Part 3 out of 4
again; and the poor lads ere thrown upon the world. The eldest, who had
been educated for the Church first came to Canada in the hope of getting
some professorship in the college, or of opening a classical school. He
was a handsome, gentlemanly, well-educated young man, but constitutionally
indolent--a natural defect which seemed common to all the males of the
family, and which was sufficiently indicated by their soft, silky, fair
hair and milky complexion. R____ had the good sense to perceive that
Canada was not the country for him. He spent a week under our roof, and we
were much pleased with his elegant tastes and pursuits; but my husband
strongly advised him to try and get a situation as a tutor in some family
at home. This he afterwards obtained. He became tutor and travelling
companion to the young Lord M____; and has since got an excellent living.
John, who had followed his brother to Canada without the means of
transporting himself back again, was forced to remain, and was working
with Mr. S____ for his board. He proposed to Moodie working his farm upon
shares; and as we were unable to hire a man, Moodie gladly closed with his
offer; and, during the time he remained with us, we had every reason to be
pleased with the arrangement. It was always a humiliating feeling to our
proud minds, that hirelings should witness our dreadful struggles with
poverty, and the strange shifts we were forced to make in order to obtain
even food. But John E____ had known and experienced all that we had
suffered, in his own person, and was willing to share our home with all
its privations. Warm-hearted, sincere, and truly affectionate--a gentleman
in word, thought, and deed--we found his society and cheerful help a great
comfort. Our odd meals became a subject of merriment, and the peppermint
and sage tea drank with a better flavour when we had one who sympathized
in all our trials, and shared all our toils, to partake of it with us.
The whole family soon became attached to our young friend, and after
the work of the day was over, greatly we enjoyed an hour's fishing on
the lake. John E____ said that we had no right to murmur, as long as we
had health, a happy home, and plenty of fresh fish, milk, and potatoes.
Early in May, we received an old Irishwoman into our service, who for four
years proved a most faithful and industrious creature. And what with John
E____ to assist my husband on the farm, and old Jenny to help me to nurse
the children, and manage the house, our affairs, if they were no better in
a pecuniary point of view, at least presented a more pleasing aspect at
home. We were always cheerful, and sometimes contented and even happy.
How great was the contrast between the character of our new inmate and
that of Mr. Malcolm! The sufferings of the past year had been greatly
increased by the intolerable nuisance of his company, while many
additional debts had been contracted in order to obtain luxuries for him
which we never dreamed of purchasing for ourselves. Instead of increasing
my domestic toils, John did all in his power to lessen them; and it always
grieved him to see me iron a shirt, or wash the least article of clothing
for him. "You have too much to do already; I cannot bear to give you the
least additional work," he would say. And he generally expressed the
greatest satisfaction at my method of managing the house, and preparing
our simple fare. The little ones he treated with the most affectionate
kindness, and gathered the whole flock about his knees the moment he came
in to his meals.
On a wet day, when no work could be done abroad, Moodie took up his flute,
or read aloud to us, while John and I sat down to work. The young
emigrant, early cast upon the world and his own resources, was an
excellent hand at the needle. He would make or mend a shirt with the
greatest precision and neatness, and cut out and manufacture his canvas
trowsers and loose summer-coats with as much adroitness as the most
experienced tailor; darn his socks, and mend his boots and shoes, and
often volunteered to assist me in knitting the coarse yarn of the country
into socks for the children, while he made them moccasins from the dressed
deer-skins that we obtained from the Indians. Scrupulously neat and clean
in his person, the only thing which seemed to ruffle his calm temper was
the dirty work of logging; he hated to come in from the field with his
person and clothes begrimed with charcoal and smoke. Old Jenny used to
laugh at him for not being able to eat his meals without first washing his
hands and face.
"Och! my dear heart, yer too particular intirely; we've no time in the
woods to be clane." She would say to him, in answer to his request for
soap and a towel, "An' is it soap yer a wantin'? I tell yer that that same
is not to the fore; bating the throuble of making, it's little soap that
the misthress can get to wash the clothes for us and the childher, widout
yer wastin' it in makin' yer purty skin as white as a leddy's. Do,
darlint, go down, to the lake and wash there; that basin is big enough,
any how." And John would laugh, and go down to the lake to wash, in order
to appease the wrath of the old woman. John had a great dislike to cats,
and even regarded with an evil eye our old pet cat, Peppermint, who had
taken a great fancy to share his bed and board.
"If I tolerate our own cat," he would say, "I will not put up with such a
nuisance as your friend Emilia sends us in the shape of her ugly Tom. Why,
where in the world do you think I found that beast sleeping last night?"
I expressed my ignorance.
"In our potato-pot. Now, you will agree with me that potatoes dressed with
cat's hair is not a very nice dish. The next time I catch Master Tom in
the potato-pot, I will kill him."
"John, you are not in earnest. Mrs. ____ would never forgive any injury
done to Tom, who is a great favourite."
"Let her keep him at home, then. Think of the brute coming a mile through
the woods to steal from us all he can find, and then sleeping off the
effects of his depredations in the potato-pot."
I could not help laughing, but I begged John by no means to annoy Emilia
by hurting her cat.
The next day, while sitting in the parlour at work, I heard a dreadful
squall, and rushed to the rescue. John was standing, with a flushed cheek,
grasping a large stick in his hand, and Tom was lying dead at his feet.
"Oh, the poor cat!".
"Yes, I have killed him; but I am sorry for it now. What will Mrs. ____
"She must not know it. I have told you the story of the pig that Jacob
killed. You had better bury it with the pig."
John was really sorry for having yielded, in a fit of passion, to do
so cruel a thing; yet a few days after he got into a fresh scrape with
Mrs. ____'s animals.
The hens were laying, up at the barn. John was very fond of fresh eggs,
but some strange dog came daily and sucked the eggs. John had vowed to
kill the first dog he found in the act Mr. ____ had a very fine bull-dog,
which he valued very highly; but with Emilia, Chowder was an especial
favourite. Bitterly had she bemoaned the fate of Tom, and many were the
inquiries she made of us as to his sudden disappearance.
One afternoon John ran into the room. "My dear Mrs. Moodie, what is
Mrs. ____'s dog like?"
"A large bull-dog, brindled black and white."
"There, by Jove, I've shot him!"
"John, John! you mean me to quarrel in earnest with my friend. How could
you do it?"
"Why, how the deuce should I know her dog from another? I caught the big
thief in the very act of devouring the eggs from under your sitting hen,
and I shot him dead without another thought. But I will bury him, and she
will never find it out a bit more than she did who killed the cat."
Some time after this, Emilia returned from a visit at P____. The first
thing she told me was the loss of the dog. She was so vexed at it, she had
had him advertised, offering a reward for his recovery. I, of course, was
called upon to sympathize with her, which I did with a very bad grace. "I
did not like the beast," I said; "he was cross and fierce, and I was
afraid to go up to her house while he was there."
"Yes; but to lose him so. It is so provoking; and him such a valuable
animal. I could not tell how deeply she felt the loss. She would give four
dollars to find out who had stolen him."
How near she came to making the grand discovery the sequel will show.
Instead of burying him with the murdered pig and cat, John had scratched a
shallow grave in the garden, and concealed the dead brute.
After tea, Emilia requested to look at the garden; and I, perfectly
unconscious that it contained the remains of the murdered Chowder, led the
way. Mrs. ____, whilst gathering a handful of fine green peas, suddenly
stooped, and looking earnestly at the ground, called to me.
"Come here, Susanna, and tell me what has been buried here. It looks like
the tail of a dog."
She might have added, "of my dog." Murder, it seems, will out. By some
strange chance, the grave that covered the mortal remains of Chowder had
been disturbed, and the black tail of the dog was sticking out.
"What can it be?" said I, with an air of perfect innocence. "Shall I call
Jenny, and dig it up?"
"Oh, no, my dear; it has a shocking smell, but it does look very much like
"Impossible! How could it come among my peas?"
"True. Besides, I saw Chowder, with my own eyes yesterday, following a
team; and George C____ hopes to recover him for me."
"Indeed! I am glad to hear it. How these mosquitoes sting. Shall we go
back to the house?"
While we returned to the house, John, who had overheard the whole
conversation, hastily disinterred the body of Chowder, and placed him in
the same mysterious grave with Tom and the pig. Moodie and his friend
finished logging-up the eight acres which the former had cleared the
previous winter; besides putting in a crop of peas and potatoes, and an
acre of Indian corn, reserving the fallow for fall wheat; while we had the
promise of a splendid crop of hay off the sixteen acres that had been
cleared in 1834. We were all in high spirits, and every thing promised
fair, until a very trifling circumstance again occasioned us much anxiety
and trouble, and was the cause of our losing most of our crop.
Moodie was asked to attend a bee, which was called to construct a corduroy
bridge over a very bad piece of road. He and J. E____ were obliged to go
that morning with wheat to the mill, but Moodie lent his yoke of oxen for
The driver selected for them at the bee was the brutal M____y, a savage
Irishman, noted for his ill-treatment of cattle, especially if the animals
did not belong to him. He gave one of the oxen such a severe blow over the
loins with a handspike that the creature came home perfectly disabled,
just as we wanted his services in the hay-field and harvest.
Moodie had no money to purchase, or even to hire, a mate for the other ox;
but he and John hoped that by careful attendance upon the injured animal
he might be restored to health in a few days. They conveyed him to a
deserted clearing, a short distance from the farm, where he would be safe
from injury from the rest of the cattle; and early every morning we went
in the canoe to carry poor Duke a warm mash, and to watch the progress of
Ah, ye who revel in this world's wealth, how little can you realize the
importance which we, in our poverty, attached to the life of this valuable
animal! Yes, it even became the subject of prayer, for the bread for
ourselves and our little ones depended greatly upon his recovery. We were
doomed to disappointment. After nursing him with the greatest attention
and care for some weeks, the animal grew daily worse, and suffered such
intense agony, as he lay groaning upon the ground, unable to rise, that
John shot him to put him out of pain.
Here, then, were we left without oxen to draw in our hay, or secure our
other crops. A neighbour, who had an odd ox, kindly lent us the use of
him, when he was not employed on his own farm; and John and Moodie gave
their own work for the occasional loan of a yoke of oxen for-a-day. But
with all these drawbacks, and in spite of the assistance of old Jenny
and myself in the field, a great deal of the produce was damaged before it
could be secured. The whole summer we had to labour under this
disadvantage. Our neighbours were all too busy to give us any help, and
their own teams were employed in saving their crops. Fortunately, the few
acres of wheat we had to reap were close to the barn, and we carried the
sheaves thither by hand; old Jenny proving an invaluable help, both in the
harvest and hay field.
Still, with all these misfortunes, Providence watched over us in a signal
manner. We were never left entirely without food. Like the widow's cruise
of oil, our means, though small, were never suffered to cease entirely. We
had been for some days without meat, when Moodie came running in for his
gun. A great she-bear was in the wheat-field at the edge of the wood, very
busily employed in helping to harvest the crop. There was but one bullet,
and a charge or two of buck-shot, in the house; but Moodie started to the
wood with the single bullet in his gun, followed by a little terrier dog
that belonged to John E____. Old Jenny was busy at the wash-tub, but the
moment she saw her master running up the clearing, and knew the cause, she
left her work, and snatching up the carving-knife, ran after him, that in
case the bear should have the best of the fight, she would be there to
help "the masther." Finding her shoes incommode her, she flung them off,
in order to run faster. A few minutes after, came the report of the gun,
and I heard Moodie halloo to E____, who was cutting stakes for a fence in
the wood. I hardly thought it possible that he could have killed the bear,
but I ran to the door to listen. The children were all excitement, which
the sight of the black monster, borne down the clearing upon two poles,
increased to the wildest demonstrations of joy. Moodie and John were
carrying the prize, and old Jenny, brandishing her carving-knife, followed
in the rear.
The rest of the evening was spent in skinning and cutting up and salting
the ugly creature, whose flesh filled a barrel with excellent meat, in
flavour resembling beef, while the short grain and juicy nature of the
flesh gave to it the tenderness of mutton. This was quite a Godsend, and
lasted us until we were able to kill two large, fat hogs, in the fall.
A few nights after, Moodie and I encountered the mate of Mrs. Bruin, while
returning from a visit to Emilia, in the very depth of the wood.
"We had been invited to meet our friend's father and mother, who had come
up on a short visit to the woods; and the evening passed away so
pleasantly that it was near midnight before the little party of friends
separated. The moon was down. The wood, through which we had to return,
was very dark; the ground being low and swampy, and the trees thick and
tall. There was, in particular, one very ugly spot, where a small creek
crossed the road. This creek could only be passed by foot-passengers
scrambling over a fallen tree, which, in a dark night, was not very easy
to find. I begged a torch of Mr. M____; but no torch could be found.
Emilia laughed at my fears; still, knowing what a coward I was in the bush
of a night, she found up about an inch of candle, which was all that
remained from the evening's entertainment. This she put into an old
"It will not last you long; but it will carry you over the creek."
This was something gained, and off we set. It was so dark in the bush,
that our dim candle looked like a solitary red spark in the intense
surrounding darkness, and scarcely served to show us the path. We went
chatting along, talking over the news of the evening, Hector running on
before us, when I saw a pair of eyes glare upon us from the edge of the
swamp, with the green, bright light emitted by the eyes of a cat.
"Did you see those terrible eyes, Moodie?" and I clung, trembling, to his
"What eyes?" said he, feigning ignorance. "It's too dark to see any thing.
The light is nearly gone, and, if you don't quicken your pace, and cross
the tree before it goes out, you will, perhaps, get your feet wet by
falling into the creek."
"Good heavens! I saw them again; and do just look at the dog."
Hector stopped suddenly, and, stretching himself along the ground, his
nose resting between his fore-paws, began to whine and tremble. Presently
he ran back to us, and crept under our feet. The cracking of branches, and
the heavy tread of some large animal, sounded close beside us.
Moodie turned the open lantern in the direction from whence the sounds
came, and shouted as loud as he could, at the same time endeavouring to
urge forward the fear-stricken dog, whose cowardice was only equalled by
Just at that critical moment the wick of the candle flickered a moment in
the socket, and expired. We were left, in perfect darkness, alone with the
bear--for such we supposed the animal to be.
My heart beat audibly; a cold perspiration was streaming down my face, but
I neither shrieked nor attempted to run. I don't know how Moodie got me
over the creek. One of my feet slipped into the water, but, expecting, as
I did every moment, to be devoured by master Bruin, that was a thing of no
consequence. My husband was laughing at my fears, and every now and then
he turned towards our companion, who continued following us at no great
distance, and gave him an encouraging shout. Glad enough was I when I saw
the gleam of the light from our little cabin window shine out among the
trees; and, the moment I got within the clearing, I ran, without stopping
until I was safely within the house. John was sitting up for us, nursing
Donald. He listened with great interest to our adventure with the bear,
and thought that Bruin was very good to let us escape without one
"Perhaps it would have been otherwise had he known, Moodie, that you had
not only killed his good lady, but were dining sumptuously off her carcass
The bear was determined to have something in return for the loss of his
wife. Several nights after this, our slumbers were disturbed, about
midnight, by an awful yell, and old Jenny shook violently at our chamber
"Masther, masther, dear!--Get up wid you this moment, or the bear will
desthroy the cattle intirely."
Half asleep, Moodie sprang from his bed, seized his gun, and ran out. I
threw my large cloak round me, struck a light, and followed him to the
door. The moment the latter was unclosed, some calves that we were rearing
rushed into the kitchen, closely followed by the larger beasts, who came
bellowing headlong down the hill, pursued by the bear.
It was a laughable scene, as shown by that paltry tallow-candle. Moodie,
in his night-shirt, taking aim at something in the darkness, surrounded by
the terrified animals; old Jenny, with a large knife in her hand, holding
on to the white skirts of her master's garment, making outcry loud enough
to frighten away all the wild beasts in the bush--herself almost in a
state of nudity.
"Och, maisther, dear! don't timpt the ill-conditioned crathur wid charging
too near; think of the wife and the childher. Let me come at the rampaging
baste, an' I'll stick the knife into the heart of him."
Moodie fired. The bear retreated up the clearing, with a low growl. Moodie
and Jenny pursued him some way, but it was too dark to discern any object
at a distance. I, for my part, stood at the open door, laughing until the
tears ran down my cheeks, at the glaring eyes of the oxen, their ears
erect, and their tails carried gracefully on a level with their backs, as
they stared at me and the light, in blank astonishment. The noise of the
gun had just roused John E____ from his slumbers. He was no less amused
than myself, until he saw that a fine yearling heifer was bleeding, and
found, upon examination, that the poor animal, having been in the claws of
the bear, was dangerously, if not mortally hurt.
"I hope," he cried, "that the brute has not touched my foal!" I pointed to
the black face of the filly peeping over the back of an elderly cow.
"You see, John, that Bruin preferred veal; there's your 'horsey,' as
Dunbar calls her, safe, and laughing at you."
Moodie and Jenny now returned from the pursuit of the bear. E____ fastened
all the cattle into the back yard, close to the house. By daylight he and
Moodie had started in chase of Bruin, whom they tracked by his blood some
way into the bush; but here he entirely escaped their search.
THE long-protracted harvest was at length brought to a close. Moodie had
procured another ox from Dummer, by giving a note at six months' date for
the payment; and he and John E--- were in the middle of sowing their fall
crop of wheat, when the latter received a letter from the old country
which conveyed to him intelligence of the death of his mother, and of a
legacy of two hundred pounds. It was necessary for him to return to claim
the property, and though we felt his loss severely, we could not, without
great selfishness, urge him to stay. John had formed an attachment to a
young lady in the country, who, like himself, possessed no property. Their
engagement, which had existed several years, had been dropped, from its
utter hopelessness, by mutual consent. Still the young people continued to
love each other, and to look forward to better days, when their prospects
might improve so far that E--- would be able to purchase a bush farm, and
raise a house, however lowly, to shelter his Mary. He, like our friend
Malcolm, had taken a fancy to buy a part of our block of land, which he
could cultivate in partnership with Moodie, without being obliged to
hire, when the same barn, cattle, and implements would serve for both.
Anxious to free himself from the thraldom of debts which pressed him sore,
Moodie offered to part with two hundred acres at less than they cost us,
and the bargain was to be considered as concluded directly the money was
It was a sorrowful day when our young friend left us; he had been a
constant inmate in the house for nice months, and not one unpleasant word
had ever passed between us. He had rendered our sojourn in the woods more
tolerable by his society, and sweetened our bitter lot by his friendship
and sympathy. We both regarded him as a brother, and parted with him with
sincere regret. As to old Jenny, she lifted up her voice and wept,
consigning him to the care and protection of all the saints in the Irish
calendar. For several days after John left us, a deep gloom pervaded the
house. Our daily toil was performed with less cheerfulness and alacrity;
we missed him at the evening board, and at the evening fire; and the
children asked each day, with increasing earnestness, when dear E____
Moodie continued sowing his fall wheat. The task was nearly completed, and
the chill October days were fast verging upon winter, when towards the
evening of one of them he contrived--I know not how--to crawl down from
the field at the head of the hill, faint and pale, and in great pain. He
had broken the small bone of his leg. In dragging, among the stumps, the
heavy machine (which is made in the form of the letter V, and is supplied
with large iron teeth) had hitched upon a stump, and being swung off again
by the motion of the oxen, had come with great force against his leg. At
first he was struck down, and for some time was unable to rise; but at
length he contrived to unyoke the team, and crawled partly on his hands
and knees down the clearing.
What a sad, melancholy evening that was! Fortune seemed never tired of
playing us some ugly trick. The hope which had so long sustained me seemed
about to desert me altogether; when I saw him on whom we all depended for
subsistence, and whose kindly voice ever cheered us under the pressure of
calamity, smitten down hopeless, all my courage and faith in the goodness
of the Divine Father seemed to forsake me, and I wept long and bitterly.
The next morning I went in search of a messenger to send to Peterborough
for the doctor; but though I found and sent the messenger, the doctor
never came. Perhaps he did not like to incur the expense of a fatiguing
journey with small chance of obtaining a sufficient remuneration.
Our dear sufferer contrived, with assistance, to bandage his leg; and
after the first week of rest had expired, he amused himself with making
a pair of crutches, and in manufacturing Indian paddles for the canoe,
axe-handles, and yokes for the oxen. It was wonderful with what serenity
he bore this unexpected affliction. Buried in the obscurity of those
woods, we knew nothing, heard nothing of the political state of the
country, and were little aware of the revolution which was about to work a
great change for us and for Canada.
The weather continued remarkably mild. The first great snow, which for
years had ordinarily fallen between the 10th and 15th of November, still
kept off. November passed on, and as all our firewood had to be chopped
by old Jenny during the lameness of my husband, I was truly grateful to
God for the continued mildness of the weather. On the 4th of December--
that great day of the outbreak--Moodie was determined to take advantage of
the open state of the lake to carry a large grist up to Y____'s mill. I
urged upon him the danger of a man attempting to manage a canoe in rapid
water, who was unable to stand without crutches; but Moodie saw that the
children would need bread, and he was anxious to make the experiment.
Finding that I could not induce him to give up the journey, I determined
to go with him. Old Wittals, who happened to come down that morning,
assisted in placing the bags of wheat in the little vessel, and helped to
place Moodie at the stern. With a sad, foreboding spirit I assisted to
push off from the shore. The air was raw and cold, but our sail was not
without its pleasure. The lake was very full from the heavy rains, and the
canoe bounded over the waters with a free, springy motion. A slight frost
had hung every little bush and spray along the shores with sparkling
crystals. The red pigeon-berries, shining through their coating of ice,
looked like cornelian beads set in silver, and strung from bush to bush.
We found the rapids at the entrance of Bessikakoon Lake very hard to stem,
and were so often carried back by the force of the water that, cold as the
air was, the great exertion which Moodie had to make use of to obtain the
desired object, brought the perspiration out in big drops upon his
forehead. His long confinement to the house and low diet had rendered him
The old miller received us in the most hearty and hospitable manner; and
complimented me upon my courage in venturing upon the water in such cold,
rough weather. Norah was married, but the kind Betty provided us an
excellent dinner, while we waited for the grist to be ground.
It was near four o'clock when we started on our return. If there had been
danger in going up the stream, there was more in coming down. The wind had
changed, the air was frosty, keen, and biting and Moodie's paddle came up
from every dip into the water, loaded with ice. For my part, I had only to
sit still at the bottom of the canoe, as we floated rapidly down with wind
and tide. At the landing we were met by old Jenny, who had a long story to
tell us, of which we could make neither head nor tail--how some gentleman
had called during our absence, and left a large paper, all about the Queen
and the Yankees; that there was war between Canada and the States; that
Toronto had been burnt, and the governor killed, and I know no what ether
strange and monstrous statements. After much fatigue, Moodie climbed the
hill, and we were once more safe by our own, fireside. Here we found the
elucidation of Jenny's marvellous tales: a copy of the Queen's
proclamation, calling upon all loyal gentlemen to join in putting down
the unnatural rebellion.
A letter from my sister explained the nature of the outbreak, and the
astonishment with which the news had been received by all the settlers in
the bush. My brother and my sister's husband had already gone off to join
some of the numerous bands of gentlemen who were collecting from all
quarters to march to the aid of Toronto, which it was said was besieged by
the rebel force. She advised me not to suffer Moodie to leave home in his
present weak state; but the spirit of my husband was aroused, he instantly
obeyed what he considered the imperative call of duty, and told me to
prepare him a few necessaries, that he might be ready to start early in
the morning. Little sleep visited our eyes that night. We talked over tie
strange news for hours; our coming separation, and the probability that if
things were as bad as they appeared to be, we might never meet again. Our
affairs were in such a desperate condition that Moodie anticipated that
any change must be for the better; it was impossible for them to be worse.
But the poor, anxious wife thought only of a parting which to her put a
finishing stroke to all her misfortunes.
Before the cold, snowy morning broke, we were all stirring. The children,
who had learned that their father was preparing to leave them, were crying
and clinging round his knees. His heart was too deeply affected to eat;
the meal passed over in silence, and he rose to go. I put on my hat and
shawl to accompany him through the wood as far as my sister Mrs. T____'s.
The day was like our destiny, cold, dark, and lowering. I gave the dear
invalid his crutches, and we commenced our sorrowful walk. Then old
Jenny's lamentations burst forth, as, flinging her arms round my husband's
neck, she kissed and blessed him after the fashion of her country.
"Och hone! oeh hone!" she cried, wringing her hands, "masther dear, why
will jou lave the wife and the childher? The poor crathur is breakin' her
heart intirely at partin' wid you. Shore an' the war is nothin' to you,
that you must be goin' into danger; an' you wid a broken leg. Och hone!
Och hone! come back to your home--you will be kilt, and thin what will
become of the wife and the wee bairns?"
Her cries and lamentations followed us into the wood. At my sister's,
Moodie and I parted; and with a heavy heart I retraced my steps through
the wood. For once, I forgot all my fears. I never felt the cold. Sad
tears were flowing over my cheeks; when I entered the house, hope seemed
to have deserted me, and for upwards of an hour I lay upon the, bed and
wept. Poor Jenny did her best to comfort me, but all joy had vanished with
him who was my light of life. Left in the most absolute uncertainty as to
the real state of public affairs, I could only conjecture what might be
the result of this sudden outbreak. Several poor settlers called at the
house during the day, on their way down to Peterborough; but they brought
with them the most exaggerated accounts. There had been a battle, they
said, with the rebels, and the loyalists had been defeated; Toronto was
besieged by sixty thousand men, and all the men in the backwoods were
ordered to march instantly to the relief of the city.
In the evening, I received a note from Emilia, who was at Peterborough, in
which she informed me that my husband had borrowed a horse of Mr. S____,
and had joined a large party of two hundred volunteers, who had left that
morning for Toronto; that there had been a battle with the insurgents;
that Colonel Moodie had been killed, and the rebels had retreated; and
that she hoped my husband would return in a few days. The honest
backwoodsmen, perfectly ignorant of the abuses that had led to the present
position of things, regarded the rebels as a set of monsters, for whom no
punishment was too severe, and obeyed the call to arms with enthusiasm.
The leader of the insurgents must have been astonished at the rapidity
with which a large force was collected, as if by magic, to repel his
designs. A great number of these volunteers were half-pay officers, many
of whom had fought in the continental wars with the armies of Napoleon,
and would have been found a host in themselves.
In a week, Moodie returned. So many volunteers had poured into Toronto
that the number of friends was likely to prove as disastrous as that of
enemies, on account of the want of supplies to maintain them all. The
companies from the back townships had been remanded, and I received with
delight my own again. But this reunion did not last long. Several
regiments of militia were formed to defend the colony, and to my husband
was given the rank of captain in one of those then stationed in Toronto.
On the 20th of January, 1838, he bade us a long adieu. I was left with old
Jenny and the children to take care of the farm. It was a sad, dull time.
I could bear up against all trials with him to comfort and cheer me, but
his long-continued absence cast a gloom upon my spirit not easily to be
shaken off. Still his very appointment to this situation was a signal act
of mercy. From his full pay, he was enabled to liquidate many pressing
debts, and to send home from time to time sums of money to procure
necessaries for me and the little ones. These remittances were greatly
wanted; but I demurred before laying them out for comforts which we had
been so long used to dispense with. It seemed almost criminal to purchase
any article of luxury, such as tea and sugar, while a debt remained
The Y____'s were very pressing for the thirty pounds that we owed them for
the clearing; but they had such a firm reliance upon the honour of my
husband, that, poor and pressed for money as they were, they never sued
us. I thought it would be a pleasing surprise to Moodie, if, with the sums
of money which I occasionally received from him, I could diminish this
debt, which had always given him the greatest uneasiness; and, my
resolution once formed, I would not allow any temptation to shake it. The
money was always transmitted to Dummer. I only reserved the sum of two
dollars a month, to pay a little lad to chop wood for us. After a time, I
began to think the Y____'s were gifted with second-sight; for I never
received a money-letter, but the very next day I was sure to see some of
Just at this period I received a letter from a gentleman, requesting me to
write for a magazine (the Literary Garland), just started in Montreal,
with promise to remunerate me for my labours. Such an application was like
a gleam of light springing up in the darkness; it seemed to promise the
dawning of a brighter day. I had never been able to turn my thoughts
towards literature during my sojourn in the bush. When the body is
fatigued with labour, unwonted and beyond its strength, the mind is in no
condition for mental occupation.
The year before, I had been requested by an American author, of great
merit, to contribute to the North American Review, published for several
years in Philadelphia; and he promised to remunerate me in proportion to
the success of the work. I had contrived to write several articles after
the children were asleep, though the expense even of the stationery and
the postage of the manuscripts was severely felt by one so destitute of
means; but the hope of being of the least service to those dear to me
cheered me to the task. I never realized anything from that source; but I
believe it was not the fault of the editor. Several other American editors
had written to me to furnish them with articles; but I was unable to pay
the postage of heavy packets to the States, and they could not reach their
destination without being paid to the frontier. Thus, all chance of making
any thing in that way had been abandoned. I wrote to Mr. L____, and
frankly informed him how I was situated. In the most liberal manner, he
offered to pay the postage on all manuscripts to his office, and left me
to name my own terms of remuneration. This opened up a new era in my
existence; and for many years I have found in this generous man, to whom I
am still personally unknown, a steady friend. I actually shed tears of joy
over the first twenty-dollar bill I received from Montreal. It was my own;
I had earned it with my own hand; and it seemed to my delighted fancy to
form the nucleus out of which a future independence for my family might
arise. I no longer retired to bed when the labours of the day were over. I
sat up, and wrote by the light of a strange sort of candles, that Jenny
called "sluts," and which the old woman manufactured out of pieces of old
rags, twisted together and dipped in pork lard, and stuck in a bottle.
They did not give a bad light, but it took a great many of them to last me
for a few hours.
The faithful old creature regarded my writings with a jealous eye. "An',
shure, it's killin' yerself that you are intirely. You were thin enough
before you took to the pen; scribblin' an' scrabblin' when you should be
in bed an' asleep. What good will it be to the childhren, dear heart! if
you die afore your time, by wastin' your strength afther that fashion?"
Jenny never could conceive the use of books. "Shure, we can live and die
widout them. It's only a waste of time botherin' your brains wid the like
of them; but, thank goodness! the lard will soon be all done, an' thin we
shall hear you spakin' again, instead of sittin' there doubled up all
night, desthroying your eyes wid porin' over the dirthy writin'."
As the sugar-making season drew near, Jenny conceived the bold thought of
making a good lump of sugar, that the "childher" might have something to
"ate" with their bread during the summer. We had no sugar-kettle, but a
neighbour promised to lend us his, and to give us twenty-eight troughs, on
condition that we gave him half the sugar we made. These terms were rather
hard, but Jenny was so anxious to fulfil the darling object that we
consented. Little Sol and the old woman made some fifty troughs more, the
trees were duly tapped, a shanty in the bush was erected of small logs and
brush and covered in at the top with straw; and the old woman and Solomon,
the hired boy, commenced operations.
The very first day, a terrible accident happened to us; a large log fell
upon the sugar-kettle--the borrowed sugar-kettle--and cracked it, spilling
all the sap, and rendering the vessel, which had cost four dollars,
useless. We were all in dismay. Just at that time Old Wittals happened to
pass, on his way to Peterborough. He very good-naturedly offered to get
the kettle repaired for us; which, he said, could be easily done by a
rivet and an iron hoop. But where was the money to come from! I thought
awhile. Katie had a magnificent coral and bells, the gift of her
godfather; I asked the dear child if she would give it to buy another
kettle for Mr. T____. She said, "I would give ten times as much to help
I wrote a little note to Emilia, who was still at her father's; and
Mr. W____, the storekeeper, sent us a fine sugar-kettle back by Wittals,
and also the other mended, in exchange for the useless piece of finery.
We had now two kettles at work, to the joy of Jenny, who declared that
it was a lucky fairy who had broken the old kettle.
While Jenny was engaged in boiling and gathering the sap in the bush, I
sugared off the syrup in the house; an operation watched by the children
with intense interest. After standing all day over the hot stove-fire, it
was quite a refreshment to breathe the pure air at night. Every evening I
ran up to see Jenny in the bush, singing and boiling down the sap in the
front of her little shanty. The old woman was in her element, and afraid
of nothing under the stars; she slept beside her kettles at night, and
snapped her fingers at the idea of the least danger. She was sometimes
rather despotic in her treatment of her attendant, Sol. One morning, in
particular, she bestowed upon the lad a severe cuffing. I ran up the
clearing to the rescue, when my ears were assailed by the "boo-hooing" of
"What has happened? Why do you beat the child, Jenny?"
"It's jist, thin, I that will bate him--the unlucky omad-hawn! Has he not
spilt and spiled two buckets of syrup, that I have been the live-long
night bilin'. Sorra wid him; I'd like to strip the skin off him, I would!
Musha! but'tis enough to vex a saint."
"Ah, Jenny!" blubbered the poor boy, "but you have no mercy. You forget
that I have but one eye, and that I could not see the root which caught my
foot and threw me down."
"Faix! an' 'tis a pity that you have the one eye, when you don't know how
to make a betther use of it," muttered the angry dame, as she picked up
the pails, and, pushing him on before her, beat a retreat into the bush.
I was heartily sick of the sugar-making, long before the season was over;
however, we were well paid for our trouble. Besides one hundred and twelve
pounds of fine soft sugar, as good as Muscovado, we had six gallons of
molasses, and a keg containing six gallons of excellent vinegar.
Fifty pounds went to Mr. T____, for the use of his kettle: and the rest
(with the exception of a cake for Emilia, which I had drained in a wet
flannel bag until it was almost as white as loaf sugar) we kept for our
own use. There was no lack, this year, of nice preserves and pickled
cucumbers, dainties found in every native Canadian establishment.
Besides gaining a little money with my pen, I practised a method of
painting birds and butterflies upon the white, velvety surface of the
large fungi that grow plentifully upon the bark of the sugar-maple. These
had an attractive appearance; and my brother, who was a captain in one of
the provisional regiments, sold a great many of them among the officers,
without saying by whom they were painted. One rich lady in Peterborough,
long since dead, ordered two dozen to send as curiosities to England.
These, at one shilling each, enabled me to buy shoes for the children,
who, during our bad times, had been forced to dispense with these
necessary coverings. How often, during the winter season, have I wept
over their little chapped feet, literally washing them with my tears!
But these days were to end; Providence was doing great things for us; and
Hope raised at last her drooping head to regard with a brighter glance the
Slowly the winter rolled away; but he to whom every thought turned was
still distant from his humble home. The receipt of an occasional letter
from him was my only solace during his long absence, and we were still too
poor to indulge often in this luxury. My poor Katie was as anxious as her
mother to hear from her father; and when I did get the long looked-for
prize, she would kneel down before me, her little elbows resting on my
knees, her head thrown back, and the tears trickling down her innocent
cheeks, eagerly drinking in every word.
The spring brought us plenty of work; we had potatoes and corn to plant,
and the garden to cultivate. By lending my oxen for two days' work, I got
Wittals, who had no oxen, to drag me in a few acres of oats, and to
prepare the land for potatoes and corn. The former I dropped into the
earth, while Jenny covered them up with the hoe.
Our garden was well dug and plentifully manured, the old woman bringing
the manure, which had lain for several years at the barn door, down to the
plot, in a large Indian basket placed upon a hand-sleigh. We had soon
every sort of vegetable sown, with plenty of melons and cucumbers, and all
our beds promised a good return. There were large flights of ducks upon
the lake every night and morning; but though we had guns, we did not know
how to use them. However, I thought of a plan, which I flattered myself
might prove successful; I got Sol to plant two stakes in the shallow
water, near the rice beds, and to these I attached a slender rope, made
by braiding long strips of the inner bark of the bass-wood together; to
these again I fastened, at regular intervals, about a quarter of a yard of
whip-cord, headed by a strong perch-hook. These hooks I baited with fish
offal, leaving them to float just under the water. Early next morning, I
saw a fine black duck fluttering upon the line. The boy ran down with the
paddles, but before he could reach the spot, the captive got away by
carrying the hook and line with him. At the next stake he found upon the
hooks a large eel and a catfish.
I had never before seen one of those whiskered, toad-like natives of the
Canadian waters (so common to the Bay of Quinte, where they grow to a
great size), that I was really terrified at the sight of the hideous
beast, and told Sol to throw it away. In this I was very foolish, for
they are esteemed good eating in many parts of Canada; but to me, the
sight of the reptile-like thing is enough--it is uglier, and for more
disgusting-looking than a toad.
When the trees came into leaf, and the meadows were green, and flushed
with flowers, the poor children used to talk constantly to me of their
father's return; their innocent prattle made me very sad. Every evening we
walked into the wood, along the path that he must come whenever he did
return home, to meet him; and though it was a vain hope, and the walk was
taken just to amuse the little ones, I used to be silly enough to feel
deeply disappointed when we returned alone. Donald, who was a mere baby
when his father left us, could just begin to put words together. "Who is
papa?" "When will he come?" "Will he come by the road?" "Will he come in a
canoe?" The little creature's curiosity to see this unknown father was
really amusing; and oh! how I longed to present the little fellow, with
his rosy cheeks and curling hair, to his father; he was so fair, so
altogether charming in my eyes. Emilia had called him Cedric the Saxon;
and he well suited the name with his frank, honest disposition, and large,
loving blue eyes.
June had commenced; the weather was very warm, and Mr. T____ had sent for
the loan of old Jenny to help him for a day with his potatoes. I had just
prepared dinner when the old woman came shrieking like a mad thing down
the clearing, and waving her hands towards me. I could not imagine what
"Ninny's mad!" whispered Dunbar; "she's the old girl for making a noise."
"Joy! joy!" bawled out the old woman, now running breathlessly towards us.
"The masther's come--the masther's come!"
"Jist above in the wood. Goodness gracious! I have run to let you know--so
fast--that my heart--is like to--break."
Without stopping to comfort poor Jenny, off started the children and
myself, at the very top of our speed; but I soon found that I could not
run-I was too much agitated. I got to the head of the bush, and sat down
upon a fallen tree. The children sprang forward like wild kids, all but
Donald, who remained with his old nurse. I covered my face with my hands;
my heart, too, was beating audibly: and now that he was come, and was so
near me I scarcely could command strength to meet him. The sound of happy
young voices roused me up; the children were leading him along in triumph;
and he was bending down to them, all smiles, but hot and tired with his
long journey. It was almost worth our separation, that blissful meeting.
In a few minutes he was at home, and the children upon his knees. Katie
stood silently holding his hand, but Addie and Dunbar had a thousand
things to tell him. Donald was frightened at his military dress, but he
peeped at him from behind my gown, until I caught and placed him in his
His leave of absence only extended to a fortnight. It had taken him three
days to come all the way from Lake Erie, where his regiment was stationed,
at Point Abino; and the same time would be consumed in his return. He
could only remain with us eight days. How soon they fled away! How bitter
was the thought of parting with him again! He had brought money to pay the
J____'s. How surprised he was to find their large debt more than half
liquidated. How gently did he chide me for depriving myself and the
children of the little comforts he had designed for us, in order to make
this sacrifice. But never was self-denial more fully rewarded; I felt
happy in having contributed in the least to pay a just debt to kind and
worthy people. You must become poor yourself before you can fully
appreciate the good qualities of the poor--before you can sympathize with
them, and fully recognize them as your brethren in the flesh. Their
benevolence to each other, exercised amidst want and privation, as far
surpasses the munificence of the rich towards them, as the exalted
philanthropy of Christ and his disciples does the Christianity of the
present day. The rich man gives from his abundance; the poor man shares
with a distressed comrade his all.
One short, happy week too soon fled away, and we were once more alone. In
the fall, my husband expected the regiment in which he held his commission
would be reduced, which would again plunge us into the same distressing
poverty. Often of a night I revolved these things in my mind, and
perplexed myself with conjectures as to what in future was to become of
us. Although he had saved all he could from his pay, it was impossible to
pay several hundreds of pounds of debt; and the steamboat stock still
continued a dead letter. To remain much longer in the woods was
impossible, for the returns from the farm scarcely fed us; and but for the
clothing sent us by friends from home, who were not aware of our real
difficulties, we should have been badly off indeed.
I pondered over every plan that thought could devise; at last, I prayed to
the Almighty to direct me as to what would be the best course for us to
pursue. A sweet assurance stole over me, and soothed my spirit, that God
would provide for us, as He had hitherto done--that a great deal of our
distress arose from want of faith. I was just sinking into a calm sleep
when the thought seemed whispered into my soul, "Write to the Governor;
tell him candidly all you hare suffered during sojourn in this country;
and trust to God for the rest."
At first I paid little heed to this suggestion; but it became so
importunate that at last I determined to act upon it as if it were a
message sent from heaven. I rose from my bed, struck a light, sat down,
and wrote a letter to the Lieutenant-Governor, Sir George Arthur, a simple
statement of facts, leaving it to his benevolence to pardon the liberty I
had taken in addressing him.
I asked of him to continue my husband in the militia service, in the same
regiment in which he now held the rank of captain, which, by enabling him
to pay our debts, would rescue us from our present misery. Of the
political character of Sir George Arthur I knew nothing. I addressed him
as a man and a Christian; and I acknowledge, with the deepest and most
heartfelt gratitude, the generous kindness of his conduct towards us.
Before the day dawned, my letter was ready for the post The first secret I
ever had from my husband was the writing of that letter; and, proud and
sensitive as he was, and averse to asking the least favour of the great, I
was dreadfully afraid that the act I had just done would be displeasing to
him; still, I felt resolutely determined to send it. After giving the
children their breakfast, I walked down and read it to my brother-in-law,
who was not only much pleased with its contents, but took it down himself
to the post-office.
Shortly after, I received a letter from my husband, informing me that the
regiment had been reduced, and that he should be home in time to get in
the harvest. Most anxiously I awaited a reply to my application to the
Governor; but no reply came.
The first week in August our dear Moodie came home, and brought with him,
to our no small joy, J. E____, who had just returned from Ireland. E____
had been disappointed about the money, which was subject to litigation;
and, tired of waiting at home until the tedious process of the law should
terminate, he had come back to the woods, and, before night, was
reinstated in his old quarters.
His presence made Jenny all alive; she dared him at once to a trial of
skill with her in the wheat-field, which E____ prudently declined. He did
not expect to stay longer in Canada than the fall, but, whilst he did
stay, he was to consider our house his home.
That harvest was the happiest we ever spent in the bush. We had enough of
the common necessaries of life. A spirit of peace and harmony pervaded our
little dwelling, for the most affectionate attachment existed among its
members. We were not troubled with servants, for the good old Jenny we
regarded as an humble friend, and were freed, by that circumstance, from
many of the cares and vexations of a bush life. Our evening excursions on
the lake were doubly enjoyed after the labours of the day, and night
brought us calm and healthful repose.
The 19th of April came, and our little harvest was all safely housed.
Business called Moodie away for a few days to Cobourg; Jenny had gone to
Dummer, to visit her friends, and J. E____ had taken a grist of the new
wheat, which he and Moodie had threshed the day before, to the mill.
I was consequently left alone with the children, and had a doable portion
of work to do. During their absence it was my lot to witness the most
awful storm I ever beheld, and a vivid recollection of its terrors was
permanently fixed upon my memory.
The weather had been intensely hot during the three preceding days,
although the sun was entirely obscured by a blueish haze, which seemed to
render the unusual heat of the atmosphere more oppressive. Not a breath of
air stirred the vast forest, and the waters of the lake assumed a leaden
hue. After passing a sleepless night, I arose, a little after daybreak,
to superintend my domestic affairs. E____ took his breakfast, and went off
to the mill, hoping that the rain would keep off until after his return.
"It is no joke," he said, "being upon these lakes in a small canoe,
heavily laden, in a storm."
Before the sun rose, the heavens were covered with hard-looking clouds, of
a deep blue and black cast, fading away to white at their edges, and in
form resembling the long, rolling waves of a heavy sea--but with this
difference, that the clouds were perfectly motionless, piled in long
curved lines, one above the other, and so remained until four o'clock in
the afternoon. The appearance of these clouds, as the sun rose above the
horizon, was the most splendid that can be imagined, tinged up to the
zenith with every shade of saffron, gold, rose-colour, scarlet, and
crimson, fading away into the deepest violet. Never did the storm-fiend
shake in the face of day a more gorgeous banner; and, pressed as I was for
time, I stood gazing like one entranced upon the magnificent pageant.
As the day advanced, the same blue haze obscured the sun, which frowned
redly through his misty veil. At ten o'clock the heat was suffocating, and
I extinguished the fire in the cooking-stove, determined to make our meals
upon bread and milk, rather than add to the oppressive heat. The
thermometer in the shade ranged from ninety-six to ninety-eight degrees,
and I gave over my work and retired with the little ones to the coolest
part of the house. The young creatures stretched themselves upon the
floor, unable to jump about or play; the dog lay panting in the shade; the
fowls half buried themselves in the dust, with open beaks and outstretched
wings. All nature seemed to droop beneath the scorching heat.
Unfortunately for me, a gentleman arrived about one o'clock from Kingston,
to transact some business with my husband. He had not tasted food since
six o'clock, and I was obliged to kindle the fire to prepare his dinner.
It was one of the hardest tasks I ever performed; I almost fainted with
the heat, and most inhospitably rejoiced when his dinner was over, and I
saw him depart. Shortly afterwards, my friend Mrs. C____ and her brother
called in, on their way from Peterborough.
"How do you bear the heat?" asked Mrs. C____. "This is one of the hottest
days I ever remember to have experienced in this part of the province. I
am afraid that it will end in a hurricane, or what the Lower Canadians
About four o'clock they rose to go. I urged them to stay onger. "No," said
Mrs. C____, "the sooner we get home the better. I think we can reach it
before the storm breaks."
I took Donald in my arms, and my eldest boy by the hand, and walked with
them to the brow of the hill, thinking that the air would be cooler in the
shade. In this I was mistaken. The clouds over our heads hung so low, and
the heat was so great, that I was soon glad to retrace my steps.
The moment I turned round to face the lake, I was surprised at the change
that had taken place in the appearance of the heavens. The clouds, that
had before lain so motionless, were now in rapid motion, hurrying and
chasing each other round the horizon. It was a strangely awful sight.
Before I felt a breath of the mighty blast that had already burst on the
other side of the lake, branches of trees, leaves, and clouds of dust were
whirled across the lake, whose waters rose in long sharp furrows, fringed
with foam, as if moved in their depths by some unseen but powerful agent.
Panting with terror, I just reached the door of the house as the hurricane
swept up the hill, crushing and overturning every thing in its course.
Spell-bound, I stood at the open door, with clasped hands, unable to
speak, rendered dumb and motionless by the terrible grandeur of the scene;
while little Donald, who could not utter many intelligible words, crept to
my feet, appealing to me for protection, while his rosy cheeks paled even
to marble whiteness. The hurrying clouds gave to the heavens the
appearance of a pointed dome, round which the lightning played in broad
ribbons of fire. The roaring of the thunder, the rushing of the blast, the
impetuous down-pouring of the rain, and the crash of falling trees, were
perfectly deafening; and in the midst of this up-roar of the elements, old
Jenny burst in, drenched with wet and half dead with fear.
"The Lord preserve us!" she cried, "this surely is the day of judgment.
Fifty trees fell across my very path, between this an' the creek. Mrs.
C____ just reached her brother's clearing a few minutes before a great
oak fell on her very path. What thunther!--what lightning! Misthress,
dear!--it's turn'd so dark, I can only jist see yer face."
Glad enough was I of her presence; for to be alone in the heart of the
great forest, in a log hut, on such a night, was not a pleasing prospect.
People gain courage by companionship, and in order to reassure each other,
struggle to conceal their fears.
"And where is Mr. E____?"
"I hope not on the lake. He went early this morning to get the wheat
ground at the mill."
"Och, the crathur! He's surely drowned. What boat could stan' such a
scrimmage as this?"
I had my fears for poor John; but as the chance that he had to wait at the
mill till others were served was more than probable, I tried to still my
apprehensions for his safety. The storm soon passed over, after having
levelled several acres of wood near the house, and smitten down in its
progress two gigantic pines in the clearing, which must have withstood the
force of a thousand winters. Talking over the effects of this whirlwind
with my brother, he kindly sent me the following very graphic description
of a whirlwind which passed through the town of Guelph in the summer of
[Footnote: Written by Mr Strickland, of Douro.]
"In my hunting excursions and rambles through the Upper Canadian forests,
I had frequently met with extensive wind-falls; and observed with some
surprise that the fallen trees lay strewn in a succession of circles, and
evidently appeared to have been twisted off the stumps. I also remarked
that these wind-falls were generally narrow, and had the appearance of a
road slashed through the forest. From observations made at the time, and
since confirmed, I have no doubt that Colonel Reid's theory of storms's a
correct one, viz., that all wind-storms move in a circular direction, and
the nearer the centre the more violent the force of the wind. Having seen
the effects of several similar hurricanes since my residence in Canada
West, I shall proceed to describe one which happened in the township of
Guelph during the early part of the summer of 1829.
"The weather, for the season of the year (May), had been hot and sultry,
with scarcely a breath of wind stirring. I had heard distant thunder from
an early hour in the morning, which, from the eastward, is rather an
unusual occurrence. About 10 A. M., the sky had a most singular, and I
must add a most awful appearance, presenting to the view a vast arch of
rolling blackness, which seemed to gather strength and density as it
approached the zenith. All at once the clouds began to work round in
circles, as if chasing one another through the air. Suddenly the dark arch
of clouds appeared to break up into detached masses, whirling and mixing
through each other in dreadful commotion. The forked lightning was
incessant, accompanied by heavy thunder. In a short time, the clouds
seemed to converge to a point, which approached very near the earth, still
whirling with great rapidity directly under this point; and apparently
from the midst of the woods arose a black column, in the shape of a cone,
which instantly joined itself to the depending cloud. The sight was now
grand and awful in the extreme. Picture, to your imagination a vast column
of smoke, of inky blackness, reaching from earth to heaven, gyrating with
fearful velocity--bright lightnings issuing from the vortex; the roar of
the thunder--the rushing of the blast--the crash of timber--the limbs of
trees, leaves, and rubbish, mingled with clouds of dust, whirling through
the air;--you then have a faint idea of the scene.
"I had ample time for observation, as the hurricane commenced its
devastating course about two miles from the town, through the centre of
which it took its way, passing within fifty yards of where a number of
persons, myself among the rest, were standing, watching its fearful
"As the tornado approached, the trees seemed to fall like a pack of cards
before its irresistible current. After passing through the clearing made
around the village, the force of the wind gradually abated, and in a few
minutes died away entirely.
"As soon as the storm was over, I went to see the damage it had done. From
the point where I first observed the black column to rise from the woods
and join the clouds, the trees were twisted in every direction. A belt of
timber had been levelled to the ground, about two miles in length and
about one hundred yards in breadth. At the entrance of the town it crossed
the river Speed, and uprooted about six acres of wood, which had been
thinned out, and left by Mr. Gait (late superintendent of the Canada
Company), as an ornament to his house.
"The Eremosa road was completely blocked up for nearly half-a-mile, in the
wildest confusion possible. In its progress through the town the storm
unroofed several houses, levelled many fences to the ground, and entirely
demolished a frame barn. Windows were dashed in; and, in one instance, the
floor of a log house was carried through the roof. Some hairbreadth
escapes occurred; but, luckily, no lives were lost.
"About twelve years since a similar storm occurred in the north part of
the township of Douro, but was of much less magnitude. I heard an
intelligent settler, who resided some years in the township of Madoc,
state that, during his residence in that township, a similar hurricane
to the one I have described, though of a much more awful character,
passed through a part of Marmora and Madoc, and had been traced, in a
north-easterly direction, upwards of forty miles into the unsurveyed
lands; the uniform width of which appeared to be three quarters of a mile.
"It is very evident, from the traces which they have left behind them,
that storms of this description have not been unfrequent in the wooded
districts of Canada; and it becomes a matter of interesting consideration
whether the clearing of our immense forests will not, in a great measure,
remove the cause of these phenomena."
A few minutes after our household had retired to rest, my first sleep was
broken by the voice of J. E____, speaking to old Jenny in the kitchen. He
had been overtaken by the storm but had run his canoe ashore upon an
island before its full fury burst, and turned it over the flour; while he
had to brave the terrors of a pitiless tempest--buffeted by the wind, and
drenched with torrents of rain. I got up and made him a cup of tea, while
Jenny prepared a rasher of bacon and eggs for his supper.
Shortly after this, J. E____ bade a final adieu to Canada, with his cousin
C. W____. He volunteered into the Scotch Greys, and we never saw him more;
but I have been told that he was so highly respected by the officers of
the regiment that they subscribed for his commission; that he rose to the
rank of lieutenant; accompanied the regiment to India, and was at the
taking of Cabul; but from himself we never heard again.
The 16th of October, my third son was born; and a few days after, my
husband was appointed paymaster to the militia regiments in the V.
District, with the rank and full pay of captain. This was Sir George
Arthur's doing. He returned no answer to my application, but he did not
forget us. As the time that Moodie might retain this situation was very
doubtful, he thought it advisable not to remove me and the family until he
could secure some permanent situation; by so doing, he would have a better
opportunity of saving the greater part of his income to pay off his old
This winter of 1839 was one of severe trial to me. Hitherto I had enjoyed
the blessing of health; but both the children and myself were now doomed
to suffer from dangerous attacks of illness. All the little things had
malignant scarlet fever, and for several days I thought it would please
the Almighty to take from me my two girls. This fever is so fatal to
children in Canada that none of my neighbours dared approach the house.
For three weeks Jenny and I were never undressed; our whole time was taken
up in nursing the five little helpless creatures through the successive
stages of their alarming disease. I sent for Dr. Taylor; but he did not
come, and I was obliged to trust to the mercy of God, and my own judgment
and good nursing. Though I escaped the fever, mental anxiety and fatigue
brought on other illness, which for nearly ten weeks rendered me perfectly
helpless. When I was again able to creep from my sick bed, the baby was
seized with an illness, which Dr. B____ pronounced mortal. Against all
hope, he recovered, but these severe mental trials rendered me weak and
nervous, and more anxious than ever to be re-united to my husband. To add
to these troubles, my sister and her husband sold their farm, and removed
from our neighbourhood. Mr. ____ had returned to England, and had obtained
a situation in the Customs; and his wife, my friend Emilia, was keeping a
school in the village; so that I felt more solitary than ever, thus
deprived of so many kind, sympathizing friends.
THE WALK TO DUMMER.
Reader! have you ever heard of a place situated in the forest-depths
of this far western wilderness, called Dummer? Ten years ago it might
not inaptly have been termed "The _last_ clearing in the World." Nor to
this day do I know of any in that direction which extends beyond it. Our
bush-farm was situated on the border-line of a neighbouring township, only
one degree less wild, less out of the worid, or nearer to the habitations
of civilization than the far-famed "English Line," the boast and glory of
this _terra incognita_.
This place, so named by the emigrants who had pitched their tents in that
solitary wilderness, was a long line of cleared land, extending upon
either side for some miles through the darkest and most interminable
forest. The English Line was inhabited chiefly by Cornish miners, who,
tired of burrowing like moles underground, had determined to emigrate to
Canada, where they could breathe the fresh air of heaven, and obtain the
necessaries of life upon the bosom of their mother earth. Strange as it
may appear, these men made good farmers, and steady, industrious
colonists, working as well above ground as they had toiled in their early
days beneath it. All our best servants came from Dummer; and although they
spoke a language difficult to be understood, and were uncouth in their
manners and appearance, they were faithful and obedient, performing the
tasks assigned to them with patient perseverance; good food and kind
treatment rendering them always cheerful and contented.
My dear old Jenny, that most faithful and attached of all humble domestic
friends, came from Dummer, and I was wont to regard it with complacency
for her sake. But Jenny was not English; she was a generous, warm-hearted
daughter of the Green Isle--the emerald gem set in the silver of ocean.
Yes, Jenny was one of the poorest children of that impoverished but
glorious country where wit and talent seem indigenous, springing up
spontaneously in the rudest and most uncultivated minds; showing what the
land could bring forth in its own strength, unaided by education, and
unfettered by the conventional rules of society. Jenny was a striking
instance of the worth, noble self-denial, and devotion, which are often
met with--and, alas! but too often disregarded--in the poor and ignorant
natives of that deeply-injured and much-abused land. A few words about my
old favourite may not prove uninteresting to my readers.
Jenny Buchanan, or, as she called it, Bohanon, was the daughter of a petty
exciseman, of Scotch extraction (hence her industry), who, at the time of
her birth, resided near the old town of Inniskillen. Her mother died a few
months after she was born; and her father, within the twelve months,
married again. In the mean while the poor orphan babe had been adopted by
a kind neighbour, the wife of a small farmer in the vicinity.
In return for coarse food and scanty clothing, the little Jenny became a
servant of all work. She fed the pigs, herded the cattle, assisted in
planting potatoes and digging peat from the bog, and was undisputed
mistress of the poultry-yard. As she grew up to womanhood, the importance
of her labours increased. A better reaper in the harvest-field, or footer
of turf in the bog, could not be found in the district, or a woman more
thoroughly acquainted with the management of cows and the rearing of young
cattle; but here poor Jenny's accomplishments terminated.
Her usefulness was all abroad. Within the house she made more dirt than
she had the inclination or the ability to clear away. She could neither
read, nor knit, nor sew; and although she called herself a Protestant, and
a Church of England woman, she knew no more of religion, as revealed to
man through the Word of God, than the savage who sinks to the grave in
ignorance of a Redeemer. Hence she stoutly resisted all idea of being a
sinner, or of standing the least chance of receiving hereafter the
condemnation of one.
"Och, shure thin," she would say, with simple earnestness of look and
manner, almost irresistible, "God will never trouble Himsel' about a poor,
hard-working crathur like me, who never did any harm to the manest of His
One thing was certain, that a benevolent Providence had, "throubled
Himsel'" about poor Jenny in times past, for the warm heart of this
neglected child of Nature contained a stream of the richest benevolence,
which, situated as she had been, could not have been derived from any
other source. Honest, faithful, and industrious, Jenny became a law unto
herself, and practically illustrated the golden rule of her blessed Lord,
"to do unto others as we would they should do unto us." She thought it was
impossible that her poor services could ever repay the debt of gratitude
that she owed to the family who had brought her up, although the
obligation must have been entirely on their side. To them she was greatly
attached--for them she toiled unceasingly; and when evil days came, and
they were not able to meet the rent-day, or to occupy the farm, she
determined to accompany them in their emigration to Canada, and formed one
of the stout-hearted band that fixed its location in the lonely and
unexplored wilds now known as the township of Dummer.
During the first year of their settlement, the means of obtaining the
common necessaries of life became so precarious, that, in order to assist
her friends with a little ready money, Jenny determined to hire out into
some wealthy house as a servant. When I use the term wealth as applied to
any bush-settler, it is of course only comparatively; but Jenny was
anxious to obtain a place with settlers who enjoyed a small income
independent of their forest means.
Her first speculation was a complete failure. For five long, hopeless
years she served a master from whom she never received a farthing of her
stipulated wages. Still her attachment to the family was so strong, and
had become so much the necessity of her life, that the poor creature could
not make up her mind to leave them. The children whom she had received
into her arms at their birth, and whom she had nursed with maternal
tenderness, were as dear to her as if they had been her own; she continued
to work for them, although her clothes were worn to tatters, and her own
friends were too poor to replace them.
Her master, Captain N____, a handsome, dashing officer, who had served
many years in India, still maintained the carriage and appearance of a
gentleman, in spite of his mental and moral degradation, arising from a
constant state of intoxication; he still promised to remunerate at some
future day her faithful services; and although all his neighbours well
knew that his means were exhausted, and that that day would never come,
yet Jenny, in the simplicity of her faith, still toiled on, in the hope
that the better day he spoke of would soon arrive.
And now a few words respecting this master, which I trust may serve as a
warning to others. Allured by the bait that has been the ruin of so many
of his class, the offer of a large grant of land, Captain N____ had been
induced to form a settlement in this remote and untried township; laying
out much, if not all, of his available means in building a log house, and
clearing a large extent of barren and stony land. To this uninviting home
he conveyed a beautiful young wife, and a small and increasing family. The
result may be easily anticipated. The want of society--a dreadful want to
a man of his previous habits--the total absence of all the comforts and
decencies of life; produced inaction, apathy, and at last, despondency,
which was only alleviated by a constant and immoderate use of ardent
spirits. As long as Captain N____ retained his half pay, he contrived to
exist. In an evil hour he parted with this, and quickly trod the down-hill
path to ruin.
And here I would remark that it is always a rash and hazardous step for
any officer to part with his half pay; although it is almost every day
done, and generally followed by the same disastrous results. A-certain
income, however small, in a country where money is so hard to be procured,
and where labour cannot be attained but at a very high pecuniary
remuneration, is invaluable to a gentleman unaccustomed to agricultural
employment; who, without this reserve to pay his people, during the brief
but expensive seasons of seed-time and harvest, must either work himself
or starve. I have known no instance in which such sale has been attended
with ultimate advantage; but, alas! too many in which it has terminated in
the most distressing destitution. These government grants of land, to
half-pay officers, have induced numbers of this class to emigrate to the
backwoods of Canada, who are totally unfit for pioneers; but, tempted by
the offer of finding themselves landholders of what, on paper, appear
to them fine estates, they resign a certainty, to waste their energies,
and die half-starved and broken-hearted in the depths of the pitiless
If a gentleman so situated would give up all idea of settling on his
grant, but hire a good farm in a favourable situation--that is, not too
far from a market--and with his half pay hire efficient labourers, of
which plenty are now to be had, to cultivate the land, with common
prudence and economy, he would soon obtain a comfortable subsistence for
his family. And if the males were brought up to share the burden and
heat of the day, the expense of hired labour, as it yearly diminished,
would add to the general means and well-being of the whole, until the
hired farm became the real property of the industrious tenants. But the
love of show, the vain boast of appearing richer and better dressed than
our neighbours, too often involves the emigrant's family in debt, from
which they are seldom able to extricate themselves without sacrificing the
means which would have secured their independence.
This, although a long digression, will not, I hope, be without its use;
and if this book is regarded not as a work of amusement but one of
practical experience, written for the benefit of others, it will not
fail to convey some useful hints to those who have contemplated emigration
to Canada: the best country in the world for the industrious and
well-principled man, who really comes out to work, and to better his
condition by the labour of his hands; but a gulf of ruin to the vain and
idle, who only set foot upon these shores to accelerate their ruin.
But to return to Captain N____. It was at this disastrous period that
Jenny entered his service. Had her master adapted his habits and
expenditure to his altered circumstances, much misery might have been
spared, both to himself and his family. But he was a proud man--too proud
to work, or to receive with kindness the offers of service tendered to him
by his half-civilized, but well-meaning neighbours.
"Hang him!" cried an indignant English settler (Captain N____ was an
Irishman), whose offer of drawing wood had been rejected with unmerited
contempt. "Wait a few years and we shall see what his pride will do for
him. _I am_ sorry for his poor wife and children; but for himself, I have
no pity for him."
This man had been uselessly insulted, at the very moment when he was
anxious to perform a kind and benevolent action; when, like a true
Englishman, his heart was softened by witnessing the sufferings of a young
delicate female and her infant family. Deeply affronted by the Captain's
foolish conduct, he now took a malignant pleasure in watching his arrogant
neighbour's progress to ruin.
The year after the sale of his commission, Captain N____ found himself
considerably in debt, "Never mind, Ella," he said to his anxious wife;
"the crops will pay all."
The crops were a failure that year. Creditors pressed hard; the Captain
had no money to pay his workmen, and he would not work himself. Disgusted
with his location, but unable to change it for a better; without friends
of his own class (for he was the only gentleman then resident in the new
township), to relieve the monotony of his existence with their society,
or to afford him advice or assistance in his difficulties, the fatal
whiskey-bottle became his refuge from gloomy thoughts.
His wife, an amiable and devoted creature, well born, well educated, and
deserving of a better lot, did all in her power to wean him from the
growing vice. But, alas! the pleadings of an angel, in such circumstances,
would have had little effect upon the mind of such a man. He loved her as
well as he could love any thing, and he fancied that he loved his
children, while he was daily reducing them, by his favourite vice, to
For awhile, he confined his excesses to his own fireside, but this was
only for as long a period as the sale of his stock and laud would supply
him with the means of criminal indulgence. After a time, all these
resources failed, and his large grant of eight hundred acres of land had
been converted into whiskey, except the one hundred acres on which his
house and barn stood, embracing the small clearing from which the family
derived their scanty supply of wheat and potatoes. For the sake of peace,
his wife gave up all her ornaments and household plate, and the best
articles of a once handsome and ample wardrobe, in the hope of hiding her
sorrows from the world, and keeping her husband at home.
The pride, that had rendered him so obnoxious to his humbler neighbours,
yielded at length to the inordinate craving for drink; the man who had
held himself so high above his honest and industrious fellow-settlers,
could now unblushingly enter their cabins and beg for a drop of whiskey.
The feeling of shame once subdued, there was no end to his audacious
mendicity. His whole time was spent in wandering about the country,
calling upon every new settler, in the hope of being asked to partake of
the coveted poison. He was even known to enter by the window of an
emigrant's cabin, during the absence of the owner, and remain drinking in
the house while a drop of spirits could be found in the cupboard. When
driven forth by the angry owner of the hut, he wandered on to the distant
town of P____, and lived there in a low tavern, while his wife and
children were starving at home.
"He is the filthiest beast in the township," said the aforementioned
neighbour to me; "it would be a good thing for his wife and children if
his worthless neck were broken in one of hit, drunken sprees."
This might be the melancholy fact, but it was not the less dreadful on
that account. The husband of an affectionate wife--the father of a lovely
family--and his death to be a matter of rejoicing!--a blessing, instead of
being an affliction!--an agony not to be thought upon without the deepest
It was at this melancholy period of her sad history that Mrs. N____ found,
in Jenny Buchanan, a help in her hour of need. The heart of the faithful
creature bled for the misery; which involved the wife of her degraded
master, and the children she so dearly loved. Their want and destitution
called all the sympathies of her ardent nature into active operation; they
were long indebted to her labour for every morsel of food which they
consumed. For them, she sowed, she planted, she reaped. Every block of
wood which shed a cheering warmth around their desolate home was cut from
the forest by her own hands, and brought up a steep hill to the house upon
her back. For them, she coaxed the neighbours, with whom she was a general
favourite, out of many a mess of eggs for their especial benefit; while
with, her cheerful songs, and hearty, hopeful disposition, she dispelled
much of the cramping despair which chilled the heart of the unhappy mother
in her deserted home.
For several years did this great, poor woman keep the wolf from the door
of her beloved mistress, toiling for her with the strength and energy of a
man. When was man ever so devoted, so devoid of all selfishness, so
attached to employers, yet poorer than herself, as this uneducated
A period was at length put to her unrequited services. In a fit of
intoxication her master beat her severely with the iron ramrod of his gun,
and turned her, with abusive language, from his doors. Oh, hard return for
all her unpaid labours of love! She forgave this outrage for the sake of
the helpless beings who depended upon her care. He repeated the injury,
and the poor creature returned almost heart broken to her former home.
Thinking that his spite would subside in a few days, Jenny made a third
effort to enter his house in her usual capacity; but Mrs. N____ told her,
with many tears, that her presence would only enrage her husband, who had
threatened herself with the most cruel treatment if she allowed the
faithful servant again to enter the house. Thus ended her five years'
service to this ungrateful master. Such was her reward!
I heard of Jenny's worth and kindness from the Englishman who had been so
grievously affronted by Captain N____, and sent for her to come to me. She
instantly accepted my offer, and returned with my messenger. She had
scarcely a garment to cover her. I was obliged to find her a suit of
clothes before I could set her to work. The smiles and dimples of my
curly-headed, rosy little Donald, then a baby-boy of fifteen months,
consoled the old woman for her separation from Ellie N____; and the
good-will with which all the children (now four in number) regarded the
kind old body, soon endeared to her the new home which Providence had
assigned to her.
Her accounts of Mrs. N____, and her family, soon deeply interested me in
her fate; and Jenny never went to visit her friends in Dummer without an
interchange of good wishes passing between us.
The year of the Canadian rebellion came, and brought with it sorrow into
many a bush dwelling. Old Jenny and I were left alone with the little
children, in the depths of the dark forest, to help ourselves in the best
way we could. Men could not be procured in that thinly-settled spot for
love nor money, and I now fully realized the extent of Jenny's usefulness.
Daily she yoked the oxen, and brought down from the bush fuel to maintain
our fires, which she felled and chopped up with her own hands. She fed the
cattle, and kept all things snug about the doors; not forgetting to load
her master's two guns, "in case," as she said, "the ribels should attack
us in our retrate."
The months of November and December of 1838 had beer unnaturally mild for
this iron climate; but the opening of the ensuing January brought a short
but severe spell of frost and snow. We felt very lonely in our solitary
dwelling, crouching round the blazing fire, that scarcely chased the cold
from our miserable log tenement, until this dreary period was suddenly
cheered by the unexpected presence of my beloved friend, Emilia, who came
to spend a week with me in my forest home.
She brought her own baby-boy with her, and an ample supply of buffalo
robes, not forgetting a treat of baker's bread, and "sweeties" for the
children. Oh, dear Emilia! best and kindest of women, though absent in
your native land, long, long shall my heart cherish with affectionate
gratitude all your visits of love, and turn to you as to a sister, tried,
and found most faithful, in the dark hour of adversity, and amidst the
almost total neglect of those from whom nature claimed a tenderer and
Great was the joy of Jenny at this accession to our family party, and
after Mrs. S____ was well warmed, and had partaken of tea--the only
refreshment we could offer her--we began to talk over the news of the
"By the by, Jenny," said she, turning to the old servant, who was
undressing the little boy by the fire, "have you heard lately from poor
Mrs. N____? We have been told that she and the family are in a dreadful
state of destitution. That worthless man has left them for the States, and
it is supposed that he has joined Mackenzie's band of ruffians on Navy
Island; but whether this be true or false, he has deserted his wife and
children, taking his eldest son along with him (who might have been of
some service at home), and leaving them without money or food."
"The good Lord! What will become of the crathurs?" responded Jenny, wiping
her wrinkled cheek with the back of her hard, brown hand. "An' thin they
have not a sowl to chop and draw them firewood; an' the weather so
oncommon savare. Och hone! what has not that _baste_ of a man to answer
"I heard," continued Mrs. S____, "that they have tasted no food but
potatoes for the last nine months, and scarcely enough of them to keep
soul and body together; that they have sold their last cow; and the poor
young lady and her second brother, a lad of only twelve years old, bring
all the wood for the fire from the bush on a hand-sleigh."
"Oh, dear!--oh, dear!" sobbed Jenny; "an' I not there to hilp them! An'
poor Miss Mary, the tinder thing! Oh, 'tis hard, terribly hard for the
crathurs! an' they not used to the like."
"Can nothing be done for them?" said I.
"That is what we want to know," returned Emilia, "and that was one of my
reasons for coming up to D____. I wanted to consult you and Jenny upon the
subject. You who are an officer's wife, and I, who am both an officer's
wife and daughter, ought to devise some plan of rescuing this unfortunate
lady and her family from her present forlorn situation."
The tears sprang to my eyes, and I thought, in the bitterness of my heart,
upon my own galling poverty, that my pockets did not contain even a single
copper, and that I had scarcely garments enough to shield me from the
inclemency of the weather. By unflinching industry, and taking my part in
the toil of the field, I had bread for myself and family, and this was
more than poor Mrs. N____ possessed; but it appeared impossible for me to
be of any assistance to the unhappy sufferer, and the thought of my
incapacity gave me severe pain. It was only in moments like the present
that I felt the curse of poverty.
"Well," continued my friend, "you see, Mrs. Moodie, that the ladies of
P____ are all anxious to do what they can for her; but they first want to
learn if the miserable circumstances in which she is said to be placed are
true. In short, my dear friend, they want you and me to make a pilgrimage
to Dummer, to see the poor lady herself; and then they will be guided by
"Then let us lose no time in going upon our own mission of mercy."
"Och, my dear heart, you will be lost in the woods!" said old Jenny. "It
is nine long miles to the first clearing, and that through a lonely,
blazed path. After you are through the beaver-meadow, there is not a
single hut for you to rest or warm yourselves. It is too much for the both
of yees; you will be frozen to death on the road."
"No fear," said my benevolent friend; "God will take care of us, Jenny. It
is on His errand we go; to carry a message of hope to one about to
"The Lord bless you for a darlint," cried the old woman, devoutly kissing
the velvet cheek of the little fellow sleeping upon her lap. "May your own
purty child never know the want and sorrow that is around her."
Emilia and I talked over the Dummer scheme until we fell asleep. Many were
the plans we proposed for the immediate relief of the unfortunate family.
Early the next morning, my brother-in-law, Mr. T____, called upon my
friend. The subject next our heart was immediately introduced, and he was
called into the general council. His feelings, like our own, were deeply
interested; and he proposed that we should each provide something from our
own small stores to satisfy the pressing wants of the distressed family;
while he promised to bring his cutter, the next morning, and take us
through the beaver-meadow, and to the edge of the great swamp, which would
shorten four miles, at least, of our long and hazardous journey.
We joyfully acceded to his proposal, and set cheerfully to work to provide
for the morrow. Jenny baked a batch of her very best bread, and boiled a
large piece of beef; and Mr. T____ brought with him, the next day, a fine
cooked ham, in a sack, into the bottom of which he stowed the beef and
loaves, besides some sugar and tea, which his own kind wife, the author of
"The Backwoods of Canada," had sent. I had some misgivings as to the
manner in which these good things could be introduced to the poor lady,
who, I had heard, was reserved and proud.
"Oh, Jenny," I said, "how shall I be able to ask her to accept provisions
from strangers? I am afraid of wounding her feelings."
"Oh, darlint, never fear'that! She is proud, I know; but 'tis not a stiff
pride, but jist enough to consale her disthress from her ignorant English
neighbours, who think so manely of poor folk like her who were once rich.
She will be very thankful to you for your kindness, for she has not
experienced much of it from the Dummer people in her throuble, though she
may have no words to tell you so. Say that old Jenny sent the bread to
dear wee Ellie, 'cause she knew she would like a loaf of Jenny's bakin'."
"But the meat."
"Och, the mate, is it? Maybe, you'll think of some excuse for the mate
when you get there."
"I hope so; but I'm a sad coward with strangers, and I have lived so long
out of the world that I am at a great loss what to do. I will try and put
a good face on the matter. Your name, Jenny, will be no small help to me."
All was now ready. Kissing our little bairns, who crowded around us with
eager and inquiring looks, and charging Jenny for the hundredth time to
take especial care of them during our absence, we mounted the cutter, and
set off, under the care and protection of Mr. T____, who determined to
accompany us on the journey.
It was a black, cold day; no sun visible in the gray, dark sky; a keen,
cutting wind, and hard frost. We crouched close to each other.
"Good heavens, how cold it is!" whispered Emilia. "What a day for such a
She had scarcely ceased speaking, when the cutter went upon a stump which
lay concealed under the drifted snow; and we, together with the ruins of
our conveyance, were scattered around.
"A bad beginning," said my brother-in-law, with a rueful aspect, as he
surveyed the wreck of the cutter from which we had promised ourselves so
much benefit. "There is no help for it but to return home."
"Oh, no," said Mrs. S____; "bad beginnings make good endings, you know.
Let us go on; it will be far better walking than riding such a dreadful
day. My feet are half frozen already with sitting still."
"But, my dear madam," expostulated Mr. T____, "consider the distance, the
road, the dark, dull day, and our imperfect knowledge of the path. I will
get the cutter mended to-morrow; and the day after we may be able to
"Delays are dangerous," said the pertinacious Emilia, who, woman-like, was
determined to have her own way. "Now or never. While we wait for the
broken cutter, the broken hearted Mrs. N____ may starve. We can stop at
Colonel C____'s and warm ourselves, and you can leave the cutter at his
house until our return."
"It was upon your account that I proposed the delay," said the good Mr.
T____, taking the sack, which was no inconsiderable weight, upon his
shoulder, and driving his horse before him into neighbour W____'s stable.
"Where you go, I am ready to follow."
When we arrived, Colonel C____'s family were at breakfast, of which they
made us partake; and after vainly endeavouring to dissuade us from what
appeared to them our Quixotic expedition, Mrs. C____ added a dozen fine
white fish to the contents of the sack, and sent her youngest son to help
Mr. T____ along with his burthen, and to bear us company on our desolate
Leaving the Colonel's hospitable house on our left, we again plunged into
the woods, and after a few minutes' brisk walking, found ourselves upon
the brow of a steep bank that overlooked the beaver-meadow, containing
within its area several hundred acres.
There is no scenery in the bush that presents such a novel appearance as
those meadows, or openings, surrounded, as they invariably are, by dark,
intricate forests; their high, rugged banks covered with the light, airy
tamarack and silver birch. In summer they look like a lake of soft, rich
verdure, hidden in the bosom of the barren and howling waste. Lakes they
certainly have been, from which the waters have receded, "ages, ages long
ago;" and still the whole length of these curious level valleys is
traversed by a stream, of no inconsiderable dimensions.
The waters of the narrow, rapid creek, which flowed through the meadow we
were about to cross, were of sparkling brightness, and icy cold. The
frost-king had no power to check their swift, dancing movements, or stop
their perpetual song. On they leaped, sparkling and flashing beneath their
ice-crowned banks, rejoicing as they revelled on in their lonely course.
In the prime of the year, this is a wild and lovely spot, the grass is of
the richest green, and the flowers of the most gorgeous dyes. The gayest
butterflies float above them upon painted wings; and the whip-poor-will
pours forth from the neighbouring woods, at close of dewy eve, his strange
but sadly plaintive cry. Winter was now upon the earth, and the once green
meadow looked like a small forest lake covered with snow.
The first step we made into it plunged us up to the knees in the snow,
which was drifted to a great height in the open space. Mr. T____ and our
young friend C____ walked on ahead of us, in order to break a track
through the untrodden snow. We soon reached the cold creek; but here a new
difficulty presented itself. It was too wide to jump across, and we could
see no other way of passing to the other side.
"There must be some sort of a bridge hereabout," said young C____, "or how
can the people from Dummer pass constantly during the winter to and fro. I
will go along the bank, and halloo to you if I find one."
In a few minutes he gave the desired signal, and on reaching the spot, we
found a round, slippery log flung across the stream by way of bridge. With
some trouble, and after various slips, we got safely on the other side. To
wet our feet would have been to ensure their being frozen; and as it was,
we were not without serious apprehensions on that score. After crossing
the bleak, snowy plain, we scrambled over another brook, and entered the
great swamp, which occupied two miles of our dreary road.
It would be vain to attempt giving any description of this tangled maze of
closely-interwoven cedars, fallen trees, and loose-scattered masses of
rock. It seemed the fitting abode of wolves and bears, and every other
unclean beast. The fire had run through it during the summer, making the
confusion doubly confused. Now we stopped, half doubled, to crawl under
fallen branches that hung over our path, then again we had to clamber over
prostrate trees of great bulk, descending from which we plumped down into
holes in the snow, sinking mid-leg into the rotten trunk of some
treacherous, decayed pine-tree. Before we were half through the great
swamp, we began to think ourselves sad fools, and to wish that we were
safe again by our own firesides. But, then, a great object was in view,--
the relief of a distressed fellow-creature, and like the "full of hope,
misnamed forlorn," we determined to overcome every difficulty, and toil
It took us an hour at least to clear the great swamp, from which we
emerged into a fine wood, composed chiefly of maple-trees. The sun had,
during our immersion in the dark shades of the swamp, burst through his
leaden shroud, and cast a cheery gleam along the rugged boles of the lofty
trees. The squirrel and chissmunk occasionally bounded across our path;
the dazzling snow which covered it reflected the branches above us in an
endless variety of dancing shadows. Our spirits rose in proportion. Young
C____ burst out singing, and Emilia and I laughed and chatted as we
bounded along our narrow road. On, on for hours, the same interminable
forest stretched away to the right and left, before and behind us.
"It is past twelve," said my brother T____, thoughtfully; "if we do not
soon come to a clearing, we may chance to spend the night in the forest."
"Oh, I am dying with hunger," cried Emilia. "Do, C____ give us one or two
of the cakes your mother put into the bag for us to eat upon the road."
The ginger-cakes were instantly produced. But where were the teeth to be
found that could masticate them? The cakes were frozen as hard as stones;
this was a great disappointment to us tired and hungry wights; but it only
produced a hearty laugh. Over the logs we went again; for it was a
perpetual stepping up and down, crossing the fallen trees that obstructed
our path. At last we came to a spot where two distinct blazed roads
"What are we to do now?" said Mr. T____.
We stopped, and a general consultation was held, and without one
dissenting voice we took the branch to the right, which, after pursuing
for about half-a-mile, led us to a log hut of the rudest description.
"Is this the road to Dummer?" we asked a man, who was chopping wood
outside the fence.
"I guess you are in Dummer?" was the answer.
My heart leaped for joy, for I was dreadfully fatigued.
"Does this road lead through the English Line?"
"That's another thing," returned the woodman. "No; you turned off from the
right path when you came up here." We all looked very blank at each other.
"You will have to go back, and keep the other road, and that will lead you
straight to the English Line."
"How many miles is it to Mrs. N____'s?"
"Some four, or thereabouts," was the cheering rejoinder. "'Tis one of the
last clearings on the line. If you are going back to Douro to-night, you
must look sharp."
Sadly and dejectedly we retraced our steps. There are few trifling
failures more bitter in our journey through life than that of a tired
traveller mistaking his road. What effect must that tremendous failure
produce upon the human mind, when, at the end of life's unretraceable
journey, the traveller finds that he has fallen upon the wrong track
through every stage, and instead of arriving at the land of blissful
promise sinks for ever into the gulf of despair!
The distance we had trodden in the wrong path, while led on by hope and
anticipation, now seemed to double in length, as with painful steps we
toiled on to reach the right road. This object once attained, soon led us
to the dwellings of men.
Neat, comfortable log houses, surrounded by well-fenced patches of
clearing, arose on either side of the forest road; dogs flew out and
barked at us, and children ran shouting indoors to tell their respective
owners that strangers were passing their gates; a most unusual
circumstance, I should think, in that location.
A servant who had hired two years with my brother-in-law, we knew must
live somewhere in this neighbourhood, at whose fireside we hoped not only
to rest and warm ourselves, but to obtain something to eat. On going up to
one of the cabins to inquire for Hannah J____, we fortunately happened to
light upon the very person we sought. With many exclamations of surprise,
she ushered us into her neat and comfortable log dwelling.
A blazing fire, composed of two huge logs, was roaring up the wide
chimney, and the savoury smell that issued from a large pot of pea-soup
was very agreeable to our cold and hungry stomachs. But, alas, the
refreshment went no further! Hannah most politely begged us to take seats
by the fire, and warm and rest ourselves; she even knelt down and assisted
in rubbing our half-frozen hands; but she never once made mention of the
hot soup, or of the tea, which was drawing in a tin tea-pot upon the
hearth-stone, or of a glass of whiskey, which would have been thankfully
accepted by our male pilgrims.
Hannah was not an Irishwoman, no, nor a Scotch lassie, or her very first
request would have been for us to take "a pickle of soup," or "a sup of
thae warm broths." The soup was no doubt cooking for Hannah's husband and
two neighbours, who were chopping for him in the bush; and whose want of
punctuality she feelingly lamented.
As we left her cottage, and jogged on, Emilia whispered, laughing, "I hope
you are satisfied with your good dinner? Was not the pea-soup excellent?--
and that cup of nice hot tea!--I never relished any thing more in my life.
I think we should never pass that house without giving Hannah a call, and
testifying our gratitude for her good cheer."
Many times did we stop to inquire the way to Mrs. N____'s, before we
ascended the steep, bleak hill upon which her house stood. At the door,
Mr. T____ deposited the sack of provisions, and he and young C____ went
across the road to the house of an English settler (who, fortunately for
them, proved more hospitable than Hannah J____), to wait until our errand
The house before which Emilia and I were standing had once been a
tolerably comfortable log dwelling. It was larger than such buildings
generally are, and was surrounded by dilapidated barns and stables, which
were not cheered by a solitary head of cattle. A black pine forest
stretched away to the north of the house, and terminated in a dismal,
tangled cedar swamp, the entrance to the house not having been constructed
to face the road.
The spirit that had borne me up during the journey died within me. I was
fearful that my visit would be deemed an impertinent intrusion. I knew not
in what manner to introduce myself and my embarrassment had been greatly
increased by Mrs. S____ declaring that I must break the ice, for she had
not courage to go in. I remonstrated, but she was firm. To hold any longer
parley was impossible. We were standing on the top of a bleak hill, with
the thermometer many degrees below zero, and exposed to the fiercest
biting of the bitter, cutting blast. With a heavy sigh, I knocked slowly
but decidedly at the crazy door. I saw the curly head of a boy glance for
a moment against the broken window. There was a stir within, but no one
answered our summons. Emilia was rubbing her hands together, and beating a
rapid tattoo with her feet upon the hard and glittering snow, to keep them
Again I appealed to the inhospitable door, with a vehemence which seemed
to say, "We are freezing, good people; in mercy let us in!"
Again there was a stir, and a whispered sound of voices, as if in
consultation, from within; and after waiting a few minutes longer--which,
cold as we were, seemed an age--the door was cautiously opened by a
handsome, dark-eyed lad of twelve years of age, who was evidently the
owner of the curly head that had been sent to reconnoitre us through the
window. Carefully closing the door after him, he stepped out upon the
snow, and asked us coldly but respectfully what we wanted. I told him that
we were two ladies, who had walked all the way from Douro to see his
mamma, and that we wished very much to speak to her. The lad answered us,
with the ease and courtesy of a gentleman, that he did not know whether
his mamma could be seen by strangers, but he would go in and see. So
saying he abruptly left us, leaving behind him an ugly skeleton of a dog,
who, after expressing his disapprobation at our presence in the most
disagreeable and unequivocal manner, pounced like a famished wolf upon the
sack of good things which lay at Emilia's feet; and our united efforts
could scarcely keep him off.
"A cold, doubtful reception, this!" said my friend, turning her back to
the wind, and hiding her face in her muff. "This is worse than Hannah's
liberality, and the long, weary walk."
I thought so too, and begun to apprehend that our walk had been in vain,
when the lad again appeared, and said that we might walk in, for his
mother was dressed.
Emilia, true to her determination, went no farther than the passage. In
vain were all my entreating looks and mute appeals to her benevolence and
friendship; I was forced to enter alone the apartment that contained the
I felt that I was treading upon sacred ground, for a pitying angel hovers
over the abode of suffering virtue, and hallows all its woes. On a rude
bench, before the fire, sat a lady, between thirty and forty years of age,
dressed in a thin, coloured muslin gown, the most inappropriate garment
for the rigour of the season, but, in all probability, the only decent one
that she retained. A subdued melancholy looked forth from her large, dark,
pensive eyes. She appeared like one who, having discovered the full extent
of her misery, had proudly steeled her heart to bear it. Her countenance
was very pleasing, and, in early life (but she was still young), she must
have been eminently handsome. Near her, with her head bent down, and
shaded by her thin, slender hand, her slight figure scarcely covered by
her scanty clothing, sat her eldest daughter, a gentle, sweet-looking
girl, who held in her arms a baby brother, whose destitution she
endeavoured to conceal. It was a touching sight; that suffering girl, just
stepping into womanhood, hiding against her young bosom the nakedness of
the little creature she loved. Another fine boy, whose neatly-patched
clothes had not one piece of the original stuff apparently left in them,
stood behind his mother, with dark, glistening eyes fastened upon me, as
if amused, and wondering who I was, and what business I could have there.
A pale and attenuated, but very pretty, delicately featured little girl
was seated on a low stool before the fire This was old Jenny's darling,
Ellie, or Eloise. A rude bedstead, of home manufacture, in a corner of the
room, covered with a coarse woollen quilt, contained two little boys, who
had crept into it to conceal their wants from the eyes of the stranger. On
the table lay a dozen peeled potatoes, and a small pot was boiling on the
fire, to receive this their scanty and only daily meal. There was such an
air of patient and enduring suffering in the whole group, that, as I gazed
heart-stricken upon it, my fortitude quite gave way, and I burst into
Mrs. N____ first broke the painful silence, and, rather proudly, asked me
to whom she had the pleasure of speaking. I made a desperate effort to
regain my composure, and told her, but with much embarrassment, my name;
adding that I was so well acquainted with her and her children, through
Jenny, that I could not consider her as a stranger; that I hoped that, as
I was the wife of an officer, and, like her, a resident in the bush, and
well acquainted with all its trials and privations, she would look upon me
as a friend.
She seemed surprised and annoyed, and I found no small difficulty in
introducing the object of my visit; but the day was rapidly declining, and
I knew that not a moment was to be lost. At first she coldly rejected all
offers of service, and said that she was contented, and wanted for
I appealed to the situation in which I beheld herself and her children,
and implored her, for their sakes, not to refuse help from friends who
felt for her distress. Her maternal feelings triumphed over her assumed
indifference, and when she saw me weeping, for I could no longer restrain
my tears, her pride yielded, and for some minutes not a word was spoken. I
heard the large tears, as they slowly fell from her daughter's eyes, drop
one by one upon her garments.
At last the poor girl sobbed out, "Dear mamma, why conceal the truth? You
know that we are nearly naked, and starving."
Then came the sad tale of domestic woes:--the absence of the husband and
eldest son; the uncertainty as to where they were, or in what engaged; the
utter want of means to procure the common necessaries of life; the sale of
the only remaining cow that used to provide the children with food. It had
been sold for twelve dollars, part to be paid in cash, part in potatoes;
the potatoes were nearly exhausted, and they were allowanced to so many a
day. But the six dollars she had retained as their last resource! Alas!
she had sent the eldest boy the day before to P____, to get a letter out
of the post-office, which she hoped contained some tidings of her husband
and son. She was all anxiety and expectation--but the child returned late
at night without the letter which they had longed for with such feverish
impatience. The six dollars upon which they had depended for a supply of
food were in notes of the Farmer's Bank, which at that time would not pass
for money, and which the roguish purchaser of the cow had passed off upon
this distressed family.
Oh! imagine, ye who revel in riches--who can daily throw away a large sum
upon the merest toy--the cruel disappointment, the bitter agony of this
poor mother's heart, when she received this calamitous news, in the midst
of her starving children. For the last nine weeks they had lived upon a
scanty supply of potatoes;--they had not tasted raised bread or animal
food for eighteen months.
"Ellie," said I, anxious to introduce the sack, which had lain like a
nightmare upon my mind, "I have something for you; Jenny baked some loaves
last night, and sent them to you with her best love."
The eyes of all the children grew bright. "You will find the sack with the
bread in the passage," said I to one of the boys. He rushed joyfully out,
and returned with Mrs. ____ and the sack. Her bland and affectionate
greeting restored us all to tranquillity.
The delighted boy opened the sack. The first thing he produced was the
"Oh," said I, "that is a ham that my sister sent to Mrs. N____; 'tis of
her own curing, and she thought that it might be acceptable."
Then came the white fish, nicely packed in a clean cloth. "Mrs. C____
thought fish might be a treat to Mrs. N____, as she lived so far from the
great lakes." Then came Jenny's bread, which had already been introduced.
The beef, and tea, and sugar, fell upon the floor without any comment.
The first scruples had been overcome, and the day was ours.
"And now, ladies," said Mrs. N____, with true hospitality, "since you have
brought refreshments with you, permit me to cook something for your
The scene I had just witnessed had produced such a choking sensation that
all my hunger had vanished. Before we could accept or refuse Mrs. N____'s
kind offer, Mr. T____ arrived, to hurry us off.
It was two o'clock when we descended the hill in front of the house, that
led by a side-path round to the road, and commenced our homeward route. I
thought the four miles of clearings would never be passed; and the English
Line appeared to have no end. At length we entered once more the dark
The setting sun gleamed along the ground; the necessity of exerting our
utmost speed, and getting through the great swamp before darkness
surrounded us, was apparent to all. The men strode vigorously forward, for
they had been refreshed with a substantial dinner of potatoes and pork,
washed down with a glass of whiskey, at the cottage in which they had
waited for us; but poor Emilia and I, faint, hungry, and foot-sore, it was
with the greatest difficulty we could keep up. I thought of Rosalind, as
our march up and down the fallen logs recommenced, and often exclaimed
with her, "Oh, Jupiter! how weary are my legs!"
Night closed in just as we reached the beaver-meadow. Here our ears were
greeted with the sound of well-known voices. James and Henry C____ had
brought the ox-sleigh to meet us at the edge of the bush. Never was
splendid equipage greeted with such delight. Emilia and I, now fairly
exhausted with fatigue, scrambled into it, and lying down on the straw
which covered the bottom of the rude vehicle, we drew the buffalo robes
over our faces, and actually slept soundly until we reached Colonel
C____'s hospitable door.
An excellent supper of hot fish and fried venison was smoking on the
table, with other good cheer, to which we did ample justice. I, for one,
was never so hungry in my life. We had fasted for twelve hours, and that
on an intensely cold day, and had walked during that period upwards of
twenty miles. Never, never shall I forget that weary walk to Dummer; but a