ALL ALONE IN THE FOREST.*
"THE spirit of adventure, so strong in the breast of most English- men, and which has made them, as Heine calls it, "put a stout strap round the globe," is driven into strange shifts nowadays. There are no more lands to be conquered, except perhaps in Africa, where it is too hot, and on the North Pole, where it is too cold ; there are no more governorships or kingships to be got, save by competitive examination, whieh is a bore ; and there is scarce so much as the smallest Juan-Fernandez island left in the world, where an educated, well mannered Robinson Crusoe might set up by himself as absolute emperor, pope, commander-in-chief, and head constable. Then, what is a fellow to do who is disgusted with civilization, stuffed armchairs, fashionable dinners, opera boxes, white neckties, crinolines, pork-pie hats, and swallow-tail coats ?
• Two Months on the Tobique, New Breumwict. An Emigrant's Journal. Londcn Smith, Elder, and Co. ISA It is a difficult question, but something like a reply to it is given in the small volume called Two Months on the Tobique. The book contains the diary of a young man, apparently of good family, and of very considerable literary talent, who, after having tried life in England, Scotland, Madeira, Australia, and in various other nooks and corners of the inhabited globe, got sick of it everywhere, and at last resolved to shut himself up during the winter months in a North American forest, latitude of Siberia, but rather nearer to the Arctic regions. To persuade himself that he was not mad, he wrote in his diary and told others that his grand object was to put the climate to a "practical test," the opinions of the natives of the country being divided as to whether it would take a week or a month for anybody to be frozen to death in the wood. He shamed them all, the bold Englishman, by remaining nearly twv- months in the icy solitudes of the forest and coming out alive. The story of these " two months on the Tobique " is really very graphic, and cannot be read without interest.
The Tobique, it must be explained to readers to whom the name is not familiar, is a small but rapid mountain stream in the northern part of New Brunswick, discharging itself into the St. John river some thirty, or forty miles above Jacksonto.wn settle- ment. At present the country in this neighbourhood is sparsely inhabited, but when the adventurous Englishman visited it, in 1851, it was an all but impenetrable forest. The most enterpris- ing of the few dwellers scattered here and there were Indians, and a couple of these our author engaged to build him a tiny log but in the midst of the forest, miles away from any human habitation. Some rough boards, nailed across thick logs of wood, formed all the material that was required ; and having finished this tent- shaped "house on the hill," just large enough for a full-grown man to lie down in, the Indians left the young hermit to his own musings. " Alone, utterly alone, at last I find myself," he entered in his diary on Friday, the 24th of October, evidently melan- choly, but getting rid of the sentiment by taking his chopper and preparing firewood. This indeed was a task of absolute urgency, since on the keeping up of the fire in the little log but depended the solution of the important question as to whether he should ever get out of the forest again. He had reached his hermitage in the canoe of the Indians, which they had succeeded with great skill in pushing up the rapids of the Tobique ; but this canoe they had taken back with them, and there was no path through the impenetrable forest by which he could possibly hope to make his way to any civilized settlement. Of provisions, consisting of salt pork, biscuits, tea and coffee, he had enough to last for the winter ; but the chief necessary of life, next to food, was fire, which could be procured only by incessant chopping of wood. This the hermit discovered as early as the second day of his so- journ in the forest. " My life," he entered in his diary, " is merging into one immeasurable chop ; I have left off all to-day only for my meals and a ramble to the river." So he toiled on day after day, and sometimes part of the nights, the English gentleman, standing knee-deep in snow, with blistering hands and a head aching with pain. " Chop, chop, chop," he writes, at the end of a week ; "this chopping of fuel has become to me like the money-gathering of the miser : even as he is tormented by the constant fear of want and starvation in the winter of his years, so have I ever in my mind the dread of the winter before me. I grudge every bit of wood I put on the fire, and only cease chop- ping when I can barely raise my hand for the blow."
The hermit in the woods at the beginning entertained hopes that, if nothing else, there would be an unfailing supply of game to vary his salt-pork diet ; bat, to his intense disappointment, he
soon found that his rifle was entirely useless, there being no living animals except a rare partridge now and then, and a
crowd of squirrels. The latter much amused him by their gam-
bols; pleasure, however, at the end of three weeks, had to give way to decidedly selfish reflections. " I am beginning to look very
hard at the squirrels," the hermit entered, under Wednesday, November 12th; "I should be sorry indeed to kill such charming little fellows, but I suspect they are very tender." And three days after, Saturday, the 15th, he writes, " I did that to-day
Which I am now ashamed to remember; I had every excuse, but-I can hardly fctrgive myself. I have shot a squirrel, one of my
confiding, fearless, humorous little friends. But what could I do? My soul wearies of pork, and I could find no eatable crea- ture besides : so I levelled my rifle, pulled the trigger, and down tumbled Mr. Scug. I was ashamed to look in his large blint
eyes, so I took him by the hind leg, carried him home, skinned him, cooked him, tasted him, and found him—decidedly nasty.
Had his comrades known of what deep importance to them, col- lectively and individually would be the result of- that experiment,
they would have gathered round my camp, anxiously awaiting my final decision. But there was but one, who haunts this spot, near rue, as I flung forth that remnant of his fellow, and he knew not what it was." A striking little picture of still life in the forest.
After having remained in his utter solitude for nearly a month, his iron frame keeping up against all the hardships of this savage life, the hermit had the misfortune of cutting a severe wound in his knee while chopping wood. This threw him on his couch— hospital bed of spruce boughs, with a knob of maple for a pillow —on a fixed diet of salt pork and melted snow. " Four weeks," he enters in his diary, under Friday, November 21, " of this strange existence have slipped away, I scarce know how ; and yet it seems as if ages had past since I first began this forest life. But that memory is active (oh, how active!), I could almost think I had passed my life here, and had never been elsewhere." When able again to crawl from his couch, he heard " wandering voices" in the forest, seeming to call him hither and thither. Searching all the neighbourhood, and finding nothing to account for the strange sounds, the lone man at last began to perceive that the " voices" were those of his own mind, and the thought made him sink into deep melancholy. "Hoar after hour, day after day, week after week pass, and leave me," he entered in his diary ; " if my health fails, none to help me ; if my spirits sink, none to cheer me ; if I wander away into the wilderness, none will ever know my fate." From this despondency he roused himself by the final resolution to make an effort to escape from the prison he had chosen for himself. The rapids of the Tobique being still un- covered by ice, he made an attempt to build a boat by hollowing out a half-rotten tree with his tomahawk, the only cutting instrument left to him, after the breaking of an axe. But it was necessary, in order to set the tree swimming, to stick a bit of board both in front and behind, which was no easy matter, in the absence of screws, nails, or any other sort of fastening. However, the ingenious hermit overcame even this difficulty by using snow and water as a glue, waiting for the frost to convert this strange paste into hard mortar. The canoe was launched at last, but now another formidable obstacle presented itself—the Tobique was frozen all over. On Saturday, the 6th of December, the weather had become terribly cold ; so cold, indeed, as to impress the diarist with the -conviction that he should " have to wear a waistcoat and neckcloth, which I have not done since I first began my sojourn here." On the 11th of December, the frost had become so intense that " breathing is like drawing files or rasps down one's throat," and by the 14th even the cataracts of the mountain stream had been hushed into silence. " Now, ye spirits of the North, I recognize you," was the entry under Monday, the 15th of December ; " I looked out last night at eleven ; clear, starry heavens, and that keen icy feeling in the air which I have learnt to understand now as the touch of the North Pole. Then in the morning ere dawn I was as usual roused by the shivering chill, which produces the impression of having nothing on ; and by and bye came day, a day of glorious sunshine, but penetratingly, subtly cold was the air." The road now lay open on the ice-paved waters of the Tobique, and, fearfully anxious to get once more among human beings, the adventurer rushed away from his forest home. His first attempt was to get to the camp of some " lumberers," or woodcutters, of whose existence he had heard, but failing to discover it, he made straight down the river to the nearest inhabited settlement, a few houses known as Castleton. It was a terrible journey, and nearly cost him his life. When still several miles from the settlement, the fierce cold took him in its grasp. "Intolerable fatigue," says the diary, " assailed me ; the jerking of the strap made my back ache, and the strain on my knees made them totter under me. I had undertaken a task the difficulties of which I did not discover till it became a matter of life and death." Thus, like in a dream, he groped forward. "I was staggering with fatigue, and knew that if I fell I could not rise again." At last he did sink to the ground, " but making a final effort, I got on to my lege, crawled on a mile, and heard an axe ringing hard by, saw smoke, and knew I was close to the lumberers' camp: I scrambled through the woods, and saw a man chopping down a tree. With some anxiety as to the way I should acquit myself in the unwonted feat of conversing, I addressed him, and told him my story." Oh, the joy of seeing human faces, and, joy of joys, of getting, after two months of salt pork, "delicious vegetables!" All the lumberers were very .atind to the poor broken-down hermit, calling him, appropriately enough, "the Englishman of the Woods."
The conclusion of the story is somewhat unsatisfactory, the diary breaking off abruptly, in the midst of a sentence, with not so mush as a-hiat as to the causes. No sooner out of his forest prison, the heart of the adventurer yearned to return to it. " I am beginning to wish myself back at my camp," he writes, in less than a week after his escape ; " I prefer its rough independence and quiet to the comparative bustle of the settlement." It was but natural ha should " feel queer in bed in sheets," and express per- fect hatred of " the stoves and huge fires, which make the tempera- ture oppressively high." But he also fancied he had left " much of comfort and contentment, in exchange for the miseries of winter travelling, and the rough, rude, higgledy-piggledy of the backwoods." In fact the hermit's life in the forest had produced the effect of infusing a strong misantlunpical tinge in all his views, and while before his voluntary banislunent he had admired the North American provinces in general, and New Brunswick in particular, as excellent ground for new settlers, he now arrived at directly contrary conclusions. He found, or thought he found, "deficient energy, deficient education, and a want of common sense in the people, to say nothing of a great want of cash, the latter want being the consequence of the former wants." A little foot- note at this portion of the diary, stating that it was printed from " rough notes jotted down in pencil," gives an interesting insight into the grumbling adventurer's state of mind. In his lonely but in the forest, his thoughts were refined, and even elegant, and written down besides with great care ; but once returned to the comforts of civilization, the young Englishman made shipwreck both in his feelings and habits. But this itself adds to the psychological interest of the story of a fragmentary life, embodying not a few of the characteristics of our intelligent emigration. It seems a pity that the present age has as yet found no em- ployment for the good stuff that is in its adventurers, but allows much useful brain and muscle to run wild in fantastic search after work. With better military organization than ours, advancement from the pike, what a splendid soldier he would have made, this " Englishman of the Woods."