Photo of Cobourg (Ontario)

Steamship Hotel

Cobourg, Upper Canada (Ontario)

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

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

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

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

Then fetch me some.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Susanna Moodie, Roughing It in the Bush (1852) “Tom Wilson’s Emigration”