July 3rd, 1857:
It has been the better part of a year since I set sail from England. I feel myself overcome with a certain melancholy every time I watch the White Cliffs of Dover disappear over the horizon, seemingly watching me as I venture out into the wilderness. But whatever guilt I might feel, there is much work to be done; the vast untamed wilds of the world wait for no man, and it is our duty as Englishmen to carry the light of civilization to the corners of creation.
Today I have alighted in the Oregon territory, in a newly-founded town on the shores of Puget's Sound that the pioneers call Seattle. Even now, in the height of summer, it is a cold and dreary place. Clouds meander across the heavens, bringing showers and fog, as cool winds blow across the water, and on all sides the tiny town is surrounded by the massive evergreens that populate this country. In many ways it is not unlike the climate of my boyhood home in the West Country, and I felt an odd sense of nostalgia as the summer rains wet my cheek. But it is not the town, nor the weather that interests me; it is the forests that hold my true reason for venturing to this virgin frontier.
In the town I have hired porters and two guides, a white man and a civilized Indian. I spent many hours in conversation with the noble redskin, which confirmed the legends I had heard repeated third-hand in the gentlemen's club back on Broad Street. In the unexplored woods east of the Sound, so the Indians said, there lived a race of primates unknown to science, half again as tall as a man, covered head to toe in thick fur, quick and nimble, and possessing of an almost manlike cleverness. "Sasquatch", my guide called the creatures, but they had been called by many names by the tribes he knew of - Semekwe, Mo-Mo, Kwiwky, Skookum, and Big-Foot among them. Even among the Indians they were mostly regarded as little more than legend, but my guide informed me that he had seen one in the flesh two years prior, in the foot-hills of the mountain his people call Tahoma1, and that he had heard tales of a tribe that worshipped them as gods.
Tomorrow, we set out for Tahoma, for it is Big-Foot that I seek now as my quarry. I mean to find one of the elusive beasts and bring it back to England - dead if I must, alive if I can. I have brought ample equipment from England and purchased fresh victuals from the shops of this town. Tonight I plan and I pray that my hunt will not fail.
July 7th, 1857:
The forests of the territory make for slow going. In my adventures I have hacked through jungle reeds, forced my way through the tall grasses of the Serengeti, braved the unforgiving cold of the Himalayas and baked under the cruel Egyptian sun. But what hand or blade can cast aside the trunks of the ancient evergreens that stand by the myriads in every direction? The guides assure me we are making steady progress, though it seems we have gone scarcely two dozen miles since we left Seattle.
I caught my first glimpse of Tahoma today as we entered a clearing upon a hill, and I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the tableau that I observed. Tahoma is not nearly the height of the famous Peak XV2 that Sir Waugh described last year in Nepal, but unlike the great Himalayas it stands alone, a solitary peak towering above the forests of the territory, like a proud and mighty king surveying a kingdom encompassing all that it perceives.
Shortly after mid-day we chanced upon a fox cub, scarcely old enough to hunt for itself, imprisoned in a cage of wood and hides. My Indian guide pointed out a clever set of machinations connected to the box, and informed me it was a trap laid by the Indians who lived in those woods, and that the unfortunate rascal had been lured in by a scrap of meat to be captured. He said to me that his people were most efficient; the beast's hide would make clothing, its teeth jewelry, its meat food for the children, its sinew cords and rope. Let there be no doubt, any who may chance to read this, that I with glee engaged in many a fox-hunt in the county pastures in my younger days. But to ride out with one's hounds is a gentleman's game; in this, my friend, there was no sport. I looked into the creature's eyes and it seemed to regard me almost as a starving beggar-child might regard a man of wealth; envious and jealous, but at the same time supplicant, as if to beg me for mercy. I drew my knife and cut the cords holding the cage door shut, and the vulpine burst free and darted into the woods, fetching a brief glance at me as it ran away.
July 8th, 1857:
This morning we encountered a half-dozen Indians in a hunting party near the banks of a river. I had thought at first to call it the Blackwood River when we forded it, though my guide informed me it was known to his people as Nisqually. The Indians regarded us at first with suspicion. I know not if they had seen a white man before, and I feared the worst. But my Indian called out to them in a language strange to me, and they responded gleefully in the same. I learned that he was of the same tribe as they, and that he called their leader his cousin, and they received us warmly. We luncheoned on salmon the Indians had caught in the river, and traded with them for food and supplies. I was most excited to hear from one of the younger redskins that he had seen a Big-Foot once when he was young, for the porters believed this expedition to be a fool's errand, and with this revelation they seemed most renewed in their vigours. By the time we parted ways, I had managed to learn a few words of their language. After I have brought a Big-Foot back to England, I shall have to return to this land and learn more of the ways of these people.
July 13th, 1857:
I must write in haste, for my captors have not discovered this book. I am in darkness, alone, my feet bound, in a tent in a place I do not know, well guarded without by my captors.
They came upon us two nights ago. We had encamped for the night in a clearing not a dozen miles from the place my Indian told me he had seen the Big-Foot two years hence. They must have been lurking in the darkness for hours, and came upon the chief porter unawares while he stood the night watch. Before I could reach my rifle, all but one of the porters and my Indian guide had been felled by the brutes' arrows and hatchets. I took two of the bastards in reply with my rifle, and four more with my pistol, before one of them grabbed me from behind and knocked me out.
When I awoke, I had been tied to a pole and two of the savages were carrying me deeper into the woods. I could see my Indian, and the last surviving porter, being carried similarly. I called out to my Indian and he told me that he recognized our captors as a tribe that had been ancient enemies of his own. They were unrepentant pagans and cannibals, he told me, and worshipped a strange god that lived in the mountain. It was said they raided the villages of the other tribes for sacrifices to offer to their god; surely, he said, we had been chosen to fulfill this onerous duty.
It is very cold here, though the sun shines brightly through the trees at mid-day. I know not whether the savages have my weapons or not. I pray that they do, for if I cannot reach them, I will surely perish in this wilderness.
July 16th, 1857
Words cannot express the terror I have beheld this day. The savages have brought us to their home camp, in the foot-hills. Even now, in the midst of summer, clumps of snow congregate under the rocks and at the bases of the trees. At mid-day, the three of us were escorted to a snowy clearing, by the edge of a vast wood climbing up the mountain. Hundreds of savages formed a half-circle around the clearing, and our porter was loosed from his bonds and dragged to the center. One of the savages began beating upon a massive drum and singing in a bizarre language the likes of which I have never heard. Others joined in, and the forests were filled with the din of a thousand screaming savages. Suddenly, the trees at the edge of the clearing seemed to rustle and part way, and the throng silenced as it emerged.
Big-Foot! In the flesh! The tales had not done the beast justice. It stood fifteen feet if it stood an inch, and it could not have weighed less than half a long ton3. I could scarcely discern its countenance beneath the matted fur that covered its face - ravenous, primal, caked in blood and spittle. It bore the scars of many struggles, and (praying that the reader will forgive my lack of modesty) displayed its manhood proudly.
It set its eyes on the porter and charged at him with a speed I would not have expected from a brute of its size. The porter made to run, but the savages closed in upon him, and allowed him no egress. Within seconds the beast was upon him. I could hardly bear to look as it ripped him limb from limb, its yellowed, sharpened teeth tearing into his flesh, his blood running down its jaws as it greedily feasted upon him.
The savages returned me to the tent afterward. I fear I am next.
July 19th, 1857:
I hope by now, should anyone be reading this years hence, that you regard me as an honest man. Throughout my many years exploring the unknown corners of the world, I have considered it my obligation to tell no less than the whole truth regarding my discoveries, that my fellow countrymen might know of the world that lies beyond the borders of our great Empire, and prepare for the day when the light of goodliness and peace shines around the world. I say this now, for the events I must now recount might seem a fantasy to you, dear reader. Indeed, I would find it difficult to believe myself, had I not seen it with my own eyes; but on my sacred honour as an Englishman, I assure you that every word of it is true.
On the afternoon of the 17th, the savages offered my Indian guide as a sacrifice to Big-Foot as they had my porter. Yesterday, the 18th, they prepared to do the same to me. I spent the morning in solemn prayer and reflection, and for the first time in my life I understood the sorrow of a condemned man awaiting the hangman's noose. I felt I had lived a good life, and I was prepared to do what any good Englishman would, and meet my Maker with a stiff upper lip and a clean conscience.
The Indians lead me to the clearing and loosed my bonds. I strode calmly into the center of the clearing and closed my eyes. If I was to die, I intended to die with my dignity intact. The drumming and the screaming started, and I heard the trees rustle as Big-Foot drew near to claim his meal. But it was not Big-Foot's approach that silenced the savages; rather, I heard, distant yet remarkably near, the howl of a fox.
Muffled chatter arose from the throng as a second howl answered the first. Soon a third animal was howling, and before long the woods were alive with a cacophony. Not only foxes, but I heard the howls of wolves, the screeching of hawks and falcons, the roar of the mountain cats, even the calls of pigeons. I opened my eyes as a hundred animals or more emerged from the woods and set upon the Indians. I beheld foxes and wolves, elk and deer, gulls and eagles, bears and raccoons, side by side like a cavalry charge as they knocked the wild men to the ground and tore out their throats. Every one of the creatures ran right past me, barely darting their eyes my way as I beheld the sight. Some even seemed to have markings on their brows, like the war paint the Indians themselves were decorated with.
I chose to take advantage of the opportunity and ran. Neither man nor beast made any attempt to stop me as I made for the west, away from Tahoma and Big-Foot, towards the sea and hopefully some sign of civilization. By nightfall I had easily put ten miles between myself and the camp; but alone, hungry, bruised and exhausted, and in the dark, I could go no further, and curled up by a tree to sleep.
When I awoke this morning, I found myself surrounded by wild beasts. Half a dozen deer stood in a semi-circle before me, paint on their faces, their horns and coats covered with savage blood, and two raccoons in their center. I panicked when first I saw them and instinctively tried to reach for my gun, for fear that they had come to finish me off. They stepped back in unison when they saw me startle, and I saw that one of the deer, upon its back, was carrying a large bundle - my own possessions, scavenged from the remains of my camp. The creature knelt to the ground and shrugged, letting it fall to the ground, and I eagerly examined it. Much of what I had brought into the woods was gone, but my rifle was intact, and my pistol, and a tent, and alcohol with which to clean my cuts and scrapes, and enough dried rations to last two weeks' time.
I barely had time to ponder this miracle before the rest of the animals fell to their knees as well, and opened a path between them. A fox approached me - old, weathered, bearing signs of having seen more winters than most of its kind do. It bore an air of dignity about it that one rarely sees from such creatures as it approached me and stood before me. It seemed to examine me carefully, contemplating as it looked me over, before it uttered a low bark and one of the raccoons approached me. I noticed now something I had overlooked before - the raccoon had, tied to its back with a thin piece of twine, a rolled piece of paper. The fox gestured at the paper with its nose, and I reached down and drew the paper free. I unrolled it and found a handwritten message, in English, which I present to you below;
We, ALARIC THE FIFTH, by the Grace of God, King of all the Forest, Lord of the Plains, Duke of the Grand Fir and the Undergrowth, Count of the Swamp, Margrave of the Nameless Mountain, Warden of all the Streams and Rivers, and Lord Protector of the Tribes of Man, Defender of the Faith;
Recognizing you as a fellow Christian and a civilized man;
Grateful for your rescue of our royal issue from the devious machinations of the pagan savages;
Thankful that your kind have returned to this land;
Hopeful that you will on our behalf deliver news to your homeland that Christendom shall have in these parts a steadfast ally;
Acknowledging that in rescuing you from the false god of the pagans we are responsible for your welfare and safe passage in our lands;
Do hereby, on this day, the nineteenth day of the seventh month, in the Year of Our Lord Eighteen Hundred and Fifty-Seven,
Bestow upon you the rank of KNIGHT COMMANDER OF THE ORDER OF THE THISTLE, with all the privileges and responsibilities of that office;
Command you to, from this day forward, act as a loyal servant of Christ and His Church, Catholic and Apostolic, for as long as you shall live;
and Charge you to return to the lands of Christendom bearing news of our kingdom and to return with an embassy for the negotiation of amicable communion between our nations.
TO THIS DOCUMENT WE AFFIX OUR SEAL, SACRED AND ROYAL.
The paper had been "signed", so to say, with an ink stamp of what I assume to have been the fox's paw-print. I looked down at the creature, who I now saw regarded me with a gaze almost human in its wisdom. It raised its right paw to touch its forehead and lowered it to its chest and shoulders, making the sign of the cross. I repeated the gesture and it nodded to me. Having apparently reached an agreement, the fox that called itself Alaric the Fifth turned and strode away into the woods, its motley retinue following behind.
September 7th, 1857
It has been over a month since I made my escape from the forest and entered my convalescence here in Seattle. I wandered five days in the woods, and might be wandering still, if not for that by chance I found the same friendly tribe of Indians I had met on the banks of the Nisqually two weeks before. With what bits of their language I knew I tried to tell them of our encounter with the savages, the Big-Foot, and the strange group of animals that had been my salvation. I know not if they understood me, or if they merely thought me mad, but a small group of them traveled north with me and lead me back to town, where I have rested and healed my wounds since.
It is too late in the year to attempt another expedition in search of the Big-Foot; I am told that the winter in these parts is long and cold, and that it will be April before another expedition to the foot-hills is advisable. In any event, I have little money left which which to hire anyone. I have sent a letter south to San Francisco, to be tele-graphed to the Royal Society in London, containing an account of my findings and a request for financing to launch a proper expedition into this wilderness, whether to capture a Big-Foot or to establish an embassy with the strange nation of the fox king Alaric; barring disaster, I expect a reply by Christmas.
I do not hold much hope that they will assent to such a proposition; after all, I am the only witness to these fantastical events, and the only evidence, the declaration of knighthood granted me by the fox, will not be in London for several years or more. Perhaps I shall leave this territory entirely when the next ship arrives in May, and set out for other parts unknown. I heard before I left London that the White Raja, in Borneo, has acquired a strange machine that fell from the sky; who knows what other wonders might lurk in the Javanese jungles, waiting to be shown the light of day by one such as myself?