Roughing it in the Bush
Can a corrupted stream pour through the land
Health-giving waters? Can the slave, who lures
His wretched followers with the hope of gain,
Feel in his bosom the immortal fire
That bound a Wallace to his country’s cause,
And bade the Thracian shepherd cast away
Rome’s galling yoke; while the astonish’d world—
Rapt into admiration at the deed—
Paus’d, ere she crush’d, with overwhelming force,
The man who fought to win a glorious grave?
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 forthcoming.
It was a sorrowful day when our young friend left us; he had been a constant inmate in the house for nine 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—— would return.
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 helpless, 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 waves 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 very weak.
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 not what other 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 marvelous 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 the 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! Och hone!” she cried, wringing her hands, “masther dear, why will you lave the wife and the childher? The poor crathur is breakin’ her heart intirely at partin’ wid you. Shure 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 backwoodsman, 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. I must own that my British spirit was fairly aroused, and as I could not aid in subduing the enemies of my beloved country with my arm, I did what little I could to serve the good cause with my pen. It may probably amuse my readers, to give them a few specimens of these loyal staves, which were widely circulated through the colony at the time.
AN ADDRESS TO THE FREEMEN OF CANADA
Canadians! will you join the band—
The factious band—who dare oppose
The regal power of that bless’d land
From whence your boasted freedom flows?
Brave children of a noble race,
Guard well the altar and the hearth;
And never by your deeds disgrace
The British sires who gave you birth.
What though your bones may never lie
Beneath dear Albion’s hallow’d sod,
Spurn the base wretch who dare defy,
In arms, his country and his God!
Whose callous bosom cannot feel
That he who acts a traitor’s part,
Remorselessly uplifts the steel
To plunge it in a parent’s heart.
Canadians! will you see the flag,
Beneath whose folds your fathers bled,
Supplanted by the vilest rag
That ever host to rapine led?
Thou emblem of a tyrant’s sway,
Thy triple hues are dyed in gore;
Like his, thy power has pass’d away—
Like his, thy short-lived triumph’s o’er.
Ay! Let the trampled despot’s fate
Forewarn the rash, misguided band
To sue for mercy, ere too late,
Nor scatter ruin o’er the land.
The baffled traitor, doomed to bear
A people’s hate, his colleagues’ scorn,
Defeated by his own despair,
Will curse the hour that he was born!
By all the blood for Britain shed
On many a glorious battle-field,
To the free winds her standard spread,
Nor to these base insurgents yield.
With loyal bosoms beating high,
In your good cause securely trust;
“God and Victoria!” be your cry,
And crush the traitors to the dust.
This outpouring of a national enthusiasm, which I found it impossible to restrain, was followed by
THE OATH OF THE CANADIAN VOLUNTEERS
Huzza for England!—May she claim
Our fond devotion ever;
And, by the glory of her name,
Our brave forefathers’ honest fame,
We swear—no foe shall sever
Her children from their parent’s side;
Though parted by the wave,
In weal or woe, whate’er betide,
We swear to die, or save
Her honour from the rebel band
Whose crimes pollute our injured land!
Let the foe come—we will not shrink
To meet them if they dare;
Well must they fight, ere rashly think
To rend apart one sacred link
That binds our country fair
To that dear isle, from whence we sprung;
Which gave our fathers birth;
Whose glorious deeds her bards have sung;
The unrivall’d of the earth.
The highest privilege we claim,
To own her sway—to bear her name.
Then, courage, loyal volunteers!
God will defend the right;
That thought will banish slavish fears,
That blessed consciousness still cheers
The soldier in the fight.
The stars for us shall never burn,
The stripes may frighten slaves,
The Briton’s eye will proudly turn
Where Britain’s standard waves.
Beneath its folds, if Heaven requires,
We’ll die, as died of old our sires!
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 re-union 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 or sugar, while a debt remained unpaid.
The Y——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——y’s were gifted with secondsight; for I never received a money-letter, but the very next day I was sure to see some of the family.
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 realised 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 anything 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. “Sure, we can live and die widout them. It’s only a waste of time botherin’ your brains wid the like of them; but, thanks 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 mamma.”
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 the boy.
“What has happened? Why do you beat the child, Jenny?”
“It’s jist, thin, I that will bate him—the unlucky omadhawn! Has not he 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 far-off future.
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 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 basswood together; to these again I fastened, at regular intervals, about a quarter of a yard of whipcord, 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 cat-fish.
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 far 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 had happened.
“Ninny’s mad!” whispered Dunbar; “she’s the old girl for making a noise.”
“Joy! Joy!” bawled out the old woman, now running breathlessly toward 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 father’s arms.
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 Y——y’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 sympathise with them, and fully recognise 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 steam-boat 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 have suffered during your 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 political struggles that convulsed the country were scarcely echoed in the depths of those old primeval forests, though the expulsion of Mackenzie from Navy Island, and the burning of the Caroline by Captain Drew, had been discussed on the farthest borders of civilisation. With a tribute to the gallant conduct of that brave officer, I will close this chapter:—
THE BURNING OF THE CAROLINE
A sound is on the midnight deep—
The voice of waters vast;
And onward, with resistless sweep,
The torrent rushes past,
In frantic chase, wave after wave,
The crowding surges press, and rave
Their mingled might to cast
Adown Niagara’s giant steep;
The fretted billows foaming leap
With wild tumultuous roar;
The clashing din ascends on high,
In deaf’ning thunders to the sky,
And shakes the rocky shore.
Hark! what strange sounds arise—
‘Tis not stern Nature’s voice—
In mingled chorus to the skies!
The waters in their depths rejoice.
Hark! on the midnight air
A frantic cry uprose;
The yell of fierce despair,
The shout of mortal foes;
And mark yon sudden glare,
Whose red, portentous gleam
Flashes on rock and stream
With strange, unearthly light;
What passing meteor’s beam
Lays bare the brow of night?
From yonder murky shore
What demon vessel glides,
Stemming the unstemm’d tides,
Where maddening breakers roar
In hostile surges round her path,
Or hiss, recoiling from her prow,
That reeling, staggers to their wrath;
While distant shores return the glow
That brightens from her burning frame,
And all above—around—below—
Is wrapt in ruddy flame?
Sail on!—sail on!—No mortal hand
Directs that vessel’s blazing course;
The vengeance of an injured land
Impels her with resistless force
‘Midst breaking wave and fiery gleam,
O’er-canopied with clouds of smoke;
Midway she stems the raging stream,
And feels the rapids’ thundering stroke;
Now buried deep, now whirl’d on high,
She struggles with her awful doom,—
With frantic speed now hurries by
To find a watery tomb.
Lo, poised upon the topmost surge,
She shudders o’er the dark abyss;
The foaming waters round her hiss
And hoarse waves ring her funeral dirge;
The chafing billows round her close;
But ere her burning planks are riven,
Shoots up one ruddy spout of fire,—
Her last farewell to earth and heaven.
Down, down to endless night she goes!
So may the traitor’s hope expire,
So perish all our country’s foes!
Destruction’s blazing star
Has vanish’d from our sight;
The thunderbolt of war
Is quench’d in endless night;
Nor sight, nor sound of fear
Startles the listening ear;
Naught but the torrent’s roar,
The dull, deep, heavy sound,
From out the dark profound,
Echoes from shore to shore.
Where late the cry of blood
Rang on the midnight air,
The mournful lapsing of the flood,
The wild winds in the lonely wood,
Claim sole dominion there.
To thee, high-hearted Drew!
And thy victorious band
Of heroes tried and true
A nation’s thanks are due.
Defender of an injured land!
Well hast thou taught the dastard foe
That British honour never yields
To democratic influence, low,
The glory of a thousand fields.
Justice to traitors, long delay’d,
This night was boldly dealt by thee;
The debt of vengeance thou hast paid,
And may the deed immortal be.
Thy outraged country shall bestow
A lasting monument of fame,
The highest meed of praise below—
A British patriot’s deathless name!
- The tri-coloured flag assumed by the rebels. ↵