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Traits of American-Indian life and character, by a fur trader [Unknown] 1853

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One of the rarest books of life in Oregon or
Western Caledonia, as it was called in the
Author's day. It is often attributed to
^Ogden, but, according to Father Morice, it
was written by Rich from the material supplied by Finlayson through the Hudson's Bay
Company.i^:Father Morice states that Ogden
would  never1 have   done  many   of  the  things
I   described. ^_   gfer ' ;' . _ "••/       ■•*"'--
1853.   ! gî£i INTRODUCTION.
It is well known that the life of an Indian
trader is one of hazard and adventure; and
that he is the witness of scenes, exemplifying*
the habits and the character of Indians, which
it is seldom the lot of an ordinary traveller to
look upon. Compelled to penetrate the wilderness, hundreds of miles beyond the resort
of civilized men, he surprises the savage inhabitants in their most secluded haunts, and
often makes himself a home where the keenness of his observation, lys previous knowledge
of character, and the material interests of the
wild race by which he is surrounded, are the
only pledges of his safety. The long established trading posts also, in the neighbourhood vin
of which some degree of civilization may obtain,
are lone and isolated spots, the light of which
dimly fades away in the surrounding darkness,
and but too often brings into strong relief, on
its confines, the startling forms and hideous
characteristics of a barbaric life, which is yet
gilded with some traits of nobleness and
generosity, and which the trader, if any man
living, is enabled to look upon with an intelligent eye.
Such are the circumstances and such the
situation in which the writer of the following
pages has been placed, as an agent of the great
trading Company whose operations now cover
as with a vast network the breast of the
North American continent, from ". Hudson's
Bay to the Pacific Ocean. As an actor in the
scenes which he has faithfully described, it is
just possible that he may sometimes express
his opinions with unusual warmth. His sincerity, and the fidelity of his narrations, no
one will doubt, when they find the savage
virtues as conspicuous in many of his sketches
as the darker traits of character which it was
his more especial purpose to delineate. INTRODUCTION.
The shifting scene of his narrative may be
described, for the most part, as the famous
Oregon territory, lying in the watercourse of
the great Columbia River and its numerous
tributaries. The country is one of wild aspect,
diversified by rugged steeps and deep ravines,
with here and there a rich valley of green
pasture, watered by some mountain torrent
pursuing its devious way to the broad waters
and boundless prairie lands, or sandy plains.
The wild races inhabiting this widely-spread
region are of various character ; in general,
those who follow the chase — the mountain
and woodland tribes—are the more warlike
and generous ; while those who live along
the hanks of the streams in the more fertile
regions, are comparatively mean in spirit and
treacherous in their intercourse. To this rule,
it may be observed, there are many exceptions
on the east side of the Rocky Mountains,
which it is scarcely necessary to mention.
If the author can be said to have any preference for one of these swarthy clans before
another, it is possibly for the chivalrous
I Flatheads," who u have never been known
to shed the blood of a white man," and are
as brave in war as the i Crows" and I Blackfeet," their hereditary enemies.* It is against
these latter, more especially, that his righteous
anathemas are hurled as the persecutors of the
Indian trader, whose courage and hardihood
often avail nothing, when beset by Indians in
the defiles of the mountains, or threading* his
way through the mazes of the forests. J|To surprise the weary traveller in the security of his
sleep, to attack the camp in some luckless
moment when discipline is for a while relaxed ;
or, least of all, to rob the armed traders and
trappers of their stray pack-horses, these predatory bands will follow them through wood
and ravine for weary days and nights, lurking
with untiring patience in the bushes, like
beasts of prey, or peering from the crevices
of the rocks till the yell of their sudden onset
renders concealment no longer possible or
* Five different tribes, inhabiting" the plain country to
the east of the Rocky, are denominated Blackfeet, viz.,
Piegans, Blood Indians, " Gros Ventres " or Big Bellies,
Surcies, and Blackfeet Proper. INTRODUCTION. XI
The traits of Indian life and character illustrated by the following sketches are, however,
not all, nor even for the most part, of this
nature ; some of them are domestic scenes
of tragic interest, and others relate occurrences in which the Indians had little or no
direct share. It may be observed here, also,
that great and rapid changes are taking place,
by which the native population of these wilds
is more and more sensibly affected every succeeding" year. Not the least of these is the
extended organization of the great Fur Company, which has now penetrated the remotest
districts, and sends its emissaries into the most
secluded glens. Next to this, perhaps, may
be reckoned the rivalry of the English and
American adventurers, and the recent influx
of immigrants from the United States.
A word on this subject, on the toils and
privations which must necessarily be undergone by those who seek a home beyond the
Rocky Mountains, may not be out of place.
It is hard to conceive by what inducement so
many thousands of reasonable men could have
been prevailed on to leave their  comfortable
>-:—— -y """~.-     ' H homes and fertile lands for this wild adventure; except, indeed, the spirit of enterprise,
which seems to be inherent in the Anglo-
American race, and which rejoices to meet
and overcome every kind of difficulty, is
sufficient to account for it. By whatever hope
induced to undertake this distant pilgrimage,
it is sad to think of the disappointment that
awaits the lately happy family whose homestead is broken up, and their little all conveyed into these deserts by the poor animals
which had heretofore rendered such useful service on their farms;—sad to picture them,
herding together for mutual protection, as
they advance slowly, while the months roll
on, through a country teeming with warlike
marauders, and often surprised by the treacherous bands described in these pages. In
course of time the waters of the Missouri roll
behind them, and the river of their hopes may
be seen glancing in the distance. Now, however, the dreary wastes of burning sand and
scrubby wormwood, unrelieved by any nobler
vegetation and affording a scanty pasture to
the tired quadrupeds at wide intervals only, INTRODUCTION.
begin to dissipate the sanguine hopes in which
they had so lately indulged. Provisions fail ;
hunger, thirst, privation in every form are endured ; till, weary and way-worn, the travellers
at length reach the banks of the Columbia.
If fortunate, they effect various exchanges with
the Indians for fresh horses, to replace their
own tired animals no longer able to proceed.
Their little hoards of ready money are expended to procure the necessaries of existence,
and they arrive at length in the settlements
denuded of everything—in short, destitute—
to begin the world anew.
While the hazards these adventurers must
undergo, and the savage life of the wilderness
for which they are bound, will be found illustrated in these occasional sketches of Indian
life, it may he well to remark that to depict
them has not been the object of the author;
as the occurrences he has described were
spread over many years, and have a different
kind of interest. Impressed by them at the
time as an eye-witness, he has here recorded
them without art or ornament, in the hope
that they may serve for the  amusement of XIV
others who feel an interest in tales of adventure, and to add to the stock of authentic
anecdotes from which alone a true judgment
of the Indian character can be formed. fet
I.—Experience of the Indian Character
H.—The Red Feather, Flathead Chief
HL—The Burial of the Dead and the Living
IV.—An Indian Festival
V.—A Tale of Western Caledonia
VI.—The Bloody Tragedy .
VH.—The Burning of the Dead   .
Y HI.—Intermittent Fever
IX.—A Western Caledonian Feast
X.—The Great Dalles of the Columbia
XI.—The Unfortunate Daughter
XH.—The Shewappe Murderer    .       .  .
Xm.—The Storm.—The Mother's Grave
XIV.—The Suicide's Cross
XV.—The Death of our Favourite Donkey
XVI.—The London Packet   .
Having had frequent opportunities of observing the customs and traits of character
by which the various tribes of Indians are
distinguished, and more particularly of those
who inhabit the western part of North America
beyond the Rocky Mountains, I have been
surprised to remark how falsely their character
is estimated in the recently published journals
of certain travellers. These gentlemen have
been delighted to represent the aborigines of
North America, as quiet, peaceable souls, meriting nothing so much as the most delicate at-
B 2
tention on the part of their European visitors.
Two works of this description are more particularly in my mind at this moment.    The
author   of the first,  it   is   to be  observed,
scarcely left the confines of civilization; and
the   second  had  merely   an  opportunity  of
communicating with a few Indians who had
resided from their infancy in the vicinity of
long established trading posts, where they had
acquired  the   art of comporting   themselves
with some degree of propriety, in order the
more readily to gain a livelihood and to acquire the means of satisfying their fictitious
wants.   The forefathers of these people, being
independent of the traders, made no scruple
of exhibiting the vices which their sons are
studious to conceal.   Their wants were comparatively   few;   the  bow  and   arrow   supplied  the  means   of   procuring   large   animals ; from thé bark of the willow they made
fishing nets ; the skin of the hare or the beaver sufficed them for clothing;   and fire was
always at their command by resort to friction.
By these and the like simple means were all
their necessities supplied ; and there is no rea- INDIAN CHARACTER.
son to doubt that they lived as happily as
their natural disposition to indulge in war and
rapine would permit. It cannot be said that
the present generation is really improved by the
change they have undergone in some of these respects. The trader, having in view his own sole
benefit, has taught them the use of European
clothing, with the addition of much superfluous
finery : and their modern virtues become them
about as well as these garments, and are just
as consistent with their real character. In a
word, those very Indians whose quiet demeanour has been so much lauded, only conceal, under this specious mask, all the vices
which their fathers displayed more openly :
unprovoked murder and habitual theft are
committed by them whenever the opportunity offers ; and their character, generally, is
of a description to afford a constant source
of anxiety to those who reside among them.
Such being the treacherous disposition of
those Indians who, residing in the immediate
vicinity of the trading posts, are in a great
measure restrained by fear, and other causes
co-operating, to check their evil propensities, TRAITS  OF INDIAN  LIFE.
what must he be destined to experience who
wanders among the lawless tribes that are
strangers to the faces of Europeans ? It is
the dark character of the latter that I shall
here endeavour to illustrate, leaving it to my
readers'judgment whether the reports that travellers have chosen to spread respecting them,
are worthy of his reliance. In some of the succeeding sketches, the savage virtues are also a
little shown ; for what may be called virtue in
the breast of a wild Indian cannot be denied
them, though it may be manifested in glaring
defiance of the laws of civilized society.
In 1829 I was appointed to explore the
tract lying south of the Columbia, between
that river and California. For five years previously I had been similarly employed to the
eastward of that tract, where I had had many
rencontres with the warlike tribes that cross
from the east side of the Rocky Mountains, to
wage war with those residing on the west.
War, hunting, and horse-thieving, are the sole
pursuits of these reckless and most terrible of all
foragers, in the prosecution of which they have
no respect for persons.   The prizes they most INDIAN CHARACTER. 5
covet are scalps and horses—it matters not
whether they be snatched from trader or Indian ; though, in the former case, they have
been taught to purchase them more dearly
than the latter. In my different meetings
with them, I have been so far fortunate as to
lose only three men, but it is in this quarter
that drawing-room authors should travel, and
I will venture to say they will return—if indeed
they are so fortunate as to escape home again
—with a far different impression of the character
of Indians than they seem to entertain.
It was in the month of September that I
hade adieu to the shores of the Columbia
River, with a party composed of thirty men,
well appointed, to overcome the obstacles and
encounter the perils which long experience
had taught me to anticipate. True, indeed,
we could not boast of India-rubber pillows or
boots, nor of preserved meats and soups, with
many other deemed indispensable adjuncts
introduced by modern travellers. However,
let me confess at once the vast difference
between those who travel in pursuit of
amusement or science, and men like us who 6
only encounter these hardships for vile lucre.
Though we must need content ourselves with
the blanket and the gun, we do, at least, possess this advantage over them, that we usually
succeed in our arduous undertakings. On the
other hand, we descend unnoticed to the grave,
while honours and titles are lavished upon our
rivals in enterprise !
Difficulties, many and greater than I had
anticipated, began to crowd upon us; and
though, by perseverance, wejfwere enabled
to surmount them, our sufferings and trials
were truly great. There were times when we
tasted no food, and were unable to discover
water for several days together; without
wood, we keenly felt the cold ; wanting grass,
our horses were reduced to gTeat weakness, so
that many of them died, on whose emaciated
carcasses we were constrained to satisfy the
intolerable craving's of our hunger, and as a
last resource, to quench our thirst with their
blood. Such are the privations and miseries
to which Indian traders are subject in the
prosecution of their precarious vocation.
After leaving the Columbia, we journeyed a INDIAN  CHARACTER.
month through a sterile country, before we
came upon the traces of any human inhabitants, who then appeared more numerous
than I had expected. On the day following
their first appearance, a party consisting of ten
men, who had been sent in advance as scouts,
came in sight of about fifty Indians, who
fled on their approach, but not soon enough
to prevent the capture of two of their number.
These were fully sufficient to answer all my
views, which were to obtain, if possible, some
information of the country before us ; the
amount of our knowledge at present being
the course pursued, which, as indicated by the
compass, was south-west. Having secured
the two strangers, we treated them with all
possible kindness, and by signs endeavoured
to express our wishes. This is the policy
adopted by all explorers of wild countries,
and there surely cannot be a more humane
one ; although, in my opinion, which is
founded on general experience, and confirmed,
as will immediately appear, by the event in
this particular case, it is directly opposed to
the  attainment of the   desired   end.    It is 8
something' to hazard the remark, yet I will
venture the opinion, that had it, on the first
discovery of new countries, been resolved to
treat the savages with the greatest severity, the
eventual sacrifice of many lives on their own
part would have been avoided, and the murderous blow averted from many an unfortunate
victim, whose only offence has been the heaping* of undeserved favours on wretches whose
hearts were callous to the emotions of gratitude.
Having succeeded in gaining some partial
information of the country in advance of us,
I dismissed my informants, first presenting
them with a few baubles in return. Wild as
deer, they were soon out of sight, but the
kind reception they had met with being, as I
suppose, duly represented to their countrymen,
they returned on the morrow, accompanied by
a larg*e body of them, who soon became very
troublesome. Every thing about us attracted
their curious attention ; our horses, if possible,
still more than ourselves. It was with evident
reluctance that our numerous visitors left us
in the evening, a few of them, indeed, hinting
a wish to remain.    This, I  doubt not, was INDIAN  CHARACTER.
with the double view of observing how we
secured our horses, and the precautions we took
to guard against surprise, and to enable themselves to concert measures with their associates the more effectually to betray us. I
gave orders to clear the camp, and for the
night watch to turn out, upon which they
went away.
At the dawn of day, according to my invariable custom, I had all the men aroused,
the fires lighted, and the horses collected in
the camp ; this being the hour that Indians
always fix upon for making their predatory
attacks, it being then, as they say, that men
sleep most soundly. In this, as in other calculations of a savage cunning, they are not
far wrong. They would certainly have found
it so in our case, had the precaution alluded
to not been adopted; for, fatigued with the
long march of the day, and wearied with
anxious watching during* the several divisions
of the night, the long-deferred slumbers of
the men were doubly sweet and sound when
tired Nature could at last indulge herself.
Thanks to the method we observed,, every one
M 10
was awake and stirring—preparing, in fact, for
a start—when I perceived, in the gray dawn, a
large body of Indians drawing near. When
within a short distance of the camp, they hesitated to advance, as if dubious of the reception
that awaited them. This had a suspicious appearance, nothing having occurred on the previous day to give rise to any doubt that it would
be otherwise than friendly. We were not long
left in uncertainty of their hostile intentions,
for a shower of arrows was presently discharged into the camp. This was too much
for our forbearance ; I considered it high time
to convince them that we could resent the unprovoked attack. Three of our horses were
already wounded, and if we ourselves had
escaped, it was probably owing to the poor
beasts having sheltered us from the arrows.
I therefore ordered a rifle to be discharged at
them. The ball was true to its aim, and a
man fell. This was sufficient as a first lesson ;
for on witnessing* it they at once took to
flight, leaving their companion dead on the
field, as a mark of their evil design and its
punishment.    I trust they were not only duly INDIAN  CHARACTER.
impressed with our superiority over them, but
likewise with a sense of the lenient treatment
they had received, although, from past experience, I could have little hope at the time
that the effect of either would be very durable.
After three days' further travelling, over a
country as barren as ever Christian traversed,
we came to the lands of another tribe, residing
on the waters of the Rio Colorado. These
Indians I strongly suspected to be the same
who, the year preceding, had massacred ten
men attached to the party of Mr. Smith, an
American adventurer.
This ill-fated party consisted originally of
thirty-five individuals, all of whom, excepting four, fell victims on this and other occasions to the blood-thirsty spirit of the natives. Though he was one of those who
escaped, it would almost appear as if this
enterprising American had been doomed eventually to suffer a like fate, for the following
year, while on his way from St. Louis to California, for the purpose of purchasing mules
and horses, he left the main party about three
miles, accompanied only by two men, in quest 12
of water. He found the object of his search,
and paid for it the heavy price of his life.
His protracted absence naturally exciting considerable alarm, though his true fate was not
immediately suspected, search was made, and
his body, together with those of his two companions, found stark and stiff upon the ground.
The unhappy men had been murdered in cold
blood, by Indians concealed in the bushes till
the favourable moment arrived for the accomplishment of their ruthless purpose.
I was intimately acquainted with poor
Smith, and it was from himself that I learned
the particulars of his misfortunes first alluded
to. As the brief story will tend to confirm
my observations upon the Indian character, I
will here relate it in the narrator's own words.
"After suffering severely in crossing the
barren desert, I was truly well pleased," said
he, % to discover a fine stream of fresh water,
which proved to be the north branch of the
Rio Colorado. On sounding it, I found it too
deep to ford, and as grass, which my lean
horses much required, appeared to be far
more abundant on the opposite side, I ordered INDIAN  CHARACTER.
ten men of the party to get them across, which
they accordingly did, by driving them into the
water, and accompanying them swimming.
For several days I had been unsuccessfully
searching above and below our position for a
fording place, without discovering a vestige of
any human inhabitants ; but no sooner had
my men landed on the opposite shore, than
upwards of a hundred Indians rushed on them,
from behind a thicket of willows, and murdered
the whole. My horses were speedily secured
and driven off out of sight, and it is scarcely
necessary to say that any attempt at pursuit
under such circumstances had been in vain.
Such was the situation in which I found myself, with property to the value of ten thousand
dollars ; and rather than the villains who had
so deeply injured me should reap any benefit
from it, I had the whole thrown into the river.
We then made a raft, and crossed over, when
we found the bodies of my unfortunate men so
mutilated as to be scarcely recognizable. We
consigned them also to the keeping of the
deep, for as you well know, not even the dead
are respected by the wild tribes of these parts."
: 14
The details of their now melancholy journey
till their arrival at St. Gabriel, a Spanish mission in California, need not be repeated. Being unsuccessful in his errand, owing to the
deficiency of his property and the mistrust
with which the Spaniards viewed him as the
first American who had penetrated to their
settlement by land; Mr. Smith now resolved
on proceeding to our depot on the Columbia,
which is known as Fort Vancouver. The
Spaniards, I may remark, had subjected him
to a brief confinement in prison, but being liberated through the influence of an American
captain, whose ship was in the vicinity, he
left St. Gabriel with the purpose I have mentioned. When within three days' journey of
his new destination, being arrived on the borders of the river Umpqua, he again experienced a reverse—a more dreadful one than
that already related. Here, then, I shall resume the narrative in his own words, and it
will hence appear by what a slender tenure
the trader holds his existence; if he escapes
to return to his home, he may, indeed, thank
the Almighty alone for his preservation.
It is proper to observe that myself, as well
as several of our gentlemen, had on various
occasions visited the village where the first
treason occurred, but then we were at all
times strictly on our guard. The natives, too,
were sometimes in the habit of resorting to
Vancouver to trade, and were well acquainted
with us. They soon, however, discovered poor
Smith's party to be strangers, and determined
to take advantage of the misplaced confidence he seems to have reposed in their mild
and peaceable disposition.
1 Finding myself among Indians," he says,
"whom, from their possessing many articles
of European merchandize, and frequently
naming you and several other gentlemen, I
began to consider no longer as enemies, I
relaxed my usual vigilance. Having prolonged my stay for two days, to recruit the
worn-down animals I had purchased at St.
Gabriel, on the third morning I directed Mr.
Rogers, my assistant, to have everything in
readiness, desiring the men also to clean their
rifles, preparatory to a start on the morrow.
I then, accompanied by two men, embarked in
■■■■ 16
a canoe, and proceeded in search of a suitable
crossing-place, the banks opposite our encampment being too steep for the horses to surmount. On my return, after an absence of
three hours, when within half a mile of the
tents, I observed a number of Indians running
towards us along the bank, yelling most fearfully. Immediately suspecting what had happened, we crossed over, and secreted ourselves
in the bushes, the Indians discharging their
guns at us without effect. Anxious to ascertain the fate of my party, I then ascended an
eminence, from whence I could plainly perceive that the camp was destroyed, and not
a vestige of man, horse, or mule, to be seen.
a Though conscious that the wretches would
not dare to pursue us, in a country so thickly
wooded, I yet considered it to be most prudent
to be concealed during the day, and to travel
only under cover of the night. On the second
day we perceived some of the Company's servants, who conducted us safely to Vancouver."
The day preceding Mr. Smith's arrival under these circumstances, one of his party
named John Black, who had   escaped   the t INDIAN  CHARACTER.
massacre at the camp, had also made his way
to Fort Vancouver, and preparations had at
once been commenced by the superintendent of
the Company's affairs, to ascertain the fate of
Mr. Smith and his two men. This party was
on the eve of setting out, when the arrival of
the fugitives relieved us of that anxiety.
From Black we elicited the particulars of the
massacre in the following words:—"Soon
after Mr. Smith's departure, while some of
the men were cleaning their rifles, some cooking, and others trafficking with the natives,
on a sudden the latter, in number exceeding*
two hundred, with dreadful shouts, rushed on
us, before any one was prepared for defence.
I," said the poor fellow, " escaped the general
fate, being wounded and left for dead, but
recovering, succeeded in effecting my retreat
hither."      § .   of. -
Thus fell eighteen men, far from their
homes, their relations and their friends. As
for the survivors, they met with every attention from us which their destitute situation
demanded. Decisive measures were adopted
to recover Mr.  Smith's property.    All the
c 18
furs, with most of the horses and mules, were
recovered and restored to their right owners,
who subsequently made them over to the
Company at a valuation rather exceeding the
current price, which the agents of the Company cheerfully offered to the adventurer, in
sympathy for his forlorn condition. I have
only to add that his losses and misfortunes
were insufficient to deter him from new enterprises. With the persevering spirit characteristic of his countrymen, he again entered
the field the next year, when his career was
closed as has already been related.
To return to my own situation. As I
have before remarked, I strongly suspected
that the Indians among* whom we now found
ourselves, were the same party who, the
year before, had cut off part of Mr. Smith's
men as first related. They appeared to be
bolder than any I had yet seen ; but on a
narrow scrutiny, I could perceive nothing to
confirm my suspicion of their identity. No
tracks of horses were seen, but this was a
circumstance readily accounted for by the
fact that the country was too barren to admit INDIAN CHARACTER.
of their being easily maintained. My men
were eager to revenge the massacre upon
them ; but as I had no proof that these were
the guilty persons, I withheld my consent to
their entreaties.
That punishment, however, which I was
slow to inflict on them for past deeds, of which
they were doubtless guilty, they shortly drew
upon themselves by present misconduct.    On
the   day following   our   appearance   among
them, they swarmed about the camp, every
man carrying, in addition to his proper arms,
a long stick on his shoulder, in derision of the
manner in which we carry our guns.    Observing the greatness   of  their  numbers, I
took   the   precaution   of   posting   an   extra
guard   over   our  horses,   and   warned   the
men to hold themselves in readiness for the
worst.    Besides their usual fire-arms, I furnished each of our little party with a spear
giving orders not to reload after   the first
volley, but to charge ; for I was apprehensive
lest, during the interval of loading, the Indians
might make a rush, and overpower us ; and
that a speedy attack was meditated, I could 20
no longer doubt. Our preparations completed, I admitted a few Indians into the camp,
purposely that they might observe our state
of defence, and with the hope that it might
deter them from attacking us. Unhappily
for them, the desired effect was not produced,
for presently one of the guard was wounded,
and the alarm given that the Indians were
securing* our horses. This was sufficient for
me. They had shed the first blood, and I
was resolved that theirs should repay it; and
as it was now for life or death with usy I
ordered a general discharge, to be followed
up by a charge with the spear. The first,
however, sufficed ; for on seeing the number
of their fellows who in a single moment were
made to lick the dust, the rest ingloriously
fled, and we saw no more of them. Twenty-
six remained dead on the field.
It would be inconsistent with my object to
continue the narrative of the expedition, and
our other travelling adventures in this region.
It is not my purpose to write a book of
adventure, but to illustrate, as far as my acquaintance with   circumstances   may   enable INDIAN  CHARACTER.
me;  and from various   points of  view,  the
character  of the  Indian tribes.     The little
I have advanced, from my own experience,
may suffice to show that they do not possess
the fine qualities attributed to them in recent
publications, and the following sketches will
make both their better and their worse characteristics still more manifest.    If any one
be sceptical, after all, in regard to the latter
I  can only say, that it would be easy to
multiply instances of the most atrocious and
unprovoked cruelty practised by the Indians
against those engaged in the fur trade.    It
is enough to hint at the sad fate of Livingston, Henry, Hughes, Millar, Jones, Kennet,
Smith, McKenzie, and Corrigal, chiefly ofiicers
of the service, besides nearly three hundred
and   fifty men, Americans and   servants of
the Company   in nearly   equal  proportions,
who have fallen victims within the last twenty
years. 22
In the year 1823, I was appointed to the
command of an expedition, destined to operate
southward of the Columbia, where beaver were
known to abound, which, down to that period,
had never been molested by the hand of civilized man. Accordingly, during the six succeeding years, I was employed in the perilous
and disagreeable duty involved in this adventure. Our party usually numbered thirty
men, chiefly fiir-trappers, the whole well-
armed and mounted, besides each possessing
a relay of thirty horses, applicable to the
pack or the riding-saddle, as necessity required. Danger is an excellent disciplinarian,
and since each of my followers, viewing the THE RED  FEATHER.
case through that medium, saw the necessity
of strict attention to his leader's orders, I
had the less difficulty in enforcing the system
of precaution I have already mentioned as
indispensable to the common safety; and by
attention to which many tracts of country
were passed over with impunity, which otherwise it would have been rash to adventure
upon. The systematic order of our proceedings possessed the double advantage of
enabling us to cope successfully with our
foes, and to associate in confidence, when
circumstances rendered it expedient to do so,
with those whom we regarded as friends, at
least for the time being.
On one occasion, being desirous of penetrating a tract of country more than usually
infested by the marauders we had to dread,
I joined company with the camp of the Flathead nation, at that period proceeding on their
annual visit to the buffalo-grounds. At this
time, their camp consisted in all of two hundred lodges, but it was anciently much more
numerous; war, in which they were continually engaged, having, within a few years, 24
thinned off the flower of the young men, and
given a preponderance to the enemy's force
which told sadly to their disadvantage. A
short digression must here be permitted me
by way of explaining their present position to
the indulgent reader.
Residing1 on the head waters of a stream
tributary to the Columbia, they had been
accustomed, from time immemorial, to resort
to the grounds southward of their own in
quest of buffalo ; from the chase of which
they derived their chief subsistence. In the
prosecution of these annual excursions they
had invariably met with much opposition and
unprovoked molestation from the Blackfeet,
a roving horde of real Ishmaelites, "their
hand against every one, and every one's hand
against them." Under ordinary circumstances,
the bravery and chivalrous address of the poor
Flatheads had enabled them to resent the
insults of their opponents, and to repel their
unprovoked attacks; but, unhappily, a few
years anterior to the period of which I am
writing, a fatal advantage obtained by the
Blackfeet at length destroyed the balance of THE RED  FEATHER.
power, and told with murderous effect against
the former. This was the acquisition of firearms ; which implement of warfare the former
obtained by traffic, through their proximity
to the American frontiers, long before the
more secluded Flatheads were acquainted with
its use, save in its deadly effect upon the ranks
of their most valued warriors. More recently,
however, their intercourse with the Columbia
traders had furnished the weaker party with
the means of repelling the attacks of their
oppressors, but not before their numbers had
been reduced, through the causes alluded to,
far beneath that of the rivals. Under these
circumstances, they had made a compact with
a small adjacent sept, called the Cootanys or
Kootanais, and for mutual protection the allies
proceeded to their hunting-grounds in company ; their united numbers, but still more
their remarkable bravery and address, now
rendering them more than a match for their
overbearing opponents.
Our march was conducted with much regularity ; all the arrangements being overlooked by the camp chief, known among us by 26
the appellation of " Cut Thumb." In order to
assure our party as much as possible against
the ordinary risks of the way, a position was
allotted to us in the midst of the whole band,
and which, whether in the march or when
encamped, we invariably occupied. In this
manner we journeyed for ten or fifteen days,
occasionally meeting* with a few stray buffalo,
but experiencing no molestation on any hand,
nor indeed seeing the vestige of an enemy.
But as at sea, the calmest weather when it
precedes a storm is the more to be dreaded,
since the mariner is thereby lulled into treacherous security ; so in these prairies, an unusual
interval of peace but too frequently aug*urs a
speedy reverse of fortune. Thus did it prove
in our case. Rendered careless by the seeming absence of danger, the Indians frequently
neglected the ordinary precautions necessary
to secure against surprise or robbery. Their
horses were left untethered and unguarded,
and their proceedings, generally, marked by
a sense of the most careless, yet most unwarranted security.
For my own part, I maintained the usual THE RED  FEATHER.
discipline among my men, and soon had reason to congratulate myself in not having
yielded to the lazy example of our Indian
companions ; for one morning it was found
that a large number of horses had been stolen
during the night, whose owners had now to
lament the imprudence into which they had
been tempted. Fulfilling the old proverb of
"shutting the stable-door after the steed is
stolen," every precautionary measure was now
adopted, when no longer of any avail : scouts
scoured the country on all sides; whoops,
shouts, maddening yells of rage and disappointment resounded through the camp ; all
which gave way to soberer counsel when the
result of the reconnoissance was made known
by those deputed to that duty. Every concurrent circumstance pointed to their inveterate
enemies, the Blackfeet Indians, as the authors
of this outrage. It was also ascertained that
the course of their retreat was due west, and
that they were in all probability a detachment
from an extensive camp whose fires were discovered in a valley some twenty miles distant.
Such was the position of affairs : council 28
upon council was held, and my opinion consulted every hour of the day to settle some
knotty point in the discussion, while I, like a
skilful general, usually contrived by the wording
of my decisions to avoid committing myself in
the estimation of either party affected by them.
To be brief, the final issue of all the arguments
adduced was this ; that the horses were stolen,
the thieves were at hand, and that at all risks
reprisals must be made. A party of young-
men speedily assembled, in anticipation of the
adventure, but this was not definitively arranged, since one of the principal nersonag*es
of the camp had remained as yet a silent but
not unobservant spectator of what was passing,
and without his sanction no enterprise of this
nature could with propriety be undertaken.
This seeming apathetic, though influential
member of the band was the " Red Feather,"
so called from the distinctive badge he at all
times wore to indicate the dignity to which by
common acclamation he had been elected. His
colleague the " Cut Thumb" was camp chief,
and had attained the supreme dignity through
his   acknowledged wisdom in  the   affairs of THE RED  FEATHER.
every day life. The "Red Feather" was
leader of the warriors, and had received his
chivalrous appointment in consideration of
his extraordinary prowess in the field, and the
address he exhibited in all that related to martial concerns. The haughty and reserved
demeanour he usually assumed was well calculated to impress his companions with a lofty
opinion of his character ; while his suavity of
manner when addressed, tended to secure for
him their regard and esteem. Bold and fearless, he was at the same time prudent and skilful beyond any Indian who roved the prairies :
his renown was spread far and wide ; and
among" all the Flathead warriors there was
not one whose name resounded so frequently
in the Blackfeet camp, when the lamentations
of the bereaved told of valued racers disappeared, or the wail of widows gave signal of
deeds of death. Tall, well-shaped, and muscular, his person exhibited every characteristic
of strength and activity; while his features
were marked by well-cut, expressive outlines,
which would have distinguished him to the
most casual observer as a man of character 30
a*nd ability. Such in outward seeming was
the " Red Feather," towards whom at this critical period, every eye was turned in expectation of counsel.
When at length his long-deferred judgment
was delivered, the hasty preparations that had
been undertaken on the spur of the moment
were rendered void, since all immediate retaliation was discountenanced by the old warrior. " Peace for a while," said he ; " let us
not be hasty : the Blackfeet are even now on
their g*uard against our enterprises, and would
frustrate them. Let us send the pipe of peace
towards them, and meet them as friends : time
rolls on, and we shall yet be quits with them
before the grass is withered on the prairie."
The advice was acted upon : after an interchange of messages, a grand meeting was
agreed to, and the spot of the conference fixed.
It was a level part of the plain, bordering on a
small stream that meandered lazily through
the boundless expanse of the surrounding
prairies. A few willows skirted the brook in
some favoured spots, but in general the arid
banks produced but the coarse prairie grass, THE RED  FEATHER.
diversified in certain low bottoms, where the
moisture of the brook soaked through the soil,
by patches of wild vetch, and rank thickets of
hemlock —a baneful weed which thrives won-
drously in these sequestered regions.
Repairing hither at the appointed time, we
found the Blackfeet alreadyposted to receive us ;
and after a due allowance of ceremonial preparations, we proceeded to the business of the day,
with all the consequence and sincerity of practised diplomatists. At the head of the Flathead party, by virtue of his dignity of peace-
chief, rode our notable leader the "Cut
Thumb," attended by the pipe-bearer and
a varlet of no small importance in his own
esteem, who carried the bag of medicine. The
"Red Feather" and myself followed close
behind, representing the native prowess and
allied strength of the clan; while the rear
was brought up by a gallant cavalcade of
warriors, who fretted their steeds with knee
and bridle, making them caracole as they rode
along, in order to show off their skill in the
ménage. The cavaliers of the opposite party
were  not a whit inferior to them in these 32
knightly accomplishments, and bestrode their
ill-gotten animals with an air of the most consummate self-possession.
To the imposing display of these first approaches to each other, succeeded the pipe of
peace, and other affectations of friendship ; all
which being happily ended, the assembly was
repeatedly harangued by the orators on both
sides, who, if they wanted the euphonical
polish of a Cicero, might have vied with Demosthenes in the energetic vigour of their language. On the part of the Flatheads, a recapitulation of grievances from time immemorial opened the discussion : this was met by an
argument having much the same tendency,
and yet more point, in behalf of the opposite
faction. "You complain," said they, "that
we have stolen your horses ! While you are
speaking the blood of our young men whom
you have slain is yet warm; their scalps are
not dry that you took from us. You say that
in days past, before your white fathers gave
you guns, we killed many of you! has not
your revenge been complete ? Only last year
twenty of our warriors were cut off as with
■•■■•■■^v   .	 THE  RED  FEATHER.
fire ; three of their scalps even now decorate
the c Red Feather,' who stands before us.
You, I Cut Thumb,' you—you who now accuse
us of injuring the Flatheads—with your spells
and incantations have cast sickness into our
camp : our children gasp for breath, our very
horses are less fleet than was their wont, solely
owing to your strong medicines, and the virulence of your hatred towards us. As for the
horses you have lost, the Shoshonies must
have taken them ; not one has entered our
camp : our young men are low spirited and
are become as women ; how then could they
have done so bold an action ? " In this strain
of mutual recrimination and defence the parley
was carried on to the end ; both parties pretending to believe implicitly the expressions
of good will and peaceful intentions lavishly
poured forth, yet each inwardly chuckling at
the other's credulity. A hollow peace was
eventually patched up by these punie diplomatists, and the two camps separating, went
afterwards each on its way, in the direction
where they expected to find buffalo.
Three days afterwards the " Red Feather "
D 34
came to my tent. " To-day I go for horses,"
said he: "the Blackfeet are unsuspicious ; my
young* men have seen their camp ; their horses
are unwatched. The Black," added he, alluding to one which had attracted my attention from the symmetry of its shape—"the
Black must be mine at all risks." Attended
by two of his followers, he went off the same
night, not as usual on horseback, but on foot,
each of the party carrying a small supply of
dried meat, and a tough lasso that sufficiently
declared the nature of their mission.
Meanwhile we had fallen upon buffalo. Immense herds of these uncouth beasts ranged
over the prairie, which was intersected in
every direction by the deeply-worn paths of
their periodical migrations. The grand business of the year now commenced in good earnest : the hunters prepared their trained racers
for the duties of the chase ; everything was put
in readiness; but no man ventured to leave the
precincts of the camp. At length the chief,
having ascertained that all the preparations
were complete, gave the welcome signal—proclaiming, in a loud voice, that all were now at THE RED FEATHER.
liberty to depart, and adding such recommendations as seemed necessary for maintaining order among the multitude. Joy beamed
from every face ; the very horses seemed alive
to tlie excitement of the occasion ; and as
they drew near the buffalo, could with diffi-
culty be restrained. The whole cavalcade,
consisting of some three hundred horsemen,
were shortly engaged indiscriminately in the
At first the poor victims stood eyeing their
approaching enemies; then, as if mistrusting
the nature of their intentions, they began to
move slowly off in a body ; their sullen walk
soon changing to an awkward g'allop, and as
their rear and flanks became more and more
pressed by their pursuers, ending in a general
rout. Now was the crisis of the chase, and
the hunter's opportunity, when he showed his
skill, not to mention his good taste, by selecting
the fattest animals as they scuttled over the
plain. Shot after shot resounded in every direction; while the scarcely less fatal arrow did its
share in the general work of destruction, only
more silently.   The horses, trained to the task, 36
seemed as if intuitively acquainted with what
was required of them ; keeping even pace with
the selected animal, and preserving, at all
times, a distance of several paces from its
side ; watching pointedly its every motion, and
lightly springing away whenever it would
g*ore them, as if anticipating its intentions
even before they were put in practice.
Several hundred animals lay scattered in
every direction around us. In the distance
the retreating herds were rushing wildly over
the plain, sometimes enveloped in dust, then
emerging from the cloud and becoming again
visible as the flickering" wind shifted athwart,
or in the line of their course. Here and there
a scattered horseman, more eager or better
mounted than the rest, still pursued the flying
bands; while a dropping shot, from time to
time, sounded the knell of another victim. The
hunters began to congregate, and the division
of the p:*ey alone was wanting to finish the
day's proceedings. Suddenly a cloud of dust
appeared on the horizon, in the direction of
our preceding day's march. All eyes were
strained to discover the  cause.    There were THE RED  FEATHER.
no buffalo in that quarter to account for the
commotion ; but all conjecture was soon put at
rest: the peculiar cry with which the Indian
jockeys urge on a band of horses, maddening
them by some strange sympathy beyond conception, was I eard from time to time, repeated
with growing distinctness as the excited horses
approached; a yell of welcome broke forth,
when at length a numerous band became discoverable, driven by three mounted Indians,
who were soon recognized as the " Red
Feather" and his two daring associates. As
they drew near it might be seen that the
horses were well-nigh exhausted ; the foam,
trickling down their quivering flanks, mingled
with the accumulated dust, and completely
disguised their exterior features. Anon they
would slacken their pace, and seek momentary
relief by snatching languidly at the tufts of
grass around them ; but the shrill and piercing
whoop, whose strangely discordant modulation
it were vain to endeavour to express, or even
to imitate, would again set them off with redoubled energy, its strange unearthly sound
seeming to act like enchantment upon   the
< 38
muscular frames of the animals, through its
influence over the inward faculties. What the
cause of this peculiar sympathy between man
and beast may be, or what connection between
the cry in question and the extraordinary
effect produced by it, is not in my power
to determine ; but the fact is too commonly
known, and too well authenticated to admit
of doubt. In this instance I was deeply struck
by the singular infatuation of the poor jaded
brutes. Wearied to exhaustion, they yet
seemed to rise superior to all bodily weakness,
as soon as they heard the cry of their persecutors in the rear. On they rushed ; death,
destruction might be before them ; fire, or a
precipice, might intercept their path; but it
seemed as if no obstacle could for a moment
check their progress while under this strang*e
Arriving at the camp, the " Red Feather "
and his two associates dismounted at a bound,
slipped the cords in an instant out of their
horses' mouths, and turning* them loose, uttered a loud whew of complacency, finishing
with a hearty laugh at the success of their THE  RED  FEATHER.
exploit. After their hunger had been appeased with a supply of boiled meat proportionate to their long fast, served to them in
the principal lodge, the endless pipe was
lighted, and they recounted the hazards they
had undergone ; to which, though one would
have supposed some of the incidents not to be
over agreeable, they invariably gave a ludicrous or jocund turn. Their delighted audience listened with infinite relish to the story
of this adventure; the braves relating how
they had overheard the luckless Blackfeet
boasting in their camp, and chuckling over
their fancied security. " But," said the " Red
Feather," in conclusion, and in a tone of disappointment, " the Black was left behind after
all. I visited in one night almost every tent
in the camp ; for he was not loose with the
band. I crept on my belly among the horses'
feet, and sought and sought to no purpose. At
length I found him. He was tied, but not
tethered with a picket : his master held the
cord as he slept ; the day was breaking, or I
would have cut it." Then, warming again
with the remembrance of his successful foray, Il
the chivalrous rogue declared that he would
yet bestride the g*allant black steed.
A month had elapsed since the  events I
have  narrated.     Our camp had for  a time
been stationary in a position not far from the
scene of the " Red Feather's " exploit.  My own
movements, however, had not been restrained
by the inactivity of my Indian allies.    Accompanied by my party, whom I considered strong
enough to resist any open attack, and sufficiently disciplined to run little danger of being
reduced  or pillaged   by   stratagem,   I   had
made a distant excursion in quest of beaver ;
roving about among the small brooks which
intersect the country and communicate with
the larger streams by which the waters are
carried towards the south branch (Lewis and
Clarke's), and thence to the Columbia.     Success had attended our endeavours in a signal
degree;   and desirous of acquiring additional
information concerning the neighbourhood, before finally separating from the native camp,
and shaping my course southward, I was at
present allowing a  few days' repose to  our
wearied horses.   As for the Indians, they were THE RED FEATHER.
mostly employed in the grave operations of
the preserved meat and leather business, for
which the capital in hand had been found by
the poor buffalo. Scaffolds surrounded the
camp in all directions, garnished with jerked
meat, undergoing the process of desiccation;
partly effected by the sun's rays, and partly
by the smouldering fires maintained beneath.
Elsewhere might be seen large frames fashioned of poles tied together, upon which the
skins of the animals who had furnished these
supplies for many future banquets and merrymakings, were spread to dry, either in their
natural state, intended for coverings, or with
the hair detached, in preparation for cutting
into cords, or for other useful purposes. Everywhere, I may here remark, only women were
visible in active employment; for upon them
the whole duty of the camp devolved, even to
the " hewing of wood and drawing of water ; "
their lordly masters thinking themselves quit
of all obligation by the slaughter of the animals of the chase and the defence of their camp
against the invasion of their hereditary enemies the Blackfeet.    At high noon, the " lorda TRAITS  OF INDIAN  LIFE.
of the creation" might be observed lazily
stretched out, sunning themselves upon their
extended buffalo robes; or idly visiting the
precincts of the camp in quest of some favourite charger. Here and there a young
stripling exercised a yearling colt to the cord,
or was engaged in breaking*-in some refractory member of his parent's teams to the bridle
or the burthen — perhaps indulging himself
with a g*allop, barebacked, among the lodges,
exhibiting the paces of his steed with the intention of attracting the gaze of some tawny-
visaged damsel. Within the lodges, the men
were either napping lazily as in the sunnier
spots outside, or still worse, wiling away the
time with the excitement of gambling.
This vicious propensity is the bane of savage
life ; as it often proves of more civilized communities. Horses, guns, blankets, whatever
the poor Indian can call his own, is ruthlessly
sacrificed to this Moloch of human weakness.
The hour was noon, the scene such as I have
described. A listless enervation pervaded the
camp, occasioned by the extreme heat ; for it
was now midsummer.     Groups of children THE RED  FEATHER.
were amusing themselves, as happier children
are wont to do, shaded under the mimic lodges
they had erected ; their noisy prattling alone
disturbing the general stillness. I had been
some days expecting the arrival of the " Red
Feather," who was again off in quest of the
coveted Black so often mentioned. It was important to my views that I should see the chief,
since his knowledge of a particular section of
the country qualified him in an eminent degree
to advise me on some points necessary to the
success of the expedition. My impatience increased daily, and I was anxiously looking
out for his arrival, when, at the time mentioned, a cry was raised which betokened an
approaching party.
The whole camp was speedily on the outlook to discover the name and quality of their
visitors. At first, only a cloud of dust was
visible, but presently a single horseman, approaching at a gallop, gave rise to additional
conjecture. When he drew near, the son-in-
law of " Red Feather " was recognized ; but
he uttered no cry : his horse was wearied to
the last extremity, scarcely could its tottering
■■ 44
I 4
legs sustain the weight of the body as it
galloped painfully towards us.     Portentous
tiding-s were doubtless on the eve of reaching"
© ©
us; not a voice was lifted to inquire their
tenor, as if every one intuitively anticipated
evil. In a few moments, the weary beast
came panting* up to the lodges, and the tidings
of his rider were delivered in a few sad words ;
leaping hastily to the ground, he only said :—
"c Red Feather ' is no more, he is g*one the
way of his fathers ! " Then arose the cry of
the fatherless and the widow ; the wail of the
companion and the friend. The silence that
had before prevailed was now contrasted by
the heart-rending expressions of mourning
uttered on all sides ; and the camp, lately so
listless and peaceable, resounded with one
general wail of grief and lamentation.
The death of the noble chief of the Flathead
warriors, according to the account of his surviving companion, was most tragical. The
adventurers had reached the precincts of the
Blackfeet camp unobserved, and after much
skilful manoeuvring had succeeded in securing* the envied Black, together  with the
horse on which the witness had reached his
own camp, as they were feeding in open day
in a meadow close by the lodges. They had
scarcely time to mount their prizes when they
were discovered. Giving rein to their steeds
they uttered a shout of defiance, and struck
in the direction of home, pursued after a short
interval by a numerous party of the enemy.
But they were safe from pursuit. They had,
as they knew, secured the two fleetest runners
of the band, and set at nought all the endeavours of their pursuers to overtake them.
Prompted by the dictates of their fury, the
latter resorted to a common expedient to
wreak their vengeance.
The wind, which had till now been scarcely
perceptible, began to blow freshly from the
river. The "Red Feather," whose horse
showed not the least symptom of distress,
had reined him up and stopped for some
minutes as if in defiance of the enemy.
Suddenly the pursuing party stopped, and
in a moment a bright blaze gave warning to the " Red Feather" that no time
was to be lost;  they had   set  fire  to   the
as 46
plain. Driven by the fierce wind, the flame
advanced with surprising* speed : a broad strip
of marly soil destitute of all veg*etation lay
before them, beyond which the fire could
not pass. To reach this was their only chance
of safety. The distance was easily accomplished by the narrator, since he was close
to the margin when the  flames
arose ;   but
the " Red Feather" was less fortunate ; his
act of defiance cost him his life. When in
safety himself the Indian turned to ascertain
the progress of his father-in-law. He was
within a quarter of a mile of the desired
haven. The Black strove gallantly to reach
it, but all his efforts were useless ; the raging
element, fed with the dry grass, advanced
with the speed of an eagle. A short few
moments and all was over. The " Red Feather" lay a blackened corpse among the
smoking ashes, his gallant steed beside him !
Such was the melancholy end of the boldest
warrior of the Flathead tribe, whose renown
yet lives among the wild races to whom his
name was in days of yore familar.
Shortly   after   this   melancholy   event   I THE RED  FEATHER.
separated from the brave and hospitable tribe
that it had plunged into mourning ; and of
whom it is but due to remark, that of all
the tribes on the west side of the Rocky
Mountains they stand pre-eminently alone,
in not having* shed the blood of a white
man. My journey to the Columhia was
effected in six weeks—not, however, without
undergoing considerable anxiety and privation; all which was soon forgotten in the
hearty welcome I received from my worthy
friend B^-—, who shortly before had been
appointed to that station. 48
once witnessed a strange occurrence, which,
after repeated inquiries, I find to be an isolated instance of what may excite perhaps no
little surprise—the voluntary interment of a
living Indian. Four other gentlemen were
present at this tragedy, for such it may truly
be called, and should this narrative ever meet
their eyes they will readily bear testimony to
its correctness. The circumstance gave occasion to many remarks at the time, more especially among* ourselves, for we could with
difficulty conceive a human being possessing
so much perverted resolution as to sacrifice
himself in a manner so dreadful : but the facts
—■>... BURIAL  OF  THE  DEAD  AND  LIVING.     4$
were obvious, and all surmises vanished before
Suicides, indeed, are of such constant occurrence   among  civilized  nations, as  to  excite
little comment, and the circumstances of the
crime are often of almost  incredible horror.
It is well known that they are less frequent
among savage tribes ;  and if they are more
common among some of these unfortunate people than others, it will generally be found that
they are committed under some  momentary
impulse  of desperate  excitement.    Instances
of calm, resolute self-destruction, such as that
I am about  to relate, are certainly of rare
occurrence.     It  is worthy of  remark, also,
that the proportion of suicides among the females, far   exceeds  that of  the males, the
causes for which I do not pretend to assign,
though they may  reasonably be  sought in
the cruel usag'e to which they are subject.
It was in the autumn of 1825, two days
after my arrival at Wallwalla, near the confluence of the north and south branches of the
Columbia, after an absence of eleven months.
I was enjoying the long disused luxury of a
E i
6 )t
glass of wine, in company with Mr. D	
and his companions, when a young Indian
entered, and requested the presence of the
former gentleman at his tent. The visit was
rather  a long*  one, and  on his return, Mr.
D informed us that the "Eagle," a chief
of this place, had lost a son, who had just
breathed his last. This was the second of his
children who had died within a few months,
and the bereaved father appeared to be in a
very desponding state in consequence. His
wife, however, was still alive, and there likewise remained two married daughters to com-
fort his declining days. Riches, too, were his,
if these could have afforded him any consolation;
for, possessing more than a hundred horses,
he ranked among* the opulent of the tribe.
Unhappily, notwithstanding all that yet remained to him, life had lost its charm. All
his hopes and all his desires had been centred
in his departed sons — his only stay in the
decline of fife—for whose sakes any sacrifice
would have been endured, and for whose premature fate no mourning in his eyes seemed
The interment of the corpse was appointed
to take place on the following day; but the
deceased not being one of our number, no
impression was made on us by the announcement. Far otherwise had it been one of our
own companions in adventure ; for the death
of a friend in these savage wilds has g*enerally
a deep and lasting effect on his fellow-so-
journers ; and although it be the common lot
of humanity, yet the idea of dying in this
country, without, perhaps, one loved heart to
soothe the dying* moments, and without the
participation in that holy rite which re-assures
us of mercy hereafter, is indeed a melancholy
prospect.     j(^kA*>
Such were the circumstances, under which
one or those assembled on this occasion, poor
J)£.—i some years afterwards yielded up his
breath. He was a good-hearted, generous
fellow, and much respected by all who knew
him. 0 ur school days had been passed together,
and the friendship then contracted, increased
instead of diminishing with increasing* years.
Poor fellow ! Little did he or I then anticipate  so  early a termination to his earthly 52
career, which he fulfilled in a manner alike
honourable to his head and his heart.
J)JJiM was invited to attend the burial;
and being the commandant of the establishment, could not with propriety refuse showing
this mark of respect to the family of the chief.
The invitation was likewise extended to the
other g'entlemen and myself, for whom the
same inducement did not exist, so that, in
short, we felt disposed to decline. Yielding* to
the persuasion of DIW^-, however, we accompanied him, and, as the event turned out, I
was not sorry we did so. The scene we witnessed was unparalleled in my experience, and
though horrifying in the extreme, it was yet,
from its very strang*eness, of absorbing interest.
The grave was dug on a small eminence,
some furlongs distant from the fort. On reaching the spot we found an immense concourse of
natives assembled, among whom the father and
family of the deceased were conspicuous. The
former stood on the brink of the grave, in a desponding mood; and though he permitted no
outward symptom of grief to appear, it was
yet evident to all that a mighty and continued
effort alone kept it in restraint. He appeared
to be about fifty years of age, and his form and
features, though stern and swarthy, offered a
model of manly beauty. The mother and her
daughters were loud in their expressions of
grief; but that of the father, from its very
calmness, was the more terrible, and I could
not but sympathize with feelings so obviously
The weeping and wailing of the assembled
friends- were the only sounds to be heard, and
for a long while the business for which they
were assembled was suspended, as if no one
was willing to impose the last trial of their
hearts upon the bereaved parents. At length
the father gave a stern order that the body
should be deposited in the grave ; a mandate
which was reluctantly obeyed by her who had
equal cause to mourn their great loss. The
old man then commanded silence, and in a
resolute tone of voice began to address the
assembled multitude.    Having"  called  atten-
tion to the different events of his life, as connected with the rank he occupied, he proceeded I
HI •;
I   I
to remind them—always addressing himself to
Mr. D ,—of the domestic afflictions he had
endured, concluding* with the recent death of
his eldest and most beloved son, whose corpse
was now before us. "And now," said he,
" the string of my bow is broken, the last
hope of my declining days has forsaken me.
Seek not to dissuade me from the resolution I
have adopted, for I am resolved upon following him, and all you can urge will be in vain;
fife has no longer any cha«n for me. I was
once a hunter, but am now no longer so; I
was once the proud father of two noble sons ;
but, alas ! where are they ? I was once a
warrior, but am no longer so. Wherefore
shall I continue to cumber this earth with my
useless presence ?"
The silence that now prevailed was so deep
that not even a breath was audible. The old.
man folded his blanket around him, cast one
farewell look on the fair fields and the broad-
rolling river in the vicinity ; and then, to the
surprise of all present, descended composedly
into the pit, and laid himself upon the corpse
of his departed  son.    "Throw in the earth, BURIAL  OF THE DEAD AND  LIVING.     55
fill up the grave, cover up my last earthly
residence," exclaimed he. " Nay, do not hesitate, for I am resolved to die." Screams of
agony arose from his afflicted wife and daughters ; vehement expostulations were resorted to
by all around ; but the old chief remained
firm. Not the tenderest entreaties of those
who were dearest to him among the living—
not the eager representations of his friends,
backed by the usually influential voice of
D&&^L, could, for an instant, shake the resolve of the self-devoted victim. " I will die!"
said he ; " seek no longer to prevent it ; I
repeat it, I will die!"
When it was found that all expostulations
and entreaties were in vain, the friends held
a clamorous council among themselves, which
resulted in a decision to obey the will of the
chief. When he saw that his wish would be
complied with, he ag*ain spoke, and gave
directions for the disposal of his property : his
horses were ordered to be divided among* his
relations, ten of the finest being first given to
Mr. D-ifcàk, who was looked upon by the
Indians as an adopted father. 56
Meanwhile I had advanced to the brink of
the grave, in order to observe narrowly the
countenance of the old man. I could perceive
no symptoms of weakness. The same stern
calmness which was at first perceptible, still
continued to characterize it, and as the clods
of earth began to shower down upon him, still
not a muscle relaxed.    In the midst of the
most fearful howling"s and lamentations were
the horrid obsequies performed ; the clay and
the sand being filled in, the green sod was at
length carefully arranged over the small spot
which marked the last resting-place of the
living and the dead.
Agreeably to the last request of the "Eagle,"
Mr. DW&- caused a flag to be placed over
his grave, the tattered remnants of which still
fluttered in the breeze when I last visited the
gpot ; serving to indicate to the passer-by the
scene of the horrid though voluntary sacrifice
I have related. AN  INDIAN   FESTIVAL.
Six years ago, being the spring of 1882,1
was stationed on the north - west coast of
America, at the recently-formed settlement of
Fort Simpson, at the mouth of the Nass
River. This establishment was the only one
as yet maintained there, and its erection was
so recent, that our knowledge of the savage
tribes in the midst of whom we were settled,
was very scanty. At this particular season,
the natives from all quarters are in the habit
of assembling on the shores of the Nass, for
the purpose of obtaining a supply of small
fish, of delicate flavour, termed Oliekon, which
resort to this stream in hmumef able shoals* to
spaw6, and afford active employment during 58
\W 1
the brief season they remain, to the native
Although at all times most guarded to avoid
© ©
any surprise from our rude neighbours, the
overpowering* numbers thus congregated from
JT ©   . ©        ©
all quarters in our immediate vicinity, g*ave an
additional spur to our vigilance ; and the need
of watchfulness will be apparent, when I add
thatf the whole garrison, including myself and
the other ofiicers, did not exceed twenty men.
With this insignificant force it became us to
exercise unremitted attention, and certainly
everj*" one g*ave himself to the harassing task
with a zeal which the occasion fully demanded.
One morning* in April, I observed, and remarked to one of the gentlemen, that the
natives were assembling" in unusual force im-
mediately in front of the g*ates, and we both
agreed that it had a suspicious appearance.
We remained in suspense for some minutes,
when one of the principal chiefs came to our
little fortress, demanding admission, as he had
something of importance to impart to me.
The formal manner in which this request was;
made increased instead of diminishing my anxious curiosity. He was ushered into my
room of state, a chamber set apart expressly
for the reception of the great men of the land.
I observed that he took the precaution of
closing the doors, and though I was under no
apprehension of present danger to myself, the
stranger being completely in my power, I
nevertheless, and very naturally, felt some
misgivings as to the purpose of a morning call
attended with so much formality.
Being; seated, the chief remained some time
© y
in silence, and then, as if moved by the spirit,
commenced as follows :—" Great Chief of the
Whites, you are too vigilant not to have observed an unusual concourse of my young
men in front of your fort ; they are there by
my orders, and without evil design. It is my
intention to give a great feast. We are come
here to make preparations for it, and I require
your assistance."
It is scarcely necessary to say that such a
solution of the mystery was very much to my
satisfaction, and that I cheerfully complied
with the request of the grand steward of the CO
forthcoming banquet. Canoes continued going
and coming every day and hour, all freighted
with cargoes of dingy savages. For ten mortal
days, not a moment of tranquillity was experienced ; the concourse of Indians at last assembled on the ground exceeding, on the most
moderate calculation, 1,500 souls. The preparations for the feast were of course on a
proportionately grand scale—at least as far as
labour and expense were concerned. A lot of
deals, recently received, amounting* to about a
thousand, were put in requisition, and employed
by the natives to erect a temporal shed for
the accommodation of the guests ; while other
articles necessary to their operations were borrowed, as wanted, from us.
Our vigilance, it may be imagined, did not
abate under these circumstances, of the sincerity of which we had no guarantee. We
had property in our warehouse to a larg*e
amount, offering a great temptation to their
cupidity, and, indeed, other considerations
apart, had no inclination to put their forbearance to the test, or to submit ourselves
to their tender mercies'.    The two gentlemen AN INDIAN  FESTIVAL.
who were with me merited, however, all my
confidence, and this relieved my mind of a
great load of anxiety. Truly may it be said,
that Indian traders experience severe trials
in the course of their duty; not to mention
the privations which they cheerfully undergo.
Alas! that many who look forward for the
reward of tranquillity and repose at last do so,
too often in vain, frequently cursing the day
they ever left their homes to pass their fives
among* Indians.
At length, all the great preliminaries being
finished, the hour was at hand when the affair
was to "come off." On the eleventh day,
shortly after sunrise, two Indians carrying
a long pole, at the end of which were suspended feathers of the bald-headed eagle, came
to the fort gates, and with a loud voice
desired admittance to the white chief. Their
request being granted, they advanced into
the hall, and after duly performing their obeisance, touched with their wands of office myself
and the two gentlemen who were present
with me.
This grand ceremony,  we were given  to
T°l°J.   _,   ,_   -      ■ ULA L in    —juit.i.j.1 ,UM*~ ]
understand, was to be construed into an invitation to attend the entertainment of the day, to
commence about noon. We now held a consultation concerning the propriety of accepting
an invitation of this nature ; after duly weighing the arguments for and ag*ainst such a show
of complaisance, I decided on doing so, and that
one of the gentlemen, the surgeon, should likewise attend ; thus setting at nought the vague
rumours of evil intended against us, which we
could not avoid hearing. We first made every
arrangement with the gentleman who remained
at home, respecting the measures he should
adopt in the event of treachery, and then,
accompanied by six men and our body g*uard
proceeded to the house of feasting, which,
if I might conjecture future events by the
lugubrious visages of the men, was likely to
prove to some of us a house of mourning*.
The building was erected within a hundred
yards of the fort, and to suggest the idea that
we were prepared to revenge any treacherous
measures, two field-pieces were exposed in a
commanding situation in the block-houses.
On our arrival at the entrance of the ban- AN INDIAN  FESTIVAL.
quetingh a 11; which the Indians had extemporized with considerable skill, we found the
crowd so great that ingress was for a moment
impossible. A frightful howling and shouting,
however, soon drew attention to our presence,
and six stout fellows, whose office of masters
of the ceremonies seemed blended with that of
special constables to preserve the public peace
on this occasion, laid about them with such
right good-will and effect that a wide passa g*e
was opened for us, and the jackall-like howls
of the expectant revellers partially quelled as
they retired on either side. In this state
we entered the building, which we found to be
of very ample dimensions, provided also, at one
end, with an elevated stage, before which a
parti-coloured curtain was suspended. The
whole of the remaining area was occupied by
rows of seats arranged as in the pit of a theatre,
the tout ensemble, indeed, forcibly reminding
me of the plan of arrangement adopted in
places of that description, in more polished
situations than a scarcely known spot of the
north-west coast of this continent. As the
honoured guests of the chief, we were accom- 64
le f
modated with a couple of chairs within a short
distance of the stage, and during the brief
interval occurring before the attention was
otherwise demanded, had a favourable opportunity of computing the number of Indians present, which could not have been less than eight
hundred, exclusive of women, who were seated
apart, and of a crowd of slaves of both sexes;
who eagerly thronged the entrance with the
hope of witnessing the grand doings about to
proceed within-doors.
A stop was soon put to my speculations on
this point, by the elevation of the curtain which
immediately followed a signal proceeding from
behind it. On the stage, boldly erect, stood the
lord of the banquet, recognizable by his lofty
stature and the stately proportions which imparted a peculiar grace and dignity to his
bearing. On his face he wore a grotesque
mask of wood. More interesting still, his
head was surmounted by an emblematical
figure, representing the sun, rendered luminous by some simple contrivance in the interior. As all eyes were turned upon him,
the stage was so arranged that he gradually INDIAN  FESTIVAL
disappeared beneath it, bearing with him the
source of light by which our artificial little
world was illuminated, and leaving us in total
darkness; a state of affairs which, knowing
the savagely treacherous characters with
whom we were associated, was by no means
agreeable to us white men. The matter was
so contrived, however, that daylight presently
began to appear again, until, by slow degrees,
our Indian Phoebus, bearing the bright orb of
day, whose temporary absence we had deplored,
stood erect before us in all the meridian splendour of his first appearance.
Three times was this alternate setting and
rising of the sun repeated, each repetition eliciting rounds of rapturous applause, expressed
by shouts, screams, howlings, and gesticulations,
most indescribably appalling, and such as
might cause a momentary shudder to the
stoutest heart. To do our entertainer justice, his performance, simple as it was, was
most creditably carried through, and spoke
much in favour of the native talent of its
originator. The deception by which the
gradual appearance and disappearance of the
F 1
■ i-
11 4 '
:       1
light was imitated, was indeed most complete, and productive of much satisfaction to us
all. Then came the second act of this dramatic representation, consisting in a grand
dance performed in the true North-west Coast
style, by forty young women, each rejoicing
in a choice article of feminine trinketry in?
serted, secundum artemy in the lower lip.
Their motions, as my friend the surgeon remarked—for I myself am no judge of these
affairs—were in perfect unison with the music
of a chorus sung by the dancers themselves ;
and, although they had not enjoyed Ae advantages of instruction under Italian masters of
the art, they at least contorted their limbs to
as good purpose as is usual in exhibitions of a
like nature.
The dancing having continued for half an
hour, the exhibition ceased, but there was yet
no sign of the promised feast, beyond the
strong odour of putrid oil which pervaded the
place, and which indicated the existence of
something in the shape of eatables in the
vicinity. The delay was presently explained
when the chief entered the arena of the hal^ INDIAN  FESTIVAL.
followed by slaves bearing presents. He laid
at my feet five beautiful sea-otter skins, and
a quantity of beaver, while a proportionable
quantity fell to the share of my companion.
Furs, war-dresses, slaves, and other property,
were then distributed in adequate portions
among the assembled chiefs.   The slaves, poor
unfortunates! though thus transferred to stran-
gers, viewed the change with a seeming indifference, well knowing that, here or elsewhere, slavery was their inevitable lot, and
that it was scarcely possible to change for the
worse. Pity that the Slavery Emancipation
Act does not extend its influence to these
remote shores, where the labours and sufferings
of the unhappy wretches whose condition it
might ameliorate, cease only with death.
Immense piles of meat and north-west
delicacies of all descriptions now appeared, and
judging from the concourse of guests, I considered they were sufficient to consume the
whole, without assistance on my part. Perhaps I may here acknowledge, without much
danger of wounding the sensibility of my kind
entertainers, that I felt little desire to partake TRAflSS 0£ 3MÎÀN I£FE.
of their good cheer, having strong and not unreasonable misgivings that human flesh might
Compose an undistinguishable portion ; it being
known, in feet, that slaves are frequently
sacrificed as a bonne bouche to grace the repast. Having intimated our desire to the
chief, the word was instantly given to make
way for our departure. The officious masters
of the ceremonies, as prompt in obedience as
command, instantly obeyed the mandate, and
hi a few moments we emerged into the open
air, honoured as we went by the same unearthly shouts that had greeted our arrival.
This mode of salutation, until we grew accustomed to it, caused us some surprise: all
over the interior it is usual for the natives to
remain, on the arrival of strangers, more than
usually quiet, so that conversation, or remarks
*9f any kind, seldom commence till the introductory pipe of ceremony has made the tour
fcf those assembled.
As for our friendly convives, whose hospitably we may have failed to appreciate, thay
passed a sleepless, though doubtless an agreeable night, and daylight the next morning INIEAN  FESTIVAL.
found them still revelling in the excess of their
enjoyment. A few hours more, and the remembrance of all this jollity was all that remained to rejoice their lodges in the wilderness.
The slaves of the entertainers speedily demolished their grand banqueting-hall ; replaced
the deals as they found them ; and, to their
honour be it said, restored all borrowed
articles. Best of all, they incontinently took
their own departure, leaving us once more in
that state of comparative ease and tranquillity
which their grand revel had so long and so
disagreeably interrupted. 70
Ten or twelve years are now elapsed since I
was stationed at Fort Killmaurs, in the
Babine country, on the seaward frontier of
Western Caledonia. Since then I have been
a wanderer far and near, my perverse fate
never permitting* me to sojourn long in the
same spot; but driving me about without
cessation, like a ball in a tennis-court. While
in the heyday of youth, this vagrant kind of
life was not without its charms to one of my
unsettled disposition: with advancing years,
however, soberer tastes, and less adventurous
desires, have crept over me, until I could
heartily wish for a life of greater tranquillity. A TALE  OF WESTERN  CALEDONIA.
The potentates who rule my destiny seem,
however, otherwise inclined, and I now discover, to my overpowering chagrin and discomfort, that what I began willingly, and
regarded as amusement, I must continue in
earnest and against the grain, like physic administered to one who might wish it " to the
dogs |—" le flux , m! amena le reflux m'amène."
When, oh, when, will this life of involuntary
peregrination cease ?
But a truce to useless plaints, and let me
ask you, the happy reader of my sometimes
unhappy narrations, if you have ever been in
Western Caledonia ? If you have not, I must
tell you that Fort Killmaurs, my old charge,
is situated on the borders of a superb lake,
called by the natives " Nata," by ourselves
denominated " Babine." Wherefore this difference of name ? and what the origin of the
latter ? you may perhaps ask. Know, then, that
the inhabitants of the vicinity, like those of
the neighbouring sea-coast, have a strange
custom of inserting* pieces of wood, or ivory,
in the shape of small platters, concave on both
sides, into perforations made in the nether lips TRAITS  OF INDIAN  LIFE.
of the fairer portion of the community. Jean
Baptiste, a Canadian, having a nice eye for
analogy of form, and detecting the likeness of
this self-imposed deformity to the bobine, or
lip of a cow, or a horse, saw no better way
of perpetuating his discovery than its immediate application as the distinguishing name
of the tribe. This delicate appellation has
since taken a place in the nomenclature of the
country, of which it would be now difficult to
deprive it ; notwithstanding the frequent inconvenience which is allowed on all hands to
result from the arbitrary mode of naming*
places, without reference to the aboriginal
nomenclature, by which alone they ought to be
Fort Killmaurs, at the date of my present
story, had been established about a year only.
It had been my lot to superintend the cutting
of the first stick at its commencement, and to
witness the hoisting of the British flag. It is
scarcely credible how expeditiously forts are
"knocked up," and what is meant by their
completion, in this country. After this epoch,
to which  I had for some time,  and   most A TALE OF WESTERN CALEDONIA.
anxiously looked forward, I began to feel
more at ease, as, happen what might, we had
now the means of ensuring our safety in the
event of any sudden rupture with the swarthy
savages who surrounded us. The sense of security, and the leisure which a year of anxiety at
length left me, was favourable to the consideration of plans for acquiring a more intimate
knowledge of the surrounding country. Several
projects presented themselves to my mind,
all smacking more or less of adventure, until
it became utterly impossible to remain quietly
ensconced in my chimney-corner. I at length
determined, as a premier pas, on paying a
visit to the village of Hotset, which, the
natives informed me, was situated at some
days' march distance, on the borders of a large
stream, of which that issuing from the Nata
Lake was a tributary. Following up this
resolve, I speedily put affairs in train for its
due prosecution: in the first place, making"
such dispositions as I deemed necessary for
the safety of the post during my absence,
and consigning the charge to my junior in
command.    I then selected such of the  sesi- TRAITS  OF INDIAN  LIFE.
vants as I  wished to accompany me, and set
forward on my voyage of discovery.
There is something animating in the very
name of an expedition to explore new countries, and how much more in the actual prosecution of one! Who, while only perusing
the history of another's wanderings, has not
experienced a feeling, however slight, of envy,
as each wayside adventure is reproduced with
life-like distinctness in the magic mirror of his
imagination? Who in his reveries upon the
romance of travel has not felt his heart bound
with the zest of discovery, seasoned with the
humour of a Bruce or a Le Vaillant; or who
but has sympathized with the hopes arid the
fears, and the daily disappointments of some
adventurous Park, or equally adventurous
Clapperton ? Alas, for us poor north-westers !
we can only envy the fame of these renowned
names. But, as 1 have said, there is something which tends to exalt the mind in the
prospect of exploring regions till now trodden
only by the footsteps of the savage; something which gives a higher tone to all our
feelings, calling every talent of observation A TALE OF WESTERN CALEDONIA.
into play, and provoking curiosity which one
is willing to strain every nerve to gratify.
Mais, revenons a nos moutons. On leaving
Fort Killmaurs, our route lay towards the end
of the lake. A large canoe, manned by ten
select men, skimmed over the waters in regatta
style; the adjacent shores echoing the songs
of the rowers, as they bent to the oars, and
one after another caught up the exhilarating
chorus. The pleasure of riding S over the
waters, the pure air, the panorama of the
unknown shores, and the cheerful songs of my
companions, all contributed to the balmy feeling of gladness which came over me, as I
mused on the adventures which lay before
us. I was by no means confident of a
welcome reception when we should arrive at
our destination, and was moreover well aware
that it was the rendezvous of all the blackguards and all the gamblers of the surrounding villages. I had, however, taken every
precaution to ensure our safety as far as the
arming of the party went ; and it now only
remained, by a judicious line of conduct, to
avoid all occasion of rupture with the natives TRAITS OF INDIAN  LIFE.
of Hotset, to whom the faces and manners of
Europeans were as yet unknown.
A few hours served to take us to Nass-
chick, a village occupied by some of the Lake
Indians. This village, or rather hamlet, is
situated at the extremity of the Nata, at a
point where the opposite shores, gradually
converging for some distance, approach each
other so nearly as to indicate, at the first
glance, the commencement of the stream by
which the waters of the lake are discharged.
We were received here with great demonstrations of joy ; and as this spot had hitherto
been the extent of our visits in this direction, I
availed myself of the happy disposition evinced
by the inhabitants to press the necessity of their
furnishing me with guides for the continuance
of our journey. This proposition was met
with very little favour; and it was evident
to me that a feeling of dread at visiting the
natives of Hotset, whose sincerity, even in
times of peace, they always mistrust, opposed
an effectual barrier to the speedy accomplishment of my wishes. Seeing, therefore, that
none of those present were willing to accom- A TALE OF WESTERN  CALEDONIA.       77
pany me, and desirous of showing the Indians
that we could travel without their assistance,
I asked one of the chiefs for verbal directions as to the route, and gave the word for
starting again. We now proceeded by la«4#
the canoe and its appendages being left in care
of the chief.
Having coasted for some distance along the
left bank of the river, the road, which was in
some places scarcely traced, struck obliquely
up into the interior, in a direction nearly wesfc
by south. The country, for the remainder of
this day's march, was level, but much obstructed
by the abundance of brushwood, and by wind-
fallen trees, which in many places impeded our
progress. The day following, having passed
several diminutive lakes, we began to ascend,
and presently came in sight of a high mountain, over which it was evident we should be
obliged to pass, though at what precise point
was a problem most cbfficult to solve, as the
track which had hitherto guided us, no longer
appeared. As this occasioned us all very
considerable anxiety, considering the difficulty
and ganger in which we might immediately be I
Eib I
involved by attempting a wrong pass, I ordered a halt, and had breakfast prepared, while
some of my most active men went to examine
whether there existed on either side of us,
any indication of the track usually followed,
and from which we might have inadvertently
deviated. They had scarcely set out on this
errand, before their attention, in common with
my own, was arrested by a faint shout, which
appeared to proceed from the side of the mountain. Hereupon our scouts returned, and I
ordered a couple of shots to be fired as a
signal, which was instantly answered by a
single one in return. The smoke of the discharge served to indicate the position of our
unknown neighbour, and presently after, two
human beings were seen cautiously descending
the face of the steep declivity, sometimes disappearing among the crannies of the rocks, at
others standing in bold relief in the foreground.
The approach of these fortuitous visitors
seemed to promise the means of extricating us
from our dilemma. They proved to be sheep-
hunters, from the vicinity of Nass-chick, who A TALE OF WESTERN CALEDONIA.
had on several occasions visited Killmaurs, and
attracted my regard by the modest propriety
of their demeanour, combined with an air of
independent confidence by no means common
to their associates.
The father of these young men, for they were
brothers, was an Indian of the Rocky Mountain Secanny tribe, who had married a woman
of the Nataotins. Attached in some degree
to the latter by this connection, he had yet at
all times maintained the stately independence
which characterizes the Secanny, as contrasted
with the Babine Indian ; or which, in a more
extended view, is morally distinctive of the
native hunter of the wilds of North America,
from the more ignoble fisher of its waters.
The parents of his wife had long since paid the
debt of nature, and now the only tie which
had bound the old man to these strange lands,
was dissolved by the death of his partner,
which had taken place some months previous
to the present rencontre. Thus released from
the ungenial society of those who had no
claims upon his regard except their connection with his wife, and from the bonds of con- I 1
; *
A 2
jugal affection which had hitherto restrained
his wandering propensities, the veteran hunter
proposed to himself the abandonment of his
adopted country ; with a view to rejoining, in
company with his two sons, the society of his
old friends and relations, if haply they yet
roamed amid the wild fastnesses of the Rocky
Mountains. In prosecution of this object, he
and his sons were now eagerly employed hunting to procure a sufficiency of provisions for a
grand feast in memory of his departed wife,
and as a valedictory repast to the associates of
his married days, to whom, perhaps, he was
now about to bid an eternal adieu.
The welcome arrival of these young* men
removed every difficulty, as they readily
agreed to join company with us. After breakfasting, we set forward hi good heart, and began ascending* the steep acclivity opposed t®
our progress ; a labour, I must add, by no
means agreeable, or very rapidly accomplished,
as we were compelled to stop from time to
time -in order to recover breath.     Marching"
or climbing in this painful manner, and envying the  comparative facility with which *>ur
guides overcame every obstacle, we were four
hours reaching the summit of the mountain.
Here I gladly sat down to admire the fine
panorama of the country which it afforded*
Behind us lay the extensive lake of the Na-
taotins, its immediate shores fringed with a
dark line of pines, while the background
offered an agreeable variety of fir-crowned
eminences, interspersed with brown, grass-
covered hills. The great height of our position afforded a bird's-eye prospect of all the
western portion of the lake;, its deep.indentations lying exposed to the eye as if accurately delineated by, the hand of some huge
giant, on a chart of dimensions huge enough
to be regarded as an exact portraiture of
On our left hand was a chaotic assemblage
of mountains, all of them more or less wreathed
with snow, which, drifted by the wintry gales
among the angular projections of the rocks,
had resisted the heats of bygone summer, and
now lay dazzlingly white, as the declining sun
cast its weakened rays upon them, causing a
mirage by which the picturesque effect of the
G I     1
whole was greatly heightened. Our own
mountain, for so I shall term the one whereon
we stood, hore away the palm, however, idc
ifô goodly ^stature, from all the rest. A lofty
pinnacle, whose summit was covered with à
venerable crown of eternal snow, reared its
head on the i%ht hand of our path, overtopping all the neighbouring heads, Sake a
patriarch of the olden days, standing amidst
the crowd of his attendant elders, or like some
leaf-crowned monarch of the forest, rising
pre-eminently eohspiéubus over its less noble
Having Sufficiently admired the scene, I
turned to ask the opinion of my fellow travellers, who, I ^thought, would at least participate in the delig*ht I felt on beholding it.
I had, however, miscalcuiated on the measure
of sympathy to be expected from these Canadian or Indian rovers, for any tiring wherein
beauty and grandeur, however sublime, call
for the exercise of the imagination. Three of
them were stretched at full length enjoying a
doze after the fatigue of the ascent-; the rest
were unconcernedly smoking, recHsed against
f a tau: of western Caledonia.    83
their ibnndles; while the two Indians isat stoically puffing their small calumets, inhaling rthe
precious fumes with an indescribable gmsto,
and again emitting them, after ;a protracted
internal circulation, heaven knows through
what intricate ;dhannels, like the breath ©f the
iSnch was the ^disposition of the forces, iand
eeriainly if a stupid indifference to the grandeur or beauty of nature could have entitled its possessor to a premium, ^aeh of my
companions in arms might have contended for
its acquisition. I observed, however, that one
of my men, while all the others were either
asleep, or idly chatting together, sat silently
by, without seeming to regard any thing that
was seen or done in his presence. He was a
Canadian, of franco-Scottish descent, and,
from the sobriety of his character, had been
preferred ito the /situation of body «servant to
my august self. This man, at least, thought
I, seems to enjoy the scene in admiring
silenee:: but diere again I was mistaken;-his
thoughtful reserve proceeding, tas will be
seen, from another and totally different cause. TRAITS OF INDIAN  LIFE.
" Dormez-vous, Bernard ? " said I, in a half
jocular way, wishing to ascertain the sentiments of the only one whom I deemed
capable of appreciating my own enthusiastic
admiration of the scene—" Dormez-vous ? "
" Je ne dors pas," replied he, in a serious
tone of voice, and in a manner quite different
from usual. " Je n'ai pas envie de dormir,
vraiment, Monsieur. J'ai de quoi m'occuper
" Bon la—what's in the wind now ? You
seem low-spirited—surely nothing has happened to disturb your equanimity in this out-
of-the-way place."
" Have the kindness," said he, " to continue
the march, and I will then, without attracting
the notice of my comrades, impart to you,
as we go on, the subject which now disturbs
3." :    Jfc
I saw that the poor fellow was really attacked with some strange misgiving, and at
once accorded his request, desiring him to
follow me closely, in order that he might communicate the story which seemed to weigh
Our path lay for some distance along the
top of the mountain. A few scattered and
shrivelled blades of grass, intermingled with
an occasional tuft of a brown weather-beaten-
looking plant, somewhat resembling the Scottish heath, were the only indications of vegetable life in these elevated regions. Huge
wreaths of snow, from their situation unaffected
by the summer sun, filled every cranny on
both sides of the ridge along which we were
walking ; while the long shadow of the snowy
peak on our right spread a sombre gloom
over the immediate vicinity, strongly contrasted
with the lightsome aspect of the unshaded
precipices opposite. Before us lay an apparently interminable vista of mountains, rising
precipitously from the sides of a deep valley
into which we now began our descent.
I was about to remind Bernard Debreuille
of his promise, when it suddenly struck me
that I had not yet named the mountain, which,
as being the most remarkable in the vicinity,
and now for the first time traversed by civilized feet, certainly merited some distinction of
this sort.    I referred to Bernard. 86
\ ;î
" Call ifc Saint Bemardr Monsieur ; it is. today th% fêt& dedicated to my patron ^ and^
moreover, I will give you good reasons to
prefer that name*"
"So let it be, my good fellow/' said I,
laughingly,, " be your reasons what they may."
We weire interrupted by a shrill whistle not
far from us*
"Histi" said Bernard^ firmly closing his
lips, and looking intently forward — " Monsieur, je vous en prie écoutez ln
" Tut, tut. !" said I ; " Bernard, my good
lad, you become childish, leave me alone ; "
and as I spoke, I withdrew my gun-cover,
took aim, and sent a bullet through the brain
of the innocent cause of his alarm—a fat marmot which had been curiously peering at us
from the mouth of his hole, and which,, from
its colour, was scarcely distinguishable from
the surrounding rocks. In the neighbourhood,
I observed many tracks of these animals, and
the guides informed me that these hiHs were
their usual resort. They appeared to con*
gregate in small Colonies, burrowing in the
ground,   and  announcing the   approach   of A TALE OF WÇ&SEÇN  CALEDONIA.        87
danger^ by the shrill wbfctle before alluded
to. There are two species of these animals^
respectively inhabiting the high lands and
the low country; both in much esteem* as
articles of food, and as such, a good deal
sought after. They remain confined to their
burrows during the whole of the dead season,
while fruits and different herbaceous productions are not procurable ; and are remarkable
beyond otheç animals for their improvident
The shadows of evening now? began to overtake us, and it was necessary to hasten onwards to some spot where water and fuel fog
the night's consumption might be found. After
descending rapidly for about half an hour, we
discovered a small spring, issuing from the
vicinity of some stunted pines^ where we encamped tiU morning. In the course of our
hurried descent, Debreuille accounted for his
despondency by explaining to me that his
slumbers of the preceding night had been
disturbed by dreams, involving the fate oi
some of his, dearest friends \ among others, of
a young woman, the daughter ol a rich Qana- i
dian farmer, to whom he was clandestinely betrothed. To crown the whole, Saint Bernard,
his patron saint, had appeared to him in a
vision, predicting death, and warning him of
instant repentance of those sinful deeds which
he, in common with other mortals, was daily
Despising superstition as much as any man,
I yet saw that this was not a case to be trifled
with.    It was evident to me that the imagi-
nation of the poor man was more than ordinarily affected ; and, duly sympathizing with
his feelings, I pointed out  to  him the folly
of submitting" to the influence of such trivial
causes. I endeavoured to convince him that
his foreknowledge of the approaching fête-day
of his patron saint had given rise to his imaginary visitation, supporting my argument by
instancing his ridiculous alarm at the harmless whistling of the marmot, so opposed to his
ordinary calmness under circumstances of surprise less childishly trifling than those in question. He admitted the justice of all I said,
but it was easy to discover, from his desponding tone of voice, that I had not succeeded in A TALE OF WESTERN CALEDONIA.  89
my object, and that the untoward fancies by
which his mind was oppressed, yet haunted
him. It was still the same through all the
next day's march, notwithstanding his own
evident desire to conceal his melancholy, and
the efforts which I repeatedly renewed to
divert his attention. Poor fellow, his was a
disease which has baffled the utmost skill
of physicians more learned than myself, and
the utmost care of how many solicitous and
beloved friends!
After traversing the sides of the valley,
through which a small rivulet gurgled merrily
towards the main stream, whither we were
directing our steps, we reached the spot
previously designated by the guides, and encamped as before. On the morrow, the sun
did not find us fingering ; and by noon we
arrived on the hills which overlook the romantically situated village of Hotset. It was in
all probability owing to the heat of the day
that we found all quiet, the only signs of fife
being a few children, and half-a-dozen curs,
lazily rolling in the grass. A loud whoop
from our Indian companions, however, made 90
Qur approachi know®, and immediately aft w#S;
animation,} crowds upon crowds of naked s#t
vageg pouring out of %h§ huts, and clamor-s
ously repeatingthe cry of " nett® \ netta ! " the
word expressive of Europeans, by which the
quality of their vfeitorsç was announced.
Formed into; Indian filej myself leading th^
column, we descended into the plain adjoining
the lodges. Of these there were twenty-eighty
of large size, each o£ them affording accommodation, on an average, to six or seven families;,
The village was divided into two, by the course
of t|j# river, which at some distance above
and below was of considerable breadth, but
at this; partjeular spot was contracted withj&
very narrow limits by steep rocks on either
fade, rising perpendicularly to a great height,
their upper masses overhanging towards ea^Jfc
otber^ and making a fearful chasm, through
which thje torrent foamed ano} boiled, as, it
dashed ma4îy along. Over the narrowest
part, where it was not m#re than forty fee,t,
across, lay a huge pine-tree stripped of h$
branches* which had been felled designedly t$
form a bridge of communication between the A TALE OF WESTERN CALEDONIA.
opposite sides. The neighbouring country
seemed to consist of a variety of strong woodi
and prairie, in unequal proportion, the former
by fer predominating ; while in the immediate*
ricinity of the village were scattered groups ojf
stunted aspens^ which contributed to form* on
the whole, an engaging prospect,
Ï had time to cast but a very cursory
glance at the general features of the seene^
when we were met, on the confines of the
village, by the principal inhabitants, headed by
their chief, " bearded Mko the pard," as were? a
great many of his retainers. The attire ©jf
these magnates was ludicrously incongruous^
and I had some trouble to suppress, a smile as I
offered my hand to each in succession;, a
symbol of which they had learned the meaning
from their neighbours of N ass-chick. Accustomed as I had been to the/ extravagancies, of
an Indian toilet^ I was scarcely prepared
to witness such grotesque refinement as I
found displayed by the beaux of Hotset,, whether they strutted up in gaudy shreds of worn-*
down finery combined together ia the most
indesçribabla confusion of lines, and   form% 92
or, less diffuse in their tastes, paced soberly
forwards in suits, or half-suits, of shabby
genteel vestments which might have graced
the purlieus of Monmouth-street. One grim-
looking fellow stood eminently conspicuous
in a scarlet coat, unaccompanied by that nether
appendage which a delicate spectator mig*ht
have deemed necessary to decorum ; while
another, his nearest neighbour, rejoiced in a
regimental coat of the Sappers and Miners,
and the very decorous adjunct of a half-worn
pair of corduroy trowsers ! The whole of
these fineries, I must add, by the way, had
evidently been assumed for the occasion, as
one of great state, and it seemed only charitable
to ascribe the little discrepancies I have mentioned to the hurry of their toilet.
It may occasion some surprise that savages
who, as I have said, were perfect strangers to
the sight of Europeans, should possess so many
articles indicative of a commercial intercourse.
To explain this, it is only necessary to state
that the river affords a communication between
these unsophisticated races and the Indians
inhabiting the coast and its mouth, known by A TALE OF WESTERN CALEDONIA.
the name of Chyniseyans. Through this
channel, a constant barter of furs in exchange
foT articles of European merchandize procured from the traders by the Chyniseyans, is
carried on, upon a scale of magnificence of
which the example cited must suffice.
The ceremony of hand-shaking having been
gone through, with a gravity which its novelty,
to one party at least, did not fail to secure for
it, the chief led the way to his lodge, to reach
which it was necessary to cross the primitive bridge I have mentioned. This, to the
eyes of the natives, who were accustomed to
the feat from their childhood, offered nothing
to cause a moment's tremor or apprehension,
and it seemed not to enter into their minds
that a different view of the subject might be
entertained by others. For my own part,, I
must acknowledge that I felt some repugnance
to follow, as they unhesitatingly led the way,
over the fearful abyss. In order to conceal
my hesitation, and gain time to " screw my
courage to the sticking place," I turned round,
and ordered the men, excepting Baptiste, my
interpreter, to re-ascend the hill which over- TRAITS OF INDIAN LIFE*
looked the wHlage on the IKSknam?»' side,
where I «requested them to erect the tent, wad
await my return. I warned sthem, at the
same time, not to place too much confidence in
"the integrity of the Indians, &nd to be )ready
at a moment's caïï, should I unhappily irequhse
their assistance, to repel treachery ^ not, however, that I suspected it, but merely to put
them on their proper guard, by giving them
grounds for salutary suspicion. After giving
these 'orders, observing all eyes turned on me,
I assumed as much unconcern as I $ould,
and resolutely advanced, like a sick man
bent on swallowing a dfeagreeahle draught, to
cross rfehe giddy ^passage. Luckily, ft was not
more than fifteen paces across, and by keeping*
my eyes steadily fixed on the opposite * shore
without allowing tthem to astray downwards
on $he rushing jstream, I got xm much %o my
own satisfaction, and without betraying any
symptom fof the awkward feelings 'of nervousness which >I had inwardly experienced.
Baptiste fohowéa1 me closely, and we were
presently ushered vrith great formality into
the lodge of iSniggletrum, the nom de guerre A TAÊË OF WESTERN CALEDONIA.
t^^hieh I understood the chief to 'be distin-
Bëing" seated à fta Turqub, on a bear-8kÎB
%prèad for my accommodation, Baptiste sta*
tioned on my right hand, and my two Se*-
|e*iËmy guides, who stuck to me wherever I went,
tm my left, I had leisure to look about me ;
-Baptiste in the mean time preparing tobacco
for à general smoking bout, the usual preliminary to the transaction of all ceremonious
•business here as elsewhere among the Indians.
The lodges, I observed, were built1 on the same
model as the Carrier, though more spacious,
and of neater construction ; boards split from
the cedar-tree forming the sides, instead of the
peeled sapling firs used for tnat purpose by
the Matter. Some k)f these boards were of
great breadth; one which I subsequently measured was more than four feet, while others
wnich I casually saw, appeared even to exceed
that limit. Among other ornaments 'indicative
of a commercial intercourse with the natives of
the coast, I noticed a couple of paltry mirrors
nearly a foot square, set in deal frames gaudily
ornamented with gilt and varnish.     On one of I
the large boards just mentioned also, a brig
under full sail was rudely delineated in charcoal and vermillion—the work, as I understood, of one of the Chyniseyan chiefs who
periodically come up the river to trade.
According to the Carrier custom, a meal
was speedily prepared, and set before me, consisting of a fat beaver boiled, of which, out of
compliment to my host, I slightly partook, the
remainder being set aside, and afterwards
sent to my tent. Our store of tobacco, meanwhile, had come into great request, and the
dense cloud of pungent smoke which canopied
our heads, gave sensible testimony to the ener-
g-etic use that was made of it.
Tobacco ! By that simple word how many
ideas are conjured up ! How strange that a
weed at first nauseating and unpalatable, and
whose effects are confessedly pernicious to the
constitution, should obtain such high rank
among the choicest j luxuries of the human
race; and how much more strangle that it
should have attained this high consideration,
and come into universal use, in defiance of the
anathemas fulminated against it by ecclesiasti-
cal authority, and the decrees of temporal potentates ! So it is, however. In the civiBzed
portions of the globe, tobacco forms the principal luxury of the lower classes at large, and
the only one of many individuals* At sea,
tobacco is the solace of the mariner in his
perils, and his comforter in many a dreary
watch. In the wilds of America, ask the
hardy voyager, ask the rude trapper, ask the
dusky savage, from the bleak shores of Labra*-
dor to the remote coast of the Pacific, to
name his greatest luxury—-Tobacco, tobacco^
tobacco : this and this only, is the great desideratum. With it in plenty all is well; without
it, gloom and dullness instantly prevail.
So it was, that eating and smoking m the
present case prepared the way for a good understanding with the chief, to whom I communicated, through the medium of my interpreter, thé precise object which led me to visit
his lands, expressing, at the same time, a wish
to enter into arrangements with him, by which
a constant intercourse for purposes of traffic
might be established. His answer was favourable to my views, and after a protracted con-
versation, I left the lodg*e to return to my men.
Before departing, however, presents of furs
were made to me by " Sniggletrum," and
several of his principal men, which I caused to
be transferred to the tent.
Among other articles was one with which,
under present circumstances, I would gladly
have dispensed. This was nothing* else than a
young bear, alive, of the red-snouted species,
well-known for the savageness of their disposition. When it was presented to me by
" Sniggletrum," I was on the point of refusing it, but Baptiste privately whispered me
that the bear was the family symbol of the
chief, who would not relish any mark of disrespect shown towards it. Thus warned, I
thought it best to accept the unwelcome gift,
and to dispose of it subsequently as I best
could. This ill-omened beast was in the end
the cause of much trouble ; and when I first
saw it dragged forward by a long cord which
compassed its neck and one fore-paw, I
secretly wished it once more free in its
native woods, or anywhere except in my unwilling possession.   The perverse brute seemed
little inclined to move in the direction required, but struggled and pulled back most
strenuously; emitting cries harrowing in the
extreme, resembling very nearly those of
a young child, so pathetically modulated,
that one could almost fancy the poor animal
had sense approaching to that of humanity,
and was supplicating the mercy of its tormentors. At length, to my momentary
satisfaction, the knot gave way, and Bruin
availed himself of the accident by making
off with himself towards the trees. The
tocsin, however, was sounded, and crowds upon
crowds of savages set off in pursuit, and after
a short chase succeeded in recapturing the
runaway. But this was not done without
much resistance, so that one tall fellow, of the
family of Couthiro, another of the chiefs, had
his hand severely lacerated by the teeth of the
now infuriate animal. To revenge the injury,
he seized an axe, and would have sacrificed
the bear on the spot, had the bystanders not
prevented him.
For my own part I must acknowledge that
I would willingly have seen an end put to fur- 100
ther trouble, by this summary infliction of condign punishment, had it not been for the
commotion which the very attempt to commit
an action so degrading to their family pride at
once created among the partisans of the bear»
Knives and daggers gleamed forth in an
instant, while muskets, and all the minor
instruments of war, were hastily assumed by
either party, and a collision seemed impending,
likely to involve serious consequences. At
this juncture, hoping by my interference to
quiet the disturbance, and to allay for a time
the virulent animosity of the two parties, the
explosion of which had been brought on by a
cause so trivial, I advanced with Baptiste,
through means of whom I essayed the office
of a mediator. The yells and shouts of several
hundred voices, mingling in harsh dissonance,
were gradually reduced to quiet by my
appearance—so far,, at least, that Baptiste's
words could be heard; and after a while it
was agreed between the rival parties to relinquish hostile measures, and to unite in rendering my stay among them agreeable.
Meanwhile, the hapless  cause of all this A TALE OF WESTERN CALEDONIA.
commotion, having* been secured by a leathern
cord, the end of which was fastened round the
trunk of a tree, had turned about so often in
his endeavours to escape, and so tightened
the halter, as I may well call it, considering
the catastrophe which it caused, as to strangle
himself. I had wit enough to conceal my
secret satisfaction, as the brute lay, half-suspended, his tongue lolling out, his eyes starting from their sockets, and his unclosed lips
displaying the grinning teeth which seemed
only a too faithful caricature of the savage
brawl we had just witnessed. His death,
since it was evidently accidental, was looked
upon without concern; and as there was
nothing in the customs of the tribe to prevent
the flesh being eaten, I had the carcass sent
over to my men, who made a hearty meal
of it. Shortly afterwards, I re-crossed the
bridge, and ascended to my tent, where I
partook of supper, which Bernard had prepared
during my absence; and, having posted a
couple of sentinels, to be relieved at intervals,
slept in broken slumbers till morning.
The next day was occupied in making re- TRAITS  OF INDIAN LIFE.
turn presents to the chiefs, trading in furs, and
discussing the many topics which presented
themselves in the course of conversation; so
that it was not till the following morning* at
sunrise, that I could arrange for setting out on
my return. The hour having arrived, I now
went to pay a parting visit to the chief; again
crossing and re-crossing the rude bridge—a feat
which, being by this time in a degree accustomed to, I began to view with less dread than
at first. Unhappily, when I returned from
this visit of ceremony, I found that I had lost
my keys, which I supposed had remained in
the lodg*e where I had been sitting. Calling
to one of the men to go in quest of them,
Debreuille, though not particularly named, set
off on this errand, and, reaching the bridge,
appeared to hesitate, but the next moment, as
if ashamed of his weakness, hastily crossed
Observing how little confidence he had in
his footsteps, I called out to him, when he
presently returned from the lodge, not to risk
the bridge, but to proceed on foot below the
fall, and then cross in a canoe.    This sugges- A TALE OF WESTERN CALEDONIA.  103
tion he did not adopt, being perhaps afraid of
the sarcasms to which it might give rise among
his companions ; and with much anxiety I saw
him again attempt the crossing.
The uneasiness I felt, proceeded from another cause besides the actual unsafeness of the
passage ; for, since the poor fellow's visionary
communication on Mount St. Bernard, I
thought I had perceived at intervals, symptoms of insanity in his demeanour, and these,
unhappily, had appeared to increase daily.
It was, therefore, with feelings highly excited,
that I saw him advance dubiously and unassisted,, on the frail bridge which alone separated him from eternity ; for it is needless to
say, that one false step, while in this position,
would be instant destruction.
The object of my solicitude seemed, as he
slowly and hesitatingly proceeded, to become
gradually more agitated by the nervous feelings which few persons have not experienced
on similar occasions, and which affect us with
such mysterious awe. Whether a friendly
voice would have re-assured him at this moment it is impossible to say, for we were afraid 104
P ;
of calling out lest the tottering equilibrium
which he with difficulty preserved, should at
once be destroyed. He had reached the centre of the chasm, and his situation was now
indeed critical; his fine form appeared as if
spell-bound, so motionless was he ; his expressive physiognomy seemed, worked to a
frenzy of excitement by the tumultuous feelings which agitated him; and, as he gazed
downwards on the roaring torrent which rolled
beneath him, it seemed as if his every sense
were fascinated by some mysterious object,
which no one but himself could perceive.
Every eye was now fixed on the poor fellow,
and a breathless silence reigned among the
numerous spectators, which rendered still more
awful the rushing din of the cataract, in itself
dreadful to contemplate. A poet has written
of " darkness visible : " to adopt the same
idiom of expression, this dread climax of
silence was indeed "silence audible." So
oppressive did it at length become, that, unable longer to control my feelings, I advanced
to the edge of the chasm, and endeavoured, by
sigrns, to attract the attention of the unfor-
tunate man. It was in vain : he stood unmoved and immoveable, still gazing intently as
" Debreuille ! Bernard ! " whispered I. "Bernard ! " I called, in a louder voice—" Bernard,
look up ! Come on, man, for the love of God,
come on ! "
It seemed for a moment that he had recovered his self-possession, but, as he stared
wildly towards me, and stamped his foot impatiently on the tree, I saw that reason, which
had so long tottered on her throne, was now
completely cast down. The unfortunate maniac seemed no longer to feel giddy or alarmed
at his perilous situation.
He gesticulated most fearfully, again and
again fixing his eyes intently on the water.
1 Bernard!" I again shouted in a loud voice,
" come on, I command you !"
He looked up, shrieked out wildly and horribly, uttered some words that seemed to imply
recognition, and again relapsed into his state
of abstraction.
While endeavouring to invent some means
of extricating the man from this perilous situa- i
m *
tion, my attention was attracted by the most
fearful screams I ever heard.
" Oui ! " cried the maniac, " oui ! je la vois—
je la vois ; pour la dernier fois, je la vois."
And he sprang wildly forwards : " Je la vois,
je la vois, je la "
The sentence was never completed. The
unfortunate and hapless-fated individual disappeared for ever in the foaming torrent, leaving the horror-stricken spectators gazing after
him, as if able to pierce the dark waste of
waters which had swallowed him up.
No vestiges of his body were ever discovered ;
but, to mark the spot where the sad catastrophe occurred, I caused a rude cross to be
erected; a sad memorial of the first visit of
Christians to this secluded spot. Our return
to Kilmaurs was attended with no occurrence
worthy of notice ; and it was long after reaching home ere I could dismiss from my imagination the fearful cries which had been uttered
by poor Debreuille at the closing moment of his
existence.    Peace to his soul !
Three years after the events I have related,
I was passing the winter on furlough in Mon- A TALE OF WESTERN CALEDONIA.     107
treal. Time, which gradually effaces' the most
vivid impressions, had kindly thrown a veil
over the sad memory of my visit to Hotset ;
and the fate of poor Dehreuille, if it ever recurred to mind, was dismissed as hastily as
possible. Mixing daily in the sober gaieties
of the city, I had little time for the intrusion
of melancholy thoughts, and here, if anywhere, I might have expected immunity from
them. This, however, was not to be. One
day I was invited by a friend to accompany
him on a visit to the Chapel of the Hôtel
Dieu Convent, to witness the assumption of
the veil by a girl whose noviciate had
recently expired. It was a grave ceremony,
to be sure; but still so interesting, that I
hesitated not to accept his invitation, and arm
in arm we proceeded to the scene of its performance.
On our arrival, we found the chapel
nearly full of people; the rites of the day
being then about to commence. The object
of the ceremony stood alone, and was remarkable for the air of calm resignation
which pervaded her features, in   themselves 108
surpassingly lovely, but now seeming of a
more elevated order of beauty, from the
religious fervour which animated them, as
with supernatural fight. On a bench in one
corner sat an elderly couple, who seemed
deeply impressed with the solemnity of the
occasion; but more deeply agitated by some
internal feeling which they vainly endeavoured to conceal. These were the parents
of the novice—of her who was about to
sever the dearest ties which connected her
with this life—to renounce father and mother
for a more mysterious relationship which it
might be beyond the power of the poor old
people to comprehend.
Mass was performed, and all the imposing
rites prescribed by the Church of Rome on
similar occasions. The anthem pealed through
the aisles, and every studied form was gone
through, so well calculated to clothe the broken
heart, as with garments of honour. The ceremony was over, and the beautiful Canadian
bade a final adieu to the vanities of this world.
I felt impelled to inquire her name and history
of my friend.   " She is the daughter of a rich A TALE OF WESTERN  CALEDONIA.       109
habitant," replied he—" of him whom you remarked seated in the chapel, and her name is
Adèle d'Aubigne." " Enough ! " rejoined I :
" I know the rest." Need I add that I recognized the heart-stricken lover of the hapless
Bernard Debreuille. Rpe
I   il
On the evening of the 6th December we were
seated around our cheerful fireside, "holding
sweet converse" on the different topics of news
we had lately received from Canada and England bv our overland express, when a loud
knocking at the door attracted the attention of
© »
all present, and a Mr. HWN/><^lrom the Dalles
mission, made his appearance, accompanied by
a servant of the Company from Walla Walla,
one of our trading posts on the upper part of
the Columbia. They announced to us the
melancholy tidings of the murder of Dr.
and Mrs. Whitman and twelve Americans,
with the entire destruction of Wai-let-pu mis- THE BLOODY TRAGEDY.
sion.    The following particulars of this bloody
tragedy may be relied on.
For some time previous to the massacre, a
number of the Cayoux Indians, who resided in
the vicinity of the mission, had died of the
measles and dysentery, which prevailed in every
part of the country. The worthy doctor had been
most constant in his attendance on the sufferers,
administering not only medicines, but such
other comforts as, indeed, he could ill afford
from his slender stock. Unhappily, his efforts
for their relief were vain; the mortality increased, rather than diminished ; and the horrid
idea became impressed on the superstitious
minds of the Indians, that Dr. Whitman and
others had conspired to exterminate them by
means of poison ! This idea, however it may
have originated, received corroboration, as has
since been ascertained, from the instigations of
one Joseph Louis, a Spanish Creole, who for
upwards of a year had been employed about
the mission in the service of the kind master
whom he now sought to destroy. The number
of deaths continuing to increase daily, confirmed the diabolical suspicion once entertained,
r-^_^_i__^;_: _û_° I 112
and soon these wretched men resolved on revenging their supposed wrongs, and securing
their future safety, by murdering all the
inmates of the mission.
As the base Creole had urged them to this
fatal determination, and promised his assistance in the bloody deed, so he was almost the
first to commence the tragedy, by murdering
two brothers of tender years, the eldest not
more than sixteen ; a most cruel and cowardly
act, for at the time, both lay prostrate on a bed
of sickness. The hour of ten in the morning
was selected for the butchery, and before many
minutes had elapsed, no less than twelve victims
had been sacrificed to their wild and revengeful
superstition. The first was a tailor, killed on
the bench where he was seated at his daily
labour; a poor inoffensive being, little suspecting, and perhaps still less prepared, for so
awful a change. The next was the worthy
doctor himself, who had entirely devoted the
last ten years of his life to the instruction of
those very savages who were now about to
reward him so cruelly. This instruction, I
ought to remark, had consisted not only in the THE BLOODY TRAGEDY.
principles of Christianity, but in the tillage of
the soil, the value of which had long been
proved by their abundant harvest. Alas for
him, that he had laboured in vain in the culture of their wretched souls ; and let us hope
that he will meet his reward in heaven !
He was seated at a desk writing when he
heard the yell of the murderers, and going to
the door, received his first wound. He did
not for an instant lose his composure, but
calmly returning into the house, drew a chair
towards the fire, and sat down, his hands
clasped together in prayer, resigned to what-
ever fete might await him. During this brief
interval, the bloody work was going on outside, and the good kind-hearted Mrs. Whitman, who was upstairs, and had rushed to
the window on hearing the report of firearms, had instantly received, from one
wretched miscreant, a ball in her breast.
Bleeding profusely, she hastily descended to
her husband's room, and, embracing him,
began to wipe with her handkerchief the
blood that was trickling from his wounds.
He fondly returned the caresses of her who, ■i ^
V .t
m I
i V
for the last fifteen years, had been the devoted
partner of his joys and sorrows in the missionary
field, and who in this last dark hour proved
herself the same affectionate wife, regardless
of her own sufferings, and only thinking of
affording relief to her beloved husband. To
him what a truly melancholy consolation must
the conduct of such a wife have been : she in a
dying* state herself, yet solely intent upon his
comfort ! Thus embraced, and perfectly resigned to their fate, the blood-thirsty wretches,
armed with guns and axes, rushed into the
room, and they were instantly torn asunder
never more to meet in this world. The chief, with
his axe, so mutilated the face and head of the
worthy doctor, that he soon ceased to suffer.
The fate of Mrs. Whitman was still more
cruel ; she was thrown down, and dragg*ed by
the hair of her head into the mud, where, with
blows and kicks, the inhuman monsters terminated her existence.
The heart sickens at the recital of such
horrid brutality, and gladly would I draw a
veil over the remainder of the narrative. Let
me, at least, relieve it of some portion of its tm
horror, by a few words on the character of the
worthy doctor and his amiable wife. Indeed
it would be ungenerous in me, having been for
many years acquainted with both, were I not
to pay a just tribute to their worth. He was,
indeed, an honest, upright, and benevolent
man ; and perhaps there never was one more
devoted and zealous in the missionar}^ cause,
which had been his study from early years,
and was now the sole and constant subject of
his thoughts. So anxious was he to prosecute
his labours to a successful issue, and so sanguine of at last overcoming all difficulties,
that although his health was considerably impaired of late, and he had been warned by the
Indians to leave the place, nothing could
divert him from his purpose, and much less
their threats, which had lately convinced him
that those for whom he had made so many
sacrifices were capable of rewarding him with
a cruel death. Such was the brave-hearted
missionary himself; .and now, would that my
pen could do justice to the character*of the
good and kind-hearted Mrs. Whitman ! In
her, it may truly be said,  that the  orphans ■
found a protector and a mother, for she had no
less than nine under her càrê at this very time ;
and these she not only educated, but taught
the various duties that in after fife would prove
beneficial and advantageous to them. Often,
since this melancholy catastrophe, have I heard
these poor creatures deploring, with plenteous
tears, the loss of those who had been to them as
father and mother. I could say much in illustration of the character of this amiable, and may
I add, heroic woman ? As a wife, it was her
highest delig'ht to anticipate not only the wants
of her husband, but of all who visited her hospitable mansion, which pleasure I often had. The
last sad scene, however, is the most convincing
proof of her fond and devoted attachment
to her husband. May we not hope that they
will be re-united in heaven ? Peace to their
memory ! they indeed deserved a better fate.
To return to the scene from which these
reflections have happily diverted us a short
time. The next victim was Dr. Whitman's
assistant, who, as several eye-witnesses have
alleged, not only implored the Indians to
spare him, but acknowledged it was too true
that the doctor had administered poison to kill
them, thereby confirming all that the base
wretch Louis had said, to urge them to these
horrid crimes. It is sad to think with what
tenacity men will cling to life, and what base
expedients they will often resort to in the forlorn hope of preserving it. Although a stranger
to me, I am yet confident, from his well-known
character, that this unhappy man had no other
motive; and if the allegation be true, this
subterfuge afforded him only a temporary respite. After making this admission, the
savages promised to spare his fife, and left
him. A few minutes after, however, an
Indian, who was at some distance when the
promise was made, and was not aware of it,
came up with him, and in another moment
his earthly career was ended.
While these scenes were enacting*, two
Americans who had concealed themselves
managed to effect their escape—one with his
family, consisting of a wife and four children.
This little party took the road to the Company's
establishment; but the poor woman, having
just risen from a bed of sickness, soon became 118
too faint and exhausted to follow ; she, therefore, entreated her husband to save her children, and leave her to her fate. As there was
a ray of hope that all might be preserved, he
carefully concealed her with three of the children in the bushes, and taking one in his arms,
succeeded in reaching the fort, a distance of
twent}r-five miles, in safety. No time was lost
by the gentlemen in charge there, in sending
relief and assistance to the poor woman; but
strange to relate, after a search of two days,
the husband despaired of finding her, and concluded that she was lost to him for ever, supposing they had been discovered and murdered
by the Indians. He was on the eve of abandoning his search, but a friendly Indian, who
had accompanied him from the fort, was far
from losing all hope, probably knowing from
experience, that if she had been discovered
and murdered, some vestiges of the deed would
yet be apparent. In short, he renewed the
search, and succeeded in finding the now
almost lifeless woman, lying concealed with
her children in the very spot where they had
been  left,   with scarcely any covering, and
without food or fire to keep them warm: in
which deplorable state they had now remained
four days and nights. The whole party
reached the fort in safety, and it is gratifying
to add, that the woman, though confined to her
bed for some three weeks, was restored to
health, and to her friends. The other American
escaped by following, in his wounded state, a
mark which he struck upon by mere chance, and
which led him, by a course of two hundred
miles, to the Clearwater mission, where he had
never been before, and which he reached after
six days and nights travelling, though without
food. In these escapes we have additional
evidence of the extraordinary exertions and
sufferings — in many instances surpassing
belief—which the human frame will bear,
rather than yield its precious life.
After Mr. Rodgers had fallen, and the two
surviving Americans had thus baffled pursuit,
or escaped unnoticed, there remained but the
now desolate women and children, who had
been eye-witnesses of the massacre of their
husbands and fathers. The number of these
unfortunates exceeded fifty, and my readers
i,.a 120
must imagine the state of their feelings at the
time, and the severity of the trial they underwent. Their lives, indeed, were spared them,
but three of the young women were reserved
for a more cruel fate, over which I must draw
a veil. The other women and children were
detained in captivity, and doomed by their
cruel masters to toil day and night, until all of
them, including the three women above mentioned, were fortunately released, and restored
to their friends, with the exception, however,
of three children, who had died. During this
period—a long interval to them of nearly a
month—they were suffering every indignity,
and being threatened with death, fear deprived
them of their rest. They were at the same
time abundantly supplied with food by the
Indians, which, indeed, was from their own
stock, but they could have easily been deprived
of it, and of their lives also. The object of
these wretches in detaining them was to procure a ransom, and having their victims so
completely in their power, they too well succeeded. Late one evening, the poor captives
reached the Company's establishment, strongly
gnarded by not less than forty Indians, each of
whom had some claim to make which dire
necessity compelled us to satisfy. Such was
the terror and nervous prostration to which
they had been redueed, that although every
comfort which the slender.means of the establishment could'supply had been prepared for
them, it was many days before they could feel
satisfied of their escape from the thraldom of
their persecutors.
Another incident worthy of record in this
tragical history, was the almost miraculous
escape of the Rev. Mr. Spalding, for which,
indeed, he was indebted to the timely aid and
advice of the Rev. Mr. Brouillet, of the Roman Catholic Mission. The former gentleman
was on his return from the Umitalla River,
where he had been to visit the sick, and when
within a short distance of the mission at Wai-
let-pu, where his arrival was hourly expected
by the Indians, he was happy enough to meet
the Rev. Mr. Brouillet, who had just left the
scene of bloodshed. He had gone there, it
appears, to administer baptism to two children,
and the reader may judge what his surprise, TOO
fl  ill
and the state of his feelings must have been
to find the bodies of twelve of his fellow-
creatures so shockingly mutilated, and lying
like dogs in the mud and dirt, with scarcely
any covering. With the assistance of his interpreter, he dug one grave for all, and having
procured shrouds, he had the satisfaction—and
a melancholy one it must have been—of rendering them the last kind office that one mortal
owes to another, and which, had they not fortunately gone there, would have been denied
by the cruel murderers. Had their remains
been exposed one night longer, the}r would
have become a prey to wolves and dogs ; but
they were now spared this last indignity that
could possibly have been inflicted on them.
The Rev. Mr. Brouillet was returning from
the performance of this duty, being accompanied by his interpreter, and an Indian, who
had evil designs on Mr. Spalding, when they
met the latter about six miles from the mission. On this, they all came to a stand, and
it required some presence of mind on the part
of Mr. Brouillet to warn Mr. Spalding of his
danger, without creating any suspicion in the
mind of the Indian whereby he would have endangered his own life, without securing his
object. He ordered the interpreter to stop and
light his pipe ; and by the same ruse detained
the Indian in the rear to strike fire. The two
divines proceeding on in company, Mr. Spalding
was soon made acquainted with the particulars
of the late occurrence, and strongly advised to
escape ; his Catholic friend assisting him from
his own small stock of provisions. This advice
was acted upon in the same haste that it was
given : there was no time for deliberation ; his
life was at stake ; and in an instant he left the
trail, and proceeded towards the mountains.
Mr. Brouillet meanwhile made all despatch to
reach his own mission, and when almost within
sight of it, the Indian interpreter overtook
him. The former, finding Mr. Spalding no
longer in company, cast a savage and threatening look on Mr. Brouillet, and immediately
retraced his steps in pursuit of his victim.
Fortunately, a dense fog, and, presently afterwards, the darkness of night eoming on, frustrated his evil designs, and thus the fife of Mr.
Spalding was preserved to his wife and family, TRAITS  OF INDIAN  LIFE.
whom he rejoined at Clearwater, after wandering for six days and nights among the mountains, losing his horse and provisions, and at
last reaching home barefoot.
Would that I might now close this melan-»
choly narrative, but the fate of two Americans
stationed at the Grist Mill, twenty miles from
the mission, must not be omitted. Although
six days had elapsed since the destruction of
the Wai-let-pu Mission, and more than sufficient time for the ruthless perpetrators of these
crimes to have reflected on their enormity,
their thirst for blood was unsatisfied. Discovering the forlorn situation of these two men,
who were then lying sick and helpless in their
beds, the cowards resolved on their destruction,
first advancing slowly towards them, lest they
should have any weapons of defence at their
command. This was not the case; on the contrary, they were implored by both to spare
their lives ; but mercy was a stranger to their
bosoms, and in another instant the assassins uttered a horrid yell, and left the place, their knives
and hands covered with the blood of their victims.
They werethe lastwhofell in this bloody tragedy. THE BLOODY TRAGEDY.
" Revenge is sweet ! " May it fall on them
tenfold, for richly do they deserve it ! The
sole extenuating circumstance, that of being
urg"ed on to the commission of their horrid
crimes by the bad and ungrateful wretch
Louis, can never justify them in so cruelly
murdering their benefactor, who had sacrificed
his health to promote their happiness in this
world, and their hopes of the same boon in the
next. Far less would it justify them in numbering among their victims the benevolent
Mrs. Whitman, and twelve others, who indeed
were deserving of a less cruel fate than that
which my pen has faithfully recorded. 126
.In the autumn of 1835 I was strolling on the
banks of Stuart's Lake, anxiously looking out
for the arrival of our annual Canada express,
which was now momentarily expected; my
thoughts occupied, as may easily be imagined,
with many and sometimes sad reflections on
the nature of the intelligence that would so
soon reach us. Of how many dear relations
and friends might not death have deprived me
during the lapse of the long year since last I
heard of their welfare ; and what important
changes in the political world might not have
taken place, affecting the interests of that country, and of those dear friends, at all times
present to the mind of a poor, secluded exile !
The sombre and thick-coming fancies in
which I indulged, were suddenly interrupted
by a succession of harrowing screams which
issued from a neighbouring thicket of pines.
Although unarmed, I rushed forward to ascertain the cause ; personal security on such an
occasion being a secondary consideration, and
indeed at all times little regarded by me, who,
by placing my trust on Him above, have so
often been, I may say miraculously preserved
in the many perils I have undergone. I had
not penetrated far into the wood, when I unexpectedly found myself in the midst of an
assembly consisting of not fewer than a hundred swarthy Indians of both sexes, whose naturally savage countenances presented at this
moment, begrimed as they were with a composition of fish-oil and charcoal, an appearance
more than usually revolting. Guns, axes, and
clubs, appeared in the hands of some, while
bright daggers glistened, as they moved, from
beneath the blankets of others. My surprise
at finding myself suddenly in Hhe midst of so
rude an assembly was at least equalled by the
astonishment evinced by the savages them-* 128
selves ; for, on such occasions as the present,
which I speedily discovered to be for the purpose of consuming a dead body by fire, stran-
g*ers are never invited, and seldom venture to
Recovering from my momentary surprise,
and looking hastily around me, I perceived
the corpse of an Indian, a young man of the
village, recently deceased, stretched on the
ground in the midst of a knot of mourners.
It was in a state of perfect nudity; and,
from the protracted illness which had preceded
death, seemed to be reduced to a mere skeleton. Its head was supported on the knees of
an individual whom I conjectured to be the
widowed wife, although her form was so
shrouded by the folds of a ragged blanket, and
by the persons of the bystanders, that it was
impossible to say, with any certainty, even to
what sex the sad and silent mourner might
belong. Close to the corpse lay a quantity of
dry fir ; a wood in its very nature inflammable,
and in the present instance rendered so in a
tenfold degree by being reduced to thin splinters. THE BURNING OF THE DEAD.
Thé observation of a few moments had
served to make me acquainted with these particulars, and to urge further my curiosity,
excited, before now, by the accounts I had heard
of the barbarities exercised on these occasions,
more especially towards the women. My presence, however, had served to put an effectual
stop to their proceedings, and I began to think
that the ceremony would be deferred. Unwilling to lose such a favourable opportunity
of gratifying my curiosity, I showed no disposition to retire, not even when three elderly
men advanced towards me, and intimated, in a
manner which there was no misunderstanding,
their desire that I should do so. I was resolved, in short, unless they should have recourse to force, not to relinquish my position,
and therefore made signs that they should proceed with their ceremony, which I had no wish
to interrupt.
Upon this they doggedly withdrew, and
a vociferous consultation, accompanied with
much savage gesticulation, ensued, in which
the women bore a prominent part, smothering
with their shrill unearthly screams the more
deeply intonated cacophany of their lords and
I may remark here that motives of humanity had induced myself, and the other gentlemen stationed in this district, to endeavour all
we could to abolish the barbarous practice of
burning the dead, which seems to hold its
ground more tenaciously in these parts than
anywhere else in the interior of the continent.
On the north-western coast, indeed, it is still
in vogue, but during my residence of five
years in that quarter, it was gradually decreasing in frequency ; and they had, to my
knowledge, on several occasions adopted the
European mode of burial. In Western
Caledonia, too, to the great benefit of those
concerned, the civilized mode of interment is
gaining* ground, for in 1835, out of eleven
deaths which came under my notice, five
bodies only were disposed of by burning ; and
in the two succeeding years three out of five
were decently interred. It is here, as elsewhere, with the old people, rather than the
younger generation, that most difficulty occurs
when practices more congenial with the spirit THE BURNING OF THE DEAD.
of humanity are presented for their adoption.
The former are most tenacious of their hereditary laws and customs, assigning when
urged for a reason, that they are too old to
deviate from the path followed by their forefathers. In this, and many other respects, the
Carriers are the most superstitious tribe of
Indians I ever met with.
But to revert from this digression, and proceed with my revolting narrative. The issue
of the noisy consultation among* the natives
seemed to be favourable to the continuance of
the ceremony. The doleful howlings which
my appearance had interrupted, recommenced,
and I was advised to keep a respectful distance, as the danger of too near approach was
imminent. This, however, did not affect
my resolution to remain, and I accordingly
secured myself a favourable position for witnessing the proceedings.
The near relations of the deceased now
commenced erecting the funeral pyre. This
was done by laying alternately transverse
layers of the split wood before alluded to,
till   the pile  attained the height of  about I;
II    1
four feet, being at the same time of a corresponding breadth, and more than six feet in
length. On the top of tie whole was placed
the attenuated corpse to be consumed, on
which were presently showered down offerings
innumerable from the bystanders, in the
shape of blankets, shirts, coats, and indeed
property of every description, the whole intended as a holocaust, propitiatory of the
wandering spirit!
Meanwhile I had an opportunity of more
narrowly observing the person and demeanour
of the unfortunate widow, for whose sufferings
now in prospect, every feeling of sympathy
was excited in my mind. She was of youthful appearance, not more than eighteen years
of age, and as far as I could judge through
the disgusting fucus with which her face
was besmeared, comparatively handsome. Her
youth, the sorrow, feigned or real, depicted
in her features, and the air of resignation
exhibited by her whole figure, prepossessed
me warmly in her favour, and from my
heart I exclaimed,—Alas! poor unfortunate,
your  troubles commence early in life:  may
they weigh lightly on you ! She advanced,
and took her place at the head of the pyre,
there to await the progress of events.
It was soon evident to me that every one
stood on his guard, for it frequently happens
on these occasions that the relations of the
deceased revenge his death on some unfortunate being, suspected of being its cause;
not by direct agency, but through the mystical power which they ascribe to the object of
their suspicion, under the phrase, being strong
in medicine.   These mutual misgiving's seemed
©      ©
to increase at the moment when the mother
of the defunct advanced towards the pile
with a lighted faggot. The screams and
gesticulations of the savage crowd redoubled
in energy, and all rushed to take, as it
were, one parting look at the earthly remains
of their countryman. In an instant, the whole
pile was in a blaze, and such was the sickening
sensation it occasioned to me, that I was
almost inclined to withdraw, with my curiosity
only half satisfied.
And now, as the flames flickered in fantastic
shapes and ghastly colours over the blazing TRAITS  OF INDIAN LIFE.
pyre, commenced the sufferings of the poor
widowed victim. The husband's relations vied
with each other in the infliction of their
diabolical tortures, while those of the wife
stood silently apart, stoically witnessing the
whole scene of barbarity, nor once stretching
out a hand to avert a single blow from the
poor sufferer. It was with difficulty that I
could restrain the ebullition of my feelings,
but how much more did I require all my
self-command when the poor wretch was flung
violently among the flames. She fell backwards, singed and scorched, and only struggled
forward into the cool air to be again and ag*ain
subject to this exquisite torture, and ever at
the instigation of her diabolical mother-in-law,
who urged her party to the act. While this
tragical scene was enacting, the poor wretch
was upbraided by her tormentors with fifty
imaginary offences against connubial propriety,
which, I was afterwards informed, had not the
slightest foundation in truth. At length, ex*-
hausted with the dreadful tortures to which she
had been subjected, their victim fell prostrate
and nearly lifeless on the grass, a low moaning THE BURNING OF THE DEAD.
sound being the only indication that the spirit
had not already departed from its earthly
tenement. I was congratulating myself that
I had witnessed the last act of cruelty, when
suddenly the demoniacal mother-in-law, raised
to a perfect frenzy of excitement, seized an
axe, and rushing like a fiend on the hapless
object of her wrath, inflicted a serious wound
on her shoulders. This sudden relapse of
malice was more than I could bear, already in
a state of feverish excitement from the protracted tortures I had witnessed. Springing
forward, I wrested the weapon from the hands
of the old woman, whom I flung violently
aside. Perhaps it was fortunate for me that
vengeance had been fully glutted ; no further
attempt was now made to injure the unfortunate widow, who lay senseless and bleeding
beside the still blazing embers of the pyre.
During the twenty minutes which had been
thus fearfully occupied, the body was consumed
to ashes. Howlings, screams, lamentations,
had continued uninterrupted* the while, but
now every voice was hushed, and all but the
nearest relations of the deceased had retired 1
from the spot. These last sat silently eyeing*
the now dying embers, and when the fire was
extinct, they collected the ashes and uncon-
sumed fragments of bones, which they carefully wrapped up, and then one by one departed. The widow, helpless, exhausted, as
she was, had been left alone on the ground the
night through, but her sister humanely kept
her company.
By the laws of the Carriers, the widow is»
made to carry the ashes of her husband until
the final inurning, and during thiâ interval,
sometimes of two or three years, she remains a
slave to his nearest of kin. At her emancipation, when the ashes are dfcposed of^ a
grand feast is given, the materials of which
are furnished by all the connections of the deceased. This ceremony over, the widow is at
liberty to enter the connubial state again
should she be so inclined ; with the prospect
of a repetition of her sufferings hanging m
terrarmn over her head, should it be her lot to
undergo a second widowhood.
Historical documents have made us acquainted with the fact that the human race
have been afflicted with more or less deadly
pestilences from time immemorial ; and a perusal of the records which detail the suffering's
incidental to some of these supposed testimonials of the divine wrath is inexpressibly
harrowing to the feelings. This is more particularly the case—in all probability because we
are best acquainted with its circumstances—
with that of London in the year 1666, by
which some sixty or seventy thousand persons
were swept away in a few mouths ; the utmost
skill of man, according to the knowledge and
experience of the age, being vainly opposed to 138
■ Ht,
W   'it
its ravages. The yellow fever of America,
and the plague which continually manifests
itself in the Levant, and all along the Grecian Archipelago, would furnish, perhaps,
many scenes equally distressing to those who
sympathize with the sufferings of their fellow-
creatures ; while it is well known what deadly
havoc has been caused in most parts of the
world, by the periodical visits pf the cholera
morbus. To these and similar instances,
I am able to add the following* brief memorial
of a scene of suffering which eame under my
own notice a few years ago.
Returning* to Fort Vancouver on the
Columbia, after a short absence in the autumn
of 1830,1 found a few of the servants suffering
under an attack of interniittent fever. Two
medical men being* resident there at the time,
its first appearance caused no serious apprehension to those in health. But some alarm
began to arise when it was found that, instead
of disappearing before the remedies applied, the
malady fast increased both in virulence and
extent. In twenty days after the first
symptoms of its appearance, the whole garri-
son, with the exception of two, amounting in
all to five gentlemen and eig*hty servants, had
successively undergone the ordeal, and still
remained subject to the influence of this pestilential fever. Those who remained in health,
were, of course, unable to attend properly to
so many invalids, and this increased the inconvenience under which both men and officers
suffered in common. The annual ship soon
after arrived from London, bringing* a seasonable supply of medicines, the recent demand
for bark and other tonics having speedily
exhausted the limited stock we possessed.
Other assistance it was soon out of their power
to render us, the new comers being presently
attacked in a similar manner to ourselves, and
confined with a single exception to their beds.
The sufferings of all under these circumstances
were necessarily severe, and attended with
much serious inconvenience ; yet thanks to the
remedies thus provided us, and other wise
measures by which the virulence of the disease was mitigated, few deaths occurred in the
Such was the visitation as we experienced it j .• 140
it   »
U| 1
I; 1/9
but with the native population, alas \ the case
was different. Who shall describe the sufferings
of these unsophisticated children of the wilderness ; or who depict the forlorn condition they
exhibited while subject to such a scourge?
Let others, if they will, essay the task ; for
myself I despair of doing it justice, though the
scene is imprinted on my memory with a distinctness which actual observation alone could
communicate. A few words, however, may
serve as a memento of this sad event, however
inadequate to express its fearful reality.
In close contiguity with our clearances was
a village containing about sixty families of Indians ; a few miles lower down was a second,
of at least equal population. These villages,
before the fell visitation I have mentioned,
resounded with the hum of voices ; smiling on
the shores of the magnificent Columbia, they
refreshed the eyes of the lone traveller, wearied
with the unbroken monotony of woods and
waters, in the same measure as the bright
strand of a newly discovered island raises the
sinking spirits of some forlorn wanderer on
the deep.     Here, if the wayfarer could not
command the artificial comforts of the European hostel, the wants of nature were at least
cheerfully supplied ; and the hirehng smiles of
mine host, easily forgotten in the cheer of an
Indian welcome! In this sequestered spot,
seated on some rude turfy knoll, was it matter
of pleasant contemplation to witness the evening pastimes of the simple villagers. The
lively gambols of the children ; the more stirring games of the youths ; the sober gravity
of manhood, and the doting garrulity of old
age; human nature, in short, here as elsewhere, affected the hearts of all who were not
callous to these finer impressions.
Such was the scene I had often witnessed when visiting these hamlets. A short
month had passed away ; the shadow of
death on the wing had just fallen upon our
little community, and passed by ; and now, as
I drew near the well-remembered lodges, how
different were the feeling's I experienced ! All,
all was changed. Silence reigned where erst
the din of population resounded loud and
lively. No voice of young or old to awake
the echoes of the neighbouring woods.    Alas ! 142
f I
where are they who not long since peopled
this deserted spot? Where are they disappeared ? Let these unburied carcasses resolve
the question ; these torn and mangled corpses,
say wherefore. Why linger those foul birds
around the spot, gorged, and scarcely noticing
my presence ?—yon wolf, who eyes askant
the wretched scene, and revels in the ideal
enjoyment of his interrupted banquet? The
death-like silence around me, the fell vestiges
of a sad calamity which I descry—the loathsome
remains of mortality which alone indicate what
was once the scene of fife and vigour—are my
only answer. These speak louder than words,
more than volumes ; they tell me with awful
distinctness that here, where the voice of
laughter, and the rude Indian chant, have so
often made my heart glad, the fever-ghoul has
wreaked his most dire vengeance ; to the utter
destruction of every human inhabitant.
It may be inquired how such fatal effects
arose from a cause not g*enerally productive of
them. This may be easily accounted for in
the trust which these poor, deluded savages
reposed in  the juggling   mountebanks  with INTERMITTENT  FEVER.
whom the science therapeutic solely rests
among them ; and their total neglect of the
precautions that were recommended by us for
their adoption. Maddened by fever, they
would rush headlong into the cooling stream,
where, in search of relief, they found only the
germs of dissolution.
Dreading lest the putrified remains of the
dead should occasion some more dreadful pestilence, we proceeded forthwith to remove
them. But, as this would have been a work
of much labour, besides being inexpressibly
disgusting, it was resolved to consume them
by the most purifying of all elements. Accordingly, they were collected in heaps, and
the whole point of wood where they lay set on
fire. Upon this occasion one poor old man
who had retired among the branches to repose
himself—probably the only survivor of all the
inhabitants of the nearest village—narrowly
escaped a more cruel death than his' friends
and kinsmen. Too weak to extricate himself
from the wood, it was only by his cries that
we learned the fact of his existence, and could
discover  the   spot where he  was concealed. TRAITS  OF INDIAN LIFE.
Though preserved from a fate which it is
dreadful to contemplate, his life had only a
short respite; for, on the morrow, wasted to
death through neglect and sickness, he
breathed his last. This was the last case'of a
fatal nature which fell under my notice, and
certainly the measure of horror was full to the
brim, and without any further addition to cause
its overflow.
It was not till the month of November that
the symptoms which incommoded the garrison
began to abate, and another month elapsed ere
they had entirely disappeared. They have
since occasionally manifested themselves among
the whites, as well as the native population of
the lower villages; but the result has never
been so fetal as the first appearance of the
fever. Much inconvenience, however, arises
from it; and I may instance the case of a
party under Mr. W &&% wno were attacked
by this disease on their way from the Rio
Sacramento, when two of his men fell victims
to it, and the remainder with difficulty reached
Fort Vancouver, and that only after assistance,
both of men and medicines, had been sent to INTERMITTENT  FEVER.
them. Two years previously, I had myself
visited the Sacramento, but saw nothing* of
any general sickness. Mr. W^w , however,
had found the intermittent fever raging among
the natives ; and, seeing that his whole party
underwent its ordeal, it was in one respect a
fortunate circumstance that it was not confined
to them, since, had the natives been in their
wonted good health, it is probable that an
expedition thus weakened would have fallen a
sacrifice to their vindictive treachery.
It is a question of some interest where
this epidemic had its first origin ; and upon
the whole I have little doubt that it came
from the direction of the Spanish settlements ;
for, in the country north of the Columbia, it
has hitherto not made its appearance ; though
still flickering about the lower parts of that
river. To suppose it contagious from personal contact would be very erroneous, since it
doubtless proceeds from miasmata pervading
the atmosphere, whose virulent qualities are
elicited only by certain coincident'circumstances
of local origin.
After all, perhaps, the most plausible mode TRAITS  OF INDIAN LIFE.
of accounting for the generation of this malady
is, to attribute it entirely to foul exhalations
from low and humid situations ; though even to
this supposition there are objections which it is
difficult to overcome, and which tend to subvert every preconceived theory on the subject. A WESTERN  CALEDONIAN FEAST.       147
The native village of Stellah is situated some
twenty miles from our establishment, at the
west end of Frazer's Lake, by the confluence
of a stream which flowrs into it at this spot
from the French Lake. Here, at the repeated
solicitation of Hanayah, the Carrier chief, I
consented to grace a festival which he was
about to give to his friends and neighbours,
with my own lordly presence. Though hardly
persuaded to this act of condescension, I may
whisper in the reader's ear, that Hanayah's request had in reality coincided with my own
inclinations from the first : my desire being to
acquire a more intimate knowledge of our rude TRAITS  OF INDIAN LIFE.
neighbours from their living manners. I had
feigned reluctance, however, in order to enhance the merit of complying with the chiefs
I shall attempt to describe what I witnessed
on this occasion, with as much accuracy as the
impression left on my mind will permit, first
introducing to my reader's acquaintance, the
prime genius of the whole affair, my worthy
host, Mr. Hanayah. A little fellow, some
four feet ten inches in height, of spare make,
and bearing on the whole a marvellous resemblance to that caricature of our species, an
ape, will hardly come up to the idea he has
probably formed of an Indian chief in his
own wilderness ; yet I cannot be guilty of
the gross flattery to describe him otherwise.
Endow this little comicality with a dash of
good humour, and the extra measure of self-
conceit which Dame Nature kindly allows
to little people in other climates besides
this—in order, perhaps, to eke out their
stature—and you have a pretty correct idea
of the promoter and leader of these intended A  WESTERN  CALEDONIAN   FEAST.
But contemptible as may be the opinion
which a mere personal description of this man
must create, it were unfair to deny him the
merit of maintaining a very rigid authority among his people. To obtain as well
as to preserve this influence, Hanayah had
adopted the plan of a most arbitrary sovereign, and addressed himself rather to the
fears than to the love of his.subjects ; but with
this important difference from his civilized
prototypes, that his means of exciting dread
were impalpable. Conscious enough that he
could not boast of an "eye like Mars to
threaten and command," he wisely eschewed
any pretensions to the character of a brave,
for on this score he wrould have found plenty of
competitors to dispute the palm of superiority.
Like a skilful general, he went more cunningly
to work, and by aiming at the superstition of hih
followers, secured for himself exactly that kind
of respect which once on a time, had he lived
in enlightened England, would have gained him
the compliment of a faggot and a tar-barrel.
This good man, in short, possessed the attribute
of the " evil eye" in all its perfection; was more- 150
over a seer of undoubted pretensions ; and could
utter oracles like the Delphian Apollo. Is it
any wonder that Hanayah, with such transcendant qualities, obtained the influence w7hich
is justly allowed them in more polished
communities ?
Despatching my tent and other necessaries
in a canoe, I rode to the scene of festivity on
horseback, attended by my interpreters, and
found a large concourse of Indians encamped
among the trees. Some of these were from Naut-
lais, others from the Babine's Lake, and not a
few from the borders of Simpson's River—downright scamps these last, and unattached to us
by the same commercial ties which secured the
goodwill of the rest. I was made welcome
with a fat beaver and some berries, set before
me in the lodge of my entertainer. This was
a spacious building, perhaps forty feet square,
having a small door at one end, and the ridge-
of the roof being left uncovered to permit the
egress of the smoke.. Four posts, carved with
grotesque figures, supported the double ridge-
trees upon which the roofing-sticks rested; and a
thick covering of pine-bark effectually excluded A WESTERN CALEDONIAN FEAST.
the heaviest showers. The sides of the building were formed with broad boards split from
the pine-trees, but no care was taken to join
them, or even to fix them solidly ; so that the
large interstices allowed free ingress to the
air—a circumstance the less considered, as the
building was merely appropriated for summer
use. A general cleaning up had evidently
taken place in anticipation of the usual concourse of guests; and saving a few bundles of
property and utensils pitched against the sides
of the building, it exhibited none of the ordinary signs of habitation.
The feast was appointed to begin the next
morning, and, as my tent had meanwhile been
pitched, I retired to it, and was shortly visited
there by the whole body, gentle and simple,
of the assembled crowd. A few feet of tobacco
cut up and distributed, afforded a general
smoke, after which the rude levee retired, and
left me to my own reflections. I slept little
during the night, for the company assembled
in the vicinity, by groups of twenty or thirty
together, kept up an incessant uproar till daylight.    In fact, each of these assemblies main- TRAITS  OF INDIAN  LIFE.
tained a gambling table, where all the passions
exhibited in the polite hells of St. James's
were exemplified in a more barbarous and no
less energ-etic manner. For some time I
amused myself with the observation of their
motions from a distance. The little fires by
wrhich they sat, were kept continually blazing,
and the lig*ht thus afforded enabled me to dis-
tmguish the gestures of the players without
difficulty ; the run of " luck," and the changing passions of those eng*aged, being* often
indicated by the violence of their gesticulations, aided by a more emphatic intonation
of their wild song. Some disputes occasionally arose which threatened serious quarrels,
but they were invariably arranged, after much
vociferous altercation, without leading the disputants to extremities.
I cannot help remarking, by way of parenthesis, on that indomitable passion for play
which prevails among the aborigines of this
continent, and its singular coincidence with the
same propensity among polished nations. The
universal prevalence of this vice among the
natives, the excesses to which  it sometimes A WESTERN CALEDONIAN  FEAST.       15#
leads, the misery it causes, the unconquerable
hold it maintains upon the deluded wretch who
has once indulged in it, are as deplorable in
the one case as the other. The trader far
away from home, in pity of the uninstructed,
unsophisticated, and half-naked savages of
America, is induced for a moment to lament
their want of the civilized education of Europe
when he beholds them engaged in these degrading orgies. Alas! the next instant he
is only humiliated by the remembrance of
similar scenes in the most refined society. Go,
visit the magnificent temples of Mammon m
St. James's, or shift the scene to Paris, to
Amsterdam, or any other of the capitals of
Europe, and shall we not there find, despite of
book-learning and all the vaunted influences
of civilization, as much eagerness for the gains
of this detestable vice, as in the comfortless lodge of the most barbarous savage?
Sad to think, it has its foundation m the
worst feelings of our nature, for its indulgence must invariably occasion as much
distress to the one party, as exultation to
the other.    Selfishness — every gradation, in i:.: ï
short, of meanness — is developed and personified in this one accursed vice of our common nature.
But I am digressing from my story, and
must either renounce such disquisitions or leave
my tale unfinished. After I had breakfasted,
of course in my own tent, Hanayah came to
usher me to his lodge, where the native guests
were already assembled. I was placed in a
position w^hich commanded a view of the whole
assembly, my interpreter being accommodated
near me. The other guests were seated on the
ground, in rows, back to back, and, with the
exception of the vacancies preserved between
the rows, occupied the whole area of the lodge.
There were, perhaps, two hundred present.
Huge piles of dried meats, with vessels of
bear's-grease and fish oil, besides quantities
of berry-cakes, were stowed up in the vacant
places, so as to leave barely room to pass and
At length, the important business of the day
commenced ; and even to me, who, from constant intercourse with the Indians, had learned
to conquer in some degree the delicacy ac- A WESTERN  CALEDONIAN  FEAST.       155
quired during my youth, it was a most disgusting exhibition. By way of commencement, Hanayah advanced and laid before me a
beaver. He then returned to his heap ; and,
seizing another in both hands, advanced to the
most dignified of his native guests, and squatting down, presented it to him, tail foremost.
Upon this, the honoured individual seized a
knife, and commenced forthwith an attack
upon the proffered morsel, which the chief continued to hold with exemplary patience till the
guest had satisfied for the time his voracity.
The animal, thus despoiled of his fair proportions, was presented to another and yet another of the guests, the allotted portion always
diminishing with the rank or consideration in
which he might be held. When all were thus
served, a new course, attended with the like
ceremonies, at once began; and so on till all the
provisions were exhausted. About a dozen
of his relations, all tributaries to the feast,
assisted the head man in the distribution of
the viands, the like etiquette being scrupulously observed by the whole. As the banquet
proceeded, I observed that the guests, without 156
one decent exception, had amassed a large
heap of meats, all tossed " higgledy-piggledy "
into their dishes, together with a heterogeneous compound of berries, bear's-grease, and
fish-oil. I mention these distinctions, but it
is quite clear they regarded everything as fish
that came to their nets. An utter contempt
of cleanliness prevailed on all hands, and it
was revolting to witness their voracious endeavours to surpass each other in the gluttonous
When the stock of provisions was drawing
to a close, a circumstance occurred strikingly
illustrative of the brutish gluttony which may
almost be said to form a distinctive mark of
the Carriers. Hanayah, fining a large dish
with bear's oil, placed it before a Nautlay
Indian, named Kusmalah, saying, " Drink
this." From the tone of his expression, I
saw he was displeased, and was at a loss
to conjecture the cause ; but it was soon
| Wherefore this ? " said his surprised
I Who accused me last winter of eating all A WESTERN  CALEDONIAN  FEAST.      157
my store of grease ?" rejoined Hanayah ; " I
have at least enough left to give you a surfeit.    Drink, drink ! I insist upon it."
Poor Kusmalah, the " observed of all observers," reluctantly endeavoured to comply,
but nature was unequal to the task ; and
after swallowing about one-half the contents
of the dish, he was constrained to set it
down. He then stripped off his coat and
threw it to Hanayah, thus purchasing exemption from the further exaction of this strange
penalty against evil-speaking*.
The same plan was adopted, with similar
results, in another instance ; and it appears
to be a standard maxim of Carrier etiquette
thus to punish backsliders from the truth, in
affairs such as the present. Need I say
more to illustrate—
j The feast of reason and the flow of soul"
in which I was such an envied partaker at
this stately banquet ?
As the day was far advanced before the
company separated, and the ceremony of distributing the presents was deferred till the 158
morrow, I retired to my tent, resolved on
waiting another night to witness the conclusion of the festival. Shortly after dark, I
heard a great tumult in the chief's lodg*e,
and was informed that the natives, of whom
a large party had assembled there, were quarrelling. As blood is frequently shed at these
meetings, when the hereditary jealousies of
neighbouring septs and families are sure to
manifest themselves, I deemed it right to
visit the scene of dispute, and, if possible, to
quell it. Summoning my interpreter, and
taking my sword in case of need, I proceeded to the lodge. There was a large
assemblage of Indians, most of whom w^ere
standing under arms, and eyeing* each other
with an air of mutual defiance, while the
wordy war maintained between the rival parties bade fair to exasperate their feelings
to the utmost extremity. Seated upon the
ground, in the midst of the lodge, was
Hanayah, together with two other craftsmen
of the same art. Each of them wore a kind
of coronet formed of the inverted claws of
the grizzly bear, strung together in a circle, A WESTERN  CALEDONIAN FEAST.      159
the badge of the supernatural powers to which
they aspired. These worthies had been engaged in the exercise of the black art, as
they professed it, doubtless, to their mutual
edification, if not to the satisfaction of their
followers ; and it was in the course of their
dark proceedings that the disagreement had
arisen: a spectator, in short, having roundly
accused one of the learned trio of causing the
death of his father, an old man of fourscore
years recently deceased, through the pure decay of nature. This was the prime cause
of the disturbance ; and, having* first drawrn
attention to my presence, upon these hints
I spoke. To be brief, I gave them a round
scolding, and rated the whole of them soundly,
not even excepting the potent Hanayah himself. The desired effect being attained, I then
removed to my tent, and threw myself down
till the morning, undisturbed by aught save
the musquitoes, which abound in summertime.
The distribution of the presents next morning was prefaced by a ceremony to which much
importance was attached.   This was the pro- Il
II: i'
i i
duction of such relies of the several defunct
members of Hanayah's family as the piety of
their relations had preserved, and which were
now to be consigned to the flames. These
were exhibited by the chief, each in turn, to
the spectators, while a passing mention was
made of their departed owners. Pots, pans,
knives, locks of hair—any, the most insignificant trifle in fact—served to recall the
memory of its onetime beloved possessor,; and
as each trifling memorial was produced, it was
affecting to hear the low murmuring plaint
which arose from mothers, from fathers, or
from children, as the departed objects of their
affection seemed once more to speak to their
hearts. Be the other attributes of the feast
low and unamiable as they may, the exhibition
of this simple outbreak of natural affection is
yet hallowed in my memory, and there, I
trust it will always remain enshrined with all
that is worthiest of human sympathy. Jtâs a
gratification deep beyond measure to witness
among rude beings such as these, the excitement of those pure feelings of our nature
which remind us of our common origin, and A WESTERN  CALEDONIAN!  FEAST.      161
which, with ties indissoluble in all ag*es and in
all climates, still bind man to man.
The distribution of the presents occupied but
a short time. These consisted of blankets,
guns, kettles, capots, and other articles of
trade ; of which every one present at the feast
received his due share, that of the great men
exceeding their inferiors in the proportion of
six or eight to one. For my own part, in
order to comply with the established etiquette,
I accepted a necklace of shells, valued among
the Indians at the rate of a large blanket, in
return for which I took care to make over to
Hanayah other articles more than equivalent
to what I received. In the course of the distribution the number of blankets given by each
was accurately counted, and Hanayah's proportion amounted to fifty distinct articles.
This ceremony ended, a general rout ensued;
each departing on his way without an instant's
delay. The native canoes might now be seen
setting off in all directions : in ten minutes
afterwards not a stranger was left on the
After a pleasant ride homewards I arrived
M s '
*«   1
0&     I
W.   hi
1 11
at the fort, not too favourably impressed with
the delicacy of Carrier etiquette, but on the
whole gratified with what I had witnessed,
and revolving in my mind the strange inconsistencies of the world, whether displayed in
the saloons of a prince or the rude cabin of
a North American savage in Western Caledonia. THE  DA'LLES  OF THE COLUMBIA.      163
Among the innumerable streams which intersect the American continent, and afford the
adventurous trader the means of a precarious
intercourse with its remoter regions, the
Columbia is pre-eminently conspicuous; not
only as being one of the most important rivers
on the western side, but likewise for the perils
that attend its navigation beyond a certain distance from the ocean. Meandering throug*h a
desert region, often rendered more wild and
picturesque by the rude vestiges of ancient
volcanic action which abound in it, the stream
is frequently interrupted in its peaceful course ;
rushing along in impetuous torrents over the
detached masses, or continued ridges of vol- 164
canic rock by which its bed is obstructed. Of
these rapids one of the most dreaded at certain
periods, is the Dalles ; distant about 160 miles
from the sea, and so called by the Canadian
voyager, in common with other places, where
a stream is straitened in by steep rocks, so as
to  create  a lengthened   torrent   of   narrow
limits, but fearful strength, and rapidity. In
this particular place the river is parted into
a number of channels, separated from each
other by insulated tongues of rock, which rise
abruptly from the surface of the waters. Some
of these channels are navigable, though with
great risk even to the most expert boatmen, at
certain periods of the year : but in the summer
season, when the melting of the mountain
snows have swelled the flood beyond its accustomed limits, most of them become un-
distinguishably blended together, and the
mighty waters roll along with irresistible fury.
When this occurs, even the most daring quail
before the perils of the navigation, and in fact
all enterprise of the kind is then considered at
an end. It may be supposed that the scene
on such occasions is indescribably majestic in THE DALLES  OF THE  COLUMBIA.      165
its character. The mighty torrent twirls, leaps,
and rebounds, as the rocky islets I have
alluded to, oppose its progress; while occasionally, as if by some instinctive impulse, a
sudden swell from behind, comes fairly breaking over the half-checked waves before it, as if
impatient of their dilatory and indecisive progress. Along* the shores, on every advancing*
point of rock, the native fishermen station
themselves, sweeping the eddies with light
ingeniously wrought scoop nets, and thus
speedily procuring an ample supply of the
bright scaled salmon as they ascend. Seals,
attracted thither by the ascending shoals,
swim triumphantly among the whirlpools and
eddies, at the lower part ; sometimes floating
supinely, with their heads above the billows,
and again darting to and fro, either in sport,
or while pursuing their scaly victims, with
admirable velocity.
It was in the summer of 1830 that I arrived at the Dalles on my return to Vancouver,
after an absence of eleven months, spent in
scouring the prairies in quest of beaver. I had
a small party of trappers under my command, Ill
\h\ f 1*4
and having left our horses at Walla Wala,
where a crazy boat had been furnished us, we
had reached thus far on our descent, without
an accident of any moment, and in eager anticipation of a speedy restoration to our friends.
Exhilarated by such a prospect, the natural
vivacity of the Canadian voyageurs, increased
to ten times its usual vig*our—
a From morn till noon, from noon to dewy eve,"
the paddle song echoed over the stillness of the
swiftly gliding stream, and now that necessity
forced a " portage" on them, the active crew
speedily overcame the obstacle, and the boat
again floated in safety below. The heat was
intense ; and though the breakfast hour was
gone by, the stench of putrifying salmon was
so overpowering*, that I resolved on proceeding
a few miles lower down, before taking my
morning repast. Accordingly, the men were
directed to push off and prepare for this
important event of the day, at a spot indicated,
while I resolved to saunter downward by land.
Little did I then anticipate the sequel.
•Scarcely had I  set out, when the men  put THE  DALLES  OF THE  COLUMBIA.
forth, and began steering in an oblique direction across the stream, in order to avoid a
string of whirlpools that for a short distance
impeded the direct navigation ; and as the boat
shot majestically onwards, I half repented my
resolution of walking, envying the swan-like
ease with which she appeared to descend, so
contrasted with my own fatiguing progress.
Suddenly, however, the way of the boat was
checked ; so abruptly, too, that the rowers
were nearly thrown from their seats. Recovering their equilibrium, they bent to their oars
with redoubled energy, but the craft yielded
nought to their endeavours. The incipient
gyrations of a huge whirlpool at the same
instant began to be felt, holding the boat
within its influence. The vortex was rapidly
forming, and the air was filled with a confused
murmur, high above which might be heard the
hoarse voice of the bowsman, shouting, " Ramez, ramez, ou nous sommes pais ! " The dang*er
became momentarily more imminent; there
was no longer any doubt of the sad mischance
which had befallen them, for yielding to its
fatal attraction, the boat glided, at first slowly, Ill
into the whirling vortex ; its prow rising fearfully as the pitiless waters hurried it round
with increasing velocity.
Is it surprising that I grew dizzy and faint
as I g'azed, until at length one wild, long cry
warned me that all was over, and suddenly
restored my senses to their activity ? Alas !
to what purpose, save an overpowering sense
of grief, was the restoration of my faculties of
thought !
Utterly incapable of rendering assistance to
my drowning companions, I stood a helpless
spectator of the scene. The spot where the
boat had disappeared, no long*er offered any
mark whereby to note the sad catastrophe that
had even now occurred there, the vortex was
filled up, and its very site was no longer distinguishable ; for awhile it was more like a
dream than a real occurrence, so little vestige appeared of the life-struggles which had just taken
place. A few moments more, and the paddles,
sitting-poles, and various other articles of a
buoyant nature, were cast up in all directions
around, while here and there, a struggling
victim was discoverable, hopelessly endeavour- THE  DALLES  OF THE  COLUMBIA.
ing- to evade the fate that awaited him.    One
by one they disappeared, drawn down by the
lesser vortices that continually formed, and
again as speedily filled up, in the environs of
the catastrophe. After a brief interval, nought
was to be distinguished but the now mournful
rushing of the waters, and I sat down with the
consciousness of being left, in the fullest sense,
At the time, I dared not hope that even
one of my unfortunate companions had escaped ; but it eventually proved that one of
them, poor Baptiste, the steersman, had that
good fortune. By seizing four empty kegs,
lashed together, according to our mode of
transport, the buoyancy of these vessels had
floated him off, and the Indians picked him up
some miles below the scene of the misfortune.
For his companions, it was only after long intervals that the corpse of one or another was
occasionally found lying far away along the
beach, whither it had drifted with the descending current, and at length been cast by
its capricious eddies.
Since then, twelve years have elapsed.   Near 170
II \m
£: If
iff  M
■ t
the spot where I witnessed this sad event,
there now stands a humble edifice, rearing its
lowly roof above the stunted oaks around it,
and environed with several small enclosures
where the arid soil of the locality has been subjected to a partial tillage. This little homestead is a station of the American Wesleyan
Society, whose missionaries have been established there since the year 1837, with the view
of Christianizing the savage residents of the
vicinity. Still numerous, these last have yet
decreased sadly in numbers, since the date of
my story. What may be the ultimate fate of
the rest, it is not for blind mortals to foresee ;
suffice it to say, that their present condition is
such as to enlist our warmest sympathy. To
one boasting even the shadow of a philanthropic spirit, it is impossible to witness the
state of these poor people without experiencing
a heartfelt pang of pity, and cherishing an
earnest wish that something may ere long* be
done to ameliorate their sad moral condition.
A few remarks may not be out of place in
this connection concerning the most effectual
means of persuading the savage mind to em- THE DALLES  OF THE  COLUMBIA.
brace the pure doctrines of Christianity. That
there are, in fact, certain agencies whereby
this end may be accomplished, more practical,
and therefore more promising than the advocacy in the first place of a systematic theology,
is a position which I assume as too firmly established to require any comment; although
confessedly at variance with the persuasion of
a religious body, signalized for their fervent
piety, and the zeal with which they seek to
disseminate the seeds of gospel truth among
the nations. It is impossible not to admire
the untiring energy of this widely-spread sect
in such a cause. But, alas ! the best intentions of these good people are frustrated for
the most part by the self-reliance to which I
have alluded, causing them to reject the
employment of those intermediate means of
conversion, which, like tillage applied to the
soil, are often absolutely necessary to prepare
uncultivated minds for the reception of the
good seed. Without some co-operating influence, whereby the dormant energies of the
mind and body shall be awakened to activity,
it is, I fear, but a hopeless task to inculcate hi
i|   |j
rfV          J» i
l m
those pure precepts of morality which are coexistent with, and dependent on, a state of
civilization, partial, of course, in the beginning,
but of increashig breath as it proceeds, and of
greater depth as it extends itself. The influence of Christianity can never really be felt
except commensurately with the advancement
of knowledge, as, indeed, knowledge is of little
avail without Christian virtue ; each reciprocally promoting the strength of the other, in
an ever-increasing ratio of progress.
To instance the erroneous views sometimes
insisted on, with regard to this particular subject, I may mention the custom of estimating*
the missionary, in this particular spot, by the
number of communicants, without considering
their sincerity, or demanding any further qualification than their formal acquiescence in a
creed or ceremony, whose outward form is
alone adopted; while, it may be, the whole
daily conduct is utterly at variance with its
evangelical spirit. As a proof that this is
often the case, I may here relate what came
under my own observation when re-passing
the scene of my mishap already related, on my THE DALLES  OF THE  COLUMBIA.
way into Western Caledonia so lately as last
It so chanced, on this occasion, that I encamped at the Dalles, and passed the Sabbath
there.     An hour  or two before noon,  Mr.
P ,  the   resident   missionary, made   his
appearance in the camp, ringing a small
hand-bell as he proceeded to the principal
lodge, by way of summons to those desirous
of attending morning service. A goodly concourse was soon assembled, whose outward
decorum was in general unexceptionable ;
in whom, however, candour compels me to
remark, I could discover no symptoms of
that inward change which common report
had led me to expect. Among the congregation, my companion, Mr. D^^j a Catholic
priest who accompanied me on my way up
the river, likewise attended. As the service
proceeded, we observed in one corner of the
lodge a young man, lying there in the last
stage of consumption, his brother, a youth of
about eighteen, seated by his, side. After a
brief interval, the attention of every one was
aroused by the announcement that the spirit 174
of the sick man had departed ; and with the
ferocity of a tiger his brother sprang upon a
decrepit old woman who sat listening to the
preacher's discourse. Before a hand could
move to her succour, the infuriated savage had
severed her head from the body. A thrill of
horror transfixed the civilized portion of the
assembly, but they could only execrate the
deed they had not been able to prevent. As
for the rest, they excused the bloody act of
their countryman upon the usual plea—that
it was through the evil incantations of the
poor victim that the deceased had undergone
a lingering disease, terminating in his death
as just witnessed. Yet these men had been,
and still are, represented as evangelized in an
eminent degree.
The occurrence I have related is but a type
of a thousand atrocities daily occurring among
these supposed converts to the merciful precepts
* of Christianity. Were it an isolated instance,
I should be chsinclined to advance it as an
argument for or against a general proposition ;
and I merely bring it forward to show how
mistaken are the views of those benevolent THE  DALLES  OF THE  COLUMBIA.
enthusiasts, who are prone to exaggerate the
most distant shadow of success into the
fullest confirmation of all the most sanguine hopes that may be entertained by
their supporters. As for the belief in sorcery
itself, these benighted heathens are less to be
ridiculed and blamed than our own countrymen of a past generation, whose infatuated
belief in the worst horrors of witchcraft led
them into excesses ten times more horrible
than this unprovoked murder. And, surely,
when these deeds come eventually to be
judged at that tribunal where we must all
appear, the irregular impulse of the savage
breast will plead for extenuation far more
efficaciously than the systematic barbarities of
those blind credulists, who have " loved darkness rather than fight, because their deeds
are evil ! " TRAITS  OF INDIAN  LIFE.
Seldom or never has it fallen to my lot, during my protracted residence in these savage
wilds, to witness occurrences so tragic as I am
about to relate, and in which I was so deeply
interested in consequence of a previous acquaintance with the parties. Scenes of violence, indeed, as many of these sketches bear
witness, and incidents of romantic adventure,
have been of frequent occurrence in my experience; but these circumstances may properly
be called tragical, not merely from the violence
in which they result, but from the harrowing
feelings excited by them, and the dramatic
shape in which they address the imagination.
The heroine of my story, was the daughter THE  UNFORTUNATE D&&GHTER.
of a couple, both of native extoatetion^ who resided as inmates of my establishment.
The character of the father, who was somewhat advanced in years^ was base and treaeb*
erousto a degree; and thoug*h, generally speaking, a fond parent,, he was possessed of no other
redeeming quality, notwithstanding the good
advice so lavishly bestowed upon him. He
was. respected, indeed, because dreaded, by the
natives around, who well knew that, once excited, he would hesitate at bo crime, to accomplish whatever end he might have in view.
The mother's character, on the contrary, was
so much the opposite of this^ that its delineation,, thoug*h ever so briefly, is indeed to me a
pleasing reliefL During the long period of
her connubial probation, she: had lived respected and admired— enduring with patience the slights and injuries to which her
graceless partner continually subjected her}
and using every endeavour and straining every
nerve to bring up- a numerous fanrify with*
Such were tfa& parents ; and it cannot be
a  subject of much wonder   if  the  child   of
this ill-assorted couple should exhibit a wayward disposition. Notwithstanding a kind
mother's constant care, the evil example and
immoral habits of her father, had doubtless
implanted in her mind the seeds of that evil
which eventually ripened into such pernicious
fruit. In appearance, she was tall and good-
looking, with a complexion savouring of the
brunette, eyes of jet black, and a figure every
way prepossessing. Her hand had been frequently sought in marriag*e ; but the old man,
preferring to see her united with one of his own
descent, selected at length him, whom I shall
now introduce to my reader's notice.
The son of a respectable Indian trader, he
had been sent, while yet a child, to Canada,
and there placed under the care of a clergyman, who, I am confident, did ample justice to
his charge. This is the plan frequently
adopted by Indian traders ; but not unseldom,
after a lavish expenditure of money, and the
most anxious solicitude, they are doomed to
see every hope blighted, and to learn, too late,
that they have laboured in vain. Others, more
fortunate, have reason eventually to congratu- THE UNFORTUNATE DAUGHTER.       179
late themselves, on seeing their children become
efficient and respectable members of society,
fulfilling admirably the most cherished duties of life. Let it suffice to say, that he of
whom I now speak was not of the latter
number. As regards his conjugal relations,
I shall only remark that he exhibited at all
times a disposition extremely jealous, treated
his wife with incessant rigour, and in other
respects afforded her frequent reasons for dissatisfaction and distress.
It was now the gloomy month of November,
a period rendered still more dreary in these
parts by the early commencement of a winter
seven months in its duration. I well remember
it was the 10th day of the month, and I was
seated in my little parlour, ruminating" on the
dreary prospect before me, when the father of
the girl—who, by the way, was now a matron,
having been married some half-score of years,
and given birth to several children—entered
the room unexpectedly, habited in the guise of
an Indian. I was struck with the fearful distortion of his countenance, in which the worst
passions of rage and revenge were depicted. TRAITS OF INDIAN  LIFE.
My first impulse on witnessing* the unusual
spectacle, was a feeling that he meditated some
e»fl design upon myself; but a. moment's
reflection convinced me that the supposition
was fallacious, for his family had been in*
variably treated by me with great kindness,
and he himself, notwithstanding the evil character that he bore, was personalty indebted to
me in many important respects. I therefore
fixed my eye upon him, and calmly awaited
till .he should break the moody silence
whJeh prevailed, and explain the object of
his visit. This he presently did, informing
me in a sullen tone, that he had come to
request my permission to proceed in quest
of his daughter, who, he said, had recently
eloped from her husband ; adding his deters
mination that she should not survive the
disgrace whkh she had thus brought, not
only upon herself, but upon every member
of the family.
Knowing watt the stern and revengeful
character of the man with whom I had to
deal, I endeavoured to calm his fury, by
representing   the   hei&ousness   of  the  crime THE UNK)RTtfNA.TÈ ï)AtTGHTER.      181
he evidently meditated ; resolving at the
same time to watch his motions narrowly,
lest, in his thirst for blood, some other most
innocent victim might fall a sacrifice. On
Squiring more particularly, I learned that
the unfortunate woman was residing with
her Indian paramour at a neighbouring
village ; but seeing the state of mind in which
the father was, I conceived it prudent to
refuse him the permission he so earnestly
solicited. Upon this he declared his intention of sending his sons for her, since on no
account should she reside longer with the
partner of her infidelity. To this arrangement I could, of course, make no objection,
and accordingly could only renew my determination to watch the father closely, and
to interfere at once if I perceived any Open
manifestation of the sinister designs he had
cherished, but which, I was fein to hope,
the delay that would take place, and the influence of my reasonings, would have the effect
of counteracting. I felt relieved when my
•uncouth visitor had departed, for his features,
naturally saturnine and forbidding, were now ^^J TRAITS  OF INDIAN LIFE.
distorted by an expression perfectly demoniacal.
Shortly after his departure, the poor mother
made her appearance, and with tears implored
me to restrain her husband's fury. I could
only assure her of my determination not to
permit him to proceed to any extreme measures, and this, I was happy to observe, had
the effect of tranquilizing her fears in some
The sons set out so secretly that no one was
aware of their departure until some time afterwards. Meanwhile, as we well knew that,
dead or alive, they would not return without
their frail and disgraced sister, both the mother
and myself employed our influence, in order to
prepare the father for the trying interview
that awaited him. It was not till after the
lapse of fifteen days that the young* men returned, bringing with them the now penitent
woman. She was received by her mother in
the most affectionate manner, only the gentlest
reproaches for the misery which her miscon*
duct had occasioned, being mingled with her
abundant tears.   As for the father, he kept THE UNFORTUNATE DAUGHTER.       183
aloof in gloomy impatience of a scene so affecting to others, and on his daughter's approaching* to implore his forgiveness, he spurned her
from him, and turning about, walked moodily
to his dwelling. The daughter, who had
fallen into violent hysterics, was carried in
after him ; and while in this state, I besought
the father to# compassionate the penitence
she so obviously manifested. Not obtaining
a reply to my satisfaction, and dreading* no
serious consequences, while supposing that
natural affection would soon resume its sway,
I left the scene, and returned home.
Under pretext of holding a consultation
with his Indian relatives, the father next day
summoned them to meet him.
When they were assembled at the spot he
had designated—a small green in the neighbourhood—the old man, followed by the majority of his family, not excepting the subject
of his appeal, presently made his appearance.
The principal .individual of the group, the unhappy victim of a pernicious education, stood,
with downcast air, on the left : but her grief
had greatly subsided, and she was now more I   1
calm than when I last saw her. Doubtless
she hoped that, the cup of her affliction being
now full to the brim, forgiveness on the part
of her father would ensue, Alas ! how mistaken were her anticipations, how erroneous
the hopes we had all entertained up to this
moment !
The scene was of brief duration ; the words
spoken, few and dreadful in their import.
Every one kept silence, and the eyes of many
were turned wistfully upon that relentless old
man. At length the oppressive silence was
" My daughter," said he, " has brought
shame upon me; it is thus I efface the stain."
With this, he sprang suddenly towards her;
and, ere a hand could move to arrest his purpose, or a tongue could utter one word to
divert it, he plunged his dagger in her heart.
Then, instantaneously disengaging it, he repeated the blow on his own bosom, and both fell
lifeless on the ground.
The consternation to which this tragic catas-
frophe gave rise, had not yet subsided, when a
man dressed like a traveller, and whom I re* THE UNFORTUNATE DAUGHTER.
cognized as the husband of the unfortunate
woman, appeared suddenly among the assembled crowd. He bore a bloody dagger in Ins
hand, and with a loud voice proclaimed the
death of the paramour of his faithless wife.
u He no longer survives my disgrace," said
he, *" and I am now contented."
With these words he disappeared, and I
never afterwards fell in with hhn.
I shall not attempt to describe the grief of
the survivors of this wretched family ; how the
mother swooned at the unexpected termination
of the meeting, and how the other members
of the family deplored in turn the death of a
father and a sister. Suffice it to say that, in
common with others, tears flowed freely from
my own eyes, as I surveyed the dismal scene,
and witnessed the harrowing lamentations of
the assembled mourners.
Years have elapsed since the occurrences
above related took place. Still, day after day,
does the disconsolate widow continue to visit
the joint grave, in which, by her own desire,
the remains of her husband and daughter were
deposited.    There, seated in silent grief, does TRAITS  OF INDIAN LIFE.
she mourn their fate, bedewing with tears the
lonely spot they occupy, while deploring incessantly the sad and mournful event of which
I have constituted myself the chronicler.*
* The custom of thus mourning over the last resting-
place of the dead, is prevalent among most of the tribes
west of the Rocky Mountains. Their expressions of grief,
however, are generally exceedingly vociferous ; save when
the silent tear drops unseen, in unfeigned sorrow, upon tjie
grave of some beloved object. THE SHEWAPPE MURDERER.
In a former sketch, I endeavoured to impress
upon my readers the extent to which the Indian character has been misunderstood, and
how greatly misrepresented, by writers not
duly qualified by actual residence among these
wild races, to form a just opinion concerning
them. It is idle to suppose that the casual
visitor who may chance to penetrate as far as
the confines of our terra incognita, can have
any real knowledge of the passions which
agitate the savage breast. After getting a
sly peep at some half-score of ragamuffins,
and being perchance humbugged with a well-
conned routine of hypocritical pretence on
their part, such an one may indeed return II. v
home, deeming himself become, as if by magic,
quite an oracle on the subject ; but how
greatly he may deceive himself, and how little
he may know of their evil propensities, let these
pages testify. To be brieÇ every Indian is not
a hero, nor every female a Penelope, as some
would fain insist ; and in proof that they can
be both ungrateful and treacherous, let me
adduce the following recent and dreadful example.
B—— was one of my oldest and worthiest
friends. Our intimacy had commenced some
twenty-five years ago, and been ripened by
time into the warmest friendship. We had
shared in each other's perils ; and the narrow
escapes we had so frequently experienced,
tended to draw still more closely the bond of
amity by which we were united. It was our
custom to contrive an annual meeting, in order
that we might pass a few weeks in each other's
company. This reunion naturally possessed
charms for both of us ; for it was a source of
mixed joy, to fight like old soldiers " our battles
o'er again," over a choice bottle of Port or Madeira ; to lay our plans for the future, and, like THE SHEWAPPE MURDERER.
veritable gossips, to. propose fifty projects, not
one: of which there was any intention on either
part to realize.
In anticipation of our customary meeting-, I
was occupied early in the spring of the last
year, in making my preparations for setting
out, as soon as the breaking up of the season
should permit*, ruminating, while thus engaged, on the pleasure that awaited me, and
thinking it a weary while till the short month
that intervened before I could leave my post
should set me at liberty. Under these circumstances, one day, notice was brought that
a messenger, apparently an European, and
from the direction in which he approached^
evidently from the lower frontier, was seen
hastily making his way across the lake which*
lay before my establishment, and which presented at the season an unbroken surface of
ice thickly covered with a dazzling^ bed of
snow. He proved to be one of our best
pedestrians from the quarter we supposed,,
striding with laborious perseverance thirougjfo
the. snow, in which, notwithstanding hi® huge
snow-shoes, he sunk deep atr every step.,   AtL 190
length, he reached the hill upon which I was
standing ; and handing his packet to me, said
"Monsieur,  B  is no more;   he  was
murdered by  ," naming* the Indian by
whom the dreadful deed had been committed,
and who was well known to me. After recovering in some measure from the grief and
surprise into which the abrupt communication
of the sad intelligence had thrown me, I returned to the house, and sat down to peruse the
letters I had received, from which I gathered
the following particulars.
One of the Shewappe chiefs, who, from the
modest and peaceful demeanour he usually
exhibited, had received among us the surname
of Le Tranquille, had after a protracted illness, recently died.. The last act of his life
fully justified the complimentary epithet by
which we had distinguished him. Fearing that
his relations might be tempted to commit some
act of revenge upon an innocent victim, in
their grief for his death, he especially enjoined
them to refrain from any act of this nature.
He insisted more particularly on their  not
molesting the whites, to whose constant kindness and humanity he confessed his obligation.
" Go,   however,"  said   he,  " to the Chief,
Mr. B , and ask him, on my part, for a
blanket, wherein to shroud all that will remain
of me."
These were nearly the poor sufferer's last
words ; for he shortly afterwards gave up the
ghost. One of the sons upon this immediately
set out, bearing his father's last message to the
fort ; but the widow, whose grief had at first
restrained her sterner feelings, soon burst
forth in an ecstasy of frantic passion. Seizing
a gun, which had once belonged to him who
now lay lifeless before her, she exclaimed with
"With this must my husband's death be
revenged, and that ere another sun shall have
run his course. Go, my son," she continued,
turning to the eldest boy who stood weeping
near her, " go, and revenge your father, whose
death the foul machinations of others have
occasioned, and whom you now, like a child,
stand idly lamenting. Go, go ! " she impetuously added, seeing that her remonstrances had 192
I    ;
as yet produced but little effect; " go, and let
the victim you select be of no ordinary rank."
The better feelings of the young man, it is
but fair to remark, long sustained him under
the virulent reproaches with which his infuriated mother sought to urge him to this crime.
Indeed, her reiterated abuse so affected his
spirits, that he sought to commit suicide rather
than endure her gibes and provocations any
longer. .At length, frustrated! in the attempt
upon his own fife, and driven to desperation
when twitted with the cowardice of a woman,
and with other opprobrious epithets, by his
unfeeling mother, he seized the gun, and set
out on his way to the fort,;resolved to glut his
angry feelings by the murder of my unfortunate friend.
Meanwhile the younger brother had reached
the   house,   and recounting his   melancholy
story, had received not only the blanket re^
quested by his dying father, but a further present, which B 's friendship for the defunct
had prompted him to make. Pleased with the
result of his mission, and breathing thanks to
his friendly host, the young Indian set out on THE SHEWAPPE MURDERER.
his return to the lodge. It may be that his
solitary path on the way home was crossed by
the intended murderer of his benefactor.
Poor B was walking to and fro in a
spacious hall, in which it was customary to
receive the Indian visitors at the establishment,
when a young man, whom he easily recognized as the eldest son of Tranquille, entered,
and complaining of the cold (for it was midwinter) seated himself shivering by the fireside. After smoking and talking for some
time on divers topics, my unfortunate friend
turned with the view of entering an adjoining
chamber, when his companion levelled his gun,
and fired the contents, consisting of a bullet
with a quantity of shot, full into his back. His
victim fell without a groan, and the conscience-
stricken murderer, before the alarm could be
spread, was already out of reach, fleeing madly
to a distance in search of that safety which he
well knew he had compromised by this ruthless deed.
Thus perished my old companion, with
whom, for so many years, I had been united
in the strictest bonds of friendship.     Thus
o h!
mi  it
iii if
■«f   ^
without the interval of even a moment, after
the death blow was dealt, was his spirit
ushered into the presence of that dread Being
before whose tribunal—a just, but yet a merciful one—we must one day all appear.
What my feelings on this sad occasion must
have been, I shall not attempt to describe ; the
lapse of time has only alleviated the poignancy
of my grief, and I am now resigned to the
hope, that when a dark futurity shall no longer
be to me as " future," I may meet my friend
in another and a better world, where ruthless
revenge, and every darker passion of our
nature, shall be unknown.
The sequel of this sad history I shall dismiss
with brevity ; for why dwell particularly upon
the retributive measures which the paramount
necessity of securing ourselves from the like
attacks, compelled us to adopt. After many
fruitless attempts, the murderer was at length
secured : not without the co-operation of the
natives themselves, who when they found us
bent upon enforcing justice, beg an one by one
to abandon the culprit, whom they were at
first inclined to protect, but now, with their THE SHEWAPPE MURDERER.
usual fickleness, did not hesitate to betray.
His person at last being* secured, Mr. C ,
the leader of the party which had effected the
capture, was desirous of taking him to the
fort, there to be publicly hang'ed as an example in terror em to the rest. The project, however, was frustrated in the following manner :—
As it was necessary to cross the river, the
prisoner was placed in a canoe, with two
guards, having his hands manacled. By
violent exertions, the unhappy man, now rendered desperate, contrived to upset the canoe
when in mid-channel, and fettered as he was,
succeeded in reaching the shore. A shot from
one of his countrymen now compelled him to
betake himself to the water again, and, strange
to relate, he recrossed the river. A second
wound drove him once more towards the
middle of the stream, when seeing that there
was no longer the shadow of a chance of
escape, and bleeding profusely from the
wounds he had received, he raised himself for
a moment in the water, called out, in a loud
voice, acknowledging the justice of his punishment, and then sank to rise no more. TRAITS  OF INDIAN LIFE.
Many years have passed away since an apparent accident made me the witness of an
affecting* scene, the impression of which time
has not even yet effaced from my memory. I
was at the time on a visit to Canada. Our route
lay through Lake Superior, the largest sheet
of water in Nortji America, and but too well
known to the voyager for the many dangers
that attend its navigation. On the occasion to
which I allude, we had indeed a very narrow
escape from destruction. During the early
part of the day a favourable breeze had driven
us rapidly forward on our course ; but towards
the afternoon the gathering clouds, and other
well-known   signs,   gave indications of  an THE  STORM.
approaching storm. Presently the wind began
to increase till it blew a gale ; loud claps of
thunder pealed overhead, and echoed along
the mountainous shores of the lake, while
rain-drops large and heavy began to fall fast
upon us. Naturally a timid sailor, I had
some time before given directions to shorten
sail ; the prudence of which was now evident,
insomuch   that the  crew began to see the
extent of the  dang*er which hitherto,   with
© ?
their usual supineness, they had not recognized. The bold rocky shores by which we
were fast driving precluded the possibility of a
landing ; indeed any attempt to approach for
such a purpose, with our frail canoe, would
have been to court inevitable destruction.
As the storm increased, so did the apprehensions of the majority of the crew multiply ;
but fortunately the two boutes, to whose
experienced care the management of the
vessel was confided, retained their self-possession, and while the rest were devoutly crossing
themselves, and invoking the name of their
patron saint, these wrought hard for the
common safety.     For myself the  while,  I TRAITS OF INDIAN LIFE.
will confess that, while I retained my outward self-possession, my hope of escape was
but slender.
After scudding along for some time, a low
point appeared at the distance of several miles
in advance. To attain this was now our object. Hope began to revive in the minds of
the despairing crew, who had for some time
been in dread of sharing the fate of some of
their companions, who had perished under
similar circumstances, in this very neighbourhood, the preceding year. Kettles were now
employed to keep the canoe clear of water by
baling ; paddles to assist the impulse of the
shortened sail ; and thus, after nearly an hour
of anxious expectation, we reached the promised haven in safety. Rounding the point,
we found ourselves suddenly in smooth water,
sheltered from the wind, which still continued
to blow with violence.
By means of my gun, which I had succeeded in keeping dry while everything else in
the canoe was soaking, we made a fire ; the
tent was then pitched, and the crew found
instant provision for their comfort by turning THE MOTHER'S  GRAVE.
the canoe upon its side before the  blazing
By^and-by, the storm subsided, and I sauntered abroad. Looking towards the end of
the bay, I perceived, what had not before attracted my attention, a thin smoke arising
from among the trees. Approaching the spot,
I discovered a small encampment, but it was
tenantless ; and I was conjecturing what had
become of its recent occupants, when my ear
was caug*ht by a low moaning sound in the
vicinity. Directing my steps towards the
spot, I saw, in the midst of a small clearance,
a newly-covered grave, at the head of which a
rude cross was planted. Near it was seated a
middle-aged ^Indian, having in his arms a
young infant, whose lips he strained to his
breast—if haply he might quiet it with the
fallacious hope of that nutriment of which the
death of its mother, who evidently lay interred
before them, had deprived it. Another child,
a girl of five years old, lay at his feet weeping bitterly. He, too, the father of these
little ones, by the half - suppresssd moans
which from time to time escaped him, gave 9^Â
token of the deep grief which oppressed his
After witnessing for a while this moving
scene, I drew near, and the noise of my approach attracted his attention. I saluted him,
and he quietly rose to accept my proffered
hand. With the few words of the Sautean
language I possessed, I then invited him to
our camp. He followed me in silence, carrying tenderly his half-dying infant, and followed
by the little girl, whose grief was hushed for
a season by the novelty of my unexpected
The hunger of the infant was soon appeased
with a little white sugar tied in linen. We
also supplied its fond parent and his other
little one with food, and after a time, while
enjoying the solace of a pipe of tobacco, he
told me his brief history. Deprived of his
wife by sickness, who had died in the neighbouring camp only the day «before, he had
just rendered the last sad offices to her remains
when I arrived, and there found him, as I
have related, in the indulgence of that grief
which, stoic though he is supposed by hasty
and ill-informed observers to be, is no less
characteristic of the American savage, than of
the civilized European. Our unexpected visit
diverted the grief of the poor savage. We
supplied him with tobacco and ammunition,
the first as a luxury, the last to procure food,
and next day took our departure ; our Indian
friend setting out at the same time in the
opposite direction, in quest of a camp of his
relations who were at some distance beyond,
upon the shores of the lake. Fine weather
and a pleasant breeze advanced us rapidly on
our journey, and we soon forgot the dangers
of Lake Superior, though not the little incident
which I have endeavoured to place on record.
__________ ^Â
■ i
I Ni
A few days after my arrival at the post last
mentioned, while anxiously awaiting the friends
whom I expected to accompany me on my
journey, I was strolling idly about the vicinity, and had not wandered far from the
house, when I was surprised at beholding a
solitary cross, standing in the middle of a
small secluded plain.
This emblem of Christianity, under any circumstances, possesses for me, as I fancy for
most others, a peculiar attraction ; and in the
present instance I felt singularly disposed to
inquire the reason of its being placed in a spot
so remote from the ordinary place of interment.    In most cases, a rude wooden crucifix
indicates the last resting - place of the voy->
ageur, but this which I now saw was so situated as rather to suggest that it had been
placed there by some good Christian to mark
the retreat where he might recite in solitude
his daily orisons. The following day I renewed my visit to the spot, accompanied by
my kind host and his lady, when, in answer
to my inquiries, I received the following account of the object that had awakened my
The cross, contrarv to the conclusion I had
arrived at, marked but too truly the resting-
place of a fellow-creature, and had been
erected some two months before, over the remains of an unfortunate being who had here
voluntarily terminated his existence. Too
weak to bear the reverses which sooner or
later must always overtake the infatuated
gamester, the unhappy man had dared to rush
unbidden into eternity, adding one more to the
long list of victims to the fatal propensity that
had for some time spread but too securely its
toils around him.
How   deceitful   are appearances !   A few ^À
short years before the sad catastrophe, this
young man had been selected by Mr. D ,
a Roman Catholic missionary, on one of his
visits to this neighbourhood, as a fit subject
for religious improvement. Such was the
favourable impression made by his external
appearance upon the mind of the worthy
priest, that the latter took him zealously
by the hand. The assiduity and apparent
devotion displayed in his conduct confirmed
these prepossessions, and in addition to the
pains taken to instruct him in the observance
of the faith of which he shortly became a
confirmed professor, many little acts of favour
and attention, in the shape of presents and
the like, marked the degree of favour to which
he had attained.
But alas ! the seeds of religion had been
sown on a sandy soil, and as they sprang
up quickly, so they grew rank, and perished !
To be candid, moreover, a wearisome routine
of prayers, only half intelligible, and repeated
by rote without that internal impulse which
renders prayer efficacious, is but a poor protection against the allurements and tempta- THE SUICIDE'S CROSS.
tions of the world. Such proved to be the
case in the present instance. Trials arose,
and the unfortunate lad fell, like other worldlings, a victim to temptation, unrestrained by
religious principle.
The career of a gambler is too much
the same under all circumstances to require
much elucidation. A few years ago I had
seen the unhappy subject of my story in the
bloom of early manhood, occupying a aspect-
able situation, and respected by all around
him. A year before his death I had again
seen him, but how great was the contrast.
Haggard, and with downcast eyes, he was
squatted with scarce a garment to cover
him, in the corner of the lodge ; shunned by
lukewarm relations, and the friends of his
more prosperous days,—those hollow friends
who had themselves assisted in his ruin; no
one save his aged mother seemed to retain
the least regard for the ill-fated gamester.
What wonder is it, under these circumstances,
that despair should obtain the mastery over a
spirit so broken, and a resolution so weak as
his!    One, Sabbath morning,  when all   the SA
other inmates of the lodge, with the neighbours
who resided around, were assembled at mass,
the long-desired opportunity presented itself.
His poor mother returned, and where she had
left her son, there met her eyes the shattered
remains of a suicide ! Whether to mark their
abhorrence of the crime, or from a reluctance
to associate, even in death, with the Protestants, who chiefly used the ordinary burial-
place, I know not ; but his relatives preferred
interring him close by the spot where the
crime was committed. There stood, and I
doubt not stands at this hour, as a memorial
of the unhappy dead, the Suicide's Cross.
Among the many losses arising from the severity of the winter, to us the unkindest cut of all
was the death of an ass, which had attained
the patriarchal age of thirty years, and has
left behind him a numerous progeny to bear
testimony to his manifold good qualities. Surely
his sad end ought to be recorded, if it were
only to show that the most harmless and helpless of all creatures have no security against
the murderous intentions of the Indians, in
these wilds !
Feeling the cold like his neighbours, and
trusting to the hospitality of man, the confiding animal had approached the hut of an
Indian resident in the neighbourhood, with 208
uA: I
the view of obtaining a little warmth from the
fire. Aged, and withal tired, perhaps, a deep
sleep had succeeded to this unwonted luxury,
and while thus napping, the poor brute was
treacherously assailed with axe and knife, by
those who should have protected him, as their
guest. That " murder will out " is a proverb
as old as the hills. It was not long ere many-
tongued rumour let the secret escape, nor was
much time suffered to elapse before the hue-
and-cry was raised, and the criminals brought
before the presiding judg*e, their hands still
ved with the blood of their victim. The culprits were about to be questioned on the ruthless deed, when a voice was heard calling out
to give them the benefit of " Lynch law."
The judge signified his disapprobation of this
violation of propriety, by ordering the court
to be cleared, and presently, considering the
highly excited state of public feeling, resolved
to defer the examination until it should in
some degree have subsided : for who, whether
beast or man, was ever of sufficient importance
to be long regretted ?
After six days' confinement, the trial was DEATH  OF OUR  FAVOURITE DONKEY.     209
resumed.    It was of short duration : the facts
being too obvious to admit of question.   When
called upon for their  defence,  the prisoners
pleaded starvation as their motive; but this
no one chose to credit.    The man then laid
the blame upon his wife, or the  devil—one
or  the other of whom he declared to  have
instigated the deed.   This dastardly attempt
to shift the blame upon his unfortunate partner, occasioned a general murmur of disapprobation, which the judge was compelled to check
in a peremptory tone.    It was then proved
that the prisoners had hitherto sustained  a
good reputation for industry and good behaviour, a fact which evidently had its weight
with the jury.    At length the judge, whose
well-known  character for  discretion I  need
not comment upon, charged the jury, warning them to dismiss all prejudice from their
minds,   and so   forth, and   they retired   to
deliberate.     After a few minutes, a verdict
of guilty was returned,  accompanied   by  a
recommendation to  mercy,  on  the score  of
ignorance   of  the  enormity  of their  crime.
The sentence passed upon the prisoners was
P    ll W^A
11 k
—banishment for  ever   from the  county of
Such a punishment may at first sight appear lenient; but its severity will become apparent, when it is understood that death itself
is perhaps less insupportable to the Indian, than
banishment from his native soil. It is the
pride and the pleasure of his nature to speak
of it. Every conspicuous spot has its appropriate name, possibly connected by tradition
with the prowess of his departed ancestors.
When a distant journey is undertaken, the
last recommendation to those he leaves behind, is, " Fail not, in case of my death, to go
in quest of my bones, and bring them to my
own lands." I have witnessed several instances of Indians dying in this way, not less
than twenty days' journey from their ancestral
home ; still, through a country nearly impassable, have the relatives observed religiously
that last injunction, and sought their remains,
exposed to every manner of privations and
hardship. S This being well known, ought we
not to feel commiseration for the unfortunates,
whom we so often see deprived of their natural DEATH  OF  OUR  FAVOURITE  DONKEY.     211
rights, particularly in the United States, where,
with the regularity of a law of nature, the
aboriginal inhabitants are compelled to recede
before the white population ? As the settlements advance with rapid strides, a questionable remuneration, it is true, is nominally
made to the original possessors of the soil,
but what compensation can remunerate even
these poor outcasts for the violation of their
dearest sympathies ? Driven backwards, step
by step, and league by league, each stage of
their retreat is but a temporary respite from
the onward march which dooms them to die at
a distance from the bones of their forefathers.
Wretched and desponding—moved hither and
thither, by the right of might—subject to the
will of a coarse and unfeeling ag*ent, acting in
the name of a government which it is hopeless
to resist—they become a prey to contagious
diseases, which are ever severest on the poor
and miserable. It is almost the only consolation remaining to the philanthropist under
these circumstances, that, ere long, the race
must become extinct.
In the Oreg*on territory, the population was SA
once numerous, as compared with the ordinary
population of America.    But disease has done
its work there also, insomuch that scarcely one
of the original race is now to be seen.    Well
do I recollect the day, when the banks of the
Columbia and its tributaries were crowded by
hundreds of the native races, apparently among
the happiest of mankind, and surrounded by
abundance, which it cost them little labour
to procure.   The river   supplied them   with
salmon, the woods yielded elk and deer, and
where wood was scarce, in the upper parts of
the watercourse, an  adequate supply of fuel
was brought down by the annual floods from
the    mountains.||   But   how    is   the   scene
changed !    Immigration has  supplanted the
original population of the land, and   where
peace and contentment once reigned,   they
reign no longer. THE  LONDON  PACKET.
It is not easy for me to convey an idea of
the degree of excitement that attends the glad
announcement of the packet from London.
Shut out from the world, indeed, as we are,
and receiving tidings from home at yearly
intervals only, it is natural that anxiety as to
their probable nature should prevail among
the expectants. Such being the case, it is
also always interesting to observe the varied
manifestations of joy or grief, that are exhibited by individuals according to the intelligence received by them.
For weeks before the anticipated event, the
probabilities attending it form the all-pervading topic of conversation, both among the
ïi        :t M     S    p3 SA
private circles and at the public mess of our
little community. A thousand conjectures
arise in quick succession to divide the opinions
of those interested, and these are often
strengthened by bets upon the points in
debate. The excitement increases from day
to day, until all doubts are at length solved by
the arrival of the ship, first announced by a
confused murmur, and then by the noisy
exclamations of the children, running to and
fro, delighted with the novelty, and screaming
at the top of their voices, " The Packet ! the
Packet!" ■-&■• v ; m ||fi^ #- "
The bearers of the precious burden shortly
make their appearance, not a little proud of
the temporary importance attached to their
mission. They advance to the governor's
domicile, and are ushered into the presence
hall, where, as they well know, a hearty welcome
from the great man awaits them. All etiquette
is for the while suspended. A motley group
of followers throng around the doors. A few
brief inquiries as to the whereabouts of the
good ship, and the like generalities, terminate
the first act of the important drama, and the THE LONDON PACKET.
packet-bearers are dismissed kitchenwards,
where refreshments await them, and their
share of the matter is concluded.
Deeply impressed with the importance of his
office, the accountant, who, in these matters
seems privileged to take the lead, now advances, and hastily rummages through the contents of the box. Letters are doled forth to
their expectant owners. The man of figures
seizes with avidity the mass of accounts and
books, which seem to possess for him attractions not easily appreciated by the uninitiated,
and forthwith retreats to his desk, where
he plunges deep into their mysteries, and
seems for the while weaned from extraneous
As may be supposed, an event so long-
looked for, and so interesting to all connected
with the establishment, deranges for a while
its settled routine ; every one, in short, being
so engrossed with the perusal of his letters,
that a general silence supplants the ordinary
buzz of business. At length, the sound of the
dinner-bell renews the social compact, the
contents of each one's budget are retailed for Sa
Ijl II] 1
1:1 !
H     Bg;- j
1 îi
1 dt
fi f J
the general benefit, an extra glass of wine is
drunk in honour of the day, and joy and hilarity, with occasional exceptions, are exhibited
in every countenance. Even the ladies share
in the general excitement; for besides the
familiar topics in which they may be presumed
to have an interest, they have their own
special curiosity to satisfy, noting the domestic
supplies shipped for them — the gowns, the
bonnets, the shawls, and fifty other items of
necessity or ornament. So passes the day ;
another sun appears, and again all is regularity and order.
I well remember a scene such as I have described in June 18—. Among those assembled
at the dinner - table on this occasion, I remarked one young man, recently from England, in the capacity of a clerk, whose thoughtful look excited my sympathy. I afterwards
learned that he had received no letters from
home, which accounted in some degree for
the sad expression of his countenance. He
was the only son of a widow, and beside
her he had no other tie upon earth, for every
relative he had ever known, had one by one THE LONDON  PACKET.
been snatched from his side. The disappointment he had experienced was indeed great,
but I had no suspicion that the wound it had
inflicted was so serious, until his absence from
breakfast the next morning suggesting the
propriety of calling upon him, I found him
bathed in tears, and having comforted him as
well as I could, left him once more to his
The poor fellow had imbibed the idea,
afterwards proved to be erroneous, that his
sole relation was dead, for to no other cause
could he ascribe her unaccountable silence ;
and it was in vain that we pointed out to
him the possibility of her letters having miscarried.
Thus, from hour to hour, did the lad pine
away, secretly indulging* the gloomy imaginings which it was soon evident would sap
the foundations of his health. The pallor of
death began to supplant the rosy hue which his
countenance had previously exhibited. Jledi-
cal advice was resorted to, but his disease
was of the mind, and beyond the help of
medicine. mm
Day after day he got worse, and within a
brief fortnight after the arrival of the packet,
he expired, a victim to over-excitement and
despair !
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