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´╗┐Title: Hudson Bay
Author: Ballantyne, R. M. (Robert Michael), 1825-1894
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Hudson Bay" ***

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In publishing the present work, the Author rests his hopes of its
favourable reception chiefly upon the fact that its subject is
comparatively new.  Although touched upon by other writers in narratives
of Arctic discovery, and in works of general information, the very
nature of those publications prohibited a lengthened or minute
description of that EVERYDAY LIFE whose delineation is the chief aim of
the following pages.


Since this book was written, very considerable changes have taken place
in the affairs and management of the Hudson Bay Company.  The original
charter of the Company is now extinct.  Red River Settlement has become
a much more important colony than it was, and bids fair to become still
more important--for railway communication will doubtless, ere long,
connect it with Canada on the one hand and the Pacific seaboard on the
other, while the presence of gold in the Saskatchewan and elsewhere has
already made the country much more generally known than it was when the
Author sojourned there.  Nevertheless, all these changes--actual and
prospective--have only scratched the skirt of the vast wilderness
occupied by the fur-traders; and as these still continue their work at
the numerous and distant outposts in much the same style as in days of
yore, it has been deemed advisable to reprint the book almost without
alteration, but with a few corrections.

R.M.  Ballantyne.



Reader,--I take for granted that you are tolerably well acquainted with
the different modes of life and travelling peculiar to European nations.
I also presume that you know something of the inhabitants of the East;
and, it may be, a good deal of the Americans in general.  But I
suspect--at least I would fain hope--that you have only a vague and
indefinite knowledge of life in those wild, uncivilised regions of the
northern continent of America that surround the shores of Hudson Bay.  I
would fain hope this, I say, that I may have the satisfaction of giving
you information on the subject, and of showing you that there is a body
of civilised men who move, and breathe (pretty cool air, by the way!),
and spend their lives in a quarter of the globe as totally different, in
most respects, from the part you inhabit, as a beaver, roaming among the
ponds and marshes of his native home, is from that sagacious animal when
converted into a fashionable hat.

About the middle of May eighteen hundred and forty-one, I was thrown
into a state of ecstatic joy by the arrival of a letter appointing me to
the enviable situation of apprentice clerk in the service of the
Honourable Hudson Bay Company.  To describe the immense extent to which
I expanded, both mentally and bodily, upon the receipt of this letter,
is impossible; it is sufficient to know that from that moment I fancied
myself a complete man of business, and treated my old companions with
the condescending suavity of one who knows that he is talking to his

A few days after, however, my pride was brought very low indeed, as I
lay tossing about in my berth on the tumbling waves of the German Ocean,
eschewing breakfast as a dangerous meal, and looking upon dinner with a
species of horror utterly incomprehensible by those who have not
experienced an attack of sea-sickness.  Miseries of this description,
fortunately, do not last long.  In a couple of days we got into the
comparatively still water of the Thames; and I, with a host of
pale-faced young ladies and cadaverous-looking young gentlemen, emerged
for the first time from the interior of the ship, to behold the beauties
and wonders of the great metropolis, as we glided slowly up the crowded

Leave-taking is a disagreeable subject either to reflect upon or to
write about, so we will skip that part of the business and proceed at
once to Gravesend, where I stood (having parted from all my friends) on
the deck of the good ship _Prince Rupert_, contemplating the boats and
crowds of shipping that passed continually before me, and thinking how
soon I was to leave the scenes to which I had been so long accustomed
for a far-distant land.  I was a boy, however; and this, I think, is
equivalent to saying that I did not sorrow long.  My future companion
and fellow-clerk, Mr Wiseacre, was pacing the deck near me.  This
turned my thoughts into another channel, and set me speculating upon his
probable temper, qualities, and age; whether or not he was strong enough
to thrash me, and if we were likely to be good friends.  The captain,
too, was chatting and laughing with the doctor as carelessly as if he
had not the great responsibility of taking a huge ship across a
boundless waste of waters, and through fields and islands of ice, to a
distant country some three thousand miles to the north-west of England.
Thus encouraged, my spirits began to rise, and when the cry arose on
deck that the steamer containing the committee of the Honourable Hudson
Bay Company was in sight, I sprang up the companion-ladder in a state of
mind, if not happy, at least as nearly so as under the circumstances
could be expected.

Upon gaining the deck, I beheld a small steamboat passing close under
our stern, filled with a number of elderly-looking gentlemen, who eyed
us with a very critical expression of countenance.  I had a pretty good
guess who these gentlemen were; but had I been entirely ignorant, I
should soon have been enlightened by the remark of a sailor, who
whispered to his comrade, "I say, Bill, them's the great guns!"

I suppose the fact of their being so had a sympathetic effect upon the
guns of the Company's three ships--the _Prince Rupert, Prince Albert_,
and _Prince of Wales_--for they all three fired a salute of blank
cartridge at the steamer as she passed them in succession.  The steamer
then ranged alongside of us, and the elderly gentlemen came on board and
shook hands with the captain and officers, smiling blandly as they
observed the neat, trim appearance of the three fine vessels, which,
with everything in readiness for setting sail on the following morning,
strained at their cables, as if anxious to commence their struggle with
the waves.

It is a custom of the directors of the Hudson Bay Company to give a
public dinner annually to the officers of their ships upon the eve of
their departure from Gravesend.  Accordingly, one of the gentlemen of
the committee, before leaving the vessel, invited the captain and
officers to attend; and, to my astonishment and delight, also _begged
me_ to honour them with my company.  I accepted the invitation with
extreme politeness; and, from inability to express my joy in any other
way, winked to my friend Wiseacre, with whom I had become, by this time,
pretty familiar.  He, being also invited, winked in return to me; and
having disposed of this piece of juvenile freemasonry to our
satisfaction, we assisted the crew in giving three hearty cheers, as the
little steamer darted from the side and proceeded to the shore.

The dinner, like all other public dinners, was as good and substantial
as a lavish expenditure of cash could make it; but really my
recollections of it are very indistinct.  The ceaseless din of plates,
glasses, knives, forks, and tongues was tremendous; and this, together
with the novelty of the scene, the heat of the room, and excellence of
the viands, tended to render me oblivious of much that took place.
Almost all the faces present were strange to me.  Who were, and who were
not, the gentlemen of the committee, was to me matter of the most
perfect indifference; and as no one took the trouble to address me in
particular, I confined myself to the interesting occupation of trying to
make sense of a conversation held by upwards of fifty pairs of lungs at
one and the same time.  Nothing intelligible, however, was to be heard,
except when a sudden lull in the noise gave a bald-headed old gentleman
near the head of the table an opportunity of drinking the health of a
red-faced old gentleman near the foot, upon whom he bestowed an amount
of flattery perfectly bewildering; and after making the unfortunate
red-faced gentleman writhe for half an hour in a fever of modesty, sat
down amid thunders of applause.  Whether the applause, by the way, was
intended for the speaker or the _speakee_, I do not know; but being
quite indifferent, I clapped my hands with the rest.  The red-faced
gentleman, now purple with excitement, then rose, and during a solemn
silence delivered himself of a speech, to the effect that the day then
passing was certainly the happiest in his mortal career, that he could
not find words adequately to express the varied feelings which swelled
his throbbing bosom, and that he felt quite faint with the mighty load
of honour just thrown upon his delighted shoulders by his bald-headed
friend.  The red-faced gentleman then sat down to the national air of
rat-tat-tat, played in full chorus with knives, forks, spoons,
nut-crackers, and knuckles on the polished surface of the mahogany

We left the dinner-table at a late hour, and after I, in company with
some other youngsters, had done as much mischief as we conveniently
could without risking our detention by the strong arm of the law, we
went down to the beach and embarked in a boat with the captain for the
ship.  How the sailors ever found her in the impenetrable darkness which
prevailed all around is a mystery to me to this day.  Find her, however,
they did; and in half an hour I was in the land of Nod.

The sun was blazing high in the heavens next morning when I awoke, and
gazed around for a few moments to discover where I was; but the rattling
of ropes and blocks, the stamping of feet overhead, the shouts of gruff
voices, and, above all, a certain strange and disagreeable motion in my
dormitory, soon enlightened me on that point.  We were going rapidly
down the Thames with a fair breeze, and had actually set sail for the
distant shores of Hudson Bay.

What took place during the next five or six days I know not.  The demon
of sea-sickness had completely prostrated my faculties, bodily and
mental.  Some faint recollections I have of stormy weather, horrible
noises, and hurried dinners; but the greater part of that period is a
miserable blank in my memory.  Towards the sixth day, however, the
savoury flavour of a splendid salmon-trout floated past my dried-up
nostrils like "Afric's spicy gale," and caused my collapsed stomach to
yearn with strong emotion.  The ship, too, was going more quietly
through the water; and a broad stream of sunshine shot through the small
window of my berth, penetrated my breast, and went down into the centre
of my heart, filling it with a calm, complacent pleasure quite
indescribable.  Sounds, however, of an attack upon the trout roused me,
and with a mighty effort I tumbled out of bed, donned my clothes, and
seated myself for the first time at the cabin table.

Our party consisted of the captain; Mr Carles, a chief factor in the
Company's service; the doctor; young Mr Wiseacre, afore-mentioned; the
first and second mates; and myself.  The captain was a thin,
middle-sized, offhand man; thoroughly acquainted with his profession;
good-humoured and gruff by turns; and he always spoke with the air of an
oracle.  Mr Carles was a mild, good-natured man, of about fifty-five,
with a smooth, bald head, encircled by a growth of long, thin hair.  He
was stoutly built, and possessed of that truly amiable and captivating
disposition which enters earnestly and kindly into the affairs of
others, and totally repudiates self.  From early manhood he had roughed
life in the very roughest and wildest scenes of the wilderness, and was
now returning to those scenes after a short visit to his native land.
The doctor was a nondescript; a compound of gravity, fun, seriousness,
and humbug--the latter predominating.  He had been everywhere (at least,
so he said), had seen everything, knew everybody, and played the fiddle.
It cannot be said, I fear, that he played it well; but, amid the
various vicissitudes of his chequered life, the doctor had frequently
found himself in company where his violin was almost idolised and
himself deified; especially when the place chanced to be the American
backwoods, where violins are scarce, the auditors semi-barbarous
Highlanders, and the music Scotch reels.  Mr Wiseacre was nothing!  He
never spoke except when compelled to do so; never read, and never cared
for anything or anybody; wore very long hair, which almost hid his face,
owing to a habit which he had of holding his head always down: and
apparently lived but to eat, drink, and sleep.  Sometimes, though very
rarely, he became so far facetious as to indulge in a wink and a low
giggle; but beyond this he seldom soared.  The two mates were simply
_mates_.  Those who know the population of the sea will understand the
description sufficiently; those who don't, will never, I fear, be made
to understand by description.  They worked the ship, hove the log,
changed the watch, turned out and tumbled in, with the callous
indifference and stern regularity of clock work; inhabited tarpaulin
dreadnoughts and sou'-westers; came down to meals with modest
diffidence, and walked the deck with bantam-cock-like assurance.
Nevertheless, they were warm-hearted fellows, both of them, although the
heat didn't often come to the surface.  The first mate was a _broad_
Scotchman, in every sense of the term; the second was a burly little

"How's the wind, Collins?" said the captain, as the second mate sat down
at the dinner-table, and brushed the spray from his face with the back
of his brown hand.

"Changed a point to the s'uthard o' sou'-west, sir," he answered, "and
looks as if it would blow hard."

"Humph!" ejaculated the captain, while he proceeded to help the fish.
"I hope it'll only keep quiet till we get into blue water, and then it
may blow like blazes for all I care,--Take some trout, doctor?  It's the
last you'll put your teeth through for six weeks to come, _I_ know; so
make the most of it.--I wish I were only through the Pentland Firth, and
scudding under full sail for the ice--I do."  And the captain looked
fiercely at the compass which hung over his head, as if he had said
something worthy of being recorded in history, and began to eat.

After a pause of five minutes or so--during which time the knives and
forks had been clattering pretty vigorously, and the trout had become a
miserable skeleton--the captain resumed his discourse.

"I tell you what it is now, gentlemen; if there's not going to be a
change of some sort or other, I'm no sailor."

"It does look very threatening," said Mr Carles, peering through the
stern window.  "I don't much like the look of these clouds behind us.
Look there, doctor!" he continued, pointing towards the window.  "What
do you think of that?"

"Nothing!" replied the doctor, through a mouthful of duff and potatoes.
"A squall, I fancy; wish it'd only wait till after dinner."

"It never does," said the captain.  "I've been to sea these fifteen
years, and I always find that squalls come on at breakfast or dinner,
like an unwelcome visitor.  They've got a thorough contempt for tea--
seem to know it's but swipes, and not worth pitching into one's lap; but
dinner's sure to bring 'em on, if they're in the neighbourhood, and make
'em bu'st their cheeks at you.  Remember once, when I was cruising in
the Mediterranean, in Lord P---'s yacht, we'd been stewing on deck under
an awning the whole forenoon, scarce able to breathe, when the bell rang
for dinner.  Well, down we all tumbled--about ten ladies and fifteen
gentlemen, or thereabouts--and seated ourselves round the table.  There
was no end of grub of every kind.  Lord P--- was eccentric in that way,
and was always at some new dodge or other in the way of cookery.  At
this time he had invented a new dumpling.  Its jacket was much the same
as usual--inch-thick duff; but its contents were beyond anything I ever
saw, except the maw of an old shark.  Well, just as the steward took off
the cover, _hiss-iss_ went the wind overhead, and one of those horrible
squalls that come rattling down without a moment's warning in those
parts, struck the ship, and gave her a heel over that sent the
salt-cellars chasing the tumblers like all-possessed; and the great
dumpling gave a heavy lurch to leeward, rolled fairly over on its
beam-ends, and began to course straight down the table quite sedate and
quiet-like.  Several dives were made at it by the gentlemen as it
passed, but they all missed; and finally, just as a youngster made a
grab at it with both hands that bid fair to be successful, another howl
of the squall changed its course, and sent it like a cannon-shot
straight into the face of the steward, where it split its sides, and
scattered its contents right and left.  I don't know how it ended, for I
bolted up the companion, and saw the squall splitting away to leeward,
shrieking as it went, just as if it were rejoicing at the mischief it
had done."

The laugh which greeted the captain's anecdote had scarce subsided when
the tough sides of the good _Prince Rupert_ gave a gentle creak, and the
angle at which the active steward perambulated the cabin became absurdly

Just then the doctor cast his eye up at the compass suspended above the
captain's head.  "Hallo!" said he--But before he could give utterance to
the sentiments to which "hallo" was the preface, the hoarse voice of the
first mate came rolling down the companion-hatch,--"A squall, sir!
scoorin' doon like mad!  Wund's veered richt roond to the nor'-east."

The captain and second mate sprang hastily to their feet and rushed upon
deck, where the rest of us joined them as speedily as possible.

On gaining the quarter-deck, the scene that presented itself was truly
grand.  Thick black clouds rolled heavily overhead, and cast a gloom
upon the sea which caused it to look like ink.  Not a breath of wind
swelled the sails, which the men were actively engaged in taking in.
Far away on our weather-quarter the clouds were thicker and darker; and
just where they met the sea there was seen a bright streak of white,
which rapidly grew broader and brighter, until we could perceive that it
was the sea lashed into a seething foam by the gale which was sweeping
over it.

"Mind your helm!" shouted the captain.

"Ay, ay, sir!" sang out the man at the wheel.  And in another moment the
squall burst upon us with all its fury, laying the huge vessel over on
its side as if it had been a feather on the wave, and causing her to fly
through the black water like a dolphin.

In a few minutes the first violence of the squall passed away, and was
succeeded by a steady breeze, which bore us merrily along over the
swelling billows.

"A stiff one, that," said the captain, turning to the doctor, who, with
imperturbable nonchalance, was standing near him, holding on to a
stanchion with one hand, while the other reposed in his breeches pocket.

"I hope it will last," replied the doctor.  "If it does, we'll not be
long of reaching the blue water you long so much for."

Young Wiseacre, who during the squall had been clutching the
weather-shrouds with the tenacity of a drowning man, opened his eyes
very wide on hearing this, to him, insane wish, and said to me in an
undertone, "I say, do you think the doctor is quite right in his mind?"

"I have no doubt of it," replied I.  "Why do you ask?"

"Because I heard him say to the captain he wished that this would last."

"Is that all?" said I, while a very vile spirit of vanity took
possession of me, inducing me to speak in a tone which indicated a
tranquillity of mind that I certainly did not enjoy.  "Oh, this is
nothing at all!  I see you've never been on salt water before.  Just
wait a bit, old fellow!"  And having given utterance to this somewhat
dark and mysterious expression, I staggered across the deck, and amused
myself in watching the thick volumes of spray that flew at every plunge
from the sides of the bounding vessel.

The doctor's wish was granted.  The breeze continued steady and strong,
sending us through the Pentland Firth in grand style, and carrying us in
a short time to the island of Lewis, where we hove-to for a pilot.
After a little signalising we obtained one, who steered our good ship in
safety through the narrow entrance to the bay of Stornoway into whose
quiet waters we finally dropped our anchor.



The harbour of Stornoway is surrounded by high hills, except at the
entrance, where a passage--not more, I should think, than three hundred
yards wide--admits vessels of any tonnage into its sheltering bosom.
Stornoway, a pretty, modest-looking town, apparently pleased with its
lot, and contented to be far away from the busy and bustling world, lies
snugly at the bottom of the bay.  Here we remained upwards of a week,
engaging men for the wild Nor'-West, and cultivating the acquaintance of
the people, who were extremely kind and very hospitable.  Occasionally
Wiseacre and I amused ourselves with fishing excursions to the middle of
the bay in small boats; in which excursions we were usually accompanied
by two or three very ragged little boys from the town.  Our sport was
generally good, and rendered extremely interesting by our uncertainty as
to which of the monsters of the deep would first attack our hooks.
Rock-codlings and flounders appeared the most voracious, and
occasionally a skate or long-legged crab came struggling to the surface.

Just before leaving this peaceful little spot, our captain gave a grand
ball on board, to which were invited the _elite_ of Stornoway.  Great
preparations were made for the occasion.  The quarter-deck was well
washed and scrubbed; an awning was spread over it, which formed a
capital ceiling; and representatives of almost every flag that waves
formed the walls of the large and airy apartment.  Oil lamps, placed
upon the skylights, companion, and capstan, shed a mellow light upon the
scene, the romantic effect of which was greatly heightened by a few
flickering rays of the moon, which shot through various openings in the
drapery, and disported playfully upon the deck.  At an early and very
unfashionable hour on the evening of the appointed night the guests
arrived in detachments; and while the gentlemen scrambled up the side of
the vessel, the ladies, amid a good deal of blushing and hesitation,
were hoisted on board in a chair.  Tea was served on deck; and after
half an hour's laughing and chatting, during which time our
violin-player was endeavouring to coax his first string to the proper
pitch without breaking, the ball opened with a Scotch reel.  Every one
knows what Scotch reels are, but every one does not know how the belles
of the Western Isles can dance them.

"Just look at that slip of thread-paper," said the doctor to the
captain, pointing to a thin, flat young lady, still in her teens.  "I've
watched her from the first.  She's been up at six successive rounds,
flinging her shanks about worse than a teething baby; and she's up again
for another, just as cool and serene as a night in the latter end of
October.  I wonder what she's made of?"

"Leather, p'r'aps, or gutta-percha," suggested the captain, who had
himself been "flinging his legs" about pretty violently during the
previous half-hour.  "I wish that she had been my partner instead of the
heavy fair one that you see over there leaning against the mizzen

"Which?" inquired the doctor.  "The old lady with the stu'n-sails set on
her shoulders?"

"No, no," replied the captain--"the _young_ lady; fat--_very_ fat--fair,
and twenty, with the big blue eyes like signal-lamps on a locomotive.
She twisted me round just as if I'd been a fathom of pump-water,
shouting and laughing all the time in my face, like a sou'-west gale,
and never looking a bit where she was going till she pitched
head-foremost into the union-jack, carrying it and me along with her off
the quarter-deck and half-way down the companion.  It's a blessing she
fell undermost, else I should have been spread all over the deck like a
capsized pail of slops."

"Hallo!" exclaimed the doctor; "what's wrong with the old lady over
there?  She's making very uncommon faces."

"She's sea-sick, I do believe," cried the captain, rushing across the
deck towards her.

And, without doubt, the old lady in question was showing symptoms of
that terrible malady, although the bay was as smooth as a mill-pond, and
the _Prince Rupert_ reposed on its quiet bosom without the slightest
perceptible motion.  With impressive nautical politeness the captain
handed her below, and in the sudden sympathy of his heart proposed as a
remedy a stiff glass of brandy and water.

"Or a pipe of cavendish," suggested the second mate, who met them on the
ladder as they descended, and could not refrain from a facetious remark,
even although he knew it would, as it did, call forth a thundering
command from his superior to go on deck and mind his own business.

"Isn't it jolly," said a young Stornowite, coming up to Wiseacre, with a
face blazing with glee--"isn't it jolly, Mr Wiseacre?"

"Oh, very!" replied Wiseacre, in a voice of such dismal melancholy that
the young Stornowite's countenance instantly went out, and he wheeled
suddenly round to light it again at the visage of some more sympathising

Just at this point of the revelry the fiddler's first string, which had
endured with a dogged tenacity that was wonderful even for catgut, gave
way with a loud bang, causing an abrupt termination to the uproar, and
producing a dead silence.  A few minutes, however, soon rectified this
mischance.  The discordant tones of the violin, as the new string was
tortured into tune, once more opened the safety-valve, and the ball
began _de novo_.

Great was the fun, and numerous were the ludicrous incidents that
happened during that eventful night; and loud were the noise and
merriment of the dancers as they went with vigorous energy through the
bewildering evolutions of country-dance and reel.  Immense was the
delight of the company when the funniest old gentleman there volunteered
a song; and ecstatic the joy when he followed it up by a speech upon
every subject that an ordinary mind could possibly embrace in a quarter
of an hour.  But who can describe the scene that ensued when supper was
reported ready in the cabin!--a cabin that was very small indeed, with a
stair leading down to it so steep that those who were pretty high up
could have easily stepped upon the shoulders of those who were near the
foot; and the unpleasant idea was painfully suggested that if any one of
the heavy ladies (there were several of them) was to slip her foot on
commencing the descent, she would infallibly sweep them all down in a
mass, and cram them into the cook's pantry, the door of which stood
wickedly open at the foot of the stair, as if it anticipated some such
catastrophe.  Such pushing, squeezing, laughing, shrieking, and joking,
in the vain attempt made to get upwards of thirty people crammed into a
room of twelve feet by ten!  Such droll and cutting remarks as were made
when they were at last requested to sup in detachments!  All this,
however, was nothing to what ensued after supper, when the fiddler
became more energetic, and the dancers more vigorous than ever.  But
enough.  The first grey streaks of morning glimmered in the east ere the
joyous party "tumbled down the sides" and departed to their homes.

There is a sweet yet melancholy pleasure, when far away from friends and
home, in thinking over happy days gone by, and dwelling on the scenes
and pleasures that have passed away, perhaps for ever.  So I thought and
felt as I recalled to mind the fun and frolic of the Stornoway ball, and
the graver mirth of the Gravesend dinner, until memory traced my course
backward, step by step, to the peaceful time when I dwelt in Scotland,
surrounded by the gentle inmates of my happy home.  We had left the
shores and the green water behind us, and were now ploughing through the
blue waves of the wide Atlantic; and when I turned my straining eyes
towards the faint blue line of the lessening hills, "a tear unbidden
trembled" as the thought arose that I looked perhaps for the last time
upon my dear native land.

The sea has ever been an inexhaustible subject for the pens of most
classes of writers.  The poet, the traveller, and the novelist has each
devoted a portion of his time and talents to the mighty ocean; but that
part of it which it has fallen to my lot to describe is very different
from those portions about which poets have sung with rapture.  Here,
none of the many wonders of the tropical latitudes beguile the tedium of
the voyage; no glittering dolphins force the winged inhabitants of the
deep to seek shelter on the vessel's deck; no ravenous sharks follow in
our wake to eat us if we chance to fall overboard, or amuse us by
swallowing our baited hook; no passing vessel cheers us with the
knowledge that there are others besides ourselves roaming over the
interminable waste of waters.  All was dreary and monotonous; the same
unvarying expanse of sky and water met our gaze each morning as we
ascended to the deck, to walk for half an hour before breakfast, except
when the topsails of the other two vessels fluttered for a moment on the
distant horizon.  Occasionally we approached closer to each other, and
once or twice hailed with the trumpet; but these breaks in the solitude
of our existence were few and far between.

Towards the end of July we approached Hudson Straits, having seen
nothing on the way worth mentioning, except one whale, which passed
close under the stern of the ship.  This was a great novelty to me,
being the first that I had ever seen, and it gave me something to talk
of and think about for the next four days.

The ships now began to close in, as we neared the entrance of the
straits, and we had the pleasure of sailing in company for a few days.
The shores of the straits became visible occasionally, and soon we
passed with perfect confidence and security among those narrow channels
and mountains of ice that damped the ardour and retarded the progress of
Hudson, Button, Gibbons, and other navigators in days of yore.

One day, during a dead calm, our ship and the _Prince of Wales_ lay
close to each other, rolling in the swell of the glassy ocean.  There
seemed to be no prospect of a breeze, so the captain ordered his gig to
be launched, and invited the doctor, Mr Carles, and myself to go on
board the _Prince of Wales_ with him.  We accepted his offer, and were
soon alongside.  Old Captain Ryle, a veteran in the Company's service,
received us kindly, and insisted on our staying to tea.  The passengers
on board were--a chief factor, [_The chief factorship is the highest
rank attainable in the service, the chief trader being next_] who had
been home on leave of absence, and was returning to end his days,
perhaps, in the North-West; and Mr John Leagues, a young apprentice
clerk, going, like myself, to try his fortune in Hudson Bay.  He was a
fine, candid young fellow, full of spirit, with a kind, engaging
disposition.  From the first moment I saw him I formed a friendship for
him, which was destined to ripen into a lasting one many years after.  I
sighed on parting from him that evening, thinking that we should never
meet again; but about six years from the time I bade him farewell in
Hudson Straits, I again grasped his hand on the shores of the mighty St.
Lawrence, and renewed a friendship which afforded me the greatest
pleasure I enjoyed in the country, and which, I trust, neither time nor
distance will ever lessen or destroy.

We spent the evening delightfully, the more so that we were not likely
to have such an opportunity again, as the _Prince of Wales_ would
shortly part company from us, and direct her course to Moose Factory, in
James Bay, while we should proceed across Hudson Bay to York Factory.
We left the ship just as a few cats-paws on the surface of the water
gave indications of a coming breeze.

Ice now began to surround us in all directions; and soon after this I
saw, for the first time, that monster of the Polar Seas, an iceberg.  It
was a noble sight.  We passed quite close, and had a fine opportunity of
observing it.  Though not so large as they are frequently seen, it was
beautifully and fantastically formed.  High peaks rose from it on
various places, and down its sides streams of water and miniature
cataracts flowed in torrents.  The whole mass was of a delicate
greenish-white colour, and its lofty pinnacles sparkled in the moonbeams
as it floated past, bending majestically in the swell of the ocean.
About this time, too, we met numerous fields and floes of ice, to get
through which we often experienced considerable difficulty.

My favourite amusement, as we thus threaded our way through the ice, was
to ascend to the royal-yard, and there to sit and cogitate whilst gazing
on the most beautiful and romantic scenes.

It is impossible to convey a correct idea of the beauty, the
magnificence, of some of the scenes through which we passed.  Sometimes
thousands of the most grotesque, fanciful, and beautiful icebergs and
icefields surrounded us on all sides, intersected by numerous serpentine
canals, which glittered in the sun (for the weather was fine nearly all
the time we were in the straits), like threads of silver twining round
ruined palaces of crystal.  The masses assumed every variety of form and
size; and many of them bore such a striking resemblance to cathedrals,
churches, columns, arches, and spires, that I could almost fancy we had
been transported to one of the floating cities of Fairyland.  The rapid
motion, too, of our ship, in what appeared a dead calm, added much to
the magical effect of the scene.  A light but steady breeze urged her
along with considerable velocity through a maze of ponds and canals,
which, from the immense quantity of ice that surrounded them, were calm
and unruffled as the surface of a mill-pond.

Not a sound disturbed the delightful stillness of nature, save the
gentle rippling of the vessel's bow as she sped on her way, or the
occasional puffing of a lazy whale, awakened from a nap by our
unceremonious intrusion on his domains.  Now and then, however, my
reveries were interrupted by the ship coming into sudden contact with
huge lumps of ice.  This happened occasionally when we arrived at the
termination of one of those natural canals through which we passed, and
found it necessary to force our way into the next.  These concussions
were occasionally very severe--so much so, at times, as to make the
ship's bell ring; but we heeded this little, as the vessel was provided
with huge blocks of timber on her bows, called ice-pieces, and was,
besides, built expressly for sailing in the northern seas.  It only
became annoying at meal-times, when a spoonful of soup would sometimes
make a little private excursion of its own over the shoulder of the
owner instead of into his mouth.

As we proceeded, the ice became more closely packed, and at last
compelled us to bore through it.  The ship, however, was never
altogether arrested, though often much retarded.  I recollect, while
thus surrounded, filling a bucket with water from a pool on the ice, to
see whether it was fresh or not, as I had been rather sceptical upon
this point.  It was excellent, and might almost compete with the water
from the famous spring of Crawley.  In a few days we got out of the ice
altogether; and in this, as the ships are frequently detained for weeks
in the straits, we considered ourselves very fortunate.

We all experienced at this time a severe disappointment in the
non-appearance of the Esquimaux from the coast.  The captain said they
would be sure to come off to us, as they had always been in the habit of
doing so, for the purpose of exchanging ivory and oil for saws, files,
needles, etcetera, a large chestful of which is put on board annually
for this purpose.  The ivory usually procured from them is walrus tusks.
These are not very large, and are of inferior quality.

As we approached the shores of the straits, we shortened sail and fired
three or four guns, but no noisy "_chimo_" floated across the water in
answer to our salute; still we lingered for a while, but, as there was
no sign of the natives on shore, the captain concluded they had gone off
to the interior, and he steered out to sea again.  I was very much
disappointed at this, as it was wholly unexpected, and Wiseacre and I
had promised ourselves much pleasure in trading with them; for which
purpose all the buttons of our old waistcoats had been amputated.  It
was useless, however, to repine, so I contented myself with the hope
that they would yet visit us in some other part of the straits.  We
afterwards learned that our guns had attracted them to the coast in time
to board the _Prince Albert_ (which was out of sight astern), though too
late for us.

The passage across Hudson Bay was stormy, but no one on board cared for
this, all having become accustomed to rough weather.  For my part, I had
become quite a sailor, and could ascend and descend easily to the truck
without creeping through the _lubber's hole_.  I shall not forget the
first time I attempted this: our youngest apprentice had challenged me
to try it, so up we went together--he on the fore and I on the main
mast.  The tops were gained easily, and we even made two or three steps
up the top-mast shrouds with affected indifference; but, alas! our
courage was failing--at least _mine_ was--very fast.  However, we gained
the cross-trees pretty well, and then sat down for a little to recover
breath.  The topgallant-mast still reared its taper form high above me,
and the worst was yet to come.  The top-gallant shrouds had no ratlines
on them, so I was obliged to _shin_ up; and, as I worked myself up the
two small ropes, the tenacity with which I grasped them was fearful.  At
last I reached the top, and with my feet on the small collar that
fastens the ropes to the mast, and my arms circling the mast itself--for
nothing but a bare pole, crossed by the royal-yard, now rose above me--I
glanced upwards.  After taking a long breath, and screwing up my
courage, I slowly shinned up the slender pole, and, standing on the
royal-yard, laid my hand upon the _truck_.  After a time I became
accustomed to it, and thought nothing of taking an airing on the
royal-yard after breakfast.

About the 5th or 6th of August, the captain said we must be near the
land.  The deep-sea lead was rigged, and a sharp lookout kept, but no
land appeared.  At last, one fine day, while at the mast-head, I saw
something like land on the horizon, and told them so on deck.  They saw
it too, but gave me no answer.  Soon a hurried order to "Dowse
top-gallant-sails and reef top-sails" made me slide down rather hastily
from my elevated position.  I had scarcely gained the deck, when a
squall, the severest we had yet encountered, struck the ship, laying her
almost on her beam-ends; and the sea, which had been nearly calm a few
minutes before, foamed and hissed like a seething caldron, and became
white as snow.  This, I believe, was what sailors call a _white squall_.
It was as short as it was severe, and great was our relief when the
ship regained her natural position in the water.  Next day we saw land
in earnest, and in the afternoon anchored in "Five Fathom Hole," after
passing in safety a sandbar, which renders the entrance into this
roadstead rather difficult.

Here, then, for the first time I beheld the shores of Hudson Bay; and
truly their appearance was anything but prepossessing.  Though only at
the distance of two miles, so low and flat was the land, that it
appeared ten miles off, and scarcely a tree was to be seen.  We could
just see the tops of one or two houses in York Factory, the principal
depot of the country, which was seven miles up the river at the mouth of
which we lay.  In a short time the sails of a small schooner came in
sight, and in half an hour more the _Frances_ (named after the amiable
lady of the governor, Sir George Simpson) was riding alongside.

The skipper came on board, and immediately there commenced between him
and the captain a sharp fire of questions and answers, which roused me
from a slumber in which I had been indulging, and hurried me on deck.
Here the face of things had changed.  The hatches were off, and bales of
goods were scattered about in all directions.  Another small schooner
had arrived, and the process of discharging the vessel was going rapidly
forward.  A boat was then dispatched to the factory with the packet-box
and letter-bag, and soon after the _Frances_ stood in for the shore.

The _Prince Albert_ had arrived almost at the same moment with the
_Prince Rupert_, and was now visited by the second schooner, which soon
returned to our ship to take the passengers on shore.  The passengers
who came out in the _Prince Albert_ were on board--namely, the Reverend
Mr Gowley, a clergyman of the Church of England, and his lady; and Mr
Rob, a sort of catechist, or semi-clerical schoolmaster.  They were
missionaries bound for Red River Colony; and as I had some prospect of
going there myself, I was delighted to have the probable chance of
travelling with companions who, from the short survey I had of them
while they conversed with the captain and Mr Carles, seemed
good-natured and agreeable.

Mr Carles, Mr Wiseacre, and I now bade adieu to the good ship which
had been our home for such a length of time (but I must say I did not
regret the parting), and followed our baggage on board the schooner,
expecting to reach the factory before dusk.  "There's many a slip 'twixt
the cup and the lip," is a proverb well authenticated and often quoted,
and on the present occasion its truth was verified.  We had not been
long under weigh before the ebb tide began to run so strong against us
as to preclude the possibility of our reaching the shore that night.
There was no help for it, however; so down went the anchor to the
bottom, and down went I to the cabin.

Such a cabin!  A good-sized trunk, with a small table in it, and the lid
shut down, had about as much right to the name.  It was awfully small--
even _I_ could not stand upright in it, though at the time I had
scarcely attained to the altitude of five feet; yet here were we
destined to pass the night--and a wretched night we did pass.  We got
over the first part tolerably, but as it grew late our eyes grew heavy.
We yawned, fidgeted and made superhuman efforts to keep awake and seem
happy; but it would not do.  There were only two berths in the cabin;
and, as so many gentlemen were present, Mrs Gowley would not get into
either of them, but declared she would sit up all night.  The gentlemen,
on the other hand, could not be so ungallant as to go to sleep while the
only lady present sat up.  The case was desperate, and so I went off to
the hold, intending to lie down on a bale, if I could find one.  In my
search I tumbled over something soft, which gave vent to a frightful
howl, and proved to be no less a personage than Mr Wiseacre, who had
anticipated me, and found a convenient place whereon to lie.  My search,
however, was less successful.  Not a corner big enough for a cat to
sleep in was to be found, all the goods having been flung hastily into
the hold, so that it was a chaos of box corners, stove legs, edges of
kegs and casks, which presented a surface that put to flight all hope of
horizontal repose; so I was obliged to return to the cabin, where I
found the unhappy inmates winking and blinking at each other like owls
in the sunshine.

"You had better make use of one of these berths, my young friend," said
Mr Gowley, with a bland smile, as I entered; "you seem very much
overcome with sleep, and _we_ have resolved to sit up all night."

"Do get in," urged Mrs Gowley, who was a sweet, gentle creature, and
seemed much too delicate and fragile to stand the rough life that was
likely to be the lot of the wife of a missionary to the Red men of the
Far North; "I do not intend to lie down to-night; and besides, it will
soon be morning."  A sweet but very sleepy smile flitted across her face
as she spoke.

Of course, I protested against this with great vehemence, assuring them
that I could not think of anything so ungallant, and that I meant to sit
it out manfully with the rest.  Mr Rob, who was a comical little
Welshman, of about thirty years of age, with a sharp, snub nose, which
was decorated with spectacles, sat huddled up in a corner, immersed in
sleepiness to such an extent that he would not have smiled for worlds,
and spent the weary hours in vain efforts to keep his head on his
shoulders--an object, apparently, of some difficulty, seeing that it
swayed backwards and forwards and round about like that of a Chinese
mandarin!  For a few minutes I sat gazing steadfastly at the revolving
object before me, when my own head became similarly affected, and fell
suddenly back against the bulk-head with a tremendous crash, wakening
them all up, and causing Mr Rob to stare at me with an expression of
vacant gravity, mingled with surprise, which slowly and gradually faded
away again as sleep reasserted its irresistible power.

Flesh and blood could not stand this.  I would have lain down on the
table, but poor Mrs Gowley's head already covered the greater part of
that; or on the floor, but, alas! it was too small.  At last I began to
reason thus with myself: "Here are two capital beds, with nobody in
them; it is the height of folly to permit them to remain empty; but
then, what a selfish-looking thing to leave Mrs Gowley sitting up!
After all, she _won't_ go to bed.  Oh dear! what _is_ to be done?"
(Bang went the head again.) "You'd better turn in," said Mr Gowley.
Again I protested that I could not think of it; but my eyes would not
keep open to look him in the face.  At last my scruples--I blush to say
it--were overcome, and I allowed myself to be half forced into the
berth; while Mr Rob, whose self-denial could endure no longer, took
advantage of the confusion thus occasioned, and vanished into the other
like a harlequin.  Poor Mr and Mrs Gowley laid their innocent heads
side by side upon the table, and snored in concert.

How long I slept I know not, but long before day a tremendous thumping
awoke me, and after I had collected my faculties enough to understand
it, I found that the schooner was grounding as the tide receded.  "Oh!"
thought I; and, being utterly incapable of thinking more, I fell back on
the pillow again, sound asleep, and did not awake till long after

Next morning was beautiful; but we were still aground, and, from what
the skipper said, there appeared to be no prospect of getting ashore
till the afternoon.  Our patience, however, was not tried so long; for,
early in the day, a boat came off from the factory to take us ashore:
but the missionaries preferred remaining in the schooner.  Mr Carles,
young Wiseacre, and I gladly availed ourselves of the opportunity, and
were soon sailing with a fair breeze up Hayes River.  We approached to
within a few yards of the shore; and I formed, at first sight, a very
poor opinion of the country which, two years later, I was destined to
traverse full many a mile in search of the feathered inhabitants of the

The Point of Marsh, which was the first land we made, was quite low--
only a few feet above the sea--and studded here and there with thick
willows, but not a single tree.  Long lank grass covered it in every
place, affording ducks and geese shelter, in the autumn and spring.  In
the centre of it stood the ship-beacon--a tall, ungainly-looking pile,
which rose upwards like a monster out of the water.  Altogether, a more
desolate prospect could not well be imagined.

The banks of Hayes River are formed of clay, and they improved a little
in verdure as we ascended; but still, wherever the eye turned, the same
universal flatness met the gaze.  The river was here about two miles
wide, and filled with shallows and sandbanks, which render the
navigation difficult for vessels above fifty tons.

As we proceeded, a small bark canoe, with an Indian and his wife in it,
glided swiftly past us; and this was the first Indian, and the first of
these slender craft, I had seen.  Afterwards, I became more intimately
acquainted with them than was altogether agreeable.

In a short time we reached the wooden wharf, which, owing to the
smallness of everything else in the vicinity, had rather an imposing
look, and projected a long way into the water; but our boat passed this
and made for a small slip, on which two or three gentlemen waited to
receive us.

My voyage was ended.  The boat's keel grated harshly on the gravel; the
next moment my feet once more pressed _terra firma_, and I stood at last
on the shores of the New World, a stranger in a strange land.

I do not intend to give a minute description of York Factory here, as a
full account of it will be found in a succeeding chapter, and shall,
therefore, confine myself to a slight sketch of the establishment, and
our proceedings there during a stay of about three weeks.

York Factory is the principal depot of the Northern department, from
whence all the supplies for the trade are issued, and where all the furs
of the district are collected and shipped for England.  As may be
supposed, then, the establishment is a large one.  There are always
between thirty and forty men resident at the post, [_The word "_post_,"
used here and elsewhere throughout the book, signifies an establishment
of any kind, small or great, and has no reference whatever to the
"_post_" of epistolary notoriety_.] summer and winter; generally four or
five clerks, a postmaster, and a skipper for the small schooners.  The
whole is under the direction and superintendence of a chief factor, or
chief trader.

As the winter is very long (nearly eight months), and the summer very
short, all the transport of goods to, and returns from, the interior
must necessarily be effected as quickly as possible.  The consequence
is, that great numbers of men and boats are constantly arriving from the
inland posts, and departing again, during the summer; and as each
brigade is commanded by a chief factor, trader, or clerk, there is a
constant succession of new faces, which, after a long and dreary winter,
during which the inhabitants never see a stranger, renders the summer at
York Factory the most agreeable part of the year.  The arrival of the
ship from England, too, delights those inhabitants of the wilderness
with letters from _home_, which can only be received twice a year--
namely, at the time now alluded to, by the ship; and again in December,
when letters and accounts are conveyed throughout the interior by means
of sledges drawn by men.

The fort (as all establishments in the Indian country, whether small or
great, are sometimes called) is a large square, I should think about six
or seven acres, enclosed within high stockades, and planted on the banks
of Hayes River, nearly five miles from its mouth.  The houses are all of
wood, and, of course, have no pretension to architectural beauty; but
their clean, white appearance and regularity have a pleasing effect on
the eye.  Before the front gate stand four large brass field-pieces; but
these warlike instruments are only used for the purpose of saluting the
ship with blank cartridge on her arrival and departure, the decayed
state of the carriages rendering it dangerous to load the guns with a
full charge.

The country, as I said before, is flat and swampy, and the only objects
that rise very prominently above the rest, and catch the wandering eye,
are a lofty "outlook," or scaffolding of wood, painted black, from which
to watch for the arrival of the ship; and a flagstaff, from whose peak,
on Sundays, the snowy folds of St. George's flag flutter in the breeze.

Such was York Factory in 1841; and as this description is sufficient to
give a general idea of the place, I shall conclude it, and proceed with
my narrative.

Mr Grave, the chief factor then in charge, received us very kindly, and
introduced us to some of the gentlemen standing beside him on the wharf.
Mr Carles, being also a chief factor, was taken by him to the
_commissioned gentlemen's house_; while Wiseacre and I, being apprentice
clerks, were shown the young gentlemen's house--or, as the young
gentlemen themselves called it, Bachelors' Hall--and were told to make
ourselves at home.  To Bachelors' Hall, then, we proceeded, and
introduced ourselves.  The persons assembled there were--the accountant,
five clerks, the postmaster, and one or two others.  Some of them were
smoking, and some talking; and a pretty considerable noise they made.
Bachelors' Hall, indeed, was worthy of its name, being a place that
would have killed any woman, so full was it of smoke, noise, and

After having made ourselves acquainted with everybody, I thought it time
to present a letter of introduction I had to Mrs Grave, the wife of the
gentleman in charge, who received me very kindly.  I was much indebted
to this lady for supplying me with several pairs of moccasins for my
further voyage, and much useful information, without which I should have
been badly off indeed.  Had it not been for her kindness, I should in
all probability have been allowed to depart very ill provided for the
journey to Red River, for which I was desired to hold myself in
readiness.  Young Wiseacre, on the other hand, learned that he was to
remain at York Factory that winter, and was placed in the office the day
after our arrival, where he commenced _work_ for the first time.  We had
a long and sage conversation upon the subject the same evening, and I
well remember congratulating him, with an extremely grave face, upon his
having now begun to _do for himself_.  Poor fellow! his subsequent
travels in the country were long and perilous.

But let us pause here a while.  The reader has been landed in a new
country, and it may be well, before describing our voyage to Red River,
to make him acquainted with the peculiarities of the service, and the
people with whom he will in imagination have to associate.



In the year 1669, a Company was formed in London, under the direction of
Prince Rupert, for the purpose of prosecuting the fur-trade in the
regions surrounding Hudson Bay.  This Company obtained a charter from
Charles the Second, granting to them and their successors, under the
name of "The Governor and Company of Adventurers trading into Hudson's
Bay," the sole right of trading in all the country watered by rivers
flowing into Hudson Bay.  The charter also authorised them to build and
fit out men-of-war, establish forts, prevent any other company from
carrying on trade with the natives in their territories, and required
that they should do all in their power to promote Discovery.

Armed with these powers, then, the Hudson Bay Company established a fort
near the head of James Bay.  Soon afterwards, several others were built
in different parts of the country; and before long the Company spread
and grew wealthy, and eventually extended their trade far beyond the
chartered limits.

With the internal economy of the Company under the superintendence of
Prince Rupert, however, I am not acquainted; but as it will be necessary
to the reader's forming a correct idea of the peculiarities of the
country and service, that he should know something of its character
under the direction of Sir George Simpson, I shall give a brief outline
of its arrangements.

Reader, you will materially assist me in my description if you will
endeavour to draw the following landscape on the retina of your mind's

Imagine an immense extent of country, many hundred miles broad and many
hundred miles long, covered with dense forests, expanded lakes, broad
rivers, wide prairies, swamps, and mighty mountains: and all in a state
of primeval simplicity--undefaced by the axe of civilised man, and
untenanted by aught save a few roving hordes of Red Indians and myriads
of wild animals.  Imagine amid this wilderness a number of small
squares, each enclosing half a dozen wooden houses and about a dozen
men, and between each of these establishments a space of forest varying
from fifty to three hundred miles in length; and you will have a pretty
correct idea of the Hudson Bay Company's territories, and of the number
of and distance between their forts.  The idea, however, may be still
more correctly obtained by imagining populous Great Britain converted
into a wilderness and planted in the middle of Rupert's Land.  The
Company, in that case, would build _three_ forts in it--one at the
Land's End, one in Wales, and one in the Highlands; so that in Britain
there would be but three hamlets, with a population of some thirty men,
half a dozen women, and a few children!  The Company's posts extend,
with these intervals between, from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean,
and from within the Arctic Circle to the northern boundaries of the
United States.

Throughout this immense country there are probably not more ladies than
would suffice to form half a dozen quadrilles; and these--poor banished
creatures!--are chiefly the wives of the principal gentlemen connected
with the fur-trade.  The rest of the female population consists chiefly
of half-breeds and Indians; the latter entirely devoid of education, and
the former as much enlightened as can be expected from those whose life
is spent in such a country.  Even these are not very numerous; and yet
without them the men would be in a sad condition, for they are the only
tailors and washer-women in the country, and make all the mittens,
moccasins, fur caps, deer-skin coats, etcetera, etcetera, worn in the

There are one or two favoured spots, however, into which a missionary or
two have penetrated; and in Red River Settlement (the only colony in the
Company's territories) there are several churches and clergymen, both
Protestant and Roman Catholic.

The country is divided into four large departments: the Northern
department, which includes all the establishments in the far north and
frozen regions; the Southern department, including those to the south
and east of this, the post at the head of James Bay, and along the
shores of Lake Superior; the Montreal department, including the country
in the neighbourhood of Montreal, up the Ottawa River, and along the
north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Esquimaux Bay; and the
Columbia department, which comprehends an immense extent of country to
the west of the Rocky Mountains, including the Oregon territory, which,
although the Hudson Bay Company still trade in it, now belongs to the

These departments are divided into a number of districts, each under the
direction of an influential officer; and these again are subdivided into
numerous establishments, forts, posts, and outposts.

The name of _fort_, as already remarked, is given to all the posts in
the country; but some of them certainly do not merit the name--indeed,
few of them do.  The only two in the country that are real, _bona fide_
forts, are Fort Garry and the Stone Fort in the colony of Red River,
which are surrounded by stone walls with bastions at the corners.  The
others are merely defended by wooden pickets or stockades; and a few,
where the Indians are quiet and harmless, are entirely destitute of
defence of any kind.  Some of the chief posts have a complement of about
thirty or forty men; but most of them have only ten, five, four, and
even _two_, besides the gentleman in charge.  As in most instances these
posts are planted in a wilderness far from men, and the inhabitants have
only the society of each other, some idea may be formed of the solitary
life led by many of the Company's servants.

The following is a list of the forts in the four different departments,
as correctly given as possible; but, owing to the great number in the
country, the constant abandoning of old and establishing of new forts,
it is difficult to get at a perfectly correct knowledge of their number
and names:--


  York Fort (the depot).
  Oxford House.
  Trout Lake House.
  Norway House.
  Nelson River House.
  Berens River House.
  Red River Colony.
  Fort Garry.
  Stone Fort.
  Manitoba House.
  Fort Pelly.
  Cumberland House.
  Carlton House.
  Fort Pitt.
  Rocky Mountain House.
  Fort Aminaboine.
  Jasper's House.
  Henry's House.
  Fort Chipewyan.
  Fort Vermilion.
  Fort Dunvegan.
  Fort Simpson.
  Fort Norman.
  Fort Good Hope.
  Fort Halkett.
  Fort Resolution.
  Peel's River.
  Fort Alexander.
  Rat Portage House.
  Fort Frances.
  Isle a la Crosse.


  Moose Factory (the depot).
  Rupert's House.
  Fort George.
  Lac Seul
  New Brunswick.
  Grand Lac.
  Trout Lake.
  Sault de Ste.  Maria.
  Fort William.
  Pic House.
  Pike Lake.
  Green Lake.


  Lachine (the depot).
  Riviere du Moine.
  Lac des Allumettes.
  Fort Coulonge.
  Riviere Desert.
  Lac des Sables.
  Lake of Two Mountains.
  Rat River.
  Lake St. John's.
  Isle Jeremie.
  Port Neuf.
  Trinity River.
  Seven Islands.
  Fort Nasoopie.
  Mainewan Lake.
  Sandy Banks.
  Gull Islands.
  North-west River.


  Fort Vancouver (the depot).
  Fort George.
  Nez Perce.
  Fort Hall.
  Thompson's River.
  Fort Langley.
  Flat-head Post.
  Fort Chilcotin.
  Fort James.
  Fort Fluz Cuz.
  Babine Lake.
  And an agency in the Sandwich Islands.

There are seven different grades in the service.  First, the labourer,
who is ready to turn his hand to anything; to become a trapper,
fisherman, or rough carpenter at the shortest notice.  He is generally
employed in cutting firewood for the consumption of the establishment at
which he is stationed, shovelling snow from before the doors, mending
all sorts of damages to all sorts of things, and, during the summer
months, in transporting furs and goods between his post and the nearest
depot.  Next in rank is the interpreter.  He is, for the most part, an
intelligent labourer, of pretty long standing in the service, who,
having picked up a smattering of Indian, is consequently very useful in
trading with the natives.  After the interpreter comes the postmaster;
usually a promoted labourer, who, for good behaviour or valuable
services, has been put upon a footing with the gentlemen of the service,
in the same manner that a private soldier in the army is sometimes
raised to the rank of a commissioned officer.  At whatever station a
postmaster may happen to be placed, he is generally the most useful and
active man there.  He is often placed in charge of one of the many small
stations, or outposts, throughout the country.  Next are the apprentice
clerks--raw lads, who come out fresh from school, with their mouths
agape at the wonders they behold in Hudson Bay.  They generally, for the
purpose of appearing manly, acquire all the bad habits of the country as
quickly as possible, and are stuffed full of what they call fun, with a
strong spice of mischief.  They become more sensible and sedate before
they get through the first five years of their apprenticeship, after
which they attain to the rank of clerks.  The clerk, after a number of
years' service (averaging from thirteen to twenty), becomes a chief
trader (or half-shareholder), and in a few years more he attains the
highest rank to which any one can rise in the service, that of chief
factor (or shareholder).

It is a strange fact that three-fourths of the Company's servants are
Scotch Highlanders and Orkneymen.  There are very few Irishmen, and
still fewer English.  A great number, however, are half-breeds and
French Canadians, especially among the labourers and _voyageurs_.

From the great extent, and variety of feature, in the country occupied
by the fur-traders, they subsist, as may be supposed, on widely
different kinds of food.  In the prairie, or plain countries, animal
food is chiefly used, as there thousands of deer and bisons wander
about, while the woods are stocked with game and wild-fowl.  In other
places, however, where deer are scarce and game not so abundant, fish of
various kinds are caught in the rivers and lakes; and in other parts of
the country they live partly upon fish and partly upon animal food.
Vegetables are very scarce in the more northern posts, owing to the
severity of the winter, and consequent shortness of summer.  As the
Company's servants are liable, on the shortest notice, to be sent from
one end of the continent to another, they are quite accustomed to change
of diet;--one year rejoicing in buffalo-humps and marrow-bones, in the
prairies of the Saskatchewan, and the next devouring hung white-fish and
scarce venison, in the sterile regions of Mackenzie River, or varying
the meal with a little of that delectable substance often spoken of by
Franklin, Back, and Richardson as their only dish--namely,
_tripe-de-roche_, a lichen or moss which grows on the most barren rocks,
and is only used as food in the absence of all other provisions.

During the first years of the Company, they were much censured for not
carrying out the provision contained in the royal charter, that they
should prosecute Discovery as much as possible; and it was even alleged
that they endeavoured to prevent adventurers, not connected with
themselves, from advancing in their researches.  There is every reason
to believe, however, that this censure was undeserved.  A new company,
recently formed in a wild country, could not at first be expected to
have time or funds to advance the arduous and expensive cause of
Discovery.  With regard to their having impeded the attempts of others,
it is doubtful whether any one in the service ever did so; but even had
such been the case, the unauthorised and dishonourable conduct of one or
two of their servants does not sanction the condemnation of the whole
Company.  Besides, the cause of Discovery was effectively advanced in
former days by Herne, and in later years by Dease and Simpson, Dr Rae,
and others; so that, whatever might have been the case at first, there
can be no doubt that the Company have done much for the cause of late

The trade carried on by the Company is in peltries of all sorts, oil,
dried and salted fish, feathers, quills, etcetera.  A list of some of
their principal articles of commerce is subjoined:--

  Bear-skins, Black.
  Bear-skins, Brown.
  Bear-skins, White or Polar.
  Bear-skins, Grizzly.
  Buffalo or Bison Robes (see note below).
  Castorum, a substance procured from the body of the beaver.
  Deer-skins, Rein.
  Deer-skins, Red.
  Deer-skins, Moose or Elk.
  Deer-skins, parchment.
  Feathers of all kinds.
  Fox-skins, Black.
  Fox-skins, Silver.
  Fox-skins, Cross.
  Fox-skins, Red.
  Fox-skins, White.
  Fox-skins, Blue.
  Ivory (tusks of the Walrus).
  Oil, Seal.
  Oil, Whale.
  Salmon, salted.

Note.  The hide of the bison--or, as it is called by the fur-traders,
the buffalo--when dressed on one side and the hair left on the other, is
called a robe.  Great numbers are sent to Canada, where they are used
for sleigh wrappers in winter.  In the Indian county they are often used
instead of blankets.

The most valuable of the furs mentioned in the above list is that of the
_black fox_.  This beautiful animal resembles in shape the common fox of
England, but it is much larger, and jet-black, with the exception of one
or two white hairs along the back-bone and a pure white tuft on the end
of the tail.  A single skin sometimes brings from twenty-five to thirty
guineas in the British market; but, unfortunately, they are very scarce.
The _silver fox_ differs from the black fox only in the number of white
hairs with which its fur is sprinkled; and the more numerous the white
hairs, the less valuable does it become.  The _cross fox_ is a cross
between the black or silver and the red fox.  The _red fox_ bears a much
inferior fur to the other kinds; yet it is a good article of trade, as
this species is very numerous.  These four kinds of foxes are sometimes
produced in the same litter, the mother being a red fox.  The _white
fox_ is of less value than the red, and is also very numerous,
particularly on the shores of Hudson Bay.  The variety termed the _blue
fox_ is neither numerous nor valuable.  It is of a dirty bluish-grey
colour, and seldom makes its appearance at the Company's posts.

Beaver, in days of yore, was the staple fur of the country; but, alas!
the silk hat has given it its death-blow, and the star of the beaver has
now probably set for ever--that is to say, with regard to men; probably
the animals themselves fancy that their lucky star has just risen.  The
most profitable fur in the country is that of the marten.  It somewhat
resembles the Russian sable, and generally maintains a steady price.
These animals, moreover, are very numerous throughout most part of the
Company's territories, particularly in Mackenzie River, whence great
numbers are annually sent to England.

All the above animals and a few others are caught in steel and wooden
traps by the natives; while deer, buffaloes, etcetera, are run down,
shot, and snared in various ways, the details of which will be found in
another part of this volume.

Trade is carried on with the natives by means of a standard valuation,
called in some parts of the country a _castor_.  This is to obviate the
necessity of circulating money, of which there is little or none,
excepting in the colony of Red River.  Thus, an Indian arrives at a fort
with a bundle of furs, with which he proceeds to the Indian
trading-room.  There the trader separates the furs into different lots,
and, valuing each at the standard valuation, adds the amount together,
and tells the Indian (who has looked on the while with great interest
and anxiety) that he has got fifty or sixty casters; at the same time he
hands the Indian fifty or sixty little bits of wood in lieu of cash, so
that the latter may know, by returning these in payment of the goods for
which he really exchanges his skins, how fast his funds decrease.  The
Indian then looks round upon the bales of cloth, powder-horns, guns,
blankets, knives, etcetera, with which the shop is filled, and after a
good while makes up his mind to have a small blanket.  This being given
him, the trader tells him that the price is six castors; the purchaser
hands back six of his little bits of wood, and selects something else.
In this way he goes on till all his wooden cash is expended; and then,
packing up his goods, departs to show his treasures to his wife, and
another Indian takes his place.  The value of a castor is from one to
two shillings.  The natives generally visit the establishments of the
Company twice a year--once in October, when they bring in the produce of
their autumn hunts; and again in March, when they come in with that of
the great winter hunt.

The number of castors that an Indian makes in a winter hunt varies from
fifty to two hundred, according to his perseverance and activity, and
the part of the country in which he hunts.  The largest amount I ever
heard of was made by a man called Piaquata-Kiscum, who brought in furs
on one occasion to the value of two hundred and sixty castors.  The poor
fellow was soon afterwards poisoned by his relatives, who were jealous
of his superior abilities as a hunter, and envious of the favour shown
him by the white men.

After the furs are collected in spring at all the different outposts,
they are packed in conveniently-sized bales, and forwarded, by means of
boats and canoes, to the three chief depots on the sea-coast--namely,
Fort Vancouver, at the mouth of the Columbia River, on the shores of the
Pacific; York Fort, on the shores of Hudson Bay; and Moose Factory, on
the shores of James Bay--whence they are transported in the Company's
ships to England.  The whole country in summer is, consequently, in
commotion with the passing and repassing of brigades of boats laden with
bales of merchandise and furs; the still waters of the lakes and rivers
are rippled by the paddle and the oar; and the long-silent echoes which
have slumbered in the icy embrace of a dreary winter, are now once more
awakened by the merry voice and tuneful song of the hardy _voyageur_.

This slight sketch of the Hudson Bay Company and of the territories
occupied by them may, for the present, serve to give some idea of the
nature of the service and the appearance of the country.  We shall now
proceed to write of the Indiana inhabiting these wild regions.

[Doubtless the reader is aware that the chartered rights of the Hudson
Bay Company now (1875) no longer exist; nevertheless their operations
are still conducted in the same manner as of old, so that the above
description is applicable in almost all respects to the greater part of
the country at the present time.]



The aborigines of North America are divided into a great number of
nations or tribes, differing not only in outward appearance but also in
customs and modes of life, and in some instances entertaining for each
other a bitter and implacable hatred.

To describe the leading peculiarities of some of these tribes,
particularly those called Crees, will be my object in the present

Some of the tribes are known by the following names:--Crees, Seauteaux,
Stone Indians, Sioux, Blackfeet, Chipewyans, Slave Indians, Crows,
Flatheads, etcetera.  Of these, the Crees are the quietest and most
inoffensive; they inhabit the woody country surrounding Hudson Bay;
dwell in tents; never go to war; and spend their time in trapping,
shooting, and fishing.  The Seauteaux are similar to the Crees in many
respects, and inhabit the country further in the interior.  The Stone
Indians, Sioux, Blackfeet, Slave Indians, Crows, and Flatheads inhabit
the vast plains and forests in the interior of America, on the east and
west of the Rocky Mountains, and live chiefly by the produce of the
chase.  Their country swarms with bisons, and varieties of deer, bears,
etcetera, which they hunt, shoot, snare, and kill in various ways.  Some
of these tribes are well supplied with horses, with which they hunt the
buffalo.  This is a wild, inspiriting chase, and the natives are very
fond of it.  They use the gun a good deal, but prefer the bow and arrow
(in the use of which they are very expert) for the chase, and reserve
the gun for warfare,--many of them being constantly engaged in
skirmishing with their enemies.  As the Crees were the Indians with whom
I had the most intercourse, I shall endeavour to describe my old friends
more at length.

The personal appearance of the men of this tribe is not bad.  Although
they have not the bold, daring carriage of the wilder tribes, yet they
have active-looking figures, intelligent countenances, and a peculiar
brightness in their dark eyes, which, from a constant habit of looking
around them while travelling through the woods, are seldom for a moment
at rest.  Their jet-black hair generally hangs in straight matted locks
over their shoulders, sometimes ornamented with beads and pieces of
metal, and occasionally with a few partridge feathers; but they seldom
wear a hat or cap of any kind, except in winter, when they make clumsy
imitations of foraging-caps with furs--preferring, if the weather be
warm, to go about without any head-dress at all; or, if it be cold,
using the large hood of their capotes as a covering.  They are thin,
wiry men, not generally very muscular in their proportions, but yet
capable of enduring great fatigue.  Their average height is about five
feet five inches; and one rarely meets with individuals varying much
from this average, nor with deformed people, among them.  The step of a
Cree Indian is much longer than that of a European; owing, probably, to
his being so much accustomed to walking through swamps and forests,
where it is necessary to take long strides.  This peculiarity becomes
apparent when an Indian arrives at a fort, and walks along the hard
ground inside the walls with the trader, whose short, bustling, active
step contrasts oddly with the long, solemn, ostrich-like stride of the
savage; which, however appropriate in the woods, is certainly strange
and ungraceful on a good road.

The summer dress of the Indian is almost entirely provided for him by
the Hudson Bay Company.  It consists chiefly of a blue or grey cloth, or
else a blanket capote reaching below the knee, made much too loose for
the figure, and strapped round the waist with a scarlet or crimson
worsted belt.  A very coarse blue striped cotton shirt is all the
underclothing they wear, holding trousers to be quite superfluous; in
lieu of which they make leggins of various kinds of cloth, which reach
from a few inches above the knee down to the ankle.  These leggins are
sometimes very tastefully decorated with bead-work, particularly those
of the women, and are provided with flaps or wings on either side.

The costume, however, is slightly varied in winter.  The blanket or
cloth capote is then laid aside for one of smoked red-deer skin, which
has very much the appearance of chamois leather.  This is lined with
flannel, or some other thick, warm substance, and edged with fur (more
for ornament, however, than warmth) of different kinds.  Fingerless
mittens, with a place for the thumb, are also adopted; and shoes or
moccasins of the same soft material.  The moccasins are very beautiful,
fitting the feet as tightly as a glove, and are tastefully ornamented
with dyed porcupine quills and silk thread of various colours, at which
work the women are particularly _au fait_.  As the leather of the
moccasin is very thin [see note 1], blanket and flannel socks are worn
underneath--one, two, or even four pairs, according to the degree of
cold; and in proportion as these socks are increased in number, the
moccasin, of course, loses its elegant appearance.

The Indian women are not so good-looking as the men.  They have an
awkward, slouching gait, and a downcast look--arising, probably, from
the rude treatment they experience from their husbands; for the North
American Indians, like all other savages, make complete drudges of their
women, obliging them to do all the laborious and dirty work, while they
reserve the pleasures of the chase for themselves.  Their features are
sometimes good; but I never saw a really pretty woman among the Crees.
Their colour, as well as that of the men, is a dingy brown, which,
together with their extreme filthiness, renders them anything but
attractive.  They are, however, quiet, sweet-tempered, and inoffensive
creatures, destitute as well of artificial manners as of _stays_.  Their
dress is a gown, made without sleeves, and very scanty in the skirt, of
coarse blue or green cloth; it reaches down to a little under the knee,
below which their limbs are cased in leggins beautifully ornamented.
Their whole costume, however, like that of the men, is almost always hid
from sight by a thick blanket, without which the Indian seldom ventures
abroad.  The women usually make the top of the blanket answer the
purpose of a head-dress; but when they wish to appear very much to
advantage, they put on a cap.  It is a square piece of blue cloth,
profusely decorated with different-coloured beads, and merely sewed up
at the top.  They wear their hair in long straggling locks, which have
not the slightest tendency to curl, and occasionally in queues or
pigtails behind; but in this respect, as in every other, they are very
careless of their personal appearance.

These primitive children of the forest live in tents of deerskin or
bark; and sometimes, where skins are scarce, of branches of trees.  They
are conically shaped, and are constructed thus:--The Indian with his
family (probably two wives and three or four children) arrives in his
bark canoe at a pretty level spot, sheltered from the north wind, and
conveniently situated on the banks of a small stream, where the fish are
plentiful, and pine branches (or brush), for the floor of the tent,
abundant.  Here he runs his canoe ashore, and carries his goods and
chattels up the bank.  His first business is to cut a number of long
poles, and tie three of them at the top, spreading them out in the form
of a tripod.  He then piles all the other poles round these, at half a
foot distance from each other, and thus encloses a circle of between
fifteen and twenty feet in diameter.  Over the poles (if he is a good
hunter, and has plenty of deer-skins) he spreads the skin tent, leaving
an opening at the top for the egress of the smoke.  If the tent be a
birch-bark one, he has it in separate rolls, which are spread over the
poles till the whole is covered.  A small opening is left facing the
river or lake, which serves for a doorway; and this is covered with an
old blanket, a piece of deer-skin, or, in some instances, by bison-skin
or buffalo robe.  The floor is covered with a layer of small pine
branches, which serve for carpet and mattress; and in the centre is
placed the wood fire, which, when blazing brightly, gives a warmth and
comfort to the slight habitation that could scarcely be believed.  Here
the Indian spends a few days or weeks, according to the amount of game
in the vicinity, and then removes to some other place, carrying with him
the covering of the tent, but leaving the poles standing, as they would
be cumbrous to carry in his small canoe, and thousands may be had at
every place where he may wish to land.

The Indian canoe is an exceedingly light and graceful little craft, and
well adapted for travelling in through a wild country, where the rivers
are obstructed by long rapids, waterfalls, and shallows.  It is so light
that one man can easily carry it on his shoulders over the land, when a
waterfall obstructs his progress; and as it only sinks about four or six
inches in the water, few places are too shallow to float it.  The birch
bark of which it is made is about a quarter of an inch thick; and the
inside is lined with extremely thin flakes of wood, over which a number
of light timbers are driven, to give strength and tightness to the
machine.  In this frail bark, which measures from twelve, fifteen,
thirty, to forty feet long, and from two to four feet broad in the
middle, a whole Indian family of eight or ten souls will travel hundreds
of miles, over rivers and lakes innumerable; now floating swiftly down a
foaming rapid, and anon gliding over the surface of a quiet lake, or
_making a portage_ overland when a rapid is too dangerous to descend;
and, while the elders of the family assist in carrying the canoe, the
youngsters run about plucking berries, and the shaggy little curs (one
or two of which are possessed by every Indian family) search for food,
or bask in the sun at the foot of the baby's cradle, which stands bolt
upright against a tree, while the child gazes upon all these operations
with serene indifference.

Not less elegant and useful than the canoe is the snowshoe, without
which the Indian would be badly off indeed.  It is not, as many suppose,
used as a kind of _skate_, with which to _slide_ over the snow, but as a
machine to prevent, by its size and breadth, the wearer from sinking
into the snow; which is so deep that, without the assistance of the
snowshoe, no one could walk a quarter of a mile through the woods in
winter without being utterly exhausted.

It is formed of two thin pieces of light wood, tied at both ends, and
spread out near the middle, thus making a kind of long oval, the
interior of which is filled up with network of deer-skin threads.
Strength is given to the frame by placing wooden bars across; and it is
fastened _loosely_ to the foot by a slight line going over the toe.  In
case, however, it may be supposed that by a shoe I mean an article
something the size of a man's foot, it may be as well to state that
snow-shoes measure from _four_ to _six feet_ long, and from thirteen to
twenty inches wide.  Notwithstanding their great size, the extreme
lightness of their materials prevents them being cumbrous; and, after a
little practice, a traveller forgets that he has them on, if the weather
be good for such walking.  Frosty weather is the best for snow-shoe
travelling, as the snow is fine and dust-like, and falls through the
net-work.  If the weather be warm, the wet snow renders the shoe heavy,
and the lines soon begin to gall the feet.  On these shoes an Indian
will travel between twenty and thirty miles a day; and they often
accomplish from thirty to forty when hard pressed.

The food of the Indian varies according to circumstances.  Sometimes he
luxuriates on deer, partridges, and fat beaver; whilst at others he is
obliged to live almost entirely on fish, and not unfrequently on
_tripe-de-roche_.  This substance, however, does no more than retard his
ultimate destruction by starvation; and unless he meets with something
more nourishing, it cannot prevent it.  When starving, the Indian will
not hesitate to appease the cravings of hunger by resorting to
cannibalism; and there were some old dames with whom I was myself
acquainted, who had at different periods eaten several of their
children.  Indeed, some of them, it was said, had also eaten their

The following anecdote, related to me by my friend Carles, who spent
many years of his life among the North American Indians, depicts one of
the worst of these cases of cannibalism.

It was in the spring of 18 hundred and something that Mr Carles stood
in the Indian Hall of one of the far-distant posts in Athabasca,
conversing with a party of Chipewyan Indians, who had just arrived with
furs from their winter hunting-grounds.  The large fires of wood,
sparkling and blazing cheerfully up the wide chimney, cast a bright
light round the room, and shone upon the dusky countenances of the
Chipewyans, as they sat gravely on the floor, smoking their spwagans in
silence.  A dark shade lowered upon every face, as if thoughts of an
unpleasant nature disturbed their minds; and so it was.  A deed of the
most revolting description had been perpetrated by an Indian of the Cree
tribe, and they were about to relate the story to Mr Carles.

After a short silence, an old Indian removed his pipe, and, looking
round upon the others, as if to ask their consent to his becoming
spokesman, related the particulars of the story, the substance of which
I now give.

Towards the middle of winter, Wisagun, a Cree Indian, removed his
encampment to another part of the country, as game was scarce in the
place where he had been residing.  His family consisted of a wife, a son
of eight or nine years of age, and two or three children, besides
several of his relations; in all, ten souls, including himself.  In a
few days they arrived at their new encamping ground, after having
suffered a great deal of misery by the way from starvation.  They were
all much exhausted and worn out, but hoped, having heard of buffaloes in
the vicinity, that their sufferings would soon be relieved.

Here they remained several days without finding any game, and were
reduced to the necessity of devouring their moccasins and leathern
coats, rendered eatable by being singed over the fire.  Soon this
wretched resource was also gone, and they were reduced to the greatest
extremity, when a herd of buffaloes was descried far away in the
prairie, on the edge of which they were encamped.  All were instantly on
the _qui vive_.  Guns were loaded, snow-shoes put on, and in ten minutes
the males of the hungry party set off after the herd, leaving Wisagun's
wife and children with another girl in the tent.  It was not long,
however, before the famished party began to grow tired.  Some of the
weakest dropped behind; while Wisagun, with his son Natappe, gave up the
chase, and returned to the encampment.  They soon arrived at it, and
Wisagun, peeping in between the chinks of the tent to see what the women
were doing, saw his wife engaged in cutting up one of her own children,
preparatory to cooking it.  In a transport of passion, the Indian rushed
forward and stabbed her, and also the other woman; and then, fearing the
wrath of the other Indians, he fled to the woods.  It may be conceived
what were the feelings of the remainder of the party when they returned
and found their relatives murdered.  They were so much exhausted,
however, by previous suffering, that they could only sit down and gaze
on the mutilated bodies in despair.  During the night, Wisagun and
Natappe returned stealthily to the tent, and, under cover of the
darkness, murdered the whole party as they lay asleep.  Soon after this
the two Indians were met by another party of savages, in _good
condition_, although, from the scarcity of game, the others were
starving.  The former accounted for this, however, by saying that they
had fallen in with a deer not long ago; but that, before this had
happened, all the rest of the family had died of starvation.

It was the party who had met the two Indians wandering in the plains
that now sat round the fire relating the story to Mr Carles.

The tale was still telling when the hall door slowly opened, and
Wisagun, gaunt and cadaverous, the very impersonation of famine, slunk
into the room, along with Natappe, and seated himself in a corner near
the fire.  Mr Carles soon obtained from his own lips confirmation of
the horrible deed, which he excused by saying that _most_ of his
relations had died before he ate them.

In a few days after this, the party of Indians took their departure from
the house, to proceed to their village in the forest; and shortly after
Wisagun and Natappe also left, to rejoin their tribe.  The news of their
deeds, however, had preceded them, so they were received very coldly;
and soon after Wisagun pitched his tent, the other Indians removed, with
one accord, to another place, as though it were impossible to live
happily under the shadow of the same trees.  This exasperated Wisagun so
much that he packed up his tent and goods, launched his canoe, and then,
before starting, went up to the village, and told them it was true he
had killed all his relatives; and that he was a conjurer, and had both
power and inclination to conjure them to death too.  He then strode down
to the banks of the river, and, embarking with his son, shot out into
the stream.  The unhappy man had acted rashly in his wrath.  There is
nothing more dangerous than to threaten to kill a savage, as he will
certainly endeavour to kill the person who threatens him, in order to
render the execution of his purpose impossible.  Wisagun and his son had
no sooner departed than two men coolly took up their guns, entered a
canoe, and followed them.  Upon arriving at a secluded spot, one of them
raised his gun and fired at Wisagun, who fell over the side of the
canoe, and sank to rise no more.  With the rapidity of thought, Natappe
seized his father's gun, sprang ashore, and bounded up the bank; a shot
was fired which went through the fleshy part of his arm, and the next
moment he was behind a tree.  Here he called out to the Indians, who
were reloading their guns, not to kill him, and he would tell them all.
After a little consideration, they agreed to spare him; he embarked with
them, and was taken afterwards to the fort, where he remained many years
in the Company's service.

Although instances of cannibalism are not unusual among the Indian
tribes, they do not resort to it from choice, but only when urged by the
irrepressible cravings of hunger.

All the Indian tribes are fond of spirits; and in former times, when the
distribution of rum to the natives was found necessary to compete with
other companies, the use of the "fire-water" was carried to a fearful
extent.  Since Sir George Simpson became governor, however, the
distribution of spirits has been almost entirely given up; and this has
proved a most beneficial measure for the poor Indians.

Tobacco also is consumed by them in great quantities; indeed, the pipe
is seldom out of the Indian's mouth.  If he is not hunting, sleeping, or
eating, he is sure to be smoking.  A peculiar kind of shrub is much used
by them, mixed with tobacco--partly for the purpose of making it go far,
and partly because they can smoke more of it at a time with impunity.

The Indian is generally very lazy, but can endure, when requisite, great
fatigue and much privation.  He can go longer without eating than a
European, and, from the frequent fasts he has to sustain, he becomes
accustomed, without injury, to eat more at a meal than would kill a
white man.  The Indian children exhibit this power in a very
extraordinary degree, looking sometimes wretchedly thin and miserable,
and an hour or two afterwards waddling about with their little stomachs
swollen almost to bursting!

When an Indian wants a wife, he goes to the _fair_ one's father, and
asks his consent.  This being obtained, he informs the young lady of the
circumstance, and then returns to his wigwam, whither the bride follows
him, and installs herself as mistress of the house without further
ceremony.  Generally speaking, Indians content themselves with one wife,
but it is looked upon as neither unusual nor improper to take two, or
even three wives.  The great point to settle is the husband's ability to
support them.  Thus, a bad hunter can only afford one wife, whilst a
good one may have three or four.

If an old man or woman of the tribe becomes infirm, and unable to
proceed with the rest when travelling, he or she, as the case may be, is
left behind in a small tent made of willows, in which are placed a
little firewood, some provisions, and a vessel of water.  Here the
unhappy wretch remains in solitude till the fuel and provisions are
exhausted, and then dies.  Should the tribe be in their encampment when
an Indian dies, the deceased is buried, sometimes in the ground, and
sometimes in a rough wooden coffin raised a few feet above it.  They do
not now bury guns, knives, etcetera, with their dead, as they once did,
probably owing to their intercourse with white men.

The Supreme Being among the Indians is called Manitou; but He can
scarcely be said to be worshipped by them, and the few ideas they have
of His attributes are imperfect and erroneous.  Indeed, no religious
rites exist among them, unless the unmeaning mummery of the medicine
tent can be looked upon as such.  Of late years, however, missionaries,
both of the Church of England and the Wesleyans, have exerted themselves
to spread the Christian religion among these tribes, than whom few
savages can be more unenlightened or morally degraded; and there is
reason to believe that the light of the gospel is now beginning to shine
upon them with beneficial influence.

There is no music in the soul of a Cree, and the only time they attempt
it is when gambling--of which they are passionately fond--when they sing
a kind of monotonous chant, accompanied with a noisy rattling on a tin
kettle.  The celebrated war-dance is now no longer in existence among
this tribe.  They have wisely renounced both war and its horrors long
ago.  Among the wilder inhabitants of the prairies, however, it is still
in vogue, with all the dismal accompaniments of killing, scalping,
roasting, and torturing that distinguished American warfare a hundred
years ago.

The different methods by which the Indian succeeds in snaring and
trapping animals are numerous.  A good idea of these may be had by
following an Indian in his rounds.

Suppose yourself, gentle reader, standing at the gate of one of the
forts in Hudson Bay, watching a savage arranging his snow-shoes,
preparatory to entering the gloomy forest.  Let us walk with this Indian
on a visit to his traps.

The night is very dark, as the moon is hid by thick clouds, yet it
occasionally breaks out sufficiently to illumine our path to Stemaw's
wigwam, and to throw the shadows of the neighbouring trees upon the pale
snow, which _crunches_ under our feet as we advance, owing to the
intense cold.  No wind breaks the stillness of the night, or shakes the
lumps of snow off the branches of the neighbouring pines or willows; and
nothing is heard save the occasional crackling of the trees as the
severe frost acts upon their branches.  The tent, at which we soon
arrive, is pitched at the foot of an immense tree, which stands in a
little hollow where the willows and pines are luxuriant enough to afford
a shelter from the north wind.  Just in front, a small path leads to the
river, of which an extensive view is had through the opening, showing
the long fantastic shadows of huge blocks and mounds of ice cast upon
the white snow by the flickering moonlight.  A huge chasm, filled with
fallen trees and mounds of snow, yawns on the left of the tent; and the
ruddy sparks of fire which issue from a hole in its top throw this and
the surrounding forest into deeper gloom.  The effect of this wintry
scene upon the mind is melancholy in the extreme--causing it to speed
across the bleak and frozen plains, and visit again the warm fireside
and happy faces in a far-distant home; and yet there is a strange
romantic attraction in the wild woods that gradually brings it back
again, and makes us impatient to begin our walk with the Indian.
Suddenly the deer-skin robe that covers the aperture of the wigwam is
raised, and a bright stream of warm light gushes out, tipping the
dark-green points of the opposite trees, and mingling strangely with the
paler light of the moon--and Stemaw stands erect in front of his
solitary home, to gaze a few moments on the sky and judge of the
weather, as he intends to take a long walk before laying his head upon
his capote for the night.  He is in the usual costume of the Cree
Indians: a large leathern coat, very much overlapped in front, and
fastened round his waist with a scarlet belt, protects his body from the
cold.  A small rat-skin cap covers his head, and his legs are cased in
the ordinary blue cloth leggins.  Large moccasins, with two or three
pair of blanket socks, clothe his feet; and fingerless mittens, made of
deer-skin, complete his costume.  After a few minutes passed in
contemplation of the heavens, the Indian prepares himself for the walk.
First he sticks a small axe in his belt, serving as a counterpoise to a
large hunting-knife and fire-bag which depend from the other side.  He
then slips his feet through the lines of his snow-shoes, and throws the
line of a small hand-sledge over his shoulder.  The hand-sledge is a
thin, flat slip or plank of wood, from five to six feet long by one foot
broad, and is turned up at one end.  It is extremely light, and Indians
invariably use it when visiting their traps, for the purpose of dragging
home the animals or game they may have caught.  Having attached this
sledge to his back, he stoops to receive his gun from his faithful
_squaw_ [see note 2], who has been watching his operations through a
hole in the tent; and throwing it on his shoulder, strides off, without
uttering a word, across the moonlit space in front of the tent, turns
into a narrow track that leads down the dark ravine, and disappears in
the shades of the forest.  Soon he reaches the termination of the track
(made for the purpose of reaching some good dry trees for firewood), and
stepping into the deep snow with the long, regular, firm tread of one
accustomed to snow-shoe walking, he winds his way rapidly through the
thick stems of the surrounding trees, and turns aside the smaller
branches of the bushes.

The forest is now almost dark, the foliage overhead having become so
dense that the moon only penetrates through it in a few places, causing
the spots on which it falls to shine with a strange phosphoric light,
and rendering the surrounding masses darker by contrast.  The faint
outline, of an old snowshoe track, at first discernible, is now quite
invisible; but still Stemaw moves forward with rapid, noiseless step, as
sure of his way as if a broad beaten track lay before him.  In this
manner he moves on for nearly two miles, sometimes stooping to examine
closely the newly-made track of some wild animal, and occasionally
giving a glance at the sky through the openings in the leafy canopy
above him, when a faint sound in the bushes ahead brings him to a full
stop.  He listens attentively, and a noise, like the rattling of a
chain, is heard proceeding from the recesses of a dark, wild-looking
hollow a few paces in front.  Another moment, and the rattle is again
distinctly heard; a slight smile of satisfaction crosses Stemaw's dark
visage, for one of his traps is set in that place, and he knows that
something is caught.  Quickly descending the slope, he enters the bushes
whence the sound proceeds, and pauses when within a yard or two of his
trap, to peer through the gloom.  A cloud passes off the moon, and a
faint ray reveals, it may be, a beautiful black fox caught in the snare.
A slight blow on the snout from Stemaw's axe-handle kills the
unfortunate animal; in ten minutes more it is tied to his sledge, the
trap is reset and again covered over with snow, so that it is almost
impossible to tell that anything is there; and the Indian pursues his

The steel-trap used by the Indians is almost similar to the ordinary
rat-trap of England, with this difference, that it is a little larger,
is destitute of teeth, and has two springs in place of one.  A chain is
attached to one spring for the purpose of fixing a weight to the trap,
so that the animal caught may not be able to drag it far from the place
where it was set.  The track in the snow enables the hunter to find his
trap again.  It is generally set so that the jaws, when spread out flat,
are exactly on a level with the snow.  The chain and weight are both
hid, and a thin layer of snow spread on top of the trap.  The bait
(which generally consists of chips of a frozen partridge, rabbit, or
fish) is then scattered around in every direction; and, with the
exception of this, nothing distinguishes the spot.  Foxes, beavers,
wolves, lynx, and other animals are caught in this way, sometimes by a
fore leg, sometimes by a hind leg, and sometimes by two legs at once,
and occasionally by the nose.  Of all these ways the Indians prefer
catching by two legs, as there is then not the slightest possibility of
the animal escaping.  When foxes are caught by one leg, they often _eat
it off_ close to the trap, and escape on the other three.  I have
frequently seen this happen; and I once saw a fox caught which had
evidently escaped in this way, as one of its legs was gone, and the
stump healed up and covered again with hair.  When they are caught by
the nose they are almost sure to escape, unless taken out of the trap
very soon after being caught, as their snouts are so sharp or wedge-like
that they can pull them from between the jaws of the trap without much

Having now described the way of using this machine, we will rejoin
Stemaw, whom we left on his way to the next trap.  There he goes, moving
swiftly over the snow mile after mile, as if he could not feel fatigue,
turning aside now and then to visit a trap, and giving a short grunt
when nothing is in it, or killing the animal when caught, and tying it
on the sledge.  Towards midnight, however, he begins to walk more
cautiously, examines the priming of his gun, and moves the axe in his
belt, as if he expected to meet some enemy suddenly.  The fact is, that
close to where he now stands are two traps which he set in the morning
close to each other for the purpose of catching one of the formidable
coast wolves.  These animals are so sagacious that they will scrape all
round a trap, let it be ever so well set, and after eating all the bait,
walk away unhurt.  Indians consequently endeavour in every possible way
to catch them--and, among others, by setting _two_ traps close together;
so that, while the wolf scrapes at one, he may perhaps put his foot in
the other.  It is in this way that Stemaw's traps are set, and he now
proceeds cautiously towards them, his gun in the hollow of his left arm.
Slowly he advances, peering through the bushes, but nothing is visible;
suddenly a branch crashes under his snow-shoe, and with a savage growl a
large wolf bounds towards him, landing almost at his feet.  A single
glance, however, shows the Indian that both traps are on his legs, and
that the chains prevent his further advance.  He places his gun against
a tree, draws his axe from the belt, and advances to kill the animal.
It is an undertaking, however, of some difficulty.  The fierce brute,
which is larger than a Newfoundland dog, strains every nerve and sinew
to break its chains; while its eyes glisten in the uncertain light, and
foam curls from its blood-red mouth.  Now it retreats as the Indian
advances, grinning horribly as it goes; and anon, as the chains check
its further retreat, it springs with fearful growl towards Stemaw, who
slightly wounds it with his axe, as he jumps backward just in time to
save himself from the infuriated animal, which catches in its fangs the
flap of his leggin, and tears it from his limb.  Again Stemaw advances,
and the wolf retreats and again springs on him, but without success.  At
last, as the wolf glances for a moment to one side--apparently to see if
there is no way of escape--quick as lightning the axe descends with
stunning violence on its head; another blow follows; and in five minutes
more Stemaw heaves the huge brute across his shoulders, and carries it
to his sledge.

This, however, has turned out a more exhausting business than Stemaw
expected; so he determines to encamp and rest for a few hours.
Selecting a large pine, whose spreading branches cover a patch of ground
free from underwood, he scrapes away the snow with his snow-shoe.
Silently but busily he labours for a quarter of an hour; and then,
having cleared a space seven or eight feet in diameter, and nearly four
feet deep, he cuts down a number of small branches, which he strews at
the bottom of the hollow, till all the snow is covered.  This done, he
fells two or three of the nearest trees, cuts them up into lengths of
about five feet long, and piles them at the root of the tree.  A light
is soon applied to the pile, and up glances the ruddy flame, crackling
among the branches overhead, and sending thousands of bright sparks into
the air.  No one who has not seen it can have the least idea of the
change that takes place in the appearance of the woods at night when a
large fire is suddenly lighted.  Before, all was cold, silent, chilling,
gloomy, and desolate, and the pale snow looked unearthly in the dark.
Now, a bright ruddy glow falls upon the thick stems of the trees, and
penetrates through the branches overhead, tipping those nearest the fire
with a ruby tinge, the mere sight of which warms one.  The white snow
changes to a beautiful pink, whilst the stems of the trees, bright and
clearly visible near at hand, become more and more indistinct in the
distance, till they are lost in the black background.  The darkness,
however, need not be seen from the encampment; for, when the Indian lies
down, he will be surrounded by the snow walls, which sparkle in the
firelight as if set with diamonds.  These do not melt, as might be
expected.  The frost is much too intense for that, and nothing melts
except the snow quite close to the fire.  Stemaw has now concluded his
arrangements: a small piece of dried deer's meat warms before the blaze;
and, meanwhile, he spreads his green blanket on the ground, and fills a
stone calumet (or pipe with a wooden stem) with tobacco, mixed with a
kind of weed prepared by himself.  The white smoke from this soon
mingles with the thicker volumes from the fire, which curl up through
the branches into the sky, now shrouding him in their wreaths, and then,
as the bright flame obtains the mastery, leaving his dark face and
coal-black eyes shining in the warm light.  No one enjoys a pipe more
than an Indian; and Stemaw's tranquil visage, wreathed in tobacco smoke,
as he reclines at full length under the spreading branches of the pine,
and allows the white vapour to pass slowly out of his mouth _and nose_,
certainly gives one an excellent idea of savage enjoyment.

Leaving him here, then, to solace himself with a pipe preparatory to
resting his wearied limbs for the night, we will change the hour, and
conduct the reader to a different scene.

It is now day.  The upper edge of the sun has just risen, red and
frosty-looking, in the east, and countless myriads of icy particles
glitter on every tree and bush in its red rays; while the white tops of
the snow-drifts, which dot the surface of the small lake at which we
have just arrived, are tipped with the same rosy hue.  The lake is of
considerable breadth, and the woods on its opposite shore are barely
visible.  An unbroken coat of pure white snow covers its entire surface,
whilst here and there a small islet, covered with luxuriant evergreens,
attracts the eye, and breaks the sameness of the scene.  At the extreme
left of the lake, where the points of a few bulrushes and sedgy plants
appear above the snow, are seen a number of small earthy mounds, in the
immediate vicinity of which the trees and bushes are cut and barked in
many places, while some of them are nearly cut down.  This is a colony
of beavers.  In the warm months of summer and autumn, this spot is a
lively, stirring place, as the beavers are then employed _nibbling_ down
trees and bushes, for the purpose of repairing their dams, and supplying
their storehouses with food.  The bark of willows is their chief food,
and all the bushes in the vicinity are more or less cut through by these
persevering little animals.  Their dams, however (which are made for the
purpose of securing to themselves a constant sufficiency of water), are
made with large trees; and stumps will be found, if you choose to look
for them, as thick as a man's leg, which the beavers have entirely
nibbled through, and dragged by their united efforts many yards from
where they grew.

Now, however, no sign of animal life is to be seen, as the beavers keep
within doors all winter; yet I venture to state that there are many now
asleep under the snow before us.  It is not, reader, merely for the
purpose of showing you the outside of a beaver-lodge that I have brought
you such a distance from human habitations.  Be patient, and you shall
soon see more.  Do you observe that small black speck moving over the
white surface of the lake, far away on the horizon?  It looks like a
crow, but the forward motion is much too steady and constant for that.
As it approaches, it assumes the form of a man; and at last the figure
of Stemaw, dragging his empty sleigh behind him (for he has left his
wolf and foxes in the last night's encampment, to be taken up when
returning home), becomes clearly distinguishable through the dreamy haze
of the cold wintry morning.  He arrives at the beaver-lodges, and, I
warrant, will soon play havoc among the inmates.

His first proceeding is to cut down several stakes, which he points at
the ends.  These are driven, after he has cut away a good deal of ice
from around the beaver-lodge, into the ground between it and the shore.
This is to prevent the beaver from running along the passage they always
have from their lodges to the shore, where their storehouse is kept,
which would make it necessary to excavate the whole passage.  The
beaver, if there are any, being thus imprisoned in the lodge, the hunter
next stakes up the opening into the storehouse on shore, and so
imprisons those that may have fled there for shelter on hearing the
noise of his axe at the other house.  Things being thus arranged to his
entire satisfaction, he takes an instrument called an ice-chisel--which
is a bit of steel about a foot long by one inch broad, fastened to the
end of a stout pole--wherewith he proceeds to dig through the lodge.
This is by no means an easy operation; and although he covers the snow
around him with great quantities of frozen mud and sticks, yet his work
is not half finished.  At last, however, the interior of the hut is laid
bare; and the Indian, stooping down, gives a great pull, when out comes
a large, fat, sleepy beaver, which he flings sprawling on the snow.
Being thus unceremoniously awakened from its winter nap, the shivering
animal looks languidly around, and even goes the length of grinning at
Stemaw, by way of showing its teeth, for which it is rewarded with a
blow on the head from the pole of the ice-chisel, which puts an end to
it.  In this way several more are killed, and packed on the sleigh.
Stemaw then turns his face towards his encampment, where he collects the
game left there; and away he goes at a tremendous pace, dashing the snow
in clouds from his snow-shoes, as he hurries over the trackless
wilderness to his forest home.

Near his tent, he makes a detour to visit a marten trap; where, however,
he finds nothing.  This trap is of the simplest construction, being
composed of two logs, the one of which is supported over the other by
means of a small stick, in such a manner that when the marten creeps
between the two and pulls the bait, the support is removed, and the
upper log falls on and crushes it to death.

In half an hour the Indian arrives at his tent, where the dark eyes of
his wife are seen gazing through a chink in the covering, with an
expression that denotes immense joy at the prospect of gorging for many
days on fat beaver, and having wherewithal to purchase beads and a
variety of ornaments from the white men, upon the occasion of her
husband and herself visiting the posts of the fur-traders in the
following spring.

But some of the tribes have a more sociable as well as a more productive
way of conducting business, at least as regards venison; for they catch
the deer in a "pound."

"Their mode of accomplishing this is to select a well-frequented
deer-path, and enclose with a strong fence of twisted trees and
brushwood a space about a mile in circumference, and sometimes more.
The entrance of the pound is not larger than a common gate, and its
inside is crowded with innumerable small hedges, in the openings of
which are fixed snares of strong well-twisted thongs.  One end is
generally fastened to a growing tree; and as all the wood and jungle
within the enclosure is left standing, its interior forms a complete
labyrinth.  On each side of the door a line of small trees, stuck up in
the snow fifteen or twenty yards apart, form two sides of an acute
angle, widening gradually from the entrance, from which they sometimes
extend two or three miles.  Between these rows of brushwood runs the
path frequented by the deer.  When all things are prepared, the Indians
take their station on some eminence commanding a prospect of this path,
and the moment any deer are seen going that way, the whole encampment--
men, women, and children--steal under cover of the woods till they get
behind them.  They then show themselves in the open ground, and, drawing
up in the form of a crescent, advance with shouts.  The deer finding
themselves pursued, and at the same time imagining the rows of brushy
poles to be people stationed to prevent their passing on either side,
run straight forward till they get into the pound.  The Indians
instantly close in, block up the entrance, and whilst the women and
children run round the outside to prevent them from breaking or leaping
the fence, the men enter with their spears and bows, and speedily
dispatch such as are caught in the snares or are running loose."  [see
"Hearne's Journey." pages 78 to 80].

"McLean, a gentleman who spent twenty-five years in the Hudson Bay
territories, assures us that on one occasion he and a party of men
entrapped and slaughtered in this way a herd of three hundred deer in
two hours."

I must crave the reader's pardon for this long digression, and beg him
to recollect that at the end of the second chapter I left myself
awaiting orders to depart for Red River, to which settlement we will now


Note 1.  Many people at home have asked me how such _thin things_ can
keep out the wet of the snow.  The reader must bear in mind that the
snow, for nearly seven months, is not even _damp_ for five minutes, so
constant is the frost.  When it becomes wet in spring, Europeans adopt
ordinary English shoes, and Indians do not mind the wet.


Note 2.  _Squeiaw_ is the Indian for a woman.  _Squaw_ is the English
corruption of the word, and is used to signify a wife.



Somewhere about the beginning of September, Mr Carles, Mr and Mrs
Gowley, Mr Rob, and myself set out with the _Portage La Loche_ brigade,
for the distant colony of Red River.  The Portage la Loche brigade
usually numbers six or seven boats, adapted for inland travelling where
the navigation is obstructed by rapids, waterfalls, and cataracts, to
surmount which, boats and cargo are carried overland by the crews.
These carrying places are called _portages_; and between York Factory
and Red River there are upwards of thirty-six, of various lengths.
Besides these, there are innumerable rapids, up which the boats have to
be pushed inch by inch with poles, for miles together; so that we had to
look forward to a long and tedious voyage.

The brigade with which we left York Factory usually leaves Red River
about the end of May, and proceeds to Norway House, where it receives
Athabasca and Mackenzie River outfits.  It then sets out for the
interior; and upon arriving at Portage la Loche, the different boats
land their cargoes, while the Mackenzie River boats, which came to meet
them, exchange their furs for the outfits.  The brigade then begins to
retrace its way, and returns to Norway House, whence it proceeds to York
Factory, where it arrives about the commencement of September, lands the
furs, and receives part of the Red River outfit, with which it sets out
for that place as soon as possible.

With this brigade, then, we started from York Factory, with a cheering
song from the men in full chorus.  They were in good spirits, being
about to finish the long voyage, and return to their families at Red
River, after an absence of nearly five months, during which time they
had encountered and overcome difficulties that would have cooled the
most sanguine temperament; but these hardy Canadians and half-breeds are
accustomed to such voyages from the age of fifteen or sixteen, and think
no more of them than other men do of ordinary work.

Mr Carles and I travelled together in the guide's boat; Mr and Mrs
Gowley in another; and Mr Rob in a third by himself.  We took the lead,
and the others followed as they best could.  Such was the order of march
in which we commenced the ascent of Hayes River.

It may not be uninteresting here to describe the _materiel_ of our

Our boat, which was the counterpart of the rest, was long, broad, and
shallow, capable of carrying forty hundredweight, and nine men, besides
three or four passengers, with provisions for themselves and the crew.
It did not, I suppose, draw more than three feet of water when loaded,
perhaps less, and was, moreover, very light for its size.  The cargo
consisted of bales, being the goods intended for the Red River sale-room
and trading-shop.  A rude mast and tattered sail lay along the seats,
ready for use, should a favourable breeze spring up; but this seldom
occurred, the oars being our chief dependence during the greater part of
the voyage.

The provisions of the men consisted of pemmican and flour; while the
passengers revelled in the enjoyment of a ham, several cured
buffalo-tongues, tea, sugar, butter, and biscuit, and a little brandy
and wine, wherewith to warm us in cold weather, and to cheer the crew
with a dram after a day of unusual exertion.  All our provisions were
snugly packed in a case and basket, made expressly for the purpose.

Pemmican being a kind of food with which people in the civilised world
are not generally acquainted, I may as well describe it here.

It is made by the buffalo-hunters of the Red River, Swan River, and
Saskatchewan prairies; more particularly by those of Red River, where
many of the colonists spend a great part of the year in pursuit of the
buffalo.  They make it thus: Having shot a buffalo (or bison), they cut
off lumps of his flesh, and slitting it up into flakes or layers, hang
it up in the sun to dry.  In this state it is often made up into packs,
and sent about the country to be consumed as dried meat; but when
_pemmican_ is wanted, it has to go through another process.  When dry,
the meat is pounded between two stones till it is broken into small
pieces; these are put into a bag made of the animal's hide, with the
hair on the outside, and well mixed with melted grease; the top of the
bag is then sewn up, and the pemmican allowed to cool.  In this state it
may be eaten uncooked; but the _voyageurs_, who subsist on it when
travelling, mix it with a little flour and water, and then boil it; in
which state it is known throughout the country by the elegant name of
_robbiboo_.  Pemmican is good wholesome food, will keep fresh for a
great length of time, and were it not for its unprepossessing
appearance, and a good many buffalo hairs mixed with it, through the
carelessness of the hunters, would be very palatable.  After a time,
however, one becomes accustomed to those little peculiarities.

It was late in the afternoon when we left York Factory; and after
travelling a few miles up Hayes River, put ashore for the night.

We encamped upon a rough, gravelly piece of ground, as there was no
better in the neighbourhood; so that my first night in the woods did not
hold out the prospect of being a very agreeable one.  The huge log
fires, however, soon blazed cheerily up, casting a ruddy glow upon the
surrounding foliage and the wild uncouth figures of the _voyageurs_,
who, with their long dark hair hanging in luxuriant masses over their
bronzed faces, sat or reclined round the fires, smoking their pipes, and
chatting with as much carelessness and good-humour as if the long and
arduous journey before them never once entered their minds.  The tents
were pitched on the most convenient spot we could find; and when supper
was spread out, and a candle lighted (which, by the way, the strong
blaze of our camp-fire rendered quite unnecessary), and Mr Carles,
seating himself upon a pile of cloaks, blankets, and cushions, looked up
with a broad grin on his cheerful, good-humoured countenance, and called
me to supper, I began to think that if all travelling in Hudson Bay were
like this, a voyage of discovery to the North Pole would be a mere
pleasure trip!  Alas! in after-years I found it was not always thus.

Supper was soon disposed of, and having warmed ourselves at the fire,
and ventured a few rash prophecies on the probable weather of the
morrow, we spread our blankets over an oiled cloth, and lay lovingly
down together; Mr Carles to snore vociferously, and I to dream of home.

At the first blush of day I was awakened by the loud halloo of the
guide, who, with a voice of a Stentor, gave vent to a "_Leve!  Leve!
leve_!" that roused the whole camp in less than two minutes.  Five
minutes more sufficed to finish our toilet (for, be it known, Mr Carles
and I had only taken off our coats), tie up our blankets, and embark.
In ten minutes we were once more pulling slowly up the current of Hayes

The missionaries turned out to be capital travellers, and never delayed
the boats a moment; which is saying a good deal for them, considering
the short space of time allowed for dressing.  As for the hardy
_voyageurs_, they slept in the same clothes in which they had wrought
during the day, each with a single blanket round him, in the most
convenient spot he could find.  A few slept in pairs, but all reposed
under the wide canopy of heaven.

Early morning is always the most disagreeable part of the traveller's
day.  The cold dews of the past night render the air chilly, and the
gloom of departing night tends greatly to depress the spirits.  As I
became acquainted with this mode of travelling, I became more knowing;
and, when there was not much probability of being interrupted by
portages, I used to spread out my blanket in the stern of the boat, and
snooze till breakfast-time.  The hour for breakfast used to vary,
according as we arrived late or early at an eligible spot.  It was
seldom earlier than seven, or later than nine o'clock.

Upon the occasion of our first breakfast in the woods, we were
fortunate.  The sun shone brightly on the surrounding trees and bushes;
the fires blazed and crackled; pots boiled, and cooks worked busily on a
green spot, at the side of a small bay or creek, in which the boats
quietly floated, scarce rippling the surface of the limpid water.  A
little apart from the men, two white napkins marked our breakfast-place,
and the busy appearance of our cook gave hopes that our fast was nearly
over.  The whole scene was indescribably romantic and picturesque, and
worthy of delineation by a more experienced pencil than mine.  Breakfast
was a repetition of the supper of the preceding night; the only
difference being, that we ate it by daylight, in the open air, instead
of by candlelight, under the folds of our canvas tent.  After it was
over, we again embarked, and proceeded on our way.

The men used to row for a space of time denominated a _pipe_; so called
from the circumstance of their taking a smoke at the end of it.  Each
_spell_ lasted for nearly two hours, during which time they rowed
without intermission.  The _smoke_ usually occupied five or ten minutes,
after which they pulled again for two hours more; and so on.  While
travelling in boats, it is only allowable to put ashore for breakfast;
so, about noon, we had a cold dinner in the boat: and, with appetites
sharpened by exposure to the fresh air, we enjoyed it pretty well.

In a couple of days we branched off into Steel River, and began its
ascent.  The current here was more rapid than in Hayes River; so rapid,
indeed, that, our oars being useless, we were obliged to send the men
ashore with the tracking-line.  Tracking, as it is called, is dreadfully
harassing work.  Half of the crew go ashore, and drag the boat slowly
along, while the other half go to sleep.  After an hour's walk, the
others then take their turn; and so on, alternately, during the whole

The banks of the river were high, and very precipitous; so that the poor
fellows had to scramble along, sometimes close to the water's edge, and
sometimes high up the bank, on ledges so narrow that they could scarcely
find a footing, and where they looked like flies on a wall.  The banks,
too, being composed of clay or mud, were very soft, rendering the work
disagreeable and tiresome; but the light-hearted _voyageurs_ seemed to
be quite in their element, and laughed and joked while they toiled
along, playing tricks with each other, and plunging occasionally up to
the middle in mud, or to the neck in water, with as much nonchalance as
if they were jumping into bed.

On the fifth day after leaving York Factory, we arrived at the Rock
Portage.  This is the first on the route, and it is a very short one.  A
perpendicular waterfall, eight or ten feet high, forms an effectual
barrier to the upward progress of the boats by water; so that the only
way to overcome the difficulty is to carry everything across the flat
rock, from which the portage derives its name, and reload at the upper

Upon arriving, a novel and animating scene took place.  Some of the men,
jumping ashore, ran briskly to and fro with enormous burdens on their
backs; whilst others hauled and pulled the heavy boats slowly up the
cataract, hallooing and shouting all the time, as if they wished to
drown the thundering noise of the water, which boiled and hissed
furiously around the rocks on which we stood.  In about an hour our
boat, and one or two others, had passed the falls; and we proceeded
merrily on our way, with spirits elevated in proportion to the elevation
of our bodies.

It was here that I killed my first duck; and well do I remember the
feeling of pride with which I contemplated the achievement.  That I had
shot her sitting about five yards from the muzzle of my gun, which was
loaded with an enormous charge of shot, is undeniable; but this did not
lessen my exultation a whit.  The sparrows I used to kill in days of
yore, with inexpressible delight, grew "small by degrees" and comically
less before the plump inhabitant of the marshes, till they dwindled into
nothing; and the joy and fuss with which I hailed the destruction of the
unfortunate bird can only be compared to, and equalled by, the crowing
and flurry with which a hen is accustomed to announce the production of
her first egg.

During the voyage, we often disturbed large flocks of geese, and
sometimes shot a few.  When we chanced to come within sight of them
before they saw us, the boats all put ashore; and L'Esperance, our
guide, went round through the bushes, to the place where they were, and
seldom failed in rendering at least one of the flock _hors de combat_.
At first I would as soon have volunteered to shoot a lion in Africa,
with a Bushman beside me, as have presumed to attempt to kill geese
while L'Esperance was present--so poor an opinion had I of my skill as a
marksman; but, as I became more accustomed to seeing them killed, I
waxed bolder; and at last, one day, having come in sight of a flock, I
begged to be allowed to try my hand.  The request was granted;
L'Esperance lent me his gun, and away I went cautiously through the
bushes.  After a short walk, I came close to where they were swimming
about in the water; and cocking my gun, I rushed furiously down the
bank, breaking everything before me, and tumbling over half a dozen
fallen trees in my haste, till I cleared the bushes; and then, scarcely
taking time to raise the gun to my shoulder, banged right into the
middle of the flock, just as they were taking wing.  All rose; but they
had not gone far when one began to waver a little, and finally sat down
in the water again--a sure sign of being badly wounded.  Before the
boats came up, however, he had swam to the opposite bank, and hid
himself among the bushes; so that, much to my disappointment, I had not
the pleasure of handling this new trophy of my prowess.

Upon one occasion, while sauntering along the banks of the river in
search of ducks and geese, while the boats were slowly ascending against
the strong current, I happened to cast my eyes across the stream, and
there, to my amazement, beheld a large black bear bounding over the
rocks with the ease and agility of a cat.  He was not within shot,
however, and I was obliged to content myself with seeing him run before
me for a quarter of a mile, and then turn off into the forest.

This was truly the happiest time I ever spent in the Nor'-West.
Everything was full of novelty and excitement.  Rapid succeeded rapid,
and portage followed portage in endless succession--giving me abundance
of opportunities to range about in search of ducks and geese, which were
very numerous, while the men were dragging the boats, and carrying the
goods over the portages.  The weather was beautiful, and it was just the
season of the year when the slight frost in the mornings and evenings
renders the blazing camp-fire agreeable, and destroys those little
wretches, the mosquitoes.  My friend Mr Carles was a kind and indulgent
companion, bearing good-naturedly with my boyish pranks, and cautioning
me, of course ineffectually, against running into danger.  I had just
left home and the restraint of school, and was now entering upon a wild
and romantic career.  In short, every thing combined to render this a
most agreeable and interesting voyage.  I have spent many a day of
amusement and excitement in the country, but on none can I look back
with so much pleasure as on the time spent in this journey to Red River.

The scenery through which we passed was pretty and romantic, but there
was nothing grand about it.  The country generally was low and swampy;
the highest ground being the banks of the river, which sometimes rose to
from sixty to seventy feet.  Our progress in Hill River was slow and
tedious, owing to the number of rapids encountered on the way.  The hill
from which the river derives its name is a small, insignificant mound,
and owes its importance to the flatness of the surrounding country.

Besides the larger wild-fowl, small birds of many kinds were very
numerous.  The most curious, and at the same time the most impudent,
among the latter were the whisky-jacks.  They always hovered round us at
breakfast, ready to snap up anything that came within their reach--
advancing sometimes to within a yard or two of our feet, and looking at
us with a very comical expression of countenance.  One of the men told
me that he had often caught them in his hand, with a piece of pemmican
for a bait; so one morning after breakfast I went a little to one side
of our camp, and covering my face with leaves, extended my hand with a
few crumbs in the open palm.  In five minutes a whisky-jack jumped upon
a branch over my head, and after reconnoitring a minute or so, lit upon
my hand, and began to breakfast forthwith.  You may be sure the _trap_
was not long in going off; and the screeching that Mr Jack set up on
finding my fingers firmly closed upon his toes was tremendous.  I never
saw a more passionate little creature in my life: it screamed,
struggled, and bit unceasingly, until I let it go; and even then it
lighted on a tree close by, and looked at me as impudently as ever.  The
same day I observed that when the men were ashore the whisky-jacks used
to eat out of the pemmican bags left in the boats; so I lay down close
to one, under cover of a buffalo-skin, and in three minutes had made
prisoner of another of these little inhabitants of the forest.  They are
of a bluish-grey colour, and nearly the size of a blackbird; but they
are such a bundle of feathers that when plucked they do not look much
larger than a sparrow.  They live apparently on animal food (at least,
they are very fond of it), and are not considered very agreeable eating.

We advanced very slowly up Hill River.  Sometimes, after a day of the
most toilsome exertions, during which the men were constantly pushing
the boats up long rapids, with poles, at a very slow pace, we found
ourselves only four or five miles ahead of the last night's encampment.
As we ascended higher up the country, however, travelling became more
easy.  Sometimes small lakes and tranquil rivers allowed us to use the
oars--and even the sails, when a puff of fair wind arose.  Occasionally
we were sweeping rapidly across the placid water; anon buffeting with,
and advancing against, the foaming current of a powerful river, whose
raging torrent seemed to bid defiance to our further progress: now
dragging boats and cargoes over rocks, and through the deep shades of
the forest, when a waterfall checked us on our way; and again dashing
across a lake with favouring breeze; and sometimes, though rarely, were
wind-bound on a small islet or point of land.

Our progress was slow, but full of interest, novelty, and amusement.  My
fellow-travellers seemed to enjoy the voyage very much; and even Mrs
Gowley, to whom hardships were new, liked it exceedingly.

On our way we passed Oxford House--a small outpost of York Factory
district.  It is built on the brow of a grassy hill, which rises
gradually from the margin of Oxford Lake.  Like most of the posts in the
country, it is composed of a collection of wooden houses, built in the
form of a square, and surrounded by tall stockades, pointed at the tops.
These, however, are more for ornament than defence.  A small flag-staff
towers above the buildings; from which, upon the occasion of an arrival,
a little red Hudson Bay Company's flag waves its folds in the gentle
current of an evening breeze.  There were only two or three men at the
place; and not a human being, save one or two wandering Indians, was to
be found within hundreds of miles of this desolate spot.  After a stay
here of about half an hour, we proceeded on our way.

Few things are more beautiful or delightful than crossing a lake in the
woods on a lovely morning at sunrise.  The brilliant sun, rising in a
flood of light, pierces through the thin haze of morning, converting the
countless myriads of dewdrops that hang on tree and bush into sparkling
diamonds, and burnishing the motionless flood of water, till a new and
mighty firmament is reflected in the wave; as if Nature, rising early
from her couch, paused to gaze with admiration on her resplendent image
reflected in the depths of her own matchless mirror.  The profound
stillness, too, broken only by the measured sweep of the oars, fills the
soul with awe; whilst a tranquil but unbounded happiness steals over the
heart of the traveller as he gazes out upon the distant horizon, broken
here and there by small verdant islets, floating as it were in air.  He
wanders back in thought to far-distant climes; or wishes, mayhap, that
it were possible to dwell in scenes like this with those he loves for

As the day advances, the scene, though slightly changed, is still most
beautiful.  The increasing heat, dispelling the mists, reveals in all
its beauty the deep blue sky speckled with thin fleecy clouds, and,
imparting a genial warmth to the body, creates a sympathetic glow in the
soul.  Flocks of snow-white gulls sail in graceful evolutions round the
boats, dipping lightly in the water as if to kiss their reflected
images; and, rising suddenly in long rapid flights, mount in circles up
high above the tranquil world into the azure sky, till small white
specks alone are visible in the distance.  Up, up they rise on sportive
wing, till the straining eye can no longer distinguish them, and they
are gone!  Ducks, too, whir past in rapid flight, steering wide of the
boats, and again bending in long graceful curves into their course.  The
sweet, plaintive cry of the whip-poor-will rings along the shore; and
the faint answer of his mate floats over the lake, mellowed by distance
to a long tiny note.  The air is motionless as the water; and the
enraptured eye gazes in dreamy enjoyment on all that is lovely and
peaceful in nature.

These are the _pleasures_ of travelling in the wilderness.  Let us
change the picture.

The sun no longer shines upon the tranquil scene.  Dark, heavy clouds
obscure the sky; a suffocating heat depresses the spirits and enervates
the frame; sharp, short gusts of wind now ruffle the inky waters, and
the floating islands sink into insignificance as the deceptive haze
which elevated them flies before the approaching storm.  The ducks are
gone, and the plaintive notes of the whip-poor-will are hushed as the
increasing breeze rustles the leafy drapery of the forest.  The gulls
wheel round still, but in more rapid and uncertain flight, accompanying
their motions with shrill and mournful cries, like the dismal wailings
of the spirit of the storm.  A few drops of rain patter on the boats, or
plump like stones into the water, and the distant melancholy growl of
thunder swells upon the coming gale.  Uneasy glances are cast, ever and
anon, towards clouds and shore, and grumbling sentences are uttered by
the men.  Suddenly a hissing sound is heard, a loud clap of thunder
growls overhead, and the gale, dashing the white spray wildly before it,
rushes down upon the boats.

"_A terre! a terre_!" shout the men.  The boats are turned towards the
shore, and the bending oars creak and groan as they pull swiftly on.
Hiss! whir! the gale bursts forth, dashing clouds of spray into the air,
twisting and curling the foaming water in its fury.  The thunder crashes
with fearful noise, and the lightning gleams in fitful lurid streaks
across the inky sky.  Presently the shore is gained, amid a deluge of
rain which saturates everything with water in a few minutes.  The tents
are pitched, but the fires will scarcely burn, and are at last allowed
to go out.  The men seek shelter under the oiled cloths of the boats;
while the travellers, rolled up in damp blankets, with the rain oozing
through the tents upon their couches, gaze mournfully upon the dismal
scene, and ponder sadly on the shortness of the step between happiness
and misery.

Nearly eighteen days after we left York Factory we arrived in safety at
the depot of Norway House.  This fort is built at the mouth of a small
and sluggish stream, known by the name of Jack River.  The houses are
ranged in the form of a square; none of them exceed one story in height,
and most of them are whitewashed.  The ground on which it stands is
rocky; and a small garden, composed chiefly of sand, juts out from the
stockades like a strange excrescence.  A large, rugged mass of rocks
rises up between the fort and Playgreen Lake, which stretches out to the
horizon on the other side of them.  On the top of these rocks stands a
flagstaff, as a beacon to guide the traveller; for Norway House is so
ingeniously hid in a hollow that it cannot be seen from the lake till
the boat almost touches the wharf.  On the left side of the building
extends a flat grassy park or green, upon which during the summer months
there is often a picturesque and interesting scene.  Spread out to dry
in the sun may be seen the snowy tent of the chief factor, lately
arrived.  A little further off, on the rising ground, stands a dark and
almost imperceptible wigwam, the small wreath of white smoke issuing
from the top proving that it is inhabited.  On the river bank three or
four boats and a north canoe are hauled up; and just above them a number
of sunburned _voyageurs_ and a few Indians amuse themselves with various
games, or recline upon the grass, basking in the sunshine.  Behind the
fort stretches the thick forest, its outline broken here and there by
cuttings of firewood or small clearings for farming.

Such was Norway House in 1841.  The rocks were crowded when we arrived,
and we received a hearty welcome from Mr Russ--the chief factor in
charge--and his amiable family.  As it was too late to proceed any
further that day, we determined to remain here all night.

From the rocks before mentioned, on which the flagstaff stands, we had a
fine view of Playgreen Lake.  There was nothing striking or bold in the
scene, the country being low and swampy, and no hills rose on the
horizon or cast their shadows on the lake; but it was pleasing and
tranquil, and enlivened by one or two boats sailing about on the water.

We spent an agreeable evening; and early on the following morning
started again on our journey, having received an agreeable addition to
our party in the person of Miss Jessie Russ, second daughter of Mr
Russ, from whom we had just parted.

On the evening of the first day after our departure from Norway House,
we encamped on the shores of Lake Winnipeg.  This immense body of fresh
water is about three hundred miles long by about fifty broad.  The
shores are generally flat and uninteresting, and the water shallow; yet
here and there a few pretty spots may be seen at the head of a small bay
or inlet, where the ground is a little more elevated and fertile.

Nothing particular occurred during our voyage along the shores of the
lake, except that we hoisted our sails oftener to a favourable breeze,
and had a good deal more night travelling than heretofore.  In about
five days after leaving Norway House we arrived at the mouth of Red
River; and a very swampy, sedgy, flat-looking mouth it was, covered with
tall bulrushes and swarming with water-fowl.  The banks, too, were low
and swampy; but as we ascended they gradually became more woody and
elevated, till we arrived at the Stone Fort--twenty miles up the river--
where they were tolerably high.

A few miles below this we passed an Indian settlement, the cultivated
fields and white houses of which, with the church spire in the midst,
quite refreshed our eyes, after being so long accustomed to the shades
of the primeval forest.

The Stone Fort is a substantial fortification, surrounded by high walls
and flanked with bastions, and has a fine appearance from the river.

Here my friend and fellow-traveller, Mr Carles, hearing of his wife's
illness, left us, and proceeded up the settlement on horseback.  The
missionaries also disembarked, and I was left alone, to be rowed slowly
to Fort Garry, nearly twenty miles further up the river.

The river banks were lined all the way along with the houses and farms
of the colonists, which had a thriving, cleanly appearance; and from the
quantity of live stock in the farmyards, the number of pigs along the
banks, and the healthy appearance of the children who ran out of the
cottages to gaze upon us as we passed, I inferred that the settlers
generally were well-to-do in the world.  The houses of some of the more
wealthy inhabitants were very handsome-looking buildings, particularly
that of Mr McAllum, where in a few hours I landed.  This gentleman was
the superintendent of the Red River Academy, where the children of the
wealthier colonists and those of the gentlemen belonging to the Hudson
Bay Company are instructed in the various branches of English
literature, and made to comprehend how the world was convulsed in days
of yore by the mighty deeds of the heroes of ancient Greece and Rome.

Here I was hospitably treated to an excellent breakfast, and then
proceeded on foot with Mr Carles--who rejoined me here--to Fort Garry,
which lay about two miles distant.  Upon arriving I was introduced to
Mr Finlayson, the chief factor in charge, who received me very kindly,
and introduced me to my fellow-clerks in the office.  Thus terminated my
first inland journey.



Red River Settlement is, to use a high-flown expression, an oasis in the
desert, and may be likened to a spot upon the moon or a solitary ship
upon the ocean.  In plain English, it is an isolated settlement on the
borders of one of the vast prairies of North America.  It is situated
partly on the banks of Red River, and partly on the banks of a smaller
stream called the Assinaboine, in latitude 50 degrees, and extends
upwards of fifty miles along the banks of these two streams.  The
country around it is a vast treeless prairie, upon which scarcely a
shrub is to be seen; but a thick coat of grass covers it throughout its
entire extent, with the exception of a few spots where the hollowness of
the ground has collected a little moisture, or the meandering of some
small stream or rivulet enriches the soil, and covers its banks with
verdant shrubs and trees.

The banks of the Red and Assinaboine Rivers are covered with a thick
belt of woodland--which does not, however, extend far back into the
plains.  It is composed of oak, poplar, willows, etcetera, the first of
which is much used for fire-wood by the settlers.  The larger timber in
the adjacent woods is thus being rapidly thinned.

The settlers are a mixture of French Canadians, Scotchmen, and Indians.
The first of these occupy the upper part of the settlement, the second
live near the middle, and the Indians inhabit a village at its lower

There are four Protestant churches: the upper, middle, and lower
churches, and one at the Indian settlement.  There are also two Roman
Catholic chapels, some priests, and a Roman Catholic bishop resident in
the colony, besides one or two schools; the principal being, as before
mentioned, under the superintendence of Mr McAllum, who has since been
ordained by the Bishop of Montreal, during that prelate's visit to Red
River [see note 1].

For the preservation of the peace, and the punishment of evil-doers, a
Recorder and body of magistrates are provided, who assemble every
quarter at Fort Garry, the seat of the court-house, for the purpose of
redressing wrongs, punishing crimes, giving good advice, and eating an
excellent dinner at the Company's table.  There was once, also, a body
of policemen; but, strange to say, they were chosen from among the most
turbulent of the settlers, and were never expected to be on duty except
when a riot took place: the policemen themselves generally being the
ringleaders on those occasions, it may be supposed they did not
materially assist in quelling disturbances.

The Scotch and Indian settlers cultivate wheat, barley, and Indian corn
in abundance; for which the only market is that afforded by the Company,
the more wealthy settlers, and retired chief factors.  This market,
however, is a poor one, and in years of plenty the settlers find it
difficult to dispose of their surplus produce.  Wild fruits of various
descriptions are abundant, and the gardens are well stocked with
vegetables.  The settlers have plenty of sheep, pigs, poultry, and
horned cattle; and there is scarcely a man in the place who does not
drive to church on Sundays in his own cariole.

Red River is a populous settlement; the census taken in 1843 proved it
to contain upwards of 5,000 souls, and since then it has been rapidly

There is a paper currency in the settlement, which obviates the
necessity of having coin afloat.  English pence and halfpence, however,
are plentiful.  The lowest paper note is one shilling sterling, the next
five shillings, and the highest twenty shillings.  The Canadian settlers
and half-breeds are employed, during the greater part of the year, in
travelling with the Company's boats and in buffalo-hunting.  The Scotch
settlers are chiefly farmers, tradesmen, and merchants.

The rivers, which are crossed in wooden canoes, in the absence of
bridges, are well stocked with fish, the principal kinds being goldeyes,
sturgeon, and catfish.  Of these, I think the goldeyes the best; at any
rate, they are the most numerous.  The wild animals inhabiting the woods
and prairies are much the same as in the other parts of North America--
namely, wolves, foxes, brown and black bears, martens, minks, musquash,
rabbits, etcetera; while the woods are filled with game, the marshes and
ponds with ducks, geese, swans, cranes, and a host of other water-fowl.

Red River was first settled upon by the fur-traders, who established a
trading-post many years ago on its banks; but it did not assume the
character of a colony till 1811, when Lord Selkirk sent out a number of
emigrants to form a settlement in the wild regions of the North-West.
Norwegians, Danes, Scotch, and Irish composed the motley crew; but the
great bulk of the colonists then, as at the present time, consisted of
Scotchmen and Canadians.  Unlike other settlements in a wild country
inhabited by Indians, the infant colony had few difficulties to contend
with at the outset.  The Indians were friendly, and had become
accustomed to white men, from their previous contact for many years with
the servants of the Hudson Bay Company; so, with the exception of one or
two broils among themselves and other fur-traders, the colonists plodded
peacefully along.  On one occasion, however, the Hudson Bay Company and
the North-West Company, who were long at enmity with each other, had a
sharp skirmish, in which Mr Semple, then Governor of the Hudson Bay
Company, was killed, and a number of his men were killed and wounded.

The whole affair originated very foolishly.  A body of men had been
observed from the walls of Fort Garry, travelling past the fort; and as
Governor Semple wished to ascertain their intentions, he sallied forth
with a few men to intercept them, and demand their object.  The
North-West party, on seeing a body of men coming towards them from the
fort, halted till they came up; and Cuthbert Grant, who was in command,
asked what they wanted.  Governor Semple required to know where they
were going.  Being answered in a surly manner, an altercation took place
between the two parties (of which the North-West was the stronger); in
the middle of which a shot was unfortunately fired by one of the Hudson
Bay party.  It was never known who fired this shot, and many believe
that it was discharged accidentally; at any rate, no one was injured by
it.  The moment the report was heard, a volley was fired by the
North-Westers upon the Hudson Bay party, which killed a few, and wounded
many; among the latter was Governor Semple.  Cuthbert Grant did his
utmost to keep back the fierce half-castes under his command, but
without avail; and at last, seeing that this was impossible, he stood
over the wounded Semple, and endeavoured to defend him.  In this he
succeeded for some time; but a shot from behind at last took effect in
the unfortunate governor's body, and killed him.  After this, the
remainder of his party fled to the fort, and the victorious half-breeds
pursued their way.

During the time that these two companies opposed each other, the country
was in a state of constant turmoil and excitement.  Personal conflicts
with fists between the men--and, not unfrequently, the gentlemen--of the
opposing parties were of the commonest occurrence, and frequently more
deadly weapons were resorted to.  Spirits were distributed among the
wretched natives to a dreadful extent, and the scenes that sometimes
ensued were disgusting in the extreme.  Amid all this, however,
stratagem was more frequently resorted to than open violence by the two
companies, in their endeavours to prevent each other from procuring furs
from the Indians.  Men were constantly kept on the lookout for parties
of natives returning from hunting expeditions; and those who could
arrive first at the encampment always carried off the furs.  The Indians
did not care which company got them--"first come, first served," was the
order of the day; and both were equally welcome, provided they brought
plenty of _fire-water_.

Although the individuals of the two companies were thus almost always at
enmity, at the forts, strange to say, they often acted in the most
friendly manner to each other; and (except when furs were in question)
more agreeable or friendly neighbours seldom came together than the
Hudson Bay and North-West Companies, when they planted their forts
(which they often did) within two hundred yards of each other in the
wilds of North America.  The clerks and labourers of the opposing
establishments constantly visited each other; and during the Christmas
and New-Year's holidays parties and balls were given without number.
Dances, however, were not confined entirely to the holidays; but
whenever one was given at an unusual time, it was generally for the
purpose of drawing the attention of the entertained party from some
movement of their entertainers.

Thus, upon one occasion the Hudson Bay Company's lookout reported that
he had discovered the tracks of Indians in the snow, and that he thought
they had just returned from a hunting expedition.  No sooner was this
heard than a grand ball was given to the North-West Company, Great
preparations were made; the men, dressed in their newest capotes and
gaudiest hat-cords, visited each other, and nothing was thought of or
talked of but the ball.  The evening came, and with it the guests; and
soon might be heard within the fort sounds of merriment and revelry, as
they danced, in lively measures, to a Scottish reel, played by some
native fiddler upon a violin of his own construction.  Without the
gates, however, a very different scene met the eye.  Down in a hollow,
where the lofty trees and dense underwood threw a shadow on the ground,
a knot of men might be seen, muffled in their leathern coats and fur
caps, hurrying to and fro with bundles on their backs and snow-shoes
under their arms; packing and tying them firmly on trains of
dog-sledges, which stood, with the dogs ready harnessed, in the shadow
of the bushes.  The men whispered eagerly and hurriedly to each other as
they packed their goods, while others held the dogs, and patted them to
keep them quiet; evidently showing that, whatever was their object,
expedition and secrecy were necessary.  Soon all was in readiness: the
bells, which usually tinkled on the dogs' necks, were unhooked and
packed in the sledges; an active-looking man sprang forward and set off
at a round trot over the snow, and a single crack of the whip sent four
sledges, each with a train of four or five dogs, after him, while two
other men brought up the rear.  For a time the muffled sound of the
sledges was heard as they slid over the snow, while now and then the
whine of a dog broke upon the ear, as the impatient drivers urged them
along.  Gradually these sounds died away, and nothing was heard but the
faint echoes of music and mirth, which floated on the frosty night-wind,
giving token that the revellers still kept up the dance, and were
ignorant of the departure of the trains.

Late on the following day the Nor'-West scouts reported the party of
Indians, and soon a set of sleighs departed from the fort with
loudly-ringing bells.  After a long day's march of forty miles, they
reached the encampment, where they found all the Indians dead drunk, and
not a skin, not even the remnant of a musquash, left to repay them for
their trouble!  Then it was that they discovered the _ruse_ of the ball,
and vowed to have their revenge.

Opportunity was not long wanting.  Soon after this occurrence, one of
their parties met a Hudson Bay train on its way to trade with the
Indians, of whom they also were in search.  They exchanged compliments
with each other, and, as the day was very cold, proposed lighting a fire
and taking a dram together.  Soon five or six goodly trees yielded to
their vigorous blows, and fell crashing to the ground; and in a few
minutes one of the party, lighting a sulphur match with his flint and
steel, set fire to a huge pile of logs, which crackled and burned
furiously, sending up clouds of sparks into the wintry sky, and casting
a warm tinge upon the anew and the surrounding trees.  The canteen was
quickly produced, and they told their stories and adventures while the
liquor mounted to their brains.  The Nor'-Westers, however, after a
little time, spilled their grog on the snow, unperceived by the others,
so that they kept tolerably sober, while their rivals became very much
elevated; and at last they began boasting of their superior powers of
drinking, and, as a proof, each of them swallowed a large bumper.  The
Hudson Bay party, who were nearly dead drunk by this time, of course
followed their example, and almost instantly fell in a heavy sleep on
the snow.  In ten minutes more they were tied firmly upon their sledges,
and the dogs being turned homewards, away they went straight for the
Hudson Bay Fort, where they soon after arrived, the men still sound
asleep; while the Nor'-Westers started for the indian camp, and this
time, at least, had the furs all to themselves.

Such were the scenes that took place thirty years ago in the northern
wildernesses of America.  Since then, the two companies have joined,
retaining the name of the richer and more powerful of the two--the
"Hudson Bay Company."  Spirits were still imported after the junction;
but of late years they have been dispensed with throughout the country,
except at the colony of Red River, and the few posts where opposition is
carried on by the American fur-companies; so that now the poor savage no
longer grovels in the dust of his native wilderness under the influence
of the white man's fire-water, and the stranger who travels through
those wild romantic regions no longer beholds the humiliating scenes or
hears of the frightful crimes which were seen and heard of too often in
former days, and which always have been, and always must be, prevalent
wherever spirituous liquors, the great curse of mankind, are plentiful,
and particularly where, as in that country, the wild inhabitants fear no
laws, human or divine.

In the year 1826, Red River overflowed its banks, and flooded the whole
settlement, obliging the settlers to forsake their houses, and drive
their horses and cattle to the trifling eminences in the immediate
vicinity.  These eminences wore few and very small, so that during the
flood they presented a curious appearance, being crowded with men,
women, and children, horses, cattle, sheep, and poultry.  The houses,
being made of wood, and only built on the ground, not sunk into it, were
carried away by dozens, and great numbers of horses and cattle were
drowned.  During the time it lasted, the settlers sailed and paddled
among their houses in boats and canoes; and they now point out, among
the waving grass and verdant bushes, the spot where they dwelt in their
tents, or paddled about the deep waters in their canoes, in the "year of
the flood."  This way of speaking has a strangely antediluvian sound.
The hale, middle-aged colonist will tell you, with a ludicrously grave
countenance, that his house stood on such a spot, or such and such an
event happened, "_a year before the flood_."

Fort Garry, the principal establishment of the Hudson Bay Company,
stands on the banks of the Assinaboine River, about two hundred yards
from its junction with Red River.  It is a square stone building, with
bastions pierced for cannon at the corners.  The principal
dwelling-houses, stores, and offices are built within the walls, and the
stables at a small distance from the fort.  The situation is pretty and
quiet; but the surrounding country is too flat for the lover of the
grand and picturesque.  Just in front of the gate runs, or rather
glides, the peaceful Assinaboine, where, on a fine day in autumn, may be
seen thousands of goldeyes playing in its limpid waters.

On the left extends the woodland fringing the river, with here and there
a clump of smaller trees and willows surrounding the swamps formed by
the melting snows of spring, where flocks of wild-ducks and noisy plover
give animation to the scene, while through the openings in the forest
are seen glimpses of the rolling prairie.  Down in the hollow, where the
stables stand, are always to be seen a few horses and cows, feeding or
lazily chewing their cud in the rich pasturage, giving an air of repose
to the scene, which contrasts forcibly with the view of the wide plains
that roll out like a vast green sea from the back of the fort, studded
here and there with little islets and hillocks, around which may be seen
hovering a watchful hawk or solitary raven.

The climate of Red River is salubrious and agreeable.  Winter commences
about the month of November, and spring generally begins in April.
Although the winter is very long, and extremely cold (the thermometer
usually varying between ten and thirty degrees below _zero)_, yet, from
its being always _dry_ frost, it is much more agreeable than people
accustomed to the damp thawy weather of Great Britain might suppose.

Winter is here the liveliest season of the year.  It is then that the
wild, demi-savage colonist leads the blushing half-breed girl to the
altar, and the country about his house rings with the music of the
sleigh bells, as his friends assemble to congratulate the happy pair,
and dance for three successive days.  It is at this season the hardy
_voyageurs_ rest from their toils, and, circling round the blazing fire,
recount many a tale of danger, and paint many a wild romantic scene of
their long and tedious voyages among the lakes and rapids of the
interior; while their wives and children gaze with breathless interest
upon their swarthy, sunburned faces, lighted up with animation as they
recall the scenes of other days, or, with low and solemn voice, relate
the death of a friend and fellow _voyageur_ who perished among the
foaming cataracts of the wilderness.

During the summer months there are often very severe thunderstorms,
accompanied with tremendous showers of hail, which do great mischief to
the crops and houses.  The hailstones are of an enormous size--upwards
of an inch in diameter; and on two or three occasions they broke all the
windows in Fort Garry that were exposed to the storm.

Generally speaking, however, the weather is serene and calm,
particularly in autumn, and during the delicious season peculiar to
America called the Indian summer, which precedes the commencement of

The scenery of Red River, as I said before, is neither grand nor
picturesque; yet, when the sun shines brightly on the waving grass and
glitters on the silver stream, and when the distant and varied cries of
wild-fowl break in plaintive cadence on the ear, one experiences a sweet
exulting happiness, akin to the feelings of the sailor when he gazes
forth at early morning on the polished surface of the sleeping sea.

Such is Red River, and such the scenes on which I gazed in wonder, as I
rode by the side of my friend and fellow-clerk, McKenny, on the evening
of my arrival at my new home.  Mr McKenny was mounted on his handsome
horse "Colonel," while I cantered by his side on a horse that afterwards
bore me over many a mile of prairie land.  It is not every day that one
has an opportunity of describing a horse like the one I then rode, so
the reader will be pleased to have a little patience while I draw his
portrait.  In the first place, then, his name was "Taureau."  He was of
a moderate height, of a brown colour, and had the general outlines of a
horse, when viewed as that animal might be supposed to appear if
reflected from the depths of a bad looking-glass.  His chief peculiarity
was the great height of his hind-quarters, In youth they had outgrown
the fore-quarters, so that, upon a level road, you had all the
advantages of riding down-hill.  He cantered delightfully, trotted
badly, walked slowly, and upon all and every occasion evinced a resolute
pig-headedness, and a strong disinclination to accommodate his will to
that of his rider.  He was decidedly porcine in his disposition, very
plebeian in his manners, and doubtless also in his sentiments.

Such was the Bucephalus upon which I took my first ride over the Red
River prairie; now swaying to and fro on his back as we galloped over
the ground; anon _stotting_, in the manner of a recruit in a cavalry
regiment as yet unaccustomed to the saddle, when he trotted on the
beaten track; and occasionally, to the immense delight of McKenny,
seizing tight hold of the saddle, as an uncertain waver in my body
reminded me of Sir Isaac Newton's law of gravitation, and that any rash
departure on my part from my _understanding_ would infallibly lay me
prostrate on the ground.

Soon after my arrival I underwent the operation which my horse had
undergone before me--namely, that of being broken-in--the only
difference being that he was broken-in to the saddle and I to the desk.
It is needless to describe the agonies I endured while sitting, hour
after hour, on a long-legged stool, my limbs quivering for want of their
accustomed exercise, while the twittering of birds, barking of dogs,
lowing of cows, and neighing of horses seemed to invite me to join them
in the woods.  Often, as my weary pen scratched slowly over the paper,
their voices seemed to change to hoarse derisive laughter, as if they
thought the little misshapen frogs croaking and whistling in the marshes
freer far than their proud masters, who coop themselves up in smoky
houses the livelong day, and call themselves the free, unshackled "lords
of the creation."

I soon became accustomed to these minor miseries of human life, and ere
long could sit:--

  "From morn till night
  To scratch and write
  Upon a three-legged stool;
  Nor mourn the joys
  Of truant boys
  Who stay away from school."

There is a proverb which says, "It is a poor heart that never rejoices."
Now, taking it for granted that the proverb speaks truth, and not
wishing by our disregard of it to be thought poor-hearted, we--that is,
McKenny and I--were in the habit of rejoicing our spirits occasionally--
not in the usual way, by drinking brandy and water (though we did
sometimes, when nobody knew it, indulge in a glass of beer, with the
red-hot poker thrust into it), but by shouldering our guns and sallying
forth to shoot the partridges, or rather grouse, which abound in the
woods of Red River.  On these occasions McKenny and I used to range the
forest in company, enlivening our walk with converse, sometimes light
and cheerful, often philosophically deep, or thinking of the "light of
other days."  We seldom went out without bringing home a few brace of
grey grouse, which were exceedingly tame--so tame, indeed, that
sometimes they did not take wing until two or three shots had been
fired.  On one occasion, after walking about for half an hour without
getting a shot, we started a covey of seven, which alighted upon a tree
close at hand.  We instantly fired at the two lowest, and brought them
down, while the others only stretched out their long necks, as if to see
what had happened to their comrades, but did not fly away.  Two more
were soon shot; and while we were reloading our guns, the other three
flew off to a neighbouring tree.  In a few minutes more they followed
their companions, and we had bagged the whole seven.  This is by no
means an uncommon exploit when the birds are tame; and though poor
_sport_, yet it helps to fill your larder with somewhat better fare than
it would often contain without such assistance.  The only thing that we
had to avoid was, aiming at the birds on the higher branches, as the
noise they make in falling frightens those below.  The experienced
sportsman always begins with the lowest bird; and if they sit after the
first shot, he is almost sure of the rest.

Shooting, however, was not our only amusement.  Sometimes, on a fine
evening, we used to saddle our horses and canter over the prairie till
Red River and the fort were scarcely visible in the horizon; or,
following the cart road along the settlement, we called upon our friends
and acquaintances, returning the polite "_Bonjour_" of the French
settler as he trotted past us on his shaggy pony, or smiling at the
pretty half-caste girls as they passed along the road.  These same
girls, by the way, are generally very pretty; they make excellent wives,
and are uncommonly thrifty.  With beads, and brightly-coloured
porcupines' quills, and silk, they work the most beautiful devices on
the moccasins, leggins, and leathern coats worn by the inhabitants; and
during the long winter months they spin and weave an excellent kind of
cloth from the wool produced by the sheep of the settlement, mixed with
that of the buffalo, brought from the prairies by the hunters.

About the middle of autumn the body of Mr Thomas Simpson, the
unfortunate discoverer, who, in company with Mr Dease, attempted to
discover the Nor'-West Passage, was brought to the settlement for
burial.  Poor Mr Simpson had set out with a party of Red River
half-breeds, for the purpose of crossing the plains to St. Louis, and
proceeding thence through the United States to England.  Soon after his
departure, however, several of the party returned to the settlement,
stating that Mr Simpson had, in a fit of insanity, killed two of his
men, and then shot himself, and that they had buried him on the spot
where he fell.  This story, of course, created a great sensation in the
colony; and as all the party gave the same account of the affair upon
investigation, it was believed by many that he had committed suicide.  A
few, however, thought that he had been murdered, and had shot the two
men in self-defence.  In the autumn of 1841 the matter was ordered to be
further inquired into; and, accordingly, Dr Bunn was sent to the place
where Mr Simpson's body had been interred, for the purpose of raising
and examining it.  Decomposition, however, had proceeded too far; so the
body was conveyed to the colony for burial, and Dr Bunn returned
without having discovered anything that could throw light on the
melancholy subject.

I did not know Mr Simpson personally, but, from the report of those who
did, it appears that, though a clever and honourable man, he was of
rather a haughty disposition, and in consequence was very much disliked
by the half-breeds of Red River.  I therefore think, with many of Mr
Simpson's friends and former companions, that he did _not_ kill himself,
and that this was only a false report of his murderers.  Besides, it is
not probable that a man who had just succeeded in making important
additions to our geographical knowledge, and who might reasonably expect
honour and remuneration upon returning to his native land, would,
without any known or apparent cause, first commit murder and then
suicide.  By his melancholy death the Hudson Bay Company lost a faithful
servant, and the world an intelligent and enterprising man.

Winter, according to its ancient custom, passed away; and spring, not
with its genial gales and scented flowers, but with burning sun and
melting snow, changed the face of nature, and broke the icy covering of
Red River.  Duffle coats vanished, and a few of the half-breed settlers
doffed their fur caps and donned the "bonnet rouge," while the more
hardy and savage contented themselves with the bonnet _noir_, in the
shape of their own thick black hair.  Carioles still continued to run,
but it was merely from the force of habit, and it was evident they would
soon give up in despair.  Sportsmen began to think of ducks and geese,
farmers of ploughs and wheat, and _voyageurs_ to dream of rapid streams
and waterfalls, and of distant voyages in light canoes.

Immediately upon the ice in the lakes and rivers breaking up, we made
arrangements for dispatching the Mackenzie River brigade--which is
always the first that leaves the colony--for the purpose of conveying
goods to Mackenzie River, and carrying furs to the sea-coast.

Choosing the men for this long and arduous voyage was an interesting
scene.  L'Esperance, the old guide, who had many a day guided this
brigade through the lakes and rivers of the interior, made his
appearance at the fort a day or two before the time fixed for starting;
and at his heels followed a large band of wild, careless, happy-looking
half-breeds.  Having collected in front of the office door, Mr McKenny
went out with a book and pencil in his hand, and told L'Esperance to
begin.  The guide went a little apart from the rest, accompanied by the
steersmen of the boats (seven or eight in number), and then, scanning
the group of dark athletic men who stood smiling before him, called out,
"Pierre!"  A tall, Herculean man answered to the call, and, stepping out
from among the rest, stood beside his friend the guide.  After this one
of the steersmen chose another man; and so on, till the crews of all the
boats were completed.  Their names were then marked down in a book, and
they all proceeded to the trading-room, for the purpose of taking
"advances," in the shape of shirts, trousers, bonnets, caps, tobacco,
knives, capotes, and all the other things necessary for a long, rough

On the day appointed for starting, the boats, to the number of six or
seven, were loaded with goods for the interior; and the _voyageurs_,
dressed in their new clothes, embarked, after shaking hands with, and in
many cases embracing, their comrades on the land; and then, shipping
their oars, they shot from the bank and rowed swiftly down Red River,
singing one of their beautiful boat-songs, which was every now and then
interrupted by several of the number hallooing a loud farewell, as they
passed here and there the cottages of friends.

With this brigade I also bade adieu to Red River, and, after a pleasant
voyage of a few days, landed at Norway House, while the boats pursued
their way.


Red River Settlement is now (1875) very much changed, as, no doubt, the
reader is aware, and the foregoing description is in many respects


Note 1.  The reader must bear in remembrance that this chapter was
written in 1847.



Norway House, as we have before mentioned, is built upon the shores of
Playgreen Lake, close to Jack River, and distant about twenty miles from
Lake Winnipeg.  At its right-hand corner rises a huge abrupt rock, from
whose summit, where stands a flagstaff, a fine view of Playgreen Lake
and the surrounding country is obtained.  On this rock a number of
people were assembled to witness our arrival, and among them Mr Russ,
who sauntered down to the wharf to meet us as we stepped ashore.

A few days after my arrival, the Council "resolved" that I should winter
at Norway House; so next day, in accordance with the resolution of that
august assembly, I took up my quarters in the clerks' room, and took
possession of the books and papers.

It is an author's privilege, I believe, to jump from place to place and
annihilate time at pleasure.  I avail myself of it to pass over the
autumn--during which I hunted, fished, and paddled in canoes to the
Indian village at Rossville a hundred times--and jump at once into the
middle of winter.

Norway House no longer boasts the bustle and excitement of the summer
season.  No boats arrive, no groups of ladies and gentlemen assemble on
the rocks to gaze at the sparkling waters.  A placid stillness reigns
around, except in the immediate vicinity of the fort, where a few
axe-men chop the winter firewood, or start with trains of dog-sledges
for the lakes, to bring home loads of white-fish and venison.  Mr Russ
is reading the "Penny Cyclopaedia" in the Hall (as the winter mess-room
is called), and I am writing in the dingy little office in the shade,
which looks pigstyish in appearance without, but is warm and snug
within.  Alongside of me sits Mr Cumming, a tall, bald-headed,
sweet-tempered man of forty-five, who has spent the greater part of his
life among the bears and Indians of Hudson Bay, and is now on a
Christmas visit at Norway House.  He has just arrived from his post a
few hundred miles off, whence he walked on snowshoes, and is now engaged
in taking off his moccasins and blanket socks, which he spreads out
carefully below the stove to dry.

We do not continue long, however, at our different occupations.  Mr
Evans, the Wesleyan missionary, is to give a feast to the Indians at
Rossville, and afterwards to examine the little children who attend the
village school.  To this feast we are invited; so in the afternoon Mr
Cumming and I put on our moose-skin coats and snow-shoes, and set off
for the village, about two miles distant from the fort.

By the way Mr Cumming related an adventure he had had while travelling
through the country; and as it may serve to show the dangers sometimes
encountered by those who wander through the wilds of North America, I
will give it here in his own words.


"It was about the beginning of winter," said he, "that I set off on
snow-shoes, accompanied by an Indian, to a small lake to fetch fish
caught in the autumn, and which then lay frozen in a little house built
of logs, to protect them for winter use.  The lake was about ten miles
off; and as the road was pretty level and not much covered with
underwood, we took a train of dogs with us, and set off before daybreak,
intending to return again before dark; and as the day was clear and
cold, we went cheerily along without interruption, except an occasional
fall when a branch caught our snow-shoes, or a stoppage to clear the
traces when the dogs got entangled among the trees.  We had proceeded
about six miles, and the first grey streaks of day lit up the eastern
horizon, when the Indian who walked in advance paused, and appeared to
examine some footprints in the snow.  After a few minutes of close
observation he rose, and said that a bear had passed not long before,
and could not be far off, and asked permission to follow it.  I told him
he might do so, and said I would drive the dogs in his track, as the
bear had gone in the direction of the fish-house.  The Indian threw his
gun over his shoulder, and was soon lost in the forest.  For a quarter
of an hour I plodded on behind the dogs, now urging them along, as they
flagged and panted in the deep snow, and occasionally listening for a
shot from my Indian's gun.  At last he fired, and almost immediately
after fired again; for you must know that some Indians can load so fast
that two shots from their single barrel sound almost like the discharge
in succession of the two shots from a double-barrelled gun.  Shortly
after, I heard another shot; and then, as all became silent, I concluded
he had killed the bear, and that I should soon find him cutting it up.
Just as I thought this, a fierce growl alarmed me; so, seizing a pistol
which I always carried with me, I hastened forward.  As I came nearer, I
heard a man's voice mingled with the growls of a bear; and upon arriving
at the foot of a small mound, my Indian's voice, apostrophising death,
became distinctly audible.  `Come, Death!' said he, in a contemptuous
tone; `you have got me at last, but the Indian does not fear you!'  A
loud angry growl from the bear, as he saw me rushing up the hill,
stopped him; and the unfortunate man turned his eyes upon me with an
imploring look.  He was lying on his back, while the bear (a black one)
stood over him, holding one of his arms in its mouth.  In rushing up the
mound I unfortunately stumbled, and filled my pistol with snow; so that
when the bear left the Indian and rushed towards me it missed fire, and
I had only left me the poor, almost hopeless, chance, of stunning the
savage animal with a blow of the butt-end.  Just as he was rearing on
his hind legs, my eye fell upon the Indian's axe, which fortunately lay
at my feet; and seizing it, I brought it down with all my strength on
the bear's head, just at the moment that he fell upon me, and we rolled
down the hill together.  Upon recovering myself, I found that the blow
of the axe had killed him instantly, and that I was uninjured.  Not so
the Indian: the whole calf of his left leg was bitten off, and his body
lacerated dreadfully in various places.  He was quite sensible, however,
though very faint, and spoke to me when I stooped to examine his wounds.
In a short time I had tied them up; and placing him on the sledge with
part of the bear's carcass, which I intended to dine upon, we returned
immediately to the fort.  The poor Indian got better slowly, but he
never recovered the perfect use of his leg, and now hobbles about the
fort, cutting firewood, or paddling about the lake in search of ducks
and geese in his bark canoe."

Mr Cumming concluded his story just as we arrived at the little bay, at
the edge of which the Indian village of Rossville is built.  From the
spot where we stood the body of the village did not appear to much
advantage; but the parsonage and church, which stood on a small mound,
their white walls in strong contrast to the background of dark trees,
had a fine picturesque effect.  There were about twenty houses in the
village, inhabited entirely by Indians, most of whom were young and
middle-aged men.  They spend their time in farming during the summer,
and are successful in raising potatoes and a few other vegetables for
their own use.  In winter they go into the woods to hunt fur-bearing
animals, and also deer; but they never remain long absent from their
homes.  Mr Evans resided among them, and taught them and their children
writing and arithmetic, besides instructing them in the principles of
Christianity.  They often assembled in the school-house for prayer and
sacred music, and attended divine service regularly in the church every
Sunday.  Mr Evans, who was a good musician, had taught them to sing in
parts; and it has a wonderfully pleasing effect upon a stranger to hear
these dingy sons and daughters of the wilderness raising their melodious
voices in harmony in praise of the Christian's God.

Upon our arrival at the village, we were ushered into Mr Evans' neat
cottage, from the windows of which is a fine view of Playgreen Lake,
studded with small islands, stretching out to the horizon on the right,
and a boundless wilderness of trees on the left.  Here were collected
the ladies and gentlemen of Norway House, and a number of indescribable
personages, apparently engaged in mystic preparations for the
approaching feast.  It was with something like awe that I entered the
schoolroom, and beheld two long rows of tables covered with puddings,
pies, tarts, stews, hashes, and vegetables of all shapes, sizes, and
descriptions, smoking thereon.  I feared for the Indians, although they
can stand a great deal in the way of repletion; moderation being, of
course, out of the question, with such abundance of good things placed
before them.  A large shell was sounded after the manner of a bugle, and
all the Indians of the village walked into the room and seated
themselves, the women on one side of the long tables, and the men on the
other.  Mr Evans stood at the head, and asked a blessing; and then
commenced a work of demolition, the like of which has not been seen
since the foundation of the world!  The pies had strong crusts, but the
knives were stronger; the paste was hard and the interior tough, but
Indian teeth were harder and Indian jaws tougher; the dishes were
gigantic, but the stomachs were capacious, so that ere long numerous
skeletons and empty dishes alone graced the board.  One old woman, of a
dark-brown complexion, with glittering black eyes and awfully long
teeth, set up in the wholesale line, and demolished the viands so
rapidly, that those who sat beside her, fearing a dearth in the land,
began to look angry.  Fortunately, however, she gave in suddenly, while
in the middle of a venison pasty, and reclining languidly backward, with
a sweetly contented expression of countenance, while her breath came
thickly through her half-opened mouth, she gently fell asleep--and
thereby, much to her chagrin, lost the tea and cakes which were served
out soon afterwards by way of dessert.  When the seniors had finished,
the juveniles were admitted _en masse_, and they soon cleared away the
remnants of the dinner.

The dress of the Indians upon this occasion was generally blue cloth
capotes with hoods, scarlet or blue cloth leggins, quill-worked
moccasins, and no caps.  Some of them were dressed very funnily; and one
or two of the oldest appeared in blue surtouts, which were very ill
made, and much too large for the wearers.  The ladies had short gowns
without plaits, cloth leggins of various colours highly ornamented with
beads, cotton handkerchiefs on their necks, and sometimes also on their
heads.  The boys and girls were just their seniors in miniature.

After the youngsters had finished dinner, the schoolroom was cleared by
the guests; benches were ranged along the entire room, excepting the
upper end, where a table, with two large candlesticks at either end,
served as a stage for the young actors.  When all was arranged, the
elder Indians seated themselves on the benches, while the boys and girls
ranged themselves along the wall behind the table.  Mr Evans then began
by causing a little boy about four years old to recite a long comical
piece of prose in English.  Having been well drilled for weeks
beforehand, he did it in the most laughable style.  Then came forward
four little girls, who kept up an animated philosophical discussion as
to the difference of the days in the moon and on the earth.  Then a
bigger boy made a long speech in the Seauteaux language, at which the
Indians laughed immensely, and with which the white people present (who
did not understand a word of it) appeared to be greatly delighted, and
laughed loudly too.  Then the whole of the little band, upon a sign
being given by Mr Evans, burst at once into a really beautiful hymn,
which was quite unexpected, and consequently all the more gratifying.
This concluded the examination, if I may so call it; and after a short
prayer the Indians departed to their homes, highly delighted with their
entertainment.  Such was the Christmas feast at Rossville, and many a
laugh it afforded us that night as we returned home across the frozen
lake by the pale moonlight.

Norway House is perhaps one of the best posts in the Indian country.
The climate is dry and salubrious; and although (like nearly all the
other parts of the country) extremely cold in winter, it is very
different from the damp, chilling cold of that season in Great Britain.
The country around is swampy and rocky, and covered with dense forests.
Many of the Company's posts are but ill provided with the necessaries of
life, and entirely destitute of luxuries.  Norway house, however, is
favoured in this respect.  We always had fresh meat of some kind or
other; sometimes beef, mutton, or venison, and occasionally buffalo
meat, was sent us from the Swan River district.  Of tea, sugar, butter,
and bread we had more than enough; and besides the produce of our garden
in the way of vegetables, the river and lake contributed white-fish,
sturgeon, and pike, or jack-fish, in abundance.  The pike is not a
delicate fish, and the sturgeon is extremely coarse, but the white-fish
is the most delicate and delicious I ever ate.  I am not aware of their
existence in any part of the Old World, but the North American lakes
abound with them.  It is generally the size of a good salmon trout, of a
bright silvery colour, and tastes a little like salmon.  Many hundreds
of fur-traders live almost entirely on white-fish, particularly at those
far northern posts where flour, sugar, and tea cannot be had in great
quantities, and where deer are scarce.  At these posts the Indians are
sometimes reduced to cannibalism, and the Company's people have, on more
than one occasion, been obliged to eat their beaver-skins!  The
beaver-skin is thick and oily, so that, when the fur is burned off, and
the skin well boiled, it makes a kind of soup that will at least keep
one alive.  Starvation is quite common among the Indians of those
distant regions; and the scraped rocks, divested of their covering of
_tripe-de-roche_ (which resembles dried-up seaweed), have a sad meaning
and melancholy appearance to the traveller who journeys through the
wilds and solitudes of Rupert's Land.

Norway House is also an agreeable and interesting place, from its being
in a manner the gate to the only route to Hudson Bay, so that during the
spring and summer months all the brigades of boats and canoes from every
part of the northern department must necessarily pass it on their way to
York Factory with furs: and as they all return in the autumn, and some
of the gentlemen leave their wives and families for a few weeks till
they return to the interior, it is at this sunny season of the year
quite gay and bustling; and the clerks' house, in which I lived, was
often filled with a strange and noisy collection of human beings, who
rested here a while ere they started for the shores of Hudson Bay, for
the distant region of Mackenzie River, or the still more distant land of

During winter our principal amusement was white-partridge shooting.
This bird is a species of ptarmigan, and is pure white, with the
exception of the tips of the wings and tail.  They were very numerous
during the winter, and formed an agreeable dish at our mess-table.  I
also enjoyed a little skating at the beginning of the winter; but the
falling snow soon put an end to this amusement.

Spring, beautiful spring! returned again to cheer us in our solitude,
and to open into life the waters and streams of Hudson Bay.  Great will
be the difference between the reader's idea of that season in that place
and the reality.  Spring, with its fresh green leaves and opening
flowers, its emerald fields and shady groves, filled with sounds of
melody!  No, reader; that is not the spring we depict: not quite so
beautiful, though far more prized by those who spend a monotonous winter
of more than six months in solitude.  The sun shines brightly in a
cloudless sky, lighting up the pure white fields and plains with
dazzling brilliancy.  The gushing waters of a thousand rills, formed by
the melting snow, break sweetly on the ear, like the well-remembered
voice of a long-absent friend.  The whistling wings of wild-fowl, as
they ever and anon desert the pools of water now open in the lake and
hurry over the forest-trees, accord well with the shrill cry of the
yellow-leg and curlew, and with the general wildness of the scene; while
the reviving frogs chirrup gladly in the swamps to see the breaking up
of winter and welcome back the spring.  This is the spring I write of;
and to have a correct idea of the beauties and the sweetness of _this_
spring, you must first spend a winter in Hudson Bay.

As I said, then, spring returned.  The ice melted, floated off, and
vanished.  Jack River flowed gently on its way, as if it had never gone
to sleep; and the lake rolled and tumbled on its shores, as if to
congratulate them on the happy change.  Soon the boats began to arrive.
First came the "Portage Brigade," in charge of L'Esperance.  There were
seven or eight boats; and ere long as many fires burned on the green
beside the fort, with a merry, careless band of wild-looking Canadian
and half-breed _voyageurs_ round each.  And a more picturesque set of
fellows I never saw.  They were all dressed out in new light-blue
capotes and corduroy trousers, which they tied at the knee with beadwork
garters.  Moose-skin moccasins cased their feet, and their brawny,
sunburned necks were bare.  A scarlet belt encircled the waist of each;
and while some wore hats with gaudy feathers, others had their heads
adorned with caps and bonnets, surrounded with gold and silver tinsel
hat-cords.  A few, however, despising coats, travelled in blue and white
striped shirts, and trusted to their thickly-matted hair to guard them
from the rain and sun.  They were truly a wild yet handsome set of men;
and no one, when gazing on their happy faces as they lay or stood in
careless attitudes round the fires, puffing clouds of smoke from their
ever-burning pipes, would have believed that these men had left their
wives and families but the week before, to start on a five months'
voyage of the most harassing description, fraught with the dangers of
the boiling cataracts and foaming rapids of the interior.

They stopped at Norway House on their way, to receive the outfit of
goods for the Indian trade of Athabasca (one of the interior districts);
and were then to start for Portage la Loche, a place where the whole
cargoes are carried on the men's shoulders overland for twelve miles to
the head-waters of another river, where the traders from the northern
posts come to meet them, and, taking the goods, give in exchange the
"returns" in furs of the district.

Next came old Mr Mottle, with his brigade of five boats from Isle a la
Crosse, one of the interior districts; and soon another set of
camp-fires burned on the green, and the clerks' house received another
occupant.  After them came the Red River brigades in quick succession:
careful, funny, uproarious Mr Mott, on his way to York for goods
expected by the ship (for you must know Mr Mott keeps a store in Red
River, and is a man of some importance in the colony); and grasping,
comical, close-fisted Mr Macdear; and quiet Mr Sink--all passing
onwards to the sea, rendering Norway House quite lively for a time, and
then leaving it silent.  But not for long, as the Saskatchewan brigade,
under the charge of chief trader Harrit and young Mr Polly, suddenly
arrived, and filled the whole country with noise and uproar.  The
Saskatchewan brigade is the largest and most noisy that halts at Norway
House.  It generally numbers from fifteen to twenty boats, filled with
the wildest men in the service.  They come from the prairies and Rocky
Mountains, and are consequently brimful of stories of the buffalo hunt,
attacks upon grizzly bears, and wild Indians--some of them interesting
and true enough, but most of them either tremendous exaggerations, or
altogether inventions of their own wild fancies.  Soon after, the light
canoes arrived from Canada, and in them an assortment of raw material
for the service in the shape of four or five green young men.

The clerks' house now became crammed.  The quiet, elderly folks, who had
continued to fret at its noisy occupants, fled in despair to another
house, and thereby left room for the newcomers--or greenhorns, as they
were elegantly styled by their more knowing fellow-clerks.  Now, indeed,
the corner of the fort in which we lived was avoided by all quiet people
as if it were smitten with the plague; while the loud laugh, uproarious
song, and sounds of the screeching flute or scraping fiddle, issued from
the open doors and windows, frightening away the very mosquitoes, and
making roof and rafters ring.  Suddenly a dead silence would ensue; and
then it was conjectured by the knowing ones of the place that Mr Polly
was _coming out strong_ for the benefit of the new arrivals.  Mr Polly
had a pleasant way of getting the green ones round him, and, by
detailing some of the wild scenes and incidents of his voyages in the
Saskatchewan, of leading them on from truth to exaggeration, and from
that to fanciful composition, wherein he would detail, with painful
minuteness, all the horrors of Indian warfare, and the improbability of
any one who entered those dreadful regions ever returning alive.

Norway House was now indeed in full blow, and many a happy hour did I
spend upon one of the clerks' beds--every inch of which was generally
occupied--listening to the story or the song.  The young men there
assembled had arrived from the distant quarters of America, and some of
them even from England.  Some were in the prime of manhood, and had
spent many years in the Indian country; some were beginning to scrape
the down from their still soft chins; while others were boys of
fourteen, who had just left home, and were listening for the first time,
open-mouthed, to their seniors' description of life in the wilderness.

Alas, how soon were those happy, careless young fellows to separate, and
how little probability was there of their ever meeting again!  A sort of
friendship had sprung up among three of us.  Many a happy hour had we
spent in rambling among the groves and woods of Norway House: now
ranging about in search of wild pigeons, anon splashing and tumbling in
the clear waters of the lake, or rowing over its surface in a light
canoe; while our inexperienced voices filled the woods with snatches of
the wild yet plaintive songs of the _voyageurs_, which we had just begun
to learn.  Often had we lain on our little pallet in Bachelors' Hall,
recounting to each other our adventures in the wild woods, or recalling
the days of our childhood, and making promises of keeping up a steady
correspondence through all our separations, difficulties, and dangers.

A year passed away, and at last I got a letter from one of my friends,
dated from the Arctic regions, near the mouth of Mackenzie River; the
other wrote to me from among the snow-clad caps of the Rocky Mountains;
while I addressed them from the swampy, ice-begirt shores of Hudson Bay.

In the Saskatchewan brigade two young bisons were conveyed to York
Factory for the purpose of being shipped for England in the _Prince
Rupert_.  They were a couple of the wildest little wretches I ever saw,
and were a source of great annoyance to the men during the voyage.  The
way they were taken was odd enough, and I shall here describe it.

In the Saskatchewan the chief food both of white men and Indians is
buffalo meat, so that parties are constantly sent out to hunt the
buffalo.  They generally chase them on horseback--the country being
mostly prairie land--and when they get close enough, shoot them with
guns.  The Indians, however, shoot them oftener with the bow and arrow,
as they prefer keeping their powder and shot for warfare.  They are very
expert with the bow, which is short and strong, and can easily send an
arrow quite through a buffalo at twenty yards off.  One of these
parties, then, was ordered to procure two calves alive, if possible, and
lead them to the Company's establishment.  This they succeeded in doing
in the following manner.  Upon meeting with a herd, they all set off
full gallop in chase.  Away went the startled animals at a round trot,
which soon increased to a gallop as the horse men neared them, and a
shot or two told that they were coming within range.  Soon the shots
became more numerous, and here and there a black spot on the prairie
told where a buffalo had fallen.  No slackening of the pace occurred,
however, as each hunter, upon killing an animal, merely threw down his
cap or mitten to mark it as his own, and continued in pursuit of the
herd, loading his gun as he galloped along.  The buffalo-hunters, by the
way, are very expert at loading and firing quickly while going at full
gallop.  They carry two or three bullets in their mouths, which they
spit into the muzzles of their guns after dropping in a little powder,
and instead of ramming it down with a rod, merely hit the butt-end of
the gun on the pommel of their saddles; and in this way fire a great
many shots in quick succession.  This, however, is a dangerous mode of
shooting, as the ball sometimes sticks half-way down the barrel and
bursts the gun, carrying away a finger, and occasionally a hand.

In this way they soon killed as many buffaloes as they could carry in
their carts, and one of the hunters set off in chase of a calf.  In a
short time he edged one away from the rest, and then, getting between it
and the herd, ran straight against it with his horse and knocked it
down.  The frightened little animal jumped up again and set off with
redoubled speed; but another butt from the horse again sent it
sprawling.  Again it rose, and was again knocked down, and in this way
was at last fairly tired out; when the hunter, jumping suddenly from his
horse, threw a rope round its neck, and drove it before him to the
encampment, and soon after brought it to the fort.  It was as wild as
ever when I saw it at Norway House, and seemed to have as much distaste
to its thraldom as the day it was taken.

As the summer advanced the heat increased, and the mosquitoes became
perfectly insupportable.  Nothing could save one from the attacks of
these little torments.  Almost all other insects went to rest with the
sun: sand-flies, which bite viciously during the day, went to sleep at
night; the large _bull-dog_, whose bite is terrible, slumbered in the
evening; but the mosquito, the long-legged, determined, vicious,
persevering mosquito, whose ceaseless hum dwells for ever on the ear,
_never_ went to sleep.  Day and night the painful, tender little pimples
on our necks and behind our ears were being constantly retouched by
these villainous flies, it was useless killing thousands of them--
millions supplied their place.  The only thing, in fact, that can
protect one during the night (_nothing_ can during the day) is a net of
gauze hung over the bed; but as this was looked upon by the young men as
somewhat effeminate, it was seldom resorted to.  The best thing for
their destruction, we found, was to fill our rooms with smoke, either by
burning damp moss or by letting off large puffs of gunpowder, and then
throwing the doors and windows open to allow them to fly out.  This,
however, did not put them all out; so we generally spent an hour or so
before going to bed in hunting them with candles.  Even this did not
entirely destroy them; and often might our friends, by looking
telescopically through the keyhole, have seen us wandering during the
late hours of the night in our shirts looking for mosquitoes, like
unhappy ghosts doomed to search perpetually for something they can never
find.  The intense, suffocating heat also added greatly to our

In fine weather I used to visit my friend Mr Evans at Rossville, where
I had always a hearty welcome.  I remember on one occasion being obliged
to beg the loan of a canoe from an Indian, and having a romantic paddle
across part of Playgreen Lake.  I had been offered a passage in a boat
which was going to Rossville, but was not to return.  Having nothing
particular to do, however, at the time, I determined to take my chance
of finding a return conveyance of some kind or other.  In due time I
arrived at the parsonage, where I spent a pleasant afternoon in
sauntering about the village, and in admiring the rapidity and ease with
which the Indian children could read and write the Indian language by
means of a syllable alphabet invented by their clergyman.  The same
gentleman afterwards made a set of leaden types with no other instrument
than a penknife, and printed a great many hymns in the Indian language.

In the evening I began to think of returning to the fort; but no boat or
canoe could be found small enough to be paddled by one man, and as no
one seemed inclined to go with me, I began to fear that I should have to
remain all night.  At last a young Indian told me he had a hunting
canoe, which I might have if I chose to venture across the lake in it,
but it was very small.  I instantly accepted his offer; and, bidding
adieu to my friends at the parsonage, followed him down to a small creek
overshaded by tall trees, where, concealed among the reeds and bushes,
lay the canoe.  It could not, I should think, have measured more than
three yards in length, by eighteen inches in breadth at the middle,
whence it tapered at either end to a thin edge.  It was made of birch
bark scarcely a quarter of an inch thick; and its weight may be imagined
when I say that the Indian lifted it from the ground with one hand and
placed it in the water, at the same time handing me a small light
paddle.  I stepped in with great care, and the frail bark trembled with
my weight as I seated myself, and pushed out into the lake.  The sun had
just set, and his expiring rays cast a glare upon the overhanging clouds
in the west, whilst the shades of night gathered thickly over the
eastern horizon.  Not a breath of wind disturbed the glassy smoothness
of the water, in which every golden-tinted cloud was mirrored with a
fidelity that rendered it difficult to say which was image and which
reality.  The little bark darted through the water with the greatest
ease, and as I passed among the deepening shadows of the lofty pines,
and across the gilded waters of the bay, a wild enthusiasm seized me; I
strained with all my strength upon the paddle, and the sparkling drops
flew in showers behind me as the little canoe flew over the water more
like a phantom than a reality--when suddenly I missed my stroke; my
whole weight was thrown on one side, the water gurgled over the gunwale
of the canoe, and my heart leaped to my mouth, as I looked for an
instant into the dark water.  It was only for a moment; in another
instant the canoe righted, and I paddled the remainder of the way in a
much more gentle manner--enthusiasm gone, and a most wholesome degree of
timidity pervading my entire frame.  It was dark when I reached the
fort, and upon landing I took the canoe under my arm and carried it up
the bank with nearly as much ease as if it had been a camp-stool.

When the day was warm and the sun bright--when the sky was clear and the
water blue--when the air was motionless, and the noise of arrivals and
departures had ceased--when work was at a stand, and we enjoyed the
felicity of having nothing to do, Mr Russ and I used to saunter down to
the water's edge to have an hour or two's fishing.  The fish we fished
for were goldeyes, and the manner of our fishing was this:--

Pausing occasionally as we walked along, one of us might be observed to
bend in a watchful manner over the grass, and, gradually assuming the
position of a quadruped, fall plump upon his hands and knees.  Having
achieved this feat, he would rise with a grasshopper between his finger
and thumb; a tin box being then held open by the other, the unlucky
insect was carefully introduced to the interior, and the lid closed
sharply--some such remark attending each capture as that "_That_ one was
safe," or, "There went another;" and the mystery of the whole proceeding
being explained by the fact that these same incarcerated grasshoppers
were intended to form the bait with which we trusted to beguile the
unwary goldeyes to their fate.

Having arrived at the edge of the place where we usually fished, each
drew from a cleft in the rock a stout branch of a tree, around the end
of which was wound a bit of twine with a large hook attached to it.
This we unwound quickly, and after impaling a live grasshopper upon the
barbs of our respective hooks, dropped them into the water, and gazed
intently at the lines.  Mr Russ, who was a great lover of angling, now
began to get excited, and made several violent pulls at the line, under
the impression that something had _bitten_.  Suddenly his rod, stout as
it was, bent with the immense muscular force applied to it, and a small
goldeye, about three or four inches long, flashed like an electric spark
from the water, and fell with bursting force on the rocks behind, at the
very feet of a small Indian boy, who sat, nearly in a state of nature,
watching our movements from among the bushes.  The little captive was of
a bright silvery colour, with a golden eye, and is an excellent fish for
breakfast.  The truth of the proverb, "It never rains but it pours," was
soon verified by the immense number of goldeyes of every size, from one
foot to four inches, which we showered into the bushes behind us.  Two
or three dozen were caught in a few minutes, and at last we began to get
quite exhausted; and Mr Russ proposed going up to the house for his new
fly-rod, by way of diversifying the sport, and rendering it more

Down he came again in a few minutes, with a splendidly varnished,
extremely slim rod, with an invisible line and an aerial fly.  This
instrument was soon put up; and Mr Russ, letting out six fathoms of
line, stood erect, and making a splendid heave, caught the Indian boy by
the hair!  This was an embarrassing commencement; but being an easy,
good-natured man, he only frowned the boy out of countenance, and
shortened his line.  The next cast was more successful; the line swept
gracefully through the air, and fell in a series of elegant circles
within a few feet of the rock on which he stood.  Goldeyes, however, are
not particular; and ere he could draw the line straight, a very large
one darted at the fly, and swallowed it.  The rod bent into a beautiful
oval as Mr Russ made a futile attempt to whip the fish over his head,
according to custom, and the line straightened with fearful rigidity as
the fish began to pull for its life.  The fisher became energetic, and
the fish impatient, but there was no prospect of its ever being landed;
till at last, having got his rod inextricably entangled among the
neighbouring bushes, he let it fall, and most unscientifically hauled
the fish out by the line, exclaiming, in the bitterness of his heart,
"that rods were contemptible childish things, and that a stout branch of
a tree was the rod for him."  This last essay seemed to have frightened
all the rest away, for not another bite did we get after that.

Towards the beginning of June 1843, orders arrived from headquarters,
appointing me to spend the approaching winter at York Factory, the place
where I had first pressed American soil.  It is impossible to describe
the joy with which I received the news.  Whether it was my extreme
fondness for travelling, or the mere love of change, I cannot tell, but
it had certainly the effect of affording me immense delight, and I set
about making preparation for the journey immediately.  The arrival of
the canoes from Canada was to be the signal for my departure, and I
looked forward to their appearance with great impatience.

In a few days the canoes arrived; and on the 4th of June, 1843, I
started, in company with several other gentlemen, in two north canoes.
These light, graceful craft were about thirty-six feet long, by from
five to six broad, and were capable of containing eight men and three
passengers.  They were made entirely of birch bark, and gaudily painted
on the bow and stern.  In these fairy-like boats, then, we swept swiftly
over Playgreen Lake, the bright vermilion paddles glancing in the
sunshine, and the woods echoing to the lively tune of _A la claire
fontaine_, sung by the two crews in full chorus.  We soon left Norway
House far behind us, and ere long were rapidly descending the streams
that flow through the forests of the interior into Hudson Bay.

While running one of the numerous rapids with which these rivers abound,
our canoe struck upon a rock, which tore a large hole in its side.
Fortunately the accident happened close to the shore, and nearly at the
usual breakfasting hour; so that while some of the men repaired the
damages, which they did in half an hour, we employed ourselves agreeably
in demolishing a huge ham, several slices of bread, and a cup or two of
strong tea.

This was the only event worth relating that happened to us during the
voyage; and as canoe-travelling is enlarged upon in another chapter, we
will jump at once to the termination of our journey.



Are you ambitious, reader, of dwelling in a "pleasant cot in a tranquil
spot, with a distant view of the changing sea?"  If so, do not go to
York Factory.  Not that it is such an unpleasant place--for I spent two
years very happily there--but simply (to give a poetical reason, and
explain its character in one sentence) because it is a monstrous blot on
a swampy spot, with a partial view of the frozen sea!

First impressions are generally incorrect; and I have little doubt that
_your_ first impression is, that a "monstrous blot on a swampy spot"
cannot by any possibility be an agreeable place.  To dispel this
impression, and at the same time to enlighten you with regard to a
variety of facts with which you are probably unacquainted, I shall
describe York Factory as graphically as may be.  An outline of its
general appearance has been already given in a former chapter, so I will
now proceed to particularise the buildings.  The principal edifice is
the "general store," where the goods, to the amount of two years' outfit
for the whole northern department, are stored.  On each side of this is
a long, low whitewashed house, with green edgings, in one of which
visitors and temporary residents during the summer are quartered.  The
other is the summer mess-room.  Four roomy fur-stores stand at right
angles to these houses, thus forming three sides of the front square.
Behind these stands a row of smaller buildings for the labourers and
tradesmen; and on the right hand is the dwelling-house of the gentleman
in charge, and adjoining it the clerks' house; while on the left are the
provision-store and Indian trading-shop.  A few insignificant buildings,
such as the oil-store and lumber-house, intrude themselves here and
there; and on the right a tall ungainly outlook rises in the air,
affording the inhabitants an extensive view of their wild domains; and
just beside it stands the ice-house.  This latter building is filled
every spring with blocks of solid ice of about three feet square, which
do not melt during the short but intensely hot summer.  The inhabitants
are thus enabled to lay up a store of fresh meat for summer use, which
lasts them till about the commencement of winter.  The lower stratum of
ice in this house never melts; nor, indeed, does the soil of the
surrounding country, which only thaws to the depth of a few feet, the
subsoil being perpetually frozen.

The climate of York Factory is very bad in the warm months of the year,
but during the winter the intensity of the cold renders it healthy.
Summer is very short; and the whole three seasons of spring, summer, and
autumn are included in the months of June, July, August, and September--
the rest being winter.

During part of summer the heat is extreme, and millions of flies,
mosquitoes, etcetera, render the country unbearable.  Fortunately,
however, the cold soon extirpates them.  Scarcely anything in the way of
vegetables can be raised in the small spot of ground called by courtesy
a garden.  Potatoes one year, for a wonder, attained the size of
walnuts; and sometimes a cabbage and a turnip are prevailed upon to
grow.  Yet the woods are filled with a great variety of wild berries,
among which the cranberry and swampberry are considered the best.  Black
and red currants, as well as gooseberries, are plentiful; but the first
are bitter, and the last small.  The swampberry is in shape something
like the raspberry, of a light yellow colour, and grows on a low bush,
almost close to the ground.  They make excellent preserves, and,
together with cranberries, are made into tarts for the mess during

In the month of September there are generally a couple of weeks or so of
extremely fine weather, which is called the Indian summer; after which
winter, with frost, cold, and snow, sets in with rapidity.  For a few
weeks in October there is sometimes a little warm weather (or rather, I
should say, a little _thawy_, weather); but after that, until the
following April, the thermometer seldom rises to the freezing-point.  In
the depth of winter it falls from 30 to 40, 45, and even 50 degrees
_below zero_ of Fahrenheit.  This intense cold, however, is not so much
felt as one might suppose, as during its continuance the air is
perfectly calm.  Were the slightest breath of wind to arise when the
thermometer stands so low, no man could show his face to it for a
moment.  Forty degrees below zero, and quite calm, is infinitely
preferable to fifteen degrees below, or thereabouts, with a strong
breeze of wind.  Spirit of wine is, of course, the only liquid that can
be used in the thermometers, as mercury, were it exposed to such cold,
would remain frozen nearly half the winter.  Spirit never froze in any
cold ever experienced at York Factory, unless when very much adulterated
with water; and even then the spirit would remain liquid in the centre
of the mass [see note 1].

To resist this intense cold the inhabitants dress, not in furs, as is
generally supposed, but in coats and trousers made of smoked deer-skins;
the only piece of fur in their costume being the cap.  The houses are
built of wood, with double windows and doors.  They are heated by means
of large iron stoves, fed with wood; yet so intense is the cold, that I
have seen the stove in places _red-hot_, and a basin of water in the
room _frozen_ nearly solid.  The average cold, I should think, is about
15 or 16 degrees below zero, or 48 degrees of frost.  The country around
is a complete swamp, but the extreme shortness of the warm weather, and
the consequent length of winter, fortunately prevent the rapid
decomposition of vegetable matter.  Another cause of the unhealthiness
of the climate during summer is the prevalence of dense fogs, which come
off the bay and enshroud the country; and also the liability of the
weather to sudden and extreme changes.

Summer may be said to commence in July, the preceding month being a
fight between summer and winter, which cannot claim the slightest title
to the name of spring.  As August advances the heat becomes great; but
about the commencement of September Nature wears a more pleasing aspect,
which lasts till the middle of October.  It is then clear and beautiful,
just cold enough to kill all the mosquitoes, and render brisk exercise
agreeable.  About this time, too, the young ducks begin to fly south,
affording excellent sport among the marshes.  A week or so after this
winter commences, with light falls of snow occasionally, and hard frost
during the night.  Flocks of snow-birds (the harbingers of cold in
autumn, and heat in spring) begin to appear, and soon the whirring wings
of the white partridge may be heard among the snow-encompassed willows.
The first thaw generally takes place in April; and May is characterised
by melting snow, disruption of ice, and the arrival of the first flocks
of wild-fowl.

The country around the fort is one immense level swamp, thickly covered
with willows, and dotted here and there with a few clumps of pine-trees.
The only large timber in the vicinity grows on the banks of Hayes and
Nelson Rivers, and consists chiefly of spruce fir.  The swampy nature of
the ground has rendered it necessary to raise the houses in the fort
several feet in the air upon blocks of wood; and the squares are
intersected by elevated wooden platforms, which form the only promenade
the inhabitants have during the summer, as no one can venture fifty
yards beyond the gates without wetting his feet.  Nothing bearing the
most distant resemblance to a hillock exists in the land.  Nelson River
is a broad stream, which discharges itself into Hudson Bay, near the
mouth of Hayes River, between which lies a belt of swamp and willows,
known by the name of the Point of Marsh.  Here may be found, during the
spring and autumn, millions of ducks, geese, and plover, and during the
summer billions of mosquitoes.  There are a great many strange plants
and shrubs in this marsh, which forms a wide field of research and
pleasure to the botanist and the sportsman; but the lover of beautiful
scenery and the florist will find little to please the eye or
imagination, as Nature has here put on her plainest garb, and flowers
there are none.

Of the feathered tribes there are the large and small grey Canada goose,
the laughing goose (so called from the resemblance of its cry to
laughter), and the wavie or white goose.  The latter are not very
numerous.  There are great numbers of wild ducks, pintails, widgeons,
divers, sawbills, black ducks, and teal; but the prince of ducks (the
canvas-back) is not there.  In spring and autumn the whole country
becomes musical with the wild cries and shrill whistle of immense hosts
of plover of all kinds--long legs, short legs, black legs, and yellow
legs--sandpipers and snipe, which are assisted in their noisy concerts
by myriads of frogs.  The latter are really the best songsters in Hudson
Bay [see note 2].  Bitterns are also found in the marshes; and
sometimes, though rarely, a solitary crane finds its way to the coast.
In the woods, and among the dry places around, there are a few grey
grouse and wood partridges, a great many hawks, and owls of all sizes--
from the gigantic white owl, which measures five feet across the back
and wings, to the small grey owl, not much bigger than a man's hand.

In winter the woods and frozen swamps are filled with ptarmigan--or, as
they are called by the trappers, white partridges.  They are not very
palatable; but, nevertheless, they form a pretty constant dish at the
winter mess-table of York Factory, and afford excellent sport to the
inhabitants.  There are also great varieties of small birds, among which
the most interesting are the snow-birds, or snow-flakes, which pay the
country a flying visit at the commencement and termination of winter.

Such is York Fort, the great depot and gate to the wild regions
surrounding Hudson Bay.  Having described its appearance and general
characteristics, I shall proceed to introduce the reader to my future
companions, and describe our amusements and sports among the marshes.


On the--of June, 1843, I landed the second time on the wharf of York
Fort, and betook myself to Bachelors' Hall, where Mr Grave, whom I met
by the way, told me to take up my quarters.  As I approached the door of
the well-remembered house, the most tremendous uproar that ever was
heard proceeded from within its dingy walls; so I jumped the paling that
stood in front of the windows, and took a peep at the interior before
introducing myself.

The scene that met my eye was ludicrous in the extreme.  Mounted on a
chair, behind a bedroom door, stood my friend Crusty, with a large pail
of water in his arms, which he raised cautiously to the top of the door,
for the purpose of tilting it over upon two fellow-clerks who stood
below, engaged in a wrestling match, little dreaming of the cataract
that was soon to fall on their devoted heads; at the door of a room
opposite stood the doctor, grinning from ear to ear at the thought of
sending a thick stream of water in Crusty's face from a large syringe
which he held in his hands; while near the stove sat the jolly skipper,
looking as grave as possible under the circumstances.

The practical joke was just approaching to a climax when I looked in.
The combatants neared the door behind which Crusty was ensconced.  The
pail was raised, and the syringe pointed, when the hall door opened, and
Mr Grave walked in!  The sudden change that ensued could not have been
more rapidly effected had Mr Grave been a magician.  The doctor thrust
the syringe into his pocket, into which a great deal of the water
escaped and dripped from the skirts of his coat as he walked slowly
across the room and began to examine, with a wonderful degree of
earnestness, the edge of an amputating knife that lay upon his
dressing-table.  The two wrestlers sprang with one accord into their own
room, where they hid their flushed faces behind the door.  Certain
smothered sounds near the stove proclaimed the skipper to be revelling
in an excruciating fit of suppressed laughter; while poor Crusty, who
slipped his foot in rapidly descending from his chair, lay sprawling in
an ocean of water, which he had upset upon himself in his fall.

Mr Grave merely went to Mr Wilson's room to ask a few questions, and
then departed as if he had seen nothing; but a peculiar twist in the
corners of his mouth, and a comical twinkle in his eye, showed that,
although he said nothing, he had a pretty good guess that his "young
men" had been engaged in mischief!

Such were the companions to whom I introduced myself shortly after; and,
while they went off to the office, I amused myself in looking round the
rooms in which I was to spend the approaching winter.

The house was only one story high, and the greater part of the interior
formed a large hall, from which several doors led into the sleeping
apartments of the clerks.  The whole was built of wood; and few houses
could be found wherein so little attention was paid to ornament or
luxury.  The walls were originally painted white, but this, from long
exposure to the influence of a large stove, had changed to a dirty
yellow.  No carpet covered the floor; nevertheless, its yellow planks
had a cheerful appearance; and gazing at the numerous knots with which
it was covered often afforded me a dreamy kind of amusement when I had
nothing better to do.  A large oblong iron box, on four crooked legs,
with a funnel running from it through the roof, stood exactly in the
middle of the room; this was a stove, but the empty wood-box in the
corner showed that its services were not required at that time.  And
truly they were not; for it was the height of summer, and the whole room
was filled with mosquitoes and bull-dog flies, which kept up a perpetual
hum night and day.  The only furniture that graced the room consisted of
two small unpainted deal tables without tablecloths, five whole wooden
chairs, and a broken one--which latter, being light and handy, was
occasionally used as a missile by the young men when they happened to
quarrel.  Several guns and fishing-rods stood in the corners of the
hall, but their dirty appearance proclaimed that sporting, at that time,
was not the order of the day.  The tables were covered with a
miscellaneous collection of articles; and from a number of pipes
reposing on little odoriferous heaps of cut tobacco, I inferred that my
future companions were great smokers.  Two or three books, a pair of
broken foils, a battered mask, and several surgical instruments, over
which a huge mortar and pestle presided, completed the catalogue.

The different sleeping apartments around were not only interesting to
contemplate, but also extremely characteristic of the pursuits of their
different tenants.  The first I entered was very small--just large
enough to contain a bed, a table, and a chest, leaving little room for
the occupant to move about in; and yet, from the appearance of things,
he did move about in it to some purpose, as the table was strewn with a
number of saws, files, bits of ivory and wood, and in a corner a small
vice held the head of a cane in its iron jaws.  These were mixed with a
number of Indian account-books and an inkstand, so that I concluded I
had stumbled on the bedroom of my friend Mr Wilson, the postmaster.

The quadrant-case and sea-chest in the next room proved it to be the
skipper's, without the additional testimony of the oiled-cloth coat and
sou'-wester hanging from a peg in the wall.

The doctor's room was filled with dreadful-looking instruments,
suggestive of operations, amputations, bleeding wounds, and human agony;
while the accountant's was equally characterised by methodical neatness,
and the junior clerks' by utter and chaotic confusion.  None of these
bedrooms were carpeted; none of them boasted of a chair--the trunks and
boxes of the persons to whom they belonged answering instead; and none
of the beds were graced with curtains.  Notwithstanding this emptiness,
however, they had a somewhat furnished appearance, from the number of
greatcoats, leather capotes, fur caps, worsted sashes, guns, rifles,
shot-belts, snow-shoes, and powder-horns with which the walls were
profusely decorated.  The ceilings of the rooms, moreover, were very
low--so much that by standing on tiptoe I could touch them with my hand;
and the window in each was only about three feet high by two and a half
broad, so that, upon the whole, the house was rather snug than

Such was the habitation in which I dwelt; such were the companions with
whom I associated at York Factory.

As the season advanced the days became shorter, the nights more frosty,
and soon a few flakes of snow fell, indicating the approach of winter.
About the beginning of October the cold, damp, snowy weather that
usually precedes winter set in; and shortly afterwards Hayes River was
full of drifting ice, and the whole country covered with snow.  A week
or so after this the river was completely frozen over; and Hudson Bay
itself, as far as the eye could reach, was covered with a coat of ice.
We now settled down into our winter habits.  Double windows were fitted
in, and double doors also.  Extra blankets were put upon the beds; the
iron stove kept constantly alight; and, in fact, every preparation was
made to mitigate the severity of the winter.

The water froze every night in our basins, although the stove was kept
at nearly a red heat all day, and pretty warm all night; and our
out-of-door costume was changed from jackets and shooting-coats to thick
leather capotes, fur caps, duffle socks, and moccasins.

Soon after this, white partridges showed themselves; and one fine clear,
frosty morning, after breakfast, I made my first essay to kill some, in
company with my fellow-clerk and room-mate Crusty, and the worthy

The manner of dressing ourselves to resist the cold was curious.  I will
describe Crusty, as a type of the rest.  After donning a pair of
deer-skin trousers, he proceeded to put on three pair of blanket socks,
and over these a pair of moose-skin moccasins.  Then a pair of blue
cloth leggins were hauled over his trousers, partly to keep the snow
from sticking to them, and partly for warmth.  After this he put on a
leather capote edged with fur.  This coat was very warm, being lined
with flannel, and overlapped very much in front.  It was fastened with a
scarlet worsted belt round the waist, and with a loop at the throat.  A
pair of thick mittens made of deer-skin hung round his shoulders by a
worsted cord; and his neck was wrapped in a huge shawl, above whose
mighty folds his good-humoured visage beamed like the sun on the edge of
a fog-bank.  A fur cap with ear-pieces completed his costume.  Having
finished his toilet, and tucked a pair of snow-shoes, five feet long,
under one arm, and a double-barrelled fowling-piece under the other,
Crusty waxed extremely impatient, and proceeded systematically to
aggravate the unfortunate skipper (who was always very slow, poor man,
except on board ship), addressing sundry remarks to the stove upon the
slowness of seafaring men in general, and skippers in particular.  In a
few minutes the skipper appeared in a similar costume, with a
monstrously long gun over his shoulder, and under his arm a pair of
snow-shoes gaudily painted by himself; which snow-shoes he used to
admire amazingly, and often gave it as his opinion that they were
"slap-up, tossed-off-to-the-nines" snow-shoes!

In this guise, then, we departed on our ramble.  The sun shone brightly
in the cold blue sky, giving a warm appearance to the scene, although no
sensible warmth proceeded from it, so cold was the air.  Countless
millions of icy particles covered every bush and tree, glittering
tremulously in its rays like diamonds--psha! that hackneyed simile:
diamonds of the purest water never shone like these evanescent little
gems of nature.  The air was biting cold, obliging us to walk briskly
along to keep our blood in circulation; and the breath flew thick and
white from our mouths and nostrils, like clouds of steam, and,
condensing on our hair and the breasts of our coats, gave us the
appearance of being powdered with fine snow.  Crusty's red countenance
assumed a redder hue by contrast, and he cut a very comical figure when
his bushy whiskers changed from their natural auburn hue to a pure
white, under the influence of this icy covering.  The skipper, who all
this while had been floundering slowly among the deep snow, through
which his short legs were but ill calculated to carry him, suddenly
wheeled round, and presented to our view the phenomenon of a very red,
warm face, and an extremely livid cold nose thereunto affixed.  We
instantly apprised him of the fact that his nose was frozen, which he
would scarcely believe for some time; however, he was soon convinced,
and after a few minutes' hard rubbing it was restored to its usual

We had hitherto been walking through the thick woods near the river's
bank; but finding no white partridges there, we stretched out into the
frozen swamps, which now presented large fields and plains of compact
snow, studded here and there with clumps and thickets of willows.  Among
these we soon discovered fresh tracks of birds in the snow, whereat the
skipper became excited (the sport being quite new to him), and expressed
his belief, in a hoarse whisper, that they were not far off.  He even
went the length of endeavouring to walk on tiptoe, but being unable,
from the weight of his snow-shoes, to accomplish this, he only tripped
himself, and falling with a stunning crash through a large dried-up
bush, buried his head, shoulders, and gun in the snow.  Whir-r-r! went
the alarmed birds--crack! bang! went Crusty's gun, and down came two
partridges; while the unfortunate skipper, scarce taking time to clear
his eyes from snow, in his anxiety to get a shot, started up, aimed at
the birds, and blew the top of a willow, which stood a couple of feet
before him, into a thousand atoms.  The partridges were very tame, and
only flew to a neighbouring clump of bushes, where they alighted.
Meanwhile Crusty picked up his birds, and while reloading his gun
complimented the skipper upon the beautiful manner in which he
_pointed_.  To this he answered not, but raising his gun, let drive at a
solitary bird which, either from fear or astonishment, had remained
behind the rest, and escaped detection until now, owing to its
resemblance to the surrounding snow.  He fortunately succeeded in
hitting this time, and bagged it with great exultation.  Our next essay
was even more successful.  The skipper fired at one which he saw sitting
near him, killed it,--and also two more which he had not seen, but which
had happened to be in a line with the shot; and Crusty and I killed a
brace each when they took wing.

During the whole day we wandered about the woods, sometimes killing a
few ptarmigan, and occasionally a kind of grouse, which are called by
the people of the country wood-partridges.  Whilst sauntering slowly
along in the afternoon, a rabbit darted across our path; the skipper
fired at it without even putting the gun to his shoulder, and to his
utter astonishment killed it.  After this we turned to retrace our
steps, thinking that, as our game bags were pretty nearly full, we had
done enough for one day.  Our sport was not done, however; we came
suddenly upon a large flock of ptarmigan, so tame that they would not
fly, but merely ran from us a little way at the noise of each shot.  The
firing that now commenced was quite terrific.  Crusty fired till both
barrels of his gun were stopped up; the skipper fired till his powder
and shot were done; and I fired till--_I skinned my tongue_!  Lest any
one should feel surprised at the last statement, I may as well explain
_how_ this happened.  The cold had become so intense, and my hands so
benumbed with loading, that the thumb at last obstinately refused to
open the spring of my powder-flask.  A partridge was sitting impudently
before me, so that, in the fear of losing the shot, I thought of trying
to open it with my teeth.  In the execution of this plan, I put the
brass handle to my mouth, and my tongue happening to come in contact
with it, stuck fast thereto--or, in other words, was frozen to it.  Upon
discovering this, I instantly pulled the flask away, and with it a piece
of skin about the size of a sixpence.  Having achieved this little feat,
we once more bent our steps homeward.

During our walk the day had darkened, and the sky insensibly become
overcast.  Solitary flakes of snow fell here and there around us, and a
low moaning sound, as of distant wind, came mournfully down through the
sombre trees, and, eddying round their trunks in little gusts, gently
moved the branches, and died away in the distance.  With an uneasy
glance at these undoubted signs of an approaching storm, we hastened
towards the fort as fast as our loads permitted us, but had little hope
of reaching it before the first burst of the gale.  Nature had laid
aside her sparkling jewels, and was now dressed in her simple robe of
white.  Dark leaden clouds rose on the northern horizon, and the distant
howling of the cold, cold wind struck mournfully on our ears, as it
rushed fresh and bitterly piercing from the Arctic seas, tearing madly
over the frozen plains, and driving clouds of hail and snow before it.
Whew! how it dashed along--scouring wildly over the ground, as if
maddened by the slight resistance offered to it by the swaying bushes,
and hurrying impetuously forward to seek a more worthy object on which
to spend its bitter fury!  Whew! how it curled around our limbs,
catching up mountains of snow into the air, and dashing them into
impalpable dust against our wretched faces.  Oh! it was bitterly,
bitterly cold.  Notwithstanding our thick wrappings, we felt as if
clothed in gauze; while our faces seemed to collapse and wrinkle up as
we turned them from the wind and hid them in our mittens.  One or two
flocks of ptarmigan, scared by the storm, flew swiftly past us, and
sought shelter in the neighbouring forest.  We quickly followed their
example, and availing ourselves of the partial shelter of the trees,
made the best of our way back to the fort, where we arrived just as it
was getting dark, and entered the warm precincts of Bachelors' Hall like
three animated marble statues, so completely were we covered from head
to foot with snow.

It was curious to observe the change that took place in the appearance
of our guns after we entered the warm room.  The barrels, and every bit
of metal upon them, instantly became white, like ground glass!  This
phenomenon was caused by the condensation and freezing of the moist
atmosphere of the room upon the cold iron.  Any piece of metal, when
brought suddenly out of such intense cold into a warm room, will in this
way become covered with a pure white coating of hoar-frost.  It does not
remain long in this state, however, as the warmth of the room soon heats
the metal and melts the ice.  Thus, in about ten minutes our guns
assumed three different appearances: when we entered the house, they
were clear, polished, and dry; in five minutes they were white as snow;
and in five more, dripping wet!

On the following morning a small party of Indians arrived with furs, and
Mr Wilson went with them to the trading-room, whither I accompanied

The trading-room--or, as it is frequently called, the Indian-shop--was
much like what is called a store in the United States.  It contained
every imaginable commodity likely to be needed by Indians.  On various
shelves were piled bales of cloth of all colours, capotes, blankets,
caps, etcetera; and in smaller divisions were placed files,
scalping-knives, gun-screws, flints, balls of twine, fire-steels,
canoe-awls, and glass beads of all colours, sizes, and descriptions.
Drawers in the counter contained needles, pins, scissors, thimbles,
fish-hooks, and vermilion for painting canoes and faces.  The floor was
strewn with a variety of copper and tin kettles, from half a pint to a
gallon; and on a stand in the furthest corner of the room stood about a
dozen trading guns, and beside them a keg of powder and a box of shot.

Upon our entrance into this room trade began.  First of all, an old
Indian laid a pack of furs upon the counter, which Mr Wilson counted
and valued.  Having done this, he marked the amount opposite the old
man's name in his "Indian book," and then handed him a number of small
pieces of wood.  The use of these pieces of wood is explained in the
third chapter.  The Indian then began to look about him, opening his
eyes gradually, as he endeavoured to find out which of the many things
before him he would like to have.  Sympathising with his eyes, his mouth
slowly opened also; and having remained in this state for some time, the
former looked at Mr Wilson, and the latter pronounced _ahcoup_
(blanket).  Having received the blanket, he paid the requisite number of
bits of wood for it, and became abstracted again.  In this way he bought
a gun, several yards of cloth, a few beads, etcetera, till all his
sticks were gone, and he made way for another.  The Indians were
uncommonly slow, however, and Mr Wilson and I returned to the house in
a couple of hours, with very cold toes and fingers, and exceedingly blue

During winter we breakfasted usually at nine o'clock; then sat down to
the desk till one, when we dined.  After dinner we resumed our pens till
six, when we had tea; and then wrote again till eight; after which we
either amused ourselves with books (of which we had a few), kicked up a
row, or, putting on our snow-shoes, went off to pay a moonlight visit to
our traps.  On Wednesdays and Saturdays, however, we did no work, and
generally spent these days in shooting.

It is only at the few principal establishments of the Company, where the
accounts of the country are collected annually, to be forwarded to the
Hudson Bay House in London, that so much writing is necessary.

As the Christmas holidays approached, we prepared for the amusements of
that joyous season.  On the morning before Christmas, a gentleman, who
had spent the first part of the winter all alone at his outpost, arrived
to pass the holidays at York Factory.  We were greatly delighted to have
a new face to look at, having seen no one but ourselves since the ship
left for England, nearly four months before.

Our visitor had travelled in a dog cariole.  This machine is very
narrow, just broad enough to admit one person.  It is a wooden frame
covered with deer-skin parchment, painted gaudily, and is generally
drawn by four Esquimaux dogs [see note 3].  Dogs are invaluable in the
Arctic regions, where horses are utterly useless, owing to the depth of
snow which covers the earth for so large a portion of the year.  The
comparatively light weight of the dogs enables them to walk without
sinking much; and even when the snow is so soft as to be incapable of
supporting them, they are still able to sprawl along more easily than
any other species of quadruped could do.  Four are usually attached to a
sledge, which they haul with great vigour; being followed by a driver on
snow-shoes, whose severe lash is brought to bear so powerfully on the
backs of the poor animals, should any of them be observed to slacken
their pace, that they are continually regarding him with deprecatory
glances as they run along.  Should the lash give a flourish, there is
generally a short yelp from the pack; and should it descend amongst them
with a vigorous crack, the vociferous yelling that results is perfectly
terrific.  These drivers are sometimes very cruel; and when a pack of
dogs have had a fight, and got their traces hopelessly ravelled (as is
often the case), they have been known to fall on their knees in their
passion, seize one of the poor dogs by the nose with their teeth, and
almost bite it off.  Dogs are also used for dragging carioles, which
vehicles are used by gentlemen in the Company's service who are either
too old or too lazy to walk on snow-shoes.  The cariole is in form not
unlike a slipper bath, both in shape and size.  It is lined with buffalo
robes, in the midst of a bundle of which the occupant reclines
luxuriously, while the dogs drag him slowly through the soft snow, and
among the trees and bushes of the forest, or scamper with him over the
hard-beaten surface of a lake or river; while the machine is prevented
from capsizing by a _voyageur_ who walks behind on snow-shoes, holding
on to a line attached to the back part of the cariole.  The weather
during winter is so cold that it is often a matter of the greatest
difficulty for the traveller to keep his toes from freezing, despite the
buffalo robes; and sometimes, when the dogs start fresh in the morning,
with a good breakfast, a bright, clear, frosty day, and a long expanse
of comparatively open country before them, where the snow from exposure
has become quite hard, away they go with a loud yelp, upsetting the
driver in the bolt, who rises to heap undeserved and very improper
epithets upon the poor brutes, who, careering over the ground at the
rate of eleven miles an hour, swing the miserable cariole over the snow,
tear it through the bushes, bang it first on one side, then on the
other, against stumps and trees, yelling all the while, partly with
frantic glee at the thought of having bolted, and partly with fearful
anticipation of the tremendous welting that is to come; until at last
the cariole gets jammed hard and fast among the trees of the forest, or
plunges down the steep bank of a river head over heels till they reach
the foot--a horrible and struggling compound of dogs, traveller, traces,
parchment, buffalo robes, blankets, and snow!

Christmas morning dawned, and I opened my eyes to behold the sun
flashing brightly on the window, in its endeavours to make a forcible
entry into my room, through the thick hoar-frost which covered the
panes.  Presently I became aware of a gentle breathing near me, and,
turning my eyes slowly round, I beheld my companion Crusty standing on
tiptoe, with a tremendous grin on his countenance, and a huge pillow in
his hands, which was in the very act of descending upon my devoted head.
To collapse into the smallest possible compass, and present the most
invulnerable part of my body to the blow, was the work of an instant,
when down came the pillow, bang!  "Hooroo! hurroo! hurroo! a merry
Christmas to you, you rascal!" shouted Crusty.  Bang! bang! went the
pillow.  "Turn out of that, you lazy lump of plethoric somnolescence,"
whack!--and, twirling the ill-used pillow round his head, my facetious
friend rushed from the room, to bestow upon the other occupants of the
hall a similar salutation.  Upon recovering from the effects of my
pommelling, I sprang from bed and donned my clothes with all speed, and
then went to pay my friend Mr Wilson the compliments of the season.  In
passing through the hall for this purpose, I discovered Crusty
struggling in the arms of the skipper, who, having wrested the pillow
from him, was now endeavouring to throttle him partially.  I gently shut
and fastened the door of their room, purposing to detain them there till
_very nearly_ too late for breakfast, and then sat down with Mr Wilson
to discuss our intended proceedings during the day.  These were--
firstly, that we should go and pay a ceremonious visit to the men;
secondly, that we should breakfast; thirdly, that we should go out to
shoot partridges; fourthly, that we should return to dinner at five; and
fifthly, that we should give a ball in Bachelors' Hall in the evening,
to which were to be invited all the men at the fort, and _all_ the
Indians, men, women, and children, inhabiting the country for thirty
miles round.  As the latter, however, did not amount to above twenty, we
did not fear that more would come than our hall was calculated to
accommodate.  In pursuance, then, of these resolutions, I cleaned my
gun, freed my prisoners just as the breakfast-bell was ringing, and
shortly afterwards went out to shoot.  I will not drag the reader after
me, but merely say that we all returned about dusk, with game-bags full,
and appetites ravenous.

Our Christmas dinner was a good one, in a substantial point of view; and
a very pleasant one, in a social point of view.  We ate it in the winter
mess-room; and really (for Hudson Bay) this was quite a snug and highly
decorated apartment.  True, there was no carpet on the floor, and the
chairs were home-made; but then the table was mahogany, and the walls
were hung round with several large engravings in bird's-eye maple
frames.  The stove, too, was brightly polished with black lead, and the
painting of the room had been executed with a view to striking dumb
those innocent individuals who had spent the greater part of their lives
at outposts, and were, consequently, accustomed to domiciles and
furniture of the simplest and most unornamental description.  On the
present grand occasion the mess-room was illuminated by an argand lamp,
and the table covered with a snow-white cloth, whereon reposed a platter
containing a beautiful, fat, plump wild-goose, which had a sort of
come-eat-me-up-quick-else-I'll-melt expression about it that was
painfully delicious.  Opposite to this smoked a huge roast of beef, to
procure which one of our most useless draught oxen had been sacrificed.
This, with a dozen of white partridges, and a large piece of salt pork,
composed our dinner.  But the greatest rarities on the board were two
large decanters of port wine, and two smaller ones of Madeira.  These
were flanked by tumblers and glasses; and truly, upon the whole, our
dinner made a goodly show.

"Come away, gentlemen," said Mr Grave, as we entered the room and
approached the stove where he stood, smiling with that benign expression
of countenance peculiar to stout, good-natured gentlemen at this season,
and at this particular hour.  "Your walk must have sharpened your
appetites; sit down, sit down.  This way, doctor--sit near me; find a
place, Mr Ballantyne, beside your friend Crusty there; take the foot,
Mr Wilson;" and amid a shower of such phrases we seated ourselves and

At the top of the table sat Mr Grave, indistinctly visible through the
steam that rose from the wild-goose before him.  On his right and left
sat the doctor and the accountant; and down from them sat the skipper,
four clerks, and Mr Wilson, whose honest face beamed with philanthropic
smiles at the foot of the table.  Loud were the mirth and fun that
reigned on this eventful day within the walls of the highly decorated
room at York Factory.  Bland was the expression of Mr Grave's face when
he asked each of the young clerks to drink wine with him in succession;
and great was the confidence which thereby inspired the said clerks,
prompting them to the perpetration of several rash and unparalleled
pieces of presumption--such as drinking wine with each other (an act of
free-will on their part almost unprecedented), and indulging in sundry
sly pieces of covert humour, such as handing the vinegar to each other
when the salt was requested, and becoming profusely apologetic upon
discovering their mistake.  But the wildest storm is often succeeded by
the greatest calm, and the most hilarious mirth by the most solemn
gravity.  In the midst of our fun Mr Grave proposed a toast.  Each
filled a bumper, and silence reigned around while he raised his glass
and said, "Let us drink to absent friends."  We each whispered, "Absent
friends," and set our glasses down in silence, while our minds flew back
to the scenes of former days, and we mingled again in spirit with our
dear, dear friends at home.  How different the mirth of the loved ones
there, circling round the winter hearth, from that of the _men_ seated
round the Christmas table in the Nor'-West wilderness I question very
much if this toast was ever drunk with a more thorough appreciation of
its melancholy import than upon the present memorable occasion.  Our sad
feelings, however, were speedily put to flight, and our gravity routed,
when the skipper, with characteristic modesty, proposed, "The ladies;"
which toast we drank with a hearty good-will, although, indeed, the
former included them, inasmuch as they also were _absent_ friends--the
only one within two hundred and fifty miles of us being Mr Grave's

What a magical effect ladies have upon the male sex, to be sure!
Although hundreds of miles distant from an unmarried specimen of the
species, upon the mere mention of their name there was instantly a
perceptible alteration for the better in the looks of the whole party.
Mr Wilson unconsciously arranged his hair a little more becomingly, as
if his ladye-love were actually looking at him; and the skipper
afterwards confessed that his heart had bounded suddenly out of his
breast, across the snowy billows of the Atlantic, and come smash down on
the wharf at Plymouth Dock, where he had seen the last wave of Nancy's
checked cotton neckerchief as he left the shores of Old England.

Just as we had reached the above climax, the sound of a fiddle struck
upon our ears, and reminded us that our guests who had been invited to
the ball were ready; so, emptying our glasses, we left the dining-room,
and adjourned to the hall.

Here a scene of the oddest description presented itself.  The room was
lit up by means of a number of tallow candles, stuck in tin sconces
round the walls.  On benches and chairs sat the Orkneymen and Canadian
half-breeds of the establishment, in their Sunday jackets and capotes;
while here and there the dark visage of an Indian peered out from among
their white ones.  But round the stove--which had been removed to one
side to leave space for the dancers--the strangest group was collected.
Squatting down on the floor, in every ungraceful attitude imaginable,
sat about a dozen Indian women, dressed in printed calico gowns, the
chief peculiarity of which was the immense size of the balloon-shaped
sleeves, and the extreme scantiness, both in length and width, of the
skirts.  Coloured handkerchiefs covered their heads, and ornamented
moccasins decorated their feet; besides which, each one wore a blanket
in the form of a shawl, which they put off before standing up to dance.
They were chatting and talking to each other with great volubility,
occasionally casting a glance behind them, where at least half a dozen
infants stood bolt upright in their tight-laced cradles.  On a chair, in
a corner near the stove, sat a young, good-looking Indian, with a fiddle
of his own making beside him.  This was our Paganini; and beside him sat
an Indian boy with a kettle-drum, on which he tapped occasionally, as if
anxious that the ball should begin.

All this flashed upon our eyes; but we had not much time for
contemplating it, as, the moment we entered, the women simultaneously
rose, and coming modestly forward to Mr Wilson, who was the senior of
the party, saluted him, one after another!  I had been told that this
was a custom of the _ladies_ on Christmas Day, and was consequently not
quite unprepared to go through the ordeal.  But when I looked at the
superhuman ugliness of some of the old ones--when I gazed at the
immense, and in some cases toothless, chasms that were pressed to my
senior's lips, and that gradually, like a hideous nightmare, approached
towards me--and when I reflected that these same mouths might have, in
former days, demolished a few children--my courage forsook me, and I
entertained for a moment the idea of bolting.  The doctor seemed to
labour under the same disinclination as myself; for when they advanced
to him, he refused to bend his head, and, being upwards of six feet
high, they of course were obliged to pass him.  They looked, however, so
much disappointed at this, and withal so very modest, that I really felt
for them, and prepared to submit to my fate with the best grace
possible.  A horrible old hag advanced towards me, the perfect
embodiment of a nightmare, with a fearful grin on her countenance.  I
shut my eyes.  Suddenly a bright idea flashed across my mind: I stooped
down, with apparent goodwill, to salute her; but just as our lips were
about to meet, I slightly jerked up my head, and she kissed my _chin_.
Oh, happy thought!  They were all quite satisfied, and attributed the
accident, no doubt, to their own clumsiness--or to mine!

This ceremony over, we each chose partners, the fiddle struck up, and
the ball began.  Scotch reels were the only dances known by the majority
of the guests, so we confined ourselves entirely to them.

The Indian women afforded us a good deal of amusement during the
evening.  Of all ungraceful beings, they are the most ungraceful; and of
all accomplishments, dancing is the one in which they shine least.
There is no rapid motion of the feet, no lively expression of the
countenance; but with a slow, regular, up-and-down motion, they stalk
through the figure with extreme gravity.  They seemed to enjoy it
amazingly, however, and scarcely allowed the poor fiddler a moment's
rest during the whole evening.

Between eleven and twelve o'clock our two tables were put together, and
spread with several towels; thus forming a pretty respectable
supper-table, which would have been perfect, had not the one part been
three inches higher than the other.  On it was placed a huge dish of
cold venison, and a monstrous iron kettle of tea.  This, with sugar,
bread, and a lump of salt butter, completed the entertainment to which
the Indians sat down.  They enjoyed it very much--at least, so I judged
from the rapid manner in which the viands disappeared, and the incessant
chattering and giggling kept up at intervals.  After all were satisfied,
the guests departed in a state of great happiness; particularly the
ladies, who tied up the remnants of their supper in their handkerchiefs,
and carried them away.

Before concluding the description of our Christmas doings, I may as well
mention a circumstance which resulted from the effects of the ball, as
it shows in a curious manner the severity of the climate at York
Factory.  In consequence of the breathing of so many people in so small
a room for such a length of time, the walls had become quite damp, and
ere the guests departed moisture was trickling down in many places.
During the night this moisture was frozen, and on rising the following
morning I found, to my astonishment, that Bachelors' Hall was apparently
converted into a palace of crystal.  The walls and ceiling were thickly
coated with beautiful minute crystalline flowers, not sticking flat upon
them, but projecting outwards in various directions, thus giving the
whole apartment a cheerful, light appearance, quite indescribable.  The
moment our stove was heated, however, the crystals became fluid, and ere
long evaporated, leaving the walls exposed in all their original


Winter passed away; but not slowly, or by degrees.  A winter of so long
duration could not be expected to give up its dominion without a
struggle.  In October it began, and in November its empire was
established.  During December, January, February, March, and April it
reigned unmolested, in steadfast bitterness; enclosing in its icy bands,
and retaining in torpid frigidity, the whole inanimate and vegetable
creation.  But in May its powerful enemy, caloric, made a decided attack
upon the empire, and dealt hoary Winter a stunning blow.

About the beginning of April a slight thaw occurred, the first that had
taken place since the commencement of winter; but this was speedily
succeeded by hard frost, which continued till the second week in May,
when thaw set in so steadily that in a few days the appearance of the
country entirely changed.

On the 12th of May, Hayes River, which had been covered for nearly eight
months with a coat of ice upwards of six feet thick, gave way before the
floods occasioned by the melting snow; and all the inmates of the fort
rushed out to the banks upon hearing the news that the river was going.
On reaching the gate, the sublimity of the spectacle that met our gaze
can scarcely be imagined.  The noble river, here nearly two miles broad,
was entirely covered with huge blocks and jagged lumps of ice, rolling
and dashing against each other in chaotic confusion, as the swelling
floods heaved them up and swept them with irresistible force towards
Hudson Bay.  In one place, where the masses were too closely packed to
admit of violent collision, they ground against each other with a slow
but powerful motion that curled their hard edges up like paper, till the
smaller lumps, unable to bear the pressure, were ground to powder, and
with a loud crash the rest hurried on to renew the struggle elsewhere,
while the ice above, whirling swiftly round in the clear space thus
formed, as if delighted at its sudden release, hurried onwards.  In
another place, where it was not so closely packed, a huge lump suddenly
grounded on a shallow; and in a moment the rolling masses, which were
hurrying towards the sea with the velocity of a cataract, were
precipitated against it with a noise like thunder, and the tremendous
pressure from above forcing block upon block with a loud hissing noise,
raised, as if by magic, an icy castle in the air, which, ere its
pinnacles had pointed for a second to the sky, fell with stunning
violence into the boiling flood from whence it rose.  In a short time
afterwards the mouth of the river became so full of ice that it stuck
there, and in less than an hour the water rose ten or fifteen feet,
nearly to a level with the top of the bank.  In this state it continued
for a week; and then, about the end of May, the whole floated quietly
out to sea, and the cheerful river gurgled along its bed with many a
curling eddy and watery dimple rippling its placid face, as if it smiled
to think of having overcome its powerful enemy, and at length burst its
prison walls.

Although the river was free, many a sign of winter yet remained around
our forest home.  The islands in the middle of the stream were covered
with masses of ice, many of which were piled up to a height of twenty or
thirty feet.  All along the banks, too, it was strewn thickly; while in
the woods snow still lay in many places several feet deep.  In time,
however, these last evidences of the mighty power of winter gave way
before the warm embraces of spring.  Bushes and trees began to bud,
gushing rills to flow, frogs to whistle in the swamp, and ducks to sport
upon the river, while the hoarse cry of the wild-goose, the whistling
wings of teal, and all the other sounds and cries of the long-absent
inhabitants of the marshes, gave life and animation to the scene.

Often has nature been described as falling asleep in the arms of winter,
and awaking at the touch of spring; but nowhere is this simile so
strikingly illustrated as in these hyperborean climes, where, for eight
long, silent months, nature falls into a slumber so deep and unbroken
that death seems a fitter simile than sleep, and then bursts into a life
so bright, so joyous, so teeming with animal and vegetable vitality,
and, especially when contrasted with her previous torpidity, so noisy,
that awakening from sleep gives no adequate idea of the change.

Now was the time that our guns were cleaned with peculiar care, and
regarded with a sort of brotherly affection.  Not that we despised the
sports of winter, but we infinitely preferred those of spring.

Young Crusty and I were inseparable companions; we had slept in the same
room, hunted over the same ground, and scribbled at the same desk during
the whole winter, and now we purchased a small hunting canoe from an
Indian, for the purpose of roaming about together in spring.  Our
excursions were always amusing; and, as a description of one of them may
perhaps prove interesting to the reader, I shall narrate:--


It is needless to say that the day we chose was fine; that the sun shone
brightly; that the curling eddies of the river smiled sweetly; that the
jagged pinnacles of the blocks of ice along shore which had not yet
melted sparkled brilliantly; that the fresh green foliage of the trees
contrasted oddly with these white masses; that Crusty and I shouldered
our canoe between us, after having placed our guns, etcetera, in it, and
walked lightly down to the river bank under our burden.  It is needless,
I say, to describe all this minutely, as it would be unnecessary waste
of pen, ink, and paper.  It is sufficient to say that we were soon out
in the middle of the stream, floating gently down the current towards
the Point of Marsh, which was to be the scene of our exploits.

The day was indeed beautiful, and so very calm and still that the glassy
water reflected every little cloud in the sky; and on the seaward
horizon everything was quivering and magically turned upside down--
islands, trees, icebergs, and all!  A solitary gull, which stood not far
off upon a stone, looked so preposterously huge from the same
atmospherical cause, that I would have laughed immoderately, had I had
energy to do so; but I was too much wrapped in placid enjoyment of the
scene to give way to boisterous mirth.  The air was so calm that the
plaintive cries of thousands of wildfowl which covered the Point of
Marsh struck faintly on our ears.  "Ah!" thought I--But I need not say
what I thought.  I grasped my powder-flask and shook it; it was full--
crammed full!  I felt my shot-belt; it was fat, very fat, bursting with
shot!  Our two guns lay side by side, vying in brightness; their flints
quite new and sharp, and standing up in a lively wide-awake sort of way,
as much as to say, "If you do not let me go, I'll go bang off by
myself!"  Happiness is sometimes too strong to be enjoyed quietly; and
Crusty and I, feeling that we could keep it down no longer, burst
simultaneously into a yell that rent the air, and, seizing the paddles,
made our light canoe spring over the water, while we vented our feelings
in a lively song, which reaching the astonished ears of the
afore-mentioned preposterously large gull, caused its precipitate

In half an hour we reached the point; dragged the canoe above high-water
mark; shouldered our guns, and, with long strides, proceeded over the
swamp in search of game.

We had little doubt of having good sport, for the whole point away to
the horizon was teeming with ducks and plover.  We had scarcely gone a
hundred yards ere a large widgeon rose from behind a bush, and Crusty,
who was in advance, brought it down.  As we plodded on, the faint cry of
a wild-goose caused us to squat down suddenly behind a neighbouring
bush, from which retreat we gazed round to see where our friends were.
Another cry from behind attracted our attention; and far away on the
horizon we saw a large flock of geese flying in a mathematically correct
triangle.  Now, although far out of shot, and almost out of sight, we
did not despair of getting one of these birds; for, by imitating their
cry, there was a possibility of attracting them towards us.  Geese often
answer to a call in this way, if well imitated; particularly in spring,
as they imagine that their friends have found a good feeding-place, and
wish them to alight.  Knowing this, Crusty and I continued in our
squatting position--utterly unmindful, in the excitement of the moment,
of the fact that the water of the swamp lay in the same proximity to our
persons as a chair does when we sit down on it--and commenced to yell
and scream vociferously in imitation of geese; for which, doubtless,
many people unacquainted with our purpose would have taken us.  At first
our call seemed to make no impression on them; but gradually they bent
into a curve, and, sweeping round in a long circle, came nearer to us,
while we continued to shout at the top of our voices.  How they ever
mistook our bad imitation of the cry for the voices of real geese, I
cannot tell--probably they thought we had colds or sore throats; at any
rate they came nearer and nearer, screaming to us in return, till at
last they ceased to flap their wings, and sailed slowly over the bush
behind which we were ensconced, with their long necks stretched straight
out, and their heads a little to one side, looking down for their
friends.  Upon discovering their mistake, and beholding two human beings
instead of geese within a few yards of them, the sensation created among
them was tremendous, and the racket they kicked up in trying to fly from
us was terrific; but it was too late.  The moment we saw that they had
discovered us, our guns poured forth their contents, and two out of the
flock fell with a lumbering smash upon the ground, while a third went
off wounded, and, after wavering in its flight for a little, sank slowly
to the ground.

Having bagged our game, we proceeded, and ere long filled our bags with
ducks, geese, and plover.  Towards the afternoon we arrived at a tent
belonging to an old Indian called Morris.  With this dingy gentleman we
agreed to dine, and accordingly bent our steps towards his habitation.
Here we found the old Indian and his wife squatting down on the floor
and wreathed in smoke, partly from the wood-fire which burned in the
middle of the tent, and partly from the tobacco-pipes stuck in their
respective mouths.  Old Morris was engaged in preparing a kettle of
pea-soup, in which were boiled several plover and a large white owl;
which latter, when lifted out of the pot, looked so very like a skinned
baby that we could scarcely believe they were not guilty of cannibalism.
His wife was engaged in ornamenting a pair of moccasins with dyed
quills.  On our entrance, the old man removed his pipe, and cast an
inquiring glance into the soup-kettle; this apparently gave him immense
satisfaction, as he turned to us with a smiling countenance, and
remarked (for he could speak capital English, having spent the most of
his life near York Factory) that "duck plenty, but he too hold to shoot
much; obliged to heat howl."  This we agreed was uncommonly hard, and
after presenting him with several ducks and a goose, proposed an
inspection of the contents of the kettle, which being agreed to, we
demolished nearly half of the soup, and left him and his wife to "heat"
the "howl."

After resting an hour with this hospitable fellow, we departed, to
prepare our encampment ere it became dark, as we intended passing the
night in the swamps, under our canoe.  Near the tent we passed a
fox-trap set on the top of a pole, and, on inquiring, found that this
was the machine in which old Morris caught his "_h_owls."  The white owl
is a very large and beautiful bird, sometimes nearly as large as a swan.
I shot one which measured five feet three inches across the wings, when
expanded.  They are in the habit of alighting upon the tops of blighted
trees, and poles of any kind, which happen to stand conspicuously apart
from the forest trees--for the purpose, probably, of watching for mice
and little birds, on which they prey.  Taking advantage of this habit,
the Indian plants his trap on the top of a bare tree, so that when the
owl alights it is generally caught by the legs.

Our walk back to the place where we had left the canoe was very
exhausting, as we had nearly tired ourselves out before thinking of
returning.  This is very often the case with eager sportsmen, as they
follow the game till quite exhausted, and only then it strikes them that
they have got as long a walk back as they had in going out.  I recollect
this happening once to myself.  I had walked so far away into the forest
after wild-fowl, that I forgot time and distance in the ardour of the
pursuit, and only thought of returning when quite knocked up.  The walk
back was truly wretched.  I was obliged to rest every ten minutes, as,
besides being tired, I became faint from hunger.  On the way I stumbled
on the nest of a plover, with one egg in it.  This was a great
acquisition; so seating myself on a stone, I made my dinner of it raw.
Being very small, it did not do me much good, but it inspired me with
courage; and, making a last effort, I reached the encampment in a very
unenviable state of exhaustion.

After an hour's walk, Crusty and I arrived at the place where we left
the canoe.

Our first care was to select a dry spot whereon to sleep, which was not
an easy matter in such a swampy place.  We found one at last, however,
under the shelter of a small willow bush.  Thither we dragged the canoe,
and turned it bottom up, intending to creep in below it when we retired
to rest.  After a long search on the sea-shore, we found a sufficiency
of driftwood to make a fire, which we carried up to the encampment, and
placed in a heap in front of the canoe.  This was soon kindled by means
of a flint and steel, and the forked flames began in a few minutes to
rise and leap around the branches, throwing the swampy point into deeper
shadow, making the sea look cold and black, and the ice upon its surface
ghost-like.  The interior of our inverted canoe looked really quite
cheerful and snug, under the influence of the fire's rosy light.  And
when we had spread our blankets under it, plucked and cleaned two of the
fattest ducks, and stuck them on sticks before the blaze to roast, we
agreed that there were worse things in nature than an encampment in the

Ere long the night became pitchy dark; but although we could see
nothing, yet ever and anon the whistling wings of ducks became audible,
as they passed in flocks overhead.  So often did they pass in this way,
that at last I was tempted to try to get a shot at them, notwithstanding
the apparent hopelessness of such an attempt.  Seizing my gun, and
leaving strict injunctions with Crusty to attend to the roasting of my
widgeon, I sallied forth, and, after getting beyond the light of the
fire, endeavoured to peer through the gloom.  Nothing was to be seen,
however.  Flocks of ducks were passing quite near, for I heard their
wings whizzing as they flew, but they were quite invisible; so at last,
becoming tired of standing up to my knees in water, I pointed my gun at
random at the next flock that passed, and fired.  After the shot, I
listened intently for a few seconds, and the next moment a splash in the
water apprised me that the shot had taken effect.  After a long search I
found the bird, and returned to my friend Crusty, whom I threw into a
state of consternation by pitching the dead duck into his lap as he sat
winking and rubbing his hands before the warm blaze.

Supper in these out-of-the-way regions is never long in the eating, and
on the present occasion we finished it very quickly, being both hungry
and fatigued.  That over, we heaped fresh logs upon the fire, wrapped
our green blankets round us, and nestling close together, as much
underneath our canoe as possible, courted the drowsy god.  In this
courtship I was unsuccessful for some time, and lay gazing on the
flickering flames of the watch-fire, which illuminated the grass of the
marsh a little distance round, and listening, in a sort of dreamy
felicity, to the occasional cry of a wakeful plover, or starting
suddenly at the flapping wings of a huge owl, which, attracted by the
light of our fire, wheeled slowly round, gazing on us in a kind of
solemn astonishment, till, scared by the sounds that proceeded from
Crusty's nasal organ, it flew with a scream into the dark night air; and
again all was silent save the protracted, solemn, sweeping boom of the
distant waves, as they rolled at long intervals upon the sea-shore.
During the night we were awakened by a shower of rain falling upon our
feet and as much of our legs as the canoe was incapable of protecting.
Pulling them up more under shelter, at the expense of exposing our knees
and elbows--for the canoe could not completely cover us--we each gave a
mournful grunt, and dropped off again.

Morning broke with unclouded splendour, and we rose from our grassy
couch with alacrity to resume our sport; but I will not again drag my
patient reader through the Point of Marsh.

In the afternoon, having spent our ammunition, we launched our light
canoe, and after an hour's paddle up the river, arrived, laden with game
and splashed with mud, at York Factory.


Note 1.  Quicksilver easily freezes; and it has frequently been run into
a bullet mould, exposed to the cold air till frozen, and in this state
rammed down a gun barrel, and fired through a thick plank.


Note 2.  The thousands of frogs that fill the swamps of America whistle
or chirp so exactly like little birds, that many people, upon hearing
them for the first time, have mistaken them for the feathered songsters
of the groves.  Their only fault is that they scarcely ever cease


Note 3.  The traveller sits, or rather lies in it, wrapped in buffalo
robes; while the dogs are urged forward by a man who walks behind, and
prevents the machine from upsetting, which it is very liable to do, from
the inequalities of the ground over which it sometimes passes.



On the afternoon of the 20th of June 1845, I sat in my room at York
Fort, musing on the probability of my being dispatched to some other
part of the Company's wide dominions.

The season approached when changes from one part of the country to
another might be expected, and boats began to arrive from the interior.
Two years of fun and frolic had I spent on the coast, and I was
beginning to wish to be sent once more upon my travels, particularly as
the busy season was about to commence, and the hot weather to set in.

As I sat cogitating, my brother scribblers called me to join them in a
short promenade upon the wharf, preparatory to resuming our pens.  Just
as we reached it, a small Indian canoe from the interior swept round the
point above the factory, and came rapidly forward, the sparkling water
foaming past her sharp bow as she made towards the landing.

At almost any time an arrival causes a great deal of interest in this
out-of-the-way place; but an arrival of this sort--for the canoe was
evidently an _express_--threw us into a fever of excitement, which was
greatly increased when we found that it contained dispatches from
headquarters; and many speculative remarks passed among us as we hurried
up to our hall, there to wait in anxious expectation for a letter or an
order to appear _instanter_ before Mr Grave.  Our patience was severely
tried, however, and we began to think there was no news at all, when
Gibeault, the butler, turned the corner, and came towards our door.  We
immediately rushed towards it in breathless expectation, and a row of
eager faces appeared as he walked slowly up and said, "Mr Grave wishes
to see Mr Ballantyne immediately."  On hearing this I assumed an
appearance of calm indifference I was far from feeling, put on my cap,
and obeyed the order.

Upon entering Mr Grave's presence, he received me with a benign,
patronising air, and requested me to be seated.  He then went on to
inform me that letters had just arrived, requesting that I might be sent
off immediately to Norway House, where I should be enlightened as to my
ultimate destination.  This piece of news I received with mingled
surprise and delight, at the same time exclaiming "Indeed!" with
peculiar emphasis; and then, becoming suddenly aware of the impropriety
of the expression, I endeavoured to follow it up with a look of sorrow
at the prospect of leaving my friends, combined with resignation to the
will of the Honourable Hudson Bay Company, in which attempt I failed
most signally.  After receiving orders to prepare for an immediate
start, I rushed out in a state of high excitement, to acquaint my
comrades with my good fortune.  On entering the hall, I found them as
anxious to know where I was destined to vegetate next winter, as they
before had been to learn who was going off.  Having satisfied them on
this point, or rather told them as much as I knew myself regarding it, I
proceeded to pack up.

It happened just at this time that a brigade of inland boats was on the
eve of starting for the distant regions of the interior; and as the
little canoe, destined to carry myself, was much too small to take such
an unwieldy article as my "cassette," I gladly availed myself of the
opportunity to forward it by the boats, as they would have to pass
Norway House _en route_.  It would be endless to detail how I spent the
next three days: how I never appeared in public without walking very
fast, as if pressed with a superhuman amount of business; how I rummaged
about here and there, seeing that everything was prepared; looking
vastly important, and thinking I was immensely busy, when in reality I
was doing next to nothing.  I shall, therefore, without further preface,
proceed to describe my travelling equipments.

The canoe in which I and two Indians were to travel from York Factory to
Norway House, a distance of nearly three hundred miles, measured between
five and six yards long, by two feet and a half broad in the middle,
tapering from thence to _nothing_ at each end.  It was made of birch
bark, and could with great ease be carried by one man.  In this we were
to embark, with ten days' provisions for three men, three blankets,
three small bundles, and a little travelling-case belonging to myself;
besides three paddles wherewith to propel us forward, a tin kettle for
cooking, and an iron one for boiling water.  Our craft being too small
to permit my taking the usual allowance of what are called luxuries, I
determined to take pot-luck with my men, so that our existence for the
next eight or ten days was to depend upon the nutritive properties
contained in a few pounds of pemmican, a little biscuit, one pound of
butter, and a very small quantity of tea and sugar.  With all this, in
addition to ourselves, we calculated upon being pretty deeply laden.

My men were of the tribe called Swampy Crees--and truly, to judge merely
from appearance, they would have been the very last I should have picked
out to travel with; for one was old, apparently upwards of fifty, and
the other, though young, was a cripple.  Nevertheless, they were good,
hard-working men, as I afterwards experienced.  I did not take a tent
with me, our craft requiring to be as light as possible, but I rolled up
a mosquito-net in my blanket, that being a light affair of gauze,
capable of compression into very small compass.  Such were our
equipments; and on the 23rd of June we started for the interior.

A melancholy feeling came over me as I turned and looked for the last
time upon York Factory, where I had spent so many happy days with the
young men who now stood waving their handkerchiefs from the wharf.  Mr
Grave, too, stood among them, and as I looked on his benevolent, manly
countenance, I felt that I should ever remember with gratitude his
kindness to me while we resided together on the shores of Hudson Bay.  A
few minutes more, and the fort was hid from my sight for ever.

My disposition is not a sorrowful one; I never did and never could
remain long in a melancholy mood, which will account for the state of
feeling I enjoyed half an hour after losing sight of my late home.  The
day was fine, and I began to anticipate a pleasant journey, and to
speculate as to what part of the country I might be sent to.  The whole
wide continent of North America was now open to the excursive flights of
my imagination, as there was a possibility of my being sent to any one
of the numerous stations in the extensive territories of the Hudson Bay
Company.  Sometimes I fancied myself ranging through the wild district
of Mackenzie River, admiring the scenery described by Franklin and Back
in their travels of discovery; and anon, as the tales of my companions
occurred to me, I was bounding over the prairies of the Saskatchewan in
chase of the buffalo, or descending the rapid waters of the Columbia to
the Pacific Ocean.  Again my fancy wandered, and I imagined myself
hunting the grizzly bear in the woods of Athabasca--when a heavy lurch
of the canoe awakened me to the fact that I was only ascending the
sluggish waters of Hayes River.

The banks of the river were covered with huge blocks of ice, and
scarcely a leaf had as yet made its appearance.  Not a bird was to be
seen, except a few crows and whisky-jacks, which chattered among the
branches of the trees; and Nature appeared as if undecided whether or
not she should take another nap, ere she bedecked herself in the
garments of spring.  My Indians paddled slowly against the stream, and I
lay back, with a leg cocked over each gunwale, watching the sombre pines
as they dropped slowly astern.  On our way we passed two landslips which
encroached a good deal on the river, each forming a small rapid round
its base.  The trees with which they had formerly been clothed were now
scattered about in chaotic confusion, leafless, and covered with mud;
some more than half buried, and others standing with their roots in the
air.  There is a tradition among the natives that a whole camp of
Indians was overwhelmed in the falling of these slips.

A good deal of danger is incurred in passing up these rivers, owing to
the number of small landslips which occur annually.  The banks, being
principally composed of sandy clay, are loosened, and rendered almost
fluid in many places, upon the melting of the snow in spring; and the
ice, during the general disruption, tears away large masses of the lower
part of the banks, which renders the superincumbent clay liable to slip,
upon the first heavy shower of rain, with considerable force into the

About sixteen miles from York Factory we ran against a stone, and tore a
small hole in the bottom of our canoe.  This obliged us to put ashore
immediately, when I had an opportunity of watching the swiftness and
dexterity of the Indians in repairing the damage.  A small hole, about
three inches long and one inch wide, had been torn in the bottom of the
canoe, through which the water squirted with considerable rapidity.
Into this hole they fitted a piece of bark, sewed it with wattape (the
fibrous roots of the pine-tree), made a small fire, melted gum, and
plastered the place so as to be effectually water-tight, all in about
the space of an hour.

During the day we passed a brigade of boats bound for the factory; but
being too far off, and in a rapid part of the river we did not hail
them.  About nine o'clock we put ashore for the night, having travelled
nearly twenty miles.  The weather was pleasantly cool, so that we were
free from mosquitoes.  The spot we chose for our encampment was on the
edge of a high bank, being the only place within three miles where we
could carry up our provisions; and even here the ascent was bad enough.
But after we were up, the top proved a good spot, covered with soft
moss, and well sheltered by trees and bushes.  A brook of fresh water
rippled at the foot of the bank, and a few decayed trees afforded us
excellent firewood.  Here, then, in the bosom of the wilderness, with
the silvery light of the moon for our lamp, and serenaded by a solitary
owl, we made our first bivouac.  Supper was neatly laid out on an
oil-cloth, spread before a blazing fire.  A huge junk of pemmican graced
the centre of our rustic table, flanked by a small pile of ship's
biscuit on one side, and a lump of salt butter on the other; while a
large iron kettle filled with hot water, slightly flavoured with
tea-leaves, brought up the rear.  Two tin pots and a tumbler performed
outpost duty, and were soon smoking full of warm tea.  We made an
excellent supper, after which the Indians proceeded to solace themselves
with a whiff, while I lay on my blanket enjoying the warmth of the fire,
and admiring the apparently extreme felicity of the men, as they sat,
with half-closed eyes, watching the smoke curling in snowy wreaths from
their pipes, and varying their employment now and then with a pull at
the tin pots, which seemed to afford them extreme satisfaction.  In this
manner we lay till the moon waned; and the owl having finished his
overture, we rolled ourselves in our blankets, and watched the twinkling
star, till sleep closed our eyelids.

Next morning, between two and three o'clock, we began to stretch our
limbs, and after a few ill-humoured grunts prepared for a start.  The
morning was foggy when we embarked and once more began to ascend the
stream.  Everything was obscure and indistinct till about six o'clock,
when the powerful rays of the rising sun dispelled the mist, and Nature
was herself again.  A good deal of ice still lined the shores; but what
astonished me most was the advanced state of vegetation apparent as we
proceeded inland.  When we left York Factory, not a leaf had been
visible; but here, though only thirty miles inland, the trees, and more
particularly the bushes, were well covered with beautiful light green
foliage, which appeared to me quite delightful after the patches of snow
and leafless willows on the shores of Hudson Bay.

At eight o'clock we put ashore for breakfast--which was just a
repetition of the supper of the preceding night, with this exception,
that we discussed it a little more hurriedly--and then proceeded on our

Shortly afterwards we met a small canoe, about the size of our own,
which contained a postmaster and two Indians, on their way to York
Factory with a few packs of otters.  After five minutes' conversation we
parted, and were soon out of sight of each other.  The day, which had
hitherto been agreeable, now became oppressively sultry: not a breath of
wind ruffled the water; and as the sun shone down with intense heat from
a perfectly cloudless sky, it became almost insufferable.  I tried all
methods to cool myself, by lying in every position I could think of,
sometimes even hanging both legs and arms over the sides of the canoe
and trailing them through the water.  I had a racking headache, and, to
add to my misery, as the sun sank the mosquitoes rose and bit
ferociously.  The Indians, however, did not appear to suffer much, being
accustomed, no doubt, to these little annoyances, much in the same way
as eels are to being skinned.

In the afternoon we arrived at the forks of Hayes and Steel Rivers, and
ascended the latter, till the increasing darkness and our quickening
appetites reminded us that it was time to put ashore.  We made a hearty
supper, having eaten nothing since breakfast; dinner, while travelling
in a light canoe, being considered quite superfluous.

Our persevering foes, the mosquitoes, now thought it high time to make
their supper also, and attacked us in myriads whenever we dared to
venture near the woods; so we were fain to sleep as best we could on the
open beach, without any fire--being much too warm for that.  But even
there they found us out, and most effectually prevented us from

On the morning of the 25th, we arose very little refreshed by our short
nap, and continued our journey.  The weather was still warm, but a
little more bearable, owing to a light, grateful breeze that came down
the river.  After breakfast--which we took at the usual hour, and in the
usual way--while proceeding slowly up the current, we descried, on
rounding a point, a brigade of boats close to the bank, on the opposite
side of the river; so we embarked our man, who was tracking us up with a
line (the current being too rapid for the continued use of the paddle),
and crossed over to see who they were.  On landing, we found it was the
Norway House brigade, in charge of George Kippling, a Red River settler.
He shook hands with us, and then commenced an animated discourse with
my two men in the Indian language, which being perfectly unintelligible
to me, I amused myself by watching the operations of the men, who were
in the act of cooking breakfast.

Nothing can be more picturesque than a band of _voyageurs_ breakfasting
on the banks of a pretty river.  The spot they had chosen was a little
above the Burntwood Creek, on a projecting grassy point, pretty clear of
underwood.  Each boat's crew--of which there were three--had a fire to
itself, and over these fires were placed gipsy-like tripods, from which
huge tin kettles depended; and above them hovered three volunteer cooks,
who were employed stirring their contents with persevering industry.
The curling wreaths of smoke formed a black cloud among the numerous
fleecy ones in the blue sky, while all around, in every imaginable
attitude, sat, stood, and reclined the sunburnt, savage-looking
half-breeds, chatting, laughing, and smoking in perfect happiness.  They
were all dressed alike, in light cloth capotes with hoods, corduroy
trousers, striped shirts open in front, with cotton kerchiefs tied
sailor-fashion loosely round their swarthy necks.  A scarlet worsted
belt strapped each man's coat tightly to his body, and Indian moccasins
defended their feet.  Their head-dresses were as various as fanciful--
some wore caps of coarse cloth; others coloured handkerchiefs, twisted
turban-fashion round their heads; and one or two, who might be looked
upon as voyageur-fops, sported tall black hats, covered so plenteously
with bullion tassels and feathers as to be scarcely recognisable.

The breakfast consisted solely of pemmican and flour, boiled into the
sort of thick soup dignified by the name of _robbiboo_.  As might be
expected, it is not a very delicate dish, but is, nevertheless,
exceedingly nutritious; and those who have lived long in the country,
particularly the Canadians, are very fond of it.  I think, however, that
another of their dishes, composed of the same materials, but fried
instead of boiled, is much superior to it.  They call it _richeau_; it
is uncommonly rich, and very little will suffice for an ordinary man.

After staying about a quarter of an hour, chatting with Kippling about
the good folk of Red River and Norway House, we took our departure, just
as they commenced the first vigorous attack upon the capacious kettles
of robbiboo.

Shortly after, we arrived at the mouth of Hill River, which we began to
ascend.  The face of the country was now greatly changed, and it was
evident that here spring had long ago dethroned winter.  The banks of
the river were covered from top to bottom with the most luxuriant
foliage, while dark clumps of spruce-fir varied and improved the
landscape.  In many places the banks, which appeared to be upwards of a
hundred feet high, ran almost perpendicularly down to the water's edge,
perfectly devoid of vegetation, except at the top, where large trees
overhung the precipice, some clinging by their roots and ready to fall.
In other places the bank sloped from nearly the same height, gradually,
and with slight undulations, down to the stream, thickly covered with
vegetation, and teeming with little birds, whose merry voices, warbling
a cheerful welcome to the opening buds, greatly enhanced the pleasures
of the scene.

We soon began to experience great difficulty in tracking the canoe
against the rapid stream that now opposed us.  From the steepness of the
banks in some places, and their being clothed with thick willows in
others, it became a slow and fatiguing process for the men to drag us
against the strong current; and sometimes the poor Indians had to cling
like flies against nearly perpendicular cliffs of slippery clay, whilst
at others they tore their way through almost impervious bushes.  They
relieved each other by turns every hour at this work, the one steering
the canoe while the other tracked; and they took no rest during the
whole day, except when at breakfast.  Indeed, any proposal to do so
would have been received by them with great contempt, as a very improper
and useless waste of time.

When the track happened to be at all passable, I used to get out and
walk, to relieve them a little, as well as to stretch my cramped limbs,
it being almost impossible, when there is any luggage in a small Indian
canoe, to attain a comfortable position.

At sunset we put ashore for the night, on a point covered with a great
number of _lopsticks_.  These are tall pine-trees, denuded of their
lower branches, a small tuft being left at the top.  They are generally
made to serve as landmarks; and sometimes the _voyageurs_ make them in
honour of gentlemen who happen to be travelling for the first time along
the route--and those trees are chosen which, from their being on
elevated ground, are conspicuous objects.  The traveller for whom they
are made is always expected to acknowledge his sense of the honour
conferred upon him by presenting the boat's crew with a pint of grog,
either on the spot or at the first establishment they meet with.  He is
then considered as having paid for his footing, and may ever afterwards
pass scot-free.

We soon had our encampment prepared, and the fire blazing: but hundreds
of mosquitoes were, as usual, awaiting our arrival, and we found it
utterly impossible to sup, so fiercely did they attack us.  We at last
went to leeward of the fire, and devoured it hastily in the smoke--
preferring to risk being suffocated or smoke-dried to being eaten up
alive!  It was certainly amusing to see us rushing into the thick smoke,
bolt a few mouthfuls of pemmican, and then rush out again for fresh air;
our hands swinging like the sails of a windmill round our heads, while
every now and then, as a mosquito fastened on a tender part, we gave
ourselves a resounding slap on the side of the head, which, had it come
from the hand of another, would certainly have raised in us a most
pugnacious spirit of resentment.  In this manner we continued rushing
out of and into the smoke till supper was finished, and then prepared
for sleep.  This time, however, I was determined not to be tormented; so
I cut four stakes, drove them into the ground, and threw over them my
gauze mosquito-net, previously making a small fire, with wet grass on
it, to raise a smoke and prevent intruders from entering while I was in
the act of putting it on; then, cautiously raising one end, I bolted in
after the most approved harlequinian style, leaving my discomfited
tormentors wondering at the audacity of a man who could snore in a state
of unconcerned felicity in the very midst of the enemy's camp.

On the following morning we started at an early hour.  The day was
delightfully cool, and mosquitoes were scarce, so that we felt
considerably comfortable as we glided quietly up the current.  In this
way we proceeded till after breakfast, when we came in sight of the
first portage, on which we landed.  In a surprisingly short time our
luggage, etcetera, was pitched ashore, and the canoe carried over by the
Indians, while I followed with some of the baggage; and in half an hour
we were ready to start from the upper end of the portage.  While
carrying across the last few articles, one of the Indians killed two
fish called suckers, which they boiled on the spot and devoured

Towards sunset we paddled quietly up to the "White Mud Portage," where
there is a fall, of about seven or eight feet, of extreme rapidity,
shooting over the edge in an arch of solid water, which falls hissing
and curling into the stream below.  Here we intended to encamp.  As we
approached the cataract, a boat suddenly appeared on the top of it, and
shot with the speed of lightning into the boiling water beneath, its
reckless crew shouting, pulling, laughing, and hallooing, as it swept
round a small point at the foot of the fall and ran aground in a bay or
hollow, where the eddying water, still covered with patches of foam
after its mighty leap, floated quietly round the shore.  They had
scarcely landed when another boat appeared on the brink, and, hovering
for an instant, as if to prepare itself for the leap, flashed through
the water, and the next moment was aground beside the first.  In this
manner seven boats successively ran the fall, and grounded in the bay.

Upon our arriving, we found them to be a part of the Saskatchewan
brigade, on its way to the common point of rendezvous, York Factory.  It
was in charge of two friends of mine; so I accosted them, without
introducing myself, and chatted for some time about the occurrences of
the voyage.  They appeared a little disconcerted, however, and looked
very earnestly at me two or three times.  At last they confessed they
had forgotten me altogether!  And, indeed, it was no wonder, for the sun
had burned me nearly as black as my Indian friends, while my dress
consisted of a blue capote, sadly singed by the fire; a straw hat, whose
shape, from exposure and bad usage, was utterly indescribable; a pair of
corduroys, and Indian moccasins; which so metamorphosed me, that my
friends, who perfectly recollected me the moment I mentioned my name,
might have remained in ignorance to this day had I not enlightened them
on the subject.

After supper one of these gentlemen offered me a share of his tent, and
we turned in together, but not to sleep; for we continued gossiping till
long after the noisy voices of the men had ceased to disturb the
tranquillity of night.

At the first peep of day our ears were saluted with the usual unpleasant
sound of "_Leve! leve! leve_!" issuing from the leathern throat of the
guide.  Now this same "_Leve_!" is in my ears a peculiarly harsh and
disagreeable word, being associated with frosty mornings, uncomfortable
beds, and getting up in the dark before half enough of sleep has been
obtained.  The way in which it is uttered, too, is particularly
exasperating; and often, when partially awakened by a stump boring a
hole in my side, have I listened with dread to hear the detested sound,
and then, fancying it must surely be too early to rise, have fallen
gently over on the other side, when a low muffled sound, as if some one
were throwing off his blanket, would strike upon my ear, then a cough or
grunt, and finally, as if from the bowels of the earth, a low and
scarcely audible "_Leve! leve_!" would break the universal stillness--
growing rapidly louder, "_Leve! leve! leve_!" and louder, "_Leve!
leve_!" till at last a final stentorian "_Leve! leve! leve_!" brought
the hateful sound to a close, and was succeeded by a confused collection
of grunts, groans, coughs, grumbles, and sneezes from the unfortunate
sleepers thus rudely roused from their slumbers.  The disinclination to
rise, however, was soon overcome; and up we got, merry as larks, the men
loading their boats, while I and my Indians carried our luggage,
etcetera, over the portage.

Our troubles now commenced: the longest and most difficult part of the
route lay before us, and we prepared for a day of toil.  Far as the eye
could reach, the river was white with boiling rapids and foaming
cascades, which, though small, were much too large to ascend, and
consequently we were obliged to make portages at almost every two or
three hundred yards.  Rapid after rapid was surmounted; yet still, as we
rounded every point and curve, rapids and falls rose, in apparently
endless succession, before our wearied eyes.  My Indians, however, knew
exactly the number they had to ascend, so they set themselves manfully
to the task.  I could not help admiring the dexterous way in which they
guided the canoe among the rapids.  Upon arriving at one, the old
Indian, who always sat in the bow (this being the principal seat in
canoe travelling), rose up on his knees and stretched out his neck to
take a look before commencing the attempt; and then, sinking down again,
seized his paddle, and pointing significantly to the chaos of boiling
waters that rushed swiftly past us (thus indicating the route he
intended to pursue to his partner in the stern), dashed into the stream.
At first we were borne down with the speed of lightning, while the
water hissed and boiled to within an inch of the gunwale, and a person
unaccustomed to such navigation would have thought it folly our
attempting to ascend; but a second glance would prove that our Indians
had not acted rashly.  In the centre of the impetuous current a large
rock rose above the surface, and from its lower end a long eddy ran like
the tail of a comet for about twenty yards down the river.  It was just
opposite this rock that we entered the rapid, and paddled for it with
all our might.  The current, however, as I said before, swept us down;
and when we got to the middle of the stream, we just reached the extreme
point of the eddy, and after a few vigorous strokes of the paddles were
floating quietly in the lee of the rock.  We did not stay long,
however--just long enough to look for another stone; and the old Indian
soon pitched upon one a few yards higher up, but a good deal to one
side; so, dipping our paddles once more, we pushed out into the stream
again, and soon reached the second rock.  In this way, yard by yard, did
we ascend for miles, sometimes scarcely gaining a foot in a minute, and
at others, as a favouring bay or curve presented a long piece of smooth
water, advancing more rapidly.  In fact, our progress could not be
likened to anything more aptly than to the ascent of a salmon as he
darts rapidly from eddy to eddy, taking advantage of every stone and
hollow that he finds: and the simile may be still further carried out;
for, as the salmon is sometimes driven back _tail_ foremost in
attempting to leap a fall, so were we, in a similar attempt, driven back
by the overpowering force of the water.

It happened thus: We had surmounted a good many rapids, and made a few
portages, when we arrived at a perpendicular fall of about two feet in
height, but from the rapidity of the current it formed only a very steep
shoot.  Here the Indians paused to breathe, and seemed to doubt the
possibility of ascent; however, after a little conversation on the
subject, they determined to try it, and got out their poles for the
purpose (poles being always used when the current is too strong for the
paddles).  We now made a dash, and turning the bow to the current, the
Indians fixed their poles firmly in the ground, while the water rushed
like a mill-race past us.  They then pushed forward, one keeping his
pole fixed, while the other refixed his a little more ahead.  In this
way we advanced inch by inch, and had almost got up--the water rushing
past us in a thick, black body, hissing sharply in passing the side of
our canoe, which trembled like a reed before the powerful current--when
suddenly the pole of the Indian in the stern slipped; and almost before
I knew what had happened, we were floating down the stream about a
hundred yards below the fall.  Fortunately the canoe went stern
foremost, so that we got down in safety.  Had it turned round even a
little in its descent, it would have been rolled over and over like a
cask.  Our second attempt proved more successful; and after a good deal
of straining and puffing we arrived at the top, where the sight of a
longer stretch than usual of calm and placid water rewarded us for our
exertions during the day.

In passing over a portage we met the English River brigade; and after a
little conversation, we parted.  The evening was deliciously cool and
serene as we glided quietly up the now tranquil river.  Numbers of
little islets, covered to the very edge of the rippling water with
luxuriant vegetation, rose like emeralds from the bosom of the broad
river, shining brightly in the rays of the setting sun; sometimes so
closely scattered as to veil the real size of the river, which, upon our
again emerging from among them, burst upon our delighted vision a broad
sheet of clear pellucid water, with beautiful fresh banks covered with
foliage of every shade, from the dark and sombre pine to the light
drooping willow; while near the shore a matronly-looking duck swam
solemnly along, casting now and then a look of warning to a numerous
family of little yellow ducklings that frisked and gambolled in very
wantonness, as if they too enjoyed and appreciated the beauties of the
scene.  Through this terrestrial paradise we wended our way, till rapids
again began to disturb the water, and a portage at last brought us to a
stand.  Here we found McNab, who had left York Factory three days before
us with his brigade, just going to encamp; so we also brought up for the
night.  When supper was ready, I sent an invitation to McNab to come and
sup with me, which he accepted, at the same time bringing his brother
with him.  The elder was a bluff, good-natured Red River settler, with
whom I had become acquainted while in the colony; and we chatted of
bygone times and mutual acquaintances over a cup of excellent tea, till
long after the sun had gone down, leaving the blazing camp-fires to
illuminate the scene.

Next morning we started at the same time with the boats; but our little
canoe soon passed them in the rapids, and we saw no more of them.  Our
way was not now so much impeded by rapids as it had hitherto been; and
by breakfast-time we had surmounted them all and arrived at the
Dram-stone, where we put ashore for our morning meal.  In the morning I
shot a duck, being the first that had come within range since I left
York Factory.  Ducks were very scarce, and the few that we did see were
generally accompanied by a numerous offspring not much bigger than the
eggs which originally contained them.  While taking breakfast we were
surprised by hearing a quick rushing sound a little above us, and the
next moment a light canoe came sweeping round a point and made towards
us.  It was one of those called "north canoes," which are calculated to
carry eight men as a crew, besides three passengers.  The one now before
us was built much the same as an Indian canoe, but somewhat neater, and
ornamented with sundry ingenious devices painted in gaudy colours on the
bows and stern.  It was manned by eight men and apparently one
passenger, to whom I hallooed once or twice; but they took me, no doubt,
for an Indian, and so passed on without taking any notice of us.  As the
noble bark bounded quickly forward and was hid by intervening trees, I
bent a look savouring slightly of contempt upon our little Indian canoe,
and proceeded to finish breakfast.

A solitary north canoe, however, passing thus in silence, can give but a
faint idea of the sensation felt on seeing a brigade of them arriving at
a post after a long journey.  It is then that they appear in wild
perfection.  The _voyageurs_ upon such occasions are dressed in their
best clothes; and gaudy feathers, ribbons, and tassels stream in
abundance from their caps and garters.  Painted gaily, and ranged side
by side, like contending chargers, the light canoes skim swiftly over
the water, bounding under the vigorous and rapid strokes of the small
but numerous paddles, while the powerful _voyageurs_ strain every muscle
to urge them quickly on.  And while yet in the distance, the beautifully
simple and lively yet plaintive paddling song, so well suited to the
surrounding scenery, and so different from any other air, breaks sweetly
on the ear; and one reflects, with a kind of subdued and pleasing
melancholy, how far the singers are from their native land, and how many
long and weary days of danger and of toil will pass before they can rest
once more in their Canadian homes.  How strangely, too, upon their
nearer approach, is this feeling changed for one of exultation, as the
deep and manly voices swell in chorus over the placid waters, while a
competition arises among them who shall first arrive; and the canoes
dash over the water with arrow-speed to the very edge of the wharf,
where they come suddenly, and as by magic, to a pause.  This is effected
by each man backing water with his utmost force; after which they roll
their paddles on the gunwale simultaneously, enveloping themselves in a
shower of spray as they shake the dripping water from the bright
vermilion blades.  Truly it is an animating, inspiriting scene, the
arrival of a brigade of light canoes.

Our route now lay through a number of small lakes and rivers, with
scarcely any current in them; so we proceeded happily on our way with
the cheering prospect of uninterrupted travelling.  We had crossed
Swampy Lake, and, after making one or two insignificant portages,
entered Knee Lake.  This body of water obtained its name from turning at
a sharp angle near its centre, and stretching out in an opposite
direction from its preceding course; thus forming something like a knee.
Late in the evening we encamped on one of the small islands with which
it is here and there dotted.  Nothing could exceed the beauty of the
view we had of the lake from our encampment.  Not a breath of wind
stirred its glassy surface, which shone in the ruddy rays of the sun
setting on its bosom in the distant horizon; and I sat long upon the
rocks admiring the lovely scene, while one of my Indians filled the
tea-kettle, and the other was busily engaged in skinning a minx for
supper.  Our evening meal was further enriched by the addition of a
great many small gulls' eggs, which we had found on an island during the
day--which, saving one or two that showed evident symptoms of being far
advanced towards birdhood, were excellent.

On the following morning the scene was entirely changed.  Dark and
lowering clouds flew across the sky, and the wind blew furiously, with a
melancholy moaning sound, through the trees.  The lake, which the night
before had been so calm and tranquil, was now of a dark leaden hue, and
covered with foaming waves.  However, we determined to proceed, and
launched our canoe accordingly; but soon finding the wind too strong for
us, we put ashore on a small island and breakfasted.  As the weather
moderated after breakfast, we made another attempt to advance.  Numerous
islets studded the lake, and on one of them we landed to collect gulls'
eggs.  Of these we found enough; but among them were a number of little
yellow gulls, chattering vociferously, and in terrible consternation at
our approach, while the old ones kept uttering the most plaintive cries
overhead.  The eggs were very small, being those of a small species of
gull which frequents those inland lakes in great numbers.  The wind
again began to rise; and after a little consultation on the subject we
landed, intending to spend the remainder of the day on shore.

We now, for the first time since leaving York Factory, prepared dinner,
which we expected would be quite a sumptuous one, having collected a
good many eggs in the morning; so we set about it with alacrity.  A fire
was quickly made, the tea-kettle on, and a huge pot containing upwards
of a hundred eggs placed upon the fire.  These we intended to boil hard
and carry with us.  Being very hungry, I watched the progress of dinner
with much interest, while the Indians smoked in silence.  While sitting
thus, my attention was attracted by a loud whistling sound that greatly
perplexed me, as I could not discover whence it proceeded--I got up once
or twice to see what it could be, but found nothing, although it sounded
as if close beside me.  At last one of the Indians rose, and, standing
close to the fire, bent in a very attentive attitude over the kettle;
and, after listening a little while, took up one of the eggs and broke
it, when out came a young gull with a monstrous head and no feathers,
squeaking and chirping in a most indefatigable manner!  "So much for our
dinner!" thought I, as he threw the bird into the lake, and took out a
handful of eggs, which all proved to be much in the same condition.  The
warmth of the water put life into the little birds, which, however, was
speedily destroyed when it began to boil.  We did not despair,
nevertheless, of finding a few good ones amongst them; so, after they
were well cooked, we all sat round the kettle and commenced operations.
Some were good and others slightly spoiled, while many were intersected
with red veins, but the greater part contained boiled birds.  The
Indians were not nice, however, and we managed to make a good dinner off
them after all.

In the afternoon the weather cleared up and the wind moderated, but we
had scarcely got under weigh again when a thunderstorm arose and obliged
us to put ashore; and there we remained for four hours sitting under a
tree, while the rain poured in torrents.  In the evening Nature tired of
teasing us; and the sun shone brightly out as we once more resumed our
paddles.  To make up for lost time, we travelled until about two o'clock
next morning, when we put ashore to rest a little; and, as the night was
fine, we just threw our blankets over our shoulders and tumbled down on
the first convenient spot we could find, without making a fire or taking
any supper.  We had not lain long, however, when I felt a curious chilly
sensation all along my side, which effectually awakened me; and then I
saw, or rather heard, that a perfect deluge of rain was descending upon
our luckless heads, and that I had been reposing in the centre of a
large puddle.  This state of things was desperate; and as the poor
Indians seemed to be as thoroughly uncomfortable as they possibly could
be, I proposed to start again--which we did, and before daylight were
many a mile from our wretched encampment.  As the sun rose the weather
cleared up, and soon after we came to the end of Knee Lake and commenced
the ascent of Trout River.  Here I made a sketch of the Trout Falls
while the men made a portage to avoid them.  With a few Indians encamped
on this portage we exchanged a little pemmican for some excellent
white-fish, a great treat to us after living so long on pemmican and
tea.  Our biscuit had run short a few days before, and the pound of
butter which we brought from York Factory had melted into oil from the
excessive heat, and vanished through the bottom of the canvas bag
containing it.  Trout River, though short, has a pretty fair share of
falls and rapids, which we continued ascending all day.  The scenery was
pleasing and romantic; but there was nothing of grandeur in it, the
country being low, flat, and, excepting on the banks of the river,
uninteresting.  In the afternoon we came to the end of this short river,
and arrived at Oxford House.  We landed in silence, and I walked slowly
up the hill, but not a soul appeared.  At last, as I neared the house, I
caught a glimpse of a little boy's face at the window, who no sooner saw
me than his eyes opened to their widest extent, while his mouth followed
their example, and he disappeared with a precipitancy that convinced me
he was off to tell his mother the astounding news that somebody had
arrived.  The next moment I was shaking hands with my old friend Mrs
Gordon and her two daughters, whom I found engaged in the interesting
occupation of preparing tea.  From them I learned that they were
entirely alone, with only one man to take care of the post--Mr Gordon,
whom they expected back every day, having gone to Norway House.

I spent a delightful evening with this kind and hospitable family,
talking of our mutual friends, and discussing the affairs of the
country, till a tall box in a corner of the room attracted my attention.
This I discovered to my delight was no less than a barrel-organ, on
which one of the young ladies at my request played a few tunes.  Now,
barrel-organs, be it known, were things that I had detested from my
infancy upwards; but this dislike arose principally from my having been
brought up in the dear town o' Auld Reekie, where barrel-organ music is,
as it were, crammed down one's throat without permission being asked or
received, and even, indeed, where it is decidedly objected to.
Everybody said, too, that barrel-organs were a nuisance, and of course I
believed them; so that I left my home with a decided dislike to
barrel-organs in general.  Four years' residence, however, in the bush
had rendered me much less fastidious in music, as well as in many other
things; and during the two last years spent at York Factory, not a
solitary note of melody had soothed my longing ear, so that it was with
a species of rapture that I now ground away at the handle of this organ,
which happened to be a very good one, and played in perfect tune.  "God
Save the Queen," "Rule Britannia," "Lord McDonald's Reel," and the "Blue
Bells of Scotland" were played over and over again; and, old and
threadbare though they be, to me they were replete with endearing
associations, and sounded like the well-known voices of long, long
absent friends.  I spent indeed a delightful evening; and its pleasures
were the more enhanced from the circumstance of its being the first,
after a banishment of two years, which I had spent in the society of the
fair sex.

Next morning was fine, though the wind blew pretty fresh, and we started
before breakfast, having taken leave of the family the night before.
This was the 1st of July.  We had been eight days on the route, which is
rather a long time for a canoe to take to reach Oxford House; but as
most of the portages were now over, we calculated upon arriving at
Norway House in two or three days.

In the afternoon the wind blew again, and obliged us to encamp on a
small island, where we remained all day.  While there, a couple of
Indians visited us, and gave us an immense trout in exchange for some
pemmican.  This trout I neglected to measure, but I am convinced it was
more than three feet long and half a foot broad: it was very good, and
we made a capital dinner off it.  During the day, as it was very warm, I
had a delightful swim in the lake, on the lee of the island.

The wind moderated a little in the evening, and we again embarked,
making up for lost time by travelling till midnight, when we put ashore
and went to sleep without making a fire or taking any supper.  About
four o'clock we started again, and in a couple of hours came to the end
of Oxford Lake, after which we travelled through a number of small
swamps or reedy lakes, and stagnant rivers, among which I got so
bewildered that I gave up the attempt to chronicle their names as
hopeless; and indeed it was scarcely worth while, as they were so small
and overgrown with bulrushes that they were no more worthy of a name in
such a place as America than a _dub_ would be in Scotland.  The weather
was delightfully cool, and mosquitoes not troublesome, so that we
proceeded with pleasure and rapidity.

While thus threading our way through narrow channels and passages, upon
turning a point we met three light canoes just on the point of putting
ashore for breakfast, so I told my Indians to run ashore near them.  As
we approached, I saw that there were five gentlemen assembled, with whom
I was acquainted, so that I was rather anxious to get ashore; but, alas!
fortune had determined to play me a scurvy trick, for no sooner had my
foot touched the slippery stone on which I intended to land, than down I
came squash on my breast in a most humiliating manner, while my legs
kept playfully waving about in the cooling element.  This unfortunate
accident, I saw, occasioned a strange elongation in the lateral
dimensions of the mouths of the party on shore, who stood in silence
admiring the scene.  I knew, however, that to appear annoyed would only
make matters worse; so, with a desperate effort to appear at ease, I
rose, and while shaking hands with them, expressed my belief that there
was nothing so conducive to health as a cold bath in the morning.  After
a laugh at my expense, we sat down to breakfast.  One of the gentlemen
gave me a letter from the Governor, and I now learned, for the first
time, that I was to take a passage in one of the light canoes for
Montreal.  Here, then, was a termination to my imaginary rambles on the
Rocky Mountains, or on the undulating prairies of the Saskatchewan; and
instead of massacring buffalo and deer in the bush, I was in a short
time to endeavour to render myself a respectable member of civilised
society.  I was delighted with the idea of the change, however, and it
was with a firmer step and lighter heart that I took my leave and once
more stepped into the canoe.

After passing through a succession of swamps and narrow channels, we
arrived at Robinson's Portage, where we found _voyageurs_ running about
in all directions, some with goods on their backs, and others returning
light to the other end of the portage.  We found that they belonged to
the Oxford House boats, which had just arrived at the other end of the
portage, where they intended to encamp, as it was now late.  Robinson's
Portage is the longest on the route, being nearly a mile in length; and
as all the brigades going to York Factory must pass over it twice--in
going and returning--the track is beaten into a good broad road, and
pretty firm, although it is rather uneven, and during heavy rains
somewhat muddy.  Over this all the boats are dragged, and launched at
the upper or lower end of the portage, as the brigades may happen to be
ascending or descending the stream.  Then all the cargoes are in like
manner carried over.  Packs of furs and bales of goods are generally
from 80 to 100 pounds weight each; and every man who does not wish to be
considered a lazy fellow, or to be ridiculed by his companions, carries
two of these _pieces_, as they are called, across all portages.  The
boats are capable of containing from seventy to ninety of these pieces,
so that it will be easily conceived that a _voyageur's_ life is anything
but an easy one; indeed, it is one of constant and harassing toil, even
were the trouble of ascending rapid rivers, where he is often obliged to
jump into the water at a moment's notice, to lighten the boat in
shallows, left entirely out of the question.  This portage is made to
avoid what are called the White Falls--a succession of cataracts up
which nothing but a fish could possibly ascend.  After carrying over our
canoe and luggage, we encamped at the upper end.  The river we commenced
ascending next morning was pretty broad, and after a short paddle in it
we entered the Echimamis.  This is a sluggish serpentine stream, about
five or six yards broad, though in some places so narrow that boats
scrape the banks on either side.  What little current there is runs in a
contrary direction to the rivers we had been ascending.  Mosquitoes
again attacked us as we glided down its gloomy current, and nothing but
swamps, filled with immense bulrushes, were visible around.  Here, in
days of yore, the beaver had a flourishing colony, and numbers of their
dams and cuttings were yet visible; but they have long since deserted
this much-frequented waste, and one of their principal dams now serves
to heighten the water, which is not deep, for the passage of brigades in
dry seasons.  At night, when we encamped on its low, damp banks, we were
attacked by myriads of mosquitoes, so that we could only sleep by making
several fires round us, the smoke from which partially protected us.
About three o'clock in the morning, which was very warm, we re-embarked,
and at noon arrived at the Sea Portage (why so called I know not, as it
is hundreds of miles inland), which is the last on the route.  This
portage is very short, and is made to surmount a pretty large waterfall.
Almost immediately afterwards we entered Playgreen Lake, and put ashore
on a small island, to alter our attire before arriving at Norway House.

Here, with the woods for our closet, and the clear lake for our basin as
well as looking-glass, we proceeded to scrub our sunburnt faces; and in
half an hour, having made ourselves as respectable as circumstances
would permit, we paddled swiftly over the lake.  It is pretty long, and
it was not until evening that I caught the first glimpse of the bright
spire of the Wesleyan Church at Rossville.

We now approached the termination of our journey, for the time at least;
and it was with pleasing recollections that I recognised the well-known
rocks where I had so often wandered three years before.  When we came in
sight of the fort, it was in a state of bustle and excitement as usual,
and I could perceive from the vigorous shaking of hands going forward,
from the number of _voyageurs_ collected on the landing-place, and of
boats assembled at the wharf, that there had just been an arrival.  Our
poor little canoe was not taken any notice of as it neared the wharf,
until some of the people on shore observed that there was some one in
the middle of it sitting in a very lazy, indolent position, which is
quite uncommon among Indians.  In another minute we gained the bank, and
I grasped the hand of my kind friend and former chief, Mr Russ.

We had now been travelling twelve days, and had passed over upwards of
thirty portages during the voyage.

We ought to have performed this voyage in a much shorter time, as canoes
proceed faster than boats, which seldom take longer to complete this
voyage than we did; but this arose from our detention during high winds
in several of the lakes.



At Norway House I remained for nearly a month with my old friend Mr
Russ, who in a former part of this veracious book is described as being
a very ardent and scientific fisher, extremely partial to strong rods
and lines, and entertaining a powerful antipathy to slender rods and

Little change had taken place in the appearance of the fort.  The
clerks' house was still as full, and as noisy, as when Polly told
frightful stories to the greenhorns on the point of setting out for the
wild countries of Mackenzie River and New Caledonia.  The Indians of the
village at Rossville plodded on in their usual peaceful way, under the
guidance of their former pastor; and the ladies of the establishment
were as blooming as ever.

One fine morning, just as Mr Russ and I were sauntering down to the
river with our rods, a north canoe, full of men, swept round the point
above the fort, and grounded near the wharf.  Our rods were soon cast
aside, and we were speedily congratulating Mr and Mrs Bain on their
safe arrival.  These were to be my companions on the impending voyage to
Canada, and the canoe in which they had arrived was to be our

Mr Bain was a good-natured, light-hearted Highlander, and his lady a
pretty lass of twenty-three.

On the following morning all was ready; and soon after breakfast we were
escorted down to the wharf by all the people in the fort, who crowded to
the rocks to witness our departure.

Our men, eight in number, stood leaning on their paddles near the wharf;
and, truly, a fine athletic set of fellows they were.  The
beautifully-shaped canoe floated lightly on the river, notwithstanding
her heavy cargo, and the water rippled gently against her sides as it
swept slowly past.  This frail bark, on which our safety and progression
depended, was made of birch bark sewed together, lined in the inside
with thin laths of wood, and pitched on the seams with gum.  It was
about thirty-six feet long, and five broad in the middle, from whence it
tapered either way to a sharp edge.  It was calculated to carry from
twenty to twenty-five hundredweight, with eight or nine men, besides
three passengers, and provisions for nearly a month.  And yet, so light
was it, that two men could carry it a quarter of a mile without resting.
Such was the machine in which, on the 20th August 1845, we embarked;
and, after bidding our friends at Norway House adieu, departed for
Canada, a distance of nearly two thousand three hundred miles through
the uninhabited forests of America.

Our first day was propitious, being warm and clear; and we travelled a
good distance ere the rapidly thickening shades of evening obliged us to
put ashore for the night.  The place on which we encamped was a flat
rock which lay close to the river's bank, and behind it the thick forest
formed a screen from the north wind.  It looked gloomy enough on
landing; but, ere long, a huge fire was kindled on the rock, our two
snow-white tents pitched, and supper in course of preparation, so that
things soon began to wear a gayer aspect.  Supper was spread in Mr
Bain's tent by one of the men, whom we appointed to the office of cook
and waiter.  And when we were seated on our blankets and cloaks upon the
ground, and Mr Bain had stared placidly at the fire for five minutes,
and then at his wife (who presided at the _board)_ for ten, we began to
feel quite jolly, and gazed with infinite satisfaction at the men, who
ate their supper out of the same kettle, in the warm light of the
camp-fire.  Our first bed was typical of the voyage, being hard and
rough, but withal much more comfortable than many others we slept upon
afterwards; and we were all soon as sound asleep upon the rock in the
forest as if we had been in feather-beds at home.

The beds on which a traveller in this country sleeps are various and
strange.  Sometimes he reposes on a pile of branches of the pine-tree;
sometimes on soft downy moss; occasionally on a pebbly beach or a flat
rock; and not unfrequently on rough gravel and sand.  Of these the moss
bed is the most agreeable, and the sandy one the worst.

Early on the following morning, long before daylight, we were roused
from our slumbers to re-embark; and now our journey may be said to have
commenced in earnest.  Slowly and silently we stepped into the canoe,
and sat down in our allotted places, while the men advanced in silence,
and paddled up the quiet river in a very melancholy sort of mood.  The
rising sun, however, dissipated these gloomy feelings; and after
breakfast, which we took on a small island near the head of Jack River,
we revived at once, and started with a cheering song, in which all
joined.  Soon after, we rounded a point of the river, and Lake Winnipeg,
calm and clear as crystal, glittering in the beams of the morning sun,
lay stretched out before us to the distant and scarcely perceptible
horizon.  Every pleasure has its alloy, and the glorious calm, on which
we felicitated ourselves not a little, was soon ruffled by a breeze,
which speedily increased so much as to oblige us to encamp near Montreal
Point, being too strong for us to venture across the traverse of five or
six miles now before us.  Here, then, we remained the rest of the day
and night, rather disappointed that delay should have occurred so soon.

Next day we left our encampment early, and travelled prosperously till
about noon, when the wind again increased to such a degree that we were
forced to put ashore on a point, where we remained for the next two days
in grumbling inactivity.

There is nothing more distressing and annoying than being wind-bound in
these wild and uninhabited regions.  One has no amusement except
reading, or promenading about the shore of the lake.  Now, although this
may be very delightful to a person of a romantic disposition, it was
anything but agreeable to us, as the season was pretty far advanced, and
the voyage long; besides, I had no gun, having parted with mine before
leaving Norway House, and no books had been brought, as we did not
calculate upon being wind-bound.  I was particularly disappointed at not
having brought my gun, for while we lay upon the rocks one fine day,
gazing gloomily on the foaming lake, a black bear was perceived walking
slowly round the bottom of the bay formed by the point on which we were
encamped.  It was hopeless to attempt killing him, as Mr Bruin was not
fool enough to permit us to attack him with axes.  After this a regular
course of high winds commenced, which retarded us very much, and gave us
much uneasiness as well as annoyance.  A good idea of the harassing
nature of our voyage across Lake Winnipeg may be obtained from the
following page or two of my journal, as I wrote it on the spot:--

_Monday, 25th August_.--The wind having moderated this morning, we left
the encampment at an early hour, and travelled uninterruptedly till
nearly eight o'clock, when it began to blow so furiously that we were
obliged to run ashore and encamp.  All day the gale continued, but in
the evening it moderated, and we were enabled to proceed a good way ere
night closed in.

_Tuesday, 26th_.--Rain fell in torrents during the night.  The wind,
too, was high, and we did not leave our encampment till after breakfast.
We made a good day's journey, however, travelling about forty miles;
and at night pitched our tents on a point of rock, the only
camping-place, as our guide told us, within ten miles.  No dry ground
was to be found in the vicinity, so we were fain to sleep upon the
flattest rock we could find, with only one blanket under us.  This bed,
however, was not so disagreeable as might be imagined; its principal
disadvantage being that, should it happen to rain, the water, instead of
sinking into the ground, forms a little pond below you, deep or shallow,
according to the hollowness or flatness of the rock on which you repose.

_Wednesday, 27th_.--Set out early this morning, and travelled till noon,
when the wind _again_ drove us ashore, where we remained, in no very
happy humour, all day.  Mr Bain and I played the flute for pastime.

_Thursday, 28th_.--The persevering wind blew so hard that we remained in
the encampment all day.  This was indeed a dismal day; for,
independently of being delayed, which is bad enough, the rain fell so
heavily that it began to penetrate through our tents; and, as if not
content with this, a gust of wind more violent than usual tore the
fastenings of my tent out of the ground, and dashed it over my head,
leaving me exposed to the pitiless pelting of the storm.  Mr Bain's
tent, being in a more sheltered spot, fortunately escaped.

_Friday, 29th_.--The weather was much improved to-day, but it still
continued to blow sufficiently to prevent our starting.  As the wind
moderated, however, in the evening, the men carried the baggage down to
the beach, to have it in readiness for an early start on the morrow.

_Saturday, 30th_.--In the morning we found that the wind had _again_
risen, so as to prevent our leaving the encampment.  This detention is
really very tiresome.  We have no amusement except reading a few
uninteresting books, eating without appetite, and sleeping inordinately.
Oh that I were possessed of the Arabian Nights' _mat_, which
transported its owner whithersoever he listed!  There is nothing for it,
however, but patience; and assuredly I have a good example in poor Mrs
Bain, who, though little accustomed to such work, has not given
utterance to a word of complaint since we left Norway House.  It is now
four days since we pitched our tents on this vile point.  How long we
may still remain is yet to be seen.

_Thursday, September 4th_.--The wind was still very strong this morning;
but so impatient had we become at our repeated detentions, that, with
one accord, we consented to do or die!  So, after launching and loading
the canoe with great difficulty, owing to the immense waves that
thundered against the shore, we all embarked and pushed off.  After
severe exertion, and much shipping of water, we at length came to the
mouth of the Winnipeg River, up which we proceeded a short distance, and
arrived at Fort Alexander.

Thus had we taken fifteen days to coast along Lake Winnipeg, a journey
that is usually performed in a third of that time.

Fort Alexander belongs to the Lac la Pluie district; but being a small
post, neither famous for trade nor for appearance, I will not take the
trouble of describing it.  We only remained a couple of hours to take in
provisions in the shape of a ham, a little pork, and some flour, and
then re-embarking, commenced the ascent of Winnipeg River.

The travelling now before us was widely different from that of the last
fifteen days.  Our men could no longer rest upon their paddles when
tired, as they used to do on the level waters of the lake.  The river
was a rapid one; and towards evening we had an earnest of the rough work
in store for us, by meeting in rapid succession with three waterfalls,
to surmount which we were obliged to carry the canoe and cargo over the
rocks, and launch them above the falls.  While the men were engaged in
this laborious duty, Mr Bain and I discovered a great many plum-trees
laden with excellent fruit, of which we ate as many as we conveniently
could, and then filling our caps and handkerchiefs, embarked with our
prize.  They were a great treat to us, after our long abstinence from
everything but salt food; and I believe we demolished enough to have
killed a whole parish school-boys, master, usher, and all!  But in
voyages like these one may take great liberties with one's interior with
perfect impunity.

About sunset we encamped in a picturesque spot near the top of a huge
waterfall, whose thundering roar, as it mingled with the sighing of the
night wind through the bushes and among the precipitous rocks around us,
formed an appropriate and somewhat romantic lullaby.

On the following morning we were aroused from our slumbers at daybreak;
and in ten minutes our tents were down and ourselves in the canoe,
bounding merrily up the river, while the echoing woods and dells
responded to the lively air of "Rose Blanche," sung by the men as we
swept round point after point and curve after curve of the noble river,
which displayed to our admiring gaze every variety of wild and woodland
scenery--now opening up a long vista of sloping groves of graceful
trees, beautifully variegated with the tints of autumnal foliage, and
sprinkled with a profusion of wildflowers; and anon surrounding us with
immense cliffs and precipitous banks of the grandest and most majestic
aspect, at the foot of which the black waters rushed impetuously past,
and gurgling into white foam as they sped through a broken and more
interrupted channel, finally sprang over a mist-shrouded clift and,
after boiling madly onwards for a short space, resumed their silent,
quiet course through peaceful scenery.  As if to enhance the romantic
wildness of the scene, upon rounding a point we came suddenly upon a
large black bear, which was walking leisurely along the bank of the
river.  He gazed at us in surprise for a moment; and then, as if it had
suddenly occurred to him that guns _might_ be in the canoe, away he went
helter-skelter up the bank, tearing up the ground in his precipitate
retreat, and vanished among the bushes.  Fortunately for him, there was
not a gun in the canoe, else his chance of escape would have been very
small indeed, as he was only fifty yards or so from us when we first
discovered him.

We made ten portages of various lengths during the course of the day:
none of them exceeded a quarter of a mile, while the most were merely a
few yards.  They were very harassing, however, being close to each
other; and often we loaded, unloaded, and carried the canoe and cargo
overland several times in the distance of half a mile.

On the 7th we left the encampment at an early hour, and made one short
portage a few minutes after starting.  After breakfast, as we paddled
quietly along, we descried three canoes coming towards us, filled with
Indians of the Seauteaux tribe.  They gave us a few fresh ducks in
exchange for some pork and tobacco, with which they were much delighted.
After a short conversation between them and one of our men, who
understood the language, we parted, and proceeded on our way.  A little
rain fell during the day, but in the afternoon the sun shone out and
lighted up the scenery.  The forests about this part of the river wore a
much more cheerful aspect than those of the lower countries, being
composed chiefly of poplar, birch, oak, and willows, whose beautiful
light-green foliage had a very pleasing effect upon eyes long accustomed
to the dark pines along the shores of Hudson Bay.

In the afternoon we met another canoe, in which we saw a gentleman
sitting.  This strange sight set us all speculating as to who it could
be, for we knew that all the canoes accustomed annually to go through
these wilds had long since passed.  We were soon enlightened, however,
on the subject.  Both canoes made towards a flat rock that offered a
convenient spot for landing on; and the stranger introduced himself as
Dr Rae.  He was on his way to York Factory, for the purpose of fitting
out at that post an expedition for the survey of the small part of the
North American coast left unexplored by Messrs. Dease and Simpson, which
will then prove beyond a doubt whether or not there is a communication
by water between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans round the north of
America.  Dr Rae appeared to be just the man for such an expedition.
He was very muscular and active, full of animal spirits, and had a fine
intellectual countenance.  He was considered, by those who knew him
well, to be one of the best snow-shoe walkers in the service, was also
an excellent rifle-shot, and could stand an immense amount of fatigue.
Poor fellow! greatly will he require to exert all his abilities and
powers of endurance.  He does not proceed as other expeditions have
done--namely, with large supplies of provisions and men--but merely
takes a very small supply of provisions, and ten or twelve men.  These,
however, are all to be of his own choosing, and will doubtless be men of
great experience in travelling among the wild regions of North America.
The whole expedition is fitted out at the expense of the Hudson Bay
Company.  The party are to depend almost entirely on their guns for
provisions; and after proceeding in two open boats round the
north-western shores of Hudson Bay as far as they may find it expedient
or practicable, are to land, place their boats in security for the
winter, and then penetrate into these unexplored regions on foot.  After
having done as much as possible towards the forwarding of the object of
his journey, Dr Rae and his party are to spend the long dreary winter
with the Esquimaux, and commence operations again early in the spring.
He is of such a pushing, energetic character, however, that there is
every probability he will endeavour to prosecute his discoveries during
winter, if at all practicable.  How long he will remain exploring among
these wild regions is uncertain; but he may be two, perhaps three years.
There is every reason to believe that this expedition will be
successful, as it is fitted out by a Company intimately acquainted with
the difficulties and dangers of the country through which it will have
to pass, and the best methods of overcoming and avoiding them.  Besides,
the doctor himself is well accustomed to the life he will have to lead;
and enters upon it, not with the vague and uncertain notions of Back and
Franklin, but with a pretty correct apprehension of the probable routine
of procedure, and the experience of a great many years spent in the
service of the Hudson Bay Company [see note 1].  After a few minutes'
conversation we parted, and pursued our respective journeys.

Towards sunset we encamped on the margin of a small lake, or expanse of
the river; and soon the silence of the forest was broken by the merry
voices of our men, and by the crashing of the stately trees, as they
fell under the axes of the _voyageurs_.  The sun's last rays streamed
across the water in a broad red glare, as if jealous of the huge
campfire, which now rose crackling among the trees, casting a ruddy glow
upon our huts, and lighting up the swarthy faces of our men as they
assembled round it to rest their weary limbs, and to watch the
operations of the cook while he prepared their evening meal.

In less than an hour after we landed, the floor of our tent was covered
with a smoking dish of fried pork, a huge ham, a monstrous teapot, and
various massive slices of bread, with butter to match.  To partake of
these delicacies, we seated ourselves in Oriental fashion, and sipped
our tea in contemplative silence, as we listened to the gentle murmur of
a neighbouring brook, and gazed through the opening of our tent at the
_voyageurs_, while they ate their supper round the fire, or, reclining
at length upon the grass, smoked their pipes in silence.

Supper was soon over, and I went out to warm myself, preparatory to
turning in for the night.  The men had supped, and their huge forms were
now stretched around the fire, enveloped in clouds of tobacco smoke,
which curled in volumes from their unshaven lips.  They were chatting
and laughing over tales of bygone days; and just as I came up they were
begging Pierre the guide to relate a tale of some sort or other.  "Come,
Pierre," said a tall, dark-looking fellow, whose pipe, eyes, and hair
were of the same jetty hue, "tell us how that Ingin was killed on the
Labrador coast by a black bear.  Baptiste, here, never heard how it
happened, and you know he's fond of wild stories."

"Well," returned the guide, "since you must have it, I'll do what I can;
but don't be disappointed if it isn't so interesting as you would wish.
It's a simple tale, and not over-long."  So saying, the guide disposed
himself in a more comfortable attitude, refilled his pipe, and after
blowing two or three thick clouds to make sure of its keeping alight,
gave, in nearly the following words, an account of:--


"It is now twenty years since I saw Wapwian, and during that time I have
travelled far and wide in the plains and forests of America.  I have
hunted the buffalo with the Seauteaux, in the prairies of the
Saskatchewan; I have crossed the Rocky Mountains with the Blackfeet, and
killed the black bear with the Abinikies, on the coasts of Labrador; but
never, among all the tribes that I have visited, have I met an Indian
like Wapwian.  It was not his form or his strength that I admired,
though the first was graceful, and the latter immense; but his
disposition was so kind, and affectionate, and noble, that all who came
in contact with him loved and respected him.  Yet, strange to say, he
was never converted by the Roman Catholic missionaries who from time to
time visited his village.  He listened to them with respectful
attention, but always answered that he could worship the Great Manitou
better as a hunter in the forest than as a farmer in the settlements of
the white men.

"Well do I remember the first time I stumbled upon the Indian village in
which he lived.  I had set out from Montreal with two trappers to pay a
visit to the Labrador coast; we had travelled most of the way in a small
Indian canoe, coasting along the northern shore of the Gulf of St.
Lawrence, and reconnoitring in the woods for portages to avoid rounding
long capes and points of land, and sometimes in search of game; for we
depended almost entirely upon our guns for food.

"It was upon one of the latter occasions that I went off, accompanied by
one of the trappers, while the other remained to watch the canoe and
prepare our encampment for the night.  We were unsuccessful, and after a
long walk thought of returning to our camp empty-handed, when a loud
whirring sound in the bushes attracted our attention, and two partridges
perched upon a tree quite near us.  We shot them, and fixing them in our
belts, retraced our way towards the coast with lighter hearts.  Just as
we emerged from the dense forest, however, on one side of an open space,
a tall muscular Indian strode from among the bushes and stood before us.
He was dressed in the blanket capote, cloth leggins, and scarlet cap
usually worn by the Abinikies, and other tribes of the Labrador coast.
A red deer-skin shot-pouch and a powder-horn hung round his neck, and at
his side were a beautifully ornamented fire-bag and scalping-knife.  A
common gun lay in the hollow of his left arm, and a pair of ornamented
moccasins covered his feet.  He was, indeed, a handsome-looking fellow,
as he stood scanning us rapidly with his jet-black eyes while we
approached him.  We accosted him, and informed him (for he understood a
little French) whence we came, and our object in visiting his part of
the country.  He received our advances kindly, accepted a piece of
tobacco that we offered him, and told us that his name was Wapwian, and
that we were welcome to remain at his village--to which he offered to
conduct us--as long as we pleased.  After a little hesitation we
accepted his invitation to remain a few days; the more so, as by so
doing we would have an opportunity of getting some provisions to enable
us to continue our journey.  In half an hour we reached the brow of a
small eminence, whence the curling smoke of the wigwams was visible.
The tents were pitched on the shores of a small bay or inlet, guarded
from the east wind by a high precipice of rugged rocks, around which
hundreds of sea-fowl sailed in graceful flights.  Beyond this headland
stretched the majestic Gulf of St. Lawrence; while to the left the
village was shaded by the spruce-fir, of which most of this part of the
forest is composed.  There were, in all, about a dozen tents, made of
dressed deerskin; at the openings of which might be seen groups of
little children playing about on the grass, or running after their
mothers as they went to the neighbouring rivulet for water, or launched
their canoes to examine the nets in the bay.

"Wapwian paused to gaze an instant on the scene, and then, descending
the hill with rapid strides, entered the village, and dispatched a
little boy for our companion in the encampment.

"We were ushered into a tent somewhat elevated above the others, and
soon were reclining on a soft pile of pine branches, smoking in company
with our friend Wapwian, while his pretty little squaw prepared a kettle
of fish for supper.

"We spent two happy days in the village, hunting deer with our Indian
friend, and assisting the squaws in their fishing operations.  On the
third morning we remained in the camp to dry the venison, and prepare
for our departure; while Wapwian shouldered his gun, and calling to his
nephew, a slim, active youth of eighteen, bade him follow with his gun,
as he intended to bring back a few ducks for his white brothers.

"The two Indians proceeded for a time along the shore, and then striking
off into the forest, threaded their way among the thick bushes in the
direction of a chain of small lakes where wild-fowl were numerous.

"For some time they moved rapidly along under the sombre shade of the
trees, casting from time to time sharp glances into the surrounding
underwood.  Suddenly the elder Indian paused and threw forward his gun,
as a slight rustling in the bushes struck his ear.  The boughs bent and
crackled a few yards in advance, and a large black bear crossed the path
and entered the underwood on the other side.  Wapwian fired at him
instantly, and a savage growl told that the shot had taken effect.  The
gun, however, had been loaded with small shot; and although, when he
fired, the bear was only a few yards off, yet the improbability of its
having wounded him badly, and the distance they had to go ere they
reached the lakes, inclined him to give up the chase.  While Wapwian was
loading his gun, Miniquan (his nephew) had been examining the bear's
track, and returned, saying that he was sure the animal must be badly
wounded, for there was much blood on the track.  At first the elder
Indian refused to follow it; but seeing that his nephew wished very much
to kill the brute, he at last consented.  As the trail of the bear was
much covered with blood, they found no difficulty in tracking it; and
after a short walk they found him extended on his side at the foot of a
large tree, apparently lifeless.  Wapwian, however, was too experienced
a hunter to trust himself incautiously within its reach, so he examined
the priming of his gun, and then, advancing slowly to the animal, pushed
it with the muzzle.  In an instant the bear sprang upon him, regardless
of the shot lodged in its breast, and in another moment Wapwian lay
stunned and bleeding at the monster's feet.  Miniquan was at first so
thunderstruck, as he gazed in horror at the savage animal tearing with
bloody jaws the senseless form of his uncle, that he stood rooted to the
ground.  It was only for a moment--the next, his gun was at his
shoulder, and after firing at, but unfortunately, in the excitement of
the moment, missing the bear, he attacked it with the butt of his gun,
which he soon shivered to pieces on its skull.  This drew the animal for
a few moments from Wapwian; and Miniquan, in hopes of leading it from
the place, ran off in the direction of the village.  The bear, however,
soon gave up the chase, and returned again to its victim.  Miniquan now
saw that the only chance of saving his relative was to alarm the
village; so, tightening his belt, he set off with the speed of the
hunted deer in the direction of the camp.  In an incredibly short time
he arrived, and soon returned with the trappers and myself.  Alas!
alas!" said the guide with a deep sigh, "it was too late.  Upon arriving
at the spot, we found the bear quite dead, and the noble, generous
Wapwian extended by its side, torn and lacerated in such a manner that
we could scarcely recognise him.  He still breathed a little, however,
and appeared to know me, as I bent over him and tried to close his
gaping wounds.  We constructed a rude couch of branches, and conveyed
him slowly to the village.  No word of complaint or cry of sorrow
escaped from his wife as we laid his bleeding form in her tent.  She
seemed to have lost the power of speech, as she sat, hour after hour,
gazing in unutterable despair on the mangled form of her husband.  Poor
Wapwian lingered for a week in a state of unconsciousness.  His skull
had been fractured, and he lay almost in a state of insensibility, and
never spoke, save when, in a fit of delirium, his fancy wandered back to
bygone days, when he ranged the forest with a tiny bow in chase of
little birds and squirrels, strode in the vigour of early manhood over
frozen plains of snow, or dashed down foaming currents and mighty rivers
in his light canoe.  Then a shade would cross his brow as he thought,
perhaps, of his recent struggle with the bear, and he would again
relapse into silence.

"He recovered slightly before his death; and once he smiled, as if he
recognised his wife, but he never spoke to any one.  We scarcely know
when his spirit fled, so calm and peaceful was his end.

"His body now reposes beneath the spreading branches of a lordly pine,
near the scenes of his childhood, where he had spent his youth, and
where he met his untimely end."


The guide paused, and looked round upon his auditors.  Alas! for the
sympathy of man--the half of them had gone to sleep; and Baptiste, for
whose benefit the story had been related, lay, or rather sprawled, upon
the turf behind the fire, his shaggy head resting on the decayed stump
of an old tree, and his empty pipe hanging gracefully from his half-open
mouth.  A slight "humph" escaped the worthy guide as he shook the ashes
from his pipe, and rolling his blanket round him, laid his head upon the

Early the following morning we raised the camp and continued our
journey.  The scenery had now become more wild and picturesque.  Large
pines became numerous; and the rocky fissures, through which the river
rushed in a black unbroken mass, cast a gloomy shadow upon us as we
struggled to ascend.  Sometimes we managed to get up these rapids with
the paddles; and when the current was too powerful, with long poles,
which the men fixed in the ground, and thus pushed slowly up; but when
both of these failed, we resorted to the tracking line, upon which
occasions four of the men went on shore and dragged us up, leaving four
in the canoe to paddle and steer it.  When the current was too strong
for this, they used to carry parts of the cargo to the smooth water
further up, and drag the canoe up light, or, taking it on their
shoulders, carry it overland.  We made nine or ten of these portages in
two days.  In the afternoon we came in view of a Roman Catholic mission
station, snugly situated at the bottom of a small bay or creek; but as
it was a little out of our way, and from its quiet appearance seemed
deserted, we did not stop.

In the afternoon of the following day, the 9th of September, we arrived
at the Company's post, called Rat Portage House, where we were
hospitably entertained for a few hours by Mr McKenzie, the gentleman in
charge.  On the portage, over which we had to carry our canoe and
baggage, a large party of Indians of both sexes and all ages were
collected to witness our departure; and Mr McKenzie advised us to keep
a sharp lookout, as they were much addicted to appropriating the
property of others to their own private use, provided they could find an
opportunity of doing so unobserved; so, while our men were running
backwards and forwards, carrying the things over the rocks, Mr Bain and
his lady remained at one end to guard them, and I at the other.
Everything, however, was got safely across; the Indians merely stood
looking on, apparently much amused with our proceedings, and nothing
seemed further from their thoughts than stealing.  Just as we paddled
from the bank, one of our men threw them a handful of tobacco, for which
there was a great scramble, and their noisy voices died away in the
distance as we rounded an abrupt point of rocks, and floated out upon
the glorious expanse of Lac du Bois, or, as it is more frequently
called, the Lake of the Woods.

There is nothing, I think, better calculated to awaken the more solemn
feelings of our nature (unless, indeed, it be the thrilling tones of
sacred music) than these noble lakes, studded with innumerable islets,
suddenly bursting on the traveller's view as he emerges from the sombre
forest-rivers of the American wilderness.  The clear unruffled water,
stretching out to the horizon--here, embracing the heavy and luxuriant
foliage of a hundred wooded isles, or reflecting the wood-clad mountains
on its margin, clothed in all the variegated hues of autumn; and there,
glittering with dazzling brilliancy in the bright rays of the evening
sun, or rippling among the reeds and rushes of some shallow bay, where
hundreds of wild-fowl chatter, as they feed, with varied cry, rendering
more apparent, rather than disturbing, the solemn stillness of the
scene: all tends to "raise the soul from nature up to nature's God," and
reminds one of the beautiful passage of Scripture, "O Lord, how manifold
are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of
thy riches."  At the same time, when one considers how very few of the
human race cast even a passing glance on the beauties of nature around,
one cannot but be impressed with the truth of the lines--

  "Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
  And waste its sweetness on the desert air."

At night we encamped at the furthest extremity of the lake, on a very
exposed spot, whence we looked out upon the starlit scene, while our
supper was spread before us in the warm light of the fire, which blazed
and crackled as the men heaped log after log upon it, sending up clouds
of bright sparks into the sky.

Next morning we commenced the ascent of Lac la Pluie River.  This is
decidedly the most beautiful river we had yet traversed--not only on
account of the luxuriant foliage of every hue with which its noble banks
are covered, but chiefly from the resemblance it bears in many places to
the scenery of England, recalling to mind the grassy lawns and verdant
banks of Britain's streams, and transporting the beholder from the wild
scenes of the western world to his native home.  The trees along its
banks were larger and more varied than any we had hitherto seen--ash,
poplar, cedar, red and white pines, oak, and birch being abundant,
whilst flowers of gaudy hues enhanced the beauty of the scene.  Towards
noon our guide kept a sharp lookout for a convenient spot whereon to
dine; and ere long a flat shelving rock, partly shaded by trees and
partly exposed to the blaze of the sun, presented itself to view.  The
canoe was soon alongside of it, and kept floating about half a foot from
the edge by means of two branches, the two ends of which were fastened
to the bow and stern of the canoe, and the other two to the ground by
means of huge stones.  It is necessary to be thus careful with canoes,
as the gum or pitch with which the seams are plastered breaks off in
lumps, particularly in cold weather, and makes the craft leaky.  A
snow-white napkin was spread on the flattest part of the rock, and so
arranged that, as we reclined around it, on cloaks and blankets, our
bodies down to the knees were shaded by the luxuriant foliage behind us,
while our feet were basking in the solar rays!  Upon the napkin were
presently placed, by our active waiter Gibault, three pewter plates, a
decanter of port wine, and a large ham, together with a turret of salt
butter, and a loaf of bread, to the demolition of which viands we
devoted ourselves with great earnestness.  At a short distance the men
circled round a huge lump of boiled pork, each with a large slice of
bread in one hand and a knife in the other, with which he _porked_ his
bread in the same way that civilised people _butter_ theirs!  Half an
hour concluded our mid-day meal; and then, casting off the branches from
the canoe, we were out of sight of our temporary dining-room in five

On the evening of the following day we arrived at the Company's post,
Fort Frances.  The fort is rather an old building, situated at the
bottom of a small bay or curve in the river, near the foot of a
waterfall, whose thundering roar forms a ceaseless music to the
inhabitants.  We found the post in charge of a chief trader, who had no
other society than that of three or four labouring men; so, as may be
supposed, he was delighted to see us.  Our men carried the canoe,
etcetera, over the portage to avoid the waterfall, and as it was then
too late to proceed further that night, we accepted his pressing
invitation to pass the night at the fort.  There was only one spare bed
in the house, but this was a matter of little moment to us after the
variety of beds we had had since starting; so, spreading a buffalo robe
on the floor for a mattress, I rolled myself in my blanket and tried to
sleep.  At first I could not manage it, owing to the unearthly stillness
of a room, after being so long accustomed to the open air and the noise
of rivers and cataracts, but at last succeeded, and slept soundly till

Dame Fortune does not always persecute her friends; and although she had
retarded us hitherto a good deal with contrary winds and rains, she
kindly assisted us when we commenced crossing Lac la Pluie next morning,
by raising a stiff, fair breeze.  Now, be it known that a canoe, from
having no keel, and a round bottom, cannot venture to hoist a sail
unless the wind is directly astern--the least bit to one side would be
sure to capsize it; so that our getting the wind precisely in the proper
direction at the commencement was a great piece of good fortune,
inasmuch as it enabled us to cross the lake in six hours, instead of (as
is generally the case) taking one, two, or three days.

In the evening we arrived, in high spirits, at a portage, on which we

Our progress now became a little more interrupted by portages and small
lakes, or rather ponds, through which we sometimes passed with
difficulty, owing to the shallowness of the water in many places.  Soon
after this we came to the Mecan River, which we prepared to ascend.  In
making a portage, we suddenly discovered a little Indian boy, dressed in
the extreme of the Indian summer fashion--in other words, he was in a
state of perfect nakedness, with the exception of a breech-cloth; and
upon casting our eyes across the river we beheld his worthy father, in a
similar costume, busily employed in catching fish with a hand-net.  He
was really a wild, picturesque-looking fellow, notwithstanding the
scantiness of his dress; and I was much interested in his proceedings.
When I first saw him, he was standing upon a rock close to the edge of a
foaming rapid, into the eddies of which he gazed intently, with the net
raised in the air, and his muscular frame motionless, as if petrified
while in the act of striking.  Suddenly the net swung through the air,
and his body quivered as he strained every sinew to force it quickly
through the water: in a moment it came out with a beautiful white-fish,
upwards of a foot long, glittering like silver as it struggled in the
meshes.  In the space of half an hour he had caught half a dozen in this
manner, and we bought three or four of the finest for a few plugs of
tobacco.  His wigwam and family were close at hand; so, while our men
crossed the portage, I ran up to see them.

The tent, which was made of sheets of birch bark sewed together, was
pitched beneath the branches of a gigantic pine, upon the lower limbs of
which hung a pair of worn-out snow-shoes, a very dirty blanket, and a
short bow, with a quiver of arrows near it.  At the foot of it, upon the
ground, were scattered a few tin pots, several pairs of old moccasins,
and a gun; while against it leaned an Indian cradle, in which a small,
very brown baby, with jet-black eyes and hair, stood bolt upright,
basking in the sun's rays, and bearing a comical resemblance to an
Egyptian mummy.  At the door of the tent a child of riper years amused
itself by rolling about among the chips of wood, useless bits of
deer-skin, and filth always strewn around a wigwam.  On the right hand
lay a pile of firewood, with an axe beside it, near which crouched a
half-starved, wretched-looking nondescript dog, who commenced barking
vociferously the moment he cast eyes upon me.  Such was the outside.
The interior, filled with smoke from the fire and Indians' pipes, was,
if possible, even dirtier.  Amid a large pile of rabbit-skins reclined
an old woman, busily plucking the feathers from a fine duck, which she
carefully preserved (the feathers, not the duck) in a bag, for the
purpose of trading them with the Company at a future period.  Her dress
was a coat of rabbit-skins, so strangely shaped that no one could
possibly tell how she ever got it off or on.  This, however, was
doubtless a matter of little consequence to her, as Indians seldom take
the trouble of changing their clothes, or even of undressing at all.
The coat was fearfully dirty, and hung upon her in a way that led me to
suppose she had worn it for six months, and that it would fall off her
in a few days.  A pair of faded blue cloth leggins completed her
costume--her dirty shoulders, arms, and feet being quite destitute of
covering; while her long black hair fell in tangled masses upon her
neck, and it was evidently a long time since a comb had passed through
it.  On the other side sat a younger woman similarly attired, employed
in mending a hand-net; and on a very much worn buffalo robe sat a young
man (probably the brother of the one we had seen fishing), wrapped in a
blanket, smoking his pipe in silence.  A few dirty little half-naked
boys lay sprawling among several packages of furs tied up in birch bark,
and disputed with two or three ill-looking dogs the most commodious
place whereon to lie.  The fire in the middle of the tent sent up a
cloud of smoke, which escaped through an aperture at the top; and from a
cross-bar depended a few slices of deer-meat, undergoing the process of

I had merely time to note all this, and say, "What cheer!" to the
Indians, who returned the compliment with a grunt, when the loud voice
of our guide ringing through the glades of the forest informed me that
the canoe was ready to proceed.

The country through which we now passed was very interesting, on account
of the variety of the scenes and places through which we wound our way.
At times we were paddling with difficulty against the strong current of
a narrow river, which, on our turning a point of land, suddenly became a
large lake; and then, after crossing this, we arrived at a portage.
After passing over it, there came a series of small ponds and little
creeks, through which we pushed our way with difficulty; and then
arrived at another lake, and more little rivers, with numerous portages.
Sometimes ludicrous accidents happened to us--bad enough at the time,
but subjects of mirth afterwards.

One cold, frosty morning (for the weather had now become cold, from the
elevation of the country through which we were passing), while the canoe
was going quietly over a small reedy lake or ford, I was awakened out of
a nap, and told that the canoe was aground, and I must get out and walk
a little way to lighten her.  Hastily pulling up my trousers for I
always travelled barefoot--I sprang over the side into the water, and
the canoe left me.  Now, all this happened so quickly that I was
scarcely awake; but the bitterly cold water, which nearly reached my
knees, cleared up my faculties most effectually, and I then found that I
was fifty yards from the shore, with an unknown depth of water around
me, the canoe out of sight ahead of me, and Mr Bain--who had been
turned out while half asleep also--standing with a rueful expression of
countenance beside me.  After feeling our way cautiously--for the bottom
was soft and muddy--we reached the shore; and then, thinking that all
was right, proceeded to walk round to join the canoe.  Alas! we found
the bushes so thick that they were very nearly impenetrable; and, worse
than all, that they, as well as the ground, were covered with thorns,
which scratched and lacerated our feet most fearfully at every step.
There was nothing for it, however, but to persevere; and after a painful
walk of a quarter of a mile we overtook the canoe, vowing never to leap
before we looked upon any other occasion whatsoever.

In this way we proceeded--literally over hill and dale--in our canoe;
and in the course of a few days ascended Mecan River, and traversed
Cross Lake, Malign River, Sturgeon Lake, Lac du Mort, Mille Lac, besides
a great number of smaller sheets of water without names, and many
portages of various lengths and descriptions, till the evening of the
19th, when we ascended the beautiful little river called the Savan, and
arrived at the Savan Portage.

Many years ago, in the time of the North-West Company, the echoes among
these wild solitudes were far oftener and more loudly awakened than they
are now.  The reason of it was this.  The North-West Company, having
their head quarters at Montreal, and being composed chiefly of Canadian
adventurers, imported their whole supplies into the country and exported
all their furs out of it in north canoes, by the same route over which
we now travelled.  As they carried on business on a large scale, it may
be supposed that the traffic was correspondingly great.  No less than
ten brigades, each numbering twenty canoes, used to pass through these
scenes during the summer months.  No one who has not experienced it can
form an adequate idea of the thrilling effect the passing of these
brigades must have had upon a stranger.  I have seen four canoes sweep
round a promontory suddenly, and burst upon my view, while at the same
moment the wild romantic song of the _voyageurs_, as they plied their
brisk paddles, struck upon my ear; and I have felt thrilling enthusiasm
on witnessing such a scene.  What, then, must have been the feelings of
those who had spent a long, dreary winter in the wild North-West, far
removed from the bustle and excitement of the civilised world, when
thirty or forty of these picturesque canoes burst unexpectedly upon
them, half shrouded in the spray that flew from the bright vermilion
paddles; while the men, who had overcome difficulties and dangers
innumerable during a long voyage through the wilderness, urged their
light craft over the troubled water with the speed of the reindeer, and,
with hearts joyful at the happy termination of their trials and
privations, sang, with all the force of three hundred manly voices, one
of their lively airs, which, rising and falling faintly in the distance
as it was borne, first lightly on the breeze, and then more steadily as
they approached, swelled out in the rich tones of many a mellow voice,
and burst at last into a long enthusiastic shout of joy!

Alas! the forests no longer echo to such sounds.  The passage of three
or four canoes once or twice a year is all that breaks the stillness of
the scene; and nought, save narrow pathways over the portages, and rough
wooden crosses over the graves of the travellers who perished by the
way, remains to mark that such things were.  Of these marks, the Savan
Portage, at which we had arrived, was one of the most striking.  A long
succession of boiling rapids and waterfalls having in days of yore
obstructed the passage of the fur-traders, they had landed at the top of
them, and cut a pathway through the woods, which happened at this place
to be exceedingly swampy: hence the name Savan (or _swampy_) Portage.
To render the road more passable, they had cut down trees, which they
placed side by side along its whole extent--which was about three
miles--and over this wooden platform carried their canoes and cargoes
with perfect ease.  After the coalition of the two companies, and the
consequent carriage of the furs to England by Hudson Bay--instead of to
Canada, by the lakes and rivers of the interior--these roads were
neglected, and got out of repair; and consequently we found the logs
over the portage decayed and trees fallen across them, so that our men,
instead of running quickly over them, were constantly breaking through
the rotten wood, sinking up to the knees in mud, and scrambling over
trees and branches.  We got over at last, however--in about two hours;
and after proceeding a little further, arrived at and encamped upon the
Prairie Portage, by the side of a _voyageur's_ grave, which was marked
as usual with a wooden cross, on which some friendly hand had cut a rude
inscription.  Time had now rendered it quite illegible.  This is the
height of land dividing the waters which flow northward into Hudson Bay
from those which flow in a southerly direction, through the great lakes,
into the Atlantic Ocean.

A few pages from my journal here may serve to give a better idea of the
characteristics of our voyage than could be conveyed in narrative:--

_Saturday, 20th September_.--We crossed the Prairie Portage this
morning--a distance of between three and four miles--and breakfasted at
the upper end of it.  Amused myself by sketching the view from a
neighbouring hill.  After crossing two more portages and a variety of
small lakes, we launched our canoe on the bosom of the river Du Chien,
and began, for the first time since the commencement of our journey, to
_descend_, having passed over the height of land.  We saw several grey
grouse here, and in the evening one of our men caught one in a curious
manner.  They were extremely tame, and allowed us to approach them very
closely, so Baptiste determined to catch one for supper.  Cutting a long
branch from a neighbouring tree, he tied a running noose on one end of
it, and going quietly up to the bird, put the noose gently over its
head, and pulled it off the tree.  This is a common practice among the
Indians, particularly when they have run short of gunpowder.

_Sunday, 21st_.--Crossed Lac du Chien, and made the portage of the same
name, from the top of which we had a most beautiful view of the whole
country for miles round.  Having crossed this portage, we proceeded down
the Kamenistaquoia River, on the banks of which, after making another
portage, we pitched our tents.

_Monday, 22nd_.--Rain obliged us to put ashore this morning.  Nothing
can be more wretched than travelling in rainy weather.  The men, poor
fellows, do not make the least attempt to keep themselves dry; but the
passengers endeavour, by means of oiled cloths, to keep out the wet; and
under this they broil and suffocate, till at last they are obliged to
throw off the covering.  Even were this not the case, we should still be
wretched, as the rain always finds its way in somewhere or other; and I
have been often awakened from a nap by the cold trickling of moisture
down my back, and have discovered upon moving that I was lying in a pool
of water.  Ashore we are generally a little more comfortable, but not
much.  After dinner we again started, and advanced on our journey till

_Tuesday, 23rd_.--To-day we advanced very slowly, owing to the
shallowness of the water, and crossed a number of portages.  During the
day we ran several rapids.  This is very exciting work.  Upon nearing
the head of a large rapid, the men strain every muscle to urge the canoe
forward more quickly than the water, so that it may steer better.  The
bowsman and steersman stand erect, guiding the frail bark through the
more unbroken places in the fierce current, which hisses and foams
around, as if eager to swallow us up.  Now we rush with lightning force
towards a rock, against which the water dashes in fury; and to an
uninitiated traveller we appear to be on the point of destruction.  But
one vigorous stroke from the bowsman and steersman (for they always act
in concert) sends the light craft at a sharp angle from the impending
danger; and away we plunge again over the surging waters--sometimes
floating for an instant in a small eddy, and hovering, as it were, to
choose our path; and then plunging swiftly forward again through the
windings of the stream, till, having passed the whole in safety, we
float in the smooth water below.

Accidents, as may be supposed, often happen; and to-day we found that
there is danger as well as pleasure in running the rapids.  We had got
over a great part of the day in safety, and were in the act of running
the first part of the Rose Rapid, when our canoe struck upon a rock, and
wheeling round with its broadside to the stream, began to fill quickly.
I could hear the timbers cracking beneath me under the immense pressure.
Another minute, and we should have been gone; but our men, who were
active fellows, and well accustomed to such dangers, sprang
simultaneously over the side of the canoe, which, being thus lightened,
passed over the rock, and rushed down the remainder of the rapid stern
foremost ere the men could scramble in and resume their paddles.  When
rapids were very dangerous, most of the cargo was generally disembarked;
and while one half of the crew carried it round to the still water
below, the other half ran down light.

Crossed two small portages and the Mountain Portage in the afternoon; on
the latter of which I went to see a waterfall, which I was told was in
its vicinity.  I had great difficulty in finding it at first, but its
thundering roar soon guided me to a spot from which it was visible.
Truly, a grander waterfall I never saw.  The whole river, which was
pretty broad, plunged in one broad white sheet over a precipice, higher
by a few feet than the famous Falls of Niagara; and the spray from the
foot sprang high into the air, bedewing the wild, precipitous crags with
which the fall is encompassed, and the gloomy pines that hang about the
clefts and fissures of the rocks.  Fur-traders have given it the name of
the Mountain Fall, from a peculiar mountain in its vicinity; but the
natives call it the _Kackabecka_ Falls.  After making a sketch of it,
and getting myself thoroughly wet in so doing, I returned to the canoe.

In the evening we encamped within nine miles of Fort William, having
lost one of our men, who went ashore to lighten the canoe while we ran a
rapid.  After a good deal of trouble we found him again, but too late to
admit of our proceeding to the fort that night.

_Wednesday, 24th_.--Early this morning we left the encampment, and after
two hours' paddling Fort William burst upon our gaze, mirrored in the
limpid waters of Lake Superior--that immense fresh-water sea, whose
rocky shores and rolling billows vie with the ocean itself in grandeur
and magnificence.

Fort William was once one of the chief posts in the Indian country, and,
when it belonged to the North-West Company, contained a great number of
men.  Now, however, much of its glory has departed.  Many of the
buildings have been pulled down, and those that remain are very
rickety-looking affairs.  It is still, however, a very important fishing
station, and many hundreds of beautiful white-fish, with which Lake
Superior swarms, are salted there annually for the Canada markets.
These white-fish are indeed excellent; and it is difficult to say
whether they or the immense trout, which are also caught in abundance,
have the most delicate flavour.  These trout, as well as white-fish, are
caught in nets; and the former sometimes measure three feet long, and
are proportionately broad.  The one we had to breakfast on the morning
of our arrival must have been very nearly this size.

The fur-trade of the post is not very good, but the furs traded are
similar to those obtained in other parts of the country.

A number of _canotes de maitre_, or very large canoes, are always kept
in store here, for the use of the Company's travellers.  These canoes
are of the largest size, exceeding the north canoe in length by several
feet, besides being much broader and deeper.  They are used solely for
the purpose of travelling on Lake Superior, being much too large and
cumbersome for travelling with through the interior.  They are carried
by four men instead of two, like the north canoe; and, besides being
capable of carrying twice as much cargo, are paddled by fourteen or
sixteen men.  Travellers from Canada to the interior generally change
their _canotes de maitre_ for north canoes at Fort William, before
entering upon the intricate navigation through which we had already
passed; while those going from the interior to Canada change the small
for the large canoe.  As we had few men, however, and the weather
appeared settled, we determined to risk coasting round the northern
shore of the lake in our north canoe.

The scenery around the fort is very pretty.  In its immediate vicinity
the land is flat, covered with small trees and willows, which are
agreeably suggestive of partridges and other game; but in the distance
rise goodly-sized mountains; and on the left hand the noble expanse of
the Lake Superior, with rocky islands on its mighty bosom and abrupt
hills on its shores, stretches out to the horizon.  The fort is built at
the mouth of the Kamenistaquoia River, and from its palisades a
beautiful view of the surrounding country can be obtained.

As the men wanted rest and our canoe a little repair, we determined to
remain all day at Fort William; so some of the men employed themselves
re-gumming the canoe, while others spread out our blankets and tents to
dry.  This last was very necessary as on the journey we have little time
to spare from eating and sleeping while on shore; and many a time have
I, in consequence, slept in a wet blanket.

The fair lady of the gentleman in charge of the fort was the _only lady_
at the place, and indeed the only one within a circuit of six hundred
miles--which space, being the primeval forest, was inhabited only by
wild beasts and a few Indians.  She was, consequently, very much
delighted to meet with Mrs Bain, who, having for so many days seen no
one but rough _voyageurs_, was equally delighted to meet her.  While
they went off to make the most of each other, Mr Bain and I sauntered
about in the vicinity of the fort, admiring the beauty of the scenery,
and paid numerous visits to a superb dairy in the fort, which overflowed
with milk and cream.  I rather think that we admired the dairy more than
the scenery.  There were a number of cows at the post, a few of which we
encountered in our walk, and also a good many pigs and sheep.  In the
evening we returned, and at tea were introduced to a postmaster, who had
been absent when we arrived.  This postmaster turned out to be a
first-rate player of Scotch reels on the violin.  He was self-taught,
and truly the sweetness and precision with which he played every note
and trill of the rapid reel and strathspey might have made Neil Gow
himself envious.  So beautiful and inspiriting were they, that Mr Bain
and our host, who were both genuine Highlanders, jumped simultaneously
from their seats, in an ecstasy of enthusiasm, and danced to the lively
music till the very walls shook; much to the amusement of the two
ladies, who, having been both born in Canada, could not so well
appreciate the music.  Indeed, the musician himself looked a little
astonished, being quite ignorant of the endearing recollections and
associations recalled to the memory of the two Highlanders by the rapid
notes of his violin.  They were not, however, to be contented with one
reel; so, after fruitlessly attempting to make the ladies join us, we
sent over to the men's houses for the old Canadian wife of Pierre
Lattinville and her two blooming daughters.  They soon came, and after
much coyness, blushing, and hesitation, at last stood up, and under the
inspiring influence of the violin we:--

  "Danced, till we were like to fa',
  The reel o' Tullochgorum!"

And did not cease till the lateness of the hour and the exhaustion of
our musician compelled us to give in.

On the following morning we bade adieu to the good people at Fort
William, and began our journey along the northern shore of Lake
Superior, which is upwards of three hundred miles in diameter.  Fortune,
however, is proverbially fickle, and she did not belie her character on
this particular day.  The weather, when we started, was calm and clear,
which pleased us much, as we had to make what is called a traverse--that
is, to cross from one point of land to another, instead of coasting
round a very deep bay.  The traverse which we set out to make on leaving
Fort William was fourteen miles broad, which made it of some consequence
our having a calm day to cross it in our little egg-shell of a canoe.
Away we went, then, over the clear lake, singing "Rose Blanche"
vociferously.  We had already gone a few miles of the distance, when a
dark cloud rose on the seaward horizon.  Presently the water darkened
under the influence of a stiff breeze, and in less than half an hour the
waves were rolling and boiling around us like those of the Atlantic.
Ahead of us lay a small island, about a mile distant; and towards this
the canoe was steered, while the men urged it forward as quickly as the
roughness of the sea would allow.  Still the wind increased, and the
island was not yet gained.  Some of the waves had broken over the edge
of the canoe, and she was getting filled with water; but a kind
Providence permitted us to reach the island in safety, though not in
comfort, as most of the men were much wet, and many of them a good deal

On landing, we pitched our tents, made a fire, and proceeded to dry
ourselves, and in less than an hour were as comfortable as possible.
The island on which we had encamped was a small rocky one, covered with
short heathery-looking shrubs, among which we found thousands of
blaeberries.  On walking round to the other side of it, I discovered an
Indian encamped with his family.  He supplied us with a fine white-fish,
for which our men gave him a little tobacco and a bit of the fresh
mutton which we had brought with us from Fort William.

Three days did we remain on this island, while the wind and waves
continued unceasingly to howl and lash around it, as if they wished, in
their disappointment, to beat it down and swallow us up, island and all;
but towards the close of the third day the gale moderated, and we
ventured again to attempt the traverse.  This time we succeeded, and in
two hours passed Thunder Point, on the other side of which we encamped.

The next day we could only travel till breakfast-time, as the wind again
increased so much as to oblige us to put ashore.  We comforted
ourselves, however, with the prospect of a good mutton-chop.

The fire was soon made, the kettle on, and everything in preparation,
when the dreadful discovery was made that the whole of the fresh mutton
had been forgotten!  Words cannot paint our consternation at this
discovery.  Poor Mrs Bain sat in mute despair, thinking of the misery
of being reduced again to salt pork; while her husband, who had hitherto
stood aghast, jumped suddenly forward, and seizing a bag of fine
potatoes that had been given to the men, threw it, in a transport of
rage, into the lake, vowing that as we were, by their negligence, to be
deprived of our mutton, they certainly should also be sufferers with us.

It was very laughable to behold the rueful countenances of the men as
their beautiful, large white potatoes sank to the bottom of the clear
lake, and shone brightly there, as if to tantalise them, while the
rippling water caused them to quiver so much that the lake seemed to
rest on a pavement of huge potatoes!  None dared, however, attempt to
recover one; but after a while, when Mr Bain's back was turned, a man
crept cautiously down to the water's edge, and gathered as many as were
within reach--always, however, keeping an eye on his master, and
stooping in an attitude that would permit of his bolting up on the
slightest indication of a wrathful movement.

It would be tedious, as well as unnecessary, to recount here all the
minutiae of our voyage across Lake Superior; I shall merely touch on a
few of the more particular incidents.

On the 1st of October we arrived at the Pic House [see note 2], where we
spent the night; and, after a rough voyage, reached Michipicoton on the
4th.  Our voyage along Lake Superior was very stormy and harassing,
reminding us often of Lake Winnipeg.  Sometimes we were paddling along
over the smooth water, and at other times _lying-by_, while the lake was
lashed into a mass of foam and billows by a strong gale.  So much
detention, and the lateness of the season, rendered it necessary to take
advantage of every lull and calm hour that occurred, so that we
travelled a good deal during the night.  This sort of travelling was
very romantic.

On one occasion, after having been ashore two days, the wind moderated
in the afternoon, and we determined to proceed, if possible.  The sun
set gloriously, giving promise of fine weather.  The sky was clear and
cloudless, and the lake calm.  For an hour or so the men sang as they
paddled, but as the shades of evening fell they ceased; and as it was
getting rather chilly, I wrapped myself in my green blanket (which
served me for a boat-cloak as well as a bed), and soon fell fast asleep.

How long I slept I know not; but when I awoke, the regular, rapid hiss
of the paddles struck upon my ear, and upon throwing off the blanket the
first thing that met my eye was the dark sky, spangled with the most
gorgeous and brilliant stars I ever beheld.  The whole scene, indeed,
was one of the most magnificent and awful that can be imagined.  On our
left hand rose tremendous precipices and cliffs, around the bottom and
among the caverns of which the black waters of the lake curled quietly
(for a most death-like, unearthly calm prevailed), sending forth a faint
hollow murmur, which ended, at long intervals, in a low melancholy
cadence.  Before and behind us abrupt craggy islands rose from the
water, assuming every imaginable and unimaginable shape in the uncertain
light; while on the right the eye ranged over the inky lake till it was
lost in thick darkness.  A thin, transparent night-fog added to the
mystical appearance of the scene, upon which I looked with mingled
feelings of wonder and awe.  The only distinct sound that could be heard
was the measured sound of the paddles, which the men plied in silence,
as if unwilling to break the stillness of the night.  Suddenly the guide
uttered in a hoarse whisper, "_A terre_!" startling the sleepy men, and
rendering the succeeding silence still more impressive.

The canoe glided noiselessly through a maze of narrow passages among the
tall cliffs, and grounded on a stony beach.  Everything was then carried
up, and the tents pitched in the dark, as no wood could be conveniently
found for the purpose of making a fire; and without taking any supper,
or even breaking the solemn silence of the night, we spread our beds as
we best could upon the round stones (some of which were larger than a
man's fist), and sank into repose.  About a couple of hours afterwards
we were roused by the anxious guide, and told to embark again.  In this
way we travelled at night or by day, as the weather permitted--and even,
upon one or two occasions, both night and day--till the 12th of October,
when we arrived at the _Sault de Ste.  Marie_, which is situated at the
termination of Lake Superior, just as our provisions were exhausted.

We had thus taken eighteen days to coast the lake.  This was very slow
going indeed, the usual time for coasting the lake in a north canoe
being from eight to ten days.

The Sault de Ste.  Marie is a large rapid, which carries the waters of
Lake Superior into Lake Huron.  It separates the British from the
American possessions, and is fortified on the American side by a large
wooden fort, in which a body of soldiers are constantly resident.  There
is also a pretty large village of Americans, which is rapidly
increasing.  The British side is not fortified; and, indeed, there are
no houses of any kind except the few belonging to the Hudson Bay
Company.  This may be considered the extreme outskirts of civilisation,
being the first place where I had seen any number of people collected
together who were unconnected with the Hudson Bay Company.

I was not destined, however, to enjoy the sight of new faces long, for
next morning we started to coast round the northern and uninhabited
shores of Lake Huron, and so down the Ottawa to Montreal.  Mr and Mrs
Bain left me here, and proceeded by the route of the Lakes.

During the next few days we travelled through a number of rivers and
lakes of various sizes; among the latter were Lakes Huron and
Nipisingue.  In crossing the latter, I observed a point on which were
erected fourteen rough wooden crosses.  Such an unusual sight excited my
curiosity, and upon inquiring I found that they were planted there to
mark the place where a canoe, containing fourteen men, had been upset in
a gale, and every soul lost.  The lake was clear and smooth when we
passed the melancholy spot, and many a rolling year has defaced and cast
down the crosses since the unfortunate men whose sad fate they
commemorate perished in the storm.

While searching about the shore one night for wood to make a fire, one
of our men found a large basket, made of bark, and filled with fine
bears'-grease, which had been hid by some Indians.  This was considered
a great windfall; and ere two days were passed the whole of it was eaten
by the men, who buttered their flour cakes with it profusely.

Not long after this we passed a large waterfall, where a friend of mine
was once very nearly lost.  A projecting point obliges the traveller to
run his canoe rather near the head of the fall, for the purpose of
landing to make the portage.  From long habit the guides had been
accustomed to this, and always effected the doubling of the point in
safety.  Upon this occasion, however, either from carelessness or
accident, the canoe got into the strong current, and almost in an
instant was swept down towards the fall.  To turn the head of the canoe
up the stream, and paddle for their lives, was the work of a moment; but
before they got it fairly round they were on the very brink of the
cataract, which, had they gone over it, would have dashed them to a
thousand atoms.  They paddled with the strength of desperation, but so
strong was the current that they remained almost stationary.  At last
they began slowly to ascend--an inch at a time--and finally reached the
bank in safety.

On Sunday the 19th of October we commenced descending the magnificent
river Ottawa, and began to feel that we were at last approaching the
civilised nations of the earth.  During the day we passed several small
log-huts, or shanties, which are the temporary dwelling-places of men
who penetrate thus far into the forest for the purpose of cutting
timber.  A canoe full of these adventurous pioneers also passed us; and
in the evening we reached Fort Mattawan, one of the Company's stations.
At night we encamped along with a party who were taking provisions to
the wood-cutters.

The scenery on the Ottawa is beautiful, and as we descended the stream
it was rendered more picturesque and interesting by the appearance,
occasionally, of that, to us, unusual sight, a farmhouse.  They were too
few and far between, however, to permit of our taking advantage of the
inhabitants' hospitality, and for the next four days we continued to
make our encampments in the woods as heretofore.  At one of these
frontier farms our worthy guide discovered, to his unutterable
astonishment and delight, an old friend and fellow-voyageur, to greet
whom he put ashore.  The meeting was strange: instead of shaking hands
warmly, as I had expected, they stood for a moment gazing in
astonishment, and then, with perfect solemnity, kissed each other--not
gently on the cheek, but with a good hearty smack on their sunburnt
lips.  After conversing for a little, they parted with another kiss.

On the fourth day after this event we came in sight of the village of
Aylmer, which lay calmly on the sloping banks of the river, its church
spire glittering in the sun, and its white houses reflected in the

It is difficult to express the feelings of delight with which I gazed
upon this little village, after my long banishment from the civilised
world.  It was like recovering from a trance of four long dreamy years;
and I wandered about the streets, gazing in joy and admiration upon
everything and everybody, but especially upon the ladies, who appeared
quite a strange race of beings to me--and all of them looked so
beautiful in my eyes (long accustomed to Indian dames), that I fell in
love with every one individually that passed me in the village.  In this
happy mood I sauntered about, utterly oblivious of the fact that my men
had been left in a public-house, and would infallibly, if not prevented,
get dead drunk.  I was soon awakened to this startling probability by
the guide, who walked up the road in a very solemn I'm-not-at-all-drunk
sort of a manner, peering about on every side, evidently in search of
me.  Having found me, he burst into an expression of unbounded joy; and
then, recollecting that this was inconsistent with his assumed character
of sobriety, became awfully grave, and told me that we must start soon,
as the men were all getting tipsy.

The following day we arrived at Bytown.

This town is picturesquely situated on the brow of a stupendous cliff,
which descends precipitously into the Ottawa.  Just above the town a
handsome bridge stretches across the river, near which the Kettle Fall
thunders over a high cliff.  We only stayed a few minutes here, and then
proceeded on our way.

During the day we passed the locks of the Rideau Canal, which rise, to
the number of eight or ten, one over another like steps; and immediately
below them appeared the Curtain Falls.  These falls are not very
picturesque, but their great height and curtain-like smoothness render
them an interesting object.  After this, villages and detached houses
became numerous all the way down the river; and late in the evening of
the 24th we arrived at a station belonging to the Hudson Bay Company, on
the Lake of the Two Mountains, where we passed the remainder of the

Here, for the first time since leaving home, I was ushered into a
civilised drawing-room; and when I found myself seated on a _cushioned_
chair, with my moccasined feet pressing a soft carpet, and several real,
_bona fide ladies_ (the wife and daughters of my entertainer) sitting
before me, and asking hundreds of questions about my long voyage, the
strange species of unbelief in the possibility of again seeing the
civilised world, which had beset me for the last three years, began
slowly to give way, and at last entirely vanished when my host showed me
into a handsomely furnished bedroom, and left me for the night.

The first thing that struck me on entering the bedroom was the
appearance of one of our _voyageurs_, dressed in a soiled blue capote,
dilapidated corduroy trousers, and moccasins; while his deeply sunburnt
face, under a mass of long straggling hair, stared at me in
astonishment!  It will doubtless be supposed that I was much horrified
at this apparition.  I was, indeed, much surprised; but, seeing that it
was my own image reflected in a full-length looking-glass, I cannot say
that I felt extremely horrified.  This was the first time that I had
seen myself--if I may so speak--since leaving Norway House; and, truly,
I had no reason to feel proud of my appearance.

The following morning, at four o'clock, we left the Lake of the Two
Mountains; and in the afternoon of the 25th October, 1845, arrived at
Lachine, where, for the time, my travels came to a close--having been
journeying in the wilderness for sixty-six days.


Soon after my arrival winter set in, and I became acquainted with a few
of the inhabitants of Lachine.  The moment the snow fell, wheeled
carriages were superseded by carioles and sleighs of all descriptions.
These beautiful vehicles are mounted on runners, or large skates, and
slide very smoothly and easily over the snow, except when the road is
bad; and then, owing to the want of springs, sleighs become very rough
carriages indeed.  They are usually drawn by one horse, the harness and
trappings of which are profusely covered with small round bells.  These
bells are very necessary appendages, as little noise is made by the
approach of a sleigh over the soft snow, and they serve to warn
travellers in the dark.  The cheerful tinkling music thus occasioned on
the Canadian roads is very pleasing.  Sleighs vary a good deal in
structure and costliness of decoration; and one often meets a rough,
cheerful Canadian _habitant_ sitting in his small box of a sledge
(painted sometimes red and sometimes green), lashing away at his shaggy
pony in a fruitless attempt to keep up with the large graceful sleigh of
a wealthy inhabitant of Montreal, who, wrapped up in furs, drives
tandem, with two strong horses, and loudly tinkling bells.

Reader, I had very nearly come to the resolution of giving you a long
account of Canada and the Canadians, but I dare not venture on it.  I
feel that it would be encroaching upon the ground of civilised authors;
and as I do not belong to this class, but profess to write of savage
life, and nothing but savage life, I hope you will extend to me your
kind forgiveness if I conclude this chapter rather abruptly.

It is a true saying that the cup of happiness is often dashed from the
lips that are about to taste it.  I have sometimes proved this to be the
case.  The cup of happiness, on the present occasion, was the enjoyment
of civilised and social life; and the dashing of it away was my being
sent, with very short warning, to an out-of-the-way station, whose name,
to me, was strange--distance uncertain, but long--appearance unknown,
and geographical position a most profound mystery.


Note 1.  Since the above was written, many years have passed, and Dr
Rae's name has become famous, not only on account of successful
discovery, but also in connection with the expeditions sent out in
search of Sir John Franklin.


Note 2.  It must be borne in mind that all the establishments we passed
on the way belonged to the Hudson Bay Company.



It was on a bright winter's day in the month of January 1846 that I was
sent for by the Governor, and told to hold myself in readiness to start
early the following morning with Mr Stone for Tadousac--adding, that
probably I should spend the approaching summer at Seven Islands.

Tadousac, be it known, is a station about three hundred miles below
Montreal, at the mouth of the river Saguenay, and Seven Islands is two
hundred miles below Tadousac; so that the journey is not a short one.
The greater part of the road runs through an uninhabited country, and
the travelling is bad.

In preparation for this journey, then, I employed myself during the
remainder of the day; and before night all was ready.

Next morning I found that our journey was postponed to the following
day, so I went into Montreal to make a few purchases, and passed the
rest of the day in a state of intense thought, endeavouring to find out
if anything had been forgotten.  Nothing, however, recurred to my
memory; and going to bed only half undressed, in order to be ready at a
moment's notice, I soon fell into a short disturbed slumber, from which
the servant awakened me long before daylight, by announcing that the
sleigh was at the door.  In ten minutes I was downstairs, where Mr
Stone shortly afterwards joined me; and after seeing our traps safely
deposited in the bottom of the sleigh, we jumped in, and slid
noiselessly over the quiet street of Lachine.

The stars shone brightly as we glided over the crunching snow, and the
sleigh-bells tinkled merrily as our horse sped over the deserted road.
Groups of white cottages and solitary gigantic trees flew past us,
looking, in the uncertain light, like large snow-drifts; save where the
twinkling of a candle, or the first blue flames of the morning fire,
indicated that the industrious _habitant_ had risen to his daily toil.
In silence we glided on our way, till the distant lights of Montreal
awakened us from our reveries, and we met at intervals a solitary
pedestrian, or a sleigh-load of laughing, fur-encompassed faces
returning from an evening party.

About seven o'clock we arrived at the hotel from which the stage was to
start for Quebec--but when did stage-coach, or sleigh either, keep to
its time?  No sign of it was to be seen, and it required no small
application of our knuckles and toes at the door to make the lazy waiter
turn out to let us in.  No misery, save being too late, can equal that
of being too soon; at least, so I thought while walking up and down the
coffee-room of the hotel, upon the table of which were scattered the
remains of last night's supper, amid a confusion of newspapers and
fag-ends of cigars; while the sleepy waiter made unavailing efforts to
coax a small spark of fire to contribute some warmth to one or two damp
billets of wood.

About an hour after its appointed time, the sleigh drove up to the door,
and we hastened to take our places.  The stage, however, was full, but
the driver informed us that an "extra" (or separate sleigh of smaller
dimensions than the stage) had been provided for us; so that we enjoyed
the enviable advantage of having it all to ourselves.  Crack went the
whip, and off went the leader with a bound, the wheeler following at a
pace between a trot and a gallop, and our "extra" keeping close in the
rear.  The lamps were still burning as we left the city, although the
first streaks of dawn illumined the eastern sky.  In fifteen minutes
more we had left Montreal far behind.

There is something very agreeable in the motion of a sleigh along a good
road.  The soft muffled sound of the runners gliding over the snow
harmonises well with the tinkling bells; and the rapid motion through
the frosty air, together with the occasional jolt of going into a hollow
or over a hillock, is very exhilarating, and we enjoyed our drive very
much for the first hour or so.  But, alas! human happiness is seldom of
long duration, as we soon discovered; for, just as I was falling into a
comfortable doze, bang! went the sleigh into a deep "cahoe," which most
effectually wakened me.  Now these same "cahoes" are among the
disadvantages attending sleigh-travelling in Canada.  They are nothing
more or less than deep hollows or undulations in the road, into which
the sleighs unexpectedly plunge, thereby pitching the traveller roughly
forward; and upon the horses jerking the vehicles out of them, throwing
him backward in a way that is pretty sure to bring his head into closer
acquaintance with the back of the sleigh than is quite agreeable,
particularly if he be a novice in sleigh-travelling.  Those which we now
encountered were certainly the worst I ever travelled over, rising in
succession like the waves of the sea, and making our conveyance plunge
sometimes so roughly that I expected it to go to pieces.  Indeed, I
cannot understand how wood and iron could stand the crashes to which we
were exposed.  In this way we jolted along, sometimes over good,
sometimes over bad roads, till about nine o'clock, when we stopped at a
neat, comfortable-looking inn, where the driver changed his horses, and
the passengers sat down to a hurried breakfast.

The morning turned out beautifully clear and warm, at least in
comparison with what it had been; and upon re-entering the sleigh we all
looked extremely happy, and disposed to be pleased with everything and
everybody.  The country through which we now passed was picturesque and
varied.  Hills and valleys, covered with glittering snow and dark pines,
followed each other in endless succession; while in every valley, and
from every mountain-top, we saw hundreds of hamlets and villages, whose
little streets and thoroughfares were crowded with busy _habitants_,
engaged in their various occupations and winter traffic.

The laughing voices of merry little children romping along the roads
accorded harmoniously with the lively tinkling of their parents'
sleigh-bells as they set out for the market with the produce of their
farms, or, dressed in their whitest blanket capotes and smartest
_bonnets rouges_, accompanied their wives and daughters to a marriage or
a festival.  The scene was rendered still more pleasing by the extreme
clearness of the frosty air and the deep blue of the sky; while the
weather was just cold enough to make the rapid motion of our sleighs
agreeable and necessary.

In some places the roads were extremely precipitous; and when we arrived
at the foot of a large hill we used generally to get out and walk,
preferring this to being dragged slowly up by the jaded horses.

During the day our sleighs were upset several times; but Mr Stone and
I, in the "extra," suffered more in this way than those of the regular
stage, as it was much narrower, and, consequently, more liable to tip
over.  Upon upsetting, it unaccountably happened that poor Mr Stone was
always undermost.  But he submitted to his fate most stoically; though
from the nature of things my elbow invariably thrust him deep into the
snow, on which, after being extricated, a splendid profile impression
was left, to serve as a warning to other travellers, and to show them
that a gentleman had been _cast_ there.

As very little danger, however, attended these accidents, they only
afforded subject for mirth at the time, and conversation at the end of
the stage--except once, when the sleigh turned over so rapidly, that I
was thrown with considerable force against the roof, which, being of a
kind of slight framework, covered with painted canvas, offered but small
opposition to my flight; my head, consequently, went quite through it,
and my unfortunate nose was divested to rather an alarming extent of its
cutaneous covering.  With this exception, we proceeded safely and
merrily along, and about seven o'clock in the evening arrived at the
small town of Three Rivers.

Early next morning we resumed our journey, and about four in the
afternoon arrived at the famous city of Quebec, without having
encountered any very interesting adventures by the way.

The first sight we had of Quebec was certainly anything but
prepossessing.  A recent fire in the lower town had completely destroyed
a large portion of it; and the first street I passed through was nothing
but a gaunt row of blackened chimneys and skeleton houses, which had a
very melancholy, ghostlike appearance when contrasted with the white
snow.  As we advanced, however, to where the fire had been checked, the
streets assumed a more agreeable aspect--shops were open here and there,
and workmen busily employed in repairing damaged houses and pulling down
dangerous ones.  Upon arriving at the steep street which leads from the
lower town to within the walls, the immense strength of the ramparts and
fortifications struck me forcibly.  The road up which we passed to the
gate was very narrow: on one side a steep hill descended to the lower
town; and on the other towered the city walls, pierced all over with
loopholes, and bristling with cannon.  At the head of the road, in an
angle of the wall, two silent but grim-looking guns pointed their
muzzles directly down the road, so as to command it from one end to the
other.  All the other parts of the walls that I happened to see were
even more strongly fortified than this.

The streets of Quebec are very steep, much more so than those of
Edinburgh; and it requires no small exertion to mount one or two without
stopping to breathe at the top.  Upon the whole, it is anything but a
pretty town (at least in winter), the houses being high, and the streets
very narrow.  The buildings, too, are commonplace; and the monument to
Wolfe and Montcalm is a very insignificant affair.  In fact, Quebec can
boast of little else than the magnificent views it commands from the
ramparts, and the impregnable strength of its fortifications.  Some of
the suburban villas, however, are very beautiful; and although I saw
them in winter, yet I could form some idea of the enchanting places they
must be in summer.

After spending three pleasant days here, we got into our sleigh again,
and resumed our journey.

No stages ran below Quebec, so that we now travelled in the sleigh of a
farmer, who happened to be going down part of the way.

Soon after leaving the city, we passed quite close to the famous Falls
of Montmorenci.  They are as high, if not higher, than those of Niagara,
but I thought them rather tame, being nothing but a broad curtain of
water falling over an even cliff, and quite devoid of picturesque
scenery.  A curious cone of ice, formed by the spray, rose nearly
half-way up the falls.

The scenery below Quebec is much more rugged and mountainous than that
above; and as we advanced the marks of civilisation began gradually to
disappear--villages became scarcer, and roads worse, till at last we
came to the shanties of the wood-cutters, with here and there a solitary
farmhouse.  Still, however, we occasionally met a few sleighs, with the
conductors of which our driver seemed to be intimately acquainted.
These little interruptions broke, in a great degree, the monotony of the
journey; and we always felt happier for an hour after having passed and
exchanged with a Canadian a cheerful _bonjour_.

Our driver happened to be a very agreeable man, and more intelligent
than most Canadians of his class; moreover, he had a good voice, and
when we came to a level part of the road I requested him to sing me a
song--which he did at once, singing with a clear, strong, manly voice
the most beautiful French air I ever heard; both the name and air,
however, I have now forgotten.  He then asked me to sing--which I did
without further ceremony, treating him to one of the ancient melodies of
Scotland; and thus, with solos and duets, we beguiled the tedium of the
road, and filled the woods with melody! much to the annoyance of the
unmusical American feathered tribes, and to the edification of our
horse, who pricked up his ears, and often glanced backwards, apparently
in extreme surprise.

Towards evening the driver told us that we should soon arrive at Baie de
St. Paul; and in half an hour more our weary horse dragged us slowly to
the top of a hill, whence we had a splendid view of the village.  In all
the miles of country I had passed over, I had seen nothing to equal the
exquisite beauty of the Vale of Baie de St. Paul.  From the hill on
which we stood the whole valley, of many miles in extent, was visible.
It was perfectly level, and covered from end to end with thousands of
little hamlets, and several churches, with here and there a few small
patches of forest.  The course of a little rivulet, which meanders
through it in summer, was apparent, even though covered with snow.  At
the mouth of this several schooners and small vessels lay embedded in
ice; beyond which rolled the dark, ice-laden waves of the Gulf of St.
Lawrence.  The whole valley teemed with human life.  Hundreds of
Canadians, in their graceful sleighs and carioles, flew over the
numerous roads intersecting the country; and the faint sound of tinkling
bells floated gently up the mountain-side, till it reached the elevated
position on which we stood.  The whole scene was exquisitely calm and
peaceful, forming a strange and striking contrast to the country round
it.  Like the Happy Valley of Rasselas, it was surrounded by the most
wild and rugged mountains, which rose in endless succession, one behind
another, stretching away in the distance till they resembled a faint
blue wave on the horizon.  In this beautiful place we spent the night,
and the following at Mal Baie.  This village was also pretty, but after
Baie de St. Paul I could but little admire it.

Next night we slept in a shanty belonging to the timber-cutters on the
coast of the gulf, which was truly the most wretched abode, except an
Indian tent, I ever had the chance (or mischance) to sleep in.  It was a
small log-hut, with only one room; a low door--to enter which we had to
stoop--and a solitary square window, filled with parchment in lieu of
glass.  The furniture was of the coarsest description, and certainly not
too abundant.  Everything was extremely dirty, and the close air was
further adulterated with thick clouds of tobacco smoke, which curled
from the pipes of half a dozen wood-choppers.  Such was the place in
which we passed the night; and glad was I when the first blush of day
summoned us to resume our travels.  We now entered our sleigh for the
last time, and after a short drive arrived at the termination of the
horse road.  Here we got out, and rested a short time in a shanty,
preparatory to taking to our snow-shoes.

The road now lay through the primeval forest, and fortunately it proved
to be pretty well beaten, so we walked lightly along, with our
snow-shoes under our arms.  In the afternoon we arrived at another
shanty, having walked about eighteen miles.  Here we found a gentleman
who superintended the operations of the lumberers, or wood-cutters.  He
kindly offered to drive us to Canard River, a place not far distant from
the termination of our journey.  I need scarcely say we gladly accepted
his offer, and in a short time arrived at the river Saguenay.

This river, owing to its immense depth, never freezes over at its mouth;
so we crossed it in a boat, and on the evening of the 7th of February we
arrived at the post of Tadousac.

This establishment belongs to the Hudson Bay Company, and is situated at
the bottom of a large and deep bay adjoining the mouth of the river
Saguenay.  Unlike the posts of the north, it is merely a group of
houses, scattered about in a hollow of the mountains, without any
attempt at arrangement, and without a stockade.  The post, when viewed
from one of the hills in the neighbourhood, is rather picturesque; it is
seen embedded in the mountains, and its white-topped houses contrast
prettily with the few pines around it.  A little to the right rolls the
deep, unfathomable Saguenay, at the base of precipitous rocks and abrupt
mountains, covered in some places with stunted pines, but for the most
part bald-fronted.  Up the river, the view is interrupted by a large
rock, nearly round, which juts out into the stream, and is named the
"Bull."  To the right lies the Bay of St. Catherine, with a new
settlement at its head; and above this flows the majestic St. Lawrence,
compared to which the broad Saguenay is but a thread.

Tadousac Bay is one of the finest natural harbours in the St. Lawrence.
Being very deep quite close to the shore, it is much frequented by
vessels and craft of every description and dimension.  Ships, schooners,
barks, brigs, and bateaux lie calmly at anchor within a stone's-throw of
the bushes on shore; others are seen beating about at the mouth of the
harbour, attempting to enter; while numerous pilot boats sail up and
down, almost under the windows of the house; and in the offing are
hundreds of vessels, whose white sails glimmer on the horizon like the
wings of sea-gulls, as they beat up for anchorage, or proceed on their
course for England or Quebec.  The magnificent panorama is closed by the
distant hills of the opposite shore, blending with the azure sky.  This,
however, is the only view, the land being a monotonous repetition of
bare granite hills and stunted pines [see note 1].

Here, then, for a time, my travels came to a close, and I set about
making myself as comfortable in my new quarters as circumstances would

Tadousac I found to be similar, in many respects, to the forts in the
north.  The country around was wild, mountainous, and inhabited only by
a few Indians and wild animals.  There was no society, excepting that of
Mr Stone's family; the only other civilised being, above the rank of a
labourer, being a gentleman who superintended a timber-cutting and
log-sawing establishment, a quarter of a mile from the Company's post.

My _bourgeois_, Mr Stone, was a very kind man and an entertaining
companion.  He had left Scotland, his native land, when very young, and
had ever since been travelling about and dwelling in the wild woods of
America.  A deep scar on the bridge of his nose showed that he had not
passed through these savage countries scathless.  The way in which he
came by this scar was curious, so I may relate it here.

At one of the solitary forts in the wild regions on the west side of the
Rocky Mountains, where my friend Mr Stone dwelt, the Indians were in
the habit of selling horses, of which they had a great many, to the
servants of the Hudson Bay Company.  They had, however, an uncommonly
disagreeable propensity to steal these horses again the moment a
convenient opportunity presented itself; and to guard against the
gratification of this propensity was one of the many difficulties that
the fur-traders had to encounter.  Upon one occasion a fine horse was
sold by an Indian to Mr Stone, the price (probably several yards of
cloth and a few pounds of tobacco) paid, and the Indian went away.  Not
long after the horse was stolen; but as this was an event that often
happened, it was soon forgotten.  Winter passed away, spring thawed the
lakes and rivers, and soon a party of Indians arrived with furs and
horses to trade.  They were of the Blackfoot tribe, and a wilder set of
fellows one would hardly wish to see.  Being much in the habit of
fighting with the neighbouring tribes, they were quite prepared for
battle, and decorated with many of the trophies of war.  Scalp-locks
hung from the skirts of their leather shirts and leggins, eagles'
feathers and beads ornamented their heads, and their faces were painted
with stripes of black and red paint.

After conversing with them a short time, they were admitted through the
wicket one by one, and their arms taken from them and locked up.  This
precaution was rendered necessary at these posts, as the Indians used to
buy spirits, and often quarrelled with each other; but, having no arms,
of course they could do themselves little damage.  When about a dozen of
them had entered, the gate was shut, and Mr Stone proceeded to trade
their furs and examine their horses, when he beheld, to his surprise,
the horse that had been stolen from him the summer before; and upon
asking to whom it belonged, the same Indian who had formerly sold it to
him stood forward and said it was his.  Mr Stone (an exceedingly quiet,
good-natured man, but, like many men of this stamp, very passionate when
roused) no sooner witnessed the fellow's audacity than he seized a gun
from one of his men and shot the horse.  The Indian instantly sprang
upon him, but being a less powerful man than Mr Stone, and, withal,
unaccustomed to use his fists, he was soon overcome, and pommelled out
of the fort.  Not content with this, Mr Stone followed him down to the
Indian camp, pommelling him all the way.  The instant, however, that the
Indian found himself surrounded by his own friends, he faced about, and
with a dozen warriors attacked Mr Stone and threw him on the ground,
where they kicked and bruised him severely; whilst several boys of the
tribe hovered around him with bows and arrows, waiting a favourable
opportunity to shoot him.  Suddenly a savage came forward with a large
stone in his hand, and, standing over his fallen enemy, raised it high
in the air and dashed it down upon his face.  My friend, when telling me
the story, said that he had just time, upon seeing the stone in the act
of falling, to commend his spirit to God ere he was rendered insensible.
The merciful God, to whom he thus looked for help at the eleventh hour,
did not desert him.  Several men belonging to the fort, seeing the turn
things took, hastily armed themselves, and hurrying out to the rescue,
arrived just at the critical moment when the stone was dashed in his
face.  Though too late to prevent this, they were in time to prevent a
repetition of the blow; and after a short scuffle with the Indians,
without any blood shed, they succeeded in carrying their master up to
the fort, where he soon recovered.  The deep cut made by the stone on
the bridge of his nose left an indelible scar.

Besides Mr Stone, I had another companion--namely, Mr Jordan, a clerk,
who inhabited the same office with me, and slept in the same bedroom,
during the whole winter.  He was a fine-looking athletic half-breed, who
had been partially educated, but had spent much more of his life among
Indians than among civilised men.  He used to be sent about the country
to trade with the natives, and consequently led a much more active life
than I did.  One part of his business, during the early months of
spring, was hunting seals.  This was an amusing, though, withal, rather
a murderous kind of sport.  The manner of it was this:--

My friend Jordan chose a fine day for his excursion, and, embarking in a
boat with six or seven men, sailed a few miles down the St. Lawrence,
till he came to a low flat point.  In a small bay near this he drew up
the boat, and then went into the woods with his party, where each man
cut a large pole or club.  Arming themselves with these, they waited
until the tide receded and left the point dry.  In a short time one or
two seals crawled out of the sea to bask upon the shore; soon several
more appeared, and ere long a band of more than a hundred lay sunning
themselves upon the beach.  The ambuscade now prepared to attack the
enemy.  Creeping stealthily down as near as possible without being
discovered, they simultaneously rushed upon the astonished animals; and
the tragic scene of slaughter, mingled with melodramatic and comic
incidents, that ensued, baffles all description.  In one place might be
seen my friend Jordan swinging a huge club round with his powerful arms,
and dealing death and destruction at every blow; while in another place
a poor weazened-looking Scotchman (who had formerly been a tailor! and
to whom the work was new) advanced, with cautious trepidation, towards a
huge seal, which spluttered and splashed fearfully in its endeavours to
reach the sea, and dealt it a blow on the back.  He might as well have
hit a rock.  The slight rap had only the effect of making the animal
show its teeth; at which sight the tailor retreated precipitately, and,
striking his heel against a rock, fell backwards into a pool of water,
where he rolled over and over--impressed, apparently, with the idea that
he was attacked by all the seals in the sea.  His next essay, however,
was more successful, and in a few minutes he killed several, having
learned to hit on the head instead of on the back.  In less than a
quarter of an hour they killed between twenty and thirty seals, which
were stowed in the boat and conveyed to the post.

Nothing worth mentioning took place at Tadousac during my residence
there.  The winter became severe and stormy, confining us much to the
house, and obliging us to lead very humdrum sort of lives.  Indeed, the
only thing that I can recollect as being at all interesting or amusing--
except, of coarse, the society of my scientific and agreeable friend,
Mr Stone, and his amiable family--was a huge barrel-organ, which, like
the one that I had found at Oxford House, played a rich variety of psalm
tunes, and a choice selection of Scotch reels--the grinding out of which
formed the chief solace of my life, until the arrival of an auspicious
day when I received sudden orders to prepare for another journey.


Note 1.  It may be well to say that the above description applied to the
country only in the summer and autumn months.  It is now, we believe, an
important summer resort, and a comparatively populous place.



It was on a cold, bleak morning, about the beginning of March 1846, that
I awoke from a comfortable snooze in my bedroom at Tadousac, and
recollected that in a few hours I must take leave of my present
quarters, and travel, on snow-shoes, sixty miles down the Gulf of St.
Lawrence to the post of Isle Jeremie.

The wind howled mournfully through the leafless trees, and a few flakes
of snow fell upon the window as I looked out upon the cheerless
prospect.  Winter--cold, biting, frosty winter--still reigned around.
The shores of Tadousac Bay were still covered with the same coat of ice
that had bound them up four months before; and the broad St. Lawrence
still flowed on, black as ink, and laden with immense fields and
hummocks of dirty ice, brought down from the banks of the river above.
The land presented one uniform chilling prospect of bare trees and deep
snow, over which I was soon to traverse many a weary mile.

There is nothing, however, like taking things philosophically; so, after
venting my spite at the weather in one or two short grumbles, I sat down
in a passable state of equanimity to breakfast.  During the meal I
discussed with Mr Stone the prospects of the impending journey, and
indulged in a few excursive remarks upon snow-shoe travelling, whilst he
related a few incidents of his own eventful career in the country.

On one occasion he was sent off upon a long journey over the snow, where
the country was so mountainous that snowshoe walking was rendered
exceedingly painful, by the feet slipping forward against the front bar
of the shoe when descending the hills.  After he had accomplished a good
part of his journey, two large blisters rose under the nails of his
great toes; and soon the nails themselves came off.  Still he must go
on, or die in the woods; so he was obliged to _tie_ the nails on his
toes each morning before starting, for the purpose of protecting the
tender parts beneath; and every evening he wrapped them up carefully in
a piece of rag, and put them into his waistcoat pocket--_being afraid of
losing them if he kept them on all night_.

After breakfast I took leave of my friends at Tadousac, and, with a pair
of snow-shoes under my arm, followed my companion Jordan to the boat
which was to convey me the first twenty miles of the journey, and then
land me, with one man, who was to be my only companion.  In the boat was
seated a Roman Catholic priest, on his way to visit a party of Indians a
short distance down the gulf.  The shivering men shipped their oars in
silence, and we glided through the black water, while the ice grated
harshly against the boat's sides as we rounded Point Rouge, Another
pull, and Tadousac was hidden from our view.

Few things can be more comfortless or depressing than a sail down the
Gulf of St. Lawrence on a gloomy winter's day, with the thermometer at
zero!  The water looks so black and cold, and the sky so gray, that it
makes one shudder, and turn to look upon the land.  But there no
cheering prospect meets the view.  Rocks--cold, hard, misanthropic
rocks--grin from beneath volumes of snow; and the few stunted
black-looking pines that dot the banks here and there only tend to
render the scene more desolate.  No birds fly about to enliven the
traveller; and the only sound that meets the ear, besides the low
sighing of the cold, cold wind, is the crashing of immense fields of
ice, as they meet and war in the eddies of opposing currents.
Fortunately, however, there was no ice near the shore, and we met with
little interruption on the way.  The priest bore the cold like a stoic;
and my friend Jordan, being made, metaphorically speaking, of iron,
treated it with the contemptuous indifference that might be expected
from such metal.

In the evening we arrived at Esquimain River, where we took up our
quarters in a small log-hut belonging to a poor seal-fisher, whose
family, and a few men who attended a sawmill a short distance off, were
the only inhabitants of this little hamlet.  Here we remained all night,
and prepared our snow-shoes for the morrow, as the boat was there to
leave us and return to Tadousac.  The night was calm and frosty, and
everything gave promise of fine weather for our journey.  But who can
tell what an hour will bring forth?  Before morning the weather became
milder, and soon it began to _thaw_.  A fine warm day, with a bright
sun, be it known, is one of the most dreadful calamities that can befall
a snowshoe traveller, as the snow then becomes soft and sticky, thereby
drenching the feet and snow-shoes, which become painfully heavy from the
quantity of snow which sticks to and falls upon them.  In cold frosty
weather the snow is dry, crisp, and fine, so that it falls through the
network of the snow-shoe without leaving a feather's weight behind,
while the feet are dry and warm; but a thaw!--oh! it is useless
attempting to recapitulate the miseries attending a thaw; my next day's
experience will show what it is.

Early on the following morning I jumped from my bed on the floor of the
hut, and proceeded to equip myself for the march.  The apartment in
which I had passed the night presented a curious appearance.  It
measured about sixteen feet by twelve, and the greater part of this
space was occupied by two beds, on which lay, in every imaginable
position, the different members of the half-breed family to whom
the mansion belonged.  In the centre of the room stood a
coarsely-constructed deal table, on which lay in confusion the remains
of the preceding night's supper.  On the right of this, a large
gaudily-painted Yankee clock graced the wall, and stared down upon the
sleeping figures of the men.  This, with a few rough wooden chairs and a
small cupboard, comprised all the furniture of the house.

I soon singled out _my_ man from among the sleeping figures on the
floor, and bade him equip himself for the road--or rather for the march,
for road we had none.  In half an hour we were ready; and having
fortified ourselves with a cup of weak tea and a slice of bread, left
the house and commenced our journey.

My man Bezeau (a French Canadian) was dressed in a blue striped cotton
shirt, of very coarse quality, and a pair of corduroys, strapped round
his waist with a scarlet belt.  Over these he wore a pair of blue cloth
leggins, neatly bound with orange-coloured ribbon.  A Glengarry bonnet
covered his head; and two pairs of flannel socks, under a pair of raw
seal-skin shoes, protected his feet from the cold.  His burden consisted
of my carpet-bag, two days' provisions, and a blue cloth capote--which
latter he carried over his shoulder, the weather being warm.  My dress
consisted of a scarlet flannel shirt, and a pair of _etoffe du pays_
trousers, which were fastened round my waist by a leathern bolt, from
which depended a small hunting-knife; a foraging cap and deer-skin
moccasins completed my costume.  My burden was a large green blanket, a
greatcoat, and a tin tea-kettle.  Our only arms of offence or defence
were the little hunting-knife before mentioned, and a small axe for
felling trees, should we wish to make a fire.  We brought no guns, as
there was little prospect of meeting any game on the road; and it
behoves one, when travelling on foot, to carry as little as possible.

Thus we started from Esquimain River.  The best joke, however, of all
was, that neither I nor my man had ever travelled that way before!  All
we knew was, that we had to walk fifty miles through an uninhabited
country, and that then we should, or at least ought to, reach Isle
Jeremie.  There were two solitary houses, however, that we had to pass
on the way; the one an outpost of the Hudson Bay Company, the other a
saw-mill belonging to one of the lumber companies (or timber-traders) in
Quebec.  In fact, the best idea of our situation may be had from the
following lines, which may be supposed to have been uttered by the
establishment to which we were bound:--

  "Through the woods, through the woods, follow and find me,
  Search every hollow, and dingle, and dell;
  To the right, left, or front, you may pass, or behind me,
  Unless you are careful, and look for me well."

The first part of our road lay along the shores of the St. Lawrence.

The sun shone brightly, and the drifting ice in the gulf glittered in
its rays as it flowed slowly out to sea; but ere long the warm rays
acted upon the snow, and rendered walking toilsome and fatiguing.  After
about an hour's walk along the shore, we arrived at the last hut we were
likely to see that day.  It was inhabited by an Indian and his family.
Here we rested a few minutes, and I renewed my snow-shoe lines, the old
ones having broken by the way.

Shortly after this we passed the wreck of what had once been a fine
ship.  She lay crushed and dismasted among the rocks and lumps of ice
which lined the desolate shore, her decks and the stumps of her masts
drifted over with snow.  Six short months before, she had bounded over
the Atlantic wave in all the panoply of sail and rigging pertaining to a
large three-master, inclosing in her sturdy hull full many a daring
heart beating high with sanguine hopes, and dreaming of fame and glory,
or perchance of home.  But now, how great the change!--her sails and
masts uprooted, and her helm--the seaman's confidence and safeguard--
gone; her bed upon the rocks and pebbles of a dreary shore; and her
shattered hull hung round with icicles, and wrapped in the cold embraces
of the wintry ocean.  Few things, I think, can have a more inexpressibly
melancholy appearance than a wreck upon a rocky and deserted shore in

The road now began to get extremely bad.  The ice, over which we had to
walk for miles, had been covered with about six inches of water and
snow.  A sharp frost during the night had covered this with a cake of
ice sufficiently strong to bear us up until we got fairly upon it, and
were preparing to take another step, when down it went--so that we had a
sort of natural treadmill to exercise ourselves upon all day; while
every time we sank, as a matter of course our snowshoes were covered
with a mixture of water, snow, and broken ice, to extricate our feet
from which almost pulled our legs out of the sockets.

In this way we plodded slowly and painfully along, till we came to a
part of the shore where the ice had been entirely carried off, leaving
the sandy beach uncovered for about two miles.  We gladly took advantage
of this, and, pulling off our snow-shoes, walked along among the shells
and tangle of the sea-shore.  At this agreeable part of our journey,
while we walked lightly along, with our snow-shoes under our arms, I
fell into a reverie upon the superior advantages of travelling in cold
weather, and the delights of walking on sandy beaches in contrast with
wet snow.  These cogitations, however, were suddenly interrupted by our
arrival at the place where the ice had parted from the general mass; so,
with a deep sigh, we resumed our snow-shoes.  My feet, from the friction
of the lines, now began to feel very painful; so, having walked about
ten miles, I proposed taking a rest.  To this my man, who seemed rather
tired, gladly acceded, and we proceeded to light a fire under the stem
of a fallen tree which opportunely presented itself.

Here we sat down comfortably together; and while our wet shoes and socks
dried before the blazing fire, and our chafed toes wriggled joyously at
being relieved from the painful harness of the snow-shoes, we swallowed
a cup of congou with a degree of luxurious enjoyment, appreciable only
by those who have walked themselves into a state of great exhaustion
after a hurried breakfast.

Greatly refreshed by the tea, we resumed our journey in better spirits,
and even affected to believe we were taking an agreeable afternoon walk
for the first mile or so.  We soon, however, fell to zero again, as we
gazed wistfully upon the long line of coast stretching away to the
horizon.  But there was no help for it; on we splashed, sometimes
through ice, water, and snow, and sometimes across the shingly beach,
till the day was far spent, when I became so exhausted that I could
scarcely drag one foot after the other, and moved along almost
mechanically.  My man, too, strong as he was, exhibited symptoms of
fatigue; though, to do him justice, he was at least seven times more
heavily laden than I.

While we jogged slowly along in this unenviable condition, a lump of ice
offered so tempting a seat that we simultaneously proposed to sit down.
This was very foolish.  Resting without a fire is bad at all times; and
the exhausted condition we were then in made it far worse, as I soon
found to my cost.  Tired as I was before, I could have walked a good
deal farther; but no sooner did I rise again to my feet than an
inexpressible weakness overcame me, and I felt that I could go no
farther.  This my man soon perceived, and proposed making a fire and
having a cup of tea; and then, if I felt better, we might proceed.  This
I agreed to; so, entering the woods, we dug a hole in the snow, and in
half an hour had a fire blazing in it that would have roasted an ox!  In
a short time a panful of snow was converted into hot tea; and as I sat
sipping this, and watching the white smoke as it wreathed upwards from
the pipe of my good-natured guide, I never felt rest more delightful.

The tea refreshed us so much that we resumed our journey, intending, if
possible, to reach Port Neuf during the night; and as we calculated that
we had walked between fifteen and eighteen miles, we hoped to reach it
in a few hours.

Away, then, we went, and plodded on till dark without reaching the post;
nevertheless, being determined to travel as long as we could, we pushed
on till near midnight, when, being quite _done up_, and seeing no sign
of the establishment, we called a council of war, and sat down on a lump
of ice to discuss our difficulties.  I suggested that if we had not
already passed the post, in all probability we should do so, if we
continued to travel any farther in the dark.  My companion admitted that
he entertained precisely the same views on the subject; and,
furthermore, that as we both seemed pretty tired, and there happened to
be a nice little clump of willows, intermixed with pine trees, close at
hand, his opinion was that nothing better could be done than encamping
for the night.  I agreed to this; and the resolution being carried
unanimously, the council adjourned, and we proceeded to make our

First of all, the snow was dug away from the foot of a large pine with
our snow-shoes, which we used as spades; and when a space of about ten
feet long, by six broad, was cleared, we covered it with pine branches
at one end, and made a roaring fire against the tree at the other.  The
snow rose all around to the height of about four feet, so that when our
fire blazed cheerily, and our supper was spread out before it upon my
green blanket, we looked very comfortable indeed--and what was of much
more consequence, _felt_ so.  Supper consisted of a cup of tea, a loaf
of bread, and a lump of salt butter.  After having partaken largely of
these delicacies, we threw a fresh log upon the fire, and rolling
ourselves in our blankets, were soon buried in repose.

Next morning, on awaking, the first thing I became aware of was the fact
that it was raining, and heavily too, in the shape of a Scotch mist.  I
could scarcely believe it, and rubbed my eyes to make sure; but there
was no mistake about it at all.  The sky was gray, cold, and dismal, and
the blanket quite wet!  "Well," thought I, as I fell back in a sort of
mute despair, "this is certainly precious weather for snow-shoe
travelling!"  I nudged my sleeping companion, and the look of melancholy
resignation which he put on, as he became gradually aware of the state
of matters, convinced me that bad as yesterday had been, to-day would be
far worse.

When I got upon my legs, I found that every joint in my body was stiffer
than the rustiest hinge ever heard of in the annals of doors! and my
feet as tender as a chicken's, with huge blisters all over them.
Bezeau, however, though a little stiff, was otherwise quite well, being
well inured to hardships of every description.

It is needless to recount the miseries of the five miles' walk that we
had to make before arriving at Port Neuf, over ground that was literally
next to impassable.  About nine o'clock we reached the house, and
remained there for the rest of the day.  Here, for three days, we were
hospitably entertained by the Canadian family inhabiting the place;
during this time it rained and thawed so heavily that we could not
venture to resume our journey.

On the 16th the weather became colder, and Bezeau announced his opinion
that we might venture to proceed.  Glad to be once more on the move--for
fears of being arrested altogether by the setting-in of spring had begun
to beset me--I once more put on my snow-shoes; and, bidding adieu to the
hospitable inmates of Port Neuf, we again wended our weary way along the
coast.  Alas! our misfortunes had not yet ceased.  The snow was much
softer than we anticipated, and the blisters on my feet, which had
nearly healed during the time we stayed at Port Neuf, were now torn open
afresh.  After a painful and laborious walk of eight or nine miles, we
arrived at a small house, where a few enterprising men lived who had
penetrated thus far down the gulf to erect a saw-mill.

Here we found, to our infinite joy, a small flat-bottomed boat, capable
of carrying two or three men; so, without delay, we launched it, and
putting our snow-shoes and provisions into it, my man and I jumped in,
and pulled away down the gulf, intending to finish the twenty miles that
still remained of our journey by water.  We were obliged to pull a long
way out to sea, to avoid the ice which lined the shore, and our course
lay a good deal among drifting masses.

Half an hour after we embarked a snow-storm came on, but still we pulled
along, preferring anything to resuming the snow-shoes.

After a few hours' rowing, we rested on our oars, and refreshed
ourselves with a slice of bread and a glass of rum--which latter, having
forgotten to bring water with us, we were obliged to drink pure.  We
certainly cut a strange figure, while thus lunching in our little boat--
surrounded by ice, and looking hazy through the thickly falling snow,
which prevented us from seeing very far ahead, and made the mountains on
shore look quite spectral.

For about five miles we pulled along in a straight line, after which the
ice trended outwards, and finally brought us to a stand-still by running
straight out to sea.  This was an interruption we were not at all
prepared for, and we felt rather undecided how to proceed.  After a
little confabulation, we determined to pull out, and see if the ice did
not again turn in the proper direction; but after pulling straight out
for a quarter of a mile, we perceived, or imagined we perceived, to our
horror, that the ice, instead of being stationary, as we supposed it to
be, was floating slowly out to sea with the wind, and carrying us along
with it.  No time was to be lost; so, wheeling about, we rowed with all
our strength for the shore, and after a pretty stiff pull gained the
solid ice.  Here we hauled the flat up out of the water with great
difficulty, and once more put on our snow-shoes.

Our road still lay along shore, and, as the weather was getting colder,
we proceeded along much more easily than heretofore.  In an hour or two
the snow ceased to fall, and showed us that the ice was _not_ drifting,
but that it ran so far out to sea that it would have proved a bar to our
further progress by water at any rate.

The last ten miles of our journey now lay before us; and we sat down,
before starting, to have another bite of bread and a pull at the rum
bottle; after which, we trudged along in silence.  The peculiar
compression of my guide's lips, and the length of step that he now
adopted, showed me that he had made up his mind to get through the last
part of the journey without stopping; so, tightening my belt, and
bending my head forward, I plodded on, solacing myself as we advanced by
humming, "Follow, follow, over mountain,--follow, follow, over sea!"

About four or five o'clock in the afternoon, upon rounding a point, we
were a little excited by perceiving evident signs of the axe having been
at work in the forest; and a little farther on discovered, to our
inexpressible joy, a small piece of ground enclosed as a garden.  This
led us to suppose that the post could not be far off, so we pushed
forward rapidly; and upon gaining the summit of a small eminence, beheld
with delight the post of Isle Jeremie.

This establishment, like most of the others on the St. Lawrence, is
merely a collection of scattered buildings, most of which are
storehouses and stables.  It stands in a hollow of the mountains, and
close to a large bay, where sundry small boats and a sloop lay quietly
at anchor.  Upon a little hillock close to the principal house is a
Roman Catholic chapel; and behind it stretches away the broad St.
Lawrence, the south shore of which is indistinctly seen on the horizon.
We had not much inclination, however, to admire the scenery just then;
so, hastening down the hill, my man walked into the men's house, where
in five minutes he was busily engaged eating bread and pork, and
recounting his adventures to a circle of admiring friends; while I
warmed myself beside a comfortable fire in the hall, and chatted with
the gentleman in charge of the establishment.

At Isle Jeremie I remained about six weeks; or rather, I should say,
belonged to the establishment for that time, as during a great part of
it I was absent from the post.  Mr Coral, soon after my arrival, went
to visit the Company's posts lower down the St. Lawrence, leaving me in
charge of Isle Jeremie; and as I had little or nothing to do in the way
of business (our Indians not having arrived from the interior), most of
my time was spent in reading and shooting.

It was here I took my first lessons in navigation--I mean in a practical
way; as for the scientific part of the business, that was deferred to a
more favourable opportunity--and, truly, the lessons were rather rough.
The way of it was this:--Our flour at Isle Jeremie had run out.  Indians
were arriving every day calling loudly for flour, and more were
expected; so Mr Coral told me, one fine morning, to get ready to go to
Tadousac in the boat for a load of flour.  This I prepared to do at
once, and started after breakfast in a large boat, manned by two men.
The wind was fair, and I fired a couple of shots with my fowling-piece,
as we cleared the harbour, in answer to an equal number of salutes from
two iron cannons that stood in front of the house.  By-the-bye, one of
these guns had a melancholy interest attached to it a few months after
this.  While firing a salute of fourteen rounds, in honour of the
arrival of a Roman Catholic bishop, one of them exploded while the man
who acted as gunner was employed in ramming home the cartridge, and blew
him about twenty yards down the bank.  The unfortunate man expired in a
few hours.  Poor fellow! he was a fine little Canadian, and had sailed
with me, not many weeks before, in a voyage up the St. Lawrence.  But to
return.  Our voyage, during the first few days, was prosperous enough,
and I amused myself in shooting the gulls which were foolish enough to
come within range of my gun, and in recognizing the various places along
shore where I had rested and slept on the memorable occasion of my
snow-shoe trip.

But when did the St. Lawrence prove friendly for an entire voyage?
Certainly not when I had the pleasure of ploughing its rascally waters!
The remainder of our voyage was a succession of squalls, calms, contrary
winds, sticking on shoals for hours, and being detained on shore, with
an accompaniment of pitching, tossing, oscillation and botheration, that
baffles all description.  However, time brings the greatest miseries to
an end; and in the process of time we arrived at Tadousac--loaded our
boat deeply with flour--shook hands with our friends--related our
adventures--bade them adieu--and again found ourselves scudding down the
St. Lawrence, with a snoring breeze on our quarter.

Now this was truly a most delectable state of things, when contrasted
with our wretched trip up; so we wrapped our blankets round us (for it
was very cold), and felicitated ourselves considerably on such good
fortune.  It was rather premature, however; as, not long after, we had a
very narrow escape from being swamped.  The wind, as I said before, was
pretty strong, and it continued so the whole way; so that on the evening
of the second day we came within sight of Isle Jeremie, while running
before a stiff breeze, through the green waves which were covered with
foam.  Our boat had a "drooping nose," and was extremely partial to what
the men termed "drinking;" in other words, it shipped a good deal of
water over the bows.  Now it happened that while we were straining our
eyes ahead, to catch a sight of our haven, an insidious squall was
creeping fast down behind us.  The first intimation we had of its
presence was a loud and ominous hiss, which made us turn our heads round
rather smartly; but it was too late--for with a howl, that appeared to
be quite vicious the wind burst upon our sails, and buried the boat in
the water, which rushed in a cataract over the bows, and nearly filled
us in a moment, although the steersman threw her into the wind
immediately.  The sheets were instantly let go, and one of the men, who
happened to be a sailor, jumped up, and, seizing an axe, began to cut
down the main-mast, at the same time exclaiming to the steersman,
"You've done for us now, Cooper!"  He was mistaken, however, for the
sails were taken in just in time to save us; and, while the boat lay
tumbling in the sea, we all began to bail, with anything we could lay
hands on, as fast as we could.  In a few minutes the boat was lightened
enough to allow of our hoisting the fore-sail; and about half an hour
afterwards we were safely anchored in the harbour.

This happened within about three or four hundred yards of the shore; yet
the best swimmer in the world would have been drowned ere he reached it,
as the water was so bitterly cold, that when I was bailing for my life,
and, consequently, in pretty violent exercise, my hands became quite
benumbed and almost powerless.

Shortly after this I was again sent up to Tadousac, in charge of a small
bateau, of about ten or fifteen tons, with a number of shipwrecked
seamen on board.  These unfortunate men had been cast on shore about the
commencement of winter, on an uninhabited part of the coast, and had
remained without provisions or fire for a long time, till they were
discovered by a gentleman of the Hudson Bay Company, and conveyed over
the snow in sleighs to the nearest establishment, which happened to be
Isle Jeremie.  Here they remained all winter, in a most dreadfully
mutilated condition, some of them having been desperately frozen.  One
of the poor fellows, a negro, had one of his feet frozen off at the
ankle, and had lost all the toes and the heel of the other, the bone
being laid bare for about an inch and a half.  Mr Coral, the gentleman
who had saved them, did all in his power to relieve their distress--
amputating their frozen limbs, and dressing their wounds, while they
were provided with food and warm clothing.  I am sorry to say, however,
that these men, who would have perished had it not been for Mr Coral's
care of them, were the first, upon arriving at Quebec the following
spring, to open their mouths in violent reproach and bitter invective
against him; forgetting that, while their only charge against him was a
little severity in refusing them a few trifling and unnecessary
luxuries, he had saved them from a painful and lingering death.

In a couple of days we arrived at Tadousac the second time, to the no
small astonishment of my brother scribbler residing there.  After
reloading our craft, we directed our course once more down the gulf.

This time the wind was also favourable, but, unfortunately, a little too
strong; so we were obliged, in the evening, to come to an anchor in
Esquimain River.  This river has good anchorage close to the bank, but
is very deep in the lead, or current; this, however, we did not know at
the time, and seeing a small schooner close to shore, we rounded to a
few fathoms outside of her, and let go our anchor.  Whirr! went the
chain--ten! twelve! sixteen! till at last forty fathoms ran out, and
only a little bit remained on board, and still we had no bottom.  After
attaching our spare cable to the other one, the anchor at last grounded.
This, however, was a dangerous situation to remain in, as, if the wind
blew strong, we would have to run out to sea, and so much cable would
take a long time to get in; so I ordered my two men, in a very pompous,
despotic way, to heave up the anchor again.  But not a bit would it
budge.  We all heaved at the windlass; still the obstinate anchor held
fast.  Again we gave another heave, and smashed both the handspikes.

In this dilemma I begged assistance from the neighbouring schooner, and
they kindly sent all their men on board with new handspikes; but our
refractory anchor would _not_ let go, and at last it was conjectured
that it had got foul of a rock, and that it was not in the power of
mortal man to move it.  Under these pleasant circumstances we went to
bed, in hopes that the falling tide might swing us clear before morning.
This turned out just as we expected--or, rather, a little better--for
next morning, when I went on deck, I found that we were drifting quietly
down the gulf, stern foremost, all the sails snugly tied up, and the
long cable dragging at the bows!  Towards evening we arrived at Jeremie,
and I gladly resigned command of the vessel to my first lieutenant.

One afternoon, near the middle of April, I sat sunning myself in the
veranda before the door of the principal house at Isle Jeremie, and
watched the fields of ice, as they floated down the Gulf of St.
Lawrence, occasionally disappearing behind the body of a large pig,
which stood upon a hillock close in front of me, and then reappearing
again as the current swept them slowly past the intervening obstacle.

Mr Coral, with whom I had been leading a very quiet, harmless sort of
life for a couple of weeks past, leant against a wooden post, gazing
wistfully out to sea.  Suddenly he turned towards me, and with great
gravity told me that, as there was nothing particular for me to do at
the establishment, he meant to send me down to Seven Islands, to relieve
the gentleman at that post of his charge; adding, that as he wished me
to set off the following morning at an early hour, I had better pack up
a few things to-night.

Now, this order may not seem, at the first glance, a very dreadful one;
but taking into consideration that Seven Islands is one hundred and
twenty miles below the post at which I then resided, it did appear as if
one would wish to think about it a little before starting.  Not having
time to think about it, however, I merely, in a sort of bantering
desperation, signified my readiness to undertake a voyage to any part of
the undiscovered world, at any moment he (Mr Coral) might think proper,
and then vanished, to prepare myself for the voyage.

It was optional with me whether I should walk through one hundred and
twenty miles of primeval and most impassable forest, or paddle over an
equal number of miles of water.  Preferring the latter, as being at once
the less disagreeable and more expeditious method, I accordingly, on the
following morning, embarked in a small Indian canoe, similar to the one
in which I had formerly travelled with two Indians in the North-West.
My companions were--a Canadian, who acted as steersman; a genuine
Patlander, who ostensibly acted as bowsman, but in reality was more
useful in the way of ballast; and a young Newfoundland dog, which I had
got as a present from Mr Stone while at Tadousac.

When we were all in our allotted places, the canoe was quite full; and
we started from Isle Jeremie in good spirits, with the broad, sun-like
face of Mike Lynch looming over the bows of the canoe, and the black
muzzle of Humbug (the dog) resting on its gunwale.

It is needless to describe the voyage minutely.  We had the usual amount
of bad and good weather, and ran the risk several times of upsetting; we
had, also, several breakfasts, dinners, suppers, and beds in the forest;
and on the afternoon of the third day we arrived at Goodbout, an
establishment nearly half-way between the post I had left and the one to
which I was bound.  Here we stayed all night, proposing to start again
on the morrow.  But the weather was so stormy as to prevent us for a
couple of days trusting ourselves out in a frail bark canoe.

Early on the third morning, however, I took my place as steersman in the
stern of our craft (my former guide being obliged to leave me here), and
my man Mike squeezed his unwieldy person into the bow.  In the middle
lay our provisions and baggage, over which the black muzzle of Humbug
peered anxiously out upon the ocean.  In this trim we paddled from the
beach, amid a shower of advice to keep close to shore, in case the
_big-fish_--alias, the whales--might take a fancy to upset us.

After a long paddle of five or six hours we arrived at Pointe des Monts,
where rough weather obliged us to put ashore.  Here I remained all
night, and slept in the lighthouse--a cylindrical building of moderate
height, which stands on a rock off Pointe des Monte, and serves to warn
sailors off the numerous shoals with which this part of the gulf is
filled.  In the morning we fortunately found an Indian with his boat,
who was just starting for Seven Islands; and after a little higgling, at
which Mike proved himself quite an adept, he agreed to give us a lift
for a few pounds of tobacco.  Away, then, we went, with:--

  "A wet sheet and a flowing sea,
  And a wind that followed fast,"

ploughing through the water in beautiful style.

The interior of our boat presented a truly ludicrous, and rather filthy
scene.  The Indian, who was a fine-looking man of about thirty, had
brought his whole family--sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, wife, and
mother--and a more heterogeneous mass of dirty, dark-skinned humanity I
never before had the ill-luck to travel with.  The mother of the flock
was the most extraordinary being that I ever beheld.  She must have been
very near a hundred years old, as black and wrinkled as a singed hide,
yet active and playful as a kitten.  She was a very bad sailor, however,
and dived down into the bottom of the boat the moment a puff of wind
arose.  Indians have a most extraordinary knack of diminishing their
bulk, which is very convenient sometimes.  Upon this occasion it was
amusing to watch them settling gradually down, upon the slightest
appearance of wind, until you might almost believe they had squeezed
themselves quite through the bottom of the boat, and left only a few
dirty blankets to tell the tale.  Truly, one rarely meets with such a
compact mass of human ballast.  If, however, a slight lull occurred, or
the sun peeped out from behind a cloud, there was immediately a
perceptible increase in the bulk of the mass, and gradually a few heads
appeared, then a leg, and soon a few arms; till at last the whole batch
were up, laughing, talking, singing, eating, and chattering in a most
uproarious state of confusion!

After the usual amount of storms, calms, and contrary winds, we arrived
in safety at the post of Seven Islands, where I threw my worthy friend
Mr Anderson into a state of considerable surprise and agitation by
informing him that in the individual before him he beheld his august

The establishment of Seven Islands is anything but an inviting place,
although pretty enough on a fine day; and the general appearance of the
surrounding scenery is lonely, wild, and desolate.  The houses are built
on a low sandy beach, at the bottom of the large bay of Seven Islands.
The trees around are thinly scattered, and very small.  In the
background, rugged hills stretch as far as the eye can see; and in
front, seven lofty islands, from which the bay and post derive their
name, obstruct the view, affording only a partial glimpse of the open
sea beyond.  No human habitations exist within seventy miles of the
place.  Being out of the line of sailing, no vessels ever visit it,
except when driven to the bay for shelter; and the bay is so large, that
many vessels come in and go out again without having been observed.
Altogether, I found it a lonely and desolate place, during a residence
of nearly four months.

An extensive salmon-fishery is carried on at a large river called the
Moisie, about eighteen miles below the post, where the Company sometimes
catch and salt upwards of eighty and ninety tierces of fish.

During my sojourn there, I made one or two excursions to the fishery, a
description of which may perhaps prove interesting to those versed in
the more practical branches of ichthyology.

It was a lovely morning in June when Mr Anderson and I set out from
Seven Islands on foot, with our coats (for the weather was warm) slung
across our backs, and walked rapidly along the beach in the direction of
the river Moisie.  The weather was very calm, and the mosquitoes,
consequently, rather annoying; but, as our progressive motion
disconcerted their operations a little, we did not mind them much.  The
beach all the way was composed of fine hard sand, so that we found the
walk very agreeable.  A few loons dived about in the sea, and we passed
two or three flocks of black ducks, known in some parts of the country
by the name of "old wives;" but, having brought no gun with us, the old
ladies were permitted to proceed on their way unmolested.  The land all
along presented the same uniform line of forest, with the yellow sand of
the beach glittering at its edge; and as we cleared the islands, the
boundless ocean opened upon our view.

In about four hours or so we arrived at the mouth of the Moisie, where
the first fishery is established.  Here we found that our men had caught
and salted a good many salmon, some of which had just come from the
nets, and lay on the grass, plump and glittering, in their pristine
freshness.  They looked very tempting, and we had one put in the kettle
immediately; which, when we set to work at him soon afterwards,
certainly did not belie his looks.  The salmon had only commenced to
ascend the river that day, and were being taken by fifties at a haul in
the nets.  The fishery was attended by three men, who kept seven or
eight nets constantly in the water, which gave them enough of
employment--two of them attending to the nets, while the third split,
salted, and packed the fish in large vats.  Here we spent the night, and
slept in a small house about ten feet long by eight broad, built for the
accommodation of the fishermen.

Next morning we embarked in a boat belonging to a trapper, and went up
the river with a fair wind, to visit the fisheries higher up.  On the
way we passed a seal-net belonging to the owner of the boat, and at our
request he visited it, and found seven or eight fine seals in it: they
were all dead, and full of water.  Seal-nets are made the same as
salmon-nets, except that the mesh is larger, the seal having a pretty
good-sized cranium of his own.  After a good deal of unravelling and
pulling, we got them all out of the net, and proceeded onward with our

The scenery on the river Moisie is pleasing: the banks are moderately
high, and covered to the foot with the richest and most variegated
verdure; while here and there, upon rounding some of the curvatures of
the stream, long vistas of the river may be seen, embedded in luxuriant
foliage.  Thirteen or fourteen miles up the river is the Frog Creek
fishery, at which we arrived late in the afternoon, and found that the
man superintending it had taken a good many fish, and expected more.  He
visited his nets while we were there, but returned with only a few
salmon.  Some of them were badly cut up by the seals, which are the most
formidable enemies of fishermen, as they eat and destroy many salmon,
besides breaking the nets.  We were detained here by rain all night, and
slept in the small fishing-house.

Travelling makes people acquainted with strange beds as well as strange
bed-fellows; but I question if many people can boast of having slept on
a bed of _nets_.  This we were obliged to do here, having brought no
blankets with us, as we expected to have returned to the Point fishery
in the evening.  The bedstead was a long low platform, in one end of the
little cabin, and was big enough to let four people sleep in it--two of
us lying abreast at one end, and two more at the other end, feet to
feet.  A large salmon-net formed a pretty good mattress; another, spread
out on top of us, served as a blanket; and a couple of trout-nets were
excellent as pillows.  From this _piscatorial_ couch we arose early on
the following morning, and breakfasted on a splendid fresh salmon; after
which we resumed our journey.  In a couple of hours we arrived at the
Rapid fishery, where I found that my old friend Mike, the Irishman, had
caught a great number of salmon.  He was very bitter, however, in his
remarks upon the seals, which it seems had made great havoc among his
nets during the last two days.  A black bear, too, was in the habit of
visiting his station every morning, and, sitting on a rock not far off,
watched his motions with great apparent interest while he took the fish
out of the nets.  Mike, poor man, regretted very much that he had no
gun, as he might perhaps shoot "the baste."  Bears are very destructive
at times to the salted salmon, paying visits during the night to the
vats, and carrying off and tearing to pieces far more than they are
capable of devouring.

While inspecting the nets here, we witnessed an interesting seal-hunt.
Two Indians, in separate canoes, were floating quietly in a small eddy,
with their guns cocked, ready to fire at the first unfortunate seal that
should show his head on the surface of the stream.  They had not waited
long when one popped up his head, and instantly got a shot, which
evidently hurt him, as he splashed a little, and then dived.  In a
minute the Indian reloaded his gun, and paddled out into the stream, in
order to have another shot the moment the seal rose for air: this he did
in a short time, when another shot was fired, which turned him over
apparently lifeless.  The Indian then laid down his gun, and seizing his
paddle, made towards the spot where the seal lay.  He had scarcely
approached a few yards, however, when it recovered a little, and dived--
much to the Indian's chagrin, who had approached too near the head of a
small rapid, and went down, stern foremost, just at the moment his
friend the seal did the same.  On arriving at the bottom, the animal,
after one or two kicks, expired, and the Indian at last secured his
prize.  After this, we embarked again in our boat; and the wind _for
once_ determined to be accommodating, as it shifted in our favour,
almost at the same time that we turned to retrace our way.  In a few
hours we arrived at the fishery near the mouth of the river, where we
found supper just ready.

After supper, which we had about eight o'clock, the night looked so
fine, and the mosquitoes in the little smoky house were so troublesome,
that we determined to walk up to the post; so, ordering one of the men
to follow us, away we went along the beach.  The night was fine, though
dark, and we trudged rapidly along.  It was very tiresome work, however,
as, the tide being full, we were obliged to walk upon the soft sand.
Everything along the beach looked huge and mystical in the uncertain
light; and this, accompanied with the solemn boom of the waves as they
fell at long intervals upon the shore, made the scene quite romantic.
After five hours' sharp walking, with pocket-handkerchiefs tied round
our heads to guard us from the attacks of mosquitoes, we arrived at
Seven Islands between one and two in the morning.

Not long after this, a boat arrived with orders for my companion, Mr
Anderson, to pack up his worldly goods and start for Tadousac.  The same
day he bade me adieu and set sail.  In a few minutes the boat turned a
point of land, and I lost sight of one of the most kindly and agreeable
men whom I have had the good fortune to meet in the Nor'-West.

The situation in which I found myself was a novel, and, to say truth,
not a very agreeable one.  A short way off stood a man watching
contemplatively the point round which the boat had just disappeared; and
this man was my only companion in the world!--my Friday, in fact.  Not
another human being lived within sixty miles of our solitary habitation,
with the exception of the few men at the distant fishery.  In front of
us, the mighty Gulf of St. Lawrence stretched out to the horizon, its
swelling bosom unbroken, save by the dipping of a sea-gull or the fin of
a whale.  Behind lay the dense forest, stretching back, without a break
in its primeval wildness, across the whole continent of America to the
Pacific Ocean; while above and below lay the rugged mountains that form
the shores of the gulf.  As I walked up to the house, and wandered like
a ghost through its empty rooms, I felt inexpressibly melancholy, and
began to have unpleasant anticipations of spending the winter at this
lonely spot.

Just as this thought occurred to me, my dog Humbug bounded into the
room, and, looking with a comical expression up in my face for a moment,
went bounding off again.  This incident induced me to take a more
philosophical view of affairs.  I began to gaze round upon my domain,
and whisper to myself that I was "monarch of all I surveyed."  All the
mighty trees in the wood were mine--if I chose to cut them down; all the
fish in the sea were mine--if I could only catch them; and the palace of
Seven Islands was also mine, The regal feeling inspired by the
consideration of these things induced me to call in a very kingly tone
of voice for my man (he was a French Canadian), who politely answered,
"Oui, monsieur."

"Dinner!" said I, falling back in my throne, and contemplating through
the palace window our vast dominions!

On the following day a small party of Indians arrived, and the bustle of
trading their furs, and asking questions about their expectations of a
good winter hunt, tended to disperse those unpleasant feelings of
loneliness that at first assailed me.

One of these poor Indians had died while travelling, and his relatives
brought the body to be interred in our little burying-ground.  The poor
creatures came in a very melancholy mood to ask me for a few planks to
make a coffin for him.  They soon constructed a rough wooden box, in
which the corpse was placed, and then buried.  No ceremony at tended the
interment of this poor savage; no prayer was uttered over the grave; and
the only mark that the survivors left upon the place was a small wooden
cross, which those Indians who have been visited by Roman Catholic
priests are in the habit of erecting over their departed relatives.

The almost total absence of religion of any kind among these unhappy
natives is truly melancholy.  The very name of our blessed Saviour is
almost unknown by the hundreds of Indians who inhabit the vast forests
of North America.  It is strange that, while so many missionaries have
been sent to the southern parts of the earth, so few should have been
sent to the northward.  There are not, I believe, more than a dozen or
so of Protestant clergymen over the whole wide northern continent.

For at least a century these North American Indians have hunted for the
white men, and poured annually into Britain a copious stream of wealth.
Surely it is the duty of _Christian_ Britain, in return, to send out
faithful servants of God to preach the gospel of our Lord throughout
their land.

The Indians, after spending a couple of days at the establishment--
during which time they sold me a great many furs--set out again to
return to their distant wigwams.  It is strange to contemplate the
precision and certainty with which these men travel towards any part of
the vast wilderness, even where their route lies across numerous
intricate and serpentine rivers.  But the strangest thing of all is, the
savage's certainty of finding his way in winter through the trackless
forest, to a place where, perhaps, he never was before, and of which he
has had only a slight description.  They have no compasses, but the
means by which they discover the cardinal points is curious.  If an
Indian happens to become confused with regard to this, he lays down his
burden, and, taking his axe, cuts through the bark of a tree; from the
thickness or thinness of which he can tell the north point at once, the
bark being thicker on that side.

For a couple of weeks after this, I remained at the post with my
solitary man, endeavouring by all the means in my power to dispel ennui;
but it was a hard task.  Sometimes I shouldered my gun and ranged about
the forest in search of game, and occasionally took a swim in the sea.
_I_ was ignorant at the time, however, that there were sharks in the
Gulf of St. Lawrence, else I should have been more cautious.  The
Indians afterwards told me that they were often seen, and several
gentlemen who had lived long on the coast corroborated their testimony.
Several times Indians have left the shores of the gulf in their canoes,
to go hunting, and have never been heard of again, although the weather
at the time was calm; so that it was generally believed that shark had
upset the canoes and devoured the men.  An occurrence that afterwards
happened to an Indian renders this supposition highly probable.  This
man had been travelling along the shores of the gulf with his family--a
wife and several children--in a small canoe.  Towards evening, as he was
crossing a large bay, a shark rose near his canoe, and, after
reconnoitring a short time, swam towards it, and endeavoured to upset
it.  The size of the canoe, however, rendered this impossible; so the
ferocious monster actually began to break it to pieces, by rushing
forcibly against it.  The Indian fired at the shark when he first saw
it, but without effect; and, not having time to reload, he seized his
paddle and made for the shore.  The canoe, however, from the repeated
attacks of the fish, soon became leaky, and it was evident that in a few
minutes more the whole party would be at the mercy of the infuriated
monster.  In this extremity the Indian took up his youngest child, an
infant of a few months old, and dropped it overboard; and while the
shark was devouring it, the rest of the party gained the shore.

I sat one morning ruminating on the pleasures of solitude in the
_palace_ of Seven Islands, and gazed through the window at my solitary
man, who was just leaving an old boat he had been repairing, for the
purpose of preparing dinner.  The wide ocean, which rolled its waves
almost to the door of the house, was calm and unruffled, and the yellow
beach shone again in the sun's rays, while Humbug lay stretched out at
full length before the door.  After contemplating this scene for some
time, I rose, and was just turning away from the window, when I descried
a _man_, accompanied by a _boy_, walking along the sea-shore towards the
house.  This unusual sight created in me almost as strong, though not so
unpleasant, a sensation as was awakened in the bosom of Robinson Crusoe
when he discovered the footprint in the sand.  Hastily putting on my
cap, I ran out to meet him, and found, to my joy, that he was a trapper
of my acquaintance; and, what added immensely to the novelty of the
thing, he was also a _white_ man and a gentleman!  He had entered one of
the fur companies on the coast at an early age, and, a few years
afterwards, fell in love with an Indian girl, whom he married; and,
ultimately, he became a trapper.  He was a fine, good-natured man, and
had been well educated: and to hear philosophical discourse proceeding
from the lips of one who was, in outward appearance, a regular Indian,
was very strange indeed.  He was dressed in the usual capote, leggins,
and moccasins of a hunter.

"What have you got for dinner?" was his first question, after shaking
hands with me.

"Pork and pancakes," said I.

"Oh!" said the trapper; "the first salt, and the latter made of flour
and water?"

"Just so; and, with the exception of some bread, and a few ground pease
in lieu of coffee, this has been my diet for three weeks back."

"You might have done better," said the trapper, pointing towards a blue
line in the sea; "look, there are fish enough, if you only took the
trouble to catch them."

As he said this, I advanced to the edge of the water; and there, to my
astonishment, discovered that what I had taken for seaweed was a shoal
of kippling, so dense that they seemed scarcely able to move.

Upon beholding this, I recollected having seen a couple of old hand-nets
in some of the stores, which we immediately sent the trapper's son (a
youth of twelve) to fetch.  In a few minutes he returned with them; so,
tucking up our trousers, we both went into the water and scooped the
fish out by dozens.  It required great quickness, however, as they shot
into deep water like lightning, and sometimes made us run in so deep
that we wet ourselves considerably.  Indeed, the sport became so
exciting at last, that we gave over attempting to keep our clothes dry;
and in an hour we returned home, laden with kippling, and wet to the

The fish, which measured from four to five inches long, were really
excellent, and lent an additional relish to the pork, pancakes, and
_pease coffee_!

I prevailed upon the trapper to remain with me during the following
week; and a very pleasant time we had of it, paddling about in a canoe,
or walking through the woods, while my companion told me numerous
anecdotes, with which his memory was stored.  Some of these were grave,
and some comical; especially one, in which he described a bear-hunt that
he and his son had on the coast of Labrador.

He had been out on a shooting expedition, and was returning home in his
canoe, when, on turning a headland, he discovered a black bear walking
leisurely along the beach.  Now the place where he discovered him was a
very wild, rugged spot.  At the bottom of the bay rose a high precipice,
so that Bruin could not escape that way: along the beach, in the
direction in which he had been walking, a cape, which the rising tide
now washed, prevented his retreating; so that the only chance for the
brute to escape was by running past the trapper, within a few yards of
him.  In this dilemma, the bear bethought himself of trying the
precipice; so, collecting himself, he made a bolt for it, and actually
managed to scramble up thirty or forty feet, when bang went the boy's
gun; but the shot missed, and it appeared as if the beast would actually
get away, when the trapper took a deliberate aim and fired.  The effect
of the shot was so comical, that the two hunters could scarcely re-load
their guns for laughing.  Bruin, upon receiving the shot, covered his
head with his fore-paws, and, curling himself up like a ball, came
thundering down the precipice head over heels, raising clouds of dust,
and hurling showers of stones down in his descent, till he actually
rolled at the trapper's feet; and then, getting slowly up, he looked at
him with such a bewildered expression, that the man could scarcely
refrain from laughter, even while in the act of blowing the beast's
brains out.

This man had also a narrow escape of having a _boxing_ match with a
moose-deer or elk.  The moose had a strange method of fighting with its
fore feet, getting up on its hind legs, and boxing, as it were, with
great energy and deadly force.  The trapper, upon the occasion referred
to, was travelling with an Indian, who, having discovered the track of a
moose in the snow, set off in chase of it, while the trapper pursued his
way with the Indian's pack of furs and provisions on his shoulders.  He
had not gone far when he heard a shot, and the next moment a moose-deer,
as large as a horse, sprang through the bushes and stood in front of
him.  The animal came so suddenly on the trapper that it could not turn;
so, rising up with a savage look, it prepared to strike him, when
another shot was fired from among the bushes by the Indian, and the
moose, springing nearly its own height into the air, fell dead upon the

In chasing the moose during winter in some parts of these countries,
where the ground is broken and rugged, the hunters are not unfrequently
exposed to the danger of falling over the precipices which the deceptive
glare of the snow conceals from view, until, too late, he finds the
treacherous snow giving way beneath his feet.  On one occasion a young
man in the service of the Company received intelligence from an Indian
that he had seen fresh tracks of a moose, and being an eager sportsman,
he sallied forth, accompanied by the Indian, in chase of it.  A long
fatiguing walk on the Chipewyan snow-shoes, which are six feet long,
brought them within sight of the deer.  The young man fired, wounded the
animal, and then dashed forward in pursuit.  For a long way the deer
kept well ahead of them.  At length they began to overtake it; but when
they were about to fire again, it stumbled and disappeared, sending up a
cloud of snow in its fall.  Supposing that it had sunk exhausted into
one of the many hollows which were formed by the undulations of the
ground, the young man rushed headlong towards it, followed at a slower
pace by the Indian.  Suddenly he stopped and cast a wild glance around
him as he observed that he stood on the very brink of a precipice, at
the foot of which the mangled carcass of the deer lay.  Thick masses of
snow had drifted over its edge until a solid wreath was formed,
projecting several feet beyond it.  On this wreath the young man stood
with the points of his long snow-shoes overhanging the yawning abyss; to
turn round was impossible, as the exertion requisite to wield such huge
snow-shoes would, in all probability, have broken off the mass.  To step
gently backwards was equally impossible, in consequence of the heels of
the shoes being sunk into the snow.  In this awful position he stood
until the Indian came up, and taking off his long sash, threw the end of
it towards him; catching hold of this, he collected all his energies,
and giving a desperate bound threw himself backwards at full length.
The Indian pulled with all his force on the belt, and succeeded in
drawing him out of danger, just as the mass on which he had stood a
moment before gave way, and thundered down the cliff, where it was
dashed into clouds against the projecting crags long before it reached
the foot.

About a week after his arrival the trapper departed, and left me again
in solitude.


_The last voyage_.--There is something very sad and melancholy in these
words--the last!  The last look, the last word, the last smile, even the
last shilling, have all a peculiarly melancholy import; but the last
_voltage_, to one who has lived, as it were, on travelling--who has
slept for weeks and months under the shadow of the forest trees, and
dwelt among the wild romantic scenes of the wilderness--has a peculiar
and thrilling interest.  Each tree I passed on leaving shook its boughs
mournfully, as if it felt hurt at being thus forsaken.  The very rocks
seemed to frown reproachfully, while I stood up and gazed wistfully
after each well-known object for the last time.  Even the wind seemed to
sympathise with the rest; for, while it urged the boat swiftly away from
my late home, like a faithful friend holding steadfastly on its
favouring course, still it fell occasionally, and rose again in gusts
and sighs, as if it wished to woo me back again to solitude.  I started
on this, the last voyage, shortly after the departure of my friend the
trapper, leaving the palace in charge of an unfortunate gentleman who
brought a wife and five children with him, which rendered Seven Islands
a little less gloomy than heretofore.  Five men accompanied me in an
open boat; and on the morning of the 25th August we took our departure
for Tadousac.  And, truly, Nature appeared to be aware that it was my
_last_ voyage, for she gave us the most unkind and harassing treatment
that I ever experienced at her hands.

The first few miles were accomplished pleasantly enough.  We had a fair
breeze, and not too much of it; but towards the afternoon it shifted,
and blew directly against us, so that the men were obliged to take to
the oars; and, as the boat was large, it required them all to pull,
while I steered.

The men were all French Canadians: a merry, careless, but persevering
set of fellows, just cut out for the work they had to do, and, moreover,
accustomed to it.  The boat was a clumsy affair, with two spritsails and
a jigger or mizzen; but, notwithstanding, she looked well at a distance,
and though incapable of progressing very fast through the water, she
could stand a pretty heavy sea.  We were badly off, how ever, with
regard to camp gear, having neither tent nor oilcloth to protect us
should it rain--indeed, all we had to guard us from the inclemency of
the weather at night was one blanket each man; but as the weather had
been fine and settled for some time back, we hoped to get along pretty

As for provisions, we had pork and flour, besides a small quantity of
burnt-pease coffee, which I treasured up as a great delicacy.

Our first encampment was a good one.  The night, though dark, was fine
and calm, so that we slept very comfortably upon the beach, every man
with his feet towards the fire, from which we all radiated like the
spokes of a wheel.  But our next bivouac was not so good.  The day had
been very boisterous and wet, so that we lay down to rest in damp
clothes, with the pleasant reflection that we had scarcely advanced ten
miles.  The miseries of our fifth day, however, were so numerous and
complicated that it at last became absurd!  It was a drizzly damp
morning to begin with; soon this gave way to a gale of contrary wind, so
that we could scarcely proceed at the rate of half a mile an hour; and
in the evening we were under the necessity either of running _back_ five
miles to reach a harbour, or of anchoring off an exposed lee-shore.
Preferring the latter course, even at the risk of losing our boat
altogether, we cast anchor, and leaving a man in the boat, waded ashore.
Here things looked very wretched indeed.  Everything was wet and
clammy.  Very little firewood was to be found; and when it was found, we
had the greatest difficulty in getting it to light.  At last, however,
the fire blazed up; and though it still rained, we began to feel,
_comparatively speaking_, comfortable.

Now, it must have been about midnight when I awoke, wheezing and
sniffling with a bad cold, and feeling uncommonly wretched--the fire
having gone out, and the drizzly rain having increased--and while I was
endeavouring to cover myself a little better with a wet blanket, the man
who had been left to watch the boat rushed in among us, and said that it
had been driven ashore, and would infallibly go to pieces if not shoved
out to sea immediately.  Up we all got, and rushing down to the beach,
were speedily groping about _in_ the dark, up to our waists in water,
while the roaring breakers heaved the boat violently against our
breasts.  After at least an hour of this work, we got it afloat again,
and returned to our beds, where we lay shivering in wet clothes till

We had several other nights nearly as bad as this one; and once or twice
narrowly escaped being smashed to pieces among rocks and shoals, while
travelling in foggy weather.

Even the last day of the voyage had something unpleasant in store for
us.  As we neared the mouth of the river Saguenay the tide began to
recede, and ere long the current became so strong that we could not make
headway against it; we had no alternative, therefore, but to try to run
ashore, there to remain until the tide should rise again.  Now it so
happened that a sand-bank caught our keel just as we turned broadside to
the current, and the water, rushing against the boat with the force of a
mill-race, turned it up on one side, till it stood quivering, as if
undecided whether or not to roll over on top of us.  A simultaneous rush
of the men to the elevated side decided the question, and caused it to
fall squash down on its keel again, where it lay for the next four or
five hours, being left quite dry by the tide.  As this happened within a
few miles of our journey's end, I left the men to take care of the boat,
and walked along the beach to Tadousac.

Here I remained some time, and then travelled through the beautiful
lakes of Canada and the United States to New York.  But here I must
pause.  As I said before, I write not of civilised but of savage life;
and having now o'ershot the boundary, it is time to close.

On the 25th of May 1847 I bade adieu to the Western hemisphere, and
sailed for England in the good ship _New York_.  The air was light and
warm, and the sun unclouded, as we floated slowly out to sea, and ere
long the vessel bathed her swelling bows in the broad Atlantic.

Gradually, as if loath to part, the wood-clad shores of America grew
faint and dim; I turned my eyes, for the last time, upon the distant
shore: the blue hills quivered for a moment on the horizon, as if to bid
us all a long farewell, and then sank into the liquid bosom of the


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