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Fort Desolation Red Indians and Fur Traders of Rupert's Land   By: (1825-1894)

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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, fervour 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 humoured 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 neighbourhood. 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 subjected.

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 step.

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... Continue reading book >>

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