o' Canada. There is plenty o' room
there, an' industry brings its ain reward. If Jeanie Burns lo'es
you, as weel as yer dear mither did me, she will be fain to follow

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