List Of Contents | Contents of Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

following account of himself:--

"My troubles began at sea. We had a fair voyage, and all that; but
my poor dog, my beautiful Duchess!--that beauty in the beast--died.
I wanted to read the funeral service over her, but the captain
interfered--the brute!--and threatened to throw me into the sea
along with the dead bitch, as the unmannerly ruffian persisted in
calling my canine friend. I never spoke to him again during the
rest of the voyage. Nothing happened worth relating until I got to
this place, where I chanced to meet a friend who knew your brother,
and I went up with him to the woods. Most of the wise men of Gotham
we met on the road were bound to the woods; so I felt happy that I
was, at least, in the fashion. Mr. --- was very kind, and spoke in
raptures of the woods, which formed the theme of conversation
during our journey--their beauty, their vastness, the comfort and
independence enjoyed by those who had settled in them; and he so
inspired me with the subject that I did nothing all day but sing as
we rode along--

'A life in the woods for me;'

until we came to the woods, and then I soon learned to sing that
same, as the Irishman says, on the other side of my mouth."

Here succeeded a long pause, during which friend Tom seemed
mightily tickled with his reminiscences, for he leaned back in his
chair, and from time to time gave way to loud, hollow bursts of

"Tom, Tom! are you going mad?" said my husband, shaking him.

"I never was sane, that I know of," returned he. "You know that it
runs in the family. But do let me have my laugh out. The woods! Ha!
ha! When I used to be roaming through those woods, shooting--though
not a thing could I ever find to shoot, for birds and beasts are
not such fools as our English emigrants--and I chanced to think of
you coming to spend the rest of your lives in the woods--I used to
stop, and hold my sides, and laugh until the woods rang again. It
was the only consolation I had."

"Good Heavens!" said I, "let us never go to the woods."

"You will repent if you do," continued Tom. "But let me proceed
on my journey. My bones were well-nigh dislocated before we got
to D---. The roads for the last twelve miles were nothing but a
succession of mud-holes, covered with the most ingenious invention
ever thought of for racking the limbs, called corduroy bridges;
not breeches, mind you,--for I thought, whilst jolting up and down
over them, that I should arrive at my destination minus that
indispensable covering. It was night when we got to Mr. ---'s
place. I was tired and hungry, my face disfigured and blistered by
the unremitting attentions of the blackflies that rose in swarms
from the river. I thought to get a private room to wash and dress
in, but there is no such thing as privacy in this country. In the
bush, all things are in common; you cannot even get a bed without
having to share it with a companion. A bed on the floor in a public
sleeping-room! Think of that; a public sleeping-room!--men, women,
and children, only divided by a paltry curtain. Oh, ye gods! think
of the snoring, squalling, grumbling, puffing; think of the kicking,
elbowing, and crowding; the suffocating heat, the mosquitoes, with
their infernal buzzing--and you will form some idea of the misery
I endured the first night of my arrival in the bush.

"But these are not half the evils with which you have to contend.
You are pestered with nocturnal visitants far more disagreeable
than even the mosquitoes, and must put up with annoyances more
disgusting than the crowded, close room. And then, to appease the
cravings of hunger, fat pork is served to you three times a day. No
wonder that the Jews eschewed the vile animal; they were people of
taste. Pork, morning, noon, and night, swimming in its own grease!
The bishop who complained of partridges every day should have been
condemned to three months' feeding upon pork in the bush; and he
would have become an anchorite, to escape the horrid sight of
swine's flesh for ever spread before him. No wonder I am thin;
I have been starved--starved upon pritters and port, and that
disgusting specimen of unleavened bread, yclept cakes in the pan.

"I had such a horror of the pork diet, that whenever I saw the
dinner in progress I fled to the canoe, in the hope of drowning
upon the waters all reminiscences of the hateful banquet; but even
here the very fowls of the air and the reptiles of the deep lifted
up their voices, and shouted, 'Pork, pork, pork!'"

M--- remonstrated with his friend for deserting the country for
such minor evils as these, which, after all, he said, could easily
be borne.

"Easily borne!" exclaimed the indignant Wilson. "Go and try them;
and then tell me that. I did try to bear them with a good grace,
but it would not do. I offended everybody with my grumbling. I was
constantly reminded by the ladies of the house that gentlemen
should not come to this country without they were able to put up
with a LITTLE inconvenience; that I should make as good a settler
as a butterfly in a beehive; that it was impossible to be nice
about food and dress in the BUSH; that people must learn to eat
what they could get, and be content to be shabby and dirty, like
their neighbours in the BUSH,--until that horrid word BUSH became
synonymous with all that was hateful and revolting in my mind.

"It was impossible to keep anything to myself. The children pulled
my books to pieces to look at the pictures; and an impudent,
bare-legged Irish servant-girl took my towels to wipe the dishes
with, and my clothes-brush to black the shoes--an operation which
she performed with a mixture of soot and grease. I thought I should
be better off in a place of my own, so I bought a wild farm that
was recommended to me, and paid for it double what it was worth.
When I came to examine my estate, I found there was no house upon
it, and I should have to wait until the fall to get one put up, and
a few acres cleared for cultivation. I was glad to return to my old

"Finding nothing to shoot in the woods, I determined to amuse
myself with fishing; but Mr. --- could not always lend his canoe,
and there was no other to be had. To pass away the time, I set
about making one. I bought an axe, and went to the forest to select
a tree. About a mile from the lake, I found the largest pine I ever
saw. I did not much like to try my maiden hand upon it, for it was
the first and the last tree I ever cut down. But to it I went; and
I blessed God that it reached the ground without killing me in its
way thither. When I was about it, I thought I might as well make
the canoe big enough; but the bulk of the tree deceived me in the
length of my vessel, and I forgot to measure the one that belonged
to Mr. ---. It took me six weeks hollowing it out, and when it was
finished, it was as long as a sloop-of-war, and too unwieldy for
all the oxen in the township to draw it to the water. After all
my labour, my combats with those wood-demons the black-flies,
sand-flies, and mosquitoes, my boat remains a useless monument of
my industry. And worse than this, the fatigue I had endured while
working at it late and early, brought on the ague; which so
disgusted me with the country that I sold my farm and all my traps
for an old song; purchased Bruin to bear me company on my voyage
home; and the moment I am able to get rid of this tormenting fever,
I am off."

Argument and remonstrance were alike in vain, he could not be
dissuaded from his purpose. Tom was as obstinate as his bear.

The next morning he conducted us to the stable to see Bruin.
The young denizen of the forest was tied to the manger, quietly
masticating a cob of Indian corn, which he held in his paw, and
looked half human as he sat upon his haunches, regarding us with a
solemn, melancholy air. There was an extraordinary likeness, quite
ludicrous, between Tom and the bear. We said nothing, but exchanged
glances. Tom read our thoughts.

"Yes," said he, "there is a strong resemblance; I saw it when I
bought him. Perhaps we are brothers;" and taking in his hand the
chain that held the bear, he bestowed upon him sundry fraternal
caresses, which the ungrateful Bruin returned with low and savage

"He can't flatter. He's all truth and sincerity. A child of nature,
and worthy to be my friend; the only Canadian I ever mean to
acknowledge as such."

About an hour after this, poor Tom was shaking with ague, which in
a few days reduced him so low that I began to think he never would
see his native shores again. He bore the affliction very
philosophically, and all his well days he spent with us.

One day my husband was absent, having accompanied Mr. S--- to
inspect a farm, which he afterwards purchased, and I had to get
through the long day at the inn in the best manner I could. The
local papers were soon exhausted. At that period they possessed
little or no interest for me. I was astonished and disgusted at the
abusive manner in which they were written, the freedom of the press
being enjoyed to an extent in this province unknown in more
civilised communities.

Men, in Canada, may call one another rogues and miscreants, in the
most approved Billingsgate, through the medium of the newspapers,
which are a sort of safety-valve to let off all the bad feelings
and malignant passions floating through the country, without any
dread of the horsewhip. Hence it is the commonest thing in the
world to hear one editor abusing, like a pickpocket, an opposition
brother; calling him a reptile--a crawling thing--a calumniator--a
hired vendor of lies; and his paper a smut-machine--a vile engine
of corruption, as base and degraded as the proprietor, &c. Of this
description was the paper I now held in my hand, which had the
impudence to style itself the Reformer--not of morals or manners,
certainly, if one might judge by the vulgar abuse that defiled
every page of the precious document. I soon flung it from me,
thinking it worthy of the fate of many a better production in
the olden times, that of being burned by the common hangman;
but, happily, the office of hangman has become obsolete in Canada,
and the editors of these refined journals may go on abusing their
betters with impunity.

Books I had none, and I wished that Tom would make his appearance,
and amuse me with his oddities; but he had suffered so much from
the ague the day before that when he did enter the room to lead
me to dinner, he looked like a walking corpse--the dead among the
living! so dark, so livid, so melancholy, it was really painful
to look upon him.

"I hope the ladies who frequent the ordinary won't fall in love
with me," said he, grinning at himself in the miserable
looking-glass that formed the case of the Yankee clock, and was
ostentatiously displayed on a side table; "I look quite killing
to-day. What a comfort it is, Mrs. M---, to be above all rivalry."

In the middle of dinner, the company was disturbed by the entrance
of a person who had the appearance of a gentleman, but who was
evidently much flustered with drinking. He thrust his chair in
between two gentlemen who sat near the head of the table, and in a
loud voice demanded fish.

"Fish, sir?" said the obsequious waiter, a great favourite with all
persons who frequented the hotel; "there is no fish, sir. There was
a fine salmon, sir, had you come sooner; but 'tis all eaten, sir."

"Then fetch me some."

"I'll see what I can do, sir," said the obliging Tim, hurrying out.

Tom Wilson was at the head of the table, carving a roast pig, and
was in the act of helping a lady, when the rude fellow thrust his
fork into the pig, calling out as he did so--

"Hold, sir! give me some of that pig! You have eaten among you all the
fish, and now you are going to appropriate the best parts of the pig."

Tom raised his eyebrows, and stared at the stranger in his peculiar
manner, then very coolly placed the whole of the pig on his plate.
"I have heard," he said, "of dog eating dog, but I never before saw
pig eating pig."

"Sir! do you mean to insult me?" cried the stranger, his face
crimsoning with anger.

"Only to tell you, sir, that you are no gentleman. Here, Tim,"
turning to the waiter, "go to the stable and bring in my bear;
we will place him at the table to teach this man how to behave
himself in the presence of ladies."

A general uproar ensued; the women left the table, while the
entrance of the bear threw the gentlemen present into convulsions
of laughter. It was too much for the human biped; he was forced to
leave the room, and succumb to the bear.

My husband concluded his purchase of the farm, and invited Wilson
to go with us into the country and try if change of air would be
beneficial to him; for in his then weak state it was impossible for
him to return to England. His funds were getting very low, and Tom
thankfully accepted the offer. Leaving Bruin in the charge of Tim
(who delighted in the oddities of the strange English gentleman),
Tom made one of our party to ---.


  Though distant, in spirit still present to me,
  My best thoughts, my country, still linger with thee;
  My fond heart beats quick, and my dim eyes run o'er,
  When I muse on the last glance I gave to thy shore.
  The chill mists of night round thy white cliffs were curl'd,
  But I felt there was no spot like thee in the world--
  No home to which memory so fondly would turn,
  No thought that within me so madly would burn.

  But one stood beside me whose presence repress'd
  The deep pang of sorrow that troubled my breast;
  And the babe on my bosom so calmly reclining,
  Check'd the tears as they rose, and all useless repining.
  Hard indeed was the struggle, from thee forced to roam;
  But for their sakes I quitted both country and home.

  Bless'd Isle of the Free! I must view thee no more;
  My fortunes are cast on this far-distant shore;
  In the depths of dark forests my soul droops her wings;
  In tall boughs above me no merry bird sings;
  The sigh of the wild winds--the rush of the floods--
  Is the only sad music that wakens the woods.

  In dreams, lovely England! my spirit still hails
  Thy soft waving woodlands, thy green, daisied vales.
  When my heart shall grow cold to the mother that bore me,
  When my soul, dearest Nature! shall cease to adore thee,
  And beauty and virtue no longer impart
  Delight to my bosom, and warmth to my heart,
  Then the love I have cherish'd, my country, for thee,
  In the breast of thy daughter extinguish'd shall be.



  To lend, or not to lend--is that the question?

"Those who go a-borrowing, go a-sorrowing," saith the old adage; and
a wiser saw never came out of the mouth of experience. I have tested
the truth of this proverb since my settlement in Canada, many, many
times, to my cost; and what emigrant has not? So averse have I ever
been to this practice, that I would at all times rather quietly
submit to a temporary inconvenience than obtain anything I wanted
in this manner. I verily believe that a demon of mischief presides

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: