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Title: Snowflakes and Sunbeams; Or, The Young Fur-traders: A Tale of the Far North
Author: Ballantyne, R. M. (Robert Michael), 1825-1894
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "Snowflakes and Sunbeams; Or, The Young Fur-traders: A Tale of the Far North" ***

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THE YOUNG FUR-TRADERS.



UNIFORM WITH THIS BOOK.

_THE CORAL ISLAND. MARTIN RATTLER. UNCAVA._



[Illustration: Pierre was standing over the great kettle. "_The Young
Fur Traders_]" Frontispiece



SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS; OR, THE YOUNG FUR-TRADERS

A Tale of the Far North.


BY ROBERT MICHAEL BALLANTYNE



PEEFACE.

In writing this book my desire has been to draw an exact copy of the
picture which is indelibly stamped on my own memory. I have carefully
avoided exaggeration in everything of importance. All the chief, and
most of the minor incidents are facts. In regard to unimportant
matters, I have taken the liberty of a novelist--not to colour too
highly, or to invent improbabilities, but--to transpose time, place,
and circumstance at pleasure; while, at the same time, I have
endeavoured to convey to the reader's mind a truthful impression of the
_general effect_--to use a painter's language--of the life and country
of the Fur Trader.

EDINBURGH, 1856.



CHAPTER I Plunges the reader into the middle of an arctic winter;
conveys him into the heart of the wildernesses of North America; and
introduces him to some of the principal personages of our tale

CHAPTER II The old fur-trader endeavours to "fix" his son's "flint,"
and finds the thing more difficult to do than he expected

CHAPTER III The counting-room

CHAPTER IV. A wolf-hunt in the prairies; Charley astonishes his father,
and breaks in the "noo'oss" effectually

CHAPTER V Peter Mactavish becomes an amateur doctor; Charley
promulgates his views of things in general to Kate; and Kate waxes
sagacious

CHAPTER VI Spring and the voyageurs

CHAPTER VII. The store

CHAPTER VIII. Farewell to Kate; departure of the brigade; Charley
becomes a voyageur

CHAPTER IX. The voyage; the encampment; a surprise

CHAPTER X. Varieties, vexations, and vicissitudes

CHAPTER XI. Charley and Harry begin their sporting career without much
success; Whisky-John catching

CHAPTER XII. The storm

CHAPTER XIII. The canoe; ascending the rapids; the portage;
deer-shooting and life in the woods

CHAPTER XIV. The Indian camp; the new outpost; Charley sent on a
mission to the Indians

CHAPTER XV. The feast; Charley makes his first speech in public; meets
with an old friend; an evening in the grass

CHAPTER XVI The return; narrow escape; a murderous attempt, which
fails; and a discovery

CHAPTER XVII The scene changes; Bachelors' Hall; a practical joke and
its consequences; a snow-shoe walk at night in the forest

CHAPTER XVIII The walk continued; frozen toes; an encampment in the snow

CHAPTER XIX Shows how the accountant and Harry set their traps, and
what came of it

CHAPTER XX The accountant's story

CHAPTER XXI Ptarmigan-hunting; Hamilton's shooting powers severely
tested; a snow-storm

CHAPTER XXII The winter packet; Harry hears from old friends, and
wishes that he was with them CHAPTER XXIII Changes; Harry and Hamilton
find that variety is indeed, charming; the latter astonishes the former
considerably

CHAPTER XXIV Hopes and fears; an unexpected meeting; philosophical talk
between the hunter and the parson

CHAPTER XXV Good news and romantic scenery; bear-hunting and its results

CHAPTER XXVI An unexpected meeting, and an unexpected deer-hunt;
arrival at the outpost; disagreement with the natives; an enemy
discovered, and a murder

CHAPTER XXVII The chase; the fight; retribution; low spirits and good
news

CHAPTER XXVIII Old friends and scenes; coming events cast their shadows
before

CHAPTER XXIX The first day at home; a gallop in the prairie, and its
consequences

CHAPTER XXX Love; old Mr. Kennedy puts his foot in it

CHAPTER XXXI The course of true love, curiously enough, runs smooth for
once; and the curtain falls



CHAPTER I.

Plunges the reader into the middle of an Arctic winter; conveys him
into the heart of the wildernesses of North America; and introduces him
to some of the principal personages of our tale.


Snowflakes and sunbeams, heat and cold, winter and summer, alternated
with their wonted regularity for fifteen years in the wild regions of
the Far North. During this space of time the hero of our tale sprouted
from babyhood to boyhood, passed through the usual amount of accidents,
ailments, and vicissitudes incidental to those periods of life, and
finally entered upon that ambiguous condition that precedes early
manhood.

It was a clear, cold winter's day. The sunbeams of summer were long
past, and snowflakes had fallen thickly on the banks of Red River.
Charley sat on a lump of blue ice, his head drooping and his eyes bent
on the snow at his feet with an expression of deep disconsolation.

Kate reclined at Charley's side, looking wistfully up in his expressive
face, as if to read the thoughts that were chasing each other through
his mind, like the ever-varying clouds that floated in the winter sky
above. It was quite evident to the most careless observer that,
whatever might be the usual temperaments of the boy and girl, their
present state of mind was not joyous, but on the contrary, very sad.

"It won't do, sister Kate," said Charley. "I've tried him over and over
again--I've implored, begged, and entreated him to let me go; but he
won't, and I'm determined to run away, so there's an end of it!"

As Charley gave utterance to this unalterable resolution, he rose from
the bit of blue ice, and taking Kate by the hand, led her over the
frozen river, climbed up the bank on the opposite side--an operation of
some difficulty, owing to the snow, which had been drifted so deeply
during a late storm that the usual track was almost obliterated--and
turning into a path that lost itself among the willows, they speedily
disappeared.

As it is possible our reader may desire to know who Charley and Kate
are, and the part of the world in which they dwell, we will interrupt
the thread of our narrative to explain.

In the very centre of the great continent of North America, far removed
from the abodes of civilised men, and about twenty miles to the south
of Lake Winnipeg, exists a colony composed of Indians, Scotsmen, and
French-Canadians, which is known by the name of Red River Settlement.
Red River differs from most colonies in more respects than one--the
chief differences being, that whereas other colonies cluster on the
sea-coast, this one lies many hundreds of miles in the interior of the
country, and is surrounded by a wilderness; and while other colonies,
acting on the Golden Rule, export their produce in return for goods
imported, this of Red River imports a large quantity, and exports
nothing, or next to nothing. Not but that it _might_ export, if it only
had an outlet or a market; but being eight hundred miles removed from
the sea, and five hundred miles from the nearest market, with a series
of rivers, lakes, rapids, and cataracts separating from the one, and a
wide sweep of treeless prairie dividing from the other, the settlers
have long since come to the conclusion that they were born to consume
their own produce, and so regulate the extent of their farming
operations by the strength of their appetites. Of course, there are
many of the necessaries, or at least the luxuries, of life which the
colonists cannot grow--such as tea, coffee, sugar, coats, trousers, and
shirts--and which, consequently, they procure from England, by means of
the Hudson's Bay Fur Company's ships, which sail once a year from
Gravesend, laden with supplies for the trade carried on with the
Indians. And the bales containing these articles are conveyed in boats
up the rivers, carried past the waterfalls and rapids overland on the
shoulders of stalwart voyageurs, and finally landed at Red River, after
a rough trip of many weeks' duration. The colony was founded in 1811,
by the Earl of Selkirk, previously to which it had been a trading-post
of the Fur Company. At the time of which we write, it contained about
five thousand souls, and extended upwards of fifty miles along the Red
and Assiniboine rivers, which streams supplied the settlers with a
variety of excellent fish. The banks were clothed with fine trees; and
immediately behind the settlement lay the great prairies, which
extended in undulating waves--almost entirely devoid of shrub or
tree--to the base of the Rocky Mountains.

Although far removed from the civilised world, and containing within
its precincts much that is savage and very little that is refined, Red
River is quite a populous paradise, as compared with the desolate,
solitary establishments of the Hudson's Bay Fur Company. These lonely
dwellings of the trader are scattered far and wide over the whole
continent--north, south, east, and west. Their population generally
amounts to eight or ten men--seldom to thirty. They are planted in the
thick of an uninhabited desert--their next neighbours being from two to
five hundred miles off--their occasional visitors, bands of wandering
Indians--and the sole object of their existence being to trade the
furry hides of foxes, martens, beavers, badgers, bears, buffaloes, and
wolves. It will not, then, be deemed a matter of wonder that the
gentlemen who have charge of these establishments, and who, perchance,
may have spent ten or twenty years in them, should look upon the colony
of Red River as a species of Elysium, a sort of haven of rest, in which
they may lay their weary heads, and spend the remainder of their days
in peaceful felicity, free from the cares of a residence among wild
beasts and wild men. Many of the retiring traders prefer casting their
lot in Canada; but not a few of them _smoke_ out the remainder of their
existence in this colony--especially those who, having left home as
boys fifty or sixty years before, cannot reasonably expect to find the
friends of their childhood where they left them, and cannot hope to
remodel tastes and habits long nurtured in the backwoods so as to
relish the manners and customs of civilised society.

Such an one was old Frank Kennedy, who, sixty years before the date of
our story, ran away from school in Scotland; got a severe thrashing
from his father for so doing; and having no mother in whose
sympathising bosom he could weep out his sorrow, ran away from home,
went to sea, ran away from his ship while she lay at anchor in the
harbour of New York, and after leading a wandering, unsettled life for
several years, during which he had been alternately a clerk, a
day-labourer, a store-keeper and a village schoolmaster, he wound up by
entering the service of the Hudson's Bay Company, in which he obtained
an insight into savage life, a comfortable fortune, besides a
half-breed wife and a large family.

Being a man of great energy and courage, and moreover possessed of a
large, powerful frame, he was sent to one of the most distant posts on
the Mackenzie River, as being admirably suited for the display of his
powers both mental and physical. Here the small-pox broke out among the
natives, and besides carrying off hundreds of these poor creatures,
robbed Mr. Kennedy of all his children save two, Charles and Kate, whom
we have already introduced to the reader.

About the same time the council which is annually held at Red River in
spring for the purpose of arranging the affairs of the country for the
ensuing year thought proper to appoint Mr. Kennedy to a still more
outlandish part of the country--as near, in fact, to the North Pole as
it was possible for mortal man to live--and sent him an order to
proceed to his destination without loss of time. On receiving this
communication, Mr. Kennedy upset his chair, stamped his foot, ground
his teeth, and vowed, in the hearing of his wife and children, that
sooner than obey the mandate he would see the governors and council of
Rupert's Land hanged, quartered, and boiled down into tallow!
Ebullitions of this kind were peculiar to Frank Kennedy, and meant
_nothing_. They were simply the safety-valves to his superabundant ire,
and, like safety-valves in general, made much noise but did no damage.
It was well, however, on such occasions to keep out of the old
fur-trader's way; for he had an irresistible propensity to hit out at
whatever stood before him, especially if the object stood on a level
with his own eyes and wore whiskers. On second thoughts, however, he
sat down before his writing-table, took a sheet of blue ruled foolscap
paper, seized a quill which he had mended six months previously, at a
time when he happened to be in high good-humour, and wrote as follows:--

Letter

To the Governor and Council of Rupert's Land, Fort Paskisegun
 Red River Settlement. June 15, 18--.


Gentlemen,--I have the honour to acknowledge receipt
 of your favour of 26th April last, appointing me
 to the charge of Peel's River, and directing me to strike
 out new channels of trade in that quarter. In reply, I
 have to state that I shall have the honour to fulfil your
 instructions by taking my departure in a light canoe as
 soon as possible. At the same time I beg humbly to
 submit that the state of my health is such as to render
 it expedient for me to retire from the service, and I herewith
 beg to hand in my resignation. I shall hope to be
 relieved early next spring.--I have the honour to be,
 gentlemen, your most obedient, humble servant,


       F. Kennedy.



"There!" exclaimed the old gentleman, in a tone that would lead one to
suppose he had signed the death-warrant, and so had irrevocably fixed
the certain destruction, of the entire council--"there!" said he,
rising from his chair, and sticking the quill into the ink-bottle with
a _dab_ that split it up to the feather, and so rendered it _hors de
combat_ for all time coming.

To this letter the council gave a short reply, accepting his
resignation, and appointing a successor. On the following spring old
Mr. Kennedy embarked his wife and children in a bark canoe, and in
process of time landed them safely in Red River Settlement. Here he
purchased a house with six acres of land, in which he planted a variety
of useful vegetables, and built a summer-house after the fashion of a
conservatory, where he was wont to solace himself for hours together
with a pipe, or rather with dozens of pipes, of Canadian twist tobacco.

After this he put his two children to school. The settlement was at
this time fortunate in having a most excellent academy, which was
conducted by a very estimable man. Charles and Kate Kennedy, being
obedient and clever, made rapid progress under his judicious
management, and the only fault that he had to find with the young
people was, that Kate was a little too quiet and fond of books, while
Charley was a little too riotous and fond of fun.

When Charles arrived at the age of fifteen and Kate attained to
fourteen years, old Mr. Kennedy went into his conservatory, locked the
door, sat down on an easy chair, filled a long clay pipe with his
beloved tobacco, smoked vigorously for ten minutes, and fell fast
asleep. In this condition he remained until the pipe fell from his lips
and broke in fragments on the floor. He then rose, filled another pipe,
and sat down to meditate on the subject that had brought him to his
smoking apartment. "There's my wife," said he, looking at the bowl of
his pipe, as if he were addressing himself to it, "she's getting too
old to be looking after everything herself (_puff_), and Kate's getting
too old to be humbugging any longer with books: besides, she ought to
be at home learning to keep house, and help her mother, and cut the
baccy (_puff_), and that young scamp Charley should be entering the
service (_puff_). He's clever enough now to trade beaver and bears from
the red-skins; besides, he's (_puff_) a young rascal, and I'll be bound
does nothing but lead the other boys into (_puff_) mischief, although,
to be sure, the master _does_ say he's the cleverest fellow in the
school; but he must be reined up a bit now. I'll clap on a double curb
and martingale. I'll get him a situation in the counting-room at the
fort (_puff_), where he'll have his nose held tight to the grindstone.
Yes, I'll fix both their flints to-morrow;" and old Mr. Kennedy gave
vent to another puff so thick and long that it seemed as if all the
previous puffs had concealed themselves up to this moment within his
capacious chest, and rushed out at last in one thick and long-continued
stream.

By "fixing their flints" Mr. Kennedy meant to express the fact that he
intended to place his children in an entirely new sphere of action, and
with a view to this he ordered out his horse and cariole [Footnote: A
sort of sleigh.] on the following morning, went up to the school, which
was about ten miles distant from his abode, and brought his children
home with him the same evening. Kate was now formally installed as
housekeeper and tobacco-cutter; while Charley was told that his future
destiny was to wield the quill in the service of the Hudson's Bay
Company, and that he might take a week to think over it. Quiet,
warm-hearted, affectionate Kate was overjoyed at the thought of being a
help and comfort to her old father and mother; but reckless, joyous,
good-humoured, hare-brained Charley was cast into the depths of despair
at the idea of spending the livelong day, and day after day, for years
it might be, on the top of a long-legged stool. In fact, poor Charley
said that he "would rather become a buffalo than do it." Now this was
very wrong of Charley, for, of course, he didn't _mean_ it. Indeed, it
is too much a habit among little boys, ay, and among grown-up people,
too, to say what they don't mean, as no doubt you are aware, dear
reader, if you possess half the self-knowledge we give you credit for;
and we cannot too strongly remonstrate with ourself and others against
the practice--leading, as it does, to all sorts of absurd
exaggerations, such as gravely asserting that we are "broiling hot"
when we are simply "rather warm," or more than "half dead" with fatigue
when we are merely "very tired." However, Charley _said_ that he would
rather be "a buffalo than do it," and so we feel bound in honour to
record the fact.

Charley and Kate were warmly attached to each other. Moreover, they had
been, ever since they could walk, in the habit of mingling their little
joys and sorrows in each other's bosoms; and although, as years flew
past, they gradually ceased to sob in each other's arms at every little
mishap, they did not cease to interchange their inmost thoughts, and to
mingle their tears when occasion called them forth. They knew the
power, the inexpressible sweetness, of sympathy. They understood
experimentally the comfort and joy that flow from obedience to that
blessed commandment to "rejoice with those that do rejoice, and weep
with those that weep." It was natural, therefore, that on Mr. Kennedy
announcing his decrees, Charley and Kate should hasten to some retired
spot where they could commune in solitude; the effect of which
communing was to reduce them to a somewhat calmer and rather happy
state of mind. Charley's sorrow was blunted by sympathy with Kate's
joy, and Kate's joy was subdued by sympathy with Charley's sorrow; so
that, after the first effervescing burst, they settled down into a calm
and comfortable state of flatness, with very red eyes and exceedingly
pensive minds. We must, however, do Charley the justice to say that the
red eyes applied only to Kate; for although a tear or two could without
much coaxing be induced to hop over his sun-burned cheek, he had got
beyond that period of life when boys are addicted to (we must give the
word, though not pretty, because it is eminently expressive)
_blubbering_.

A week later found Charley and his sister seated on the lump of blue
ice where they were first introduced to the reader, and where Charley
announced his unalterable resolve to run away, following it up with the
statement that _that_ was "the end of it." He was quite mistaken,
however, for that was by no means the end of it. In fact it was only
the beginning of it, as we shall see hereafter.



CHAPTER II.

The old fur-trader endeavours to "fix" his son's "flint," and finds the
thing more difficult to do than he expected.


Near the centre of the colony of Red River, the stream from which the
settlement derives its name is joined by another, called the
Assiniboine. About five or six hundred yards from the point where this
union takes place, and on the banks of the latter stream, stands the
Hudson's Bay Company's trading-post, Fort Garry. It is a massive square
building of stone. Four high and thick walls enclose a space of ground
on which are built six or eight wooden houses, some of which are used
as dwellings for the servants of the Hudson's Bay Company, and others
as stores, wherein are contained the furs, the provisions which are
sent annually to various parts of the country, and the goods (such as
cloth, guns, powder and shot, blankets, twine, axes, knives, etc.,
etc.) with which the fur-trade is carried on. Although Red River is a
peaceful colony, and not at all likely to be assaulted by the poor
Indians, it was, nevertheless, deemed prudent by the traders to make
some show of power; and so at the corners of the fort four round
bastions of a very imposing appearance were built, from the embrasures
of which several large black-muzzled guns protruded. No one ever
conceived the idea of firing these engines of war; and, indeed, it is
highly probable that such an attempt would have been attended with
consequences much more dreadful to those _behind_ than to those who
might chance to be in front of the guns. Nevertheless they were
imposing, and harmonised well with the flag-staff, which was the only
other military symptom about the place. This latter was used on
particular occasions, such as the arrival or departure of a brigade of
boats, for the purpose of displaying the folds of a red flag on which
were the letters H. B. C.

The fort stood, as we have said, on the banks of the Assiniboine River,
on the opposite side of which the land was somewhat wooded, though not
heavily, with oak, maple, poplar, aspens, and willows; while at the
back of the fort the great prairie rolled out like a green sea to the
horizon, and far beyond that again to the base of the Rocky mountains.
The plains at this time, however, were a sheet of unbroken snow, and
the river a mass of solid ice.

It was noon on the day following that on which our friend Charley had
threatened rebellion, when a tall elderly man might have been seen
standing at the back gate of Fort Garry, gazing wistfully out into the
prairie in the direction of the lower part of the settlement. He was
watching a small speck which moved rapidly over the snow in the
direction of the fort.

"It's very like our friend Frank Kennedy," said he to himself (at least
we presume so, for there was no one else within earshot to whom he
could have said it, except the door-post, which every one knows is
proverbially a deaf subject). "No man in the settlement drives so
furiously. I shouldn't wonder if he ran against the corner of the new
fence now. Ha! just so--there he goes!"

And truly the reckless driver did "go" just at that moment. He came up
to the corner of the new fence, where the road took a rather abrupt
turn, in a style that insured a capsize. In another second the spirited
horse turned sharp round, the sleigh turned sharp over, and the
occupant was pitched out at full length, while a black object, that
might have been mistaken for his hat, rose from his side like a rocket,
and, flying over him, landed on the snow several yards beyond. A faint
shout was heard to float on the breeze as this catastrophe occurred,
and the driver was seen to jump up and readjust himself in the cariole;
while the other black object proved itself not to be a hat, by getting
hastily up on a pair of legs, and scrambling back to the seat from
which it had been so unceremoniously ejected.

In a few minutes more the cheerful tinkling of the merry sleigh-bells
was heard, and Frank Kennedy, accompanied by his hopeful son Charles,
dashed up to the gate, and pulled up with a jerk.

"Ha! Grant, my fine fellow, how are you?" exclaimed Mr. Kennedy,
senior, as he disengaged himself from the heavy folds of the buffalo
robe and shook the snow from his greatcoat. "Why on earth, man, don't
you put up a sign-post and a board to warn travellers that you've been
running out new fences and changing the road, eh?"

"Why, my good friend," said Mr. Grant, smiling, "the fence and the road
are of themselves pretty conclusive proof to most men that the road is
changed; and, besides, we don't often have people driving round corners
at full gallop; but--"

"Hollo! Charley, you rascal," interrupted Mr. Kennedy--"here, take the
mare to the stable, and don't drive her too fast. Mind, now, no going
off upon the wrong road for the sake of a drive, you understand."

"All right, father," exclaimed the boy, while a bright smile lit up his
features and displayed two rows of white teeth: "I'll be particularly
careful," and he sprang into the light vehicle, seized the reins, and
with a sharp crack of the whip dashed down the road at a hard gallop.

"He's a fine fellow that son of yours," said Mr. Grant, "and will make
a first-rate fur-trader."

"Pur-trader!" exclaimed Mr. Kennedy. "Just look at him! I'll be shot if
he isn't thrashing the mare as if she were made of leather." The old
man's ire was rising rapidly as he heard the whip crack every now and
then, and saw the mare bound madly over the snow. "And see!" he
continued, "I declare he _has_ taken the wrong turn after all."

"True," said Mr. Grant: "he'll never reach the stable by that road;
he's much more likely to visit the White-horse Plains. But come,
friend, it's of no use fretting, Charley will soon tire of his ride; so
come with me to my room and have a pipe before dinner."

Old Mr. Kennedy gave a short groan of despair, shook his fist at the
form of his retreating son, and accompanied his friend to the house.

It must not be supposed that Frank Kennedy was very deeply offended
with his son, although he did shower on him a considerable amount of
abuse. On the contrary, he loved him very much. But it was the old
man's nature to give way to little bursts of passion on almost every
occasion in which his feelings were at all excited. These bursts,
however, were like the little puffs that ripple the surface of the sea
on a calm summer's day. They were over in a second, and left his
good-humoured, rough, candid countenance in unruffled serenity. Charley
knew this well, and loved his father tenderly, so that his conscience
frequently smote him for raising his anger so often; and he over and
over again promised his sister Kate to do his best to refrain from
doing anything that was likely to annoy the old man in future. But,
alas! Charley's resolves, like those of many other boys, were soon
forgotten, and his father's equanimity was upset generally two or three
times a day; but after the gust was over, the fur-trader would kiss his
son, call him a "rascal," and send him off to fill and fetch his pipe.

Mr. Grant, who was in charge of Fort Garry, led the way to his smoking
apartment, where the two were soon seated in front of a roaring
log-fire, emulating each other in the manufacture of smoke.

"Well, Kennedy," said Mr. Grant, throwing himself back in his chair,
elevating his chin, and emitting a long thin stream of white vapour
from his lips, through which he gazed at his friend
complacently--"well, Kennedy, to what fortunate chance am I indebted
for this visit? It is not often that we have the pleasure of seeing you
here."

Mr. Kennedy created two large volumes of smoke, which, by means of a
vigorous puff, he sent rolling over towards his friend, and said,
"Charley."

"And what of Charley?" said Mr. Grant with a smile, for he was well
aware of the boy's propensity to fun, and of the father's desire to
curb it.

"The fact is," replied Kennedy, "that Charley must be broke. He's the
wildest colt I ever had to tame, but I'll do it--I will--that's a fact."

If Charley's subjugation had depended on the rapidity with which the
little white clouds proceeded from his sire's mouth, there is no doubt
that it would have been a "fact" in a very short time, for they rushed
from him with the violence of a high wind. Long habit had made the old
trader and his pipe not only inseparable companions, but part and
parcel of each other--so intimately connected that a change in the one
was sure to produce a sympathetic change in the other. In the present
instance, the little clouds rapidly increased in size and number as the
old gentleman thought on the obstinacy of his "colt."

"Yes," he continued, after a moment's silence, "I've made up my mind to
tame him, and I want _you_, Mr. Grant, to help me."

Mr. Grant looked as if he would rather not undertake to lend his aid in
a work that was evidently difficult; but being a good-natured man, he
said, "And how, friend, can I assist in the operation?"

"Well, you see, Charley's a good fellow at bottom, and a clever fellow
too--at least so says the schoolmaster; though I must confess, that so
far as my experience goes, he's only clever at finding out excuses for
not doing what I want him to. But still I'm told he's clever, and can
use his pen well; and I know for certain that he can use his tongue
well. So I want to get him into the service, and have him placed in a
situation where he shall have to stick to his desk all day. In fact, I
want to have him broken into work; for you've no notion, sir, how that
boy talks about bears and buffaloes and badgers, and life in the woods
among the Indians. I do believe," continued the old gentleman, waxing
warm, "that he would willingly go into the woods to-morrow, if I would
let him, and never show his nose in the settlement again. He's quite
incorrigible. But I'll tame him yet--I will!"

Mr. Kennedy followed this up with an indignant grunt, and a puff of
smoke, so thick, and propelled with such vigour, that it rolled and
curled in fantastic evolutions towards the ceiling, as if it were
unable to control itself with delight at the absolute certainty of
Charley being tamed at last.

Mr. Grant, however, shook his head, and remained for five minutes in
profound silence, during which time the two friends puffed in concert,
until they began to grow quite indistinct and ghost-like in the thick
atmosphere.

At last he broke silence.

"My opinion is that you're wrong, Mr. Kennedy. No doubt you know the
disposition of your son better than I do; but even judging of it from
what you have said, I'm quite sure that a sedentary life will ruin him."

"Ruin him! Humbug!" said Kennedy, who never failed to express his
opinion at the shortest notice and in the plainest language--a fact so
well known by his friends that they had got into the habit of taking no
notice of it. "Humbug!" he repeated, "perfect humbug! You don't mean to
tell me that the way to break him in is to let him run loose and wild
whenever and wherever he pleases?"

"By no means. But you may rest assured that tying him down won't do it."

"Nonsense!" said Mr. Kennedy testily; "don't tell me. Have I not broken
in young colts by the score? and don't I know that the way to fix their
flints is to clap on a good strong curb?"

"If you had travelled farther south, friend," replied Mr. Grant, "you
would have seen the Spaniards of Mexico break in their wild horses in a
very different way; for after catching one with a lasso, a fellow gets
on his back, and gives it the rein and the whip--ay, and the spur too;
and before that race is over, there is no need for a curb."

"What!" exclaimed Kennedy, "and do you mean to argue from that, that I
should let Charley run--and _help_ him too? Send him off to the woods
with gun and blanket, canoe and tent, all complete?" The old gentleman
puffed a furious puff, and broke into a loud sarcastic laugh.

"No, no," interrupted Mr. Grant; "I don't exactly mean that, but I
think that you might give him his way for a year or so. He's a fine,
active, generous fellow; and after the novelty wore off, he would be in
a much better frame of mind to listen to your proposals. Besides" (and
Mr. Grant smiled expressively), "Charley is somewhat like his father.
He has got a will of his own; and if you do not give him his way, I
very much fear that he'll--"

"What?" inquired Mr. Kennedy abruptly.

"Take it," said Mr. Grant.

The puff that burst from Mr. Kennedy's lips on hearing this would have
done credit to a thirty-six pounder.

"Take it!" said he; "he'd _better_ not."

The latter part of this speech was not in itself of a nature calculated
to convey much; but the tone of the old trader's voice, the contraction
of his eyebrows, and above all the overwhelming flow of cloudlets that
followed, imparted to it a significance that induced the belief that
Charley's taking his own way would be productive of more terrific
consequences than it was in the power of the most highly imaginative
man to conceive.

"There's his sister Kate, now," continued the old gentleman; "she's as
gentle and biddable as a lamb. I've only to say a word, and she's off
like a shot to do my bidding; and she does it with such a sweet smile
too." There was a touch of pathos in the old trader's voice as he said
this. He was a man of strong feeling, and as impulsive in his
tenderness as in his wrath. "But that rascal Charley," he continued,
"is quite different. He's obstinate as a mule. To be sure, he has a
good temper; and I must say for him he never goes into the sulks, which
is a comfort, for of all things in the world sulking is the most
childish and contemptible. He _generally_ does what I bid him, too. But
he's _always_ getting into scrapes of one kind or other. And during the
last week, notwithstanding all I can say to him, he won't admit that
the best thing for him is to get a place in your counting-room, with
the prospect of rapid promotion in the service. Very odd. I can't
understand it at all;" and Mr. Kennedy heaved a deep sigh.

"Did you ever explain to him the prospects that he would have in the
situation you propose for him?" inquired Mr. Grant.

"Can't say I ever did."

"Did you ever point out the probable end of a life spent in the woods?"

"No."

"Nor suggest to him that the appointment to the office here would only
be temporary, and to see how he got on in it?"

"Certainly not."

"Then, my dear sir, I'm not surprised that Charley rebels. You have
left him to suppose that, once placed at the desk here, he is a
prisoner for life. But see, there he is," said Mr. Grant, pointing as
he spoke towards the subject of their conversation, who was passing the
window at the moment; "let me call him, and I feel certain that he will
listen to reason in a few minutes."

"Humph!" ejaculated Mr. Kennedy, "you may try."

In another minute Charley had been summoned, and was seated, cap in
hand, near the door.

"Charley, my boy," began Mr. Grant, standing with his back to the fire,
his feet pretty wide apart, and his coat-tails under his
arms--"Charley, my boy, your father has just been speaking of you. He
is very anxious that you should enter the service of the Hudson's Bay
Company; and as you are a clever boy and a good penman, we think that
you would be likely to get on if placed for a year or so in our office
here. I need scarcely point out to you, my boy, that in such a position
you would be sure to obtain more rapid promotion than if you were
placed in one of the distant outposts, where you would have very little
to do, and perhaps little to eat, and no one to converse with except
one or two men. Of course, we would merely place you here on trial, to
see how you suited us; and if you prove steady and diligent, there is
no saying how fast you might get on. Why, you might even come to fill
my place in course of time. Come now, Charley, what think you of it?"

Charley's eyes had been cast on the ground while Mr. Grant was
speaking. He now raised them, looked at his father, then at his
interrogator, and said,--

"It is very kind of you both to be so anxious about my prospects. I
thank you, indeed, very much; but I--a--"

"Don't like the desk?" said his father, in an angry tone. "Is that it,
eh?"

Charley made no reply, but cast down his eyes again and smiled (Charley
had a sweet smile, a peculiarly sweet, candid smile), as if he meant to
say that his father had hit the nail quite on the top of the head that
time, and no mistake.

"But consider," resumed Mr. Grant, "although you might probably be
pleased with an outpost life at first, you would be sure to grow weary
of it after the novelty wore off, and then you would wish with all your
heart to be back here again. Believe me, child, a trader's life is a
very hard and not often a very satisfactory one--"

"Ay," broke in the father, desirous, if possible, to help the argument,
"and you'll find it a desperately wild, unsettled, roving sort of life,
too, let me tell you! full of dangers both from wild beast and wild
men--"

"Hush!" interrupted Mr. Grant, observing that the boy's eyes kindled
when his father spoke of a wild, roving life, and wild beasts.--"Your
father does not mean that life at an outpost is wild and _interesting_
or _exciting_. He merely means that--a--it--"

Mr. Grant could not very well explain what it was that Mr. Kennedy
meant if he did not mean that, so he turned to him for help.

"Exactly so," said that gentleman, taking a strong pull at the pipe for
inspiration. "It's no ways interesting or exciting at all. It's slow,
dull, and flat; a miserable sort of Robinson Crusoe life, with red
Indians and starvation constantly staring you in the face--"

"Besides," said Mr. Grant, again interrupting the somewhat unfortunate
efforts of his friend, who seemed to have a happy facility in sending a
brilliant dash of romantic allusion across the dark side of his
picture--"besides, you'll not have opportunity to amuse yourself, or to
read, as you'll have no books, and you'll have to work hard with your
hands oftentimes, like your men--"

"In fact," broke in the impatient father, resolved, apparently, to
carry the point with a grand _coup_--"in fact, you'll have to rough it,
as I did, when I went up the Mackenzie River district, where I was sent
to establish a new post, and had to travel for weeks and weeks through
a wild country, where none of us had ever been before; where we shot
our own meat, caught our own fish, and built our own house--and were
very near being murdered by the Indians; though, to be sure, afterwards
they became the most civil fellows in the country, and brought us
plenty of skins. Ay, lad, you'll repent of your obstinacy when you come
to have to hunt your own dinner, as I've done many a day up the
Saskatchewan, where I've had to fight with red-skins and grizzly bears
and to chase the buffaloes over miles and miles of prairie on
rough-going nags till my bones ached and I scarce knew whether I sat
on--"

"Oh," exclaimed Charley, starting to his feet, while his eyes flashed
and his chest heaved with emotion, "that's the place for me,
father!--Do, please, Mr. Grant send me there, and I'll work for you
with all my might!"

Frank Kennedy was not a man to stand this unexpected miscarriage of his
eloquence with equanimity. His first action was to throw his pipe at
the head of his enthusiastic boy; without worse effect, however, than
smashing it to atoms on the opposite wall. He then started up and
rushed towards his son, who, being near the door, retreated
precipitately and vanished.

"So," said Mr. Grant, not very sure whether to laugh or be angry at the
result of their united efforts, "you've settled the question now, at
all events."

Frank Kennedy said nothing, but filled another pipe, sat doggedly down
in front of the fire, and speedily enveloped himself, and his friend,
and all that the room contained, in thick, impenetrable clouds of smoke.

Meanwhile his worthy son rushed off in a state of great glee. He had
often heard the voyageurs of Red River dilate on the delights of
roughing it in the woods, and his heart had bounded as they spoke of
dangers encountered and overcome among the rapids of the Far North, or
with the bears and bison-bulls of the prairie, but never till now had
he heard his father corroborate their testimony by a recital of his own
actual experience; and although the old gentleman's intention was
undoubtedly to damp the boy's spirit, his eloquence had exactly the
opposite effect--so that it was with a hop and a shout that he burst
into the counting-room, with the occupants of which Charley was a
special favourite.



CHAPTER III.

The Counting-room.


Everyone knows the general appearance of a counting-room. There are one
or two peculiar features about such apartments that are quite
unmistakable and very characteristic; and the counting-room at Fort
Garry, although many hundred miles distant from other specimens of its
race, and, from the peculiar circumstances of its position, not
therefore likely to bear them much resemblance, possessed one or two
features of similarity, in the shape of two large desks and several
very tall stools, besides sundry ink-bottles, rulers, books, and sheets
of blotting-paper. But there were other implements there, savouring
strongly of the backwoods and savage life, which merit more particular
notice.

The room itself was small, and lighted by two little windows, which
opened into the courtyard. The entire apartment was made of wood. The
floor was of unpainted fir boards. The walls were of the same material,
painted blue from the floor upwards to about three feet, where the blue
was unceremoniously stopped short by a stripe of bright red, above
which the somewhat fanciful decorator had laid on a coat of pale
yellow; and the ceiling, by way of variety, was of a deep ochre. As the
occupants of Red River office were, however, addicted to the use of
tobacco and tallow candles, the original colour of the ceiling had
vanished entirely, and that of the walls had considerably changed.

There were three doors in the room (besides the door of entrance), each
opening into another apartment, where the three clerks were wont to
court the favour of Morpheus after the labours of the day. No carpets
graced the floors of any of these rooms, and with the exception of the
paint aforementioned, no ornament whatever broke the pleasing
uniformity of the scene. This was compensated, however, to some extent
by several scarlet sashes, bright-coloured shot-belts, and gay portions
of winter costume peculiar to the country, which depended from sundry
nails in the bedroom walls; and as the three doors always stood open,
these objects, together with one or two fowling-pieces and
canoe-paddles, formed quite a brilliant and highly suggestive
background to the otherwise sombre picture. A large open fireplace
stood in one corner of the room, devoid of a grate, and so constructed
that large logs of wood might be piled up on end to any extent. And
really the fires made in this manner, and in this individual fireplace,
were exquisite beyond description. A wood-fire is a particularly
cheerful thing. Those who have never seen one can form but a faint idea
of its splendour; especially on a sharp winter night in the arctic
regions, where the thermometer falls to forty degrees below zero,
without inducing the inhabitants to suppose that the world has reached
its conclusion. The billets are usually piled up on end, so that the
flames rise and twine round them with a fierce intensity that causes
them to crack and sputter cheerfully, sending innumerable sparks of
fire into the room, and throwing out a rich glow of brilliant light
that warms a man even to look at it, and renders candles quite
unnecessary.

The clerks who inhabited this counting-room were, like itself,
peculiar. There were three--corresponding to the bedrooms. The senior
was a tall, broad-shouldered, muscular man--a Scotchman--very
good-humoured, yet a man whose under lip met the upper with that
peculiar degree of precision that indicated the presence of other
qualities besides that of good-humour. He was book-keeper and
accountant, and managed the affairs intrusted to his care with the same
dogged perseverance with which he would have led an expedition of
discovery to the North Pole. He was thirty or thereabouts.

The second was a small man--also a Scotchman. It is curious to note how
numerous Scotchmen are in the wilds of North America. This specimen was
diminutive and sharp. Moreover, he played the flute--an accomplishment
of which he was so proud that he ordered out from England a flute of
ebony, so elaborately enriched with silver keys that one's fingers
ached to behold it. This beautiful instrument, like most other
instruments of a delicate nature, found the climate too much for its
constitution, and, soon after the winter began, split from top to
bottom. Peter Mactavish, however, was a genius by nature, and a
mechanical genius by tendency; so that, instead of giving way to
despair, he laboriously bound the flute together with waxed thread,
which, although it could not restore it to its pristine elegance,
enabled him to play with great effect sundry doleful airs, whose
influence, when performed at night, usually sent his companions to
sleep, or, failing this, drove them to distraction.

The third inhabitant of the office was a ruddy, smooth-chinned youth of
about fourteen, who had left home seven months before, in the hope of
gratifying a desire to lead a wild life, which he had entertained ever
since he read "Jack the Giant Killer," and found himself most
unexpectedly fastened, during the greater part of each day, to a stool.
His name was Harry Somerville, and a fine, cheerful little fellow he
was, full of spirits, and curiously addicted to poking and arranging
the fire at least every ten minutes--a propensity which tested the
forbearance of the senior clerk rather severely, and would have
surprised any one not aware of poor Harry's incurable antipathy to the
desk, and the yearning desire with which he longed for physical action.

Harry was busily engaged with the refractory fire when Charley, as
stated at the conclusion of the last chapter, burst into the room.

"Hollo!" he exclaimed, suspending his operations for a moment, "what's
up?"

"Nothing," said Charley, "but father's temper, that's all. He gave me a
splendid description of his life in the woods, and then threw his pipe
at me because I admired it too much."

"Ho!" exclaimed Harry, making a vigorous thrust at the fire, "then
you've no chance now."

"No chance! what do you mean?"

"Only that we are to have a wolf-hunt in the plains to-morrow; and if
you've aggravated your father, he'll be taking you home to-night,
that's all."

"Oh! no fear of that," said Charley, with a look that seemed to imply
that there was very great fear of "that"--much more, in fact, than he
was willing to admit even to himself. "My dear old father never keeps
his anger long. I'm sure that he'll be all right again in half-an-hour."

"Hope so, but doubt it I do," said Harry, making another deadly poke at
the fire, and returning, with a deep sigh, to his stool.

"Would you like to go with us, Charley?" said the senior clerk, laying
down his pen and turning round on his chair (the senior clerk never sat
on a stool) with a benign smile.

"Oh, very, very much indeed," cried Charley; "but even should father
agree to stay all night at the fort, I have no horse, and I'm sure he
would not let me have the mare after what I did to-day."

"Do you think he's not open to persuasion?" said the senior clerk.

"No, I'm sure he's not."

"Well, well, it don't much signify; perhaps we can mount you."
(Charley's face brightened.) "Go," he continued, addressing Harry
Somerville--"go, tell Tom Whyte I wish to speak to him."

Harry sprang from his stool with a suddenness and vigour that might
have justified the belief that he had been fixed to it by means of a
powerful spring, which had been set free with a sharp recoil, and shot
him out at the door, for he disappeared in a trice. In a few minutes he
returned, followed by the groom Tom Whyte.

"Tom," said the senior clerk, "do you think we could manage to mount
Charley to-morrow?"

"Why, sir, I don't think as how we could. There ain't an 'oss in the
stable except them wot's required and them wot's badly."

"Couldn't he have the brown pony?" suggested the senior clerk.

Tom Whyte was a cockney and an old soldier, and stood so bolt upright
that it seemed quite a marvel how the words ever managed to climb up
the steep ascent of his throat, and turn the corner so as to get out at
his mouth. Perhaps this was the cause of his speaking on all occasions
with great deliberation and slowness.

"Why, you see, sir," he replied, "the brown pony's got cut under the
fetlock of the right hind leg; and I 'ad 'im down to L'Esperance the
smith's, sir, to look at 'im, sir; and he says to me, says he 'That
don't look well, that 'oss don't,'--and he's a knowing feller, sir, is
L'Esperance though he _is_ an 'alf-breed--"

"Never mind what he said, Tom," interrupted the senior clerk; "is the
pony fit for use? that's the question."

"No, sir, 'e hain't."

"And the black mare, can he not have that?"

"No, sir; Mr. Grant is to ride 'er to-morrow."

"That's unfortunate," said the senior clerk.--"I fear, Charley, that
you'll need to ride behind Harry on his gray pony. It wouldn't improve
his speed, to be sure, having two on his back; but then he's so like a
pig in his movements at any rate, I don't think it would spoil his pace
much."

"Could he not try the new horse?" he continued, turning to the groom.

"The noo 'oss, sir! he might as well try to ride a mad buffalo bull,
sir. He's quite a young colt, sir, only 'alf broke--kicks like a
windmill, sir, and's got an 'ead like a steam-engine; 'e couldn't 'old
'im in no'ow, sir. I 'ad 'im down to the smith 'tother day, sir, an'
says 'e to me, says 'e, 'That's a screamer, that is.' 'Yes,' says I,
'that his a fact.' 'Well,' says 'e--"

"Hang the smith!" cried the senior clerk, losing all patience; "can't
you answer me without so much talk? Is the horse too wild to ride?"

"Yes, sir, 'e is" said the groom, with a look of slightly offended
dignity, and drawing himself up--if we may use such an expression to
one who was always drawn up to such an extent that he seemed to be just
balanced on his heels, and required only a gentle push to lay him flat
on his back.

"Oh, I have it!" cried Peter Mactavish, who had been standing during
the conversation with his back to the fire, and a short pipe in his
mouth: "John Fowler, the miller, has just purchased a new pony. I'm
told it's an old buffalo-runner, and I'm certain he would lend it to
Charley at once."

"The very thing," said the senior clerk.--"Run, Tom; give the miller my
compliments, and beg the loan of his horse for Charley Kennedy.--I
think he knows you, Charley?"

The dinner-bell rang as the groom departed, and the clerks prepared for
their mid-day meal.

The Senior clerk's order to _"run"_ was a mere form of speech, intended
to indicate that haste was desirable. No man imagined for a moment that
Tom Whyte could, by any possibility, _run_. He hadn't run since he was
dismissed from the army, twenty years before, for incurable
drunkenness; and most of Tom's friend's entertained the belief that if
he ever attempted to run he would crack all over, and go to pieces like
a disentombed Egyptian mummy. Tom therefore walked off to the row of
buildings inhabited by the men, where he sat down on a bench in front
of his bed, and proceeded leisurely to fill his pipe.

The room in which he sat was a fair specimen of the dwellings devoted
to the _employés_ of the Hudson's Bay Company throughout the country.
It was large, and low in the roof, built entirely of wood, which was
unpainted; a matter, however, of no consequence, as, from long exposure
to dust and tobacco smoke, the floor, walls, and ceiling had become one
deep, uniform brown. The men's beds were constructed after the fashion
of berths on board ship, being wooden boxes ranged in tiers round the
room. Several tables and benches were strewn miscellaneously about the
floor, in the centre of which stood a large double iron stove, with the
word _"Carron"_ stamped on it. This served at once for cooking and
warming the place. Numerous guns, axes, and canoe-paddles hung round
the walls or were piled in corners, and the rafters sustained a
miscellaneous mass of materials, the more conspicuous among which were
snow-shoes, dog-sledges, axe-handles, and nets.

Having filled and lighted his pipe, Tom Whyte thrust his hands into his
deerskin mittens, and sauntered off to perform his errand.



CHAPTER IV.


A wolf-hunt in the prairies--Charley astonishes his father, and breaks
in the "noo 'oss" effectually.

During the long winter that reigns in the northern regions of America,
the thermometer ranges, for many months together, from zero down to 20,
30, and 40 degrees _below_ it. In different parts of the country the
intensity of the frost varies a little, but not sufficiently to make
any appreciable change in one's sensation of cold. At York Fort, on the
shores of Hudson's Bay, where the winter is eight months long, the
spirit-of-wine (mercury being useless in so cold a climate) sometimes
falls so low as 50 degrees below zero; and away in the regions of Great
Bear Lake it has been known to fall considerably lower than 60 degrees
below zero of Fahrenheit. Cold of such intensity, of course, produces
many curious and interesting effects, which, although scarcely noticed
by the inhabitants, make a strong impression upon the minds of those
who visit the country for the first time. A youth goes out to walk on
one of the first sharp, frosty mornings. His locks are brown and his
face ruddy. In half-an-hour he returns with his face blue, his nose
frost-bitten, and his locks _white_--the latter effect being produced
by his breath congealing on his hair and breast, until both are covered
with hoar-frost. Perhaps he is of a sceptical nature, prejudiced it may
be, in favour of old habits and customs; so that, although told by
those who ought to know that it is absolutely necessary to wear
moccasins in winter, he prefers the leather boots to which he has been
accustomed at home, and goes out with them accordingly In a few minutes
the feet begin to lose sensation. First the toes, as far as feeling
goes, vanish; then the heels depart, and he feels the extraordinary and
peculiar and altogether disagreeable sensation of one who has had his
heels and toes amputated, and is walking about on his insteps. Soon,
however, these also fade away, and the unhappy youth rushes frantically
home on the stumps of his ankle-bones--at least so it appears to him,
and so in reality it would turn out to be if he did not speedily rub
the benumbed appendages into vitality again.

The whole country during this season is buried in snow, and the
prairies of Red River present the appearance of a sea of the purest
white for five or six months of the year. Impelled by hunger, troops of
prairie wolves prowl round the settlement, safe from the assault of man
in consequence of their light weight permitting them to scamper away on
the surface of the snow, into which man or horse, from their greater
weight, would sink, so as to render pursuit either fearfully laborious
or altogether impossible. In spring, however, when the first thaws
begin to take place, and commence that delightful process of disruption
which introduces this charming season of the year, the relative
position of wolf and man is reversed. The snow becomes suddenly soft,
so that the short legs of the wolf, sinking deep into it, fail to reach
the solid ground below, and he is obliged to drag heavily along; while
the long legs of the horse enable him to plunge through and dash aside
the snow at a rate which, although not very fleet, is sufficient
nevertheless to overtake the chase and give his rider a chance of
shooting it. The inhabitants of Red River are not much addicted to this
sport, but the gentlemen of the Hudson's Bay Service sometimes practise
it; and it was to a hunt of this description that our young friend
Charley Kennedy was now so anxious to go.

The morning was propitious. The sun blazed in dazzling splendour in a
sky of deep unclouded blue, while the white prairie glittered as if it
were a sea of diamonds rolling out in an unbroken sheet from the walls
of the fort to the horizon, and on looking at which one experienced all
the pleasurable feelings of being out on a calm day on the wide, wide
sea, without the disagreeable consequence of being very, very sick.

The thermometer stood at 39° in the shade, and  "everythin_k_" as Tom
Whyte emphatically expressed it, "looked like a runnin' of right away
into slush." That unusual sound, the trickling of water, so
inexpressibly grateful to the ears of those who dwell in frosty climes,
was heard all around, as the heavy masses of snow on the housetops sent
a few adventurous drops gliding down the icicles which depended from
the eaves and gables; and there was a balmy softness in the air that
told of coming spring. Nature, in fact, seemed to have wakened from her
long nap, and was beginning to think of getting up. Like people,
however, who venture to delay so long as to _think_ about it, Nature
frequently turns round and goes to sleep again in her icy cradle for a
few weeks after the first awakening.

The scene in the court-yard of Fort Garry harmonised with the cheerful
spirit of the morning. Tom Whyte, with that upright solemnity which
constituted one of his characteristic features, was standing in the
centre of a group of horses, whose energy he endeavoured to restrain
with the help of a small Indian boy, to whom meanwhile he imparted a
variety of useful and otherwise unattainable information.

"You see, Joseph," said he to the urchin, who gazed gravely in his face
with a pair of very large and dark eyes, "ponies is often skittish.
Reason why one should be, an' another not, I can't comprehend. P'r'aps
it's nat'ral, p'r'aps not, but howsomediver so 'tis; an' if it's more
nor above the likes o' _me_, Joseph, you needn't be suprised that it's
somethink haltogether beyond _you_."

It will not surprise the reader to be told that Joseph made no reply to
this speech, having a very imperfect acquaintance with the English
language, especially the peculiar dialect of that tongue in which Tom
Whyte was wont to express his ideas, when he had any.

He merely gave a grunt, and continued to gaze at Tom's fishy eyes,
which were about as interesting as the face to which they belonged, and
_that_ might have been mistaken for almost anything.

"Yes, Joseph," he continued, "that's a fact. There's the noo brown o'ss
now, _it's_ a skittish 'un. And there's Mr. Kennedy's gray mare, wot's
a standin' of beside me, she ain't skittish a bit, though she's plenty
of spirit, and wouldn't care hanythink for a five-barred gate. Now, wot
I want to know is, wot's the reason why?"

We fear that the reason why, however interesting it might prove to
naturalists, must remain a profound secret for ever; for just as the
groom was about to entertain Joseph with one of his theories on the
point, Charley Kennedy and Harry Somerville hastily approached.

"Ho, Tom!" exclaimed the former, "have you got the miller's pony for
me?"

"Why, no, sir; 'e 'adn't got his shoes on, sir, last night--"

"Oh, bother his shoes!" said Charley, in a voice of great
disappointment. "Why didn't you bring him up without shoes, man, eh?"

"Well, sir, the miller said 'e'd get 'em put on early this mornin', an'
I 'xpect 'e'll be 'ere in 'alf-a-hour at farthest, sir."

"Oh, very well," replied Charley, much relieved, but still a little
nettled at the bare possibility of being late.--"Come along, Harry;
let's go and meet him. He'll be long enough of coming if we don't go to
poke him up a bit."

"You'd better wait," called out the groom, as the boys hastened away.
"If you go by the river, he'll p'r'aps come by the plains; and if you
go by the plains, he'll p'r'aps come by the river."

Charley and Harry stopped and looked at each other. Then they looked at
the groom, and as their eyes surveyed his solemn, cadaverous
countenance, which seemed a sort of bad caricature of the long visages
of the horses that stood around him, they burst into a simultaneous and
prolonged laugh.

"He's a clever old lamp-post," said Harry at last: "we had better
remain, Charley."

"You see," continued Tom Whyte, "the pony's 'oofs is in an 'orrible
state. Last night w'en I see'd 'im I said to the miller, says I, 'John,
I'll take 'im down to the smith d'rectly.' 'Very good,' said John. So I
'ad him down to the smith--"

The remainder of Tom's speech was cut short by one of those unforeseen
operations of the laws of nature which are peculiar to arctic climates.
During the long winter repeated falls of snow cover the housetops with
white mantles upwards of a foot thick, which become gradually thicker
and more consolidated as winter advances. In spring the suddenness of
the thaw loosens these from the sloping roofs, and precipitates them in
masses to the ground. These miniature avalanches are dangerous, people
having been seriously injured and sometimes killed by them. Now it
happened that a very large mass of snow, which lay on and partly
depended from the roof of the house near to which the horses were
standing, gave way, and just at that critical point in Tom Whyte's
speech when he "'ad 'im down to the smith," fell with a stunning crash
on the back of Mr. Kennedy's gray mare. The mare was not "skittish"--by
no means--according to Tom's idea, but it would have been more than an
ordinary mare to have stood the sudden descent of half-a-ton of snow
without _some_ symptoms of consciousness. No sooner did it feel the
blow than it sent both heels with a bang against the wooden store, by
way of preliminary movement, and then rearing up with a wild snort, it
sprang over Tom Whyte's head, jerked the reins from his hand, and upset
him in the snow. Poor Tom never _bent_ to anything. The military
despotism under which he had been reared having substituted a touch of
the cap for a bow, rendered it unnecessary to bend; prolonged drill,
laziness, and rheumatism made it at last impossible. When he stood up,
he did so after the manner of a pillar; when he sat down, he broke
across at two points, much in the way in which a foot-rule would have
done had _it_ felt disposed to sit down; and when he fell, he came down
like an overturned lamp-post. On the present occasion Tom became
horizontal in a moment, and from his unfortunate propensity to fall
straight, his head, reaching much farther than might have been
expected, came into violent contact with the small Indian boy, who fell
flat likewise, letting go the reins of the horses, which latter no
sooner felt themselves free than they fled, curvetting and snorting
round the court, with reins and manes flying in rare confusion.

The two boys, who could scarce stand for laughing, ran to the gates of
the fort to prevent the chargers getting free, and in a short time they
were again secured, although evidently much elated in spirit.

A few minutes after this Mr. Grant issued from the principal house
leaning on Mr. Kennedy's arm, and followed by the senior clerk, Peter
Mactavish, and one or two friends who had come to take part in the
wolf-hunt. They were all armed with double or single barrelled guns or
pistols, according to their several fancies. The two elderly gentlemen
alone entered upon the scene without any more deadly weapons than their
heavy riding-whips. Young Harry Somerville, who had been strongly
advised not to take a gun lest he should shoot himself or his horse or
his companions, was content to take the field with a small
pocket-pistol, which he crammed to the muzzle with a compound of ball
and swan-shot.

"It won't do," said Mr. Grant, in an earnest voice, to his friend, as
they walked towards the horses--"it won't do to check him too abruptly,
my dear sir."

It was evident that they were recurring to the subject of conversation
of the previous day, and it was also evident that the father's wrath
was in that very uncertain state when a word or look can throw it into
violent agitation.

"Just permit me," continued Mr. Grant, "to get him sent to the
Saskatchewan or Athabasca for a couple of years. By that time he'll
have had enough of a rough life, and be only too glad to get a berth at
headquarters. If you thwart him now, I feel convinced that he'll break
through all restraint."

"Humph!" ejaculated Mr. Kennedy, with a frown--"Come here, Charley," he
said, as the boy approached with a disappointed look to tell of his
failure in getting a horse; "I've been talking with Mr. Grant again
about this business, and he says he can easily get you into the
counting-room here for a year, so you'll make arrangements--"

The old gentleman paused. He was going to have followed his wonted
course by _commanding_ instantaneous obedience; but as his eye fell
upon the honest, open, though disappointed face of his son, a gush of
tenderness filled his heart. Laying his hand upon Charley's head, he
said, in a kind but abrupt tone, "There now, Charley, my boy, make up
your mind to give in with a good grace. It'll only be hard work for a
year or two, and then plain sailing after that, Charley!"

Charley's clear blue eyes filled with tears as the accents of kindness
fell upon his ear.

It is strange that men should frequently be so blind to the potent
influence of kindness. Independently of the Divine authority, which
assures us that "a soft answer turneth away wrath," and that "_love_ is
the fulfilling of the law," who has not, in the course of his
experience, felt the overwhelming power of a truly affectionate word;
not a word which possesses merely an affectionate signification, but a
word spoken with a gush of tenderness, where love rolls in the tone,
and beams in the eye, and revels in every wrinkle of the face? And how
much more powerfully does such a word or look or tone strike home to
the heart if uttered by one whose lips are not much accustomed to the
formation of honeyed words or sweet sentences! Had Mr. Kennedy, senior,
known more of this power, and put it more frequently to the proof, we
venture to affirm that Mr. Kennedy, junior, would have _allowed_ his
_"flint to be fixed"_ (as his father pithily expressed it) long ago.

Ere Charley could reply to the question, Mr. Grant's voice, pitched in
an elevated key, interrupted them.

"Eh! what?" said that gentleman to Tom Whyte. "No horse for Charley!
How's that?"

"No, sir," said Tom.

"Where's the brown pony?" said Mr. Grant, abruptly.

"Cut 'is fetlock, sir," said Tom, slowly.

"And the new horse?"

"'Tan't 'alf broke yet, sir."

"Ah! that's bad.--It wouldn't do to take an unbroken charger, Charley;
for although you are a pretty good rider, you couldn't manage him, I
fear. Let me see."

"Please, sir," said the groom, touching his hat, "I've borrowed the
miller's pony for 'im, and 'e's sure to be 'ere in 'alf-a-hour at
farthest."

"Oh, that'll do," said Mr. Grant; "you can soon overtake us. We shall
ride slowly out, straight into the prairie, and Harry will remain
behind to keep you company."

So saying, Mr. Grant mounted his horse and rode out at the back gate,
followed by the whole cavalcade.

"Now this is too bad!" said Charley, looking with a very perplexed air
at his companion. "What's to be done?"

Harry evidently did not know what was to be done, and made no
difficulty of saying so in a very sympathising tone. Moreover, he
begged Charley very earnestly to take _his_ pony, but this the other
would not hear of; so they came to the conclusion that there was
nothing for it but to wait as patiently as possible for the arrival of
the expected horse. In the meantime Harry proposed a saunter in the
field adjoining the fort. Charley assented, and the two friends walked
away, leading the gray pony along with them.

To the right of Fort Garry was a small enclosure, at the extreme end of
which commences a growth of willows and underwood, which gradually
increases in size till it becomes a pretty thick belt of woodland,
skirting up the river for many miles. Here stood the stable belonging
to the establishment; and as the boys passed it, Charley suddenly
conceived a strong desire to see the renowned "noo 'oss," which Tom
Whyte had said was only "'alf broke;" so he turned the key, opened the
door, and went in.

There was nothing _very_ peculiar about this horse, excepting that his
legs seemed rather long for his body, and upon a closer examination,
there was a noticeable breadth of nostril and a latent fire in his eye,
indicating a good deal of spirit, which, like Charley's own, required
taming.

"Oh" said Charley, "what a splendid fellow! I say, Harry, I'll go out
with _him."_

"You'd better not."

"Why not?"

"Why? just because if you do Mr. Grant will be down upon you, and your
father won't be very well pleased."

"Nonsense," cried Charley. "Father didn't say I wasn't to take him. I
don't think he'd care much. He's not afraid of my breaking my neck. And
then, Mr. Grant seemed to be only afraid of my being run off with--not
of his horse being hurt. Here goes for it!" In another moment Charley
had him saddled and bridled, and led him out into the yard.

"Why, I declare, he's quite quiet; just like a lamb," said Harry, in
surprise.

"So he is," replied Charley. "He's a capital charger; and even if he
does bolt, he can't run five hundred miles at a stretch. If I turn his
head to the prairies, the Rocky Mountains are the first things that
will bring him up. So let him run if he likes, I don't care a fig." And
springing lightly into the saddle, he cantered out of the yard,
followed by his friend.

The young horse was a well-formed, showy animal, with a good deal of
bone--perhaps too much for elegance. He was of a beautiful dark brown,
and carried a high head and tail, with a high-stepping gait, that gave
him a noble appearance. As Charley cantered along at a steady pace, he
could discover no symptoms of the refractory spirit which had been
ascribed to him.

"Let us strike out straight for the horizon now," said Harry, after
they had galloped half-a-mile or so along the beaten track. "See, here
are the tracks of our friends." Turning sharp round as he spoke, he
leaped his pony over the heap that lined the road, and galloped away
through the soft snow.

At this point the young horse began to show his evil spirit. Instead of
following the other, he suddenly halted and began to back.

"Hollo, Harry!" exclaimed Charley; "hold on a bit. Here's this monster
begun his tricks."

"Hit him a crack with the whip," shouted Harry.

Charley acted upon the advice, which had the effect of making the horse
shake his head with a sharp snort, and back more vigorously than ever.

"There, my fine fellow, quiet now," said Charley, in a soothing tone,
patting the horse's neck. "It's a comfort to know you can't go far in
_that_ direction, anyhow!" he added, as he glanced over his shoulder,
and saw an immense drift behind.

He was right. In a few minutes the horse backed into the snow-drift.
Finding his hind-quarters imprisoned by a power that was too much even
for _his_ obstinacy to overcome, he gave another snort and a heavy
plunge, which almost unseated his young rider.

"Hold on fast," cried Harry, who had now come up.

"No fear," cried Charley, as he clinched his teeth and gathered the
reins more firmly.--"Now for it, you young villain!" and raising his
whip, he brought it down with a heavy slash on the horse's flank.

Had the snow-drift been a cannon, and the horse a bombshell, he could
scarcely have sprung from it with greater velocity. One bound landed
him on the road; another cleared it; and, in a second more, he
stretched out at full speed--his ears flat on his neck, mane and tail
flying in the wind, and the bit tight between his teeth.

"Well done," cried Harry, as he passed. "You're off now, old fellow;
good-bye."

"Hurrah!" shouted Charley, in reply, leaving his cap in the snow as a
parting souvenir; while, seeing that it was useless to endeavour to
check his steed, he became quite wild with excitement; gave him the
rein; flourished his whip; and flew over the white plains, casting up
the snow in clouds behind him like a hurricane.

While this little escapade was being enacted by the boys, the hunters
were riding leisurely out upon the snowy sea in search of a wolf.

Words cannot convey to you, dear reader, an adequate conception of the
peculiar fascination, the exhilarating splendour of the scene by which
our hunters were surrounded. Its beauty lay not in variety of feature
in the landscape, for there was none. One vast sheet of white alone met
the view, bounded all round by the blue circle of the sky, and broken,
in one or two places, by a patch or two of willows, which, rising on
the plain, appeared like little islands in a frozen sea. It was the
glittering sparkle of the snow in the bright sunshine; the dreamy
haziness of the atmosphere, mingling earth and sky as in a halo of
gold; the first taste, the first _smell_ of spring after a long winter,
bursting suddenly upon the senses, like the unexpected visit of a
long-absent, much-loved, and almost-forgotten friend; the soft, warm
feeling of the south wind, bearing on its wings the balmy influences of
sunny climes, and recalling vividly the scenes, the pleasures, the
bustling occupations of summer. It was this that caused the hunters'
hearts to leap within them as they rode along--that induced old Mr.
Kennedy to forget his years, and shout as he had been wont to do in
days gone by, when he used to follow the track of the elk or hunt the
wild buffalo; and it was this that made the otherwise monotonous
prairies, on this particular clay, so charming.

The party had wandered about without discovering anything that bore the
smallest resemblance to a wolf, for upwards of an hour; Fort Garry had
fallen astern (to use a nautical phrase) until it had become a mere
speck on the horizon, and vanished altogether; Peter Mactavish had
twice given a false alarm, in the eagerness of his spirit, and had
three times plunged his horse up to the girths in a snow-drift; the
senior clerk was waxing impatient, and the horses restive, when a
sudden "Hollo!" from Mr. Grant brought the whole cavalcade to a stand.

The object which drew his attention, and to which he directed the
anxious eyes of his friends was a small speck, rather triangular in
form, which overtopped a little willow bush not more than five or six
hundred yards distant.

"There he is!" exclaimed Mr. Grant. "That's a fact," cried Mr. Kennedy;
and both gentlemen, instantaneously giving a shout, bounded towards the
object; not, however, before the senior clerk, who was mounted on a
fleet and strong horse, had taken the lead by six yards. A moment
afterwards the speck rose up and discovered itself to be a veritable
wolf. Moreover, he condescended to show his teeth, and then, conceiving
it probable that his enemies were too numerous for him, he turned
suddenly round and fled away. For ten minutes or so the chase was kept
up at full speed, and as the snow happened to be shallow at the
starting-point, the wolf kept well ahead of its pursuers--indeed,
distanced them a little. But soon the snow became deeper, and the wolf
plunged heavily, and the horses gained considerably. Although to the
eye the prairies seemed to be a uniform level, there were numerous
slight undulations, in which drifts of some depth had collected. Into
one of these the wolf now plunged and laboured slowly through it. But
so deep was the snow that the horses almost stuck fast. A few minutes,
however, brought them out, and Mr. Grant and Mr. Kennedy, who had kept
close to each other during the run, pulled up for a moment on the
summit of a ridge to breathe their panting steeds.

"What can that be?" exclaimed the former, pointing with his whip to a
distant object which was moving rapidly over the plain.

"Eh! what--where?" said Mr. Kennedy, shading his eyes with his hand,
and peering in the direction indicated. "Why, that's another wolf,
isn't it? No; it runs too fast for that."

"Strange," said his friend; "what _can_ it be?"

"If I hadn't seen every beast in the country," remarked Mr. Kennedy,
"and didn't know that there are no such animals north of the equator, I
should say it was a mad dromedary mounted by a ring-tailed roarer."

"It can't be surely--not possible!" exclaimed Mr. Grant. "It's not
Charley on the new horse!"

Mr. Grant said this with an air of vexation that annoyed his friend a
little. He would not have much minded Charley's taking a horse without
leave, no matter how wild it might be; but he did not at all relish the
idea of making an apology for his son's misconduct, and for the moment
did not exactly know what to say. As usual in such a dilemma, the old
man took refuge in a towering passion, gave his steed a sharp cut with
the whip, and galloped forward to meet the delinquent.

We are not acquainted with the general appearance of a "ring-tailed
roarer;" in fact, we have grave doubts as to whether such an animal
exists at all; but if it does, and is particularly wild, dishevelled,
and fierce in deportment, there is no doubt whatever that when Mr.
Kennedy applied the name to his hopeful son, the application was
singularly powerful and appropriate.

Charley had had a long run since we last saw him. After describing a
wide curve, in which his charger displayed a surprising aptitude for
picking out the ground that was least covered with snow, he headed
straight for the fort again at the same pace at which he had started.
At first Charley tried every possible method to check him, but in vain;
so he gave it up, resolving to enjoy the race, since he could not
prevent it. The young horse seemed to be made of lightning, with bones
and muscles of brass; for he bounded untiringly forward for miles,
tossing his head and snorting in his wild career. But Charley was a
good horseman, and did not mind _that_ much, being quite satisfied that
the horse _was_ a horse and not a spirit, and that therefore he could
not run for ever. At last he approached the party, in search of which
he had originally set out. His eyes dilated and his colour heightened
as he beheld the wolf running directly towards him. Fumbling hastily
for the pistol which he had borrowed from his friend Harry, he drew it
from his pocket, and prepared to give the animal a shot in passing.
Just at that moment the wolf caught sight of this new enemy in advance,
and diverged suddenly to the left, plunging into a drift in his
confusion, and so enabling the senior clerk to overtake him, and send
an ounce of heavy shot into his side, which turned him over quite dead.
The shot, however had a double effect. At that instant Charley swept
past; and his mettlesome steed swerved as it heard the loud report of
the gun, thereby almost unhorsing his rider, and causing him
unintentionally to discharge the conglomerate of bullets and swan-shot
into the flank of Peter Mactavish's horse--fortunately at a distance
which rendered the shot equivalent to a dozen very sharp and
particularly stinging blows. On receiving this unexpected salute, the
astonished charger reared convulsively, and fell back upon his rider,
who was thereby buried deep in the snow, not a vestige of him being
left, no more than if he had never existed at all. Indeed, for a moment
it seemed to be doubtful whether poor Peter _did_ exist or not, until a
sudden upheaving of the snow took place, and his dishevelled head
appeared, with the eyes and mouth wide open, bearing on them an
expression of mingled horror and amazement. Meanwhile the second shot
acted like a spur on the young horse, which flew past Mr. Kennedy like
a whirlwind.

"Stop, you young scoundrel!" he shouted, shaking his fist at Charley as
he passed.

Charley was past stopping, either by inclination or ability. This
sudden and unexpected accumulation of disasters was too much for him.
As he passed his sire, with his brown curls streaming straight out
behind, and his eyes flashing with excitement, his teeth clinched, and
his horse tearing along more like an incarnate fiend than an animal, a
spirit of combined recklessness, consternation, indignation, and glee
took possession of him. He waved his whip wildly over his head, brought
it down with a stinging cut on the horse's neck, and uttered a shout of
defiance that threw completely into the shade the loudest war-whoop
that was ever uttered by the brazen lungs of the wildest savage between
Hudson's Bay and Oregon. Seeing and hearing this, old Mr. Kennedy
wheeled about and dashed off in pursuit with much greater energy than
he had displayed in chase of the wolf.

The race bid fair to be a long one, for the young horse was strong in
wind and limb; and the gray mare, though decidedly not "the better
horse," was much fresher than the other.

The hunters, who were now joined by Harry Somerville, did not feel it
incumbent on them to follow this new chase; so they contented
themselves with watching their flight towards the fort, while they
followed at a more leisurely pace.

Meanwhile Charley rapidly neared Fort Garry, and now began to wonder
whether the stable door was open, and if so, whether it were better for
him to take his chance of getting his neck broken, or to throw himself
into the next snow-drift that presented itself.

He had not to remain long in suspense. The wooden fence that enclosed
the stable-yard lay before him. It was between four and five feet high,
with a beaten track running along the outside, and a deep snow-drift on
the other. Charley felt that the young horse had made up his mind to
leap this. As he did not at the moment see that there was anything
better to be done, he prepared for it. As the horse bent on his
haunches to spring, he gave him a smart cut with the whip, went over
like a rocket, and plunged up to the neck in the snow-drift; which
brought his career to an abrupt conclusion. The sudden stoppage of the
horse was _one_ thing, but the arresting of Master Charley was
_another_ and quite a different thing. The instant his charger landed,
he left the saddle like a harlequin, described an extensive curve in
the air, and fell head foremost into the drift, above which his boots
and three inches of his legs alone remained to tell the tale.

On witnessing this climax, Mr. Kennedy, senior, pulled up, dismounted,
and ran--with an expression of some anxiety on his countenance--to the
help of his son, while Tom Whyte came out of the stable just in time to
receive the "noo 'oss" as he floundered out of the snow.

"I believe," said the groom, as he surveyed the trembling charger,
"that your son has broke the noo 'oss, sir, better nor I could 'ave
done myself."

"I believe that my son has broken his neck," said Mr. Kennedy
wrathfully. "Come here and help me to dig him out."

In a few minutes Charley was dug out, in a state of insensibility, and
carried up to the fort, where he was laid on a bed, and restoratives
actively applied for his recovery.



CHAPTER V.

Peter Mactavish becomes an amateur doctor; Charley promulgates his
views of tilings in general to Kate; and Kate waxes sagacious.


Shortly after the catastrophe just related, Charley opened his eyes to
consciousness, and aroused himself out of a prolonged fainting fit,
under the combined influence of a strong constitution and the medical
treatment of his friends.

Medical treatment in the wilds of North America, by the way, is very
original in its character, and is founded on principles so vague that
no one has ever been found capable of stating them clearly. Owing to
the stubborn fact that there are no doctors in the country, men have
been thrown upon their own resources, and as a natural consequence
_every_ man is a doctor. True, there _are_ two, it may be three, real
doctors in the Hudson's Bay Company's employment; but as one of these
is resident on the shores of Hudson's Bay, another in Oregon, and a
third in Red River Settlement, they are not considered available for
every case of emergency that may chance to occur in the hundreds of
little outposts, scattered far and wide over the whole continent of
North America, with miles and miles of primeval wilderness between
each. We do not think, therefore, that when we say there are _no_
doctors in the country, we use a culpable amount of exaggeration.

If a man gets ill, he goes on till he gets better; and if he doesn't
get better, he dies. To avert such an undesirable consummation,
desperate and random efforts are made in an amateur way. The old
proverb that "extremes meet" is verified. And in a land where no
doctors are to be had for love or money, doctors meet you at every
turn, ready to practise on everything, with anything, and all for
nothing, on the shortest possible notice. As maybe supposed, the
practice is novel, and not unfrequently extremely wild. Tooth-drawing
is considered child's play--mere blacksmith's work; bleeding is a
general remedy for everything, when all else fails; castor-oil, Epsom
salts, and emetics are the three keynotes, the foundations, and the
copestones of the system.

In Red River there is only one _genuine_ doctor; and as the settlement
is fully sixty miles long, he has enough to do, and cannot always be
found when wanted, so that Charley had to rest content with amateur
treatment in the meantime. Peter Mactavish was the first to try his
powers. He was aware that laudanum had the effect of producing sleep,
and seeing that Charley looked somewhat sleepy after recovering
consciousness, he thought it advisable to help out that propensity to
slumber, and went to the medicine-chest, whence he extracted a small
phial of tincture of rhubarb, the half of which he emptied into a
wine-glass, under the impression that it was laudanum, and poured down
Charley's throat! The poor boy swallowed a little, and sputtered the
remainder over the bedclothes. It may be remarked here that Mactavish
was a wild, happy, half-mad sort of fellow--wonderfully erudite in
regard to some things, and profoundly ignorant in regard to others.
Medicine, it need scarcely be added, was not his _forte_. Having
accomplished this feat to his satisfaction, he sat down to watch by the
bedside of his friend. Peter had taken this opportunity to indulge in a
little private practice just after several of the other gentlemen had
left the office, under the impression that Charley had better remain
quiet for a short time.

"Well, Peter," whispered Mr. Kennedy, senior, putting his head in at
the door (it was Harry's room in which Charley lay), "how is he now?"

"Oh! doing capitally," replied Peter, in a hoarse whisper, at the same
time rising and entering the office, while he gently closed the door
behind him. "I gave him a small dose of physic, which I think has done
mm good. He's sleeping like a top now."

Mr. Kennedy frowned slightly, and made one or two remarks in reference
to physic which were not calculated to gratify the ears of a physician.

"What did you give him?" he inquired abruptly.

"Only a little laudanum."

"_Only,_ indeed! it's all trash together, and that's the worst kind of
trash you could have given him. Humph!" and the old gentleman jerked
his shoulders testily.

"How much did yon give him?" said the senior clerk, who had entered the
apartment with Harry a few minutes before.

"Not quite a wineglassful," replied Peter, somewhat subdued.

"A what!" cried the father, starting from his chair as if he had
received an electric shock, and rushing into the adjoining room, up and
down which he raved in a state of distraction, being utterly ignorant
of what should be done under the circumstances.

Poor Harry Somerville fell rather than leaped off his stool, and dashed
into the bedroom, where old Mr. Kennedy was occupied in alternately
heaping unutterable abuse on the head of Peter Mactavish, and imploring
him to advise what was best to be done. But Peter knew not. He could
only make one or two insane proposals to roll Charley about the floor,
and see if _that_ would do him any good; while Harry suggested in
desperation that he should be hung by the heels, and perhaps it would
run out!

Meanwhile the senior clerk seized his hat, with the intention of going
in search of Tom Whyte, and rushed out at the door; which he had no
sooner done than he found himself tightly embraced in the arms of that
worthy, who happened to be entering at the moment, and who, in
consequence of the sudden onset, was pinned up against the wall of the
porch.

"Oh, my buzzum!" exclaimed Tom, laying his hand on his breast; "you've
a'most bu'st me, sir. W'at's wrong, sir?"

"Go for the doctor, Tom, quick! run like the wind. Take the freshest
horse; fly, Tom, Charley's poisoned--laudanum; quick!"

"'Eavens an' 'arth!" ejaculated the groom, wheeling round, and stalking
rapidly off to the stable like a pair of insane compasses, while the
senior clerk returned to the bedroom, where he found Mr. Kennedy still
raving, Peter Mactavish still aghast and deadly pale, and Harry
Somerville staring like a maniac at his young friend, as if he expected
every moment to see him explode, although, to all appearance, he was
sleeping soundly, and comfortably too, notwithstanding the noise that
was going on around him. Suddenly Harry's eye rested on the label of
the half-empty phial, and he uttered a loud, prolonged cheer.

"It's only tincture of--"

"Wild cats and furies!" cried Mr. Kennedy, turning sharply round and
seizing Harry by the collar, "why d'you kick up such a row, eh?"

"It's only tincture of rhubarb," repeated the boy, disengaging himself
and holding up the phial triumphantly.

"So it is, I declare," exclaimed Mr. Kennedy, in a tone that indicated
intense relief of mind; while Peter Mactavish uttered a sigh so deep
that one might suppose a burden of innumerable tons weight had just
been removed from his breast.

Charley had been roused from his slumbers by this last ebullition; but
on being told what had caused it, he turned languidly round on his
pillow and went to sleep again, while his friends departed and left him
to repose.

Tom Whyte failed to find the doctor. The servant told him that her
master had been suddenly called to set a broken leg that morning for a
trapper who lived ten miles _down_ the river, and on his return had
found a man waiting with a horse and cariole, who carried him violently
away to see his wife, who had been taken suddenly ill at a house twenty
miles _up_ the river, and so she didn't expect him back that night.

"An' where has 'e been took to?" inquired Tom.

She couldn't tell; she knew it was somewhere about the White-horse
Plains, but she didn't know more than that.

"Did 'e not say w'en 'e'd be home?"

"No, he didn't."

"Oh dear!" said Tom, rubbing his long nose in great perplexity. "It's
an 'orrible case o' sudden and onexpected pison."

She was sorry for it, but couldn't help that; and thereupon, bidding
him good-morning, shut the door.

Tom's wits had come to that condition which just precedes "giving it
up" as hopeless, when it occurred to him that he was not far from old
Mr. Kennedy's residence; so he stepped into the cariole again and drove
thither. On his arrival he threw poor Mrs. Kennedy and Kate into great
consternation by his exceedingly graphic, and more than slightly
exaggerated, account of what had brought him in search of the doctor.
At first Mrs. Kennedy resolved to go up to Fort Garry immediately, but
Kate persuaded her to remain at home, by pointing out that she could
herself go, and if anything very serious had occurred (which she didn't
believe), Mr. Kennedy could come down for her immediately, while she
(Kate) could remain to nurse her brother.

In a few minutes Kate and Tom were seated side by side in the little
cariole, driving swiftly up the frozen river; and two hours later the
former was seated by her brother's bedside, watching him as he slept
with a look of tender affection and solicitude.

Rousing himself from his slumbers, Charley looked vacantly round the
room.

"Have you slept well, darling?" inquired Kate, laying her hand lightly
on his forehead.

"Slept--eh! oh yes. I've slept. I say, Kate, what a precious bump I
came down on my head, to be sure!"

"Hush, Charley!" said Kate, perceiving that he was becoming energetic.
"Father said you were to keep quiet--and so do I," she added, with a
frown. "Shut your eyes, sir, and go to sleep."

Charley complied by shutting his eyes, and opening his mouth, and
uttering a succession of deep snores.

"Now, you bad boy," said Kate, "why _won't_ you try to rest?"

"Because, Kate, dear," said Charley, opening his eyes again--"because I
feel as if I had slept a week at least; and not being one of the seven
sleepers, I don't think it necessary to do more in that way just now.
Besides, my sweet but particularly wicked sister, I wish just at this
moment to have a talk with you."

"But are you sure it won't do you harm to talk? do you feel quite
strong enough?"

"Quite: Sampson was a mere infant compared to me."

"Oh, don't talk nonsense, Charley dear, and keep your hands quiet, and
don't lift the clothes with your knees in that way, else I'll go away
and leave you."

"Very well, my pet; if you do, I'll get up and dress and follow you,
that's all! But come, Kate, tell me first of all how it was that I got
pitched off that long-legged rhinoceros, and who it was that picked me
up, and why wasn't I killed, and how did I come here; for my head is
sadly confused, and I scarcely recollect anything that has happened;
and before commencing your discourse, Kate, please hand me a glass of
water, for my mouth is as dry as a whistle."

Kate handed him a glass of water, smoothed his pillow, brushed the
curls gently off his forehead, and sat down on the bedside.

"Thank you, Kate; now go on."

"Well, you see," she began--

"Pardon me, dearest," interrupted Charley, "if you would please to look
at me you would observe that my two eyes are tightly closed, so that I
don't _see_ at all."

"Well, then, you must understand--"

"Must I? Oh!--"

"That after that wicked horse leaped with you over the stable fence,
you were thrown high into the air, and turning completely round, fell
head foremost into the snow, and your poor head went through the top of
an old cask that had been buried there all winter."

"Dear me!" ejaculated Charley; "did anyone see me, Kate?"

"Oh yes."

"Who?" asked Charley, somewhat anxiously; "not Mrs. Grant, I hope? for
if she did she'd never let me hear the last of it."

"No; only our father, who was chasing you at the time," replied Kate,
with a merry laugh.

"And no one else?"

"No--oh yes, by-the-by, Tom Whyte was there too."

"Oh, he's nobody. Go on."

"But tell me, Charley, why do you care about Mrs. Grant seeing you?"

"Oh! no reason at all, only she's such an abominable quiz."

We must guard the reader here against the supposition that Mrs. Grant
was a quiz of the ordinary kind. She was by no means a sprightly,
clever woman, rather fond of a joke than otherwise, as the term might
lead you to suppose. Her corporeal frame was very large, excessively
fat, and remarkably unwieldy; being an appropriate casket in which to
enshrine a mind of the heaviest and most sluggish nature. She spoke
little, ate largely, and slept much--the latter recreation being very
frequently enjoyed in a large arm-chair of a peculiar kind. It had been
a water-butt, which her ingenious husband had cut half-way down the
middle, then half-way across, and in the angle thus formed fixed a
bottom, which, together with the back, he padded with tow, and covered
the whole with a mantle of glaring bed-curtain chintz, whose pattern
alternated in stripes of sky-blue and china roses, with broken
fragments of the rainbow between. Notwithstanding her excessive
slowness, however, Mrs. Grant was fond of taking a firm hold of
anything or any circumstance in the character or affairs of her
friends, and twitting them thereupon in a grave but persevering manner
that was exceedingly irritating. No one could ever ascertain whether
Mrs. Grant did this in a sly way or not, as her visage never expressed
anything except unalterable good-humour. She was a good wife and an
affectionate mother; had a family of ten children, and could boast of
never having had more than one quarrel with her husband. This
disagreement was occasioned by a rather awkward mischance. One day, not
long after her last baby was born, Mrs. Grant waddled towards her tub
with the intention of enjoying her accustomed siesta. A few minutes
previously, her seventh child, which was just able to walk, had
scrambled up into the seat and fallen fast asleep there. As has been
already said, Mrs. Grant's intellect was never very bright, and at this
particular time she was rather drowsy, so that she did not observe the
child, and on reaching her chair, turned round preparatory to letting
herself plump into it. She always _plumped_ into her chair. Her muscles
were too soft to lower her gently down into it. Invariably on reaching
a certain point they ceased to act, and let her down with a crash. She
had just reached this point, and her baby's hopes and prospects were on
the eve of being cruelly crushed for ever, when Mr. Grant noticed the
impending calamity. He had no time to warn her, for she had already
passed the point at which her powers of muscular endurance terminated;
so grasping the chair, he suddenly withdrew it with such force that the
baby rolled off upon the floor like a hedgehog, straightened out flat,
and gave vent to an outrageous roar, while its horror-struck mother
came to the ground with a sound resembling the fall of an enormous sack
of wool. Although the old lady could not see exactly that there was
anything very blameworthy in her husband's conduct on this occasion,
yet her nerves had received so severe a shock that she refused to be
comforted for two entire days.

But to return from this digression. After Charley had two or three
times recommended Kate (who was a little inclined to be quizzical) to
proceed, she continued,--

"Well, then you were carried up here by father and Tom Whyte, and put
to bed, and after a good deal of rubbing and rough treatment you were
got round. Then Peter Mactavish nearly poisoned you, but fortunately he
was such a goose that he did not think of reading the label of the
phial, and so gave you a dose of tincture of rhubarb instead of
laudanum as he had intended; and then father flew into a passion, and
Tom Whyte was sent to fetch the doctor, and couldn't find him; but
fortunately he found me, which was much better, I think, and brought me
up here. And so here I am, and here I intend to remain."

"And so that's the end of it. Well, Kate, I'm very glad it was no
worse."

"And I am very _thankful_" said Kate, with emphasis on the word, "that
it's no worse."

"Oh, well, you know, Kate, I _meant_ that, of course."

"But you did not _say_ it," replied his sister earnestly.

"To be sure not," said Charley gaily; "it would be absurd to be always
making solemn speeches, and things of that sort, every time one has a
little accident."

"True, Charley; but when one has a very serious accident, and escapes
unhurt, don't you think that _then_ it would be--"

"Oh yes, to be sure," interrupted Charley, who still strove to turn
Kate from her serious frame of mind; "but sister dear, how could I
possibly _say_ I was thankful with my head crammed into an old cask and
my feet pointing up to the blue sky, eh?"

Kate smiled at this, and laid her hand on his arm, while she bent over
the pillow and looked tenderly into his eyes.

"O my darling Charley, you are disposed to jest about it; but I cannot
tell you how my heart trembled this morning when I heard from Tom Whyte
of what had happened. As we drove up to the fort, I thought how
terrible it would have been if you had been killed; and then the happy
days we have spent together rushed into my mind, and I thought of the
willow creek where we used to fish for gold eyes, and the spot in the
woods where we have so often chased the little birds, and the lake in
the prairies where we used to go in spring to watch the water-fowl
sporting in the sunshine. When I recalled these things, Charley, and
thought of you as dead, I felt as if I should die too. And when I came
here and found that my fears were needless, that you were alive and
safe, and almost well, I felt thankful--yes, very, very thankful--to
God for sparing your life, my dear, dear Charley." And Kate laid her
head on his bosom and sobbed, when she thought of what might have been,
as if her very heart would break.

Charley's disposition to levity entirely vanished while his sister
spoke; and twining his tough little arm round her neck, he pressed her
fervently to his heart.

"Bless you, Kate," he said at length. "I am indeed thankful to God, not
only for sparing my life, but for giving me such a darling sister to
live for. But now, Kate, tell me, what do you think of father's
determination to have me placed in the office here?"

"Indeed, I think it's very hard. Oh, I do wish _so_ much that I could
do it for you," said Kate with a sigh.

"Do _what_ for me?" asked Charley.

"Why, the office work," said Kate.

"Tuts! fiddlesticks! But isn't it, now, really a _very_ hard case?"

"Indeed it is; but, then, what can you do?"

"Do?" said Charley impatiently; "run away to be sure."

"Oh, don't speak of that!" said Kate anxiously. "You know it will kill
our beloved mother; and then it would grieve father very much."

"Well, father don't care much about grieving me, when he hunted me down
like a wolf till I nearly broke my neck."

"Now, Charley, you must not speak so. Father loves you tenderly,
although he _is_ a little rough at times. If you only heard how kindly
he speaks of you to our mother when you are away, you could not think
of giving him so much pain. And then the Bible says, 'Honour thy father
and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord
thy God giveth thee;' and as God speaks in the Bible, _surely_ we
should pay attention to it!"

Charley was silent for a few seconds; then heaving a deep sigh, he
said,--

"Well, I believe you're right, Kate; but then, what am I to do? If I
don't run away, I must live, like poor Harry Somerville, on a
long-legged stool; and if I do _that_, I'll--I'll--"

As Charley spoke, the door opened, and his father entered.

"Well, my boy," said he, seating himself on the bedside and taking his
son's hand, "how goes it now? Head getting all right again? I fear that
Kate has been talking too much to you.--Is it so, you little
chatterbox?"

Mr. Kennedy parted Kate's clustering ringlets and kissed her forehead.

Charley assured his father that he was almost well, and much the better
of having Kate to tend him. In fact, he felt so much revived that he
said he would get up and go out for a walk.

"Had I not better tell Tom Whyte to saddle the young horse for you?"
said his father, half ironically. "No, no, boy; lie still where you are
to-day, and get up if you feel better to-morrow. In the meantime, I've
come to say good-bye, as I intend to go home to relieve your mother's
anxiety about you. I'll see you again, probably, the day after
to-morrow. Hark you, boy; I've been talking your affairs over again
with Mr. Grant, and we've come to the conclusion to give you a run in
the woods for a time. You'll have to be ready to start early in spring
with the first brigades for the north. So adieu!"

Mr. Kennedy patted him on the head, and hastily left the room.

A burning blush of shame arose on Charley's cheek as he recollected his
late remarks about his father; and then, recalling the purport of his
last words, he sent forth an exulting shout as he thought of the coming
spring.

"Well now, Charley," said Kate, with an arch smile, "let us talk
seriously over your arrangements for running away."

Charley replied by seizing the pillow and throwing it at his sister's
head; but being accustomed to such eccentricities, she anticipated the
movement and evaded the blow.

"Ah, Charley," cried Kate, laughing, "you mustn't let your hand get out
of practice! That was a shockingly bad shot for a man thirsting to
become a bear and buffalo hunter!"

"I'll make my fortune at once," cried Charley, as Kate replaced the
pillow, "build a wooden castle on the shores of Great Bear Lake, take
you to keep house for me, and when I'm out hunting you'll fish for
whales in the lake; and we'll live there to a good old age; so
good-night, Kate dear, and go to bed."

Kate laughed, gave her brother a parting kiss, and left him.



CHAPTER VI.

Spring and the voyageurs.


Winter, with its snow and its ice: winter, with its sharp winds and
white drifts; winter, with its various characteristic occupations and
employments, is past, and it is spring now.

The sun no longer glitters on fields of white; the woodman's axe is no
longer heard hacking the oaken billets, to keep alive the roaring
fires. That inexpressibly cheerful sound the merry chime of
sleigh-bells, that tells more of winter than all other sounds together,
is no longer heard on the bosom of Red River; for the sleighs are
thrown aside as useless lumber--carts and gigs have supplanted them.
The old Canadian, who used to drive the ox with its water-barrel to the
ice-hole for his daily supply, has substituted a small cart with wheels
for the old sleigh that used to glide so smoothly over the snow, and
_grit_ so sharply on it in the more than usually frosty mornings in the
days gone by. The trees have lost their white patches, and the clumps
of willows, that used to look like islands in the prairie, have
disappeared, as the carpeting that gave them prominence has dissolved.
The aspect of everything in the isolated settlement has changed. The
winter is gone, and spring--bright, beautiful, hilarious spring--has
come again.

By those who have never known an arctic winter, the delights of an
arctic spring can never, we fear, be fully appreciated or understood.
Contrast is one of its strongest elements; indeed, we might say, _the_
element which gives to all the others peculiar zest. Life in the arctic
regions is like one of Turner's pictures, in which the lights are
strong, the shadows deep, and the _tout ensemble_ hazy and romantic. So
cold and prolonged is the winter, that the first mild breath of spring
breaks on the senses like a zephyr from the plains of Paradise.
Everything bursts suddenly into vigorous life, after the long,
death-like sleep of Nature; as little children burst into the romping
gaieties of a new day, after the deep repose of a long and tranquil
night. The snow melts, the ice breaks up, and rushes in broken masses,
heaving and tossing in the rising floods, that grind and whirl them
into the ocean, or into those great fresh-water lakes that vie with
ocean itself in magnitude and grandeur. The buds come out and the
leaves appear, clothing all nature with a bright refreshing green,
which derives additional brilliancy from sundry patches of snow, that
fill the deep creeks and hollows everywhere, and form ephemeral
fountains whose waters continue to supply a thousand rills for many a
long day, until the fierce glare of the summer sun prevails at last and
melts them all away.

Red River flows on now to mix its long-pent-up waters with Lake
Winnipeg. Boats are seen rowing about upon its waters, as the settlers
travel from place to place; and wooden canoes, made of the hollowed-out
trunks of large trees, shoot across from shore to shore--these canoes
being a substitute for bridges, of which there are none, although the
settlement lies on both sides of the river. Birds have now entered upon
the scene, their wild cries and ceaseless flight adding to it a
cheerful activity. Ground squirrels pop up out of their holes to bask
their round, fat, beautifully-striped little bodies in the sun, or to
gaze in admiration at the farmer, as he urges a pair of _very_
slow-going oxen, that drag the plough at a pace which induces one to
believe that the wide field _may_ possibly be ploughed up by the end of
next year. Frogs whistle in the marshy grounds so loudly that men new
to the country believe they are being regaled by the songs of millions
of birds. There is no mistake about their _whistle_. It is not merely
_like_ a whistle, but it _is_ a whistle, shrill and continuous; and as
the swamps swarm with these creatures, the song never ceases for a
moment, although each individual frog creates only _one_ little gush of
music, composed of half-a-dozen trills, and then stops a moment for
breath before commencing the second bar. Bull-frogs, too, though not so
numerous, help to vary the sound by croaking vociferously, as if they
understood the value of bass, and were glad of having an opportunity to
join in the universal hum of life and joy which rises everywhere, from
the river and the swamp, the forest and the prairie, to welcome back
the spring.

Such was the state of things in Red River one beautiful morning in
April, when a band of voyageurs lounged in scattered groups about the
front gate of Fort Garry. They were as fine a set of picturesque, manly
fellows as one could desire to see. Their mode of life rendered them
healthy, hardy, arid good-humoured, with a strong dash of
recklessness--perhaps too much of it--in some of the younger men. Being
descended, generally, from French-Canadian sires and Indian mothers,
they united some of the good and not a few of the bad qualities of
both, mentally as well as physically--combining the light, gay-hearted
spirit and full, muscular frame of the Canadian with the fierce
passions and active habits of the Indian. And this wildness of
disposition was not a little fostered by the nature of their usual
occupations. They were employed during a great part of the year in
navigating the Hudson's Bay Company's boats, laden with furs and goods,
through the labyrinth of rivers and lakes that stud and intersect the
whole continent, or they were engaged in pursuit of the bisons,
[Footnote: These animals are always called buffaloes by American
hunters and fur-traders.] which roam the prairies in vast herds.

They were dressed in the costume of the country: most of them wore
light-blue cloth capotes, girded tightly round them', by scarlet or
crimson worsted belts. Some of them had blue and others scarlet cloth
leggings, ornamented more or less with stained porcupine quills,
coloured silk, or variegated beads; while some might be seen clad in
the leathern coats of winter--deer-skin dressed like chamois leather,
fringed all round with little tails, and ornamented much in the same
way as those already described. The heavy winter moccasins and duffel
socks, which gave to their feet the appearance of being afflicted with
gout, were now replaced by moccasins of a lighter and more elegant
character, having no socks below, and fitting tightly to the feet like
gloves. Some wore hats similar to those made of silk or beaver which
are worn by ourselves in Britain, but so bedizened with scarlet
cock-tail feathers, and silver cords and tassels, as to leave the
original form of the head-dress a matter of great uncertainty. These
hats, however, are only used on high occasions, and chiefly by the
fops. Most of the men wore coarse blue cloth caps with peaks, and not a
few discarded head-pieces altogether, under the impression, apparently,
that nature had supplied a covering which was in itself sufficient.
These costumes varied not only in character but in quality, according
to the circumstances of the wearer; some being highly ornamental and
mended--evincing the felicity of the owner in the possession of a good
wife--while others were soiled and torn, or but slightly ornamented.
The voyageurs were collected, as we have said, in groups. Here stood a
dozen of the youngest--consequently the most noisy and showily
dressed--laughing loudly, gesticulating violently, and bragging
tremendously. Near to them were collected a number of sterner
spirits--men of middle age, with all the energy, and muscle, and bone
of youth, but without its swaggering hilarity; men whose powers and
nerves had been tried over and over again amid the stirring scenes of a
voyageur's life; men whose heads were cool, and eyes sharp, and hands
ready and powerful, in the mad whirl of boiling rapids, in the sudden
attack of wild beast and hostile man, or in the unexpected approach of
any danger; men who, having been well tried, needed not to boast, and
who, having carried off triumphantly their respective brides many years
ago, needed not to decorate their persons with the absurd finery that
characterised their younger brethren. They were comparatively few in
number, but they composed a sterling band, of which every man was a
hero. Among them were those who occupied the high positions of bowman
and steersman, and when we tell the reader that on these two men
frequently hangs the safety of a boat, with all its crew and lading, it
will be easily understood how needful it is that they should be men of
iron nerve and strength of mind.

Boat-travelling in those regions is conducted in a way that would
astonish most people who dwell in the civilised quarters of the globe.
The country being intersected in all directions by great lakes and
rivers, these have been adopted as the most convenient highways along
which to convey the supplies and bring back the furs from outposts.
Rivers in America, however, as in other parts of the world, are
distinguished by sudden ebullitions and turbulent points of character,
in the shape of rapids, falls, and cataracts, up and down which neither
men nor boats can by any possibility go with impunity; consequently, on
arriving at such obstructions, the cargoes are carried overland to
navigable water above or below the falls (as the case may be), then the
boats are dragged over and launched, again reloaded, and the travellers
proceed. This operation is called "making a portage;" and as these
portages vary from twelve yards to twelve miles in length, it may be
readily conceived that a voyageur's life is not an easy one by any
means.

This, however, is only one of his difficulties. Rapids occur which are
not so dangerous as to make a "portage" necessary, but are sufficiently
turbulent to render the descent of them perilous. In such cases, the
boats, being lightened of part of their cargo, are _run_ down, and
frequently they descend with full cargoes and crews. It is then that
the whole management of each boat devolves upon its bowman and
steersman. The rest of the crew, or _middlemen_ as they are called,
merely sit still and look on, or give a stroke with their oars if
required; while the steersman, with powerful sweeps of his heavy oar,
directs the flying boat as it bounds from surge to surge like a thing
of life; and the bowman stands erect in front to assist in directing
his comrade at the stern, having a strong and long pole in his hands,
with which, ever and anon, he violently forces the boat's head away
from sunken rocks, against which it might otherwise strike and be stove
in, capsized, or seriously damaged.

Besides the groups already enumerated, there were one or two others,
composed of grave, elderly men, whose wrinkled brows, gray hairs, and
slow, quiet step, showed that the strength of their days was past;
although their upright figures and warm brown complexions gave promise
of their living to see many summers still. These were the principal
steersmen and old guides--men of renown, to whom the others bowed as
oracles or looked up to as fathers; men whose youth and manhood had
been spent in roaming the trackless wilderness, and who were,
therefore, eminently qualified to guide brigades through the length and
breadth of the land; men whose power of threading their way among the
perplexing intricacies of the forest had become a second nature, a kind
of instinct, that was as sure of attaining its end as the instinct of
the feathered tribes, which brings the swallow, after a long absence,
with unerring certainty back to its former haunts again in spring.



CHAPTER VII.

The store.


At whatever establishment in the fur-trader's dominions you may chance
to alight you will find a particular building which is surrounded by a
halo of interest; towards which there seems to be a general leaning on
the part of everybody, especially of the Indians; and with which are
connected, in the minds of all, the most stirring reminiscences and
pleasing associations.

This is the trading-store. It is always recognisable, if natives are in
the neighbourhood, by the bevy of red men that cluster round it,
awaiting the coming of the storekeeper or the trader with that stoic
patience which is peculiar to Indians. It may be further recognised, by
a close observer, by the soiled condition of its walls occasioned by
loungers rubbing their backs perpetually against it, and the peculiar
dinginess round the keyhole, caused by frequent applications of the
key, which renders it conspicuous beyond all its comrades. Here is
contained that which makes the red man's life enjoyable; that which
causes his heart to leap, and induces him to toil for months and months
together in the heat of summer and amid the frost and snow of winter;
that which _actually_ accomplishes, what music is _said_ to achieve,
the "soothing of the savage breast:" in short, here are stored up
blankets, guns, powder, shot, kettles, axes, and knives; twine for
nets, vermilion for war-paint, fishhooks and scalping-knives, capotes,
cloth, beads, needles, and a host of miscellaneous articles, much too
numerous to mention. Here, also occur periodical scenes of bustle and
excitement, when bands of natives arrive from distant hunting-grounds,
laden with rich furs, which are speedily transferred to the Hudson's
Bay Company's stores in exchange for the goods aforementioned. And many
a tough wrangle has the trader on such occasions with sharp natives,
who might have graduated in Billingsgate, so close are they at a
bargain. Here, too, voyageurs are supplied with an equivalent for their
wages, part in advance, if they desire it (and they generally do desire
it), and part at the conclusion of their long and arduous voyages.

It is to one of these stores, reader, that we wish to introduce you
now, that you may witness the men of the North brigade receive their
advances.

The store at Fort Garry stands on the right of the fort, as you enter
by the front gate. Its interior resembles that of the other stores in
the country, being only a little larger. A counter encloses a space
sufficiently wide to admit a dozen men, and serves to keep back those
who are more eager than the rest. Inside this counter, at the time we
write of, stood our friend, Peter Mactavish, who was the presiding
genius of the scene.

"Shut the door now, and lock it," said Peter, in an authoritative tone,
after eight or ten young voyageurs had crushed into the space in front
of the counter. "I'll not supply you with so much as an ounce of
tobacco if you let in another man."

Peter needed not to repeat the command. Three or four stalwart
shoulders were applied to the door, which shut with a bang like a
cannon-shot, and the key was turned.

"Come now, Antoine," began the trader, "we've lots to do, and not much
time to do it in, so pray look sharp."

Antoine, however, was not to be urged on so easily. He had been
meditating deeply all the morning on what he should purchase. Moreover,
he had a sweetheart, and of course he had to buy something for her
before setting out on his travels. Besides, Antoine was six feet high,
and broad shouldered, and well made, with a dark face and glossy black
hair; and he entertained a notion that there were one or two points in
his costume which required to be carefully rectified, ere he could
consider that he had attained to perfection: so he brushed the long
hair off his forehead, crossed his arms, and gazed around him.

"Come now, Antoine," said Peter, throwing a green blanket at him; "I
know you want _that_ to begin with. What's the use of thinking so long
about it, eh? And _that_, too," he added, throwing him a blue cloth
capote. "Anything else?"

"Oui, oui, monsieur," cried Antoine, as he disengaged himself from the
folds of the coat which Peter had thrown over his head. "Tabac,
monsieur, tabac!"

"Oh, to be sure," cried Peter. "I might have guessed that _that_ was
uppermost in your mind. Well, how much will you have?" Peter began to
unwind the fragrant weed off a coil of most appalling size and
thickness, which looked like a snake of endless length. "Will that do?"
and he flourished about four feet of the snake before the eyes of the
voyageur.

Antoine accepted the quantity, and young Harry Somerville entered the
articles against him in a book.

"Anything more, Antoine?" said the trader. "Ah, some beads and silks,
eh? Oho, Antoine!--By the way, Louis, have you seen Annette lately?"

Peter turned to another voyageur when he put this question, and the
voyageur gave a broad grin as he replied in the affirmative, while
Antoine looked a little confused. He did not care much, however, for
jesting. So, after getting one or two more articles--not forgetting
half-a-dozen clay pipes, and a few yards of gaudy calico, which called
forth from Peter a second reference to Annette--he bundled up his
goods, and made way for another comrade.

Louis Peltier, one of the principal guides, and a man of importance
therefore, now stood forward. He was probably about forty-five years of
age; had a plain, olive-coloured countenance, surrounded by a mass of
long jet-black hair, which he inherited, along with a pair of dark,
piercing eyes, from his Indian mother; and a robust, heavy, yet active
frame, which bore a strong resemblance to what his Canadian father's
had been many years before. His arms, in particular, were of herculean
mould, with large swelling veins and strongly-marked muscles. They
seemed, in fact, just formed for the purpose of pulling the heavy sweep
of an inland boat among strong rapids. His face combined an expression
of stern resolution with great good-humour; and truly his countenance
did not belie him, for he was known among his comrades as the most
courageous and at the same time the most peaceable man in the
settlement. Louis Peltier was singular in possessing the latter
quality, for assuredly the half-breeds, whatever other good points they
boast, cannot lay claim to very gentle or dove-like dispositions. His
grey capote and blue leggings were decorated with no unusual ornaments,
and the scarlet belt which encircled his massive figure was the only
bit of colour he displayed.

The younger men fell respectfully into the rear as Louis stepped
forward and begged pardon for coming so early in the day. "Mais,
monsieur," he said, "I have to look after the boats to-day, and get
them ready for a start to-morrow."

Peter Mactavish gave Louis a hearty shake of the hand before proceeding
to supply his wants, which were simple and moderate, excepting in the
article of _tabac_, in the use of which he was _im_-moderate, being an
inveterate smoker; so that a considerable portion of the snake had to
be uncoiled for his benefit.

"Fond as ever of smoking, Louis?" said Peter Mactavish, as he handed
him the coil.

"Oui, monsieur--very fond," answered the guide, smelling the weed. "Ah,
this is very good. I must take a good supply this voyage, because I
lost the half of my roll last year;" and the guide gave a sigh as he
thought of the overwhelming bereavement.

"Lost the half of it, Louis!" said Mactavish. "Why, how was that? You
must have lost _more_ than half your spirits with it!"

"Ah, oui, I lost _all_ my spirits, and my comrade François at the same
time!"

"Dear me!" exclaimed the clerk, bustling about the store while the
guide continued to talk.

"Oui, monsieur, oui. I lost _him_, and my tabac, and my spirits, and
very nearly my life, all in one moment!"

"Why, how came that about?" said Peter, pausing in his work, and laying
a handful of pipes on the counter.

"Ah, monsieur, it was very sad (merci, monsieur, merci; thirty pipes,
if you please), and I thought at the time that I should give up my
voyageur life, and remain altogether in the settlement with my old
woman. Mais, monsieur, that was not possible. When I spoke of it to my
old woman, she called _me_ an old woman; and you know, monsieur, that
_two_ old women never could live together in peace for twelve months
under the same roof. So here I am, you see, ready again for the voyage."

The voyageurs, who had drawn round Louis when he alluded to an anecdote
which they had often heard before, but were never weary of hearing over
again, laughed loudly at this sally, and urged the guide to relate the
story to "_monsieur_" who, nothing loath to suspend his operations for
a little, leaned his arms on the counter and said--

"Tell us all about it, Louis; I am anxious to know how you managed to
come by so many losses all at one time."

"Bien, monsieur, I shall soon relate it, for the story is very short."

Harry Somerville, who was entering the pipes in Louis's account, had
just set down the figures "30" when Louis cleared his throat to begin.
Not having the mental fortitude to finish the line, he dropped his pen,
sprang off his stool, which he upset in so doing, jumped up,
sitting-ways, upon the counter, and gazed with breathless interest into
the guide's face as he spoke.

"It was on a cold, wet afternoon," said Louis, "that we were descending
the Hill River, at a part of the rapids where there is a sharp bend in
the stream, and two or three great rocks that stand up in front of the
water, as it plunges over a ledge, as if they were put there a purpose
to catch it, and split it up into foam, or to stop the boats and canoes
that try to run the rapids, and cut them up into splinters. It was an
ugly place, monsieur, I can tell you; and though I've run it again and
again, I always hold my breath tighter when we get to the top, and
breathe freer when we get to the bottom. Well, there was a chum of mine
at the bow, Francois by name, and a fine fellow he was as I ever came
across. He used to sleep with me at night under the same blanket,
although it was somewhat inconvenient; for being as big as myself and a
stone heavier, it was all we could do to make the blanket cover us.
However, he and I were great friends, and we managed it somehow. Well,
he was at the bow when we took the rapids, and a first-rate bowman he
made. His pole was twice as long and twice as thick as any other pole
in the boat, and he twisted it about just like a fiddlestick. I
remember well the night before we came to the rapids, as he was sitting
by the fire, which was blazing up among the pine-branches that overhung
us, he said that he wanted a good pole for the rapids next day; and
with that he jumped up, laid hold of an axe, and went back into the
woods a bit to get one. When he returned, he brought a young tree on
his shoulder, which he began to strip of its branches, and bark.
'Louis, says he, 'this is hot work; give us a pipe.' So I rummaged
about for some tobacco, but found there was none left in my bag; so I
went to my kit and got out my roll, about three fathoms or so, and
cutting half of it off, I went to the fire and twisted it round his
neck by way of a joke, and he said he'd wear it as a necklace all
night, and so he did, too, and forgot to take it off in the morning;
and when we came near the rapids I couldn't get at my bag to stow it
away, so says I, 'Francois, you'll have to run with it on, for I can't
stop to stow it now.' 'All right,' says he, 'go ahead;' and just as he
said it, we came in sight of the first run, foaming and boiling like a
kettle of robbiboo. 'Take care, lads,' I cried, and the next moment we
were dashing down towards the bend in the river. As we came near to the
shoot, I saw Francois standing up on the gunwale to get a better view
of the rocks ahead, and every now and then giving me a signal with his
hand how to steer; suddenly he gave a shout, and plunged his long pole
into the water, to fend off from a rock which a swirl in the stream had
concealed. For a second or two his pole bent like a willow, and we
could feel the heavy boat jerk off a little with the tremendous strain,
but all at once the pole broke off short with a crack, Francois' heels
made a flourish in the air, and then he disappeared head foremost into
the foaming water, with my tobacco coiled round his neck! As we flew
past the place, one of his arms appeared, and I made a grab at it, and
caught him by the sleeve; but the effort upset myself and over I went
too. Fortunately, however, one of my men caught me by the foot, and
held on like a vice; but the force of the current tore Francois' sleeve
out of my grasp, and I was dragged into the boat again just in time to
see my comrade's legs and arms going like the sails of a windmill, as
he rolled over several times and disappeared. Well, we put ashore the
moment we got into still water, and then five or six of us started off
on foot to look for Francois. After half-an-hour's search, we found him
pitched upon a flat rock in the middle of the stream like a bit of
driftwood, We immediately waded out to the rock and brought him ashore,
where we lighted a fire, took off all his clothes, and rubbed him till
he began to show signs of life again. But you may judge, mes garçons,
of my misery when I found that the coil of tobacco was gone. It had
come off his neck during his struggles, and there wasn't a vestige of
it left, except a bright red mark on the throat, where it had nearly
strangled him. When he began to recover, he put his hand up to his neck
as if feeling for something, and muttered faintly, 'The tabac.' 'Ah,
morbleu!' said I, 'you may say that! Where is it?' Well, we soon
brought him round, but he had swallowed so much water that it damaged
his lungs, and we had to leave him at the next post we came to; and so
I lost my friend too."

"Did Francois get better?" said Charley Kennedy, in a voice of great
concern.

Charley had entered the store by another door, just as the guide began
his story, and had listened to it unobserved with breathless interest.

"Recover! Oh oui, monsieur, he soon got well again.'

"Oh, I'm so glad," cried Charley.

"But I lost him for that voyage," added the guide; "and I lost my tabac
for ever."

"You must take better care of it this time, Louis," said Peter
Mactavish, as he resumed his work.

"That I shall, monsieur," replied Louis, shouldering his goods and
quitting the store, while a short, slim, active little Canadian took
his place.

"Now, then, Baptiste," said Mactavish, "you want a--"

"Blanket, monsieur,"

"Good. And--"

"A capote, monsieur."

"And--"

"An axe--"

"Stop, stop!" shouted Harry Somerville from his desk. "Here's an entry
in Louis's account that I can't make out--30 something or other; what
can it have been?"

"How often," said Mactavish, going up to him with a look of
annoyance--"how often have I told you, Mr. Somerville, not to leave an
entry half-finished on any account!"

"I didn't know that I left it so," said Harry, twisting his features,
and scratching his head in great perplexity. "What _can_ it have been?
30--30--not blankets, eh?" (Harry was becoming banteringly bitter.) "He
couldn't have got thirty guns, could he? or thirty knives, or thirty
copper kettles?"

"Perhaps it was thirty pounds of tea," suggested Charley.

"No doubt it was thirty _pipes_," said Peter Mactavish.

"Oh, that was it!" cried Harry, "that was it! thirty pipes, to be sure.
What an ass I am!"

"And pray what is _that_?" said Mactavish, pointing sarcastically to an
entry in the previous account--"_5 yards of superfine Annette_. Really,
Mr. Somerville, I wish you would pay more attention to your work and
less to the conversation."

"Oh dear!" cried Harry, becoming almost hysterical under the combined
effects of chagrin at making so many mistakes, and suppressed merriment
at the idea of selling Annettes by the yard. "Oh, dear me--"

Harry could say no more, but stuffed his handkerchief into his mouth
and turned away.

"Well, sir," said the offended Peter, "when you have laughed to your
entire satisfaction, we will go on with our work, if you please."

"All right," cried Harry, suppressing his feelings with a strong
effort; "what next?"

Just then a tall, raw-boned man entered the store, and rudely thrusting
Baptiste aside, asked if he could get his supplies now.

"No," said Mactavish, sharply; "you'll take your turn like the rest."

The new-comer was a native of Orkney, a country from which, and the
neighbouring islands, the Fur Company almost exclusively recruits its
staff of labourers. These men are steady, useful servants, although
inclined to be slow and lazy _at first_; but they soon get used to the
country, and rapidly improve under the example of the active Canadians
and half-breeds with whom they associate; some of them are the best
servants the Company possess. Hugh Mathison, however, was a very bad
specimen of the race, being rough and coarse in his manners, and very
lazy withal. Upon receiving the trader's answer, Hugh turned sulkily on
his heel and strode towards the door. Now, it happened that Baptiste's
bundle lay just behind him, and on turning to leave the place, he
tripped over it and stumbled, whereat the voyageurs burst into an
ironical laugh (for Hugh was not a favourite).

"Confound your trash!" he cried, giving the little bundle a kick that
scattered everything over the floor.

"Crapaud!" said Baptiste, between his set teeth, while his eyes flashed
angrily, and he stood up before Hugh with clinched fists, "what mean
you by that, eh?"

The big Scotchman held his little opponent in contempt; so that,
instead of putting himself on the defensive, he leaned his back against
the door, thrust his hands into his pockets, and requested to know
"what that was to him."

Baptiste was not a man of many words, and this reply, coupled with the
insolent sneer with which it was uttered, caused him to plant a sudden
and well-directed blow on the point of Hugh's nose, which flattened it
on his face, and brought the back of his head into violent contact with
the door.

"Well done!" shouted the men; "bravo, Baptiste! _Regardez le nez, mes
enfants!_"

"Hold!" cried Mactavish, vaulting the counter, and intercepting Hugh,
as he rushed upon his antagonist; "no fighting here, you blackguards!
If you want to do _that,_ go outside the fort;" and Peter, opening the
door, thrust the Orkneyman out.

In the meantime, Baptiste gathered up his goods and left the store, in
company with several of his friends, vowing that he would wreak his
vengeance on the "gros chien" before the sun should set.

He had not long to wait, however, for just outside the gate he found
Hugh, still smarting under the pain and indignity of the blow, and
ready to pounce upon him like a cat on a mouse.

Baptiste instantly threw down his bundle, and prepared for battle by
discarding his coat.

Every nation has its own peculiar method of fighting, and its own ideas
of what is honourable and dishonourable in combat. The English, as
everyone knows, have particularly stringent rules regarding the part of
the body which may or may not be hit with propriety, and count it foul
disgrace to strike a man when he is down, although, by some strange
perversity of reasoning, they deem it right and fair to _fall_ upon him
while in this helpless condition, and burst him if possible. The
Scotchman has less of the science, and we are half inclined to believe
that he would go the length of kicking a fallen opponent; but on this
point we are not quite positive. In regard to the style adopted by the
half-breeds, however, we have no doubt. They fight _any_ way and
_every_ way, without reference to rules at all; and really, although we
may bring ourselves into contempt by admitting the fact, we think they
are quite right. No doubt the best course of action is _not_ to fight;
but if a man does find it _necessary_ to do so, surely the wisest plan
is to get it over at once (as the dentist suggested to his timorous
patient), and to do it in the most effectual manner.

Be this as it may, Baptiste flew at Hugh, and alighted upon him, not
head first, or fist first, or feet first, or _anything_ first, but
altogether--in a heap as it were; fist, feet, knees, nails, and teeth,
all taking effect at one and the same time, with a force so
irresistible that the next moment they both rolled in the dust together.

For a minute or so they struggled and kicked like a couple of serpents,
and then, bounding to their feet again, they began to perform a
war-dance round each other, revolving their fists at the same time in,
we presume, the most approved fashion. Owing to his bulk and natural
laziness, which rendered jumping about like a jack-in-the-box
impossible, Hugh Mathison preferred to stand on the defensive; while
his lighter opponent, giving way to the natural bent of his mercurial
temperament and corporeal predilections, comported himself in a manner
that cannot be likened to anything mortal or immortal, human or
inhuman, unless it be to an insane cat, whose veins ran wild-fire
instead of blood. Or perhaps we might liken him to that ingenious piece
of firework called a zigzag cracker, which explodes with unexpected and
repeated suddenness, changing its position in a most perplexing manner
at every crack. Baptiste, after the first onset, danced backwards with
surprising lightness, glaring at his adversary the while, and rapidly
revolving his fists as before mentioned; then a terrific yell was
heard; his head, arms, and legs became a sort of whirling conglomerate;
the spot on which he danced was suddenly vacant, and at the same moment
Mathison received a bite, a scratch, a dab on the nose, and a kick on
the stomach all at once. Feeling that it was impossible to plant a
well-directed blow on such an assailant, he waited for the next
onslaught; and the moment he saw the explosive object flying through
the air towards him, he met it with a crack of his heavy fist, which,
happening to take effect in the middle of the chest, drove it backwards
with about as much velocity as it had approached, and poor Baptiste
measured his length on the ground.

"Oh, pauvre chien!" cried the spectators, "c'est fini!"

"Not yet," cried Baptiste, as he sprang with a scream to his feet
again, and began his dance with redoubled energy, just as if all that
had gone before was a mere sketch--a sort of playful rehearsal, as it
were, of what was now to follow. At this moment Hugh stumbled over a
canoe-paddle, and fell headlong into Baptiste's arms, as he was in the
very act of making one of his violent descents. This unlooked-for
occurrence brought them both to a sudden pause, partly from necessity
and partly from surprise. Out of this state Baptiste recovered first,
and taking advantage of the accident, threw Mathison heavily to the
ground. He rose quickly, however, and renewed the light with freshened
vigour.

Just at this moment a passionate growl was heard, and old Mr. Kennedy
rushed out of the fort in a towering rage.

Now Mr. Kennedy had no reason whatever for being angry. He was only a
visitor at the fort, and so had no concern in the behaviour of those
connected with it. He was not even in the Company's service now, and
could not, therefore, lay claim, as one of its officers, to any right
to interfere with its men. But Mr. Kennedy never acted much from
reason; impulse was generally his guiding-star. He had, moreover, been
an absolute monarch, and a commander of men, for many years past in his
capacity of fur-trader. Being, as we have said, a powerful, fiery man,
he had ruled very much by means of brute force--a species of suasion,
by the way, which is too common among many of the gentlemen (?) in the
employment of the Hudson's Bay Company. On hearing, therefore, that the
men were fighting in front of the fort, Mr. Kennedy rushed out in a
towering rage.

"Oh, you precious blackguards!" he cried, running up to the combatants,
while with flashing eyes he gazed first at one and then at the other,
as if uncertain on which to launch his ire. "Have you no place in the
world to fight but _here_? eh, blackguards?"

"O monsieur," said Baptiste, lowering his hands, and assuming that
politeness of demeanour which seems inseparable from French blood,
however much mixed with baser fluid, "I was just giving _that dog_ a
thrashing, monsieur."

"Go!" cried Mr. Kennedy in a voice of thunder, turning to Hugh, who
still stood in a pugilistic attitude, with very little respect in his
looks.

Hugh hesitated to obey the order; but Mr. Kennedy continued to advance,
grinding his teeth and working his fingers convulsively, as if he
longed to lay violent hold of the Orkneyman's swelled nose; so he
retreated in his uncertainty, but still with his face to the foe. As
has been already said, the Assiniboine River flows within a hundred
yards of the gate of Fort Garry. The two men, in their combat, had
approached pretty near to the bank, at a place where it descends
somewhat precipitately into the stream. It was towards this bank that
Hugh Mathison was now retreating, crab fashion, followed by Mr.
Kennedy, and both of them so taken up with each other that neither
perceived the fact until Hugh's heel struck against a stone just at the
moment that Mr. Kennedy raised his clenched fist in a threatening
attitude. The effect of this combination was to pitch the poor man head
over heels down the bank, into a row of willow bushes, through which,
as he rolled with great speed, he went with a loud crash, and shot head
first, like a startled alligator, into the water, amid a roar of
laughter from his comrades and the people belonging to the fort; most
of whom, attracted by the fight, were now assembled on the banks of the
river.

Mr. Kennedy's wrath vanished immediately, and he joined in the
laughter; but his face instantly changed when he beheld Hugh sputtering
in deep water, and heard some one say that he could not swim.

"What! can't swim?" he exclaimed, running down the bank to the edge of
the water. Baptiste was before him, however. In a moment he plunged in
up to the neck, stretched forth his arm, grasped Hugh by the hair, and
dragged him to the land.



CHAPTER VIII.

Farewell to Kate--Departure of the brigade--Charley becomes a voyageur.


On the following day at noon, the spot on which the late combat had
taken place became the theatre of a stirring and animated scene. Fort
Garry, and the space between it and the river, swarmed with voyageurs,
dressed in their cleanest, newest, and most brilliant costume. The
large boats for the north, six in number, lay moored to the river's
bank, laden with bales of furs, and ready to start on their long
voyage. Young men, who had never been on the road before, stood with
animated looks watching the operations of the guides as they passed
critical examination upon their boats, overhauled the oars to see that
they were in good condition, or with crooked knives (a species of
instrument in the use of which voyageurs and natives are very expert)
polished off the top of a mast, the blade of an oar, or the handle of a
tiller. Old men, who had passed their lives in similar occupations,
looked on in silence--some standing with their heads bent on their
bosoms, and an expression of sadness about their faces, as if the scene
recalled some mournful event of their early life, or possibly reminded
them of wild, joyous scenes of other days, when the blood coursed
warmly in their young veins, and the strong muscles sprang lightly to
obey their will; when the work they had to do was hard, and the sleep
that followed it was sound--scenes and days that were now gone by for
ever. Others reclined against the wooden fence, their arms crossed,
their thin white hair waving gently in the breeze, and a kind smile
playing on their sunburned faces, as they observed the swagger and
coxcombry of the younger men, or watched the gambols of several
dark-eyed little children--embryo buffalo-hunters and voyageurs--whose
mothers had brought them to the fort to get a last kiss from papa, and
witness the departure of the boats.

Several tender scenes were going on in out-of-the-way places--in angles
of the walls and bastions, or behind the gates-between youthful couples
about to be separated for a season. Interesting scenes these of pathos
and pleasantry--a combination of soft glances and affectionate fervent
assurances; alternate embraces (that were _apparently_ received with
reluctance, but _actually_ with delight, and proffers of pieces of
calico and beads and other trinkets (received both _apparently_ and
_actually_ with extreme satisfaction) as souvenirs of happy days that
were past), and pledges of unalterable constancy and bright hope in
days that were yet to come.

A little apart from the others, a youth and a girl might be seen
sauntering slowly towards the copse beyond the stable. These were
Charley Kennedy and his sister Kate, who had retired from the bustling
scene to take a last short walk together, ere they separated, it might
be for years, perhaps for ever! Charley held Kate's hand, while her
sweet little head rested on his shoulder.

"O Charley, Charley, my own dear, darling Charley, I'm quite miserable,
and you ought not to go away; it's very wrong, and I don't mind a bit
what you say, I shall die if you leave me!" And Kate pressed him
tightly to her heart, and sobbed in the depth of her woe. "Now, Kate,
my darling, don't go on so! You know I can't help it--"

"I _don't_ know," cried Kate, interrupting him, and speaking
vehemently--"I don't know, and I don't believe, and I don't care for
anything at all; it's very hard-hearted of you, and wrong, and not
right, and I'm just quite wretched!"

Poor Kate was undoubtedly speaking the absolute truth; for a more
disconsolate and wretched look of woebegone misery was never seen on so
sweet and tender and lovable a little face before. Her blue eyes swam
in two lakes of pure crystal, that overflowed continually; her mouth,
which was usually round, had become an elongated oval; and her
nut-brown hair fell in dishevelled masses over her soft cheeks.

"O Charley," she continued, "why _won't_ you stay?"

"Listen to me, dearest Kate," said Charley, in a very husky voice.
"It's too late to draw back now, even if I wished to do so; and you
don't consider, darling, that I'll be back again soon. Besides, I'm a
man now, Kate, and I must make my own bread. Who ever heard of a man
being supported by his old father."

"Well, but can't you do that here?"

"No, don't interrupt me, Kate," said Charley, kissing her forehead;
"I'm quite satisfied with _two short_ legs, and have no desire whatever
to make my bread on the top of _three long_ ones. Besides, you know I
can write to you."

"But you won't; you'll forget."

"No, indeed, I will not. I'll write you long letters about all that I
see and do; and you shall write long letters to me about--"

"Stop, Charley," cried Kate; "I won't listen to you. I hate to think of
it."

And her tears burst forth again with fresh violence. This time
Charley's heart sank too. The lump in his throat all but choked him; so
he was fain to lay his head upon Kate's heaving bosom, and weep along
with her.

For a few minutes they remained silent, when a slight rustling in the
bushes was heard. In another moment a tall, broad-shouldered,
gentlemanly man, dressed in black, stood before them. Charley and Kate,
on seeing this personage, arose, and wiping the tears from their eyes,
gave a sad smile as they shook hands with their clergyman.

"My poor children," said Mr. Addison, affectionately, "I know well why
your hearts are sad. May God bless and comfort you! I saw you enter the
wood, and came to bid you farewell, Charley, my dear boy, as I shall
not have another opportunity of doing so."

"O dear Mr. Addison," cried Kate, grasping his hand in both of hers,
and gazing imploringly up at him through a perfect wilderness of
ringlets and tears, "do prevail upon Charley to stay at home; please
do!"

Mr. Addison could scarcely help smiling at the poor girl's extreme
earnestness.

"I fear, my sweet child, that it is too late now to attempt to dissuade
Charley. Besides, he goes with the consent of his father; and I am
inclined to think that a change of life for a _short_ time may do him
good. Come, Kate, cheer up! Charley will return to us again ere long,
improved, I trust, both physically and mentally."

Kate did _not_ cheer up, but she dried her eyes, and endeavoured to
look more composed; while Mr. Addison took Charley by the hand, and, as
they walked slowly through the wood, gave him much earnest advice and
counsel.

The clergyman's manner was peculiar. With a large, warm, generous
heart, he possessed an enthusiastic nature, a quick, brusque manner,
and a loud voice, which, when his spirit was influenced by the strong
emotions of pity or anxiety for the souls of his flock, sunk into a
deep soft bass of the most thrilling earnestness. He belonged to the
Church of England, but conducted service very much in the Presbyterian
form, as being more suited to his mixed congregation. After a long
conversation with Charley, he concluded by saying--

"I do not care to say much to you about being kind and obliging to all
whom you may meet with during your travels, nor about the dangers to
which you will be exposed by being thrown into the company of wild and
reckless, perhaps very wicked, men. There is but _one_ incentive to
every good, and _one_ safeguard against all evil, my boy, and that is
the love of God. You may perhaps forget much that I have said to you;
but remember this, Charley, if you would be happy in this world, and
have a good hope for the next, centre your heart's affection on our
blessed Lord Jesus Christ; for believe me, boy, _His_ heart's affection
is centred upon you."

As Mr. Addison spoke, a loud hello from Mr. Kennedy apprised them that
their time was exhausted, and that the boats were ready to start.
Charley sprang towards Kate, locked her in a long, passionate embrace,
and then, forgetting Mr. Addison altogether in his haste, ran out of
the wood, and hastened towards the scene of departure.

"Good-bye, Charley!" cried Harry Somerville, running up to his friend
and giving him a warm grasp of the hand. "Don't forget me, Charley. I
wish I were going with you, with all my heart; but I'm an unlucky dog.
Good-bye." The senior clerk and Peter Mactavish had also a kindly word
and a cheerful farewell for him as he hurried past.

"Good-bye, Charley, my lad!" said old Mr. Kennedy, in an _excessively_
loud voice, as if by such means he intended to crush back some unusual
but very powerful feelings that had a peculiar influence on a certain
lump in his throat. "Good-bye, my lad; don't forget to write to your
old--Hang it!" said the old man, brushing his coat-sleeve somewhat
violently across his eyes, and turning abruptly round as Charley left
him and sprang into the boat--"I say, Grant, I--I--What are you staring
at, eh?" The latter part of his speech was addressed, in an angry tone,
to an innocent voyageur, who happened accidentally to confront him at
the moment.

"Come along, Kennedy," said Mr. Grant, interposing, and grasping his
excited friend by the arm--"come with me."

"Ah, to be sure!--yes," said he, looking over his shoulder and waving a
last adieu to Charley, "Good-bye, God bless you, my dear boy!--I say,
Grant, come along; quick, man, and let's have a pipe--yes, let's have a
pipe." Mr. Kennedy, essaying once more to crush back his rebellious
feelings, strode rapidly up the bank, and entering the house, sought to
overwhelm his sorrow in smoke: in which attempt he failed.



CHAPTER IX.

The voyage--The encampment--A surprise.


It was a fine sight to see the boats depart for the north. It was a
thrilling, heart-stirring sight to behold these picturesque, athletic
men, on receiving the word of command from their guides, spring lightly
into the long, heavy boats; to see them let the oars fall into the
water with a loud splash, and then, taking their seats, give way with a
will, knowing that the eyes of friends and sweethearts and rivals were
bent earnestly upon them. It was a splendid sight to see boat after
boat shoot out from the landing-place, and cut through the calm bosom
of the river, as the men bent their sturdy backs until the thick oars
creaked and groaned on the gunwales and flashed in the stream, more and
more vigorously at each successive stroke, until their friends on the
bank, who were anxious to see the last of them, had to run faster and
faster in order to keep up with them, as the rowers warmed at their
work, and made the water gurgle at the bows--their bright blue and
scarlet and white trappings reflected in the dark waters in broken
masses of colour, streaked with long lines of shining ripples, as if
they floated on a lake of liquid rainbows. And it was a glorious thing
to hear the wild, plaintive song, led by one clear, sonorous voice,
that rang out full and strong in the still air, while at the close of
every two lines the whole brigade burst into a loud, enthusiastic
chorus, that rolled far and wide over the smooth waters--telling of
their approach to settlers beyond the reach of vision in advance, and
floating faintly back, a last farewell, to the listening ears of
fathers, mothers, wives, and sisters left behind. And it was
interesting to observe how, as the rushing boats sped onwards past the
cottages on shore, groups of men and women and children stood before
the open doors and waved adieu, while ever and anon a solitary voice
rang louder than the others in the chorus, and a pair of dark eyes grew
brighter as a voyageur swept past his home, and recognised his little
ones screaming farewell, and seeking to attract their _sire's_
attention by tossing their chubby arms or flourishing round their heads
the bright vermilion blades of canoe-paddles. It was interesting, too,
to hear the men shout as they ran a small rapid which occurs about the
lower part of the settlement, and dashed in full career up to the Lower
Fort--which stands about twenty miles down the river from Fort
Garry--and then sped onward again with unabated energy, until they
passed the Indian settlement, with its scattered wooden buildings and
its small church; passed the last cottage on the bank; passed the low
swampy land at the river's mouth; and emerged at last as evening
closed, upon the wide, calm, sea-like bosom of Lake Winnipeg.

Charley saw and heard all this during the whole of that long, exciting
afternoon, and as he heard and saw it his heart swelled as if it would
burst its prison-bars, his voice rang out wildly in the choruses,
regardless alike of tune and time, and his spirit boiled within him as
he quaffed the first sweet draught of a rover's life--a life in the
woods, the wild, free, enchanting woods, where all appeared in _his_
eyes bright, and sunny, and green, and beautiful!

As the sun's last rays sunk in the west, and the clouds, losing their
crimson hue, began gradually to fade into gray, the boats' heads were
turned landward. In a few seconds they grounded on a low point, covered
with small trees and bushes which stretched out into the lake. Here
Louis Peltier had resolved to bivouac for the night.

"Now then, mes garçons," he exclaimed, leaping ashore, and helping to
drag the boat a little way on to the beach, "vite, vite! à terre, à
terre!--Take the kettle, Pierre, and let's have supper."

Pierre needed no second bidding. He grasped a large tin kettle and an
axe, with which he hurried into a clump of trees. Laying down the
kettle, which he had previously filled with water from the lake, he
singled out a dead tree, and with three powerful blows of his axe,
brought it to the ground. A few additional strokes cut it up into logs,
varying from three to five feet in length, which he piled together,
first placing a small bundle of dry grass and twigs beneath them, and a
few splinters of wood which he cut from off one of the logs. Having
accomplished this, Pierre took a flint and steel out of a gaily
ornamented pouch which depended from his waist, and which went by the
name of a fire-bag in consequence of its containing the implements for
procuring that element. It might have been as appropriately named
tobacco-box or smoking-bag, however, seeing that such things had more
to do with it, if possible, than fire. Having struck a spark, which he
took captive by means of a piece of tinder, he placed in the centre of
a very dry handful of soft grass, and whirled it rapidly round his
head, thereby producing a current of air, which blew the spark into a
flame; which when applied, lighted the grass and twigs; and so, in a
few minutes, a blazing fire roared up among the trees--spouted volumes
of sparks into the air, like a gigantic squib, which made it quite a
marvel that all the bushes in the neighbourhood were not burnt up at
once--glared out red and fierce upon the rippling water, until it
became, as it were, red-hot in the neighbourhood of the boats, and
caused the night to become suddenly darker by contrast; the night
reciprocating the compliment, as it grew later, by causing the space
around the fire to glow brighter and brighter, until it became a
brilliant chamber, surrounded by walls of the blackest ebony.

While Pierre was thus engaged there were at least ten voyageurs
similarly occupied. Ten steels were made instrumental in creating ten
sparks, which were severally captured by ten pieces of tinder, and
whirled round by ten lusty arms, until ten flames were produced, and
ten fires sprang up and flared wildly on the busy scene that had a few
hours before been so calm, so solitary, and so peaceful, bathed in the
soft beams of the setting sun.

In less than half-an-hour the several camps were completed, the kettles
boiling over the fires, the men smoking in every variety of attitude,
and talking loudly. It was a cheerful scene; and so Charley thought as
he reclined in his canvas tent, the opening of which faced the fire,
and enabled him to see all that was going on.

Pierre was standing over the great kettle, dancing round it, and making
sudden plunges with a stick into it, in the desperate effort to stir
its boiling contents--desperate, because the fire was very fierce and
large, and the flames seem to take a fiendish pleasure in leaping up
suddenly just under Pierre's nose, thereby endangering his beard, or
shooting out between his legs and licking round them at most unexpected
moments, when the light wind ought to have been blowing them quite in
the opposite direction; and then, as he danced round to the other side
to avoid them, wheeling about and roaring viciously in his face, until
it seemed as if the poor man would be roasted long before the supper
was boiled. Indeed, what between the ever-changing and violent flames,
the rolling smoke, the steam from the kettle, the showering sparks, and
the man's own wild grimaces and violent antics, Pierre seemed to
Charley like a raging demon, who danced not only round, but above, and
on, and through, and _in_ the flames, as if they were his natural
element, in which he took special delight.

Quite close to the tent the massive form of Louis the guide lay
extended, his back supported by the stump of a tree, his eyes blinking
sleepily at the blaze, and his beloved pipe hanging from his lips,
while wreaths of smoke encircled his head. Louis's day's work was done.
Few could do a better; and when his work was over, Louis always acted
on the belief that his position and his years entitled him to rest, and
took things very easy in consequence.

Six of the boat's crew sat in a semicircle beside the guide and
fronting the fire, each paying particular attention to his pipe, and
talking between the puffs to anyone who chose to listen.

Suddenly Pierre vanished into the smoke and flames altogether, whence
in another moment he issued, bearing in his hand the large tin kettle,
which he deposited triumphantly at the feet of his comrades.

"Now, then," cried Pierre.

It was unnecessary to have said even that much by way of invitation.
Voyageurs do not require to have their food pressed upon them after a
hard day's work. Indeed it was as much as they could do to refrain from
laying violent hands on the kettle long before their worthy cook
considered its contents sufficiently done.

Charley sat in company with Mr. Park--a chief factor, on his way to
Norway House. Gibault, one of the men who acted as their servant, had
placed a kettle of hot tea before them, which, with several slices of
buffalo tongue, a lump of pemmican, and some hard biscuit and butter,
formed their evening meal. Indeed, we may add that these viands, during
a great part of the voyage, constituted their every meal. In fact, they
had no variety in their fare, except a wild duck or two now and then,
and a goose when they chanced to shoot one.

Charley sipped a pannikin of tea as he reclined on his blanket, and
being somewhat fatigued in consequence of his exertions and excitement
during the day, said nothing. Mr. Park, for the same reasons, besides
being naturally taciturn, was equally mute, so they both enjoyed in
silence the spectacle of the men eating their supper. And it _was_ a
sight worth seeing.

Their food consisted of robbiboo, a compound of flour, pemmican, and
water, boiled to the consistency of very thick soup. Though not a
species of food that would satisfy the fastidious taste of an epicure,
robbiboo is, nevertheless, very wholesome, exceedingly nutritious, and
withal palatable. Pemmican, its principal component, is made of buffalo
flesh, which fully equals (some think greatly excels) beef. The recipe
for making it is as follows:-First, kill your buffalo--a matter of
considerable difficulty, by the way, as doing so requires you to travel
to the buffalo-grounds, to arm yourself with a gun, and mount a horse,
on which you have to gallop, perhaps, several miles over rough ground
and among badger-holes at the imminent risk of breaking your neck. Then
you have to run up alongside of a buffalo and put a ball through his
heart, which, apart from the murderous nature of the action, is a
difficult thing to do. But we will suppose that you have killed your
buffalo. Then you must skin him; then cut him up, and slice the flesh
into layers, which must be dried in the sun. At this stage of the
process you have produced a substance which in the fur countries goes
by the name of dried meat, and is largely used as an article of food.
As its name implies, it is very dry, and it is also very tough, and
very undesirable if one can manage to procure anything better. But to
proceed. Having thus prepared dried meat, lay a quantity of it on a
flat stone, and take another stone, with which pound it into shreds.
You must then take the animal's hide, while it is yet new, and make
bags of it about two feet and a half long by a foot and a half broad.
Into this put the pounded meat loosely. Melt the fat of your buffalo
over a fire, and when quite liquid pour it into the bag until full; mix
the contents well together; sew the whole up before it cools, and you
have a bag of pemmican of about ninety pounds weight. This forms the
chief food of the voyageur, in consequence of its being the largest
possible quantity of sustenance compressed into the smallest possible
space, and in an extremely convenient, portable shape. It will keep
fresh for years, and has been much used, in consequence, by the heroes
of arctic discovery, in their perilous journeys along the shores of the
frozen sea.

The voyageurs used no plate. Men who travel in these countries become
independent of many things that are supposed to be necessary here. They
sat in a circle round the kettle, each man armed with a large wooden or
pewter spoon, with which he ladled the robbiboo down his capacious
throat, in a style that not only caused Charley to laugh, but
afterwards threw him into a deep reverie on the powers of appetite in
general, and the strength of voyageur stomachs in particular.

At first the keen edge of appetite induced the men to eat in silence;
but as the contents of the kettle began to get low, their tongues
loosened, and at last, when the kettles were emptied and the pipes
filled, fresh logs thrown on the fires, and their limbs stretched out
around them, the babel of English, French, and Indian that arose was
quite overwhelming. The middle-aged men told long stories of what they
_had_ done; the young men boasted of what they _meant_ to do; while the
more aged smiled, nodded, smoked their pipes, put in a word or two as
occasion offered, and listened. While they conversed the quick ears of
one of the men of Charley's camp detected some unusual sound.

"Hist!" said he, turning his head aside slightly, in a listening
attitude, while his comrades suddenly ceased their noisy laugh.

"Do ducks travel in canoes hereabouts?" said the man, after a moment's
silence; "for, if not, there's someone about to pay us a visit. I would
wager my best gun that I hear the stroke of paddles."

"If your ears had been sharper, François, you might have heard them
some time ago," said the guide, shaking the ashes out of his pipe and
refilling it for the third time.

"Ah, Louis, I do not pretend to such sharp ears as you possess, nor to
such sharp wit either. But who do you think can be _en route_ so late?"

"That my wit does not enable me to divine," said Louis; "but if you
have any faith in the sharpness of your eyes, I would recommend you to
go to the beach and see, as the best and shortest way of finding out."

By this time the men had risen, and were peering out into the gloom in
the direction whence the sound came, while one or two sauntered down to
the margin of the lake to meet the new-comers.

"Who can it be, I wonder?" said Charley, who had left the tent, and was
now standing beside the guide.

"Difficult to say, monsieur. Perhaps Injins, though I thought there
were none here just now. But I'm not surprised that we've attracted
_something_ to us. Livin' creeturs always come nat'rally to the light,
and there's plenty of fire on the point to-night."

"Rather more than enough," replied Charley, abruptly, as a slight
motion of wind sent the flames curling round his head and singed off
his eye-lashes. "Why, Louis, it's my firm belief that if I ever get to
the end of this journey, I'll not have a hair left on my head."

Louis smiled.

"O monsieur, you will learn to _observe_ things before you have been
long in the wilderness. If you _will_ edge round to leeward of the
fire, you can't expect it to respect you."

Just at this moment a loud hurrah rang through the copse, and Harry
Somerville sprang over the fire into the arms of Charley, who received
him with a hug and a look of unutterable amazement.

"Charley, my boy!"

"Harry Somerville, I declare!"

For at least five minutes Charley could not recover his composure
sufficiently to _declare_ anything else, but stood with open mouth and
eyes, and elevated eyebrows, looking at his young friend, who capered
and danced round the fire in a manner that threw the cook's
performances in that line quite into the shade, while he continued all
the time to shout fragments of sentences that were quite unintelligible
to anyone. It was evident that Harry was in a state of immense delight
at something unknown save to himself, but which, in the course of a few
minutes, was revealed to his wondering friends.

"Charley, I'm _going!_ hurrah!" and he leaped about in a manner that
induced Charley to say he would not only be going but very soon _gone_,
if he did not keep further away from the fire.

"Yes, Charley, I'm going with you! I upset the stool, tilted the
ink-bottle over the invoice-book, sent the poker almost through the
back of the fireplace, and smashed Tom Whyte's best whip on the back of
the 'noo 'oss' as I galloped him over the plains for the last time: all
for joy, because I'm going with you, Charley, my darling!"

Here Harry suddenly threw his arms round his friend's neck, meditating
an embrace. As both boys were rather fond of using their muscles
violently, the embrace degenerated into a wrestle, which caused them to
threaten complete destruction to the fire as they staggered in front of
it, and ended in their tumbling against the tent and nearly breaking
its poles and fastenings, to the horror and indignation of Mr. Park,
who was smoking his pipe within, quietly waiting till Harry's
superabundant glee was over, that he might get an explanation of his
unexpected arrival among them.

"Ah, they will be good voyageurs!" cried one of the men, as he looked
on at this scene.

"Oui, oui! good boys, active lads," replied the others, laughing. The
two boys rose hastily.

"Yes," cried Harry, breathless, but still excited, "I'm going all the
way, and a great deal farther. I'm going to hunt buffaloes in the
Saskatchewan, and grizzly bears in the--the--in fact everywhere! I'm
going down the Mackenzie River--I'm going _mad_, I believe;" and Harry
gave another caper and another shout, and tossed his cap high into the
air. Having been recklessly tossed, it came down into the fire. When it
went in, it was dark blue; but when Harry dashed into the flames in
consternation to save it, it came out of a rich brown colour.

"Now, youngster," said Mr. Park, "when you've done capering, I should
like to ask you one or two questions. What brought you here?"

"A canoe," said Harry, inclined to be impudent.

"Oh, and pray for what _purpose_ have you come here?"

"These are my credentials," handing him a letter.

Mr. Park opened the note and read.

"Ah! oh! Saskatchewan--hum--yes--outpost--wild boy--just so--keep him
at it--ay, fit for nothing else. So," said Mr. Park, folding the paper,
"I find that Mr. Grant has sent you to take the place of a young
gentleman we expected to pick up at Norway House, but who is required
elsewhere; and that he wishes you to see a good deal of rough life--to
be made a trader of, in fact. Is that your desire?"

"That's the very ticket!" replied Harry, scarcely able to restrain his
delight at the prospect.

"Well, then, you had better get supper and turn in, for you'll have to
begin your new life by rising at three o'clock to-morrow morning. Have
you got a tent?"

"Yes," said Harry, pointing to his canoe, which had been brought to the
fire and turned bottom up by the two Indians to whom it belonged, and
who were reclining under its shelter enjoying their pipes, and watching
with looks of great gravity the doings of Harry and his friend.

"_That_ will return whence it came to-morrow. Have you no other?"

"Oh yes," said Harry, pointing to the overhanging branches of a willow
close at hand, "lots more."

Mr. Park smiled grimly, and, turning on his heel, re-entered the tent
and continued his pipe, while Harry flung himself down beside Charley
under the bark canoe.

This species of "tent" is, however, by no means a perfect one. An
Indian canoe is seldom three feet broad--frequently much narrower--so
that it only affords shelter for the body as far down as the waist,
leaving the extremities exposed. True, one _may_ double up as nearly as
possible into half one's length, but this is not a desirable position
to maintain throughout an entire night. Sometimes, when the weather is
_very_ bad, an additional protection is procured by leaning several
poles against the bottom of the canoe, on the weather side, in such a
way as to slope considerably over the front; and over these are spread
pieces of birch bark or branches and moss, so as to form a screen,
which is an admirable shelter. But this involves too much time and
labour to be adopted during a voyage, and is only done when the
travellers are under the necessity of remaining for some time in one
place.

The canoe in which Harry arrived was a pretty large one, and looked so
comfortable when arranged for the night that Charley resolved to
abandon his own tent and Mr. Park's society, and sleep with his friend.

"I'll sleep with you, Harry, my boy," said he, after Harry had
explained to him in detail the cause of his being sent away from Red
River; which was no other than that a young gentleman, as Mr. Park
said, who _was_ to have gone, had been ordered elsewhere.

"That's right, Charley; spread out our blankets, while I get some
supper, like a good fellow." Harry went in search of the kettle while
his friend prepared their bed. First, he examined the ground on which
the canoe lay, and found that the two Indians had already taken
possession of the only level places under it. "Humph!" he ejaculated,
half inclined to rouse them up, but immediately dismissed the idea as
unworthy of a voyageur. Besides, Charley was an amiable, unselfish
fellow, and would rather have lain on the top of a dozen stumps than
have made himself comfortable at the expense of anyone else.

He paused a moment to consider. On one side was a hollow "that" (as he
soliloquised to himself) "would break the back of a buffalo." On the
other side were a dozen little stumps surrounding three very prominent
ones, that threatened destruction to the ribs of anyone who should
venture to lie there. But Charley did not pause to consider long.
Seizing his axe, he laid about him vigorously with the head of it, and
in a few seconds destroyed all the stumps, which he carefully
collected, and, along with some loose moss and twigs, put into the
hollow, and so filled it up. Having improved things thus far, he rose
and strode out of the circle of light into the wood. In a few minutes
he reappeared, bearing a young spruce fir tree on his shoulder, which
with the axe he stripped of its branches. These branches were flat in
form, and elastic--admirably adapted for making a bed on; and when
Charley spread them out under the canoe in a pile of about four inches
in depth by four feet broad and six feet long, the stumps and the
hollow were overwhelmed altogether. He then ran to Mr. Park's tent, and
fetched thence a small flat bundle covered with oilcloth and tied with
a rope. Opening this, he tossed out its contents, which were two large
and very thick blankets--one green, the other white; a particularly
minute feather pillow, a pair of moccasins, a broken comb, and a bit of
soap. Then he opened a similar bundle containing Harry's bed, which he
likewise tossed out; and then kneeling down, he spread the two white
blankets on the top of the branches, the two green blankets above
these, and the two pillows at the top, as far under the shelter of the
canoe as he could push them. Having completed the whole in a manner
that would have done credit to a chambermaid, he continued to sit on
his knees, with his hands in his pockets, smiling complacently, and
saying, "Capital--first-rate!"

"Here we are, Charley. Have a second supper--do!"

Harry placed the smoking kettle by the head of the bed, and squatting
down beside it, began to eat as only a boy _can_ eat who has had
nothing since breakfast.

Charley attacked the kettle too--as he said, "out of sympathy,"
although he "wasn't hungry a bit." And really, for a man who was not
hungry, and had supped half-an-hour before, the appetite of _sympathy_
was wonderfully strong.

But Harry's powers of endurance were now exhausted. He had spent a long
day of excessive fatigue and excitement, and having wound it up with a
heavy supper, sleep began to assail him with a fell ferocity that
nothing could resist. He yawned once or twice, and sat on the bed
blinking unmeaningly at the fire, as if he had something to say to it
which he could not recollect just then. He nodded violently, much to
his own surprise, once or twice, and began to address remarks to the
kettle instead of to his friend. "I say, Charley, this won't do. I'm
off to bed!" and suiting the action to the word, he took off his coat
and placed it on his pillow. He then removed his moccasins, which were
wet, and put on a dry pair; and this being all that is ever done in the
way of preparation before going to bed in the woods, he lay down and
pulled the green blankets over him.

Before doing so, however, Harry leaned his head on his hands and
prayed. This was the one link left of the chain of habit with which he
had left home. Until the period of his departure for the wild scenes of
the Northwest, Harry had lived in a quiet, happy home in the West
Highlands of Scotland, where he had been surrounded by the benign
influences of a family the members of which were united by the sweet
bonds of Christian love--bonds which were strengthened by the
additional tie of amiability of disposition. From childhood he had been
accustomed to the routine of a pious and well-regulated household,
where the Bible was perused and spoken of with an interest that
indicated a genuine hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and
where the name of JESUS sounded often and sweetly on the ear. Under
such training, Harry, though naturally of a wild, volatile disposition,
was deeply and irresistibly impressed with a reverence for sacred
things, which, now that he was thousands of miles away from his
peaceful home, clung to him with the force of old habit and
association, despite the jeers of comrades and the evil influences and
ungodliness by which he was surrounded. It is true that he was not
altogether unhurt by the withering indifference to God that he beheld
on all sides. Deep impression is not renewal of heart. But early
training in the path of Christian love saved him many a deadly fall. It
guarded him from many of the grosser sins, into which other boys, who
had merely broken away from the _restraints_ of home too easily fell.
It twined round him--as the ivy encircles the oak--with a soft, tender,
but powerful grasp, that held him back when he was tempted to dash
aside all restraint; and held him up when, in the weakness of human
nature, he was about to fall. It exerted its benign sway over him in
the silence of night, when his thoughts reverted to home, and during
his waking hours, when he wandered from scene to scene in the wide
wilderness; and in after years, when sin prevailed, and intercourse
with rough men had worn off much of at least the superficial amiability
of his character, and to some extent blunted the finer feelings of his
nature, it clung faintly to him still, in the memory of his mother's
gentle look and tender voice, and never forsook him altogether. Home
had a blessed and powerful influence on Harry. May God bless such
homes, where the ruling power is _love!_ God bless and multiply such
homes in the earth! Were there more of them there would be fewer
heart-broken mothers to weep over the memory of the blooming, manly
boys they sent away to foreign climes--with trembling hearts but high
hopes--and never saw them more. They were vessels launched upon the
troubled sea of time, with stout timbers, firm masts, and gallant
sails--with all that was necessary above and below, from stem to stern,
for battling with the billows of adverse fortune, for stemming the tide
of opposition, for riding the storms of persecution, or bounding with a
press of canvas before the gales of prosperity; but without the
rudder--without the guiding principle that renders the great power of
plank and sail and mast available; with which the vessel moves obedient
to the owner's will, without which it drifts about with every current,
and sails along with every shifting wind that blows. Yes, may the best
blessings of prosperity and peace rest on such families, whose bread,
cast continually on the waters, returns to them after many days.

After Harry had lain down, Charley, who did not feel inclined for
repose, sauntered to the margin of the lake, and sat down upon a rock.

It was a beautiful, calm evening. The moon shone faintly through a mass
of heavy clouds, casting a pale light on the waters of Lake Winnipeg,
which stretched, without a ripple, out to the distant horizon. The
great fresh-water lakes of America bear a strong resemblance to the
sea. In storms the waves rise mountains high, and break with heavy,
sullen roar upon a beach composed in many places of sand and pebbles;
while they are so large that one not only looks out to a straight
horizon, but may even sail _out of sight of land_ altogether.

As Charley sat resting his head on his hand, and listening to the soft
hiss that the ripples made upon the beach, he felt all the solemnising
influence that steals irresistibly over the mind as we sit on a still
night gazing out upon the moonlit sea. His thoughts were sad; for he
thought of Kate, and his mother and father, and the home he was now
leaving. He remembered all that he had ever done to injure or annoy the
dear ones he was leaving; and it is strange how much alive our
consciences become when we are unexpectedly or suddenly removed from
those with whom we have lived and held daily intercourse. How bitterly
we reproach ourselves for harsh words, unkind actions; and how
intensely we long for one word more with them, one fervent embrace, to
prove at once that all we have ever said or done was not _meant_ ill,
and, at any rate, is deeply, sincerely repented of now! As Charley
looked up into the starry sky, his mind recurred to the parting words
of Mr. Addison. With uplifted hands and a full heart, he prayed that
God would bless, for Jesus' sake, the beloved ones in Red River, but
especially Kate; for whether he prayed or meditated, Charley's thoughts
_always_ ended with Kate.

A black cloud passed across the moon, and reminded him that but a few
hours of the night remained; so hastening up to the camp again, he lay
gently down beside his friend, and drew the green blanket over him.

In the camp all was silent. The men had chosen their several beds
according to fancy, under the shadow of a bush or tree. The fires had
burned low--so low that it was with difficulty Charley, as he lay,
could discern the recumbent forms of the men, whose presence was
indicated by the deep, soft, regular breathing of tired but, healthy
constitutions. Sometimes a stray moonbeam shot through the leaves and
branches, and cast a ghost-like, flickering light over the scene, which
ever and anon was rendered more mysterious by a red flare of the fire
as an ember fell, blazed up for an instant, and left all shrouded in
greater darkness than before.

At first Charley continued his sad thoughts, staring all the while at
the red embers of the expiring fire; but soon his eyes began to blink,
and the stumps of trees began to assume the form of voyageurs, and
voyageurs to look like stumps of trees. Then a moonbeam darted in, and
Mr. Addison stood on the other side of the fire. At this sight Charley
started, and Mr. Addison disappeared, while the boy smiled to think how
he had been dreaming while only half asleep. Then Kate appeared, and
seemed to smile on him; but another ember fell, and another red flame
sprang up, and put her to flight too. Then a low sigh of wind rustled
through the branches, and Charley felt sure that he saw Kate again
coming through the woods, singing the low, soft tune that she was so
fond of singing, because it was his own favourite air. But soon the air
ceased; the fire faded away; so did the trees, and the sleeping
voyageurs; Kate last of all dissolved, and Charley sank into a deep,
untroubled slumber.



CHAPTER X.

Varieties, vexations, and vicissitudes.


Life is checkered--there is no doubt about that; whatever doubts a man
may entertain upon other subjects, he can have none upon this, we feel
quite certain. In fact, so true is it that we would not for a moment
have drawn the reader's attention to it here, were it not that our
experience of life in the backwoods corroborates the truth; and truth,
however well corroborated, is none the worse of getting a little
additional testimony now and then in this sceptical generation.

Life is checkered, then, undoubtedly. And life in the backwoods
strengthens the proverb, for it is a peculiarly striking and remarkable
specimen of life's variegated character.

There is a difference between sailing smoothly along the shores of Lake
Winnipeg with favouring breezes, and being tossed on its surging
billows by the howling of a nor'-west wind, that threatens destruction
to the boat, or forces it to seek shelter on the shore. This difference
is one of the checkered scenes of which we write, and one that was
experienced by the brigade more than once during its passage across the
lake.

Since we are dealing in truisms, it may not, perhaps, be out of place
here to say that going to bed at night is not by any means getting up
in the morning; at least so several of our friends found to be the case
when the deep sonorous voice of Louis Peltier sounded through the camp
on the following morning, just as a very faint, scarcely perceptible,
light tinged the eastern sky.

"Lève, lève, lève!" he cried, "lève, lève, mes enfants!"

Some of Louis's _infants_ replied to the summons in a way that would
have done credit to a harlequin. One or two active little Canadians, on
hearing the cry of the awful word _lève_, rose to their feet with a
quick bound, as if they had been keeping up an appearance of sleep as a
sort of practical joke all night, on purpose to be ready to leap as the
first sound fell from the guide's lips. Others lay still, in the same
attitude in which they had fallen asleep, having made up their minds,
apparently, to lie there in spite of all the guides in the world. Not a
few got slowly into the sitting position, their hair dishevelled, their
caps awry, their eyes alternately winking very hard and staring awfully
in the vain effort to keep open, and their whole physiognomy wearing an
expression of blank stupidity that is peculiar to man when engaged in
that struggle which occurs each morning as he endeavours to disconnect
and shake off the entanglement of nightly dreams and the realities of
the breaking day. Throughout the whole camp there was a low, muffled
sound, as of men moving lazily, with broken whispers and disjointed
sentences uttered in very deep, hoarse tones, mingled with confused,
unearthly noises, which, upon consideration, sounded like prolonged
yawns. Gradually these sounds increased, for the guide's _lève_ is
inexorable, and the voyageur's fate inevitable.

"Oh dear!--yei a--a--ow" (yawning); "hang your _lève!_"

"Oui, vraiment--yei a-a----ow--morbleu!"

"Eh, what's that? Oh, misère!"

"Tare an' ages!" (from an Irishman), "an' I had only got to slaape yit!
but--yei a--a----ow!"

French and Irish yawns are very similar, the only difference being,
that whereas the Frenchman finishes the yawn resignedly, and springs to
his legs, the Irishman finishes it with an energetic gasp, as if he
were hurling it remonstratively into the face of Fate, turns round
again and shuts his eyes doggedly--a piece of bravado which he knows is
useless and of very short duration.

"Lève! lève!! lève!!!" There was no mistake this time in the tones of
Louis's voice. "Embark, embark! vite, vite!"

The subdued sounds of rousing broke into a loud buzz of active
preparation, as the men busied themselves in bundling up blankets,
carrying down camp-kettles to the lake, launching the boats, kicking up
lazy comrades, stumbling over and swearing at fallen trees which were
not visible in the cold, uncertain light of the early dawn, searching
hopelessly, among a tangled conglomeration of leaves and broken
branches and crushed herbage, for lost pipes and missing
tobacco-pouches.

"Hollo!" exclaimed Harry Somerville, starting suddenly from his
sleeping posture, and unintentionally cramming his elbow into Charley's
mouth, "I declare they're all up and nearly ready to start."

"That's no reason," replied Charley, "why you should knock out all my
front teeth, is it?"

Just then Mr. Park issued from his tent, dressed and ready to step into
his boat. He first gave a glance round the camp to see that all the men
were moving, then he looked up through the trees to ascertain the
present state and, if possible, the future prospects of the weather.
Having come to a satisfactory conclusion on that head, he drew forth
his pipe and began to fill it, when his eye fell on the two boys, who
were still sitting up in their lairs, and staring idiotically at the
place where the fire had been, as if the white ashes, half-burned logs,
and bits of charcoal were a sight of the most novel and interesting
character, that filled them with intense amazement.

Mr. Park could scarce forbear smiling.

"Hollo, youngsters, precious voyageurs _you'll_ make, to be sure, if
this is the way you're going to begin. Don't you see that the things
are all aboard, and we'll be ready to start in five minutes, and you
sitting there with your neckcloths off?"

Mr. Park gave a slight sneer when he spoke of _neckcloths_, as if he
thought, in the first place, that they were quite superfluous portions
of attire, and in the second place, that having once put them on, the
taking of them off at night was a piece of effeminacy altogether
unworthy of a Nor'-wester.

Charley and Harry needed no second rebuke. It flashed instantly upon
them that sleeping comfortably under their blankets when the men were
bustling about the camp was extremely inconsistent with the heroic
resolves of the previous day. They sprang up, rolled their blankets in
the oil-cloths, which they fastened tightly with ropes; tied the
neckcloths, held in such contempt by Mr. Park, in a twinkling; threw on
their coats, and in less than five minutes were ready to embark. They
then found that they might have done things more leisurely, as the
crews had not yet got all their traps on board; so they began to look
around them, and discovered that each had omitted to pack up a blanket.

Very much crestfallen at their stupidity, they proceeded to untie the
bundles again, when it became apparent to the eyes of Charley that his
friend had put on his capote inside out; which had a peculiarly ragged
and grotesque effect. These mistakes were soon rectified, and
shouldering their beds, they carried them down to the boat and tossed
them in. Meanwhile Mr. Park, who had been watching the movements of the
boys with a peculiar smile, that filled them with confusion, went round
the different camps to see that nothing was left behind. The men were
all in their places with oars ready, and the boats floating on the calm
water, a yard or two from shore, with the exception of the guide's
boat, the stern of which still rested on the sand awaiting Mr. Park.

"Who does this belong to?" shouted that gentleman, holding up a cloth
cap, part of which was of a mottled brown and part deep blue.

Harry instantly tore the covering from his head, and discovered that
among his numerous mistakes he had put on the head-dress of one of the
Indians who had brought him to the camp. To do him justice the cap was
not unlike his own, excepting that it was a little more mottled and
dirty in colour, besides being decorated with a gaudy but very much
crushed and broken feather.

"You had better change with our friend here, I think," said Mr. Park,
grinning from ear to ear, as he tossed the cap to its owner, while
Harry handed the other to the Indian, amid the laughter of the crew.

"Never mind, boy," added Mr. Park, in an encouraging tone, "you'll make
a voyageur yet.--Now then, lads, give way;" and with a nod to the
Indians, who stood on the shore watching their departure, the trader
sprang into the boat and took his place beside the two boys.

"Ho! sing, mes garçons," cried the guide, seizing the massive sweep and
directing the boat out to sea.

At this part of the lake there occurs a deep bay or inlet, to save
rounding which travellers usually strike straight across from point to
point, making what is called in voyageur parlance a _traverse_. These
traverses are subjects of considerable anxiety and frequently of delay
to travellers, being sometimes of considerable extent, varying from
four to five, and in such immense seas as Lake Superior, to fourteen
miles. With boats, indeed, there is little to fear, as the inland craft
of the fur-traders can stand a heavy sea, and often ride out a pretty
severe storm; but it is far otherwise with the bark canoes that are
often used in travelling. These frail craft can stand very little
sea--their frames being made of thin flat slips of wood and sheets of
bark, not more than a quarter of an inch thick, which are sewed
together with the fibrous roots of the pine (called by the natives
_wattape_), and rendered water-tight by means of melted gum. Although
light and buoyant, therefore, and extremely useful in a country where
portages are numerous, they require very tender usage; and when a
traverse has to be made, the guides have always a grave consultation,
with some of the most sagacious among the men, as to the probability of
the wind rising or falling--consultations which are more or less marked
by anxiety and tediousness in proportion to the length of the traverse,
the state of the weather and the courage or timidity of the guides.

On the present occasion there was no consultation, as has been already
seen. The traverse was a short one, the morning fine, and the boats
good. A warm glow began to overspread the horizon, giving promise of a
splendid day, as the numerous oars dipped with a plash and a loud hiss
into the water, and sent the boats leaping forth upon the white wave.

"Sing, sing!" cried the guide again, and clearing his throat, he began
the beautiful quick-tuned canoe-song "Rose Blanche," to which the men
chorused with such power of lungs that a family of plovers, which up to
that time had stood in mute astonishment on a sandy point, tumbled
precipitately into the water, from which they rose with a shrill,
inexpressibly wild, plaintive cry, and fled screaming away to a more
secure refuge among the reeds and sedges of a swamp. A number of ducks
too, awakened by the unwonted sound, shot suddenly out from the
concealment of their night's bivouac with erect heads and startled
looks, sputtered heavily over the surface of their liquid bed, and
rising into the air, flew in a wide circuit, with whistling wings, away
from the scene of so much uproar and confusion.

The rough voices of the men grew softer and softer as the two Indians
listened to the song of their departing friends, mellowing down and
becoming more harmonious and more plaintive as the distance increased,
and the boats grew smaller and smaller, until they were lost in the
blaze of light that now bathed both water and sky in the eastern
horizon, and began rapidly to climb the zenith, while the sweet tones
became less and less audible as they floated faintly across the still
water, and melted at last into the deep silence of the wilderness.

The two Indians still stood with downcast heads and listening ears, as
if they loved the last echo of the dying music, while their grave,
statue-like forms added to rather than detracted from, the solitude of
the deserted scene.



CHAPTER XI.

Charley and Harry begin their sporting career without much
success--Whisky-john catching.


The place in the boats usually allotted to gentlemen in the Company's
service while travelling is the stern. Here the lading is so arranged
as to form a pretty level hollow, where the flat bundles containing
their blankets are placed, and a couch is thus formed that rivals
Eastern effeminacy in luxuriance. There are occasions, however, when
this couch is converted into a bed, not of thorns exactly, but of
corners; and really it would be hard to say which of the two is the
more disagreeable. Should the men be careless in arranging the cargo,
the inevitable consequence is that "monsieur" will find the leg of an
iron stove, the sharp edge of a keg, or the corner of a wooden box
occupying the place where his ribs should be. So common, however, is
this occurrence that the clerks usually superintend the arrangements
themselves, and so secure comfort.

On a couch, then, of this kind Charley and Harry now found themselves
constrained to sit all morning--sometimes asleep, occasionally awake,
and always earnestly desiring that it was time to put ashore for
breakfast, as they had now travelled for four hours without halt,
except twice for about five minutes, to let the men light their pipes.

"Charley," said Harry Somerville to his friend, who sat beside him, "it
strikes me that we are to have no breakfast at all to-day. Here have I
been holding my breath and tightening my belt, until I feel much more
like a spider or a wasp than a--a--"

"_Man_, Harry; out with it at once, don't be afraid," said Charley.

"Well, no, I wasn't going to have said _that_ exactly, but I was going
to have said a voyageur, only I recollected our doings this morning,
and hesitated to take the name until I had won it."

"It's well that you entertain so modest an opinion of yourself," said
Mr. Park, who still smoked his pipe as if he were impressed with the
idea that to stop for a moment would produce instant death. "I may tell
you for your comfort, youngster, that we shan't breakfast till we reach
yonder point."

The shores of Lake Winnipeg are flat and low, and the point indicated
by Mr. Park lay directly in the light of the sun, which now shone with
such splendour in the cloudless sky, and flashed on the polished water,
that it was with difficulty they could look towards the point of land.

"Where is it?" asked Charley, shading his eyes with his hand; "I cannot
make out anything at all."

"Try again, my boy; there's nothing like practice."

"Ah yes! I make it out now; a faint shadow just under the sun. Is that
it?"

"Ay, and we'll break our fast _there_."

"I would like very much to break your head _here_," thought Charley,
but he did not say it, as, besides being likely to produce unpleasant
consequences, he felt that such a speech to an elderly gentleman would
be highly improper; and Charley had _some_ respect for gray hairs for
their own sake, whether the owner of them was a good man or a goose.

"What shall we do, Harry? If I had only thought of keeping out a book."

"I know what _I_ shall do," said Harry, with a resolute air: "I'll go
and shoot!"

"Shoot!" cried Charley. "You don't mean to say that you're going to
waste your powder and shot by firing at the clouds! for unless you take
_them_, I see nothing else here."

"That's because you don't use your eyes," retorted Harry. "Will you
just look at yonder rock ahead of us, and tell me what you see?"

Charley looked earnestly at the rock, which to a cursory glance seemed
as if composed of whiter stone on the top. "Gulls, I declare!" shouted
Charley, at the same time jumping up in haste.

Just then one of the gulls, probably a scout sent out to watch the
approaching enemy, wheeled in a circle overhead. The two youths dragged
their guns from beneath the thwarts of the boat, and rummaged about in
great anxiety for shot-belts and powder-horns. At last they were found;
and having loaded, they sat on the edge of the boat, looking out for
game with as much--ay, with _more_ intense interest than a Blackfoot
Indian would have watched for a fat buffalo cow.

"There he goes," said Harry; "take the first shot, Charley."

"Where? where is it?"

"Right ahead. Look out!"

As Harry spoke, a small white gull, with bright-red legs and beak, flew
over the boat so close to them that, as the guide remarked, "he could
see it wink!" Charley's equanimity, already pretty well disturbed, was
entirely upset at the suddenness of the bird's appearance; for he had
been gazing intently at the rock when his friend's exclamation drew his
attention in time to see the gull within about four feet of his head.
With a sudden "Oh!" Charley threw forward his gun, took a short,
wavering aim, and blew the cock-tail feather out of Baptiste's hat;
while the gull sailed tranquilly away, as much as to say, "If _that's_
all you can do, there's no need for me to hurry!"

"Confound the boy!" cried Mr. Park. "You'll be the death of someone
yet; I'm convinced of that."

"Parbleu! you may say that, c'est vrai," remarked the voyageur with a
rueful gaze at his hat, which, besides having its ornamental feather
shattered, was sadly cut up about the crown.

The poor lad's face became much redder than the legs or beak of the
gull as he sat down in confusion, which he sought to hide by busily
reloading his gun; while the men indulged in a somewhat witty and
sarcastic criticism of his powers of shooting, remarking, in flattering
terms, on the precision of the shot that blew Baptiste's feather into
atoms, and declaring that if every shot he fired was as truly aimed, he
would certainly be the best in the country.

Baptiste also came in for a share of their repartee. "It serves you
right," said the guide, laughing, "for wearing such things on the
voyage. You should put away such foppery till you return to the
settlement, where there are _girls_ to admire you." (Baptiste had
continued to wear the tall hat, ornamented with gold cords and tassels,
with which he had left Red River).

"Ah!" cried another, pulling vigorously at his oar, "I fear that Marie
won't look at you, now that all your beauty's gone."

"'Tis not quite gone," said a third; "there's all the brim and half a
tassel left, besides the wreck of the remainder."

"Oh, I can lend you a few fragments," retorted Baptiste, endeavouring
to parry some of the thrusts. "They would improve _you_ vastly."

"No, no, friend; gather them up and replace them: they will look more
picturesque and becoming now. I believe if you had worn them much
longer all the men in the boat would have fallen in love with you."

"By St. Patrick," said Mike Brady, an Irishman who sat at the oar
immediately behind the unfortunate Canadian, "there's more than enough
o' rubbish scattered over mysilf nor would do to stuff a fither-bed
with."

As Mike spoke, he collected the fragments of feathers and ribbons with
which the unlucky shot had strewn him, and placed them slyly on the top
of the dilapidated hat, which Baptiste, after clearing away the wreck,
had replaced on his head.

"It's very purty," said Mike, as the action was received by the crew
with a shout of merriment.

Baptiste was waxing wrathful under this fire, when the general
attention was drawn again towards Charley and his friend, who, having
now got close to the rock, had quite forgotten their mishap in the
excitement of expectation.

This excitement in the shooting of such small game might perhaps
surprise our readers, did we not acquaint them with the fact that
neither of the boys had, up to that time, enjoyed much opportunity of
shooting. It is true that Harry had once or twice borrowed the
fowling-piece of the senior clerk, and had sallied forth with a beating
heart to pursue the grouse which are found in the belt of woodland
skirting the Assiniboine River near to Fort Garry. But these
expeditions were of rare occurrence, and they had not sufficed to rub
off much of the bounding excitement with which he loaded and fired at
anything and everything that came within range of his gun. Charley, on
the other hand, had never fired a shot before, except out of an old
horse-pistol; having up to this period been busily engaged at school,
except during the holidays, which he always spent in the society of his
sister Kate, whose tastes were not such as were likely to induce him to
take up the gun, even if he had possessed such a weapon. Just before
leaving Red River, his father presented him with his own gun,
remarking, as he did so, with a sigh, that _his_ day was past now; and
adding that the gun was a good one for shot or ball, and if he
(Charley) brought down _half_ as much game with it as he (Mr. Kennedy)
had brought down in the course of his life, he might consider himself a
crack shot undoubtedly.

It was not surprising, therefore, that the two friends went nearly mad
with excitation when the whole flock of gulls rose into the air like a
white cloud, and sailed in endless circles and gyrations above and
around their heads--flying so close at times that they might almost
have been caught by the hand. Neither was it surprising that
innumerable shots were fired, by both sportsmen, without a single bird
being a whit the worse for it, or themselves much the better; the
energetic efforts made to hit being rendered abortive by the very
eagerness which caused them to miss. And this was the less
extraordinary, too, when it is remembered that Harry in his haste
loaded several times without shot, and Charley rendered the right
barrel of his gun _hors de combat_ at last, by ramming down a charge of
shot and omitting powder altogether, whereby he snapped and primed, and
snapped and primed again, till he grew desperate, and then suspicious
of the true cause, which he finally rectified with much difficulty.

Frequently the gulls flew straight over the heads of the youths--which
produced peculiar consequences, as in such cases they took aim while
the birds were approaching; but being somewhat slow at taking aim, the
gulls were almost perpendicularly above them ere they were ready to
shoot, so that they were obliged to fire hastily in _hope_, feeling
that they were losing their balance, or give up the chance altogether.

Mr. Park sat grimly in his place all the while, enjoying the scene, and
smoking.

"Now then, Charley," said he, "take that fellow."

"Which? where? Oh, if I could only get one!" said Charley, looking up
eagerly at the screaming birds, at which he had been staring so long,
in their varying and crossing flight, that his sight had become
hopelessly unsteady.

"There! Look sharp; fire away!"

Bang went Charley's piece, as he spoke, at a gull which flew straight
towards him, but so rapidly that it was directly above his head;
indeed, he was leaning a little backwards at the moment, which caused
him to miss again, while the recoil of the gun brought matters to a
climax, by toppling him over into Mr. Park's lap, thereby smashing that
gentleman's pipe to atoms. The fall accidentally exploded the second
barrel, causing the butt to strike Charley in the pit of his
stomach--as if to ram him well home into Mr. Park's open arms--and
hitting with a stray shot a gull that was sailing high up in the sky in
fancied security. It fell with a fluttering crash into the boat while
the men were laughing at the accident.

"Didn't I say so?" cried Mr. Park, wrathfully, as he pitched Charley
out of his lap, and spat out the remnants of his broken pipe.

Fortunately for all parties, at this moment the boat approached a spot
on which the guide had resolved to land for breakfast; and seeing the
unpleasant predicament into which poor Charley had fallen, he assumed
the strong tones of command with which guides are frequently gifted,
and called out,--

"Ho, ho! à terre! à terre! to land! to land! Breakfast, my boys;
breakfast!"--at the same time sweeping the boat's head shoreward, and
running into a rocky bay, whose margin was fringed by a growth of small
trees. Here, in a few minutes, they were joined by the other boats of
the brigade, which had kept within sight of each other nearly the whole
morning.

While travelling through the wilds of North America in boats, voyageurs
always make a point of landing to breakfast. Dinner is a meal with
which they are unacquainted, at least on the voyage, and luncheon is
likewise unknown. If a man feels hungry during the day, the
pemmican-bag and its contents are there; he may pause in his work at
any time, for a minute, to seize the axe and cut off a lump, which he
may devour as he best can; but there is no going ashore--no resting for
dinner. Two great meals are recognised, and the time allotted to their
preparation and consumption held inviolable--breakfast and supper: the
first varying between the hours of seven and nine in the morning; the
second about sunset, at which time travellers usually encamp for the
night. Of the two meals it would be difficult to say which is more
agreeable. For our own part, we prefer the former. It is the meal to
which a man addresses himself with peculiar gusto, especially if he has
been astir three or four hours previously in the open air. It is the
time of day, too, when the spirits are freshest and highest, animated
by the prospect of the work, the difficulties, the pleasures, or the
adventures of the day that has begun; and cheered by that cool, clear
_buoyancy_ of Nature which belongs exclusively to the happy morning
hours, and has led poets in all ages to compare these hours to the
first sweet months of spring or the early years of childhood.

Voyageurs, not less than poets, have felt the exhilarating influence of
the young day, although they have lacked the power to tell it in
sounding numbers; but where words were wanting, the sparkling eye, the
beaming countenance, the light step, and hearty laugh, were more
powerful exponents of the feelings within. Poet, and painter too, might
have spent a profitable hour on the shores of that great sequestered
lake, and as they watched the picturesque groups--clustering round the
blazing fires, preparing their morning meal, smoking their pipes,
examining and repairing the boats, or suning their stalwart limbs in
wild, careless attitudes upon the greensward--might have found a
subject worthy the most brilliant effusions of the pen, or the most
graphic touches of the pencil.

An hour sufficed for breakfast. While it was preparing, the two friends
sauntered into the forest in search of game, in which they were
unsuccessful; in fact, with the exception of the gulls before
mentioned, there was not a feather to be seen--save, always, one or two
whisky-johns.

Whisky-johns are the most impudent, puffy, conceited little birds that
exist. Not much larger in reality than sparrows, they nevertheless
manage to swell out their feathers to such an extent that they appear
to be as large as magpies, which they further resemble in their
plumage. Go where you will in the woods of Rupert's Land, the instant
that you light a fire two or three whisky-johns come down and sit
beside you, on a branch, it may be, or on the ground, and generally so
near that you cannot but wonder at their recklessness. There is a
species of impudence which seems to be specially attached to little
birds. In them it reaches the highest pitch of perfection. A bold,
swelling, arrogant effrontery--a sort of stark, staring,
self-complacent, comfortable, and yet innocent impertinence, which is
at once irritating and amusing, aggravating and attractive, and which
is exhibited in the greatest intensity in the whisky-john. He will jump
down almost under your nose, and seize a fragment of biscuit or
pemmican. He will go right into the pemmican-bag, when you are but a
few paces off, and pilfer, as it were, at the fountain-head. Or if
these resources are closed against him, he will sit on a twig, within
an inch of your head, and look at you as only a whisky-john _can_ look.

"I'll catch one of these rascals," said Harry, as he saw them jump
unceremoniously into and out of the pemmican-bag.

Going down to the boat, Harry hid himself under the tarpaulin, leaving
a hole open near to the mouth of the bag. He had not remained more than
a few minutes in this concealment when one of the birds flew down, and
alighted on the edge of the boat. After a glance round to see that all
was right, it jumped into the bag. A moment after, Harry, darting his
hand through the aperture, grasped him round the neck and secured him.
Poor whisky-john screamed and pecked ferociously, while Harry brought
him in triumph to his friend; but so unremittingly did the bird scream
that its captor was fain at last to let him off, the more especially as
the cook came up at the moment and announced that breakfast was ready.



CHAPTER XII.

The storm.


Two days after the events of the last chapter, the brigade was making
one of the traverses which have already been noticed as of frequent
occurrence in the great lakes. The morning was calm and sultry. A deep
stillness pervaded Nature, which tended to produce a corresponding
quiescence in the mind, and to fill it with those indescribably solemn
feelings that frequently arise before a thunderstorm. Dark, lurid
clouds hung overhead in gigantic masses, piled above each other like
the battlements of a dark fortress, from whose ragged embrasures the
artillery of heaven was about to play.

"Shall we get over in time, Louis?" asked Mr. Park, as he turned to the
guide, who sat holding the tiller with a firm grasp; while the men,
aware of the necessity of reaching shelter ere the storm burst upon
them, were bending to the oars with steady and sustained energy.

"Perhaps," replied Louis, laconically.--"Pull, lads, pull! else you'll
have to sleep in wet skins to-night."

A low growl of distant thunder followed the guide's words, and the men
pulled with additional energy; while the slow measured hiss of the
water, and clank of oars, as they cut swiftly through the lake's clear
surface, alone interrupted the dead silence that ensued.

Charley and his friend conversed in low whispers; for there is a
strange power in a thunder-storm, whether raging or about to break,
that overawes the heart of man,--as if Nature's God were nearer then
than at other times; as if He--whose voice, indeed, if listened to,
speaks even in the slightest evolution of natural phenomena--were about
to tread the visible earth with more than usual majesty, in the vivid
glare of the lightning flash, and in the awful crash of thunder.

"I don't know how it is, but I feel more like a coward," said Charley,
"just before a thunderstorm than I think I should do in the arms of a
polar bear. Do you feel queer, Harry?"

"A little," replied Harry, in a low whisper, "and yet I'm not
frightened. I can scarcely tell what I feel, but I'm certain it's not
fear."

"Well, I don't know," said Charley. "When father's black bull chased
Kate and me in the prairies, and almost overtook us as we ran for the
fence of the big field, I felt my heart leap to my mouth, and the blood
rush to my cheeks, as I turned about and faced him, while Kate climbed
the fence; but after she was over, I felt a wild sort of wickedness in
me, as if I should like to tantalise and torment him,--and I felt
altogether different from what I feel now while I look up at these
black clouds. Isn't there something quite awful in them, Harry?"

Ere Harry replied, a bright flash of lightning shot athwart the sky,
followed by a loud roll of thunder, and in a moment the wind rushed,
like a fiend set suddenly free, down upon the boats, tearing up the
smooth surface of the water as it flew, and cutting it into gleaming
white streaks. Fortunately the storm came down behind the boats, so
that, after the first wild burst was over, they hoisted a small portion
of their lug sails, and scudded rapidly before it.

There was still a considerable portion of the traverse to cross, and
the guide cast an anxious glance over his shoulder occasionally, as the
dark waves began to rise, and their crests were cut into white foam by
the increasing gale. Thunder roared in continued, successive peals, as
if the heavens were breaking up, while rain descended in sheets. For a
time the crews continued to ply their oars; but as the wind increased,
these were rendered superfluous. They were taken in, therefore, and the
men sought partial shelter under the tarpaulin; while Mr. Park and the
two boys were covered, excepting their heads, by an oilcloth, which was
always kept at hand in rainy weather.

"What think you now, Louis?" said Mr. Park, resuming the pipe which the
sudden outburst of the storm had caused him to forget. "Have we seen
the worst of it?"

Louis replied abruptly in the negative, and in a few seconds shouted
loudly, "Look out, lads! here comes a squall. Stand by to let go the
sheet there!"

Mike Brady, happening to be near the sheet, seized hold of the rope,
and prepared to let go, while the men rose, as if by instinct, and
gazed anxiously at the approaching squall, which could be seen in the
distance, extending along the horizon, like a bar of blackest ink,
spotted with flakes of white. The guide sat with compressed lips, and
motionless as a statue, guiding the boat as it bounded madly towards
the land, which was now not more than half-a-mile distant.

"Let go!" shouted the guide, in a voice that was heard loud and clear
above the roar of the elements.

"Ay, ay," replied the Irishman, untwisting the rope instantly, as with
a sharp hiss the squall descended on the boat.

At that moment the rope became entangled round one of the oars, and the
gale burst with all its fury on the distended sail, burying the prow in
the waves, which rushed inboard in a black volume, and in an instant
half filled the boat.

"Let go!" roared the guide again, in a voice of thunder; while Mike
struggled with awkward energy to disentangle the rope.

As he spoke, an Indian, who during the storm had been sitting beside
the mast, gazing at the boiling water with a grave, contemplative
aspect, sprang quickly forward, drew his knife, and with two blows (so
rapidly delivered that they seemed but one) cut asunder first the sheet
and then the halyards, which let the sail blow out and fall flat upon
the boat. He was just in time. Another moment and the gushing water,
which curled over the bow, would have filled them to the gunwale. As it
was, the little vessel was so full of water that she lay like a log,
while every toss of the waves sent an additional torrent into her.

"Bail for your lives, lads!" cried Mr. Park, as he sprang forward, and,
seizing a tin dish, began energetically to bail out the water.
Following his example, the whole crew seized whatever came first to
hand in the shape of dish or kettle, and began to bail. Charley and
Harry Somerville acted a vigorous part on this occasion--the one with a
bark dish (which had been originally made by the natives for the
purpose of holding maple sugar), the other with his cap.

For a time it seemed doubtful whether the curling waves should send
most water _into_ the boat, or the crew should bail most _out_ of it.
But the latter soon prevailed, and in a few minutes it was so far got
under that three of the men were enabled to leave off bailing and reset
the sail, while Louis Pettier returned to his post at the helm. At
first the boat moved but slowly, owing to the weight of water in her;
but as this gradually grew less, she increased her speed and neared the
land.

"Well done, Redfeather," said Mr. Park, addressing the Indian as he
resumed his seat; "your knife did us good service that time, my fine
fellow."

Redfeather, who was the only pure native in the brigade, acknowledged
the compliment with a smile.

"_Ah, oui_," replied the guide, whose features had now lost their stern
expression. "These Injins are always ready enough with their knives.
It's not the first time my life has been saved by the knife of a
red-skin."

"Humph! bad luck to them," muttered Mike Brady; "it's not the first
time that my windpipe has been pretty near spiflicated by the knives o'
the redskins, the murtherin' varmints."

As Mike gave vent to this malediction, the boat ran swiftly past a low
rocky point, over which the surf was breaking wildly.

"Down with the sail, Mike," cried the guide, at the same time putting
the helm hard up. The boat flew round, obedient to the ruling power,
made one last plunge as it left the rolling surf behind, and slid
gently and smoothly into still water under the lee of the point.

Here, in the snug shelter of a little bay, two of the other boats were
found, with their prows already on the beach, and their crews actively
employed in landing their goods, opening bales that had received damage
from the water, and preparing the encampment; while ever and anon they
paused a moment to watch the various boats as they flew before the
gale, and one by one doubled the friendly promontory.

If there is one thing that provokes a voyageur more than another, it is
being wind-bound on the shores of a large lake. Rain or sleet, heat or
cold, icicles forming on the oars, or a broiling sun glaring in a
cloudless sky, the stings of sand-flies, or the sharp probes of a
million musquitoes, he will bear with comparative indifference; but
being detained by high wind for two, three, or four days
together--lying inactively on shore, when everything else, it may be,
is favourable: the sun bright, the sky blue, the air invigorating, and
all but the wind propitious--is more than his philosophy can carry him
through with equanimity. He grumbles at it; sometimes makes believe to
laugh at it; very often, we are sorry to say, swears at it; does his
best to sleep through it; but whatever he does, he does with a bad
grace, because he's in a bad humour, and can't stand it.

For the next three days this was the fate of our friends. Part of the
time it rained, when the whole party slept as much as was possible, and
then _endeavoured_ to sleep _more_ than was possible, under the shelter
afforded by the spreading branches of the trees. Part of the time was
fair, with occasional gleams of sunshine, when the men turned out to
eat and smoke and gamble round the fires; and the two friends sauntered
down to a sheltered place on the shore, sunned themselves in a warm
nook among the rocks, while they gazed ruefully at the foaming billows,
told endless stories of what they had done in time past, and equally
endless _prospective_ adventures that they earnestly hoped should
befall them in time to come.

While they were thus engaged, Redfeather, the Indian who had cut the
ropes so opportunely during the storm, walked down to the shore, and
sitting down on a rock not far distant, fell apparently into a reverie.

"I like that fellow," said Harry, pointing to the Indian.

"So do I. He's a sharp, active man. Had it not been for him we should
have had to swim for it."

"Indeed, had it not been for him I should have had to sink for it,"
said Harry, with a smile, "for I can't swim."

"Ah, true, I forgot that. I wonder what the red-skin, as the guide
calls him, is thinking about," added Charley in a musing tone.

"Of home, perhaps, 'sweet home,'" said Harry, with a sigh. "Do you
think much of home, Charley, now that you have left it?"

Charley did not reply for a few seconds. He seemed to muse over the
question.

At last he said slowly--

"Think of home? I think of little else when I am not talking with you,
Harry. My dear mother is always in my thoughts, and my poor old father.
Home? ay; and darling Kate, too, is at my elbow night and day, with the
tears streaming from her eyes, and her ringlets scattered over my
shoulder, as I saw her the day we parted, beckoning me back again, or
reproaching me for having gone away--God bless her! Yes, I often, very
often, think of home, Harry."

Harry made no reply. His friend's words had directed his thoughts to a
very different and far-distant scene--to another Kate, and another
father and mother, who lived in a glen far away over the waters of the
broad Atlantic. He thought of them as they used to be when he was one
of the number, a unit in the beloved circle, whose absence would have
caused a blank there. He thought of the kind voice that used to read
the Word of God, and the tender kiss of his mother as they parted for
the night. He thought of the dreary day when he left them all behind,
and sailed away, in the midst of strangers, across the wide ocean to a
strange land. He thought of them now--_without_ him--accustomed to his
absence, and forgetful, perhaps, at times that he had once been there.
As he thought of all this a tear rolled down his cheek, and when
Charley looked up in his face, that tear-drop told plainly that he too
thought sometimes of home.

"Let us ask Redfeather to tell us something about the Indians," he said
at length, rousing himself. "I have no doubt he has had many adventures
in his life. Shall we, Charley?"

"By all means--Ho, Redfeather; are you trying to stop the wind by
looking it out of countenance?"

The Indian rose and walked towards the spot where the boys lay.

"What was Redfeather thinking about?" said Charley, adopting the
somewhat pompous style of speech occasionally used by Indians. "Was he
thinking of the white swan and his little ones in the prairie; or did
he dream of giving his enemies a good licking the next time he meets
them?"

"Redfeather has no enemies," replied the Indian. "He was thinking of
the great Manito, [Footnote: God.] who made the wild winds, and the
great lakes, and the forest."

"And pray, good Redfeather, what did your thoughts tell you?"

"They told me that men are very weak, and very foolish, and wicked; and
that Manito is very good and patient to let them live."

"That is to say," cried Harry, who was surprised and a little nettled
to hear what he called the heads of a sermon from a red-skin, "that
_you_, being a man, are very weak, and very foolish, and wicked, and
that Manito is very good and patient to let _you_ live?"

"Good," said the Indian calmly; "that is what I mean."

"Come, Redfeather," said Charley, laying his hand on the Indian's arm,
"sit down beside us, and tell us some of your adventures. I know that
you must have had plenty, and it's quite clear that we're not to get
away from this place all day, so you've nothing better to do."

The Indian readily assented, and began his story in English.

Redfeather was one of the very few Indians who had acquired the power
of speaking the English language. Having been, while a youth, brought
much into contact with the fur-traders, and having been induced by them
to enter their service for a time, he had picked up enough of English
to make himself easily understood. Being engaged at a later period of
life as a guide to one of the exploring parties sent out by the British
Government to discover the famous North West Passage, he had learned to
read and write, and had become so much accustomed to the habits and
occupations of the "pale faces," that he spent more of his time, in one
way or another, with them than in the society of his tribe, which dwelt
in the thick woods bordering on one of the great prairies of the
interior. He was about thirty years of age; had a tall, thin, but wiry
and powerful frame; and was of a mild, retiring disposition. His face
wore a habitually grave expression, verging towards melancholy;
induced, probably, by the vicissitudes of a wild life (in which he had
seen much of the rugged side of nature in men and things) acting upon a
sensitive heart, and a naturally warm temperament. Redfeather, however,
was by no means morose; and when seated along with his Canadian
comrades round the camp fire, he listened with evidently genuine
interest to their stories, and entered into the spirit of their jests.
But he was always an auditor, and rarely took part in their
conversations. He, was frequently consulted by the guide in matters of
difficulty, and it was observed that the "red-skin's" opinion always
carried much weight with it, although it was seldom given unless asked
for. The men respected him much because he was a hard worker, obliging,
and modest---three qualities that insure respect, whether found under a
red skin or a white one.

"I shall tell you," he began, in a soft, musing tone, as if he were
wandering in memories of the past--"I shall tell you how it was that I
came by the name of Redfeather."

"Ah!" interrupted Charley, "I intended to ask you about that; you don't
wear one."

"I did once. My father was a great warrior in his tribe," continued the
Indian; "and I was but a youth when I got the name.

"My tribe was at war at the time with the Chipewyans, and one of our
scouts having come in with the intelligence that a party of our enemies
was in the neighbourhood, our warriors armed themselves to go in
pursuit of them. I had been out once before with a war-party, but had
not been successful, as the enemy's scouts gave notice of our approach
in time to enable them to escape. At the time the information was
brought to us, the young men of our village were amusing themselves
with athletic games, and loud challenges were being given and accepted
to wrestle, or race, or swim in the deep water of the river, which
flowed calmly past the green bank on which our wigwams stood. On a bank
near to us sat about a dozen of our women--some employed in ornamenting
moccasins with coloured porcupine quills; others making rogans of bark
for maple sugar, or nursing their young infants; while a few, chiefly
the old women, grouped themselves together and kept up an incessant
chattering, chiefly with reference to the doings of the young men.

"Apart from these stood three or four of the principal men of our
tribe, smoking their pipes, and although apparently engrossed in
conversation, still evidently interested in what was going forward on
the bank of the river.

"Among the young men assembled there was one of about my own age, who
had taken a violent dislike to me because the most beautiful girl in
all the village preferred me before him. His name was Misconna. He was
a hot-tempered, cruel youth; and although I endeavoured as much as
possible to keep out of his way, he sought every opportunity of picking
a quarrel with me. I had just been running a race along with several
other youths, and although not the winner, I had kept ahead of Misconna
all the distance. He now stood leaning against a tree, burning with
rage and disappointment. I was sorry for this, because I bore him no
ill-will, and if it had occurred to me at the time, I would have
allowed him to pass me, since I was unable to gain the race at any rate.

"'Dog!' he said at length, stepping forward and confronting me, 'will
you wrestle?'

"Just as he approached I had turned round to leave the place. Not
wishing to have more to do with him, I pretended not to hear, and made
a step or two towards the lodges. 'Dog,' he cried again, while his eyes
flashed fiercely, as he grasped me by the arm, 'will you wrestle, or
are you afraid? Has the brave boy's heart changed into that of a girl?'

"'No, Misconna,' said I. 'You _know_ that I am not afraid; but I have
no desire to quarrel with you.'

"'You lie!' cried he, with a cold sneer,--'you are afraid; and see,' he
added, pointing towards the women with a triumphant smile, 'the
dark-eyed girl sees it and believes it too!'

"I turned to look, and there I saw Wabisca gazing on me with a look of
blank amazement. I could see, also, that several of the other women,
and some of my companions, shared in her surprise.

"With a burst of anger I turned round. 'No,' Misconna,' said I, 'I am
_not_ afraid, as you shall find;' and springing upon him, I grasped him
round the body. He was nearly, if not quite, as strong a youth as
myself; but I was burning with indignation at the insolence of his
conduct before so many of the women, which gave me more than usual
energy. For several minutes we swayed to and fro, each endeavouring in
vain to bend the other's back; but we were too well matched for this,
and sought to accomplish our purpose by taking advantage of an
unguarded movement. At last such a movement occurred. My adversary made
a sudden and violent attempt to throw me to the left, hoping that an
inequality in the ground would favour his effort. But he was mistaken.
I had seen the danger and was prepared for it, so that the instant he
attempted it I threw forward my right leg, and thrust him backwards
with all my might. Misconna was quick in his motions. He saw my
intention--too late, indeed, to prevent it altogether, but in time to
throw back his left foot and stiffen his body till it felt like a block
of stone. The effort was now entirely one of endurance. We stood each
with his muscles strained to the utmost, without the slightest motion.
At length I felt my adversary give way a little. Slight though the
motion was, it instantly removed all doubt as to who should go down. My
heart gave a bound of exaltation, and with the energy which such a
feeling always inspires, I put forth all my strength, threw him heavily
over on his back, and fell upon him.

"A shout of applause from my comrades greeted me as I rose and left the
ground; but at the same moment the attention of all was taken from
myself and the baffled Misconna by the arrival of the scout, bringing
us information that a party of Chipewyans were in the neighbourhood. In
a moment all was bustle and preparation. An Indian war-party is soon
got ready. Forty of our braves threw off the principal parts of their
clothing; painted their faces with stripes of vermilion and charcoal;
armed themselves with guns, bows, tomahawks and scalping knives, and in
a few minutes left the camp in silence, and at a quick pace.

"One or two of the youths who had been playing on the river's bank were
permitted to accompany the party, and among these were Misconna and
myself. As we passed a group of women, assembled to see us depart, I
observed the girl who had caused so much jealousy between us. She cast
down her eyes as we came up, and as we advanced close to the group she
dropped a white feather, as if by accident. Stooping hastily down, I
picked it up in passing, and stuck it in an ornamented band that bound
my hair. As we hurried on I heard two or three old hags laugh, and say,
with a sneer, 'His hand is as white as a feather: it has never seen
blood.' The next moment we were hid in the forest, and pursued our
rapid course in dead silence.

"The country through which we passed was varied, extending in broken
bits of open prairie, and partly covered with thick wood, yet not so
thick as to offer any hindrance to our march. We walked in single file,
each treading in his comrade's footsteps, while the band was headed by
the scout who had brought the information. The principal chief of our
tribe came next, and he was followed by the braves according to their
age or influence. Misconna and I brought up the rear. The sun was just
sinking as we left the belt of woodland in which our village stood,
crossed over a short plain, descended a dark hollow, at the bottom of
which the river flowed, and following its course for a considerable
distance, turned off to the right and emerged upon a sweep of
prairieland. Here the scout halted, and taking the chief and two or
three braves aside, entered into earnest consultation with them.

"What they said we could not hear; but as we stood leaning on our guns
in the deep shade of the forest, we could observe by their animated
gestures that they differed in opinion. We saw that the scout pointed
several times to the moon, which was just rising above the treetops,
and then to the distant horizon: but the chief shook his head, pointed
to the woods, and seemed to be much in doubt, while the whole band
watched his motions in deep silence but evident interest. At length
they appeared to agree. The scout took his place at the head of the
line, and we resumed our march, keeping close to the margin of the
wood. It was perhaps three hours after this ere we again halted to hold
another consultation. This time their deliberations were shorter. In a
few seconds our chief himself took the lead, and turned into the woods,
through which he guided us to a small fountain which bubbled up at the
root of a birch tree, where there was a smooth green spot of level
ground. Here we halted, and prepared to rest for an hour, at the end of
which time the moon, which now shone bright and full in the clear sky,
would be nearly down, and we could resume our march. We now sat down in
a circle, and taking a hasty mouthful of dried meat, stretched
ourselves on the ground with our arms beside us, while our chief kept
watch, leaning against the birch tree. It seemed as if I had scarcely
been asleep five minutes when I felt a light touch on my shoulder.
Springing up, I found the whole party already astir, and in a few
minutes more we were again hurrying onwards.

"We travelled thus until a faint light in the east told us that the day
was at hand, when the scout's steps became more cautious, and he paused
to examine the ground frequently. At last we came to a place where the
ground sank slightly, and at a distance of a hundred yards rose again,
forming a low ridge which was crowned with small bushes. Here we came
to a halt, and were told that our enemies were on the other side of
that ridge; that they were about twenty in number, all Chipewyan
warriors, with the exception of one paleface--a trapper, and his Indian
wife. The scout had learned, while lying like a snake in the grass
around their camp, that this man was merely travelling with them on his
way to the Rocky Mountains, and that, as they were a war-party, he
intended to leave them soon. On hearing this the warriors gave a grim
smile, and our chief, directing the scout to fall behind, cautiously
led the way to the top of the ridge. On reaching it we saw a valley of
great extent, dotted with trees and shrubs, and watered by one of the
many rivers that flow into the great Saskatchewan. It was nearly dark,
however, and we could only get an indistinct view of the land. Far
ahead of us, on the right bank of the stream, and close to its margin,
we saw the faint red light of watch fires; which caused us some
surprise, for watch-fires are never lighted by a war-party so near to
an enemy's country. So we could only conjecture that they were quite
ignorant of our being in that part of the country; which was, indeed,
not unlikely, seeing that we had shifted our camp during the summer.

"Our chief now made arrangements for the attack. We were directed to
separate and approach individually as near to the camp as was possible
without risk of discovery, and then, taking up an advantageous
position, to await our chief's signal, which was to be the hooting of
an owl. We immediately separated. My course lay along the banks of the
stream, and as I strode rapidly along, listening to its low solemn
murmur, which sounded clear and distinct in the stillness of a calm
summer night, I could not help feeling as if it were reproaching me for
the bloody work I was hastening to perform. Then the recollection of
what the old woman said of me raised a desperate spirit in my heart.
Remembering the white feather in my head, I grasped my gun and
quickened my pace. As I neared the camp I went into the woods and
climbed a low hillock to look out. I found that it still lay about five
hundred yards distant, and that the greater part of the ground between
it and the place where I stood was quite flat, and without cover of any
kind. I therefore prepared to creep towards it, although the attempt
was likely to be attended with great danger, for Chipewyans have quick
ears and sharp eyes. Observing, however, that the river ran close past
the camp, I determined to follow its course as before. In a few seconds
more I came to a dark narrow gap where the river flowed between broken
rocks, overhung by branches, and from which I could obtain a clear view
of the camp within fifty yards of me. Examining the priming of my gun,
I sat down on a rock to await the chief's signal.

"It was evident from the careless manner in which the fires were
placed, that no enemy was supposed to be near. From my concealment I
could plainly distinguish ten or fifteen of the sleeping forms of our
enemies, among which the trapper was conspicuous, from his superior
bulk, and the reckless way in which his brawny arms were flung on the
turf, while his right hand clutched his rifle. I could not but smile as
I thought of the proud boldness of the pale-face--lying all exposed to
view in the gray light of dawn while an Indian's rifle was so close at
hand. One Indian kept watch, but he seemed more than half asleep. I had
not sat more than a minute when my observations were interrupted by the
cracking of a branch in the bushes near me. Starting up, I was about to
bound into the underwood, when a figure sprang down the bank and
rapidly approached me. My first impulse was to throw forward my gun,
but a glance sufficed to show me that it was a woman.

"'Wah!' I exclaimed, in surprise, as she hurried forward and laid her
hand on my shoulder. She was dressed partly in the costume of the
Indians, but wore a shawl on her shoulders and a handkerchief on her
head that showed she had been in the settlements; and from the
lightness of her skin and hair, I judged at once that she was the
trapper's wife, of whom I had heard the scout speak.

"'Has the light-hair got a medicine-bag, or does she speak with
spirits, that she has found me so easily?'

"The girl looked anxiously up in my face as if to read my thoughts, and
then said, in a low voice,--

"'No, I neither carry the medicine-bag nor hold palaver with spirits;
but I do think the good Manito must have led me here. I wandered into
the woods because I could not sleep, and I saw you pass. But tell me,'
she added with still deeper anxiety, 'does the white-feather come
alone? Does he approach _friends_ during the dark hours with a soft
step like a fox?'

"Feeling the necessity of detaining her until my comrades should have
time to surround the camp, I said: 'The white-feather hunts far from
his lands. He sees Indians whom he does not know, and must approach
with a light step. Perhaps they are enemies.'

"'Do Knisteneux hunt at night, prowling in the bed of a stream?' said
the girl, still regarding me with a keen glance. 'Speak truth,
stranger' (and she started suddenly back); 'in a moment I can alarm the
camp with a cry, and if your tongue is forked--But I do not wish to
bring enemies upon you, if they are indeed such. I am not one of them.
My husband and I travel with them for a time. We do not desire to see
blood. God knows,' she added in French, which seemed her native tongue,
'I have seen enough of that already.'

"As her earnest eyes looked into my face a sudden thought occurred to
me. 'Go,' said I, hastily, 'tell your husband to leave the camp
instantly and meet me here; and see that the Chipewyans do not observe
your departure. Quick! his life and yours may depend on your speed.'

"The girl instantly comprehended my meaning. In a moment she sprang up
the bank; but as she did so the loud report of a gun was heard,
followed by a yell, and the war-whoop of the Knisteneux rent the air as
they rushed upon the devoted camp, sending arrows and bullets before
them.

"On the instant I sprang after the girl and grasped her by the arm.
'Stay, white-cheek; it is too late now. You cannot save your husband,
but I think he'll save himself. I saw him dive into the bushes like a
cariboo. Hide yourself here; perhaps you may escape.'

"The half-breed girl sank on a fallen tree with a deep groan, and
clasped her hands convulsively before her eyes, while I bounded over
the tree, intending to join my comrades in pursuing the enemy.

"As I did so a shrill cry arose behind me, and looking back, I beheld
the trapper's wife prostrate on the ground, and Misconna standing over
her, his spear uplifted, and a fierce frown on his dark face.

"'Hold!' I cried, rushing back and seizing his arm. 'Misconna did not
come to kill _women_. She is not our enemy.'

"'Does the young wrestler want _another_ wife?' he said, with a wild
laugh, at the same time wrenching his arm from my gripe, and driving
his spear through the fleshy part of the woman's breast and deep into
the ground. A shriek rent the air as he drew it out again to repeat the
thrust; but before he could do so, I struck him with the butt of my gun
on the head. Staggering backwards, he fell heavily among the bushes. At
this moment a second whoop rang out, and another of our band sprang
from the thicket that surrounded us. Seeing no one but myself and the
bleeding girl, he gave me a short glance of surprise, as if he wondered
why I did not finish the work which he evidently supposed I had begun.

"'Wah!' he exclaimed; and uttering another yell plunged his spear into
the woman's breast, despite my efforts to prevent him--this time with
more deadly effect, as the blood spouted from the wound, while she
uttered a piercing scream, and twined her arms round my legs as I stood
beside her, as if imploring for mercy. Poor girl! I saw that she was
past my help. The wound was evidently mortal. Already the signs of
death overspread her features, and I felt that a second blow would be
one of mercy; so that when the Indian stooped and passed his long knife
through her heart, I made but a feeble effort to prevent it. Just as
the man rose, with the warm blood dripping from his keen blade, the
sharp crack of a rifle was heard, and the Indian fell dead at my feet,
shot through the forehead, while the trapper bounded into the open
space, his massive frame quivering, and his sunburned face distorted
with rage and horror. From the other side of the brake six of our band
rushed forward and levelled their guns at him. For one moment the
trapper paused to cast a glance at the mangled corpse of his wife, as
if to make quite sure that she was dead; and then uttering a howl of
despair, he hurled his axe with a giant's force at the Knisteneux, and
disappeared over the precipitous bank of the stream.

"So rapid was the action that the volley which immediately succeeded
passed harmlessly over his head, while the Indians dashed forward in
pursuit. At the same instant I myself was felled to the earth. The axe
which the trapper had flung struck a tree in its flight, and as it
glanced off the handle gave me a violent blow in passing. I fell
stunned. As I did so my head alighted on the shoulder of the woman, and
the last thing I felt, as my wandering senses forsook me, was her still
warm blood flowing over my face and neck.

"While this scene was going on, the yells and screams of the warriors
in the camp became fainter and fainter as they pursued and fled through
the woods. The whole band of Chipewyans was entirely routed, with the
exception of four who escaped, and the trapper whose flight I have
described; all the rest were slain, and their scalps hung at the belts
of the victorious Knisteneux warriors, while only one of our party was
killed.

"Not more than a few minutes after receiving the blow that stunned me,
I recovered, and rising as hastily as my scattered faculties would
permit me, I staggered towards the camp, where I heard the shouts of
our men as they collected the arms of their enemies. As I rose, the
feather which Wabisca had dropped fell from my brow, and as I picked it
up to replace it, I perceived that it was _red_, being entirely covered
with the blood of the half-breed girl.

"The place where Misconna had fallen was vacant as I passed, and I
found him standing among his comrades round the camp fires, examining
the guns and other articles which they had collected. He gave me a
short glance of deep hatred as I passed, and turned his head hastily
away. A few minutes sufficed to collect the spoils, and so rapidly had
everything been done that the light of day was still faint as we
silently returned on our track. We marched in the same order as before,
Misconna and I bringing up the rear. As we passed near the place where
the poor woman had been murdered, I felt a strong desire to return to
the spot. I could not very well understand the feeling, but it lay so
strong upon me that, when we reached the ridge where we first came in
sight of the Chipewyan camp, I fell behind until my companions
disappeared in the woods, and then ran swiftly back. Just as I was
about to step beyond the circle of bushes that surrounded the spot, I
saw that some one was there before me. It was a man, and as he advanced
into the open space and the light fell on his face, I saw that it was
the trapper. No doubt he had watched us off the ground, and then, when
all was safe, returned to bury his wife. I crouched to watch him.
Stepping slowly up to the body of his murdered wife, he stood beside it
with his arms folded on his breast and quite motionless. His head hung
down, for the heart of the white man was heavy, and I could see, as the
light increased, that his brows were dark as the thunder-cloud, and the
corners of his mouth twitched from a feeling that the Indian scorns to
show. My heart is full of sorrow for him now" (Redfeather's voice sank
as he spoke); "it was full of sorrow for him even _then_, when I was
taught to think that pity for an enemy was unworthy of a brave. The
trapper stood gazing very long. His wife was young; he could not leave
her yet. At length a deep groan burst from his heart, as the waters of
a great river, long held down, swell up in spring and burst the ice at
last. Groan followed groan as the trapper still stood and pressed his
arms on his broad breast, as if to crush the heart within. At last he
slowly knelt beside her, bending more and more over the lifeless form,
until he lay extended on the ground beside it, and twining his arms
round the neck, he drew the cold cheek close to his, and pressed the
blood-covered bosom tighter and tighter, while his form quivered with
agony as he gave her a last, long embrace. Oh!" continued Redfeather,
while his brow darkened, and his black eye flashed with an expression
of fierceness that his young listeners had never seen before, "may the
curse--" He paused. "God forgive them! How could they know better?

"At length the trapper rose hastily. The expression of his brow was
still the same, but his mouth was altered. The lips were pressed
tightly like those of a brave when led to torture, and there was a
fierce activity in his motions as he sprang down the bank and proceeded
to dig a hole in the soft earth. For half an hour he laboured,
shovelling away the earth with a large, flat stone; and carrying down
the body, he buried it there, under the shadow of a willow. The trapper
then shouldered his rifle and hurried away. On reaching the turn of the
stream which shuts the little hollow out from view, he halted suddenly,
gave one look into the prairie he was henceforth to tread alone, one
short glance back, and then, raising both arms in the air, looked up
into the sky, while he stretched himself to his full height. Even at
that distance I could see the wild glare of his eye and the heaving of
his breast. A moment after, and he was gone."

"And did you never see him again?" inquired Harry Somerville, eagerly.

"No, I never saw him more. Immediately afterwards I turned to rejoin my
companions, whom I soon overtook, and entered our village along with
them. I was regarded as a poor warrior, because I brought home no
scalps, and ever afterwards I went by the name of _Redfeather_ in our
tribe."

"But are you still thought a poor warrior?" asked Charley, in some
concern, as if he were jealous of the reputation of his new friend.

The Indian smiled. "No," he said: "our village was twice attacked
afterwards, and in defending it, Redfeather took many scalps. He was
made a chief!"

"Ah!" cried Charley, "I'm glad of that. And Wabisca, what came of her?
Did Misconna get her?"

"She is my wife," replied Redfeather.

"Your wife! Why, I thought I heard the voyageurs call your wife the
white swan."

"Wabisca is _white_ in the language of the Knisteneux. She is beautiful
in form, and my comrades call her the white swan."

Redfeather said this with an air of gratified pride. He did not,
perhaps, love his wife with more fervour than he would have done had he
remained with his tribe; but Redfeather had associated a great deal
with the traders, and he had imbibed much of that spirit which prompts
"_white_ men" to treat their females with deference and respect--a
feeling which is very foreign to an Indian's bosom. To do so was,
besides, more congenial to his naturally unselfish and affectionate
disposition, so that any flattering allusion to his partner was always
received by him with immense gratification.

"I'll pay you a visit some day, Redfeather, if I'm sent to any place
within fifty miles of your tribe," said Charley with the air of one who
had fully made up his mind.

"And Misconna?" asked Harry.

"Misconna is with his tribe," replied the Indian, and a frown
overspread his features as he spoke; "but Redfeather has been following
in the track of his white friends; he has not seen his nation for many
moons."



CHAPTER XIII.

The canoe--Ascending the rapids--The portage--Deer shooting and life in
the woods.


We must now beg the patient reader to take a leap with us, not only
through space, but also through time. We must pass over the events of
the remainder of the journey along the shore of Lake Winnipeg.
Unwilling though we are to omit anything in the history of our friends
that would be likely to prove interesting, we think it wise not to run
the risk of being tedious, or of dwelling too minutely on the details
of scenes which recall powerfully the feelings and memories of bygone
days to the writer, but may, nevertheless, appear somewhat flat to the
reader.

We shall not, therefore, enlarge at present on the arrival of the boats
at Norway House, which lies at the north end of the lake, nor on what
was said and done by our friends and by several other young comrades
whom they found there. We shall not speak of the horror of Harry
Somerville, and the extreme disappointment of his friend Charley
Kennedy, when the former was told that instead of hunting grizzly bears
up the Saskatchewan he was condemned to the desk again at York Fort,
the depot on Hudson's Bay,--a low, swampy place near the sea-shore,
where the goods for the interior are annually landed and the furs
shipped for England, where the greater part of the summer and much of
the winter is occupied by the clerks who may be doomed to vegetate
there in making up the accounts of what is termed the Northern
Department, and where the brigades converge from all the wide scattered
and far-distant outposts, and the _ship_ from England--that great event
of the year--arrives, keeping the place in a state of constant bustle
and effervescence until autumn, when ship and brigades finally depart,
leaving the residents (about thirty in number) shut up for eight long,
dreary months of winter, with a tenantless wilderness around and behind
them, and the wide, cold frozen sea before. This was among the first of
Harry's disappointments. He suffered many afterwards, poor fellow!

Neither shall we accompany Charley up the south branch of the
Saskatchewan, where his utmost expectations in the way of hunting were
more than realised, and where he became so accustomed to shooting ducks
and geese, and bears and buffaloes, that he could not forbear smiling
when he chanced to meet with a red-legged gull, and remembered how he
and his friend Harry had comported themselves when they first met with
these birds on the shores of Lake Winnipeg! We shall pass over all
this, and the summer, autumn, and winter too, and leap at once into the
spring of the following year.

On a very bright, cheery morning of that spring a canoe might have been
seen slowly ascending one of the numerous streams which meander through
a richly-wooded fertile country, and mingle their waters with those of
the Athabasca River, terminating their united career in a large lake of
the same name. The canoe was small--one of the kind used by the natives
while engaged in hunting, and capable of holding only two persons
conveniently, with their baggage. To any one unacquainted with the
nature and capabilities of a northern Indian canoe, the fragile, bright
orange-coloured machine that was battling with the strong current of a
rapid must indeed have appeared an unsafe and insignificant craft; but
a more careful study of its performances in the rapid, and of the
immense quantity of miscellaneous goods and chattels which were, at a
later period of the day, disgorged from its interior, would have
convinced the beholder that it was in truth the most convenient and
serviceable craft that could be devised for the exigencies of such a
country.

True, it could only hold two men (it _might_ have taken three at a
pinch), because men, and women too, are awkward, unyielding baggage,
very difficult to stow compactly; but it is otherwise with tractable
goods. The canoe is exceedingly thin, so that no space is taken up or
rendered useless by its own structure, and there is no end to the
amount of blankets, and furs, and coats, and paddles, and tent-covers,
and dogs, and babies, that can be stowed away in its capacious
interior. The canoe of which we are now writing contained two persons,
whose active figures were thrown alternately into every graceful
attitude of manly vigour, as with poles in hand they struggled to force
their light craft against the boiling stream. One was a man apparently
of about forty-five years of age. He was a square-shouldered, muscular
man, and from the ruggedness of his general appearance, the soiled
hunting-shirt that was strapped round his waist with a party-coloured
worsted belt, the leather leggings, a good deal the worse for wear,
together with the quiet, self-possessed glance of his gray eye, the
compressed lip and the sunburned brow, it was evident that he was a
hunter, and one who had seen rough work in his day. The expression of
his face was pleasing, despite a look of habitual severity which sat
upon it, and a deep scar which traversed his brow from the right temple
to the top of his nose. It was difficult to tell to what country he
belonged. His father was a Canadian, his mother a Scotchwoman. He was
born in Canada, brought up in one of the Yankee settlements on the
Missouri, and had, from a mere youth, spent his life as a hunter in the
wilderness. He could speak English, French, or Indian with equal ease
and fluency, but it would have been hard for anyone to say which of the
three was his native tongue. The younger man, who occupied the stern of
the canoe, acting the part of steersman, was quite a youth, apparently
about seventeen, but tall and stout beyond his years, and deeply
sunburned. Indeed, were it not for this fact, the unusual quantity of
hair that hung in massive curls down his neck, and the voyageur
costume, we should have recognised our young friend Charley Kennedy
again more easily. Had any doubts remained in our mind, the shout of
his merry voice would have scattered them at once.

"Hold hard, Jacques," he cried, as the canoe trembled in the current,
"one moment, till I get my pole fixed behind this rock. Now, then,
shove ahead. Ah!" he exclaimed with chagrin, as the pole slipped on the
treacherous bottom and the canoe whirled round.

"Mind the rock," cried the bowsman, giving an energetic thrust with his
pole, that sent the light bark into an eddy formed by a large rock
which rose above the turbulent waters. Here it rested while Jacques and
Charley raised themselves on their knees (travellers in small canoes
always sit in a kneeling position) to survey the rapid.

"It's too much for us, I fear, Mr. Charles," said Jacques, shading his
brow with his horny hand. "I've paddled up it many a time alone, but
never saw the water so big as now."

"Humph! we shall have to make a portage then, I presume. Could we not
give it one trial more? I think we might make a dash for the tail of
that eddy, and then the stream above seems not quite so strong. Do you
think so, Jacques?"

Jacques was not the man to check a daring young spirit. His motto
through life had ever been, "Never venture, never win"--a sentiment
which his intercourse among fur-traders had taught him to embody in the
pithy expression, "Never say die;" so that, although quite satisfied
that the thing was impossible, he merely replied to his companion's
speech by an assenting "Ho," and pushed out again into the stream. An
energetic effort enabled them to gain the tail of the eddy spoken of,
when Charley's pole snapped across, and, falling heavily on the
gunwale, he would have upset the little craft had not Jacques, whose
wits were habitually on the _qui vive_, thrown his own weight at the
same moment on the opposite side, and counterbalanced Charley's slip.
The action saved them a ducking; but the canoe, being left to its own
devices for an instant, whirled off again into the stream, and before
Charley could seize a paddle to prevent it, they were floating in the
still water at the foot of the rapids.

"Now isn't that a bore?" said Charley, with a comical look of
disappointment at his companion.

Jacques laughed.

"It was well to _try_, master. I mind a young clerk who came into these
parts the same year as I did, and _he_ seldom _tried_ anything. He
couldn't abide canoes. He didn't want for courage neither; but he had a
nat'ral dislike to them, I suppose, that he couldn't help, and never
entered one except when he was obliged to do so. Well, one day he
wounded a grizzly bear on the banks o' the Saskatchewan (mind the tail
o' that rapid, Mr. Charles; we'll land t'other side o' yon rock). Well,
the bear made after him, and he cut stick right away for the river,
where there was a canoe hauled up on the bank. He didn't take time to
put his rifle aboard, but dropped it on the gravel, crammed the canoe
into the water and jumped in, almost driving his feet through its
bottom as he did so, and then plumped down so suddenly, to prevent its
capsizing, that he split it right across. By this time the bear was at
his heels, and took the water like a duck. The poor clerk, in his
hurry, swayed from side to side tryin' to prevent the canoe goin' over.
But when he went to one side, he was so unused to it that he went too
far, and had to jerk over to the other pretty sharp; and so he got
worse and worse, until he heard the bear give a great snort beside him.
Then he grabbed the paddle in desperation, but at the first dash he
missed his stroke, and over he went. The current was pretty strong at
the place, which was lucky for him, for it kept him down a bit, so that
the bear didn't observe him for a little; and while it was pokin' away
at the canoe, he was carried down stream like a log and stranded on a
shallow. Jumping up he made tracks for the wood, and the bear (which
had found out its mistake), after him; so he was obliged at last to
take to a tree, where the beast watched him for a day and a night, till
his friends, thinking that something must be wrong, sent out to look
for him. (Steady, now, Mr. Charles; a little more to the right. That's
it.) Now, if that young man had only ventured boldly into small canoes
when he got the chance, he might have laughed at the grizzly and killed
him too."

As Jacques finished, the canoe glided into a quiet bay formed by an
eddy of the rapid, where the still water was overhung with dense
foliage.

"Is the portage a long one?" asked Charley, as he stepped out on the
bank, and helped to unload the canoe.

"About half-a-mile," replied his companion. "We might make it shorter
by poling up the last rapid; but it's stiff work, Mr. Charles, and
we'll do the thing quicker and easier at one lift."

The two travellers now proceeded to make a portage. They prepared to
carry their canoe and baggage overland, so as to avoid a succession of
rapids and waterfalls which intercepted their further progress.

"Now, Jacques, up with it," said Charley, after the loading had been
taken out and placed on the grassy bank.

The hunter stooped, and seizing the canoe by its centre bar, lifted it
out of the water, placed it on his shoulders, and walked off with it
into the woods. This was not accomplished by the man's superior
strength. Charley could have done it quite as well; and, indeed, the
strong hunter could have carried a canoe twice the size with perfect
ease. Immediately afterwards Charley followed with as much of the
lading as he could carry, leaving enough on the bank to form another
load.

The banks of the river were steep--in some places so much so that
Jacques found it a matter of no small difficulty to climb over the
broken rocks with the unwieldy canoe on his back; the more so that the
branches interlaced overhead so thickly as to present a strong barrier,
through which the canoe had to be forced, at the risk of damaging its
delicate bark covering. On reaching the comparatively level land above,
however, there was more open space, and the hunter threaded his way
among the tree stems more rapidly, making a detour occasionally to
avoid a swamp or piece of broken ground; sometimes descending a deep
gorge formed by a small tributary of the stream they were ascending,
and which to an unpractised eye would have appeared almost impassable,
even without the encumbrance of a canoe. But the said canoe never bore
Jacques more gallantly or safely over the surges of lake or stream than
did he bear _it_ through the intricate mazes of the forest; now diving
down and disappearing altogether in the umbrageous foliage of a dell;
anon reappearing on the other side and scrambling up the bank on
all-fours, he and the canoe together looking like some frightful yellow
reptile of antediluvian proportions; and then speeding rapidly forward
over a level plain until he reached a sheet of still water above the
rapids. Here he deposited his burden on the grass, and halting only for
a few seconds to carry a few drops of the clear water to his lips,
retraced his steps to bring over the remainder of the baggage. Soon
afterwards Charley made his appearance on the spot where the canoe was
left, and throwing down his load, seated himself on it and surveyed the
prospect. Before him lay a reach of the stream which spread out so
widely as to resemble a small lake, in whose clear, still bosom were
reflected the overhanging foliage of graceful willows, and here and
there the bright stem of a silver birch, whose light-green leaves
contrasted well with scattered groups and solitary specimens of the
spruce fir. Reeds and sedges grew in the water along the banks,
rendering the junction of the land and the stream uncertain and
confused. All this and a great deal more Charley noted at a glance; for
the hundreds of beautiful and interesting objects in nature which take
so long to describe even partially, and are feebly set forth after all
even by the most graphic language, flash upon the eye in all their
force and beauty, and are drunk in at once in a single glance.

But Charley noted several objects floating on the water which we have
not yet mentioned. These were five gray geese feeding among the rocks
at a considerable distance off, and all unconscious of the presence of
a human foe in their remote domains. The travellers had trusted very
much to their guns and nets for food, having only a small quantity of
pemmican in reserve, lest these should fail--an event which was not at
all likely, as the country through which they passed was teeming with
wild-fowl of all kinds, besides deer. These latter, however, were only
shot when they came inadvertently within rifle range, as our voyageurs
had a definite object in view, and could not afford to devote much of
their time to the chase.

During the day previous to that on which we have introduced them to our
readers, Charley and his companion had been so much occupied in
navigating their frail bark among a succession of rapids, that they had
not attended to the replenishing of their larder, so that the geese
which now showed themselves were looked upon by Charley with a longing
eye. Unfortunately they were feeding on the opposite side of the river,
and out of shot. But Charley was a hunter now, and knew how to overcome
slight difficulties. He first cut down a pretty large and leafy branch
of a tree, and placed it in the bow of the canoe in such a way as to
hang down before it and form a perfect screen, through the interstices
of which he could see the geese, while they could only see, what was to
them no novelty, the branch of a tree floating down the stream. Having
gently launched the canoe, Charley was soon close to the unsuspecting
birds, from among which he selected one that appeared to be unusually
complacent and self-satisfied, concluding at once, with an amount of
wisdom that bespoke him a true philosopher, that such _must_ as a
matter of course be the fattest.

"Bang" went the gun, and immediately the sleek goose turned round upon
its back and stretched out its feet towards the sky, waving them once
or twice as if bidding adieu to its friends. The others thereupon took
to flight, with such a deal of sputter and noise as made it quite
apparent that their astonishment was unfeigned. Bang went the gun
again, and down fell a second goose.

"Ha!" exclaimed Jacques, throwing down the remainder of the cargo as
Charley landed with his booty, "that's well. I was just thinking as I
comed across that we should have to take to pemmican to-night."

"Well, Jacques, and if we had, I'm sure an old hunter like you, who
have roughed it so often, need not complain," said Charley, smiling.

"As to that, master," replied Jacques, "I've roughed it often enough;
and when it does come to a clear fix, I can eat my shoes without
grumblin' as well as any man. But, you see, fresh meat is better than
dried meat when it's to be had; and so I'm glad to see that you've been
lucky, Mr. Charles."

"To say truth, so am I; and these fellows are delightfully plump. But
you spoke of eating your shoes, Jacques. When were you reduced to that
direful extremity?"

Jacques finished reloading the canoe while they conversed, and the two
were seated in their places, and quietly but swiftly ascending the
stream again, ere the hunter replied.

"You've heerd of Sir John Franklin, I s'pose?" he inquired, after a
minute's consideration.

"Yes, often."

"An' p'r'aps you've heerd tell of his first trip of discovery along the
shores of the Polar Sea?"

"Do you refer to the time when he was nearly starved to death, and when
poor Hood was shot by the Indian?"

"The same," said Jacques.

"Oh, yes; I know all about that. Were you with them?" inquired Charley,
in great surprise.

"Why, no--not exactly _on_ the trip; but I was sent in winter with
provisions to them--and much need they had of them, poor fellows! I
found them tearing away at some old parchment skins that had lain under
the snow all winter, and that an Injin's dog would ha' turned up his
nose at--and they don't turn up their snouts at many things, I can tell
ye. Well, after we had left all our provisions with them, we started
for the fort again, just keepin' as much as would drive off starvation;
for, you see, we thought that surely we would git something on the
road. But neither hoof nor feather did we see all the way (I was
travellin' with an Injin), and our grub was soon done, though we saved
it up, and only took a mouthful or two the last three days. At last it
was done, and we was pretty well used up, and the fort two days ahead
of us. So says I to my comrade--who had been looking at me for some
time as if he thought that a cut off my shoulder wouldn't be a bad
thing--says I, 'Nipitabo, I'm afeard the shoes must go for it now;' so
with that I pulls out a pair o' deerskin moccasins. 'They looks
tender,' said I, trying to be cheerful. 'Wah!' said the Injin; and then
I held them over the fire till they was done black, and Nipitabo ate
one, and I ate the tother, with a lump o' snow to wash it down!"

"It must have been rather dry eating," said Charley, laughing.

"Rayther; but it was better than the Injin's leather breeches, which we
took in hand next day. They was _uncommon_ tough, and very dirty,
havin' been worn about a year and a half. Hows'ever, they kept us up;
an' as we only ate the legs, he had the benefit o' the stump to arrive
with at the fort next day."

"What's yon ahead?" exclaimed Charley, pausing as he spoke, and shading
his eyes with his hand.

"It's uncommon like trees," said Jacques. "It's likely a tree that's
been tumbled across the river; and from its appearance, I think we'll
have to cut through it."

"Cut through it!" exclaimed Charley; "if my sight is worth a gun-flint,
we'll have to cut through a dozen trees."

Charley was right. The river ahead of them became rapidly narrower; and
either from the looseness of the surrounding soil, or the passing of a
whirlwind, dozens of trees had been upset, and lay right across the
narrow stream in terrible confusion. What made the thing worse was that
the banks on either side, which were low and flat, were covered with
such a dense thicket down to the water's edge, that the idea of making
a portage to overcome the barrier seemed altogether hopeless.

"Here's a pretty business, to be sure!" cried Charley, in great disgust.

"Never say die, Mister Charles," replied Jacques, taking up the axe
from the bottom of the canoe; "it's quite clear that cuttin' through
the trees is easier than cuttin' through the bushes, so here goes."

For fully three hours the travellers were engaged in cutting their way
up the encumbered stream, during which time they did not advance three
miles; and it was evening ere they broke down the last barrier and
paddled out into a sheet of clear water again.

"That'll prepare us for the geese, Jacques," said Charley, as he wiped
the perspiration from his brow; "there's nothing like warm work for
whetting the appetite, and making one sleep soundly."

"That's true," replied the hunter, resuming his paddle. "I often wonder
how them white-faced fellows in the settlements manage to keep body and
soul together--a-sittin', as they do, all day in the house, and a-lyin'
all night in a feather bed. For my part, rather than live as they do, I
would cut my way up streams like them we've just passed every day and
all day, and sleep on top of a flat rock o' nights, under the blue sky,
all my life through."

With this decided expression of his sentiments, the stout hunter
steered the canoe up alongside of a huge flat rock, as if he were bent
on giving a practical illustration of the latter part of his speech
then and there.

"We'd better camp now, Mister Charles; there's a portage o' two miles
here, and it'll take us till sundown to get the canoe and things over."

"Be it so," said Charley, landing. "Is there a good place at the other
end to camp on?"

"First-rate. It's smooth as a blanket on the turf, and a clear spring
bubbling at the root of a wide tree that would keep off the rain if it
was to come down like water-spouts."

The spot on which the travellers encamped that evening overlooked one
of those scenes in which vast extent, and rich, soft variety of natural
objects, were united with much that was grand and savage. It filled the
mind with the calm satisfaction that is experienced when one gazes on
the wide lawns studded with noble trees; the spreading fields of waving
grain that mingle with stream and copse, rock and dell, vineyard and
garden, of the cultivated lands of civilized men; while it produced
that exulting throb of freedom which stirs man's heart to its centre,
when he casts a first glance over miles and miles of broad lands that
are yet unowned, unclaimed; that yet lie in the unmutilated beauty with
which the beneficent Creator originally clothed them--far away from the
well-known scenes of man's checkered history; entirely devoid of those
ancient monuments of man's power and skill that carry the mind back
with feelings of awe to bygone ages, yet stamped with evidences of an
antiquity more ancient still in the wild primeval forests, and the
noble trees that have sprouted, and spread, and towered in their
strength for centuries--trees that have fallen at their posts, while
others took their place, and rose and fell as they did, like long-lived
sentinels whose duty it was to keep perpetual guard over the vast
solitudes of the great American Wilderness.

The fire was lighted, and the canoe turned bottom up in front of it,
under the branches of a spreading tree which stood on an eminence,
whence was obtained a bird's-eye view of the noble scene. It was a flat
valley, on either side of which rose two ranges of hills, which were
clothed to the top with trees of various kinds, the plain of the valley
itself being dotted with clumps of wood, among which the fresh green
foliage of the plane tree and the silver-stemmed birch were
conspicuous, giving an airy lightness to the scene and enhancing the
picturesque effect of the dark pines. A small stream could be traced
winding out and in among clumps of willows, reflecting their drooping
boughs and the more sombre branches of the spruce fir and the straight
larch, with which in many places its banks were shaded. Here and there
were stretches of clearer ground where the green herbage of spring gave
to it a lawn-like appearance, and the whole magnificent scene was
bounded by blue hills that became fainter as they receded from the eye
and mingled at last with the horizon. The sun had just set, and a rich
glow of red bathed the whole scene, which was further enlivened by
flocks of wild-fowls and herds of reindeer.

These last soon drew Charley's attention from the contemplation of the
scenery, and observing a deer feeding in an open space, towards which
he could approach without coming between it and the wind, he ran for
his gun and hurried into the woods while Jacques busied himself in
arranging their blankets under the upturned canoe, and in preparing
supper.

Charley discovered soon after starting, what all hunters discover
sooner or later--namely, that appearances are deceitful; for he no
sooner reached the foot of the hill than he found, between him and the
lawn-like country, an almost impenetrable thicket of underwood. Our
young hero, however, was of that disposition which sticks at nothing,
and instead of taking time to search for an opening, he took a race and
sprang into the middle of it, in hopes of forcing his way through. His
hopes were not disappointed. He got through--quite through--and
alighted up to the armpits in a swamp, to the infinite consternation of
a flock of teal ducks that were slumbering peacefully there with their
heads under their wings, and had evidently gone to bed for the night.
Fortunately he held his gun above the water and kept his balance, so
that he was able to proceed with a dry charge, though with an
uncommonly wet skin. Half-an-hour brought Charley within range, and
watching patiently until the animal presented his side towards the
place of his concealment, he fired and shot it through the heart.

"Well done, Mister Charles," exclaimed Jacques, as the former staggered
into camp with the reindeer on his shoulders. "A fat doe, too."

"Ay," said Charley; "but she has cost me a wet skin. So pray, Jacques,
rouse up the fire, and let's have supper as soon as you can."

Jacques speedily skinned the deer, cut a couple of steaks from its
flank, and placing them on wooden spikes, stuck them up to roast, while
his young friend put on a dry shirt, and hung his coat before the
blaze. The goose which had been shot earlier in the day was also
plucked, split open, impaled in the same manner as the steaks, and set
up to roast. By this time the shadows of night had deepened, and ere
long all was shrouded in gloom, except the circle of ruddy light around
the camp fire, in the centre of which Jacques and Charley sat, with the
canoe at their backs, knives in their hands, and the two spits, on the
top of which smoked their ample supper, planted in the ground before
them.

One by one the stars went out, until none were visible except the
bright, beautiful morning star, as it rose higher and higher in the
eastern sky. One by one the owls and the wolves, ill-omened birds and
beasts of night, retired to rest in the dark recesses of the forest.
Little by little, the gray dawn overspread the sky, and paled the
lustre of the morning star, until it faded away altogether; and then
Jacques awoke with a start, and throwing out his arm, brought it
accidentally into violent contact with Charley's nose.

This caused Charley to awake, not only with a start, but also with a
roar, which brought them both suddenly into a sitting posture, in which
they continued for some time in a state between sleeping and waking,
their faces meanwhile expressive of mingled imbecility and extreme
surprise. Bursting into a simultaneous laugh, which degenerated into a
loud yawn, they sprang up, launched and reloaded their canoe, and
resumed their journey.



CHAPTER XIV.

The Indian camp--The new outpost--Charley sent on a mission to the
Indians.


In the councils of the fur-traders, on the spring previous to that
about which we are now writing, it had been decided to extend their
operations a little in the lands that lie in central America, to the
north of the Saskatchewan River; and in furtherance of that object, it
had been intimated to the chief trader in charge of the district that
an expedition should be set on foot, having for its object the
examination of a territory into which they had not yet penetrated, and
the establishment of an outpost therein. It was, furthermore, ordered
that operations should be commenced at once, and that the choice of men
to carry out the end in view was graciously left to the chief trader's
well-known sagacity.

Upon receiving this communication, the chief trader selected a
gentleman named Mr. Whyte to lead the party; gave him a clerk and five
men, provided him with a boat and a large supply of goods necessary for
trade, implements requisite for building an establishment, and sent him
off with a hearty shake of the hand and a recommendation to "go and
prosper."

Charles Kennedy spent part of the previous year at Rocky Mountain
House, where he had shown so much energy in conducting the trade,
especially what he called the "rough and tumble" part of it, that he
was selected as the clerk to accompany Mr. Whyte to his new ground.
After proceeding up many rivers, whose waters had seldom borne the
craft of white men, and across innumerable lakes, the party reached a
spot that presented so inviting an aspect that it was resolved to pitch
their tent there for a time, and, if things in the way of trade and
provision looked favourable, establish themselves altogether. The place
was situated on the margin of a large lake, whose shores were covered
with the most luxuriant verdure, and whose waters teemed with the
finest fish, while the air was alive with wild-fowl, and the woods
swarming with game. Here Mr. Whyte rested awhile; and having found
everything to his satisfaction, he took his axe, selected a green lawn
that commanded an extensive view of the lake, and going up to a tall
larch, struck the steel into it, and thus put the first touch to an
establishment which afterwards went by the name of Stoney Creek.

A solitary Indian, whom they had met with on the way to their new home,
had informed them that a large band of Knisteneux had lately migrated
to a river about four days' journey beyond the lake at which they
halted; and when the new fort was just beginning to spring up, our
friend Charley and the interpreter, Jacques Caradoc, were ordered by
Mr. Whyte to make a canoe, and then, embarking in it, to proceed to the
Indian camp, to inform the natives of their rare good luck in having a
band of white men come to settle near their lands to trade with them.
The interpreter and Charley soon found birch bark, pine roots for
sewing it, and gum for plastering the seams, wherewith they constructed
the light machine whose progress we have partly traced in the last
chapter, and which, on the following day at sunset, carried them to
their journey's end.

From some remarks made by the Indian who gave them information of the
camp, Charley gathered that it was the tribe to which Redfeather
belonged, and furthermore that Redfeather himself was there at the
time; so that it was with feelings of no little interest that he saw
the tops of the yellow tents embedded among the green trees, and soon
afterwards beheld them and their picturesque owners reflected in the
clear river, on whose banks the natives crowded to witness the arrival
of the white men.

Upon the greensward, and under the umbrageous shade of the forest
trees, the tents were pitched to the number of perhaps eighteen or
twenty, and the whole population, of whom very few were absent on the
present occasion, might number a hundred--men, women, and children.
They were dressed in habiliments formed chiefly of materials procured
by themselves in the chase, but ornamented with cloth, beads, and silk
thread, which showed that they had had intercourse with the fur-traders
before now. The men wore leggings of deerskin, which reached more than
half-way up the thigh, and were fastened to a leathern girdle strapped
round the waist. A loose tunic or hunting-shirt of the same material
covered the figure from the shoulders almost to the knees, and was
confined round the middle by a belt--in some cases of worsted, in
others of leather gaily ornamented with quills. Caps of various
indescribable shapes, and made chiefly of skin, with the animal's tail
left on by way of ornament, covered their heads, and moccasins for the
feet completed their costume. These last may be simply described as
leather mittens for the feet, without fingers, or rather toes. They
were gaudily ornamented, as was almost every portion of costume, with
porcupines' quills dyed with brilliant colours, and worked into
fanciful, and in many cases extremely elegant, figures and designs; for
North American Indians oftentimes display an amount of taste in the
harmonious arrangement of colour that would astonish those who fancy
that _education_ is absolutely necessary to the just appreciation of
the beautiful.

The women attired themselves in leggings and coats differing little
from those of the men, except that the latter were longer, the sleeves
detached from the body, and fastened on separately; while on their
heads they wore caps, which hung down and covered their backs to the
waist. These caps were of the simplest construction, being pieces of
cloth cut into an oblong shape, and sewed together at one end. They
were, however, richly ornamented with silk-work and beads.

On landing, Charley and Jacques walked up to a tall, good-looking
Indian, whom they judged from his demeanour, and the somewhat
deferential regard paid to him by the others, to be one of the chief
men of the little community.

"Ho! what cheer?" said Jacques, taking him by the hand after the manner
of Europeans, and accosting him with the phrase used by the fur-traders
to the natives. The Indian returned the compliment in kind, and led the
visitors to his tent, where he spread a buffalo robe for them on the
ground, and begged them to be seated. A repast of dried meat and
reindeer-tongues was then served, to which our friends did ample
justice; while the women and children satisfied their curiosity by
peering at them through chinks and holes in the tent. When they had
finished, several of the principal men assembled, and the chief who had
entertained them made a speech, to the effect that he was much
gratified by the honour done to his people by the visit of his white
brothers; that he hoped they would continue long at the camp to enjoy
their hospitality; and that he would be glad to know what had brought
them so far into the country of the red men.

During the course of this speech the chief made eloquent allusion to
all the good qualities supposed to belong to white men in general, and
(he had no doubt) to the two white men before him in particular. He
also boasted considerably of the prowess and bravery of himself and his
tribe, launched a few sarcastic hits at his enemies, and wound up with
a poetical hope that his guests might live for ever in these beautiful
plains of bliss, where the sun never sets, and nothing goes wrong
anywhere, and everything goes right at all times, and where,
especially, the deer are outrageously fat, and always come out on
purpose to be shot! During the course of these remarks his comrades
signified their hearty concurrence to his sentiments, by giving vent to
sundry low-toned "hums!" and "has!" and "wahs!" and "hos!" according to
circumstances. After it was over Jacques rose, and addressing them in
their own language, said,--

"My Indian brethren are great. They are brave, and their fame has
travelled far. Their deeds are known even so far as where the Great
Salt Lake beats on the shore where the sun rises. They are not women,
and when their enemies hear the sound of their name they grow pale;
their hearts become like those of the reindeer. My brethren are famous,
too, in the use of the snow-shoe, the snare, and the gun. The
fur-traders know that they must build large stores when they come into
their lands. They bring up much goods, because the young men are
active, and require much. The silver fox and the marten are no longer
safe when their traps and snares are set. Yes, they are good hunters:
and we have now come to live among you" (Jacques changed his style as
he came nearer to the point), "to trade with you, and to save you the
trouble of making long journeys with your skins. A few days' distance
from your wigwams we have pitched our tents. Our young men are even now
felling the trees to build a house. Our nets are set, our hunters are
prowling in the woods, our goods are ready, and my young master and I
have come to smoke the pipe of friendship with you, and to invite you
to come to trade with us."

Having delivered this oration, Jacques sat down amid deep silence.
Other speeches, of a highly satisfactory character, were then made,
after which "the house adjourned," and the visitors, opening one of
their packages, distributed a variety of presents to the delighted
natives.

Several times during the course of these proceedings, Charley's eyes
wandered among the faces of his entertainers, in the hope of seeing
Redfeather among them, but without success; and he began to fear that
his friend was not with the tribe.

"I say, Jacques," he said, as they left the tent, "ask whether a chief
called Redfeather is here. I knew him of old, and half expected to find
him at this place."

The Indian to whom Jacques put the question replied that Redfeather was
with them, but that he had gone out on a hunting expedition that
morning, and might be absent a day or two.

"Ah!" exclaimed Charley, "I'm glad he's here. Come, now, let us take a
walk in the wood; these good people stare at us as if we were ghosts."
And taking Jacques's arm, he led him beyond the circuit of the camp,
turned into a path which, winding among the thick underwood, speedily
screened them from view, and led them into a sequestered glade, through
which a rivulet trickled along its course, almost hid from view by the
dense foliage and long grasses that overhung it.

"What a delightful place to live in!" said Charley. "Do you ever think
of building a hut in such a spot as this, Jacques, and settling down
altogether?" Charley's thoughts reverted to his sister Kate when he
said this.

"Why, no," replied Jacques, in a pensive tone, as if the question had
aroused some sorrowful recollections; "I can't say that I'd like to
settle here _now_. There was a time when I thought nothin' could be
better than to squat in the woods with one or two jolly comrades,
and--" (Jacques sighed); "but times is changed now, master, and so is
my mind. My chums are most of them dead or gone one way or other. No; I
shouldn't care to squat alone."

Charley thought of the hut _without_ Kate, and it seemed so desolate
and dreary a dwelling, notwithstanding its beautiful situation, that he
agreed with his companion that to "squat" _alone_ would never do at all.

"No, man was not made to live alone," continued Jacques, pursuing the
subject; "even the Injins draw together. I never knew but one as didn't
like his fellows, and he's gone now, poor fellow. He cut his foot with
an axe one day, while fellin' a tree. It was a bad cut; and havin'
nobody to look after him, he half bled and half starved to death."

"By the way, Jacques," said Charley, stepping over the clear brook, and
following the track which led up the opposite bank, "what did you say
to those red-skins? You made them a most eloquent speech apparently."

"Why, as to that, I can't boast much of its eloquence, but I think it
was clear enough. I told them that they were a great nation; for you
see, Mr. Charles, the red men are just like the white in their fondness
for butter; so I gave them some to begin with, though, for the matter
o' that, I'm not overly fond o' givin' butter to any man, red or white.
But I holds that it's as well always to fall in with the ways and
customs o' the people a man happens to be among, so long as them ways
and customs a'n't contrary to what's right. It makes them feel more
kindly to you, and don't raise any onnecessary ill-will. However, the
Knisteneux _are_ a brave race; and when I told them that the hearts of
their enemies trembled when they heard of them, I told nothing but the
truth; for the Chipewyans are a miserable set, and not much given to
fighting."

"Your principles on that point won't stand much sifting, I fear,"
replied Charley: "according to your own showing, you would fall into
the Chipewyan's way of glorifying themselves on account of their
bravery, if you chanced to be dwelling among them, and yet you say they
are not brave. That would not be sticking to truth, Jacques, would it?"

"Well," replied Jacques with a smile, "perhaps not exactly, but I'm
sure there could be small harm in helping the miserable objects to
boast sometimes, for they've little else than boasting to comfort them."

"And yet, Jacques, I cannot help feeling that truth is a grand, a
glorious thing, that should not be trifled with even in small matters."

Jacques opened his eyes a little. "Then do you think, master, that a
man should _never_ tell a lie, no matter what fix he may be in?"

"I think not, Jacques."

The hunter paused a few minutes, and looked as if an unusual train of
ideas had been raised in his mind by the turn their conversation had
taken. Jacques was a man of no religion, and little morality, beyond
what flowed from a naturally kind, candid disposition, and entertained
the belief that the _end_, if a good one, always justifies the
_means_--a doctrine which, had it been clearly exposed to him in all
its bearings and results, would have been spurned by his
straightforward nature with the indignant contempt that it merits.

"Mr. Charles," he said at length, "I once travelled across the plains
to the head waters of the Missouri with a party of six trappers. One
night we came to a part of the plains which was very much broken up
with wood here and there, and bein' a good place for water we camped.
While the other lads were gettin' ready the supper, I started off to
look for a deer, as we had been unlucky that day--we had shot nothin'.
Well, about three miles from the camp I came upon a band o' somewhere
about thirty Sieux (ill-looking, sneaking dogs they are, too!), and
before I could whistle they rushed upon me, took away my rifle and
hunting-knife, and were dancing round me like so many devils. At last a
big black-lookin' thief stepped forward, and said in the Cree language,
'White men seldom travel through this country alone; where are your
comrades?' Now, thought I, here's a nice fix! If I pretend not to
understand, they'll send out parties in all directions, and as sure as
fate they'll find my companions in half-an-hour, and butcher them in
cold blood (for, you see, we did not expect to find Sieux, or indeed
any Injins, in them parts); so I made believe to be very narvous, and
tried to tremble all over and look pale. Did you ever try to look pale
and frighttened, Mr. Charles?"

"I can't say that I ever did," said Charley, laughing.

"You can't think how troublesome it is," continued Jacques, with a look
of earnest simplicity. "I shook and trembled pretty well, but the more
I tried to grow pale, the more I grew red in the face, and when I
thought of the six broad-shouldered, raw-boned lads in the camp, and
how easy they would have made these jumping villains fly like chaff if
they only knew the fix I was in, I gave a frown that had well-nigh
showed I was shamming. Hows'ever, what with shakin' a little more and
givin' one or two most awful groans, I managed to deceive them. Then I
said I was hunter to a party of white men that were travellin' from Red
River to St. Louis, with all their goods, and wives, and children, and
that they were away in the plains about a league off.

"The big chap looked very hard into my face when I said this, to see if
I was telling the truth; and I tried to make my teeth chatter, but it
wouldn't do, so I took to groanin' very bad instead. But them Sieux are
such awful liars nat'rally that they couldn't understand the signs of
truth, even if they saw them. 'Whitefaced coward,' said he to me, 'tell
me in what direction your people are.' At this I made believe not to
understand; but the big chap flourished his knife before my face,
called me a dog, and told me to point out the direction. I looked as
simple as I could and said I would rather not. At this they laughed
loudly and then gave a yell, and said if I didn't show them the
direction they would roast me alive. So I pointed towards apart of the
plains pretty wide o' the spot where our camp was. 'Now lead us to
them,' said the big chap, givin' me a shove with the butt of his gun;
'an' if you have told lies--'he gave the handle of his scalpin'-knife a
slap, as much as to say he'd tickle up my liver with it. Well, away we
went in silence, me thinkin' all the time how I was to get out o' the
scrape. I led them pretty close past our camp, hopin' that the lads
would hear us. I didn't dare to yell out, as that would have showed
them there was somebody within hearin', and they would have made short
work of me. Just as we came near the place where my companions lay, a
prairie wolf sprang out from under a bush where it had been sleepin',
so I gave a loud hurrah, and shied my cap at it. Giving a loud growl,
the big Injin hit me over the head with his fist, and told me to keep
silence. In a few minutes I heard the low, distant howl of a wolf. I
recognised the voice of one of my comrades, and knew that they had seen
us, and would be on our track soon. Watchin' my opportunity, and
walkin' for a good bit as if I was awful tired--all but done up--to
throw them off their guard, I suddenly tripped up the big chap as he
was stepping over a small brook, and dived in among the bushes. In a
moment a dozen bullets tore up the bark on the trees about me, and an
arrow passed through my hair. The clump of wood into which I had dived
was about half-a-mile long; and as I could run well (I've found in my
experience that white men are more than a match for red-skins at their
own work), I was almost out of range by the time I was forced to quit
the cover and take to the plain. When the blackguards got out of the
cover, too, and saw me cuttin' ahead like a deer, they gave a yell of
disappointment, and sent another shower of arrows and bullets after me,
some of which came nearer than was pleasant. I then headed for our camp
with the whole pack screechin' at my heels. 'Yell away, you stupid
sinners,' thought I; 'some of you shall pay for your music.' At that
moment an arrow grazed my shoulder, and looking over it, I saw that the
black fellow I had pitched into the water was far ahead of the rest,
strainin' after me like mad, and every now and then stopping to try an
arrow on me; so I kept a look-out, and when I saw him stop to draw, I
stopped too, and dodged, so the arrows passed me, and then we took to
our heels again. In this way I ran for dear life till I came up to the
cover. As I came close up I saw our six fellows crouchin' in the
bushes, and one o' them takin' aim almost straight for my face. 'Your
day's come at last,' thought I, looking over my shoulder at the big
Injin, who was drawing his bow again. Just then there was a sharp crack
heard; a bullet whistled past my ear, and the big fellow fell like a
stone, while my comrade stood coolly up to reload his rifle. The
Injins, on seein' this, pulled up in a moment; and our lads stepping
forward, delivered a volley that made three more o' them bite the dust.
There would have been six in that fix, but, somehow or other, three of
us pitched upon the same man, who was afterwards found with a bullet in
each eye, and one through his heart. They didn't wait for more, but
turned about and bolted like the wind. Now, Mr. Charles, if I had told
the truth that time, we would have been all killed; and if I had simply
said nothin' to their questions, they would have sent out to scour the
country, and have found out the camp for sartin, so that the only way
to escape was by tellin' them a heap o' downright lies."

Charley looked very much perplexed at this.

"You have indeed placed me in a difficulty. I know not what I would
have done. I don't know even what I _ought to do_ under these
circumstances. Difficulties may perplex me, and the force of
circumstances might tempt me to do what I believed to be wrong. I am a
sinner, Jacques, like other mortals, I know; but one thing I am quite
sure of--namely, that when men speak it should _always_ be truth and
_never_ falsehood."

Jacques looked perplexed too. He was strongly impressed with the
necessity of telling falsehoods in the circumstances in which he had
been placed, as just related, while at the same time he felt deeply the
grandeur and the power of Charley's last remark.

"I should have been under the sod _now_," said he, "if I had not told a
lie _then_. Is it better to die than to speak falsehood?"

"Some men have thought so," replied Charley. "I acknowledge the
difficulty of _your_ case and of all similar cases. I don't know what
should be done, but I have read of a minister of the gospel whose
people were very wicked and would not attend to his instructions,
although they could not but respect himself, he was so consistent and
Christianlike in his conduct. Persecution arose in the country where he
lived, and men and women were cruelly murdered because of their
religious belief. For a long time he was left unmolested, but one day a
band of soldiers came to his house, and asked him whether he was a
Papist or a Protestant (Papist, Jacques, being a man who has sold his
liberty in religious matters to the Pope, and a Protestant being one
who protests against such an ineffably silly and unmanly state of
slavery). Well, his people urged the good old man to say he was a
Papist, telling him that he would then be spared to live among them,
and preach the true faith for many years perhaps. Now, if there was one
thing that this old man would have toiled for and died for, it was that
his people should become true Christians--and he told them so; 'but,'
he added, 'I will not tell a lie to accomplish that end, my
children--no, not even to save my life.' So he told the soldiers that
he was a Protestant, and immediately they carried him away, and he was
soon afterwards burned to death."

"Well," said Jacques, "_he_ didn't gain much by sticking to the truth,
I think."

"I'm not so sure of _that_. The story goes on to say that he _rejoiced_
that he had done so, and wouldn't draw back even when he was in the
flames. But the point lies here, Jacques: so deep an impression did the
old man's conduct make on his people, that from that day forward they
were noted for their Christian life and conduct. They brought up their
children with a deeper reverence for the truth than they would
otherwise have done, always bearing in affectionate remembrance, and
holding up to them as an example, the unflinching truthfulness of the
good old man who was burned in the year of the terrible persecutions;
and at last their influence and example had such an effect that the
Protestant religion spread like wild-fire, far and wide around them, so
that the very thing was accomplished for which the old pastor said he
would have died--accomplished, too, very much in consequence of his
death, and in a way and to an extent that very likely would not have
been the case had he lived and preached among them for a hundred years."

"I don't understand it, nohow," said Jacques; "it seems to me right
both ways and wrong both ways, and all upside down every how."

Charley smiled. "Your remark is about as clear as my head on the
subject, Jacques; but I still remain convinced that truth is _right_
and that falsehood is _wrong_, and that we should stick to the first
through thick and thin."

"I s'pose," remarked the hunter, who had walked along in deep
cogitation, for the last five minutes, and had apparently come to some
conclusion of profound depth and sagacity--"I s'pose that it's all
human natur'; that some men takes to preachin' as Injins take to
huntin', and that to understand sich things requires them to begin
young,' and risk their lives in it, as I would in followin' up a
grizzly she-bear with cubs."

"Yonder is an illustration of one part of your remark. They begin
_young_ enough, anyhow," said Charley, pointing as he spoke to an
opening in the bushes, where a particularly small Indian boy stood in
the act of discharging an arrow.

The two men halted to watch his movements. According to a common custom
among juvenile Indians during the warm months of the year, he was
dressed in _nothing_ save a mere rag tied round his waist. His body was
very brown, extremely round, fat, and wonderfully diminutive, while his
little legs and arms were disproportionately small. He was so young as
to be barely able to walk, and yet there he stood, his black eyes
glittering with excitement, his tiny bow bent to its utmost, and a
blunt-headed arrow about to be discharged at a squirrel, whose flight
had been suddenly arrested by the unexpected apparition of Charley and
Jacques. As he stood there for a single instant, perfectly motionless,
he might have been mistaken for a grotesque statue of an Indian cupid.
Taking advantage of the squirrel's pause the child let fly the arrow,
hit it exactly on the point of the nose, and turned it over, dead--a
consummation which he greeted with a rapid succession of frightful
yells.

"Cleverly done, my lad; you're a chip of the old block, I see," said
Jacques, patting the child's head as he passed, and retraced his steps,
with Charley, to the Indian camp.



CHAPTER XV.

The feast--Charley makes his first speech in public, and meets with an
old friend--An evening in the grass.


Savages, not less than civilized men, are fond of a good dinner. In
saying this, we do not expect our reader to be overwhelmed with
astonishment. He might have guessed as much; but when we state that
savages, upon particular occasions, eat six dinners in one, and make it
a point of honour to do so, we apprehend that we have thrown a slightly
new light on an old subject. Doubtless there are men in civilised
society who would do likewise if they could; but they cannot,
fortunately, as great gastronomic powers are dependent on severe,
healthful, and prolonged physical exertion. Therefore it is that in
England we find men capable only of eating about two dinners at once,
and suffering a good deal for it afterwards; while in the backwoods we
see men consume a week's dinners in one, without any evil consequences
following the act.

The feast which was given by the Knisteneux in honour of the visit of
our two friends was provided on a more moderate scale than usual, in
order to accommodate the capacities of the "white men;" three days'
allowance being cooked for each man. (Women are never admitted to the
public feasts.) On the day preceding the ceremony, Charley and Jacques
had received cards of invitation from the principal chief in the shape
of two quills; similar invites being issued at the same time to all the
braves. Jacques being accustomed to the doings of the Indians, and
aware of the fact that whatever was provided for each man _must_ be
eaten before he quitted the scene of operations, advised Charley to eat
no breakfast, and to take a good walk as a preparative. Charley had
strong faith, however, in his digestive powers, and felt much inclined,
when morning came, to satisfy the cravings of his appetite as usual;
but Jacques drew such a graphic picture of the work that lay before
him, that he forbore to urge the matter, and went off to walk with a
light step, and an uncomfortable feeling of vacuity about the region of
the stomach.

About noon, the chiefs and braves assembled in an open enclosure
situated in an exposed place on the banks of the river, where the
proceedings were watched by the women, children, and dogs. The oldest
chief sat himself down on the turf at one end of the enclosure, with
Jacques Caradoc on his right hand, and next to him Charley Kennedy, who
had ornamented himself with a blue stripe painted down the middle of
his nose, and a red bar across his chin. Charley's propensity for fun
had led him thus to decorate his face, in spite of his companion's
remonstrances,--urging, by way of excuse, that worthy's former
argument, "that it was well to fall in with the ways o' the people a
man happened to be among, so long as these ways and customs were not
contrary to what was right." Now Charley was sure there was nothing
wrong in his painting his nose sky blue, if he thought fit.

Jacques thought it was absurd, and entertained the opinion that it
would be more dignified to leave his face "its nat'ral colour."

Charley didn't agree with him at all. He thought it would be paying the
Indians a high compliment to follow their customs as far as possible,
and said that, after all, his blue nose would not be very conspicuous,
as he (Jacques) had told him that he would "look blue" at any rate when
he saw the quantity of deer's meat he should have to devour.

Jacques laughed at this, but suggested that the bar across his chin was
_red_. Whereupon Charley said that he could easily neutralise that by
putting a green star under each eye; and then uttered a fervent wish
that his friend Harry Somerville could only see him in that guise.
Finding him incorrigible, Jacques, who, notwithstanding his
remonstrances, was more than half imbued with Charley's spirit, gave
in, and accompanied him to the feast, himself decorated with the
additional ornament of a red night-cap, to whose crown was attached a
tuft of white feathers.

A fire burned in the centre of the enclosure, round which the Indians
seated themselves according to seniority, and with deep solemnity; for
it is a trait in the Indian's character that all his ceremonies are
performed with extreme gravity. Each man brought a dish or platter, and
a wooden spoon.

The old chief, whose hair was very gray, and his face covered with old
wounds and scars, received either in war or in hunting, having seated
himself, allowed a few minutes to elapse in silence, during which the
company sat motionless, gazing at their plates as if they half expected
them to become converted into beefsteaks. While they were seated thus,
another party of Indians, who had been absent on a hunting expedition,
strode rapidly but noiselessly into the enclosure, and seated
themselves in the circle. One of these passed close to Charley, and in
doing so stooped, took his hand, and pressed it. Charley looked up in
surprise, and beheld the face of his old friend Redfeather, gazing at
him with an expression in which were mingled affection, surprise, and
amusement at the peculiar alteration in his visage.

"Redfeather!" exclaimed Charlie, in delight, half rising, but the
Indian pressed him down.

"You must not rise," he whispered, and giving his hand another squeeze,
passed round the circle, and took his place directly opposite.

Having continued motionless for five minutes with becoming gravity, the
company began operations by proceeding to smoke out of the sacred
stem--a ceremony which precedes--all occasions of importance, and is
conducted as follows:--The sacred stem is placed on two forked sticks
to prevent its touching the ground, as that would be considered a great
evil. A stone pipe is then filled with tobacco, by an attendant
specially appointed to that office, and affixed to the stem, which is
presented to the principal chief. That individual, with a gravity and
_hauteur_ that is unsurpassed in the annals of pomposity, receives the
pipe in both hands, blows a puff to the east (probably in consequence
of its being the quarter whence the sun rises), and thereafter pays a
similar mark of attention to the other three points. He then raises the
pipe above his head, points and balances it in various directions (for
what reason and with what end in view is best known to himself), and
replaces it again on the forks. The company meanwhile observe his
proceedings with sedate interest, evidently imbued with the idea that
they are deriving from the ceremony a vast amount of edification--an
idea which is helped out, doubtless, by the appearance of the women and
children, who surround the enclosure, and gaze at the proceedings with
looks of awe-struck seriousness that is quite solemnizing to behold.

The chief then makes a speech relative to the circumstance which has
called them together; and which is always more or less interlarded with
boastful reference to his own deeds, past, present, and prospective,
eulogistic remarks on those of his forefathers, and a general
condemnation of all other Indian tribes whatever. These speeches are
usually delivered with great animation, and contain much poetic
allusion to the objects of nature that surround the homes of the
savage. The speech being finished, the chief sits down amid a universal
"Ho!" uttered by the company with an emphatic prolongation of the last
letter--this syllable being the Indian substitute, we presume, for
"rapturous applause."

The chief who officiated on the present occasion, having accomplished
the opening ceremonies thus far, sat down; while the pipe-bearer
presented the sacred stem to the members of the company in succession,
each of whom drew a few whiffs and mumbled a few words.

"Do as you see the red-skins, Mr. Charles," whispered Jacques, while
the pipe was going round.

"That's impossible," replied Charley, in a tone that could not be heard
except by his friend. "I couldn't make a face of hideous solemnity like
that black thief opposite if I was to try ever so hard."

"Don't let them think you're laughing at them," returned the hunter;
"they would be ill-pleased if they thought so."

"I'll try," said Charley, "but it is hard work, Jacques, to keep from
laughing; I feel like a high-pressure steam-engine already. There's a
woman standing out there with a little brown baby on her back; she has
quite fascinated me; I can't keep my eyes off her, and if she goes on
contorting her visage much longer, I feel that I shall give way."

"Hush!"

At this moment the pipe was presented to Charley, who put it to his
lips, drew three whiffs, and returned it with a bland smile to the
bearer.

The smile was a very sweet one, for that was a peculiar trait in the
native urbanity of Charley's disposition, and it would have gone far in
civilized society to prepossess strangers in his favour; but it lowered
him considerably in the estimation of his red friends, who entertained
a wholesome feeling of contempt for any appearance of levity on high
occasions. But Charley's face was of that agreeable stamp that, though
gentle and bland when lighted up with a smile, is particularly
masculine and manly in expression when in repose, and the frown that
knit his brows when he observed the bad impression he had given almost
reinstated him in their esteem. But his popularity became great, and
the admiration of his swarthy friends greater, when he rose and made an
eloquent speech in English, which Jacques translated into the Indian
language.

He told them, in reply to the chief's oration (wherein that warrior had
complimented his pale-faced brothers on their numerous good qualities),
that he was delighted and proud to meet with his Indian friends; that
the object of his mission was to acquaint them with the fact that a new
trading-fort was established not far off, by himself and his comrades,
for their special benefit and behoof; that the stores were full of
goods which he hoped they would soon obtain possession of, in exchange
for furs; that he had travelled a great distance on purpose to see
their land and ascertain its capabilities in the way of fur-bearing
animals and game; that he had not been disappointed in his
expectations, as he had found the animals to be as numerous as bees,
the fish plentiful in the rivers and lakes, and the country at large a
perfect paradise. He proceeded to tell them further that he expected
they would justify the report he had heard of them, that they were a
brave nation and good hunters, by bringing in large quantities of furs.

Being strongly urged by Jacques to compliment them, on their various
good qualities, Charley launched out into an extravagantly poetic vein,
said that he had heard (but he hoped to have many opportunities of
seeing it proved) that there was no nation under the sun equal to them
in bravery, activity, and perseverance; that he had heard of men in
olden times who made it their profession to fight with wild bulls for
the amusement of their friends, but he had no doubt whatever their
courage would be made conspicuous in the way of fighting wild bears and
buffaloes, not for the amusement but the benefit of their wives and
children (he might have added of the Hudson's Bay Company, but he
didn't, supposing that that was self-evident, probably). He
complimented them on the way in which they had conducted themselves in
war in times past, comparing their stealthy approach to enemies' camps
to the insidious snake that glides among the bushes, and darts
unexpectedly on its prey; said that their eyes were sharp to follow the
war-trail through the forest or over the dry sward of the prairie;
their aim with gun or bow true and sure as the flight of the goose when
it leaves the lands of the sun, and points its beak to the icy regions
of the north; their war-whoops loud as the thunders of the cataract;
and their sudden onset like the lightning flash that darts from the sky
and scatters the stout oak in splinters on the plain.

At this point Jacques expressed his satisfaction at the style in which
his young friend was progressing.

"That's your sort, Mr. Charles. Don't spare the butter; lay it on
thick. You've not said too much yet, for they are a brave race, that's
a fact, as I've good reason to know."

Jacques, however, did not feel quite so well satisfied when Charley
went on to tell them that although bravery in war was an admirable
thing, war itself was a thing not at all to be desired, and should only
be undertaken in case of necessity. He especially pointed out that
there was not much glory to be earned in fighting against the
Chipewyans, who, everybody knew, were a poor, timid set of people, whom
they ought rather to pity than to destroy; and recommended them to
devote themselves more to the chase than they had done in times past,
and less to the prosecution of war in time to come.

All this, and a great deal more, did Charley say, in a manner, and with
a rapidity of utterance, that surprised himself, when he considered the
fact that he had never adventured into the field of public speaking
before. All this, and a great deal more--a very great deal more--did
Jacques Caradoc interpret to the admiring Indians, who listened with
the utmost gravity and profound attention, greeting the close with a
very emphatic "Ho!"

Jacques's translation was by no means perfect. Many of the flights into
which Charley ventured, especially in regard to the manners and customs
of the savages of ancient Greece and Rome, were quite incomprehensible
to the worthy backwoodsman; but he invariably proceeded when Charley
halted, giving a flight of his own when at a loss, varying and
modifying when he thought it advisable, and altering, adding, or
cutting off as he pleased.

Several other chiefs addressed the assembly, and then dinner, if we may
so call it, was served. In Charley's case it was breakfast; to the
Indians it was breakfast, dinner, and supper in one. It consisted of a
large platter of dried meat, reindeer tongues (considered a great
delicacy), and marrow-bones.

Notwithstanding the graphic power with which Jacques had prepared his
young companion for this meal, Charley's heart sank when he beheld the
mountain of boiled meat that was placed before him. He was ravenously
hungry, it is true, but it was patent to his perception at a glance
that no powers of gormandizing of which he was capable could enable him
to consume the mass in the course of one day.

Jacques observed his consternation, and was not a little entertained by
it, although his face wore an expression of profound gravity while he
proceeded to attack his own dish, which was equal to that of his friend.

Before commencing, a small portion of meat was thrown into the fire as
a sacrifice to the Great Master of Life.

"How they do eat, to be sure!" whispered Charley to Jacques, after he
had glanced in wonder at the circle of men who were devouring their
food with the most extraordinary rapidity.

"Why, you must know," replied Jacques, "that it's considered a point of
honour to get it over soon, and the man that is done first gets most
credit. But it's hard work" (he sighed, and paused a little to
breathe), "and I've not got half through yet."

"It's quite plain that I must lose credit with them, then, if it
depends on my eating that. Tell me, Jacques, is there no way of escape?
Must I sit here till it is all consumed?"

"No doubt of it. Every bit that has been cooked must be crammed down
our throats somehow or other." Charley heaved a deep sigh, and made
another desperate attack on a large steak, while the Indians around him
made considerable progress in reducing their respective mountains.

Several times Charley and Redfeather exchanged glances as they paused
in their labours.

"I say, Jacques," said Charley, pulling up once more, "how do you get
on? Pretty well stuffed by this time, I should imagine?"

"Oh no! I've a good deal o' room yet."

"I give in. Credit or disgrace, it's all one. I'll not make a pig of
myself for any red-skin in the land."

Jacques smiled.

"See," continued Charley, "there's a fellow opposite who has devoured
as much as would have served me for three days. I don't know whether
it's imagination or not, but I do verily believe that he's _blacker_ in
the face than when we sat down!"

"Very likely," replied Jacques, wiping his lips, "Now I've done."

"Done! you have left at least a third of your supply."

"True, and I may as well tell you for your comfort that there is one
way of escape open to you. It is a custom among these fellows, that
when any one cannot gulp his share o' the prog, he may get help from
any of his friends that can cram it down their throats; and as there
are always such fellows among these Injins, they seldom have any
difficulty."

"A most convenient practice," replied Charley, "I'll adopt it at once."

Charley turned to his next neighbour with the intent to beg of him to
eat his remnant of the feast.

"Bless my heart, Jacques, I've no chance with the fellow on my left
hand; he's stuffed quite full already, and is not quite done with his
own share."

"Never fear," replied his friend, looking at the individual in
question, who was languidly lifting a marrowbone to his lips; "he'll do
it easy. I knows the gauge o' them chaps, and for all his sleepy looks
just now he's game for a lot more."

"Impossible," replied Charley, looking in despair at his unfinished
viands and then at the Indian. A glance round the circle seemed further
to convince him that if he did not eat it himself there were none of
the party likely to do so.

"You'll have to give him a good lump o' tobacco to do it, though; he
won't undertake so much for a trifle, I can tell you." Jacques chuckled
as he said this, and handed his own portion over to another Indian, who
readily undertook to finish it for him.

"He'll burst; I feel certain of that," said Charley, with a deep sigh,
as he surveyed his friend on the left.

At last he took courage to propose the thing to him, and just as the
man finished the last morsel of his own repast, Charley placed his own
plate before him, with a look that seemed to say, "Eat it, my friend,
_if you can._"

The Indian, much to his surprise, immediately commenced to it, and in
less than half-an-hour the whole was disposed of.

During this scene of gluttony, one of the chiefs entertained the
assembly with a wild and most unmusical chant, to which he beat time on
a sort of tambourine, while the women outside the enclosure beat a
similar accompaniment.

"I say, master," whispered Jacques, "it seems to my observation that
the fellow you call Redfeather eats less than any Injin I ever saw. He
has got a comrade to eat more than half his share; now that's strange."

"It won't appear strange, Jacques, when I tell you that Redfeather has
lived much more among white men than Indians during the last ten years;
and although voyageurs eat an enormous quantity of food, they don't
make it a point of honour, as these fellows seem to do, to eat much
more than enough. Besides, Redfeather is a very different man from
those around him; he has been partially educated by the missionaries on
Playgreen Lake, and I think has a strong leaning towards them."

While they were thus conversing in whispers, Redfeather rose, and
holding forth his hand, delivered himself of the following oration:--

"The time has come for Redfeather to speak. He has kept silence for
many moons now, but his heart has been full of words. It is too full;
he must speak now. Redfeather has fought with his tribe, and has been
accounted a brave, and one who loves his people. This is true. He
_does_ love, even more than they can understand. His friends know that
he has never feared to face danger and death in their defence, and
that, if it were necessary, he would do so still. But Redfeather is
going to leave his people now. His heart is heavy at the thought.
Perhaps many moons will come and go, many snows may fall and melt away,
before he sees his people again; and it is this that makes him full of
sorrow, it is this that makes his head to droop like the branches of
the weeping willow."

Redfeather paused at this point, but not a sound escaped from the
listening circle: the Indians were evidently taken by surprise at this
abrupt announcement. He proceeded:--

"When Redfeather travelled not long since with the white men, he met
with a pale-face who came from the other side of the Great Salt Lake
towards the rising sun. This man was called by some of the people a
missionary. He spoke wonderful things in the ear of Redfeather. He told
him of things about the Great Spirit which he did not know before, and
he asked Redfeather to go and help him to speak to the Indians about
these strange things. Redfeather would not go. He loved his people too
much, and he thought that the words of the missionary seemed
foolishness. But he has thought much about it since. He does not
understand the strange things that were told to him, and he has tried
to forget them, but he cannot. He can get no rest. He hears strange
sounds in the breeze that shakes the pine. He thinks that there are
voices in the waterfall; the rivers seem to speak, Redfeather's spirit
is vexed. The Great Spirit, perhaps, is talking to him. He has resolved
to go to the dwelling of the missionary and stay with him."

The Indian paused again, but still no sound escaped from his comrades.
Dropping his voice to a soft plaintive tone, he continued--

"But Redfeather loves his kindred. He desires very much that they
should hear the things that the missionary said. He spoke of the happy
hunting grounds to which the spirits of our fathers have gone, and said
that we required a _guide_ to lead us there; that there was but one
guide, whose name, he said, was Jesus. Redfeather would stay and hunt
with his people, but his spirit is troubled; he cannot rest; he must
go!"

Redfeather sat down, and a long silence ensued. His words had evidently
taken the whole party by surprise, although not a countenance there
showed the smallest symptom of astonishment, except that of Charley
Kennedy, whose intercourse with Indians had not yet been so great as to
have taught him to conceal his feelings.

At length the old chief rose, and after complimenting Redfeather on his
bravery in general, and admitting that he had shown much love to his
people on all occasions, went into the subject of his quitting them at
some length. He reminded him that there were evil spirits as well as
good; that it was not for him to say which kind had been troubling him,
but that he ought to consider well before he went to live altogether
with pale-faces. Several other speeches were made, some to the same
effect, and others applauding his resolve. These latter had, perhaps,
some idea that his bringing the pale-faced missionary among them would
gratify their taste for the marvellous--a taste that is pretty strong
in all uneducated minds.

One man, however, was particularly urgent in endeavouring to dissuade
him from his purpose. He was a tall, low-browed man; muscular and well
built, but possessed of a most villainous expression of countenance.
From a remark that fell from one of the company, Charley discovered
that his name was Misconna, and so learned, to his surprise, that he
was the very Indian mentioned by Redfeather as the man who had been his
rival for the hand of Wabisca, and who had so cruelly killed the wife
of the poor trapper the night on which the Chipewyan camp was attacked,
and the people slaughtered.

What reason Misconna had for objecting so strongly to Redfeather's
leaving the community no one could tell, although some of those who
knew his unforgiving nature suspected that he still entertained the
hope of being able, some day or other, to weak his vengeance on his old
rival. But whatever was his object, he failed in moving Redfeather's
resolution; and it was at last admitted by the whole party that
Redfeather was a "wise chief;" that he knew best what ought to be done
under the circumstances, and it was hoped that his promised visit, in
company with the missionary, would not be delayed many moons.

That night, in the deep shadow of the trees, by the brook that murmured
near the Indian camp, while the stars twinkled through the branches
overhead, Charley introduced Redfeather to his friend Jacques Caradoc,
and a friendship was struck up between the bold hunter and the red man
that grew and strengthened as each successive day made them acquainted
with their respective good qualities. In the same place, and with the
same stars looking down upon them, it was further agreed that
Redfeather should accompany his new friends, taking his wife along with
him in another canoe, as far as their several routes led them in the
same direction, which was about four or five days' journey; and that
while the one party diverged towards the fort at Stoney Creek, the
other should pursue its course to the missionary station on the shores
of Lake Winnipeg.

But there was a snake in the grass there that they little suspected.
Misconna had crept through the bushes after them, with a degree of
caution that might have baffled their vigilance, even had they
suspected treason in a friendly camp. He lay listening intently to all
their plans, and when they returned to their camp, he rose out from
among the bushes, like a dark spirit of evil, clutched the handle of
his scalping-knife, and gave utterance to a malicious growl; then,
walking hastily after them, his dusky figure was soon concealed among
the trees.



CHAPTER XVI.

The return--Narrow escape--A murderous attempt, which fails--And a
discovery.


All nature was joyous and brilliant, and bright and beautiful. Morning
was still very young--about an hour old. Sounds of the most cheerful,
light-hearted character floated over the waters and echoed through the
woods, as birds and beasts hurried to and fro with all the bustling
energy that betokened preparation and search for breakfast. Fish leaped
in the pools with a rapidity that brought forcibly to mind that wise
saying, "The more hurry, the less speed;" for they appeared constantly
to miss their mark, although they jumped twice their own length out of
the water in the effort.

Ducks and geese sprang from their liquid beds with an amazing amount of
unnecessary sputter, as if they had awakened to the sudden
consciousness of being late for breakfast, then alighted in the water
again with a _squash,_ on finding (probably) that it was too early for
that meal, but, observing other flocks passing and re-passing on noisy
wing, took to flight again, unable, apparently, to restrain their
feelings of delight at the freshness of the morning air, the brightness
of the rising sun, and the sweet perfume of the dewy verdure, as the
mists cleared away over the tree-tops and lost themselves in the blue
sky. Everything seemed instinct not only with life, but with a large
amount of superabundant energy. Earth, air, sky, animal, vegetable, and
mineral, solid and liquid, all were either actually in a state of
lively exulting motion, or had a peculiarly sprightly look about them,
as if nature had just burst out of prison _en masse_, and gone raving
mad with joy.

Such was the delectable state of things the morning on which two canoes
darted from the camp of the Knisteneux, amid many expressions of
goodwill. One canoe contained our two friends, Charley and Jacques; the
other, Redfeather and his wife Wabisca.

A few strokes of the paddle shot them out into the stream, which
carried them rapidly away from the scene of their late festivities. In
five minutes they swept round a point which shut them out from view,
and they were swiftly descending those rapid rivers that had cost
Charley and Jacques so much labour to ascend.

"Look out for rocks ahead, Mr. Charles," cried Jacques, as he steered
the light bark into the middle of a rapid, which they had avoided when
ascending by making a portage. "Keep well to the left of yon swirl.
_Parbleu_, if we touch the rock _there_ it'll be all over with us."

"All right," was Charley's laconic reply. And so it proved, for their
canoe, after getting fairly into the run of the rapid, was evidently
under the complete command of its expert crew, and darted forward amid
the foaming waters like a thing instinct with life. Now it careered and
plunged over the waves where the rough bed of the stream made them more
than usually turbulent. Anon it flew with increased rapidity through a
narrow gap where the compressed water was smooth and black, but deep
and powerful, rendering great care necessary to prevent the canoe's
frail sides from being dashed on the rocks. Then it met a curling wave,
into which it plunged like an impetuous charger, and was checked for a
moment by its own violence. Presently an eddy threw the canoe a little
out of its course, disconcerting Charley's intention of _shaving_ a
rock, which lay in their track, so that he slightly grazed it in
passing.

"Ah, Mr. Charles," said Jacques, shaking his head, "that was not well
done; an inch more would have sent us down the rapids like drowned
cats."

"True," replied Charley, somewhat crestfallen; "but you see the other
inch was not lost, so we're not much the worse for it."

"Well, after all, it was a ticklish bit, and I should have guessed that
your experience was not up to it quite. I've seen many a man in my day
who wouldn't ha' done it _half_ so slick, an' yet ha' thought no small
beer of himself; so you needn't be ashamed, Mr. Charles. But Wabisca
beats you for all that," continued the hunter, glancing hastily over
his shoulder at Redfeather, who followed closely in their wake, he and
his modest-looking wife guiding their little craft through the
dangerous passages with the utmost _sangfroid_ and precision.

"We've about run them all now," said Jacques, as they paddled over a
sheet of still water which intervened between the rapid they had just
descended and another which thundered about a hundred yards in advance.

"I was so engrossed with the one we have just come down," said Charley,
"that I quite forgot this one."

"Quite right, Mr. Charles," said Jacques, in an approving tone, "quite
right. I holds that a man should always attend to what he's at, an' to
nothin' else. I've lived long in the woods now, and the fact becomes
more and more sartin every day. I've know'd chaps, now, as timersome as
settlement girls, that were always in such a mortal funk about what
_was_ to happen, or _might_ happen, that they were never fit for
anything that _did_ happen; always lookin' ahead, and never around
them. Of coorse, I don't mean that a man shouldn't look ahead at all,
but their great mistake was that they looked out too far ahead, and
always kep' their eyes nailed there, just as if they had the fixin' o'
everything, an' Providence had nothin' to do with it at all. I mind a
Canadian o' that sort that travelled in company with me once. We were
goin' just as we are now, Mr. Charles, two canoes of us; him and a
comrade in one, and me and a comrade in t'other. One night we got to a
lot o' rapids that came one after another for the matter o' three miles
or thereabouts. They were all easy ones, however, except the last; but
it _was_ a tickler, with a sharp turn o' the land that hid it from
sight until ye were right into it, with a foamin' current, and a range
o' ragged rocks that stood straight in front o' ye, like the teeth of a
cross-cut saw. It was easy enough, however, if a man _knew_ it, and was
a cool hand. Well, the _pauvre_ Canadian was in a terrible takin' about
this shoot long afore he came to it. He had run it often enough in
boats where he was one of a half-dozen men, and had nothin' to do but
look on; but he had never _steered_ down it before. When he came to the
top o' the rapids, his mind was so filled with this shoot that he
couldn't attend to nothin', and scraped agin' a dozen rocks in almost
smooth water, so that when he got a little more than half-way down, the
canoe was as rickety as if it had just come off a six months' cruise.
At last we came to the big rapid, and after we'd run down our canoe I
climbed the bank to see them do it. Down they came, the poor Canadian
white as a sheet, and his comrade, who was brave enough, but knew
nothin' about light craft, not very comfortable. At first he could see
nothin' for the point, but in another moment round they went, end on,
for the big rocks. The Canadian gave a great yell when he saw them, and
plunged at the paddle till I thought he'd have capsized altogether.
They ran it well enough, straight between the rocks (more by good luck
than good guidance), and sloped down to the smooth water below; but the
canoe had got such a battering in the rapids above, where an Injin baby
could have steered it in safety, that the last plunge shook it all to
pieces. It opened up, and lay down flat on the water, while the two men
fell right through the bottom, screechin' like mad, and rolling about
among shreds o' birch bark!"

While Jacques was thus descanting philosophically on his experience in
time past, they had approached the head of the second rapid, and in
accordance with the principles just enunciated, the stout backwoodsman
gave his undivided attention to the work before him. The rapid was
short and deep, so that little care was required in descending it,
excepting at one point, where the stream rushed impetuously between two
rocks about six yards asunder. Here it was requisite to keep the canoe
as much in the middle of the stream as possible.

Just as they began to feel the drag of the water, Redfeather was heard
to shout in a loud warning tone, which caused Jacques and Charley to
back their paddles hurriedly.

"What can the Injin mean, I wonder?" said Jacques, in a perplexed tone.
"He don't look like a man that would stop us at the top of a strong
rapid for nothin'."

"It's too late to do that now, whatever is his reason," said Charley,
as he and his companion struggled in vain to paddle up stream.

"It's no use, Mr. Charles; we must run it now--the current's too strong
to make head against; besides, I do think the man has only seen a bear,
or something o' that sort, for I see he's ashore, and jumpin' among the
bushes like a cariboo."

Saying this, they turned the canoe's head down stream again, and
allowed it to drift, merely retarding its progress a little with the
paddles.

Suddenly Jacques uttered a sharp exclamation. "_Mon Dieu!_" said he,
"it's plain enough now. Look there!"

Jacques pointed as he spoke to the narrows to which they were now
approaching with tremendous speed, which increased every instant. A
heavy tree lay directly across the stream, reaching from rock to rock,
and placed in such a way that it was impossible for a canoe to descend
without being dashed in pieces against it. This was the more curious
that no trees grew in the immediate vicinity, so that this one must
have been designedly conveyed there.

"There has been foul work here," said Jacques, in a deep tone. "We must
dive, Mr. Charles; there's no chance any way else, and _that's_ but a
poor one."

This was true. The rocks on each side rose almost perpendicularly out
of the water, so that it was utterly impossible to run ashore, and the
only way of escape, as Jacques said, was by diving under the tree, a
thing involving great risk, as the stream immediately below was broken
by rocks, against which it dashed in foam, and through which the
chances of steering one's way in safety by means of swimming were very
slender indeed.

Charley made no reply, but with tightly-compressed lips, and a look of
stern resolution on his brow, threw off his coat, and hastily tied his
belt tightly round his waist. The canoe was now sweeping forward with
lightning speed; in a few minutes it would be dashed to pieces.

At that moment a shout was heard in the woods, and Redfeather darting
out, rushed over the ledge of rock on which one end of the tree rested,
seized the trunk in his arms, and exerting all his strength, hurled it
over into the river. In doing so he stumbled, and ere he could recover
himself a branch caught him under the arm as the tree fell over, and
dragged him into the boiling stream. This accident was probably the
means of saving his life, for just as he fell the loud report of a gun
rang through the woods, and a bullet passed through his cap. For a
second or two both man and tree were lost in the foam, while the canoe
dashed past in safety. The next instant Wabisca passed the narrows in
her small craft, and steered for the tree. Redfeather, who had risen
and sunk several times, saw her as she passed, and making a violent
effort, he caught hold of the gunwale, and was carried down in safety.

"I'll tell you what it is," said Jacques, as the party stood on a rock
promontory after the events just narrated: "I would give a dollar to
have that fellow's nose and the sights o' my rifle in a line at any
distance short of two hundred yards."

"It was Misconna," said Redfeather. "I did not see him, but there's not
another man in the tribe that could do that."

"I'm thankful we escaped, Jacques. I never felt so near death before,
and had it not been for the timely aid of our friend here, it strikes
me that our wild life would have come to an abrupt close.--God bless
you, Redfeather," said Charley, taking the Indian's hand in both of his
and kissing it.

Charley's ebullition of feeling was natural. He had not yet become used
to the dangers of the wilderness so as to treat them with indifference.
Jacques, on the other hand, had risked his life so often that escape
from danger was treated very much as a matter of course, and called
forth little expression of feeling. Still, it must not be inferred from
this that his nature had become callous. The backwoodsman's frame was
hard and unyielding as iron, but his heart was as soft still as it was
on the day on which he first donned the hunting-shirt, and there was
much more of tenderness than met the eye in the squeeze that he gave
Redfeather's hand on landing.

As the four travellers encircled the fire that night, under the leafy
branches of the forest, and smoked their pipes in concert, while
Wabisca busied herself in clearing away the remnants of their evening
meal, they waxed communicative, and stories, pathetic, comic, and
tragic, followed each other in rapid succession.

"Now, Redfeather," said Charley, while Jacques rose and went down to
the luggage to get more tobacco, "tell Jacques about the way in which
you got your name. I am sure he will feel deeply interested in that
story--at least I am certain that Harry Somerville and I did when you
told it to us the day we were wind-bound on Lake Winnipeg."

Redfeather made no reply for a few seconds. "Will Mr. Charles speak for
me?" he said at length. "His tongue is smooth and quick."

"A doubtful kind of compliment," said Charley, laughing; "but I will,
if you don't wish to tell it yourself."

"And don't mention names. Do not let him know that you speak of me or
my friends," said the Indian, in a low whisper, as Jacques returned and
sat down by the fire again.

Charley gave him a glance of surprise; but being prevented from asking
questions, he nodded in reply, and proceeded to relate to his friend
the story that has been recounted in a previous chapter. Redfeather
leaned back against a tree, and appeared to listen intently.

Charley's powers of description were by no means inconsiderable, and
the backwoodsman's face assumed a look of good-humoured attention as
the story proceeded. But when the narrator went on to tell of the
meditated attack and the midnight march, his interest was aroused, the
pipe which he had been smoking was allowed to go out, and he gazed at
his young friend with the most earnest attention. It was evident that
the hunter's spirit entered with deep sympathy into such scenes; and
when Charley described the attack, and the death of the trapper's wife,
Jacques seemed unable to restrain his feelings. He leaned his elbows on
his knees, buried his face in his hands, and groaned aloud.

"Mr. Charles," he said, in a deep voice, when the story was ended,
"there are two men I would like to meet with in this world before I
die. One is the young Injin who tried to save that girl's life, the
other is the cowardly villain that took it. I don't mean the one who
finished the bloody work: my rifle sent his accursed spirit to its own
place--"

"_Your_ rifle!" cried Charley, in amazement.

"Ay, mine! It was _my_ wife who was butchered by these savage dogs on
that dark night. Oh, what avails the strength o' that right arm!" said
Jacques, bitterly, as he lifted up his clenched fist; "it was powerless
to save _her_--the sweet girl who left her home and people to follow
me, a rough hunter, through the lonesome wilderness!"

He covered his face again, and groaned in agony of spirit, while his
whole frame quivered with emotion.

Jacques remained silent, and his sympathising friends refrained from
intruding on a sorrow which they felt they had no power to relieve.

At length he spoke. "Yes," said he, "I would give much to meet with the
man who tried to save her. I saw him do it twice; but the devils about
him were too eager to be balked of their prey."

Charley and the Indian exchanged glances. "That Indian's name," said
the former, "was _Redfeather!_"

"What!" exclaimed the trapper, jumping to his feet, and grasping
Redfeather, who had also risen, by the two shoulders, stared wildly in
his face; "was it _you_ that did it?"

Redfeather smiled, and held out his hand, which the other took and
wrung with an energy that would have extorted a cry of pain from any
one but an Indian. Then, dropping it suddenly and clinching his hands,
he exclaimed,--

"I said that I would like to meet the villain who killed her--yes, I
said it in passion, when your words had roused all my old feelings
again; but I am thankful--I bless God that I did not know this
sooner--that you did not tell me of it when I was at the camp, for I
verily believe that I would not only have fixed _him_, but half the
warriors o' your tribe too, before they had settled _me!_"

It need scarcely be added that the friendship which already subsisted
between Jacques and Redfeather was now doubly cemented; nor will it
create surprise when we say that the former, in the fulness of his
heart, and from sheer inability to find adequate outlets for the
expression of his feelings, offered Redfeather in succession all the
articles of value he possessed, even to the much-loved rifle, and was
seriously annoyed at their not being accepted. At last he finished off
by assuring the Indian that he might look out for him soon at the
missionary settlement, where he meant to stay with him evermore in the
capacity of hunter, fisherman, and jack-of-all-trades to the whole clan.



CHAPTER XVII.

The scene changes--Bachelor's Hall--A practical joke and its
consequences--A snow-shoe walk at night in the forest.


Leaving Charley to pursue his adventurous career among the Indians, we
will introduce our reader to a new scene, and follow for a time the
fortunes of our friend Harry Somerville. It will be remembered that we
left him labouring under severe disappointment at the idea of having to
spend a year, it might be many years, at the depot, and being condemned
to the desk, instead of realising his fond dreams of bear-hunting and
deer-stalking in the woods and prairies.

It was now the autumn of Harry's second year at York Fort. This period
of the year happens to be the busiest at the depot, in consequence of
the preparation of the annual accounts for transmission to England, in
the solitary ship which visits this lonely spot once a year; so that
Harry was tied to his desk all day and the greater part of the night
too, so that his spirits fell infinitely below zero, and he began to
look on himself as the most miserable of mortals. His spirits rose,
however, with amazing rapidity after the ship went away, and the "young
gentlemen," as the clerks were styled _en masse_, were permitted to run
wild in the swamps and woods for the three weeks succeeding that event.
During this glimpse of sunshine they recruited their exhausted frames
by paddling about all day in Indian canoes, or wandering through the
marshes, sleeping at nights in tents or under the pine trees, and
spreading dismay among the feathered tribes, of which there were
immense numbers of all kinds. After this they returned to their regular
work at the desk; but as this was not so severe as in summer, and was
further lightened by Wednesdays and Saturdays being devoted entirely to
recreation, Harry began to look on things in a less gloomy aspect, and
at length regained his wonted cheerful spirits.

Autumn passed away. The ducks and geese took their departure to more
genial climes. The swamps froze up and became solid. Snow fell in great
abundance, covering every vestige of vegetable nature, except the dark
fir trees, that only helped to render the scenery more dreary, and
winter settled down upon the land. Within the pickets of York Fort, the
thirty or forty souls who lived there were actively employed in cutting
their firewood, putting in double window-frames to keep out the severe
cold, cutting tracks in the snow from one house to another, and
otherwise preparing for a winter of eight months' duration, as cold as
that of Nova Zembla, and in the course of which the only new faces they
had any chance of seeing were those of the two men who conveyed the
annual winter packet of letters from the next station. Outside of the
fort, all was a wide, waste wilderness for _thousands_ of miles around.
Deathlike stillness and solitude reigned everywhere, except when a
covey of ptarmigan whirred like large snowflakes athwart the sky, or an
arctic fox prowled stealthily through the woods in search of prey.

As if in opposition to the gloom and stillness and solitude outside,
the interior of the clerks' house presented a striking contrast of
ruddy warmth, cheerful sounds, and bustling activity.

It was evening; but although the sun had set, there was still
sufficient daylight to render candles unnecessary, though not enough to
prevent a bright glare from the stove in the centre of the hall taking
full effect in the darkening chamber, and making it glow with fiery
red. Harry Somerville sat in front, and full in the blaze of this
stove, resting after the labours of the day; his arms crossed on his
breast, his head a little to one side, as if in deep contemplation, as
he gazed earnestly into the fire, and his chair tilted on its hind legs
so as to balance with such nicety that a feather's weight additional
outside its centre of gravity would have upset it. He had divested
himself of his coat--a practice that prevailed among the young
gentlemen when _at home_, as being free-and-easy as well as convenient.
The doctor, a tall, broad-shouldered man, with red hair and whiskers,
paced the room sedately, with a long pipe depending from his lips,
which he removed occasionally to address a few remarks to the
accountant, a stout, heavy man of about thirty, with a voice like a
Stentor, eyes sharp and active as those of a ferret, and a tongue that
moved with twice the ordinary amount of lingual rapidity. The doctor's
remarks seemed to be particularly humorous, if one might judge from the
peals of laughter with which they were received by the accountant, who
stood with his back to the stove in such a position that, while it
warmed him from his heels to his waist, he enjoyed the additional
benefit of the pipe or chimney, which rose upwards, parallel with his
spine, and, taking a sudden bend near the roof, passed over his
head--thus producing a genial and equable warmth from top to toe.

"Yes," said the doctor, "I left him hotly following up a rabbit-track,
in the firm belief that it was that of a silver fox."

"And did you not undeceive the greenhorn?" cried the accountant, with
another shout of laughter.

"Not I," replied the doctor. "I merely recommended him to keep his eye
on the sun, lest he should lose his way, and hastened home; for it just
occurred to me that I had forgotten to visit Louis Blanc, who cut his
foot with an axe yesterday, and whose wound required redressing, so I
left the poor youth to learn from experience."

"Pray, who did you leave to that delightful fate?" asked Mr. Wilson,
issuing from his bedroom, and approaching the stove.

Mr. Wilson was a middle-aged, good-humoured, active man, who filled the
onerous offices of superintendent of the men, trader of furs, seller of
goods to the Indians, and general factotum.

"Our friend Hamilton," answered the doctor, in reply to his question.
"I think he is, without exception, the most egregious nincompoop I ever
saw. Just as I passed the long swamp on my way home, I met him crashing
through the bushes in hot pursuit of a rabbit, the track of which he
mistook for a fox. Poor fellow! He had been out since breakfast, and
only shot a brace of ptarmigan, although they are as thick as bees and
quite tame. 'But then, do you see,' said he, in excuse, 'I'm so very
shortsighted! Would you believe it, I've blown fifteen lumps of snow to
atoms, in the belief that they were ptarmigan!' and then he rushed off
again."

"No doubt," said Mr. Wilson, smiling, "the lad is very green, but he's
a good fellow for all that."

"I'll answer for that," said the accountant; "I found him over at the
men's houses this morning doing _your_ work for you, doctor."

"How so?" inquired the disciple of Æsculapius.

"Attending to your wounded man, Louis Blanc, to be sure; and he seemed
to speak to him as wisely as if he had walked the hospitals, and
regularly passed for an M.D."

"Indeed!" said the doctor, with a mischievous grin. "Then I must pay
him off for interfering with my patients."

"Ah, doctor, you're too fond of practical jokes. You never let slip an
opportunity of 'paying off' your friends for something or other. It's a
bad habit. Practical jokes are very bad things--shockingly bad," said
Mr. Wilson, as he put on his fur cap, and wound a thick shawl round his
throat, preparatory to leaving the room.

As Mr. Wilson gave utterance to this opinion, he passed Harry
Somerville, who was still staring at the fire in deep mental
abstraction, and, as he did so, gave his tilted chair a very slight
push backwards with his finger--an action which caused Harry to toss up
his legs, grasp convulsively with both hands at empty air, and fall
with a loud noise and an angry yell to the ground, while his persecutor
vanished from the scene.

"O you outrageous villain!" cried Harry, shaking his fist at the door,
as he slowly gathered himself up; "I might have expected that."

"Quite so," said the doctor; "you might. It was very neatly done,
undoubtedly. Wilson deserves credit for the way in which it was
executed."

"He deserves to be executed for doing it at all," replied Harry,
rubbing his elbow as he resumed his seat.

"Any bark knocked off?" inquired the accountant, as he took a piece of
glowing charcoal from the stove wherewith to light his pipe. "Try a
whiff, Harry. It's good for such things. Bruises, sores, contusions,
sprains, rheumatic affections of the back and loins, carbuncles and
earache--there's nothing that smoking won't cure; eh, doctor?"

"Certainly. If applied inwardly, there's nothing so good for digestion
when one doesn't require tonics--Try it, Harry; it will do you good, I
assure you."

"No, thank you," replied Harry; "I'll leave that to you and the
chimney. I don't wish to make a soot-bag of my mouth. But tell me,
doctor, what do you mean to do with that lump of snow there?"

Harry pointed to a mass of snow, of about two feet square, which lay on
the floor beside the door. It had been placed there by the doctor some
time previously.

"Do with it? Have patience, my friend, and you shall see. It is a
little surprise I have in store for Hamilton."

As he spoke, the door opened, and a short, square-built man rushed into
the room, with a pistol in one hand and a bright little bullet in the
other.

"Hollo, skipper!" cried Harry, "what's the row?"

"All right," cried the skipper; "here it is at last, solid as the fluke
of an anchor. Toss me the powder-flask Harry; look sharp, else it'll
melt."

A powder-flask was immediately produced, from which the skipper hastily
charged the pistol, and rammed down the shining bullet.

"Now then," said he, "look out for squalls. Clear the decks there."

And rushing to the door, he flung it open, took a steady aim at
something outside, and fired.

"Is the man mad?" said the accountant, as with a look of amazement he
beheld the skipper spring through the doorway, and immediately return
bearing in his arms a large piece of fir plank.

"Not quite mad yet," he said, in reply, "but I've sent a ball of
quicksilver through an inch plank, and that's not a thing to be done
every day--even _here_, although it _is_ cold enough sometimes to
freeze up one's very ideas."

"Dear me," interrupted Harry Somerville, looking as if a new thought
had struck him, "that must be it! I've no doubt that poor Hamilton's
ideas are _frozen_, which accounts for the total absence of any
indication of his possessing such things."

"I observed," continued the skipper, not noticing the interruption,
"that the glass was down at 45 degrees below zero this morning, and put
out a bullet-mould full of mercury, and you see the result." As he
spoke he held up the perforated plank in triumph.

The skipper was a strange mixture of qualities. To a wild, off-hand,
sailor-like hilarity of disposition in hours of leisure, he united a
grave, stern energy of character while employed in the performance of
his duties. Duty was always paramount with him. A smile could scarcely
be extracted from him while it was in the course of performance. But
the instant his work was done a new spirit seemed to take possession of
the man. Fun, mischief of any kind, no matter how childish, he entered
into with the greatest delight and enthusiasm. Among other
peculiarities, he had become deeply imbued with a thirst for scientific
knowledge, ever since he had acquired, with infinite labour, the small
modicum of science necessary to navigation; and his doings in pursuit
of statistical information relative to the weather, and the phenomena
of nature generally, were very peculiar, and in some cases outrageous.
His transaction with the quicksilver was in consequence of an eager
desire to see that metal frozen (an effect which takes place when the
spirit-of-wine thermometer falls to 39 degrees below zero of
Fahrenheit), and a wish to be able to boast of having actually fired a
mercurial bullet through an inch plank. Having made a careful note of
the fact, with all the relative circumstances attending it, in a very
much blotted book, which he denominated his scientific log, the worthy
skipper threw off his coat, drew a chair to the stove, and prepared to
regale himself with a pipe. As he glanced slowly round the room while
thus engaged, his eye fell on the mass of snow before alluded to. On
being informed by the doctor for what it was intended, he laid down his
pipe and rose hastily from his chair.

"You've not a moment to lose," said he. "As I came in at the gate just
now, I saw Hamilton coming down the river on the ice, and he must be
almost arrived now."

"Up with it then," cried the doctor, seizing the snow, and lifting it
to the top of the door. "Hand me those bits of stick, Harry; quick,
man, stir your stumps.--Now then, skipper, fix them in so, while I hold
this up."

The skipper lent willing and effective aid, so that in a few minutes
the snow was placed in such a position that upon the opening of the
door it must inevitably fall on the head of the first person who should
enter the room.

"So," said the skipper, "that's rigged up in what I call ship-shape
fashion."

"True," remarked the doctor, eyeing the arrangement with a look of
approval; "it will do, I think, admirably."

"Don't you think, skipper," said Harry Somerville gravely, as he
resumed his seat in front of the fire, "that it would be worth while to
make a careful and minute entry in your private log of the manner in
which it was put up, to be afterwards followed by an account of its
effect? You might write an essay on it now, and call it the
extraordinary effects of a fall of snow in latitude so and so, eh? What
think you of it?"

The skipper vouchsafed no reply, but made a significant gesture with
his fist, which caused Harry to put himself in a posture of defence.

At this moment footsteps were heard on the wooden platform in front of
the building.

Instantly all became silence and expectation in the hall as the result
of the practical joke was about to be realised. Just then another step
was heard on the platform, and it became evident that two persons were
approaching the door.

"Hope it'll be the right man," said the skipper, with a look savouring
slightly of anxiety.

As he spoke the door opened, and a foot crossed the threshold; the next
instant the miniature avalanche descended on the head and shoulders of
a man, who reeled forward from the weight of the blow, and, covered
from head to foot with snow, fell to the ground amid shouts of laughter.

With a convulsive stamp and shake, the prostrate figure sprang up and
confronted the party. Had the cast-iron stove suddenly burst into
atoms, and blown the roof off the house, it could scarcely have created
greater consternation than that which filled the merry jesters when
they beheld the visage of Mr. Rogan, the superintendent of the fort,
red with passion and fringed with snow.

"So," said he, stamping violently with his foot, partly from anger, and
partly with a view of shaking off the unexpected covering, which stuck
all over his dress in little patches, producing a somewhat piebald
effect,--"so you are pleased to jest, gentlemen. Pray, who placed that
piece of snow over the door?" Mr. Rogan glared fiercely round upon the
culprits, who stood speechless before him.

For a moment he stood silent, as if uncertain how to act; then turning
short on his heel, he strode quickly out of the room, nearly
overturning Mr. Hamilton, who at the same instant entered it, carrying
his gun and snowshoes under his arm.

"Dear me, what has happened?" he exclaimed, in a peculiarly gentle tone
of voice, at the same time regarding the snow and the horror-stricken
circle with a look of intense surprise.

"You _see_ what has happened," replied Harry Somerville, who was the
first to recover his composure; "I presume you intended to ask, 'What
has _caused_ it to happen?' Perhaps the skipper will explain; it's
beyond me, quite."

Thus appealed to, that worthy cleared his throat, and said,--

"Why, you see, Mr. Hamilton, a great phenomenon of meteorology has
happened. We were all standing, you must know, at the open door, taking
a squint at the weather, when our attention was attracted by a curious
object that appeared in the sky, and seemed to be coming down at the
rate of ten knots an hour, right end-on for the house. I had just time
to cry, 'Clear out, lads,' when it came slap in through the doorway,
and smashed to shivers there, where you see the fragments. In fact,
it's a wonderful aërolite, and Mr. Rogan has just gone out with a lot
of the bits in his pocket, to make a careful examination of them, and
draw up a report for the Geological Society in London. I shouldn't
wonder if he were to send off an express to-night; and maybe you will
have to convey the news to headquarters, so you'd better go and see him
about it soon."

_Soft_ although Mr. Hamilton was supposed to be, he was not quite
prepared to give credit to this explanation; but being of a peaceful
disposition, and altogether unaccustomed to retort, he merely smiled
his disbelief, as he proceeded to lay aside his fowling-piece, and
divest himself of the voluminous out-of-door trappings with which he
was clad. Mr. Hamilton was a tall, slender youth, of about nineteen. He
had come out by the ship in autumn, and was spending his first winter
at York Fort. Up to the period of his entering the Hudson's Bay
Company's service, he had never been more than twenty miles from home,
and having mingled little with the world, was somewhat unsophisticated,
besides being by nature gentle and unassuming.

Soon after this the man who acted as cook, waiter, and butler to the
mess, entered, and said that Mr. Rogan desired to see the accountant
immediately.

"Who am I to say did it?" enquired that gentleman, as he rose to obey
the summons.

"Wouldn't it be a disinterested piece of kindness if you were to say it
was yourself?" suggested the doctor.

"Perhaps it would, but I won't," replied the accountant, as he made his
exit.

In about half-an-hour Mr. Rogan and the accountant re-entered the
apartment. The former had quite regained his composure. He was
naturally amiable; which happy disposition was indicated by a
habitually cheerful look and smile.

"Now, gentlemen," said he, "I find that this practical joke was not
intended for me, and therefore look upon it as an unlucky accident; but
I cannot too strongly express my dislike to practical jokes of all
kinds. I have seen great evil, and some bloodshed, result from
practical jokes; and I think that, being a sufferer in consequence of
your fondness for them, I have a right to beg that you will abstain
from such doings in future--at least from such jokes as involve risk to
those who do not choose to enter into them."

Having given vent to this speech, Mr. Rogan left his volatile friends
to digest it at their leisure.

"Serves us right," said the skipper, pacing up and down the room in a
repentant frame of mind, with his thumbs hooked into the arm-holes of
his vest.

The doctor said nothing, but breathed hard and smoked vigorously.

While we admit most thoroughly with Mr. Rogan that practical jokes are
exceedingly bad, and productive frequently of far more evil than fun,
we feel it our duty, as a faithful delineator of manners, customs, and
character in these regions, to urge in palliation of the offence
committed by the young gentlemen at York Fort, that they had really
about as few amusements and sources of excitement as fall to the lot of
any class of men. They were entirely dependent on their own unaided
exertions, during eight or nine months of the year, for amusement or
recreation of any kind. Their books were few in number, and soon read
through. The desolate wilderness around afforded no incidents to form
subjects of conversation further than the events of a day's shooting,
which, being nearly similar every day, soon lost all interest. No
newspapers came to tell of the doings of the busy world from which they
were shut out, and nothing occurred to vary the dull routine of their
life; so that it is not matter for wonder that they were driven to seek
for relaxation and excitement occasionally in most outrageous and
unnatural ways, and to indulge now and then in the perpetration of a
practical joke.

For some time after the rebuke administered by Mr. Rogan, silence
reigned in _Bachelor's Hall_, as the clerks' house was termed. But at
length symptoms of _ennui_ began to be displayed. The doctor yawned and
lay down on his bed to enjoy an American newspaper about twelve months
old. Harry Somerville sat down to reread a volume of Franklin's travels
in the polar regions, which he had perused twice already. Mr. Hamilton
busied himself in cleaning his fowling-piece; while the skipper
conversed with Mr. Wilson, who was engaged in his room in adjusting an
ivory head to a walking-stick. Mr. Wilson was a jack-of-all-trades, who
could make shift, one way or other, to do _anything_. The accountant
paced the uncarpeted floor in deep contemplation.

At length he paused, and looked at Harry Somerville for some time.

"What say you to a walk through the woods to North River, Harry?"

"Ready," cried Harry, tossing down the book with a look of
contempt--"ready for anything."

"Will _you_ come, Hamilton?" added the accountant. Hamilton looked up
in surprise.

"You don't mean, surely, to take so long a walk in the dark, do you? It
is snowing, too, very heavily, and I think you said that North River
was five miles off, did you not?"

"Of course I mean to walk in the dark," replied the accountant, "unless
you can extemporize an artificial light for the occasion, or prevail on
the moon to come out for my special benefit. As to snowing and a short
tramp of five miles, why, the sooner you get to think of such things as
_trifles_ the better, if you hope to be fit for anything in this
country."

"I _don't_ think much of them," replied Hamilton, softly and with a
slight smile; "I only meant that such a walk was not very _attractive_
so late in the evening."

"Attractive!" shouted Harry Somerville from his bedroom, where he was
equipping himself for the walk; "what can be more attractive than a
sharp run of ten miles through the woods on a cool night to visit your
traps, with the prospect of a silver fox or a wolf at the end of it,
and an extra sound sleep as the result? Come, man, don't be soft; get
ready, and go along with us."

"Besides," added the accountant, "I don't mean to come back to-night.
To-morrow, you know, is a holiday, so we can camp out in the snow after
visiting the traps, have our supper, and start early in the morning to
search for ptarmigan."

"Well, I will go," said Hamilton, after this account of the pleasures
that were to be expected; "I am exceedingly anxious to learn to shoot
birds on the wing."

"Bless me! have you not learned that yet!" asked the doctor, in
affected surprise, as he sauntered out of his bedroom to relight his
pipe.

The various bedrooms in the clerks' house were ranged round the hall,
having doors that opened directly into it, so that conversation carried
on in a loud voice was heard in all the rooms at once, and was not
infrequently sustained in elevated tones from different apartments,
when the occupants were lounging, as they often did of an evening, in
their beds.

"No," said Hamilton, in reply to the doctor's question, "I have not
learned yet, although there were a great many grouse in the part of
Scotland where I was brought up. But my aunt, with whom I lived, was so
fearful of my shooting either myself or someone else, and had such an
aversion to firearms, that I determined to make her mind easy, by
promising that I would never use them so long as I remained under her
roof."

"Quite right; very dutiful and proper," said the doctor, with a grave,
patronising air.

"Perhaps you'll fall in with more _fox_ tracks of the same sort as the
one you gave chase to this morning," shouted the skipper, from Wilson's
room.

"Oh! there's hundreds of them out there," said the accountant; "so
let's off at once."

The trio now proceeded to equip themselves for the walk. Their costumes
were peculiar, and merit description. As they were similar in the chief
points, it will suffice to describe that of our friend Harry.

On his head he wore a fur-cap made of otter-skin, with a flap on each
side to cover the ears, the frost being so intense in these climates
that without some such protection they would inevitably freeze and fall
off.

As the nose is constantly in use for the purposes of respiration, it is
always left uncovered to fight with the cold as it best can; but it is
a hard battle, and there is no doubt that, if it were possible, a nasal
covering would be extremely pleasant. Indeed, several desperate efforts
_have_ been made to construct some sort of nose-bag, but hitherto
without success, owing to the uncomfortable fact that the breath
issuing from that organ immediately freezes, and converts the covering
into a bag of snow or ice, which is not agreeable. Round his neck Harry
wound a thick shawl of such portentious dimensions that it entirely
enveloped the neck and lower part of the face; thus the entire head
was, as it were, eclipsed--the eyes, the nose, and the cheek-bones
alone being visible. He then threw on a coat made of deer-skin, so
prepared that it bore a slight resemblance to excessively coarse
chamois leather. It was somewhat in the form of a long, wide surtout,
overlapping very much in front, and confined closely to the figure by
means of a scarlet worsted belt instead of buttons, and was ornamented
round the foot by a number of cuts, which produced a fringe of little
tails. Being lined with thick flannel, this portion of attire was
rather heavy, but extremely necessary. A pair of blue cloth leggings,
having a loose flap on the outside, were next drawn on over the
trousers, as an additional protection to the knees. The feet, besides
being portions of the body that are peculiarly susceptible of cold, had
further to contend against the chafing of the lines which attach them
to the snow-shoes, so that special care in their preparation for duty
was necessary. First were put on a pair of blanketing or duffel socks,
which were merely oblong in form, without sewing or making-up of any
kind. These were wrapped round the feet, which were next thrust into a
pair of made-up socks, of the same material, having ankle-pieces; above
these were put _another_ pair, _without_ flaps for the ankles. Over all
was drawn a pair of moccasins made of stout deer-skin, similar to that
of the coat. Of course, the elegance of Harry's feet was entirely
destroyed, and had he been met in this guise by any of his friends in
the "old country," they would infallibly have come to the conclusion
that he was afflicted with gout. Over his shoulders he slung a
powder-horn and shot-pouch, the latter tastefully embroidered with dyed
quill-work, A pair of deer-skin mittens, having a little bag for the
thumb, and a large bag for the fingers, completed his costume.

While the three were making ready, with a running accompaniment of
grunts and groans at refractory pieces of apparel, the night without
became darker, and the snow fell thicker, so that when they issued
suddenly out of their warm abode, and emerged into the sharp frosty
air, which blew the snow-drift into their eyes, they felt a momentary
desire to give up the project and return to their comfortable quarters.

"What a dismal-looking night it is!" said the accountant, as he led the
way along the wooden platform towards the gate of the fort.

"Very!" replied Hamilton, with an involuntary shudder.

"Keep up your heart," said Harry, in a cheerful voice; "you've no
notion how your mind will change on that point when you have walked a
mile or so and got into a comfortable heat. I must confess, however,
that a little moonshine would be an improvement," he added, on
stumbling, for the third time, off the platform into the deep snow.

"It is full moon just now," said the accountant, "and I think the
clouds look as if they would break soon. At any rate, I've been at
North River so often that I believe I could walk out there blindfold."

As he spoke they passed the gate, and diverging to the right,
proceeded, as well as the imperfect light permitted, along the footpath
that led to the forest.



CHAPTER XVIII.

The walk continued--Frozen toes--An encampment in the snow.


After quitting York Fort, the three friends followed the track leading
to the spot where the winter's firewood was cut. Snow was still falling
thickly, and it was with some difficulty that the accountant kept in
the right direction. The night was excessively dark, while the dense
fir forest, through which the narrow road ran, rendered the gloom if
possible more intense.

When they had proceeded about a mile, their leader suddenly came to a
stand.

"We must quit the track now," said he; "so get on your snow-shoes as
fast as you can."

Hitherto they had carried their snow-shoes under their arms, as the
beaten track along which they travelled rendered them unnecessary; but
now, having to leave the path and pursue the remainder of their journey
through deep snow, they availed themselves of those useful machines, by
means of which the inhabitants of this part of North America are
enabled to journey over many miles of trackless wilderness, with nearly
as much ease as a sportsman can traverse the moors in autumn, and that
over snow so deep that one hour's walk through it _without_ such aids
would completely exhaust the stoutest trapper, and advance him only a
mile or so on his journey. In other words, to walk without snow-shoes
would be utterly impossible, while to walk with them is easy and
agreeable. They are not used after the manner of skates, with a
_sliding_, but a _stepping_ action, and their sole use is to support
the wearer on the top of snow, into which without them he would sink up
to the waist. When we say that they support the wearer on the _top_ of
the snow, of course we do not mean that they literally do not break the
surface at all. But the depth to which they sink is comparatively
trifling, and varies according to the state of the snow and the season
of the year. In the woods they sink frequently about six inches,
sometimes more, sometimes less, while on frozen rivers, where the snow
is packed solid by the action of the wind, they sink only two or three
inches, and sometimes so little as to render it preferable to walk
without them altogether. Snow-shoes are made of a light, strong
framework of wood, varying from three to six feet long by eighteen and
twenty inches broad, tapering to a point before and behind, and turning
up in front. Different tribes of Indians modify the form a little, but
in all essential points they are the same. The framework is filled up
with a netting of deer-skin threads, which unites lightness with great
strength, and permits any snow that may chance to fall upon the netting
to pass through it like a sieve.

On the present occasion the snow, having recently fallen, was soft, and
the walking, consequently, what is called heavy.

"Come on," shouted the accountant, as he came to a stand for the third
time within half-an-hour, to await the coming up of poor Hamilton, who,
being rather awkward in snow-shoe walking even in daylight, found it
nearly impossible in the dark.

"Wait a little, please," replied a faint voice in the distance; "I've
got among a quantity of willows, and find it very difficult to get on.
I've been down twice al--"

The sudden cessation of the voice, and a loud crash as of breaking
branches, proved too clearly that our friend had accomplished his third
fall.

"There he goes again," exclaimed Harry Somerville, who came up at the
moment. "I've helped him up once already. We'll never get to North
River at this rate. What _is_ to be done?"

"Let's see what has become of him this time, however," said the
accountant, as he began to retrace his steps. "If I mistake not, he
made rather a heavy plunge that time, judging from the sound."

At that moment the clouds overhead broke, and a moonbeam shot down into
the forest, throwing a pale light over the cold scene. A few steps
brought Harry and the accountant to the spot whence the sound had
proceeded, and a loud startling laugh rang through the night air, as
the latter suddenly beheld poor Hamilton struggling, with his arms,
head, and shoulders stuck into the snow, his snow-shoes twisted and
sticking with the heels up and awry, in a sort of rampant confusion,
and his gun buried to the locks beside him. Regaining one's
perpendicular after a fall in deep snow, when the feet are encumbered
by a pair of long snow-shoes, is by no means an easy thing to
accomplish, in consequence of the impossibility of getting hold of
anything solid on which to rest the hands. The depth is so great that
the outstretched arms cannot find bottom, and every successive struggle
only sinks the unhappy victim deeper down. Should no assistance be
near, he will soon beat the snow to a solidity that will enable him to
rise, but not in a very enviable or comfortable condition.

"Give me a hand, Harry," gasped Hamilton, as he managed to twist his
head upwards for a moment.

"Here you are," cried Harry, holding out his hand and endeavouring to
suppress his desire to laugh; "up with you," and in another moment the
poor youth was upon his legs, with every fold and crevice about his
person stuffed to repletion with snow.

"Come, cheer up," cried the accountant, giving the youth a slap on the
back; "there's nothing like experience--the proverb says that it even
teaches fools, so you need not despair."

Hamilton smiled as he endeavoured to shake off some of his white
coating.

"We'll be all right immediately," added Harry; "I see that the country
ahead is more open, so the walking will be easier."

"Oh, I wish that I had not come!" said Hamilton, sorrowfully, "because
I am only detaining you. But perhaps I shall do better as we get on. At
any rate, I cannot go back now, as I could never find the way."

"Go back! of course not," said the accountant; "in a short time we
shall get into the old woodcutters' track of last year, and although
it's not beaten at all, yet it is pretty level and open, so that we
shall get on famously."

"Go on, then," sighed Hamilton.

"Drive ahead," laughed Harry, and without further delay they resumed
their march, which was soon rendered more cheerful as the clouds rolled
away, the snow ceased to fall, and the bright full moon poured its rays
down upon their path.

For a long time they proceeded in silence, the muffled sound of the
snow, as it sank beneath their regular footsteps, being the only
interruption to the universal stillness around. There is something very
solemnizing in a scene such as we are now describing--the calm
tranquillity of the arctic night; the pure whiteness of the snowy
carpet, which rendered the dark firs inky black by contrast; the clear,
cold, starry sky, that glimmered behind the dark clouds, whose heavy
masses, now rolling across the moon, partially obscured the landscape,
and anon, passing slowly away, let a flood of light down upon the
forest, which, penetrating between the thick branches, scattered the
surface of the snow, as it were, with flakes of silver. Sleep has often
been applied as a simile to nature in repose, but in this case death
seemed more appropriate. So silent, so cold, so still was the scene,
that it filled the mind with an indefinable feeling of dread, as if
there was some mysterious danger near. Once or twice during their walk
the three travellers paused to rest, but they spoke little, and in
subdued voices, as if they feared to break the silence of the night.

"It is strange," said Harry, in a low tone, as he walked beside
Hamilton, "that such a scene as this always makes me think more than
usual of home."

"And yet it is natural," replied the other, "because it reminds us more
forcibly than any other that we are in a foreign land--in the lonely
wilderness--far away from home."

Both Harry and Hamilton had been trained in families where the Almighty
was feared and loved, and where their minds had been early led to
reflect upon the Creator when regarding the works of His hand: their
thoughts, therefore, naturally reverted to another home, compared with
which this world is indeed a cold, lonely wilderness; but on such
subjects they feared to converse, partly from a dread of the ridicule
of reckless companions, partly from ignorance of each other's feelings
on religious matters, and although their minds were busy, their tongues
were silent.

The ground over which the greater part of their path lay was a swamp,
which, being now frozen, was a beautiful white plain, so that their
advance was more rapid, until they approached the belt of woodland that
skirts North River. Here they again encountered the heavy snow, which
had been such a source of difficulty to Hamilton at setting out. He had
profited by his former experience, however, and by the exercise of an
excessive degree of caution managed to scramble through the woods
tolerably well, emerging at last, along with his companions, on the
bleak margin of what appeared to be the frozen sea.

North River, at this place, is several miles broad, and the opposite
shore is so low that the snow causes it to appear but a slight
undulation of the frozen bed of the river. Indeed, it would not be
distinguishable at all, were it not for the willow bushes and dwarf
pines, whose tops, rising above the white garb of winter, indicate that
_terra firma_ lies below.

"What a cold, desolate-looking place!" said Hamilton, as the party
stood still to recover breath before taking their way over the plain to
the spot where the accountant's traps were set. "It looks much more
like the frozen sea than a river."

"It can scarcely be called a river at this place," remarked the
accountant, "seeing that the water hereabouts is brackish, and the
tides ebb and flow a good way up. In fact, this is the extreme mouth of
North River, and if you turn your eyes a little to the right, towards
yonder ice-hummock in the plain, you behold the frozen sea itself."

"Where are your traps set?" inquired Harry.

"Down in the hollow, behind yon point covered with brushwood."

"Oh, we shall soon get to them then; come along," cried Harry.

Harry was mistaken, however. He had not yet learned by experience the
extreme difficulty of judging of distance in the uncertain light of
night--a difficulty that was increased by the ignorance of the
locality, and by the gleams of moonshine that shot through the driving
clouds and threw confused fantastic shadows over the plain. The point
which he had at first supposed was covered with low bushes, and about a
hundred yards off, proved to be clad in reality with large bushes and
small trees, and lay at a distance of two miles.

"I think you have been mistaken in supposing the point so near, Harry,"
said Hamilton, as he trudged on beside his friend.

"A fact evident to the naked eye," replied Harry. "How do your feet
stand it, eh? Beginning to lose bark yet?"

Hamilton did not feel quite sure. "I think," said he softly, "that
there is a blister under the big toe of my left foot. It feels very
painful."

"If you feel at all _uncertain_ about it, you may rest assured that
there _is_ a blister. These things don't give much pain at first. I'm
sorry to tell you, my dear fellow, that you'll be painfully aware of
the fact to-morrow. However, don't distress yourself; it's a part of
the experience that everyone goes through in this country. Besides,"
said Harry smiling, "we can send to the fort for medical advice."

"Don't bother the poor fellow, and hold your tongue. Harry," said the
accountant, who now began to tread more cautiously as he approached the
place where the traps were set.

"How many traps have you?" inquired Harry in a low tone.

"Three," replied the accountant.

"Do you know I have a very strange feeling about my heels--or rather a
want of feeling," said Hamilton, smiling dubiously.

"A want of feeling! what do you mean?" cried the accountant, stopping
suddenly and confronting his young friend.

"Oh, I daresay it's nothing," he exclaimed, looking as if ashamed of
having spoken of it; "only I feel exactly as if both my heels were cut
off, and I were walking on tip-toe!"

"Say you so? then right about wheel. Your heels are frozen, man, and
you'll lose them if you don't look sharp."

"Frozen!" cried Hamilton, with a look of incredulity.

"Ay, frozen; and it's lucky you told me. I've a place up in the woods
here, which I call my winter camp, where we can get you put to rights.
But step out; the longer we are about it the worse for you."

Harry Somerville was at first disposed to think that the accountant
jested, but seeing that he turned his back towards his traps, and made
for the nearest point of the thick woods with a stride that betokened
thorough sincerity, he became anxious too, and followed as fast as
possible.

The place to which the accountant led his young friends was a group of
fir trees which grew on a little knoll, that rose a few feet above the
surrounding level country. At the foot of this hillock a small rivulet
or burn ran in summer, but the only evidence of its presence now was
the absence of willow bushes all along its covered narrow bed. A level
tract was thus formed by nature, free from all underwood, and running
inland about the distance of a mile, where it was lost in the swamp
whence the stream issued. The wooded knoll or hillock lay at the mouth
of this brook, and being the only elevated spot in the neighbourhood,
besides having the largest trees growing on it, had been selected by
the accountant as a convenient place for "camping out" on, when he
visited his traps in winter, and happened to be either too late or
disinclined to return home. Moreover, the spreading fir branches
afforded an excellent shelter alike from wind and snow in the centre of
the clump, while from the margin was obtained a partial view of the
river and the sea beyond. Indeed, from this look-out there was a very
fine prospect on clear winter nights of the white landscape, enlivened
occasionally by groups of arctic foxes, which might be seen scampering
about in sport, and gambolling among the hummocks of ice like young
kittens.

"Now we shall turn up here," said the accountant, as he walked a short
way up the brook before mentioned, and halted in front of what appeared
to be an impenetrable mass of bushes.

"We shall have to cut our way, then," said Harry, looking to the right
and left in the vain hope of discovering a place where, the bushes
being less dense, they might effect an entrance into the knoll or grove.

"Not so. I have taken care to make a passage into my winter camp,
although it was only a whim, after all, to make a concealed entrance,
seeing that no one ever passes this way except wolves and foxes, whose
noses render the use of their eyes in most cases unnecessary."

So saying, the accountant turned aside a thick branch, and disclosed a
narrow track, into which he entered, followed by his two companions.

A few minutes brought them to the centre of the knoll. Here they found
a clear space of about twenty feet in diameter, round which the trees
circled so thickly that in daylight nothing could be seen but
tree-stems as far as the eye could penetrate, while overhead the broad
flat branches of the firs, with their evergreen verdure, spread out and
interlaced so thickly that very little light penetrated into the space
below. Of course at night, even in moonlight, the place was pitch dark.
Into this retreat the accountant led his companions, and bidding them
stand still for a minute lest they should stumble into the fireplace,
he proceeded to strike a light.

Those who have never travelled in the wild parts of this world can form
but a faint conception of the extraordinary and sudden change that is
produced, not only in the scene, but in the mind of the beholder, when
a blazing fire is lighted on a dark night. Before the fire is kindled,
and you stand, perhaps (as Harry and his friend did on the present
occasion) shivering in the cold, the heart sinks, and sad, gloomy
thoughts arise, while your eye endeavours to pierce the thick darkness,
which, if it succeeds in doing so, only adds to the effect by
disclosing the pallid snow, the cold, chilling beams of the moon, the
wide vista of savage scenery, the awe-inspiring solitudes that tell of
your isolated condition, or stir up sad memories of other and
far-distant scenes. But the moment the first spark of fire sends a
fitful gleam of light upwards, these thoughts and feelings take wing
and vanish. The indistinct scenery is rendered utterly invisible by the
red light, which attracts and rivets the eye as if by a species of
fascination. The deep shadows of the woods immediately around you grow
deeper and blacker as the flames leap and sparkle upwards, causing the
stems of the surrounding trees, and the foliage of the overhanging
branches, to stand out in bold relief, bathed in a ruddy glow, which
converts the forest chamber into a snug _home-like_ place, and fills
the mind with agreeable, _home-like_ feelings and meditations. It
seemed as if the spirit, in the one case, were set loose and
etherealized to enable it to spread itself over the plains of cold,
cheerless, illimitable space, and left to dwell upon objects too wide
to grasp, too indistinct to comprehend; while, in the other, it is
recalled and concentrated upon matters circumscribed and congenial,
things of which it has long been cognizant, and which it can appreciate
and enjoy without the effort of a thought.

Some such thoughts and feelings passed rapidly through the minds of
Harry and Hamilton, while the accountant struck a light and kindled a
roaring fire of logs, which he had cut and arranged there on a previous
occasion. In the middle of the space thus brilliantly illuminated, the
snow had been cleared away till the moss was uncovered, thus leaving a
hole of about ten feet in diameter. As the snow was quite four feet
deep, the hole was surrounded with a pure white wall, whose height was
further increased by the masses thrown out in the process of digging to
nearly six feet. At one end of this space was the large fire which had
just been kindled, and which, owing to the intense cold, only melted a
very little of the snow in its immediate neighbourhood. At the other
end lay a mass of flat pine branches, which were piled up so thickly as
to form a pleasant elastic couch, the upper end being slightly raised
so as to form a kind of bolster, while the lower extended almost into
the fire. Indeed, the branches at the extremity were burnt quite brown,
and some of them charred. Beside the bolster lay a small wooden box, a
round tin kettle, an iron tea-kettle, two tin mugs, a hatchet, and a
large bundle tied up in a green blanket. There were thus, as it were,
two apartments, one within the other--namely, the outer one, whose
walls were formed of tree-stems and thick darkness, and the ceiling of
green boughs; and then the inner one, with walls of snow, that sparkled
in the firelight as if set with precious stones, and a carpet of
evergreen branches.

Within this latter our three friends were soon actively employed. Poor
Hamilton's moccasins were speedily removed, and his friends, going down
on their knees, began to rub his feet with a degree of energy that
induced him to beg for mercy.

"Mercy!" exclaimed the accountant, without pausing for an instant;
"faith, it's little mercy there would be in stopping just now.--Rub
away, Harry. Don't give in. They're coming right at last."

After a very severe rubbing, the heels began to show symptoms of
returning vitality. They were then wrapped up in the folds of a thick
blanket, and held sufficiently near to the fire to prevent any chance
of the frost getting at them again.

"Now, my boy," said the accountant, as he sat down to enjoy a pipe and
rest himself on a blanket, which, along with the one wrapped round
Hamilton's feet, had been extracted from the green bundle before
mentioned--"now, my boy, you'll have to enjoy yourself here as you best
can for an hour or two, while Harry and I visit the traps. Would you
like supper before we go, or shall we have it on our return?"

"Oh, I'll wait for it by all means till you return. I don't feel a bit
hungry just now, and it will be much more cheerful to have it after all
your work is over. Besides, I feel my feet too painful to enjoy it just
now."

"My poor fellow," said Harry, whose heart smote him for having been
disposed at first to treat the thing lightly, "I'm really sorry for
you. Would you not like me to stay with you?"

"By no means," replied Hamilton quickly. "You can do nothing more for
me, Harry; and I should be very sorry if you missed seeing the traps."

"Oh, never mind the traps. I've seen traps, and set them too, fifty
times before now. I'll stop with you, old boy, I will," said Harry
doggedly, while he made arrangements to settle down for the evening.

"Well, if _you_ won't go, I will," said Hamilton coolly, as he unwound
the blanket from his feet and began to pull on his socks.

"Bravo, my lad!" exclaimed the accountant, patting him approvingly on
the back; "I didn't think you had half so much pluck in you. But it
won't do, old fellow. You're in _my_ castle just now, and must obey
orders. You couldn't walk half-a-mile for your life; so just be pleased
to pull off your socks again. Besides, I want Harry to help me to carry
up my foxes, if there are any;--so get ready, sirrah!"

"Ay, ay, captain," cried Harry, with a laugh, while he sprang up and
put on his snow-shoes.

"You needn't bring your gun," said the accountant, shaking the ashes
from his pipe as he prepared to depart, "but you may as well shove that
axe into your belt; you may want it.--Now, mind, don't roast your
feet," he added, turning to Hamilton.

"Adieu!" cried Harry, with a nod and a smile, as he turned to go. "Take
care the bears don't find you out."

"No fear. Good-bye, Harry," replied Hamilton, as his two friends
disappeared in the wood and left him to his solitary meditations.



CHAPTER XIX.

Shows how the accountant and Harry set their traps, and what came of it.


The moon was still up, and the sky less overcast, when our amateur
trappers quitted the encampment, and, descending to the mouth of the
little brook, took their way over North River in the direction of the
accountant's traps. Being somewhat fatigued both in mind and body by
the unusual exertions of the night, neither of them spoke for some
time, but continued to walk in silence, contemplatively gazing at their
long shadows.

"Did you ever trap a fox, Harry?" said the accountant at length.

"Yes, I used to set traps at Red River; but the foxes there are not
numerous, and are so closely watched by the dogs that they have become
suspicious. I caught but few."

"Then you know how to _set_ a trap?"

"Oh, yes; I've set both steel and snow traps often. You've heard of old
Labonté, who used to carry one of the winter packets from Red River
until within a few years back?"

"Yes, I've heard of him; his name is in my ledger--at least, if you
mean Pierre Labonté, who came down last fall with the brigade."

"The same. Well, he was a great friend of mine. His little cabin lay
about two miles from Fort Garry, and after work was over in the office
I used to go down to sit and chat with him by the fire, and many a time
I have sat up half the night listening to him as he recounted his
adventures. The old man never tired of relating them, and of smoking
twist tobacco. Among other things, he set my mind upon trapping, by
giving me an account of an expedition he made, when quite a youth, to
the Rocky Mountains; so I got him to go into the woods and teach me how
to set traps and snares, and I flatter myself he found me an apt pupil."

"Humph!" ejaculated the accountant; "I have no doubt you do _flatter_
yourself. But here we are. The traps are just beyond that mound; so
look out, and don't stick your feet into them."

"Hist!" exclaimed Harry, laying his hand suddenly on his companion's
arm. "Do you see _that_?" pointing towards the place where the traps
were said to be.

"You have sharp eyes, younker. I _do_ see it, now that you point it
out. It's a fox, and caught, too, as I'm a scrivener."

"You're in luck to-night," exclaimed Harry, eagerly, "It's a _silver_
fox. I see the white tip on its tail."

"Nonsense," cried the accountant, hastening forward; "but we'll soon
settle the point."

Harry proved to be right. On reaching the spot they found a beautiful
black fox, caught by the fore leg in a steel trap, and gazing at them
with a look of terror.

The skin of the silver fox--so called from a slight sprinkling of pure
white hairs covering its otherwise jet-black body--is the most valuable
fur obtained by the fur-traders, and fetches an enormous price in the
British market, so much as thirty pounds sterling being frequently
obtained for a single skin. The foxes vary in colour from jet black,
which is the most valuable, to a light silvery hue, and are hailed as
great prizes by the Indians and trappers when they are so fortunate as
to catch them. They are not numerous, however, and being exceedingly
wary and suspicious, are difficult to catch, ft may be supposed,
therefore, that our friend the accountant ran to secure his prize with
some eagerness.

"Now, then, my beauty, don't shrink," he said, as the poor fox backed
at his approach as far as the chain which fastened the trap to a log of
wood, would permit, and then, standing at bay, showed a formidable row
of teeth. That grin was its last; another moment, and the handle of the
accountant's axe stretched it lifeless on the snow.

"Isn't it a beauty!" cried he, surveying the animal with a look of
triumphant pleasure; and then feeling as if he had compromised his
dignity a little by betraying so much glee, he added, "But come now,
Harry; we must see to the other traps. It's getting late."

The others were soon visited; but no more foxes were caught. However,
the accountant set them both off to see that all was right; and then
readjusting one himself, told Harry to set the other, in order to clear
himself of the charge of boasting.

Harry, nothing loath, went down on his knees to do so.

The steel trap used for catching foxes is of exactly the same form as
the ordinary rat-trap, with this difference, that it has two springs
instead of one, is considerably larger, and has no teeth, as these
latter would only tend to spoil the skin. Owing to the strength of the
springs, a pretty strong effort is required to set the trap, and,
clumsy fellows frequently catch the tails of their coats or the ends of
their belts, and not unfrequently the ends of their fingers, in their
awkward attempts. Haying set it without any of the above untoward
accidents occurring, Harry placed it gently on a hole which he had
previously scraped--placing it in such a manner that the jaws and
plate, or trigger, were a hair-breadth below the level of the snow.
After this he spread over it a very thin sheet of paper, observing as
he did so that hay or grass was preferable; but as there was none at
hand, paper would do. Over this he sprinkled snow very lightly, until
every vestige of the trap was concealed from view, and the whole was
made quite level with the surrounding plain, so that even the
accountant himself, after he had once removed his eyes from it, could
not tell where it lay. Some chips of a frozen ptarmigan were then
scattered around the spot, and a piece of wood left to mark its
whereabouts. The bait is always scattered _round_ and not _on_ the
trap, as the fox, in running from one piece to another, is almost
certain to set his foot on it, and so get caught by the leg; whereas,
were the bait placed _upon_ the trap, the fox would be apt to get
caught, while in the act of eating, by the snout, which, being
wedge-like in form, is easily dragged out of its gripe.

"Now then, what say you to going farther out on the river, and making a
snow trap for white foxes?" said the accountant. "We shall still have
time to do so before the moon sets."

"Agreed," cried Harry. "Come along."

Without further parley they left the spot and stretched out towards the
sea.

The snow on the river was quite hard on its surface, so that snow-shoes
being unnecessary, they carried them over their shoulders, and advanced
much more rapidly. It is true that their road was a good deal broken,
and jagged pieces of ice protruded their sharp corners so as to render
a little attention necessary in walking; but one or two severe bumps on
their toes made our friends sensitively alive to these minor dangers of
the way.

"There goes a pack of them!" exclaimed Harry, as a troop of white foxes
scampered past, gambolling as they went, and, coming suddenly to a halt
at a short distance, wheeled about and sat down on their haunches,
apparently resolved to have a good look at the strangers who dared to
venture into their wild domain.

"Oh, they are the most stupid brutes alive," said the accountant, as he
regarded the pack with a look of contempt. "I've seen one of them sit
down and look at me while I set a trap right before his eyes; and I had
not got a hundred yards from the spot when a yell informed me that the
gentleman's curiosity had led him to put his foot right into it."

"Indeed!" exclaimed Harry. "I had no idea that they were so tame.
Certainly no other kind of fox would do that."

"No, that's certain. But these fellows have done it to me again and
again. I shouldn't wonder if we got one to-night in the very same way.
I'm sure, by the look of these rascals, that they would do anything of
a reckless, stupid nature just now."

"Had we not better make our trap here, then? There is a point, not
fifty yards off, with trees on it large enough for our purpose."

"Yes; it will do very well here. Now, then, to work. Go to the wood,
Harry, and fetch a log or two, while I cut out the slabs." So saying,
the accountant drew the axe which he always carried in his belt; and
while Harry entered the wood and began to hew off the branch of a tree,
he proceeded, as he had said, to "cut out the slabs." With the point of
his knife he first of all marked out an oblong in the snow, then cut
down three or four inches with the axe, and putting the handle under
the cut, after the manner of a lever, detached a thick solid slab of
about three inches thick, which, although not so hard as ice, was quite
hard enough for the purpose for which it was intended. He then cut two
similar slabs, and a smaller one, the same in thickness and breadth,
but only half the length. Having accomplished this, he raised himself
to rest a little, and observed that Harry approached, staggering under
a load of wood, and that the foxes were still sitting on their
haunches, gazing at him with a look of deep interest.

"If I only had my gun here!" thought he. But not having it, he merely
shook his fist at them, stooped down again, and resumed his work. With
Harry's assistance the slabs were placed in such a way as to form a
sort of box or house, having one end of it open. This was further
plastered with soft snow at the joinings, and banked up in such a way
that no animal could break into it easily--at least such an attempt
would be so difficult as to make an entrance into the interior by the
open side much more probable. When this was finished, they took the
logs that Harry had cut and carried with so much difficulty from the
wood, and began to lop off the smaller branches and twigs. One large
log was placed across the opening of the trap, while the others were
piled on one end of it so as to press it down with their weight. Three
small pieces of stick were now prepared--two of them being about half a
foot long, and the other about a foot. On the long piece of stick the
breast of a ptarmigan was fixed as a bait, and two notches cut, the one
at the end of it, the other about four or five inches further down. All
was now ready to set the trap.

"Raise the log now while I place the trigger," said Harry, kneeling
down in front of the door, while the accountant, as directed, lifted up
the log on which the others lay so as to allow his companion to
introduce the bait-stick, in such a manner as to support it, while the
slightest pull on the bait would set the stick with the notches free,
and thus permit the log to fall on the back of the fox, whose effort to
reach the bait would necessarily place him under it.

While Harry was thus engaged, the accountant stood up and looked
towards the foxes. They had approached so near in their curiosity, that
he was induced to throw his axe frantically at the foremost of the
pack. This set them galloping off, but they soon halted and sat down as
before.

"What aggravating brutes they are, to be sure!" said Harry, with a
laugh, as his companion returned with the hatchet.

"Humph! yes, but we'll be upsides with them yet. Come along into the
wood, and I wager that in ten minutes we shall have one."

They immediately hurried towards the wood, but had not walked fifty
paces when they were startled by a loud yell behind them.

"Dear me!" exclaimed the accountant, while he and Harry turned round
with a start. "It cannot surely be possible that they have gone in
already." A loud howl followed the remark, and the whole pack fled over
the plain like snow-drift, and disappeared.

"Ah, that's a pity! something must have scared them to make them take
wing like that. However, we'll get one to-morrow for certain; so come
along, lad, let us make for the camp."

"Not so fast," replied the other; "if you hadn't pored over the big
ledger till you were blind, you would see that there is _one_ prisoner
already."

This proved to be the case. On returning to the spot they found an
arctic fox in his last gasp, lying flat on the snow, with the heavy log
across his back, which seemed to be broken. A slight tap on the snout
with the accountant's deadly axe-handle completed its destruction.

"We're in luck to-night," cried Harry, as he kneeled again to reset the
trap. "But after all these white brutes are worth very little; I fancy
a hundred of their skins would not be worth the black one you got
first."

"Be quick, Harry; the moon is almost down, and poor Hamilton will think
that the polar bears have got hold of us."

"Ail right! Now then, step out," and glancing once more at the trap to
see that all was properly arranged, the two friends once more turned
their faces homewards, and travelled over the snow with rapid strides.

The moon had just set, leaving the desolate scene in deep gloom, so
that they could scarcely find their way to the forest; and when they
did at last reach its shelter, the night became so intensely dark that
they had almost to grope their way, and would certainly have lost it
altogether were it not for the accountant's thorough knowledge of the
locality. To add to their discomfort, as they stumbled on, snow began
to fall, and ere long a pretty steady breeze of wind drove it sharply
in their faces. However, this mattered but little, as they penetrated
deeper in among the trees, which proved a complete shelter both from
wind and snow. An hour's march brought them to the mouth of the brook,
although half that time would have been sufficient had it been
daylight, and a few minutes later they had the satisfaction of hearing
Hamilton's voice hailing them as they pushed aside the bushes and
sprang into the cheerful light of their encampment.

"Hurrah!" shouted Harry, as he leaped into the space before the fire,
and flung the two foxes at Hamilton's feet. "What do you think of
_that_, old fellow? How are the heels? Rather sore, eh? Now for the
kettle. Polly, put the kettle on; we'll all have--My eye! where's the
kettle, Hamilton? have you eaten it?"

"If you compose yourself a little, Harry, and look at the fire, you'll
see it boiling there."

"Man, what a chap you are for making unnecessary speeches! Couldn't you
tell me to look at the fire without the preliminary piece of advice to
_compose_ myself? Besides, you talk nonsense, for I'm composed already,
of blood, bones, flesh, sinews, fat, and--"

"Humbug!" interrupted the accountant. "Lend a hand to get supper, you
young goose!"

"And so," continued Harry, not noticing the interruption, "I cannot be
expected, nor is it necessary, to _compose_ myself over again. But to
be serious," he added, "it was very kind and considerate of you, Hammy,
to put on the kettle, when your heels were in a manner uppermost."

"Oh, it was nothing at all; my heels are much better, thank you, and it
kept me from wearying."

"Poor fellow!" said the accountant, while he busied himself in
preparing their evening meal, "you must be quite ravenous by this
time--at least _I_ am, which is the same thing."

Supper was soon ready. It consisted of a large kettle of tea, a lump of
pemmican, a handful of broken biscuit, and three ptarmigan--all of
which were produced from the small wooden box which the accountant was
wont to call his camp-larder. The ptarmigan had been shot two weeks
before, and carefully laid up for future use; the intense frost being a
sufficient guarantee for their preservation for many months, had that
been desired.

It would have done you good, reader (supposing you to be possessed of
sympathetic feelings), to have witnessed those three nor'-westers
enjoying their supper in the snowy camp. The fire had been replenished
with logs, till it roared and crackled again, as if it were endued with
a vicious spirit, and wished to set the very snow in flames. The walls
shone like alabaster studded with diamonds, while the green boughs
overhead and the stems around were of a deep red colour in the light of
the fierce blaze. The tea-kettle hissed, fumed, and boiled over into
the fire. A mass of pemmican simmered in the lid in front of it. Three
pannikins of tea reposed on the green branches, their refreshing
contents sending up little clouds of steam, while the ptarmigan, now
split up, skewered, and roasted, were being heartily devoured by our
three hungry friends.

The pleasures that fall to the lot of man are transient. Doubtless they
are numerous and oft recurring; still they are transient, and
so--supper came to an end.

"Now for a pipe," said the accountant, disposing his limbs at full
length on a green blanket. "O thou precious weed, what should we do
without thee!"

"Smoke _tea_, to be sure," answered Harry.

"Ah! true, it _is_ possible to exist on a pipe of tea-leaves for a
time, but _only_ for a time. I tried it myself once, in desperation,
when I ran short of tobacco on a journey, and found it execrable, but
better than nothing."

"Pity we can't join you in that." remarked Harry.

"True; but perhaps since you cannot pipe, it might prove an agreeable
diversification to dance."

"Thank you, I'd rather not," said Harry; "and as for Hamilton, I'm
convinced that _his_ mind is made up on the subject.--How go the heels
now?"

"Thank you, pretty well," he replied, reclining his head on the pine
branches, and extending his smitten members towards the fire. "I think
they will be quite well in the morning."

"It is a curious thing," remarked the accountant, in a soliloquising
tone, "that _soft_ fellows _never_ smoke!"

"I beg your pardon," said Harry, "I've often seen hot loaves smoke, and
they're soft enough fellows, in all conscience!"

"Ah!" sighed the accountant, "that reminds me of poor Peterkin, who was
_so_ soft that he went by the name of 'Butter.' Did you ever hear of
what he did the summer before last with an Indian's head?"

"No, never; what was it!"

"I'll tell you the story," replied the accountant, drawing a few
vigorous whiffs of smoke, to prevent his pipe going out while he spoke.

As the story in question, however, depicts a new phase of society in
the woods, it deserves a chapter to itself.



CHAPTER XX.

The accountant's story.


"Spring had passed away, and York Fort was filled with all the bustle
and activity of summer. Brigades came pouring in upon us with furs from
the interior, and as every boat brought a C. T. or a clerk, our
mess-table began to overflow.

"You've not seen the summer mess-room filled yet, Hamilton. That's a
treat in store for you."

"It was pretty full last autumn, I think," suggested Hamilton, "at the
time I arrived from England."

"Full! why, man, it was getting to feel quite lonely at that time. I've
seen more than fifty sit down to table there, and it was worth going
fifty miles to hear the row they kicked up--telling stories without end
(and sometimes without foundation) about their wild doings in the
interior, where every man-jack of them having spent at least eight
months almost in perfect solitude, they hadn't had a chance of letting
their tongues go till they came down here. But to proceed. When the
ship came out in the fall, she brought a batch of new clerks, and among
them was this miserable chap Peterkin, whom we soon nicknamed _Butter_.
He was the softest fellow I ever knew (far worse than you, Hamilton),
and he hadn't been here a week before the wild blades from the
interior, who were bursting with fun and mischief, began to play off
all kinds of practical jokes upon him. The very first day he sat down
at the mess-table, our worthy governor (who, you are aware, detests
practical jokes) played him a trick, quite unintentionally, which
raised a laugh against him for many a day. You know that old Mr. Rogan
is rather absent at times; well, the first day that Peterkin came to
mess (it was breakfast), the old governor asked him, in a patronizing
sort of way, to sit at his right hand. Accordingly down he sat, and
having never, I fancy, been away from his mother's apron-string before,
he seemed to feel very uncomfortable, especially as he was regarded as
a sort of novelty. The first thing he did was to capsize his plate into
his lap, which set the youngsters at the lower end of the table into
suppressed fits of laughter. However, he was eating the leg of a dry
grouse at the time, so it didn't make much of a mess.

"'Try some fish, Peterkin,' said Mr. Rogan kindly, seeing that the
youth was ill at ease. 'That old grouse is tough enough to break your
knife.'

"'A very rough passage,' replied the youngster, whose mind was quite
confused by hearing the captain of the ship, who sat next to him,
giving to his next neighbour a graphic account of the voyage in a very
loud key--'I mean, if you please, no, thank you,' he stammered,
endeavouring to correct himself.

"'Ah! a cup of tea perhaps.--Here, Anderson' (turning to the butler),
'a cup of tea to Mr. Peterkin.'

"The butler obeyed the order.

"'And here, fill my cup,' said old Rogan, interrupting himself in an
earnest conversation, into which he had plunged with the gentleman on
his left hand. As he said this he lifted his cup to empty the slops,
but without paying attention to what he was doing. As luck would have
it, the slop-basin was not at hand, and Peterkin's cup _was_, so he
emptied it innocently into that. Peterkin hadn't courage to arrest his
hand, and when the deed was done he looked timidly round to see if the
action had been observed. Nearly half the table had seen it, but they
pretended ignorance of the thing so well that he thought no one had
observed, and so went quietly on with his breakfast, and drank the tea!
But I am wandering from my story. Well, about this time there was a
young Indian who shot himself accidentally in the woods, and was
brought to the fort to see if anything could be done for him. The
doctor examined his wound, and found that the ball had passed through
the upper part of his right arm and the middle of his right thigh,
breaking the bone of the latter in its passage. It was an extraordinary
shot for a man to put into himself, for it would have been next to
impossible even for _another_ man to have done it, unless the Indian
had been creeping on all fours. When he was able to speak, however, he
explained the mystery. While running through a rough part of the wood
after a wounded bird, he stumbled and fell on all fours. The gun, which
he was carrying over his shoulder, holding it, as the Indians usually
do, by the muzzle, flew forward, and turned right round as he fell, so
that the mouth of it was presented towards him. Striking against the
stem of a tree, it exploded and shot him through the arm and leg as
described ere he had time to rise. A comrade carried him to his lodge,
and his wife brought him in a canoe to the fort. For three or four days
the doctor had hopes of him, but at last he began to sink, and died on
the sixth day after his arrival. His wife and one or two friends buried
him in our graveyard, which lies, as you know, on that lonely-looking
point just below the powder-magazine. For several months previous to
this our worthy doctor had been making strenuous efforts to get an
Indian skull to send home to one of his medical friends, but without
success. The Indians could not be prevailed upon to cut off the head of
one of their dead countrymen for love or money, and the doctor had a
dislike to the idea, I suppose, of killing one for himself; but now
here was a golden opportunity. The Indian was buried near to the fort,
and his relatives had gone away to their tents again. What was to
prevent his being dug up? The doctor brooded over the thing for one
hour and a half (being exactly the length of time required to smoke out
his large Turkey pipe), and then sauntered into Wilson's room. Wilson
was busy, as usual, at some of his mechanical contrivances.

"Thrusting his hands deep into his breeches pockets, and seating
himself on an old sea-chest, he began,--

"'I say, Wilson, will you do me a favour?'

"'That depends entirely on what the favour is,' he replied, without
raising his head from his work.

"'I want you to help me to cut off an Indian's head!'

"' Then I _won't_ do you the favour. But pray, don't humbug me just
now; I'm busy.'

"'No; but I'm serious, and I can't get it done without help, and I know
you're an obliging fellow. Besides, the savage is dead, and has no
manner of use for his head now.'

"Wilson turned round with a look of intelligence on hearing this.

"'Ha!' he exclaimed, 'I see what you're up to; but I don't half like
it. In the first place, his friends would be terribly cut up if they
heard of it; and then I've no sort of aptitude for the work of a
resurrectionist; and then, if it got wind, we should never hear the
last of it; and then--'

"'And then,' interrupted the doctor, 'it would be adding to the light
of medical science, you unaspiring monster.'

"'A light,' retorted Wilson, 'which, in passing through _some_ members
of the medical profession, is totally absorbed, and reproduced in the
shape of impenetrable darkness.'

"'Now, don't object, my dear fellow; you _know_ you're going to do it,
so don't coquette with me, but agree at once.'

"'Well, I consent, upon one condition.'

"'And what is that?'

"'That you do not play any practical jokes on _me_ with the head when
you have got it.'

"'Agreed!' cried the doctor, laughing; 'I give you my word of honour.
Now he has been buried three days already, so we must set about it at
once. Fortunately the graveyard is composed of a sandy soil, so he'll
keep for some time yet.

"The two worthies then entered into a deep consultation as to how they
were to set about this deed of darkness. It was arranged that Wilson
should take his gun and sally forth a little before dark, as if he were
bent on an hour's sport, and, not forgetting his game-bag, proceed to
the graveyard, where the doctor engaged to meet him with a couple of
spades and a dark lantern. Accordingly, next evening, Mr. Wilson, true
to his promise, shouldered his gun and sallied forth.

"It soon became an intensely dark night. Not a single star shone forth
to illumine the track along which he stumbled. Everything around was
silent and dark, and congenial with the work on which he was bent. But
Wilson's heart beat a little more rapidly than usual. He is a bold
enough man, as you know, but boldness goes for nothing when
superstition comes into play. However, he trudged along fearlessly
enough till he came to the thick woods just below the fort, into which
he entered with something of a qualm. Scarcely had he set foot on the
narrow track that leads to the graveyard, when he ran slap against the
post that stands there, but which, in his trepidation, he had entirely
forgotten. This quite upset the small amount of courage that remained,
and he has since confessed that if he had not had the hope of meeting
with the doctor in a few minutes, he would have turned round and fled
at that moment.

"Recovering a little from this accident, he hurried forward, but with
more caution, for although the night seemed as dark as could possibly
be while he was crossing the open country, it became speedily evident
that there were several shades of darkness which he had not yet
conceived. In a few minutes he came to the creek that runs past the
graveyard, and here again his nerves got another shake; for slipping
his foot while in the act of commencing the descent, he fell and rolled
heavily to the bottom, making noise enough in his fall to scare away
all the ghosts in the country. With a palpitating heart poor Wilson
gathered himself up, and searched for his gun, which fortunately had
not been injured, and then commenced to climb the opposite bank,
starting at every twig that snapped under his feet. On reaching the
level ground again he breathed a little more freely, and hurried
forward with more speed than caution. Suddenly he came into violent
contact with a figure, which uttered a loud growl as Wilson reeled
backwards.

"'Back, you monster,' he cried, with a hysterical yell, 'or I'll blow
your brains out!'

"'It's little good _that_ would do ye,' cried the doctor as he came
forward. 'Why, you stupid, what did you take me for? You've nearly
knocked out my brains as it is,' and the doctor rubbed his forehead
ruefully.

"'Oh, it's _you,_ doctor!' said Wilson, feeling as if a ton weight had
been lifted off his heart; 'I verily thought it was the ghost of the
poor fellow we're going to disturb. I do think you had better give it
up. Mischief will come of it, you'll see.'

"'Nonsense,' cried the doctor; 'don't be a goose, but let's to work at
once. Why, I've got half the thing dug up already.' So saying, he led
the way to the grave, in which there was a large opening. Setting the
lantern down by the side of it, the two seized their spades and began
to dig as if in earnest.

"The fact is that the doctor was nearly as frightened as Wilson, and he
afterwards confessed to me that it was an immense relief to him when he
heard him fall down the bank of the creek, and knew by the growl he
gave that it was he.

"In about half-an-hour the doctor's spade struck upon the coffin lid,
which gave forth a hollow sound.

"'Now then, we're about done with it,' said he, standing up to wipe
away the perspiration that trickled down his face. 'Take the axe and
force up the lid, it's only fixed with common nails, while I--' He did
not finish the sentence, but drew a large scalping-knife from a sheath
which hung at his belt.

"Wilson shuddered and obeyed. A good wrench caused the lid to start,
and while he held it partially open the doctor inserted the knife. For
five minutes he continued to twist and work with his arms, muttering
between his teeth, every now and then, that he was a 'tough subject,'
while the crackling of bones and other disagreeable sounds struck upon
the horrified ears of his companion.

"'All right,' he exclaimed at last, as he dragged a round object from
the coffin and let down the lid with a bang, at the same time placing
the savage's head with its ghastly features full in the blaze of the
lantern.

"'Now, then, close up,' said he, jumping out of the hole and shovelling
in the earth.

"In a few minutes they had filled the grave up and smoothed it down on
the surface, and then, throwing the head into the game-bag, retraced
their steps to the fort. Their nerves were by this time worked up to
such a pitch of excitement, and their minds filled with such a degree
of supernatural horror, that they tripped and stumbled over stumps and
branches innumerable in their double-quick march. Neither would confess
to the other, however, that he was afraid. They even attempted to pass
a few facetious remarks as they hurried along, but it would not do, so
they relapsed into silence till they came to the hollow beside the
powder-magazine. Here the doctor's foot happening to slip, he suddenly
grasped Wilson by the shoulder to support himself--a movement which,
being unexpected, made his friend leap, as he afterwards expressed it,
nearly out of his skin. This was almost too much for them. For a moment
they looked at each other as well as the darkness would permit, when
all at once a large stone, which the doctor's slip had overbalanced,
fell down the bank and through the bushes with a loud crash. Nothing
more was wanting. All further effort to disguise their feelings was
dropped. Leaping the rail of the open field in a twinkling, they gave a
simultaneous yell of consternation and fled to the fort like autumn
leaves before the wind, never drawing breath till they were safe within
the pickets."

"But what has all this to do with Peterkin?" asked Harry, as the
accountant paused to relight his pipe and toss a fresh log on the fire.

"Have patience, lad; you shall hear."

The accountant stirred the logs with his toe, drew a few whiffs to see
that the pipe was properly ignited, and proceeded.

"For a day or two after this, the doctor was observed to be often
mysteriously engaged in an outhouse, of which he kept the key. By some
means or other, the skipper, who is always up to mischief, managed to
discover the secret. Watching where the doctor hid the key, he
possessed himself of it one day, and sallied forth, bent on a lark of
some kind or other, but without very well knowing what. Passing the
kitchen, he observed Anderson, the butler, raking the fire out of the
large oven which stands in the backyard.

"'Baking again, Anderson?' said he in passing. 'You get soon through
with a heavy cargo of bread just now.'

"'Yes, sir; many mouths to feed, sir,' replied the butler, proceeding
with his work.

"The skipper sauntered on, and took the track which led to the
boathouse, where he stood for some time in meditation. Casting up his
eyes, he saw Peterkin in the distance, looking as if he didn't very
well know what to do.

"A sudden thought struck him. Pulling off his coat, he seized a mallet
and a calking-chisel, and began to belabour the side of a boat as if
his life depended on it. All at once he stopped and stood up, blowing
with the exertion.

"'Hollo, Peterkin!' he shouted, and waved his hand.

"Peterkin hastened towards him.

"'Well, sir' said he, 'do you wish to speak to me?'

"'Yes,' replied the skipper, scratching his head, as if in great
perplexity. 'I wish you to do me a favour, Peterkin, but I don't know
very well how to ask you.'

"'Oh, I shall be most happy,' said poor Butter eagerly, 'if I can be of
any use to you.'

"'I don't doubt your willingness,' replied the other; 'but then--the
doctor, you see--the fact is, Peterkin, the doctor being called away to
see a sick Indian, has intrusted me with a delicate piece of
business--rather a nasty piece of business, I may say--which I promised
to do for him. You must know that the Surgical Society of London has
written to him, begging, as a great favour, that he would, if possible,
procure them the skull of a native. After much trouble, he has
succeeded in getting one, but is obliged to keep it a great secret,
even from his fellow-clerks, lest it should get wind: for if the
Indians heard of it they would be sure to kill him, and perhaps burn
the fort too. Now I suppose you are aware that it is necessary to boil
an Indian's head in order to get the flesh clean off the skull?'

"'Yes; I have heard something of that sort from the students at
college, who say that boiling brings flesh more easily away from the
bone. But I don't know much about it,' replied Peterkin.

"'Well,' continued the skipper, 'the doctor, who is fond of
experiments, wishes to try whether _baking_ won't do better than
_boiling_, and ordered the oven to be heated for that purpose this
morning; but being called suddenly away, as I have said, he begged me
to put the head into it as soon as it was ready. I agreed, quite
forgetting at the time that I had to get this precious boat ready for
sea this very afternoon. Now the oven is prepared, and I dare not leave
my work; indeed, I doubt whether I shall have it quite ready and taut
after all, and there's the oven cooling; so, if you don't help me, I'm
a lost man.'

"Having said this, the skipper looked as miserable as his jolly visage
would permit, and rubbed his nose.

"'Oh, I'll be happy to do it for you, although it is not an agreeable
job,' replied Butter.

"'That's right--that's friendly now!' exclaimed the skipper, as if
greatly relieved. 'Give us your flipper, my lad;' and seizing
Peterkin's hand, he wrung it affectionately. 'Now, here is the key of
the outhouse; do it as quickly as you can, and don't let anyone see
you. It's in a good cause, you know, but the results might be terrible
if discovered.'

"So saying, the skipper fell to hammering the boat again with
surprising vigour till Butter was out of sight, and then resuming his
coat, returned to the house.

"An hour after this, Anderson went to take his loaves out of the oven;
but he had no sooner taken down the door than a rich odour of cooked
meat greeted his nostrils. Uttering a deep growl, the butler shouted
out 'Sprat!'

"Upon this, a very thin boy, with arms and legs like pipe stems, issued
from the kitchen, and came timidly towards his master.

"'Didn't I tell you, you young blackguard, that the grouse-pie was to
be kept for Sunday? and there you've gone and put it to fire to-day.'

"'The grouse-pie!' said the boy, in amazement.

"'Yes, the grouse-pie,' retorted the indignant butler; and seizing the
urchin by the neck, he held his head down to the mouth of the oven.

"'Smell _that_, you villain! What did you mean by it, eh?'

"'Oh, murder!' shouted the boy, as with a violent effort he freed
himself, and ran shrieking into the house. "'Murder!' repeated Anderson
in astonishment, while he stooped to look into the oven, where the
first thing that met his gaze was a human head, whose ghastly visage
and staring eyeballs worked and moved about under the influence of the
heat as if it were alive.

"With a yell that rung through the whole fort, the horrified butler
rushed through the kitchen and out at the front door, where, as
ill-luck would have it, Mr. Rogan happened to be standing at the
moment. Pitching head first into the small of the old gentleman's back,
he threw him off the platform and fell into his arms. Starting up in a
moment, the governor dealt Anderson a cuff that sent him reeling
towards the kitchen door again, on the steps of which he sat down, and
began to sing out, 'Oh, murder, murder! the oven, the oven!' and not
another word, bad, good, or indifferent, could be got out of him for
the next half-hour, as he swayed himself to and fro and wrung his hands.

"To make a long story short, Mr. Rogan went himself to the oven, and
fished out the head, along with the loaves, which were, of course, all
spoiled."

"And what was the result?" enquired Harry.

"Oh, there was a long investigation, and the skipper got a blowing-up,
and the doctor a warning to let Indians' skulls lie at peace in their
graves for the future, and poor Butter was sent to M'Kenzie's River as
a punishment, for old Rogan could never be brought to believe that he
hadn't been a willing tool in the skipper's hands; and Anderson lost
his batch of bread and his oven, for it had to be pulled down and a new
one built."

"Humph! and I've no doubt the governor read you a pretty stiff lecture
on practical joking."

"He did," replied the accountant, laying aside his pipe and drawing the
green blanket over him, while Harry piled several large logs on the
fire.

"Good-night," said the accountant.

"Good-night," replied his companions; and in a few minutes more they
were sound asleep in their snowy camp, while the huge fire continued,
during the greater part of the night, to cast its light on their
slumbering forms.



CHAPTER XXI.

Ptarmigan-hunting--Hamilton's shooting powers severely tested--A
snowstorm.


At about four o'clock on the following morning, the sleepers were
awakened by the cold, which had become very intense. The fire had
burned down to a few embers, which merely emitted enough light to make
darkness visible. Harry being the most active of the party, was the
first to bestir himself. Raising himself on his elbow, while his teeth
chattered and his limbs trembled with cold, he cast a woebegone and
excessively sleepy glance towards the place where the fire had been;
then he scratched his head slowly; then he stared at the fire again;
then he languidly glanced at Hamilton's sleeping visage, and then he
yawned. The accountant observed all this; for although he appeared to
be buried in the depths of slumber, he was wide awake in reality, and
moreover, intensely cold. The accountant, however, was sly--deep, as he
would have said himself--and knew that Harry's active habits would
induce him to rise, on awaking, and rekindle the fire,--an event which
the accountant earnestly desired to see accomplished, but which he as
earnestly resolved should not be performed by _him_. Indeed, it was
with this end in view that he had given vent to the terrific snore
which had aroused his young companion a little sooner than would have
otherwise been the case.

"My eye," exclaimed Harry, in an undertone, "how precious cold it is!"

His eye making no reply to this remark, he arose, and going down on his
hands and knees, began to coax the charcoal into a flame. By dint of
severe blowing, he soon succeeded, and heaping on a quantity of small
twigs, the fitful flame sprang up into a steady blaze. He then threw
several heavy logs on the fire, and in a very short space of time
restored it almost to its original vigour.

"What an abominable row you are kicking up!" growled the accountant;
"why, you would waken the seven sleepers. Oh! mending the fire," he
added, in an altered tone: "ah! I'll excuse you, my boy, since that's
what you're at."

The accountant hereupon got up, along with Hamilton, who was now also
awake, and the three spread their hands over the bright fire, and
revolved their bodies before it, until they imbibed a satisfactory
amount of heat. They were much too sleepy to converse, however, and
contented themselves with a very brief enquiry as to the state of
Hamilton's heels, which elicited the sleepy reply, "They feel quite
well, thank you." In a short time, having become agreeably warm, they
gave a simultaneous yawn, and lying down again, they fell into a sleep
from which they did not awaken until the red winter sun shot its early
rays over the arctic scenery.

Once more Harry sprang up, and let his hand fall heavily on Hamilton's
shoulder. Thus rudely assailed, that youth also sprang up, giving a
shout, at the same time, that brought the accountant to his feet in an
instant; and so, as if by an electric spark, the sleepers were
simultaneously roused into a state of wide-awake activity.

"How excessively hungry I feel! isn't it strange?" said Hamilton, as he
assisted in rekindling the fire, while the accountant filled his pipe,
and Harry stuffed the tea-kettle full of snow.

"Strange!" cried Harry, as he placed the kettle on the fire--"strange
to be hungry after a five miles' walk and a night in the snow? I would
rather say it was strange if you were _not_ hungry. Throw on that
billet, like a good fellow, and spit those grouse, while I cut some
pemmican and prepare the tea."

"How are the heels now, Hamilton?" asked the accountant, who divided
his attention between his pipe and his snow-shoes, the lines of which
required to be readjusted.

"They appear to be as well as if nothing had happened to them," replied
Hamilton: "I've been looking at them, and there is no mark whatever.
They do not even feel tender."

"Lucky for you, old boy, that they were taken in time, else you'd had
another story to tell."

"Do you mean to say that people's heels really freeze and fall off?"
inquired the other, with a look of incredulity.

"Soft, very soft and green," murmured Harry, in a low voice, while he
continued his work of adding fresh snow to the kettle as the process of
melting reduced its bulk.

"I mean to say," replied the accountant, tapping the ashes out of his
pipe, "that not only heels, but hands, feet, noses, and ears,
frequently freeze, and often fall off in this country, as you will find
by sad experience if you don't look after yourself a little better than
you have done hitherto."

One of the evil effects of the perpetual jesting that prevailed at York
Fort was, that "soft" (in other words, straightforward, unsuspecting)
youths had to undergo a long process of learning-by-experience: first,
_believing_ everything, and then _doubting_ everything, ere they
arrived at that degree of sophistication which enabled them to
distinguish between truth and falsehood.

Having reached the _doubting_ period in his training, Hamilton looked
down and said nothing, at least with his mouth, though his eyes
evidently remarked, "I don't believe you." In future years, however,
the evidence of these same eyes convinced him that what the accountant
said upon this occasion was but too true.

Breakfast was a repetition of the supper of the previous evening.
During its discussion they planned proceedings for the day.

"My notion is," said the accountant, interrupting the flow of words
ever and anon to chew the morsel with which his mouth was filled--"my
notion is, that as it's a fine clear day we should travel five miles
through the country parallel with North River. I know the ground, and
can guide you easily to the spots where there are lots of willows, and
therefore plenty of ptarmigan, seeing that they feed on willow tops;
and the snow that fell last night will help us a little."

"How will the snow help us?" inquired Hamilton.

"By covering up all the old tracks, to be sure, and showing only the
new ones."

"Well, captain," said Harry, as he raised a can of tea to his lips, and
nodded to Hamilton as if drinking his health, "go on with your
proposals for the day. Five miles up the river to begin with, then--"

"Then we'll pull up," continued the accountant; "make a fire, rest a
bit, and eat a mouthful of pemmican; after which we'll strike across
country for the southern woodcutters' track, and so home."

"And how much will that be?"

"About fifteen miles."

"Ha!" exclaimed Harry; "pass the kettle, please. Thanks.--Do you think
you're up to that, Hammy?"

"I will try what I can do," replied Hamilton. "If the snow-shoes don't
cause me to fall often, I think I shall stand the fatigue very well."

"That's right," said the accountant; "'faint heart,' etc., you know. If
you go on as you've begun, you'll be chosen to head the next expedition
to the north pole."

"Well," replied Hamilton, good-humouredly, "pray head the present
expedition, and let us be gone."

"Right!" ejaculated the accountant, rising. "I'll just put my odds and
ends out of the reach of the foxes, and then we shall be off."

In a few minutes everything was placed in security, guns loaded,
snow-shoes put on, and the winter camp deserted. At first the walking
was fatiguing, and poor Hamilton more than once took a sudden and
eccentric plunge; but after getting beyond the wooded country, they
found the snow much more compact, and their march, therefore, much more
agreeable. On coming to the place where it was probable that they might
fall in with ptarmigan, Hamilton became rather excited, and apt to
imagine that little lumps of snow which hung upon the bushes here and
there were birds.

"There now," he cried, in an energetic and slightly positive tone, as
another of these masses of snow suddenly met his eager eye--"that's
one, I'm _quite_ sure."

The accountant and Harry both stopped short on hearing this, and looked
in the direction indicated.

"Fire away, then, Hammy," said the former, endeavouring to suppress a
smile.

"But do you think it _really_ is one?" asked Hamilton, anxiously.

"Well, I don't _see_ it exactly, but then, you know, I'm near-sighted."

"Don't give him a chance of escape," cried Harry, seeing that his
friend was undecided. "If you really do see a bird, you'd better shoot
it, for they've got a strong propensity to take wing when disturbed."

Thus admonished Hamilton raised his gun and took aim. Suddenly he
lowered his piece again, and looking round at Harry, said in a low
whisper,--

"Oh, I should like _so_ much to shoot it while flying! Would it not be
better to set it up first?"

"By no means," answered the accountant. "'A bird in the hand,' etc.
Take him as you find him--look sharp; he'll be off in a second."

Again the gun was pointed, and, after some difficulty in taking aim,
fired.

"Ah, what a pity you've missed him!" shouted Harry,

"But see, he's not off yet; how tame he is, to be sure! Give him the
other barrel, Hammy."

This piece of advice proved to be unnecessary. In his anxiety to get
the bird, Hamilton had cocked both barrels, and while gazing, half in
disappointment, half in surprise, at the supposed bird, his finger
unintentionally pressed the second trigger. In a moment the piece
exploded. Being accidentally aimed in the right direction, it blew the
lump of snow to atoms, and at the same time hitting its owner on the
chest with the butt, knocked him over flat upon his back.

"What a gun it is, to be sure!" said Harry, with a roguish laugh, as he
assisted the discomforted sportsman to rise; "it knocks over game with
butt and muzzle at once."

"Quite a rare instance of one butt knocking another down," added the
accountant.

At this moment a large flock of ptarmigan, startled by the double
report, rose with a loud whirring noise about a hundred yards in
advance, and after flying a short distance alighted.

"There's real game at last, though," cried the accountant, as he
hurried after the birds, followed closely by his young friends.

They soon reached the spot where the flock had alighted, and after
following up the tracks for a few yards further, set them up again. As
the birds rose, the accountant fired and brought down two; Harry shot
one and missed another; Hamilton being so nervously interested in the
success of his comrades that he forgot to fire at all.

"How stupid of me!" he exclaimed, while the others loaded their guns.

"Never mind; better luck next time," said Harry, as they resumed their
walk. "I saw the flock settle down about half-a-mile in advance of us;
so step out."

Another short walk brought the sportsmen again within range.

"Go to the front, Hammy," said the accountant, "and take the first shot
this time."

Hamilton obeyed. He had scarcely made ten steps in advance, when a
single bird, that seemed to have been separated from the others, ran
suddenly out from under a bush, and stood stock-still, at a distance of
a few yards, with its neck stretched out and its black eyes wide open,
as if in astonishment.

"Now then, you can't miss _that_."

Hamilton was quite taken aback by the suddenness of this necessity for
instantaneous action. Instead, therefore, of taking aim leisurely
(seeing that he had abundant time to do so), he flew entirely to the
opposite extreme, took no aim at all, and fired off both barrels at
once, without putting the gun to his shoulder. The result of this was
that the affrighted bird flew away unharmed, while Harry and the
accountant burst spontaneously into fits of laughter.

"How very provoking!" said the poor youth, with a dejected look.

"Never mind--never say die--try again," said the accountant, on
recovering his gravity. Having reloaded, they continued the pursuit.

"Dear me!" exclaimed Harry, suddenly, "here are three dead birds.--I
verily believe, Hamilton, that you have killed them all at one shot by
accident."

"Can it be possible?" exclaimed his friend, as with a look of amazement
he regarded the birds.

There was no doubt about the fact. There they lay, plump and still
warm, with one or two drops of bright red blood upon their white
plumage. Ptarmigan are almost pure white, so that it requires a
practised eye to detect them, even at a distance of a few yards; and it
would be almost impossible to hunt them without dogs, but for the
tell-tale snow, in which their tracks are distinctly marked, enabling
the sportsman to follow them up with unerring certainty. When Hamilton
made his bad shot, neither he nor his companions observed a group of
ptarmigan not more than fifty yards before them, their attention being
riveted at the time on the solitary bird; and the gun happening to be
directed towards them when it was fired, three were instantly and
unwittingly placed _hors de combat_, while the others ran away. This
the survivors frequently do when very tame, instead of taking wing.
Thus it was that Hamilton, to his immense delight, made such a
successful shot without being aware of it.

Having bagged their game, the party proceeded on their way. Several
large flocks of birds were raised, and the game-bags nearly filled,
before reaching the spot where they intended to turn and bend their
steps homewards. This induced them to give up the idea of going
further; and it was fortunate they came to this resolution, for a storm
was brewing, which in the eagerness of pursuit after game they had not
noticed. Dark masses of leaden-coloured clouds were gathering in the
sky overhead, and faint sighs of wind came, ever and anon, in fitful
gusts from the north-west.

Hurrying forward as quickly as possible, they now pursued their course
in a direction which would enable them to cross the woodcutters' track.
This they soon reached, and finding it pretty well beaten, were enabled
to make more rapid progress. Fortunately the wind was blowing on their
backs, otherwise they would have had to contend not only with its
violence, but also with the snow-drift, which now whirled in bitter
fury among the trees, or scoured like driving clouds over the plain.
Under this aspect, the flat country over which they travelled seemed
the perfection of bleak desolation. Their way, however, did not lie in
a direct line. The track was somewhat tortuous, and gradually edged
towards the north, until the wind blew nearly in their teeth. At this
point, too, they came to a stretch of open ground which they had
crossed at a point some miles further to the northward in their night
march. Here the storm raged in all its fury, and as they looked out
upon the plain, before quitting the shelter of the wood, they paused to
tighten their belts and readjust their snow-shoe lines. The gale was so
violent that the whole plain seemed tossed about like billows of the
sea, as the drift rose and fell, curled, eddied, and dashed along, so
that it was impossible to see more than half-a-dozen yards in advance.

"Heaven preserve us from ever being caught in an exposed place on such
a night as this!" said the accountant, as he surveyed the prospect
before him. "Luckily the open country here is not more than a quarter
of a mile broad, and even that little bit will try our wind somewhat."

Hamilton and Harry seemed by their looks to say, "We could easily face
even a stiffer breeze than that, if need be."

"What should we do," inquired the former, "if the plain were five or
six miles broad?"

"Do? why, we should have to camp in the woods till it blew over, that's
all," replied the accountant; "but seeing that we are not reduced to
such a necessity just now, and that the day is drawing to a close, let
us face it at once. I'll lead the way, and see that you follow close at
my heels. Don't lose sight of me for a moment, and if you do by chance,
give a shout; d'ye hear?"

The two lads replied in the affirmative, and then bracing themselves up
as if for a great effort, stepped vigorously out upon the plain, and
were instantly swallowed up in clouds of snow. For half-an-hour or more
they battled slowly against the howling storm, pressing forward for
some minutes with heads down, as if _boring_ through it, then turning
their backs to the blast for a few seconds' relief, but always keeping
as close to each other as possible. At length the woods were gained; on
entering which it was discovered that Hamilton was missing.

"Hollo! where's Hamilton?" exclaimed Harry; "I saw him beside me not
five minutes ago." The accountant gave a loud shout, but there was no
reply. Indeed, nothing short of his own stentorian voice could have
been heard at all amid the storm.

"There's nothing for it," said Harry, "but to search at once, else
he'll wander about and get lost." Saying this, he began to retrace his
steps, just as a brief lull in the gale took place.

"Hollo! don't you hear a cry, Harry?"

At this moment there was another lull; the drift fell, and for an
instant cleared away, revealing the bewildered Hamilton, not twenty
yards off, standing, like a pillar of snow, in mute despair.

Profiting by the glimpse, Harry rushed forward, caught him by the arm,
and led him into the partial shelter of the forest.

Nothing further befell them after this. Their route lay in shelter all
the way to the fort. Poor Hamilton, it is true, took one or two of his
occasional plunges by the way, but without any serious result--not even
to the extent of stuffing his nose, ears, neck, mittens, pockets,
gun-barrels, and everything else with snow, because, these being quite
full and hard packed already, there was no room left for the addition
of another particle.



CHAPTER XXII.

The winter packet--Harry hears from old friends, and wishes that he was
with them.


Letters from home! What a burst of sudden emotion--what a riot of
conflicting feelings of dread and joy, expectation and anxiety--what a
flood of old memories--what stirring up of almost forgotten
associations these three words create in the hearts of those who dwell
in distant regions of this earth, far, far away from kith and kin, from
friends and acquaintances, from the much-loved scenes of childhood, and
from _home_! Letters from home! How gratefully the sound falls upon
ears that have been long unaccustomed to sounds and things connected
with home, and so long accustomed to wild, savage sounds, that these
have at length lost their novelty, and become everyday and commonplace,
while the first have gradually grown strange and unwonted. For many
long months home and all connected with it have become a dream of other
days, and savage-land a present reality. The mind has by degrees become
absorbed by surrounding objects--objects so utterly unassociated with
or unsuggestive of any other land, that it involuntarily ceases to
think of the scenes of childhood with the same feelings that it once
did. As time rolls on, home assumes a misty, undefined character, as if
it were not only distant in reality, but were also slowly retreating
further and further away--growing gradually faint and dream-like,
though not less dear, to the mental view.

"Letters from home!" shouted Mr. Wilson, and the doctor, and the
skipper, simultaneously, as the sportsmen, after dashing through the
wild storm, at last reached the fort, and stumbled tumultuously into
Bachelors' Hall.

"What!--Where!--How!--You don't mean it!" they exclaimed, coming to a
sudden stand, like three pillars of snow-clad astonishment.

"Ay," replied the doctor, who affected to be quite cool upon all
occasions, and rather cooler than usual if the occasion was more than
ordinarily exciting--"ay, we _do_ mean it. Old Rogan has got the
packet, and is even now disembowelling it."

"More than that," interrupted the skipper, who sat smoking as usual by
the stove, with his hands in his breeches pockets--"more than that, I
saw him dissecting into the very marrow of the thing; so if we don't
storm the old admiral in his cabin, he'll go to sleep over these prosy
yarns that the governor-in-chief writes to him, and we'll have to
whistle for our letters till midnight."

The skipper's remark was interrupted by the opening of the outer door
and the entrance of the butler. "Mr. Rogan wishes to see you, sir,"
said that worthy to the accountant.

"I'll be with him in a minute," he replied, as he threw off his capote
and proceeded to unwind himself as quickly as his multitudinous haps
would permit.

By this time Harry Somerville and Hamilton were busily occupied in a
similar manner, while a running fire of question and answer, jesting
remark and bantering reply, was kept up between the young men, from
their various apartments and the hall. The doctor was cool, as usual,
and impudent. He had a habit of walking up and down while he smoked,
and was thus enabled to look in upon the inmates of the several
sleeping-rooms, and make his remarks in a quiet, sarcastic manner, the
galling effect of which was heightened by his habit of pausing at the
end of every two or three words, to emit a few puffs of smoke. Having
exhausted a good deal of small talk in this way, and having, moreover,
finished his pipe, the doctor went to the stove to refill and relight.

"What a deal of trouble you do take to make yourself comfortable!" said
he to the skipper, who sat with his chair tilted on its hind legs, and
a pillow at his back.

"No harm in that, doctor," replied the skipper, with a smile.

"No harm, certainly, but it looks uncommonly lazy-like."

"What does?"

"Why, putting a pillow at your back, to be sure."

The doctor was a full-fleshed, muscular man, and owing to this fact it
mattered little to him whether his chair happened to be an easy one or
not. As the skipper sometimes remarked, he carried padding always about
with him; he was, therefore, a little apt to sneer at the attempts of
his brethren to render the ill-shaped, wooden-bottomed chairs, with
which the hall was ornamented, bearable.

"Well, doctor," said the skipper, "I cannot see how you make me out
lazy. Surely it is not an evidence of laziness, my endeavouring to
render these instruments of torture less tormenting? Seeking to be
comfortable, if it does not inconvenience anyone else, is not laziness.
Why, what _is_ comfort?" The skipper began to wax philosophical at this
point, and took the pipe from his mouth as he gravely propounded the
momentous question. "What _is_ comfort? If I go out to camp in the
woods, and after turning in find a sharp stump sticking into my ribs on
one side, and a pine root driving in the small of my back on the other
side, is _that_ comfort? Certainly not. And if I get up, seize a
hatchet, level the stump, cut away the root, and spread pine brush over
the place, am I to be called lazy for doing so? Or if I sit down on a
chair, and on trying to lean back to rest myself find that the stupid
lubber who made it has so constructed it that four small hard points
alone touch my person--two being at the hip-joints and two at the
shoulder-blades; and if to relieve such physical agony I jump up and
clap a pillow at my back, am I to be called lazy for doing _that_?"

"What a glorious entry that would make in the log!" said the doctor, in
a low tone, soliloquizingly, as if he made the remark merely for his
own satisfaction, while he tapped the ashes out of his pipe.

The skipper looked as if he meditated a sharp reply; but his
intentions, whatever they might have been, were interrupted by the
opening of the door, and the entrance of the accountant, bearing under
his arm a packet of letters.

A general rush was made upon him, and in a few minutes a dead silence
reigned in the hall, broken only at intervals by an exclamation of
surprise or pathos, as the inmates, in the retirement of their separate
apartments, perused letters from friends in the interior of the country
and friends at home: letters that were old--some of them bearing dates
many months back--and travel-stained, but new and fresh and cheering,
nevertheless, to their owners, as the clear bright sun in winter or the
verdant leaves in spring.

Harry Somerville's letters were numerous and long. He had several from
friends in Red River, besides one or two from other parts of the Indian
country, and one--it was very thick and heavy--that bore the post-marks
of Britain. It was late that night ere the last candle was extinguished
in the hall, and it was late too before Harry Somerville ceased to
peruse and re-peruse the long letter from home, and found time or
inclination to devote to his other correspondents. Among the rest was a
letter from his old friend and companion, Charley Kennedy, which ran as
follows:--

MY DEAR HARRY,--It really seems more than an age since I saw you. Your
last epistle, written in the perturbation of mind consequent upon being
doomed to spend another winter at York Fort, reached me only a few days
ago, and filled me with pleasant recollections of other days. Oh! man,
how much I wish that you were with me in this beautiful country! You
are aware that I have been what they call "roughing it" since you and I
parted on the shores of Lake Winnipeg; but, my dear fellow, the idea
that most people have of what that phrase means is a very erroneous one
indeed. "Roughing it," I certainly have been, inasmuch as I have been
living on rough fare, associating with rough men, and sleeping on rough
beds under the starry sky; but I assure you that all this is not half
so rough upon the constitution as what they call leading an _easy
life_, which is simply a life that makes a poor fellow stagnate, body
and spirit, till the one comes to be unable to digest its food, and the
other incompetent to jump at so much as half an idea. Anything but an
easy life, to my mind. Ah! there's nothing like roughing it, Harry, my
boy. Why, I am thriving on it--growing like a young walrus, eating like
a Canadian voyageur, and sleeping like a top! This is a splendid
country for sport, and as our _bourgeois_ [Footnote: The gentleman in
charge of an establishment is always designated the bourgeois.] has
taken it into his head that I am a good hand at making friends with the
Indians, he has sent me out on several expeditions, and afforded me
some famous opportunities of seeing life among the red-skins. There is
a talk just now of establishing a new outpost in this district, so if I
succeed in persuading the governor to let me accompany the party, I
shall have something interesting to write about in my next letter. By
the way, I wrote to you a month ago, by two Indians who said they were
going to the missionary station at Norway House. Did you ever get it?
There is a hunter here just now who goes by the name of Jacques
Caradoc. He is a first-rater--can do anything, in a wild way, that lies
within the power of mortal man, and is an inexhaustible
anecdote-teller, in a quiet way. He and I have been out buffalo-hunting
two or three times, and it would have done your heart good, Harry, my
dear boy, to have seen us scouring over the prairie together on two
big-boned Indian horses--regular trained buffalo-runners, that didn't
need the spur to urge, nor the rein to guide them, when once they
caught sight of the black cattle, and kept a sharp look-out for
badger-holes, just as if they had been reasonable creatures. The first
time I went out I had several rather ugly falls, owing to my
inexperience. The fact is, that if a man has never run buffaloes
before, he's sure to get one or two upsets, no matter how good a
horseman he may be. And that monster Jacques, although he's the best
fellow I ever met with for a hunting companion, always took occasion to
grin at my mishaps, and gravely to read me a lecture to the effect that
they were all owing to my own clumsiness or stupidity; which, you will
acknowledge, was not calculated to restore my equanimity.

The very first run we had cost me the entire skin of my nose, and
converted that feature into a superb Roman for the next three weeks. It
happened thus. Jacques and I were riding over the prairies in search of
buffaloes. The place was interspersed with sundry knolls covered with
trees, slips and belts of woodland, with ponds scattered among them,
and open sweeps of the plain here and there; altogether a delightful
country to ride through. It was a clear early morning, so that our
horses were fresh and full of spirit. They knew, as well as we
ourselves did, what we were out for, and it was no easy matter to
restrain them. The one I rode was a great long-legged beast, as like as
possible to that abominable kangaroo that nearly killed me at Red
River; as for Jacques, he was mounted on a first-rate charger. I don't
know how it is, but somehow or other everything about Jacques, or
belonging to him, or in the remotest degree connected with him, is
always first-rate! He generally owns a first-rate horse, and if he
happens by any unlucky chance to be compelled to mount a bad one, it
immediately becomes another animal. He seems to infuse some of his own
wonderful spirit into it! Well, as Jacques and I curvetted along,
skirting the low bushes at the edge of a wood, out burst a whole herd
of buffaloes. Bang went Jacques's gun, almost before I had winked to
make sure that I saw rightly, and down fell the fattest of them all,
while the rest tossed up their tails, heels, and heads in one grand
whirl of indignant amazement, and scoured away like the wind. In a
moment our horses were at full stretch after them, on their _own_
account entirely, and without any reference to _us_. When I recovered
my self-possession a little, I threw forward my gun and fired; but
owing to my endeavouring to hold the reins at the same time, I nearly
blew off one of my horse's ears, and only knocked up the dust about six
yards ahead of us! Of course Jacques could not let this pass unnoticed.
He was sitting quietly loading his gun, as cool as a cucumber, while
his horse was dashing forward at full stretch, with the reins hanging
loosely on his neck.

"Ah, Mister Charles," said he, with the least possible grin on his
leathern visage, "that was not well done. You should never hold the
reins when you fire, nor try to put the gun to your shoulder. It a'n't
needful. The beast'll look arter itself, if it's a riglar
buffalo-runner; any ways holdin' the reins is of no manner of use. I
once know'd a gentleman that came out here to see the buffalo-huntin'.
He was a good enough shot in his way, an' a first-rate rider. But he
was full o' queer notions: he _would_ load his gun with the ramrod in
the riglar way, instead o' doin' as we do, tumblin' in a drop powder,
spittin' a ball out your mouth down the muzzle, and hittin' the stock
on the pommel of the saddle to send it home. And he had them miserable
things--the _somethin'_ 'cussion-caps, and used to fiddle away with
them while we were knockin' over the cattle in all directions.
Moreover, he had a notion that it was altogether wrong to let go his
reins even for a moment, and so, what between the ramrod and the
'cussion-caps and the reins, he was worse than the greenest clerk that
ever came to the country. He gave it up in despair at last, after
lamin' two horses, and finished off by runnin' after a big bull, that
turned on him all of a suddent, crammed its head and horns into the
side of his horse, and sent the poor fellow head over heels on the
green grass. He wasn't much the worse for it, but his fine
double-barrelled gun was twisted into a shape that would almost have
puzzled an Injin to tell what it was." Well, Harry, all the time that
Jacques was telling me this we were gaining on the buffaloes, and at
last we got quite close to them, and as luck would have it, the very
thing that happened to the amateur sportsman happened to me. I went
madly after a big bull in spite of Jacques's remonstrances, and just as
I got alongside of him up went his tail (a sure sign that his anger was
roused), and round he came, head to the front, stiff as a rock; my poor
charger's chest went right between his horns, and, as a matter of
course, I continued the race upon _nothing_, head first, for a distance
of about thirty yards, and brought up on the bridge of my nose. My poor
dear father used to say I was a bull-headed rascal, and, upon my word,
I believe he was more literally correct than he imagined; for although
I fell with a fearful crash, head first, on the hard plain, I rose up
immediately, and in a few minutes was able to resume the chase again.
My horse was equally fortunate, for although thus brought to a sudden
stand while at full gallop, he wheeled about, gave a contemptuous
flourish with his heels, and cantered after Jacques, who soon caught
him again. My head bothered me a good deal for some time after this
accident, and swelled up till my eyes became almost undistinguishable;
but a few weeks put me all right again. And who do you think this man
Jacques is? You'd never guess. He's the trapper whom Redfeather told us
of long ago, and whose wife was killed by the Indians. He and
Redfeather have met, and are very fond of each other. How often in the
midst of these wild excursions have my thoughts wandered to you, Harry!
The fellows I meet with here are all kind-hearted, merry companions,
but none like yourself. I sometimes say to Jacques, when we become
communicative to each other beside the camp-fire, that my earthly
felicity would be perfect if I had Harry Somerville here; and then I
think of Kate, my sweet, loving sister Kate, and feel that, even
although I had you with me, there would still be something wanting to
make things perfect. Talking of Kate, by the way, I have received a
letter from her, the first sheet of which, as it speaks of mutual Red
River friends, I herewith enclose. Pray keep it safe, and return per
first opportunity. We've loads of furs here and plenty of deerstalking,
not to mention galloping on horseback on the plains in summer and
dog-sledging in the winter. Alas! my poor friend, I fear that it is
rather selfish in me to write so feelingly about my agreeable
circumstances, when I know you are slowly dragging out your existence
at that melancholy place York Fort; but believe me, I sympathize with
you, and I hope earnestly that you will soon be appointed to more
genial scenes. I have much, very much, to tell you yet, but am
compelled to reserve it for a future epistle, as the packet which is to
convey this is on the point of being closed.

Adieu, my dear Harry, and wherever you may happen to pitch your tent,
always bear in kindly remembrance your old friend,    CHARLES KENNEDY.

The letter was finished, but Harry did not cease to hold intercourse
with his friend. With his head resting on his two hands, and his elbows
on the table, he sat long, silently gazing on the signature, while his
mind revelled in the past, the present, and the future. He bounded over
the wilderness that lay between him and the beautiful plains of the
Saskatchewan. He seized Charley round the neck, and hugged and wrestled
with him as in days of yore. He mounted an imaginary charger, and swept
across the plains along with him; listened to anecdotes innumerable
from Jacques, attacked thousands of buffaloes, singled out scores of
wild bulls, pitched over horses' heads and alighted precisely on the
bridge of his nose, always in close proximity to his old friend.
Gradually his mind returned to its prison-house, and his eye fell on
Kate's letter, which he picked up and began to read. It ran thus:--

MY DEAR, DEAR, DARLING CHARLEY,--I cannot tell you how much my heart
has yearned to see you, or hear from you, for many long, long months
past. Your last delightful letter, which I treasure up as the most
precious object I possess, has indeed explained to me how utterly
impossible it was to have written a day sooner than you did; but that
does not comfort me a bit, or make those weary packets more rapid and
frequent in their movements, or the time that passes between the
periods of hearing from you less dreary and anxious. God bless and
protect you, my darling, in the midst of all the dangers that surround
you. But I did not intend to begin this letter by murmuring, so pray
forgive me, and I shall try to atone for it by giving you a minute
account of everybody here about whom you are interested. Our beloved
father and mother, I am thankful to say, are quite well. Papa has taken
more than ever to smoking since you went away. He is seldom out of the
summer-house in the garden now, where I very frequently go, and spend
hours together in reading to and talking with him. He very often speaks
of you, and I am certain that he misses you far more than we expected,
although I think he cannot miss you nearly so much as I do. For some
weeks past, indeed ever since we got your last letter, papa was engaged
all the forenoon in some mysterious work, for he used to lock himself
up in the summer-house--a thing he never did before. One day I went
there at my usual time and instead of having to wait till he should
unlock the door, I found it already open, and entered the room, which
was so full of smoke that I could hardly see. I found papa writing at a
small table, and the moment he heard my footstep he jumped up with a
fierce frown, and shouted, "Who's there?" in that terrible voice that
he used to speak in long ago when angry with his men, but which he has
almost quite given up for some time past. He never speaks to me, as you
know very well, but in the kindest tones, so you may imagine what a
dreadful fright I got for a moment; but it was only for a moment,
because the instant he saw that it was me his dear face changed, and he
folded me in his arms, saying, "Ah, Kate, forgive me, my darling! I did
not know it was you, and I thought I had locked the door, and was angry
at being so unceremoniously interrupted." He then told me he was just
finishing a letter of advice to you, and going up to the table, pushed
the papers hurriedly into a drawer. As he did so, I guessed what had
been his mysterious occupation, for he seemed to have covered _quires_
of paper with the closest writing. Ah, Charley, you're a lucky fellow
to be able to extort such long letters from our dear father. You know
how difficult he finds it to write even the shortest note, and you
remember his old favourite expression, "I would rather skin a wild
buffalo bull alive than write a long letter." He deserves long ones in
return, Charley; but I need not urge you on that score--you are an
excellent correspondent. Mamma is able to go out every day now for a
drive in the prairie. She was confined to the house for nearly three
weeks last month, with some sort of illness that the doctor did not
seem to understand, and at one time I was much frightened, and very,
very anxious about her, she became so weak. It would have made your
heart glad to have seen the tender way in which papa nursed her through
the illness. I had fancied that he was the very last man in the world
to make a sick-nurse, so bold and quick in his movements, and with such
a loud, gruff voice--for it _is_ gruff, although very sweet at the same
time. But the moment he began to tend mamma he spoke more softly even
than dear Mr. Addison does, and he began to walk about the house on
tiptoe, and persevered so long in this latter that all his moccasins
began to be worn out at the toes, while the heels remained quite
strong. I begged of him often not to take so much trouble, as _I_ was
naturally the proper nurse for mamma; but he wouldn't hear of it, and
insisted on carrying breakfast, dinner, and tea to her, besides giving
her all her medicine. He was for ever making mistakes, however, much to
his own sorrow, the darling man; and I had to watch him pretty closely,
for more than once he has been on the point of giving mamma a glass of
laudanum in mistake for a glass of port wine. I was a good deal
frightened for him at first, as, before he became accustomed to the
work, he tumbled over the chairs and tripped on the carpets while
carrying trays with dinners and breakfasts, till I thought he would
really injure himself at last, and then he was so terribly angry with
himself at making such a noise and breaking the dishes--I think he has
broken nearly an entire dinner and tea set of crockery. Poor George,
the cook, has suffered most from these mishaps--for you know that dear
papa cannot get angry without letting a _little_ of it out upon
somebody; and whenever he broke a dish or let a tray fall, he used to
rush into the kitchen, shake his fist in George's face, and ask him, in
a fierce voice, what he meant by it. But he always got better in a few
seconds, and finished off by telling him never to mind, that he was a
good servant on the whole, and he wouldn't say any more about it just
now, but he had better look sharp out and not do it again. I must say,
in praise of George, that on such occasions he looked very sorry
indeed, and said he hoped that he would always do his best to give him
satisfaction. This was only proper in him, for he ought to be very
thankful that our father restrains his anger so much; for you know he
was rather violent _once_, and you've no idea, Charley, how great a
restraint he now lays on himself. He seems to me quite like a lamb, and
I am beginning to feel somehow as if we had been mistaken, and that he
never was a passionate man at all. I think it is partly owing to dear
Mr. Addison, who visits us very frequently now, and papa and he are
often shut up together for many hours in the smoking-house. I was sure
that papa would soon come to like him, for his religion is so free from
everything like severity or affected solemnity. The cook, and Rosa, and
my dog that you named Twist, are all quite well. The last has grown
into a very large and beautiful animal, something like the stag-hound
in the picture-book we used to study together long ago. He is
exceedingly fond of me, and I feel him to be quite a protector. The
cocks and hens, the cow and the old mare, are also in perfect health;
so now, having told you a good deal about ourselves, I will give you a
short account of the doings in the colony.

First of all, your old friend Mr. Kipples is still alive and well, and
so are all our old companions in the school. One or two of the latter
have left, and young Naysmith has joined the Company's service. Betty
Peters comes very often to see us, and she always asks for you with
great earnestness. I think you have stolen the old woman's heart,
Charley, for she speaks of you with great affection. Old Mr. Seaforth
is still as vigorous as ever, dashing about the settlement on a
high-mettled steed, just as if he were one of the youngest men in the
colony. He nearly poisoned himself, poor man, a month ago, by taking a
dose of some kind of medicine by mistake. I did not hear what it was,
but I am told that the treatment was rather severe. Fortunately the
doctor happened to be at home when he was sent for, else our old friend
would, I fear, have died. As it was, the doctor cured him with great
difficulty. He first gave him an emetic, then put mustard blisters to
the soles of his feet, and afterwards lifted him into one of his own
carts, without springs, in which he drove him for a long time over all
the ploughed fields in the neighbourhood. If this is not an exaggerated
account, Mr. Seaforth is certainly made of sterner stuff than most men.
I was told a funny anecdote of him a few days ago, which I am sure you
have never heard, otherwise you would have told it to me, for there
used to be no secrets between us, Charley--alas! I have no one to
confide in or advise with now that you are gone. You have often heard
of the great flood; not Noah's one, but the flood that nearly swept
away our settlement and did so much damage before you and I were born.
Well, you recollect that people used to tell of the way in which the
river rose after the breaking up of the ice, and how it soon overflowed
all the low points, sweeping off everything in its course. Old Mr.
Seaforth's house stood at that time on the little point, just beyond
the curve of the river, at the foot of which our own house stands, and
as the river continued to rise, Mr. Seaforth went about actively
securing his property. At first he only thought of his boat and canoes,
which, with the help of his son Peter and a Canadian, who happened at
the time to be employed about the place, he dragged up and secured to
an iron staple in the side of his house. Soon, however, he found that
the danger was greater than at first he imagined. The point became
completely covered with water, which brought down great numbers of
_half_-drowned and _quite_-drowned cattle, pigs, and poultry, and
stranded them at the garden fence, so that in a short time poor Mr.
Seaforth could scarcely move about his overcrowded domains. On seeing
this, he drove his own cattle to the highest land in his neighbourhood
and hastened back to the house, intending to carry as much of the
furniture as possible to the same place. But during his short absence
the river had risen so rapidly that he was obliged to give up all
thoughts of this, and think only of securing a few of his valuables.
The bit of land round his dwelling was so thickly covered with the poor
cows, sheep, and other animals, that he could scarcely make his way to
the house, and you may fancy his consternation on reaching it to find
that the water was more than knee-deep round the walls, while a few of
the cows and a whole herd of pigs had burst open the door (no doubt
accidentally) and coolly entered the dining-room, where they stood with
drooping heads, very wet, and apparently very miserable. The Canadian
was busy at the back of the house, loading the boat and canoe with
everything he could lay hands on, and was not aware of the foreign
invasion in front. Mr. Seaforth cared little for this, however, and
began to collect all the things he held most valuable, and threw them
to the man, who stowed them away in the boat. Peter had been left in
charge of the cattle, so they had to work hard. While thus employed the
water continued to rise with fearful rapidity, and rushed against the
house like a mill-race, so that it soon became evident that the whole
would ere long be swept away. Just as they finished loading the boat
and canoes, the staple which held them gave way; in a moment they were
swept into the middle of the river, and carried out of sight. The
Canadian was in the boat at the time the staple broke, so that Mr.
Seaforth was now left in a dwelling that bid fair to emulate Noah's ark
in an hour or two, without a chance of escape, and with no better
company than five black oxen, in the dining-room, besides three sheep
that were now scarcely able to keep their heads above water, and three
little pigs that were already drowned. The poor old man did his best to
push out the intruders, but only succeeded in ejecting two sheep and an
ox. All the others positively refused to go, so he was fain to let them
stay. By shutting the outer door he succeeded in keeping out a great
deal of water. Then he waded into the parlour, where he found some more
little pigs, floating about and quite dead. Two, however, more
adventurous than their comrades, had saved their lives by mounting
first on a chair and then upon the table, where they were comfortably
seated, gazing languidly at their mother, a very heavy fat sow, which
sat, with what seemed an expression of settled despair, on the sofa. In
a fit of wrath, Mr. Seaforth seized the young pigs and tossed them out
of the window; whereupon the old one jumped down, and half-walking,
half-swimming, made her way to her companions in the dining-room. The
old gentleman now ascended to the garret, where from a small window he
looked out upon the scene of devastation. His chief anxiety was about
the foundation of the house, which, being made of a wooden framework,
like almost all the others in the colony, would certainly float if the
water rose much higher. His fears were better founded than the house.
As he looked up the river, which had by this time overflowed all its
banks, and was spreading over the plains, he saw a fresh burst of water
coming down, which, when it dashed against his dwelling, forced it
about two yards from its foundation. Suddenly he remembered that there
were a large anchor and chain in the kitchen, both of which he had
brought there one day, to serve as a sort of anvil when he wanted to do
some blacksmith work. Hastening down, he fastened one end of the chain
to the sofa, and cast the anchor out of the window. A few minutes
afterwards another rush of water struck the building, which yielded to
pressure, and swung slowly down until the anchor arrested its further
progress. This was only for a few seconds, however. The chain was a
slight one. It snapped, and the house swept majestically down the
stream, while its terrified owner scrambled to the roof, which he found
already in possession of his favourite cat. Here he had a clear view of
his situation. The plains were converted into a lake, above whose
surface rose trees and houses, several of which, like his own, were
floating on the stream or stranded among shallows. Settlers were rowing
about in boats and canoes in all directions, but although some of them
noticed the poor man sitting beside his cat on the housetop, they were
either too far off or had no time to render him assistance.

For two days nothing was heard of old Mr. Seaforth. Indeed, the
settlers had too much to do in saving themselves and their families to
think of others; and it was not until the third day that people began
to inquire about him. His son Peter had taken a canoe and made diligent
search in all directions, but although he found the house sticking on a
shallow point, neither his father nor the cat was on or in it. At last
he was brought to the island, on which nearly half the colony had
collected, by an Indian who had passed the house, and brought him away
in his canoe, along with the old cat. Is he not a wonderful man, to
have come through so much in his old age? and he is still so active and
hearty! Mr. Swan of the mill is dead. He died of fever last week. Poor
old Mr. Cordon is also gone. His end was very sad. About a month ago he
ordered his horse and rode off, intending to visit Fort Garry. At the
turn of the road, just above Grant's house, the horse suddenly swerved,
and its rider was thrown to the ground. He did not live more than
half-an-hour after it. Alas! how very sad to see a man, after escaping
all the countless dangers of a long life in the woods (and his, you
know, was a very adventurous one), thus cut violently down in his old
age. O Charley, how little we know what is before us! How needful to
have our peace made with God through Jesus Christ, so that we may be
ready at any moment when our Father calls us away. There are many
events of great interest that have occurred here since you left. You
will be glad to hear the Jane Patterson is married to our excellent
friend Mr. Cameron, who has taken up a store near to us, and intends to
run a boat to York Fort next summer. There has been another marriage
here which will cause you astonishment at least, if not pleasure. Old
Mr. Peters has married Marie Peltier! What _could_ have possessed her
to take such a husband? I cannot understand it. Just think of her,
Charley, a girl of eighteen, with a husband of seventy-five!--

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

At this point the writing, which was very close and very small,
terminated. Harry laid it down with a deep sigh, wishing much that
Charley had thought it advisable to send him the second sheet also. As
wishes and regrets on this point were equally unavailing, he
endeavoured to continue it in imagination, and was soon as deeply
absorbed in following Kate through the well-remembered scenes of Red
River as he had been, a short time before, in roaming with her brother
over the wide prairies of Saskatchewan. The increasing cold, however
soon warned him that the night was far spent. He rose and went to the
stove; but the fire had gone out, and the almost irresistible frost of
these regions was already cooling everything in Bachelors' Hall down to
the freezing-point. All his companions had put out their candles, and
were busy, doubtless, dreaming of the friends whose letters had struck
and reawakened the long-dormant chords that used to echo to the tones
and scenes of other days. With a slight shiver, Harry returned to his
apartment, and kneeled to thank God for protecting and preserving his
absent friends, and especially for sending him "good news from a far
land." The letter with the British post-marks on it was placed under
his pillow. It occupied his waking and sleeping thoughts that night,
and it was the first thing he thought of and reread on the following
morning, and for many mornings afterwards. Only those can fully
estimate the value of such letters who live in distant lands, where
letters are few--very, very few--and far between.



CHAPTER XXIII.

Changes--Harry and Hamilton find that variety is indeed charming--The
latter astonishes the former considerably.


Three months passed away, but the snow still lay deep and white and
undiminished around York Fort. Winter--cold, silent, unyielding
winter--still drew its white mantle closely round the lonely dwelling
of the fur-traders of the Far North.

Icicles hung, as they had done for months before, from the eaves of
every house, from the tall black scaffold on which the great bell hung,
and from the still taller erection that had been put up as an outlook
for "_the ship_" in summer. At the present time it commanded a bleak
view of the frozen sea. Snow covered every housetop, and hung in
ponderous masses from their edges, as if it were about to fall; but it
never fell--it hung there in the same position day after day, unmelted,
unchanged. Snow covered the whole land, and the frozen river, the
swamps, the sea-beach, and the sea itself, as far as the eye could
reach, seemed like a pure white carpet. Snow lined the upper edge of
every paling, filled up the key-hole of every door, embanked about half
of every window, stuck in little knobs on the top of every picket, and
clung in masses on every drooping branch of the pine trees in the
forest. Frost--sharp, biting frost--solidified, surrounded, and
pervaded everything. Mercury was congealed by it; vapour was condensed
by it; iron was cooled by it until it could scarcely be touched without
(as the men expressed it) "burning" the fingers. The water-jugs in
Bachelors' Hall and the water-buckets were frozen by it, nearly to the
bottom; though there was a good stove there, and the Hall was not
_usually_ a cold place by any means. The breath of the inhabitants was
congealed by it on the window-panes, until they had become coated with
ice an inch thick. The breath of the men was rendered white and opaque
by it, as they panted and hurried to and fro about their ordinary
avocations; beating their gloved hands together, and stamping their
well-wrapped-up feet on the hard-beaten snow to keep them warm. Old
Bobin's nose seemed to be entirely shrivelled up into his face by it,
as he drove his ox-cart to the river to fetch his daily supply of
water. The only things that were not affected by it were the fires,
which crackled and roared as if in laughter, and twisted and leaped as
if in uncontrollable glee at the bare idea of John Frost acquiring, by
any artifice whatever, the smallest possible influence over _them_!
Three months had elapsed, but frost and snow, instead of abating, had
gone on increasing and intensifying, deepening and extending its work,
and riveting its chains. Winter--cold, silent, unyielding winter--still
reigned at York Fort, as though it had made it a _sine qua non_ of its
existence at all that it should reign there for ever!

But although everything was thus wintry and cold, it was by no means
cheerless or dreary. A bright sun shone in the blue heavens with an
intenseness of brilliancy that was quite dazzling to the eyes, that
elated the spirits, and caused man and beast to tread with a more
elastic step than usual. Although the sun looked down upon the scene
with an unclouded face, and found a mirror in every icicle and in every
gem of hoar-frost with which the objects of nature were loaded, there
was, however, no perceptible heat in his rays. They fell on the white
earth with all the brightness of midsummer, but they fell powerless as
moonbeams in the dead of winter.

On the frozen river, just in front of the gate of the fort, a group of
men and dogs were assembled. The dogs were four in number, harnessed to
a small flat sledge of the slender kind used by Indians to drag their
furs and provisions over the snow. The group of men was composed of Mr.
Rogan and the inmates of Bachelors' Hall, one or two men who happened
to be engaged there at the time in cutting a new water-hole in the ice,
and an Indian, who, to judge from his carefully-adjusted costume, the
snow-shoes on his feet, and the short whip in his hand, was the driver
of the sledge, and was about to start on a journey. Harry Somerville
and young Hamilton were also wrapped up more carefully than usual.

"Good-bye, then, good-bye," said Mr. Rogan, advancing towards the
Indian, who stood beside the leading dog, ready to start. "Take care of
our young friends; they've not had much experience in travelling yet;
and don't over drive your dogs. Treat them well, and they'll do more
work. They're like men in that respect." Mr. Rogan shook the Indian by
the hand, and the latter immediately flourished the whip and gave a
shout, which the dogs no sooner heard than they uttered a simultaneous
yell, sprang forward with a jerk, and scampered up the river, closely
followed by their dark-skinned driver.

"Now, lads, farewell," said the old gentleman, turning with a kindly
smile to our two friends, who were shaking hands for the last time with
their comrades. "I'm sorry you're going to leave us, my boys. You've
done your duty well while here, and I would willingly have kept you a
little longer with me, but our governor wills it otherwise. However, I
trust that you'll be happy wherever you may be sent. Don't forget to
write to me. God bless you. Farewell."

Mr. Rogan shook them heartily by the hand, turned short round, and
walked slowly up to his house, with an expression of sadness on his
mild face; while Harry and Hamilton, having once more waved farewell to
their friends, marched up the river side by side in silence. They
followed the track left by the dog-sledge, which guided them with
unerring certainty, although their Indian leader and his team were out
of sight in advance.

A week previous to this time an Indian arrived from the interior,
bearing a letter from headquarters, which directed that Messrs.
Somerville and Hamilton should be forthwith despatched on snow-shoes to
Norway House. As this establishment is about three hundred miles from
the sea-coast, the order involved a journey of nearly two weeks'
duration through a country that was utterly destitute of inhabitants.
On receiving a command from Mr. Rogan to prepare for an early start,
Harry retired precipitately to his own room, and there, after cutting
unheard of capers, and giving vent to sudden, incomprehensible shouts,
all indicative of the highest state of delight, he condescended to tell
his companions of his good fortune, and set about preparations without
delay. Hamilton, on the contrary, gave his usual quiet smile on being
informed of his destination, and returning somewhat pensively to
Bachelors' Hall, proceeded leisurely to make the necessary arrangements
for departure. As the time drew on, however, a perpetual flush on his
countenance, and an unusual brilliancy about his eye, showed that he
was not quite insensible to the pleasures of a change, and relished the
idea more than he got credit for. The Indian who had brought the letter
was ordered to hold himself in readiness to retrace his steps, and
conduct the young men through the woods to Norway House, where they
were to await further orders. A few days later the three travellers, as
already related, set out on their journey.

After walking a mile up the river, they passed a point of land which
shut out the fort from view. Here they paused to take a last look, and
then pressed forward in silence, the thoughts of each being busy with
mingled recollections of their late home and anticipations of the
future. After an hour's sharp walking they came in sight of the guide,
and slackened their pace.

"Well, Hamilton," said Harry, throwing off his reverie with a deep
sigh, "are you glad to leave York Fort, or sorry?"

"Glad, undoubtedly," replied Hamilton, "but sorry to part from our old
companions there. I had no idea, Harry, that I loved them all so much.
I feel as if I should be glad were the order for us to leave them
countermanded even now."

"That's the very thought," said Harry, "that was passing through my own
brain when I spoke to you. Yet somehow I think I should feel uncommonly
sorry after all if we were really sent back. There's a queer
contradiction, Hammy: we're sorry and happy at the same time! If I were
the skipper now, I would found a philosophical argument upon it."

"Which the skipper would carry on with untiring vigour," said Hamilton,
smiling, "and afterwards make an entry of in his log. But I think,
Harry, that to feel the emotion of sorrow and joy at the same time is
not such a contradiction as it at first appears."

"Perhaps not," replied Harry; "but it seems very contradictory to _me_,
and yet it's an evident fact, for I'm _very_ sorry to leave _them_, and
I'm _very_ happy to have you for my companion here."

"So am I, so am I," said the other heartily. "I would rather travel
with you, Harry, than with any of our late companions, although I like
them all very much."

The two friends had grown, almost imperceptibly, in each other's esteem
during their residence under the same roof, more than either of them
would have believed possible. The gay, reckless hilarity of the one did
not at first accord with the quiet gravity and, as his comrades styled
it, _softness_ of the other. But character is frequently misjudged at
first sight, and sometimes men who on a first acquaintance have felt
repelled from each other have, on coming to know each other better,
discovered traits and good qualities that ere long formed enduring
bonds of sympathy, and have learned to love those whom at first they
felt disposed to dislike or despise. Thus Harry soon came to know that
what he at first thought and, along with his companions, called
softness in Hamilton in reality gentleness of disposition and thorough
good-nature, united in one who happened to be utterly unacquainted with
the _knowing_ ways of this peculiarly sharp and clever world, while in
the course of time new qualities showed themselves in a quiet,
unobtrusive way that won upon his affections and raised his esteem. On
the other hand, Hamilton found that although Harry was volatile, and
possessed of an irresistible tendency to fun and mischief, he never by
any chance gave way to anger, or allowed malice to enter into his
practical jokes. Indeed, he often observed him to restrain his natural
tendencies when they were at all likely to give pain, though Harry
never dreamed that such efforts were known to any one but himself.
Besides this, Harry was peculiarly _unselfish_, and when a man is
possessed of this inestimable disposition, he is, not _quite_ but _very
nearly_, perfect!

After another pause, during which the party had left the open river and
directed their course through the woods, where the depth of the snow
obliged them to tread in each other's footsteps, Harry resumed the
conversation.

"You have not yet told me, by-the-by, what old Mr. Rogan said to you
just before we started. Did he give you any hint as to where you might
be sent to after reaching Norway House?"

"No; he merely said he knew that clerks were wanted both for Mackenzie
River and the Saskatchewan districts, but he did not know which I was
destined for."

"Hum! exactly what he said to me, with the slight addition that he
strongly suspected that Mackenzie River would be my doom. Are you
aware, Hammy my boy, that the Saskatchewan district is a sort of
terrestrial paradise, and Mackenzie River equivalent to Botany Bay?"

"I have heard as much during our conversations in Bachelors' Hall,
but--Stop a bit, Harry; these snow-shoe lines of mine have got loosened
with tearing through this deep snow and these shockingly thick bushes.
There--they are right now; go on. I was going to say that I don't--oh!"

This last exclamation was elicited from Hamilton by a sharp blow caused
by a branch which, catching on part of Harry's dress as he plodded on
in front, suddenly rebounded and struck him across the face. This is of
common occurrence in travelling through the woods, especially to those
who from inexperience walk too closely on the heels of their companions.

"What's wrong now, Hammy?" inquired his friend, looking over his
shoulder.

"Oh, nothing worth mentioning--rather a sharp blow from a branch,
that's all."

"Well, proceed; you've interrupted yourself twice in what you were
going to say. Perhaps it'll come out if you try it a third time."

"I was merely going to say that I don't much care where I am sent to,
so long as it is not to an outpost where I shall be all alone."

"All very well, my friend; but seeing that outposts are, in comparison
with principal forts, about a hundred to one, your chance of avoiding
them is rather slight. However, our youth and want of experience is in
our favour, as they like to send men who have seen some service to
outposts. But I fear that, with such brilliant characters as you and I,
Hammy, youth will only be an additional recommendation, and
inexperience won't last long.--Hollo! what's going on yonder?"

Harry pointed as he spoke to an open spot in the woods about a quarter
of a mile in advance, where a dark object was seen lying on the snow,
writhing about, now coiling into a lump, and anon extending itself like
a huge snake in agony.

As the two friends looked, a prolonged howl floated towards them.

"Something wrong with the dogs, I declare!" cried Harry.

"No doubt of it," replied his friend, hurrying forward, as they saw
their Indian guide rise from the ground and flourish his whip
energetically, while the howls rapidly increased.

A few minutes brought them to the scene of action, where they found the
dogs engaged in a fight among themselves, and the driver, in a state of
vehement passion, alternately belabouring and trying to separate them.
Dogs in these regions, like the dogs of all other regions, we suppose,
are very much addicted to fighting--a propensity which becomes
extremely unpleasant if indulged while the animals are in harness, as
they then become peculiarly savage, probably from their being unable,
like an ill-assorted pair in wedlock, to cut or break the ties that
bind them. Moreover, they twist the traces into such an ingeniously
complicated mass that it renders disentanglement almost impossible,
even after exhaustion has reduced them to obedience. Besides this, they
are so absorbed in worrying each other that for the time they are
utterly regardless of their driver's lash or voice. This naturally
makes the driver angry, and sometimes irascible men practise shameful
cruelties on the poor dogs. When the two friends came up they found the
Indian glaring at the animals, as they fought and writhed in the snow,
with every lineament of his swarthy face distorted with passion, and
panting from his late exertions. Suddenly he threw himself on the dogs
again, and lashed them furiously with the whip. Finding that this had
no effect, he twined the lash round his hand, and struck them violently
over their heads and snouts with the handle; then falling down on his
knees, he caught the most savage of the animals by the throat, and
seizing its nose between his teeth almost bit it off. The appalling
yell that followed this cruel act seemed to subdue the dogs, for they
ceased to fight, and crouched, whining, in the snow.

With a bound like a tiger young Hamilton sprang upon the guide, and
seizing him by the throat, hurled him violently to the ground.
"Scoundrel!" he cried, standing over the crestfallen Indian with
flushed face and flashing eyes, "how dare you thus treat the creatures
of God?"

The young man would have spoken more, but his indignation was so fierce
that it could not find vent in words. For a moment he raised his fist,
as if he meditated dashing the Indian again to the ground as he slowly
arose; then, as if changing his mind, he seized him by the back of the
neck, thrust him towards the panting dogs, and stood in silence over
him with the whip grasped firmly in his hand, while he disentangled the
traces.

This accomplished, Hamilton ordered him in a voice of suppressed anger
to "go forward"--an order which the cowed guide promptly obeyed, and in
a few minutes more the two friends were again alone.

"Hamilton, my boy," exclaimed Harry, who up to this moment seemed to
have been petrified, "you have perfectly amazed me! I'm utterly
bewildered."

"Indeed, I fear that I have been very violent," said Hamilton, blushing
deeply.

"Violent!" exclaimed his friend. "Why, man, I've completely mistaken
your character. I--I--"

"I hope not, Harry," said Hamilton, in a subdued tone; "I hope not.
Believe me, I am not naturally violent. I should be very sorry were you
to think so. Indeed, I never felt thus before, and now that it is over
I am amazed at myself; but surely you'll admit that there was great
provocation. Such terrible cruelty to--"

"My dear fellow, you quite misunderstand me. I'm amazed at your pluck,
your energy. _Soft_ indeed! we have been most egregiously mistaken.
Provocation! I just think you had; my only sorrow is that you didn't
give him a little more."

"Come, come, Harry; I see you would be as cruel to him as he was to the
poor dog. But let us press forward; it is already growing dark, and we
must not let the fellow out of sight ahead of us."

"_Allons donc_," cried Harry; and hastening their steps, they travelled
silently and rapidly among the stems of the trees, while the shades of
night gathered slowly round them.

That night the three travellers encamped in the snow under the shelter
of a spreading pine. The encampment was formed almost exactly in a
similar manner to that in which they had slept on the night of their
exploits at North River. They talked less, however, than on that
occasion, and slept more soundly. Before retiring to rest, and while
Harry was extended, half asleep and half awake, on his green blanket,
enjoying the delightful repose that follows a hard day's march and a
good supper, Hamilton drew near to the Indian, who sat sullenly smoking
a little apart from the young men. Sitting down beside him, he
administered a long rebuke in a low, grave tone of voice. Like rebukes
generally, it had the effect of making the visage of the Indian still
more sullen. But the young man did not appear to notice this; he still
continued to talk. As he went on, the look grew less and less sullen,
until it faded entirely away, and was succeeded by that grave, quiet,
respectful expression peculiar to the face of the North American Indian.

Day succeeded day, night followed night, and still found them plodding
laboriously through the weary waste of snow, or encamping under the
trees of the forest. The two friends went through all the varied stages
of experience which are included in what is called "becoming used to
the work," which is sometimes a modified meaning of the expression
"used up." They started with a degree of vigour that one would have
thought no amount of hard work could possibly abate. They became aware
of the melancholy fact that fatigue unstrings the youngest and toughest
sinews. They pressed on, however, from stern necessity, and found, to
their delight, that young muscles recover their elasticity even in the
midst of severe exertion. They still pressed on, and discovered, to
their dismay, that this recovery was only temporary, and that the
second state of exhaustion was infinitely worse than the first. Still
they pressed on, and raised blisters on their feet and toes that caused
them to limp wofully; then they learned that blisters break and take a
long time to heal, and are much worse to walk upon during the healing
process than they are at the commencement--at which time they
innocently fancied that nothing could be more dreadful. Still they
pressed on day after day, and found to their satisfaction that such
things can be endured and overcome; that feet and toes can become hard
like leather, that muscles can grow tough as india-rubber, and that
spirits and energy can attain to a pitch of endurance which nothing
within the compass of a day's march can by any possibility overcome.
They found also, from experience, that their conversation changed, both
in manner and subject, as they progressed on their journey. At first
they conversed frequently and on various topics, chiefly on the
probability of their being sent to pleasant places or the reverse. Then
they spoke less frequently, and growled occasionally, as they advanced
in the painful process of training. After that, as they began to get
hardy, they talked of the trees, the snow, the ice, the tracks of wild
animals they happened to cross, and the objects of nature generally
that came under their observation. Then as their muscles hardened and
their sinews grew tough, and the day's march at length became first a
matter of indifference, and ultimately an absolute pleasure, they
chatted cheerfully on any and every subject, or sang occasionally, when
the sun shone out and cast an _appearance_ of warmth across their path.
Thus onward they pressed, without halt or stay, day after day, through
wood and brake, over river and lake, on ice and on snow, for miles and
miles together, through the great, uninhabited, frozen wilderness.



CHAPTER XXIV.

Hopes and fears--An unexpected meeting--Philosophical talk between the
hunter and the parson.


On arriving at Norway House, Harry Somerville and his friend Hamilton
found that they were to remain at that establishment during an
indefinite period of time, until it should please those in whose hands
their ultimate destination lay to direct them how and where to proceed.
This was an unlooked-for trial of their patience; but after the first
exclamation of disappointment, they made up their minds, like wise men,
to think no more about it, but bide their time, and make the most of
present circumstances.

"You see," remarked Hamilton, as the two friends, after having had an
audience of the gentleman in charge of the establishment, sauntered
towards the rocks that overhang the margin of Playgreen Lake--"you see,
it is of no use to fret about what we cannot possibly help. Nobody
within three hundred miles of us knows where we are destined to spend
next winter. Perhaps orders may come in a couple of weeks, perhaps in a
couple of months, but they will certainly come at last. Anyhow, it is
of no use thinking about it, so we had better forget it, and make the
best of things as we find them."

"Ah!" exclaimed Harry, "your advice is, that we should by all means be
happy, and if we can't be happy, be as happy as we can. Is that it?"

"Just so. That's it exactly."

"Ho! But then you see, Hammy, you're a philosopher and I'm not, and
that makes all the difference. I'm not given to anticipating evil, but
I cannot help dreading that they will send me to some lonely, swampy,
out-of-the-way hole, where there will be no society, no shooting, no
riding, no work even to speak of--nothing, in fact, but the miserable
satisfaction of being styled 'bourgeois' by five or six men, wretched
outcasts like myself."

"Come, Harry," cried Hamilton; "you are taking the very worst view of
it. There certainly are plenty of such outposts in the country, but you
know very well that young fellows like you are seldom sent to such
places."

"I don't know that," interrupted Harry. "There's young M'Andrew: he was
sent to an outpost up the Mackenzie his second year in the service,
where he was all but starved, and had to live for about two weeks on
boiled parchment. Then there's poor Forrester: he was shipped off to a
place--the name of which I never could remember--somewhere between the
head-waters of the Athabasca Lake and the North Pole. To be sure, he
had good shooting, I'm told, but he had only four labouring men to
enjoy it with; and he has been there _ten_ years now, and he has more
than once had to scrape the rocks of that detestable stuff called
_tripe de roche_ to keep himself alive. And then there's----"

"Very true," interrupted Hamilton. "Then there's your friend Charles
Kennedy, whom you so often talk about, and many other young fellows we
know, who have been sent to the Saskatchewan, and to the Columbia, and
to Athabasca, and to a host of other capital places, where they have
enough of society--male society, at least--and good sport."

The young men had climbed a rocky eminence which commanded a view of
the lake on the one side, and the fort, with its background of woods,
on the other. Here they sat down on a stone, and continued for some
time to admire the scene in silence.

"Yes," said Harry, resuming the thread of discourse, "you are right: we
have a good chance of seeing some pleasant parts of the country. But
suspense is not pleasant. O man, if they would only send me up the
Saskatchewan River! I've set my heart upon going there. I'm quite sure
it's the very best place in the whole country."

"You've told the truth that time, master," said a deep voice behind
them.

The young men turned quickly round. Close beside them, and leaning
composedly on a long Indian fowling-piece, stood a tall,
broad-shouldered, sun-burned man, apparently about forty years of age.
He was dressed in the usual leathern hunting-coat, cloth leggings, fur
cap, mittens, and moccasins that constitute the winter garb of a
hunter; and had a grave, firm, but good-humoured expression of
countenance.

"You've told the truth that time, master," he repeated, without moving
from his place. "The Saskatchewan _is_, to my mind, the best place in
the whole country; and havin' seen a considerable deal o' places in my
time, I can speak from experience."

"Indeed, friend," said Harry, "I'm glad to hear you say so. Come, sit
down beside us, and let's hear something about it."

Thus invited, the hunter seated himself on a stone and laid his gun on
the hollow of his left arm.

"First of all, friend," continued Harry, "do you belong to the fort
here?"

"No," replied the man, "I'm staying here just now, but I don't belong
to the place."

"Where do you come from then, and what's your name?"

"Why, I've comed d'rect from the Saskatchewan with a packet o' letters.
I'm payin' a visit to the missionary village yonder"--the hunter
pointed as he spoke across the lake--"and when the ice breaks up I
shall get a canoe and return again."

"And your name?"

"Why, I've got four or five names. Somehow or other people have given
me a nickname wherever I ha' chanced to go. But my true name, and the
one I hail by just now, is Jacques Caradoc."

"Jacques Caradoc!" exclaimed Harry, starting with surprise. "You knew a
Charley Kennedy in the Saskatchewan, did you?"

"That did I. As fine a lad as ever pulled a trigger."

"Give us your hand, friend," exclaimed Harry, springing forward, and
seizing the hunter's large, hard fist in both hands. "Why, man, Charley
is my dearest friend, and I had a letter from him some time ago in
which he speaks of you, and says you're one of the best fellows he ever
met."

"You don't say so," replied the hunter, returning Harry's grasp warmly,
while his eyes sparkled with pleasure, and a quiet smile played at the
corner of his mouth.

"Yes I do," said Harry; "and I'm very nearly as glad to meet with you,
friend Jacques, as I would be to meet with him. But come; it's cold
work talking here. Let's go to my room; there's a fire in the
stove.--Come along, Hammy;" and taking his new friend by the arm, he
hurried him along to his quarters in the fort.

Just as they were passing under the fort gate, a large mass of snow
became detached from a housetop and fell heavily at their feet, passing
within an inch of Hamilton's nose. The young man started back with an
exclamation, and became very red in the face.

"Hollo!" cried Harry, laughing, "got a fright, Hammy! That went so
close to your chin that it almost saved you the trouble of shaving."

"Yes; I got a little fright from the suddenness of it," said Hamilton
quietly.

"What do you think of my friend there?" said Harry to Jacques, in a low
voice, pointing to Hamilton, who walked on in advance.

"I've not seen much of him, master," replied the hunter. "Had I been
asked the same question about the same lad twenty years agone, I should
ha' said he was soft, and perhaps chicken-hearted. But I've learned
from experience to judge better than I used to do. I niver thinks o'
forming an opinion o' anyone till I geen them called to sudden action.
It's astonishin' how some faint-hearted men will come to face a danger
and put on an awful look o' courage if they only get warnin', but take
them by surprise--that's the way to try them."

"Well, Jacques, that is the very reason why I ask your opinion of
Hamilton. He was pretty well taken by surprise that time, I think."

"True, master; but _that_ kind of start don't prove much. Hows'ever, I
don't think he's easy upset. He does _look_ uncommon soft, and his face
grew red when the snow fell, but his eyebrow and his under lip showed
that it wasn't from fear."

During that afternoon and the greater part of that night the three
friends continued in close conversation--Harry sitting in front of the
stove, with his hands in his pockets, on a chair tilted as usual on its
hind legs, and pouring out volleys of questions, which were pithily
answered by the good-humoured, loquacious hunter, who sat behind the
stove, resting his elbows on his knees, and smoking his much-loved
pipe; while Hamilton reclined on Harry's bed, and listened with eager
avidity to anecdotes and stories, which seemed, like the narrator's
pipe, to be inexhaustible.

"Good-night, Jacques, good-night," said Harry, as the latter rose at
last to depart; "I'm delighted to have had a talk with you. You must
come back to-morrow. I want to hear more about your friend Redfeather.
Where did you say you left him?"

"In the Saskatchewan, master. He said that he would wait there, as he'd
heerd the missionary was comin' up to pay the Injins a visit."

"By-the-by, you're going over to the missionary's place to-morrow, are
you not?"

"Yes, I am."

"Ah, then, that'll do. I'll go over with you. How far off is it?"

"Three miles or thereabouts."

"Very good. Call in here as you pass, and my friend Hamilton and I will
accompany you. Good-night."

Jacques thrust his pipe into his bosom, held out his horny hand, and
giving his young friends a hearty shake, turned and strode from the
room.

On the following day Jacques called according to promise, and the three
friends set off together to visit the Indian village. This missionary
station was under the management of a Wesleyan clergyman, Pastor Conway
by name, an excellent man, of about forty-five years of age, with an
energetic mind and body, a bald head, a mild, expressive countenance,
and a robust constitution. He was admirably qualified for his position,
having a natural aptitude for every sort of work that man is usually
called on to perform. His chief care was for the instruction of the
Indians, whom he had induced to settle around him, in the great and
all-important truths of Christianity. He invented an alphabet, and
taught them to write and read their own language. He commenced the
laborious task of translating the Scriptures into the Cree language;
and being an excellent musician, he instructed his converts to sing in
parts the psalms and Wesleyan hymns, many of which are exceedingly
beautiful. A school was also established and a church built under his
superintendence, so that the natives assembled in an orderly way in a
commodious sanctuary every Sabbath day to worship God; while the
children were instructed, not only in the Scriptures, and made familiar
with the narrative of the humiliation and exaltation of our blessed
Saviour, but were also taught the elementary branches of a secular
education. But good Pastor Conway's energy did not stop here. Nature
had gifted him with that peculiar genius which is powerfully expressed
in the term "a jack-of-all-trades." He could turn his hand to anything;
and being, as we have said, an energetic man, he did turn his hand to
almost everything. If anything happened to get broken, the pastor could
either "mend it himself or direct how it was to be done. If a house was
to be built for a new family of red men, who had never handled a saw or
hammer in their lives, and had lived up to that time in tents, the
pastor lent a hand to begin it, drew out the plan (not a very
complicated thing certainly), set them fairly at work, and kept his eye
on it until it was finished. In short, the worthy pastor was everything
to everybody, "that by all means he might gain some."

Under such management the village flourished as a matter of course,
although it did not increase very rapidly owing to the almost
unconquerable aversion of North American Indians to take up a settled
habitation.

It was to this little hamlet, then, that our three friends directed
their steps. On arriving, they found Pastor Conway in a sort of
workshop, giving directions to an Indian who stood with a
soldering-iron in one hand and a sheet of tin in the other, which he
was about to apply to a curious-looking half-finished machine that bore
some resemblance to a canoe.

"Ah, my friend Jacques!" he exclaimed as the hunter approached him,
"the very man I wished to see. But I beg pardon, gentlemen,-strangers,
I perceive. You are heartily welcome. It is seldom that I have the
pleasure of seeing new friends in my wild dwelling. Pray come with me
to my house."

Pastor Conway shook hands with Harry and Hamilton with a degree of
warmth that evinced the sincerity of his words. The young men thanked
him and accepted the invitation.

As they turned to quit the workshop, the pastor observed Jacques's eye
fixed with a puzzled expression of countenance, on his canoe.

"You have never seen anything like that before, I daresay?" said he,
with a smile.

"No, sir; I never did see such a queer machine afore."

"It is a tin canoe, with which I hope to pass through many miles of
country this spring, on my way to visit a tribe of Northern Indians,
and it was about this very thing that I wanted to see you, my friend."

Jacques made no reply, but cast a look savouring very slightly of
contempt on the unfinished canoe as they turned and went away.

The pastor's dwelling stood at one end of the village, a view of which
it commanded from the back windows, while those in front overlooked the
lake. It was pleasantly situated and pleasantly tenanted, for the
pastor's wife was a cheerful, active little lady, like-minded with
himself, and delighted to receive and entertain strangers. To her care
Mr. Conway consigned the young men, after spending a short time in
conversation with them; and then, requesting his wife to show them
through the village, he took Jacques by the arm and sauntered out.

"Come with me, Jacques," he began; "I have somewhat to say to you. I
had not time to broach the subject when I met you at the Company's
fort, and have been anxious to see you ever since. You tell me that you
have met with my friend Redfeather."

"Yes, sir; I spent a week or two with him last fall I found him stayin'
with his tribe, and we started to come down here together."

"Ah, that is the very point," exclaimed the pastor, "that I wish to
inquire about. I firmly believe that God has opened that Indian's eyes
to see the truth; and I fully expected from what he said when we last
met, that he would have made up his mind to come and stay here."

"As to what the Almighty has done to him," said Jacques, in a
reverential tone of voice, "I don't pretend to know; he did for sartin
speak, and act too, in a way that I never seed an Injin do before. But
about his comin' here, sir, you were quite right: he did mean to come,
and I've no doubt will come yet."

"What prevented him coming with you, as you tell me he intended?"
inquired the pastor.

"Well, you see, sir, he and I and his squaw, as I said, set off to come
here together: but when we got the length o' Edmonton House, we heerd
that you were comin' up to pay a visit to the tribe to which Redfeather
belongs; and so seem' that it was o' no use to come down hereaway just
to turn about an' go up agin, he stopped there to wait for you, for he
knew you would want him to interpret--"

"Ay," interrupted the pastor, "that's true. I have two reasons for
wishing to have him here. The primary one is, that he may get good to
his immortal soul; and then he understands English so well that I want
him to become my interpreter; for although I understand the Cree
language pretty well now, I find it exceedingly difficult to explain
the doctrines of the Bible to my people in it. But pardon me, I
interrupted you."

"I was only going to say," resumed Jacques, "that I made up my mind to
stay with him; but they wanted a man to bring the winter packet here,
so, as they pressed me very hard, an' I had nothin' particular to do, I
'greed and came, though I would rather ha' stopped; for Redfeather an'
I ha' struck up a friendship togither--a thing that I would never ha'
thought it poss'ble for me to do with a red Injin."

"And why not with a red Indian, friend?" inquired the pastor, while a
shade of sadness passed over his mild features, as if unpleasant
thoughts had been roused by the hunter's speech.

"Well, it's not easy to say why," rejoined the other. "I've no
partic'lar objection to the red-skins. There's only one man among them
that I bears a grudge agin, and even that one I'd rayther avoid than
otherwise."

"But you should _forgive_ him, Jacques. The Bible tells us not only to
bear our enemies no grudge, but to love them and to do them good."

The hunter's brow darkened. "That's impossible, sir," he said; "I
couldn't do _him_ a good turn if I was to try ever so hard. He may
bless his stars that I don't want to do him mischief; but to _love
him_, it's jist imposs'ble."

"With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible," said
the pastor solemnly.

Jacques's naturally philosophic though untutored mind saw the force of
this. He felt that God, who had formed his soul, his body, and the
wonderfully complicated machinery and objects of nature, which were
patent to his observant and reflective mind wherever he went, must of
necessity be equally able to alter, influence, and remould them all
according to His will. Common-sense was sufficient to teach him this;
and the bold hunter exhibited no ordinary amount of common-sense in
admitting the fact at once, although in the case under discussion (the
loving of his enemy) it seemed utterly impossible to his feelings and
experience. The frown, therefore, passed from his brow, while he said
respectfully, "What you say, sir, is true; I believe though I can't
_feel_ it. But I s'pose the reason I niver felt much drawn to the
red-skins is, that all the time I lived in the settlements I was used
to hear them called and treated as thievin' dogs, an 'when I com'd
among them I didn't see much to alter my opinion. Here an' there I have
found one or two honest Injins, an' Redfeather is as true as steel; but
the most o' them are no better than they should be. I s'pose I don'
think much o' them just because they are red-skins."

"Ah, Jacques, you will excuse me if I say that there is not much sense
in _that_ reason. An Indian cannot help being a red man any more than
you can help being a white one, so that he ought not to be despised on
that account. Besides, God made him what he is, and to despise the
_work_ of God, or to undervalue it, is to despise God Himself. You may
indeed despise, or rather abhor, the sins that red men are guilty of;
but if you despise _them_ on this ground, you must much more despise
white men, for _they_ are guilty of greater iniquities than Indians
are. They have more knowledge, and are therefore more inexcusable when
they sin; and anyone who has travelled much must be aware that, in
regard to general wickedness, white men are at least quite as bad as
Indians. Depend upon it, Jacques, that there will be Indians found in
heaven at the last day as well as white men. God is no respecter of
persons."

"I niver thought much on that subject afore, sir," returned the hunter;
"what you say seems reasonable enough. I'm sure an' sartin, any way,
that if there's a red-skin in heaven at all, Redfeather will be there,
an' I only hope that I may be there too to keep him company."

"I hope so, my friend,", said the pastor earnestly; "I hope so too,
with all my heart. And if you will accept of this little book, it will
show you how to get there."

The missionary drew a small, plainly-bound copy of the Bible from his
pocket as he spoke, and presented it to Jacques, who received it with a
smile, and thanked him, saying, at the same time, that he "was not much
up to book-larnin', but he would read it with pleasure."

"Now, Jacques," said the pastor, after a little further conversation on
the subject of the Bible, in which he endeavoured to impress upon him
the absolute necessity of being acquainted with the blessed truths
which it contains--"now, Jacques, about my visit to the Indians. I
intend, if the Almighty spares me, to embark in yon tin canoe that you
found me engaged with, and, with six men to work it, proceed to the
country of the Knisteneux Indians, visit their chief camp, and preach
to them there as long as the weather will permit. When the season is
pretty well advanced, and winter threatens to cut off my retreat, I
shall re-embark in my canoe and return home. By this means I hope to be
able to sow the good seed of Christian truths in the hearts of men who,
as they will not come to this settlement, have no chance of being
brought under the power of the Gospel by any other means."

Jacques gave one of his quiet smiles on hearing this. "Right
sir--right," he said, with some energy; "I have always thought,
although I niver made bold to say it before, that there was not enough
o' this sort o' thing. It has always seemed to me a kind o' madness
(excuse my plainness o' speech, sir) in you pastors, thinkin' to make
the red-skins come and settle round you like so many squaws, and dig up
an' grub at the ground, when it's quite clear that their natur' and the
natur' o' things about them meant them to be hunters. An' surely, since
the Almighty made them hunters, He intended them to _be_ hunters, an'
won't refuse to make them Christians on _that_ account. A red-skin's
natur' is a huntin' natur', an' nothin' on arth 'll ever make it
anything else.'

"There is much truth in what you observe, friend," rejoined the pastor;
"but you are not _altogether_ right. Their nature _may_ be changed,
although certainly nothing on _earth_ will change it. Look at that
frozen lake." He pointed to the wide field of thick snow-covered ice
that stretched out for miles like a sheet of white marble before them.
"Could anything on earth break up or sink or melt that?"

"Nothin'," replied Jacques, laconically.

"But the warm beams of yon glorious sun can do it," continued the
pastor, pointing upwards as he spoke, "and do it effectually too; so
that, although you can scarcely observe the process, it nevertheless
turns the hard, thick, solid ice into limpid water at last. So is it in
regard to man. Nothing on earth can change his heart, or alter his
nature; but our Saviour, who is called the Sun of Righteousness, can.
When He shines into a man's soul it melts. The old man becomes a little
child, the wild savage a Christian. But I agree with you in thinking
that we have not been sufficiently alive to the necessity of seeking to
convert the Indians before trying to gather them round us. The one
would follow as a natural consequence, I think, of the other, and it is
owing to this conviction that I intend, as I have already said, to make
a journey in spring to visit those who will not or cannot come to visit
me. And now, what I want to ask is whether you will agree to accompany
me as steersman and guide on my expedition."

The hunter slowly shook his head. "I'm afeard not sir; I have already
promised to take charge of a canoe for the Company. I would much rather
go with you, but I must keep my word."

"Certainly, Jacques, certainly; that settles the question You cannot go
with me--unless--" the pastor paused as if in thought for a
moment--"unless you can persuade them to let you off."

"Well, sir, I can try," returned Jacques.

"Do; and I need not say how happy I shall be if you succeed. Good-day,
friend, good-bye." So saying, the missionary shook hands with the
hunter and returned to his house, while Jacques wended his way to the
village in search of Harry and Hamilton.



CHAPTER XXV.

Good news and romantic scenery--Bear-hunting and its results.


Jaques failed in his attempt to break off his engagement with the
fur-traders. The gentleman in charge of Norway House, albeit a
good-natured, estimable man, was one who could not easily brook
disappointment, especially in matters that involved the interests of
the Hudson's Bay Company; so Jacques was obliged to hold to his
compact, and the pastor had to search for another guide.

Spring came, and with it the awakening (if we may use the expression)
of the country from the long, lethargic sleep of winter. The sun burst
forth with irresistible power, and melted all before it. Ice and snow
quickly dissolved, and set free the waters of swamp and river, lake and
sea, to leap and sparkle in their new-found liberty. Birds renewed
their visits to the regions of the north; frogs, at last unfrozen,
opened their leathern jaws to croak and whistle in the marshes; and men
began their preparations for a summer campaign.

At the commencement of the season an express arrived with letters from
headquarters, which, among other matters of importance, directed that
Messrs. Somerville and Hamilton should be despatched forthwith to the
Saskatchewan district, where, on reaching Fort Pitt, they were to place
themselves at the disposal of the gentleman in charge of the district.
It need scarcely be added that the young men were overjoyed on
receiving this almost unhoped-for intelligence, and that Harry
expressed his satisfaction in his usual hilarious manner, asserting,
somewhat profanely, in the excess of his glee, that the
governor-in-chief of Rupert's Land was a "regular brick." Hamilton
agreed to all his friend's remarks with a quiet smile, accompanied by a
slight chuckle, and a somewhat desperate attempt at a caper, which
attempt, bordering as it did on a region of buffoonery into which our
quiet and gentlemanly friend had never dared hitherto to venture proved
an awkward and utter failure. He felt this and blushed deeply.

It was further arranged and agreed upon that the young men should
accompany Jacques Caradoc in his canoe. Having become sufficiently
expert canoemen to handle their paddles well, they scouted the idea of
taking men with them, and resolved to launch boldly forth at once as
_bona-fide_ voyageurs. To this arrangement Jacques, after one or two
trials to test their skill, agreed; and very shortly after the arrival
of the express, the trio set out on their voyage, amid the cheers and
adieus of the entire population of Norway House, who were assembled on
the end of the wooden wharf to witness their departure, and with whom
they had managed during their short residence at that place, to become
special favourites. A month later, the pastor of the Indian village,
having procured a trusty guide, embarked in his tin canoe with a crew
of six men, and followed in their track.

In process of time spring merged into summer--a season mostly
characterised in those climes by intense heat and innumerable clouds of
musquitoes, whose vicious and incessant attacks render life, for the
time being, a burden. Our three voyageurs, meanwhile, ascended the
Saskatchewan, penetrating deeper each day into the heart of the North
American continent. On arriving at Fort Pitt, they were graciously
permitted to rest for three days, after which they were forwarded to
another district, where fresh efforts were being made to extend the
fur-trade into lands hitherto almost unvisited. This continuation of
their travels was quite suited to the tastes and inclinations of Harry
and Hamilton, and was hailed by them as an additional reason for
self-gratulation. As for Jacques, he cared little to what part of the
world he chanced to be sent. To hunt, to toil in rain and in sunshine,
in heat and in cold, at the paddle or on the snow-shoe, was his
vocation, and it mattered little to the bold hunter whether he plied it
upon the plains of the Saskatchewan or among the woods of Athabasca.
Besides, the companions of his travels were young, active, bold,
adventurous, and therefore quite suited to his taste. Redfeather, too,
his best and dearest friend, had been induced to return to his tribe
for the purpose of mediating between some of the turbulent members of
it and the white men who had gone to settle among them, so that the
prospect of again associating with his red friend was an additional
element in his satisfaction. As Charley Kennedy was also in this
district, the hope of seeing him once more was a subject of such
unbounded delight to Harry Somerville, and so, sympathetically, to
young Hamilton, that it was with difficulty they could realize the full
amount of their good fortune, or give adequate expression to their
feelings. It is therefore probable that there never were three happier
travellers than Jacques, Harry, and Hamilton, as they shouldered their
guns and paddles, shook hands with the inmates of Fort Pitt, and with
light steps and lighter hearts launched their canoe, turned their
bronzed faces once more to the summer sun, and dipped their paddles
again in the rippling waters of the Saskatchewan River.

As their bark was exceedingly small, and burdened with but little
lading, they resolved to abandon the usual route, and penetrate the
wilderness through a maze of lakes and small rivers well known to their
guide. By this arrangement they hoped to travel more speedily, and
avoid navigating a long sweep of the river by making a number of
portages; while, at the same time, the changeful nature of the route
was likely to render it more interesting. From the fact of its being
seldom traversed, it was also more likely that they should find a
supply of game for the journey.

Towards sunset, one fine day, about two weeks after their departure
from Fort Pitt, our voyageurs paddled their canoe round a wooded point
of land that jutted out from, and partly concealed, the mouth of a
large river, down whose stream they had dropped leisurely during the
last three days, and swept out upon the bosom of a large lake. This was
one of those sheets of water which glitter in hundreds on the green
bosom of America's forests, and are so numerous and comparatively
insignificant as to be scarce distinguished by a name, unless when they
lie directly in the accustomed route of the fur-traders. But although,
in comparison with the freshwater oceans of the Far West, this lake was
unnoticed and almost unknown, it would by no means have been regarded
in such a light had it been transported to the plains of England. In
regard to picturesque beauty, it was perhaps unsurpassed. It might be
about six miles wide, and so long that the land at the farther end of
it was faintly discernible on the horizon. Wooded hills, sloping gently
down to the water's edge; jutting promontories, some rocky and barren,
others more or less covered with trees; deep bays, retreating in some
places into the dark recesses of a savage-looking gorge, in others into
a distant meadow-like plain, bordered with a stripe of yellow sand;
beautiful islands of various sizes, scattered along the shores as if
nestling there for security, or standing barren and solitary in the
centre of the lake, like bulwarks of the wilderness, some covered with
luxuriant vegetation, others bald and grotesque in outline, and covered
with gulls and other water-fowl,--this was the scene that broke upon
the view of the travellers as they rounded the point, and, ceasing to
paddle, gazed upon it long and in deep silence, their hands raised to
shade their eyes from the sun's rays, which sparkled in the water, and
fell, here in bright spots and broken patches, and there in yellow
floods, upon the rocks, the trees, the forest glades and plains around
them.

"What a glorious scene!" murmured Hamilton, almost unconsciously.

"A perfect paradise!" said Harry, with a long-drawn sigh of
satisfaction.--"Why, Jacques, my friend, it's a matter of wonder to me
that you, a free man, without relations or friends to curb you, or
attract you to other parts of the world, should go boating and canoeing
all over the country at the beck of the fur-traders, when you might
come and pitch your tent here for ever!"

"For ever!" echoed Jacques.

"Well, I mean as long as you live in this world."

"Ah, master," rejoined the guide, in a sad tone of voice, "it's just
because I have neither kith nor kin nor friends to draw me to any
partic'lar spot on arth, that I don't care to settle down in this one,
beautiful though it be."

"True, true," muttered Harry; "man's a gregarious animal, there's no
doubt of that."

"Anon?" exclaimed Jacques.

"I meant to say that man naturally loves company," replied Harry,
smiling.

"An' yit I've seen some as didn't, master; though, to be sure, that was
onnat'ral, and there's not many o' them, by good luck. Yes, man's fond
o' seein' the face o' man."

"And woman, too," interrupted Harry.--"Eh, Hamilton, what say you?--

     'O woman, in our hours of ease,
     Uncertain, coy, and hard to please,
     When pain and anguish wring the brow,
     A ministering angel thou.'

Alas, Hammy! pain and anguish and every thing else may wring our
unfortunate brows here long enough before woman, 'lovely woman,' will
come to our aid. What a rare sight it would be, now, to see even an
ordinary house-maid or cook out here! It would be good for sore eyes.
It seems to me a sort of horrible untruth to say that I've not seen a
woman since I left Red River; and yet its a frightful fact, for I don't
count the copper-coloured nondescripts one meets with hereabouts to be
women at all. I suppose they are, but they don't look like it."

"Don't be a goose, Harry," said Hamilton.

"Certainly not, my friend. If I were under the disagreeable necessity
of being anything but what I am, I should rather be something that is
not in the habit of being shot," replied the other, paddling with
renewed vigour in order to get rid of some of the superabundant spirits
that the beautiful scene and brilliant weather, acting on a young and
ardent nature, had called forth.

"Some of these same red-skins," remarked the guide, "are not such bad
sort o' women, for all their ill looks. I've know'd more than one that
was a first-rate wife an' a good mother, though it's true they had
little edication beyond that o' the woods."

"No doubt of it," replied Harry, laughing gaily. "How shall I keep the
canoe's head, Jacques?"

"Right away for the pint that lies jist between you an' the sun."

"Yes; I give them all credit for being excellent wives and mothers,
after a fashion," resumed Harry. "I've no wish to asperse the
characters of the poor Indians; but you must know, Jacques, that
they're very different from the women that I allude to and of whom
Scott sung. His heroines were of a _very_ different stamp and colour!"

"Did _he_ sing of niggers?" inquired Jacques, simply.

"Of niggers!" shouted Harry, looking over his shoulder at Hamilton,
with a broad grin; "no, Jacques, not exactly of niggers--"

"Hist!" exclaimed the guide, with that peculiar subdued energy that at
once indicates an unexpected discovery, and enjoins caution, while at
the same moment, by a deep, powerful back-stroke of his paddle, he
suddenly checked the rapid motion of the canoe.

Harry and his friend glanced quickly over their shoulders with a look
of surprise.

"What's in the wind now?" whispered the former.

"Stop paddling, masters, and look ahead at the rock yonder, jist under
the tall cliff. There's a bear a-sittin' there, and if we can only get
ashore afore he sees us, we're sartin sure of him."

As the guide spoke, he slowly edged the canoe towards the shore, while
the young men gazed with eager looks in the direction indicated, where
they beheld what appeared to be the decayed stump of an old tree or a
mass of brown rock. While they strained their eyes to see it more
clearly, the object altered its form and position.

"So it is," they exclaimed simultaneously, in a tone that was
equivalent to the remark, "Now we believe, because we see it."

In a few seconds the bow of the canoe touched the land, so lightly as
to be quite inaudible, and Harry, stepping gently over the side, drew
it forward a couple of feet, while his companions disembarked.

"Now, Mister Harry," said the guide, as he slung a powder-horn and
shot-belt over his shoulder, "we've no need to circumvent the beast,
for he's circumvented himself."

"How so?" inquired the other, drawing the shot from his fowling-piece,
and substituting in its place a leaden bullet.

Jacques led the way through the somewhat thinly scattered underwood as
he replied, "You see, Mister Harry, the place where he's gone to sun
hisself is just at the foot o' a sheer precipice, which runs round
ahead of him and juts out into the water, so that he's got three ways
to choose between. He must clamber up the precipice, which will take
him some time, I guess, if he can do it at all; or he must take to the
water, which he don't like, and won't do if he can help it; or he must
run out the way he went in, but as we shall go to meet him by the same
road, he'll have to break our ranks before he gains the woods, an'
_that_'ll be no easy job."

The party soon reached the narrow pass between the lake and the near
end of the cliff, where they advanced with greater caution, and peeping
over the low bushes, beheld Bruin, a large brown fellow, sitting on his
haunches, and rocking himself slowly to and fro, as he gazed
abstractedly at the water. He was scarcely within good shot, but the
cover was sufficiently thick to admit of a nearer approach.

"Now, Hamilton," said Harry, in a low whisper, "take the first shot. I
killed the last one, so it's your turn this time."

Hamilton hesitated, but could make no reasonable objection to this,
although his unselfish nature prompted him to let his friend have the
first chance. However, Jacques decided the matter by saying, in a tone
that savoured strongly of command, although it was accompanied with a
good-humoured smile,--

"Go for'ard, young man; but you may as well put in the primin' first."

Poor Hamilton hastily rectified this oversight with a deep blush, at
the same time muttering that he never _would_ make a hunter; and then
advanced cautiously through the bushes, slowly followed at a short
distance by his companions.

On reaching the bush within seventy yards of the bear, Hamilton pushed
the twigs aside with the muzzle of his gun; his eye flashed and his
courage mounted as he gazed at the truly formidable animal before him,
and he felt more of the hunter's spirit within him at that moment than
he would have believed possible a few minutes before. Unfortunately, a
hunter's spirit does not necessarily imply a hunter's eye or hand.
Having, with much care and long time, brought his piece to bear exactly
where he supposed the brute's heart should be, he observed that the gun
was on half-cock, by nearly breaking the trigger in his convulsive
efforts to fire. By the time that this error was rectified, Bruin, who
seemed to feel intuitively that some imminent danger threatened him,
rose, and began to move about uneasily, which so alarmed the young
hunter lest he should lose his shot that he took a hasty aim, fired,
and _missed._ Harry asserted afterwards that he even missed the cliff!
On hearing the loud report, which rolled in echoes along the precipice,
Bruin started, and looking round with an undecided air, saw Harry step
quietly from the bushes, and fire, sending a ball into his flank. This
decided him. With a fierce growl of pain, he scampered towards the
water; then changing his mind, he wheeled round, and dashed at the
cliff, up which he scrambled with wonderful speed.

"Come, Mister Hamilton, load again; quick, I'll have to do the job
myself, I fear," said Jacques, as he leaned quietly on his long gun,
and with a half-pitying smile watched the young man, who madly essayed
to recharge his piece more rapidly than it was possible for mortal man
to do. Meanwhile, Harry had reloaded and fired again; but owing to the
perturbation of his young spirits, and the frantic efforts of the bear
to escape, he missed. Another moment, and the animal would actually
have reached the top, when Jacques hastily fired, and brought it
tumbling down the precipice. Owing to the position of the animal at the
time he fired, the wound was not mortal; and foreseeing that Bruin
would now become the aggressor, the hunter began rapidly to reload, at
the same time retreating with his companions, who in their excitement
had forgotten to recharge their pieces. On reaching level ground, Bruin
rose, shook himself, gave a yell of anger on beholding his enemies, and
rushed at them.

It was a fine sight to behold the bearing of Jacques at this critical
juncture. Accustomed to bear-hunting from his youth, and utterly
indifferent to consequences when danger became imminent, he saw at a
glance the probabilities of the case. He knew exactly how long it would
take him to load his gun, and regulated his pace so as not to interfere
with that operation. His features wore their usual calm expression.
Every motion of his hands was quick and sudden, yet not hurried, but
performed in a way that led the beholder irresistibly to imagine that
he would have done it even more rapidly if necessary. On reaching a
ledge of rock that overhung the lake a few feet he paused and wheeled
about; click went the dog-head, just as the bear rose to grapple with
him; another moment, and a bullet passed through the brute's heart,
while the bold hunter sprang lightly on one side, to avoid the dash of
the falling animal. As he did so, young Hamilton, who had stood a
little behind him with an uplifted axe, ready to finish the work should
Jacques's fire prove ineffective, received Bruin in his arms, and
tumbled along with him over the rock, headlong into the water, from
which, however, he speedily arose unhurt, sputtering and coughing, and
dragging the dead bear to the shore.

"Well done, Hammy," shouted Harry, indulging in a prolonged peal of
laughter when he ascertained that his friend's adventure had cost him
nothing more than a ducking; "that was the most amicable, loving plunge
I ever saw."

"Better a cold bath in the arms of a dead bear than an embrace on dry
land with a live one," retorted Hamilton, as he wrung the water out of
his dripping garments.

"Most true, O sagacious diver! But the sooner we get a fire made the
better; so come along."

While the two friends hastened up to the woods to kindle a fire,
Jacques drew his hunting-knife, and, with doffed coat and upturned
sleeves, was soon busily employed in divesting the bear of his natural
garment. The carcass, being valueless in a country where game of a more
palatable kind was plentiful, they left behind as a feast to the
wolves. After this was accomplished and the clothes dried, they
re-embarked, and resumed their journey, plying the paddles
energetically in silence, as their adventure had occasioned a
considerable loss of time.

It was late, and the stars had looked down for a full hour into the
profound depths of the now dark lake ere the party reached the ground
at the other side of the point, on which Jacques had resolved to
encamp. Being somewhat wearied, they spent but little time in
discussing supper, and partook of that meal with a degree of energy
that implied a sense of duty as well as of pleasure. Shortly after,
they were buried in repose, under the scanty shelter of their canoe.



CHAPTER XXVI.

An unexpected meeting, and an unexpected deer-hunt--Arrival at the
outpost--Disagreement with the natives--An enemy discovered, and a
murder.


Next morning they rose with the sun, and therefore also with the birds
and beasts.

A wide traverse of the lake now lay before them. This they crossed in
about two hours, during which time they paddled unremittingly, as the
sky looked rather lowering, and they were well aware of the danger of
being caught in a storm in such an egg-shell craft as an Indian canoe.

"We'll put in here now, Mister Harry," exclaimed Jacques, as the canoe
entered the mouth of one of these small rivulets which are called in
Scotland _burns_, and in America _creeks_; "it's like that your
appetite is sharpened after a spell like that. Keep her head a little
more to the left--straight for the p'int--so. It's likely we'll get
some fish here if we set the net."

"I say, Jacques, is yon a cloud or a wreath of smoke above the trees in
the creek?" inquired Harry, pointing with his paddle towards the object
referred to.

"It's smoke, master; I've seed it for some time, and mayhap we'll find
some Injins there who can give us news of the traders at Stoney Creek."

"And pray, how far do you think we may now be from that place?"
inquired Harry.

"Forty miles, more or less."

As he spoke the canoe entered the shallow water of the creek, and began
to ascend the current of the stream, which at its mouth was so sluggish
as to be scarcely perceptible to the eye. Not so, however, to the arms.
The light bark, which while floating on the lake had glided buoyantly
forward as if it were itself consenting to the motion, had now become
apparently imbued with a spirit of contradiction, bounding convulsively
forward at each stroke of the paddles, and perceptibly losing speed at
each interval. Directing their course towards a flat rock on the left
bank of the stream, they ran the prow out of the water and leaped
ashore. As they did so the unexpected figure of a man issued from the
bushes, and sauntered towards the spot. Harry and Hamilton advanced to
meet him, while Jacques remained to unload the canoe. The stranger was
habited in the usual dress of a hunter, and carried a fowling piece
over his right shoulder. In general appearance he looked like an
Indian; but though the face was burned by exposure to a hue that nearly
equalled the red skins of the natives, a strong dash of pink in it, and
the mass of fair hair that encircled it, proved that as Harry
paradoxically expressed it, its owner was a _white_ man. He was young,
considerably above the middle height, and apparently athletic. His
address and language on approaching the young men put the question of
his being a _white_ man beyond a doubt.

"Good-morning, gentlemen," he began. "I presume that you are the party
we have been expecting for some time past to reinforce our staff at
Stoney Creek. Is it not so?"

To this query young Somerville, who stood in advance of his friend,
made no reply, but stepping hastily forward, laid a hand on each of the
stranger's shoulders, and gazed earnestly into his face, exclaiming as
he did so,--

"Do my eyes deceive me? Is Charley Kennedy before me--or his ghost?"

"What! eh," exclaimed the individual thus addressed, returning Harry's
gripe and stare with interest, "is it possible? no--it cannot--Harry
Somerville, my old, dear, unexpected friend!"--and pouring out broken
sentences, abrupt ejaculations, and incoherent questions, to which
neither vouchsafed replies, the two friends gazed at and walked round
each other, shook hands, partially embraced, and committed sundry other
extravagances, utterly unconscious of or indifferent to the fact that
Hamilton was gazing at them, open-mouthed, in a species of stupor, and
that Jacques was standing by, regarding them with a look of mingled
amusement and satisfaction. The discovery of this latter personage was
a source of renewed delight and astonishment to Charley, who was so
much upset by the commotion of his spirits, in consequence of this, so
to speak, double shot, that he became rambling and incoherent in his
speech during the remainder of that day, and gave vent to frequent and
sudden bursts of smothered enthusiasm, in which it would appear, from
the occasional muttering of the names of Redfeather and Jacques, that
he not only felicitated himself on his own good fortune, but also
anticipated renewed pleasure in witnessing the joyful meeting of these
two worthies ere long. In fact, this meeting did take place on the
following day, when Redfeather, returning from a successful hunt, with
part of a deer on his shoulders, entered Charley's tent, in which the
travellers had spent the previous day and night, and discovered the
guide gravely discussing a venison steak before the fire.

It would be vain to attempt a description of all that the reunited
friends said and did during the first twenty-four hours after their
meeting: how they talked of old times, as they lay extended round the
fire inside of Charley's tent, and recounted their adventures by flood
and field since they last met; how they sometimes diverged into
questions of speculative philosophy (as conversations _will_ often
diverge, whether we wish it or not), and broke short off to make sudden
inquiries after old friends; how this naturally led them to talk of new
friends and new scenes, until they began to forecast their eyes a
little into the future; and how, on feeling that this was an
uncongenial theme under present circumstances, they reverted again to
the past, and by a peculiar train of conversation--to retrace which
were utterly impossible--they invariably arrived at _old_ times again.
Having in course of the evening pretty well exhausted their powers,
both mental and physical, they went to sleep on it, and resumed the
colloquial _mélange_ in the morning.

"And now tell me, Charley, what you are doing in this uninhabited part
of the world, so far from Stoney Creek," said Harry Somerville, as they
assembled round the fire to breakfast.

"That is soon explained," replied Charley. "My good friend and
superior, Mr. Whyte, having got himself comfortably housed at Stoney
Creek, thought it advisable to establish a sort of half outpost, half
fishing-station about twenty miles below the new fort, and believing
(very justly) that my talents lay a good deal in the way of fishing and
shooting, sent me to superintend it during the summer months. I am,
therefore, at present monarch of that notable establishment, which is
not yet dignified with a name. Hearing that there were plenty of deer
about twenty miles below my palace, I resolved the other day to gratify
my love of sport, and at the same time procure some venison for Stoney
Creek; accordingly, I took Redfeather with me, and--here I am."

"Very good," said Harry; "and can you give us the least idea of what
they are going to do with my friend Hamilton and me when they get us?"

"Can't say. One of you, at any rate, will be kept at the creek, to
assist Mr. Whyte; the other may, perhaps, be appointed to relieve me at
the fishing for a time, while _I_ am sent off to push the trade in
other quarters. But I'm only guessing. I don't know anything
definitely, for Mr. Whyte is by no means communicative."

"An' please, master," put in Jacques, "when do you mean to let us off
from this place? I guess the bourgeois won't be over pleased if we
waste time here."

"We'll start this forenoon, Jacques. I and Redfeather shall go along
with you, as I intended to take a run up to the creek about this time
at any rate.--Have you the skins and dried meat packed, Redfeather?"

To this the Indian replied in the affirmative, and the others having
finished breakfast, the whole party rose to prepare for departure, and
set about loading their canoes forthwith. An hour later they were again
cleaving the waters of the lake, with this difference in arrangement,
that Jacques was transferred to Redfeather's canoe, while Charley
Kennedy took his place in the stern of that occupied by Harry and
Hamilton.

The establishment of which our friend Charley pronounced himself
absolute monarch, and at which they arrived in the course of the same
afternoon, consisted of two small log houses or huts, constructed in
the rudest fashion, and without any attempt whatever at architectural
embellishment. It was pleasantly situated on a small bay, whose
northern extremity was sheltered from the arctic blast by a gentle
rising ground clothed with wood. A miscellaneous collection of fishing
apparatus lay scattered about in front of the buildings, and two men
and an Indian woman were the inhabitants of the place; the king
himself, when present, and his prime minister, Redfeather, being the
remainder of the population.

"Pleasant little kingdom that of yours, Charley," remarked Harry
Somerville, as they passed the station.

"Very," was the laconic reply.

They had scarcely passed the place above a mile, when a canoe,
containing a solitary Indian, was observed to shoot out from the shore
and paddle hastily towards them. From this man they learned that a herd
of deer was passing down towards the lake, and would be on its banks in
a few minutes. He had been waiting their arrival when the canoes came
in sight, and induced him to hurry out so as to give them warning.
Having no time to lose, the whole party now paddled swiftly for the
shore, and reached it just a few minutes before the branching antlers
of the deer came in sight above the low bushes that skirted the wood.
Harry Somerville embarked in the bow of the strange Indian's canoe, so
as to lighten the other and enable all parties to have a fair chance.
After snuffing the breeze for a few seconds, the foremost animal took
the water, and commenced swimming towards the opposite shore of the
lake, which at this particular spot was narrow. It was followed by
seven others. After sufficient time was permitted to elapse to render
their being cut off, in an attempt to return, quite certain, the three
canoes darted from the shelter of the overhanging bushes, and sprang
lightly over the water in pursuit.

"Don't hurry, and strike sure," cried Jacques to his young friends, as
they came up with the terrified deer that now swam for their lives.

"Ay, ay," was the reply.

In another moment they shot in among the struggling group. Harry
Somerville stood up, and seizing the Indian's spear, prepared to
strike, while his companions directed their course towards others of
the herd. A few seconds sufficed to bring him up with it. Leaning
backwards a little, so as to give additional force to the blow, he
struck the spear deep into the animal's back. With a convulsive
struggle, it ceased to swim, its head slowly sank, and in another
second it lay dead upon the water. "Without waiting a moment, the
Indian immediately directed the canoe towards another deer; while the
remainder of the party, now considerably separated from each other,
despatched the whole herd by means of axes and knives.

"Ha!" exclaimed Jacques, as they towed their booty to the shore,
"that's a good stock o' meat, Mister Charles. It will help to furnish
the larder for the winter pretty well."

"It was much wanted, Jacques: we've a good many mouths to feed, besides
_treating_ the Indians now and then. And this fellow, I think, will
claim the most of our hunt as his own. We should not have got the deer
but for him."

"True, true, Mister Charles. They belong to the red-skin by rights,
that's sartin."

After this exploit, another night was passed under the trees; and at
noon on the day following they ran their canoe alongside the wooden
wharf at Stoney Creek.

"Good-day to you, gentlemen," said Mr. Whyte to Harry and Hamilton as
they landed; "I've been looking out for you these two weeks past. Glad
you've come at last, however. Plenty to do, and no time to lose. You
have despatches, of course. Ah! that's right." (Harry drew a sealed
packet from his bosom and presented it with a bow), "that's right. I
must peruse these at once.--Mr. Kennedy, you will show these gentlemen
their quarters. We dine in half-an-hour." So saying, Mr. Whyte thrust
the packet into his pocket, and without further remark strode towards
his dwelling; while Charley, as instructed, led his friends to their
new residence--not forgetting, however, to charge Redfeather to see to
the comfortable lodgment of Jacques Caradoc.

"Now it strikes me," remarked Harry, as he sat down on the edge of
Charley's bed and thrust his hands doggedly down into his pockets,
while Hamilton tucked up his sleeves and assaulted a washhand-basin
which stood on an unpainted wooden chair in a corner--"it strikes me
that if _that's_ his usual style of behaviour, old Whyte is a pleasure
that we didn't anticipate."

"Don't judge from first impressions; they're often deceptive,"
spluttered Hamilton, pausing in his ablutions to look at his friend
through a mass of soap-suds--an act which afterwards caused him a good
deal of pain and a copious flow of unbidden tears.

"Right," exclaimed Charley, with an approving nod to Hamilton.--"You
must not judge him prematurely, Harry. He's a good-hearted fellow at
bottom; and if he once takes a liking for you, he'll go through fire
and water to serve you, as I know from experience."

"Which means to say _three_ things," replied the implacable Harry:
"first, that for all his good-heartedness _at bottom,_ he never shows
any of it _at top,_ and is therefore like unto truth, which is said to
lie at the bottom of a well--so deep, in fact, that it is never got
out, and so is of use to nobody; secondly, that he is possessed of that
amount of affection which is common to all mankind (to a great extent
even to brutes), which prompts a man to be reasonably attentive to his
friends; and thirdly, that you, Master Kennedy, enjoy the peculiar
privilege of being the friend of a two-legged polar bear!"

"Were I not certain that you jest," retorted Kennedy, "I would compel
you to apologize to me for insulting my friend, you rascal! But see,
here's the cook coming to tell us that dinner waits. If you don't wish
to see the teeth of the polar bear, I'd advise you to be smart."

Thus admonished, Harry sprang up, plunged his hands and face in the
basin and dried them, broke Charley's comb in attempting to pass it
hastily through his hair, used his fingers savagely as a substitute,
and overtook his companions just as they entered the mess-room.

The establishment of Stoney Creek was comprised within two acres of
ground. It consisted of eight or nine houses--three of which, however,
alone met the eye on approaching by the lake. The "great" house, as it
was termed, on account of its relative proportion to the other
buildings, was a small edifice, built substantially but roughly of
unsquared logs, partially whitewashed, roofed with shingles, and
boasting six small windows in front, with a large door between them. On
its east side, and at right angles to it, was a similar edifice, but
smaller, having two doors instead of one, and four windows instead of
six. This was the trading-shop and provision-store. Opposite to this
was a twin building which contained the furs and a variety of
miscellaneous stores. Thus were formed three sides of a square, from
the centre of which rose a tall flagstaff. The buildings behind those
just described were smaller and insignificant--the principal one being
the house appropriated to the men; the others were mere sheds and
workshops. Luxuriant forests ascended the slopes that rose behind and
encircled this oasis on all sides, excepting in front, where the clear
waters of the lake sparkled like a blue mirror.

On the margin of this lake the new arrivals, left to enjoy themselves
as they best might for a day or two, sauntered about and chatted to
their heart's content of things past, present, and future.

During these wanderings, Harry confessed that his opinion of Mr. Whyte
had somewhat changed; that he believed a good deal of the first bad
impressions was attributable to his cool, not to say impolite,
reception of them; and that he thought things would go on much better
with the Indians if he would only try to let some of his good qualities
be seen through his exterior.

An expression of sadness passed over Charley's face as his friend said
this.

"You are right in the last particular," he said, with a sigh. "Mr.
Whyte is so rough and overbearing that the Indians are beginning to
dislike him. Some of the more clear-sighted among them see that a good
deal of this lies in mere manner, and have penetration enough to
observe that in all his dealings with them he is straightforward and
liberal; but there are a set of them who either don't see this, or are
so indignant at the rough speeches he often makes, and the rough
treatment he sometimes threatens, that they won't forgive him, but seem
to be nursing their wrath. I sometimes wish he was sent to a district
where the Indians and traders are, from habitual intercourse, more
accustomed to each other's ways, and so less likely to quarrel."

"Have the Indians, then, used any open threats?" asked Harry.

"No, not exactly; but through an old man of the tribe, who is well
affected towards us, I have learned that there is a party among them
who seem bent on mischief."

"Then we may expect a row some day or other. That's pleasant!--What
think you, Hammy?" said Harry, turning to his friend.

"I think that it would be anything but pleasant," he replied; "and I
sincerely hope that we shall not have occasion for a row."

"You're not afraid of a fight, are you, Hamilton?" asked Charley.

The peculiarly bland smile with which Hamilton usually received any
remark that savoured of banter overspread his features as Charley
spoke, but he merely replied--

"No, Charley, I'm not afraid."

"Do you know any of the Indians who are so anxious to vent their spleen
on our worthy bourgeois?" asked Harry, as he seated himself on a rocky
eminence commanding a view of the richly-wooded slopes, dotted with
huge masses of rock that had fallen from the beetling cliffs behind the
creek.

"Yes, I do," replied Charley; "and, by the way, one of them--the
ringleader--is a man with whom you are acquainted, at least by name.
You've heard of an Indian called Misconna?"

"What!" exclaimed Harry, with a look of surprise; "you don't mean the
blackguard mentioned by Redfeather, long ago, when he told us his story
on the shores of Lake Winnipeg--the man who killed poor Jacques's young
wife?"

"The same," replied Charley.

"And does Jacques know he is here?"

"He does; but Jacques is a strange, unaccountable mortal. You remember
that in the struggle described by Redfeather, the trapper and Misconna
had neither of them seen each other, Redfeather having felled the
latter before the former reached the scene of action--a scene which, he
has since told me, he witnessed at a distance, while rushing to the
rescue of his wife-so that Misconna is utterly ignorant of the fact
that the husband of his victim is now so near him; indeed, he does not
know that she had a husband at all. On the other hand, although Jacques
is aware that his bitterest enemy is within rifle-range of him at this
moment, he does not know him by sight; and this morning he came to me,
begging that I would send Misconna on some expedition or other, just to
keep him out of his way."

"And do you intend to do so?"

"I shall do my best," replied Charley; "but I cannot get him out of the
way till to-morrow, as there is to be a gathering of Indians in the
hall this very day, to have a palaver with Mr. Whyte about their
grievances, and Misconna wouldn't miss that for a trifle. But Jacques
won't be likely to recognise him among so many; and if he does, I rely
with confidence on his powers of restraint and forbearance. By the
way," he continued, glancing upwards, "it is past noon, and the Indians
will have begun to assemble, so we had better hasten back, as we shall
be expected to help in keeping order."

So saying, he rose, and the young men returned to the fort. On reaching
it they found the hall crowded with natives, who sat cross-legged
around the walls, or stood in groups conversing in low tones, and to
judge from the expression of their dark eyes and lowering brows, they
were in extremely bad humour. They became silent and more respectful,
however, in their demeanour when the young men entered the apartment
and walked up to the fireplace, in which a small fire of wood burned on
the hearth, more as a convenient means of rekindling the pipes of the
Indians when they went out than as a means of heating the place.
Jacques and Redfeather stood leaning against the wall near to it,
engaged in a whispered conversation. Glancing round as he entered,
Charley observed Misconna sitting a little apart by himself, and
apparently buried in deep thought. He had scarcely perceived him, and
nodded to several of his particular friends among the crowd, when a
side-door opened, and Mr. Whyte, with an angry expression on his
countenance, strode up to the fireplace, planted himself before it,
with his legs apart and his hands behind him, while he silently
surveyed the group.

"So," he began, "you have asked to speak with me; well, here I am. What
have you to say?"

Mr. Whyte addressed the Indians in their native tongue, having, during
a long residence in the country, learned to speak it as fluently as
English.

For some moments there was silence. Then an old chief--the same who had
officiated at the feast described in a former chapter--rose, and
standing forth into the middle of the room, made a long and grave
oration, in which, besides a great deal that was bombastic, much that
was irrelevant, and more that was utterly fabulous and nonsensical, he
recounted the sorrows of himself and his tribe, concluding with a
request that the great chief would take these things into
consideration--the principal _"things"_ being that they did not get
anything in the shape of gratuities, while it was notorious that the
Indians in other districts did, and that they did not get enough of
goods in advance, on credit of their future hunts.

Mr. Whyte heard the old man to the end in silence: then, without
altering his position, he looked round on the assembly with a frown,
and said, "Now listen to me; I am a man of few words. I have told you
over and over again, and I now repeat it, that you shall get no
gratuities until you prove yourselves worthy of them. I shall not
increase your advances by so much as half an inch of tobacco till your
last year's debts are scored off, and you begin to show more activity
in hunting and less disposition to grumble. Hitherto you have not
brought in anything like the quantity of furs that the capabilities of
the country led me to expect. You are lazy. Until you become better
hunters you shall have no redress from me."

As he finished, Mr. Whyte made a step towards the door by which he had
entered, but was arrested by another chief, who requested to be heard.
Resuming his place and attitude, Mr. Whyte listened with an expression
of dogged determination, while guttural grunts of unequivocal
dissatisfaction issued from the throats of several of the malcontents.
The Indian proceeded to repeat a few of the remarks made by his
predecessor, but more concisely, and wound up by explaining that the
failure in the hunts of the previous year was owing to the will of the
Great Manito, and not by any means on account of the supposed laziness
of himself or his tribe.

"That is false," said Mr. Whyte; "you know it is not true."

As this was said, a murmur of anger ran round the apartment, which was
interrupted by Misconna, who, apparently unable to restrain his
passion, sprang into the middle of the room, and confronting Mr. Whyte,
made a short and pithy speech, accompanied by violent gesticulation, in
which he insinuated that if redress was not granted the white men would
bitterly repent it.

During his speech the Indians had risen to their feet and drawn closer
together, while Jacques and the three young men drew near their
superior. Redfeather remained apart, motionless, and with his eyes
fixed on the ground.

"And, pray, what dog--what miserable thieving cur are you, who dare to
address me thus?" cried Mr. Whyte, as he strode, with flashing eyes, up
to the enraged Indian.

Misconna clinched his teeth, and his fingers worked convulsively about
the handle of his knife, as he exclaimed, "I am no dog. The pale-faces
are dogs. I am a great chief. My name is known among the braves of my
tribe. It is Misconna--"

As the name fell from his lips, Mr. Wiryte and Charley were suddenly
dashed aside, and Jacques sprang towards the Indian, his face livid,
his eyeballs almost bursting from their sockets, and his muscles rigid
with passion. For an instant he regarded the savage intently as he
shrank appalled before him; then his colossal fist fell like lightning,
with the weight of a sledge-hammer, on Misconna's forehead, and drove
him against the outer door, which, giving way before the violent shock,
burst from its fastenings and hinges, and fell, along with the savage,
with a loud crash to the ground.

For an instant everyone stood aghast at this precipitate termination to
the discussion, and then, springing forward in a body, with drawn
knives, the Indians rushed upon the white men, who in a close phalanx,
with such weapons as came first to hand, stood to receive them. At this
moment Redfeather stepped forward unarmed between the belligerents,
and, turning to the Indians, said--

"Listen: Redfeather does not take the part of his white friends against
his comrades. You know that he never failed you in the war-path, and he
would not fail you now if your cause were just. But the eyes of his
comrades are shut. Redfeather knows what they do not know. The white
hunter" (pointing to Jacques) "is a friend of Redfeather. He is a
friend of the Knisteneux. He did not strike because you disputed with
his bourgeois; he struck because Misconna _is his mortal foe_. But the
story is long. Redfeather will tell it at the council fire."

"He is right," exclaimed Jacques, who had recovered his usual grave
expression of countenance; "Redfeather is right. I bear you no
ill-will, Injins, and I shall explain the thing myself at your council
fire."

As Jacques spoke the Indians sheathed their knives, and stood with
frowning brows, as if uncertain what to do. The unexpected interference
of their comrade-in-arms, coupled with his address and that of Jacques,
had excited their curiosity. Perhaps the undaunted deportment of their
opponents, who stood ready for the encounter with a look of stern
determination, contributed a little to allay their resentment.

While the two parties stood thus confronting each other, as if
uncertain how to act, a loud report was heard just outside the doorway.
In another moment Mr. Whyte fell heavily to the ground, shot through
the heart.



CHAPTER XXVII.

The chase--The fight--Retribution--Low spirits and good news.


The tragical end of the consultation related in the last chapter had
the effect of immediately reconciling the disputants. With the
exception of four or five of the most depraved and discontented among
them, the Indians bore no particular ill-will to the unfortunate
principal of Stoney Creek; and although a good deal disappointed to
find that he was a stern, unyielding trader, they had, in reality, no
intention of coming to a serious rupture with him, much less of laying
violent hands either upon master or men of the establishment.

When, therefore, they beheld Mr. Whyte weltering in his blood at their
feet, a sacrifice to the ungovernable passion of Misconna, who was by
no means a favourite among his brethren, their temporary anger was
instantly dissipated, and a feeling of deepest indignation roused in
their bosoms against the miserable assassin who had perpetrated the
base and cowardly murder. It was, therefore, with a yell of rage that
several of the band, immediately after the victim fell, sprang into the
woods in hot pursuit of him, whom they now counted their enemy. They
were joined by several men belonging to the fort, who had hastened to
the scene of action on hearing that the people in the hall were likely
to come to blows. Redfeather was the first who had bounded like a deer
into the woods in pursuit of the fugitive. Those who remained assisted
Charley and his friends to convey the body of Mr. Whyte into an
adjoining room, where they placed him on a bed. He was quite dead, the
murderer's aim having been terribly true.

Finding that he was past all human aid, the young men returned to the
hall, which they entered just as Redfeather glided quickly through the
open doorway, and, approaching the group, stood in silence beside them,
with his arms folded on his breast.

"You have something to tell, Redfeather," said Jacques, in a subdued
tone, after regarding him a few seconds. "Is the scoundrel caught?"

"Misconna's foot is swift," replied the Indian, "and the wood is thick.
It is wasting time to follow him through the bushes."

"What would you advise then?" exclaimed Charley, in a hurried voice. "I
see that you have some plan to propose."

"The wood is thick," answered Redfeather, "but the lake and the river
are open. Let one party go by the lake, and one party by the river."

"That's it, that's it, Injin," interrupted Jacques, energetically;
"your wits are always jumpin'. By crosin' over to Duck River, we can
start at a point five or six miles above the lower fall, an' as it's
thereabouts he must cross, we'll be time enough to catch him. If he
tries the lake, the other party'll fix him there; and he'll be soon
poked up if he tries to hide in the bush."

"Come, then; we'll all give chase at once," cried Charley, feeling a
temporary relief in the prospect of energetic action from the
depressing effects of the calamity that had so suddenly befallen him in
the loss of his chief and friend.

Little time was needed for preparation. Jacques, Charley, and Harry
proceeded by the river; while Redfeather and Hamilton, with a couple of
men, launched their canoe on the lake and set off in pursuit.

Crossing the country for about a mile, Jacques led his party to the
point on the Duck River to which he had previously referred. Here they
found two canoes, into one of which the guide stepped with one of the
men, a Canadian, who had accompanied them, while Harry and Charley
embarked in the other. In a few minutes they were rapidly descending
the stream.

"How do you mean to act, Jacques?" inquired Charley, as he paddled
alongside of the guide's canoe. "Is it not likely that Misconna may
have crossed the river already? in which case we shall have no chance
of catching him."

"Niver fear," returned Jacques. "He must have longer legs than most men
if he gets to the flat-rock fall before us, an' as that's the spot
where he'll nat'rally cross the river, being the only straight line for
the hills that escapes the bend o' the bay to the south o' Stoney
Creek, we're pretty sartin to stop him there."

"True; but that being, as you say, the _natural_ route, don't you think
it likely he'll expect that it will be guarded, and avoid it
accordingly?"

"He _would_ do so, Mister Charles, if he thought we were _here_; but
there are two reasons agin this. He thinks that he's got the start o'
us, an' won't need to double by way o' deceivin' us; and then he knows
that the whole tribe is after him, and consekintly won't take a long
road when there's a short one, if he can help it. But here's the rock.
Look out, Mister Charles. We'll have to run the fall, which isn't very
big just now, and then hide in the bushes at the foot of it till the
blackguard shows himself. Keep well to the right an' don't mind the big
rock; the rush o' water takes you clear o' that without trouble."

With this concluding piece of advice, he pointed to the fall, which
plunged over a ledge of rock about half-a-mile ahead of them, and which
was distinguishable by a small column of white spray that rose out of
it. As Charley beheld it his spirits rose, and forgetting for a moment
the circumstances that called him there, he cried out--

"I'll run it before you, Jacques. Hurrah! Give way, Harry!" and in
spite of a remonstrance from the guide, he shot the canoe ahead, gave
vent to another reckless shout, and flew, rather than glided, down the
stream. On seeing this, the guide held back, so as to give him
sufficient time to take the plunge ere he followed. A few strokes
brought Charley's canoe to the brink of the fall, and Harry was just in
the act of raising himself in the bow to observe the position of the
rocks, when a shout was heard on the bank close beside them. Looking up
they beheld an Indian emerge from the forest, fit an arrow to his bow,
and discharge it at them. The winged messenger was truly aimed; it
whizzed through the air and transfixed Harry Somerville's left shoulder
just at the moment they swept over the fall. The arrow completely
incapacitated Harry from using his arm, so that the canoe, instead of
being directed into the broad current, took a sudden turn, dashed in
among a mass of broken rocks, between which the water foamed with
violence, and upset. Here the canoe stuck fast, while its owners stood
up to their waists in the water, struggling to set it free--an object
which they were the more anxious to accomplish that its stern lay
directly in the spot where Jacques would infallibly descend. The next
instant their fears were realised. The second canoe glided over the
cataract, dashed violently against the first, and upset, leaving
Jacques and his man in a similar predicament. By their aid, however,
the canoes were more easily righted, and embarking quickly they shot
forth again, just as the Indian, who had been obliged to make a detour
in order to get within range of their position, reappeared on the banks
above, and sent another shaft after them--fortunately, however, without
effect.

"This is unfortunate," muttered Jacques, as the party landed and
endeavoured to wring some of the water from their dripping clothes;
"an' the worst of it is that our guns are useless after sich a duckin',
an' the varmint knows that, an' will be down on us in a twinklin'."

"But we are four to one," exclaimed Harry. "Surely we don't need to
fear much from a single enemy."

"Humph!" ejaculated the guide, as he examined the lock of his gun.
"You've had little to do with Injins, that's plain, You may be sure
he's not alone, an' the reptile has a bow with arrows enough to send us
all on a pretty long journey. But we've the trees to dodge behind. If I
only had _one_ dry charge!" and the disconcerted guide gave a look,
half of perplexity, half of contempt, at the dripping gun.

"Never mind," cried Charley; "we have our paddles. But I forgot, Harry,
in all this confusion, that you are wounded, my poor fellow. We must
have it examined before doing anything further."

"Oh, it's nothing at all--a mere scratch, I think; at least I feel very
little pain."

As he spoke the twang of a bow was heard, and an arrow flew past
Jacques's ear.

"Ah, so soon!" exclaimed that worthy, with a look of surprise, as if he
had unexpectedly met with an old friend. Stepping behind a tree, he
motioned to his friends to do likewise; an example which they followed
somewhat hastily on beholding the Indian who had wounded Harry step
from the cover of the underwood and deliberately let fly another arrow,
which passed through the hair of the Canadian they had brought with
them.

From the several trees behind which they had leaped for shelter they
now perceived that the Indian with the bow was Misconna, and that he
was accompanied by eight others, who appeared, however, to be totally
unarmed; having, probably, been obliged to leave their weapons behind
them, owing to the abruptness of their flight. Seeing that the white
men were unable to use their guns, the Indians assembled in a group,
and from the hasty and violent gesticulations of some of the party,
especially of Misconna, it was evident that a speedy attack was
intended.

Observing this, Jacques coolly left the shelter of his tree, and going
up to Charley, exclaimed, "Now, Mister Charles, I'm goin' to run away,
so you'd better come along with me."

"That I certainly will not. Why, what do you mean?" inquired the other,
in astonishment.

"I mean that these stupid red-skins can't make up their minds what to
do, an' as I've no notion o' stoppin' here all day, I want to make them
do what will suit us best. You see, if they scatter through the wood
and attack us on all sides, they may give us a deal o' trouble, and git
away after all; whereas, if we _run away_, they'll bolt after us in a
body, and then we can take them in hand all at once, which'll be more
comfortable-like, an' easier to manage."

As Jacques spoke they were joined by Harry and the Canadian; and being
observed by the Indians thus grouped together, another arrow was sent
among them.

"Now, follow me," said Jacques, turning round with a loud howl and
running away. He was closely followed by the others. As the guide had
predicted, the Indians no sooner observed this than they rushed after
them in a body, uttering horrible yells.

"Now, then; stop here; down with you."

Jacques instantly crouched behind a bush, while each of the party did
the same. In a moment the savages came shouting up, supposing the white
men were still running on in advance. As the foremost, a tall, muscular
fellow, with the agility of a panther, bounded over the bush behind
which Jacques was concealed, he was met with a blow from the guide's
fist, so powerfully delivered into the pit of his stomach that it sent
him violently back into the bush, where he lay insensible. This event,
of course, put a check upon the headlong pursuit of the others, who
suddenly paused, like a group of infuriated tigers unexpectedly baulked
of their prey. The hesitation, however, was but for a moment. Misconna,
who was in advance, suddenly drew his bow again, and let fly an arrow
at Jacques, which the latter dexterously avoided; and while his
antagonist lowered his eyes for an instant to fit another arrow to the
string, the guide, making use of his paddle as a sort of javelin, threw
it with such force and precision that it struck Misconna directly
between the eyes and felled him to the earth, In another instant the
two parties rushed upon each other, and a general _mélée_ ensued, in
which the white men, being greatly superior to their adversaries in the
use of their fists, soon proved themselves more than a match for them
all although inferior in numbers. Charley's first antagonist, making an
abortive attempt to grapple with him, received two rapid blows, one on
the chest and the other on the nose, which knocked him over the bank
into the river, while his conqueror sprang upon another Indian. Harry,
having unfortunately selected the biggest savage of the band as his
special property, rushed upon him and dealt him a vigorous blow on the
head with his paddle.

The weapon, however, was made of light wood, and, instead of felling
him to the ground, broke into shivers. Springing upon each other they
immediately engaged in a fierce struggle, in which poor Harry learned,
when too late, that his wounded shoulder was almost powerless.
Meanwhile, the Canadian having been assaulted by three Indians at once,
floored one at the outset, and immediately began an impromptu war-dance
round the other two, dealing them occasionally a kick or a blow, which
would speedily have rendered them _hors de combat_, had they not
succeeded in closing upon him, when all three fell heavily to the
ground. Jacques and Charley having succeeded in overcoming their
respective opponents, immediately hastened to his rescue. In the
meantime, Harry and his foe had struggled to a considerable distance
from the others, gradually edging towards the river's bank. Feeling
faint from his wound, the former at length sank under the weight of his
powerful antagonist, who endeavoured to thrust him over a kind of cliff
which they had approached. He was on the point of accomplishing his
purpose, when Charley and his friends perceived Harry's imminent
danger, and rushed to the rescue. Quickly though they ran, however, it
seemed likely that they would be too late. Harry's head already
overhung the bank, and the Indian was endeavouring to loosen the gripe
of the young man's hand from his throat, preparatory to tossing him
over, when a wild cry rang through the forest, followed by the reports
of a double-barrelled gun, fired in quick succession. Immediately
after, young Hamilton bounded like a deer down the slope, seized the
Indian by the legs, and tossed him over the cliff, where he turned a
complete somersault in his descent, and fell with a sounding splash
into the water.

"Well done, cleverly done, lad!" cried Jacques, as he and the rest of
the party came up and crowded round Harry, who lay in a state of
partial stupor on the bank.

At this moment Redfeather hastily but silently approached; his broad
chest was heaving heavily, and his expanded nostrils quivering with the
exertions he had made to reach the scene of action in time to succour
his friends.

"Thank God!" said Hamilton softly, as he kneeled beside Harry and
supported his head, while Charley bathed his temples--"thank God that I
have been in time! Fortunately I was walking by the river considerably
in advance of Redfeather, who was bringing up the canoe, when I heard
the sounds of the fray, and hastened to your aid."

At this moment Harry opened his eyes, and saying faintly that he felt
better, allowed himself to be raised to a sitting posture, while his
coat was removed and his wound examined. It was found to be a deep
flesh-wound in the shoulder, from which a fragment of the broken arrow
still protruded.

"It's a wonder to me, Mr. Harry, how ye held on to that big thief so
long," muttered Jacques, as he drew out the splinter and bandaged up
the shoulder. Having completed the surgical operation after a rough
fashion, they collected the defeated Indians. Those of them that were
able to walk were bound together by the wrists and marched off to the
fort, under a guard which was strengthened by the arrival of several of
the fur-traders, who had been in pursuit of the fugitives, and were
attracted to the spot by the shouts of the combatants. Harry, and such
of the party as were more or less severely injured, were placed in
canoes and conveyed to Stoney Creek by the lake, into which Duck River
runs at the distance of about half-a-mile from the spot on which the
skirmish had taken place. Misconna was among the latter.

On arriving at Stoney Creek, the canoe party found a large assemblage
of the natives awaiting them on the wharf, and no sooner did Misconna
land than they advanced to seize him.

"Keep back, friends," cried Jacques, who perceived their intentions,
and stepped hastily between them.--"Come here, lads," he continued,
turning to his companions; "surround Misconna. He is _our_ prisoner,
and must ha' fair justice done him, accordin' to white law."

They fell back in silence on observing the guide's determined manner;
but as they hurried the wretched culprit towards the house, one of the
Indians pressed close upon their rear, and before anyone could prevent
him, dashed his tomahawk into Misconna's brain. Seeing that the blow
was mortal, the traders ceased to offer any further opposition; and the
Indians rushing upon his body, bore it away amid shouts and yells of
execration to their canoes, to one of which the body was fastened by a
rope, and dragged through the water to point of land which jutted out
into the lake near at hand. Here they lighted a fire and burned it to
ashes.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

There seems to be a period in the history of every one when the fair
aspect of this world is darkened--when everything, whether past,
present, or future, assumes a hue of the deepest gloom; a period when,
for the first time, the sun, which has shone in the mental firmament
with more or less brilliancy from childhood upwards, entirely
disappears behind a cloud of thick darkness, and leaves the soul in a
state of deep melancholy; a time when feelings somewhat akin to despair
pervade us, as we begin gradually to look upon the past as a bright,
happy vision, out of which we have at last awakened to view the sad
realities of the present, and look forward with sinking hope to the
future. Various are the causes which produce this, and diverse the
effects of it on differently constituted minds; but there are few, we
apprehend, who have not passed through the cloud in one or other of its
phases, and who do not feel that this _first_ period of prolonged
sorrow is darker, and heavier, and worse to bear, than many of the more
truly grievous afflictions that sooner or later fall to the lot of most
men.

Into a state of mind somewhat similar to that which we have endeavoured
to describe, our friend Charley Kennedy fell immediately after the
events just narrated. The sudden and awful death of his friend Mr.
Whyte fell upon his young spirit, unaccustomed as he was to scenes of
bloodshed and violence, with overwhelming power. From the depression,
however, which naturally followed he would probably soon have rallied
had not Harry Somerville's wound in the shoulder taken an unfavourable
turn, and obliged him to remain for many weeks in bed, under the
influence of a slow fever; so that Charley felt a desolation creeping
over his soul that no effort he was capable of making could shake off.
It is true he found both occupation and pleasure in attending upon his
sick friend; but as Harry's illness rendered great quiet necessary, and
as Hamilton had been sent to take charge of the fishing-station
mentioned in a former chapter, Charley was obliged to indulge his
gloomy reveries in silence. To add to his wretchedness he received a
letter from Kate about a week after Mr. Whyte's burial, telling him of
the death of his mother.

Meanwhile, Redfeather and Jacques--both of whom at their young master's
earnest solicitation, agreed to winter at Stoney Creek--cultivated each
other's acquaintance sedulously. There were no books of any kind at the
outpost, excepting three Bibles--one belonging to Charley, and one to
Harry, the third being that which had been presented to Jacques by Mr.
Conway the missionary. This single volume, however, proved to be an
ample library to Jacques and his Indian friend. Neither of these sons
of the forest was much accustomed to reading, and neither of them would
have for a moment entertained the idea of taking to literature as a
pastime; but Redfeather loved the Bible for the sake of the great
truths which he discovered in its inspired pages, though much of what
he read was to him mysterious and utterly incomprehensible. Jacques, on
the other hand, read it, or listened to his friend, with that
philosophic gravity of countenance and earnestness of purpose which he
displayed in regard to everything; and deep, serious, and protracted
were the discussions they entered into, as night after night they sat
on a log, with the Bible spread out before them, and read by the light
of the blazing fire in the men's house at Stoney Creek. Their
intercourse, however, was brought to an abrupt conclusion by the
unexpected arrival, one day, of Mr. Conway the missionary in his tin
canoe. This gentleman's appearance was most welcome to all parties. It
was like a bright ray of sunshine to Charley to meet with one who could
fully sympathise with him in his present sorrowful frame of mind. It
was an event of some consequence to Harry Somerville, inasmuch as it
provided him with an amateur doctor who really understood somewhat of
his physical complaint, and was able to pour balm, at once literally
and spiritually, into his wounds. It was an event productive of the
liveliest satisfaction to Redfeather, who now felt assured that his
tribe would have those mysteries explained which he only imperfectly
understood himself; and it was an event of much rejoicing to the
Indians themselves, because their curiosity had been not a little
roused by what they heard of the doings and sayings of the white
missionary, who lived on the borders of the great lake. The only
person, perhaps, on whom Mr. Conway's arrival acted with other than a
pleasing influence was Jacques Caradoc. This worthy, although glad to
meet with a man whom he felt inclined both to love and respect, was by
no means gratified to find that his friend Redfeather had agreed to go
with the missionary on his visit to the Indian tribe, and thereafter to
accompany him to the settlement on Playgreen Lake. But with the
stoicism that was natural to him, Jacques submitted to circumstances
which he could not alter, and contented himself with assuring
Redfeather that if he lived till next spring he would most certainly
"make tracks for the great lake," and settle down at the missionary's
station along with him. This promise was made at the end of the wharf
of Stoney Creek the morning on which Mr. Conway and his party embarked
in their tin canoe--the same tin canoe at which Jacques had curled his
nose contemptuously when he saw it in process of being constructed, and
at which he did not by any means curl it the less contemptuously now
that he saw it finished. The little craft answered its purpose
marvellously well, however, and bounded lightly away under the vigorous
strokes of its crew, leaving Charley and Jacques on the pier gazing
wistfully after their friends, and listening sadly to the echoes of
their parting song as it floated more and more faintly over the lake.

Winter came, but no ray of sunshine broke through the dark cloud that
hung over Stoney Creek. Harry Somerville, instead of becoming better,
grew worse and worse every day, so that when Charley despatched the
winter packet, he represented the illness of his friend to the powers
at headquarters as being of a nature that required serious and
immediate attention and change of scene. But the word _immediate_ bears
a slightly different signification in the backwoods to what it does in
the lands of railroads and steamboats. The letter containing this hint
took many weeks to traverse the waste wilderness to its destination;
months passed before the reply was written, and many weeks more elapsed
ere its contents were perused by Charley and his friend. When they did
read it, however, the dark cloud that had hung over them so long burst
at last; a ray of sunshine streamed down brightly upon their hearts,
and never forsook them again, although it did lose a little of its
brilliancy after the first flash. It was on a rich, dewy, cheerful
morning in early spring when the packet arrived, and Charley led Harry,
who was slowly recovering his wonted health and spirits, to their
favourite rocky resting-place on the margin of the lake. Here he placed
the letter in his friend's hand with a smile of genuine delight. It ran
as follows:--

MY DEAR SIR,--Your letter containing the account of Mr. Somerville's
illness has been forwarded to me, and I am instructed to inform you
that leave of absence for a short time has been granted to him. I have
had a conversation with the doctor here, who advises me to recommend
that, if your friend has no other summer residence in view, he should
spend part of his time in Red River settlement. In the event of his
agreeing to this, I would suggest that he should leave Stoney Creek
with the first brigade in spring, or by express canoe if you think it
advisable.--I am, etc.

"Short but sweet--uncommonly sweet!" said Harry, as a deep flush of joy
crimsoned his pale cheeks, while his own merry smile, that had been
absent for many a weary day, returned once more to its old haunt, and
danced round its accustomed dimples like a repentant wanderer who has
been long absent from and has at last returned to his native home.

"Sweet indeed!" echoed Charley. "But that's not all; here's another
lump of sugar for you." So saying, he pulled a letter from his pocket,
unfolded it slowly, spread it out on his knee, and, looking up at his
expectant friend, winked.

"Go on, Charley; pray don't tantalize me."

"Tantalize you! My dear fellow, nothing is farther from my thoughts.
Listen to this paragraph in my dear old father's letter:--

"'So you see, my dear Charley, that we have managed to get you
appointed to the charge of Lower Fort Garry, and as I hear that poor
Harry Somerville is to get leave of absence, you had better bring him
along with you. I need not add that my house is at his service as long
as he may wish to remain in it.'

"There! what think ye of that, my boy?" said Charley, as he folded the
letter and returned it to his pocket.

"I think," replied Harry, "that your father is a dear old gentleman,
and I hope that you'll only be half as good when you come to his time
of life; and I think I'm so happy to-day that I'll be able to walk
without the assistance of your arm to-morrow; and I think we had better
go back to the house now, for I feel, oddly enough, as tired as if I
had had a long walk. Ah, Charley, my dear fellow, that letter will
prove to be the best doctor I have had yet. But now tell me what you
intend to do."

Charley assisted his friend to rise, and led him slowly back to the
house, as he replied,--

"Do, my boy? that's soon said. I'll make things square and straight at
Stoney Creek. I'll send for Hamilton and make him interim
commander-in-chief. I'll write two letters--one to the gentleman in
charge of the district, telling him of my movements; the other
(containing a screed of formal instructions) to the miserable mortal
who shall succeed me here. I'll take the best canoe in our store, load
it with provisions, put you carefully in the middle of it, stick
Jacques in the bow and myself in the stern, and start, two weeks hence,
neck and crop, head over heels, through thick and thin, wet and dry,
over portage, river, fall, and lake, for Red River settlement!"



CHAPTER XXVIII.

Old friends and scenes--Coming events cast their shadows before.


Mr. Kennedy, senior, was seated in his own comfortable arm-chair before
the fire, in his own cheerful little parlour, in his own snug house, at
Red River, with his own highly characteristic breakfast of buffalo
steaks, tea, and pemmican before him, and his own beautiful,
affectionate daughter Kate presiding over the tea-pot, and exercising
unwarrantably despotic sway over a large gray cat, whose sole happiness
seemed to consist in subjecting Mr. Kennedy to perpetual annoyance, and
whose main object in life was to catch its master and mistress off
their guard, that it might go quietly to the table, the meat-safe, or
the pantry, and there--deliberately--steal!

Kate had grown very much since we saw her last. She was quite a woman
now, and well worthy of a minute description here; but we never could
describe a woman to our own satisfaction. We have frequently tried and
failed; so we substitute, in place, the remarks of Kate's friends and
acquaintances about her--a criterion on which to form a judgment that
is a pretty correct one, especially when the opinion pronounced happens
to be favourable. Her father said she was an angel, and the only joy of
his life. This latter expression, we may remark, was false; for Mr.
Kennedy frequently said to Kate, confidentially, that Charley was a
great happiness to him; and we are quite sure that the pipe had
something to do with the felicity of his existence. But the old
gentleman said that Kate was the _only_ joy of his life, and that is
all we have to do with at present. Several ill-tempered old ladies in
the settlement said that Miss Kennedy was really a quiet, modest
girl--testimony this (considering the source whence it came) that was
quite conclusive. Then old Mr. Grant remarked to old Mr. Kennedy, over
a confidential pipe, that Kate was certainly, in his opinion, the most
modest and the prettiest girl in Red River. Her old school companions
called her a darling. Tom Whyte said "he never seed nothink like her
nowhere." The clerks spoke of her in terms too glowing to remember; and
the last arrival among them, the youngest, with the slang of the "old
country" fresh on his lips, called her a _stunner!_ Even Mrs. Grant got
up one of her half-expressed remarks about her, which everybody would
have supposed to be quizzical in its nature, were it not for the
frequent occurrence of the terms "good girl," "innocent creature,"
which seemed to contradict that idea. There were also one or two
hapless swains who said nothings, but what they _did_ and _looked_ was
in itself unequivocal. They went quietly into a state of slow,
drivelling imbecility whenever they happened to meet with Kate; looked
as if they had become shockingly unwell, and were rather pleased than
otherwise that their friends should think so too; and upon all and
every occasion in which Kate was concerned, conducted themselves with
an amount of insane stupidity (although sane enough at other times)
that nothing could account for, save the idea that their admiration of
her was inexpressible, and that _that_ was the most effective way in
which they could express it.

"Kate, my darling," said Mr. Kennedy, as he finished the last mouthful
of tea, "wouldn't it be capital to get another letter from Charley?"

"Yes, dear papa, it would indeed. But I am quite sure that the next
time we shall hear from him will be when he arrives here, and makes the
house ring with his own dear voice."

"How so, girl?" said the old trader with a smile. It may as well be
remarked here that the above opening of conversation was by no means
new; it was stereotyped now. Ever since Charley had been appointed to
the management of Lower Fort Garry, his father had been so engrossed by
the idea, and spoke of it to Kate so frequently, that he had got into a
way of feeling as if the event so much desired would happen in a few
days, although he knew quite well that it could not, in the course of
ordinary or extra-ordinary circumstances, occur in less than several
months. However, as time rolled on he began regularly, every day or
two, to ask Kate questions about Charley that she could not by any
possibility answer, but which he knew from experience would lead her
into a confabulation about his son, which helped a little to allay his
impatience.

"Why, you see, father," she replied, "it is three months since we got
his last, and you know there has been no opportunity of forwarding
letters from Stoney Creek since it was despatched. Now, the next
opportunity that occurs-"

"Mee-aow!" interrupted the cat, which had just finished two pats of
fresh butter without being detected, and began, rather recklessly, to
exult.

"Hang that cat!" cried the old gentleman, angrily, "it'll be the death
o' me yet;" and seizing the first thing that came to hand, which
happened to be the loaf of bread, discharged it with such violence, and
with so correct an aim, that it knocked, not only the cat, but the
tea-pot and sugar-bowl also, off the table.

"O dear papa!" exclaimed Kate.

"Really, my dear," cried Mr. Kennedy, half angry and half ashamed, "we
must get rid of that brute immediately. It has scarcely been a week
here, and it has done more mischief already than a score of ordinary
cats would have done in a twelvemonth."

"But then the mice, papa--"

"Well, but--but--oh, hang the mice!"

"Yes; but how are we to catch them?" said Kate.

At this moment the cook, who had heard the sound of breaking crockery,
and judged it expedient that he should be present, opened the door.

"How now, rascal!" exclaimed his master, striding up to him. "Did I
ring for you, eh?"

"No, sir; but--"

"But! eh, but! no more 'buts,' you scoundrel, else I'll--"

The motion of Mr. Kennedy's fist warned the cook to make a precipitate
retreat, which he did at the same moment that the cat resolved to run
for its life. This caused them to meet in the doorway, and making a
compound entanglement with the mat, they both fell into the passage
with a loud crash. Mr. Kennedy shut the door gently, and returned to
his chair, patting Kate on the head as he passed.

"Now, darling, go on with what you were saying; and don't mind the
tea-pot--let it lie."

"Well," resumed Kate, with a smile, "I was saying that the next
opportunity Charley can have will be by the brigade in spring, which we
expect to arrive here, you know, a month hence; but we won't get a
letter by that, as I feel convinced that he and Harry will come by it
themselves."

"And the express canoe, Kate--the express canoe," said Mr. Kennedy,
with a contortion of the left side of his head that was intended for a
wink; "you know they got leave to come by express, Kate."

"Oh, as to the express, father, I don't expect them to come by that, as
poor Harry Somerville has been so ill that they would never think of
venturing to subject him to all the discomforts, not to mention the
dangers, of a canoe voyage."

"I don't know that, lass--I don't know that," said Mr. Kennedy, giving
another contortion with his left cheek. "In fact, I shouldn't wonder if
they arrived this very day; and it's well to be on the look-out, so I'm
off to the banks of the river, Kate." Saying this, the old gentleman
threw on an old fur cap with the peak all awry, thrust his left hand
into his right glove, put on the other with the back to the front and
the thumb in the middle finger, and bustled out of the house, muttering
as he went, "Yes, it's well to be on the look-out for him."

Mr. Kennedy, however, was disappointed: Charley did not arrive that
day, nor the next, nor the day after that. Nevertheless the old
gentleman's faith each day remained as firm as on the day previous that
Charley would arrive on that day "for certain." About a week after
this, Mr. Kennedy put on his hat and gloves as usual, and sauntered
down to the banks of the river, where his perseverance was rewarded by
the sight of a small canoe rapidly approaching the landing-place. From
the costume of the three men who propelled it, the cut of the canoe
itself, the precision and energy of its movements, and several other
minute points about it only apparent to the accustomed eye of a
nor'-wester, he judged at once that this was a new arrival, and not
merely one of the canoes belonging to the settlers, many of which might
be seen passing up and down the river. As they drew near he fixed his
eyes eagerly upon them.

"Very odd," he exclaimed, while a shade of disappointment passed over
his brow: "it ought to be him, but it's not like him; too
big--different nose altogether. Don't know any of the three.
Humph!--well, he's _sure_ to come to-morrow, at all events." Having
come to the conclusion that it was not Charley's canoe, he wheeled
sulkily round and sauntered back towards his house, intending to solace
himself with a pipe. At that moment he heard a shout behind him, and
ere he could well turn round to see whence it came, a young man bounded
up the bank and seized him in his arms with a hug that threatened to
dislocate his ribs. The old gentleman's first impulse was to bestow on
his antagonist (for he verily believed him to be such) one of those
vigorous touches with his clinched fist which in days of yore used to
bring some of his disputes to a summary and effectual close; but his
intention changed when the youth spoke.

"Father, dear, dear father!" said Charley, as he loosened his grasp,
and, still holding him by both hands, looked earnestly into his face
with swimming eyes.

Old Mr. Kennedy seemed to have lost his powers of speech. He gazed at
his son for a few seconds in silence--then suddenly threw his arms
around him and engaged in a species of wrestle which he intended for an
embrace.

"O Charley, my boy! you've come at last--God bless you! Let's look at
you. Quite changed: six feet; no, not quite changed--the old nose;
black as an Indian. O Charley, my dear boy! I've been waiting for you
for months; why did you keep me so long, eh? Hang it, where's my
handkerchief?" At this last exclamation Mr. Kennedy's feelings quite
overcame him; his full heart overflowed at his eyes, so that when he
tried to look at his son, Charley appeared partly magnified and partly
broken up into fragments. Fumbling in his pocket for the missing
handkerchief, which he did not find, he suddenly seized his fur cap, in
a burst of exasperation, and wiped his eyes with that. Immediately
after, forgetting that it was a cap he thrust it into his pocket.

"Come, dear father," cried Charley, drawing the old man's arm through
his, "let us go home. Is Kate there?"

"Ay, ay," cried Mr. Kennedy, waving his hand as he was dragged away,
and bestowing, quite unwittingly, a back-handed slap on the cheek to
Harry Somerville--which nearly felled that youth to the ground. "Ay,
ay! Kate, to be sure, darling. Yes, quite right, Charley; a
pipe--that's it, my boy, let's have a pipe!" And thus, uttering
coherent and broken sentences, he disappeared through the doorway with
his long-lost and now recovered son.

Meanwhile Harry and Jacques continued to pace quietly before the house,
waiting patiently until the first ebullition of feeling, at the meeting
of Charley with his father and sister, should be over. In a few minutes
Charley ran out.

"Hollo, Harry! come in, my boy; forgive my forgetfulness, but--"

"My dear fellow," interrupted Harry, "what nonsense you are talking! Of
course you forgot me, and everybody and everything on earth, just now;
but have you seen Kate? is--"

"Yes, yes," cried Charley, as he pushed his friend before him, and
dragged Jacques after him into the parlour.--"Here's Harry, father, and
Jacques.--You've heard of Jacques, Kate?"

"Harry, my, dear boy;" cried Mr. Kennedy, seizing his young friend by
the hand; "how are you, lad? Better, I hope."

At that moment Mr. Kennedy's eye fell on Jacques, who stood in the
doorway, cap in hand, with the usual quiet smile lighting up his
countenance.

"What! Jacques--Jacques Caradoc!" he cried, in astonishment.

"The same, sir; you an' I have know'd each other afore now in the way
o' trade," answered the hunter, as he grasped his old bourgeois by the
hand and wrung it warmly. Mr. Kennedy, senior, was so overwhelmed by
the combination of exciting influences to which he was now subjected,
that he plunged his hand into his pocket for the handkerchief again,
and pulled out the fur hat instead, which he flung angrily at the cat;
then using the sleeve of his coat as a substitute, he proceeded to put
a series of abrupt questions to Jacques and Charley simultaneously.

In the meantime Harry went up to Kate and _stared_ at her. We do not
mean to say that he was intentionally rude to her. No! He went towards
her intending to shake hands, and renew acquaintance with his old
companion; but the moment he caught sight of her he was struck not only
dumb, but motionless. The odd part of it was that Kate, too, was
affected in precisely the same way, and both of them exclaimed
mentally, "Can it be possible?" Their lips, however, gave no utterance
to the question. At length Kate recollected herself, and blushing
deeply, held out her hand, as she said,--

"Forgive me, Har--Mr. Somerville; I was so surprised at your altered
appearance, I could scarcely believe that my old friend stood before
me."

Harry's cheeks crimsoned as he seized her hand and said: "Indeed,
Ka--a--Miss--that is, in fact, I've been very ill, and doubtless have
changed somewhat; but the very same thought struck me in regard to
yourself, you are so--so--"

Fortunately for Harry, who was gradually becoming more and more
confused, to the amusement of Charley, who had closely observed the
meeting of his friend and sister, Mr. Kennedy came up.

"Eh! what's that? What did you say _struck_ you, Harry, my lad?"

"_You_ did, father, on his arrival," replied Charley, with a broad
grin, "and a very neat back-hander it was."

"Nonsense, Charley," interrupted Harry, with a laugh.--"I was just
saying, sir, that Miss Kennedy is so changed that I could hardly
believe it to be herself."

"And I had just paid Mr. Somerville the same compliment, papa," cried
Kate, laughing and blushing simultaneously.

Mr. Kennedy thrust his hands into his pockets, frowned portentously as
he looked from one to the other, and said slowly, "_Miss_ Kennedy,
_Mr._ Somerville!" then turning to his son, remarked, "That's something
new, Charley, lad; that girl is _Miss_ Kennedy, and that youth there is
_Mr._ Somerville!"

Charley laughed loudly at this sally, especially when the old gentleman
followed it up with a series of contortions of the left cheek, meant
for violent winking.

"Right, father, right; it won't do here. We don't know anybody but Kate
and Harry in this house."

Harry laughed in his own genuine style at this.

"Well, Kate be it, with all my heart," said he; "but, really, at first
she seemed so unlike the Kate of former days that I could not bring
myself to call her so."

"Humph!" said Mr. Kennedy. "But come, boys, with me to my smoking-room,
and let's have a talk over a pipe, while Kate looks after dinner."
Giving Charley another squeeze of the hand, and Harry a pat on the
shoulder, the old gentleman put on his cap (with the peak behind), and
led the way to his glass divan in the garden.

It is perhaps unnecessary for us to say that Kate Kennedy and Harry
Somerville had, within the last hour, fallen deeply, hopelessly,
utterly, irrevocably, and totally in love with each other. They did not
merely fall up to the ears in love. To say that they fell over head and
ears in it would be, comparatively speaking, to say nothing. In fact,
they did not fall into it at all. They went deliberately backwards,
took a long race, sprang high into the air, turned completely round,
and went down head first into the flood, descending to a depth utterly
beyond the power of any deep-sea lead to fathom, or of any human mind
adequately to appreciate. Up to that day Kate had thought of Harry as
the hilarious youth who used to take every opportunity he could of
escaping from the counting-room and hastening to spend the afternoon in
rambling through the woods with her and Charley. But the instant she
saw him a man, with a bright, cheerful countenance, on which rough
living and exposure to frequent peril had stamped unmistakable lines of
energy and decision, and to which recent illness had imparted a
captivating touch of sadness--the moment she beheld this, and the
undeniable scrap of whisker that graced his cheeks, and the slight
_shade_ that rested on his upper lip, her heart leaped violently into
her throat, where it stuck hard and fast, like a stranded ship on a
lee-shore.

In like manner, when Harry beheld his former friend a woman, with
beaming eyes and clustering ringlets and--(there, we won't attempt
it!)--in fact, surrounded by every nameless and namable grace that
makes woman exasperatingly delightful, his heart performed the same
eccentric movement, and he felt that his fate was sealed; that he had
been sucked into a rapid which was too strong even for his expert and
powerful arm to contend against, and that he must drift with the
current now, _nolens volens_, and run it as he best could.

When Kate retired to her sleeping-apartment that night, she endeavoured
to comport herself in her usual manner; but all her efforts failed. She
sat down on her bed, and remained motionless for half-an-hour; then she
started and sighed deeply; then she smiled and opened her Bible, but
forgot to read it; then she rose hastily, sighed again, took off her
gown, hung it up on a peg, and returning to the dressing-table sat down
on her best bonnet; then she cried a little, at which point the candle
suddenly went out; so she gave a slight scream, and at last went to bed
in the dark.

Three hours afterwards, Harry Somerville, who had been enjoying a cigar
and a chat with Charley and his father, rose, and bidding his friends
good-night, retired to his chamber, where he flung himself down on a
chair, thrust his hands into his pockets, stretched out his legs, gazed
abstractedly before him, and exclaimed--"O Kate, my exquisite girl,
you've floored me quite that!"

As he continued to sit in silence, the gaze of affection gradually and
slowly changed into a look of intense astonishment as he beheld the
gray cat sitting comfortably on the table, and regarding him with a
look of complacent interest, as if it thought Harry's style of
addressing it was highly satisfactory--though rather unusual.

"Brute!" exclaimed Harry, springing from his seat and darting towards
it. But the cat was too well accustomed to old Mr. Kennedy's sudden
onsets to be easily taken by surprise. With a bound it reached the
floor, and took shelter under the bed, whence it was not ejected until
Harry, having first thrown his shoes, soap, clothes-brush, and
razor-strop at it, besides two or three books and several miscellaneous
articles of toilet, at last opened the door (a thing, by the way, that
people would do well always to remember before endeavouring to expel a
cat from an impregnable position), and drew the bed into the middle of
the room. Then, but not till then, it fled, with its back, its tail,
its hair, its eyes--in short, its entire body--bristling in rampant
indignation. Having dislodged the enemy, Harry replaced the bed, threw
off his coat and waistcoat, untied his neckcloth, sat down on his chair
again, and fell into a reverie; from which, after half-an-hour, he
started, clasped his hands, stamped his foot, glared up at the ceiling,
slapped his thigh, and exclaimed, in the voice of a hero, "Yes, I'll do
it, or die!"



CHAPTER XXIX.

The first day at home--A gallop in the prairie, and its consequences.


Next morning, as the quartette were at breakfast, Mr. Kennedy, senior,
took occasion to propound to his son the plans he had laid down for
them during the next week.

"In the first place, Charley, my boy," said he, as well as a large
mouthful of buffalo steak and potato would permit, "you must drive up
to the fort and report yourself. Harry and I will go with you; and
after we have paid our respects to old Grant (another cup of tea, Kate,
my darling)--you recollect him, Charley, don't you?"

"Yes, perfectly."

"Well, then, after we've been to see him, we'll drive down the river,
and call on our friends at the mill. Then we'll look in on the
Thomsons; and give a call, in passing, on old Neverin--he's always out,
so he'll be pleased to hear we were there, and it won't detain us.
Then---"

"But, dear father--excuse my interrupting you--Harry and I are very
anxious to spend our first day at home entirely with you and Kate.
Don't you think it would be more pleasant? and then, to-morrow--"

"Now, Charley, this is too bad of you," said Mr. Kennedy, with a look
of affected indignation: "no sooner have you come back than you're at
your old tricks, opposing and thwarting your father's wishes."

"Indeed, I do not wish to do so, father," replied Charley, with a
smile; "but I thought that you would like my plan better yourself, and
that it would afford us an opportunity of having a good long,
satisfactory talk about all that concerns us, past, present, and
future."

"What a daring mind you have, Charley," said Harry, "to speak of
cramming a _satisfactory_ talk of the past, the present, and the future
all into _one_ day!"

"Harry will take another cup of tea, Kate," said Charley, with an arch
smile, as he went on,--

"Besides, father, Jacques tells me that he means to go off immediately,
to visit a number of his old voyageur friends in the settlement, and I
cannot part with him till we have had one more canter together over the
prairies. I want to show him to Kate, for he's a great original."

"Oh, that _will_ be charming!" cried Kate. "I should like of all things
to be introduced to the bold hunter.--Another cup of tea, Mr. S-Harry,
I mean?"

Harry started on being thus unexpectedly addressed. "Yes, if you
please--that is--thank you--no, my cup's full already, Kate!"

"Well, well," broke in Mr. Kennedy, senior, "I see you're all leagued
against me, so I give in. But I shall not accompany you on your ride,
as my bones are a little stiffer than they used to be" (the old
gentleman sighed heavily), "and riding far knocks me up; but I've got
business to attend to in my glass house which will occupy me till
dinner-time."

"If the business you speak of," began Charley, "is not incompatible
with a cigar, I shall be happy to--"

"Why, as to that, the business itself has special reference to tobacco,
and, in fact, to nothing else; so come along, you young dog," and the
old gentleman's cheek went into violent convulsions as he rose, put on
his cap, with the peak very much over one eye, and went out in company
with the young men.

An hour afterwards four horses stood saddled and bridled in front of
the house. Three belonged to Mr. Kennedy; the fourth had been borrowed
from a neighbour as a mount for Jacques Caradoc. In a few minutes more
Harry lifted Kate into the saddle, and having arranged her dress with a
deal of unnecessary care, mounted his nag. At the same moment Charley
and Jacques vaulted into their saddles, and the whole cavalcade
galloped down the avenue that led to the prairie, followed by the
admiring gaze of Mr. Kennedy, senior, who stood in the doorway of his
mansion, his hands in his vest pockets, his head uncovered, and his
happy visage smiling through a cloud of smoke that issued from his
lips. He seemed the very personification of jovial good-humour, and
what one might suppose Cupid would become were he permitted to grow
old, dress recklessly, and take to smoking!

The prairies were bright that morning, and surpassingly beautiful. The
grass looked greener than usual, the dew-drops more brilliant as they
sparkled on leaf and blade and branch in the rays of an unclouded sun.
The turf felt springy, and the horses, which were first-rate animals,
seemed to dance over it, scarce crushing the wild-flowers beneath their
hoofs, as they galloped lightly on, imbued with the same joyous feeling
that filled the hearts of their riders. The plains at this place were
more picturesque than in other parts, their uniformity being broken up
by numerous clumps of small trees and wild shrubbery, intermingled with
lakes and ponds of all sizes, which filled the hollows for miles
round--temporary sheets of water these, formed by the melting snow,
that told of winter now past and gone. Additional animation and life
was given to the scene by flocks of water-fowl, whose busy cry and
cackle in the water, or whirring motion in the air, gave such an idea
of joyousness in the brute creation as could not but strike a chord of
sympathy in the heart of a man, and create a feeling of gratitude to
the Maker of man and beast. Although brilliant and warm, the sun, at
least during the first part of their ride, was by no means oppressive;
so that the equestrians stretched out at full gallop for many miles
over the prairie, round the lakes and through the bushes, ere their
steeds showed the smallest symptoms of warmth.

During the ride Kate took the lead, with Jacques on her left and Harry
on her right, while Charley brought up the rear, and conversed in a
loud key with all three. At length Kate began to think it was just
possible the horses might be growing wearied with the slapping pace,
and checked her steed; but this was not an easy matter, as the horse
seemed to hold quite a contrary opinion, and showed a desire not only
to continue but to increase its gallop--a propensity that induced Harry
to lend his aid by grasping the rein and compelling the animal to walk.

"That's a spirited horse, Kate," said Charley, as they ambled along;
"have you had him long?"

"No," replied Kate; "our father purchased him just a week before your
arrival, thinking that you would likely want a charger now and then. I
have only been on him once before.--Would he make a good
buffalo-runner, Jacques?"

"Yes, miss; he would make an uncommon good runner," answered the
hunter, as he regarded the animal with a critical glance--"at least if
he don't shy at a gunshot."

"I never tried his nerves in that way," said Kate, with a smile;
"perhaps he would shy at _that_. He has a good deal of spirit--oh, I do
dislike a lazy horse, and I do delight in a spirited one!" Kate gave
her horse a smart cut with the whip, half involuntarily, as she spoke.
In a moment it reared almost perpendicularly, and then bounded forward;
not, however, before Jacques's quick eye had observed the danger, and
his ever-ready hand arrested its course.

"Have a care, Miss Kate," he said, in a warning voice, while he gazed
in the face of the excited girl with a look of undisguised admiration.
"It don't do to wallop a skittish beast like that."

"Never fear, Jacques," she replied, bending forward to pat her
charger's arching neck; "see, he is becoming quite gentle again."

"If he runs away, Kate, we won't be able to catch you again, for he's
the best of the four, I think," said Harry, with an uneasy glance at
the animal's flashing eye and expanded nostrils.

"Ay, it's as well to keep the whip off him," said Jacques. "I know'd a
young chap once in St. Louis who lost his sweetheart by usin' his whip
too freely."

"Indeed," cried Kate, with a merry laugh, as they emerged from one of
the numerous thickets and rode out upon the open plain at a foot pace;
"how was that, Jacques? Pray tell us the story."

"As to that, there's little story about it," replied the hunter. "You
see, Tim Roughead took arter his name, an' was always doin' some
mischief or other, which more than once nigh cost him his life; for the
young trappers that frequent St. Louis are not fellows to stand too
much jokin', I can tell ye. Well, Tim fell in love with a gal there who
had jilted about a dozen lads afore; an' bein' an oncommon handsome,
strappin' fellow, she encouraged him a good deal. But Tim had a
suspicion that Louise was rayther sweet on a young storekeeper's clerk
there; so, bein' an off-hand sort o' critter, he went right up to the
gal, and says to her, says he, 'Come, Louise, it's o' no use humbuggin'
with _me_ any longer. If you like me, you like me; and if you don't
like me, you don't. There's only two ways about it. Now, jist say the
word at once, an' let's have an end on't. If you agree, I'll squat with
you in whativer bit o' the States you like to name; if not, I'll bid
you good-bye this blessed mornin', an' make tracks right away for the
Rocky Mountains afore sundown. Ay or no, lass: which is't to be?'

"Poor Louise was taken all aback by this, but she knew well that Tim
was a man who never threatened in jest, an' moreover she wasn't quite
sure o' the young clerk; so she agreed, an' Tim went off to settle with
her father about the weddin'. Well, the day came, an' Tim, with a lot
o' his comrades, mounted their horses, and rode off to the bride's
house, which was a mile or two up the river out of the town. Just as
they were startin', Tim's horse gave a plunge that well-nigh pitched
him over its head, an' Tim came down on him with a cut o' his heavy
whip that sounded like a pistol-shot. The beast was so mad at this that
it gave a kind o' squeal an' another plunge that burst the girths. Tim
brought the whip down on its flank again, which made it shoot forward
like an arrow out of a bow, leavin' poor Tim on the ground. So slick
did it fly away that it didn't even throw him on his back, but let him
fall sittin'-wise, saddle and all, plump on the spot where he sprang
from. Tim scratched his head an' grinned like a half-worried
rattlesnake as his comrades almost rolled off their saddles with
laughin'. But it was no laughin' job, for poor Tim's leg was doubled
under him, an' broken across at the thigh. It was long before he was
able to go about again, and when he did recover he found that Louise
and the young clerk were spliced an' away to Kentucky."

"So you see what are the probable consequences, Kate, if you use your
whip so obstreperously again," cried Charley, pressing his horse into a
canter.

Just at that moment a rabbit sprang from under a bush and darted away
before them. In an instant Harry Somerville gave a wild shout, and set
off in pursuit. Whether it was the cry or the sudden flight of Harry's
horse, we cannot tell, but the next instant Kate's charger performed an
indescribable flourish with its hind legs, laid back its ears, took the
bit between its teeth, and ran away. Jacques was on its heels
instantly, and a few seconds afterwards Charley and Harry joined in the
pursuit, but their utmost efforts failed to do more than enable them to
keep their ground. Kate's horse was making for a dense thicket, into
which it became evident they must certainly plunge. Harry and her
brother trembled when they looked at it and realised her danger; even
Jacques's face showed some symptoms of perturbation for a moment as he
glanced before him in indecision. The expression vanished, however, in
a few seconds, and his cheerful, self-possessed look returned, as he
cried out,--"Pull the left rein hard, Miss Kate; try to edge up the
slope."

Kate heard the advice, and exerting all her strength, succeeded in
turning her horse a little to the left, which caused him to ascend a
gentle slope, at the top of which part of the thicket lay. She was
closely followed by Harry and her brother, who urged their steeds madly
forward in the hope of catching her rein, while Jacques diverged a
little to the right. By this manoeuvre the latter hoped to gain on the
runaway, as the ground along which he rode was comparatively level,
with a short but steep ascent at the end of it, while that along which
Kate flew like the wind was a regular ascent, that would prove very
trying to her horse. At the margin of the thicket grew a row of high
bushes, towards which they now galloped with frightful speed. As Kate
came up to this natural fence, she observed the trapper approaching on
the other side of it. Springing from his jaded steed, without
attempting to check its pace, he leaped over the underwood like a stag
just as the young girl cleared the bushes at a bound. Grasping the
reins and checking the horse violently with one hand, he extended the
other to Kate, who leaped unhesitatingly into his arms. At the same
instant Charley cleared the bushes, and pulled sharply up; while
Harry's horse, unable, owing to its speed, to take the leap, came
crashing through them, and dashed his rider with stunning violence to
the ground.

Fortunately no bones were broken, and a draught of clear water, brought
by Jacques from a neighbouring pond, speedily restored Harry's shaken
faculties.

"Now, Kate," said Charley, leading forward the horse which he had
ridden, "I have changed saddles, as you see; this horse will suit you
better, and I'll take the shine out of your charger on the way home."

"Thank you, Charley," said Kate, with a smile. "I've quite recovered
from my fright--if, indeed, it is worth calling by that name; but I
fear that Harry has--"

"Oh, I'm all right," cried Harry, advancing as he spoke to assist Kate
in mounting. "I am ashamed to think that my wild cry was the cause of
all this."

In another minute they were again in their saddles, and turning their
faces homeward, they swept over the plain at a steady gallop, fearing
lest their accident should be the means of making Mr. Kennedy wait
dinner for them. On arriving, they found the old gentleman engaged in
an animated discussion with the cook about laying the table-cloth,
which duty he had imposed on himself in Kate's absence.

"Ah, Kate, my love," he cried, as they entered, "come here, lass, and
mount guard. I've almost broke my heart in trying to convince that
thick-headed goose that he can't set the table properly. Take it off my
hands, like a good girl.--Charley, my boy, you'll be pleased to hear
that your old friend Redfeather is here."

"Redfeather, father!" exclaimed Charley, in surprise.

"Yes; he and the parson, from the other end of Lake Winnipeg, arrived
an hour ago in a tin kettle, and are now on their way to the upper
fort."

"That is, indeed, pleasant news; but I suspect that it will give much
greater pleasure to our friend Jacques, who, I believe, would be glad
to lay down his life for him, simply to prove his affection."

"Well, well," said the old gentleman, knocking the ashes out of his
pipe, and refilling it so as to be ready for an after-dinner smoke,
"Redfeather has come, and the parson's come too; and I look upon it as
quite miraculous that they have come, considering the _thing_ they came
in. What they've come for is more than I can tell, but I suppose it's
connected with church affairs.--Now then, Kate, what's come o' the
dinner, Kate? Stir up that grampus of a cook! I half expect that he has
boiled the cat for dinner, in his wrath, for it has been badgering him
and me the whole morning.--Hollo, Harry, what's wrong?"

The last exclamation was in consequence of an expression of pain which
crossed Harry's face for a moment.

"Nothing, nothing," replied Harry. "I've had a fall from my horse, and
bruised my arm a little. But I'll see to it after dinner."

"That you shall not," cried Mr Kennedy energetically, dragging his
young friend into his bedroom. "Off with your coat, lad. Let's see it
at once. Ay, ay," he continued, examining Harry's left arm, which was
very much discoloured, and swelled from the elbow to the shoulder,
"that's a severe thump, my boy. But it's nothing to speak of; only
you'll have to submit to a sling for a day or two."

"That's annoying, certainly, but I'm thankful it's no worse," remarked
Harry, as Mr. Kennedy dressed the arm after his own fashion, and then
returned with him to the dining-room.



CHAPTER XXX.

Love--Old Mr. Kennedy puts his foot in it.


One morning, about two weeks after Charley's arrival at Red River,
Harry Somerville found himself alone in Mr. Kennedy's parlour. The old
gentleman himself had just galloped away in the direction of the lower
fort, to visit Charley, who was now formally installed there; Kate was
busy in the kitchen giving directions about dinner; and Jacques was
away with Redfeather, visiting his numerous friends in the settlement:
so that, for the first time since his arrival, Harry found himself at
the hour of ten in the morning utterly lone, and with nothing very
definite to do. Of course, the two weeks that had elapsed were not
without their signs and symptoms, their minor accidents and incidents,
in regard to the subject that filled his thoughts. Harry had fifty
times been tossed alternately from the height of hope to the depth of
despair, from the extreme of felicity to the uttermost verge of sorrow,
and he began seriously to reflect, when he remembered his desperate
resolution on the first night of his arrival, that if he did not "do"
he certainly would "die." This was quite a mistake, however, on Harry's
part. Nobody ever did _die_ of unrequited love. Doubtless many people
have hanged, drowned, and shot themselves because of it; but, generally
speaking, if the patient can be kept from maltreating himself long
enough, time will prove to be an infallible remedy. O youthful reader,
lay this to heart: but pshaw! why do I waste ink on so hopeless a task?
_Every_ one, we suppose, resolves once in a way to _die_ of love;
so--die away, my young friends, only make sure that you don't _kill_
yourselves, and I've no fear of the result.

But to return. Kate, likewise, was similarly affected. She behaved like
a perfect maniac--mentally, that is--and plunged herself,
metaphorically, into such a succession of hot and cold baths, that it
was quite a marvel how her spiritual constitution could stand it.

But we were wrong in saying that Harry was _alone_ in the parlour. The
gray cat was there. On a chair before the fire it sat, looking
dishevelled and somewhat _blase,_ in consequence of the ill-treatment
and worry to which it was continually subjected. After looking out of
the window for a short time, Harry rose, and sitting down on a chair
beside the cat, patted its head--a mark of attention it was evidently
not averse to, but which it received, nevertheless, with marked
suspicion, and some indications of being in a condition of armed
neutrality. Just then the door opened, and Kate entered.

"Excuse me, Harry, for leaving you alone," she said, "but I had to
attend to several household matters. Do you feel inclined for a walk?"

"I do indeed," replied Harry; "it is a charming day, and I am
exceedingly anxious to see the bower that you have spoken to me about
once or twice, and which Charley told me of long before I came here."

"Oh, I shall take you to it with pleasure," replied Kate; "my dear
father often goes there with me to smoke. If you will wait for two
minutes I'll put on my bonnet," and she hastened to prepare herself for
the walk, leaving Harry to caress the cat, which he did so
energetically, when he thought of its young mistress, that it instantly
declared war, and sprang from the chair with a remonstrative yell.

On their way down to the bower, which was situated in a picturesque,
retired spot on the river's bank about a mile below the house, Harry
and Kate tried to converse on ordinary topics, but without success, and
were at last almost reduced to silence. One subject alone filled their
minds; all others were flat. Being sunk, as it were, in an ocean of
love, they no sooner opened their lips to speak, than the waters rushed
in, as a natural consequence, and nearly choked them. Had they but
opened their mouths wide and boldly, they would have been pleasantly
drowned together; but as it was, they lacked the requisite courage, and
were fain to content themselves with an occasional frantic struggle to
the surface, where they gasped a few words of uninteresting air, and
sank again instantly.

On arriving at the bower, however, and sitting down, Harry plucked up
heart, and, heaving a deep sigh, said--

"Kate, there is a subject about which I have long desired to speak to
you-"

Long as he had been desiring it, however, Kate thought it must have
been nothing compared with the time that elapsed ere he said anything
else; so she bent over a flower which she held in her hand, and said in
a low voice, "Indeed, Harry, what is it?"

Harry was desperate now. His usually flexible tongue was stiff as stone
and dry as a bit of leather. He could no more give utterance to an
intelligible idea than he could change himself into Mr. Kennedy's gray
cat--a change that he would not have been unwilling to make at that
moment. At last he seized his companion's hand, and exclaimed, with a
burst of emotion that quite startled her,--

"Kate, Kate! O dearest Kate, I love you! I _adore_ you! I--"

At this point poor Harry's powers of speech again failed; so being
utterly unable to express another idea, he suddenly threw his arms
round her, and pressed her fervently to his bosom.

Kate was taken quite aback by this summary method of coming to the
point. Repulsing him energetically, she exclaimed, while she blushed
crimson. "O Harry--Mr Somerville!" and burst into tears.

Poor Harry stood before her for a moment, his head hanging down, and a
deep blush of shame on his face.

"O Kate," said he, in a deep tremulous voice, "forgive me; do--do
forgive me! I knew not what I said. I scarce knew what I did" (here he
seized her hand). "I know but one thing, Kate, and tell it you _will,_
if it should cost me my life. I love you, Kate, to distraction, and I
wish you to be my wife. I have been rude, very rude. Can you forgive
me, Kate?"

Now, this latter part of Harry's speech was particularly comical, the
comicality of it lying in this, that while he spoke, he drew Kate
gradually towards him, and at the very time when he gave utterance to
the penitential remorse for his rudeness, Kate was infolded in a much
more vigorous embrace than at the first; and what is more remarkable
still, she laid her little head quietly on his shoulder, as if she had
quite changed her mind in regard to what was and what was not rude, and
rather enjoyed it than otherwise.

While the lovers stood in this interesting position, it became apparent
to Harry's olfactory nerves that the atmosphere was impregnated with
tobacco smoke. Looking hastily up, he beheld an apparition that tended
somewhat to increase the confusion of his faculties.

In the opening of the bower stood Mr. Kennedy, senior, in a state of
inexpressible amazement. We say inexpressible advisedly, because the
extreme pitch of feeling which Mr. Kennedy experienced at what he
beheld before him cannot possibly be expressed by human visage. As far
as the countenance of man could do it, however, we believe the old
gentleman's came pretty near the mark on this occasion. His hands were
in his coat pockets, his body bent a little forward, his head and neck
outstretched a little beyond it, his eyes almost starting from the
sockets, and certainly the most prominent feature in his face: his
teeth firmly clinched on his beloved pipe, and his lips expelling a
multitude of little clouds so vigorously that one might have taken him
for a sort of self-acting intelligent steam-gun that had resolved
utterly to annihilate Kate and Harry at short range in the course of
two minutes.

When Kate saw her father she uttered a slight scream, covered her face
with her hands, rushed from the bower, and disappeared in the wood.

"So, young gentleman," began Mr. Kennedy, in a slow, deliberate tone of
voice, while he removed the pipe from his mouth, clinched his fist, and
confronted Harry, "you've been invited to my house as a guest, sir, and
you seize the opportunity basely to insult my daughter!"

"Stay, stay, my dear sir," interrupted Harry, laying his hand on the
old man's shoulder and gazing earnestly into his face. "Oh, do not,
even for a moment, imagine that I could be so base as to trifle with
the affections of your daughter. I may have been presumptuous, hasty,
foolish, mad if you will, but not base. God forbid that I should treat
her with disrespect, even in thought! I love her, Mr. Kennedy, as I
never loved before. I have asked her to be my wife, and--she--"

"Whew!" whistled old Mr. Kennedy, replacing his pipe between his teeth,
gazing abstractedly at the ground, and emitting clouds innumerable.
After standing thus a few seconds, he turned his back slowly upon
Harry, and smiled outrageously once or twice, winking at the same time,
after his own fashion, at the river. Turning abruptly round, he
regarded Harry with a look of affected dignity, and said, "Pray, sir,
what did my daughter say to your very peculiar proposal?"

"She said ye--ah! that is--she didn't exactly _say_ anything, but
she--indeed I--"

"Humph!" ejaculated the old gentleman, deepening his frown as he
regarded his young friend through the smoke. "In short, she said
nothing, I suppose, but led you to infer, perhaps, that she would have
said yes if I hadn't interrupted you."

Harry blushed, and said nothing.

"Now, sir," continued Mr. Kennedy, "don't you think that it would have
been a polite piece of attention on your part to have asked _my_
permission before you addressed my daughter on such a subject, eh?"

"Indeed," said Harry, "I acknowledge that I have been hasty, but I must
disclaim the charge of disrespect to you, sir. I had no intention
whatever of broaching the subject to-day, but my feelings, unhappily,
carried me away, and--and--in fact--"

"Well, well, sir," interrupted Mr. Kennedy, with a look of offended
dignity, "your feelings ought to be kept more under control. But come,
sir, to my house. I must talk further with you on this subject. I must
read you a lesson, sir--a lesson, humph! that you won't forget in a
hurry."

"But, my dear sir--" began Harry.

"No more, sir--no more at present," cried the old gentleman, smoking
violently as he pointed to the footpath that led to the house, "Lead
the way, sir; I'll follow."

The footpath, although wide enough to allow Kate and Harry to walk,
beside each other, did not permit of two gentlemen doing so
conveniently--a circumstance which proved a great relief to Mr.
Kennedy, inasmuch as it enabled him, while walking behind his
companion, to wink convulsively, smoke furiously, and punch his own
ribs severely, by way of opening a few safety-valves to his glee,
without which there is no saying what might have happened. He was
nearly caught in these eccentricities more than once, however, as Harry
turned half round with the intention of again attempting to exculpate
himself--attempts which were as often met by a sudden start, a fierce
frown, a burst of smoke, and a command to "go on." On approaching the
house, the track became a broad road, affording Mr. Kennedy no excuse
for walking in the rear, so that he was under the necessity of laying
violent restraint on his feelings--a restraint which it was evident
could not last long. At that moment, to his great relief, his eye
suddenly fell on the gray cat, which happened to be reposing innocently
on the doorstep.

"_That's_ it! there's the whole cause of it at last!" cried Mr.
Kennedy, in a perfect paroxysm of excitement, flinging his pipe
violently at the unoffending victim as he rushed towards it. The pipe
missed the cat, but went with a sharp crash through the parlour window,
at which Charley was seated, while his father darted through the
doorway, along the passage, and into the kitchen. Here the cat, having
first capsized a pyramid of pans and kettles in its consternation, took
refuge in an absolutely unassailable position. Seeing this, Mr. Kennedy
violently discharged a pailful of water at the spot, strode rapidly to
his own apartment, and locked himself in.

"Dear me, Harry, what's wrong? my father seems unusually excited," said
Charley, in some astonishment, as Harry entered the room, and flung
himself on a chair with a look of chagrin.

"It's difficult to say, Charley; the fact is, I've asked your sister
Kate to be my wife, and your father seems to have gone mad with
indignation."

"Asked Kate to be your wife!" cried Charley, starting up, and regarding
his friend with a look of amazement.

"Yes, I have," replied Harry, with an air of offended dignity. "I know
very well that I am unworthy of her, but I see no reason why you and
your father should take such pains to make me feel it."

"Unworthy of her, my dear fellow!" exclaimed Charley, grasping his hand
and wringing it violently; "no doubt you are, and so is everybody, but
you shall have her for all that, my boy. But tell me, Harry, have you
spoken to Kate herself?"

"Yes, I have."

"And does she agree?"

"Well, I think I may say she does."

"Have you told my father that she does?"

"Why, as to that," said Harry, with a perplexed smile, "he didn't need
to be told; he made _himself_ pretty well aware of the facts of the
case."

"Ah! I'll soon settle _him_," cried Charley. "Keep your mind easy, old
fellow; I'll very soon bring him round." With this assurance, Charley
gave his friend's hand another shake that nearly wrenched the arm from
his shoulder, and hastened out of the room in search of his refractory
father.



CHAPTER XXXI.

The course of true love, curiously enough, runs smooth for once; and
the curtain falls.


Time rolled on, and with it the sunbeams of summer went--the snowflakes
of winter came. Needles of ice began to shoot across the surface of Red
River, and gradually narrowed its bed. Crystalline trees formed upon
the window-panes. Icicles depended from the eaves of the houses. Snow
fell in abundance on the plains; liquid nature began rapidly to
solidify, and not many weeks after the first frost made its appearance
everything was (as the settlers expressed it) "hard and fast."

Mr. Kennedy, senior, was in his parlour, with his back to a blazing
wood-fire that seemed large enough to roast an ox whole. He was
standing, moreover, in a semi-picturesque attitude, with his right hand
in his breeches pocket and his left arm round Kate's waist. Kate was
dressed in a gown that rivalled the snow itself in whiteness. One
little gold clasp shone in her bosom; it was the only ornament she
wore. Mr. Kennedy, too, had somewhat altered his style of costume. He
wore a sky-blue, swallow-tailed coat, whose maker had flourished in
London half-a-century before. It had a velvet collar about five inches
deep, fitted uncommonly tight to the figure, and had a pair of bright
brass buttons, very close together, situated half-a-foot above the
wearer's natural waist. Besides this, he had on a canary-coloured vest,
and a pair of white duck trousers, in the fob of which _evidently_
reposed an immense gold watch of the olden time, with a bunch of seals
that would have served very well as an anchor for a small boat.
Although the dress was, on the whole, slightly comical, its owner, with
his full, fat, broad figure, looked remarkably well in it, nevertheless.

It was Kate's marriage-day, or rather marriage-evening; for the sun had
set two hours ago, and the moon was now sailing in the frosty sky, its
pale rays causing the whole country to shine with a clear, cold,
silvery whiteness.

The old gentleman had been for some time gazing in silent admiration on
the fair brow and clustering ringlets of his daughter, when it suddenly
occurred to him that the company would arrive in half-an-hour, and
there were several things still to be attended to.

"Hello, Kate!" he exclaimed, with a start, "we're forgetting ourselves.
The candles are yet to light, and lots of other things to do." Saying
this, he began to bustle about the room in a state of considerable
agitation.

"Oh, don't worry yourself, dear father!" cried Kate, running after him
and catching him by the hand. "Miss Cookumwell and good Mrs.
Taddipopple are arranging everything about tea and supper in the
kitchen, and Tom Whyte has been kindly sent to us by Mr. Grant, with
orders to make himself generally useful, so _he_ can light the candles
in a few minutes, and you've nothing to do but to kiss me and receive
the company." Kate pulled her father gently towards the fire again, and
replaced his arm round her waist.

"Receive company! Ah, Kate, my love, that's just what I know nothing
about. If they'd let me receive them in my own way, I'd do it well
enough; but that abominable Mrs. Taddi-what's her name-has quite addled
my brains and driven me distracted with trying to get me to understand
what she calls _etiquette_."

Kate laughed, and said she didn't care _how_ he received them, as she
was quite sure that, whichever way he did it, he would do it pleasantly
and well.

At that moment the door opened, and Tom Whyte entered. He was thinner,
if possible, than he used to be, and considerably stiffer, and more
upright.

"Please, sir," said he, with a motion that made you expect to hear his
back creak (it was intended for a bow)--"please, sir, can I do
hanythink for yer?"

"Yes, Tom, you can," replied Mr. Kennedy. "Light these candles, my man,
and then go to the stable and see that everything there is arranged for
putting up the horses. It will be pretty full to-night, Tom, and will
require some management. Then, let me see--ah yes, bring me my pipe,
Tom, my big meerschaum.--I'll sport that to-night in honour of you,
Kate."

"Please, sir," began Tom, with a slightly disconcerted air, "I'm
afeared, sir, that--um--"

"Well, Tom, what would you say? Go on."

"The pipe, sir," said Tom, growing still more disconcerted--"says I to
cook, says I, 'Cook, wot's been an' done it, d'ye think?' 'Dun know,
Tom,' says he, 'but it's smashed, that's sartin. I think the gray
cat--'"

"What!" cried the old trader, in a voice of thunder, while a frown of
the most portentous ferocity darkened his brow for an instant. It was
only for an instant, however. Clearing his brow quickly, he said with a
smile, "But it's your wedding-day, Kate, my darling. It won't do to
blow up anybody to-day, not even the cat.--There, be off, Tom, and see
to things. Look sharp! I hear sleigh-bells already."

As he spoke Tom vanished perpendicularly, Kate hastened to her room,
and the old gentleman himself went to the front door to receive his
guests.

The night was of that intensely calm and still character that
invariably accompanies intense frost, so that the merry jingle of the
sleigh-bells that struck on Mr. Kennedy's listening ear continued to
sound, and grow louder as they drew near, for a considerable time ere
the visitors arrived. Presently the dull, soft tramp of horses' hoofs
was heard in the snow, and a well-known voice shouted out lustily, "Now
then, Mactavish, keep to the left. Doesn't the road take a turn there?
Mind the gap in the fence. That's old Kennedy's only fault. He'd rather
risk breaking his friends' necks than mend his fences!"

"All right, here we are," cried Mactavish, as the next instant two
sleighs emerged out of the avenue into the moonlit space in front of
the house, and dashed up to the door amid an immense noise and clatter
of bells, harness, hoofs, snorting, and salutations.

"Ah, Grant, my dear fellow!" cried Mr. Kennedy, springing to the sleigh
and seizing his friend by the hand as he dragged him out. "This is kind
of you to come early. And Mrs. Grant, too. Take care, my dear madam,
step clear of the haps; now, then--cleverly done" (as Mrs. Grant
tumbled into his arms in a confused heap). "Come along now; there's a
capital fire in here.--Don't mind the horses, Mactavish--follow us, my
lad; Tom Whyte will attend to them."

Uttering such disjointed remarks, Mr. Kennedy led Mrs. Grant into the
house, and made her over to Mrs. Taddipopple, who hurried her away to
an inner apartment, while Mr. Kennedy conducted her spouse, along with
Mactavish and our friend the head clerk at Fort Garry, into the parlour.

"Harry, my dear fellow, I wish you joy," cried Mr. Grant, as the former
grasped his hand. "Lucky dog you are. Where's Kate, eh? Not visible
yet, I suppose."

"No, not till the parson comes," interrupted Mr. Kennedy, convulsing
his left cheek.--"Hollo, Charley, where are you? Ah! bring the cigars,
Charley.--Sit down, gentlemen; make yourselves at home--I say, Mrs.
Taddi--Taddi--oh, botheration--popple! that's it--your name, madam, is
a puzzler-but-we'll need more chairs, I think. Fetch one or two, like a
dear!"

As he spoke the jingle of bells was heard outside, and Mr. Kennedy
rushed to the door again.

"Good-evening, Mr. Addison," said he, taking that gentleman warmly by
the hand as he resigned the reins to Tom Whyte. "I am delighted to see
you, sir (Look after the minister's mare, Tom), glad to see you, my
dear sir. Some of my friends have come already. This way, Mr. Addison."

The worthy clergyman responded to Mr. Kennedy's greeting in his own
hearty manner, and followed him into the parlour, where the guests now
began to assemble rapidly.

"Father," cried Charley, catching his sire by the arm, "I've been
looking for you everywhere, but you dance about like a
will-o'-the-wisp. Do you know I've invited my friends Jacques and
Redfeather to come to-night, and also Louis Peltier, the guide with
whom I made my first trip. You recollect him, father?"

"Ay, that do I, lad, and happy shall I be to see three such worthy men
under my roof as guests on this night."

"Yes, yes, I know that, father; but I don't see them here. Have they
come yet?"

"Can't say, boy. By the way, Pastor Conway is also coming, so we'll
have a meeting between an Episcopalian and a Wesleyan. I sincerely
trust that they won't fight!" As he said this the old gentleman grinned
and threw his cheek into convulsions--an expression which was suddenly
changed into one of confusion when he observed that Mr. Addison was
standing close beside him, and had heard the remark.

"Don't blush, my dear sir," said Mr. Addison, with a quiet smile, as he
patted his friend on the shoulder. "You have too much reason, I am
sorry to say, for expecting that clergymen of different denominations
should look coldly on each other. There is far too much of this
indifference and distrust among those who labour in different parts of
the Lord's vineyard. But I trust you will find that my sympathies
extend a little beyond the circle of my own particular body. Indeed,
Mr. Conway is a particular friend of mine; so I assure you we won't
fight."

"Right, right" cried Mr. Kennedy, giving the clergy man an energetic
grasp of the hand; "I like to hear you speak that way. I must confess
that I've been a good deal surprised to observe, by what one reads in
the old-country newspapers, as well as by what one sees even hereaway
in the backwood settlements, how little interest clergymen show in the
doings of those who don't happen to belong to their own particular
sect; just as if a soul saved through the means of an Episcopalian was
not of as much value as one saved by a Wesleyan, or a Presbyterian, or
a Dissenter. Why, sir, it seems to me just as mean-spirited and selfish
as if one of our chief factors was so entirely taken up with the doings
and success of his own particular district that he didn't care a
gun-flint for any other district in the Company's service."

There was at least one man listening to these remarks whose naturally
logical and liberal mind fully agreed with them. This was Jacques
Caradoc, who had entered the room a few minutes before, in company with
his friend Redfeather and Louis Peltier.

"Right, sir! That's fact, straight up and down," said he, in an
approving tone.

"Ha! Jacques, my good fellow, is that you?--Redfeather, my friend, how
are you?" said Mr. Kennedy, turning round and grasping a hand of
each.--"Sit down there, Louis, beside Mrs.
Taddi--eh?--ah!--popple.--Mr. Addison, this is Jacques Caradoc, the
best and stoutest hunter between Hudson's Bay and Oregon."

Jacques smiled and bowed modestly as Mr. Addison shook his hand. The
worthy hunter did indeed at that moment look as if he fully merited Mr.
Kennedy's eulogium. Instead of endeavouring to ape the gentleman, as
many men in his rank of life would have been likely to do on an
occasion like this, Jacques had not altered his costume a hair-breadth
from what it usually was, excepting that some parts of it were quite
new, and all of it faultlessly clean. He wore the usual capote, but it
was his best one, and had been washed for the occasion. The scarlet
belt and blue leggings were also as bright in colour as if they had
been put on for the first time; and the moccasins, which fitted closely
to his well-formed feet, were of the cleanest and brightest yellow
leather, ornamented, as usual, in front. The collar of his blue-striped
shirt was folded back a little more carefully than usual, exposing his
sun-burned and muscular throat. In fact, he wanted nothing, save the
hunting-knife, the rifle, and the powder-horn, to constitute him a
perfect specimen of a thorough backwoodsman.

Redfeather and Louis were similarly costumed, and a noble trio they
looked as they sat modestly in a corner, talking to each other in
whispers, and endeavouring, as much as possible, to curtail their
colossal proportions.

"Now, Harry," said Mr. Kennedy, in a hoarse whisper, at the same time
winking vehemently, "we're about ready, lad. Where's Kate, eh? shall we
send for her?"

Harry blushed, and stammered out something that was wholly
unintelligible, but which, nevertheless, seemed to afford infinite
delight to the old gentleman, who chuckled and winked tremendously,
gave his son-in-law a facetious poke in the ribs, and turning abruptly
to Miss Cookumwell, said to that lady, "Now, Miss Cookumpopple, we're
all ready. They seem to have had enough tea and trash; you'd better be
looking after Kate, I think."

Miss Cookumwell smiled, rose, and left the room to obey; Mrs.
Taddipopple followed to help, and soon returned with Kate, whom they
delivered up to her father at the door. Mr. Kennedy led her to the
upper end of the room; Harry Somerville stood by her side, as if by
magic; Mr. Addison dropped opportunely before them, as if from the
clouds; there was an extraordinary and abrupt pause in the hum of
conversation, and ere Kate was well aware of what was about to happen,
she felt herself suddenly embraced by her husband, from whom she was
thereafter violently torn and all but smothered by her sympathising
friends.

Poor Kate! she had gone through the ceremony almost
mechanically--recklessly, we might be justified in saying; for not
having raised her eyes off the floor from its commencement to its
close, the man whom she accepted for better or for worse might have
been Jacques or Redfeather for all that she knew.

Immediately after this there was heard the sound of a fiddle, and an
old Canadian was led to the upper end of the room, placed on a chair,
and hoisted, by the powerful arms of Jacques and Louis, upon a table.
In this conspicuous position the old man seemed to be quite at his
ease. He spent a few minutes in bringing his instrument into perfect
tune; then looking round with a mild, patronising glance to see that
the dancers were ready, he suddenly struck up a Scotch reel with an
amount of energy, precision, and spirit that might have shot a pang of
jealousy through the heart of Neil Gow himself. The noise that
instantly commenced, and was kept up from that moment, with but few
intervals, during the whole evening, was of a kind that is never heard
in fashionable drawing-rooms. Dancing in the backwood settlements _is_
dancing. It is not walking; it is not sailing; it is not undulating; it
is not sliding; no, it is _bona-fide_ dancing! It is the performance of
intricate evolutions with the feet and legs that make one wink to look
at; performed in good time too, and by people who look upon _all_ their
muscles as being useful machines, not merely things of which a select
few, that cannot be dispensed with, are brought into daily operation.
Consequently the thing was done with an amount of vigour that was
conducive to the health of performers, and productive of satisfaction
to the eyes of beholders. When the evening wore on apace, however, and
Jacques's modesty was so far overcome as to induce him to engage in a
reel, along with his friend Louis Peltier, and two bouncing young
ladies whose father had driven them twenty miles over the plains that
day in order to attend the wedding of their dear friend and former
playmate, Kate--when these four stood up, we say, and the fiddler
played more energetically than ever, and the stout backwoodsmen began
to warm and grow vigorous, until, in the midst of their tremendous
leaps and rapid but well-timed motions, they looked like very giants
amid their brethren, then it was that Harry, as he felt Kate's little
hand pressing his arm, and observed her sparkling eyes gazing at the
dancers in genuine admiration, began at last firmly to believe that the
whole thing was a dream; and then it was that old Mr. Kennedy rejoiced
to think that the house had been built under his own special
directions, and he knew that it could not by any possibility be shaken
to pieces.

And well might Harry imagine that he dreamed; for besides the
bewildering tendency of the almost too-good-to-be-true fact that Kate
was really Mrs. Harry Somerville, the scene before him was a
particularly odd and perplexing mixture of widely different elements,
suggestive of new and old associations. The company was miscellaneous.
There were retired old traders, whose lives from boyhood had been spent
in danger, solitude, wild scenes and adventures, to which those of
Robinson Crusoe are mere child's play. There were young girls, the
daughters of these men, who had received good educations in the Red
River academy, and a certain degree of polish which education always
gives; a very _different_ polish, indeed, from that which the
conventionalities and refinements of the Old World bestow, but not the
less agreeable on that account--nay, we might even venture to say, all
the _more_ agreeable on that account. There were Red Indians and
clergymen; there were one or two ladies of a doubtful age, who had come
out from the old country to live there, having found it no easy matter,
poor things, to live at home; there were matrons whose absolute silence
on every subject save "yes" or "no" showed that they had not been
subjected to the refining influences of the academy, but whose hearty
smiles and laughs of genuine good-nature proved that the storing of the
brain has, after all, _very_ little to do with the best and deepest
feelings of the heart. There were the tones of Scotch reels
sounding--tones that brought Scotland vividly before the very eyes; and
there were Canadian hunters and half-breed voyageurs, whose moccasins
were more accustomed to the turf of the woods than the boards of a
drawing-room, and whose speech and accents made Scotland vanish away
altogether from the memory. There were old people and young folk; there
were fat and lean, short and long. There were songs too--ballads of
England, pathetic songs of Scotland, alternating with the French
ditties of Canada, and the sweet, inexpressibly plaintive canoe-songs
of the voyageur. There were strong contrasts in dress also: some wore
the home-spun trousers of the settlement, a few the ornamented leggings
of the hunter. Capotes were there--loose, flowing, and picturesque; and
broad-cloth tail-coats were there, of the last century, tight-fitting,
angular--in a word, detestable; verifying the truth of the proverb that
extremes meet, by showing that the _cut_ which all the wisdom of
tailors and scientific fops, after centuries of study, had laboriously
wrought out and foisted upon the poor civilised world as perfectly
sublime, appeared in the eyes of backwoodsmen and Indians utterly
ridiculous. No wonder that Harry, under the circumstances, became
quietly insane, and went about committing _nothing_ but mistakes the
whole evening. No wonder that he emulated his father-in-law in abusing
the gray cat, when he found it surreptitiously devouring part of the
supper in an adjoining room; and no wonder that, when he rushed about
vainly in search of Mrs. Taddipopple, to acquaint her with the cat's
wickedness, he, at last, in desperation, laid violent hands on Miss
Cookumwell, and addressed that excellent lady by the name of Mrs.
Poppletaddy.

Were we courageous enough to make the attempt, we would endeavour to
describe that joyful evening from beginning to end. We would tell you
how the company's spirits rose higher and higher, as each individual
became more and more anxious to lend his or her aid in adding to the
general hilarity; how old Mr. Kennedy nearly killed himself in his
fruitless efforts to be everywhere, speak to everybody, and do
everything at once, how Charley danced till he could scarcely speak,
and then talked till he could hardly dance; and how the fiddler,
instead of growing wearied, became gradually and continuously more
powerful, until it seemed as if fifty fiddles were playing at one and
the same time. We would tell you how Mr. Addison drew more than ever to
Mr. Conway, and how the latter gentleman agreed to correspond regularly
with the former thenceforth, in order that their interest in the great
work each had in hand for the _same_ Master might be increased and kept
up; how, in a spirit of recklessness (afterwards deeply repented of), a
bashful young man was induced to sing a song which in the present
mirthful state of the company ought to have been a humorous song, or a
patriotic song, or a good, loud, inspiriting song, or _anything_, in
short, but what it was--a slow, dull, sentimental song, about wasting
gradually away in a sort of melancholy decay, on account of
disappointed love, or some such trash, which was a false sentiment in
itself, and certainly did not derive any additional tinge of
truthfulness from a thin, weak voice, that was afflicted with chronic
flatness, and _edged_ all its notes. Were we courageous enough to go
on, we would further relate to you how during supper Mr. Kennedy
senior, tried to make a speech, and broke down amid uproarious
applause; how Mr. Kennedy, junior, got up thereafter--being urged
thereto by his father, who said, with a convulsion of the cheek, "Get
me out of the scrape, Charley, my boy"--and delivered an oration which
did not display much power of concise elucidation, but was replete,
nevertheless, with consummate impudence; how during this point in the
proceedings the gray cat made a last desperate effort to purloin a cold
chicken, which it had watched anxiously the whole evening, and was
caught in the very act, nearly strangled, and flung out of the window,
where it alighted in safety on the snow, and fled, a wiser, and, we
trust, a better cat. We would recount all this to you, reader, and a
great deal more besides; but we fear to try your patience, and we
tremble violently, much more so, indeed, than you will believe, at the
bare idea of waxing prosy.

Suffice it to say that the party separated at an early hour--a good,
sober, reasonable hour for such an occasion--somewhere before midnight.
The horses were harnessed; the ladies were packed in the sleighs with
furs so thick and plentiful as to defy the cold; the gentlemen seized
their reins and cracked their whips; the horses snorted, plunged, and
dashed away over the white plains in different directions, while the
merry sleigh-bells sounded fainter and fainter in the frosty air. In
half-an-hour the stars twinkled down on the still, cold scene, and
threw a pale light on the now silent dwelling of the old fur-trader.

       *       *      *       *       *       *       *

Ere dropping the curtain over a picture in which we have sought
faithfully to portray the prominent features of those wild regions that
lie to the north of the Canadas, and in which we have endeavoured to
describe some of the peculiarities of a class of men whose histories
seldom meet the public eye, we feel tempted to add a few more touches
to the sketch; we would fain trace a little farther the fortunes of one
or two of the chief factors in our book. But this is not to be.

Snowflakes and sunbeams came and went as in days gone by. Time rolled
on, working many changes in its course, and among others consigning
Harry Somerville to an important post in Red River colony, to the
unutterable joy of Mr. Kennedy, senior, and of Kate. After much
consideration and frequent consultation with Mr. Addison, Mr. Conway
resolved to make another journey to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ
to those Indian tribes that inhabit the regions beyond Athabasca; and
being a man of great energy, he determined not to await the opening of
the river navigation, but to undertake the first part of his expedition
on snow-shoes. Jacques agreed to go with him as guide and hunter,
Redfeather as interpreter. It was a bright, cold morning when he set
out, accompanied part of the way by Charley Kennedy and Harry
Somerville, whose hearts were heavy at the prospect of parting with the
two men who had guided and protected them during their earliest
experience of a voyageur's life, when, with hearts full to overflowing
with romantic anticipations, they first dashed joyously into the almost
untrodden wilderness.

During their career in the woods together, the young men and the two
hunters had become warmly attached to each other; and now that they
were about to part--it might be for years, perhaps for ever--a feeling
of sadness crept over them which they could not shake off, and which
the promise given by Mr. Conway to revisit Red River on the following
spring served but slightly to dispel.

On arriving at the spot where they intended to bid their friends a last
farewell, the two young men held out their hands in silence. Jacques
grasped them warmly.

"Mister Charles, Mister Harry," said he, in a deep, earnest voice, "the
Almighty has guided us in safety for many a day when we travelled the
woods together; for which praised be His Holy Name! May He guide and
bless you still, and bring us together in this world again, if in His
wisdom He see fit."

There was no answer save a deeply-murmured "Amen." In another moment
the travellers resumed their march. On reaching the summit of a slight
eminence, where the prairies terminated and the woods began, they
paused to wave a last adieu; then Jacques, putting himself at the head
of the little party, plunged into the forest, and led them away towards
the snowy regions of the Far North.



THE END.





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