A Christmas Story from the Peace

Today, a brief Christmas tale from H. Somers Somerset’s The Land of the Muskeg, 1895.  May the generosity of the season afflict us all, and may everyone enjoy unexpected boon 😉

At Dunvegan we met another old man of nearly eighty years of age – one Twelvefoot Davis – a white man famous throughout the country.  He had been a gold miner for many years, and had made a large sum of money on a neglected claim twelve feet square.  This had happened in the old days of the great Cariboo mines, and his fame and nickname had spread far and wide.  When we saw him he was a free trader and a rival to the Hudson’s Bay Company, but as he could neither read nor write, it may be inferred that he was not making much by the business.  Every year he would travel into the country with his store of goods for barter, and sometimes he would winter upon the banks of the Peace.  One winter he was living with four other men in a log cabin near a place called Hudson’s Hope.  An officer of the Company was living within ten or twelve miles, and feeling lonely about Christmas-time, he sent a note to Davis wishing him the usual compliments of the season and a happy new year for 1892.  Davis’s friends happened to be away when the note came, so the free trader, thinking something of importance had occurred, opened the letter and studied it carefully.  As he could not read, he was entirely unable to find out its meaning; but, guessing that his correspondent was unwell, sent him the only medicine he thought at all efficacious – to wit, a couple of bottles from his scant store of whisky.  When his friends returned he solemnly told them that the Hudson’s Bay officer was ill, and had written for two bottles of whisky, and that he had of course sent them to help the lonely man in his distress.  This seemed a some-what serious matter, so the letter was asked for; and then the old man was told that the officer was neither ill nor had asked for spirits.  ‘It was that darned 2 set me wrong,’ was Davis’s explanation.  The joy of the officer at receiving the unexpected present may be imagined, whilst Davis’ rage at parting with so valuable a possession knew no bounds; and to this day he declares that somehow or other he was cheated out of his whisky, and that no man has a right to say that he is dying when he is quite well.

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