After John’s death, Susanna shuttled between Belleville where she boarded for periods of time, to visits with Catherine at Lakefield and with her children across the province (now Ontario) She visited Aggie who had been widowed in Ottawa, (Agnes later went on to become the illustrator of an important work of Canadian Botany in partnership with her Aunt Catherine), her eldest daughter Katie (Catherine) who was married to the businessman John VIckers in Toronto but she felt she could be most useful to Robert whose wife had emotional problems and later had to be hospitalized at the Provincial Lunatic Asylum. Over the next period of her life, Susanna would become more or less a permanent fixture of Robert’s large, nomadic family through numerous moves across the province and in Toronto. It was during the first long and isolated posting in Seaforth that Susanna arranged for the publication of the first Canadian edition of Roughing It in the Bush (in 1871 it was almost 20 years since the first publication in Britain). The book was published in serialized form in the Seaforth newspaper in tandem with the new release.
Excerpt of Letter To Allen Ransome (in England):
May 6th 1870
Dear Friend, Allen
On my return from Stratford (not of Shakespeare notoriety), I found your most kind and welcome letter… The winter has been long and dreary. Nature will grieve for the loved and lost, but now that I have realized in spirit that he still lives, I have gathered myself up from the dust and ashes of grief and try to be hopeful and contented – Robert’s prospects too have brightened a little. In December he was appointed to the Station here by a requisition signed by all the respectable Merchants in the place and his appointment received with acclamations. If employers he is the man. His salary now amounts to 600 dollars per annum and the house rent free, a great advance on $300 on which he could barely buy bread for his family.
But oh, such a droll little house. It is all on the ground floor, and the kitchen, parlour and two 8 by 6 bedrooms could all be contained in one tolerably sized room. Rob had to build a bed room at his own cost for his wife’s Mother and the two eldest little girls ditto kitchen, for the old one neither kept out the rain, nor snow and was free to all the winds of heaven. I was domiciled in the state cabin, as I call the room in which I am writing to you in which I read and paint, think and pray, but I feel terribly cribbed, cabined and confined, but still very glad to be tenant at will. You would wonder how a man, three women and three children could be accommodated in such a narrow space. There is no room for a servant so we do without. I take charge of my cabin and the wee parlour and the other two ladies doing the rest. The worst of it that we have no privacy. The parlor door opening directly into the rail road which is only separated from us by a narrow board pavement, and trains are rushing to and fro all day shaking the wall and stunning our ears with the alarm. The house is mistaken for the waiting room half the time, and as the two little bed closets open into the parlor, my door is often opened by some strange person enquiring for ‘the Station Master’ and not long ago my daughter-in-law found a tipsy man in her room and had to go on to the platform to get some of the employees to get him out.