Canada 1867
....Third Book of Reading Lessons, McPhail, 1867, by


BEFORE the discovery of gold at Vancouver's Island, when the only European residents were confined within the quadrangle of a wooden fort, or, more properly speaking, a stockade, I was on one occasion very nearly perishing in the woods of that beautiful island. The abundance of game of all sorts, and my own love of adventure, tempted me to set out alone, hereby hoping to have a better chance of securing a deer than if ac- companied by a comrade. I started for a small stream running into Esquimalt harbor, where the Indians had informed me the animals came at daybreak to drink. I soon found myself following a trail, which I believed led to the desired spot: of this, however, I gradually became doubtful, as the ground began to rise, and the trail grew less distinct as I advanced. The grand trunks of pine trees, towering far above the rest of the forest, and the thick dark foliage they supported, im- pressed my mind with that indescribable feeling of awe which we experience in the broad silent desert or the perfect calm at sea. I had seen no traces of deer, and the only sounds which had met my ear were the sharp tapping of the large woodpecker and the flapping wings of the pigeons. The stems of the trees were blackened by the action of fire, and in many places some giant trunk, felled by the wintry gales, lay across my path. I toiled onward, but without finding the stream for which I was in search. The sun was high in the heavens, and all chance of reaching the drink- ing place of the deer in time to meet them was at an end.

After taking a biscuit from my pocket and a sip from my flask, I turned to retrace my steps; but in this I was even less successful, for the trail I had fol- lowed appeared to be growing less distinct, and branched off in several directions. Hearing a rustling sound in the underwood, I stood quite still; and presently, to my delight, I detected the head of a deer, about two hundred paces in front of me. I raised my gun and fired, when the animal gave a bound, and, as I fancied, fell.

Without thinking of the trail, I ran forward until I reached the exact spot at which the creature was when I pulled the trigger, but he was nowhere to be seen; upon the leaves, however, there were traces of blood, which I followed, hoping soon to come up with the wounded buck. The difficulty of tracing the blood upon the ground became greater, and at length I was compelled to stop and again try to find my way back. After many fruitless attempts, I was forced to give up, and sit quietly down to think as to my wisest course. The usual expedients by which the Indians regain the lost trail were at that time unknown to me, and having no compass, or any knowledge of the trend of the coast line, I was uncertain in which direction to proceed. I had no watch, and was therefore compelled to guess the hour, by which means alone I could determine my posi- tion by the sun, as it was impossible to obtain a sight of the sun's disk. My scanty stock of biscuit was ex- hausted, and the difficulty of struggling through the scrub had wearied me, so that I fancied it would be wiser to remain where I was until I could determine my course by the sunset: then I knew that by travel- ling westward I must reach the coast. A wolf came near me while seated upon a fallen tree, but I failed to obtain a shot at him, and soon heard his unpleasant howl far away in the forest.

As soon as the twilight commenced, I began to think the night would prove the most uncomfortable part of my adventure; so, to relieve the gloom, I kindled a fire, and collected all the drywood I could lay my hand on, previously choosing a bare spot of open ground, where there could be no fear of the forest taking fire. Sleep was out of the question, for as soon as darkness set in, I could hear the various predacious animals busy in the distance, and occasionally the light would fall upon the shining eyeballs of a wolf or bear, several of which were bold enough to approach so near that I could see their forms distinctly. One gaunt old wolf drew so close to me that I could see the glistening of his ugly fangs, and perceive that his skin hung loosely upon his bones. Several times this brute endeavored to summon courage to face the flames, but a burning piece of wood thrown at him sent him howling back into the gloom. Nothing daunted, he returned to the attack whenever the flames died away, until I put an end to his intrusion by sending a ball through his chest.

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