Stewart in this book seems to dwell on monotony. The monotony of the treeless plains (p. 34); of the river journey which made him fall asleep (p. 131); “we had left behind us the misery and want as well as the dull monotony of civilized life” (p. 152); “…the white man acts as if there were no tomorrow,” while the native is never in a hurry: “The dull monotony of life at a trading post in unsettled Canada could hardly fail to have this effect. Procrastination is common enough everywhere, but the complacent way in which these people, The dull monotony of life at a trading post in unsettled Canada could hardly fail to have this effect. Procrastination is common enough everywhere, but the complacent way in which these people…” (p. 250-51); all this “to break the dull monotony of their lives” even with the danger of sleepiness (p. 256).
p. 126: After this was over and before starting, I walked down along the stream a short distance, and, on my way back heard an old familiar hymn, and on approaching found all had joined in the religious service for this particular day. Each of them had his prayer and hymn book, while one who was a lay reader had with him Archdeacon Macdonald’s translation of a portion of the scriptures. After the service was concluded they shouldered their packs and started again on the trail, and soon entered one of the worst swamps we had encountered.
p. 132: I have since read an account of a canoe trip made across Great Slave Lake over a hundred years ago, by one of the early traders, in a craft of the same kind, which graphically describes a similar experience, and in which the difficulty of keeping awake is emphasised.
p. 170-71, on arriving at Dawson on the Yukon: But here at Dawson I had again reached civilisation, where I received letters from home, the first since leaving Edmonton nearly three months previously. I also availed myself of the telegraph and set at rest any anxiety that my friends at home may have felt for my safety.
There were minor things that were necessary to transform me from the bushman of the north to a passable member of Dawson society. First the barber devoted his attention to me to the extent of a dollar and a half. I suppose it was worth it. On returning from the enjoyment of this civilising process I noticed in a shop window some newspapers presumably for sale, and it dawned on me that something might have occurred in the outside world during my absence, so I bought a copy of a Toronto Journal about two weeks old and one of Vancouver of the week before, for which I paid the moderate sum of fifty cents… On a certain morning a gentleman who had only arrived in Winniisdain on any currency of a smaller denomination than “two bits”— twenty-five cents..
p. 196-98, account of a burial in the Mackenzie delta: In Captain McClintock’s narrative “The Voyage of the Fox in Arctic Seas” there is found incidentally a most graphic word picture of an Arctic winter night. It will be remembered that Captain McClintock commanded the expedition sent out by Lady Franklin in 1857, in search of her husband, Sir John Franklin. The author makes no attempt at anything more than giving the occurrences as they took place from day to day, as recorded in his diary, but one paragraph headed “Burial in the Pack” is given in words that paint the scene in colours that remain in the mind of the reader, and I shall quote a couple of extracts which read as follows :
December 4, 1857.—“I have just returned on board from the performance of the most solemn duty a commander can be called upon to fulfil. A funeral at sea is always peculiarly impressive; but this evening as we gathered around the sad remains of poor Scott, reposing under a Union Jack, and read the burial service by the light of lanterns, the effect could not fail to awaken serious emotions.
The greater part of the church service was read on board, under shelter of the housing; the body was then placed upon a sledge, and drawn by the messmates of the deceased to a distance from the ship, where a hole through the ice had been cut; it was then ‘committed to the deep,’ and the service completed. What a scene it was; I shall never forget it. The Lonely Fox, almost buried in snow, completely isolated from the habitable world, her colours half-mast with the bell mournfully tolling ; our little procession slowly marching over the rough surface of the frozen deep, guided by lanterns and direction posts amid the dreary darkness of an Arctic winter; the deathlike stillness around, the intense cold, and the threatening aspect of a murky over cast sky; and all this heightened by one of those strange lunar phenomena which are but seldom seen even here, a complete halo encircling the moon, through which passed a horizontal band of pale light that encompassed the heavens; above the moon appeared the segments of two other halos, and there were also mock moons or paraselenæ to the number of six. The misty atmosphere lent a very ghastly hue to this singular display, which lasted for rather more than an hour.
Scarcely had the burial service been completed, when our poor dogs, discovering that the ship was deserted, set up a most dismal unearthly moaning, continuing it until we returned on board. Coming to us from a distance across the ice, at such a solemn moment, this most strange and mournful sound was both startling and impressive.”