Fort Desolation by R.M. Ballantyne
OR, SOLITUDE IN
Chapter Two. THE
LETTER, AND ITS
TAMING A BULLY.
JACK HAS A
To some minds solitude is depressing, to others it is congenial. It
was the FORMER to our friend John Robinson; yet he had a large share of
it in his chequered life. John—more familiarly known as
Jack—was as romantic as his name was the reverse. To look at him
you would have supposed that he was the most ordinary of common-place
men, but if you had known him, as we did, you would have discovered that
there was a deep, silent, but ever-flowing river of enthusiasm, energy,
fervor—in a word, romance—in his soul, which seldom or never
manifested itself in words, and only now and then, on rare occasions,
flashed out in a lightning glance, or blazed up in a fiery countenance.
For the most part Jack was calm as a mill-pond, deep as the Atlantic,
straightforward and grave as an undertaker's clerk and good-humored as an
unspoilt and healthy child.
Jack never made a joke, but, certes, he could enjoy one; and he had a
way of showing his enjoyment by a twinkle in his blue eye and a chuckle
in his throat that was peculiarly impressive.
Jack was a type of a large class. He was what we may call an
OUTSKIRTER of the world. He was one of those who, from the force of
necessity, or of self-will, or of circumstances, are driven to the outer
circle of this world to do as Adam and Eve's family did, battle with
Nature in her wildest scenes and moods; to earn his bread, literally, in
the sweat of his brow.
Jack was a middle-sized man of strong make. He was not sufficiently
large to overawe men by his size, neither was he so small as to invite
impertinence from “big bullies,” of whom there were plenty in
his neighborhood. In short, being an unpretending man and a plain man,
with a good nose and large chin and sandy hair, he was not usually taken
much notice of by strangers during his journeyings in the world; but when
vigorous action in cases of emergency was required Jack Robinson was the
man to make himself conspicuous.
It is not our intention to give an account of Jack's adventurous life
from beginning to end, but to detail the incidents of a sojourn of two
months at Fort Desolation, in almost utter solitude, in order to show one
of the many phases of rough life to which outskirters are frequently
In regard to his early life it may be sufficient to say that Jack,
after being born, created such perpetual disturbance and storm in the
house that his worthy father came to look upon him as a perfect pest, and
as soon as possible sent him to a public school, where he fought like a
Mameluke Bey, learned his lessons with the zeal of a philosopher, and, at
the end of ten years ran away to sea, where he became as sick as a dog
and as miserable as a convicted felon.
Poor Jack was honest of heart and generous of spirit, but many a long
hard year did he spend in the rugged parts of the earth ere he recovered,
(if he ever did recover), from the evil effects of this first false
In course of time Jack was landed in Canada, with only a few shillings
in his pocket; from that period he became an outskirter. The romance in
his nature pointed to the backwoods; he went thither at once, and was not
disappointed. At first the wild life surpassed his expectations, but as
time wore on the tinsel began to wear off the face of things, and he came
to see them as they actually were. Nevertheless, the romance of life did
not wear out of his constitution. Enthusiasm, quiet but deep, stuck to
him all through his career, and carried him on and over difficulties that
would have disgusted and turned back many a colder spirit.
Jack's first success was the obtaining of a situation as clerk in the
store of a general merchant in an outskirt settlement of Canada. Dire
necessity drove him to this. He had been three weeks without money and
nearly two days without food before he succumbed. Having given in,
however, he worked like a Trojan, and would certainly have advanced
himself in life if his employer had not failed and left him, minus a
portion of his salary, to “try again.”
Next, he became an engineer on board one of the Missouri steamers, in
which capacity he burst his boiler, and threw himself and the passengers
into the river—the captain having adopted the truly Yankee
expedient of sitting down on the safety-valve while racing with another
Afterwards, Jack Robinson became clerk in one of the Ontario
steam-boats, but, growing tired of this life, he went up the Ottawa, and
became overseer of a sawmill. Here, being on the frontier of
civilization, he saw the roughest of Canadian life. The lumbermen of that
district are a mixed race—French-Canadians, Irishmen, Indians,
half-castes, etcetera,—and whatever good qualities these men might
possess in the way of hewing timber and bush-life, they were sadly
deficient in the matters of morality and temperance. But Jack was a man
of tact and good temper, and played his cards well. He jested with the
jocular, sympathized with the homesick, doctored the ailing in a rough
and ready fashion peculiarly his own, and avoided the quarrelsome. Thus
he became a general favorite.
Of course it was not to be expected that he could escape an occasional
broil, and it was herein that his early education did him good service.
He had been trained in an English school where he became one of the best
boxers. The lumberers on the Ottawa were not practised in this science;
they indulged in that kicking, tearing, pommeling sort of mode which is
so repugnant to the feelings of an Englishman. The consequence was that
Jack had few fights, but these were invariably with the largest bullies
of the district; and he, in each case, inflicted such tremendous facial
punishment on his opponent that he became a noted man, against whom few
cared to pit themselves.
There are none so likely to enjoy peace as those who are prepared for
war. Jack used sometimes to say, with a smile, that his few battles were
the price he had to pay for peace.
Our hero was unlucky. The saw-mill failed—its master being a
drunkard. When that went down he entered the lumber trade, where he made
the acquaintance of a young Scotchman, of congenial mind and temperament,
who suggested the setting up of a store in a promising locality and
proposed entering into partnership. “Murray and Robinson" was
forthwith painted by the latter, (who was a bit of an artist), over the
door of a small log-house, and the store soon became well known and much
frequented by the sparse population as well as by those engaged in the
But “the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the
strong.” There must have been a screw loose somewhere, for bad
debts accumulated and losses were incurred which finally brought the firm
to the ground, and left its dissevered partners to begin the world over
After this poor Jack Robinson fell into low spirits for a time, but he
soon recovered, and bought a small piece of land at a nominal price in a
region so wild that he had to cut his own road to it, fell the trees with
his own hand, and, in short, reclaim it from the wilderness on the margin
of which it lay. This was hard work, but Jack liked hard work, and
whatever work he undertook he always did it well. Strange that such a man
could not get on! yet so it was, that, in a couple of years, he found
himself little better off than he had been when he entered on his new
property. The region, too, was not a tempting one. No adventurous spirits
had located themselves beside him, and only a few had come within several
miles of his habitation.
This did not suit our hero's sociable temperament, and he began to
despond very much. Still his sanguine spirit led him to persevere, and
there is no saying how long he might have continued to spend his days and
his energies in felling trees and sowing among the stumps and hoping for
better days, had not his views been changed and his thoughts turned into
another channel by a letter.
One fine spring morning Jack was sitting, smoking his pipe after
breakfast, at the door of his log cabin, looking pensively out upon the
tree-stump-encumbered field which constituted his farm. He had
facetiously named his residence the Mountain House, in consequence of
there being neither mountain nor hill larger than an inverted wash-hand
basin, within ten miles of him! He was wont to defend the misnomer on the
ground that it served to keep him in remembrance of the fact that hills
really existed in other parts of the world.
Jack was in a desponding mood. His pipe would not “draw”
that morning; and his mind had been more active than usual for a few days
past, revolving the past, the present, and the future. In short, Jack was
cross. There could be no doubt whatever about it; for he suddenly, and
without warning, dashed his pipe to pieces against a log, went into the
house for another, which he calmly filled, as he resumed his former seat,
lit, and continued to smoke for some time in sulky silence. We record
this fact because it was quite contrary to Jack's amiable and patient
character, and showed that some deep emotions were stirring within
The second pipe “drew” well. Probably it was this that
induced him to give utterance to the expression—
“I wonder how long this sort of thing will last?”
“Just as long as you've a mind to let it, and no longer,”
answered a man clad in the garb of a trapper, whose mocassin foot had
given no indication of his approach until he was within a couple of paces
of the door.
“Is that you, Joe?” said Jack, looking up, and pointing to
a log which served as a seat on the other side of the doorway.
“It's all that's of me,” replied Joe.
“Sit down and fill your pipe out of my pouch, Joe. It's good
'baccy, you'll find. Any news? I suppose not. There never is; and if
there was, what would be the odds to me?”
“In the blues?” remarked the hunter, regarding Jack with a
peculiar smile through his first puff of smoke.
“Rather!” said Jack.
“Grog?” inquired Joe.
“Haven't tasted a drop for months,” replied Jack.
“All square HERE?” inquired the hunter, tapping his
“Could digest gun-flints and screw nails!”
The two smoked in silence for some time; then Joe drew forth a soiled
letter, which he handed to his companion, saying—
“It's bin lying at the post-office for some weeks, and as the
postmaster know'd I was comin' here he asked me to take it. I've a notion
it may be an offer to buy your clearin', for I've heerd two or three
fellows speakin' about it. Now, as I want to buy it myself, if yer
disposed to sell it, I hereby make you the first offer.”
Jack Robinson continued to smoke in silence, gazing abstractedly at
the letter. Since his mother had died, a year before the date of which we
write, he had not received a line from any one, insomuch that he had
given up calling at the post-office on his occasional visits to the
nearest settlement. This letter, therefore, took him by surprise, all the
more that it was addressed in the handwriting of his former partner,
Breaking the seal, he read as follows:
“Fort Kamenistaquoia, APRIL THE SOMETHINGTH:
“Dear Jack,—You'll be surprised to see my fist, but
surprised than I was to hear from an old hunter just arrived,
that you had taken to farming. It's not your forte, Jack, my
boy. Be advised. Sell off the farm for what it will fetch, and
come and join me. My antecedents are not in my favor, I grant;
but facts are stubborn things, and it is a fact that I am
making dollars here like stones. I'm a fur-trader, my boy. Have
joined a small company, and up to this time have made a good
thing of it. You know something of the fur trade, if I mistake
not. Do come and join us; we want such a man as you at a new
post we have established on the coast of Labrador. Shooting,
fishing, hunting, AD LIBITUM. Eating, drinking, sleeping, AD
INFINITUM. What would you more? Come, like a good fellow, and
“Ever thine, J. MURRAY.”
“I'll sell the FARM,” said Jack Robinson, folding the
“You will?” exclaimed Joe. “What's your
“Come over it with me, and look at the fixings, before I tell
you,” said Jack.
They went over it together, and looked at every fence and stump and
implement. They visited the live stock, and estimated the value of the
sprouting crop. Then they returned to the house, where they struck a
That evening Jack bade adieu to the Mountain House, mounted his horse,
with his worldly goods at the pommel of the saddle, and rode away,
leaving Joe, the trapper, in possession.
In process of time our hero rode through the settlements to Montreal,
where he sold his horse, purchased a few necessaries, and made his way
down the Saint Lawrence to the frontier settlements of the bleak and
almost uninhabited north shore of the gulf. Here he found some difficulty
in engaging a man to go with him, in a canoe, towards the coast of
An Irishman, in a fit of despondency, at length agreed; but on
reaching a saw-mill that had been established by a couple of adventurous
Yankees, in a region that seemed to be the out-skirts of creation, Paddy
repented, and vowed he'd go no farther for love or money.
Jack Robinson earnestly advised the faithless man to go home, and help
his grandmother, thenceforth, to plant murphies; after which he embarked
in his canoe alone, and paddled away into the dreary north.
Camping out in the woods at night, paddling all day, and living on
biscuit and salt pork, with an occasional duck or gull, by way of
variety; never seeing a human face from morn till night, nor hearing the
sound of any voice except his own, Jack pursued his voyage for fourteen
days. At the end of that time he descried Fort Kamenistaquoia. It
consisted of four small log-houses, perched on a conspicuous promontory,
with a flag-staff in the midst of them.
Here he was welcomed warmly by his friend John Murray and his
colleagues, and was entertained for three days sumptuously on fresh
salmon, salt pork, pancakes, and tea. Intellectually, he was regaled with
glowing accounts of the fur trade and the salmon fisheries of that
“Now, Jack,” said Murray, on the third day after his
arrival, while they walked in front of the fort, smoking a morning pipe,
“it is time that you were off to the new fort. One of our best men
has built it, but he is not a suitable person to take charge, and as the
salmon season has pretty well advanced we are anxious to have you there
to look after the salting and sending of them to Quebec.”
“What do you call the new fort?” inquired Jack.
“Well, it has not yet got a name. We've been so much in the
habit of styling it the New Fort that the necessity of another name has
not occurred to us. Perhaps, as you are to be its first master, we may
leave the naming of it to you.”
“Very good,” said Jack; “I am ready at a moment's
notice. Shall I set off this forenoon?”
“Not quite so sharp as that,” replied Murray, laughing.
“To-morrow morning, at day-break, will do. There is a small sloop
lying in a creek about twenty miles below this. We beached her there last
autumn. You'll go down in a boat with three men, and haul her into deep
water. There will be spring tides in two days, so, with the help of
tackle, you'll easily manage it. Thence you will sail to the new fort,
forty miles farther along the coast, and take charge.”
“The three men you mean to give me know their work, I
presume?” said Jack.
“Of course they do. None of them have been at the fort,
“Oh! How then shall we find it?” inquired Jack.
“By observation,” replied the other. “Keep a sharp
look out as you coast along, and you can't miss it.”
The idea of mists and darkness and storms occurred to Jack Robinson,
but he only answered, “Very good.”
“Can any of the three men navigate the sloop?” he
“Not that I'm aware of,” said Murray; “but you know
something of navigation, yourself, don't you?”
“Pooh! nonsense. Have you never sailed a boat?”
“Well, it's the same thing. If a squall comes, keep a steady
hand on the helm and a sharp eye to wind'ard, and you're safe as the
Bank. If it's too strong for you, loose the halyards, let the sheets fly,
and down with the helm; the easiest thing in the world if you only look
alive and don't get flurried.”
“Very good,” said Jack, and as he said so his pipe went
out; so he knocked out the ashes and refilled it.
Next morning our hero rowed away with his three men, and soon
discovered the creek of which his friend had spoken. Here he found the
sloop, a clumsy “tub” of about twenty tons burden, and here
Jack's troubles began.
The FAIRY, as the sloop was named, happened to have been beached
during a very high tide. It now lay high and dry in what once had been
mud, on the shore of a land-locked bay or pond, under the shadow of some
towering pines. The spot looked like an inland lakelet, on the margin of
which one might have expected to find a bear or a moose-deer, but
certainly not a sloop.
“Oh! ye shall nevair git him off,” said Francois Xavier,
one of the three men—a French-Canadian—on beholding the
“We'll try,” said Pierre, another of the three men, and a
burly half- breed.
“Try!” exclaimed Rollo, the third of the three men—a
tall, powerful, ill-favored man, who was somewhat of a bully, who could
not tell where he had been born, and did not know who his father and
mother had been, having been forsaken by them in his infancy. “Try?
you might as well try to lift a mountain! I've a mind to go straight back
to Kamenistaquoia and tell Mr. Murray that to his face!”
“Have you?” said Jack Robinson, in a quiet, peculiar tone,
accompanied by a gaze that had the effect of causing Rollo to look a
little confused. “Come along, lads, we'll begin at once,” he
continued, “it will be full tide in an hour or so. Get the tackle
ready, Francois; the rest of you set to work, and clear away the stones
and rubbish from under her sides.”
Jack threw off his coat, and began to work like a hero—as he
was. The others followed his example; and the result was that when the
tide rose to its full height the sloop was freed of all the rubbish that
had collected round the hull; the block tackle was affixed to the mast;
the rope attached to a tree on the opposite side of the creek; and the
party were ready to haul. But although they hauled until their sinews
cracked, and the large veins of their necks and foreheads swelled almost
to bursting, the sloop did not move an inch. The tide began to fall, and
in a few minutes that opportunity was gone. There were not many such
tides to count on, so Jack applied all his energies and ingenuity to the
work. By the time the next tide rose they had felled two large pines, and
applied them to the side of the vessel. Two of the party swung at the
ends of these; the other two hauled on the block-tackle. This time the
sloop moved a little at the full flood; but the moment of hope soon
passed, and the end was not yet attained.
The next tide was the last high one. They worked like desperate men
during the interval. The wedge was the mechanical power which prevailed
at last. Several wedges were inserted under the vessel's side, and driven
home. Thus the sloop was canted over a little towards the water. When the
tide was at the full, one man hauled at the tackle, two men swung at the
ends of the levers, and Jack hammered home the wedges at each heave and
pull; thus securing every inch of movement. The result was that the sloop
slid slowly down the bank into deep water.
It is wonderful how small a matter will arouse human enthusiasm! The
cheer that was given on the successful floating of the FAIRY was
certainly as full of fervor, if not of volume, as that which followed the
launching of the GREAT EASTERN.
Setting sail down the gulf they ran before a fair breeze which
speedily increased to a favoring gale. Before night a small bay was
descried, with three log-huts on the shore. This was the new fort. They
ran into the bay, grazing a smooth rock in their passage, which caused
the FAIRY to tremble from stem to stern, and cast anchor close to a
wooden jetty. On the end of this a solitary individual, (apparently a
maniac), was seen capering and yelling wildly.
“What fort is this?” shouted Jack.
“Sorrow wan o' me knows,” cried the maniac; “it's
niver been christened yet. Faix, if it's a fort at all, I'd call it Fort
Disolation. Och! but it's lonesome I've been these three days—niver
a wan here but meself an' the ghosts. Come ashore, darlints, and comfort
“Fort Desolation, indeed!” muttered Jack Robinson, as he
looked round him sadly; “not a bad name. I'll adopt it. Lower the
Thus Jack took possession of his new home.
Jack Robinson's first proceeding on entering the new fort and assuming
the command, was to summon the man, (supposed to be a maniac), named
Teddy O'Donel, to his presence in the “Hall.”
“Your name is Teddy O'Donel?” said Jack.
“The same, sir, at your sarvice,” said Teddy, with a
respectful pull at his forelock. “They was used to call me MISTER
O'Donel when I was in the army, but I've guv that up long ago an' dropped
the title wid the commission.”
“Indeed: then you were a commissioned officer?” inquired
Jack, with a smile.
“Be no manes. It was a slight longer title than that I had. They
called me a non-commissioned officer. I niver could find in me heart to
consociate wid them consaited commissioners—though there was wan or
two of 'em as was desarvin' o' the three stripes. But I niver took kindly
to sodgerin'. It was in the Howth militia I was. Good enough boys they
was in their way, but I couldn't pull wid them no how. They made me a
corp'ral for good conduct, but, faix, the great review finished me; for I
got into that state of warlike feeling that I loaded me muskit five times
widout firin', an' there was such a row round about that I didn't know
the dirty thing had niver wint off till the fifth time, when she bursted
into smithereens an' wint off intirely. No wan iver seed a scrag of her
after that. An' the worst was, she carried away the small finger of Bob
Riley's left hand. Bob threw down his muskit an' ran off the ground
howlin', so I picked the wipon up an' blazed away at the inimy; but, bad
luck to him, Bob had left his ramrod in, and I sint it right through the
flank of an owld donkey as was pullin' an apple and orange cart. Oh! how
that baste did kick up its heels, to be sure! and the apples and oranges
they was flyin' like —Well, well—the long and the short was,
that I wint an' towld the colonel I couldn't stop no longer in such a
regiment. So I guv it up an' comed out here.”
“And became a fur-trader,” said Jack Robinson, with a
“Just so, sur, an' fort-builder to boot; for, being a jiner to
trade and handy wid the tools, Mr. Murray sent me down here to build the
place and take command, but I s'pose I'm suppersheeded now!”
“Well, I believe you are, Teddy; but I hope that you will yet do
good service as my lieutenant.”
The beaming smile on Teddy's face showed that he was well pleased to
be relieved from the responsibilities of office.
“Sure,” said he, “the throuble I have had wid the
min an' the salvages for the last six weeks—it's past belavin'! An'
thin, whin I sint the men down to the river to fush—more nor twinty
miles off—an' whin the salvages wint away and left me alone wid
only wan old salvage woman!—och! I'd not wish my worst inimy in me
“Then the savages have been giving you trouble, have
“They have, sur, but not so much as the min.”
“Well, Teddy,” said Jack, “go and fetch me something
to eat, and then you shall sit down and give me an account of things in
general. But first give my men food.”
“Sure they've got it,” replied Teddy, with a broad grin.
“That spalpeen they calls Rollo axed for meat the first thing, in a
voice that made me think he'd ait me up alive av he didn't git it. So I
guv 'em the run o' the pantry. What'll yer plaze to dhrink,
“What have you got?”
“Tay and coffee, sur, not to mintion wather. There's only flour
an' salt pork to ait, for this is a bad place for game. I've not seed a
bird or a bear for three weeks, an' the seals is too cute for me. But
I'll bring ye the best that we've got.”
Teddy O'Donel hastened to the kitchen, a small log-hut in rear of the
dwelling-house, and left Jack Robinson alone in the
Jack rose, thrust his hands deep into his pockets, and walked to the
window. It was glazed with parchment, with the exception of the center
square, which was of glass.
“Pleasant, uncommonly pleasant,” he muttered, as he
surveyed the landscape.
In front lay a flat beach of sand with the gulf beyond, the horizon
being veiled in mist. Up the river there was a flat beach with a hill
beyond. It was a black iron-looking hill, devoid of all visible verdure,
and it plunged abruptly down into the sea as if it were trying fiercely
to drown itself. Down the river there was a continuation of flat beach,
with, apparently, nothing whatever beyond. The only objects that
enlivened the dreary expanse were, the sloop at the end of the wooden
jetty and a small flagstaff in front of the house, from which a flag was
flying in honor of the arrival of the new governor. At the foot of this
flagstaff there stood an old iron cannon, which looked pugnacious and
cross, as if it longed to burst itself and blow down all visible
Jack Robinson's countenance became a simple blank as he took the first
survey of his new dominions. Suddenly a gleam of hope flitted across the
“Perhaps the back is better,” he muttered, opening the
door that led to the rear of the premises. In order to get out he had to
pass through the kitchen, where he found his men busy with fried pork and
flour cakes, and his lieutenant, Teddy, preparing coffee.
“What is that?” inquired Jack, pointing to a small heap of
brown substance which Teddy was roasting in a frying-pan.
“Sure it's coffee,” said the man.
“Eh?” inquired Jack.
“Coffee, sur,” repeated Teddy with emphasis.
“What is it made of?” inquired Jack.
“Bread-crumbs, sur. I'm used to make it of pais, but it takes
longer, d'ye see, for I've got to pound 'em in a cloth after they're
roasted. The crumbs is a'most as good as the pais, an' quicker made whin
yer in a hurry.”
Jack's first impulse was to countermand the crumbs and order tea, but
he refrained, and went out to survey the back regions of his new
He found that the point selected for the establishment of the fort was
a plain of sand, on which little herbage of any kind grew. In rear of the
house there was a belt of stunted bushes, which, as he went onward into
the interior, became a wood of stunted firs. This seemed to grow a little
more dense farther inland, and finally terminated at the base of the
distant and rugged mountains of the interior. In fact, he found that he
was established on a sandbank which had either been thrown up by the sea,
or at no very remote period had formed part of its bed. Returning home so
as to enter by the front door, he observed an enclosed space a few
hundred yards distant from the fort. Curious to know what it was, he
walked up to it, and, looking over the stockade, beheld numerous little
mounds of sand with wooden crosses at the head of them. It was the
burial-ground of the establishment. Trade had been carried on here by a
few adventurous white men before the fort was built. Some of their number
having died, a space had been enclosed as a burying-ground. The Roman
Catholic Indians afterwards used it, and it was eventually consecrated
with much ceremony by a priest.
With a face from which every vestige of intelligence was removed, Jack
Robinson returned to the fort and sat down in solitary state in the hall.
In the act of sitting down he discovered that the only arm-chair in the
room was unsteady on its legs, these being of unequal length. There were
two other chairs without arms, and equally unsteady on their legs. These,
as well as everything in the room, were made of fir- wood—as yet
unpainted. In the empty fire-place Jack observed a piece of charcoal,
which he took up and began, in an absent way, to sketch on the white
wall. He portrayed a raving maniac as large as life, and then, sitting
down, began insensibly to hum,—
“I dreamt that I dwelt in marble halls.”
In the midst of which he was interrupted by the entrance of his
lieutenant with a tray of viands.
“Ah, yer a purty creatur,” exclaimed Teddy, pausing with a
look of admiration before the maniac.
“Come, Teddy, sit down and let's have the news. What have we
here?” said Jack, looking at three covered plates which were placed
“Salt pork fried,” said Teddy removing the cover.
“Salt pork biled,” said the man, removing the second
cover; “an' salt pork cold,” he added, removing the third.
“You see, sur, I wasn't sure which way ye'd like it, an' ye was out
whin I come to ax; so I just did it up in three fashions. Here's loaf
bread, an' it's not bad, though I say it that made it.”
As Jack cut down into the loaf, he naturally remembered those lines of
a well-known writer:
“Who has not tasted home-made bread,
A heavy compound of putty and
“Are these cakes?” he said, as Teddy presented another
plate with something hot in it.
“Aye, pancakes they is, made of flour an' wather fried in
grease, an' the best of aitin', as ye'll find;—but, musha! they've
all stuck together from some raison I han't yet diskivered: but they'll
be none the worse for that, and there's plenty of good thick molasses to
wash 'em down wid.”
“And this,” said Jack, pointing to a battered tin kettle,
“is the— the—”
“That's the coffee, sur.”
“Ah! well, sit down, Teddy, I have seen worse fare than this.
Let's be thankful for it. Now, then, let me hear about the
Nothing pleased Teddy O'Donel so much as being allowed to talk. He sat
down accordingly and entertained his master for the next hour with a
full, true, and particular account of every thing connected with Fort
Desolation. We will not, however, inflict this on the reader. Reduced to
its narrowest limits, his information was to the following
That the Indians, generally, were well disposed towards the traders,
though difficult to please. That a good many furs had been already
obtained, and there was a report of more coming in. That the salmon
fishery was situated on a river twenty miles below the fort, and was
progressing favorably; but that the five men engaged there were a
quarrelsome set and difficult to keep in order. Teddy thought, however,
that it was all owing to one of the men, named Ladoc, a bully, who kept
the other four in bad humor.
But the point on which poor Teddy dilated most was his solitude. For
some time he had been living with no other companions than an old Indian
woman and her half-caste daughter, and they having left him, during the
last three days he had been living entirely alone “among the
ghosts,” many of which he described minutely.
This intelligence was brought to an abrupt close by a row among the
men in the kitchen. Rollo had been boasting of his walking powers to such
an extent, that Pierre had become disgusted and spoke contemptuously of
Rollo; whereupon the bully, as usual, began to storm, and his wrath
culminated when Pierre asserted that, “Mr. Robinson would bring him
to his marrow-bones ere long.”
“Jack Robinson!” exclaimed Rollo with contempt; “I'd
walk him blind in two hours.”
Just at that moment the door opened, and Jack stood before them.
“You are too noisy, men,” said he, in a quiet voice, (Jack
almost always spoke in a soft voice); “remember that this kitchen
is within hearing of the hall. Rollo, go down to the beach and haul up
the sloop's boat, I see the tide is making on her.”
“You hear?” said Jack, still in a quiet tone, but with a
look—not a fierce look, or a threatening look, but—a peculiar
look, which instantly took effect.
One has often observed a cat when about to spring. It makes many
pauses in its prowling towards its prey, and occasional motions that lead
one to expect a spring. But the motion which precedes the actual spring
is always emphatic. It may not be violent; it may be as slight as all the
previous motions, but there is that in it which tells irresistibly,
somehow, of a fixed purpose. So is it, doubtless, with tigers; so was it
with Jack Robinson. His first remark to the men was a prowl; his order to
Rollo was a pause, with an INTENTION; his “you hear?” softly
said, had a SOMETHING in it which induced Rollo to accord instant
On returning to the hall, Jack paced up and down indignantly.
“So there are TWO bullies in the camp,” he soliloquized;
“I must cure them both;—but softly, Jack. It won't do to
fight if you can secure peace by other means. Let blows be the last
resource. That's my motto. He'll walk me blind! Well, we shall see,
The morrow came, and Jack Robinson rose with the sun. Long before his
men were astir he had inspected the few books and papers of the
establishment, had examined the condition of the fur and goods store, and
had otherwise made himself acquainted with the details of the fort;
having gone over its general features with Teddy the day before.
When the “lieutenant” arose, he found indications of his
new master having been everywhere before him, and noted the fact! As
Teddy was by no means a man of order—although a good and
trustworthy man—there was enough to be done before breakfast. Jack
purposely put Rollo into the kitchen to prepare the morning meal, this
being comparatively light work. He himself worked with the other men in
the stores. There was necessarily a great deal of lifting and shifting
and clearing, in all of which operations he took the heaviest part of the
work, and did his work better and more thoroughly than any of the others.
Teddy observed this also, and noted the fact!
At breakfast there was naturally a good deal of talk among the men,
and special mention was of course made of the energy of their master.
Breakfast over, Jack assembled the men and apportioned to each his
“I myself,” said he, “mean to walk down to the
fishery to-day, and I leave O'Donel in charge; I shall be back to-morrow.
Rollo, you will prepare to accompany me.”
“Yes, sir,” answered the man, not knowing very well how to
take this. The others glanced at each other intelligently as they
departed to their work.
A few minutes sufficed for preparation, and soon Jack stood with his
rifle on his shoulder in front of the house. Rollo quickly made his
appearance with an old trading gun.
“You can leave that, we won't require it,” said Jack;
“besides I want to walk fast, so it is well that you should be as
light as possible.”
“No fear but I'll keep up with you, sir,” said the man,
“I do not doubt it,” replied Jack, “but one gun is
enough for us, so put yours by, and come along.”
Rollo obeyed, and resolved in his heart that he would give his new
master a taste of his powers.
Jack started off at a good rattling pace, somewhat over four miles an
hour. For the first mile Rollo allowed him to lead, keeping about a foot
behind. Then he thought to himself, “Now, my friend, I'll try
you,” and ranged up beside him, keeping a few yards to one side,
however, in order to avoid the appearance of racing. After a few minutes
he pushed the pace considerably, and even went ahead of his companion;
but, ere long, Jack was alongside and the pace increased to nearly five
miles an hour.
Only those who have tried it know, or can fully appreciate, what is
meant by adding a mile an hour to one's pace. Most active men go at four
miles an hour when walking at a good smart pace. Men NEVER walk at five
miles an hour except when in the utmost haste, and then only for a short
distance. Anything beyond that requires a run in order to be
It was curious to watch the progress of these two men. The aim of each
was to walk at his greatest possible speed, without allowing the
slightest evidence of unwonted exertion to appear on his countenance or
in his manner.
They walked on the sands of the shore—there being no roads
there— and at first the walking was good, as the tide was out and
the sand hard. But before they had got half way to the fishery the sea
came in and drove them to the soft sand, which, as nearly every one
knows, is terribly fatiguing and difficult to walk in.
Up to this point the two men had kept abreast, going at a tremendous
pace, yet conversing quietly and keeping down every appearance of
distress; affecting, in fact, to be going at their usual and natural
pace! Many a sidelong glance did Rollo cast, however, at his companion,
to see if he were likely to give in soon. But Jack was as cool as a
cucumber, and wore a remarkably amiable expression of countenance. He
even hummed snatches of one or two songs, as though he were only
sauntering on the beach. At last he took out his pipe, filled it, and
began to smoke, without slackening speed. This filled Rollo with
surprise, and for the first time he began to entertain doubts as to the
result of the struggle.
As for Jack, he never doubted it for a moment. When they were
compelled to take to the heavy sand and sank above the ankles at every
step, he changed his tactics. Putting out his pipe, he fell behind a few
“Ha!” thought Rollo, “done up at last; now I'll give
The thought that he was sure of victory infused such spirit into the
man that he braced himself to renewed exertion. This was just what Jack
wanted. He kept exactly a foot behind Rollo, yet when the other ventured
to slacken his pace, (which was now too great to be kept up), he pushed
forward just enough to keep him at it, without disheartening him as to
result. In the midst of this they both came to a full stop on discovering
a box made of birch bark, which seemed to have been dropped by some
“Hallo! what have we here?” cried Jack, stooping down to
“My blessin' on't whatever it is,” thought Rollo, to whom
the momentary relief from walking was of the greatest consequence. Jack
knew this, and hastened his inspection. It was a box of bear's fat.
“Come, not a bad thing in times like these,” observed
Jack; “will you carry this or the rifle, my man? See, the rifle is
lighter, take that.”
Again they stepped out, and the sand seemed to grow softer and deeper
as they advanced. They were now five miles from the end of their journey,
so Jack began to exert himself. He pushed on at a pace that caused Rollo
to pant and blow audibly. For some time Jack pretended not to notice
this, but at last he turned round and said—
“You seem to be fatigued, my man, let me carry the
Rollo did not object, and Jack went forward with the box and rifle
more rapidly than before. He was perspiring, indeed, at every pore
profusely, but wind and limb were as sound as when he started.
He finally left Rollo out of sight, and arrived at the fishery without
Half an hour afterwards Rollo arrived. He was a stout fellow, and by
taking a short rest, had recovered sufficiently to come in with some
degree of spirit; nevertheless, it was evident to all that he was
“used up,” for, “it is not the distance but the pace
that kills!” He found the fishermen at dinner, buttering their
cakes with the bear's grease that had been discovered on the way down.
Jack Robinson was sitting in the midst of them, chatting quietly and
smoking his pipe beside the fire-place of the hut.
Jack introduced him as one of the new men, but made no reference to
the walk from Fort Desolation. He felt, however, that he had conquered
the man, at least for that time, and hoped that further and more violent
methods would not be necessary. In this he was disappointed, as the
sequel will show.
That night Jack slept on a bed made of old salmon-nets, with a new
salmon-net above him for a blanket. It was a peculiar and not a
particularly comfortable bed; but in his circumstances he could have
slept on a bed of thorns. He gazed up at the stars through the hole in
the roof that served for a chimney, and listened to the chirping of the
frogs in a neighboring swamp, to which the snoring of the men around him
formed a rough-and-ready bass. Thus he lay gazing and listening, till
stars and strains alike melted away, and left him in the sweet regions of
Next morning, Jack Robinson went out at daybreak to inspect the salmon
The river, up which the fish went in thousands, was broad, deep, and
rapid. Its banks were clothed with spruce-fir and dense underwood. There
was little of the picturesque or the beautiful in the scenery. It was a
bleak spot and unattractive.
Two of the four men who conducted the fishery were stationed at the
mouth of the river. The other two attended to the nets about six miles
farther up, at a place where there was a considerable fall terminating in
a long, turbulent rapid.
With his wonted promptitude and energy, Jack began to make himself
master of his position long before the men were stirring. Before Ladoc,
who was superintendent, had lighted his first pipe and strolled down to
the boat to commence the operations of the day, Jack had examined the
nets, the salt boxes, the curing-vats, the fish in pickle, the casks, and
all the other MATERIEL of the fishery, with a critical eye. From what he
saw, he was convinced that Ladoc was not the best manager that could be
desired, and, remembering that Ladoc was a bully, he was strengthened in
an opinion which he had long entertained, namely, that a bully is never a
He was in the act of forming this opinion, when Ladoc approached.
“Good morning, Ladoc,” said he; “you rise
“Oui, sair; mais, you gits up more earlier.”
“Yes, I am fond of morning air. The fishery prospers, I
“It doos, monsieur,” said Ladoc, accepting the remark as a
compliment to himself; “ve have catch fifteen casks already, and
they is in most splendid condition.”
“Hum!” ejaculated Jack, with a doubtful look at a cask
which was evidently leaking, “hum! yes, you are getting on pretty
Here Jack “hummed” again, and looked pointedly at one of
the large vats, which was also leaking, and around which there was a
great deal of salt that had been scattered carelessly on the ground.
Raising big eyes to the roof of the low shed in which the salt-boxes
stood, he touched with his stick a torn piece of its tarpaulin covering,
through which rain had found its way in bad weather. He
“hummed” again, but said nothing, for he saw that Ladoc was a
After some minutes Jack turned to his companion with a bland smile,
“The next station is—how many miles did you
“Ah, six! well, let us go up and see it. You can show me the
“Breakfast be ready ver' soon,” said Ladoc,
“monsieur vill eat first, p'r'aps?”
“No, we will breakfast at the upper station. Ho, Rollo! here, I
Rollo, who issued from the hut at the moment, with a view to examine
the weather and light his pipe, came forward.
“I am going with Ladoc to the upper station,” said Jack;
“you will take his place here until we return.”
“Very well, sir,” replied Rollo, fixing his eyes upon
Ladoc. At the same moment Ladoc fixed his eyes on Rollo. The two men
seemed to read each other's character in a single glance, and then and
there hurled silent defiance in each other's teeth through their eyes!
Ladoc was annoyed at having been silently found fault with and
superseded; Rollo was aggrieved at being left behind; both men were
therefore enraged— for it is wonderful how small a matter is
sufficient to enrage a bully —but Jack ordered Ladoc to lead the
way, so the rivals, or enemies, parted company with another glance of
That day, Jack Robinson had a somewhat rough and remarkable experience
He began by overhauling the nets at the mouth of the river, and these
were so prolific that the small flat-bottomed boat used by the fishermen
was soon half filled with glittering salmon, varying from ten to fifteen
pounds in weight. In order to avoid having his mocassins and nether
garments soiled, Jack, who pulled the sculls, sat with bare feet and
tucked-up trousers. In less than an hour he rowed back to the
landing-place, literally up to the knees in salmon! Among these were a
few young seals that had got entangled in the nets, while in pursuit of
the fish, and been drowned. These last were filled with water to such an
extent, that they resembled inflated bladders!
“Breakfast is ready, sir,” said one of the men, as the
boat-party leaped ashore.
“Very good,” replied Jack; turning to Ladoc, “now,
my man, are you ready to start for the upper fishery?”
“Eh? ah—oui, monsieur.”
There was a titter amongst the men at the expression of their big
comrade's face, for Ladoc was ravenously hungry, and felt inclined to
rebel at the idea of being obliged to start on a six-miles' walk without
food; but as his young master was about to do the same he felt that it
was beneath his dignity to complain. Besides, there was a SOMETHING
peculiar about Jack's manner that puzzled and overawed the man.
The fact was, that Jack Robinson wanted to know what his bullies were
made of, and took rather eccentric methods of finding it out. He
accordingly set off at his best pace, and pushed Ladoc so hard, that he
arrived at the upper fishery in a state of profuse perspiration, with a
very red face, and with a disagreeably vacuous feeling about the pit of
They found the men at the station just landing with a boat-load of
fish. They were all clean-run, and shone in the bright sunshine like bars
of burnished silver.
“Now, Ladoc,” said Jack, “get breakfast ready, while
I look over matters here.”
It need not be said that the man obeyed most willingly. His master
went to examine into details. Half-an-hour sufficed to make him pretty
well acquainted with the state of matters at the station, and, during
breakfast, he soon obtained from the men all the knowledge they possessed
about the fishery, the natives, and the region.
One of the men was a half-caste, a fine-looking, grave, earnest
fellow, who spoke English pretty well. His name was Marteau.
“The seals and the bears are our worst enemies, sir,” said
Marteau, in the course of conversation.
“Indeed! and which of the two are worst?” inquired Jack.
“Another slice of pork, Ladoc, your appetite appears to be sharp
this morning; thank you, go on, Marteau, you were saying something about
the bears and seals.”
“It's not easy to say which of them is worst, sir. I think the
bears is, for the seals eat the bits that they bite out o' the fish, and
so get some good of it; but the bears, they goes to the vats and pulls
out the salt fish with their claws, for you see, sir, they can't resist
the smell, but when they tries to eat 'em—ah you should see the
faces they do make! You see, they can't stand the salt, so they don't eat
much, but they hauls about and tears up an uncommon lot of
“It must make him ver' t'irsty,” observed Ladoc,
swallowing a can of tea at a draught.
“It makes one thirsty to think of it,” said Jack,
imitating Ladoc's example; “now, lads, we'll go and overhaul the
Just as he spoke, Ladoc sprang from his seat, seized Jack's gun, which
leant against the wall, shouted, “A bear!” and, leveling the
piece through the open doorway, took aim at the bushes in front of the
At the same moment Jack leaped forward, struck up the muzzle of the
gun just as it exploded, and, seizing Ladoc by the collar, hurled him
with extraordinary violence, considering his size, against the wall.
“Make yourself a better hunter,” said he, sternly,
“before you presume to lay hands again on my gun. Look
Jack pointed, as he spoke, in the direction in which the man had
fired, where the object that had been mistaken for a bear appeared in the
form of a man, crawling out of the bushes on all-fours. He seemed to move
unsteadily, as if he were in pain.
Running to his assistance, they found that he was an Indian, and, from
the blood that bespattered his dress and hand, it was evident that he had
been wounded. He was a pitiable object, in the last stage of exhaustion.
When the party ran towards him, he looked up in their faces with
lustreless eyes, and then sank fainting on the ground.
“Poor fellow!” said Jack, as they carried him into the hut
and placed him on one of the low beds; “he must have met with an
accident, for there is no warfare in this region among the Indians to
account for his being wounded.”
“'Tis a strange accident,” said Marteau, when the man's
clothes were stripped off and the wounds exposed. “An accident
sometimes puts ONE bullet through a man, but seldom puts TWO!”
“True,” said Jack, “this looks bad, here is a hole
clean through the fleshy part of his right arm, and another through his
right thigh. An enemy must have done this.”
On farther examination it was found that the bone of the man's leg had
been smashed by the bullet, which, after passing through to the other
side of the limb, was arrested by the skin. It was easily extracted, and
the wounds were dressed by Jack, who, to his many useful qualities, added
a considerable knowledge of medicine and surgery.
When the Indian recovered sufficiently to give an account of himself
to Marteau, who understood his language perfectly, he told him, to the
surprise of all, that his double wound was indeed the result of an
accident, and, moreover, that he had done the deed with his own hand.
Doubtless it will puzzle the reader to imagine how a man could so twist
himself, that with an unusually long gun he could send a bullet at one
shot through his right arm and right thigh. It puzzled Jack and his men
so much, that they were half inclined to think the Indian was not telling
the truth, until he explained that about a mile above the hut, while
walking through the bushes, he tripped and fell. He was carrying the gun
over his shoulder in the customary Indian fashion, that is, by the
muzzle, with the stock behind him. He fell on his hands and knees; the
gun was thrown forward and struck against a tree so violently, that it
exploded; in its flight it had turned completely round, so that, at the
moment of discharge, the barrel was in a line with the man's arm and leg,
and thus the extraordinary wound was inflicted.
To crawl from the spot where the accident occurred took the poor
fellow nearly twelve hours, and he performed this trying journey during
the night and morning over a rugged country and without food.
The surgical operation engaged Jack's attention the greater part of
the forenoon. When it was completed and the Indian made as comfortable as
possible, he went out with the men to visit the nets which were set at
the rapids about two miles higher up the river.
We never can tell what a day or an hour may bring forth. This is a
solemn fact on which young and old might frequently ponder with
advantage, and on which we might enlarge to an unlimited extent; but our
space will not admit of moralizing very much, therefore we beg the reader
to moralize on that, for him—or herself. The subject is none the
less important, that circumstances require that it should be touched on
in a slight, almost flippant, manner.
Had Jack Robinson known what lay before him that evening, he
would— he would have been a wiser man! Nothing more appropriate
than that occurs to us at this moment. But, to be more
When the party reached the nets, Jack left them to attend to their
work, and went off alone to the vats, some of which, measuring about six
feet in diameter, were nearly full of fish in pickle.
As he walked along the slight track which guided him towards them, he
pondered the circumstances in which he then found himself, and, indulging
in a habit which he had acquired in his frequent and prolonged periods of
solitude, began to mutter his thoughts aloud.
“So, so, Jack, you left your farm because you were tired of
solitude, and now you find yourself in the midst of society. Pleasant
society, truly!—bullies and geese, without a sympathetic mind to
rub against. Humph! a pleasant fix you've got into, old
Jack was wrong in this to some extent, as he afterwards came to
confess to himself, for among his men there were two or three minds worth
cultivating, noble and shrewd, and deep, too, though not educated or
refined. But at the time of which we write, Jack did not know this. He
went on to soliloquize:
“Yes, you've got a pretty set to deal with; elements that will
cause you enough of trouble before you have done with them. Well, well,
don't give in, old chap. Never say die. If solitude is to be your lot,
meet it like a man. Why, they say that solitude of the worst kind is to
be found where most people dwell. Has it not been said, that in the great
city of London itself a man may be more solitary than in the heart of the
wilderness? I've read it, but I can't very well believe it. Yet, there
MAY be something in it. Humph! Well, well, Jack, you're not a
philosopher, so don't try to go too deep; take it easy, and do the best
At this point Jack came suddenly in sight of the vats. They stood in
the center of a cleared space in the forest. On the edge of the largest
vat was perched an object which induced our hero to throw forward his
fowling-piece hastily. It was a black bear, or rather the hind-quarters
of a black bear, for the head and one paw and shoulder of the animal were
far down in the vat. He was holding firmly to its edge by the hind legs
and one fore-leg, while with the other he was straining his utmost to
reach the fish.
Jack's first impulse was to fire, but reflecting that the portion of
the bear then in view was not a very vulnerable part, he hesitated, and
finally crept behind a tree to consider, feeling confident that whatever
should occur he would be pretty sure of getting a favorable opportunity
to fire with effect.
Quite unconscious of his danger, bruin continued to reach down into
the vat with unwearied determination. His efforts were rewarded with
success, for he presently appeared on the edge of the vat with a fine
salmon in his embrace. Now was Jack's opportunity. He raised his piece,
but remembering Marteau's remark about the bear's difficulty in eating
salt salmon, he postponed the fatal shot until he should have studied
this point in natural history.
His forbearance met with a reward, for the bear kept him during the
next five minutes in such a state of suppressed laughter, that he could
not have taken a steady aim to have saved his life. Its sense of smell
was evidently gratified, for on leaping to the ground it took a powerful
snuff, and then began to devour the salmon with immense gusto. But the
first mouthful produced an expression of countenance that could not be
misunderstood. It coughed, spluttered, and sneezed, or at least gave vent
to something resembling these sounds, and drew back from the fish with a
snarl; then it snuffed again. There was no mistaking the smell. It was
delicious! Bruin, disbelieving his sense of taste, and displaying unwise
faith in his sense of smell, made another attempt. He had tried the head
first; with some show of reason he now tried the tail. Faugh! it was
worse than the other; “as salt as fire,” as we have heard it
sometimes expressed. The spluttering at this point became excessive, and
it was clear that the bear was getting angry. Once again, with an amount
of perseverance that deserved better fortune, the bear snuffed heartily
at the fish, tore it to shreds with his claws, and then tried another
mouthful, which it spat out instantly. Displaying all its teeth and gums,
it shut its eyes, and, raising its head in the air, fairly howled with
Jack now deemed it prudent to bring the scene to a close, so, calming
himself as well as he could, he took a steady aim, and, watching his
The bear did not fall. It faced round in a moment, and, uttering a
fierce growl, very unlike to its previous tones, rushed upon its enemy,
who fired his second barrel at the creature's breast. Whether it was that
Jack's fit of laughter had shaken his nerves so as to render him
incapable of taking a good aim, is a matter of uncertainty, but although
both shots took effect, the bear was not checked in his career. On it
came. Jack had no time to load. He turned to run, when his quick eye
observed a branch of a tree over his head within reach. Dropping his gun
he bounded upwards and caught it, and, being unusually powerful in the
arms, drew himself up and got astride of it just as the bear reached the
spot. But bruin was not to be baulked so easily. He was a black bear and
a good climber. Finding that he could not at his utmost stretch obtain a
nibble at Jack's toes, he rushed at the trunk of the tree and began to
ascend rapidly. Jack at once moved towards the end of the branch,
intending to drop to the ground, recover his gun and run for it; but the
movement broke the branch off suddenly, and he came down with such a
crash, that the bear stopped, looked round, and, seeing his enemy on the
ground, began to descend.
Although somewhat stunned by the fall, our hero was able to spring up
and run in the direction of the hut. The bear was so close on his heels,
however, that he had no chance of his reaching it. He felt this, and, as
a last resource, doubled on his track like a hare and made for the banks
of the river, which were twenty feet high at the place, intending to leap
into the rapid and take his chance.
In this, too, he was foiled. His fall from the tree had partially
disabled him, and he could not run with his wonted agility. About ten
yards from the edge of the bank the bear overtook him, and it seemed as
if poor Jack Robinson's troubles were at last about to be brought to an
abrupt close. But Jack was self-possessed and brave as steel. On feeling
the bear's claws in his back, he drew his knife, wheeled round, fell into
its embrace, and plunged the knife three or four times in its side. The
thing was done in a moment, and the two, falling together, rolled over
the edge of the steep bank, and went crashing down through the bushes
amid a cloud of dust and stones into the raging flood below. At the foot
of the rapid, Marteau and one of the men happened to be rowing ashore
with a load of fish.
“Hallo! what's that?” cried Marteau.
“Eh!” exclaimed his comrade.
“A bear!” shouted Marteau, backing his oar.
“And a man! What! I say!”
Next moment the boat was dancing on the foam, and Marteau had hold of
the bear's neck with one hand, and Jack's hair with the other.
They were soon hauled to land, the bear in its dying agonies and Jack
in a state of insensibility; but it took the united strength of the two
men to tear him from the tremendous grasp that he had fastened on the
brute, and his knife was found buried to the handle close alongside of
On the day of his encounter with the bear, Jack Robinson sent Rollo up
to the fort to fetch down all the men except O'Donel, in order that the
fishery might be carried on with vigor.
Of course it is unnecessary to inform the reader that Jack speedily
recovered from the effects of his adventure. It would be absurd to
suppose that anything of an ordinary nature could kill or even do much
damage to our hero. Beyond five deep punctures on his back and five on
his breast, besides a bite in the shoulder, Jack had received no damage,
and was able to return on foot to Fort Desolation a few days after the
On arriving, he found his man, Teddy O'Donel, sitting over the kitchen
fire in the last stage of an attack of deep depression and home sickness.
Jack's sudden appearance wrought an instantaneous cure.
“Ah!” said he, grasping his master's hand and wringing it
warmly; “it's a blessed sight for sore eyes! Sure I've bin all but
dead, sur, since ye wint away.”
“You've not been ill, have you?” said Jack, looking
somewhat earnestly in the man's face.
“Ill? No, not i' the body, if that's what ye mane, but I've been
awful bad i' the mind. It's the intellect as kills men more nor the body.
The sowl is what does it all.” (Here Teddy passed his hand across
his forehead and looked haggard.) “Ah! Mr. Robinson, it's myself
as'll niver do to live alone. I do belave that all the ghosts as iver
lived have come and took up there abode in this kitchen.”
“Nonsense!” said Jack, sitting down on a stool beside the
fire and filling his pipe; “you're too superstitious.”
“Supperstitious, is it?” exclaimed the man, with a look of
intense gravity. “Faix, if ye seed them ye'd change yer tune. It's
the noses of 'em as is wust. Of all the noses for length and redness and
for blowin' like trumpets I ever did see—well, well, it's no use
conjicturin', but I do wonder sometimes what guv the ghosts sitch
“I suppose they KNOWS that best themselves,” observed
“P'r'aps they does,” replied Teddy with a meditative gaze
at the fire.
“But I rather suspect,” continued Jack, “that as
your own nose is somewhat long and red, and as you've got a habit of
squinting, not to mention snoring, Teddy, we may be justified in
accounting for the—”
“Ah! it's no use jokin',” interrupted O'Donel;
“ye'll niver joke me out o' my belaif in ghosts. It's no longer
agone than last night, after tay, I laid me down on the floor beside the
fire in sitch a state o' moloncholly weakness, that I really tried to
die. It's true for ye; and I belave I'd have done it, too, av I hadn't
wint off to slape by mistake, an' whin I awoke, I was so cowld and hungry
that I thought I'd pusspone dyin' till after supper. I got better after
supper, but, och! it's a hard thing to live all be yer lone like
“Have no Indians been here since I left?”
“Not wan, sur.”
“Well, Teddy, I will keep you company now. We shall be alone
here together for a few weeks, as I mean to leave all our lads at the
fishery. Meanwhile, bestir yourself and let me have supper.”
During the next few weeks Jack Robinson was very busy. Being an
extremely active man, he soon did every conceivable thing that had to be
done about the fort, and conceived, as well as did, a good many things
that did not require to be done. While rummaging in the stores, he
discovered a hand-net, with which he waded into the sea and caught large
quantities of small fish, about four inches in length, resembling
herrings. These he salted and dried in the sun, and thus improved his
fare,—for, having only salt pork and fresh salmon, he felt the need
of a little variety. Indeed, he had already begun to get tired of salmon,
insomuch that he greatly preferred salt pork.
After that, he scraped together a sufficient number of old planks, and
built therewith a flat-bottomed boat—a vessel much wanted at the
place. But, do what he would, time hung very heavy on his hands, even
although he made as much of a companion of Teddy O'Donel, as was
consistent with his dignity. The season for wild fowl had not arrived,
and he soon got tired of going out with his gun, with the certainty of
At last there was a brief break in the monotony of the daily life at
Fort Desolation. A band of Indians came with a good supply of furs. They
were not a very high type of human beings, had little to say, and did not
seem disposed to say it. But they wanted goods from Jack, and Jack wanted
furs from them; so their presence during the two days and nights they
stayed shed a glow of moral sunshine over the fort that made its
inhabitants as light-hearted and joyful as though some unwonted piece of
good fortune had befallen them.
When the Indians went away, however, the gloom was proportionally
deeper, Jack and his man sounded lower depths of despair than they had
ever before fathomed, and the latter began to make frequent allusions to
the possibility of making away with himself. Indeed, he did one evening,
while he and Jack stood silently on the shore together, propose that they
should go into the bush behind the fort, cover themselves over with
leaves, and perish “at wance, like the babes in the
Things were in this gloomy condition, when an event occurred, which,
although not of great importance in itself, made such a deep impression
on the dwellers at Fort Desolation, that it is worthy of a chapter to
One morning the sun rose with unwonted splendor on the broad bosom of
the Saint Lawrence. The gulf was like a mirror, in which the images of
the seagulls were as perfect as the birds themselves, and the warm hazy
atmosphere was lighted up so brightly by the sun, that it seemed as
though the world were enveloped in delicate golden gauze.
Jack Robinson stood on the shore, with the exile of Erin beside him.
Strange to say, the effect of this lovely scene on both was the reverse
“It's VERY sad,” said Jack, slowly.
“True for ye,” observed the sympathizing Teddy, supposing
that his master had finished his remark.
“It's VERY sad,” repeated Jack, “to look abroad upon
this lovely world, and know that thousands of our fellow-men are enjoying
it in each other's society, while we are self-exiled here.”
“An' so it is,” said Teddy, “not to mintion our
fellow-women an' our fellow-childers to boot.”
“To be sure we have got each other's society, O'Donel,”
continued Jack, “and the society of the gulls—”
“An' the fush,” interposed Teddy.
“And the fish,” assented Jack; “for all of which
blessings we have cause to be thankful; but it's my opinion that you and
I are a couple of egregious asses for having forsaken our kind and come
to vegetate here in the wilderness.”
“That's just how it is, sur. We're both on us big asses, an'
it's a pint for investigation which on us is the biggest—you, who
ought to have know'd better, or me, as niver kno'w'd anything, a'most, to
Jack smiled. He was much too deeply depressed to laugh. For some
minutes they stood gazing in silent despondency at the sea.
“What's that?” exclaimed Jack, with sudden animation,
pointing to an object which appeared at the moment near the extremity of
a point of rocks not far from the spot where they stood—“a
“Two of 'em!” cried O'Donel, as another object came into
The change which came over the countenances of the two men, as they
stood watching the approach of the two canoes, would have been
incomprehensible to any one not acquainted with the effect of solitude on
the human mind. They did not exactly caper on the beach, but they felt
inclined to do so, and their heaving bosoms and sparkling eyes told of
the depth of emotion within.
In about a quarter of an hour the canoes were within a short distance
of the landing-place, but no shout or sign of recognition came from the
Indians who paddled them. There was an Indian in the bow and stern of
each canoe, and a woman in the middle of one of them.
“Well, boys, what cheer?” said Jack, using a well-known
backwood's salutation, as the men landed.
The Indians silently took the proffered hand of the trader and shook
it, replying in a low voice, “Wachee,” as the nearest point
they could attain to the pronunciation of “What cheer?”
There was something so unusually solemn in the air and manner of the
savages, that Jack glanced at the canoe in which the woman sat. There he
saw what explained the mystery. In the bottom lay an object wrapped up in
pieces of old cloth and birchbark, which, from its form, was evidently a
human body. A few words with the Indians soon drew from them the
information that this was one of their wives who had been ailing for a
long time, and at length had died. They were Roman Catholic converts, and
had come to bury the body in the graveyard of the fort which had been
“consecrated” by a priest.
To whatever pitch of excitement Jack and his man had risen at the
unexpected appearance of the Indians, their spirits fell to an
immeasurably profounder depth than before when their errand was made
Everything connected with this burial was sad and repulsive, yet Jack
and his man felt constrained, out of mere sympathy, to witness it
The Indians were shabby and squalid in the extreme, and, being
destitute of the means of making a coffin, had rolled the corpse up in
such wretched materials as they happened to possess. One consequence of
this was, that it was quite supple. On being lifted out of the canoe, the
joints bent, and a sort of noise was emitted from the mouth, which was
exceedingly horrible. Had the dead face been visible, the effect would
not have been so powerful, but its being covered tended to set the
imagination free to conceive things still more dreadful.
The grave was soon dug in the sand inside the graveyard, which was not
more than a hundred yards on one side of the fort. Here, without ceremony
of any kind, the poor form was laid and covered over. While being lowered
into the grave, the same doubling-up of the frame and the same noise were
observed. After all was over, the Indians returned to their canoe and
paddled away, silently, as they had come; not before Jack, however, had
gone to the store for a large piece of tobacco, which he threw to them as
they were pushing off.
During the remainder of that day, Jack Robinson and his man went about
their vocations with hearts heavy as lead. But it was not till night that
this depression of spirits culminated. For the first time in his life
Jack Robinson became superstitiously nervous. As for Teddy O'Donel, he
had seldom been entirely free from this condition during any night of his
existence; but he was much worse than usual on the present occasion!
After sunset, Jack had his tea alone in the hall, while O'Donel took
his—also, of course, alone—in the kitchen. Tea over, Jack sat
down and wrote part of a journal which he was in the habit of posting up
irregularly. Then he went into the kitchen to give Teddy his orders for
the following day, and stayed longer than usual. Thereafter, he read
parts of one or two books which he had brought with him from the
civilized world. But, do what he would, the image of the dead woman lying
so near him invariably came between him and the page, and obtruded itself
on his mind obstinately. Once he was so exasperated while reading, that
he jumped violently off his chair, exclaiming, “This is childish
nonsense!” In doing so he tilted the chair over, so that it
balanced for an instant on its hind legs, and then fell with an awful
crash, which caused him to leap at least three feet forward, clench his
fists, and wheel round with a look of fury that would certainly have put
to flight any REAL ghost in creation.
Jack gasped, then he sighed, after which he smiled and began to pace
the hall slowly. At last he said, half aloud, “I think I'll smoke
my pipe to-night with that poor fellow, O'Donel. He must be lonely
enough, and I don't often condescend to be social.”
Taking up his pipe and tobacco-pouch, he went towards the kitchen.
Now, while his master was enduring those uncomfortable feelings in the
hall, Teddy was undergoing torments in the kitchen that are past
description. He had had a grandmother—with no nose to speak of, a
mouth large enough for two, four teeth, and one eye—who had stuffed
him in his youth with horrible stories as full as a doll is of sawdust.
That old lady's influence was now strong upon him. Every gust of wind
that rumbled in the chimney sent a qualm to his heart. Every creak in the
beams of his wooden kitchen startled his soul. Every accidental noise
that occurred filled him with unutterable horror. The door, being
clumsily made, fitted badly in all its parts, so that it shook and
rattled in a perfectly heartrending manner.
Teddy resolved to cure this. He stuck bits of wood in the opening
between it and the floor, besides jamming several nails in at the sides
and top. Still, the latch WOULD rattle, being complicated in
construction, and not easily checked in all its parts. But Teddy was an
ingenious fellow. He settled the latch by stuffing it and covering it
with a mass of dough! In order further to secure things, he placed a
small table against the door, and then sat down on a bench to smoke his
pipe beside the door.
It was at this point in the evening that Jack resolved, as we have
said, to be condescending.
As he had hitherto very seldom smoked his pipe in the kitchen, his
footstep in the passage caused O'Donel's very marrow to quake. He turned
as pale as death and became rigid with terror, so that he resembled
nothing but an Irish statue of very dirty and discolored marble.
When Jack put his hand on the latch, Teddy gasped once—he was
incapable of more! The vision of the poor Indian woman rose before his
mental eye, and he—well, it's of no use to attempt saying what he
thought or felt!
The obstruction in the latch puzzled Jack not a little. He was
surprised at its stiffness. The passage between the hall and kitchen was
rather dark, so that he was somewhat nervous and impatient to open the
door. It happened that he had left the door by which he had quitted the
hall partially open. A gust of wind shut this with a bang that sent every
drop of blood into his heart, whence it rebounded into his extremities.
The impulse thus communicated to his hand was irresistible. The door was
burst in; as a matter of course the table was hurled into the middle of
the kitchen, where it was violently arrested by the stove. Poor Teddy
O'Donel, unable to stand it any longer, toppled backwards over the bench
with a hideous yell, and fell headlong into a mass of pans, kettles, and
firewood, where he lay sprawling and roaring at the full power of his
lungs, and keeping up an irregular discharge of such things as came to
hand at the supposed ghost, who sheltered himself as he best might behind
“Hold hard, you frightened ass!” shouted Jack as a billet
of wood whizzed over his head.
“Eh! what? It's YOU, sur? O, musha, av I didn't belave it was
the ghost at last!”
“I tell you what, my man,” said Jack, who was a good deal
nettled at his reception, “I would advise you to make sure that it
IS a ghost next time before you shie pots and kettles about in that way.
See what a smash you have made. Why, what on earth have you been doing to
“Sure I only stuffed up the kayhole to keep out the
“Humph! and the ghosts, I suppose. Well, see that you are up
betimes to-morrow and have these salmon nets looked over and
So saying, Jack turned on his heel and left the room, feeling too much
annoyed to carry out his original intention of smoking a pipe with his
man. He spent the evening, therefore, in reading a pocket copy of
Shakespeare, and retired to rest at the usual hour in a more composed
frame of mind, and rather inclined to laugh at his superstitious
It happened, unfortunately, that from his window, as he lay on his
bed, Jack could see the graveyard. This fact had never been noticed by
him before, although he had lain there nightly since his arrival, and
looked over the yard to the beach and the sea beyond. Now, the night
being bright moonlight, he could see it with appalling distinctness.
Sleep was banished from his eyes, and although he frequently turned with
resolution to the wall and shut them, he was invariably brought back to
his old position as if by a species of fascination.
Meanwhile Teddy O'Donel lay absolutely quaking in the kitchen. Unable
to endure it, he at last rose, opened the door softly, and creeping up as
near us he dared venture to his master's door, sat down there, as he
said, “for company.” In course of time he fell asleep.
Jack, being more imaginative, remained awake. Presently he saw a
figure moving near the churchyard. It was white—at least the upper
half of it was.
“Pshaw! this is positive folly; my digestion must be out of
order,” muttered Jack, rubbing his eyes; but the rubbing did not
dissipate the figure which moved past the yard and approached the fort.
At that moment Teddy O'Donel gave vent to a prolonged snore. Delivered as
it was against the wooden step on which his nose was flattened, it
sounded dreadfully like a groan. Almost mad with indignation and alarm,
Jack Robinson leaped from his bed and pulled on his trousers, resolved to
bring things to an issue of some sort.
He threw open his chamber door with violence and descended the
staircase noisily, intending to arouse his man. He DID arouse him,
effectually, by placing his foot on the back of his head and crushing his
face against the steps with such force as to produce a roar that would
have put to shame the war-whoop of the wildest savage in America.
In endeavoring to recover himself, Jack fell upon Teddy and they
rolled head-over-heels down the steps together towards the door of the
house, which was opened at that instant by Ladoc, who had walked up to
the fort, clad only in his shirt and trousers, (the night being warm), to
give a report of the condition of things at the fishery, where he and
Rollo had quarreled, and the men generally were in a state of mutiny.
We regret to be compelled to chronicle the fact, that Jack Robinson
lost command of his temper on the occasion referred to in the last
chapter. He and Teddy O'Donel rolled to the very feet of the amazed
Ladoc, before the force of their fall was expended. They sprang up
instantly, and Jack dealt the Irishman an open-handed box on the ear that
sent him staggering against one of the pillars of the verandah, and
resounded in the still night air like a pistol-shot. Poor Teddy would
have fired up under other circumstances, but he felt so deeply ashamed of
having caused the undignified mishap to his master, that he pocketed the
affront, and quietly retired towards his kitchen. On his way thither,
however, he was arrested by the tremendous tone in which Jack demanded of
Ladoc the reason of his appearance at such an untimely hour.
There was a slight dash of insolence in the man's reply.
“I come up, monsieur,” said he, “to tell you if
there be TWO masters at fishery, I not be one of 'em. Rollo tink he do
vat him please, mais I say, no; so ve quarrel.”
“And so, you take upon you to desert your post,” thundered
“Vraiment, oui,” coolly replied Ladoc.
Jack clenched his fist and sprang at the man as a bull-terrier might
leap on a mastiff. Almost in the act of striking he changed his mind,
and, instead of delivering one of those scientific blows with which he
had on more than one occasion in his past history terminated a fight at
its very commencement, he seized Ladoc by the throat, tripped up his
heels, and hurled him to the ground with such force, that he lay quite
still for at least half a minute! Leaving him there to the care of
O'Donel, who had returned, Jack went up to his bedroom, shut the door,
thrust his hands into his pockets, and began to pace the floor rapidly,
and to shake his head. Gradually his pace became slower, and the shaking
of his head more sedate. Presently he soliloquized in an undertone.
“This won't do, John Robinson. You've let off too much steam.
Quite against your principles to be so violent—shame on you, man.
Yet after all it was very provoking to be made such a fool of before that
insolent fellow. Poor Teddy—I wish I hadn't hit you such a slap.
But, after all, you deserved it, you superstitious blockhead. Well, well,
it's of no use regretting. Glad I didn't hit Ladoc, though, it's too soon
for THAT. Humph! the time has come for action, however. Things are
drawing to a point. They shall culminate TO-MORROW. Let me
Here Jack's tones became inaudible, and he began to complete his
toilette. His thoughts were busy—to judge from his knitted brows
and compressed lips. The decision of his motions at last showed that he
had made up his mind to a course of action.
It was with a cleared brow and a self-possessed expression of
countenance that he descended, a few minutes later, to the hall, and
That worthy, on making his appearance, looked confused, and began to
“I beg parding, sur, but—but raally, you know—it, it
was all owin' to them abominable ghosts.”
Jack smiled, or rather, tried to smile, but owing to conflicting
emotions the attempt resulted in a grin.
“Let bygones be bygones,” he said, “and send Ladoc
Ladoc entered with a defiant expression, which was evidently somewhat
Jack was seated at a table, turning over some papers. Without raising
his head, he said,—
“Be prepared to start for the fishery with me in half-an-hour,
“Monsieur?” exclaimed the man, with a look of
Jack raised his head and LOOKED at him. It was one of his peculiar
“Did you not understand me?” he said, jumping up
Ladoc vanished with an abrupt, “Oui, monsieur,” and Jack
proceeded, with a REAL smile on his good-humored face, to equip himself
for the road.
In half an hour the two were walking silently side by side at a smart
pace towards the fishery, while poor Teddy O'Donel was left, as he
afterwards said, “all be his lone wid the ghost and the newly
buried ooman,” in a state of mental agony, which may, perhaps, be
conceived by those who possess strong imaginations, but which cannot by
any possibility be adequately described.
The monotony of the night march to the fishery was enlivened by the
unexpected apparition of a boat. There was just enough of moonlight to
render it dimly visible a few hundred yards from the shore.
“Indians!” exclaimed Ladoc, breaking silence for the first
time since they set out.
“The stroke is too steady and regular for Indians,” said
Jack. “Boat ahoy!”
“Shore ahoy!” came back at once in the ringing tones of a
“Pull in; there's plenty of water!” shouted Jack.
“Aye, aye,” was the response. In a few seconds the boat's
keel grated on the sand, and an active sailor jumped ashore. There were
five other men in the boat.
“Where have YOU dropped from?” enquired Jack. “Well,
the last place we dropped from,” answered the seaman, “was
the port quarter davits of the good ship Ontario, Captain Jones, from
Liverpool to Quebec, with a general cargo; that was last night, and ten
minutes afterwards, the Ontario dropped to the bottom of the
“Wrecked!” exclaimed Jack.
“Just so. Leastwise, sprung a leak and gone to the
“No hands lost, I hope?”
“No, all saved in the boats; but we parted company in the night,
and haven't seen each other since. Is there any port hereabouts, where we
could get a bit o' summat to eat?”
“There is, friend. Just pull six miles farther along shore as
you are going, and you'll come to the place that I have the honor and
happiness to command—we call it Fort Desolation. You and your party
are heartily welcome to food and shelter there, and you'll find an
Irishman in charge who will be overjoyed, I doubt not, to act the part of
host. To-morrow night I shall return to the fort.”
The shipwrecked mariners, who were half-starved, received this news
with a cheer, and pushing off, resumed their oars with fresh vigor, while
Jack and his man continued their journey.
They reached the fishery before dawn, and, without awakening the men,
retired at once to rest.
Before breakfast, Jack was up, and went out to inspect the place. He
found that his orders, about repairing the roof of the out-house and the
clearing up, had not been attended to. He said nothing at first, but,
from the quiet settled expression of his face, the men felt convinced
that he did not mean to let it pass.
He ordered Ladoc to repair the roof forthwith, and bade Rollo commence
a general clearing-up. He also set the other men to various occupations,
and gave each to understand, that when his job was finished he might
return to breakfast. The result of this was, that breakfast that morning
was delayed till between eleven and twelve, the fishery speedily assumed
quite a new aspect, and that the men ate a good deal more than usual when
they were permitted to break their fast.
After breakfast, while they were seated outside the door of their hut
smoking, Jack smoked his pipe alone by the margin of the river, about
fifty yards off.
“Monsieur be meditating of something this morning,”
observed little Francois Xavier, glancing at Rollo with a twinkle in his
sharp grey eye.
“He may meditate on what he likes, for all that I care,”
said Rollo with a scornful laugh. “He'll find it difficult to cow
ME, as I'll let him know before long.”
Ladoc coughed, and an unmistakable sneer curled his lip as he
relighted his pipe. The flushed face of Rollo showed what he felt, but,
as nothing had been SAID, he could not with propriety give vent to his
At that moment Jack Robinson hailed Ladoc, who rose and went towards
him. Jack said a few words to him, which, of course, owing to the
distance, could not be heard by the men. Immediately after, Ladoc was
seen to walk away in the direction of an old Indian burying-ground, which
lay in the woods about a quarter of a mile from the fishery.
Five minutes later Jack hailed Rollo, who obeyed the summons, and
after a few words with his master, went off in the same direction as
Ladoc. There seemed something mysterious in these movements. The mystery
was deepened when Jack hailed Francois Xavier, and sent him after the
other two, and it culminated when Jack himself, after allowing five
minutes more to elapse, sauntered away in the same direction with a stout
cudgel under his arm. He was soon lost to view in the woods.
Each of the three men had been told to go to the burying-ground, and
to wait there until Jack himself should arrive. Ladoc was surprised on
receiving the order, but, as we have seen, obeyed it. He was more than
surprised, however, when he saw Rollo walk into the enclosure, and still
more astonished when Francois followed in due course. None of the three
spoke. They felt that Jack would not keep them long in suspense, and they
were right. He soon appeared—smoking calmly.
“Now, lads,” said he, “come here. Stand aside,
Francois. I have brought you to this place to witness our proceedings,
and to carry back a true report to your comrades. Ladoc and Rollo, (here
Jack's face became suddenly very stern; there was something INTENSE,
though not loud, in his voice), you have kept my men in constant hot
water by your quarreling since you came together. I mean to put an end to
this. You don't seem to be quite sure which of you is the best man. You
shall settle that question this day, on this spot, and within this hour.
So set to, you rascals! Fight or shake hands. I will see fair
Jack blazed up at this point, and stepped up to the men with such a
fierce expression, that they were utterly cowed.
“Fight, I say, or shake hands, or—” Here Jack
paused, and his teeth were heard to grate harshly together.
The two bullies stood abashed. They evidently did not feel inclined to
“come to the scratch.” Yet they saw by the peculiar way in
which their master grasped his cudgel, that it would be worse for both of
them if they did not obey.
“Well,” said Ladoc, turning with a somewhat candid smile
to Rollo, “I's willin' to shake hands if YOU be.”
He held out his hand to Rollo, who took it in a shamefaced sort of way
and then dropped it.
“Good,” said Jack; “now you may go back to the hut;
BUT, walk arm in arm. Let your comrades SEE that you are friends. Come,
The tone of command could not be resisted; the two men walked down to
the river arm in arm, as if they had been the best of friends, and little
Next day a man arrived on foot with a letter to the gentlemen in
charge of Fort Desolation. He and another man had conveyed it to the fort
in a canoe from Fort Kamenistaquoia.
“What have we here?” said Jack Robinson, sitting down on
the gunwale of a boat and breaking the seal.
The letter ran as follows:—
“Fort Kamenistaquoia, etcetera, etcetera.
“My Dear Jack,
“I am sorry to tell you that the business has all gone
sticks and stivers. We have not got enough of capital to
compete with the Hudson's Bay Company, and I may remark,
privately, that if we had, it would not be worth while to
oppose them on this desolate coast. The trade, therefore, is to
be given up, and the posts abandoned. I have sent a clerk to
succeed you and wind up the business, at Fort Desolation, as I
want you to come here directly, to consult as to future plans.
“Your loving but unfortunate friend,
On reading this epistle, Jack heaved a deep sigh.
“Adrift again!” he muttered.
At that moment his attention was arrested by the sound of voices in
dispute. Presently the door of the men's house was flung open, and Rollo
appeared with a large bundle on his shoulders. The bundle contained his
“little all.” He was gesticulating passionately to his
“What's wrong now?” said Jack to Francois, as the latter
came towards him.
“Rollo he go 'way,” said Francois. “There be an
Indian come in hims canoe, and Rollo make up his mind to go off vid
“Oh! has he?” said Jack, springing up and walking rapidly
towards the hut.
Now it must be told here that, a few days before the events we are
describing, Jack had given Rollo a new suit of clothes from the Company's
store, with a view to gain his regard by kindness, and attach him to the
service, if possible. Rollo was clad in this suit at the time, and he
evidently meant to carry it off.
Jack crushed back his anger as he came up, and said in a calm,
deliberate voice, “What NOW, Rollo?”
“I'm going off,” said the man fiercely. “I've had
enough of YOU.”
There was something supernaturally calm and bland in Jack's manner, as
he smiled and said—
“Indeed! I'm VERY glad to hear it. Do you go soon?”
“Aye, at once.”
“Good. You had better change your dress before going.”
“Eh?” exclaimed the man.
“Your clothes belong to the company; PUT THEM OFF!” said
Jack. “Strip, you blackguard!” he shouted, suddenly bringing
his stick within three inches of Rollo's nose, “Strip, or I'll
break every bone in your carcase.”
The man hesitated, but a nervous motion in Jack's arm caused him to
take off his coat somewhat promptly.
“I'll go into the house,” said Rollo, humbly.
“No!” said Jack, sternly, “Strip where you are.
Rollo continued to divest himself of his garments, until there was
nothing left to remove.
“Here, Francois,” said Jack, “take these things
away. Now, sir, you may go.”
Rollo took up his bundle and went into the hut, thoroughly
crestfallen, to re-clothe himself in his old garments, while Jack
strolled into the woods to meditate on his strange fortunes.
That was the end of Rollo. He embarked in a canoe with an Indian and
went off—no one knew whither. So, the wicked and useless among men
wander about this world to annoy their fellows for a time—to pass
away and be forgotten. Perhaps some of them, through God's mercy, return
to their right minds. We cannot tell.
According to instructions, Jack made over the charge of his
establishment that day to the clerk who had been sent down to take
charge, and next morning set out for Fort Kamenistaquoia, in the boat
with the shipwrecked seamen.
Misfortune attended him even to the last minute. The new clerk, who
chanced to be an enthusiastic young man, had resolved to celebrate his
own advent and his predecessor's departure by firing a salute from an old
carronade which stood in front of the fort, and which might, possibly,
have figured at the battle of the Nile. He overcharged this gun, and,
just as the boat pushed off, applied the match. The result was
tremendous. The gun burst into a thousand pieces, and the clerk was laid
flat on the sand! Of course the boat was run ashore immediately, and Jack
sprang out and hastened to the scene of the disaster, which he reached
just as the clerk, recovering from the effects of the shock, managed to
He presented a wonderful appearance! Fortunately, none of the flying
pieces of the gun had touched him, but a flat tin dish, full of powder,
from which he had primed the piece, had exploded in his face. This was
now of a uniform bluish-black color, without eyelashes or eyebrows, and
surmounted by a mass of frizzled material that had once been the
unfortunate youth's hair.
Beyond this he had received no damage, so Jack remained just long
enough to dress his hurts, and make sure that he was still fit for
Once more entering the boat, Jack pushed off. “Good-bye,
boys!” said he, as the sailors pulled away. “Farewell, Teddy,
mind you find me out when you go up to Quebec.”
“Bad luck to me av I don't,” cried the Irishman, whose
eyes became watery in spite of himself.
“And don't let the ghosts get the better of you!” shouted
O'Donel shook his head. “Ah they're a bad lot, sur—but
sorrow wan o' them was iver so ugly as HIM!”
He concluded this remark by pointing over his shoulder with his thumb
in the direction of the house where the new clerk lay, a hideous, though
not severely injured, spectacle, on his bed.
A last “farewell” floated over the water, as the boat
passed round a point of land. Jack waved his hand, and, a moment later,
Fort Desolation vanished from his eyes for ever.
Readers, it is not our purpose here to detail to you the life and
adventures of Jack Robinson.
We have recalled and recounted this brief passage in his eventful
history, in order to give you some idea of what
“outskirters,” and wandering stars of humanity sometimes see,
and say, and go through.
Doubtless Jack's future career would interest you, for his was a
nature that could not be easily subdued. Difficulties had the effect of
stirring him up to more resolute exertions. Opposition had the effect of
drawing him on, instead of keeping him back. “Cold water”
warmed him. “Wet blankets,” when thrown on him, were dried
and made hot! His energy was untiring, his zeal red hot, and when one
effort failed, he began another with as much fervor as if it were the
first he had ever made.
Yet Jack Robinson did not succeed in life. It would be difficult to
say why. Perhaps his zeal and energy were frittered away on too many
objects. Perhaps, if he had confined himself to one purpose and object in
life, he would have been a great man. Yet no one could say that he was
given to change, until change was forced upon him. Perchance want of
judgment was the cause of all his misfortunes; yet he was a clever
fellow: cleverer than the average of men. It may be that Jack's
self-reliance had something to do with it, and that he was too apt to
trust to his own strength and wisdom, forgetting that there is One,
without whose blessing man's powers can accomplish no good whatever. We
know not. We do not charge Jack with this, yet this is by no means an
uncommon sin, if we are to believe the confessions of multitudes of good
Be this as it may, Jack arrived at Fort Kamenistaquoia in due course,
and kindly, but firmly, refused to take part with his sanguine friend, J
Murray, who proposed—to use his own language—“the
getting-up of a great joint-stock company, to buy up all the sawmills on
Thereafter, Jack went to Quebec, where he was joined by Teddy O'Donel,
with whom he found his way to the outskirt settlements of the far west.
There, having purchased two horses and two rifles, he mounted his steed,
and, followed by his man, galloped away into the prairie to seek his