List Of Contents | Contents of Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie
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  "Of all odd fellows, this fellow was the oddest. I have seen
  many strange fish in my days, but I never met with his equal."

About a month previous to our emigration to Canada, my husband said
to me, "You need not expect me home to dinner to-day; I am going
with my friend Wilson to Y---, to hear Mr. C--- lecture upon
emigration to Canada. He has just returned from the North American
provinces, and his lectures are attended by vast numbers of persons
who are anxious to obtain information on the subject. I got a note
from your friend B--- this morning, begging me to come over and
listen to his palaver; and as Wilson thinks of emigrating in the
spring, he will be my walking companion."

"Tom Wilson going to Canada!" said I, as the door closed on my
better-half. "What a backwoodsman he will make! What a loss to the
single ladies of S---! What will they do without him at their balls
and picnics?"

One of my sisters, who was writing at a table near me, was highly
amused at this unexpected announcement. She fell back in her chair
and indulged in a long and hearty laugh. I am certain that most of
my readers would have joined in her laugh had they known the object
which provoked her mirth. "Poor Tom is such a dreamer," said my
sister, "it would be an act of charity in Moodie to persuade him
from undertaking such a wild-goose chase; only that I fancy my good
brother is possessed with the same mania."

"Nay, God forbid!" said I. "I hope this Mr. ---, with the
unpronounceable name, will disgust them with his eloquence; for
B--- writes me word, in his droll way, that he is a coarse, vulgar
fellow, and lacks the dignity of a bear. Oh! I am certain they will
return quite sickened with the Canadian project." Thus I laid the
flattering unction to my soul, little dreaming that I and mine
should share in the strange adventures of this oddest of all odd

It might be made a subject of curious inquiry to those who delight
in human absurdities, if ever there were a character drawn in works
of fiction so extravagantly ridiculous as some which daily
experience presents to our view. We have encountered people in the
broad thoroughfares of life more eccentric than ever we read of in
books; people who, if all their foolish sayings and doings were
duly recorded, would vie with the drollest creations of Hood, or
George Colman, and put to shame the flights of Baron Munchausen.
Not that Tom Wilson was a romancer; oh no! He was the very prose of
prose, a man in a mist, who seemed afraid of moving about for fear
of knocking his head against a tree, and finding a halter suspended
to its branches--a man as helpless and as indolent as a baby.

Mr. Thomas, or Tom Wilson, as he was familiarly called by all his
friends and acquaintances, was the son of a gentleman, who once
possessed a large landed property in the neighbourhood; but an
extravagant and profligate expenditure of the income which he
derived from a fine estate which had descended from father to son
through many generations, had greatly reduced the circumstances of
the elder Wilson. Still, his family held a certain rank and
standing in their native county, of which his evil courses, bad as
they were, could not wholly deprive them. The young people--and a
very large family they made of sons and daughters, twelve in
number--were objects of interest and commiseration to all who knew
them, while the worthless father was justly held in contempt and
detestation. Our hero was the youngest of the six sons; and from
his childhood he was famous for his nothing-to-doishness. He was
too indolent to engage heart and soul in the manly sports of his
comrades; and he never thought it necessary to commence learning
his lessons until the school had been in an hour. As he grew up
to man's estate, he might be seen dawdling about in a black
frock-coat, jean trousers, and white kid gloves, making lazy bows
to the pretty girls of his acquaintance; or dressed in a green
shooting-jacket, with a gun across his shoulder, sauntering down
the wooded lanes, with a brown spaniel dodging at his heels, and
looking as sleepy and indolent as his master.

The slowness of all Tom's movements was strangely contrasted with
his slight, and symmetrical figure; that looked as if it only
awaited the will of the owner to be the most active piece of human
machinery that ever responded to the impulses of youth and health.
But then, his face! What pencil could faithfully delineate features
at once so comical and lugubrious--features that one moment
expressed the most solemn seriousness, and the next, the most
grotesque and absurd abandonment to mirth? In him, all extremes
appeared to meet; the man was a contradiction to himself. Tom was
a person of few words, and so intensely lazy that it required a
strong effort of will to enable him to answer the questions of
inquiring friends; and when at length aroused to exercise his
colloquial powers, he performed the task in so original a manner
that it never failed to upset the gravity of the interrogator.
When he raised his large, prominent, leaden-coloured eyes from the
ground, and looked the inquirer steadily in the face, the effect
was irresistible; the laugh would come--do your best to resist it.

Poor Tom took this mistimed merriment in very good part, generally
answering with a ghastly contortion which he meant for a smile, or,
if he did trouble himself to find words, with, "Well, that's funny!
What makes you laugh? At me, I suppose? I don't wonder at it; I
often laugh at myself."

Tom would have been a treasure to an undertaker. He would have been
celebrated as a mute; he looked as if he had been born in a shroud,
and rocked in a coffin. The gravity with which he could answer a
ridiculous or impertinent question completely disarmed and turned
the shafts of malice back upon his opponent. If Tom was himself an
object of ridicule to many, he had a way of quietly ridiculing
others that bade defiance to all competition. He could quiz with a
smile, and put down insolence with an incredulous stare. A grave
wink from those dreamy eyes would destroy the veracity of a
travelled dandy for ever.

Tom was not without use in his day and generation; queer and
awkward as he was, he was the soul of truth and honour. You might
suspect his sanity--a matter always doubtful--but his honesty of
heart and purpose, never.

When you met Tom in the streets, he was dressed with such neatness
and care (to be sure it took him half the day to make his toilet),
that it led many persons to imagine that this very ugly young man
considered himself an Adonis; and I must confess that I rather
inclined to this opinion. He always paced the public streets with
a slow, deliberate tread, and with his eyes fixed intently on the
ground--like a man who had lost his ideas, and was diligently
employed in searching for them. I chanced to meet him one day in
this dreamy mood.

"How do you do, Mr. Wilson?" He stared at me for several minutes,
as if doubtful of my presence or identity.

"What was that you said?"

I repeated the question; and he answered, with one of his
incredulous smiles--

"Was it to me you spoke? Oh, I am quite well, or I should not be
walking here. By the way, did you see my dog?"

"How should I know your dog?"

"They say he resembles me. He's a queer dog, too; but I never could
find out the likeness. Good night!"

This was at noonday; but Tom had a habit of taking light for
darkness, and darkness for light, in all he did or said. He must
have had different eyes and ears, and a different way of seeing,
hearing, and comprehending, than is possessed by the generality of
his species; and to such a length did he carry this abstraction of
soul and sense, that he would often leave you abruptly in the
middle of a sentence; and if you chanced to meet him some weeks
after, he would resume the conversation with the very word at which
he had cut short the thread of your discourse.

A lady once told him in jest that her youngest brother, a lad of
twelve years old, had called his donkey Braham, in honour of the
great singer of that name. Tom made no answer, but started abruptly
away. Three months after, she happened to encounter him on the same
spot, when he accosted her, without any previous salutation,

"You were telling me about a donkey, Miss ---, a donkey of your
brother's--Braham, I think you called him--yes, Braham; a strange
name for an ass! I wonder what the great Mr. Braham would say to
that. Ha, ha, ha!"

"Your memory must be excellent, Mr. Wilson, to enable you to
remember such a trifling circumstance all this time."

"Trifling, do you call it? Why, I have thought of nothing else ever

From traits such as these my readers will be tempted to imagine him
brother to the animal who had dwelt so long in his thoughts; but
there were times when he surmounted this strange absence of mind,
and could talk and act as sensibly as other folks.

On the death of his father, he emigrated to New South Wales, where
he contrived to doze away seven years of his valueless existence,
suffering his convict servants to rob him of everything, and
finally to burn his dwelling. He returned to his native village,
dressed as an Italian mendicant, with a monkey perched upon his
shoulder, and playing airs of his own composition upon a
hurdy-gurdy. In this disguise he sought the dwelling of an old
bachelor uncle, and solicited his charity. But who that had once
seen our friend Tom could ever forget him? Nature had no counterpart
of one who in mind and form was alike original. The good-natured
old soldier, at a glance, discovered his hopeful nephew, received
him into his house with kindness, and had afforded him an asylum
ever since.

One little anecdote of him at this period will illustrate the quiet
love of mischief with which he was imbued. Travelling from W--- to
London in the stage-coach (railways were not invented in those
days), he entered into conversation with an intelligent farmer who
sat next to him; New South Wales, and his residence in that colony,
forming the leading topic. A dissenting minister who happened to
be his vis-a-vis, and who had annoyed him by making several
impertinent remarks, suddenly asked him, with a sneer, how many
years he had been there.

"Seven," returned Tom, in a solemn tone, without deigning a glance
at his companion.

"I thought so," responded the other, thrusting his hands into his
breeches pockets. "And pray, sir, what were you sent there for?"

"Stealing pigs," returned the incorrigible Tom, with the gravity
of a judge. The words were scarcely pronounced when the questioner
called the coachman to stop, preferring a ride outside in the rain
to a seat within with a thief. Tom greatly enjoyed the hoax, which
he used to tell with the merriest of all grave faces.

Besides being a devoted admirer of the fair sex, and always
imagining himself in love with some unattainable beauty, he had a
passionate craze for music, and played upon the violin and flute
with considerable taste and execution. The sound of a favourite
melody operated upon the breathing automaton like magic, his frozen
faculties experienced a sudden thaw, and the stream of life leaped
and gambolled for a while with uncontrollable vivacity. He laughed,
danced, sang, and made love in a breath, committing a thousand mad
vagaries to make you acquainted with his existence.

My husband had a remarkably sweet-toned flute, and this flute Tom
regarded with a species of idolatry.

"I break the Tenth Commandment, Moodie, whenever I hear you play
upon that flute. Take care of your black wife," (a name he had
bestowed upon the coveted treasure), "or I shall certainly run off
with her."

"I am half afraid of you, Tom. I am sure if I were to die, and
leave you my black wife as a legacy, you would be too much
overjoyed to lament my death."

Such was the strange, helpless, whimsical being who now
contemplated an emigration to Canada. How he succeeded in the
speculation the sequel will show.

It was late in the evening before my husband and his friend Tom
Wilson returned from Y---. I had provided a hot supper and a cup of
coffee after their long walk, and they did ample justice to my

Tom was in unusually high spirits, and appeared wholly bent upon
his Canadian expedition.

"Mr. C--- must have been very eloquent, Mr. Wilson," said I,
"to engage your attention for so many hours."

"Perhaps he was," returned Tom, after a pause of some minutes,
during which he seemed to be groping for words in the salt-cellar,
having deliberately turned out its contents upon the tablecloth.
"We were hungry after our long walk, and he gave us an excellent

"But that had nothing to do with the substance of his lecture."

"It was the substance, after all," said Moodie, laughing; "and his
audience seemed to think so, by the attention they paid to it
during the discussion. But, come, Wilson, give my wife some account
of the intellectual part of the entertainment."

"What! I--I--I--I give an account of the lecture? Why, my dear
fellow, I never listened to one word of it!"

"I thought you went to Y--- on purpose to obtain information on the
subject of emigration to Canada?"

"Well, and so I did; but when the fellow pulled out his pamphlet,
and said that it contained the substance of his lecture, and would
only cost a shilling, I thought that it was better to secure the
substance than endeavour to catch the shadow--so I bought the book,
and spared myself the pain of listening to the oratory of the
writer. Mrs. Moodie! he had a shocking delivery, a drawling, vulgar
voice; and he spoke with such a nasal twang that I could not bear
to look at him, or listen to him. He made such grammatical
blunders, that my sides ached with laughing at him. Oh, I wish you
could have seen the wretch! But here is the document, written in
the same style in which it was spoken. Read it; you have a rich
treat in store."

I took the pamphlet, not a little amused at his description of Mr.
C---, for whom I felt an uncharitable dislike.

"And how did you contrive to entertain yourself, Mr. Wilson, during
his long address?"

"By thinking how many fools were collected together, to listen to
one greater than the rest. By the way, Moodie, did you notice
farmer Flitch?"

"No; where did he sit?"

"At the foot of the table. You must have seen him, he was too big
to be overlooked. What a delightful squint he had! What a ridiculous
likeness there was between him and the roast pig he was carving!
I was wondering all dinner-time how that man contrived to cut up
that pig; for one eye was fixed upon the ceiling, and the other
leering very affectionately at me. It was very droll; was it not?"

"And what do you intend doing with yourself when you arrive in
Canada?" said I.

"Find out some large hollow tree, and live like Bruin in winter by
sucking my paws. In the summer there will be plenty of mast and
acorns to satisfy the wants of an abstemious fellow."

"But, joking apart, my dear fellow," said my husband, anxious to

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