Away in the Wilderness; Red Indians and Fur Traders of N.America
by R.M. Ballantyne
ONE. THE HUNTER.
CHAPTER TWO. THE
CHAPTER SIX. THE
CHAPTER SEVEN. A
AND A FIGHT WITH
SCENES AND MEN.
THE FORT, AND AN
ON THE PRAIRIES.
IN THE SNOW—A
THE WEDDING, AN
FEAST, AND A
CHAPTER ONE. THE HUNTER.
On a beautiful summer evening, not many years ago, a man was seen to
ascend the side of a little mound or hillock, on the top of which he
lingered to gaze upon the wild scenery that lay stretched out before
The man wore the leathern coat and leggings of a North American
hunter, or trapper, or backwoodsman; and well did he deserve all these
titles, for Jasper Derry was known to his friends as the best hunter,
the most successful trapper, and the boldest man in the backwoods.
Jasper was big and strong as well as bold, but he was not a bully.
Men of true courage are in general peacefully disposed. Jasper could
fight like a lion when there was occasion to do so; but he was gentle
and grave, and quiet by nature. He was also extremely good-humoured;
had a low soft voice, and, both in mind and body, seemed to delight in
a state of repose.
We have said that his coat was made of leather; the moccasins or
Indian shoes on his feet were made of the same material. When Jasper
first put them on they were soft like a glove of chamois leather, and
bright yellow; but hard service had turned them into a dirty brown,
which looked more business like. The sun had burned his face and hands
to as deep a brown as his coat. On his head he wore a little round cap,
which he had made with his own hands, after having caught the black fox
that supplied the fur, in one of his own traps. A coloured worsted belt
bound his coat round his waist, and beneath the coat he wore a scarlet
flannel shirt. A long knife and a small hatchet were stuck in the belt
at his back, and in front hung a small cloth bag, which was so thickly
ornamented with beads of many colours, that little of the cloth could
This last was a fire-bag—so called because it contained the flint,
steel, and tinder required for making a fire. It also contained
Jasper's pipe and tobacco—for he smoked, as a matter of course. Men
smoke everywhere—more's the pity—and Jasper followed the example of
those around him. Smoking was almost his only fault. He was a
tremendous smoker. Often, when out of tobacco, he had smoked tea.
Frequently he had tried bark and dried leaves; and once, when hard
pressed, he had smoked oakum. He would rather have gone without his
supper than without his pipe! A powder-horn and shot pouch were slung
over his shoulders by two cross belts, and he carried a long
I have been thus particular in describing Jasper Derry, because he
is our hero, and he is worth describing, being a fine, hearty, handsome
fellow, who cared as little for a wild Indian or a grizzly bear as he
did for a butterfly, and who was one of the best of companions, as he
was one of the best of hunters, in the wilderness.
Having gained the top of the hillock, Jasper placed the butt of his
long gun on the ground, and, crossing his hands over the muzzle, stood
there for some time so motionless, that he might have been mistaken for
a statue. A magnificent country was spread out before him. Just in
front lay a clear lake of about a mile in extent, and the evening was
so still that every tree, stone, and bush on its margin, was reflected
as in a mirror. Here, hundreds of wild ducks and wild geese were
feeding among the sedges of the bays, or flying to and fro mingling
their cries with those of thousands of plover and other kinds of
water-fowl that inhabited the place. At the lower end of this lake a
small rivulet was seen to issue forth and wind its way through woods
and plains like a silver thread, until it was lost to view in the far
distance. On the right and left and behind, the earth was covered with
the dense foliage of the wild woods.
The hillock on which the western hunter stood, lay in the very heart
of that great uncultivated wilderness which forms part of the British
possessions in North America. This region lies to the north of the
Canadas, is nearly as large as all Europe, and goes by the name of the
Hudson's Bay Territory, or Rupert's Land.
It had taken Jasper many long weeks of hard travel by land and
water, in canoes and on foot, to get there; and several weeks of toil
still lay before him ere he could attain the object for which his
journey had been undertaken.
Wicked people say that “woman is at the bottom of all mischief!” Did
it never occur to these same wicked individuals, that woman is just as
much at the bottom of all good? Whether for good or for evil, woman was
at the bottom of Jasper Perry's heart and affairs. The cause of his
journey was love; the aim and end of it was marriage! Did true love
ever run smooth? “No, never,” says the proverb. We shall see.
CHAPTER TWO. THE THREE FRIENDS.
When the hunter had stood for full five minutes gazing at the
beautiful scenery by which he was surrounded, it suddenly occurred to
him that a pipe would render him much more capable of enjoying it; so
he sat down on the trunk of a fallen tree, leaned his gun on it, pulled
the fire-bag from his belt, and began to fill his pipe, which was one
of the kind used by the savages of the country, with a stone head and a
wooden stem. It was soon lighted, and Jasper was thinking how much more
clear and beautiful a landscape looked through tobacco smoke, when a
hand was laid lightly on his shoulder. Looking quickly round, he beheld
a tall dark-faced Indian standing by his side.
Jasper betrayed neither alarm nor surprise; for the youth was his
own comrade, who had merely come to tell him that the canoe in which
they had been travelling together, and which had been slightly damaged,
was repaired and ready for service.
“Why, Arrowhead, you steal on me with the soft tread of a fox. My
ears are not dull, yet I did not hear your approach, lad.”
A smile lighted up the countenance of the young Indian for a moment,
as he listened to a compliment which gratified him much; but the grave
expression which was natural to him instantly returned, as he said,
“Arrowhead has hunted in the Rocky Mountains where the men are
treacherous; he has learned to tread lightly there.”
“No doubt, ye had need to be always on the look out where there are
such varmints; but hereaway, Arrowhead, there are no foes to fear, and
therefore no need to take yer friends by surprise. But ye're proud o'
your gifts, lad, an' I suppose it's natural to like to show them off.
Is the canoe ready?”
The Indian replied by a nod.
“That's well, lad, it will be sun-down in another hour, an' I would
like to camp on the point of pines to-night; so come along.”
“Hist!” exclaimed the Indian, pointing to a flock of geese which
came into view at that moment.
“Ah! you come of a masterful race,” said Jasper, shaking his head
gravely, “you're never content when ye've got enough, but must always
be killing God's creatures right and left for pure sport. Haven't we
got one grey goose already for supper, an' that's enough for two men
surely. Of course I make no account o' the artist, poor cratur', for he
eats next to nothin'. Hows'ever, as your appetite may be sharper set
than usual, I've no objection to bring down another for ye.”
So saying the hunter and the Indian crouched behind a bush, and the
former, while he cocked his gun and examined the priming, gave
utterance to a series of cries so loud and discordant, that any one who
was ignorant of a hunter's ways must have thought he was anxious to
drive all the living creatures within six miles of him away in terror.
Jasper had no such wish, however. He was merely imitating the cry of
the wild geese. The birds, which were at first so far-off that a
rifle-ball could not have reached them, no sooner heard the cry of
their friends (as they doubtless thought it) than they turned out of
their course, and came gradually towards the bush where the two men lay
The hunter did not cease to cry until the birds were within gunshot.
Then he fixed his eye on one of the flock that seemed plump and fat.
The long barrel of the gun was quickly raised, the geese discovered
their mistake, and the whole flock were thrown into wild confusion as
they attempted to sheer off; but it was too late. Smoke and fire burst
from the bush, and an enormous grey goose fell with a heavy crash to
“What have you shot? what have you shot?” cried a shrill and
somewhat weak voice in the distance. In another moment the owner of the
voice appeared, running eagerly towards the two men.
“Use your eyes, John Heywood, an' ye won't need to ask,” said
Jasper, with a quiet smile, as he carefully reloaded his gun.
“Ah! I see—a grey swan—no, surely, it cannot be a goose?” said
Heywood, turning the bird over and regarding it with astonishment;
“why, this is the biggest one I ever did see.”
“What's yon in the water? Deer, I do believe,” cried Jasper, quickly
drawing the small shot from his gun and putting in a ball instead.
“Come, lads, we shall have venison for supper to-night. That beast
can't reach t'other side so soon as we can.”
Jasper leaped quickly down the hill, and dashed through the bushes
towards the spot where their canoe lay. He was closely followed by his
companions, and in less than two minutes they were darting across the
lake in their little Indian canoe, which was made of birch-bark, and
was so light that one man could carry it easily.
While they are thus engaged I will introduce the reader to John
Heywood. This individual was a youth of nineteen or twenty years of
age, who was by profession a painter of landscapes and animals. He was
tall and slender in person, with straight black hair, a pale
haggard-looking face, an excitable nervous manner, and an enthusiastic
temperament. Being adventurous in his disposition, he had left his
father's home in Canada, and entreated his friend, Jasper Derry, to
take him along with him into the wilderness. At first Jasper was very
unwilling to agree to this request; because the young artist was
utterly ignorant of everything connected with a life in the woods, and
he could neither use a paddle nor a gun. But Heywood's father had done
him some service at a time when he was ill and in difficulties, so, as
the youth was very anxious to go, he resolved to repay this good turn
of the father by doing a kindness to the son.
Heywood turned out but a poor backwoodsman, but he proved to be a
pleasant, amusing companion, and as Jasper and the Indian were quite
sufficient for the management of the light canoe, and the good gun of
the former was more than sufficient to feed the party, it mattered
nothing to Jasper that Heywood spent most of his time seated in the
middle of the canoe, sketching the scenery as they went along. Still
less did it matter that Heywood missed everything he fired at, whether
it was close at hand or far away.
At first Jasper was disposed to look upon his young companion as a
poor useless creature; and the Indian regarded him with undisguised
contempt. But after they had been some time in his company, the
opinions of these two men of the woods changed; for they found that the
artist was wise, and well informed on many subjects of which they were
extremely ignorant; and they beheld with deep admiration the beautiful
and life-like drawings and paintings which he produced in rapid
Such was the romantic youth who had, for the sake of seeing and
painting the wilderness, joined himself to these rough sons of the
forest, and who now sat in the centre of the canoe swaying his arms
about and shouting with excitement as they quickly drew near to the
swimming herd of deer.
“Keep yourself still,” said Jasper, looking over his shoulder,
“ye'll upset the canoe if ye go on like that.”
“Give me the axe, give me the axe, I'll kill him!” cried Heywood.
“Take your pencil and draw him,” observed the hunter, with a quiet
laugh. “Now, Arrowhead, two good strokes of the paddle will do—there
As he spoke the canoe glanced up alongside of an affrighted deer,
and in the twinkling of an eye Jasper's long knife was in its heart,
and the water was dyed with blood. This happened quite near to the
opposite shore of the lake, so that in little more than half an hour
after it was killed the animal was cut up and packed, and the canoe was
again speeding towards the upper end of the lake, where the party
arrived just as night began to fling its dark mantle over the
CHAPTER THREE. THE ENCAMPMENT.
Camping out in the woods at night is truly a delightful thing, and
the pleasantest part of it, perhaps, is the lighting of the fire. Light
is agreeable to human eyes and cheering to the human heart. Solomon
knew and felt that when he penned the words, “A pleasant thing it is
for the eyes to behold the sun.” And the rising of the sun is scarcely
more grateful to the feelings than the lighting of a fire on a dark
night. So our friends thought and felt, when the fire blazed up, but
they were too busy and too hungry at the time to think about the state
of their feelings.
The Indian was hungry. A good fire had to be made before the venison
could be roasted, so he gave his whole attention to the felling of dry
trees and cutting them up into logs for the fire. Jasper was also
hungry, and a slight shower had wetted all the moss and withered grass,
so he had enough to do to strike fire with flint and steel, catch a
spark on a little piece of tinder, and then blow and coax the spark
into a flame.
The artist was indeed free to indulge in a little meditation; but he
had stumbled in the dark on landing, and bruised his shins, so he could
only sit down on a rock and rub them and feel miserable.
But the fire soon caught; branches were heaped up, great logs were
piled on, forked tongues of flame began to leap up and lick the
branches of the overhanging trees. The green leaves looked rich and
warm; the thick stems looked red and hot; the faces and clothes of the
men seemed as if about to catch fire as they moved about the encampment
preparing supper. In short, the whole scene was so extremely
comfortable, in reality as well as in appearance, that Heywood forgot
his bruised shins and began to rub his hands with delight.
In a very short time three juicy venison-steaks were steaming before
the three travellers, and in a much shorter time they had disappeared
altogether and were replaced by three new ones. The mode of cooking was
very simple. Each steak was fixed on a piece of stick and set up before
the fire to roast. When one side was ready, the artist, who seemed to
have very little patience, began to cut off pieces and eat them while
the other side was cooking.
To say truth, men out in those regions have usually such good
appetites that they are not particular as to the cooking of their food.
Quantity, not quality, is what they desire. They generally feel very
much like the Russian, of whom it is said, that he would be content to
eat sawdust if only he GOT PLENTY OF IT! The steaks were washed down
with tea. There is no other drink in Rupert's Land. The Hudson's Bay
Company found that spirits were so hurtful to the Indians that they
refused to send them into the country; and at the present day there is
no strong drink to be had for love or money over the length and breadth
of their territories, except at those places where other fur-traders
oppose them, and oblige them, in self-defence, to sell fire-water, as
the Indians call it.
Tea is the great—the only—drink in Rupert's Land! Yes, laugh as ye
will, ye lovers of gin and beer and whisky, one who has tried it, and
has seen it tried by hundreds of stout stalwart men, tells you that the
teetotaller is the best man for real hard work.
The three travellers drank their tea and smacked their lips, and
grinned at each other with great satisfaction. They could not have done
more if it had been the best of brandy and they the jolliest of topers!
But the height of their enjoyment was not reached until the pipes were
It was quite a sight to see them smoke! Jasper lay with his huge
frame extended in front of the blaze, puffing clouds of smoke thick
enough to have shamed a small cannon. Arrowhead rested his back on the
stump of a tree, stretched his feet towards the fire, and allowed the
smoke to roll slowly through his nostrils as well as out at his mouth,
so that it kept curling quietly round his nose, and up his cheeks, and
into his eyes, and through his hair in a most delightful manner; at
least so it would seem, for his reddish-brown face beamed with happy
Young Heywood did not smoke, but he drew forth his sketch-book and
sketched his two companions; and in the practice of his beloved art, I
have no doubt, he was happier than either.
“I wonder how many trading-posts the Hudson's Bay Company has got?”
said Heywood, as he went on with his work.
“Hundreds of 'em,” said Jasper, pressing the red-hot tobacco into
the bowl of his pipe with the end of his little finger, as slowly and
coolly as if his flesh were fire-proof. “I don't know, exactly, how
many they've got. I doubt if anybody does, but they have them all over
the country. You've seen a little of the country now, Heywood; well,
what you have seen is very much like what you will see as long as you
choose to travel hereaway. You come to a small clearing in the forest,
with five or six log houses in it, a stockade round it, and a flagstaff
in the middle of it; five, ten, or fifteen men, and a gentleman in
charge. That's a Hudson's Bay Company's trading-post. All round it lie
the wild woods. Go through the woods for two or three hundred miles and
you'll come to another such post, or fort, as we sometimes call 'em.
That's how it is all the country over. Although there are many of them,
the country is so uncommon big that they may be said to be few and far
between. Some are bigger and some are less. There's scarcely a
settlement in the country worthy o' the name of a village except Red
“Ah! Red River,” exclaimed Heywood, “I've heard much of that
settlement—hold steady—I'm drawing your NOSE just now—have you been
“That have I, lad, and a fine place it is, extendin' fifty miles or
more along the river, with fine fields, and handsome houses, and
churches, and missionaries and schools, and what not; but the rest of
Rupert's Land is just what you have seen; no roads, no houses, no
cultivated fields—nothing but lakes, and rivers, and woods, and plains
without end, and a few Indians here and there, with plenty of wild
beasts everywhere. These trading-posts are scattered here and there,
from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from Canada to the Frozen Sea,
standin' solitary-like in the midst of the wilderness, as if they had
dropped down from the clouds by mistake and didn't know exactly what to
do with themselves.”
“How long have de Company lived?” inquired Arrowhead, turning
suddenly to Jasper.
The stout hunter felt a little put out. “Ahem! I don't exactly know;
but it must have been a long time, no doubt.”
“Oh, I can tell you that,” cried Heywood.
“You?” said Jasper in surprise.
“Ay; the Company was started nearly two hundred years ago by Prince
Rupert, who was the first Governor, and that's the reason the country
came to be called Rupert's Land. You know its common name is 'the
Hudson's Bay Territory,' because it surrounds Hudson's Bay.”
“Why, where did you learn that?” said Jasper, “I thought I knowed
a-most everything about the Company; but I must confess I never knew
that about Prince Rupert before.”
“I learned it from books,” said the artist.
“Books!” exclaimed Jasper, “I never learned nothin' from books—
more's the pity. I git along well enough in the trappin' and shootin'
way without 'em; but I'm sorry I never learned to read. Ah! I've a
great opinion of books—so I have.”
The worthy hunter shook his head solemnly as he said this in a low
voice, more to himself than to his companions, and he continued to
mutter and shake his head for some minutes, while he knocked the ashes
out of his pipe. Having refilled and relighted it, he drew his blanket
over his shoulder, laid his head upon a tuft of grass, and continued to
smoke until he fell asleep, and allowed the pipe to fall from his lips.
The Indian followed his example, with this difference, that he laid
aside his pipe, and drew the blanket over his head and under his feet,
and wrapped it round him in such a way that he resembled a man sewed up
in a sack.
Heywood was thus compelled to shut his sketch-book; so he also
wrapped himself in his blanket, and was soon sound asleep.
The camp-fire gradually sank low. Once or twice the end of a log
fell, sending up a bright flame and a shower of sparks, which, for a
few seconds, lighted up the scene again and revealed the three
slumbering figures. But at last the fire died out altogether, and left
the encampment in such thick darkness that the sharpest eye would have
failed to detect the presence of man in that distant part of the lone
CHAPTER FOUR. MOSQUITOES—CAMP-FIRE
There is a certain fly in the American forests which is worthy of
notice, because it exercises a great influence over the happiness of
man in those regions. This fly is found in many other parts of the
world, but it swarms in immense numbers in America, particularly in the
swampy districts of that continent, and in the hot months of summer. It
is called a mosquito—pronounced MOSKEETO—and it is, perhaps, the most
tormenting, the most persevering, savage, vicious little monster on the
face of the earth. Other flies go to sleep at night; the mosquito never
does. Darkness puts down other flies—it seems to encourage the
mosquito. Day and night it persecutes man and beast, and the only time
of the twenty-four hours in which it seems to rest is about noon, when
the heat puts IT down for a little. But this period of rest strengthens
it for a renewal of war during the remainder of the day and night. In
form the mosquito very much resembles the gnat, but is somewhat larger.
This instrument of torture is his nose, which is quite as long as his
body, and sharper than the finest needle. Being unable to rest because
of the mosquitoes, Heywood resolved to have a chat.
“Come, Jasper,” said he, looking up into his companion's grave
countenance, “although we have been many weeks on this journey now, you
have not yet told me what has brought you here, or what the end of your
trip is going to be.”
“I've come here a-hunting,” said Jasper, with the look and tone of a
man who did not wish to be questioned.
“Nay, now, I know that is not the reason,” said Heywood, smiling;
“you could have hunted much nearer home, if you had been so minded, and
to as good purpose. Come, Jasper, you know I'm your friend, and that I
wish you well. Let me hear what has brought you so far into the
wilderness—mayhap I can give you some good advice if you do.”
“Well, lad, I don't mind if I do. Though, for the matter of good
advice, I don't feel much in need of any just at this time.”
Jasper shook the ashes out of his pipe, and refilled it as he spoke;
then he shook his head once or twice and smiled, as if his thoughts
amused him. Having lighted the pipe, he stretched himself out in a more
comfortable way before the blaze, and said—
“Well, lad, I'll tell ye what it is—it's the old story; the love of
woman has brought me here.”
“And a very good old story it is,” returned Heywood, with a look of
interest. “A poor miserable set of creatures we should be without that
same love of woman. Come, Jasper, I'm glad to hear you're such a
sensible fellow. I know something about that subject myself. There's a
pretty blue-eyed girl, with golden hair, down away in Canada that—“
Heywood stopped short in his speech and sighed.
“Come, it ain't a hopeless case, is it?” said Jasper, with a look of
“I rather fear it is; but I hope not. Ah, what should we do without
hope in this world?”
“That's true,” observed Jasper, with much gravity, “we could not get
on at all without hope.”
“But come, Jasper,” said the artist, “let's hear about your affair,
and I'll tell you about mine some other time.”
“Well, there is not much to tell, but I'll give ye all that's of it.
You must know, then, that about two years ago I was in the service of
the Hudson's Bay Company, at one o' their outposts in the McKenzie's
River district. We had little to eat there and little to do, and I felt
so lonesome, never seein' a human bein' except the four or five men at
the fort an' a few Indians, that I made up my mind to quit. I had no
reason to complain o' the Company, d'ye see. They always treated me
handsomely, and it was no fault o' theirs that the livin' in that
district was poor and the post lonesome.
“Well, on my way down to Lake Winnipeg, I fell in with a brigade o'
boats goin' to the Saskatchewan district, and we camped together that
night. One o' the guides of the Saskatchewan brigade had his daughter
with him. The guide was a French-Canadian, and his wife had been a
Scotch half-caste, so what the daughter was is more than I can tell;
but I know what she looked like. She just looked like an angel. It
wasn't so much that she was pretty, but she was so sweet, and so quiet
lookin', and so innocent! Well, to cut the matter short, I fell in love
at once. D'ye know what it is, Heywood, to fall in love at first
“Oh! don't I?” replied the artist with sudden energy.
“An' d'ye know,” continued Jasper, “what it is to be
fallen-in-love-with, at first sight?”
“Well, no, I'm not so sure about that,” replied Heywood sadly.
“I do, then,” said Jasper, “for that sweet critter fell in love with
me right off—though what she saw in me to love has puzzled me much.
Howsoever, she did, and for that I'm thankful. Her name is Marie
Laroche. She and I opened our minds to each other that night, and I
took the guide, her father, into the woods, and told him I wanted his
daughter; and he was agreeable; but he would not hear of my takin' her
away then and there. He told me I must go down to Canada and get
settled, and when I had a house to put his daughter in, I was to come
back into the wilderness here and be married to her, and then take her
home—so here I am on my way to claim my bride. But there's one thing
that puzzles me sorely.”
“What is that?” asked Heywood.
“I've never heard from Marie from that day to this,” said Jasper.
“That is strange,” replied the other; “but perhaps she cannot
“That's true. Now, you speak of it, I do believe she can't write a
line; but, then, she might have got some one to write for her.”
“Did you leave your address with her?”
“How could I, when I had no address to leave?”
“But did you ever send it to her?”
“No, I never thought of that,” said Jasper, opening his eyes very
wide. “Come, that's a comfort—that's a good reason for never havin'
heard from her. Thankee, lad, for putting me up to it. And, now, as we
must be up and away in another hour, I'll finish my nap.”
So saying, Jasper put out his pipe and once more drew his blanket
over him. Heywood followed his example, and while he lay there gazing
up at the stars through the trees, he heard the worthy hunter muttering
to himself, “That's it; that accounts for my not hearin' from her.”
A sigh followed the words, very soon a snore followed the sigh, and
ere many minutes had passed away, the encampment was again buried in
darkness and repose.
CHAPTER FIVE. JOURNEYING IN THE
It seemed to Heywood that he had not been asleep more than five
minutes, when he was aroused by Jasper laying his heavy hand on his
shoulder. On rubbing his eyes and gazing round him, he found that the
first streak of dawn was visible in the eastern sky, that the canoe was
already in the water, and that his companions were ready to embark.
It is usually found that men are not disposed to talk at that early
hour. Heywood merely remarked that it was a fine morning, to which
Jasper replied by a nod of his head. Nothing more was said. The artist
rolled up his blanket in a piece of oiled-cloth, collected his drawing
materials and put them into their bag, got into his place in the centre
of the canoe, and immediately went to sleep, while Jasper and the
Indian, taking their places in the bow and stern, dipped the paddles
into the water and shot away from the shore. They looked mysterious and
ghostly in the dim morning light; and the whole scene around them
looked mysterious and ghostly too, for the water in the lake seemed
black, and the shores and islands looked like dark shadows, and a pale
thin mist rolled slowly over the surface of the water and hung
overhead. No sound was heard except the light plash of the paddles as
the two backwoodsmen urged their little canoe swiftly along.
By degrees the light of day increased, and Jasper awakened Heywood
in order that he might behold the beautiful scenery through which they
passed. They were now approaching the upper end of the lake, in which
there were innumerable islands of every shape and size—some of them
not more than a few yards in length, while some were two or three
hundred yards across, but all were clothed with the most beautiful
green foliage and shrubbery. As the pale yellow of the eastern sky
began to grow red, ducks and gulls bestirred themselves. Early risers
among them first began to chirp, and scream, and whistle their morning
song,—for there are lazy ones among the birds, just as there are among
men. Sometimes, when the canoe rounded a point of rocks a flock of
geese were found floating peacefully among the sedges, sound asleep,
with their heads under their wings. These would leap into the air and
fly off in great alarm, with much difficulty and tremendous splutter,
reminding one of the proverb, “The more haste the less speed.” At other
times they would come upon a flock of ducks so suddenly, that they had
no time to take wing, so they dived instead, and thus got out of the
Then the yellow hue of sunrise came, a good while before the sun
himself rose. The last of the bright stars were put out by the flood of
light, and multitudes of little birds on shore began to chirp their
morning song; and who can say that this was not a hymn of praise to
God, when, in the Holy Bible itself, in the 150th Psalm, we find it
written, “Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord.”
At last the sun burst forth in all his golden glory. Water, earth,
and sky glowed as if they had been set on fire. What a blessed
influence the sun has upon this world! It resembles the countenance of
a loving father beaming in upon his family, driving away clouds, and
diffusing warmth and joy.
The birds were now all astir together, insomuch that the air seemed
alive with them. There are small white gulls, with red legs and red
beaks, in those large inland lakes, just as there are on the ocean.
These began to utter their sweet wild cries so powerfully that they
almost drowned the noise of all the rest. Yet the united chorus of the
whole was not harsh. It was softened and mellowed by distance, and fell
on the ears of the two hunters as pleasantly as the finest music does
in the ears of men trained to sweet sounds from infancy.
Not until the sun had ascended a considerable way on its course
through the sky, did Jasper think it necessary to lay down his paddle.
By that time the upper end of the lake had been reached, and the hunter
had run the canoe close to a ledge of flat rock and jumped ashore,
saying that it was time for breakfast.
“I had almost got to believe I was in paradise,” said Heywood, as he
“I often think there's a good deal of the garden of Eden still left
in this world,” replied Jasper, as he carried the kettle up to the
level part of the rock and began to kindle a fire, while the Indian, as
usual, hewed the wood. “If we could only make use of God's gifts
instead of abusin' them, I do believe we might be very happy all our
“See there, Jasper, is one of the birds I want so much to get hold
of. I want to make a drawing of him. Would you object to spend a shot
on such game.”
Heywood pointed as he spoke to a grey bird, about the size of a
blackbird, which sat on a branch close above his head. This creature is
called by the fur-traders a whisky-John, and it is one of the most
impudent little birds in the world! Wherever you go throughout the
country, there you find whisky-Johns ready to receive and welcome you,
as if they were the owners of the soil. They are perfectly fearless;
they will come and sit on a branch within a yard of your hand, when you
are eating, and look at you in the most inquisitive manner. If they
could speak, they could not say more plainly, “What have you got there?
—give me some!” If you leave the mouth of your provision sack open they
are sure to jump into it. When you are done eating they will scarcely
let you six yards away before they make a dash at the crumbs; and if
you throw sticks or stones at them, they will hop out of the way, but
they will not take to flight!
“It would be a pity to waste powder on them critters,” said Jasper,
“but I'll catch one for you.”
As he said this he took a few crumbs of broken meat from the bottom
of the provision sack and spread them on his right hand; then he lay
down under a bush, covered his face with a few leaves, and thrust out
his hand. Heywood and the Indian retired a few paces and stood still to
await the result.
In a few seconds a whisky-John came flying towards the open hand,
and alighted on a branch within a yard of it. Here he shook his
feathers and looked very bold, but suspicious, for a few minutes,
turning first one eye towards the hand, and then the other. After a
little he hopped on a branch still nearer, and, seeing no motion in the
hand, he at last hopped upon the palm and began to peck the crumbs.
Instantly the fingers closed, and Jasper caught him by the toes,
whereupon the whisky-John began to scream furiously with rage and
terror. But I am bound to say there was more of rage than of terror in
Jasper handed the passionate bird over to the artist, who tried to
make a portrait of him, but he screamed and pecked so fiercely that
Heywood was obliged to let him go after making a rough sketch.
Breakfast was a repetition of the supper of the night before; it was
soon disposed of, and the three travellers again set forth. This time
Jasper sang one of the beautiful canoe songs peculiar to that country,
and Heywood and Arrowhead, both of whom had good voices, joined in the
They soon passed from the lake into the river by which it was fed.
At first the current of this river was sluggish; but as they ascended,
it became stronger, and was broken here and there by rapids.
The severe toil of travelling in the backwoods now began. To paddle
on a level lake all day is easy enough, for, when you get tired, you
can lay down the paddle and rest. But in the river this is impossible,
because of the current. The only way to get a rest is to push the bow
of the canoe ashore. It was a fine sight to see the movements of Jasper
and the Indian when they came to the first rapid. Heywood knew that he
could be of no use, so, like a wise man, he sat still and looked on.
The rapid was a very strong one, but there were no falls in it; only
a furious gush of water over the broken bed of the river, where many
large rocks rose up and caught the current, hurling the water back in
white foam. Any one who knew not what these hunters could do, would
have laughed if you had told him they were about to ascend that rapid
in such an egg-shell of a canoe!
They began by creeping up, in-shore, as far as they could. Then they
dashed boldly out into the stream, and the current whirled them down
with lightning speed, but suddenly the canoe came to a halt in the very
middle of the stream! Every rock in a rapid has a long tail of still
water below it; the canoe had got into one of these tails or eddies,
and there it rested securely. A few yards higher up there was another
rock, nearer to the opposite bank, and the eddy which tailed off from
it came down a little lower than the rock behind which the canoe now
lay. There was a furious gush of water between them and this eddy, but
the men knew what the canoe could bear, and their nerves were strong
and steady. Across they went like a shot. They were swept down to the
extreme point of the eddy, but a few powerful strokes of the paddle
sent them into it, and next moment they were floating behind the second
rock, a few yards higher up the stream.
Thus they darted from rock to rock, gaining a few yards at each
dart, until at last they swept into the smooth water at the head of the
Many a time was this repeated that day, for rapids were numerous;
their progress was therefore slow. Sometimes they came to parts of the
river where the stream was very strong and deep, but not broken by
rocks, so that they had no eddies to dart into. In such places
Arrowhead and Heywood walked along the bank, and hauled the canoe up by
means of a line, while Jasper remained in it to steer. This was hard
work, for the banks in places were very steep, in some parts composed
of soft mud, into which the men sank nearly up to their knees, and in
other places covered so thickly with bushes that it was almost
impossible to force a path through them. Jasper and the Indian took the
steering-paddle by turns, and when Heywood required a rest he got into
his place in the middle of the canoe; but they never halted for more
than a few minutes at a time. All day they paddled and dragged the
canoe slowly up against the strong current, and when night closed in
they found they had advanced only three miles on their journey.
The last obstacle they came to that day was a roaring waterfall
about thirty feet high. Here, it might have been thought, was an
effectual check to them at last. Nothing without wings could have gone
up that waterfall, which filled the woods with the thunder of its roar;
but the canoe had no wings, so what was to be done?
To one ignorant of the customs of that country, going on would have
seemed impossible, but nothing can stop the advance of a backwoods
voyager. If his canoe won't carry him, he carries his canoe! Jasper and
his friends did so on the present occasion. They had reached what is
called a portage or carrying-place, and there are hundreds of such
places all over Rupert's Land.
On arriving at the foot of the fall, Heywood set off at once to a
spot from which he could obtain a good view of it, and sat down to
sketch, while his companions unloaded the canoe and lifted it out of
the water. Then Jasper collected together as much of the baggage as he
could carry, and clambered up the bank with it, until he reached the
still water at the top of the fall. Here he laid it down and returned
for another load. Meanwhile Arrowhead lifted the canoe with great ease,
placed it on his shoulders, and bore it to the same place. When all had
been carried up, the canoe was launched into the quiet water a few
hundred yards above the fall, the baggage was replaced in it, and the
travellers were ready to continue their voyage. This whole operation is
called MAKING A PORTAGE. It took about an hour to make this portage.
Portages vary in length and in numbers. In some rivers they are few
and far between; in others they are so numerous that eight or twelve
may have to be made in a day. Many of the portages are not more than an
eighth of a mile in length, and are crossed for the purpose of avoiding
a waterfall. Some are four or five miles in extent, for many long
reaches in the rivers are so broken by falls and rapids, that the
voyagers find it their best plan to take canoes and baggage on their
backs and cut across country for several miles; thus they avoid rough
Jasper delayed starting for half an hour, in order to give Heywood
time to finish his sketch of the fall. It began to grow dark when they
again embarked, so, after paddling up stream until a convenient place
was found, they put ashore and encamped within sight of another
waterfall, the roar of which, softened by distance, fell upon their
ears all that night like the sound of pleasant music.
CHAPTER SIX. THE OUTPOST.
On the morning of the second day after the events which I have
described in the last chapter, our three travellers arrived at one of
the solitary outposts belonging to the fur-traders. It stood on the
banks of the river, and consisted of four small houses made of logs. It
covered about an acre of ground, and its only defence was a wall of
wooden posts, about two inches apart, which completely surrounded the
“This fort is a namesake of mine,” said Jasper, when they first
sighted it; “they call it Jasper's House. I spent a day at it when I
was hereaway two years ago.”
“Who is in charge of it?” asked Heywood.
“A gentleman named Grant, I believe,” replied Jasper. “That white
painted house in the middle of the square is his. The other house on
the right, painted yellow, is where the men live. Mr Grant has only got
six men, poor fellow, to keep him company; he seldom sees a new face
here from one end of the year to the other. But he makes a trip once a
year to the head post of the district with his furs, and that's a sort
of break to him.”
“Are there no women at the place?” inquired the artist.
“Only two,” replied Jasper. “At least there were two when I was here
last; they were the wives of two of the men, Indian women they were,
with few brains, and little or nothin' to say; but they were useful
critters for all that, for they could make coats, and trousers, and
moccasins, and mittens, and they were first-rate cooks, besides bein'
handy at almost every kind o' work. They could even use the gun. I've
heard o' them bringin' down a wild goose on the wing, when none o' the
men were at hand to let drive at the passing flock. I do believe that's
Mr Grant himself standin' at the gate o' the fort.”
Jasper was right. The master of Jasper's House, a big,
hearty-looking man of about five-and-forty, was standing at the gate of
his lonely residence, leaning against one of the door-posts, with his
hands in his breeches pockets and a short pipe in his mouth. His summer
employments had come to an end,—no Indians had been near the place for
many weeks, and he happened to have nothing at that time to do but eat,
smoke, and sleep; which three occupations he usually attended to with
much earnestness. Mr Grant did not observe the canoe approaching from
below, for at that time his attention was attracted to something up the
river. Suddenly he started, took his pipe from his lips, and, bending
forward, listened with deep, earnest attention. A faint murmur came
floating down on the breeze, sending a thrill of pleasure to the heart
of the solitary man, as well it might, for a new face was a rare sight
at Jasper's House.
At last a loud shout rang through the forest, and five Indian canoes
swept round a point of rocks, and came suddenly into view, the men
tossing their paddles in the air and sending rainbows of spray over
their heads as they made for the landing-place. These were three or
four families of Indians, who had come from a long hunting expedition
laden with rich furs.
Their canoes, though small and light, could hold a wonderful
quantity. In the foremost sat a young savage, with a dark-brown face,
glittering black eyes, and stiff black hair hanging straight down all
round his head, except in front, where it was cut short off just above
the eyes in order to let his face appear. That fellow's canoe, besides
himself, carried his three wives—he was a good hunter, and could
afford to have three. Had he been a bad hunter, he would have had to
content himself, poor fellow, with one! The canoe also contained six or
seven heavy packs of furs; a haunch of venison; six pairs of rabbits;
several ducks and geese; a lump of bear's meat; two little boys and a
girl; a large tent made of deer-skins; four or five tin kettles; two or
three dirty-looking dogs and a gun; several hatchets and a few
blankets; two babies and a dead beaver.
In short, there was almost no end to what that bark canoe could
hold; yet that Indian, with the stiff black hair, could lift it off the
ground, when empty, lay it on his shoulders, and carry it for miles
through the forest. The other canoes were much the same as this one.
In a few minutes they were at the bank, close under the fort, and
about the same time Jasper and his friends leaped ashore, and were
heartily welcomed by Mr Grant, who was glad enough to see Indians, but
was overjoyed to meet with white men.
“Glad to see you, Jasper,” cried Mr Grant, shaking the hunter by the
hand; “right glad to see you. It does good to a man to see an old
friend like you turn up so unexpectedly. Happy, also, to meet with you,
Mr Heywood. It's a pleasure I don't often have, to meet with a white
stranger in this wilderness. Pray, come with me to the house.”
The fur-trader turned to the Indians, and, saying a few words to
them in their own language, led the way to his residence.
Meanwhile, the Indians had tossed everything out of the canoes upon
the bank, and the spot which had been so quiet and solitary half an
hour before, became a scene of the utmost animation and confusion.
While the women were employed in erecting the tents, the men strode up
to the hall of reception, where Mr Grant supplied them with tobacco and
food to their hearts' content.
These natives, who, owing to the reddish copper-colour of their
skins, are called red-men,—were dressed chiefly in clothes made of
deer-skin; cut much in the same fashion as the garments worn by Jasper
Derry. The women wore short gowns, also made of leather, and leggings
of the same material; but it was noticeable that the women had leggings
more ornamented with gay beads than those of the men, and they wore
gaudy kerchiefs round their necks.
These women were poor looking creatures, however. They had a
subdued, humble look, like dogs that are used to being kicked; very
different from the bold free bearing of the men. The reason of this
was, that they were treated by the men more as beasts of burden than
companions. Women among the North American Indians have a hard time of
it, poor creatures. While their lords and masters are out at the chase,
or idly smoking round the fire, the Indian women are employed in
cutting firewood and drawing water. Of course, they do all the cooking,
and, as the eating always continues, so the cooking never stops. When
these more severe labours are over, they employ their time in making
and ornamenting coats, leggings, and moccasins—and very beautiful work
they can turn out of their hands. On the voyage, the women use the
paddle as well as the men, and, in journeying through the woods, they
always carry or drag the heaviest loads. For all this they get few
thanks, and often when the husbands become jealous, they get severely
beaten and kicked.
It is always thus among savages; and it would seem that, just in
proportion as men rise from the savage to the civilised state, they
treat their women better. It is certain that when man embraces the
blessed gospel of Christ and learns to follow the law of love, he
places woman not only on a level with himself, but even above himself,
and seeks her comfort and happiness before he seeks his own.
Few of the Red-men of North America are yet Christians, therefore
they have no gallantry about them—no generous and chivalrous feelings
towards the weaker sex. Most of their women are downtrodden and
The first night at Jasper's House was spent in smoking and talking.
Here our friend Jasper Derry got news of Marie. To his immense delight
he learned that she was well, and living with her father at Fort Erie,
near the plains, or prairies as they are called, on the Saskatchewan
River. A long journey still lay before our bold hunter, but that was
nothing to him. He felt quite satisfied to hear that the girl of his
heart was well, and still unmarried.
Next day the serious business of trading commenced at the outpost.
“I should like to get that powder and ball before you begin to trade
with the Indians, Mr Grant,” said Jasper, after breakfast was
concluded, “I'm anxious to be off as soon as possible.”
“No, no, Jasper, I'll not give you a single charge of powder or an
ounce of lead this day. You must spend another night with me, my man; I
have not had half my talk out with you. You have no need to hurry, for
Marie does not know you are coming, so of course she can't be
Mr Grant said this with a laugh, for he knew the state of Jasper's
heart, and understood why he was so anxious to hasten away.
“Besides,” continued the fur-trader, “Mr Heywood has not half
finished the drawing of my fort, which he began yesterday, and I want
him to make me a copy of it.”
“I shall be delighted to do so,” said the artist, who was busily
engaged in arranging his brushes and colours.
“Well, well,” cried Jasper. “I suppose I must submit. I fancy YOU
have no objection to stop here another day, Arrowhead?”
The Indian nodded gravely, as he squatted down on the floor and
began to fill his pipe.
“That's settled, then,” said Jasper, “so I'll go with you to the
store, if you'll allow me.”
“With all my heart,” replied the fur-trader, who forthwith led the
way to the store, followed by the Indians with their packs of furs.
Now, the store or shop at a Hudson's Bay trading-post is a most
interesting and curious place. To the Indian, especially, it is a sort
of enchanted chamber, out of which can be obtained everything known
under the sun. As there can be only one shop or store at a
trading-post, it follows that that shop must contain a few articles out
of almost every other style of shop in the world. Accordingly, you will
find collected within the four walls of that little room, knives and
guns from Sheffield, cotton webs from Manchester, grindstones from
Newcastle, tobacco from Virginia, and every sort of thing from I know
not where all! You can buy a blanket or a file, an axe or a pair of
trousers, a pound of sugar or a barrel of nails, a roll of tobacco or a
tin kettle,—everything, in short, that a man can think of or desire.
And you can buy it, too, without money! Indeed, you MUST buy it without
money, for there is not such a thing as money in the land.
The trade is carried on entirely by barter, or exchange. The Indian
gives the trader his furs, and the trader gives him his goods. In order
to make the exchange fair and equitable, however, everything is rated
by a certain standard of value, which is called a MADE-BEAVER in one
part of the country, a CASTORE in another.
The first man that stepped forward to the counter was a chief. A
big, coarse-looking, disagreeable man, but a first-rate hunter. He had
two wives in consequence of his abilities, and the favourite wife now
stood at his elbow to prompt, perhaps to caution, him. He threw down a
huge pack of furs, which the trader opened, and examined with care,
fixing the price of each skin, and marking it down with a piece of
chalk on the counter as he went along.
There were two splendid black bear-skins, two or three dozen
martens, or sables, five or six black foxes, and a great many silver
foxes, besides cross and red ones. In addition to these, he had a
number of minks and beaver-skins, a few otters, and sundry other furs,
besides a few buffalo and deer-skins, dressed, and with the hair
scraped off. These last skins are used for making winter coats, and
also moccasins for the feet.
After all had been examined and valued, the whole was summed up, and
a number of pieces of stick were handed to the chief—each stick
representing a castore; so that he knew exactly how much he was worth,
and proceeded to choose accordingly.
First he gazed earnestly at a huge thick blanket, then he counted
his sticks, and considered. Perhaps the memory of the cold blasts of
winter crossed his mind, for he quickly asked how many castores it was
worth. The trader told him. The proper number of pieces of stick were
laid down, and the blanket was handed over. Next a gun attracted his
eye. The guns sent out for the Indian trade are very cheap ones, with
blue barrels and red stocks. They shoot pretty well, but are rather apt
to burst. Indeed this fate had befallen the chief's last gun, so he
resolved to have another, and bought it. Then he looked earnestly for
some time at a tin kettle. Boiled meat was evidently in his mind; but
at this point his squaw plucked him by the sleeve. She whispered in his
ear. A touch of generosity seemed to come over him, for he pointed to a
web of bright scarlet cloth. A yard of this was measured off, and
handed to his spouse, whose happiness for the moment was complete—for
squaws in Rupert's Land, like the fair sex in England, are uncommonly
fond of finery.
As the chief proceeded, he became more cautious and slow in his
choice. Finery tempted him on the one hand, necessaries pressed him on
the other, and at this point the trader stepped in to help him to
decide; he recommended, warned, and advised. Twine was to be got for
nets and fishing-lines, powder and shot, axes for cutting his winter
firewood, cloth for his own and his wife's leggings, knives, tobacco,
needles, and an endless variety of things, which gradually lessened his
little pile of sticks, until at last he reached the sticking point,
when all his sticks were gone.
“Now, Darkeye,” (that was the chief's name), “you've come to the end
at last, and a good thing you have made of it this year,” said Mr
Grant, in the Indian language. “Have you got all you want?”
“Darkeye wants bullets,” said the chief.
“Ah, to be sure. You shall have a lot of these for nothing, and some
tobacco too,” said the trader, handing the gifts to the Indian.
A look of satisfaction lighted up the chief's countenance as he
received the gifts, and made way for another Indian to open and display
his pack of furs. But Jasper was struck by a peculiar expression in the
face of Darkeye. Observing that he took up one of the bullets and
showed it to another savage, our hunter edged near him to overhear the
“Do you see that ball?” said the chief, in a low tone.
The Indian to whom he spoke nodded.
Darkeye put the bullet into his mouth as he spoke, and bit it until
his strong sharp teeth sank deep into the lead; then, holding it up, he
said, in the same low voice, “You will know it again?”
Once more the savage nodded, and a malicious smile played on his
face for a moment.
Just then Mr Grant called out, “Come here, Jasper, tell me what you
think this otter-skin is worth.”
Jasper's curiosity had been aroused by the mysterious conduct of
Darkeye, and he would have given a good deal to have heard a little
more of his conversation; but, being thus called away, he was obliged
to leave his place, and soon forgot the incident.
During the whole of that day the trading of furs was carried on much
as I have now described it. Some of the Indians had large packs, and
some had small, but all of them had sufficient to purchase such things
as were necessary for themselves and their families during the
approaching winter; and as each man received from Mr Grant a present of
tobacco, besides a few trinkets of small value, they returned to the
Hall that night in high good humour.
Next day, Jasper and his friends bade the hospitable trader
farewell, and a few days after that the Indians left him. They smoked a
farewell pipe, then struck their tents, and placed them and their packs
of goods in the canoes, with their wives, children, and dogs. Pushing
out into the stream, they commenced the return journey to their distant
hunting-grounds. Once more their shouts rang through the forest, and
rolled over the water, and once more the paddles sent the sparkling
drops into the air as they dashed ahead, round the point of rocks above
the fort, and disappeared; leaving the fur-trader, as they found him,
smoking his pipe, with his hands in his pockets, and leaning against
the door-post of his once-again silent and solitary home.
CHAPTER SEVEN. A SAVAGE FAMILY, AND A
FIGHT WITH A BEAR.
About a week after our travellers left the outpost, Arrowhead had an
adventure with a bear, which had well-nigh cut short his journey
through this world, as well as his journey in the wilderness of
It was in the evening of a beautiful day when it happened. The canoe
had got among some bad rapids, and, as it advanced very slowly, young
Heywood asked to be put on shore, that he might walk up the banks of
the river, which were very beautiful, and sketch.
In half an hour he was far ahead of the canoe. Suddenly, on turning
round a rocky point, he found himself face to face with a small Indian
boy. It is probable that the little fellow had never seen a white man
before, and it is certain that Heywood had never seen such a specimen
of a brown boy. He was clothed in skin, it is true, but it was the skin
in which he had been born, for he had not a stitch of clothing on his
fat little body.
As the man and the boy stood staring at each other, it would have
been difficult to say which opened his eyes widest with amazement. At
first Heywood fancied the urchin was a wild beast of some sort on two
legs, but a second glance convinced him that he was a real boy. The
next thought that occurred to the artist was, that he would try to
sketch him, so he clapped his hand to his pocket, pulled out his book
and pencil, and forthwith began to draw.
This terrified the little fellow so much, that he turned about and
fled howling into the woods. Heywood thought of giving chase, but a
noise attracted his attention at that moment, and, looking across the
river, he beheld the boy's father in the same cool dress as his son.
The man had been fishing, but when he saw that strangers were passing,
he threw his blanket round him, jumped into his canoe, and crossed over
to meet them.
This turned out to be a miserably poor family of Indians, consisting
of the father, mother, three girls, and a boy, and a few ill-looking
dogs. They all lived together in a little tent or wigwam, made partly
of skins and partly of birch-bark. This tent was shaped like a cone.
The fire was kindled inside, in the middle of the floor. A hole in the
side served for a door, and a hole in the top did duty for window and
chimney. The family kettle hung above the fire, and the family circle
sat around it. A dirtier family and filthier tent one could not wish to
see. The father was a poor weakly man and a bad hunter; the squaw was
thin, wrinkled, and very dirty, and the children were all
sickly-looking, except the boy before mentioned, who seemed to enjoy
more than his fair share of health and rotundity.
“Have ye got anything to eat?” inquired Jasper, when the canoe
reached the place.
They had not got much, only a few fish and an owl.
“Poor miserable critters,” said Jasper, throwing them a goose and a
lump of venison; “see there—that'll keep the wolf out o' yer insides
for some time. Have ye got anything to smoke?”
No, they had nothing to smoke but a few dried leaves.
“Worse and worse,” cried Jasper, pulling a large plug of tobacco
from the breast of his coat; “here, that'll keep you puffin' for a
short bit, anyhow.”
Heywood, although no smoker himself, carried a small supply of
tobacco just to give away to Indians, so he added two or three plugs to
Jasper's gift, and Arrowhead gave the father a few charges of powder
and shot. They then stepped into their canoe, and pushed off with that
feeling of light hearted happiness which always follows the doing of a
“There's bears up the river,” said the Indian, as they were leaving.
“Have ye seen them?” inquired Jasper.
“Ay, but could not shoot—no powder, no ball. Look out for them!”
“That will I,” replied the hunter, and in another moment the canoe
was out among the rapids again, advancing slowly up the river.
In about an hour afterwards they came to a part of the river where
the banks were high and steep. Here Jasper landed to look for the
tracks of the bears. He soon found these, and as they appeared to be
fresh, he prepared to follow them up.
“We may as well encamp here,” said he to Arrowhead; “you can go and
look for the bears. I will land the baggage, and haul up the canoe, and
then take my gun and follow you. I see that our friend Heywood is at
work with his pencil already.”
This was true. The keen artist was so delighted with the scene
before him, that the moment the canoe touched the land he had jumped
out, and, seating himself on the trunk of a fallen tree, with book and
pencil, soon forgot everything that was going on around him.
Arrowhead shouldered his gun and went away up the river. Jasper soon
finished what he had to do, and followed him, leaving Heywood seated on
the fallen tree.
Now the position which Heywood occupied was rather dangerous. The
tree lay on the edge of an overhanging bank of clay, about ten feet
above the water, which was deep and rapid at that place. At first the
young man sat down on the tree-trunk near its root, but after a time,
finding the position not quite to his mind, he changed it, and went
close to the edge of the bank. He was so much occupied with his
drawing, that he did not observe that the ground on which his feet
rested actually overhung the stream. As his weight rested on the fallen
tree, however, he remained there safe enough and busy for half an hour.
At the end of that time he was disturbed by a noise in the bushes.
Looking up, he beheld a large brown bear coming straight towards him.
Evidently the bear did not see him, for it was coming slowly and lazily
along, with a quiet meditative expression on its face. The appearance
of the animal was so sudden and unexpected, that poor Heywood's heart
almost leaped into his mouth. His face grew deadly pale, his long hair
almost rose on his head with terror, and he was utterly unable to move
hand or foot.
In another moment the bear was within three yards of him, and, being
taken by surprise, it immediately rose on its hind legs, which is the
custom of bears when about to make or receive an attack. It stared for
a moment at the horrified artist.
Let not my reader think that Heywood's feelings were due to
cowardice. The bravest of men have been panic-stricken when taken by
surprise. The young man had never seen a bear before, except in a cage,
and the difference between a caged and a free bear is very great.
Besides, when a rough-looking monster of this kind comes unexpectedly
on a man who is unarmed, and has no chance of escape, and rises on its
hind legs, as if to let him have a full view of its enormous size, its
great strength, and its ugly appearance, he may well be excused for
feeling a little uncomfortable, and looking somewhat uneasy.
When the bear rose, as I have said, Heywood's courage returned. His
first act was to fling his sketch-book in Bruin's face, and then,
uttering a loud yell, he sprang to his feet, intending to run away. But
the violence of his action broke off the earth under his feet. He dropt
into the river like a lump of lead, and was whirled away in a moment!
What that bear thought when it saw the man vanish from the spot like
a ghost, of course I cannot tell. It certainly LOOKED surprised, and,
if it was a bear of ordinary sensibility, it must undoubtedly have FELT
astonished. At any rate, after standing there, gazing for nearly a
minute in mute amazement at the spot where Heywood had disappeared, it
let itself down on its forelegs, and, turning round, walked slowly back
into the bushes.
Poor Heywood could not swim, so the river did what it pleased with
him. After sweeping him out into the middle of the stream, and rolling
him over five or six times, and whirling him round in an eddy close to
the land, and dragging him out again into the main current, and sending
him struggling down a rapid, it threw him at last, like a bundle of old
clothes, on a shallow, where he managed to get on his feet, and
staggered to the shore in a most melancholy plight. Thereafter he
returned to the encampment, like a drowned rat, with his long hair
plastered to his thin face, and his soaked garments clinging tightly to
his slender body. Had he been able to see himself at that moment, he
would have laughed, but, not being able to see himself, and feeling
very miserable, he sighed and shuddered with cold, and then set to work
to kindle a fire and dry himself.
Meanwhile the bear continued its walk up the river. Arrowhead, after
a time, lost the track of the bear he was in search of, and, believing
that it was too late to follow it up farther that night, he turned
about, and began to retrace his steps. Not long after that, he and the
bear met face to face. Of course, the Indian's gun was levelled in an
instant, but the meeting was so sudden, that the aim was not so true as
usual, and, although the ball mortally wounded the animal, it did not
kill him outright.
There was no time to re-load, so Arrowhead dropped his gun and ran.
He doubled as he ran, and made for the encampment; but the bear ran
faster. It was soon at the Indian's heels. Knowing that farther flight
was useless, Arrowhead drew the hatchet that hung at his belt, and,
turning round, faced the infuriated animal, which instantly rose on its
hind legs and closed with him.
The Indian met it with a tremendous blow of his axe, seized it by
the throat with his left hand, and endeavoured to repeat the blow. (See
frontispiece.) But brave and powerful though he was, the Indian was
like a mere child in the paw of the bear. The axe descended with a
crash on the monster's head, and sank into its skull. But bears are
notoriously hard to kill. This one scarcely seemed to feel the blow.
Next instant Arrowhead was down, and, with its claws fixed in the man's
back, the bear held him down, while it began to gnaw the fleshy part of
his left shoulder.
No cry escaped from the prostrate hunter. He determined to lie
perfectly still, as if he were dead, that being his only chance of
escape; but the animal was furious, and there is little doubt that the
Indian's brave spirit would soon have fled, had not God mercifully sent
Jasper Derry to his relief.
That stout hunter had been near at hand when the shot was fired. He
at once ran in the direction whence the sound came, and arrived on the
scene of the struggle just as Arrowhead fell. Without a moment's
hesitation he dropt on one knee, took a quick but careful aim and
fired. The ball entered the bear's head just behind the ear and rolled
it over dead!
Arrowhead's first act on rising was to seize the hand of his
deliverer, and in a tone of deep feeling exclaimed, “My brother!”
“Ay,” said Jasper with a quiet smile, as he reloaded his gun; “this
is not the first time that you and I have helped one another in the
nick of time, Arrowhead; we shall be brothers, and good friends to
boot, I hope, as long as we live.”
“Good,” said the Indian, a smile lighting up for one moment his
usually grave features.
“But my brother is wounded, let me see,” said Jasper.
“It will soon be well,” said the Indian carelessly, as he took off
his coat and sat down on the bank, while the white hunter examined his
This was all that was said on the subject by these two men. They
were used to danger in every form, and had often saved each other from
sudden death. The Indian's wounds, though painful, were trifling.
Jasper dressed them in silence, and then, drawing his long hunting
knife, he skinned and cut up the bear, while his companion lay down on
the bank, smoked his pipe, and looked on. Having cut off the best parts
of the carcass for supper, the hunters returned to the canoe, carrying
the skin along with them.
CHAPTER EIGHT. RUNNING THE FALLS
—WILD SCENES AND MEN.
Next day the travellers reached one of those magnificent lakes of
which there are so many in the wild woods of North America, and which
are so like to the great ocean itself, that it is scarcely possible to
believe them to be bodies of fresh water until they are tasted.
The largest of these inland seas is the famous Lake Superior, which
is so enormous in size that ships can sail on its broad bosom for
several days OUT OF SIGHT of land. It is upwards of three hundred miles
long, and about one hundred and fifty broad. A good idea of its size
may be formed from the fact, that it is large enough to contain the
whole of Scotland, and deep enough to cover her highest hills!
The lake on which the canoe was now launched, although not so large
as Superior, was, nevertheless, a respectable body of water, on which
the sun was shining as if on a shield of bright silver. There were
numbers of small islets scattered over its surface; some thickly wooded
to the water's edge, others little better than bare rocks. Crossing
this lake they came to the mouth of a pretty large stream and began to
ascend it. The first thing they saw on rounding a bend in the stream
was an Indian tent, and in front of this tent was an Indian baby,
hanging from the branch of a tree.
Let not the reader be horrified. The child was not hanging by the
neck, but by the handle of its cradle, which its mother had placed
there, to keep her little one out of the way of the dogs. The Indian
cradle is a very simple contrivance. A young mother came out of the
tent with her child just as the canoe arrived, and began to pack it in
its cradle. Jasper stopped for a few minutes to converse with one of
the Indians, so that the artist had a good opportunity of witnessing
the whole operation.
The cradle was simply a piece of flat board, with a bit of scarlet
cloth fastened down each side of it. First of all, the mother laid the
poor infant, which was quite naked, sprawling on the ground. A
dirty-looking dog took advantage of this to sneak forward and smell at
it, whereupon the mother seized a heavy piece of wood, and hit the dog
such a rap over the nose as sent it away howling. Then she spread a
thick layer of soft moss on the wooden board. Above this she laid a
very neat, small blanket, about two feet in length. Upon this she
placed the baby, which objected at first to go to bed, squalled a good
deal, and kicked a little. The mother therefore took it up, turned it
over, gave it one or two hearty slaps, and laid it down again.
This seemed to quiet it, for it afterwards lay straight out, and
perfectly still, with its coal-black eyes staring out of its fat brown
face, as if it were astonished at receiving such rough treatment. The
mother next spread a little moss over the child, and above that she
placed another small blanket, which she folded and tucked in very
comfortably, keeping the little one's arms close to its sides, and
packing it all up, from neck to heels, so tightly that it looked more
like the making up of a parcel than the wrapping up of a child. This
done, she drew the scarlet cloth over it from each side of the cradle,
and laced it down the front. When all was done, the infant looked like
an Egyptian mummy, nothing but the head being visible.
The mother then leaned the cradle against the stem of a tree, and
immediately one of the dogs ran against it, and knocked it over.
Luckily, there was a wooden bar attached to the cradle, in front of the
child's face, which bar is placed there on purpose to guard against
injury from such accidents, so that the bar came first to the ground,
and thus prevented the flattening of the child's nose, which, to say
truth, was flat enough already!
Instead of scolding herself for her own carelessness, the Indian
mother scolded the dog, and then hung the child on the branch of a
tree, to keep it from further mischief.
The next turn in the river revealed a large waterfall, up which it
was impossible to paddle, so they prepared to make a portage. Before
arriving at the foot of it, however, Jasper landed Heywood, to enable
him to make a sketch, and then the two men shoved off, and proceeded to
the foot of the fall.
They were lying there in an eddy, considering where was the best
spot to land, when a loud shout drew their attention towards the
rushing water. Immediately after, a boat was seen to hover for a moment
on the brink of the waterfall. This fall, although about ten or fifteen
feet high, had such a large body of water rushing over it, that the
river, instead of falling straight down, gushed over in a steep
incline. Down this incline the boat now darted with the speed of
lightning. It was full of men, two of whom stood erect, the one in the
bow, the other in the stern, to control the movements of the boat.
For a few seconds there was deep silence. The men held their breath
as the boat leaped along with the boiling flood. There was a curling
white wave at the foot of the fall. The boat cut through this like a
knife, drenching her crew with spray. Next moment she swept round into
the eddy where the canoe was floating, and the men gave vent to a loud
cheer of satisfaction at having run the fall in safety.
But this was not the end of that exciting scene. Scarcely had they
gained the land, when another boat appeared on the crest of the fall.
Again a shout was given and a dash made. For one moment there was a
struggle with the raging flood, and then a loud cheer as the second
boat swept into the eddy in safety. Then a third and a fourth boat went
through the same operation, and before the end of a quarter of an hour,
six boats ran the fall. The bay at the foot of it, which had been so
quiet and solitary when Jasper and his friends arrived, became the
scene of the wildest confusion and noise, as the men ran about with
tremendous activity, making preparations to spend the night there.
Some hauled might and main at the boats; some carried up the
provisions, frying-pans, and kettles; others cut down dry trees with
their axes, and cut them up into logs from five to six feet long, and
as thick as a man's thigh. These were intended for six great fires,
each boat's crew requiring a fire to themselves.
While this was going on, the principal guides and steersmen crowded
round our three travellers, and plied them with questions; for it was
so unusual to meet with strangers in that far-off wilderness, that a
chance meeting of this kind was regarded as quite an important event.
“You're bound for York Fort, no doubt,” said Jasper, addressing a
tall handsome man of between forty and fifty, who was the principal
“Ay, that's the end of our journey. You see we're taking our furs
down to the coast. Have you come from York Fort, friend!”
“No, I've come all the way from Canada,” said Jasper, who thereupon
gave them a short account of his voyage.
“Well, Jasper, you'll spend the night with us, won't you?” said the
“That will I, right gladly.”
“Come, then, I see the fires are beginning to burn. We may as well
have a pipe and a chat while supper is getting ready.”
The night was now closing in, and the scene in the forest, when the
camp-fires began to blaze, was one of the most stirring and romantic
sights that could be witnessed in that land. The men of the brigade
were some of them French-Canadians, some natives of the Orkney Islands,
who had been hired and sent out there by the Hudson's Bay Company,
others were half-breeds, and a few were pure Indians. They were all
dressed in what is called VOYAGEUR costume-coats or capotes of blue or
grey cloth, with hoods to come over their heads at night, and fastened
round their waists with scarlet worsted belts; corduroy or grey
trousers, gartered outside at the knees, moccasins, and caps. But most
of them threw off their coats, and appeared in blue and red striped
cotton shirts, which were open at the throat, exposing their broad,
sun-burned, hairy chests. There was variety, too, in the caps—some
had Scotch bonnets, others red nightcaps, a few had tall hats,
ornamented with gold and silver cords and tassels, and a good many wore
no covering at all except their own thickly-matted hair. Their faces
were burned to every shade of red, brown, and black, from constant
exposure, and they were strong as lions, wild as zebras, and
frolicksome as kittens.
It was no wonder, then, that Heywood got into an extraordinary state
of excitement and delight as he beheld these wild, fine-looking men
smoking their pipes and cooking their suppers, sitting, lying, and
standing, talking and singing, and laughing, with teeth glistening and
eyes glittering in the red blaze of the fires—each of which fires was
big enough to have roasted a whole ox!
The young artist certainly made good use of his opportunity. He went
about from fire to fire, sketch-book in hand, sketching all the
best-looking men in every possible attitude, sometimes singly, and
sometimes in groups of five or six. He then went to the farthest end of
the encampment, and, in the light of the last fire, made a picture of
all the rest.
The kettles were soon steaming. These hung from tripods erected over
the fires. Their contents were flour and pemmican, made into a thick
soup called Rubbiboo.
As pemmican is a kind of food but little known in this country, I
may as well describe how it is made. In the first place, it consists of
buffalo meat. The great plains, or prairies, of America, which are like
huge downs or commons hundreds of miles in extent, afford grass
sufficient to support countless herds of deer, wild horses, and bisons.
The bisons are called by the people there buffaloes. The buffalo is
somewhat like an enormous ox, but its hind-quarters are smaller and its
fore-quarters much larger than those of the ox. Its hair is long and
shaggy, particularly about the neck and shoulders, where it becomes
almost a mane. Its horns are thick and short, and its look is very
ferocious, but it is in reality a timid creature, and will only turn to
attack a man when it is hard pressed and cannot escape. Its flesh is
first-rate for food, even better than beef, and there is a large hump
on its shoulder, which is considered the best part of the animal.
Such is the bison, or buffalo, from which pemmican is made.
When a man wishes to make a bag of pemmican, he first of all kills
the buffalo—not an easy thing to do by any means, for the buffalo runs
well. Having killed him, he skins him and cuts up the meat—also a
difficult thing to do, especially if one is not used to that sort of
work. Then he cuts the meat into thin layers, and hangs it up to dry.
Dried meat will keep for a long time. It is packed up in bales and sent
about that country to be used as food. The next thing to be done is to
make a bag of the raw hide of the buffalo. This is done with a glover's
needle, the raw sinews of the animal being used instead of thread. The
bag is usually about three feet long, and eighteen inches broad, and
the hair is left on the outside of it. A huge pot is now put on the
fire, and the fat of the buffalo is melted down. Then the dried meat is
pounded between two stones, until it is torn and broken up into shreds,
after which it is put into the bag, the melted fat is poured over it,
and the whole is well mixed. The last operation is to sew up the mouth
of the bag and leave it to cool, after which the pemmican is ready for
In this state a bag of pemmican will keep fresh and good for years.
When the search was going on in the polar regions for the lost ships of
Sir John Franklin, one of the parties hid some pemmican in the ground,
intending to return and take it up. They returned home, however,
another way. Five years later some travellers discovered this pemmican,
and it was found, at that time, to be fit for food. Pemmican is
extensively used throughout Rupert's Land, especially during summer,
for at that season the brigades of boats start from hundreds of inland
trading-posts to take the furs to the coast for shipment to England,
and pemmican is found to be not only the best of food for these
hard-working men, but exceedingly convenient to carry.
Supper finished, the wild-looking fellows of this brigade took to
their pipes, and threw fresh logs on the fires, which roared, and
crackled, and shot up their forked tongues of flame, as if they wished
to devour the forest. Then the song and the story went round, and men
told of terrible fights with the red-men of the prairies, and desperate
encounters with grizzly bears in the Rocky Mountains, and narrow
escapes among the rapids and falls, until the night was half spent.
Then, one by one, each man wrapped himself in his blanket, stretched
himself on the ground with his feet towards the fire and his head
pillowed on a coat or a heap of brush-wood, and went to sleep.
Ere long they were all down, except one or two long-winded story
tellers, who went on muttering to their pipes after their comrades were
asleep. Even these became tired at last of the sound of their own
voices, and gradually every noise in the camp was hushed, except the
crackling of the fires as they sank by degrees and went out, leaving
the place in dead silence and total darkness.
With the first peep of dawn the guide arose. In ten minutes after
his first shout the whole camp was astir. The men yawned a good deal at
first and grumbled a little, and stretched themselves violently, and
yawned again. But soon they shook off laziness and sprang to their
work. Pots, pans, kettles, and pemmican bags were tossed into the
boats, and in the course of half-an-hour they were ready to continue
Jasper stood beside the guide looking on at the busy scene.
“Heard you any news from the Saskatchewan of late,” said he.
“Not much,” replied the guide; “there's little stirring there just
now, except among the Indians, who have been killing and scalping each
other as usual. But, by the way, that reminds me there has been a sort
of row between the Indians and the Company's people at Fort Erie.”
“Fort Erie,” said Jasper with a start.
“Ay, that's the name o' the fort, if I remember right,” returned the
guide. “It seems that one o' the men there, I think they call him
Laroche—but what makes you start, friend Jasper? Do you know anything
of this man.”
“Yes, he's a friend of mine. Go on, let me hear about it.”
“Well, there's not much to tell,” resumed the guide. “This Laroche,
it would appear, has got into hot water. He has a daughter, a good
lookin' wench I'm told, and, better than that, a well-behaved one. One
o' the Indians had been impertinent to the girl, so old Laroche, who
seems to be a fiery fellow, up fist, hit him on the nose, and knocked
the savage flat on his back. A tremendous howl was set up, and knives
and hatchets were flourished; but Mr Pemberton, who is in charge of
Fort Erie, ran in and pacified them. The Indian that was floored vows
he'll have the hair of old Laroche's head.”
This taking the hair off people's heads, or scalping, as it is
called, is a common practice among the North American Indians. When a
savage kills his enemy he runs his scalping knife round the dead man's
head, seizes the hair with his left hand and tears the scalp off.
Indeed this dreadful cruelty is sometimes practised before death has
occurred. The scalp with its lock of hair is taken home by the victor,
and hung up in his tent as a trophy of war. The man who can show the
greatest number of scalps is considered the greatest warrior. The
dresses of Indian warriors are usually fringed with human scalp-locks.
“That's a bad business,” said Jasper, who was concerned to hear such
news of his intended father-in-law. “Do ye know the name o' this
“I heard it mentioned,” said the guide, “but I can't remember it at
“The boats are ready to start,” said one of the steersmen, coming up
“Very good, let the men embark. Now, Jasper, we must part. Give us a
shake o' your hand. A pleasant trip to you.”
“The same to you, friend,” said Jasper, returning the guide's
In another minute the boats were away.
“Now, friends, we shall start,” said Jasper, breaking the deep
silence which followed the departure of the brigade.
“Good,” said Arrowhead.
“I'm ready,” said Heywood.
The canoe was soon in the water, and the men in their places; but
they started that morning without a song. Arrowhead was never inclined
to be noisy, Heywood was sleepy, and Jasper was rendered anxious by
what he had heard of his friends at Fort Erie, so they paddled away in
CHAPTER NINE. THE FORT, AND AN
We turn now to a very different scene. It is a small fort or
trading-post on the banks of a stream which flows through the prairie.
The fort is very much like the one which has been already described,
but somewhat stronger; and there are four block-houses or bastions, one
at each corner, from which the muzzles of a few heavy guns may be seen
The trees and bushes have been cleared away from around this fort,
and the strips of forest-land which run along both sides of the river
are not so thickly wooded as the country through which the reader has
hitherto been travelling. In front of the fort rolls the river.
Immediately behind it lies the boundless prairie, which extends like a
sea of grass, with scarcely a tree or bush upon it, as far as the eye
can reach. This is Fort Erie.
You might ride for many days over that prairie without seeing
anything of the forest, except a clump of trees and bushes here and
there, and now and then a little pond. The whole region is extremely
beautiful. One that ought to fill the hearts of men with admiration and
love of the bountiful God who formed it. But men in those regions, at
the time I write of, thought of little beauties of nature, and cared
nothing for the goodness of God. At least this may be truly said of the
red-skinned owners of the soil. It was otherwise with SOME of the white
people who dwelt there.
Three weeks had passed away since the night spent by our friends
with the brigade. It was now a beautiful evening, a little after
sunset. The day's work at the fort had been finished, and the men were
amusing themselves by racing their horses, of which fine animals there
were great numbers at Fort Erie.
Just a little after the sun had gone down, three horsemen appeared
on the distant prairie and came bounding at full gallop towards the
fort. They were our friends Jasper, Heywood, and Arrowhead. These
adventurous travellers had reached a fort farther down the river two
days before, and, having been supplied with horses, had pushed forward
by way of the plains.
On entering the belt of woods close to the fort, the horsemen reined
in, and rode among the trees more cautiously.
“Here's the end of our journey at last,” cried Jasper, on whose
bronzed countenance there was a deep flush of excitement and a look of
Just as he said this, Jasper's heart appeared to leap into his
throat and almost choked him. Pulling up suddenly, he swallowed his
heart, with some difficulty, and said—
“Hold on, lads. I'll ride round to the fort by way of the river, for
reasons of my own. Push on, Heywood, with the Indian, and let Mr
Pemberton know I'm coming. See, I will give you the packet of letters
we were asked to carry from the fort below. Now, make haste.”
Heywood, though a little surprised at this speech, and at the manner
of his friend, took the packet in silence and rode swiftly away,
followed by the Indian. When they were gone, Jasper dismounted, tied
his horse to a tree, and walked quickly into the woods in another
Now this mysterious proceeding is not difficult to explain. Jasper
had caught sight of a female figure walking under the trees at a
considerable distance from the spot where he had pulled up. He knew
that there were none but Indian women at Fort Erie at that time, and
that, therefore, the only respectably dressed female at the place must
needs be his own Marie Laroche. Overjoyed at the opportunity thus
unexpectedly afforded him of meeting her alone, he hastened forward
with a beating heart.
Marie was seated on the stump of a fallen tree when the hunter came
up. She was a fair, beautiful woman of about five-and-twenty, with an
air of modesty about her which attracted love, yet repelled
familiarity. Many a good-looking and well-doing young fellow had
attempted to gain the heart of Marie during the last two years, but
without success—for this good reason, that her heart had been gained
She was somewhat startled when a man appeared thus suddenly before
her. Jasper stood in silence for a few moments, with his arms crossed
upon his breast, and gazed earnestly into her face.
As he did not speak, she said—
“You appear to be a stranger here. Have you arrived lately?”
Jasper was for a moment astonished that she did not at once
recognise him, and yet he had no reason to be surprised. Besides the
alteration that two years sometimes makes in a man, Jasper had made a
considerable alteration on himself. When Marie last saw him, he had
been in the habit of practising the foolish and unnatural custom of
shaving; and he had carried it to such an extreme that he shaved off
everything—whiskers, beard, and moustache. But within a year he had
been induced by a wise friend to change his opinion on this subject.
That friend had suggested, that as Providence had caused hair to grow
on his cheeks, lips, and chin, it was intended to be worn, and that he
had no more right to shave his face than a Chinaman had to shave his
head. Jasper had been so far convinced, that he had suffered his
whiskers to grow. These were now large and bushy, and had encroached so
much on his chin as to have become almost a beard.
Besides this, not having shaved any part of his face during the last
three weeks, there was little of it visible except his eyes, forehead,
and cheek-bones. All the rest was more or less covered with black hair.
No wonder, then, that Marie, who believed him to be two thousand
miles away at that moment, did not recognise him in the increasing
darkness of evening. The lover at once understood this, and he resolved
to play the part of a stranger. He happened to have the power of
changing his voice—a power possessed by many people—and, trusting to
the increasing gloom to conceal him, and to the fact that he was the
last person in the world whom Marie might expect to see there, he
addressed her as follows:
“I am indeed a stranger here; at least I have not been at the post
for a very long time. I have just reached the end of a long voyage.”
“Indeed,” said the girl, interested by the stranger's grave manner.
“May I ask where you have come from?”
“I have come all the way from Canada, young woman, and I count
myself lucky in meeting with such a pleasant face at the end of my
“From Canada!” exclaimed Marie, becoming still more interested in
the stranger, and blushing deeply as she asked—“You have friends
there, no doubt?”
“Ay, a few,” said Jasper.
“And what has brought you such a long way into this wild
wilderness?” asked Marie, sighing as she thought of the hundreds of
miles that lay between Fort Erie and Canada.
“I have come here to get me a wife,” replied Jasper.
“That is strange,” said the girl, smiling, “for there are few but
Indian women here. A stout hunter like you might find one nearer home,
I should think.”
Here Marie paused, for she felt that on such a subject she ought not
to converse with a stranger. Yet she could not help adding, “But
perhaps, as you say, you have been in this part of the world before,
you may have some one in your mind?”
“I am engaged,” said Jasper abruptly.
On hearing this Marie felt more at her ease, and, being of a very
sympathetic nature, she at once courted the confidence of the stranger.
“May I venture to ask her name?” said Marie, with an arch smile.
“I may not tell,” replied Jasper; “I have a comrade who is entitled
to know this secret before any one else. Perhaps you may have heard of
him, for he was up in these parts two years agone. His name is Jasper
The blood rushed to Marie's temples on hearing the name, and she
turned her face away to conceal her agitation, while, in a low voice,
“Is Jasper Derry, then, your intimate friend?”
“That is he—a very intimate friend indeed. But you appear to know
“Yes, I—I know him—I have seen him. I hope he is well,” said
Marie; and she listened with a beating heart for the answer, though she
still turned her face away.
“Oh! he's well enough,” said Jasper; “sickness don't often trouble
HIM. He's going to be married.”
Had a bullet struck the girl's heart she could not have turned more
deadly pale than she did on hearing this. She half rose from the tree
stump, and would have fallen to the ground insensible, had not Jasper
caught her in his arms.
“My own Marie,” said he fervently, “forgive me, dearest; forgive my
folly, my wickedness, in deceiving you in this fashion. Oh, what a fool
I am!” he added, as the poor girl still hung heavily in his
grasp—“speak to me Marie, my own darling.”
Whether it was the earnestness of his voice, or the kiss which he
printed on her forehead, or the coolness of the evening air, I know
not, but certain it is that Marie recovered in the course of a few
minutes, and, on being convinced that Jasper really was her old lover,
she resigned herself, wisely, to her fate, and held such an uncommonly
long conversation with the bold hunter, that the moon was up and the
stars were out before they turned their steps towards the Fort.
“Why, Jasper Derry,” cried Mr Pemberton, as the hunter entered the
hall of Fort Erie, “where HAVE you been. I've been expecting you every
moment for the last two hours.”
“Well, you see, Mr Pemberton, I just went down the river a short bit
to see an old friend and I was kep' longer than I expected,” said
Jasper, with a cool, grave face, as he grasped and shook the hand which
was held out to him.
“Ah! I see, you hunters are more like brothers than friends. No
doubt you went to smoke a pipe with Hawkeye, or to have a chat with the
Muskrat about old times,” said the fur-trader, mentioning the names of
two Indians who were celebrated as being the best hunters in the
neighbourhood, and who had been bosom friends of Jasper when he resided
there two years before.
“No, I've not yet smoked a pipe with Hawkeye, neither have I seen
Muskrat, but I certainly have had a pretty long chat with one o' my old
friends,” answered Jasper, while a quiet smile played on his face.
“Well, come along and have a pipe and a chat with ME. I hope you
count me one of your friends too,” said Mr Pemberton, conducting Jasper
into an inner room, where he found Heywood and Arrowhead seated at a
table, doing justice to a splendid supper of buffalo-tongues,
venison-steaks, and marrow-bones.
“Here are your comrades, you see, hard at work. It's lucky you came
to-night, Jasper, for I intend to be off to-morrow morning, by break of
day, on a buffalo-hunt. If you had been a few hours later of arriving,
I should have missed you. Come, will you eat or smoke?”
“I'll eat first, if you have no objection,” said Jasper, “and smoke
“Very good. Sit down, then, and get to work. Meanwhile I'll go and
look after the horses that we intend to take with us to-morrow. Of
course you'll accompany us, Jasper?”
“I'll be very glad, and so will Arrowhead, there. There's nothing he
likes so much as a chase after a buffalo, unless, it may be, the eating
of him. But as for my friend and comrade Mr Heywood, he must speak for
“I will be delighted to go,” answered the artist, “nothing will give
me more pleasure; but I fear my steed is too much exhausted to—”
“Oh! make your mind easy on that score,” said the fur-trader,
interrupting him. “I have plenty of capital horses, and can mount the
whole of you, so that's settled. And now, friends, do justice to your
supper, I shall be back before you have done.”
So saying, Mr Pemberton left the room, and our three friends, being
unusually hungry, fell vigorously to work on the good cheer of Fort
CHAPTER TEN. BUFFALO-HUNTING ON THE
Next day most of the men of Fort Erie, headed by Mr Pemberton, rode
away into the prairies on a buffalo-hunt. Jasper would willingly have
remained with Marie at the fort, but, having promised to go, he would
not now draw back.
The band of horsemen rode for three hours, at a quick pace, over the
grassy plains, without seeing anything. Jasper kept close beside his
friend, old Laroche, while Heywood rode and conversed chiefly with Mr
Pemberton. There were about twenty men altogether, armed with guns, and
mounted on their best buffalo-runners, as they styled the horses which
were trained to hunt the buffalo. Many of these steeds had been wild
horses, caught by the Indians, broken-in, and sold by them to the
“I have seldom ridden so long without meeting buffaloes,” observed
Mr Pemberton, as the party galloped to the top of a ridge of land, from
which they could see the plains far and wide around them.
“There they are at last,” said Heywood eagerly, pointing to a
certain spot on the far-off horizon where living creatures of some sort
were seen moving.
“That must be a band o' red-skins,” said Jasper, who trotted up at
this moment with the rest of the party.
“They are Sauteaux,” (This word is pronounced SOTOES in the plural;
SOTOE in the singular) observed Arrowhead quietly.
“You must have good eyes, friend,” said Pemberton, applying a small
pocket-telescope to his eye; “they are indeed Sauteaux, I see by their
dress, and they have observed us, for they are coming straight this
way, like the wind.”
“Will they come as enemies or friends?” inquired Heywood.
“As friends, I have no doubt,” replied the fur-trader. “Come, lads,
we will ride forward to meet them.”
In a short time the two parties of horsemen met. They approached
almost at full speed, as if each meant to ride the other down, and did
not rein up until they were so close that it seemed impossible to avoid
“Have you seen the buffaloes lately?” inquired Pemberton, after the
first salutation had passed.
“Yes, there are large bands not an hour's ride from this. Some of
our young warriors have remained to hunt. We are going to the fort to
“Good; you will find tobacco enough there to keep you smoking till I
return with fresh meat,” said Pemberton, in the native tongue, which he
could speak like an Indian. “I'll not be long away. Farewell.”
No more words were wasted. The traders galloped away over the
prairie, and the Indians, of whom there were about fifteen, dashed off
in the direction of the fort.
These Indians were a very different set of men from those whom I
have already introduced to the reader in a former chapter. There are
many tribes of Indians in the wilderness of Rupert's Land, and some of
the tribes are at constant war with each other. But in order to avoid
confusing the reader, it made be as well to divide the Indian race into
two great classes—namely, those who inhabit the woods, and those who
roam over the plains or prairies. As a general rule, the thick wood
Indians are a more peaceful set of men than the prairie Indians. They
are few in number, and live in a land full of game, where there is far
more than enough of room for all of them. Their mode of travelling in
canoes, and on foot, is slow, so that the different tribes do not often
meet, and they have no occasion to quarrel. They are, for the most
part, a quiet and harmless race of savages, and being very dependent on
the fur-traders for the necessaries of life, they are on their good
behaviour, and seldom do much mischief.
It is very different with the plain Indians. These savages have
numbers of fine horses, and live in a splendid open country, which is
well-stocked with deer and buffaloes, besides other game. They are bold
riders, and scour over the country in all directions, consequently the
different tribes often come across each other when out hunting.
Quarrels and fights are the results, so that these savages are
naturally a fierce and warlike race. They are independent too; for
although they get their guns and ammunition and other necessaries from
the traders, they can manage to live without these things if need be.
They can clothe themselves in the skins of wild animals, and when they
lose their guns, or wet their powder, they can kill game easily with
their own bows and arrows.
It was a band of these fellows that now went galloping towards Fort
Erie, with the long manes and tails of the half-wild horses and the
scalp-locks on their dresses and their own long black hair streaming in
Pemberton and his party soon came up with the young Indians who had
remained to chase the buffaloes. He found them sheltered behind a
little mound, making preparations for an immediate attack on the
animals, which, however, were not yet visible to the men from the fort.
“I do believe they've seen buffaloes on the other side of that
mound,” said Pemberton, as he rode forward.
He was right. The Indians, of whom there were six, well mounted and
armed with strong short bows, pointed to the mound, and said that on
the other side of it there were hundreds of buffaloes.
As the animals were so numerous, no objection was made to the
fur-traders joining in the hunt, so in another moment the united party
leaped from their horses and prepared for action. Some wiped out and
carefully loaded their guns, others examined the priming of their
pieces, and chipped the edges off the flints to make sure of their not
missing fire. All looked to the girths of their saddles, and a few
threw off their coats and rolled their shirt-sleeves up to their
shoulders, as if they were going to undertake hard and bloody work.
Mr Pemberton took in hand to look after our friend Heywood; the rest
were well qualified to look after themselves. In five minutes they were
all remounted and rode quietly to the brow of the mound.
Here an interesting sight presented itself. The whole plain was
covered with the huge unwieldy forms of the buffaloes. They were
scattered about, singly and in groups, grazing or playing or lying
down, and in one or two places some of the bulls were engaged in single
combat, pawing the earth, goring each other, and bellowing furiously.
After one look, the hunters dashed down the hill and were in the
midst of the astonished animals almost before they could raise their
heads to look at them. Now commenced a scene which it is not easy to
describe correctly. Each man had selected his own group of animals, so
that the whole party was scattered in a moment.
“Follow me,” cried Pemberton to Heywood, “observe what I do, and
then go try it yourself.”
The fur-trader galloped at full speed towards a group of buffaloes
which stood right before him, about two hundred yards off. He carried a
single-barrelled gun with a flint lock in his right hand and a bullet
in his mouth, ready to re-load. The buffaloes gazed at him for one
moment in stupid surprise, and then, with a toss of their heads and a
whisk of their tails, they turned and fled. At first they ran with a
slow awkward gait, like pigs; and to one who did not know their powers,
it would seem that the fast-running horses of the two men would quickly
overtake them. But as they warmed to the work their speed increased,
and it required the horses to get up their best paces to overtake them.
After a furious gallop, Pemberton's horse ran close up alongside of
a fine-looking buffalo cow—so close that he could almost touch the
side of the animal with the point of his gun. Dropping the rein, he
pointed the gun without putting it to his shoulder and fired. The ball
passed through the animal's heart, and it dropt like a stone. At the
same moment Pemberton flung his cap on the ground beside it, so that he
might afterwards claim it as his own.
The well-trained horse did not shy at the shot, neither did it check
its pace for a moment, but ran straight on and soon placed its master
alongside of another buffalo cow. In the meantime, Pemberton loaded
like lightning. He let the reins hang loose, knowing that the horse
understood his work, and, seizing the powder-horn at his side with his
right hand, drew the wooden stopper with his teeth, and poured a charge
of powder into his left—guessing the quantity, of course. Pouring this
into the gun he put the muzzle to his mouth, and spat the ball into it,
struck the butt on the pommel of the saddle to send it down, as well as
to drive the powder into the pan, and taking his chance of the gun
priming itself, he aimed as before, and pulled the trigger. The
explosion followed, and a second buffalo lay dead upon the plain, with
a glove beside it to show to whom it belonged.
Scenes similar to this were being enacted all over the plain, with
this difference, that the bad or impatient men sometimes fired too soon
and missed their mark, or by only wounding the animals, infuriated them
and caused them to run faster. One or two ill-trained horses shied when
the guns were fired, and left their riders sprawling on the ground.
Others stumbled into badger-holes and rolled over. The Indians did
their work well. They were used to it, and did not bend their bows
until their horses almost brushed the reeking sides of the huge brutes.
Then they drew to the arrow heads, and, leaning forward, buried the
shafts up to the feathers. The arrow is said to be even more deadly
than the bullet.
Already the plain was strewn with dead or dying buffaloes, and the
ground seemed to tremble with the thunder of the tread of the
affrighted animals. Jasper had 'dropt' three, and Arrowhead had slain
two, yet the pace did not slacken—still the work of death went on.
Having seen Pemberton shoot another animal, Heywood became fired
with a desire to try his own hand, so he edged away from his companion.
Seeing a very large monstrous-looking buffalo flying away by itself at
no great distance, he turned his horse towards it, grasped his gun,
shook the reins, and gave chase.
Now poor Heywood did not know that the animal he had made up his
mind to kill was a tough old bull; neither did he know that a bull is
bad to eat, and dangerous to follow; and, worse than all, he did not
know that when a bull holds his tail stiff and straight up in the air,
it is a sign that he is in a tremendous rage, and that the wisest thing
a man can do is to let him alone. Heywood, in fact, knew nothing, so he
rushed blindly on his fate. At first the bull did not raise his tail,
but, as the rider drew near, he turned his enormous shaggy head a
little to one side, and looked at him out of the corner of his wicked
little eye. When Heywood came within a few yards and, in attempting to
take aim, fired off his gun by accident straight into the face of the
sun, the tail went up and the bull began to growl. The ferocious aspect
of the creature alarmed the artist, but he had made up his mind to kill
it, so he attempted to re-load, as Pemberton had done. He succeeded,
and, as he was about to turn his attention again to the bull, he
observed one of the men belonging to the fort making towards him. This
man saw and knew the artist's danger, and meant to warn him, but his
horse unfortunately put one of its feet into a hole, and sent him
flying head over heels through the air. Heywood was now so close to the
bull that he had to prepare for another shot.
The horse he rode was a thoroughly good buffalo-runner. It knew the
dangerous character of the bull, if its rider did not, and kept its eye
watchfully upon it. At last the bull lost patience, and, suddenly
wheeling round, dashed at the horse, but the trained animal sprang
nimbly to one side, and got out of the way. Heywood was all but thrown.
He clutched the mane, however, and held on. The bull then continued its
Determined not to be caught in this way again, the artist seized the
reins, and ran the horse close alongside of the buffalo, whose tail was
now as stiff as a poker. Once more the bull turned suddenly round.
Heywood pulled the reins violently, thus confusing his steed which ran
straight against the buffalo's big hairy forehead. It was stopped as
violently as if it had run against the side of a house. But poor
Heywood was not stopped. He left the saddle like a rocket, flew right
over the bull's back, came down on his face, ploughed up the land with
his nose—and learned a lesson from experience!
Fortunately the spot on which he fell happened to be one of those
soft muddy places in which the buffaloes are fond of rolling their huge
bodies in the heat of summer, so that, with the exception of a bruised
and dirty face, and badly soiled clothes, the bold artist was none the
worse for his adventure.
CHAPTER ELEVEN. WINTER—SLEEPING IN
THE SNOW—A NIGHT ALARM.
Summer passed away, autumn passed away, and winter came. So did
Christmas, and so did Jasper's marriage-day.
Now the reader must understand that there is a wonderful difference
between the winter in that part of the North American wilderness called
Rupert's land, and winter in our own happy island.
Winter out there is from six to eight months long. The snow varies
from three to four feet deep, and in many places it drifts to fifteen
or twenty feet deep. The ice on the lakes and rivers is sometimes above
six feet thick; and the salt sea itself, in Hudson's Bay, is frozen
over to a great extent. Nothing like a thaw takes place for many months
at a time, and the frost is so intense that it is a matter of
difficulty to prevent one's-self from being frost-bitten. The whole
country, during these long winter months, appears white, desolate, and
Yet a good many of the birds and animals keep moving about, though
most of them do so at night, and do not often meet the eye of man. The
bear goes to sleep all winter in a hole, but the wolf and the fox prowl
about the woods at night. Ducks, geese, and plover no longer enliven
the marshes with their wild cries; but white grouse, or ptarmigan, fly
about in immense flocks, and arctic hares make many tracks in the deep
snow. Still, these are quiet creatures, and they scarcely break the
deep dead silence of the forests in winter.
At this period the Indian and the fur-trader wrap themselves in warm
dresses of deer-skin, lined with the thickest flannel, and spend their
short days in trapping and shooting. At night the Indian piles logs on
his fire to keep out the frost, and adds to the warmth of his skin-tent
by heaping snow up the outside of it all round. The fur-trader puts
double window-frames and double panes of glass in his windows, puts on
double doors, and heats his rooms with cast-iron stoves.
But do what he will, the fur-trader cannot keep out the cold
altogether. He may heat the stove red-hot if he will, yet the water in
the basins and jugs in the corner of his room will be frozen, and his
breath settles on the window-panes, and freezes there so thickly that
it actually dims the light of the sun. This crust on the windows INSIDE
is sometimes an inch thick!
Thermometers in England are usually filled with quicksilver. In
Rupert's Land quicksilver would be frozen half the winter, so spirit of
wine is used instead, because that liquid will not freeze with any
ordinary degree of cold. Here, the thermometer sometimes falls as low
as zero. Out there it does not rise so high as zero during the greater
part of the winter, and it is often as low as twenty, thirty, and even
fifty degrees BELOW zero.
If the wind should blow when the cold is intense, no man dare face
it—he would be certain to be frost-bitten. The parts of the body that
are most easily frozen are the ears, the chin, the cheek-bones, the
nose, the heels, fingers, and toes. The freezing of any part begins
with a pricking sensation. When this occurs at the point of your nose,
it is time to give earnest attention to that feature, else you run the
risk of having it shortened. The best way to recover it is to rub it
well, and to keep carefully away from the fire.
The likest thing to a frost-bite is a burn. In fact, the two things
are almost the same. In both cases the skin or flesh is destroyed, and
becomes a sore. In the one case it is destroyed by fire, in the other
by frost; but in both it is painful and dangerous, according to the
depth of the frost-bite or the burn. Many a poor fellow loses joints of
his toes and fingers—some have even lost their hands and feet by
frost. Many have lost their lives. But the most common loss is the loss
of the skin of the point of the nose, cheek-bones, and chin—a loss
which is indeed painful, but can be replaced by nature in the course of
Of course curious appearances are produced by such intense cold. On
going out into the open air, the breath settles on the breast,
whiskers, and eyebrows in the shape of hoar-frost; and men who go out
in the morning for a ramble with black or brown locks, return at night
with what appears to be grey hair—sometimes with icicles hanging about
their faces. Horses and cattle there are seldom without icicles hanging
from their lips and noses in winter.
Poor Mr Pemberton was much troubled in this way. He was a fat and
heavy man, and apt to perspire freely. When he went out to shoot in
winter, the moisture trickled down his face and turned his whiskers
into two little blocks of ice; and he used to be often seen, after a
hard day's walk, sitting for a long time beside the stove, holding his
cheeks to the fire, and gently coaxing the icy blocks to let go their
But for all this, the long winter of those regions is a bright
enjoyable season. The cold is not felt so much as one would expect,
because it is not DAMP, and the weather is usually bright and sunny.
From what I have said, the reader will understand that summer in
those regions is short and very hot; the winter long and very cold.
Both seasons have their own peculiar enjoyments, and, to healthy men,
both are extremely agreeable.
I have said that Jasper's marriage-day had arrived. New Year's Day
was fixed for his union with the fair and gentle Marie. As is usual at
this festive season of the year, it was arranged that a ball should be
given at the fort in the large hall to all the people that chanced to
be there at the time.
Old Laroche had been sent to a small hut a long day's march from the
fort, where he was wont to spend his time in trapping foxes. He was
there alone, so, three days before New Year's Day, Jasper set out with
Arrowhead to visit the old man, and bear him company on his march back
to the fort.
There are no roads in that country. Travellers have to plod through
the wilderness as they best can. It may not have occurred to my reader
that it would be a difficult thing to walk for a day through snow so
deep, that, at every step, the traveller would sink the whole length of
his leg. The truth is, that travelling in Rupert's Land in winter would
be impossible but for a machine which enables men to walk on the
surface of the snow without sinking more than a few inches. This
machine is the snowshoe. Snow-shoes vary in size and form in different
parts of the country, but they are all used for the same purpose. Some
are long and narrow; others are nearly round. They vary in size from
three to six feet in length, and from eight to twenty inches in
breadth. They are extremely light—made of a frame-work of hard wood,
and covered with a network of deer-skin, which, while it prevents the
wearer from sinking more than a few inches, allows any snow that may
chance to fall on the top of the shoe to pass through the netting.
The value of this clumsy looking machine may be imagined, when I say
that men with them will easily walk twenty, thirty, and even forty
miles across a country over which they could not walk three miles
without such helps.
It was a bright, calm, frosty morning when Jasper and his friend set
out on their short journey. The sun shone brilliantly, and the
hoar-frost sparkled on the trees and bushes, causing them to appear as
if they had been covered with millions of diamonds. The breath of the
two men came from their mouths like clouds of steam. Arrowhead wore the
round snow-shoes which go by the name of bear's paws—he preferred
these to any others. Jasper wore the snow-shoes peculiar to the
Chipewyan Indians. They were nearly as long as himself, and turned up
at the point. Both men were dressed alike, in the yellow leathern
costume of winter. The only difference being that Jasper wore a fur
cap, while Arrowhead sported a cloth head-piece that covered his neck
and shoulders, and was ornamented with a pair of horns.
All day the two men plodded steadily over the country. Sometimes
they were toiling through deep snow in wooded places, sinking six or
eight inches in spite of their snow-shoes. At other times they were
passing swiftly over the surface of the open plains, where the snow was
beaten so hard by exposure to the sun and wind that the shoes only just
broke the crust and left their outlines behind.
Then they reached a bend of the river, where they had again to plod
heavily through the woods on its banks, until they came out upon its
frozen surface. Here the snow was so hard, that they took off their
snow-shoes and ran briskly along without them for a long space.
Thus they travelled all day, without one halt, and made such good
use of their time, that they arrived at the log-hut of old Laroche
early in the evening.
“Well met, son-in-law, THAT IS TO BE,” cried the stout old man
heartily, as the two hunters made their appearance before the low
door-way of his hut, which was surrounded by trees and almost buried in
snow. “If you had been half an hour later, I would have met you in the
“How so, father-in-law, THAT IS TO BE,” said Jasper, “were ye goin'
out to your traps so late as this?”
“Nay, man, but I was startin' for the fort. It's a long way, as you
know, and my old limbs are not just so supple as yours. I thought I
would travel to-night, and sleep in the woods, so as to be there in
good time to-morrow. But come in, come in, and rest you. I warrant me
you'll not feel inclined for more walkin' to-night.”
“Now my name is not Jasper Derry if I enter your hut this night,”
said the hunter stoutly. “If I could not turn round and walk straight
back to the fort this night, I would not be worthy of your daughter,
old man. So come along with you. What say you, Arrowhead; shall we go
“Good,” answered the Indian.
“Well, well,” cried Laroche, laughing, “lead the way, and I will
follow in your footsteps. It becomes young men to beat the track, and
old ones to take it easy.”
The three men turned their faces towards Fort Erie, and were soon
far away from the log-hut. They walked steadily and silently along,
without once halting, until the night became so dark that it was
difficult to avoid stumps and bushes. Then they prepared to encamp in
Now it may seem to many people a very disagreeable idea, that of
sleeping out in snow, but one who has tried it can assure them that it
is not so bad as it seems. No doubt, when Jasper halted in the cold
dark woods, and said, “I think this will be a pretty good place to
sleep,” any one unacquainted with the customs of that country would
have thought the man was jesting or mad; for, besides being very
dismal, in consequence of its being pitch dark, it was excessively
cold, and snow was falling steadily and softly on the ground. But
Jasper knew what he was about, and so did the others. Without saying a
word, the three men flung down their bundles of provisions, and each
set to work to make the encampment. Of course they had to work in
darkness so thick that even the white snow could scarcely be seen.
First of all they selected a tree, the branches of which were so
thick and spreading as to form a good shelter from the falling snow.
Here Jasper and Laroche used their snow-shoes as shovels, while
Arrowhead plied his axe and soon cut enough of firewood for the night.
He also cut a large bundle of small branches for bedding. A space of
about twelve feet long, by six broad, was cleared at the foot of the
tree in half an hour. But the snow was so deep that they had to dig
down four feet before they reached the turf. As the snow taken out of
the hole was thrown up all round it, the walls rose to nearly seven
Arrowhead next lighted a roaring fire at one end of this cleared
space, the others strewed the branches over the space in front of it,
and spread their blankets on the top, after which the kettle was put on
to boil, buffalo steaks were stuck up before the fire to roast, and the
men then lay down to rest and smoke, while supper was preparing. The
intense cold prevented the fire from melting the snowy walls of this
encampment, which shone and sparkled in the red blaze like pink marble
studded all over with diamonds, while the spreading branches formed a
ruddy-looking ceiling. When they had finished supper, the heat of the
fire and the heat of their food made the travellers feel quite warm and
comfortable, in spite of John Frost; and when they at last wrapped
their blankets round them and laid their heads together on the
branches, they fell into a sleep more sound and refreshing than they
would have enjoyed had they gone to rest in a warm house upon the best
bed in England.
But when the fire went out, about the middle of the night, the cold
became so intense that they were awakened by it, so Jasper rose and
blew up the fire, and the other two sat up and filled their pipes,
while their teeth chattered in their heads. Soon the blaze and the
smoke warmed them, and again they lay down to sleep comfortably till
Before daybreak, however, Arrowhead—who never slept so soundly but
that he could be wakened by the slightest unusual noise—slowly raised
his head and touched Jasper on the shoulder. The hunter was too
well-trained to the dangers of the wilderness to start up or speak. He
uttered no word but took up his gun softly and looked in the direction
in which the Indian's eyes gazed. A small red spot in the ashes served
to reveal a pair of glaring eye-balls among the bushes.
“A wolf,” whispered Jasper, cocking his gun. “No; a man,” said
At the sound of the click of the lock the object in the bushes
moved. Jasper leaped up in an instant, pointed his gun, and shouted
“Stand fast and speak, or I fire!”
At the same moment Arrowhead kicked the logs of the fire, and a
bright flame leapt up, showing that the owner of the pair of eyes was
an Indian. Seeing that he was discovered, and that if he turned to run
he would certainly be shot, the savage came forward sulkily and sat
down beside the fire. Jasper asked him why he came there in that
stealthy manner like a sly fox. The Indian said he was merely
travelling by night, and had come on the camp unexpectedly. Not knowing
who was there, he had come forward with caution.
Jasper was not satisfied with this reply. He did not like the look
of the man, and he felt sure that he had seen him somewhere before, but
his face was disfigured with war paint, and he could not feel certain
on that point until he remembered the scene in the trading store at
“What—Darkeye!” cried he, “can it be you?”
“Darkeye!” shouted Laroche, suddenly rising from his reclining
position and staring the Indian in the face with a dark scowl. “Why,
Jasper, this is the villain who insulted my daughter, and to whom I
taught the lesson that an old man could knock him down.”
The surprise and indignation of Jasper on hearing this was great,
but remembering that the savage had already been punished for his
offence, and that it would be mean to take advantage of him when there
were three to one, he merely said—
“Well, well, I won't bear a grudge against a man who is coward
enough to insult a woman. I would kick you out o' the camp, Darkeye,
but as you might use your gun when you got into the bushes, I won't
give you that chance. At the same time, we can't afford to lose the
rest of our nap for you, so Arrowhead will keep you safe here and watch
you, while Laroche and I sleep. We will let you go at daybreak.”
Saying this Jasper lay down beside his father-in-law, and they were
both asleep in a few minutes, leaving the two Indians to sit and scowl
at each other beside the fire.
CHAPTER TWELVE. THE WEDDING, AN
ARRIVAL, A FEAST, AND A BALL.
New Year's Day came at last, and on the morning of that day Jasper
Derry and Marie Laroche were made man and wife. They were married by
the Reverend Mr Wilson, a Wesleyan missionary, who had come to Fort
Erie, a few days before, on a visit to the tribes of Indians in that
The North American Indian has no religion worthy of the name; but he
has a conscience, like other men, which tells him that it is wrong to
murder and to steal. Yet, although he knows this, he seldom hesitates
to do both when he is tempted thereto. Mr Wilson was one of those
earnest missionaries who go to that wilderness and face its dangers, as
well as its hardships and sufferings, for the sake of teaching the
savage that the mere knowledge of right and wrong is not enough—that
the love of God, wrought in the heart of man by the Holy Spirit, alone
can enable him to resist evil and do good—that belief in the Lord
Jesus Christ alone can save the soul.
There are several missionaries of this stamp—men who love the name
of Jesus—in that region, and there are a number of stations where the
good seed of God's Word is being planted in the wilderness. But I have
not space, and this is not the place, to enlarge on the great and
interesting subject of missionary work in Rupert's Land. I must return
to my narrative.
It was, as I have said, New Year's day when Jasper and Marie were
married. And a remarkably bright, beautiful morning it was. The snow
appeared whiter than usual, and the countless gems of hoar-frost that
hung on shrub and tree seemed to sparkle more than usual; even the sun
appeared to shine more brightly than ever it did before—at least it
seemed so in the eyes of Jasper and Marie.
“Everything seems to smile on us to-day, Marie,” said Jasper, as
they stood with some of their friends at the gate of the fort, just
after the ceremony was concluded.
“I trust that God may smile on you, and bless your union, my
friends,” said Mr Wilson, coming forward with a small Bible in his
hand. “Here is a copy of God's Word, Jasper, which I wish you to accept
of and keep as a remembrance of me and of this day.”
“I'll keep it, sir, and I thank you heartily,” said Jasper, taking
the book and returning the grasp of the missionary's hand.
“And my chief object in giving it to you, Jasper, is, that you and
Marie may read it often, and find joy and peace to your souls.”
As the missionary said this a faint sound, like the tinkling of
distant bells, was heard in the frosty air.
Looks of surprise and excitement showed that this was an unwonted
sound. And so it was; for only once or twice during the long winter did
a visitor gladden Fort Erie with his presence. These sweet sounds were
the tinkling of sleigh-bells, and they told that a stranger was
approaching—that letters, perhaps, and news from far-distant homes,
might be near at band.
Only twice in the year did the Europeans at that lonely outpost
receive letters from home. Little wonder that they longed for them, and
that they went almost wild with joy when they came.
Soon the sleigh appeared in sight, coming up the river at full
speed, and a loud “hurrah!” from the men at the gate, told the visitor
that he was a welcome guest. It was a dog-sleigh—a sort of conveyance
much used by the fur-traders in winter travelling. In form, it was as
like as possible to a tin slipper bath. It might also be compared to a
shoe. If the reader will try to conceive of a shoe large enough to hold
a man, sitting with his legs out before him, that will give him a good
idea of the shape of a dog cariole. There is sometimes an ornamental
curve in front. It is made of two thin hardwood planks curled up in
front, with a light frame-work of wood, covered over with deer or
buffalo skin, and painted in a very gay manner. Four dogs are usually
harnessed to it, and these are quite sufficient to drag a man on a
journey of many days, over every sort of country, where there is no
road whatever. Dogs are much used for hauling little sledges in that
country in winter. The traveller sits wrapped up so completely in furs,
that nothing but his head is visible. He is attended by a driver on
snow-shoes, who is armed with a large whip. No reins are used. If the
snow is hard, as is usually the case on the surface of a lake or river,
the driver walks behind and holds on to a tail-line, to prevent the
dogs from running away. If the traveller's way lies through the woods,
the snow is so soft and deep that the poor dogs are neither willing nor
able to run away. It is as much as they can do to walk; so the driver
goes before them, in this case, and beats down the snow with his
snow-shoes—“beats the track,” as it is called. The harness of the dogs
is usually very gay, and covered with little bells which give forth a
cheerful tinkling sound.
“It's young Cameron,” cried Mr Pemberton, hastening forward to
welcome the newcomer.
Cameron was the gentleman in charge of the nearest outpost—two
hundred and fifty miles down the river.
“Welcome, Cameron, my boy, welcome to Fort Erie. You are the
pleasantest sight we have seen here for many a day,” said Pemberton,
shaking the young man heartily by the hand as soon as he had jumped out
of his sleigh.
“Come, Pemberton, you forget Miss Marie Laroche when you talk of my
being the pleasantest sight,” said Cameron, laughing.
“Ah! true. Pardon me, Marie—”
“Excuse me, gentlemen,” interrupted Jasper, with much gravity, “I
know of no such person as Miss Marie Laroche!”
“How? what do you mean?” said Cameron, with a puzzled look.
“Jasper is right,” explained Pemberton, “Marie was MISS LAROCHE
yesterday; she is MRS DERRY to-day.”
“Then I salute you, Mrs Derry, and congratulate you both,” cried the
young man, kissing the bride's fair cheek, “and I rejoice to find that
I am still in time to dance at your wedding.”
“Ay,” said Pemberton, as they moved up to the hall, “that reminds me
to ask you why you are so late. I expected you before Christmas Day.”
“I had intended to be here by that day,” replied Cameron, “but one
of my men cut his foot badly with an axe, and I could not leave him;
then my dogs broke down on the journey, and that detained me still
longer. But you will forgive my being so late, I think, when I tell you
that I have got a packet of letters with me.”
“Letters!” shouted every one.
“Ay, letters and newspapers from England.”
A loud cheer greeted this announcement. The packet was hauled out of
the sleigh, hurried up to the fort, torn open with eager haste, and the
fur-traders of Fort Erie were soon devouring the contents like hungry
And they WERE hungry men—they were starving! Those who see their
kindred and friends daily, or hear from them weekly, cannot understand
the feelings of men who hear from them only twice in the year. Great
improvements have taken place in this matter of late years; still, many
of the Hudson Bay Company's outposts are so distant from the civilised
world, that they cannot get news from “home” oftener than twice a year.
It was a sight to study and moralise over—the countenances of these
banished men. The trembling anxiety lest there should be “bad news.”
The gleam of joy, and the deep “thank God,” on reading “all well.” Then
the smiles, the sighs, the laughs, the exclamations of surprise,
perhaps the tears that WOULD spring to their eyes as they read the
brief but, to them, thrilling private history of the past half year.
There was no bad news in that packet, and a feeling of deep joy was
poured into the hearts of the people of the fort by these “Good news
from a far country.” Even the half-breeds and Indians, who could not
share the feeling, felt the sweet influence of the general happiness
that was diffused among the fur-traders on that bright New Year's Day
in the wilderness.
What a dinner they had that day to be sure! What juicy roasts of
buffalo beef; what enormous steaks of the same; what a magnificent
venison pasty; and what glorious marrow-bones—not to mention tongues,
and hearts, and grouse, and other things! But the great feature of the
feast was the plum-pudding. It was like a huge cannon-ball with the
measles! There was wine, too, on this occasion. Not much, it is true,
but more than enough, for it had been saved up all the year expressly
for the Christmas and New Year's festivities. Thus they were enabled to
drink to absent friends, and bring up all the old toasts and songs that
used to be so familiar long ago in the “old country.” But these sturdy
traders needed no stimulants. There were one or two who even scorned
the wine, and stuck to water, and to their credit be it said, that they
toasted and sang with the best of them.
At night there was a ball, and the ball beat the dinner out of
sight. Few indeed were the women, but numerous were the men. Indian
women are not famous for grace or cleanliness, poor things. But they
enjoyed the ball, and they did their best to dance. Such dancing! They
seemed to have no joints. They stood up stiff as lamp-posts, and went
with an up-and-down motion from side to side. But the men did the thing
bravely, especially the Indians. The only dances attempted were Scotch
reels, and the Indians tried to copy the fur-traders; but on finding
this somewhat difficult, they introduced some surprising steps of their
own, which threw the others entirely into the shade! There was
unfortunately no fiddler, but there was a fiddle—one made of pine wood
by an Indian, with strings of deer-skin sinew. Some of the boldest of
the party scraped TIME without regard to TUNE, and our friend Heywood
beat the kettle-drum. The tones of the fiddle at last became so
horrible that it was banished altogether, and they danced that night to
Of course the fair bride was the queen of that ball. Her countenance
was the light of it, and her modest, womanly manner had a softening
influence on the rough men who surrounded her.
When the ball was over, a curious thing occurred in the hall in
which it had taken place. The room was heated by a stove, and as a
stove dries the air of a room too much, it was customary to keep a pan
of water on the stove to moisten it a little. This moisture was
increased that night by the steam of the supper and by the wild
dancing, so that, when all was over, the walls and ceiling were covered
with drops of water. During the night this all froze in the form of
small beautifully-shaped crystals, and in the morning they found
themselves in a crystal palace of nature's own formation, which beat
all the crystal palaces that ever were heard of—at least in
originality, if not in splendour.
Thus happily ended the marriage-day of honest Jasper Derry and sweet
Marie Laroche, and thus pleasantly began the new year of 18—. But as
surely as darkness follows light, and night follows day, so surely does
sorrow tread on the heels of joy in the history of man. God has so
ordained it, and he is wise who counts upon experiencing both.
CHAPTER THIRTEEN. THE CONCLUSION.
A week after the events narrated in the last chapter, Jasper Derry
was sitting beside the stove in the hall at Fort Erie, smoking his pipe
and conversing with his father-in-law about his intention of going to
Lake Winnipeg with the brigade in spring and proceeding thence to
Canada in a bark canoe.
“Of course,” said he, “I will take Marie with me, and if you'll take
my advice, father, you'll come too.”
“No, my son, not yet a while,” said old Laroche, shaking his head;
“I have a year yet to serve the Company before my engagement is out.
After that I may come, if I'm spared; but you know that the Indians are
not safe just now, and some of them, I fear, bear me a grudge, for
they're a revengeful set.”
“That's true, father, but supposin' that all goes well with you,
will ye come an' live with Marie and me?”
“We shall see, lad; we shall see,” replied Laroche, with a pleased
smile; for the old guide evidently enjoyed the prospect of spending the
evening of life in the land of his fathers, and under the roof-tree of
his son and daughter.
At that moment the report of a gun was heard outside the house. One
of the window-panes was smashed and at the same instant Laroche fell
heavily forward on the floor.
Jasper sprang up and endeavoured to raise him, but found that he was
insensible. He laid him carefully on his back, and hastily opened the
breast of his coat. A few drops of blood showed where he had been
wounded. Meanwhile several of the men who had been attracted by the
gunshot so close to the house burst into the room.
“Stand back, stand back, give him air,” cried Jasper; “stay, O God
help us! the old man is shot clean through the heart!”
For one moment Jasper looked up with a bewildered glance in the
faces of the men, then, uttering a wild cry of mingled rage and agony,
he sprang up, dashed them aside, and catching up his gun and snow-shoes
rushed out of the house.
He soon found a fresh track in the snow, and the length of the
stride, coupled with the manner in which the snow was cast aside, and
the smaller bushes were broken and trodden down, told him that the
fugitive had made it. In a moment he was following the track with the
utmost speed of which he was capable. He never once halted, or
faltered, or turned aside, all that day. His iron frame seemed to be
incapable of fatigue. He went with his body bent forward, his brows
lowering, and his lips firmly compressed; but he was not successful.
The murderer had got a sufficiently long start of him to render what
sailors call a stern chase a long one. Still Jasper never thought of
giving up the pursuit, until he came suddenly on an open space, where
the snow had been recently trodden down by a herd of buffaloes, and by
a band of Indians who were in chase of them.
Here he lost the track, and although he searched long and carefully
he could not find it. Late that night the baffled hunter returned to
“You have failed—I see by your look,” said Mr Pemberton, as Jasper
“Ay, I have failed,” returned the other gloomily. “He must have gone
with the band of Indians among whose tracks I lost his footsteps.”
“Have you any idea who can have done this horrible deed?” said
“It was Darkeye,” said Jasper in a stern voice.
Some of the Indians who chanced to be in the hall were startled, and
rose on hearing this.
“Be not alarmed, friends,” said the fur-trader. “You are the guests
of Christian men. We will not punish you for the deeds of another man
of your tribe.”
“How does the white man know that this was done by Darkeye?” asked a
“I KNOW IT,” said Jasper angrily; “I feel sure of it; but I cannot
prove it—of course. Does Arrowhead agree with me?”
“He does!” replied the Indian, “and there may be proof. Does Jasper
remember the trading store and the BITTEN BULLET?”
A gleam of intelligence shot across the countenance of the white
hunter as his comrade said this. “True, Arrowhead, true.”
He turned, as he spoke, to the body of his late father-in-law, and
examined the wound. The ball, after passing through the heart, had
lodged in the back, just under the skin.
“See,” said he to the Indians, “I will cut out this ball, but before
doing so I will tell how I think it is marked.”
He then related the incident in the trading store, with which the
reader is already acquainted, and afterwards extracted the ball, which,
although much flattened and knocked out of shape, showed clearly the
deep marks made by the Indian's teeth. Thus, the act which had been
done slyly but boastfully before the eyes of a comrade, probably as
wicked as himself, became the means whereby Darkeye's guilt was clearly
At once a party of his own tribe were directed by their chief to go
out in pursuit of the murderer.
It were vain for me to endeavour to describe the anguish of poor
Marie on being deprived of a kind and loving father in so awful and
sudden a manner. I will drop a veil over her grief, which was too deep
and sacred to be intermeddled with.
On the day following the murder, a band of Indians arrived at Fort
Erie with buffalo skins for sale. To the amazement of every one Darkeye
himself was among them. The wily savage—knowing that his attempting to
quit that part of the country as a fugitive would be certain to fix
suspicion on him as the murderer—resolved to face the fur-traders as
if he were ignorant of the deed which had been done. By the very
boldness of this step he hoped to disarm suspicion; but he forgot the
It was therefore a look of genuine surprise that rose to Darkeye's
visage, when, the moment he entered the fort, Mr Pemberton seized him
by the right arm, and led him into the hall.
At first he attempted to seize the handle of his knife, but a glance
at the numbers of the white men, and the indifference of his own
friends, showed him that his best chance lay in cunning.
The Indians who had arrived with him were soon informed by the
others of the cause of this, and all of them crowded into the hall to
watch the proceedings. The body of poor Laroche was laid on a table,
and Darkeye was led up to it. The cunning Indian put on a pretended
look of surprise on beholding it, and then the usual expression of
stolid gravity settled on his face as he turned to Mr Pemberton for
“YOUR hand did this,” said the fur-trader.
“Is Darkeye a dog that he should slay an old man?” said the savage.
“No, you're not a dog,” cried Jasper fiercely; “you are worse—a
“Stand back, Jasper,” said Mr Pemberton, laying his hand on the
shoulder of the excited hunter, and thrusting him firmly away. “This is
a serious charge. The Indian shall not be hastily condemned. He shall
have fair play, and JUSTICE.”
“Good!” cried several of the Indians on hearing this. Meanwhile the
principal chief of the tribe took up his stand close beside the
“Darkeye,” said Mr Pemberton, while he looked steadfastly into the
eyes of the Indian, who returned the look as steadily—“Darkeye, do you
remember a conversation you had many weeks ago in the trading store at
The countenance of the Indian was instantly troubled, and he said
with some hesitation, “Darkeye has had many conversations in that
store; is he a medicine-man (a conjurer) that he should know what you
“I will only put one other question,” said the fur-trader. “Do you
know this bullet WITH THE MARKS OF TEETH in it?”
Darkeye's visage fell at once. He became deadly pale, and his limbs
trembled. He was about to speak when the chief, who had hitherto stood
in silence at his side, suddenly whirled his tomahawk in the air, and,
bringing it down on the murderer's skull, cleft him to the chin!
A fierce yell followed this act, and several scalping knives reached
the dead man's heart before his body fell to the ground. The scene that
followed was terrible. The savages were roused to a state of frenzy,
and for a moment the white men feared an attack, but the anger of the
Indians was altogether directed against their dead comrade, who had
been disliked by his people, while his poor victim Laroche had been a
universal favourite. Seizing the body of Darkeye, they carried it down
to the banks of the river, hooting and yelling as they went; hacked and
cut it nearly to pieces, and then, kindling a large fire, they threw
the mangled corpse into it, and burned it to ashes.
It was long before the shadow of this dark cloud passed away from
Fort Erie; and it was longer still before poor Marie recovered her
wonted cheerfulness. But the presence of Mr Wilson did much to comfort
her. Gradually time softened the pang and healed the wound.
And now, little remains to be told. Winter passed away and spring
came, and when the rivers and lakes were sufficiently free from ice,
the brigade of boats left Fort Erie, laden with furs, for the
On arriving at Lake Winnipeg, Jasper obtained a small canoe, and,
placing his wife and Heywood in the middle of it, he and Arrowhead took
the paddles, seated themselves in the bow and stern, and guided their
frail bark through many hundreds of miles of wilderness—over many a
rough portage, across many a beautiful lake, and up many a roaring
torrent, until, finally, they arrived in Canada.
Here Jasper settled. His farm prospered—his family increased.
Sturdy boys, in course of time, ploughed the land and blooming
daughters tended the dairy. Yet Jasper Derry did not cease to toil. He
was one of those men who FEEL that they were made to work, and that
much happiness flows from working. He often used to say that if it was
God's will, he would “like to die in harness.”
Jasper's only weakness was the pipe. It stuck to him and he stuck to
it to the last. Marie, in course of time, came to tolerate it, and
regularly filled it for him every night.
Evening was the time when the inmates of Erie Cottage (as their
residence was named) enjoyed themselves most; for it was then that the
stalwart sons and the blooming daughters circled round the great fire
of wood that roared, on winter nights, up the chimney; and it was then
that Jasper received his pipe from his still good-looking, though
rather stout, Marie, and began to spin yarns about his young days. At
this time, too, it was, that the door would frequently open, and a
rugged old Indian would stalk in like a mahogany ghost, and squat down
in front of the fire. He was often followed by a tall thin old
gentleman, who was extremely excitable, but good-humoured. Jasper
greeted these two remarkable looking men by the names of Arrowhead and
And glad were the young people when they saw their wrinkled faces,
for then, they knew from experience, their old father would become more
lively than usual, and would go on for hours talking of all the wonders
and dangers that he had seen and encountered long, long ago, when he
and his two friends were away in the wilderness.