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Title: Letters from Muskoka
Author: King, Harriet Barbara
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Libraries)



                         LETTERS FROM MUSKOKA.

                                  BY
                           AN EMIGRANT LADY.

                            [Illustration]

                                LONDON:
                       RICHARD BENTLEY AND SON,
           Publishers in Ordinary to Her Majesty the Queen.
                                 1878.

                       [_All Rights Reserved._]



PREFACE TO THE “LETTERS OF AN EMIGRANT LADY.”


In laying before the public a sketch of our “Bush” experiences during
the first year after our arrival in Muskoka, Ontario, Canada, I desire
to state the reasons which prompted us to such an imprudent step as
emigration, without even the moderate capital necessary for any one who
would start with the slightest chance of success. The Franco-German War
in 1870 was the means of breaking up our happy home in France, which,
with one short interval, had been the shelter of my family and myself
during fifteen years of widowhood.

The commencement of the war found us living in the outskirts of St.
Pierre-lès-Calais, a suburb of Calais, and a busy place, full of lace
factories. Our house and grounds, quite open to the country at the
back, fronted the canal which communicates with the sea at Calais.

When the war had made some progress, and the German army appeared to
be steadily advancing through France, we found ourselves in a most
unpleasant dilemma--in fact, literally between fire and water!

The civic authorities made known that, in case of the approach of a
German army, it was their fixed intention to cut the sluices, and to
lay the adjacent country under water for a distance of ten miles, and
to a depth of seven feet. Our large, rambling, convenient old mansion,
which shook with every gale of wind, and had no cellarage nor secure
foundation of any kind, we felt would surely be submerged.

Moreover, the military commandant notified that in case Calais were
threatened with siege, all houses and buildings within the military
zone would be blown up, to allow free range for the cannon on the
ramparts. This was pleasant intelligence to people in the direct line
of fire, and with a certainty of very short notice to quit being given.
Still, we took the chances, and stood our ground.

We felt the deepest sympathy for the French, and would willingly have
helped them to the extent of our very limited means, but could only do
so by lending beds and bedding for the wounded, which we did, and which
were all scrupulously returned at the close of the war.

At this time I had a married daughter residing at Guiñes, where her
husband was mathematical professor in the principal English school,
conducted by a French gentleman. In the middle of August, about
midnight, we heard a carriage drive to the door, and found that my
son-in-law had thought it more prudent to bring his family to a safer
place than Guiñes, which, being quite an open town, was at any time
liable to incursions from the dreaded Uhlans. He was obliged to return
to his employers, who could not be left with the sole responsibility of
a numerous school consisting mostly of English scholars.

A few days afterwards, on an alarm that the Germans had entered Amiens,
we all took refuge in Calais, where, as soon as the war broke out,
I had taken the precaution to secure apartments. We had most of our
property hastily packed up and placed in store. In Calais we remained
till nearly the beginning of winter, when my son-in-law took his family
back to Guiñes and we returned to our house. In fact it began to be
recognised that Calais was too far out of the way, and presented too
little temptation to a conquering army to make it likely we should be
molested.

The spring of 1871 brought great changes, both public and private. The
war ended, but France was no longer the same country to us. My eldest
son had left us to take a situation in London in the office of the kind
friends who had known him from boyhood, and whose father, recently
dead, had been our neighbour for fifteen years, his beautiful garden
and pleasure-grounds joining our more humble premises.

Before the summer was over, my son-in-law, whose health suffered from
his scholastic duties, made up his mind to emigrate to Canada, and
to join my youngest son who, after many misfortunes, had settled on
the “free-grant lands” of Muskoka, and who wrote frequently to urge
other members of the family to come out before all the good land near
his location was taken up. At this time he was himself thriving, but
immediately after suffered great reverses. He had a rheumatic fever
which lasted many weeks, and threw him back in his farming; he lost one
of his two cows from the carelessness of a neighbour, and most of his
crops from the dry season and their being put in too late, and was only
beginning to recover when his sister and her family arrived, having
with them his affianced wife.

My eldest daughter and myself were thus left alone in France, and were
obliged to give up our cherished home, my reduced income being quite
insufficient to maintain it.

Virulent small-pox and other epidemics, the result of effluvia from
the battle-fields, broke out, and I had dangerous illness in my
own family. Provisions rose to an enormous price, taxation greatly
increased, and the country bid fair to be long in an unsettled
condition. Under these circumstances we, too, began to think of
emigration; and finding that my eldest son, always accustomed to a
domestic circle, was very dull in London without one, and at the same
time not disinclined to try farming, being fond of an outdoor active
life, we came to the decision to emigrate.

He relinquished his excellent situation, his employers behaving
with the greatest kindness and liberality. We read up a few books
on emigration which invariably paint it in the brightest colours,
and being quite ignorant of the expense of so long a journey, of the
hardships of the “Bush,” and of the absolute necessity for a sum of
money to begin with, we came out hoping in our innocence that strong
hearts, willing hands, and the pension of an officer’s widow would be
inexhaustible riches in the wilderness.

The problem remains to be solved whether we can continue our farming
without capital, or whether we shall be compelled to go to one of
the large towns in Canada or the “States,” to seek for remunerative
employment.



CONTENTS.


                                                        PAGE

    PREFACE                                               v

    LETTERS FROM AN EMIGRANT LADY                         1

    PART II.--LETTERS WRITTEN TWO YEARS AFTERWARDS      153

    A WEDDING IN MUSKOKA                                187

    ANECDOTES OF THE CANADIAN BUSH, THIRTY YEARS AGO    233

    TERRA INCOGNITA; OR, THE WILDS OF MUSKOKA           261

    A PLEA FOR POOR EMIGRANTS                           279



LETTERS FROM AN EMIGRANT LADY.



LETTER I.


You ask me, my dear child, to give you a few particulars of our voyage
across the Atlantic to Canada, our journey from Quebec to the Bush of
Muskoka, and our residence here as emigrant farmers for the last year.
As in my diary I have only chronicled the bare events of each passing
day, you must only expect outlines of Bush life, and not well filled up
pictures. I pass over the anguish of my separation from you and your
dear ones, and can only say that when I thought of the attached circle
of friends we were leaving behind us, both in France and England, whom
probably we should never see again, I felt strongly tempted to remain;
but the fact that others of the family had preceded us, and would be
expecting our arrival, that our baggage was already shipped, and that
your brother had taken leave of his friendly employers, who to the last
counselled him to retain his situation, had weight enough with me to
prevent any change of plan. We went on board the good ship _T----s_
lying in the Thames, at least twenty-four hours too soon, and lay awake
the whole of the first night, as the carpenters never ceased working,
the ship having met with an accident on her previous voyage.

The next morning I was greatly grieved to find that your brother had
only engaged _two_ first-cabin berths for your sister and myself;
and finding that our purse was very scantily filled, had, with his
usual self-denial, taken a steerage passage for himself, and got a
good-natured quartermaster to take charge of our dear French dog old
“Nero,” who forthwith became a _stowaway_, and was smuggled out of
sight.

When the vessel was ready, we dropped down the river to Gravesend, and
having taken in more passengers and emigrants, we started for Plymouth.
We remained there for a few hours, and I pointed out to your brother
and sister the beautiful spot called “Drake’s Island,” where, long
before _they_ were born, I had passed a delightful summer and autumn
with your dear papa and my two babies. Our regiment was then stationed
at Plymouth, and your papa commanded the guard placed on the island for
the protection of the powder magazine.

The weather was beautiful when we left Plymouth, and was expected to
remain so till the end of the voyage; but after a few days, when well
out in the Atlantic, a tremendous gale set in which lasted for several
days and nights.

I had been in storms two or three times off the Irish coast, but
confess that I never felt so frightened as when at every roll our ship
gave (and she _was_ a _roller_), we heard a horrid grating sound which
we shrewdly suspected to be caused by part of our cargo of iron which
had shifted its place, and kept moving with every motion of the ship.
We were told on arriving at Quebec that this unexpected storm was
occasioned by a hurricane in the West Indies. Most of the passengers,
as well as ourselves, were possessed by the demon of sea-sickness, and
your sister was hardly able to get up during the whole passage.

The tedium of our confinement was, however, much relieved by the
pleasant society and kindness of two most amiable English ladies, who
were going out to reside with a near relative at Montreal. Every day,
after the saloon dinner, they came to our cabin, which they christened
the “drawing-room,” and our pleasant conversations there laid the
foundation of a friendship which I trust will ever remain unbroken. Our
nights from various causes were weary and sleepless, but in the early
morning and for some hours we had a diversion, which the proximity of
our cabin to the steward’s pantry procured for us. Almost as soon as
it was light, _Jupiter thundered from Olympus_, or in other words our
black steward, who was punctiliously addressed as “Mr. H----s,” began
the day’s proceedings by having the crockery and glass broken during
the night by the rolling of the ship removed, and every order was given
with a dignified pomposity which was most amusing.

We gave him and his assistants the sobriquet of “Jupiter and his
satellites!” Mr. H----s was a portly negro of an imposing presence,
and a benign expression of countenance which a little reminded one
of “Uncle Tom” in Mrs. Beecher Stowe’s celebrated work. He exacted
implicit obedience, but he was a very good man, strictly honest to
his employers, and very considerate to those over whom he had any
authority. Not once during the voyage did we hear from his lips an oath
or an unseemly word.

The stewardess told us that he had a very pretty wife in London, a
young Englishwoman, with a remarkably fair complexion. She also told us
an amusing anecdote of Mr. H----s as steward of a troop-ship going out
to India. One Sunday afternoon the young officers, tired of playing off
practical jokes on each other, and half dead with _ennui_, applied to
Mr. H----s to lend them a book to read.

“You know the sort of book we want, H----s,” said they; “plenty of
love and fighting, and battles, and all that sort of thing!”

“I understand, gentlemen,” said Mr. H----s, and presently returned with
a _large Bible_ which he placed before them. “There, gentlemen, you
will find in that book all you want--beautiful love stories, fierce
wars, and plenty of battles!”

His colour, however, was somewhat against him, and I could hardly keep
my countenance when a young under-steward, to whom we were indebted for
much attention, said to me with quite an injured air, “You know, ma’am,
it does take it out of a feller to have to say ‘sir’ to a nigger!”

Of the young friend C. W., who came out with us, we saw but little, for
though he had a first-class berth, he was a great deal in the steerage
with your brother, who was a veritable “Mark Tapley” among the poor
emigrants. He helped the minister in charge to keep order among them,
he procured all manner of little extra comforts for the sick women from
the surly cooks, and was the delight of all the children, who followed
him in troops. He managed to be a good deal in our cabin when we were
too ill to move, and also came to us on deck when we were able to crawl
there. He was a favourite with all our fellow-passengers, and every
lady knew she might depend upon his gentlemanly attentions if required.
This comforted me a little for his being in such a disagreeable
position.

The sea continued very rough indeed even after we were in the Gulf of
St. Lawrence, and though I thought the _real blue water_ which I saw
for the first time very beautiful, yet I could by no means join in the
raptures of my fellow-passengers, but strictly averred, that although
a passionate admirer of “Old Ocean,” it was most decidedly when I
viewed it from _terra-firma_. I will not weary you with minute details
of our slow passage up the beautiful St. Lawrence, nor dilate upon the
interest I felt in watching, first the thinly-scattered white huts,
and afterwards the thickly-clustered villages of the “habitants,” with
their curious churches and shining spires, backed by the dark pine
forests, and behind them ranges of blue-capped mountains, compared with
which the hills of my own dear England were as hillocks.

We landed at Quebec and went to the Victoria Hotel, where your sister
and I passed a few miserable hours of suspense and anxiety. We found
ourselves at the very beginning of an immense journey utterly without
means to carry us on beyond the first few stages. The little extra
expenses paid on leaving the ship, and the clearing our baggage as far
as Toronto, had all but emptied our purse. We were rich in nothing
but delusive hopes and expectations, doomed, like the glass basket of
celebrated “Alnaschars,” to be shattered and broken to pieces.

We half expected to find a letter with a small remittance waiting
for us at the Quebec P. O. Our young friend C. W. was in the same
strait, as his money-order was only payable in a bank at Toronto. Both
the gentlemen left us and crossed the water to the town of Quebec,
where, finding on due inquiry no letter of any kind, your brother was
compelled to pledge his gold watch and seal, upon which, though so
valuable, he could only get five pounds advanced. This unavoidable
delay lost us the mid-day train to Montreal, by which we saw our kind
friends depart after taking a most affectionate leave and engaging
us to correspond with them. When our two gentlemen returned we were
nearly starving, as we did not like to go to the _table-d’hôte_ without
them, and the dinner had long been over. We all sallied forth, and
found in a small wayside tavern a homely but excellent meal, and best
of all, a private room to take it in. From thence we went to the
station and started by the seven p.m. train for Montreal, being quite
thankful that our journey had at length begun.



LETTER II.


My last letter left us starting from Quebec in the seven p.m. train for
Montreal. Our party consisting of four people, we had a compartment
to ourselves, but were some time in settling comfortably, as our old
dog “Nero” had to be smuggled in and kept quiet under your sister’s
waterproof-cloak, for fear the vigilant guard should consign him to the
luggage-car, where he would infallibly have barked himself to death.

I noticed very little in the neighbourhood of Quebec, being too much
occupied with my own sad thoughts, and regrets for those I had left
behind; but I did observe that the cows, horses, and pigs all appeared
very small and manifestly inferior to the cattle in England.

During this journey I could not help contrasting the mode of travelling
in Canada with the same in the “old country,” and giving a decided
preference to the former. It would be almost impossible for either
murder, robbery, or any kind of outrage to be perpetrated where the
compartments are all open, and the supervision of the guard walking
up and down incessant. It is also a great alleviation to the fatigue
of travelling to have the refreshment of iced water to drink, and the
option of washing faces and hands. Towards night we were beguiled into
“Pullman’s” sleeping-cars, little imagining how greatly it would add to
the expense of the journey. Sleep, however, I found to be impossible
in these close boxes, tier above tier, and towards midnight, half
smothered, I made my way to the carriage we had occupied before
retiring.

About this time the train came to a sudden stop, and at last I asked
the guard why we were so long stationary. He told me that a train which
ought to have been in before us was missing, that men had gone out with
lanterns to look for it, and that for fear of being run into we must
wait till it came up. A most dreary four hours we passed before we were
released. We were at a small station in a barren spot of country, where
nothing was to be seen in the dim light but a few miserable-looking
wooden houses scattered about. It was a cheerless prospect, and we were
thankful when at length we went on.

We passed the morning more agreeably, as the guard, a quiet,
intelligent man, entered into conversation with us. He was telling
us of a curious and erudite book about to be published at Boston,
Massachusetts, compiled by one of his relations, from numerous records
and papers treasured in the family, and handed down from one generation
to another, beginning with the first landing of the “Pilgrim Fathers.”

His ancestor, with his family, came out in the _Mayflower_, and from
that time to the present they had had an unbroken succession of godly
ministers, who in the early times of their settlement were called, in
the old Puritan phraseology, “sons of thunder.” In the spring of 1871,
he had attended the annual family gathering at Boston, to which the
remotest connections, if possible, came. I regret much that I did not
take down his name.

In consequence of our long delay in the night, we did not arrive at
Montreal in time for the early train, but had to breakfast there, and
remain a few hours. When we started, we found that we had a hot and
dusty journey before us. I greatly admired the environs of Montreal,
particularly some pretty villa residences, perched, as it were, in
terraces one above the other.

An incident occurred in the course of the day which afforded me a few
moments of exquisite satisfaction, which every mother will understand.

While our train was drawn up before a small station, an emigrant
train, going to some distant part, went past. Numbers of the emigrants
were there who had been steerage passengers on board our vessel from
England. As your brother was standing, with C. W., on the steps of one
of the carriages, he was recognised, and they immediately vociferated,
“Mr. K.! Mr. K.! three cheers for Mr. K.!” Then arose three deafening
cheers, which died away in the distance; but not before your sister
and I, looking out of the window, saw an indefinite number of
pocket-handkerchiefs, of all colours and dimensions, fluttering from
the windows in token of recognition.

Towards the evening of this day, as we were nearing Toronto, another
stoppage occurred, similar to the one of the night before. A
baggage-truck had got off the line, and might be expected at any moment
to run into our train.

On this occasion I could not but think our situation most alarming. We
were drawn up on a narrow bridge over a foaming torrent, with jagged
rocks sticking up from the bottom, suggesting a not very pleasant
fate had we been rolled over. Here we remained for four hours and a
half. Luckily I was so much occupied with my own thoughts, that I did
not hear a gentleman in an adjoining compartment recounting to his
horrified audience an accident on the Boston Railway, in which he had
been a reluctant participator, the week before, and which occurred
to a train in a similar position to ours. This train waited for many
hours, _was_ at last run into, and twenty-five of the passengers were
killed. Your sister heard every word, but took care not to disturb my
meditations.

This accident detained us so long, that it was past midnight when we
got into Toronto, and, hiring a carriage, were driven to a respectable,
cheap family hotel, strongly recommended to your brother by a kind and
gentlemanly Canadian, who was our fellow-passenger from England.

Unfortunately they were full, from garret to cellar, and could not
take us in. Our driver, left to his own devices, took us to the
“Rossin House,” where we remained till the next day, most _supremely
uncomfortable_, in a rambling hotel of immense extent, where I lost my
way every time I left the saloon; where, from not knowing the hours,
we were all but starved; and where it was hardly possible to obtain a
civil answer from any one of the attendants.

We started from Toronto at three p.m. the next day, leaving our young
friend C. W. behind, who, having drawn his money, was going back to
Montreal, to pass a little time there before joining us in the Bush.
He had also to present letters of introduction to Judge J----n, who
was _known_ to be _able_ and _presumed_ to be _willing_, to assist the
views of the son of his old friend.

The farther we went from Toronto, the more barren and ugly the country
appeared, and the hideous stumps in every clearing became more and
more visible. By degrees also the gardens by the roadside became more
denuded of floral vegetation, till at last my eyes rested for miles on
little but holly-hocks and pumpkins. Towards dusk, the lurid glare of
the burning trees in the far-off forest became appalling, as well as
magnificent. I was told that the season had been exceptionally dry,
no rain having fallen for three months, and that in different parts
the fires had been most destructive. In almost every case these fires
have been the natural result of some incidental carelessness. Some
wayfarer, far from his home, and camping out for the night, leaves the
smouldering ashes of his fire to be blown into a flame by a sudden
breeze, or flings the ashes of his pipe into the adjacent brushwood;
in leaving the place of his temporary halt, he little imagines the
loss of property, and even of life, which may be occasioned by his
thoughtlessness.

We slept that night at Belle Ewart, a rising town on Lake Simere, and
the next morning took the steamer to Orillia. This passage across the
lake was the most beautiful part of our journey. The day was bright
and clear, the water blue, and the scenery most beautiful. All was
changed when we landed at Orillia. We had to leave our nice, roomy,
well-appointed steamer for a filthy, over-crowded little boat, where we
had hardly standing-room.

I now saw, for the first time, _real live Indians_, both men and women,
some of each being on board the boat. Their encampment on the lake
was likewise pointed out to me. Alas for my enthusiasm! Alas for my
remembrance of youthful delight over Cooper’s enchanting novels! I was
never more disappointed in my life than when I first took notice of
these degenerate samples of “Red Men!”

The men appeared to me undersized and sinister-looking, the squaws
filthy and almost repulsive. No stretch of imagination could bring
before me in the persons of these very ordinary mortals the dignified
and graceful “Uncas,” or the stately and warlike “Chingachook!” We
landed at Washage, and after standing for more than an hour on the
quay, took the stage-wagon for Gravenhurst, the vehicle being so
crowded that even the personal baggage most essential to our comfort
had to be left behind. Oh! the horrors of that journey! The road was
most dreadful--our first acquaintance with “corduroy” roads. The
forest gradually closed in upon us, on fire on both sides, burnt trees
crashing down in all directions, here and there one right across the
road, which had to be dragged out of the way before we could go on.
Your brother with his arm round me the whole way (I clinging to the
collar of his coat), could hardly keep me steady as we bumped over
every obstacle. In the worst places I was glad to shut my eyes that I
might not see the danger. Your poor sister had to cling convulsively
to the rope which secured the passengers’ baggage (ours was left
behind and we did not see it for weeks) to avoid being thrown out,
and for long afterwards we both suffered from the bruises we received
and the strain upon our limbs. At last, long after dark, we arrived
at Gravenhurst, where we were obliged to sleep, as the steamer to
Bracebridge could not start before morning on account of the fog.
The steam-boat had no accommodation for sleeping, but we had a good
supper on board, and a gentlemanly Englishman, a passenger by the stage
and well acquainted with Muskoka, took us to a small hotel to sleep.
The next morning we went to Bracebridge, and there we found a letter
from your brother-in-law advising me to go before the commissioner of
crown-lands and sign for my land. The papers for my free grant of a
hundred acres had gone to France, but had missed me, as I had already
left. Unfortunately our means were too exhausted to allow of our
remaining even one day in Bracebridge, and we thought it more prudent
to start early in the stage-wagon, as the magistrate’s office would not
be open till ten a.m.

The not being able to sign at once lost me the power of selling my
pine-trees, the new law (a most unjust one) coming into operation
before I was able to come in again. We were at the N. A. Hotel, and the
mistress of it, herself an Englishwoman and not long from Devonshire,
told me afterwards how sincerely she pitied us, and said to her husband
when we were gone, “That poor lady and her daughter little know what
hardships they are about to encounter in the ‘Bush!’” The drive from
Bracebridge to Utterson, the nearest post-town to our settlement and
distant from it six miles, was a long and fatiguing stretch of fifteen
miles, but unmarked by any incident of consequence. The forest fires
were burning fiercely, and our driver told us that a week before the
road had been impassable. At times when the trees were burning at
each side of the narrow road we felt a hot stifling air as we passed
rapidly along. It was a gloomy afternoon, with fitful gusts of wind
portending a change of weather, and we were almost smothered in
clouds of Muskoka dust, much resembling pounded bricks. When we got
to Utterson we were obliged to remain for two hours to rest the poor
horses, as no fresh ones were to be got. While at the little tavern we
heard that your brother C. had been married a few weeks before, as we
expected, and that your dear sister F., with her husband, children, and
the _fiancée_, had rested there on their way to the “Bush,” six weeks
before our arrival. We were more easy in our minds after this. We were
near our journey’s end, the dear ones who had preceded us were all
well, and the marriage which for four years I had been endeavouring
to secure for your youngest brother had been happily accomplished.
_I_ alone of all our party felt a hopeless depression of spirits, a
presentiment of long months of unhappiness. Our drive from Utterson was
short, but we went slowly, and it was late in the day before we turned
into the “Bush.” Our driver called the path we were going a “road;”
I saw nothing but a narrow track with frightful stumps, over which
our wagon jolted in a manner to endanger our limbs; indeed, though
more than three miles from your brother-in-law’s, we soon insisted
on walking, thinking it safer. We found the thick undergrowth of
“ground-hemlock” very trying to walk upon, as it caught our feet in an
alarming manner. Our path was intersected by deep gullies, the sides of
which were precipitous. I must say that the horses of this country,
like the mules of Spain, seem wonderfully sure-footed, and the drivers,
who mostly appear as reckless and daring as Irish carmen, guide them
very safely, and accidents rarely occur.

After we had crossed the second gully, our driver said he could go no
farther, as it would be dark before he got out of the “Bush,” a thing
much dreaded here. Accordingly your brother paid and dismissed him,
and we were left with all our packages by the roadside to find our way
as best we could. Luckily we came upon a very respectable settler,
working on a part of his clearing near the path, who most kindly left
his work and piloted us to your brother-in-law’s lot, where we found
a very small “clearing,” and a log-house in the middle of it. Your
sister F. and the dear children came running out to meet and welcome
us, and after the first warm congratulations, F. and your brother went
to fetch the newly-married couple, who at once came back with them.
There was much to hear and to tell, and you may judge how great was our
dismay to find that those we had come to burthen with our presence,
were for the time being as penniless as ourselves, and that weary and
fatigued as we were, the only refreshment my dear child could offer us
was linseed tea without sugar or milk, and sour, doughy bread which I
could not persuade myself to swallow. Our sleeping arrangements were of
the most primitive description. A scanty curtain shaded off a corner of
the room, where your dear sister made a regular shake-down of all her
little stock of bedding. Here your two sisters, your sister-in-law, the
two children and myself found an ark of refuge. The three gentlemen lay
down in their clothes before the fire; and thus passed our first night
in the “Bush” of Muskoka!



LETTER III.


The next morning, after a brief and very unsatisfactory toilet, and a
breakfast which needs no description, your brother C. and his wife left
us to return to their own log-house, entreating me to go and see them
as soon as I should have recovered from the fatigue of the journey. You
will perhaps wonder that they should have remained the night with us,
over-crowded as we were; but the fact is, when we first came here, the
forest-paths between our lots were so indistinctly marked out and so
little trodden, that to be out after dark was not safe; and, indeed,
it is a rule among the settlers here, that should any one be out after
dark, the nearest neighbour must afford him a shelter till the morning.
To go astray in the “Bush” is dreaded above everything.

I cannot describe how greatly we were shocked at the changed appearance
of your youngest brother. In spite of his present happiness as a
married man, he bore in his whole appearance the marks of the hardships
he had gone through. He had left us, only a year before, in France in
high health and spirits, expecting to find in America, and especially
in New York, an El Dorado where he might easily employ his little
capital to advantage. We found him now fearfully thin, his handsome
face pinched and worn, and looking certainly ten years older than his
brother, fully five years his senior. In some future letter I must give
you a sketch of his many misfortunes, his failure in New York, and
subsequent settlement in Muskoka, together with the amusing account of
his marriage given me by your sister F.

My first employment in the Bush was to write to my lawyer, entreating
a further advance of money, and to some kind friends who had already
helped us for the same purpose.

As soon as this necessary work was finished, I began to look about me,
both outside and inside of the log-house. I found that it was placed
in the centre of a very small “clearing” of not more than half an
acre; and the very sight of the dense forest circling us all round,
with hardly any perceptible outlet, gave me a dreadful feeling of
suffocation, to which was added the constant alarm of fire, for the dry
season had made every twig and leaf combustible.

Had it not been for these drawbacks, I should greatly have admired
the situation. An amphitheatre of rock behind the house, wooded to the
very top, and the trees tinged with the glowing hues of autumn, was
very picturesque; and the house itself, built upon an eminence, seemed
likely to be dry and comfortable. The house inside was simply one
tolerable-sized room, which, like the cobbler’s stall in the nursery
ballad, was

    “Kitchen, and parlour, and all!”

It was built of rough, unhewn logs, chinks of wood between the logs,
and the interstices filled up with moss. There were two small windows,
and a door in the front. The size of the house, eighteen feet by
twenty-five.

When your brother-in-law’s logs for his house were cut, he called a
“raising bee,” which is the custom here. Fourteen of his neighbours
responded to the call. This is for building up the walls of the
log-house. Strength and willingness are most desirable at “bees;” but
for the four corners, which have to be “saddled,” skill is likewise
requisite, and, therefore, four of the best hands are always chosen for
the corners.

“Saddling” is cutting out a piece at the corner of each log, so that
the end of each succeeding log, when it is raised, rests in the niche
prepared for it, and thus the building, when finished, is as firm as
a rock. Nothing is paid for the assistance given, but good meals are
expected; and sometimes these “bees” are quite festive meetings, where
the wives and daughters of the settlers wait at table, and attend
to the wants of the hungry visitors. At a “bee” which your brother
attended some time ago, all the young women were in their Sunday attire.

At your brother-in-law’s “bee” the female element was entirely wanting,
and two or three little things went wrong; but excuses are always made
for the ignorance of a new settler, and in subsequent meetings the fare
has been better, and full satisfaction given.

In the centre of each log-house stands out, hideously prominent and
ugly, a settler’s stove, with a whole array of pots, pans, and kettles
belonging to it, which, when not in use, are mostly hung up on the
walls, certainly not conducing to their ornamentation. Your sister,
always fertile in expedients, hangs a curtain before these unseemly
appendages; but my lively imagination pierces behind the veil, and
knowing they are _there_, gives me a feeling of irritation and disgust
which I cannot describe.

I may truly call the stove a voracious monster, for in the very cold
weather it takes nearly the whole day’s chopping of one person to keep
it filled up night and day.

You must not suppose that we had come into a furnished house. There
had as yet been neither time nor means to get furniture of any kind.
Dear F. had herself only been in possession a fortnight, and we were
only too glad to sleep on the floor, to sit on upturned boxes, and to
make our table of the top of a large chest. When at length, after many
weeks’ waiting, our baggage arrived, for some days we could hardly turn
round; but we were most thankful for the excellent bedding and the good
warm blankets we had brought from France, carefully packed in barrels.
All woollen goods are extremely dear in Canada, and, as contrasted with
our English manufactures, very poor in quality.

You know that, from boys, both your brothers have been excellent
amateur carpenters, and this fact they have turned to good account in
the “Bush.” As soon as time could be found, your eldest brother made a
bedstead for his sister’s confinement, and stools, and benches, which
we found most useful. For a long time after our arrival in the “Bush,”
and even after your brother-in-law and myself had received remittances
from England, we were in imminent danger of starvation from the coarse,
bad food, and the difficulty of procuring it from a distance.

At the time of which I write, the autumn of 1871, there was neither
store nor post-office nearer to us than that at Utterson, fully six
miles from our land. I have already told you what kind of a road we
found it on coming in. The gentlemen of our different families had to
bring all provisions in sacks slung upon their shoulders and backs, no
light work I can assure you.

The staple food of the settlers consists of hard salt pork, potatoes,
oatmeal, molasses, rice, and flour for bread, which every family makes
for itself. According to the “rising,” employed instead of yeast, the
bread was either bitter, sour, or salt, and we only began to get good
bread when our clergyman from Bracebridge, months after our arrival,
recommended us to use the “Twin Brothers’ yeast,” which we found answer
very well. With regard to other articles of consumption, such as tea,
sugar, coffee, etc., I was then, and still am, decidedly of opinion
that we were using up the refuse of all the shops in Toronto. The tea
was full of sloe-leaves, wild raspberry-leaves, and other natural
productions which never grew in China; and it was so full of bits
of _stick_ that my son informed the people at the store that we had
collected a nice little stock for winter fuel.

My chemical knowledge was not sufficient for me to analyse the coffee,
which we really could not drink, but it was a villanous compound, of
which the coffee-berry was the smallest ingredient; in short, we were
fain to fall back upon and take into favour real chickory or dandelion,
which, with a little milk and sugar, is tolerably nice, and as the
roots are plentiful among the potato-hills in autumn, many of the
settlers prepare it for their own use.

You know what a simple table we kept in France, but there our plain
food was well cooked and prepared, and was the best of its kind.

We found the change terrible, and very injurious to our health,
and, what was worse, the store was often out of the most necessary
articles, and our messengers were compelled to return, weary and
footsore, without what we wanted. We are much better off now, having
a post-office and store belonging to the settlement only three miles
away, kept by very civil and intelligent Scotch people, who do their
best to procure whatever is ordered.

We suffered much also from the want of fresh meat, for though at times
some one in the neighbourhood might kill a sheep, yet we seldom heard
of it before all the best parts were gone. We also greatly regretted
that in a country where even the smaller lakes abound with fish, we
were so far away from any piece of water that we could not obtain what
would have been a most agreeable change from the much-detested salt
pork.

I come now to speak of a delusion which is very general in the “old
country,” and in which I largely shared. I mean with regard to the
great abundance of venison and game to be found in these parts. This
fallacy is much encouraged by different books on emigration, which
speak of these desirable articles of food as being plentiful, and
within the reach of every settler.

I certainly arrived with a vague notion that passing deer might be shot
from one’s own door, that partridge and wild-duck were as plentiful as
sparrows in England, and that hares and rabbits might almost be caught
with the hand. These romantic ideas were ruefully dispelled! There is
little game of any kind left, and to get that good dogs are wanted,
which are very expensive to keep.

None of our party have caught the most distant glimpse of a deer since
we came, except your two brothers, who once saw a poor doe rush madly
across the corner of C----s’ clearing, hotly pursued by a trapper’s
deer-hound, at a season when it was against the law to shoot deer. Your
sister-in-law once, venturing from C----s’ clearing to ours without an
escort, was much alarmed at hearing a rustling in the “Bush” quite
near her, and a repeated “Ba--a, ba--a!” We were told that the noise
must have come from an ancient stag which is said to have haunted for
years the range of rock near us. This mythical old fellow has, however,
never been seen, even by the “oldest inhabitant.”

Your brothers have now and then shot a chance partridge or wild-duck,
but had to look for them, and the truth must be told that when
settlers, gentle or simple, are engaged in the daily toil of grubbing,
and as it were scratching the earth for bread, it is difficult to
find a day’s leisure for the gentlemanly recreation of shooting.
Your youngest brother was pretty successful in trapping beaver and
musk-rat, and in shooting porcupine; of the two former the skins can
be sold to advantage, but as to eating their flesh, which some of our
party succeeded in doing, your eldest brother and myself found that
impossible, and turned with loathing from the rich repasts prepared
from what I irreverently termed vermin!

I must now tell you how our lots are situated with regard to each
other. C----s, having come out a year before the rest of us, had
secured two hundred acres of free grant land, one lot in his own name,
and one in the maiden name of his present wife, who came out from
England to marry him, under the chaperonage of your sister and her
husband. This has enabled him, since the birth of his little boy, to
claim and obtain another lot of a hundred acres, as “head of a family.”
His land is good, and prettily situated, with plenty of beaver meadow
and a sprinkling of rock, and also a very picturesque waterfall, where,
in coming years, he can have a mill. I have the adjoining hundred
acres, good flat land for cultivation, but not so picturesque as any of
the other lots, which I regret, though others envy me the absence of
rock. My land lies between C----s’ and the two hundred acres belonging
to your brother-in-law, whose very pretty situation I have already
described.

I am sorry to say that the two hundred acres taken up before we came,
for your eldest brother and sister, are at a distance of five miles
from here; your brother, who went over to see about clearing a portion
of them, says the landscape is most beautiful, as in addition to rock
and wood there are good-sized lakes, which make the lots less valuable
for cultivation, but far more beautiful to the eye.

When we had been here about three weeks, our young friend C. W. came to
us from Montreal, where he had not succeeded in getting any situation,
though he brought letters of introduction to Judge J. It is quite
useless for young _gentlemen_, however well educated, to come out
from the “old country” expecting situations to be numerous and easily
attainable; all introductions from friends of _yours_ to friends of
_theirs_ are for the most part useless, unless indeed addressed to some
commercial firm. The best and surest introduction a man can have is to
be a steady and skilful workman at some trade, and then he can command
employment.

To return to C. W. He arrived, in fact, in the dusk of a chilly
evening, and was near losing his way in the “Bush,” having to pass
across my land, which was then almost untrodden. Fortunately as he
advanced he betook himself to shouting, and luckily was heard and
answered by C----s, who was just going indoors for the night. They soon
met, and C----s took him home, and with him and your sister-in-law he
boarded and lodged during the whole of his stay, for at your sister’s
we were already over-crowded.

As the autumn advanced, we began most seriously to give our attention
to building my log-house, hoping that I might settle my part of the
family before the winter set in. Accordingly an acre of my land was
cleared, and the logs for a house cut and prepared, a skilful workman
being hired to help; and when all was ready, we called a “bee,” and
took care to provide everything of the best in the shape of provisions.

Our well-laid plan was a signal failure, partly because settlers do
not like coming to a “bee” so late in the year (it was November), and
partly because some of the invitations had been given on Sunday, which,
as most of the settlers near us were Scotch and strict Presbyterians,
caused offence. Only three people came, and they were thanked and
dismissed.

The very next day (November 11th), snow-storms and hard winter weather
began; but in spite of this our four gentlemen, seeing my deep
disappointment at being kept waiting for a residence, most chivalrously
went to work, and by their unassisted efforts and hard labour actually
managed in the course of a fortnight to raise the walls and place the
rafters of a log-house not much smaller than the others. Their work was
the admiration of the whole settlement, and many expressed themselves
quite ashamed of having thus left us in the lurch.

After raising the walls, however, they were reluctantly compelled to
stop, for the severity of the weather was such, that shingling the
roof, chinking, and mossing became quite impossible. As it was, E.
nearly had his hands frost-bitten. We were thus compelled to remain
with your sister till the spring of 1872. We greatly felt, after we
came into the Bush, the want of all religious ordinances; but we soon
arranged a general meeting of all the members of the family on a Sunday
at your sister’s, when your brother-in-law read the Church of England
service, and all joined in singing the chants and hymns. Sometimes he
was unavoidably absent, as the clergymen at Bracebridge, knowing him
to have taken his degree at St. John’s College, Cambridge, and to be
otherwise qualified, would ask his assistance, though a layman, to do
duty for him at different stations in the district.

We found in our own neighbourhood a building set apart for use as a
church, but too far off for us to attend either summer or winter. Here
Church of England, Presbyterian, and Wesleyan ministers preached in
turn, and thus some semblance of worship was kept up. I hardly dare
describe the miserable change we found in our employments and manner
of life when we first settled down to hard labour in the Bush. It was
anguish to me to see your sisters and sister-in-law, so tenderly and
delicately brought up, working harder by far than any of our servants
in England or France.

It is one thing to sit in a pretty drawing-room, to play, to sing, to
study, to embroider, and to enjoy social and intellectual converse with
a select circle of kind friends, and it is quite another thing to slave
and toil in a log-house, no better than a kitchen, from morning till
night, at cleaning, washing, baking, preparing meals for hungry men
(not always of one’s own family), and drying incessant changes of wet
clothes.

I confess, to my shame, that my philosophy entirely gave way, and that
for a long time I cried constantly. I also took to falling off my
chair in fits of giddiness, which lasted for a few minutes, and much
alarmed the children, who feared apoplexy. I felt quite sure that it
was from continual fretting, want of proper exercise, the heat of the
stove, and inanition from not being able to swallow a sufficiency of
the coarse food I so much disliked. Fortunately we had brought out some
cases of arrow-root, and some bottles of Oxley’s Essence of Ginger,
and with the help of this nourishment, and walking resolutely up and
down the clearing, where we kept a track swept for the purpose, I got
better. Your eldest sister likewise had an alarming fit of illness,
liver complaint and palpitation of the heart, doubtless brought on by
poor food, hard work, and the great weight of the utensils belonging to
the stove. I was much frightened, but after a time she, too, partially
recovered; indeed we _had_ to get well as best we might, for there was
no doctor nearer than Bracebridge, eighteen miles off, and had we sent
for him, we had no means of paying either for visits or drugs.

Christmas Day at length drew near, and as we wished to be all
together, though our funds were exceedingly low, dear C----s insisted
on contributing to our Christmas-dinner. He bought a chicken from a
neighbouring settler who, in giving him a _scare-crow_, did not forget
to charge a good price for it. He sent it to us with some mutton. Your
sister has told me since, that while preparing the chicken for cooking,
she could have shed tears of disgust and compassion, the poor thing
being so attenuated that its bones pierced through the skin, and had
it not been killed, it must soon have died of consumption. In spite
of this I roused my dormant energies, and with the help of butter,
onions and spices, I concocted a savoury stew which was much applauded.
We had also a pudding! Well, the less said about that pudding the
better. Nevertheless, I must record that it contained a _maximum_ of
flour and a _minimum_ of currants and grease. The plums, sugar, spice,
eggs, citron, and brandy were conspicuous by their absence. Still, the
pudding was eaten--peace to its memory!

We all assembled on Christmas morning early, and had our Church service
performed by your brother-in-law. Cruel memory took me back to our
beloved little church in France, with its Christmas decorations of
holly and evergreens, and I could almost hear the sweet voices of the
choir singing my favourite hymn: “Hark! the herald angels sing!” There
was indeed a sad contrast between the festive meetings of other years,
when our little band was unbroken by death and separation, and when out
of our abundance we could make others happy, and this forlorn gathering
in a strange land, with care written on every brow, poverty in all
our surroundings, and deep though unexpressed anxiety lest all our
struggles in this new and uncongenial mode of existence should prove
fruitless. For the sake of others, I tried to simulate a cheerfulness
I was far from feeling, and so we got over the evening. We had a good
deal of general conversation, and some of our favourite songs were sung
by the gentlemen.

It was late when our party broke up; your brother C----s with his wife
and C. W. actually scrambled home through the forest by moonlight, a
track having been broken by snow-shoes in the morning.

A great grief to me at this time was the long interval between writing
letters to the “old country” and receiving the answers, an interval
which my vivid imagination filled up with all kind of horrors which
_might_ have happened to the dear ones we had left behind.

The close of the year silently came on, and I finish this letter with
a “Sonnet to the Pines,” my first composition in the Bush, written
partly to convince myself that I was not quite out of my wits, but had
still the little modicum of intellect I once possessed, and partly to
reassure your brothers and sisters, who were always predicting that I
should bring on softening of the brain by my unceasing regrets for the
past, and gloomy prognostications for the future.

SONNET TO THE MUSKOKA PINES!

    Weird monarchs of the forest! ye who keep
    Your solemn watch betwixt the earth and sky;
    I hear sad murmurs through your branches creep.
    I hear the night-wind’s soft and whispering sigh,
    Warning ye that the spoiler’s hand is nigh:
    The surging wave of human life draws near!
    The woodman’s axe, piercing the leafy glade,
    Awakes the forest-echoes far and near,
    And startles in its haunts the timid deer,
    Who seeks in haste some far-off friendly shade!
    Nor drop ye stately Pines to earth alone.
    The leafy train who shar’d your regal state--
    Beech, Maple, Balsam, Spruce and Birch--lie prone,
    And having grac’d your grandeur--share your fate!



LETTER IV.


New-Year’s Day of 1872 was one of those exceptionally beautiful days,
when hope is generated in the saddest heart, and when the most pressing
cares and anxieties retire for at least a time into the background of
our lives. The sky was blue and clear, the sun bright, and the air
quite soft and balmy for the time of year. We had had some bitter
cold and gloomy weather, and we found the change most delightful. As
in France we were in the habit of making presents among ourselves on
this day, I looked over all my stores with a view to keeping up the
same pretty custom here; but alas! in the absence of all shops I was
sorely puzzled. At last I made all right by giving pencils and paper
for scribbling to the children; Eau de Cologne, sweet-scented soap,
and pots of pomatum to the elders of the party; and finished off with
a box of Bryant and May’s “ruby matches” to C. W., who considered them
a great acquisition. Your brother E. came over for the whole day. He
now boarded and lodged with C----s, to make a little more room for your
sister F.’s confinement, which we expected at the end of the month. I
watched E. with delight as he felled an enormous birch tree in honour
of the day; but though placed in perfect safety myself, I could not
avoid a thrill of fear for him, as this monarch of the forest came
crashing down. Fatal accidents very seldom occur, but new settlers,
inexperienced and unused to the axe, sometimes give themselves serious
cuts. Your brother and brother-in-law have had many narrow escapes, but
fortunately, as yet, are uninjured. Your brother C----s before we came
gave himself a very severe cut, which prevented his chopping for some
weeks. One of the settlers told your brother that when he first began
chopping he had given himself a most dangerous wound, the axe having
glanced from the tree on to his foot; for weeks after the accident he
stood in a washing-tub for security while chopping his fire-wood. This
account much amused us, and E----d made a neat little caricature of P.
in his tub chopping.

I was greatly disappointed in the Canadian forest, and did not think
it half as beautiful as I had been led to expect, for though there are
certainly some very tall pines, and these of a considerable girth, yet
being so closely packed together and hemmed in with small trees and a
thick undergrowth of brushwood, they always seem cramped, and their
lofty tops unable to spread out to their full size. Hurricanes here are
of frequent occurrence, and at these times it is not unusual for full
half an acre of trees to be entirely laid flat, giving the greatest
trouble to the settler when he wants to clear. At times the “windfall,”
as it is called, is a narrow belt of uprooted trees extending for
miles, and distinctly marking the path of the hurricane through the
forest. I was less astonished at the constant fall of the trees after
examining an enormous pine lying on C----s’ land, which was blown down
last year. The roots of this tree seemed to have formed an enormous
web or network under the surface of the ground, and only a few large
fibres here and there appeared to have gone to any depth. I missed the
umbrageous oaks, elms, and beeches of our own parks, and also the open
forest glades which so greatly enhance the beauty of our woodland
scenery. I am told that the trees in the States are much larger and
finer, but of this I am of course incompetent to judge, never having
been there. The most beautiful tree here is certainly the “balsam,”
a slender, delicate tree whose feathery branches droop gracefully to
within a few feet of the ground.

We found the winter fearfully cold, the thermometer being at times
forty degrees below zero. We had great difficulty in keeping ourselves
sufficiently clothed for such a season. All people coming to the
Bush bring clothes far too good for the rough life they lead there.
In coming out we had no means of providing any special outfit, and
therefore brought with us only the ordinary wardrobes of genteel life.
We soon found that all silks, delicate shawls, laces and ornaments,
are perfectly useless here. Every article we possess of that kind is
carefully put away in our trunks, and will probably never see daylight
again, unless indeed that, like Mrs. Katy Scudder in the “Minister’s
Wooing,” we may occasionally air our treasures. What we found most
useful was everything in the shape of woollen or other thick fabrics,
winter dresses, warm plaid shawls, flannels, furs, etc.; of these we
had a tolerable stock, and as the cold increased we put one thing
over another till we must have often presented the appearance of
feather-beds tied in the middle with a string. Indeed, as our gentlemen
politely phrased it, we made complete “guys” of ourselves, and I must
say that they were not one whit behind us in grotesque unsightliness
of costume. Your brothers sometimes wore four or five flannels one
over the other, thick jerseys and heavy overcoats when not actually at
work, and pairs upon pairs of thick woollen socks and stockings, with
great sea-boots drawn over all; or in deep snow “moccasins” or else
“shoe-packs,” the first being made by the Indians, of the skin of the
moose-deer, and the second mostly of sheep-skins. The great mart for
these articles is at the Indian settlement of “Lachine” on the St.
Lawrence, near Montreal. They also wore snow-shoes, which are not made
like the Laplanders’ with skates attached for sliding, but simply for
walking on the surface of the deep snow. They consist of a framework
of wood three feet long by one and a half wide, filled up with strips
of raw deer-skin interlaced, and in shape resembling a fish, more like
a monstrous sole than any other. We ladies, too, were thankful to lay
aside our French kid boots and delicate slippers, and to wrap our
feet and legs up so completely that they much resembled mill-posts.
Had you or any of our dear friends seen us in our Esquimaux costume,
you would certainly have failed to recognise the well-dressed ladies
and gentlemen you had been in the habit of seeing. To crown all, your
brother-in-law and C----s had goat-skin coats brought from France, real
Robinson Crusoe coats, such as are worn by the French shepherds, and
these they found invaluable. We were very sorry that E----d had not one
likewise.

Our occupations were manifold; hard work was the order of the day for
every one but me; but all the work I was allowed to do was the cooking,
for which I consider that I have a special vocation. A great compliment
was once paid me by an old Indian officer in our regiment, who declared
that Mrs. K. could make a good curry, he was sure, out of the sole of a
shoe!

At other times I read, wrote letters, and plied my knitting-needles
indefatigably, to the great advantage of our little colony, in the
shape of comforters, baby-socks, mittens, Canadian sashes and
petticoats for the little children. Sometimes I read to the children
out of their story-books, but _their_ happiest time was when they could
get your sister P----e to give them an hour or two in the evening of
story-telling. You know what a talent she possesses for composing,
both in prose and verse, stories for little people, and with these she
would keep them spell-bound, to the great comfort of the elders of the
party, and of their poor mother especially, who towards night felt much
fatigued.

Dear children! they required some amusement after the close confinement
of the winter’s day. Meanwhile the gentlemen were busy from morning
till night chopping down trees in readiness for burning in spring. This
is mostly done in mid-winter, as they are reckoned to chop more easily
then.

You must not suppose that all this time we had no visitors. By degrees
many of the settlers scattered over the neighbourhood came to see
us, some, doubtless, from kindly motives, others from curiosity to
know what the strangers were like. I found some of them pleasant and
amusing, particularly those who had been long in the country, and who
could be induced to give me some of their earlier Bush experiences.
A few of them seemed to possess a sprinkling of higher intelligence,
which made their conversation really interesting.

One very picturesque elderly man, tall, spare, and upright, came to
fell some pine-trees contiguous to the house, which much endangered
its safety when the hurricanes, so frequent in this country, blew. He
had begun life as a ploughboy on a farm in my beloved county of Kent,
and had the unmistakable Kentish accent. It seemed so strange to me at
first, to be shaking hands and sitting at table familiarly with one of
a class so different from my own; but this was my first initiation
into the free-and-easy intercourse of all classes in this country,
where the standing proverb is, “Jack is as good as his master!”

I found all the settlers kindly disposed towards us, and most liberal
in giving us a share of their flower-seeds, plants, and garden produce,
which, as new-comers, we could not be supposed to have. They were
willing also to accept in return such little civilities as we could
offer, in the shape of books and newspapers from the old country,
and sometimes medicines and drugs, which could not be got in the
settlement. There might be a little quarrelling, backbiting, and petty
rivalry among them, with an occasional dash of slanderous gossip; but
I am inclined to think not more than will inevitably be found in small
communities.

As a body, they certainly are hard-working, thrifty, and kind-hearted.
Almost universally they seem contented with their position and
prospects. I have seldom met with a settler who did not think his own
land the finest in the country, who had not grown the _largest turnip
ever seen_, and who was not full of hope that the coveted railway would
certainly pass through his lot.

At this time I felt an increasing anxiety about your sister’s
confinement, which was now drawing near. That such an event should
take place in this desolate wilderness, where we had no servants, no
monthly-nurse, and not even a doctor within reach, was sufficiently
alarming. To relieve my mind, your brother-in-law went about the
neighbourhood, and at last found a very respectable person, a settler’s
wife, not more than three miles off, who consented to be our assistant
on this momentous occasion, and he promised to go for her as soon as
dear F----e should be taken ill.

We had been made a little more comfortable in the house, as your
brother-in-law and brother had made a very tolerable ceiling over our
bed-places, and your brother had chopped and neatly piled up at the
end of the room an immense stock of fire-wood, which prevented the
necessity of so often opening the door.

We felt now more than ever the want of fresh meat, as the children
could not touch the salt pork, and were heartily tired of boiled rice
and dumplings, which were all the variety we could give them, with the
exception of an occasional egg. In this emergency your brother C----s
consented to sell me a bull calf, which he intended bringing up, but
having also a cow and a heifer, and fearing to run short of fodder, he
consented to part with him. Thus I became the fortunate possessor of
an animal which, when killed, fully realised my misgivings as to its
being neither veal nor beef, but in a transition state between the two.
It had a marvellous development of bone and gristle, but very little
flesh; still we made much of it in the shape of nourishing broth and
savoury stews, and as I only paid seven dollars for it, and had long
credit, I was fully satisfied with my first Bush speculation.

The 18th of January arrived. The day had been very cold, with a
drifting, blinding snow; towards evening a fierce, gusty wind arose,
followed by pitch darkness. The forest trees were cracking and crashing
down in all directions. We went to bed. At two a.m., having been long
awake, I heard a stir in the room, and dear F.’s voice asking us to
get up. What my feelings were I leave you to imagine--to send for
help three miles off, in such a night, was impossible, for even with
a lantern your brother-in-law could not have ventured into the Bush.
Fortunately, we had no time to be frightened or nervous. We removed the
sleeping children to our own bed, made the most comfortable arrangement
circumstances would admit of for dear F----e, and about three a.m.,
that is to say, in less than an hour after being called, our first Bush
baby was born, a very fine little girl.

Your sister P----e, who had been reading up for the occasion, did all
that was necessary, with a skill, coolness and self-possession which
would have done honour to “Dr. _Elizabeth Black_!”

I did indeed feel thankful when I saw my child safe in bed, with her
dear baby-girl, washed, dressed, and well bundled up in flannel, lying
by her side, she herself taking a basin of gruel which I joyfully
prepared for her. God “tempers the wind to the shorn lamb.”

We could well believe this when we found your sister recover even
more quickly than she had done in France, where she had so many more
comforts and even luxuries; nor was she this time attacked by ague and
low fever, from which she had always suffered before.

This sudden call upon our energies made me glad that my wandering life
in the army had rendered me very independent of extraneous help, and
that I had taught you all from childhood never to call a servant for
what you could easily do with your own hands. The very first thing
people _must_ learn in the Bush, is to trust in God, and to help
themselves, for other help is mostly too far off to be available.

At the end of this month, when I felt that I could safely leave dear
F----e, I determined to go to B----e and sign for my land. The not
having done so before had long been a cause of great anxiety.

I had been more than four months in the country, had begun to clear and
to build upon my lot, and yet from various causes had not been able to
secure it by signing the necessary papers. These having been sent to
France, and having missed me, had been duly forwarded here. Till the
signing was completed, I was liable at any moment to have my land taken
up by some one else. Accordingly your brother wrote to B---- for a
cutter and horse, and directed the driver to come as far into the Bush
as he could.

We started on a very bright, cold morning, but I had walked fully three
miles before we met our sledge, which was much behind time. I never
enjoyed anything in the country so much as this my first sleighing
expedition. The small sleigh, or cutter as it is sometimes called, held
only one, and I was nestled down in the bottom of it, well wrapped up,
and being delightfully warm and snug, could enjoy looking at the very
picturesque country we were rapidly passing through. I did, however,
most sincerely pity your brother and the driver, who nearly perished,
for sitting on the front seat they caught all the wind, which was
piercing. We stopped midway at a small tavern, where we dined, and I
can truly say that in spite of the dirty table-cloth and the pervading
slovenliness and disorder of the house and premises, I found everything
enjoyable, and above all the sense of being for a few hours at least
freed from my long imprisonment in the woods.

It was late in the afternoon when we arrived at B----e, where we
went to the N. A. Hotel, and were made very comfortable by its kind
mistress. The next morning at ten a.m. we went to the magistrate’s
office, where I signed for my one hundred acres, and of course came
away with the conscious dignity of a landed proprietor.

I was charmed with the kind and courteous manners of Mr. L----s. He
reminded me more of that nearly extinct race--the gentleman of the
old school--than any one I had seen since leaving England. His son,
who is his assistant, seems equally amiable and popular. Seeing from
my manner that I considered Muskoka, even at the present time, as the
_Ultima Thule_ of civilisation, he told us some amusing anecdotes of
what it had actually been when his grandfather first became a settler
in Canada. The towns and villages now called the “Front,” had then no
existence; all was thick forest, no steamers on the lakes, no roads of
any kind, and barely here and there a forest-track made by Indians or
trappers. From where his grandfather settled down, it was sixty miles
to the nearest place where anything could be got, and the first year
he had to go all this distance on foot for a bushel of seed potatoes
for planting, and to return with them in a sack which he carried on his
back the whole way.

We left B----e to return home at one p.m., but it was nearly dark when
we turned into the Bush, and quite so when we were put down at the
point from which we had to walk home. Here we were luckily met by your
brother C----s and C. W., with a lantern and a rope for our parcels,
according to promise. C----s took charge of me, and led the way with
the lantern. I tried to follow in his steps, but the track was so
narrow, and the light so uncertain, that I found myself, every few
moments, up to my knees in soft snow, if I diverged only a step from
the track.

I became almost unable to go on, but after many expedients had been
tried, one only was found to answer. C----s tied a rope round my waist,
and then round his own, and in this safe, but highly ignominious
manner, I was literally towed through the forest, and reached home
thoroughly exhausted, but I am bound to say almost as much from
laughter as from fatigue. I found all well, and the children were
highly pleased with the little presents I had brought for them.



LETTER V.


The first months of this year found us very anxious to get the
log-house finished, which had been so well begun by our four gentlemen,
and as soon as the weather moderated a little, and our means allowed
us to get help, we had it roofed, floored, chinked, and mossed. It was
necessary to get it finished, so that we might move before the great
spring thaw should cover the forest-paths with seas of slush and mud,
and before the creek between us and our domicile should be swollen so
as to render it impassable for ladies.

When the workmen had finished, we sent to the nearest town for a
settler’s stove; and as the ox-team we hired could bring it no farther
than the corner of the concession road which skirts one end of my lot,
your brothers had the agreeable task of bringing it piecemeal on their
backs, with all its heavy belongings, down the precipitous side of my
gully, wading knee-deep through the creek at the bottom, and scrambling
up the side nearest here. It was quite a service of danger, and I felt
truly thankful that no accident occurred.

About this time our young friend C. W. left us, and we were very sorry
to lose him, for more particularly in “Bush” life the taking away of
one familiar face leaves a sad blank behind. He could not, however,
make up his mind to remain, finding the life very dull and cheerless,
and suffering moreover most severely from the cold of the climate. He
went to Toronto, and at last got a tolerably good situation in a bank,
where his thorough knowledge of French and German made him very useful.

Another important event also took place, and this was the christening
of our dear little “Bush” girl, who by this time was thriving
nicely. Our Church of England clergyman at B----e very kindly came
over to perform the ceremony, but as no special day had been named,
his visit took us by surprise, and the hospitality we were able to
extend to him was meagre indeed. This christening certainly presented
a marked contrast to our last. It was no well-dressed infant in a
richly-embroidered robe and French lace cap like a cauliflower ring,
that I handed to our good minister, but a dear little soft bundle
of rumpled flannel, with just enough of face visible to receive the
baptismal sprinkling.

We all stood round in our anomalous costumes, and a cracked slop-basin
represented the font. Nevertheless, our little darling behaved
incomparably well, and all passed off pleasantly. With our minister
afterwards, a very kind and gentlemanly man, we had an hour’s pleasant
conversation, which indeed was quite a treat, for in the Bush, with
little or no time for intellectual pursuits, for the practice of any
elegant accomplishment, or indeed for anything but the stern and hard
realities of daily labour; conversation even among the well-educated is
apt to degenerate into discussions about “crops” and “stock,” and the
relative merits of _timothy_ or _beaver hay_.

We saw but little of your brother Edward at this time, for he was fully
occupied in the log-house, where he lit a large fire every day that
it might be thoroughly aired for our reception, and then engaged in
carpentering extensively for our comfort. He put up numerous shelves
for the crockery and kitchen things, made two very good and substantial
bedsteads, a sofa fixed against the wall which we call the “daïs,” and
a very comfortable easy-chair with a flexible seat of strips of cowhide
interlaced--an ingenious device of your brother Charles, who made one
for his wife.

At last the house being finished, quite aired enough, and otherwise
made as comfortable as our very slender means would permit, we resolved
to move, and on the 7th of April we took our departure from dear
F----’s, who, however glad to have more room for the children, sadly
missed our companionship, as we did hers. The day of our exodus was
very clear and bright, and the narrow snow-track between our lots was
still tolerably hard and safe, though the great thaw had begun, and the
deep untrodden snow on either side of the track was fast melting, and
every careless step we took plunged us into two or three feet of snow,
from which we had to be ignominiously dragged out. It was worse when
we sank into holes full of water, and the narrow path treacherously
giving way at the edges, we had many of these falls. All our trunks,
chests, and barrels had to be left at F----’s, and we only took with
us packages that could be carried by hand, and our bedding, which was
conveyed on the shoulders of the gentlemen.

Of course we travelled in Indian file, one after the other.

When we finally departed, your brother-in-law and Sister P----e
preceded me, laden with all manner of small articles, and every few
yards down they came. I followed with a stout stick which helped me
along considerably, and as I was not allowed to carry anything, and
picked my way very carefully, I managed to escape with comparatively
few falls, and only two of any consequence, one when I pitched forward
with my face down flat on the ground, and another when my feet suddenly
slipped from under me and sent me backwards, rolling over and over in
the snow before, even with help, I could get up. The effects of this
fall I felt for a long time.

At length we arrived at our new home, but in spite of the magic of that
word, I felt dreadfully depressed, and as we were all thoroughly wet
and weary, and on looking out of the windows in front saw nothing but a
wall of snow six feet deep, which encircled the house and quite hid the
clearing from our eyes, I need not say that we were anything but a gay
party. Your kind brother-in-law, to console me a little, went home and
brought back in his arms, as a present for me, the little cat of which
I had been so fond at his house. I cheered up immediately, and had so
much trouble to prevent little Tibbs from running away and being lost
in the snow, that it was quite an occupation for me. One member of our
party made himself at home at once, and from the moment of our entrance
took possession of the warmest place before the stove. This was dear
old Nero, who, as a “French seigneur,” had great privileges, was much
admired in the settlement, and was always called the “Frenchman!” His
chief delight seemed to be incessantly barking at the squirrels.

The thaw continuing, we were quite prisoners for some weeks, and as to
our property left at your sister’s, it was nearly three months before
we could get it, as your brother-in-law with your brothers had to cut
a path for the oxen between our clearings, and to make a rough bridge
over his creek, which, though not so deep as the one on my land, was
equally impassable for a wagon and team.

Happy would it have been for us, and for all the new settlers, if, when
the snow was quite melted, which was not till the second week in May,
fine dry weather had ensued. This would have enabled us to log and
burn the trees felled during the winter, and to clear up the ground
ready for cropping. Instead of this, drenching rain set in, varied by
occasional thunder-storms, so that even after the logging was done it
was June before we could venture to fire the heaps, the ground being
still quite wet, and even then the clearing was such a partial one that
by the 15th of June we had only three-fourths of an acre thoroughly
ready, and on this your brother planted eight bushels of potatoes,
happily for us regardless of the prognostics of our neighbours, who all
assured him that he was much too late to have any chance of a return.
He had, however, an excellent yield of eighty bushels, which fully
repaid him for his perseverance and steady refusal to be wet-blanketed.
He also, however late, sowed peas, French beans, vegetable-marrows, and
put in cabbages, from all of which we had a good average crop.

We had, of course, to hire men for our logging, with their oxen, and to
find their meals. I could not but observe how well they all behaved,
washing their faces and hands before sitting down to table, and also
scrupulously refraining from swearing, smoking, or spitting, while in
the house. A man who hires himself and his oxen out for the day, has
two dollars and food for himself and his beasts; and should he bring
any assistants, they each have seventy-five cents and their food. You
should have seen the gentlemen of our party after a day’s logging! They
were black from head to foot, and more resembled master chimney-sweeps
than anything else. Most of the settlers have a regular logging-suit
made of coarse coloured stuff; anything better is sure to be spoiled
during such work.

Our fire, though a bad one, was very picturesque. It did not burn
fiercely enough to clear off the log-heaps still wet from the late
rains, but it ran far back into the forest, and many of the tall trees,
particularly the decaying ones, were burning from bottom to top, and
continued in flames for some days and nights. During the logging I
sincerely pitied the poor oxen, who are yoked together and attached
by a heavy chain to one immense log after another, till they are all
brought into position, and the log-heaps are arranged for burning. It
is most distressing to see these patient animals panting after their
exertions, and too often, I regret to say, beaten and sworn at in a
most outrageous manner.

Great care is required to prevent accidents during logging, and fatal
ones sometimes occur. I was in conversation with the reeve of an
adjoining township this summer, and he told me that two years ago he
lost his eldest son, a young man of great promise, in this melancholy
way. The poor fellow made a false step while driving his team, and fell
right before the oxen who were coming on with a heavy log, quite a
tree, attached to them. Before it was possible to stop them, they had
drawn the tree over him and he was literally crushed to death.

Not having been able to get the land ready for corn of any kind,
and our only crops being the potatoes I have mentioned, and a few
garden vegetables, your brother thought it best to give his whole
attention to fencing our clearing all round, and putting gates at
the three different points of egress. This was the more necessary as
your brother Charles had a cow and heifer with a large circle of
acquaintances among our neighbour’s cattle, who came regularly every
morning to fetch them away into the Bush, where they all fed till
night. Your brother made three gates on the model of French ones, which
are both solid and simple in their construction, easy to open and easy
to shut.

Wonderful to say, some of the old settlers condescended to admire these
novelties. Your brother Charles worked with him till this necessary
labour was concluded, and we were glad enough when our four and a half
acres were securely protected from the daily inroads of stray cattle.
Before the fence was up, your sister and I spent half our time in
running out with the broom to drive away the neighbour’s cattle, and
protect our cherished cabbage plants, and the potatoes just coming up.
Two audacious steers in particular, called Jim and Charlie, used to
come many times during the day, trot round the house, drink up every
drop of soapy water in the washing-tubs, and if any linen was hanging
on the lines to dry, would munch it till driven away.

Two oxen and two or three cows used to come early every morning, and
cross our clearing to fetch their friends from your brother Charles’.
We used to hear the ox-bells, and after they had passed some time would
see them returning in triumph with Crummie and the heifer, and after
your brother-in-law got a cow, they would go for Dolly likewise, and
then the whole party would go off and feed together in the Bush till
night.

Fortunately, all the cattle in this part wear bells to prevent their
being lost. One day your sister and I went to bring F----e and the
children back to tea, when suddenly her own cow, Mistress Dolly, with
a neighbour’s oxen called Blindy and Baldface, came rushing down
the path we were in, and we had just time, warned by the bells, to
scramble out of the way with the children and get behind some trees,
while F----e, always courageous and active, drove them in an opposite
direction.

The being able to turn the cattle (a settler’s riches) into the Bush
during the whole summer, and thus to feed them free of all expense,
is a great boon to the settler; but this Bush-feeding has its
disadvantages, for the cattle will sometimes stray with what companions
they gather on the road, miles and miles away, to the great discomfort
of their masters who have to hunt for them.

All through the past summer, after his hard day’s work, we used to see
your youngest brother pass with a rope in one hand and his milk-pail
in the other, from our clearing into the Bush, to look for Crummie
and the heifer. Sometimes he would return with them, but much oftener
we had to go without the milk he supplied us with, as Crummie would be
heard of far away at some distant farm, and occasionally she and her
companion strayed as far as the Muskoka Road, many miles off, which
of course necessitated great loss of time and much fatigue the next
day in hunting her up. Both your brothers and your brother-in-law are
excellent at making their way through the Bush, and as each carries a
pocket-compass, are in little danger of being lost.

Just before we came here the whole settlement had to turn out in
search of a settler’s wife, who had gone to look for her cow one fine
afternoon with two of her own children and two of a neighbour’s, who
coveted the pleasant scrambling walk, and the chance of berry-picking.
As evening came on and they did not return, much alarm was felt; and
when the night had passed, it was thought best to call out all the
men in the immediate neighbourhood. Accordingly twenty men were soon
mustered, headed by a skilful trapper, who has been many years here,
and knows the Bush well. They made a “trapper’s line,” which means
placing the men in a straight line at considerable distances from each
other, and so beating the Bush in all directions as they advance,
shouting and firing off their guns continually. At length, towards the
afternoon, the trapper himself came upon the poor woman and the four
children, not many miles from her home, sitting under a tree, utterly
exhausted by hunger, fatigue, and incessant screaming for help. Her
account was, that she had found her cow at some distance from home,
had milked her, and then tried to return, but entirely forgot the way
she came, and after trying one opening after another became utterly
bewildered.

The forest in summer is so unvarying that nothing is easier than to go
astray. As night came on, she divided the can of milk among the poor,
hungry, crying children, and at length, tired out, they all slept
under a large tree, the night providentially being fine and warm. In
the morning they renewed their fruitless efforts, getting farther and
farther astray, till at length they had sunk down incapable of longer
exertion, and unable to stir from the spot where they were found.

I conclude this letter with remarking, that instead of the spring which
I fondly anticipated, we burst at once from dull gloomy weather and
melting snow, to burning hot summer and clouds of mosquitoes and flies
of all kinds.



LETTER VI.


Summer and mosquitoes! Inseparable words in Canada, except in the large
towns, where their attacks are hardly felt.

In the Bush, the larger the clearing the fewer the mosquitoes. It is,
above all things, desirable to avoid building a log-house near swampy
ground, for there they will be found in abundance.

We have four acres and a half quite clear, but unfortunately our
log-house, instead of being placed in the middle, is at one end, with
a well-wooded hill and a portion of dense forest at the back and at
one end; delicious retreat for our enemies, from whence they issued in
myriads, tormenting us from morning till night, and all night long.

This Egyptian plague began in the end of May, and lasted till the end
of September. We being new-comers they were virulent in their attacks,
and we were bitten from head to foot; in a short time we felt more
like lepers than healthy, clean people, and the want of sleep at night
was most trying to us all, after our hard work. Our only resource was
keeping large “smudges” continually burning in pans. These “smudges”
are made of decayed wood, called “punk,” and smoulder and smoke without
flaming.

When I went to bed at night (my only time for reading) I used to turn
a long trunk end upwards close to my bolster, and place a large pan of
“punk” on it, so that myself and my book were well enveloped in smoke.
Many times in the night we had to renew our pans, and from the first
dawn of day the buzzing of these hateful insects, who seem then to
acquire fresh liveliness, prevented all chance of sleep. Nor were the
mosquitoes our only foes. Flies of all kinds swarmed around us, and one
in particular, the deer-fly, was a long black fly frightful to look at,
from its size and ugliness. Still, as the flies did not circle about in
the air as the mosquitoes did, we could better defend ourselves against
them.

We derived little or no benefit from the numerous remedies recommended
by different settlers. In one only I found some alleviation--a weak
solution of carbolic acid, which certainly deadened the irritation, and
was at least a clean remedy compared with the “fly-oil” with which most
of the settlers besmear themselves unsparingly.

Towards the end of June I entered upon an entirely new phase of
Bush-life, which was anything but pleasant to a person of a nervous,
susceptible temperament. This was my being in perfect solitude for many
hours of every day. Your sister-in-law expected her first confinement,
and we were so anxious that she should have proper medical advice,
that it was thought advisable to place her in lodgings at B----e till
the important event took place. Her brother coming to pay her a visit
entirely agreed in the necessity of the case, and as he kindly smoothed
away the money difficulty it was carried into execution. She could not
go alone, and therefore your eldest sister accompanied her, and thus I
lost for a time my constant and only companion.

I undertook now to keep house for both your brothers, as in his wife’s
absence Charles could have little comfort at home. I only saw them at
meal-times, and though your eldest brother came home always before
dusk, yet I could not but be very nervous at being so much alone.

The weather became so hot, that the stove was moved into the open air
at the back of the house, and to save me fatigue your brother cut a
doorway at the back, close to where the stove was placed. Unfortunately
there was a great press of work at this time, and moreover no lumber on
the premises, and therefore no door could be made, and the aperture,
which I had nothing large enough to block up, remained all the summer,
to my great discomfiture.

At first I was not so very solitary, for a settler’s daughter, who had
worked for your sister-in-law, came to me three times a week, and went
on the alternate days to your sister F----e. We liked her very well,
were very kind to her, and under our training she was learning to be
quite a good servant, when an incident occurred which occasioned our
dismissing her, which gave me great pain, and which has never been
cleared up to my satisfaction.

Our poor dog Nero, who was an excellent guard, and quite a companion,
was taken ill, and we fancied that he had been bitten by a snake in
Charles’ beaver meadow, where he had been with your brothers who were
hay-making. We nursed him most tenderly, you may be sure, but he got
worse and worse suffered agonies, and in less than a week I was obliged
to consent to our old favourite dog being shot. He was taken from my
bed well wrapped up, so that he knew nothing of what was coming, while
I walked far away into the wood, and your brother with one shot put the
faithful animal out of his pain. Two days before he died a large piece
of poisoned meat was found near the pathway of our clearing, and as
from before the time of his being ill no one but this servant girl had
gone backwards and forwards, as her father had a kind of grudge against
your brother for driving his cattle off the premises, and as she never
expressed the slightest sympathy for the poor beast, but seemed quite
pleased when he was dead, we could not but fear that she had been made
the medium of killing him. We found that he had been poisoned with blue
vitriol, but we knew this too late to save him.

We buried him honourably, and I planted a circle of wild violets round
his grave, and was not ashamed to shed many tears besides, which was a
well-deserved tribute to our old and faithful _friend_.

After the girl was dismissed I found more than enough of occupation,
for though your brother made and baked the bread, which I was not
strong enough to do, yet I cooked, washed for them, and did the
house-work, which I found sufficiently fatiguing, and was very glad
after dinner to sit down to my writing-table, which I took good care to
place so as to face the open door, never feeling safe to have it at my
back.

Your dear sister F. was so kind, that at great inconvenience to
herself, on account of the heat and the flies in the forest, she
managed to come nearly every day at four p.m. with the children, and
remained till your brother came back for the night.

He was occupied for many weeks in making hay with your brother and
brother-in-law in the beaver meadow, a large one and very productive.
They make a great deal of hay, and put it up in large cocks, but a
great deal of it was lost by rotting on the ground, from not being
carried away in proper time. The delay was occasioned by none of us
having oxen of our own, and from not having the means of hiring till
the season was passed.

The not getting money at the proper epochs for work is the greatest
drawback to the new settler. If it comes too soon it is apt to melt
away in the necessities of daily life; if it comes too late he must
wait for another year.

I fully realised during this summer, that solitude in the Bush is not
privacy. Though in case of any accident I was out of reach of all human
help, yet I was liable at any moment of the day to have some passing
settler walk coolly in, and sit down in my very chair if I had vacated
it for a moment. I got one fright which I shall not easily forget. I
had given your two brothers their breakfast, and they had started for
their hay-making in the distant beaver meadow. I had washed up the
breakfast-things, cleared everything away, and was arranging my hair in
the glass hanging in the bed-place, the curtain of which was undrawn on
account of the heat. My parting look in the glass disclosed a not very
prepossessing face in the doorway behind, belonging to a man who stood
there immovable as a statue, and evidently enjoying my discomfiture.

I greeted him with a scream, which was almost a yell, and advanced pale
as a ghost, having the agreeable sensation of all the blood in my body
running down to my toes! His salutation was:

“Wall, I guess I’ve skeered you some!”

“Yes!” I replied, “you startled me very much.”

He then came in and sat down. I sat down too, and we fell into quite an
easy flow of talk about the weather, the crops, etc.

How devoutly I wished him anywhere else, and how ill I felt after my
fright, I need not say, but I flatter myself that nothing of this
appeared on the surface; all was courtesy and politeness.

At length he went way, and finding your brother in the beaver meadow,
took care to inform him that he “had had quite a pleasant chat with
his old woman!”

I knew this man by sight, for once in the early part of the summer he
came to inquire where Charles lived? On my pointing out the path, and
saying in my politest manner,

“You will have no difficulty, sir, in finding Mr. C. K.’s clearing,” he
coolly replied:

“I guess I shall find it; I knows your son well; _we always calls him
Charlie_!”

I had visitors during the summer, who were much more welcome. Two nice
intelligent little boys with bare feet and shining faces, the children
of an American from the “States,” settled in the Muskoka Road, used
to come twice a week with milk, eggs, and baskets of the delicious
wild raspberry at five cents a quart. While they were resting and
refreshing themselves with cold tea and bread-and-butter we used to
have quite pleasant conversations. They were very confidential, told
me how anxiously they were expecting a grandmother, of whom they were
very fond, and who was coming to live with them; of their progress and
prizes in the Sunday-school some miles from here, which they regularly
attended; of their garden and of many other little family matters; and
when I gave them some story-books for children, and little tracts, they
informed me that they would be kept for Sunday reading. They never
failed, with the things they brought for sale, to bring me as a present
a bunch of beautiful sweet-peas and mignonette, and occasionally a
scarlet gladiolus.

When they were gone I used to sit down to my letter-writing; and after
all my grubbing and house-work, I felt quite elevated in the social
scale to have a beautiful bouquet on my writing-table, which I took
care to arrange with a background of delicate fern leaves and dark,
slender sprigs of the ground-hemlock. The very smell of the flowers
reminded me of my beloved transatlantic home, with its wealth of
beautiful plants and flowering shrubs, and every room decorated with
vases of lovely flowers which I passed some delicious morning hours in
collecting and arranging.

When the fruit season had passed, I lost my little visitors, but
was painfully reminded of them at the beginning of the winter. Your
brother-in-law was called upon, in the absence of the clergyman, to
read the burial service over an old lady who had died suddenly in the
settlement. This was the grandmother of my poor little friends. She had
always expressed a wish to spend her last days with her daughter in
Muskoka, but put off her journey from the “States” till the weather was
so severe that she suffered much while travelling, and arrived with a
very bad cold. The second morning after her arrival she was found dead
in her bed.

I remained all the summer strictly a prisoner at home. The not being
able to shut up the log-house for want of the second door of course
prevented my leaving home, even for an hour; for the Bush is not
Arcadia, and however primitive the manners and customs may be, I have
failed to recognise primitive innocence among its inhabitants.

As to the berry-picking, which is the favourite summer amusement here,
I would sooner have gone without fruit than have ventured into the
swamps and beaver meadows, where the raspberries, huckleberries, and
cranberries abound. My fear of snakes was too overpowering. Charles
killed this summer no less than seven; and though we are told that in
this part of Canada they are perfectly innocuous, yet your brother
pointed out that three out of the seven he killed had the flat
conformation of head which betokens a venomous species.

In the meantime our news from B----e was not too good. After a
residence in the lodgings of five weeks, your sister-in-law had been
confined of a dear little boy, and at first all had gone well, but
after a week she became very ill, and also the baby; and as he had to
be brought up by hand, and there was great difficulty in getting pure,
unmixed milk in B----e, it was thought better, when he was five weeks
old, to bring the whole party back. That memorable journey must be
reserved for another letter.

I noticed this summer many times the curious appearance of our clearing
by moonlight. In the day the stumps stood out in all their naked
deformity, as we had no “crops of golden grain” to hide them; but at
night I never beheld anything more weird and ghostly. The trees being
mostly chopped in the winter, with deep snow on the ground, the stumps
are left quite tall, varying from five to seven feet in height. When
these are blackened by the burning, which runs all over the clearing,
they present in the dim light the appearance of so many spectres. I
could almost fancy myself in the cemetery in the Dunkirk Road, near
Calais, and that the blackened stumps were hideous black crosses which
the French are so fond of erecting in their churchyards.

They have in America a machine called a “stump-extractor;” but this is
very expensive. By the decay of nature, it is possible, in two or three
years, to drag out the stumps of trees with oxen; but the pine stumps
never decay under seven or eight years, and during all that time are a
perpetual blot on the beauty of the landscape.

I was much interested in a sight, novel to me, namely, the fire-flies
flitting about in the tops of the tall trees. They seemed like so many
glittering stars, moving so fast that the sight became quite dazzled.
In the cold weather, too, the aurora borealis is most beautiful; and
it is well worth being a little chilly to stand out and watch the soft
tints melting one into the other, and slowly vanishing away. But for
these occasional glimpses of beauty and sublimity, I should indeed have
found existence in the Bush intolerably prosaic.

I very much missed the flocks of birds I was accustomed to in Europe;
but as I always forbade any gun being fired off in my clearing, I
soon made acquaintance with some. It was a treat to me to watch two
audacious woodpeckers, who would come and nibble at my stumps, and let
me stand within a few feet of them without the least fear. There was
also a pretty snow-bird, which knew me so well that it would wait till
I threw out crumbs and bits of potato for it; and once, when we had
some meat hanging in a bag on the side of the house, which your brother
tied up tightly to prevent depredation, this sagacious creature perched
on the shed near, and actually looked me into untying the bag, and
pulling partly out a piece of the pork, upon which it set to work with
such goodwill, that in a few days some ounces of fat had disappeared.



LETTER VII.


All journeys to and from the Bush are prosecuted under such
difficulties, that it is very fortunate they are few and far between.
Indeed, few of the better class of settlers would remain, but for the
near prospect of Government granting roads in the township, and the
more distant one of the different companies for buying the pine-wood
bridging over the deep gullies on the lots to facilitate their taking
away the timber. When one of the expectant members for Muskoka paid us,
in the course of the summer, an election visit, this was the point on
which we mainly insisted. Our courteous visitor promised everything;
but as his subsequent election was declared null and void, we have as
yet reaped no benefit from his promises.

Towards the end of August, I was compelled to pay my half-yearly visit
to B----e, for the purpose of getting my pension-lists signed and
duly forwarded. Your brother likewise had to take in two settlers in
the vicinity, to swear off some land before taking it up. At first we
thought of making our way to the post-office, three miles off, and
from thence taking places in the mail-cart; but as we had to take
in our settlers, and to pay all their expenses to and from B----e,
your brother thought it best to send to the town for a wagon and team
expressly for ourselves. This arrived; but, alas! in the afternoon
instead of the morning, which had been specially mentioned.

On this day we fully proved the glorious uncertainty of the Canadian
climate. The morning had been lovely, but towards three p.m. a soft,
drizzling rain began to fall, which increased in volume and power till
it became a drenching torrent.

Your brother-in-law took charge of me, and assisted me in scrambling
over the different gullies; but by the time I considered it safe to get
into the wagon, I was already wet through. The horses were so tired,
having come from a distant journey, that we travelled very slowly, and
it was dark when we drew up at the half-way house, where we were to
have tea and to rest the poor animals. Here we remained for two hours;
and when we again started it was pitch dark, with torrents of rain
still falling, and the addition of occasional peals of thunder and
flashes of lightning.

I have heard and read much of the tropical rains of India and other
southern countries, but it would be impossible to imagine a more
persistent drenching than we got on this unlucky afternoon. The whole
eight miles from the half-way house the horses could only walk very
slowly, the night being unusually dark. We greatly need in this country
such a law as they have in France, where it is enacted, under a heavy
penalty, that no carriage, cart, or wagon shall travel after dark
without carrying a good and sufficient light to prevent dangerous
collisions. I should have been very nervous but for my implicit faith
in the sagacity of the horses, and the great care of the driver, whom
we only knew under his sobriquet of “Canadian Joe.” He was a quiet,
careful man, a French Canadian, who beguiled the way by singing very
sweetly, and with whom it was pleasant to converse in the language we
loved so well. He took us safely into B----e, with the addition to our
party of two travellers we overtook on the road, and upon whom we had
compassion.

When we got in, the hotel was about closing for the night; the fires
were out, and the landlady had gone to bed ill; but the master
bestirred himself, showed me to a comfortable bedroom, and made me some
negus, which your brother, himself wet to the skin, soon brought me,
and which at least warmed me a little after so many hours of exposure
to cold and wet.

The next morning, as soon as we could get into thoroughly-dried
clothes, we went to see our invalids. Your poor sister-in-law was still
suffering much, but her dear baby (a very minute specimen of humanity)
was improving, and, after more than two months’ absence, I was thankful
to see your sister only looking very pale, and not, as I expected,
utterly worn out by her arduous duties and compulsory vigils and
anxieties. Your brother was obliged to return to the Bush on Saturday;
but I remained to come home with your sister and sister-in-law the next
week.

In the meantime, having been to the magistrate’s office and transacted
all our business, I greatly enjoyed with your brother walking about
the neighbourhood. It was, indeed, a treat to walk on a good road, and
to see signs of life and progress everywhere, instead of the silent
monotony of the forest.

We noticed an amazing change for the better in this “rising village
of the Far West,” which we had not seen for six months. The hotels
and stores seemed to have quadrupled themselves, good frame-houses
were springing up in every direction, and a very pretty little church,
since opened for Church of England service, was nearly finished. These
lumber-houses are very ugly at first, on account of the yellow hue of
the wood; but this is soon toned down by exposure to the weather, and
climbing-plants and pretty gardens soon alter their appearance, and
make them picturesque.

The dull, primitive life of the Bush certainly prepares one to be
pleased with trifles. I revelled like a child in the unwonted stir and
hum of life about me, and felt half ashamed of the intense amusement I
derived from the lordly airs of an old gander, who marshalled his flock
of geese up and down the road all day long. I felt quite angry with a
young man at the breakfast-table of the hotel, who complained loudly
that this old gentleman’s cackling and hissing had kept him awake all
night. I too, in the intervals of sleep, had heard the same sound, but
to me it was sweet music.

On Sunday morning I had a treat for which I was quite unprepared. The
Rev. Morley Punshon, head of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Canada,
came to B----e, to lecture on the “Life and Writings of Lord Macaulay.”
On Sunday morning he preached in the open air, to accommodate the many
who could not have found room in the Wesleyan Chapel. A little secluded
dell, some distance from the main road, was thoroughly cleared of wood
and underbrush, and rough benches were placed in profusion for seats. I
was astonished at the numbers assembled--six hundred I was afterwards
told. After the benches were full, the hill-sides were densely
packed; and it was impossible not to go back in thought to the Scotch
Covenanters and the heathery hills, so often sprinkled with their
blood. All here was calm and peaceful; it was a lovely Sabbath morning,
the air indescribably balmy and fragrant, the service very simple and
impressive, the singing singularly sweet, and the discourse delivered
by the gifted minister full of fervid eloquence.

He preached from Psalm xlii. 4. My feelings nearly overcame me; it was
the very first time since I left England that I had had the opportunity
of publicly joining in worship with my fellow-Christians; and it
appeared to me a matter of very small importance that most of those
present were Wesleyans, while I was Church of England. The lecture on
“Macaulay” was duly delivered the next day, and was much liked; but I
did not go, preferring to pass the time with our poor invalid.

On Tuesday, September 2nd, your brother Charles came in and made
arrangements to take his wife, child, and your sister, back on the
following day. I made up my mind to go back with them, and again we
took care to secure Canadian Joe and his team. It was a perilous
journey for one in so much physical suffering, but it was admirably
managed. We laid a soft mattress in the bottom of the wagon, with
plenty of pillows, and on this we placed your sister-in-law with the
baby by her side. Charles sat with them to keep all steady; your sister
and I sat with the driver. Canadian Joe surpassed himself in the care
he took of the invalid; every bad piece of road he came to he walked
his horses quite softly, looking back at Charles with a warning shake
of the head, as much as to say, “Take care of her now!”

We travelled slowly, but by his great care arrived safely, and at
the cleared farm nearest to mine we were met by your brother and
brother-in-law, who had skilfully arranged a ship’s hammock on a pole,
and made of it a very tolerable palanquin. Into this your sister-in-law
was carefully lifted, and two of the gentlemen carried her, the third
relieving them at intervals. They got her safely over all the gullies,
and carried her past my log-house to her own home, where she was at
once put to bed, and in a very few days began to recover. Your sister
and I took charge of the dear little baby, and after a most fatiguing
walk and much dangerous scrambling with such a precious load, we got
him safely here, where he has remained our cherished nursling ever
since, and has thriven well. His dear young mother, having quite
recovered, comes every day to be with her little treasure.

We only just arrived in time; the rain began again and continued for
some days. We had much trouble with the rain drifting in through the
clap-boards of the roof. What would _Mr. Punch_ have said could he have
seen two ladies in bed with a baby between them, and a large umbrella
fixed at the head of the bed to save them from the roof-drippings!

We had two visits this autumn from which we derived much pleasure. One
from our old friend C. W., and one from a friend and connection of
your sister-in-law’s family, her eldest brother having married one of
his sisters. H. L. was quite an addition to our working party. More
than six feet high, strong and active, he fraternised at once with
your brothers, and cheerfully helped them in their daily labours. Your
brother hired a team of oxen for some days, and had the remaining
trees lying in our clearing logged up, and watched for the first
fine dry day to complete the burning begun in spring. Our two young
friends assisted him in his labours, and they managed so well that the
regular day’s work was not interfered with. Every evening they set
fire to some of the log-heaps, and diligently “branded” them up till
they were reduced to ashes. As we could not admit our friends into
the house after a certain hour in the evening, and as their vigils
extended far into the night, your brother used to provide the party
with plenty of potatoes, which they roasted in the ashes and ate with
butter and salt, with a large pot of coffee and an unlimited supply
of tobacco--they being all inveterate smokers. As they had all fine
voices and sang well together, the gipsy party was not a dull one,
and the forest echoed with their favourite songs. Fortunately there
was no one in our solitary neighbourhood to be disturbed from their
slumbers, and provided they did not wake the baby, we rather enjoyed
the unwonted noise, knowing how much they were enjoying themselves.
Perhaps the most amusing time of all was the Saturday afternoon,
when what we ladies called the “Jew trading” invariably took place.
I really think that every article belonging to our young men changed
hands at these times, and the amusing manner in which the stores of
each were laid out for public admiration and regularly haggled for,
cannot be forgotten. In this manner your eldest brother’s celebrated
chassepot gun, picked up on the field of Sedan, gave place to a Colt’s
revolver and a small fowling-piece; his heavy gold seal (a much-coveted
article) took the more useful form of corduroy trousers and heavy
boots; in like manner both your brothers gladly bartered their fine
dress shirts, and handkerchiefs, and satin ties, for coarser garments
better fitted for the Bush, of which both C. W. and H. L. had a good
stock now quite useless to them, as neither could make up his mind to
a Bush life. These amusing transfers of property came to a close at
last, after some weeks of incessant trafficking, with your brother’s
solemnly asking my permission to hand over to H. L., as a make-weight
in the scale, a large woollen comforter which I had knitted for him.
Some of the bartering went on at “Pioneer Cottage,” your brother
Charles’ place, a name most appropriately given, as he was the first
of our party in the settlement. I called my log-house “Cedar Lodge” at
first, and headed some of my letters to England with that elegant name,
understanding that I was the happy owner of a number of cedar trees,
but finding that my riches in cedar consisted in a small portion only
of a dirty cedar-swamp, from which not one tree fit for building could
be extracted, I dropped the grandiloquent nomenclature, and simply put
for heading to my letters, “The Bush--Muskoka.”

We felt quite dull when our friends left, but they correspond with both
your brothers, and H. L. is not far from us, having married and settled
at Toronto.

A very grave subject of consideration has arisen among us on the
subject of domestic servants. Should any providential improvement
in our circumstances take place, or our farms become even moderately
thriving, we should certainly once more require these social
incumbrances, but where to find them would be a question. Certainly
not in the settlement to which we belong. Not one of the ladies in our
three families has a special vocation for cooking and house-tidying,
though all have done it since we came here without complaint, and have
done it well. Indeed, a most respectable settler, who, with other men
and a team of oxen, was working for some days on our land to help
your brother, remarked to his wife that he was quite astonished that
a young lady (meaning your eldest sister), evidently unaccustomed to
hard work, could do so much and could do it so well. He had noticed how
comfortably all the different meals had been prepared and arranged.
Your sister F----e too, in spite of the hindrance of three little
children, has always given great satisfaction to the workmen employed
by her husband. We should of course hail the day when we could have the
help in all household matters we formerly enjoyed; but we must surely
seek for it at a distance from here.

The children of the settlers, both boys and girls, know well that on
attaining the age of eighteen years, they can each claim and take up
from Government a free grant of one hundred acres. They naturally
feel their incipient independence and their individual interest in
the country, and this makes them less inclined to submit to the few
restrictions of servitude still sanctioned by common sense and general
observance. They serve their temporary masters and mistresses under
protest as it were, and are most unwilling to acknowledge their title
to these obnoxious names. They consider it their undoubted right to be
on a footing of perfect equality with every member of the family, and
have no inclination whatever to “sit below the salt.”

When your sister-in-law returned from Bracebridge, her health was for
some time too delicate for her to do any hard work, and we, having
charge of the baby, could give her no assistance. Your brother Charles
looked about the settlement for a respectable girl as a servant. He
found one in every way suitable, about sixteen, and apparently healthy,
strong, willing, and tolerably competent. He liked her appearance,
and engaged her at the wages she asked. She entered upon her place,
did her work well, and gave entire satisfaction. Everything was done
to make her comfortable, even to the extent of giving her the whole
Sunday to herself, as she was in the habit of attending the church
some miles off and also the Sunday-school. In little more than a week
she suddenly left, assigning no reason but that she was “wanted at
home,” which we knew to be a falsehood, as she had two or three sisters
capable of assisting her mother. We were greatly puzzled to find out
her true reason for leaving. After a time it was made clear to us by
a trustworthy person who had it from the family themselves. The young
lady had found it _intolerably dull_, and it was further explained to
us that no settler would allow his daughter to be in service where she
was not allowed to sit at the same table with the family, and to join
freely in the conversation at all times!



LETTER VIII.


I begin this letter with a few observations in support of my
oft-repeated assertion that poor ladies and gentlemen form the worst,
or at least the most unsuccessful, class for emigration to Canada. I
must give you a slight sketch of the class of settlers we have here,
and of the conditions they must fulfil before they can hope to be in
easy circumstances, much less in affluent ones. Of course I am speaking
of settlers from the “old country,” and not of Canadians born who
sometimes find their way from the front to try their fortunes in the
backwoods. The settlers in this neighbourhood, for a circuit of about
eight miles, are all of the lower classes; weavers from Scotland,
agricultural labourers from England, artisans and mechanics from all
parts. Whatever small sum of money a family of this class can collect
with a view to emigration, very little of it is spent in coming over.
They are invariably steerage passengers, and on landing at Quebec are
forwarded, free of all expense, and well provided for on the road,
by the Emigration Society, to the part where they intend settling.
Say that they come to the free-grant lands of Muskoka. The intending
settler goes before the commissioner of crown-lands, and (if a single
man) takes up a lot of a hundred acres; if married and with children,
he can claim another lot as “head of a family.” He finds the conditions
of his tenure specified on the paper he signs, and sees that it will
be five years before he can have his patent, and then only if he has
cleared fifteen acres, and has likewise built thereon a log-house of
certain dimensions. He pays some one a dollar to point out his lot,
and to take him over it, and then selecting the best site, and with
what assistance he can get from his neighbours, he clears a small
patch of ground and builds a shanty. In the meantime, if he have a
wife and family they are lodged and boarded for a very small sum at
some near neighbour’s. When he and his family have taken possession,
he underbrushes and chops as much as he possibly can before the winter
sets in; but on the first approach of the cold weather he starts for
the lumber-shanties, and engages himself to work there, receiving from
twenty to twenty-five dollars a month and his food. Should he be of any
particular trade he goes to some large town, and is tolerably sure of
employment.

It is certainly a very hard and anxious life for the wife and children,
left to shift for themselves throughout the long dreary winter, too
often on a very slender provision of flour and potatoes and little else.

When spring at last comes, the steady, hard-working settler returns
with quite a little sum of money wherewith to commence his own farming
operations. One of the most respectable and thriving settlers near us
is a man who began life as a sturdy Kentish ploughboy. He is now an
elderly man with a very large family and a good farm. He has thirty
acres well cleared and under cultivation, has thirteen head of cattle
and some fine pigs, has the best barn in the place, and has just
removed his family into a large commodious plank house, with many rooms
and a very fine cellar, built entirely at odd times by himself and his
son, a steady, clever lad of eighteen.

This man for several years has gone at the beginning of the winter to
one of the hotels in Bracebridge, where he acts as “stable-boy,” and
makes a great deal of money besides his food, which, in such a place,
is of the best. He could very well now remain at home, and reap the
reward of his thrift and industry, but prefers going on for a year or
two longer, while he still has health and strength.

Now it is obvious that ladies and gentlemen have not, and cannot have
these advantages. The ladies of a family cannot be left unprotected
during the long winter, and indeed are, for the most part, physically
incapable of chopping fire-wood, drawing water, and doing other hard
outdoor work; I speak particularly of _poor_ ladies and gentlemen.
Should people of ample means _choose_ to encounter the inevitable
privations of the Bush, there are of course few which cannot be at
least alleviated by a judicious expenditure of money.

It may well be asked here, who is there with _ample means_ who would
dream of coming to Muskoka? I answer boldly, none but those who are
entirely ignorant of the miseries of Bush life, or those who have been
purposely misled by designing and interested people.

Here the settlers’ wives and daughters work almost as hard as their
husbands and fathers--log, burn, plant, and dig; and, in some
instances, with the work adopt the habits of men, and smoke and chew
tobacco to a considerable extent. This, I am happy to say, is not the
case with all, nor even, I hope, with the majority; but nearly all the
women, long before attaining middle age, look prematurely worn and
faded, and many of the settlers themselves bear in their faces the
unmistakable signs of hard work, scanty food, and a perpetual struggle
for existence.

I have not yet mentioned the subject of wild beasts, but I may truly
say that ever since I came out here, they have been a complete bugbear
to me, and my dread of them is still unconquerable. I have been much
laughed at for my fears, but as it is well-known that there _are_
wild animals in the recesses of these woods, and as they do sometimes
show themselves without being sought for, I cannot consider my fears
groundless.

I have been told by one settler, who has been here for many years,
and has often “camped out” all night in the woods, that he has never
seen anything “worse than himself;” but another settler, the trapper
mentioned in a former letter, kills some wild animals every year, and
two or three times he has been met going over our lots in search of
some bear or lynx which had escaped him.

We are told that when the clearings are larger, and more animals kept,
especially pigs, that our visits from Bruin at least will be more
frequent; and since your brother Charles, some months ago, got two fine
pigs, he has repeatedly found bear-tracks in his beaver meadow, and
even close up to the fence of his clearing. To say the least of it, the
pleasure of a solitary walk is greatly impaired by the vague terror
of a stray bear confronting you on the pathway, or of a spiteful lynx
dropping down upon your shoulders from the branch of a tree.

The morning before H. L. left us for Toronto, he went to the
post-office, but before he got to the end of our clearing, he saw at
some distance a grey animal, which at first he took to be a neighbour’s
dog; long before he got up to it, it cleared the fence at one bound,
and vanished into the Bush. He thought this odd, but went on; returning
in the twilight he was greatly astonished to see the same animal again
in the clearing, and this time he might have had a good shot at it,
but unfortunately he was encumbered with a can of milk, which he had
good-naturedly brought for me, and before he could bring his gun to
bear upon it, the creature was again in the depths of the Bush.

Much conversation ensued about it; some thought it must have been a
chance wolf, but Charles, whose opinion we all looked to, was more
inclined to the idea of its being a grey fox; he hardly thought that
any other wild animal would have come so fearlessly into the clearing.

H. L. went to Toronto, and in a few days your brother received a letter
from him saying that he had just seen a lynx newly killed which had
been brought into the town, and that in colour, shape, and size, it
exactly resembled the animal he had seen in my clearing. It has since
been supposed that this might be the lynx the trapper said he was
tracking when he passed near here in the spring.

I have often spoken of the broad deep gully at the end of my lot near
the “concession” road. We had an old negro located on the strip of land
between for more than five weeks. One fearfully cold day last winter,
during a heavy snow-storm, your brother Charles came upon the poor old
man “camping” for the night on the road near here. He talked to him a
little, gave him all the small change he happened to have about him,
and coming home and telling us, we made a small collection, which with
a loaf of bread, he took to the old man next morning before he went
away.

Before the close of this autumn, Charles again met his old
acquaintance, looking more ragged and feeble than ever. He had with him
only his axe and a small bundle. He said that he was making his way
to a lot which he had taken up eight miles off, where he was going to
locate himself and remain. He spoke too of having friends in the front
who would give him some assistance, and at least send him some flour.

Again he camped out for the night, and we held a family consultation
about him. Your brothers proposed going with him to his lot, and
helping him to build his shanty. They talked of taking provisions and
being out for some days. They also spoke of taking him food twice a
week during the winter for fear he should starve, as he complained that
his neighbours were very unkind to him, and did not want him located
among them.

We all loudly protested against this plan as being altogether quixotic,
and reminded them that to carry out their plan they must periodically
neglect their own work, leave us alone, and run the risk of being often
weather-bound, thus causing injury to their own health, and much alarm
to us. We suggested an expedient, to let poor Jake settle himself near
my gully for the winter; your brothers to build him a shanty there, and
to take him every day sufficient warm food to make him comfortable.
Charles promised to join with us in giving him so much bread and
potatoes every week. I paid one visit to the old negro, whom I found
dirty, and with only one eye, yet not at all repulsive-looking, as he
had a very pleasant countenance, and talked well and intelligently.

He agreed to our plan, and your brothers soon raised the logs of a good
shanty, and till it was completed he built himself a wigwam, Indian
fashion, which he made very warm and comfortable. We told him also that
if he liked to make a small clearing round his shanty, we would pay
him for his chopping when he left. The winter soon came, and the snow
began to fall. The first very frosty night made us anxious about our
old pensioner, and your brother went to him early the next morning with
a can of hot tea for his breakfast. What was his astonishment when he
crossed the gully to hear loud voices in Jake’s little encampment.

On reaching it he asked the old man who was with him. He significantly
pointed to the wigwam, from which a woman’s voice called out:

“Yes! I’m here, and I’ve got the hagur!” (ague).

A few minutes afterwards the owner of the voice issued from the hut,
in the person of a stout, bold-looking, middle-aged woman, (white),
who evidently considered old Jake, his shanty, his wigwam, and all his
effects, as her own undoubted property. We found that this was the
“Mary” of whom Jake had spoken as being the person with whom he had
boarded and lodged in the front, and who had found him out here. In
the course of the day both your brothers paid the old man a visit, and
signified to him that it would be as well if he and his companion took
their departure, as we knew he was not married to her, and we had a
wholesome dread of five children, whom Jake had incidentally mentioned,
following in the wake of their mother.

We gave them leave, however, to remain till the Monday following, as
we did not wish to drive any one out precipitately who was suffering
from the “hagur.” Till they went, we supplied them with provisions.
On the following Monday they departed. Your brothers gave poor Jake
two dollars for the little bit of chopping he had done, and we gave
him some bread, coffee, and potatoes, as provisions for his journey.
Your brothers saw him and Mary off with all their bundles, and returned
home, leaving my gully as silent and solitary as ever.

We heard afterwards that Jake did not go to his own lot, as he seemed
to intend, but was seen with his companion making his way to the main
road out of the Bush. A settler overtook them, and told us they were
quarrelling violently for the possession of a warm quilted French
counterpane, which we had lent to old Jake to keep him warm in his
wigwam, and had allowed him to take away.

We were disappointed this year in not having a visit from the old
colporteur of Parry’s Sound. He came last year during a heavy storm
of snow, with a large pack of cheap Bibles and Testaments, and told us
he was an agent for the Wesleyan Society, and had orders to distribute
gratis where there was really no means of paying. In answer to some
remark of mine, he said that “the Bible must always follow the axe.”

I recognised more than ever, how, by the meanest and weakest
instruments, God works out His mighty designs. This poor man was
verging towards the decline of life; had a hollow cough, and was in
frame very feeble and fragile, yet he was full of zeal, travelled
incessantly, and dispensed numbers of copies of the Word of God as he
passed from settlement to settlement. I bought two New Testaments for
eight cents each, well printed, and strongly bound.

I am at work occasionally at my pleasant task of recording Bush
reminiscences. My labours have at least kept me from vain and
fruitless regrets and repinings.

“_Lasciate ogni speranza voi ch’entrate!_” How often have I repeated
these dismal words to myself since I came into the Bush, and felt them
to be the knell of hope and happiness! But time flies whether in joy or
sorrow. We are now in the middle of our second winter, those dreadful
winters of close imprisonment, which last for nearly seven months, and
which your sister and I both agree, form the severest trial of Bush
life. My aspirations, in former years, were manifold; but were I asked
now what were the three absolute essentials for human happiness, I
should be tempted to reply, “Roads to walk upon, a church to worship
in, and a doctor within reach in case of necessity!” All these are
wanting in the Bush; but as we have incessant daily occupation, an
extensive correspondence, and as providentially we brought out all
our stock of cherished books, we manage to live on without too much
complaining.

Your brother Charles is doing pretty well, and hopes to bring his few
animals safely through the winter. Your brother-in-law also is making
progress, and is expecting from England a partner (a young relation of
his own) whose coming will probably insure him success. We remain just
as we were, striving, struggling, and hoping against hope, that success
may yet crown our endeavours. Our farm stock is easily counted, and
easily taken care of: your brother’s dog, with three very fat puppies;
my pretty cat “Tibbs,” with her little son “Hodge,” and a magnificent
tom puss, whose real home is at “Pioneer Cottage,” but who, being of
social habits and having a general invitation, does me the honour to
eat, drink, and sleep here.

My sketches of Bush life are an occupation and an amusement to me, but
I can truly say that they very faintly portray our sufferings and our
privations.



LETTERS FROM AN EMIGRANT LADY.

Part II.

WRITTEN TWO YEARS AFTERWARDS.



LETTERS FROM AN EMIGRANT LADY.

PART II.


In my former letters I spoke in a tone of mingled hope and fear as to
the result of our efforts to make Bush-farming succeed without capital,
and without even the means of living comfortably while trying the
experiment.

It is needless to say to those who know anything of Muskoka, that the
misgivings were fully realised, and the hopes proved mere delusions,
and melted away imperceptibly as those airy fabrics too often do. We
were certainly much deceived by the accounts given of Muskoka; after
a four years’ residence I am inclined to think that from the very
first the capabilities of its soil for agricultural purposes have been
greatly exaggerated.

It will require years of extensive clearing, and constant amelioration
of the land by means of manure and other applications, before it will
be capable of bearing heavy grain crops; it is a poor and hungry soil,
light and friable, mostly red sandstone loam and if a settler chances
to find on his lot a small patch of heavy clay loam fit for raising
wheat, the jubilant fuss that is made over it shows that it is not a
common character of the soil.

The only crops at all reliable are oats and potatoes, and even these
are subject to be injured by the frequent summer droughts and by the
clouds of grasshoppers which occasionally sweep over Muskoka like an
Egyptian plague.

For years to come the hard woods on a settler’s lot will be his most
valuable source of profit; and as the railroad advances nearer and
nearer, the demand for these woods for the lumber market will greatly
increase.

But to return to our domestic history. The autumn of 1873 saw the first
breaking-up of our little colony in the final departure from the Bush
of my dear child, Mrs. C----, and her young family. My son-in-law,
Mr. C----, soon found his Bush-farming as wearisome and unprofitable
as we did ourselves. Having formerly taken his degree of B.A. at St.
John’s College, Cambridge, and his wishes having long tended to the
Church as a profession, nothing stood between him and ordination but a
little reading up in classics and theology, which he accomplished with
the assistance of his kind friend the Church of England clergyman at
Bracebridge.

He was ordained by the Bishop of Toronto in October, 1873, and was at
once appointed to a distant parish. The final parting was most painful,
but it was so obviously for the good of the dear ones leaving us that
we tried to repress all selfish regrets, and I, in particular, heartily
thanked God that even a portion of the family had escaped from the
miseries of Bush-life.

Our small community being so greatly lessened in number, the monotony
of our lives was perceptibly increased. None but those who have
experienced it can ever realise the utter weariness and isolation of
Bush-life. The daily recurrence of the same laborious tasks, the want
of time for mental culture, the absence of congenial intercourse with
one’s fellow-creatures, the many hours of unavoidable solitude, the
dreary unbroken silence of the immense forest which closes round the
small clearings like a belt of iron; all these things ere long press
down the most buoyant spirit, and superinduce a kind of dull despair,
from which I have suffered for months at a time.

In conversation once with my daughter-in-law, who was often unavoidably
alone for the whole day, we mutually agreed that there were times when
the sense of loneliness became so dreadful, that had a bear jumped in
at the window, or the house taken fire, or a hurricane blown down the
farm buildings, we should have been tempted to rejoice and to hail the
excitement as a boon.

And yet, strange as it may appear, I dreaded above all things visits
from our neighbours. It is true they seldom came, but when they did,
every one of them would have considered it a want of kindness not
to prolong their visit for many hours. Harassed as I was with never
ceasing anxiety, and much occupied with my correspondence and other
writing, I found such visits an intolerable nuisance, particularly
as after a little friendly talk about household matters, knitting,
etc., where we met as it were on common ground, there was invariably
a prolonged silence, which it required frantic efforts on my part to
break, so as to prevent my guests feeling awkward and uncomfortable.
On these occasions I was generally left with a nervous headache which
lasted me for days.

One well-meaning, but especially noisy and vulgar individual was a
continual terror to me. She more than once said to my eldest son:

“Your pore ma must be that lonesome and dull, that if it warn’t for the
children I would often go and cheer her up a bit.”

My dear boy did his best to save his “pore ma” from such an
infliction, and was thankful that the children presented an obstacle
which fortunately for me was never got over.

In my estimation of the merits and agreeable conversation of our
neighbours I made one great exception. Our nearest neighbour was an
intelligent, well-conducted Englishman, who lived a lonely bachelor
life, which in his rare intervals of rest from hard work he greatly
solaced by reading. We lent him all our best books and English
newspapers, and should have been glad to see him oftener, but he was
so afraid of intruding that he seldom came except to return or change
his books; at such times we had much really pleasant conversation,
and often a stirring discussion on some public topic of the day, or
it might be a particular reign in Cassell’s “English History,” or one
of Shakespeare’s plays, both of which voluminous works he was reading
through.

He had been head clerk in a large shop in Yorkshire, and was slightly
democratic in his opinions, my tendencies being in the opposite
direction; we just differed sufficiently to prevent conversation being
dull. A more intelligent, hard-working, abstemious and trustworthy man
I have seldom known, and we got to consider him quite in the light of
a friend. For three winters, whether we had much or little, Mr. A----g
was our honoured guest on Christmas Day.

One great solace of our lives was the number of letters we received
from the “old country,” but even these were at times the cause of
slight annoyance to my ever-sensitive feelings. All my dear friends and
relations, after warm condolences on the disappointments we at first
met with, would persist in assuring me that the _worst_ being over, we
were sure to gain ground, and meet with more success for the future.
From whence they gathered their consolatory hopes on our behalf it is
impossible for me to say, certainly not from my letters home, which,
in spite of all my efforts, invariably fell into a melancholy, not to
say a grumbling tone. _I_ knew too well that, however bad things might
be, the _worst_ was yet to come, and with a pardonable exaggeration of
feeling under peculiar circumstances, often said to myself:

    “And in the lowest deep, a lower deep,
    Still threatening to devour me, opens wide.”

The autumn and winter of 1873 passed away with no more remarkable event
than our first patch of fall wheat being sown, from which, in a burst
of temporary enthusiasm, we actually expected to have sufficient flour
for the wants of at least _one_ winter. 1874 having dawned upon us, we
by no means slackened in our efforts to improve the land and make it
profitable; but we found that although our expenses increased, our
means did not. The more land we cleared, the more the want of money
became apparent to crop and cultivate it, the labour of one individual
being quite insufficient for the purpose.

To remedy this want, my son resolved to do what was a common practice
in the settlement--go out to work for his neighbours, receiving from
them return work, instead of any other payment. Our only difficulty
in this matter was the having to provide sufficient food, even of the
plainest kind, for hungry men engaged in logging; but even this we
managed during the first half of the year. 1874 seemed to be a year of
general want in our settlement; for when my son came home from his day
of outside toil, our usual question was, “Well, dear, what did you have
for dinner?” To which the reply mostly was, “Oh! bread-and-treacle and
tea,” or “porridge and potatoes,” etc. And this in the houses of the
better class of settlers, who were noted for putting the best they had
before any neighbours working for them. In fact, there was so little
of the circulating medium in the place, that all buying and selling
was conducted in the most primitive style of barter. A settler having
hay, corn, or cattle to sell, was obliged to take other commodities in
exchange; and more than once, when we wanted some indispensable work
done, my son, finding that we could in no way provide a money payment,
would look over his tools or farm implements, and sometimes even his
clothes, and part with whatever could possibly be spared.

I have mentioned our fall wheat sown in the autumn of 1873. Alas for
all human expectations! The crop was pronounced to be a magnificent
one by experienced judges; but when it came to be threshed, every
grain was found to be wizened, shrivelled, and discoloured, and fit for
nothing but to feed poultry. The crop had been winter-killed; that is,
frozen and thawed so often before the snow finally covered it, that it
was quite spoiled. We suffered at intervals this year more severely
from the want of money than we had ever done; and had even long spells
of hunger and want, which I trust have prepared us all to feel during
the remainder of our lives a more full and perfect sympathy with our
destitute fellow-creatures. In vain did we hope and wait, like Mr.
Micawber, for “something to turn up;” nothing did turn up, but fresh
troubles and increased fatigues.

Had it not been for the exceeding kindness of our friendly lawyer in
London, and of a very dear friend of my early years (himself a lawyer),
who sent us occasional assistance, we must have sunk under our wants
and miseries. I did my very best to keep the “wolf from the door” by
my literary efforts, and met with much kindness and consideration;
but after unceasing industry, long continued, got to know that a few
articles inserted at intervals in a fashionable American magazine,
however much they might be liked and approved of, would do but little
towards relieving the wants of a family. I became at last quite
discouraged; for so much material was rejected and returned upon my
hands, that I was fain to conclude that some frightful spell of dulness
had fallen upon my once lively pen.

The work of this year appeared to us all to be harder than ever, and my
eldest son’s health and strength were evidently on the decline. It is
true that nearly every day he did the work of two men, as, in addition
to the cultivation of the land, he had to chop all the fire-wood for
daily use, to draw the water, and to do various jobs more or less
fatiguing to insure anything like comfort to the family. He became so
attenuated and cadaverous-looking, that we often told him that he would
make his fortune on any stage as the lean apothecary in “Romeo and
Juliet.”

It was with scarcely-suppressed anguish that, night after night, we
saw him so fatigued and worn-out as to be hardly able to perform his
customary ablutions and toilet before sitting down to the reading and
writing with which he invariably concluded the day, and which was the
only employment which linked us all to our happier life in former days.
Indeed, both my sons, in spite of hard work and scanty fare, managed to
give a few brief moments to study, and both at intervals wrote a few
articles for our local paper, which at least showed an aptitude for
higher pursuits than Bush-farming. Both my sons at times worked for and
with each other, which was a most pleasant arrangement.

At this time my youngest son was going through, on his own farm, the
same struggles as ourselves, and was, I am bound to say, in every
respect as hard-working and energetic as his elder brother. His family
was fast increasing, as he had now two little boys, in addition to
the one of whom we had charge; and before the end of the year, he was
thankful to accept the situation of schoolmaster at Allunsville, which
added forty pounds a year to his slender means.

On one occasion, when he was working on our land with his brother, and
when four other men were giving my son return-work, and were logging a
large piece of ground near the house, having brought their oxen with
them, we had half an hour of the delicious excitement of which my
daughter-in-law and myself had talked so calmly some time before.

It was a bright sunny day, and my daughter and myself were busily
engaged in cooking a substantial dinner for our working party, when,
chancing to look up, my daughter exclaimed, “Mamma, is that sunlight
or fire shining through the roof?” I ran out directly, and saw that
the shingles below the chimney were well alight and beginning to blaze
up. Calling to my daughter in passing, I flew to the end of the house
and screamed out “Fire! fire!” in a voice which, my sons afterwards
laughingly assured me, must have been heard at the post-office, three
miles off. It had the immediate effect of bringing the whole party to
our assistance in a few seconds, who were met by my daughter with two
pails of water, which she had promptly procured from the well.

My two sons, both as active as monkeys, were immediately on the roof;
one with an axe, to cut away the burning shingles; the other with
water, handed up by men, to keep the fire from spreading. In ten
minutes all danger was over; but it left us rather frightened and
nervous, and I must confess that I never again wished for excitement of
the same dangerous kind.

In the summer of this year I went to Bracebridge, on a visit to my
daughter, Mrs. C., whose husband had lately taken priest’s orders, and
been appointed by his bishop resident Church of England minister in
that place, a change very agreeable to him, as he was well known, and
much liked and esteemed by the inhabitants.

When I left the Bush to go into Bracebridge, it was with the full
intention of never returning to it, and all my family considered my
visit to Mrs. C. as a farewell visit before leaving for England. I
had made great exertions to get from my kind lawyer and a friend an
advance of sufficient money to take one of us back to the dear “old
country,” and all agreed that I should go first, being well aware that
my personal solicitations would soon secure the means of bringing back
my eldest son and daughter, who, being the only unmarried ones of the
family, were my constant companions.

Having, unfortunately for my plans, but quite unavoidably, made use of
part of the money to leave things tolerably comfortable in the Bush,
I waited anxiously till the deficit could be made up, which I fully
hoped would soon be the case, a work of mine, in fifteen parts, having
been forwarded to a publisher in New York, with a view to publication
if approved of. What was my distress at receiving the manuscript back,
with this observation appended to it: “The work is too English,
local, and special, to be acceptable on this side of the Atlantic”!
Other articles intended for the magazine I sometimes wrote for were
also returned upon my hands about the same time. I draw a veil over my
feelings, and will only say that disappointment, anxiety, suspense,
and the burning heat of the weather gave me a very severe attack of
illness, which frightened my dear child Mrs. C. most dreadfully, and
left me so weak, feeble, and completely crushed, that I was thankful
to send for my son, and to go back ignominiously to the hated Bush, to
be tenderly nursed by my dear children, and to grieve over the loss of
money so utterly thrown away.

The year wore slowly away, and Christmas Eve came at last; the snow had
fallen in immense quantities, and the roads were nearly impassable from
the deep drift. Our worthy friend Mr. A----g was away at the lochs,
eight miles off, where he had taken a job of work, and we therefore
felt pretty sure that he could not pay us his customary Christmas
visit. We felt almost thankful, much as we liked him; for we had been
literally without a cent for two months, and all our provision for
Christmas festivities consisted in plenty of potatoes and a small
modicum of flour.

But we were not to escape the humiliation of having nothing to put
before our invited guest. Long after dark a well-known knock at the
door announced Mr. A----g, who came for the key of his house, of which
we always had the charge, and who had walked the whole way from the
lochs to keep his tryst with us, over roads deep in snow and quite
dangerous from snow-drifts at either side, which were so many pitfalls
for unwary travellers. He came in, and we made him directly some hot
tea--a welcome refreshment after his cold and fatiguing tramp of six
hours.

When he was gone, we held a committee of ways and means; but as
nothing could be done to alter the state of affairs, and as there was
absolutely a ludicrous side to the question, we laughed heartily and
went to bed.

Having edified the public with an account of our first Christmas dinner
in the Bush, I cannot resist the temptation of giving the details of
our last, which certainly did not show much improvement in our finances.

On Christmas morning, 1874, we very early heard a joyous shout, and
saw dear Charles advancing triumphantly with two very small salt
herrings (the last of his stock) dangling in one hand, and a huge
vegetable-marrow in the other, these articles being the only addition
he could make to our Christmas dinner, which for the three previous
years he had been mainly instrumental in providing.

What could we do but laugh and cheerfully accept the situation?
Charles promised to bring his dear wife and the two babies down on the
ox-sleigh as early as possible. We borrowed, without hesitation, some
butter from our friend Mr. A----g, who had a stock of it, and my eldest
son went himself to fetch him before dinner, fearing that delicacy
would prevent his coming, as he could too well guess the state of the
larder.

Our guests assembled and dinner-time arrived, I placed on the table a
large and savoury dish of vegetable-marrow mashed, with potatoes well
buttered, peppered, salted and baked in the oven; the two herrings
carefully cooked and a steaming dish of potatoes, with plenty of
tea, made up a repast which we much enjoyed. When tea-time came, my
daughter, who had devoted herself for the good of the community,
supplied us with relays of “dampers,” which met with universal
approbation.

In compliment to our guest, we had all put on what my boys jocosely
term our “Sunday go-to-meeting clothes!” I was really glad that the
grubs of so many weary weeks past on this day turned into butterflies.
Cinderella’s transformations were not more complete. My daughter
became the elegant young woman she has always been considered; my
sons, in once more getting into their gentlemanly clothes, threw
off the careworn look of working-day fatigue, and became once more
distinguished and good-looking young men; and as to my pretty
daughter-in-law, I have left her till the last to have the pleasure
of saying that I never saw her look more lovely. She wore a very
elegant silk dress, had delicate lace and bright ribbons floating about
her, a gold locket and chain and sundry pretty ornaments, relics of
her girlish days, and to crown all her beautiful hair flowing over
her shoulders. I thought several times that afternoon, as I saw her
caressing first one and then another of her three baby boys, that
a painter might have been proud to sketch the pretty group, and to
throw in at his fancy gorgeous draperies, antique vases and beautiful
flowers, in lieu of the rude coarse framework of a log-house.

I could not but notice this Christmas Day that no attempt was made at
_singing_, not even our favourite hymns were proposed; in fact the
whole year had been so brim full of misfortune and trouble that I think
none of our hearts were attuned to melody. Ah! dear reader, it takes
long chastening before we can meekly drink the cup of affliction and
say from the heart, “_Thy will be done!_” Let you and I, remembering
our own shortcomings in this respect, be very tender over those of
others!

Our party broke up early, as the children and their mother had to be
got home before the light of the short winter-day had quite vanished,
but we all agreed that we had passed a few hours very pleasantly.

Very different was our fare on New Year’s Day of 1875--a sumptuous wild
turkey, which we roasted, having been provided for us by the kindness
of one whom we must ever look upon in the light of a dear friend.

The “gentlemanly Canadian,” mentioned by me in my Bush reminiscences,
read my papers and at once guessed at the authorship. Being in Muskoka
on an election tour with his friend Mr. Pardee, he procured a guide
and found us out in the Bush. He stayed but a short time, but the very
sight of his kind friendly face did us good for days. Finding that I
had never seen a wild turkey from the prairie, he asked leave to send
me one, and did not forget his promise, sending a beautiful bird which
was meant for our Christmas dinner, but owing to delays at Bracebridge
only reached us in time for New Year’s Day; which brings me to 1875, an
era of very important family changes.

I began this year with more of hopefulness and pleasure than I had
known for a long time. My determination that this year should see us
clear of the Bush had long been fixed, and I felt that as I brought
unconquerable energy, and the efforts of a strong will to bear upon
the project, it was sure to be successful. I had no opposition now to
dread from my dear companions; both my son and daughter were as weary
as myself of our long-continued and hopeless struggles. My son’s health
and strength were visibly decreasing; he had already spent more than
three years of the prime of his life in work harder than a common
labourer’s, and with no better result than the very uncertain prospect
of a bare living at the end of many years more of daily drudgery. His
education fitted him for higher pursuits, and it was better for him to
begin the world again, even at the age of thirty-two, than to continue
burying himself alive.

We had long looked upon Bush life in the light of exile to a penal
settlement without even the convict’s chance of a ticket-of-leave. All
these considerations nerved me for the disagreeable task of getting
money from England for our removal, in which, thanks to the unwearied
kindness of the friends I have before mentioned, I succeeded, and
very early in the year we began to make preparations for our final
departure. It required the stimulus of hope to enable us to bear the
discomforts of our last two months’ residence in the Bush.

After the turn of the year, immense quantities of snow continued to
fall till we were closely encircled by walls of ice and snow fully
five feet in depth. The labour of keeping paths open to the different
farm-buildings was immense, and the unavoidable task of cutting away
the superincumbent ice and snow from the different roofs was one of
danger as well as toil. I was told that we were passing through an
exceptional winter, and I must believe it, as long after we were in
Bracebridge the snow continued to fall, and even so late as the middle
of May a heavy snow-storm spread its white mantle on the earth, and hid
it from view for many hours.

The last day at length arrived, we sat for the last time by our
log-fire, we looked for the last time on the familiar landscape, and
I, at least, felt not one pang of regret. My bump of adhesiveness is
enormous; I cling fondly to the friends I love, to my pet animals,
and even to places where I have lived; in quitting France I could have
cried over every shrub and flower in my beloved garden. How great then
must have been my unhappiness, and how I must have loathed my Bush
life, when at quitting it for ever, my only feeling was joy at my
escape!

At the time we left, the roads were so dangerous for the horses’ legs
that my son had the greatest difficulty in hiring a wagon and team for
our own use--all our heavy baggage had been taken in by ox-sleighs.
He succeeded at last, and in the afternoon of the 2nd of March our
exodus began. My son and the driver removed all but the front seat,
and carefully spread our softest bedding, blankets and pillows, at
the bottom of the wagon, and on these my daughter and myself reclined
at our ease with our dear little charge between us. My favourite cat
Tibbs, of “Atlantic Monthly” celebrity, was in a warm basket before me,
and her companion Tomkins, tied up in a bag, slept on my lap the whole
way. My son sat with the driver, and Jack, our black dog, ran by the
side. We slept at Utterson, and in the morning went on to Bracebridge,
where my son had secured for us a small roadside house.

When we were tolerably settled Edward started for Toronto and Montreal
in search of employment, taking with him many excellent letters of
introduction. In Montreal he was most kindly and hospitably welcomed
by two dear friends, ladies who came out with us in the same ship from
England, who received him into their house, introduced him to a large
circle of friends, and did much to restore the shattered health of the
“handsome emigrant,” as they had named him in the early stages of their
acquaintance. Eventually finding nothing suitable in either place, our
dear companion and protector for so many years decided to go on the
Survey, his name having been put down by our kind friend, the donor of
the wild turkey, on the Staff of his relation, Mr. Stuart, appointed by
Government to survey the district of Parry Sound. Severe illness of our
little boy, followed by illness of my own which still continues, was my
welcome to Bracebridge, but still I rejoice daily that our Bush life is
for ever over.

Here I finally drop the curtain on our domestic history, and make but
a few parting observations. I am far from claiming undue sympathy for
my individual case, but would fain deter others of the genteel class,
and especially elderly people, from breaking up their comfortable homes
and following an _ignis fatuus_ in the shape of emigration to a distant
land.

I went into the Bush of Muskoka strong and healthy, full of life and
energy, and fully as enthusiastic as the youngest of our party. I
left it with hopes completely crushed, and with health so hopelessly
shattered from hard work, unceasing anxiety and trouble of all kinds,
that I am now a helpless invalid, entirely confined by the doctor’s
orders to my bed and sofa, with not the remotest chance of ever leaving
them for a more active life during the remainder of my days on earth.



A WEDDING IN MUSKOKA.

An Incident of Life in the Canadian Backwoods.



A WEDDING IN MUSKOKA.


I freely acknowledge that I am a romantic old woman; my children are
continually telling me that such is my character, and without shame
I confess the soft impeachment. I do not look upon romance as being
either frivolous, unreal, or degrading; I consider it as a heaven-sent
gift to the favoured few, enabling them to cast a softening halo of
hope and beauty round the stern and rugged realities of daily life,
and fitting them also to enter into the warm feelings and projects
of the young, long after the dreams of love and youth have become
to themselves things of the past. After this exordium, I need hardly
say that I love and am loved by young people, that I have been the
depositary of many innocent love secrets, and have brought more than
one affair of the kind to a happy conclusion. I feel tempted to record
my last experience, which began in France and ended happily in Muskoka.
The parties, I am happy to say, are still living, to be, I doubt not,
greatly amused at my faithful reminiscences of their past trials.

Just seven years ago I was in France busily working in my beautiful
flower-garden, when I was told that visitors awaited me in the
drawing-room. Hastily pulling off my garden-gloves and apron, I
went in and found a very dear young friend, whom I shall call John
Herbert; he asked my permission to present to me four young ladies
of his acquaintance, all sisters, and very sweet specimens of pretty,
lady-like English girls. The eldest, much older than the rest, and
herself singularly attractive, seemed completely to merge her own
identity in that of her young charges, to whose education she had
devoted the best years of her early womanhood, and who now repaid her
with loving affection and implicit deference to her authority. It was
easy for me to see that the “bright, particular star” of my handsome,
dashing young friend was the second sister, a lovely, shy girl of
sixteen, whose blushes and timidity fully assured me of the state of
matters between the two.

The mother of Mary Lennox (such was my heroine’s name) lived in France,
her father in England, and in this divided household the care of the
three younger girls had been entirely left to their eldest sister. John
Herbert had made their acquaintance in that extraordinary manner in
which young ladies and gentlemen do manage to become acquainted, as
often in real life as in novels, without any intercourse between the
respective families. For two or three months he had been much in their
society, and the well-known result had followed. I have rarely seen a
handsomer couple than these boy and girl lovers, on whom the eldest
sister evidently looked with fond and proud admiration; and when, after
a protracted visit, they took leave of me, I felt fully disposed to
treat them with the warmest kindness and friendship.

In subsequent interviews, poor Herbert more fully opened his heart to
me, and laid before me all his plans and projects for the future. The
son of an old officer who fell during the Crimean war, he had neither
friends nor fortune, but had to make his own position in the world.
At this time he was twenty-one, and having just entered the merchant
service was about to sail for Australia.

He told me also of the fierce opposition made by every member of Mary’s
family, except her eldest sister, to their engagement. I was not at
all surprised at this, and told him so; for could anything be more
imprudent than an engagement between two people so young and so utterly
without this world’s goods?

Mary, like himself, had neither fortune nor prospects. She was going
to England to a finishing school with her two sisters, with the fixed
idea of qualifying herself for a governess. Herbert entreated me to be
a friend to these dear girls in his absence, to watch especially over
his Mary during their brief holidays which were to be spent in France,
to be his medium of correspondence with her while away, and above all
to watch for every incidental opening to influence her family in his
favour.

To all his wishes I at last consented, not without seriously laying
before him that his carrying out this wish of his heart mainly depended
upon his own steadiness, good conduct, and success in his profession.
He promised everything, poor fellow, and religiously kept his promise.
A few hurried interviews at my house were followed by a tearful
farewell, and then, for the first time, the young lovers drifted apart.
Herbert sailed for Australia, and Mary and her sisters crossed the
Channel and went to school.

I shall try briefly to sketch the appearance of my two young friends
at this momentous epoch of their lives. Mary Lennox had large, soft,
grey eyes full of expression, with very beautifully pencilled eyebrows
of dark-brown, the colour of her hair, of which she had a great
abundance. She had a very handsome nose, and a well-formed face, with
a colour varying with every shade of feeling. In height she was rather
below than above middle size, with a pretty, slight figure, girlish
and graceful. In complexion she was a fair brunette, which suited well
with the colour of her eyes and hair. A great charm to me was the shy,
downcast look of her pretty face, partly arising from the natural
timidity of her character, and partly from the novelty of her position.

After a confidential intercourse of some weeks, I found her possessed
of considerable character and steady principles, and her early
engagement seemed to have given her far more serious views of life and
its duties, than could have been expected in one so young. While her
more mercurial sisters were romping in my garden, and chasing my pussy
cats, she would mostly sit with her hand confidingly in mine, while
her eldest sister and myself talked of books, music, and all the topics
of the day.

As to John Herbert, none could look upon him and not acknowledge that
he was as eminently handsome as his young lady-love. Not above middle
height, his figure was slight and elegant, but well knit and muscular,
giving promise of still greater strength when more fully developed.
His merry laughing eyes were a clear hazel, with yellow spots, very
uncommon and very beautiful. His features finely cut, and delicately
chiselled, would have been perfect, but that critics pronounced his
nose to be a trifle too long. His eyebrows were dark and rather thickly
marked, giving great expression to his eyes. A beautiful head of dark
curly hair, and a soft short moustache completed the appearance of one
of the handsomest boys I have ever seen.

At this time he was full of energy, life, and determination, fond of
active, outdoor employment, with a presence of mind and a dauntless
courage which never failed him in moments of danger, and which enabled
him in after years to extricate himself and others from scenes of
imminent danger. Indeed, his sister averred that such was his presence
of mind, that should his ship be wrecked, and every one on board be
lost, Herbert would surely be saved if with only a butter-boat to cling
to. He was truly affectionate and kind-hearted, but at this early age
slightly imperious and self-willed, having been greatly flattered and
spoilt in childhood; but contact with the world does much to smooth off
the sharpest angularities and poor Herbert had a rough future before
him.

After Herbert had sailed for Melbourne, and Mary and her sisters
had gone to school, more than a year elapsed, during which time
letters duly arrived, which I carefully forwarded; and soon after the
expiration of that time, he and his ship arrived safely at Liverpool.
Having with some difficulty obtained from the owners a few days’ leave,
he hurried over to France to see and reassure his anxious and beloved
Mary. Fortunately it was the Christmas holidays, and as soon as I could
notify his arrival to Miss Lennox, she brought all the dear girls down
to me.

Then ensued, for the lovers, long walks up and down my garden, in spite
of the cold; for us all a few pleasant tea-parties; and then another
separation, which this time was to extend over more than three years.

I am by no means favourable to long engagements, but these two were so
young that I have always considered the years of anxiety and suspense
they passed through, as an excellent training-time for both. They
certainly helped to form Mary’s character, and to give her those habits
of patience and trusting hopefulness which have been of so much benefit
to her since. Nor was she ever allowed to think herself forgotten.
Fond and affectionate letters came regularly every month, and at rare
intervals such pretty tokens of remembrance as the slender means of
her sailor lover could procure. Perfumes and holy beads from India,
feathers from Abyssinia, and a pretty gold ring, set with pearls of the
purest water, from the Persian Gulf.

Later came the pleasing intelligence that John Herbert had passed an
excellent examination to qualify him as mate, and was on board one
of the ships belonging to the company which took out the expedition
for laying the cable in the Persian Gulf. On board this ship, called
the _British India_, he met with a gentleman, whose influence over
his future fate has long appeared to us all providential. This person
was Major C----, the officer in command of the party sent out. They
had many conversations together; and cheered and encouraged by his
kindness, Herbert ventured to address a letter to him, in which he
stated how much he was beginning to suffer from the heat of India; how
in his profession he had been driven about the world for nearly five
years, and still found himself as little able to marry and settle as
at first; that he had no friend to place him in any situation which
might better his position, and that his desire to quit a seafaring life
was increased by the fact that he was never free from sea-sickness,
which pursued and tormented him in every voyage just as it did in the
beginning.

The kind and gentlemanly Major C---- responded warmly to this appeal;
they had a long interview, in which he told Herbert that he himself
was about to return to England, and felt sure that he could procure for
him a good situation in the Telegraph Department in Persia. He gave him
his address in London, and told him to come and see him as soon as he
got back from India.

John Herbert lost no time, when the expedition was successfully over,
in giving up his situation as mate, and in procuring all necessary
testimonials as to good conduct and capacity. Indeed, he so wrought
upon the officials of the _British India_, that they gave him a free
passage in one of their ships as far as Suez. The letter containing
the news of his improved prospects and speedy return occasioned the
greatest joy.

I had some time before made the acquaintance of Mrs. Lennox, and from
her manner, as well as from what Mrs. Lennox told me, I saw with
joy that all active opposition was over, and that the engagement was
tacitly connived at by the whole family. It was in the beginning of
April that John Herbert arrived, his health much improved by absolute
freedom from hard work and night watches. He had to pay all his own
expenses from Suez, and just managed the overland journey on his little
savings of eighteen or twenty pounds.

The “lovers’ walk” in my garden was now in constant occupation, and the
summer-house at the end became a permanent boudoir. After a few days
given to the joy of such an unexpected and hopeful reunion, Herbert
wrote to Major C---- to announce his arrival, and to prepare him for
a subsequent visit. He waited some days in great anxiety, and when he
received the answer, brought it directly to me. I will not say that
despair was written on his face--he was of too strong and hopeful a
temperament for that--but blank dismay and measureless astonishment
certainly were, and not without cause. The writer first expressed his
deep regret that any hope he had held out of a situation should have
induced Herbert to give up his profession for a mere chance. He then
stated that on his own return to England he had found the Government in
one of its periodical fits of parsimony, and that far from being able
to make fresh appointments, he had found his own salary cut down, and
all supernumeraries inexorably dismissed. Such were the contents of
Major C----’s letter. It was indeed a crushing blow. John Herbert could
not but feel that his five years of tossing about the world in various
climates had been absolutely lost, so far as being settled in life was
concerned, and he could not but feel also that he had again to begin
the great battle of life, with prospects of success much diminished by
the fact of his being now nearly twenty-six years of age.

Many long and anxious conversations ensued on the receipt of this
letter. Both Herbert and Mary bravely bore up against the keen
disappointment of all their newly-raised hopes. If the promised and
coveted situation had been secured, there would have been nothing to
prevent their almost immediate marriage; now all chance of this was
thrown far into the background, and all that could be done was to trace
out for Herbert some future plan of life to be begun with as little
delay as possible. At the death of a near relative he would be entitled
to a small portion of money amounting to five hundred pounds. This
he now determined to sink for the present sum of two hundred pounds
tendered by the Legal Assurance Society, in lieu of all future claims.

It was the end of July, 1870, before the necessary papers were all
signed, and with the money thus raised, Herbert resolved at once to
start for New York, where he proposed embarking his small capital in
some business in which his thorough knowledge of French might be useful
to him. He prudently expended a portion of his money in a good outfit
and a gold watch.

Soon after his arrival in New York he wrote to tell us that at the same
hotel where he boarded he had met with an old French gentleman recently
from Paris, that they had gone into partnership and had opened a small
establishment on Broadway for the sale of French wines and cigars. He
wrote that they had every hope of doing well, numbers of foreigners
buying from them, Frenchmen particularly coming in preference where
they could freely converse in their own language. Just at this epoch
the French and German war broke out, and stretching as it were across
the broad Atlantic, swept into its ruinous vortex the poor little
business in New York on which dear friends at home were building up
such hopes of success. Herbert and his partner found their circle of
French customers disappear as if by magic, the greater part recalled
to their own country to serve as soldiers. No German would enter a
French store, the English and Americans gave them no encouragement, and
amid the stirring events which now occupied the public mind, the utter
failure of the small business on Broadway took place without exciting
either notice or pity.

Herbert saved nothing from the wreck of affairs but his gold watch
and his clothes. It was about this time that a casual acquaintance
mentioned to John Herbert the “free-grant lands” of Muskoka, pointing
them out as a wide and promising field for emigration. He told
him that he knew several families who had located themselves in
that distant settlement, and who had found the land excellent, the
conditions on which it was to be held easy of fulfilment, and the
climate, though cold, incomparably healthy.

This intelligence, coming at a time when all was apparently lost,
and his future prospects of the gloomiest kind, decided John Herbert
to find his way to Muskoka and to apply for land there. He found a
companion for his long journey in the person of a German who had come
over with him in the same ship from Havre, and who, like himself, had
entirely failed in bettering his condition in New York.

This poor young man had left a wife and child in Germany, and now
that the war had broken out, having no vocation for fighting, he was
afraid to venture back. Herbert sold his gold watch (for which he had
given twenty pounds) for fifty dollars, and his companion being much
on a par as to funds, they joined their resources and started for
Muskoka. After a very fatiguing journey, performed as much as possible
on foot, but latterly partly by rail and partly by boat, they arrived
at Bracebridge, where the German took up one hundred acres, Herbert
preferring to wait and choose his land in spring; and it was agreed
that during the winter, now beginning with great severity, they should
work together and have everything in common.

Having engaged a man who knew the country well to go with them and
point out the land they had just taken up, they bought a few necessary
articles, such as bedding, tools, a cooking-stove, and a small supply
of provisions, and started for the township in which they were about
to locate. Once upon the land they set to work, cleared a spot of
ground, and with some assistance from their neighbours built a small
shanty sufficient to shelter them for the winter. It was when they
were tolerably settled that Herbert began to feel what a clog and a
hindrance his too hastily formed partnership was likely to be. Feeble
in body and feeble in mind, his companion became every day more
depressed and home-sick. At last he ceased entirely from doing any
work, which threw a double portion upon Herbert, who had in addition
to do all commissions, and to fetch the letters from the distant
post-office in all weathers.

Poor Wilhelm could do nothing but smoke feebly by the stove, shudder
at the cold now becoming intense, and bemoan his hard fate. He was
likewise so timid that his own shadow frightened him, and he could
not bear to be left alone in the shanty. Herbert had a narrow escape
of being shot by him one night on his return, rather late, from the
post-office. Wilhelm, hearing footsteps, in his fright took down from
the wall Herbert’s double-barrelled gun, which was kept always loaded,
and was vainly trying to point it in the right direction, out of the
door, when Herbert entered to find him as pale as death, and with limbs
shaking to that degree that fortunately he had been unable to cock the
gun.

It was indeed hard to be tied down to such a companionship. Herbert
himself suffered severely from the cold of the Canadian climate, coming
upon him as it did after some years’ residence in India, but he never
complained, and his letters home to Mary and all of us spoke of hopeful
feelings and undiminished perseverance. He has often told us since
that he never left the shanty without a strong presentiment that on
his return he should find it in flames, so great was the carelessness
of his companion in blowing about the lighted ashes from his pipe.
For this reason he always carried in the belt he wore round him, night
and day, his small remainder of money and all his testimonials and
certificates. A great part of his time was occupied in snaring rabbits
and shooting an occasional bird or squirrel with which to make soup for
his invalid companion. He used to set his snares overnight and look
at them the first thing in the morning. One bitter cold morning he
went out as usual to see if anything had been caught, leaving Wilhelm
smoking by the stove. He returned to find the shanty in flames and his
terrified companion crying, screaming, and wringing his hands. Herbert
called to him in a voice of thunder, “The powder!” The frightened fool
pointed to the half-burnt shanty, into which Herbert madly dashed, and
emerged, half smothered, with a large carpet-bag already smouldering,
in which, among all his best clothes, he had stored away his entire
stock of gunpowder in canisters. He hurled the carpet-bag far off into
a deep drift of snow, by which prompt measure he probably saved his own
life and his companion’s, who seemed quite paralysed by fear. He then
attempted to stop the fire by cutting away the burning rafters, but
all his efforts were useless; hardly anything was saved but one trunk,
which he dragged out at once though it was beginning to burn.

The tools, the bedding, the working-clothes, and most of his good
outfit were consumed, and at night he went to bed at a kind neighbour’s
who had at once taken him in, feeling too truly that he was again a
ruined man.

One blessing certainly accrued to him from this sweeping misfortune.
He for ever got rid of his helpless partner, who at once left the
settlement, leaving Herbert again a free agent. Necessity compelled
him now to do what he had never done before--to write home for
assistance. His letter found his eldest sister in a position to help
him, as she had just sunk her own portion in the same manner that he
had done, not for her own benefit, but to assist members of the family
who were in difficulties. She sent him at once fifty pounds, and with
the possession of this sum all his prospects brightened.

He left the scene of his late disaster, took up one hundred acres of
land for himself and another one hundred in the name of Mary Lennox,
making sure that she would eventually come out to him. He set hard to
work chopping and clearing a few acres, which, as the spring opened, he
cropped judiciously. He then called a “bee,” which was well attended,
and raised the walls of a good large log-house, the roof of which he
shingled entirely himself in a masterly manner. For stock he bought
two cows and some chickens; and then wrote to Mary, telling of his
improved prospects, and asking her if, when he was more fully settled,
she would consent to share his lot in this far-off corner of the earth.
At this time Mary was on a visit to me, having been allowed, for the
first time, to accept my warm invitation. All her family were at the
sea-side in England, having left during the French war.

I have often said that a special Providence certainly watched over
Herbert and Mary. It did seem most extraordinary that just at this
particular time a married sister of John Herbert, with her husband and
children, had suddenly determined to join him in Muskoka. The reason
was this: Mr. C----, her husband, was the classical and mathematical
professor in a large French academy; but years of scholastic duties and
close attention to books had so undermined his health, that he was
quite unable to continue the exercise of his profession; indeed, the
medical men consulted by him gave it as their opinion that nothing but
an entire change of climate and occupation, and a complete abstinence
from all studious pursuits, together with an outdoor life, would give
him the slightest chance of recovery. Herbert was written to and
authorised to take up land for them near his own, and it was settled
that they were to sail in the end of July.

Now came my time for persuasion and influence. I opened a
correspondence with Mary’s father, who had recently received an
explicit and manly letter from Herbert, with which he was much pleased.
I represented to Mr. Lennox that this was no longer the “boy-and-girl
love” (to quote his own words) of five years ago, but a steady
affection, which had been severely tested by trouble, difficulty,
opposition, and separation; that no future opportunity could ever be
so favourable as the present one for his daughter going out to her
future husband under the protection and guardianship of a family soon
to become her relations, and who would, in everything, watch over her
interest and comfort. In short, I left nothing unsaid that could make
a favourable impression, willingly conceding to his paternal feelings
that it was, in a worldly point of view, a match falling short of his
just expectations for his beautiful and accomplished child.

When two or three letters had passed between us, we agreed that Mary
should go over at once to her family, and join her personal influence
to my special pleading.

I waited with great anxiety for her answer. At length it came. Her
family had consented. Fortunately she was just of age; and as she
remained steadfast in her attachment, they agreed with me that it would
be best for her to go out with her future sister-in-law. Mary wrote
to Mrs. C----, gratefully accepting her offer of chaperonage, and we
despatched the joyful news to Herbert; but unfortunately named a date
for their probable arrival which proved incorrect, as their vessel
sailed from London two or three weeks before the expected time. This we
shall see was productive of much temporary annoyance.

I pass over all the details of their voyage and subsequent journey,
and now take up the narrative in Mrs. C----’s words, telling of their
arrival at Mary’s future home:

“It was about noon of a burning day in August when the stage-wagon in
which we came from Utterson turned out of the road into the Bush. After
going some little way in a dreadful narrow track, covered with stumps,
over which the wagon jolted fearfully, we were told to get down, as
the driver could not go any farther with safety to the horses; and we
therefore paid and dismissed him.

“We soon came to a shanty by the roadside, the owner of which met us
and offered to be our guide. He evidently knew to whom we were going,
but the perplexed and doubtful expression of his face when he caught
sight of our party was most amusing. He looked from one to the other,
and then burst out, in quite an injured tone, ‘But nothing is ready for
you; the house even is not finished. Mr. Herbert knows nothing of your
coming so soon; he told me this morning that he did not expect you for
three weeks! What will he do?’ The poor man, a great friend and ally
of Herbert’s, appeared quite angry at our ill-timed arrival; but we
explained to him that we should only be too thankful for any kind of
shelter, being dreadfully wearied with our long journey, and the poor
children crying from heat, fatigue, and the attacks of the mosquitoes.

“Charles now proposed going in advance of us, to prepare Herbert for
our arrival. He walked quickly on, and, entering the clearing, caught
sight of Herbert, hard at work in the burning sun, covered with dust
and perspiration, and, in fact, barely recognisable, being attired in a
patched suit of common working-clothes, which he had snatched from the
burning shanty, with his toes also peeping out of a pair of old boots
with soles partly off.

“On first seeing his brother-in-law, every vestige of colour left his
face, so great was his emotion, knowing that we must be close at hand.
To rush into the house, after a few words of explanation, to make a
brief toilet, greatly aided by a bucket of water and plenty of soap,
to attire himself in a most becoming suit of cool brown linen, and,
finally, to place on his hastily-brushed head a Panama hat, which we
had often admired, was the work of little more than a quarter of an
hour; and, to Charles’ great amusement, the scrubby, dirty-looking
workman he had greeted, stepped forward in the much-improved guise of a
handsome and aristocratic-looking young planter.

“In the meantime, our guide having brought us within sight of the outer
fence, hastily took his leave, hardly waiting to receive our thanks.
Mary and I have often laughed since at his great anxiety to get away
from us, which we know now was partly from delicate reluctance to
intrude upon our first interview, but a great deal more from his horror
at the state in which he knew things to be at the house.

“Poor Herbert, when he reached us, could hardly speak. After one fond
and grateful embrace of his darling, and a most kind and affectionate
welcome to the children and myself, he conducted us to the house.
Although his neighbour had prepared us for disappointment, yet I must
own that we felt unutterable dismay when we looked around us.

“The house was certainly a good large one, but it was a mere shell;
nothing but the walls and the roof were up, and even the walls were
neither chinked nor mossed, so that we could see daylight between all
the logs. The floor was not laid down, but in the middle of it an
excavation had been begun for a cellar, so that there was a yawning
hole, in which for some weeks my children found a play-closet and a
hiding-place for all their rubbish.

“Furniture there was none, the only seats and tables being Herbert’s
one trunk, partly burned, saved from the fire, and a few flour-barrels.
There was no semblance of a bed, except a little hay in a corner, a few
sacks, and an old blanket. Some milk-pans and a few plates and mugs
completed the articles in this truly Irish cabin, of which Herbert did
the honours with imperturbable grace and self-possession. He made no
useless apologies for the existing discomforts; he told us simply what
he meant the house to be as soon as he could get time to finish it;
and in the interim he looked about with as much satisfaction as if his
log-house had been Windsor Castle, and we the crowned heads to whom he
was displaying its glories.

“We found the larder as scantily-furnished as the house; but Herbert
made us a few cakes and baked them in the oven; he boiled some
potatoes, and milked the cow, so that we were not long without some
refreshment.

“For sleeping we curtained off a corner of the room with our
travelling-cloaks and shawls, and made a tolerable bed with bundles of
hay and a few sacks to cover us. We had brought nothing with us but
our hand-baskets, so were obliged to lie down in most of our clothes,
the nights beginning to be very chilly, and the night air coming in
freely through the unchinked walls. We were, however, truly thankful
this first night to put the children to bed quite early, and to retire
ourselves, for we were thoroughly wearied and worn out. The two
gentlemen lay down, just as they were, in the far corner of the room on
some hay; and if we were chilly and uncomfortable, I think they must
have been more so.

“The first night we were undisturbed; but on the next, we were hardly
asleep when we were awoke by a horrid and continuous hissing, which
seemed to come from the hay of our improvised bed. We all started up
in terror, the poor frightened children crying loudly. The gentlemen,
armed with sticks, beat the hay of the beds about, and scattered it
completely. They soon had the pleasant sight of a tolerable-sized snake
gliding swiftly from our corner, and making its escape under the door
into the clearing, where Herbert found and killed it next morning. We
must indeed have been tired to sleep soundly, as we all certainly did,
after the beds had been re-arranged.

“The next day Mr. C---- proposed walking to Utterson, to purchase a few
necessary articles of food; and Herbert went on to Bracebridge, to look
for a clergyman to perform the marriage ceremony between him and Mary.
As to waiting for our luggage, and for the elegant bridal attire which
had been so carefully packed by loving hands, we all agreed that it
would be ridiculous; and dear Mary, like a true heroine, accepted the
discomforts of her situation bravely, and, far from uttering a single
complaint, made the best of everything.

“Both Mr. C---- and myself had fits of irrepressible vexation at the
state of affairs; but as we could in no way help ourselves, we thought
it best to be silent, and to hurry on the building of a log-house for
ourselves, which we at once did.

“The very day after our arrival, Mary and I undertook the work of
housekeeping, taking it by turns day and day about. We found it most
fatiguing, the days being so hot and the mosquitoes so tormenting.
Moreover, the stove being placed outside, we were exposed to the
burning sun every time we went near it, and felt quite ill in
consequence.

“When Herbert returned from Bracebridge, he told us that the Church of
England clergyman being away at Toronto, he had engaged the services of
the Wesleyan minister whose chapel he had sometimes attended, and that
gentleman had promised to come as soon as possible, and to bring with
him a proper and respectable witness.

“The day of his coming being left uncertain, Mary and I were kept in a
continual state of terror and expectation, and at such a time we felt
doubly the annoyance of not being able to get from Toronto even the
trunks containing our clothes. In vain we tried to renovate our soiled
and travel-stained dresses; neither brushing, nor shaking, nor sponging
could alter their unmistakably shabby appearance, and it required some
philosophy to be contented. It was worse for poor Mary than for any one
else; and I felt quite touched when I saw her carefully washing and
ironing the lace frill from the neck of her dress, and then arranging
it again as nicely as possible.

“Two days passed, and on the afternoon of the third we had put the poor
children to sleep, and were lying down ourselves, quite overcome with
the heat, when my husband entered hastily to tell us that the Rev. Mr.
W---- had arrived to perform the marriage ceremony, and had brought
with him as witness a good-natured store-keeper, who had left his
business to oblige Herbert, with whom he had had many dealings.

“Herbert, who had dressed himself every day, not to be taken by
surprise, was quite ready, and kept them in conversation while Mary
and I arranged our hair, washed the children’s faces and hands, and,
as well as we could, prepared the room. When all was ready they were
summoned, and in making their introductory bows, both our visitors
nearly backed themselves into the yawning cavern in the middle of the
floor, which, in our trepidation, we had forgotten to point out.

“Very impressively did the good minister perform the marriage service;
and at its close he addressed to the young couple a few words of
serious and affectionate exhortation, well suited to the occasion.

“He begged them to remember, that living as they were about to do in
the lonely forest, far from the public ordinances of religion, they
must give the more heed to their religious duties, and to the study of
the Word of God, endeavouring to live not for this world only, but for
that other world to which young and old were alike hastening.

“Herbert looked his very best on this momentous occasion, and, in
spite of all disadvantages of dress and difficulties of position, dear
Mary looked most sweet and beautiful, and created, I am sure, quite a
fatherly interest in the heart of the good old clergyman, himself the
father of a numerous family. We could offer the clergyman and witness
no refreshment; and when they were gone, our wedding-feast consisted of
a very salt ham-bone, dough dumplings, and milk-and-water.”

So ends Mrs. C----’s narrative, to which I shall append but few
observations. All went well from the day of the wedding, and on
that day the sun went down on a happy couple. Doubt, anxiety,
separation--all these were at an end; and, for weal or woe, John
Herbert and Mary Lennox were indissolubly united. Trials and troubles
might await them in the future; but for the present, youth, health,
hope, and love were beckoning them onward with ineffable smiles.

The luggage soon arrived, and comfortable bedding superseded hay and
snakes. Mr. and Mrs. C---- removed as soon as possible into their own
log-house, leaving our young couple to the privacy of their home.

Herbert worked early and late to finish his house, and partitioned off
a nice chamber for Mary, which was prettily furnished and ornamented
with cherished books, and gifts, and keepsakes from dear and distant
friends. The wealthier members of Mary’s family sent substantial tokens
of goodwill, and many pretty and useful gifts came from the loving
sister, who begins to talk of coming out herself.

Mary’s parents, cheered and comforted by the happy and contented
tone breathed in her letters, ceased to regret having sanctioned
the marriage; and, to crown all, a little son in due time made his
appearance, to cement still further the love of his parents and to
concentrate a very large portion of it in his own little person.

Here let the curtain drop. From time to time I may have had
misgivings, but have long been fully satisfied that a blessing has
rested on my well-meant endeavours to secure the happiness of two young
and loving hearts.



ANECDOTES OF THE CANADIAN BUSH, THIRTY YEARS AGO.

TOLD ME BY THE WIFE OF AN OLD SETTLER.



ANECDOTES OF THE CANADIAN BUSH.


Thirty years ago, when I went into the Bush, quite a young girl, with
my newly-made husband, the part in which we settled was a complete
wilderness. Our lot was taken up about thirty miles east of Belle
Ewart, now quite a flourishing village, with the railway passing
through it.

Our small log-house was perfectly isolated, as at that time we had
not a single neighbour nearer to us than twelve miles; all was dense
forest, with but a very faint imperfect track leading by degrees to
the main road. Here I passed the first years of my married life,
encountering many hardships and enduring many troubles. By degrees my
husband cleared and cultivated as much land as would supply our wants,
though he never took heartily to the farming, not having been used to
it, being by trade a gunsmith.

After several years, neighbours began to gather round us at the
distance of two or three miles, and in time quite a settlement was
formed. By one of these neighbours a few miles off I was invited to
a wedding when my first baby was about a year old. My husband had a
strong serviceable pony, but no buggy, and it was settled that I should
ride on the pony with baby on my lap, and my husband walk at the side.

When we were within a mile of our destination we noticed a tree fallen
across the path, which was a narrow track with forest on both sides,
and we also saw that the tree had a bushy green top to it. We arrived
at our friend’s, partook of the wedding festivities, and started on our
return home at ten o’clock on a bright starlight night.

As we approached the fallen tree over which the pony had stepped quite
quietly in the morning, the poor animal began to shiver all over, to
snort, to caper about the road in a most extraordinary manner, and
appeared too frightened to move on.

I whispered to my husband that I saw the green top of the tree moving,
and that I had better get off with the baby for fear of the pony
starting and throwing us off. He took me down, and we stepped across
the tree, dragging the pony after us with the greatest difficulty;
hardly had we got to the other side when from the bushy head of the
tree out walked a great brown bear, who certainly looked very much
astonished at our little party.

We were terribly frightened, expecting him to attack the pony, but he
stood quite still. We thought it better to move on, slowly at first,
and afterwards more quickly as we got nearer home. He followed us for
more than a mile, indeed till we were quite in sight of our own door,
then finding himself near a human habitation he gave one fearful growl
before gliding off into the forest, and we lost sight of him.

When we were safely housed, and the poor pony well fed and locked into
his little shed, I felt nearly dead with terror and fatigue.

My next interview with Bruin was in a buggy, three years afterwards, in
which I was being driven homeward by my husband. This time we had two
children with us, and had been to a considerable distance to purchase
articles at a newly-established store, which could not be procured
nearer. We were more than six miles from home, when the pony (the same
mentioned before) began to be greatly agitated, refused to go on, then
tried to start off, and gave loud snorts of distress.

My husband got out and stood at the pony’s head, holding him firmly
to prevent his starting. The light was very dim in the shade of the
Bush, but we both saw something large creeping along the edge of the
forest next to where my husband stood; he had no weapon with him but
his woodman’s knife and a thick stake picked up from the roadside.
Presently a bear came slowly out of the forest, and advanced into the
middle of the road at some distance from us, as if preparing for fight.
I was terribly frightened, but my husband stood quite still, holding
in the horse, but keeping in full view the bear, knowing what a terror
they have of man.

After steadily looking at each other for at least five minutes--minutes
of suspense and agony to us, Bruin evidently understood the
difficulties of his position, and quietly slunk away into the Bush on
the other side of the road; and we were glad to get home in safety.

At another time, I had a visit from a lynx; but as I certainly invited
him myself, I could not be surprised at his coming as he did, almost
close to my cottage door. My husband had been gone for two days on
important business to a village a long way off, and on this particular
evening I fully expected him home.

We were living in quite a small shanty till we could build a larger
house; it had a fireplace on the floor, and an open chimney; the room
was very low, and easy of access from the outside. I was living then
with my three little children and a young sister of fourteen who helped
me to take care of them. As it was getting dusk I thought I heard a
human voice distinctly calling from the forest, “Hallo!” I went to the
door and immediately answered in the same tone, “Hallo!” making sure
that it was my husband, who finding the track very faint from the gloom
of the forest, wanted our voices to guide him right. The voice replied
to me. I hallooed again, and this went on for some minutes, the sound
drawing nearer and nearer, till at length advancing from the edge of
the forest, not my husband, but a good-sized lynx, attracted by my
answering call, stood quite in front of the cottage--nothing more than
the width of a broad road between us and it.

The children, most fortunately, were playing inside, but my sister and
myself distinctly saw the eyes of the creature like globes of fire, and
in the stillness of the evening we could hear its teeth gnashing as if
with anxiety to attack us. Fortunately, through the open door of the
shanty the savage animal could see the blazing fire on the hearth, and
came no nearer.

We hastily shut the door, and my poor little sister began to cry and
bemoan the danger we were in:

“Oh! the roof was so low, and it would clamber up and drop down the
chimney, or it would spring through the window, or push open the door,”
etc.

I begged her not to frighten the poor children who were playing in a
corner, but at once to put more wood on the fire and make a good blaze.
I now found that we had hardly any wood without going to the stack
outside, which luckily was very close to the door, and fearing that my
husband might at any moment return, and be pounced upon unawares, I
made my sister light a candle, and opening the door placed her at it,
telling her to move the light about so as to bewilder the lynx. Still
the dreadful animal remained, uttering cries at intervals, but not
moving a step. As quickly as I could I got plenty of wood, as much as I
thought would last the night, and very gladly we again shut the door.
We now piled up wood on the hearth till there was a great blaze, and no
doubt the showers of sparks which must have gone out at the chimney-top
greatly alarmed the lynx; it now gave a number of fierce angry cries
and went off into the forest, the sound becoming fainter and fainter
till it died away.

My husband did not return till the evening of the next day, and he had
seen nothing of our unwelcome visitor.

At the time I speak of, the woods of Muskoka were quite infested with
wolves, which, however, were only dangerous when many were together. A
single wolf is at all times too cowardly to attack a man. My husband
knew this, and therefore if he heard a single howl he took no notice,
but if he heard by the howling that a pack was in the forest near at
hand, he went on his road very cautiously, looking from side to side so
as to secure a tree for climbing into should they attack him.

The Canadian wolf has not the audacity of the prairie wolf; should it
drive a traveller to the shelter of a tree it will circle round it all
night, but at the dawn of day is sure to disappear.

A neighbour’s child, a boy of twelve years old, had a narrow escape
from four or five of them, having mistaken them for dogs. It was his
business to feed the animals, and having neglected one morning to cut
the potatoes small enough, a young calf was unfortunately choked from a
piece too large sticking in her throat. The dead calf was laid under a
fence not far from the shanty, and the boy having been severely scolded
for his carelessness, remained sulkily within doors by himself.

He was engaged in peeling a long stick for an ox-whip, when he heard,
as he thought, the barking of some dogs over the dead carcase of the
calf; he rushed out with the long stick in his hand, and saw four or
five animals busily tearing off the flesh from the calf; without a
moment’s reflection he ran in among them, shouting and hallooing with
all his might, and so valiantly laid about him with his stick that they
all ran off to the covert of the forest, where they turned; and he
heard a series of yells and howls which made his blood run cold, for he
knew the sound well, and saw that they were wolves and not dogs whose
repast he had interrupted. He said, that so great was his terror that
he could hardly get back to the shanty and fasten the door.

All the Canadian wild animals are timid; they only begin to prowl
about at dusk; they never attempt to enter a dwelling, and have a
salutary dread of attacking a man; if attacked themselves they will
fight fiercely, and a she-bear with cubs is always dangerous.

Since the time I speak of, the settlements all over the district
have become very numerous, and the quantity of land cleared up is so
great that the wild animals keep retreating farther and farther into
the recesses of the forest; and even the trappers by profession find
their trade much less lucrative than it was, they have so much more
difficulty in finding game in any quantity.

It is hardly possible to make people understand, who are unacquainted
with Bush-life, what the early settlers in Muskoka and other parts
had to suffer. Young creatures with their babies were left alone in
situations which in more settled countries call for the greatest care
and tenderness, and in desolate solitudes where they were far from all
human help.

Three weeks before the birth of my fourth child I became so ill with
erysipelas that my husband thought he had better go to the place where
my parents lived--more than twenty miles off, and bring back one of
my sisters to nurse me. He started after breakfast, and soon after he
left I became so dreadfully ill that I could not lift my head from the
pillow, or indeed turn myself in the bed.

My children, of the respective ages of two, four, and six, were
playing about, and as I lay watching them my terror was extreme lest
one of them should fall into the fire; I can hardly tell how they fed
themselves, or got to bed, or got up the next morning, for by that time
I could move neither hand nor foot, and was in dreadful pain. Thus I
lay all day, all night, and all the next day till the evening, when my
husband returned with one of my sisters. After that I became delirious,
and had hardly recovered when my child was born.

As soon as our land was well cleared up and a good house built, my
husband sold the property and bought a piece of ground at Belle Ewart,
where we have lived ever since, as his health would not allow him to
continue farming.

I was always afraid when living in the Bush of the children being lost
when they began to run about. The Bush at that time was so wild, and so
few paths through it, that there was every fear of children straying
once they turned off the narrow track.

A poor little boy, of eight years old, living some miles from us, was
lost for more than a week, and only by a miracle was found alive.
There was a windfall caused by a hurricane, not very far from his
father’s shanty. It was not very broad, but extended in length for
more than twenty miles, distinctly marking out the path of the tempest
as it swept through the Bush. All this windfall was overgrown with
blackberry-bushes, and at this time of year (the autumn) there were
quantities of fruit, and parties used to be made for picking them, with
a view to preserving.

Our poor little wanderer having strayed alone one morning and reached
the windfall, began to eat the berries with great delight, and kept
going about from bush to bush, till when it got late he became so
bewildered that he could no longer tell in which direction his home
lay. Days went by; he was missed and hunted for, but misled by some
imaginary trace the first parties went in quite a wrong direction.

The child had no sustenance but the fruit; at length he became too
much exhausted to pick, and, as he described it, only felt sleepy.
Providentially, in passing an uprooted tree, he saw underneath a large
hole, and creeping in found it warm, soft, and dry, being apparently
well lined with moss and leaves. Here he remained till found by a party
who fortunately took the direction of the windfall, accompanied by a
sagacious dog used to tracking bears and other game.

The parties searching would have passed the tree, which was a little
out of the track, and many others of the kind lying about, but seeing
the dog suddenly come to a stop and begin sniffing and barking
they made a careful examination; they found the poor child in his
concealment almost at the point of death, and so scratched by the
brambles and stained by the juice of the berries as to be scarcely
recognisable. They had had the precaution to take with them a bottle of
new milk, and very carefully they put down his throat a little at a
time till he was able to swallow freely.

Now comes the extraordinary part of the story. The nights were already
very chilly; when asked on his recovery if he had not felt the cold,
he replied, “Oh no!” and said that every night at dusk a large brown
dog came and lay down by him, and was so kind and good-natured that it
let him creep quite close to it, and put his arms round it, and that
in this way he slept quite warm. He added, that the brown dog went
away every morning when it was light. Of course, as there was no large
dog answering to this description in any of the adjacent settlements,
and as the poor child was evidently in a bear’s den, people could not
but suppose that it was a _bear_ who came to his side every evening,
and that the animal, moved by some God-given instinct, refrained from
injuring the forlorn child. Years afterwards this boy used to talk of
the “kind brown dog” who had kept him so nice and warm in his hole in
the tree.

My last fright from a bear was only a few years ago, when I was driving
a married daughter home, who had been with me to pay a visit to a
friend in the Bush twelve miles off. We had one of her little children
with us, and were driving slowly, though the road was a good one, as
the horse had been many miles that day.

It was getting dusk, and the road, being narrow like all Bush roads,
was very gloomy. We were talking quietly of the visit we had just paid,
when from the thick top of a tree overhanging the roadside, dropped
down a large bear, who just grazed the back of the buggy in his fall.
I had but a glimpse of him, as hearing the noise I turned my head for
an instant; my daughter’s wild shriek of alarm as she clutched her
little one firmly, added to the growl of the bear, so frightened our
horse that he dashed off at full speed, and providentially meeting with
no obstacle, never stopped till he reached the fence of my husband’s
clearing. Even when locked into the house for the night we could hardly
fancy ourselves in safety.

The respectable person to whom I was indebted for the above anecdotes,
and who was in the capacity of nurse-tender to the mistress of the
hotel where I was staying, was much to my regret suddenly called away
to a fresh situation, by which I lost many more of her interesting
experiences, for as she truly said, numberless were the expedients
by which the wives of the early settlers protected themselves and
their little ones during the unavoidable absences of their husbands.
The pleasant gentlemanly host of the hotel where I was staying at
Bracebridge told me of his sitting entranced, when a little child, at
the feet of his old grandmother, to hear her stories of the wild beasts
which abounded at the time of her first settlement in the Canadian
wilderness.

Her husband belonged to an old and wealthy family in America, who,
remaining loyal during the war of Independence, were driven over into
Canada and all their property confiscated. They settled down, glad
to be in safety in a wild unfrequented part; and whenever provisions
were wanting, it was an affair of some days for the husband to go and
return, the nearest settlement being fifty miles off.

Packs of wolves used to prowl about the log-hut as evening came on,
and during the night the barking and howling was dreadful to hear;
the only thing to keep them off was a large fire of pine-logs which
his grandfather used to light of an evening as near the house as was
consistent with safety. It depended on which way the wind blew at
which end of the log-hut the fire was made. When he went away on an
expedition, he used to take out a large chink at each end of the house
and leave his wife an immense pointed pole, with which, putting it
through the chink-hole, she was enabled in safety to brand up the fire,
that is to draw the logs together so as to last through the night.

Wolves have long disappeared into the depths of the forest; a chance
one may now and then be heard of, but rarely in the vicinity of large
clearings. The visits of bears are becoming more and more frequent, for
Bruin is very partial to young pig, and does not disdain a good meal of
ripe grain. The barley-patch in my clearing, as the corn began to ripen
this summer, was very much trodden down by a bear whose tracks were
plainly to be seen, and he was supposed to be located in a cedar-swamp
on my land, as every now and then he was seen, but always coming to
or from that direction. One night we were roused from our sleep by a
fearful noise of cattle-bells outside of the fence, and when we went
out we found that there was a regular “stampede” of all the cattle in
the immediate neighbourhood; cows, oxen, steers, were all tearing madly
through the Bush towards a road at the other side of a deep gully near
the edge of my lot. They were evidently flying from the pursuit of some
wild animal.

Presently on the still night air rose a horrid fierce growl which
was repeated at intervals two or three times, getting fainter in the
distance till it quite died away. We all recognised the noise we had
recently heard in France from the bears in a travelling show, only
much fiercer and louder. My son, fully armed, started in pursuit,
accompanied by a young friend armed also, but though, guided by the
noise, they went far down the road, they caught but one glimpse of
Bruin in the moonlight as he disappeared down a deep gully and from
thence into the Bush, where at night it would not have been safe to
follow him.

Hoping that towards morning he might, as is usually the case, return
the same way, they seated themselves on a log by the roadside close to
the edge of the forest that they might not be palpably in the bear’s
sight, and there they remained for some hours till the cold of the
dawn warned them to come home, being very lightly clad. The very next
evening my son and his friend were pistol-shooting at a mark fixed on
a tree at the end of the clearing, when “Black Bess,” the dog, gave
tongue and rushed into the forest on the side next the cedar-swamp.
Guided by her barking the two gentlemen followed quickly, and this
time had a full view in broad daylight of a large brown bear in full
flight, but never got within shooting distance. Unluckily the dog,
though a good one for starting game, was young and untrained, and had
not the sense to head the animal back so as to enable her master to get
within range. This bear baffled all the arts of the settlers to get at
it, and settlers with cows and oxen were mostly afraid to set traps for
fear of accidents to their cattle.

A short time ago a settler living on the Muskoka Road was returning to
his home by a short cut through the Bush, when he came suddenly upon a
she-bear with two cubs. He had no weapon but a small pocket-knife, and
hoped to steal past unobserved, but in a moment the beast attacked him,
knocked his knife out of his hand and tore his arm from the shoulder
to the wrist. He would probably have been killed but that his shouts
brought up a party of men working on the Government road at no great
distance, and Mrs. Bruin was only too glad to get safe off with her
progeny into the depths of the Bush.

Two or three bears and a lynx were killed in the fall of 1873, in the
vicinity of Bracebridge, and one within a mile of the village, on the
road to the “South Falls,” one of my favourite walks when I was staying
there. There is, however, but little danger of meeting any wild animal
in the broad daylight. The words of David in the 104th Psalm are as
strictly true now as they were in his time: “The sun ariseth, they
gather themselves together, and lay them down in their dens.”



TERRA INCOGNITA;

OR,

THE WILDS OF MUSKOKA.



THE WILDS OF MUSKOKA.


In reading the history of newly-settled countries and the rise and
progress of mighty states, nothing is more interesting than to trace
the wonderful and rapid results which spring from the smallest
beginnings. In changing the wilderness into a fruitful land, we notice
first the laborious efforts to raise the rude and coarse necessaries of
daily life, then the struggles for convenience and comfort, then the
gradual demand for the luxuries of a higher civilisation. These last
can only be obtained by the growth and encouragement of the ornamental
as well as useful arts; then comes the dawning of political power, till
at length we see with amusement that the scattered hamlet has become a
thriving village, the village a populous town, and the town expanded
into a stately city, carrying wealth, commerce, and civilisation to the
remotest parts of what a few years back was simply unbroken forest.

Such is the future which, under the fulfilment of certain conditions,
we may confidently predict for the free-grant lands of Muskoka, to
which the Canadian Government are making strenuous efforts to draw
the tide of emigration. Nothing can well be more picturesque than the
tract of country already embracing twelve townships which constitutes
the district of Muskoka, so called, not from the poetical tradition of
“clear skies,” “no clouds,” which is by no means applicable to this
variable climate, but more probably from Musquoto, the name of a
Chippewa chief, which has been handed down to the present time, though
every trace of Indian occupation has long been effaced.

Hill and dale, wood and water, a winding river, tributary streams,
rapid waterfalls breaking the solitude with their wild music, the large
Muskoka lake, smaller lakes on many of the lots; all these charms
combine to form most beautiful scenery. Unfortunately the settlers,
looking upon the trees as their natural enemies, hew them down with
inexorable rancour, quite ignoring the fact that if they were to clear
more judiciously, leaving here and there a clump of feathery balsams,
or a broad belt of pine, spruce, maple, and birch, they would have some
shelter for their crops from the destroying north-west wind, and some
shade for their log-houses during the burning heat of summer.

Having been located in the township of Stephenson for more than two
years, I am able to make some observations on the subject, and I find
that as most of the settlers in my neighbourhood belong to the lower
classes, they have but little sense of the beautiful in any shape, and
no appreciation whatever of picturesque scenery. A settler of this
class is perfectly satisfied with his own performance when he has
cleared thirty or forty acres on his lot, leaving nothing so large as a
gooseberry-bush to break the dreary uniformity of the scene.

The London of Muskoka is the pretty thriving town of Bracebridge. I say
pretty, advisedly, for its situation on the river Muskoka is beautiful,
the scenery highly varied, the environs abounding in lovely walks and
choice bits of landscape which an artist might delight to portray.

Ten years ago the first adventurous settler built his log-hut on the
hill south of the present town between the pretty falls at the entrance
and the South Falls at three miles’ distance. All was then unbroken
forest, its solitude only disturbed by occasional visits from a few
scattered Chippewa Indians or lonely trappers in pursuit of the game,
more and more driven northward by the advancing tide of civilisation.

A few statistics of Bracebridge at the close of the present year (1873)
will show what progress has been made in every department.

    Population                                  800
    Children attending public schools           250
    Children attending four Sunday schools      200
    Number of churches                            4
    Clergymen                                     6
    Medical doctors                               2
    Barristers, attorneys, conveyancers           7
    Stores                                       15
    In course of erection                         5
    Hotels                                        6
    Printing-offices                              2
    Saw-mills                                     4
    Grist and flour mill                          1
    Carding mill and woollen factory              1
    Shoe shops                                    3
    Butchers’ shops                               3
    Blacksmiths’ shops                            4
    Bakers’ shops                                 4

Besides these are many wheelwrights, carpenters, joiners, etc. The
gentleman who wrote to the _Daily News_ in England from Huntsville
in this neighbourhood, most unduly disparaged the little town of
Bracebridge, but as he visited Muskoka in exceptionally bad weather
at the close of a long-continued rainy season, and as his stay in the
district was limited to a few days at most, his opinion can hardly be
received as gospel truth. His dismay at the mud in the streets and the
general badness of the roads was very natural in a stranger to this
part of Canada. We certainly are greatly in want of assistance from
some McAdam, and we have every hope that improvement in our roads, as
in everything else, will reach us in time.

The climate of Muskoka is most favourable to health, even to
invalids, provided they have no consumptive tendencies. For all
pulmonary complaints it is most unsuitable, on account of the very
sudden atmospheric changes. The short summer, with its inevitable
accompaniment of tormenting mosquitoes, is burning hot, and the winter,
stretching sometimes over seven months of the year, is intensely cold,
and both these extremes render it a trying climate for consumptive
patients. The air, however, is pure, clear, and bracing, and nervous
and dyspeptic invalids soon lose many of their unpleasant sensations.
A gentleman who formed one of our little colony when we came out in
1871, has to thank the air of Muskoka for the entire renovation of
his health. His constitution was very much shattered by over-working
his brain during a long course of scholastic pursuits, and as his only
chance of recovery, he was ordered an entire change of climate and
outdoor occupation instead of study.

The Bush-life and the pure air worked miracles; his recovery was
complete, and he has been now, for some months, in holy orders as
a clergyman of the Church of England. He is able to preach three
times every Sabbath day, and to perform all the arduous duties of an
out-station without undue fatigue or exhaustion. The same gentleman’s
eldest child has derived as much benefit as his father from the change
of climate. At five years old, when he was brought to Muskoka, he was
most delicate, and had from infancy held life by a most precarious
tenure; but at the present time he is a very fine specimen of healthy
and robust childhood.

The twelve townships of Muskoka are increasing their population every
day, from the steady influx of emigrants from the old country. It
is most desirable that an Emigrant’s Home should be established in
Bracebridge for the purpose of giving gratuitous shelter and assistance
to the poorer class of emigrants, and sound and reliable advice to all
who might apply for it. In my “Plea for Poor Emigrants,” contributed
to the _Free Grant Gazette_, I earnestly endeavoured to draw public
attention to this great want, and I still hope that when the necessary
funds can be raised, something of the sort will be provided. Government
has thrown open the free-grant lands to every applicant above the
age of eighteen years; each one at that age may take up a lot of one
hundred acres; the head of a family is allowed two hundred. The
person located is not absolute master of the land till the end of five
years from the date of his or her location, when, if the stipulated
conditions have been fulfilled, the patent is taken out, and each
holder of a lot becomes a freehold proprietor. The conditions are
simply that he shall have cleared and got under cultivation fifteen
acres, and have raised a log-house of proper dimensions.

Government found that some restrictions were absolutely necessary,
as unprincipled speculators took up lots which they never meant to
cultivate or settle on, but for the fraudulent purpose of felling and
selling off the pine timber, and then leaving the country.

When a person has it in view to come to Muskoka, let him as much as
possible abstain from reading any of the books published on the
subject. Without accusing those who write them of wilfully saying the
thing that is not, I must say that the warmth of their colouring and
the unqualified praise they bestow greatly misleads ignorant people.

The poor emigrant comes out to Muskoka firmly believing it to be a
veritable “Land of Promise” flowing with milk and honey, an El Dorado
where the virgin soil only requires a slight scratching to yield cent.
per cent. His golden visions speedily vanish; he finds the climate
variable, the crops uncertain, the labour very hard, and Bush-farming
for the first four or five years very uphill work. If, however,
instead of yielding to discouragement he steadily perseveres, he may
feel assured of ultimately attaining at least a moderate degree of
success. It is also necessary for a settler in Muskoka to get out of
his head once and for ever all his traditions of old-country farming.
Bush-farming is different in every respect; the seasons are different,
the spring seldom opens till the middle of May, and between that time
and the end of September, all the farm-work of sowing, reaping, and
storing away must be completed. The winters are mostly occupied in
chopping. The best way for obtaining an insight into Bush-farming is
for the newly-arrived emigrant to hire himself out to work on another
person’s ground for at least a year before finally settling upon his
own.

This is his wisest plan, even should he bring out (which is not
generally the case) sufficient capital to start with. We sadly feel the
want in our settlement of a few farmers of better education, and of a
higher range of intelligence, who, having a little experience as well
as money, might leaven the ignorance which occasions so many mistakes
and so much failure among our poorer brethren in the Bush. It has been
said that “a donation of a hundred acres is a descent into barbarism,”
but few would be inclined to endorse this opinion who had witnessed,
as I have done for two years, the patient daily toil, the perseverance
under difficulties and privations, the self-denial, the frugality,
the temperance, and the kind helpfulness of one another, found in the
majority of our settlers. A black sheep may now and then be found in
every flock, and it is undeniable that the very isolation of each
settler on his own clearing, and the utter absence of all conventional
restraint, engenders something of lawlessness, of contempt for public
opinion, and occasionally of brutality to animals, but only I am bound
to say in the ungenial and depraved natures of those whose conduct
_out_ of the Bush would be equally reprehensible.

After all the pros and the cons of emigration to Muskoka have been
fully discussed, one fact stands prominently forward for the
consideration of the labouring classes of Great Britain.

The free grants offer an inestimable boon to the agricultural and the
manufacturing population. The workmen in both these classes spend the
prime of their health and strength in working for others, and after
suffering with perhaps wives and families incredible hardships from
cold and hunger, which cannot be kept away by insufficient wages, have
nothing to look forward to in their declining years but the tender
mercies of their parish workhouse, or the precarious charity of their
former masters. In emigrating to Muskoka they may indeed count upon
hard work, much privation, and many struggles and disappointments,
but they may be equally certain that well-directed energy, unflagging
industry and patient perseverance, will after a few years insure them a
competence, if not affluence, and will enable them to leave to their
children an inheritance and a position which would have been almost
impossible of attainment in the old country.



A PLEA FOR POOR EMIGRANTS.



A PLEA FOR POOR EMIGRANTS.


During a visit of some weeks to Bracebridge, at the close of last
winter, I was much interested in watching the different parties of
emigrants who came into the town, many of them with wives and families,
some without, but all looking more or less weary and travel-worn. I
noticed also in the countenances of many of the men a perplexed and
uneasy expression, as if they hardly knew where to go or what to do
next.

Who but must feel the deepest sympathy with these poor wayfarers,
whose troubles, far from ending when they have safely crossed the broad
Atlantic, seem to begin afresh and to gather strength during the long
and wearisome journey from Quebec to Muskoka.

All along the line are paid agents, who strive to turn the tide of
emigration in any other direction than this district of Muskoka, and
who perplex the tired traveller with recommendations to various places,
and with no end of unsought advice.

Till very lately, Muskoka was but little known, and as a fitting place
for emigration was greatly undervalued. I remember with some amusement
that during my journey with my family from Quebec to Bracebridge, two
years ago, it was sufficient in conversation to utter the cabalistic
word “Muskoka,” for us to be immediately treated to admonitory shakes
of the head, shrugs of the shoulders, uplifted hands, and very clearly
expressed opinions that we were rushing to certain destruction.

Now, _we_ emigrated with a definite purpose in view. We were bound
to a specific locality, and were in fact coming to join members of
the family who had preceded us; but the remarks addressed to us
were anything but cheering, and it may be imagined what an effect
similar discouragements must have upon the poorer class of emigrants,
whose slender resources have been taxed to the utmost to bring them
out at all--who feel that poverty renders the step they have taken
irretrievable, and who arrive at Bracebridge full of doubts and fears
as to their comfortable settlement and ultimate success.

Happy would it be for the emigrant, married or single, if his
difficulties were ended by his safe arrival at Bracebridge; but such
is not the case. As in all communities there will be an admixture
of worthless and designing characters, so in our thriving little
town are to be found a few who lie in wait for the unwary, and throw
temptation in the path of those who are not fortified by strong
religious principle. Should an unmarried emigrant, a young man from
the “old country”--with apparently a tolerable stock of money and
clothes--arrive, he is at once followed and courted with professions of
friendship, and on the plea of good fellowship is tempted to drink at
the bars of the different hotels, and to join in the low gambling which
seems unfortunately to be the special vice of Muskoka. Not till his
money is all expended is the victim left to himself; and too often he
has to begin his Bush-life penniless, or thankfully to engage in some
job of hard work which will at least secure his daily bread.

The married emigrant likewise is often deceived and misled by people
as ignorant as himself, who give him altogether false impressions of
the value of his land, the price of labour and provisions, the tools
he ought to buy, the crops he ought to put in, and many other details
essential to his success in Bush-farming.

I speak from experience in saying that nothing can exceed the kindness
and urbanity of the Commissioner of Crown Lands to all and every one
going to his office for the purpose of taking up land; but it would
be obviously impossible for this gentleman, and incompatible with the
public duties of himself and his assistants, to enter minutely into the
wants and requirements of each individual emigrant, or to give that
detailed advice and assistance which in many cases is so absolutely
necessary.

Could not much be done, and many evils be obviated, by the
establishment of an “Emigrant Home” in the town, to which all incoming
emigrants might be directed by large printed cards conspicuously hung
up in the bar of every hotel?

The superintendent of the home ought to be a man of some education, of
sound common sense, of large Christian sympathy, one who would feel it
a pleasure as well as a duty to smooth the path of the weary travellers
who accepted the gratuitous shelter provided for them. Surely for such
a desirable object as the one in view, the sanction and co-operation of
the Dominion Government might be obtained, and a sum of money granted
to establish the home, which might then be kept up by small annual
subscriptions from the wealthier inhabitants of Bracebridge, whose
commercial prosperity must so greatly depend upon the settlements
beyond and about it. Numbers of emigrants come in every year who have
left behind them in the old country dear friends and relations, who
only wait for their favourable verdict upon the promised land, to come
out and join them.

Would it not be well that emigrants should be enabled to write home
truthfully and gratefully that they were met on their arrival at
Bracebridge with brotherly kindness, Christian sympathy, shelter for
their wives and families, sound reliable advice as to their future
course, and help and encouragement suited to their especial need? It
may be urged that pecuniary assistance and gratuitous shelter for his
wife and children would impair the self-respect of the emigrant, and
place him in the light of a pauper to himself and others.

I do not think this would be the case. It appears to me that an
emigrant, arriving as too many do with his means utterly exhausted
and with little but starvation in view for his family and himself,
would have his British feelings of sturdy independence considerably
modified, and would be willing to accept of the help tendered to him,
not as a charitable dole from those above him in rank, but as a willing
offering from those who for their Saviour’s sake acknowledge a common
brotherhood with every suffering member of the great human family.
Nor would the establishment of such a home at all interfere with the
legitimate profits of the hotel-keepers.

From personal observation, I can testify that in numerous cases they
are called upon to give, and do most liberally give, food and shelter
gratuitously to those who cannot pay. Of course such a plan as this
would have to be matured and carried out by wise heads and efficient
hands. I can only humbly offer a suggestion which seems to me worthy
of consideration, and I cannot end my few observations better than
with the refrain of a deservedly popular song:

    “Then do your best for one another,
      Making life a pleasant dream;
    Help a worn and weary brother
      Pulling hard against the stream.”

                               THE END.

            BILLING AND SONS, PRINTERS, GUILDFORD, SURREY.

                              _S. &. H._





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