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Life in the Backwoods by Susanna Moodie

Part 4 out of 4

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blessing followed it.

It was midnight when Emilia and I reached my humble home; our good friends
the oxen being again put in requisition to carry us there. Emilia went
immediately to bed, from which she was unable to rise for several days. In
the mean while I wrote to Moodie an account of the scene I had witnessed,
and he raised a subscription among the officers of the regiment for the
poor lady and her children, which amounted to forty dollars. Emilia lost
no time in making a full report to her friends at P____; and before a week
passed away, Mrs. N____ and her family were removed thither by several
benevolent individuals in the place. A neat cottage was hired for her;
and, to the honour of Canada be it spoken, all who could afford a donation
gave cheerfully. Farmers left at her door, pork, beef, flour, and
potatoes; the storekeepers sent groceries, and goods to make clothes for
the children; the shoemakers contributed boots for the boys; while the
ladies did all in their power to assist and comfort the gentle creature
thus thrown by Providence upon their bounty.

While Mrs. N____ remained at P____ she did not want for any comfort. Her
children were clothed and her rent paid by her benevolent friends, and her
house supplied with food and many comforts from the same source. Respected
and beloved by all who knew her, it would have been well had she never
left the quiet asylum where, for several years, she enjoyed tranquillity,
and a respectable competence from her school; but in an evil hour she
followed her worthless husband to the Southern States, and again suffered
all the woes which drunkenness inflicts upon the wives and children of its
degraded victims.



During my illness, a kind neighbour, who had not only frequently come to
see me, but had brought me many nourishing things, made by her own fair
hands, took a great fancy to my second daughter, who, lively and volatile,
could not be induced to remain quiet in the sick chamber. The noise she
made greatly retarded my recovery, and Mrs. H____ took her home with her,
as the only means of obtaining for me necessary rest. During that winter,
and through the ensuing summer, I only received occasional visits from my
little girl, who, fairly established with her new friends, looked upon
their house as her home.

This separation, which was felt as a great benefit at the time, greatly
estranged the affections of the child from her own people. She saw us so
seldom that she almost regarded us, when she did meet, as strangers; and I
often deeply lamented the hour when I had unwittingly suffered the
threefold cord of domestic love to be unravelled by absence, and the
flattering attentions which fed the vanity of a beautiful child, without
strengthening her moral character. Mrs. H____, whose husband was wealthy,
was a generous, warmhearted girl of eighteen. Lovely in person, and
fascinating in manners, and still too young to have any idea of forming
the character of a child, she dressed the little creature expensively;
and, by constantly praising her personal appearance, gave her an idea of
her own importance which it took many years to eradicate.

It is a great error to suffer a child, who has been trained in the hard
school of poverty and self-denial, to be transplanted suddenly into the
hot-bed of wealth and luxury. The idea of the child being so much happier
and better off blinds her fond parents to the dangers of her new
situation, where she is sure to contract a dislike to all useful
occupation, and to look upon scanty means and plain clothing as a
disgrace. If the reaction is bad for a grown-up person, it is almost
destructive to a child who is incapable of moral reflection. Whenever I
saw little Addie, and remarked the growing coldness of her manner towards
us, my heart reproached me for having exposed her to temptation.

Still, in the eye of the world, she was much better situated than she
could possibly be with us. The heart of the parent could alone understand
the change.

So sensible was her father of this alteration, that the first time he paid
us a visit he went and brought home his child.

"If she remain so long away from us, at her tender years," he said, "she
will cease to love us. All the wealth in the world would not compensate me
for the love of my child."

The removal of my sister rendered my separation from my husband doubly
lonely and irksome. Sometimes the desire to see and converse with him
would press so painfully on my heart that I would get up in the night,
strike a light, and sit down and write him a long letter, and tell him all
that was in my mind; and when I had thus unburdened my spirit, the letter
was committed to the flames, and after fervently commending him to the
care of the Great Father of mankind, I would lay down my throbbing head on
my pillow beside our first-born son, and sleep tranquilly.

It is a strange fact that many of my husband's letters to me were written
at the very time when I felt those irresistible impulses to hold communion
with him. Why should we be ashamed to admit openly our belief in this
mysterious intercourse between the spirits of those who are bound to each
other by the tender ties of friendship and affection, when the experience
of every day proves its truth? Proverbs, which are the wisdom of ages
collected into a few brief words, tell us in one pithy sentence that
"if we talk of the devil he is sure to appear." While the name of a
long-absent friend is in our mouth, the next moment brings him into our
presence. How can this be, if mind did not meet mind, and the spirit had
not a prophetic consciousness of the vicinity of another spirit, kindred
with its own? This is an occurrence so common that I never met with any
person to whom it had not happened; few will admit it to be a spiritual
agency, but in no other way can they satisfactorily explain its cause. If
it were a mere coincidence, or combination of ordinary circumstances, it
would not happen so often, and people would not be led to speak of the
long absent always at the moment when they are just about to present
themselves before them. My husband was no believer in what he termed my
fanciful, speculative theories; yet at the time when his youngest boy and
myself lay dangerously ill, and hardly expected to live, I received from
him a letter, written in great haste, which commenced with this sentence:
"Do write to me, dear S____, when you receive this. I have felt very
uneasy about you for some days past, and am afraid that all is not right
at home."

Whence came this sudden fear? Why at that particular time did his thoughts
turn so despondingly towards those so dear to him? Why did the dark cloud
in his mind hang so heavily above his home? The burden of my weary and
distressed spirit had reached him; and without knowing of our sufferings
and danger, his own responded to the call.

The holy and mysterious nature of man is yet hidden from himself; he is
still a stranger to the movements of that inner life, and knows little of
its capabilities and powers. A purer religion, a higher standard of moral
and intellectual training, may in time reveal all this. Man still remains
a half-reclaimed savage; the leaven of Christianity is slowly and surely
working its way, but it has not yet changed the whole lump, or transformed
the deformed into the beauteous child of God. Oh, for that glorious day!
It is coming. The dark clouds of humanity are already tinged with the
golden radiance of the dawn, but the sun of righteousness has not yet
arisen upon the world with healing on his wings; the light of truth still
struggles in the womb of darkness, and man stumbles on to the fulfilment
of his sublime and mysterious destiny.

This spring I was not a little puzzled how to get in the crops. I still
continued so weak that I was quite unable to assist in the field, and my
good old Jenny was sorely troubled with inflamed feet, which required
constant care. At this juncture, a neighbouring settler, who had recently
come among us, offered to put in my small crop of peas, potatoes, and
oats, in all not comprising more than eight acres, if I would lend him my
oxen to log-up a large fallow of ten acres, and put in his own crops.
Trusting to his fair dealing, I consented to this arrangement; but he took
advantage of my isolated position, and not only logged-up his fallow, but
put in all his spring crops before he sowed an acre of mine. The oxen were
worked down so low that they were almost unfit for use, and my crops were
put in so late, and with such little care, that they all proved a failure.
I should have felt this loss more severely had it happened in any previous
year, but I had ceased to feel that deep interest in the affairs of the
farm, from a sort of conviction in my own mind that it would not long
remain my home.

Jenny and I did our best in the way of hoeing and weeding; but no industry
on our part could repair the injury done to the seed by being sown out of

We therefore confined our attention to the garden, which, as usual, was
very productive, and with milk, fresh butter, and eggs, supplied the
simple wants of our family. Emilia enlivened our solitude by her company,
for several weeks during the summer, and we had many pleasant excursions
on the water together.

My knowledge of the use of the paddle, however, was not entirely without
its danger.

One very windy Sunday afternoon, a servant-girl, who lived with my friend
Mrs. C____, came crying to the house, and implored the use of my canoe and
paddles, to cross the lake to see her dying father. The request was
instantly granted; but there was no man upon the place to ferry her
across, and she could not manage the boat herself--in short, had never
been in a canoe in her life.

The girl was deeply distressed. She said that she had got word that her
father could scarcely live till she could reach Smith-town; that if she
went round by the bridge, she must walk five miles, while if she crossed
the lake she could be home in half-an-hour.

I did not much like the angry swell upon the water, but the poor creature
was in such grief that I told her, if she was not afraid of venturing with
me, I would try and put her over.

She expressed her thanks in the warmest terms, accompanied by a shower of
blessings; and I took the paddles and went down to the landing. Jenny was
very averse to my _tempting Providence_, as she termed it, and wished that
I might get back as safe as I went. However, the old woman launched the
canoe for me, pushed us from the shore, and away we went. The wind was in
my favour, and I found so little trouble in getting across that I began to
laugh at my own timidity. I put the girl on shore, and endeavoured to
shape my passage home. But this I found was no easy task. The water was
rough, and the wind high, and the strong current, which runs through that
part of the lake to the Smith rapids, was dead against me. In vain I
laboured to cross this current; it resisted all my efforts, and at each
repulse I was carried further down towards the rapids, which were full of
sunken rocks, and hard for the strong arm of a man to stem--to the weak
hand of a woman their safe passage was impossible. I began to feel rather
uneasy at the awkward situation in which I found myself placed, and for
some time I made desperate efforts to extricate myself, by paddling with
all my might. I soon gave this up, and contented myself by steering the
canoe in the path it thought fit to pursue. After drifting down with the
current for some little space, until I came opposite a small island, I put
out all my strength to gain the land. In this I fortunately succeeded, and
getting on shore, I contrived to drag the canoe so far round the headland
that I got her out of the current. All now was smooth sailing, and I
joyfully answered old Jenny's yells from the landing, that I was safe, and
would join her in a few minutes.

This fortunate manoeuvre stood me in good stead upon another occasion,
when crossing the lake, some weeks after this, in company with a young
female friend, during a sudden storm.

Two Indian women, heavily laden with their packs of dried venison, called
at the house to borrow the canoe, to join their encampment upon the other
side. It so happened that I wanted to send to the mill that afternoon, and
the boat could not be returned in time without I went over with the Indian
women and brought it back. My young friend was delighted at the idea of
the frolic, and as she could both steer and paddle, and the day was calm
and bright, though excessively warm, we both agreed to accompany the
squaws to the other side, and bring back the canoe.

Mrs. Muskrat had fallen in love with a fine fat kitten, whom the children
had called "Buttermilk," and she begged so hard for the little puss, that
I presented it to her, rather marvelling how she would contrive to carry
it so many miles through the woods, and she loaded with such an enormous
pack; when, lo! the squaw took down the bundle, and, in the heart of the
piles of dried venison, she deposited the cat in a small basket, giving it
a thin slice of the meat to console it for its close confinement. Puss
received the donation with piteous mews; it was evident that mice and
freedom were preferred by her to venison and the honour of riding on a
squaw's back.

The squaws paddled us quickly across, and we laughed and chatted as we
bounded over the blue waves, until we were landed in a dark cedar swamp,
in the heart of which we found the Indian encampment.

A large party were lounging around the fire, superintending the drying of
a quantity of venison which was suspended on forked sticks. Besides the
flesh of the deer, a number of muskrats were skinned, and extended as if
standing bolt upright before the fire, warming their paws. The appearance
they cut was most ludicrous. My young friend pointed to the muskrats, as
she sank down, laughing, upon one of the skins.

Old Snow-storm, who was present, imagined that she wanted one of them to
eat, and very gravely handed her the unsavoury beast, stick and all.

"Does the old man take me for a cannibal?" she said "I would as soon eat a

Among the many odd things cooking at that fire there was something that
had the appearance of a bull-frog.

"What can that be?" she said, directing my eyes to the strange monster.
"Surely they don't eat bull-frogs!"

This sally was received by a grunt of approbation from Snow-storm; and,
though Indians seldom forget their dignity so far as to laugh, he for once
laid aside his stoical gravity, and, twirling the thing round with a
stick, burst into a hearty peal.

"_Muckakee!_ Indian eat _muckakee?_--Ha! ha! Indian no eat _muckakee!_
Frenchmans eat his hind legs; they say the speckled beast much good. This
no _muckakee!_--the liver of deer, dried--very nice--Indian eat him."

"I wish him much joy of the delicate morsel," said the saucy girl, who was
intent upon quizzing and examining every thing in the camp.

We had remained the best part of an hour, when Mrs. Muskrat laid hold of
my hand, and leading me through the bush to the shore, pointed up
significantly to a cloud, as dark as night, that hung loweringly over the

"Thunder in that cloud--get over the lake--quick, quick, before it
breaks." Then motioning for us to jump into the canoe, she threw in the
paddles, and pushed us from the shore.

We saw the necessity of haste, and both plied the paddle with diligence to
gain the opposite bank, or at least the shelter of the island, before the
cloud poured down its fury upon us. We were just in the middle of the
current when the first peal of thunder broke with startling nearness over
our heads. The storm frowned darkly upon the woods; the rain came down in
torrents; and there were we exposed to its utmost fury in the middle of a
current too strong for us to stem.

"What shall we do? We shall be drowned!" said my young friend, turning her
pale, tearful face towards me.

"Let the canoe float down the current till we get close to the island;
then run her into the land. I saved myself once before by this plan."

We did so, and were safe; but there we had to remain, wet to our skins,
until the wind and the rain abated sufficiently for us to manage our
little craft. "How do you like being upon the lake in a storm like this?"
I whispered to my shivering, dripping companion.

"Very well in romance, but terribly dull in reality. We cannot, however,
call it a dry joke," continued she, wringing the rain from her dress. "I
wish we were suspended over Old Snow-storm's fire with the bull-frog, for
I hate a shower-bath with my clothes on."

I took warning by this adventure, never to cross the lake again without a
stronger arm than mine in the canoe to steer me safely through the

I received much kind attention from my new neighbour, the Rev. W. W____, a
truly excellent and pious clergyman of the English Church. The good,
white-haired old man expressed the kindest sympathy in all my trials, and
strengthened me greatly with his benevolent counsels and gentle charity.
Mr. W____ was a true follower of Christ. His Christianity was not confined
to his own denomination; and every Sabbath his log cottage was filled with
attentive auditors, of all persuasions, who met together to listen to the
word of life delivered to them by a Christian minister in the wilderness.

He had been a very fine preacher, and though considerably turned of
seventy, his voice was still excellent, and his manner solemn-and

His only son, a young man of twenty-eight years of age had received a
serious injury in the brain by falling upon a turf-spade from a loft
window when a child, and his intellect had remained stationary from that
time. Poor Harry was an innocent child; he loved his parents with the
simplicity of a child, and all who spoke kindly to him he regarded as
friends. Like most persons of his caste of mind, his predilection for pet
animals was a prominent instinct. He was always followed by two dogs, whom
he regarded with especial favour. The moment he caught your eye, he looked
down admiringly upon his four-footed attendants,--patting their sleek
necks, and murmuring, "Nice dogs--nice dogs." Harry had singled out myself
and my little ones as great favourites. He would gather flowers for the
girls, and catch butterflies for the boys; while to me he always gave the
title of "dear aunt."

It so happened that one fine morning I wanted to walk a couple of miles
through the bush, to spend the day with Mrs. C____; but the woods were
full of the cattle belonging to the neighbouring settlers, and of these I
was terribly afraid. Whilst I was dressing the little girls to accompany
me, Harry W____ came in with a message from his mother. "Oh," thought I,
"here is Harry W____. He will walk with us through the bush, and defend us
from the cattle."

The proposition was made, and Harry was not a little proud of being
invited to join our party. We had accomplished half the distance without
seeing a single hoof; and I was beginning to congratulate myself upon our
unusual luck, when a large red ox, maddened by the stings of the gadflies,
came headlong through the brush, tossing up the withered leaves and dried
moss with his horns, and making directly towards us. I screamed to my
champion for help; but where was he?--running like a frightened chissmunk
along the fallen timber, shouting to my eldest girl, at the top of his

"Run, Katty, run!--The bull, the bull! Run, Katty!--The bull, the bull!"--
leaving us poor creatures far behind in the chase.

The bull, who cared not one fig for us, did not even stop to give us a
passing stare, and was soon lost among the trees; while our valiant knight
never stopped to see what had become of us, but made the best of his way
home. So much for taking an innocent for a guard.

The next month most of the militia regiments were disbanded. My husband's
services were no longer required at P____, and he once more returned to
help to gather in our scanty harvest. Many of the old debts were paid off
by his hard-saved pay; and though all hope of continuing in the militia
service was at an end, our condition was so much improved that we looked
less to the dark than to the sunny side of the landscape.

The potato crop was gathered in, and I had collected my store of dandelion
roots for our winter supply of coffee, when one day brought a letter to my
husband from the Governor's secretary, offering him the situation of
sheriff of the V____ district. Though perfectly unacquainted with the
difficulties and responsibilities of such an important office, my husband
looked upon it as a gift sent from heaven to remove us from the sorrows
and poverty with which we were surrounded in the woods.

Once more he bade us farewell; but it was to go and make ready a home for
us, that we should no more be separated from each other.

Heartily did I return thanks to God that night for all his mercies to us;
and Sir George Arthur was not forgotten in those prayers.

From B____, my husband wrote to me to make what haste I could in disposing
of our crops, household furniture, stock, and farming implements; and to
prepare myself and the children to join him on the first fall of snow that
would make the roads practicable for sleighing. To facilitate this object,
he sent me a box of clothing, to make up for myself and the children.

For seven years I had lived out of the world entirely; my person had been
rendered coarse by hard work and exposure to the weather. I looked double
the age I really was, and my hair was already thickly sprinkled with gray.
I clung to my solitude. I did not like to be dragged from it to mingle in
gay scenes, in a busy town, and with gayly-dressed people. I was no longer
fit for the world; I had lost all relish for the pursuits and pleasures
which are so essential to its votaries; I was contented to live and die in

My dear Emilia rejoiced, like a true friend, in my changed prospects, and
came up to help me to cut clothes for the children, and to assist me in
preparing them for the journey.

I succeeded in selling off our goods and chattels much better than I
expected. My old friend, Mr. W____, who was a new comer, became the
principal purchaser, and when Christmas arrived I had not one article left
upon my hands save the bedding, which it was necessary to take with us.



Never did eager British children look for the first violets and primroses
of spring with more impatience than my baby boys and girls watched, day
after day, for the first snow-flakes that were to form the road to convey
them to their absent father.

"Winter never means to come this year. It will never snow again!"
exclaimed my eldest boy, turning from the window on Christmas-day, with
the most rueful aspect that ever greeted the broad, gay beams of the
glorious sun. It was like a spring day. The little lake in front of the
window glittered like a mirror of silver, set in its dark frame of pine

I, too, was wearying for the snow, and was tempted to think that it did
not come as early as usual, in order to disappoint us. But I kept this to
myself, and comforted the expecting child with the oft-repeated assertion
that it would certainly snow upon the morrow.

But the morrow came and passed away, and many other morrows, and the same
mild, open weather prevailed. The last night of the old year was ushered
in with furious storms of wind and snow; the rafters of our log cabin
shook beneath the violence of the gale, which swept up from the lake like
a lion roaring for its prey, driving the snow-flakes through every open
crevice, of which there were not a few, and powdering the floor until it
rivalled in whiteness the ground without.

"Oh, what a dreadful night!" we cried, as we huddled shivering, around the
old broken stove. "A person abroad in the woods to-night would be frozen.
Flesh and blood could not long stand this cutting wind."

"It reminds me of the commencement of a laughable extempore ditty," said I
to my young friend, A. C____, who was staying with me, "composed by my
husband, during the first very cold night we spent in Canada:

"Oh, the cold of Canada nobody knows,
The fire burns our shoes without warming our toes,
Oh, dear, what shall we do?
Our blankets are thin, and our noses are blue--
Our noses are blue, and our blankets are thin,
It's at zero without, and we're freezing within.
(_Chorus_.) Oh, dear, what shall we do?

"But, joking apart, my dear A____, we ought to be very thankful that we
are not travelling this night to B____."

"But to-morrow," said my eldest boy, lifting up his curly head from my
lap. "It will be fine to-morrow, and we shall see dear papa again."

In this hope he lay down on his little bed upon the floor, and was soon
fast asleep; perhaps dreaming of that eagerly-anticipated journey, and of
meeting his beloved father.

Sleep was a stranger to my eyes. The tempest raged so furiously without
that I was fearful the roof would be carried off the house, or that the
chimney would take fire. The night was far advanced when old Jenny and
myself retired to bed.

My boy's words were prophetic; that was the last night I ever spent in the
bush--in the dear forest home which I had loved in spite of all the
hardships which we had endured since we pitched our tent in the backwoods.
It was the birthplace of my three boys, the school of high resolve and
energetic action, in which we had learned to meet calmly, and successfully
to battle with, the ills of life. Nor did I leave it without many
regretful tears, to mingle once more with a world to whose usages, during
my long solitude. I had become almost a stranger, and to whose praise or
blame I felt alike indifferent.

When the day dawned, the whole forest scenery lay glittering in a mantle
of dazzling white; the sun shone brightly, the heavens were intensely
blue, but the cold was so severe that every article of food had to be
thawed before we could get our breakfast. The very blankets that covered
us during the night were stiff with our frozen breath. "I hope the sleighs
won't come to-day," I cried; "we should be frozen on the long journey."

About noon two sleighs turned into our clearing. Old Jenny ran screaming
into the room, "The masther has sent for us at last! The sleighs are come!
Fine large sleighs, and illigant teams of horses! Och, and it's a cowld
day for the wee things to lave the bush."

The snow had been a week in advance of us at B____, and my husband had
sent up the teams to remove us. The children jumped about, and laughed
aloud for joy. Old Jenny did not know whether to laugh or cry, but she set
about helping me to pack up trunks and bedding as fast as our cold hands
would permit.

In the midst of the confusion, my brother arrived, like a good genius, to
our assistance, declaring his determination to take us down to B____
himself in his large lumber-sleigh. This was indeed joyful news. In less
than three hours he despatched the hired sleighs with their loads, and we
all stood together in the empty house, striving to warm our hands over
the embers of the expiring fire.

How cold and desolate every object appeared! The windows, half blocked up
with snow, scarcely allowed a glimpse of the declining sun to cheer us
with his serene aspect. In spite of the cold, several kind friends had
waded through the deep snow to say, "God bless you!--Good-bye;" while a
group of silent Indians stood together, gazing upon our proceedings with
an earnestness which showed that they were not uninterested in the scene.
As we passed out to the sleigh, they pressed forward, and silently held
out their hands, while the squaws kissed me and the little ones with
tearful eyes. They had been true friends to us in our dire necessity, and
I returned their mute farewell from my very heart.

Mr. S____ sprang into the sleigh. One of our party was missing. "Jenny!"
shouted my brother, at the top of his voice, "it is too cold to keep your
mistress and the little children waiting."

"Och, shure thin, it is I that am comin'!" returned the old body, as she
issued from the house.

Shouts of laughter greeted her appearance. The figure she cut upon that
memorable day I shall never forget. My brother dropped the reins upon the
horses' necks, and fairly roared. Jenny was about to commence her journey
to the front in three hats. Was it to protect her from the cold? Oh, no;
Jenny was not afraid of the cold! She could have eaten her breakfast on
the north side of an iceberg, and always dispensed with shoes, during the
most severe of our Canadian winters. It was to protect these precious
articles from Injury.

Our good, neighbour, Mrs. W____, had presented her with an old sky-blue
drawn-silk bonnet, as a parting benediction. This, by way of distinction,
for she never had possessed such an article of luxury as a silk bonnet in
her life, Jenny had placed over the coarse calico cap, with its full
furbelow of the same yellow, ill-washed, homely material, next to her
head, over this, as second in degree, a sun-burnt straw hat, with faded
pink ribbons, just showed its broken rim and tawdry trimmings, and, to
crown all, and serve as a guard to the rest, a really serviceable gray
beaver bonnet, once mine, towered up as high as the celebrated crown in
which brother Peter figures in Swift's "Tale of a Tub."

"Mercy, Jenny! Why, old woman, you don't mean to go with us that figure?"

"Och, my dear heart! I've no bandbox to kape the cowld from desthroying my
illigant bonnets," returned Jenny, laying her hand upon the side of the

"Go back, Jenny; go back," cried my brother. "For God's sake take all that
tomfoolery from off your head. We shall be the laughing-stock of every
village we pass through."

"Och, shure now, Mr. S____, who'd think of looking at an owld crathar like
me! It's only yorsel' that would notice the like."

"All the world, every body would look at you, Jenny. I believe that you
put on those hats to draw the attention of all the young fellows that we
shall happen to meet on the road. Ha, Jenny!"

With an air of offended dignity, the old woman returned to the house to
rearrange her toilet, and provide for the safety of her "illigant
bonnets," one of which she suspended to the strings of her cloak, while
she carried the third dangling in her hand; and no persuasion of mine
would induce her to put them out of sight.

Many painful and conflicting emotions agitated my mind, but found no
utterance in words, as we entered the forest path, and I looked my last
upon that humble home consecrated by the memory of a thousand sorrows.
Every object had become endeared to me during my long exile from civilized
life. I loved the lonely lake, with its magnificent belt of dark pines
sighing in the breeze; the cedar swamp, the summer home of my dark Indian
friends; my own dear little garden, with its rugged snake-fence, which I
had helped Jenny to place with my own hands, and which I had assisted the
faithful woman in cultivating for the last three years, where I had so
often braved the tormenting mosquitoes, black-flies, and intense heat, to
provide vegetables for the use of the family. Even the cows, that had
given a breakfast for the last time to my children, were now regarded with
mournful affection. A poor labourer stood in the doorway of the deserted
house, holding my noble water-dog, Rover, in a string. The poor fellow
gave a joyous bark as my eyes fell upon him.

"James J____, take care of my dog."

"Never fear, ma'am, he shall bide with me as long as he lives."

"He and the Indians at least feel grieved for our departure," I thought.
Love is so scarce in this world that we ought to prize it, however lowly
the source from whence it flows.

We accomplished only twelve miles of our journey that night. The road lay
through the bush, and along the banks of the grand, rushing, foaming
Otonabee river, the wildest and most beautiful of forest streams. We slept
at the house of kind friends, and early in the morning resumed our long
journey, but minus one of our party. Our old favourite cat, Peppermint,
had made her escape from the basket in which she had been confined, and
had scampered off, to the great grief of the children.

As we passed Mrs. H____'s house, we called for dear Addie. Mr. H____
brought her in his arms to the gate, well wrapped up in a large fur cape
and a warm woollen shawl.

"You are robbing me of my dear little girl," he said. "Mrs. H____ is
absent; she told me not to part with her if you should call; but I could
not detain her without your consent. Now that you have seen her, allow me
to keep her for a few months longer!"

Addie was in the sleigh. I put my arm around her. I felt I had my child
again, and I secretly rejoiced in the possession of my own. I sincerely
thanked him for his kindness, and Mr. S____ drove on.

At Mr. R____'s, we found a parcel from dear Emilia, containing a plum-cake
and other good things for the children Her kindness never flagged.

We crossed the bridge over the Otonabee, in the rising town of
Peterborough, at eight o'clock in the morning. Winter had now set in
fairly. The children were glad to huddle together in the bottom of the
sleigh, under the buffalo skins and blankets; all but my eldest boy, who,
just turned of five years old, was enchanted with all he heard and saw,
and continued to stand up and gaze around him. Born in the forest, which
he had never quitted before, the sight of a town was such a novelty that
he could find no words wherewith to express his astonishment.

"Are the houses come to see one another?" he asked. "How did they all meet

The question greatly amused his uncle, who took some pains to explain to
him the difference between town and country. During the day, we got rid of
old Jenny and her bonnets, whom we found a very refractory travelling
companion; as wilful, and far more difficult to manage than a young child.
Fortunately, we overtook the sleighs with the furniture, and Mr. S____
transferred Jenny to the care of one of the drivers; an arrangement that
proved satisfactory to all parties.

We had been most fortunate in obtaining comfortable lodgings for the
night. The evening had closed in so intensely cold, that although we were
only two miles from C____ Addie was so much affected by it that the child
lay sick and pale in my arms, and, when spoken to, seemed scarcely
conscious of our presence.

My brother jumped from the front seat, and came round to look at her.
"That child is ill with the cold; we must stop somewhere to warm her, or
she will hardly hold out till we get to the inn at C____."

We were just entering the little village of A____, in the vicinity of the
court-house, and we stopped at a pretty green cottage, and asked
permission to warm the children. A stout, middle-aged woman came to the
sleigh, and in the kindest manner requested us to alight.

"I think I know that voice," I said. "Surely it cannot be Mrs. S____, who
once kept the ____ hotel at C____?"

"Mrs. Moodie, you are welcome," said the excellent woman, bestowing upon
me a most friendly embrace; "you and your children. I am heartily glad to
see you again after so many years. God bless you all!"

Nothing could exceed the kindness and hospitality of this generous woman;
she would not hear of our leaving her that night, and, directing my
brother to put up his horses in her stable, she made up an excellent fire
in a large bedroom, and helped me to undress the little ones who were
already asleep, and to warm and feed the rest before we put them to bed.

This meeting gave me real pleasure. In their station of life, I seldom
have found a more worthy couple than this American and his wife; and,
having witnessed so many of their acts of kindness, both to ourselves and
others, I entertained for them a sincere respect and affection, and truly
rejoiced that Providence had once more led me to the shelter of their

Mr. S____ was absent, but I found little Mary--the sweet child who used to
listen with such delight to Moodie's flute--grown up into a beautiful
girl; and the baby that was, a fine child of eight years old. The next
morning was so intensely cold that my brother would not resume the journey
until past ten o'clock, and even then it was a hazardous experiment.

We had not proceeded four miles before the horses were covered with
icicles. Our hair was frozen as white as Old Time's solitary forelock, our
eyelids stiff, and every limb aching with cold.

"This will never do," said my brother, turning to me; "the children will
freeze. I never felt the cold more severe than this."

"Where can we stop?" said I; "we are miles from C____, and I see no
prospect of the weather becoming milder."

"Yes, yes; I know, by the very intensity of the cold, that a change is at
hand. We seldom have more than three very severe days running, and this is
the third. At all events, it is much warmer at night in this country than
during the day; the wind drops, and the frost is more bearable. I know a
worthy farmer who lives about a mile ahead; he will give us house-room for
a few hours, and we will resume our journey in the evening. The moon is at
full; and it will be easier to wrap the children up, and keep them warm
when they are asleep. Shall we stop at Old Woodruff's?"

"With all my heart." My teeth were chattering with the cold, and the
children were crying over their aching fingers at the bottom of the

A few minutes' ride brought us to a large farm-house, surrounded by
commodious sheds and barns. A fine orchard opposite, and a yard well
stocked with fat cattle and sheep, sleek geese, and plethoric-looking
swine, gave promise of a land of abundance and comfort. My brother ran
into the house to see if the owner was at home, and presently returned,
accompanied by the staunch Canadian yeoman and his daughter, who gave us a
truly hearty welcome, and assisted in removing the children from the
sleigh to the cheerful fire, that made all bright and cozy within.

Our host was a shrewd, humorous-looking Yorkshireman. His red, weather
beaten face, and tall, athletic, figure, bent as it was with hard labour,
gave indications of great personal strength; and a certain knowing twinkle
in his small, clear gray eyes, which had been acquired by long dealing
with the world, with a quiet, sarcastic smile that lurked round the
corners of his large mouth, gave you the idea of a man who could not
easily be deceived by his fellows; one who, though no rogue himself, was
quick in detecting the roguery of others. His manners were frank and easy,
and he was such a hospitable entertainer that you felt at home with him in
a minute.

"Well, how are you, Mr. S____?" cried the farmer, shaking my brother
heartily by the hand. "Toiling in the bush still, eh?"

"Just in the same place."

"And the wife and children?"

"Hearty. Some half-dozen have been added to the flock since you were our

"So much the better--so much the better. The more the merrier, Mr. S____;
children are riches in this country."

"I know not how that may be; I find it hard to clothe and feed mine."

"Wait till they grow up; they will be brave helps to you then. The price
of labour--the price of labour, Mr. S____, is the destruction of the

"It does not seem to trouble you much, Woodruff" said my brother, glancing
round the well-furnished apartment.

"My son and S____ do it all," cried the old man. "Of course the girls help
in busy times, and take care of the dairy, and we hire occasionally; but
small as the sum is which is expended in wages during seed-time and
harvest, I feel it, I can tell you."

"You are married again, Woodruff?"

"No, sir," said the farmer, with a peculiar smile; "not yet;" which seemed
to imply the probability of such an event. "That tall gal is my eldest
daughter; she manages the house, and an excellent housekeeper she is. But
I cannot keep her for ever." With a knowing wink. "Gals will think of
getting married, and seldom consult the wishes of their parents upon the
subject when once they have taken the notion into their heads. But 'tis
natural, Mr. S____, it is natural; we did just the same when we were

My brother looked laughingly towards the fine, handsome young woman,
as she placed upon the table hot water, whiskey, and a huge plate of
plum-cake, which did not lack a companion, stored with the finest apples
which the orchard could produce.

The young girl looked down, and blushed.

"Oh, I see how it is, Woodruff! You will soon lose your daughter. I wonder
that you have kept her so long. But who are these young ladies?" he
continued, as three girls very demurely entered the room.

"The two youngest are my darters, by my last wife, who, I fear, mean soon
to follow the bad example of their sister. The other _lady_," said the old
man, with a reverential air, "is a _particular_ friend of my eldest

My brother laughed slyly, and the old man's cheek took a deeper glow as he
stooped forward to mix the punch.

"You said that these two young ladies, Woodruff, were by your last wife.
Pray how many wives have you had?"

"Only three. It is impossible, they say in my country, to have too much of
a good thing."

"So I suppose you think," said my brother, glancing first at the old man
and then towards Miss Smith. "Three wives! You have been a fortunate man,
Woodruff, to survive them all."

"Ah, have I not, Mr. S____? but to tell you the truth, I have been both
lucky and unlucky in the wife way," and then he told us the history of his
several ventures in matrimony, with which I shall not trouble my readers.

When he had concluded, the weather was somewhat milder, the sleigh was
ordered to the door, and we proceeded on our journey, resting, for the
night at a small village about twenty miles from B____, rejoicing that the
long distance which separated us from the husband and father was
diminished to a few miles, and that, with the blessing of Providence, we
should meet on the morrow.

About noon we reached the distant town, and were met at the inn by him
whom, one and all so ardently longed to see. He conducted us to a pretty,
neat cottage, which he had prepared for our reception, and where we found
old Jenny already arrived. With great pride the old woman conducted me
over the premises, and showed me the furniture "the masther" had bought;
especially recommending to my notice a china tea-service, which she
considered the most wonderful acquisition of the whole.

"Och! who would have thought, a year ago, misthress dear, that we should
be living in a mansion like this, and ating off raal chaney? It is but
yestherday that we were hoeing praties in the field."

"Yes, Jenny, God has been very good to us, and I hope that we shall never
learn to regard with indifference the many benefits which we have received
at His hands."

Reader! it is not my intention to trouble you with the sequel of our
history. I have given you a faithful picture of a life in the backwoods of
Canada, and I leave you to draw from it your own conclusions. To the poor,
industrious workingman it presents many advantages; to the poor gentleman,
_none!_ The former works hard, puts up with coarse, scanty fare, and
submits, with a good grace, to hardships that would kill a domesticated
animal at home. Thus he becomes independent, inasmuch as the land that he
has cleared finds him in the common necessaries of life; but it seldom, if
ever, in remote situations, accomplishes more than this. The gentleman can
neither work so hard, live so coarsely, nor endure so many privations as
his poorer but more fortunate neighbour. Unaccustomed to manual labour,
his services in the field are not of a nature to secure for him a
profitable return. The task is new to him, he knows not how to perform it
well; and, conscious of his deficiency, he expends his little means in
hiring labour, which his bush farm can never repay. Difficulties increase,
debts grow upon him, he struggles in vain to extricate himself, and
finally sees his family sink into hopeless ruin.

If these sketches should prove the means of deterring one family from
sinking their property, and shipwrecking all their hopes, by going to
reside in the backwoods of Canada, I shall consider myself amply repaid
for revealing the secrets of the prison house, and feel that I have not
toiled and suffered in the wilderness in vain.



Hail to the pride of the forest--hail
To the maple, tall and green;
It yields a treasure which ne'er shall fail
While leaves on its boughs are seen.
When the moon shines bright,
On the wintry night,
And silvers the frozen snow;
And echo dwells
On the jingling bells
As the sleighs dart to and fro;
Then it brightens the mirth
Of the social hearth
With its red and cheery glow.

Afar, 'mid the bosky forest shades,
It lifts its tall head on high;
When the crimson-tinted evening fades
From the glowing saffron sky;
When the sun's last beams
Light up woods and streams,
And brighten the gloom below;
And the deer springs by
With his flashing eye,
And the shy, swift-footed doe;
And the sad winds chide
In the branches wide,
With a tender plaint of woe.

The Indian leans on its rugged trunk,
With the bow in his red right-hand,
And mourns that his race, like a stream, has sunk
From the glorious forest land.
But, blithe and free,
The maple-tree,
Still tosses to sun and air
Its thousand arms,
While in countless swarms
The wild bee revels there;
But soon not a trace
Of the red man's race
Shall be found in the landscape fair.

When the snows of winter are melting fast,
And the sap begins to rise,
And the biting breath of the frozen blast
Yields to the spring's soft sighs,
Then away to the wood,
For the maple, good,
Shall unlock its honied store;
And boys and girls,
With their sunny curls,
Bring their vessels brimming o'er
With the luscious flood
Of the brave tree's blood,
Into caldrons deep to pour.

The blaze from the sugar-bush gleams red;
Far down in the forest dark,
A ruddy glow on the trees is shed,
That lights up their ragged bark;
And with merry shout,
The busy rout
Watch the sap as it bubbles high;
And they talk of the cheer
Of the coming year,
And the jest and the song pass by;
And brave tales of old
Round the fire are told,
That kindle youth's beaming eye.

Hurra! for the sturdy maple-tree!
Long may its green branch wave;
In native strength sublime and free,
Meet emblem for the brave.
May the nation's peace
With its growth increase,
And its worth be widely spread;
For it lifts not in vain
To the sun and rain
Its tall, majestic head.
May it grace our soil,
And reward our toil,
Till the nation's heart is dead!

Reader! my task is ended.


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