Part 2 out of 4
noise, and heat, and fatigue of the day, that I went to bed, leaving to
Mary and my husband the care of the guests.
We were obliged to endure a second and a third repetition of this odious
scene, before sixteen acres of land were rendered fit for the reception of
our fall crop of wheat.
My hatred to these tumultuous, disorderly meetings was not in the least
decreased by my husband being twice seriously hurt while attending them.
After the second injury he received, he seldom went to them himself, but
sent his oxen and servant in his place. In these odious gatherings, the
sober, moral, and industrious man is more likely to suffer than the
drunken and profane, as during the delirium of drink these men expose
others to danger as well as themselves.
The conduct of many of the settlers, who considered themselves gentlemen,
and would have been very much affronted to have been called otherwise, was
often more reprehensible than that of the poor Irish emigrants, to whom
they should have set an example of order and sobriety. The behaviour of
these young men drew upon them the severe but just censures of the poorer
class, whom they regarded in every way as their inferiors.
"That blackguard calls himself a gentleman. In what respect is he better
than us?" was an observation too frequently made use of at these
gatherings. To see a bad man in the very worst point of view, follow him
to a bee; be he profane, licentious, quarrelsome, or a rogue, all his
native wickedness will be fully developed there.
Just after the last of these logging-bees, we had to part with our good
servant Mary, and just at a time when it was the heaviest loss to me. Her
father, who had been a dairy man in the north of Ireland, an honest,
industrious man, had brought out upwards of one hundred pounds to this
country. With more wisdom than is generally exercised by Irish emigrants,
instead of sinking all his means in buying a bush farm he hired a very
good farm in Cavan, stocked it with cattle, and returned to his old
avocation. The services of his daughter, who was an excellent dairymaid,
were required to take the management of the cows; and her brother brought
a wagon and horses all the way from the front to take her home.
This event was perfectly unexpected, and left me without a moment's notice
to provide myself with another servant, at a time when servants were not
to be had, and I was perfectly unable to do the least thing. My little
Addie was sick almost to death with the summer complaint, and the eldest
still too young to take care of herself.
This was but the beginning of trouble.
Ague and lake fever had attacked our new settlement. The men in the shanty
were all down with it; and my husband was confined to his bed on each
alternate day, unable to raise hand or foot, and raving in the delirium of
In my sister and brother's families, scarcely a healthy person remained to
attend upon the sick; and at Herriot's Falls, nine persons were stretched
upon the floor of one log cabin, unable to help themselves or one another.
After much difficulty, and only by offering enormous wages, I succeeded in
procuring a nurse to attend upon me during my confinement. The woman had
not been a day in the house before she was attacked by the same fever. In
the midst of this confusion, and with my precious little Addie lying
insensible on a pillow at the foot of my bed--expected every moment to
breathe her last sigh,--on the night of the 26th of August, the boy I had
so ardently coveted was born. The next day, Old Pine carried his wife (my
nurse) away upon his back, and I was left to struggle through, in the best
manner I could, with a sick husband, a sick child, and a new-born babe.
It was a melancholy season, one of severe mental and bodily suffering.
Those who have drawn such agreeable pictures of a residence in the
backwoods never dwell upon the periods of sickness, when, far from medical
advice, and often, as in my case, deprived of the assistance of friends by
adverse circumstances, you are left to languish, unattended, upon the
couch of pain. The day that my husband was free of the fit, he did what he
eould for me and his poor sick babes, but, ill as he was, he was obliged
to sow the wheat to enable the man to proceed with the drag, and was
therefore necessarily absent in the field the greater part of the day.
I was very ill, yet for hours at a time I had no friendly voice to cheer
me, to proffer me a drink of cold water, or to attend to the poor babe;
and worse, still worse, there was no one to help that pale, marble child,
who lay so cold and still, with half-closed violet eye, as if death had
already chilled her young heart in his iron grasp.
There was not a breath of air in our close, burning bed-closet; and the
weather was sultry beyond all that I have since experienced. How I wished
that I could be transported to an hospital at home, to enjoy the common
care that in such places is bestowed upon the sick! Bitter tears flowed
continually from my eyes over those young children. I had asked of Heaven
a son, and there he lay helpless by the side of his almost equally
helpless mother, who could not lift him up in her arms, or still his
cries; while the pale, fair angel, with her golden curls, who had lately
been the admiration of all who saw her, no longer recognized my voice, or
was conscious of my presence. I felt that I could almost resign the long
and eagerly hoped-for son, to win one more smile from that sweet,
suffering creature. Often did I weep myself to sleep, and wake to weep
again with renewed anguish.
And my poor little Katie, herself under three years of age, how patiently
she bore the loss of my care, and every comfort! How earnestly the dear
thing strove to help me! She would sit on my sick-bed, and hold my hand,
and ask me to look at her and speak to her; would inquire why Addie slept
so long, and when she would awake again. Those innocent questions went
like arrows to my heart. Lieutenant ____, the husband of my dear Emilia,
at length heard of my situation. His inestimable wife was from home,
nursing her sick mother; but he sent his maid-servant up every day for a
couple of hours, and the kind girl despatched a messenger nine miles
through the woods to Dummer, to fetch her younger sister, a child of
twelve ears old.
Oh, how grateful I felt for these signal mercies! for my situation for
nearly a week was one of the most pitiable that could be imagined. The
sickness was so prevalent that help was not to be obtained for money; and
without the assistance of that little girl, young as she was, it is more
than probable that neither myself nor my children would ever have risen
from that bed of sickness.
The conduct of our man Jacob, during this trying period, was marked with
the greatest kindness and consideration. On the days that his master was
confined to his bed with the fever, he used to place a vessel of cold
water and a cup by his bedside, and then put his honest English face in at
my door to know if he could make a cup of tea, or toast a bit of bread for
the mistress, before he went into the field.
Katie was indebted to him for all her meals. He baked, and cooked, and
churned, milked the cows, and made up the butter, as well and as carefully
as the best female servant could have done. As to poor John Monaghan, he
was down with the fever in the shanty, where four other men were all ill
the same terrible complaint.
I was obliged to leave my bed and endeavour to attend to the wants of my
young family long before I was really able. When I made my first attempt
to reach the parlour I was so weak, that, at every step, I felt as if I
should pitch forward to the ground, which seemed to undulate beneath my
feet like the floor of a cabin in a storm at sea. My husband continued to
suffer for many weeks with the ague; and when he was convalescent, all the
children, even the poor babe, were seized with it; nor did it leave us
until late in the spring of 1835.
A TRIP TO STONY LAKE
My husband had long promised me a trip to Stony Lake, and in the summer of
1835, before the harvest commenced, he gave Mr. Y____, who kept the mill
at the rapids below Clear Lake, notice of our intention, and the worthy
old man and his family made due preparation for our reception. The little
girls were to accompany us.
We were to start at sunrise, to avoid the heat of the day, to go up as far
as Mr. Y____'s in our canoe, re-embark with his sons above the rapids in
birch-bark canoes, go as far up the lake as we could accomplish by
daylight, and return at night; the weather being very warm, and the moon
at full. Before six o'clock we were all seated in the little craft, which
spread her white sail to a foaming breeze, and sped merrily over the blue
waters. The lake on which our clearing stood was about a mile and a half
in length, and about three quarters of a mile in breadth; a mere pond,
when compared with the Bay of Quinte, Ontario, and the inland seas of
Canada. But it was _our_ lake, and, consequently, it had ten thousand
beauties in our eyes, which would scarcely have attracted the observation
of a stranger.
At the head of the Kutchawanook, the lake is divided by a long neck of
land, that forms a small bay on the right-hand side, and a very brisk
rapid on the left. The banks are formed of large masses of limestone; and
the cardinal-flower and the tiger-lily seem to have taken an especial
fancy to this spot, and to vie with each other in the display of their
It is an excellent place for fishing; the water is very deep close to the
rocky pavement that forms the bank, and it has a pebbly bottom. Many a
magic hour, at rosy dawn, or evening gray, have I spent with my husband on
this romantic spot; our canoe fastened to a bush, and ourselves intent
upon ensnaring the black bass, a fish of excellent flavour that abounds in
Our paddles soon carried us past the narrows, and through the rapid water,
the children sitting quietly at the bottom of the boat, enchanted with all
they heard and saw, begging papa to stop and gather water-lilies, or to
catch one of the splendid butterflies that hovered over us; and often the
little Addie darted her white hand into the water to grasp at the shadow
of the gorgeous insects as they skimmed along the waves.
After passing the rapids, the river widened into another small lake,
perfectly round in form, and having in its centre a tiny green island, in
the midst of which stood, like a shattered monument of bygone storms, one
blasted, black ash-tree.
The Indians call this lake Bessikakoon, but I do not know the exact
meaning of the word. Some say that it means "the Indian's grave;" others,
"the lake of the one island." It is certain that an Indian girl is buried
beneath that blighted tree; but I never could learn the particulars of her
story, and perhaps there was no tale connected with it. She might have
fallen a victim to disease during the wanderings of her tribe, and been
buried on that spot; or she might have been drowned, which would account
for her having been buried away from the rest of her people.
This little lake lies in the heart of the wilderness. There is but one
clearing upon its shores, and that had been made by lumberers many years
before; the place abounded with red cedar. A second growth of young timber
had grown up in this spot, which was covered also with raspberry bushes--
several hundred acres being entirely overgrown with this delicious
It was here annually that we used to come in large picnic parties, to
collect this valuable fruit for our winter preserves, in defiance of
black-flies, mosquitoes, snakes, and even bears; all which have been
encountered by berry-pickers upon this spot, as busy and as active as
themselves, gathering an ample repast from Nature's bounteous lap.
And, oh! what beautiful wild shrubs and flowers grew up in that neglected
spot! Some of the happiest hours I spent in the bush are connected with
reminiscences of "Irving's shanty," for so the raspberry-grounds were
called. The clearing could not be seen from the shore. You had to scramble
through a cedar swamp to reach the sloping ground which produced the
The mill at the Clear Lake rapids was about three miles distant from our
own clearing; and after stemming another rapid, and passing between two
beautiful wooded islands, the canoe rounded a point, and the rude
structure was before us.
A wilder and more romantic spot than that which the old hunter had chosen
for his homestead in the wilderness could scarcely be imagined. The waters
of Clear Lake here empty themselves through a narrow, deep, rocky channel,
not exceeding a quarter of a mile in length, and tumble over a limestone
bridge of ten or twelve feet in height, which extends from one bank of the
river to the other. The shores on either side are very steep, and the
large oak-trees which have anchored their roots in every crevice of the
rock, throw their fantastic arms far over the foaming waterfall, the deep
green of their massy foliage forming a beautiful contrast with the white,
flashing waters that foam over the shoot at least fifty feet below the
brow of the limestone rock. By a flight of steps cut in the banks we
ascended to the platform above the river on which Mr. Y____'s house stood.
It was a large, rough-looking, log building, surrounded by barns and sheds
of the same primitive material. The porch before the door was covered with
hops, and the room of general resort, into which it immediately opened,
was of large dimensions, the huge fire-place forming the most striking
feature. On the hearth-stone, hot as was the weather, blazed a great fire,
encumbered with all sorts of culinary apparatus, which, I am inclined to
think, had been called into requisition for our sole benefit and
The good folks had breakfasted long before we started from home, but they
would not hear of our proceeding to Stony Lake until after we had dined.
It was only eight o'clock, A. M., and we had still four hours to dinner,
which gave us ample leisure to listen to the old man's stories, ramble
round the premises, and observe all the striking features of the place.
Mr. Y____ was a Catholic, and the son of a respectable farmer from the
south of Ireland. Some few years before, he had emigrated with a large
family of seven sons and two daughters, and being fond of field sports,
and greatly taken with the beauty of the locality in which he had pitched
his tent in the wilderness, he determined to raise a mill upon the dam
which Nature had provided at his hands, and wait patiently until the
increasing immigration should settle the township of Smith and Douro,
render the property valuable, and bring plenty of grist to the mill. He
was not far wrong in his calculations; and though, for the first few
years, he subsisted entirely by hunting, fishing, and raising what
potatoes and wheat he required for his own family, on the most fertile
spots he could find on his barren lot, very little corn passed through the
At the time we visited his place, he was driving a thriving trade, and all
the wheat that was grown in the neighbourhood was brought by water to be
ground at Y____'s mill. He had lost his wife a few years after coming to
the country; but his two daughters, Betty and Norah, were excellent
housewives, and amply supplied her loss. From these amiable women we
received a most kind and hearty welcome, and every comfort and luxury
within their reach. They appeared a most happy and contented family. The
sons--a fine, hardy, independent set of fellows--were regarded by the old
man with pride and affection. Many were his anecdotes of their prowes in
hunting and fishing. His method of giving them an aversion to strong drink
while very young amused me greatly, but it is not every child that could
have stood the test of his experiment.
"When they were little chaps, from five to six years of age, I made them
very drunk," he said; "so drunk that it brought on severe headache and
sickness, and this so disgusted them with liquor, that they never could
abide the sight of it again. I have only one drunkard among the seven; and
he was such a weak, puling crathur, that I dared not play the same game
with him, lest it should kill him. 'Tis his nature, I suppose, and he
can't help it; but the truth is, that to make up for the sobriety of all
the rest, he is killing himself with drink."
Norah gave us an account of her catching a deer that had got into the
enclosure the day before.
"I went out," she said, "early in the morning, to milk the cows, and I saw
a fine young buck struggling to get through a pale of the fence, in which
having entangled his head and horns, I knew, by the desperate efforts he
was making to push aside the rails, that if I was not quick in getting
hold of him, he would soon be gone."
"And did you dare to touch him?"
"If I had had Mat's gun I would have shot him, but he would have made his
escape long before I could run to the house for that, so I went boldly up
to him and got him by the hind legs; and though he kicked and struggled
dreadfully, I held on till Mat heard me call, and ran to my help, and cut
his throat with his hunting-knife. So you see," she continued, with a
good-natured laugh, "I can beat our hunters hollow--they hunt the deer,
but I can catch a buck with my hands."
While we were chatting away, great were the preparations making by Miss
Betty and a very handsome American woman, who had recently come thither as
a help. One little bare-footed garsoon was shelling peas in an Indian
basket, another was stringing currants into a yellow pie-dish, and a third
was sent to the rapids with his rod and line, to procure a dish of fresh
fish to add to the long list of bush dainties that were preparing for our
dinner. It was in vain that I begged our kind entertainers not to put
themselves to the least trouble on our account, telling them that we were
now used to the woods, and contented with any thing; they were determined
to exhaust all their stores to furnish forth the entertainment. Nor can it
be wondered at, that, with so many dishes to cook, and pies and custards
to bake, instead of dining at twelve, it was past two o'clock before we
were conducted to the dinner-table. I was vexed and disappointed at the
delay, as I wanted to see all I could of the spot we were about to visit
before night and darkness compelled us to return.
The feast was spread in a large outhouse, the table being formed of two
broad deal boards laid together, and supported by rude carpenter's stools.
A white linen cloth, a relic of better days, concealed these arrangements.
The board was covered with an indescribable variety of roast and boiled,
of fish, flesh, and fowl. My readers should see a table laid out in a
wealthy Canadian farmer's house before they can have any idea of the
profusion displayed in the entertainment of two visitors and their young
children. Besides venison, pork, chickens, ducks, and fish of several
kinds, cooked in a variety of ways, there was a number of pumpkin,
raspberry, cherry, and currant pies, with fresh butter and green cheese
(as the new cream-cheese is called), molasses, preserves, and pickled
cucumbers, besides tea and coffee--the latter, be it known, I had watched
the American woman boiling in the _frying-pan_. It was a black-looking
compound, and I did not attempt to discuss its merits. The vessel in which
it had been prepared had prejudiced me, and rendered me very skeptical on
We were all very hungry, having tasted nothing since five o'clock in the
morning, and contrived, out of the variety of good things before us, to
make an excellent dinner.
I was glad, however, when we rose to prosecute our intended trip up the
lake. The old man, whose heart was now thoroughly warmed with whiskey,
declared that he meant to make one of the party, and Betty, too, was to
accompany us; her sister Norah kindly staying behind to take care of the
children. We followed a path along the top of the high ridge of limestone
rock, until we had passed the falls and the rapids above, when we found
Pat and Mat Y____ waiting for us on the shore below, in two beautiful new
birch-bark canoes, which they had purchased the day before from the
Miss Betty, Mat, and myself, were safely stowed into one, while the old
miller and his son Pat, and my husband, embarked in the other, and our
steersmen pushed off into the middle of the deep and silent stream; the
shadow of the tall woods, towering so many feet above us, casting an inky
hue upon the waters. The scene was very imposing, and after paddling for a
few minutes in shade and silence, we suddenly emerged into light and
sunshine, and Clear Lake, which gets its name from the unrivalled
brightness of its waters, spread out its azure mirror before us. The
Indians regard this sheet of water with peculiar reverence. It abounds in
the finest sorts of fish, the salmon-trout, the delicious white fish,
muskenonge, and black and white bass. There is no island in this lake, no
rice beds, nor stick nor stone, to break its tranquil beauty, and, at the
time we visited it, there was but one clearing upon its shores.
The log hut of the squatter P____, commanding a beautiful prospect up and
down the lake, stood upon a bold slope fronting the water; all the rest
was unbroken forest. We had proceeded about a mile on our pleasant voyage,
when our attention was attracted by a singular natural phenomenon, which
Mat Y____ called the battery. On the right-hand side of the shore rose a
steep, perpendicular wall of limestone, that had the appearance of having
been laid by the hand of man, so smooth and even was its surface. After
attaining a height of about fifty feet, a natural platform of eight or ten
yards broke the perpendicular line of the rock, when another wall, like
the first, rose to a considerable height, terminating in a second and
third platform of the same description.
Fire, at some distant period, had run over these singularly beautiful
terraces, and a second growth of poplars and balm-of-gileads relieved, by
their tender green and light, airy foliage, the sombre indigo tint of the
heavy pines that nodded like the plumes of a funeral-hearse over the fair
young dwellers on the rock. The water is forty feet deep at the base of
this precipice, which is washed by the waves. After we had passed the
battery, Mat Y____ turned to me and said, "That is a famous place for
bears; many a bear have I shot among those rocks."
This led to a long discussion on the wild beasts of the country.
"I do not think that there is much danger to be apprehended from them,"
said he; "but I once had an ugly adventure with a wolf two winters ago, on
I was all curiosity to hear the story, which sounded doubly interesting
told on the very spot, and while gliding over those lovely waters.
"We were lumbering at the head of Stony Lake, about eight miles from here,
my four brothers, myself, and several other hands. The winter was long and
severe; although it was the first week in March, there was not the least
appearance of a thaw, and the ice on these lakes was as firm as ever. I
had been sent home to fetch a yoke of oxen to draw the saw-logs down to
the water, our chopping being all completed, and the logs ready for
"I did not think it necessary to encumber myself with my rifle, and was,
therefore, provided with no weapon of defence but the long gad I used to
urge on the cattle. It was about four o'clock in the afternoon when I
rounded Sandy Point, that long point which is about a mile ahead of us on
the left shore, when I first discovered that I was followed, but at a
great distance, by a large wolf. At first, I thought little of the
circumstance, beyond a passing wish that I had brought my gun. I knew that
he would not attack me before dark, and it was still two long hours to
sundown; so I whistled, and urged on my oxen and soon forgot the wolf--
when, on stopping to repair a little damage to the peg of the yoke, I was
surprised to find him close at my heels. I turned, and ran towards him,
shouting as loud as I could, when he slunk back, but showed no inclination
to make off. Knowing that he must have companions near, by his boldness, I
shouted as loud as I could, hoping that my cries might be heard by my
brothers, who would imagine that the oxen had got into the ice, and would
come to my assistance. I was now winding my way through the islands in
Stony Lake; the sun was setting red before me, and I had still three miles
of my journey to accomplish. The wolf had become so impudent that I kept
him off by pelting him with snowballs; and once he came so near that I
struck him with the gad. I now began to be seriously alarmed, and from
time to time shouted with all my strength; and you may imagine my joy when
these cries were answered by the report of a gun. My brothers had heard
me, and the discharge of a gun, for a moment, seemed to daunt the wolf. He
uttered a long howl, which was answered by the cries of a large pack of
the dirty brutes from the wood. It was only just light enough to
distinguish objects, and I had to stop and face my enemy, to keep him at
"I saw the skeleton forms of half-a-dozen more of them slinking among the
bushes that skirted a low island; and tired and cold, I gave myself and
the oxen up for lost, when I felt the ice tremble on which I stood, and
heard men running at a distance. 'Fire your guns!' I cried out, as loud as
I could. My order was obeyed, and such a yelling and howling immediately
filled the whole forest as would have chilled your very heart. The
thievish varmints instantly fled away into the bush.
"I never felt the least fear of wolves until that night; but when they
meet in large bands, like cowardly dogs, they trust to their numbers, and
grow fierce. If you meet with one wolf, you may be certain that the whole
pack are at no great distance."
We were fast approaching Sandy Point a long white ridge of sand, running
half across the lake, and though only covered with scattered groups of
scrubby trees and brush, it effectually screened Stony Lake from our view.
There were so many beautiful flowers peeping through the dwarf, green
bushes, that, wishing to inspect them nearer, Mat kindly ran the canoe
ashore, and told me that he would show me a pretty spot, where an Indian,
who had been drowned during a storm off that point, was buried. I
immediately recalled the story of Susan Moore's father, but Mat thought
that he was interred upon one of the islands farther up.
"It is strange," he said, "that they are such bad swimmers. The Indian,
though unrivalled by us whites in the use of the paddle, is an animal that
does not take readily to the water, and those among them who can swim
seldom use it as a recreation."
Pushing our way through the bushes, we came to a small opening in the
underwood, so thickly grown over with wild Canadian roses in full blossom,
that the air was impregnated with a delightful odour. In the centre of
this bed of sweets rose the humble mound that protected the bones of the
red man from the ravenous jaws of the wolf and the wild-cat. It was
completely covered with stones, and from among the crevices had sprung a
tuft of blue harebells, waving as wild and free as if they grew among the
bonny red heather on the glorious hills of the North, or shook their tiny
bells to the breeze on the broom-encircled commons of England.
The harebell had always from a child been with me a favourite flower; and
the first sight of it in Canada, growing upon that lonely grave, so
flooded my soul with remembrances of the past, that, in spite of myself,
the tears poured freely from my eyes. There are moments when it is
impossible to repress those outgushings of the heart--
"Those flood-gates of the soul that sever.
In passion's tide to part for ever."
If Mat and his sister wondered at my tears, they must have suspected the
cause, for they walked to a little distance, and left me to the indulgence
of my feelings. I gathered those flowers, and placed them in my bosom, and
kept them for many a day; they had become holy, when connected with sacred
home recollections, and the never-dying affections of the heart which the
sight of them recalled.
A shout from our companions in the other canoe made us retrace our steps
to the shore. They had already rounded the point, and were wondering at
our absence. Oh, what a magnificent scene of wild and lonely grandeur
burst upon us as we swept round the little peninsula, and the whole
majesty of Stony Lake broke upon us at once; another Lake of the
Thousand Isles, in miniature, and in the heart of the wilderness!
Imagine a large sheet of water, some fifteen miles in breadth and
twenty-five in length, taken up by islands of every size and shape,
from the lofty naked rock of red granite to the rounded hill, covered with
oak-leaves to its summit; while others were level with the waters, and of
a rich emerald green, only fringed with a growth of aquatic shrubs and
flowers. Never did my eyes rest on a more lovely or beautiful scene. Not a
vestige of man, or of his works was there. The setting sun, that cast such
a gorgeous flood of light upon this exquisite panorama, bringing out some
of these lofty islands in strong relief, and casting others into intense
shade, shed no cheery beam upon church spire or cottage pane. We beheld
the landscape, savage and grand in its primeval beauty.
As we floated among the channels between these rocky picturesque isles, I
asked Mat how many of them there were.
"I never could succeed," he said, "in counting them all.
One Sunday, Pat and I spent a whole day in going from one to the other, to
try and make out how many there were, but we could only count up to one
hundred and forty before we gave up the task in despair. There are a great
many of them; more than any one would think--and, what is very singular,
the channel between them is very deep, sometimes above forty feet, which
accounts for the few rapids to be found in this lake. It is a glorious
place for hunting; and the waters undisturbed by steamboats, abound in all
sorts of fish.
"Most of these islands are covered with huckleberries; white grapes, high
and low-bush cranberries, blackberries, wild cherries, gooseberries, and
several sorts of wild currants grow here in profusion. There is one island
among these groups (but I never could light upon the identical one) where
the Indians yearly gather their wampum-grass. They come here to collect
the best birch bark for their canoes, and to gather wild onions. In short,
from the game, fish, and fruit, which they collect among the islands of
this lake, they chiefly depend for their subsistence. They are very
jealous of the settlers in the country coming to hunt and fish here, and
tell many stories of wild beasts and rattlesnakes that abound along its
shores; but I, who have frequented the lake for years, was never disturbed
by any thing, beyond the adventure with the wolf, which I have already
told you. The banks of this lake are all steep and rocky, and the land
along the shore is barren, and totally unfit for cultivation.
"Had we time to run up a few miles further, I could have showed you some
places well worth a journey to look at; but the sun is already down, and
it will be dark before we get back to the mill."
The other canoe now floated alongside, and Pat agreed with his brother
that it was high time to return. With reluctance I turned from this
strangely fascinating scene. As we passed under one bold rocky island, Mat
said, laughingly, "That is Mount Rascal."
"How did it obtain that name?"
"Oh, we were out here berrying, with our good priest Mr. B____. This
island promised so fair, that we landed upon it, and, after searching for
an hour, we returned to the boat without a single berry, upon which Mr.
B____ named it 'Mount Rascal.'"
The island was so beautiful, it did not deserve the name, and I christened
it "Oak Hill," from the abundance of oak-trees which clothed its steep
sides. The wood of this oak is so heavy and hard that it will not float in
the water, and it is in great request for the runners of lumber-sleighs,
which have to pass over very bad roads.
The breeze, which had rendered our sail up the lakes so expeditious and
refreshing, had stiffened into a pretty high wind, which was dead against
us all the way down. Betty now knelt in the bow and assisted her brother,
squaw fashion, in paddling the canoe; but, in spite of all their united
exertions, it was past ten o'clock before we reached the mill. The good
Norah was waiting tea for us. She had given the children their supper four
hours ago, and the little creatures, tired with using their feet all day,
were sound asleep upon her bed.
After supper, several Irish songs were sung, while Pat played upon the
fiddle, and Betty and Mat enlivened the company with an Irish jig.
It was midnight when the children were placed on my cloak at the bottom
of the canoe, and we bade adieu to this hospitable family. The wind
being dead against us, we were obliged to dispense with the sail, and
take to our paddles. The moonlight was as bright as day, the air warm
and balmy; and the aromatic, resinous smell exuded by the heat from the
balm-of-gilead and the pine-trees, in the forest, added greatly to our
sense of enjoyment as we floated past scenes so wild and lonely--isles
that assumed a mysterious look and character in that witching hour. In
moments like these, I ceased to regret my separation from my native land;
and, filled with the love of Nature, my heart forgot for the time the love
of home. The very spirit of peace seemed to brood over the waters, which
were broken into a thousand ripples of light by every breeze that stirred
the rice blossoms, or whispered through the shivering aspen-trees. The
far-off roar of the rapids, softened by distance, and the long, mournful
cry of the night-owl, alone broke the silence of the night. Amid these
lonely wilds the soul draws nearer to God, and is filled to overflowing by
the overwhelming sense of His presence.
It was two o'clock in the morning when we fastened the canoe to the
landing, and Moodie carried up the children to the house. I found the girl
still up with my boy, who had been very restless during our absence. My
heart reproached me, as I caught him to my breast, for leaving him so
long; in a few minutes he was consoled for past sorrows, and sleeping
sweetly in my arms.
The summer of '35 was very wet; a circumstance so unusual on Canada that
I have seen no season like it during my sojourn in the country. Our wheat
crop promised to be both excellent and abundant; and the clearing and
seeding sixteen acres, one way or another, had cost us more than fifty
pounds; still, we hoped to realize something handsome by the sale of the
produce; and, as far as appearances went, all looked fair. The rain
commenced about a week before the crop was fit for the sickle, and from
that time until nearly the end of September was a mere succession of
thunder showers; days of intense heat, succeeded by floods of rain. Our
fine crop shared the fate of all other fine crops in the country; it was
totally spoiled; the wheat grew in the sheaf, and we could scarcely save
enough to supply us with bad, sticky bread; the rest was exchanged at the
distillery for whiskey, which was the only produce which could be obtained
for it. The storekeepers would not look at it, or give either money or
goods for such a damaged article.
My husband and I had worked hard in the field; it was the first time I had
ever tried my hand at field-labour, but our ready money was exhausted, and
the steamboat stock had not paid us one farthing; we could not hire, and
there was no help for it. I had a hard struggle with my pride before I
would consent to render the least assistance on the farm, but reflection
convinced me that I was wrong--that Providence had placed me in a
situation where I was called upon to work--that it was not only my duty to
obey that call, but to exert myself to the utmost to assist my husband,
and help to maintain my family.
Ah, glorious poverty! thou art a hard taskmaster, but in thy
soul-ennobling school, I have received more god-like lessons, have learned
more sublime truths, than ever I acquired in the smooth highways of the
world! The independent in soul can rise above the seeming disgrace of
poverty, and hold fast their integrity, in defiance of the world and its
selfish and unwise maxims. To them, no labour is too great, no trial too
severe; they will unflinchingly exert every faculty of mind and body,
before they will submit to become a burden to others.
The misfortunes that now crowded upon us were the result of no misconduct
or extravagance on our part, but arose out of circumstances which we could
not avert nor control. Finding too late the error into which we had
fallen, in suffering ourselves to be cajoled and plundered out of our
property by interested speculators, we braced our minds to bear the worst,
and determined to meet our difficulties calmly and firmly, nor suffer our
spirits to sink under calamities which energy and industry might
eventually repair. Having once come to this resolution, we cheerfully
shared together the labours of the field. One in heart and purpose, we
dared remain true to ourselves, true to our high destiny as immortal
creatures, in our conflict with temporal and physical wants. We found
that manual toil, however distasteful to those unaccustomed to it, was not
after all such a dreadful hardship; that the wilderness was not without
its rose, the hard face of poverty without its smile. If we occasionally
suffered severe pain, we as often experienced great pleasure, and I have
contemplated a well-hoed ridge of potatoes on that bush farm,--with as
much delight as in years long past I had experienced in examining a fine
painting in some well-appointed drawing-room.
I can now look back with calm thankfulness on that long period of trial
and exertion--with thankfulness that the dark clouds that hung over us,
threatening to blot us from existence, when they did burst upon us, were
full of blessings. When our situation appeared perfectly desperate, then
were we on the threshold of a new state of things, which was born out of
that very distress.
In order more fully to illustrate the necessity of a perfect and childlike
reliance upon the mercies of God--who, I most firmly believe, never
deserts those who have placed their trust in Him--I will give a brief
sketch of our lives during the years 1836 and 1837.
Still confidently expecting to realize an income, however small, from the
steamboat stock, we had involved ourselves considerably in debt, in order
to pay our servants and obtain the common necessaries of life; and we owed
a large sum to two Englishmen in Dummer, for clearing ten more acres upon
the farm. Our utter inability to meet these demands weighed very heavily
upon my husband's mind. All superfluities in the way of groceries were now
given up, and we were compelled to rest satisfied upon the produce of the
farm. Milk, bread, and potatoes, during the summer became our chief, and
often, for months, our only fare. As to tea and sugar, they were luxuries
we would not think of, although I missed the tea very much; we rang the
changes upon peppermint and sage, taking the one herb at our breakfast,
the other at our tea, until I found an excellent substitute for both in
the root of the dandelion.
The first year we came to this country, I met with an account of dandelion
coffee, published in the _New York Albion_, given by a Dr. Harrison, of
Edinburgh, who earnestly recommended it as an article of general use.
"It possesses," he says, "all the fine flavour and exhilarating properties
of coffee, without any of its deleterious effects. The plant being of a
soporific nature, the coffee made from it when drank at night produces a
tendency to sleep, instead of exciting wakefulness, and may be safely used
as a cheap and wholesome substitute for the Arabian berry, being equal in
substance and flavour to the best Mocha coffee."
I was much struck with this paragraph at the time, and for several years
felt a great inclination to try the Doctor's coffee; but something or
other always came in the way, and it was put off till another opportunity.
During the fall of '35, I was assisting my husband in taking up a crop of
potatoes in the field, and observing a vast number of fine dandelion roots
among the potatoes, it brought the dandelion coffee back to my memory, and
I determined to try some for our supper. Without saying anything to my
husband, I threw aside some of the roots, and when we left work,
collecting a sufficient quantity for, the experiment, I carefully washed
the roots quite clean, without depriving them of the fine brown skin which
covers them, and which contains the aromatic flavour, which so nearly
resembles coffee that it is difficult to distinguish it from it while
roasting. I cut my roots into small pieces, the size of a kidney-bean, and
roasted them on an iron baking-pan in the stove-oven, until they were as
brown and crisp as coffee. I then ground and transferred a small cupful of
the powder to the coffee-pot, pouring upon it scalding water, and boiling
it for a few minutes briskly over the fire. The result was beyond my
expectations. The coffee proved excellent--far superior to the common
coffee we procured at the stores.
To persons residing in the bush, and to whom tea and coffee are very
expensive articles of luxury, the knowledge of this valuable property in a
plant, scattered so abundantly through their fields, would prove highly
beneficial. For years we used no other article; and my Indian friends who
frequented the house gladly adopted the root, and made me show them the
whole process of manufacturing it into coffee.
Experience taught me that the root of the dandelion is not so good, when
applied to this purpose, in the spring as it is in the fall. I tried it in
the spring, but the juice of the plant, having contributed to the
production of leaves and flowers, was weak, and destitute of the fine
bitter flavour so peculiar to coffee. The time of gathering in the potato
crop is the best suited for collecting and drying the roots of the
dandelion; and as they always abound in the same hills, both may be
accomplished at the same time. Those who want to keep a quantity for
winter use may wash and cut up the roots, and dry them on boards in the
sun. They will keep for years, and can be roasted when required.
Few of our colonists are acquainted with the many uses to which this
neglected but most valuable plant may be applied. I will point out a few
which have come under my own observation, convinced as I am that the
time will come when this hardy weed, with its golden flowers and curious
seed-vessels, which form a constant plaything to the little children
rolling about and luxuriating among the grass, in the sunny month of May,
will be transplanted into our gardens, and tended with due care. The
dandelion planted in trenches, and blanched to a beautiful cream-colour
with straw, makes an excellent salad, quite equal to endive, and is more
hardy and requires less care.
In many parts of the United States, particularly in new districts where
vegetables are scarce, it is used early in the spring, and boiled with
pork as a substitute for cabbage. During our residence in the bush we
found it, in the early part of May, a great addition to the dinner-table.
In the township of Dummer, the settlers boil the tops, and add hops to the
liquor, which they ferment, and from which they obtain excellent beer. I
have never tasted this simple beverage, but I have been told by those who
use it that it is equal to the table-beer used at home.
Necessity has truly been termed the mother of invention, for I contrived
to manufacture a variety of dishes almost out of nothing, while living in
her school. When entirely destitute of animal food, the different variety
of squirrels supplied us with pies, stews, and roasts. Our barn stood at
the top of the hill near the bush, and in a trap set for such "small
deer," we often caught from ten to twelve a-day.
The flesh of the black squirrel is equal to that of the rabbit, and the
red, and even the little chissmunk, is palatable when nicely cooked. But
from the lake, during the summer, we derived the larger portion of our
food. The children called this piece of water "Mamma's pantry," and many a
good meal has the munificent Father given to his poor dependent children
from its well-stored depths. Moodie and I used to rise by daybreak, and
fish for an hour after sunrise, when we returned, he to the field, and I
to dress the little ones, clean up the house, assist with the milk, and
prepare the breakfast.
Oh, how I enjoyed these excursions on the lake! The very idea of our
dinner depending upon our success, added double zest to our sport.
One morning we started as usual before sunrise; a thick mist still hung
like a fine veil upon the water when we pushed off, and anchored at our
accustomed place. Just as the sun rose, and the haze parted and drew up
like a golden sheet of transparent gauze, through which the dark woods
loomed out like giants, a noble buck dashed into the water, followed by
four Indian hounds.
We then discovered a canoe, full of Indians, just below the rapids, and
another not many yards from us, that had been concealed by the fog. It was
a noble sight, that gallant deer exerting all his energy, and stemming the
water with such matchless grace, his branching horns held proudly aloft,
his broad nostrils distended, and his fine eye fixed intently upon the
opposite shore. Several rifle-balls whizzed past him, the dogs followed
hard upon his track, but my very heart leaped for joy when, in spite of
all his foes, his glossy hoofs spurned the opposite bank and he plunged
headlong into the forest.
My beloved partner was most skilful in trolling for bass and muskinonge.
His line he generally fastened to the paddle, and the motion of the oar
gave a life-like vibration to the queer-looking mice and dragon-flies I
used to manufacture from squirrel fur, or scarlet and white cloth, to
tempt the finny wanderers of the wave.
When too busy himself to fish for our meals, little Katie and I ventured
out alone in the canoe, which we anchored in any promising fishing spot,
by fastening a harrow tooth to a piece of rope, and letting it drop from
the side of the little vessel. By the time she was five years old, my
little mermaid could both steer and paddle the light vessel, and catch
small fish, which were useful for soup.
During the winter of '36, we experienced many privations. The ruffian
squatter P____, from Clear Lake, drove from the barn a fine young bull we
were rearing, and for several weeks all trace of the animal was lost. We
had almost forgotten the existence of poor Whiskey, when a neighbour
called and told Moodie that his yearling was at P____'s, and that he would
advise him to get it back as soon as possible. Moodie had to take some
wheat to Y____'s mill, and as the squatter lived only a mile further, he
called at his house; and there, sure enough, he found the lost animal.
With the greatest difficulty he succeeded in regaining his property, but
not without many threats of vengeance from the parties who had stolen it.
To these he paid no regard; but a few days after, six fat hogs, on which
we depended for all our winter store of animal food, were driven into the
lake, and destroyed. The death of these animals deprived us of three
barrels of pork, and half starved us through the winter. That winter of
'36, how heavily it wore away! The grown flour, frosted potatoes, and
scant quantity of animal food rendered us all weak, and the children
suffered much from the ague.
One day, just before the snow fell, Moodie had gone to Peterborough for
letters; our servant was sick in bed with the ague, and I was nursing my
little boy, Dunbar, who was shaking with the cold fit of his miserable
fever, when Jacob put his honest, round, rosy face in at the door.
"Give me the master's gun, ma'am; there's a big buck feeding on the
rice-bed near the island."
I took down the gun, saying, "Jacob, you have no chance; there is but one
charge of buck-shot in the house."
"One chance is better nor none," said Jacob, as he commenced loading the
gun. "Who knows what may happen to oie. Mayhap oie may chance to kill 'un;
and you and the measter and the wee bairns may have zummut zavory for
Away walked Jacob with Hoodie's "Manton" over his shoulder. A few minutes
after, I heard the report of the gun, but never expected to see anything
of the game; when Jacob suddenly bounced into the room, half wild with
"Thae beast iz dead az a door-nail. Zure, how the measter will laugh when
he zees the fine buck that oie a' zhot."
"And have you really shot him?"
"Come and zee! Tis worth your while to walk down to the landing to look at
Jacob got a rope, and I followed him to the landing, where, sure enough,
lay a fine buck, fastened in tow of the canoe. Jacob soon secured him by
the hind legs to the rope he had brought; and, with our united efforts, we
at last succeeded in dragging our prize home. All the time he was engaged
in taking off the skin, Jacob was anticipating the feast that we were to
have; and the good fellow chuckled with delight when he hung the carcass
quite close to the kitchen door, that his "measter" might run against it
when he came home at night. This event actually took place. When Moodie
opened the door, he struck his head against the dead deer.
"What have you got here?"
"A fine buck, zur," said Jacob, bringing forward the light, and holding it
up in such a manner that all the merits of the prize could be seen at a
"A fine one, indeed! How did we come by it?"
"It was zhot by oie," said Jacob, rubbing his hands in a sort of ecstacy.
"Thae beast iz the first oie ever zhot in my life. He! he! he!"
"You shot that fine deer, Jacob?--and there was only one charge in the
gun! Well done; you must have taken a good aim."
"Why, zur, oie took no aim at all. Oie just pointed the gun at the deer,
and zhut my oeys an let fly at 'un. 'Twas Providence kill'd 'un, not oie."
"I believe you," said Moodie; "Providence has hitherto watched over us and
kept us from actual starvation."
The flesh of the deer, and the good broth that I was able to obtain from
it, greatly assisted in restoring our sick to health; but long before that
severe winter terminated we were again out of food. Mrs. ____ had given to
Katie, in the fall, a very pretty little pig, which she had named Spot.
The animal was a great favourite with Jacob and the children, and he
always received his food from their hands at the door and followed them
all over the place like a dog. We had a noble hound called Hector, between
whom and the pet pig there existed the most tender friendship. Spot always
shared with Hector the hollow log which served him for a kennel, and we
often laughed to see Hector lead Spot round the clearing by his ear. After
bearing the want of animal food until our souls sickened at the bad
potatoes and grown flour bread, we began--that is the eldest of the
family--to cast very hungry eyes upon Spot; but no one liked to propose
having him killed. At last Jacob spoke his mind upon the subject.
"Oi've heard, zur, that the Jews never eat pork; but we Christians dooz,
and are right glad ov the chance. Now, zur, oi've been thinking that'tis
no manner ov use our keeping that beast Spot. If he wor a zow, now, there
might be zome zenze in the thing; and we all feel weak for a morzel of
meat. S'poze I kill him? He won't make a bad piece of pork."
Moodie seconded the move; and, in spite of the tears and prayers of Katie,
her uncouth pet was sacrificed to the general wants of the family; but
there were two members of the house who disdained to eat a morsel of the
victim; poor Katie and the dog Hector. At the self-denial of the first I
did not at all wonder, for she was a child full of sensibility and warm
affections, but the attachment of the brute creature to his old playmate
filled us all with surprise. Jacob first drew our attention to the strange
"That dog," he said, as we were passing through the kitchen while he was
at dinner, "do teach uz Christians a lesson how to treat our friends. Why,
zur, he'll not eat a morzel of Spot. Oie have tried and tempted him in all
manner ov ways, and he only do zneer and turn up his nose when oie hould
him a bit to taste." He offered the animal a rib of the fresh pork as he
finished speaking, and the dog turned away with an expression of aversion,
and on a repetition of the act, walked from the table. Human affection
could scarcely have surpassed the love felt by this poor animal for his
playfellow. His attachment to Spot, that could overcome the pangs of
hunger--for, like the rest of us, he was half starved--must have been
Jacob's attachment to us, in its simplicity and fidelity, greatly
resembled that of the dog; and sometimes, like the dog, he would push
himself in where he was not wanted, and gratuitously give his advice, and
make remarks which were not required.
Mr. K____, from Cork, was asking Moodie many questions about the
partridges of the country; and, among other things, he wanted to know by
what token you were able to discover their favourite haunts. Before Moodie
could answer this last query a voice responded, through a large crack in
the boarded wall which separated us from the kitchen, "They always bides
where they's drum." This announcement was received with a burst of
laughter that greatly disconcerted the natural philosopher in the kitchen.
On the 21st of May of this year, my second son, Donald, was born. The poor
fellow came in hard times. The cows had not calved, and our bill of fare,
now minus the deer and Spot, only consisted of bad potatoes and still
worse bread. I was rendered so weak by want of proper nourishment that my
dear husband, for my sake, overcame his aversion to borrowing, and
procured a quarter of mutton from a friend. This, with kindly presents
from neighbours--often as badly off as ourselves--a loin of a young bear,
and a basket, containing a loaf of bread, some tea, some fresh butter, and
oatmeal, went far to save my life.
Shortly after my recovery, Jacob--the faithful, good Jacob was obliged to
leave us, for we could no longer afford to pay wages. What was owing to
him had to be settled by sacrificing our best cow, and a great many
valuable articles of clothing from my husband's wardrobe. Nothing is more
distressing than being obliged to part with articles of dress which you
know that you cannot replace. Almost all my clothes had been appropriated
to the payment of wages, or to obtain garments for the children, excepting
my wedding-dress, and the beautiful baby-linen which had been made by the
hands of dear and affectionate friends for my first-born. These were now
exchanged for coarse, warm flannels, to shield her from the cold. Moodie
and Jacob had chopped eight acres during the winter, but these had to be
burnt off and logged-up before we could put in a crop of wheat for the
ensuing fall. Had we been able to retain this industrious, kindly English
lad, this would have been soon accomplished; but his wages, at the rate of
thirty pounds per annum, were now utterly beyond our means.
Jacob had formed an attachment to my pretty maid, Mary Pine, and before
going to the Southern States, to join an uncle who resided in Louisville,
an opulent tradesman, who had promised to teach him his business, Jacob
thought it as well to declare himself. The declaration took place on a log
of wood near the back door, and from my chamber window I could both hear
and see the parties, without being myself observed. Mary was seated very
demurely at one end of the log, twisting the strings of her checked apron,
and the loving Jacob was busily whittling the other extremity of their
rustic seat. There was a long silence. Mary stole a look at Jacob, and he
heaved a tremendous sigh, something between a yawn and a groan. "Meary,"
he said, "I must go."
"I knew that afore," returned the girl.
"I had zummat to zay to you, Meary. Do you think you will miss oie?"
(looking very affectionately, and twitching nearer.)
"What put that into your head, Jacob?" This was said very demurely.
"Oie thowt, maybe, Meary, that your feelings might be zummat loike my own.
I feel zore about the heart, Meary, and it's all com' of parting with you.
Don't you feel queerish, too?"
"Can't say that I do, Jacob. I shall soon see you again," (pulling
violently at her apron-string.)
"Meary, oi'm afeard you don't feel like oie."
"P'r'aps not--women can't feel like men. I'm sorry that you are going,
Jacob, for you have been very kind and obliging, and I wish you well."
"Meary," cried Jacob, growing desperate at her coyness, and getting quite
close up to her, "will you marry oie? Say yeez or noa."
This was coming close to the point. Mary drew farther from him, and turned
her head away.
"Meary," said Jacob, seizing upon the hand that held the apron-string, "do
you think you can better yoursel'? If not--why, oie'm your man. Now, do
just turn about your head and answer oie."
The girl turned round, and gave him a quick, shy glance, then burst out
into a simpering laugh.
"Meary, will you take oie?" (jogging her elbow.)
"I will," cried the girl, jumping up from the log, and running into the
"Well, that bargain's made," said the lover, rubbing his hands; "and now,
oie'll go and bid measter and missus good-buoy."
The poor fellow's eyes were full of tears, for the children, who loved him
very much, clung, crying, about his knees. "God bless yees all," sobbed
the kind-hearted creature. "Doan't forget Jacob, for he'll neaver forget
Then turning to Mary, he threw his arms round her neck, and bestowed upon
her fair cheek the most audible kiss I ever heard.
"And doan't you forget me, Meary. In two years oie will be back to marry
you; and maybe oie may come back a rich man."
Mary, who was an exceedingly pretty girl, shed some tears at the parting;
but in a few days, she was as gay as ever, and listening with great
attention to the praises bestowed upon her beauty by an old bachelor, who
was her senior by five-and-twenty years. But then he had a good farm, a
saddle mare, and plenty of stock, and was reputed to have saved money.
The saddle mare seemed to have great weight in old Ralph T____h's wooing;
and I used laughingly to remind Mary of her absent lover, and beg her not
to marry Ralph T____h's mare.
THE LITTLE STUMPY MAN.
Before I dismiss for ever the troubles and sorrows of 1836, I would fain
introduce to the notice of my readers some of the odd characters with whom
we became acquainted during that period. The first that starts vividly to
my recollection is the picture of a short, stumpy, thick-set man--a
British sailor, too--who came to stay one night under our roof, and took
quiet possession of his quarters for nine months, and whom we were obliged
to tolerate from the simple fact that we could not get rid of him.
During the fall, Moodie had met this individual (whom I will call Mr.
Malcolm) in the mail-coach going up to Toronto. Amused with his eccentric
and blunt manners, and finding him a shrewd, clever fellow in
conversation, Moodie told him that if ever he came into his part of the
world he should be glad to renew their acquaintance. And so they parted,
with mutual good-will, as men often part who have travelled a long journey
in good fellowship together, without thinking it probable they should ever
The sugar season had just commenced with the spring thaw; Jacob had tapped
a few trees in order to obtain sap to make molasses for the children, when
his plans were frustrated by the illness of my husband, who was again
attacked with the ague. Towards the close of a wet, sloppy night, while
Jacob was in the wood, chopping, and our servant gone to my sister, who
was ill, to help to wash, as I was busy baking bread for tea, my attention
was aroused by a violent knocking at the door, and the furious barking of
our dog, Hector. I ran to open it, when I found Hector's teeth clenched in
the trowsers of a little, dark, thick-set man, who said in a gruff voice,
"Call off; our dog. What the devil do you keep such an infernal brute
about the house for? Is it to bite people who come to see you?"
Hector was the best-behaved, best-tempered animal in the world; he might
have been called a gentlemanly dog. So little was there of the unmannerly
puppy in his behaviour, that I was perfectly astonished at his ungracious
conduct. I caught him by the collar, and not without some difficulty,
succeeded in dragging him off.
"Is Captain Moodie within?" said the stranger.
"He is, sir. But he is ill in bed--too ill to be seen."
"Tell him a friend," (he laid a strong stress upon the last word,) "a
particular friend must speak to him."
I now turned my eyes to the face of the speaker with some curiosity. I had
taken him for a mechanic, from his dirty, slovenly appearance; and his
physiognomy was so unpleasant that I did not credit his assertion that he
was a friend of my husband, for I was certain that no man who possessed
such a forbidding aspect could be regarded by Moodie as a friend. I was
about to deliver his message, but the moment I let go Hector's collar, the
dog was at him again.
"Don't strike him with your stick," I cried, throwing my arms over the
faithful creature. "He is a powerful animal, and if you provoke him, he
will kill you."
I at last succeeded in coaxing Hector into the girl's room, where I shut
him up, while the stranger came into the kitchen, and walked to the fire
to dry his wet clothes.
I immediately went into the parlour, where Moodie was lying upon a bed
near the stove, to deliver the stranger's message; but before I could say
a word, he dashed in after me, and going up to the bed held out his broad,
coarse hand, with, "How are you, Mr. Moodie. You see I have accepted your
kind invitation sooner than either you or I expected. If you will give me
house-room for the night I shall be obliged to you."
This was said in a low, mysterious voice: and Moodie, who was still
struggling with the hot fit of his disorder, and whose senses were not a
little confused, stared at him with a look of vague bewilderment. The
countenance of the stranger grew dark.
"You cannot have forgotten me--my name is Malcolm."
"Yes, yes; I remember you now," said the invalid, holding out his burning,
feverish hand. "To my home, such as it is, you are welcome."
I stood by in wondering astonishment, looking from one to the other, as I
had no recollection of ever hearing my husband mention the name of the
stranger; but as he had invited him to share our hospitality, I did my
best to make him welcome, though in what manner he was to be accommodated
puzzled me not a little. I placed the arm-chair by the fire, and told him
that I would prepare tea for him as soon as I could.
"It may be as well to tell you, Mrs. Moodie," said he sulkily, for he was
evidently displeased by my husband's want of recognition on his first
entrance, "that I have had no dinner."
I sighed to myself, for I well knew that our larder boasted of no
dainties; and from the animal expression of our guest's face. I rightly
judged that he was fond of good living.
By the time I had fried a rasher of salt pork, and made a pot of dandelion
coffee, the bread I had been preparing was baked; but grown flour will not
make light bread, and it was unusually heavy. For the first time I felt
heartily ashamed of our humble fare. I was sure that he for whom it was
provided was not one to pass it over in benevolent silence. "He might be a
gentleman," I thought, "but he does not look like one;" and a confused
idea of who he was, and where Moodie had met with him, began to float
through my mind. I did not like the appearance of the man, but I consoled
myself that he was only to stay for one night, and I could give up my bed
for that one night, and sleep on a bed on the floor by my sick husband.
When I re-entered the parlour to cover the table, I found Moodie fallen
asleep, and Mr. Malcolm reading. As I placed the tea-things on the
table, he raised his head, and regarded me with a gloomy stare. He was a
strange-looking creature; his features were tolerably regular, his
complexion dark, with a good colour, his very broad and round head was
covered with a perfect mass of close, black, curling hair, which, in
growth, texture, and hue, resembled the wiry, curly hide of a water-dog.
His eyes and mouth were both well-shaped, but gave, by their sinister
expression, an odious and doubtful meaning to the whole of his
physiognomy. The eyes were cold, insolent, and cruel, and as green as the
eyes of a cat. The mouth bespoke a sullen, determined, and sneering
disposition, as if it belonged to one brutally obstinate, one who could
not by any gentle means be persuaded from his purpose. Such a man in a
passion, would have been a terrible wild beast; but the current of his
feelings seemed to flow in a deep sluggish channel, rather than in a
violent or impetuous one; and, like William Penn, when he reconnoitred his
unwelcome visitors through the keyhole of the door, I looked at my strange
guest, and liked him not. Perhaps my distant and constrained manner made
him painfully aware of the fact, for I am certain that, from that first
hour of our acquaintance, a deep-rooted antipathy existed between us,
which time seemed rather to strengthen than diminish.
He ate of his meal sparingly, and with evident disgust; the only remarks
which dropped from him were:
"You make bad bread in the bush. Strange, that you can't keep your
potatoes from the frost! I should have thought that you could have had
things more comfortable in the woods."
"We have been very unfortunate," I said, "since we came to the woods. I am
sorry that you should be obliged to share the poverty of the land. It
would have given me much pleasure could I have set before you a more
"Oh, don't mention it. So that I get good pork and potatoes I shall be
What did these words imply?--an extension of his visit? I hoped that I was
mistaken; but before I could lose any time in conjecture my husband awoke.
The fit had left him, and he rose and dressed himself, and was soon
chatting cheerfully with his guest.
Mr. Malcolm now informed him that he was hiding from, the sheriff of the
N____ district's officers, and that it would be conferring upon him a
great favour if he would allow him to remain at his house for a few weeks.
"To tell you the truth, Malcolm," said Moodie, "we are so badly off that
we can scarcely find food for ourselves and the children. It is out of our
power to make you comfortable, or to keep an additional hand, without he
is willing to render some little help on the farm. If you can do this, I
will endeavour to get a few necessaries on credit, to make your stay more
To this proposition Malcolm readily assented, not only because it released
him from all sense of obligation but because it gave him a privilege to
Finding that his stay might extend to an indefinite period, I got Jacob to
construct a rude bedstead out of two large chests that had transported
some of our goods across the Atlantic, and which he put up in a corner of
the parlour. This I provided with a small hair-mattress, and furnished
with what bedding I could spare.
For the first fortnight of his sojourn, our guest did nothing but lie
upon that bed, and read, and smoke, and drink whiskey and water from
morning until night. By degrees he let out part of his history; but
there was a mystery about him which he took good care never to clear up.
He was the son of an officer in the navy, who had not only attained a very
high rank in the service, but, for his gallant conduct, had been made a
Knight-Companion of the Bath.
He had himself served his time as a midshipman on board his father's
flag-ship, but had left the navy and accepted a commission in the
Buenos-Ayrean service during the political struggles in that province;
he had commanded a sort of privateer under the government, to whom, by his
own account, he had rendered many very signal services. Why he left
South America and came to Canada he kept a profound secret. He had
indulged in very vicious and dissipated courses since he came to the
province, and by his own account had spent upwards of four thousand
pounds, in a manner not over creditable to himself. Finding that his
friends would answer his bills no longer, he took possession of a grant of
land obtained through his father's interest, up in Hersey, a barren
township on the shores of Stony Lake; and, after putting up his shanty,
and expending all his remaining means, he found that he did not possess
one acre out of the whole four hundred that would yield a crop of
potatoes. He was now considerably in debt, and the lands, such as they
were, had been seized, with all his effects, by the sheriff, and a warrant
was out for his own apprehension, which he contrived to elude during his
sojourn with us. Money he had none; and, beyond the dirty fearnought
blue seaman's jacket which he wore, a pair of trowsers of the coarse cloth
of the country, an old black vest that had seen better days, and two
blue-checked shirts, clothes he had none. He shaved but once a week, never
combed his hair, and never washed himself. A dirtier or more slovenly
creature never before was dignified by the title of a gentleman. He was,
however, a man of good education, of excellent abilities, and possessed a
bitter, sarcastic knowledge of the world; but he was selfish and
unprincipled in the highest degree.
His shrewd observations and great conversational powers had first
attracted my husband's attention, and, as men seldom show their bad
qualities on a journey, he thought him a blunt, good fellow, who had
travelled a great deal, and could render himself a very agreeable
companion by a graphic relation of his adventures. He could be all this,
when he chose to relax from his sullen, morose mood; and, much as I
disliked him, I have listened with interest for hours to his droll
descriptions of South American life and manners.
Naturally indolent, and a constitutional grumbler, it was with the
greatest difficulty that Moodie could get him to do any thing beyond
bringing a few pails of water from the swamp for the use of the house,
and he has often passed me carrying water up from the lake without
offering to relieve me of the burden. Mary, the betrothed of Jacob,
called him a perfect beast; but he, returning good for evil, considered
_her_ a very pretty girl, and paid her so many uncouth attentions that he
roused the jealousy of honest Jake, who vowed that he would give him a
good "loomping" if he only dared to lay a finger upon his sweetheart.
With Jacob to back her, Mary treated the "zea-bear," as Jacob termed him,
with vast disdain, and was so saucy to him that, forgetting his
admiration, he declared he would like to serve her as the Indians had done
a scolding woman in South America. They attacked her house during the
absence of her husband, cut out her tongue, and nailed it to the door, by
way of knocker; and he thought that all women who could not keep a civil
tongue in their head should be served in the same manner.
"And what should be done to men who swear and use ondacent language?"
quoth Mary, indignantly. "Their tongues should be slit, and given to the
dogs. Faugh! You are such a nasty fellow that I don't think Hector would
eat your tongue."
"I'll kill that beast," muttered Malcolm, as he walked away.
I remonstrated with him on the impropriety of bandying words with our
servants. "You see," I said, "the disrespect with which they treat you;
and if they presume upon your familiarity, to speak to our guest in this
contemptuous manner, they will soon extend the same conduct to us."
"But, Mrs. Moodie, you should reprove them."
"I cannot, sir, while you continue, by taking liberties with the girl, and
swearing at the man, to provoke them to retaliation."
"Swearing! What harm is there in swearing? A sailor cannot live without
"But a gentleman might. Mr. Malcolm. I should be sorry to consider you in
any other light."
"Ah, you are such a prude--so methodistical--you make no allowance for
circumstances! Surely, in the woods we may dispense with the hypocritical,
conventional forms of society, and speak and act as we please."
"So you seem to think; but you see the result."
"I have never been used to the society of ladies, and cannot fashion my
words to please them; and I won't, that's more!" he muttered to himself,
as he strode off to Moodie in the field. I wished from my very heart that
he was once more on the deck of his piratical South American craft.
One night he insisted on going out in the canoe to spear muskinonge with
Moodie. The evening turned out very chill and foggy, and, before twelve,
they returned, with only one fish, and half frozen with cold. Malcolm had
got twinges of rheumatism, and he fussed, and sulked, and swore, and
quarrelled with every body and every thing, until Moodie, who was highly
amused by his petulance, advised him to go to his bed, and pray for the
happy restoration of his temper.
"Temper!" he cried, "I don't believe there's a good-tempered person in the
world. It's all hypocrisy! I never had a good temper! My mother was an
ill-tempered woman, and ruled my father, who was a confoundedly severe,
domineering man. I was born in an ill temper. I was an ill-tempered child;
I grew up an ill-tempered man. I feel worse than ill tempered now, and
when I die it will be in an ill temper."
"Well," quoth I, "Moodie has made you a tumbler of hot punch, which may
help to drive out the cold and the ill temper, and cure the rheumatism."
"Ay; your husband's a good fellow, and worth two of you, Mrs. Moodie. He
makes some allowance for the weakness of Human nature, and can excuse even
my ill temper."
I did not choose to bandy words with him, and the next day the unfortunate
creature was shaking with the ague. A more intractable, outrageous,
_im_-patient I never had the ill fortune to nurse. During the cold fit, he
did nothing but swear at the cold, and wished himself roasting; and during
the fever, he swore at the heat, and wished that he was sitting, in no
other garment than his shirt, on the north side of an iceberg. And when
the fit at last left him, he got up, and ate such quantities of fat pork,
and drank so much whiskey-punch, that you would have imagined he had just
arrived from a long journey, and had not tasted food for a couple of days.
He would not believe that fishing in the cold night-air upon the water had
made him ill, but raved that it was all my fault for having laid my baby
down on his bed while it was shaking with the ague.
Yet, if there were the least tenderness mixed up in his iron nature, it
was the affection he displayed for that young child. Dunbar was just
twenty months old, with bright, dark eyes, dimpled cheeks, and soft,
flowing, golden hair, which fell round his infant face in rich curls. The
merry, confiding little creature formed such a contrast to his own surly,
unyielding temper, that, perhaps, that very circumstance made the bond of
union between them. When in the house, the little boy was seldom out of
his arms, and whatever were Malcolm's faults, he had none in the eyes of
the child, who used to cling around his neck, and kiss his rough, unshaven
cheeks with the greatest fondness.
"If I could afford it, Moodie," he said one day to my husband, "I should
like to marry. I want some one upon whom I could vent my affections." And
wanting that some one in the form of woman, he contented himself with
venting them upon the child.
As the spring advanced, and after Jacob left us, he seemed ashamed of
sitting in the house doing nothing, and therefore undertook to make us a
garden, or "to make garden," as the Canadians term preparing a few
vegetables for the season. I procured the necessary seeds, and watched
with no small surprise the industry with which our strange visitor
commenced operations. He repaired the broken fence, dug the ground with
the greatest care, and laid it out with a skill and neatness of which I
had believed him perfectly incapable. In less than three weeks, the whole
plot presented a very pleasing prospect, and he was really elated by his
"At any rate," said he, "we shall no longer be starved on bad flour and
potatoes. We shall have peas, and beans, and beets, and carrots, and
cabbage in abundance; besides the plot I have reserved for cucumbers and
"Ah," thought I, "does he, indeed, mean to stay with us until the melons
are ripe?" and my heart died within me, for he not only was a great
additional expense, but he gave a great deal of additional trouble, and
entirely robbed us of all privacy, as our very parlour was converted into
a bedroom for his accommodation; besides that, a man of his singularly
dirty habits made a very disagreeable inmate.
The only redeeming point in his character, in my eyes, was his love for
Dunbar. I could not entirely hate a man who was so fondly attached to my
child. To the two little girls he was very cross, and often chased them
from him with blows. He had, too, an odious way of finding fault with
every thing. I never could cook to please him; and he tried in the most
malicious way to induce Moodie to join in his complaints. All his schemes
to make strife between us, however, failed, and were generally visited
upon himself. In no way did he ever seek to render me the least
assistance. Shortly after Jacob left us, Mary Price was offered higher
wages by a family at Peterborough, and for some time I was left with four
little children, and without a servant. Moodie always milked the cows,
because I never could overcome my fear of cattle; and though I had
occasionally milked when there was no one else in the way, it was in fear
Moodie had to go down to Peterborough; but before he went, he begged
Malcolm to bring me what water and wood I required, and to stand by the
cattle while I milked the cows, and he would himself be home before night.
He started at six in the morning, and I got the pail to go and milk.
Malcolm was lying upon his bed, reading.
"Mr. Malcolm, will you be so kind as to go with me to the fields for a few
minutes while I milk?"
"Yes!" (then, with a sulky frown,)--"but I want to finish what I am
"I will not detain you long."
"Oh, no! I suppose about an hour. You are a shocking bad milker."
"True; I never went near a cow until I came to this country; and I have
never been able to overcome my fear of them."
"More shame for you! A farmer's wife, and afraid of a cow! Why, these
little children would laugh at you."
I did not reply, nor would I ask him again. I walked slowly to the field,
and my indignation made me forget my fear. I had just finished milking,
and with a brimming pail was preparing to climb the fence and return to
the house, when a very wild ox we had came running with headlong speed
from the wood. All my fears were alive again in a moment. I snatched up
the pail, and, instead of climbing the fence and getting to the house, I
ran with all the speed I could command down the steep hill towards the
lake shore, my feet caught in a root of the many stumps in the path, and I
fell to the ground, my pail rolling many yards ahead of me. Every drop of
my milk was spilt upon the grass. The ox passed on. I gathered myself up
and returned home. Malcolm was very fond of new milk, and he came to me at
"Hi! hi!--Where's the milk?"
"No milk for the poor children to-day," said I, showing him the inside of
the pail, with a sorrowful shake of the head, for it was no small loss to
them and me.
"How the devil's that? So you were afraid to milk the cows. Come away, and
I will keep off the buggaboos."
"I did milk them--no thanks to your kindness, Mr. Malcolm--but--"
"The ox frightened me, and I fell and spilt all the milk."
"Whew! Now don't go and tell your husband that it was all my fault; if you
had had a little patience, I would have come when you asked me, but I
don't choose to be dictated to, and I won't be made a slave by you or any
"Then why do you stay, sir, where you consider yourself so treated?" said
I. "We are all obliged to work to obtain bread; we give you the best
share--surely the return we ask for it is but small."
"You make me feel my obligations to you when you ask me to do any thing;
if you left it to my better feelings we should get on better."
"Perhaps you are right. I will never ask you to do any thing for me in
"Oh, now, that's all mock humility. In spite of the tears in your eyes,
you are as angry with me as ever; but don't go to make mischief between me
and Moodie. If you'll say nothing about my refusing to go with you, I'll
milk the cows for you myself to-night."
"And can you milk?" said I, with some curiosity.
"Milk! Yes; and if I were not so confoundedly low-spirited and ____ lazy,
I could do a thousand other things too. But now, don't say a word about it
I made no promise; but my respect for him was not increased by his
cowardly fear of reproof from Moodie, who treated him with a kindness and
consideration which he did not deserve. The afternoon turned out very wet,
and I was sorry that I should be troubled with his company all day in the
house. I was making a shirt for Moodie from some cotton that had been sent
me from home, and he placed himself by the side of the stove, just
opposite, and continued to regard me for a long time with his usual sullen
stare. I really felt half afraid of him.
"Don't you think me mad?" said he. "I have a brother deranged; he got a
stroke of the sun in India, and lost his senses in consequence; but
sometimes I think it runs in the family."
What answer could I give to this speech, but mere evasive commonplace?
"You won't say what you really think," he continued; "I know you hate me,
and that makes me dislike you. Now what would you say if I told you I had
committed a murder, and that it was the recollection of that circumstance
that made me at times so restless and unhappy?"
I looked up in his face, not knowing what to believe.
"'Tis fact," said he, nodding his head; and I hoped that he would not go
mad, like his brother, and kill me.
"Come, I'll tell you all about it; I know the world would laugh at me for
calling such an act _murder_; and yet I have been such a miserable man
ever since, that I _feel_ it was.
"There was a noted leader among the rebel Buenos-Ayreans, whom the
government wanted much to get hold of. He was a fine, dashing, handsome
fellow; I had often seen him, but we never came to close quarters. One
night, I was lying wrapped up in my poncho at the bottom of my boat,
which was rocking in the surf, waiting for two of my men, who were gone on
shore. There came to the shore, this man and one of his people, and they
stood so near the boat, which I suppose they thought empty, that I could
distinctly hear their conversation. I suppose it was the devil who tempted
me to put a bullet through that man's heart. He was an enemy to the flag
under which I fought, but he was no enemy to me--I had no right to become
his executioner; but still the desire to kill him, for the mere deviltry
of the thing, came so strongly upon me that I no longer tried to resist
it. I rose slowly upon my knees; the moon was shining very bright at the
time, both he and his companion were too earnestly engaged to see me, and
I deliberately shot him through the body. He fell with a heavy groan back
into the water; but I caught the last look he threw up to the moonlight
skies before his eyes glazed in death. Oh, that look!--so full of despair,
of unutterable anguish; it haunts me yet--it will haunt me for ever. I
would not have cared if I had killed him in strife--but in cold blood, and
he so unsuspicious of his doom! Yes, it was murder; I know by this
constant tugging at my heart that it was murder. What do you say to it?"
"I should think as you do, Mr. Malcolm. It is a terrible thing to take
away the life of a fellow-creature without the least provocation."
"Ah! I knew you would blame me; but he was an enemy after all; I had a
right to kill him; I was hired by the government under whom I served to
kill him: and who shall condemn me?"
"No one more than your own heart."
"It is not the heart, but the brain, that must decide in questions of
right and wrong," said he. "I acted from impulse, and shot the man; had I
reasoned upon it for five minutes, that man would be living now. But
what's done cannot be undone. Did I ever show you the work I wrote upon
"Are you an author," said I, incredulously.
"To be sure I am. Murray offered me L100 for my manuscript, but I would
not take it. Shall I read to you some passages from it?"
I am sorry to say that his behaviour in the morning was uppermost in my
thoughts, and I had no repugnance in refusing.
"No, don't trouble yourself. I have the dinner to cook, and the children
to attend to, which will cause a constant interruption; you had better
defer it to some other time."
"I shan't ask you to listen to me again," said he, with a look of offended
vanity; but he went to his trunk, and brought out a large MS., written
on foolscap, which he commenced reading to himself with an air of great
self-importance, glancing from time to time at me, and smiling
disdainfully. Oh, how glad I was when the door opened, and the return of
Moodie broke up this painful _tete-a-tete_.
From the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step. The very next day, Mr.
Malcolm made his appearance before me wrapped in a great-coat belonging to
my husband, which literally came down to his heels. At this strange
apparition, I fell a-laughing.
"For God's sake, Mrs. Moodie, lend me a pair of inexpressibles. I have met
with an accident in crossing the fence, and mine are torn to shreds--gone
to the devil entirely."
"Well, don't swear. I'll see what can be done for you."
I brought him a new pair of fine, drab-coloured kerseymere trowsers that
had never been worn. Although he was eloquent in his thanks, I had no idea
that he meant to keep them for his sole individual use from that day
thenceforth. But after all, what was the man to do? He had no trousers,
and no money, and he could not take to the woods. Certainly his loss was
not our gain. It was the old proverb reversed. The season for putting in
the potatoes had now arrived. Malcolm volunteered to cut the sets, which
was easy work that could be done in the house, and over which he could
lounge and smoke; but Moodie told him that he must take his share in the
field, that I had already sets enough saved to plant half-an-acre, and
would have more prepared by the time they were required. With many growls
and shrugs, he felt obliged to comply; and he performed his part pretty
well, the execrations bestowed upon the mosquitoes and black-flies forming
a sort of safety-valve to let off the concentrated venom of his temper.
When he came in to dinner, he held out his hands to me.
"Look at these hands."
"They are blistered with the hoe."
"Look at my face."
"You are terribly disfigured by the black-flies. But Moodie suffers just
as much, and says nothing."
"Bah!--The only consolation one feels for such annoyances is to complain.
Oh, the woods!--the cursed woods!--how I wish I were out of them." The day
was very warm, but in the afternoon I was surprised by a visit from an old
maiden lady, a friend of mine from C--. She had walked up with a Mr.
Crowe, from Peterborough, a young, brisk-looking farmer, in breeches and
top-boots, just out from the old country, who, naturally enough, thought
he would like to roost among the woods.
He was a little, lively, good-natured manny, with a real Anglo-Saxon
face,--rosy, high cheek-boned, with full lips, and a turned-up nose;
and, like most little men, was a great talker, and very full of himself.
He had belonged to the secondary class of farmers, and was very vulgar,
both in person and manners. I had just prepared tea for my visitors, when
Malcolm and Moodie returned from the field. There was no affectation about
the former. He was manly in his person, and blunt even to rudeness, and
I saw by the quizzical look which he cast upon the spruce little Crowe
that he was quietly quizzing him from head to heel. A neighbour had sent
me a present of maple molasses, and Mr. Crowe was so fearful of spilling
some of the rich syrup upon his drab shorts that he spread a large
pocket-handkerchief over his knees, and tucked another under his chin. I
felt very much inclined to laugh, but restrained the inclination as well
as I could--and if the little creature would have sat still, I could have
quelled my rebellious propensity altogether; but up he would jump at every
word I said to him, and make me a low, jerking bow, often with his mouth
quite full, and the treacherous molasses running over his chin.
Malcolm sat directly opposite to me and my volatile next-door neighbour.
He saw the intense difficulty I had to keep my gravity, and was determined
to make me laugh out. So, coming slyly behind my chair, he whispered in my
ear, with the gravity of a judge, "Mrs. Moodie, that must have been the
very chap who first jumped Jim Crowe."
This appeal obliged me to run from the table. Moodie was astonished at my
rudeness; and Malcolm, as he resumed his seat, made the matter worse by
saying, "I wonder what is the matter with Mrs. Moodie; she is certainly
very hysterical this afternoon."
The potatoes were planted, and the season of strawberries, green peas, and
young potatoes come, but still Malcolm remained our constant guest. He had
grown so indolent, and gave himself so many airs, that Moodie was heartily
sick of his company, and gave him many gentle hints to change his
quarters; but our guest was determined to take no hint. For some reason
best known to himself, perhaps out of sheer contradiction, which formed
one great element in his character, he seemed obstinately bent upon
remaining where he was. Moodie was busy under-bushing for a full fallow.
Malcolm spent much of his time in the garden, or lounging about the house.
I had baked an eel-pie for dinner, which if prepared well is by no means
an unsavoury dish. Malcolm had cleaned some green peas, and washed the
first young potatoes we had drawn that season, with his own hands, and he
was reckoning upon the feast he should have on the potatoes with childish
glee. The dinner at length was put upon the table. The vegetables were
remarkably fine, and the pie looked very nice.
Moodie helped Malcolm, as he always did, very largely, and the other
covered his plate with a portion of peas and potatoes, when, lo and
behold! my gentleman began making a very wry face at the pie.
"What an infernal dish!" he cried, pushing away his plate with an air of
great disgust. "These eels taste as if they had been stewed in oil.
Moodie, you should teach your wife to be a better cook."
The hot blood burnt upon Moodie's cheek. I saw indignation blazing in his
"If you don't like what is prepared for you, sir, you may leave the table,
and my house, if you please. I will put up with your ungentlemanly and
ungrateful conduct to Mrs. Moodie no longer."
Out stalked the offending party. I thought, to be sure, we had got rid of
him; and though he deserved what was said to him, I was sorry for him.
Moodie took his dinner, quietly remarking, "I wonder he could find it in
his heart to leave those fine peas and potatoes."
He then went back to his work in the bush, and I cleared away the dishes,
and churned, for I wanted butter for tea.
About four o'clock, Mr. Malcolm entered the room. "Mrs. Moodie," said he,
in a more cheerful voice than usual, "where's the boss?"
"In the wood, under-bushing." I felt dreadfully afraid that there would be
blows between them.
"I hope, Mr. Malcolm, that you are not going to him with any intention of
a fresh quarrel."
"Don't you think I have been punished enough by losing my dinner?" said
he, with a grin. "I don't think we shall murder one another." He
shouldered his axe, and went whistling away.
After striving for a long while to stifle my foolish fears, I took the
baby in my arms, and little Dunbar by the hand and ran up to the bush
where Moodie was at work.
At first I only saw my husband, but the strokes of an axe at a little
distance soon guided my eyes to the spot where Malcolm was working away,
as if for dear life. Moodie smiled, and looked at me significantly.
"How could the fellow stomach what I said to him? Either great necessity
or great meanness must be the cause of his knocking under. I don't know
whether most to pity or despise him."
"Put up with it, dearest, for this once. He is not happy, and must be
Malcolm kept aloof, ever and anon casting a furtive glance towards us; at
last little Dunbar ran to him, and held up his arms to be kissed. The
strange man snatched him to his bosom, and covered him with caresses. It
might be love to the child that had quelled his sullen spirit, or he might
really have cherished an affection for us deeper than his ugly temper
would allow him to show. At all events, he joined us at tea as if nothing
had happened, and we might truly say that he had obtained a new lease of
his long visit. But what could not be effected by words or hints of ours
was brought about a few days after by the silly observation of a child. He
asked Katie to give him a kiss, and he would give her some raspberries he
had gathered in the bush.
"I don't want them. Go away; I don't like you, _you little stumpy man!_"
His rage knew no bounds. He pushed the child from him, and vowed that he
would leave the house that moment--that she could not have thought of such
an expression herself; she must have been taught it by us. This was an
entire misconception on his part; but he would not be convinced that he
was wrong. Off he went, and Moodie called after him, "Malcolm, as I am
sending to Peterborough to-morrow, the man shall take in your trunk." He
was too angry even to turn and bid us good-bye; but we had not seen the
last of him yet. Two months after, we were taking tea with a neighbour,
who lived a mile below us on the small lake. Who should walk in but Mr.
Malcolm? He greeted us with great warmth for him, and when we rose to take
leave, he rose and walked home by our side. "Surely the little stumpy man
is not returning to his old quarters?" I am still a babe in the affairs of
men. Human nature has more strange varieties than any one menagerie can
contain, and Malcolm was one of the oddest of her odd species.
That night he slept in his old bed below the parlour window, and for three
months afterwards he stuck to us like a beaver. He seemed to have grown
more kindly, or we had got more used to his eccentricities, and let him
have his own way; certainly he behaved himself much better. He neither
scolded the children nor interfered with the maid, nor quarrelled with me.
He had greatly discontinued his bad habit of swearing, and he talked
of himself and his future prospects with more hope and self-respect.
His father had promised to send him a fresh supply of money, and he
proposed to buy of Moodie the clergy reserve, and that they should farm
the two places on shares. This offer was received with great joy, as an
unlooked-for means of paying our debts, and extricating ourselves from
present and overwhelming difficulties, and we looked upon the little
stumpy man in the light of a benefactor.
So matters continued until Christmas-eve, when our visitor proposed
walking into Peterborough, in order to give the children a treat of
raisins to make a Christmas pudding.
"We will be quite merry to-morrow," he said. "I hope we shall eat many
Christmas dinners together, and continue good friends."
He started, after breakfast, with the promise of coming back at night; but
night came, the Christmas passed away, months and years fled away, but we
never saw the little stumpy man again!
He went away that day with a stranger in a wagon from Peterborough, and
never afterwards was seen in that part of Canada. We afterwards learned
that he went to Texas, and it is thought that he was killed at St.
Antonio; but this is mere conjecture. Whether dead or living, I feel
"We ne'er shall look upon his like again."
The early part of the winter of 1837, a year never to be forgotten in the
annals of Canadian history, was very severe. During the month of February,
the thermometer often ranged from eighteen to twenty-seven degrees below
zero. Speaking of the coldness of one particular day, a genuine Brother
Jonathan remarked, with charming simplicity, that it was thirty degrees
below zero that morning, and it would have been much colder if the
thermometer had been longer.
The morning of the seventh was so intensely cold that every thing liquid
froze in the house. The wood that had been drawn for the fire was green,
and it ignited too slowly to satisfy the shivering impatience of women and
children; I vented mine in audibly grumbling over the wretched fire, at
which I in vain endeavoured to thaw frozen bread, and to dress crying
It so happened that an old friend, the maiden lady before alluded to,
had been staying with us for a few days. She had left us for a visit to my
sister, and as some relatives of hers were about to return to Britain by
the way of New York, and had offered to convey letters to friends at home,
I had been busy all the day before preparing a packet for England. It was
my intention to walk to my sister's with this packet, directly the
important affair of breakfast had been discussed, but the extreme cold
of the morning had occasioned such delay that it was late before the
breakfast-things were cleared away.
After dressing, I found the air so keen that I could not venture out
without some risk to my nose, and my husband kindly volunteered to go in
my stead. I had hired a young Irish girl the day before. Her friends were
only just located in our vicinity, and she had never seen a stove until
she came to our house. After Moodie left, I suffered the fire to die away
in the Franklin stove in the parlour, and went into the kitchen to prepare
bread for the oven.
The girl, who was a good-natured creature, had heard me complain bitterly
of the cold, and the impossibility of getting the green wood to burn, and
she thought that she would see if she could not make a good fire for me
and the children, against my work was done. Without saying one word about
her intention, she slipped out through a door that opened from the parlour
into the garden, ran round to the wood-yard, filled her lap with cedar
chips, and, not knowing the nature of the stove, filled it entirely with
the light wood.
Before I had the least idea of my danger, I was aroused from the
completion of my task by the crackling and roaring of a large fire,
and a suffocating smell of burning soot. I looked up at the kitchen
cooking-stove. All was right there. I knew I had left no fire in the
parlour stove; but not being able to account for the smoke and smell of
burning, I opened the door, and to my dismay found the stove red hot,
from the front plate to the topmost pipe that let out the smoke through
My first impulse was to plunge a blanket, snatched from the servant's bed,
which stood in the kitchen, into cold water. This I thrust into the stove,
and upon it I threw water, until all was cool below. I then ran up to the
loft, and by exhausting all the water in the house, even to that contained
in the boilers upon the fire, contrived to cool down the pipes which
passed through the loft. I then sent the girl out of doors to look at the
roof, which, as a very deep fall of snow had taken place the day before, I
hoped would be completely covered, and safe from all danger of fire.
She quickly returned, stamping and tearing her hair, and making a variety
of uncouth outcries, from which I gathered that the roof was in flames.
This was terrible news, with my husband absent, no man in the house, and a
mile and a quarter from any other habitation. I ran out to ascertain the
extent of the misfortune, and found a large fire burning in the roof
between the two stone pipes. The heat of the fires had melted off all the
snow, and a spark from the burning pipe had already ignited the shingles.
A ladder, which for several months had stood against the house, had been
moved two days before to the barn, which was at the top of the hill, near
the road; there was no reaching the fire through that source. I got out
the dining-table, and tried to throw water upon the roof by standing on a
chair placed upon it, but I only expended the little water that remained
in the boiler, without reaching the fire. The girl still continued weeping
"You must go for help," I said. "Run as fast as you can to my sister's,
and fetch your master!"
"And lave you, ma'arm, and the childher alone wid the burnin' house?"
"Yes, yes! Don't stay one moment."
"I have no shoes, ma'arm, and the snow is so deep."
"Put on your master's boots; make haste, or we shall be lost before help
The girl put on the boots and started, shrieking "Fire!" the whole way.
This was utterly useless, and only impeded her progress by exhausting her
strength. After she had vanished from the head of the clearing into the
wood, and I was left quite alone, with the house burning over my head, I
paused one moment to reflect what had best be done.
The house was built of cedar logs; in all probability it would be consumed
before any help could arrive. There was a brisk breeze blowing up from the
frozen lake, and the thermometer stood at eighteen degrees below zero. We
were placed between the two extremes of heat and cold, and there was as
much danger to be apprehended from the one as the other. In the
bewilderment of the moment, the direful extent of the calamity never
struck me: we wanted but this to put the finishing stroke to our
misfortunes, to be thrown naked, houseless, and penniless, upon the world.
"_What shall I save first?_" was the thought just then uppermost in my
mind. Bedding and clothing appeared the most essentially necessary, and
without another moment's pause, I set to work with a right good will to
drag all that I could from my burning home.
While little Agnes, Dunbar, and baby Donald filled the air with their
cries, Katie, as if fully conscious of the importance of exertion,
assisted me in carrying out sheets and blankets, and dragging trunks and
boxes some way up the hill, to be out of the way of the burning brands
when the roof should fall in.
How many anxious looks I gave to the head of the clearing as the fire
increased, and large pieces of burning pine began to fall through the
boarded ceiling, about the lower rooms where we were at work. The children
I had kept under a large dresser in the kitchen, but it now appeared
absolutely necessary to remove them to a place of safety. To expose
the young, tender things to the direful cold was almost as bad as leaving
them to the mercy of the fire. At last I hit upon a plan to keep them from
freezing. I emptied all the clothes out of a large, deep chest of drawers,
and dragged the empty drawers up the hill; these I lined with blankets,
and placed a child in each drawer, covering it well over with the bedding
giving to little Agnes the charge of the baby to hold between her knees,
and keep well covered until help should arrive. Ah, how long it seemed
The roof was now burning like a brush-heap, and, unconsciously, the child
and I were working under a shelf, upon which were deposited several pounds
of gunpowder which had been procured for blasting a well, as all our water
had to be brought up-hill from the lake. This gunpowder was in a stone jar
secured by a paper stopper; the shelf upon which it stood was on fire, but
it was utterly forgotten by me at the time; and even afterwards, when my
husband was working on the burning loft over it.
I found that I should not be able to take many more trips for goods. As I
passed out of the parlour for the last time, Katie looked up at her
father's flute, which was suspended upon two brackets, and said,
"Oh, dear mamma! do save papa's flute; he will be so sorry to lose it."
God bless the dear child for the thought! the flute was saved; and, as I
succeeded in dragging out a heavy chest of clothes, and looked up once
more despairingly to the road, I saw a man running at full speed. It was
my husband. Help was at hand, and my heart uttered a deep thanksgiving as
another and another figure came upon the scene.
I had not felt the intense cold, although without cap, or bonnet, or
shawl; with my hands bare and exposed to the bitter, biting air. The
intense excitement, the anxiety to save a11 I could, had so totally
diverted my thoughts from myself, that I had felt nothing of the danger to
which I had been exposed; but now that help was near, my knees trembled
under me, I felt giddy and faint, and dark shadows seemed dancing before
The moment my husband and brother-in-law entered the house, the latter
"Moodie, the house is gone; save what you can of your winter stores and
Moodie thought differently. Prompt and energetic in danger, and possessing
admirable presence of mind and coolness when others yield to agitation and
despair, he sprang upon the burning loft and called for water. Alas, there
"Snow, snow; hand me up pailfuls of snow!"
Oh! it was bitter work filling those pails with frozen snow; but Mr. T____
and I worked at it as fast as we were able.
The violence of the fire was greatly checked by covering the boards of the
loft with this snow. More help had now arrived. Young B____ and S____ had
brought the ladder down with them from the barn, and were already cutting
away the burning roof, and flinging the flaming brands into the deep snow.
"Mrs. Moodie, have you any pickled meat?"
"We have just killed one of our cows, and salted it for winter stores."
"Well, then, fling the beef into the snow, and let us have the brine."
This was an admirable plan. Wherever the brine wetted the shingles, the
fire turned from it, and concentrated into one spot.
But I had not time to watch the brave workers on the roof. I was fast
yielding to the effects of over-excitement and fatigue, when my brother's
team dashed down the clearing, bringing my excellent old friend, Miss
B____, and the servant-girl.
My brother sprang out, carried me back into the house, and wrapped me up
in one of the large blankets, scattered about. In a few minutes I was
seated with the dear children in the sleigh, and on the way to a place of
warmth and safety. Katie alone suffered from the intense cold. The dear
little creature's feet were severely frozen, but were fortunately restored
by her uncle discovering the fact before she approached the fire, and
rubbing them well with snow. In the mean while, the friends we had left so
actively employed at the house succeeded in getting the fire under before
it had destroyed the walls. The only accident that occurred was to a poor
dog, that Moodie had called Snarleyowe. He was struck by a burning brand
thrown from the house, and crept under the barn and died.
Beyond the damage done to the building, the loss of our potatoes, and two
sacks of flour, we had escaped in a manner almost miraculous. This fact
shows how much can be done by persons working in union, without bustle and
confusion, or running in each other's way. Here were six men, who, without
the aid of water, succeeded in saving a building, which, at first sight,
almost all of them had deemed past hope. In after years, when entirely
burnt out in a disastrous fire that consumed almost all we were worth in
the world, some four hundred persons were present, with a fire-engine to
second their endeavours, yet all was lost. Every person seemed in the way;
and though the fire was discovered immediately after it took place,
nothing was done beyond saving some of the furniture.
Our party was too large to be billetted upon one family. Mrs. T---, took
compassion upon Moodie, myself, and the baby, while their uncle received
the three children to his hospitable home.
It was some weeks before Moodie succeeded in repairing the roof, the
intense cold preventing any one from working in such an exposed situation.
The news of our fire travelled far and wide. I was reported to have done
prodigies, and to have saved the greater part of our household goods
before help arrived. Reduced to plain prose, these prodigies shrink into
the simple, and by no means marvellous fact, that during the excitement
I dragged out chests which, under ordinary circumstances, I could not have
moved; and that I was unconscious both of the cold and the danger to which
I was exposed while working under a burning roof, which, had it fallen,
would have buried both the children and myself under its ruins. These
circumstances appeared far more alarming, as all real danger does, after
they were past. The fright and overexertion gave my health a shock from
which I did not recover for several months, and made me so fearful of
fire, that from that hour it haunts me like a nightmare. Let the night be
ever so serene, all stoves must be shut up, and the hot-embers covered
with ashes, before I dare retire to rest; and the sight of a burning
edifice, so common a spectacle in large towns in this country, makes me
really ill. This feeling was greatly increased after a second fire, when,
for some torturing minutes, a lovely boy, since drowned, was supposed to
have perished in the burning house.
Our present fire led to a new train of circumstances, for it was the means
of introducing to Moodie a young Irish gentleman, who was staying at my
brother's house. John E____ was one of the best and gentlest of human
beings. His father, a captain in the army, had died while his family were
quite young, and had left his widow with scarcely any means beyond the
pension she received at her husband's death, to bring up and educate a
family of five children. A handsome, showy woman, Mrs. E____ soon married