The Young Fur Traders
R.M. Ballantyne

Part 7 out of 7

As he continued to sit in silence, the gaze of affection gradually
and slowly changed into a look of intense astonishment as he beheld
the gray cat sitting comfortably on the table, and regarding him with
a look of complacent interest, as if it thought Harry's style of
addressing it was highly satisfactory--though rather unusual.

"Brute!" exclaimed Harry, springing from his seat and darting towards
it. But the cat was too well accustomed to old Mr. Kennedy's sudden
onsets to be easily taken by surprise. With a bound it reached the
floor, and took shelter under the bed, whence it was not ejected
until Harry, having first thrown his shoes, soap, clothes-brush, and
razor-strop at it, besides two or three books and several
miscellaneous articles of toilet, at last opened the door (a thing,
by the way, that people would do well always to remember before
endeavouring to expel a cat from an impregnable position), and drew
the bed into the middle of the room. Then, but not till then, it
fled, with its back, its tail, its hair, its eyes--in short, its
entire body--bristling in rampant indignation. Having dislodged the
enemy, Harry replaced the bed, threw off his coat and waistcoat,
untied his neckcloth, sat down on his chair again, and fell into a
reverie; from which, after half-an-hour, he started, clasped his
hands, stamped his foot, glared up at the ceiling, slapped his thigh,
and exclaimed, in the voice of a hero, "Yes, I'll do it, or die!"


The first day at home--A gallop in the prairie, and its consequences.

Next morning, as the quartette were at breakfast, Mr. Kennedy,
senior, took occasion to propound to his son the plans he had laid
down for them during the next week.

"In the first place, Charley, my boy," said he, as well as a large
mouthful of buffalo steak and potato would permit, "you must drive up
to the fort and report yourself. Harry and I will go with you; and
after we have paid our respects to old Grant (another cup of tea,
Kate, my darling)--you recollect him, Charley, don't you?"

"Yes, perfectly."

"Well, then, after we've been to see him, we'll drive down the river,
and call on our friends at the mill. Then we'll look in on the
Thomsons; and give a call, in passing, on old Neverin--he's always
out, so he'll be pleased to hear we were there, and it won't detain
us. Then---"

"But, dear father--excuse my interrupting you--Harry and I are very
anxious to spend our first day at home entirely with you and Kate.
Don't you think it would be more pleasant? and then, to-morrow--"

"Now, Charley, this is too bad of you," said Mr. Kennedy, with a look
of affected indignation: "no sooner have you come back than you're at
your old tricks, opposing and thwarting your father's wishes."

"Indeed, I do not wish to do so, father," replied Charley, with a
smile; "but I thought that you would like my plan better yourself,
and that it would afford us an opportunity of having a good long,
satisfactory talk about all that concerns us, past, present, and

"What a daring mind you have, Charley," said Harry, "to speak of
cramming a _satisfactory_ talk of the past, the present, and the
future all into _one_ day!"

"Harry will take another cup of tea, Kate," said Charley, with an
arch smile, as he went on,--

"Besides, father, Jacques tells me that he means to go off
immediately, to visit a number of his old voyageur friends in the
settlement, and I cannot part with him till we have had one more
canter together over the prairies. I want to show him to Kate, for
he's a great original."

"Oh, that _will_ be charming!" cried Kate. "I should like of all
things to be introduced to the bold hunter.--Another cup of tea, Mr.
S-Harry, I mean?"

Harry started on being thus unexpectedly addressed. "Yes, if you
please--that is--thank you--no, my cup's full already, Kate!"

"Well, well," broke in Mr. Kennedy, senior, "I see you're all leagued
against me, so I give in. But I shall not accompany you on your ride,
as my bones are a little stiffer than they used to be" (the old
gentleman sighed heavily), "and riding far knocks me up; but I've got
business to attend to in my glass house which will occupy me till

"If the business you speak of," began Charley, "is not incompatible
with a cigar, I shall be happy to--"

"Why, as to that, the business itself has special reference to
tobacco, and, in fact, to nothing else; so come along, you young
dog," and the old gentleman's cheek went into violent convulsions as
he rose, put on his cap, with the peak very much over one eye, and
went out in company with the young men.

An hour afterwards four horses stood saddled and bridled in front of
the house. Three belonged to Mr. Kennedy; the fourth had been
borrowed from a neighbour as a mount for Jacques Caradoc. In a few
minutes more Harry lifted Kate into the saddle, and having arranged
her dress with a deal of unnecessary care, mounted his nag. At the
same moment Charley and Jacques vaulted into their saddles, and the
whole cavalcade galloped down the avenue that led to the prairie,
followed by the admiring gaze of Mr. Kennedy, senior, who stood in
the doorway of his mansion, his hands in his vest pockets, his head
uncovered, and his happy visage smiling through a cloud of smoke that
issued from his lips. He seemed the very personification of jovial
good-humour, and what one might suppose Cupid would become were he
permitted to grow old, dress recklessly, and take to smoking!

The prairies were bright that morning, and surpassingly beautiful.
The grass looked greener than usual, the dew-drops more brilliant as
they sparkled on leaf and blade and branch in the rays of an
unclouded sun. The turf felt springy, and the horses, which were
first-rate animals, seemed to dance over it, scarce crushing the
wild-flowers beneath their hoofs, as they galloped lightly on, imbued
with the same joyous feeling that filled the hearts of their riders.
The plains at this place were more picturesque than in other parts,
their uniformity being broken up by numerous clumps of small trees
and wild shrubbery, intermingled with lakes and ponds of all sizes,
which filled the hollows for miles round--temporary sheets of water
these, formed by the melting snow, that told of winter now past and
gone. Additional animation and life was given to the scene by flocks
of water-fowl, whose busy cry and cackle in the water, or whirring
motion in the air, gave such an idea of joyousness in the brute
creation as could not but strike a chord of sympathy in the heart of
a man, and create a feeling of gratitude to the Maker of man and
beast. Although brilliant and warm, the sun, at least during the
first part of their ride, was by no means oppressive; so that the
equestrians stretched out at full gallop for many miles over the
prairie, round the lakes and through the bushes, ere their steeds
showed the smallest symptoms of warmth.

During the ride Kate took the lead, with Jacques on her left and
Harry on her right, while Charley brought up the rear, and conversed
in a loud key with all three. At length Kate began to think it was
just possible the horses might be growing wearied with the slapping
pace, and checked her steed; but this was not an easy matter, as the
horse seemed to hold quite a contrary opinion, and showed a desire
not only to continue but to increase its gallop--a propensity that
induced Harry to lend his aid by grasping the rein and compelling the
animal to walk.

"That's a spirited horse, Kate," said Charley, as they ambled along;
"have you had him long?"

"No," replied Kate; "our father purchased him just a week before your
arrival, thinking that you would likely want a charger now and then.
I have only been on him once before.--Would he make a good buffalo-
runner, Jacques?"

"Yes, miss; he would make an uncommon good runner," answered the
hunter, as he regarded the animal with a critical glance--"at least
if he don't shy at a gunshot."

"I never tried his nerves in that way," said Kate, with a smile;
"perhaps he would shy at _that_. He has a good deal of spirit--oh, I
do dislike a lazy horse, and I do delight in a spirited one!" Kate
gave her horse a smart cut with the whip, half involuntarily, as she
spoke. In a moment it reared almost perpendicularly, and then bounded
forward; not, however, before Jacques's quick eye had observed the
danger, and his ever-ready hand arrested its course.

"Have a care, Miss Kate," he said, in a warning voice, while he gazed
in the face of the excited girl with a look of undisguised
admiration. "It don't do to wallop a skittish beast like that."

"Never fear, Jacques," she replied, bending forward to pat her
charger's arching neck; "see, he is becoming quite gentle again."

"If he runs away, Kate, we won't be able to catch you again, for he's
the best of the four, I think," said Harry, with an uneasy glance at
the animal's flashing eye and expanded nostrils.

"Ay, it's as well to keep the whip off him," said Jacques. "I know'd
a young chap once in St. Louis who lost his sweetheart by usin' his
whip too freely."

"Indeed," cried Kate, with a merry laugh, as they emerged from one of
the numerous thickets and rode out upon the open plain at a foot
pace; "how was that, Jacques? Pray tell us the story."

"As to that, there's little story about it," replied the hunter. "You
see, Tim Roughead took arter his name, an' was always doin' some
mischief or other, which more than once nigh cost him his life; for
the young trappers that frequent St. Louis are not fellows to stand
too much jokin', I can tell ye. Well, Tim fell in love with a gal
there who had jilted about a dozen lads afore; an' bein' an oncommon
handsome, strappin' fellow, she encouraged him a good deal. But Tim
had a suspicion that Louise was rayther sweet on a young
storekeeper's clerk there; so, bein' an off-hand sort o' critter, he
went right up to the gal, and says to her, says he, 'Come, Louise,
it's o' no use humbuggin' with _me_ any longer. If you like me, you
like me; and if you don't like me, you don't. There's only two ways
about it. Now, jist say the word at once, an' let's have an end on't.
If you agree, I'll squat with you in whativer bit o' the States you
like to name; if not, I'll bid you good-bye this blessed mornin', an'
make tracks right away for the Rocky Mountains afore sundown. Ay or
no, lass: which is't to be?'

"Poor Louise was taken all aback by this, but she knew well that Tim
was a man who never threatened in jest, an' moreover she wasn't quite
sure o' the young clerk; so she agreed, an' Tim went off to settle
with her father about the weddin'. Well, the day came, an' Tim, with
a lot o' his comrades, mounted their horses, and rode off to the
bride's house, which was a mile or two up the river out of the town.
Just as they were startin', Tim's horse gave a plunge that well-nigh
pitched him over its head, an' Tim came down on him with a cut o' his
heavy whip that sounded like a pistol-shot. The beast was so mad at
this that it gave a kind o' squeal an' another plunge that burst the
girths. Tim brought the whip down on its flank again, which made it
shoot forward like an arrow out of a bow, leavin' poor Tim on the
ground. So slick did it fly away that it didn't even throw him on his
back, but let him fall sittin'-wise, saddle and all, plump on the
spot where he sprang from. Tim scratched his head an' grinned like a
half-worried rattlesnake as his comrades almost rolled off their
saddles with laughin'. But it was no laughin' job, for poor Tim's leg
was doubled under him, an' broken across at the thigh. It was long
before he was able to go about again, and when he did recover he
found that Louise and the young clerk were spliced an' away to

"So you see what are the probable consequences, Kate, if you use your
whip so obstreperously again," cried Charley, pressing his horse into
a canter.

Just at that moment a rabbit sprang from under a bush and darted away
before them. In an instant Harry Somerville gave a wild shout, and
set off in pursuit. Whether it was the cry or the sudden flight of
Harry's horse, we cannot tell, but the next instant Kate's charger
performed an indescribable flourish with its hind legs, laid back its
ears, took the bit between its teeth, and ran away. Jacques was on
its heels instantly, and a few seconds afterwards Charley and Harry
joined in the pursuit, but their utmost efforts failed to do more
than enable them to keep their ground. Kate's horse was making for a
dense thicket, into which it became evident they must certainly
plunge. Harry and her brother trembled when they looked at it and
realised her danger; even Jacques's face showed some symptoms of
perturbation for a moment as he glanced before him in indecision. The
expression vanished, however, in a few seconds, and his cheerful,
self-possessed look returned, as he cried out,--"Pull the left rein
hard, Miss Kate; try to edge up the slope."

Kate heard the advice, and exerting all her strength, succeeded in
turning her horse a little to the left, which caused him to ascend a
gentle slope, at the top of which part of the thicket lay. She was
closely followed by Harry and her brother, who urged their steeds
madly forward in the hope of catching her rein, while Jacques
diverged a little to the right. By this manoeuvre the latter hoped to
gain on the runaway, as the ground along which he rode was
comparatively level, with a short but steep ascent at the end of it,
while that along which Kate flew like the wind was a regular ascent,
that would prove very trying to her horse. At the margin of the
thicket grew a row of high bushes, towards which they now galloped
with frightful speed. As Kate came up to this natural fence, she
observed the trapper approaching on the other side of it. Springing
from his jaded steed, without attempting to check its pace, he leaped
over the underwood like a stag just as the young girl cleared the
bushes at a bound. Grasping the reins and checking the horse
violently with one hand, he extended the other to Kate, who leaped
unhesitatingly into his arms. At the same instant Charley cleared the
bushes, and pulled sharply up; while Harry's horse, unable, owing to
its speed, to take the leap, came crashing through them, and dashed
his rider with stunning violence to the ground.

Fortunately no bones were broken, and a draught of clear water,
brought by Jacques from a neighbouring pond, speedily restored
Harry's shaken faculties.

"Now, Kate," said Charley, leading forward the horse which he had
ridden, "I have changed saddles, as you see; this horse will suit you
better, and I'll take the shine out of your charger on the way home."

"Thank you, Charley," said Kate, with a smile. "I've quite recovered
from my fright--if, indeed, it is worth calling by that name; but I
fear that Harry has--"

"Oh, I'm all right," cried Harry, advancing as he spoke to assist
Kate in mounting. "I am ashamed to think that my wild cry was the
cause of all this."

In another minute they were again in their saddles, and turning their
faces homeward, they swept over the plain at a steady gallop, fearing
lest their accident should be the means of making Mr. Kennedy wait
dinner for them. On arriving, they found the old gentleman engaged in
an animated discussion with the cook about laying the table-cloth,
which duty he had imposed on himself in Kate's absence.

"Ah, Kate, my love," he cried, as they entered, "come here, lass, and
mount guard. I've almost broke my heart in trying to convince that
thick-headed goose that he can't set the table properly. Take it off
my hands, like a good girl.--Charley, my boy, you'll be pleased to
hear that your old friend Redfeather is here."

"Redfeather, father!" exclaimed Charley, in surprise.

"Yes; he and the parson, from the other end of Lake Winnipeg, arrived
an hour ago in a tin kettle, and are now on their way to the upper

"That is, indeed, pleasant news; but I suspect that it will give much
greater pleasure to our friend Jacques, who, I believe, would be glad
to lay down his life for him, simply to prove his affection."

"Well, well," said the old gentleman, knocking the ashes out of his
pipe, and refilling it so as to be ready for an after-dinner smoke,
"Redfeather has come, and the parson's come too; and I look upon it
as quite miraculous that they have come, considering the _thing_ they
came in. What they've come for is more than I can tell, but I suppose
it's connected with church affairs.--Now then, Kate, what's come o'
the dinner, Kate? Stir up that grampus of a cook! I half expect that
he has boiled the cat for dinner, in his wrath, for it has been
badgering him and me the whole morning.--Hollo, Harry, what's wrong?"

The last exclamation was in consequence of an expression of pain
which crossed Harry's face for a moment.

"Nothing, nothing," replied Harry. "I've had a fall from my horse,
and bruised my arm a little. But I'll see to it after dinner."

"That you shall not," cried Mr Kennedy energetically, dragging his
young friend into his bedroom. "Off with your coat, lad. Let's see it
at once. Ay, ay," he continued, examining Harry's left arm, which was
very much discoloured, and swelled from the elbow to the shoulder,
"that's a severe thump, my boy. But it's nothing to speak of; only
you'll have to submit to a sling for a day or two,"

"That's annoying, certainly, but I'm thankful it's no worse,"
remarked Harry, as Mr. Kennedy dressed the arm after his own fashion,
and then returned with him to the dining-room.


Love--Old Mr. Kennedy puts his foot in it.

One morning, about two weeks after Charley's arrival at Red River,
Harry Somerville found himself alone in Mr. Kennedy's parlour. The
old gentleman himself had just galloped away in the direction of the
lower fort, to visit Charley, who was now formally installed there;
Kate was busy in the kitchen giving directions about dinner; and
Jacques was away with Redfeather, visiting his numerous friends in
the settlement: so that, for the first time since his arrival, Harry
found himself at the hour of ten in the morning utterly lone, and
with nothing very definite to do. Of course, the two weeks that had
elapsed were not without their signs and symptoms, their minor
accidents and incidents, in regard to the subject that filled his
thoughts. Harry had fifty times been tossed alternately from the
height of hope to the depth of despair, from the extreme of felicity
to the uttermost verge of sorrow, and he began seriously to reflect,
when he remembered his desperate resolution on the first night of his
arrival, that if he did not "do" he certainly would "die." This was
quite a mistake, however, on Harry's part. Nobody ever did _die_ of
unrequited love. Doubtless many people have hanged, drowned, and shot
themselves because of it; but, generally speaking, if the patient can
be kept from maltreating himself long enough, time will prove to be
an infallible remedy. O youthful reader, lay this to heart: but
pshaw! why do I waste ink on so hopeless a task? _Every_ one, we
suppose, resolves once in a way to _die_ of love; so--die away, my
young friends, only make sure that you don't _kill_ yourselves, and
I've no fear of the result.

But to return. Kate, likewise, was similarly affected. She behaved
like a perfect maniac--mentally, that is--and plunged herself,
metaphorically, into such a succession of hot and cold baths, that it
was quite a marvel how her spiritual constitution could stand it.

But we were wrong in saying that Harry was _alone_ in the parlour.
The gray cat was there. On a chair before the fire it sat, looking
dishevelled and somewhat _blase,_ in consequence of the ill-treatment
and worry to which it was continually subjected. After looking out of
the window for a short time, Harry rose, and sitting down on a chair
beside the cat, patted its head--a mark of attention it was evidently
not averse to, but which it received, nevertheless, with marked
suspicion, and some indications of being in a condition of armed
neutrality. Just then the door opened, and Kate entered.

"Excuse me, Harry, for leaving you alone," she said, "but I had to
attend to several household matters. Do you feel inclined for a

"I do indeed," replied Harry; "it is a charming day, and I am
exceedingly anxious to see the bower that you have spoken to me about
once or twice, and which Charley told me of long before I came here."

"Oh, I shall take you to it with pleasure," replied Kate; "my dear
father often goes there with me to smoke. If you will wait for two
minutes I'll put on my bonnet," and she hastened to prepare herself
for the walk, leaving Harry to caress the cat, which he did so
energetically, when he thought of its young mistress, that it
instantly declared war, and sprang from the chair with a
remonstrative yell.

On their way down to the bower, which was situated in a picturesque,
retired spot on the river's bank about a mile below the house, Harry
and Kate tried to converse on ordinary topics, but without success,
and were at last almost reduced to silence. One subject alone filled
their minds; all others were flat. Being sunk, as it were, in an
ocean of love, they no sooner opened their lips to speak, than the
waters rushed in, as a natural consequence, and nearly choked them.
Had they but opened their mouths wide and boldly, they would have
been pleasantly drowned together; but as it was, they lacked the
requisite courage, and were fain to content themselves with an
occasional frantic struggle to the surface, where they gasped a few
words of uninteresting air, and sank again instantly.

On arriving at the bower, however, and sitting down, Harry plucked up
heart, and, heaving a deep sigh, said--

"Kate, there is a subject about which I have long desired to speak to

Long as he had been desiring it, however, Kate thought it must have
been nothing compared with the time that elapsed ere he said anything
else; so she bent over a flower which she held in her hand, and said
in a low voice, "Indeed, Harry, what is it?"

Harry was desperate now. His usually flexible tongue was stiff as
stone and dry as a bit of leather. He could no more give utterance to
an intelligible idea than he could change himself into Mr. Kennedy's
gray cat--a change that he would not have been unwilling to make at
that moment. At last he seized his companion's hand, and exclaimed,
with a burst of emotion that quite startled her,--

"Kate, Kate! O dearest Kate, I love you! I _adore_ you! I--"

At this point poor Harry's powers of speech again failed; so being
utterly unable to express another idea, he suddenly threw his arms
round her, and pressed her fervently to his bosom.

Kate was taken quite aback by this summary method of coming to the
point. Repulsing him energetically, she exclaimed, while she blushed
crimson. "O Harry--Mr Somerville!" and burst into tears.

Poor Harry stood before her for a moment, his head hanging down, and
a deep blush of shame on his face.

"O Kate," said he, in a deep tremulous voice, "forgive me; do--do
forgive me! I knew not what I said. I scarce knew what I did" (here
he seized her hand). "I know but one thing, Kate, and tell it you
_will,_ if it should cost me my life. I love you, Kate, to
distraction, and I wish you to be my wife. I have been rude, very
rude. Can you forgive me, Kate?"

Now, this latter part of Harry's speech was particularly comical,
the comicality of it lying in this, that while he spoke, he drew Kate
gradually towards him, and at the very time when he gave utterance to
the penitential remorse for his rudeness, Kate was infolded in a much
more vigorous embrace than at the first; and what is more remarkable
still, she laid her little head quietly on his shoulder, as if she
had quite changed her mind in regard to what was and what was not
rude, and rather enjoyed it than otherwise.

While the lovers stood in this interesting position, it became
apparent to Harry's olfactory nerves that the atmosphere was
impregnated with tobacco smoke. Looking hastily up, he beheld an
apparition that tended somewhat to increase the confusion of his

In the opening of the bower stood Mr. Kennedy, senior, in a state of
inexpressible amazement. We say inexpressible advisedly, because the
extreme pitch of feeling which Mr. Kennedy experienced at what he
beheld before him cannot possibly be expressed by human visage. As
far as the countenance of man could do it, however, we believe the
old gentleman's came pretty near the mark on this occasion. His hands
were in his coat pockets, his body bent a little forward, his head
and neck outstretched a little beyond it, his eyes almost starting
from the sockets, and certainly the most prominent feature in his
face: his teeth firmly clinched on his beloved pipe, and his lips
expelling a multitude of little clouds so vigorously that one might
have taken him for a sort of self-acting intelligent steam-gun that
had resolved utterly to annihilate Kate and Harry at short range in
the course of two minutes.

When Kate saw her father she uttered a slight scream, covered her
face with her hands, rushed from the bower, and disappeared in the

"So, young gentleman," began Mr. Kennedy, in a slow, deliberate tone
of voice, while he removed the pipe from his mouth, clinched his
fist, and confronted Harry, "you've been invited to my house as a
guest, sir, and you seize the opportunity basely to insult my

"Stay, stay, my dear sir," interrupted Harry, laying his hand on the
old man's shoulder and gazing earnestly into his face. "Oh, do not,
even for a moment, imagine that I could be so base as to trifle with
the affections of your daughter. I may have been presumptuous, hasty,
foolish, mad if you will, but not base. God forbid that I should
treat her with disrespect, even in thought! I love her, Mr. Kennedy,
as I never loved before. I have asked her to be my wife, and--she--"

"Whew!" whistled old Mr. Kennedy, replacing his pipe between his
teeth, gazing abstractedly at the ground, and emitting clouds
innumerable. After standing thus a few seconds, he turned his back
slowly upon Harry, and smiled outrageously once or twice, winking at
the same time, after his own fashion, at the river. Turning abruptly
round, he regarded Harry with a look of affected dignity, and said,
"Pray, sir, what did my daughter say to your very peculiar proposal?"

"She said ye--ah! that is--she didn't exactly _say_ anything, but
she--indeed I--"

"Humph!" ejaculated the old gentleman, deepening his frown as he
regarded his young friend through the smoke. "In short, she said
nothing, I suppose, but led you to infer, perhaps, that she would
have said yes if I hadn't interrupted you."

Harry blushed, and said nothing.

"Now, sir," continued Mr, Kennedy, "don't you think that it would
have been a polite piece of attention on your part to have asked _my_
permission before you addressed my daughter on such a subject, eh?"

"Indeed," said Harry, "I acknowledge that I have been hasty, but I
must disclaim the charge of disrespect to you, sir. I had no
intention whatever of broaching the subject to-day, but my feelings,
unhappily, carried me away, and--and--in fact--"

"Well, well, sir," interrupted Mr. Kennedy, with a look of offended
dignity, "your feelings ought to be kept more under control. But
come, sir, to my house. I must talk further with you on this subject.
I must read you a lesson, sir--a lesson, humph! that you won't forget
in a hurry."

"But, my dear sir--" began Harry.

"No more, sir--no more at present," cried the old gentleman, smoking
violently as he pointed to the footpath that led to the house, "Lead
the way, sir; I'll follow."

The footpath, although wide enough to allow Kate and Harry to walk,
beside each other, did not permit of two gentlemen doing so
conveniently--a circumstance which proved a great relief to Mr.
Kennedy, inasmuch as it enabled him, while walking behind his
companion, to wink convulsively, smoke furiously, and punch his own
ribs severely, by way of opening a few safety-valves to his glee,
without which there is no saying what might have happened. He was
nearly caught in these eccentricities more than once, however, as
Harry turned half round with the intention of again attempting to
exculpate himself--attempts which were as often met by a sudden
start, a fierce frown, a burst of smoke, and a command to "go on." On
approaching the house, the track became a broad road, affording Mr.
Kennedy no excuse for walking in the rear, so that he was under the
necessity of laying violent restraint on his feelings--a restraint
which it was evident could not last long. At that moment, to his
great relief, his eye suddenly fell on the gray cat, which happened
to be reposing innocently on the doorstep.

"_That's_ it! there's the whole cause of it at last!" cried Mr.
Kennedy, in a perfect paroxysm of excitement, flinging his pipe
violently at the unoffending victim as he rushed towards it. The pipe
missed the cat, but went with a sharp crash through the parlour
window, at which Charley was seated, while his father darted through
the doorway, along the passage, and into the kitchen. Here the cat,
having first capsized a pyramid of pans and kettles in its
consternation, took refuge in an absolutely unassailable position.
Seeing this, Mr. Kennedy violently discharged a pailful of water at
the spot, strode rapidly to his own apartment, and locked himself in.

"Dear me, Harry, what's wrong? my father seems unusually excited,"
said Charley, in some astonishment, as Harry entered the room, and
flung himself on a chair with a look of chagrin.

"It's difficult to say, Charley; the fact is, I've asked your sister
Kate to be my wife, and your father seems to have gone mad with

"Asked Kate to be your wife!" cried Charley, starting up, and
regarding his friend with a look of amazement.

"Yes, I have," replied Harry, with an air of offended dignity. "I
know very well that I am unworthy of her, but I see no reason why you
and your father should take such pains to make me feel it."

"Unworthy of her, my dear fellow!" exclaimed Charley, grasping his
hand and wringing it violently; "no doubt you are, and so is
everybody, but you shall have her for all that, my boy. But tell me,
Harry, have you spoken to Kate herself?"

"Yes, I have."

"And does she agree?"

"Well, I think I may say she does."

"Have you told my father that she does?"

"Why, as to that," said Harry, with a perplexed smile, "he didn't
need to be told; he made _himself_ pretty well aware of the facts of
the case."

"Ah! I'll soon settle _him_," cried Charley. "Keep your mind easy,
old fellow; I'll very soon bring him round." With this assurance,
Charley gave his friend's hand another shake that nearly wrenched the
arm from his shoulder, and hastened out of the room in search of his
refractory father.


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

Time rolled on, and with it the sunbeams of summer went--the
snowflakes of winter came. Needles of ice began to shoot across the
surface of Red River, and gradually narrowed its bed. Crystalline
trees formed upon the window-panes. Icicles depended from the eaves
of the houses. Snow fell in abundance on the plains; liquid nature
began rapidly to solidify, and not many weeks after the first frost
made its appearance everything was (as the settlers expressed it)
"hard and fast."

Mr. Kennedy, senior, was in his parlour, with his back to a blazing
wood-fire that seemed large enough to roast an ox whole. He was
standing, moreover, in a semi-picturesque attitude, with his right
hand in his breeches pocket and his left arm round Kate's waist. Kate
was dressed in a gown that rivalled the snow itself in whiteness. One
little gold clasp shone in her bosom; it was the only ornament she
wore. Mr. Kennedy, too, had somewhat altered his style of costume. He
wore a sky-blue, swallow-tailed coat, whose maker had flourished in
London half-a-century before. It had a velvet collar about five
inches deep, fitted uncommonly tight to the figure, and had a pair of
bright brass buttons, very close together, situated half-a-foot above
the wearer's natural waist. Besides this, he had on a canary-coloured
vest, and a pair of white duck trousers, in the fob of which
_evidently_ reposed an immense gold watch of the olden time, with a
bunch of seals that would have served very well as an anchor for a
small boat. Although the dress was, on the whole, slightly comical,
its owner, with his full, fat, broad figure, looked remarkably well
in it, nevertheless.

It was Kate's marriage-day, or rather marriage-evening; for the sun
had set two hours ago, and the moon was now sailing in the frosty
sky, its pale rays causing the whole country to shine with a clear,
cold, silvery whiteness.

The old gentleman had been for some time gazing in silent admiration
on the fair brow and clustering ringlets of his daughter, when it
suddenly occurred to him that the company would arrive in half-an-
hour, and there were several things still to be attended to.

"Hello, Kate!" he exclaimed, with a start, "we're forgetting
ourselves. The candles are yet to light, and lots of other things to
do." Saying this, he began to bustle about the room in a state of
considerable agitation.

"Oh, don't worry yourself, dear father!" cried Kate, running after
him and catching him by the hand. "Miss Cookumwell and good Mrs.
Taddipopple are arranging everything about tea and supper in the
kitchen, and Tom Whyte has been kindly sent to us by Mr. Grant, with
orders to make himself generally useful, so _he_ can light the
candles in a few minutes, and you've nothing to do but to kiss me and
receive the company." Kate pulled her father gently towards the fire
again, and replaced his arm round her waist.

"Receive company! Ah, Kate, my love, that's just what I know nothing
about. If they'd let me receive them in my own way, I'd do it well
enough; but that abominable Mrs. Taddi-what's her name-has quite
addled my brains and driven me distracted with trying to get me to
understand what she calls _etiquette_."

Kate laughed, and said she didn't care _how_ he received them, as she
was quite sure that, whichever way he did it, he would do it
pleasantly and well.

At that moment the door opened, and Tom Whyte entered. He was
thinner, if possible, than he used to be, and considerably stiffer,
and more upright.

"Please, sir," said he, with a motion that made you expect to hear
his back creak (it was intended for a bow)--"please, sir, can I do
hanythink for yer?"

"Yes, Tom, you can," replied Mr. Kennedy. "Light these candles, my
man, and then go to the stable and see that everything there is
arranged for putting up the horses. It will be pretty full to-night,
Tom, and will require some management. Then, let me see--ah yes,
bring me my pipe, Tom, my big meerschaum.--I'll sport that to-night
in honour of you, Kate."

"Please, sir," began Tom, with a slightly disconcerted air, "I'm
afeared, sir, that--um--"

"Well, Tom, what would you say? Go on."

"The pipe, sir," said Tom, growing still more disconcerted--"says I
to cook, says I, 'Cook, wot's been an' done it, d'ye think?' 'Dun
know, Tom,' says he, 'but it's smashed, that's sartin. I think the
gray cat--'"

"What!" cried the old trader, in a voice of thunder, while a frown of
the most portentous ferocity darkened his brow for an instant. It was
only for an instant, however. Clearing his brow quickly, he said with
a smile, "But it's your wedding-day, Kate, my darling. It won't do to
blow up anybody to-day, not even the cat.--There, be off, Tom, and
see to things. Look sharp! I hear sleigh-bells already."

As he spoke Tom vanished perpendicularly, Kate hastened to her room,
and the old gentleman himself went to the front door to receive his

The night was of that intensely calm and still character that
invariably accompanies intense frost, so that the merry jingle of the
sleigh-bells that struck on Mr. Kennedy's listening ear continued to
sound, and grow louder as they drew near, for a considerable time ere
the visitors arrived. Presently the dull, soft tramp of horses' hoofs
was heard in the snow, and a well-known voice shouted out lustily,
"Now then, Mactavish, keep to the left. Doesn't the road take a turn
there? Mind the gap in the fence. That's old Kennedy's only fault.
He'd rather risk breaking his friends' necks than mend his fences!"

"All right, here we are," cried Mactavish, as the next instant two
sleighs emerged out of the avenue into the moonlit space in front of
the house, and dashed up to the door amid an immense noise and
clatter of bells, harness, hoofs, snorting, and salutations.

"Ah, Grant, my dear fellow!" cried Mr. Kennedy, springing to the
sleigh and seizing his friend by the hand as he dragged him out.
"This is kind of you to come early. And Mrs. Grant, too. Take care,
my dear madam, step clear of the haps; now, then--cleverly done" (as
Mrs. Grant tumbled into his arms in a confused heap). "Come along
now; there's a capital fire in here.--Don't mind the horses,
Mactavish--follow us, my lad; Tom Whyte will attend to them."

Uttering such disjointed remarks, Mr. Kennedy led Mrs. Grant into the
house, and made her over to Mrs. Taddipopple, who hurried her away to
an inner apartment, while Mr. Kennedy conducted her spouse, along
with Mactavish and our friend the head clerk at Fort Garry, into the

"Harry, my dear fellow, I wish you joy," cried Mr. Grant, as the
former grasped his hand. "Lucky dog you are. Where's Kate, eh? Not
visible yet, I suppose."

"No, not till the parson comes," interrupted Mr. Kennedy, convulsing
his left cheek.--"Hollo, Charley, where are you? Ah! bring the
cigars, Charley.--Sit down, gentlemen; make yourselves at home--I
say, Mrs. Taddi--Taddi--oh, botheration--popple! that's it--your
name, madam, is a puzzler-but-we'll need more chairs, I think. Fetch
one or two, like a dear!"

As he spoke the jingle of bells was heard outside, and Mr. Kennedy
rushed to the door again.

"Good-evening, Mr. Addison," said he, taking that gentleman warmly by
the hand as he resigned the reins to Tom Whyte. "I am delighted to
see you, sir (Look after the minister's mare, Tom), glad to see you,
my dear sir. Some of my friends have come already. This way, Mr,

The worthy clergyman responded to Mr. Kennedy's greeting in his own
hearty manner, and followed him into the parlour, where the guests
now began to assemble rapidly.

"Father," cried Charley, catching his sire by the arm, "I've been
looking for you everywhere, but you dance about like a will-o'-the-
wisp. Do you know I've invited my friends Jacques and Redfeather to
come to-night, and also Louis Peltier, the guide with whom I made my
first trip. You recollect him, father?"

"Ay, that do I, lad, and happy shall I be to see three such worthy
men under my roof as guests on this night."

"Yes, yes, I know that, father; but I don't see them here. Have they
come yet?"

"Can't say, boy. By the way, Pastor Conway is also coming, so we'll
have a meeting between an Episcopalian and a Wesleyan. I sincerely
trust that they won't fight!" As he said this the old gentleman
grinned and threw his cheek into convulsions--an expression which was
suddenly changed into one of confusion when he observed that Mr.
Addison was standing close beside him, and had heard the remark.

"Don't blush, my dear sir," said Mr. Addison, with a quiet smile, as
he patted his friend on the shoulder. "You have too much reason, I am
sorry to say, for expecting that clergymen of different denominations
should look coldly on each other. There is far too much of this
indifference and distrust among those who labour in different parts
of the Lord's vineyard. But I trust you will find that my sympathies
extend a little beyond the circle of my own particular body. Indeed,
Mr. Conway is a particular friend of mine; so I assure you we won't

"Right, right" cried Mr. Kennedy, giving the clergy man an energetic
grasp of the hand; "I like to hear you speak that way. I must confess
that I've been a good deal surprised to observe, by what one reads in
the old-country newspapers, as well as by what one sees even hereaway
in the backwood settlements, how little interest clergymen show in
the doings of those who don't happen to belong to their own
particular sect; just as if a soul saved through the means of an
Episcopalian was not of as much value as one saved by a Wesleyan, or
a Presbyterian, or a Dissenter. Why, sir, it seems to me just as
mean-spirited and selfish as if one of our chief factors was so
entirely taken up with the doings and success of his own particular
district that he didn't care a gun-flint for any other district in
the Company's service."

There was at least one man listening to these remarks whose naturally
logical and liberal mind fully agreed with them. This was Jacques
Caradoc, who had entered the room a few minutes before, in company
with his friend Redfeather and Louis Peltier.

"Right, sir! That's fact, straight up and down," said he, in an
approving tone.

"Ha! Jacques, my good fellow, is that you?--Redfeather, my friend,
how are you?" said Mr. Kennedy, turning round and grasping a hand of
each.--"Sit down there, Louis, beside Mrs. Taddi--eh?--ah!--popple.--
Mr. Addison, this is Jacques Caradoc, the best and stoutest hunter
between Hudson's Bay and Oregon."

Jacques smiled and bowed modestly as Mr. Addison shook his hand. The
worthy hunter did indeed at that moment look as if he fully merited
Mr. Kennedy's eulogium. Instead of endeavouring to ape the gentleman,
as many men in his rank of life would have been likely to do on an
occasion like this, Jacques had not altered his costume a hair-
breadth from what it usually was, excepting that some parts of it
were quite new, and all of it faultlessly clean. He wore the usual
capote, but it was his best one, and had been washed for the
occasion. The scarlet belt and blue leggings were also as bright in
colour as if they had been put on for the first time; and the
moccasins, which fitted closely to his well-formed feet, were of the
cleanest and brightest yellow leather, ornamented, as usual, in
front. The collar of his blue-striped shirt was folded back a little
more carefully than usual, exposing his sun-burned and muscular
throat. In fact, he wanted nothing, save the hunting-knife, the
rifle, and the powder-horn, to constitute him a perfect specimen of a
thorough backwoodsman.

Redfeather and Louis were similarly costumed, and a noble trio they
looked as they sat modestly in a corner, talking to each other in
whispers, and endeavouring, as much as possible, to curtail their
colossal proportions.

"Now, Harry," said Mr. Kennedy, in a hoarse whisper, at the same time
winking vehemently, "we're about ready, lad. Where's Kate, eh? shall
we send for her?"

Harry blushed, and stammered out something that was wholly
unintelligible, but which, nevertheless, seemed to afford infinite
delight to the old gentleman, who chuckled and winked tremendously,
gave his son-in-law a facetious poke in the ribs, and turning
abruptly to Miss Cookumwell, said to that lady, "Now, Miss
Cookumpopple, we're all ready. They seem to have had enough tea and
trash; you'd better be looking after Kate, I think."

Miss Cookumwell smiled, rose, and left the room to obey; Mrs.
Taddipopple followed to help, and soon returned with Kate, whom they
delivered up to her father at the door. Mr. Kennedy led her to the
upper end of the room; Harry Somerville stood by her side, as if by
magic; Mr. Addison dropped opportunely before them, as if from the
clouds; there was an extraordinary and abrupt pause in the hum of
conversation, and ere Kate was well aware of what was about to
happen, she felt herself suddenly embraced by her husband, from whom
she was thereafter violently torn and all but smothered by her
sympathising friends.

Poor Kate! she had gone through the ceremony almost mechanically--
recklessly, we might be justified in saying; for not having raised
her eyes off the floor from its commencement to its close, the man
whom she accepted for better or for worse might have been Jacques or
Redfeather for all that she knew.

Immediately after this there was heard the sound of a fiddle, and an
old Canadian was led to the upper end of the room, placed on a chair,
and hoisted, by the powerful arms of Jacques and Louis, upon a table.
In this conspicuous position the old man seemed to be quite at his
ease. He spent a few minutes in bringing his instrument into perfect
tune; then looking round with a mild, patronising glance to see that
the dancers were ready, he suddenly struck up a Scotch reel with an
amount of energy, precision, and spirit that might have shot a pang
of jealousy through the heart of Neil Gow himself. The noise that
instantly commenced, and was kept up from that moment, with but few
intervals, during the whole evening, was of a kind that is never
heard in fashionable drawing-rooms. Dancing in the backwood
settlements _is_ dancing. It is not walking; it is not sailing; it is
not undulating; it is not sliding; no, it is _bona-fide_ dancing! It
is the performance of intricate evolutions with the feet and legs
that make one wink to look at; performed in good time too, and by
people who look upon _all_ their muscles as being useful machines,
not merely things of which a select few, that cannot be dispensed
with, are brought into daily operation. Consequently the thing was
done with an amount of vigour that was conducive to the health of
performers, and productive of satisfaction to the eyes of beholders.
When the evening wore on apace, however, and Jacques's modesty was so
far overcome as to induce him to engage in a reel, along with his
friend Louis Peltier, and two bouncing young ladies whose father had
driven them twenty miles over the plains that day in order to attend
the wedding of their dear friend and former playmate, Kate--when
these four stood up, we say, and the fiddler played more
energetically than ever, and the stout backwoodsmen began to warm and
grow vigorous, until, in the midst of their tremendous leaps and
rapid but well-timed motions, they looked like very giants amid their
brethren, then it was that Harry, as he felt Kate's little hand
pressing his arm, and observed her sparkling eyes gazing at the
dancers in genuine admiration, began at last firmly to believe that
the whole thing was a dream; and then it was that old Mr. Kennedy
rejoiced to think that the house had been built under his own special
directions, and he knew that it could not by any possibility be
shaken to pieces.

And well might Harry imagine that he dreamed; for besides the
bewildering tendency of the almost too-good-to-be-true fact that
Kate was really Mrs. Harry Somerville, the scene before him was a
particularly odd and perplexing mixture of widely different elements,
suggestive of new and old associations. The company was
miscellaneous. There were retired old traders, whose lives from
boyhood had been spent in danger, solitude, wild scenes and
adventures, to which those of Robinson Crusoe are mere child's play.
There were young girls, the daughters of these men, who had received
good educations in the Red River academy, and a certain degree of
polish which education always gives; a very _different_ polish,
indeed, from that which the conventionalities and refinements of the
Old World bestow, but not the less agreeable on that account--nay, we
might even venture to say, all the _more_ agreeable on that account.
There were Red Indians and clergymen; there were one or two ladies of
a doubtful age, who had come out from the old country to live there,
having found it no easy matter, poor things, to live at home; there
were matrons whose absolute silence on every subject save "yes" or
"no" showed that they had not been subjected to the refining
influences of the academy, but whose hearty smiles and laughs of
genuine good-nature proved that the storing of the brain has, after
all, _very_ little to do with the best and deepest feelings of the
heart. There were the tones of Scotch reels sounding--tones that
brought Scotland vividly before the very eyes; and there were
Canadian hunters and half-breed voyageurs, whose moccasins were more
accustomed to the turf of the woods than the boards of a drawing-
room, and whose speech and accents made Scotland vanish away
altogether from the memory. There were old people and young folk;
there were fat and lean, short and long. There were songs too--
ballads of England, pathetic songs of Scotland, alternating with the
French ditties of Canada, and the sweet, inexpressibly plaintive
canoe-songs of the voyageur. There were strong contrasts in dress
also: some wore the home-spun trousers of the settlement, a few the
ornamented leggings of the hunter. Capotes were there--loose,
flowing, and picturesque; and broad-cloth tail-coats were there, of
the last century, tight-fitting, angular--in a word, detestable;
verifying the truth of the proverb that extremes meet, by showing
that the _cut_ which all the wisdom of tailors and scientific fops,
after centuries of study, had laboriously wrought out and foisted
upon the poor civilised world as perfectly sublime, appeared in the
eyes of backwoodsmen and Indians utterly ridiculous. No wonder that
Harry, under the circumstances, became quietly insane, and went about
committing _nothing_ but mistakes the whole evening. No wonder that
he emulated his father-in-law in abusing the gray cat, when he found
it surreptitiously devouring part of the supper in an adjoining room;
and no wonder that, when he rushed about vainly in search of Mrs.
Taddipopple, to acquaint her with the cat's wickedness, he, at last,
in desperation, laid violent hands on Miss Cookumwell, and addressed
that excellent lady by the name of Mrs. Poppletaddy.

Were we courageous enough to make the attempt, we would endeavour to
describe that joyful evening from beginning to end. We would tell you
how the company's spirits rose higher and higher, as each individual
became more and more anxious to lend his or her aid in adding to the
general hilarity; how old Mr. Kennedy nearly killed himself in his
fruitless efforts to be everywhere, speak to everybody, and do
everything at once, how Charley danced till he could scarcely speak,
and then talked till he could hardly dance; and how the fiddler,
instead of growing wearied, became gradually and continuously more
powerful, until it seemed as if fifty fiddles were playing at one and
the same time. We would tell you how Mr. Addison drew more than ever
to Mr. Conway, and how the latter gentleman agreed to correspond
regularly with the former thenceforth, in order that their interest
in the great work each had in hand for the _same_ Master might be
increased and kept up; how, in a spirit of recklessness (afterwards
deeply repented of), a bashful young man was induced to sing a song
which in the present mirthful state of the company ought to have been
a humorous song, or a patriotic song, or a good, loud, inspiriting
song, or _anything_, in short, but what it was--a slow, dull,
sentimental song, about wasting gradually away in a sort of
melancholy decay, on account of disappointed love, or some such
trash, which was a false sentiment in itself, and certainly did not
derive any additional tinge of truthfulness from a thin, weak voice,
that was afflicted with chronic flatness, and _edged_ all its notes.
Were we courageous enough to go on, we would further relate to you
how during supper Mr. Kennedy senior, tried to make a speech, and
broke down amid uproarious applause; how Mr. Kennedy, junior, got up
thereafter--being urged thereto by his father, who said, with a
convulsion of the cheek, "Get me out of the scrape, Charley, my boy"
--and delivered an oration which did not display much power of concise
elucidation, but was replete, nevertheless, with consummate
impudence; how during this point in the proceedings the gray cat made
a last desperate effort to purloin a cold chicken, which it had
watched anxiously the whole evening, and was caught in the very act,
nearly strangled, and flung out of the window, where it alighted in
safety on the snow, and fled, a wiser, and, we trust, a better cat.
We would recount all this to you, reader, and a great deal more
besides; but we fear to try your patience, and we tremble violently,
much more so, indeed, than you will believe, at the bare idea of
waxing prosy.

Suffice it to say that the party separated at an early hour--a good,
sober, reasonable hour for such an occasion--somewhere before
midnight. The horses were harnessed; the ladies were packed in the
sleighs with furs so thick and plentiful as to defy the cold; the
gentlemen seized their reins and cracked their whips; the horses
snorted, plunged, and dashed away over the white plains in different
directions, while the merry sleigh-bells sounded fainter and fainter
in the frosty air. In half-an-hour the stars twinkled down on the
still, cold scene, and threw a pale light on the now silent dwelling
of the old fur-trader.

* * * * * * *

Ere dropping the curtain over a picture in which we have sought
faithfully to portray the prominent features of those wild regions
that lie to the north of the Canadas, and in which we have
endeavoured to describe some of the peculiarities of a class of men
whose histories seldom meet the public eye, we feel tempted to add a
few more touches to the sketch; we would fain trace a little farther
the fortunes of one or two of the chief factors in our book. But this
is not to be.

Snowflakes and sunbeams came and went as in days gone by. Time rolled
on, working many changes in its course, and among others consigning
Harry Somerville to an important post in Red River colony, to the
unutterable joy of Mr. Kennedy, senior, and of Kate. After much
consideration and frequent consultation with Mr. Addison, Mr. Conway
resolved to make another journey to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ
to those Indian tribes that inhabit the regions beyond Athabasca; and
being a man of great energy, he determined not to await the opening
of the river navigation, but to undertake the first part of his
expedition on snow-shoes. Jacques agreed to go with him as guide and
hunter, Redfeather as interpreter. It was a bright, cold morning when
he set out, accompanied part of the way by Charley Kennedy and Harry
Somerville, whose hearts were heavy at the prospect of parting with
the two men who had guided and protected them during their earliest
experience of a voyageur's life, when, with hearts full to
overflowing with romantic anticipations, they first dashed joyously
into the almost untrodden wilderness.

During their career in the woods together, the young men and the two
hunters had become warmly attached to each other; and now that they
were about to part--it might be for years, perhaps for ever--a
feeling of sadness crept over them which they could not shake off,
and which the promise given by Mr. Conway to revisit Red River on the
following spring served but slightly to dispel.

On arriving at the spot where they intended to bid their friends a
last farewell, the two young men held out their hands in silence.
Jacques grasped them warmly.

"Mister Charles, Mister Harry," said he, in a deep, earnest voice,
"the Almighty has guided us in safety for many a day when we
travelled the woods together; for which praised be His Holy Name! May
He guide and bless you still, and bring us together in this world
again, if in His wisdom He see fit."

There was no answer save a deeply-murmured "Amen." In another moment
the travellers resumed their march. On reaching the summit of a
slight eminence, where the prairies terminated and the woods began,
they paused to wave a last adieu; then Jacques, putting himself at
the head of the little party, plunged into the forest, and led them
away towards the snowy regions of the Far North.



Back to Full Books