From: Susanna Moodie, Roughing it in the Bush; Or, Life in Canada (London, England: Richard Bentley, 1852) and 3rd. ed. (1854).
[Introduction to the Third Edition, 1854]
In most instances, emigration is a matter of necessity, not of choice; and this is more especially true of the emigration of persons of respectable connections, or of any station or position in the world. Few educated persons, accustomed to the refinements and luxuries of European society, ever willingly relinquish those advantages, and place themselves beyond the protective influence of the wise and revered institutions of their native land, without the pressure of some urgent cause. Emigration may, indeed, generally be regarded as an act of severe duty, performed at the expense of personal enjoyment, and accompanied by the sacrifice of those local attachments which stamp the scenes amid which our childhood grew, in imperishable characters upon the heart. Nor is it until adversity has pressed sorely upon the proud and wounded spirit of the well-educated sons and daughters of old but impoverished families, that they gird up the loins of the mind, and arm themselves with fortitude to meet and dare the heart-breaking conflict.
The ordinary motives for the emigration of such persons may be summed up in a few brief words; the emigrants hope of bettering his condition, and of escaping from the vulgar sarcasms too often hurled at the less wealthy by the purse-proud, commonplace people of the world. But there is a higher motive still, which has its origin in that love of independence which springs up spontaneously in the breasts of the high-souled children of a glorious land. They cannot labour in a menial capacity in the country where they were born and educated to command. They can trace no difference between themselves and the more fortunate individuals of a race whose blood warms their veins, and whose name they bear. The want of wealth alone places an impassible barrier between them and the more favoured offspring of the same parent stock; and they go forth to make for themselves a new name and to find another country, to forget the past and to live in the future, to exult in the prospect of their children being free and the land of their adoption great.
The choice of the country to which they devote their talents and energies depends less upon their pecuniary means than upon the fancy of the emigrant or the popularity of a name. From the year 1826 to 1829, Australia and the Swan River were all the rage. No other portions of the habitable globe were deemed worthy of notice. These were the El Dorados and lands of Goshen to which all respectable emigrants eagerly flocked. Disappointment, as a matter of course, followed their high-raised expectations. Many of the most sanguine of these adventurers returned to their native shores in a worse condition than when they left them. In 1830, the great tide of emigration flowed westward. Canada became the great land-mark for the rich in hope and poor in purse. Public newspapers and private letters teemed with the unheard-of advantages to be derived from a settlement in this highly-favoured region.
Its salubrious climate, its fertile soil, commercial advantages, great water privileges, its proximity to the mother country, and last, not least, its almost total exemption from taxation that bugbear which keeps honest John Bull in a state of constant ferment were the theme of every tongue, and lauded beyond all praise. The general interest, once excited, was industriously kept alive by pamphlets, published by interested parties, which prominently set forth all the good to be derived from a settlement in the Backwoods of Canada; while they carefully concealed the toil and hardship to be endured in order to secure these advantages. They told of lands yielding forty bushels to the acre, but they said nothing of the years when these lands, with the most careful cultivation, would barely return fifteen; when rust and smut, engendered by the vicinity of damp overhanging woods, would blast the fruits of the poor emigrants labour, and almost deprive him of bread. They talked of log houses to be raised in a single day, by the generous exertions of friends and nieghbours, but they never ventured upon a picture of the disgusting scenes of riot and low debauchery exhibited during the raising, or upon a description of the dwellings when raised dens of dirt and misery, which would, in many instances, be shamed by an English pig-sty. The necessaries of life were described as inestimably cheap; but they forgot to add that in remote bush settlements, often twenty miles from a market town, and some of them even that distance from the nearest dwelling, the necessaries of life, which would be deemed indispensable to the European, could not be procured at all, or, if obtained, could only be so by sending a man and team through a blazed forest road, a process far too expensive for frequent repetition.
Oh, ye dealers in wild lands ye speculators in the folly and credulity of your fellow men what a mass of misery, and of misrepresentation productive of that misery, have ye not to answer for! You had your acres to sell, and what to you were the worn-down frames and broken hearts of the infatuated purchasers? The public believed the plausible statements you made with such earnestness, and men of all grades rushed to hear your hired orators declaim upon the blessings to be obtained by the clearers of the wilderness.
Men who had been hopeless of supporting their families in comfort and independence at home, thought that they had only to come out to Canada to make their fortunes; almost even to realise the story told in the nursery, of the sheep and oxen that ran about the streets, ready roasted, and with knives and forks upon their backs. They were made to believe that if it did not actually rain gold, that precious metal could be obtained, as is now stated of California and Australia, by stooping to pick it up.
The infection became general. A Canada mania pervaded the middle ranks of British society; thousands and tens of thousands, for the space of three or four years, landed upon these shores. A large majority of the higher class were officers of the army and navy, with their families a class perfectly unfitted by their previous habits and education for contending with the stern realities of emigrant life. The hand that has long held the sword, and been accustomed to receive implicit obedience from those under its control, is seldom adapted to wield the spade and guide the plough, or try its strength against the stubborn trees of the forest. Nor will such persons submit cheerfully to the saucy familiarity of servants, who, republicans in spirit, think themselves as good as their employers. Too many of these brave and honourable men were easy dupes to the designing land-speculators. Not having counted the cost, but only looked upon the bright side of the picture held up to their admiring gaze, they fell easily into the snares of their artful seducers.
To prove their zeal as colonists, they were induced to purchase large tracts of wild land in remote and unfavourable situations. This, while it impoverished and often proved the ruin of the unfortunate immigrant, possessed a double advantage to the seller. He obtained an exorbitant price for the land which he actually sold, while the residence of a respectable settler upon the spot greatly enhanced the value and price of all other lands in the neighbourhood.
It is not by such instruments as those I have just mentioned, that Providence works when it would reclaim the waste places of the earth, and make them subservient to the wants and happiness of its creatures. The Great Father of the souls and bodies of men knows the arm which wholesome labour from infancy has made strong, the nerves which have become iron by patient endurance, by exposure to weather, coarse fare, and rude shelter; and he chooses such, to send forth into the forest to hew out the rough paths for the advance of civilisation. These men become wealthy and prosperous, and form the bones and sinews of a great and rising country. Their labour is wealth, not exhaustion; its produce independence and content, not home-sickness and despair. What the Backwoods of Canada are to the industrious and ever-to-be-honoured sons of honest poverty, and what they are to the refined and accomplished gentleman, these simple sketches will endeavour to portray. They are drawn principally from my own experience, during a sojourn of nineteen years in the colony.
In order to diversify my subject, and make it as amusing as possible, I have between the sketches introduced a few small poems, all written during my residence in Canada, and descriptive of the country.
In this pleasing task I have been assisted by my husband, J.W. Dunbar Moodie, author of Ten Years in South Africa.BELLEVILLE, UPPER CANADA
[One: A Visit to Grosse Isle]The dreadful cholera was depopulating Quebec and Montreal when our ship cast anchor off Grosse Isle, on the 30th of August 1832, and we were boarded a few minutes after by the health officers. One of these gentlemen a little, shrivelled-up Frenchman from his solemn aspect and attenuated figure, would have made no bad representative of him who sat upon the pale horse. He was the only grave Frenchman I had ever seen, and I naturally enough regarded him as a phenomenon. His companion a fine-looking fair-haired Scotchman though a little consequential in his manners, looked like one who in his own person could combat and vanquish all the evils which flesh is heir to. Such was the contrast between these doctors, that they would have formed very good emblems one, of vigorous health; the other, of hopeless decay.
Our captain, a rude, blunt north-country sailor, possessing certainly not more politeness than might be expected in a bear, received his sprucely dressed visitors on the deck, and, with very little courtesy, abruptly bade them follow him down to the cabin.
The officials were no sooner seated, than glancing hastily round the place, they commenced the following dialogue:
From what port, captain?
Now, the captain had a peculiar language of his own, from which he commonly expunged all the connecting links. Small words, such as and and the, he contrived to dispense with altogether.
Scotlandsailed from port oLeith, bound for Quebec, Montreal general cargo seventy-two steerage, four cabin passengers brig, ninety-two tons burden, crew eight hands. Here he produced his credentials, and handed them to the strangers. The Scotchman just glanced over the documents, and laid them on the table.
Had you a good passage out?
Tedious, baffling winds, heavy fogs, detained three weeks on Banks foul weather making Gulf short of water, people out of provisions, steerage passengers starving.
Any case of sickness or death on board?
All sound as crickets.
Any births? lisped the little Frenchman.
The captain screwed up his mouth, and after a moments reflection he replied, Births? Why, yes; now I think ont, gentlemen, we had one female on board, who produced three at a birth.
Thats uncommon, said the Scotch doctor, with an air of lively curiosity. Are the children alive and well? I should like much to see them. He started up, and knocked his head, for he was very tall, against the ceiling. Confound your low cribs! I have nearly dashed out my brains.
A hard task that, looked the captain to me. He did not speak, but I knew by his sarcastic grin what was uppermost in his thoughts. The young ones all males fine thriving fellows. Step upon deck. Sam Frazer, turning to his steward; bring them down for doctors to see. Sam vanished, with a knowing wink to his superior, and quickly returned, bearing in his arms three fat, chuckle-headed bull terriers; the sagacious mother following close at his heels, and looked ready to give and take offence on the slightest provocation.
Here, gentlemen, are the babies, said Frazer, depositing his burden on the floor. They do credit to the nursing of the brindled slut.
The old tar laughed, chuckled, and rubbed his hands in an ecstacy of delight at the indignation and disappointment visible in the countenance of the Scotch Esculapius, who, angry as he was, wisely held his tongue. Not so the Frenchman; his rage scarcely knew bounds, he danced in a state of most ludicrous excitement, he shook his fist at our rough captain, and screamed at the top of his voice,
Sacré, you bête! You tink us dog, ven you try to pass your puppies on us for babies?
Hout, man, dont be angry, said the Scotchman, stifling a laugh; you see tis only a joke!
Joke! me no understand such joke. Bête! returned the angry Frenchman, bestowing a savage kick on one of the unoffending pups which was frisking about his feet. The pup yelped; the slut barked and leaped furiously at the offender, and was only kept from biting him by Sam, who could scarcely hold her back for laughing; the captain was uproarious; the offended Frenchman alone maintained a severe and dignified aspect. The dogs were at length dismissed, and peace restored.
After some further questioning from the officials, a bible was required for the captain to take an oath. Mine was mislaid, and there was none at hand.
Confound it! muttered the old sailor, tossing over the papers in his desk; that scoundrel, Sam, always stows my traps out of the way. Then taking up from the table a book which I had been reading, which happened to be Voltaires History of Charles XII., he presented it, with as grave an air as he could assume, to the Frenchman. Taking for granted that it was the volume required, the little doctor was too polite to open the book, the captain was duly sworn, and the party returned to the deck.
Here a new difficulty occurred, which nearly ended in a serious quarrel. The gentlemen requested the old sailor to give them a few feet of old planking, to repair some damage which their boat had sustained the day before. This the captain could not do. They seemed to think his refusal intentional, and took it as a personal affront. In no very gentle tones, they ordered him instantly to prepare his boats, and put his passengers on shore.
Stiff breeze short sea, returned the bluff old seaman; great risk in making land boats heavily laden with women and children will be swamped. Not a soul goes on shore this night.
If you refuse to comply with our orders, we will report you to the authorities.
I know my duty you stick to yours. When the wind falls off, Ill see to it. Not a life shall be risked to please you or your authorities.
He turned upon his heel, and the medical men left the vessel in great disdain. We had every reason to be thankful for the firmness displayed by our rough commander. That same evening we saw eleven persons drowned, from another vessel close beside us, while attempting to make the shore.
By daybreak all was hurry and confusion on board the Anne. I watched boat after boat depart for the island, full of people and goods, and envied them the glorious privilege of once more standing firmly on the earth, after two long months of rocking and rolling at sea. How ardently we anticipate pleasure, which often ends in positive pain! Such was my case when at last indulged in the gratification so eagerly desired. As cabin passengers, we were not included in the general order of purification, but were only obliged to send our servant, with the clothes and bedding we had used during the voyage, on shore, to be washed.
The ship was soon emptied of all her live cargo. My husband went off with the boats, to reconnoitre the island, and I was left alone with my baby, in the otherwise empty vessel. Even Oscar, the Captains Scotch terrier, who had formed a devoted attachment to me during the voyage, forgot his allegiance, became possessed of the land mania, and was away with the rest. With the most intense desire to go on shore, I was doomed to look and long and envy every boatful of emigrants that glided past. Nor was this all; the ship was out of provisions, and I was condemned to undergo a rigid fast until the return of the boat, when the captain had promised a supply of fresh butter and bread. The vessel had been nine weeks at sea; the poor steerage passengers for the last two weeks had been out of food, and the captain had been obliged to feed from the ships stores. The promised bread was to be obtained from a small steam-boat which plied daily between Quebec and the island, transporting convalescent emigrants and their goods in her upward trip, and provisions for the sick on her return.
How I reckoned on once more tasting bread and butter! The very thought of the treat in store served to sharpen my appetite, and render the long fast more irksome. I could now fully realise all Mrs. Bowdichs longings for English bread and butter, after her three years travel through the burning African deserts, with her talented husband.
When we arrived at the hotel at Plymouth, said she, and were asked what refreshment we chose Tea, and home-made bread and butter, was my instant reply. Brown bread, if you please, and plenty of it. I never enjoyed any luxury like it. I was positively ashamed of asking the waiter to refill the plate. After the execrable messes, and the hard shop-biscuit, imagine the luxury of a good slice of English bread and butter!
At home, I laughed heartily at the lively energy with which that charming woman of genius related this little incident in her eventful history, but, off Grosse Isle, I realised it all.
As the sun rose above the horizon, all these matter-of-fact circumstances were gradually forgotten, and merged in the surpassing grandeur of the scene that rose majestically before me. The previous day had been dark and stormy; and a heavy fog had concealed the mountain chain, which forms the stupendous background to this sublime view, entirely from our sight. As the clouds rolled away from their grey, bald brows, and cast into denser shadow the vast forest belt that girdled them round, they loomed out like mighty giants Titans of the earth, in all their rugged and awful beauty a thrill of wonder and delight pervaded my mind. The spectacle floated dimly on my sight my eyes were blinded with tears blinded with the excess of beauty. I turned to the right and to the left, I looked up and down the glorious river; never had I beheld so many striking objects blended into one mighty whole! Nature had lavished all her noblest features in producing that enchanting scene.
The rocky isle in front, with its neat farm-houses at the eastern point, and its high bluff at the western extremity, crowned with the telegraph the middle space occupied by tents and sheds for the cholera patients, and its wooded shores dotted over with motley groups added greatly to the picturesque effect of the land scene. Then the broad, glittering river, covered with boats darting to and fro, conveying passengers from twenty-five vessels, of various size and tonnage, which rode at anchor, with their flags flying from the mast-head, gave an air of life and interest to the whole. Turning to the south side of the St. Lawrence, I was not less struck with its low fertile shores, white houses, and neat churches, whose slender spires and bright tin roofs shone like silver as they caught the first rays of the sun. As far as the eye could reach, a line of white buildings extended along bank; their background formed by the purple hue of the dense, interminable forest. It was a scene unlike any I had ever beheld, and to which Britain contains no parallel. Mackenzie, an old Scotch dragoon, who was one of our passengers, when he rose in the morning, and saw the parish of St. Thomas for the first time, exclaimed Weel, it beats a! Can thae white clouts be a houses? They look like claes hung out to drie! There was some truth in this odd comparison, and for some minutes, I could scarcely convince myself that the white patches scattered so thickly over the opposite shore could be the dwellings of a busy, lively population.
What sublime views of the north side of the river those habitans of St. Thomas must enjoy, thought I. Perhaps familiarity with the scene has rendered them indifferent to its astonishing beauty.
Eastward, the view down the St. Lawrence towards the Gulf, is the finest of all, scarcely surpassed by anything in the world. Your eye follows the long range of lofty mountains until their blue summits are blended and lost in the blue of the sky. Some of these, partially cleared round the base, are sprinkled over with neat cottages; and the green slopes that spread around them are covered with flocks and herds. The surface of the splendid river is diversified with islands of every size and shape, some in wood, others partially cleared, and adorned with orchards and white farm-houses. As the early sun streamed upon the most prominent of these, leaving the others in deep shade, the effect was strangely novel and imposing. In more remote regions, where the forest has never yet echoed to the woodsmans axe, or received the impress of civilisation, the first approach to the shore inspires a melancholy awe, which becomes painful in its intensity.
My day-dreams were dispelled by the return of the boat, which brought my husband and the captain from the island.
No bread, said the latter, shaking his head; you must be content to starve a little longer. Provision-ship not in till four oclock. My husband smiled at the look of blank disappointment with which I received these unwelcome tidings. Never mind, I have news which will comfort you. The officer who commands the station sent a note to me by an orderly, inviting us to spend the afternoon with him. He promises to show us everything worthy of notice on the island. Captain claims acquaintance with me; but I have not the least recollection of him. Would you like to go?
Oh, by all means. I long to see the lovely island. It looks like a perfect paradise at this distance.
The rough sailor-captain screwed his mouth on one side, and gave me one of his comical looks, but he said nothing until he assisted in placing me and the baby in the boat.
Dont be too sanguine, Mrs. Moodie; many things look well at a distance which are bad enough when near.
I scarcely regarded the old sailors warning, so eager was I to go on shore to put my foot upon the soil of the new world for the first time. I was in no humour to listen to any depreciation of what seemed so beautiful.
It was four oclock when we landed on the rocks, which the rays of an intensely scorching sun had rendered so hot that I could scarcely place my foot upon them. How the people without shoess bore it, I cannot imagine. Never shall I forget the extraordinary spectacle that met our sight the moment we passed the low range of bushes which formed a screen in front of the river. A crowd of many hundred Irish emigrants had been landed during the present and former day; and all this motley crew men, women, and children, who were not confined by sickness to the sheds (which greatly resembled cattle-pens) were employed in washing clothes, or spreading them out on the rocks and bushes to dry.
The men and boys were in the water, while the women, with their scanty garments tucked above their knees, were trampling their bedding in tubs or in holes in the rocks, which the retiring tide had left half full of water. Those who did not possess washing-tubs, pails, or iron pots, or could not obtain access to a hole in the rocks, were running to and fro, screaming and scolding in no measured terms. The confusion of Babel was among them. All talkers and no hearers each shouting and yelling in his or her uncouth dialect, and all accompanying their vociferations with violent and extraordinary gestures, quite incomprehensible to the uninitiated. We were literally stunned by the strife of tongues. I shrank, with feelings almost akin to fear, from the hard-featured, sun-burnt harpies as they elbowed rudely past me.
I had heard and read much of savages, and have since seen, during my long residence in the bush, somewhat uncivilised life; but the Indian is one of Natures gentlemen he never says or does a rude or vulgar thing. The vicious, uneducated barbarians who form the surplus of over-populous European countries, are far behind the wild man in delicacy of feeling or natural courtesy. The people who covered the island appeared perfectly destitute of shame, or even a sense of common decency. Many were almost naked, still more partially clothed. We turned in disgust from the revolting scene, but were unable to leave the spot until the captain had satisfied a noisy group of his own people, who were demanding a supply of stores.
And here I must observe that our passengers, who were chiefly honest Scotch labourers and mechanics from the vicinity of Edinburgh, and who while on board ship had conducted themselves with the greatest propriety, and appeared the most quiet, orderly set of people in the world, no sooner set foot upon the island than they became infected by the same spirit of insubordination and misrule, and were just as insolent and noisy as the rest.
While our captain was vainly endeavouring to satisfy the unreasonable demands of his rebellious people, Moodie had discovered a woodland path that led to the back of the island. Sheltered by some hazel-bushes from the intense heat of the sun, we sat down by the cool, gushing river, out of sight, but, alas! not out of hearing of the noisy, riotous crowd. Could we have shut out the profane sounds which came to us on every breeze, how deeply should we have enjoyed an hour amid the tranquil beauties of that retired and lovely spot!
The rocky banks of the island were adorned with beautiful evergreens, which sprang up spontaneously in every nook and crevice. I remarked many of our favourite garden shrubs among these wildings of nature. The fillagree, with its narrow, dark glossy-green leaves; the privet, with its modest white blossoms and purple berries; the lignum-vitæ, with its strong resinous odour; the burnet-rose; and a great variety of elegant unknowns.
Here, the shores of the island and mainland, receding from each other, formed a small cove, overhung with lofty trees, clothed from the base to the summit with wild vines, that hung in graceful festoons from the topmost branches to the waters edge. The dark shadows of the mountains, thrown upon the water, as they towered to the height of some thousand feet above us, gave to the surface of the river an ebon hue. The sunbeams, dancing through the thick, quivering foliage, fell in stars of gold, or long lines of dazzling brightness, upon the deep black waters, producing the most novel and beautiful effects. It was a scene over which the spirit of peace might brood in silent adoration; but how spoiled by the discordant yells of the filthy beings who were sullying the purity of the air and water with contaminating sights and sounds!
We were now joined by the sergeant, who very kindly brought us his capful of ripe plums and hazel-nuts, the growth of the island; a joyful present, but marred by a note from Captain, who had found that he had been mistaken in his supposed knowledge of us, and politely apologised for not being allowed by the health-officers to receive any emigrant beyond the bounds appointed for the performance of quarantine.
I was deeply disappointed, but my husband laughingly told me that I had seen enough of the island; and turning to the good-natured soldier, remarked, that It could be no easy task to keep such wild savages in order.
You may well say that, sir but our night scenes far exceed those of the day. You would think they were incarnate devils; singing, drinking, dancing, shouting, and cutting antics that would surprise the leader of a circus. They have no shame are under no restraint nobody knows them here, and they think they can speak and act as they please; and they are such thieves that they rob one another of the little they possess. The healthy actually run the risk of taking the cholera by robbing the sick. If you have not hired one or two stout, honest fellows from among your fellow-passengers to guard your clothes while they are drying, you will never see half of them again. They are a sad set, sir, a sad set. We could, perhaps, manage the men; but the women, sir! the women! Oh, sir!
Anxious as we were to return to the ship, we were obliged to remain until sun-down in our retired nook. We were hungry, tired, and out of spirits; the mosquitoes swarmed in myriads around us, tormenting the poor baby, who, not at all pleased with her visit to the new world, filled the air with cries; when the captain came to tell us, that the boat was ready. It was a welcome sound. Forcing our way once more through the still squabbling crowd, we gained the landing place. Here we encountered a boat, just landing a fresh cargo of lively savages from the Emerald Isle. One fellow, of gigantic proportions, whose long, tattered great-coat just reached below the middle of his bare red legs, and, like charity, hid the defects of his other garments, or perhaps concealed his want of them, leaped upon the rocks, and flourishing aloft his shilelagh, bounded and capered like a wild goat from his native mountains. Whurrah! my boys! he cried, Shure well all be jontlemen!
Pull away, my lads! exclaimed our captain, and in a few moments we were again on board. Thus ended my first days experience of the land of all our hopes.
[Seven: Uncle Joe and his Family]
Ay, your rogue is a laughing rogue, and not a whit the less dangerous for the smile on his lip, which comes not from an honest heart, which reflects the light of the soul through the eye. All is hollow and dark within; and the contortion of the lip, like the phosphoric glow upon decayed timber, only serves to point out the rottenness within.
Uncle Joe! I see him now before me, with his jolly red face, twinkling black eyes and rubicund nose. No thin, weasel-faced Yankee was he, looking as if he had lived upon cute ideas and speculations all his life; yet Yankee he was by birth, ay, and in mind, too; for a more knowing fellow at a bargain never crossed the lakes to abuse British institutions and locate himself comfortably among the despised Britishers. But, then, he had such a good-natured, fat face, such a mischievous, mirth-loving smile, and such a merry, roguish expression in those small, jet-black, glittering eyes, that you suffered yourself to be taken in by him, without offering the least resistance to his impositions.
Uncle Joes father had been a New England loyalist, and his doubtful attachment to the British government had been repaid by a grant of land in the township of H. He was the first settler in that township, and chose his location in a remote spot, for the sake of a beautiful natural spring, which bubbled up in a small stone basin in the green bank at the back of the house.
Father might have had the pick of the township, quoth Uncle Joe; but the old coon preferred that sup of good water to the sight of a town. Well, I guess its seldom I trouble the spring; and whenever I step that way to water the horses, I think what a tarnation fool the old one was, to throw away such a chance of making his fortune, for such a cold lap.
Your father was a temperance man?
Temperance! He had been fond enough of the whiskey bottle in his day. He drank up a good farm in the United States, and then he thought he could not do better than turn loyal, and get one here for nothing. He did not care a cent, not he, for the King of England. He thought himself as good, any how. But he found that he would have to work hard here to scratch along, and he was mightily plagued with the rheumatics, and some old woman told him that good spring water was the best cure for that; so he chose this poor, light, stony land on account of the spring, and took to hard work and drinking cold water in his old age.
How did the change agree with him?
I guess better than could have been expected. He planted that fine orchard, and cleared his hundred acres, and we got along slick enough as long as the old fellow lived.
And what happened after his death, that obliged you to part with your land?
Bad timesbad crops, said Uncle Joe, lifting his shoulders. I had not my fathers way of scraping money together. I made some deuced clever speculations, but they all failed. I married young, and got a large family; and the women critters ran up heavy bills at the stores, and the crops did not yield enough to pay them; and from bad we got to worse, and Mr. C put in an execution, and seized upon the whole concern. He sold it to your man for double what it cost him; and you got all that my father toiled for during the last twenty years of his life for less than half the cash he laid out upon clearing it.
And had the whiskey nothing to do with this change? said I, looking him in the face suspiciously.
Not a bit! When a man gets into difficulties, it is the only thing to keep him from sinking outright. When your husband has had as many troubles as I have had, he will know how to value the whiskey bottle.
This conversation was interrupted by a queer-looking urchin of five years old, dressed in a long-tailed coat and trousers, popping his black shock head in at the door, and calling out,
Uncle Joe!Youre wanted to hum.
No! I guess tis my womans eldest son, said Uncle Joe, rising, but they call me Uncle Joe. Tis a spry chap that as cunning as a fox. I tell you what it is he will make a smart man. Go home, Ammon, and tell your ma that I am coming.
I wont, said the boy; you may go hum and tell her yourself. She has wanted wood cut this hour, and youll catch it!
Away ran the dutiful son, but not before he had applied his forefinger significantly to the side of his nose, and, with a knowing wink, pointed in the direction of home.
Uncle Joe obeyed the signal, drily remarking that he could not leave the barn door without the old hen clucking him back.
At this period we were still living in Old Satans log house, and anxiously looking out for the first snow to put us in possession of the good substantial log dwelling occupied by Uncle Joe and his family, which consisted of a brown brood of seven girls, and the highly-prized boy who rejoiced in the extraordinary name of Ammon.
Strange names are to be found in this free country. What think you, gentle reader, of Solomon Sly, Reynard Fox, and Hiram Dolittle; all veritable names, and belonging to substantial yoemen? After Ammon and Ichabod, I should not be at all surprised to meet with Judas Iscariot, Pilate, and Herod. And then the female appellations! But the subject is a delicate one, and I will forbear to touch upon it. I have enjoyed many a hearty laugh over the strange affections which people designate here very handsome names. I prefer the old homely Jewish names, such as that which it pleased my godfather and godmothers to bestow upon me, to one of those high-sounding christianities, the Minervas, Cinderellas, and Almerias of Canada. The love of singular names is here carried to a marvellous extent. It is only yesterday that, in passing though one busy village, I stopped in astonishment before a tombstone headed thus: Sacred to the memory of Silence Sharman, the beloved wife of Asa Sharman. Was the woman deaf and dumb, or did her friends hope by bestowing upon her such an impossible name to still the voice of Nature, and check, by an admonitory appellative, the active spirit that lives in the tongue of woman. Truly, Asa Sharman, if thy wife was silent by name as well as by nature, thou wert a fortunate man!
But to return to Uncle Joe. He made many fair promises of leaving the residence we had bought, the moment he had sold his crops and could remove his family. We could see no interest which could be served by his deceiving us, and therefore we believed him, striving to make ourselves as comfortable as we could in the meantime in our present wretched abode. But matters are never so bad that they may be worse. One day when we were at dinner, a waggon drove up to the door, and Mr. alighted, accompanied by a fine-looking, middle-aged man, who proved to be Captain S, who had just arrived from Demerara with his wife and family. Mr. who had purchased the farm of Old Satan, had brought Captain S over to inspect the land, as he wished to buy a farm, and settle in that neighbourhood. With some difficulty I contrived to accommodate the visitors with seats, and provide them with a tolerable dinner. Fortunately, Moodie had brought in a brace of fine fat partridges that morning; these the servant transferred to a pot of boiling water, in which she immersed them for the space of a minute a novel but very expeditious way of removing the feathers, which then come off at the least touch. In less than ten minutes they were stuffed, trussed, and in the bake-kettle; and before the gentlemen returned from walking over the farm, the dinner was on the table.
To our utter consternation, Captain S agreed to purchase, and asked if we could give him possession in a week!
Good heavens! cried I, glancing reproachfully at Mr., who was discussing his partridge with stoical indifference. What will become of us? Where are we to go?
Oh, make yourself easy; I will force that old witch, Joes mother, to clear out.
But tis impossible to stow ourselves into that pig-sty.
It will only be for a week or two, at farthest. This is October; Joe will be sure to be off by the first of sleighing.
But if she refuses to give up the place?
Oh, leave her to me. Ill talk her over, said the knowing land speculator. Let it come to the worst," he said, turning to my husband, she will go out for the sake of a few dollars. By-the-by, she refused to bar the dower when I bought the place; we must cajole her out of that. It is a fine afternoon; suppose we walk over the hill, and try our luck with the old nigger?
I felt so anxious about the result of the negotiation, that, throwing my cloak over my shoulders, and tying on my bonnet without the assistance of a glass, I took me husbands arm, and we walked forth.
It was a bright, clear afternoon, the first week in October, and the fading woods, not yet denuded of their gorgeous foliage, glowed in a mellow, golden light. A soft purple haze rested on the bold outline of the Haldemand hills, and in the rugged beauty of the wild landscape I soon forgot the purport of our visit to the old womans log hut.
On reaching the ridge of the hill, the lovely valley in which our future home lay smiled peacefully upon us from amidst its fruitful orchards, still loaded with their rich, ripe fruit.
What a pretty place it is! thought I, for the first time feeling something like a local interest in the spot springing up in my heart. How I wish those odious people would give us possession of the home which for some time has been our own.
The log hut that we were approaching, and in which the old woman, H, resided by herself having quarrelled years ago with her sons wife was of the smallest dimensions, only containing one room, which served the old dame for kitchen, and bed-room, and all. The open door, and a few glazed panes, supplied it with light and air; while a huge hearth, on which crackled two enormous logs which are technically termed front and back stick took up nearly half the domicile; and the old womans bed, which was covered with an unexceptionably clean patched quilt, nearly the other half, leaving just room for a small home-made deal table, of the rudest workmanship, two basswood-bottomed chairs, stained red, one of which was a rocking chair, appropriated solely to the old womans use, and a spinning-wheel. Amidst this muddle of things for, small as the quantum of furniture, it was all crowded into such a tiny space that you had to squeeze your way through it in the best manner you could we found the old woman, with a red cotton handkerchief tied over her grey locks, hood-fashion, shelling white bush-beans into a wooden bowl. Without rising from her seat, she pointed to the only remaining chair. I guess, miss, you can sit there; and if the others cant stand, they can make a seat of my bed.
The gentlemen assured her that they were not tired, and could dispense with seats. Mr. then went up to the old woman, and proffering his hand, asked after her health in the blandest manner.
Im none the better for seeing you, or the like of you, was the ungracious reply. You have cheated my poor boy out of his good farm; and I hope it may prove a bad bargain to you and yours.
Mrs. H, returned the land speculator, nothing ruffled by her unceremonious greeting, I could not help your son giving way to drink, and getting into my debt. If people will be so imprudent, they cannot be so stupid as to imagine that others can suffer for their folly.
Suffer! repeated the old woman, flashing her small, keen black eyes upon him with a glance of withering scorn. You suffer! I wonder what the widows and orphans you have cheated would say to that? My son was a poor, weak, silly fool, to be sucked in by the like of you. For a debt of eight hundred dollars the goods never cost you four hundred you take from us our good farm; and these, I spose, pointing to my husband and me, are the folk you sold it to. Pray, miss, turning quickly to me, what might your man give for the place?
Three hundred pounds in cash.
Poor sufferer! again sneered the hag. "Four hundred dollars is a very small profit in as many weeks. Well, I guess, you beat the Yankees hollow. And pray, what brought you here to-day, scenting about you like a carrion- crow? We have no more land for you to seize from us.
Moodie now stepped forward, and briefly explained our situation, offering the old woman anything in reason to give up the cottage and reside with her son until he removed from the premises; which, he added, must be in a very short time.
The old dame regarded him with a sarcastic smile. I guess, Joe will take his own time. The house is not built to receive him; and he is not a man to turn his back upon a warm hearth to camp in the wilderness. You were green when you bought a farm of that man, without getting along with it the right of possession.
But, Mrs. H, your son promised to go out the first of sleighing.
Wheugh! said the old woman. "Would you have a man give away his hat and leave his own head bare? Its neither the first snow nor the last frost that will turn Joe out of his comfortable home. I tell you all that he will stay here, if it is only to plague you.
Threats and remonstrances were alike useless, the old woman remained inexorable; and we were just turning to leave the house, when the cunning old fox exclaimed, And now, what will you give me to leave my place?
Twelve dollars, if you give us possession next Monday, said my husband.
Twelve dollars! I guess you wont get me out for that.
The rent would not be worth more that a dollar a month, said Mr., pointing with his cane to the dilapidated walls. Mr. Moodie has offered you a years rent for the first place.
It may not be worth a cent, returned the woman; for it will give everybody the rheumatism that stays a week in it but it is worth that to me, and more nor double that just now to him. But I will not be hard with him," continued she, rocking herself to and fro, Say twenty dollars, and I will turn out on Monday.
I dare say you will, said Mr., and who do you think would be fool enough to give you such an exorbitant sum for a ruined old shed like this?
Mind your own business, and make your own bargains, returned the old woman, tartly. The devil himself could not deal with you, for I guess he would have the worst of it. What do you say, sir? and she fixed her keen eyes upon my husband, as if she would read his thoughts. Will you agree to my price?
It is a very high one, Mrs. H ; but as I cannot help myself, and you take advantage of that, I suppose I must give it.
Tis a bargain, cried the old crone, holding out her hard, bony hand. Come, cash down!
Not until you give me possession on Monday next; or you might serve me as your son has done.
Ha! said the old woman, laughing and rubbing her hands together; you begin to see daylight, do you? In a few months, with the help of him, pointing to Mr., you will be able to go alone; but have a care of your teacher, for its no good that you will learn from him. But will you really stand to your word, mister? she added, in a coaxing tone, If I go out on Monday?
To be sure I will; I never break my word.
Well, I guess you are not so clever as our people, for they only keep it as long as it suits them. You have an honest look; I will trust you; but I will not trust him, nodding to Mr., he can buy and sell his word as fast as a horse can trot. So on Monday I will turn out my traps. I have lived six-and-thirty years; tis a pretty place, and it vexes me to leave it, continued the poor creature, as a touch of natural feeling softened and agitated her world-hardened heart. There is not an acre in cultivation but that I helped to clear it, nor a tree in yonder orchard but I held it while my poor man, who is dead and gone, planted it; and I have watched the trees bud from year to year, until their boughs overshadowed the hut, where all my children, but Joe, were born. Yes, I came here young, and in my prime; and I must leave it in age and poverty. My children and husband are dead, and their bones rest beneath the turf in the burying-ground on the side of the hill. Of all that once gathered about my knees, Joe and his young ones alone remain. And it is hard, very hard, that I must leave their graves to be turned by the plough of a stranger.
I felt for the desolate old creature the tears rushed to my eyes; but there was no moisture in hers. No rain from the heart could filter through that iron soil.
Be assured, Mrs. H, said Moodie, That the dead will be held sacred; the place will never be disturbed by me.
Perhaps not; but it is not long that you will remain here. I have seen a good deal in my time; but I never saw a gentleman from the old country make a good Canadian farmer. The work is rough and hard, and they get out of humour with it, and leave it to their hired helps, and then all goes wrong. They are cheated on all sides, and in despair take to the whiskey bottle, and that fixes them. I tell you what it is, misterI give you just three years to spend your money and ruin yourself; and then you will become a confirmed drunkard, like the rest.
The first part of her prophecy was only too true. Thank God! the last has never been fulfilled, and never can be.
Perceiving that the old woman was not a little elated with her bargain, Mr. urged upon her the propriety of barring the dower. At first, she was outrageous, and very abusive, and rejected all his proposals with contempt; vowing that she would meet him in a certain place below, before she would sign away her right to the property.
Listen to reason, Mrs. H, said the land speculator. If you will sign the papers before the proper authorities, the next time your son drives you to C, I will give you a silk gown.
Pshaw! Buy a shroud for yourself; you will need it before I want a silk gown, was the ungracious reply.
Consider, woman; a black silk of the best quality.
To mourn in for my sins, or for the loss of the farm.
Twelve yards, continued Mr., without noticing her rejoinder, at a dollar a yard. Think what a nice church-going gown it will make.
To the devil with you! I never go to church.
I thought as much, said Mr., winking to us. Well, my dear madam, what will satisfy you?
Ill do it for twenty dollars, returned the old woman, rocking herself to and fro in her chair; her eyes twinkling, and her hands moving convulsively, as if she already grasped the money so dear to her soul.
Agreed, said the land speculator. When will you be in town?
On Tuesday, if I be alive. But, remember, Ill not sign till I have my hand on the money.
Never fear, said Mr., as we quitted the house; then, turning to me, he added, with a peculiar smile, Thats a devilish smart woman. She would have made a clever lawyer.
Monday came, and with it all the bustle of moving, and, as is generally the case on such occasions, it turned out a very wet day. I left Old Satans hut without regret, glad, at any rate, to be in a place of my own, however humble. Our new habitation, though small, had a decided advantage over the one we were leaving. It stood on a gentle slope; and a narrow but lovely stream, full of pretty speckled trout, ran murmuring under the little window; the house, also, was surrounded by fine fruit-trees.
I know not how it was, but the sound of that tinkling brook, for ever rolling by, filled my heart with a strange melancholy, which for many nights deprived me of rest. I loved it, too. The voice of waters, in the stillness of night, always had an extraordinary effect upon my mind. Their ceaseless motion and perpetual sound convey to me the idea of life eternal life; and looking upon them, glancing and flashing on, now in sunshine, now in shade, now hoarsely chiding with the opposing rock, now leaping triumphantly over it, creates within me a feeling of mysterious awe of which I never could wholly divest myself.
A portion of my own spirit seemed to pass into that little stream. In its deep wailings and fretful sighs, I fancied myself lamenting for the land I had left for ever; and its restless and impetuous rushings against the stones which choked its passage, were mournful types of my own mental struggles against the strange destiny which hemmed me in. Through the day the stream still moaned and travelled on, but, engaged in my novel and distasteful occupations, I heard it not; but whenever my winged thoughts flew homeward, then the voice of the brook spoke deeply and sadly to my heart, and my tears flowed unchecked to its plaintive and harmonious music.
In a few hours I had my new abode more comfortably arranged than the old one, although its dimensions were much smaller. The location was beautiful, and I was greatly consoled by the circumstance. The aspect of Nature ever did, and I hope never will, continue
As long as we remain true to the Divine Mother, so long will she remain faithful to her suffering children.
At that period my love for Canada was a feeling very nearly allied to that which the condemned criminal entertains for his cell his only hope of escape being through the portals of the grave.
The fall rains had commenced. In a few days the cold wintry showers swept all the gorgeous crimson from the trees; and a bleak and desolate waste presented itself to the shuddering spectator. But, in spite of wind and rain, my little tenement was never free from the intrusion of Uncle Joes wife and children. Their house stood about a stones-throw from the hut we occupied, in the same meadow, and they seemed to look upon it still as their own, although we had literally paid for it twice over. Fine strapping girls they were, from five years old to fourteen, but rude and unnurtured as so many bears. They would come in without the least ceremony, and, young girls as they were, ask me a thousand impertinent questions; and when I civilly requested them to leave the room, they would range themselves upon the door-step, watching my motions, with their black eyes gleaming upon me through their tangled, uncombed locks. Their company was a great annoyance, for it obliged me to put a painful restraint upon the thoughfulness in which it was so delightfull to me to indulge. Their visits were not visits of love, but of mere idle curiosity, not unmingled with malicious hatred.
The simplicity, the fond, conflicting faith of childhood, is unknown in Canada. There are no children here. The boy is a miniature man knowing, keen, and wide awake; as able to drive a bargain and take an advantage of his juvenile companion as the grown-up, world-hardened man. The girl, a gossiping flirt, full of vanity and affectation, with a premature love of finery, and an acute perception of the advantages to be derived from wealth, and from keeping up a certian appearance in the world.
The flowers, the green grass, the glorious sunshine, the birds of the air, and the young lambs gambolling down the verdant slopes, which fill the heart of a British child with a fond ecstacy, bathing the young spirit in Elysium, would float unnoticed before the vision of a Canadian child; while the sight of a dollar, or a new dress, or a gay bonnet, would swell the proud bosom with self-importance and delight. The glorious blush of modest diffedence, the tear of gentle sympahty, are so rare on the cheek, or in the eye of the young, that their appearance creates a feeling of surprise. Such perfect self-reliance in beings so new to the world is painful to a thinking mind. It betrays a great want of sensibility and mental culture, and a melancholy knowledge of the arts of life.
For a week I was alone, my good Scotch girl having left me to visit her father. Some small baby-articles were needed to be washed, and after making a great preparation, I determined to try my unskilled hand upon the operation. The fact is, I knew nothing about the task I had imposed upon myself, and in a few minutes rubbed the skin off my wrists, without getting the clothes clean.
The door was open, as it generally was, even during the coldest winter days, in order to let in more light, and let out the smoke, which otherwise would have enveloped us like a cloud. I was so busy that I did not perceive that I was watched by the cold, heavy, dark eyes of Mrs. Joe, who, with a sneering laugh, exclaimed,
Well thank God! I am glad to see you brought to work at last. I hope you may have to work as hard as I have. I dont see, not I, why you, who are no better than me, should sit still all day, like a lady!
Mrs. H, said I, not a little annoyed at her presence, what concern is it of yours whether I work or sit still? I never interfere with you. If you took it into your head to lie in bed all day, I should never trouble myself about it.
Ah, I guess you dont look upon us as fellow-critters, you are so proud and grand. I spose you Britishers are not made of flesh and blood like us. You dont choose to sit down at meat with your helps. Now, I calculate, we think them a great deal better nor you.
Of course, said I, They are more suited to you than we are; they are uneducated, and so are you. This is no fault in either; but it might teach you to pay a little more respect to those who are possessed of superior advantages. But, Mrs. H, my helps, as you call them, are civil and obliging, and never make unprovoked malicious speeches. If they could so far forget themselves, I should order them to leave the house.
Oh, I see what you are up to, replied the insolent dame; you mean to say that if I were your help you would turn me out of your house; but Im a free-born American, and I wont go at your bidding. Dont think I come here out of regard for you. No, I hate you, and I wish that you may be brought down upon your knees to scrub the floors.
This speech only caused a smile, and yet I felt hurt and astonished that a woman whom I had never done anything to offend should be so gratuitously spiteful.
In the evening she sent two of her brood over to borrow my Long iron, as she called an Italian iron. I was just getting my baby to sleep, sitting upon a low stool by the fire. I pointed to the iron upon the shelf, and told the girl to take it. She did so, but stood beside me, holding it carelessly in her hand, and staring at the baby, who had just sunk to sleep upon my lap.
The next moment the heavy iron fell from her relaxed grasp, giving me a severe blow upon my knee and foot; and glanced so near the childs head that it drew from me a cry of terror.
I guess that was nigh braining the child, quoth Miss Amanda, with the greatest coolness, and without making the least apology. Master Ammon burst into a loud laugh. If it had, Mandy, I guess wed have cotched it. Provoked at their insolence, I told them to leave the house. The tears were in my eyes, for I felt certain that had they injured the child, it would not have caused them the least regret.
The next day, as we were standing at the door, my husband was greatly amused by seeing fat Uncle Joe chasing the rebellious Ammon over the meadow in front of the house. Joe was out of breath, panting and puffing like a steam-engine, and his face flushed to deep red with excitement and passion. You young scoundrel! he cried, half choked with fury, If I catch up to you, Ill take the skin off you!
You old scoundrel, you may have my skin if you can get at me, retorted the precocious child, as he jumped up upon the top of the high fence, and doubled his fist in a menacing manner at his father.
That boy is growing too bad," said Uncle Joe, coming up to us out of breath, the perspiration streaming down his face. It is time to break him in, or hell get the master of us all.
You should have begun that before, said Moodie. He seems a hopeful pupil.
Oh, as to that, a little swearing is manly, returned the father; I swear myself, I know, and as the old cock crows, so crows the young one. It is not his swearing I care a pin for, but he will not do a thing I tell him to.
Swearing is a dreadful vice, said I, and, wicked as it is in the mouth of a grown-up person, it is perfectly shocking in a child; it painfully tells he has been brought up without the fear of God.
Pooh! pooh! thats all cant; there is no harm in a few oaths, and I cannot drive oxen and horses without swearing. I dare say that you can swear, too, when you are riled, but you are too cunning to let us hear you.
I could not help laughing outright at this supposition, but replied very quietly, Those who practise such iniquities never take any pains to conceal them. The concealment would infer a feeling of shame; and when people are conscious of their guilt, they are in the road to improvement. The man walked whistling away, and the wicked child returned unpunished to his home.
The next minute the old woman came in. I guess you can give me a piece of silk for a hood, said she, The weather is growing considerable cold.
Surely it cannot well be colder that it is at present, said I, giving her the rocking-chair by the fire.
Wait a while; you know nothing of a Canadian winter. This is only November; after the Christmas thaw, youll know something about cold. It is seven-and-thirty years ago since I and my man left the U-ni-ted States. It was called the year of the great winter. I tell you, woman, that the snow lay so deep on the earth, that it blocked up all the roads, and we could drive a sleigh whither we pleased, right over the snake fences. All the cleared land was one wide white level plain; it was a year of scarcity, and we were half starved; but the severe cold was far worse nor the want of provisions. A long and bitter journey we had of it; but I was young then, and pretty well used to trouble and fatigue; my man stuck to the British government. More fool he! I was an American born, and my heart was with the true cause. But his father was English, and, says he, Ill live and die under their flag. So he dragged me from my comfortable fireside to seek a home in the far Canadian wilderness. Trouble! I guess you think you have your troubles; but what are they to mine? She paused, took a pinch of snuff, offered me the box, sighed painfully pushed the red handkerchief from her high, narrow, wrinkled brow, and continued: Joe was a baby then, and I had another helpless critter in my lap an adopted child. My sister had died from it, and I was nursing it at the same breast with my boy. Well, we had to perform a journey of four hundred miles in an ox-cart, which carried, besides me and the children, all our household stuff. Our way lay chiefly through the forest, and we made but slow progress. Oh! what a bitter cold night it was when we reached the swampy woods where the city of Rochester now stands. The oxen were covered with icicles, and their breath sent up clouds of steam. Nathan, says I to my man, you must stop and kindle a fire; I am dead with cold, and I fear the babes will be frozen. We began looking about for a good spot to camp in, when I spied a light through the trees. It was a lone shanty, occupied by two French lumberers. The men were kind; they rubbed our frozen limbs with snow, and shared with us their supper and buffalo skins. On that very spot where we camped that night, where we heard nothing but the wind soughing amongst the trees, and the rushing of the river, now stands the great city of Rochester. I went there two years ago, to the funeral of a brother. It seemed to me like a dream. Where we foddered our beasts by the shanty fire now stands the largest hotel in the city; and my husband left this fine growing country to starve here.
I was so much interested in the old womans narrative for she was really possessed of no ordinary capacity, and, though rude and uneducated might have been a very superior person under different circumstances that I rummaged among my stores, and soon found a piece of black silk, which I gave her for the hood she required.
The old woman examined it carefully over, smiled to herself, but, like all her people, was too proud to return a word of thanks. One gift to the family always involved another.
Have you any cotton-batting, or black sewing-silk, to give me, to quilt it with?
Humph! returned the old dame, in a tone which seemed to contradict my assertion. She then settled herself in her chair, and, after shaking her foot awhile, and fixing her piercing eyes upon me for some minutes, she commenced the following list of interrogatories:
Is your father alive?
No; he died many years ago, when I was a young girl.
Is your mother alive?
What is her name? I satisfied her on this point.
Did she ever marry again?
She might have done so, but she loved her husband too well, and preferred living single.
Humph! We have no such notions here. What was your father?
A gentleman, who lived upon his own estate.
Did he die rich?
He lost the greater part of his property from being surety for another.
Thats a foolish business. My man burnt his fingers with that. And what brought you out to this poor country you, who are no more fit for it than I am to be a fine lady?
The promise of a large grant of land, and the false statements we heard regarding it.
Do you like the country?
No; and I fear I never shall.
I thought not; for the drop is always on your cheek, the children tell me; and those young ones have keen eyes. Now, take my advice: return while your money lasts; the longer you remain in Canada the less you will like it; and when your money is all spent, you will be like a bird in a cage; you may beat your wings against the bars, but you cant get out. There was a long pause. I hoped that my guest had sufficiently gratified her curiousity, when she again commenced:
How do you get your money? Do you draw it from the old country, or have you it with you in cash?
Provoked by her pertinacity, and seeing no end to her cross-questioning, I replied very impatiently, Mrs. H, is it the custom in your country to catechise strangers whenever you meet them?
What do you mean? she said, colouring, I believe, for the first time in her life.
I mean," quoth I, "an evil habit of asking impertinent questions.
The old woman got up, and left the house without speaking another word.
[Closing Address to the Reader]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 your own conclusions. To the poor, industrious working man 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.
Log House, from Catharine Parr Traill,