By Susanna Moodie

To Agnes Strickland

Author of the “Lives of the Queens of
This simple tribute of affection
is dedicated by her

Susanna Moodie


Transcriber’s Notes on this Etext Edition.


































Transcriber’s Notes on this Etext Edition.

Thank you to The Celebration of Women Writers (Mary Mark Ockerbloom,
Editor) for providing the source text. It has since been proof-read and
modified by comparison with multiple editions.

There is a great deal of variation between different editions ranging from
differences in names, spelling and punctuation to differences in what
chapters and poems are included. This text is not meant to be
authoritative or to match a certain paper edition; rather, its aim is to
be be readable and inclusive of various material that appears in different


Published by Richard Bentley in 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 emigrant’s hope of bettering his
condition, and of escaping from the vulgar sarcasms too often hurled at
the less-wealthy by the purse-proud, common-place 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 impassable 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 over-hanging woods, would blast the fruits of the
poor emigrant’s 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 neighbours, 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 civilization. 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.”



  Canada, the blest—the free!
  With prophetic glance, I see
  Visions of thy future glory,
  Giving to the world's great story
  A page, with mighty meaning fraught,
  That asks a wider range of thought.
  Borne onward on the wings of Time,
  I trace thy future course sublime;
  And feel my anxious lot grow bright,
  While musing on the glorious sight;—
  My heart rejoicing bounds with glee
  To hail thy noble destiny!

  Even now thy sons inherit
  All thy British mother's spirit.
  Ah! no child of bondage thou;
  With her blessing on thy brow,
  And her deathless, old renown
  Circling thee with freedom's crown,
  And her love within thy heart,
  Well may'st thou perform thy part,
  And to coming years proclaim
  Thou art worthy of her name.
  Home of the homeless!—friend to all
  Who suffer on this earthly ball!
  On thy bosom sickly care
  Quite forgets her squalid lair;
  Gaunt famine, ghastly poverty
  Before thy gracious aspect fly,
  And hopes long crush'd, grow bright again,
  And, smiling, point to hill and plain.

  By thy winter's stainless snow,
  Starry heavens of purer glow,
  Glorious summers, fervid, bright,
  Basking in one blaze of light;
  By thy fair, salubrious clime;
  By thy scenery sublime;
  By thy mountains, streams, and woods;
  By thy everlasting floods;
  If greatness dwells beneath the skies,
  Thou to greatness shalt arise!

  Nations old, and empires vast,
  From the earth had darkly pass'd
  Ere rose the fair auspicious morn
  When thou, the last, not least, wast born.
  Through the desert solitude
  Of trackless waters, forests rude,
  Thy guardian angel sent a cry
  All jubilant of victory!
  “Joy,” she cried, “to th' untill'd earth,
  Let her joy in a mighty birth,—
  Night from the land has pass'd away,
  The desert basks in noon of day.
  Joy, to the sullen wilderness,
  I come, her gloomy shades to bless,
  To bid the bear and wild-cat yield
  Their savage haunts to town and field.
  Joy, to stout hearts and willing hands,
  That win a right to these broad lands,
  And reap the fruit of honest toil,
  Lords of the rich, abundant soil.

  “Joy, to the sons of want, who groan
  In lands that cannot feed their own;
  And seek, in stern, determined mood,
  Homes in the land of lake and wood,
  And leave their hearts' young hopes behind,
  Friends in this distant world to find;
  Led by that God, who from His throne
  Regards the poor man's stifled moan.
  Like one awaken'd from the dead,
  The peasant lifts his drooping head,
  Nerves his strong heart and sunburnt hand,
  To win a potion of the land,
  That glooms before him far and wide
  In frowning woods and surging tide
  No more oppress'd, no more a slave,
  Here freedom dwells beyond the wave.

  “Joy, to those hardy sires who bore
  The day's first heat—their toils are o'er;
  Rude fathers of this rising land,
  Theirs was a mission truly grand.
  Brave peasants whom the Father, God,
  Sent to reclaim the stubborn sod;
  Well they perform'd their task, and won
  Altar and hearth for the woodman's son.
  Joy, to Canada's unborn heirs,
  A deathless heritage is theirs;
  For, sway'd by wise and holy laws,
  Its voice shall aid the world's great cause,
  Shall plead the rights of man, and claim
  For humble worth an honest name;
  Shall show the peasant-born can be,
  When call'd to action, great and free.
  Like fire, within the flint conceal'd,
  By stern necessity reveal'd,
  Kindles to life the stupid sod,
  Image of perfect man and God.

  “Joy, to thy unborn sons, for they
  Shall hail a brighter, purer day;
  When peace and Christian brotherhood
  Shall form a stronger tie than blood—
  And commerce, freed from tax and chain,
  Shall build a bridge o'er earth and main;
  And man shall prize the wealth of mind,
  The greatest blessing to mankind;
  True Christians, both in word and deed,
  Ready in virtue's cause to bleed,
  Against a world combined to stand,
  And guard the honour of the land.
  Joy, to the earth, when this shall be,
  Time verges on eternity.”


  Alas! that man's stern spirit e'er should mar
  A scene so pure—so exquisite as this.

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 into 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.

“Scotland—sailed from port o’ Leith, bound for Quebec, Montreal—
general cargo—seventy-two steerage, four cabin passengers—brig
Anne, one hundred and 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 moment’s reflection he
replied, “Births? Why, yes; now I think on’t, gentlemen, we had one female
on board, who produced three at a birth.”

“That’s 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

“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—

“Sacre, you bete! You tink us dog, ven you try to pass your puppies on us
for babies?”

“Hout, man, don’t be angry,” said the Scotchman, stifling a laugh; “you
see ’tis only a joke!”

“Joke! me no understand such joke. Bete!” 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

“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 Voltaire’s 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

“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

“I know my duty—you stick to yours. When the wind falls off, I’ll
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 Captain’s 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 two last weeks had been out of food,
and the captain had been obliged to feed them from the ship’s 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

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. Bowdich’s 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
ship-biscuit, imagine the luxury of a good slice of English bread and

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 the 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 woodman’s axe, or received the impress of civilisation, the first
approach to the shore inspires a melancholy awe, which becomes painful in
its intensity.

  Land of vast hills and mighty streams,
  The lofty sun that o'er thee beams
  On fairer clime sheds not his ray,
  When basking in the noon of day
  Thy waters dance in silver light,
  And o'er them frowning, dark as night,
  Thy shadowy forests, soaring high,
  Stretch forth beyond the aching eye,
  And blend in distance with the sky.

  And silence—awful silence broods
  Profoundly o'er these solitudes;
  Nought but the lapsing of the floods
  Breaks the deep stillness of the woods;
  A sense of desolation reigns
  O'er these unpeopled forest plains.
  Where sounds of life ne'er wake a tone
  Of cheerful praise round Nature's throne,
  Man finds himself with God—alone.

My daydreams 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 o’clock.” 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 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.

“Don’t be too sanguine, Mrs. Moodie; many things look well at a distance
which are bad enough when near.”

I scarcely regarded the old sailor’s 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 o’clock 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 shoes 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 of uncivilised life; but the Indian is one
of Nature’s 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 of a sense of common decency. Many were almost
naked, still more but 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

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

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-vitae, with its
strong resinous odour; the burnet-rose, and a great variety of elegant

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 water’s 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

“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,

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 first 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 we’ll all be jintlemen!”

“Pull away, my lads!” said the captain. Then turning to me, “Well, Mrs.
Moodie, I hope that you have had enough of Grosse Isle. But could you have
witnessed the scenes that I did this morning—”

Here he was interrupted by the wife of the old Scotch dragoon, Mackenzie,
running down to the boat and laying her hand familiarly upon his shoulder,
“Captain, dinna forget.”

“Forget what?”

She whispered something confidentially in his ear.

“Oh, ho! the brandy!” he responded aloud. “I should have thought, Mrs.
Mackenzie, that you had had enough of that same on yon island?”

“Aye, sic a place for decent folk,” returned the drunken body, shaking her
head. “One needs a drap o’ comfort, captain, to keep up one’s heart ava.”

The captain set up one of his boisterous laughs as he pushed the boat from
the shore. “Hollo! Sam Frazer! steer in, we have forgotten the stores.”

“I hope not, captain,” said I; “I have been starving since daybreak.”

“The bread, the butter, the beef, the onions, and potatoes are here, sir,”
said honest Sam, particularizing each article.

“All right; pull for the ship. Mrs. Moodie, we will have a glorious
supper, and mind you don’t dream of Grosse Isle.”

In a few minutes we were again on board. Thus ended my first day’s
experience of the land of all our hopes.


A Canadian Song

  Oh! can you leave your native land
    An exile's bride to be;
  Your mother's home, and cheerful hearth,
    To tempt the main with me;
  Across the wide and stormy sea
    To trace our foaming track,
  And know the wave that heaves us on
    Will never bear us back?

  And can you in Canadian woods
    With me the harvest bind,
  Nor feel one lingering, sad regret
    For all you leave behind?
  Can those dear hands, unused to toil,
    The woodman's wants supply,
  Nor shrink beneath the chilly blast
    When wintry storms are nigh?

  Amid the shades of forests dark,
    Our loved isle will appear
  An Eden, whose delicious bloom
    Will make the wild more drear.
  And you in solitude will weep
    O'er scenes beloved in vain,
  And pine away your life to view
    Once more your native plain.

  Then pause, dear girl! ere those fond lips
    Your wanderer's fate decide;
  My spirit spurns the selfish wish—
    You must not be my bride.
  But oh, that smile—those tearful eyes,
    My firmer purpose move—
  Our hearts are one, and we will dare
    All perils thus to love!

(This song has been set to a beautiful plaintive air, by my husband.)


  Queen of the West!—upon thy rocky throne,
    In solitary grandeur sternly placed;
  In awful majesty thou sitt'st alone,
    By Nature's master-hand supremely graced.
  The world has not thy counterpart—thy dower,
  Eternal beauty, strength, and matchless power.

  The clouds enfold thee in their misty vest,
    The lightning glances harmless round thy brow;
  The loud-voiced thunder cannot shake thy nest,
    Or warring waves that idly chafe below;
  The storm above, the waters at thy feet—
  May rage and foam, they but secure thy seat.

  The mighty river, as it onward rushes
    To pour its floods in ocean's dread abyss,
  Checks at thy feet its fierce impetuous gushes,
    And gently fawns thy rocky base to kiss.
  Stern eagle of the crag! thy hold should be
  The mountain home of heaven-born liberty!

  True to themselves, thy children may defy
    The power and malice of a world combined;
  While Britain's flag, beneath thy deep blue sky,
    Spreads its rich folds and wantons in the wind;
  The offspring of her glorious race of old
  May rest securely in their mountain hold.

On the 2nd of September, the anchor was weighed, and we bade a long
farewell to Grosse Isle. As our vessel struck into mid-channel, I cast a
last lingering look at the beautiful shores we were leaving. Cradled in
the arms of the St. Lawrence, and basking in the bright rays of the
morning sun, the island and its sister group looked like a second Eden
just emerged from the waters of chaos. With what joy could I have spent
the rest of the fall in exploring the romantic features of that enchanting
scene! But our bark spread her white wings to the favouring breeze, and
the fairy vision gradually receded from my sight, to remain for ever on
the tablets of memory.

The day was warm, and the cloudless heavens of that peculiar azure tint
which gives to the Canadian skies and waters a brilliancy unknown in more
northern latitudes. The air was pure and elastic, the sun shone out with
uncommon splendour, lighting up the changing woods with a rich mellow
colouring, composed of a thousand brilliant and vivid dyes. The mighty
river rolled flashing and sparkling onward, impelled by a strong breeze,
that tipped its short rolling surges with a crest of snowy foam.

Had there been no other object of interest in the landscape than this
majestic river, its vast magnitude, and the depth and clearness of its
waters, and its great importance to the colony, would have been sufficient
to have riveted the attention, and claimed the admiration of every
thinking mind.

Never shall I forget that short voyage from Grosse Isle to Quebec. I love
to recall, after the lapse of so many years, every object that awoke in my
breast emotions of astonishment and delight. What wonderful combinations
of beauty, and grandeur, and power, at every winding of that noble river!
How the mind expands with the sublimity of the spectacle, and soars upward
in gratitude and adoration to the Author of all being, to thank Him for having
made this lower world so wondrously fair—a living temple,
heaven-arched, and capable of receiving the homage of all worshippers.

Every perception of my mind became absorbed into the one sense of seeing,
when, upon rounding Point Levi, we cast anchor before Quebec. What a
scene!—Can the world produce such another? Edinburgh had been the
beau ideal to me of all that was beautiful in Nature—a vision of the
northern Highlands had haunted my dreams across the Atlantic; but all
these past recollections faded before the present of Quebec.

Nature has lavished all her grandest elements to form this astonishing
panorama. There frowns the cloud-capped mountain, and below, the cataract
foams and thunders; wood, and rock, and river combine to lend their aid in
making the picture perfect, and worthy of its Divine Originator.

The precipitous bank upon which the city lies piled, reflected in the
still deep waters at its base, greatly enhances the romantic beauty of the
situation. The mellow and serene glow of the autumnal day harmonised so
perfectly with the solemn grandeur of the scene around me, and sank so
silently and deeply into my soul, that my spirit fell prostrate before it,
and I melted involuntarily into tears. Yes, regardless of the eager crowds
around me, I leant upon the side of the vessel and cried like a child—not
tears of sorrow, but a gush from the heart of pure and unalloyed delight.
I heard not the many voices murmuring in my ears—I saw not the
anxious beings that thronged our narrow deck—my soul at that moment
was alone with God. The shadow of His glory rested visibly on the
stupendous objects that composed that magnificent scene; words are
perfectly inadequate to describe the impression it made upon my mind—the
emotions it produced. The only homage I was capable of offering at such a
shrine was tears—tears the most heartfelt and sincere that ever
flowed from human eyes. I never before felt so overpoweringly my own
insignificance, and the boundless might and majesty of the Eternal.

Canadians, rejoice in your beautiful city! Rejoice and be worthy of her—for
few, very few, of the sons of men can point to such a spot as Quebec—and
exclaim, “She is ours!—God gave her to us, in her beauty and
strength!—We will live for her glory—we will die to defend her
liberty and rights—to raise her majestic brow high above the

Look at the situation of Quebec!—the city founded on the rock that
proudly holds the height of the hill. The queen sitting enthroned above
the waters, that curb their swiftness and their strength to kiss and fawn
around her lovely feet.

Canadians!—as long as you remain true to yourselves and her, what
foreign invader could ever dare to plant a hostile flag upon that
rock-defended height, or set his foot upon a fortress rendered impregnable
by the hand of Nature? United in friendship, loyalty, and love, what
wonders may you not achieve? to what an enormous altitude of wealth and
importance may you not arrive? Look at the St. Lawrence, that king of
streams, that great artery flowing from the heart of the world, through
the length and breadth of the land, carrying wealth and fertility in its
course, and transporting from town to town along its beautiful shores the
riches and produce of a thousand distant climes. What elements of future
greatness and prosperity encircle you on every side! Never yield up these
solid advantages to become an humble dependent on the great republic—wait
patiently, loyally, lovingly, upon the illustrious parent from whom you
sprang, and by whom you have been fostered into life and political
importance; in the fulness of time she will proclaim your childhood past,
and bid you stand up in your own strength, a free Canadian people!

British mothers of Canadian sons!—learn to feel for their country
the same enthusiasm which fills your hearts when thinking of the glory of
your own. Teach them to love Canada—to look upon her as the first,
the happiest, the most independent country in the world! Exhort them to be
worthy of her—to have faith in her present prosperity, in her future
greatness, and to devote all their talents, when they themselves are men,
to accomplish this noble object. Make your children proud of the land of
their birth, the land which has given them bread—the land in which
you have found an altar and a home; do this, and you will soon cease to
lament your separation from the mother country, and the loss of those
luxuries which you could not, in honor to yourself, enjoy; you will soon
learn to love Canada as I now love it, who once viewed it with a hatred so
intense that I longed to die, that death might effectually separate us for

But, oh! beware of drawing disparaging contrasts between the colony and
its illustrious parent. All such comparisons are cruel and unjust;—you
cannot exalt the one at the expense of the other without committing an act
of treason against both.

But I have wandered away from my subject into the regions of thought, and
must again descend to common work-a-day realities.

The pleasure we experienced upon our first glance at Quebec was greatly
damped by the sad conviction that the cholera-plague raged within her
walls, while the almost ceaseless tolling of bells proclaimed a mournful
tale of woe and death. Scarcely a person visited the vessel who was not in
black, or who spoke not in tones of subdued grief. They advised us not to
go on shore if we valued our lives, as strangers most commonly fell the
first victims to the fatal malady. This was to me a severe disappointment,
who felt an intense desire to climb to the crown of the rock, and survey
the noble landscape at my feet. I yielded at last to the wishes of my
husband, who did not himself resist the temptation in his own person, and
endeavored to content myself with the means of enjoyment placed within my
reach. My eyes were never tired of wandering over the scene before me.

It is curious to observe how differently the objects which call forth
intense admiration in some minds will affect others. The Scotch dragoon,
Mackenzie, seeing me look long and intently at the distant Falls of
Montmorency, drily observed,—

“It may be a’ vera fine; but it looks na’ better to my thinken than hanks
o’ white woo’ hung out o’re the bushes.”

“Weel,” cried another, “thae fa’s are just bonnie; ’tis a braw land, nae
doubt; but no’ just so braw as auld Scotland.”

“Hout man! hauld your clavers, we shall a’ be lairds here,” said a third;
“and ye maun wait a muckle time before they wad think aucht of you at

I was not a little amused at the extravagant expectations entertained by
some of our steerage passengers. The sight of the Canadian shores had
changed them into persons of great consequence. The poorest and the
worst-dressed, the least-deserving and the most repulsive in mind and
morals, exhibited most disgusting traits of self-importance. Vanity and
presumption seemed to possess them altogether. They talked loudly of the
rank and wealth of their connexions at home, and lamented the great
sacrifices they had made in order to join brothers and cousins who had
foolishly settled in this beggarly wooden country.

Girls, who were scarcely able to wash a floor decently, talked of service
with contempt, unless tempted to change their resolution by the offer of
twelve dollars a month. To endeavour to undeceive them was a useless and
ungracious task. After having tried it with several without success, I
left it to time and bitter experience to restore them to their sober
senses. In spite of the remonstrances of the captain, and the dread of the
cholera, they all rushed on shore to inspect the land of Goshen, and to
endeavour to realise their absurd anticipations.

We were favoured, a few minutes after our arrival, with another visit from
the health-officers; but in this instance both the gentlemen were
Canadians. Grave, melancholy-looking men, who talked much and ominously of
the prevailing disorder, and the impossibility of strangers escaping from
its fearful ravages. This was not very consoling, and served to depress
the cheerful tone of mind which, after all, is one of the best antidotes
against this awful scourge. The cabin seemed to lighten, and the air to
circulate more freely, after the departure of these professional ravens.
The captain, as if by instinct, took an additional glass of grog, to shake
off the sepulchral gloom their presence had inspired.

The visit of the doctors was followed by that of two of the officials of
the Customs—vulgar, illiterate men, who, seating themselves at the
cabin table, with a familiar nod to the captain, and a blank stare at us,
commenced the following dialogue:—

Custom-house officer (after making inquiries as to the general cargo of
the vessel): “Any good brandy on board, captain?”

Captain (gruffly): “Yes.”

Officer: “Best remedy for the cholera known. The only one the doctors can
depend upon.”

Captain (taking the hint): “Gentlemen, I’ll send you up a dozen bottles
this afternoon.”

Officer: “Oh, thank you. We are sure to get it genuine from you. Any
Edinburgh ale in your freight?”

Captain (with a slight shrug): “A few hundreds in cases. I’ll send you a
dozen with the brandy.”

Both: “Capital!”

First officer: “Any short, large-bowled, Scotch pipes, with metallic

Captain (quite impatiently): “Yes, yes; I’ll send you some to smoke, with
the brandy. What else?”

Officer: “We will now proceed to business.”

My readers would have laughed, as I did, could they have seen how doggedly
the old man shook his fist after these worthies as they left the vessel.
“Scoundrels!” he muttered to himself; and then turning to me, “They rob us
in this barefaced manner, and we dare not resist or complain, for fear of
the trouble they can put us to. If I had those villains at sea, I’d give
them a taste of brandy and ale that they would not relish.”

The day wore away, and the lengthened shadows of the mountains fell upon
the waters, when the Horsley Hill, a large three-masted vessel from
Waterford, that we had left at the quarantine station, cast anchor a
little above us. She was quickly boarded by the health-officers, and
ordered round to take up her station below the castle. To accomplish this
object she had to heave her anchor; when lo! a great pine-tree, which had
been sunk in the river, became entangled in the chains. Uproarious was the
mirth to which the incident gave rise among the crowds that thronged the
decks of the many vessels then at anchor in the river. Speaking-trumpets
resounded on every side; and my readers may be assured that the
sea-serpent was not forgotten in the multitude of jokes which followed.

Laughter resounded on all sides; and in the midst of the noise and
confusion, the captain of the Horsley Hill hoisted his colours downwards,
as if making signals of distress, a mistake which provoked renewed and
long-continued mirth.

I laughed until my sides ached; little thinking how the Horsley Hill would
pay us off for our mistimed hilarity.

Towards night, most of the steerage passengers returned, greatly
dissatisfied with their first visit to the city, which they declared to be
a filthy hole, that looked a great deal better from the ship’s side than
it did on shore. This, I have often been told, is literally the case.
Here, as elsewhere, man has marred the magnificent creation of his Maker.

A dark and starless night closed in, accompanied by cold winds and
drizzling rain. We seemed to have made a sudden leap from the torrid to
the frigid zone. Two hours before, my light summer clothing was almost
insupportable, and now a heavy and well-lined plaid formed but an
inefficient screen from the inclemency of the weather. After watching for
some time the singular effect produced by the lights in the town reflected
in the water, and weary with a long day of anticipation and excitement, I
made up my mind to leave the deck and retire to rest. I had just settled
down my baby in her berth, when the vessel struck, with a sudden crash
that sent a shiver through her whole frame. Alarmed, but not aware of the
real danger that hung over us, I groped my way to the cabin, and thence
ascended to the deck.

Here a scene of confusion prevailed that baffles description. By some
strange fatality, the Horsley Hill had changed her position, and run foul
of us in the dark. The Anne was a small brig, and her unlucky neighbour a
heavy three-masted vessel, with three hundred Irish emigrants on board;
and as her bowspirit was directly across the bows of the Anne, and she
anchored, and unable to free herself from the deadly embrace, there was no
small danger of the poor brig going down in the unequal struggle.

Unable to comprehend what was going on, I raised my head above my
companion ladder, just at the critical moment when the vessels were
grappled together. The shrieks of the women, the shouts and oaths of the
men, and the barking of the dogs in either ship, aided the dense darkness
of the night in producing a most awful and stunning effect.

“What is the matter?” I gasped out. “What is the reason of this dreadful

The captain was raging like a chafed bull, in the grasp of several frantic
women, who were clinging, shrieking, to his knees.

With great difficulty I persuaded the women to accompany me below. The
mate hurried off with the cabin light upon the deck, and we were left in
total darkness to await the result.

A deep, strange silence fell upon my heart. It was not exactly fear, but a
sort of nerving of my spirit to meet the worst. The cowardly behaviour of
my companions inspired me with courage. I was ashamed of their
pusillanimity and want of faith in the Divine Providence. I sat down, and
calmly begged them to follow my example.

An old woman, called Williamson, a sad reprobate, in attempting to do so,
set her foot within the fender, which the captain had converted into a
repository for empty glass bottles; the smash that ensued was echoed by a
shriek from the whole party.

“God guide us,” cried the ancient dame; “but we are going into eternity. I
shall be lost; my sins are more in number than the hairs of my head.” This
confession was followed by oaths and imprecations too blasphemous to

Shocked and disgusted at her profanity, I bade her pray, and not waste the
few moments that might be hers in using oaths and bad language.

“Did you not hear the crash?” said she.

“I did; it was of your own making. Sit down and be quiet.”

Here followed another shock, that made the vessel heave and tremble; and
the dragging of the anchor increased the uneasy motion which began to fill
the boldest of us with alarm.

“Mrs. Moodie, we are lost,” said Margaret Williamson, the youngest
daughter of the old woman, a pretty girl, who had been the belle of the
ship, flinging herself on her knees before me, and grasping both my hands
in hers. “Oh, pray for me! pray for me! I cannot, I dare not, pray for
myself; I was never taught a prayer.” Her voice was choked with convulsive
sobs, and scalding tears fell in torrents from her eyes over my hands. I
never witnessed such an agony of despair. Before I could say one word to
comfort her, another shock seemed to lift the vessel upwards. I felt my
own blood run cold, expecting instantly to go down; and thoughts of death,
and the unknown eternity at our feet, flitted vaguely through my mind.

“If we stay here, we shall perish,” cried the girl, springing to her feet.
“Let us go on deck, mother, and take our chance with the rest.”

“Stay,” I said; “you are safer here. British sailors never leave women to
perish. You have fathers, husbands, brothers on board, who will not forget
you. I beseech you to remain patiently here until the danger is past.” I
might as well have preached to the winds. The headstrong creatures would
no longer be controlled. They rushed simultaneously upon deck, just as the
Horsley Hill swung off, carrying with her part of the outer frame of our
deck and the larger portion of our stern. When tranquillity was restored,
fatigued both in mind and body, I sunk into a profound sleep, and did not
awake until the sun had risen high above the wave-encircled fortress of

The stormy clouds had all dispersed during the night; the air was clear
and balmy; the giant hills were robed in a blue, soft mist, which rolled
around them in fleecy volumes. As the beams of the sun penetrated their
shadowy folds, they gradually drew up like a curtain, and dissolved like
wreaths of smoke into the clear air.

The moment I came on deck, my old friend Oscar greeted me with his usual
joyous bark, and with the sagacity peculiar to his species, proceeded to
shew me all the damage done to the vessel during the night. It was
laughable to watch the motions of the poor brute, as he ran from place to
place, stopping before, or jumping upon, every fractured portion of the
deck, and barking out his indignation at the ruinous condition in which he
found his marine home. Oscar had made eleven voyages in the Anne, and had
twice saved the life of the captain. He was an ugly specimen of the Scotch
terrier, and greatly resembled a bundle of old rope-yarn; but a more
faithful or attached creature I never saw. The captain was not a little
jealous of Oscar’s friendship for me. I was the only person the dog had
ever deigned to notice, and his master regarded it as an act of treason on
the part of his four-footed favourite. When my arms were tired with
nursing, I had only to lay my baby on my cloak on deck, and tell Oscar to
watch her, and the good dog would lie down by her, and suffer her to
tangle his long curls in her little hands, and pull his tail and ears in
the most approved baby fashion, without offering the least opposition; but
if any one dared to approach his charge, he was alive on the instant,
placing his paws over the child, and growling furiously. He would have
been a bold man who had approached the child to do her injury. Oscar was
the best plaything, and as sure a protector, as Katie had.

During the day, many of our passengers took their departure; tired of the
close confinement of the ship, and the long voyage, they were too
impatient to remain on board until we reached Montreal. The mechanics
obtained instant employment, and the girls who were old enough to work,
procured situations as servants in the city. Before night, our numbers
were greatly reduced. The old dragoon and his family, two Scotch fiddlers
of the name of Duncan, a Highlander called Tam Grant, and his wife and
little son, and our own party, were all that remained of the seventy-two
passengers that left the Port of Leith in the brig Anne.

In spite of the earnest entreaties of his young wife, the said Tam Grant,
who was the most mercurial fellow in the world, would insist upon going on
shore to see all the lions of the place. “Ah, Tam! Tam! ye will die o’ the
cholera,” cried the weeping Maggie. “My heart will brak if ye dinna bide
wi’ me an’ the bairnie.” Tam was deaf as Ailsa Craig. Regardless of tears
and entreaties, he jumped into the boat, like a wilful man as he was, and
my husband went with him. Fortunately for me, the latter returned safe to
the vessel, in time to proceed with her to Montreal, in tow of the noble
steamer, British America; but Tam, the volatile Tam was missing. During
the reign of the cholera, what at another time would have appeared but a
trifling incident, was now invested with doubt and terror. The distress of
the poor wife knew no bounds. I think I see her now, as I saw her then,
sitting upon the floor of the deck, her head buried between her knees,
rocking herself to and fro, and weeping in the utter abandonment of her
grief. “He is dead! he is dead! My dear, dear Tam! The pestilence has
seized upon him; and I and the puir bairn are left alone in the strange
land.” All attempts at consolation were useless; she obstinately refused
to listen to probabilities, or to be comforted. All through the night I
heard her deep and bitter sobs, and the oft-repeated name of him that she
had lost.

The sun was sinking over the plague-stricken city, gilding the changing
woods and mountain peaks with ruddy light; the river mirrored back the
gorgeous sky, and moved in billows of liquid gold; the very air seemed
lighted up with heavenly fires, and sparkled with myriads of luminous
particles, as I gazed my last upon that beautiful scene.

The tow-line was now attached from our ship to the British America, and in
company with two other vessels, we followed fast in her foaming wake. Day
lingered on the horizon just long enough to enable me to examine, with
deep interest, the rocky heights of Abraham, the scene of our immortal
Wolfe’s victory and death; and when the twilight faded into night, the
moon arose in solemn beauty, and cast mysterious gleams upon the strange
stern landscape. The wide river, flowing rapidly between its rugged banks,
rolled in inky blackness beneath the overshadowing crags; while the waves
in mid-channel flashed along in dazzling light, rendered more intense by
the surrounding darkness. In this luminous track the huge steamer glided
majestically forward, flinging showers of red earth-stars from the funnel
into the clear air, and looking like some fiery demon of the night
enveloped in smoke and flame.

The lofty groves of pine frowned down in hearse-like gloom upon the mighty
river, and the deep stillness of the night, broken alone by its hoarse
wailings, filled my mind with sad forebodings—alas! too prophetic of
the future. Keenly, for the first time, I felt that I was a stranger in a
strange land; my heart yearned intensely for my absent home. Home! the
word had ceased to belong to my present—it was doomed to live for
ever in the past; for what emigrant ever regarded the country of his exile
as his home? To the land he has left, that name belongs for ever, and in
no instance does he bestow it upon another. “I have got a letter from
home!” “I have seen a friend from home!” “I dreamt last night that I was
at home!” are expressions of everyday occurrence, to prove that the heart
acknowledges no other home than the land of its birth.

From these sad reveries I was roused by the hoarse notes of the bagpipe.
That well-known sound brought every Scotchman upon deck, and set every
limb in motion on the decks of the other vessels. Determined not to be
outdone, our fiddlers took up the strain, and a lively contest ensued
between the rival musicians, which continued during the greater part of
the night. The shouts of noisy revelry were in no way congenial to my
feelings. Nothing tends so much to increase our melancholy as merry music
when the heart is sad; and I left the scene with eyes brimful of tears,
and my mind painfully agitated by sorrowful recollections and vain

  The strains we hear in foreign lands,
    No echo from the heart can claim;
  The chords are swept by strangers' hands,
    And kindle in the breast no flame,
             Sweet though they be.
  No fond remembrance wakes to fling
    Its hallowed influence o'er the chords;
  As if a spirit touch'd the string,
    Breathing, in soft harmonious words,
             Deep melody.

  The music of our native shore
    A thousand lovely scenes endears;
  In magic tones it murmurs o'er
    The visions of our early years;—
             The hopes of youth;
  It wreathes again the flowers we wreathed
    In childhood's bright, unclouded day;
  It breathes again the vows we breathed,
    At beauty's shrine, when hearts were gay
             And whisper'd truth;

  It calls before our mental sight
    Dear forms whose tuneful lips are mute,
  Bright, sunny eyes long closed in night,
    Warm hearts now silent as the lute
             That charm'd our ears;
  It thrills the breast with feelings deep,
    Too deep for language to impart;
  And bids the spirit joy and weep,
    In tones that sink into the heart,
             And melt in tears.


  Fly this plague-stricken spot! The hot, foul air
  Is rank with pestilence—the crowded marts
  And public ways, once populous with life,
  Are still and noisome as a churchyard vault;
  Aghast and shuddering, Nature holds her breath
  In abject fear, and feels at her strong heart
  The deadly pangs of death.

Of Montreal I can say but little. The cholera was at its height, and the
fear of infection, which increased the nearer we approached its shores,
cast a gloom over the scene, and prevented us from exploring its infected
streets. That the feelings of all on board very nearly resembled our own
might be read in the anxious faces of both passengers and crew. Our
captain, who had never before hinted that he entertained any apprehensions
on the subject, now confided to us his conviction that he should never
quit the city alive: “This cursed cholera! Left it in Russia—found
it on my return to Leith—meets me again in Canada. No escape the
third time.” If the captain’s prediction proved true in his case, it was
not so in ours. We left the cholera in England, we met it again in
Scotland, and, under the providence of God, we escaped its fatal
visitation in Canada.

Yet the fear and the dread of it on that first day caused me to throw many
an anxious glance on my husband and my child. I had been very ill during
the three weeks that our vessel was becalmed upon the Banks of
Newfoundland, and to this circumstance I attribute my deliverance from the
pestilence. I was weak and nervous when the vessel arrived at Quebec, but
the voyage up the St. Lawrence, the fresh air and beautiful scenery were
rapidly restoring me to health.

Montreal from the river wears a pleasing aspect, but it lacks the
grandeur, the stern sublimity of Quebec. The fine mountain that forms the
background to the city, the Island of St. Helens in front, and the
junction of the St. Lawrence and the Ottawa—which run side by side,
their respective boundaries only marked by a long ripple of white foam,
and the darker blue tint of the former river—constitute the most
remarkable features in the landscape.

The town itself was, at that period, dirty and ill-paved; and the opening
of all the sewers, in order to purify the place and stop the ravages of
the pestilence, rendered the public thoroughfares almost impassable, and
loaded the air with intolerable effluvia, more likely to produce than stay
the course of the plague, the violence of which had, in all probability,
been increased by these long-neglected receptacles of uncleanliness.

The dismal stories told us by the excise-officer who came to inspect the
unloading of the vessel, of the frightful ravages of the cholera, by no
means increased our desire to go on shore.

“It will be a miracle if you escape,” he said. “Hundreds of emigrants die
daily; and if Stephen Ayres had not providentally come among us, not a
soul would have been alive at this moment in Montreal.”

“And who is Stephen Ayres?” said I.

“God only knows,” was the grave reply. “There was a man sent from heaven,
and his name was John.”

“But I thought this man was called Stephen?”

“Ay, so he calls himself; but ’tis certain that he is not of the earth.
Flesh and blood could never do what he has done—the hand of God is
in it. Besides, no one knows who he is, or whence he comes. When the
cholera was at the worst, and the hearts of all men stood still with fear,
and our doctors could do nothing to stop its progress, this man, or angel,
or saint, suddenly made his appearance in our streets. He came in great
humility, seated in an ox-cart, and drawn by two lean oxen and a rope
harness. Only think of that! Such a man in an old ox-cart, drawn by
rope harness! The thing itself was a miracle. He made no parade
about what he could do, but only fixed up a plain pasteboard notice,
informing the public that he possessed an infallible remedy for the
cholera, and would engage to cure all who sent for him.”

“And was he successful?”

“Successful! It beats all belief; and his remedy so simple! For some days
we all took him for a quack, and would have no faith in him at all,
although he performed some wonderful cures upon poor folks, who could not
afford to send for the doctor. The Indian village was attacked by the
disease, and he went out to them, and restored upward of a hundred of the
Indians to perfect health. They took the old lean oxen out of the cart,
and drew him back to Montreal in triumph. This ‘stablished him at once,
and in a few days’ time he made a fortune. The very doctors sent for him
to cure them; and it is to be hoped that in a few days he will banish the
cholera from the city.”

“Do you know his famous remedy?”

“Do I not?—Did he not cure me when I was at the last gasp? Why, he
makes no secret of it. It is all drawn from the maple-tree. First he rubs
the patient all over with an ointment, made of hog’s lard and maple-sugar
and ashes, from the maple-tree; and he gives him a hot draught of
maple-sugar and ley, which throws him into a violent perspiration. In
about an hour the cramps subside; he falls into a quiet sleep, and when he
awakes he is perfectly restored to health.” Such were our first tidings of
Stephen Ayres, the cholera doctor, who is universally believed to have
effected some wonderful cures. He obtained a wide celebrity throughout the

(1) A friend of mine, in this town, has an original portrait of this
notable empiric—this man sent from heaven. The face is rather
handsome, but has a keen, designing expression, and is evidently that of
an American, from its complexion and features.

The day of our arrival in the port of Montreal was spent in packing and
preparing for our long journey up the country. At sunset, I went upon deck
to enjoy the refreshing breeze that swept from the river. The evening was
delightful; the white tents of the soldiers on the Island of St. Helens
glittered in the beams of the sun, and the bugle-call, wafted over the
waters, sounded so cheery and inspiring, that it banished all fears of the
cholera, and, with fear, the heavy gloom that had clouded my mind since we
left Quebec. I could once more hold sweet converse with nature, and enjoy
the soft loveliness of the rich and harmonious scene.

A loud cry from one of the crew startled me; I turned to the river, and
beheld a man struggling in the water a short distance from our vessel. He
was a young sailor, who had fallen from the bowsprit of a ship near us.

There is something terribly exciting in beholding a fellow-creature in
imminent peril, without having the power to help him. To witness his
death-struggles—to feel in your own person all the dreadful
alternations of hope and fear—and, finally, to see him die, with
scarcely an effort made for his preservation. This was our case.

At the moment he fell into the water, a boat with three men was within a
few yards of the spot, and actually sailed over the spot where he sank.
Cries of “Shame!” from the crowd collected upon the bank of the river, had
no effect in rousing these people to attempt the rescue of a perishing
fellow-creature. The boat passed on. The drowning man again rose to the
surface, the convulsive motion of his hands and feet visible above the
water, but it was evident that the struggle would be his last.

“Is it possible that they will let a human being perish, and so near the
shore, when an oar held out would save his life?” was the agonising
question at my heart, as I gazed, half-maddened by excitement, on the
fearful spectacle. The eyes of a multitude were fixed upon the same object—but
not a hand stirred. Every one seemed to expect from his fellow an effort
which he was incapable of attempting himself.

At this moment—splash! a sailor plunged into the water from the deck
of a neighbouring vessel, and dived after the drowning man. A deep “Thank
God!” burst from my heart. I drew a freer breath as the brave fellow’s
head appeared above the water. He called to the man in the boat to throw
him an oar, or the drowning man would be the death of them both. Slowly
they put back the boat—the oar was handed; but it came too late! The
sailor, whose name was Cook, had been obliged to shake off the hold of the
dying man to save his own life. He dived again to the bottom, and
succeeded in bringing to shore the body of the unfortunate being he had
vainly endeavoured to succour. Shortly after, he came on board our vessel,
foaming with passion at the barbarous indifference manifested by the men
in the boat.

“Had they given me the oar in time, I could have saved him. I knew him
well—he was an excellent fellow, and a good seaman. He has left a
wife and three children in Liverpool. Poor Jane!—how can I tell her
that I could not save her husband?”

He wept bitterly, and it was impossible for any of us to witness his
emotion without joining in his grief.

From the mate I learned that this same young man had saved the lives of
three women and a child when the boat was swamped at Grosse Isle, in
attempting to land the passengers from the Horsley Hill.

Such acts of heroism are common in the lower walks of life. Thus, the
purest gems are often encased in the rudest crust; and the finest feelings
of the human heart are fostered in the chilling atmosphere of poverty.

While this sad event occupied all our thoughts, and gave rise to many
painful reflections, an exclamation of unqualified delight at once changed
the current of our thoughts, and filled us with surprise and pleasure.
Maggie Grant had fainted in the arms of her husband.

Yes, there was Tam—her dear, reckless Tam, after all her tears and
lamentations, pressing his young wife to his heart, and calling her by a
thousand endearing pet names.

He had met with some countrymen at Quebec, had taken too much whiskey on
the joyful occasion, and lost his passage in the Anne, but had followed, a
few hours later, in another steam-boat; and he assured the now happy
Maggie, as he kissed the infant Tam, whom she held up to his admiring
gaze, that he never would be guilty of the like again. Perhaps he kept his
word; but I much fear that the first temptation would make the lively
laddie forget his promise.

Our luggage having been removed to the Custom-house, including our
bedding, the captain collected all the ship’s flags for our accommodation,
of which we formed a tolerably comfortable bed; and if our dreams were of
England, could it be otherwise, with her glorious flag wrapped around us,
and our heads resting upon the Union Jack?

In the morning we were obliged to visit the city to make the necessary
arrangements for our upward journey.

The day was intensely hot. A bank of thunderclouds lowered heavily above
the mountain, and the close, dusty streets were silent, and nearly
deserted. Here and there might be seen a group of anxious-looking,
care-worn, sickly emigrants, seated against a wall among their packages,
and sadly ruminating upon their future prospects.

The sullen toll of the death-bell, the exposure of ready-made coffins in
the undertakers’ windows, and the oft-recurring notice placarded on the
walls, of funerals furnished at such and such a place, at cheapest rate
and shortest notice, painfully reminded us, at every turning of the
street, that death was everywhere—perhaps lurking in our very path;
we felt no desire to examine the beauties of the place. With this ominous
feeling pervading our minds, public buildings possessed few attractions,
and we determined to make our stay as short as possible.

Compared with the infected city, our ship appeared an ark of safety, and
we returned to it with joy and confidence, too soon to be destroyed. We
had scarcely re-entered our cabin, when tidings were brought to us that
the cholera had made its appearance: a brother of the captain had been

It was advisable that we should leave the vessel immediately, before the
intelligence could reach the health-officers. A few minutes sufficed to
make the necessary preparations; and in less than half an hour we found
ourselves occupying comfortable apartments in Goodenough’s hotel, and our
passage taken in the stage for the following morning.

The transition was like a dream. The change from the close, rank ship, to
large, airy, well-furnished rooms and clean attendants, was a luxury we
should have enjoyed had not the dread of cholera involved all things
around us in gloom and apprehension. No one spoke upon the subject; and
yet it was evident that it was uppermost in the thoughts of all. Several
emigrants had died of the terrible disorder during the week, beneath the
very roof that sheltered us, and its ravages, we were told, had extended
up the country as far as Kingston; so that it was still to be the phantom
of our coming journey, if we were fortunate enough to escape from its

At six o’clock the following morning, we took our places in the coach for
Lachine, and our fears of the plague greatly diminished as we left the
spires of Montreal in the distance. The journey from Montreal westward has
been so well described by many gifted pens, that I shall say little about
it. The banks of the St. Lawrence are picturesque and beautiful,
particularly in those spots where there is a good view of the American
side. The neat farm-houses looked to me, whose eyes had been so long
accustomed to the watery waste, homes of beauty and happiness; and the
splendid orchards, the trees at that season of the year being loaded with
ripening fruit of all hues, were refreshing and delicious.

My partiality for the apples was regarded by a fellow-traveller with a
species of horror. “Touch them not, if you value your life.” Every draught
of fresh air and water inspired me with renewed health and spirits, and I
disregarded the well-meant advice; the gentlemen who gave it had just
recovered from the terrible disease. He was a middle-aged man, a farmer
from the Upper Province, Canadian born. He had visited Montreal on
business for the first time. “Well, sir,” he said, in answer to some
questions put to him by my husband respecting the disease, “I can tell you
what it is: a man smitten with the cholera stares death right in the face;
and the torment he is suffering is so great that he would gladly die to
get rid of it.”

“You were fortunate, C——, to escape,” said a backwood settler,
who occupied the opposite seat; “many a younger man has died of it.”

“Ay; but I believe I never should have taken it had it not been for some
things they gave me for supper at the hotel; oysters, they called them,
oysters; they were alive! I was once persuaded by a friend to eat them,
and I liked them well enough at the time. But I declare to you that I felt
them crawling over one another in my stomach all night. The next morning I
was seized with the cholera.”

“Did you swallow them whole, C——?” said the former spokesman,
who seemed highly tickled by the evil doings of the oysters.

“To be sure. I tell you, the creatures are alive. You put them on your
tongue, and I’ll be bound you’ll be glad to let them slip down as fast as
you can.”

“No wonder you had the cholera,” said the backwoodsman, “you deserved it
for your barbarity. If I had a good plate of oysters here, I’d teach you
the way to eat them.”

Our journey during the first day was performed partly by coach, partly by
steam. It was nine o’clock in the evening when we landed at Cornwell, and
took coach for Prescott. The country through which we passed appeared
beautiful in the clear light of the moon; but the air was cold, and
slightly sharpened by frost. This seemed strange to me in the early part
of September, but it is very common in Canada. Nine passengers were
closely packed into our narrow vehicle, but the sides being of canvas, and
the open space allowed for windows unglazed, I shivered with cold, which
amounted to a state of suffering, when the day broke, and we approached
the little village of Matilda. It was unanimously voted by all hands that
we should stop and breakfast at a small inn by the road-side, and warm
ourselves before proceeding to Prescott.

The people in the tavern were not stirring, and it was some time before an
old white-headed man unclosed the door, and showed us into a room,
redolent with fumes of tobacco, and darkened by paper blinds. I asked him
if he would allow me to take my infant into a room with a fire.

“I guess it was a pretty considerable cold night for the like of her,”
said he. “Come, I’ll show you to the kitchen; there’s always a fire
there.” I cheerfully followed, accompanied by our servant.

Our entrance was unexpected, and by no means agreeable to the persons we
found there. A half-clothed, red-haired Irish servant was upon her knees,
kindling up the fire; and a long, thin woman, with a sharp face, and an
eye like a black snake, was just emerging from a bed in the corner. We
soon discovered this apparition to be the mistress of the house.

“The people can’t come in here!” she screamed in a shrill voice, darting
daggers at the poor old man.

“Sure there’s a baby, and the two women critters are perished with cold,”
pleaded the good old man.

“What’s that to me? They have no business in my kitchen.”

“Now, Almira, do hold on. It’s the coach has stopped to breakfast with us;
and you know we don’t often get the chance.”

All this time the fair Almira was dressing as fast as she could, and
eyeing her unwelcome female guests, as we stood shivering over the fire.

“Breakfast!” she muttered, “what can we give them to eat? They pass our
door a thousand times without any one alighting; and now, when we are out
of everything, they must stop and order breakfast at such an unreasonable
hour. How many are there of you?” turning fiercely to me.

“Nine,” I answered, laconically, continuing to chafe the cold hands and
feet of the child.

“Nine! That bit of beef will be nothing, cut into steaks for nine. What’s
to be done, Joe?” (to the old man.)

“Eggs and ham, summat of that dried venison, and pumpkin pie,” responded
the aide-de-camp, thoughtfully. “I don’t know of any other fixings.”

“Bestir yourself, then, and lay out the table, for the coach can’t stay
long,” cried the virago, seizing a frying-pan from the wall, and preparing
it for the reception of eggs and ham. “I must have the fire to myself.
People can’t come crowding here, when I have to fix breakfast for nine;
particularly when there is a good room elsewhere provided for their
accommodation.” I took the hint, and retreated to the parlour, where I
found the rest of the passengers walking to and fro, and impatiently
awaiting the advent of breakfast.

To do Almira justice, she prepared from her scanty materials a very
substantial breakfast in an incredibly short time, for which she charged
us a quarter of a dollar per head.

At Prescott we embarked on board a fine new steam-boat, William IV.,
crowded with Irish emigrants, proceeding to Cobourg and Toronto.

While pacing the deck, my husband was greatly struck by the appearance of
a middle-aged man and his wife, who sat apart from the rest, and seemed
struggling with intense grief, which, in spite of all their efforts at
concealment, was strongly impressed upon their features. Some time after,
I fell into conversation with the woman, from whom I learned their little
history. The husband was factor to a Scotch gentleman, of large landed
property, who had employed him to visit Canada, and report the
capabilities of the country, prior to his investing a large sum of money
in wild lands. The expenses of their voyage had been paid, and everything
up to that morning had prospered them. They had been blessed with a speedy
passage, and were greatly pleased with the country and the people; but of
what avail was all this? Their only son, a fine lad of fourteen, had died
that day of the cholera, and all their hopes for the future were buried in
his grave. For his sake they had sought a home in this far land; and here,
at the very onset of their new career, the fell disease had taken him from
them for ever—here, where, in such a crowd, the poor heart-broken
mother could not even indulge her natural grief!

“Ah, for a place where I might greet!” she said; “it would relieve the
burning weight at my heart. But with sae many strange eyes glowering upon
me, I tak’ shame to mysel’ to greet.”

“Ah, Jeannie, my puir woman,” said the husband, grasping her hand, “ye
maun bear up; ’tis God’s will; an sinfu’ creatures like us mauna repine.
But oh, madam,” turning to me, “we have sair hearts the day!”

Poor bereaved creatures, how deeply I commiserated their grief—how I
respected the poor father, in the stern efforts he made to conceal from
indifferent spectators the anguish that weighed upon his mind! Tears are
the best balm that can be applied to the anguish of the heart. Religion
teaches man to bear his sorrows with becoming fortitude, but tears
contribute largely both to soften and to heal the wounds from whence they

At Brockville we took in a party of ladies, which somewhat relieved the
monotony of the cabin, and I was amused by listening to their lively
prattle, and the little gossip with which they strove to wile away the
tedium of the voyage. The day was too stormy to go upon deck—thunder
and lightening, accompanied with torrents of rain. Amid the confusion of
the elements, I tried to get a peep at the Lake of the Thousand Isles; but
the driving storm blended all objects into one, and I returned wet and
disappointed to my berth. We passed Kingston at midnight, and lost all our
lady passengers but two. The gale continued until daybreak, and noise and
confusion prevailed all night, which were greatly increased by the
uproarious conduct of a wild Irish emigrant, who thought fit to make his
bed upon the mat before the cabin door. He sang, he shouted, and harangued
his countrymen on the political state of the Emerald Isle, in a style
which was loud if not eloquent. Sleep was impossible, whilst his
stentorian lungs continued to pour forth torrents of unmeaning sound.

Our Dutch stewardess was highly enraged. His conduct, she said, “was
perfectly ondacent.” She opened the door, and bestowing upon him several
kicks, bade him get away “out of that,” or she would complain to the

In answer to this remonstrance, he caught her by the foot, and pulled her
down. Then waving the tattered remains of his straw hat in the air, he
shouted with an air of triumph, “Git out wid you, you ould witch! Shure
the ladies, the purty darlints, never sent you wid that ugly message to
Pat, who loves them so intirely that he manes to kape watch over them
through the blessed night.” Then making us a ludicrous bow, he continued,
“Ladies, I’m at yer sarvice; I only wish I could get a dispensation from
the Pope, and I’d marry yeas all.” The stewardess bolted the door, and the
mad fellow kept up such a racket that we all wished him at the bottom of
the Ontario.

The following day was wet and gloomy. The storm had protracted the length
of our voyage for several hours, and it was midnight when we landed at


(Written at midnight on the river St. Lawrence)

  There's rest when eve, with dewy fingers,
    Draws the curtains of repose
  Round the west, where light still lingers,
    And the day's last glory glows;
  There's rest in heaven's unclouded blue,
    When twinkling stars steal one by one,
  So softly on the gazer's view,
    As if they sought his glance to shun.

  There's rest when o'er the silent meads
    The deepening shades of night advance;
  And sighing through their fringe of reeds,
    The mighty stream's clear waters glance.
  There's rest when all above is bright,
    And gently o'er these summer isles
  The full moon pours her mellow light,
    And heaven on earth serenely smiles.

  There's rest when angry storms are o'er,
    And fear no longer vigil keeps;
  When winds are heard to rave no more,
    And ocean's troubled spirit sleeps;
  There's rest when to the pebbly strand,
    The lapsing billows slowly glide;
  And, pillow'd on the golden sand,
    Breathes soft and low the slumbering tide.

  There's rest, deep rest, at this still hour—
    A holy calm,—a pause profound;
  Whose soothing spell and dreamy power
    Lulls into slumber all around.
  There's rest for labour's hardy child,
    For Nature's tribes of earth and air,—
  Whose sacred balm and influence mild,
    Save guilt and sorrow, all may share.

  There's rest beneath the quiet sod,
    When life and all its sorrows cease,
  And in the bosom of his God
    The Christian finds eternal peace,—
  That peace the world cannot bestow,
    The rest a Saviour's death-pangs bought,
  To bid the weary pilgrim know
    A rest surpassing human thought.


  “Of all odd fellows, this fellow was the oddest. I have seen
  many strange fish in my days, but I never met with his equal.”

About a month previous to our emigration to Canada, my husband said to me,
“You need not expect me home to dinner to-day; I am going with my friend
Wilson to Y——, to hear Mr. C—— lecture upon
emigration to Canada. He has just returned from the North American
provinces, and his lectures are attended by vast numbers of persons who
are anxious to obtain information on the subject. I got a note from your
friend B—— this morning, begging me to come over and listen to
his palaver; and as Wilson thinks of emigrating in the spring, he will be
my walking companion.”

“Tom Wilson going to Canada!” said I, as the door closed on my
better-half. “What a backwoodsman he will make! What a loss to the single
ladies of S——! What will they do without him at their balls
and picnics?”

One of my sisters, who was writing at a table near me, was highly amused
at this unexpected announcement. She fell back in her chair and indulged
in a long and hearty laugh. I am certain that most of my readers would
have joined in her laugh had they known the object which provoked her
mirth. “Poor Tom is such a dreamer,” said my sister, “it would be an act
of charity in Moodie to persuade him from undertaking such a wild-goose
chase; only that I fancy my good brother is possessed with the same

“Nay, God forbid!” said I. “I hope this Mr. ——, with the
unpronounceable name, will disgust them with his eloquence; for B——
writes me word, in his droll way, that he is a coarse, vulgar fellow, and
lacks the dignity of a bear. Oh! I am certain they will return quite
sickened with the Canadian project.” Thus I laid the flattering unction to
my soul, little dreaming that I and mine should share in the strange
adventures of this oddest of all odd creatures.

It might be made a subject of curious inquiry to those who delight in
human absurdities, if ever there were a character drawn in works of
fiction so extravagantly ridiculous as some which daily experience
presents to our view. We have encountered people in the broad
thoroughfares of life more eccentric than ever we read of in books; people
who, if all their foolish sayings and doings were duly recorded, would vie
with the drollest creations of Hood, or George Colman, and put to shame
the flights of Baron Munchausen. Not that Tom Wilson was a romancer; oh
no! He was the very prose of prose, a man in a mist, who seemed afraid of
moving about for fear of knocking his head against a tree, and finding a
halter suspended to its branches—a man as helpless and as indolent
as a baby.

Mr. Thomas, or Tom Wilson, as he was familiarly called by all his friends
and acquaintances, was the son of a gentleman, who once possessed a large
landed property in the neighbourhood; but an extravagant and profligate
expenditure of the income which he derived from a fine estate which had
descended from father to son through many generations, had greatly reduced
the circumstances of the elder Wilson. Still, his family held a certain
rank and standing in their native county, of which his evil courses, bad
as they were, could not wholly deprive them. The young people—and a
very large family they made of sons and daughters, twelve in number—were
objects of interest and commiseration to all who knew them, while the
worthless father was justly held in contempt and detestation. Our hero was
the youngest of the six sons; and from his childhood he was famous for his
nothing-to-doishness. He was too indolent to engage heart and soul in the
manly sports of his comrades; and he never thought it necessary to
commence learning his lessons until the school had been in an hour. As he
grew up to man’s estate, he might be seen dawdling about in a black
frock-coat, jean trousers, and white kid gloves, making lazy bows to the
pretty girls of his acquaintance; or dressed in a green shooting-jacket,
with a gun across his shoulder, sauntering down the wooded lanes, with a
brown spaniel dodging at his heels, and looking as sleepy and indolent as
his master.

The slowness of all Tom’s movements was strangely contrasted with his
slight, and symmetrical figure; that looked as if it only awaited the will
of the owner to be the most active piece of human machinery that ever
responded to the impulses of youth and health. But then, his face! What
pencil could faithfully delineate features at once so comical and
lugubrious—features that one moment expressed the most solemn
seriousness, and the next, the most grotesque and absurd abandonment to
mirth? In him, all extremes appeared to meet; the man was a contradiction
to himself. Tom was a person of few words, and so intensely lazy that it
required a strong effort of will to enable him to answer the questions of
inquiring friends; and when at length aroused to exercise his colloquial
powers, he performed the task in so original a manner that it never failed
to upset the gravity of the interrogator. When he raised his large,
prominent, leaden-coloured eyes from the ground, and looked the inquirer
steadily in the face, the effect was irresistible; the laugh would come—do
your best to resist it.

Poor Tom took this mistimed merriment in very good part, generally
answering with a ghastly contortion which he meant for a smile, or, if he
did trouble himself to find words, with, “Well, that’s funny! What makes
you laugh? At me, I suppose? I don’t wonder at it; I often laugh at

Tom would have been a treasure to an undertaker. He would have been
celebrated as a mute; he looked as if he had been born in a shroud, and
rocked in a coffin. The gravity with which he could answer a ridiculous or
impertinent question completely disarmed and turned the shafts of malice
back upon his opponent. If Tom was himself an object of ridicule to many,
he had a way of quietly ridiculing others that bade defiance to all
competition. He could quiz with a smile, and put down insolence with an
incredulous stare. A grave wink from those dreamy eyes would destroy the
veracity of a travelled dandy for ever.

Tom was not without use in his day and generation; queer and awkward as he
was, he was the soul of truth and honour. You might suspect his sanity—a
matter always doubtful—but his honesty of heart and purpose, never.

When you met Tom in the streets, he was dressed with such neatness and
care (to be sure it took him half the day to make his toilet), that it led
many persons to imagine that this very ugly young man considered himself
an Adonis; and I must confess that I rather inclined to this opinion. He
always paced the public streets with a slow, deliberate tread, and with
his eyes fixed intently on the ground—like a man who had lost his
ideas, and was diligently employed in searching for them. I chanced to
meet him one day in this dreamy mood.

“How do you do, Mr. Wilson?” He stared at me for several minutes, as if
doubtful of my presence or identity.

“What was that you said?”

I repeated the question; and he answered, with one of his incredulous

“Was it to me you spoke? Oh, I am quite well, or I should not be walking
here. By the way, did you see my dog?”

“How should I know your dog?”

“They say he resembles me. He’s a queer dog, too; but I never could find
out the likeness. Good night!”

This was at noonday; but Tom had a habit of taking light for darkness, and
darkness for light, in all he did or said. He must have had different eyes
and ears, and a different way of seeing, hearing, and comprehending, than
is possessed by the generality of his species; and to such a length did he
carry this abstraction of soul and sense, that he would often leave you
abruptly in the middle of a sentence; and if you chanced to meet him some
weeks after, he would resume the conversation with the very word at which
he had cut short the thread of your discourse.

A lady once told him in jest that her youngest brother, a lad of twelve
years old, had called his donkey Braham, in honour of the great singer of
that name. Tom made no answer, but started abruptly away. Three months
after, she happened to encounter him on the same spot, when he accosted
her, without any previous salutation,

“You were telling me about a donkey, Miss ——, a donkey of your
brother’s—Braham, I think you called him—yes, Braham; a
strange name for an ass! I wonder what the great Mr. Braham would say to
that. Ha, ha, ha!”

“Your memory must be excellent, Mr. Wilson, to enable you to remember such
a trifling circumstance all this time.”

“Trifling, do you call it? Why, I have thought of nothing else ever

From traits such as these my readers will be tempted to imagine him
brother to the animal who had dwelt so long in his thoughts; but there
were times when he surmounted this strange absence of mind, and could talk
and act as sensibly as other folks.

On the death of his father, he emigrated to New South Wales, where he
contrived to doze away seven years of his valueless existence, suffering
his convict servants to rob him of everything, and finally to burn his
dwelling. He returned to his native village, dressed as an Italian
mendicant, with a monkey perched upon his shoulder, and playing airs of
his own composition upon a hurdy-gurdy. In this disguise he sought the
dwelling of an old bachelor uncle, and solicited his charity. But who that
had once seen our friend Tom could ever forget him? Nature had no
counterpart of one who in mind and form was alike original. The
good-natured old soldier, at a glance, discovered his hopeful nephew,
received him into his house with kindness, and had afforded him an asylum
ever since.

One little anecdote of him at this period will illustrate the quiet love
of mischief with which he was imbued. Travelling from W—— to
London in the stage-coach (railways were not invented in those days), he
entered into conversation with an intelligent farmer who sat next to him;
New South Wales, and his residence in that colony, forming the leading
topic. A dissenting minister who happened to be his vis-a-vis, and who had
annoyed him by making several impertinent remarks, suddenly asked him,
with a sneer, how many years he had been there.

“Seven,” returned Tom, in a solemn tone, without deigning a glance at his

“I thought so,” responded the other, thrusting his hands into his breeches
pockets. “And pray, sir, what were you sent there for?”

“Stealing pigs,” returned the incorrigible Tom, with the gravity of a
judge. The words were scarcely pronounced when the questioner called the
coachman to stop, preferring a ride outside in the rain to a seat within
with a thief. Tom greatly enjoyed the hoax, which he used to tell with the
merriest of all grave faces.

Besides being a devoted admirer of the fair sex, and always imagining
himself in love with some unattainable beauty, he had a passionate craze
for music, and played upon the violin and flute with considerable taste
and execution. The sound of a favourite melody operated upon the breathing
automaton like magic, his frozen faculties experienced a sudden thaw, and
the stream of life leaped and gambolled for a while with uncontrollable
vivacity. He laughed, danced, sang, and made love in a breath, committing
a thousand mad vagaries to make you acquainted with his existence.

My husband had a remarkably sweet-toned flute, and this flute Tom regarded
with a species of idolatry.

“I break the Tenth Commandment, Moodie, whenever I hear you play upon that
flute. Take care of your black wife,” (a name he had bestowed upon the
coveted treasure), “or I shall certainly run off with her.”

“I am half afraid of you, Tom. I am sure if I were to die, and leave you
my black wife as a legacy, you would be too much overjoyed to lament my

Such was the strange, helpless, whimsical being who now contemplated an
emigration to Canada. How he succeeded in the speculation the sequel will

It was late in the evening before my husband and his friend Tom Wilson
returned from Y——. I had provided a hot supper and a cup of
coffee after their long walk, and they did ample justice to my care.

Tom was in unusually high spirits, and appeared wholly bent upon his
Canadian expedition.

“Mr. C—— must have been very eloquent, Mr. Wilson,” said I,
“to engage your attention for so many hours.”

“Perhaps he was,” returned Tom, after a pause of some minutes, during
which he seemed to be groping for words in the salt-cellar, having
deliberately turned out its contents upon the tablecloth. “We were hungry
after our long walk, and he gave us an excellent dinner.”

“But that had nothing to do with the substance of his lecture.”

“It was the substance, after all,” said Moodie, laughing; “and his
audience seemed to think so, by the attention they paid to it during the
discussion. But, come, Wilson, give my wife some account of the
intellectual part of the entertainment.”

“What! I—I—I—I give an account of the lecture? Why, my
dear fellow, I never listened to one word of it!”

“I thought you went to Y—— on purpose to obtain information on
the subject of emigration to Canada?”

“Well, and so I did; but when the fellow pulled out his pamphlet, and said
that it contained the substance of his lecture, and would only cost a
shilling, I thought that it was better to secure the substance than
endeavour to catch the shadow—so I bought the book, and spared
myself the pain of listening to the oratory of the writer. Mrs. Moodie! he
had a shocking delivery, a drawling, vulgar voice; and he spoke with such
a nasal twang that I could not bear to look at him, or listen to him. He
made such grammatical blunders, that my sides ached with laughing at him.
Oh, I wish you could have seen the wretch! But here is the document,
written in the same style in which it was spoken. Read it; you have a rich
treat in store.”

I took the pamphlet, not a little amused at his description of Mr. C——,
for whom I felt an uncharitable dislike.

“And how did you contrive to entertain yourself, Mr. Wilson, during his
long address?”

“By thinking how many fools were collected together, to listen to one
greater than the rest. By the way, Moodie, did you notice farmer Flitch?”

“No; where did he sit?”

“At the foot of the table. You must have seen him, he was too big to be
overlooked. What a delightful squint he had! What a ridiculous likeness
there was between him and the roast pig he was carving! I was wondering
all dinner-time how that man contrived to cut up that pig; for one eye was
fixed upon the ceiling, and the other leering very affectionately at me.
It was very droll; was it not?”

“And what do you intend doing with yourself when you arrive in Canada?”
said I.

“Find out some large hollow tree, and live like Bruin in winter by sucking
my paws. In the summer there will be plenty of mast and acorns to satisfy
the wants of an abstemious fellow.”

“But, joking apart, my dear fellow,” said my husband, anxious to induce
him to abandon a scheme so hopeless, “do you think that you are at all
qualified for a life of toil and hardship?”

“Are you?” returned Tom, raising his large, bushy, black eyebrows to the
top of his forehead, and fixing his leaden eyes steadfastly upon his
interrogator, with an air of such absurd gravity that we burst into a
hearty laugh.

“Now what do you laugh for? I am sure I asked you a very serious

“But your method of putting it is so unusual that you must excuse us for

“I don’t want you to weep,” said Tom; “but as to our qualifications,
Moodie, I think them pretty equal. I know you think otherwise, but I will
explain. Let me see; what was I going to say?—ah, I have it! You go
with the intention of clearing land, and working for yourself, and doing a
great deal. I have tried that before in New South Wales, and I know that
it won’t answer. Gentlemen can’t work like labourers, and if they could,
they won’t—it is not in them, and that you will find out. You
expect, by going to Canada, to make your fortune, or at least secure a
comfortable independence. I anticipate no such results; yet I mean to go,
partly out of a whim, partly to satisfy my curiosity whether it is a
better country than New South Wales; and lastly, in the hope of bettering
my condition in a small way, which at present is so bad that it can
scarcely be worse. I mean to purchase a farm with the three hundred pounds
I received last week from the sale of my father’s property; and if the
Canadian soil yields only half what Mr. C—— says it does, I
need not starve. But the refined habits in which you have been brought up,
and your unfortunate literary propensities—(I say unfortunate,
because you will seldom meet people in a colony who can or will sympathise
with you in these pursuits)—they will make you an object of mistrust
and envy to those who cannot appreciate them, and will be a source of
constant mortification and disappointment to yourself. Thank God! I have
no literary propensities; but in spite of the latter advantage, in all
probability I shall make no exertion at all; so that your energy, damped
by disgust and disappointment, and my laziness, will end in the same
thing, and we shall both return like bad pennies to our native shores.
But, as I have neither wife nor child to involve in my failure, I think,
without much self-flattery, that my prospects are better than yours.”

This was the longest speech I ever heard Tom utter; and, evidently
astonished at himself, he sprang abruptly from the table, overset a cup of
coffee into my lap, and wishing us good day (it was eleven o’clock
at night), he ran out of the house.

There was more truth in poor Tom’s words than at that moment we were
willing to allow; for youth and hope were on our side in those days, and
we were most ready to believe the suggestions of the latter.

My husband finally determined to emigrate to Canada, and in the hurry and
bustle of a sudden preparation to depart, Tom and his affairs for a while
were forgotten.

How dark and heavily did that frightful anticipation weigh upon my heart!
As the time for our departure drew near, the thought of leaving my friends
and native land became so intensely painful that it haunted me even in
sleep. I seldom awoke without finding my pillow wet with tears. The glory
of May was upon the earth—of an English May. The woods were bursting
into leaf, the meadows and hedge-rows were flushed with flowers, and every
grove and copsewood echoed to the warblings of birds and the humming of
bees. To leave England at all was dreadful—to leave her at such a
season was doubly so. I went to take a last look at the old Hall, the
beloved home of my childhood and youth; to wander once more beneath the
shade of its venerable oaks—to rest once more upon the velvet sward
that carpeted their roots. It was while reposing beneath those noble trees
that I had first indulged in those delicious dreams which are a foretaste
of the enjoyments of the spirit-land. In them the soul breathes forth its
aspirations in a language unknown to common minds; and that language is
Poetry. Here annually, from year to year, I had renewed my friendship with
the first primroses and violets, and listened with the untiring ear of
love to the spring roundelay of the blackbird, whistled from among his
bower of May blossoms. Here, I had discoursed sweet words to the tinkling
brook, and learned from the melody of waters the music of natural sounds.
In these beloved solitudes all the holy emotions which stir the human
heart in its depths had been freely poured forth, and found a response in
the harmonious voice of Nature, bearing aloft the choral song of earth to
the throne of the Creator.

How hard it was to tear myself from scenes endeared to me by the most
beautiful and sorrowful recollections, let those who have loved and
suffered as I did, say. However the world had frowned upon me, Nature,
arrayed in her green loveliness, had ever smiled upon me like an indulgent
mother, holding out her loving arms to enfold to her bosom her erring but
devoted child.

Dear, dear England! why was I forced by a stern necessity to leave you?
What heinous crime had I committed, that I, who adored you, should be torn
from your sacred bosom, to pine out my joyless existence in a foreign
clime? Oh, that I might be permitted to return and die upon your
wave-encircled shores, and rest my weary head and heart beneath your
daisy-covered sod at last! Ah, these are vain outbursts of feeling—melancholy
relapses of the spring home-sickness! Canada! thou art a noble, free, and
rising country—the great fostering mother of the orphans of
civilisation. The offspring of Britain, thou must be great, and I will and
do love thee, land of my adoption, and of my children’s birth; and, oh,
dearer still to a mother’s heart-land of their graves!

                          * * * * * *

Whilst talking over our coming separation with my sister C——,
we observed Tom Wilson walking slowly up the path that led to the house.
He was dressed in a new shooting-jacket, with his gun lying carelessly
across his shoulder, and an ugly pointer dog following at a little

“Well, Mrs. Moodie, I am off,” said Tom, shaking hands with my sister
instead of me. “I suppose I shall see Moodie in London. What do you think
of my dog?” patting him affectionately.

“I think him an ugly beast,” said C——. “Do you mean to take
him with you?”

“An ugly beast!—Duchess a beast? Why she is a perfect beauty!—Beauty
and the beast! Ha, ha, ha! I gave two guineas for her last night.” (I
thought of the old adage.) “Mrs. Moodie, your sister is no judge of a

“Very likely,” returned C——, laughing. “And you go to town
to-night, Mr. Wilson? I thought as you came up to the house that you were
equipped for shooting.”

“To be sure; there is capital shooting in Canada.”

“So I have heard—plenty of bears and wolves. I suppose you take out
your dog and gun in anticipation?”

“True,” said Tom.

“But you surely are not going to take that dog with you?”

“Indeed I am. She is a most valuable brute. The very best venture I could
take. My brother Charles has engaged our passage in the same vessel.”

“It would be a pity to part you,” said I. “May you prove as lucky a pair
as Whittington and his cat.”

“Whittington! Whittington!” said Tom, staring at my sister, and beginning
to dream, which he invariably did in the company of women. “Who was the

“A very old friend of mine, one whom I have known since I was a very
little girl,” said my sister; “but I have not time to tell you more about
him now. If you so to St. Paul’s Churchyard, and inquire for Sir Richard
Whittington and his cat, you will get his history for a mere trifle.”

“Do not mind her, Mr. Wilson, she is quizzing you,” quoth I; “I wish you a
safe voyage across the Atlantic; I wish I could add a happy meeting with
your friends. But where shall we find friends in a strange land?”

“All in good time,” said Tom. “I hope to have the pleasure of meeting you
in the backwoods of Canada before three months are over. What adventures
we shall have to tell one another! It will be capital. Good-bye.”

                          * * * * * *

“Tom has sailed,” said Captain Charles Wilson, stepping into my little
parlour a few days after his eccentric brother’s last visit. “I saw him
and Duchess safe on board. Odd as he is, I parted with him with a full
heart; I felt as if we never should meet again. Poor Tom! he is the only
brother left me now that I can love. Robert and I never agreed very well,
and there is little chance of our meeting in this world. He is married,
and settled down for life in New South Wales; and the rest—John,
Richard, George, are all gone—all!”

“Was Tom in good spirits when you parted?”

“Yes. He is a perfect contradiction. He always laughs and cries in the
wrong place. ‘Charles,’ he said, with a loud laugh, ‘tell the girls to get
some new music against I return: and, hark ye! if I never come back, I
leave them my Kangaroo Waltz as a legacy.’”

“What a strange creature!”

“Strange, indeed; you don’t know half his oddities. He has very little
money to take out with him, but he actually paid for two berths in the
ship, that he might not chance to have a person who snored sleep near him.
Thirty pounds thrown away upon the mere chance of a snoring companion!
‘Besides, Charles,’ quoth he, ‘I cannot endure to share my little cabin
with others; they will use my towels, and combs, and brushes, like that
confounded rascal who slept in the same berth with me coming from New
South Wales, who had the impudence to clean his teeth with my toothbrush.
Here I shall be all alone, happy and comfortable as a prince, and Duchess
shall sleep in the after-berth, and be my queen.’ And so we parted,”
continued Captain Charles. “May God take care of him, for he never could
take care of himself.”

“That puts me in mind of the reason he gave for not going with us. He was
afraid that my baby would keep him awake of a night. He hates children,
and says that he never will marry on that account.”

                          * * * * * *

We left the British shores on the 1st of July, and cast anchor, as I have
already shown, under the Castle of St. Louis, at Quebec, on the 2nd of
September, 1832. Tom Wilson sailed the 1st of May, and had a speedy
passage, and was, as we heard from his friends, comfortably settled in the
bush, had bought a farm, and meant to commence operations in the fall. All
this was good news, and as he was settled near my brother’s location, we
congratulated ourselves that our eccentric friend had found a home in the
wilderness at last, and that we should soon see him again.

On the 9th of September, the steam-boat William IV. landed us at the then
small but rising town of ——, on Lake Ontario. The night was
dark and rainy; the boat was crowded with emigrants; and when we arrived
at the inn, we learnt that there was no room for us—not a bed to be
had; nor was it likely, owing to the number of strangers that had arrived
for several weeks, that we could obtain one by searching farther. Moodie
requested the use of a sofa for me during the night; but even that
produced a demur from the landlord. Whilst I awaited the result in a
passage, crowded with strange faces, a pair of eyes glanced upon me
through the throng. Was it possible?—could it be Tom Wilson? Did any
other human being possess such eyes, or use them in such an eccentric
manner? In another second he had pushed his way to my side, whispering in
my ear, “We met, ’twas in a crowd.”

“Tom Wilson, is that you?”

“Do you doubt it? I flatter myself that there is no likeness of such a
handsome fellow to be found in the world. It is I, I swear!—although
very little of me is left to swear by. The best part of me I have left to
fatten the mosquitoes and black flies in that infernal bush. But where is

“There he is—trying to induce Mr. S——, for love or
money, to let me have a bed for the night.”

“You shall have mine,” said Tom. “I can sleep upon the floor of the
parlour in a blanket, Indian fashion. It’s a bargain—I’ll go and
settle it with the Yankee directly; he’s the best fellow in the world! In
the meanwhile here is a little parlour, which is a joint-stock affair
between some of us young hopefuls for the time being. Step in here, and I
will go for Moodie; I long to tell him what I think of this confounded
country. But you will find it out all in good time;” and, rubbing his
hands together with a most lively and mischievous expression, he
shouldered his way through trunks, and boxes, and anxious faces, to
communicate to my husband the arrangement he had so kindly made for us.

“Accept this gentleman’s offer, sir, till to-morrow,” said Mr. S——,
“I can then make more comfortable arrangements for your family; but we are
crowded—crowded to excess. My wife and daughters are obliged to
sleep in a little chamber over the stable, to give our guests more room.
Hard that, I guess, for decent people to locate over the horses.”

These matters settled, Moodie returned with Tom Wilson to the little
parlour, in which I had already made myself at home.

“Well, now, is it not funny that I should be the first to welcome you to
Canada?” said Tom.

“But what are you doing here, my dear fellow?”

“Shaking every day with the ague. But I could laugh in spite of my teeth
to hear them make such a confounded rattling; you would think they were
all quarrelling which should first get out of my mouth. This shaking mania
forms one of the chief attractions of this new country.”

“I fear,” said I, remarking how thin and pale he had become, “that this
climate cannot agree with you.”

“Nor I with the climate. Well, we shall soon be quits, for, to let you
into a secret, I am now on my way to England.”


“It is true.”

“And the farm—what have you done with it?”

“Sold it.”

“And your outfit?”

“Sold that too.”

“To whom?”

“To one who will take better care of both than I did. Ah! such a country!—such
people!—such rogues! It beats Australia hollow; you know your
customers there—but here you have to find them out. Such a take-in!—God
forgive them! I never could take care of money; and, one way or other,
they have cheated me out of all mine. I have scarcely enough left to pay
my passage home. But, to provide against the worst, I have bought a young
bear, a splendid fellow, to make my peace with my uncle. You must see him;
he is close by in the stable.”

“To-morrow we will pay a visit to Bruin; but tonight do tell us something
about yourself, and your residence in the bush.”

“You will know enough about the bush by-and-by. I am a bad historian,” he
continued, stretching out his legs and yawning horribly, “a worse
biographer. I never can find words to relate facts. But I will try what I
can do; mind, don’t laugh at my blunders.”

We promised to be serious—no easy matter while looking at and
listening to Tom Wilson, and he gave us, at detached intervals, the
following account of himself:—

“My troubles began at sea. We had a fair voyage, and all that; but my poor
dog, my beautiful Duchess!—that beauty in the beast—died. I
wanted to read the funeral service over her, but the captain interfered—the
brute!—and threatened to throw me into the sea along with the dead
bitch, as the unmannerly ruffian persisted in calling my canine friend. I
never spoke to him again during the rest of the voyage. Nothing happened
worth relating until I got to this place, where I chanced to meet a friend
who knew your brother, and I went up with him to the woods. Most of the
wise men of Gotham we met on the road were bound to the woods; so I felt
happy that I was, at least, in the fashion. Mr. —— was very
kind, and spoke in raptures of the woods, which formed the theme of
conversation during our journey—their beauty, their vastness, the
comfort and independence enjoyed by those who had settled in them; and he
so inspired me with the subject that I did nothing all day but sing as we
rode along—

‘A life in the woods for me;’

until we came to the woods, and then I soon learned to sing that same, as
the Irishman says, on the other side of my mouth.”

Here succeeded a long pause, during which friend Tom seemed mightily
tickled with his reminiscences, for he leaned back in his chair, and from
time to time gave way to loud, hollow bursts of laughter.

“Tom, Tom! are you going mad?” said my husband, shaking him.

“I never was sane, that I know of,” returned he. “You know that it runs in
the family. But do let me have my laugh out. The woods! Ha! ha! When I
used to be roaming through those woods, shooting—though not a thing
could I ever find to shoot, for birds and beasts are not such fools as our
English emigrants—and I chanced to think of you coming to spend the
rest of your lives in the woods—I used to stop, and hold my sides,
and laugh until the woods rang again. It was the only consolation I had.”

“Good Heavens!” said I, “let us never go to the woods.”

“You will repent if you do,” continued Tom. “But let me proceed on my
journey. My bones were well-nigh dislocated before we got to D——.
The roads for the last twelve miles were nothing but a succession of
mud-holes, covered with the most ingenious invention ever thought of for
racking the limbs, called corduroy bridges; not breeches, mind you,—for
I thought, whilst jolting up and down over them, that I should arrive at
my destination minus that indispensable covering. It was night when we got
to Mr. ——’s place. I was tired and hungry, my face disfigured
and blistered by the unremitting attentions of the blackflies that rose in
swarms from the river. I thought to get a private room to wash and dress
in, but there is no such thing as privacy in this country. In the bush,
all things are in common; you cannot even get a bed without having to
share it with a companion. A bed on the floor in a public sleeping-room!
Think of that; a public sleeping-room!—men, women, and children,
only divided by a paltry curtain. Oh, ye gods! think of the snoring,
squalling, grumbling, puffing; think of the kicking, elbowing, and
crowding; the suffocating heat, the mosquitoes, with their infernal
buzzing—and you will form some idea of the misery I endured the
first night of my arrival in the bush.

“But these are not half the evils with which you have to contend. You are
pestered with nocturnal visitants far more disagreeable than even the
mosquitoes, and must put up with annoyances more disgusting than the
crowded, close room. And then, to appease the cravings of hunger, fat pork
is served to you three times a day. No wonder that the Jews eschewed the
vile animal; they were people of taste. Pork, morning, noon, and night,
swimming in its own grease! The bishop who complained of partridges every
day should have been condemned to three months’ feeding upon pork in the
bush; and he would have become an anchorite, to escape the horrid sight of
swine’s flesh for ever spread before him. No wonder I am thin; I have been
starved—starved upon pritters and port, and that disgusting specimen
of unleavened bread, yclept cakes in the pan.

“I had such a horror of the pork diet, that whenever I saw the dinner in
progress I fled to the canoe, in the hope of drowning upon the waters all
reminiscences of the hateful banquet; but even here the very fowls of the
air and the reptiles of the deep lifted up their voices, and shouted,
‘Pork, pork, pork!’”

M—— remonstrated with his friend for deserting the country for
such minor evils as these, which, after all, he said, could easily be

“Easily borne!” exclaimed the indignant Wilson. “Go and try them; and then
tell me that. I did try to bear them with a good grace, but it would not
do. I offended everybody with my grumbling. I was constantly reminded by
the ladies of the house that gentlemen should not come to this country
without they were able to put up with a little inconvenience; that
I should make as good a settler as a butterfly in a beehive; that it was
impossible to be nice about food and dress in the Bush; that people
must learn to eat what they could get, and be content to be shabby and
dirty, like their neighbours in the Bush,—until that horrid
word Bushbecame synonymous with all that was hateful and revolting
in my mind.

“It was impossible to keep anything to myself. The children pulled my
books to pieces to look at the pictures; and an impudent, bare-legged
Irish servant-girl took my towels to wipe the dishes with, and my
clothes-brush to black the shoes—an operation which she performed
with a mixture of soot and grease. I thought I should be better off in a
place of my own, so I bought a wild farm that was recommended to me, and
paid for it double what it was worth. When I came to examine my estate, I
found there was no house upon it, and I should have to wait until the fall
to get one put up, and a few acres cleared for cultivation. I was glad to
return to my old quarters.

“Finding nothing to shoot in the woods, I determined to amuse myself with
fishing; but Mr. —— could not always lend his canoe, and there
was no other to be had. To pass away the time, I set about making one. I
bought an axe, and went to the forest to select a tree. About a mile from
the lake, I found the largest pine I ever saw. I did not much like to try
my maiden hand upon it, for it was the first and the last tree I ever cut
down. But to it I went; and I blessed God that it reached the ground
without killing me in its way thither. When I was about it, I thought I
might as well make the canoe big enough; but the bulk of the tree deceived
me in the length of my vessel, and I forgot to measure the one that
belonged to Mr. ——. It took me six weeks hollowing it out, and
when it was finished, it was as long as a sloop-of-war, and too unwieldy
for all the oxen in the township to draw it to the water. After all my
labour, my combats with those wood-demons the black-flies, sand-flies, and
mosquitoes, my boat remains a useless monument of my industry. And worse
than this, the fatigue I had endured while working at it late and early,
brought on the ague; which so disgusted me with the country that I sold my
farm and all my traps for an old song; purchased Bruin to bear me company
on my voyage home; and the moment I am able to get rid of this tormenting
fever, I am off.”

Argument and remonstrance were alike in vain, he could not be dissuaded
from his purpose. Tom was as obstinate as his bear.

The next morning he conducted us to the stable to see Bruin. The young
denizen of the forest was tied to the manger, quietly masticating a cob of
Indian corn, which he held in his paw, and looked half human as he sat
upon his haunches, regarding us with a solemn, melancholy air. There was
an extraordinary likeness, quite ludicrous, between Tom and the bear. We
said nothing, but exchanged glances. Tom read our thoughts.

“Yes,” said he, “there is a strong resemblance; I saw it when I bought
him. Perhaps we are brothers;” and taking in his hand the chain that held
the bear, he bestowed upon him sundry fraternal caresses, which the
ungrateful Bruin returned with low and savage growls.

“He can’t flatter. He’s all truth and sincerity. A child of nature, and
worthy to be my friend; the only Canadian I ever mean to acknowledge as

About an hour after this, poor Tom was shaking with ague, which in a few
days reduced him so low that I began to think he never would see his
native shores again. He bore the affliction very philosophically, and all
his well days he spent with us.

One day my husband was absent, having accompanied Mr. S—— to
inspect a farm, which he afterwards purchased, and I had to get through
the long day at the inn in the best manner I could. The local papers were
soon exhausted. At that period they possessed little or no interest for
me. I was astonished and disgusted at the abusive manner in which they
were written, the freedom of the press being enjoyed to an extent in this
province unknown in more civilised communities.

Men, in Canada, may call one another rogues and miscreants, in the most
approved Billingsgate, through the medium of the newspapers, which are a
sort of safety-valve to let off all the bad feelings and malignant
passions floating through the country, without any dread of the horsewhip.
Hence it is the commonest thing in the world to hear one editor abusing,
like a pickpocket, an opposition brother; calling him a reptile—a
crawling thing—a calumniator—a hired vendor of lies; and his
paper a smut-machine—a vile engine of corruption, as base and
degraded as the proprietor, &c. Of this description was the paper I
now held in my hand, which had the impudence to style itself the Reformer—not
of morals or manners, certainly, if one might judge by the vulgar abuse
that defiled every page of the precious document. I soon flung it from me,
thinking it worthy of the fate of many a better production in the olden
times, that of being burned by the common hangman; but, happily, the
office of hangman has become obsolete in Canada, and the editors of these
refined journals may go on abusing their betters with impunity.

Books I had none, and I wished that Tom would make his appearance, and
amuse me with his oddities; but he had suffered so much from the ague the
day before that when he did enter the room to lead me to dinner, he looked
like a walking corpse—the dead among the living! so dark, so livid,
so melancholy, it was really painful to look upon him.

“I hope the ladies who frequent the ordinary won’t fall in love with me,”
said he, grinning at himself in the miserable looking-glass that formed
the case of the Yankee clock, and was ostentatiously displayed on a side
table; “I look quite killing to-day. What a comfort it is, Mrs. M——,
to be above all rivalry.”

In the middle of dinner, the company was disturbed by the entrance of a
person who had the appearance of a gentleman, but who was evidently much
flustered with drinking. He thrust his chair in between two gentlemen who
sat near the head of the table, and in a loud voice demanded fish.

“Fish, sir?” said the obsequious waiter, a great favourite with all
persons who frequented the hotel; “there is no fish, sir. There was a fine
salmon, sir, had you come sooner; but ’tis all eaten, sir.”

“Then fetch me some.”

“I’ll see what I can do, sir,” said the obliging Tim, hurrying out.

Tom Wilson was at the head of the table, carving a roast pig, and was in
the act of helping a lady, when the rude fellow thrust his fork into the
pig, calling out as he did so—

“Hold, sir! give me some of that pig! You have eaten among you all the
fish, and now you are going to appropriate the best parts of the pig.”

Tom raised his eyebrows, and stared at the stranger in his peculiar
manner, then very coolly placed the whole of the pig on his plate. “I have
heard,” he said, “of dog eating dog, but I never before saw pig eating

“Sir! do you mean to insult me?” cried the stranger, his face crimsoning
with anger.

“Only to tell you, sir, that you are no gentleman. Here, Tim,” turning to
the waiter, “go to the stable and bring in my bear; we will place him at
the table to teach this man how to behave himself in the presence of

A general uproar ensued; the women left the table, while the entrance of
the bear threw the gentlemen present into convulsions of laughter. It was
too much for the human biped; he was forced to leave the room, and succumb
to the bear.

My husband concluded his purchase of the farm, and invited Wilson to go
with us into the country and try if change of air would be beneficial to
him; for in his then weak state it was impossible for him to return to
England. His funds were getting very low, and Tom thankfully accepted the
offer. Leaving Bruin in the charge of Tim (who delighted in the oddities
of the strange English gentleman), Tom made one of our party to ——.


  Though distant, in spirit still present to me,
  My best thoughts, my country, still linger with thee;
  My fond heart beats quick, and my dim eyes run o'er,
  When I muse on the last glance I gave to thy shore.
  The chill mists of night round thy white cliffs were curl'd,
  But I felt there was no spot like thee in the world—
  No home to which memory so fondly would turn,
  No thought that within me so madly would burn.

  But one stood beside me whose presence repress'd
  The deep pang of sorrow that troubled my breast;
  And the babe on my bosom so calmly reclining,
  Check'd the tears as they rose, and all useless repining.
  Hard indeed was the struggle, from thee forced to roam;
  But for their sakes I quitted both country and home.

  Bless'd Isle of the Free! I must view thee no more;
  My fortunes are cast on this far-distant shore;
  In the depths of dark forests my soul droops her wings;
  In tall boughs above me no merry bird sings;
  The sigh of the wild winds—the rush of the floods—
  Is the only sad music that wakens the woods.

  In dreams, lovely England! my spirit still hails
  Thy soft waving woodlands, thy green, daisied vales.
  When my heart shall grow cold to the mother that bore me,
  When my soul, dearest Nature! shall cease to adore thee,
  And beauty and virtue no longer impart
  Delight to my bosom, and warmth to my heart,
  Then the love I have cherish'd, my country, for thee,
  In the breast of thy daughter extinguish'd shall be.


  To lend, or not to lend—is that the question?

“Those who go a-borrowing, go a-sorrowing,” saith the old adage; and a
wiser saw never came out of the mouth of experience. I have tested the
truth of this proverb since my settlement in Canada, many, many times, to
my cost; and what emigrant has not? So averse have I ever been to this
practice, that I would at all times rather quietly submit to a temporary
inconvenience than obtain anything I wanted in this manner. I verily
believe that a demon of mischief presides over borrowed goods, and takes a
wicked pleasure in playing off a thousand malicious pranks upon you the
moment he enters your dwelling. Plates and dishes, that had been the pride
and ornament of their own cupboard for years, no sooner enter upon foreign
service than they are broken; wine-glasses and tumblers, that have been
handled by a hundred careless wenches in safety, scarcely pass into the
hands of your servants when they are sure to tumble upon the floor, and
the accident turns out a compound fracture. If you borrow a garment of any
kind, be sure that you will tear it; a watch, that you will break it; a
jewel, that you will lose it; a book, that it will be stolen from you.
There is no end to the trouble and vexation arising out of this evil
habit. If you borrow a horse, and he has the reputation of being the
best-behaved animal in the district, you no sooner become responsible for
his conduct than he loses his character. The moment that you attempt to
drive him, he shows that he has a will of his own, by taking the reins
into his own management, and running away in a contrary direction to the
road that you wished him to travel. He never gives over his eccentric
capers until he has broken his own knees, and the borrowed carriage and
harness. So anxious are you about his safety, that you have not a moment
to bestow upon your own. And why?—the beast is borrowed, and you are
expected to return him in as good condition as he came to you.

But of all evils, to borrow money is perhaps the worst. If of a friend, he
ceases to be one the moment you feel that you are bound to him by the
heavy clog of obligation. If of a usurer, the interest, in this country,
soon doubles the original sum, and you owe an increasing debt, which in
time swallows up all you possess.

When we first came to the colony, nothing surprised me more than the
extent to which this pernicious custom was carried, both by the native
Canadians, the European settlers, and the lower order of Americans. Many
of the latter had spied out the goodness of the land, and borrowed
various portions of it, without so much as asking leave of the absentee
owners. Unfortunately, our new home was surrounded by these odious
squatters, whom we found as ignorant as savages, without their courtesy
and kindness.

The place we first occupied was purchased of Mr. B——, a
merchant, who took it in payment of sundry large debts which the owner, a
New England loyalist, had been unable to settle. Old Joe R——,
the present occupant, had promised to quit it with his family, at the
commencement of sleighing; and as the bargain was concluded in the month
of September, and we were anxious to plough for fall wheat, it was
necessary to be upon the spot. No house was to be found in the im