List Of Contents | Contents of Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie
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distracted woman soon called the neighbours together, who instantly
joined in the search.

"It was not until this afternoon that any trace could be obtained
of the lost children, when Brian, the hunter, found the youngest
boy, Johnie, lying fast asleep upon the trunk of a fallen tree,
fifteen miles back in the bush."

"And the other boy?"

"Will never, I fear, be heard of again," said she. "They have
searched for him in all directions and have not discovered him. The
story little Johnie tells is to this effect. During the first two
days of their absence, the food they had brought in the basket for
their father's dinner, sustained life; but to-day it seems that the
little Johnie grew very hungry, and cried continually for bread.
William, the elder boy, he says, promised him bread if he would try
and walk further; but his feet were bleeding and sore, and he could
not stir another step. William told him to sit down upon the log on
which he was found, and not stir from the place until he came back,
and he would run on until he found a house and brought him
something to eat. He then wiped his eyes, and bade him not to be
frightened or to cry, and kissed him and went away.

"This is all the little fellow knows about his brother; and it is
very probable the generous-hearted boy has been eaten by the
wolves. The Indians traced him for more than a mile along the banks
of a stream, when they lost his trail altogether. If he had fallen
into the water, they would have discovered his body, but they say
that he has been dragged into some hole in the bank among the
tangled cedars and devoured.

"Since I have been in the country," continued Mrs. H---, "I have
known many cases of children, and ever of grown persons, being lost
in the woods, who were never heard of again. It is a frightful
calamity to happen to any one, and mothers cannot be too careful
in guarding their children against rambling alone into the bush.
Persons, when once they lose sight of the beaten track, get
frightened and bewildered and lose all presence of mind; and
instead of remaining where they are, which is their only chance
of being discovered, they plunge desperately on, running hither
and thither, in the hope of getting out, while they only involve
themselves more deeply among the mazes of the interminable forest.

"Two winters ago, the daughter of a settler in the remote township
of Dummer, where my husband took up his grant of wild land, went
with her father to the mill, which was four miles from their log
shanty and the road lay entirely through the bush. For a while the
girl, who was about twelve years of age, kept up with her father,
who walked briskly ahead with his bag of corn on his back, for, as
their path lay through a tangled swamp, he was anxious to get home
before night. After a time Sarah grew tired, and lagged a long way
behind. The man felt not the least apprehensive when he lost sight
of her, expecting that she would soon come up with him again.
Once or twice he stopped and shouted, and she answered, 'Coming,
father;' and he did not turn to look after her again. He reached the
mill--saw the grist ground, resumed his burthen and took the road
home, expecting to meet Sarah by the way. He trod the path alone,
but still thought that the girl, tired of the long walk, had turned
back, and that he should find her safe at home.

"You may imagine, Mrs. M---, his consternation and that of the
family, when they found that the girl was lost.

"It was now dark, and all search for her was given up for the night
as hopeless. By day-break the next morning, the whole settlement,
which was then confined to a few lonely log tenements inhabited
by Cornish miners, were roused from their sleep to assist in the

"The men turned out with guns and arms, and parties started in
different directions. Those who first discovered the girl were to
fire their guns, which was to be the signal to guide the rest to
the spot. It was not long before they found the object of their
search seated under a tree, about half a mile from the path she had
lost on the preceeding day.

"She had been tempted by the beauty of some wild berries to leave
the road, and when once in the bush she grew bewildered and could
not find her way back. At first she ran to and fro in an agony of
terror at finding herself in the woods all alone, and uttered loud
and frantic cries, but her father had by this time reached the mill
and was out of hearing.

"With a sagacity beyond her years and not very common to her class,
instead of wandering further into the labyrinth which surrounded
her, she sat down under a large tree, covered her face with her
apron, said the Lord's Prayer--the only one she knew--and hoped that
God would send her father back to find her the moment he discovered
that she was lost.

"When night came down upon the dark forest (and oh how dark night is
in the woods!), the poor girl said, that she felt horribly afraid of
being eaten by the wolves which abound in those dreary swamps. But
she did not cry, for fear they should hear her. Simple girl! she did
not know that the scent of a wolf is far keener that his ear, but
that was her notion, and she lay down close to the ground and never
once raised her head, for fear of seeing something dreadful standing
beside her, until overcome by terror and fatigue she fell fast
asleep, and did not awake until roused by the shrill braying of the
horns and the shouts ofthe party who were seeking her."

"What a dreadful situation! I am sure that I should not have had the
courage of this poor girl, but should have died with fear."

"We don't know how much we can bear, Mrs. M---, until we are tried.
This girl was more fortunate than a boy of the same age, who was
lost in the same township, just as the winter set in. The lad was
sent by his father, an English settler, in company with two boys of
his own age, to be measured for a pair of shoes. George Desne, who
followed the double employment of farmer and shoemaker, lived about
three miles from the clearing known by the name of the English
line. After the lads left the clearing, their road lay entirely
through the bush. But it was a path they had often travelled both
alone and with their parents, and they felt no fear.

"There had been a slight fall of snow, just enough to cover the
ground, and the day was clear and frosty. The boys in this country
always hail with delight the first fall of snow, and they ran races
and slid over all the shallow pools until they reached George
Desne's cabin.

"He measured young Brown for a strong pair of winter boots, and the
boys went on their homeward way, shouting and laughing in the glee
of their hearts.

"About halfway they suddenly missed their companion, and ran back
nearly a mile to find him. Not succeeding in this, they
thought that he had hidden behind some of the trees, and pretended
to be lost, in order to frighten them, and after shouting at the top
of their voices, and receiving no answer, they determined to go
home without him. They knew that he was well acquainted with the
road, and that it was still broad day, and that he could easily
find his way home alone. When his father inquired for George, they
said that he was coming, and went to their respective homes.

"Night came, and the lad did not return, and his parents began to
be alarmed at his absence. Mr. Brown went over to the neighbouring
cabins, and made the lads tell him all they knew about his son.
They described the place where they first missed him; but they
concluded that he had either run home before them, of gone back to
spend the night with the young Desnes, who had been very urgent for
for him to stay. This account pacified the anxious father. Early
the next morning he went to Desne's himself to bring home the boy,
but the lad had not been there.

"His mysterious disappearance gave rise to a thousand strange
surmises. The whole settlement turned out in search of the boy.
His steps were traced from the road a few yards into the bush, and
entirely disappeared at the foot of a large tree. The moss was
rubbed from the trunk of the tree, but the tree was lofty, and the
branches so far from the ground, that it was almost impossible for
any boy, unassisted, to have raised himself to such a height. There
was no track of any animal all around in the unbroken snow, no
shred of garment or stain of blood,--that boy's fate will ever
remain a great mystery, for he was never found."

"He must have been carried up that tree by a bear, and dragged down
into the hollow trunk," said I.

"If that had been the case, there would have been the print of the
bear's feet in the snow. It does not, however, follow that the boy
is dead, though it is more than probable. I knew of a case where
two boys and a girl were sent into the woods by their mother to
fetch home the cows. The children were lost; the parents mourned
them for dead, for all search for them proved fruitless, and after
seven years the eldest son returned. They had been overtaken
and carried off by a party of Indians, who belonged to a tribe
inhabiting the islands in Lake Huron, several hundred miles away
from their forest-home. The girl, as she grew into woman, married
one of the tribe; the boys followed the occupation of hunters and
fishers, and from their dress and appearance might have passed for
the red sons of the forest. The eldest boy, however, never forgot
the name of his parent, and the manner in which he had been lost,
and took the first opportunity of making his escape, and travelling
back to the home of his childhood.

"When he made himself known to his mother, who was a widow, but
still resided upon the same spot, he was so dark and Indian-like,
that she could not believe that he was her son, until he brought to
her mind a little incident, that, forgotten by her, had never left
his memory.

"Mother, don't you remember saying to me on that afternoon, 'Ned,
you need not look for the cows in the swamp, they went off towards
the big hill.'

"The delighted mother clapsed him in her arms, exclaiming, 'You say
truly,--you are indeed my own, my long lost son!'"

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