Infomotions, Inc.The Young Fur Traders / Ballantyne, R. M. (Robert Michael), 1825-1894



Author: Ballantyne, R. M. (Robert Michael), 1825-1894
Title: The Young Fur Traders
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): charley; redfeather; jacques; harry; kate; kennedy; harry somerville; hamilton; canoe; tom whyte; snow; stoney creek
Contributor(s): Widger, David, 1932- [Editor]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
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Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 122,567 words (average) Grade range: 11-14 (high school) Readability score: 58 (average)
Identifier: etext6357
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Title: The Young Fur Traders

Author: R.M. Ballantyne

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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 _employes_ 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 deg. 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. Keason 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 Francois 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 garcons, 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 garcons," he exclaimed, leaping ashore, and helping to
drag the boat a little way on to the beach, "vite, vite! a terre, a
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, Francois, 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.

"Leve, leve, leve!" he cried, "leve, leve, 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 _leve_, 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 _leve_ is inexorable, and the
voyageur's fate inevitable.

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

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

"Eh, what's that? Oh, misere!"

"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.

"Leve! leve!! leve!!!" 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 garcons," 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! a terre! a 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 AEsculapius.

"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 aerolite, 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 Labonte, 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 Labonte, 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 _melange_ 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 _melee_ 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 tis 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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