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Wild north land : being the story of a winter journey, with dogs, across northern North America Butler, William Francis, Sir, 1838-1910 1874

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By   Captain  W.   F.   BUTLER,   P.R.G.S.,
" I cannot rest from travel,   t will drink life to the lees."
' I am become a name for always roaming with a hungry heart."
[All rights reserved.]  PREFACE.
People are supposed to nave an object in every
journey they undertake in this world. A man
goes to Africa to look for the Nile, to Eome
to see the Coliseum or St. Peter's; and once, I
believe, a certain traveller tramped all the way to
Jerusalem for the sole purpose of playing ball
against the walls of that city.
As this matter of object, then, seems to be a
rule with travellers, it may be asked by those who
read this book, what object had the writer in
undertaking a journey across the snowy wilderness of North America, in winter and alone ? I
fear there is no answer to be given to the question, save such as may be found in the motto on
the title-page, or in the pages of the book itself.
About eighteen months ago I was desirous of
entering upon African travel. A great explorer
had been lost for years in the vast lake-region of
Southern Central Africa, and the British Nation—
a 2 IV
which, by the way, becomes singularly attached to
a man when he is dead, or supposed to be dead—
grew anxious to go out to look for him.
As the British Nation could not all go out at
once, or together, it endeavoured to select one or
two individuals to carry out its wishes.
It will be only necessary to state here, that the
British Nation did not select the writer of this
book, who forthwith turned his attention from
African tropic zones "to American frigid ones, and
started out upon a lonely cruise.
Many tracks lay before me in that immense
region I call | The Wild North Land." Former
wandering had made me familiar with the
methods of travel pursued in these countries
by the Indian tribes, or far-scattered fur-
hunters. Fortunate in recovering possession of
an old and long^tried Esquimaux dog—the companion of earlier travel—I started in the autumn
of 1872 from the Red BAver of the North,
and, reaching Lake Athabasca, completed half my
journey by the first week of March in the following
year.   From Athabasca I followed the many-wind- PREFACE. V
ing channel of the frozen Peace River to its great
canon in the Rocky Mountains, and, journeying
through this pass—for many reasons the most
remarkable one in the whole range of the Rocky
Mountains—reached the north of British Columbia
in the end of May. From thence, following a trail
of 350 miles through the dense forests of New
Caledonia, I emerged on the 3rd of June at the
frontier station of Quesnelle on the Frazer River,
still 400 miles north of Victoria.
In the ensuing pages the story of that long tramp
—for it was mostly performed on foot—will be
duly set forth. Written by camp fire, or in canon,
or in the little log-house of a northern fur fort,
when dogs and men rested for a day or two in the
long icy run, that narrative will be found, I fear,
to bear many indications of the rough scenes 'mid
which it has been penned;.but as, on a former
occasion, many critics passed in gentle silence
over the faults and failing's of another storv of
travel in the Great Lone Land, so now it may be
my fortune to tell to as kindly an audience, this
record of a winter's walk through more distant
A  3 VI
wilds—for in truth there has been neither time for
revision nor correction.
Fortune, which eighteen months ago denied me
African adventure, offers it now with liberal hand.
I reached the Atlantic from the Pacific shore to
find an expedition starting from England against
Ashantee; and long ere this story finds a reader
I hope to be pushing my way through the mangrove swamps which lie between the Gold Coast
and Coomassie. To others even must fall the task
of correcting proofs, while I assume my part in
the correction and revision of King Koffi Kan-
calli, and the administration to his subjects of that
proof of British prowess which it has been deemed
desirable to give them.
Meantime, my old friends Chief KarJka-konias,
Kalder, and Cerf-vola, will be absent from this
new field; but, nevertheless, there will be present
many companions of former travel, and one Chief
under whose command I first sought the Great
Lone Land as the threshold to remoter regions.
W, F. Butler.
September 21st, 1873, CONTENTS.
The Situation at Home—The West again—A Land of Silence     .     1
Powder versus Primroses—The American Lounger—"Home,
sweet Home " 6
Civilization and Savagery—Port Garry under new aspects—Social
Societies—An old Friend—Pony "the perverse"     .       .       .10
The Wilderness—A Sunset Scene—A white Savage—Cerf-Vola
the Untiring—Doggerel for a Dog—The Hill of the Wolverine
—The Indian Paradise—I plan a Surprise—Biscuits and Water   21
The Porks of the Saskatchewan—A perverse Parallel—Diplomatic
Bungling—Its Results    .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .36
Our Winter Home—A Welcome—I start again—The Hunter's
Camp—In quest of Buffalo on the Plains—"Lodge-poling "
leads to Love    43
chapter yn.
An Ocean of Grass—The Red Man—Whence comes he?—The
Buffalo—Puritans and Pioneers—The Red Man's Friend .   49  CONTENTS. IX
The Buffalo Hills—A fatal Quarrel—The exiled Beavers—" At-
tal-loo" deplores his Wives—A Cree Interior—An attractive
Camp—I camp alone—Cerf-vola without a Supper—The Recreants return—Dunveean—A Wolf-hunt       .... 171
Alexander Mackenzie—The first Sign of Spring—Spanker the
Suspicions—Cerf-vola contemplates Cutlets—An Indian Hunter
—" Encumbrances "—Furs and Finery—A " Dead Fall "—
The Fur Trade at both Ends—An old Fort—A Night Attack—
Wife-lifting—Cerf-vola in Difficulties and Boots—The Rocky
Mountains at last 191
The wild Animals of the Peace River;—Indian Method of hunting the Moose—Twa-poos—The Beaver—The Bear—Bear's
Butter—A Bear's Hug and how it ended—Fort St. John—
The River awakes—A Rose without a Thorn—Nigger Dan—
A threatening Letter—I issue a Judicial Memorandum—Its
Effect is all that could be desired—Working up the Peace River 206
Start from St. John's—Crossing the Ice—Batiste le Flenr—
Chimeroo—The last Wood-buffalo—A dangerous Weapon—Our
Raft collapses—Across the Half-way River      .... 225
Hudson's Hope—A Lover of Literature—Crossing the Peace—
An unskilful Pilot—We are upset—Our Rescue—A strange
Variety of Arms—The Buffalo's Head—A glorious View .       . 236
Jacques, the French Miner—A fearful Abyss—The Great Canon
of the Peace River—We are off on our Western Way—Unfortunate Indians—A burnt Baby—" The Moose that walks "      . 247 CHAPTER XXIII.
The Black Canon—An ugly Prospect—The vanished Boat—We
struggle on—A forlorn Hope—We fail again—An unhoped-for
Meeting and a Feast of Joy—The Black Canon conquered       . 279
The Untiring over-estimates his Powers—He is not particular as
to the Nature of his Dinner—Toil and Temper—Farewell to
the Ominica—Germansen—The Mining Camp—Celebrities     . 294
Mr. Rufus Sylvester—The Untiring developes a new Sphere of
Usefulness—Mansen—A last Landmark 304
British Columbia—Boundaries again—Juan de Fuca—Carver—
The Shining Mountains—Jacob Astor—The Monarch of Salmon
—Oregon—" Riding and Tying"—Nation Lake—The Pacific . 310
The Look-out Mountain—A gigantic Tree—The Untiring retires
before superior Numbers—Fort St. James—A strange Sight in
the Forest—Lake Noola—Quesnelle—Cerf-vola in civilized Life
—Old Dog, good-bye! 327 ILLUSTRATIONS.
Frontispiece. page
Cerf-Vola, the Esquimaux Dog   .......   16
View from the Spathanaw Watchi 31
" Our Hut at the Forks of the Saskatchewan"    .       .       .       .   43
Sunset Scene, with Buffalo 57
Tent in the Great Prairie 69
Dog-Train for the North 85
The Valley of the Peace River. 158
Alone in the Wilderness      ....'.... 181
Night into Day 187
The Wolf-Chase 189
Clinging to the Canoe 239
Mount Garnet Wolseley and the Peace River      .... 266
Cutting up the Moose 271
Running stern foremost the Black Canon 283
"TheLook-out Mountain" 327    THE
The Situation at Home.—The West again.—A Land of Silence.
There had never been so many armies in England.
There was a new army, and there was an old army;
there was an army of militia, an army of volunteers, and an army of reserve ; there were armies
on horse, on foot, and on paper. There was the
army of the future—of which great things were
predicted—and far away, lost in a haze of history
(but still more substantial than all other armed
realities, present or future), there lay the great
dead army of the past.
It was a time when everybody had something to
do with military matters, everybody on the social
ladder, from the Prime Minister on the topmost
round to the mob-mover on the lowest.
Committees controlled the army, Departments
dressed it, Radicals railed at it, Liberals lectured
had carried him; when thought re-sought again
those vast regions of the earth where Nature
has graven her image in characters so colossal,
that man seems to move slowly amidst an ocean
frozen rigid by lapse of time, frozen into those
things we name mountains, rivers, prairies, forests;
man a mere speck, powerless so far to mark his
presence, iD blur of smoke, in noise of city, in
clash of crank, or whirl of wheel: when these
things came back in pictures touched by the soft
colours Memory loves to limn with, there were not
wanting dull professional outlooks and dearth
of service to turn the footsteps gladly into the old
regions again, there to trace new paths through
the almost exhaustless waste which lies between
the lonely prairies of the Saskatchewan and the icy
oceans of the North.
What shall we call this land to those who follow
us into its depths ?
It has prairies, forests, mountains, barren
wastes, and rivers; rivers whose single lengths
roll through twice a thousand miles of shore-
land ; prairies over which a rider can steer for
months without resting his gaze on aught save
the dim verge of the ever-shifting horizon; mountains rent by rivers, ice-topped, glacier-seared,'
impassable; forests whose sombre pines darken a
region half as large as Europe; sterile, treeless A LAND OF  SILENCE.
wilds whose 400,000 square miles lie spread in
awful desolation.    How shall it all be called ?
In summer, a land of sound, a land echoing
with the voices of birds, the ripple of running
water, the mournful music of the waving pine-
branch; in winter, a land of silence, a land
hushed to its inmost depths by the weight of ice,
the thick-falling snow, the intense rigour of a
merciless cold—its great rivers glimmering in
the moonlight, wrapped in their shrouds of ice;
its still forests rising weird and spectral against the
Aurora-lighted horizon; its notes of bird or brook
hushed as if in death; its nights so still that the
moving streamers across the northern skies seem to
carry to the ear a sense of sound, so motionless
around, above, below, lies all other visible nature.
If then we call this region the land of stillness,
that name will convey more justly than any other
the impress most strongly stamped upon the
winter's scene. Powder versus Primroses.—The American Lounger.—" Home,
Sweet Home."
It was just time to leave London. The elm-trees
in the parks were beginning to put forth their
earliest and greenest leaves; innumerable people
were flocking into town because custom ordained
that the country must be quitted when the spring
is at its finest; as though the odour of primroses
had something -pestilential about it, and anything in the shape of violets except violet powder
was terribly injurious to feminine beauty.
Youthful cosmopolites with waxed moustaches
nad apparently decided to compromise with the
spring, and to atone for their abandonment of the
country by making a miniature flower-garden of
their button-holes. It was the last day of April,
and ere the summer leaves had yellowed along the
edge of the great sub-Arctic forest, my winter hut
had to be hewn and built from the pine-logs of
the far-distant Saskatchewan.
In the saloon or on the after-deck of a Cunard
steamship steering west, one sees perhaps more of THE AMERICAN LOUNGER.
America's lounging class than can be met with on
any other spot in the world; the class is a limited
one, in fact it may be a matter of dispute, whether
the pure and simple lounger, as we know him in
Piccadilly or Pall Mall, is to be found in the New
World; but a three, or six, Or twelve months'
visit to Europe has sufficiently developed the
dormant instincts of the class in the New York
or Boston man of business, to give colour to the
assumption that Columbia possesses a lounger.
It is possible that he is a lounger only for
the moment. That one glimpse of Bunker, one
echo of Wall Street, will utterly banish for ever
the semblance of lounging; but for the present
the Great Pyramid minus Bunker's Hill, the
Corso minus Wall Street, have done something
towards stamping him with the air and manner
of the idler. Por the moment he sips his coffee,
or throws his cigar-end overboard, with a half-
thoughtful, h&]£-blase air ; for the moment he has
discovered that the sun does not rise and set
exclusively in the United States, and that there
were just a few shreds and patches of history
in the world prior to the declaration of American
independence : still, when the big ship has steamed
on into the shallow waters which narrow into
Sandy Hook or Plymouth Sound, and the broad
panorama  twixt   Long   Island   and   Staten,  or 8 ' THE WILD NORTH  LAND. "
Plymouth and Nahant opens on the view, the old
feeling comes back with the old scenes again.
I Sir, the Bay of New York closely resembles
the Bay of Naples." There is not the slightest
use in telling him that it is quite as like the Bey
of Tunis, or the Hospodar of Bulgaria—so we let
it be.
I There, sir, is Bunker's Hill."
| Ah, indeed!" drawled a genuine British
lounger, with that superb ignorance only to be
attained after generations of study, as he quietly
scanned the ridge through his lazily-arranged eyeglass. | Bunker—who was Bunker ? and what
did he do on his hill ? "
Yet, ere we hasten away to the North, another
word anent our cousin. These things are, after
all, the exception; the temptation to tell a good
story, or what we may deem such, must not blind
us to the truth; the other side of the question
must not be forgotten. An English traveller in
America will have so much to thank American
travel for that he can well afford to smile at such
It was an American who painted for us the
last scenes of Moorish history, with a colouring as
brilliant as that which the Hall of the Lions could
coast of in the old days of Grenada's glory. To-day
an American dwelling in Rome recalls for us in HOME,   SWEET  HOME.
marble the fierce voluptuous beauty of the Egyptian Queen. Another catches the colouring of
Claude, in his | Twilight in the Wilderness."
And if, as I have somewhere heard, it is to the
writer of the ballad-song that true poetic fame
belongs, that song which is heard at lonely camp-
fires, which is sung by sailors at the wheel as the
canvas-clouded ship reels on under the midnight
gloom through the tumbling seas,—the song
which has reached the heart of a nation, and fives
for ever in the memory of a people,—then let us
remember, when we listen to those wondrous
notes on whose wings float the simple words,
I Be it ever so humble, there is no place like
home;" let us remember the land whose memory
called them forth from the heart of an American
And now we must away. 10
Civilization and Savagery.—Fort Garry under new aspects.
—Social Societies.—An Old Friend.—"Pony" the perverse.
The long, hot, dusty American summer was
drawing to a close. The sand-fly had had his
time, the black-fly had run his round, the. mosquito
had nearly bitten himself to death, and during
that operation had rendered existence unbearable
to several millions of the human race. The quiet
tranquil fall-time had followed the fierce wasting
summer, and all nature seemed to rest and bask
in the mellow radiance of September.
In old tales, written I know not by whom, but
read chiefly by youthful eyes, we are told of those
who seek through lands infested by goblins and
demons, by monstrous and uncouth forms of man
and beast, for some fair realm of rest and happiness. He who to-day would seek the great
solitudes of North America must pass through a
somewhat similar ordeal.
Civilization, or what we term such, rolls with CIVILIZATION AND  SAVAGERY.
queer strides across the American continent. Far
in 'advance of the last real city lies a land of
terrible savagery, a desolate realm in which ruffianism and rowdyism hold sway. Here, in an
expansion which is ■ ever shifting, ever moving
west and north-west, stand congregated the civi-
lizers of the New World,—the navvy, the gambler,
the rowdy, the saloon-keeper, the tramster, the
To civilize a new land is the easiest of tasks
if we but set about it after the American
model. Here is the recipe. Given a realm from
which the red man has been banished, tricked,
shot, or hunted out; from which the bison and
elk have been chased; a lonely, tenantless land,
with some great river flowing in long winding
reaches silently through its vast plains and
mountain gorges: here, then, is what you have
to do:—
Place on the river a steamboat of the rudest
construction. Wherever the banks are easy of
ascent, or where a smaller stream seeks the main
river, build a drinking-house of rough-hewn logs;
let the name of God be used only in blasphemy,
and language be a medium for the conveyance of
curses. Call a hill a " bluff," a valley a | gulch,"
a fire-fly a "lighting bug," a man a " cuss," three
shanties a " city."    Let every man chew when he 12
isn't smoking, and spit when he isn't asleep; and
then—when half a dozen persons have come to
violent ends—when killing has literally become
| no murder"—your new land will be thoroughly
Poor, wild man of the West! scalper, war-
raider, savage dweller in woods and on prairies;
believer in manitous and dream-omens, painted
and eagle-feathered; crafty, stealthy, and treacherous to foe, utterly hopeless to the man-tamer: this
is the state of things which supplants thy savagery.
This is civilization as it comes to thee from the
East. Whenever thy wandering bands roam in
from the great West, this is the sight they see in
lands but lately their own.
I know not how it is, but in wild glen or lonely
prairie, amidst races whose very names are supposed to be synonymous with all that is wild, lawless, or barbarous, I have known many a bond of
sympathy, many a link 'twixt their lives and mine
own. Nay, when man has been far distant, and
nought but the lone spaces lay around me, and the
gaunt pine-tree stretched its arms athwart the icy
I sky, I have felt companionship and friendship for
the very dogs that drew my load; but for this
band of civilizers, for these brutal pioneers of
Anglo-American freedom, in their many stages
between unblackened boots and diamond breast- FORT  GARRY UNDER NEW ASPECTS.
pins, I have felt nothing but loathing and disgust.
It was late in the month of September, 1872,
when, after a summer of travel in Canada and the
United States, I drew near the banks of the Red
River of the North. Two years had worked many
changes in scene and society; a railroad had
reached the river; a "city" stood on the spot
where, during a former visit, a midnight storm had
burst upon me in the then• untenanted prairie.
Three steamboats rolled the muddy tide of the
winding river before their bluff, ill-shapen bows.
Gambling-houses and drinking-saloons, made of
boards and brown paper, crowded the black, mud-
soaked streets. A stage-coach ran north to Fort
Garry 250 miles, and along the track rowdyism
was rampant. Horse-stealing was prevalent, and
in the " city" just alluded to two murderers
walked quietly at large. In fine, the land which
borders the Red River, Minnesota, and Dakota,
had been thoroughly civilized.
But civilization had worked its way even deeper
into the North-west. The place formerly known
as Fort Garry had civilized into the shorter denomination of I Garry;" the prairie round the Fort
had corner lots which sold for more hundreds of
dollars than they possessed frontage-feet; and
society was divided in opinion as to whether the 14
sale which called forth these prices was a " bogus"
one or not.
Representative institutions had been established
in the new province of Manitoba, and an election
for members of Parliament had just been concluded. Of this triumph of modern liberty over
primeval savagery, it is sufficient to say, that the
great principle of freedom of election had been
fully vindicated by a large body of upright
citizens, who, in the freest and most independent
manner, had forcibly possessed themselves of the
poll-books, and then fired a volley from revolvers,
or, in the language of the land, | emptied their
shooting-irons " into another body of equally upright citizens, who had the temerity to differ with
them as to the choice of a political representative.
It was gently rumoured that some person or
persons were to be arrested for this outburst of
constitutional patriotism, but any proceeding so
calculated to repress the individual independence
of the citizen would have been utterly subversive
of all representative institutions.
Civilization had also developed itself in other
ways. Several national societies had been founded,
and were doing prosperously. There was a St.
George's Society and a St. Andrew's Society,
and, I think, also a St. Patrick's Society. Indeed  the  memory  of   these  saints   appears  to SOCIAL  SOCIETIES. 15
be held in considerable reputation in the New
World. According to the prospectus and programme of these societies, charity appears to
be the vital principle of each association: sick
Scotchmen, emigrating English, and indigent
Irish, were all requested to come forward and
claim relief at the hands of the wealthier sons of
St. Andrew, St. George, and St. Patrick, j Charity,
which is said to begin at home, and which, alas !
too frequently ends there also, having thus had
its commencement in the home circle, seemed determined to observe all home-like institutions;
and the annual dinner was of necessity a very
important item in the transactions of each society.
Indeed it would be difficult to find a place where,
in the present day, one could witness "fichting
for Chairlie," " Scots wha haeing," "Manning for
a' that," and those other peculiar customs of the
Celtic race, carried out with better effect than in
the meeting which annually gathers to do justice
to the memory of the Apostle of the Picts in the
New World.
Amidst all these changes of scene and society
there was one thing still unchanged on the confines
of the Red River. Close to the stream, at the
place known as the Point of Frogs, an old friend
met me with many tokens of recognition. A tried
companion was  he through many long days  of 16
wintry travel. There, as fresh and hearty as
when I had parted from him two years before,
stood Cerf-vola, the Esquimaux dog who had
led my train from Cumberland, on the Lower
Saskatchewan, across the ice of the great Lakes.
Of the four dogs he alone remained. Two years is
a long time in the life of any dog, but still a
longer period in that of a hauling-dog; and Cerf-
vola's comrades of that date, Muskeymote, Cariboo, and Tigre had gone the way of all earthly
To become the owner of this old friend again,
and of his new companions Spanker and Pony,
was a work of necessity; and I quitted the
Point of Frogs by the steamboat | Selkirk" with
three hauling-dogs in my possession. Strong
and stout as of yore; clean-limbed, long-woolled,
deep-chested ; with ears pointed forward and tail
close curled over his broad back, Cerf-vola still
stood the picture of an Esquimaux.
Of the other two dogs, Pony was a half-breed,
and Spanker, sharp, keen, and restless, was like
his leader, a pure Husky; but, unlike the older
dog, his nature was wild and fierce : some malignant guardian of his youth had despoiled him of
the greater part of his tail, and by doing so had
not a little detracted from his personal appearance. CEBF-V0I.A,   THE  ESQUIMAUX  DOG.
[Page 16.  AN  OLD   FRIEND.
As these three animals will be my constant
companions during many months, through many
long leagues of ioe and snow, I have here sketched
their outward semblance with some care. Civii
lization and a steamboat appeared to agree but
poorly with my new friends. Spanker, failing in
making his teeth emancipate his own neck, turned
all his attention towards freeing his companion, and
after a deal of toil he succeeded in gnawing
Pony loose. This notable instance of canine
abnegation (in which supporters of the Darwinian
theory will easily recognize the connecting link
between the Algerine captives assisting each other
to freedom, &c, &c, after the manner of the
Middle Ages), resulted in the absconding of the dog
Pony, who took advantage of the momentary
grounding of the steamer to jump on shore and
disappear into the neighbouring forest,
; It was a wild, tempestuous night; the storm
swept the waters of the Red River until at length
the steamboat was forced to seek her moorings
against the tree-lined shore. Here was a Ghance of
recovering the lost dog. Unfortunately the boat
lay on the Dakota side, and the dog was at large
somewhere on the Minnesota shore, while between
the stormy water heaved in inky darkness, How
was the capture to be effected ?
As I stood on the.lower deck of the steamboat,
c 18
pondering how to cross the dark river, a man
paddled a small skiff close to the boat's side.'
" Will you be good enough to put me across the
river ?" I asked.
" I've no darned time to lose a night like this,"
he answered, " but if you want to cross jump in."
The lantern which he carried showed the skiff to
be half-filled with water, but the chance was too
good to be lost. I sprang in, and we shot away
over the rough river. Kneeling in the bottom of
the boat I held the lantern aloft, while my gruff
comrade paddled hard. At last we touched the
shore; clambering up the wet, slippery bank, I held
the light amidst the forest; there, not twenty paces
distant, stood Pony.
I Pony, poor fellow, good dog, come, Pony, cess,.
cess, poor old boy." Alas ! all the alluring dog-
isms by which we usually attract the animal were
now utterly useless, and the more I cried " Here,
here," the more the wretch went there, there.
Meanwhile my boating.friend grew impatient; I
could hear him above the storm shouting and
cursing at me with great volubility: so I made my
way back to the shore, gave him his lantern, and
went back into the forest, while he shot out into
the darkness of the river.
Every now and again I heard the brute Pony
close to me in the brushwood.    For some time I PONY  THE  PERVERSE-.
wandered on; suddenly a light glimmered through
the wet trees : approaching the fight I found it to
issue from an Indian wigwam, and at my summons
two or three half-clad creatures came out. There
was a dog lost in the woods, would they get lights
and help me to catch him ? a dollar would be the
reward. The dollar threw a new light upon the
matter. Burning brands were instantly brought
forth from the wigwam fire, but with little result;
the vagabond Pony, now utterly scared' out of
all semblance of dog wit, sought safety in the
deepest recesses of the forest, from whence he
poured forth howls into the night. I returned to
the river, and with the aid of my wigwam
friends regained the steamboat. Half an hour
later the man on watch saw a dark object swimming around the boat; it was the lost dog. Cerf-
vola, tied in the rain as a lure, had continued
to howl without intermission, and the vagrant
Pony had evidently come to the conclusion
that there were worse places on a wet autumnal
night than the warm deck of the steamboat
I Selkirk."
In the earliest days of October all phases of
civilization were passed with little regret; and at
the Rat Creek, near the southern shore of Lake
Manitoba, I bid good-bye to society. The party
was a small one—a member of the Imperial Legis-
The Wilderness.—A Sunset-Scene.—A white Savage.—Cerf-
vola the Untiring.—Doggerel for a Dog.—The Hill of the
Wolverine.—The Indian Paradise.—I plan a  Surprise.—•
•   Biscuits and Water.
It was the 4th of October,bright with the warmth of
the fading summer—that quiet glow which lingers
over the face of nature, like the hectic flush upon
a dying beauty, ere the wintry storms come to
Small and insignificant, the Musk-Rat Creek
flows on towards Lake Manitoba amidst bordering
thickets of oak and elm trees. On each side, a
prairie just beginning to yellow under the breath
of the cold night wind ; behind, towards the east,
a few far-scattered log-houses smoke, and a trace
of husbandry; the advanced works of that army
whose rear-guard reaches to the Vistula; before,
towards the west, the sun going down over the
great silent wilderness. How difficult to realize
it! How feeble are our minds to gauge its
dep.ths 1 22
He who rides for months through the vast solitudes sees during the hours of his daily travel an
unbroken panorama of distance. The seasons
come and go; grass grows and flowers die; the
fire leaps with tiger bounds along the earth; the
snow lies still and quiet over hill and lake; the
rivers rise and fall, but the rigid features of the
wilderness rest unchanged. Lonely, silent, and
impassive; heedless of man, season, or time, the
weight of the Infinite seems to brood over it.
Once only in the hours of day and night a moment
comes when this impassive veil is drawn from
its features, and the eye of the wanderer catches a
glimpse of the sunken soul of the wilderness; it
is the moment which follows the sunset; then a
deeper stillness steals over the earth, colours of
wondrous hue rise and spread along the western
horizon. In a deep sea of emerald and orange of
fifty shades, mingled and interwoven together,
rose-coloured isles float anchored to great golden
threads; while, far away, seemingly beyond and
above all, one broad flash of crimson light, the
parting sun's last gift, reddens upwards to the
zenith. And then, when every moment brings a
change, and the night gathers closer to the earth,
and some waveless, nameless lake glimmers in uncertain shore-line and in shadow of inverted hilltop ; when a light that seems born of another world SUNSET.
(so weirdly distant is it from ours) lingers along
the western sky, then hanging like a lamp over
the tomb of the sun, the Evening Star gleams out
upon the darkening wilderness.
It may be only a fancy, a conceit bred from
loneliness and long wandering, but at such
times the great solitude has seemed to me to
open its soul, and that in its depths I read its
Ten days dawned and died; the Mauvais Bois,
the Sand Ridges, western shore of an older world's
immense lake, the Pine Creek, the far-stretching
hills of the Little Saskatchewan rose, drew near,
and faded behind us. A wild, cold storm swept
down from the north, and, raging a day and a
night, tore the yellow leaves from the poplar
thickets, and scared the wild fowl far southward
to a warmer home.
Late on the 10th of October we reached the
Hudson's Bay Company's post of Beaver Creek,
the western limit to the travels of my friend.
Here, after a stay of three days and a feast of
roasted beaver, we parted ; he to return to Killar-
ney, St. Stephen's, and Denominational Education
—a new name for the old feud between tiiose great,
patriot armies, the Ins and the Outs; I to seek
the lonely lands where, far beyond the distant
Saskatchewan,  the   great Unchagah,  parent of 24
a still mightier stream, rolls through remote
lakes and whispering pines its waters to the Polar
With one man, three horses and three dogs, and
all those requisites of foOd^ arms, and raiment
with which a former journey had familiarized me,
I started on the 14th of October bound for the
North-west. I was Virtually alone J my companion was a half-breed taken at chance from the
wigwam at the scene Of the ddg Pony's midnight esCapade on the Red Rivei*. • Chance had on
this occasion proved a failure, and the man had
already shown many symptoms of worthlessness.
He had served as a soldier in an American Corps
raised by a Certain Hatch, to hold in check the
Sioux after the massacre of Minnesota in 1862.
A raid made by nine troopers of this corpSj against
an Indian tent occupied by some dozen women
and children, appears to have been the most noteworthy event in the history of Hatch's Battalion;
Having Surrounded the wigwam in the night, these
Cowards shot the miserable inmates, then scalping
and mutilating their bodies they returned to their
comrades* bearing the gory scalpiocks aS trophies
of their prowess;
Hatch is said to have at once forwarded to
Washington a despatch, announcing " a decisivO
Victory over the Sioux by the troops under his A WHITE  SAVAGE.
command." But a darker sequel to the tale must
•remain in shadow, for, if the story told to a Breton
missionary rests on a base of truth, the history
of human guilt may be searched in vain for a
parallel of atrocity.
I had other companions besides this ci-devant
trooper, of a far more congenial nature, to share
my spare time with. A good dog is so much a
nobler beast than an indifferent man that one
sometimes gladly exchanges the society of one for
that of the other.
A great French writer has told us that animals
were put on earth to show us the evil effects of
passions run riot and unchecked. But it seems to
me that the reverse would be closer to the truth.
The humanity which Napoleon deemed a dog
taught to man on Bassino's battle-field is not the
only virtue we can learn from that lower world
which is bound to us by such close ties, and yet
lies so strangely apart from us. Be that as it may,
a man can seldom feel alone if he has a dog to share
his supper, to stretch near him under the starlightj
to answer him with tail-wag, or glance of eye, or
prick of ear.
Day after day Cerf-vola and his comrades trotted
on in all the freedom which summer and autumn
give to the great dog family in the north. Now
chasing a badger, who invariably popped into his 26
burrow in time to save his skin; now sending a
pack of prairie grouse flying from the long grass ;
now wading breast-deep into a lake where a few
wild ducks still lingered, loath to quit their summer nesting-haunts.
Of all the dogs I have known Cerf-vola possessed the largest share of tact. He never fought
a pitched battle, yet no dog dared dispute his
supremacy. Other dogs had to maintain their
leadership by many a deadly conflict, but he
quietly assumed it, and invariably his assumption
was left unchallenged; nay, even upon his arrival
at some Hudson Bay fort, some place wherein he'
had never before set foot, he was wont to instantly
appoint himself director-general of all the Company's dogs, whose days from earliest puppyhood
had been passed within the. palisades. I have
often watched him at this work, and marvelled by
what mysterious power he held his sway. I have
seen two or three large dogs flee before a couple of
bounds merely made by him in their direction,
while a certain will-some-one-hold-me-back ? kind
of look pervaded his face, as though he was only
prevented from rending his enemy into small
pieces by the restraining influence which the
surface of the ground exercised upon his
His great weight no doubt carried respect with CERF-VOLA THE UNTIRING.
it. At the lazy time of the year he weighed nearly
100 pounds, and his size Was in no way diminished
by the immense coat of hair and fine fur which enveloped him. Had Sir Boyle Roche known this
dog he would not have given to a bird alone the
faculty of being in two places at once, for no mortal eye could measure the interval between Cerf-
vola's demolishment of two pieces of dog-meat, or
Pemmican, flung in different directions at the same
Thus we journeyed on. Sometimes when the
sheen of a lake suggested the evening camp, while
yet the sun was above the horizon, my three
friends would accompany me on a ramble through
the thicket-lined lulls. At such times, had any
Indian watched from sedgy shore or bordering
willow copse the solitary wanderer who, with dogs
following close, treaded the lonely lake shore, he
would have probably carried to his brethren a
strange story of the " white man's medicine." He
would have averred that he had heard a white man
talking to a big, bushy-tailed dog, somewhere
amidst the Touchwood Hills, and singing to him
a "great medicine song" when the sun went
And if now we reproduce for the reader the,
medicine song which the white man strung
together for his bushy-tailed dog, we may perhaps 28
forestall some critic's verdict by prefixing to it
the singularly appropriate title of
And so, old friend, we are met again, companions still to be,
Across the waves of drifted snow, across the prairie sea.
Again we'll tread the silent lake, the frozen swamp, the fen,
Beneath the snow-crown'd sombre pine we'll build our camp
again :
And long before the icy dawn, while hush'd all nature lies,
And weird and wan the white lights flash across the northern
skies ;
Thy place, as in past days thou'lt take, the leader of the train,
To steer until the stars die out above the dusky plain ;
Then on, thro' space by wood and hill, until the wintry day^
In pale gleams o'er the snow-capped ridge has worn itself
And twilight bids us seek the brake, where midst the pines
once more
The fire will gleam before us, the stars will glimmer o'er.
There stretch'd upon the snow-drift, before the   pine log's
Thy master's couch and supper with welcome thou wilt share,
To rest, unless some prowling wolf should keep thee watchful
While lonely through the midnight sounds his wail upon the
.And when the storm raves around, and thick and  blinding:
Comes whirling in wild eddies around, above, below ;
Still all unmoved thou'lt keep thy pace as manfully as when •
Thy matchless mettle first I tried in lone Pasquia's glen, THE HILL OP THE WOLVERINE.
Thus day by day we'll pierce the wilds where rolls the Arctic
Where Athabasca's silent lakes, through whispering pine-trees
Until, where far Unchagah's flood by giant cliffs is crown'd,
Thy bells will feed the echoes, long hungering for a sound.
Old dog, they say thou hast no life beyond this earth of ours,
That toil and truth give thee no place amidst Elysian bowers.
Ah well, e'en so, I look for thee when all our danger's past,
That on some hearth-rug, far at home, thou'lt rest thy limbs at
, A long distance of rolling plain, of hills fringed
with thickets, of treeless waste, and lakes spreading into unseen declivities, stretches out between the Qu'Appelle and Saskatchewan rivers.
Roamed over by but few bands of Indians, and
almost bereft of the larger kind of game, whose
bleached bones cover it thickly, this expanse
lies in unbroken solitude for more than three
hundred miles. Through it the great trail to the
north lays its long, winding course; but no other
trace of man is to be found; and over lake and
thicket, hill and waste, broods the loneliness of
the untenanted.
Once it was a famous field of Indian fight, in the
old days when Crees and Assineboine strove for
mastery. Now it has almost lost the tradition of
battle, but now and again a hill-top or a river-
course, whose French or English name faintly 30
echoes the Indian meaning, tells to the traveller
who cares to look below the surface some story
of fight in bygone times.
The hill of the Wolverine and the lonely
Spathanaw Watchi have witnessed many a deed
of Indian daring and Indian perfidy in days not
long passed away, but these deeds are now forgotten, for the trader as he unyokes his horses at
their base, and kindles his evening fire, little recks
of such things, and hails the hill-top only as a
landmark on his solitary road.
Alone in a vast waste the Spathanaw Watchi
lifts his head, thickets and lakes are at his base,
a lonely grave at top, around four hundred miles
of horizon, a view so vast that endless space
seems for once to find embodiment, and at a
single glance the eye is satiated with immensity.
There is no mountain range to come up across
the sky-line, no river to lay its glistening folds
along the middle distance, no dark forest to give
shade to foreground or to fringe perspective, no
speck of life, no track of man, nothing but the
wilderness. Reduced thus to its own nakedness,
space stands forth with almost terrible grandeur.
One is suddenly brought face to face with that
enigma which we try to comprehend by giving to
it the names of endless, interminable, measureless ;
that dark inanity which broods upon a waste of J  1
moorland at dusk, and in which fancy sees the
spectral and the shadowy.
Yet in'this view from the Spathanaw there is
nothing dimly seen; the eye travels to the farthest
distance without one effort of vision, and, reaching
there, rests untired by its long gaze. As the
traveller looks at this wonderful view he stands by
the grave of an Indian, and he sees around him
for four hundred miles the Indian Paradise. It
was from scenes such as this, when the spring
had covered them with greensward, and the wild
herds darkened them by their myriads, that the
shadowy sense of a life beyond the tomb took
shape and form in the Red man's mind.
It was the 25th of October when I once more
drew near to the South Saskatchewan.
Amidst its high wooded banks the broad river
rippled brightly along, as yet showing no trace j of
that winter now so close at hand. Two years
before, all but a few days, I had reached this same
river, then shored by dense masses of ice; and now,
as I looked from the southern shore, the eye had
no little difficulty in tracing through the lingering
foliage of the summer the former point of passage,
where on the cold November morning my favourite
horse had gone down beneath the ice-locked river.
Crossing to the southern shore I turned eastward through a rich undulatine: land, and ridine: 32
hard for one day reached the little mission station
of Prince Albert, midway between the Red River
and the Rocky Mountains.
Those who have followed me through former
wanderings may remember a spot where two large
rivers unite after many hundred miles of prairie
wandering, and form one majestic current on the
edge of the Great Northern Forest, To this spot,
known as the " Grand Forks of the Saskatchewan,"
I was now journeying, for there, while the autumn
was yet younger, two friends had preceded me to
build at the point of confluence a hut for our residence during the early winter,
The evening of the 28th of October found
me pushing hastily through a broad belt of
firs and pines which crosses the tongue of land
between the rivers some ten miles from their junction ; beyond this belt of trees the country opened
out, but, as it finally narrowed to the point of
confluence, the dark pine-clumps, outliers of the
dense Northern Forest, again rose into view. With
these features a previous visit had made me acquainted ; but the night had now closed in ere yet
the fir forest had been passed, and the rain, which
all day had been ceaseless, settled down with darkness into a still heavier torrent. As we emerered
from the pines my baggage-cart suddenly broke
down, and there only remained the alternative of I  PLAN A  SURPRISE.
camping by the scene of the disaster, or pushing
on for the river junction on foot.
Unfortunately the prospect of unexpectedly
walking in upon my friends, housed in the depths
of the wilderness, amidst the wild rain-storm of
the night, proved too strong a temptation; and
having secured the cart as best we could against
weather and wolves, we set out into the darkness.
For more than an hour we walked hard through
undulating ground intermixed with swamps and
beaver dams, until at length the land began to
decline perceptibly. .
Descending thus for nearly a mile we came suddenly upon a large, quick-running river, whose
waters chafed with sullen noise against boulder-
lined shores, and hissed under the wild beating of
the rain. With cautious steps we groped our
way to the edge and cast a dry branch into the
flood; it floated towards the left; the river, then,
must be the South Saskatchewan. Was the junction of this river with the northern branch yet
distant ? or. was it close at hand ? for if it was
near, then my home was near too.
Making our way along the shore we held on for
some time, until suddenly there rose before us a
steep bank, at the base of which the current ran
in whirling eddies. To climb up a high bank on
our left, and thug flank this obstacle, next became
D 34
our toil; soon we found ourselves in a dense wood
where innumerable fallen trees lay in endless confusion. For another hour we groped our way
through this labyrinth in a vain attempt to reach
the upper level, until at last, exhausted by hours
of useless toil, wet, hungry, and bruised, I gave
the reluctant word to camp.
To camp, what a mockery it seemed without
blankets or covering save our rain-soaked clothes,
without food save a few biscuits. The cold rain
poured down through leafless aspens, and shelter
there was none. It was no easy matter to find a
dry match, but at length a fire was made, and from
the surrounding wood we dragged dead trees to
feed the flames. There is no necessity to dwell
upon the miserable hours which ensued ! All night
long the rain hissed doWn, and the fire was powerless against its drenching torrents. Towards
morning we sunk into a deep sleep, lying stretched
upon the soaking ground.
At last a streak of dawu broke over the high
eastern shore, the light struggled for mastery
writh the surrounding darkness and finally prevailed, and descending to the river showed the
broad current sweeping on to the north-east.
Quitting without regret our cheerless bivouac,
we climbed with stiff limbs the high overhanging  bank,   and   gained   the upper level.     Far' ■BISCUITS  AND  WATER.
away the river still held its course to the northeast, deep sunken 300 feet below the prairie level:
we were still distant from the Forks.
Retracing our steps through miles of fallen
timber we reached the cart, but the morning had
worn on to midday before our long-wished-for
breakfast smoked in the kettle. Three hours later
on, during an evening which had cleared sufficiently to allow the sun to glint through cloud rifts.
on pine forest and prairie, I reached the lofty
ridge which overlooks the Forks of the Saskatchewan.
P 2 36
The Forks of  the   Saskatchewan.—A   perverse  Parallel.—
Diplomatic  Bungling.—Its results.
Two hundred and fifty feet above water level, the
narrow tongue of land rises over the junction
of the two Saskatchewan rivers. Bare and level
at top, its scarped front descends like a wall to the
rivers; but land-slip and the wear of time have
carried down to a lower level the loose sand and
earth of the plateau, and thickly clustering along
the northern face, pines, birch, and poplar shroud
the steep descent. It is difficult to imagine a wilder
scene than that which lay beneath this projecting
From north-west and from south-west two broad
rivers roll their waters into one common channel,
two rivers deep furrowed below the prairie level,
curving in great bends through tree-fringed valleys. One river has travelled through eight hundred miles of rich rolling landscape; the other has THE FORKS OP THE SASKATCHEWAN.
run its course of nine hundred through waste and
arid solitudes; both have had their sources in
mountain summits where the avalanche thundered
forth to solitude the tidings of their birth. And
here at this point, like two lives, which, coming
from a distance, are drawn together by some mysterious sympathy, and blended into one are henceforth to know only the final separation, these
rivers roll their currents into one majestic
stream, which, sinking into a deep gorge, sweeps
eastward through unbroken pine forest. As yet
no steamboat furrows the deep water; no whistle
breaks the sleeping echoes of these grim scarped
shores; the winding stream rests in voiceless
solitude, and the summer sun goes down beyond silent river reaches, gleaming upon a virgin
Standing at this junction of the two Saskatchewan rivers, the traveller sees to the north and
east the dark ranks of the great sub-Arctic forest,
while to the south and west begin the endless
prairies of the middle continent. It is not a bad
position from whence to glance at the vast region
known to us as British North America.
When the fatal error at Saratoga had made
room for diplomatists of Old and New England,
and removed the arbitrament of rebellion from
the campaign to the council, those who drew on 38
the part of Great Britain the boundary-lines of her
transatlantic empire, bungled even more conspicuously in the treaty-chamber than her generals had
failed in the field. Geographical knowledge appears
ever to have been deemed superfluous to those whose
business it was to shape the destinies of our colonial
dominions, and if something more tangible than
report be true, it is not many months since the British
members at a celebrated conference stared blankly
at each other when the free navigation of a river
of more than two thousand miles in length was
mooted at the Council Board. But then, what
statesman has leisure to master such trifles as the
existence of the great river Yukon, amid the more
important brain toil of framing rabbit laws, defining compound householders, and solving other
equally momentous questions of our Imperial and
Parochial politics ? However to our subject. When
in 1783 the great quarrel between Britain and her
Colonies was finally adjusted, the northern boundary of the United States was to follow the 49th
parallel of latitude from the north-west angle of
the Lake of the Woods to the river Mississippi, and
thence down that river, &c, &c.
Nothing could possibly have been more simple,
a child mignt comprehend it; but unfortunately it
fell out in coarse of time that the 49th parallel was
one of very considerable latitude indeed, not at all A  PERVERSE  PARALLEL.—DIPLOMATIC  BUNGLING.      39
a parallel of diplomatic respectability, or one that
could be depended on, for neither at one end or
the other could it be induced to approach the
north-west angle of the Lake of the Woods or the
river Mississippi. Do all that sextant, or quadrant, or zenith telescope could, the 49th parallel
would not come to terms.
Doggedly and determinedly it kept its own
course; and, utterly regardless of big-wig or
diplomatic fogie, it formed an offensive and defensive alliance with the Sun and the Pole Star (two
equally obstinate and big-wig disrespectful bodies),
and struck out for itself an independent line.
Beyond the Mississippi there lay a Vast region,
a region where now millions (soon to be tens of
millions) draw from prairie and river flat the
long-sleeping richness of the soil. Then it was a
great wilderness, over which the dusky bison and
his wilder master roamed, in that fierce freedom
which civilization ends for ever.
To the big-wigs at the Council Board this
region was a myth—a land so far beyond the
confines of diplomatic geography that its very
existence was questioned. Not so to the shrewd
solicitor, admiral, auctioneer, general conveyancer,
and Jack-of-all-trades in one, who guided tho
foreign policy of the United States.
Unencumbered by the trappings of diplomatic 40
tradition, he saw, vaguely perhaps, but still with
prescient knowledge, the empire which it was
possible to build in that western wild; and as
every shifting scene in the outside world's politics
called up some new occasion for boundary rearrangement, or treaty rectification, he grasped
eagerly at a fresh foothold, an additional scrap
of territory, in that land which was to him an
unborn empire, to us a half-begotten wilderness.
Louisiana, purchased from Napoleon for a trifle,
became in his hands a region larger than European
Russia, and the vast water-shed of the Missouri
passed into the Empire of the United States.
Cut off from the Mississippi, isolated from the
Missouri, the unlucky boundary traversed an arid
waste until it terminated at the Rocky Mountains.
Long before a citizen of the United States had
crossed the Missouri, Canadian explorers had
reached the Rocky Mountains and penetrated
through their fastnesses to the Pacific; and
British and Canadian fur traders had grown old in
their forts across the Continent before Lewis and
Clark, the pioneers of American exploration, had
passed the Missouri. Discovered by a British
sailor, explored by British subjects, it might well
have been supposed that the great region along
the  Pacific  slope, known  to us as Oregon, be- ITS RESULTS. 41
longed indisputably to England; but at some
new treaty " rectification," the old story was
once more repeated, and the unlucky 49th parallel
again selected to carry across the Mountains to
the Pa,cific Ocean, the same record -of British
bungling and American astuteness which the
Atlantic had witnessed sixty years earlier on the
rugged estuary of the St. Croix.
■ For the present our business lies only with that
portion of British territory east of the Rocky
Mountains, and between them, the Bay of Hudson
and the Arctic Ocean.
From the base of the great range of the Rocky
Mountains, the Continent of British America
slopes towards North and East, until, unbroken by
one mountain summit, but in a profound and
lasting desolation, it dips its shaggy arms and
ice-bound capes into a sea as drear and desolate.
Two great rivers, following of necessity this
depression, shed their waters into the Bay
of Hudson. One is the Saskatchewan, of which
we have already spoken; the other, that river
known by various names—| English," because
the English traders first entered the country by
it; I Beaver," from the numbers of that animal
trapped along it in olden time; "Churchill," because a fort of that name stands at its estuary; 42
and " Missinipi," or " much water," by the wild
races who dwell upon it. The first river has a
total length of 1700 miles; the last runs its course
through worthless forest and primeval rock for
1200 miles. "\  OUR WINTER  HOME. 43
Our Winter Home.—A Welcome.—I start again.—The Hunter's
Camp.—In quest of Buffalo on the Plains.—" Lodge-poling "
leads to Love.
At the foot of the high ridge which marks the
junction of the two Saskatchewans, deep in pines
and poplars, through which vistas had been cut to
give glimpses along the converging rivers, stood
the winter hut of which I have already spoken.
.From its chimney blue smoke curled up amongst
the trees into the lower atmosphere, and the
sound of wood-cutting came ringing from below,
a token of labour not yet completed in our wold
and secluded resting-place.
I. stood for a moment looking down on this
scene—a home in the great wilderness—and then
a loud shout echoed into the valley to carry
tidings of our arrival to the inmates of the hut.
In an instant it was answered from below, and
the solitudes rang with many a note of welcome,,
while half a dozen dogs bayed furious defiance at
my pack, already become, boisterously jubilant on 44
the ridge above. When friends meet thus, after
long travel and separation, there are many questions to ask and to answer, and the autumn evening had worn to midnight ere the pine-log fire
threw its light upon a silent hut.
The winter season was now at hand; our house
Was nearly completed, our stores put away, our
dogs kennelled; but one most pressing want had
yet to be supplied—our winter stock of meat had
to be gathered in, and there was no time to lose
about obtaining it.
It was the last of October, just one day after
my arrival at the Forks, when we turned our faces
westward in quest of buffalo. They were said to
be a long way off—200 miles nearer to the setting
sun—out somewhere on that great motionless ocean, where no tree, no bush breaks the
vast expanse of prairie; land to which the
wild men of the West and those who lead wild
lives there have turned for many an age in
search of that food which nature once so
generously scattered over the plains of Central
North America.
Journeying slowly towards the west—f or already
the snow had begun to fall in many storms, and
the landscape had become wrapt in its winter
mantle—we reached in five days one of those
curious assemblages of half-breed hunters which IN QUEST  OP BUPPALO  ON THE  PLAINS. 45
are to be found in winter on the borders of the
great plains.
Huts promiscuously crowded together; horses,
dogs, women, children, all intermixed in a confusion worthy of Donnybrook Fair; half-breed
hunters, ribboned, tasselled, and cap6ted, lazy,
idle, and, if there is any spirit in the' camp, sure
to be intoxicated; remnants and wrecks of buffalo
lying everywhere around; robes stretched and
drying; meat piled on stages ; wolf-skins spread
over framework; women drawing water and
carrying wood; and at dusk from the little hut
the glow of firelight through parchment windows,
the sound of fiddle scraped with rough hunter
hand, and the quick thud of hunter heel as Louison,
or Batiste, or Gabriel foot it ceaselessly upon the
half-hewn floors.
Unquestionably these French half-breeds are
wild birds—hunters, drinkers, rovers, rascals if
you wall—'yet generous and hospitable withal;
destined to disappear before the white man's footprint, and ere that time has come owing many of
their vices to. the pioneer American, whose worst
qualities the wild man, or semi-wild man, has
been ever too sure to imitate.
After a delay of three days in this hunter's
camp, which by some strange anomaly was denominated | la mission," its sole claim to th^/t title
J 46
being the residence of a French priest in the
community, we started on our journey further
The winter had now regularly set in; the broad
South Saskatchewan was rolling thick masses of
ice down its half-closed channel, the snow-covering had deepened on the landscape, the wind blew
'keenly over the prairie. Many of our horses had
been too poor to take upon this journey, and the
half-breed whom I had brought from Red River,
dreading the exposure of the plains, had taken
advantage of the hunter's camp to desert our
service; so another man had been engaged, and,
with three fresh horses and an urchin attendant
in the shape of a little half-breed, designated by
our new man as " l'homme capable," and for
whose services he demanded only the moderate
sum of five shillings per diem, we held our course
■along the South Saskatchewan towards the Great
Xavier Batoche was a fair sample of his class.
The blood of four nationalities mingled in his
veins. His grandfather had been a French
Canadian, his grandmother a Crow squaw; English and Cree had contributed to his descent on
his mother's side. The ceremony of taking a wife
in the early days of the north-west fur trade
was not an elaborate performance, or one much LEADS TO LOVE.     47
encumbered by social or religious preliminaries.
If it did not literally fulfil the condition of force
implied by the word " taking," it usually developed into a question of barter; a horse, a flint
gun, some white cloth and beads, could purchase
the hand and heart of the fairest squaw in Prairie
land. If she did not love after one of these
valuable " presents" had been made to her
father, the lodge-poles were, always handy to
enforce that obedience necessary to domestic happiness—admirable idea, the roof-tree contributed
to the peace of the hearth-stone, and jealousy
fled before a " lodge-poling." To return to
Batoche ; Crow and Cree, French and English, had
contrived to produce a genial, good-humoured,
handsome fellow; the previous year had been one
of plenty, buffalo had once more appeared in
vast herds on the prairies of the Saskatchewan;
wolf-skins, robes, and pemmican had fetched high
prices, and Batoche was rich and prosperous.
Two days' journeying brought us to the edge
of the great prairie; silent, vast, and desolate it
spread away into unseen space; the snow but
scantily covered the yellow grass, and the November wind sighed mournfully through the wrecks
of summer vegetation as it sped along its thousand
leagues of unmeasured meadow. At the last
copse of poplar and willow we halted for a day, to  AN  OCEAN  OP GEASS. 49
An Ocean of Grass.—The Red Man.—Whence comes he ?—
TheBuffalo.—Puritans and Pioneers.—The RedHan's Friend.
The general term " prairie" comprises many
varieties of open landscape. There are the level,
alluvial prairies of Illinois, long since settled and
colonized; there are the low, fertile prairies of
the Red River, where the rich black mould, fallow
under five months of snow, puts forth the rank
luxuriance of a hot-bed during the half tropic
heat of summer; there are the sandy prairies of
the Assineboine and Qu' Appelle, intermixed with
clusters of aspen and of willow, and broken by
lakes and saline ponds : but above each and all—■
exceeding all other prairies and open spaces—-
wold, treeless, and ocean-like in everything save
motion, there stands forth in dreary grandeur the
Great Prairie itself.
What the Irish Sea, the Channel, the Baltic,
and the Mediterranean are to the Atlantic, so
are these various outlying regions of plain to the
vast rigid ocean of the central continent.    It is 50
true that on the Red River, or the Qu'Appelle, or
along the line I have lately passed, one may
frequently " get out of sight of land;" there are
spaces where no tree or bush breaks the long
monotony of the sky-line; but all these expanses
are as nothing compared to the true prairie.
The unending vision of sky and grass, the dim,
distant, and ever-shifting horizon; the ridges that
seem to be rolled upon one another in motionless
torpor; the effect of sunrise and sunset, of night
the vision to  nothing, and morning
• only expanding it to a shapeless blank; the sigh
and sough of a breeze that seems an echo in
unison with the solitude of which it is the sole
voice; and, above all, the sense of lonely, unending
distance which comes to the voyageur when day
after day has gone by, night has closed, and
morning dawned upon his onward progress under
the same ever-moving horizon of grass and sky.
Only two wild creatures have made this grassy
desert their home.
Back, since ages at whose birth we can only
guess, but which in all human probability go
deeper into the past than the reign of Arab in
Yemen, or Eirghis in Turkestan,  the  wild red
. man has roamed these wastes : back into that
dark night which hangs for ever over all we know
or shall know of early America.     " The time
mm ■k
•before the white man came," what a measureless
eternity lies hidden under the words ! This prairie
was here when the stones of the pyramid were
unhewn, and the site of Babylon was a river
meadow—here as it is to-day, treeless, desolate,
and storm-swept. But where and whence came
the wild denizens of the waste ? Who shall say ?
Fifty waiters have broached their various theories,
a hundred solutions have been offered. The missionary claims them as the lost tribes of Israel,
one ethnologist finds in them a likeness to the
Tartar, another sees the Celtic eye, another the
Roman nose, another traces them back to. Japan,
or China, or Australasia; the old world is scarcely
large enough to give them room for their speculations. And what say we ? Nothing; or if aught,
a conjecture perhaps more vague and shadowy
than the rest. It has seemed to us when watching-
this strange, wild hunter, this keen, untutored
scholar of nature, this human creature that
sickens beneath our civilization, and dies midst
our prosperity—it has seemed to us that he was of
a race older and more remote than our own, a
stock coeval with a shadowy age—a remnant, perchance, of an earlier creation which has vanished
from the earth, preserved here in these wilds—a
waif flung by the surge of time to these later ages
of our own.
This New World is older than our old one.
Its 30,000 feet in depth of Argoic rock tell us of
an age when nought oi living form moved over the
iron earth. And here, probably first of all, the
molten sands rose above the boiling floods, and
evolved and crusted into a chaotic continent.
These are but idle speculations; still the antiquity of the Indian race rests upon other foundations. Far to the south, where the prairies
rise into the lofty plateau of New Mexico,
ruined monuments, weed-grown, and hidden
beneath ivy and trailing parasites, stand like
spectres from the tomb of time. Before these
mouldering rock-hewn cities conjecture halts; the
past has drawn over them a veil that no research
can pierce, no learning solve. Inscrutable as the
vestiges of an earlier earth they stand, the lonely,
ruined wrecks of the Red man's race.
So much for the earlier existence of the human
dweller on the prairie; to us he is but a savage—
the impediment to our progress—the human counterpart of forests which have to be felled, mountains which must be tunnelled, rivers whose broad
currents are things to conquer; he is an obstacle,
and he must be swept away. To us it matters
not whether his race dwelt here before a Celt had
raised a Druid altar. The self-styled heirs to all
the centuries reck little of such things. WHENCE   COMES HE ?—THE BUPPALO. 53
And now let us turn for a moment to that other
wild creature which has made its dwelling on the
Great Prairie.
Over the grassy ocean of the west there has
moved from time immemorial a restless tide.
Backwards and forwards, now north, now
south—now filling the dark gorges of the
Rocky Mountains—now trailing into the valleys
of the Bio del Norte—now pouring down the
wooded slopes of the Saskatchewan, surged millions on nullions of dusky bisons.
What led them in their strange migrations no
man could tell, but all at once a mighty impulse
seemed to seize the myriad herds, and they moved
over the broad realm which gave them birth as
the waves of the ocean roll before the storm.
Nothing stopped them on their march; great rivers
stretched before them with steep, overhanging
banks, and beds treacherous with quicksand and
shifting bar; huge chasms and earth-rents, the
work of subterraneous forces, crossed their line of
march, but still the countless thousands swept on.
Through day and night the earth trembled beneath
their tramp, and the air was filled with the deep
bellowing of their unnumbered throats.
Crowds of wolves and flocks of vultures dogged
and hovered along their way, for many a huge
beast, half sunken in quicksand, caught amidr" 54
if I ''
whirling ice flow, or bruised and maimed at the
foot of some steep precipice, marked their line of
march, like the wrecks lying spread behind a routed
army. Nearly two millions of square miles formed
their undivided domain; on three sides a forest
boundary encircled it, on the fourth a great mountain range loomed up against the western sky.
Through this enormous area countless creeks and
rivers meandered through the meadows, where the
prairie grass grew thick and rank, and the cotton
woods spread their serpentine belts. Out in the vast
prairie the Missouri, the Platte, the Sweet Water,
the Arkansas, the South Saskatchewan, the Bighorn, the Yellowstone, rolled their volumes towards
the east, gathering a thousand affluents as they
Countless ages passed, tribes warred and wandered, but the life of the wilderness lay deep
beneath the Waves of time, and the roll of the
passing centuries disturbed not its slumber.
At last the white man came, and soon from
south and north the restless adventurers of Latin
Europe pierced the encircling forests, and beheld'
the mighty meadows of the Central Continent.
Spaniards on the south, Frenchmen on the north,
no one in the centre; for the prudent Plymouth
Puritan was more intent on flogging witches and
gathering riches than on penetrating the tangled PURITANS AND PIONEERS. 55
forest which lay westward of his settlement. No;
his was not the work of adventure and discovery.
Others might go before and brave the thousand
perils of flood and forest; he would follow after,
as the Jew pedlar follows the spendthrift, as the
sutler dogs the footsteps of the soldier.
What though he be. in possession of the wride
dominion now, and the names of France and Spain
be shrunken into a shapeless dream; that only
proves what we knew before, that the men who
lead the way to a great future are fated never to
reap the golden harvest of their dreams.
And ever since that advent of the white man
the scene has changed; the long slumber of the
wilderness was broken, and hand in hand with the
new life death moved amidst the wild denizens of
the Prairies. Human life scattered over a vast
area, animal life counted by tens of millions, take a
long time to destroy; and it is only to-day—370
years after a Portuguese sailor killed and captured a
band of harmless Indians, and 350 since a Spanish
soldier first beheld a herd of buffaloes beyond the
meadows of the Mississippi—that the long, hopeless
struggle of the wild dwellers of the wilderness
may be said to have reached its closing hour.
In thus classing together the buffalo and the
red man as twin dwellers on the Great Prairie, I
have but followed" the Indian idea. 56
| What shall we do ?" said a young Sioux
warrior to an American officer on the Upper
Missouri some fifteen years ago. " What shall we
do ? the buffalo is our only friend. When he goes
all is over with the Dacotahs. I speak thus to
you because like me you are a Brave."
It was little wonder that he called the buffalo
his only friend. Its skin gave him a house, its robe
a blanket and a bed, its undressed hide a boat, its
short, curved horn a powder-flask, its meat his
daily food, its sinew a string for his bow, its leather
a lariot for his horse, a saddle, bridle, rein, and bit.
Its tail formed an ornament for his tent, its inner
skin a book in which to sketch the brave deeds of
his life, the "medicine robe" of his history.
House, boat, food, bed, and covering, every want
from infancy to age, and. after life itself had passed,
wrapt in his buffalo robe the red man waited for
the dawn.   BUFFALO HUNTS. 57
Buffalo Hunts.—A Picture once seen, long remembered.—
L'Homme capable.—A wonderful Lake.—The lost Indian.—
An Apparition.—We return home.
It was mid-November before we reached the
buffalo; the snow had deepened, the cold had
become intense, and our horses under the influence
. of travel, cold, and exposure, had become miserably
thin. To hunt the herds on horseback would
have been an impossibility; the new-fallen snow
hid the murderous badger holes that covered the
prairie surface, and to gallop weak horses over
such ground must have been certain disaster.
Buffalo hunts on horseback or on foot have
frequently been the theme of travellers' story.
Ruxton and Palliser, and Mayne Reid and Catlin,
have filled many a page with glowing descriptions
of charge and counter-charge, stalk and stampede.
Washington Irving has lighted with his genius the
dull records of western wanderings, and to sketch
now the pursuit of that huge beast (so soon to be 58
an extinct giant) would be to repeat a thrice-told
Who has not seen in pencil sketch or pen
Story the image of the huge, shaggy beast careering madly before an eagle-feathered red man,
whose horse decked like its rider with the feathered
trophy, launches himself swiftly over the prairie ?
The full-drawn bow, the deadly arrow,'the stricken
animal, the wild confusion of the flying herd, the
wounded giant turning to bay;—all these have
been described a thousand times; so also has the
stalk, the stealthy approach under the wolf-skin
covering, the careful shot and the stupid stare of the
startled animals as they pause a moment to gather
consciousness that this thing which they deemed
a wolf in the grass is in reality their most deadly
enemy, man. All these have found record from
pen and pencil; but I much doubt me if it be
possible to place before a reader's mental vision
anything like a true picture of the sense of
solitude, of endless space, of awful desolation which
at times comes to the traveller's mind as he looks
over some yast prairie and beholds a lonely herd of
bisons trailing slowly across that snow-wrapt, endless expanse, into the shadows of the coming night.
Such a sight I have beheld more than once, and
its memory returns at times with the sigh of the
south wind, or the waving of a, pine branch.    It A PICTURE  ONCE  SEEN,  LONG REMEMBERED.       59
is from moments such as these that the wanderer
draws the recompence of his toil, and reaps in
aftertime the harvest of his hardship. No book
has told the story, no picture has caught the
colouring Of sky and plain, no sound can echo
back the music of that untainted breeze, sighing so mournfully through the yellow grass, but
all the same the vision returns wdthout one effort
of remembrance: the vast plain snow-wrapt, the
west ablaze with gold, and green, and saffron, and
colours never classed or catalogued, while the
horizon circle from north to east and south grows
dim and indistinct, and, far off, the bison herd in
long, scattered file trails slowly across the blue-
white snow into the caverns of the sunset.
We carried with us a leather tent of eight skins,
small of its kind, but capable of sheltering the five
individuals comprising our party. This tent,
pitched in some hollow at sunset, formed the sole
speck of life amidst the vast solitude. Ten poles
resting on the ground, and locked together at the
top, supported the leather covering. An open
space at the apex of the tent was supposed to
allow the smoke to escape, but the smoke usually
seemed to consider itself under no restraint whatever in the dim interior of our lodge, and seldom
or never took advantage of the means of freedom
so liberally provided for it.    Our stock of fuel 60
was very limited, and barely sufficed to boil a
kettle and fry a dish of pemmican at the opening
or close of each day. When the evening meal was
finished, we sat awhile grouped around the small
fire in the centre. " L'homme capable " ran round
our line of traps, returning' with a couple of kit
foxes, the fattest of which he skinned and roasted
for his supper. Then we gathered the blankets
close together, and lying down slept until the
dawn came struggling through the open roof, and
cold and hungry we sat again around the little
fire.    Thus we journeyed on.
Scattered over the wide prairie which lies
between the South Saskatchewan and the Eagle
Hills roamed many herds of buffalo. • But their
numbers were very far short of those immense
herds which, until a few years ago, were wont to
cover the treeless regions of the west. Yet they
were numerous enough to make the onlooker
marvel how they still held their own against the
ever-increasing odds arrayed against them.
Around the wide circle of this prairie ocean
lay scattered not less than 15,000 wild people, all
preying with wasteful vigour upon these scattered
herds ; but the numbers killed for the consumption
of these Indian or half-Indian men formed but a
small item in the lists of slaughter. To the north
and east the denizens of the remote parts of the L'HOMME  CAPABLE. 61
great regions locked in savage distance, the land of
fur, the land which stretches to the wintry shores
of the Bay of Hudson, and the storm-swept capes
of the Arctic Ocean, looked for their means of
summer transport to these wandering herds in the,
to them, far distant Saskatchewan. What food was
it that the tired voyageur munched so stolidly at
nightfall by the camp fire on some long portage
of the Winnipeg, the Nelson, or the Beaver Rivers,
or ate with so much relish ere the morning sun
was arlintins: alone: the waves of far Lake Atha-
basca; and his boat, rich laden writh precious
fur, rocked on the secluded shore of some nameless
bay? It was buffalo pemmican from the Saskatchewan. And what food was it that these dozen
hungry dogs devoured with such haste by that
lonely camp fire in the dark pine forest, when all
nature lay in its mid-winter torpor frozen to the
soul; when the pine-log flared upon some snow-
sheeted lake, or ice-bound river in the great
wilderness of the north? It was the same hard
mixture of fat and dried buffalo-meat pounded
down into a solid mass which the Indians called
| pemmican." Small wonder then that the great
herds had dwindled down to their present numbers,
and that now the once wide domain of the buffalo
had shrunken into the limits of the great prairie.
Yet, even still, the numbers annually killed seem 62
quite incredible; 12,000 are said to fall to the
Blackfeet tribes alone; in a single hunt the French
half-breeds, whose winter camp we had lately
visited, had killed 600 cows. The forts of the
Hudson's Bay Company were filled with many
thousand bags of pemmican, and to each bag two
animals may be counted; while not less than
30,000 robes had already found their way to the Red
River, and fully as many more in skins of parchment or in leather had been traded or consumed in
the thousand wants of savage life; and all are
ruthlessly killed—young and old, calves and cows,
it matters little; the Indian and the half-breed
know no such quality as forethought. Nor, looking at this annual havoc, and seeing still in spite
of all the dusky herds yet roaming over the treeless waste, can we marvel that the Red man should
ascribe to agencies other than mortal the seemingly
endless numbers of his favourite animal ?
South-west from the Eagle Hills, far out in the
prairie, there lies a lake whose waters never rest;
day and night a ceaseless murmur breaks the
silence of the spot.
" See," says the red man, " it is from under
that lake that our buffalo comes. You say they
are all gone ; but look, they come again and again
to us. We cannot km them all—they are there
under that lake.    Do you hear the noise which ■k
never ceases ? It is the buffalo fighting with each
other far down under the ground, and striving
to get out upon the prairie—where else can they
come from?"
We may well ask the question where do they
come from ? for in truth the vast expanse of the
great prairie seems too small to save them from
their relentless foes.
The creek of the Eagle Hills winds through the
prairie in long, lazy bends. The beaver has made
his home under its banks; and in some of the
serpentine bends the bastard maple lifts its gnarled
trunk, and the willow copses grow thickly. It is
a favourite ground for the hunter in summer; but
now, in mid-November, no sign of man was
visible, and we had the little thicket oasis all to
It was in this spot, some'two years ago, that the
following event occurred. In a band of Crees
travelling over the plains there happened to be a
blind Indian. Following the band one day he
lagged behind, and the party dipping over a ridge
on the prairie became lost to sound. . Becoming
suddenly alarmed at having thus lost his friends,
he began to run swiftly in hope of overtaking
them; but now his judgment was at fault, and the
direction of his run was the wrong one—he found
himself alone on the immense plains.    Tired at .64
last by the speed to which feverish anxiety had
urged him, he sat down to think over his chances.
It was hopeless to attempt to regain his party;
he was far out in the grassy ocean, and south,
west, and east, lay hundreds of miles of undulating
plain; to the north many days' journey, but still
near, in relative distanc?, lay the forts of the white
man, and the trail which led from one to the other.
He would steer for the north, and would endeavour to reach one of these forts. It was midsummer ; he had no food, but the carcases of lately-
killed buffplo were, he knew, numerous in that
part of the prairie, and lakes or ponds were to be
found at intervals.
He set out, and for three days he journeyed
north. I How did he steer ?" the reader will
ask; I for have you not told us the man was
blind?" Nevertheless", he steered with accuracy
towards the north. From sunrise he kept the
warm glow on his naked right shoulder; six
hours later the heat fell full upon his back;
towards evening the rays were on his left side;
and when the sun had gone, and the damp dew
began to fall, he lay down for the night: thus
he held a tolerably correct course. At times the
soft mud of a lake shore cloyed his feet; but that
promised water, and after a drink he resumed his
way; the lakelet was rounded and the course pur- THE LOST INDIAN. 65
sued. There was no food; for two days he
travelled on patiently, until at last he stumbled
over the bones of a buffalo. He felt around; it
had been killed some time, and the wolves had left
scant pickings on ribs or legs, but on the massive
head the skin was yet untouched, and his knife
enabled him to satisfy his hunger, and to carry
away a few scraps of skin and flesh.
Thus recruited he pressed on. It was drawing
towards evening on the fifth day of his. weary
journey when he found himself reduced to starvation, weak from protracted hunger and faint from
thirst; the day had been a warm one, and no friendly
lake had given him drink. His scanty food had
been long exhausted, and there seemed but little
hope that he could live to feel the warm sun again.
Its rays were growing faint upon his left shoulder,
when his feet suddenly sank into soft mud, and the
reeds and flags of a swamp brushed against his
legs : here was water, he lay down and drank a
long, long draught. Then he bethought him, Was
it not better to stay here while life lasted ? here he
had at least water, and of all the pangs that can
afflict the lost wanderer that of thirst is the hardest
to bear. He lay down midst the reeds, determined
to wait for death.
Some few miles distant to the north-east lay
the creek of the Eagle Hills.     That evening a 66
party of hunters from the distant fort of A la Corne,
had appeared on the wide prairies which surrounded this creek; they were in search of buffalo,
it wanted an hour of sunset. The man in charge
looked at the sinking sun, and he bethought him
of a camping-place. " Go to such and such a
bend of the creek," he said to his hunters, " unyoke the horses and make the camp. I will ride
to yonder hill and take a look over the plains for
buffalo ; I will rejoin you at the camp."
The party separated, and their leader pushed
on to the hill-top for a better survey of the plains.
When he reached the summit of the ridare he cast
a look on every side ; no buffalo were to be seen,
but to his surprise, his men, instead of obeying his
orders as to the route, appeared to be steering in
a different direction from the one he had indicated,
and were already far away to the south. When
he again overtook them they were in the act of
camping on the borders of "a swampy lake, a long
way from the place he had intended; they had
mistaken the track, they said, and seeing water
here had camped at sunset.
It was not a good place, and the officer felt
annoyed at their stupidity. While they spoke
together thus, a figure suddenly rose from the
reeds at the further side of the lake, and called
loudly for assistance.    For a moment the hunters AN APPARITION.
were amazed at this sudden apparition; they were
somewhat startled too, for the Blackfeet bands
were said to be on the war-trail. But presently
they saw that there was only a solitary stranger,
and that he was blind and helpless: it was the
lost Cree. He had long before heard the hunters'
approach, but not less deadly was the fear of
Blackfeet than the dread of death by starvation.
Both meant death ; but one meant scalping, therefore dishonour in addition. It was only when
the welcome sounds of the Cree language fell on.
his ear that he could reveal his presence in the
reed-fringed lake.
I have told this story at length just as I
heard it from the man who had been in charge
of the party of hunters, because it brings home
to the mind of the outsider, not only the power
of endurance which the Indian displays in the
face of physical difficulties, but also the state
of society produced by the never-ending wars
among the Indian tribes. Of the mistake which
caused the hunters to alter their course and pitch
their camp in another direction than that intended
by their leader I have nothing to say; chance is a
strange leader people say. Tables are said to be
turned by unseen powers seemingly like the stars,
in the song, " because they've nothing else to do;"
but for my part I had rather believe that men's
p 2 68
footsteps are turned south instead of west under
other Guidance than that of chance, when that
change of direction, heedless thOugh it be, saves
some lost wanderer who has lain down to die.
It was the 3rd of December, when with thin
and tired horses, we returned to the Forks of the
Saskatchewan. We found our house wholly
completed; on the stage in front safe from dogs
and wolves the produce of the hunt was piled, the
weary horses were turned loose on the ridge above,
and with a few books on a shelf over a rude but
comfortable bed, I prepared to pass the next two
months of winter.
It was full time to reach home; the snow lay
deep upon the ground; the cold, which had set in
unusually early, had even in mid-November fallen
to thirty degrees below zero, and some of our
last buffalo stalks had been made under a temperature in which frozen fingers usually followed the
handling, with unmittened hands, of rifle stock or
gun trigger.
Those who in summer or autumn visit the
great prairie of the Saskatchewan can form but
a faint idea of its winter fierceness and utter
desolation. They are prone to paint the scene
as wanting only the settler's hut, the yoke of
oxen, the waggon, to become at once the paradise
of the husbandman.    They little know of what   ^\
they speak. Should they really wish to form a true
conception of life in these solitudes, let them go
out towards the close of November into the treeless
waste; then, midst fierce storm and biting cold,
and snowdrift so dense that earth and heaven seem
wrapped together in indistinguishable chaos, they
will witness a sight as different from their summer
ideal as a mid-Atlantic mid-winter storm varies
from a tranquil moonlight on the .iEgean Sea.
During the sixteen days in which we traversed
the prairie on our return journey, we had not seen
one soul, one human being moving over it; the
picture of its desolation was complete. 70
Strange Visitors. — At-tistighat the Philosopher. — Indian
Converts.—A Domestic Scene.—The Winter Packet.—
Adam and his Dogs.
December passed away, the new year came, the
cold became more intense. The snow deepened
and the broad rivers lay hushed under their
sparkling covering; wide roadways for our dog
sleighs. At times there came a day of beautiful
clearness, the sun shone brightly, the sky was of
the deepest blue, and the earth sparkled in its
spotless covering. At night the moon hung over
the snow-wrapt river and silent pines with the
brilliancy of a fairy scene; but many a day
and night of storm and bitter tempest passed,
and not unfrequently the thermometer placed
•against the hut wall marked full 70 degrees of
Towards the end of the year four of our horses
died, from the depth and hardness of the snow.
The others would have soon followed if left to
find their own sustenance, but a timely removal to STRANGE  VISITORS.
the Fort a, la Corne, twenty miles lower down the
river, saved them.
When the year was drawing to its close two
Indians pitched their lodge on the opposite side
of the North River, and finding our stage pretty
well stocked wdth food they began to starve
immediately. In other words, it was easier to
come to us for buffalo meat than to hunt deer for
themselves : at all hours of the day they were with
us, and frequently the whole family, two men, two
squaws, and three children, would form a doleful
procession to our hut for food. An Indian never
knocks at a door ; he lifts the latch, enters quietly,
shakes hands with every one, and seats himself,
without a word, upon the floor. You may be at
breakfast, at dinner, or in bed, it doesn't matter.
If food be not offered to him, he will wait until
the meal is finished, and then say that he has not
eaten for so many hoursj as the case may be.
Our stock of food was not over sufficient, but it
was impossible to refuse it to them even though
they would not hunt for themselves; and when
the three children were paraded—all pretty little
things from four to seven years of age—the
argument of course became irresistible.
It was useless to tell them that the winter was
long, that no more buffalo could be obtained; they
seemed to regard starvation as an ordinary event 72
to be calculated upon, that as long as any food
was to be obtained it was to be eaten at all times,
and that when it was gone—well then the best
thing was to do without it.
January drew to a close in very violent storms
accompanied by great cold. Early one morning
| At-tistighat," or as we called him Bourgout No.
1, arrived with news that his brother nad gone
away two days before, that he had no blanket, no
food; and that, as it had not been his intention
to stay out, he concluded that he had perished.
| At-tistighat" was a great scoundrel, but nevertheless, as the night had been one of terrible
storm, we felt anxious for the safety of his brother,
who was really a good Indian. | Go," we said to
him, I look for your brother; here is pemmican to
feed you during your search." He took the food,
but coolly asserted that in all probability his
brother had shot himself, and that consequently
there was no use whatever in going to look for
him; " or," he said, " he is dead of cold, in which
case it is useless to find him."
While he spoke a footstep outside announced
an arrival, the door opened, and the lost Bourgout
No. 2 entered, bearing on his back a heavy load of
At-tistighat's line of argument was quite in
keeping   with   the   Indian   character,   and  was AT-TISTIGHAT THE  PHILOSOPHER. 73
laughable in its selfish logic. If the man was
alive, he would find his own way home; if dead,
there was nothing more to be done in the matter :
but in any case pemmican was not to be despised.
But despite their habits of begging, and their
frequently unseasonable visits, our Cree neighbours
afforded us not a little food for amusement in the
long: winter evenings. Indian character is worth
the study, if we will only take the trouble to
divest ourselves of the notion that all men should
be like ourselves. There is so much of simplicity
and cunning, so much of close reasoning and
child-like suspicion; so much natural quickness,
sense of humour, credulousness, power of observation, faith and fun and selfishness, mixed up
together in the Red man's mental composition;
that the person who will find nothing in Indian
character worth studying will be likely to start
from a base of nullity in his own brain system.
In nearly all the dealings of the white man with
the red, except perhaps in those of the fur trade,
as conducted by the great fur companies, the
mistake of judging and treating Indians by
European standards has been made. From the
earliest ages of American discovery, down to the
present moment, this error has been manifest; and
it is this error which has rendered the whole
missionary labour, the vast machinery set on foot 74
by the charity and benevolence of the various
religious bodies during so many centuries, a
practical failure to-day.
When that Christian King Francis the First
commissioned Carrier to convert the Indians, they
were described in the royal edict as " men without
knowledge of God, or use of reason;" and as the
speediest mode of giving them one, and bringing
them to the other, the Quebec chief savage was at
once kidnapped, carried to France, baptized, and
within six months was a dead man. We may
wonder if his wild subjects had imbibed sufficient
I reason" during the absence of the ship to
realize during the following season the truth of
what they were doubtless told, that it was better
to be a dead Christian than a live savage; but no
doubt, under the circumstances, they might be
excused if they " didn't quite see it." Those who
would imagine that the case of Munberton could not
now occur in missionary enterprise are deceived.
Munberton, who is said to have been a devout
Christian in the early days of Acadie, was duly
instructed in the Lord's Prayer; at a certain
portion of the prayer he was wont to append a
request that " fish and moose meat" might also
be added to his .daily bread. And previous to his
death, which occurred many years after his conversion, he is said to have stoutly demanded that INDIAN CONVERTS. 75
the savage rites of sepulture should be bestowed
upon his body, in order that he might be well
prepared to make vigorous war upon his enemies
in the next world. This is of the past; yet it is
not many years since a high dignitary of the
Church was not a little horrified by a request
made by some recently converted Dog-Rib Chiefs
that the rite of Baptism should be bestowed upon
three flaming red flannel shirts, of which they had
for the first time in their lives become the joint
But all this is too long to enter upon
here;   enough that to  me at least the Indian
3 O
character is worth the trouble of close examination.
If those, whose dealings religious and political
with the red man are numerous, would only take
a leaf from Goldsmith's experience when he first
essayed to become a teacher of English in France,
(" for I found," he writes, " that it was necessary
I should previously learn French before I could
teach them English,,") very much of the ill success
which had attended labours projected by benevolence, and prosecuted with zeal and devotion, might
perhaps be avoided.
Long before ever a white man touched the
American shore a misty idea floated through the
red man's brain that from far-off lands a stranger
would come as the messenger of peace and plenty, 76
where both were so frequently unknown. In
Florida, in Novumbega, in Canada, the right hand
of fellowship was the first proffered to the new
comer; and when Carrier entered the palisaded
village where now the stately capital of Canada
spreads out along the base of the steep ridge, which
he named Royal after that master whose " honour "
had long been lost ere on Pavia's field he yielded up
all else, the dusky denizens of Hochelaga brought
forth their sick and stricken comrades " as though
a God had come among them."
Three centuries and a half have passed since
then;" war, pestilence and famine have followed the
white man's track. Whole tribes have vanis*hed
even in name from the continent, yet still that
strange tradition of a white stranger, kind and
beneficent, has outlived the unnumbered cruelties
of ages; and to-day the starving camp and the
shivering bivouac hears again the hopeful yet
hopeless story of " a good time coming."
Besides our Indians we were favoured with but
few visitors, silence reigned around our residence;
a magpie or a whisky-jack sometimes hopped or
chattered about our meat stage; in the morning
the sharp-tailed grouse croaked in birch or spruce
tree, and at dusk, when every other sound was
hushed, the small grey owl hooted his lonely cry.
Pleasant was it at night when returning after a ".
long day on snow shoes, or a dog trip to the
nearest fort, to reach the crest of the steep ridge
that surrounded our valley, and see below the firelight gleaming through the little window of our
.hut, and the red sparks flying upward from the
chimney like fire-flies amidst the dark pine-trees ;
nor was it less pleasant when as the night wore
on the home letter was penned, or the book read,
while the pine-log fire burnt brightly and the
dogs slept stretched before it, and the light glared
on rifle-barrel or axe-head and showed the skin-
hung rafters of our lonely home.
As January drew towards a close, it became
necessary to make preparations for a long journey.
Hitherto I had limited my wanderings to the
prairie region of the Saskatchewan, but these
wanderings had only been a preliminary to further
ravel into the great northern wilds.
To pierce the forest region lying north of the
Saskatchewan valley, to see the great lakes of the
Athabasca and that vast extent of country which
pours its waters into the Frozen Ocean, had long
been my desire; and when four months earlier I had
left the banks of the Red River and turned away
from the last limit of civilization, it was with the
hope that ere the winter snow had passed from plain
and forest my wanderings would have led me at least
2000 miles into that vast wilderness of the north. 78
But many preparations had to be made against
cold and distance.     Dogs had to  be fattened,
leather  clothing  got  r<
harness   and  sleds
looked to, baggage reduced to the very smallest
limit, and some one found willing to engage to
drive the second dog sled, and to face the vicissitudes of the long northern road. , The distance
itself was enough to make a man hesitate ere for
hire he embarked on such a journey. The first
great stage was 750 miles, the second was as many
more, and when 1500 miles had been traversed
there still must remain half as much again before,
on the river systems of the North Pacific, we
could emerge into semi-civilized ways of travel.
Many were the routes which my brain sketched
out during the months of autumn, but finally my
choice rested between two rivers, the Mackenzie
rolling its waters into the Frozen Ocean, the Peace
River piercing the great defiles of the Rocky
Mountains through the canons and stupendous
gorges of Northern British Columbia. A chance
meeting decided my course.
One day at the end of October I had camped
during a snow-storm for dinner in the Touchwood
Hills. Suddenly through the drift a horseman came
in sight. He proved to be an officer of the Hudson's
Bay Company from the distant post of Dunvegan on
the Peace River: of all men he was the one I most \
wished to see. Ninety days earlier he had left his
station; it was far away, but still with dogs over
the ice of frozen rivers and lakes, through the
snow of long leagues of forest and musky and
prairie, I might hope to reach that post on Upper
Peace River in sixty days; twenty days more
might carry me through the defiles of the Rocky
Mountains to waters which flow south into the
Pacific. " Good-bye, bon voyage" and we went
our different ways; he towards Red River, I for
Athabasca and the Peace River.
And now, as I have said, the end of January had
come, and it was time to start; all my preparations
were completed, Cerf-vola and his companions
were fat, strong, and hearty. Dog shoes, copper
kettles, a buffalo robe, a thermometer, some three
or four dozen rounds of ammunition, a little
tobacco and pain-killer, a dial compass, a pedometer, snow shoes, about fifteen pounds of baggage, tea, sugar, a little flour, and lastly, the
inevitable pemmican; all were put together, and
I only waited the arrival of the winter packet
from the south to set out.
Let me see if I can convey to the reader's mind
a notion of this winter packet.
Towards the middle of the month of December
there is unusual bustle in the office of the Hudson's
Bay Company at Fort Garry on the Red River;. 80
the winter packet is being made ready. Two
oblong boxes are filled with letters and papers
addressed to nine different districts of the
northern continent. The limited term district is a
singularly unappropriate one: a single instance
will suffice. From the post of the Forks of the
Athabasca and Clear Water Rivers to the Rocky
Mountain Portage is fullv 900 miles as a man can
O «/
travel, yet all that distance lies within the limits
of the single Athabasca district, and there are
others larger still. From the Fort Resolution on
the Slave River to the ramparts on the Upper
Yukon, 1100 miles lay their lengths within the
limits of the Mackenzie River district.
Just as the days are at their shortest, a dog
sled bearing the winter packet starts from Fort
Garry; a man walks behind it, another man some
distance in advance of the dogs. It holds its way
down the Red River to Lake Winnipeg; in about
nine days' travel it crosses that lake to the north
shore at Norway House; from thence, lessened of
its packet of letters for the Bay of Hudson and
the distant Churchill, it journeys in twenty days'
travel up the Great Saskatchewan River to Carlton
House. Here it undergoes a complete readjustment; the Saskatchewan and Lesser Slave Lake
letters are detached from it, and about the 1st of
February it starts on its long journey to the north. ADAM  AND  HIS   DOGS. §1
During the succeeding months it holds steadily
along its northern way, sending off at long, long
intervals branch dog packets to right and left;
finally, just as the sunshine of mid-May is beginning to carry a faint whisper of the coming spring
to the valleys of the Upper Yukon, the dog train,
last of many, drags the packet, now but a tiny
bundle, into the enclosure of La Pierre's House.
It has travelled nearly 3000 miles; a score of
different dog teams have hauled it, and it has
camped for more than a hundred nights in the
.great northern forest.
The end of January had come, but contrary to
the experience of several years had brought no
packet from Fort Garry, and many were the
surmises afloat as to the cause of this delay. The
old Swampy Indian Adam who, for more than a
score of years had driven the dog packet, had
tumbled into a water-hole in the ice, and his dogs
had literally exemplified one portion of the popular
saying of following their leader through fire and
water; and the packet, Adam, and the dogs, lay at
the bottom of the Saskatchewan River. Such was
one anticipated cause of this non-appearance.
To many persons the delay was very vexatious,
but to me it was something more. Time was a
precious article : it is true a northern winter is a
long one, but so also was the route I was about 82
to follow, and I hoped to reach the upper regions
of the Rocky Mountains while winter yet held
with icy grasp the waters of the Peace River
The beginning of February came, and I could
wait no longer for the missing packet. On the
3rd, at mid-day, I set out on my journey. The
day was bright and beautiful, the dogs climbed
defiantly the steep high point, and we paused a
moment on the summit; beneath lay hut and pine
wood and precipitous bank, all sparkling with
snow and sunshine; and beyond, standing motionless and silent, rose the Great Sub-Arctic
A tale of warfare.—Dog-sleds.—A missing link.'
Sea.—" Winterers."—Samuel Hearne.
-The North
During the three months which had elapsed since
his arrival at the Forks, Cerf-vola had led an idle
life; he had led his train occasionally to Fort a la
Come, or hauled a light sled along the ice of the
frozen rivers, but these were only desultory trips,
and his days had usually passed in peace and
Perhaps I am wrong in saying peace, for the
introduction of several strange dogs had occasioned much warfare, and although he had invariably managed to come off victorious, victory
was not obtained without some loss. I have
before remarked that he possessed a very large
bushy tail. In time of war this appendage was
carried prominently over his back, something after
the manner of the plumes upon casque of knight
in olden times, or the more modern helmet of
dragoon in the era of the Peninsular War.
One day, while he was engaged in a desperate
g 2 •84
35    'I *
II     j  |
struggle with a bumptious new-comer, a large ill-
conditioned mongrel which had already been vanquished, seeing his victor fully occupied, deemed it
an auspicious moment for revenge, and springing
upon the bushy tail proceeded to attack it with
might and main. The unusual noise brought me
to the door in time to separate the combatants
while yet the tail was intact, but so unlooked for
had been the assault that it was found upon
examination to be considerably injured. With
the aid of a needle and thread it was repaired as
best we could, Cerf-vola apparently understanding what the surgical operation meant, for although
he indulged in plenty of uproar at every stitch no
attempt at biting was made by him. He was now
however sound in body and in tail, and he tugged
away at his load in blissful ignorance that 1500
miles of labour lay before him.
I know not if my readers are acquainted with
the manner in which dogs are used as draught
animals in the great fur regions of the north. A
dog sled is simply two thin oak or birch-wood
boards lashed together with deer-skin thongs:
turned up in front like a Norwegian snow shoe, it
runs when light over hard snow or ice with great
its  length is about nine feet, its breadth
sixteen inches.     Along its  outer edges runs a
leather lashing, through the loops of which a long   DOG-SLEDS.
leather line is passed, to hold in its place whatever
may be placed upon it. From the front, close to
the turned portion, the traces for draught are
attached. The dogs, usually four in number,
stand in tandem fashion, one before the other, the
best dog generally being placed in front, as " fore-
goer," the next best in rear as " steady-dog." It
is the business of the foregoer to keep the track,
however faint it may be on lake or river.. The
steerdog guides the sled, and prevents it from
striking or catching in tree or root. An ordinary
load for four dogs weighs from 2 to 400 lbs.; laden
with 200 lbs. dogs wall travel On anything like a
good track, or ,on hard snow, about thirty or
thirty-five' miles in each day. In deep or soft
snow the pace is of necessity slow, and twenty to
twenty-five miles will form a fair day's work. *
If any one should ask what length of time dogs
will thus travel day after day, I refer them to the
following chapters, wherein the fortunes of Cerf-
vola and his brethren, starting out to-day on a
long journey, are duly set forth.
Some few miles west of the mission station
called  Prince Albert I  parted  from my friend
Captain M , who thus far had accompanied me.
He was to return to Red River and Canada, via
Cumberland and the lakes; I to hold my way
across the frozen continent to the Pacific,.    For 86
many months each day would place a double day's
distance between us, but we still looked forward
to another meeting, even though between us and
that prospect .there lay the breadth of all the
savage continent.
A couple of days later I reached the Hudson's
Bay Company's fort of Carlton, the great rendezvous of the winter packets between north and
south. From north and west several of the
leading agents of the fur company had assembled
at Carlton to await the coming of the packet
bearing news from the outer world. From Fort
Simpson on the far Mackenzie, from Fort Chip-
wyan on the lonely lake Athabasca, from Edmonton on the Upper Saskatchewan, from Isle a la
Crosse, dogs had drawn the masters of these
remote establishments to the central station on
the middle Saskatchewan. But they waited in
vain for the arrival of the packet; with singular
punctuality had their various trains arrived within
a few days of each other from starting-points 2000
miles apart; yet after a few days' detention these
officers felt anxious to set out once more on their
journey, and many a time the hill-side on which
the packet must first appear was scanned by
watchers, and all the boasted second sight and
conjuring power of haggard squaw and medicine
man was set at work to discover the whereabouts A MISSING  LINK. 87
of the " missing link " between the realms of civili-
zation and savagery. To me the delay, except for
the exigencies   of  time   and distance, was not
irksome. I was in the society of gentlemen
whose lives had been passed in all portions of the
great north, on the frozen shores of Hudson's
Bay, in the mountain fastnesses of the Chipwyan
range, or midst the savage solitudes that lie where,
in long, low-lying capes, and ice-piled promontories, the shore of America stretches out to meet
the waves of the Northern Ocean.
There was one present who in the past seven
months had travelled by horse and canoe, boat and
dog train, full 4000 miles; and another, destined
to be my close companion during many weeks,
whose matchless determination and power of
endurance had carried him in a single winter from
the Lower Mackenzie River to the banks of the
Here, while we await the winter packet, let me
sketch with hasty and imperfect touch the lives of
those who, as the " winterers " of the great comT
pany of adventurers trading into Hudson's Bay,
have made their homes in the wilderness.
Two hundred and sixty-two years ago, a French adventurer under the banner of Samuel de Champlain
wintered with an Indian tribe on the shores of the
Upper Ottawa. In the ensuing spring he returned iOS4■;;■ THE WILD NORTH LAND.
to Montreal, recounted his adventures, and became
the hero of an hour. Beyond the country of the
Ottawas he described a vast region, and from the
uttermost sources of the Ottawa a large river ran
towards the north until it ended in the North Sea.
He had been there he said, and on the shore lay
the ribs of an English vessel wrecked, and the
skeletons of English sailors who had been drowned
or murdered. His story was a false one, and ere
a year had passed he confessed his duplicity; he
had not been near the North Sea, nor had he seen
aught that he described.
Yet was there even more than a germ of truth
in his tale of wreck and disaster, for just one year
earlier in this same North Sea, a brave English
sailor had been set adrift in an open boat, with
half a dozen faithful seamen; and of all the dark
mysteries of the merciless ocean, no mystery lies
wrapt in deeper shadow than that which hangs
over the fate of Hudson.
But the seventeenth century was not an age
when wreck or ruin could daunt the spirit of discovery. Here in this lonely North Sea, the palm
of adventure belonged not to France alone. Spain
might overrun the rich regions of the tropics,
Richelieu (prototype of the great German chancellor of to-day) might plant the fleur-de-lis along
the mighty St. Lawrence, but   the north—^the THE NORTH  SEA. 89
frozen north—ihust be the land Of English enterprise and English daring. The years that followed
the casting away of the fearless Hudson saw
strange vessels coasting the misty shores of that
weird sea; at first, to seek through its bergs and
ice floes, its dreary cloud-wrapt fiords and inlets,
a passage to the land where ceaseless sunshine
glinted on the spice-scented shores of fabulous
Cathay; and later on, to trade with the savages
who clad themselves in skins, which the fairest
favOurites of Whitehall or the Louvre (by a strange
extreme Wherein savagery joined hands with civilization) would be proud to wrap round their snowy
Prosecuted at first by desultory and chance
adventurers, this trade in furs soon took definite
form and became a branch of commerce. On
the lonely sea-shores wooden buildings rose
along the estuaries of rivers flowing from an unknown land. These were honoured by the title of
fort or factory, and then the ships sailed back to
England ere the autumn ice had closed upon the
waters; while behind in Rupert's Fort, York
Factory, Churchill, or Albany (names which tell
the political history of their day), stayed the agents,
or " winterers," whose work it was to face for a
long season of hardship, famine, and disease, a
climate so rigorous that not unfrequently, when 90
i i .■
the returning vessel rose upon the distant sea
line, scarce half the eyes that had seen her vanish
were there to watch her return. And they had
other foes to contend with. Over the height
of land, away by the great lakes, and along the
forest shores of the St. Lawrence, the adventurers
of another nation had long been busy at the
mingled work of conquest and traffic. The rival
Sultans of France and England could, midst the
more pressing cares of their respective harems,
find time occasionally to scribble | Henri" or
I Charles " at the foot of a parchment scroll which
gave a continent to a company; it little mattered
whether Spaniard, Frenchman, or Briton had first
bestowed the gift, the. rival claimants might fight
for the possession as they pleased. The geography
of this New World was uncertain, and where Florida
ended or Canada began was not matter of much
consequence. But the great cardinal, like the
great chancellor, was not likely to err in the
matter of boundaries. " If there should be any
doubt about the parts, we can take the whole,"
was probably as good a maxim then as now; and
accordingly we find at one sweep the whole northern
continent, from Florida to the Arctic Circle, handed
over to a company of which the priest-soldier was
the moving spirit.
Thus began the long strife between France and " WINTERERS." 91
England in North America,—a ■ strife which only
ended under the walls of Quebec. The story of
their bravery, their endurance, their constancy,
their heroism, has been woven into deathless
history by a master-hand.1 To France belongs
the glory of the Great West—not the less her
glory because the sun has set for ever upon her
empire. Nothing remains to her. Promontory
or lonely isle, name of sea-washed cape, or silent
lake, half, mistily tells of her former dominion.
In the deep recesses of some north-western lake
or river-reach the echoes still waken to the notes
of some old French chanson, as the half Indian
voijageur, ignorant of all save the sound, dips his
glistening paddle to the cadence of his song.
But of all that Cartier and Champlain, De Monts,
La Salle, Marquette, Frontenac, and Montcalm
lived and died for—nothing more remains.
Poor France! In the New World and in the Old
history owes thee much. Yet in both hast thou
paid the full measure of thy people's wrong.
But to return. The seventeenth century had
not closed ere the sea of Hudson became the
theatre of strife, the wooden palisades of the
factories were battered or burnt down; and one
fine  day in  August,   1697,   a  loud  cannonade
1 Francis Parkman. 92
boomed over the sullen waters, and before the
long summer twilight had closed, the " Hampshire," with her fifty-two guns on high poop or
lofty forecastle, lay deep beneath the icy sea, her
consorts the Frenchman's prize. Nor had she
gone down before a foe more powerful, but to the
single frigate of Le Moyne d'Iberville, a child of
Old and New France, the boldest rover that e'er
went forth upon the Northern Seas. Some fifteen
years later France resigned her claim to these
sterile shores. Blenheim, Ramifies, Oudenarde,
and Malplaquet had given to England the sole
possession of the frozen north.
And now for nigh seventy years the English
Company pursued unmolested its trade along the
coast. A strong fort, not of wood and lath and
stockade, but of hard English brick and native
granite ■ hewn by English hands, rose near the
estuary of the Churchill River. To this fort the
natives came annually along the English river
bearing skins gathered far inland, along the shores
of the Lake of the Hills, and the borders of the
great river of the north.
With these natives wandered back an Englishman named Samuel Hearne; he reached the
Lake Athabasca, and on all sides he heard of
large rivers, some coming from south and west,
others   flowing    to    the   remotest   north.      He k
wandered on from tribe to tribe, reached a great
lake, descended a great river to the north, and
saw at last the Arctic Sea.
Slowly did the Fur Company establish itself in
the interior. It was easier to let the natives bring
down the rich furs to the coast than to seek them
in these friendless regions. But at last a subtle
rival appeared on the scene; the story of the
North-West Fur Company has often been told,
and in another place we have painted the effects
of that conflict; here it is enough to say that
when in 1822 the north-west became merged into
the older corporation, posts or forbs had been
scattered throughout the entire continent, and
that henceforth from Oregon to Ungava, from
Mingan to the Mackenzie, the countless tribes
knew but one lord and master, the company of
adventurers from England trading into Hudson's
What in the meantime was the work of those
wintering agents whose homes were made in the
wilderness ? God knows their lives were hard.
They came generally from the remote isles or
highlands of Scotland, they left home young, and
the mind tires when it thinks upon the remoteness of many of their fur stations. Dreary and
monotonous beyond words was their home -life,
and hardship was its rule.    To travel on foot 94
1000 miles in winter's darkest time, to live upon
.the coarsest food, to see nought of bread or sugar
for long months, to lie down at night under the
freezing branches, to feel cold such as Englishmen in England cannot even comprehend, often
to starve, always to dwell in exile from the great
world. Such was the routine of their lives. The
names of these northern, posts tell the story of
their toil. " Resolution," " Providence," " Good
Hope," "Enterprise," "Reliance," "Confidence;"
such were the titles given to these little
forts on the distant Mackenzie, or the desolate
shores of the great Slave Lake. Who can tell
what memories of early days in the far away
Scottish isles, or Highland glen, must have
come to these men as the tempest swept
the stunted pine-forest, and. wrack and drift
hurled across the frozen lake—when the dawn
and the dusk, separated by only a few hours' daylight, closed into the long, dark night. Perchance the savage scene was lost in a dreamy
vision of some lonely Scottish loch, some Druid
mound in far away Lewis, some vista of a fireside,
when storm howled and waves ran'high upon the
beach of Stornoway. B.
A dog of no character.—The Green Lake.—Lac He a la
Crosse.—A cold day.—Port lie h la Crosse.—A long-lost
brother.—Lost upon the Lake.—Unwelcome neighbours.—
Mr. Roderick Macfarlane.—A beautiful morning.—Marble
On the night of the 11th of February, under a
brilliant moonlight, we quitted Fort Carlton; crossing the Saskatchewan, we climbed the steep
northern bank, and paused a moment to look back.
The moon was at its full, not a cloud slept in the
vast blue vault of heaven, a great planet burned in
the western sky; the river lay beneath in spotless
lustre; shore and prairie, ridge and lowland, sparkled in the sheen of snow and moonlight. Then I
sprung upon my sled, and followed the others, for
the music of their dog-bells was already getting
The two following days saw us journeying on
through a rich and fertile land. Clumps of poplar
interspersed with pine, dotted the undulating
surface of the country.  Lakes were numerous, and 96
the yellow grass along their margins still showed
above the deep snow.
Six trains of dogs, twenty-three dogs in all,
made a goodly show; the northern ones all beaded,
belled, and ribboned, were mostly large powerful
animals. Cree, French, and English names were
curiously intermixed, and as varied were the
tongues used to urge the trains to fresh exertions.
Sometimes a dog would be abused, vilified, and
cursed, in French alone; at others, he would be
implored, in Cree, to put forth greater efforts.
| Kuskey-tay-o-atim-moos," or the little " black
dog " would be appealed to, " for the love of Heaven
to haul his traces." He would be solemnly informed
that he was a dog of no character ; that he was the
child of very disreputable parents; that, in fact,
his mother had been no better than she should
have been. Generally speaking, this information
did not appear to have much effect upon Kuskey-
tay-o-atim-moos, who was doubtless well satisfied
if the abuse hurled at him and. his progenitors
exhausted the ire of his driver, and saved his back
at the expense of his relations.
Four days of rapid travelling carried us far to
the north. Early on the third day of travel the
open country, with its lakelets and poplar ridges,
was left behind, and the forest region entered upon
for the first time.
Day had not yet dawned when we quitted a deserted hut which had given us shelter for the night;
a succession of steep lulls rose before us, and when
the highest had been gained, the dawn had broken
upon the dull grey landscape. Before us the
great Sub-Arctic Forest stretched away to the north,
a line of lakes, its rampart of defence against the
wasting fires of the prairie region, lay beneath.
This was the southern limit of that vast forest
whose northern extreme must be sought where the
waters of the Mackenzie mingle with the waves of
j the Arctic Sea.
We entered this forest, and in four days reached
the southern end of the Green Lake, a long narrow
sheet of water of great depth- The dogs went
briskly over the hard snow on the surface of the
ice-covered lake, and ere sun set on the 15th of
February we were housed in the little Hudson's
Bay post, near the northern extremity of the lake.
We had run about 150 miles in four days.
A little more than midway between Carlton
And Green Lake, the traveller crosses the height
of land between the Saskatchewan and Beaver
Rivers; its elevation is about 1700 feet above the
sea level, but the rise on either side is barely perceptible, and between the wooded hills, a network
of lakes finked together by swamps and muskys
spreads in every direction.    These lakes abound
H It
with the finest fish; the woods are fairly stocked
with fur-bearing animals, and the country is in
many respects fitted to be made the scene of
Indian settlement, upon a plan not yet attempted
by American or Canadian governments in their
dealings with the red man.
On the morning of the 17th February we
quitted the Green Lake, and continued on our
northern way. Early on the day of departure we
struck the Beaver or Upper Churchill river, and
followed its winding course for some forty miles.
The shores were well wooded with white spruce,
juniper, and birch ; the banks, some ten or twenty
feet above the surface of the ice, sloped easily
back; while at every ten or fifteen miles smaller
streams sought the main river, and at each accession
the bed of the channel nearly doubled in width.
Hitherto I have not spoken of the cold; the
snow lay deep upon the ground, but so far the
days had been fine, and the nights, though of
course cold, were by no means excessively so. The
morning of the 19th February found us camped on a
pine ridge, between lakes, about fifteen miles south
of Lac lie a la Crosse, by the spot where an ox had
perished of starvation during the previous autumn,
his bones now furnishing a 'night-long repast for
our hungry dogs. The night had been very cold,
and   despite of blanket or buffalo robe it was
impossible to remain long asleep. It may seem
strange to those who live in warm houses, who
sleep in oosy rooms from which the draught is
carefully excluded, and to whom the notion of
seeking one's rest on the ground, under a pine-
tree in mid-winter, would appear eminently suicidal; it may seem strange, I say, how in a
climate where cold is measured by degrees as
much below the freezing point as the hottest
shade heat of Carnatic or Scindian summer is
known to be above it, that men should be able at
the close of a hard day's march to lie down to
rest under the open heavens.   Yet so it is.
When the light begins to fade over the frozen
solitude, and the first melancholy hoot of the
night owl is heard, the traveller in the north looks
around him for " a good camping-place." In the
forest country he has not long to seek for it;
a few dead trees for fuel, a level space for his fire
and his blanket, some green young pines to give
him " brush " for his bed, and all his requirements
are supplied. The camp is soon made, the fire
lighted, the kettle filled with snow and set to
boil, the supper finished, dogs fed, and the
blankets spread out over the pine brush. It is
scarcely necessary to say that there is not much
time lost in the operation of undressing; under
the circumstances <one is more likely to reverse
h 2 100
the process, and literally (not figuratively as in
the case of modern society, preparing for her ball)
to dress for the night. Then begins the cold; it
has been bitterly cold all day, with darkness; the
wind has lulled, and the frost has come out of the
cold, grey sky with still, silent rigour. If you
have a thermometer placed in the snow at your
head the spirit will have shrunken back into the
twenties and thirties below zero; and just when
the dawn is stealing over the eastern pine tops it
will not unfrequently be into the forties. Well
then, that is cold if you like ! You are tired by a
thirty-mile march on snow shoes. You have lain
down with stiffened limbs and blistered feet, and
sleep comes to you by the mere force of your
fatigue; but never goes the consciousness of the
cold from your waking brain; and as you lie with
crossed arms and up-gathered knees beneath your
buffalo robe, you welcome as a benefactor any
short-haired, shivering dog who may be forced from
his lair in the snow to seek a few hours' sleep
upon the outside of your blankets.
Yet do not imagine, reader, that all this is next
to an impossibility, that men will perish under many
nights of it. Men do not perish thus easily.
Nay even, when before dawn the fire has been set
alight, and the tea swallowed hot and strong, the
whole thing is nigh forgotten,  not unfrequently A COLD DA JT. 101
forgotten in the anticipations of a cold still more
trying in the day's journey which is before you.
Such was the case now. We had slept coldly,
and ere daylight the thermometer showed 32
degrees below zero. A strong wind swept through
the fir-trees from the north ; at daylight the wind
lulled, but every one seemed to anticipate a bad
day, and leather coats and capotes were all in use.
We set off at six o'clock. For a time calmness
reigned, but at sunrise the north wind sprang up
again, and the cold soon became more than one
could bear. Before mid-day we reached the
southern end of Lac He a la Crosse; before us to
the north lay nearly thirty miles of shelterless
lake, and down this great stretch of ice the wind
came with merciless severity.
We made a fire, drank a great deal of hot tea,
muffled up as best we could, and put out into the
lake. All that day I had been ill, and with no
little difficulty had managed to keep up with the
party. I do not think that I had, in the experience
of many bitter days of travel, ever felt such cold;
but I attributed this to illness more than to the
day's severity.
We held on; right in our teeth blew the bitter
blast, the dogs with low-bent heads tugged
steadily onward, the half-breeds and Indians
wrapped their blankets round: their heads, and 102
bending forward as they ran made their way
against the wind. To run was instantly to freeze
one's face; to lie on the sled was to chill through
the body to the very marrow. It was impossible
to face it long, and again we put in to shore, made
a fire, and boiled some tea.
At midday the sun shone, and the thermometer
stood at 26° below zero; the sun was utterly
powerless to make itself felt in the slightest degree; a drift of dry snow flew before the bitter
wind. Was this really great cold ? I often asked
myself. I had not long to wait for an answer.
My two fellow-travellers were perhaps of all men
in those regions best able to settle a question of
cold. One had spent nigh thirty years in many
parts of the Continent; the other had dwelt for
years within the Arctic Circle, and had travelled
the shores of the Arctic Ocean at a time when the
Esquimaux keep close within their greasy snow
huts. Both were renowned travellers in a land
where bad travellers were unknown : the testimony
of such men was conclusive, and for years they
had not known so cold a day.
11 doubt if I have ever felt greater cold than
this, even on the Anderson or the Mackenzie," said
the man who was so well acquainted with winter
hardship. After that I did not care so much; if
they felt it cold, if their cheeks grew white and iiMM-r-ff-WM
hard in the  bitter  blast, surely I could  afford
to freeze half my face and all my fingers to boot.
Yet at the time it was no laughing matter; to
look forward to an hour seemed an infinity of
pain. One rubbed and rubbed away at solid nose
and white cheek, but that only added one's fingers
to the list of iced things one had to carry.
At last the sun began to decline to the west, the
wind fell with it, the thick, low-lying drift disappeared, and it was possible by running hard to
restore the circulation. With dusk came a
magnificent Aurora; the sheeted light quivered
over the frozen lake like fleecy clouds of many
colours blown across the stars. Night had long
closed when we reached the warm shelter of the
shore, and saw the welcome lights of houses in the
gloom. Dogs barked, bolts rattled, men and
children issued from the snow-covered huts; and
at the door of his house stood my kind fellow-
traveller, the chief factor of the district, waiting
to welcome me to his fort of He a la Crosse.
The fort of He a la Crosse is a solitary spot.
Behind it spreads a land of worthless forest, a
region abounding in swamps and muskys, in
front the long arms of the Cruciform Lake. It is
not from its shape that the lake bears its name; in
the centre, where the four long arms meet, stands
an island, on the open shore of which tho Indians 104
in bygone times were wont to play their favourite
game of la Crosse. The game named the island,
and the island in turn gave its name to the lake.
The Beaver River enters the lake at the south-east,
and leaves it again on the north-west side. The
elevation of the lake above the level of Hudson's
Bay cannot be less than 1300 feet, so it is little
wonder if the wild winds of the north should have
full sweep across its frozen surface. The lake is well
stocked with excellentwhite fish, and by the produce
of the net the garrison of the fort is kept wholly in
food, about 130 large fish being daily consumed in it.
At a short distance from the fort stands the
French Mission. One of the earliest established
in the north, it has thrown out many branches
into more remote solitudes. Four ladies "of the
order of Grey Nuns have made their home here,
and their school already contains some thirty
children. If one wants to see what can be made
of a very limited space, one should visit this con-,
vent at He a, la Crosse; the entire building is a small
wooden structure, yet school, dormitory, oratory,
kitchen, and dining-room are all contained therein.
The sisters seemed happy and contented, chatted
gaily of the outside world, or of their far-away
homes in Lower Canada. Their present house was
only a temporary erection. In one fell night fire
had destroyed a larger
building, and consumed
their library, oratory, everything; and now its
ravages were being slowly repaired. Of course it
was an event to be long remembered, and the lady
who described to us the calamity seemed still to
feel the terror of the moment.
My long journey left me no time for delay, and
after one day's rest it became necessary to resume
the march.    The morning of the 21st February 1
found us again in motion.
We now numbered some five sleds; the Officer
in charge of the Athabasca district, the next to the
north, was still to be my fellow-traveller for nearly
400 miles to his post of Fort Chipewyan. All
dogs save mine were fresh ones, but Cerf-vola
showed not one sign of fatigue, and Spanker
was still strong and hearty. Pony was, however, betraying every indication of giving out, and
had long proved himself an arrant scoundrel.
Dogs were scarce in the North this year. A
distemper had swept over all the forts, and many
a trusty hauler had gone to the land where
harness is unknown.
Here, at He a la Crosse, I obtained an eighth
dog. This dog was Major; he was an Esquimaux
from Deer's Lake, the birth-place of Cerf-vola, and
he bore a very strong resemblance to my leader.
It is not unlikely that they were closely related,
perhaps brothers, who had thus,^after many wan- 106
derings, come together; but, be that as it may,
Cerf-vola treated his long-lost brother with evident
suspicion, and continued to-maintain towards all
outsiders a dogged demeanour.
Major's resemblance to the Untiring led to a
grievous error on the morning of my departure
from the fort.
It was  two  hours  before  daylight when the
dogs were put into harness; it was a morning of
bitter cold; a faint old moon hung in the east;
over the dim lake, a shadowy Aurora flickered
across the stars; it was as wild and cheerless a
sight as eye of mortal could look upon; and the
work of getting the poor unwilling dogs into
their harness was done by the Indians and half-
breeds in no amiable mood.
In the haste and darkness the Untiring was
placed last in the train which he had so long led,
the new-comer, Major, getting the foremost place.
Upon my assuming charge of the train, an ominous
tendency to growl and fight on the part of my
steer-dog told me something was wrong; it was
too dark to see plainly, but a touch of the Un-
tiring's nose told me that the right dog was in
the wrong place.
The mistake was quickly rectified, but, nevertheless, I fear its memory long rankled in the
mind of Cerf-vola, for allihat day, and for some FAMILY QUARRELS. 107
days after, he never missed an opportunity of
counter-marching suddenly in his harness and
prostrating the unoffending Major at his post of
steer-dog; the attack was generally made with so
much suddenness and vigour that Major instantly
capitulated, " turning a turtle" in his traces.
This unlooked-for assault was usually accompanied by a flank movement on the part of
Spanker, who, whenever there was anything in
the shape of fighting lying around, was sure to
have a tooth in it on his own account, being never
very particular as to whether he attacked the
head of the rear dog or the tail of his friend in
All this led at times to fearful confusion in my
train; they jumped on one another; they tangled
traces, and back-bands, and collar-straps into sad
knots and interlacings, which baffled my poor
frozen fingers to unravel. Often have I seen
them in a huge ball rolling over each other in the
snow, while the rapid application of my whip only
appeared to make matters worse, conveying the
idea to Spanker or the Untiring that they were
being badly bitten by an unknown belligerent.
lake the lady in Tennyson's " Princess," they
"mouthed and mumbled" each other in a very
perplexing manner, but, of course, from a cause
totally at variance from that which influenced the 108
matron in the poem. These events only occurred,
however, when a new dog was added to the train;
and, after a day or so, things got smoothed down,
and all tugged at the moose-skin collars in peaceful unanimity.
But to return. We started from He a la Crosse,
and held our way over a chain of lakes and rivers.
Riviere Cruise was passed, Lac Clair lay at sundown far stretching to our right into the blue cold
north, and when dusk had come, we were halted
for the night in a lonely Indian hut which stood
on the shores of the Detroit, fully forty miles
from our starting-place of the morning.
"A long, hard, cold day; storm, drift, and
desolation.    We are lost upon the lake."
Such is the entry which meets my eye as I
turn to the page of a scanty note-book which
records the 22nd of February; and now looking
back upon this day, it does not seem to me that
the entry exaggerates in its pithy summing up
the misery of the day's travel. To recount the
events of each day's journey, to give minutely,
starting-point, date, distance, and resting-place, is
too frequently an error into which travellers are
wont to fall. I have read somewhere in a review
of a work on African travel, that no literary skill
has hitherto been able to enliven the description of
how the traveller left a village of dirty negroes in
I II ffift
the morning, and struggled through swamps all
day, and crossed a river swarming with hippopotami, and approached a wood where there were
elephants, and finally got to another village of
dirty negroes in the evening. The reviewer is
right; the reiterated recital of Arctic cold and hardship, or of African heat and misery, must be as
wearisome to the reader as its realization was
painful to the writer; but the traveller has one
advantage over the reader, the reality of the
"storm, drift, and desolation" had the excitement of the very pain which they produced. To
be lost in a haze of blinding snow, to have a spur
of icy keenness urging one to fresh exertion, to
seek with dazed eyes hour after hour for a faint print
of snow shoes or mocassin on the solid surface of
a large lake, to see the night approaching and to
urge the dogs with whip and voice to fresh exertions, to greater efforts to gain some, distant land-
point ere night has wrapped the dreary scene in
darkness; all this doled out hour by hour in
narrative would be dull indeed.
To me the chief excitement lay in the question,
Will this trail lead to aught ? . Will we save
daylight to the shore? But to the reader the
fact is already patent that the trail did
something, and that the night did not find the
travellers still lost on the frozen lake. tl
Neither could the reader enter into the joy with
which, after such a day of toil and hardships, the
traveller sees in the gloom the haven he has
sought so long; it may be only a rude cabin with
windows cut from the snow-drift or the moose-
skin, it may be only a camp-fire in a pine clump,
but nevertheless the lost wanderer hails with a
feeling of intense joy the gleam which tells him of
a resting-place; and as he stretches his weary
limbs on the hut floor or the pine-bush, he laughs
and jests over the misfortunes, fatigues, and fears,
which but a short hour before were heartsicken-
ing enough.
It was with feelings such as this that I beheld
the lights of Riviere la Loche station on the night
of the 22nd of February; for, through an afternoon of intense cold and blinding drift, we had
struggled in vain to keep the track across the
Buffalo Lake. The guide had vanished in the
drift, and it was only through the exertions of my
companion after hours of toil that we were able
to regain the track, and reach, late on Saturday
evening, the warm shelter of the little post; a
small, clean room, a bright fire, a good supper, an
entire twenty-four hours of sleep, and rest in prospect. Is it any wonder that with such surroundings the hut at Riviere la Loche seemed a palace ?
And now each succeeding dav carried us further UNWELCOME NEIGHBOURS.
into the great wilderness of the north, over lakes
whose dim shores loomed through the driving
snow, and the ragged pines tossed wildly in the
wind; through marsh and musky and tangled
wood, and all the long monotony of dreary
savagery which lies on that dim ridge, from whose
sides the waters roll east to the Bay of Hudson,
north to the Frozen Ocean.
We reached the Methy Portage, and turned
north-west through a long region of worthless
forest. Now and again a wood Cariboo crossed the
track; a marten showed upon a frozen lake; but
no other sign of life was visible. The whole earth
seemed to sleep in savage desolation; the snow lay
deep upon the ground, and slowly we plodded on.
To rise at half-past two o'clock a.m., start at
four, and plod on until sunset, halting twice for
an hour during the day, this was the history of
each day's toil. Yet, with this long day of work,
we could only travel about twenty-five miles. In
front, along the track, went a young Chipewyan
Indian; then came a train of dogs floundering
deep in the soft snow; then the other trains
wound along upon firmer footing. Camp-making
in the evening in this deep snow was tedious work.
It was hard, too, to hunt up the various dogs in the
small hours of the morning, from their lairs in
snow-drift or beneath root of tree; but some dogs 112
kept uncomfortably close to camp, and I well
remember waking one night out of a deep sleep,
to find two huge beasts tearing each other to pieces
on the top of the buffalo bag in which I lay.
After three days of wearisome labour on this
summit ridge of the northern continent we reached
the edge of a deep glen, 700 feet below the plateau.
At the bottom of this valley a small river ran in
many curves between high-Wooded shores. The
sleds bounded rapidly down the steep descent, dogs
and loads rolling frequently in a confused heap
together. Night had fallen when we gained the
lower valley, and made a camp in the darkness
near the winding river; the height, of land was
passed, and the river in the glen was the Clearwater of the Athabasca.
I have before spoken of the life of hardship to
which the wintering agents of the Hudson's Bay
Company are habituated, nor was I without some
practical knowledge of the subject to Which I
have alluded. I had now, however, fall opportunity of judging the measure of toil contained in
the simple encomium one often utters in the north,
| He is a good traveller."
Few men have led, even in the hard regions of
the north, a life of greater toil than Mr. Roderick
Macfarlane. He had left his island home when
almost a boy, and in earliest manhood had entered
the remote wilds of the Mackenzie River. For
seventeen years he had remained cut off from the
outer world; yet his mind had never permitted
itself to sink amidst the oppressive solitudes by
which he was surrounded: it rose rather to the
level of the vastness and grandeur which Nature
wears even in her extreme of desolation.
He entered with vigour, into the life of toil before
him. By no means of a strong constitution or
frame of body, he nevertheless fought his way to
hardiness; midst cold and darkness and scant
living, the natural accompaniments of remote
travel, he traversed the country between the Peel,
Mackenzie, and Liard rivers, and pushed his explorations to the hitherto unknown River Anderson.
Here, on the borders of the Barren Ground, and far
within the Arctic Circle, he founded the most
northern and remote of all the trading stations of
the Fur Company. In mid-winter he visited the
shores of the Frozen Ocean, and dwelt with the •
Esquimaux along the desolate coasts of that bay
■which bears the name of England's most hapless
Nor was it all a land of desolation to him.
Directed by a mind as sanguine as his own,1 he
1 The late Major McKennicot, U.S.A., who, in charge of
the United States telegraph exploration, died at Fort Yukon,
I 111!
■ 1 m
entered warmly into the pursuits of natural history, and classed and catalogued the. numerous
birds which seek in summer these friendless regions,
proving in some instances the range of several of
the tiniest of the feathered wanderers to reach
from Texas to the Arctic shores.
All his travels were performed on snow shoes, ■
driving his train of dogs, or beating the track for
them in the snow. In a single winter, as I have
before mentioned, he passed from the Mackenzie
River to the Mississippi, driving the same train of
dogs to Fort Garry, fully 2000 miles from his
starting-point; and it was early in the following
summer, on his return from England after a hasty
yisit, the first during twenty years, that I made
his acquaintance in the American State of Minnesota. He was not only acquainted with all the
vicissitudes of northern travel, but his mind was
well stored with the history of previous exploration. Chance and the energy of the old North-
West Company had accumulated a large store of
valuable books in the principal fort on the Mackenzie. These had been carefully studied during
periods of inaction, and arctic exploration in
reality or in narrative was equally familiar to him.
11 would have given my right arm to have
been allowed to go on one of these search- expeditions," he often  said to me;   and perhaps, if A BEAUTIFUL MORNING.
those wise and sapient men, who, acting in a corporate or individual capacity, have the power of
selection for the work of relief or exploration,
would only accustom themselves to make choice
of such materials, the bones that now dot the
sands of King William's Land or the estuary of
the Great Fish River, might in the flesh yet move
amongst us.
One night we were camped on a solitary island
in the Swan Lake. The camp had been made
after sunset, and as the morning's path lay across
the lake, over hard snow where no track was
necessary, it was our intention to start on our way
long before daybreak. In this matter of early
starting it is almost always impossible to rely on
the Indian or the half-breed voyageur. They wall
lie close hid beneath their blankets, unless, indeed,
the cold should become so intense as to force them
to arise and light a fire; but, generally speaking,
they will lie huddled so closely together that they
can defy the elements, and it becomes no easy
matter to arouse them from their pretended slumbers at two or three o'clock of a dead-cold morning. My companion, however, seemed to be able
to five without sleep. At two o'clock he would
arise from his deer-skin robe and set the camp
astir. I generally got an hour's law until the fire
was fairly agoing and the tea-kettle had been boiled*
I 2 116
No matter what the morning was, he never
complained. This morning on Swan Lake was
bitterly cold—30° below zero at my head.
| Beautiful morning!" he exclaimed,' as I
emerged from my buffalo robe at three o'clock;
and he really meant it.    I was not to be done.
" Oh, delightful! " I managed to chatter forth,
with a tolerable degree of acquiescence in my
voice, a few mental reservations and many bodily
ones all over me.
But 30° below zero, unaccompanied by wind, is
not so bad after all when one is fairly under weigh
and has rubbed one's nose for a time, and struck
the huge "mittained" hands violently together,
and run a mile or so; but let the faintest possible
breath of wind arise—a " zephyr" the poets
would call it, a thing just strong enough to turn
smoke or twist the feather which a wild duck
might detach from beneath his wing as he cleft
the air above—then look out, or rather look down,
cast the eye so much askant that it can catch a
glimpse of the top of the nose, and you will see a
ghostly sight.
We have all heard of hard hearts, and stony
eyes, and marble foreheads, alabaster shoulders,
snovfy necks, and firm-set lips, and all the long
array of silicious sinulitudes used to express the
various qualities of the human form divine; but
firmer, and colder, and whiter, and harder than
all stands forth prominently a frozen nose.
A study of frozen noses would be interesting;
one could work out from it an essay on the
admirable fitness of things, and even history read
by the light of frozen noses might teach us new
theories. The Roman nose could not have stood
an arctic winter, hence the limits of the Roman
empire. The Esquimaux nose is admirably fitted
for the climate in which it breathes, hence the
limited nature it assumes. 118
The Clearwater.—A bygone Ocean.—A Land of Lakes.—The
Athabasca River.—Who is he ?—Chipewyan Indians.—
Echo.—Major succumbs at last.—Mai de Raquette.
The Clearwater, a river small in a land where
rivers are often a mile in width, meanders between
its lofty wooded hills; or rather one should say,
meanders in the deep valley which it has worn for
itself through countless ages.
Ever since the beginning of the fur trade it
has been the sole route followed into the North.
More practicable routes undoubtedly exist, but
hitherto the Long Portage (a ridge dividing the
waters of the chain of lakes and rivers we have
lately passed from those streams which seek the
Arctic Ocean) and the Clearwater River have
formed as it were the gateway of the North.
This Long Portage, under its various names of
La Loche and Methy, is not a bad position from
whence to take a bird's-eye view of the Great
Once upon a time, how long ago one is afraid
to say (some Right Reverend gentlemen being as
particular about the age of Mother Earth as an
elderly female is anxious on the score of years
about the Census times), a great sea rolled over
what is now the central continent. From the
Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean, from the
Gulf of St. Lawrence to the base of the Rocky
Mountains, this ocean has left its trace. It had
its shores, and to-day these shores still show the
trace of where the restless waves threw their surge
upon the earlier earth. To the eye of the geologist
the sea-shell, high cast upon some mountain ridge,
tells its story of the sea as plainly as the tropic
sea-shell, held to the dreamer's ear, whispers its
low melody of sounding billow'.
To the east of this ocean the old earth reared
its iron head in those grim masses which we name
Laurentian, and which, as though conscious of
their hoary age, seem to laugh at the labour of
the new comer, man.
The waters went down, or the earth went up,
it little matters which ; and the river systems of
the continent worked their ways into Mother
Ocean: the Mississippi south, the St. Lawrence
east, the Mackenzie north. But the old Laurentian
still remained, and to-day, grim, filled with wild
lakes, pine-clad, rugged, almost impassable it lies, 120
spread in savage sleep from Labrador to the Arctic
At the Methy Portage we are on the western
boundary of this Laurentian rock; from here it
runs south-east to Canada,, north to the Frozen
It is of the region lying between this primary
formation and the Rocky Mountains, the region
once an ocean, of which we would speak.
I have said in an earlier chapter that the
continent of British America, from the United
States' boundary, slopes to the north-east, the
eastern slope terminates at this Portage la Loche,
and henceforth the only slope is to the north;
from here to the Frozen Sea, one thousand miles,
as wild swan flies, is one long and gradual descent.
Three rivers carry the waters of this slope into
the Arctic Ocean; the great Fish River of Sir
George Back, at the estuary of which the last
of Franklin's gallant crew lay down to die;
the Coppermine of Samuel Hearne; and the
Mackenzie which tells its discoverer's name. The
first two flow through the Barren Grounds, the
last drains by numerous tributaries, seventeen
hundred miles of the Rocky Mountains upon both
sides of that snow-capped range. All its principal
feeders rise beyond the mountains, cutting through
the range  at right angles, through  tremendous
O O o        ? o A  LAND  OF   LAKES. 121
valleys, the sides of which overhang the gloomy
The Liard, the Peel, the Peace rivers, all have
their sources to the west of the Rocky Mountains.
Even the parent rill of the Great Athabasca is on
the Pacific side also. Nor is this mountain, thus
curiously rent in twain by large rivers, a mere
ridge, or lofty table-land; but huge and vast,
capped by eternal snow, it lifts its peaks full fifteen
thousand feet above the sea level.
Many large lakes lie spread over this ancient
sea bottom; Lake Athabasca, Great Slave, and
Great Bear Lake continue across the continent,
that great Lacustrine line, which, with Winnipeg,
Superior, Huron, and Ontario, forms an aggregate
of water surface larger than Europe.
Of other lakes, the country is simply a vast network, beyond all attempt at name or number; of
every size, from a hundred yards to a hundred
miles in length, they lie midst prairie, or midst
forest, lonely and silent, scarce known even to the
wild man's ken.
And now, having thus imperfectly tried to bring
to the reader's mind a vision of this vast North,
let us descend from the height of land into the
deep valley of the Clearwater, and like it, hurry
onward to the Athabasca.
Descending  the  many-curving Clearwater for 122
i il 11
one day, we reached, on the last day of February,
its junction with the Athabasca, a spot known as
the Forks of the Athabasca.    The aspect of the
country had undergone a complete  change;  the
dwarf and ragged forest had given place to lofty
trees, and the white spruce from a trunk of eight
feet in  circumference lifted its  head fully one
hundred and fifty feet above the ground.     Nor
was it. only the aspect of the trees that might have
induced one to imagine himself in a land of plenty.
In the small fort at the Forks, luxuries unseen
during many a day met the eye; choice vegetables,
the produce of the garden; moose venison, and
better than  all,  the  tender  steak  of  the wood
buffalo, an animal now growing rare in the North.
There was salmon too, and pears and peaches;
but these latter luxuries I need hardly say were
not home produce; they came from the opposite
extremes of Quebec and California.    Here, then,
in the midst of the wilderness was  a veritable
Eden.     Here was a place to cry Halt, to build
a hut, and pass the remainder of one's life.    No
more   dog-driving,   no   more    snow    shoes,   no
smoky  camp,  no  aching feet,   no  call in midnight; nothing but endless wood buffalo steaks,
fried onions, moose moofle, parsnips, fresh butter,
rest and sleep : alas ! it might not be; nine hundred
miles yet lay between me and the Rocky Moun- THE  ATHABASCA  RIVER.
tains; nine hundred miles had still to be travelled,
ere the snow had left bare the brown banks of the
Peace River.
And now our course led straight to the north,
down the broad bed of the Athabasca. A river
high shored, and many islanded, with long reaches,
leagues in length, and lower banks thick wooded
with large forest trees.
From bank to bank fully six hundred yards of
snow lay spread over the rough frozen surface;
and at times, where the prairie plateau approached
the river's edge, black bitumen oozed out of the
clayey bank, and the scent of tar was strong upon
the frosty air.
On Sunday, the 2nd of March, we remained
for the day in a wood of large pines and poplars.
Dogs and men enjoyed that day's rest. Many
were footsore, some were sick, all were tired.
I The Bheel is a black man, and much more
hairy; he carries archers in his hand, with these
he shoots you when he meets you; he throws
your body into a ditch: by this you wall know
the Bheel." Such, word for word, was the
written reply of a young Hindoo at an examination
of candidates for a Government Office in Bombay
a few years ago. The examiners had asked for a
description of the hill-tribe known as Bheels, and
this was the answer.    It is not on record what' 124
number of marks the youthful Brahmin received
for the information thus lucidly conveyed, or
whether the examiners were desirous of making
further acquaintance with the Bheel, upon the
terms indicated in the concluding sentence; but,
for some reason or other, the first sight of a
veritable Chipewyan Indian brought to my mind
the foregoing outline of the Bheel, and I found
myself insensibly repeating, " The Chipewyan is
a red man, and much more hairy.'' There I stopped,
for he did not carry archers in his hand, nor
proceed in the somewhat abrupt and discourteous
manner which characterized the conduct of the
Bheel. And here, perhaps, it will be necessary to
say a few words about the wild man who dwells
in this Northern Land.
A great deal has been said and written about
the wild man of America. The white man during
many years has lectured upon him, wrritten learned
essays upon him, phrenologically proved him this,
chronologically demonstrated him that, ethnologi-
cally asserted him to be the tother! I am not sure
that the conchologists even have not thrown a
shell at him, and most clearly shown that he was
a conglomerate of this, that, and tother all combined. They began to dissect him very early.
One Hugh Grotius had much to say about him
a long time ago.    Another  Jean de Leut also WHO IS  HE? 125
descanted upon him, and so far back as the year
of grace 1650, one Thorogood (what a glimpse
the date gives of the name and the name of the
date!) composed a godly treatise entitled " Jews in
America, or a probability that Americans are of that
race." Perhaps, if good Master Thorogood was in
the flesh to-day he might, arguing from certain
little dealings in boundary cases, consequential
claims and so forth, prove incontestably that
modern American statesmen were of that race too.
But to proceed. This question of the red man's
origin has not yet been solved; the doctors are
still disputing about him. One professor has
gotten hold of a skull delved from the presumed
site of ancient Atazlan, and by the most careful
measurements of the said skull has proceeded to
show that because one skull measures in circumference the hundredth and seventy-seventh decimal
of an inch more than it ought, it must of necessity
be of the blackamoor type of headpiece.
Another equally learned professor, possessed of
another equally curious skull (of course on shelf
not on shoulders), has unfortunately come to
conclusions directly opposite, and incontestably
proven from careful occipital measurements that
the type is Mongolian.
While thus the doctors differ as to what he is,
or who he is, or whence he came, the force of 126
theory changes to the stern tragedy of fact; and
over the broad prairie, and upon the cloud-capped
mountain, and northwards in the gloomy pine-
forest, the red man wdthers and dies out before
our gaze: soon they will have nothing but the
skulls to lecture upon.
From the Long Portage which we have but
O o
lately crossed, to the barren shores where dwell
the Esquimaux of the coasts, a family of cognate
tribes inhabit the continent; from east to west
the limits of this race are even more extensive.
They are found at Churchill, on Hudson's Bay,
and at Fort Simpson, on the rugged coast of
New Caledonia. But stranger still, far down in
Arizona and Mexico, even as far south as Nicaragua, the guttural language of the Chipewyan
race is still heard, and the wild Navago and fierce
Apache horseman of the Mexican plains are kindred races with the distant fur-hunters of the
North. Of all the many ramifications of Indian
race, this is perhaps the most extraordinary.
Through what vicissitudes of war and time, an
offshoot from the shores of Athabasca wandered
down into Mexico, while a hundred fierce, foreign,
warlike tribes occupied the immense intervening
distance, is more than human conjecture can
To the east of the Rocky Mountains these races CHIPEWYAN INDIANS. 127
call themselves "Tumeh," which signifies
I People," with that sublimity of ignorance which
makes most savage people imagine themselves the
sole proprietors of the earth. Many subdivisions
exist among them; these are the Copper Indians,
and the Dog Ribs of the Barren Grounds; the
Loucheux or Kutchins, a fierce tribe on the Upper
Yukon; the Yellow Knives, Hares, Nehanies,
Sickanies, and Dahas of the Mountains and the
Mackenzie River; the Slaves,of the Great Slave
Lake; the Chipewyans of Lake Athabasca, and
Portage la Loche, the Beavers of the Peace River.
West of the Rocky Mountains, the Carriers,
still a branch of the Chipewyan stock, intermingle with the numerous Atnah races of the
coast. On the North Saskatchewan, a small wild
tribe called the Surcees also springs from this
great family, and as we have already said, nearly
three thousand miles far down in the tropic plains
of Old Mexico, the harsh, stuttering "tch"
accent grates upon the ear. Spread over such a
vast extent of country it may be supposed they
vary much in physiognomy. Bravery in men
and beauty in women are said to go hand in
hand. Of the courage of the Chipewyan men
-I shall say nothing; of the beauty of the
women I shall say something. To assert that
they are   very plain would not be true ;   they 128
are undeniably ugly. Some of the young ones
are very fat; all of the old ones are very thin.
Many of the faces are pear-shaped; narrow foreheads, wide cheeks, small deep-set fat eyes. The
type is said to be Mongolian, and if so, the
Mongolians should change their type as soon as
Several of the men wear sickly-looking moustaches, and short, pointed chin tufts; the hair,
coarse and matted, is worn long. The children
look like rolls of fat, half melted on the outside.
Their general employment seems to be eating
moose meat, when they are not engaged in deriving nourishment from the maternal bosom.
This last occupation is protracted to an advanced
age of childhood, a circumstance which probably
arises from the fact that the new-born infant
receives no nourishment from its mother for four
days after its birth, in order that it shall in after
life be able to stand the pangs of hunger; but the
infant mind is no doubt conscious itself that it is
being robbed of its just rights, and endeavours to
make up for lost time by this postponement of
the age of weaning.
This description does not hold good of the
Beaver Indians of Peace River; many of them,
men and women, are good-looking enough, but of
them more anon. FEASTING  AND  FASTING. 129
All these tribes are excellent hunters. The
moose in the south and wooded country, the
reindeer in the barren lands, ducks and geese in
vast numbers during.the summer, and, generally
speaking, inexhaustible fish in the lakes yield them
their means of living. At times, one prodigious
feast; again, a period of starvation.
For a time living on moose nose, or buffalo
tongue, or daintiest tit-bit of lake and forest;
and then glad to get a scrap of dry meat, or a
putrid fish to satisfy the cravings of their hunger.
While the meat lasts, life is a long dinner. The
child just able to crawl is seen with one hand
holding the end of a piece of meat, the other end
of which is held between the teeth; while the right
hand wields a knife a foot in length, with which
it saws steadily, between lips and fingers, until
the mouthful is detached. How the nose escapes
amputation is a mystery I have never heard explained.
A few tents of Chipewyans were pitched along
the shores of the Athabasca River, when we
descended that stream. They had long been
expecting the return of my companion, to whose
arrival they looked as the means' of supplying
them with percussion gun-caps, that article having
been almost exhausted among them.
Knowing the hours at which he was wont to
K 130
travel they had marked their camping-places on
the wooded shores, by planting a line of branches
in the snow across the river from one side to the
other. Thus even at night it would have been
impossible to pass their tents without noticing the
line of marks. The tents inside or out always
presented the same .spectacle. Battered-looking
does of all ages  surrounded the dwelling-place.
In the trees or on a stage, meat, snow-shoes, and
dog sleds, lay safe from canine ravage. Inside,
some ten or twelve people congregated around a
bright fire burning in the centre. The lodge was
usually large, requiring a dozen moose skins in its
construction. Quantities of moose or buffalo
meat, cut into slices, hung to dry in the upper
smoke. The inevitable puppy dog playing with a
stick; the fat, greasy child pinching the puppy
dog, drinking on all fours out of a tin pan, or
sawing away at a bit of meat; and the women,
old or young, cooking or nursing with a naivete
which Rubens would have delighted in. All these
made up a Chipewyan " Interior," such as it
appeared wherever we halted in our march, and
leaving our dogs upon the river, went up into the
tree-covered "shore to where the tents stood
Anxious to learn the amount of game destroyed
by a good hunter in a season, I caused one of the ECHO.
men to ask Chripo what he had killed. Chripo
counted for a time on his fingers, and then informed us that since the snow fell he had killed
ten wood buffalo and twenty-five moose; in o;her
words, about seventeen thousand pounds of meat,
during four months. But of this a large quantity
went to the Hudson's Bay Fort, at the Forks of
the Athabasca.
The night of the 4th of March found us camped
in a high wood, at a point where a " cache :' of
provisions had been made for ourselves and our
dogs. More than a fortnight earlier these provisions had been sent from Fort Chipewyan, on
Lake Athabasca, and had been deposited in the
I cache " to await my companion's arrival. A Dag
of fish for the dogs, a small packet of letters, and
a bag of good things for the master swung from a
large tripod close to the shore. Some of these
things were very necessary, all were welcome, and
after a choice supper we turned in for the night.
At four o'clock next morning we were off. My
friend led the march, and the day was to be a long
one. For four hours we held on, and by an hour
after sunrise we had reached a hut, where dwelt a
Chipewyan named Echo. The house was deserted,
and if anybody had felt inclined to ask, Where had
Echo gone to ? Echo was not there to answer
where.    Nobody, however, felt disposed to ask the
k 2 132
question, but in lieu thereof dinner was being hastily
got ready in Echo's abandoned fireplace. Dinner ?
Yes, our first dinner took place usually between
seven and eight o'clock a.m. Nor were appetites
ever wanting at that hour either.
Various mishaps, of broken snow-shoe and
broken-down dog,.had retarded my progress on
this morning, and by the time the leading train
had reached Echo's I was far behind. One of
my dogs had totally given out, not Cerf-vola,
but the He a, la Crosse dog " Major." Poor brute !
he had suddenly lain down, and refused to move.
He was a willing, good hauler, generally barking
vociferously whenever any impediment in front
detained the trains. I saw at once it was useless
to coerce him after his first break-down, so there
was nothing for it but to take him from the harness and hurry on with the other three dogs as
best I could. Of the old train which had shared
my fortunes ever since that now distant day in the
storm, on the Red River steam-boat, two yet
remained to me.
Pony had succumbed at the Riviere la Loche,
and had been left behind at that station, to revel
in an abundance of white fish. The last sight I
got of him was suggestive of his character. He
was careering wildly across the river with a huge
stolen white fish in his mouth, pursued by two men *,
and half-a-dozen dogs, vainly attempting to recapture the purloined property. Another dog, named
I Sans Pareil," had taken his place, and thus far
we had " marched on into the bowels of the land
without impediment."
From the day after my departure from He a la
Crosse I had regularly used snow-shoes, and now
I seldom sought the respite of the sled, but trudged
along behind the dogs. I well knew. that it was
only by sparing my dogs thus that I could hope
to carry them the immense distance I purposed to
travel; and I was also aware that a time might
come when, in the many vicissitudes of snow travel,
I would be unable to walk, and have to depend
altgoether on my train for means of movement.
So, as day by day the snow-shoe became easier, I
had tramped along, until now, on this 5th of March,
I could look back at nigh three hundred miles of
steady walking.
Our meal at Echo's over we set out again. Another four hours passed without a halt, and another
sixteen or seventeen miles lay behind us. Then
came the second dinner—cakes, tea, and sweet
pemmican; and away we went once more upon
the river. The day was cold, but fine ; the dogs
trotted well, and the pace was faster than before.
Two Indians had started ahead to hurry on to a
spot,  indicated by my  companion,  where they \ I
were to make ready the camp, and await our
Night fell, and found us still upon the river.
A bright moon silvered the snow; we pushed
along, but the dogs were now tired, all, save my
train, which having only blankets, guns, and a few
articles to carry, went still as gamely as ever. At
sundown our baggage sleds were far to the rear.
My companion driving a well-loaded sled led the
way, while I kept close behind him.
For four hours after dark we held steadily on ;
the night was still, but very cold; the moon showed
us the track; dogs and men seemed to go forward
from the mere impulse of progression. I had been
tired hours before, and had got over it; not half-
tired, but regularly weary; and yet somehow or
other the feeling of weariness had passed away,
and one stepped forward upon the snow-shoe by a
mechanical effort that seemed destitute of sense or
At last we left the river, and ascended a steep
bank to the left, passing into the shadow of gigantic
pines. Between their giant trunks the moonlight slanted; and the snow, piled high on forest
wreck, glowed lustrous in the fretted light. A
couple of miles more brought us suddenly to the
welcome glare of firelight, and at ten o'clock at
night we reached the blazing camp.     Eighteen %
.   MAL  DE  RAQUETTE. 135
hours earlier we had started for the day's march,
and only during two hours had we halted on the
road. We had, in fact, marched steadily during
sixteen hours, twelve of which had been at rapid
pace. The distance run that day is unmeasured,
and is likely to remain so for many a day; but at
the most moderate estimate it would not have
been less than fifty-six miles. It was the longest
day's march I ever made, and I had cause long to
remember it, for on arising at daybreak next morning I was stiff with Mai de Raquette.
In the North, Mai de Raquette or no Mai de
Raquette, one must march; sick or sore, or
blistered, the traveller must frequently still push
on. Where all is a wilderness, progression
frequently means preservation; and delay is
tantamount to death.
In our case, however, no such necessity existed;
but as we were only some twenty-five miles
distant from the great central distributing point
of the Northern Fur Trade, it was advisable to
reach it vrithout delay. Once again we set out:
debouching from the forest we entered a large
marsh. Soon a lake, with low-lying shores, spread
before us. Another marsh, another frozen river,
and at last, a vast lake opened out upon our gaze.
Islands, rocky, and clothed with pine-trees, rose
from the snowy surface.    To the east, nothing 136
but a vast expanse of ice-covered sea, with a
blue, cold sky-line; to the north, a shore of rocks
and hills, wind-swept, and part covered -with
dwarf firs, and on the rising shore, the clustered
buildings of a large fort, with a red flag flying
above them in the cold north blast.
The "lake" was Athabasca, the "clustered
buildings" Fort Chipewyan, and the Flag—well;
we all know it; but it is only when the wanderer's
eye meets it in some lone spot like this that he
turns to it, as the emblem of a Home which
distance has shrined deeper in his heart. ATHABASCA.
Lake Athabasca.—Northern Lights.—Chipewyan.—The real
Workers of the World.
Athabasca, or more correctly " Arabascon,"
" The Meeting-place of many Waters," is a large
lake. At this fort of Chipewyan we stand near
its western end. Two hundred miles away to
the east, its lonely waters still lave against the
granite rocks.
Whatever may be the work to which he turns
hand or brain, an Indian seldom errs. If he
names a lake or fashions a piece of bark to sail its
waters, both will fit the work for which they were
" The meeting-place of many waters " tells the
story of Athabasca. In its bosom many rivers
unite their currents; and from its north-western
rim pours the Slave River, the true Mackenzie. Its
first English discoverer called it the " Lake of the
Hills;" a more appropriate title would have been
" The Lake of the Winds," for fierce and wild the
storms sweep over its waves. I
Over the Lake Athabasca the Northern Lights
hold their highest revels. They flash, and dance,
and stream, and intermingle, and wave together
their many colours like the shapes and hues of a
kaleidoscope. Sometimes the long columns of
light seem to rest upon the silent, frozen shores,
stretching out their rose-tipped tops to touch the
zenith; again the lines of light traverse the sky
from east to west as a hand might sweep the
Chords of some vast harp, and from its touch
would flow light instead of music. So quickly
run the colours along these shafts, that the ear
listens instinctively for sound in the deep stillness
of the frozen solitude; but sound I have never
heard. Many a time I have listened breathless to
catch the faintest whisper of these wondrous
lightnings; they were mute as the waste that
lay around me.
Figures convey but a poor idea Of cold, yet they
are the only means we have, and by a comparison
of figures some persons, at least, will understand
the cold of an Athabascan winter. The citadel of
Quebec has the reputation of being a cold winter
residence ; its mean temperature for the month of
January is 11° 7' Fahr.' The mean temperature of
the month, of January, 1844, at Fort Chipewyan,
was 22° 74', or nearly 30° colder, and during the
preceding month of December the wind blew with
ill V
a total pressure of one thousand one hundred and
sixty pounds to the square foot.
It is perhaps needless to say more about the
rigour of an Athabascan winter.
As it is the " meeting-place of many waters "
so also is it the meeting-place of many systems.
Silurian and Devonian approach it from the
west. Laurentian still holds five-sixths of its
waters in the same grasp as when what is now
Athabasca lay a deep fiord along the ancient ocean
shore. The old rock caught it to his rough heart
then, and when in later ages the fickle waves
which so long had kissed his lips left him stern
and lonely, he still held the clear, cold lake to his
iron bosom.
Athabasca may be said to ma,rk also the limits
of some great divisions of the animal kingdom.
The reindeer and that most curious relic of an
older time, the musk ox, come down near its
north-eastern shores, for there that bleak region
known as the " Barren Grounds " is but a few miles
distant. These animals never pass to the southern
end of the lake; the Cariboo, or reindeer of the
woods, being a distinct species from that which
inhabits the treeless waste. The wood buffalo
and the moose are yet numerous on the northwest and south-west shores : but of these things
we shall have more to say anon. 140
All through the summer, from early May to mid-
October, the shores of the lake swarm with wild
geese, and the twilight midsummer midnight is
filled with the harsh sounds of the cries of the
snow goose, or the " wavy " flying low over their
favourite waters.
In early days Chipewyan was an important
centre of the fur trade, and in later times it has
been made the starting-point of many of the
exploratory parties to the northern coast. From
Old Fort Chipewyan Mackenzie set forth to
explore the great northern river, and to the same
place he returned when first of all men north of.
the 40th parallel he had crossed in the summers of
1792-93 the continent to the Pacific Ocean.
It was from New Fort Chipewyan that Simpson
set  out  to  trace  the  coast-line   of   the  Arctic
Ocean; and earlier than either, it was from Fond
du Lac, at the eastern end of Fort Athabasca,
that Samuel Hearne wandered forth to reach the
Arctic Sea.
To-day it is useful to recall these stray items of
adventure from the past in which they lie buried.
It has been said by some one that a " nation cannot
be saved by a calculation;" neither can she be
made by one.
If to-day we are what we are, it is because a
thousand men in bygone times did not stop to THE REAL WORKERS OF   THE WORLD.
count the cost. The decline of a nation differs
from that of an individual in the first symptoms
of its decay. The heart of the nation goes first,
the extremities still remain vigorous. France,
with many a gallant soul striking hard for her in
the Carnatic or in Canada, sickens in the pomp and
luxury of Versailles, and has nothing to offer to
her heroes but f orgetf ulness, debt, or the rack. Her
colonial history was one long tissue of ingratitude.
Bimcourt, De Chastes, Yarrene de la Verendrie,
or Lally might fight and toil and die, what cared
the selfish heart of old France ? The order of St.
Louis long denied, and 40,000 fivres of debt
rewarded the discovery of the- Rocky Mountains.
Frenchmen gave to France a continent. France
thought little of the gift, and fate took it back
again. History sometimes repeats itself. There is
a younger if not a greater Britain waiting quietly
to reap the harvest of her mother's mistakes.
But to Chipewyan. It is emphatically a lonely
spot; in summer the cry of the wild bird keeps
time to the lapping of the wave on the rocky
shore, or the pine islands rustle in the western
breeze ; nothing else moves over these 8000 square
miles of crystal water.     Now and again at long"
** o o
intervals the beautiful canoe of a Chipewyan
glides along the bay-indented shores, or crosses
some traverse in the open lake. 142
When Samuel Hearne first looked upon the
I Arabascon," buffalo were very numerous along
its southern shore, to-day they are scarce; all else
rests as then in untamed desolation. At times
this west end of the lake has been the scene of
strange excitements. Men came from afar and
pitched their tents awhile on these granite shores,
ere they struck deeper into the heart of the great
north. Mackenzie, Franklin, Back, Richardson,
Simpson, Rae, rested here; on piercing further
into unknown wilds, they flew the red-cross flag-
o'er seas and isles upon whose shores no human
foot had pressed a sand-print.
Eight hundred' thousand pounds sunk in the
Arctic Sea! will exclaim my calculating friend
behind the national counter; nearly a million gone
for ever! No, head cash-keeper, you are wrong.
That million of money will bear interest higher
than all your little speculations in times not far
remote, and in times lying deep in the misty
future. In hours when life and honour lie at
different sides of the " to do " or | not to do,"
men will go back to times when other men battling
with nature or with man, cast their veto on the
side of honour, and by the white light thrown into
the future from the great dead Past, they will
read their roads where many paths commingle. A HUDSON S BAY FORT.
A Hudson's Bay Fort.—It comes at last.—News from the
outside world.—Tame and wild Savages.—Lac Clair.—A
treacherous deed.—Harper.
The term' " Fort" which so frequently occurs in
these pages may perhaps convey an erroneous
impression to the reader's mind. An imposing
array of rampart and .bastion, a loop-holed wall or
formidable fortalice may arise before his mind's
eye as he reads the oft-recurring word. Built
generally upon the lower bank of a large river or
lake, but sometimes perched upon the loftier outer
bank, stands the Hudson's Bay Fort. A square
palisade, ten to twenty feet high, surrounds the
buildings; in the prairie region this defence is
stout and lofty, but in the wooded country it is
frequently dispensed with altogether. •
Inside the stockade some half-dozen houses are
grouped together in square or oblong form. The
house of the   Bourgeois and Clerks, the store 144
wherein are kept the blankets, coloured cloths,
guns, ammunition, bright handkerchiefs, ribbons,
beads, &c, the staple commodities of the Indian
trade; another store for furs and peltries, a
building from the beams of which hang myriads
of skins worth many a gold piece in the marts of
far-away London city;—martens and minks, and
dark otters, fishers and black foxes, to say
nothing of bears and beavers, and a host of less
valuable furs. Then came the houses of the
Lounging at the gate, or on the shore in front,
one sees a half-breed in tasselated cap, or a group
of Indians in blanket robes or dirty-white cap6tes;
everybody is smoking; the pointed poles of a
wigwam or two rise on either side of the outer
palisades, and over all there is the tapering flagstaff. A horse is in the distant river meadow.
Around the great silent hills stand bare, or fringed
with jagged pine tops, and some few hundred
yards away on either side, a rude cross or wooden
railing blown over by the tempest, discoloured by
rain or snow-drift, marks the lonely resting-place
of the dead.
• Wild, desolate and remote are these isolated
trading spots, yet it is difficult to describe the
feelings with which one beholds them across some
ice-bound lake, or silent river as the dog trains IT  COMES AT LAST.
wind slowly amidst the snow. Coming in from
the wilderness, from the wrack of tempest, and
the bitter cold, wearied with long marches, footsore or frozen, one looks upon the wooden house
as some palace of rest and contentment.
I doubt if it be possible to know more acute
comfort, for its measure is exactly the measure of
that other extremity of discomfort which excessive
cold and hardship have carried with them. Nor
does that feeling of home and contentment lose
aught for want of a welcome at the threshold
of the lonely resting-place. Nothing is held too
good for the wayfarer; the best bed and the best
supper are his. He has, perhaps, brought letters
or messages from long absent friends, or he comes
with news of the outside world; but be he the
bearer of such things, or only the chance carrier
of his own fortunes, he is still a welcome visitor to
the Hudson's Bay Fort.
Three days passed away in rest, peace, and
plenty. It was nearing the time when another
start would be necessary, for after all, this Athabascan Fort was scarce a half-way house in my
winter journey. The question of departure was
not of itself of consequence, but the prospect of
leaving for a long sojourn in deeper solitudes,
without one word of news from the outside world,
without that winter packet to which we had all
L 146
looked so long, was something more than a mere
All this time we had been travelling in advance
of the winter packet, and as our track left a
smooth road for whatever might succeed us, we
reckoned upon being overtaken at some point of
the journey by the faster travelling express.
Such had not been the case, and now three days
had passed since our arrival without a sign of an
in-coming dog-train darkening the expanse of the
frozen lake.
The morning of the 4th of March, however,
brought a change. Far away in the hazy drift and
I poudre " which hung low upon the surface of the
lake, the figures of two men and one sled of dogs
became faintly visible. Was it only Antoine
Larungeau, a solitary "Freeman" from theQuatre
Fourche, going Like a good Christian to his prayers
at the French Mission? Or was it the much-
wished-f or packet ?
It soon declared itself; the dogs were steering
for the fort, and not for the mission. Larungeau
might be an indifferent church member, but had
the whole college of cardinals been lodged at
Chipewyan they must have rejoiced that it was
not Larungeau going to mass, and that it was the
winter packet coming to the fort.
What reading we had on that Sunday afternoon! Ml
News from the far-off busy world; letters from
the far-off quiet home; tidings of great men passed
away from the earth ; glad news and sorry news,
borne through months of toil 1500 miles over the
winter waste.
And now came a short busy time at the fort. A
redistribution of the packet had to be made. On
to the north went a train of dogs for the distant
Yukon; on to the west went a train of dogs for
the head of the Peace River. In three days more
I made ready to resume my journey up the Peace'
River. Once more the sleds were packed, once
more the untiring Cerf-vola took his place in
the leading harness, and the word | march " was
This time I was to be alone. My good friend,
whose unvarying kindness had made an acquaintanceship of a few weeks ripen into a friendship
destined I trust to endure for many years, was no
longer-to be my companion.
He came, in company with another officer, some
miles of the way, to see me off; and then at the
Quatre IJourche we parted, he to return to his
lonely fort, I to follow across the wide-spreading
Lake Marnoway the long trail to the setting
If the life of the wanderer possesses many
moments of keen enjoyment, so  also  has it its
L 2 1:
times of intense loneliness; times when no excitement is near to raise the spirits, no toil to render
thought impossible; nothing but a dreary, hopeless prospect of labour, which takes day after day
some little portion from that realm of space lying
before him, only to cast it to augment that other
dun. land of separation which lies behind him.
Honest Joe Gargery never with his blacksmith
hand nailed a sadder truth upon the wheel of time,
than when he defined life to be made up of
" partings welded together." But in civilization
generally when we part we either look forward to
meeting again at some not remote period, or we
have so many varied occupations, or so many
friends around us, that if the partings are welded
together, so also are the meetings.
In the lone spaces it is different. The endless
landscape, the monotony of slow travel, the dim
vision of what lies before, seen only in the light of
that other dim prospect lying behind; lakes, rivers,
plains, forests, all hushed in the savage sleep of
winter;—these things bring to the wanderer's mind
a sense of loneliness almost as vast as the waste
which lies around him.
On the evening of the 12th of March I camped
alone in the wilderness. Far as eye could reach,
on every side, there lay nothing but hard, drifted
snow, and from its surface a few scant willows TAME  AND  WILD  SAVAGES.
raised their dry leafless saplings. The three or four
men were busy scraping the deep snow from the .
lee side of some low willow bushes, but they were
alien in every thought and feeling; and we were
separated by a gulf impossible to bridge : so that
I was quite alone. I will not say on whose side the
fault lay, and possibly the admission may only
prove a congeniality of feeling between myself and
my train; but, for all that, I felt a far stronger
tie of companionship with the dogs that drew my
load, than for the men with whom I now found
myself in company.
They were by no means wild; far from it, they
were eminently tame. One of them was a
scoundrel of a very low type, as some of his actions
will hereafter show. In him the wild animal had
been long since destroyed, the tame brute had
taken its place.
The man who had been my servant from the
Saskatchewan was a French half-breed; strong,
active, and handsome, he was still a sulky, good-
for-nothing fellow. One might as well, have tried
to make friends with a fish to which one cast a
worm, as with this good-looking, good-for-nothing
man. He had depth sufficient to tell a lie which
might wear the semblance of truth for a day; and
cunning enough to cheat without being caught in
the actual fact.  I think he was the most impudent 150
liar I have ever met. The motive whibh had
induced him to accept service in this long journey
was, I believe, a domestic one. He had run away
with a young English half-breed girl, and then ran
away from her. If she had only known the object
of her affections as well as I did, she would have
regarded the last feat of activity as a far less serious
evil than the first.
The third man was a Swampy Indian of the
class one frequently meets in the English-speaking
settlement on Red River. Taken by himself, he
was negatively good; but placed with others worse
than himself, he was positively bad. He was,
however, a fair traveller, and used his dogs with a
degree of care and attention seldom seen amongst
the half-breeds.
Small wonder, then, that with these three worthies
who, though strangers, now met upon a base
of common rascality, that I should feel myself more
completely alone than if nothing but the waste had
spread around me. Full thirty days of travel must
elapse ere the mountains, that great break to which
Hooked so long, should raise their snowy peaks
across my pathway.
The lameness of the last day's travel already
gave ominous symptoms of its presence. The
snow was deeper than I had yet seen it; heretofore,
at the longest, the forts lay within   five   days' LAC  CLAIR.
journey of each other; now there was one gap in
which, from one post to the next, must, at the
shortest, be a twelve days' journey.
At dawn, on the 13th of March, we quitted our
burrow in the deep drift of the willow bushes, and
held our way across what was seemingly a shoreless sea.
The last sand ridge or island top of Lake
Athabasca had sunk beneath the horizon, and as
the sun came up, flashing coldly upon the level
desert of snow, there lay around us nought but
the dazzling surface of the frozen lake.
Lac Clair, the scene of our present day's journey,
is in reality an arm of the Athabasca. Nothing but-
a formation of mud and drift, submerged at high
. summer water, separated it from the larger lake;
but its shores vary much from those of its neighbour, being everywhere low and marshy, lined with
scant willows and destitute of larger timber. Of
its south-western termination but little is known,
but it is said to extend in that direction from the
Athabasca for fully seventy miles into the Birch
Hills. Its breadth from north to south would be:
about half "that distance. It is subject to violent-
winter storms, accompanied by dense drift; and,
from the scarcity of wood along its shores, and the
absence of distinguishing landmarks, it is much-
dreaded by the winter voyageur. 152
The prevailing north-west wind of the Lake
Athabasca has in fact the full sweep of 250 miles
across Lac Clair. To lose one's way upon it
would appear to be the first rule of travel amongst
the trip-men of Fort Chipewyan. The last adventure of this kind which had taken place on
its dim expanse had nearly a tragic end.
On the southern shore of the lake three moose
had been killed. When the tidings 'reached the
fort, two men and two sleds of dogs set off for the
" cache;" it was safely found, the meat packed
upon the sleds, and all made ready for the return.
Then came the usual storm: dense and dark the
fine snow (dry as dust under the biting coldj swept
the surface of the lake. The sun, which on one of
these | poudre " days in the North seems to exert
as much influence upon the war of cold and storm
as some good bishop in the Middle Ages was wont
to exercise over the belligerents at Cressy or
Poictiers, when, as it is stated, " He withdrew to
a neighbouring eminence, and there remained
during the combat;"—the sun, I say, for a time,
seemed to protest, by his presence, against the
whole thing, but then finding all protests equally
disregarded by the wind and cold, he muffled himself up in the nearest cloud and went fast asleep
until the fight was over.
For a time the men held their way across the
lake; then the dogs became bewildered; the leading driver turned to his companion, and telling
him to drive both trains, he strode on in front of
his dogs to give a | lead " in the storm.
Driving two trains of loaded dogs is hard, work;
the second driver could not keep up, and the man
in front deliberately increasing his pace walked
steadily away, leaving his comrade to the mercies
of cold and drift. He did this coward act with
the knowledge that his companion had only three
matches in his possession, he having induced him
to give up the rest to Indians whom they had
fallen in with.
The man thus abandoned on the dreaded lake
was a young Hudson's Bay clerk, by no means
habituated to the hardships of such a situation.
But it requires little previous experience to know
when one is lost. The dogs soon began to wander,
and finally headed for where their instinct told
them lay the shore. When they reached the shore
night had fallen, the wind had gone down, but
still the cold was intense; it was the close of
January, the coldest time of the year, when 80°
of frost is no unusual occurrence. At such a
time it was no easy matter to light a fire; the
numbed, senseless hands cannot find strength to
strike a match; and many a time had I seen a
hardy voyagewr fail in his first attempts with the 154
driest wood, and with' full daylight to assist
But what chance had the inexperienced hand,
with scant willow sticks for fuel and darkness to
deceive him ? His wood was partly green, and
one by one his three matches flashed, flickered,
and died out.
No fire, no food—alone somewhere on Lac
Clair in 40° to 50° below zero! It was an ugly
prospect. Wrapping himself in a blanket, he got
a dog at his feet and lay down. With, daylight
he was up, and putting the dogs into harness
set out; but he knew not the landmarks, and
he steered heedless of direction. He came at
last to a spring of open water; it was highly
charged with sulphur, and hence its resistance to
the cold of winter. Though it was nauseous to
the taste, he drank deeply of it; no other spring
of water existed in all the wide circle of the lake.
For four days the wretched man remained at
this place; his sole hope lay in the chance that
men would come to look for him from, the fort,
but ere that would  come  about a single night
o o
might suffice to terminate his existence.
These bad nights are bad enough when we have
all that food and fuel can do. Men lose their
fingers or their toes sometimes in the hours of
wintry daylight, but here fire there was none,
Bil If 'i1 V .1 HARPER.
and food without fire was not to be had. The
meat upon the sled had frozen almost as solid as
the stone of a quarry.
He still hoped for relief, but had he known of
the conduct of the ruffian whose desertion had
thus brought him to this misery his hope would
have been a faint one.
On the day following his desertion, the deserter
appeared at the Quatre Fourche; he pretended
to be astounded that his comrade had not turned
up. On the same evening he reached Fort Chipe- •
wyan: he told a plausible story of having left his
companion smoking near ascertain spot on the
north side of the lake ; on his return to the spot
the sleds were gone, and he at once concluded:
they had headed for home.    Such was his tale.
A search expedition was at once despatched, but
acting under the direction of the scoundrel Harper
no trace of the lost man could be found.
No wonder!. for the scene of his desertion lay
many miles away to the south, but the villain wished
to give time for cold and hunger to do their work;
not for any gratification of hatred or revenge
towards his late comrade, but simply because
| dead men tell no tales." Upon the return of
this unsuccessful expedition suspicions were
aroused; the man was besought to tell the truth,
all would be forgiven him if he now confessed 156
where it was he had left his companion. He still
however asserted that he had left him on the shore
of the lake at a spot marked' by a single -willow.
Again a search party goes out, but this time under
experienced leadership, and totally disregarding
the story of the deserter.
Far down, near the south shore of the lake, the
quick eye of a French half-breed caught the faint
print of a snow-shoe edge on the hard drifted
surface; he followed the clue—another print—and
then another;—soon the shore was reached, and
the impress of a human form found among the
willows. '
Never doubting for an instant that the next
sight would be the frozen body of the man they
sought for (since the fireless camping-place showed
that he was without the means of making a fire),
the searchers went along. They reached the
Sulphur Spring, and there, cold, hungry, but safe,
sat the object of their search. Five days had
passed, yet he had not frozen !
If I wished to learn more of the deserter Harper,
I had ample opportunity of doing so. His villainous face formed a prominent object at my camp
fire. He was now the packet bearer to Fort
Vermilion on the Peace River; he was one of the
worthies I have already spoken of.
We crossed Lac Clair at a rapid pace,  and HARPER.
reached at dusk the north-western shore; of course
we had lost ourselves; but the evening was calm
and clear, and the error was set right by a two-
hours' additional march.
It was piercingly cold when, some time after
dark, the shore was gained; but wood was found
by the yellow* light of a full moon, and a good
camp made on a swampy island. From here our
path lay through the woods and ridges nearly due
west again.
On the fourth day after leaving Fort Chipewyan
we gained a sandy ridge covered with cypress,
and saw beneath us a far-stretching valley; beyond,
in the distance to the north and west, the blue
ridges' of the Cariboo Mountains closed the
prospect. In the valley a broad river lay in long
sweeping curves from west to east.
We were on the banks of the Peace River, 158
The Peace River.—Volcanos.—M. Jean Batiste St. Cyr.—
Haifa loaf is better than no bread.—An oasis in the desert.
—Tecumseh and Black Hawk.
It is possible that the majority of my readers have
never heard of the Peace River. The British
empire is a large one, and Britons can get on very
well without knowing much of any river, excepting
perhaps the Thames, a knowledge of which, until
lately, Londoners easily obtained by the simple
process of smelling. Britannia it is well known
rules the waves, and it would be ridiculous to
expect rulers to bother themselves much about
the things which they rule ; perchance, in a score of
years or so, when our lively cousins bring forth
their little Alaska Boundary question, as they have
already brought forth their Oregon, Maine, and
San Juan boundary questions, we may pay the
Emperor of Morocco, or some equally enlightened
potentate, the compliment of asking him to tell us
whether the Peace River has always been a portion  i
•of the British empire ? or whether we knew the
meaning of our own language when we framed
the treaty of 1825 ? Until then, the Peace River
may rest in the limbo of obscurity; and in any
case, no matter who should claim it, its very name
must indicate that it was never considered worth
fighting about.
Nevertheless the Peace River is a large stream
of water, and some time or other may be worth
fighting for too. Meantime we will have something to say about it.
Like most of the streams which form the headwaters of the great Mackenzie River system, the
Peace River has its sources west of the Chipewyan
or Rocky Mountains. Its principal branch springs
from a wild region • called the Stickeen, an alpine
land almost wholly unknown. There at a presumed
elevation of 6000 feet above the sea level, amidst
a vast variety of mountain peaks, the infant river
issues from a lake to begin its long voyage of
2500 miles to the Arctic Sea.
This region is the birthplace of many rivers,
the Yukon, the Liard, the Peace River, and
countless streams issue from this impenetrable
fastness. Situated close to the Pacific shore, at
their source, these rivers nevertheless seek far
distant oceans. A huge barrier rises between
them and the nearest coast.    The loftiest range 1
of- mountains in North America here finds its
culminating point; the coast or cascade range
shoots up its volcanic peaks to nigh 18,000 feet
above the neighbouring waves. Mounts Cri-Hon
and St. Elias cast their crimson. greeting far over
the gloomy sea, and Hyamna and Island Corovin
catch up the flames to fling them further to Kamchatka's fire-bound coast.
The Old World and the New clasp hands of fire
across the gloomy Northern Sea; and amidst ice
and flame Asia and America look upon each
Through 300 miles of mountain the Peace
River takes its course, countless creeks and rivers
seek its waters; 200 miles from its source it
cleaves the main Rocky Mountain chain through
a chasm whose straight, steep'cliffs frown down
on the black water through 6000 feet of dizzy
verge. Then it curves into the old ocean bed, of
which we have already spoken, and for 500 miles
it flows in a deep, narrow valley, from 700 to 800
feet below the level of the surrounding plateau.
Then it reaches a lower level, the banks become
of moderate elevation, the country is densely
wooded, the large river winds in serpentine bends
through an alluvial valley; the current once so
strong becomes sluggish, until at last it pours
itself through a delta of low-lying drift into the
Slave River, and its long course of 1100 miles is
For 900 miles only two interruptions break the
even flow of its waters. A ridge of limestone
underlies the whole bed of the river at a point
some 250 miles from its mouth, causing a fall of
eight feet wdth a short rapid above it. The other
obstacle is the mountain canon on the outer and
lower range of the Rocky Mountains, where a
portage of twelve miles is necessary.
In its course through the main chain of the
Rocky Mountains no break occurs, the current
runs silently under the immense precipice as
though it fears to awaken even by a ripple the
sleeping giant at whose feet it creeps.
Still keeping west, we began to ascend the
Peace River; we had struck its banks more than
100 miles above its delta, by making this direct
line across Lac Clair and the intervening
Peace River does not debouch into Lake Athabasca, but as we have said into the Slave River
some twenty miles below the lake; at high water,
however, it communicates with Athabasca through
the canal-like channel of the Quatre Fourche, and
when water is low in Peace River, Athabasca
repays the gift by sending back through the same
channel a portion of her surplus tide.
M 162
Since leaving Lac Clair I had endured no little
misery; the effects of that long day's travel from
the river Athabasca had from the outset been
apparent, and each day now further increased
them. The . muscles of ancles and instep had
become painfully inflamed, to raise the snow-shoe
from the ground was frequently no easy matter,
and at last every step was taken in pain. I could
not lie upon my sled because the ground was
rough and broken, and the sled upset at every
hill side into the soft snow; besides there was the
fact that the hills were short and steep, and dogs
could not easily have dragged me to the summit.
There was nothing for me but to tramp on in
spite of aching ancles.
At the camp I tried, my remedies, but all were
useless. From pain-killer, moose fat, laudanum
and porpoise oil I concocted a mixture, which I
feel convinced contains a vast fortune for any
enterprising professor in the next century, and-
which even in these infant ages of " puffing"
might still be made to realize some few millions
of dollars; but nevertheless, my poor puffed foot
resisted every attempt to reduce it to symmetry,
or what was more important, to induce it to resume
That sixteen-hour day had inflamed its worst
passions, and it  had struck for an "eight-hour M.   JEAN  BATISTE   ST.   CYR.
movement." One can afford to laugh over it all
now, but then it was gloomy work enough; to
make one step off the old hidden dog-track of
the early winter was to sink instantly into the
soft snow to the depth of three or four feet, and
when we camped at night on the wooded shore,
our blankets were laid in a deep furrow between
lofty snow walls, which it had taken us a full hour
to scoOp out. At last, after six days of weary
travel through ridge and along river reach, we
drew near a house.
Where the little stream called the Red River
enters from the south the wide channel of the
Peace River, there stands a small Hudson's Bay
post. Here, on the evening of the 17th of March,
we put in for the night. At this solitary post
dwelt M. Jean Batiste St. Cyr; an old and
faithful follower of the Hudson's Bay Company.
When the powerful North-West Fur Company
became merged into the wealthier but less enterprising corporation of the Hudson's Bay, they
left behind them in the North a race of faithful
servitors—men drawn in early life from the best
rural habitans of Lower Canada—men worthy of
that old France from which they sprung, a race
now almost extinct in the north, as indeed it is
almost all the world over. What we call "the
spirit of the age " is against it; faithful service to
M 2 164
powers of earth, or even to those of Heaven, not
being included in the catalogue of virtues taught
in the big school of modern democracy.
From one of this old class of French Canadians,
M. Jean Batiste St. Cyr was descended.
Weary limbs 'and aching ancles pleaded for
delay at this little post, but advancing spring,
and still more the repeated assaults of my servant
and his comrades upon my stock of luxuries,
urged movement as the only means of saving
some little portion of those good things put
away for me by my kind host at Chipewyan.
It seems positively ridiculous now, how one
could regard the possession of flour and sugar,
of sweet cake and sweet pemmican, as some of
the most essential requisites of life. And yet so it
was. With the grocer in the neighbouring street,
and the baker round the corner, we can afford to
look upon flour and sugar as very common-place
articles indeed; but if any person wishes to arrive
at a correct notion of their true value in the
philosophy of life let him eliminate them from his
daily bill of fare, and restrict himself solely to
moose meat, grease, and milkless tea. For a day
or two he wall get on well enough, then he will
begin to ponder long upon bread, cakes, and other
kindred subjects; until day by day he learns to
long for bread, then the Bath buns of his earlier HALF A LOAF IS  BETTER THAN NO BREAD.    165
years wrffl float in enchanting visions before him;
and like Clive at the recollection of that treasure-
chamber in the Moorshedabad Palace, he will
marvel at the moderation which left untouched a
single cake upon that wondrous counter.
It is not difficult to understand the feelings
which influenced a distant northern Missionary,
when- upon his return to semi-civilization, his
friends having prepared a feast to bid him welcome,
he asked them to give him bread and nothing else.
He had been without it for years, and his mind
had learned to hunger for it more than the body.
My servitor, not content with living as his-
master lived, was helping the other rascals to the
precious fare. English half-breed, French ditto,
and full Christian Swampy had apparently
formed an offensive and defensive alliance upon
the basis of a common rascality, Article I. of the
treaty having reference to the furtive partition of
my best white sugar, flour, and Souchong tea;
things which, when they have to be " portaged "
far on men's shoulders in a savage land, are not
usually deemed fitted for savage stomachs too.
One night's, delay, and again we were on the endless trail; on along the great silent river, between
the rigid bordering pines,  amidst the diamond-
. shaped islands where the snow lay deep and soft in
" shnay"  and  "batture," on out into the long, jjl
|| '
11 i
i i'l
reaches where the wild March winds swept the river
bed, and wrapt isle and shore in clouds of drift.
On the evening of the 19th of March our party
drew near a lonely post, which, from the colour of
the waters in the neighbouring stream, bears the
name of Fort Vermilion. The stormy weather had
sunk to calm; the blue sky lay over mingled
forest and prairie; far off to the north and south
rose the dark outlines of the Reindeer and Buffalo
Mountains; while coming from the sunset and
vanishing into the east, the great silent river lay
prone amidst the wilderness of snow.
A gladsome sight was the little fort, with smoke
curling from its snow-laden roof, its cattle standing deep in comfortable straw-yard,- and its master
at the open gateway, waiting to welcome me to
his home : pleasant to any traveller in the wilderness, but doubly so to me, whose every step was
now taken in the dull toil of unremitting pain.
; Physicians have termed that fellow-feeling which
the hand sometimes evinces for the hand, and the
eye for the eye, by the name of | sympathy." It
is unfortunate that these ebullitions of affection
which the dual members of our bodies manifest
towards each other, should always result in doubling
the amount of pain and inconvenience suffered by
the remainder of the human frame. For a day or
two past my right foot had shown symptoms of REINDEER.
^sharing the sorrows of.its fellow-labourer; and
however gratifying this proof of good feeling
should have been, it was nevertheless accompanied
by such an increase of torture that one could not
help wishing for more callous conduct in the
presence of Mai de Raquette.
A day's journey north of the Peace River at
Fort Vermilion, a long line of hills approaching
the altitude of a mountain range stretches from
east to west. At the same distance south lies
another range of similar elevation. The northern
range bears the name of the Reindeer; the
southern one that of the Buffalo Mountains. These
names nearly mark the two great divisions of the
animal kingdom of Northern America.
It is singular how closely the habits of those
two widely differing animals, the reindeer and the
buffalo, approximate to each other. Each have
their treeless prairie, but seek the woods in winter ;
each have their woodland species; each separate
when the time comes to bring forth their young ;
each mass together in their annual migrations.
Upon both the wild man preys in unending hostility.:
When the long days of the Arctic summer begin to
shine over the wild region of the Barren Grounds,
the reindeer set forth for the low shores of the
Northern Ocean; in the lonely wilds whose shores
look out on the Archipelago where once the ships; 168
of England's explorers struggled midst floe and
pack, and hopeless iceberg, the herds spend the
fleeting summer season, subsisting on the short
grass, which for a few weeks changes these cold,
grey shores to softer green.
With the approach of autumn the bands turn
south again, and uniting upon the borders of the
barren grounds, spend the winter in the forests
which fringe the shores of the Bear, Great Slave,
and Athabascan Lakes. Thousands are killed by
the Indians on this homeward journey; waylaid
in the passes which they usually follow, they fall
easy prey to Dog-rib and Yellow-knife, and Chipewyan hunter ; and in years of plenty the forts of
the extreme north count by thousands the fat
sides of Cariboo, piled high in their provision
But although the lulls to the north and south of
Vermilion bore the names of Reindeer and Buffalo,
upon neither of these animals did the fort depend
for its subsistence. The Peace River is the land
of the moose ; here this ungainly and most wary
animal has made his home, and winter and
summer, hunter and trader, along the whole
length of 900 miles, between the Peace and Athabasca, live upon his delicious venison.
Two days passed away at Fort Vermilion; outside the March wind blew in bitter storm, and
drift piled high around wall and palisade. But
within there was rest and quiet, and many an
anecdote of time long passed in the Wild North
Here, at this post of Vermilion, an old veteran
spent the winter of his life ; and from his memory
the scenes of earlier days came forth to interest
the chance wanderer, whose footsteps had led him
to this lonely post. Few could tell the story of
these solitudes better than this Veteran pensioner.
He had come to these wilds while the century was
yet in its teens. He had seen Tecumseh in his
glory, and Black Hawk marshal his Sauk warriors,
where now the river shores of Illinois wave i*1 long
lines of yellow corn. He had spoken with men
who had seen the gallant La Perouse in Hudson's
- Bay, when, for the last time in History, France
flew the fleur-de-lis above the ramparts of an
English fort in this northern land.
The veteran explorers of the Great North had
been familiar to his earlier days, and he could
speak of Mackenzie and Frazer and Thompson,
Harmon and Henry, as men whom he had looked
on in his boyhood.
For me these glimpses of the bygone time had a
strange charm. This mighty solitude, whose vast-
ness had worn its way into my mind; these
leagues and leagues of straight, tall pines, whose 'ill ii"
gloomy moan seemed the voice of 3000 miles of
wilderness; these rivers so hushed and silent,
save when the night owl hooted through the
twilight; all this sense of immensity was so impressed on the imagination by recent travel, that
it heightened the rough colouring of the tale
which linked this shadowy land of the present with
the still more shadowy region of the past.
Perhaps at another time, when I too shall rest
from travel, it wffl be'my task to tell the story of
these dauntless men; but now, when many a
weary mile lies before me, it is time to hold westward still along the great Unchagah.
The untiring train was once again put into the
moose-skin harness, after another night of wild
storm and blinding drift; and with crack of whip
and call to dog, Vermilion soon lay in the waste.
behind me. -THE  BUFFALO  HILLS.
The Buffalo Hills.—A fatal Quarrel.—The exiled Beavers.—
"At-tal-loo" deplores his wives.—A Cree Interior.—An
attractive Camp.—I camp alone.—Cerf-vola without a
Supper.—The Recreants return.—Dunvegan.—A Wolf-hunt,
A long distance, destitute of fort or post, had now
to be passed. For fully 300 miles above Vermilion, no sign of life but .the wild man and his
prey (the former scant enough) are to be found-
along the shores of the Peace River.
The old fort known as Dunvegan lies twelve long;
winter days' travel to the south-west, and to reach
it even in that time requires sustained and arduous
For 200 miles above Vermilion the course of
the Peace River is north-west; it winds in long,-
serpentine curves between banks which gradually
become more lofty as the traveller ascends the
stream. To cut the long curve to the south by an
overland portage now became our work; and for
three days we followed a trail through mingled I!
prairie and forest-land, all lying deep in snow.
Four trains of dogs now formed our line. An
Ojibbeway, named " White Bear," led the advance,
an.d the trains took in turn the work of breaking
the road after him.
Mai de Raquette had at last proved more than
a match for me, and walking had become impossible ; but the trains returning to Dunvegan were
lightly loaded, and as the officer at Vermilion
had arranged that the various dogs should take
their turn in hauling my cariole, I had a fresh
train each day, and thus Cerf-vola and his
company obtained a two days' respite from their
The old dog was as game as when I had first
o O
started, but the temporary change of masters
necessitated by our new arrangements seemed to
puzzle him not a little; and many a time his head
would turn round to steal a furtive look at the
new driver, who, " filled with strange oaths," now
ran behind his cariole. Our trail led towards the
foot of the Buffalo Hills. I was now in the country
of the Beaver Indians, a branch of the great
Chipewyan race, a tribe once numerous on the
river -which bears its present name of Peace from
the stubborn resistance offered by them to the:
all-conquering Crees—a resistance which induced
that warlike tribe to make peace on the banks of A FATAL QUARREL.
the river, and to leave at rest the beaver-hunters
of the Unchagah.
Since that time, though far removed from the
white settler, lying remote from the faintest echo
of civilization, this tribe of Beaver Indians has
steadily decreased; and to-day, in the whole
length of 900 miles from beyond the mountains to
the' Lake Athabasca, scarce 200 families lie scattered over the high prairies and undulating forest
belts of the Peace River. Now they live in peace
with all men, but once it was a different matter ; the
Crees were not their only enemies, their Chipewyan cousins warred upon them; and once upon a
time a fierce commotion raged amongst their own
One day a young chief shot his arrow through
a dog belonging to another brave. The brave
revenged the death of his dog, and instantly a
hundred bows were drawn. Ere night had fallen
some eighty warriors lay dead around the camp,
the pine woods rang with the lamentations of the
women, the tribe had lost its bravest men. There
was a temporary truce—the friends of the chief
whose arrow had killed the dog yet numbered
some sixty people—it was agreed that they should
separate from the tribe and seek their fortune .in
the vast wilderness lying to the south.
In  the  night  they  commenced their  march; 174
Sullenly their brethren saw them depart never to
return. They went their way by the shores of
the Lesser Slave Lake, towards the great plains
which were said to lie far southward by the banks
of the swift-rolling Saskatchewan.
The tribe of Beavers never saw again this exiled
band, but a hundred years later a Beaver Indian,
who followed the fortunes of a white fur-hunter,
found himself in one of the forts of the Saskatchewan. Strange Indians were camped around the
palisades, they were portions of the great Blackfeet tribe whose hunting-grounds lay south of the
Saskatchewan; among them were a few braves"
who, when they conversed together, spoke a
language different from the other Blackfeet; in
this language the Beaver Indian recognized his
own tongue.
The fortunes of the exiled branch were then-
traced, they had reached the great plains, the
Blackfeet had protected them, and they had joined
the tribe as allies in war against Crees or Assine-
boines. To-day the Surcees still speak the'
guttural language of the Chipewyan. Notorious
among the wild horse-raiders of the prairies,'
they outdo even the Blackfeet in audacious1
plundering; and although the parent stock on the
Peace River are quiet and harmless, the offshoot
race has long been a terror over the prairies qf "at-tal-loo" DEPLORES HIS WIVES.
the south. No men in this land of hunters hunt
better than the Beavers. It is not uncommon for
a single Indian to render from his winter trapping
200 marten skins, and not less than 20,000 beavers
are annually killed by the tribe on the waters of
the Peace River.
On the morning of the third day after leaving
Vermilion we fell in with a band of Beavers.
Five wigwams stood pitched upon a pretty rising'
knoll, backed by pine woods, which skirted the
banks of the stream, upon the channel of which
the lodges of the animal beaver rose cone-like above
the snow.
When we reached the camp, "At-tal-loo," the
chief, came forth. A stranger was a rare sight;'
and " At-tal-loo " was bound to make a speech;
three of his warriors, half a dozen children, and a
few women filled up the background. Leaning
upon a long single-barrelled gun " At-tal-loo"
The mayor, and corporation of that thriving
borough of Porkingham could not have been more
solicitous to interrupt a royal progress to the north,
than was this Beaver Indian anxious to address
the traveller; but there was this difference between
them, whereas Mayor Tomkins had chiefly in view
the.excellent opportunity of hearing his own voice,
utterly •unmindful of what a horrid bore he was I
I til
making himself to his sovereign, " At-tal-loo "
had in view more practical results: his frequent
iteration of the word " tea," in his guttural
harangue, told at once the story of his wants:—
" This winter had been a severe one; death had
struck heavily into the tribe; in these three wigwams six women had died. It was true each brave
still had three or four wives left, but moose were
•plenty, and a man with six helpmates could be
rich in dry meat and moose leather. Tea was the
pressing want. Without tea the meat of the moose
was insipid; without tea and tobacco the loss of
even the fifth or sixth rib became a serious affair."
I endeavoured to find out the cause of this mortality among the poor hunters, and it was not
far to seek. Constitutions enfeebled by close
intermarriage, and by the hardships attending
upon wild life in these northern regions, were fast
wearing out. At the present rate of mortality the
tribe of the Beavers will soon be extinct, and with
them will have disappeared the best and the simplest
of the nomad tribes of the north.
" At-tal-loo" was made happy with tea and
tobacco, and we went our way. • Another doughty
chief, named " Twa-poos," probably also regarded
tea as the elixir of life, and the true source of
happiness; but as my servitor still continued to
regard my stock of the luxury as a very excellent A  CREE  INTERIOR.
medium for the accumulation of stray marten skins
for his own benefit, it was perhaps as well that I
should only know " Twa-poos " through the channel of hearsay.
On the morning of the 25th of March we emerged
from the tortuous little Buffalo River upon the
majestic channel of the Peace. Its banks were
now deeply furrowed beneath the prairie level, its
broad surface rolled away to the south-west, 500
yards from shore to shore. The afternoon came
forth bright and warm; from a high ridge on the
left shore a far-stretching view lay rolled before
us—the Eagle Hills, the glistening river, the wide
expanse of dark forest and white prairie; and
above, a sky which had caught the hue and touch
of spring, while winter still stood intrenched on
plain and river.
Late that evening we reached the hut of a Cree
Indian. A snow-storm closed the twilight, and all
sought shelter in the house : it was eight feet by
twelve, in superficial size, yet nineteen persons
lay down to rest in it, a Cree and his wife, an
Assineboine and his wife, eight or ten children,
and any number of Swampy, Ojibbeway, and half-
breeds. Whenever the creaky door opened, a
dozen dogs found ingress, and dodged under and
over the men, women, and children in hopeless
The Assineboine squaw seemed to devote all
her energies to the expulsion of the intruders;
the infants rolled over the puppy dogs, the puppy
dogs scrambled over the infants, and outside in
the snow and on the low. roof Cerf-vola and his
friends did battle with a host of Indian dogs. So
the night passed away. Next morning there was
no track. We waded deep in the snow, and
made but slow progress. Things had reached a
climax with my crew; they had apparently made
up their minds to make a long, slow journey.
They wanted to camp at any Indian lodge they
saw, to start late and to camp early, to eat,
smoke, and talk, to do everything in fact but
I was still nearly 150 miles from Dunvegan,
and as much more from that mountain range
whose defiles I hoped to reach ere the ice road on
which I travelled had turned to a rushing stream.
Already the sun shone strong in the early afternoon, and the surface snow grew moist under his
warm rays, and here were my men ready to seek
any excuse for loitering on the way.
About noon one day we reached a camp of
Crees on the south shore of the river. Moose-
meat was getting scarce, so I asked my yellow
rascal to procure some tit-bits from the camp
in  exchange for tea.    The whole party at once AN ATTRACTIVE  CAMP.
vanished into the tents, while I remained with the
dogs upon the river. Presently my friend reappeared ; he " could only get a rib-piece or a
tough leg." " Then don't take them," I said. I
saw the rascal was at his old work, so taking
some tea and tobacco, I went up myself to the
tents; meantime the men, women, and children
had all come out to the shore, I held up the tea,
and pointed to the moose-meat; in an instant the
•scene' changed—briskets, tongues, and moose-
noses were brought out, and I could have loaded
my dogs with tit-bits had I wished; still I pre*
tended to find another motive for my henchman's
conduct. " See," I said to him," I make a better
trader with Indians than you do. They would
only give you the tough bits; I can get noses
enough to load my dogs with."
But the camp possessed an attraction still
more enticing; early that morning I had observed
the Indians and half-breeds arraying themselves
in their gayest trappings. The half-breed usually
in dressing himself devotes the largest share of
attention to the decoration of his legs; beads,
buckles, and embroidered ribbons flutter from his
leggings, and his garters are resplendent with
coloured worsted or porcupineTquffl work.
These items of finery had all been donned this
morning in camp, the long hair had been carefully
n 2 180
smeared with bear's fat, and then I had not long
to wait for an explanation of all this adornment.
In one of the three Cree tents there dwelt two
good-looking squaws; we entered this tent, the
mats were unrolled, the fire replenished, and the
squaws set to work to cook a moose nose and
tongue for my dinner. Dinner over, the difficulty
began; the quarters were excellent in the estimation of my men. It would be the wildest insanity
to think of quitting such a paradise of love
and food under at least a twenty-four hours'
So they suddenly announced their intention of
" bideing a wee." I endeavoured to expostulate,-
I spoke of the lateness of the season, the distance
I had yet to travel, the necessity of bringing to
Dunvegan the train of dogs destined for that post
at the earliest period; all was of no avail. Their
snow-shoes were broken and they must wait.
Very good; put my four dogs into harness, and
I will go on alone. So the dogs were put in
harness, and taking with me my most lootable
effects, I set out alone into the "wilderness.
It still wanted some four hours of sunset when
I left the Indian lodges on the south shore, and
held my way along the far-reaching river.
My poor old dog, after a few glances back to
see why he should be alone, settled himself to  ALONE  IN  THE  WIHDEKNESS.
IFuge 181. I.CAMP ALONE.
Work, and despite a lameness, the result of long
travel, he led the advance so gamely that when
night fell some dozen miles lay between us and
the Cree lodges.
At the foot of a high ridge whose summit still
caught the. glow from the low-set sun, while the
river valley grew dark in the twilight, I turned
the dogs towards the south shore, and looked
about for a camping-place. The lower bank
sloped down to the ice abruptly, but dogs going
to camp will drag a load up, over, or through
anything, and the prospect of rest above is even
a greater incentive to exertion than the fluent
imprecations of the half-breed below. So by dint
of hauling we reached the top, and then I made
my camp in a pine-clump on the brink. When
the dogs had been unharnessed, and the snow dug
away, the pine brush laid upon the ground, and
the wood cut, when the fire was made, the kettle
filled with snow and boiled, the dogs fed with a
good hearty meal of dry moose meat, and my own
hunger satisfied ; then, it was time to think, while
the fire lit up the pine stems, and the last glint of
daylight gleamed in the western sky. A jagged
pine-top laid its black cone against what had been
the sunset. An owl from the opposite shore
sounded at intervals his lonely call; now and
again a passing breeze bent the fir trees until THE WILD NORTH  LAND.
they whispered forth that mournful song which
seems to echo from the abyss of the past.
The fir-tree is the oldest of the trees of the
earth, and its look and its voice tell the story of
its age. If it were possible to have left my
worthless half-breeds altogether and to traverse
the solitudes alone, how gladly would I have
done so!
I felt at last at home. The great silent river,
the lofty ridge darkening against the twilight,
yon star burning like a beacon above the precipice—all these were friends, and midst them one
could rest in peace;
And now, as I run back in thought along that
•winter journey, and see again the many camp-
fires glimmering through the waste of wilderness,
there comes not to my memory a calmer scene
than that which closed around my lonely fire by
the distant Unchagah. I was there almost in the
centre of the vast wilderness of North Americaj
around, stretched in silence, that mystery we
term Nature, that thing which we see in pictures,
in landscapes} in memory; which we hear in the
voice of wind-swept forests and the long sob of
seas against ocean rocks. This mother, ever
present, ever mysterious, sometimes terrible-
Often tender—always beautiful—stood there with
nought to come between us save loneliness and CERF-VOLA WITHOUT A SUPPER.
twilight. I awoke with the dawn. Soft snow was
falling on river and ridge, and the opposite shore
lay hid in mist and gloom. A breakfast, which
consists of pemmican, tea, and biscuit, takes but
a short time to prepare or to discuss, and by sunrise I was on the river.
Until mid-day I held on, but before that time
the sun glowed brightly on the dazzling surface
of the snow; and the dogs panted as they hauled
their loads, biting frequent mouthfuls of the soffc
snow through which they toiled.
About noon I camped on the south shore. I
had still two meals for myself, but none remained
for the dogs; the men had, however, assured me
that they would not fail to make an early start,
and I determined to await their coming in this
camp. The day passed and night closed again,
but no figure darkened the long stretch of river,
and my poor dogs went supperless to sleep.
Cerf-vola, it is true, had some scraps of sweet
pemmican, but they were mere drops in the ocean
of his appetite. The hauling-dog of the North is
a queer animal about food; when it is there he
likes to have it, but when it isn't there, like his
Indian master, he can do without it.
About supper-hour he looks wistfully at his
master, and seeing no sign of pemmican-chop-
ping or dry meat-slicing, he rolls himself up THE  WILD NORTH  LAND.
into a ball and goes quietly to sleep in his snow
Again the night came softly down, the grey
owl hooted his lonely cry, the breeze stirred the
forest tops, and the pine-tree murmured softly
and low, singing its song of the past to the melody
of its million years. At such times the mind of
the wanderer sings its own song too. It is the
song of home; and as memory rings the cadence,
time and distance disappear, and the old land
brightens forth amidst the embers of the forest-fire.
These islands which we call " home" are far
away; afar off we idealize them, in the forest
depths we dream bright visions of their firesides
of welcome; in the snow-sheeted lake, and the
icy stretch of river, and the motionless musky,
how sweetly sound the notes of brook and bird;
how brightly rise the glimpses of summer eves
when the white mists float over the scented
meadows, and the corn-craik sounds from his lair
in the meadow-sweet!
It is there, away in the east, far off, where the
moon is rising above the forked pines, or the upcoming stars edge the ice piles on the dim eastern
shores of yon sheeted lake. Far away, a speck
amidst the waves of distance, bright,, happy, and
peaceful; holding out its welcome, and following
with its anxious thoughts the wanderer who sails THE RECREANTS RETURN.
away over the ocean, and roams the expanses of
the earth.
Well, some fine day we come back again; the
great steam-ship touches the long idealized shore.
Gods, how the scene changes ! We feel bursting-
with joy to see it all again, to say, " Oh! how
glad I am to see you all! "
We say it with our eyes to the young lady
behind the refreshment buffet at the railroad
station. Alas! she mistakes our exuberance for
impertinence, and endeavours to annihilate us
with a glance, enough to freeze even her high-
spirited sherry. We pass the bobby on his beat
with a smile of recognition, but that ferocious
functionary, not a whit softened, regards us as a
| party " likely to afford him transient employment in the matter of " running in." The railway
porter alone seems to enter into our feelings of
joy, but alas! it is only with a view to that donation with which we are sure to present him. We
have enlisted his sympathies as her Majesty
enlists her recruits, by the aid of a shilling. Ere
an hour has passed, the vision seen so frequently
through the mist of weary miles has vanished,
and we have taken our place in the vast humming
crowd of England's hive, to wish ourselves back
into the dreamy solitudes again.
.  I had been asleep some hours, and midnight 186
had come, when the sound of voices roused me,
and my recreant band approached the dying camp-
fire. They had at length torn themselves away
from the abode of bliss and moose meat, but
either, the memory of its vanished pleasures, or a
stray feeling of shame, kept them still sullen and
morose. They, however, announced their readiness to go on at once, as the crust upon the snow
Was now hard. I rose from my robe, gave the
dogs a late supper, and once more we set out.
Daylight found us still upon the track; the
men seemed disposed to make amends for former
dilatoriness, the ice-crust was hard, and the dogs
went well. When the sun had become warm
enough to soften the surface we camped, had
supper, and lay down to sleep for the day.
With sunset came the hour of starting, and
thus turning night into day, breakfasting at sunset, dining at midnight, supping at sunrise,
travelling all night, and sleeping all day, we held
our way up the Unchagah. Three nights of travel
passed, and the morning of the 1st of April broke
upon the silent river. We had travelled well;
full one hundred miles of these lonely, lofty shores
had vanished behind us in the grey dusky light of
twilight, night, and early morning.
As the dawn broke in the east, and gradually grew
into a broader band of light, the huge ramparts of
I       11   I
I   .,11  j 1     , '   DUNVEGAN.
the lofty shores wore strange, unearthly aspects.
Six hundred feet above the ice, wind and sun had
already swept the Snow, and the bare lull-tops
rose to view, free, at last, from winter's covering.
Lower down full many a rugged ridge, and
steeps scarped precipice, held its clinging growth
of pine and poplar, or showed gigantic slides, upon
whose gravelly surface the loosened stones rolled
with sullen echo, into the river chasm beneath.
Between these huge walls lay the river, broadly
curving from the west, motionless and soundless,
as we swept with rapid stride over its sleeping
Sometimes in the early morning j upon these
steep ridges, the moose would emerge from his
covert, and look down on the passing dog trains,
his huge, ungainly head outstretched to
" Sniff the tainted gale,"
his great ears lying forward to catch the faint
jingle of our dog^bells. Nearly all else seemed to
sleep in endless slumber, for, alone of summer
denizens, the owl, the moose, the wolf, and the
raven keep winter watch over the wilderness of
the Peace River;
At daybreak, on the 1st of April, we were at the
mouth of the Smoking River. This stream enters
the Peace River from the south-west.    It has its THE  WILD NORTH' LAND.
source but a couple of days' journey north of the
Athabasca River, at the spot where that river
emerges from the Rocky Mountains. And it
drains the beautiful region of varied prairie and
forest-land, which lies at the base of the mountains between the Peace and Athabasca rivers.
The men made a long march this day. Inspired
by the offer of a gratuity, if they could make the
fort by night-time, and anxious, perhaps, to atone
for past shortcomings, they made up a train of
five strong dogs.
Setting out with this train at eight o'clock in
the morning, three of them held the pace so
gamely that when evening closed we were in sight
of the lofty ridge which overhangs at the north
shore, the fort of Dunvegan.
As the twilight closed over the broad river we
were steering between two huge walls of sandstone rock, which towered up 700 feet above the
The yellow light of the sunset still glowed in
the west, lighting up the broad chasm through
which the river flowed, and throwing many a weird
shadow along the basaltic precipice. Right in our
onward track stood a large dusky wolf. He
watched us until we approached within 200 yards
of him, then turning he held his course up the
eentre of the river.    My five dogs caught sight of   A WOLF-HUNT.
him, and in an instant they gave chase. The
surface of the snow was now hard frozen, and
urged by the strength of so many dogs the
cariole flew along over the slippery surface.
The driver was soon far behind. The wolf kept
the centre of the river, and the cariole bounded
from snow pack to snow pack, or shot along the
level ice; while the dusky twilight filled the deep
chasm with its spectral light. But this wild chase
was not long to last. The wolf sought refuge
amidst the rocky shore, and the dogs turned along
the trail again.
Two hours later a few lights glimmered
through the darkness, beneath the black shadow
of an immense hilL The unusual sound of rushing water broke strangely on the ear after such a
lapse of silence. But the hill streams had already
broken their icy barriers, and their waters were
even now hastening to the great river (still chained
with the gyves of winter), to aid its hidden current
in the work of deliverance.
Here and there deep pools of water lay on the
surface of the ice, through which the dogs waded,
breast deep, and the cariole floated like a boat.
Thus, alternately wading and sliding, we drew near
the glimmering lights.
We had reached Dunvegan! If the men and
dogs slept well that night it was little wonder. THE   WILD NORTH  LAND.
With the intermission only necessary for food,
we had travelled incessantly during four-and-
twenty hours. Yet was it the same that night at
Dunvegan as it had been elsewhere at various
times. Outside the dogs might rest as they
pleased, but within, in the huts, Swampy and
Half-breed and Ojibbeway danced and fiddled,
laughed and capered until the small hours of the
Alexander Mackenzie.—The first sign of Spring.—Spanker
the suspicious.—Cerf-vola contemplates cutlets.—An Indian
hunter.—" Encumbrances."—Furs and finery.—A " dead
fall."—The fur trade at both ends.—An old fort.—A night
attack.—Wife-lifting.—Cerf-vola in difficulties and boots.—
The Rocky Mountains at last.
About eighty years ago a solitary canoe floated
on the waters of the Peace River. Eight sturdy
Iroquois or Canadians moved it with dexterous
paddle; in the centre sat the figure of a European,
busy with field-book and compass.
He was a daring Scotchman from the isles, by
name Alexander Mackenzie. He was pushing his
way slowly to the West; before him all was vague
conjecture. There was a mighty range of mountains the Indians said—a range through which
the river flowed in a profound chasm—beyond
that all was mystery; but other wild men, who
dwelt westward of the chasm in a land of moun-.
tains, had told them tales of another big river
flowing toward the mid-day sun into the lake that
had no shore. THE WILD NORTH  LAND.
This daring explorer built himself a house not
far below the spot where my recreant crew had
found a paradise in the wilderness; here he passed
the winter. Early in the following spring he continued his ascent of the river. He was the first
Englishman that ever passed the Rocky Mountains. He was the first man who crossed the
Northern Continent.
His footsteps were quickly followed by men
almost as resolute. Findlay, Frazer, and Thompson soon carried the fortunes of the North-West
Company through the defiles of the Peace River;
and long before Jacob Astor had dreamt his
dream of Columbian fur trade, these men had
planted on the "wild shores of New Caledonia and
Oregon the first germs of English domination;
little dreaming, doubtless, as they did so, that in
after-time, between dulness upon one side and
duplicity on the other, the fruits of their labour
and their sufferings would pass to hostile hands.
From it's earliest days, the fur trade of the
North had been carried on from bases which
moved northward with the tide of exploration.
The first French adventurers had made Tadousac,
at the mouth of the rock-shadowed Saguenay, the
base of their operations; later on, Montreal had
been their point of distribution; then Mackenaw,
between Lakes Michigan and Huron.    With the THE FIEST  SIGN OF SPRING.
fall of French dominion in 1762 the trade passed
to English hands, and Fort William on Lake
Superior, and Fort Chipewyan on Lake Athabasca,
became in time centres of fur trade.'
It was from the latter place that Mackenzie and
his successors pushed their explorations to the
distant shores of Arctic and Pacific Oceans.
Among the earlier posts which these men established in the Great Wilderness was this fort,
called Dunvegan, on the Peace River. A McLeod,
of Skye, founded the post, and named it after the
wild, storm-swept fortalice which the chief of his
race in bygone times had reared upon the Atlantic
verge. As Dunvegan was then, so it is to-day;
half a dozen little houses roofed wdth pine-bark;
in front, the broad river in its deep-cut gorge;
behind, an abrupt ridge 700 feet in height, at
the top of which a rolling table-land spreads out
into endless distance.
Unlike the prairies of the Saskatchewan, this
plateau is thickly interspersed with woods and
thickets of pine and poplar. Its many lakes are
free from alkali, and the varied growth of willows
which they sustain, yield ample sustenance to
the herds of moose which still roam the land.
The deep trough through which the river flows
increases with singular regularity as the traveller
ascends the stream.   Thus at Vermilion the banks
o 194
C'li Sis '
are scarcely thirty feet above low-water level;
200 miles higher up they rise to 350 feet; at
Dunvegan they are 720; and 100 miles still further
west they attain an elevation of 900 and 1000
feet. Once upon the summit, however, no indication of ruggedness meets the eye. The country
spreads into a succession of prairies, lakes, and
copses, through which the traveller can ride with
ease, safe from the badger-holes which form such
an objectionable feature in more southern prairies.
At times the river-bed fills up the entire bottom
of the deep valley through which it runs; but
more frequently a wooded terrace lies between the
foot of the ridge and the brink of the water, or
the land rises to the upper level in a series of
rounded and less abrupt ascents. The soil is a dark
sandy loam, the rocks are chiefly lime and sandstone, and the numerous slides and huge landslips
along the lofty shores, render visible strata upon
strata of many-coloured earths and layers of rock
and shingle, lignite and banded clays in rich
succession. A black, bituminous earth in many
places forces its way through rock or shingle, and
runs in long, dark streaks down the steep descent.
Such is the present aspect of the Peace River, as
lonely and silent it holds its long course, deep
furrowed below the unmeasured wilderness.
April had come ; already the sun shone warmly CERF-VOLA  CONTEMPLATES  CUTLETS.
in the midday hours; already the streams were
beginning to furrow the grey overhanging hills,
from whose southern sides the snow had vanished,
save where in ravine or hollow it lay deep, drifted
by the winter winds ; but the river was not to be
thus easily roused from the sleep into which the
Arctic cold had cast it. Solid under its weight
of ice, four feet in thickness, it would yet lie for
days in motionless torpor. Snow might fly from
sky and hill-top, prairie and forest might yield to
the soft coming spring; but like a skilful general
grim winter only drew off his forces from outlying
points to make his last stand in the intrenchments
of the frozen river.
From the summit of the steep hill, whose scarped
front looks down upon the little huts of Dunvegan,
the eye travels over many a mile of wilderness,
but no hill top darkens the far horizon; and the
traveller, whose steps for months have followed
the western sun, feels half inclined to doubt the
reality of the mountain barrier he has so long
looked in vain for. So it seemed to me, as I
scanned one evening the long line of the western
sky from this lofty ridge.
Nineteen hundred miles behind me lay that
Musk Rat Creek, by whose banks on that now
distant day in October, I had bidden civilization
a long good-bye;
o 2 196
Prairie and lakelet, broad river, vast forest, dim
spreading lake, silent ridge and waste of wilder*
ness—all lay deep sunken again in that slumber
from which my lonely passage had for .a moment
roused them.
Different faces had at times accompanied me;
various dogs had toiled and tugged at the oaken
sled, or lain at night around the wintry camp-fires;
and yet, still remote lay that giant range, for
whose defiles my steps had so long been bound.
But amid all changes of time and place and persons,
two companions still remained with me. Cerf-
vola the untiring, 'Spanker the suspicious, still
trotted as briskly as when they had quitted their
Dakotan home. If I should feel inclined to doubt
their strength and vigour, I had only to look down
the hill-side to read a reassurance—a couple of
hundred feet beneath where I stood. There
Spanker the suspicious might have been observed
in company vrith two other savages, doing his
utmost to terminate the career of a yearling calf,
which early spring had tempted to the lull-top.
It was consolatory to notice that Cerf-vola the
untiring took no part in this nefarious transaction. He stood apart, watching it with a
countenance expressive of emotions which might
be read, either in the light of condemnation of
cruelty, or commendation of coming veal cutlets. AN INDIAN  HUNTER.
About midnight on the 3rd of April I quitted
Dunvegan, and turned once more along the frozen
river. The moon, verging to its first quarter, shone
above the southern shore, fighting half the river,
while the remainder lay wrapped in darkness.
A half-breed named Kalder accompanied me—
my former servitor having elected to remain at
Dunvegan. He had probably heard strange stories
of life beyond the mountains. " Miners were fond
of shooting; to keep their hand and eye in practice
they would shoot him as soon as they caught sight
of him," so it would perhaps be wiser to stay on
the eastern slope. He remained behind, and
William Kalder, a Scotch half-breed, who spoke
French in addition to his Indian tongue, reigned in
his stead.
Above Dunvegan, the Peace is a rapid river.
We decided to travel by moonlight only, and in
the morning, as many places had already become
unsound; a great quantity of water lay on the
surface of the ice, and wet mocassins and heavy
snow-shoes became our constant companions. By
daybreak, however, all water would be frozen solid,
and except for the effect of the sharp ice on the
dogs' feet, the travelling was excellent at that hour.
At daybreak on the fourth we heard ahead a
noise of barking, and presently from the. wooded
shore a moose broke forth upon the river.    The THE  WILD  NORTH  LAND.
crusted snow broke beneath his weight, and he
turned at bay near the southern shore. We were yet
a long way off, and we hurried on as fast as dogs
could run. When we had reached within a couple
of hundred yards of where he stood butting the
dogs, a shot rang sharply from the woods; the
unshapely animal still kept his head lowered to his
enemies, but the shot had struck, for as we came
panting up, he rolled heavily amidst his baying
enemies, who closed around him while the blood
bubbled fast, over the pure frosted snow. Above,
on the wooded banks, under a giant pine, sat a
young Indian quietly regarding his quarry. Not a
move of limb or countenance betokened excitement;
his face was flushed by a long quick chase down
the rugged hill-side; but now, though his game
lay stretched beneath him, he made no outward
sign of satisfaction. He sat unmoved on the rock
above, his long gun balanced above his knee—the
fitting background to a picture of wild sport in the
wilderness. It was now the time when the Indians
leave their winter hunting-grounds, and make a
journey to the forts with the produce of their
season's toil. They come, a motley throng; men,
women and children; dogs, sleds and hand-tobo-
gans, bearing the precious freight of fur to the
trading-post, bringing in the harvest of marten-
skins from the vast field of the desert wilds. A  "DEAD FALL."
On this morning, ere we reached our camping
place, a long cavalcade passed us. A couple of
braves in front, too proud and lazy to carry anything but their guns ; then old women and young
ones, bending under their loads, or driving dogs,
or hauling hand-sleds laden with meat, furs, moose-
skins, and infants. The puppy-dog and the
infant never fail in cabin or cortege. Sometimes
one may see the two packed together on the
back of a woman, who carries besides a load of meat
or skins. I believe the term " encumbrance " has
sometimes been applied to the human portion of
such a load, in circles so elevated that even the
humanity of maternity would appear to have been
successfully eliminated by civilization. If ever
the term carried truth with it, it is here in this wild
northern land, where yon wretched woman bears
man's burthen of toil as well as her own. Here
the child is veritably an encumbrance; yet in some
instincts the savage mother might teach her civilized sister a lesson of womanity. Perhaps here,
while this motley cavalcade passes along, we may
step aside a moment from the track, and tell the
story of a marten.
A couple of cotton kerchiefs, which my lady's-
maid would disdain to be the owner of, and a
couple of ten-pound bank-notes from my lady's
purse,  mark   the   two  extremes between which THE  WILD  NORTH   LAND.
lies the history of' a marten.    We will endeavour
to bring together these widely-severed ends.
When the winter is at its coldest, but when the
days are beginning to lengthen out a little over the
dim pine-woods of the North, the Indian builds a
small circular fence of wood, some fourteen inches
high. Upon one side this circle is left open, but
across the aperture a thick limb or thin trunk of
tree is laid with one end resting on the ground.
Inside the circle a forked stick holds a small bit
of fish or meat as a bait. This forked stick is set
so as to support another small piece of wood, upon
which in turn rests the half-uplifted log. Pull the
baited stick, and you let slip the small supporting
one, which in turn lets fall the large horizontal log.
Thus runs the sequence. It is a guillotine, wdth a
tree instead of a sharp knife; it is called a " dead
fall." Numbers of them are erected in the woods,
where martens' tracks are plentiful in the snow.
Well, then, the line of "deadfalls" being made and-
set, the Indian departs, and silence reigns in the
foiest. But once a week he starts forth to visit
this line of "dead falls," which may be ten or
fifteen miles in length.
Every now and again he finds-one of his guillotines down, and underneath it lies a small, thick-
furred animal, in size something larger than a
ferret, something smaller than a cat.    It is need- THE  FUR  TRADE  AT  BOTH  ENDS.
less to describe the colour of the animal; from
childhood upwards it is familiar to us. Most persons can recall the figure of maiden aunt or stately
visitor, muffed, cuffed, boa'd and pelissed, in all
the splendour of her sables. Our little friend
under the dead fall is none other than the sable—
the marten of North America, the sable of Siberia.
A hundred miles away from the nearest fort
this marten has been captured. When the snow
and ice begin to show symptoms of softening, the
.Indian packs his furs together, and sets out,
as we have seen, for the fort. There are, perhaps,
five or six families together; the squaws and dogs
are heavy laden, and the march is slow and
toilsome. All the household gods have to be
carried along. The leather tent, the battered
copper kettle, the axe, the papoose strapped in
the moss bag, the two puppy-dogs, yet unable to
shift for themselves, the snow-shoes for hunting,
the tattered blanket, the dry meat; it makes a
big load, all told; and squaw and dog toil along
with difficulty under it. The brave of course goes
before, deigning only to carry bis gun, and not
always doing even that. The wife is but as
a dog to him—a curious classification, but one
for which he might find some authority were he a
little more civilized.
Well, day by day the rparty moves along till THE  WILD NORTH  LAND.
the fort is reached. Then comes the trade. The
fifty or a hundred marten-skins are handed over;
the debt of the past year is cancelled, partly or
wholly; and advances are taken for the coming
The wild man's first thought is for the little
one,— a child's white capote, strouds or blanketing for tiny backs, a gaudy handkerchief for
some toddling papoose. After that the shot and
powder, the flints and ball for his own use ; and
lastly, the poor wife gets something for her share.
She has managed to keep a couple 'of deer-skins
for her own perquisite, and with these she derives
a little pin-money.
It would be too long to follow the marten-skin
through its many vicissitudes—how it changes
from hand to hand, each time more than doubling
its price, until at length some stately dowager,
spends more guineas upon it than its original
captor realized pence for it.
Many a time have I met these long processions,
sometimes when I have been alone on the march,
and at others when my followers were around me;
each time there was the inevitable hand-shaking,
the good-humoured laughing, the magic word
" the";" a few matches, and a plug or two of
tobacco given, and we separated. How easily they
were made happy!     And now and again among A NIGHT ATTACK.—WIPE-LIFTING.
them would be seen a poor crippled Indian,
maimed by fall from horse or shot from gun,
hobbling along with the women in the rear of the
straggling cortege, looking for all the world like a
wild bird with a broken wing.
The spring was now rapidly approaching, and
each day made some change in the state of the
ice. The northern bank was quite clear of snow;
the water on the river grew daily deeper, and
at night the ice cracked and groaned as we
walked upon it, as though the sleeping giant had
begun to stir and stretch himself previous to his
final waking.
On the morning of the 7th of April we passed
the site of an old fort on the northern shore.
I turned aside to examine it. Rank weeds and
grass covered a few mounds, and faint traces of a
fireplace could be still discerned. Moose-tracks
were numerous around.
Just fifty years earlier, this old spot had been
the scene of a murderous attack.
In the grey of the morning, a small band of
Beaver Indians approached the fort, and shot its
master and four men; a few others escaped in a
canoe, leaving Fort St. John's to its fate. It was
immediately burned down, and the forest has
long since claimed it as its own. In the phraseology of the period, this attack was said to have THE  WILD  NORTH   LAND.
been made by the Indians in revenge for a series
of " wife-lifting" which had been carried on
against them by the denizens of the fort. History
saith no more, but it is more than probable that
this dangerous method of levying " black female "
was thereafter discontinued by the Highland fur-
We camped not far from the ruined fort, and
next night drew near our destination. It was full
time. The ice was rapidly going, and already in
places dark, treacherous holes showed grimly
through to the rushing water beneath.
The dogs were all lame, and Cerf-vola had to
be regularly put in boots previous to starting.
Still, lame or sound, he always travelled just the
same. When his feet were very sore, he would
look around now and again for assistance; but if
none was forthcoming he bent himself resolutely
to the task, and with down-bent head toiled at*
his collar. Others might tire, others might give
out, but he might truly say,—
ogs may come, and dogs
But I go on for ev
Iyer, ever, I go on for
" Dogs may come, and dogs may go,
on for ever,
Before daybreak on the 8th we stopped for the
usual cup of tea and bite of pemmican. The night
was dark and overcast. Beside us a huge pile of
driftwood lay heaped above the ice.    We fired it THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS AT LAST.
in many places before starting, and then set out
for our last dog-march. The flames rose high
through the dry timber, and a long line of light
glowed and quivered upon the ice. We were
soon far away from it. Day broke; a thick rain
began to fall; dogs and men sunk deep in the
slushy snow. " Go on, good old Cerf-vola! A
little more, and your weary journey will be over; a
little more, and the last mile of this 1400 will have
been run; a little more, and the collar will be taken
from your worn shoulders for the last long time I "
At the bend of the Peace River, where a lofty
ridge runs out from the southern side, and the
hills along the northern shore rise to nearly 1000
feet above the water, stands the little fort of St.
John. It is a remote spot, in a land which is itself
remote. From out the plain to the west, forty or
fifty miles away, great snowy peaks rise up against
the sky. To the north and south and east all is
endless wilderness—wilderness of pine and prairie,
of lake and stream—of all the vast inanity of that
moaning waste which sleeps between the Bay of
Hudson and the Rocky Mountains.
So far have we journeyed through that land; here
we shall rest awhile. The time of winter travel
has drawn to its close; the ice-road has done its
work; the dogs may lie down and rest; for those
great snowy peaks are the Rocky Mountains. THE WILD NORTH LAND.
The wild animals of the Peace River.-—Indian method of
hunting the moose.—Twa-poos.—The beaver.—The bear.—■
Bear's butter.—A bear's hug and how it ended.—Fort St.
John.—The river awakes.—A rose without a thorn.—■
Nigger Dan.—A threatening letter:—I issue a Judicial
Memorandum.—Its effect is all that could be desired.—-
Working up the Peace River.
Three animals have made their homes on the
shores of the Peace River and its tributaries.
They are the bear, the moose, and the beaver.
All are valuable to the Indian for their flesh, fur,
or skin; all come to as great perfection here as in
any part of the American continent.
The first and last named go to sleep in the long
winter months, but the moose still roams the woods
and willow banks, feeding "with his flesh the forts
and the Indians along the entire river. About
100 full-grown moose had been consumed during
the winter months at the four posts we have lately
passed, in fresh meat alone. He is a huge animal;
his carcase will weigh from three to six hundred INDIAN METHOD  OP HUNTING THE  MOOSE.     207
pounds; yet an ordinary half-breed will devour him
in little more than a month.
Between four and five hundred moose are
annually eaten at the forts of the Peace River;
four of that number are consumed by the Indians,
but the range of the animal is vast, the hunters
are comparatively few, and to-day there are probably as many moose in Peace River as there were
fifty years ago.
Athabasca trades to-day the skins of nearly
2000 moose in a single year. Few animals are
more unshapely than this giant deer. His neck
slopes down from the shoulder, ending in a head
as large as a horse—a head which ends in a nose
curled like a camel's—a nose delicious to the taste,
but hideous to the eye. The ears are of enormous
length. Yet, ugly as are the nose and ears of the
moose, they are his chief means of protection
against his enemy, and in that great ungainly head
there lurks a brain of marvellous cunning. It is
through nose and ears that this cunning brain is
duly prompted to escape danger.
No man save the Indian, or the half-Indian, can
hunt the moose with chance of success.
I am aware that a host of Englishmen and
Canadians will exclaim against this, but nevertheless it is perfectly true. Hunting the moose in
summer and winter is one thing—killing him in a THE WILD NORTH LAND.
snow-yard, or running him down in deep snow is
another. The two methods are as widely different
as killing a salmon which another man has hooked
for you is different from rising, hooking, playing,
and gaffing one yourself.
To hunt the moose requires years of study.
Here is the little game which his instinct teaches
him. When the early morning, has come, he
begins to think of lying down for the day. He
has been feeding on the grey and golden willow-
tops as he walked leisurely along. His track is
marked in the snow or soft-clay; he carefully
retraces his footsteps, and, breaking off suddenly
to the leeward side, lies down a gunshot from his
feeding-track. He knows he must get the wind
of any one following his trail.
In the morning " Twa-poos," or the Three
Thumbs, sets forth to look for a moose; he hits
the trail and follows it; every now and again he
examines the broken willow-tops or the hoof-
marks, when experience tells him that the moose
has been feeding here during the early night.
Twa-poos quits the trail, bending away in a deep
circle to leeward; stealthily he returns to the
trail, and as stealthily bends away again from it.
He makes as it were the semicircles of the letter
B, supposing the perpendicular line to indicate
the trail of the moose;  at each return to it he TWA-POOS.
examines attentively the willows, and judges his
proximity to the game. ♦
At last he is so near that he knows for an
absolute certainty that the moose is lying in a
thicket a little distance ahead. Now comes the
moment of caution. He divests himself of every
article of clothing which might cause the slightest
noise in the. forest; even his moccassins are laid
aside; and then, on a pointed toe which a ballet-girl
might envy, he goes forward for the last stalk.
Every bush is now scrutinized, every thicket
examined. See ! he stops all at once ! You who
follow him look, and look in vain; you can see
nothing. He laughs to himself, and points to yon
willow covert. No, there is nothing there. He
noiselessly cocks his gun. You look again and
again, but can see nothing; then Twa-poos suddenly stretches out his hand and breaks a little
dry twig • from an overhanging branch. In an
instant, right in front, thirty or forty yards away,
an immense dark-haired animal rises up from the
willows. He gives one look in your direction, and
that look is his last. Twa-poos has fired, and the
moose is either dead in his thicket or within a few
hundred yards of it.
One. word now about this sense of hearing
possessed by the moose. The most favourable
day for hunting is in wild windy weather, when
the dry branches of the fOrest crack in the gale.
Nevertheless, Indians have assured me that, on
such days, when they have sighted a moose, they
have broken' a dry stick; and although many
branches were waving and cracking in the woods,
the-animal started at the sound—distinguishing it
from the natural noises of the forest.
But although the moose are still as numerous
on Peace River as they were in days far removed
from the present, there is another animal which
has almost wholly disappeared.
The giant form of the wood-buffalo no longer
darkens the steep lofty shores. When first
Mackenzie beheld the long reaches of the river,
the | gentle lawns " which alternated with " abrupt precipices " were " enlivened " by vast herds
of buffaloes. This was in 1793. Thirty,jthree
years later, Sir George Simpson also ascended the
river with his matchless Iroquois crew. Yet no
buffalo darkened the lofty shores.
What destroyed them in that short interval ?
The answer is not difficult to seek—deep snow.
The buffalo grazes on the grass, the moose browses
on the tall willows. During one winter of exceptionally deep snow, eighty buffaloes were lolled
in a single day in the vicinity of Dunvegan. The
Indians ran them into the snowdrifts, and then
despatched them" with knives. THE   BEAVER.
It is still a matter of dispute whether the wood-
buffalo is the same species as his namesake of the
southern plains; but it is generally believed by
the Indians that he is of a kindred race. He
is nevertheless larger, darker, and wilder; and
although the northern land, in which he is still
found, abounds in open prairies and small plains,
he nevertheless seeks in preference the thickest
woods. Whether he be of the plain race or not,
one thing is certain—his habits vary much from
his southern cousin. The range of the wood-
buffalo is much farther north than is generally
believed. There are scattered herds even now on
the banks of the Liard River as fax as sixty-one
degrees of north latitude.
The earth had never elsewhere such an accumulation of animal life as this northern continent
must have exhibited some five or six centuries
ago, when, from the Great Slave Lake to the Gulf
of Florida, millions upon millions of bisons
roamed the wilderness.
Have we said enough of animals, or can we
spare a few words to the bears and the beavers ?
Of all the animals which the New World gave to
man the beaver was the most extraordinary. His
cunning surpassed that of the fox; his skill was
greater than that of the honey-bee; his patience
was more enduring than the spider's; his labour
I 2 212
could turn the waters of a mighty river, and
change the face of an entire country. He could
cut down forests, and build bridges ; he dwelt in
a house with rooms, a common hall and a neat
doorway in it. He could fell a forest tree in any
direction he pleased, or carry it on his back when
his sharp teeth had lopped its branches. He
worked in companies, with a master beaver at the
head of each—companies from whose ranks- an
idle or a lazy beaver was ignominiously expelled.
He dwelt along the shores of quiet lakes, or by
the margins of rushing streams, and silent majestic rivers, far in the heart of the solitude.
But there came a time when men deemed his
soft, dark skin a fitting covering for their heads;
and wild men hunted him out in his lonely home.
They trapped him from Texas to the Great Bear
Lake; they hunted him in the wildest recesses"
of the Rocky Mountains; rival companies went
in pursuit of him. In endeavouring to cover the
heads of others, hundreds of trappers lost their
own head-covering; the beaver brought many a
white man's scalp to the red man's lodge-pole;
•and many a red man's life went out with the
beaver's. In the West he became well-nigh
extinct, in the nearer North he became scarce;
yet here in Peace River he held his own against
all comers.     Nigh 30,000 beavers die annually BEAR S  BUTTER.
along its shores, and when spring opens its
waters the night is ever broken by the dull plunge
of countless beavers in the pools and eddies of
the great river..
Along the lofty shores of the Peace River the
Saskootum berry grows in vast quantities. In
August its fruit is ripe, and the bears come forth
to enjoy it; black, brown, and grizzly, stalk
along the shores and hill-sides browsing on this
•luscious berry. On such food Bruin grows fat
and unwieldy; he becomes "sleek-headed" and
" sleeps of nights," thus falling an easy prey to
his hunter.
While he was alive he loved the " poire " berries,
and now when he is dead the red man continues
the connexion, and his daintiest morsel is the bear's
fat and Saskootum berries mixed with powdered
moose-meat. It is the dessert of a Peace River
feast; the fat, white as cream, is eaten in large
quantities, and although at first a little of it
suffices, yet after a while one learns to like it, and
the dried Saskootum and " bear's butter " becomes
a luxury.
But fat or lean, the grizzly bear is a formidable antagonist. Few Indians will follow him
alone to his lair; his strength is enormous, he
can km and carry a buffalo-bull; were he as
active as he is strong it is probable that he would 214
stand as the most dangerous animal on the earth.
But his movements are comparatively slow, and
his huge form is upraised upon its hind legs
before he grapples his adversary. Woe to that
adversary should those, great fore-paws ever
encircle him. Once only have I known a man
live to tell the tale of that embrace: his story was
a queer one. He had been attacked from behind,
he had only time to fire his gun into the bear's
chest when the monster grasped him. The Indian
never lost his power of thought; he plunged his
left arm into the brute's throat, and caught firm
hold of the tongue; with his right hand he drove
his hunting-knife into ribs and side; his arm and
hand were mangled, his sides were gashed and
torn, but the grizzly lay dead before him.
The fort of St. John, on the Upper Peace
River, is a very tumble-down old place; it stands
on the south shore of the river, some thirty feet
above high-water level; close behind its ruined
buildings the ridges rise 1000 feet, steep and pine-
clad ; on the opposite shore bare grassy hills lift
their thicket-fringed faces nearly to the same
elevation; the river, in fact, runs at the bottom of
a very large V-shaped trough 900 feet below the
prairie-plateau. Between the base of the hill and
the bank of the river lies a tract of wooded and
sheltered land, from whose groves of birch, poplar, THE  RIVER AWAKES.
and pines the loud " drumming " of innumerable
partridges now gave token of the coming spring.
Yes, we had travelled into the spring—our steps
and these never-tiring dogs had carried us farther
and quicker than time. It was only the second
week in April, and already the earth began to
soften; the forest smelt of last year's leaves and
of this year's buds ; the rills spoke, and the wild
duck winged along the river channels. During
the whole of the second week of April the days
were soft and warm; rain fell in occasional
showers; at daybreak my thermometer showed
only 3° or 4° of frost, and in the afternoon stood
at 50° to 60° in the shade. • From the 15th to the
20th the river, which had hitherto held aloof from
all advances of the spring, began to show many
symptoms of yielding to her soft entreaties. Big
tears rose at times upon his iron face and flowed
down his frosted*cheeks; his great heart seemed
to swell 'within him, and ominous groans broke
from his long-silent bosom. At night he recovered himself a little, and looked grim and rigid
in the early morning; but, at last, spring, and
shower, and sun, and stream were too much for
him—all his children were already awake, and
prattling, and purling, and pulling at him, and
shaking him to open his long-closed eyelids, to
look once more at the blue and golden summer. 216
It was the 20th of April. But the rose of spring
had its thorn too (what rose has not ?), and with
bud, and sun, and shower came the first mosquito
on this same 20th of April. He was a feeble
insect, and hummed around in a mournful sort of
manner, not at all in keeping with the glowing
prospect before him. He had a whole long
summer of stinging in prospective; " the winter
of his discontent" was over, and yet there was
nothing hilarious in his hum. I have made a
slight error in repeating the old saying, that " no
rose is without its thorn," for there is just one—
it is the primrose. But there were other thorns
than mosquitoes in store for the denizens of this
isolated spot, called St. John's, in the wilderness.
On the north shore of the river, directly facing
the tumble-down fort, a new log-house was in
course of erection by the Hudson's Bay Company.
Work moves slowly in the North, and this log-
house lay long unfinished. One fine day a canoe
came floating down the lonely river; it held a
solitary negro—pioneer, cook, trapper, vagrant,
idler, or squatter, as chance suited him. This
time the black paddler determined to squat by
the half-finished log-house of the Company. Four
years earlier he had dwelt for a season on this
same spot. There, were dark rumours afloat
about him; he had killed his man it was averred; A THBEATENING   LETTER.
nay, he had repeated the pastime, and killed two
men. He had robbed several mining shanties,
and had to shift his residence more than once
beyond the mountains on account of his mode of
life. Altogether Nigger Dan, as he was called,
bore an indifferent reputation among the solitary
white man and his half-breed helpers at the post
of St. John's. By the Indians he was regarded
as something between a beaver and an American
bear, and, had his head been tradeable as a matter
of fur, I believe they would have trapped him to
a certainty. But despite the hostile feelings of
the  entire  community-,  Nigger  Dan held  stout
J 7 OO
possession of his shanty, and claimed, in addition
to his hut, all the land adjoining it, as well as
the Hudson's Bay Fort in course of erection.
From his lair he issued manifestoes of a very
violent nature. He planted stakes in the ground
along the river-bank, upon which he painted in
red ochre hieroglyphics of a menacing character.
At night he could be heard across the silent river
indulging in loud and uncalled-for curses, and at
times he varied this employment by reciting portions of the Bible in a pitch of voice and accent
peculiar to gentlemen of colour. On the 12th of
April, four days after my arrival at St. John's,
my young host was the recipient of the following
ultimatum.    I copy it verbatim :— 218
April 12.
Kenedy       I hear by
Worne you that Com and Gett your
persnol property if eny you
have Got of my prmeeis In 24 hours And then keep away,
from me because I shal Not betrubbld Nor trod on
only by her most Noble
(Sgd)        D. T. Williams.
On the back appeared,—
I have wated longe A-day for an ancer from that Notis you
toer Down and now It is my turn to tore down	
Although the spirit of loyalty which breathed
through the latter portion of this document was
most admirable, it is nevertheless matter for
regret that Dan's views of the subject of " persnol
property" were not those of a law-abiding citizen;
unfortunately for me, both the Hudson's Bay
claimant and the negro occupant appealed to me in
support of their rival rights. What was to be done ?
It is true that by virtue of a commission conferred
upon me some years earlier I had been elevated
to the lofty title of justice of the peace for Rupert's
Land and the North-West Territories, my brother
justices consisting, I believe, of two Hudson Bay
officials and three half-breed buffalo runners, whose
collective wisdom was deemed amply sufficient to
dispense justice .over something like two million I  ISSUE  A JUDICIAL MEMOBANDUM.
square miles. Nevertheless, it occurred to me
that this matter of disputed ownership was one
outside even the wide limits of my jurisdiction.
To admit such want of jurisdiction would never
have answered. " Rupert's Land and the North-
West " carried with them a sense of vast indefinite
power, that if it were once shaken by an admission
of non-competency, two million square miles,
containing a population of one twenty-fourth of
a wild man to each square mile, might have
instantly become a prey to chaotic crime. Feeling
the inutility of my lofty office to deal with the
matters in question, I decided upon adopting a
middle course, one which I have every reason to
believe upheld the full majesty of the law in the
eyes of the eight representatives of the Canadian,
African, and American races of man,now assembled
around me. I therefore issued a document which
ran thus:—
Judicial Memorandum.
Various circumstances having occurred in the neighbourhood of the Hudson's Bay Fort, known as St. John's, on the
Peace River, of a nature to lead to the assumption that a
breach of the peace is liable to arise out of the question of
disputed ownership, in a plot of land on the north shore of the
river, on which the Hudson's Bay Company have erected
buildings to serve as their future place of business, and on
which it is asserted one Daniel Williams, a person of colour,
formerly lived, this is to notify all persons concerned in this
question, that no belief of ownership, no former or present 220
possession, will be held in any-way to excuse or palliate the
slightest infringement of the law, or to sanction any act of
violence being committed, or to occasion any threats being
made use of by any of the said parties which might lead to a
breach of the peace.
Executed by me, as Justice of the Peace for Rupert's Land
and the North-West, this 22nd day of April, 1873.
Signed, &c, &c.
I claim for this memorandum or manifesto some
slight degree of praise. It bears, I think, a striking
analogy to diplomatic documents, for which of late
years the British Government has been conspicuous
in times of grave foreign complications; but in one
important respect my judicial memorandum was
very much more successful than any of the political
papers upon which it was framed; for whereas
they had been received by the respective belligerents to whom they had. been addressed in a
manner not at all flattering to our national dignity,
my very lucid statement that, diplomatically
speaking, two and two made four,' had a marked
impression on the minds of my audience.
On the one hand, I clearly pointed out that
murder, arson, and robbery were not singly or
collectively in unison with the true interpretation
of British law; and on the other, I carefully
abstained from giving any indication of what
would result from the infringement of that law in
the persons of any of the belligerents* ITS  EPPECT  IS  ALL  THAT   COULD   BE  DESIRED.   221
I have reason to believe that the negro Bismarck
was deeply impressed by the general tenour of the
document; and that a lengthened perusal of the
word I executed," in the last sentence, carried
with it a sense of profound strangulation under
which he long laboured.
And now it was time to think of moving again
towards the setting sun.
Many months of travel had carried me across
the great plateau of the North to this spot, where
from the pine-clad plain arose the white ridges of
the Rocky Mountains. Before me lay a land of
alps, a realm of mountain peaks and gloomy
canons, where in countless valleys, unseen by the
eye of man, this great Peace River had its distant
source. In snow that lasts the live-long year
these mountain summits rest; but their sides early
feel the influence of the summer sun, and from
the thousand valleys crystal streams rush forth to
swell the majestic current of the great river, and
to send it foaming in mighty volume to the distant
At such a time it is glorious work for the
voyageur to launch his cotton-wood canoe on the
rushing water and glance down the broad bosom
of the river. His paddle lies idle in the water, or
is used only to steer the swift-flying craft; and*
when evening darkens over the lofty shores, he 222
lights his camp-fire full half a hundred miles from
his starting-point of the morning.
But if it be idle, easy work to run down the
river at its summer level, what arduous toil it is
to ascend it during the same season 1 Bit by bit,
little by little, the upward way must be won; with
paddle, with pole, with line dragged along shore
and pulled round tree-stump or projecting boulder;
until evening finds the toiler often not three river
reaches from his starting-point.
When the river finally breaks up, and the ice has
all passed away, there is a short period when the
waters stand at a low level; the sun is not yet
strong enough to melt the snow quickly, and the
frosts at night are still sharp in the mountain
valleys. The river then stands ten feet below its
level of mid-June; this period is a short one, and
not an hour must be lost by the voyageur who
would gain the benefit of the low water in the
earlier days of May.
Seventy miles higher up the Peace River stands a
solitary house called Hudson's Hope. It marks the
spot where the river first emerges from the canon
of the Rocky Mountains, and enters the plain
country. A trail, passable for horses, leads along
the north shore of the river to this last trading-post
of the Hudson's Bay Company on the verge of the
mountains.    Along this trail I now determined to WORKING  UP THE PEACE RIVER.
continue my journey, so as to gain the west side
of the Great Canon before the ice had left the
river, and thus reap the advantage of the low
water in ascending still farther into the mountains.
It is no easy matter to place an exact picture
of the topography of a country before a reader':
we must, however, endeavour to do so.
Some fifty miles west of St. John, the Peace
River issues from the canon through which it
passes the outer range of the Rocky Mountains.
No boat, canoe, or craft of any kind has ever run
the gauntlet of this huge chasm; for five-and-
thirty miles it lies deep sunken through the
mountains; while from its depths there ever*rises
the hoarse roar of the angry waters as they dash
furiously against their rocky prison. A trail of
ten miles leads across this portage, and at the
western end of this trail the river is reached close
to where it makes its first plunge into the rock-
hewn chasm. At this point the traveller stands
within the outer range of the mountains, and he
has before him a broad river, stretching far into a
region of lofty peaks, a river with strong but even
current, flowing between banks 200 to 300 yards
apart. Around great mountains lift up their heads
dazzling with the glare of snow, 10,000 feet above
the water which carries his frail canoe.
It was through this pass that I now proposed 224
to journey westward towards the country which
lies between the Pacific Ocean, Alaska, and the
multitudinous mountains of Central British
Columbia, a land but little known ; a vast alpine
region, where, amidst lakes and mountains nature
-reigns in loneliness and cloud. Start from St. John's.—Crossing the ice.—-Batiste La Slew.
—Chimeroo.—The last wood-buffalo.—A dangerous weapon.
—Our raft collapses.—Across the Half-way River.
The 22nd of April.had come. For some days we
were engaged at St. John's in preparing supplies
for the ascent of the river, and in catching and
bringing in from the prairie the horses which
were to carry me to the poinOof embarcation at
the west end of the canon; the snoW had nearly
all disappeared from the level prairie. The river
opposite the fort was partly open, but some
distance below a bridge of ice yet remained, and
on the 20th we mOved our horses across this
connecting link to the north shore. The night of
the 20th made a serious change in the river, and
when the 22nd came, it Was doubtful whether we
should be able to cross without mishap.
From the fort of St. John's to the gold mines
on the Ominica River was some twenty or thirty
days' travel, and as no supplies were obtainable
1 226
en route, save such as my gun might afford, it
became necessary to carry a considerable quantity
of moose pemmican and dry meat, the sole
luxuries which St. John's could boast of.
By the 22nd all preparations were declared
complete, and we began to cross the river over
the doubtful ice-bridge. First went two men
dragging a dog-sled, on which was piled the stores
and provisions for the journey; next came old
Batiste La Fleur, who was to accompany me as
far as the Half-way River, a torrent which we
would have to raft across on the second day of
our journey.
Batiste carried a long pole, with which he
sounded the ice previous to stepping upon it. I
brought up the ;gear, also carrying a pole, and
leading by a long line the faithful Cerf-vola.
Spanker and his six companions here passed from
my hands, and remained at St. John's to idle
through the approaching summer, and then to
take 'their places as Hudson Bay hauling-dogs;
but for Cerf-vola there was to be no more hauling, his long and faithful service had at length
met its reward, and the untiring Esquimaux was
henceforth to lounge through life collarless and
Coasting down along the shore-ice we reached
the crossing-point, and put out into the mid-river; CROSSING THE ICE.
once on the dangerous part, there was no time
to think whether it was safe or not. A Salteaux
Indian, dragging the sled, went in, but light and
quick as thought he dragged himself from the
ice and sped along its yielding surface. Below
rumbled the river, and in the open places its dark
waters gurgled up and over the crumbling ice.
Only a narrow tongue of ice spanned the central
current; we crossed it with nothing worse than
wet feet and legs, and to me a dislocated thumb,
-and then we breathed freer on the farther side.
Loading the horses with luggage and provisions, I bade good-bye to my host, and we
turned our faces towards the steep north shore.
The day was gloriously bright. The hill up
which the horses scrambled for a thousand feet
was blue with wild anemones; spring was in the
earth and in the air. Cerf-vola raced in front,
with tail so twisted over his back that it
threatened to dislocate his spine in a frantic
attempt to get in front of his nose. The* earth,
bare of snow, gave forth a delicious fragrance,
which one drank with infinite delight after the
long, long scentless winter; and over the white
river below, and the pine forest beyond, summer,
dressed in blue sky and golden sunbeam, came
moving gently up on the wing of the soft south
-Q 2 228
We reached the summit. Below lay a long
line of frosted river; the little fort, dwarfed by
distance, the opposing ridges, the vast solitude,
and beyond all, snow-white against the western
sky- the peaks and pinnacles of nameless mountains. Through varied prairie and Wooded country, and across many a rushing brook, deep hidden
in tangled brake and thicket, we held our way on
that bright spring afternoon; and evening found
us on a bare and lofty ridge, overlooking the
valley of the Peace River. Batiste had lived his
life in these Solitudes, and knew the name of
creek and prairie, and the history (for even the
wilderness has a history) of each hill or widespread meadow.
The beautiful prairie Which lay beneath Our
Camping-place was Chimeroo's prairie, and the
great ridge of rock which frowned above it was
also Chimeroo's; and away there where the cleft
appeared in the hills to the north, that was where
■Chimeroo's river came out to join the Peace. In
fact, Chimeroo played such a conspicuous part in
the scenery that one naturally asked, Who Was
Chimeroo ?
I Chimeroo ! Oh, he is a Beaver Indian ', he
lived here for a long time., and he killed the last
wood-buffalo in yonder valley, just three years ago."
The last of his race had wandered down • from CHIMEROO.—THE LAST WOOD BUPPALO.
■the banks of the Liard, and Chimeroo had struck
his trail, and followed him to the death.
When twilight fell, that peculiar orange light of
the American wilderness lay long in the west.
Against this vivid colour, Chimeroo's hill stood
out in inky profile the perfect image of a colossal
face. Forehead, nose, lips, and chin seemed cut
in the huge rock, and, like a monstrous sphinx,
looked blankly over the solitude.
I It is the head of Chimeroo," I said to Batiste;
" see, he looks over his dominions." We were
perched upon a bare lull-top, many hundred feet
above the river. The face rose between us and
the west, some three miles distant; the head,
thrown slightly back, seemed to look vacantly out
on the waste of night and wilderness, while a
long beard (the lower part of the ridge) descended
into the darkness. Gradually day drew off his
orange curtain from the horizon, and the darkness
had blotted out the huge features of Chimeroo, We
slept upon our lonely hill-top.
Pursuing our journey on the morrow, we descended to the river, and held our way over
Chimeroo's prairie, passing beneath the lofty
ridge, whose outline had assumed the image of a
human face.
About mid-day we reached the banks of
Chimeroo's river, which, being flooded, we forded, 230
and, climbing its steep north shore, halted for
dinner. It would not be easy to exaggerate the
beauty of the country through which the trail
had carried us, or the sensation of rest which
came to one as, looking out over the landscape,
the fair spring scene stole insensibly on the
mind. Everywhere the blue anemone, like a huge
primrose, looked up to the bluer sky; butterflies
fluttered in the clear, pure air; partridges
drummed in the budding thickets. The birch-
trees and willows were putting forth their flowers,
precursors of the leaves so soon to follow. The
long-hushed rippling of the streams fell on the
ear like music heard after lapse of time; and
from the blue depths of sky at times fell the cry
of the wild goose, as with scarce-moving wing
he held his way in long waving w's to his summer
home. Chimeroo's prairie was golden with the
long grass of the old year. Chimeroo's lull glistened in the bright sun of the new spring; and
winter, driven from the lower earth, had taken
refuge in the mountains, where his snow-white
flag of surrender floated out from crag and cliff,
high above the realm of pines. Such a scene as
this, might the first man have beheld when he
looked over the virgin earth. It was far too fine
a day to work: we would rest. Batiste La Fleur
knew of a lake not far off, and we would go to it A  DANGEROUS WEAPON*
and spend the evening in hunting beaver and
wild ducks; so we put the saddles on and journeyed slowly to Batiste's paradise.
Through many a devious path and tortuous way
did Batiste guide us, until his hunting-ground was
gained. On a knoll we made our camp; and
while Kalder remained to look after it, Batiste and
I sallied forth to hunt.
Batiste's gun was an excellent weapon, were it
not for a tendency to burst about the left barrel.
This was made observable by two or more ominous
bulges towards the centre of the piece; but
Batiste appeared to have unlimited confidence in
the integrity of his weapon, and explained that
these blemishes were only the result of his having
on two or three occasions placed a bullet over a
charge of shot, and then directed the united volley
against the person of a beaver. When loading
this gun, Batiste had a risky method of leaning it
against his chest while drawing a charge of shot
from his shot-bag. I pointed out to him that this
was not a safe method of loading, as it was quite
possible the other barrel might explode while the
gun thus rested against his side. It was true, he
said, for only last year the gun under similar
treatment had exploded, carrying away the brim
of his hat, and causing no slight alarm to the rest
of his person. 232
Our success that afternoon was not great;
ducks and geese but lately arrived from the
peopled south were yet wild and wary, and had
not learned to look on man in any light save that
of an enemy; and altogether Batiste's hunter's
paradise did not justify his glowing accounts of it.
To do him justice, however, it must be stated that
the wet ground was literally ploughed up with,
moose-tracks; and the golden willows lay broken
down and bruised by the many animals which had
browsed upon them during the winter.
It was mid-day on the 24th of April when we
reached the banks of the Half-way River, whose
current, swollen by the melting snow, rolled swiftly
from the north, between banks piled high with
ice-floe. This was the first serious obstacle to the
journey, and as soon as dinner was over we set to
work to overcome it. From a neighbouring grove
of pines Kalder and Baptiste got dry trees; half
a dozen of these lashed together formed the
groundwork of a raft. Three other pine-trees
tied on top completed the craft, and with a long
pole and a rough paddle, all fashioned by the axe,
the preparations were declared finished. This
craft was put together in a sheltered part of the
river; and when all was completed, the goods and
chattels were placed upon it. But one more.piece
of work remained to be accomplished ere we set .OUR RAPT COLLAPSES.
sail upon our raft—the horses had to be crossed.
By dint of driving, and shouting we forced them
across the boulders of ice into the water. It was
cold as ice, and they stood knee-deep, afraid to
venture farther. But Kalder was a very demon
when work had to be done. In an instant he was
across the ice-floe, and upon the back of one of the
horses; then with knees and hands and voice and
heels he urged the brute into the flood. The
horse reared and snorted and plunged, but Kalder
sat him like the half-breed that he was, and in
another second, horse and rider plunged wildly
into the torrent. Down they went out of sight,
and when they reappeared the horse was striking
out for the far shore, and Kalder was grappling
.with the projecting ice. The other horses soon
followed their leader, and all four went swimming
down the current. Gradually the back eddy near
the farther shore caught them, and, touching
ground, they disappeared in the forest. Now
came our turn to cross. We towed the crazy raft
up the bordering ice, and, mooring her for a
moment in an eddy, took our places on the upper
logs. Scarcely had we put out from the shore
than the fastening gave way, and the whole fabric
threatened instant collapse. We got her back to
the eddy, repaired the damage, and once more put
out.    Our weight and baggage sunk us down, so 234
that the body of the raft was quite submerged, and
only the three trees on top showed above the
water; upon these we crowded. Old Batiste waved
a good-bye. Kalder was at the bow with a pole.
I worked a paddle on the stern. Once out of the
sheltering eddy, the current smote our unwieldy
platform, and away we went. Another instant
and the pole failed to reach the bottom. With
might and main I worked the paddle; down we
shot, and across; but ten yards down to every one
across. Would we save the eddy ? that was the
question; for if we missed it, there was nought to
stay our wild career. Far as eye could reach, the
current ran wild and red. For an anxious minute
we rushed down the stream, and then the eddy
caught us, and we spun round like a teetotum.
I The other side ! " roared Kalder; and to the other
side went the paddle to keep us in the eddy. Then
we headed for the shore; and, ere the current
could catch us again, Kalder was breast-deep in
the water, holding on with might and main to the
We were across the Half-way River. To unload the raft, build a fire, to dry our wet garments,
and shout good-bye to old Batiste, who stood on
an ice boulder, anxiously watching our fortunes
from the shore we had quitted, took us but a short
The horses were captured and saddled, and,
ascending through tangled forest into a terraced
land of rich-rolling prairies, we pushed on briskly
towards the west.
Thus, trotting through a park-like land of wood
and glade and meadow, where the jumping deer
glanced through the dry grass and trees, we
gradually drew near the Rocky Mountains. At
times the trail led up the steep face of the outer
hill to the plateau above, and then a rich view
would lie beneath—a view so vast with the
glories of the snowy range, and so filled with
nearer river and diamond-shaped island, that
•many a time I drew rein upon some lofty standpoint to look, as one looks upon things which we
would fain carry away into the memory of an after-
About the middle of the afternoon of the 25th
of April we emerged from a wood of cypress upon
an open space, beneath which ran the Peace
River. At the opposite side a solitary wooden
house gave token of life in the wilderness. The
greater part of the river was still fast frozen, but
along the nearer shore ran a current of open
water. The solitary house was the Hope of
Hudson! ii
Hudson's Hope.—A lover of literature.—Crossing the Peace,
—An unskilful pilot.—We are upset.—Our rescue.—A
strange variety of arms.—The Buffalo's Head.—A glorious
Dismounting from our tired horses, we loosened
saddles and bridles, hobbled the two fore-legs
together, and turned them adrift in the forest.
Then we cached our baggage in the trees,
for wolves were plentiful around, and a grey
wolf has about as extensive a bill of fare in
the matter of man's clothing and appointments
as any animal in creation, except perhaps a
In my early days, in Burmah and India I once
possessed a rare specimen of the last-named genus,.
who, when he found the- opportunity, beautifully
illustrated his descent from the lower orders of
man by devouring a three-volume novel in less
time than any young lady of the period could
possibly accomplish it. He never knew a moment's
starvation as long as he had a photograph album
to appease his insatiable love of literature.   But to
By the time we had cached our baggage, two
men had come forth from the house on the other
side of the river, and started out upon the ice,
dragging a very small canoe; when they reached
the open water at our side, they launched their
craft and paddled across to the shore; then, ascending the hill, they joined us at the cache.
Their news was Soon told; the river was open at
the west end of the portage (ten miles away).
Jaques Pardonet, a French miner, who had been
trapping during the winter, was about to start for
the mines on the Ominica River; he was now
patching up an old canoe which he had found
Btranded on the shore, and when it was ready he
would be off: for the rest, no Indians had come in
for a very long time, and moose meat was at a
Very low ebb in Hudson's Hope*
We descended to the river, and Kalder and
Charette (a half-breed in charge of the fort)
Crossed first in the beaver canoe; it was much too
Small to carry us all. When they had disembarked
safely on the ice, they fastened a long line to the
bow of the canoe and shoved her off to our side;
aS she neared our shore she was caught by an
English miner-who had been living with Charette
for some days, and whom I had engaged to accom- 238
pany me to the mines. He had declared himself
a proficient in the art of canoeing, and I was now
about to experience my first example of his
We took our places and shoved from the shore.
I lay low in the canoe, with legs stretched under
the narrow thwarts to steady her as much as
possible. I took in no baggage, but placed gun
and revolver in the bottom alongside of me.
Cerf-vola was to swim for himself.
A , the miner, took a paddle at the stern-
We had scarcely left the shore when the canoe
lurched quickly to one side, shipping water as she
did so. Then came another lurch on the other
side, and I knew all was over. I heard the men
on shore shouting to the miner to sit low—to
keep down in the canoe—but all was too late.
There came another lurch, a surge of water, and
we were over into the icy quick-running river. I
could not free myself from the thwarts which held
me like a vice; the water gurgled and rushed
around, about, and above me; and the horrid
sensation of powerlessness, which the sleeper
often experiences in a nightmare, came full upon
my waking senses.
Of struggling I have but a faint recollection \
at such times one struggles with a wild instinct
that knows no rule or thought;   but I vividly  1'P AN UNSKILPUL PILOT.—WE  ARE UPSET.        239
recollect the prevalent idea of being held head
downwards in the icy current, in a grasp which
seemed as strong as that of death.
I remembered, too, without trouble, all the
surroundings of the scene; the bordering ice
which was close below us—for the channel of
water took a central course a little bit lower
down the river, and the ice lay on both sides of
it—while the current ran underneath as water
can only run when four feet of solid ice is pressing
upon it. Once under that ice and all was over
with us. How it came about I cannot tell, but all
at once I found myself free; I suppose one
struggle something wilder than the rest had set
me free, for long afterwards one of my legs bore
tokens of the fight. In another second I was on
the surface. I grasped the canoe, but it was round
as a log, and turned like a wheel in the water,
rolling me down each time, half-drowned as I
already was.
My companion, the miner, had gone at once
clear of the canoe, and, catching her by the stern,
had held himself well above the water. One look
at Kalder and Charette on the ice told me they
were both utterly demoralized: Kalder had got
behind Charette, while the latter held the line
without well knowing what to do with it. Perhaps
it was better that he did so, as the line was a 240
miserably frail one, little better than a piece
of twine, and the weight upon it now in this
Strong current was very great. Very slowly
Charette hauled in the line that held us to Mother
Earth; then Kalder recovered his presence of
mind, and flung a leathern line across the upturned canoe. I grasped it, and in another
instant the bark grated against the edge of the
ice. Numbed and frozen I drew myself on to the
canoe, then on to the crumbling ice along the
edge, and finally to the solid pack itself Wet,
water-logged, numbed, and frozen, we made our
way across the ice to the shore. My gun and
revolver had vanished; they lay somewhere under
twenty feet of water.
Thus, without arms, with watch feebly ticking—
as though endeavouring to paddle itself with its
hands through billows of water, with Aneroid
so elevated, I presume, at its escape from beneath
the water, that in a sudden revulsion of feeling it
indicated an amount of elevation above the sea
level totally inconsistent "with anything short of
a Himalayan altitude, at which excited state it
continued to exist during the remainder of my
wandering — we reached the Hope of Hudson.
There never was truer saying than that When
things go to the worst they mend. When I had
changed my dripping clothes for a suit of Cha-> OUR RESCUE.—A. STRANGE VARIETY OP ARMS. 241'
rette's Sunday finery, when Mrs. Charette had
got ready a cup of tea and a bit of moose steak,
and when the note-book, letters, and likenesses,
which one carries as relics of civilization into the
realms of savagery, had all been duly dried and
renovated, matters began to look a good deal
Early on the following morning Charette and
Kalder moored a couple of canoes in the open
water, and began to drag for the gun with a fishhook fastened to the end of a long pole; the gun
was in a leathern case, and an hour's work resulted
in its recovery, none the worse for its submersion.
My ammunition was •still safe, but as the supply
of it available for a breech-loader was limited, we
were on the whole badly off for arms. I armed
Kalder "with a flint trading-gun—a weapon which,
when he had tried it at a mark, and then hammered the barrel, first on one side then on the
other, he declared to be a good "beaver gun." The
miner also possessed a gun, but as the hammer of
one barrel hung dangling gracefully down the
side, and as he possessed no percussion-caps for
the other barrel (a want he ■ supplied by an
ingenious use of wax vestas), the striking of his
match conveyed a similar idea to the mind of any
bird or beast at whose person he presented the
muzzle; and while the gun was thinking about
R 242
going off, the bird or beast had already made up
its mind to take a similar course.
Now this matter of weapons was a serious item
in our affairs, for numerous are the delays and
mishaps of an up-river journey in the wild land
we were about to penetrate. Down stream all is
well; a raft can always be made that will run
from four to six miles an hour; but the best craft
that men can build will not go a mile an hour upstream on many parts of these rivers, and of this
up-river we had some 200 miles before us.
On the 27th of April I set out from Hudson's
Hope to cross the portage of ten miles, which
avoids the Great Canon, at the farther end of
which the Peace River becomes navigable for a
We crossed the river once more at the scene of
our accident two days previously; but this time,
warned by experience, a large canoe was taken,
and we passed safely over to the north shore. It
took some time to hunt up the horses, and
mid-day had come before we finally got clear of
the Hope of Hudson.
The portage trail curved up a steep hill of
800 or 900 feet; then on through sandy flats and
by small swamps, until, at some eight or nine miles
from the Hope of Hudson, the outer spurs of the
mountains begin to flank us on either side. . To
the north a conspicuous ridge, called the Buffalo's
Head, rises abruptly from the plain, some 3000
feet above the pass; its rock summit promised a
wide view of mountain ranges on one side,.and of
the great valley of the Peace River on the other.
It stood alone, the easternmost of all the ranges,
and the Canon of the Peace River flowed round
it upon two sides, south and west.
Months before, at the forks of the Athabasca
River, a man who had once wandered into these
wilds told me, in reply to a question of mine, that
there was one spot near the mouth of the Peace
River pass which commanded a wide range of
mountain and prairie.    It was the Buffalo's Head.
Nine hundred miles had carried me now to that
spot. The afternoon was clear and fine; the great
range had not a cloud to darken the glare of the
sun upon its sheen of snow; and the pure cool air
came over the forest trees fresh from the thousand
billows of this sea of mountains. The two men
went on to the portage end; I gave them my
horse, and, turning at right angles into a wood,
made my way towards the foot of the Buffalo's
Thick with brule" and tangled forest lay the base
of the mountain; but this once passed, the steep
sides became clear of forest, and there rose
abruptly before me a mass of yellow grass and
R 2 244
soft-blue anemones. Less than an hour's hard
climbing brought me to the summit, and I was
a thousand times repaid for the labour of the
. I stood on the bare rocks which formed the
frontlet of the Buffalo's Head. Below, the pines
of a vast forest looked like the toy-trees which
children set up when Noah is put forth to watch the
animals emerging from his ark, and where everything is in perfect order, save and except that perverse pig, who will insist on lying upon his side in
consequence of a fractured leg, and who must
either be eliminated from the procession altogether,
or put in such close contact to Mrs. Noah, for the
sake of her support, as to detract very much from
the solemnity of the whole procession.
Alas, how futile is it to endeavour to describe
such a view! Not more wooden are the ark
animals of our childhood, than the words in which
man would clothe the images of that higher
nature which the Almighty has graven into the
shapes of lovely mountains! Put down your
wooden woods bit by bit; throw in colour here, a
little shade there, touch it up with sky and cloud,
cast about it that perfume of blossom or breeze,
and in Heaven's name what does it come to after
all ? Can the eye wander away, away, away until
it is lost in blue distance as a lark is lost in blue A GLORIOUS  VIEW.
heaven, but the sight still drinks the beauty of
the landscape, though the source of the beauty be
unseen, as the source of the music which falls
from the azure depths of sky.
That river coming out broad and glittering
from the dark mountains, and vanishing into yon
profound chasm with a roar which reaches up
even here—billowy seas of peaks and mountains
beyond number away there to south and west—
that huge half dome which lifts itself above all
others sharp and clear cut against the older dome
of heaven! Turn east, look out into that plain
—that endless plain where the pine-trees are
dwarfed to spear-grass and the prairie to a
meadow-patch—what do you see ? Nothing, poor
blind reader, nothing, for the blind is leading the
blind; and all this boundless range of river and
plain, ridge and prairie, rocky precipice and snowcapped sierra, is as much above my poor power of
words, as He who built this mighty, nature is
higher still than all.
Ah, my friend, my reader! Let us come down
from this mountain-top to our own small level
again. We will upset you in an ice-rapid; Kalder
will fire at you; we will be wrecked; we will
have no food; we will hunt the moose, and do
anything and everything you like,—but we cannot
put in words the things that we see from these 246
lonely mountain-tops when we climb them in the
sheen of evening. When you go into your church,
and the organ rolls and the solemn chant floats
through the lofty aisles, you do not ask your
neighbour to talk to you and tell you what it is
like. If he should do anything of the kind, the
beadle takes him and puts him out of doors, and
then the policeman takes him and puts him indoors, and he is punished for his atrocious conduct; and yet you expect me to tell you about
this church, whose pillars are the mountains,
whose roof is the heaven itself, whose music comes
from the harp-strings which the earth has laid
over her bosom, which we call pine-trees; and
from which the hand of the Unseen draws forth a
ceaseless symphony rolling ever around the world. JACQUES, THE FRENCH MINEB.
Jacques, the French miner.—A fearful abyss.—The Great
Canon of the Peace River.—We are off on our western way.
—;Unfortunate Indians.—A burnt baby.—The moose that
It was dusk when I reached the ruined hut which
stood at the western end of the portage. My
men had long preceded me, and Kalder had supper
ready before the great fireplace. The fire shed
its fight upon a fourth figure; it was that of
Jacques, the French miner, five feet two inches in
height; miner, trapper, trader, and wanderer
since he left his home in Lorraine, near the war-
famous  citadel  of   Belfort,  some   twenty years
I brought one piece of news to the hut: it was.
that although the river was free from ice opposite
our resting-place, and to the end of the reach in
view, yet it was fast closed in for the twenty or
thirty miles which my mountain climb had enabled
me to scan.    So here in the midst of the moun- 248
tains we awaited the disruption of the ice and the
opening of our watery way.
The delay thus occasioned was unexpected, and
fell heavily on my supply of food; but rabbits
and partridges were numerous, and Kalder's gun
proved itself to be a worthy weapon at these
denizens of the forest, as well as at the beaver.
On the evening of my arrival at the hut I had seen
two moose drinking on a sand-bar near the mouth
of the Canon, but the river lay between me and
them, and we could find no further trace of them
on the following day.
In one respect the delay was not irksome to me;
it gave me an opportunity of exploring a portion
of the Great Canon, and forming some idea of
the nature of the difficulties and dangers which
made it an impassable chasm for the hardiest
On the 29th of April the ice in the upper part
of the river broke up, and came pouring down
with great violence for some hours; blocks of ice
many feet in thickness, and weighing several tons,
came down the broad river, crushing against each
other, and fining the shore with huge crystal
The river rose rapidly, and long after dark the
grating of the ice-blocks in the broad channel
below told us that the break-up must be a general A FEARFUL ABYSS.
one; the current before our hut was running
six miles an hour, and the ice had begun to run
early in the afternoon.
All next day the ice continued to run at
intervals, but towards evening it grew less, and at
nightfall it had nearly ceased.
During the day I set out to explore the Canon.
Making my way along the edge of what was, in
ages past, the shore of a vast lake, I gained the
summit of a ridge which hung directly over the
Canon. Through a mass of wrack and tangled
forest I held on, guided by the dull roar of waters
until I reached an open space, where a ledge of
rock dipped suddenly into the abyss : on the outer
edge of this rock a few spruce-trees sprung from
cleft and fissure, and from beneath, deep down in
the dark chasm, a roar of water floated up into
the day above. Advancing cautiously to the smooth
edge of the chasm, I took hold of a spruce-tree
and looked over. Below lay one of those grim
glimpses which the earth holds hidden, save from
the eagle and the mid-day sun. Caught in a dark
prison of stupendous cliffs (cliffs which hollowed
out beneath, so that the topmost ledge literally
hung over the boiling abyss of waters), the river
foamed and lashed against rock and precipice,
nine hundred feet below me. Like some caged
beast that finds escape impossible on one side, it 250
flew as madly and as vainly against the other;
and then fell back in foam and roar and raging
whirlpool. The rocks at the base held the record
of its wrath in great trunks of trees, and blocks of
ice lying piled and smashed in shapeless ruin.
Looking down the Canon towards the south, a
great glen opened from the west; and the sun, now
getting low in the heavens, poured through this
valley a flood of light on red and grey walls of
rugged rock; while half the pine-clad hills lay dark
in shade, and half glowed golden in this level light;
and far away, beyond the shadowy chasm and the
sun-lit glen, one great mountain-peak lifted-his
dazzling crest of snow high into the blue air of the
There are many indications above the mouth of
the Canon, that the valley in which our hut
stood was once a large lake. The beaches and
terrace levels are distinctly marked, but the barrier
fall was worn down into a rapid, and the Canon
became a slant of water for some thirty miles.
At the entrance the rock is worn smooth and flat
in many places, and huge cisterns have been
hollowed in its surface—"kettles," as the voyageur
calls them—perfectly round, and holding still the
granite boulder which had chiselled them, worn to
the size and roundness of a cannon-ball from ages
of revolution.    Some of these kettles are tiny THE  GREAT CANON  OF
as a tea-cup;  others are huge as the tun of
When I got back to the hut, night had fallen.
At the end of the long river-reach a new moon
hung in the orange-tinted west; the river was
almost clear of ice, and it was resolved to start on
the morrow.
There was a certain amount of vagueness in
the programme before me. For seventy miles the
course was perfectly clear—there was, in fact, only
one road to follow—1but at the end of that distance
two paths lay open, and circumstances could only
determine the future route at that point.
H the reader will imagine an immense letter Y
laid longitudinally from west to east, he will have
a fair idea of the Peace River above the Canon.
The tail of the Y will be the seventy miles of river
running directly through the main range of the
Rocky Mountains; the right arm will be the
Findlay, having its source 300 miles higher up in
that ■wilderness of mountains known as the
Stickeen; the left arm will be the Parsnip River,
sometimes called by mistake the Peace River,
having its source 260 miles to the south near the
waters of the upper Frazer. Countless lesser
streams (some of them, nevertheless, having their
200 miles of life) roll down into these main
systems; and it would seem as though the main 252
channel had, like a skilful general, united all its
widely-scattered forces at the forks, seventy miles
above us, before entering on the gigantic task of
piercing the vast barrier of the central mountains.
Standing on the high ground at .the back of
the hut in which we awaited the opening of the
great river, and looking westward at the mountains
piled together in endless masses, it was difficult
to imagine by what process a mighty river had
cloven asunder this wilderness of rock,—giving
us the singular spectacle of a wide, deep, tranquil
stream flowing through the principal mountain
range of the American continent.
May-day broke in soft showers of rain; the
mountains were shrouded in mist; the breeze was
not strong enough to lift the gauze-like vapour
from the tree-tops on the south shore. By nine
o'clock the mists began to drift along the lull-
sides ; stray peaks came forth through rifts, then
shut themselves up again; until finally the sun
drew off the vapours, and clad mountain and
valley in blue and gold.
We loaded the canoe, closed the door of the
old shanty, and shoved off upon our western way.
There were four of us and one dog—two miners, my
half-breed Kalder, myself, and Cerf-vola. I had
arranged with Jacques to travel together, and I
made him captain of the boat.   None knew better WE  ARE  OFF ON OUR WESTERN WAY,
the secrets of the Upper Peace River; for ten years
he had delved its waters with his paddle, and its
sand-bars with his miner's shovel.
Little Jacques—he was a curious specimen of
humanity, and well worth some study too. I have
already said that he was small, but that does not
convey any idea of his real size. I think he was
the smallest man I ever saw—of course I mean a
man, and not a dwarf; Jacques had nothing of
the dwarf about him—nay, he was a very giant in
skm and craft of paddle, and pluck and daring.
He had lived long upon his own resources, and
had found them equal to most emergencies.
He could set his sails to every shift of fortune,
and make some headway in every vrind. In
summer he hunted gold; in winter he hunted
furs. He had the largest head of thick bushy
hair I ever saw. He had drawn 3000 dollars'
worth of pure gold out of a sand-pit on the
Ominica River during the preceding summer; he
had now a hundred fine marten-skins, the produce
of his winter's trapping. Jacques was rich, but all
the same, Jacques must work. As I have said,
Jacques was a native of Belfort. Belfort had
proved a tough nut for Kaiser William's legions;
and many a time as I watched this little giant
in times of peril, I thought that with 200,000
little Jacqueses one could fight big Bismarck's
i O O 254
beery battalions as often as they pleased. Of
course Jacques had a pair of miner's boots. A
miner without a pair of miner's boots would be
like Hamlet with Hamlet left out. When Jacques
donned these boots, and swung himself out on a
huge forest, trunk prostrate in a rapid, and hewed
away at the giant to give our canoe a passage, he
looked for all the world like his prototype the
giant-killer, and the boots became the seven-
leagued friends of our early days.
How the big axe flew about his little head, until
crash went the monster, and Jacques sprang back
to rock or boat as lively as a squirrel.
He had many queer stories of early days, and
could recount with pride the history of the stirring
times he had seen. What miner's heart does not
soften at the recollection, in these degenerate days,
of how the Yigilants hanged six roughs one morn-
ing in the market-place of Frisco, just two-and-
twenty years ago ?
We poled and paddled along the shore of the
river; now on one side, now on the other, dodging
the heavy floes of ice which still came at intervals
along the current.
In the evening we had gained a spot some twelve
miles from the hut, and we made our camp on a
wooded flat set in a wide amphitheatre of hills.
The next morning broke wet and stormv, and we UNFORTUNATE  INDIANS.
lay in camp during the early part of the day.
Towards mid-day the silence was broken by the
discharge of a gun at the opposite side of the
river. We at once answered it, and soon another
report replied to ours. There were Indians in the'
vicinity, so we might expect a visit. About an
hour later a most wretched group appeared at our
camp. It consisted of two half-clad women, one
of whom carried a baby on her back; a wild-
looking boy, apparently about twelve. or fourteen
years of age, led the way, carrying an old gun;
two dogs brought up the rear. A glance at the
dogs showed that food, at least, was plentiful in
the Indian camp—they were fat and sleek. If an
Indian has a fat dog, you may know that game is
abundant; if the dog is thin, food is scarce; if
there be no dog at all, the Indian is starving,
and the dog has been killed and eaten by his
master.    But to proceed :—
In a network of tattered blankets and dripping
rags, these three wretched creatures stalked into
our camp; they were as wet as if they had come
underneath the river instead of across it; but that
seemed to give them little thought. Jacques
understood a few words of what they said, and
the rest was made out by signs;—all the men
were sick, and had been sick for months. This
boy and another were alone able to hunt; but 256
moose were plenty, and starvation had not come
to supplement sickness; the women were " packing " the men.
Reader, what do you imagine that means ? I
will soon tell you. It means that when the camp
moves—which it does every few days, as the game
gets hunted away from one locality—the women
carried the men on their backs in addition to the
household gods. Literally these poor women
carried on their bent backs the house, the
clothes, the food, the baby, and the baby's father.
What was the disease ?   They could not tell.
My slender stock of drugs was long since
exhausted; I had nothing left but the pain-killer.
I gave them half of my last bottle, and had it been
the golden wealth of the sand-bars of this Peace
River itself, it could not have been more thought
of. To add to their misfortunes, the baby had
come to grief about a week previously—it had
tumbled head foremost into the fire. It was now
unslung from its mother's back for my inspection.
Poor little Beaver! its face and head had got a
dreadful burning; but, thanks to mountain air and
Indian hardiness, it was getting all right.
Had I anything to rub on it ? A little of the
Mai de Racquette porpoise-oil and pain-killer yet
remained, and with such an antidote the youthful
Beaver might henceforth live in the camp-fire. A  BURNT  BABY
I know some excellent Christians at home who
occasionally bestow a shilling or a half-crown upon
a poor man at a church-door or a street-crossing,
not for the humanity of the act, but just to purchase that amount of heaven in the next world, I
believe they could tell you to a farthing how much
of Paradise they had purchased last week or the
week before. I am not sure that they are quite
clear as to whether the quantity of heaven thus
purchased, is regulated by the value set on the gift
by the beggar or by the rich man ; but if it be by
the value placed, on it by him who gets it, think,
my Christian friends, think what a field for investment does not this wilderness present to you.
Your shilling spent here amongst these Indians
will be rated by them at more than its weight in
gold; and a pennyworth of pain-killer might
purchase you a perpetuity of Paradise.
Jacques, an adept in Indian trade, got a large
measure of dried moose meat in exchange for a
few plugs of tobacco; and the Indians went away
wet, but happy.
One word more about Indians—and I mean to
make it a long word and a strong word, and perhaps my reader will add, a wrong word; but never
mind, it is meant the other way.
This portion of the Beaver tribe trade to Hudson's Hope, the fort we have but lately quitted.
s 258
Here is the story of a trade made last summer
by " the moose that walks."
" The moose that walks " arrived at Hudson's
Hope early in the spring. He was sorely in want
of gunpowder and shot, for it was the season when
the beaver leave their winter houses, and when it
is easy to shoot them. So he carried his thirty
marten-skins to the fort, to barter them for shot,
powder, and tobacco.
There was no person at the Hope. The dwelling-house was closed, the store shut up, the man
in charge had not yet come up from St. John's;
now what was to be done ? Inside that wooden
house lay piles and piles of all that the walking
moose most needed; there was a whole keg of
powder; there were bags of shot and tobacco—
there was as much as the moose could smoke in
his whole life.
Through a rent in the parchment window the
moose looked at all these wonderful things, and at
the red flannel shirts, and at the four flint guns,
and the spotted cotton handkerchiefs, each worth
a sable skin at one end of the fur trade, half a
sixpence at the other. There was tea, too—tea,
that, magic medicine before which life's cares
vanished like snow in spring sunshine.
The moose sat down to think about all these
things, but thinking only made  matters worse. THE  MOOSE THAT  WALKS.
He was short of ammunition, therefore he had
no food, and to think of food when one is very
hungry is an unsatisfactory business. It is true
that " the moose that walks " had only to walk in
through that parchment window, and help himself
till he "was tired.    But no, that would not do.
I Ah 1" my Christian friend will exclaim, " Ah !
yes, the poor Indian had known the good missionary, and had learnt the lesson of honesty and
respect for his neighbour's property."
Yes; he had learnt the lesson of honesty, but
his teacher, my friend, had been other than human.
The good missionary had never reached the Hope
of Hudson, nor improved the morals of | the
moose that walks."
But let us go on.
After waiting two days he determined to set off
for St. John, two full days' travel. He set out,.
but his heart failed him, and he turned back again.
At last, on the fourth day he entered the parchment window, leaving outside his comrade, to whom
he jealously denied admittance. Then he took
from the cask of powder three' skins' worth, from
the tobacco four skins' worth, from the shot the
same; and sticking the requisite number of martens in the powder-barrel and the shot-bag and
the tobacco-case, he hung up his remaining skins
on a nail to the credit of his account, and departed
s 2 •mm
from this El Dorado, this Bank of England of the
Red man in the wilderness, this Hunt and Ros-
kell of Peace River.
And when it was all over he went his way,
thinking he had done a very reprehensible act,
and one by no means to be proud of. Poor moose
that walks ! in this trade for skins you are but a
small item !
Society muffles itself in your toil-won sables in
distant cities, while you starve and die out in the
The credit of your twenty skins, hung to the
rafter of Hudson's Hope, is not. a large one; but
Surely there is a Hope somewhere else, where your
account is kept in golden letters, even though
nothing but the clouds had baptized you, no missionary had cast water on your head, and God
only knows who taught you to be honest.
Let me not be misunderstood in this matter.
I believe, gentlemen missionaries, you mean
well by this Indian. I will go further; you
form, I think, almost the only class who would
deal fairly by him, but you go to work in a wrong
direction; your mode of proceeding is a mistake.
If you would only be a little more human, and a
little less divine—if you would study the necessities of the savage races amidst whom you have
cast your lot—what good might ye not effect ? THE  MOOSE  THAT WALKS.
This Cree, this Blackfoot, this Chipewyan, this
Beaver—what odds is it, in the name of all goodness, whether he fully understands the numbered
or unnumbered things you tell him. Teach him
the simple creed which you would teach a child.
He is starving, and the feast you give him is of
delicate and subtle food, long since compounded
from the brain of schoolman and classicist. He
is naked, and you would clothe him in mysterious
raiment and fine tissue, which time has woven out
of the webs of doubt and inquiry. All this will
not warm him from the terrible blast of winter, or
shelter him from the drenching rains of early
summer. He has many faults, some virtues, innumerable wants. Begin with these. Preach
against the first; cultivate the second; relieve
as much as possible the third. Make him a. good
man before you attempt to make him an indifferent Christian. In a word, do more for his
body; and after a bit, when you have taught him
to help his wife in toil and trouble—to build
a house and to live in it—to plant a few potatoes
when- the ground thaws, and to hoe them out ere
it hardens again—when you have loosed the
bands of starvation, nakedness, and hardship from
the grasp in which they now hold him, then will
come the moment for your books and your higher
teaching.     And in his  hut,  with  a  well-filled THE  WILD  NORTH   LAND^ .
stomach, he will have time to sift truth from falsehood, amidst all the isms and arians under the
guise of which you come to teach him. But just
now he is only a proletarian and an open-arian,
and not much even of these. Meantime I know that
you wish well by him. You are ready to teach
him—to tell him about a host of good, and some
very indifferent, persons; but lo ! in the middle
of your homilies he falls asleep, and his" sleep
is the sleep of death. He starves and dies out
before you. Of course I know the old old answer:
"He is hopeless; we have tried everything; we
can do nothing." How often have I not been
told, "He is hopeless; we can do nothing for
this Red man!" But will any person dare to
say that men such as this Indian at Hudson's
Hope are beyond the cure of man? If they be,
then your creed must be a poor weak thing. ' Still westward.—The dangers of the ice.—We enter the main
range.—In the mountains.—A grizzly.—The death of the
moose.—Peace River Pass.—Pete Joy.—The Ominica.—
| Travellers " at home.
We held our way up the river, fighting many a
battle with the current. Round the points the
stream ran strong, and our canoe was a big,
lumbering affair, hollowed out of a single cotton-
wood tree by Jacques, years before on the Fraser
River, and ill-adapted to the ice, which was our
most dangerous enemy. Many a near shave we
had of being crushed Under its heavy floes as we
coasted along beneath their impending masses.
When the river breaks up, portions of it stronger
than the rest remain still frozen. At the back of
these the floating ice jams, and the river rises
rapidly behind the barrier thus flung across it.
Then the pack gives way, and the pent-up waters
rapidly lower. But along the shore, on either
side, the huge blocks of ice lie stranded, heaped
one upon, another,  and   the  water,  still falling, 264
brushes off from beneath the projecting pieces,
leaving a steep wall of ice, sometimes twenty and
thirty feet, brightly rising above the water. Along
these impending masses we had to steer our canoe,
and hazardous work it was, for every now and
again some huge fragment, many tons in weight,
would slide from its high resting-place, and crash
into the river with a roar of thunder, driving the
billows before it half-way across the wide river,
and making our hearts jump half as much
. At one point where the river ran with unusual
velocity we battled long beneath a very high ice-
wall. Once or twice the current carried us against
its sides. We dared not touch it with our poles,
for it hung by a thread, so far did its summit
project over our heads.
Gently we stole our way up from beneath it,
and were still within thirty yards of it when the
great boulder, looming high, crashed into the river.
On the fourth day we got clear of this shore
ice, and drew near the main range of the mountains. But there was one important question
which.experience soon told me there was no cause
for anxiety about—it was the question of food. .
Game was abundant; the lower hills were
thickly stocked with blue grouse—a noble bird,
weighing between three and four pounds.
The bays of the river held beaver, swimming
through the driftwood, and ere we had reached
the mountain gate a moose had fallen to my
trusty smooth-bore, in one of the grassy glens
between the river and the snowy range. It was
literally a hunter's paradise. This was the worst
time of the year, except for beaver, but necessity
knows no game law, and the wilderness at all
times must find its wanderers.
We usually camped a couple of hours before
sundown, for in this northern land the daylight
was more than long enough to stiffen our
shoulders, and make our arms ache from pole or
paddle. Then came the time to stretch one's legs
over these great grassy uplands, so steep, yet so
free of rock; so full of projecting point and lofty
promontory, beneath which the river lay in long
silvery reaches, while around on. every side the
mountains' in masses of rock and snow, lay like
giant sentinels, guarding the great road which
Nature had hewn through their midst.
At the entrance to the main range, the valley of
. the river is about two miles wide. The river
itself preserves its general width of 250 to 300
yards with singular uniformity. The reaches are
from one to three miles in length, the banks are
dry, the lower beaches are level and well wooded,
and the current becomes deeper and less rapid. 266
On the 8th of May we reached, early in the
morning, the entrance to the main range. A short
rapid marks it, a rapid easy to run at all stages of
water, and up which we towed our canoe, carrying
the more perishable articles to save them from the
spray—a precaution which was, however, not
necessary, as no water was shipped.
We were now in- the mountains. From the low
terrace along the shore they rose in stupendous
masses; their lower ridges clothed in forests of
huge spruce, poplar, and birch; their middle
heights covered in dense thickets of spruce
alone; their summits cut into a thousand varied
peaks, bare of all vegetation, but bearing aloft into
the sunshine 8000 feet above us the glittering
crowns of snow which, when evening stilled the
breezes, shone reflected in the quiet waters, vast
and motionless.
Wonderful things to look at are these, white
peaks, perched up so high above our world. They
belong to us, yet they are not of us. The eagle links
them to the earth; the cloud carries to them the
message of the sky; the ocean sends them her
tempest; the air rolls her thunders beneath their
brows, and launches her lightnings from their
asides; the sun sends them his first greeting, and
leaves them his latest kiss. Yet motionless they
keep their crowns of snow, their glacier crests of   *
jewels, and dwell among the stars heedless of time
or tempest.
For two days we journeyed through this vast
valley, along a wide, beautiful river, tranquil as a
lake, and bearing on its bosOm, at intervals, small
isles of green forest. Now and again a beaver
-rippled the placid surface, or a bear appeared upon
a rocky point for a moment, looked at the strange
lonely craft, stretched out his long snout to sniff
the gale, and then vanished in the forest shore.
For the rest all was stillness; forest, isle, river
and mountain-—all seemed to sleep in unending
loneliness; and our poles grating against the
rocky shore, or a shot at some quick-diving beaver,
alone broke the silence; while the echo, dying away
in the vast mountain canons, made the relapsing
silence seem more intense.
Thus we journeyed on. On the evening of the
8th of May we emerged from the pass, and saw
beyond the extremity of a long reach of river a
mountain range running north and south, distant
about thirty miles from us. To the right and left
the Rocky Mountains opened out, leaving the river
to follow its course through a long forest valley of
considerable width.
We had passed the Rocky Mountains, and the
range before us was the central mountain system
of North British Columbia. "•SI
It was a very beautiful evening; the tops of the
birch-trees were already showing their light green
leaves amidst the dark foliage of the spruce and
Along the shore, where we landed, the tracks of
a very large grizzly bear were imprinted freshly
in the sand. I put a couple of bullets into my
gun and started up the river, with Cerf-vola for
a companion. I had got about a mile from the
camp when, a few hundred yards ahead, a large
dark animal emerged from the forest, and made
his way through some lower brushwood towards
the river. Could it be the grizzly ? I lay down
on the sand-bank, and pulled the dog down beside
me. The large black animal walked out upon the
sand-bar two or three hundred yards above me.
He proved to be a moose on his way to swim the
river to the south shore. I lay still until he had got
so far on his way that return to the forest would
have been impracticable; then I sprang to my feet
and ran towards him. What a spring he gave
across the sand and down into the water ! Making
an allowance for the force of the current, I ran
towards the shore. It was a couple of hundred
yards from me, and when I gained it the moose
was already three-parts across the river, almost
abreast where I stood, swimming for his very life,
with his huge unshapen head thrust out along the THE  DEATH  OP THE MOOSE.
surface, the ears thrown forward, while the large
ripples rolled from before his chest as he clove his
way through the water.
It was a long shot for a rifle, doubly so for a
smooth-bore; but old experience in many lands,
where the smooth-bore holds its own despite all
other weapons, had told me that when you do get
a gun to throw a bullet well, you may rely upon it
for distances supposed to be far beyond the possibilities of such a weapon; so, in a tenth of the
time it has taken me to say all this, I gave the
moose the right barrel, aiming just about his long
ears. There was a single plunge in the water;
the giant head went down, and all was quiet. And
now to secure the quarry. Away down stream he
floated, showing only one small black speck above
the surface; he was near the far side, too. Running down shore I came within calling-distance of
the camp, from which the smoke of Kalder's fire
was already curling above the tree-tops. Out came
Kalder, Jacques, and A——. Of course it was a
grizzly, and all the broken flint-guns of the party
were suddenly called into requisition. If it had been
a grizzly, and that I had been retiring before him
in skirmishing order, gods ! what a support I was
falling back upon !  A 's gun is already familiar
to the reader; Kalder's beaver-gun went off about
one shot in three; and Jacques possessed a weapon 270
(it had been discarded by an Indian, and Jacques-
had resuscitated it out of the store of all trades
which he possessed an inkling of) the most extraordinary I had ever seen. Jacques always spoke of
it in the feminine gender. " She was a good gun,
except that a trifle too much of the powder came
out the wrong way. He would back her to shoot
! plum' if she would only go off after a reasonable
lapse of time, but it was tiring to him to keep her
to the shoulder for a couple of minutes after he
had pulled her trigger, and then to have her go off
when he was thinking of pulling the gun-coat over
her again." When she was put away in the canoe,
it was always a matter of some moment to place
her so that in the event of any sudden explosion
of her pent-up wrath, she might discharge herself
harmlessly along the river, and on this account
she generally lay like a stern-chaser projecting
from behind Jacques, and endangering only his
All these maimed and mutilated weapons were
now brought forth, and such a loading and priming and hammering began, that, had it really been
a grizzly, he must have been utterly scared out of
all semblance of attack.
Kalder now mastered the position of affairs, and
like an arrow he and Jacques were into the canoe,
and out after the dead moose.    Thev soon over-   PEACE  RIVER  PASS."
hauled him, and, slipping a line over the young
antlers, towed him to the shore. We were unable
to lift him altogether out of the water, so we cut
him up as he lay, stranded like a whale.
Directly opposite a huge cone mountain rose up
some eight or nine thousand feet above us, and
just ere evening fell over the scene, his topmost
peak, glowing white in the sunlight, became
mirror'd in most faithful semblance in the clear
quiet river, while the life-stream of the moose
flowed out over the tranquil surface, dyeing the
nearer waters into brilliant crimson.
H some painter in the exuberance of his genius
had put upon canvas such a strange contrast
of colours, people would have said it is not true
to nature; but .nature has many truths, and it
takes many a long day, and not a few years' toil,
to catch a tenth of them. And, my dear friend
with the eye-glass—you who know all about
nature in a gallery and with a catalogue—you may
take my word for it.
And now, ere quitting, probably for ever, this.
grand Peace River Pass—this immense valley
which receives in its bosom so many other valleys,
into whose depths I only caught a moment's
glimpse as we floated by their outlets—let me say
one .other word about it.
Since I left the Wild North Land, it has been 272
my lot to visit the chief points of interest in'
Oregon, California, the Vale of Shasta, and the
Yosemite. Shasta is a loftier mountain than any
that frown above the Peace River Pass. . Yosemite can boast its half-dozen waterfalls, trickling
down their thousand feet of rock; but for wild
beauty, for the singular spectacle of a great river
flowing tranquilly through a stupendous mountain
range,—these mountains presenting at every reach
a hundred varied aspects,—not the dizzy glory of
Shasta nor the rampart precipices of Yosemite
can vie with that lonely gorge far away on the
great Unchagah.
On the 9th of May we reached the Forks of the
river, where the two main streams of the Parsnip
and the Findlay came together. A couple of
miles from their junction a second small rapid
occurs; but, like the first one, it can be run "without difficulty.
Around the point of junction the country is low
and marshy, and when we turned into the Findlay,
it was easy to perceive from the colour of the
water that the river was rising rapidly.
Some miles above the Forks there is a solitary
hut on the south bank of the river. In this hut
dwelt Pete Joy, a miner of vast repute in the
northern mining country.
Some ten years ago Pete had paddled his canoe PETE JOY.
into these lonely waters. As he went, he pro?
spected the various bars. Suddenly he struck:
one of surpassing richness. It yielded one dollar
to the bucket, or one hundred dollars a day to a
man's work. Pete was astonished; he laid up
his canoe, built this hut, and claimed the bar as
his property. For a long time it yielded a steady
return; but even gold has a limit—the bar became;
exhausted.    Where had all his gold come from 2
Ah, that is the question ! Even to-day, though
the bank has been washed year after year, " it is
still rich in colour;" but the "pay-dirt" lies too-
far from the water's edge, hence the labour is too
Well, Pete, the Cornish miner, built his hut
and took out his gold; but that did not satisfy
him. What miner ever yet was satisfied ? Pete
went in for fifty things; he traded with the
Indians, he trapped, he took an Indian wife; yet,
through all, he maintained a character for being
as honest and as straightforward $, miner as eveit
found " a colour" from Mexico to Cariboo.
My little friend Jacques expected to meet his
old brother miner Pete at his hut; but, as we
came within five miles of it, a beaver swam across
the river. We all fired at him, and when the.
smoke had vanished, I heard Jacques mutter,
" Pete's not hereabouts, or that fellow wouldn'|;
T 274
be there." He was right, for, when we reached
the hut an hour later, we found a notice on the
door, saying that Pete and two friends had departed for the Ominica just six days earlier, being
totally out of all food, and having only their guns
to rely upon. Now this fact of Pete's absence
rendered necessary new arrangements, for here
the two courses I have' already alluded to lay
open—either to turn south, along the Parsnip; or
north and west, along the Findlay and Ominica.
The current of the Parsnip is regular; that of
the Ominica is wild and rapid. But the Parsnip
was already rising, and at its spring level it is
almost an impossibility to ascend it, owing to its
great depth; while the Ominica, though difficult
and dangerous in its canons, is nevertheless possible of ascent, even in its worst stage of water.
I talked the matter over with Jacques, as we sat
camped on the gold-bar opposite Pete Joy's house.
Fortunately we had ample supplies of meat; but
some luxuries, such as tea and sugar, were getting
dangerously low, and flour was almost exhausted.
I decided upon trying the Ominica.
About noon, on the 10th of May, we set out
for the Ominica, with high hopes of finding the
river still low enough to allow us to ascend it.
Ten miles above Joy's hut the Ominica enters
the   Peace   River   from   the   south-west.    We
reached its mouth on the morning of the 11th,
and found it high and rapid. There was hard
work in store for us, and the difficulties of passing
the Great Canon loomed ominously big. We
pushed on, however, and that night reached a
spot where the river issued from a large gap in a
high wall of dark rock. Above, on the summit
of this rock, pine-trees projected over the river.
We were at the door of the Ominica canon. The
warm weather of last week had done its work,
and the water rushed from the gate of the canon
in a wild and impetuous torrent. We looked a
moment at the grim gate which we had to storm
on the morrow, and then put in to the north
shore, where, under broad and lofty pines, we
made our beds for the night.
The Findlay River, as it is called, after the fur-
trader, who first ascended it, has many large
tributaries. It is something like a huge right
hand spread out over the country, of which the
middle finger would be the main river, and the
thumb the Ominica. There is the North Fork,
which closely hugs the main Rocky Mountain
range. There is the Findlay itself, a magnificent
river, flowing from a vast labyrinth of mountains,
and being unchanged in size or apparent volume,
120 miles above the Forks we had lately left. At
that distance it issues from a canon similar to
t 2 276
that at whose mouth we are now camped; and
there is the second South Fork, a river something
smaller than the Ominica, from whose mouth it is
distant about a hundred miles.
Of these rivers nothing is known. These few
items are the result of chance information picked
up from the solitary, miner who penetrated to
this canon's mouth, and from the reports which a
wandering band of Sickanies give of the vast
unknown interior of the region of the Stickeen.
And yet it is all British territory. It abounds with
game; its scenery is as wild as mountain peak and
gloomy canon can make it; it is free from fever or
malaria. In it Nature has locked up some of her
richest treasures—treasures which are open to
any strong, stout heart who will venture to grasp
I know not how it is, but sometimes it seems to
me that this England of ours is living on a bygone reputation; the sinew is there without the
It is so easy to be a traveller in an easy chair—
to lay out a map and run one's finger over it and
say, " This river is the true source of the Hunky-
dorum, and that lake finds its outlet in the
Rumtifoozle;" and it is equally easy, particularly
after our comfortable dinner at the club, to stroll
over to the jpeeting of the Society for the Preser- TRAVELLERS      AT HOME.
vation of Sticklebacks in Tahitian Seas, and to
prove to the fashionable audience there assembled,
that a stickleback was the original progenitor of
the .human race.
Our modern Briton can be a traveller without
any trouble. He is a member of "the Club,"
and on the strength of his membership he can
criticize " that fellow Burton," or " that queer fish
Palgrave," and prove to you how, if that " poor
devil" Hayward had tried the Chittral Pass instead of the Pamirsteppa, " he would never have
come to grief, you know."
I know one or two excellent idiots, who fancy
they are wits because they belong to the Garrick.
It is quite as easy to be a traveller by simply
belonging to a Travellers' Club.
Now all this would be a very harmless pastime,
if something more serious did not fie behind it ;
just as the mania to dress ourselves in uniform
and carry a rifle through the streets, would also
be a very harmless, if a very useless, pastime, if a
graver question did not again lie hidden beneath
" our noble Volunteers;" but the club traveller
and the club soldier are not content with the rdle
of lounging mediocrity for which nature destined
them. They must needs stand between the spirit of
England's better genius, and England's real toilers
of the wilds.    They must supervise and criticize 278
and catechize, and generally play the part of Fuz-
buz to the detriment of everything which redounds
to the true spirit of England's honour in the fair
field of travel and discovery.
Let there be no mistake in this matter. To those
veterans who still stand above the waves of time,
living monuments of England's heroism, in Arctic
ice or Africa's sun, we owe all honour and love
and veneration. They are the old soldiers of
an army passed from the world, and when Time
sums up the record of their service here below,
it will be but to hand up the roll to the Tribunal
of the Future.
"But it is of the younger race of whom we would
speak—that race who buy with gold the right to
determine what England shall do, and shall not
do, in the wide field of geographical research; who
are responsible for the wretched exploratory
failures of the past few years; who have allowed the
palm of discovery and enterprise to pass away to
other nations, or to alien sons. But if we were
to say all we think about this matter, we might
only tire the reader, and stop until doomsday at
the mouth of this Black Canon of the Ominica. THE BLACK CANON.
The Black Canon.—An ugly prospect.—The vanished boat.—
We struggle on.—A forlorn hope.—We fail again.—An
unhoped for meeting and a feast of joy.—The Black Canon
Casting off from camp, on the morning of
the 12th, we pushed right into the mouth of the
canon. At once our troubles began. The steep
walls of smooth rock rose directly out of the
water—sometimes washed by a torrent, at others
beaten by a back-whirl and foaming eddy. In the
centre ran a rush of water that nothing could
stem. Poling, paddling, clinging with hands and
nails to the rock; often beaten back and always
edging up again, we crept slowly along under the
overhanging cliff, which leaned out two hundred
feet above us to hold upon its dizzy verge some
clinging pine-tree. In the centre of the chasm,
about half a mile from its mouth, a wild cataract
of foam forbade our,passage; but after a whole
morning's labour we succeeded in bringing the
canoe safely to the foot of this rapid, and moored
her in a quiet eddy behind a sheltering rock.  Here 280
|lj   j.
we unloaded, and, clambering up a cleft in the
canon wall two hundred feet above us, passed
along the top of the cliff, and bore our loads to the
upper or western end of the canon, fully a mile
from the boat. The day was hot and sweltering,
and it was hard work.
In one of these many migrations between camp
and canoe, it chanced one evening that, missing the
trail, my footsteps led me to the base of a small
knoll, the sides and summit of which were destitute of trees. Climbing to the top of this hill I
beheld a view of extraordinary beauty; Over the
sea of forest, from the dark green and light green
ocean of tree-tops, the solid mountain mass lay
piled against the east. Below my stand-point the
first long reach of the canon opened out; a grim
fissure in the forest, in the depths of-which the
waters caught the reflection of the sun-lit Skies
above, glowing brightly between the walls of
gloomy roek deep hidden beneath the level rays of
the setting sun, high above the canon, high above
the vast forest which stretched between me and
the mountains. And the eye, as it wandered over
the tranquil ocean upon whose waves the isles of
light green shade lay gold-crested in the sunset,
seemed to rest upon fresh intervals of beauty,
until the solid ramparts rent and pinnacled, silent
and impassive; caught and rivetted its glance \ AN  UGLY  PROSPECT.
as their snow-white, motionless fingers, carved
in characters that ever last, the story of earth's
loveliness upon the great blue dome of heaven.
We pushed through the dense underwood, loaded
down with all the paraphernalia of our travel, and
'even Cerf-vola carried his load of boots and moose-
meat. When we had finished carrying our loads, it
was time for dinner; and that over, we set to work
at once for the stiffer labour of hauling the canoe
Up the rapid of the canon; for, remember, there
was no hope of lifting her, she was too heavy, and
the rocky walls were far too steep to allow of it.
Dp along'shore, through rapid and eddy we dragged
Our craft, for here the north side had along its base
ledges of rock and bits of shore, and taking advantage of these, sometimes in the canoe and sometimes out of it in the water- we reached at length
the last edge or cliff round which it was possible
to proceed at the north shore.
For a long time we examined the- spot, and
the surrounding canon. Jacques and I climbed
up to the top 'above; and then down onjiahds
and knees to a ledge from which we could
look over into the chasm, and scan its ugly
features. Beyond a doubt it was ugly—the rock
on which we lay hollowed down beneath us
until it roofed the shore of the canon with a half
^cavern, against which -a wild whirlpool boiled up 282
now and again, sinking suddenly into stillness.
Even if we could stretch a fine from above the
rock to where our canoe lay below it, she might
have been knocked to atoms in the whirlpool
in her passage beneath the cavern; but the distance was too great to stretch a line across. The
next and only course was to make a bold crossing
from below the rock, and gain the other shore, up
which it was possible to drag our canoe. Once
over, the thing would be easy enough for at least a
couple of hundred yards more.
We climbed back to the canoe and imparted
the result of our investigation to the other two.
men. From the level of the boat the proposed
crossing looked very nasty. It was across a
wild rush of water, in the centre of the canon,
and if we failed to make a small eddy at the
farther shore we must drive full upon the precipice of rock where, below us boiled and seethed
the worst rapid in the canon—a mass of wave,
and foam, and maddened surge. Once out of
the sheltering eddy in which we lay watching
this wild scene, we would be in the midst of a rock
close above the rapid. There was no time to get
headway on the canoe. It would shoot from
shelter into furious current, and then, if it missed
yon little eddy, look out; and if you have any good
angels away at home, pray that they may be pray-   THE  VANISHED  BOAT.
ing for you—for down that white fall of water
you must go broadside or stern on.
The more we looked at it, the less we liked it;
but it was the sole means of passing the canon,
and retreat came not yet into our heads. We
took our places—Kalder at the bow, Jacques at the
stern, A and I in the middle; then we hugged
the rock for the last time, and shoved out into the
swirl of waters. There was no time to think;
we rose and fell; we dipped our paddles in the
rushing waves with those wild quick strokes
which men use when life is in the blow; and
then the canon swung and rocked for a second,
and with a wild yell of Indian war-whoop from
Kalder, which rose above the rush of the water,
we were in the eddy at the farther shore.
It was well done. On again up the canon with
line from rock to rock, bit by bit, until, as the sun
began to slope low upon the forest, we reach the
foot of the last fall—the stiffest we had yet
breasted. Above it lies our camp upon the
north shore; above it will be easy work—
we will have passed the worst of the Ominica
Made bold by former victory we passed our line
.round the rock, and bent our shoulders to haul
the canoe up the slant of water. Kalder with a
long pole held the frail craft out from the rock. 284
A—;— and I were on the line, and Jacques was
running up to assist us, when suddenly there came
upon the rope a fierce strain; all at once the
canoe seemed to have the strength of half a dozen
runaway horses. It spun us round, we threw all
our strength against it, and snap went the rope
midway over the water; the boat had suddenly
sheered, and all was over. We had a second line
fastened to the bow; this line was held by Kalder
at the moment of the accident, but it was in loose
coils about him, and of no service to stay the
doomed rush. Worse than all, the canoe, now
going like an arrow down the rapid, tightened the
tangled coils around Kalder's legs, and I saw with
horror that he ran every chance of being dragged
feet foremost from the smooth rock on which he
stood, into the boiling torrent beneath.
Quicker than thought he realized his peril; he
sprang from the treacherous folds, and dragged
with all his strength the quick-running rope clear of
his body; and then, like the Indian he was, threw
"all his weight to stay the canoe.
It was useless; his line snapped like ours had
done, and away went the canoe down the surge of
water—down the lip of the fall—away, away—
bearing with her our sole means of travel through
the trackless wilderness! We crouched together on
high rock, which commanded a long view down WE  STRUGGLE  ON.
the Black Canon, and gazed wistfully after our
vanishing boat.
In one instant we were reduced to a most
wretched state. Our canoe was gone; but that
was not half our loss - our meat and tent had also
gone with her; and we were left on the south
shore of the river, while a deep, wide and rapid
stream rolled between us and our camp, and we had
no axe wherewith to cut trees for a raft—no line
to lash them together. Night was coming on; we
were without food, shipwrecked in the wilderness.
When the canoe had vanished, we took stock
of all these things, and then determined on a
course. It was to go back along the upper edge
of the canon to the entrance opposite our camping-
place of the last night, there to make a raft from
some logs which had been collected for a cache in
the previous year, then to put together whatever
line or piece of string we possessed, and, making a
raft, endeavour to cross to the north shore, and
thus gain our camp above the canon.
It was a long piece of work, and we were already
tired with the day's toil, but it was the sole means
by which we could hope to get back to our camp
and to food again. After that we would deliberate
upon further movements.
When men come heavily to grief in any enter-i
prise, the full gravity of the disaster does not 286
break all at once upon their minds; nay, I have
generally found that the first view .of the situation
is the ludicrous one. One is often inclined to
laugh over some plight, which means anything but
a laughing matter in reality.
We made our way to the mouth of the Canon,
and again held a council. Jacques did not like
the idea of the raft; he would go down through
the Beaver swamps along the south shore, and, it
might be, find the canoe stranded on some beach
lower down. Anyhow he would search, and next
morning he would come up again along the river
and hail us across the water in our camp with
tidings of his success: so we parted.
We at once set to work to make our raft. We
upset the logs of the old cache, floated them in the
water, and lashed them together as best we could,
with all the bits of line we could fasten together;
then we got three rough poles, took our places on
the rickety raft, and put out into the turbid river.
Our raft sank deep into the water; down, down
we went; no bottom for the poles, which we used
as paddles in the current. At last we reached the
shore of a large island, and our raft was thrown
violently amidst a pile of driftwood. We scrambled on shore, broke our way through drift and
thicket to the upper end of the island, and found
a wide channel of water separating us still from A PORLORN HOPE.
the north, shore. Wading up to our middles
across a shallow part of this channel, we finally
reached the north shore and our camp of the
previous night; from thence we worked through
the forest, and just at dusk we struck our camp of
the morning. Thus, after many vicissitudes and
much toil, we had got safely back to our camp;
and though the outlook was dreary enough—for
three large rivers and seventy miles of trackless
forest lay between us and the mining camp to
which we were tending, while all hope of assistance
seemed cut off from us—still, after a hearty supper,
we lay down to sleep, ready to meet on the morrow
whatever it might bring forth.
Early next morning the voice of little Jacques
sounded from the other side. He had had a rough
time of it; he had gone through slough and
swamp and thicket, and finally he had found the
canoe stranded on an island four miles below the
canon, half full of water, but otherwise not much
the worse for her trip. | Let us make a raft and
go down, and we would all pull her up again,
and everything would yet be right." So, taking
axes and line with us, we set off once more for the
mouth of the canon, and built a big raft of dry
logs, and pushed it out into the current.
Jacques was on the opposite shore, so we took
him on our raft, and away we went down current THE WILD NORTH  LAND.
at the rate of seven miles an hour. We reached
the island where our castaway canoe lay, and once
more found ourselves the owners of a boat. Then
we poled up to the canon again, and, working hard,
succeeded in landing the canoe safely behind the
rock from which we had made our celebrated
crossing on. the previous day. The day was hot
and fine, the leaves of the cotton-wood were green,
the strawberries were in blossom, and in the morning a humming-bird had fluttered into the camp,
carrying the glittering colours which he had
gathered in the tropics. But these proofs of
summer boded ill for us, for all around the
glittering hills were sending down their foaming
torrents to flood the Ominica.
On the night of the 13th the river, already
high, rose nearly two feet. The morning of the
14th came, and, as soon as breakfast was over, we
set out to make a last attempt to force the canon.
The programme was to be the same as that of
two days ago; to cross aboye the rapid, and then
with double-twisted line to drag the canoe up the
fatal fall! We reached the canoe and took our
places the same as before. This time, however,
there was a vague feeling of uneasiness in every
one's mind ; it may have been because we went at
the work coldly, unwarmed by previous exercise;
but despite the former successful attempt, we felt WE  FAIL  AGAIN.
the presage of disaster ere we left the sheltering
rock. Once more the word was given, and we
shot into the boiling flood. There was a moment's
wild struggle, during which we worked with all
the strength of despair. A second of suspense,
. and then we are borne backwards—slowly, faster,
yet faster—until with a rush as of wings, and
amid a roar of maddened water, we go downwards
towards the canon's wall.
"The rock! the rock!—keep her from the
rock ! " roared Jacques. We might as well have
tried to stop an express train.- We struck, but it was
the high bow, and the blow split us to the centre;
another foot and we must have been shivered to
atoms. And now, ere- there was time for thought,
we were rushing, stern foremost, to the edge of
the great rapid. There was no escape; we were
as helpless as if we had been chained in that
black canon. " Put steerway on her ! 1 shouted
Jacques, and his paddle dipped a moment in the
surge and spray. Another instant and we were in
it; there was a plunge—a dash of water on every
side of us; the waves hissed around and above us,
seeming to say, " Now we have got you; for two
days you have been edging along us, flanking us,
and fooling us; but now it is our turn ! "
The shock with which we struck into the mass
of breakers was but the prelude to total wreck,
u 290
and the first sensation I experienced was one of
surprise that the canoe was still under us. But
after.the first plunge she rose well, and amidst the
surge and spray we could see the black walls of
the canon flitting by us as we glanced through
the boiling flood. All this was but the work of a
moment, and lo I breathless and dripping, with
canoe half filled, we lay safe in quiet eddies where,
below the fall, the water rested after its strife.
Behind the rock we lay for a few minutes
silent, while the flooded canoe rose and fell upon
the swell of the eddy.
If, after this escape, we felt loth to try the old
road again, to venture a third time upon that
crossing above the rapid, let no man hold qju*
courage light.
We deliberated long upon what was best to be
done. Retreat seemed inevitable; Kalder was
strongly opposed to another attempt; the canoo
was already broken, and with another such blow
she must go to pieces. At last, and reluctantly,
we determined to carry all our baggage back from
the camp, to load up the boat, and, abandoning the Black Canon and the Ominica altogether,
seek through the Parsnip River an outlet towards
the South. It was our only resource, and it was
a poor one. Wearily we dragged our baggage
back to the canoe, and loaded her again.    Then, AN  UNHOPED  POR MEETING  AND  A  PEAST.     291
casting out into the current, we ran swiftly down
the remainder of the canon, and shot from beneath
the shadows of its sombre walls. As we emerged
from the mouth into the broader river, the sheen
of coloured blankets struck our sight on the
south shore.
In the solitudes of the North one is surprised
at the rapidity with which the eye perceives the
first indication of human or animal existence, but
the general absence of life in the wilderness makes
its chance presence easily detected.
We put to shore. There was a camp close to
the spot where we had built our first raft on the
night of the disaster; blankets, three fresh beavers,
a bundle of traps, a bag of flour, and a pair of
miner's boots. The last item engaged Jacques's
attention. He looked at the soles, and at once
declared them to belong to no less an individual
than Pete Joy, the Cornish miner; but where,
meantime,, was Pete? A further inspection solved
that question too. Pete was " portaging" his
load from the upper to the lower end of the canon
—he evidently dreaded the flooded chasm too much
to attempt its descent with a loaded canoe. In a
little while appeared the missing Pete, carrying on
his back a huge load. It was as we had anticipated-—his canoe lay above the rapids, ours was
here below.    Happy coincidence !   We would ex-
u 2 292
■change crafts; Pete would load his goods in our
boat, we would once again carry our baggage to
the upper end of the canon, and there, taking his
canoe, pursue our western way. It was indeed a
most remarkable meeting to us. Here were we,
after long days of useless struggle, after many
dangers and hair-breadth escapes amid the whirlpools and rapids of the Black Chasm, about to
abandon the Ominica River altogether, and to seek
by another route, well known to be almost impassable at high water, a last chance of escape from
the difficulties that beset us ; and now, as moody
and discouraged, we turned our faces to begin
the hopeless task, our first glance was greeted, on
emerging from the dismal prison, by a most unlooked-for means of solving all. our diificulties.
Little wonder if we were in high spirits, and if
Pete, the Cornish miner, seemed a friend in need.
But before anything could be done to carry into
effect this new arrangement, Pete insisted upon
our having a royal feast. He had brought with
him-from the mining camp many luxuries; he had
bacon, and beans, and dried apples, and sugar,
and flour, and we poor toilers had only moose-
meat and frozen potatoes and sugarless tea in our
lessening larders. So Pete set vigorously to work;
he baked and fried, and cut and sliced, and talked
all the time,'-and in less than half an hour laid out THE   BLACK  CANON  CONQUERED.
his feast upon the ground. I have often meditated over that repast in after-time, and wondered if Pete really possessed the magic power of
transmuting the baser victuals known to us as
pork, beans, and molasses into golden comestibles,
or had scarcity and the wilderness anything to
say to it ? It was getting late when we broke up
from the feast of Joy, and, loading once more all
our movables upon our backs, set out to stagger
for the last time to the west end of the portage.
There the canoe of the Cornish miner stood ready
for our service; but the sun' was by this time
below the ridges of the Ominica Mountains, and
we pitched our camp for the night beneath the
spruce-trees of the southern shore.
. At break of day next morning we held our way
to the west. It was a fresh, fair dawn, soft with
the odours of earth and air; behind us lay the
Black Canon, conquered at last; and as its sullen
roar died away in distance, and before our canOe
rose the snow-covered peaks of the Central
Columbian range, now looming but a few miles
distant, I drew a deep breath of satisfaction—the
revulsion of long, anxious hours. 294
The Untiring over-estimates his powers.—He is not particular
as to the nature of his dinner.—Toil and temper.—Farewell
to the Ominica.—Germansen.—The mining camp.—Celebrities.
In the struggle which it was our daily work to
wage with Nature, whose dead weight seemed to
be bent on holding us back, the wear and tear of
the things of life had been considerable. Clothes
we will say nothing of—it is their function to go—
but our rough life had told heavily against less
perishable articles. My aneroid was useless; my
watch and revolver slept somewhere beneath the
Peace River j ammunition was reduced to a few
rounds, to be used only upon state occasions; but
to make up for every loss, and to counterbalance
each misfortune, Cerf-vola had passed in safety
through rapid, wreck, and canon. On several
occasions he had had narrow escapes. A fixed
idea pervaded his mind that he was a good hunting-dog; it was an utterly erroneous impression
upon his..part, but he still clung to it with the
tenacity I have not unfrequently seen evinced by THE  UNTIRING  OVER-ESTIMATES  HIS  POWERS.
Certain sporting individuals who fancy themselves
sportsmen; and as the impression sometimes leads
its human holders into strange situations, so alsO
was Cerf-vola betrayed into dangers by this unfortunate belief in his sporting propensities. A very
keen sense of smell enabled him to detect the
presence of bird or beast on shore or forest, but
absence from the canoe usually obliged him to
swim the swollen river—a feat which resulted in
his being carried down sometimes out of sight on
the impetuous torrent. He swam slowly, but
strongly, and his bushy tail seemed incapable of
submersion, remaining always upon the surface of
the water. But about this time an event occurred
which by every rule of science should have proved
fatal to him.
One evening, it was the 16th of May, our
larder being low, we camped early at the mouth
of a river called the Ozalinca. Beaver were
plentiful, fish were numerous; and while I went
in quest of the former with my gun, Jacques got
ready a few large cod-hooks, with bait and line.
I pushed my way up the Ozalinca, and soon
reached a beaver-dam. Stealing cautiously to the
edge, I saw one old veteran busily engaged in the
performance of his evening swim; every now and
again he disappeared beneath the crystal water,
rising again to the surface to  look around him 296
with evident satisfaction; presently a younger
beaver appeared, and began to nibble some green
willows beneath the water. They were a little too
far to afford a certain shot, so I waited, watching
the antics of this strangest denizen of American
rivers. All at once the old veteran caught sight
of me; his tail flogged loudly on the wafer, and
down he went .out of sight. I waited a long time,
but he never reappeared, and I was obliged to
content myself with a couple of ducks ere night
closed over the pond.
When I reached the camp on the Ominica
River my three companions' wore long faces :
the cause was soon told. Jacques had baited his
hooks with moose-meat; in an evil moment he
had laid one of these upon the shore ere casting
it into the water; Cerf-vola had swallowed
bait, hook, and line in a single mouthful; the
hook was no mere salmon-hook, but one fully
two inches in length, and of proportionate thickness—a full-sized cod-hook. I turned to the dog;
he lay close to my outspread buffalo robe, watching the preparation of supper; he looked as unmoved as though he had recently swallowed a bit
of pemmican. One might have fancied from his
self-satisfied appearance that large fish-hooks had
ever formed a favourite article of food with him.
I gave him the greater portion of my supper, and TOIL  AND  TEMPER.
he went to sleep as usual at my head. I have
merely to add that from that day to this he has
been in most excellent health. I can only attribute this fact to the quantity of fish he had
consumed in his career; a moderate computation
would allow him many thousand white fish and
pike in the course of his life; and as he only made
one mouthful of a large white fish, the addition of
a fish-hook in the matter was of no consequence.
. Passing the mouths of the Mesalinca and the
Ozalinca—two "wild, swollen torrents flowing
through a labyrinth of mountain peaks from the
north-west—we entered, on the third day after
leaving the canon, the great central snowy range
of North-British Columbia. The Ominica was here
only a slant of water, 100 yards in breadth; it
poured down a raging flood with a velocity difficult to picture.
We worked slowly on, now holding by the bushes
that hung out from the forest shore, now passing
ropes around rocks and tree-stumps, and dragging,
poling, pushing, as best we could. The unusual
toil brought out the worst characteristics of my
crew. Kalder worked like a horse with a savage
temper, and was in a chronic state of laying
violent hands upon the English miner, who, poor
fellow, worked his best, but failed to satisfy the
expectations of the more athletic Indian.    It was 298
no easy matter to keep the peace between them,
and once, midway in a rapid, my Indian leaped
past me in the canoe, seized the unoffending miner,
and hurled him to the bottom of the boat. This
was too much. I caught hold of a paddle and
quickly informed my red servitor that if he did
not instantly loosen his hold, my paddle would
descend upon his hot-tempered head; he cooled a
little, and we resumed our upward way.
But for all this Kalder was a splendid fellow.
In toil, in difficulty, in danger, alone he was worth
two ordinary men; and in camp no better wild
man lived to cut, to carry, or to cook; to pitch a
tent, or portage a load—no, not from Yukon to
wild Hudson's Bay.
On the night of the 19th of May we reached
the mouth of the Wolverine Creek, and camped at
last by quiet water. We were worn and tired
from continuous toil. The ice-cold water in
which we so frequently waded, and which made
the pole-handles like lumps of ice to the touch,
had begun to tell on hands and joints. Nevertheless, when at night the fire dried our 'dripping clothes and warmed us again, the plate of
pemmican and cup of tea were relished, and we
slept that sleep which is only known when the
pine-trees rock the tired wanderer into forgetful-
ness.. THE   MINING  CAMP.
The last rapid was passed, and now before us
lay a broad and gentle current, lying in long
serpentine bends amid lofty mountains. So, on
the morning of the 20th, we paddled up towards
the mining camp with easy strokes. Around us
lay misty mountains, showing coldly through
cloud-rift and billowy vapour. The high altitude,
to which by such incessant labour we had worked
our way, was plainly visible in the backward vegetation. We were nearing the snow-line once
more, but still the sheltered valleys were bursting
forth into green, and spring was piercing the
inmost fastness of these far-north hills.
And now I parted with the Ominica. It lay
before us, far stretching to the westward, amid
cloud-capped cliffs and snowy peaks; known to
the gold-seeker for seventy miles yet higher and
deeper into the land of mountains, and found
there to be still a large, strong river, flowing from
an unknown west.
And yet it is but one of that score of rivers
which, 2500 miles from these mountains, seek
the Arctic Sea, through the mighty gateway of
the Mackenzie.
Late on the evening of the 20th of May. I
reached the mining camp of Germansen, three
miles south of the Ominica River. A queer place
was this  mining camp of Germansen, the most 300
northern and remote of all the mines on the
American continent.
Deep in the bottom of a valley, from whose
steep sides the forest had been cleared or burned
off, stood some dozen or twenty well-built wooden
houses; a few figures moved in the dreary valley,
ditches and drains ran along the lull-sides, and
here and there men were at work with pick and
shovel in the varied toil of gold-mining.
The history of Germansen Creek had been the
history of a thousand other creeks on the western
continent. A roving miner had struck the glittering pebbles; the news had spread. From Montana,
from Idaho, from California, Oregon, and Cariboo,
men had flocked to this new find in the far north.
In 1871, 1200 miners had forced their way through
almost incredible hardships to the new field;
provisions reached a fabulous price; flour and
pork sold at six and seven shillings a pound!
The innumerable sharks that prey upon the miner
flocked in to reap the harvest; some struck the
golden dust, but the majority lost everything, and
for about the twentieth time in their lives became
"dead broke;" little was known of the severity
of the season, and many protracted the time of
their departure for more southern winter quarters. Suddenly, on their return march, the winter
broke; horses and mules perished.miserably along CELEBRITIES.
the forest trail. At length the Frazer River- was
reached, a few canoes were obtained, but the ice
was fast filling in the river. The men crowded
into the canoes till they were filled to the edge;
three wretched miners could find no room; they
were left on the shore to their fate; their comrades
pushed away. Two or three days later the three
castaways were found frozen stiff on the inhospitable shore.
The next summer saw fewer miners at the
Congo, and this summer saw fewer still; but
if to-morrow another strike were to be made
500 miles to the north of this remote Congo,
hundreds would rush to it, caring little whether
their bones were left to mark the long forest trail.
The miner has ever got his dream of an El Dorado
fresh and sanguine. No disaster, no repeated
failure will discourage him. His golden paradise
is always "away up" in some half-inaccessible
spot in a wilderness of mountains. Nothing
daunts him in this wild search of his. Mountains,--
rivers, canons are the enemies he is constantly
wrestling with. Nature has locked her treasures
of gold and silver in deep mountain caverns, as
though she would keep them from the daring men
Who strive to rob her. But she cannot save them.
When one sees this wonderful labour, this delving
into the bowels of rock and shingle, this turning 302
and. twisting of river channel, and sluicing and
dredging and blasting, going on in these strange
out-of-the-way places, the thought occurs, if but
the tenth part of this toil were expended by these
men in the ordinary avocations of life, they would,
all be rich or comfortable. The miner cannot
settle down—at least for a long time—the life has
a strange fascination for him; he will tell you that
for one haul he has drawn twenty blanks; he will
tell you that he has lost more money in one night
at I faro," or " poker," than would suffice to have
kept him decently for five years; he will tell you
that he has frequently to put two dollars into the
ground in order to dig one dollar out of it, and
yet he cannot give up the vrild, free life. He is
emphatically a queer genius; and no matter what
his country, his characteristics are the same. It
would be impossible to discipline him, yet I think
that, were he amenable to even a semblance of
restraint and command, 40,000 miners might
conquer a continent.
His knowledge of words is peculiar; he has a .
thousand phrases of his own which it would be
needless to follow him into. " Don't prevaricate,
sir! I thundered a British Columbian judge to a
witness from the mines, "don't prevaricate, sir!"
" Can't help it, judge," answered the miner.
Ever since I got a kick in the mouth from a CELEBRITIES.
mule that knocked my teeth out, I prevaricate a
good deal."
In the bottom of the valley, between the wooden
houses and the rushing creek of Germansen, I
pitched my tent for a short time, and in the
course of a few days had the honour of becoming
acquainted, either personally or by reputation,
with Doe English, Dancing Bill, Black Jack,
Dirty-faced Pete, Ned Walsh, Rufus Sylvester,
and several others among the leading " boys"
of the northern mining country. I found them
men who under the rough garb of mountain
miners had a large and varied experience in wild
life and adventure—generous, free-hearted fellows
too, who in the race for gold had not thrown off as
dead weight, half as much of human kindness as
many of their brothers, who, on a more civilized
course, start for the same race too. .304
Mr. Rufus Sylvester.—The Untiring developes a new sphere of
usefulness.—Mansen.—A last landmark.
On the evening of my arrival at Germansen Mr.
Rufus Sylvester, appeared from the south, carrying the mail for the camp. Eleven days earlier
he had started from Quesnelle on the Frazer River;
the trail was, he said, in a very bad state; snow
yet lay five feet deep on the Bald, and. Nation
River Mountains; the rivers and streams were
running bank-high; he had swum his horses eleven
times, and finally left them on the south side of
the Bald Mountains, coming on on foot to his destination. The distance to Quesnelle was about 330
miles.    Such was a summary of his report.
The prospect was not encouraging; but where
movement is desired, if people wait until prospects
become encouraging, they will be likely to rest,
stationary a long time. My plan of movement to -
the south was this : I would dispense with everything save those articles absolutely necessary to
travel; food and clothing would be brought to MR.  RUPDS  SYLVESTER.
the lowest limits, and then, with our goods on our
shoulders, and with Cerf-vola carrying on his back
a load of dry meat sufficient to fill his stomach
during ten days, we would set out on foot to cross
the Bald Mountains. Thirty miles from the
.mining Congo, at the south side of the mountain range, Rufus Sylvester had left a horse and a
mule; we would recover them again, and, packing
our goods upon them, make our way to Fort St.
James on the wild shores of Stuart's Lake—midway on our journey to where, on the bend of the
Frazer River, the first vestige of civilization would
greet us at the city called Quesnelle.
It was the 25th of May when, having loaded
my goods upon the back of a Hydah Indian from
the coast, and giving Kalder a lighter load to
carry, I set off with Cerf-vola for the south.
Idleness during the past three weeks had proT
duced a considerable change in the.person of the
Untiring. He had grown fat and round, and it
was no easy matter to strap his bag of dry meat
upon his back so as to performing the
feat known, in the case of a saddle on a horse's
back, by the term " turning." It appeared to be
a matter of perfect indifference to the Untiring
Whether the meat destined for his stomach was
carried beneath that portion of his body or above
his back; he pursued the even tenour of his way
x 306
in either case, but a disposition on his part to
" squat § in every pool of water or patch of mud
along the trail, perfectly regardless of the position
of his ten days' rations, had the effect of quickly
changing its nature, when it was underneath him,
from dry meat to very wet meat, and making the
bag which held it a kind of water-cart for the
drier portions of the trail.
Twelve miles from Germansen Creek stood
the other mining camp of Mansen. More
ditches, more drains, more miners, more drinking ; two or three larger saloons; more sixes
and sevens of diamonds and debilitated looking
kings and queens of spades littering the dusty
street; the wrecks of " faro " and " poker " and
" seven up " and " three-card monti;" more
Chinamen and Hydah squaws than Germansen
could boast of; and Mansen lay the same
miserable-looking place that its older rival had
already appeared to me. Yet every person was
kind and obliging. Mr. Grahame, postmaster,
dealer in gold-dust, and general merchant, cooked
wdth his own hands a most excellent repast, the
discussion of which was followed by further introductions to mining celebrities. Prominent
among many Joes and Davises and Petes and
Bills, I recollect one well-known name; it was
the name  of  Smith.     We   have   all  known,  I MANSEN.
presume, some person of that name. We have
also known innumerable prefixes to it, such as
Sydney, Washington, Buckingham, &c, &c, but
here at Mansen dwelt a completely new Smith.
No hero of anoient or modern times had been
called on to supply a prefix or a second name,
but in the person of Mr. Peace River Smith I
recognized a new' title for the old and familiar
Mr. Stirling's saloon at Mansen was a very
fair representation of what, in this country, we
would call a " public-house," but in some respects the saloon and the public differ "widely*
The American saloon is eminently patriotic.
Western America, and indeed America generally,
takes its "cocktails" in the presence of soul-
stirring mementoes; from above the lemons, the
coloured wine-glass, the bunch of mint, and
the many alcoholic mixtures which stand behind
the bar—General Washington, Abraham Lincoln,
and President Grant look placidly Upon the tippling
miner; but though Mr. Stirling's saloon could
boast its card-tables, its patriotic pictures, and its
many "slings" and "juleps," in one important
respect it fell far short of the ideal mining paradise.
It was not a hurdy-house; music and dancing were
both wanting. It was a serious drawback, but it
was explained to me that Mansen had become too
x 2 308
much i played out" to afford to pay the piper, and
hurdies had never penetrated to the fastnesses of
the Peace River mines.
When the last mining hero had departed, I
lay down in Mr. Grahame's sanctum, to snatch
a few hours' sleep ere the first dawn would
call us to the march. I lay on the postmaster's
bed while that functionary got together his
little bags of gold-dust, his few letters and mail
matters for my companion, Rufus Sylvester
the express man. This work occupied him until
shortly before dawn, when he abandoned it to
again resume the duties of cook in preparing my
breakfast. Day was just breaking over the pine-
clad lulls as we bade adieu to this kind host, and
with rapid strides set out through the sleeping
camp. Kalder, the Hydah Indian, and the Untiring, had preceded us on the previous evening,
and I was alone with the. express man, Mr. Rufus
Sylvester. He carried on his back a small,
compact, but heavy load, some 600 ounces of
gold-dust being the weightiest item; but, nevertheless, he crossed with rapid steps over the
frozen ground. We carried in our hands snow-
shoes for the mountain range still lying some
eight miles away. The trail led o'er hill and
through valley, gradually ascending for the first
six miles, until through breaks in the pines I could A LAST LANDMARK.
discern the snowy ridges towards which we were
tending.    Soon the white patches lay around us
in the forest, but the frost was severe, and the
surface was hard under our mocassins. Finding the
snow-crust was sufficient to bear our weight, we
cached the snow-shoes and held  our  course  up
the mountain.     Deeper grew the snow; thinner
and smaller became the pines—dwarf things that
hung wisps of blue-grey moss from their shrunken
limbs.    At last they ceased to be around us, and
the summit-ridges of the Bald Mountain spread
out under the low-hung clouds.    The big white
ptarmigan bleated like sheep in the thin frosty air.
We crossed the topmost ridge, where snow ever
dwells, and saw beneath a far-stretching valley. I
turned to take a last look to the north; the clouds
. had lifted, the sun had risen some time; away over
an ocean of peaks lay the lofty ridge I had named
Galty More a fortnight earlier, when emerging
from the Black Canon.    He rose above us then
the monarch of the range; now he lay far behind,
one of the last landmarks of the Wild North Land.
We began to descend; again the sparse trees
were around us;   the snow gradually lessened;
and after five hours of incessant and rapid walking  we   reached  a   patch  of  dry grass,  where
Kalder, the English miner, and the Indians with
the horses were awaiting us. THE WILD NORTH  LAND.
British Columbia.—Boundaries again.—Juan de Fuca.—
Carver.— The Shining Mountains. — Jacob Astor.—The
monarch of salmon.—Oregon.—Riding and tying.—Nation
Lake.—Tho Pacific.
We have been a long time now in that portion
of the American continent which is known as
British Columbia, and yet we have said but little
of its early life, or how it came into the limits of
a defined colony.
Sometime about that evening when we lay
camped (now a long way back) upon the hill
where the grim face of Chimeroo looked blankly
out upon the darkening wilderness, we entered
for the first time the territory which bears the
name of British Columbia.
Nature, who, whether she forms a flower or a
nation, never makes a mistake, had drawn on the
northen continent of America her own boundaries.
She had put the Rocky Mountains to mark the two
great divisions of East and West America. But
the theory of natural boundaries appears never to BRITISH COLUMBIA.
have elicited from us much support, and in the
instance now under consideration we seem to have
gone not a little out of our way to evince our
disapprobation of Nature's doings.
It was the business of the Imperial Government
a few years ago to define the boundaries of the
new province to which they were giving a Constitution.
The old North-West Fur Company had rested
satisfied with the Rocky Mountain frontier, but
in the new document the Eastern line was defined
as follows: "And to the east, from the boundary
of the United States northwards to the Rocky
Mountains, and the one hundred and twentieth
meridian of West Longitude." Unfortunately,
although the one hundred and twentieth meridian
is situated for a portion of its course in the main
range of the mountains, it does not lie altogether
within them.
The Rocky Mountains do not run north and
south, but trend considerably to the west; and
the 120th meridian passes out into the prairie
country of the Peace River. In looking at this
strangely unmeaning frontier, where nature had
already given such an excellent " divide," and one
which had always been adopted by the early
geographer, it seems only rational to suppose
that the framers of the new line lay under the 312
impression that mountain and meridian were in
one and the same line. Nor supposing such to be
the case, would it be, by any means, the first time
that such an error had been made by those whose
work it was to frame our Colonial destiny.
Well, let us disregard this rectification of
boundary, and look at British Columbia as Nature
had made it.
When, some seventy years ago, the Fur Company determined to push their trade into the most
remote recesses of the unknown territory lying before them, a few adventurers following this same
course which I have lately taken, found themselves
suddenly in a labyrinth of mountains. These men
named the mountain land " New Caledonia," for
they had been nurtured in far Highland homes,
and the grim pine-clad steeps of this wild region,
and the blue lakes lying lapped amid the mountains,
recalled the Loch's and Ben's of boyhood's hours.
'Twas long before they could make much of this
new dominion. Mountains rose on every side;
white giants bald with age, wrapt in cloud, and
cloaked with pines. Cragged and scarped, and
towering above valleys filled with boulders, as
though in bygone ages, when the old peaks had
been youngsters they had pelted each other with
Titanic stones; which, falling short, had filled the
deep ravines that lay between them. BOUNDARIES AGAIN.
But if the mountains in their vast irregularity
defied the early explorers, the rivers were even
still more perplexing. Mountains have a right to
behave in an irregular kind of way, but rivers are
usually supposed to conduct themselves on more
peaceful principles. In New Caledonia they had
apparently forgotten this rule; they played all
manner of tricks. They turned and twisted
behind the backs of hills, and came out just the
very way they. shouldn't have come out. They
rose often close to the sea, and then ran directly
away from it. They pierced through mountain
ranges in canons and chasms ; and the mountains threw down stones at them, but that only
made them laugh all the louder, as they raced away
from canon to canon. Sometimes they grew
wicked, and, turned viciously the bit, and worried
the bases of the hills, and ate trees and rocks and
landslips ; and then, over all their feuds and
bickerings, came Time at last, as he always does,
and threw a veil over the conflict; this was a
veil of pine-trees.
But in one respect both mountain and river
seemed in perfect accord; they would keep the
land to themselves and their child, the wild
Indian; but the white man, the child of civilization, must be kept out. Nevertheless the white
man came in, and he named the rivers after his 314
own names, though they still laughed him to
scorn, and were useless to his commerce.
Gradually this white fur-hunter spread himself
through the land; he passed the Frazer, reached
the Columbia, and gained its mouth; and here a
strange rival presented himself. We must go
back a little.
Once upon a time a Greek sailor was cast away
on the shore, where the northmost Mexican coast
merged into unknown lands.
He remained for years a wanderer; but when
finally fate threw him again upon Adriatic coasts,
he was the narrator of strange stories, and the
projector of far distant enterprises.
North of California's shore, there was, he said,
a large island. Between this island and the
mainland lay a gulf which led to those other
gulfs, which, on the Atlantic verge, Cartier and
Hudson had made known to Europe.
In these days kings and viceroys gladly listened
to a wanderer's story. The Greek was sent back
to the coasts he had discovered, commissioned to
fortify the Straits he called Annian, against
English ships seeking through this outlet the
northern passage to Cathay.
Over the rest time has drawn a cloud. It is
said that the Greek sailor failed and died. His
story became matter of doubt.    More than 700 JUAN DE PU?A.
years passed away; Cook sought in vain for the
strait, and the gulf beyond it.
Another  English  sailor  was  more fortunate;
and in 1756 a lonely ship passed between the
island and the mainland, and the long, doubtful-
channel was named " Juan de Fuca," after the
nickname of the forgotten Greek.
To fortify the Straits of Annian was deemed
the dream of an enthusiast; yet by a strange
. coincidence, we see to-day its realization, and the
Island of San Juan, our latest loss, has now
upon its shores a hostile garrison, bent upon
closing the Straits of Fu9a against the ships of
North of California, and south of British
Columbia, there lies a vast region. Rich in
forest, prairie, snow-clad peak, alluvial meadow,
hill pasture, and rolling table-land. It has all
that nature can give a nation; its climate is that
of England; its peaks are as lofty as Mont Blanc;
its meadows as rich as the vales of Somerset.
The Spaniard knew it by repute, and named it
Oregon, after the river which we call the Columbia.
Oregon was at that time the entire west of the
Rocky Mountains, to the north of California.
Oregon had long been a mystic land, a realm of
fable. Carver, the indefatigable, had striven to
reach the great river of the west, whose source 316
lay near that of the Mississipi. The Indians had
told him that where the Mississipi had its birth
in the shining mountains, another vast river also
rose, and flowed west into the shoreless sea.
Carver failed to reach the shining mountains ; his
dream remained to him. " Probably," he writes,
I in future ages they (the mountains) may be
found to contain more riches in their bowels than
those of Indostan or Malabar, or that are produced on the golden Gulf of Guinea, nor wall I
except even the Peruvian mines." To-day that
dream comes true, and from the caverns of the
shining mountains men draw forth more gold and
silver than all these golden realms enumerated
by the baffled Carver ever produced. But the
road which Carver had pointed out was soOn to be
In the first years of the new century men
penetrated the gorges of the shining mountain,
and reached the great river of the west; but they
hunted for furs, and not for gold; and fur-hunters
keep to themselves the knowledge of their discoveries. Before long the great Republic born
upon the Atlantic shores began to stretch its
infant arms towards the dim Pacific.
In 1792, a Boston ship entered the mouth of
the Oregon river.
The charts carried by the vessel showed no JACOB ASTOR.
river upon the coast-line, and the captain named
the breaker-tossed estuary after his ship " the
Columbia." He thought he had discovered a
new river; in reality, he had but found again the
older known Oregon- It is more than probable,
that this new named river would again have found
its ancient designation, had not an enterprising
German now appeared upon the scene. One
Jacob Astor, a vendor of small furs and hats, in
New York, turned his eyes to the west.
He wished to plant upon the Pacific the germs
of American fur trade. The story of his enterprise has been sketched by a cunning hand; but
under the brilliant colouring which a great artist
has thrown around his tale of Astoria, the strong
bias of the partisan is too plainly apparent. Yet
it is easy to detect the imperfect argument by
which Washington Irving endeavours to prove
the right of the United States to the. disputed
territory of Oregon. The question is one of
" Who was first upon the ground ?"
Irving claims, that Astor, in 1810, was the first
trader who erected a station on the banks of the
But in order to form his fort, Astor had to
induce several of the employees of the North-
West Fur Company to desert their service. And
Irving innocently 4ells us, that when the overland 818
expedition under Hunt reached the Columbia,
they found the Indians well supplied with European articles, which they had obtained from white
traders already domiciled, west of the Rocky
Mountains. He records the fact while he misses
its meaning. British fur traders had reached
Oregon long before Jacob Astor had planted his
people on the estuary of the Columbia. Astor's
factory had but a short life. The war of 1813
broke out. A British ship appeared off the bar
of the Columbia River, and the North-West Company moving down the river became the owners
of Astoria. But with their usual astuteness the
Government of the United States claimed, at the
conclusion of the war, the possession of Oregon,
on the ground that it had been theirs prior to
the struggle. That it had not been so, is evident
to any person who will carefully inquire into the
history of the discovery of the North-West Coast,
and the regions lying west of the mountains. But
no one cares to ask about such things, and no one
cared to do so, even when the question was one of
greater moment than it is at present. So, with
the usual supineness which has let drift from us
so many fair realms won by the toil and daring
of forgotten sons, we parted at last with this
magnificent region of Oregon, and signed it over
to our voracious cousins. • THE MONARCH OP SALMON.
It was the old story so frequently repeated.
The country was useless; a pine-forest, a wilderness, a hopeless blank upon the face of nature.
To-day, Oregon is to my mind the fairest State
in the American Union.
There is a story widely told throughout British
Columbia, which aptly illustrates the past policy
of Great Britain, in relation to her vast Wild
Stories widely told are not necessarily true
ones; but this story has about it the ring of probability.
It is said that once upon a time a certain
British nobleman anchored his ship-of-war in the
deep waters of Puget Sound. It was at a time
when discussion was ripe upon the question of
disputed ownership in Oregon, and this ship was
sent out for the protection of British interests on
the shores of the North Pacific. She bore an ill-
fated name for British diplomacy. She was called
the " America."
The commander of the "America" was fond
of salmon fishing; the waters of the Oregon were
said to be stocked with salmon : the fishing would
be excellent. The mighty " Ekewan," monarch
of salmon, would fall a victim to flies, long famous
on waters of Tweed or Tay. Alas! for the
perverseness of Pacific salmon.    No  cunningly 320
twisted hackle, no deftly turned wing of mallard,
summer duck, or jungle cock, would tempt the
blue and silver monsters of the Columbia or the
Cowlitz Rivers. In despair, his lordship reeled
up his line, took to pieces his rod, and wrote in
disgust to his brother (a prominent statesman of
the day) that the whole country was a huge
mistake; that even the salmon in its waters was
a fish of no principle, refusing to bite, to nibble,
or to rise. In fine, that the territory of Oregon,
was not worthy of a second thought. So the
story runs. H it be not true, it has its birth in
that too true'insularity which would be sublime, if
it did not cost us something like a kingdom every
decade of years.
Such has been the past of Oregon. It still
retains a few associations of its former owners.
From its mass of forest, from its long-reaching
rivers, and above its ever green prairies, immense
spire-shaped single peaks rise up 14,000 feet above
the Pacific level. Far over the blue waters they
greet the sailor's eye, while yet the lower shore
lies deep sunken beneath the ocean sky-line.
They are literally the " shining mountains" of
Carver, and seamen say that at night, far out at
sea, the Pacific waves glow brightly 'neath the
reflected lustre of their eternal snows.
These solitary -peaks bear  English titles,  and OREGON.
early fur-hunter, or sailor-discoverer, have written
their now forgotten names in snow-white letters
upon the blue skies of Oregon.
But perhaps one of these days our cousins will
change all that.
Meantime, I have wandered far south from my
lofty standpoint on the snowy ridges of the Bald
Mountains in Northern New Caledonia.
Descending with rapid strides the mountain
trail, we heard a faint signal-call from the valley
before us. It was from the party sent on the
previous evening, to await our arrival at the spot
where Rufus had left his worn-out horses a week
before. A few miles more brought us within sight
of the blue smoke which promised breakfast—a
welcome prospect after six hours forced marching
over the steep ridges of the Bald Mountains.
Two Indians, two miners, two thin horses, and
one fat dog now formed the camp before the fire,
at which we rested with feelings of keen delight.
Tom, the " carrier " Indian, and Kalder, my trusty
henchman, had breakfast ready; and beans and
bacon, to say nothing of jam and white bread,
were still sufficient novelties to a winter traveller,
long nourished upon the sole luxury of moose
pemmican, to make eighteen miles of mountain
exercise a needless prelude to a hearty breakfast.
The meal over we  made preparations for our
march to the south. In round numbers I was 300
miles from Quesnelle. Mountain, forest, swamp,
river, and lake, lay between me and that valley
where the first vestige of civilized travel would
greet me on the rapid waters of the Frazer River.
Through all this land of wilderness a narrow
trail held its way; now, under the shadow of lofty
pine forest; now, skirting the shores of lonely
lakes; now, climbing the mountain ranges of the
Nation River, where yet the snow lay deep amid
those valleys whose waters seek upon one side the
Pacific, upon the. other the Arctic Ocean. Between me and the frontier "city" of Quesnelle
lay the Hudson's Bay Fort of St. James, on the
south-east shore of the lake called Stuart's. Here
my companion Rufus counted upon obtaining
fresh horses ; but until we could reach this halfway house, our own good legs must carry us, for
the steeds now gathered into the camp were as
poor and weak as the fast travel and long fasting
of the previous journey could make them. They
were literally but skin and bone, and it was still a
matter of doubt whether they would be able to
carry our small stock of food and blankets, in
addition to their own bodies, over the long trail
before us.
Packing our goods upon the backs of the
skeleton steeds, we set out for the south.    Before "RIDING AND TYING."
proceeding far a third horse was captured. He
proved to be in better condition than his comrades. A saddle was therefore placed on his
back, and he was handed over to me by Rufus in
order that we should "ride and tie" during the
remainder of the day. In theory this arrangement was admirable; in practice it was painfully
defective. The horse seemed to enter fully into
the "tying" part of it, but the "riding" was
altogether' another matter. I think nothing but
the direst starvation would have induced that
" cayoose " to deviate in any way from his part of
the tying. No amount of stick or whip or spur
would make him a party to the riding. At last he
rolled heavily against a prostrate tree, bruising me
not a little by the performance. He appeared to
have serious ideas of fancying himself 1 tied 1
when in this reclining position, and it was no easy
matter to disentangle oneself from his ruins.
After this I dissolved partnership with Rufus, and
found that walking was a much less fatiguing, and'
less hazardous performance, if a little less exciting.
We held our way through a wild land of hill
and vale and swamp for some fifteen or sixteen
miles, and camped on the edge of a little meadow,
where the old grass of the previous year promised
the tired horses a scanty meal. It was but a poor
pasturage, and next morning one horse proved so
y 2 324
weak that we left him to his fate, and held on
with two horses towards the Nation River. Between us and this Nation River lay a steep mountain, still deep in snow. We began its ascent
while the morning was yet young.
. Since daylight it had snowed incessantly; and in
a dense driving- snow-storm we made the passage
of the mountain.
The winter's snow lay four feet deep upon the
trail, and our horses sunk to their girths at every
step. Slowly we plodded on, each horse stepping
in the old footprints of the last journey, and pausing often to take breath in the toilsome ascent.
At length the summit was reached; but a thick
cloud hung over peak and valley. Then the trail
wound slowly downwards, and by noon we reached
the shore of a dim lake, across whose bosom the
snow-storm swept as though the time had been
mid-November instead of the end of May.
We passed the outlet of the Nation Lake (a
sheet of water some thirty-five miles in length,
lying nearly east and west), and held our way for
some miles along its southern shore. In the
evening we had reached a green meadow, on the
banks of a swollen stream.
While Rufus and I were taking the packs off
the tired horses, preparatory to making them swim
the stream; a huge grizzly bear came out upon NATION LAKE.
the opposite bank and looked at us for a moment.
The Indians who were behind saw him approach
us, but they were too far from us to make their
voices audible. A tree crossed the stream, and
the opposite bank rose steeply from the water to
the level meadow above. Bruin was not twenty
paces from us, but the bank hid him from our
view; and when I became aware of his proximity
he had already made up his mind to retire.
Grizzlies are seldom met under such favourable
circumstances. A high bank in front, a level
meadow beyond, I long regretted the chance, lost
so unwittingly, and our cheerless bivouac that
night in the driving sleet would have been but
o o
little heeded, had my now rusty double-barrel
spoken its mind to our shaggy visitor. But one
cannot always be in luck.
All night long it rained and sleeted and snowed,
and daylight broke upon a white landscape. We
got away from camp at four o'clock, and held on
with rapid pace until ten. By this hour we had
reached the summit of the table-land "-divide"
between the Arctic and Pacific Oceans. It is
almost imperceptible, its only indication, being the
flow of water south, instead of north-east. The
day had cleared, but a violent storm swept the-
forest, crashing many a tall tree prostrate to the
earth; and when we camped for dinner, it was no THE  WILD  NORTH  LAND.
easy matter to select a spot safe from the dangers
of falling pine-trees.
As I quitted this Arctic watershed, and stood
on the height of land between the two oceans,
memory could not help running back, over the
many scenes which had passed, since on that
evening after leaving the Long Portage, I had
first entered the river systems of the North.
Full 1300 miles away lay the camping-place of
that evening; and as the many long hours of
varied travel rose up again before me, snow-
swept, toil-laden, full at times of wreck and peril
and disaster; it was not without reason that,
turning away from the cold northern landscape, I
saluted with joy the blue pine-tops, through which
rolled the broad rivers of the Pacific.   THE  LOOK-OUT MOUNTAIN.
The Look-out  Mountain.—A gigantic tree.—The  Untiring
retires   before   superior   numbers.—Fort   St.   James.—A
strange  sight  in the  forest.—Lake   Noola.—Quesnelle.—
' Cerf-vola in civilized life.—Old dog, good-bye.
We marched that day over thirty miles, and
halted in a valley of cotton-wood trees, amid
green leaves again. We were yet distant about
forty-five miles from the Fort St. James,
friend Rufus declared that a rapid march on the
morrow would take us to the half-way house by
sun-down. Rapid marches had long since become
familiar, and one more or less did not matter
Daybreak found us in motion; it was a fast
walk, it Was a faster walk, it was a run, and ere
the mid-day sun hung over the rich undulating
forest-land, we were thirty miles from our camp
in the cotton-wood. Before noon, a lofty ridge
rose before us; the trail wound up its long ascent.
Rufus called it " the Look-out Mountain."    The 328
top was bare of forest, the day was bright with
sunshine; not a cloud lay over the vast plateau of
Middle New Caledonia.
Five hundred snowy peaks rose up along the
horizon : the Nation Lake Mountains, the further
ranges of the Ominica, the ridges which lie
between the many tributaries of the Peace and the
countless lakes of the North Frazer. Babine,
Tatla, Pinkley, Stuart's, and far off to the west
the old monarchs of the Rocky Mountains rose up
to look a last farewell to the wanderer, who now
carried away to distant lands a hundred memories
of their lonely beauty. On the south slope of the
Look-out Mountain, a gigantic pine-tree first
attracts the traveller's eye; its seamed trunk is
dusky red, its dark and sombre head is lifted
high above all other trees, and the music which
the winds make through its branches seems to
come from a great distance. It is the Douglas
Pine of the Pacific coast, the monarch of Columbian forests, a tree which Turner must have seen
in his-, dreams'.
A few miles south of the mountain, the country
opened out into pleasant prairies fringed with
groves of cotton-wood; the grass was growing
thick and green, the meadows were bright with
flowers. Three fat horses were feeding upon one of
these meadows; they were the property of Rufus, A  GIGANTIC TREE.
We caught them with some little difficulty, and'
turned our two poor thin animals adrift in peace
and.plenty; then mounting the fresh steeds, Rufus
and I hurried on to Fort St. James.
The saddle was a pleasant change after the
hard marching of the last few days. Mud and dust
and stones, alternating with "the snow of the mountains, had told heavily against our moccassined
feet; but the worst was now over, and henceforth we would have horses to Quesnelle.
It was yet some time before sun-down when we
cantered down the sloping trail which leads to
the Fort St. James. Of course the Untiring was
at his usual post—well to the front. Be it dog-
train, or march on foot, or march with horses, the
Untiring led the van, his tail like the plume of
Henry of Navarre at Ivry, ever waving his followers to renewed exertions. It Would be no easy
matter for me to enumerate all the Hudson's Bay
forts which the Untiring had entered at the head
of his train. Long and varied experience had
made him familiar "with every description of post,
from the imposing array of wooden buildings
which marked the residence of a chief factor, down
to the little isolated hut wherein some half-breed
"servant carries on his winter traffic on the shore
of a nameless lake.
Cerf-vola knew  them  all.     Freed   from   his THE  WILD  NORTH LAND.
harness in the square of a fort—an event which
he usually accelerated by dragging his sled and
three other dogs to the doorway of the principal
house—he at once made himself master of the
situation, paying particular attention to two objective points. First, the intimidation of resident
dogs; second, the topography of the provision
store. Ten minutes after his entry into a previously unexplored fort, he knew to a nicety
where the white fish were kept, and where the
dry meat and pemmican lay. But on this occasion
at Fort St. James a woful disaster awaited him.
With the memory of many triumphal entries
full upon him, he now led the way into the square
of the fort, totally forgetting that he was no
longer a hauling-dog, but a free lance or a rover
on his own account. In an instant four huge
haulers espied him, and charging from every side
ere I could force in upon the conflict to balance
sides a little, they completely prostrated the
hitherto invincible Esquimaux, and at his last
Hudson Bay post, near the close of his 2500 mile
march, he experienced his first defeat. We
rescued him from his enemies before he had
suffered much bodily hurt, but he looked considerably tail-fallen at this unlooked-for reception,'
and passed the remainder of the day in strict
seclusion underneath my bed. PORT  ST.  JAMES.
Stuart's Lake is a very beautiful sheet of water.
Tall mountains rise along its western and northern
shores, and forest promontories stretch far into
its deep blue waters. It is the favourite home of
the salmon, when late in summer he has worked
his long, toilsome way up the innumerable rapids
of the Frazer, 500 miles from the Pacific.
Colossal sturgeon are also found in its waters,
sometimes weighing as much as 800 pounds.
With the exception of rabbits, game is scarce
along the shores, but at certain times rabbits are
found in incredible numbers; the Indian women
snare them by sacksful, and every one fives on
rabbit, for when rabbits are numerous, salmon are
The daily rations of a man in the wide domain of
the Hudson's Bay Company are singularly varied.
On the south shores of Hudson's Bay a voyageur
receives every day one wild goose; in the Saskatchewan he gets ten pounds of buffalo-meat;
in Athabasca eight pounds of moose-meat; in
English River three large white fish; in the
North, half fish and reindeer; and here in New
Caledonia he receives for his day's food eight
rabbits or one salmon. Start not, reader, at the
last item! The salmon is a dried one, and does
not weigh more than a pound and .a half in its
reduced form. THE WILD NORTH LAND.
After a day's delay ac Fort St. James, we
started again on our southern road. A canoe
carried us to a point some five and twenty miles
lower down the Stuart's River—a rapid stream of
considerable size, Which bears the out-flow of the
lake and of the long line of lakes lying north of
Stuart's, into the main Frazer River.
I here said good-bye to Kalder, who was to
return to Peace River on the following day. A
whisky saloon in the neighbourhood of the fort
had proved too much for this hot-tempered half-
breed, and he was in a state of hilarious grief
when we parted. " He had been very hasty," he
said, | would I squeeze him, as he was sorry; he
would always go with this master again if he ever
came back to Peace River;" and then the dog
caught his eye, and overpowered by his feelings he
vanished into the saloon.
Guided by an old carrier Indian chief, the
canoe swept out of the beautiful lake and ran
swiftly down the Stuart's River. By sun-down we
had reached the spot where the trail crosses the -
stream, and here we camped for the night; our
horses had arrived before us under convoy of Tom
the Indian.
On the following morning, the 31st of May, we
reached the banks of the Nacharcole River, a large
stream flowing from the west; open prairies of A STRANGE  SIGHT IN THE FOREST.
rich land fringed the banks of this river, and far
as the eye could reach to the west no mountain
ridge barred the way to the Western Ocean.
This river has its source within twenty miles of-
the Pacific, and is without doubt the true line to
the sea for a northern railroad, whenever Canada
shall earnestly take in hand the work of riveting
together the now widely-severed portions of her
vast dominion; but to this subject I hope to have
time to devote a special chapter in the Appendix
to this book, now my long journey is drawing to
a close, and these latter pages of its story are
written amid stormy waves, where a southward-
steering ship reels on beneath the shadow of
Madeira's mountains.
Crossing the wide Nacharcole River, and continuing south for a few miles, we reached a broadly
cut trail which bore curious traces of past civilization. Old telegraph poles stood at intervals along
the forest-cleared opening, and rusted wire hung
in loose festoons down from their tops, or lay
tangled amid the growing brushwood of the
cleared space. A telegraph in the wilderness !
What did it mean ?
When civilization once grasps the wild, lone
spaces of the earth it seldom releases its hold;
yet here civilization had once advanced her footsteps, and apparently shrunk back again frightened. THE WILD NORTH LAND.
at her boldness. It was even so; this trail, with
its ruined wire, told of the wreck of a great enterprise. While yet the Atlantic cable was an
unsettled question, a bold idea sprung to life in
the brain of an American. It was to connect the
Old World and the New, by a wire stretched
through the vast forests of British Columbia and
Alaska, to the Straits of Behring; thence across
the Tundras of Kamtschatka, and around the.
shores of Okhotsk the wares would run to the
Amoor River, to meet a line which the Russian
Government would lay from Moscow to the
It was a grand scheme, but it lacked the
elements of success, because of ill-judged route
and faulty execution. The great Telegraph Company of the United States entered warmly into
the plan. Exploring parties were sent out; one
pierced these silent forests; another surveyed the
long line of the Yukon; another followed the wintry
shores of the Sea of Okhotsk, and passed the
Tundras of the black Gulf of Anadir.
Four millions of dollars were spent in these
expeditions. Suddenly news came that the Atlantic
cable was an accomplished fact. Brunei had died
of a broken heart; but the New World and the
Old had welded their thoughts together, with the
same blow that broke his heart. LAKE NOOLA.
Europe spoke to America beneath the ocean, and
the voice which men had sought to waft through
the vast forests of the Wild North Land, and over
the Tundras of Siberia, died away in utter desolation.
So the great enterprise was abandoned, and
to-day from the lonely shores of Lake Babine to the
bend of the Frazer at Quesnelle, the ruined wire
hangs looselv through the forest.
During the first two days of June we journeyed
through a wild, undulating country, filled with
lakes and rolling hills; grassy openings were
numerous, and many small streams stocked with
fish intersected the land.
The lakes of this northern plateau are singularly beautiful. Many isles lie upon their surface;
from tiny promontories the huge Douglas pine lifts
his motionless head. The great northern diver,
the loon, dips his white breast in the blue wavelets,
and sounds his melancholy cry through the solitude. I do not think that I have ever listened
to a sound which conveys a sense of indescribable
loneliness so completely as this wail, which the
loon sends at night over the forest shores. The
man who wrote
I And on the mere the wailing died away "
must have heard it in his dreams. 336
We passed the noisy Indian village of Lake
Noola and the silent Indian graves on the grassy
shore of Lake Noolkai, and the evening of the
2nd of June found us camped in the green meadows of the West Road. River, up which a white
man first penetrated to the Pacific Ocean just
eighty years ago.
A stray Indian came along with news of disaster.
A canoe had upset near the cotton-wood canon of
the Frazer, and the Hudson's Bay officer at Fort
George had gone down beneath a pile of driftwood, in the whirlpools of the treacherous river.
The Indian had been with him, but he had reached
the shore with difficulty, and was now making his
way to Fort St. James, carrying news of the
Forty more miles brought us to the summit of
a ridge, from which a large river was seen flowing
in the centre of a deep valley far into the south.
Beyond, on the further shore, a few scattered
wooden houses stood grouped upon a level bank;
the wild rose-trees were in blossom; it was sum-'
mer in the forest, and the evening air was fragrant
with the scent of flowers.
I drew rein a moment on the ridge, and looked
wistfully back along the forest trail.
Before me spread civilization and the waters
of  the   Pacific;   behind   me,   vague   and   vast, QUESNELLE.
lay a   hundred memories   of   the   Wild North
For many reasons it is fitting to end this story
here. Between the ridge on the west shore of
the Frazer and those scattered wooden houses on
the east, lies a gulf wider than a score of valleys.
On one side man—on the other the wilderness;
on one side noise of steam and hammer—on the
other voice of wild things and the silence of the
It is still many hundred miles ere I can hope to
reach anything save a border civilization. The
road which runs from Quesnelle to Victoria is
400 miles in length. Washington territory,
Oregon, and California have yet to be traversed
ere, 1500 miles from here, the golden gate of San
Francisco opens on the sunset of the Pacific
Many scenes of beauty lie in that long track
hidden in the bosom of the Sierras. The Cas-
cadel Rainier, Hood, and Shasta will throw their
shadows across my path as the Untiring dog and
his now tired master, wander south towards the
grim Yosemite; but to fink these things into the
story of a winter journey across the yet untamed
wilds of the Great North would be an impossible
One evening I stood in a muddy street of New
York. A crowd had gathered before the door of
one of those immense buildings which our cousins
rear along their city thoroughfares and call hotels.
The door opened, and half a dozen dusky men
came forth.
" Who are they ?" I asked.
" They are the Sioux chiefs from the Yellowstone," answered a bystander; " they're a taking
them to the the-a-ter, to see Lester Waffick."
Out on the Great Prairie I had often seen the
red man in his boundless home; savage if you
will, but still a power in the land, and fitting in
every way the wilds in which he dwells. The
names of Red Cloud and his brother chiefs from
the Yellowstone were household words to me. It
was this same Red Cloud who led his 500 whooping warriors on Fetterman's troops; when not one
soldier escaped to tell the story of the fight in the
foot-hills of the Wyoming Mountains; and here
was Red Cloud now in semi-civilized dress, but
still a giant 'midst the puny rabble that thronged
to see him come forth; with the gaslight falling
on his dusky features and his eyes staring in
bewildered vacancy at the crowd around him.
Captain Jack was right: better, poor hunted
savage, thy grave in the lava-beds, than this
burlesque union of street and wilderness !    But CERF-VOLA IN  CIVILIZED  LIFE.
there was one denizen of the wilds who followed
my footsteps into southern lands, and of him the
reader might ask, " What more ?"
Well, the Untiring took readily to civilization;
he looked at Shasta, he sailed on the Columbia
River, he climbed the dizzy ledges of the Yosemite,
he gazed at the Golden Gate, and saw the sun
sink beyond the blue waves of the great Salt
Lake, but none of these scenes seemed to affect
him in the slightest degree.
He journeyed in the boot or. on the roof of a
stage-coach for more than- 800 miles; he was
weighed once as extra baggage, and classified and
charged as such; he conducted himself with all
possible decorum in the rooms and corridors of
the grand hotel at San Francisco; he crossed
the continent in a railway carriage to Montreal and
Boston, as though he had been a first-class passenger since childhood; he thought no more of the
reception-room of Brigham Young in Utah, than
had he been standing on a snow-drift in Athabasca
Lake; he was duly photographed and petted and
pampered, but he took it all as a matter of course:
There were, however, two facts in civilization
which caused him unutterable astonishment—a
brass band, and a butcher's stall. He fled from
the one; he howled with delight before the other.
I frequently endeavoured to find out the cause
z 2 340
of his aversion to music. Although he was popularly supposed to belong to the species of savage
beast, music had anything' but a soothing effect
upon him. Whenever he heard a band, he fled to
my hotel; and once, when they were burying a
renowned general of volunteers in San Francisco
with full military. honours, he caused no small
confusion amidst the mournful cortege by charging full tilt through the entire crowd.
But the butcher's stall was something to be
long remembered. Six or eight sheep, and half as
many fat oxen hung up by the heels, apparently all
for his benefit, was something that no dog could
understand. Planting himself full before it, he
howled hilariously for some moments, and when
with difficulty I succeeded in conducting him to
the seclusion of my room, he took advantage of
my absence to remove with the aid of his teeth
the obnoxious door-panel which intervened between him and this paradise of mutton.
On the Atlantic shore I bid my old friend a
long good-bye. It was night; and as the ship
sailed away from the land, and I found myself
separated for the first time during so many long
months from the friend and servant and partner
Thro' every swift vicissitude
Of cheerful time, unchanged had stood, OLD   DOG,   GOOD-BYE:
I strung together these few rhymes, which were
not the less true because they were only
Old dog, good-bye, the parting time bas come,
Here on the verge of wild Atlantic foam;
He who would follow, when fast beats the drum,
Must have no place of rest, no dog, no home.
And yet I cannot leave thee even here,
Where toil and cold in peace and rest shall end,
Poor faithful partner of a wild career,
Through icy leagues my sole unceasing friend,
Without one word to mark our long good-bye,
Without a line to paint that wintry dream,
When day by day, old Husky, thou, and I,
Toiled o'er the great Unchagah's frozen stream.
For now, when it is time to go, strange sights
Rise from the ocean'of the vanish'd year,
And wail of pines, and sheen of northern lights,
Flash o'er the sight and float on mem'ry's ear.
We cross again the lone, dim shrouded lake,
Where stunted cedars bend before the blast;
Again the camp is made amidst the brake,
The pine-log's light upon thy face is cast.
We talk together, yes—we often spent
An hour in converse, while my bit thou shared.
One eye, a friendly one, on me was bent;
The other, on some comrade fiercely glared.
Deep slept the night, the owl had ceased his cry,
Unbroken stillness o'er the earth was shed ;
And crouch'd besiSe me thou wert sure to lie,
Thv rest a watching, snow thy only bed. THE  WILD  NORTH  LAND.
The miles went on, the tens 'neath twenties lay;
The scores to hundreds slowly, slowly, roll'd ;
And ere the winter won itself away,
The hundreds.turn'd to thousands doubly told.
But still thou wert the leader of the band,
And still thy step went on thro' toil and pain;
Until- like giants in the Wild North Land,
A thousand glittering peaks frown'd o'er the plain.
And yet we did not part; beside me still
Was seen thy bushy tail, thy well-known face;
Through canon .dark, and by the snow-clad hill,
Thou kept unchanged thy old familiar pace.
Why tell it all ? through fifty scenes we went,
Where Shasta's peak its lonely shadows cast;
Till now for Afric's shore nry steps are bent,
And thou and I, old friend, must part at last.
Thou wilt not miss me, homo and care are thine,
And peace and rest will lull thee to the end;
But still, perchance with low and wistful whine,
Thou'lt sometimes scan the landscape for thy friend.
Or when the drowsy summer noon is nigh,
Or wintry moon upon the white snow shines,
From dreamy sleep will rise a muffled cry,
For him who led thee through the land of pines. ON THE PASSES THROUGH THEROCET MOUNT.AINS
Nearly twenty years ago we began to talk of building a
railroad across the continent of North America to lie wholly
within British territory, and we are still talking about it.
. Meantime our cousins have built their inter-oceanic road,
and having opened it and run upon it for six years: they are
also talking much about their work. But of such things it
is, perhaps, better to speak after the work has been accomplished than before it has been begun.
The line which thus connects the Pacific and Atlantic
Oceans bears the name of the Union Pacific Railroad. It
crosses the continent nearly through the centre of the
United States, following, with slight deviation, the 42nd
parallel of latitude. Two other lines have been projected south, and one north of this Union Pacific road, all
lying within the United States; but all have come to
untimely ends, stopping midway in their career across the
sandy plains of the West.
There was the Southern Pacific Railroad to follow the
80th parallel; there was the Kansas Pacific line following the Republican valley, and stopping short at the city
of Denver in Colorado; and there was the Northern Pacific-
Railroad, the most ambitious of all the later lines, which,
starting from the city of Duluth on the western extremity 346
of Lake Superior, traversed the northern half of the State
of Minnesota, crossed the sandy wastes of Dakota, and has
just now come heavily to grief at the Big Bend of the
Missouri River, on the borders of the " Bad Lands " of the
In an early chapter of this book it has been remarked
that the continent of North America, east of the Rocky-
Mountains, sloped from south to north. This slope, which
is observable from Mexico to the Arctic Ocean, has an
important bearing on the practical working of railroad lines
across the continent. The Union Pacific road, taken in
connexion with the Central Pacific, attains at its maximum
elevation an altitude of over 8000 feet above the sea-level,
and runs far over 900 miles at an average height of about
4500 feet; the Northern Pacific reaches over 6000 feet,
and fully half its projected course lies through a country
3000 to 4000 feet above ocean-level; the line of the Kansas
Pacific is still more elevated, and the great plateau of the
Colorado River is more than 7000 feet above the sea. Continuing northward, into British territory, the next projected line is that of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and it
is with this road that our business chiefly lies in these few
pages of Appendix.
- The" depression, or slope, of the prairie level towards the
north continues, with marked regularity, throughout the
whole of British America; thus at the 49th parallel
(the boundary-line between the United States), the mean
elevation of the plains is about 4000 feet. Two hundred
and fifty miles north, or in the 53rd parallel, it is about
3000 feet; and 300 miles still farther north, or about
the entrance to the Peace River Pass, it has fallen to something like 1700 feet above the sea-level.
. But these elevations have reference only to the prairies
at the eastern base of the Rocky Mountains.    We must APPENDIX.
now glance at the mountains themselves, which form the
real obstacle to inter-oceanic lines of railroad.
It might be inferred from this gradual slope of the
plains northwards, that the mountain-ranges followed the
same law, and decreased in a corresponding degree after j
they passed the 49th parallel, but such is not the case; so
far from it, they only attain their maximum elevation in
52° N. latitude, where, from an altitude of 16,000 feet,
the summits of Mounts Brown and Hooker look down on
the fertile plains at the sources of the Saskatchewan River.
As may be supposed, it is only here .that the Rocky
Mountains present themselves in their grandest form.
Rising from a base only 3000 feet above the ocean, their
full magnitude strikes at once upon the eye of the beholder; whereas, when looked at in the American States
from a standpoint already elevated 6000 or 7000 feet above
the sea, and rising only to an altitude of 10,000 or 12,000
feet, they appear insignificant, and the traveller experiences
a sense of disappointment as he looks at their peaks thus
slightly elevated above the plain. But though the summits
of the range increase in height as we go north, the levels
of the valleys or passes, decrease in a most remarkable
Let us look for a moment at these gaps which Nature
has formed through this mighty barrier. Twenty miles
north of the boundary-line the Kootanic Pass traverses
the Rocky Mountains.
The waters of the Belly River upon the east, and those
of the Wigwam River on the west, have their sources in
this valley, the highest point of which is more than 6000
feet above sea-level.
JFifty miles north of the Kootanic, the Kananaskiss Pass
cuts the three parallel ranges which here form the Rocky
Mountains; -the height of land is here 5700 feet.    Thirty 348
miles more to the north the Vermilion Pass finds its highest
level at 4903; twenty miles again to the north the
Kicking Horse Pass reaches 5210 feet; then comes the
House Pass, 4500 feet; and, lastly, the pass variously
known by the names of Jasper's House, TSte Jeune, and
Leather Pass, the highest point of which is 3400 feet.
Prom the House Pass to the T§te Jeune is a little more
than sixty miles, and it is a singular fact that these two
lowest passes in the range have lying between them the
lo'ftiest summits of the Rocky Mountains from Mexico to
the Arctic Ocean.
The outflow from all these passes, with the exception of
the one last named, seeks on the east the river systems of
the Saskatchewan, and on the west the Columbia and its
tributaries. The T&te Jeune, on the other hand, sheds its
dividing waters into the Athabasca River on the east, and
into the Prazer River on the west.
So far we have followed the mountains to the 58° of N.
latitude, and here we must pause a moment to glance back
at the long-projected line of the Canadian Pacific Railroad.
As we have already stated, it is now nearly twenty years
since the idea of a railroad through British America was
first entertained. A few years later a well-equipped expedition was sent out by the British Government for the
purpose of thoroughly exploring the prairie region lying
between Red River and the Rocky Mountains, and also
reporting upon the nature of the passes traversing the
range, with a view to the practicability of running a railroad across the continent. Of this expedition it will be
sufficient to observe, that while the details of survey were
carried out with minute attention and much labour, the
graver question, whether it was possible to carry a railroad
through British territory to the Pacific, appears to have
been imperfectly examined, and, after a survey extending Appendix.
as far north as the Jasper's House Pass, but not including
that remarkable valley, the project was unfavourably reported upon by the leader of the expedition.
The reasons adduced in support of this view were strong
ones. Not only had the unfortunate selection of an astronomical boundary-line (the 49th parallel) shut us out from
the western extreme of Lake Superior, and left us the
Laurentian wilderness lying north of that lake, as a
threshold to the fertile lands of the Saskatchewan and the
Red River; but far away to the west of the Rocky Mountains, and extending to the very shores of the Pacific, there
lay a land of rugged mountains almost insurmountable to
railroad enterprise.
Such was the substance of the Report of the expedition.
It would be a long, long story now to enter into the details
involved in this question; but one fact connected with "this
unfortunate selection of an astronomical line m may here be
pertinently alluded to, as evincing the spirit of candour,
and the tendency to sharp practice which the Great
Republic early developed in its dealings with its discarded
mother.. By the treaty of 1783, the northern limit of the
United States was defined as running from the north-west
angle of the Lake of the Woods to the river Mississippi
along the 49th parallel; but as we have before stated, the
49th parallel did not touch the north-west angle of the
Lake of the Woods or the river Mississippi; the former lay
north of it, the latter south. Here was clearly a case*fdrP
a new arrangement. As matters stood we had unquestionably the best of the mistake; for, whereas the angle of the
Lake of the Woods lay'only a few miles north of the parallel,
the extreme source of the Mississippi lay a long, long way
south of it: so that if we lost ten miles at the beginning
of the line, we would gam 100 or more at the end of it.
All this did not escape the eyes of the fur-hunters in the 350
.fi! 1
early days of the century. Mackenzie and Thompson both
noticed it and both concluded that the objective point being
the river Mississippi, the line would eventually be run with
a view to its terminal definitions, the Lake of the Woods
and the Mississippi. In 1806, the United States Govern- .
ment sent out two Exploring Expeditions into its newly-
acquired territory of Louisiana; one of them, in charge of
a Mr. Zebulon Pike of the American army, ascended the
Mississippi, and crossed from thence to Lake Superior.
Here are his remarks upon the boundary-line. " The
admission of this pretension" (the terminal point at the
river Mississippi) " will throw out of our territory the
upper portion of Red River, and nearly two-fifths of the
territory of Louisiana; whereas if the line is run due west
from the head of the Lake of the Woods, it will cross Red
River nearly at the centre, and strike the Western Ocean
at Queen Charlotte's Sound. This difference of opinion, it
is presumed, might be easily adjusted between the two
Governments at the present day; but delay, by unfolding
the true value of the country, may produce difficulties which .
do not now exist."
The italics are mine.
Zebulon Pike has long passed to his Puritan fathers.
Twelve years after he had visited the shores of Lake Superior, and long before our Government knew " the value of
the country" of which it was discoursing, the matter was
arranged to the entire satisfaction of Pike and his countrymen. They held tenaciously to their end, the Lake of
the Woods; we hastened to abandon ours, the Mississippi
River. All this is past and gone; but if to-day we write
Pish, or Sumner, or any other of the many names which
figure in boundary commissions or consequential claims,
instead of that of Zebulon Pike, the change of signature,
will but slightly affect the character of the document. APPENDIX.
But we must return to the Rocky Mountains. It has ever
been the habit of explorers in the north-west of America,
to imagine that beyond the farthest extreme to which they
penetrate, there lay a region of utter worthlessness. One
hundred years ago, Niagara lay on the confines of the
habitable earth; fifty years ago a man travelling in what
are now the States of Wisconsin and Minnesota, would
have been far beyond the faintest echo of civilization.
So each one thought, as in after-time fresh regions were
brought within the limits of the settler. The Governr
ment Exploring Expedition of sixteen years since, deemed
that it had exhausted the regions fit for settlement when it
reached the northern boundary of the Saskatchewan valley.
The project of a railroad through British territory was
judged upon the merits of the mountains lying west of the
sources of the Saskatchewan, and the labyrinth of rock and
peak .stretching between the Rocky Mountains and the
Pacific. Even to-day, with the knowledge of further
exploration in its possessions, the Government of the ■
Dominion of Canada seems bent upon making a similar
error. A line has been projected across the continent, which,
if followed, must entail ruin upon the persons who would
attempt to settle along it upon the bleak treeless prairies
east of the mountains, and lead to an expenditure we^t of
the range, in crossing the multitudinous ranges of Middle
and Southern British Columbia, which must ever prevent
its being a remunerative enterprise.
The T§te Jeune Pass is at present the one selected for
the passage of the Rocky Mountains. This pass has many
things to recommend it, so far as it is immediately connected with the range which it traverses; but unfortunately
the real obstacles become only apparent when its western
extremity is reached, and the impassable | divide " between
the Frazer, the Columbia, and the Thompson Rivers looms
mm 352
up before the traveller. It is true that the canon valley of
the North Thompson lies open, but to follow this outlet, is
to face still more imposing obstacles where the Thompson
River unites with the Frazer at Lytton, some 250 miles
nearer to the south-west; here, along the Frazer, the
Cascade Mountains lift their rugged heads, and the river
for full sixty miles flows at the bottom of a vast tangle cut
by nature through the heart of the mountains, whose steep
sides rise abruptly from the water's edge: in many places a
wall of rock.
In fact, it is useless to disguise that the Frazer River
affords the sole outlet from that portion of the Rocky
Mountains lying between the boundary-line, the 58rd
parallel of latitude and the Pacific Ocean; and that the
Frazer River valley is one so singularly formed, that it
would seem as though some superhuman sword had at a
single stroke cut through a labyrinth of mountains for 300
miles, down deep into the bowels of the land.
Let us suppose that the mass of mountains lying west of
the Tete Jeune has been found practicable for a line, and
that the Frazer River has been finally reached on any part
pf its course between Quesnelle and the Cascade range at
"v\Jhat then would be the result ?
Simply this i to turn south along the valley of the river,
would be to face the canons of the Cascades, between Lytton
and Yale. To hold west, would be to cross the Frazer
River itself, and by following the Chilcotin River, reach
the Pacific Ocean at a point about 200 miles north of the
estuary of the Frazer. But to cross this Frazer River
would be a work of enormous magnitude,—a work greater,
I believe, than any at present existing on the earth; for at
no point of its course from Quesnelle to Lytton is the
Frazer River less than 1200 feet below the level of the land APPENDIX--
lying at either side of it, and from one steep scarped bank
to the other is a distance of a mile or more than a mile.
How, I ask, is this mighty fissure, extending right down
the country from north to south, to be crossed, and a
passage gained to the Pacific ? I answer that the true
passage to the Pacific lies far north of the Frazer River, and
that the true passage of the Rocky Mountains lies far north
of the Tete Jeune Pass.
And now it will be necessary to travel north from this
Tete Jeune Pass, along the range of the Rocky Mountains.
One hundred miles north of the Tete Jeune, on the east,
or Saskatchewan side of the Rocky Mountains, there lies a
beautiful land. It is some of the richest prairie land in the
entire range of the north-west. It has wood and water
in abundance. On its western side the mountains rise
with an ascent so gradual that horses can be ridden to the
summits of the outer range, and into the valley lying
between that range and the Central Mountain.
To the north of this prairie country, lies the. Peace
River; south, the Lesser Slave Lake; east, a land of wood
and musky and trackless forest. The Smoking River
flows almost through its centre, rising near Jasper's
House, and flowing north and east until it passes into the
Peace River, fifty miles below Dunveyan. From the most
northerly point of the fertile land of the Saskatchewan,
to the most southerly point of this Smoking River
country, is about 100 or 120 miles. The intervening land
is forest or musky, and partly open.