Open Collections

BC Historical Books

BC Historical Books

BC Historical Books

The land of the muskeg. With a preface by A. Hungerford Pollen. With one hundred and ten illustrations… Somerset, H. Somers 1895

Item Metadata


JSON: bcbooks-1.0222642.json
JSON-LD: bcbooks-1.0222642-ld.json
RDF/XML (Pretty): bcbooks-1.0222642-rdf.xml
RDF/JSON: bcbooks-1.0222642-rdf.json
Turtle: bcbooks-1.0222642-turtle.txt
N-Triples: bcbooks-1.0222642-rdf-ntriples.txt
Original Record: bcbooks-1.0222642-source.json
Full Text

Full Text

Land of the Muskeg
With a Preface by
A. Hungerford Pollen
With One. Hundred and Ten Illustrations from Sketches hy
A. H. Pollen and Instantaneous Photographs
and Four Maps
All rights reserved
Second Edition First Edition, July 1895

Edinburgh : T. and A. Constable, Printers to Her Majesty To
preface     .  xiii-xxxi
the peace river 24
daukhan and the bears      .      . .      .      56
camping in swamp 77
on the snow-line 136 i^...V :S*»*"«J;
short commons
.      161
hunger and cold   ....
THE PORTA IRS and siccanees
h. SOMERS SOMERSET Frontispiece
A GOOD TROPHY  .• Preface  xiii
ROUGH WORK IN THE ROCKIES .         .         .              „ xiv
WINTRY WEATHER IN WYOMING           .         .              „ XVI
H.  B.  ROUND            ......               „ XVli
SNOWED-UP IN CALIFORNIA           ...              „ xix
WINTER  CAMP IN WYOMING          ...               „ XXI
A~STERN  FATHER                „ xxii
WE HUNTED  WITH  FAIR SUCCESS         .          .               ., XXIV
PACK-TRAIN  IN  THE SNOW             ...               „      XXvii
H.  S. SOMERSET               „ XXXI
A TYPE  23
H. B. ROUND  29
PAT  32
JOHN KNOT  36 U_7_\. *3>JS*#5 _i il??;*:
'MANY OF THE TREES WERE ROTTING'    1         .         . 61
'THE GRASS WAS LONG AND VERY TIRING'      .         . 64
'WE MOVED ON ABOUT FIVE MILES'           ... 65
'THE HUGE ANIMAL ROLLED OVER DEAD'         .         . 72
FLAT'  87
GETTING READY FOR MOBERLEY'S LAKE    ..        .         . 103
JOHN  122
SYMON  163
WHICH?.  171
'OUR CAMP WAS MISERABLY WET'      . . . . 191
'MARCHING IN MUSKEGS'    . . . . . . 192
FORT McLEOD . .  22Q
NEARLY A MILE BROAD        . . . . . . 240
BONE MINNOW       . . . . . . . . 245
and athabaska to face page   I
QUESNELLE MOUTH        .... „        237 PREFACE
It was only about ten days before we left England
that we decided upon making the expedition described in this book. Two years before, Somerset
and I had made short hunting trips in the mountains in the north of the State of Wyoming, and in
the more southerly sierras
in California.    Here we had |j|j
hunted with fair success, and
incidentally had learned what
roughing it really means. In
Wyoming we had struggled
with a premature gust .of
wintry weather, and had been
snowed up, and in California
too had experienced the
pleasures of being lost on
snow-covered  heights.     So
that, though only nineteen, Somerset had had a considerable experience of mountain travelling. But
so far our adventures had not been anything out
of the ordinary lot of the sporting tripper ; and we
A GOOD TROPHY -,VJ?5|**S*S**'**
were now anxious to break new ground, if possible,!
in a country that offered a fair prospect for sport.
It was at this point that a recent map of British
Columbia and certain mendacious Canadian Blue-1
books fell into our hands, and in a moment our
plans were laid.    * Unexplored' figured so largely
and alluringly in one,
and prodigious accounts of bears,
moose, wolves,
beavers, cariboo, and
other animals so seductively in the other,
that we felt to force
our way through this
untravelled      region
promised    a   certain
amount    of   novelty
and adventure, while
it seemed impossible
that we could pass through the great fur reserve!
of the world without getting such an amount off
sport as would justify the labour of our undertaking..;
What Mr. Pike had so courageously done (and
so admirably described) in the extreme North, must,!
it seemed, be a much easier thing to do in morel
'-'*■>'OSr-*"*! ,_ • PREFACE
temperate and less barren regions ; so we determined
to strike off from the highways of that region—
the rivers—and make an overland journey into the
The first thing to do was to gain the support of
the Hudson's Bay Company; and let it be said at
once, nothing that we asked for in the shape of
either advice or help was ever denied us. From
Lord Lichfield and the officer in charge of the
smallest fort we passed, every one who had to do
with that great organisation treated us with a real
kindness that is not to be explained by any mere
consideration of commercial courtesy. Without the
Company, one could hardly travel there at all, but
the services one is so happy to remember are those
voluntarily given, often at considerable cost of
trouble to the giver, and always with a spontaneity
and goodwill that made the kindness doubly delightful.
The farthest point the railway could take us to
was the little town of Edmonton, that lies to the
north of the Province of Alberta, and there we
arrived on June 7th, 1893. We set to work at
once to find some one who could give us information based on personal experience. Judging merely
by the map, the Blue-books, and the fur returns we XVI
had seen at Winnipeg, our original plan had been
to travel by water and wagon to Fort St. John,
on the Peace River, and make that our base for a
journey to the North. Of course we were reckoning
in entire ignorance of the character of the country.
We were in Edmonton a full week, and though
most hospitably welcomed in that flourishing sentinel
town, it is to be said that our plans were received
with derision.    What folly to go to certain misery
and failure, when by
staying where we were
we could get the finest
wild-fowl shooting in
the world! Then there
were any number of
black bears and, if I
remember rightly, deer,
moose, and a whispered rumour of buffalo, and all
in a neighbourhood teeming with comfort. It is
always so in my experience in a frontier town.
One would have thought that, having come so far
afield, these pioneers from an overcrowded world
would have warmed to the project of fresh adventure ; but no, one is invariably warned with circumstantial (but quite unveracious) anecdote of the
perils of the beyond, and gratuitously (and quite
i **•*--■ .          •¥•
»-**  "*-^
i miff^
AB nn-l
' ^
s.. \H1
"V   .     y
iincorrectly) advised as to regions and routes  one
ihas no wish or intention of exploring.
But most luckily at Edmonton there was one
sman who did know the country we were making
jfor, and knew it and its inhabitants well, for he had
(for years been stationed at Dunvegan in charge of
the Hudson's Bay
Company's fort.
This was Mr. H. B.
Round, about whom
I shall have more to
say later. Suffice it
at present that he at
once encouraged our
making the attempt,
and only corrected
our plans by suggesting that we should
(start from Dunvegan
and work west instead of north. The thousand perplexities that
threaten every traveller who enters a country new
ito him were in great degree dissipated by the
linformation and advice that Mr. Round gave us,
and after three days' acquaintance we had got to
lean on his judgment so completely that we begged
H.   B.   ROUND XV111
him to accompany us if he could. Most fortunately
for us he was able to do this, and at once threw
himself into the business of buying stores and
perfecting arrangements with a heartiness that
boded well.
Our first move must be to get to the Athabaska
Landing, a hundred miles north ; here we should
find a river steamer that plies on the Athabaska,
carrying the Company's fur and stores, and in this
we should be taken up to meet Mr. Ewen Macdonald
from the Little Slave Lake, who was expected at
the mouth of the Little Slave River with the fruits
of the winter's trading. Mr. Macdonald would see
us safe to his headquarters on the bend of the
lake, and here we should be left to our own devices.
The steamer was due to start on the 20th, but
our arrangements being all made, and we in a hurry
to escape into camp-life, we thought we might as
well start, and so on the 14th, amid the cheers of
the good-hearted folk of Edmonton, and a drenching downpour of rain, we left in two wagons heavily
loaded with passengers, the more precious baggage,
stores for a week, and our camp outfit. Round
and I drove in one, and a hired driver, who was
to bring the teams back, had charge of the other,
with Captain Robert Ramsey and Dr. Dudley asi
*• **:^s** >*■»«.»'-„ »il»Lii2y u
Z p*****;
passengers. The Doctor was a young practitioner
from Chicago, whom we had engaged on our wayf
out, a stranger to the wilderness, but who never-i
theless bore the hardships of our expedition without complaint. His skill was greatly in request
amongst the Indians, and the medical stores he
had brought with him proved of immense use.
Captain Ramsey was an old friend of ours. We
had made his acquaintance in California, when a
sudden shock of earthquake brought all the five
occupants of a tiny hotel together into a pathway,
under an ominously swinging oil-lamp. We were
on the point of starting into the mountains, and
Ramsey, who had heard of our plan, begged to be
allowed to come. The son of a substantial shipowner of South Shields, he had been brought up to
a sailor's life, and having visited every port in the
world, and seen life in a hundred different countries,
was an immediate volunteer for anything that promised novelty. In camp he showed a genius for
usefulness that made him an indispensable ally, and
when we regretfully parted, we readily acceded to l
his request, that in the event of our making another
expedition we should let him know. This I had
done just before leaving England, and the rendezvous being made at a distance of 7000 miles,  it I PREFACE
seems to be worth recording that he  met us in
Edmonton within half an hour of our own arrival.
Besides the wagons, we had hired a horse to ride,
on which Somerset and I took turns; but there was
no romance in the journey. The country, it is true,
was fair to the eye, and I should imagine of great
agricultural value; but incessant rain and a poor
road made travelling the height of discomfort, so
that on the third day we were glad to find ourselves,
late in the evening, making our way down the hill
that leads to the square mile of territory and half-
dozen log-houses and stores that rejoice in the
sonorous name of the Athabaska Landing.
Here Mr. Wood made us at home in his office,
while he sent out to have a small shack cleared for XXII
our reception. It was a tiny log-hut of two small
rooms, but there was a stove in it, and we gratefully
accepted his offer of its shelter, as the alternative of
camping in the mud was not pleasant.
The Athabaska Landing is the gate of the great
North. It is from here that all the stores go ouB
that supply the Hudson's Bay Company's forts from
Hudson's Hope to the mouth of the Mackenzie.
A steamer built on the spot plies up the river to
the mouth of the Slave River, and down to where
the rapids make the Athabaska no
longer navigable, where the stores
are transhipped to York boats.
Beyond the warehouses, offices,
and Mr. Wood's residence there
are no buildings, although most
of the year there is a large Indian
encampment near by. It is, too,
the last outpost of the Government, and a couple of the Canadian
police were on duty to stop the
importation of strong liquor. But
once on the north shore of the
river, the constituted authority of the Queen's
Government ends. Over all the rest of Northern
Canada the land has been taken and settled after
J.4~H.y-S ^„^a PREFACE
treaty with the Indian tribes, the natives giving up
their right to range freely, and getting reservations
of territory and an annual supply of food in return.
With the northern Indians no such treaties have
been made, and I believe it is an open question
whether they are at all under the jurisdiction of the
Canadian Courts. I think it was the day after our
arrival that a weatherbeaten old savage landed in a
beautifully made birch-bark canoe while we were
loitering at the landing-place, and came and shook
hands with us in the friendliest manner. His story
was curious, and illustrates what I have just been
saying. There was a domestic quarrel, it seems, one
day in his lodge, and his son offering some serious
incivility to his mother, he gave him a lesson in
good-breeding by chopping off his head with an
axe. For this he was taken out to Winnipeg, I
think, and tried for murder, found guilty and sentenced, his counsel all the while protesting. The
sentence was changed to imprisonment, and finally,
after a few weeks' detention, he was released and restored to his country—whether on the score of health
or want of jurisdiction in the Court I am unable to
say, but I was told that the first was made an excuse
for not deciding the latter question.
One thing, however, is certain,  and it is that XXIV
north of the Athabaska there is no function of
Government that is discharged either by the
Dominion of Canada or the Imperial authority;
nor has the original power of the Indian chiefs
survived in its integrity, and over far the greater
part of the North-West all the machinery of control they know is represented to the uncovenanted
Indian by the Hudson's Bay Company and the
missionaries of St. Mary Immaculate.
These last fill a picturesque place in the story of
the country. At almost every fort you will find the
neat log-houses and church of the Roman Catholic
Mission; and the
priests themselves
are all highly educated men, while the
most of them are of
good French or
families. Their influence with the
Indians is immense. During the last rebellion
the Canadian Government owed much to the
missionaries' power of restraining incipient revolt,
and every Hudson's Bay Company's officer we met
was loud  and  unqualified  in their praise.     This
ir/¥HiTiw.i: PREFACE
would hardly be so were not their services to
civilisation and good order known beyond dispute,
for the officers in question were to a man alien to
their race and their creed, and as we had lamentable occasion to remark, the bitterness of religious
differences is not a whit softer in that country
than in ours. For ourselves, we have a score
of services to thank them for, and the fathers at
the Little Slave Lake, Smoky River, Dunvegan,
and Fort McLeod each and all put themselves and
all they possessed at our disposal in the friendliest
way. It was through Pere Husson, at Dunvegan,
that we were able to make the arrangements that
enabled Daukhan Tustowits and John Knot—
those invaluable men—to leave their families for
the summer, secure in the consciousness that they
were in good hands : to Pere Morice we owe a
debt of thanks for much of the information that we
obtained,—and to all a recollection of personal
kindliness and consideration that it will be a lasting
pleasure to remember.
The Hudson's Bay Company itself, however,holds
the pride of place in the North. With its long
history, its wide ramifications, its vast property,
and its huge power, so benevolently used, it seems
more like a political institution than a mercantile rirr^i?i\_*fi.i-
concern. To borrow from the name of their excellent tobacco, there is something of an Imperial
Mixture about their organisation. At the forts
flies the Union Jack, with the Company's monogram upon it: amongst the officers there is an
esprit de corps and a loyalty to their calling that
is almost patriotic. To them rivals, like the
smugglers of old, are 'free traders,' and the
survival of the old-world phrase is eloquent of
the very tale of the Company's history.
And yet the stress of modern commercial life is
making great, and in a sense devastating, changes
in the old order. The system of appointing a
new Commissioner every five years disturbed the
continuity of the Company's policy as little as the
changes in the Viceroyalty of India now disconnects that Government, so long as that policy
was determined by an annual conference of the
chief officers. Those were days when great discretion was necessarily left to each officer in the
discharge of his duties. Fraud, peculation, and
dishonesty were unknown things in the Company's
history, and it must be obvious to any one that to
secure trustworthy men, and trust them absolutely,
would have remained the best security for a continued immunity.    But with  the  new  system  of PREFACE
centralisation which improved methods of communication have made possible, the system works
differently, and the old order is rapidly disappearing. Competition and the rapid decay of the fur
trade in so many districts contribute much to the
change in the character of the officers, and with it
the general aspect of the Company as an institution
must in a few years' time be altered beyond recognition.
It is useless to regret the inevitable, but a casual
traveller  may  be   pardoned   if  he   deplores   the
invasion of the spirit of modern dividend-hunting
into   a    domain
so romantic and
inspiring.      For
the trail of economy is over all.
Old servants are
being dismissed,
and their places
taken by cheaper
men. Forts are abandoned, and Indians forced
to move to follow their markets, and everywhere
there is a consciousness of uncertainty as to the
future, and ignorance of what the next move
from  headquarters may be,  that but  ill  replaces rjL»*\i »»»****1 «• T"\"»^*.
the old self-reliance and security that made such
splendid servants of the officers, and endowed them
with an authority that the Indians instinctively
The change in its least attractive features was
brought home to us very vividly from the fact of
our having had the great good fortune to secure
Mr. Round's company on our journey. He was a
man of a good English family, educated in a public
school, and bringing to his work all those high
ideals of loyalty, perseverance, and devotion that
are the distinguishing mark of our public servants.
When he joined the Company's service more than
twenty years ago that was the universal spirit of its
employees, and in that spirit Mr. Round put in his
score of years of toil. After fourteen years' charge
of the fort at Dunvegan he had just reached the
point at which he would have been entitled to
expect promotion, when, for what was alleged to
be an error of judgment, he was summarily dismissed.    At Dunvegan he had the care of a large
*o ______%
ranche of cattle. Several died of an obscure
disease. It seemed to him that the disease must
be contagious, and in the exercise of his discretion
he killed the survivors that were afflicted to save
the  rest.    In  all,  if I   remember aright, he only PREFACE
killed two or three. These acts were duly reported;
but, owing to the indiscreet anxiety of a friend to
discover the action of the disease, the fact of the
disease at Dunvegan became public, there was an
outcry from Europe, the Company was blamed,
and the unfortunate Mr. Round was made the
Now it is hard for me to believe that if the
control of the Company had been in the hands
of any one who had personal knowledge of Mr.
Round's character and service, so cruel a punishment would have been inflicted for so small a
fault—if fault indeed it was ; for the inquiry which
was promised into the nature of the disease has not,
so far as I am aware, ever been made. And that
is why I alluded just now to the five years' Com-
missionership : the chief of the Company has no
knowledge, can have no knowledge, of his officers,
and in a moment may part with one of the best the
Company has ever had, inflicting a double wrong
—one on the organisation that has been so well, so
loyally served, another on the man who has given
the prime of his life to its service.
But to us the incident was all gain, for we
enjoyed the companionship and help of a man
whose like one could seldom hope to light on in .y^t?s£_&*''
the pioneer places of the earth. Never out of
humour nor down-hearted, he did more work than
any in an outfit where all were from the first
almost driven to work their hardest all the time.
And his advice and judgment made us as much
his debtors as his exertions, for he knew more
of the country and our method of travel, and the
character and idiosyncrasies of the Indians, than
any one we came across. His complete mastery
of the Cree language was an invaluable help, and
the fact of the Indians all knowing and liking him
personally made a hundred things easy that might
well have been impossible. It was during our idle
stay at the Athabaska Landing that our final plans
were laid. From Round we had learned that the
north bank of the Peace River was practically
impassable—and moreover, not well stocked with
game. The country between Pouce Couple's
prairie and the Pine Pass, on the other hand, was a
favourite hunting-ground both of the Beavers and
Crees. This route had another attraction for us,
as by working through towards the mountains we
could get out again to civilisation by McLeod's
Lake and the Frazer River instead of retracing our
steps. There was a chance too of finding tolerable
trails,  Mr.  Dawson having come over the  Pine PREFACE
Pass and through to Dunvegan some fourteen
years before. This therefore we determined to
attempt; but of course all would depend on the
guidance and information we should get later from
the natives. How far our hopes were realised, and
our adventures in carrying out our plan, the reader
will learn in the following pages.
{From a sketch made in camp by A. H. P.)   ..fc^i«»*f*Si
Tin'  Edinburgh. Geogtajhical I-asti-tut* CHAPTER   I
For five days we remained in our cabin at the
Athabaska Landing, talking to Mr. Wood, the
officer in charge, or wandering over to the camp
of Cree Indians by the river-bank. For hours
together we sat watching the great stream flow
by on its way to the Arctic, and wondering what
i our journey would bring forth. The steamer lay
moored to the bank—a curious stern-wheeled affair
steered by five rudders, and of a somewhat rough-
and-ready build. All day and all night the
mosquitoes hung over us in clouds, but we were
told that their numbers would be multiplied a
hundred-fold when we got into the bush country;
and this certainly proved true. Torrents of rain
fell perpetually, so that we were forced to sleep
under the tables in the cabin if we wished to keep
dry beds, and often above the roaring of the rain
iwe heard the beating of the tom-tom through the
inight, while the Indians gambled or held a tea
? revel. Our stores had been delayed, and did not
| arrive until we had nearly exhausted our patience.
A ?--r?; >**.**? **' • * 7-A-tJM
and, to add to our troubles, the captain of the
steamer lay dying, so that she could not start. At
last, however, a substitute was found, and with
Mr. Livock in charge, on June the 23rd, we got
under way, and steamed slowly up the Athabaska
to the West. The rapid current impeded the
little boat, so that she shook and splashed her
single paddle, and made but a poor pace. Reach
after reach of that monotonous river came to view
and was left behind with no landmark to tell of its passage. The
banks, high and choked with
dense woods of pine and poplar,
advanced and receded with the
bending of the stream, dark and-
sombre, like houses in an ill-lit
street. And yet they were full
of interest to us. We sat on the
little deck and watched them,
wondering what the woods we
should journey through would look like, and
whether the underbrush would always be as dense
and the trees so thick. Now and then we passed
Indians paddling easily with the current, or towing
their light canoes against the stream. About midday one of the rudders broke loose and swung into
the stern paddle, breaking some of the buckets, so
that we were obliged to lie up by the bank and
effect repairs.    The mosquitoes flocked  out from
the bushes in thousands, and brought with them a
new tormentor, the bull-dog fly. This insect is
about the size of a bumble-bee, and indeed much
resembles one in appearance, but has also a
suggestion of the horse-fly about it. They flew
silently, and alighted so skilfully that one did not
notice them until they had already commenced the
attack. Then one felt a quick pain, as though some
sharp steel instrument had pierced the flesh; and
even after the insect had been driven off, the blood
would continue to flow for several minutes. During
this halt an accident happened to one of our belongings that will delight any superstitious person
!who has the endurance to follow our wanderings
and note our misfortunes, for we had broken a
looking-glass—the only one we had—on the first
day of our travels. I would not have mentioned
this apparently trivial incident had it not been that
several persons have seriously told me we got off
extremely easily after so evil an omen. That night
the steamer was again moored to the bank near
an old camping-ground, where the native hands
learned from the writing on the trees that one
' Two Cheats \ had lately spent some days. On
ithe following day the river appeared shallower,
and about six hundred yards broad. We were
obliged to proceed with great caution amongst
■the islands and sandbanks, so that it was not until
past midday that we came to the mouth of the II
Lesser Slave River. There we met Mr. McDonald,
the Hudson's Bay Company officer, in charge of
the Slave Lake Post. He had come down the
Slave River to meet the steamer which was to
carry the ■ fur-kill' of his district out to the landing,
and which brought him his winter's stores. Of
course he had no knowledge of our coming, and
was much surprised to see us, for, with the exception of Mr. Pike, we
were the first party in his
time who had travelled up
the country for their own
amusement. His crew of
Indians joined forces with
the steamer hands, and the
interchange    of   baggage
© oo    ©
was soon effected, our
belongings being neatly
stored in the bottom of
his open boat, while the
business of the Company
It was pretty to watch the
was being attended to.
way in which the men moved the fur bales, one
half-breed of the name of Brassand handling two-
hundred-and-fifty-pound packages with the greatest
ease and swiftness. After luncheon we said farewell to Mr. Livock, thanking him for his kindness,
and then the steamer turned down the river again
and disappeared round the bend, cutting off all com- FROM THE ATHABASKA LANDING
munication with the outer world. Now at last
we felt that we had started, and that, come what
might, we had set our faces towards the unknown.
The sturgeon-head boat in which we were to
travel is one of the features of a country where
rivers are the only highways. There are but
three kinds of boats in the North-West,—the canoe,
the York boat, and the sturgeon-head. A sturgeon-
head somewhat resembles a canal barge, but is
broader of beam and draws less water, having also
a flattened bow, from which it derives its name.
This one was about forty feet long and eight feet
wide. We embarked and shoved off into the
stream, and then proceeded up the little river in
most picturesque fashion. The crew of ten stood
upon the thwarts and punted with long poles ; the
steersman, upon a platform in the stern, guided the
boat with an oar or sweep trailing behind; whilst a
man in the bow, balancing a pole after the manner
of a tight-rope walker, pointed out the shoals and
shallows with either end as they appeared to the
right or left. After a time the current ran stronger,
and we disembarked the men, who proceeded to
tow us. Towing—or tracking, as it is called in the
North—brings up before the English mind pictures
of well-kept paths and neat white gates fitted with
easy springs. But the shores of the Slave River
can boast none of these advantages, the country
being thickly bushed and very rough; and nowhere
*_** ^-^sSSiNBJ
for a hundred consecutive yards is there good
In tracking, two lines are used, three or four men
being harnessed to each rope. Behind them walks
another, whose duty it is to free the line when it
becomes caught in the bushes. These unfortunates
stumble along through  the underbrush  or bruise
o ©
their moccasined feet against the sharp rocks by
the water-side, often up to their waists in the river,
always leaning oh the rope, and frequently almost
losing their balance when it gets entangled in
some twisted root. Hour after hour they go steadily
forward, only halting for food; while the white
man in the boat smokes his pipe in whatever amount
of peace the mosquitoes allow him, and, protected
from the weather by tarpaulin and macintosh, idly
watches their labours. At first sight it seems
wonderful that any one can be found willing to
endure such slavery, but the men are well fed and
well paid, earning far better wages than their more
independent brothers who spend their life in fur-
hunting, in a country from which the greater part
of the game has long since disappeared.
We had no sooner started than the rain fell in
torrents, so that camp was not made under cheerful
auspices. Nevertheless that first supper of bread
and bacon tasted good, for we knew that every
step carried us farther into the wilds, and this
brought back more forcibly the old love for the hs-MW^.^'
wilderness. The crew shot several owls near camp,
and this addition to their regulation meal seemed
to afford them immense satisfaction. The routine
of the day was as follows: A light and hasty
breakfast was taken at five before starting; at 8.30
a halt was made for a more serious meal, and again
at 12.30 for dinner. As a rule the men eat
again at five, and finally had supper in camp at nine.
In this fashion we moved up the little river until
the third day, when we reached the lake. As the
shore was swampy, we went on a little way and
made camp on a small island some miles from the
coast. The lake itself is about seventy-five miles
long, and from five to fifteen broad. It is a shallow
piece of water, lying in a low, swampy country, and
it is said that every year the shore encroaches, and
that the day is not far distant when the water-way
will become impassable for any but extremely small
boats. Be this as it may, the enormous expanse of
water stretching to the horizon is very impressive
in its utter desolation. Mr. McDonald told us that
the ice had only broken up about three weeks
before our coming, but not a vestige of it remained.
As the wind was directly contrary, it seemed
that we might have to wait some days before we
attempted to cross. However, we kept everything
in readiness for a sudden start in the night on the
chance of a lull or a change in the weather. The
island  where we  were   encamped  swarmed  with FROM THE ATHABASKA LANDING
sleigh dogs belonging to the Company and neighbouring Indians. These animals will eat almost
anything, so we were compelled to hang the greater
part of our goods upon the trees, high enough to be
out of their reach. The lake is full of white fish,
which the Indians smoke and dry in native fashion ;
and very excellent they are. Some were brought
to us, and, giving a few handfuls of tea in exchange,
we roasted them for supper.
The wind was still blowing a gale on the following morning, so that we did not make a start until
well on in the day, and had only travelled about
twelve miles by evening. It was then too late to
cross the lake, and so that night we slept upon the
southern shore. On Wednesday the weather moderated a little, but the waves still ran high, and the
rain fell in torrents. The men, however, rowed in
splendid style, and we made a late camp upon the
northern shore. The strength and endurance of
these men—both Indians and half-breeds—is quite
extraordinary. They are for the most part small
spare men, with slender arms and narrow chests,
yet they are able to work in the most wonderful
way, and to go on for any length of time.    Each
oar of a sturgeon-head boat weighs about a hun-
© ©
dred pounds, being of great length and thickness,
but suddenly narrowing to the dimensions of an
ordinary oar towards the end, so that the men may
obtain a firm grasp with the hand.    The rowers 0&___~___X_f* 5 •
place a pad under one foot, the leg being held
nearly straight before them, with the other leg
beneath the seat, they rise to a standing position,
and then throwing their weight on the sweep, and
getting a sharp kick off from the pad, they sink back
to the bench, thus completing the stroke. As may
be imagined, this is no light work, but the men do
not seem to mind it, and will go on all day, and
sometimes all night, laughing and cheerful, so long
as  the food is  plentiful
and to their liking.
Towards the south
.there lay a low table
mountain about two
thousand feet above the
lake ; it was the only hill
in the landscape, and, as
such, gained a certain distinction. But it appears
that it has a far greater
claim to reverence than one would be led to
suppose. For, according to Indian tradition, this
is the home of thunder. They say that upon it
there dwell many enormous birds; now and again
they flap their wings with loud noise, and this is
what men call thunder. As these immense creatures
never condescend to visit the plain, but remain for
ever upon the revered mountain, there is no legend
which would lead one to suppose that they have
ever appeared to mortals, but for many years the
fact of their existence was never doubted. I do
not imagine that any up-to-date Indian believes
or even considers these traditions. Christianity
has long since reached them, and they have lost
even the semblance of their former mythology.
Yet so strongly does the religion of one generation
affect the speech of another, that you will often
hear a man say, after a stormy night, that 'they
have been flapping a good deal.'
During the entire voyage the wind remained
contrary, and the rain swept down the lake in
drenching squalls, so that we were glad to find
shelter under a friendly tarpaulin, and there remained   huddled   above   the   bilge   in  somewhat
dismal mood. On the third day we sighted land
towards the west, lying low and unbroken on the
horizon, but it was not until late in the afternoon
that we drew towards the shore. Once more under
the lea of the swamp our lives again became a burden to us, for the mosquitoes seemed to scent our
approach and came out in unnumbered deputations
to welcome us. Until this time we had encountered
only the small grey mosquito, but it seemed that
its season was over, and that the reign of the
large yellow insect had come. This was of a
light brown or yellow colour and of immense size.
We measured the trunks of several specimens, which
we found to be a quarter of an inch long.    Neither _m_mMmtt________m
t r"_* 1'! *«-;r'-> ***">;
clothing nor thick gloves were any protection from
their attacks, and their boldness and recklessness
of life and limb made them almost unendurable.
The last part of our journey was along a shallow
channel through the large swamp that lies below
the Fort—the haunt of innumerable ducks and
wild-fowl—and, turning slightly towards the north,
we unloaded the boats on the open shore in front of
the Slave Lake Post.    This post is the metropolis
of the district,
_____*________-________**       __**___ — •«HHMH«Mk      being    the
■ headquarters
of the Company for an
immense area
and the chief
trading - place
of the Cree-
speaking Indians in the
North-West. The names of the Company's
stations make a brave show upon the map, standing
out in such clear black type that the stranger
expects to find a city at least as large as Manchester, and might be excused if he expressed some
surprise upon seeing the place as it actually is.
At the Little Slave Lake Post, for instance, the
' fort' is a low log building, comfortable enough,
but not imposing.    Near by are several barn-like
(structures where the fur is sorted and stored; a
little to the left stands the Catholic Mission and
ismall chapel; a few sheds and paddocks, a corral
for the horses half hidden by the bush, and a
score or so ofthe roughest Indian shacks complete
one of the chief centres of industry in the North-
West. But small and cheerless as such places are,
the hospitable kindness of their inhabitants makes
one ever remember these little settlements with
pleasure. It is seldom that a stranger visits one of
these lonely posts, but when he does, he feels that
he has found a second home in a foreign land. We
passed a pleasant evening at the post with Mr.
McDonald's family, and then returned to our camp
to fight off the insects and try to sleep.
On the following day we called upon the missionaries, and very pleasant fellows we found them.
One of them seemed to be in bad health, so we
turned the Doctor on to him and watched with
interest his treatment of the sick man. Now the
Doctor, although by no means a large man, had a
stentorian voice, and of this circumstance he seemed
inordinately proud. In all cases of emergency or
need he was in the habit of shouting his loudest,
and he roared out his questions and medical advice
in so savage a tone that the unfortunate priest
seemed to think that he had committed some monstrous crime in being ill, and had hardly the face
to describe his symptoms. Uw>- J ***»*"»I'. FROM THE ATHABASKA LANDING
though we should be certain to get a few animals
on the Peace River to carry the extra burdens, we
could not count upon finding enough to make a
pack-train. And this turned out as he had predicted.
But most important of all, we had still to find an
Indian who should combine the skill of a hunter
with some sort of knowledge of the unexplored
country through which we proposed to travel.
Round knew the natives well, and said that one
Daukhan Tustowits, a famous hunter, was just the
man we wanted. He told us that if we could
only find this man the success of the expedition
would be assured, but that we might have great
difficulty in discovering his whereabouts, as he
would certainly be away hunting in the bush. If
he were within reach at all, it was probable that
he would be somewhere in the Peace River country;
and so it was settled that Round and Pollen should
ride on to the river and send out men to scour the
country for him. They were to take food with
them upon a pack-horse, and make what haste they
could, so that by the time the main party arrived
they would know whether they were likely to get
him or not, and thus the expedition would be
delayed as short a time as possible. Ramsey, the
Doctor, and I were to follow on horseback with the
ox-train, driving the pack-horses with the assistance
of one John Knot, a half-breed  herder and dog- BBflBHlHli^i^H»H
sleigh driver of the Company's. This plan seemed
excellent, but we had forgotten one thing.     The
© o
Doctor was no equestrian, and did not look forward
to a riding lesson over nearly one hundred miles of
z_y **
rough road with any pleasure.   Of course, travellings
with the ox-train, we should not go beyond a foot-
pace, but still he showed a very natural distaste for
so unwonted an exercise.     We were told that the
road was at all times atrocious, and at this season
of the year in particularly bad
condition, and he could hardly
be expected to jolt for so long
a journey in a springless ox-
wagon. Mr. McDonald, how-
ever, again came to our rescue,
saying that he would himself
drive the Doctor in his light
cart, and thus get us out of
our difficulty.     To this kind
proposal our inimitable medical adviser gave hia
assent, saying that he did not mind in the least.
Having secured the necessary number of gunny
sacks to supply deficiencies in the matter of
saddle-blankets we were  ready to set out.    The
sturgeon-head  and   Indian crew were once more
requisitioned, and we moved round the last curve
of the Lake, and camped amidst the ox-carts at
the extreme west end, ready for the march on
the morrow.    There we visited Mr. Holmes, the FROM THE ATHABASKA LANDING
Anglican missionary, and his family, and talked
of the old country and of our present surroundings.
Of course, all Anglican missionaries in this country
are to a certain extent poachers. The country is
without doubt Catholic—that is, in so far as it may
be said to be Christian at all; and the unnecessary
rivalry of sects must do much towards confusing the
simple-minded native. It may be answered that
two good things are better than one, and I do not
deny it for a moment. Mr.
Holmes is a model missionary,
and the pity of the thing is,
that they are not all like him.
But the fact that in many
places the Indians are Protestant in the winter when
the times are hard, and Ca- *%
tholic when there is nothing
to be gained, is somewhat
We were up betimes next morning, and Pollen
and Round got their kit together for their flying
ride. At twelve, after a hasty lunch, they set off at
a sharp trot; and about a couple of hours later the
ox-train began to get under way. Each animal
drew a two-wheeled cart, and was tied^to the tail of
the cart before him, so that one man was able
to manage four or five carts, and by leading the
foremost ox could direct a small procession.    In
A HALF-BREED £»X )-?*$•?*-*''
addition to the fourteen small carts there was 2_\
wagon drawn by four oxen, and another to which-
four horses were harnessed.    The wagons moved
off first,  then came the ox-train,  then  a single!
cart in which the whole of John  Knot's family
travelled, sheltered from the sun by green branches,
and finally, Ramsey and I brought up the rear on:
horseback, driving our  newly purchased animals
before us.   The whole country was covered with-
a dense forest of poplar and cotton-wood, so thatj
one could see but a few yards to the right or left.
The branches met overhead, and the road beneath;
was an oozy swamp of black mud  untouched by
the sun.    Great pits and dykes furrowed its surface, and were filled to the brim with the stagnant!
water.    Through  these  the wagons  pitched  and*
swam   like   ships   in   a   heavy  sea,   now  falling
on  the   brink   of   disaster,   then  again   righting,-
and again all but overturning on the other side.1
o o
The loud creaking of the wheels filled the air.
Far away in the front of the long line a root or
hole would jolt some wagon, making the axles
scream; as we approached we could hear the loud
cry coming ever nearer, as cart after cart encountered the obstacle, and all the while the whole
train lumbered along groaning.
When we passed through the swamp great clouds
of mosquitoes flew out upon us. The necks and
shoulders of the horses were grey with them, andi FROM THE ATHABASKA LANDING
ran blood from the bites of the bull-dog flies. As we
marched at a foot-pace, we had not made more
than five miles by camping-time. On the following
morning we made a very early start, and soon passed
the ox-train. Charley, the head of the Hudson Bay
Company's transport on this road, an old hand at
the work, drove the horse-wagon and came ahead
with us.    Here and there we crossed little open
meadows,   and  it was in  one  of these  that  the
wagon   became   hopelessly   bogged.     The   team
could  not draw  it  out  of the  mud-hole, so  we
lunhitched the horses and waited for the coming of
Ithe oxen.    On their arrival we harnessed five oxen
!• .______. _»i**pai'.
in front of the four horses, and urging them forward with whip and voice tried to move the wagon.
Charley, erect upon the box, cracked his long stock
whip over the struggling animals ; an Indian stood
at the head of the leaders trying to keep them
to the road, whilst the remainder of the party
belaboured the oxen with heavy sticks. But the
wagon did not move. The panting teams swerved
and slipped in the mud, and finally collapsed in a
heap in a shallow pool by the roadside. We tried
again and again, till the coats of the eight beasts
were white with lather, but did not succeed in
drawing the wagon to firm ground for nearly two
On the following day Mr. McDonald and the
Doctor overtook us, and we travelled all day together in torrents of rain. The flies nearly drove
us mad, so that we were forced to wave green
branches round our heads continually as we rode,
in a vain attempt to drive them off. On the third
day we camped near another outfit—that of a free
trader named Riviere, the sworn enemy of the
Hudson's Bay Company. He had with him two
Belgians, whose conduct was strange in the extreme. It appeared that one of them asked the
other to fetch a bucket of water. He accordingly
started towards the swamp to do so, but returned
saying that he would not fetch water in a pail!
which he considered  improperly  cleaned.    Upon FROM THE ATHABASKA LANDING
this there ensued a fiery discussion on the subject
of pails, so that the Belgians nearly came to blows.
However, they decided to lay their case before La
Riviere, and allow him to decide whether the pail
was clean or no. Now La Riviere was sitting
in his tent talking to a venerable Catholic missionary, who happened to be going over the road
in his caravan, when they entered, bucket in hand.
But it was all to no purpose. Before either had
stated his case a paroxysm of fury seized both
young men, and they began to fight, using the
prostrate bodies of the free trader and the missionary as their battle-ground. The tent was small,
and the view of the interior during the next few
moments suggested a human kaleidoscope.
Here and there we came to small prairies a mile
or so across, where the ground was firm; but
for the most part we continued to travel through LJX j******* s •;»■»
swampy woods. Now for the first time we made
the acquaintance of the muskeg swamp, and from
this time forward hardly a day passed to the end of
the journey when we did not curse this particular
abomination. At first sight a muskeg seems no
very terrible affair. Green spongy moss covers
the ground, whilst here and there lie small pools
of clear water. One realises that the moss is soft
and wet, and that the travelling may be heavy, but
nothing more. But no sooner have you set foot
upon its treacherous surface than the thing becomes
more serious. The beautiful green moss seems
to catch your foot as in a vice, and to rise
swiftly towards you. When a man faints he
sometimes imagines that the ground has risen up
and struck him; this is exactly the sensation of
him who walks in a muskeg. You feel that you
must quickly take another step before it is too late,
and so you plod on, and soon you tire. In point of
fact there is little danger of being sucked down,
but the place has a most melancholy look. Nothing
else on earth can be so vividly green and yet
so utterly desolate.
Several times we saw skunks upon the road, and
indeed John Knot contrived to kill one—a most
difficult job, as no one dares come to close
quarters with these small and inoffensive-looking
animals on account of the fearful stench which they
are capable   of  emitting when  provoked.     The FROM THE ATHABASKA LANDING
distance to which they can throw the stinking fluid
is remarkable, and their aim unfailing. Any garment which they even sprinkle must immediately
be thrown away, and the man who wore it is no
welcome guest for many days afterwards.
John was a most pleasant companion, and had
a mightily quaint way of expressing his ideas.
He was also a very hard worker, with a high
character for honesty. Besides his other accomplishments he spoke Cree like a
■'_.ti*^:~__i-.     •
native, and understood the  Ian- ***»Sw^
guage  of  the   Beaver   Indians,    ^pj| ^%
through whose country we were     ^   B   1-b-u^jk
to pass.   We were already short-
handed for so long an expedition,      '^-1
and so when I met Pollen at the     Mmr
crossing,   he  needed   little   persuasion to agree that it would be
best to engage J ohn to join our party.
The flies were so troublesome in the evenings
that I was often obliged to make a small fire, or
smudge, as it is called, and lit in the smoke when
writing up my journal; but even when so uncomfortably situated, and with gloved hands, I could
hardly write two words without stopping to crush
some bold insect which had found the seams in
the gloves, and had already commenced his meal.
A TYPE ^•jjgjgsM*
On the seventh day after leaving the Lake we
sighted the great Peace River. We had been
travelling on a plateau sloping gently towards the
north-west; but now the land sank down rapidly
to the river at a sharp angle, and we stood upon
I bold  bluffs
the plain. Below us lay the
mighty river,
winding majestically
amongst the
little hills and
prairies. Mile
after mile of
thickly timbered rolling country stretched out
before us in great sweeping lines of hill and valley.
Towards the south-west, where the Smoky River
joined the Peace, a great curtain of blue haze shut
out the view.    No white man, and but few Indians,
have ever penetrated this country, or solved the
mystery of this perpetual smoke; but it is thought
that a burning coal-mine must exist upon the river-
bank, as no sign of volcanic action has ever been
observed in the surrounding district. The Indians
give the place a very wide berth, but one more
bold than his fellows once confessed to me that he
had explored the region, and gave a picturesque if
not entirely scientific account of what he saw. He
said that the ground was hot and scorched, but
that he could perceive no noise or subterranean
rumbling. Upon drawing near to the centre of
activity, the smoke, he said, jumped up at him j like
a man from his bed.' We moved down the slope,
and presently came to the river-bank, where we
found Round and Pollen settled in a small log cabin,
the property of the Company. They were full of
tales of the road, and gave us graphic descriptions
of their forced march. On the first half-day they
had covered twenty miles, and had done the
remaining eighty in the two following days. What
with the flies and the incessant rain they had had a
pretty hard time. They had taken no tent with
them, but contented themselves with the large
piece of canvas or tent-fly, and so had been but
scantily sheltered from the rain. Whilst in Edmonton we had purchased square coffin-like mosquito-
nets ; but, as we always slept in the tent, we had
only used them to block the door the more effec- 26
tually. Round and Pollen, however, had been
tentless, and therefore pitched the nets each night,
and were loud in their praise. Every man in the
country, Indian or white, uses these contrivances
if he is sleeping in the open, for the alternative of
lying between fires of damp logs is by no means
attractive. When the Indian is pitching with his
tepe he is safe from the attacks of insects, as a fire
is always kept burning in the centre of the lodge.
But when he rests in the open he uses the protective net, even if it costs him a half of his worldly
We found that our advanced guard had been by
no means idle. They had sent out a man named
Akinum to look for Daukhan Tustowits, and by
great good fortune he had found him. Akinum
himself had already returned, and Daukhan had
promised to be with us in a few days. They had
also visited the Smoky River Mission, on the far
side of the Peace, and had secured a wagon and
the services of a lay brother for the journey to
Dunvegan. The brother had promised to call for
us at the house of a half-breed named Pat, on the
other side of the river, and it had been arranged
that Ramsey, the Doctor, and I should take our
possessions up to the Mission, whilst Pollen and
Round were to take the horses across the river
with whatever native help they could muster.
The Peace River is here about thirteen hundred
feet wide, with an eight-mile current, and is said to be
very deep.   The water is so muddy that one can hear
the sand hiss in the stream, and even a bucketful
will make a slight noise when freshly drawn.    Our
first move was to take the goods across.    The only
available scow, a punt-like boat, leaked alarmingly,
and it seemed hardly safe to load it with the whole
of our possessions, which weighed nearly twenty-
five hundred pounds.    However, we knew that it
was getting late, and that we should only be able to
make one trip before nightfall, so we
piled our stores and goods into the    fpft     fe|
ferry, and hunted the neighbourhood    &|j     Wml
for Indian help.    Akanan, an Indian     fit      -}W
called Piddlicks (the native rendering     ^^^^^W
of Frederick), and a half-witted man
named Monias, were pressed into our
service, and soon we were ready to
start.    After many adieus to Charley, and expressions of gratitude to Mr.  McDonald, we set out
for the farther shore.
On account of the swiftness of the river we were
forced to go up the stream for more than a mile
before we left the bank, and very arduous work it
was; but finally we decided that we might safely
turn across, and in a moment were whirling in the
swift current. A man who has never rowed in
rapid waters can have no idea of the feeling of
utter helplessness which comes over one at such a
time. The whole landscape seemed to spin by us
at an alarming rate, and row as we might, we could
make no headway against the current. Here and
there we saw huge pine-trees floating down the river.
Now and again some undercurrent would catch
them, and they would rear sixty feet of their length
clear out of the water, as though upheld by some
giant hand, and then fall without warning, making
a mighty splash. The least touch of one of
these would have sent our frail craft to the bottom,
and our own chances of safety or rescue would
have been slight indeed.
At last, after a fearful struggle, we came to calmer
water, and landed opposite Pat's cabin in a very
exhausted condition. Pat, who was a mild-faced
half-breed, did not seem the least disturbed at seeing us, and when we told him that we intended to
spend the night in his cabin, expressed no surprise,
but simply sat on his door-step whilst we made ourselves comfortable in his mansion. I do not think
he had any objections to our coming, but I am bound
to say that we calmly took possession without asking his leave. He would have been astonished
if we had done so. He sat on the door-step
while we cooked our supper on his stove, until we
felt obliged to entreat him to come in and share
it, as if we had been the hosts and he the guest.
The three men who had helped us across the river
now came up for payment, so we wrote cheques THE PEACE RIVER
on the Hudson's Bay Company for so many ' skins'
apiece, and then remained talking to them for some
time. Poor half-witted Monias told us stories of
his unfortunate and almost supernatural powers,
which, though extraordinary, are quite unprintable. 30
That night we slept on Pat's floor under our mosquito-nets, which gave the little room the appearance of a laundress's drying-yard. On the following
morning the lay brother came down with the wagon,
into which we packed our goods, and then Ramsey,
the Doctor, and I started towards the Mission,
leaving Pollen and Round to cross and the horses
to follow next morning. Our driver, who was a
Frenchman, and an exceedingly pleasant fellow, told
us all he knew of the land and the climate, and
made the journey very agreeable for us.
Never have I seen such a glorious country as we
now travelled over. On our left we could see the
mighty river flowing between the dark pine-trees,
wooded hills and sweeps of green prairie extending
on all sides,, covered with countless flowers, and
acres of blood-red lilies; while thickets of saskatoon, raspberry and gooseberry bushes, were banked
up against the timber. After a while we descended
into the river-bottom again, and stopped at the
house of one Mackenzie, where the Doctor attended
a patient. Then we went forward a little way and
made our camp near the Mission. The priests and
Mackenzie have cultivated a considerable portion
of the valley, which is exceptionally fertile. But it
is said that it is very difficult to grow anything upon
the beautiful plain above on account of the early
frosts. The notes to be found on the maps of
the country are emphatic  in  their praise  of the THE PEACE RIVER
soil, which is undoubtedly fine; but if the experience of the inhabitants is to be relied upon, the
whole area fit for cultivation only comprises a
few small river-side flats in many thousands of
square miles. There has lately been a great
'boom' about the Peace River. Mr. Pike has
already done his best to prick the bubble, but I
have heard so many ignorant people aver that this
is a great farming country, that I think these facts
cannot be too often repeated. It is a dreadful
thing to think of the wretched emigrants who toil
to this promised land only to find a useless country,
and who are often unable to return to civilisation,
but are forced to endure all the severities of the
winter in a lattitude where the temperature has
often fallen to sixty degrees below zero.
The missionaries, Peres Xerc, Husson, and La
Treste, were kindness itself, making us presents of
milk and butter, and allowing us to camp before
their door by the banks of the Peace. The news
that we had a great medicine-man in the outfit
spread fast, and soon our camp became a sort of
hospital. Ghastly old hags hung round our fire,
whilst maimed men and sick children stood silently
watching us, waiting to be cured. The natives put
great faith in the ■ medicine' of the white man, and
believe that every Hudson's Bay Company's officer
is a past master of the art. So great is their faith,
that when the medicine-chest is exhausted they are WR_'___ilffl____
often   completely cured of   minor ailments after
taking a tumbler of dissolved tooth-powder or some
such harmless compound.    I very
^      much doubt if the doctor's remedies
were as  successful, for they were
made   up   in   small   tablets   and
globules, very convenient for travelling indeed, but then they lacked the
unpleasant taste and bulk which the
sick of the district believed to be indispensable ta
a complete cure.
On Sunday Pollen and Round came up from
' The Crossing' with the pack-horses, having had
hard work on the previous evening ferrying them
across  the   river.     They told  us  that  Daukhan
Tustowits was already at
the river-bank, and he
rode up in the morning,
accompanied by John
Knot. Daukhan was a
small wiry man about
forty years of age, with
thin black hair upon his
chin. The pure Indian
grows little or no hair on his face; but Daukhan
had white blood, and indeed somewhat resembled
the ideal French cavalry officer in appearance. His
manners were perfect, and the neatness of his
speeches, which  Round  interpreted,  was beyond
praise.    Of course he had no English, but spoke in
the soft and beautiful Cree language, and with the
assistance of Round we carried on a long conversa-
tion with him. Daukhan said that bears were very
plentiful, and that he thought it would be a good
hunting year, as the saskatoon bushes would bear
a large crop of berries. He approved of our plan
of march, saying that he knew the greater part
of the country which we proposed to explore, and
that although he had never crossed the Rockies by
the Pine Pass he had no doubt he could find the
During the afternoon Mr. Gunn, the Hudson's Bay
Company's officer at Fort St. John, rode into camp.
He had been paying a visit to Mr. Brick, the
Anglican missionary, close at hand, and he proposed
that we should go and call upon him. The Mission
lay near the river, within three or four miles of the
Catholic church; and so, as the day was Sunday,
we thought it best to ride without our rifles, in case
we might break in upon some open-air service and.
seem too mundane to His Reverence. The trail was
open and smooth, and the leaves of the young
poplar-trees glittered wonderfully in the sunshine.
Away up the valley we could see the fences and
ploughed fields of the Anglican Mission, but the
house was still hidden from us by the bush.
[Suddenly we heard a loud crash in the undergrowth.   The most inexperienced 'tender-foot' could
c 34
have told in an instant what was the cause of the
commotion. When a horse or a cow is stampeded,
it rushes headlong forward, but to a certain extent
it avoids small trees and dead branches; a bear,
however, crashes through the bush without a
moment's hesitation. We had hardly reined in our
horses when the animal appeared. It was a black
bear of immense size, standing nearly twelve hands
high at the shoulder. He swung along at a lumbering canter within a few yards of us, but through our
silly desire to please the missionary we had left
our rifles behind and could do nothing. The shiny
coat of the huge brute was wringing wet, and
he seemed much exhausted, so that we made sure
that he had only just crossed the river. Shouting
to Mr. Gunn to ride forward and try and head off
the bear, we turned our horses and raced back to
camp for our rifles, but when we returned the bear
had disappeared. Mr. Gunn said that the animal
had been so exhausted that it could hardly move,
and that he had ridden alongside of it for a con-
siderable distance. But finally it had escaped him
in some thick undergrowth, and had made for the
hill. Half-way up it had been obliged to rest,
hanging out its tongue and panting like a dog, but
finally it had recovered sufficiently to proceed, and i
had made off towards the timber on the upland.
We knew that it would be useless to attempt to
follow it, as the ground was hard, and it would have THE PEACE RIVER
left no tracks. Before long, however, we discovered
the place where it had landed after crossing the
river, and found the great foot-marks of the huge
animal in the mud. The Peace was particularly
broad and fast at this spot, so that it was no wonder
that the bear was exhausted; and we turned our
horses towards the Mission again, feeling very cheap,
and sorry for ourselves.
John Gough Brick was standing at the door of
his house when we rode up. He wore a large pair
of moccasins on his feet, blue overalls covered his
legs, surmounted by a long black frockcoat, a
grey flannel shirt and a celluloid collar. Mr. Brick
was kindness itself, entertaining us with a jovial
hospitality that was past praise, and with a fund
of Rabelaisian anecdote marvellous in its steady
volume. I have heard that he has gained for
himself quite a reputation as a raconteur in this
particular line. And there can be no doubt that
few ministers of the Church of England have so
full and varied a vocabulary of purely secular
He has a large farm near the river, which, as
he told me, had been started as a school of Agriculture for the Indians. The game is fast disappearing from the country, and unless the natives are
[taught to raise crops and till the land, they will
undoubtedly starve. But as Mr. Brick boisterously
observed,   11   don't  allow  any of those  damned ■MM    JB^H
***** >SB
Indians round my place.' He has not even a
rudimentary knowledge of the language of his^
congregation, and so would be quite unable to
preach in the native tongue, even if he had a mind]
to. But he has resided at the Mission for some
years, and he told me quite seriously that ' he knewj
the Cre'e for bread.'
The Mission is, I believe, not financed by the
Church of England Missionary Society, although
the Bishop of Athabaska retains his hold over the
place, which will return to
the Society upon the death
or retirement ofthe present
Mr. Brick is, without
doubt, a most capable and
energetic farmer, but he
has, of course, no market
for his produce, and so,
although he can almost
make a living by his own
industry, he cannot make sufficient to carry on the I
good work amongst the heathen (i.e. Catholic). Ac-|
cordingly, from time to time he makes pilgrimages to
England, and there collects funds.   If this gentleman!
<i> 7 o
appeared in the old country saying: ' I am an ex-|
cellent farmer; I am a pioneer in a savage land ; I
am an honest man, who works to support a wife and]
family.    My life is hard, but I am opening up a
new centre for immigration,' no one could have
anything to say against the proceeding, although
Mr. Brick might not acquire as much money
as he does at present. But when one thinks
of the needy people, who with many a struggle
have subscribed their pittance that poor savages
may gain knowledge and hear the gospel, the case
alters considerably. For my own part, I believe
that more good might be done nearer home by the
Outlay of the same money; and to me it seems
particularly absurd to keep ministers of religion in
a foreign land simply to convert the remnants of a
dying race to Protestantism, when the Catholics
have already made them about as Christian as they
are capable of being. However, it was impossible
to know Mr. Brick and be angry with the man; he
was so plausible and so amusing that one forgot
his faults in laughing at his sallies and highly
seasoned humour.
As there were many pigs and cattle round the
place, we agreed to buy a calf from him, in order
that we might lean as lightly as possible upon
our provisions on the road to Dunvegan. Then
we said * Good-bye' and returned to our camp.
We had already hired another wagon from
Mackenzie, so that we were ready to start,
which we did upon the following morning. We
rode, driving our pack-horses, whilst the Doctor
! drove   beside  the   lay  brother,  and   Mackenzie's THE LAND OF THE MUSKEG
boy brought on his own wagon behind.    Round
and Pollen went down to Brick's with one pack-1
horse to fetch away the calf which Mr. Brick had^
promised to kill for us, arranging to meet us at|
luncheon-time upon the trail.    They arrived at the
Mission, and were shown the carcass of the calfl
hanging in the slaughter-house.    Now this building
stood within a log palisade, fourteen feet high and!
wonderfully   solid.      We   had  complimented   Mr.
Brick upon his meat-safe on the previous evening,^
and had examined the structure, being much struckf
with its strength and careful construction.    Pollen
was not up in the details of the butcher's trade, buti
Round had  had much experience during his long
residence  in   the country, and  therefore  did not!
fail  to remark that  the liver, brains, and sweet-1
bread were absent from their accustomed places,!
which  fact he pointed  out to   Mr. Brick,     This
gentleman was loud in his apologies, saying that he|
was more sorry than words could express, but that!
a dog must have jumped over the palisade during
the  night  and  carried  off these  portions.     The
thing was of no importance to us, but I give it
as an example of the high intelligence and great
activity of the Indian dog.
The trail was good, and we marched on at a
rapid pace until lunch-time. But we had hardly
commenced to cook the veal when we were joined
by   an  Indian,   named   Nistamapu,   who  seemed THE PEACE RIVER
passionately devoted to calf. After the meal he
came and rode with us, discoursing loudly upon the
country and the chances of game by the roadside.
He was by profession an orator, and made his
living by attaching himself to camps where there
was plenty of food. He would eat his fill and then
deliver speeches, and would remain with his entertainers until their stock of provisions (or forbearance) was exhausted, when he would suddenly
make up his mind to
depart. He had been
born on the plains, and
so could tell the woodland Indians many
stories of blood and
adventure and  of the #1
departed glories of his
race. When a band of
Indians from the plains
comes to the camp of a
different tribe, they halt, and send one of their
number forward, who sits down by the fire, and is
in fact a sort of pledge of good faith. Our friend
had been born just as such a herald had entered
the lodge, and so had been called Nistamapu—the
first to sit down. That night we camped by a
marshy pool, named Old Wives' Lake, where the
water was almost too nasty to drink. Nistamapu
evidently intended to clear us out of food as quickly
sw^'v^-* ■'•':
NISTAMAPU _if!__faU__t____-____«_-
as possible, for he ate enormously. In this he was
joined by Mackenzie's relative, who drove our
second wagon, and whom we named the Gluttonous
Boy. The days were warm, but the nights very
chilly ; the mosquitoes, however, did not appear
to feel the cold, and hummed round our nets in
hundreds. On the second day out from the Mission
we met Mr. Tait, the Hudson's Bay Company officer
at Dunvegan, and bought two more horses.
Torrents of rain fell  all  the   afternoon,   but we
pushed forward and arrived at
Dunvegan about ten on the following morning.    We had imagined
© o o
that it was about twelve o'clock,
but found that we had mistaken
the hour, and started at three in
the morning by accident. Mr.
Tait lent us a room in his house,
where we slept, and very glad we were of this
friendly shelter, for the rain fell continuously.
Fort Dunvegan is a charming little place, lying
close to the river between high bluffs. Round had
lived there for fourteen years as a Hudson's Bay
Company officer in charge, and was quite devoted
to the place, which he had never thought to see
again. Here, as a young man, he had captured a
fugitive white murderer, and had gained the name
of 'Shymaganis'—the soldier. Every Indian in
the camp beyond the fort knew him well, and greeted
'******************! 1111 *B 11 n Ba n_m_H mm m n »1 u*-^- THE PEACE RIVER
him with respect and enthusiasm as a master and
a friend.
One night as we sat round the warm stove in the
fort we heard hurried whisperings at the door and
a wild figure rushed into the room, apparently imploring our aid in the native tongue, It seemed
that his wife had been chopping wood and had cut
her leg off—or so at least he said. The Doctor
brought out his instruments and medicines, and
we started for the encampment with the anxious
husband. Seven or eight lodges were pitched in
the little prairie, and shone white and brown in the
firelight. Our guide led us towards one of these,
and showed us the unfortunate patient. The sight
was wild beyond description. On the right rose
the huge smoke-blackened lodge. Just before the
door a shelter of green branches had been erected,
and under this lay the woman, moaning with pain,
and wrapped in a many-coloured blanket. Around
her sat a score of her friends, chanting slowly and
solemnly a wordless song, and beating time upon
a tom-tom. Their wild faces and long straight hair
stood out sharp in the firelight, whilst their ragged
bodies were faint and indistinct in the gloom. As
their song rose louder and louder the woman's moan
rose with it and then died away with the lower notes
ofthe tune. The Doctor examined the wound, and
found that it was not so serious as we had been led
to suppose.    The bone was not broken, but the leg *s5**jt$«8£f*3
was badly cut and bruised, and caused the patient
considerable pain. He began to dress the injured
limb — a few grains of morphia were administered, and the woman ceased moaning. This impressed her friends enormously, and they gathered
round, wondering at the power of the great white
medicine-man, which had accomplished more than
all their chanting and bandaging. Then they boiled
a kettle for us, and we syringed the wound. If you
would cure an Indian you must impress him with
the difficulty of
the proceeding,
and so, instead
of going about
the business in
an ordinary
fashion, we
squirted water
through a long india-rubber tube, and watched
the terrified pleasure on the face of the sufferer.
There was no more chanting now, for a feeling
of awe had come over the group of savages as
they watched the mysterious doings of the great
white man. But our Doctor did not rise to the
occasion, and so we had to act the bedside
manner for him. When we left the camp the
woman was asleep and her friends silent. But
we had hardly got beyond the circle of firelight
when they fell to chanting again, and so continued
through the entire night.
Ever since we left the Athabaska Landing we had
been in the country of the Crees. I was told that
they are not really natives of the soil, but simply an
offshoot of the Crees who inhabit the plains, and
that they had driven the original inhabitants out
of the district. At all events no other Indians live
in the country, although there is nothing to prevent
their doing so if they have a mind to. The Crees
themselves, however, wander all over the district,
which by rights belongs to the Beaver Indians.
The two tribes are entirely dissimilar, both in appearance and language, and retain to a certain
extent a hostile feeling towards each other. But as
all tribal authority is at an end there is no open
strife or fixed territorial boundary between them.
And so the Crees trespass upon the hunting-ground
of their neighbour with impunity, thinking that the
Beavers are not worth noticing—and, as they say,
'scarcely human.' If the tribal feeling had been
retained, and the whole nation moved under the
direction of a chief and council of elders (as it did
until recently), this state of affairs would be impossible. But as it is, the missionaries and Hudson's
Bay officers are the only chiefs, and they very
naturally wish for nothing but peace. At present
each member of a tribe is socially as good as any
other, except in so far as the one excels the other in
hunting, and therefore in the number of his horses
and the length of his credit with the  Company. 44
And though the Crees despise the Beavers as an
inferior race, this feeling is more personal than
tribal. The Cree Indians are, for the most part,
dark, spare men, showing many of the usual
characteristics of the aborigines of the continent,
but of peaceful disposition and great charm of
manner.     They  speak   an   exceedingly beautiful
language,    and    converse
with ease and fluency, pronouncing their words with
wonderful distinctness, and
showing    their    meaning
© ©
with many well-considered
gestures. Their chief topic
of conversation is naturally
hunting, for by this they
gain their living, but they
seem also to be very fond
of tale-telling, and now
and again one may hear
legends and fables from the
older men, which speak of
the times when the game was more plentiful in the
country, and consequently men had more time for
talk. I have set down two such 'tales here, as I
think they may be of interest. The first recalls the
Welsh story of Gelert, and one would be curious to
know if it is current amongst other peoples. Thus
runs the tale :—
There was  once a young  man who was very
poor ; his father and mother and all his relations
had been killed in a raid, and he was left alone in
the world with no friend but his faithful dog.    So
he journeyed for many days, picking up a living as
best he could. One day he came to the lodge of an
' Oukimow,' or big chief. Now this chief had
everything that he could possibly want—fine clothes,
many wives, and the most beautiful cooking-pots.
But above all he had a lovely daughter. This lucky
man had a bow which was enchanted. Whatever
he shot at with his arrows died, so he had always
plenty of meat hanging in his camp, and no one
dared quarrel with him, for if they did, they were sure
to be killed. The mystery of the bow was a secret,
but the great man's daughter had learned it from
o ©
her father, and now she told it to this young man
who had become her lover. But the chief found this
out, so he drove him away, and again he wandered,
thinking of the lovely girl, and full of rage at her
father's treatment. One day when he was asleep
under a birch-tree he was awakened by the Old
Wandererx—the cunning one—who asked him what
service he could render him. So he told his story,
saying that he was very anxious to kill the big Chief
ofthe Bow, in order that he might marry his daughter,
1 This ' Wanderer' appears many times in Indian legend. He seems to
be an evil spirit, with a strong tendency towards good. Thus he will benefit
some unlucky person and yet be called ' the evil and cunning one' by the
narrator. __________________________________________________
but that he knew he could not prevail against the
magic weapon, and therefore he had not tried.
Now the Wanderer knew all things, and he told him
that the spell was broken since the tale of the bow
had been told, and that he might safely go and kill
his enemy. However, he said that he would make
the matter certain, and provide the young man
with another magic bow. So he told him to ' cut
down the birch-tree and make from it a bow and
arrow, and make a bow-string from the fibres of
the bark, and when you have done this,' he said,
'call me.' The young man made the weapon and
the string, and called. And the Wanderer came
and spoke the magic word, and gave the bow
to the young man, telling him that the arrow
would hit whatever he fired at, but that he was
only to use it once, against his enemy. So the
young man went and slew the [ Oukimow,' and
became chief of the tribe, and married the girl, and
owned the fine clothes and beautiful cooking-pots.
In his new greatness he became very haughty.
So the ' Wanderer' appeared and told him to go
and do honour to the birch-tree ; but he was proud,
and did not do it, saying that no harm would come.
After a while a son was born to him. And the
whole tribe feasted, and he said to his people,
1 Let us go and honour the birch-tree.' And they
all went. But instead of doing it honour he took
a whip and lashed  it,   making the  marks which
may be seen upon the bark to this day. Then
came the 'Wanderer' a third time, and told him
that his son was dead because of his sin. He
hastened home and saw his dog standing over the
cradle covered with blood. Then he was wild with
rage and shot at the dog with the magic bow; and
the arrow flew and killed the dog, but pierced his
son as well, and he came and saw many dead wolves
around the cradle, and realised that his faithful
dog had protected the child, and that he had lost
his son through disobedience to the laws of the
i Cunning One.'
The second tale is the Cree version of the Flood,
in which the ' Wanderer' appears again, this time as
Noah. The main outline of the story closely resembles the Biblical account, but it will be observed
that the dove has been changed into the beaver to
suit the local taste, and also that their habit of dam-
building is accounted for.
Once the whole earth was covered with water,
but the - Wanderer ' was in a big canoe with many
kinds of animals ; and after he had been on the
water for many days without seeing land, he determined to send an animal to dive down to see if
the water was still deep, or if the flood were abating ; so he sent down a young beaver. But the
little animal was afraid to dive too deep, and returned, saying that he saw nothing but water and
no land.    Then the . Wanderer' was very angry, 48
for he knew all things, and knew that the little
beaver had not done his best, therefore he cursed
him, saying, ' Cursed shalt thou be ; thou shalt never
grow, nor thy tail grow, but thou shalt only imitate
the beavers.' And this was the first musk-rat.
Then he sent a big beaver, and he swam and
reached the bottom, and brought a little earth up
with him to the side of the canoe, and there he
died. So the . Wanderer' took the grains of earth
and blew upon them, and the world arose and was
dry. And he blessed the beavers, and said that;
they should always try to dam the streams and stop
them running, lest they might again flood the whole
This tale has not been inspired by the missionaries, as one might be led to suppose; but is a
part of the original folklore of the people themselves. It is difficult to say what their religion
originally was, but it may be presumed that it was
a sort of nature-worship combined with great
superstition and fear of ghosts, which, of course,
was fostered by the tribal medicine-men.
The Beaver or Tsuten Indians inhabit the
districts between Fort Dunvegan and the Rocky
Mountains. They are allied to the great Dene
family of aborigines, which occupies the entire
continent between the Saskatchewan and the
Arctic Ocean (with the exception of the country
of the Crees).   This vastly scattered nation has not THE PEACE RIVER
completely retained its characteristics during its
various wanderings, so that the different tribes
dwelling in far-distant places speak separate
languages. But for all that they are of the same
stock. The Beavers themselves are but a very
insignificant branch, numbering not more than
eight hundred. They are for the most part small,
angular men, and most repulsively ugly. They
are far behind the Crees in their manners and
habits, which are very disgusting. Their language
is made up of guttural duckings and hesitations.
They are most unhealthy, suffering much from
indigestion, consumption, and scrofula—in fact, they
are by no means a charming people. It is said,
moreover, that they are rapidly becoming extinct.
Like the Crees, they have lost all tribal organisation, and recognise no superior but the white man.
Their old chief (who is chief only in name) is,
however, still living at Dunvegan, and is a
sufficiently remarkable old man. His name appears
on the records as a fort-hunter in 1826. Now it
has always been the custom in the Company to
employ experienced men as hunters, and it may
safely be presumed that no exception is made
in this man's favour. All the other hunters at
Dunvegan at the time appear to have been about
thirty years of age, and even if ' Tranquille' was
younger he would by now be ninety years old.
He had earned his name through his endeavours
D 5°
to pacify his tribe during the Great Rebellion in
the South. In this he had been entirely successful.
That]was during the days of his power. But when
he began to grow old his son had usurped his place
as chief, . and
when he died
the old man was
too feeble tol
take up the
reins of government again, and
so authority had
died out in the
tribe, and the
great man had
fallen upon the
charity of the
Hudson's Bay
When we saw;
him he was
entirely blind,
and quite awful
to look upon.
He was in his wheel-barrow going up to his meal at
the fort. His shirt was open, and the poor withered
old chest and skeleton arm were a pitiful sight. He
had married again a short time before we arrived,
and suspecting that his wife was not so dutiful as she
i___*______.. THE PEACE RIVER
might be, he had determined to murder her. So
he sat down in his lodge with a knife in his hand
and lunged round into the darkness. But fortunately for her, being quite blind, he did no harm, and
the offending spouse did not come to the untimely
death he had intended for her, but I fancy her
nerves were a good deal shaken by the ferocity of
her aged husband.
At Dunvegan we met another old man of nearly
eighty years of age—
one Twelvefoot
Davis—a white man
famous throughout
the country. He had
been a gold miner for
many years, and had
made a large sum of
money on a neglected
claim twelve feet
square. This had
happened in the old
days of the great
Cariboo mines, and
his fame and nickname had spread far
and wide.    When we
saw him he was a free trader and a rival to the
Hudson's Bay Company, but as he could neither
read nor write, it may be inferred that he was not
making much by the business. Every year he
would travel into the country with his store of goods
for barter, and sometimes he would winter upon the
banks of the Peace. One winter he was living
with four other men in a log cabin near a place
called Hudson's Hope. An officer of the Company was living within ten or twelve miles, and
feeling lonely about Christmas-time, he sent a note
to Davis wishing him the usual compliments of
the season and a happy new year for 1892. Davis's
friends happened to be away when the note came,
so the free trader, thinking that something of
importance had occurred, opened the letter and
studied it carefully. As he could not read, he
was entirely unable to find out its meaning; but,
guessing that his correspondent was unwell, sent
him the only medicine he thought at all effica-
clous—to wit, a couple of bottles from his scant
store of whisky. When his friends returned he
solemnly told them that the Hudson's Bay officer:
was ill, and had written for two bottles of whisky,
and that he had of course sent them to help the
lonely man in his distress. This seemed a somewhat serious matter, so the letter was asked for;
and then the old man was told that the officer was!
neither ill nor had asked for spirits. ' It was that
darned 2 set me wrong,' was Davis's explanation..
The joy of the officer at receiving the unexpected
present may be imagined, whilst Davis's rage at
► I*iN44 ____________ THE PEACE RIVER
parting with so valuable a possession knew no
bounds; and to this day he declares that somehow
or other he was cheated out of his whisky, and that
no man has a right to say that he is dying when he
is quite well.
At Dunvegan we stayed for some days making
up our packs and arranging our saddles and provisions for the great march in the bush. Mr. Tait
had helped us in every way, and both he and his
wife had entertained us royally, so that again it was
with a feeling of regret that we started out on our 54
real expedition. Before everything else we had to
get our horses across the Peace River. Here there
was no friendly scow to help us, but only two dugout1 canoes of moderate size. In these we crossed
our goods, making many voyages under the guidance of John Knot and Daukhan, who were expert
canoe-men. Finally, on July 27th, we set to work
to cross the horses. John the Baptist—Daukhan's
brother—helped us in this ; in fact we left the whole
business in native hands, for it requires much
practice to swim horses across so large and rapid
a stream, and any mistake of a bungling amateur
may mean the loss of a valuable animal. Three or
four of our beasts of burden were led down to the
river together. A rope was tied round the neck of
the steadiest, and he was led into the water. Then
the men in the foremost canoe took the rope and
started slowly, so that the animal might leave the
shallows and begin to swim without being hurried
or confused. Meanwhile the other men drove the
loose horses into the water after the leader, and
followed in a second canoe, shouting and guiding
the animals as best they could. The poor brutes
snorted in the rapid stream, and were often nearly
carried away; but in the end they all reached the
farther shore without accident, although somewhat
exhausted by their long swim. Round told me
that he  had seen a horse swim the river at this
-i.e. hollowed from a tree-trunk.
1 Dug-out-
place with its front feet tied and hobbled, which
any one can believe who has seen what an old and
experienced animal will do on dry land when thus
hampered. That night we camped on the southern
bank of the river. _____________i
We were now really making a start on our expedition. All this time we had been more or less
under the wing of the great Company, but at last
we were ready, and had only to pack the horses and
start away into the bush. This put us all into the
very highest of spirits, and even Daukhan seemed
to feel that he had become a person of great im-
porcance as the guide and hunter of the party. We
had given him a new rifle and a great buffalo-knife,
and with these he was delighted beyond measure.
These buffalo-knives are of English manufacture,
being made, I believe, by Unwin of Sheffield, and
we found them of the greatest use. The blade is
about nine inches long, and very thick at the back,
the whole knife weighing about three pounds.
They are invaluable for chopping under-brush, being
far handier than an axe, and yet they are not
cumbersome to carry, and can be used for skinning
large animals or any such work. Daukhan sat
looking at his new possession—his 'amukooman,'
as he called it, and discoursed to us upon its many
56 °l>n%__x_av__w_ CcUi m_______________m
On the following morning we began packing
the horses. Now packing is an art that may not
be learned in a short time. Pollen and I had
had a considerable amount of practice both in
the southern Rockies and in California. Round,
Daukhan, and John were experts. For my part I
confess that I had acquired but a slight knowledge
iof the art, as I have never been either strong or
heavy enough to get the requisite pull on the lash-
rope. And so it happened that the task of packing
■fell to the other four, whilst Ramsey, the Doctor
and I busied ourselves with the other duties of
camp. And there was much to be done. Let me
(describe the usual routine of a morning's work in 58
camp. First, the fire must be made up and breakfast prepared. Then, whilst the tent is being furled
and the beds tightly rolled tip, two or three of the
party go out and bring in the horses, no light work,
for the fourteen horses may be very widely scattered*
Meanwhile the pack-saddles and saddle-blankets
are sorted, and each pack, tightly rolled and roped,
is placed near its own saddle ready to be fixed upon
the back of the horse to which it belongs. Everything having been made ship-shape, the horses are
saddled, and then the really hard work commences.
A man stands on each side of a horse, and, lifting
up a bundle weighing anything from fifty to one
hundred pounds, fixes it to the side of the saddle
with a small rope called a sling-rope. When both
side-packs are secured, the top-pack is placed
between the two burdens, and a cloth is thrown
over the whole; round this is thrown the lash-
rope, a thick cord about forty feet long. This is
passed round the pack in various ways, as the case
demands, and runs over the girth under the animal's
belly, the men handing the ' loose' to each other
in regular order, and pulling on the rope with one
foot braced against the pack or horse's side. When
all is made as tight as can be, the animal is turned
loose, whilst the attention of the packers is given
to the next horse. Meanwhile the knives and
plates have been washed and the kitchen-horse
packed,  and   at last the  expedition   gets  under DAUKHAN AND THE BEARS
■way.    As may be imagined, all this takes time, and
is besides so laborious that one is in some degree
exhausted before the day's march begins.     The
great thing to be remembered about all wild travel
© ©
on the American continent is that each man must
do his share to the best of his ability, so the work
should fall evenly upon all members of an expedition.
On the morning of our start we had a very hard
time. The horses were fresh, and continued to
buck off the packs as fast as we fixed them, and we
soon saw that we had not nearly enough animals
to carry our possessions. Of course we should
walk, but even then we found that several of the
horses were carrying two hundred and fifty and
sometimes three hundred pounds, and we knew that
they could not hope to travel over a rough country
with such heavy burdens. However, we decided to
move on to the plateau above and then to consider
what had best be done. We had cut down our
baggage as far as possible, but we were afraid to
send back any of our stores, as we had a long trip
before us, and we did not wish to go hungry.
Finally, we got a couple more horses from Mr.
Tait, and with this new addition we started gaily
enough towards the unknown.
We were following the Indian pitching trail
which led towards Pouce Coupee's Prairie, and we
made up our minds to march as fast as our heavily
packed horses would allow, and not to rest until we ■•__*.-
came to this plain, where we meant to make a camp
and hunt. The country was open and very lovely,
but dotted here and there with clumps and lines of
low bush and small poplar. Long grass and great
patches of red lilies grew in the open meadows
across which the little trail ran. A pitching trail is
a small path made by the feet of the pack-horses
which are always driven across the country in a
V r -v'-jjjyf^ .*KW*«
'string,' or what is called Indian file. As the
natives follow these paths as much as possible, and
clear the bush and branches out of the road as they
go, the way, where it is frequented, becomes tolerably!
well marked, and is beaten into a shallow trough by
years of use. I n several places we saw bear-tracks|
and very occasionally the footprints of moose in the
deeper woods, but none of these were fresh enough DAUKHAN AND THE BEARS
to justify a halt, and so we continued our march.
The nights were clear and frosty, but when the rain
held off we slept in the open under our mosquito-
nets, as we found this much more pleasant than
huddling together in a tent. We could not march
fast, as the horses were heavily laden and out of
condition, so that it was not until the third day that
we crossed the Rat River and started into the
poplar forest.    The trees grew so close together
that the sky was obscured, and nothing could be
seen but the green leaves overhead, the thick
under-brush below, and the great white stems and
branches around us. Many of the trees were
rotting as they stood, and leaned upon their neighbours, ready to fall at the least touch. One day
a pack-horse  brushed  against  one  of these  and THE LAND OF THE MUSKEG
brought it down with a crash. As ill-luck would
have, it, Pollen was walking a little in front.
Seeing his danger, I shouted to him to look out,.
and, ducking his head and hunching his shoulders,
he avoided the full force of the blow. But for all
that, the tree descended with great violence upon his
head, knocking him senseless to the ground. The
trunk was some sixty feet long, and of considerable
thickness, and it seemed a marvel that he was not
killed. If it had fallen fairly upon him he must
have been. We made camp at once, and did what
we could for him, but he was suffering a good deal
of pain, and thought that he was about to have
concussion of the brain. The whole of that night
the rain beat down in torrents, and the thunder
rolled in the forest with appalling violence. We
fully expected to find that Pollen, unable to continue
the march, would be forced to return to Dunvegan.
On the next day, however, he revived a little, and
on the third day expressed his readiness to march.
So we moved a short distance over a very swampy
trail—he was too seedy to go far,—and again we I
camped near some most unpleasant swamps. All
through the country the water was very nasty, and
in some places almost undrinkable.
Pollen's accident cost us a day ih camp, and one
or two half-marches; but luckily he soon mended,
and in a week was quite well again. And so for
ten days we marched in the forest, often sleeping DAUKHAN AND THE BEARS
in swamps and muskegs, and generally drenched
during the greater part of the day. The mosquitoes
and bull-dog flies still followed us in clouds and
covered the horses. Once we came to a place
where a great forest fire had raged. It seemed
as though a strong wind had been blowing at
the time, or since, for the charred trunks lay piled
upon the ground in such wild confusion that we
were forced to make a long detour. The awful
effect of these fires is a wonderful thing to see.
Huge tracts and districts have been burnt out in
the North-West, and present a melancholy appearance.    In most cases the trees remain standing for
many years, whilst wild raspberry and such like
bushes choke the ground. Sometimes, however,
the wind fells the wreckage, and the black logs and
twisted branches make the country wellnigh impassable. We found that we were using our provisions too rapidly, so we set a limit to our meals,
giving three slices of bacon to each man per meal,
with unlimited bread. In this way we lived very
well, and on the tenth day after leaving Dunvegan
sighted a raised and open plateau, which Daukhan
declared to be Pouce Coupee's Prairie.
After fording two small rivers, we climbed the
hill and marched along the ridge for about ten
miles. The grass was long, and very tiring to
walk through, so that we were all pretty well exhausted when we made camp.    The prairie is a 64
fine piece of open country, dry and fertile. Many
years ago, the Beaver Indian chief, Pouce Coupee,
settled here with about five hundred followers, who
constituted themselves a separate tribe. But a
fever broke out amongst them, and when their chief
returned from his hunt one winter he found their
lodges empty and their bodies lying round the
ashes of the camp-fires, half-eaten by the wolves
and cayotes.     Of the flourishing  colony not one
remained but the old man, its founder, who is said
to have returned to Dunvegan, and to have died
there many years afterwards.
We found that our camping-ground was not a
good one, as the water was tepid, and so nasty that
the tea was almost undrinkable. However, we had
some cocoa (pig's blood, the Indians call it), and so
managed very well. On the following day we moved
on about five miles, and camped near a small swamp,
where we  succeeded  in picking up some ducks, DAUKHAN AND THE BEARS 65
which came as a welcome change after our diet of
bacon. Daukhan had been exploring the neighbourhood in search of bear-tracks, and killed a small
beaver, which we ate. We found the meat fairly
good, but a trifle strong. On the following day,
Daukhan, Round, Pollen, and I rode over a considerable area of country looking for bear-tracks,
but found none. Daukhan, however, said that he
had seen the track of a yearling moose, and so it
was arranged that he should go after it  on  the
morrow, whilst we continued to search for bear-
tracks in the opposite direction. Moose-stalking is
the most difficult operation in a bushed country,
and it is practically useless for a white man to
attempt it. Indeed, there are but few Indians who
ican be sure of killing this animal, which is without
idoubt the most wary of the deer tribe. Of course, in
an easy country, the moose may be shot by any
imoderate hunter;   but  when the ground  is com-
E 66
pletely covered with dry twigs, and when there is
much bush, the difficulty is increased many-fold.
In the winter the Indians follow the moose upon
snow-shoes, thus gaining some advantage in pace.
There is a popular superstition abroad, to the effect
that a man can go more rapidly over the snow on
snow-shoes than upon open ground on his feet.
This of course is not the case, at least when the
netted American shoe is used. It is true that an
expert can run, and even jump, when wearing them,
but they are worn simply to prevent a man's sinking into the snow. As the moose sinks belly-deep,
at every step, he tires comparatively soon, and an
Indian who is a good traveller is able to overtake
it, although he is sometimes obliged to follow the
animal for seven or eight days in succession. The
hardships which the Indians endure on these expeditions are very remarkable. They can carry but little
food with them, and have no covering except their
walking clothes ; they sleep for a few hours by a fire
at night, and resume before daybreak the march,
which they had prolonged far into the previous
evening. Sometimes, when they are close upon
the moose, they are unable to light a fire for
fear of alarming him, and then they will curl
themselves up under a bush and sleep with the
thermometer at fifty and sixty degrees below zero,
or keep moving to avoid being frozen. When
they  have   killed   the   animal,   they  bring  their DAUKHAN AND THE BEARS
lodges and families and camp near the carcass,
feasting and living in idleness until  the meat is
© o
gone, when hunger again obliges them to seek for
o ' © © ©
fresh game. This alternate feasting and starving
soon undermines their constitutions, and many of
them become the victims of dyspepsia and similar
complaints, which, with scrofula, are exterminating the Beaver tribe. As they are utterly improvident, many of them die of starvation, which might
be prevented by a little care even in this desolate
Daukhan followed his moose, but found that it
was travelling, and so left the trail and returned to
camp. Meanwhile Pollen and I had discovered a
fresh grizzly track, and had left our horses and
followed it for some distance, but lost it in a
swamp. We returned to camp and told Daukhan,
and on the next day started out again with him
and Round, and came upon the track on the farther
side of a small stream to the north of the prairie.
The grass was long, and the bear had left a broad
trail winding up the slopes and amongst the birch.
Several times we came upon other tracks, but
Daukhan pronounced these old, although to our
unpractised eyes they looked exactly similar to the
! fresh one. Daukhan did some very pretty stalking,
land seemed quite confident that he could find the
I bear. But it was all to no purpose. The animal
had wandered in circles, and had crossed his own -*-*&•*:*.
track so often that the whole hillside was lined andl
much of the grass beaten down. Finally, it became
evident that the bear was moving himself, so wei
remounted, and beat a large piece of bush, gallopingj
for about a mile through the underbrush as fast asi
we could, in hopes that we should cut him off ancfl
come to quarters ; but we saw nothing, and only got
very much scratched by the thorns. Round indeed
declared that he had heard the bear moving, but!
we could find no trace of him, so we returned]
to camp, feeling rather low. Daukhan had done]
some wonderful stalking, and it was only by chancd
that we had missed the animal. He was, however,
very disconsolate at his failure.
It seems a curious thing that no definite conclusion has yet been arrived at concerning the numben
of different kinds of bear to be found in Nortll
America.   Men talk of roach-backs and cinnamons! tmnH
silver-tips, and black and brown and grizzly bears,
as though they were separate breeds; and indeed
many think so. I think that the real reason of this
is that in each place the animals are called by
different names. Thus in Wyoming the grizzly is
known as silver-tip, and so on. In the north,
at all events, there are only three kinds of bear.
In the far north there is the polar bear. Next
comes the grizzly bear, which does not differ from
the grizzly of California or the silver-tip of Wyoming.
Then there is the common black bear, which is
sometimes brown. Daukhan told me that he had
absolute proof of this, as he had found a black bear
with a black and a brown cub, just as the silver and
cross foxes, and indeed red foxes, are all found
together in the same litter. It has been suggested
that there is sometimes a cross between the grizzly
and the black bear; but Daukhan said he thought
that this was out of the question, as the grizzly
persecutes the smaller animal. He declared that
this was the reason why the black bear keeps so
much to the wood, as it is able to escape from its
enemy by climbing. He also said that more than
1 once he had come upon the scene of one of the
I encounters, and had found the black bear literally
itorn to pieces, so that its skin was not worth dressing or curing; and in such cases the black bear was
mot necessarily a male.
Daukhan himself is a noted bear-hunter, having 70
killed a wonderful number of these animals—probably not less than 120 grizzlies alone, as may
be proved by the entries in the fort journal at
Dunvegan. He told us the story of one of his
early adventures, which must certainly have been
sufficiently exciting. A cousin of his, one Thomas,
had been badly mauled by a particularly ferocious
grizzly, and had been carried to his father's lodge
in an almost dying condition. Daukhan no sooner
learned this than, as he put it, he knew he
must kill that bear. But he was only nineteen,
the bear was evidently a very 'bad' one, and his
father flatly forbade his going after it. It seems
that in the Tustowitz family parental authority was
supreme. It was therefore useless to attempt to
gainsay his father, more especially as the stern
parent had taken away his only rifle. So now he
did not dare to tell his family that he was going
after this one, but quietly took an old single-barrelled
muzzle-loading shot-gun and a few caps, and told
his father that he would shoot a few rabbits for
supper. Then he started out and reached the
place where his cousin had been found. Arrived
there, he found a little open space, and on the
farther side, amongst the bushes, he could hear the
grizzly feeding. It was too thick to try to get
at him. His only chance was to draw the bear
into the open. He therefore stood out, and
snapped a dead stick with his fingers.    The grizzly DAUKHAN AND THE BEARS
was on its hind-legs in an instant, and, looking*
round, saw him. Without a moment's hesitation
the grizzly (mystakia) had rushed out upon him
'roaring like a bull.' He had only the small
muzzle-loader, and his caps were cracked and wet,
so that if he did not kill at the first shot he was done
for. Daukhan waited until the bear was almost
upon him, and then fired and jumped quickly aside,
grasping at his side for his hunting-knife. Then he
remembered that his father had taken this from
him with the rifle. But his suspense was soon
over, for the huge animal rolled over dead at his
feet. I had been told the story of this youthful
escapade before, so that I had no doubt of the
truth of the tale; and I have always thought it
one  of the pluckiest  things   I   have ever heard. 72
Daukhan telling a bear story was perfectly splendid.
All Cree Indians use gestures in conversation, but
Daukhan had a little French blood in his veins,
and this, I suppose, gave him his extraordinary
grace and expressiveness of motion.
His father had been a cattle-herder to the Com-
pany at Fort Edmonton in the old days, and was
famous as a strong and daring man. He had once
killed a grizzly unassisted, with a bow and arrow.
It seems that a large party of Indians were attempting to kill a very large bear which was hibernating
during the winter. The bear, however, had suddenly wakened up, and made a rush for the entrance
of the cave, and had so alarmed the men that they
had all turned and fled, leaving Daukhan's father to
face the bear alone.    He had to shoot with great
rapidity, and in his haste made a bad shot, so that
the first arrow did not kill.    It was a critical moment,
and the bear was almost on him before he had let
fly the second.    This fortunately pierced its heart,
and Daukhan told us that to his dying day the old
man's constant advice was never to fire a shot that
was not the best that the shooter could do.     It is
curious   that  although   the  bow  has  disappeared
from   amongst  them, the Indians never speak of
shooting without stretching out the left hand and
flicking the right near the ear, as if in the act  of
letting go an arrow.
© ©
It seems that wherever men have hunted much
the animals have learnt to dread them. And so in
the more southerly portion of the Rockies a grizzly
will seldom attack a man unprovoked. But in the
North-West they have been known to attack men
in the open country, and come some distance out
of the bush to meet them ; and once or twice they
have rushed upon a pack-train on the march, and
even entered a camp in spite of the fire. As a rule,
however, even in the most unfrequented districts,
the grizzly, in common with most other animals,
will seldom attack a human being unless driven to
it or wounded; although they will often attack
cattle and horses on the range.    Daukhan said that 74
they generally stand upright and take a look at the
intruder before they do anything. And this is the
time to shoot. But when once they have made
up their minds to charge they come with fearful swiftness and ferocity, and either club with
their paws, smashing in the hunter's ribs, or, as
has sometimes happened, hold him down and tear
out his entrails. The number of times in which
a bear has first knocked the gun out of a man's
hand before attacking him is quite remarkable.
The grizzly, of course, does not hug, but they have
been known to hold a man with their feet and crush
in his skull with their teeth. On the whole, bear-
hunting is not a safe profession, and few of the
Indians seek . encounters with a grizzly. The
Beavers, indeed, will go any distance to avoid one.
Still, I fancy that the casual hunter runs no greater
risk than he does with other big game, and, at all
events, the odds are always on the side of a man
who has a rifle and knows how to use it. The
black bear—Musqwah, as the Indians call him—is
as a rule a timid animal, although at times he will
turn and be exceedingly nasty. It seems that they
grow to a far larger size in the North-West than in
the more southerly districts, for Round told me that
he had seen several skins larger than that of any
grizzly that he had ever heard of. An Indian
named Louisan Thomas, a brother of the Thomas
mentioned above, had a very nasty time with one DAUKHAN AND THE BEARS
of these monsters. It seems that he was following
the tracks, and suddenly came face to face with
the bear. Before he had time to lift his rifle the
animal was upon him, and they rolled and struggled
upon the ground together. Luckily he was able
to reach his knife and killed the infuriated animal,
but in the struggle the bear had torn nearly all the
skin off his head—had, in fact, scalped him, This
encounter Louisan told us himself, and his scars
were eloquent of the truth of his story. It is a
curious thing that amongst all the bear stories to be
heard in Western America one so seldom comes
across a case of a man who has actually been killed.
Of course, there are such cases, but it seems that
the animal is generally satisfied with maiming its
enemy and then retiring from the field—as the bear
never eats its food fresh, but always allows it to get
high, and this may account for the way in which
it leaves what it believes is dead. But I fancy
that it very seldom kills a man for food, but simply
charges in self-protection, or to defend its cubs.
The grizzly is omnivorous, eating both flesh and
vegetables, but it seems generally to prefer the
latter, and subsists mainly on berries, although in
the spring, when there is no wild fruit, it appears
to devour many insects, attacking ant-hills and
beating up the rotten logs with its paws in search
of food. The force of its blow is quite extraordinary, so that it will pulverise the dead wood and 76
scatter the fragments far and wide. When enraged,
the grizzly will often stand upon its hind-legs and
break down young trees with its fore-paws, roaring
loudly the while. The female gives birth to two
cubs every alternate year, and defends them until
they are about twelve months old. The cubs often
hibernate by themselves whilst the mother remains
in retreat close at hand. There is a theory that
the bear nourishes itself during its long sleep by
sucking its paws, and it is said that the under
surface of the foot is sore and inflamed in the early
spring. At all events it is certain that the bear is
fat and in good condition when it emerges from its
hole, but becomes thin and emaciated after it has
been abroad for a few davs.
Daukhan declared that there were not many bears
in the neighbourhood of the prairie at the time
when we visited it. Our hunts at anyrate were
fruitless, and so we moved the camp and made
a short march on 3rd of August. On the march
Pollen ran a bramble into his eye, causing him much
pain, and we camped early on the edge of the
prairie. During the afternoon, Daukhan, John,
and I, ascended a low mountain to the west of the
camp and obtained a magnificent view of the surrounding country. Before us stretched mile after
mile of forest-covered plain, showing great blackened patches where fires had raged through the
trees ; here and there the bend of a river shone in
the sunlight; and the wind rippled the long grass
below us. Far beyond we could see the low foothills of the Rockies, and here and there a peak rose
white and indistinct in the blue haze of distance.
On the way back to camp we came across an old
grizzly track of great size. As a rule we marched
and hunted in the native moccasin, but I happened
to be wearing shooting-boots on this particular
occasion, and I found that my two feet, side by
side, fitted easily in the footprint of the bear. On
returning to camp we found that Pollen's eye had
become very much inflamed, and that he was in
great pain. The Doctor had mixed some cocaine
for him, which afforded him some relief; but he
could hardly bear the light, and so had pitched his
mosquito-net under a shelter. He was entirely
without sleep during the night, but continued to
bathe his eye with the cocaine, which he kept in a
saucer amongst his blankets. On the following
morning, however, he was much worse, and the
affair had become very serious. On examination
we found that his saucer was full of ants and other
insects which had crawled into his bed and fallen CAMPING IN SWAMP
into the medicine during the night, and that in short
he had been bathing his eye in a solution of formic
acid. No wonder it had set up a violent inflammation. Wherever we camped we were always much
annoyed by ants, which swarm throughout the whole
country, so that even when protected by a net from
mosquitoes and other flying insects, one's bed was
always invaded by hosts of creeping things. Without mosquito-nets life would  be unendurable, and
a man once stricken down by illness would most
likely be worried to death. Even the moose and
deer in the country are often killed by bull-dog flies
and mosquitoes, their blood being sucked away
until they succumb through exhaustion. Pollen
remained in the tent during the whole day in great
pain. On the following day, however, he was much
better, and with his eye bound up we put him on a 8o
horse and continued our way, travelling over a fairly
open country.
A forest fire had felled the timber and made the
ground very fertile, so that we found an abundance
of wild strawberries, and raspberries which were
excellent. Towards evening we came to a river
known to the Indians as Escapesscow Sepe, or
the Sharp Stone Creek, where we camped and
lay for the night in a thunderstorm. It had not
rained for nine days, and this was the longest period
of fine weather we experienced during the entire
journey. On the morrow we crossed the river and
marched on through much muskeg until we came to
© o
a small lake, where we camped. Ramsey now became very ill, suffering agonies of pain from rheumatism, so that we remained in the same place for
several days hunting and exploring the country.
The number of wild geese on the river was quite
extraordinary. They would fly past in flocks for
more than half an hour at a time, and even when
these were gone off, the next bend would disclose
hundreds more.
It was while we were camped here that we first
saw that most wonderful of all the beauties of
nature—the aurora borealis. The sun had set with
unusual splendour, the light and vaporous clouds
holding for long a thousand shades of scarlet,
orange, and gold. But no sooner was the last ray
gone than pale streaks of green shot horizontally CAMPING IN SWAMP
down the sky and then quivered and passed from
side to side like luminous hangings in the wind.
First one, then another, of these would appear, and
then a score; the intensity of light changing from
one end to the other of the streak, and all passing
and repassing each other with endless and entrancing activity. It was a most striking and glorious
sight to see half of the dome of heaven ablaze with
the shifting dancing fires, the more so as the colour,
a pale apple-green, seemed so unusual in the sky.
When Ramsey was better we continued our march
in the same manner as before. In many places we
came across bear-tracks, but they were condemned
by Daukhan as old, and not worth following. Once,
however, he found a trail which he declared was
fresh, and I immediately started to follow it with
him, Pollen's eye being still troublesome. Daukhan
said that a female black bear and three cubs had
gone into the timber, and that they had not passed
more than half an hour before our coming. We
accordingly took up the trail while the others made
camp as quietly as possible. The bush was thick,
and the ground in many places hard and dry; but
Daukhan seemed to follow the animal by a kind of
instinct, leaping swiftly from log to log and only
following the actual footmarks where the earth was
soft or the grass long. It seemed as though he
hunted by scent. Presently we came to a large
muskeg, where the trees lay thickly piled one upon
F 82
another. Here it was easy to see the footmarks
of the bears in the soft moss. Suddenly we sighted
a small cub, and Daukhan raced after it, leaping
over the fallen timber with wonderful agility, whilst
I vainly attempted to keep up with him. The cub
promptly ran up a tree, where I shot it. Meanwhile Daukhan had discovered another cub, and
was already some distance away doing his best to
tree it. This one was killed in the same way as
the first, but still the old bear did not appear. We
searched the surrounding country, but only found
a broad path in the underbrush which she had made
in her rapid flight. At this we were greatly disappointed, as we knew from her tracks that she
was of considerable size. However, we returned
to the camp with the bodies of the unfortunate cubs,
and, I am bound to say, were mightily pleased with
them, for, although small, they were the first bears
we had killed on the trip. Daukhan dried the
skins in Indian fashion, making a hoop of willow
branches, and stretching the hide as tight as a drum.
When the skin was dry, he scraped the gristle from
the under side with a bone implement, and in a
wonderfully short time the fur became quite sweet,
and could be rolled and packed upon the horses.
We were now marching towards the South Forks
of the Pine, and intended to follow up the main river
in the direction of the Rocky Mountains. Daukhan
declared that we had better move forward as rapidly CAMPING IN SWAMP
as possible and halt amongst the foot-hills for some
days, as he said that we should find abundance of
bear and other game in that district.
The pitching trail by which for the first few days
after leaving Dunvegan we had travelled did not
take us far. Beyond the prairie there was little
trace of it, and now all evidence that the country
had ever been travelled over had long since disappeared, so that we had only a vague knowledge
of our position, but marched across the country
entirely under Daukhan's guidance. He said that
we were approaching a muskeg which covered an
immense area of country, and that he was uncertain
which direction we had better take. He had never
crossed this great swamp, although he had hunted
in the outskirts, but he said that he thought that we
should be able to find a ridge of firm ground run- 84
ning through it, and thus save a long detour. For
some days past the country had been becoming
more swampy, and more thickly timbered, until at
last we left the poplar woods behind and entered
a dense forest of small pines. The soft moss and
deep muddy pools of the muskeg impeded the
horses, and we were obliged to cut a path through
the trees, so that we made but slow progress. It
was impossible to see more than a few yards in any
direction; but Daukhan led us straight forward
without a moment's hesitation. Now and again
we halted, whilst he climbed a tree and scanned
the horizon, looking for some mountain by which
he might steer our course ; but he could see nothing
but trees and swamp for miles in every direction.
At every step we sank deep in the cold ooze, so
that we were chilled to the bone, even whilst chopping the trees and driving the refractory pack
One evening, just as we were about to camp,
we came upon a deep ravine, and camped between high bluffs near a small stream. On refer-
ring to the map, we noticed a river marked Coal
Brook, which had been discovered by Mr. Dawson;
but we were uncertain whether this was the right
stream, and were inclined to think that we had
already reached the south branch of the Pine River.
Even if it was Coal Brook, we had no notion where
we were upon the map, and we imagined that we CAMPING IN SWAMP
had come upon the river higher up stream than we
had intended. And so, on the following day,
Daukhan and John went out to look for the Pine
River; for we thought it useless to move the pack-
train through so difficult a country if there was any
doubt about our position, as we might march far
out of the line and be compelled to return, and
thus lose much time and do unnecessary work.
As soon as our scouts had left camp Pollen and
I set off down the river in search of game. Here
and there in the sand by the waterside we found
tracks of black-tailed deer, but none of these were
very fresh. There are but few of these deer in
the country ; but they are more plentiful than the
cariboo, which is very seldom seen, although it is
to be found in the foot-hills. The wapiti is quite
extinct throughout the entire district. It is said
that forty or fifty years ago these deer were very
plentiful; but the Indians have waged so deadly a
war upon them that a few stray antlers whitening
amongst the hills alone remain to tell of their exist-
ence. It is curious to notice that when they became
scarce the bulls ceased to whistle, as though fearful
of attracting attention. We followed up the black-
tail tracks for some distance, and then returned to
the river bottom. The canon was deep and precipitous, and in many places very narrow, so that
we were obliged to cross the river many times on
the way.    Here and there we noticed great lumps 86
of coal in the river-bed, and this led us to suppose
that this was Coal Brook, as we had imagined.
The stream was strong, and the water very cold,
but it did not reach above our knees, and so did
not inconvenience us much. On the return journey,
however, we found that the river had risen considerably, and now rushed in a roaring torrent,
often rising nearly to our armpits. The strength of
the stream was extraordinary, so that we had much
ado to keep our feet, and were often carried down
a long distance over the slippery rocks. Several
times I thought that we should certainly have been
drowned, for if a man were once swept away he
would stand but a poor chance in such a swirling
mass of water. The roar of the torrent beat back
npon us from the rocky sides of the chasm with a
deafening sound that was calculated to shake one's
nerves when one felt the tug of the water. At last,
however, we came to camp very wet and exhausted,
having crossed the stream no less than forty times
during the afternoon. Late that evening John and
Daukhan returned, saying that they had found the
forks of the Pine River, and so we made haste to
march there the following morning. On the way
we came across the grave of an Indian in a little
open space amongst the trees. A small wooden
cross stood close at hand, whilst the body was protected from the attacks of wolverines and coyottes
by a stout wooden frame filled with stones.    The CAMPING IN SWAMP
man had evidently died as he had lived, upon the
hunting trail, and had been buried in his deep
forests, far from the dwellings of men. The grave
seemed pitiful in its loneliness, but I suppose that
it was as he would have wished.
About midday we descended into an open flat,
and, skirting the clumps of low bush, came to the
juncture of the South Pine and the main river. We
should now be forced to cross to the northern shore,
and we thought it best to take the rivers in detail,
crossing the south river first, and then turning our
attention to the main stream, which was smaller
and less rapid above the confluence, although still
about six hundred feet broad. We soon found,
however, that the horses would be obliged to swim
in any case, and as we had no wish to spoil our
provisions and ammunition, or lose any of the pack
animals, we determined to make a dug-out canoe, 88
and thus save our stores and cross more safely ourselves. We had already chosen a tree suitable for
our purpose, when we discovered a very good canoe
hidden amongst the branches, and shortly afterwards another less perfect one a little lower down.
This stroke of good fortune cheered us consider-
ably, as we should have lost much valuable time
if we had been compelled to make our own boat.
We had wasted many days through illness or
misadventure, and travelled far more slowly than
we had anticipated. It was already .the 15th of
August, and a month since we left Dunvegan; but
we had killed no game worth speaking of, and had
not even got to our hunting-grounds.    The length
© © © ©
of time which remained would, of course, be limited
by the coming of winter, and we knew that if the
snow came whilst we were still in the mountains,
we should be obliged to remain in the country
until spring. Already the nights were cold ; and
although the sun still shone brightly by day, we
felt that the height of the summer was past, and
that we must make a better pace if we were to get
any hunting, and cross the mountains before the
long northern winter set in. The frost had, however, done us one good turn, for the mosquitoes
and bull-dog flies had disappeared. It is true that
the sand-fly had taken their place; but this insect
was not nearly so ferocious as its predecessors,
and always retired at sundown, so that we could CAMPING IN SWAMP
now sleep undisturbed, and live free from continual
torture and worry.
The great thing now was to hurry forward, and
so we made what haste we could, and swam the
horses across the two rivers, whilst Daukhan and
John ferried our goods to the northern shore of the
Pine in the canoe. Daukhan was a wonderful
canoe-man, and John was very handy in the boat, so
that by evening we were all safely across, and had
made our camp on the further shore. We had
discovered a small parcel of tea and tobacco—an 9°
Indian's greatest luxury—near the canoe, so we
made sure that the boat had been left for the use
of some other party, and felt bound to leave it
in the place where we found it. We accordingly
took it back, and having contributed a small present
to the 'cache,'1 we returned to camp in the warped
canoe which we had discovered upon the beach.
Now at last we were sure of our position, and
every day took our bearings by the mountains near
the forks. We marched up the valley for some
distance, and then ascended to the higher grounds.
The hill was very steep, and one of our pack
animals, a small horse known by the extravagant
title of Duke, slipped on the short grass, and rolled
down the mountain-side with his burden. After
bouncing amongst rocks and stumps, now on the
flat of his back, now sliding, with despairing upturned face, upon his side, he came to a sudden
stop against the trunk of a pine-tree two hundred
and fifty feet below us. Every one imagined that
the luckless animal had broken his neck, or at least
done himself some fearful injury. And our surprise
may be imagined when we saw him get upon his
feet, shake himself, and then quietly trot away from
us, dragging a mass of bundles and pack-ropes
behind him.
No one who has not tried it can have any idea
1 i.e. a thing hidden or stores left protected from animals for future use.
Thus a man will' cache' meat and return to his * cache.' CAMPING IN SWAMP
of the trials of pack-train driving. Horses knock
off their packs against rocks, or rush incontinently
under low boughs, sweeping away their valuable
burdens. In an agony of fear one watches one's
precious kodak rocking on the back of some loose
animal that has a mind to roll in a soft muddy
place, or stands vacantly in a river, whilst his
brother, who is perhaps carrying the bacon, slips
on the soft bank and goes wallowing down upon
his head in the deep water. At every moment of
the long marching day some refractory brute leaves
the line and goes exploring in the bush or browsing
in the swamps. A clever horse will so hide himself
as 1x3 be invisible from his driver's trail, and often
one has to return and search the forest, only to
find him rolling contentedly upon a burst flour-bag,
and whitening himself with its priceless contents.
No lover of animals should march with a pack-train
if he wishes to keep his self-respect.
Duke was one of those annoying horses, and
made himself objectionable on every possible occasion. After his roll he trotted down the hill, and
did not stop until he found a place where the grass
suited his taste, and there we found him enjoying
his ease. Even after he had been brought back
and packed, and set upon the trail, he evinced
a decided inclination to roll down to the rich grass
again, although any ordinary horse would undoubtedly have died at the first attempt.    But he 92
was  to  be  of much  use  to us  afterwards in  a
manner we did not dream of at this time.
And thus, with many struggles and pantings, we
reached the higher ground, and pushed forward
through a fairly open country.    Once during the
day we came upon a deserted
Indian camp. From the condition of the ashes and other signs
we judged that it was not more
than two weeks old. There had
evidently been a sick man in
the party, for the remains of a
sweating-house were still standing. It is made after this
manner:   Many small branches
are  stuck in  the  ground  in a
circle, and the extremities and
twigs are plaited together so as
to form a kind of roof. Blankets
are then thrown over the whole,
and the patient creeps in and
sits down upon the floor. Meanwhile large stones have been
heated in a fire, and these are passed into the
hut by the man's friends, whilst he pours water
upon them, and so makes a steam under the
blanket. After a while the heat must become
almost unendurable, but the process is continued
until the unfortunate patient can stand it no longer,
. and is forced through sheer exhaustion to emerge
from his Turkish bath. Whether this cure is
beneficial in the treatment of the various diseases
to which Indians are subject, I am unable to say,
but they all place great faith in its healing powers.
To our great sorrow Daukhan himself, two days
after we left the Pine River, became an invalid,
suffering great pain from lumbago. It seems
curious that a savage should feel the injurious
effects of a climate and a mode of life to which
he has been used since childhood, but such is
nevertheless the case. It is the greatest mistake
to suppose that savage man enjoys uninterrupted
health. In the North-West, every man, whether
white or Indian, is sure sooner or later to become
a martyr to rheumatism and like complaints. And
no wonder.
I am afraid that I have entirely failed to give
any idea of the real nature of the country through
which we had passed, all of which would apply
equally to the region through which we were
destined to go. Unless an actual day-by-day diary
were given, it is almost impossible to show the
extraordinary amount of damp to which we were
subject. To begin with, it rained almost every
day, and even when the sky was unclouded the
bush was nearly always very wet, so that one became thoroughly soaked from top to toe before the
morning's  work was  over.     For  many days to- 94
gether one walked continually in swamp or muskeg
to the ankle, and often for hours at a time in water
reaching well above the knee. But all this was of
small consequence. A warm fire would always dry
out one's clothes as one stood, so that one went to
bed moderately dry. But it was during the night
that the damp worked its worst upon us. We had
small waterproof sheets under our blankets, and
these were of great service to us, but one piece
of waterproof will do little against an acre of water.
It must be understood that on many occasions
one could plunge one's hand out of bed to the
wrist, or even to the elbow, if one had a mind to, in
slushy water or sodden moss and mud. Of course
now and again we found hard pieces of ground, and
even made dry camp ; but the country as a whole
was nothing but a vast morass, and in this sodden
condition we marched and worked and slept. I
have heard people who ought to know say that
England is a damp climate to camp in, but England
at its wettest would be child's-play to this rain-
haunted land, and not to be compared with it for
a moment. Looking back on the expedition now I
do not wonder that we were delayed a little by
sickness, but I always marvel that we all got out of
that country alive, or at least without some serious
illness. And the most amusing part of the whole
thing was, that one of the party had gone there
under doctor's orders.    But of course, neither this CAMPING IN SWAMP
medical adviser, nor any one else for that matter,
had any idea of the nature of the country.
There is a conspiracy of silence about worthless
British possessions. One remarks with wonder
the notes of ' fine soil' and ' open rolling country'
on the maps of a territory where the casual
traveller can find nothing but muskeg and sludgy
swamp. Now and again, hidden away in a
corner, one may find a tiny 'marshy,' and a few
infinitesimal tufts of grass marked upon a Government map, as though the conscience of the map-
maker had pricked him, and driven him to fill up
some neglected corner. But of the miles of worthless country, of the useless rotting timber and the
bare, barren mountain, there is never a word or a
sign. Of course no one can expect to find definite
information about unexplored country, and it were
folly to condemn a district because so many others
are bad, but if the maker of maps were honest he
would use the dotted line in many places where he
now fills in with a bold stroke, as though he knew
the surface of the country and the lay of the land.
It is natural that he who makes a map.or writes a
book about the land of his birth should smooth
over many little deficiencies, and should draw a
little on his imagination in depicting advantages
which may have accidentally been omitted in the
creation. The vanity seems a harmless one, and,
to judge from present evidence, it has been freely 96
indulged.      But  when   one   considers   that   men
who know the true state of affairs actually pass
it over, thus consciously enticing the unwary emigrant to strike out from the borders of civilisation
and starve in a hard and cruel country, the vanity
becomes a crime, and a crime of no mean magnitude.
For the unfortunate settler
cannot know if the land be
good or worthless when the
maps say that all the land
is good. But happily, as a
matter of fact, few emigrants
have as yet pushed beyond
the fertile plains of the Saskatchewan and the Edmonton
district, for the truth about the
North is leaking out, and men
are beginning to realise that
the vast territory from the
Athabaska to the Barren
Grounds and on to the Arctic
Ocean is practically worthless
for agricultural purposes.
There is, however, a little gold in the rivers, which,
with improved machinery, might be worked to
some small profit in spite of the short summer
season. Gold will draw men into any country;
and so it has happened that, from time to time,
a few,   more   adventurous   or more foolish than
their fellows, have penetrated to the Peace River
Some years ago a man arrived at Dunvegan,
prospecting for precious metals, and set out up the
river in the early spring. Months went by and
still he did not return, and at last, in the latter
part of August, a search party was organised. One
day the Indians found him. He was lying under
a bush feebly clawing at a few berries. The skin
had shrunken from his face, and his lips, j like two
lines of gristle,' were drawn back, showing his
teeth, whilst his eyes seemed bursting from their
sockets. His reason had left him, so that he tried
to crawl away from his captors, and even to fight
them off with his teeth when they came up to
where he was lying. It seems that through some
accident he had lost his provisions, and had lived
for three months on roots and berries.
Another man had started nearer the mountains,
and had gone up one of the rivers. He was a
musician, and had taken his banjo with him. Some
months later a boat coming down the river was
rowed quickly past a point because of the fearful
stench in that place. When the men got a little
lower down, some of them returned and found
' Banjo Charley,'as the unfortunate had been called,
corrupted almost beyond recognition, and lying
with his banjo beside him.
The Indians themselves suffer fearful periods of
c- 98
starvation, and I have even heard of cases where
men have been driven to devour each other. In a
land where the native starves, what chance is there
for the white man ?
But let me return to our expedition. CHAPTER   V
Daukhan, for all his hardiness and strength, was
utterly broken down from the continued damp, and
had fallen a victim to excruciating pains of rheumatism. This was a pretty serious matter—for without
him we should be hopelessly lost in this trackless
wilderness. However, the Doctor did the best he
could for him, dosing him with salicylate of soda,
and finally building up a plaster of Paris support
round his waist and back, which delighted Daukhan
beyond measure, and I believe he kept the plaster in
its place for weeks after he had entirely recovered.
As the country became worse, our progress had
grown daily slower, and now that Daukhan was
hors de combat we cast about for some remedy or
help. About thirty miles from where we were
there was a large sheet of water, known as
Moberley's Lake. Daukhan said that many Beaver
Indians hunted round its shores, and that we should
be almost certain to find them in that district at
that particular time, as the berry season was coming
on and they would be collected together picking
berries upon the hillsides. After much discussion
it seemed the wisest thing to send some of our
party to this lake to try and get an Indian to join
our expedition in the capacity of axe-man, to help
to clear a path for the horses. We were also badly
in want of moccasins, for we had used these comfortable shoes too freely on the march, and we knew
that it would be quite hopeless to attempt to hunt
in ordinary boots.
A moccasin is to all intents and purposes a
leather sock, so that the foot has full play, and can
bend and grasp as nature intended. At the first
attempt the pains of walking practically barefooted
amongst sticks and sharp stones are of course
severe. But after a few days the foot becomes
hardened, and can stand much knocking about, and
then it is that one begins to appreciate what Mr.
Pike happily names . the moccasin of freedom,' and
to despise the boot of civilisation ; for you soon find
that you can walk easily, swiftly, and silently for
long distances without becoming tired, that your
foot does not stick in deep mud, that you can move
with ease upon slippery logs, and, most important
of all, that you do not break every twig that you
may chance to step on. It would be utterly
hopeless to attempt to stalk in boots in a Northwestern  forest.     You would  see more game in
Piccadilly. And now we realised that we had
not enough moccasins, and thought that we might ON THE TRACK OF A GRIZZLY
be able to get some from the Indians round the
lake at the same time that we got our axe-man.
Daukhan said that there was a trail from the river
to the lake, and that if only he could find the place
where five years before he had killed two young
moose, he would be able to set us on it.    For two
days Daukhan was unable to move, but on the
third, after a very hard day's work amongst fallen
timber and swamps, we descended into a little
valley and found the whitened poles of an old camp.
Daukhan said that this was the place where he ' ate
the moose,' and very soon we found a blade-bone
and other relics of this long-past meal. When one
comes to think that he had only visited the district
once,  and  that five  years ago,   one realises the 102
extraordinary memory for places which the Indians
possess ; but it is more than a highly developed
bump of locality—it is a special instinct. Daukhan,
for instance, had brought us from Dunvegan to the
Pine River, a distance of close upon 150 miles, without the aid of a trail for more than half the way, and
with hardly any idea of the meaning of a map. And
now he brought us in a straight line to a place where
he had only camped for a few days five years before.
So now, as soon as we had camped, Pollen got
ready to go to Moberley's Lake, taking John Knot
as an interpreter, whilst Daukhan, who knew most
ofthe Indians, though he did not speak the Beaver
tongue, said he was well enough to accompany
them on horseback as guide. Round, Ramsey, the
Doctor, and I were to remain in the camp to mind
the horses and goods, and to do what hunting we
could. Early in the afternoon the expedition
started on horseback to the lake, taking a pack-
horse with them, and one other animal for the use
of the Indian whom they proposed to bring back.
After they were gone, I set out to explore the
country by myself, and found it simply alive with
game. The ground was covered with long grass
and-wild pea plant, which the bears are very fond
of, and everywhere there were long lines where
some animal had roamed, feeding as he went. Here
and there one could see where a bear had rolled in
the grass,  whilst the soft mud by the river-sides -*
o io4
and in the muskegs was covered with the tracks of
black bear and grizzly. In every open space I expected to find a huge beast sunning himself, or at
least to hear the crack of branches in the underbrush.
Just as I was mounting a small hill, I came upon
the perfectly fresh track of a grizzly of great size.
The wind was light and favourable, so I followed
rapidly, and
as silently as
possible, until
I came to a
patch of bush.
The tracks
led    straight
i nto the
and soon I
could hear
the bear snapping twigs at
the further
end of the
clump, about
eighty yards
away. I was standing on a little hill, and could
see over a portion of the clump, and I noticed
that in the centre there was an open space amongst
the bushes. Creeping quietly on hands and
knees through the  undergrowth,   I  came to the
opening and waited. The clear space was not
more than ten yards across, and just beyond I
could hear the grizzly amongst the bushes. He
appeared to be eating ants, for he grunted and
coughed quietly, and his scent came down the wind
to me like the smell of a kennel of dogs. I dared
not move forward, for though the animal could not
have been thirty yards away, he was completely
hidden in the bush, and every moment he was
coming a little nearer, so I remained quietly waiting
till he should move from behind the thick bushes and
step into the little space where I sat. WThen once
he showed himself, I trusted that the heavy rifle
which I carried would finish him off; at all events,
I hoped to take him completely by surprise, and so
waited anxiously for the encounter. The bear drew
nearer and nearer, and every moment the smell
grew stronger, so that I was just preparing to meet
him when I heard the wind coming up the valley
behind me. All day the air had been light and
shifting, but from the sound in the trees I judged
that a strong breeze had come up and would soon
be upon me. My position now became very serious,
for I saw at once that my scent would be carried
straight towards the bear, and one of two things
was sure to happen,—either he would run away, or
charge me on the moment, and neither was exactly
what I wished. There is a vast difference between
shooting a bear as he emerges  from the  bush, a. »w>«*»:
I 06
however close at hand, and standing the charge
of a huge and infuriated grizzly in dense underbrush. But before I had time to move the wind
was upon me, and, with a great crashing of boughs,
the bear made his charge, coming, as it seemed,
straight at me. All I could do was to stand with
my heart in my mouth and wait for him. But
instead of rushing at me as I had expected, he bore
off to the right and made for a little hill. All this
time I never once caught a glimpse of him, and
could only judge of his movements by the breaking
of branches and crashing in the bush.    But as soon
as I realised that he was not coming towards me I
retreated into the open and ran round the clump,
hoping to get a sight of him. I could not understand why he had charged the hill, but I afterwards
discovered that my scent would have blown that way,
and doubtless the bear had caught it when the wind
swept back towards him from the rising ground.
To my great disappointment I never saw the
beast at all, for he had apparently made off across
the open as soon as he found that he had charged
in the wrong direction. The adventure had been
an exciting one, and I should without doubt have
had a very unpleasant time if, in the event of the
bear showing himself, my bullet had not taken
immediate effect. But as it was, I felt that fate
had been very hard on me, more especially when I
heard the wind drop a few moments after the bear ON THE TRACK OF A GRIZZLY
had gone. However, I continued to hunt for the
next few days, but although I came across numberless tracks I never sighted a bear. Once a black
bear roamed round the camp in the night, but he
was soon scared away by the stampeding of the
horses. On the third day, Pollen, Daukhan, and
John returned from the lake. They had been
unable to find any Indians, and so we should be
obliged to go without the extra axe-man and with-
© ©
out the moccasins.    They had, however, met with
several adventures on the way.    I append Pollen's
own account.
' Two hours' careful riding had taken us clear of
the muskeg that stretched across the valley, and
once on the firm ground on the other side we made
good progress.    The country was beautiful—springy
grass  under  foot,  and a great  diversity of trees
scattered on the rolling hills.    I suppose we had
gone some twelve or fifteen miles before we struck
the hills that cut into the top of the valley, and
found the Indian trail that leads from the North
Pine to Moberley's Lake.    But look as we would
there was never a trace of its having been used
this year.; A regular camping-ground of the Beavers
lay some three miles beyond us, and Daukhan said
there would be another trail converging there.    So
©   ©
on we went, and soon came upon a series of flats,
that rise by steps some hundred feet at a time
towards the dividing  mountains at the  head and io8
north side of the valley. These flats cover a great
space of ground, and are bounded on their lower
level by a series of long lakes, varying from one-
to three-quarters of a mile in length, and about a
couple of hundred yards across. I believe I was
the first European to explore them; and they certainly were well worth seeing.
' It was as we topped the second rise that a little
way ahead of us we saw a tall wooden cross rising
amongst the trees. Nothing could be more eloquent of the faith and nationality of the missionaries
who had visited these tribes; and for a moment one
could have imagined oneself on the outskirts of a
French village in the mountain foot-hills of the Jura.
The cross showed that one of the tribe had been
buried there; and a little beyond we found some
half-dozen sets of lodge poles, a sweating-house,
fireplaces, and frames for stretching moose-skins.
There was no doubt about its being the camping-
place, but had it been used this year? It was with
anxious eyes that we hunted round; for on some
evidence of recent use of at least the trail depended
the success of our expedition. But an hour's search
ended in no discovery of what we wanted ; and so,
dispirited and tired—for it was getting near evening
—we turned back and made a camp on the lower
flat over the last of the semicircle of lakes.
1 Daukhan was in the lowest of spirits : he was a
man who hated failure, and to come all this way, to ON THE TRACK OF A GRIZZLY
have wasted two valuable days, for it was a long
march home, and all for nothing, depressed him. I
fancy, too, that the exertion of the morning's march
and the long ride
had set his rheumatism at work again.
We made our fire
for supper in
silence; and while
John boiled the
kettle and made
bread, I toiled down
the steep bank to
the lake, some hundred feet below us,
to bathe. On my
return I found
supper ready, and
with food our spirits
revived, and in
a rather better
humour we lit our
pipes and sat on the
crest of the hill to
watch the fading
glories of the sunset.
'Before us stretched the long valley we had
travelled over during the day, the black shadows
of the knoll at the further side of the lake cutting
off the mountains on our right; but on the left they
spread in uninterrupted series until they touched
the soft turquoise of the evening sky, range on range
of pale blue mountains, sometimes tree-covered,
sometimes gaunt and rocky, but all their asperity
softened by the haze of distance and the glamour
ofthe setting sun. In the air was the still silence
that only comes in the wilderness, and was unbroken,
save for the occasional cry of a loon that circled
overhead. Below us the lake lay like a gigantic
mirror, every leaf and branch of the reflected trees
showing clear and sharp.
'As John took his place at my side, he accidentally
moved a large stone at his feet, and in a second it
was rolling and then leaping down the hill. A
moment's stillness, and then a deep "splosh' told
of the end of its course. The thing set us laughing
like a lot of schoolboys ; the game became general,
and soon we were up and scouring the land for
more stones to throw. I have been told that grave
professors have been known to indulge in this
entertainment in the ^Ups, to the fatal detriment
of village cattle below them, and indeed I can
understand any one being bitten by so fascinating
an amusement. For us the discovery was a godsend ; and before we had wearied of it Daukhan
was himself again, and ready to discuss plans.
1 Was it worth while to spend another day going
to Moberley's Lake?   It was difficult to get at the ON THE TRACK OF A GRIZZLY
probabilities. Daukhan's half-wild mind worked in
obscure paths; and although John was a tactful
interpreter, it was a long job before I was able to
get at any sort of judgment on the matter. However, it finally appeared that there was still a trail
from our side that led to the lake; and there was
always a chance that from the other side some part
of the tribe had made their way to the quasi-settle-
ment for the summer. One thing appeared certain :
poor as this chance seemed, it was our only one.
It is true, it meant another day, but our need of
moccasins was great, and if we could get old Cayahn,
a splendid axe-man, our time and labour would be
well laid out. And so we went to bed, resolved to
be up with the dawn, and to get to the lake and back
to our camp before evening.
'Our plan was carried out to the letter. It was
a long and a wearisome march, many awkward
passages of rock, and with long interval of fallen
timber to puzzle the horses, and a fair allowance of
muskeg and marsh as we neared the lake. But,
except for the splendour of the view, there was
nothing to repay our trouble. No one had been
there since the previous year. The fishing-nets
were carefully cached in birch-bark roggans high
in the trees; kettles and other luxuries of permanent
camp were also safely bestowed; every trail was
heavily overgrown with brambles and flocks. Evidently what  we had   already  half expected  had 112
happened—the Indians had moved down in a body
to Fort St. John. Perhaps it was a selfish consolation, but in spite of the loss of three days to the
expedition, I could not, as I looked on Moberley's
Lake, regret that I had come. The expanse of
water seemed enormous, hemmed in as it was by
high mountains on either side, and between the
converging slopes at the further end the two peaks
of the Bull's Head and the Porcupine glistened in
the noonday sun. Every turn and contour of the
shores—at one point steep and bristling with rugged
pines, at another shelving away in arable prairie—-
was invested with a strange charm of harmonious
shape and hue. The water itself was of a colour I
had never seen before; and as we waded on horse- ON THE TRACK OF A GRIZZLY
back across the rapid stream that forms the outlet
of the lake, it seemed as if we were in the midst
of a liquid opal in which the sunlight was kindling
ever-shifting sparks of fire.
' There was nothing for it but to go back, and it
was already dusk as we rode down to the flat where
we had camped overnight. I should have said that
in the low ground at the end of the first lake,
through which we came before mounting to the
level of our camp, we had seen several bear-tracks,
and Daukhan thought it might be worth while in
the early morning to watch this track on the chance
of a bear crossing, more especially as the place was
all overgrown with pea-vine, of which "mysthah-
ayah " is specially fond. So to-night we made our
fire out of sight of this, some thousand yards further
along the lake, where the land was lower. The lake
itself here was lost in thick rushes, already crisp
and dead, and one had to get water by wading out
through mud. When we had got some, it tasted
rank and sour from the rush-seeds that had been
rotting in it all the summer, and completely spoiled
the cocoa to which we were looking forward. So we
fell on tobacco early to forget the disappointment,
and for the first time I got on fairly intimate terms
with Daukhan.
' It seemed that ever since the start it had weighed
on his spirit that he had so many masters; it was
not part of his bargain that he should be ordered
H ii4
about by every one, and the disrespect was painful.
Now, I was sure that neither Round nor Ramsey
nor the Doctor had ever ordered him about at all,
nor yet Somerset or I; but if that was his grievance,
it had to be set at rest. So I explained that all
ordering about was unintentional, and that the
mistake must have arisen from our poor acquaintance with the language, that Somerset and I alone
were the Oukimows, and that, coming to a strange
country, had asked him, another Oukimow, to guide
us through ; we were entirely innocent of wishing
to order him; that, situated as we were, all had to
do what work they could, and he, being so much
stronger and handier than any of us, no doubt much
fell upon his shoulders, but that we appreciated
his good-will and energy immensely. As for the
march, the matter was entirely in his hands. We
knew we could trust him, because we had heard
such good accounts of him before we came, and,1
moreover, had found everything we had hoped
verified by our experience; that without him we
could do nothing, and were entirely relying on his
perseverance and skill to get to our journey's end.
This long speech entirely reassured his suspicious
nature, and we fell to talking of other things, Dau-
khan being particularly delighted with various details
of English life. A city, he thought, must be a very
perplexing place to live in, and very dangerous. I
The Queen, too, for whom prayers were offered ON THE TRACK OF A GRIZZLY
after every mass on Sundays at the Mission, interested him greatly. Did she rule the Hudson's
Bay Company, or did the Hudson's Bay Company
rule her ? What was she like, and how did she
govern ? Could she do what she liked ? I fear
he was disappointed at learning that the Queen,
gracious and dearly beloved as she was by her
subjects, was yet not their absolute ruler. No
doubt, I explained, did she choose, there were
many things she could do that she refrained from.
" Why ? " asked Daukhan. It was rather a problem
expounding a theory of constitutional monarchy to
a primitive man; but the following was the best
attempt I could make :—
'The Queen had more subjects than any one
could imagine. All the inhabitants of any country
Daukhan had seen would not fill a single street of
London, and London had thousands of streets, and
there were thousands of cities almost as large as
London. These people, too, were scattered all over
the world. How could one person know what was
best for all of them? and so the Queen, anxious
that her people should be happy, allowed them in
each country to choose chiefs and send them to
large councils, so that each chief could speak for
the needs of the people that sent him, and then
advise the Queen what to do. However much she
might disagree with her chiefs, still she always did
what  they advised, because she would rather go u6
against her own judgment than let her people suppose she was not anxious for their good. This
explanation pleased, for it reminded Daukhan of the
stories his father had told him of the government of
his nation in the days when the Crees were a great
united tribe; but I had misgivings that neither
history nor law would bear me out in my account
of it! M- §
' It was in the midst of this conversation that a
low long-drawn note came to us from the mountain
where the Moberley's Lake trail lay. Daukhan was
up in an instant, and putting his clasped hands
to his mouth emitted a reply exactly similar.
This was again answered, and Daukhan resumed
his seat, saying—as John translated it—" It is a
person." It appears this was the regular call of
the Indians, and doubtless some Beaver had seen
our camp, and was calling out to us to keep up
the fire and have the kettle ready for a welcome.
Here was luck! The very thing we thought we
had missed. So the talk resumed, now on one
topic, now on another, until an hour had gone
by, when, no one having come, Daukhan called
again. This time there was no answer. Another
call was as fruitless, and after a walk round to a
spot where a full view of the mountain could be
obtained, and no fire was seen, Daukhan sat down,
saying it was a " chepi" or ghost that we had heard.
I was a little incredulous.   " What else could it be ?" ON THE TRACK OF A GRIZZLY
he asked; "it is not an owl, nor a fox, nor a
wolverine; we heard the loons yesterday; it was
not a young bear. No, it was a chepi"—and he
went on to explain how before the Beavers were
civilised (this was the word John used in his
translation) they had killed and murdered each
other recklessly; that the shores of Moberley's
Lake were full of ghosts; how else could the
inexplicable noises that were constantly heard there
be explained ? It certainly was a weird thing, this
human cry out of the darkness, and no man coming
to explain it; for, as Daukhan said, a Beaver sees as
well at night as by day, and seeing a camp he
would surely have come to it. None could read
the riddle, and with this real ghost-story in our
minds we made our beds and prepared for sleep
by the glow of the dying fire. But a much more
startling scare was awaiting us.
' I had just packed my cartridge-belt, moccasins,
and heavier clothes under my pillow when I heard
a heavy step in the dead rushes at the tail of the
lake, not twenty yards from where we were. In
another second came another step, and then
another. I did not need to look at Daukhan to
guess what it was, but when I did, it was to see
him crouching on one knee, with his cocked rifle in
his hand and the gun sheath lying at his feet. John
made a silent dash for my rifle, but I had already
got its case off; and reassuring myself that it was u8
loaded, pushed the safety-bolt up, and knelt with it
ready to fire as soon as I could see.    " Mysthah-
ayah," whispered Daukhan, and John got to the
other side of the fire with the axe in his hand.
Slowly the footsteps came  towards us,   as if the
grizzly was uncertain to come or no ; and the minute
or  so  seemed a  veritable  age.    The  night was
pitchy dark.    The fire had died down so low that
it threw but a pale and uncertain light over the;
bushes that rose only ten yards from us, and shutl
out the rushes from our view.    The steps came
nearer, so near that I was sure he must by now be
clear of the reeds and already in the little screen of-
bush that lay between us and him.    It was a trying
and exciting moment, but I felt pretty confident in"
my 500-express, and was getting impatient to have
the thing over.     But once clear of the reeds the
footsteps  ceased.      Evidently   he was waiting  to
decide which he would charge, and Daukhan and jfl
like two statues, knelt in motionless expectation.^
The tension was becoming unendurable, for at such
close quarters, and in the dark, the encounter would
be a pretty uncertain matter, and I was watching
the bushes with such straining eyes for the least
sign of motion that more than once they all seemed
to dance and vanish to my aching sight.
'A full two minutes must have passed in this
anxious silence when our ears were saluted with a
chuckling chirrup, so pert, so sudden, so completely ON THE TRACK OF A GRIZZLY
absurd, that for a moment I could make nothing of
. ©
it. But a little shake of boughs and another volley
of chattering explained it all. To use a slang
phrase, the squirrel had got the laugh on us! I
could not help being rather glad, as we got
back laughing to bed, that Daukhan had been as
much fooled as I was. Certainly nothing more
like the tread of a heavy, slow-moving beast can
be imagined than the series of leaps with which
this alarming little animal had made its way
through the dense forest of rushes.'
So now we had to hurry on again, for we had lost
valuable time, and Daukhan said that the bears
were moving up to the foot-hills, where the berries
were now ripening. In one place we discovered
another deserted camp of the Beaver Indians.
They had apparently been hunting in the country,
but had made a raft and gone down the Pine
River. Unfortunately they had had several dogs
with them, and these had ranged the whole valley
hunting. I should imagine that there were at least
five of them, for we found footprints in many soft
places. A bear will travel any distance to avoid a
dog, and so we saw no fresh signs for some time.
This was most unlucky for us, as the country was
full of raspberries and a sweet berry called the
saskatoon, which the bears are very fond of. In
fact, we had intended to make some stay at this
point and hunt, for Daukhan had said that two
Indians had once killed thirty black bears and two
grizzlies in two days amongst the berry bushes
upon  the   hillsides   near that part of  the  river.
But  the dogs had  driven  the game  out  of the
Our stock of bacon was getting alarmingly low,
so we decided to knock off meat altogether.   We
had still a considerable amount of grease, so we
fried the bread for our meals.    Besides the bacon
and flour we had some dried fruits, which we took
twice a week to counteract the unwholesome effects
of too salt a diet.    This fruit now stood us in good
stead, and we ate it every other day as a second
course after the bread and fat.    But every day it
became more imperatively necessary for us to find
game, and lean less heavily on our scanty stock of
provisions.    It will be remembered that we had
bought all the available pack-horses in the country,
and had loaded them as heavily as we dared; but
although we had eaten the two small bear cubs and
the beaver,  we had been  too busy travelling to
keep the camp in meat with our rifles.    Now and
again  we had added a grouse or a duck to our
© ©
supper, and at times had chanced upon a few
rabbits; but so paltry an addition did not suffice to
feed seven hungry men even for one meal. A
single man travelling through the country would
probably be able to snare enough rabbits to keep
off starvation, but a large party is more difficult to
The Indians themselves, who generally hunt in
small parties,  depend greatly upon rabbits.    But 122
for some mysterious reason the rabbits in the
North-West die out every seven years. Between
whiles there are a fair number all through the
country; but every seventh year they disappear,
so that one may travel for months without coming;
across a  single  one.
The consequence is
that at these times
many of the Indians
starve, and as the
game in the district
becomes more scarce,
the number of deaths
amongst the natives
becomes      greater
every seventh year.
The vast majority of
the Indian tribes, both
in Canada and in the
United States, are
supported by the
Government. But it
must be borne in
mind that these northern Indians are not even
British subjects, but are an alien race upon a soil
that is British only in name. In a few years
the Hudson's Bay Company will be compelled
to withdraw its officers, as the fur trade will no
longer be of any importance.     Then the natives
will have no bartering-place for their goods, and
indeed would have nothing to barter when the fur-
bearing animals are finally killed out. Unable to
till the ground, and in a land where all but the
carnivora will be extinct, they will undoubtedly
starve unless the Government steps in and saves
them, and burdens itself with the feeding and
clothing of some 12,000 souls.
The future ofthe country is not bright, nor was its
present aspect very cheerful about the time of which
I am writing. We continued to march for some
time through a succession of muskegs and patches
of fallen timber, whilst a drizzling rain continued to
fall during almost every day. Once we had a
really fine day, and made our camp in the evening
in high spirits, for the sky was cloudless and the
night still. We were so sure of the weather that
we did not even unfurl the tent or stretch the fly,
but made our beds where we pleased, and turned in
under the shelter of some magnificent trees, confident of a good rest after our day's work. About
one o'clock in the morning, however, it began to
rain in torrents, and did not stop until midday. It
had been so dark that we could not find our tent-
roll, and therefore we had returned to our blankets
and slowly became soaked. I think I have seldom
passed a more miserable night. I had a waterproof
sheet under my bedding, and on getting up found
that it had  most inconveniently held  the water, 124
and that I was surrounded by a pool six inches
We spent the morning drying our blankets
before a huge fire. John, who was helping us in
this, and who had been silent for some moments,
suddenly turned towards us and said, ' Gentlemen,
we shall meet three Beaver Indians to-morrow on
the river.' Of course we all imagined that he was
joking, but Round told us that whenever John prophesied the coming of strangers he was always
right. He said he had known him for close upon
fourteen years, and that he had never made a mistake about this. The most of us were incredulous, thinking that the whole thing was absurd;
but John stuck to it that he was right, and that
we should see on the morrow.
On the following day we scattered through the
country in search of meat. Daukhan and I had
started towards the river, intending to ford the
stream on horseback, and then leave our animals and
hunt to the right of the camp, when we were joined
by Round and John, who also wished to cross the
river and hunt to the left. The river was very
rapid, and the stones slippery, so that the horses
stumbled and lurched in the swift water in a manner
not very pleasant to the rider. When we reached
the southern shore we tethered our horses and were
on the point of starting into the bush when we saw
something   moving   on   the   river  some  distance JOHNS  PROPHECY
further down. We waited, and presently a canoe
came round the point. Now it must be remembered
that since we left Dunvegan, nearly two months
before, we had not seen a single human being, and
this made John's prophecy the more extraordinary,
for there had been nothing to show that we should
meet these Indians. John
himself showed no surprise at seeing them, but
simply remarked that he
knew they were coming
and was glad they had
arrived. He afterwards
told me that he had not
always possessed this gift
of second-sight, but that
he had had it since the
death of his infant
daughter some fifteen
years before. He said
that he was upon an
island on the Peace River,
twenty miles from Dunvegan, when one afternoon something told him
that his child was dead, and that a man was
coming to him in a canoe to break the news.
After a few hours the man came, and ever since
then he had always known when he was going to
meet any one, and from which direction they would
come. He added that sometimes people came
when he had had no presentiment; but when he
had had the presentiment they were sure to come.
Whilst he was talking the canoe had approached,
so we went down to the water's edge and signalled
to the Indians to come ashore. They proved to
be Beaver Indians, three in number, as John had
foreseen,—a young man, his wife and mother,—and
more wretched specimens of humanity I have never
seen. We made a fire for them, upon which they
produced dried meat and grease, and we all ate.
Then we began to talk. John was able to make
himself understood, and could interpret, so that we
got along fairly well, although it is always difficult
to explain one's meaning to a savage, and to understand his ideas in general, for their minds do not
work the same way as a white man's, and you can
never tell what they really think.
Fifty years ago the Indians of the North-West
were in the stone-hatchet period. Many of the tribes
have made extraordinary mental strides in so short
a time, but there has been little progress among
the Beavers, so that one comes across the anomaly
of a man with a primitive, stone-implement-period
mind, carrying in his hand that product of centuries
of thought—the Winchester rifle. His ideas and
wants are expressed in a series of chucks and grunts,
and he is careful to move his lips as little as possible
in speaking.     It would be impossible to shout in JOHNS PROPHECY
his language.    He uses primitive gestures, pointing
to mountains or trees when he speaks of them, and
signifying the departure of an animal or person by
throwing out his hand before him.
The three specimens of the Beaver tribe who
had joined us were ugly beyond description.    They
were small, emaciated, and scrofulous.    ' Allah,' the
young man of the party, was especially revolting,
and he had a habit of spitting every few minutes
with a horrible recklessness
of aim.   All Beaver Indians
look weakly, and as a fact
few of them are strong.   But
one  never  knows   what  a
man will do when put to it,
and   thinking   that a little
help would be better than
none at all, we asked him to
join our expedition as axeman.    He said that he had
been to Fort McLeod through the Pine Pass, and so
we thought that even if he was not strong enough to
chop he would be useful as a guide. We told him
that we would give him a horse as payment if he
would join us. He answered that he would visit
our camp on the following day, and make up his
mind whether he would come, and that if he decided to do so his wife and mother could pack their
goods to Moberley's Lake on their backs.
m j
^Nv-lv^ §§|jpi
Accordingly he came next day to the camp with
his family, and told us that he would join us for the
pay agreed upon. But he said that he would not
be able to come at once, as he must wait until his
wife and mother had made him more moccasins.
On hearing this we asked them to make some
moccasins for our party, for which we paid them in
goods. The old lady, Allah's mother, who was of
most forbidding aspect, and smoked an exceedingly
rank pipe, made us a present of bear-meat and
dried moose-meat; and this civility we returned, as
they expected, by a large present of tea and tobacco.
They had killed a couple of small black bears on
the river-bank, and this showed us the more clearly
that the only way to move through the country was
in canoes. A pack-train is always noisy, and when
there is much chopping to be done is calculated to
frighten away the game. Also the neighing and
tramping of the horses at night would disturb the
country for a long distance around the camp. A
canoe, on the other hand, moves very silently, so
that a man may hunt as he travels, and will find the
game unprepared for his coming. Allah himself
was extraordinarily dirty and unattractive, and his
manner of eating and general behaviour was not
pleasant, so that we did not relish the idea of
having him for a constant companion. On an
expedition of this kind one is compelled to live
very close to the other members of the party, often JOHNS PROPHECY
sleeping under the same shelter with them, and
always eating from the same loaves of bread or dish
of meat j and so when you have a man with you
who spits amongst the cooking-pots and plates, and
who is not even careful to avoid the meat, there is
no escape, and you can only warn him not to do so
again, and grin and bear it as best you can.
However, Allah had brought us fresh meat and
moccasins, which were of great service to us. It
was very pleasant to return to a more rational diet
!after our long course of fried bread; for we had
isoon found that a man cannot do much hard work
without substantial food. The dried moose was
[especially excellent, being crisp and sweet to the
itaste. The Indians make a mixture of dried meat
and grease, which is called pemmican, and no more
sustaining food can be procured. It can be compressed into a small space, and so is easily carried.
1 13°
A wonderfully small quantity is sufficient for a meal,
and I should advise any one proposing to travel
through the North-West to procure this by sending a message to one of the Northern forts some
time before he arrives in the country, as it may be
difficult to get enough meat at short notice.
When all was ready we started again, and continued to move up the valley of the Pine River
amongst the foot-hills, hunting as we went on both
sides of the stream. When we wished to cross,
we either made rafts of logs or waded in the
shallower places, and thus we managed to explore
the whole valley. Now and again we heard the
young bears playing amongst the fallen timber, or
the older ones coughing as they ate the wild berries;
but not once could we get a sight of them. The
bush was thick and rotten, and the ground covered
with dead branches and twigs, so that it was
almost impossible to move without making a noise.
Daukhan, who was one of the best native hunters,
could walk quietly enough to get near game
when by himself. But I do not believe that any
white man could stalk in such a country, and the
bush is so thick that one must get within a few
yards of an animal before one can see it at all.
Only a few of the Indians are sufficiently expert to
creep up to a bear, and the majority are obliged to
kill the greater part of their game in traps.
All this we began to realise, and after repeated JOHNS PROPHECY
failure we gave up hunting in the bush as a useless
waste of time, and moved on towards the more
open mountains, where we hoped to have a better
chance of success. By this time we had finished
all the meat (in the course of three days), and had
returned to our diet of bread and fat, and so were
using up our
flour far more
quickly than we
should. One
day Daukhan
managed to kill
two small
beavers, but
these did not
last us long, so
he turned his
attention to the
river again, in
the hope of
discovering another dam. In
many places we
found open paths, about three feet wide, in the
woods leading down to the water, which had been
made by the beavers as they dragged the logs
towards the river. Daukhan said he had watched
them many times, and that they would sometimes
1 carry logs more than sixteen feet long for a mile
a__H 132
along these roads.    It seems that when they havei
used all the suitable trees near the water, they cut
a road through the underbrush and seek timber on
the hillsides. Then they cut down a tree with
their teeth, and having gnawed it into lengths, haul i
it down the path to the water-side, carrying it im
their mouths, and turning their heads slightly
over their shoulders so that the log may drag
behind them. Daukhan said that he had seen
them leave a tree half cut when they saw that it
would not fall clear, but would remain resting upon
The beavers build their dam when the river is
low in the autumn, so that they may have a deep pool
during the winter months. The shallow water will
be frozen solid, but there will always remain a little
open water under the ice in the pool in which they
can swim. Of course at night, or in time of
danger, they retire to the ' lodge' beneath the bank.
When the river rises in the spring, the dam is
washed away ; and then the male and young travel
about the stream as thev choose, but the female
remains in the vicinity of the lodge.
The Indians generally capture the beaver in steel
traps set under the water in the shallows. The
animal, swimming towards the shore, feels for the<
bottom with his feet, and so treads upon the trap.
But a beaver has a very keen sense of smell, and to
counteract the scent of the hand and the steel of the JOHNS PROPHECY
trap the natives smear the metal with the oil which
is extracted from the animal itself, so that it believes
that all is safe, and thinks that another beaver has
just landed in this place.
It is exceedingly difficult to get a shot at these
animals, as they are extraordinarily wary. Having
found the 'lodge,' the hunter chooses a convenient
[spot on the bank, and sits with his rifle on his knee
waiting for the beaver to appear. Two, and sometimes three, hours may pass before the beavers
move ; then they come out and swim near the bank,
keeping a sharp look-out. At the least suspicion of
k movement on the part of the man they would
lush back to their holes, and remain there for the
est of the day. Suddenly the hunter seizes his
rifle and shoots as quickly as possible, from either
Ihoulder, as the case may require.    Daukhan was 134
an expert at this kind of shooting, which required
very great patience and a rapid aim.
In this way he killed several animals for the pot.
But as a rule we had to content ourselves withl
the fried bread. We found a few trout in the river,
but they were very hard to catch, and paid littH
attention to our baits. Once or twice we managed
to shoot one, but they were generally small. The
country was becoming worse and worse, and was
full of muskegs and choked with fallen timber, so
that we had to chop a path for the pack-train. As
an axe-man Allah proved quite useless, as we had
feared, and so our progress was but slow.
At last we left the foot-hills and entered the main
range of the Rockies, camping by the river under a
large mountain, which, with the customary humiliM
of a traveller, I named Mount Somerset. The
weather had, as usual, been abominable, and we
had hardly been dry for days, but now the sky had
cleared a little, and we made up our minds to leave
the horses and camp in the charge of Round,
Ramsey, and the Doctpr, and start out amongst the
mountains for a week's hunt with Daukhan. The
hill was so steep that we should be unable to take
a pack-horse with us, so we settled to pack our
provisions on our backs, taking John and Allah, *j
who would leave us upon the higher ground, and
would return with a fresh stock of provisions in ,
a few days.     After this John was to remain with JOHN S PROPHECY
us as interpreter, but Allah might return to the
main camp in the valley if he wished to do so. This
arrangement suited everybody, so we made our
preparations as quickly as we could.
(fi  \
" .
/■ti V'.-"
4y£ip.. ■
September ist.—Early in the morning we made
up our packs, and, turning our backs to the river,
started towards the mountain. We each carried a
blanket and a few necessaries, besides four loaves
of bread and our rifles.   The packs weighed about
thirty pounds each,
and with a ten-
pound rifle made
a sufficiently heavy
load for mountaineering. After strug-
© ©
gling through about
©    © ©
a quarter of a mile
of driftwood and
underbrush, we came to the foot of the torrent-
bed, which seemed the easiest route up the steep
slope. The day was very hot, and the heat beat
back  from  the  rocks,   making the narrow  gorge
* o o      ©
into a sort of natural Turkish bath. The small
stream rendered the rocks as slippery as glass, so
that we were obliged to rest every two or three
hundred feet to recover our breath. About noon
Daukhan discovered some grizzly tracks leading
up the mountain to the right, and we immediately determined to follow them. The side of the
hill was littered with fallen trees, and was very
steep, so that it was with great difficulty that we
made our way. A heavy pack is always an
awkward ^thing, and very greatly increases the
difficulty of climbing a steep and slippery hill.
It was quite impossible to follow the signs over the
hard ground, so we simply plodded on at our best
pace in the hope that we might catch a sight of
the bear before he disappeared over the spur of the
mountain. From the tracks we had seen we judged
that the animal was of large size.
After a time we came to a patch of berries of a
kind which we had not seen before. They grew
on a small bush like the blueberry, and indeed
somewhat resembled them in appearance, but were
three times the size, and black in colour. As we
found a great abundance we rested and made quite
a feast. Presently we came to the ridge, and,
sitting down, searched with a glass the amphitheatre which we had just left, but saw nothing of
the bear. We therefore moved down the eastern
slope, and cooked a small lunch near a pool of
water. Allah, the Beaver, who was a man with a
very gross appetite, was quite unable to restrain
himself at the sight of food, and ate an alarming 138
amount of our scanty store. After lunch we returned to the top of the ridge, and, as we had
heard some marmots whistling, sent Allah and
John back to the eastern slope to try and get some
for dinner, Daukhan, Pollen, and I remaining in the
amphitheatre to watch for the bear. At some time
long past a forest fire had swept over the mountain,
leaving the slopes covered with dead, whitened
logs.    The ground was rocky and without cover,
and the whole
country had a
melancholy aspect.
Towards evening
a strong west wind
came up, making
the air intensely
cold, so that it was
with a  feeling   of
relief that we left
our post and set out to find a camping-place.
Water was scarce, but at last we found a small
pool lying between two ledges of rock, and there
we decided to camp.
The place did not look promising, but it was
the best we could find. We made a fire, and
awaited the arrival of our pot-hunters. About
dark they came up with four marmots. A marmot
is very like a grey beaver, with a bushy tail. His
back is  brown, turning  to  grey over the rump.
He has two long brown teeth in the front of the
upper jaw,  which give a strangely comical  look
to his  face.    The  whistle  of these beasts is  at
first very startling, and one is sometimes inclined
to answer, under the impression that some person
is anxious to attract one's attention.    The single
clear note is very loud, and can be heard a long
distance off.    A marmot is light for its size, only
scaling about twelve pounds.    We immediately set
to work to cook the results of the hunt for our
supper.    A roasted marmot is not bad food, but as
he has about an inch of fat all over him he is
inclined   to   be   disagreeably  greasy  when   eaten
without a plate.    Allah's table manners were too
disgusting to mention.
©        ©
After supper John made a confession. It seems
that shortly after leaving us Allah had turned up
the ridge, whilst John had chosen the rough rocks
at the foot. Allah had seated himself upon a rock
waiting for the reappearance of a marmot, when
suddenly a grizzly had turned the corner and come
face to face with him. John had immediately
shouted to Allah to run back and fetch us, but the
Beaver Indian had preferred to remain where he
was, and, seated upon the rock, had continued to
fire his rifle into the air, even after the bear had
long got out of earshot. This was the tale. Of
course John had the advantage over Allah in that
he spoke   English;  but  still   I   daresay that  his
am 140
account was tolerably correct. As may be imagined, we were not very much pleased, more
especially when Daukhan told us that the bear
had probably travelled a long way. Allah's position had without doubt been a trying one, but it
seemed to us that once the bear had turned tail, the
necessity for firing had ceased, and that a golden
opportunity had been lost to us, for we were, as
they well knew, only half a
mile away, and had they told us
at once, we could have got
to the other slope in a few
moments, and very likely would
have been able to cut off the
bear's retreat.
The wind had risen with the
coming of the night, and now
blew a perfect hurricane. We
wrapped ourselves in our scanty
blankets, and tried to find solace
for our disappointment in sleep. But all to no
purpose. Gusts of wind swept over the ledges of
rock, and literally tore the blankets from under
us. We tried to remedy this by strapping our
beds to us with our portage-straps, but even
when thus secured stray ends would be torn
away, and would flap noisily about our feet. To
add to our discomfort, we had nothing in the
shape of a pillow  except the two  extra  pair of
moccasins which we each carried. The cold was
intense at so high an altitude, and the remains of
the fire were soon scattered by the wind. Altogether our camp was a miserable failure, and I can
say that, for my part, I have seldom passed a night
in greater discomfort.
September 2nd.—At the first signs of light we
were up and off, marching along the eastern slope
of the mountain. We were all in very low spirits
after our chilly night. The mountain was bare and
rocky, and sloped gently to the east. Far below
us we could see the timber-line showing dark
against the rock ledges and brown scrub. We
kept just below the snow-line of the peaks, and
were often troubled with soft marshy ravines.
John complained much of earache, so we decided
that, as we had killed three marmots during the
morning, he and Allah should take them down to
the camp on the Pine. There had been no fresh
meat in the camp for some days, and we knew that
the marmots would be a welcome change after the
long course of fried bread. John thought that if he
could get a night in a warm camp his ear would
allow him to return to us on the following day;
and at all events Allah would be able to come back
to us at the same time with some more bread, as
had been originally arranged. Allah said he would
be perfectly willing to return up the mountain, and
that altogether the  arrangement  would suit him 142
very well. Accordingly they left us in the early
afternoon, as soon as we had agreed upon a rendezvous for the next day.
We were now alone with Daukhan without an
interpreter. We had both picked up enough Cree
for hunting purposes, but our vocabulary was
somewhat limited, and our conversations were
sometimes very funny. Daukhan had a great sense
of humour, so that our camp would have presented
to any one who could have seen it the extraordinary
sight of three people gesticulating wildly—using
two languages, and now and again interrupting one
another with roars of laughter. After lunch we
climbed  the  mountain,  and   emerging  through   a
* ©      o ©
pass,   stationed  ourselves on  three  spurs  of the
western ridge to scan the country.    It was arranged
that if any of us saw a bear he should signal to the
others, who would immediately join forces, and we
would then commence the attack in a body.    As
no  game  was  sighted,  we returned through the
© ©        * ©
pass, and, after shooting a marmot, headed to
camp. As I have already said, we were a long
way above the timber line, but we found a sort of
scrub-pine, about two feet high, with the roots of
which we made a fair fire.
September 3rd.—The night had been warmer
than the first, but a sharp frost drove us round
the fire in the early hours of the morning. Immediately after breakfast we returned to our watch- ON THE SNOW-LINE
ing posts of the previous afternoon. The day was
absolutely still and clear, and the view incomparable.
North and south, as far as the eye could reach, lay
the snow-capped peaks of the Rocky Mountains,
softening into a dim haze of white, hundreds of
miles each way. The Rockies here are not of very
great height, but have a wonderful ruggedness of
outline, so that in the clear air they stood out like
fresh-cut cameos against the sky. On the hillside
below us some ancient fire had swept over the
forest. The rain of years had washed the blackened
bark from the dead trees, leaving them gaunt, grey,
and barren like a spectral forest in Dore's illustrations of The Wandering Jew. On the far side of
the valley the slopes were clothed with a dark green
pine forest, above which rose a rugged mountain
with the glimmer of a small lake showing above the
© ©
timber-line. We had not been at our posts more
than an hour when a wolverine—an animal half-
bear, half-fox—came stealing up the mountain and
passed within a few yards of us. It had a most
beautiful skin, but we were afraid to fire, as the
morning air was so still that we feared lest we
should arouse the whole country.
During the afternoon we had explored the
northern part of the mountain, finding many small
lakes and travelling over a most picturesque country.
On the steep slopes the snow was exceedingly hard,
and the constant possibility of a swift glissade and
a*o 144
an  ugly fall  on  to jagged rocks lent a spice of
novelty  to the expedition after the many weary
weeks of marching in the swampy bush-country.
Late that evening Daukhan declared that through
o ©
the glasses he could discern a bear on the opposite
mountain, but it would have taken us a full day of
steady marching to reach the spot he indicated,
and we were bound to remain in the same camp
for that night, as we were expecting the men from
the valley to arrive before nightfall, as had been
On our way home we fell in with many
ptarmigan, whose white plumage indicated the
approach of winter. These we brought back
to camp with much joy, thinking to share this
welcome change of diet with the weary toilers
from the valley. Our little hollow was, however,
empty, and we ate our supper in momentary expectation of their arrival. After the meal we talked
over the morrow's plans, and decided to move
across to the place where Daukhan had seen the
bear in the morning. Daukhan seemed in low spirits
at our failure to find game, so we solemnly presented him with my field-glasses, accompanying the
gift with pompous eulogies taken from the grammar
at the end of the missionary prayer-book. Cree is
a very hard language to read with any fluency, and
we spelt out the long words with much difficulty
and hesitation.    He, however, seemed to grasp our ON THE SNOW-LINE
meaning, and was much delighted with the attention,
making us flattering speeches in return, of which
we understood little or nothing.    He had at times
a most impressive manner, and an easy grace and
fluency  of  speech  which  would  have  become a
Grand Seignior better than a Cree Indian!    Mean-
while the wind had been rising, and now howled
through the pass in a deafening manner, scattering
our little fire as fast as we built it. And so the
night settled down without a sign of either John or
Allah.    B     I j     §
After supper Pollen left the camp and walked
back over the mountain to the ridge up which the
others would have to come in hopes of meeting
them. When he came back he gave me an account
of a sight that I wish I had seen. From the ridge
there is a wonderful view to the south and east over
the range, the mountain slopes one behind the other
looking like the roofs of streets of houses in some
gigantic old-world city. It seemed that to-night,
owing I suppose to some peculiarity of atmospheric
conditions, the gorgeous sunset that was at its
zenith in the west was almost exactly reproduced in
the east, and so there was this extraordinary combination,—the mountain-tops flushed red with the
glow of the departing sun, and from behind them
wide rays of a vivid pink radiating from the east
over the sky, in exact though fainter counterpart to
the scenic splendour of the west.    Daukhan after-
jimma 146
wards told us that he had seen the same phenomenon
on two previous occasions. From our camp in the
hollow it was invisible.
September _\th.—The night had been freezing
cold, so that before it was light we had huddled
round the fire with two pairs of moccasins on our
feet in the attempt to keep warm. The wind was
still blowing a gale, and roaring as loudly as on the
previous evening. As no one came by ten o'clock,
we decided to move, which we accordingly did,
leaving sharpened sticks stuck in the ground to
indicate our direction. Having crossed the pass,
we went through the forest of gaunt trees, steering
for the place where Daukhan had seen the bear.
What could have happened to John and Allah we ON THE SNOW-LINE
could not imagine; for although John's ear might
have kept him in the sheltered valley, Allah's
willingness to return had been expressed in so many
apparently heart-felt chucks that it seemed almost
impossible that he could have changed his mind at
the last moment and left us in the lurch. We had
by this time eaten all our bread, but it seemed that
the store of marmots was unending, and as these
convenient animals continued to indicate their
presence by whistling, shortness of food appeared
to be out of the question. On the other hand, had
Allah not relished the idea of the long climb, it
would have been far better if he had said so, as by
waiting for him we had lost much valuable time,
which might have been spent in travelling towards
the mountain upon which we had proof that there
were bear. We had not gone far into the woods on
the rising ground beyond the valley when we espied
two figures moving towards us on the slope we had
just left. We accordingly made a fire and waited
for them to come up. They turned out to be John
[ and Ramsey. It appeared that John had been
willing to make the ascent on the previous day as
agreed, but that Allah had positively refused, and
j so much time had been wasted in vain expostulation
[that no one had come to us at all. Ramsey had,
however, volunteered to accompany John, and they
had accordingly started in the morning, and by
[marching the entire day had managed to overtake 148
us. They were both utterly worn-out with their
exertions. They had brought bread and other
eatables with them; they also brought news of a
party of Siccanee or Chinook Indians who had
camped near us.
As it was now well on in the afternoon, we moved
forward a little way
into the timber and
there camped. It
was the wildest spot
I   have ever  seen
forest. The ground
was very swampy,
and   covered  with
a   deep   carpet   of
moss.     The  trees
bent one against the
other in melancholy
decay, covered with
long grey lichen and
huge fungus. Over-
© o
head   the    matted
branches seemed to
rot upon the trunks, grey with mould.    Huge dead
logs strewed the ground, crumbling at the touch of
a foot.    The place was most melancholy and weird,
but a warm fire and a light meal of ptarmigan and
bread cheered us and  we went to bed in high
spirits, while a couple of martens jumped about
in the boughs overhead, evidently consumed with
curiosity about their unusual visitors.
September $th.—The night had been still, but
cold, so that long before daybreak we turned out of
our blankets and sat round the fire. There was no
meat in the camp, but we breakfasted on bread, and
then set out for the higher ground. Before leaving
the timber we cut some long sticks upon which to
hang the kettle, and then made our way over the
rocky ground towards the lake under the summit.
After a heavy climb through the pine scrub we
emerged upon a little green plateau where we
decided to camp. The lake lay just above us,
overhung by a steep cliff. The formation of the
mountain was similar to that which we had just left,
a long backbone running north and south, with
steep, narrow spurs on the flanks. Our camp lay
between two of these spurs on the eastern slope.
Daukhan said he thought this was the place where
he had seen the bear; so we looked anxiously for
tracks. On the other side of the southern spur
there was a small swamp, and there we found the
i tracks we sought. Five grizzlies had been playing,
and had stamped the ground hard with their huge
sfeet. There were two old ones, one of which (the
ifemale) was a monster, and all the other tracks
were of large size. As the country was very open,
iwe ascended the cliff to watch.    Daukhan said that
_m J5o
the bears had been upon the ground on the previous
evening, so that had we not been delayed we should
without doubt have fallen   in  with   them.     Thus |
again had Allah spoilt our hunt.     The strength of!
the wind on the summit of the mountain was immense.      It was with great difficulty that we were
able to walk against it.    After spending some time !
in fruitlessly surveying the country with the glass,
we returned to camp and lunched off a marmot, shot
at the foot of the cliff near by.
As  we  had  seen   no  more  bear  signs   in the
southerly ridges, we determined to try our luck
towards the north. In many places the bears had
dug great holes in the mountain-side in search of
roots and marmot burrows, proving that they had
been in the neighbourhood for some time. This
led us to hope that they had not moved far, and
every moment we expected to sight them.
On the whole, the party kept together, moving
cautiously as we topped the ridges, and exploring
each piece of ground, as it was opened to our view,
with care. There was a motive in keeping close, as
at any moment we might have lighted on the whole
band, and it would have needed two or three rifles
to have accounted for them all. We were in hopes,
there being a female in the party, that the bears
would charge if we met them, and our keeping
together was primarily for protection; for a grizzly
is capable of travelling very fast, and  if all five
were to take it into their heads to charge at once,
their attack might be sufficiently formidable.
On the shores of the little lake we came across
the trail again. The bears seemed to be travelling,
but in a leisurely manner. This raised our hopes
considerably, and we marched on faster than ever,
passing several ridges and over a good number of
gullies and open patches, where we often saw very
recent traces of the game. At last, coming to the
top of a ridge taller than the rest, and with a far
larger range of view beyond it, we sat down and
again examined the country, but were as unsuccessT
ful as on the previous occasion. And here a fresh
disappointment awaited us. A white curtain of
mist—smoke, John called it—shut off the view of
the northern mountains. Daukhan declared that
undoubtedly a heavy snowstorm was coming up,
and suggested that, as the bears seemed to have
©& '
worked towards a piece of forest to the north,
we should hurry back to camp, and, if we could,
move off so that we might make a fresh camp on
their trail that night. So we beat a hasty retreat.
But the storm was on us as soon as we had reached
our bivouac. Moving was out of the question; so
for about an hour we worked collecting pine-roots
for fuel, and making an extemporary shelter of bare
branches. And then the snow began to fall. The
wind came in strong gusts, driving the snow and
sleet towards us.    We had, as I have before said, 152
only one blanket apiece, a very insufficient covering
in such weather;  and these were soon wringing
wet.    As the storm appeared to be rising, we rolled
ourselves in our coverings, and, cowering round the
fire, determined to make the best of what promised
to be a far from comfortable night.
September 6th.—Towards morning the sleet fell
less violently, but the wind was still strong.    We
were of course extremely wet, and chilled through,
so that it was a great relief when the light came and
enabled us to increase our circulation by moving
about the camp.    Away from the fire the air was
very cold, so that we rushed back to the fire as soon
as we had collected a sufficient quantity of wood.
We had eaten the last of the bread on the previous
night, and so had to breakfast on ' straight' marmot.
The greasiness of these animals becomes painfully
apparent when eaten without vegetable food, and
even to the hungriest man there is something dis-
© ©
gusting about the sight of one's breakfast spatchcocked on pine sticks and bathed in yellow melted
fat. After breakfast, it was some hours before it
was clear enough to see to hunt, and then Daukhan
proposed that he should return to the spot which
we had left so hurriedly on the coming of the storm,
and take another survey of the country. Meanwhile, we were to dry out the blankets and try to
get some marmots for lunch, as by this time we
were completely out of food.    During the morning EBflf^^W&ltP&W
Pollen shot a marmot, but sprained his ankle, falling
from a steep rock, and so for that afternoon was
incapacitated from hunting.    I made another trip
with Daukhan in a north-westerly direction, but saw
no signs for some time.    The storm had dislodged
© ©
some large rocks upon the cliff above camp, and
avalanches fell at intervals during the day with a
great noise. We were in very low spirits in consequence of our failure to find the bear; but it is
probable that they had known of the approach of
the storm, and had taken refuge in the timber; and,
indeed, from the signs we found before evening,
we made certain that they had moved in a body
to the forest we yesterday suspected was their
destination. So we determined to move after them
next day.
September fth.—Another night of snow and sleet
had passed, leaving us wet, cold, and exhausted
from want of sleep. The storm had driven the
marmots into their holes, and we found to our dismay that our breakfast no longer whistled to us
upon the mountain-side. This is one of the disadvantages of a hand-to-mouth existence. For
some  time  we  discussed  our position,   uncertain
whether to remain and wait for a change in the
weather, which might mean some days almost
without food; or to make up our packs and start
straight for the Pine River valley. Daukhan said
that he  thought  the winter  had come upon the 154
mountains, and that he was sure the storm would
last a week ; and this decided us to take the latter
course. We knew that we had a long march before
us, so we looked eagerly about us for something
edible. We had thrown the skins of the animals
we had eaten in a heap outside camp, and a careful
inspection revealed the fact that there remained a
light coating of gristle upon the under surface. It
was of a light bluish colour, and is usually scraped
off a hide and thrown away prior to curing. We
set to work and scraped this off, procuring from
each skin a small wrinkled morsel rather larger
than a half-crown. This we roasted before the fire
and solemnly chewed. It was of course impossible to swallow, or even to sever with the teeth,
but the process closely resembled eating, with the
added advantage that so small a piece might be
chewed for any length of time, and still afford us
the same satisfaction. Having made some tea we
started for the valley. A fine rain was falling,
drenching us to the skin, and the morning was cold
and cheerless. By the time we reached the timber-
line the cold had become intolerable, so we halted
and made a fire. Unhappily the tree under which
we had taken shelter proved to be very inflammable,
and was soon well alight. In a moment every
branch was in a blaze, and a column of fire shot up
more than a hundred feet high. Fortunately this
condition of things did  not last long, as the fire ON THE SNOW-LINE
burnt itself out quickly. We had lost our shelter,
and were much annoyed by the hot ashes which
constantly fell upon us; but we thought ourselves
extremely lucky in that we had not started a forest
fire by our carelessness.
Daukhan now became very talkative, reverting to
his questions about England, and the world in general. He was particularly anxious to know if the
big Squaw Chief (the Queen) owned the whole
earth as her personal property, and seemed grievously disappointed that her property was so limited,
and that there were other Oukimows as great as
she. He then questioned us about the appearance
of London, and England in general, being anxious
to understand exactly what animals were found
there, and what was the method of their capture.
We described a day's pheasant-shooting to him,
which delighted him beyond measure; and going
on to fox-hunting, said that England was cut up
into corrals, like the one at Dunvegan, and that
across these men rode at a gallop, jumping the
obstacles. He said he considered this extremely
dangerous. This conversation had, of course, been
carried on through John, who was an excellent
interpreter, though I sometimes imagined that more
was said in the Cree than ever came to our ears.
When we were sufficiently warmed we continued
the descent. By the marks on the trees I judged
that the snow lay to the depth of about thirty feet
m ______
BB 156
in the woods during the winter.    Lower down the
mountain we came to a tract of burnt timber, and
there we again made a fire, and lunched off tea and
a few berries. The rain still continued to fall,
making the dead logs slippery as glass. Pollen's
ankle had not recovered from the injury of the
previous day, being still extremely weak. In one
particularly bad place it gave way, and he had a
nasty fall and sprained his leg most seriously.
However, after a rest, he was able to go on, leaning upon a stick, having taken off his pack.
The fog lay thick over the country, but from
time to time lifted for a few moments. Upon one
such occasion we distinctly made out the shape of
a bear moving upon the ridge parallel to the one
we were on; but before we had time even to take
aim the fog dropped, shutting out everything. The
lower slopes of the mountain were thickly covered
with small trees and underbrush. This made our
progress very slow, as our packs caught constantly
in the undergrowth. But slowly as we went,
Pollen's leg forced him to move slower still, and
at last he insisted that he could perfectly follow
alone, and that it would be better for us to push
on, so as to get into camp as soon as possible, and
that once there we could send back a horse for him.
We were very reluctant to leave him in his crippled
condition, but he was so confident that he could
find and follow our trail, and that we could do no ON THE SNOW-LINE
good by staying with him, that at last we pushed
on ahead, leaving him to follow our track at a more
leisurely pace. On reaching the valley we were
to make a fire, and then to go on to camp, sending
back Allah with a horse to bring him in.
After a time we came to the end of a spur, but
found to our disappointment that the land fell off
abruptly into a sort of mud-slide, sloping to the edge
of a high cliff. This forced us to work up the hill
again through the sodden bush; and it was some
time before we reached the valley and set to work
to build our fire.
Suddenly we were startled by the noise of rolling
stones.    Huge boulders were bounding down the
mud-slide above us, and leaping over the edge of the
cliff, falling with deafening crashes on the rocks
hundreds of feet below.     Through  the mist we
could dimly discern Pollen's figure clinging to a
few frail branches, and swinging, as it seemed to
us, over the abyss. Every minute we expected
the branches to give way, and to see him drop to
a certain death. It was a stirring moment, and
one I shall not easily forget. Soon the noise of
the falling rocks diminished; the branches still remained firm, and it was with infinite relief that we
saw him crawl cautiously to a place of vantage, and
finally haul himself over the edge of the precipice.
It appears that he had followed our tracks through
the undergrowth until we came to the end of the 158
spur.     His ankle was causing him great pain, so
that though with care he could go down-hill, it was
almost impossible for him to ascend.
The reason for our detour was obvious, so instead
of following us in our ascent, Pollen tried to make
a short cut along the face of the mountain above
•the slide, thus escaping the necessity of a painful
climb up-hill.     He had not gone far through the
bush, however,  before  he found that a narrower
slide ran into the big one from above, and that he.
was cut off.    There was, therefore, nothing for it
now but to work up the hill till he came to firm
ground again.
A little way up, however, he saw projecting from
the centre of the narrow slide a great piece of stone,
so large that he made certain it was the bed lock of
the mountain. To reach this only involved a jump
of seven or eight feet, and from the rock to the
other side was no further. So, balancing himself on
his stick, he jumped, alighting with both feet on the
rock. To his horror the whole thing began slowly
to move down. At first his only chance lay in
keeping his balance, and in a second or two he saw
that the rock, moving faster and faster, would soon
be clear of the bushes, and crashing down the slide
to the precipice.
So, as a last desperate chance, he leapt, catching
at the bushes at the other side, and by the luckiest
good fortune got hold of the end twigs of a stout
alder, and swung headlong on to the slide with this
frail support in his hand.
It was at this moment that we saw him dangling
©    ©
over the edge, whilst the rocks leaped down the
slide from the cliff in a roaring torrent, falling a clear
o " ©
three hundred feet into the creek bed below.
An experience of this kind may be interesting
enough to remember, but I do not think that many
people who have witnessed it have any keen desire
to attempt gymnastic feats again under the same
conditions; for it is by no means a pleasant thing
to think that one's life depends upon the strength
of a mountain alder.
We left Pollen, a good deal shaken by his adven-
ture, by the fire, and set off up the valley towards i6o
camp. We had not eaten since the previous day.
The rain was still falling, and our sodden packs
were as heavy as lead. The way seemed interminably long; I could have sworn it was fifty
miles, and yet I found afterwards that a tenth of
that exaggerated measurement was more like the
truth.    A hopeless gloom settled down upon us as
we stumbled along
under our burdens
over the rough
country. It seemed
that we should never
reach the camp, but
were doomed to
march eternally forward through the
drizzle and over the
swamp. The sight
of one of our horses
feeding came to us
with all the shock of
a revelation ; and the
appearance of smoke between the trees seemed like
a glimpse of heaven. A horse was sent back with
Allah, who brought Pollen in, and food was prepared
while we sat and gloated over the process, and so
as the darkness came on we broke our fast and
turned into our blankets under the comfortable
shelter, feeling that no luxury could compare with
a dry bed and an untroubled repose.
A lazy consciousness of ease and well-being, of
infinite leisure and freedom from trouble, were my
first sensations on awakening. Yesterday's storm
continued without any sign of abatement; so there
was nothing of the usual hurry of an early start—
nothing of the dread of a long weary march, and
the day lay before us full of hope and interest. It
is true we had failed in our expedition : our chances
of bear were practically gone, and this at another
time would have depressed us ; but on the other
hand the failure had been an honest one, had come
about through no fault of ours, but rather, as it were,
through the hand of a pursuing fate, or, as Daukhan
said, ' because some one on the mountain was working medicine against us.'
A few days of fast marching would undoubtedly bring us to Fort McLeod, when we should
have accomplished our second aspiration, and have
walked across the Rockies through an almost unknown pass. A steady cold rain was falling,
driving us under the shelter whilst we ate our late
BBS 162
breakfast. There was much to be discussed, and
each half of the expedition had its own tales to tell.
When Ramsey joined us upon the mountain he
had told us of the Chinook Indians who had
camped near our outfit. It seemed that they had
remained in the same place waiting for our return.
Some small exchange of goods had taken place, so
that we found that our breakfast, bear-meat, by the
way, had been bought
from them for a shirt.
They had kept our
party in meat for
some days, always
getting something in
exchange; they had
also been very
anxious to sell furs,
to    obtain
tobacco, soap, and
tea, but had been told that the big Oukimows
were up the mountain, and that, as these things
belonged to them, no bartering could be done
until their return.
Before we had finished our meal they came into
camp and saluted us. They were, with one exception, all young men. The Siccanee Indians—that
is, those who live on the western slope of the
mountains—are as a rule better educated"and more
civilised than the more easterly natives.    This at SHORT COMMONS
least is true of the district in which we then were.
Farther north the inhabitants of the western slope
are said to be much the same as their neighbours,
but there is no doubt that the Stewart's Lake, or
Carrier Indians, have reached a far higher level
than the Beavers, or even the Crees.
Our visitors spoke English fluently, not with any
grammatical accuracy, which was hardly to be expected, but in a sort of pigeon dialect very droll to
listen to.    They sat down under
the  shelter with us,  and  soon
became   very  much   at   home,
laughing  immoderately  at   the        *
slightest provocation; as one of
them truly remarked, ' Damned
Indian     laugh    all    de    time.'
Among  the  Crees,  as   I   have j
already   mentioned,   it   is   not
considered  good  form  to   ask
about the results of a hunt.   The
hunter is supposed either to have killed or to wish
to drop the subject.    But no false modesty of this
kind hindered our friends'  utterance.     We were
asked a string  of questions  about our luck, and
when we confessed to failure, were sweetly smiled
upon, and   told  of their success with a brutality
usually found only in the more cultured races.
They had come from Fort McLeod across the
mountains, packing their blankets on their backs;
____ 164
or rather, to be strictly accurate, on the backs of
their wives. On the way they had killed two
black bear, a few beaver, and many marmots, which
they had dried.     We asked
them about  our  journey to
McLeod,  but   could   get  no
information   of    any   value.
They had come by the mountains,  and   had   never   been
through the pass, nor had they
heard  of Indians  doing   so.
This did not trouble us much,
as we knew that  Mr.  Dawson had crossed the
divide by that route, and were confident that we
could do the same.    On being questioned about
       _    time    they    gave    curiously
varied answers.   Charley said
that we might reach the fort
in fifteen sleeps ; he said that
the country was bad until the
summit lake was reached, but
that we could easily get there
in four or five days.    After
that he thought the country
was open, and that we should
find an  Indian pitching-trail,
which would allow us to make what pace we liked
without difficulty.     His brother Symon said ten
sleeps; whilst the old man, their father, began by
saying a month of long marches, but came down to
eight sleeps on being questioned. We already saw
that we should not reach Quesnelle by the time on which we
had calculated, so that these
various reports set us speculating, and with the natural
hopefulness bred of a full diet,
we chose to believe that we
were already well within reach
of civilisation. The Chinooks
seemed greatly amused by our
camp,  and we pleased them
much by showing them our revolvers, express rifles,
and whatever came to hand which was new or
strange. A large pocket-knife, filled with a multiplicity of tools, especially
excited their wonder ; but not
their envy, for, as Charles
very truly said, it was 'too
much plenty.' We had, however, to keep a sharp lookout on our belongings, as the
tribe has a reputation for a
certain deftness of touch which
might be called stealing by
one   not  interested  in  their
spiritual welfare.   I am bound to say that they made
no secret of this failing, for they had not been with
us half an hour before Charley informed us, with an
expression of deep regret, that our tobacco-case was
too heavy to steal.
• Our stock of flour was becoming painfully low,
so that we thought it advisable again to cut down
the allowance of bread, and to serve out a quarter
of a cake1 to each per meal. The allowance was
short, but we had to make the best of it, and to live
as far as possible on the half-dried marmots which
we bought from the Indians. The meat was very
high—in fact, almost putrid ; but we had no choice,
and necessity at times almost made it palatable.
Among other books in the camp there was Thomas
Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd. We had
little or nothing to do, and I spent hours in reading
it. In the book are many references to the food of
the English labourer. Men sit upon gates and eat
ham and bread, or feast in barns upon cheese and
cider. I had to put the book back into the packs
and try to forget its existence. The contrast to
our rotten marmot was too tantalising, and it was
not until I was once more surrounded with the
necessaries of life that I finished the interesting
When a man is working on short commons he
becomes hungry, but he has not quite the same longing for a full meal that comes to him when idle. The
Chinooks waxed eloquent upon the food we should
1 About three ounces. SHORT COMMONS
get at McLeod. 'Yes,' they would say, 'yes, all
kinds of muck-a-muck at McLeod; jam, cake,
biscuits—yes, ev'ything—you see by-'n-by; plenty
plenty muck-a-muck, you see.' Charley seemed to
have a great love for Quesnelle and the surrounding
district; this he explained to us. ' Yes, good
country Quesnelle—much whisky, good.' We asked
him how he got it, knowing how stringent the laws
O ' © ©
were against giving anything to Indians. ' Me
gittum,' he would answer, ' Sywash1
gittum all the time—me steal 'em—
man at Quesnelle dam fool—good
country.' We did some trading with
them, obtaining some very fair beaver-
skins in exchange for shirts, or orders
drawn upon the Hudson's Bay Company.
All   Indians   are   great   gamblers.
o ©
We had heard the boats' crews beating the tom-tom and shouting round
o o
their fire at the Athabaska Landing, but had never
until now had a chance to watch their game.
The process is simple. They squat in two lines
opposite each other, each man facing his adversary. The players have two sticks of equal length,
one of which has a small notch in the middle.
Taking the sticks in the palms of their hands, they
wave them about, changing them with wonderful
1 Indian, from the French sauvage. 168
quickness from hand to hand in the attempt to
deceive the opposite line. These watch the proceedings as carefully as possible, waving their open
palms. Suddenly they clap their hands and point
with   one  finger  in  the  direction  in which they
imagine     the
marked stick
to be. Hands
are promptly
opened, and,
should the
guess prove to
be correct, the
loser takes a
small peg out
of the ground
and passes it
over to the
lucky guesser,
the exact value
of these counters having, of
course, been
arranged before the game begins. Then the notched
sticks are passed over, and so the game goes on.
Throughout the whole performance the men repeat
the same wordless chatter, which is almost a chant,
whilst time is marked upon a tom-tom or the top of
a kettle.    Neither party is ever still for a moment,
but both shout and wave their arms, and keep time
to the music by jerking their bodies up and down.
When any number of Indians join in this game the
din may be heard for miles. It appears that they
gambled long before the advent of the whites, and
certainly to this day men will lose everything, to
the very clothes on their backs, in a single game.
On the evening of the third day after our return
from the mountains the rain stopped, and we determined to move on the following day. The only
drawback to moving was Pollen's sprained leg,
which threatened at first to be a serious affair.
But three days' rest had done a good deal, and the
time had given him considerable skill in bandaging
it. When the time came to move, he found he
was perfectly able to do his share of the packing,
though compelled to ride on the march. The
horses gave us much trouble, being very fresh after
their long rest, so that it was late before we were
ready to start. We said good-bye to the Chinooks,
wishing them a successful hunt, and receiving many
expressions of goodwill in return.
The country was fairly open, and we had gone
quite a long distance, when, five hours after leaving
camp, we came to a dense forest of small pines.
This gave us much work, as it was quite impossible
to get the horses through without chopping a path.
About dark we came to a small open space, and
there camped.    After supper we sat round the fire
tta*»<H' vL 170
and discussed the food question.   We had bought
all the marmots we could get from the Chinooks.
The  fat  on  the meat was quite putrid,  but  we
thought it best to eat whatever part of the  lean
we could find in a better condition.    Besides the
marmots, we had only a very little bacon, a few
pounds of grease, and a little flour left.    We had
expected to find a country abounding in game.    A
deer or two would have
gone a long way to make
our provisions last.    At
least, we had expected
to get a bear.   But none
of these things had
happened. Two small
black bear, a few beaver,
and one or two grouse,
were all we had got
during the whole trip.
We talked a good deal, but came to no conclusion. All we could do was to hope that we
might have a little luck, and fall in with some
animal soon. On the following day we marched
steadily forward up the valley; the weather was
cold and dull, and the country very bad indeed.
The bush was so thick that, working our hardest,
we could never make more than a mile and a half
an hour. Rotten logs strewed the ground, covered
with  thick moss.     Here and  there  we  came  to
HORSES IN DOWN TIMBER mtiiaiaaifcLmiin 172
large patches of ' devil's clubs' (Fatsia horrida).
The plant grew to the height of about two feet;
the leaves are very large, and have a mildly innocent
appearance. But the stalk under the big leaves is
covered with long and intensely sharp thorns,
which pierce the flesh and break off, causing a
painful sore.
The order of our march was as follows:—Daukhan
walked first, selecting the best road, and clearing
the more impenetrable thickets with
a hatchet or hunting-
knife. Next came
John, with an axe,
with which he
chopped off the
thicker branches,
and generally did
the heavy work,
under the guidance
of Daukhan. Then followed Allah, mooning along
with his toes turned in, without an axe and without
having any share in the work ; in fact, simply taking
gentle and beneficial exercise at our expense. It
must be remembered that we had brought him with
us for two reasons—firstly* because we wanted an
_/ *
axe-man; and secondly, because he said he knew
the route to McLeod through the pass. I think he
had been there, but, as the event proved, any babe
would have been more useful. Neither promises
of gifts nor threats of punishment could induce him
to work. He would help to bring in the horses in
the morning, but then considered that he had done
sufficient, and would take no part in the packing,
but for decency's sake would move an empty flour-
sack, or lounge about with a piece of rope in his
hand. In fact, he was an extra mouth to feed, but
never an extra hand to help. So we waited and
watched for the time when he might be of use to
us, or when we could find something which would
move him. If a man is not stirred by promises of
presents there is nothing to be done. It is almost
impossible to find a punishment for small offences
in camp.
The axe-men generally kept about fifty yards
ahead of the rest of the party, so as to allow them
a little time to look for firm ground. As a rule I
led the foremost horse, a skewbald named John.
It was troublesome work, as the old brute was
constantly jumping over fallen trees, and closely
missing me in alighting. He also had a habit of
planting his legs firmly in the mud and refusing to
budge, which was very tiring. Behind John came
four horses, followed by Round; then four more
horses and the Doctor ; finally Pollen, who was
obliged to ride on account of the injury to his
ankle, brought up the rear with Ramsey and the
remaining animals. 174
The pace, as I have said, was very slow, and
very often the whole line would be brought to a
halt whilst the axe-man cleared a path. In fact,
these halts were rather the rule than the exception.
At first we had shouted to the men behind to stop
driving the horses; but had found that this method
was altogether too noisy, and was calculated to drive
game out of the country. We therefore arranged
a code of signals by whistling, and thus commands
and pieces of information could be passed along the
line. But even after this decision human nature
could not be suppressed, and a refractory horse
would call forth loud shouts and somewhat unholy
abuse. The plunging of the animals amongst the
rotten logs sometimes had the effect of loosening
o ©
the pack-ropes, and repacking caused occasional
delays. But I am bound to say that, although I
have travelled many hundreds of miles with a pack-
train, I have never seen packs stay on better than
ours, and considering the ground we travelled over,
the trees, thick brush, and generally wet ropes, our
packers deserve a good deal of credit.
The woods were full of many kinds of berries,
some nasty, but edible, but many pronounced to be
poisonous by Daukhan. Ramsey, who was always a
man of an adventurous disposition, and with a keen
desire for practical knowledge, made some experiments with these, with the result that by the time
we came  to  our second camping-ground he was SHORT COMMONS
extremely ill. A sick man was a source of delight
to the Doctor. He had a great love for the healing
art; in fact, I might say without any ill-nature
that there was not nearly enough illness in the
party to please him.
There was no fresh meat in camp, but Daukhan
said that, as there were still some hours of daylight left, he would explore the next reach of the
river, and try and find a beaver-dam. He was
away about two hours, and returned with a fine
beaver. The animal was very fat, and in good
condition, so we had quite a feast, and went to bed
in high spirits. It is wonderful how a good meal
restores the temper of a camp.
The march the next day was as bad as before.
The valley was narrowing up, so that we were
obliged to cross the river waist-deep many times;
the water was very cold, and the wet rocks slippery
as glass. In the afternoon Daukhan went on ahead
to hunt, but killed nothing; still we had been careful  of the beaver,   so that we managed to get a
' © ©
We were somewhat uncertain of our position,
and so looked anxiously for some landmark which
was indicated on the map. There was a small
tributary coming in from the north, and dignified
by the name of North Forks of the Pine River.
We did not know whether we had already passed
it or not.    This we came to on the next day, the 176
13th of September.   As it was Pollen's birthday, we
celebrated the occasion by making a little cake,
and cooking a few handfuls of the dried fruit.    No
one can have any idea of the pleasure this gave us.
To begin with, it was some time in preparing.    We
took good  care  to  make it  last a  long time in
© ©
eating, and afterwards we gravely discussed it over
our pipes.   Daukhan had again made an unsuccessful hunt, and we decided  that  the  moment  our
food gave out we would kill one of the horses.
This had been talked of for some days ; in fact, the
unsuspecting animal had already been fixed upon
in the person of a horse  named   Duke, a small
beast,   and the most obstinate in the pack-train.
Some of the party had proposed to kill him at an
earlier date, but we thought that it would be time
enough when necessity drove us to it.    At breakfast the next day we ate the last of the bacon, one
slice being served out to each man, with a small
piece of bread.    The country was similar to that
through which we had been travelling for the last
three or four days; but we noticed that the river
was becoming much smaller.     At lunch-time we
halted, and made a camp, where we lay all night,
having sent out  Daukhan to hunt beaver whilst
Allah and John went up in the opposite direction.
Towards dark John came back in triumph with a
grouse, and Daukhan with a young beaver, so that
we had a light supper. SHORT COMMONS
All this time Pollen had been obliged to ride, as
he was still very lame. Riding through such dense
bush was most unpleasant, as one's face gets torn
with brambles, and it is almost impossible to duck
quickly enough to avoid the branches. But although he was unable to march he still continued
to pack the horses.
On the morning of the 15th we came to a more open
country. Here and there upon the trees we found
the blazings of Mr. Dawson's party. There was,
however, no trail. The map of the district marks a
beautiful trail crossing this country; but when one
remembers that it is fourteen years since any one
had been through it, it seems wonderful that any
mark of their passing remains. We marched
pretty well up till midday, when we lunched. A
grouse had been killed during the morning, and
with this and the feet, tail, and entrails of the
beaver we managed to get something to eat.
During the afternoon two of our horses became
frightened whilst walking on a steep bank, and
rolled over into the river, wetting some of the
bedding and giving us much trouble, as we had
to cut the pack-rope and haul them out. As the
blankets were very wet we decided to camp early.
There was little or nothing to eat, so we made up
our minds to  kill   the  doomed  horse.    The  un-
fortunate Duke was led out and tied up to a tree.
Then we gathered round, each trying to shirk the
unpleasant duty of shooting an animal which, with
all his faults, we  had grown  to look upon as a
friend.    The whole business had the dismal air of
an execution, and the fact that the first shot did not
kill the poor brute did not make it any pleasanter.
Somehow  one  does  not  associate   a  horse  with
butcher's meat, and it seems a sort of treachery to
kill  so   faithful  a  servant for food.    Once  dead,
however, it did not take long to skin and cut him
up, and it was with a sigh of relief that we saw his
identity lost in joints and ribs.
That night we made broth, as we thought the
meat would be tough, and on the following morning
we set to work to dry the meat.    We erected a
stage, and, cutting the flesh into thin slices, hung it
over a slow fire.    A light snow was falling, so we
© ©*
spent the day under the shelter of the tent fly,
speculating upon the distance to the Summit Lake,
and coming to the conclusion that we should, in all
probability, arrive there on the morrow. We ate
a considerable quantity of horse, finding the liver,
heart, and kidneys very good indeed ; in fact, far
beyond our expectations. The process of drying
is a long one, and we were greatly handicapped by
the absence of sunshine, so that it was only half-
finished when we moved off on the morning of
the 16th. i8o
The valley had by this time become very narrow,
and lay between walls of almost perpendicular rock.
High above us was the deep forest, similar to that
through which we had marched for so long. The
extraordinary denseness of these sub-Arctic forests
makes them appear almost impenetrable. In the
river bottom where we were, willows, alder, and
dogwood covered the ground, making it almost
impossible for us to force a passage. The Pine
River had shrunken to a deep, narrow creek, often
blocked   with   fallen  timber,  whilst   much  of  the HUNGER AND COLD
country was submerged by the backwaters caused
by old beaver-dams. Now at last Allah was of use
to us. The canon was becoming very narrow, and
the sides, as I have said, were rocky and precipitous.
It seemed almost as if we were in a cul de sac.
Allah, however, knew better, and directed us
towards the eastern wall of the canon. The cliff
rose before us high  and  rugged,  and it seemed
© ©o        '
impossible for the horses to ascend. Here and
there were ledges of rock, and Allah pointed out
the fact that these joined, so that a sort of zigzag
path led to the summit. He said that when he
went to McLeod he climbed the cliff in this place,
and that he thought it quite possible to take the
horses up. In fact, he asserted that Mr. Dawson's
party must have descended into the valley here.
We had noticed upon their map that they marked a
cliff, and so came to the conclusion that we had
found the right place. For the next hour the
horses struggled and panted on the face of the
rock. We forced them to ascend a little distance, allowed them to halt for breath, and then
urged them on again. Many of them fell more
than once, and two or three packs had to be taken
off and carried up by hand to relieve the less
skilful horses, but at last, weary and exhausted, we
reached the summit without serious accident.
We now thought that we had said a last farewell
to the Pine  River, and were consequently much 182
disappointed when we came across it again at
lunch-time. I should imagine that there must be
a waterfall in the bend of the river which we had
cut off, as certainly the little plateau we were on
was several hundred feet higher than the canon we
had just left. The country around us was more
open, rising into sharp rocky ridges on each side,
whilst the valley was full of grassy meadows alternating with clumps of dogwood and willow. We had
dried horse-meat for
luncheon, and very disgusting it was. I can't recommend horse as a diet. The
hardness of the food hurt the
teeth and inflamed the gums,
causing us some pain. We
found that we could not eat
much at a time, but always
marched with small morsels
in our pockets, which we
chewed whenever we felt hungry. It is remarkable that this meat, when dried, has very little
sustaining power. We would eat as much as we
could manage, and yet become faint from want of
food in a couple of hours.
Soon after lunch John declared that he could
see water through the trees, so we marched on as
quickly as possible,  hoping to come to the lake
GOOD-BYE TO THE PINE L___n ■■iii    i -. ■.     i  ■
before evening. A little later we left the open
country and again entered the dense brush, and
going forward a little way came to a large beaver-
dam, which was the water John had seen. Here at
last we said good-bye to the Pine River. For the
next half-mile the willows were very dense, and we
moved but slowly. Suddenly coming over a little
rise we found ourselves on the shore of the lake.
The bush was thick, and the work of chopping
very heavy, so that the night had already fallen
when we pitched our tents at the far end.
It was a wild spot. Sombre cliffs rose abruptly
from the water on the northern shore. On our
side lay the dense forest, matted and decaying, and
fraught with all the melancholy of the North. The
sky was dull, and cast a sombre hue over the lake.
No scene could have been more cheerless. The
divide we had crossed was the low ridge that lies
between the watershed of the Pine and Parsnip
rivers, both of which ultimately flow into the Peace.
Perhaps a few words on the geography of this
district may not be out of place here. To begin
with the Rocky Mountains, which form the backbone of the North American continent, run north
and south. The Pine River, as may be remembered, is a tributary of the Peace River, which lies
upon the eastern slope. This wide stream runs
into the Great Slave Lake, which empties into the
McKenzie, and so into the Arctic Ocean.    We had 184
therefore been upon what is called the Arctic slope
since we came to the Athabaska Landing.    The
Summit Lake, however, empties towards the west,
where its waters become a part of the Missenchinea,
which in turn is a tributary of the Parsnip River.
Now this stream lies upon the western side of
the Rocky Mountains, and in the ordinary course
of nature should fall into the Pacific Ocean.    But
this is not the case.    The river flows to the north,
getting ever nearer the mountains, till it is joined
by   the  Findlay   River, which  runs  towards  the
south.    Turning sharply to the west, it flows in a
deep gorge right through the heart of the range,
and emerges  upon  the western  slope  under  the
name of Peace River, which, as I have said, empties
into the Arctic.    I do not suppose that there is
another case in the world of a river returning and
flowing through the mountains from which it has
risen. As far as I could learn, there is no pass
or valley to account for this, but simply a deep
canon. It would be an interesting point for
geologists to look into, as it seems hardly likely
that a river would deliberately fight its way through
so enormous a wall of rock. There are many
glaciers still extant in the Northern Rockies, and
these would doubtless have done much to excavate
any chasm or crack formed by the cooling of the
rock. Also the fact that the Peace carries a huge
burden of ice in the spring would help to deepen HUNGER AND COLD
the canon when once the river had found a bed.
Still, the fact remains, and is sufficiently remarkable.
Mr. Warburton Pike, in his excellent book, The
Barren Grounds of Northern Canada, has given a
full description of this place. And certainly he had
very good cause to remember it, for it was there
that he suffered a period of starvation, which, from
the account he gives, must have nearly cost him his
life. I think that what I have stated will be understood upon reference to the map which is given.
From what the Siccanee Indians had told us,
we imagined that our difficulties were now over,
and we might soon expect to find the pitching-trail
of which they spoke. We calculated that it would
take us about half a day to reach the point where
the stream from the lake, called the Attunatche,
joined the Missenchinea. After this we intended
to follow the Missenchinea down to the confluence
of the Parsnip, which we imagined would take us
about four days ; and finally, we allowed one day
in which to march from the Parsnip to Fort McLeod.
This made a total of five days and a half.
Although we knew that we should travel in some
discomfort as regards food, we were much cheered
by the apparent proximity of civilisation, and a
reinforced commissariat. Our meals had become
ivery simple. Upon the shores of the Summit
;Lake we turned our attention to horse-ribs. The
\result was extremely comical.    I do not think that THE LAND OF THE MUSKEG
I ever saw a funnier sight than we presented sitting
round the camp-fire, each gnawing a huge rib, and
holding the ends in our hands.     The regulation
© ©
three cups of tea were always allowed to each man,
after which the meal was at an end. Then we
would smoke our pipes by the light of the fire, and
enjoy the most pleasant hour of the day in camp.
Tobacco is a great comfort after a hard day's work
in the open air, however superfluous a luxury in
civilisation ; and there are few pleasures in life
which come up to an after-dinner smoke in the
woods. Before you the great logs hiss and crackle
cheerfully, casting a ruddy glow upon the trees.
A curtain of darkness shuts off the forest behind
you; around you are men with the same tastes
and interests as yourself. Every day brings much
that is new and of interest, and the little incidents
and jokes of the hour assume an importance hitherto
unknown. The talk veers round from tales of
sport—hunting lies they are called in the West—
to reminiscences of the old country, and again back
to the expectations of the morrow ; and so, as the
night draws on, one by one you retire to your
blankets and sleep the healthy sleep that is bred
of an outdoor life. It is a quaint existence, which
has many humorous sides to set off the periods of
discomfort, I might almost say misery, which are
certain to come to all those who attempt an expedition in the North-West.    The pipe following in HUNGER AND COLD
the evening, after the only peaceful mea of the day,
gathers round it associations of comfort, repletion,
and rest that stood us in good stead when our times
were hard ; and often when the cravings of an empty
belly were making inroads on our spirits, and weakness was generating depression, tobacco, with its
soothing memories, would drive the haunting spirit
for a season away. In the hard schooling of adversity one learnt the truth of the poet's words—
' Thou who, when cares attack,
Bidd'st them avaunt! and black
Care at the horseman's back
Perching, unseatest!'
The morning of the 18th broke cold and cheer-
less, and before we had begun breakfast the snow
was falling fast. Packing the horses in a snowstorm
is most unpleasant. The ropes, hard and ice-covered,
hurt the hands, and being almost too stiff to mould
over the packs, the labour is greatly increased; and
what was ordinarily a two and a half hours' job
lengthened itself by a painful hour. We had gone
but a few rods, when Bishon, an animal of very
strong character, bucked his pack off, and strolled
away into the timber. No sooner had we brought
him to reason, than one by one the horses commenced to roll and ease themselves of their burdens.
There had been very little food for some days, and
the poor brutes were in a miserable condition.   The
cold was intense, and we struggled in the thick
* ©© 188
underbrush in melancholy mood. By lunch-time
we came to the Missenchinea River, a shallow rapid
stream, not more than one hundred feet across.
The water was icy cold, and the rocks slippery to
our moccasined feet, but we managed to reach the
farther shore without wetting our knees. We now
proceeded to follow the river down, marching upon
the left-hand side. I had imagined that the trail
ran by the right bank, but Daukhan would not listen
to any word of change. The underbrush gave us
the usual amount of chopping, so that we had not
made more than a mile and a half by camping-time.
The ground was swampy and low ; but we found
that the valley was too broad to allow us to reach
the higher lands, and, indeed, what we could see
of them was not enticing. We accordingly drew
towards the river, everywhere deep pools and
beaver-dams blocking our way, whilst the ground
was covered with water to the depth of about six
inches, and in places had a thin crust of ice.
Several times we used the dams themselves as
bridges, and the extraordinary way in which these
frail structures bore the weight of the horses testi-
fied to the skill of the builders. At last we found
a small dry patch, and there camped for the night.
September igth.—The bush seemed almost impenetrable, and the long line wound slowly through
the swamps under a cold and cheerless sky. The
meagre diet was telling upon us all, so that the icy HUNGER AND COLD
water chilled  us  to  the  bone,   and our  sopping
moccasins seemed like lumps of lead.    There was
but one thing to cheer us—the idea of the good
trail  ahead.    We were forced to cross the river «VlfHt*
twenty or thirty times in the day.    The backwaters
were frozen solid, and even in the centre of the
stream great lumps of ice hung to the driftwood.
By lunch-time I had lost all feeling in my feet, and
tottered down to the fire in a helpless fashion.    All
the afternoon, still crossing the stream, and often
wading waist-deep, we struggled forward.    Evening
found us on the right bank of the river, crawling at
snail's pace  in  a   muskeg,   the  horses  stumbling
amongst the roots of the trees, and lurching on to
© * © .
their knees in the swampy pools. The old skewbald who led the train seemed to think that he had
had enough of marching, and often he would plant
his feet deep into the mud and refuse to budge.
Towards dark, after much shouting, swearing, and
chopping, we emerged into an open space. It had
seemed from a distance like a meadow of firm
ground; but no sooner had we set foot upon it
than we discovered that it was simply a smooth
muskeg. The bush was for the most part under
water. It was getting dark, so that to go on was
misery, and here at least there was in places a little
feed for the horses ; so we decided to camp in the
open. The horses wallowed in the wet moss, sinking in up to their knees at every step, and the water
gurgled round our ankles and beneath our moccasins.
However, we unpacked, and, having made a fire,
set to upon the horseflesh supper. After the meal
we set up the tent fly, covering the floor with pine HUNGER AND COLD
branches in a vain attempt to keep dry. There
was much discussion as to our position. We found
upon Mr. Dawson's map a small river mark, called
Fall Creek.   During the morning we had remarked
o ©
a waterfall in a tributary of the Missenchinea coming
in from the south. From this we conjectured that
we had already marched a considerable distance.
A little below our camp the river showed deep and
still, and seemed altogether far larger than when we
first joined it. Allah, however, said that we had
still a longer way to go. He pointed out a mountain at a great distance, and said that the ' hard
© *
ground' began there. Our camp was miserably
wet and uncomfortable, and there was every appearance of snow.
September 20th.—Everything we possessed was
dripping after lying all night in the muskeg.    The ,\l!Ht*»'
morning was as usual cold, and the surface of the
moss was crisp with frost, so that packing was an
actual agony. The whole party looked rather
miserable; but we cheered one another with a
formula which had grown to mean much to us : 'It
can't be far to McLeod.' I still retained my post
as leader of the train after the axe-men, and, though
the work was hard, I was extremely glad of it, for
this kind of life does not improve the temper, and
the moral trials of pack-train driving are apt to
exhaust one's fund of forbearance. The horses
were constantly falling, and even the bridges
of branches and bush which the axe-men made
over the worst places did not seem to help them
much. We had moved off at about eight o'clock,
and it was not till one that we halted for lunch.
In looking back we found that we had made
about half a mile as the crow flies. A mile in
ten hours  would   be  considered   a  slow  rate  in HUNGER AND COLD
most places, but we knew that we had made the
best time possible. Lunch was a lugubrious
meal: the food nasty and scant, and no sooner
had we bolted what we could, than we had to be
up and packing again. Till then we had always
roasted our meat. We now discovered that we
could put it to a double use by boiling it. In this
way we added a thin soup to our meat diet. This
we prized as a great delicacy, being scrupulously
careful that each should get his exact portion, neither
more nor less. During the afternoon we were again
much troubled by devil's clubs, so that the blood
oozed out of our knees and shins, causing us much
pain. Towards evening, to our great disappointment, we passed Fall Creek, and then we realised
that we had not travelled so far as we had imagined.-
Soon after this, word was passed to camp at the
first place where we found food for the horses, and
before long we came to a halt.   Pollen seemed very
ill.    He had been obliged to ride on account of his
ankle; and it appeared that Charley, his horse, had
slipped among the roots and fallen, crushing his
foot against a rock.     The Doctor made a rapid
examination, and said that he believed that one of
the bones of the foot was broken, but that he would
not be able to make  certain until  the following
morning, by which time he seemed to think the
inflammation would have gone down. This was
awful.   We had a small flask of spirits in the camp ;
N 194
but, besides this, had practically nothing with which
to revive an invalid.    It seemed a farce to ask a
man who was almost fainting with pain to share the
disgusting fragments of boiled  horse which were
©        ©       ©
being prepared for supper, so we sat and stared
into the fire in silence. The Doctor was a man
with great confidence in his own skill; and as
usual shouted when he was required to show
his knowledge of the healing art.     And so now,
© © i
whilst we all sat in silence, brooding over our
misfortunes, he, with his mouth full of meat,
yelled out long tales of his student-days, and
histories of knife-work amongst the entrails of
what he called \ cadavers.' Listening to these
cheering reminiscences, we rolled ourselves in our
blankets and lay around the fire, feeling too
helpless even to put up the tent. In the morning
Pollen's foot was again examined, and it was found
that no bone was broken, but that it was badly
inflamed and bruised. We proposed to remain in
camp to allow him to rest, as he seemed much
exhausted by a sleepless night and the pain he had
suffered; but he would not hear of it, saying that
it would be many days before he was well again,
and that the great thing was to push forward to the
fort, where we could spend some days in peace.
The country was as bad as ever, always swampy
and choked with fallen trees and underbrush.
Occasionally we came across Mr.  Dawson's blaz- HUNGER AND COLD
ings, but this was no cheering sight to us, for it only
proved, what we had already feared—namely, that
all traces of their trail had long since disappeared,
and that the road which was to lead us quickly out
of the country no longer existed. The hard work,
the wet, and the short commons were telling upon
us all, and very weary and exhausted we looked
when we stopped for luncheon. Suddenly we made
a discovery. We had lighted our fire close to a big
pine-tree marked with one of Mr. Dawson's blazes.
Chancing to examine the tree more closely, we
discovered a second blaze, with these words painted
upon it, 'Survey, 21st July 1879.    G. M. D.'1
It seemed an extraordinary thing that we should
have chanced to rest upon the site of this camp,
but we did not wait to talk of coincidences. The
writing might mean much to us. We knew that
Mr. Dawson had left Fort McLeod on the 17th
July, but had spent a whole day crossing the
Parsnip. The question was, Had he made this
writing in the morning or the evening ? In marching through a country a man uses two camps per
day; he gets up in one and goes to bed in another
—on the same day. Now it might chance that the
blaze had been made in the morning—that is to say,
1 It seems wonderful that written words should remain legible after so
long exposure to the weather, but the explanation is simple. A blaze is
made in a pine-tree, and the writing is painted upon the fresh-cut wood;
then the resinous sap flowing from the tree glazes over the paint and renders
it almost imperishable.
l__.*'i.:~-_ 196
after the third day's march from the fort; or again,
it might have been made in the evening of the same
day—after the fourth march. We looked at it
from every point of view, but, of course, could come
to no conclusion. A whole day of misery hung in
the balance. We were by this time in a sorry
condition.    I was forced through sheer exhaustion
to give up my place in the fore-part of the train, and
took  my turn at driving the pack-horses in  the
better trodden path at the rear.    The ever-ready
Round—the hardest worker amongst the whites—
was compelled to ride. Ramsey walked heavily,
leaning upon a stick, and even the Doctor's voice
was hushed with fatigue. Daukhan's spirits were
at their lowest, and both he and John were hardly HUNGER AND COLD
fit for the labour of chopping the trail. For the
first two days of the horse period, Allah, the
Beaver, had been practically starving. He had
declared that he could not eat horse, saying that
once he made himself very ill upon this meat at an
Indian feast after a long period of famine. Before
long, however, he fell upon it, greedily pushing for
the fattest morsels with unseemly haste. Our stock
of meat was becoming alarmingly low, and as our
meals became more and more meagre, our minds
seemed to get beyond control and to run continually
on food. Cookery became the one topic of conversation. It appeared that no one could speak
without some hint of the dinner-table. Round the
camp-fire in the evenings we would discuss our
favourite dishes in a way which was hardly human,
and certainly was far from decent One would
hanker after steak, another for potatoes; for my
part I had but one vision of happiness in this world
—raspberry jam and bread-and-butter. I would
long to be in a civilised country again, so that
I might go by stealth and purchase pots of preserves,
and then, locking myself in my room, attack them
with a spoon. I cannot imagine why this particular
mania seized me ; I have at times had glimmerings
above jam, as I believe and trust the others had
above steak and potatoes ; but the disgusting fact
Towards evening  we entered a great muskeg. THE LAND OF THE MUSKEG
We had already passed the point where Allah had
said the ' hard ground' commenced ; but as yet we
saw no sign of it. Darkness came on, and we
camped in the swamp between the trees, rolling
ourselves in our blankets on the wet ground, and
spreading the tent over us as we lay, for there was
every appearance of snow, and a light rain was
already falling.
September 22nd.—We awoke feeling weak and
ill.   The valley appeared to be broadening out, and
     the   muskeg   seemed
to cover all the lower
ground; so we were
forced to return towards the mountains,
almost retracing our
steps. John, the half-
breed, complained
much of pains in his body, and seemed to be
suffering from the effects of the damp. Daukhan
was more haggard and worn than we. We had not
gone far when the faithful Pinto became hopelessly
bogged.   The poor old horse struggled and plunged,
OO _7 OO ST © »
but every movement sent him deeper into the mud,
until at last he lost heart, and neither kindness nor
brutality would move him. We were forced to cut
branches and place them under him, but the combined efforts of the whole party did not succeed in
extricating him until he had been a prisoner for
close upon two hours. By the time we halted for
lunch every one was worn-out. Many of us walked
leaning upon two sticks, utterly exhausted. The
repacking of the horses seemed almost impossible,
and the lightest duty a superhuman effort. For
some distance the muskeg continued; dark pines
overhead shut out the   light   of the leaden sun ;
tangled branches caught our feet; deep slushy mud
impeded our weary steps.
Suddenly from the front of the train there came a
cry of ' The hard ground ! the hard ground !' and in
a few moments we emerged from the thick swampy
forest in which we had been travelling for so many
days, into open country and a firm soil. The ground
sloped   gently  away   from   us   in   a  rolling  plain, 200
dotted here and there with clumps of pine-trees.
Light healthy breezes blew across the open space,
cheering and invigorating. But above all—there,
on our right—lay a broad Indian trail skirting the
hillocks and winding through the trees.
© o
Never have I seen such a change. A minute
before we had been poor wrecks hobbling wearily
along, supporting ourselves with sticks. Now in a
moment the crutches were cast aside, and with a
shout of joy we rushed forward, actually dancing
with pleasure. The horses were driven towards
the trail, and we quickened our pace. At first we
seemed ashamed of our folly, but soon throwing
aside all disguise we commenced to run, and with
knocking knees and panting breath pounded down
the trail like children. I think it was in the minds
of all that we might reach the Parsnip River that
night, but no one liked to say so. The thing
seemed too good to be true.
We were in no condition for running, and now
one, now another, would lag behind, when it became
the duty of the whole expedition to shout and
encourage them. About the middle of the afternoon it commenced to rain, and so continued until
dark. Several times we were obliged to halt to fix
the packs, and it was during one of these halts that
we held a council.
According to Mr. Dawson's map the trail we
were on led to the forks of the Missenchinea and HUNGER AND COLD
the Parsnip.    Now Allah declared that it was quite
unnecessary to make so long a detour, and that he
knew of a trail which would take us straight to the
fort.    He said that he was perfectly certain that he
could find the way, and that by following his advice
we could save a whole day.    Daukhan joined Allah
in this, saying that he also had heard of this trail,
and that if it existed at all he could without doubt
find it.
It must be remembered that all this time we had
absolutely depended upon Daukhan for our guidance.
Without him we could not possibly have crossed
the mountains, for a compass is no  guide  in so
difficult  a district—as one might  spend a whole
year in exploring the eastern slope without finding
a pass suitable for horses.     Daukhan himself had
never  crossed  by  the   Pine   Pass before,  but he
had all the information possible from  his friends
at Dunvegan.    In an Indian camp there are only
a few topics of conversation, so that they spend
much   of   their   time   in  describing   places   they
have visited, entering minutely into the details of
the landmarks, and these things mean more to an
Indian than to a white man.    So now, after having
witnessed with astonishment the way in which he
led us through an unknown country, we did not
doubt but that he must be right in this instance,
even though he was telling us to leave our firm trail
and again take to the woods.    The ground was still
fairly open, so that we continued to run even after
leaving the trail; but our pace was not rapid, and,
weak and exhausted, we stumbled on. Darkness
was coming on fast, and still we saw nothing of our
short cut. We stopped the horses and sent Daukhan,
Allah, and John out as scouts, whilst we remained
behind to mind the animals. In this place we
found some frost-bitten blueberries, which we ate
ravenously. They were our first taste of vegetables for many days, and though frozen to a dry
pulp, they seemed wonderfully good. Soon John
and Daukhan returned, saying that they could find
neither a trail nor any water. Shortness of water
was a hardship we had never looked for in that
swampy country. We were already a long way
from the Missenchinea, and we came to the conclusion that we would rather make a ' dry' camp
than retrace one step of our toilsome journey. It
seemed better to continue our march towards the
imaginary trail, and chance, if possible, upon some
creek, or even upon the Parsnip. By this time it was
quite dark, so that we had the utmost difficulty in
driving the horses through the bush. A pack-train
is hard enough to manage by day, but by night,
through a trackless waste, it is wellnigh impossible.
John had gone ahead again, and before long we
came upon him sitting by a small fire. He shouted
to us that we had better camp, and proceeded to
undo one of the packs, from which we concluded HUNGER AND COLD
that all was right. On being asked if he had found
any water he was very mysterious, as was his way,
but soon confessed that he had found nothing. I
think we should have camped had it not been for
Daukhan, who declared that he would push on, even
if he went by himself. Accordingly, we moved on
in the darkness, and luckily we had not far to go,
for we soon found a muskeg. The rain was
still falling fast, and our hands were so numb that
we could hardly undo the ropes. The supper was
prepared, but by this time the party were in too low
a state to care much for their food. Nevertheless,
the wolfish rush which was always made for the
pan in which the portions were laid out was one of
the most disgusting features of this wretched time.
o ©
Drenching wet, and faint with weakness, we huddled
into the tent and tried to rest.
September 23rd.—Torrents of rain were falling
when we awoke, so we decided to remain in camp
for a short time on the chance of a change in the
weather.    The tattered map was again produced,
and again and again we scanned its familiar face, in
© © '
the attempt to find out how far we might be from
the Parsnip. We had that map by heart, and knew
every line and every curve upon it; yet we always
crowded round it as though we imagined that the
© o
position of the fort might have changed in the
Presently the rain lightened, but a heavy fog hid 204
the landscape. Daukhan had now altered his line of
march, and was leading towards the forks of the
Missenchinea and the Parsnip, as though he had
already seen the folly of his plan. The country
was open, but the ground was strewn with small
pine-trees blackened by a forest fire. These
hindered the horses considerably, and our march
was slow. Towards midday the fog lifted, and disclosed the Parsnip about a mile to our left. We
raised a cheer and hurried down the valley at our
best pace. After crossing a small muskeg, we cut
our way through a line of willows and stood upon
the river-bank. The Parsnip was not so big a
stream as I had supposed—not more than five
hundred feet broad. It appeared to be shallow,
but rapid. The Siccanees had told us that we
should be obliged to swim the horses, as the river
was too deep to ford. They said that we should
find a canoe at the end of the trail, in which we
might ferry our goods ; but we had left the trail and
so missed the canoe. Daukhan, however, pointed
out that the river was very low, and said that he
believed that it could be forded. He made the
attempt, and proved that he was right. Accordingly
we unpacked a few of the horses, and riding these,
drove the pack-train across, then, returning,
transported the remainder of our goods, and finally
crossed ourselves. The stream was strong, but did
not rise above the horses' girths, so that we re- HUNGER AND COLD
mained dry. Riding in rapid water is always very
unpleasant, for should a horse make a mistake the
result to the rider is likely to be serious. Arrived
upon the western bank, we made camp. Allah now
told us that he knew of another trail to the fort.
But our faith in him had left us, and we smiled
scornfully when we saw him leave camp to search
for it. In less than an hour he returned, and reported that he had found it. He said it passed
quite close to our camp, but that at first it was poor
and overgrown.
Farther on he believed that it improved, and
that by following it we could without doubt arrive
at McLeod on the following evening.   Fort McLeod
o o
lies at the northern extremity of McLeod's Lake,
at  the  point  where   the  Pack  River leaves  the
lake.    Farther down, the Pack broadens out into a
big pool known as Trout Lake.    Below this again
the river flows into the  Parsnip.    We calculated
that we should be able to reach  Trout Lake by
lunch-time on the following day, and that we could
easily make the fort from there in the afternoon.
All this time Allah solemnly declared that he knew
for a fact that the trail ran the whole distance to
McLeod.    We had practically finished our supply
of food.      Nothing  remained  of the  unfortunate
Duke but a few bones and some lumps of gristle.
Some one suggested that we should kill the dog
©© ©
Boxer.    I think that we had often looked at him THE LAND OF THE MUSKEG
from the point of view of the butcher; in fact, I have
a vivid recollection of hearing the probable colour
of his meat discussed.    But now that it came to the
point we disliked the idea.    To begin  with,   the
poor brute was very mangy ; and again, it seemed
disgusting to  kill him when we were so sure of
©        ©
reaching the fort on the morrow. So we boiled our
bones and gristle, and drank the thin greasy water
which was the result, at the same time being extremely careful to keep our stock for another meal.
At the first glimmerings of light we were up and
about, but our condition was wretched in the
extreme. John and Round were too weak to pack
at all, and the Doctor, Ramsey, and I could do
no more than get the packs made up. So the
getting them on the horses was left to Daukhan
and Pollen, who, though very lame, was much the
strongest of us all, as he had been riding through
all the hard time. But, short-handed as we were,
the packing was got through as quickly as possible,
and we started with high hopes and the vision of
supper at the fort before our eyes—supper with
bread and bacon and coffee! The Indians said
that we should find all these. The idea of Fort
McLeod loomed up before us great and gorgeous
—a haven of rest and a palace of delight.
Meanwhile our work was cut out for us. The
hill was steep, and the trail, as the Beaver had
said, bad.    Before long, however, we reached the HUNGER AND COLD
upland and moved faster. We could not run as
we had done before, for we were far too weak, but
still we made our best pace. At twelve o'clock we
caught sight of Trout Lake gleaming below us,
and, going forward to the shore, rested the horses.
For some time we hunted in vain amongst the
kitchen utensils for something for luncheon, and at
last produced two or three scraps of fat about as
big as a dollar; these we fried and solemnly
divided amongst us. Without tea and tobacco I
don't know how we should have pulled through.
We had not unpacked the horses, as was our usual
custom, for we felt doubtful if we should have the
strength left to repack them if we did so.
And so, after a short halt, we marched on again,
with the lake on our right hand. The country was
very bad, but we still hoped to reach Allah's
'excellent trail.' In this we were, as usual, doomed
to disappointment. The way became worse and
worse, until we came to the borders of a burnt track ;
then we gave up all hope of reaching the fort, and
crawled forward over the charred logs in abject
misery.   .Hour after hour the train moved forward
at a funereal gait; it seemed as if we should never
©     *
reach our destination.   Ahead of us we saw mile after
mile of blackened trees standing gaunt and bare;
thick masses of pea-vine and wild raspberry hid the
earth under our feet.    At last we reached the thick
standing woods.     But even then our case was not
© 208
improved ; fallen timber impeded our passage, so
that often we were obliged to retrace our steps to
circumvent some insurmountable barricade. Each
log seemed like a mountain; we could hardly lift
our tired legs ; our arms hung heavy and useless
from much chopping. Several times we came close
to the Pack River, running deep and still between
the trees. Darkness came on, and still we moved
forward. Daukhan had left us the last time we
neared the river, saying he would try and find the
trail, and John now led the train. The horses had
been saddled since early morning, and the packs
were loosening and required attention. With the
coming of night a madness seemed to seize the
o ©
tired animals, and we wasted the last remnant of
our strength in driving them; the strain became
almost too great, and it seemed that we must give
up in despair. Presently a pack came off, and we
left it lying.
But at last our endurance gave out, and we unsaddled the horses in a little open space. Some one
made a fire, round which we sat in silence. Daukhan
had not returned, so we fired off a rifle to let him
know our whereabouts. Soon he came in, saying
that he had already given up, and had made a fire
for himself, intending to remain where he was, but,
finding us so close at hand, he had come up the hill
to be with us. We unrolled our beds, and then
returned to the fire to see if there was anything HUNGER AND COLD
to eat. Again and again we searched the cook-
box, but found absolutely nothing. Then we sat
down again.
Some one suggested that we should try the
medical stores. The Doctor brought them out, and
we hunted diligently ; in the bottom of a flask we
found a couple of spoonfuls of Jamaica ginger,
which we mixed with strong tea. This seemed to
cheer us up a little, and, to some extent, to stay
the pangs of hunger from which we were suffering.
Once more we looked at the mangy dog, and then
set to work to talk over our position. We knew
that the fort could not be very far away—how far
we did not know. Daukhan thought it might be
just below us on the river, but seemed too exhausted to take much interest in the conversation.
Allah said it was further up the stream. It was
clear that unless we had food we should not have
the strength to pack the horses, and even then we
doubted whether one meal would do us any good.
Two courses lay open to us : either we must kill
one of the animals, or we must leave the camp
behind and set out by ourselves that night arid find
the fort. This latter course seemed best. If we
found the fort all would be well; on the other
hand, if we did not succeed in doing so, we should
be compelled to spend the night without either
shelter or coverings—a trying thing for men in bur
thin and weakened condition.
o 2IO
Pollen now asked Allah if he would be willing to
guide us. He said that he would not, as he had
only one suit of clothes, and as we should be
obliged to cross the river to reach the fort these
would get wet. He said that if he remained for
the night in wet clothes he would undoubtedly be
ill. Pollen told him that if he brought us to the
fort he would immediately purchase a new suit
for him, and after this he said he would come.
Volunteers were now called, and the question put
to all. Daukhan said he could not go any farther
that night; Ramsey and the Doctor said the same ;
John, Round, Pollen, and I resolved to make the
It must be remembered that we had been up,
and either packing or marching, since half-past three
in the morning. We practically had no food but a
little watery soup and tea since the previous day,
and in our condition it may be imagined that
sixteen hours' work had left us absolutely exhausted. But hope is a wonderful reviver, and
the idea of getting in reality to the fort that night
put such spirit into us that I felt as if we could
have gone on almost for ever. So we each wrapped
our shoulders in a piece of blanket, and leaving the
camp-fire started out into the darkness. It was
now about eight o'clock in the evening. Rain
had been falling during the day, but had ceased.
Allah led the way, and we followed in single file. ___
Z 212
Soon our eyes became more accustomed to the
gloom, and falls became less numerous. We were
moving across an open prairie covered with long
grass, which hid the logs, thus impeding our progress. Presently we came to the river—still and
deep. There was not a sound to be heard.
Through the thin places in the shifting clouds we
could see that the moon was up, and once, the light
being a little stronger, we saw, far away upon the
sky-line, a low range of mountains. They might
have been five or fifty miles away. Allah said that
he thought the fort lay close to this range; but as
he had no standard measure of distance, it was
useless to ask him whether they were far off.
Every moment, however, we became more and
more convinced that we should not reach McLeod
that night, and as the certainty of failure grew, our
spirits went down, and we felt how tired we really
were. After a while we entered the thick timber.
There the logs lay piled one above the other to the
height of a man's chest; they were slippery as
glass. Not a breath of wind stirred the leaves. It
was the weirdest scene I have ever looked upon,
and the strange rugged figure of the Beaver Indian
© o© o
now and then standing clear against the sky
did not make it any more commonplace. A fate
seemed to follow Pollen ; he had been walking very
lame, and now he again slipped on one of the wet
logs, and fell, once more injuring his foot.    So we HUNGER AND COLD
halted whilst he bound up his hurt. Suddenly, far
away up the valley we heard the faint tinkle of
a cattle-bell. We listened, holding our breath ; the
woods were as silent as the tomb; then again the
clear note rang out, reviving our hopes. Of course,
the animal might have wandered ten miles from the
homestead, but at least we were on the right track.
Allah climbed up a tree, looking for any signs of
a fire, but saw nothing.
Then for another hour we plodded forward. Suddenly we heard the sound of rushing water. We
had been told that the river was fordable in front of
the fort: was this the ford ? We could see the
water gleaming ahead of us through the trees. As
we approached the gleam grew broader and broader.
It was the lake! We rushed down to the shore.
As we did so, the friendly clouds passed for a
moment from before the moon, and there in the
moonlight, on the opposite side of the river, a
building loomed up big in the darkness. It was
the fort!
We stood in a group on the bank and stared out
across the stream; for fully a minute not a word
was spoken ; then some one said, ' By Jove!' and
we relapsed into silence. After a little while
another suggested that this was McLeod, but
his words carried no conviction. We watched that
building as though we expected to see it melt
away like  a  figure  in  a  dream.     Still   the  fort 214
remained solid, and we observed it, wondering.
Slowly the courage of the truth came to us, and
we realised that whilst we stood, cold, weary,
ragged, and starving on this side, just beyond that
narrow strait was warmth, rest, and plenty. And
yet we did not move, for we saw that the river
was deep, and feared to find that we could not
Few people who have not suffered it know what
it feels like to be hungry, really hungry, within
sight of food. Perhaps it is better that they should
not know, for it is not a pleasant schooling. Sometimes when a crisis comes in our lives we watch
it quietly, as though we had already rehearsed the
complications and seen the issue. Hunger and
exhaustion had brought us low—how low we had
not understood; and now at last, when our work
was done, and the end stood revealed before us,
our minds could not grasp the idea, and we only
muttered little banale phrases as we stared into the
Round was the first to break the spell. We
knew that the name of the Hudson's Bay officer
in charge of the fort was Alexander. Our only
chance of supper lay in attracting his attention ; so
Round shouted, 'Ho, Alexander!' Then we all
shouted. An echo took up the word, and far away
across the lake we heard, ' Alexander! Alexander!'
Then silence.    Not a light showed from the fort. HUNGER AND COLD
Then again  we   shouted,   ' Ho,   Hudson's  Bay!'
The echo answered mysteriously, ' Bay ! Bay !'
For a moment a sickening fear took hold of us
that  Alexander  was  away,  or the  fort deserted.
So we shouted again and again,  and I  fired my
revolver repeatedly.     Then we listened.     There
was a sound of a  creaking door and  a  muffled
' Halloo' reached our ears.    This at least was no
echo.    I fired my revolver into the air once more,
and again we heard the voice,  ' WTho are you ?'
Then Pollen: ' We are English gentlemen, come
across the mountains from Dunvegan, and we are
starving;   could  you  send  a  boat  and  fetch  us
across ?'    For a few moments we waited, and then
a canoe with two men in her came out of the darkness.     Allah rushed down to the shore, but we
could not allow Alexander's first impressions of the
' English gentlemen' to be quite so startling, so we
moved in front of him.    Twenty paces from where
we stood  the canoe  halted, and again we were
questioned.    Then she came to land.    'My name
is  Alexander,' said one of the men,   ' and this is
my brother.'    We introduced ourselves, and asked
him if he would take us across in the canoe.    He
seemed  only half-awake,  and  did not  appear to
understand what we were, or where we had come
from, but I think that he was almost too drowsy to
be surprised at anything.    He landed us upon the
beach, and we walked in silence towards the fort. 2l6
The ground was level, and here and there were
charred logs, the remnants of old camp-fires.
Alexander told us that we had better collect these
and make our fire at once, as there was no other
wood about the place and no room in the house.
We declared that we would do whatever suited him
best, but that what we wanted was food; and we
implored him not to keep us waiting. By this time
we had reached the fort.    It was a small log cabin,
similar to those used by miners
all over Western America, but
more than usually squalid and
out of repair. I am bound to
say that I did not remark this
until after we had eaten. Alexander made a fire in the sleeping-
room, and then had a good look
at us. Certainly our appearance
was strange. We were thin
beyond description, our faces
pinched and hollow, our bodies emaciated and clothed
in rags, long, ill-kempt hair hung almost to our
shoulders, and the bones upon the backs of our hands
stood out sharp as knives. Pollen looked very
ghastly, with a shaggy beard and pinched cheeks. I
found that I was no longer hungry, but had a curious
feeling of extreme emptiness. Whilst Alexander
was gone in search of supper we sat upon the floor
round the fire and talked of the past day; we had
marched for nearly sixteen hours with the pack-train,
and now nearly three more without food, and this
seemed to delight us childishly, so that we said it
over and over again, and boasted about it amongst
ourselves. It must be remembered in our favour
that we had had a very hard time : we had not tasted
food since the thin soup at breakfast; for days we
had not seen vegetables, but had lived entirely
upon so much dried meat as a rigid economy
would permit; and even before we killed the horse
we had worked hard for a long time on very short
commons, living principally on fried bread and occasional beavers. And so perhaps it may not seem
strange that now, when the work was done, we were
not quite so reasonable as we might be. Alexander
now returned heavily laden with ship's biscuits,
canned beef, canned milk, a pot of jam, and some
coffee. We hung over the food and watched the
opening of the cans with delight. How good it
seemed to eat! Beef and biscuits disappeared
rapidly. Then we held off a little, frightened lest
we might weaken ourselves by a too hasty meal; but
we could not stop so soon, it seemed such a waste
to leave good food untouched, so we set to upon the
jam—and what a curious place in which to find
Cross and Blackwell's jam! Alexander produced
some rancid butter; never did anything taste better.
At last we finished and sat down to smoke our pipes
and tell our adventures.   We talked, and Alexander
..(,.«.-i J. _._+_;£~ -«,*.J ^i«*•*«. THE LAND OF THE MUSKEG
listened, lying back upon his blanket on the floor.
Once more we ran over the incidents of the last
two months, and told again how the thought of
McLeod's Fort had cheered us on many weary
marches ; and each time we spoke of it we realised
more and more that we had reached our goal, and
found a place which seemed more precious than
home. Our host was a young man, and a cheerful
one, and soon there was no more talk of the fire
outside on the flat, but we were told to consider
the house our own, and to make ourselves comfortable as best we could. Alexander said that
he had been asleep when we began to shout,
and that, even when he understood that we
were white men who were speaking to him, he
could not realise what had happened. He saw
that we had no boats, and had not come by the
river—the only highway of the country; but it
never struck him that we had come over the
mountains, for he had not been in the district
when Mr. Dawson came through fourteen years
before, and so had only heard faint rumours of the
possibility of a crossing. We sat round the blazing
log-fire till late into the night, feeling too elated to
rest. It was arranged that Alexander should take
some Indians and go up the river to our camp on
the morrow.    He said that he would get the Indians
to pack the horses, and would bring our unfortunate
friends in camp back to the fort by water.    It was HUNGER AND COLD
growing late, so we turned into the warm dry
blankets, and, still trying to talk and smoke, dropped
off to sleep, whilst the firelight danced upon the
beams. But our rest was not unbroken ; every few
minutes John got up and made himself a cup of
coffee, till it seemed impossible that he could hold
more, and we were obliged to remonstrate. At
last, as the first grey light of the morning showed
faint on the window-pane, we fell asleep, utterly
worn-out and exhausted.
On the following morning Alexander went down
to our camp, taking an abundance of provisions
with him for the rest of our company, and I believe
that they fell upon them as voraciously as we had
done upon our arrival at the fort.  At all events they
came in about
midday with the
pack-train, and
then we all set
down to a serious meal. We
cooked bacon
and potatoes,
and ate our fill
in the usual and idiotic way in which half-starved
men always behave. And so it happens that my
recollections of our daily life at McLeod are not very
distinct, but I remember spending some days on my
back upon the grass, surrounded by the rest of the
party, also on their backs, and comparing the details
of my sufferings with those of my companions.
One day an old blind Indian and his wife came
up the lake in a canoe, and crept to us begging for
food, and saying that they were starving. We were
naturally very sympathetic to all who were in this
condition, for we had experienced the trouble ourselves, so we gave them food in abundance. The
wretched old man was evidently very much afraid
of his wife, and feared that she would steal his
portion, so he shielded his plate from her, and constantly fingered the outlines of the meat to see that
none was missing. They were dressed in ragged
marmot robes, and were a miserable-looking couple.
There can be but little comfort in old age amongst
© ©
a savage people, and in so barren a country it is a
wonder that any one attains to it. For once a man's
strength is gone he can no longer hunt, and so
must die like a beast. He may have been the
greatest hunter of his tribe, but when he becomes
weak there is no pity, and he must slowly starve or
depend for his life on chance morsels which the
young men may throw to him. However, the
Company is very charitable, and feeds many of the
aged and infirm who have brought fur to them in
former days. As the old man, Nytsidone, was
blind, his wife had to do the work for both, but in
spite of her care for her husband, quite unlike the
'old Dutch,' she not only 'jawed' and 'made him
smart,' but sometimes emphasised the sting of her
tongue with the help of the canoe paddle. 222
The weather was warm and the fort comfortable, so that after a few days of pain we began
to recover and to think about our future plans.
The expedition was practically over, for we had
crossed the mountains and passed through our
hunting-grounds. It only remained for us now to
march out to the railway as quickly as possible.
But it was evident that neither John, Daukhan,
nor Allah would be able to accompany us, for it was
already late in the year, and they must turn back
towards the Dunvegan district if they wished to
reach home before the coming of winter. Of course
they could not cross the mountains again, for this
would take them far too long; but they might
build a raft and float down the Parsnip and the
Peace. On the eastern side of the mountains the
Peace enters a canon which is absolutely impassable
in boats, and so they would be forced to make a
twelve-mile portage and construct another raft on
the river below. We had hoped that they would
be able to march some part of the journey towards
civilisation with us, and then return to the river,
but we now saw that this was impossible, and
that we must travel without them. Even as it
was, we doubted if they would get home before the
ice began to run on the Peace. We could only
pay them their due, and get provisions for their
long journey. In addition to a full supply of
food, we presented  John   and   Daukhan   with a nBBnHBBWnWBBSVEVHV^BV-SWWBVSSQmVSW
&_PWF*nvm_w__1I.*      i^^^i^BiBBnSBffli^ffi Iffli^K
couple of   horses apiece  in recognition of  their
services.    Allah had already received his horse in
payment,   and  they  would   be   obliged   to  build
their raft of great  size to accommodate the five 224
animals. Daukhan made us many speeches, and
thanked us in his most courtly manner, saying that
as long as he lived he would never part with the
horses which we had given him, but that he hoped
to live to see their children and children's children
grow up under his care. For my part, I thought
that the thanks should have been as much on our
side, for nothing could ever repay the untiring
labours and wonderful sagacity which had brought
us to the end of our journey, and through so intricate a maze of swamps and mountains. And
then they went, and we were very sorry to see
the last of them, for more faithful men could
not be found than John Knot and Daukhan Tus-
torwits. Allah, the Beaver, who went with them,
was evidently no judge of horse-flesh, for he chose,
for himself the worst and weakest horse in the
train, saying that he was ' tall and good-looking.'
When they were all gone we felt that the strongest
link with our wild life of uncertainty and adventure had already been broken, and that we must
at once push forward and complete our journey.
Our first move would be to the Hudson's Bay
fort at Stewart's Lake, about a hundred miles
away. From there we thought we could get
canoes and go down the Stewart, Nechacoo, and
Frazer rivers to Quesnelle, from which place we
meant to travel by coach on the Cariboo road to
Ashcroft.    We had originally intended to go up mwil' '.mEl'H'IJ1 __"_ ___[ __^'___!___ _____[
the Crocked River to the Frazer, but this would
entail a long portage, and we heard that the river
was very low, so that a man who had travelled by
this route some time before had been obliged to
construct dams in order to float his boat at all, and
so had taken some months over a few miles. There
was then nothing for it but to go to Stewart's
Lake instead of taking the shorter route, and from
there must travel some
250 miles by water and a
like distance by road before reaching the railway.
Alexander said that the
trail to Stewart's Lake was
open and the ground good,
and that we might march
fast; but we were still
weak and did not relish
the idea, and were very
much pleased when he
volunteered to accompany
us, bringing some horses of his own in order that we
might ride.     As soon as we had got a sufficient
© ©
quantity of provisions we left the fort, and travelled
gaily along the trail, driving the pack-horses. We
1 were still very unwell, so that riding was by no means
a pleasure for the first three days, and the poor
Doctor suffered tortures, and bumped breathless
lupon  an  air-cushion.     But after a while we re-
covered and began to enjoy ourselves, and appreciate the firm ground and dry camping-places.
The country was lovely, the trees were already
tinted by the autumn frosts, and we were really
sorry when we reached the lake on the fifth day.
The Portair Indians, who live round its shores,
build houses and live principally by fishing, so that
Stewart's Lake is a small hamlet, and indeed looked
a town to us as we rode up.
The fort is large, and has many out-buildings
and corrals by the water-side, where we unpacked
our animals. Mr. Murray, the officer in charge,
was away in a schooner on the lake, but his wife
and friends welcomed us into the house with the
kindness we had learned to expect; and there we
lived for some days, and read up back numbers of
old illustrated papers, or lounged on the porch,
watching the storms upon the lovely lake. But on
the day of our departure we had much to disturb
us, for we found, on getting our packs together,
that our smaller kodak was missing. It must have
dropped off the pack upon the march, and might be
twenty miles away by the side of the trail. The
only thing to do was to offer a reward, and send
the natives out to search for it. We told Father
Morice of our difficulty, and enlisted his help, for
his influence with the Indians is prodigious. Father
Morice is the Catholic missionary, and we had
made   his   acquaintance   almost  as   soon   as  we THE PORTAIRS AND SICCANEES
arrived, and thus came in contact with one of the
most remarkable men in North-Western America.
Pere Morice was, of course, a Frenchman, but
his English was irreproachable. It is something of
a surprise to find a savant and a man of learning
working amongst the Indians in a lonely Northern
mission. But, judging by his congregation, it was
evident that his talents were not thrown away.
The Carrier Indians are
immeasurably superior to
their relations the Beavers.
They build log-houses, and
many speak English, and
read books and a monthly
review in the native tongue,
printed in the syllabary
which their priest has invented for them. This is
one of the many extraordinary achievements of
this prince of missionaries, who not only is his
own editor, compositor, and printer, but has invented a most ingenious syllabary, which is easily
learnt—so that Indians who have no idea what
writing is, have been known to learn to read and
write this language with perfect correctness after
two or three days' instruction. Of course, their
manner of life is not that of the civilised man, for
their  employment  remains   unchanged,   and  they
still hunt and fish like other Indians; but they
have been given many of the advantages of civilisation, and none of its evils.
Pere Morice himself is the greatest authority
upon their history and customs, and has written
much concerning them. ■ All that I shall say about
these people I learned from him, and much that is
written here is quoted from his writings.
It seems that the Portairs have a far keener desire
for civilisation and knowledge than the rest of the
Dene family. And thus, while they
received the missionaries and welcomed their teaching, many of the
other tribes refused to do so. When
first discovered these Indians were
much the same as their neighbours,
living in tents of skin, and dressing
in marmot and beaver robes. They
were not apparently a warlike people,
but occasionally the neighbouring tribes would fall
upon each other, or one family would wipe out
some long-standing feud.    In such cases the men
o ©
went into battle in a kind of armour made of sticks
placed close together, or prepared moose-hides,
and attacked their enemies with spears or flint-
headed arrows. Metal-working was almost unknown
to them, but they procured copper from the Coast
Indians, with which they made ornaments and the
small tweezers that the men carried, and used to
pluck with great care the few hairs from their chins,
according to their custom.
Pere Morice mentions a legend about this copper
which I think is worth repeating :—
' Many years ago all the Indians congregated
at a certain point on the sea-coast around a towerlike mountain of copper standing in the midst of
the water. . Their object was to decide which tribe
should get possession of this mountain. They all
commenced to shout, and the mountain after a time
began to totter, so that the Kaidahs, who had big
heads and strong voices, caused it to fall on their
side. "And thus it was," say the Carriers, "that
those men own the copper mountain, and ever
-since we must get from them the metal when we
want to adorn our wives and daughters."'
The Portairs do not appear to have had any
distinct religion or form of worship, although they
jeared a kind of impersonal Nature-god, who was
believed to cause wind and snow, and to regulate the
■ ©
movements of the heavenly bodies. They therefore
employed the medicine-man to propitiate this god
and his dependent spirits. The medicine-man was,
in consequence, a person of great importance in the
tribe, and it was believed that he could kill any one
who offended him by the mere force of his will.
His aid was always called for in cases of sickness,
which they imagined were caused by some foreign
presence or materialised evil spirit not unlike the 230
modern microbe of science. Having, through his
violent exertions and loud chanting, worked himself into a frenzy, and almost into a trance, the
medicine-man would commence to suck
the afflicted part of the sick man, and
after a while would produce from his
mouth, either a thorn, an insect, a toad,
or a small black stone ball. , These he
would exhibit as the cause of the illness,
and after a few more passes and chant-
ings, the patient, according to the. natives, immediately recovered.    In serious illness, when death
was likely to overtake the sick, the
would throw himself into a trance
and visit the other
world, begging the
shade of the dying
man to return to
his body. Sometimes the shade declined, but often
the medicine-man
would awake, and,
taking the spirit in the palm of his hand, would restore
it to the head of the sick man, upon which he immediately recovered.    Father Morice declared that
many of the older men had witnessed this performance, and had great faith in the power of the
medicine-man. The Portairs believe in the immortality of the soul, but also that souls in times of
sickness may wander, even during the life of a man.
When he is in a healthy state this soul-shade is invisible, but when he falls ill the shade will wander,
and his friends must do their best to make it
return to his body. In order to accomplish this,
they will hang up the patient's moccasins stuffed
with feather-down. Should the feathers become
warm, it is a symptom that the wandering soul
is present, and with great care and silence they
put them on the feet of the sick man, being
careful not to let the shade escape out of the
Before the Christian religion disturbed their
ancient customs the ideas of these Indians concerning a future state were far from pleasant, for
they believed that dried toads would be their only
food. I quote the following myth from Father
Morice's writings, as it will give some idea of the
religion and belief of the Portairs :—
' A long time ago two young men got lost in a
wood, and in the course of their wanderings came
upon a decayed and hollow tree which was lying
on the ground. Out of curiosity they crawled in
to see where it led, as only one end was visible.
They went for a long time  on their hands and 232
knees in a dark subterranean passage, till they
came to a place full of snakes, toads, and lizards.
They were terrified by this dreadful place, and
tried to go back, but could not; so they rushed
forward, and after a time the way broadened and
it became light. Suddenly they found themselves
on the top of a hill, commanding the view of a
broad  river, on the other side of which stood a
village. It consisted
of many red and black
houses built of boards,
where the shades
dwelt; and they saw
the shades enjoying
themselves on a lawn.
There were immense
numbers of them, and
they took great interest in a game,
shouting and making
a deafening noise.
Now,    one    of   the
young men was very
much frightened by all this, and hid himself, but
the other called out to the shades to send some
one with a canoe to fetch him across; but so
great was the tumult that they could not hear
him. After a while he got tired of shouting, and
chanced to yawn.     One of the spirits heard the THE PORTAIRS AND SICCANEES
moving of his jaws,1 and sent some one across the
river to fetch him.    But he had no sooner stepped
into the black canoe than his foot sank down as
though the bottom of the boat was elastic.    Then
the ferryman smelt him, and shouted that he did
not smell fire and had not been burnt.2    Therefore
they seized him in their fleshless arms, and tossed
him in the air like a ball, until nothing remained
but his empty skin.   This they threw into the river,
where a huge fish devoured it.    All this time the
other young man had remained in hiding; but as
soon as he got a chance he hastened back to the
dark passage and passed through the chamber ot
snakes and toads without fear, for his sojourn in
the world of shades had made another man of him.
Just as he was crawling out of the hollow tree he
heard a terrific voice calling, "Grandson, grandson !' and soon he met a giant, .who adopted him ;
and after living for a long time with his new grandfather, and having many wonderful adventures, he
finally went up to the moon, where he remains
visible to this day.'
As Father Morice points out, the similarity between the Styx of the ancients and the river of the
Portair Indians is very curious. From the same
source I have taken the following myth of
1 The Portairs regard yawning as ominous, and believe that by so doing
kthey call back the departed spirits to earth.
2 The ancient custom of cremation  must  accompany the   honours   of
sepulture. 234
* A long time ago darkness reigned all over the
earth, except in the lodge of one old man, a noble,
who alone possessed light, fire, and water. Now,
all men were very miserable, and continually sighed
after light, entreating the old man to share it with
them; but he would not. Finally, they gathered
together, and decided to get what they wanted by
force, so they went with all the animals to the lodge
of the old man, and started a song which should
win the light from him by continual chanting and
beating of the tom-tom. Each of the crowd had
his own song, and the young fox (Khaih-pa-tso,
" he cries for daylight") chanted Khaih, Khaih,
Khaih, expecting to get the light; but still the old
man was inflexible. However, the assembly pleaded
for light so often that, after a while, it began to steal
slowly up the heavens, as it now does every morning. Then the old man shouted and it disappeared
again. Yet the young fox would not tire of repeating his chant, and both men and animals vied with
one another in turbulent singing, hoping to weary
the old man. And now again the light began to
show upon the horizon, and the old man got confused, and exclaimed, "Let there be light!' and
immediately there was light; and so it has been to
this day.' SwesWEMr**!"*** f««fJ.lBfr»*JBJtf|t*jH+^       EsffSSSS tBBB***tH H       '■BOMBS
' Hitherto there had been no fire, and all were
benumbed with the cold, except the same old man,
who had fire in his lodge, which he jealously guarded.
Again they wished to have fire, as they had already
got the light; but they decided that they must gain
it by stealth. And so they engaged the services
of a yearling cariboo and of a musk-rat. Having
made for the former a ceremonial head-dress of
resinous pine shavings, and presented the latter
with a ceremonial apron of marmot
skin, they entered the old man's lodge
and sang. The cariboo danced and
the musk-rat sang O! Skette.1 The
cariboo swung his head to right and
left as he danced, hoping to catch
some of the fire with his head-dress.
But whenever the fire appeared the
old man extinguished it. At last, however, the
musk-rat carried a live coal through a burrow in
the ground and set fire to the forest. And thus
men gained fire.'
The creation of water was somewhat different.
The spirit, Estas, changed himself into a pine
needle, which the daughter of the old man, who
alone possessed  water,  drank by accident.     Not
1 It is curious that this word is unintelligible to the Portairs, which would
go to prove that the legend is not native to the people.
PIPE 236
long afterwards she had a son, who was Estas,
though she did not know it. The child grew at
a great pace, and as soon as he was able to walk
commenced to move the vessel in which his grandfather kept the water. At last, when he was a
grown man, he rushed out of the lodge with the
water and gave it to men, sprinkling it over the
earth, and making lakes, rivers, and seas.
Somerset and Pollen's Route
Unolish MiI... (69,16-1" ____________&________________&
We had now been at Stewart's Lake for several
days, and, with the help of the priest and our
friends at the fort, had procured the services of
four Indians, who would take us and our belongings
down to Quesnelle in two canoes. Alexander had
already returned to Fort McLeod, and we had got
rid of our faithful pack-train. The search for the
smaller kodak had proved useless, but we felt that
we could not afford to waste any more time, and
so were forced to go without it.1
All the canoes on the lake are 'dug-out,' and
we found two of this variety waiting for us on
the morning of our departure. We loaded in our
baggage and shoved off from the shore, with an
©O     © f
Indian in the bow and another in the stern. Ramsey
and the Doctor were in the smaller boat with two
1 This kodak was found by the natives some days after our departure, and
was kept at Stewart's Lake until the following spring, when it went down the
river to Quesnelle, and so out to the railway. Thus, besides being constantly
wet upon the back of a pack-horse for months on the expedition itself, it
travelled nearly two hundred miles in canoes in charge of Indians, nearly
three hundred miles on a stage-coach, and finally from Ashcroft to London
by train and ocean. Many of the illustrations in this book were taken with
this camera.
237 238
Indians;   whilst  Round,   Pollen,  and   I  took  the
larger boat with the other pair of boatmen.1
Thus we started away, waving our adieus to our
friends on the shore, who had entertained us so
well. After paddling a few miles we came to the
Stewart River, and passed many native fishing-traps
and drying-stages, where the crows sat in hundreds.
Then we went on down the stream. Now and
again we came to small rapids—a foretaste of the
great cascades ahead; in such places we could feel
the pull of the water as it rushed ever more swiftly
towards the narrow passage. Then there would
be a soft gliding movement, and then the crest of
1 The Portair Indians originally used only the birch-bark canoe ; but some
sixty years ago a party of Iroquois Indians came into their country with . dugouts,' and so the Portairs killed them, and took their boats as models. DOWN THE RAPIDS AND AWAY
a wave would sweep over the side of the canoe
and drench us to the skin,  whilst the little boat
leaped and twisted amongst the rocks and currents.
In this way we travelled many miles,  sometimes
in deep, still water, where the boat ran easy, and
the  Indians would sway in time, and chant their
boating-song, or stop rowing, and fire wildly at a
flock of geese, or at a coyote or fisher on the bank.
They never hit anything, for an Indian cannot shoot
in company ; he must be alone to kill game; but
they were  very  entertaining,   and  spoke a  little
In camp at night they would chant their prayers
until the small hours of the morning very melodiously. On the second day we joined the Nechaco
River, and now the rapids became more serious.
Many times we came to eight or ten miles of fast
water, where the canoe would race by the bank
at an extraordinary pace. Large boulders blocked
the river in these places, against which the water
beat and swirled. If a canoe attempted to pass
one of these at a short distance, the wash would
probably overturn it, so that one has to run the
boat directly at the rock, and allow the water to
deflect the bow just before the canoe strikes. As
may be imagined, all this is most exciting, and now
and then we had some very narrow escapes. Of
course, if once the boat capsized, a man would stand
no chance in this kind of rapid water.
ES**#_*_____ 240
We passed the Fort George Canon in safety, and
arrived  about nightfall at the  fort  itself on the
Frazer River, where we slept. The Hudson's Bay
Company's officer in charge proved to be a most
delightful man, and told us many stories of his
adventures in the country, and Indian tales that he
had heard.
Some  years  before,   a  party  of  Indians,   who
were hunting  in   the  bush  in  the   Fort  George
district, ran short of food. For many days they
starved, until their reason left them. At last
another Indian came across them, and found them
picking the bones of one of their comrades. When
he approached the camp they fired upon him, so
he went away and came back some days later with
a party. On returning to the camp, however, they
found that the wretched men had decided to kill
another of their number, but had fallen out as to
the choice, and by the time their rescuers arrived DOWN THE RAPIDS AND AWAY
they were all dead, and the wolves and coyotes had
devoured the greater part of their bodies.
On the morning of our departure from the fort
we found our canoe-men in high spirits, for they
had been gambling the greater part of the night,
and had won heavily. The unfortunate natives of
the place came down to see us off, and told sadly
how one had lost a fiddle, another a shirt, another
a frying-pan, and so on.    Towards afternoon we
reached the great Cottonwood Canon, and halted
by the bank to inspect it. I have passed over the
details of the shooting of the Fort George Rapids,
but the Cottonwood made so deep an impression on
me that I must attempt to describe it.
To begin with, the Frazer River, which is in
many places nearly a mile broad, narrows as one
approaches the rapids. Far ahead you can hear a
low muffled roar, and already the water begins to
Q 242
pull at the canoe. It seems as though the water
itself had become thicker and denser. This is one's
first sensation. As you approach, the roar becomes
louder and more ominous, and it seems as though
the river dropped out of sight over a fall. Now
and again you can see white breakers surging for a
moment above this miniature horizon. Meanwhile
the stream runs faster and faster, but you paddle to
the shore and get out upon the rocks. Now comes
the most unpleasant time of all, for there is no
action or movement to distract your thoughts, and
the more you look at the rushing water the less you
like it. Below you the river dashes madly between
high walls of rock, humming and  roaring as the
© ' © ©
immense volume crushes into the narrow space. We
stood and watched it, planning out our road; how
we would go the right here and the left there, and
where we would pass the high rock which stood in
the middle of the passage. On the farther shore
were two wooden crosses which the pious natives
had erected to some unfortunates who had been
drowned in the rapid. Our head canoe-man cut
some tobacco from a plug, whilst his hand shook
with excitement. He had a little English, but his
remarks were not cheerful. ' Damn bad canon,'
he would say, ' awful bad' ; ' Drown 'em all-the-
time ; yes, Sywash drown 'em, six white men, drown
'em,—awful bad,—'fraid I lose de whole damn lot
of you.'    Then we returned to the canoes and took DOWN THE RAPIDS AND AWAY
our places, stowing our baggage as low as we could
in the boat; our steersman stood in the stern, and
we all paddled out into the stream. The first rule
in shooting rapids is always to keep the canoe
moving faster than the water, otherwise you can
get no steerage-way and will soon be swamped,
therefore we paddled forward to the white line of
spray as fast as we could. Suddenly the canoe
shot away down the stream as it touched the head
of the rapid, and in a moment we were tearing
along in the roar of the waters. The steersman,
standing up, threw himself from side to side and
strained on his paddle, whilst the boat leaped to
right and left as the currents altered. Never have
I seen anything so wildly exciting; we toiled and
struggled, bent over our paddles whilst the waters
seemed to leap and yell, and the steersman shouted
his orders between his gasps for breath. The rocks
flew past us and the water eddied back from the
cliffs, so that we were thrown half-across the river
at every turn. Then slowly the roar grew less,
and after a while we came to a sort of whirlpool
where the water slung round in still oily curls, and
sucked in the middle like a half-emptied basin.
Here and there the current ran swiftly across the
bed of the river from shore to shore, and even met
us as we came down the stream. In some places
the river was many feet higher than in others, and
so, silent and treacherous, the rapids at last calmed 244
down, and we floated in smooth water some miles
below.     The   Indians   laughed   the   short   laugh
o o
which they always indulge in after danger, and
then we rested from paddling and watched the
other boat pitching and struggling in the foam
behind us.
Below the rapid the river ran sluggishly, but here
and there large boulders lay just beneath the water,
and the  stream   rippled  over them with a  quiet
splash. That night we camped near the house of
a Chinaman, built after the manner of his country,
and indeed we saw many of these people upon the
river-bank digging for gold. A white man can
hardly make a living from the gold in this part of
the Frazer, but a Chinaman, who has few wants,
lives cheap and makes money. As we passed these
industrious people our boatman yelled out choice
and  entertaining  insults  both in English and in
© o
their own tongue.    All the next day we paddled DOWN THE RAPIDS AND AWAY
forward pleasantly down the great river, whilst the
loons cried on the bank, and hawks and such like
birds hung high overhead.     Night came, but we
were anxious to reach Quesnelle, and did not camp,
but went on in the darkness.    We could hardly see
the other boat, much less the rocks in the river, so
we would backwater and listen for the rush of the
stream over a rock and then shoot forward again
into the stillness. At last we saw a few lights
ahead, and came down the river singing into the
little village of Quesnelle.
Quesnelle is the wreck of a once prosperous
mining camp, and is sufficiently
desolate. We put up at the hotel
and sat in the bar-room, very
ragged-looking specimens of humanity, as the new clerk just out
from London seemed to think, for
he took pleasure in staring at us, and then caressing his own collar-button with his fingers or looking
at his irreproachable cuffs. Quesnelle received us
kindly, as every one else had done in this land of
hospitality, and with the assistance of Mr. Mac-
naughton the Hudson's Bay Company officer, we
soon had a wagon and started on our long drive
to the railway. The old Cariboo road was once
famous as the great gold-carrying highway of the
country, and is marked in many places with white
stones, where some unfortunate had been ' held up '
and shot in the old troublous times. But all that is far
away now, and the land is settled with ranchers and
farmers. We pitched and heaved over our two
hundred and fifty miles' drive after the usual manner
of a Western stage, tearing down hills and round
precipitous corners, or crawling up steep
inclines at a foot-pace. Once we met
the weekly stage, and noticed the wonderful skill of its driver, tested whilst he
started a bucking team at a gallop with
a wheeler's leg entangled with the pole.
But beyond this nothing remarkable
occurred. On the hills above Ashcroft we saw the faint white smoke of
the train, and then we really knew
that our expedition was over and gone.
Coming into the little town we met
many Chilkotin Indians dressed in
brightly coloured clothes, who smiled
upon us and said ' Clehya' in a very
friendly way. It seems that there
was once a Hudson's Bay Company
officer called Clark, and men would
come to his place and say, ' Clark, how are
you?' This the Indians pronounced 'Clehya,'
which answers to the English ' Good-morning,'
and means about as much. These Chilkotins were
coming  into  the  town  to  a  fair, and we  found
Ashcroft decked in her Sunday best. Mr. Foster,
the principal citizen, took charge of us, and through
his kindness we were able to leave by train that
night. After dinner we gathered on the platform of the little station and talked. Ramsey
and Round were going out to the coast, whilst
Pollen and I would take the train east. There
was so much to be said, that we said nothing. It
did not seem possible that it was all over, and
that henceforth we should be obliged to sleep in
houses and conform to the customs of civilisation.
For months we had talked of Indians, bears,
rapids, horses, weather, and the chances of food,
until we had made a world for ourselves. Now
we began to realise that all this must go, and
was of no account; that no one would care about
our topics of conversation, and that we should
talk to ears that did not understand our meaning.
Then the train came in, and we separated without
many words, and the expedition was over. And
we returned to civilisation, and were bored or
amused, as it might chance, and ate and lived
as others do; and at first it was novel, and we
enjoyed it.
Civilisation has many things to offer—comforts,
knowledge, pleasures,—but when one has felt the
joy of the wilds, one knows what life is, and what
it is to live.    Cold and rain, hunger and storm, we
*^;.-,.-.r.A-: a-*** **»^ THE LAND OF THE MUSKEG
had endured, and we knew that they were not
pleasant; but they pass, and this knowledge remains unchanged in the wilderness—That it is
good to be alive and free.
n o
Printed by T. and A. Constable, Printers to Her Majesty
at the Edinburgh University Press        


Citation Scheme:


Citations by CSL (citeproc-js)

Usage Statistics



Customize your widget with the following options, then copy and paste the code below into the HTML of your page to embed this item in your website.
                            <div id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidgetDisplay">
                            <script id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidget"
                            async >
IIIF logo Our image viewer uses the IIIF 2.0 standard. To load this item in other compatible viewers, use this url:


Related Items