The Young Fur Traders
Part 6 out of 7
Jacques thrust his pipe into his bosom, held out his horny hand, and
giving his young friends a hearty shake, turned and strode from the
On the following day Jacques called according to promise, and the
three friends set off together to visit the Indian village. This
missionary station was under the management of a Wesleyan clergyman,
Pastor Conway by name, an excellent man, of about forty-five years of
age, with an energetic mind and body, a bald head, a mild, expressive
countenance, and a robust constitution. He was admirably qualified
for his position, having a natural aptitude for every sort of work
that man is usually called on to perform. His chief care was for the
instruction of the Indians, whom he had induced to settle around him,
in the great and all-important truths of Christianity. He invented an
alphabet, and taught them to write and read their own language. He
commenced the laborious task of translating the Scriptures into the
Cree language; and being an excellent musician, he instructed his
converts to sing in parts the psalms and Wesleyan hymns, many of
which are exceedingly beautiful. A school was also established and a
church built under his superintendence, so that the natives assembled
in an orderly way in a commodious sanctuary every Sabbath day to
worship God; while the children were instructed, not only in the
Scriptures, and made familiar with the narrative of the humiliation
and exaltation of our blessed Saviour, but were also taught the
elementary branches of a secular education. But good Pastor Conway's
energy did not stop here. Nature had gifted him with that peculiar
genius which is powerfully expressed in the term "a jack-of-all-
trades." He could turn his hand to anything; and being, as we have
said, an energetic man, he did turn his hand to almost everything. If
anything happened to get broken, the pastor could either "mend it
himself or direct how it was to be done. If a house was to be built
for a new family of red men, who had never handled a saw or hammer in
their lives, and had lived up to that time in tents, the pastor lent
a hand to begin it, drew out the plan (not a very complicated thing
certainly), set them fairly at work, and kept his eye on it until it
was finished. In short, the worthy pastor was everything to
everybody, "that by all means he might gain some."
Under such management the village flourished as a matter of course,
although it did not increase very rapidly owing to the almost
unconquerable aversion of North American Indians to take up a settled
It was to this little hamlet, then, that our three friends directed
their steps. On arriving, they found Pastor Conway in a sort of
workshop, giving directions to an Indian who stood with a soldering-
iron in one hand and a sheet of tin in the other, which he was about
to apply to a curious-looking half-finished machine that bore some
resemblance to a canoe.
"Ah, my friend Jacques!" he exclaimed as the hunter approached him,
"the very man I wished to see. But I beg pardon, gentlemen,-
strangers, I perceive. You are heartily welcome. It is seldom that I
have the pleasure of seeing new friends in my wild dwelling. Pray
come with me to my house."
Pastor Conway shook hands with Harry and Hamilton with a degree of
warmth that evinced the sincerity of his words. The young men thanked
him and accepted the invitation.
As they turned to quit the workshop, the pastor observed Jacques's
eye fixed with a puzzled expression of countenance, on his canoe.
"You have never seen anything like that before, I daresay?" said he,
with a smile.
"No, sir; I never did see such a queer machine afore."
"It is a tin canoe, with which I hope to pass through many miles of
country this spring, on my way to visit a tribe of Northern Indians,
and it was about this very thing that I wanted to see you, my
Jacques made no reply, but cast a look savouring very slightly of
contempt on the unfinished canoe as they turned and went away.
The pastor's dwelling stood at one end of the village, a view of
which it commanded from the back windows, while those in front
overlooked the lake. It was pleasantly situated and pleasantly
tenanted, for the pastor's wife was a cheerful, active little lady,
like-minded with himself, and delighted to receive and entertain
strangers. To her care Mr. Conway consigned the young men, after
spending a short time in conversation with them; and then, requesting
his wife to show them through the village, he took Jacques by the arm
and sauntered out,
"Come with me, Jacques," he began; "I have somewhat to say to you. I
had not time to broach the subject when I met you at the Company's
fort, and have been anxious to see you ever since. You tell me that
you have met with my friend Redfeather."
"Yes, sir; I spent a week or two with him last fall I found him
stayin' with his tribe, and we started to come down here together."
"Ah, that is the very point," exclaimed the pastor, that I wish to
inquire about. I firmly believe that God has opened that Indian's
eyes to see the truth; and I fully expected from what he said when we
last met, that he would have made up his mind to come and stay here."
"As to what the Almighty has done to him," said Jacques, in a
reverential tone of voice, "I don't pretend to know; he did for
sartin speak, and act too, in a way that I never seed an Injin do
before. But about his comin' here, sir, you were quite right: he did
mean to come, and I've no doubt will come yet."
"What prevented him coming with you, as you tell me he intended?"
inquired the pastor.
"Well, you see, sir, he and I and his squaw, as I said, set off to
come here together: but when we got the length o' Edmonton House, we
heerd that you were comin' up to pay a visit to the tribe to which
Redfeather belongs; and so seem' that it was o' no use to come down
hereaway just to turn about an' go up agin, he stopped there to wait
for you, for he knew you would want him to interpret--"
"Ay," interrupted the pastor, "that's true. I have two reasons for
wishing to have him here. The primary one is, that he may get good to
his immortal soul; and then he understands English so well that I
want him to become my interpreter; for although I understand the Cree
language pretty well now, I find it exceedingly difficult to explain
the doctrines of the Bible to my people in it. But pardon me, I
"I was only going to say," resumed Jacques, "that I made up my mind
to stay with him; but they wanted a man to bring the winter packet
here, so, as they pressed me very hard, an' I had nothin' particular
to do, I 'greed and came, though I would rather ha' stopped; for
Redfeather an' I ha' struck up a friendship togither--a thing that I
would never ha' thought it poss'ble for me to do with a red Injin."
"And why not with a red Indian, friend?" inquired the pastor, while a
shade of sadness passed over his mild features, as if unpleasant
thoughts had been roused by the hunter's speech.
"Well, it's not easy to say why," rejoined the other. "I've no
partic'lar objection to the red-skins. There's only one man among
them that I bears a grudge agin, and even that one I'd rayther avoid
"But you should _forgive_ him, Jacques. The Bible tells us not only
to bear our enemies no grudge, but to love them and to do them good."
The hunter's brow darkened. "That's impossible, sir," he said; "I
couldn't do _him_ a good turn if I was to try ever so hard. He may
bless his stars that I don't want to do him mischief; but to _love
him_, it's jist imposs'ble."
"With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible,"
said the pastor solemnly.
Jacques's naturally philosophic though untutored mind saw the force
of this. He felt that God, who had formed his soul, his body, and the
wonderfully complicated machinery and objects of nature, which were
patent to his observant and reflective mind wherever he went, must of
necessity be equally able to alter, influence, and remould them all
according to His will. Common-sense was sufficient to teach him this;
and the bold hunter exhibited no ordinary amount of common-sense in
admitting the fact at once, although in the case under discussion
(the loving of his enemy) it seemed utterly impossible to his
feelings and experience. The frown, therefore, passed from his brow,
while he said respectfully, "What you say, sir, is true; I believe
though I can't _feel_ it. But I s'pose the reason I niver felt much
drawn to the red-skins is, that all the time I lived in the
settlements I was used to hear them called and treated as thievin'
dogs, an 'when I com'd among them I didn't see much to alter my
opinion. Here an' there I have found one or two honest Injins, an'
Redfeather is as true as steel; but the most o' them are no better
than they should be. I s'pose I don' think much o' them just because
they are red-skins."
"Ah, Jacques, you will excuse me if I say that there is not much
sense in _that_ reason. An Indian cannot help being a red man any
more than you can help being a white one, so that he ought not to be
despised on that account. Besides, God made him what he is, and to
despise the _work_ of God, or to undervalue it, is to despise God
Himself. You may indeed despise, or rather abhor, the sins that red
men are guilty of; but if you despise _them_ on this ground, you must
much more despise white men, for _they_ are guilty of greater
iniquities than Indians are. They have more knowledge, and are
therefore more inexcusable when they sin; and anyone who has
travelled much must be aware that, in regard to general wickedness,
white men are at least quite as bad as Indians. Depend upon it,
Jacques, that there will be Indians found in heaven at the last day
as well as white men. God is no respecter of persons."
"I niver thought much on that subject afore, sir," returned the
hunter; "what you say seems reasonable enough. I'm sure an' sartin,
any way, that if there's a red-skin in heaven at all, Redfeather will
be there, an' I only hope that I may be there too to keep him
"I hope so, my friend,", said the pastor earnestly; "I hope so too,
with all my heart. And if you will accept of this little book, it
will show you how to get there."
The missionary drew a small, plainly-bound copy of the Bible from his
pocket as he spoke, and presented it to Jacques, who received it with
a smile, and thanked him, saying, at the same time, that he "was not
much up to book-larnin', but he would read it with pleasure."
"Now, Jacques," said the pastor, after a little further conversation
on the subject of the Bible, in which he endeavoured to impress upon
him the absolute necessity of being acquainted with the blessed
truths which it contains--"now, Jacques, about my visit to the
Indians. I intend, if the Almighty spares me, to embark in yon tin
canoe that you found me engaged with, and, with six men to work it,
proceed to the country of the Knisteneux Indians, visit their chief
camp, and preach to them there as long as the weather will permit.
When the season is pretty well advanced, and winter threatens to cut
off my retreat, I shall re-embark in my canoe and return home. By
this means I hope to be able to sow the good seed of Christian truths
in the hearts of men who, as they will not come to this settlement,
have no chance of being brought under the power of the Gospel by any
Jacques gave one of his quiet smiles on hearing this. "Right sir--
right," he said, with some energy; "I have always thought, although I
niver made bold to say it before, that there was not enough o' this
sort o' thing. It has always seemed to me a kind o' madness (excuse
my plainness o' speech, sir) in you pastors, thinkin' to make the
red-skins come and settle round you like so many squaws, and dig up
an' grub at the ground, when it's quite clear that their natur' and
the natur' o' things about them meant them to be hunters. An' surely,
since the Almighty made them hunters, He intended them to _be_
hunters, an' won't refuse to make them Christians on _that_ account.
A red-skin's natur' is a huntin' natur', an' nothin' on arth 'll ever
make it anything else.'
"There is much truth in what you observe, friend," rejoined the
pastor; "but you are not _altogether_ right. Their nature _may_ be
changed, although certainly nothing on _earth_ will change it. Look
at that frozen lake." He pointed to the wide field of thick snow-
covered ice that stretched out for miles like a sheet of white marble
before them. "Could anything on earth break up or sink or melt that?"
"Nothin'," replied Jacques, laconically.
"But the warm beams of yon glorious sun can do it," continued the
pastor, pointing upwards as he spoke, "and do it effectually too; so
that, although you can scarcely observe the process, it nevertheless
turns the hard, thick, solid ice into limpid water at last. So is it
in regard to man. Nothing on earth can change his heart, or alter his
nature; but our Saviour, who is called the Sun of Righteousness, can.
When He shines into a man's soul it melts. The old man becomes a
little child, the wild savage a Christian. But I agree with you in
thinking that we have not been sufficiently alive to the necessity of
seeking to convert the Indians before trying to gather them round us.
The one would follow as a natural consequence, I think, of the other,
and it is owing to this conviction that I intend, as I have already
said, to make a journey in spring to visit those who will not or
cannot come to visit me. And now, what I want to ask is whether you
will agree to accompany me as steersman and guide on my expedition."
The hunter slowly shook his head. "I'm afeard not sir; I have already
promised to take charge of a canoe for the Company. I would much
rather go with you, but I must keep my word."
"Certainly, Jacques, certainly; that settles the question You cannot
go with me--unless--" the pastor paused as if in thought for a
moment--"unless you can persuade them to let you off."
"Well, sir, I can try," returned Jacques.
"Do; and I need not say how happy I shall be if you succeed. Good-
day, friend, good-bye." So saying, the missionary shook hands with
the hunter and returned to his house, while Jacques wended his way to
the village in search of Harry and Hamilton.
Good news and romantic scenery--Bear-hunting and its results.
Jaques failed in his attempt to break off his engagement with the
fur-traders. The gentleman in charge of Norway House, albeit a good-
natured, estimable man, was one who could not easily brook
disappointment, especially in matters that involved the interests of
the Hudson's Bay Company; so Jacques was obliged to hold to his
compact, and the pastor had to search for another guide.
Spring came, and with it the awakening (if we may use the expression)
of the country from the long, lethargic sleep of winter. The sun
burst forth with irresistible power, and melted all before it. Ice
and snow quickly dissolved, and set free the waters of swamp and
river, lake and sea, to leap and sparkle in their new-found liberty.
Birds renewed their visits to the regions of the north; frogs, at
last unfrozen, opened their leathern jaws to croak and whistle in the
marshes; and men began their preparations for a summer campaign.
At the commencement of the season an express arrived with letters
from headquarters, which, among other matters of importance, directed
that Messrs. Somerville and Hamilton should be despatched forthwith
to the Saskatchewan district, where, on reaching Fort Pitt, they were
to place themselves at the disposal of the gentleman in charge of the
district. It need scarcely be added that the young men were overjoyed
on receiving this almost unhoped-for intelligence, and that Harry
expressed his satisfaction in his usual hilarious manner, asserting,
somewhat profanely, in the excess of his glee, that the governor-in-
chief of Rupert's Land was a "regular brick." Hamilton agreed to all
his friend's remarks with a quiet smile, accompanied by a slight
chuckle, and a somewhat desperate attempt at a caper, which attempt,
bordering as it did on a region of buffoonery into which our quiet
and gentlemanly friend had never dared hitherto to venture proved an
awkward and utter failure. He felt this and blushed deeply.
It was further arranged and agreed upon that the young men should
accompany Jacques Caradoc in his canoe. Having become sufficiently
expert canoemen to handle their paddles well, they scouted the idea
of taking men with them, and resolved to launch boldly forth at once
as _bona-fide_ voyageurs. To this arrangement Jacques, after one or
two trials to test their skill, agreed; and very shortly after the
arrival of the express, the trio set out on their voyage, amid the
cheers and adieus of the entire population of Norway House, who were
assembled on the end of the wooden wharf to witness their departure,
and with whom they had managed during their short residence at that
place, to become special favourites. A month later, the pastor of the
Indian village, having procured a trusty guide, embarked in his tin
canoe with a crew of six men, and followed in their track.
In process of time spring merged into summer--a season mostly
characterised in those climes by intense heat and innumerable clouds
of musquitoes, whose vicious and incessant attacks render life, for
the time being, a burden. Our three voyageurs, meanwhile, ascended
the Saskatchewan, penetrating deeper each day into the heart of the
North American continent. On arriving at Fort Pitt, they were
graciously permitted to rest for three days, after which they were
forwarded to another district, where fresh efforts were being made to
extend the fur-trade into lands hitherto almost unvisited. This
continuation of their travels was quite suited to the tastes and
inclinations of Harry and Hamilton, and was hailed by them as an
additional reason for self-gratulation. As for Jacques, he cared
little to what part of the world he chanced to be sent. To hunt, to
toil in rain and in sunshine, in heat and in cold, at the paddle or
on the snow-shoe, was his vocation, and it mattered little to the
bold hunter whether he plied it upon the plains of the Saskatchewan
or among the woods of Athabasca. Besides, the companions of his
travels were young, active, bold, adventurous, and therefore quite
suited to his taste. Redfeather, too, his best and dearest friend,
had been induced to return to his tribe for the purpose of mediating
between some of the turbulent members of it and the white men who had
gone to settle among them, so that the prospect of again associating
with his red friend was an additional element in his satisfaction. As
Charley Kennedy was also in this district, the hope of seeing him
once more was a subject of such unbounded delight to Harry
Somerville, and so, sympathetically, to young Hamilton, that it was
with difficulty they could realize the full amount of their good
fortune, or give adequate expression to their feelings. It is
therefore probable that there never were three happier travellers
than Jacques, Harry, and Hamilton, as they shouldered their guns and
paddles, shook hands with the inmates of Fort Pitt, and with light
steps and lighter hearts launched their canoe, turned their bronzed
faces once more to the summer sun, and dipped their paddles again in
the rippling waters of the Saskatchewan River.
As their bark was exceedingly small, and burdened with but little
lading, they resolved to abandon the usual route, and penetrate the
wilderness through a maze of lakes and small rivers well known to
their guide. By this arrangement they hoped to travel more speedily,
and avoid navigating a long sweep of the river by making a number of
portages; while, at the same time, the changeful nature of the route
was likely to render it more interesting. From the fact of its being
seldom traversed, it was also more likely that they should find a
supply of game for the journey.
Towards sunset, one fine day, about two weeks after their departure
from Fort Pitt, our voyageurs paddled their canoe round a wooded
point of land that jutted out from, and partly concealed, the mouth
of a large river, down whose stream they had dropped leisurely during
the last three days, and swept out upon the bosom of a large lake.
This was one of those sheets of water which glitter in hundreds on
the green bosom of America's forests, and are so numerous and
comparatively insignificant as to be scarce distinguished by a name,
unless when they lie directly in the accustomed route of the fur-
traders. But although, in comparison with the freshwater oceans of
the Far West, this lake was unnoticed and almost unknown, it would by
no means have been regarded in such a light had it been transported
to the plains of England. In regard to picturesque beauty, it was
perhaps unsurpassed. It might be about six miles wide, and so long
that the land at the farther end of it was faintly discernible on the
horizon. Wooded hills, sloping gently down to the water's edge;
jutting promontories, some rocky and barren, others more or less
covered with trees; deep bays, retreating in some places into the
dark recesses of a savage-looking gorge, in others into a distant
meadow-like plain, bordered with a stripe of yellow sand; beautiful
islands of various sizes, scattered along the shores as if nestling
there for security, or standing barren and solitary in the centre of
the lake, like bulwarks of the wilderness, some covered with
luxuriant vegetation, others bald and grotesque in outline, and
covered with gulls and other water-fowl,--this was the scene that
broke upon the view of the travellers as they rounded the point, and,
ceasing to paddle, gazed upon it long and in deep silence, their
hands raised to shade their eyes from the sun's rays, which sparkled
in the water, and fell, here in bright spots and broken patches, and
there in yellow floods, upon the rocks, the trees, the forest glades
and plains around them.
"What a glorious scene!" murmured Hamilton, almost unconsciously.
"A perfect paradise!" said Harry, with a long-drawn sigh of
satisfaction.--"Why, Jacques, my friend, it's a matter of wonder to
me that you, a free man, without relations or friends to curb you, or
attract you to other parts of the world, should go boating and
canoeing all over the country at the beck of the fur-traders, when
you might come and pitch your tent here for ever!"
"For ever!" echoed Jacques.
"Well, I mean as long as you live in this world."
"Ah, master," rejoined the guide, in a sad tone of voice, "it's just
because I have neither kith nor kin nor friends to draw me to any
partic'lar spot on arth, that I don't care to settle down in this
one, beautiful though it be."
"True, true," muttered Harry; "man's a gregarious animal, there's no
doubt of that."
"Anon?" exclaimed Jacques.
"I meant to say that man naturally loves company," replied Harry,
"An' yit I've seen some as didn't, master; though, to be sure, that
was onnat'ral, and there's not many o' them, by good luck. Yes, man's
fond o' seein' the face o' man."
"And woman, too," interrupted Harry.--"Eh, Hamilton, what say you?--
'O woman, in our hours of ease,
Uncertain, coy, and hard to please,
When pain and anguish wring the brow,
A ministering angel thou.'
Alas, Hammy! pain and anguish and every thing else may wring our
unfortunate brows here long enough before woman, 'lovely woman,' will
come to our aid. What a rare sight it would be, now, to see even an
ordinary house-maid or cook out here! It would be good for sore eyes.
It seems to me a sort of horrible untruth to say that I've not seen a
woman since I left Red River; and yet its a frightful fact, for I
don't count the copper-coloured nondescripts one meets with
hereabouts to be women at all. I suppose they are, but they don't
look like it."
"Don't be a goose, Harry," said Hamilton.
"Certainly not, my friend. If I were under the disagreeable necessity
of being anything but what I am, I should rather be something that is
not in the habit of being shot," replied the other, paddling with
renewed vigour in order to get rid of some of the superabundant
spirits that the beautiful scene and brilliant weather, acting on a
young and ardent nature, had called forth.
"Some of these same red-skins," remarked the guide, "are not such bad
sort o' women, for all their ill looks. I've know'd more than one
that was a first-rate wife an' a good mother, though it's true they
had little edication beyond that o' the woods."
"No doubt of it," replied Harry, laughing gaily. "How shall I keep
the canoe's head, Jacques?"
"Right away for the pint that lies jist between you an' the sun."
"Yes; I give them all credit for being excellent wives and mothers,
after a fashion," resumed Harry. "I've no wish to asperse the
characters of the poor Indians; but you must know, Jacques, that
they're very different from the women that I allude to and of whom
Scott sung. His heroines were of a _very_ different stamp and
"Did _he_ sing of niggers?" inquired Jacques, simply.
"Of niggers!" shouted Harry, looking over his shoulder at Hamilton,
with a broad grin; "no, Jacques, not exactly of niggers--"
"Hist!" exclaimed the guide, with that peculiar subdued energy that
at once indicates an unexpected discovery, and enjoins caution, while
at the same moment, by a deep, powerful back-stroke of his paddle, he
suddenly checked the rapid motion of the canoe.
Harry and his friend glanced quickly over their shoulders with a look
"What's in the wind now?" whispered the former.
"Stop paddling, masters, and look ahead at the rock yonder, jist
under the tall cliff. There's a bear a-sittin' there, and if we can
only get ashore afore he sees us, we're sartin sure of him."
As the guide spoke, he slowly edged the canoe towards the shore,
while the young men gazed with eager looks in the direction
indicated, where they beheld what appeared to be the decayed stump of
an old tree or a mass of brown rock. While they strained their eyes
to see it more clearly, the object altered its form and position.
"So it is," they exclaimed simultaneously, in a tone that was
equivalent to the remark, "Now we believe, because we see it."
In a few seconds the bow of the canoe touched the land, so lightly as
to be quite inaudible, and Harry, stepping gently over the side, drew
it forward a couple of feet, while his companions disembarked.
"Now, Mister Harry," said the guide, as he slung a powder-horn and
shot-belt over his shoulder, "we've no need to circumvent the beast,
for he's circumvented himself."
"How so?" inquired the other, drawing the shot from his fowling-
piece, and substituting in its place a leaden bullet.
Jacques led the way through the somewhat thinly scattered underwood
as he replied, "You see, Mister Harry, the place where he's gone to
sun hisself is just at the foot o' a sheer precipice, which runs
round ahead of him and juts out into the water, so that he's got
three ways to choose between. He must clamber up the precipice, which
will take him some time, I guess, if he can do it at all; or he must
take to the water, which he don't like, and won't do if he can help
it; or he must run out the way he went in, but as we shall go to meet
him by the same road, he'll have to break our ranks before he gains
the woods, an' _that_'ll be no easy job."
The party soon reached the narrow pass between the lake and the near
end of the cliff, where they advanced with greater caution, and
peeping over the low bushes, beheld Bruin, a large brown fellow,
sitting on his haunches, and rocking himself slowly to and fro, as he
gazed abstractedly at the water. He was scarcely within good shot,
but the cover was sufficiently thick to admit of a nearer approach.
"Now, Hamilton," said Harry, in a low whisper, "take the first shot.
I killed the last one, so it's your turn this time."
Hamilton hesitated, but could make no reasonable objection to this,
although his unselfish nature prompted him to let his friend have the
first chance. However, Jacques decided the matter by saying, in a
tone that savoured strongly of command, although it was accompanied
with a good-humoured smile,--
"Go for'ard, young man; but you may as well put in the primin'
Poor Hamilton hastily rectified this oversight with a deep blush, at
the same time muttering that he never _would_ make a hunter; and then
advanced cautiously through the bushes, slowly followed at a short
distance by his companions.
On reaching the bush within seventy yards of the bear, Hamilton
pushed the twigs aside with the muzzle of his gun; his eye flashed
and his courage mounted as he gazed at the truly formidable animal
before him, and he felt more of the hunter's spirit within him at
that moment than he would have believed possible a few minutes
before. Unfortunately, a hunter's spirit does not necessarily imply a
hunter's eye or hand. Having, with much care and long time, brought
his piece to bear exactly where he supposed the brute's heart should
be, he observed that the gun was on half-cock, by nearly breaking the
trigger in his convulsive efforts to fire. By the time that this
error was rectified, Bruin, who seemed to feel intuitively that some
imminent danger threatened him, rose, and began to move about
uneasily, which so alarmed the young hunter lest he should lose his
shot that he took a hasty aim, fired, and _missed._ Harry asserted
afterwards that he even missed the cliff! On hearing the loud report,
which rolled in echoes along the precipice, Bruin started, and
looking round with an undecided air, saw Harry step quietly from the
bushes, and fire, sending a ball into his flank. This decided him.
With a fierce growl of pain, he scampered towards the water; then
changing his mind, he wheeled round, and dashed at the cliff, up
which he scrambled with wonderful speed.
"Come, Mister Hamilton, load again; quick, I'll have to do the job
myself, I fear," said Jacques, as he leaned quietly on his long gun,
and with a half-pitying smile watched the young man, who madly
essayed to recharge his piece more rapidly than it was possible for
mortal man to do. Meanwhile, Harry had reloaded and fired again; but
owing to the perturbation of his young spirits, and the frantic
efforts of the bear to escape, he missed. Another moment, and the
animal would actually have reached the top, when Jacques hastily
fired, and brought it tumbling down the precipice. Owing to the
position of the animal at the time he fired, the wound was not
mortal; and foreseeing that Bruin would now become the aggressor, the
hunter began rapidly to reload, at the same time retreating with his
companions, who in their excitement had forgotten to recharge their
pieces. On reaching level ground, Bruin rose, shook himself, gave a
yell of anger on beholding his enemies, and rushed at them.
It was a fine sight to behold the bearing of Jacques at this critical
juncture. Accustomed to bear-hunting from his youth, and utterly
indifferent to consequences when danger became imminent, he saw at a
glance the probabilities of the case. He knew exactly how long it
would take him to load his gun, and regulated his pace so as not to
interfere with that operation. His features wore their usual calm
expression. Every motion of his hands was quick and sudden, yet not
hurried, but performed in a way that led the beholder irresistibly to
imagine that he would have done it even more rapidly if necessary. On
reaching a ledge of rock that overhung the lake a few feet he paused
and wheeled about; click went the dog-head, just as the bear rose to
grapple with him; another moment, and a bullet passed through the
brute's heart, while the bold hunter sprang lightly on one side, to
avoid the dash of the falling animal. As he did so, young Hamilton,
who had stood a little behind him with an uplifted axe, ready to
finish the work should Jacques's fire prove ineffective, received
Bruin in his arms, and tumbled along with him over the rock, headlong
into the water, from which, however, he speedily arose unhurt,
sputtering and coughing, and dragging the dead bear to the shore.
"Well done, Hammy," shouted Harry, indulging in a prolonged peal of
laughter when he ascertained that his friend's adventure had cost him
nothing more than a ducking; "that was the most amicable, loving
plunge I ever saw."
"Better a cold bath in the arms of a dead bear than an embrace on dry
land with a live one," retorted Hamilton, as he wrung the water out
of his dripping garments.
"Most true, O sagacious diver! But the sooner we get a fire made the
better; so come along."
While the two friends hastened up to the woods to kindle a fire,
Jacques drew his hunting-knife, and, with doffed coat and upturned
sleeves, was soon busily employed in divesting the bear of his
natural garment. The carcass, being valueless in a country where game
of a more palatable kind was plentiful, they left behind as a feast
to the wolves. After this was accomplished and the clothes dried,
they re-embarked, and resumed their journey, plying the paddles
energetically in silence, as their adventure had occasioned a
considerable loss of time.
It was late, and the stars had looked down for a full hour into the
profound depths of the now dark lake ere the party reached the ground
at the other side of the point, on which Jacques had resolved to
encamp. Being somewhat wearied, they spent but little time in
discussing supper, and partook of that meal with a degree of energy
that implied a sense of duty as well as of pleasure. Shortly after,
they were buried in repose, under the scanty shelter of their canoe.
An unexpected meeting, and an unexpected deer-hunt--Arrival at the
outpost--Disagreement with the natives--An enemy discovered, and a
Next morning they rose with the sun, and therefore also with the
birds and beasts.
A wide traverse of the lake now lay before them. This they crossed in
about two hours, during which time they paddled unremittingly, as the
sky looked rather lowering, and they were well aware of the danger of
being caught in a storm in such an egg-shell craft as an Indian
"We'll put in here now, Mister Harry," exclaimed Jacques, as the
canoe entered the mouth of one of these small rivulets which are
called in Scotland _burns_, and in America _creeks_; "it's like that
your appetite is sharpened after a spell like that. Keep her head a
little more to the left--straight for the p'int--so. It's likely
we'll get some fish here if we set the net."
"I say, Jacques, is yon a cloud or a wreath of smoke above the trees
in the creek?" inquired Harry, pointing with his paddle towards the
object referred to.
"It's smoke, master; I've seed it for some time, and mayhap we'll
find some Injins there who can give us news of the traders at Stoney
"And pray, how far do you think we may now be from that place?"
"Forty miles, more or less."
As he spoke the canoe entered the shallow water of the creek, and
began to ascend the current of the stream, which at its mouth was so
sluggish as to be scarcely perceptible to the eye. Not so, however,
to the arms. The light bark, which while floating on the lake had
glided buoyantly forward as if it were itself consenting to the
motion, had now become apparently imbued with a spirit of
contradiction, bounding convulsively forward at each stroke of the
paddles, and perceptibly losing speed at each interval. Directing
their course towards a flat rock on the left bank of the stream, they
ran the prow out of the water and leaped ashore. As they did so the
unexpected figure of a man issued from the bushes, and sauntered
towards the spot. Harry and Hamilton advanced to meet him, while
Jacques remained to unload the canoe. The stranger was habited in the
usual dress of a hunter, and carried a fowling piece over his right
shoulder. In general appearance he looked like an Indian; but though
the face was burned by exposure to a hue that nearly equalled the red
skins of the natives, a strong dash of pink in it, and the mass of
fair hair that encircled it, proved that as Harry paradoxically
expressed it, its owner was a _white_ man. He was young, considerably
above the middle height, and apparently athletic. His address and
language on approaching the young men put the question of his being a
_white_ man beyond a doubt.
"Good-morning, gentlemen," he began. "I presume that you are the
party we have been expecting for some time past to reinforce our
staff at Stoney Creek. Is it not so?"
To this query young Somerville, who stood in advance of his friend,
made no reply, but stepping hastily forward, laid a hand on each of
the stranger's shoulders, and gazed earnestly into his face,
exclaiming as he did so,--
"Do my eyes deceive me? Is Charley Kennedy before me--or his ghost?"
"What! eh," exclaimed the individual thus addressed, returning
Harry's gripe and stare with interest, "is it possible? no--it
cannot--Harry Somerville, my old, dear, unexpected friend!"--and
pouring out broken sentences, abrupt ejaculations, and incoherent
questions, to which neither vouchsafed replies, the two friends gazed
at and walked round each other, shook hands, partially embraced, and
committed sundry other extravagances, utterly unconscious of or
indifferent to the fact that Hamilton was gazing at them, open-
mouthed, in a species of stupor, and that Jacques was standing by,
regarding them with a look of mingled amusement and satisfaction. The
discovery of this latter personage was a source of renewed delight
and astonishment to Charley, who was so much upset by the commotion
of his spirits, in consequence of this, so to speak, double shot,
that he became rambling and incoherent in his speech during the
remainder of that day, and gave vent to frequent and sudden bursts of
smothered enthusiasm, in which it would appear, from the occasional
muttering of the names of Redfeather and Jacques, that he not only
felicitated himself on his own good fortune, but also anticipated
renewed pleasure in witnessing the joyful meeting of these two
worthies ere long. In fact, this meeting did take place on the
following day, when Redfeather, returning from a successful hunt,
with part of a deer on his shoulders, entered Charley's tent, in
which the travellers had spent the previous day and night, and
discovered the guide gravely discussing a venison steak before the
It would be vain to attempt a description of all that the reunited
friends said and did during the first twenty-four hours after their
meeting: how they talked of old times, as they lay extended round the
fire inside of Charley's tent, and recounted their adventures by
flood and field since they last met; how they sometimes diverged into
questions of speculative philosophy (as conversations _will_ often
diverge, whether we wish it or not), and broke short off to make
sudden inquiries after old friends; how this naturally led them to
talk of new friends and new scenes, until they began to forecast
their eyes a little into the future; and how, on feeling that this
was an uncongenial theme under present circumstances, they reverted
again to the past, and by a peculiar train of conversation--to
retrace which were utterly impossible--they invariably arrived at
_old_ times again. Having in course of the evening pretty well
exhausted their powers, both mental and physical, they went to sleep
on it, and resumed the colloquial _mélange_ in the morning.
"And now tell me, Charley, what you are doing in this uninhabited
part of the world, so far from Stoney Creek," said Harry Somerville,
as they assembled round the fire to breakfast.
"That is soon explained," replied Charley. "My good friend and
superior, Mr. Whyte, having got himself comfortably housed at Stoney
Creek, thought it advisable to establish a sort of half outpost, half
fishing-station about twenty miles below the new fort, and believing
(very justly) that my talents lay a good deal in the way of fishing
and shooting, sent me to superintend it during the summer months. I
am, therefore, at present monarch of that notable establishment,
which is not yet dignified with a name. Hearing that there were
plenty of deer about twenty miles below my palace, I resolved the
other day to gratify my love of sport, and at the same time procure
some venison for Stoney Creek; accordingly, I took Redfeather with
me, and--here I am."
"Very good," said Harry; "and can you give us the least idea of what
they are going to do with my friend Hamilton and me when they get
"Can't say. One of you, at any rate, will be kept at the creek, to
assist Mr. Whyte; the other may, perhaps, be appointed to relieve me
at the fishing for a time, while _I_ am sent off to push the trade in
other quarters. But I'm only guessing. I don't know anything
definitely, for Mr. Whyte is by no means communicative."
"An' please, master," put in Jacques, "when do you mean to let us off
from this place? I guess the bourgeois won't be over pleased if we
waste time here."
"We'll start this forenoon, Jacques. I and Redfeather shall go along
with you, as I intended to take a run up to the creek about this time
at any rate.--Have you the skins and dried meat packed, Redfeather?"
To this the Indian replied in the affirmative, and the others having
finished breakfast, the whole party rose to prepare for departure,
and set about loading their canoes forthwith. An hour later they were
again cleaving the waters of the lake, with this difference in
arrangement, that Jacques was transferred to Redfeather's canoe,
while Charley Kennedy took his place in the stern of that occupied by
Harry and Hamilton.
The establishment of which our friend Charley pronounced himself
absolute monarch, and at which they arrived in the course of the same
afternoon, consisted of two small log houses or huts, constructed in
the rudest fashion, and without any attempt whatever at architectural
embellishment. It was pleasantly situated on a small bay, whose
northern extremity was sheltered from the arctic blast by a gentle
rising ground clothed with wood. A miscellaneous collection of
fishing apparatus lay scattered about in front of the buildings, and
two men and an Indian woman were the inhabitants of the place; the
king himself, when present, and his prime minister, Redfeather, being
the remainder of the population.
"Pleasant little kingdom that of yours, Charley," remarked Harry
Somerville, as they passed the station.
"Very," was the laconic reply.
They had scarcely passed the place above a mile, when a canoe,
containing a solitary Indian, was observed to shoot out from the
shore and paddle hastily towards them. From this man they learned
that a herd of deer was passing down towards the lake, and would be
on its banks in a few minutes. He had been waiting their arrival when
the canoes came in sight, and induced him to hurry out so as to give
them warning. Having no time to lose, the whole party now paddled
swiftly for the shore, and reached it just a few minutes before the
branching antlers of the deer came in sight above the low bushes that
skirted the wood. Harry Somerville embarked in the bow of the strange
Indian's canoe, so as to lighten the other and enable all parties to
have a fair chance. After snuffing the breeze for a few seconds, the
foremost animal took the water, and commenced swimming towards the
opposite shore of the lake, which at this particular spot was narrow.
It was followed by seven others. After sufficient time was permitted
to elapse to render their being cut off, in an attempt to return,
quite certain, the three canoes darted from the shelter of the
overhanging bushes, and sprang lightly over the water in pursuit.
"Don't hurry, and strike sure," cried Jacques to his young friends,
as they came up with the terrified deer that now swam for their
"Ay, ay," was the reply.
In another moment they shot in among the struggling group. Harry
Somerville stood up, and seizing the Indian's spear, prepared to
strike, while his companions directed their course towards others of
the herd. A few seconds sufficed to bring him up with it. Leaning
backwards a little, so as to give additional force to the blow, he
struck the spear deep into the animal's back. With a convulsive
struggle, it ceased to swim, its head slowly sank, and in another
second it lay dead upon the water. "Without waiting a moment, the
Indian immediately directed the canoe towards another deer; while the
remainder of the party, now considerably separated from each other,
despatched the whole herd by means of axes and knives.
"Ha!" exclaimed Jacques, as they towed their booty to the shore,
"that's a good stock o' meat, Mister Charles. It will help to furnish
the larder for the winter pretty well."
"It was much wanted, Jacques: we've a good many mouths to feed,
besides _treating_ the Indians now and then. And this fellow, I
think, will claim the most of our hunt as his own. We should not have
got the deer but for him."
"True, true, Mister Charles. They belong to the red-skin by rights,
After this exploit, another night was passed under the trees; and at
noon on the day following they ran their canoe alongside the wooden
wharf at Stoney Creek.
"Good-day to you, gentlemen," said Mr. Whyte to Harry and Hamilton as
they landed; "I've been looking out for you these two weeks past.
Glad you've come at last, however. Plenty to do, and no time to lose.
You have despatches, of course. Ah! that's right." (Harry drew a
sealed packet from his bosom and presented it with a bow), "that's
right. I must peruse these at once.--Mr. Kennedy, you will show these
gentlemen their quarters. We dine in half-an-hour." So saying, Mr.
Whyte thrust the packet into his pocket, and without further remark
strode towards his dwelling; while Charley, as instructed, led his
friends to their new residence--not forgetting, however, to charge
Redfeather to see to the comfortable lodgment of Jacques Caradoc.
"Now it strikes me," remarked Harry, as he sat down on the edge of
Charley's bed and thrust his hands doggedly down into his pockets,
while Hamilton tucked up his sleeves and assaulted a washhand-basin
which stood on an unpainted wooden chair in a corner--"it strikes me
that if _that's_ his usual style of behaviour, old Whyte is a
pleasure that we didn't anticipate."
"Don't judge from first impressions; they're often deceptive,"
spluttered Hamilton, pausing in his ablutions to look at his friend
through a mass of soap-suds--an act which afterwards caused him a
good deal of pain and a copious flow of unbidden tears.
"Right," exclaimed Charley, with an approving nod to Hamilton.--"You
must not judge him prematurely, Harry. He's a good-hearted fellow at
bottom; and if he once takes a liking for you, he'll go through fire
and water to serve you, as I know from experience."
"Which means to say _three_ things," replied the implacable Harry:
"first, that for all his good-heartedness _at bottom,_ he never shows
any of it _at top,_ and is therefore like unto truth, which is said
to lie at the bottom of a well--so deep, in fact, that it is never
got out, and so is of use to nobody; secondly, that he is possessed
of that amount of affection which is common to all mankind (to a
great extent even to brutes), which prompts a man to be reasonably
attentive to his friends; and thirdly, that you, Master Kennedy,
enjoy the peculiar privilege of being the friend of a two-legged
"Were I not certain that you jest," retorted Kennedy, "I would compel
you to apologize to me for insulting my friend, you rascal! But see,
here's the cook coming to tell us that dinner waits. If you don't
wish to see the teeth of the polar bear^ I'd advise you to be smart."
Thus admonished, Harry sprang up, plunged his hands and face in the
basin and dried them, broke Charley's comb in attempting to pass it
hastily through his hair, used his fingers savagely as a substitute,
and overtook his companions just as they entered the mess-room.
The establishment of Stoney Creek was comprised within two acres of
ground. It consisted of eight or nine houses--three of which,
however, alone met the eye on approaching by the lake. The "great"
house, as it was termed, on account of its relative proportion to the
other buildings, was a small edifice, built substantially but roughly
of unsquared logs, partially whitewashed, roofed with shingles, and
boasting six small windows in front, with a large door between them.
On its east side, and at right angles to it, was a similar edifice,
but smaller, having two doors instead of one, and four windows
instead of six. This was the trading-shop and provision-store.
Opposite to this was a twin building which contained the furs and a
variety of miscellaneous stores. Thus were formed three sides of a
square, from the centre of which rose a tall flagstaff. The buildings
behind those just described were smaller and insignificant--the
principal one being the house appropriated to the men; the others
were mere sheds and workshops. Luxuriant forests ascended the slopes
that rose behind and encircled this oasis on all sides, excepting in
front, where the clear waters of the lake sparkled like a blue
On the margin of this lake the new arrivals, left to enjoy themselves
as they best might for a day or two, sauntered about and chatted to
their heart's content of things past, present, and future.
During these wanderings, Harry confessed that his opinion of Mr.
Whyte had somewhat changed; that he believed a good deal of the first
bad impressions was attributable to his cool, not to say impolite,
reception of them; and that he thought things would go on much better
with the Indians if he would only try to let some of his good
qualities be seen through his exterior.
An expression of sadness passed over Charley's face as his friend
"You are right in the last particular," he said, with a sigh. "Mr.
Whyte is so rough and overbearing that the Indians are beginning to
dislike him. Some of the more clear-sighted among them see that a
good deal of this lies in mere manner, and have penetration enough to
observe that in all his dealings with them he is straightforward and
liberal; but there are a set of them who either don't see this, or
are so indignant at the rough speeches he often makes, and the rough
treatment he sometimes threatens, that they won't forgive him, but
seem to be nursing their wrath. I sometimes wish he was sent to a
district where the Indians and traders are, from habitual
intercourse, more accustomed to each other's ways, and so less likely
"Have the Indians, then, used any open threats?" asked Harry.
"No, not exactly; but through an old man of the tribe, who is well
affected towards us, I have learned that there is a party among them
who seem bent on mischief."
"Then we may expect a row some day or other. That's pleasant!--What
think you, Hammy?" said Harry, turning to his friend.
"I think that it would be anything but pleasant," he replied; "and I
sincerely hope that we shall not have occasion for a row."
"You're not afraid of a fight, are you, Hamilton?" asked Charley.
The peculiarly bland smile with which Hamilton usually received any
remark that savoured of banter overspread his features as Charley
spoke, but he merely replied--
"No, Charley, I'm not afraid."
"Do you know any of the Indians who are so anxious to vent their
spleen on our worthy bourgeois?" asked Harry, as he seated himself on
a rocky eminence commanding a view of the richly-wooded slopes,
dotted with huge masses of rock that had fallen from the beetling
cliffs behind the creek.
"Yes, I do," replied Charley; "and, by the way, one of them--the
ringleader--is a man with whom you are acquainted, at least by name.
You've heard of an Indian called Misconna?"
"What!" exclaimed Harry, with a look of surprise; "you don't mean the
blackguard mentioned by Redfeather, long ago, when he told us his
story on the shores of Lake Winnipeg--the man who killed poor
Jacques's young wife?"
"The same," replied Charley.
"And does Jacques know he is here?"
"He does; but Jacques is a strange, unaccountable mortal. You
remember that in the struggle described by Redfeather, the trapper
and Misconna had neither of them seen each other, Redfeather having
felled the latter before the former reached the scene of action--a
scene which, he has since told me, he witnessed at a distance, while
rushing to the rescue of his wife-so that Misconna is utterly
ignorant of the fact that the husband of his victim is now so near
him; indeed, he does not know that she had a husband at all. On the
other hand, although Jacques is aware that his bitterest enemy is
within rifle-range of him at this moment, he does not know him by
sight; and this morning he came to me, begging that I would send
Misconna on some expedition or other, just to keep him out of his
"And do you intend to do so?"
"I shall do my best," replied Charley; "but I cannot get him out of
the way till to-morrow, as there is to be a gathering of Indians in
the hall this very day, to have a palaver with Mr. Whyte about their
grievances, and Misconna wouldn't miss that for a trifle. But Jacques
won't be likely to recognise him among so many; and if he does, I
rely with confidence on his powers of restraint and forbearance. By
the way," he continued, glancing upwards, "it is past noon, and the
Indians will have begun to assemble, so we had better hasten back, as
we shall be expected to help in keeping order."
So saying, he rose, and the young men returned to the fort. On
reaching it they found the hall crowded with natives, who sat cross-
legged around the walls, or stood in groups conversing in low tones,
and to judge from the expression of their dark eyes and lowering
brows, they were in extremely bad humour. They became silent and more
respectful, however, in their demeanour when the young men entered
the apartment and walked up to the fireplace, in which a small fire
of wood burned on the hearth, more as a convenient means of
rekindling the pipes of the Indians when they went out than as a
means of heating the place. Jacques and Redfeather stood leaning
against the wall near to it, engaged in a whispered conversation.
Glancing round as he entered, Charley observed Misconna sitting a
little apart by himself, and apparently buried in deep thought. He
had scarcely perceived him, and nodded to several of his particular
friends among the crowd, when a side-door opened, and Mr. Whyte, with
an angry expression on his countenance, strode up to the fireplace,
planted himself before it, with his legs apart and his hands behind
him, while he silently surveyed the group.
"So," he began, "you have asked to speak with me; well, here I am.
What have you to say?"
Mr. Whyte addressed the Indians in their native tongue, having,
during a long residence in the country, learned to speak it as
fluently as English.
For some moments there was silence. Then an old chief--the same who
had officiated at the feast described in a former chapter--rose, and
standing forth into the middle of the room, made a long and grave
oration, in which, besides a great deal that was bombastic, much that
was irrelevant, and more that was utterly fabulous and nonsensical,
he recounted the sorrows of himself and his tribe, concluding with a
request that the great chief would take these things into
consideration--the principal _"things"_ being that they did not get
anything in the shape of gratuities, while it was notorious that the
Indians in other districts did, and that they did not get enough of
goods in advance, on credit of their future hunts.
Mr. Whyte heard the old man to the end in silence: then, without
altering his position, he looked round on the assembly with a frown,
and said, "Now listen to me; I am a man of few words. I have told you
over and over again, and I now repeat it, that you shall get no
gratuities until you prove yourselves worthy of them. I shall not
increase your advances by so much as half an inch of tobacco till
your last year's debts are scored off, and you begin to show more
activity in hunting and less disposition to grumble. Hitherto you
have not brought in anything like the quantity of furs that the
capabilities of the country led me to expect. You are lazy. Until you
become better hunters you shall have no redress from me."
As he finished, Mr. Whyte made a step towards the door by which he
had entered, but was arrested by another chief, who requested to be
heard. Resuming his place and attitude, Mr. Whyte listened with an
expression of dogged determination, while guttural grunts of
unequivocal dissatisfaction issued from the throats of several of the
malcontents. The Indian proceeded to repeat a few of the remarks made
by his predecessor, but more concisely, and wound up by explaining
that the failure in the hunts of the previous year was owing to the
will of the Great Manito, and not by any means on account of the
supposed laziness of himself or his tribe.
"That is false," said Mr. Whyte; "you know it is not true."
As this was said, a murmur of anger ran round the apartment, which
was interrupted by Misconna, who, apparently unable to restrain his
passion, sprang into the middle of the room, and confronting Mr.
Whyte, made a short and pithy speech, accompanied by violent
gesticulation, in which he insinuated that if redress was not granted
the white men would bitterly repent it.
During his speech the Indians had risen to their feet and drawn
closer together, while Jacques and the three young men drew near
their superior. Redfeather remained apart, motionless, and with his
eyes fixed on the ground.
"And, pray, what dog--what miserable thieving cur are you, who dare
to address me thus?" cried Mr. Whyte, as he strode, with flashing
eyes, up to the enraged Indian.
Misconna clinched his teeth, and his fingers worked convulsively
about the handle of his knife, as he exclaimed, "I am no dog. The
pale-faces are dogs. I am a great chief. My name is known among the
braves of my tribe. It is Misconna--"
As the name fell from his lips, Mr. Wiryte and Charley were suddenly
dashed aside, and Jacques sprang towards the Indian, his face livid,
his eyeballs almost bursting from their sockets, and his muscles
rigid with passion. For an instant he regarded the savage intently as
he shrank appalled before him; then his colossal fist fell like
lightning, with the weight of a sledge-hammer, on Misconna's
forehead, and drove him against the outer door, which, giving way
before the violent shock, burst from its fastenings and hinges, and
fell, along with the savage, with a loud crash to the ground.
For an instant everyone stood aghast at this precipitate termination
to the discussion, and then, springing forward in a body, with drawn
knives, the Indians rushed upon the white men, who in a close
phalanx, with such weapons as came first to hand, stood to receive
them. At this moment Redfeather stepped forward unarmed between the
belligerents, and, turning to the Indians, said--
"Listen: Redfeather does not take the part of his white friends
against his comrades. You know that he never failed you in the war-
path, and he would not fail you now if your cause were just. But the
eyes of his comrades are shut. Redfeather knows what they do not
know. The white hunter" (pointing to Jacques) "is a friend of
Redfeather. He is a friend of the Knisteneux. He did not strike
because you disputed with his bourgeois; he struck because Misconna
_is his mortal foe_. But the story is long. Redfeather will tell it
at the council fire."
"He is right," exclaimed Jacques, who had recovered his usual grave
expression of countenance; "Redfeather is right. I bear you no ill-
will, Injins, and I shall explain the thing myself at your council
As Jacques spoke the Indians sheathed their knives, and stood with
frowning brows, as if uncertain what to do. The unexpected
interference of their comrade-in-arms, coupled with his address and
that of Jacques, had excited their curiosity. Perhaps the undaunted
deportment of their opponents, who stood ready for the encounter with
a look of stern determination, contributed a little to allay their
While the two parties stood thus confronting each other, as if
uncertain how to act, a loud report was heard just outside the
doorway. In another moment Mr. Whyte fell heavily to the ground, shot
through the heart.
The chase--The fight--Retribution--Low spirits and good news.
The tragical end of the consultation related in the last chapter had
the effect of immediately reconciling the disputants. With the
exception of four or five of the most depraved and discontented among
them, the Indians bore no particular ill-will to the unfortunate
principal of Stoney Creek; and although a good deal disappointed to
find that he was a stern, unyielding trader, they had, in reality, no
intention of coming to a serious rupture with him, much less of
laying violent hands either upon master or men of the establishment.
When, therefore, they beheld Mr. Whyte weltering in his blood at
their feet, a sacrifice to the ungovernable passion of Misconna, who
was by no means a favourite among his brethren, their temporary anger
was instantly dissipated, and a feeling of deepest indignation roused
in their bosoms against the miserable assassin who had perpetrated
the base and cowardly murder. It was, therefore, with a yell of rage
that several of the band, immediately after the victim fell, sprang
into the woods in hot pursuit of him, whom they now counted their
enemy. They were joined by several men belonging to the fort, who had
hastened to the scene of action on hearing that the people in the
hall were likely to come to blows. Redfeather was the first who had
bounded like a deer into the woods in pursuit of the fugitive. Those
who remained assisted Charley and his friends to convey the body of
Mr. Whyte into an adjoining room, where they placed him on a bed. He
was quite dead, the murderer's aim having been terribly true.
Finding that he was past all human aid, the young men returned to the
hall, which they entered just as Redfeather glided quickly through
the open doorway, and, approaching the group, stood in silence beside
them, with his arms folded on his breast.
"You have something to tell, Redfeather," said Jacques, in a subdued
tone, after regarding him a few seconds. "Is the scoundrel caught?"
"Misconna's foot is swift," replied the Indian, "and the wood is
thick. It is wasting time to follow him through the bushes."
"What would you advise then?" exclaimed Charley, in a hurried voice.
"I see that you have some plan to propose."
"The wood is thick," answered Redfeather, "but the lake and the river
are open. Let one party go by the lake, and one party by the river."
"That's it, that's it, Injin," interrupted Jacques, energetically;
"your wits are always jumpin'. By crosin' over to Duck River, we can
start at a point five or six miles above the lower fall, an' as it's
thereabouts he must cross, we'll be time enough to catch him. If he
tries the lake, the other party'll fix him there; and he'll be soon
poked up if he tries to hide in the bush."
"Come, then; we'll all give chase at once," cried Charley, feeling a
temporary relief in the prospect of energetic action from the
depressing effects of the calamity that had so suddenly befallen him
in the loss of his chief and friend.
Little time was needed for preparation. Jacques, Charley, and Harry
proceeded by the river; while Redfeather and Hamilton, with a couple
of men, launched their canoe on the lake and set off in pursuit.
Crossing the country for about a mile, Jacques led his party to the
point on the Duck River to which he had previously referred. Here
they found two canoes, into one of which the guide stepped with one
of the men, a Canadian, who had accompanied them, while Harry and
Charley embarked in the other. In a few minutes they were rapidly
descending the stream.
"How do you mean to act, Jacques?" inquired Charley, as he paddled
alongside of the guide's canoe. "Is it not likely that Misconna may
have crossed the river already? in which case we shall have no chance
of catching him."
"Niver fear," returned Jacques. "He must have longer legs than most
men if he gets to the flat-rock fall before us, an' as that's the
spot where he'll nat'rally cross the river, being the only straight
line for the hills that escapes the bend o' the bay to the south o'
Stoney Creek, we're pretty sartin to stop him there."
"True; but that being, as you say, the _natural_ route, don't you
think it likely he'll expect that it will be guarded, and avoid it
"He _would_ do so, Mister Charles, if he thought we were _here_; but
there are two reasons agin this. He thinks that he's got the start o'
us, an' won't need to double by way o' deceivin' us; and then he
knows that the whole tribe is after him, and consekintly won't take a
long road when there's a short one, if he can help it. But here's the
rock. Look out, Mister Charles. We'll have to run the fall, which
isn't very big just now, and then hide in the bushes at the foot of
it till the blackguard shows himself. Keep well to the right an'
don't mind the big rock; the rush o' water takes you clear o' that
With this concluding piece of advice, he pointed to the fall, which
plunged over a ledge of rock about half-a-mile ahead of them, and
which was distinguishable by a small column of white spray that rose
out of it. As Charley beheld it his spirits rose, and forgetting for
a moment the circumstances that called him there, he cried out--
"I'll run it before you, Jacques. Hurrah! Give way, Harry!" and in
spite of a remonstrance from the guide, he shot the canoe ahead, gave
vent to another reckless shout, and flew, rather than glided, down
the stream. On seeing this, the guide held back, so as to give him
sufficient time to take the plunge ere he followed. A few strokes
brought Charley's canoe to the brink of the fall, and Harry was just
in the act of raising himself in the bow to observe the position of
the rocks, when a shout was heard on the bank close beside them.
Looking up they beheld an Indian emerge from the forest, fit an arrow
to his bow, and discharge it at them. The winged messenger was truly
aimed; it whizzed through the air and transfixed Harry Somerville's
left shoulder just at the moment they swept over the fall. The arrow
completely incapacitated Harry from using his arm, so that the canoe,
instead of being directed into the broad current, took a sudden turn,
dashed in among a mass of broken rocks, between which the water
foamed with violence, and upset. Here the canoe stuck fast, while its
owners stood up to their waists in the water, struggling to set it
free--an object which they were the more anxious to accomplish that
its stern lay directly in the spot where Jacques would infallibly
descend. The next instant their fears were realised. The second canoe
glided over the cataract, dashed violently against the first, and
upset, leaving Jacques and his man in a similar predicament. By their
aid, however, the canoes were more easily righted, and embarking
quickly they shot forth again, just as the Indian, who had been
obliged to make a detour in order to get within range of their
position, reappeared on the banks above, and sent another shaft after
them--fortunately, however, without effect.
"This is unfortunate," muttered Jacques, as the party landed and
endeavoured to wring some of the water from their dripping clothes;
"an' the worst of it is that our guns are useless after sich a
duckin', an' the varmint knows that, an' will be down on us in a
"But we are four to one," exclaimed Harry. "Surely we don't need to
fear much from a single enemy."
"Humph!" ejaculated the guide, as he examined the lock of his gun.
"You've had little to do with Injins, that's plain, You may be sure
he's not alone, an' the reptile has a bow with arrows enough to send
us all on a pretty long journey. But we've the trees to dodge behind.
If I only had _one_ dry charge!" and the disconcerted guide gave a
look, half of perplexity, half of contempt, at the dripping gun.
"Never mind," cried Charley; "we have our paddles. But I forgot,
Harry, in all this confusion, that you are wounded, my poor fellow.
We must have it examined before doing anything further."
"Oh, it's nothing at all--a mere scratch, I think; at least I feel
very little pain."
As he spoke the twang of a bow was heard, and an arrow flew past
"Ah, so soon!" exclaimed that worthy, with a look of surprise, as if
he had unexpectedly met with an old friend. Stepping behind a tree,
he motioned to his friends to do likewise; an example which they
followed somewhat hastily on beholding the Indian who had wounded
Harry step from the cover of the underwood and deliberately let fly
another arrow, which passed through the hair of the Canadian they had
brought with them.
From the several trees behind which they had leaped for shelter they
now perceived that the Indian with the bow was Misconna, and that he
was accompanied by eight others, who appeared, however, to be totally
unarmed; having, probably, been obliged to leave their weapons behind
them, owing to the abruptness of their flight. Seeing that the white
men were unable to use their guns, the Indians assembled in a group,
and from the hasty and violent gesticulations of some of the party,
especially of Misconna, it was evident that a speedy attack was
Observing this, Jacques coolly left the shelter of his tree, and
going up to Charley, exclaimed, "Now, Mister Charles, I'm goin' to
run away, so you'd better come along with me."
"That I certainly will not. Why, what do you mean?" inquired the
other, in astonishment.
"I mean that these stupid red-skins can't make up their minds what to
do, an' as I've no notion o' stoppin' here all day, I want to make
them do what will suit us best. You see, if they scatter through the
wood and attack us on all sides, they may give us a deal o' trouble,
and git away after all; whereas, if we _run away_, they'll bolt after
us in a body, and then we can take them in hand all at once, which'll
be more comfortable-like, an' easier to manage."
As Jacques spoke they were joined by Harry and the Canadian; and
being observed by the Indians thus grouped together, another arrow
was sent among them.
"Now, follow me," said Jacques, turning round with a loud howl and
running away. He was closely followed by the others. As the guide had
predicted, the Indians no sooner observed this than they rushed after
them in a body, uttering horrible yells.
"Now, then; stop here; down with you."
Jacques instantly crouched behind a bush, while each of the party did
the same. In a moment the savages came shouting up, supposing the
white men were still running on in advance. As the foremost, a tall,
muscular fellow, with the agility of a panther, bounded over the bush
behind which Jacques was concealed, he was met with a blow from the
guide's fist, so powerfully delivered into the pit of his stomach
that it sent him violently back into the bush, where he lay
insensible. This event, of course, put a check upon the headlong
pursuit of the others, who suddenly paused, like a group of
infuriated tigers unexpectedly baulked of their prey. The hesitation,
however, was but for a moment. Misconna, who was in advance, suddenly
drew his bow again, and let fly an arrow at Jacques, which the latter
dexterously avoided; and while his antagonist lowered his eyes for an
instant to fit another arrow to the string, the guide, making use of
his paddle as a sort of javelin, threw it with such force and
precision that it struck Misconna directly between the eyes and
felled him to the earth, In another instant the two parties rushed
upon each other, and a general _mélée_ ensued, in which the white
men, being greatly superior to their adversaries in the use of their
fists, soon proved themselves more than a match for them all although
inferior in numbers. Charley's first antagonist, making an abortive
attempt to grapple with him, received two rapid blows, one on the
chest and the other on the nose, which knocked him over the bank into
the river, while his conqueror sprang upon another Indian. Harry,
having unfortunately selected the biggest savage of the band as his
special property, rushed upon him and dealt him a vigorous blow on
the head with his paddle.
The weapon, however, was made of light wood, and, instead of felling
him to the ground, broke into shivers. Springing upon each other they
immediately engaged in a fierce struggle, in which poor Harry
learned, when too late, that his wounded shoulder was almost
powerless. Meanwhile, the Canadian having been assaulted by three
Indians at once, floored one at the outset, and immediately began an
impromptu war-dance round the other two, dealing them occasionally a
kick or a blow, which would speedily have rendered them _hors de
combat_, had they not succeeded in closing upon him, when all three
fell heavily to the ground. Jacques and Charley having succeeded in
overcoming their respective opponents, immediately hastened to his
rescue. In the meantime, Harry and his foe had struggled to a
considerable distance from the others, gradually edging towards the
river's bank. Feeling faint from his wound, the former at length sank
under the weight of his powerful antagonist, who endeavoured to
thrust him over a kind of cliff which they had approached. He was on
the point of accomplishing his purpose, when Charley and his friends
perceived Harry's imminent danger, and rushed to the rescue. Quickly
though they ran, however, it seemed likely that they would be too
late. Harry's head already overhung the bank, and the Indian was
endeavouring to loosen the gripe of the young man's hand from his
throat, preparatory to tossing him over, when a wild cry rang through
the forest, followed by the reports of a double-barrelled gun, fired
in quick succession. Immediately after, young Hamilton bounded like a
deer down the slope, seized the Indian by the legs, and tossed him
over the cliff, where he turned a complete somersault in his descent,
and fell with a sounding splash into the water.
"Well done, cleverly done, lad!" cried Jacques, as he and the rest of
the party came up and crowded round Harry, who lay in a state of
partial stupor on the bank.
At this moment Redfeather hastily but silently approached; his broad
chest was heaving heavily, and his expanded nostrils quivering with
the exertions he had made to reach the scene of action in time to
succour his friends.
"Thank God!" said Hamilton softly, as he kneeled beside Harry and
supported his head, while Charley bathed his temples--"thank God that
I have been in time! Fortunately I was walking by the river
considerably in advance of Redfeather, who was bringing up the canoe,
when I heard the sounds of the fray, and hastened to your aid."
At this moment Harry opened his eyes, and saying faintly that he felt
better, allowed himself to be raised to a sitting posture, while his
coat was removed and his wound examined. It was found to be a deep
flesh-wound in the shoulder, from which a fragment of the broken
arrow still protruded.
"It's a wonder to me, Mr. Harry, how ye held on to that big thief so
long," muttered Jacques, as he drew out the splinter and bandaged up
the shoulder. Having completed the surgical operation after a rough
fashion, they collected the defeated Indians. Those of them that were
able to walk were bound together by the wrists and marched off to the
fort, under a guard which was strengthened by the arrival of several
of the fur-traders, who had been in pursuit of the fugitives, and
were attracted to the spot by the shouts of the combatants. Harry,
and such of the party as were more or less severely injured, were
placed in canoes and conveyed to Stoney Creek by the lake, into which
Duck River runs at the distance of about half-a-mile from the spot on
which the skirmish had taken place. Misconna was among the latter.
On arriving at Stoney Creek, the canoe party found a large assemblage
of the natives awaiting them on the wharf, and no sooner did Misconna
land than they advanced to seize him.
"Keep back, friends," cried Jacques, who perceived their intentions,
and stepped hastily between them.--"Come here, lads," he continued,
turning to his companions; "surround Misconna. He is _our_ prisoner,
and must ha' fair justice done him, accordin' to white law."
They fell back in silence on observing the guide's determined manner;
but as they hurried the wretched culprit towards the house, one of
the Indians pressed close upon their rear, and before anyone could
prevent him, dashed his tomahawk into Misconna's brain. Seeing that
the blow was mortal, the traders ceased to offer any further
opposition; and the Indians rushing upon his body, bore it away amid
shouts and yells of execration to their canoes, to one of which the
body was fastened by a rope, and dragged through the water to point
of land which jutted out into the lake near at hand. Here they
lighted a fire and burned it to ashes.
* * * * * * *
There seems to be a period in the history of every one when the fair
aspect of this world is darkened--when everything, whether past,
present, or future, assumes a hue of the deepest gloom; a period
when, for the first time, the sun, which has shone in the mental
firmament with more or less brilliancy from childhood upwards,
entirely disappears behind a cloud of thick darkness, and leaves the
soul in a state of deep melancholy; a time when feelings somewhat
akin to despair pervade us, as we begin gradually to look upon the
past as a bright, happy vision, out of which we have at last awakened
to view the sad realities of the present, and look forward with
sinking hope to the future. Various are the causes which produce
this, and diverse the effects of it on differently constituted minds;
but there are few, we apprehend, who have not passed through the
cloud in one or other of its phases, and who do not feel that this
_first_ period of prolonged sorrow is darker, and heavier, and worse
to bear, than many of the more truly grievous afflictions that sooner
or later fall to the lot of most men.
Into a state of mind somewhat similar to that which we have
endeavoured to describe, our friend Charley Kennedy fell immediately
after the events just narrated. The sudden and awful death of his
friend Mr. Whyte fell upon his young spirit, unaccustomed as he was
to scenes of bloodshed and violence, with overwhelming power. From
the depression, however, which naturally followed he would probably
soon have rallied had not Harry Somerville's wound in the shoulder
taken an unfavourable turn, and obliged him to remain for many weeks
in bed, under the influence of a slow fever; so that Charley felt a
desolation creeping over his soul that no effort he was capable of
making could shake off. It is true he found both occupation and
pleasure in attending upon his sick friend; but as Harry's illness
rendered great quiet necessary, and as Hamilton had been sent to take
charge of the fishing-station mentioned in a former chapter, Charley
was obliged to indulge his gloomy reveries in silence. To add to his
wretchedness he received a letter from Kate about a week after Mr.
Whyte's burial, telling him of the death of his mother.
Meanwhile, Redfeather and Jacques--both of whom at their young
master's earnest solicitation, agreed to winter at Stoney Creek--
cultivated each other's acquaintance sedulously. There were no books
of any kind at the outpost, excepting three Bibles--one belonging to
Charley, and one to Harry, the third being that which had been
presented to Jacques by Mr. Conway the missionary. This single
volume, however, proved to be an ample library to Jacques and his
Indian friend. Neither of these sons of the forest was much
accustomed to reading, and neither of them would have for a moment
entertained the idea of taking to literature as a pastime; but
Redfeather loved the Bible for the sake of the great truths which he
discovered in its inspired pages, though much of what he read was to
him mysterious and utterly incomprehensible. Jacques, on the other
hand, read it, or listened to his friend, with that philosophic
gravity of countenance and earnestness of purpose which he displayed
in regard to everything; and deep, serious, and protracted were the
discussions they entered into, as night after night they sat on a
log, with the Bible spread out before them, and read by the light of
the blazing fire in the men's house at Stoney Creek. Their
intercourse, however, was brought to an abrupt conclusion by the
unexpected arrival, one day, of Mr. Conway the missionary in his tin
canoe. This gentleman's appearance was most welcome to all parties.
It was like a bright ray of sunshine to Charley to meet with one who
could fully sympathise with him in his present sorrowful frame of
mind. It was an event of some consequence to Harry Somerville,
inasmuch as it provided him with an amateur doctor who really
understood somewhat of his physical complaint, and was able to pour
balm, at once literally and spiritually, into his wounds. It was an
event productive of the liveliest satisfaction to Redfeather, who now
felt assured that his tribe would have those mysteries explained
which he only imperfectly understood himself; and it was an event of
much rejoicing to the Indians themselves, because their curiosity had
been not a little roused by what they heard of the doings and sayings
of the white missionary, who lived on the borders of the great lake.
The only person, perhaps, on whom Mr. Conway's arrival acted with
other than a pleasing influence was Jacques Caradoc. This worthy,
although glad to meet with a man whom he felt inclined both to love
and respect, was by no means gratified to find that his friend
Redfeather had agreed to go with the missionary on his visit to the
Indian tribe, and thereafter to accompany him to the settlement on
Playgreen Lake. But with the stoicism that was natural to him,
Jacques submitted to circumstances which he could not alter, and
contented himself with assuring Redfeather that if he lived till next
spring he would most certainly "make tracks for the great lake," and
settle down at the missionary's station along with him. This promise
was made at the end of the wharf of Stoney Creek the morning on which
Mr. Conway and his party embarked in their tin canoe--the same tin
canoe at which Jacques had curled his nose contemptuously when he saw
it in process of being constructed, and at which he did not by any
means curl it the less contemptuously now that he saw it finished.
The little craft answered its purpose marvellously well, however, and
bounded lightly away under the vigorous strokes of its crew, leaving
Charley and Jacques on the pier gazing wistfully after their friends,
and listening sadly to the echoes of their parting song as it floated
more and more faintly over the lake.
Winter came, but no ray of sunshine broke through the dark cloud that
hung over Stoney Creek. Harry Somerville, instead of becoming better,
grew worse and worse every day, so that when Charley despatched the
winter packet, he represented the illness of his friend to the powers
at headquarters as being of a nature that required serious and
immediate attention and change of scene. But the word _immediate_
bears a slightly different signification in the backwoods to what it
does in the lands of railroads and steamboats. The letter containing
this hint took many weeks to traverse the waste wilderness to its
destination; months passed before the reply was written, and many
weeks more elapsed ere its contents were perused by Charley and his
friend. When they did read it, however, the dark cloud that had hung
over them so long burst at last; a ray of sunshine streamed down
brightly upon their hearts, and never forsook them again, although it
did lose a little of its brilliancy after the first flash. It was on
a rich, dewy, cheerful morning in early spring when the packet
arrived, and Charley led Harry, who was slowly recovering his wonted
health and spirits, to their favourite rocky resting-place on the
margin of the lake. Here he placed the letter in his friend's hand
with a smile of genuine delight. It ran as follows:--
MY DEAR SIR,--Your letter containing the account of Mr. Somerville's
illness has been forwarded to me, and I am instructed to inform you
that leave of absence for a short time has been granted to him. I
have had a conversation with the doctor here, who advises me to
recommend that, if your friend has no other summer residence in view,
he should spend part of his time in Red River settlement. In the
event of his agreeing to this, I would suggest that he should leave
Stoney Creek with the first brigade in spring, or by express canoe if
you think it advisable.--I am, etc.
"Short but sweet--uncommonly sweet!" said Harry, as a deep flush of
joy crimsoned his pale cheeks, while his own merry smile, that had
been absent for many a weary day, returned once more to its old
haunt, and danced round its accustomed dimples like a repentant
wanderer who has been long absent from and has at last returned to
his native home.
"Sweet indeed!" echoed Charley. "But that's not all; here's another
lump of sugar for you." So saying, he pulled a letter from his
pocket, unfolded it slowly, spread it out on his knee, and, looking
up at his expectant friend, winked.
"Go on, Charley; pray don't tantalize me."
"Tantalize you! My dear fellow, nothing is farther from my thoughts.
Listen to this paragraph in my dear old father's letter:--
"'So you see, my dear Charley, that we have managed to get you
appointed to the charge of Lower Fort Garry, and as I hear that poor
Harry Somerville is to get leave of absence, you had better bring him
along with you. I need not add that my house is at his service as
long as he may wish to remain in it.'
"There! what think ye of that, my boy?" said Charley, as he folded
the letter and returned it to his pocket.
"I think," replied Harry, "that your father is a dear old gentleman,
and I hope that you'll only be half as good when you come to his time
of life; and I think I'm so happy to-day that I'll be able to walk
without the assistance of your arm to-morrow; and I think we had
better go back to the house now, for I feel, oddly enough, as tired
as if I had had a long walk. Ah, Charley, my dear fellow, that letter
will prove to be the best doctor I have had yet. But now tell me what
you intend to do."
Charley assisted his friend to rise, and led him slowly back to the
house, as he replied,--
"Do, my boy? that's soon said. I'll make things square and straight
at Stoney Creek. I'll send for Hamilton and make him interim
commander-in-chief. I'll write two letters--one to the gentleman in
charge of the district, telling him of my movements; the other
(containing a screed of formal instructions) to the miserable mortal
who shall succeed me here. I'll take the best canoe in our store,
load it with provisions, put you carefully in the middle of it, stick
Jacques in the bow and myself in the stern, and start, two weeks
hence, neck and crop, head over heels, through thick and thin, wet
and dry, over portage, river, fall, and lake, for Red River
Old friends and scenes--Coming events cast their shadows before.
Mr. Kennedy, senior, was seated in his own comfortable arm-chair
before the fire, in his own cheerful little parlour, in his own snug
house, at Red River, with his own highly characteristic breakfast of
buffalo steaks, tea, and pemmican before him, and his own beautiful,
affectionate daughter Kate presiding over the tea-pot, and exercising
unwarrantably despotic sway over a large gray cat, whose sole
happiness seemed to consist in subjecting Mr. Kennedy to perpetual
annoyance, and whose main object in life was to catch its master and
mistress off their guard, that it might go quietly to the table, the
meat-safe, or the pantry, and there--deliberately--steal!
Kate had grown very much since we saw her last. She was quite a woman
now, and well worthy of a minute description here; but we never could
describe a woman to our own satisfaction. We have frequently tried
and failed; so we substitute, in place, the remarks of Kate's friends
and acquaintances about her--a criterion on which to form a judgment
that is a pretty correct one, especially when the opinion pronounced
happens to be favourable. Her father said she was an angel, and the
only joy of his life. This latter expression, we may remark, was
false; for Mr. Kennedy frequently said to Kate, confidentially, that
Charley was a great happiness to him; and we are quite sure that the
pipe had something to do with the felicity of his existence. But the
old gentleman said that Kate was the _only_ joy of his life, and that
is all we have to do with at present. Several ill-tempered old ladies
in the settlement said that Miss Kennedy was really a quiet, modest
girl--testimony this (considering the source whence it came) that was
quite conclusive. Then old Mr. Grant remarked to old Mr. Kennedy,
over a confidential pipe, that Kate was certainly, in his opinion,
the most modest and the prettiest girl in Red River. Her old school
companions called her a darling. Tom Whyte said "he never seed
nothink like her nowhere." The clerks spoke of her in terms too
glowing to remember; and the last arrival among them, the youngest,
with the slang of the "old country" fresh on his lips, called her a
_stunner!_ Even Mrs. Grant got up one of her half-expressed remarks
about her, which everybody would have supposed to be quizzical in its
nature, were it not for the frequent occurrence of the terms "good
girl," "innocent creature," which seemed to contradict that idea.
There were also one or two hapless swains who said nothings, but what
they _did_ and _looked_ was in itself unequivocal. They went quietly
into a state of slow, drivelling imbecility whenever they happened to
meet with Kate; looked as if they had become shockingly unwell, and
were rather pleased than otherwise that their friends should think so
too; and upon all and every occasion in which Kate was concerned,
conducted themselves with an amount of insane stupidity (although
sane enough at other times) that nothing could account for, save the
idea that their admiration of her was inexpressible, and that _that_
was the most effective way in which they could express it.
"Kate, my darling," said Mr. Kennedy, as he finished the last
mouthful of tea, "wouldn't it be capital to get another letter from
"Yes, dear papa, it would indeed. But I am quite sure that the next
time we shall hear from him will be when he arrives here, and makes
the house ring with his own dear voice."
"How so, girl?" said the old trader with a smile. It may as well be
remarked here that the above opening of conversation was by no means
new; it was stereotyped now. Ever since Charley had been appointed to
the management of Lower Fort Garry, his father had been so engrossed
by the idea, and spoke of it to Kate so frequently, that he had got
into a way of feeling as if the event so much desired would happen in
a few days, although he knew quite well that it could not, in the
course of ordinary or extra-ordinary circumstances, occur in less
than several months. However, as time rolled on he began regularly,
every day or two, to ask Kate questions about Charley that she could
not by any possibility answer, but which he knew from experience
would lead her into a confabulation about his son, which helped a
little to allay his impatience.
"Why, you see, father," she replied, "it is three months since we got
his last, and you know there has been no opportunity of forwarding
letters from Stoney Creek since it was despatched. Now, the next
opportunity that occurs-"
"Mee-aow!" interrupted the cat, which had just finished two pats of
fresh butter without being detected, and began, rather recklessly, to
"Hang that cat!" cried the old gentleman, angrily, "it'll be the
death o' me yet;" and seizing the first thing that came to hand,
which happened to be the loaf of bread, discharged it with such
violence, and with so correct an aim, that it knocked, not only the
cat, but the tea-pot and sugar-bowl also, off the table.
"O dear papa!" exclaimed Kate.
"Really, my dear," cried Mr. Kennedy, half angry and half ashamed,"
we must get rid of that brute immediately. It has scarcely been a
week here, and it has done more mischief already than a score of
ordinary cats would have done in a twelvemonth."
"But then the mice, papa--"
"Well, but--but--oh, hang the mice!"
"Yes; but how are we to catch them?" said Kate.
At this moment the cook, who had heard the sound of breaking
crockery, and judged it expedient that he should be present, opened
"How now, rascal!" exclaimed his master, striding up to him. "Did I
ring for you, eh?"
"No, sir; but--"
"But! eh, but! no more 'buts,' you scoundrel, else I'll--"
The motion of Mr. Kennedy's fist warned the cook to make a
precipitate retreat, which he did at the same moment that the cat
resolved to run for its life. This caused them to meet in the
doorway, and making a compound entanglement with the mat, they both
fell into the passage with a loud crash. Mr. Kennedy shut the door
gently, and returned to his chair, patting Kate on the head as he
"Now, darling, go on with what you were saying; and don't mind the
tea-pot--let it lie."
"Well," resumed Kate, with a smile, "I was saying that the next
opportunity Charley can have will be by the brigade in spring, which
we expect to arrive here, you know, a month hence; but we won't get a
letter by that, as I feel convinced that he and Harry will come by it
"And the express canoe, Kate--the express canoe," said Mr. Kennedy,
with a contortion of the left side of his head that was intended for
a wink; "you know they got leave to come by express, Kate."
"Oh, as to the express, father, I don't expect them to come by that,
as poor Harry Somerville has been so ill that they would never think
of venturing to subject him to all the discomforts, not to mention
the dangers, of a canoe voyage."
"I don't know that, lass--I don't know that," said Mr. Kennedy,
giving another contortion with his left cheek. "In fact, I shouldn't
wonder if they arrived this very day; and it's well to be on the
look-out, so I'm off to the banks of the river, Kate. "Saying this,
the old gentleman threw on an old fur cap with the peak all awry,
thrust his left hand into his right glove, put on the other with the
back to the front and the thumb in the middle finger, and bustled out
of the house, muttering as he went, "Yes, it's well to be on the
look-out for him."
Mr. Kennedy, however, was disappointed: Charley did not arrive that
day, nor the next, nor the day after that. Nevertheless the old
gentleman's faith each day remained as firm as on the day previous
that Charley would arrive on that day "for certain." About a week
after this, Mr. Kennedy put on his hat and gloves as usual, and
sauntered down to the banks of the river, where his perseverance was
rewarded by the sight of a small canoe rapidly approaching the
landing-place. From the costume of the three men who propelled it,
the cut of the canoe itself, the precision and energy of its
movements, and several other minute points about it only apparent to
the accustomed eye of a nor'-wester, he judged at once that this was
a new arrival, and not merely one of the canoes belonging to the
settlers, many of which might be seen passing up and down the river.
As they drew near he fixed his eyes eagerly upon them.
"Very odd," he exclaimed, while a shade of disappointment passed over
his brow: "it ought to be him, but it's not like him; too big--
different nose altogether. Don't know any of the three. Humph!--well,
he's _sure to come to-morrow, at all events." Having come to the
conclusion that it was not Charley's canoe, he wheeled sulkily round
and sauntered back towards his house, intending to solace himself
with a pipe. At that moment he heard a shout behind him, and ere he
could well turn round to see whence it came, a young man bounded up
the bank and seized him in his arms with a hug that threatened to
dislocate his ribs. The old gentleman's first impulse was to bestow
on his antagonist (for he verily believed him to be such) one of
those vigorous touches with his clinched fist which in days of yore
used to bring some of his disputes to a summary and effectual close;
but his intention changed when the youth spoke.
"Father, dear, dear father!" said Charley, as he loosened his grasp,
and, still holding him by both hands, looked earnestly into his face
with swimming eyes.
Old Mr. Kennedy seemed to have lost his powers of speech. He gazed at
his son for a few seconds in silence--then suddenly threw his arms
around him and engaged in a species of wrestle which he intended for
"O Charley, my boy! "you've come at last--God bless you! Let's look
at you. Quite changed: six feet; no, not quite changed--the old nose;
black as an Indian. O Charley, my dear boy! I've been waiting for you
for months; why did you keep me so long, eh? Hang it, where's my
handkerchief?" At tis last exclamation Mr. Kennedy's feelings quite
overcame him; his full heart overflowed at his eyes, so that when he
tried to look at his son, Charley appeared partly magnified and
partly broken up into fragments. Fumbling in his pocket for the
missing handkerchief, which he did not find, he suddenly seized his
fur cap, in a burst of exasperation, and wiped his eyes with that.
Immediately after, forgetting that it _was a cap he thrust it into
"Come, dear father," cried Charley, drawing the old man's arm through
his, "let us go home. Is Kate there?"
"Ay, ay," cried Mr. Kennedy, waving his hand as he was dragged away,
and bestowing, quite unwittingly, a back-handed slap on the cheek to
Harry Somerville--which nearly felled that youth to the ground. "Ay,
ay! Kate, to be sure, darling. Yes, quite right, Charley; a pipe--
that's it, my boy, let's have a pipe!" And thus, uttering coherent
and broken sentences, he disappeared through the doorway with his
long-lost and now recovered son.
Meanwhile Harry and Jacques continued to pace quietly before the
house, waiting patiently until the first ebullition of feeling, at
the meeting of Charley with his father and sister, should be over. In
a few minutes Charley ran out.
"Hollo, Harry! come in, my boy; forgive my forgetfulness, but--"
"My dear fellow," interrupted Harry, "what nonsense you are talking!
Of course you forgot me, and everybody and everything on earth, just
now; but have you seen Kate? is--"
"Yes, yes," cried Charley, as he pushed his friend before him, and
dragged Jacques after him into the parlour.--"Here's Harry, father,
and Jacques.--You've heard of Jacques, Kate?"
"Harry, my, dear boy;" cried Mr. Kennedy, seizing his young friend by
the hand; "how are you, lad? Better, I hope."
At that moment Mr. Kennedy's eye fell on Jacques, who stood in the
doorway, cap in hand, with the usual quiet smile lighting up his
"What! Jacques--Jacques Caradoc!" he cried, in astonishment.
"The same, sir; you an' I have know'd each other afore now in the way
o' trade," answered the hunter, as he grasped his old bourgeois by
the hand and wrung it warmly. Mr. Kennedy, senior, was so overwhelmed
by the combination of exciting influences to which he was now
subjected, that he plunged his hand into his pocket for the
handkerchief again, and pulled out the fur hat instead, which he
flung angrily at the cat; then using the sleeve of his coat as a
substitute, he proceeded to put a series of abrupt questions to
Jacques and Charley simultaneously.
In the meantime Harry went up to Kate and _stared_ at her. We do not
mean to say that he was intentionally rude to her. No! He went
towards her intending to shake hands, and renew acquaintance with his
old companion; but the moment he caught sight of her he was struck
not only dumb, but motionless. The odd part of it was that Kate, too,
was affected in precisely the same way, and both of them exclaimed
mentally, "Can it be possible?" Their lips, however, gave no
utterance to the question. At length Kate recollected herself, and
blushing deeply, held out her hand, as she said,--
"Forgive me, Har--Mr. Somerville; I was so surprised at your altered
appearance, I could scarcely believe that my old friend stood before
Harry's cheeks crimsoned as he seized her hand and said: "Indeed,
Ka--a--Miss--that is, in fact, I've been very ill, and doubtless have
changed somewhat; but the very same thought struck me in regard to
yourself, you are so--so--"
Fortunately for Harry, who was gradually becoming more and more
confused, to the amusement of Charley, who had closely observed the
meeting of his friend and sister, Mr. Kennedy came up.
"Eh! what's that? What did you say _struck_ you, Harry, my lad?"
"_You_ did, father, on his arrival," replied Charley, with a broad
grin, "and a very neat back-hander it was."
"Nonsense, Charley," interrupted Harry, with a laugh.--"I was just
saying, sir, that Miss Kennedy is so changed that I could hardly
believe it to be herself."
"And I had just paid Mr. Somerville the same compliment, papa," cried
Kate, laughing and blushing simultaneously.
Mr. Kennedy thrust his hands into his pockets, frowned portentously
as he looked from one to the other, and said slowly, "_Miss_ Kennedy,
_Mr._ Somerville!" then turning to his son, remarked, "That's
something new, Charley, lad; that girl is _Miss_ Kennedy, and that
youth there is _Mr._ Somerville!"
Charley laughed loudly at this sally, especially when the old
gentleman followed it up with a series of contortions of the left
cheek, meant for violent winking.
"Right, father, right; it won't do here. We don't know anybody but
Kate and Harry in this house."
Harry laughed in his own genuine style at this.
"Well, Kate be it, with all my heart," said he; "but, really, at
first she seemed so unlike the Kate of former days that I could not
bring myself to call her so."
"Humph!" said Mr. Kennedy. "But come, boys, with me to my smoking-
room, and let's have a talk over a pipe, while Kate looks after
dinner." Giving Charley another squeeze of the hand, and Harry a pat
on the shoulder, the old gentleman put on his cap (with the peak
behind), and led the way to his glass divan in the garden.
It is perhaps unnecessary for us to say that Kate Kennedy and Harry
Somerville had, within the last hour, fallen deeply, hopelessly,
utterly, irrevocably, and totally in love with each other. They did
not merely fall up to the ears in love. To say that they fell over
head and ears in it would be, comparatively speaking, to say nothing.
In fact, they did not fall into it at all. They went deliberately
backwards, took a long race, sprang high into the air, turned
completely round, and went down head first into the flood, descending
to a depth utterly beyond the power of any deep-sea lead to fathom,
or of any human mind adequately to appreciate. Up to that day Kate
had thought of Harry as the hilarious youth who used to take every
opportunity he could of escaping from the counting-room and hastening
to spend the afternoon in rambling through the woods with her and
Charley. But the instant she saw him a man, with a bright, cheerful
countenance, on which rough living and exposure to frequent peril had
stamped unmistakable lines of energy and decision, and to which
recent illness had imparted a captivating touch of sadness--the
moment she beheld this, and the undeniable scrap of whisker that
graced his cheeks, and the slight _shade_ that rested on his upper
lip, her heart leaped violently into her throat, where it stuck hard
and fast, like a stranded ship on a lee-shore.
In like manner, when Harry beheld his former friend a woman, with
beaming eyes and clustering ringlets and--(there, we won't attempt
it!)--in fact, surrounded by every nameless and namable grace that
makes woman exasperatingly delightful, his heart performed the same
eccentric movement, and he felt that his fate was sealed; that he had
been sucked into a rapid which was too strong even for his expert and
powerful arm to contend against, and that he must drift with the
current now, _nolens volens, and run it as he best could.
When Kate retired to her sleeping-apartment that night, she
endeavoured to comport herself in her usual manner; but all her
efforts failed. She sat down on her bed, and remained motionless for
half-an-hour; then she started and sighed deeply; then she smiled and
opened her Bible, but forgot to read it; then she rose hastily,
sighed again, took off her gown, hung it up on a peg, and returning
to the dressing-table sat down on her best bonnet; then she cried a
little, at which point the candle suddenly went out; so she gave a
slight scream, and at last went to bed in the dark.
Three hours afterwards, Harry Somerville, who had been enjoying a
cigar and a chat with Charley and his father, rose, and bidding his
friends good-night, retired to his chamber, where he flung himself
down on a chair, thrust his hands into his pockets, stretched out his
legs, gazed abstractedly before him, and exclaimed--"O Kate, my
exquisite girl, you've floored me quite that!"
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