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SUKBEAMS



SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
THE YOUNG FUR TRADERS.
A TALE OF THE FAR NORTH.
BY
ROBERT MICHAEL BALL ANT YNE,
AUTHOR OF “HUDSON’S BAY; OR, EVERT-DAY LIFE IN THE WILDS OF
NORTH AMERICA.”
TYITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY THE AUTHOR.
BOSTON:
PHILLIPS, SAMPSON AND COMPANY.
1S59.


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PREFACE.
TN writing this book-, my desire has been to
A draw an exact copy of the picture' which is
indelibly stamped on my own memory. I have
carefully avoided exaggeration in everything of
importance. All the chief and most of the
minor incidents are facts. In regard to unim
portant matters .1 have "taken the liberty of a
novelist, — not to color too highly, or to invent
improbabilities, but — to transpose time, place,
and circumstance at pleasure; while, at the
same time, I have endeavored to convey to the
reader’s mind a truthful impression of the gen
eral effect — to use a painter’s language — of
the life and country of the Fur Trader.



CONTENTS.
CHAPTER I.
Plunges the reader into the middle of an arctic -winter; conveys '
him into the heart of the wilderness of North America; and in
troduces him to some of the principal personages of our tale, . 9
CHAPTER II.
The old fur trader endeavors to “ fix ” his son’s “flint,” and finds
the thing more difficult to do than he expected,' . . .19
CHAPTER III.
The counting-room, . .32
CHAPTER IV.
A wolf-hunt in the prairies; Charley astonishes his father, and
breaks in the “ noo ’oss ” effectually, 40
CHAPTER V.
Peter Mactavish becomes an amateur doctor; Charley promul
gates his views of things in general to Kate; and Kate waxes ,
sagacious, . . . . . . . . • . .59
CHAPTER VI.
Spring and the voyageurs, . 73
CHAPTER VII.
The store, 80


vi
CONTENTS.
Page
CHAPTER YIIL
Farewell to Kate; departure of the brigade; Charley becomes a
voyageur 96
CHAPTER IX.
The voyage; the encampment; a surprise, 102
CHAPTER X.
Varieties, vexations, and vicissitudes, 121
CHAPTER XL
Charley aud Harry begin their sporting career, without much
success; Whisky-john catching, . . . . . . 128
CHAPTER XII.
The storm, . . . . . 139
CHAPTER XHI.
The canoe; ascending the rapids; the portage; deer-shooting and
life in the woods, . 164
CHAPTER XIV.
The Indian camp; the new outpost; Charley sent on a mission to
the Indians, 181
CHAPTER XV.
The feast; Charley makes his first speech in public; meets with
an old friend; an enemy in the grass, 197
CHAPTER XVI.
The return; narrow escape; a murderous attempt which fails;
- and a discovery, ......... 213
CHAPTER XVII.
The scene changes; Bachelors’ Hall; a practical joke and its con
sequences; a snow-shoe walk at night in the forest, . . 224
CHAPTER XVHI.
The walk continued; frozen toes; an encampment in the snow, 242


CONTENTS. vii
Pngo
CHAPTER XIX.
Shows how tho accountant and Harry set their traps, and what
came of it, 256
CHAPTER XX.
The accountant’s story, 268
CHAPTER XXI.
Ptarmigan-hunting; Hamilton’s shooting powers sovorly tested;
a snow-storm, 281
CHAPTER XXII.
Tho winter packet; Harry hears from old frionds, and wishes that
he was with them, 292
CHAPTER XXIII.
Changes; Harry and Hamilton find that variety is indood charm
ing; the latter astonishes tho former considerably, . . . 813
CHAPTER XXIV.
Hopes and fears; an unexpected meeting; philosophical talk be
tween the hunter and the parson, 326
CHAPTER XXV.
Good nows and romantic scenery; hoar-lnmting and its results, 341
CHAPTER XXVI.
An unexpected meeting, and an unexpected deei’-hunt; arrival at
tho outpost; disagreement with tho natives; an enemy dis
covered, and a murder, 353
CHAPTER XXVII.
Tho cliaso; tho figUt; retribution. Low spirits and good nows, 370
CHAPTER XXVIII.
Old friends and scenes; coming events cast their shadows before, 387
CHAPTER XXIX.
The first day at homo; a gallop in the prairie, and its consoquonces, 399


viii
CONTENTS.
Page
• CHAPTER XXX.
Love; old Mr. Kennedy puts his foot in it, . . . . .409
CHAPTER XXXI.
The course of true loVe, curiously enough, runs smooth for once;
and the curtain falls, . . . . . . . . 418


SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
FROM
THE FAR NORTH.
CHAPTER I.
PLUNGES TIIE READER, INTO THE MIDDLE OE AN ARCTIC WINTER;
CONVEYS HIM INTO THE HEART OE THE WILDERNESS 0E
NORTH AMERICA; AND INTRODUCES HIM TO SOME- OE THE
PRINCIPAL PERSONAGES, OE OUR TALE.
S NOWFLAKES and sunbeams, beat and cold, winter'
and summer, alternated with their wonted regularity
for fifteen years in the wild, regions of the Far North.
During this space of time, the hero of our tale sprouted
from babyhood to boyhood, passed through the usual
amount of accidents, ailments, and vicissitudes incidental
to those periods of life, and, finally, entered upon that
ambiguous condition that precedes early manhood.
It was a clear, cold winter’s day. The sunbeams of
summer were long past, and snowflakes had fallen thickly
' on the banks of Red River. Charley sat on a lump of
blue ice, his head drooping, and his eyes bent on the snow
at his feet, with an expression of deep disconsolation.
Kate reclined at Charley’s side, looking wistfully up in
his expressive face, as if to read the thoughts that were
chasing each other through his mind,, like the ever-vary
ing clouds that floated in the winter sky above. It was


10
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
quite evident to the most careless observer, that, what
ever might be the usual temperaments of the boy and
girl, their present state of mind was not joyous, but, on
the contrary, very sad.
“ It won’t do, sister Kate,” said Charley ; “ I’ve tried
him over and over again; I’ve implored, begged, and, en
treated him to let me go; but he won’t, — and I’m deter
mined to run away ; so there’s an end of it! ”
As Charley gave utterance to this unalterable resolu
tion, he rose from the bit of blue ice, and, taking Kate by
the hand, led her over the frozen river, climbed up the
bank on the opposite side, — an operation of some diffi
culty, owing to the Snow, which had been drifted so
deeply during a late storm that the usual track was al
most obliterated, — and, turning into a path that lost itself
among the willows, they speedily disappeared.
As it is possible our reader may desire to know who
Charley and Kate are, and the part of the world in which
they dwell, we will interrupt the thread of our narrative
to explain.
In the very centre of the great continent of North
America, far removed from the abodes of civilized men,
and about twenty miles to the south of Lake Winnipeg,
exists a .colony, composed of Indians, Scotchmen, and
French-Canadians, which is known by the name of Red
River Settlement. Red River differs from most colonies
in more respects than one — the chief differences being,
that whereas other colonies cluster on the sea-coast, this
one lies many hundreds of miles in the interior of the
country, and is surrounded by a' wilderness; and, while
other colonies, acting on the golden rule, export their prod
uce in return for goods imported, this of Red River im
ports a large quantity and exports nothing, or next to noth-


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
11
ing. Not but that it might export, if it only had an outlet
or a market; but, being eight hundred miles removed from
the sea, and five hundred miles from the nearest market*
with a series of rivers, lakes, rapids, and cataracts separat
ing from the one, and a wide sweep of treeless prairie
dividing from the other, the settlers have long since
come to the conclusion that they were born to consume
their own produce, and so regulate the extent of their
farming operations by the strength of their appetites.
Of course, there are many of the necessaries, or at least
the luxuries, of life, which the colonists cannot grow, —
such as tea, coffee, sugar, coats, trousers, and shirts; and
which, consequently, they procure from England, by
means of the Hudson’s Bay Fur Company’s ships, which
sail once a year from G-ravesend, laden with supplies for
the trade carried on with the Indians. And the bales
containing these articles are conveyed in boats up the
rivers, carried past the waterfalls and rapids overland on
the shoulders of stalwart voyageurs, and, finally, landed at
Bed River, after a rough trip of many weeks’ duration.
The colony was founded in 1811, by the Earl of Selkirk,
previously to which it had been a trading-post of the Fur
Company. At the time of which we write, it contained
about five thousand souls, and extended upwards of fifty
miles along the Red and Assinaboine rivers, which
streams supplied the settlers with a variety of excellent
fish. The banks were clothed with fine trees ; and im
mediately behind the settlement lay the great prairies,
which extend in undulating waves — almost entirely
devoid of shrub or tree — to the base of the Rocky
Mountains.
Although far removed from the civilized world, and
containing within its precincts much that is savage, and


12 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
very little that is refined, Red River is quite a popu
lous paradise, as compared with the desolate, solitary
establishments of the Hudson’s Bay Fur Company.
These lonely dwellings of the trader are scattered far and
wide over the whole continent — north, south, east, and
west. Their population generally amounts to eight or ten
men _ seldom to thirty. They are planted in the thick
of an uninhabited desert — their next neighbors being
from two to five hundred miles off — their occasional vis
itors, bands of wandering Indians — and the sole object
of their existence being to trade the furry hides of foxes,
martens, beavers, badgers, bears, buffaloes, and wolves. It
will not, then, be deemed a matter of wonder, that the gen
tlemen who have charge of these establishments, and who,
perchance, may have spent ten or twenty years in them,
should look upon the colony of Red River as a species of
Elysium — a sort of haven of rest, in which they may
lay their weary heads, and spend the remainder of their
days in peaceful felicity, free from the cares of a residence
among wild beasts and wild men. Many of the retiring
traders prefer casting their lot in Canada; but not a few'
of them smoke out the remainder of their existence in this
colony — especially those, who, having left home as boys
fifty or sixty years before, cannot reasonably expect to
find the friends of their childhood where they left them,
and cannot hope to remodel tastes and habits long nur
tured in the backwoods, so as to relish the manners and
customs of civilized society.
Such an one was old Frank Kennedy, who, sixty years
before the date of our story, ran away from school in
Scotland; got a severe thrashing from his father for so
doing, and, having no mother in whose sympathizing
bosom he could weep out his sorrow, ran away from


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
13
home, went to sea, ran away from his ship while she lay
at anchor in the harbor of New York, and after leading
a wandering, unsettled life for several years, — during
which he had been alternately a clerk, a day-laborer,
a storekeeper, and village schoolmaster, — he wound up
by entering the service of the Hudson’s Bay Company,
in which he obtained an insight into savage life, a com
fortable fortune, besides a half-breed wife and a large
family.
Being a man of great energy and courage, and, more
over, possessed of a large, powerful frame, he was sent to
one of the most distant posts on the Mackenzie River, as
being admirably suited for the display of his powers both
mental and physical. Hei-e the smallpox broke out
among the natives ; and, besides carrying off hundreds of
these poor creatures, robbed Mr. Kennedy of all his chil
dren save two, Charles and Kate, whom we have already
introduced to the reader.
About the same time the council which is annually
held at Red River in spring, for the purpose of arranging
the affairs of the country for the ensuing year, thought
proper to appoint Mr. Kennedy to a still more outlandish
part of the country, — as near, in fact, to the North Pole
as it was possible for mortal man to live, — and sent him
an order to proceed to his destination without loss of
time. On receiving this communication, Mr. Kennedy
upset his chair, stamped his foot, ground his teeth, and
vowed, in the hearing of his wife and children, that
sooner than obey the mandate, he would see the governors
and council of Rupert’s Land hanged, quartered, and
boiled down into tallow ! Ebullitions of this kind were
peculiar to Frank Kennedy, and meant nothing. They
were simply the safety-valves to his superabundant ire,—


14 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
and, like safety-valves in general, made much noise but
did no damage. It was well, however, on such occasions,
to keep out of the old fur trader’s way, for he had an
irresistible propensity to hit out at whatever stood before
him — especially if the object stood on a level with his
own eyes and wore whiskers. On second thoughts, how
ever, he sat down before his writing-table, took a sheet of
blue ruled foolscap paper, seized a quill which he had
mended six months previously, at a time when he hap
pened to be in high good-humor, and Avrote as follows: —
Fort Paskisegun, June 15, 18—.
To the Governor and Council of Rupert’s Land,
Red River Settlement.
Gentlemen, — I have the honor to acknottdedge re
ceipt of your favor of 26th April last, appointing me to
the charge of Peel’s Biver. and directing me to strike
out new channels of trade in that quarter. In reply, I
have to . state that I shall have the honor to fulfil your
instructions by taking my departure in a light canoe
as soon as possible. At the same time I beg humbly
to submit, that the state of my health is such as to render
it expedient for me to retire from the service, and I
hereAvith beg to hand in my resignation. I shall hope to
be relieved early next spring. — I have the honor to be,
gentlemen, your most obedient humble servant,
P. Kennedy.
“ There! ” exclaimed the old gentlemen, in a tone that
Avoukl lead one to suppose he had signed the death-
Avarrant, and so had irrevocably fixed the certain de
struction of the entire council — “there!” said he, rising
from his chair, and sticking the quill into the ink-bottle
Avith a dab that split it up to the feather, and so rendered
it hors de combat for all time coming.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
15
' To this letter the council gave a short reply, accepting
his resignation, and appointing a successor. On the fol
lowing spring, old Mr. Kennedy embarked his wife and
children in a bark canoe, and in process of time landed
them safely in Red River Settlement. Here he pur
chased a house with six acres of land, in which he planted
a variety of useful vegetables, and built a summer-house
after the fashion of a conservatory, where he was wont
to solace himself for hours together with a pipe, or,
rather, with dozens of pipes, of Canada twist tobacco.
After this he put his two children to school. The set
tlement was, at this time, fortunate in having a most
excellent academy, which was conducted by a very esti
mable man. Charles and Kate Kennedy, being obedient
and clever, made rapid progress under his judicious man
agement; and the only fault that he had to find with the
young people was, that Kate was a ■ little too quiet and
fond of books, while' Charley was a little too riotous and
fond of fun.
When Charles arrived at the age of fifteen, and Kate
attained tQ fourteen years, old Mr. Kennedy went into
his conservatory, locked the door, sat down on an easy
chair, filled a long clay pipe with his beloved tobacco,
smoked vigorously for ten minutes, and fell fast asleep.
In this condition he remained until the pipe fell from his
lips, and broke in fragments on the floor. He then rose,
filled another pipe, and sat down to meditate on the sub
ject that had brought him to his smoking apartment.
“There’s my wife,” said he, looking at the bowl of his
pipe, as if he were addressing himself to it; “ she’s get
ting too old to be looking after everything herself (puff),
and Kate’s getting too old to be humbugging any longer
with books; besides, she ought to be at home learning to


16
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
keep house, and help her mother, and cut the baccy
(puff), and that young scamp Charley should be' enter
ing the service (puff) ; he’s clever enough now to trade
beaver and bears from the redskins, besides lie’s (puff)
a young rascal, and I’ll be bound does nothing but lead
the other boys into (puff) mischief, — although, to be
sure, the master does say he’s the cleverest fellow in the
school; but he must be reined up a bit now. I’ll clap
on a double curb and martingale; I’ll get him a situa
tion in the counting-room at tjie fort (puff), where he’ll
have his nose held tight to the grindstone. Yes, I’ll fix
both their flints to-morrow,” — and old Mr. Kennedy
gave vent to another puff, so thick and long, that it
seemed as if all the previous puffs had concealed them
selves up to this moment within his capacious chest, and
rushed out at last in one thick and long-continued stream.
By “fixing their flints,” Mr. Kennedy meant to ex
press the fact that he intended to place his children in an
entirely new sphere of action; and, with a view to this,
he ordered out his horse and cariole * on the following
morning, went up to the school, which'was about ten
miles distant from his abode, and brought his children
home with him the same evening. Kate was now for
mally installed as housekeeper and tobacco-cutter; while
Charley was told that his future destiny was to wield the
quill in the service of the Hudson’s Bay Company, and
that he might take a week to think over it. Quiet,
warm-hearted, affectionate Kate was overjoyed at the
thought _of being a help and comfort to her old father
and mother; but reckless, joyous, good-humored, hare
brained Charley was - cast into the depths of despair at
the idea of spending the livelong day, and day after day,
* A sort of sleigh.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
17
for years it might be, oil the top of a long-legged stool. '
In fact,-poor Charley said that he “ would rather become
a buffalo than do it.” Now, this was very wrong of
Charley, for, of course, he didn’t mean it. Indeed, it is
too much a habit among little boys,, aye, and among
grown-up people, too, to say what they don’t mean; as,
no doubt, you are aware, dear reader, if you possess half
the self-knowledge we give you credit for; and we can
not too strongly remonstrate with ourself and others
against the practice, — 1 leading, as it does, to all sorts of
absurd exaggerations, such as gravely asserting that we
are broiling hot,- when we are simply rather warm, or
more than half dead ivith fatigue, when we are merely
very tired. However, Charley said that he would rather
be “ a buffalo than do it,” and so we feel bound in honor
to record the fact.
Charley and Kate were warmly attached to each other.
Moreover, they had been, ever since they could walk, in
the habit of mingling their little joys and sorrows in each
other’s bosoms; and although, as years flew past, they
gradually ceased to sob in each other’s arms at every lit
tle mishap, they did not cease to interchange their inmost
thoughts, and to mingle their tears, when occasion called
them forth. They knew the power, the inexpressible
sweetness, of sympathy. They understood, experiment
tally, the comfort and joy that flow from obedience to that
blessed commandment, to “rejoice with those that do re-,
joice, and weep with those that weep.” It was natural,
therefore, that on Mr. Kennedy announcing his decrees,
Charley and Kate should hasten to some retired spot
where they could commune in solitude ; the effect of
which communing Avas, to reduce them to a somewhat
calmer, and rather happy state of mind. Charley’s sor-


18
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
row was blunted by sympathy with Kate’s joy, and Kate’s
joy was subdued by sympathy with Charley’s sorrow; so
that, after the first effervescing burst, they settled down
into a calm and comfortable state of flatness, with very
red eyes and exceedingly pensive minds. We must,
however, do Charley the justice to say, that the red eyes
applied only to Kate; for, although a tear or two could,
without much coaxing, be induced to hop over his sun
burnt cheek, he had got beyond that period of life when
boys are addicted to (we must give the word, though not
pretty, because it is eminently expressive) blubbering.
A week later found Charley and his -sister seated on
the lump of blue ice' Avhere they were first introduced to
the reader, and where Charley announced his unalterable
resolve to run away ; following it up with the statement
that that was “ the end of it.” He was quite mistaken,
however, for that was by no means the end of it. In
fact, it was only the beginning of it, as we shall see here
after.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
19
CHAPTER II.
THE OLD EUR TRADER ENDEAVORS TO “EJX” IITS SON’S “ FLTNT,”
AND FINDS THE THING MORE DIFFICULT TO DO THAN 1IE EX
PECTED.
N EAR the centre of the colony of Red River, the
stream from which the settlement derives its name
is joined by another, called the Assinaboine. About five
or six hundred yards from the point where this union
takes place, and on the banks of the latter stream, stands
the Hudson’s Bay Company’s trading post, Fort Garry.
It is a massive square building of stone. Four high and
thick walls enclose a space of ground on which are built
six or eight wooden houses, some of which are used as
dwellings for the servants of the- Hudson’s Bay Com
pany, and others as stores, wherein are contained the
furs, the provisions which are sent annually to various
parts of the country, and the goods (such as cloth, guns,
powder and shot, blankets, twine, axes, knives, &c., &c.)
with which the fur trade is carried on. Although Red
River is a peaceful colony, and not at all likely to be as
saulted by the poor Indians, it was, nevertheless, deemed,
prudent by the traders to make some show of power;,
and so, at the corners of the fort, four round bastions of
a very imposing appearance were built, from the embras
ures of which several large, black-muzzled guns pro
truded. No one ever conceived the idea of firing these
engines of war; and, indeed, it is highly probable that


20
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
sucli an attempt would have been attended with conse
quences much more dreadful to those behind than to
those who might chance to be in front of the guns. Nev
ertheless, they were imposing, and harmonized well with
the flagstaff, which was the only other military symptom
about the place. This latter was used on particular occa
sions, such as the arrival or departure of a brigade of
boats, for the purpose of displaying the folds of a red
flag, on which were the letters H. B. C.
The fort stood, as we have said, on the banks of the
Assinaboine river, on the opposite side of which the land
was somewhat wooded, though not heavily, with oak,
maple, poplar, aspens, and willows, while, at the back of
the fort, the great prairie rolled out like a green sea to
the horizon, and far beyond that again to the base of the
Rocky Mountains. The plains at this time, however,
were a sheet of unbroken snow, and the river a mass, of
solid ice.
It was noon on the day following that on which our
friend Charley had threatened rebellion, when a tall,
elderly man might have been seen standing at the back
gate of Fort Carry, gazing wistfully out into the prairie
in the direction of the lower part of the settlement. He
was watching a small speck which moved rapidly over
the snow in the direction of the fort.
“It’s very like our friend, Frank Kennedy,” said he to
himself (at least we presume so, for there was no one
else within earshot, to whom he could have- said it, ex
cept the door-post, which, every one knows, is proverbi
ally a deaf subject). “No man in the settlement drives
so furiously. I shouldn’t wonder if he ran against the
corner of the new fence now. Ha! just so, — there he
goes! ”


FROM THE FAE NORTH.
21
And, truly, the reckless driver did “ go ” just at that
moment. He came up to the corner of the new fence,
where the road took a rather abrupt turn, in a style that
insured a capsize. In another second, the spirited horse
turned sharp round, the sleigh turned sharp over, and the
occupant was pitched out at full length, while a black
object that might have been mistaken for his hat, rose
from his side like a rocket, and flying over him, landed
on the snow several yards beyond. A faint shout was
heard to float on the breeze as this catastrophe occurred,
and the driver was seen to jump up and readjust himself
in the cariole ; while the other black object proved itself
not to be a hat, by getting hastily up on a pair of legs,
and scrambling back to the seat from which it had been
so unceremoniously ejected.
In a few minutes more the cheerful tinkling of the
merry sleigh-bells was heard, and Frank Kennedy, ac
companied by his hopeful son Charles, dashed up to the
gate, and pulled up with a jerk.
“ Ha 1 Grant, my fine fellow, how are you ? ” exclaimed "
Mr. Kennedy, senior, as he disengaged himself from the
heavy folds of the buffalo robe, and shook the snow
from his greatcoat. “ Why on earth,, man, don’t you
put up a sign-post and a board to warn travellers that
you’ve been running out new fences and changing the
road, eh ? ”
“ Why, my good friend,” said Mr. Grant,, smiling, “the
fence and the road are of themselves pretty conclusive
proof to most men that the road is changed ; and besides,
we don’t often have people driving round corners at full
gallop ; but ”
“ Hallo! Charley, you rascal,” interrupted Mr. Ken
nedy — “ here, take the mare to the stable, and don’t


22
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
drive her too fast. Mind, now, no going off upon the
wrong road for the sake of a drive, you understand.”
“ All right, father,” exclaimed the boy, while a bright
smile lit up his features and displayed two rows of white
teeth — “ I’ll be particularly carefuland he sprang into
the light vehicle, seized the reins, and with a sharp crack
of the whip dashed down the road at a hard gallop.
“ He’s a fine fellow that son of yours,” said Mr. G-rant,
“ and will make a first rate fur trader.”
“ Fur trader ! ” exclaimed Mr. Kennedy — “just look
at him ! I’ll be shot if he isn’t thrashing tire mare as if
she were made of leather.” The old man’s ire was rising
rapidly as lie heard the whip crack every now and then,
and saw the mare bound madly over the snow.
“ And see! ” he continued, “ I declare he has taken the
wrong turn after all.”
“ True,” said Mr. Grant; “ he’ll never reach the stable
by that road — he’s much more likely to visit the White
horse Plains. . But come, friend, it’s of no use fretting.
Charley will soon tire of his ride, so come with me to my
room and have a pipe before dinner.”
Old Mr. Kennedy gave a short groan of despair, shook
his fist at the form of his retreating son, and accompa
nied the friend to his house.
It must not be supposed that Frank Kennedy was
very deeply offended with his son, although he did shower
011. him a considerable amount of abuse. On the con
trary, he loved him very much. But it was the old man’s
nature to give way to little bursts of passion on almost
every occasion in which his feelings were at all excited.
These bursts, however, were like the little puffs that
ripple the surface of the sea on a calm summer’s day.
They were'over in a second, and left his good-liumored,


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
23
rough, candid countenance in unruffled serenity. Charley
knew this well, and loved his father tenderly, so that his
conscience frequently smote him for raising his anger so
often ; and he over and over again promised his sister
Kate to do his best to refrain from doing anything that
was likely to annoy the old man in future. But alas !
Charley’s resolves, like those of many other boys, were
soon forgotten, and his father’s equanimity was upset
generally two or three times a day; but after the gust
was over, the fur trader would kiss his son, call him a
“ rascal,” and send him off to fill and fetch his pipe.
Mr. Grant, who was in charge of Fort Garry, led the
way to his smoking apartment, where the two were sOon
seated in front of a roaring log-fire, emulating each, other
in the manufacture of smoke.
“ Well, Kennedy,” said Mr. Grant, throwing himself
back in his chair, elevating his chin, and emitting a long,
thin stream of white vapor from his lips, through which
he gazed at his friend complacently. “Well, Kennedy, to
what fortunate chance am I indebted for this visit? It
is not often that we have the pleasure of seeing you
here.”
Mr. Kennedy created two large volumes of smoke,
which, by means of a vigorous puff, he sent rolling over
towards his friend, and said, “ Charley.” .
“ And what of Charley ? ” said Mr. Grant, with a
smile, for he was well aware of the boy’s propensity to
fun, and of the father’s desire to curb it.
“ The fact is,” replied Kennedy, “ that Charley must
be broke. He’s the .wildest colt I ever had to tame, but
I’ll do it — I will — that’s a fact.”
If Charley’s subjugation had depended on the rapidity
with which the little white clouds proceeded from his


24
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
sire’s mouth, there is no doubt that it would have been a
“ fact ” in a very short time, for they rushed from him
with the violence of a high wind. Long habit had made
the old trader and his pipe not only inseparable compan
ions, but part and parcel of each other — so intimately
connected that a change in the one was sure to produce
a sympathetic change in the other. In the present in
stance, the little clouds rapidly increased in size and
number as the old gentleman thought on the obstinacy of
his “ colt.”
- “ Yes,” he continued, after a moment’s silence, u I’ve
made up my .mind to tame him, and I want you, Mr.
Grant, to help .me.”
Mr. Grant looked as if he would rather not undertake
to lend his aid in a work that was evidently difficult; but,
being a good-natured man, he said, “ And how, friend,
can I assist in the operation ? ”
il Well, you see, Charley’s a good fellow at bottom, and
a clever fellow too, — at least so says the schoolmaster, —
though I must confess, that so far as my experience goes,
he’s only clever at finding out excuses for not doing what
I want him to. But still, I’m told he’s clever, and can
use his pen well; and I know for certain that he can use
his tongue well. So I want to get him into the service,
and have him placed in a situation where he shall have
to stick to his desk all day. In fact, I want to have him
broken in to work; for you’ve no notion, sir, how that
boy talks about bears and buffaloes and badgers, and life
in the woods among the Indians. I do believe,” contin
ued the old gentleman, waxing warm, “ that he would
willingly go into the woods to-morrow, if I would let him,
and-never show his nose in the settlement again. He’s
quite incorrigible. But I’ll tame him yet; I will! ”


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
25
, Mr. Kennedy followed this up with an indignant grunt,
and a puff of smoke, so thick, and propelled with such
vigor, that it rolled and curled in fantastic evolutions
towards the ceiling, as if it were unable to control itself
with delight at the absolute certainty of Charley being
tamed at last.
Mi\ Grant, however, shook his head, and remained for
five minutes in profound silence, during which time the
two friends puffed in concert, until they began to grow
quite indistinct and ghostlike in the thick atmosphere.
At last he broke silence.
“ My opinion is, that you’re wrong, Mr. Kennedy. No
doubt, you know the disposition of your son better than I
do; but even judging of it from what you have said, I’m
quite sure that a sedentary life will ruin him.”
“ Ruin him ! Humbug! ” said Kennedy, who never
failed to express his opinion at the shortest notice, and
in the plainest language, — a fact so well known by his
friends, that they had got into the habit of taking no
notice of it. “Humbug!” he repeated, “perfect hum
bug ! You don’t mean to tell me, that the way to break
him in, is to let him run loose and wild whenever and
wherever he pleases ? ”
“ By no means. But you may rest assured that tying
him down won’t do it.”
“ Nonsense!” said Mr. Kennedy, testily; “ don’t tell
me. Have I not broken in young colts by the score ?
and don’t I know that the way to fix their flints is to clap
on a good strong curb ? ”
“ If you had travelled farther south, friend,” replied
Mr. Grant, “ you would have seen the Spaniards of Mex
ico break in their wild horses in a very different way;
for, after catching one with the lasso, a fellow gets on his


26 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
back, and gives it the rein and the whip, — aye, and the
spur, too ; and before that race is over, theref is no need
for a curb.”
“ What! ” exclaimed Kennedy, “ and do you mean to
argue from that, that I should let Charley run-—and
help him too ? Send him off to the woods with gun and
blanket, canoe and tent, all complete ? ” The old gentle
man puffed a furious puff, and broke into a loud sar
castic laugh.
“No, no,” interrupted Mr. Grant; “I don’t exactly
mean that; but I think that you might give him his
way for a year or so. He’s a fine, active, generous fellow;
and after the, novelty wore off, he would be in a much
better frame of mind to listen to your proposals. Besides,” ,
(and Mr. Grant smiled expressively,) “ Charley is some
what like his father. He has got a will of his own; and
if you do not give him his way, I very much fear that
he’ll ”
“ What ? ” inquired Mr. Kennedy, abruptly.
“ Take it,” said Mr. Grant.
The puff that burst from Mr. Kennedy’s lips, on hear
ing this, would have done credit to a thirty-six pounder.
“ Take it! ” said he. “ He’d better not.”
The latter part of this speech was not, in itself, of a
nature calculated to convey much; but the tone of the
old trader’s voice, the contraction of his eyebrows, and,
above all, the overwhelming flow of cloudlets that fol
lowed, imparted to it a significance that induced the belief
that Charley’s taking his own way would be productive of
more terrific consequences than it was in the power of the
most highly imaginative man to conceive.
“There’s his sister Kate, now,” continued the old
gentleman; “ she’s as gentle and biddable as a lamb. I’ve


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
27
only to say a word, and she’s off like a shot to do my
bidding; and she does it w v ith such a sweet smile too.”
There was a touch of pathos in the old trader’s voice as
he said this. He was a man of strong feeling, and as im
pulsive in his tenderness as in his wrath. “ But that
rascal, Charley,” he continued, .“ is quite different. He’s
obstinate as a mule. To be sure, he has a good temper;
and I must say for him he never goes into the sulks,
which is a comfort; for, of all things in the world, sulking
is the most childish and contemptible, He generally does
what I bid him, too. But he’s always getting into scrapes
of one kind or other. And during the last week, not
withstanding all I can say to him, he won’t admit that
the best thing for him is to get a place in your count
ing room, with the prospect of rapid promotion in the
service. Very odd. I can’t understand it at all; ” and
Mr. Kennedy heaved a deep sigh.
“ Did you ever explain to him the prospects that he
would have in the situation you propose for him ? ”
inquired Mr. Grant..
“ Can’t say I ever did.”
“Did you ever point out the probable end of a life
spent in the woods ? ”
“No.”
“ Nor suggest to him that the appointment to the office
here would only be temporary, and to see how he got
on in it ? ” .
“ Certainly not.”
“ Then, my dear sir, I’m not surprised that Charley
rebels. You have left him to suppose that, once placed
at the desk here, he is a prisoner for life. But see, there
he is,” said Mr. Grant, pointing, as he spoke, towards the
subject of their conversation, who was passing the window


28
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
at the moment; “let me call him, and I feel certain that
he will listen to reason in a few minutes.”
“ Humph ! ” ejaculated Mr. Kennedy, “ you may try.”
In another minute Charley had been summoned, and
was seated, cap in hand, near the door.
“ Charley, my boy,” began Mr. Grant, standing with
his back to the fire, his feet pretty wide apart, and his
coat-tails under his arms, — “ Charley, my boy, your
father has just been speaking of you. He is very anx
ious that you should enter the service of the Hudson’s
Bay Company; and as you are a clever, boy and a good
penman, we think that you would be likely to get on if
placed for a year or so in our office here. I need scarcely
point out to you, my boy, that in such a position you
would be sure, to obtain more rapid promotion, than if
you were placed in one of the distant outposts, where
you would have very little to do, and perhaps little to
eat, and no one to converse with, except one or two
men. Of course, we would merely place you here on
trial to see how you suited us ; and if you prove steady
and diligent, there is no saying how fast you might
get on. Why, you might even come to fill my place
in course of time! Come now, Charley, what think
you of it ? ”
Charley’s eyes had been cast on the ground while Mr.
Grant was speaking. He now raised them, looked at his
father, then at his interrogator, and said, —
“ It is very kind of you both to be so anxious about
my prospects. I thank you, indeed, very much; but
I —a- ”
“Don’t like the.desk?” said his father, in an angry
tone. “ Is that it, eh ? ”
Charley made no reply, but cast down his eyes again


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
29
and smiled, (Charley had a sweet smile, a peculiarly
sweet, candid smile,) as if he meant to say that his father
had hit the nail quite on the top of the head that time,
and no mistake.
“ But consider,” resumed Mr. Grant, “ although you
might probably be pleased with an outpost life at first,
you would be sure to grow weary of it after the novelty
wore off, and then you would wish with all your heart to
be back here again. Believe me, child, a trader’s life is
a very hard and not often a very satisfactory, one ”
“Aye,” broke in the father, desirous, if possible, to
help the- argument, “ and you’ll find it a desperately
wild, unsettled, roving sort of life, too, let me tell you !
full of dangers both from wild beasts and wild men ”
“ Hush,” interrupted Mr. Grant, observing that the
boy’s eye kindled when his father spoke of a wild, roving
life, and wild beasts, “ your father does not mean that
life at an outpost is wild, and interesting, or exciting. He
merely means that — a — it ”
Mr. Grant could not very well explain what it was
that Mr. Kennedy meant, if he did not mean that, so he
turned to him for help. .
“ Exactly so,” said that gentleman, taking a strong
pull at the pipe for inspiration. “ It’s no ways interest- .
ing or exciting at all. It’s slow, dull, and flat. A miser
able sort of Robinson Crusoe life, with red Indians and
starvation constantly staring you in the face ”
“ Besides,” said Mr. Grant, again interrupting the
somewhat unfortunate efforts of his friend, who seemed
to have a happy facility in sending a brilliant dash of
romantic allusion across the dark side of his picture, —
“ besides, you’ll not have opportunity to amuse your
self, or to read, as you’ll have no books, and you’ll have


0
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
to work hard with your hands oftentimes, like your
men ”
“In fact,” broke in the impatient father, resolved, ap
parently, to carry the point with a grand “ coup ” — “ In
fact, you’ll have to rough it, as I did, when I went up
the Mackenzie River district, where I was sent to estab
lish a new post, and had to travel for weeks and weeks
through a wild country, where none of us had ever been
before — where we shot our own meat, caught our own
fish, and built our own house — and were very near
being murdered by the Indians — though, to be sure,
afterwards they became the most civil fellows in the
country, and brought ds plenty of skins.' „ Ay, lad, you’ll
repent of your obstinacy when you come to have to hunt
your own dinner, as I’ve done many a day up the Sas
katchewan, where I’ve had to fight with red-skins and
grizzly bears,, and to chase the buffaloes over miles and
miles of prairie on rough-going nags till my bones ached
and I scarce knew whether I sat on —— ”
^ “ Oh ! ” exclaimed Charley — starting to his feet, while
his eyes. flashed and his chest heaved with emotion —
“ that’s the place for me, father ! Do, please, Mr. Grant,
send me there, and I’ll work for you with all my
might! ”
Frank Kennedy was not a man to stand this unexpect
ed miscarriage of his eloquence with equanimity. His
first action was to throw his pipe at the head of his enthu
siastic boy, without worse effect, however, than smashing
it . to atoms on the opposite wall. He then started up
and rushed towards his son, who, being near the door,
retreated precipitately and vanished. •
“ So,” said Mr. Grant, not very sure whether to laugh


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
31
or be angry at the result of their united efforts, “ you’ve
settled the question now, at all events.”
Frank Kennedy said nothing, but filled another pipe,
sat doggedly down in front of the fire, and speedily en
veloped himself, and his friend, and all that the room
contained, in thick impenetrable clouds of smoke.
Meanwhile his worthy son rushed off in a state of great
glee. He had often heard the voyageurs of Red River
dilate on the delights of roughing it in the woods, and
his heart had bounded as they spoke of dangers encoun
tered and overcome among the rapids of the Far North,
or with the bears and bison-bulls of the prairie, but never
till now had he heard his father corroborate their testi
mony By a recital of his own actual experience; and ■
although the old gentleman’s intention was undoubtedly
to damp the boy’s spirit, his eloquence had exactly the
opposite effect; — so that it was with a hop and a shout
that he burst into the counting-room, with the occupants
of which Charley was a special favorite.


32
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
CHAPTER HI.
THE COUNTING-ROOM.
E VERY one knows the general appearance of a
counting-room. There are one or two peculiar
features about such apartments that are quite unmistak
able and very characteristic; and the counting-room at
Fort Garry, although many hundred miles distant from
other specimens of its race, and, from the peculiar cir
cumstances of its position, not therefore likely to bear
them much resemblance, possessed one oi\ tw<? features
of similarity, in the shape of two large desks and several
very tall stools, besides sundry ink-bottles, rulers, books,
and sheets of blotting-paper. But there were other im
plements there, savoring strongly of the backwoods and
savage life, which merit more particular notice.
The room itself was small, and lighted by two little
windows, which opened into the court-yard. The entire
apartment was made of wood. The floor was of un
painted fir boards. The walls were of the same material,
painted blue from the floor upwards to about three feet,
where the blue was unceremoniously stopped short by a
stripe of bright red, above which the somewhat fanciful
decorator had laid on a coat of pale yellow; and the ceil
ing, by way of variety, was of a deep ochre. As the
occupants of Red River office were, however, addicted to
the use of tobacco and tallow candles, the original color


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
33
> of the ceiling had vanished entirely, and that of the walls
had considerably changed.
There were three doors in the room (besides the door
of entrance), each opening into another apartment, where
the three clerks were wont to court the favor of Morpheus
after the labors of the day. No carpets graced the floors
of any of these rooms, and, with the exception of the
paint aforementioned, no ornament whatever broke the
pleasing uniformity of the scene. This w,as compensated,
however, to some extent, by several scarlet sashes, bright-
colored shot-belts, and gay portions of winter costume
peculiar to the country, which depended from sundry
nails in the bedroom walls ; and, as the three doors always
stood open, these objects, together with one or two fowl*
ing pieces and canoe-paddles, formed quite a brilliant and
highly suggestive background to the otherwise sombre
picture. A large open fireplace stood in one corner of
the room, devoid of a grate, and so constructed that large
logs of wood might be piled up on end to any extent.
And really the fires made in this manner, and in this in
dividual fireplace, were exquisite beyond description.. A
wood fire' is a particularly cheerful thing. Those who-
have never seen one can form but a faint idea of its
splendor; especially on a sharp winter night in the arctie
regions, where the thermometer falls to forty degrees be
low zero, without inducing the inhabitants to suppose that
the world has reached its conclusion. The. billets are
usually piled up on end, so that the flames rise and twine
round them with a fierce intensity that causes them to
crack and sputter cheerfully, sending innumerable sparks
of fire into the room, and throwing out a rich glow of
brilliant light that warms a man even to look at it, and:
j renders candles quite unnecessary.


8 4
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
The clerks who inhabited this counting-room were, like
itself, peculiar. There were three — cox-responding to the
bedi-ooms. The senior was a tall, bi-oad-shouldei-ed, mus
cular man — a Scotchman — very good-humored, yet a
man whose under lip met the upper with that peculiar
degree of precision that indicated the presence of other
qualities besides that of good-humor. He was book
keeper and accountant, and managed the affairs intrusted
to his care with the same dogged persevei-ance with which
he would have led an expedition of discovex-y to the
North Pole. Henvas thirty or thereabouts.
The second was a small man — also a Scotchman. It
is curious to note how numei-ous Scotchmen are in the
wilds of North Amei-ica. This specimen was diminutive
and sharp. Moreover he played the flute, — an accom
plishment of which he was so proud, that he oi'dered out
from England a flute of ebony, so elaborately em-iched
with silver keys that one’s fingers ached to behold it.
This beautiful insti-ument, like most other instruments of
a delicate nature, found the climate too much foil- its con
stitution, and, soon after the winter began, split fi-om top
to bottom. Peter Mactavish, however, was a genius by
nature, and a mechanical genius by tendency ; so that,
instead of giving way to despair, he laboriously bound
the flute together with waxed thread, which, although it
could not restore it to its pi-istine elegance, enabled him
to play with great effect sundry doleful airs, whose influ
ence, when perfoi-med at night, usually sent his compan
ions to sleep, or, failing this, drove them to distraction.
The thii-d inhabitant of the office was a ruddy, smooth-
chinned youth of about fourteen, who had left home seven
months before, in the hope of gi-atifying a desire to lead
a wild life, which he had entertained ever since he read


■FROM THE FAR NORTH.
35
“Jack the Giant Killer,” and found himself most unex
pectedly fastened, during the greater part of each day,
to a stool. His name was Harry Somerville, and a fine
cheerful little fellow he was, — full of spirits, and curi
ously addicted to poking and arranging • the fire, at least
every ten minutes —a propensity which tested the for
bearance of the senior clerk rather severely, and would
have surprised any one not aware of poor Harry’s incur
able antipathy to the desk, and the yearning desire with
which he longed for physical action.
Harry was busily engaged with the refractory fire,
when Charley, as stated at the conclusion of the last
chapter, burst into the room. ,
“ Hallo ! ” he exclaimed, suspending his operations for
a moment, “ what’s up ?” “ Nothing,” said Charley, “ but
father’s temper, that’s all. He gave me a splendid de
scription of his life in the woods, and then threw his pipe
. at me because I admired it too much.”
“ Ho !'” exclaimed Harry, making a vigorous thrust at
the fire, “ then you’ve no chance now.”
“ No chance! what do you mean ? ”
“ Only that we are to have a wolf-hunt in the plains
to-morrow, and if you’ve aggravated your father, he’ll be
taking you home to-night, that’s all.” 1
“ Oh ! no fear of that,” said Charley, with a look that
seemed to imply that. there was very great fear of ‘ that,’
much more, in fact, than he was willing to admit even to
himself. “ My dear old father never keeps his anger
long. I’m sure that he’ll be all right again in half an
hour.”
“ Hope so, but doubt it I do,” said Harry, making an
other deadly poke at the fire, and returning, with a deep
sigh, to his stool.


36
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
“ Would you like to go with us, Charley ? ” said the
senior clerk, laying down his pen and turning round on
his chair (the senior , clerk never sat on a stool) with a
benign smile.
“ Oh ! very, very much indeed,”,, cried Charley ; “ but
even should father agree to stay all night at the fort, I
have no horse, and I’m sure he would not let me have
. the mare after what I did to-day.”
“ Do you think he’s not open to persuasion ? ” said the
senior clerk.
“ No, I’m sure he’s not.”
“Well, well, it don’t much signify; perhaps we can
mount you.”
Charley’s face brightened.
“ Go,” he continued, addressing Harry Somerville,
“ go, tell Tom Whyte I wish to speak to him.”
Harry sprang from his stool with a suddenness and
vigor that might have justified the belief that he had
been fixed to it by means of a powerful spring, which
had been set free with a sharp recoil and shot him out at
the door, for he disappeared in a trice. In a few minutes
he returned, followed by the groom Tom Whyte.
“ Tom,” said the senior clerk, “ do you think we could
manage to mount Charley to-morrow ? ”
“ Why, sir, I don’t think as how we could. There
aint an ’oss in the stable except them wot’s required and
■them wot’s badly.”
“ Couldn’t he have the brown pony ? ” suggested the
senior clerk.
Tom Whyte was a cockney, and an old soldier, and
stood so,bolt upright that it seemed quite a marvel how
the words ever managed to climb up the steep ascent of
his throat, and turn the corner so as to get out at his


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
37
mouth. Perhaps this was the cause of his speaking on
all occasions with great deliberation and slowness.
“ Why, you see, sir,” he replied, “the brown pony’s
got cut under the fetlock of the right hind leg; and I
’ad ’im down to L’Esperance the smith’s, sir, to look at
’im, sir; and he says to me, says he, ‘ That don’t look
well that ’oss don’t,’ — and he’s a knowing feller, sir, is_
L’Esperance, though he is an ’alf-breed — ”
“Never mind what he said, Tom,” interrupted the
senior clerk ; “ is the pony fit for use ? that’s the ques
tion.”
“ No, sir, ’e haint.”
“ And the black mare, can he not have that ? ”
“ No, sir, Mr. Grant is to ride ’er to-morrow.”
“That’s unfortunate,” said the senior clerk; “I fear,
Charley, that you’ll need to ride behind Harry on his
gray pony. It wouldn’t improve his speed, to be sure,
having two on his back, but then he’s so like a pig in
his movements at any rate, I don’t think it would spoil
his pace much.”
“ Could he not try the new horse ? ” he continued, turn-,
ing to the. groom.
“ The noo ’oss, sir! he might as well try to ride a mad
buffalo bull, sir. He’s quite a young colt, sir, only ’alf
broke — kicks like a windmill, sir, and’s got an ’ead like
a steam-engine ; ’e couldn’t ’old ’iin in no ’ow, sir. I ’ad
’im down to the smith ’tother day, sir, an’ says ’e to me,
says ’e, c That’s a screamer, that is.’ { Yes,’ says I, ‘ that
his a fact.’ ‘ Well,’ says ’e ”
“ Hang the smith,” cried the senior clerk, losing all
patience, “ can’t you answer me without so much talk ?
Is the horse too wild to ride ? ”
“ Yes, sir, ’e is,” said the groom, with a look of slightly


IIS


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
39
painted, — a matter, however, of no consequence, as,
from long exposure to dust and tobacco-smoke, the floor,
walls, and ceiling, had become one deep uniform brown.
The men’s beds were constructed after the fashion of
berths on board ship, being wooden boxes ranged in
tiers round the room. Several tables and benches%ere
strewn miscellaneously about the floor, in the centre of
which stood a large double iron stove, with the word
“ Oarron ” stamped on it. This served at once for cook
ing and warming the place. Numerous guns, axes, and
canoe-paddles hung round the walls or were piled in cor-
: ners, and the rafters sustained a miscellaneous mass of
materials, the more conspicuous among which were snow-,
shoes, dog-sledges, axe-handles, and nets.
Having filled and lighted his pipe, Tom Whyte thrust
his hands into his deer-skin mittens, and sauntered off to
perform his errand.


40
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
¥
CHAPTER IV.
A WOLF-HUNT IN THE PRAIRIES — CHARLEY ASTONISHES HIS
FATHER, AND BREAKS IN THE “ NOO ’OSS ” EFEECTUALLY.
D URING the long winter that reigns in the northern
regions of America, the thermometer ranges, for
many months together, from zero down to 20, 30, and 40
degrees beloiv it. In different parts of the country the
intensity of the frost varies a little, but not sufficiently to
make any appreciable change in one’s sensation of cold.
At York Fort, on the shores of Hudson’s Bay, where the
winter is eight months long, the spirit-of-wine (mercury
being useless in so cold a climate) sometimes falls so low
as 50 degrees below zero; and away in the regions of
Great Bear Lake, it has been known to fall considerably
lower than 60 degrees below zero of Fahrenheit. Cold
of such intensity, of course, produces many curious and
interesting effects ; which, although scarcely noticed by
the inhabitants, make a strong impression upon the minds
of those who visit the country for the first time. A youth
goes out to walk on one of the first sharp, frosty morn
ings. His locks are brown and his face ruddy. In half
an hour he returns with his face blue, his nose frost
bitten, and his locks white—the latter effect being pro
duced by his breath congealing on his hair and breast,
until both are covered with hoar-frost. Perhaps he is of
a skeptical nature, prejudiced, it may be, in favor of old


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
41
habits and customs, so that, although told, by those who
ought to know, that it is ablffilutely necessary to wear
moccasons in winter, he prefers the leather boots to which
he has been accustomed at home, and goes out with them
accordingly. In a few minutes the feet begin to lose sen-
- sation. First the toes, as far as feeling goes, vanish;
then the heels depart, and he feels the extraordinary and
peculiar, and altogether disagreeable sensation of one who
has had his heels and toes amputated, and is walking
about on his insteps. Soon, however, these also fade
away, and the unhappy youth rushes frantically home
on the stumps of his ankle-bones—at least so it appears
to him — and so in reality it would turn out to be, if he
did not speedily rub the benumbed appendages into vital
ity again.
The whole country, during this season, is buried in
snow, and the prairies of Red River present the appear
ance of a sea of the purest white, for five or six months.
of the year. Impelled by hunger, troops of prairie
wolves prowl round the settlement, safe from the assault
of man in consequence of their light weight permitting
them to scamper away on the surface of the snow, into
which man or horse, from their greater weight, would
sink, so as to render pursuit either fearfully laborious, or
altogether impossible. In spring, however, when the first
thaws begin to take placej and commence that delightful
process of disruption which introduces this charming sea
son of the year, the relative position of wolf and man is
reversed. The snow becomes suddenly soft, so that the
short legs of the wolf, sinking deep into it, fail to reach
the solid ground below, and he is obliged to drag heavily
along, while the long legs of the horse enable him to
plunge through and dash aside the snow at a rate, which,


42
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
although not very fleet, is sufficient, nevertheless, to over
take the chase and give his’l'ider a chance of shooting it.
The inhabitants of Red River are not much addicted to
this sport, but the gentlemen of the Hudson’s Bay Ser
vice sometimes practise it; and it was to a hunt of this
description that our young friend Charley Kennedy was
now so anxious to go.
The morning was propitious. The sun blazed in
dazzling splendor in a sky of deep, unclouded blue, while
the white prairie glittered as if it were a sea of diamonds
rolling out in an unbroken sheet from the walls of the
fort to the horizon, and on looking at which one experi
enced all the pleasurable feelings of being out on a calm
day on the wide, wide sea, without the disagreeable con
sequence of being very, very sick.
The thermometer' stood at 39° in the shade, and
“ everything,” as Tony Whyte emphatically expressed it,
“looked like a runnin’ of right away into slush.” That
unusual sound, the trickling of water, so inexpressibly
grateful to the ears of those who dwell in frosty climes,
was heard all around, as the heavy masses of snow on
the house-tops sent a few adventurdus. drops gliding down
the icicles which depended from the eves and gables; and
there was a balmy softness in the air that told of coming
spring. Nature, in fact, seemed to have wakened from
her long nap, and was beginning to think of getting up.
Like people, however, who venture to delay so long as
to think about it, Nature frequently turns round and goes
to sleep again in her icy cradle for a few weeks after the
first awakening.
The scene in the court-yard of Fort Garry harmonized
with the cheerful spirit of the morning. Tom Whyte,
with that upright solemnity which constituted one of his


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
43
characteristic features, was standing in the centre of a
group of horses, whose energy he endeavored to restrain
with the help of a small Indian boy, to whom, mean
while, he imparted a variety of useful and otherwise un
attainable information.
“ You see, Joseph,” said he to the urchin, who gazed
gravely in his face with a pair of very large and dark
eyes, “ponies is often skittish. Reason why one should
be, an’ another not, I can’t comprehend. P’r’aps its
nat’ral, p’r’aps not, but howsomediver so ’tis, an’ if its
more nor above the likes o’ me, Joseph, you needn’t be
surprised that it’s somethink haltogether beyond you.”
It will not surprise the reader to be told that Joseph
made no reply to this speech, having a very imperfect
acquaintance with the English language, especially the
peculiar dialect of that tongue in which Tom Whyte was
wont to express his ideas when he had any.
He merely gave a grunt, and continued to gaze at
Tom’s fishy eyes, which were about as interesting as the
face to which they belonged, and that might have been
mistaken for almost anything.
“ Yes, Joseph,” he continued, “ that’s a fact. There’s
the noo brown ’oss now, it's a skittish ’un. And there’s
Mr. Kennedy’s gray mare, wot’s a standin’ of beside me,
she ain’t skittish a bit, though she’s plenty of spirit, and
wouldn’t care hanythink for a five-barred gate. Now,
wot I want to know is, wot’s the reason why ? ”
We fear that the reason why, however interesting it
might . prove to naturalists, must remain a profound
secret forever ; for, just as the groom was about to
entertain Joseph with one of his theories on the point,
Charley Kennedy and Harry Somerville hastily ap
proached.


44
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
“ Ho, Tom! ” exclaimed tlie former, “ have you got
the miller’s pony for me?”
“ Why, no, sir; ’e ’adn’t got his shoes on, sir, last
night ”
“ Oh! bother his shoes,” said Charley, in a voice of
great disappointment. “ Why didn’t you bring him up
without shoes, man, eh ? ”
“Well, sir, the miller said ’e’d get ’em put on early
this mornin’, an’ I ’xpect ’e’ll be ’ere in ’alf a hour at
farthest, sir.”
“ Oh, very well,” replied Charley, much relieved, but
still a little nettled at the bare possibility of being late.
“ Come along* Harry, let’s go and meet him. He’ll be
long enough of coming if we don’t go to poke him up a
bit.”
“ You’d better wait,” called out the groom, as the boys
hastened away. “If you go by the river he’ll p’r’aps
come by the plains, and if you go by the plains he’ll
p’r’aps come by the river.”
Charley and Harry stopped and looked at each other.
Then they looked at the groom, and as their eyes sur
veyed his solemn, cadaverous countenance, which seemed
a sort of bad caricature of the long visages of the hoi’ses
that stood around him, they burst into a simultaneous
and prolonged laugh.
“ He’s a clever old lamp-post,” said Harry, at last;
“ we had better remain, Charley.”
“ You see,” continued Tom Whyte, “ the pony’s ’oofs
is in an ’orrible state. Last night w’en I seed ’im, I said
to the miller, says I, ‘John, I’ll take ’im down to the
smith d’rectly.’ ‘ Very good,’ said John. So I ’ad ’im
down to the smith ”
The remainder of Tom’s speech was cut short by one


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
45
of those unforeseen operations of the laws of nature,
which are peculiar to arctic climates. During the long
winter, repeated falls of snow cover the house-tops with
white mantles upwards of a foot thick, which become
gradually thicker and more consolidated as winter ad
vances. In spring, the suddenness of the thaw loosens
these from the sloping roofs, and precipitates them in
masses to the ground. These miniature avalanches are
dangerous, people having been seriously injured and
sometimes killed by them. Now, it happened that a very
large mass of snow, which lay on, and partly depended
from, the roof of the house near to which the horses were
standing, gave way, and just at that critical point in Tom
Whyte’s speech when he “ ’ad ’im down to the smith,”-
fell with a stunning crash on the back of Mr. Kennedy’s
gray mare. The mare was not “ skittish ” — by no means
— according to Tom’s idea, but it would have been more
than an ordinary mare to have stood the sudden descent
of half a ton of snow without some symptom of conscious
ness. No sooner did it feel the blow, than it sent both
heels with a bang against the wooden store, by way of
preliminary movement, and then, rearing up with a wild
snort, it sprang over Tom Whyte’s head, jerked the reins
from his hand, and upset him in the snow. Poor Tom
never bent to anything. The military despotism under
which he had been reared having substituted a touch of
the cap for a bow, rendered it unnecessaiy to bend ; pro
longed drill, laziness, and rheumatism made it at last im
possible. When he stood up, he did so after the manner
of a pillar; when he sat down, he broke across at two
points, much in the way in which a foot-rule would have
done, had it felt disposed to sit doAvn. and when he fell,
he came down like an overturned lamp-post. On the


46
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
present occasion, Tom became horizontal in a moment,
and from his unfortunate propensity to fall straight, his
head, reaching much farther than might have been ex
pected, came into violent contact with the small Indian
boy, who fell flat likewise, letting go the reins of the
horses, which latter no sooner felt themselves free, than
they fled, curvetting and snorting round the court, with
reins and manes flying in rare confusion.
The two boys, who could scarce stand for laughing,
ran to the gates of the fort to prevent the chargers get
ting free, and in a short time they were again secured
although evidently much elated in spirit.
A few minutes after this, Mr. Grant issued from the
principal house, leaning on Mr. Kennedy’s arm, and fol
lowed by the senior clerk, Peter Mactavish, and one or
two friends who had come to take part in the wolf-
hunt. They were all armed with double or single bar
relled guns or pistols, according to their sevei'al fancies.
The two elderly gentlemen alone entered upon the scene
without any more deadly weapons than their heavy rid
ing. whips- . Young Harry Somerville, who had been
strongly advised not to take a gun lest he should shoot
himself, or his horse or his companions, was. content to
take the field with a small pocket-pistol, which he cram
med to the muzzle with a compound of ball and sv r an-shot.
“ It won’t do,” said Mr. Grant, in an earnest voice, to
his friend, as they wmlked towards the horses — “ it won’t
do to check him too abruptly, my dear sir.”
It was evident that they were recurring to the subject
of conversation of the previous day, and it was also evi
dent that the father’s wrath was in that very uncertain
state when a word or a look can throw it into violent
agitation.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
47
“Just permit me,” continued Mr. Grant, “to get him
sent to the Saskatchewan or Athabasca for a couple of
years. By that time he’ll have had enough of a rough
life, and be only too glad to get a berth at head-quarters.
If you thwart him now, I feel convinced that he’ll break
through all restraint.”
' “ Humph ! ” ejaculated Mr. Kennedy, with a frown.
“ Come here, Charley,” he said, as the boy approached
with a disappointed look, to tell of his failure in getting
a horse; “I’ve been talking with Mr. Grant again about
this business, and he says he can easily get you into the
counting-room here for a year; so you’ll make arrange
ments ”
The old gentleman paused; he was going to have fol
lowed his wonted course, by commanding instantaneous
obedience; but as his eye fell upon the honest, open,
though disappointed face of his son, a gush of tenderness
filled his heart. Laying his hand upon Charley’s head,
he said, in a kind but abrupt tone, “ There now, Charley,
my boy, make up your mind to give in with a good grace.
It’ll only be hard’work for a year or two, and then plain
sailing after that, Charley ! ”
Charley’s clear blue eyes filled with tears as the ac
cents of kindness fell upon his ear.
It is strange that men should frequently be’so blind to
the potent influence of kindness. Independently of the
Divine authority, which assures us that “ a soft answer
turneth away wrath,” and that “ love is the fulfilling of
the law,” who has not, in the course of his experience,
felt the overwhelming power of a truly affectionate word ?
-— not a word which possesses merely an affectionate
signification, but a word spoken with a gush of tender
ness, where love rolls in the tone, and beams in the eye,


48
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
and revels in every wrinkle of the face! And how
much more powerfully does such a word, or look, or
tone strike home to the heart, if uttered by one whose
lips are not much accustomed to the formation of hon
eyed words or sweet sentences! Had Mr. Kennedy,
senior, known more of this power, and put it more fre
quently to the proof, we venture to affirm that Mr. Ken
nedy, junior, would have allowed his “jlint to be fixed”
(as his father pithily expressed it) long ago.
Ere Charley could reply to the question, Mr. Grant’s
voice, pitched in an elevated key, interrupted them.
“ Eh ! what ? ” said that gentleman to Tom Whyte.
“ No horse for Charley! How’s that ? ”
“ No. sir,” said Tom.
“ Where’s the brown pony? ” said Mr. Grant, abruptly.
“ Cut ’is fetlock, sir,” said Tom, slowly.
“ And the new horse ? ”
“ ’Tant ’alf broke yet, sir.”
“Ah! that’s bad. It wouldn’t do to take an un
broken charger, Charley, for, although you are a pretty
good rider, you couldn’t manage him, I fear. Let me see.”
“Please, sir,” said the groom, touching his hat, “I’ve
borrowed the miller’s pony for ’im, and ’e’s sure to be
’ere in ’alf a hour at farthest.”
“ Oh 1 that’ll do,” said Mr. Grant, “you can soon over
take us. We shall ride slowly out straight into the
prairie, and Harry will remain behind to keep you com
pany.”
So saying, Mr. Grant mounted his horse and rode out
at the back gate, followed by the whole cavalcade.
“Now, this is too bad!” said Charley, looking with
a very perplexed air at his companion. “ What’s to be
done?”


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
49
Harry evidently did not know what was to be done,
and made no difficulty of saying so in a very sympathiz
ing tone. Moreover he begged Charley very earnestly
to take his pony, but this the other would not hear of; so
they came to the conclusion that there was nothing for it
but to’wait as patiently as possible for the arrival of the
expected horse. In the mean time, Harry proposed a
saunter in the field adjoining the fort. Charley assented,
and the two friends walked away, leading the gray pony
along with them.
To the right of Fort Garry was a small enclosure, at
the extreme end of which commences a growth of willows
and underwood, which gradually increases in size till it
becomes a pretty thick belt of woodland, skirting up the-
river for many miles. Here stood the stable belonging
to the,establishment; and, as the boys passed it, Charley'
suddenly conceived a strong desire to see the renowned!
“ noo ’oss,” which Tom Whyte had said was only “’alf
broke ; ” so he turned the key, opened the door, and
went in. *
There was nothing very peculiar about this horsey,
excepting that his legs seemed rather long for his body,,
and upon a closer examination, there was a noticeable-
breadth of nostril and a latent fire in his eye, indicating a-,
good deal of spirit, which, like Charley’s own; required
taming.
“ Oh,” said Charley, “ what a splendid fellow! I say,.
Harry, I’ll go out with him.”
“You’d better not.”
“ Why not ? ”
“ Why ? Just because if you do, Mr. Grant will be
down upon, you, and your father won’t be very well
pleased.”


50
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
“Nonsense,” cried Charley. “Father didn’t say I
wasn’t to take him. I don’t think he’d care much. He’s
not afraid of my breaking my neck. And, then, Mr.
Grant seemed to be only afraid of my being run off with
— not of his horse being hurt. Here goes for it!” In
another moment, Charley had him saddled, and bridled,
and led him out into the yard.
“ Why, I declare, he’s quite quiet; just like a lamb,”
said Harry, in surprise.
“ So he is,” replied Charley. “ He’s a capital charger;
and even if he does bolt, he can’t run five hundred miles
at a stretch. If I turn his head to the prairies, the
Rocky Mountains are the first things that will bring him
up. So let him run if he likes — I don’t care a fig.” And
springing lightly into the saddle, he cantered out of the.
yard, followed by his friend.
The young horse was a well-formed, showy animal,
with a good deal of bone — perhaps too much for ele
gance. He was of a beautiful dark brown, and carried
a high head and tail, with a high-stepping gait, that
gave him a noble appearance. As Charley cantered
along at a steady pace, he could discover no symptoms
of the refractory spirit which had been ascribed to
him.
“ Let us strike out straight for the horizon now,” said
Harry, after they had galloped half a mile or so along the
beaten track. “ See, here are the tracks of our friends.”
Turning sharp round as he spoke, he leaped his pony
over the heap that lined the road, and galloped away
through the soft snow.
At this point the young horse began to show his evil
spirit. Instead of following the other, he suddenly halted
and began to back.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
51
“ Hallo, Harry ! ” exclaimed Charley ; “ hold 011 a bit.
Here’s this monster begun his tricks.”
“ Hit him a crack with the whip,” shouted Harry.
Charley acted upon the advice, which had the effect of
making the horse shake his head with a sharp snort, and
back more vigorously than ever.
“ There, my fine fellow, quiet now,” said Charley, in a
soothing tone, patting the horse’s neck. “ It’s a comfort
to know you can’t go far in that direction, anyhow ! ” he
added, as he glanced over his •-shoulder, and saw an im
mense drift behind.
He was right. In a few minutes the horse backed into
the snow-drift. Finding his hind-quarters imprisoned by
a power that was too much even for his obstinacy to
overcome, he gave another snort and a heavy plunge,
which almost unseated his young rider.
“ Hold on fast,” cried Harry, who had now come up.
“ No fear,” cried Charley, as he clenched his teeth and
gathered the reins more firmly. “ Now for it, you young
villain 1 ” and, raising his whip, he brought it down with
a heavy slash on the horse’s flank.
Had the snow-drift been a cannon, and the horse a
bomb-shell, he could scarcely have sprung from it with
greater velocity. One bound landed him on the road;
another cleared it; and, in a second more, he stretched
out at full speed, — his ears flat on his neck, mane and
tail flying in the wind, and the bit tight between his
teeth.
“ Well done,” cried Harry, as he passed “you’re off
now, old fellow, — good-bye.”
“ Hurrah ! ” shouted Charley, in reply, leaving his cap
in the snow as a parting souvenir ; while, seeing that it
was useless to endeavor to check his steed, he became


52
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
quite wild with excitement; gave him the rein ; flour
ished his whip ; and flew over the white plains, casting
up the snow in clouds behind him like a hurricane !
While this little escapade was being enacted by the
boys, the hunters were riding leisurely out upon the
snowy sea in search of a wolf.
Words cannot convey to you, dear reader, an adequate
conception of the peculiar fascination, the exhilarating
splendor of the scene by which our hunters were sur
rounded. Its beauty lay not in variety of feature in the
landscape, for there was none. One vast sheet of white
alone met the view, bounded all round by the blue circle
of the sky, and broken, in one or two places, by a patch
or two of willows, which, rising on the plain, appeared
like little islands in a frozen sea. It was the glittering
sparkle of the snow in the bright sunshine; the dreamy
haziness of the atmosphere, mingling earth and sky as in
a halo of gold ; the first taste — : the first smell of spring
after a long winter, bursting suddenly upon the senses,
like the unexpected visit of a long absent, much loved,
and almost forgotten friend; the soft, warm feeling of the
south wind, bearing on its wings the balmy influences of
sunny climes, and recalling vividly the scenes, the pleas
ures, the bustling occupations of summer. It was this
that caused the hunters’ hearts to leap within them as
they rode along — that induced old Mr. Kennedy to for
get his years, and shout as he had been wont to do in
days gone by, when he used to follow the track of the
elk, or hunt the wild buffalo ; and it was this that made
the otherwise monotonous prairies, on this particular day,
so charming.
The party had wandered about without discovering
anything that bore the smallest resemblance to a wolf,


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
53
for upwards of an hour. Fort Garry had fallen astern
(to use a nautical phrase) until it had become a mere
speck on the horizon, and vanished altogether. Peter
Mactavish had twice given a false alarm, in the eager
ness of his spirit, and had three times plunged his
horse up to the girths in a snow-drift. The senior clerk
was waxing impatient, and the horses restive, when a
sudden “ hallo! ” from Mr. Grant brought the whole
cavalcade' to a stand.
The object which drew his attention, and to which he
directed the anxious eyes of his friends, was a small
speck, rather triangular in form, which overtopped a
little willow-bush not more than five or six hundred
yards distant.
“ There he is ! ” exclaimed Mr. Grant. “ That’s a fact,”
cried Mr. Kennedy; and both gentlemen, instantaneously
giving a shout, bounded towards the object; not, how
ever, before the senior clerk, who was mounted on a fleet
and strong horse, had taken the lead by six yards. A
moment afterwards the speck rose up and discovered
itself to be a veritable wolf. Moreover, he condescended
to show his teeth, and, then, conceiving it probable that
his enemies were too numerous for him, he turned sud
denly round and fled away. For ten minutes or so the
chase was kept up at full speed, and as the snow hap
pened to be shallow at the starting point, the wolf kept
well ahead of its pursuers — indeed, distanced them a
little. But soon the snow became deeper, and the wolf
plunged heavily, and the horses gained considerably. Al
though,.to the eye, the prairies seemed to be a uniform
level, there were numerous slight undulations, in which
drifts of some depth had collected. Into one of these the
wolf now plunged and labored slowly through it But so


54
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
deep was the snow that the horses almost stuck fast. A
few minutes, however, brought them out, and Mr. Grant
and Mr. Kennedy, who had kept close to each other dur
ing the run, pulled up for a moment on the summit of a
ridge to breathe their panting steeds.
“ Whaf can that be ? ” exclaimed the former, pointing
with his whip to a distant object which was moving rap
idly over the plain.
“ Eh ! what! where ? ” said Mr. Kennedy,shading his
eyes with his hand, and peering in the direction indicated.
“ Why, that’s another wolf, isn’t it ? No, it runs too fast
for that.”
“ Strange,” said his friend, “ what can it be ? ”
“ If I hadn’t seen every beast in the country,” remarked
Mr. Kennedy, “ and didn’t know that there are no such
animals north of the equator, I should say it was a mad
dromedary mounted by a ring-tailed roarer.”
“ It can’t be, surely! — not possible ! ” exclaimed Mr.
Grant. “ It’s not Charley on the new horse ! ”
Mr. Grant said this with an air of vexation that an
noyed his friend a little. Pie would not have much
minded Charley’s taking a horse without leave, no matter
how wild it might be ; but he did not at all relish the idea
of making an apology for his son’s misconduct, and, for
the moment, did not exactly know what to say. As usual
in such a dilemma, the old man took refuge in a toAvering
passion, gave his steed a sharp cut with the whip, and
galloped forward to meet the delinquent.
We are not acquainted with the general appearance of
a “ ring-tailed roarer ; ” in fact, we have grave doubts as
to whether such an animal exists at all; but if it does,
and is particularly wild, dishevelled, and fierce in deport
ment, there is no doubt whatever, tliat/when Mr. Ken-


FROM THE FAR NORTH. 55
nedy applied the name to his hopeful son, the application
was singularly powerful and appropriate.
Charley had had a long run since we last saw him.
After describing a wide curve, in which his charger dis
played a surprising aptitude for picking out the ground
that was least covered with snow, he headed straight for
the fort again at the same pace at which he had started.
At first, Charley tried every possible method to check
him, but in vain ; so he gave it up, resolving to enjoy the
race, since he could not prevent it. The young horse
seemed to be made of lightning, with bones and muscles
of brass, for he bounded untiringly forward for miles,
tossing his head and snorting in his wild career. But
Charley was a good horseman, and did not mind that
much, being quite satisfied that the horse was a horse
and not a spirit, and that, therefore, he could not run for
ever. At last he approached the party, in search of
which he had originally set out. His eyes dilated and
his color heightened as he beheld the wolf running di
rectly towards him. Fumbling hastily for the pistol
which he had borrowed from his friend Harry, he drew
it from his pocket, and prepared to give the animal a shot
in passing. Just at that moment the wolf caught sight
of this new enemy in advance, and diverged suddenly to'
. the left, plunging into a drift in his confusion; and so>
enabling the senior clerk to overtake him, and send an
ounce of heavy shot into his side, which turned him over
quite dead. The shot, however, had a double effect. At,
that instant Charley swept past, and his mettlesome steed!
swerved as it heard the loud report of the gun, thereby
almost unhorsing his rider, and causing him unintention
ally to discharge the conglomerate of bullets and swan-
shot into the flank of Peter Mactavish’s horse — fortu-


56
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
nately at a distance which rendered the shot equivalent
to a dozen very sharp and particularly stinging blows.
On receiving this unexpected salute, the astonished
charger reared convulsively and fell back upon his
rider, who was thereby buried deep in the snow, not a
vestige of him being left, no more than if he had never
existed at all. Indeed, for a moment it seemed to be
doubtful whether poor Peter did exist or not, until a
sudden upheaving of the snow took place, and his dishev
elled head appeared, with the eyes and mouth wide open,
bearing on them an expression of mingled horror and
amazement. Meanwhile, the second shot acted like a
spur on the young horse, which flew past Mr. Kennedy
like a whirlwind.
“ Stop, you young scoundrel! ” he shouted, shaking his
fist at Charley as he passed. *
Charley was past stopping, either by inclination or
ability. This sudden and unexpected accumulation of
disasters was too much for him. As he passed his sire,
with his brown curls streaming straight out behind, and
his eyes flashing with excitement, his teeth clenched, and
his horse tearing along more like an incarnate fj^nd than
.an .animal — a spirit of combined recklessness, consterna
tion, indignation, and glee, took possession of him. He
waved his whip wildly over his head, brought it down,
with a stinging cut on the horse’s neck, and uttered a
;shout of defiance that threw completely into the shade
.the loudest war-whoop that was ever uttered by the
brazen lungs of the wildest savage, between Hudson’s
Bay and Oregon. Seeing and hearing this old Mr.
Kennedy wheeled about and dashed off in pursuit with
much greater energy than he had displayed in chase of
;the wolf.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
57
The race bade fair to be a long one, for the young horse
was strong in wind and limb ; and the gray mare, though
decidedly not “ the better horse,” was much fresher than
the other.
The hunters, who were now joined by Harry Somer
ville, did not feel it incumbent on them, to follow this new
chase ; so they contented themselves with watching their
flight towards the fort, while they followed at a more
leisurely pace.
Meanwhile, Charley-rapidly neared FortGai’ry; and
now began to wonder whether the stable door was open;
and, if so, whether it were better for him to take his
chance of getting his neck broken, or to throw himself
into the next snow-drift that presented itself.
He had not to remain long in suspense. The wooden
fence that enclosed the stable yard lay before him. It
was between four and five feet high, with a beaten track
running along the outside, and a deep snow-drift on the
other. Charley felt that the young horse had made up
his mind to leap this. As he did not, at the moment, see
that there was anything better to be done, he prepared for
it.. As the horse bent on his haunches to spring, he gave
him a smart cut with the whip, went over like a rocket, and
plunged up to the neck in the snow-drift, which brought
his career to an abrupt conclusion. The sudden stoppage
of the horse was one thing, but the arresting of Master
Charley was another, and quite a different thing. The
instant his charger landed, he left the saddle like a liarle-.
quin, described an extensive curve in the air, and fell
head foremost into the drift, above which his boots and
three inches of his legs alone remained to tell the tale.
On witnessing this climax, Mr. Kennedy, senior, pulled
up, dismounted, and ran — with an expression of some


•58
SNOWFLAKES' AND SUNBEAMS
anxiety on his countenance — to the help of his son;
while Tom Whyte came out of the stable just in time to
receive the “ noo ’oss ” as he floundered out of the snow.
“I believe,” said the groom, as he surveyed the tremb
ling charger, “ that your son has broke the noo ’oss, sir,
better nor I could ’ave done myself.”
“I-believe that my son has broken his neck,” said Mr.
Kennedy, wrathfully. “ Come here and help me to dig
him out.”
In a few minutes Charley was dug out, in a state of
insensibility, and carried up to the fort, where he was
laid on a bed, and restoratives actively applied for his
recovery.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
CHAPTER Y.
PETER B1ACTAVISH BECOMES AN AMATEUR DOCTOR; CHARLEY
PROMULGATES HIS VIEWS OF THINGS IN GENERAL TO KATE ;
AND KATE WAXES SAGACIOUS.
S HORTLY after the catastrophe just related, Charley
opened his eyes to consciousness, and aroused him
self out of a prolonged fainting fit, under the combined
influence of a strong constitution, and the medical treat- '
ment of his friends.
Medical treatment in the wilds of North America, by
the way, is very original in its character, and is founded
on principles so vague, that no one has ever been found
capable of stating them clearly. Owing to the stubborn
fact, that there are no doctors in the country, men have
been thrown upon their own resources ; and, as a natural
consequence, every man is a doctor. True, there are two,
it may he three, real doctors in the Hudson’s Bay Com
pany’s employment; but, as one of these is resident on
the shores of Hudson’s Bay, another in Oregon, and a
third in Red River Settlement, they are not considered
available for every case of emergency that may chance to
occur in the hundreds of little outposts, scattered far and
wide over the whole continent of North America, with
miles and miles of primeval wilderness between each.
We do not think therefore, that when we say there are
no doctors in the country, we use a culpable amount of
exaggeration.


60
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
If a man gets ill, lie goes on till he gets better; and, if
he doesn’t get better, he dies. To avert such an undesir
able consummation, desperate and random efforts are
made in an amateur way. The old proverb that “ ex
tremes meet,” is verified. And, in a land where no doc
tors are to be had for love or money, doctors meet you at
every turn, ready to practice on everything, with anything,
and all for nothing, on the-shortest possible notice. As
may be supposed, the practice is novel, and not unfre-
quently, extremely wild. Tooth-drawing'is considered
child’s play — mere blacksmith’s work; bleeding is a
general remedy for everything when all else fails ; castor
oil, Epsom salts, and'emetics are the three key-notes, the
foundations, and the cope-stones of the system.
In Red River there is only one genuine doctor; and, as
the settlement is fully sixty miles long, he has enough to
do, and cannot always be found when wanted, so that
Charley had to rest content with amateur treatment in
the mean time. Peter Mactavish was the first to try his
powers. He was aware that laudanum had the effect of
producing sleep, and, seeing that Charley looked some
what sleepy after recovering consciousness, he thought, it
advisable to help out that propensity to slumber, and went
to the medicine-chest, whence be extracted a small phial
of tincture of rhubarb, the half of which he emptied
into a wineglass, under the impression that it was lauda
num, and poured down Charley’s throat! The poor boy
swallowed a little, and sputtered the remainder over the
bedclothes. It may be remarked here that Mactavish
was a wild, happy, half-mad sort of fellow — wonder
fully erudite in regard to some things, and profoundly ig
norant in regard to others. Medicine, it need scarcely be
added, was not his forte. Having accomplished this feat


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
61
to his satisfaction, he sat down to watch by the bedside of
his friend. Peter had taken this opportunity to indulge
in a little private practice, just after several of the other
gentlemen had left the office under the impression that
Charley had better remain quiet for a short time.
“ Well, Peter,” Avhispered Mr. Kennedy, senior, putting
his head in at the door (it was Harry’s room in which
Charley lay), “ how is he now ?”
“ Oh ! doing capitally,” replied Peter, in a hoarse whis
per, at the same time rising and entering the office, while
he gently closed the door behind him. “ I gave him a
small dose of physic, which I think has done, him good.
Pie’s sleeping like a top now.”
Mr. Kennedy frowned slightly, and made one or two '
remarks in reference to physic, which were not calculated
to gratify the ears of a physician.
“ What did you give him ? ” he inquired, abruptly.
“ Only a little, laudanum.”
“ Only, indeed 1 it’s all trash together, and that’s the
worst kind of trash you could have given him.
Humph! ” and the old gentleman jerked his shoulders
testily.
“ How much did you give him ? ” said the senior clerk,
who had entered the, apartment with Harry a few min
utes before.
“.Not quite a wineglass full,” replied Peter, somewhat
subdued.
“A what?” cried the father, starting from his chair as
if he had received an electric shock, and rushing into the
adjoining room, up and down which he raved in a state
of distraction, being utterly ignorant of what should be
done under the circumstances.
“ Oh dear! ” gasped Peter, turning pale as death.


62
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
Poor Harry Somerville fell rather than leapt off his
stool, and dashed into the bedroom, where old Mr. Ken
nedy was occupied in alternately heaping unutterable
abuse on the head of Peter Mactavish, and imploring
him to advise what was best to be done. But Peter
knew not. He could only make one or two insane pro
posals to roll Charley about the floor, and see if that
would do him any good ; while Harry suggested in des
peration that he should be hung by the heels, and per
haps it would run out!
Meanwhile the senior clerk seized his hat, with the in
tention of going in search of Tom Whyte, and rushed
out at the door; which he had no sooner done, than he
found himself tightly embraced in the arms of that wor
thy, who happened to be entering at the moment; and
who, in consequence of the sudden onset, was pinned up
against the wall of the porch.
“ Oh, my buzzum!” exclaimed Tom, laying his hand
on his breast, “you’ve a’most bu’st me, sir; w’at’s wrong,
sir ? ”
“ Go for the doctor, Tom, quick! run like the wind.
Take the freshest horse; fly Tom, Clwley’s poisoned;
laudanum — quick! ”'
“•’Eavens an’ ’arth! ” ejaculated the groom, wheeling
round, and stalking rapidly off to the stable, like a pair
of insane compasses, while the senior clerk returned to
the bedroom, where he found Mr. Kennedy still raving;
Peter Mactavish still aghast and deadly pale; and Harry
Somerville staring like a maniac at his young friend, as if
he expected every moment to see him explode, although,
to all appearance he was sleeping soundly, and comforta
bly, too, notwithstanding the noise that was going on
around him. Suddenly Harry’s eye rested on the label


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
63
of tlie half-empty phial, and he uttered a loud, prolonged'
cheer.
“ It’s only tincture of ”
“Wild cats and furies,” cried Mr. Kennedy, turning
sharply round and seizing Harry by the collar, “why
d’you kick up such a row ? eh! ”
“ It’s only tincture of rhubarb,” repeated the boy, dis
engaging himself and holding up the phial triumphantly.
“ So it is, I declare,” exclaimed Mr. Kennedy, in a
tone that indicated intense relief of mind; while Peter
Mactavish uttered a sigh so deep, that one might suppose
a burden of innumerable tons’ weight had just been re
moved from his breast.
Charley had been roused from his slumbers by this
last ebullition; but, 011 being told what had caused it, he
turned languidly round on his pillow and went to sleep
again, while his friends departed and left him to repose.
Tom Whyte failed to find the doctor. The servant
told him that her master had been suddenly called to set
a broken leg that morning for a trapper who lived ten
miles down the river, and, on his return, had found a
man waiting with a horse and cariole, who carried him
violently away to see his wife, who had been taken sud
denly ill at a house twenty miles up the river, and so she
didn’t expect him back that night.
“ An’ where has ’e been took to ? ” inquired Tom.
She couldn’t tell — she knew it was somewhere about
the White-horse Plains, but she didn’t know more than
that.
“ Did ’e not say w’en ’e’d be ’ome ? ”
“ No, he didn’t.”
“ Oh, dear! ” said Tom, rubbing his long nose in great
perplexity. “ It’s an ’orrible case o’ sudden an’ onex-
pected pison.”


64
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
She was sorry for it, but couldn’t help that; and there
upon, bidding him good morning, shut the door.
Tom’s wits had come to that condition which just pre
cedes “ giving it up ” as hopeless, when it occurred to
him that he was not far from old Mr. Kennedy’s resi
dence; so he stepped into the cariole again and drove
thither. On his arrival, he threw'poor Mrs. Kennedy
and Kate into great consternation by his exceedingly
graphic and more than slightly exaggerated, account of
what had-brought him in search of the doctor. At first
Mrs. Kennedy resolved to go up to Fort G-arry immedi
ately, but Kate persuaded her to remain at home, by
pointing out that she could herself go, and if anything
very serious had occurred (which she didn’t believe), Mr.
Kennedy could come down for her immediately, while
she (Kate) could remain to nurse her brother.
In a few minutes Kate and Tom were seated side by
side in the little cariole, driving swiftly up the frozen
river, and two hours later the former was seated by her
brother’s bedside, watching him as he slept with a look
of tender affection and solicitude.
Housing himself from his slumbers, Charley looked
vacantly round the room.
“ Have you slept well, darling ? ” inquired Kate, lay
ing her hand lightly on his forehead.
“ Slept, eh! O yes, I’ve slept. I say, Kate, what a
precious bump I came down on my head, to be sure ! ”
“ Hush, Charley ! ” said Kate, perceiving that he was
becoming energetic. “Father said you were to keep
quiet — and so do I,” she added with a frown — “ shut
your eyes, sir, and go to sleep.”
Charley complied by shutting his eyes, and opening his
mouth, arid uttering a succession of deep snores.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
65
“Now, you bad boy,” said Kate, “why won’t you try
to rest ?”
“ Because, Kate, dear,” said Charley, opening his eyes
again, “ because I feel as if I had slept a week at least,
and not being one of the seven sleepers, I don’t think it
necessary to do more in that way just now. Besides, my
sweet., but particularly wicked sister, I wish just at this
moment to have a talk with you.”
“ But are you sure it won’t do you harm to talk; do
•you feel quite strong enough ? ”
“ Quite ; Samson was a mere infant compared to me.”
“ Oh! don’t talk nonsense, Charley dear, and keep
your hands quiet, and don’t lift the clothes with your-
knees in that way, else I’ll go away and leave you.”
“Very well, my pet, if you do, I’ll get up and dres&
and follow you, that’s all! But come, Kate, tell me first
of all how it was that I got pitched off that long-legged;
rhinoceros, and who it was that picked me up, and why
Wasn’t I killed, and how did I come here ; for my head
is sadly confused, and I scarcely recollect anything that
has happened; and, before commencing your discourse,
Kate, please hand me a glass of water, for my mouth is
as dry as a whistle.”
Kate handed him a glass of water, smoothed his pillow,,
brushed the curls gently off his forehead, and sat down oni
the bedside.
“ Thank you, Kate — now go on.”
“ Well, you see,” she begair-
“ Pardon me, dearest,” interrupted Charley, “ if you-
would please to look at me you would observe that my
two eyes are tightly closed, so that I don’t see-at all.”
“Well, then, you must understand ”
“Must I? Oh!-—”
5


66
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
“ That after that wicked horse leaped with you over
the stable fence, you were thrown high into the air, and
turning completely round, fell head foremost into the
snow, and your poor head went through the top of an
old cask that had been buried there all winter.”
“ Dear me,” ejaculated Charley, “ did any one see me,
Kate?”
“Oh, yes !”
“ Who ? ” asked Charley, somewhat anxiously; “ not
Mrs. Grant, I hope, for if she did, she’d never let me
hear the last of it.”
“ No, only our father, who was chasing you at the
time,” replied Kate, with a merry laugh.
“ And no one else ? ”
“ No — oh, yes! by the bye, Tom Whyte was there
loo.”
“ Oh, he’s nobody ! Go on.”
“ But tell me, Charley, why do you care about Mrs.
Grant seeing you ? ” *
“ Oh! no reason at all, only she’s such an abominable
quiz.”
We must guard the reader here against the supposi
tion that Mrs. Grant was a quiz of the ordinary kind.
She was by no means a sprightly, clever woman —
rather fond of a joke than otherwise — as the term
might lead you to suppose. Her corporeal frame was
vei’y large, excessively fat, and remarkably unwieldy;
being an appropriate casket in which to enshrine a mind
of the heaviest and most sluggish nature. She spoke
little, ate largely, and slept much, — the latter recrea
tion being very frequently enjoyed in a large arm-chair
of a peculiar kind. It had been a water-butt, which' her
ingenious husband had cut lialf-way down the middle,


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
67
then half-way across, and in the angle thus formed
fixed a bottom, which, together with the back, he pad
ded with tow, and covered the whole with a mantle of
glaring bed-curtain chintz, whose pattern alternated in
stripes of sky-blue and china roses, with broken frag
ments of the rainbow between. Notwithstanding her
excessive slowness, however,' Mrs. Grant was fond of
taking a firm hold of anything or any circumstance in
the character or affairs of her friends, and twitting them
thereupon in a grave but persevering manner, that was
exceedingly irritating. No one could ever ascertain
whether Mrs. Grant did this in a sly way or not, as
her visage never expressed anything except unalterable
good-humor. She was a good wife and an affectionate
mother; had a family of ten children, and could boast
of never having had more than one quarrel with her
husband. This disagreement was occasioned by a rather
awkward mischance. One day, not long after her last
baby was born, Mrs. Grant waddled towards her tub
with the intention of enjoying her accustomed siesta.
A few minutes previously, her'seventh child, which was
just able to walk^had scrambled up into the seat and
fallen fast asleep there. As has been already said, Mrs.
Grant’s intellect was never very bright, and dt this
particular time she was rather: drowsy, so that she did
not observe the child, and on reaching her chair, turned
round preparatory to letting herself plump into it. She
always plumped into her chair. Her muscles were too
soft to lower her gently down into it. Invariably, on
reaching a certain point, they ceased to. act, and let her
down with a crash. She 'had just reached this point,
and her baby’s hopes and prospects were on the eve
of being cruelly crushed forever, when Mr. Grant no-


68
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
ticed the impending calamity. He. had no time to
warn her, for she had already passed the point at
which dier powers of muscular endui'ance terminated ;
so, grasping the chair, he suddenly withdrew it with
such force that the baby rolled off upon the floor like
a hedgehog, straightened out flat, and gave vent to an
outrageous roar, while its horror-struck mother came
to the ground with a sound resembling the fall of an
enormous sack of wool. Although the old lady could
not see exactly that there was anything very blame
worthy in her husband’s conduct upon this occasion,
yet her nerves had' received so severe a shock that
she refused to be comforted for two entire days.
But to return from this digression. After Charley
had two or three times recommended Kate (who was
a little inclined to he quizzical) to proceed, she con
tinued,— '
“ Well, then, you were carried up here by father and
Tom Whyte, and put to bed ; and after a good deal of
rubbing and rough treatment, you were got round. Then
Peter Mactavish nearly poisoned you ; but fortunately
he was such a goose, that he did not think of reading
the label of the phial, and so gave you a dose of tinc
ture of rhubarb instead of laudanum, as he had in
tended ; and then father flew into a passion, and Tom
Whyte was sent to fetch the doctor, and couldn’t find
him ; hut, fortunately, he found me, which was much
better, I think, and brought me up here, and so here I
am, and here I intend to remain.”
“ And so that’s the end of it. Well, Kate, I’m very
glad it was no worse.”
“ And I am very thankful” said Kate, with emphasis
on the word, “ that it’s no worse.”


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
69
“ Oh, well! you know, Kate, I meant that, of course.”
“ But you did not say it,” replied his sister, earnestly.
“ To be sure not,” said Charley, gayly ; “ it would be-
absurd to be always making solemn speeches, and things
of that sort, every time one has a little accident.”
“ True, Charley ; but when one has a very serious
accident, and escapes unhurt, don’t you think that then it
would be ”
“ Oh yes, to be sure ! ” interrupted Charley, who still
■strove to turn Kate from her serious frame of mind ;
“ but, sister dear, how could I possibly say I was thank
ful, with my head crammed into an old cask and my feet
pointing up to the blue sky ? eh ! ”
Kate smiled at this, and laid her hand on his arm,
while she bent over the pillow and looked tenderly into
his eyes.
“ Oh, my darling Charley ! you- are disposed to jest
about it; but I cannot tell you how my heart trembled
this morning, when I heard from Tom Whyte of what
had happened. As we drove up to the fort, I. thought
how terrible it would have been if you had been killed ;
and then the happy days we have spent together rushed
into my mind, and I thought of the willow creek where
we used to fish for gold-eyes, and the spot in the woods
where we have so often chased the little birds; and the
lake in the prairies where we used to go in spring to
watch the waterfowl sporting in the sunshine, — when I
recalled these things, Charley, and thought of you as
dead, I felt as if I should die too. And when I came
here and found that my fears were needless, that you
were alive and safe, and almost well, I felt thankful —
yes, very, very thankful — to God, for sparing your life,
my dear, dear Charley.” And Kate laid her head on his


70
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
bosom and sobbed, when she thought of what might have
been, as if her very heart would break.
' Charley’s disposition to levity entirely vanished while
his sister spoke ; and twining his tough little arm round
her neck, he pressed her fervently to his heart.
“ Bless, you, Kate,” he said at length. “ I am indeed
thankful to God, not only for sparing my life, but for
giving me such a darling sister to live for. But now,
Kate, tell me, what do you think of father’s determina
tion to have me placed in the office here ? ”
“ Indeed, I think it’s very hard. Oh, I do wish so
much that I could do it for you,” said Kate, with a
sigh.
“ Do what for me ? ” asked Charley.
“ Why, the office work,” said Kate.
“ Tuts ! fiddlesticks ! But isn’t it, now, really a very
hard case ? ”
“ Indeed it is ; but, then, what can you do ? ”
“ Do ? ” said Charley, impatiently ; “ run away, to be
sure.” ,
“ Oh, don’t speak of that! ” said Kate, anxiously.
“ You know it will kill our beloved mother; and then it
would grieve father very much.”
“Well, father-don’t care much about grieving me,
when he hunted me down like a wolf till I nearly broke
my neck.”
“ Now, Charley, you must not speak so. Father loves
you tenderly, although he is a little rough at times. If
you only heard how kindly he speaks of you to our
mother when you are away, .you could not think of giv
ing him so muoh pain. And then, the Bible says, ‘ Honor
thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in
the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee ; ’ and, as


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
71
God speaks in the Bible, surely we should pay attention
to it! ”
’ Charley was silent for a few seconds ; then, heaving a
deep sigh, he said,
“ Well, I believe you’re right, Kate; but then, what
am I to do ? If I don’t run away, I must live, like poor
Harry Somerville, on a long-legged stool; and if I do
that, I’ll — I’ll ”
As Charley spoke, the door opened, and his father
enterpd.
“ Well, my boy,” said he, seating himself on the bed
side, and , taking his son’s hand, “ how goes it now ?
Head getting all right again ? I fear that Kate has been
talking too much to you. Is it so, you little chatter
box ? ”
Mr. Kennedy parted Kate’s clustering ringlets, and
kissed her forehead.
Charley assured his father that he was almost well, and
much the better of having Kate to tend him. In fact, he
felt so much revived, that he said he would get up and
go out for a walk.
“ Had I not better tell Tom Whyte to saddle the young
horse for you ? ” said his father, half ironically. “ No,,
no, boy, lie still where you are to-day, and get up if you
feel better to-morrow. In the mean time, I’ve come to■
’say good-bye, as I intend to go home to relieve your
mother’s anxiety about you. I’ll see you again, prob
ably, the day after to-morrow. Hark you, boy ; I’ve been
talking your affairs over again with Mr. Grant, and.
we’ve come to the conclusion to give you a run in the=
woods for a time. You’ll have to be. ready to start
early in spring with the first brigades for the North. So-
adieu! ”


72
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
Mr. Kennedy patted liim on the head, and hastily left
the room.
A burning blush of shame arose on Charley’s cheek
as he recollected his late remarks about his father ; and
■ then, recalling the purport of his last words, he sent forth
an exulting shout as he thought of the coming spring.
“ Well, now, Charley,” said Kate, with an arch smile,
“let us talk seriously over your arrangements for run
ning away.” '
Charley replied by seizing the pillow and throwing
it at his sister’s head ; but, being accustomed to such
eccentricities, she anticipated the movement and evaded
the blow.
“ Ah! Charley,” cried Kate, laughing, “ you mustn’t
let your hand get out of practice! That was a shock
ingly bad shot for a man thirsting to become a bear and
buffalo hunter! ”
“I’ll make my fortune at once,” cried Charley, as
Kate replaced the pillow, “ build a wooden castle on the >
shores of Great Bear Lake, take you to keep house for
me, and, when I’m out hunting, you’ll fish for whales
in the lake, and we’ll live there to a good old age; so
good night, Kate, dear, and go to bed! ”
Kate laughed, gave her brother a parting kiss, and
left him.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
CHAPTER VI.
SPRING AND THE VOYAGE UR S.
W INTER, with its snow and its ice; winter, with
its sharp winds and white drifts; winter, with its
various characteristic. occupations and employments, is
past, and it is spring now.
The sun no longer glitters on fields of white; the
woodman’s axe is no longer heard hacking the oaken
billets, to keep alive the roaring fires. That inexpi'essi-
bly cheerful sound, the merry chime of sleigh-bells, that
tells more of winter than all other sounds together, is no
longer heard on the bosom of Red River, for the sleighs
are thrown aside as useless lumber— carts and gigs have
supplanted them. The old Canadian, who used to drive
the ox with its water-barrel to the ice-hole for- his daily
supply, has substituted a small cart with wheels for the
old sleigh that used to glide so smoothly over the snow,
and grit so sharply on it in the more than usually frosty
mornings in the days gone by. The trees have lost their
white patches, and the clumps of willows, that used to look
like islands in the prairie, have disappeared, as the carpet
ing that gave them prominence has dissolved. The aspect
of everything in the isolated settlement has changed.
The winter is gone, and spring — bright, beautiful, hilari
ous spring — has come again.-


74 ■ SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
By those who have never known an arctic winter, the
delights of an arctic spring can never, we fear, be fully
appreciated or understood. Contrast is one of its
strongest elements ; indeed, we might say, the element
which gives to all the others peculiar zest. Life in
the arctic regions is like one of Turner’s pictures, in
which the lights are strong, the shadows deep, and the
tout-ensemble hazy and romantic. So cold and prolonged
is the winter, that the first mild breath of spring breaks
on the senses like a zephyr from the plains of paradise.
Everything bursts suddenly into vigorous life, after the
long deathlike sleep of Nature; as little children burst
into the romping gayeties of a new day, after the deep
repose of a long and tranquil night. The snow melts,
the ice breaks up, and rushes in broken masses, heav
ing and tossing in the rising floods, that grind and
whirl them into the ocean, or into those great fresh
water lakes that vie with ocean itself in magnitude and
grandeur. The buds come out and the leaves appear,
clothing all nature with a bright refreshing green, which
derives additional brilliancy from sundry patches of snow,
that fill the deep creeks and hollows everywhere, and
form ephemeral fountains whose waters continue to sup
ply a thousand rills for many a long day, until the fierce
glare of the summer sun prevails at last and melts them
all away.
Red River flows on now to mix its long pent-up waters
with Lake Winnipeg. Boats are seen rowing about upon
its waters, as the settlers travel from place to place;
and wooden canoes, made of the hollowed-out trunks
of large trees, shoot across from shore to shore, — these
canoes being a substitute for bridges, of which there
are none, although the settlement lies on both sides of


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
75
the- river. Birds have now entered. upon the scene,
their wild cries and ceaseless flight adding to it a cheer
ful activity. Ground squirrels pop up out of their holes,
to bask their round, fat, beautifully-striped little bodies
in the sun, or to gaze in admiration at the farmer, as he
urges a pair of very slow-going oxen, that drag the plough
at a pace which induces one to believe that the wide
field may possibly be ploughed up by the end of next
year. Frogs whistle in the marshy grounds so loudly,
that men new to the country believe they are being
regaled by the songs of millions of birds. There is no
mistake about their whistle. It is not merely like a whistle,
but it is a whistle, shrill and continuous; and, as the
swamps swarm with these creatures, the song never
ceases for a moment, although each individual frog creates
only one little gush of music, composed of half-a-dozen
trills, and then stops a moment for breath before com
mencing the second bar. Bull-frogs, too, though not so
numerous, help to vary the sound by croaking vocifer
ously, as if they understood the -value of bass, and were
glad of having an opportunity to join in the universal
hum of life and joy which rises everywhere, from the
river and the swamp, the forest and the prairie, to wel
come back the spring.
Such was the state of things in Bed Biver one beauti
ful morning in April, when a band of voyageurs lounged
in scattered groups about the front gate of Fort Garry.
They were as fine a set of picturesque manly fellows
as one could desire to see. Their mode of life ren
dered them healthy, hardy, and good-humored, with a
strong dash of recklessness — perhaps too much of it
— in some of the younger men. Being descended, gen
erally, from French-Canadian sires and Indian moth-


76
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
ers, they united some of the good, and not a few of
the had, qualities of both, mentally as well as physi
cally ; combining the light, gay-hearted spirit, and full
muscular frame of the Canadian, with the fierce pas
sions and active habits of the Indian. And this wild
ness of disposition was not a little fostered by the
nature of their usual occupations. They were em
ployed during a great part of the year in navigating the
Hudson’s Bay Company’s boats, laden with furs and
goods, through the labyrinth of rivers and lakes that
stud and intersect the whole continent, or they were
engaged in pursuit of the bison s,* which roam the prai
ries in vast herds.
They were dressed in the costume of the country;
most of them wore light-blue cloth capotes, girded tightly
round them by scarlet or crimson worsted belts. Some
of them had blue, and others scarlet cloth leggins, orna
mented more or less with stained porcupine quills,
colored silk, or variegated beads; while some might be
seen clad in the leathern coats of winter, — deer-skin
dressed like chamois leather, fringed all round, with little,
tails, and ornamented much in the same way as those al
ready described. The heavy winter moccasons and duffle
socks, which gave to their feet the appearance of being
afflicted with gout, were now replaced by moccasons of a
lighter and more elegant character, having no socks below,
and fitting tightly to the feet like gloves. Some wore
hats similar to those made of silk or beaver, which are
worn by ourselves in Britain, but so bedizened with scar
let cock-tail feathers, and silver cords and tassels, as to
leave the original form of the head-dress a matter of great
* These animals are always called buffaloes by American hunters
and fur traders.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
77
uncertainty. These hats, however, are only used on high
occasions, and chiefly by the fops. Most of the men
wore coarse blue cloth caps with peaks, and not a few
discarded headpieces altogether, under the impression,
apparently, that nature had supplied a covering, which
was in itself sufficient. These costumes varied not only
in character but in quality, according to the circum
stances of the wearer ; some being highly ornamental
and mended — evincing the felicity of the owner in the
possession of a good wife — while others were soiled and
torn, or but slightly ornamented. The voyageurs were
collected, as we. have said, in groups. Here stood a
dozen of the youngest, — consequently the most noisy
and showily dressed, — laughing loudly, gesticulating vio
lently, and bragging tremendously. Near to them were
collected a number of sterner spirits — men of middle age
— with all the energy, and muscle, and bone of youth, but
without its swaggering hilarity, — men whose powers and
nerves had been tried over and over again amid the stir
ring scenes of a voyageuds life; men whose heads were
cool, and eyes sharp, and hands ready and powerful, in the
mad whirl of boiling rapids, in the sudden attack of wild
beast and hostile man, or in the unexpected approach of
any danger;. men who, having been well tried, needed
not to boast, and who, having carried off triumphantly
their respective brides many years ago, needed not to
decorate their persons with the absurd finery that char
acterized their younger brethren. They were compara
tively few in number, but they composed a stei’ling band,
of which every man was a hero. Among them were
those who occupied the high positions of bowman and
steersman; and when we tell the reader that on these
two men. frequently hangs the safety of a boat, with all


78
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
its crew and lading, it will be easily understood how
needful it is that they should be men of iron nerve and
strength of mind.
Boat-travelling in those regions is conducted in a way
that would astonish most people who dwell in the civilized
quarters of the globe. The country being intersected in
all directions by great lakes and rivers, these have been
adopted as the most convenient highways, along which to
convey the supplies and bring back the furs from out
posts. Rivers in America, however, as in other parts of
the world, are distinguished by sudden ebullitions and
turbulent points of character, in the shape of rapids, falls,
and cataracts, up and down which neither men nor boats
can by anjr possibility go with impunity ; consequently,
on arriving at such obstructions, the cargoes are carried
overland to navigable water above or below the falls, (as
the case may be,) then the boats are dragged over and
launched, again reloaded, and the travellers proceed.
This operation is called “ making a portage ; ” and as
these portages vary from twelve yards to twelve miles in
length, it may be readily conceived that a voyageur’s life
is not an easy one by any means.
This, however, is only one of his difficulties. Rapids
occur which are not so dangerous as to make a “ port
age” necessary, but are sufficiently turbulent to render
the descent of them perilous. In such cases, the boats,
being lightened of part of their cargo, are run down, and
frequent!)' they descend with full cargoes and crews. It
is then that the whole management of each boat devolves
upon its bowman and steersman. The rest of the crew,
or middlemen as they are called, merely sit still and look
on, or give a stroke with their oars if required ; while
the steersman, with powerful sweeps of his heavy oar,


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
79
directs the flying boat as it bounds from surge to surge
like a thing of life; and the bowman stains erect in front
to assist in directing his comrade at the stern, having
a strong and long pole in his hands, with which, ever
and anon, he violently forces the boat’s head away from
sunken'rocks, against which it might otherwise strike and
be stove in, capsized, or seriously damaged.
Besides the groups already enumerated, there were
one or two others, composed of grave, elderly men, whose
wrinkled brows, gray hairs, and slow, quiet step, showed
that the strength of their days was past; although their up
right figures and warm brown complexions gave promise
of their living to see many summers still. These were
the principal steersmen and old guides — men of renown,
to whom the others bowed as oracles, or looked up as
fathers ; men whose youth and manhood had been spent
in roaming the trackless wilderness, and who were, there
fore, eminently qualified to guide brigades through the
length and breadth of the land; men whose power of
threading their v 7 ay among the perplexing intricacies of
the forest had become a second nature, a kind of instinct,
that was as sure of attaining its end as the instinct of the
feathered tribes, which brings the swallow, after a long
absence, with unerring certainty back to its former haunts
again in spring.


SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
CHAPTER VII.
THE STORE.
T whatever establishment in the fur trader’s .do
minions you may chance to alight, you will find
a particular building which is surrounded by a halo of
interest: towards which there seems to he a general
leaning on the part of everybody, especially of the In
dians, and with which are connected, in the minds of all,
the most stirring reminiscences and pleasing associations.
This is the trading store. It is always recognizable,
if natives are in the neighborhood, by the bevy of red
men that cluster round it, awaiting the coming of the
storekeeper or the trader with that stoic patience which
is peculiar to Indians. It may be further recognized, by
a close observer, by the soiled condition of its walls, oc
casioned by loungers rubbing their hacks perpetually
against it, and the peculiar dinginess round the keyhole,
caused by frequent applications of the key, which renders
it conspicuous beyond all its comrades. Here is contained
that which makes the red man’s life enjoyable; that
which causes his heart to leap, and induces him to toil
for months and months together in the heat of summer
and amid the frost and snow of winter; that which actually
accomplishes, what music is said to achieve, the “ sooth
ing of the savage breast; ” in short, here are stored up
blankets, guns, powder, shot, kettles, axes, and knives;


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
81
twine for nets, vermilion for war-paint, fish-hooks and
scalping knives, capotes, cloth, beads, needles, and a host
of miscellaneous articles, much too numerous to mention.
Here, also, occur periodical scenes of bustle and excite
ment, when bands of natives arrive from distant hunting-
grounds, laden with rich furs, which are speedily trans
ferred to the Hudson’s Bay Company’s stores in ex
change for the goods aforementioned. And many a tough
wrangle has the trader on - such occasions with sharp
natives, who might have graduated in Billingsgate — so
close are they at a bargain. Here, too, voyageurs are
supplied with an equivalent for their wages, part in ad
vance, if they desire it, (and they generally-do desire it,)
and part at the conclusion of their long and arduous
voyages; '
It is to one of these stores, reader, that we wish to h>
troduce you now, that you may witness the men of the
North brigade receive their advances.
The store at Fort Garry stands on the right of the
fort as you enter by the front gate. Its interior resem
bles that of the other stores in the country, being only a
little larger. A counter encloses a space sufficiently wide
to admit a dozen men, and serves to keep back those who
are more eager than the rest. Inside this counter, at the
time we write of, stood our friend Peter Mactavisb,. who>
was the presiding genius of the scene.
“ Shut the door now, and lock it,” said Peterj in an
authoritative tone, after eight or ten young voyageurs had
crushed into the space in front of the counter. “ I’ll not
supply you with so much as an ounce-of tobacco, if you
let in another man.”
Peter needed not to repeat the command. Three or
four stalwart shoulders were applied to the door, which
6


82
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
shut with a bang like a cannon-shot, and the key was
turned.
“ Come, now, Antoine,” began the trader, “ we’ve lots
to do, and not much time to do it in, so pray look sharp.”
Antoine, however, was not to be urged on so easily.
He had been meditating deeply all the morning on what
he should purchase. Moreover, he had a sweetheart;
and of course he had to buy something for her, before'
setting out. on his travels. Besides, Antoine was six feet
high, and broad-shouldered, and well made, with a dark
face and glossy black hair; and he entertained a notion
that there were one or two points in his costume which
required to be carefully rectified, ere he could consider
that Jae had attained to perfection; so he brushed the
long hair off his forehead, crossed his arms, and gazed
around him.
“ Come, now, Antoine,” said Peter, throwing a green
blanket at him, “I know you want that to begin with.
What’s the use of thinking so long’about it?—eh?
And that, too,” he added, throwing him a blue cloth ca
pote. “ Anything else ? ”
“ Oui, oui, monsieur,” cried Antoine, as he disengaged
himself from the folds of the coat which Peter had
thrown over his head. “ Tabac, monsieur, tabac ! ”
“ Oh, to be sure,” cried Peter. “ I might have guessed
that that was uppermost in your mind. Well, how much
will you have ? ” Peter began to unwind the fragrant
weed off a coil of most appalling size and thickness, which
looked like a snake of endless length. “Will‘“that do?”
and he flourished about four feet of the snake before the
eyes of the voyageur.
Antoine accepted the quantity ; and young Harry
Somerville entered the articles against him in a book.


FEOM THE FAR NORTH.
83
“Anything more, Antoine?” said the trader. “Ah,
some beads, and silks ! — eh ! Oho, Antoine! By the
way, Louis, have you seen Annette lately ? ”
Peter turned to another voyageur when he put this
question, and the voyageur gave, a broad grin as he re
plied in the affirmative; while Antoine looked a little
Confused. He did not care much, however, for jesting.
• So, after getting one or two more articles, — not for
getting half-a-dozen clay pipes, and a few yards of gaudy
calico, which called forth from Peter a second reference
to Annette,—-he bundled up his goods, and made way
for another comrade.
Louis Peltier, one of the principal g.uides, and a man
of importance, therefore, now stood forward. He was
probably about forty-five years of age; had a plain, olive-
colored countenance, surrounded by a mass of long, jet-
black hair, which he inherited, along with a pair of dark,
piercing eyes, from his Indian mother; and a robust,
heavy, yet active frame, which bore a strong resemblance
to what his Canadian father’s had been many years be
fore. His arms, in particular, were of herculean mould,
with large swelling veins, and strongly-marked muscles.
They seemed, in fact, just formed for the purpose of pull
ing the heavy sweep of an inland boat among strong rap
ids. His face combined an expression of stern resolution
with great good-humor; and truly, his countenance did
not belie him, for he was known among his comrades as
the most courageous, and, at the same time, the most
peaceable man in the settlqjnent. Louis Peltier was sin
gular in possessing the latter quality, for assuredly, the
half-breeds — whatever other good points they boast —
cannot lay claim to very gentle or dovelike dispositions.
His gray capote and blue leggins were decorated with


84 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
no unusual ornaments, and the scarlet belt which encir
cled his massive figure was the only bit of color he dis
played.
The -younger men fell respectfully into the rear, as
Louis stepped forward,, and begged pardon for coming so
early in the day. “ Mais, monsieur,” he said, “ I have to
look after the boats to-day, and get them ready for a start
to-morrow.”
Peter Mactavish gave Louis a hearty shake of the
hand before proceeding to supply his wants, which were
simple and moderate, excepting in the article of tohac, in
the use of which he was ^moderate r- being an invet
erate smoker; so* that a considerable portion of the snake
had to be uncoiled for his benefit.
“ Fond as ever of smoking, Louis,” said Peter Mac
tavish, as he handed him the coil.
“ Oui, monsieur—very fond,” answered the guide,
smelling the weed. “ Ah, this is very good. I must
take a good supply this voyage, because I lost the half of
my roll last year; ” and the guide gave a sigh as. he
thought of the overwhelming bereavement.
“ Lost the half of it, Louis! ” said Mactavish. • “ Why,
how was that? You must have lost 'more than half your
spirits with it! ”
“ Ah! oui, I lost all my spirits, and my comrade Fran
cois at the same time!” 1
“ Dear me!” exclaimed the clerk, bustling about the
store, while the guide continued to talk.
“ Oui, monsieur — oui. I lost him, and my tabac, and
my spirits, and very nearly my life, all in one moment! ”
“ Why! — how came that about,” said Peter, pausing
in his work, and laying a handful of pipes on the counter.
“ Ah! monsieur, it was very sad, (merci, monsieur,


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
85
merci, thirty pipes, if you please,) and I thought at the
time that I should give up my voyageur life, and remain
altogether in the settlement with my old woman. Mais,
monsieur, that was not possible. When I spoke of,
it to my old woman, she called me an old woman;
and, you know, monsieur, that two old women never
could live together in peace for twelve months under the
same roof. So here I am, you see, ready again for the
voyage.”
The voyageurs, who had drawn round Louis when he
alluded to an anecdote which they had often heard before,
but were never weary of hearing over again, laughed
loudly at this sally, and urged the guide to relate the
story to “ monsieur,” who, nothing loath to suspend his
operations for a little, leaned his arms on the counter, and
said, —
“Tell us all about it, Louis ; I am anxious to know
how you managed to come by so many losses all at one
time.”
“'Bien, monsieur, I shall soon relate it, for the story is
very short.”
Harry Somerville, who was entering the pipes in
Louis’s account, had just sat down the figures “ 30,”
when Louis cleared his throat to begin. Not having
the mental fortitude to finish the line, he dropped
his pen, sprang off his stool, which he upset in so doing,
jumped up, sitting-ways, upon the counter, and gazed
with breathless interest into the guide’s face as he spoke.
“ It was on a cold, wet afternoon,” said Louis, “ that we
were descending the Hill River, at a part of the rapids
where there is a sharp bend in the stream, and two or
three great rocks that stand up in front of the water, as
it plunges over a ledge, as if they were put there a’ pur-


86
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
pose to catch it, and split it np into foam, or to stop tlie
boats and canoes that try to run the rapids, and cut them
up into splinters. It was an ugly place, monsieur, I can
tell you; and though I’ve run it again and again, I
always hold my breath tighter when we get to the top,
and breathe freer when we get to the bottom. Well,
there was a chum of mine at the bow, Francois by name,
and a fine fellow he was, as I ever came across. He
used to sleep with me at night under the same blanket,
although it ivcts somewhat inconvenient; for, being as big
as myself and a stone heavier, it was all we could do to
make the blanket cover us. However, he and I were
great friends, and we managed it somehow. Well, he
was at the bow when we took the rapids — and a firstrate
bowman he made. His pole was twice as long and twice
as thick.as any other pole in the boat, and he twisted it
about just like a fiddlestick. I remember well the night
before we came to the rapids, as he was sitting by the
fire which was blazing up among the pine branches that
overhung us, he said that he wanted a good pole for the
rapids next day, and with that he jumped up, laid hold
of an axe, and went back into the woods a bit to get one.
When lie returned, he brought a young tree on his
shoulder, which he began to strip of its branches and
bark. ‘ Louis,’ says he, ‘ this is hot work, give us a pipe
so I rummaged about for some tobacco, but found there
was none left in my bag; so I went to my kit and got
out my roll, about three fathoms or so, and cutting half
of it oil’, I went to the fire and twisted it round his neck
by way of a joke, and he said he’d wear it as a necklace
all night, — and so he did, too, and forgot to take it off in
the morning; and when we came near the rapids I
couldn’t get at my bag to stow it away, so, says I,


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
87
e Francis, you’ll’ have to run with it on, for I can’t stop
to stow it now.’ ‘ All right,’ says he, ‘ go ahead ; ’ and
just as he said it, we came in sight of the first run foam
ing and boiling like a kettle of robiboo. ‘ Take care,
lads,’ I cried, and the next moment we were dashing
down towards the bend in the river. As we came near
to the shoot, I saw Francois standing up on the gunwale
to get a better view of the rocks ahead, and every now
and then giving me a signal with his hand how to steer ;
suddenly he gave a shout, and plunged his long pole into
the water, to fend off from a rock which a swirl in the
stream had concealed. For a second or two his pole
bent like a willow, and we could feel the heavy boat
jerk off a little with the tremendous strain; but all at
once the pole broke off short with a crack, Francois’s
heels made a floui’ish in the air, and then he disap
peared head-foremost into the foaming water, with my
tobacco coiled round his neck! As we flew past the
place, one of his arms appeared, and I made a grab
at it, and caught him by the sleeve; but the effort upset
myself, and over I went too. Fortunately, however, one.
of my men caught me by the foot and held on like a
vice; but the force of the current tore Francois’s sleeve
out of my grasp, and I was dragged into the boat
again just in time to see my comrade’s legs and arms
going like the sails of a windmill, as he rolled over
several times and disappeared. Well, we put ashore
the moment we - got into still water, and then five or
six of us. started off on foot to look for Francois.
After half an hour’s search, we found him pitched upon
a flat rock in the middle of the stream like a bit of
drift-wood. We immediately wacled out to the rock and
brought him ashore, where we lighted a fire, took off


88
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
all bis' clothes, and rubbed him till lie began to show
signs of life again.. But you may judge, mes garyons,
of my misery, when I found that the coil of tobacco
was gone. It had come off his neck during his strug
gles, and there wasn’t a vestige of it left, except a
bright red mark on the throat, where it had nearly
strangled him. When he began to recover, he put his
hand up to his neck as if feeling for something, and
muttered faintly, ‘ the tobac.’ ‘ Ah, morbleu ! ’ said I,
‘you may say that! Where is it?’ Well, we soon
brought him round, but he had swallowed so much
water that it damaged his lungs, and we had to leave
him at the next post we came to, and so I lost my
friend, too.”
“ Did Francois get better ? ” said Charley Kennedy,
in a voice of great concern.
Charley had entered the store by another door, just as
the guide began his story, and had listened to it unob
served with breathless interest.
“ Recover! Oh, oui, monsieur, he soon got well again.”
“ Oh, I’m so glad,” cried Charlej'.
“ But I lost him for that voyage,” added the guide;
“ and I lost my tabac forever! ”
“You must take better care of it this time, Louis,”
said Peter Mactavish, as he resumed his work.
“That I shall, monsieur,” replied Louis, shouldering
his goods and quitting the store, while a short, slim, active,
little Canadian took his place.
“ Now then, Baptiste,” said Mactavish, “ you want
a ”
“ Blanket, monsieur.”
“Good. And
“ A capote, monsieur ! ”


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
89
“ And—— ”
“ An axe ”
“ Stop, stop! ” shouted Harry Somerville from his
desk. “Here’s an entry in Louis’s account that I can’t
make out, — 30 something or other; what can it have
b.een ? ”
' “ How often,” said Mactavish, going up to him with a
look of annoyance, — “how often have I told you, Mr.
Somerville, not to leave an entry half finished on any
account ? ” .
“I didn’t know that I left it so,” said Harry, twisting
his features, and scratching his head in great perplexity.
“ What can it have been, 30 — 30 — not blankets, eh ? ”
(Harry was becoming banteringly bitter.) “ He couldn’t
have got thirty guns, could he ? or thirty knives, or thirty
copper kettles ? ”
“ Perhaps it was thirty pounds of tea,” suggested
Charley.
“ No doubt it was thirty pipes” said Peter Mactavish.
“ Oh, that was it! ” cried Harry, “ that was it! thirty
pipes, to be sure; what an ass I am! ”
“And pray what is that?” said Mactavish, pointing
sarcastically to an entry in the previous account, —
“ 5 yards of superfine Annette ? Really, Mr. Somerville, I
wish you would pay more attention to your work and less
to the conversation.”
“ Oh dear ! ” cried Harry, becoming almost hysterical
under the combined effects of chagrin at making so many
mistakes, and suppressed merriment at the idea of selling
Annettes by the yard. “ Oh, dear me ! —■— ”
Harry could say no more, but stuffed his handkerchief
into his mouth and turned away.
“ Well, sir,” said the offended Peter, “ when you have


90
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
laughed to your entire satisfaction, we will go on with
our work, if you please.”
“ All right,” cried Harry, suppressing his feelings with
a strong effort, “ what next ? ”
Just then a tall, raw-boned man entered the store, and:
rudely thrusting Baptiste aside, asked if he could get his
supplies now.
“ No,” said Mactavish, sharply ; “ you’ll take your turn
like the rest.” ,
The new-comer was a native of Orkney, a country
from which, and the neighboring islands, the Fur Com
pany almost exclusively recruits its staff of laborers.
These men are steady, useful servants, although inclined
to be slow and lazy at first; but they soon get used to
the country, and rapidly improve under the example of
the active Canadians and half-breeds with whom they
associate ; some of them are the best servants the Com
pany possess. Hugh Mathison, however, was a very
bad specimen of the race, being rough and coarse in his
manners, and very lazy withal. Upon receiving the
trader’s answer, Hugh turned sulkily on his heel and
strode towards the door. Now, it happened that Bap
tiste’s bundle lay just behind him, and, on turning to
leave the place, he tripped over it and stumbled, whereat
the voyageurs burst into an ironical laugh (for Hugh was
not a favorite.)
“ Confound your trash ! ” he cried, giving the little
bundle a kick that scattered everything over the floor.
“ Crapaud! ” said Baptiste, between his set teeth, while
his eyes flashed angrily, and he stood up before Hugh
with clenched fists, “ what mean you by that ? eh ? ”
The big Scotchman held his little opponent in con
tempt, so that, instead of putting himself on the defensive,


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
91
he leaned his back against the door, thrust his hands
into his pockets, and requested to know “ what that was
to him.”
Baptiste was not a man of many words, and this reply,
coupled with the insolent sneer with which it was uttered,
.caused him to plant a sudden and well directed blow on
the point of Hugh’s nose, which flattened it on his face,
and brought the back of his head into violent contact with
the door.
“Well done!” shouted the men; “bravo, Baptiste!
regardez le nez, mes enfans ! ”
“ Hold! ” cried Mactavish, vaulting the counter, and
intercepting Hugh as he rushed upon his antagonist; “no
fighting here, you blackguards ! If you want to do that,
go outside the fort;” and Peter, opening the door, thrust
the Orkneyman out. • •
In the mean time, Baptiste gathered up his goods and
left the store, in company with several of his friends,
vowing that he would wreak his vengeance on the “ gros
chien ” before the sun should set.
He had not long to wait, however, for, just outside the '
gate, he found Hugh, still smarting under the pain and
indignity of the blow, and ready to pounce upon him like
a cat on a mouse.
Baptiste instantly threw down his bundle and prepared
for battle by discarding his coat.
Every nation has its own peculiar method of fighting,
and its own ideas of what is honorable and dishonorable
in combat.- The English, as every one knows, have par
ticularly stringent rules regarding the part of the body
which may or may not be hit with propriety, and count it
foul disgrace to strike a man when he is down ; although,
by some strange perversity.of reasoning, they deem it


92
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
right and fair to fall upon him while in this helpless con
dition, and burst him if possible. The Scotchman has
less of the science, and we are half inclined to believe"
that he would go the length of kicking a fallen opponent;
but on this point we are not quite positive. In regard
to the style adopted by the half-breeds, however, we have
no doubt. They fight any way and every way, without
reference to rules at all; and, really, although we may .
bring ourselves into contempt by admitting the fact, we
think they are quite right. No doubt the best course of
action is not to fight; but, if a man does find it necessary
to do so, surely the wisest plan is to get it over at once
(as the dentist suggested to his timorous patient), and to
do it in -the most effectual manner.
Be this as it may, Baptiste flew at Hugh and alighted
upon him, not head first, or fist first, or feet first, or any
thing first, but altogether — in a heap, as it were; fist,
feet, knees, nails, and teeth, all taking effect at one and
the same time, with a force so irresistible that the next
moment they both rolled in the dust together.
For a minute or so they struggled and kicked like a
couple of serpents, and then, bounding to their feet again,
they began to perform a war-dance round each other,
revolving their fists at the same time in, we presume, the
most approved fashion. Owing to his bulk and natural
laziness, which rendered jumping about like a jack-in-
the-box impossible, Hugh Mathison preferred to stand
on the defensive ; while his lighter opponent, giving way
to the natural bent of his mercurial temperament and
corporeal predilections, comported himself in a manner
that cannot be likened to anything mortal or immortal,
human or inhuman, unless it be to an insane cat, whose
veins ran wildfire instead of blood. Or, perhaps, we


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
93
might liken him to that ingenious piece of firework called
a zigzag cracker, which explodes with unexpected and
repeated suddenness, changing its position in a most per
plexing manner at every crack. Baptiste, after- the first
onset, danced backwards with surprising lightness, glaring
at his adversary the while, and rapidly revolving his fists
as before mentioned; then, a terrific yell was heard; his
head, arms, and legs became a sort of whirling conglom
erate ; the spot on which he danced was suddenly vacant,
and, at the same moment, Mathison received a bite, a
scratch, a dab on the nose, and a kick in the stomach all
at once. Feeling that it was impossible to plant a well
directed blow on such an assailant, he waited for the next
onslaught; and the moment he saw the explosive object .
flying through the air towards him, he met it with a
crack of his heavy fist, which, happening to take effect in
the middle of the chest, drove it backwards with about
as much velocity as it had approached, and poor Baptiste
measured his length on the ground.
“ Oh pauvre chien ! ” cried the spectators, c’est fini! ”
“ Not yet,” cried Baptiste, as he sprang with a scream *
to his feet again, and began his dance with redoubled
energy, just as if all that had gone before was a mere
sketch — a sort of playful rehearsal, as it were, of what
was now to follow. At this moment, Hugh stumbled
over a canoe-paddle, and fell headlong into Baptiste’s
arms, as he was in the very act of making one of his
violent descents. This unlooked-for occurrence brought
them both to a sudden pause, partly from necessity and
partly from surprise. Out of this state, Baptiste recov
ered first, and, taking advantage of the accident, threw
Mathison heavily to the ground. He rose quickly, how
ever, and renewed the fight with freshened vigor.


94
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
Just at this moment a passionate growl was heard, and
old Mr. Kennedy rushed out of the fort in a towering
rage.
Now, .Mr. Kennedy had no reason whatever for being
angry. He was only a visitor at the fort, and so had no
concern in the behavior of those connected with it. He
Was not even in the Company’s service now, and could
not, therefore, lay claim, as one of its officers, to any
right to interfere with its men. But Mr. Kennedy never
acted much from reason; impulse was generally his guid
ing star. He had, moreover, been an absolute monarch,
and a commander of men for many years past in his ca
pacity of fur-trader. Being, as we have said, a power
ful, fiery man, he had ruled very much by means of brute
force, — a species of suasion, by the way, which is too
common among many of the gentlemen (?) in the em
ployment of the Hudson’s Bay Company. On hearing,
therefore, that the men were fighting in front of the fort,
Mr. Kennedy rushed out in a towering rage.
“Oh, you precious blackguards! ” he cried, running up
to the combatants, while with flashing eyes he gazed first
at one and then at the other, as if uncertain on which to
launch his ire. “ Have you no place in the world to
fight but here ? Eh ! blackguards ? ”
“ Oh, monsieur,” said Baptiste, lowering his hands, and
assuming that politeness of demeanor which seems in
separable from French blood, however much mixed with
baser fluid, “ I was just giving that dog a thrashing, mon-
sieu r.”
“ Go! ” cried Mr. Kennedy, in a voice of thunder,
turning to Hugh, who still stood in a pugilistic attitude,
with very little respect in his looks.
Hugh hesitated to obey the order, but Mr. Kennedy


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
95
continued to advance, grinding his teeth and working his
fingers convulsively, as if he longed to lay violent hold
of the Orkneyman’s swelled nose; so he retreated in his
uncertainty, hut still with his face to the foe. As has
been already said, the Assinaboine river flows within a
hundred yards of the gate of Fort Garry. The two
men in their combat had approached pretty near to the
bank, at a place where it descends somewhat precipitately
into the stream. It was towards this bank that Hugh
Mathison was now retreating, crab fashion, followed by
Mr. Kennedy, and both of them so taken up with each
other that neither perceived the fact until Hugh’s heel
struck against a stone just at the moment that Mr. Ken
nedy raised his clenched fist in a threatening attitude.
The effect of this combination was to pitch the poor man
head over heels down the bank, into a row of willow
bushes, through which, as he rolled with great speed, he
went with a loud crash, and shot head first, like a startled
alligator, into the water, amid a roar of laughter from his-
comrades and the people belonging to the fort; most of
whom, attracted by the fight, were now assembled on the
banks of the river.
Mr. Kennedy’s wrath vanished immediately, and he
joined in the laughter; but his face instantly changed
when he beheld Hugh spluttering in deep water, and
heard some one say that he could not swim.
“What! can’t swim?” he exclaimed, running down
the bank to the edge of the water. Baptiste was before
him, however. In a moment he plunged in up to the
neck, stretched forth his arm, grasped Hugh by the hair,
and dragged him to the land.


96
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
'A
CHAPTER VIII.
FAREWELL TO KATE; DEPARTURE OF THE BRIGADE; CHARLEY
BECOMES A VOYAGBUR.
O N the following clay^atTn'oon,. the spot on which the
late combat had taken place became the theatre
of a stirring and animated scene. Fort Garry, and the
space between it and the river, swarmed with voyageurs,
dressed in their cleanest, newest, and most brilliant cos
tume. The large boats for the north, six in number, lay
moored to the river’s bank, laden with bales of furs, and
ready to start on their long voyage. Young men, who
had never been on the route before, stood with animated
looks watching the opei'ations of the guides as they
passed critical examination upon their boats, overhauled
the oars to see that they were in good condition, or
with crooked knives (a species of instrument in the use
of which voyageurs and natives are very expert) polished
off the top of a mast, the blade of an oar, or the handle
of a tiller. Old men, 'who had passed their lives in
similar occupations, looked on in silence ; some standing
with their heads bent on their bosoms, and an expres
sion of sadness about their faces, as if the scene recalled
some mournful event of their early life; or possibly
reminded them of wild joyous scenes of other days, when
the blood coursed warmly in their young veins, and the
strong muscles sprang lightly to obey their will; when
the work they had to do was hard, and the sleep that


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
97
followed it was sound, — scenes and days that were now
gone by forever. Others reclined against the wooden
fence, their arms crossed, their thin white hair waving
gently in the breeze, and a kind smile playing on their
sunburnt faces, as they observed the swagger and cox
combry of the younger men, or watched the gambols of
several dark-eyed little children — embryo buffalo-hun-
ters and voyageurs — whose mothers had brought them
to the fort to get a. last kiss from papa, and witness the
departure of the boats.
Several tender scenes were going on, in out-of-the-
way places — in angles of the walls and bastions, or be
hind the gates — between youthful couples about to.
be separated for a season. Interesting, scenes these of -
pathos and pleasantry — a combination of soft glances-
and affectionate, fervent assurances — alternate embraces,,
(that were appai'ently received with reluctance, but act
ually with delight,) and proffers of pieces of calico and
beads and other trinkets, (received both apparently
and actually with extreme satisfaction,) as souvenirs of'
happy days that were past, and pledges of unalterable
constancy and bright hopes in days that were yet to-
come.
A little apart from the others, a youth and a girli
might be seen sauntering slowly towards the copse?
beyond the stable. These were Charley Kennedy andi
his sister Kate, who had retired from the bustling scene
to take a last short walk together, ere they separated,
it might be, for years, perhaps forever! Charley held
Kate’s hand, while her sweet little head rested on his
shoulder.
“ Oh. Charley, Charley, my own dear, darling Charley,
I'm quite miserable, and you ought not to go away ;


98
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
it’s very wrong, and I don’t mind a bit what you say, —
I shall die if you leave me!” And Kate pressed him
tightly to her heart, and sobbed in the depth of her
woe. .
“ Now, Kate, my darling, don’t go on so ! You know
I can’t help it ”
“ I don't know,” cried Kate, interrupting, him, and
speaking vehemently.- “I don’t know, and I don’t be
lieve, and I don’t care for anything at all; it’s very
hardhearted of you, and wrong, and not right,' and I’m
just quite wretched! ”
Poor Kate was undoubtedly speaking the absolute
truth ; for a more disconsolate and .wretched look of
woebegone misery was • never seen on so sweet and
tender and lovable a little face before. Her blue eyes
swam in two lakes of pure crystal, that overflowed con
tinually ; her mouth, which was usually round, had be
come an elongated oval; and her nutbrown hair fell in
dishevelled masses over her soft cheeks.
“ Oh, Charley,” she continued, “ why won't you stay ? ”
“ Listen to me, dearest Kate,” said Charley, in a very
husky voice. “It’s too late to.draw back now, even if
I wished to do so; and you don’t consider, darling, that
I’ll be back , again .soon. Besides, I’m a man now, Kate,
and I must make my own bread. Who ever heard of a
man being supported by his old father ? ”
“ Well, but you can do that here.”
“ Now, don’t interrupt me,. Kate,” said Charley, kiss
ing her forehead ; “ I’m quite satisfied with two short legs,
and have no (Jesire whatever to make my bread on the
top of three long ones. Besides, you know I can write to
you ”
“ But you won’t; you’ll for get.”


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
99
“ No, indeed, I will not. I’ll write you long letters
about all that I see and do; and you shall write long
letters to me about ”
“ Stop, Charley,” cried Kate ; “ I won’t listen to you.
I bate to think of it.”
And lier tears burst forth again with fresh violence.
This time Charley’s heart sank too. The lump in his
throat all but choked him; so he was fain to lay his
head upon Kate’s heaving bosom, and weep along with
her.
For a few minutes they remained ■ silent, when a slight
rustling in the bushes was heard. In another moment
a tall, broad-shouldered,' gentlemanly man, dressed in
black,.stood before them. Charley and Kate, on seeing
this personage, arose, and, wiping the tears from their
eyes, gave a sad smile as they shook hands with their
clergyman.
“My poor childi-en,” said Mr. Addison, affectionately,
“ I know well why your hearts are sad. May God bless
and comfort you ! I saw you enter the wood, and came
to bid you farewell, Charley, my dear boy, as I shall not
have another opportunity of doing so.”
“ Oh, dear Mr. Addison,” cried Kate, grasping his
hand in both of hers, and gazing imploringly up at him
through a perfect wilderness of ringlets and tears, “ do
prevail upon Charley to stay at home ; please do.”
Mr. Addison could scarcely help smiling at the poor
girl’s extreme earnestness.
“ I fear, my sweet child, that it is too late now to
attempt to dissuade Charley. Besides, he goes with the
consent of his father; and I am inclined to think that
a change of life for a short time may do him good.
Come, Kate, cheer up! Charley will return to us


100 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
again ere long, improved, I trust, both physically and
mentally.”
Kate did not cheer up ; but she dried her eyes and
endeavored to look more composed, while Mr. Addison
took Charley by the hand, and, as they walked slowly
through the wood, gave him much earnest advice and
counsel.
The clergyman’s manner was peculiar. With a large,
warm, generous heart, he possessed an enthusiastic na
ture, a quick brusque manner, and a loud voice, which,
when his spirit was influenced by the strong emotions of
pity, or anxiety for the souls of his flock, sunk into a deep
soft bass of the most thrilling earnestness. He belonged
to the Church of England, but- conducted service, very
much in the Presbyterian form, as being more suited to
his mixed congregation. After a long conversation with
Charley, he concluded by saying, —
“I do not care to say much to you about being kind
and.obliging to all whom you may meet with during your
travels, nor about the dangers to which you will be ex
posed, by being thrown into the company of wild and
reckless, perhaps very wicked, men. There is but one
incentive to every good, and one safeguard against all
evil, my boy, and that is the love of. God. You may,
perhaps, forget much that I have said to you; but re
member this, Charley, if you would be happy in this world,
and have a good hope for the next, centre your heart’s
affection on our blessed Lord Jesus Christ; for believe
me, boy, Ms heart’s affection is centered upon you.”
As Mr. Addison spoke, a loud hallo from Mr. Kennedy
apprised them that their time was exhausted, and that
the boats were ready to start. Charley sprang towards
Kate, locked her in a long, passionate embrace, and then,


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
101
forgetting Mr. Addison altogether in his haste, ran out of
the wood, and hastened towards the scene of departure.
“ Good-bye, Charley! ” cried Harry Somerville, run
ning up to his friend, and giving him a warm grasp of the
hand. “ Don’t forget me, Charley. I wish I were go’ing
with you,' with all my heart; but I’m an unlucky dog —
good-bye.” The senior clerk and Peter Mactavish had
also a kindly word and a cheerful farewell for him as he
hurried past.
“ Good-bye, Charley, my lad ! ” said old Mr. Kennedy,
in an excessively loud voice, as if by such means he in
tended to crush back some unusual, but very powerful,
feelings that had a peculiar influence on a certain lump
in his throat. “ Good-bye, my lad ; don’t forget to write
to your old . Hang it! ” said the old man, brushing
his coat-sleeve somewhat violently across his eyes, and
turning abruptly round as Charley left him and sprang
into the boat. “I say, Grant, I — I . What are
you staring at? — eh?” The latter part of his speech
was addressed, in angry tone, to an innocent voycigeur, who
happened accidentally to confront him at the moment.
“ Come along, Kennedy,” said Mr. Grant, interposing,
and grasping his excited friend by the arm—’“Come
with me.”
“Ah, to be sure!—yes !” said he, looking over his
shoulder and waving a last adieu to Charley — “ Good
bye, God bless you, my dear boy ! I say, Grant, come
along — quick, man, and let’s have a pipe. Yes; let’s
have a pipe.” Mr. Kennedy, essaying once more to
,crush back his rebellious feelings, strode rapidly up the
, bank, and, entering the house, sought to overwhelm his
sorrow in smoke ; in which attempt he failed.


102
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
CHAPTER IX.
TUB VOYAGE; THE ENCAMPMENT; A SURPRISE.
I T ivas a fine sight to see the boats depart for the
North. It ay as a thrilling, heart-stirring sight to be
hold these picturesque athletic men, on receiving the word
of command from their guides, spring lightly 'into the
long, heavy boats ; to see them let the oars fall into the
Avater Avith a loud splash; and then, taking their seats,
give Avay Avith a Avill, knowing that the eye* of friends
and sAveethearts and rivals ivere bent earnestly upon
them. It Avas a splendid sight to see boat after boat
shoot out from the landing-place, and cut through the
calm bosom of the river, as the men bent their sturdy
backs, until the thick oars creaked and groaned on the
gunwales, and flashed in the stream, more and more vig
orously at each successive stroke, until their friends on
the bank, who Averc anxious to sec the last of them, had
to run faster and faster, in order to keep up Avith them, as
the roAvers Avarmed at their Avork, and made the Avater
gurgle at (he boAvs — their bright blue and scarlet and
Avhite trappings reflected in the dark Avaters in broken
masses of color, streaked Avith long lines of shining
ripples, as if they floated on a lake of liquid rainbows.
And it Avas a glorious thing to hear the Avild, plaintive
song, led by one clear, sonorous voice, that rang out, full


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
103
and strong, in the still air, while, at the close of every
two lines, the whole brigade / burst into a loud enthu
siastic chorus, that rolled far and wide over the smooth
waters —telling of their approach to settlers beyond the
reach of vision in advance, and floating faintly back, a
last farewell, to the listening ears of fathers, mothers,
wives, and sisters left behind. And it was interesting to
observe how, as the rushing boats sped onwards past the
cottages on shore, groups of -men and women and children
stood before the open doors, and waved adieu; while,
ever and anon, a solitary voice rang louder than the
others in the chorus; and a pair of dark eyes grew
brighter, as a voyageur swept past his home, and recog
nized his little ones screaming farewell, and seeking to
attract their sire’s attention by tossing their chubby arms,
or flourishing round their heads the bright vermilion
blades of canoC-paddles. It was interesting, too, to hear
the men shout as they ran a small rapid which occurs
about the lower part of the settlement, and dashed in full
career up to the Lower Fort — which stands about
twenty miles down the river from Fort Garry — and then
sped onward again with unabated energy, until they
passed the Indian settlement, with its scattered wooden
buildings and its small church ; passed the last cottage
on the bank; passed the low swampy land at the river’s,
mouth; and emerged at last as evening closed, upon,
the wide, calm, sea-like bosom of Lake Winnipeg.
Charley saw and heard all this, during the whole of'
that long, exciting afternoon ; and, as he heard and saw
it, his heart swelled as if it would burst its prison-bars
his voice rang out wildly in the. choruses, regardless alike-
' of tune and time, and his spirit boiled within him as he-
quaffed the first sweet draught of a rover’s life— a life-


104 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
in the woods —the wild, free, enchanting woods, where
all appeared in his eyes bright, and sunny, and green, and
beautiful!
As the sun’s last rays sank in the west, and the clouds,
losing their crimson hue, began gradually to fade into
gray, the boats’ heads were turned landward. In a few
-seconds they grounded on a low point covered with small
trees and bushes, which stretched out into the lake.
Here Louis Peltier had resolved to bivouac for the night.
“ Now then, mes gargons,” he exclaimed, leaping ashore,
and helping to drag the boat a little way on to the beach;
“ viie I vite ! a terre ! a terre ! Take the kettle, Pierre,
and let’s have supper.”
Pierre needed no second bidding. Pie grasped a large
tin kettle and an axe, with which he hurried into a clump
of trees. Laying down the kettle, which he had previ
ously filled with water from the lake, he singled out a dead
tree, and with three powerful blows of his axe brought it
to the ground. A. few additional strokes cut it up into
logs, varying from three to five feet in length, which he
piled together, first placing a small bundle of dry grass
.•and twigs beneath them, and a few splinters of wood
nvhich he cut from off one of the logs. Having accom
plished this, Pierre took a flint and steel out of a gayly
•ornamented pouch, which depended from his waist, and
which went by the name of a jire-bag, in consequence of
fits containing the implements for procuring that element.
It might have been as appropriately named tobacco-bag
•or smoking-bag, however, seeing that such things had,
more to do with it, if possible, than fire. Having struck
•.a spark, which he took captive by means of a piece of
tinder, he placed it in the centre of a very dry handful
•of soft, grass, and whirled it rapidly round his head,


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
105
thereby producing a current of air, which blew the
spark into a flame; which, when applied, lighted the
grass and twigs; and so, in a few minutes, a blazing fire
roared up among the trees, •— spouted volumes of sparks
into the air, like a gigantic squib, which made it quite a
marvel that all the bushes in the neighborhood were not
burnt up at once, — glared out red and fierce upon the
rippling water, until it becamej as it were, redhot in the
neighborhood of the boats; and caused the night, to be
come suddenly darker by contrast; the night reciprocat
ing the compliment, as it grew later, by causing the space
around the fire to glow brighter and brighter, until it be
came a brilliant chamber, surrounded by walls of the
blackest ebony.
While Pierre was thhs engaged, there were at least
ten voyageurs similarly occupied. Ten steels were made
instrumental in creating ten sparks, which were sever
ally captured by ten pieces of tinder, and whirled round
by ten lusty arms, until ten flames were produced, and
ten fires sprang up and flared wildly on the busy scene
that had a few hours before been so calm, so solitary, and
so peaceful, bathed in the soft beams of the setting sun.
In less than half an hour the several camps were 'com
pleted ; the kettles boiling over the fires; the men smok
ing in every variety of attitude, and talking loudly. It
was a cheerful scene; and so Charley thought, as he re
clined in his canvas tent, the opening of which faced the
fire, and enabled him to see all that was going on.
Pierre was standing over the great kettle, dancing
round it, and making sudden plunges with a stick into
it, in the desperate effort to stir its boiling contents,—
desperate, because the fire was very fierce and large, and
the flames seemed to take a fiendish pleasure in leaping


106 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
up suddenly just under Pierre’s nose, thereby endanger
ing -his beard, or shooting out between his legs, and lick
ing round them at most unexpected moments, when the
light wind ought to have been blowing them quite in the
opposite direction ; and then, as he danced round to the
other side to avoid them, wheeling about and roaring
viciously in his face, until it seemed as if the poor man
would be roasted long before the supper was boiled.
Indeed, what between the ever-changing and violent
flames, the rolling smoke, the steam from the kettle, the
showering sparks, and the man’s own wild grimaces and
violent antics, Pierre seemed to Charley like a raging
demon, who danced not only round, but above, and on,
and through, and in the flames, as if they were his natu
ral element, in which he took special delight.
Quite close to the tent, the massive form of Louis the
guide lay extended, his back supported by the stump of
a tree; his eyes blinking sleepily at the blaze, and his
beloved pipe hanging from. his lips, while wreaths of
smoke encircled his head. Louis’s day’s work was done.
Few could do a better ; and, when his woi’k was over,
Louis always acted on the belief that his position and
his years entitled him to rest, and took things very easy
in consequence.
Six of the boat’s crew sat in a semicircle beside the
guide and fronting the fire, each paying particular atten
tion to his pipe, and talking between the puffs to any one
who chose to listen.
Suddenly Pierre vanished into the smoke and flames
altogether, whence, in another moment, he issued, bearing
in his hand the large tin kettle, which he deposited tri
umphantly at the feet of his comrades.
“ Now then ! ” cried Pierre.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
107
It was unnecessary to have said even that much by
way of invitation. Voyageurs do not require to have
their food pressed upon them after a, hard day’s work.
Indeed.it was as much as they could do to refrain from
. laying violent hands on the kettle long before their wor
thy cook considered its contents sufficiently done.
Charley sat in company with Mr. Park, — a chief fac-
; tor, on his way to Norway House. Gibault, one of the
men who acted as their servant, had placed a kettle of
: hot tea before them, which with several slices of buffalo
' tongue, a lump of pemmican, and some hard biscuit and
butter, formed their evening meal. Indeed, we may add
that these viands, during a great part of the voyage, con
stituted their every meal. In Jact, they had no variety
in their fare, except a wild duck or two now and then,
and a goose when they chanced to shoot one.
Charley sipped a pannikin of tea as he reclined on his
blanket, and, being somewhat fatigued in consequence of
his exertions and excitement during the day, said noth
ing. Mr. Park, for the same reasons, besides being nat
urally taciturn, was equally mute, so they both enjoyed
in silence the spectacle of the men eating their supper
And it was a sight worth seeing.
Their food consisted of robbiboo, a compound of flour,
pemmican, and water, boiled to the consistency of very
thick, sotip. Though not a species of food that would
satisfy the fastidious taste of an epicure, robbiboo is, nev
ertheless, very wholesome, exceedingly nutritious, and,
withal, palatable. Pemmican, its principal component, is
made of buffalo flesh, which fully equals (some think
greatly excels) beef. The recipe for making it is as fol
lows : — First, kill your buffalo, — a matter of considera
ble difficulty, by the way, as doing so requires you to


108
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
travel to the buffalo grounds, to arm yourself with a gun,
and mount a.horse, on which you have to gallop, perhaps,
several miles over rough ground and among badger-
holes, at the imminent risk of breaking your neck. Then
you have to run up alongside of a buffalo, and put a ball
through his heart, which, apart from' the murderous na
ture of the action, is a difficult thing to do. But we will
suppose that you have killed your buffalo. Then you
must skin him; then cut him up, and slice the flesh into
layers, which must be dried in the sun. At this stage of
the process, you have produced a substance, which in the
fur countries, goes by the name of dried-meat, and is
lai’gely used as an article of food. As its name implies,
it is very dry, and it is .also very tough, and very unde
sirable if one can manage to procure anything better.
But to proceed. Having thus prepared dried-meat, lay
a quantity of it 011 a flat stone, and take another stone,
with which pound it into shreds. You must then take
the animal’s hide, while it is yet new, and make bags of
it, about two feet and a half long, by a foot and a half
broad. Into this put the pounded meat loosely. Melt
the fat of your buffalo over a fire, and, when quite liquid,
pour it into the bag until full; mix the contents well to
gether ; sew the whole up before it cools, and you have
a bag of pemmican of about ninety pounds’ weight. This
forms the chief food of the. voyageur, in consequence of
its being the largest possible quantity of sustenance com
pressed into the smallest possible space, and in an ex
tremely convenient, portable shape. It will keep fresh
for years, and has been much used, in consequence, by
the heroes of arctic discovery, in their perilous journeys
along the shores of the frozen sea.
The voyageurs used no plates. Men who travel in


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
109
these countries become independent of many things that
are supposed to be necessary here. They sat in a circle
round the kettle ; each man armed with a large wooden
or pewter spoon, with which he ladled the robbiboo down
his capacious throat, in a style that not only caused Char
ley to laugh, but afterwards threw him into a deep reverie
on the powers of appetite in general, and the strength of
voijagcur stomachs in particular.
At first the keen edge of appetite induced the men to
eat in silence ; but, as the contents of the kettle began
to get low, their tongues loosened, and at last, when the
kettles were emptied and the pipes filled, fresh logs thrown
on the fires, and their limbs stretched out around them,
the babel of English, French, aiid Indian that arose was
quite overwhelming. The middle-aged men told long
stories of what they had done ; the young men boasted of
what they meant to do; while the more aged smiled,
nodded, smoked their pipes, put in a word or two as oc
casion offered, and listened. While they conversed, the
quick ears of one of the men of Charley’s camp detected
some unusual sound.
“ Hist! ” said he, turning his head aside slightly, in a
listening attitude, while his comrades suddenly ceased
their noisy laugh.
“ Do ducks travel in canoes hereabouts?” said the
man. after a moment’s silence.; “ for, if not, there’s some
one about to pay us a visit. I would wager my best gun
that I hear the stroke of paddles.”
“If your ears had been sharper, Francois, you might
have heard them some time ago.” said the guide, shaking
the ashes out of his pipe and refilling it for the third
time.
“All, Louis, I do not pretend to such sharp ear- as


110
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
you possess, nor to such sharp wit either. But who do
you think can be en route so late?”
“ That my wit does not enable me to divine,” said
Louis; “ but if you have any faith in the sharpness
of your eyes, I would recommend you to go to the
beach and see, as the best and shortest way of finding
out.” '
By this time the men had risen and were peering out
into the gloom.in the direction whence the sound came,
while one or two sauntered down to the margin of the
lake to meet the new-comers.
“ Who can it be, I wonder ? ” said Charley, who had
left the tent, and was now standing beside the guide.
“ Difjicult to say, monsieur. Perhaps Injins ; though
I thought there were none here just now. But I’m not
surprised that we’ve attracted something to us. Livin’
creeturs ^always come nat’rally to the light, and there’s
plenty fire on the point to-night.”
“ Rather more than enough,” replied Charley, abruptly,
as a slight motion of wind sent the flames curling round
his head and singed off his eyelashes. “ Why, Louis, it’s
my firm belief that if I ever get to the end of this jour
ney, I’ll not have a hair left on my head.”
Louis smiled.
“ Oh, monsieur, you will learn to observe things before
you have been,long in the wilderness. If you will edge
round to -leeward of the fire, you can’t expect it to respect
y.° u -” -
. Just at this moment a loud hurrah rang through the
copse, and Harry Somerville sprang over the fire into
the arms of Charley, who received him with a hug and
a look of unutterable amazement.
“ Charley, my boy ! ’


'FROM THE FAR NORTH.
Ill
“ Harry Somerville, I declare ! ”
For at least five minutes Charley could not recover his
composure sufficiently to declare anything else, but stood
with, open mouth and eyes, and elevated eyebrows, look
ing at his young friend, who capered and' danced round
the fire in a manner that • threw the cook’s performances
in that line quite into the shade ; while he continued all
the time to shout fragments of sentences that were quite
unintelligible to any one. It was evident that Harry
was in a state of immense delight at something unknown,
save to himself, but which, in the course of a few minutes,
was revealed to his wondering friends.
“ Charley, I’m going ! hurrah ! ” and he leaped about
in a manner that induced Charley to say, he would not
only be going but very soon gone, if he did not keep
further away from the fire.
“ Yes, Charley, I’m going with you ; I upset the stool;
tilted the ink-bottle over the invoice book; sent the
poker .almost through the back of the fireplace, and
smashed Tom Whyte’s best whip on the back.of the ‘ noo
’oss’ as' I galloped him over the plains for the last time —
all for joy, because I’m going with you, Charley, my
darling \ ” r -
Here Harry suddenly threw his arms round hisYri end’s
neck meditating an embrace. As both boys were rather
fond of using their muscles violently, the embrace de
generated into a wrestle which caused them to threaten
complete destruction to the fire as they staggered in front
of it, and ended in their tumbling against the tent and
nearly breaking its poles and fastenings, to the horror
and indignation of Mr. Park, who was smoking his pipe
within, quietly waiting till Harry’s superabundant glee
was over, that he might get an explanation of his un
expected arrival among them.


112
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
“ Ah ! they will be good voyageurs,” cried one of the
men, as he looked on at this scene. . • ■ .
Oui! oui! good boys, active lads,” replied the others,
laughing. The two boys rose hastily.
“ Yes,” cried Harry, breathless, but still excited, “I’m.
going all the way, and a great deal farther. I’m going to
hunt buffaloes in the Saskatchewan, and grisly bears in
the — the — in fact everywhere!. I’m going down the
Mackenzie River,— I’m going mad, I believe;” and
Harry gave another caper and another shout, and tossed
his cap high into the air; having been recklessly tossed,
it came down into the fire; — when it went in it was
dark blue, but when Harry dashed into the flames, in
consternation, to save it, it came out of a rich brown
color..
“ Now, youngster,” said Mr. Park, “ when you’ve done
capering I should like to ask you one or two questions.
What brought you here ? ”
“ A canoe,” said Harry, inclined to be impudent*
“ Oh! and pray for what purpose have you come
here ? ”
“ These are my credentials,” handing him a letter.
Mr. Park opened the note and read.
“ Ah ! oh ! Saskatchewan — hum — yes — outpost —
wild boy—just so — keep him at it— ay! fit for nothing
else. So,” said Mr. Park, folding the paper, “ I find that
Mr. Grant has sent you to take the place of a young
gentleman we expected to pick up at Norway House,
but who is required elsewhere ; and that he wishes you
to see a good deal of rough life — to be made a trader of,
in fact. Is that your desire ? ”
“ That’s the very ticket! ” replied Harry, scarcely able
to restrain his delight at the prospect.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
113
“ Well, then, you had better get supper and turn in,
for you’ll have to begin your new life by rising at three •
o’clock to-morrow morning. Have you got a tent ? ”
“Yes,” said Harry, pointing to his canoe, which had
been brought to the fire and turned bottom up by the
two Indians to whom it belonged, and who were reclin
ing under its shelter, enjoying their pipes, and watching
with looks of great gravity the doings of Harry and his
friend. _
“ That will return whence it came to-morrow. Have
you no other ? ”
. “ Oh, yes,” said Harry, pointing to the overhanging
branches of a willow close at hand, “ lots more.”
Mr. Park smiled- grimly, and turning on his heel
reentered the tent and continued his pipe, while Hany
flung himself down beside Charley under the bark canoe..
This species ‘of “ tent ” is, however, by no means a
perfect one. An Indian canoe is seldom three feet broad,.
— frequently much narrower, — so that it only affords
shelter for the body as far down as the waist, leaving the
extremities exposed. True, one may double up as nearly
as possible into half one’s length, but this is not a de
sirable position to maintain throughout an entire night.
Sometimes, when the weather is very bad, an additional'
protection is procured by leaning several poles against
the bottom of the canoe, on the weather side, in such a-
way as to slope considerably over the front; and over
these are spread pieces of birch bark or branches and
moss, so as to form a screen, which is an admirable shel
ter. But this involves too much time and labor to be
adopted during a voyage, and is only done when the trav
ellers are under the necessity of remaining for some time
in one place.
8


114
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
The canoe in which Iiarry arrived was a pretty large
one, and looked so comfortable when arranged for the
night, that Charley resolved to abandon his own tent and
Mr. Park’s society, and sleep with his friend.
“ I’ll sleep with you, Harry, my boy,” said he, after
Harry had explained to him in detail the cause of his
being sent away from Red River; which was no other
than that a young gentleman, as Mr. Park said, who was
to have gone, had been ordered elsewhere.
“ That’s right, Charley, spread out our blankets, while
I get some supper, like a good fellow.” Harry went in
search of the kettle while his friend prepared their bed.
First, he examined the ground on which the canoe lay,
and found that the two Indians had already 'taken pos
session of the only level places under it. “ Humph ! ”
he ejaculated, half inclined to rouse them up, but imme
diately dismissed the idea as unworthy ' of a voyageur.
Besides, Charley was an amiable, unselfish fellow, and
would rather have lain on the top of a dozen stumps
than have made himself comfortable at the expense of
any one else.
He paused a moment to consider. On one side was a
hollow, “ that” (as he soliloquized to himself) “ would
break the back of a buffalo.” On the other side were a
dozen little stumps surrounding three very prominent
ones, that threatened destruction to the ribs of any one
who should venture to lie there. But Charley did not
pause to consider long. Seizing his axe, he laid about
him vigorously with the head of it, and in a few seconds
destroyed all the stumps, which he carefully collected,
and, along with some loose moss and twigs, put into the
hollow, and so filled it up. Having improved things
thus far, he rose and strode out of the circle of light into


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
115
the wood. In a few minutes lie reappeared, bearing a
young spruce-fir tree on his shoulder, which, with the
axe, he stripped of its branches. These branches were'
flat in form, and elastic, — admirably adapted for making
a bed on ; and when Charley spread them out under the
canoe in a pile of about four inches in depth, by four feet
broad, and six feet long, the stumps and the hollow were
overwhelmed altogether. He then ran to Mr. Park’s tent,
and fetched thence a small flat bundle, covered with oil
cloth, and tied with a rope. Opening this> he tossed out
its contents, which were two large and very thick blank
ets,— one green, the other white ; a particularly minute
feather pillow, a pair of moccasons-, a broken comb, and a
bit of soap. Then he opened a similar bundle, contain
ing Harry’s bed, which he likewise tossed out; and then
kneeling down, he spread the two white blankets on the
top of the branches, the two green blankets above these,
and the two pillows at the top, as far under the shelter of
the canoe as he could push them. Having completed the
whole in a manner that would have done credit to a
chambermaid, he continued to sit on his knees, with his
hands in his pockets, smiling complacently, and saying,
“ capital — firstrate! ”
“ Here we are, Charley. Have a second supper —
do ! ”
Harry placed the smoking kettle by the head of the
bed; and squatting down besidfe it, began to eat, as only
a boy can eat who has had nothing since breakfast.
Charley attacked the kettle too — as he said “ out of
sympathy,” although he “ wasn’t hungry a bit.” And
really, for a man who was not hungry, and had supped
half an hour before, the appetite of sympathy was Wonder
fully strong.


116 1 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
But Harry's powers of endurance were now exhausted.
He had spent a long day of excessive fatigue and excite
ment; and, having wound it up with a heavy supper,
sleep began to assail him with a fell ferocity that nothing
could resist. He yawned once or twice, and sat on the
bed, blinking unmeaningly at the fire, as if he had some
thing to say to it, which he could not recollect just
then. He nodded violently, much to his own surprise,
once or twice, and began to address remarks to the
kettle instead of to his friend. “ I say, Charley, this
won’t do. I’m off to bed! ” and, suiting the action to
the word, he took off his coat and placed it on his pillow.
He then removed his moccasons, which were wet, and
put on a dry pair; and this being all that is ever done
in the way of preparation before going to bed in the
woods,, he lay down and pulled the green blankets over
him.
Before doing so, however, Harry leant his head on his
hands and prayed. This was the one link left of the
chain of habit with which he had left home. Until the
period of his departure for the wild scenes of the North
west, Harry had lived in a quiet, happy home in the
West Highlands of Scotland, where he had been sur
rounded by the benign influences of a family, the
members of which were united by the sweet bonds, of
Christian love, — bonds which were strengthened by the
additional tie of amiability of disposition. From child
hood he had been accustomed to the routine of a pious
and well-regulated household, where the Bible was pe
rused and spoken of with an interest that indicated a
genuine hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and
where the name of Jesus sounded often and. sweetly on
the ear. Under such training, Harry, though naturally


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
117
of a wild, volatile disposition, was deeply and irresistibly-
impressed with a reverence for sacred things, which, now
that he was thousands of miles away from his peaceful
home, clung to him with the force of old habit.and asso
ciation, despite the jeers of comrades, and the evil in
fluences and ungodliness by which he was surrounded.
It is true that he was not altogether unhurt by the wither
ing indifference to God that he beheld on all sides. Deep
impression is not renewal of heart. But early training
in the path of Christian love saved him many a deadly
fall. It guarded him from many of the grosser sins into
which other boys, who had merely broken away from
the restraints of home, too easily fell. It twined round
him — as the ivy encircles the oak — with a soft, tender,
but powerful grasp, that held him back when he was
tempted to dash aside all restraint — and held him up,
when, in the weakness of his human nature, he was
about to fall. It exerted its benign sway over him in the
silence of night when his thoughts reverted to home, and
during his waking hours, when he wandered from scene
to scene in the wide wilderness; and in after-years, when
sin prevailed, and intercourse with rough men had worn
off much of at least the superficial amiability of his char
acter, and to some extent blunted the finer feelings of his
nature, it clung faintly to him still, in the memory of
his mother’s gentle look and tender voice, and never
forsook him altogether. Home had a blessed and power
ful influence on Harry. May God bless such homes,
where the ruling power is love ! God bless and multiply
such homes in the earth ! Were there more of them,
there would be 1 fewer heart-broken mothers, to weep over
the memory of the blooming,, manly boys they sent away
to foreign climes — with trembling hearts, but high hopes


118
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
— and never saw them more. They were vessels launch
ed upon the troubled sea of time, with stout timbers,
firm masts, and gallant sails, — with all that was neces
sary above and below, from stem to stern, for battling
with the billows of adverse fortune, for stemming the
tide of opposition, for riding the storms of persecution,
or bounding with a press of canvas before the gales of
prosperity; but without the rudder — without the guid
ing principle that renders the great power of plank and
sail and mast available; with which the vessel moves
obedient to the owner’s will; without which, it drifts
about with every current, and sails along with every shift
ing wind that blows. ‘Yes; may the best blessings of
prosperity and peace rest on such families, whose bread,
cast continually on the waters, returns to them after many
days!
After Harry had lain down, Charley, who did not feel
inclined for repose, sauntered to the margin of the lake,
and sat down upon a rock.
It was a beautiful calm evening. The moon shone
faintly through a mass of heavy clouds, casting a pale
light on the waters of Lake Winnipeg, which stretched,
without a ripple, out to the distant horizon. The great
fresh-water lakes of America bear a strong resemblance
to the sea. In Storms the waves rise mountains high,
and break with heavy sullen roar upon a beach, com
posed, in many places, of sand and pebbles ; while they
are so large that one not only looks out to a straight
horizon, but may even sail out of sight of land altogether.
As Charley sat resting his head on his hand, and
listening to the soft hiss that the ripples made upon the
beach, he felt all the solemnizing influence that steals
irresistibly over the mind as we sit on a still night gazing


FROM-THE FAR NORTH.
119
out upon the moonlit sea. 'His thoughts were sad; for
he thought of Kate, and his mother and father, and the
home he was now leaving. He remembered all that he
had ever done to injure or annoy the dear ones he was
leaving; and it is strange how much alive our con
sciences become, when we are unexpectedly or suddenly
removed from those with whom we have lived and held
daily intercourse. How bitterly we reproach ourselves
for harsh words, unkind actions ; and how intensely we
long for one word more with them, one fervent embrace,
to prove at once that all we have ever said or done was
not meant ill; and, at any rate, is deeply, sincerely
repented of now ! As Charley looked up into the starry
sky, his mind recurred to the parting words of Mr.
Addison. With uplifted hands and a full heart, he
prayed that God would bless, for Jesus’s sake, the be
loved ones in Red River, but especially Kate; for, whether
he prayed or meditated, Charley’s thoughts always ended
with Kate.
A black cloud passed across the moon, and reminded
him that but a few hours of the night remained ; so,
hastening up to the camp again, he lay gently down
beside his friend, and drew the green blanket over him.
In the camp all was silent. The men had chosen their
several beds according to fancy, under the shadow of a
bush or tree. The fires had burnt low — so low, that it
was with difficulty Charley as he lay could discern the-
recumbent forms of the men, whose presence was in
dicated by the deep, soft, regular breathing of tired, but
healthy constitutions. Sometimes a stray moonbeam shot
through the leaves and branches, and cast a ghostlike,
flickering light over the scene, which ever and anon was
rendered more mysterious by a red flare of the fire as an


120
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
ember fell, blazed up for an instant, and left all shrouded
in greater darkness than before.
At first, Charley continued his sad thoughts, staring
all the while at the red embers of the expiring fire; but
soon his eyes began to blink, and the stumps of trees
began to assume the form of voyageurs, and voyageurs
to look like stumps of trees. Then a moonbeam darted
in, and Mr. Addison stood on the other side of the .fire.-
At this sight Charley started, and Mr. Addison dis
appeared, while the boy smiled to think how he had been
dreaming while only half-asleep. Then Kate appeared, -
and seemed to smile on him; but another ember fell,
and another red flame sprang up, and put her to flight
too. Then a low sigh of Avind rustled through the
branches, and Charley felt sure that he saw Kate again
coming through the woods, singing the low, soft tune that
she Avas so fond of singing, because it Avas his own
favorite air. But soon the air ceased; the fire faded
away:; so did the trees, and the sleeping voyageurs ; Kate -
last of all dissolved, and Charley sank into a' deep, un
troubled slumber.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
121
CHAPTER X.
VARIETIES, VEXATIONS, AND VICISSITUDES. 1
L IFE is checkered, — there is no doubt about that;
whatever doubts a man may entertain upon other
subjects, he can have none upon this, we feel quite cer
tain. In fact, so true is it, that We would not. for a
moment have drawn the reader’s attention to it here,
were it not that our experience of life in the back
woods corroborates the truth, — and truth, however well
corroborated, is none the worse of getting a little additional
testimony now and then, in this skeptical generation. ,
Life is checkered, then, undoubtedly. And life in the
backwoods strengthens the proverb, for it is a peculiar
ly striking and remarkable specimen of life’s variegated
character.
There is a difference between sailing smoothly along
the shores of Lake Winnipeg with favoring breezes, and
being tossed on its surging billows by the howling of
a nor’west wind, that threatens destruction to the boat,
or forces it to seek shelter on the shore. This difference
is one of the’ checkered scenes of which we write, and
one that was experienced by the brigade more than once,
during its passage across the lake.
Since we are dealing in truisms, it may not, perhaps,
be out of place here to say, that going to bed at night is
not by any means getting up in the morning, — at least so


122 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
several of our friends found to be the case, when the deep
sonorous voice of Louis Peltier sounded through the
campon the following morning, just as a very faint,
scarcely perceptible, light tinged the eastern sky.
“ Leve ! leve ! leve! ” he cried; “ leve ! leve l mes
enfans ! ”
Some of Louis’s infants replied to the summons in a
way that would have done credit to a harlequin. One or
two active little Canadians, on hearing the cry of the awful
word, leve, rose to their feet with a quick bound, as if
they had been keeping up an appearance of sleep as a
sort of practical joke all night, on purpose to be ready to
leap as the first sound fell from the guide’s lips. Others :
lay still, in the same attitude in which they had fallen
asleep, having made up their minds, apparently, to lie
there in spite of all the guides in the world. Not a few;
got slowly into the sitting position, their hair dishevelled,
their caps awry, their eyes alternately winking very hard
and staring awfully in the vain effort to keep open, and.
their whole physiognomy wearing an expression of blank
stupidity that is peculiar to man when engaged in that
struggle which occurs each morning as he endeavors to
disconnect and shake off* the entanglement of nightly
dreams, and the realities of the breaking day. Through
out the whole camp there was a low muffled sound, as of-
men moving lazily, with broken whispers and disjointed
sentences uttered in very deep hoarse tones, mingled with
confused, unearthly noises, which, .upon consideration,
sounded like prolonged yawns. Gradually these sounds
increased, for the guide’s “ leve ” is inexorable, and the
voyageur’s fate inevitable.
“ Oh, dear!—■ yei a — a —— ow ” {yawning) ; “ hang
your leve / ”


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
123
“ Oui, vraiment — yei a — a o\v — morbleu! ”
“ Eli, what’s that ?- Oh, misere ! ”
“ Tare an’ ages ! ” (from an Irishman,) “ an’ I had only
got to slaape yit! hut — yei a — a ow ! ”
French and Irish yawns are very similar, the only
difference being, that whereas the Frenchman finishes the
yawn resignedly, and springs to his legs, the Irishman
finishes it with an. energetic gasp, as if he were hurling
it remonstratively into the face of Fate, turns round again
and shuts his eyes doggedly, — a piece of bravado which
he knows is useless and of very short duration.’
“ Leve ! leve !! leve !!! ” There was no mistake this
time in the tones of Louis’s voice. “ Embark, embark,
vite ! vite ! ”
The subdued sounds of rousing broke into a loud
buzz of active preparation, as the men busied themselves
in bundling up blankets, carrying down camp-kettles to
the lake, launching the boats, kicking up lazy, comrades,
stumbling over and swearing at fallen trees which were
not visible in the cold uncertain light of the earlyMawn,
searching hopelessly, among a tangled conglomeration of
leaves and broken branches and crushed herbage for lost
pipes and missing tobacco-pouches.
“ Iiallo! ” exclaimed Harry Somerville, starting sud
denly from his sleeping ; posture, and unintentionally
cramming his elbow into Charley’s mouth; “ I declare
they’re all up and nearly ready to start.”
“ That’s no reason,” replied Charley, “ why you should
knock out all my front teeth, is it ? ”
Just then Mr. Park issued from his tent, dressed and
ready to step into his boat. He first gave a glance round
the camp to see that all the men were moving, then he
looked up through the trees to ascertain the present state,


124 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
and, if possible, the future prospects of the weather.
Having come to a satisfactory conclusion on that head, he
drew forth his pipe and began to fill it, when his eye fell
on the two boys, who were still sitting up in their lairs,
and staring idiotically at the place where the fire had
been, as if the white ashes, half-burnt logs, and bits of
charcoal, were a sight of the most novel and interesting
character, that filled them with intense, amazement.
Mr. Park could scarce forbear smiling.
“ Hallo, youngsters, precious voyageurs you’ll make, to;
be sure, if this is the way you’re going to begin. Don’t
you see that the things are all aboard, and we’ll be ready
to start in five minutes, and you sitting there with your
neckcloths off ? ”
Mr. Park gave a slight sneer when he spoke of neck-,
cloths, as if he thought in the first place, that they were
quite superfluous portions of attire, and, in the second
place, that having once put them on, the taking of them
off at night was a piece of effeminacy altogether unwor
thy of a Nor’wester.
, Charley and Harry needed no second rebuke. It
flashed instantly upon them that, sleeping comfortably
under their blankets when the men were bustling about
the camp, was extremely inconsistent with the heroic
resolves of the previous day. They sprang up, rolled
their blankets in the oil-cloths, which they fastened
tightly with ropes; tied the neckcloths, held in such con
tempt by Mr. Park, in a twinkling; threw on their coats,
and in less than five minutes were ready to embai’k..
They then found that they might have done things more
leisurely, as the crews had not yet got all their traps on
board, so they began to look around them, and discov
ered that each had omitted to pack up a blanket.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
125
Very much crestfallen at their stupidity, they pro
ceeded to untie the bundles again, when it became ap
parent to the eyes of Charley that his friend had put on
his capote inside out, which had a peculiarly ragged and
grotesque effect. These mistakes Avere soon rectified;
and shouldering their beds, they carried them doAA r n to
the boat and tossed them in. Meamvhile, Mr. Park,
Avho had been watching the movements of the boys with
a peculiar smile, that filled them with confusion, went
round the different camps to see that nothing Avas left be
hind. . The men were all in their places with oars ready,
and the boats floating on the calm Avater, a yard or tAvo
from shore, with the exception of the guide’s boat, the
stern of which still rested on the sand, aAvaiting Mr. Park.
. “ Who does this belong to ? ” shouted that gentleman,
holding up a cloth cap, part of Avhich Avas of a mottled
broAvn and part deep blue.
Harry instantly tore the covering from his head, and
discovered that among his numerous mistakes he had put
on the head-dress of one of the Indians who had brought
him to the camp. To do him justice, the cap Avas not
unlike his own, excepting that it was a little more mot
tled and dirty in color, besides being decorated with a
igaudy but very much crushed and broken feather.
“ You had better change Avith our friend here, I think,”
said Mr. Park, grinning from ear to ear, as he tossed the
cap to its owner,while Harry handed the other to the
Indian, amid the laughter of the crew.
“ Never mind, boy,” added Mr. Park, in an encourag
ing tone, “ you’ll make a voyageur yet. Noav then, lads,
give Avay,” and with a nod to the Indians, Avho stood on
the shore watching their departure, the trader sprang
into the boat and took his place beside the tAvo boys.


126 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS.
“ Ho! sing, mes garponsj” cried the guide, seizing the
massive sweep and directing the boat out to sea.
At this part of the lake there occurs a deep bay or
inlet, to save rounding which travellers usually, strike
straight across from point to point, making what is called
in voyageur parlance a traverse. These traverses are
subjects of considerable anxiety, and frequently of delay
to . travellers, being sometimes of considerable extent,
varying from four and five—and, in such immense seas
as Lake Superior—to fourteen miles. With boats, in
deed, there is little to fear, as the inland craft of the fur
traders can stand a heavy sea, and often ride out a pre'tty
severe storm; but it is far otherwise with the bark canoes
that are often used in- travelling. These frail craft can
stand very little sea, — their frames being made of thin,
fiat slips of wood and sheets of bark, not more than a
quarter of an inch thick, which are sewed together with
the fibrous roots of the pine (called by the natives wat
tage), and rendered water-tight by means of melted gum.
Although light and buoyant therefore, and extremely use
ful in a country where portages are numerous, they re
quire very tender usage; and when a traverse has to be
made, the guides have always a grave consultation with
some of the most sagacious among the men, as to the
probability of the wind rising or falling; — consultations
which are more or less marked by anxiety and tediou
ness in proportion to the length of the traverse, the state
of the weather, and the courage or timidity of the guides.
On the present occasion there was no consultation, as
has been already seen. The traverse was a short one,
the morning fine, and the boats good. A warm glow be
gan to overspread the horizon, giving promise of a splen
did day, as the numerous oars dipped with a plash and a


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
127
loud liiss into the wdter, and sent the boats leaping forth
upon the white wave.
“Sing, sing!” cried the guide again; and clearing his
throat, he began the beautiful quick-tuned canoe song,
“Rose Blanche,” to which the men chorused with such
power of lungs, that a family of plovers which, up to that
time, had stood in mute astonishment on a sandy point,
tumbled precipitately into the water, from which they
rose with a shrill, inexpressibly wild, plaintive cry, and
fled screaming away to a more secure refuge among the:
reeds and sedges of a swamp. A number of ducks, too,
awakened by the unwonted sound, shot suddenly out
from the concealment of their night’s bivouac with erect
heads and startled looks, spluttered heavily over the sur
face of their liquid bed, and rising into the air, flew in a
wide circuit, with whistling wings,. away from the scene
of so much uproar and confusion.
The rough voices of the men grew softer and softer, as
the two Indians listened to the song of their departing
friends, mellowing down and becoming more harmonious
and more plaintive as the distance increased, and the
boats grew smaller and smaller, until they were lost in
the blaze of light that now bathed both water and sky in
the eastern horizon, and began rapidly to climb the ze
nith, while the sweet tones became less and less audible
as they floated faintly across the still water, and melted
at last into the deep silence of the wilderness.
The two Indians still stood, with downcast heads and
listening ears, as if they loved the last echo of the dying
music, while their grave, statue-like forms, added to,
rather than detracted from, the solitude of the deserted
scene.
I


128 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
CHAPTER XI.
CHARLEY AND HARRY BEGIN THEIR SPORTING CAREER, WITH
OUT MUCH SUCCESS; WHISKY-JOHN CATCHING.
T HE place in the boats usually allotted to gentle
men in the Company’s service while travelling is
the stern. Here the lading is so arranged as to form a ‘
pretty level hollow, where the flat bundles containing
their blankets are placed, and a couch is thus formed
that rivals Eastern effeminacy in luxuriance. There
are occasions, however, when this couch is converted
into a bed, not of thorns exactly, but of corners ; and>:
really, it would be hard to say which of the two is the
more disagreeable. Should the men be careless in ar- .
ranging, the cargo, the inevitable consequence is, that
monsieur ” will find the leg of an iron stove, the sharp
edge of a keg, or the corner of a wooden box, occupy
ing the place where his ribs should be. So common,
however, is this occurrence that the clerks usually su
perintend the arrangements themselves, and r so secure
comfort.
On a couch, then, of this kind, Charley and Harry
now found themselves constrained to sit all morning;
sometimes asleep, occasionally awake, and always ear
nestly desiring that it was time to put ashore for break
fast, as they had now travelled for four hours without
halt, except twice for about five minutes, to let the men
light their pipes.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
129
“ Charley,” said Harry Somerville to his friend, who
sat beside him, “ it strikes me that we are to have no
breakfast at all to-day. Here have I been holding my
breath and tightening my belt, until I feel much more
like a spider or a wasp, than a — a ”
“Man, Harry; out with it at once, don’t be afraid,”
said Charley.
“ Well, no, I wasn’t going to have said that exactty, but
I was going to have said, a voyageur, only I recollected
our doings this morning, and hesitated to take the name
until I had won it.”
“ It’s well that you entertain so modest an opinion of
yourself,” said Mr. Park, who still smoked his pipe as if
he were impressed with the idea that to stop for a moment
would produce instant death. “ I may tell you for your
comfort, youngsters, that we sha’n’t breakfast till we reach
yonder point.”
The shores of Lake Winnipeg are flat and low, and
the point indicated by Mr. Park lay directly in the light
of the sun, which now shone with such splendor in the
cloudless sky, and flashed on the polished water, that
it was with difficulty they could look towards the point
of land.
“ Where is it ? ” asked Charley, shading his eyes with
his hand; “ I cannot make out anything at all.”
“ Try again, my boy; there’s nothing like practice.”
“Ah! yes, I make it out now, a faint shadow just under
the sun. Is that it ? ”
“Ay, and we’ll break our fast there.”
“ I would like very much to break your head here”
thought Charley, but he did not say it; as, besides being
likely to produce unpleasant consequences, he felt that
such a speech to an elderly gentleman would be highly


130
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
improper; and Charley had some respect for gray hairs,
for their own sake, whether the owner of them was a
good man or a goose. • ,
“ What shall we do, Harry ? If I had only thought of
keeping out a book.”
“ I know what I shall do,” said Harry, with a resolute
air ; “Til go and shoot! ”
“ Shoot!”' cried Charley; “ you don’t mean to say that
you’re going to waste your powder and shot by firing at
the clouds; for, unless you take them, I see nothing else
here.”
“That’s because you don’t use your eyes,” retorted
• Harry. “ Will you just look at yonder rock ahead of us,
and tell me what you see.”
Charley looked earnestly at the rock, which, to a cur
sory glance, seemed -as if composed of whiter stone on
the top. “ Gulls ! I declare! ” shouted Charley; at the
same time jumping up in haste.
Just then one of the gulls, probably a scout sent out to
watch the approaching enemy, wheeled in a circle over
head. The two youths dragged their guns from beneath
the thwarts of the boat, and rummaged about in great
anxiety for shot-belts and powder-horns. At last, they
were found, and, having loaded, they sat on the edge of
the boat looking out for game with as much, — ay, with
more intense, interest than a Blackfoot Indian would have
watched for a fat buffalo cow.
“ There he goes,” said Harry; “ take the first shot,
Charley.”
“ Where ? where is it ? ”
“ Right ahead. Look out! ”
As Harry spoke, a small white gull, with bright red
legs and beak, flew over the boat so close to them that,


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
131
as the guide remarked, “ he could see it wink ! ” Char
ley’s equanimity, already pretty well disturbed, was en
tirely upset at the suddenness of the bird’s appearance,
for he had been gazing intently at the rock when his
friend’s exclamation drew his attention in time to see the
gull withig, about four feet of his head. With a sudden
“ Oh ! ” Charley threw forward his gun, took- a short,
wavering aim, and blew the cocktail feather out of Bap
tiste’s hat, while the gull sailed tranquilly away, assmuch
as to say, “ If that’s all you can do, there’s no need for
me to hurry! ”
“ Confound the boy ! ” cried Mr. Park ; “ you’ll be the
death of some one yet. I’m convinced of that.”
“ Parbleu ! you may say that, c’est vrai,” remarked the
voyageur, with a rueful gaze at his hat, which, besides
having its ornamental feather shattered, was sadly cut up
about the crown.
The poor lad’s face became much redder than the legs
or beak of the gull as he sat down in confusion, which he
sought to hide by busily reloading his gun ; while the
men indulged jn a somewhat witty and sarcastic criticism
of his powers of shooting, remarking, in flattering terms,
on the precision of the shot that blew Baptiste’s feather
into atoms, and declaring that if every shot he fired was
as truly aimed, he would certainly be the best in the
country.
Baptiste also came in for a share of their repartee.
“It serves you right,” said the guide, laughing, “for
weax-ing such things on the voyage. You should put
away such foppery till you return to the settlement,
where there are girls to admire you.” (Baptiste had con
tinued to wear the tall hat, ornamented with gold cords
and tassels, with which he had left Bed River.)


132 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
“ Ah ! ” cried another, pulling vigorously at his oar,
“ I fear that Marie won’t look at you, now that all your
beauty’s gone.”’
“ ’Tis not quite gone,” said a third; “ there’s all the
brim and half a tassel left, besides the wreck of the re
mainder.” • .
“ Oh ! I can lend you a few fragments,” refflked Bap
tiste, endeavoring to parry some of the thrusts. “ They
would improve you vastly.”
“ No, no, friend, gather them up and replace them ;
they will look more picturesque and becoming now. I
believe if you had worn them much longer all the men in
the boat would have fallen in love with you.”
“ By St. Patrick! ” said Mike Brady — an Irishman who
sat at the oar immediately behind the unfortunate Cana
dian— “there’s more than enough o’rubbish scattered
over mysilf nor. would do to stuff a fither-bed with.”
As Mike spoke, he collected the fragments of feathers
and ribbons with which the unlucky shot had strewn
him, and placed them slyly on the top of the dilapidated
hat, which Baptiste, after clearing away the wreck, had
replaced on his head.
“ It’s very purty,” said Mike, as the action was received
by the crew with a shout of merriment.
Baptiste was waxing wrathful under this fire, when the
general attention was drawn again towards Charley and
his friend, who, having now got close to the .rock, had
quite forgotten their mishap in the excitement of expec
tation.
This excitement in the shooting of such small game
might perhaps surprise our readers, did we not acquaint
them with the fact that neither of the boys had, up to
that time, enjoyed much opportunity of shooting. It is


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
133
true that Harry had once or twice borrowed the fowling-
piece of the senior clerk, and had sallied forth with a
heating heart to pursue the grouse which are found in
the belt of woodland skirting the Assinaboine River, near
to Fort Garry. But these expeditions were of rare oc
currence, and they had not sufficed to rub off much of the
bounding excitement with which he loaded and fired at
anything and everything that came within range of his
gun. Charley, on the other hand, had never fired a shot
before, except out of an old horse-pistol; having, up to
this period, been busily engaged at school, except during
the holidays, which he always spent in the society of his
sister Kate, whose tastes were not such as were likely to
induce him to take up the gun, even if he had possessed
such a weapon. Just before leaving Red River his father
presented him with his own gun, remarking as he did so,
with a sigh, that his day was past now ; and adding, that
the gun was a good one for shot or ball, and if he (Char
ley) brought down half as much game with it as he (Mr.
Kennedy) had brought down in the course of his life he
might consider himself a crack shot, undoubtedly.
It was not surprising, therefore, that the two friends
went nearly mad with excitation when the whole flock of
gulls rose into the air like a white cloud, and sailed in
endless circles and gyrations above and around their
heads; — flying so close at times that they might almost
have been caught by the hand. Neither was it surpris
ing that innumerable shots were fired, by both sportsmen,
without a single bird being a whit the worse for it, nor
themselves much the better ;*the energetic efforts made
to hit being rendered abortive by the very eagerness
which caused them to miss. And this was the less extra
ordinary, too, when it is remembered that Harry in his


134
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
haste loaded several times without shot, and Charley ren
dered the right barrel of his gun hors de combat at last,
by ramming down a charge of shot and omitting powder
altogether, whereby he snapped and primed, and snapped
and primed again, till he grew desperate, and then sus
picious of the true cause, which he finally rectified with
much difficulty.
Frequently the gulls flew straight over the heads of
the youths, which produced peculiar consequences, — as,
in such cases, they took aim while the birds were ap
proaching, but being somewhat slow at taking aim, the
gulls were almost perpendicularly above them ere they
were ready to shoot, so that they were obliged to fire
hastily in hope, feeling that they were losing their bal
ance, or give up the chance altogther.
Mr. Park sat grimly in his place all the while, enjoy
ing the scene, and smoking.
“ Now then, Charley,” said he, “ take that fellow.”
“ Which ? Where ? Oh ! if I could only get one,”
said Charley, looking up eagerly at the screaming birds,
at which he had been staring so long, in their varying
and crossing flight, that his sight had become hopelessly
unsteady.
“ There ! Look sharp ; fire away ! ”
Bang went Charley’s piece, as he spoke, at a gull
which flew straight towards him, but so rapidly that it
was directly above his head ; indeed, he was leaning a
little backwards at the moment, which caused him to
miss again, while the recoil of the gun brought matters
to a climax, by toppling him over into Mr. Park’s lap,
thereby smashing that gentleman’s pipe to atoms. The
fall accidentally exploded the second barrel, causing the
butt to strike Charley in the pit of his stomach, — as if


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
135
to ram him well home into Mr. Park’s open arms, — and
hitting, with a stray shot, a gull that was sailing high up
in the sky in fancied security. It fell with a fluttering
crash into the boat, while the men were laughing at the
accident.
“ Didn’t I say so ? ” cried Mr. Park, wrathfully. as he
pitched Charley out of his lap, and spat out the remnants
of his broken pipe.
Fortunately for all parties, at this moment, the boat
approached a spot on which the guide had resolved to
land for breakfast; and, seeing the unpleasant predica
ment into which poor Charley had fallen, he assumed the
strong tones of command with which guides are fre
quently gifted, and called out, —
“ Ho ! ho ! a terre ! d terre ! to land! to land ! Break
fast, my boys; breakfast! ” at the same time sweeping
the boat’s head shoreward, and running into a rocky bay,
whose margin Avas fringed by a groAvth of small trees.
Here, in a feAv minutes, they were joined by the other
boats of the brigade, Avhicli had kept within sight of each
other nearly the whole morning.
While travelling through the Avilds of North America
in boats, voyageurs ahvays make a point of landing to
breakfast. Dinner is a meal Avith Avhich they are unac
quainted, at least on the voyage, and luncheon is lilce-
Avise unknown. If a man feels hungry during the day,
the pemmican bag and its contents are there; he may
pause in his work at any time, for a minute, to seize the
axe and cut off a lump, Avhich he may devour as he best
can; but there is no going ashore — no resting for dinner.
Two great meals are recognized, and the time allotted
to their preparation and consumption held inviolable,—
breakfast and supper; — the first varying between the


136
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
hours of seven and nine in the morning; the second
about sunset, at which time travellers usually encamp
for the night. Of the two meals, it would be difficult
to say which is more agreeable. For our own part, we
prefer the former. It is the meal to which a man ad
dresses himself with peculiar gusto, especially if he has
been astir three or four hours previously in the open
air. It is the time of day, too, when the spirits are
freshest and highest, animated by the prospect of the
work, the difficulties, the pleasures, or the adventures of
the day that has begun; and cheered by that cool, clear
buoyancy of Nature, which belongs exclusively to the
happy morning hours, and has led poets in all ages to
compare these hours to the first sweet months of spring,
or the early years of childhood.
Voyageurs, not less than poets, have felt the exhilarat
ing influence of the young day, although they have lacked
the power to tell it in sounding numbers; but, where
words -were wanting, the sparkling eye, the beaming
countenance, the light step, and hearty laugh, were more
powerful exponents of the feelings within. Poet, and
painter too, might have spent a profitable hour on the
shores of that great sequestered lake; and, as they
watched the picturesque groups, — clustering round the
blazing fires, preparing their morning meal, smoking
their pipes, examining and repairing the boats, or sun
ning their stalwart limbs in wild, careless attitudes upon
the green sward, — might have found a subject worthy
the most brilliant effusions of the pen, or the most graphic
touches of the pencil.
An hour sufficed for breakfast. While it was prepar
ing, the two friends sauntered into the forest in search of
game, in which they were unsuccessful; in fact, with


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
137
the exception of the gulls before mentioned, there was not
a feather to be seen,—save, always, one or two whisky-
johns.
Whisky-johns are the most impudent, puffy, conceited
little birds that exist. Not much larger in reality than
- sparrows, they nevertheless manage to swell out their
feathers to such an extent that they appear to be as large
as magpies, which they farther resemble in their plumage.
Go where you will in the woods of Rupert’s Land, the
instant that you light a fire, two or three whisky-johns
come down and sit beside you, on a branch, it may be, or
on the ground, and generally so near that you cannot but
wonder at their recklessness. There is a species of im
pudence which seems to be specially attached to little
birds. In them it reaches the highest pitch of perfec
tion. A bold, swelling, arrogant effrontery; a sort of
stark, staring, self-complacent, comfortable, and yet inno
cent impertinence, which is at once irritating and amus
ing, aggravating and attractive, and which is exhibited in
the greatest intensity in the whisky-john. He will jump
down almost under your nose, and seize a fragment of
biscuit or pemmican. He will go right into the pemmi-
can bag, when you are but a few paces off, and pilfer,
as it were, at the fountain-head. Or, if these resources
are closed against him, he will sit on a twig, within an
inch of your head, and look at you as only a whisky-john
. can look.
“ I’ll catch one of these rascals,” said Harry, as he saw
them jump unceremoniously into and out of the pemmi
can bag.
Going down to the boat, Harry hid himself under the
tarpaulin, leaving a hole open near to the mouth of the
bag. He had not remained more than a few minutes


138 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
in this concealment, when one of the birds flew down, and
alighted on the edge of the boat. After a glance round
to see that all was right, it jumped into the bag. A mo
ment after, Harry, dai'ting his hand through the aperture,
grasped him round the neck, and secured him. Poor
whisky-john screamed and pecked ferociously, while
Harry brought him in ti’iumph to his friend ; but so un
remittingly did the bird scream,- that its captor was fain
at last to let him off, the more especially as the cook came
up at the moment and announced that breakfast was
ready.


PROM THE FAR NORTH.
139
CHAPTEE XII.
THE STORM.
T WO days after the events of the last chapter, the
brigade was making one of the traverses which
have already been noticed as of frequent occurrence in
the great lakes. The mdrning Avas calm and sultry. A
deep stillness pervaded nature, which tended to produce
a corresponding quiescence in-the mind, and to fill it
Avith those indescribably solemn feelings that frequently
arise before a thunderstorm. Dark, lurid clouds hung
overhead ■ in gigantic masses, piled above each other
like the battlements of a dark fortress, from whose rag
ged embrasures the artillery of heaven was about to
play.
‘•'Shall we get. over in time, Louis?” asked Mr.
Pai’k, as he turned to the guide, who sat holding the
tiller with a firm grasp ; while the men, aware of the
necessity of reaching shelter ere the storm burst upon
them, were bending to the oars with steady and sustained
energy.
“ Perhaps,” replied Louis, laconically. “ Pull, lads,
pull! else you’ll have to sleep in wet skins to-night.”
A low growl of distant thunder folloAved the guide’s
words, and the men pulled with additional energy; while
the slow, measured hiss of the water, and clank of oars,
as they cut SAviftly through the lake’s clear surface, alone
interrupted the dead silence that ensued.


140 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
Charley and his friend conversed in low whispers; for
there is a strange power in a thunderstorm, whether
raging or about to break, that overawes the heart of
man — as if Nature’s God were nearer then than at
other times; as if He—whose voice, indeed, if listened
to, speaks even in the slightest evolution of natural phe
nomena — were about to tread the visible earth with
more than usual majesty, in the vivid glare of the light
ning flash, and in the awful crash of thunder.
“ I don’t know how it is, but I feel more like a cow
ard,” said Charley, “ just before a thunderstorm, than I
think I should do in the arms of a polar bear. Do you
feel queer, Harry ? ”
“ A little,” replied Harry, in a low whisper ; “ and yet
I’m not frightened. I can scarcely tell what I feel; but
I’m certain-lt's not fear.”
“ Well, I don’t know,” said Charley. “When father’s
black bull chased Kate and me in the prairies, and almost
overtook us, as we ran for the fence of the big field, I
felt my heart leap to my mouth, and the blood rush
to my cheeks, as I turned about and faced him, while
Kate climbed the fence; but after she was over, I felt
a wild sort of wickedness in me, as if I should like to
tantalize and torment him; and I felt altogether dif
ferent from what I feel now while. I look up at these
black clouds. Isn’t there something quite awful in them,
Harry ? ” ,
Ere Harry replied, a bright flash of lightning shot
athwart the sky, followed by a loud roll of thunder, and
in a moment the wind rushed — like a fiend set suddenly
free — down upon the boats, tearing up the smooth sur
face of the water as it flew, and cutting it into gleaming
white streaks. Fortunately the storm came down behind


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
141
the boats, so that, after the first wild burst was over, they
hoisted a small portion of their lug sails, and scudded
rapidly before it.
There was still a considerable portion of the traverse
to cross, and the guide cast an anxious glance over his
.shoulder occasionally, as the dark waves began to rise,
and their crests were cut into white foam by the increas
ing gale. Thunder roared in continued, successive peals,
as if the heavens were breaking up ; while rain de
scended in sheets. For a time the crews continued to ply
their oars; but, as the wind increased, these w r ere ren
dered superfluous-. They were taken in, therefore, and
the men sought partial shelter under the tarpaulin ; while
Mr. Park and the two boys were covered, excepting their
heads, by an oil-cloth, which was always kept at hand in
rainy weather.
“ What think you now, Louis ? ” said Mr. Park, resum
ing the pipe which the sudden outburst of the storm had
caused him to forget. “ Have we seen the worst of it ? ”
Louis replied abruptly in the negative ; and, in a few
seconds, shouted loudly, “ Look out, lads ; here comes
a squall. Stand by to let go the sheet there ! ”
: Mike Brady, happening to be near the sheet, seized
hold of the rope, and prepared to let go’; while the men
rose, as if by instinct, and gazed anxiously at the ap
proaching squall, which could be seen in the distance,
extending along the horizon, like a bar of blackest ink,
spotted with flakes of white.. The guide sat with com
pressed lips and motionless as a statue, guiding the boat
as it bounded madly towards the land, which was now not
more than half a mile distant.
“ Let go! ” shouted the guide; in a voice that was
heard loud and clear above the roar of the elements.


142
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
“ Ay, ay,” replied the Irishman, untwisting the rope
instantly, as, with a sharp hiss, the squall descended on
the boat.
At that moment the rope became entangled round one
of the oars, and the gale burst witb all its fury on the
distended sail, burying the prow in the waves, which
rushed in-board in a black volume, and in an instant
half filled the boat.
“ Let go! ” roared the guide again, in a voice of
thunder ; while Mike struggled with awkward energy to
disentangle the rope.
As he spoke, an Indian, who during the storm had
been sitting beside the mast, gazing at the boiling water
with a grave contemplative aspect, sprang quickly for
ward, drew his knife, and, with two blows (so rapidly
delivered that they seemed but one) cut asunder, first
the sheet and then the halyards, which let the sail blow
out and fall flat upon the boat. He was just in time..
Another moment and the gushing water, which curled
over the bow, would have filled them to the gunwale. As
it was, the little vessel was so full of water that she lay
like a log, while every toss of the waves sent an addi
tional torrent into her.
“ Bail for your lives, lads,” cried Mr. Park, as he
sprang* forward, and, seizing a tin dish, began energet
ically to bail out the water. Following his example, the
whole crew seized whatever came first to hand in the
shape of dish or kettle, and began to bail. Charley and
Harry Somerville acted a vigorous part on this occasion;
the one with a bark dish, (which had been originally
made by the natives for the purpose of holding maple
sugar,) the other with his cap.
For a time, it seemed doubtful whether the curling


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
143
waves should send most water into the boat, or the crew
should bail most out of it. But the latter soon prevailed;
and in a few minutes, it was so far got under, that three
of the men were enabled to leave off bailing and reset
the sail, while Louis Peltier returned to his post at the
helm. At first the boat moved but slowly, owing to the
weight of water in her; but, as this grew gradually less,
she increased her speed and neared the land.
“Well done, Redfeather,” said Mr. Park, addressing
the Indian as he resumed his seat; “your knife did us
good service that time, my fine fellow.”
Redfeather, who was the only pure native in the brig
ade, acknowledged the compliment with a smile.
“Ah! oui” said the guide, whose features had now
lost their stern expression. “ Them Injins are always
ready enough with their knives. It’s not the first time
my life has been saved by the knife of a redskin.”
“ Humph ! bad luck to them,” muttered Mike Brady ;
“it’s not the first time that my windpipe has been pretty
near spiflicated by the knives o’ the redskins, the mur-
therin’ varmints! ”
As Mike gave vent to this malediction, the boat ran
swiftly past a low, rocky point, over which the surf was
breaking wildly.
“Down with the sail, Mike,” cried the guide, at the
same time putting the helm hard up. The boat flew
round obedient to the ruling power, made one last plunge
as it left the rolling surf behind, and slid gently and
smoothly into still water under the lee of the point.
Here, in the snug shelter of a little bay, two of the
other boats were found, with their prows already on the
beach, and their crews actively employed in landing their
goods, opening bales that had received damage from the


144 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
water, and preparing the encampment; while ever and
anon they paused a moment to watch the various boats
as they flew before the gale, and one by one doubled the
friendly promontory.
If there is one thing that provokes a voyageiir more
than another, it is being windbound on the shores of a
large lake. Rain or sleet, heat or cold, icicles forming
on the oars, or a bi’oiling.sun glaring in a cloudless sky,
the stings of sand-flies, or the sharp probes of a million
mosquitos, he will bear with comparative indifference;
but being detained by high wind for two, three, or four
days together,— lying inactively on shore, when every
thing else, it may be, is favorable, — the sun bright, the
sky blue, the air invigorating, and all but the wind pro
pitious,—is more than his philosophy can carry him
through with equanimity. He grumbles at it; some
times makes believe to laugh at it; very often, we are
sorry to say, swears at it; does his best to sleep through
it; but, whatever he does, he does with a bad grace, be
cause he’s in a bad humor and can’t stand it.
For the next three days this was the fate of our friends.
Part of the time it rained, when the whole party slept as
much as was possible, and then endeavored to sleep more
than was possible, under the shelter afforded by the
spreading branches of the trees. Part of the time was
fair, with occasional gleams of sunshine, when the men
turned out to eat, and smoke, and gamble round the fires ;
and the two friends sauntered down to a sheltered place
on the shore, sunned themselves in a warm nook among
the rocks, while they gazed ruefully at the foaming bil
lows, told endless stories of what they had done in time
past, and equally endless prospective adventures that they
earnestly hoped should befall them in time to come.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
145
While they were thus engaged, Redfeather, the Indian
who had cut the ropes so opportunely during the storm,
walked down to the shore, and sitting down on a rock
not far distant, fell apparently into a reverie.
“I like that fellow,” said Harry, pointing to the In
dian. '
“So do I. He’s a sharp, active man. Had it not
been for him we should have had to swim for it.”
“ Indeed, had it not been for him, I should liave had
to sink for it,” said Harry, with a smile, “ for I can’t
swim.”
“ Ah, true, I forgot that. I wonder what the redskin,
as the guide calls him, is thinking about,” added Charley,
in a musing tone.
“ Of home, perhaps,. ‘ sweet home,’ ” said Harry, with
a sigh. “ Do you think much of home, Charley, now
that you have left it ? ” '
Charley did not reply for a few seconds. He seemed
to muse over the question.
At last he said, slowly —
“ Think of home ? I think of little else when I am not
talking with you, Harry. My dear mother is always in
my thoughts, and my poor old father. Home, ay, and
darling Kate, too, is at my elbow night and day, with the
tears streaming from her eyes, and her ringlets scattered
over my shoulder, as I saw her the day we parted, beck
oning me back again, or reproaching me for having gone
away— God bless her ! Yes, I often, very often, think
of home, Harry.”
Harry made no reply. His friend’s words had directed
his thoughts to a very different and far distant scene — to
another Kate, and another father and mother, who. lived
in a glen far away over the waters of the broad Atlantic.


146 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
He thought of them as they used to be when he was one
of the number, a unit in the beloved circle, whose absence
would have caused a blank there. He thought of the
kind voice that used to read the Word of God, and the
tender kiss of his mother as they parted for the night.
He thought of the dreary day when he left them all
behind, and sailed away, in the midst of strangers; across
the'wide ocean to a strange land. He thought of them
now — without him — accustomed to his absence, and for
getful, perhaps, at times, that he had once been there.
As he thought of all this, a tear rolled down his cheek,
and when Charley looked up in his face, that tear-drop
told plainly that he too thought sometimes of home.
“ Let us ask Redfeather to tell us something about the
Indians,” he said, at length, rousing himself. “ I have no
doubt he has had many adventures in his life; shall we,
Charley?”
“ By all means. Ho, Redfeather! are you trying to
stop the wind by looking it out of countenance ? ”
The Indian rose and walked towards the spot where
the boys lay.
“ What was Redfeather thinking about,” said Charley,
adopting the somewhat pompous style of speech occasion
ally used by Indians. “ Was he thinking of the white
swan and his little ones in the prairie; or did he dream
of giving his enemies a good licking the next time he
meets them ? ”
“Redfeather has no enemies,” replied the Indian.
“ He was thinking of the great Manito,* who made the
wild winds, and the great lakes, and the forest.”
“ And, pray, good Redfeather, what did your thoughts
tell you ? ”
* God.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
147
.' “ They told me that men are very weak, and very
foolish, and wicked; and that Manito is very good and
patient to let them live.”
“ That is to say,” cried Harry, who was surprised and
a little nettled to-hear what he called the heads of a ser
mon from a redskin, “ lhat you, being a man, are very
weak, 'and very foolish, and wicked, and that Manito is
very good and patient to let you live ? ”
“ Good,” said the Indian, calmly; “ that is what I
mean.”
“ Come, Redfeather,” said Charley, laying his hand
on the Indian’s arm, “ sit down beside us, and tell us
some of your adventures. I know that you must have
had plenty, and it’s quite clear that we’re not to get
away from this place all day, so you’ve nothing better
to do.”
The Indian readily assented, and began his story in
English.
Redfeather was one of the vei’y few Indians who had
acquired the power of speaking the English language.
Having been, while a youth, brought much into contact
with the fur traders ; and, having been induced by them
to enter their service for a time, he had picked up enough
of English to make himself easily understood. Being
engaged at a later period of life as guide to one of the
exploring parties sent out by the British Government to
discover the famous Northwest Passage, he had learned
to read and write, and had become so much accustomed
to the habits and occupations of the “ pale-faces,” that he
spent more of his time, in one way or another, with
them than in the society of his tribe, which- dwelt in the
thick woods bordering on one of the great prairies of the
interior. He was about thirty years of age ; had a tall,


148 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
thin, but wiry and powerful frame, and was of a mild,
retiring disposition. His face wore a habitually grave
expression, verging towards melancholy; induced, prob
ably, by the vicissitudes of a wild life, (in which he had
seen much of the rugged side of nature in men and
things), acting upon a sensitive heart and a naturally
warm temperament. Redfeather, however, was by no
means morose; and when seated along with his Canadian,
comrades round the camp fire, he listened with evidently
genuine interest to their stories, and entered into the
spirit of their jests. But he was always an auditor, and
rarely took part in their conversations. He was fre
quently consulted by the guide in matters of difficulty,
and it was observed that the “ redskin’s ” opinion always
carried much weight with it, although it was seldom -,
given unless asked for. The men respected him much
because he was a hard worker, obliging, and modest, —
three qualities that insure respect, whether found under a
red skin or a white one.
“ I shall tell you,” he began, in a soft musing tone,
as if he were wandering in memories of the past; “ I
shall tell you how it was that I came by the name of Red-
feather.” •
“Ah!” interrupted Charley, “I intended to ask you
about that; you don’t wear one.”
“I did once. My father was ,a great warrior in his
tribe,” continued the Indian; “and I was but a youth
when I got the name.
“ My tribe was at war at the time with the Chipe-
wyans, and one of our scouts having come in with the
intelligence that a party of our enemies was in the neigh
borhood, our warriors armed themselves to go in pursuit
of them. I had been out once before with a war-party,


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
149
but bad not been successful, as the enemy’s scouts gave
notice of our approach in time to enable them to escape.
At the time the information was brought to us, the young
men of our village were amusing themselves with athletic
games, and loud challenges were being given and ac
cepted to wrestle, or race, or swim in the deep water
of the river, which flowed calmly past the green bank on
which our wigwams stood. On a bank near to us sat
about a dozen of our women, — some employed in orna
menting moccasons with colored porcupine-quills ; others
making rogans of bark for maple sugar, or nursing their
young infants; while a few, chiefly the old women,
grouped, themselves together and kept up an incessant
chattering, chiefly with'reference 'to the doings of the
young men.
“ Apart from these stood three or four of the prin
cipal men of our tribe, smoking their pipes, and al
though apparently engrossed in conversation, still evi
dently interested in what was going forward on the bank
of the river.
“ Among the young men assembled, there was one of
about my own age, who had taken a violent dislike to
me, because the most beautiful girl in all the village pre
ferred me before him. His name was Misconha. He
was a hot-tempered, cruel youth; and although I en
deavored as much as possible to keep out of his way, he
sought every opportunity of picking a quarrel with me.
I had just been running a race along with several other
youths, and, although not the winner, I had kept ahead
of Misconna all the distance. - He now stood leaning
against a tree, burning with rage and disappointment. I
was sorry for this, because I bore him no ill-will, and, if
it had occurred to me at the time, I would have al-


150 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
lowed him to pass me, since I was unable to gain the
race at any rate.
“ £ Dog ! ’ he said, at length, stepping forward and con
fronting me, ‘ will you wrestle ? ’
“ Just as he approached, I had turned round to leave
the place. Not wishing to have more to do with him, I
pretended not to hear, and made a step or two towards
the lodges. 1 Dog ! ’ he cried again, while his eyes flashed
fiercely, and he grasped me by the arm, £ will you wrestle,
or are you afraid ? Has the brave boy’s heart changed
into that of a girl ? ’
“ ‘ No, Misconna,’ said I. ‘ You /enow that I am not
afraid; but I have no desire to quarrel with you.’
“ ‘ You lie ! ’ cried he, with a cold sneer; £ you are afraid
— and see,’ he added, pointing towards the women with
a triumphant smile, ‘ the dark-eyed girl sees it and be
lieves it, too ! ’
“I turned to look, and there I saw Wabisca gazing on
me with a look of blank amazement. I could see, also,
that several of the other women, and some of my com
panions, shared in her surprise.
“ With a burst of anger I turned round. ‘ No, Mis
conna,’ said I, ‘ I am not afraid as you shall find; ’ and,
springing upon him, I grasped him round the body. He
was nearly, if not quite, as strong a youth as myself; but
I was burning with indignation at the insolence of his
conduct before so many of the women, which gave me
more than usual energy. For several minutes we swayed
to and fro, each endeavoring in vain to bend the other’s
back; but we were too well matched for this, and sought
to accomplish our purpose by taking advantage of an
unguarded movement. At last such a movement oc
curred. My adversary made a sudden and violent at-


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
151
tempt to throw me to the left, hoping that an inequality
in the ground would favor his effort. But he was mis
taken. I had seen the danger, and was prepared for it,
so that the instant he attempted it, I threw forward my
right leg, and thrust him backwards with all my might.
Misconna was quick in his motions. He saw my inten
tion,— too late, indeed, to prevent it altogether, but in
time to throw back his left foot and stiffen his body till it
felt like a block of stone. The effort was now entirely
one of endurance. We stood, each with his muscles
strained to the utmost, without the slightest motion. At
length I felt my adversary give way a little. Slight
though the motion was, it instantly removed all doubt as
to who should go down. My heart gave a bound of ex
ultation, and, with the energy which such a feeling always
inspires, I put forth all my strength, threw him heavily
over on his back, and fell upon him.
“A shout of applause from my comrades greeted me
as I rose and left the ground ; but at thevsame moment
the attention of all was taken from myself and the baffled
Misconna, by the arrival of the scout, bringing us infor
mation that a party of Chipewyans were in the neighbor
hood. In a moment all was bustle and preparation. An
Indian war-party is soon got ready. Forty of our braves
threw off the principal parts of their clothing; painted
their faces with stripes of vermilion and charcoal; armed
themselves with guns, bows, tomahawks, and scalping-
knives, and in a few minutes left the camp in silence and
at a quick pace.
“ One or two of the youths who had been playing on
the river’s bank were permitted to accompany the party,
and among these were Misconna and myself. As we
passed a group of women, assembled to see us depart, I


152 ' SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
observed the girl who had caused so much jealousy, be
tween us. She cast down her eyes as we came up, and
as we advanced close to the group she dropt a white
feather, as if by accident. Stooping hastily down, 1 picked
it up in passing, and stuck it in an ornamented band that
hound my hair. As we hurried on, I heard two or three
old hags laugh, and say, with a sneer, ‘ His .hand is as
white as the feather: it has never seen blood.’ The next
moment we were hid in the forest, and pursued our rapid
course in dead silence.
“ The country through which we passed was varied, —-
extending in broken bits of open prairie, and partly cov
ered with thick wood ; yet not so thick as to offer any
hinderance to our march. We walked in single file, each
treading in his comrade’s footsteps, while the band was
headed by the scout who had brought the information.
The. principal chief of our tribe came next, and he was
followed by the braves according to their age or influ
ence. Misconna and I brought up the rear. The sun
was just sinking as we left the belt of woodland in which
* our village stood, crossed over a short plain, descended a
dark hollow at the bottom of which the river flowed, and,
following its course for a considerable distance, turned off
to the right and emerged upon a sweep of prairie land.
Here the scout halted, and taking the chief and two or
three braves aside, entered into earnest consultation with
them.
“ What they said v r e could not hear; but as we stood
leaning on our guns in the deep shade of the /orest, w r e
could observe by their animated gestures that they dif
fered m opinion. We saw that the scout pointed several
- times to the moon, which was just rising above the tree-
tops, and then to the distant horizon, but the chief shook


FBOM THE FAR NORTH.
153
his head, pointed to the woods, and seemed to be much
in doubt, while the whole hand watched his motions in
deep silence, but evident interest. At length they ap- ^
peared to agree. . The scout took his place at the head
of the line, and we resumed our march, keeping close
to the margin of the wood. It was perhaps three hours
after this ere we again halted to hold another consulta
tion. This time their deliberations were shorter. In a
few seconds, our chief himself took the lead and turned
into the woods, through which he guided us to a small
fountain, which bubbled, up at the root of a birch-tree,.
where there was a smooth, green spot of level ground.
Here we halted, and, prepared to rest for an hour, at the
end of which time, the moon, which now shone bright and
full in the clear'sky, would be nearly down, and we could
resume our march. We now sat down in a circle, and,
taking a hasty mouthful of dried meat, stretched ourselves
on the ground with our arms beside us, while our chief
kept watch, leaning against the birch-tree. It seemed as .
if I had scarcely been asleep five minutes when I felt a
light touch on my shoulder. Springing up, I found the
whole party already astir, and in a few minutes more, we
were again hurrying onwards.
“We travelled thus until a faint light in the east told
us that the day was at hand, when the scout’s steps became
more cautious, and he paused to examine the ground fre
quently. At last we came to a place where the ground
sank slightly, and, at the distance of a hundred yards,
rose again, forming a low ridge which was crowned with
small bushes. Here we came to a°halt, and were told
that our enemies were on the other side of that ridge,
that they were about twenty in number, all Chipewyan
warriors, with the exception of one pale-face, — a trap-


154
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
per, and his Indian wife. The scout had learned, while
lying like a snake in-the grass around their camp, that
this man was merely travelling with them on his way to
the Rocky Mountains,, and that, as they were a war-
party, he intended to leave them soon. On hearing this
the warriors gave a grim smile, and our chief, directing
the scout to fall behind, cautiously led the way to the top
of the ridge. On reaching it we saw a valley of great
extent, dotted with trees and shrubs, and watered by one
of the many rivers that flow into the great Saskatche
wan. It was nearly dark, however, and we could only
get an indistinct view of the land. Far ahead of us, on
the right bank of the stream, and close to its margin, we
saw the faint red light of watcb-fires, which caused us
some surprise, for watch-fires are never lighted by a
war-party so near to an enemy’s country. So we could
only conjecture that they were quite ignorant of our
being in that part of the country, — which was, indeed,
.not unlikely, seeing that we had shifted our camp during
the summer.
“ Our chief now made arrangements for the attack.
We were directed to separate and approach individually
as near to the camp as was possible without risk of dis
covery, and then, taking up an advantageous position, to
await our chief’s signal — which was to be the hooting of
an owl. We immediately separated. My course lay
along the banks of the stream, and, as I strode rapidly
along, listening to its low, solemn murmur, which sounded
clear and distinct in the stillness of a calm summer night,
I could not help feeling as if it were reproaching me for
the bloody work I was hastening to perform. Then the
recollection of what the old women said of me, raised a
desperate spirit in my heart. Remembering the white


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
155
feather in my head, I grasped my gun and quickened my
pace. As I neared the camp, I went into the woods and
climbed a low hillock to look out. I found that it still
lay about five hundx-ed yards distant, and that the greater
part of the ground between it and the place where I
stood, was quite flat, and without cover of any kind. I
therefore prepared to creep towards it, although the
attempt was likely to be attended with great danger, for
Chipewyans have quick ears and sharp eyes. Observing,
however, that the river ran close past the camp, I deter
mined to follow its course as before. In a few seconds
more, I came to a dark, narrow gap where the river
flowed between broken rocks, overhung by branches, and
from which I could obtain a clear view of the camp within
fifty yards of me. Examining the priming of my gun, I
sat down on a rock to await the chiefs signal.
“ It was evident, irom the careless manner in which
the fires were placed, that no enemy was supposed to be
near. From my concealment I could plainly distinguish
ten or fifteen of the sleeping forms of our enemies,
among which the trapper was conspicuous,, from his
superior bulk, and the reckless way in which his brawny
arms were flung on the turf, while his right hand clutch-
,ed his rifle. I could not but smile as I thought of the
proud boldness of the pale-face — lying all exposed to
view in the gray light of dawn, while an Indian’s rifle
was so close at hand. One Indian kept watch, but he
seemed more' than half asleep. I had not sat more than
a minute, when my observations were . interrupted by
the cracking of a branch in the bushes near me.
Starting up, I was about to bound into the underwood,
when a figure sprang down the bank and rapidly ap
proached me. My first impulse was to throw forward


156" • SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
my gun, but a glance sufficed to sbow me that it was a
woman. •
“ c Wall! ’ I exclaimed, in surprise, as she hurried
forward and laid her hand on my shoulder. She was
dressed partly in the costume of the Indians, But wore a
shawl on her shoulders, and a handkerchief on her head,
that showed she had been in the settlements; and, from
the lightness of her skin and hair, I judged at once that
she was the trapper’s wife of whom I had heard the scout
speak.
“ Has the light-hair got a medicine bag, or does she
speak with spirits, that she has found me so easily ? ’
“ The girl looked anxiously up in my face as if to read
my thoughts, and then said, in a low voice —
“ 1 No, I neither carry the medicine bag nor hold pa
laver with spirits; but I do think the good Manito must
have led me here. I wandered into the woods because I
could not sleep, and I saw you pass. But tell me,’ she
added with still deeper anxiety, ‘ does the white feather
come alone ? Does he approach friends during the dark
hours with a soft step like a fox ? ’
“ Feeling the necessity of detaining her until my com
rades should have time to surround the camp, I said —
‘ The white feather hunts far from his lands! He sees
Indians whom he does not know, and must approach with
a light step. Perhaps they are enemies.’
“ ‘ Do Knisteneux hunt at night, prowling in the bed
of a stream ? ’ said the girl, still regarding me with a
keen glance. ‘ Speak truth, stranger ’ (and she started
suddenly back) ; ‘in a moment I can alarm the camp
with a cry, and if your tongue is forked!—but I do not
wish to bring enemies upon you, if they are indeed such.
I am not one of them. My husband and I travel with


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
157
them for a time. We do not desire to see blood. God
knows,’ she added, in French, which seemed her native
tongue, 1 1 have seen enough of that already.’
“As her earnest eyes looked into my face, a sudden
thought occurred to me. 1 Go,’ said I, hastily, ‘ tell your
husband to leave the camp instantly, and meet me here ;
and see that the Chipewyans do not observe your de
parture. Quick! his life and yours may depend on your
speed.’
“ The girl instantly comprehended my meaning. In
a moment she 'sprang up the bank; but as she did so, the
loud report of a gun was heard, followed by a yell, and
the warwhoop of the Knisteneux rent the air as they
rushed upon the devoted camp, sending arrows and bul
lets before them.
“ On the instant, I sprang after the girl and grasped
her by the arm. ‘ Stay, white-cheek, it is too late now.
You cannot save your husband, but I think he’ll save
himself. I saw him dive into the bushes like a carriboo.
Hide yourself here, perhaps you may escape.’
“ The half-breed girl sank on a fallen tree with a deep
' groan, and clasped her hands convulsively before her
eyes, while I bounded over the tree, intending to join my
comrades in pursuing the enemy.
“As I did so a shrill cry arose behind me, and, look
ing back, I beheld the trapper’s wife prostrate on the
ground, and Misconna standing over her, his spear up
lifted, and a fierce frown on his dark face.
“ 1 Hold,’ I cried, rushing back and seizing his arm.
c Misconna did not come to kill women. She is not our
enemy.’
“ £ Does the young wrestler want another wife ? ’ he
said with a wild laugh, at the same time wrenching his


158
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
arm from my gripe, and driving his spear through the
fleshy part of the woman’s breast and deep into the
ground. A shriek' rent the air as he drew it out again
to repeat the thrust; but, before he could do so, I struck
him with-the butt of my gun on the head. Stagger
ing backwards, he fell heavily among the bushes. At
this moment a second whoop rang' out, and another of
our band sprang from the thicket that surrounded us.
Seeing no one but myself and the bleeding girl, he gave
me a short glance of surpi’ise, as if he wondered why I
did not finish the work which he evidently supposed I
-had begun.
“‘Wall!’ he exclaimed; and uttering another yell
plunged his spear into the woman’s breast, despite my
efforts to prevent him — this time with more deadly
effect, as the blood spouted from the wound, while she
uttered a piercing scream, and twined her arms round
my legs as I stood beside her, as if imploring for mercy.
Poor girl! I saw that she was past my help. The wound
was evidently mortal.' Already the signs of death over
spread her features, and I felt that a second blow would
be one of mercy; so that when the Indian stooped and
passed his long knife through her heart, I made but a
feeble effort to prevent it. Just as the man rose, with
the warm blood dripping from his keen blade, the sharp
crack of a rifle was heard, and the Indian fell dead at
my feet, shot through the forehead, while the trapper
bounded into the open space, his massive frame quiver
ing, and his sunburnt face distorted with rage and hor
ror. From the other side of the brake, six of our band
rushed forward and levelled their guns at him. For
one moment the trapper paused to cast a glance at the
mangled corpse of his wife, as if to make quite sure that


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
159
she was dead; and then uttering a howl of despair,
he hurled his axe. with a giant’s force at the Knis-
teneux, and disappeared over the precipitous bank of the
stream.
“ So rapid was the action, that the volley which imme
diately succeeded passed harmlessly over his head, while
the Indians dashed forward in pursuit. At the same in
stant I myself was felled to the earth. The axe which
the trapper had flung struck a tree in its flight, and, as it
glanced off, the handle gave me a violent blow in passing.
I fell stunned. As I did so, my head alighted on the
shoulder of the woman, and the last thing I felt, as my
wandering senses forsook me, was her still warm blood
flowing over my face and neck.
“ While this scene was going on, the yells and screams
of the warriors in the camp became fainter and fainter as
they pursued and fled through the woods. The whole
band of Chipewyans was entirely routed, with the excep
tion of four who escaped, and the trapper whose flight I
have described; all the rest were slain, and their scalps
hung at the belts of the victorious Knisteneux warriors,
while only one of our party was killed.
“ Not more than a few minutes after receiving the blow
that stunned me, I recovered, and rising as hastily as my
scattered faculties would permit me, I staggered towards
the camp, where I heard the shouts of our men as. they
collected the arms of their enemies. As I rose, the
feather which Wabisca had dropped fell from my brow,
and, as I picked it up to replace it, I perceived that it
was red; being entirely covered with the blood of the
half-breed girl.
“ The place where Misconria had fallen was vacant as
1 passed, and I found him standing among his comrades


160 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
round the camp fires, examining the guns and other
articles which they had collected. lie gave me a short
glance of deep hatred as I passed, and turned his head
hastily away. A. few minutes sufficed to collect the spoils,
and so rapidly had everything been done, that the light of
day was still faint as we silently returned on .our track.
We marched in the same order as before, Misconna and I
bringing up the rear. As we passed near the place where
the poor woman had been murdered, I felt a strong de
sire to return to the spot. I could not very'well under
stand the feeling, but it lay so strong upon me, that when
we reached the ridge where we first came in sight of the
Chipewyan camp, I fell behind until my companions dis
appeared in the woods, and then ran swiftly back. Just
as I was about to step beyond the circle of bushes that
surrounded the spot, I saw that some one was there be
fore me. It was a man, and, as he advanced into the
open space and the light fell on his face, I saw that it
was the trapper. No doubt, he had watched us off the
ground, and then, when all was safe, returned to bury his
wife. I crouched to watch him. Stepping slowly up to
the body of his murdered wife, he stood beside it with
his arms folded on his breast and quite motionless. His
head hung down, for the heart of the white man was _
heavy, and I could see, as the light increased, that his
brows were dark as the thundercloud, and the corners of
his mouth twitched from a feeling that the Indian scorns
to show. My heart is full of sorrow for him now ; ”
(Redfeather’s voice sank as. he spoke), “ it was full of
sorrow for him even then, when I was taught to think
that pity for an enemy was unworthy of a brave. The
trapper stood gazing very long. His wife was young;
he could not leave her yet. At length a deep groan burst


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
161
from his heart, as the waters of a great river, long held
down, swell up in spring, and burst the ice at last. Groan
followed groan as the trapper still stood and pressed his
arms on his broad breast, as if to crush the heart within.
At last he slowly knelt beside her, bending more and
more over the lifeless form, until he lay extended on the
ground beside it, and twining his arms round the neck, he
drew the cold cheek close to his and pressed the blood-
covered bosom tighter, and tighter, while his form quivered
with agony as he gave her a last, long embrace. Oh ! ”
continued Redfeather, while his brow darkened, and his
black eye flashed with an expression of fierceness that
his young listeners had never seen before, “ may the
curse ” (he paused), “ God forgive them ! how could
they know better ?
“ At length the trapper rose hastily. The expression
of his brow was still the same, but his mouth was altered.
The lips were pressed tightly like those of a brave when
led to torture, and tbere was a fierce activity in his
motions as he sprang down the bank and proceeded to
dig a hole in the soft earth. For half an hour he la
bored, shovelling away the earth with a large flat stone,
and carrying down the body, he buried it there, under
the shadow of a willow. The trapper then shouldered
his rifle and hurried away. On reaching the turn of
the ^stream which shuts the little hollow out from view,
he halted suddenly, gave one look into the prairie he was
henceforth to tread alone, one short glance back, and then
raising both arms in the air, looked Up into the sky,
while he stretched himself to his full height. Even at
that distance, I could see the wild glare of his eye and
the heaving of his breast. A moment after, and he was
gone.”
11


162
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
“ And did you never see him again ? ” inquired Harry
Somerville, eagerly.
“ No, I never saw him more. Immediately afterwards
I turned to rejoin my companions, whom I soon over
took, and entered our village along with them. I was
regarded as a poor warrior, because I brought home no
scalps, and ever afterwards I went by the name of Red-
feather in our tribe.”
■ “ But are you still thought a poor warrior ? ” asked
Charley, in some concern, as if he were jealous of the
reputation of his new friend.
The Indian smiled. “ No,” he said; “ our village was
twice attacked afterwards, and, in defending it, Redfeather
took many scalps. He was made a chief!”
“ Ah ! ” cried Charley, “ I’m glad of that. And ¥a-
bisca, what came of her ? Did Misconna get her ? ”
<( She is my wife,” replied Redfeather.
“ Your wife! Why, I thought I heard the voyageurs
call your wife the white swan.”
“ Wabisca is white in the language of the Knisteneux.
She is beautiful in form, and my comrades call her the
white swan.”
Redfeather said this with an air of gratified pride. He
did not, perhaps, love his wife with more fervor than he
would have done, had he remained with his tribe ; but
Redfeather had associated a great deal with the traders,
and he had imbibed much of that spirit which prompts
“ white men ” to treat their females with deference and
respect, a feeling which is very foreign to an Indian’s
bosom. To do so was, besides, more congenial to his
naturall}’’ unselfish and affectionate disposition, so that
any flattering allusion to his partner was always received
by him with immense gratification.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
163
“ I’ll pay yo.u a visit some day, Redfeather, if I’m sent
to any place within fifty miles of your tribe,” said Char
ley, with the air.of one who had fully made up his mind.
. “ And Misconna ? ” asked Harry.
“ Misconna is with his tribe,” replied the Indian, and
a frown overspread his features as he spoke ; “ but Red-
feather has been following in the track of his white
friends; he has not seen his nation for many moons.”


164
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
CHAPTER XIII.
THE CANOE; ASCENDING THE RAPIDS; THE PORTAGE; DEER SHOOT
ING AND UEE IN THE WOODS.
W E must now beg the patient reader to take a leap
with us, not only through space but also through
time. "We mu&ts pass over the events of the remainder
of the journey along the shore of Lake Winnipeg. Un
willing though we are to omit anything in the history of
our friends that would be likely to prove interesting, we
think it wise not to run the risk of being tedious, or of
dwelling too minutely on the details of scenes which re
call powerfully the feelings and memories of bygone days
to the writer, but may, nevertheless, appear somewhat
flat to the reader.
We shall not, therefore, enlarge at present on the arri
val of the boats at Norway House, which lies at the
north end of the lake, nor of what was said and done by
our friends and by several other young comrades whom
they found there. We shall not speak of the horror of
Harry Somerville, and the extreme disappointment of his
friend Charley Kennedy, when the former was told that
instead of hunting grisly bears up the Saskatchewan, he
was condemned to the desk again, at York Fort, the
depot on Hudson’s Bay, a low, swampy place near the
sen-shore, where the goods for the interior are annu
ally landed and the furs shipped for England, where the
greater part of the summer and much of the winter is


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
165
occupied by the clerks who may be doomed to vegetate
there, in making up the accounts of what is termed the
Northern Department, and where the brigades converge
from all the wide-scattered and far distant outposts, and
the ship from England — that great event of the year —
arrives, keeping the place in a state of constant bustle
and effervescence until autumn, when ship and brigades
finally depart, leaving the residents (about thirty in num
ber) shut up for eight long, dreary months of' winter —
with a tenantless wilderness around and behind them, and
the wide, cold, frozen sea before. This was among the
first of Harry’s disappointments. He suffered many after
wards, poor fellow !
Neither shall we accompany Charley up the south
branch of the Saskatchewan, where his utmost expecta
tions in the way of hunting'were more than realized, and
where he became so accustomed to shooting ducks and
geese, and bears and buffaloes, -that he could not forbear
smiling when he chanced to meet with a red-legged gull,
and remembered how he and his friend Harry had com
ported themselves when they first met with these birds
on the shores of Lake Winnipeg! We shall pass over all
this, and the summer, autumn, and winter too, and leap
at once into the spring of the following year.
On a very bright, cheery morning of that spring, a
canoe might have been seen slowly ascending one of
the numerous streams which meander through a richly-
wooded, fertile country, and mingle their waters with
those of the Athabasca River, terminating their united
career in a large lake of the same name. The canoe was
small — one of the kind used by the natives while en
gaged in hunting, and capable of holding only two persons
conveniently, with their baggage. To any one unac-


166
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
quainted with the nature or capabilities of a Northern
Indian canoe, the fragile, bright orange-colored machine
that was battling with the strong current of a rapid, must,
indeed, have appeared an unsafe and insignificant craft;
but a more careful study of its performances in the rapid,
and of the immense quantity of miscellaneous goods and
chattels which were, at a later period of the day, dis
gorged from its interior, would have convinced the be
holder that it was in truth the most convenient and ser
viceable craft that could be devised for the exigencies of
such a country.
True, it could hold only two men (it might have taken
three at a pinch,) because men, and women too, are
awkward, unyielding baggage, very difficult to stow com
pactly, but it is otherwise with tractable goods. The
canoe is exceedingly thin, so that no space is taken up or
rendered useless by its own structure, and there is no
end to the amount of blankets, and furs, and coats, and
paddles, and tent-covers, and dogs,'and babies, that can
be stowed away in its capacious interior. The canoe of
which we are now writing contained two persons, whose
active figures were thrown alternately into every grace
ful attitude of manly vigor, as, with poles in hand, they
struggled to force their light craft against the boiling
stream. One was a man apparently of about forty-five
years of age. He was a square-shouldered, muscular
man, and from the ruggedness of his general appearance,
the soiled hunting-shirt that was strapped round his waist
with a parti-colored worsted belt, the leather leggins, a
good deal the worse for wear, together with the quiet
self-possessed glance of his gray eye, the compressed lip
and the sunburnt brow, it was evident that he w r as a
hunter, and one who had seen rough work in his day.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
167
The expression of his face was pleasing, despite a look of
habitual severity which sat upon it, and a deep scar
which traversed his brow from the right temple to the
top of his nose. It was difficult to tell to what country
he belonged. His father was a Canadian, his mother a‘
Scotchwoman. lie was born in Canada, brought up in
one of the Yankee settlements on the Missouri, and had,
from a mere youth, spent his life as a hunter in the wil
derness'. He could speak English, French, or Indian
with equal ease and fluency, but it would have been hard-
for any one to say which of the three was his native
tongue. The younger man, who occupied the stern of
the canoe, acting the part of steersman, was quite a
youth, apparently about seventeen, but tall and stout be
yond bis years, and deeply sunburnt. Indeed,were it
not for this fact, the unusual quantity of hair that hung
in massive curls down his neck, and the voyageur cos
tume, we should have recognized our young friend Char
ley Kennedy again more easily. Had any doubts re
mained in our mind, the shout of his merry voice would
have scattered them at once.
“ Hold hard, Jacques,” he cried, as the canoe trembled
in the current, “ one moment, till I get my pole fixed
b.ehind this rock; Now, then, shove ahead. Ah! ” he
exclaimed, with chagrin, as the pole slipt on the treach
erous bottom, and the canoe whirled round.
“ Mind the rock,” cried the bowsman, giving an ener
getic thrust with his pole, that sent the light bark into
an eddy formed by a large rock, which rose above the
turbulent waters. Here it rested while Jacques and
Charley raised themselves on their knees (travellers in
small canoes always sit in a kneeling position) to survey
the rapid.


168
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
“It’s too mucli for ; us, I fear, Mr.-Charles,” said Jac-'
ques, shading his brow with his horny hand. “ I’ve pad-
died up it many a time alone, but never saw the water
so big as now.”
“ Humph ! we shall have to make a portage, then, I
presume. Could we not give it one trial more ? I think
we might make a dash for the tail of that eddy, and
then the stream above seems not quite so strong. Do
you think so, Jacques ? ”
Jacques was not the man to check a daring young
spirit. His motto through life had ever been “Never
venture, never win,” — a sentiment which his intercourse
among fur traders had taught him to embody in the pithy
expression, “ Never say die ; ” so that, although quite
satisfied that the thing was impossible, he merely replied
to his companion’s speech by an assenting “ Ho,” and
pushed out again into the stream. An energetic effort
enabled them to gain the tail of the eddy spoken of,
when Charley’s pole snapt across, and, falling heavily
on the gunwale, he would have upset the little craft, had
not Jacques, whose wits were habitually on the qui vive,
thrown his own weight at the same moment on the op
posite side, and counterbalanced Charley’s slip. The
action saved them a ducking; but the canoe, being left
to its own devices for an instant, whirled off again into
the stream, and before Charley could 'seize a paddle to
prevent it, they were floating in the still water at the
foot of the rapids.
“ Now, isn’t that a bore ? ” said Charley; with a com
ical look of disappointment at his companion.
Jacques laughed.
“ It was well to try, master. I mind a young clerk
who came into these parts the same year as I did, and he


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
169
seldom tried anything. He couldn’t abide canoes. lie
didn’t want for courage neither; but he had a nat’ral
dislike to them, I suppose, that he couldn’t help, and
never entered one except when he was obliged to do so.
Well, one day he wounded a grisly bear on the banks
o’ the Saskatchewan (mind the tail o’ that rapid, Mister
Charles; we’ll land ’tother side o’ yon rock). Well, the
bear made after him, and he cut stick right away for the
river, where there was a canoe hauled up on the bank.
He didn’t take time to put his rifle aboard, but dropt it
on the gravel, crammed the canoe into the water and
jumped in, almost driving his feet through its bottom as
he did so, and then plumped down so suddenly to pre
vent its capsizing, that he split it right across. By this
time the bear was at his heels, and took the water like
a duck. The poor clerk, in his hurry, swayed from side
to side tryin’ to prevent the canoe go in’ over. But when
he went to one side, he was so unused to it that he went
too far, and had to jerk over to the other pretty sharp;
and so he got worse and worse, until he heard the bear
give a great snort beside him. Then he grabbed the
paddle in desperation, but at the first dash he missed his
stroke and over he went. The current was pretty strong
at the place, which was lucky for him, for it kept him
down a bit, so that the bear didn’t observe him for a
little; and while it was pokin’ away at the canoe, he
was carried down stream like a log and stranded on a
shallow. Jumping up, he made tracks for the wood,
and the bear- (which had found out its mistake) after
him, so he''was obliged at last to take to a tree, where
the beast watched him for a day and a night, till his
friends, thinking that-something must be wrong, sent out
to look for him. (Steady, now, Mister Charles. A little


170
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
more to the right — that’s it.) Now, if that young man
had only-ventured boldly into small canoes when he got
the chance, he might have laughed at the grisly and
killed him too.”
As Jacques finished, the canoe glided into a quiet bay
formed by an eddy of the rapid, where the still water
was overhung by dense foliage.
“ Is the portage a long one ? ” asked Charley, as he
stepped out on the bank, and helped to unload the canoe.
“ About half a mile,” replied his companion. “ "We
might make it shorter by poling up the last rapid; but
it’s stiff work, Mister Charles, and we’ll do the thing
quicker and easier at one lift.”
The two travellers now proceeded to make a portage.
They prepared to carry their canoe and baggage over
land, so as to avoid a succession of rapids and waterfalls
which intercepted their further progress.
“Now, Jacques, up with it,” said Charley, after the
loading had been taken out and placed on the grassy
bank.
The hunter stooped, and, seizing the canoe by its
centre bar, lifted it out of the water, placed it on his
shoulders, and walked off with it into the woods. This
w r as not accomplished by the man’s superior strength.
Charley could have done it quite as well; and, indeed,
the strong'hunter could have carried a canoe of twice
the size with perfect ease. Immediately afterwards
Charley followed with as much of the lading as he
could carry, leaving enough on the bank to form an
other load.
The banks of the river were steep; in some places so
much so that Jacques found it a matter of no small diffi
culty to climb over the broken rocks with the unwieldy


FEOM THE FAR NORTH.
171
canoe on his back; the more so that the branches inter
laced overhead so thickly as to present a strong'barrier,
through which the canoe had to be forced, at the risk of
damaging its delicate bark covering. On reaching the
comparatively level land above, however, there was more
open space, and the hunter threaded his way among the
tree stems more rapidly, making a detour occasionally to
avoid a swamp or piece of broken ground; sometimes de
scending a deep gorge formed by a small tributary of the
stream they were ascending, and which, to an unprac
tised eye, would have appeared almost impassable, even
without the incumbrance of a canoe. But the said canoe
never bore Jacques more gallantly or safely over the sur
ges of lake or stream than did he bear it through the in
tricate mazes of the forest; now diving down and disap
pearing altogether in the umbrageous foliage of a dell;;
anon reappearing on the other side and scrambling up.
the bank on all fours, he and the canoe together looking
like some frightful yellow reptile of antediluvian propor
tions ; and then speeding rapidly forward over a level
plain until he reached a sheet of still water above the
rapids. Here he deposited his burden on the grass; and
halting only for a few seconds to carry a few drops of
the clear water to his lips, retraced his steps to bring;
over the remainder of-the baggage. Soon after war ds-
Charley made his appearance on the spot where the ca
noe was left, and, throwing down his load, seated himself'
on it and surveyed the prospect. Before him. lay a reach
of the stream, which spread out so widely as to resemble
a small lake, in whose clear, still bosom were reflected
the overhanging foliage of graceful willows, and here and
there the bright stem of a silver birch,, whose light green
leaves contrasted well with scattered groups and solitary


172 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
specimens of the spruce fir. Reeds and sedges grew in
the water along the banks, rendering the junction of the
land and the stream uncertain and confused. All this
and a great deal more Charley noted at a glance; for
the hundreds of beautiful and interesting objects in na
ture that take so long to describe, even partially, and are
feebly set forth after all, even by the most graphic lan
guage, flash upon the eye in all their force and beauty,
and are drunk in at once in a single, glance. ^
But Charley noted several objects floating on the water
which we have not yet mentioned. These were five-
gray geese feeding among the reeds at a considerable dis
tance off, and all unconscious of the presence of a human
foe in their remote domains. The travellers had trusted
very much to their guns and nets for food, having only a
small quantity of pemmican in reserve, lest these should
. fail — an event which was not at all likely, as the coun
try through which they passed was teeming.with wild
fowl of all kinds, besides deer. These latter, however,
were only shot when they came inadvertently within rifle
range, as our voyageurs had a definite object in view, and
could not afford to devote much of their time to the
chase.
During the day previous to that on which we have
introduced them to our readers, Charley and his compan
ion had been so much occupied in navigating their frail
bark among a succession of rapids, that, they had not
attended to the replenishing of their larder, so that the
geese which now showed themselves were looked upon
by Charley with a longing eye. Unfortunately they were
feeding on the opposite side of the river, and out of shot.
But Charley was a hunter now, and knew how to over
come slight difficulties. He first cut down a pretty large


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
173
and leafy branch of a tree, and placed it in the bow of
the canoe in such a way as to hang down before it and
form a perfect screen, through the interstices of which he
could see the geese, while they could only see, what was
to them no novelty, the branch of a tree floating down
the stream. Having gently launched the canoe, Charley
was soon close to the unsuspecting birds, from among
which he selected one that appeared to be unusually com
placent and self-satisfied, concluding at once, with an
amount of wisdom that bespoke him a true philosopher,
that such must as a matter of course be the fattest.
“ Bang ” went the gun, and immediately the sleek
goose turned round upon its back and stretched out its
feet towards the sky, waving them once or twice as if
bidding adieu to its friends. The others thereupon took
to flight, with such a deal of splutter and noise as
made it quite apparent that their astonishment was un
feigned. Bang went the gun again, and down fell a sec
ond goose.
“ Ha! ” exclaimed Jacques, throwing down the remain
der of the cargo as Charley landed with his booty, “ that’s
well. I was just thinking as I corned across that we
should have to take to pemmican to-night.”
“ Well, Jacques, and if we had, I’m sure an old hunter
like you, who have roughed it so often, need not com
plain,” said Charley, smiling.
“ As to that, master,” replied Jacques, “ I’ve roughed
it often enough; and when it does come to a clear fix, I
can eat my shoes without grumblin’, as- well as any man.
But. you see, fresh meat is better than dried meat when
it’s to .be had ; and so I’m glad to see that you’ve been
lucky, Mister Charles.”
“To say truth, so am I; and these fellows are de-


174
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
lightfully plump. But you spoke of eating your shoes,
Jacques; when were you reduced to that direful extrem
ity?”
Jacques finished reloading the canoe while they con
versed, and the two were seated in their places, and
quietly but swiftly ascending the stream again, ere the
hunter replied. • *-
“You’ve heerd of Sir John Franklin, I s’pose?” he
inquired, after a minute’s .consideration.
“ Yes, often.”
“ An’ p’r’aps you’ve heerd tell of his first trip of dis
covery along the shores of the Polar Sea ? ”
“ Do you refer to the time when he was nearly starved
to death, and when poor Hood was shot by the Indian ? ”
“ The same,” said Jacques.
“Oh, yes.— I know all about that. "Were you with
them ? ” inquired Charley, in great surprise.
“Why, no—not exactly on the trip; but I was sent
in winter with provisions to them, — and much need
they had of them, poor fellows! I found them tearing
.away at some old parchment skins that had lain under
the snow all winter, and that an Injin’s dog would ha’
turned up his nose at, — and they don’t turn up their
snouts at many things, I can tell ye. Well, after we
had left all-our provisions with them, we started for the
tfort again, just keepin’ as much as would drive off star
vation ; for, you see, we thought that surely we would git
something on the road. But neither hoof nor feather
■did we see all the way (I was travellin’ with an Injin),
.and our grub was soon done, though we saved it up, and
■only took a mouthful or two the >last three days. At
last it was done, and we was pretty well used up, and
the fort two days ahead of us. So says I to my comrade


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
175
— who had been looking at me for some time as if he
thought that a cut off my shoulder wouldn’t be a bad
thing — says I, ‘ Nipitabo, I’m afeer’d the shoes must go
for it now;’ so with that I pulls out a pair o’ deerskin
moccasons. ‘ They looks tender,’ said I, trying to be
cheerful. ‘Wall,’ said the Injin.; and then I held them
over the lire till they was done black, and Nipitabo ate
one, and I ate the ’tother, with a lump o’ snow to wash it
down ! ”
“ It must have been rather dry eating,” said Charley,
laughing.
“ Rayther; but it was better than the Injin’s leather
breeches which we took in hand next day. They was
uncommon tough, and very dirty, havin’ been worn about
a year and a half. Ilows’ever, they kept us up; an’,
as we only ate the legs, he had the benefit o’ the stump
to arrive with at the fort next day.”
“ What’s yon ahead ? ” exclaimed Charley, pausing as
he spoke, and shading his eyes with his hand.
“ It’s uncommon like trees,” said Jacques. “ It’s
likely a tree that’s been tumbled across the river; and
from its appeai’ance, I think we’ll have to cut through
it.”
“ Cut through it! ” exclaimed Charley ; “ if my sight
is worth a gunfiint, we’ll have to cut through a dozen
trees.”
Charley was right. The river ahead of them became
rapidly narrower ; and, either from the looseness of the
surrounding soil, or the passing of a whirlwind, dozens of
trees had been upset, and lay right across the narrow
stream in terrible confusion. What made the thing
worse was, that the banks on either side, which were
low and flat, were covered with such a dense thicket


176
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
down to tlie water’s edge, that the idea of making a
portage to overcome the barrier seemed altogether hope
less.
“ Here’s a pretty business, to be sure ! ” cried Charley,
in great disgust.
“Neversay die, Mister Charles,” replied Jacques,tak
ing up the axe from the bottom of the canoe; “ it’s quite
clear that cuttin’ through the trees is easier than cuttin’
through the bushes, so here goes.”
For fully three hours the travellers were engaged in
cutting their way up the encumbered stream, during which
time they did not advance three miles; and it was even
ing ere they broke down the last barrier, and paddled out
into a sheet of clear water again.
“ That’ll prepare us for the geese, Jacques,” said Char
ley, as he wiped the perspiration from his brow ; “ there’s
nothing like warm work for whetting the appetite, and
making one sleep soundly.”
“ That’s true,” replied the hunter, resuming his paddle.
“I often wonder how them white-faced fellows in the
settlements manage to keep body and soul together —
a’ sittin’, as they do, all day in the house, and a’ lyin’
all'night in a feather bed. For my part, rather than
live as they do, I would cut my way up streams like
them we’ve just passed every day and all day, and sleep
on top of a flat rock o’ nights, under the blue sky, all my
life through.”
With this decided expression of his sentiments, the
stout hunter steered the canoe up alongside of a huge flat
rock, as if he were bent on giving a practical illustration
of the latter part of his speech then and there.
“ We’d better camp now, Mister Charles, there’s a
portage o’ two miles here, and it’ll take us till sundown to
get the canoe and things over.”


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
177
“ Be it so,” said Charley, landing; “‘is there a good
place at the other end to camp on ? ”
“ Firstrate. It’s smooth as a blanket on the turf,
and a <clear spring bubbling at the root of a wide tree
that would keep off the rain if it was to come down like
water-spouts.”
The spot on which the travellers encamped that even
ing overlooked one of those scenes in which vast extent,
and rich, soft variety of natural objects, were united with
much that was grand and savage. It filled the mind with
the calm satisfaction that is experienced when one gazes
on the wide lawns, studded with noble trees; the spread
ing fields of waving grain that mingled with stream and
copse, roclc and dell, vineyard and garden, of the culti
vated lands of civilized men ; while it produced that- ex
ulting throb of freedom which stirs man’s heart to its cen
tre, when he casts a first glance over miles and miles of
broad lands that are yet unowned, unclaimed; that yet
lie in the unmutilated beauty with which the beneficent
Creator originally clothed them —far away from the well-
known scenes of man’s checkered history; entirely de
void of those ancient monuments of man’s power and
skill, that carry the mind back with feelings of awe to
bygone ages; yet stamped with evidences of an antiquity
more ancient still, in the wild primeval forests, and the
noble trees that have sprouted and spread and towered in
their strength for centuries — trees that have fallen at
their posts, while others took their place, and rose and fell
as they did, like longlived sentinels, whose duty it was
to keep perpetual guard over the vast solitudes of the
great American Wilderness.
The fire was lighted and the canoe turned bottom up in
front of it, under the branches of a spreading tree which
12


178-
snowflakes AND SUNBEAMS
stood on an eminence, whence was obtained a birdseye
view of the noble scene. It was a fiat valley, on either
side of which rose two ranges of hills, which were clothed
to the top with trees of various kinds, the plain of the
valley itself being dotted with clumps of wood, among
which the fresh green foliage of the plane-tree and the
silver-stemmed birch were conspicuous, giving an airy
lightness to the scene and enhancing the picturesque effect
of the dark pines. A small stream could be traced wind
ing out and in among clumps of willows, reflecting their
drooping boughs and the more sombre branches of the
spruce-fir and the straight larch with which, in many
places, its banks were shaded. Here and there were
stretches of clearer ground, where the green herbage of
spring gave to it a lawn-like appearance, and the whole
magnificent scene was bounded by blue hills that became
fainter as they receded from the eye and mingled at last
with the horizon. The sun had just set, and a rich glow
of red bathed the whole scene, which was further enli
vened by flocks of wild fowls and herds of reindeer.
These last soon drew Charley’s attention from the con
templation of the scenery, and, observing a deer feeding
in an open space, towards which he could approach with
out coming between it and the wind, he ran for his gun
and hurried into the woods, while Jacques busied himself
in arranging their blankets under the upturned canoe,
and in preparing supper.
Charley discovered, soon after starting, what all hun
ters discover sooner or later, namely, that appearances
are deceitful, for he no sooner reached the foot of the hill
than he found, between him and the lawn-like country, an
almost impenetrable thicket of underwood. Our young
hero, however, was of that disposition which sticks at


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
179
nothing, and instead of taking time to search for an open
ing, he took a race and sprang into the middle of it, in
hopes of forcing his way through. His hopes were not
disappointed. He got through — quite through — and
alighted up to the armpits in a swamp, to the infinite con
sternation of a flock of teal-ducks that were slumbering
peacefully there with their heads under their wings, and
had evidently gone to bed for the night. Fortunately he
held his gun above the water and kept his balance, so
that he was able to proceed with a dry charge, though
with an uncommonly wet skin. Half an hour brought
Charley within range, and, watching patiently until the
animal presented his side towards the place of his con
cealment, he fired and shot it through the heart.
“ Well done, Mister Charles,” exclaimed Jacques, as
the former staggered into camp with the reindeer on his
shoulders, — “a fat doe too.” '
“ Ay,” said Charley, “ but she hast cost me a wet skin ;
so pray, Jacques, rouse up the fire, and let’s have supper
as soon as you can.”
Jacques speedily skinned the deer, cut a couple of
steaks from its flank, and, placing them on wooden spikes,
stuck them up to roast, while his young friend put on a
dry shirt, and hung his coat before the blaze. The goose
which had been shot earlier in the day was also plucked,
split open, impaled in the same manner as the steaks, and
set up to roast. By this time the shadows of night had
deepened^ and ere long all was shrouded in gloom, ex
cept the circle of ruddy light around the camp fire, in the
centre of which Jacques and Charley sat, with the canoe
at their backs, knives in their hands, and the two spits,
on the top of which smoked their ample supper, planted
in the ground before them.


180
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
One by one the stars went out, until none were visible
except the bright, beautiful morning star, as it rose higher
and higher in the eastern sky. One by one the owls and
the wolves, ill-omened birds and beasts of night, retired to
rest in the dark recesses of the forest. Little by little the
gray dawn overspread the sky, and paled the lustre of the
morning star, until it faded away altogether, and then
Jacques awoke with a start, and throwing, out his arm,
brought it accidentally into violent contact with Charley’s
nose.
This caused Charley to awake, not only with a start,
but also with a roar, which brought them both suddenly-
into a sitting posture, in which they continued for some
time in a state between sleeping and waking, their, faces
meanwhile expressive of mingled imbecility and extreme
surprise. Bursting into a simultaneous laugh, which de
generated into a loud yawn, they sprang up, launched
and reloaded their canoe, and resumed their journey.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
181
CHAPTER XIV.
THE INDIAN CAMP; THE NEW OUTPOST; CHARLEY SENT ON AMIS
SION TO THE INDIANS.
I N the councils of the fur traders, on the spring pre
vious to that about which we are now writing, it had
been decided to extend their operations a little in the lands
that lie in central America, to the north of the Saskatche
wan River; and in furtherance of that object, it had
been intimated to the chief trader in charge of the dis
trict, that an expedition should be set on foot, having for
its object the examination of a territory into which they
had not yet penetrated, and the establishment of an out
post therein. It was furthermore ordered that operations
should be commenced at once, and that the choice of men
to carry out the end in view was graciously left to the
chief trader’s well-known sagacity.
Upon receiving this communication, the chief trader
selected a gentleman, named Mr. Whyte, to lead the-
party; gave him a clerk and five, men ; provided' him'
with a boat and a large supply of goods necessary for
trade, implements requisite for building an establishment,
and sent him off with a hearty shake of the hand, and a
recommendation to “ go and prosper.”
Charles Kennedy spent part of the previous year at
Rocky Mountain House, where he. had shown so much
energy in conducting the trade — especially-what he


182
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
called the “rough and tumble” part of it, that he was
selected as the clerk to accompany Mr. Whyte to his
new ground. After proceeding up many rivers, whose
waters had seldom borne the craft of white men, and
across innumerable lakes, the party reached a spot that
presented so inviting an aspect, that it was resolved to
pitch their tent there for a time, and, if things in the way
of trade and provision looked favorable, establish them
selves altogether. The place was situated on the margin
of a large lake, whose shores were covered with the
most luxuriant verdure, and whose waters teemed with
the finest fish, while the air was alive with wild fowl,
and the woods swarming with game. Here Mr. Whyte
rested awhile; and, having found everything to his
satisfaction, he took his axe, selected a green law T n.
that commanded an extensive view of the lake, and
going up to a tall larch, struck the steel into it, and
thus put the first touch to an establishment which after
wards went by the name of Stoney Creek.
A solitary Indian, whom they had met with on the way
to their new home, had informed them that a large
band of Knisteneux had lately migrated to a river about
four days’ journey beyond the lake, at which they halted;
and when the new fort was just beginning to spring up,
our friend Charley and the interpreter, Jacques’ Cara-
doc, were ordered by Mr. Whyte to make a canoe, and
then, embarking in it, to proceed to the Indian camp, to
inform the natives of their rare good luck in having a
band of white men come to settle near their lands to
trade with them. The interpreter and Charley soon
found birch bark, pine roots for sewing it, and gum for
plastering the seams, wherewith they constructed the
light machine whose progress we have partly traced in


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
183
the last chapter, and which, on the following day at sun
set carried them to their journey’s end.
From some remarks made by the Indian who gave
them information of the camp, Charley gathered that it
was the tribe to which Kedfeather belonged, and further
more, that Kedfeather himself was there at that time;
so that it was with feelings of no little interest that he
saw the tops of the yellow tents embedded among the
green trees, and soon afterwards beheld them and their
picturesque owners reflected in the clear river, on whose
banks the natives crowded to witness the arrival of the
white men.
Upon the green sward, and under the umbrageous
shade of the forest trees, the tents were pitched to the
number of perhaps eighteen or twenty, and the whole
population, of whom very few were absent on the present
occasion, might number a hundred—men, women, and
children. They were dressed in habiliments formed
chiefly of materials procured by themselves in the chase,
but ornamented with cloth, beads, and silk thread, which
showed that they had had intercourse with the fur traders
before now. The men wore leggins of deer-skin, which
reached more than half way up the thigh, and were fast
ened to a leathern girdle, strapped round the waist. A,
loose tunic or hunting-shirt, of the same material, covered
the figure from the shoulders almost to the knees, and
was confined round the middle by a belt-—in some cases
of worsted, in others, of leather gayly ornamented with
quills. Caps of various indescribable shapes, and made
chiefly of skin, with the animal’s tail left on by way of
ornament, covered their heads, and moccasons for the feet
completed their costume. These last may be simply de
scribed as leather mittens for the feet without fingers, or


184 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
rather toes. The}' were gaudily ornamented, as was
almost every portion of costume, with porcupines’ quills
dyed with brilliant colors, and worked into fanciful, and
in many cases, extremely elegant figures and designs;
for North American Indians oftentimes display an amount
of taste in the harmonious arrangement of color, that
would astonish those who faficy that education is abso
lutely necessary to the just appreciation of the beautiful.
The women attired themselves in leggins and coats
differing little from those of the men, except that the
latter were longer, the sleeves detached from the body,
and fastened on separately — while on their heads they
wore caps, which hung down and covered their backs to
the waist. These caps were of the simplest construction,
being pieces of cloth cut into an oblong shape, and sewed
together at one end. They were, however, richly orna
mented with silk-work and beads.
On landing, Charley and Jacques walked up to a tall
good-looking Indian, whom they judged from his demean
or, and the somewhat deferential regard paid to him by
the others, to be one of the chief men of the little com
munity.
“ IIo ! what cheer ? ” said Jacques, taking him by the
hand after the manner of Europeans, and accosting him
with the phrase used by the fur traders to the natives.
The Indian returned the compliment in kind, and led the
visitors to his tent, where he spread a buffalo robe for
them on the ground, and begged them to be seated. A
repast of dried meat and reindeer tongues was then
served, to which our friends did ample justice while the
women and children satisfied their curiosity by peering
at them through chinks and holes in the tent. IVhen
they had finished, several of the principal men assembled,


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
185
and the chief who had entertained them made a speech,
to the effect that he was much gratified by the honor
done to his people by the visit of his white brothers ; that
he hoped they would continue long at the camp to enjoy
their hospitality ; and that he would be glad to know
what had brought them so far into the country of the
red men.
During the course of this speech, the chief made elo
quent. allusion to all the good qualities supposed to belong
to white men in general, and (he had no doubt) to the
two white men before him in particular. He also boasted
considerably of the prowess and braveiy of himself and
his tribe ; launched a few sarcastic hits at his enemies,
and wound up with a poetical hope that his guests
might live forever in these beautiful plains of bliss,
where the sun never sets, and nothing goes wrong any
where, and everything goes right at all times, and where,
especially, the deer are outrageously fat, and always
come out on purpose to be shot! During the course of
these remarks, his comrades signified their hearty con-
curence in his sentiments, by giving vent to sundry low-
toned “ hums ! ” and “ has ! ” and “ wahs ! ’’ and “ hos ! ”
according to circumstances. After it was over, Jacques
rose, and, addressing them in their own language, said : —
I\Iy Indian brethren are great. They are brave, and
their fame has travelled far. Their deeds are known
even so far as where the Great Salt Lake beats on the
shore where the sun rises. They are not women, and
when their enemies hear the sound of their name! they
grow pale ; tlieir hearts become like those of the reindeer.
Uy brethren are famous, too. in the use of the snow-.-hoe,
the snare, and the gun. .The fur traders know that they
must build large stores when they come into thGr lands.


186
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
They bring up much goods, because the young men are
active, and require much. The silver fox and the marten
are no longer safe when their traps and snares are set.
Yes, they are good hunters, and we have now come to
live among you (Jacques changed his style as he came
nearer to the point), to trade with you, and to save you
the trouble of making long journeys with your skins. A
few days’ distance from your wigwams we have pitched
our tents. Our young men are even now felling the
trees to build a house. Our nets are set, our hunters
are prowling in the woods, our goods are ready, and my
young master and I have come to smoke the pipe of
friendship with you, and to invite you to come to trade
with us.”
Having delivered this oration, Jacques sat down amid
deep silence. Other speeches, of a highly satisfactory
character, were then made, after which “ the house
adjourned,” and the visitors, opening one of their pack
ages, distributed a variety of presents to the delighted
natives.
Several times during the course of these proceedings,
Charley’s eyes wandered among the faces of his enter
tainers, in the hope of seeing Redfeather among them,
but without success ; and he began to fear that his friend
was not with the tribe.
“ I say, Jacques,” he said, as they left the tent, “ ask
whether a chief called Redfeather is here. I knew him
of old, and half-expected to find him at this place.”
The Indian to whom Jacques put tjje question, replied
that Redfeather was with them, but that he had gone out
on a hunting expedition that morning, and might be ab
sent a day or two.
“Ah! ” exclaimed Charley, “I’m glad he’s here. Come,


FROM THE EAR NORTH.
187
now, let us take a walk in the wood; these good people
stare at us as if we were ghosts.” And, taking Jacques’
arm. he led him beyond the circuit of the camp, turned
into a path, which, winding among the thick underwood,
speedily screened them from view, and led them into a
sequestered glade, through which a rivulet trickled along
its course, almost hid from view by the dense foliage and
long grasses that overhung it.
“ What a delightful place to live in! ” said Charley.
“ Do you ever think of building a hut in such a spot as
this, Jacques,- and settling down altogether ? ”
Charley’s thoughts reverted to his sister Kate when he
said this.
“ Why, no,” replied Jacques, in a pensive tone, as if
the question had aroused some sorrowful recollections ;
“ I can’t say that I’d like to settle here now. There was
a time when I thought nothin’ could be better than to
squat in the woods with one or two jolly comrades, and
{Jacques sighed;) but times is changed now, master,
and so is my mind. My chums are most of them dead
or gone, one way or other. No ; I shouldn’t care to
squat alone.”
Charley thought of the hut without Kate; and it
seemed so desolate and dreary a dwelling, notwithstand
ing its beautiful situation, that he agreed with his com
panion that to “ squat ” alone would never do at all.
“ No, man was not made to live, alone,” continued
Jacques, pursuing the subject; “ even the Injins draw
together. I never knew hut one as didn’t like his fellows,
and he’s gone now, poor fellow. He cut his foot with an
axe one day, while fellin’.a tree. It was a bad cut; and
havin’ nobody to look after him, he half-bled and half
starved to death.”


188 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
“ By the way, Jacques,” said Charley, stepping over
the clear brook, and following the track which led up
the opposite bank, “what did you say to these red
skins ? You made them a most eloquent speech appar
ently.”
“ Why, as to that, I can’t boast much of its eloquence,
hut I think it was clear enough. I told them that they
were a great nation ; for you see, Mister Charles, the red
men are just like the white in their fondness for butter;
so I gave them some to begin with, though for the mat
ter o’ that, I’m not overly fond o’ givin’ butter to any
man, red or white. But I holds that it’s as well always
to fall in with the ways' and customs o’ the people a man
happens to be among, so long as them ways and customs
a’n’t contrary to what’s right. It makes them feel more
kindly to you, an’ don’t raise any onnecessary ill-will.
However, the Knisteneux are a brave race; and when
I told them that the hearts of their enemies trembled
when they heard of them, I told nothing but the truth,
for the Chipewyans are a miserable set and not much
given to fighting.”
“ Your principles on that point won’t stand much sift
ing, I fear,” replied Charley; “ according to your own
showing you would fall into the Chipewyan’s way of glo
rifying themselves on account of their bravery, if you
chanced to be dwelling among them, and yet you say
they are not brave. That would not be sticking to truth,
Jacques, would it ? ”
“ Well,” replied Jacques, with a smile, “ perhaps not
exactly, but I’m sure there could be small harm in help
ing the miserable objects to boast sometimes, for they’ve
little else than boasting to comfort them.”
“ And yet, Jacques, I cannot help feeling that truth is


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
189
a grand, a glorious thing, that should not be trifled with
even in small matters.”
Jacques opened his eyes a little. “ Then do you think,
master, that a man should never tell a lie, no matter what
fix he may be in ? ”
“ I think not, Jacques.”
The hunter paused a few minutes, and looked as if an
unusual train of ideas had been raised in his mind by the
turn their conversation had taken. Jacques was a man of
no religion, and little morality, beyond what flowed from
a naturally kind, candid disposition, and entertained the
belief that the end, if a good one, always justifies the
means, — a doctrine which, had it been clearly exposed to
him in all its bearings and results, would have been
spurned by his straightforward nature with the indignant
contempt that it merits.
“ Mister Charles,” he said, at length, “ I once travelled
across the plains to the head waters of the Missouri with
a party of six trappers. One night we came to a part of
the plains which was very much broken up with wood
here and there, and bein’ a good place for water we
camped. While the other lads were gettin’ ready the
supper, I started off fo look for a deer, as we had been
unlucky that day — we had shot nothin’. Well, about
three miles from the camp, I came upon a band o’ some
where about thirty Sieux, (ill-looking, sneaking dogs they
are, too !) and before I could whistle, they rushed upon
me, took away.my rifle and hunting knife, and were
dancing round me like so many devils. At length a
big, black-lookin’ thief stepped forward, and said in the
Cree language -— ‘ White men seldom travel through this
country alone ; where are your comrades ?’ Now, thought
I, here’s a nice fix! If I pretend not to understand, they’ll


190
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
send out parties in all directions, and as sure as fate
they’ll find my companions in half an hour, and batcher
them in cold blood; for, you see, we did not expect to
find Sieux, or, indeed, any Injins in them parts; so I made
believe to be very narvous, and tried to tremble all over
and look pale. Did you ever try to look pale and fright
ened, Mister Charles ? ”
“ I can’t say that I ever did,” said Charley, laughing. -
“ You can’t think how troublesome it is,” continued
Jacques, with a look of earnest simplicity ; “ I shook and
trembled pretty well, but the more I tried to grow pale,
the more I grew red in the face, and when I thought of
the six broad-shouldered, raw-boned lads in the camp,
and how easy they would have made these jumping vil
lains fly like chaff, if they only knew the fix I was in, I
gave a frown that had wellnigh showed I was shamming.
Howsoever, what with shakin’ a little more, and givin’ one
or two most awful groans, I managed to deceive them.
Then I said I was hunter to a party of white men that
were travellin’ from Red River to St. Louis, witli all
their goods, and wives, and children, and that they were
away in the plains about a league off.
“ The big chap looked very hard into my face when I
said this, to see if I was telling the truth; and I tried to
make my teeth chatter, but it wouldn’t do, so I took to
groanin’ very bad instead. But them Sieux are such
awful liars nat’rally, that they couldn’t understand the
signs of truth, even if they saw them. ‘ Whitefheed
coward,’ says he to me, ‘ tell me in what direction your
people are.’ At this I made believe not to understand ;
but the big chap flourished iiis knife before my face,
called me a dog, and told me to point out the direction.
I looked as simple as I could, and said I would rather


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
191
not. At this they laughed loudly, and then gave a yell,
and said if I didn’t show them the direction they would
roast me alive. So I pointed towards a part of the plains
pretty wide o’ the spot where our camp was. 1 Now,
lead us to them,’ said the big chap, givin’ me a shove
with the butt of his gun ; ‘ an’ if you have told lies ’
he gave the handle of his scalpin’ knife a slap, as much
as to say he’d tickle up my liver with it. Well, away
we went in silence, me thinkin’ all the time how I was
to get out o’ the scrape. I led them pretty close past our
camp, hopin’ that the lads would hear us. I didn’t dare
to yell out, as that would have showed them there was
somebody within hearin’, and they would have made short
work of me. Just as we came near the place where my
companions lay, a prairie wolf sprang out from under a
bush where it had been sleepin’, so I gave a loud hurrah,
and shied my cap at it. Giving a loud growl, tire big
Injin hit me over the head with* his fist, and told me to
keep silence. In a few minutes I heard the low, distant
howl of a wolf. I recognized the voice of one of my com
rades, and knew that they had seen us, and would be on
our track soon. Watchin’ my opportunity, and walkin’
for a good‘bit as if I was awful tired — all but done up —
to throw them off their guard, I suddenly tripped up the
big chap as he was stepping over a small brook, and dived
in among the bushes. In a moment a dozen bullets tore
up the bark on the trees about me, and an arrow passed
through my hair. The clump of wood into which I had
dived was about half a mile long; and as I could run
well (I’ve found in my experience that white men are
more than a match for redskins at their own work,) I
was almost out of range by the time I was forced to quit
the cover and take to the plain. When the blackguards


192
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
got out of the cover, too, and saw me cuttin’ ahead like
a deer, they gave a yell of disappointment, and sent an
other shower of arrows and bullets after me, some of
which came nearer than was pleasant. I then headed
for our camp with the whole pack screechin’ at my heels.
‘ Yell away, you stupid sinners/ thought I; ‘ some of
you shall pay for your music.’ At that moment an
arrow grazed my shoulder; and, looking over it, I saw
that the black fellow I had pitched into the water was
far ahead of the rest, strainin’ after me'like mad, and
every now and then stopping to try an arrow on me ; so
I kept a look out, and when I saw him stop to draw, I
stopped too, and dodged, so the arrows passed me, and
then we took to our heels again. In this way I ran for
dear life, till I came up to the cover. As I came close
up I saw our six fellows crouchin’ in the bushes, and
one o’ them takin’ aim almost straight for my face.
‘ Your day’s come at last,’ thought I, looking over my
shoulder at the big Injin, who was drawing his bow
again. Just then there was a sharp crack heard — a
bullet whistled past my ear, and the big fellow fell like
a stone, while my comrade stood coolly up to reload his
rifle. The Injins on seein’ this, pulled up in a moment;
and our lads stepping forward, delivered a volley that
made three more o’ them bite the dust. There would
have been six in that fix, but somehow or other, three of
us pitched upon the same man, who was afterwards found
with a bullet in each eye and one through his heart.
They didn’t wait for more, but turned about and bolted
like the wind. Now, Mister Charles, if I had told the truth
that time, we would have been all killed ; and if I had
simply said nothin’ to their questions, they would have
sent out to scour the country, and have found out the


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
193
camp for sartin, so that the only way to escape was by
tellin’ them a heap o’ downright lies.”
Charley looked very much perplexed at this.'
“You have indeed placed me in a difficulty. I know
not what I would have done. I don’t know even what I
ought to do under these circumstances. Difficulties may
perplex me, and the force of circumstances might tempt
me to do what I believed to be wrong. I am a sinner,
Jacques, like other mortals, I know; but one thing I am
quite sure of, 'namely, that, when men speak, it should
always be truth and never falsehood.”
Jacques looked perplexed too. He was strongly im
pressed with the necessity of telling falsehood in the cir
cumstances in which he had been placed, as just related,
while at the same time he felt deeply the grandeur and
the power of Charley’s last remark.
“I should have been under the sod noiv” said he, “if
I had not told a lie then. Is it better to die than to
speak falsehood ? ”
“ Some men have thought so,” replied Charley. “ I
acknowledge the difficulty of your case, and of all similar
cases. I don’t know what should be done; but I‘have
read of a minister of the gospel whose people were very
wicked and would not attend to his instructions, although
they could not but respect himself, he was so consistent
and Christian like in his conduct. Persecution arose in
the country where he lived, and men and women were
cruelly murdered because of their religious belief. For
a long time he was left unmolested; but one day a band
of soldiers came to his house, and asked him whether he
was a Papist or a Protestant, — (a Papist, Jacques, being
a man who has sold his liberty in religious matters to the
Pope, and a Protestant being one who protests against
13


194
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
such an ineffably silly and unmanly state of slavery.)
Well, his people urged the good old man to say he was a
Papist, telling' him that he would then be spared to live
among them, and preach the true faith for many years
perhaps. Now, if there was one thing that this old man
would have toiled for and died for, it was, that his peo
ple should become true Christians, — and he told them
so, £ but,’ he added, ‘ I will nbt tell a lie to accomplish
that end, my children; no, not even to save my life.’ So
. he told the soldiers that he was a Protestant, and imme-
■ diately they carried him away, and he was soon after
wards burned to death.”
“ Well,” said Jacques, “ he didn’t gain much by stick
ing to the truth, I think.”
“ Pm not so sure of that The story goes on to say,
that he rejoiced that he had done so, and wouldn’t draw
back even when he was in the flames. But the point lies
here, Jacques: so deep’ an impression did the old man’s
conduct make on his people, that from that day forward
they were noted for their Christian life and conduct.
They brought up their children with a deeper reverence
for the truth than they would otherwise have done, always
bearing in affectionate remembrance, and holding up to
them as an example, the unflinching truthfulness of the
good old man who was burned in the year of the terrible
persecutions; and at last their influence and example had
such an effect that the Protestant religion spread like
wildfire, far and wide abound them, so that the very thing
was accomplished for which the old pastor said he would
have died; accomplished, too, very much iji consequence
of his death, and in a way, and to an extent that very
likely would not have been the case, had he lived and
preached among them for a hundred years.”


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
195
“ I don’t understand it, nohow,” said Jacques; “ it seems
to me right both ways and wrong both ways, and all up
side down everyhow.”
Charley smiled. “ Your remark is__ about as clear as
my head on the subject, Jacques, but I still remain con
vinced that truth is right and that falsehood is wrong, and
that we should stick to the first through thick and thin.”
“ I s’pose,” remarked the hunter, who had walked along
in deep cogitation for the last five minutes, and had ap
parently come to some conclusion of profound depth and
sagacity, “ I s’pose that it’s all human natur’; that some
men takes to preachin’ as Injins take to huntin’, and that
to understand sich things requires them to begin young,
and risk their lives in' it, as I would in followin’ up a
grisly she-bear with cubs.”
“ Yonder is an illustration of one part of your remark.
They begin young enough, anyhow,” said Charley, point
ing as he spoke to an opening in the bushes, where a par
ticularly small Indian boy stood in the act of discharging
an arrow.
The two men halted to watch his movements. Ac
cording to a common custom among juvenile Indians
during the warm months of the year, he was dressed in
nothing save a mere rag tied round his waist. His body
was very brown, extremely round, fat, and wonderfully
diminutive, while his little legs and arms were dispro
portionately small. He was so young as to be barely
able' to walk, and yet' there he-stood, his black eyes glit
tering with excitement, his tiny bow bent to its utmost,
and' a blunt-headed arrow about to be discharged at a
squirrel, whose flight had been suddenly arrested by the
unexpected apparition of Charley and Jacques. As he
stood there for a single instant, perfectly motionless, he


" 196 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
might have been mistaken for a grotesque statue of an
Indian Cupid. Taking advantage of the squirrel’s pause,
the child let fly the arrow, hit it exactly on the point of
the nose, and turned it over, dead, — a consummation
which he greeted with a rapid succession of frightful
yells.
“ Cleverly done, my lad; you’re a chip of the old
block, I see,” said Jacques, patting the child’s head as he
passed, and retraced his steps, with Charley, to the In
dian camp.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
197
CHAPTER XV.
THE FEAST; CHARLEY MAKES HIS FIRST SPEECH IN PUBLIC;
MEETS WITH AN OLD FRIEND; AN EVENING IN THE GRASS.
S AVAGES, not less than civilized men, are fond of a
good dinner. In saying this, we do not expect our
reader to be overwhelmed with astonishment. He might
have guessed as much; but when we state that savages,
upon particular occasions, eat six dinners in one, and
make it a point of honor to do so, we apprehend that we
have thrown a slightly new light on an old subject.
Doubtless, there are men in civilized society who would
do likewise if they could; but they cannot, fortunately,
as great gastronomic powers are dependent on severe,
healthful, and prolonged physical exertion. Therefore it
is that in England we find men capable only of eating
about two dinners at once, and suffering a good deal for
it afterwards, while in the backwoods we see men con
sume a week’s dinners in one, without any evil conse
quences following the act.
The feast which was given by the Knisteneux in honor
of the visit of our two friends was provided on a more
moderate scale than usual, in order to accommodate the
capacities of the “ white men ; ” three days’ allowance
being cooked for each man. (Women are never admitted
to the public feasts.) On the day preceding the ceremony,
Charley and Jacques had received cards of invitation


198 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
from the principal chief, in the shape oi; two quills ;
similar invites being issued at the same time to all the
braves. Jacques, being accustomed to the doings of In
dians, and 'aware of the fact, that whatever was provided
for each man, must be eaten before he quitted the scene
of operations, advised Charley to eat no breakfast, and to
take a good walk as a preparative. Charley had strong
faith, however, in his digestive powers, and felt much in
clined, when morning came, to satisfy the cravings of his
appetite as usual; but Jacques drew such a graphic pic
ture of the work that lay before him, that he foi’bore to
urge the matter, and went off to walk with a light step,
and an uncomfortable, feeling of vacuity about the region
of the stomach.
About noon, the chiefs and braves assembled in an
open enclosure situated in an exposed place on the banks
of the river, where the proceedings were watched by the
women, children, and dogs. The oldest chief sat himself
down on the turf at one end of the enclosure, with
Jacques Caradoc on his right hand, and next to him
Charley Kennedy, who had ornamented himself with a
blue stripe painted down the middle of his nose, and a
red bar across his chin. Charley’s propensity for fun
had led him thus to decorate his face, in spite of his
companion’s remonstrances, urging, by way of excuse,
that worthy’s former argument, “ that it was well to fall
in with the ways o’ the people a man happened to be
among, so long as these ways and customs were not con
trary to what was right.” Now, Charley was sure there
was nothing wrong in his painting his nose sky-blue, if he
thought fit.
Jacques thought it was absurd, and entertained the
opinion that it would be more dignified to leave his face
“ its nat’ral color.”


FBOM THE FAE NOETH.
199
Charley didn’t agree with him at all. He thought it
would be paying the Indians a high compliment to follow
their customs as far as possible, and said, that, after all,
his blue nose would not be very conspicuous, as he
.(Jacques) had told him that he would “ look blue” at any
rate,. when he saw the quantity of deer’s meat he should
have to devour.
Jacques laughed at this, but suggested that the bar
across his chin was red. Whereupon Charley said that
he could easily neutralize ,that by putting, a green star
under each eye. And then uttered a fervent wish that
his friend Harry Somerville could only see him in that
guise. Finding him incorrigible, Jacques, who, notwith
standing his remonstrances, was more than half imbued
with Charley’s spirit, gave in, and accompanied him to
the feast, himself decorated with the additional ornament
of a red nightcap, to whose crown was attached a tuft of
white feathers.
A fire burned in the centre of the enclosure, round
which the Indians seated themselves according to sen
iority, and with deep solemnity ; for it is a trait in the In
dian’s character that, all his ceremonies are performed
with extreme gravity. Each man brought a dish or
platter, and a wooden spoon.
The old chief, whose hair was very gray, and his face
covered with old wounds and scars, received either in war
or in hunting, having seated himself, allowed a few
minutes to elapse in silence, during which the company
sat motionless ; gazing at their plates as if they half
expected them to become converted into beefsteaks.
While they were seated thus, another party of Indians,
who had been absent on a hunting expedition, strode
rapidly but noiselessly into the enclosux - e, and seated


200
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
themselves in the circle. One of these passed close
to Charley, and in doing so stooped, took his hand,
and pressed it. Charley looked up in surprise, and
beheld the face of his old friend Redfeather, gazing at
him with an expression in which was mingled affection,
■surprise, and amusement at the peculiar alteration in his
visage.
“ Redfeather! ” exclaimed Charley, in delight, half
rising; but the Indian pressed him down.
“ You must not rise,” he whispered, and, giving his
hand another squeeze, passed round the circle, and took
his place directly opposite.
Having continued motionless for five minutes with
becoming gravity, the company began operations by pro
ceeding to smoke out of the sacred stem, a ceremony
which precedes all occasions of importance; and is con
ducted as follows : — The sacred stem is placed on two
forked sticks to prevent its touching the ground, as that
would be considered, a great evil. A stone pipe is
then filled with tobacco, by an attendant appointed spe
cially to that office, and afiixed to the stem, which is
presented to the principal chief. That individual, wfith
a gravity and hauteur that is unsurpassed in the annals
of pomposity, receives the pipe in both hands, blows a
puff to the east, (probably in consequence of its be
ing the quarter whence the sun rises,) and thereafter
pays a similar mark of attention to the other three
points. He then raises the pipe above his head, points
and balances it in various directions, (for what rea
son and with what end in view is best known to him
self,) and replaces it again on the forks. ' The company
meanwhile observe his proceedings with sedate interest,
evidently imbued with the idea that they are deriving


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
201
from the ceremony a vast amount of edification; an idea
-which is helped out, doubtless, by the appearance of the
women and children, who surround the enclosure, and
gaze at the proceedings with looks of awe-struck seri
ousness that is quite solemnizing to behold.
The chief then makes a speebh relative to the circum
stance which has called them together; and which is
always more or less interlarded with boastful reference
to his own deeds, past, present, and prospective, eulo
gistic remarks on those of his forefathers, and a general
condemnation of all other Indian tribes whatever. These
speeches are usually delivered with great animation, and
contain much poetic allusion to the objects of nature
that surround the homes of the savage. The speech
being finished, the chief sits down amid a universal
“ Ho ! ” uttered by the company with an emphatic pro
longation of the last letter, — this syllable being the-
Indian substitute, we presume, for “ rapturous applause.”
The chief who officiated on the present occasion, hav
ing accomplished the opening ceremonies thus far,, sat
down, while the pipe-bearer presented the sacred stem
to the members of the company in succession, each of
whom drew a few whiffs and mumbled a few words.
“Ho as you see the redskins do, Mister Charles,?’
whispered Jacques, while the pipe was going round.
“ That’s impossible,” replied Charley, in a tone that
could not be heard except by his friend. “ I couldn’t
make a face of lhde'ous solemnity like that black thief
opposite, if I was to try ever so hard.”
“ Don’t let them think you’re laughing at them,” re
turned the hunter; “ they would be ill-pleased if they
thought so.”
“I’ll try,” said Chai’ley, “but it is hard work, Jac-


202
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
ques, to keep from laughing; I feel like a high-pressure
steam-engine already. There’s a woman standing out
there with a little brown haby on her hack ; she has quite
fascinated me ; I can’t keep my eyes off her, and if she
goes on contorting her visage much longer, I feel that I
shall give way.”
“ Hush! ”
At this moment the pipe was presented to Charley,
who put it to his lips, drew three whiffs, and returned it
with a bland smile to the bearer.
The smile was a very sweet one, for that was a peculiar
trait in the native urbanity of Charley’s disposition, and
it would have gone far in civilized society to prepossess
strangers in his favor ; but it lowered him considerably
in the estimation of his red friends, who entertained a
wholesome feeling of contempt for any appearance of
levity on high occasions. But Charley’s face was of
that agreeable stamp, that, though gentle and bland
when lighted up with a smile, is particularly •masculine
and manly in expression when in repose, and the frown
that knit his brows when he observed the bad impres
sion he had given, almost reinstated him in their esteem.
But his popularity became great, and the admiration of
his swarthy friends greater, when he rose and made an
eloquent speech in English, which Jacques translated
into the Indian language.
He told them, in reply to the. chief’s oration, (wherein
that warrior had complimented his pale-faced brothers
on their numerous good qualities,) that lie was delighted
and proud to meet with his Indian friends ; that the ob
ject of his mission was to acquaint them with the fact
that a new trading fort was established not far off, by
himself and his comrades, for their special benefit and


FKOM THE FAR NORTH.
203
behoof; that the stores were full of goods which he hoped
they would soon obtain possession of, in exchange for
furs ; that he had travelled a great distance on purpose
to see their land and ascertain its capabilities in the way
of fur-bearing animals and game ; that he had not been
disappointed in his expectations, as he had found the
animals to be as numerous as bees, the fish plentiful in
the rivers and lakes, and the country at large a perfect
paradise. He proceeded to tell them further that he
expected they would justify the report he had heard of
them, that they were a brave nation and good hunters,
by bringing in large quantities of fui’s.
Being strongly urged by Jacques to compliment them
on their various good qualities, Charley launched out into
an extravagantly poetic vein, said that he had heard (but
he hoped to have many opportunities of seeing it proved)
that there was no nation under the sun equal to them in
bravery, activity, and perseverance; that he had heard of
men in olden times who made it their profession to fight
with wild bulls for the amusement of their friends, but he
had no doubt whatever their courage would be made con
spicuous in the way of fighting wild bears and buffaloes,
not for the amusement, but the benefit of their wives and
children, (he might have added of the Hudson’s Bay
Company, but he didn’t, supposing that that was self-
evident, probably.) He complimented them on the way
in which they had conducted themselves in war in times
past, comparing their stealthy approach to enemies’ camps
to the insidious snake that glides among the bushes and
darts unexpectedly on its prey ; said that their eyes were
sharp to follow the war-trail through the forest or over
the dry sward of the prairie; their aim with gun or bow
true and sure as the flight of the goose when it leaves


204 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
the lands of the sun, and points its beak to the icy re
gions of the north; their warwhoops loud as the thunders
of the cataract; and their sudden onset like the lightning
flash that darts from the sky and scatters the stout oak in
splinters on the plain.
At this point Jacques expressed his. satisfaction at the
style in which his young friend was progressing.
“ That’s your sort, Mister Charles. Don’t spare the
butter. Lay it on thick. You’ve not said too much yet,
for they are a brave race, that’s a. fact, as I’ve good
reason to know.”
Jacques, however, did not feel quite so well satisfied
when Charley went on to tell them that, although bravery
in war was an admirable thing, war itself was a thing
not at all to be desired, and should only be undertaken in
case of necessity. He especially pointed out that there
was not much glory to be earned in fighting against the
Chipewyans, who, everybody knew, were a poor, timid
set of people, whom they ought rather to pity than to
destroy; and recommended them to devote themselves
more to the chase than they had done in times past, and
less to the prosecution of war in time to come.
All this, and a great deal more, did Charley say, in a
manner, and with a rapidity of utterance, that surprised
himself, when he considered the fact that he had never
adventured into the field of public speaking before. . All
this, and a great deal more — a very great deal more —
did Jacques Caradoc interpret to the admiring Indians,
who listened with the utmost gravity and "profound at
tention, greeting the close with a very emphatic “ Ho! ”
Jacques’ translation whs by no means perfect. Many
of the flights into which Charley ventured, especially in
regard to the manners and customs of the savages of an-


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
205
cient Greece and Rome, were quite incomprehensible to
the worthy backwoodsman, — but he invariably proceeded
when Charley halted, giving a flight of his own when at
a loss, varying and modifying when he thought it advisa
ble, and altering, adding, or cutting off as he pleased.
Several other chiefs addressed the assembly, and then
dinner, if we may so call it, was served. In Charley’s
case, it was breakfast. To the Indians, it Was breakfast,
' dinner, and supper in one. It consisted of a large plat
ter of dried meat, reindeer tongues (considered a great
delicacy), and rAarrow-b'ones.
Notwithstanding the graphic power with which Jacques
had prepared his young companion for this meal, Char
ley’s heart sank when he beheld the mountain of boiled
meat that was placed before him. He was ravenously
hungry, it is true, but it was patent to his perception at a
glance, that no powers of gormandizing of which he was
capable could enable him to consume the mass in the
course of one day.
Jacques observed his consternation, and was not a lit
tle entertained by it, although his face wore an expres
sion of profound gravity, while he proceeded to attack
his own dish, which was equal to that of his friend^'
Before commencing, a small portion of meat was
thrown into the fire, as a Sacrifice to the Great Master of
Xife.
“ How they do eat, to be sure ! ” whispered Charley to
Jacques, after he had glanced in wonder at the circle of
men who were devouring their food with the most ex
traordinary rapidity.
“ Why, you must know,” replied Jacques, “that it’s
considered a point of honor to get it over soon, and the
man that is done first gets most credit. But it’s hard


206 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
work,” (he sighed 'and paused a little to breathe,) “and
I’ve not got half through yet.”
“It’s quite plain that I must lose credit with them,
then, if it depends on my eating that. Tell me, Jacques,
is there no way of escape? Must I^sit here till it is all
consumed?”
“No doubt of it. Every bit that has been cooked
must be crammed down our throats somehow or other.”
Charley heaved a deep sigh, and made another des
perate attack on a large steak, while the Indians around
him made considerable progress in reducing their respec
tive mountains.
Several times Charley and Redfeather exchanged
glances as they paused in their labors.
“ I say, Jacques,” said Charley, pulling up once more,
“ how do you get on ? Pretty well stuffed by this time,
I should imagine ? ”
“ Oh, no ! I’ve a good deal o’ room yet.”
“ I give in. Credit or disgrace, it’s all one. I’ll not
make a pig of myself for any redskin in the land.”
Jacques smiled.
“ See,” continued Charley, “ there’s a fellow opposite
who has devoured as much as would have served me for
three days. I don’t know whether it’s imagination or
not, but I do verily believe that he’s blacker in the face
than when he sat down ! ”
“ Very likely,” replied Jacques, wiping his lips ; “ now
I’ve done.”
“ Done ? you have left at least a third of your supply.”
“True, and I may as well tell you for your comfort,
that there is one way of escape open to you. It is a
custom among these fellows, that when any one cannot
gulp his share o’ the prog, he may get help from any of


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
207
his friends who can cram it down their throats; and as
there are. always such fellows among these Injins, they
seldom have any difficult}^’
“ A most convenient practice,” replied Charley ; “ I’ll
adopt it at once.”
Charley turned to his next neighbor with the intent to
beg of him to eat his remnant of the feast.
“ Bless my heart, Jacques, I’ve no chance with the fel
low on my left hand; he’s stuffed quite full already, and _
is not quite done with his own share.”
“ Never feai’,” replied his friend, looking at the indi- ■
vidual in question, who was languidly lifting a marrow
bone to his lips, “ he’ll do it easy, I knows the gauge o’
them chaps, and, for all his sleepy look just now, lie’s
game for a lot more.”
“ Impossible,” replied Charley, looking in despair at
his unfinished viands and then at the Indian. A glance
round the circle seemed further to convince him that if
he did not eat it himself, there were none of the party
likely to do so.
“ You’ll have to give him a good lump o’ tobacco to do
it, though; he won’t undertake so much for a trifle, I can
tell you.” Jaques chuckled as he said this, and handed
his own portion over to another Indian, who readily un
dertook to finish it for him.
“ He’ll burst ; I feel certain of that,” said Char
ley, with a deep sigh, as he surveyed his friend on the
left.
At last he took courage to propose the thing to him,
and, just as the man finished the last moi’sel of his own
repast, Charley placed his own plate before him, with a
look that seemed to say, “ Eat it, my friend, if you can."
The Indian, much to his surprise, immediately com-


208
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
ruenced devouring it, and in less than half an hour the
whole was disposed of.
During this scene of gluttony, one of the chiefs enter
tained the assembly with a wild and most unmusical
chant, to which he beat time on a sort of tambourine,
while the women outside of the enclosure beat a similar
accompaniment.
“ I say, master,” whispered Jacques, “ it seems to my
observation that the fellow you called Redfeather eats
less than any Injin I ever saw. He has got a comrade
to eat more than half of his share; now that’s strange.”
“ It won’t appear strange, Jacques, Avhen I tell you
that Redfeather has lived much more among white men
than Indians during the last ten years, and although voyci-
genrs eat an enormous quantity of food, they don’t make
it a point of honor, as these fellows seem to do, to eat
much more than enough. Besides, Redfeather is a very
different man from those around him; he has been par
tially educated by the missionaries on' Playgreen Lake,
and I think has a strong leaning towards them.”
While they were thus conversing in whispers, Red
feather rose, and, holding forth his hand, delivered him
self of the following oration : —
“ The time has come for Redfeather to spqak. He
has kept silence for many moons now; but his heart has
been full of words. It is too full. He must speak now.
Redfeather has fought with his tribe and has been ac
counted a brave, and one who loves his people. This
is true. He does love, even more than they can under
stand. His friends know that he has never feared to
face danger or death in their defence, and that, if it were
necessary, he would do so still. But Redfeather is going
to leave his people now. His heart is heavy at the


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
209
thought. Perhaps many moons will come and go,, many
snows may fall and melt away before he sees his people
again; and it is this that makes him full of sorrow ; it is
this that makes his head to droop like the branches of the
weeping willow.”
Redfeather paused at this point, but not a sound es
caped from the listening circle: the Indians were evi
dently taken by surprise at this abrupt announcement.
He proceeded: —
“ When Redfeather travelled "not long since with the
white men, he met with a pale-face, who came from the
other side of the Great Salt Lake towards the rising sun.
This man was called by some of the people a missionary.
He spoke wonderful words in the ears of Redfeather,
He told him of things about the Great Spirit which he
did not know before, and he asked Redfeather to go and
help him to speak to the Indians about these strange
things. Redfeather would not go. He loved his people
too much, and he thought that the words of the missionary
seemed foolishness. But he has thought much about it
since. He does not understand the strange things that
were told to him, and he has tried to forget them, but he
cannot. He can get no rest. He hears strange sounds
in the breeze that shakes the pine. He thinks that there
are voices in the waterfall; the rivers seem to speak.
Redfeather’s spirit is vexed. The Great Spirit, perhaps,
is talking to him. He has resolved to go to the dwelling
of the missionary and stay with him.”
The Indian paused again, but still no sound escaped
from his comrades. Dropping his voice to a soft plain
tive tone, he continued —
“ But Redfeather loves his kindred. He desires very
much that they should hear the things that the missionary


210
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
said. He-spoke of the happy hunting grounds to which
the spirits of our fathers have gone, and said that we
required a guide to lead us there; that there was but one
guide, whose name, he said, was Jesus. Eedfeather
would stay and hunt with his people, but his spirit is
troubled; he cannot rest ■; he must go! ”
Eedfeather sat down, and a long silence ensued. His
words had evidently taken the whole party by surprise,
although not a countenance there showed the smallest
symptom of astonishment, except that of Charley Ken
nedy, whose intercourse with Indians had not yet been so
great as to have taught him to conceal his feelings.
At length the old chief rose, and, after complimenting
Eedfeather on his bravery in general, and admitting that
he had shown much love to his people on all occasions,
went into the subject of his quitting them at some length.
He reminded him that there were evil spirits as well as
good; that it was not for him to say which kind had
been troubling him, but that he ought to consider well
before he went to live altogether with pale-faces. Several
other speeches were made, some to the same effect, and
others applauding his resolve. These latter had, perhaps,
some idea that his bringing the pale-faced missionary
among them would gratify their taste for the marvellous
— a taste that is pretty strong in all uneducated minds.
One man, however, was particularly urgent in en
deavoring to dissuade him from his purpose. He was
a tall, low-browed man ; muscular and well built, but
possessed of a most villanous expression of countenance.
From a remark that fell from one of the company,
Charley discovered that his name was Misconna, and so
learned, to his surprise, that he was the very Indian men
tioned by Eedfeather as the man who had been his rival


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
211
for the hand of Wabisca, and who had so cruelly killed
the wife of the poor trapper the night on which the Chipe-
wyan camp was attacked, and the people slaughtered.
What reason Misconna had for objecting so strongly
to Redfeather’s'leaving the community no one could tell,
although some of those who knew his unforgiving nature
suspected that he still entertained the hope of being able,
some day or other, to wreak his vengeance on his old rival.
But, whatever was his object, he failed in moving Red-
feather’s resolution; and it was at last admitted by the
whole party that Redfeather was a “ wise chief; ” that he
knew best what ought to be done under the circum
stances, and it was hoped that his promised visit, in com
pany with the missionary, would not be delayed many
moons.
That night, in the deep shadow of the trees, by the
brook that murmured near the Indian camp, while the
stars twinkled through the branches overhead, Charley
introduced Redfeather to his friend Jacques Caradoc, and
a friendship was struck up between the bold hunter and
the red-man, that grew and strengthened as each suc
cessive day made them acquainted with their respective
good qualities. In the same place, and with the same
stars looking down upon them, it was further agreed that
Redfeather should accompany his new friends, taking his
wife along with him in another canoe, as far as their
several routes led them in the same direction, which was
about four or five days’ journey ; and that while the one
party diverged towards the fort at Stoney Creek, the other
should pursue its course to the missionary station on the
shores of Lake Winnipeg.
But there was a snake in the grass there that they
little suspected. Misconna had crept through the bushes


212
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
after them, with a degree of caution that might have
baffled their vigilance, even had they suspected treason in
a friendly camp. He lay listening intently to all their
plans, and when they returned to their camp, he rose out
from among the bushes, like a dark spirit of evil, clutched
the handle of his scalping-knife, and gave utterance to a
malicious growl; then, walking hastily after them, his
dusky figure was soon concealed among the trees.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
213
CHAPTER XVI.
TIIB RETURN; NARROW ESCAPE; A MURDEROUS ATTEMPT, WHICH
BAILS; AND A DISCOVERY.
A LL nature was joyous and brilliant, and bright and
beautiful. Morning was still very young — about
an hour old. Sounds of the most cheerful light-hearted
character floated over the waters and echoed through the
woods, as birds and beasts hurried to and fro with all the
bustling energy that betokened preparation and search for
breakfast. Fish leaped in the pools with a rapidity that
brought forcibly to mind that wise saying, “ The more
hurry, the less speed,” for they appeared constantly to
miss their mark, although they jumped twice thei?' own
length out of the water in the effort.
Ducks and geese sprang from their liquid beds with
an amazing amount of unnecessary splutter, as if they
had awakened to the sudden consciousness of being late
for breakfast, then alighted in the water again with a
squash, on finding (probably) that it was too early for
that meal, but, observing other flocks passing and repass
ing on noisy wing, took to flight again, unable apparently
to restrain their feelings of delight at the freshness of the
morning air, the brightness of the rising sun, and the
sweet perfume of the. dewy verdure, as the mists cleared
away over the tree-tops and lost themselves in the blue
sky. Everything seemed instinct not only with life, but
with a large amount of superabundant energy. Earth,


214
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
air, sky, animal, vegetable and mineral, solid and liquid, all
were either actually in a state of lively exulting motion,
or had a peculiarly sprightly look about them, as if nature
had just burst out of prison en masse, and gone raving
mad with joy. /.
Such was the delectable state of things the morning on
which two canoes darted from the camp of the Kniste-
neux, amid many expressions of good-will. One canoe
contained our two friends, Charley and Jacques; the other
Red feather and his wife Wabisea.
A few strokes of the paddle shot them out into the
stream, which carried them rapidly away from the scene
of their late festivities. In five minutes they swept round
a point, which shut them out from view, and they were
swiftly descending those rapid rivers that had cost Char
ley and Jacques so much labor to ascend.
“ Look out for rocks ahead, Mister Charles,” cried Jac
ques, as he steered the light bark into the middle of a
rapid, which they had avoided when ascending, by mak
ing a portage. “ Keep well to the left o’ yon swirl. Par-
bleit, if we touch the rock there, it’ll be all over with us.”
“ All right,” was Charley’s laconic reply. And so it
proved, for their canoe, aften getting fairly into the run
of the rapid, was evidently under the complete command
of its expert crew, and darted forward amid the foaming
waters, like a thing instinct with life. Now it careered
and plunged over the waves, where the rough bed of the
stream made them more than usually turbulent. Anon
it flew with increased rapidity through a narrow gap
where the compressed water was smooth and black, but
deep and powerful, rendering great care necessary to
prevent the canoe’s frail sides from being dashed on the
rocks. Then it met a curling wave, into which it plunged


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
215
like an impetuous charger, and was checked for a mo
ment by its own violence. Presently an eddy threw the
canoe a little out of its course, disconcerting Charley’s
intention of shaving a rock which lay in their track, so
that he slightly grazed it in passing.
“ Ah, Mister Charles,” said Jacques, shaking his head,
“ that was not well done ; an inch more would have sent
us down the rapids like drowned cats.”
“ True,” replied Charley, somewhat crestfallen, “ but
you see the other inch was not lost, so we’re not much
the worse for it.”
“ Well, after all, it was a ticklish bit, and I should
have guessed that your experience was not up to it quite.
I’ve seen many a man in my day who wouldn’t ha’ done
it half so slick, an’ yet ha’ thought no small beer of him
self ; so you needn’t be ashamed, .Mister Charles. But
Wabisca beats you for all that,” continued the hunter,
glancing hastily over his shoulder at Redfeather, who fol
lowed closely in their wake, he and his modest-looking
wife guiding their little craft through the dangerous pas
sage with the utmost sang froid and precision.
“ We’ve about run them all now,” said Jacques, as
they paddled over a sheet of still water which inter
vened between the rapid they had just descended and
another which thundered about a hundred yards in ad
vance.
“ I was so engrossed with the one we have just come
down,” said Charley, “ that I quite forgot this one.”
“ Quite right, Mister Charles,” said Jacques, in an ap
proving tone ; “ quite right. I holds that a man should
always attend to what he’s at, an’ to nothin’ else. I’ve
lived long in the woods now, and that fact becomes more
and more sartin every day. I’ve know’d chaps, now, as


216 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
timersome as settlement girls, that were always in such
a mortal'funk about what was to happen, or might hap
pen, that they were never fit for anything that did hap
pen ; always lookin’ ahead and never around them. Qf
coorse, I don’t mean that a man shouldn’t look ahead at
all, but their great mistake was, that they looked out too
far ahead, and always kep’ their eyes nailed there, just as
if they had the fixin’ o’ everything, an’ Providence had
nothin’ to do with it at all. I mind a Canadian o’ that
sort that travelled in company with me once. We were
goin’ just as we are now, Mister Charles, two canoes of
us; him and a comrade in one, and me and a comrade in
t’other. One night we got to a lot o’ rapids, that came
one after another for the matter o’ three miles or there
abouts. They were all easy ones, however, except the
last, but it was a tickler, with a sharp turn o’ the land
that hid it from sight till ye were right into it, with a
foamin’ current, and a range o’ ragged rocks that stood
straight in front o’ ye, like the teeth of a cross-cut saw.
It was easy enough, however, if a man hnew it, and was
a cool hand. Well, the pauvre Canadian was in a terrible
takin’ about this shoot, long afore he came to it. He
had run it often enough in boats where he was one of a
half-dozen men, and had nothin’ to do but look on; but
he had never steered down it before. When he came to
the top o’ the rapids, his mind was so filled with this
shoot, that he couldn’t attend to nothin’; and scraped
agin’ a dozen rocks in almost smooth water, so that when
he got little more than half way down, the canoe was as
ricketty as if it had just come off a six month’s cruise; At
last we came to the big rapid, and after we’d run down
our canoe, I climbed the bank to see them do it. Down
they came, the poor Canadian white as a sheet, and his


FEOM THE FAE NOETH.
217
comrade, who was brave enough, but knew nothin’ about
light craft, not very comfortable. At first he could'see
nothin’ for the point, but, in another moment, round
they went, end on,/for the big rocks. The Canadian
gave a great yell when he saw them, and plunged at
-the paddle till I thought he’d have capsized altogether.
They ran it well enough, straight between the rocks
(more by good luck than good guidance), and sloped
down to the smooth water below, but the canoe had got
such a battering in the rapids above, where an Injin baby
could have steered it in safety, that the last plunge shook
it all to pieces. It opened up, and lay down flat on the
water, while the two men fell right through the bottom,
screechin’ like mad, and rolling about among shreds o’
birch-barlc! ”
While Jacques was thus descanting philosophically on
his experiences in time past, they had approached the
head of the second rapid, and, in accordance with the
principles just enunciated, the stout backwoodsman gave
his undivided attention to the work before him. The
rapid was short and deep, so that little care was required
in descending it, excepting at one point, where the stream
rushed impetuously between two rocks about six yards
asunder. Here it was requisite to keep the canoe as much
in the middle of the stream as possible.
Just as they began to feel the drag of the water,
lledfeather was heard to shout in a loud warning tone,
which caused Jacques and Charley to back their paddles
hurriedly
“ What can the Injin mean, I wonder ? ” said Jac
ques, in a perplexed tone. “ He don't look like a man
that would stop us at the top of a strong rapid for
nothin’.”


218 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
“ It’s too late to do that now, whatever is his reason,”
said Charley, as he and his companion struggled in vain
to paddle up stream.
“ It’s o’ no use, Mister Charles, we must run it now; the
current’s too strong to make head against; besides, I do
think the man has only seen a bear, or somethin’ o’ that
sort, for I see he’s ashore, and jumpin’ among the bushes
like a cariboo.”
Saying this, they turned the canoe’s head down stream
again, and allowed it to drift, merely retarding its pro
gress a little with the paddles.
Suddenly Jacques uttered a sharp exclamation. “ Mon
Dieu! ” said he, “ it’s plain enough now. Look there ! ”
Jacques pointed as he spoke to the narrows to which
they were now approaching with tremendous speed, which
increased every instant. A heavy tree lay directly across
the stream, reaching from rock to rock, and placed in
such a way that it was impossible for a canoe to de
scend without being dashed in pieces against it. This
was the more curious, that no trees grew in the immedi
ate vicinity, so that this one must have been designedly
conveyed there.
“ There has been foul work here,” said Jacques in a
deep tone. “ We must dive, Mister Charles ; there’s no
chance any way else, and that’s but a poor one.”
This was true. The rocks on each side rose almost
perpendicularly out of the water, so that it was utterly
impossible to run ashore, and the only way of escape, as
Jacques said, was by diving under the tree, a thing in
volving great risk, as the stream immediately below
was broken by rocks, against which it dashed in foam,
and through which the chances of steering one’s way in
safety by means of swimming, were very slender indeed.


FROM THIS FAR FORTH.
219
Charley made no reply, but, with tightly compressed
lips, and a look of stern resolution on his brow, threw
oil’ his eoat, and hastily tied his belt tightly round his
waist. The canoe was now sweeping forward with
lightning speed. In a few minutes it would be dashed
to pieces.
At that moment a shout was heard in tho woods, and
Redfeather darting out, rushed over the ledge of rock, on
which one end of the tree rested, seized the trunk in his
arms, and exerting all his strength, hurled it over into
the river. 1'n doing so he stumbled, and, ero ho could
recover himself, a branch caught him under tho arm as
the tree fell over, and dragged him into the boiling
stream. This accident was probably the means of saving
his life, for, just as he fell, the loud report of a gun rang
through the woods, and a bullet passed through his cap.
For a second or two both man and tree were lost in the
foam, while the canoe dashed past .in safety. The next
instant Wabisca passed the narrows in her small craft,
and steered for tho tree. Redfeather, who had risen and
sank several times, saw her as she passed, and, making a
violent effort, he caught hold of the gunwale, and was
carried down in safety.
“ I’ll tell you what it is,” said Jacques, as the party
stood on a rock promontory after the events just narrated,
“ I would give a dollar to have that fellow’s nose and
tho sights o’ my ride in a line at any distance short of two
hundred yards.”
“ It was Misconna,” said Redfeather. U I did not see
him, but there’s not another man in the tribe that could
do that.”
“ I’m thankful we escaped, Jacques. I never felt so
near death before, and had it not been for the timely aid


220
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
of our friend here, it strikes me that our wild life would
have come to an abrupt close. God bless you, Red-
feather,” said Charley, taking the Indian’s hand in both
of his and kissing it.
Charley’s ebullition of feeling was natural. He had
not yet become used to the dangers of the wilderness
so as to treat them with indifference. Jacques, on the
other hand, had risked his life so often, that escape from
danger was treated very much as a matter of course,
and called forth little expression of feeling. Still, it
must not be inferred from, this that his nature had be
come callous. The backwoodsman’s frame was hard
and unyielding as iron, but his heart was as soft still as
it was on the day on which he first donned the hunting-
sliirt; and there was much more of tenderness than met
the eye in the squeeze that he gave Redfeather’s hand on
landing.
As the four travellers encircled the fire that night, un
der the leafy branches of the forest, and smoked their
pipes in concert, while TVabisca busied herself in clearing
away the remnants of their evening meal, they waxed
communicative, and stories, pathetic, comic, and tragic,
followed each other in rapid succession.
“ Now, Redfeather,” said Charley, while Jacques rose
and went down to the luggage to get more tobacco, “ tell
Jacques about the way in which you got your name. I
am sure he will feel deeply interested in that story, —
at least I am certain that Harry Somerville and I did
when you told it to us the day we were wind-bound on
Lake 'Winnipeg.”
Redfeather made no reply for a few seconds. “ Will
Mister Charles speak for me ?” he said, at length ; “his
tongue is smooth and quick.”


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
221
“A doubtful kind of compliment,” said Charley,
laughing; “ but I will, if you don’t wish to tell it your
self.”
“ And don’t mention names. Do not let him know
that you speak of me or my friends,” said the Indian, in
a low whisper, as Jacques returned and sat down by the
fire again.
Charley gave him a glance of surprise ; but, being
prevented from asking questions, he nodded in reply,
and proceeded to relate to his friend the story that has
been recounted in a previous chapter. Redfeather leaned
back against a tree, and appeared to listen intently.
Charley’s powers of description were by no means in
considerable, and the backwoodsman’s face assumed a
look of good-humored attention as the story proceeded.
But when the narrator went on to tell of the meditated
attack, and the midnight march, his interest was aroused,
the pipe which he had been smoking was allowed to go
out, and he gazed at his young friend with the most
earnest attention. It was evident that the hunter’s spirit
entered with deep sympathy into such scenes ; and, when
Charley described the attack, and the death of the trap
per’s wife, Jacques seemed unable to restrain his feelings.
He leaned his elbows on his knees, buried his face in his
hands, and groaned aloud.
“ Mister Charles,” he said, in a deep voice, when the
story was ended, “ there are two men I would like to meet
with in this world before I die. One is the young Injin
who tried to save that girl’s life, the other is the cowardly
villain that took it. I don’t mean the one who finished
the bloody work, — my rifle sent his accursed spirit to
its own place ”
“ Yoicr rifle ! ” cried Charley, in amazement.


222 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
“Ay, mine! It was my wife who was butchered by
these savage dogs on that dark night. Oh ! what avails
the strength o’ that right arm ! ” said Jacques, bitterly,
as he lifted up his clenched fist; “ it was powerless to
save her — the sweet girl who left her home and people
to follow me, a rough hunter, through the lonesome
wilderness ! ”
He covered his face again, and groaned in agony of
spirit, while his whole frame quivered with emotion.
Jacques remained silent; and his sympathizing friends
refrained from intruding on a sorrow which they felt they
had no power to relieve.
At length he spoke. “Yes,” said he; “I would give
much to meet with the man who tried to save her. I saw
him do it twice ; but the devils about him were too eager
to be baulked of their prey.”
Charley and the Indian exchanged glances. “ That
Indian’s name,” said the former, “ was Redfeather ! ”
“ "What! ” exclaimed the trapper, jumping to his feet,
and, grasping Redfeather, who had also risen, by the two
shoulders, stared wildly into his face, “ was it you that
did it?”
Redfeather smiled, and held out his hand, which the
other took and wrung with an energy that would have
extorted a cry of pain from any one but an Indian.
Then, dropping it suddenly, and clenching his hands, he
exclaimed —
“ I said that I would like to meet the villain who killed
her — yes, I said it in passion, when your words had
roused all my old feelings again; but I am thankful —
I bless God, that I did not know this sooner — that you
did not tell me of it when I was at the camp, for I
verily believe that I would not only have fixed him, but


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
223
half the warriors o’ your tribe too, before they had set
tled me / ”
It need scarcely be added, that the friendship which
already subsisted between Jacques and Redfeather was
now doubly cemented ; nor will it create surprise when
we say that the former, in the fulness of his heart, and
from sheer inability to find adequate outlets for the ex
pression of his feelings, offered Redfeather in succession
all the articles of value he possessed, even to his much
loved rifle, and was seriously annoyed at their not being
accepted. At last he finished off by assuring the Indian
that he might look out for him soon at the missionary
settlement, where he meant to stay with him evermore
in the capacity of hunter, fisherman, and jaclc-of-all-trades
to the whole clan.


224
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
CHAPTER XVII.
THE SCENE CHANGES; BACHELOR’S HALL; A PRACTICAL JOKE
AND ITS CONSEQUENCES; A SNOW-SIIOE WALK AT NIGHT IN THE
FOREST.
L EAVING Chai'Iey to pursue his adventurous career
among the Indians, we will introduce our reader to
a new scene, and follow, for a time, the fortunes of our
friend Harry Somerville. It will be remembered that
we left him laboring under severe disappointment, at
the idea of having to spend a year, it might be many
years, at the depot; and being condemned to the desk,
instead of realizing his fond dreams of bear-hunting and
deer-stalking in the woods and praii’ies.
It was now the autumn of Harry’s second year at
York Fort. This period of the year happens to be the
busiest at the depot, in consequence of the preparation
of the annual accounts for transmission to England, in
the solitary ship which visits this lonely spot once a year;
so that Harry was tied to his desk all day and the greater
part of the night too, till his spirits fell infinitely below
zero, and he began to look on himself as the most miser
able of mortals. His spirits rose, however, with amaz
ing rapidity, after the ship went away, and the “ young
gentlemen,” as the clerks were styled cn masse, were
permitted to run wild in the swamps and woods for the
three weeks succeeding that event. During this glimpse
of sunshine they recruited their exhausted frames, by


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
225
paddling about all day in Indian canoes, or wandering
through the marshes, sleeping at nights in tents or under
the pine-trees, and spreading dismay among the feathered
tribes, of which there were immense numbers of all
kinds. After this they returned to their regular work at
the desk, but, as this was not so severe as in summer,
and was farther lightened by Wednesdays and Satur-
daj'-s being devoted entirely to recreation, Iiarry began
to look on things in a less gloomy aspect, and at length
regained his wonted cheerful spirits.
Autumn passed away. The ducks and geese took
-their departure to more genial climes. The swamps
froze up and became solid. Snow fell in great abun
dance, covering every vestige of vegetable nature, ex
cept the dark fir-trees that only helped to render the
scenery more dreary, and winter settled down upon the
land. Within the pickets of-York Fort, the thirty or
forty souls who lived there were actively employed in
cutting their firewood ; putting in double window-frames,
to keep out the severe cold; cutting tracks in the snow,
from one house to another ; and otherwise preparing for
a winter of eight months’ duration, as cold as that of
Nova Zembla, and in the course of which the- only new
faces they had any chance of seeirig were those of the-
two men who conveyed the annual winter packet of let
ters from the next station. Outside of the fort all was a
wide, waste wilderness for thousands of miles around.
Deathlike stillness and solitude reigned everywhere, ex
cept when a covey of ptarmigan whirred like large snow
flakes athwart the sky, or an arctic fox prowled stealthily
through the woods in search of prey.
As if in opposition to the gloom,, and stillness, and soli
tude outside, the interior of the clerk’s house presented a
15


226
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
striking contrast of ruddy warmth, cheerful sounds, and
bustling activity. '
It was evening, but, although the sun had set, there
was still sufficient daylight to render candles unnecessary,
though not enough to prevent a bright glare from the
stove in the centre of the hall taking full effect in the
darkening chamber, and making it glow with fiery red.
Harry Somerville sat in front, and full in the blaze of
this stove, resting after the labors of the day; his arms
crossed on his breast; his head a little to one side, as if
in deep contemplation, as he gazed eax-nestly into the.
fire, and his chair tilted on its hind legs so as to balance
with such nicety that a feather’s weight additional, out
side its centre of gravity, would have upset it. He had
divested himself of his coat — a practice that prevailed
among the young gentlemen when at home, as being free-
and-easy as well as convenient. The doctor, a tall,
broad-shouldered man, with red hair and whiskers, paced
the room sedately, with a long pipe depending from his
lips, which he removed occasionally to address a few re
marks to the accountant, a stout heavy man of about
thirty, with a voice like a Stentor, eyes sharp and active
as those of a ferret, and a tongue that moved with twice
the ordinary amount of lingual rapidity. The doctor’s
remarks seemed to be particularly humorous, if one
might judge from the peals of laughter with which they,
were received by the accountant, who stood with his
’ back to the stove in such a position that while it warmed
him from his heels to his waist, he enjoyed the additional
benefit of the pipe or chimney, which rose upwards, par
allel with his spine and, taking a sudden bend near the
roof, passed over his head — thus producing a genial and
equable warmth from top to toe.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
227
“Yes,” said the doctor, “I left him hotly following up
a rabbit-track, in the firm belief that it was that of a sil
ver fox.”
“ And did you not undeceive the greenhorn ? ” cried
the accountant, with another shout of laughter.
“ Not I,” replied the doctor, “ I merely recommended
him to keep his eye on the sun, lest he should lose his
way, and hastened home; for it just occurred to me that
I had forgotten to visit Louis Blanc, who cut his foot with
an axe yesterday, and whose wound required redressing,
so I left the poor youth to learn from experience.”
“Pray, who did you leave to that delightful fate?”
asked Mr. Wilson, issuing from his bedroom, and ap
proaching the stove.
Mr. Wilson was a middle-aged, good-humored, active
man, who filled the onerous offices of superintendent of
the men, trader of furs, seller of goods to the Indians,
and general factotum.
“ Our friend Hamilton,” answered the doctor, in reply
to his question. “ I think he is, without,exception, the
most egregious nincompoop I ever saw. Just as I passed
the long swamp on my way home, I met him crashing
through the bushes in hot pursuit of a rabbit, the track
of which he mistook for a fox. Poor fellow, he had been
out since breakfast, and only shot a brace of ptarmigan,
although they are as thick as bees and quite tame. ‘ But
then, do you see,’ said he, in excuse, e I’m so very short
sighted ! Would you believe it, I’ve blown fifteen lumps
of snow to atoms, in the belief that they were ptarmi
gan ! ’ and then he rushed off again.”
“ No doubt,” said Mr. Wilson, smiling, “ the lad is very
green-—but he’s a good fellow for all that.”
“ I’ll answer for that,” said the accountant; “ I found


228
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
him over at the men’s houses this morning doing your
work for you, doctor.”
“ How so ? ” inquired the disciple of .ZEsculapius.
“ Attending to your wounded man, Louis Blanc, to be
sure ; and he seemed to speak to him as wisely as if he
had walked the hospitals, and regularly passed for an
M. D ”
“ Indeed! ” said the doctor, with a mischievous grin.
“ Then I must pay him off for interfering with my pa
tients.”
“Ah, doctor, you’re too fond of practical jokes. You
never let slip an opportunity of ‘ paying off’ your friends
for something or other. It’s a bad habit. Practical
jokes are very bad things—shockingly bad,”- said Mr.
Wilson, as he put on his fur cap, and wound a thick
shawl round his throat, preparatory to leaving the room.
As Mr. Wilson gave utterance to this opinion, he
passed Harry . Somerville, who was still staring at the
fire in deep mental abstraction, and, as he did so, gave
his tilted chair a very slight push backwards with his
finger, — an action which caused Harry to toss up his
legs, grasp convulsively with both hands at empty air,
and fall with a loud noise and an angry yell to the
ground, while his persecutor vanished from the scene.
“ O you outrageous villain ! ” cried Harry, shaking his
fist at the door, as he slowly gathered himself up; “I
might have expected that.”
“ Quite so,” said the doctor, “ you might. It was very
neatly done, undoubtedly. Wilson deserves credit for
the way in which it was executed.”
“ He deserves to be executed for doing it at all,”
relied Harry, rubbing his elbow as he resumed his
seat.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
229
“ Any bark knocked off? ” inquired the accountant, as
lie took a piece of glowing charcoal from the stove, where
with to light his pipe. “ Try a whiff, Harry. It’s good
for such things ; bruises, sores, contusions, sprains, rheu
matic affections of the back and loins, carbuncles and
earache —Jhere’s nothing that smoking won’t cure — eh,
doctor ? ”
“ Certainly. If applied inwardly, there’s nothing so
good for digestion when one doesn’t require tonics. Try
it, Harry, it will do you good, I assure you.”
“ No, thank you,” replied Harry, “ I’ll leave that to
you and the chimney. I don’t wish to make a soot-bag
of my mouth. But tell me, doctor, what do you mean to
do with that lump of snow there ? ”
Harry pointed to a mass of snow, of about two feet
square, which lay on the floor beside the door. It had
been placed there by the doctor sometime previously.
“ Do with it ? Have patience, my friend, and you
shall see. It is a little surprise I have in store for
Hamilton.”
As he spoke, the door opened, and a short, square-
built man rushed into the room, with a pistol in one hand,
and a bright little bullet in the other.
“ Hallo, skipper! ” cried Harry, “ what’s the row ? ”
“ All right,” cried the skipper, “ here it is at last, solid
as the fluke of an anchor. Toss me the powder flask,
Harry ; look sharp, else it’ll melt.”
A powder flask was immediately produced, from which
the skipper hastily charged the pistol, and rammed down
the shining bullet.
“ Now then,” said he, “ look out for squalls. Clear the
decks there.” ■
And, rushing to the door, he flung it open, took a steady
aim at something outside, and fired.


230
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
“Is the man mad?” said the accountant, as, with a
look of amazement, he beheld the skipper spring through
the doorway, and immediately returning bearing in his.
arms a large piece of fir plank.
“Not quite mad yet,” he said, in reply, “but I’ve
sent a ball of quicksilver through an inch plank, and
that’s not a thing to be done every day — even here,
although it is cold, enough sometimes to freeze up one’s
very ideas.”
“ Dear me,” interrupted Harry Somerville, looking as
if a new thought had struck him, “that must be it! I’ve
no doubt that poor Hamilton’s ideas are frozen, which ’
accounts for the total absence of any indication of his
possessing such things.”
“ I observed,” continued the skipper, not noticing the
interruption, “ that the glass was down at 45 degrees be
low zero this morning, and put out a bullet-mould full of
mercury, and you see the result; ” as he spoke, he held
up the perforated plank in triumph.
The skipper was a strange mixture of qualities. To a
wild, off-hand, sailor-like hilarity of disposition, in hours
of leisure, he united a grave, stern energy of character
while employed in the performance of his duties. Duty
was always paramount with him. A smile could’scarcely
be extracted from him, while it was in the course of per
formance. But, the instant his work was done, a new
spirit seemed to take possession of the man. Fun, mis
chief of any kind, no matter how childish, he entered into
with the greatest delight and enthusiasm. Among other
peculiarities, he had become deeply imbued with a thirst
for scientific knowledge, ever since he had acquired, with
infinite labor, the small modicum of science necessary to
navigation; and his doings in pursuit of statistical infor-


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
231
mation relative to the weather, and the phenomena of
nature generally, w.ere very peculiar, and in some cases
outrageous. His transaction with the quicksilver was in
consequence of an eager desire to see that metal frozen,
(an. effect which takes place when the spirit-of-wine
thermometer falls to 39 degrees below zero of Fahren
heit,) and a wish to -be able to boast of having actu
ally tired a mercurial bullet through an inch plank.
Having made a careful note of the fact, with all the
relative circumstances attending it, in a very much blot
ted book, which he denominated his scientific log, the
worthy skipper threw off his coat, drew a chair to the
stove, and prepared to regale himself with a pipe.
As he glanced slowly round the room, while thus en
gaged, his eye fell on the mass of snow before alluded
to. On being informed by the doctor for what it was
intended, he laid down his pipe and rose hastily from
his chair.
“You’ve not a moment to lose,” said he. “As I
came in at the gate just now, I saw Hamilton coming
down the river on the ice, and he must be almost arrived
now.”
“ Up with it then,” cried the doctor, seizing the snow,
and lifting it to the top of the door ; “ hand me those
bits of stick, Harry ; quick, man, stir your stumps. Now
then, skipper, fix them in so, while I hold this up.”
The skipper lent willing and effective aid, so that
in a few minutes the snow was placed in such a po
sition, that, upon the opening of the door, it must inev
itably fall on the head of the first person who should
enter the room.
“So,” said the skipper, “that’s rigged up in what I
call a sbip-shape fashion.”


232
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
“True,” remarked the doctor, eyeing the arrange
ment with a look of approval; “ it will do, I think,
admirably.”
“ Don’t you think, skipper,” said Harry Somerville,
gravely; as he resumed his seat in front of the fire,
“that it would be worth while to make a careful
and minute entry in your private log of the manner
in which it was put up, to be afterwards followed by
an account of its efFect? You might write an essay
on it, now; and call it the extraordinary effects of a
fall of. snow in latitude so and so; eh? What think-
you of it?”
The skipper vouchsafed no reply, but made a signifi
cant gesture with his fist, which caused Harry to put him
self in a posture of defence.
At this moment, footsteps were heard on the wooden
platform in front of the building.
Instantly all became silence and expectation in the
hall, as the result of the practical joke was about to be
realized. Just then another step was heard on the plat
form, and it became evident that two persons were ap
proaching the door. y .
“ Hope it’ll be the right man,” said the skipper, with a
look savoring slightly of anxiety.
• As he spoke, the door opened, and a foot crossed the
•threshold; the next instant, the miniature avalanche
descended on the head and shoulders of a man, who reeled
forward from the weight of the blow, and, covered from
head to foot with snow, fell to the ground amid shouts of
laughter.
With a convulsive stamp and shake, the prostrate
figure sprang up and confronted the party. Had the
■cast-iron sto’ve suddenly burst into atoms, and blown the


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
233
roof off the house, it could scarcely have created greater
consternation than that which filled the merry jesters
when they beheld the visage of Mr. Rogan, the superin
tendent of the fort, red with passion, and fringed with
snow..
“ So,” said he, stamping violently with his foot, partly
from anger, and partly with the view of shaking off the
unexpected covering, which stuck all over his dress in
little'patches, producing a somewhat piebald effect, “so
you are pleased to jest, gentlemen. Pray, who placed
that piece of snow over the door ? ” Mr. Rogan glared
fiercely round upon the culprits, who stood speechless
before him.
For a moment he stood silent, as if uncertain how to
act; then, turning short on his heel, he strode quickly out
of the room, nearly overturning Mr. Hamilton, who at
the same instant entered it carrying his gun and snow-
shoes under his arm.
“ Dear me, what has happened ? ” he exclaimed, in a
peculiaidy gentle tone of voice, at the same time regard
ing the snow and the horror-stricken circle with a look
of intense surprise.
“ You see what has happened,” replied Harry Somer
ville, who was the first to recover his composure; “ I
presume you intended to ask, ‘ What has caused it to
happen ? ’ Perhaps the skipper will explain. It’s b'eyond
me, quite.”
Thus appealed to, that worthy cleared his throat, and
said —
“ Why, you see, Mr. Hamilton, a great phenomenon
of meteorology has happened. We were all standing, you
must know, at the open door, taking a squint at the
weather, when our attention was attracted by a curious


234 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
object that appeared in the sky, and seemed to be coming
down at the rate of ten knots an- hour, right end-on for
the house. I had just time to cry, ‘ Clear out, lads,’ when
it came slap in through the doorway, and smashed to
shivers there, where you see the fragments. In fact, it’s
a -wonderful aerolite, and Mr. Rogan has just gone out
with a lot of the bits in his pocket, to make a careful
examination of them, and draw up a report for the Geo
logical Society in London. I shouldn’t wonder if he were
to send off an express to-night; and maybe you will have
to convey the news to head-quarters ; so you’d better go
and see him about it soon.”
Soft although Mr. Hamilton was supposed to be, he
was not quite prepared to give credit’ to this explanation ;
but, being of a peaceful disposition, and altogether unac
customed to retort, he merely smiled his disbelief, as he
proceeded to lay aside his fowling-piece, and divest him
self of the voluminous out-of-door trappings with which
he was clad. Mr. Hamilton was a tall, slender youth, of
about nineteen. He had come out by the ship in autumn,
and was spending his first winter at York Fort. Up to
the period of his entering the Hudson’s Bay Company’s
service, he had never been more than twenty miles from
home ; and, having mingled little with the world, was
somewhat unsophisticated, besides being by nature gentle
and unassuming.
Soon after this, the man who acted as cook, waiter,
and butler to the mess, entered, and said that Mr. Rogan
desired to see the accountant immediately.
“ Who am I to say did it ? ” inquired that gentleman,
as he rose to obey the summons.
“Wouldn’t it be a disinterested piece of kindness if
you were to say it was yourself?” suggested the doctor.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
235
“ Perhaps it would, but I won’t/’ replied the account
ant, as he made his exit.
In about half an hour, Mr. Rogan and the accountant
reentered the apartment. The former had quite regained
his composure. lie was naturally amiable; which happy
disposition was indicated by a habitually cheerful look
and smile.
“ Now, gentlemen,” said he, “ I find that this practical
joke was not intended for me, and therefore look upon
it as an unlucky accident; but I pannot too strongly ex
press my dislike to practical jokes of all kinds. I have
seen great evil, and some bloodshed, result from practical
jokes and I think that, being a sufferer in consequence
of your fondness for them, I have a right to beg that you
will abstain from such doings in future, — at least from
such jokes as involve risk to those who do not choose to
enter into them.”
Having given vent to this speech, Mr. Rogan left his
volatile friends to digest it at their leisure.
“ Serves us right,” said the skipper, pacing up and
down the room in a repentant frame of mind, with his
thumbs hooked into the arm-holes of his vest.
The doctor said nothing, but breathed hard, and smoked
vigorously.
While we admit most thoroughly with Mr. Rogan that
practical jokes are exceedingly bad, and productive, fre
quently, of far more evil than fun, we feel it our duty,
as a faithful delineator of manners, customs, and charac
ter in these regions, to urge in palliation of the offence
committed by the young gentlemen at York Fort, that
they had really about as few amusements, and sources of
excitement, as fall to the lot of any class of men. They
were entirely dependent on their own unaided exertions,


236
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
during eight or nine months of the year, for amusement
or recreation of any kind. Their books were few in
number, and soon read through. The desolate wilder
ness around afforded no incidents to form subjects of
conversation, further than the events of a day’s shooting,
which, being nearly similar every day, soon lost all inter
est. No newspapers came to tell of the doings of the
busy world from which they were shut out, and nothing
occurred to vary the dull routine of their life ; so that it
is not matter for wonder that they were driven to seek
for relaxation and excitement, occasionally, in most out
rageous and unnatural ways, and to indulge, now and
then in the perpetration of a practical joke.
For some time after the rebuke administered by Mr.
Rogan, silence reigned in Bachelor’s Hall, as the clerks’
house was termed. But at length symptoms of ennui
began to be displayed. The doctor yawned, and lay down
on his bed to enjoy an American newspaper about twelve
months old. Harry Somerville sat down to re-read a
volume of Franklin’s travels in the Polar Regions, which
he had perused twice already. Mr. Hamilton busied
himself in cleaning his fowling-piece ; while the skipper
conversed with Mr. Wilson, who was engaged in his room
in adjusting an ivoi'y head to a walking-stick. Mr. Wil
son was a jack-of-all-trades, who could make shift, one
way or other, to do anything. The accountant paced the
uncarpeted floor in deep contemplation.
At length he paused, and looked at Harry Somerville
for some time.
“ What say you to a walk through the woods to North
River, Harry ? ”
“ Ready,” cried Harry, tossing down the book with a
look.of contempt, — “ ready for anything.”


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
237
“ Will you come, Hamilton ? ” added tlie accountant.
Hamilton looked up in surprise.
“You don’t mean, surely, to take so long a walk in
the dark, do you ? It is snowing, too, very heavily, and
I think you said that'North River was five miles off, did
you not ?”
“ Of course I mean to walk in the dark,” replied the
accountant, “ unless you can extemporize an artificial
light for the occasion, or prevail on the moon to come out
for my special benefit. As to snowing, and a short tramp
of five miles, why, the sooner you get to think of such
things as trifles the better, if you hope to be fit for any
thing in this country.”
“I don't think much of them,” replied Hamilton, softly,
and with a slight smile ; “ I only meant that such a walk
was not very attractive so late in the evening.”
“ Attractive ! ” shouted Harry Somerville, from his
bedroom, where he was equipping himself for the walk,
“ what can be . more attractive than a sharp run of ten
miles through the woods on a cool night, to visit your
traps, with the prospect of a silver fox, or a wolf, at
the end of it, and an extra sound sleep as the result ?
Come, man, don’t be soft; get ready, and go along with
us.”
“ Besides,” added the accountant, “ I don’t mean to
come back to-night. To-morrow, you know, is a holiday,
so we can camp out in the snow, after visiting the traps,
— have our supper, and start early in the morning to*
search for ptarmigan.”
“Well, I will go,” said Hamilton, after this account of
the pleasures that were to be expected; “lam exceed
ingly anxious to learn to shoot birds on the wing.”
“ Bless me! have you not learned that yet ? ” asked


238
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
the doctor, in affected surprise, as he sauntered out of his
bedroom to relight his pipe.
The various bedrooms in the clerks’ house were ranged
round the hall, having doors that opened directly into
it, so that conversation carried on in a loud voice was
heard in all the rooms at once, and was not unfrequently
sustained in elevated tones from different apartments,
when the occupants were lounging, as they often did of
an evening, in their beds.
“ No,” said Hamilton, in reply to the doctor’s question,
“ I have not learned yet, although there were a great
many grouse in the part of Scotland where I was brought
up. But my aunt, with whom I lived, was so fearful of
my shooting either myself or some one else, and had such
an aversion to firearms, that I determined to make her
mind easy, by promising that I would never use them, so
long as I remained under her roof.” '
“ Quite right; very dutiful and proper,” said the doctoF,
with a grave patronizing air.
“Perhaps you’ll fall in with more fox tracks of the
same sort as the one you gave chase to this morning,”
shouted the skipper, from Wilson’s room.
“ Oh ! there’s hundreds of them out there,” said the
accountant; “ so let’s off at once.”
The trio now proceeded to equip themselves for the
walk. Their costumes were peculiar, and merit descrip
tion. As they were similar in' the chief points, it will
suffice to describe that of our friend Harry.
On his head he wore a fur cap made of ,otter-skin, with
a flap on each side to cover the ears, the frost being so
intense in these climates that, without some such pro
tection, they would inevitably freeze and fall off.
As the nose is constantly in use for the purposes of


FROM THE FAE NORTH.
239
respiration, it is always left uncovered to fight with the
cold as it best can; but it is a hard battle, and there is
no doubt that, if it were, possible, a nasal covering would
be extremely pleasant. Indeed, several desperate efforts
have been made to construct some sort of nose-bag, but
hitherto without success, owing to the uncomfortable
fact that the breath issuing from that organ immediately
freezes, and converts" the covering into a bag of snow
or ice, which is not agreeable. Round his neck, Harry
wound a thick shawl of such portentous dimensions, that
it entirely enveloped the neck and lower part of the face;
thus the entire head was, as it were, eclipsed, the eyes,
the nose, and the cheek-bones alone being visible. He
then threw on a coat made of deer-skin, so prepared that
it bore a slight resemblance to excessively coarse chamois
leather. It was somewhat in the form of a long, wide
surtout, overlapping very much in front, and confined
closely to the figure by means of a scarlet worsted belt
instead of buttons, and was ornamented round the foot by
a number of cuts, which produced a fringe of little tails.
Being lined with thick flannel, this portion of attire was
rather heavy, but extremely.necessary. A pair of blue
cloth leggins, having a loose flap on the outside, were
next drawn on over the trousers, as an additional protec
tion to the knees. The feet, besides being portions of
the body that are peculiarly susceptible of cold, had
further to contend against the chafing of the lines which
attach them to the snow-sboes, so that special care in
their preparation for duty was necessary. First were
put on a pair of blanketing or duffle socks, which were
merely oblong in form, without sewing or making up of
any kind. These were wrapped round the feet, which
were next thrust into a pair of made-up stocks, of the


240
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
same material, having ankle pieces; above these were put
another pair, luithout flaps for the ankles. Over all was
drawn a pair of moccasons made of stout deer-skin, simi
lar to : that of the coat. Of course, the elegance of-Harry’s
feet was entirely destroyed, and had he been met in this
guise by any of his friends in the “ old country,” they
would infallibly have come to the conclusion that he was
afflicted with gout. Over his shoulders he slung a pow
der-horn and shot-pouch, the latter tastefully embroidered
with dyed quill work. A pair of deer-skin mittens, hav
ing a little bag for the thumb, and a large bag for the
fingers, completed his costume.
While the three were making ready, with a running
accompaniment of grunts and groans at refractory pieces
of apparel, the night without became darker, and the snow
fell thicker, so that, when they issued suddenly out of
their warm abode, and emerged into the sharp frosty air,
which blew the snowdrift into their eyes, they felt a
momentary desire to give up the project and return to
their comfortable quarters.
“ What a dismal-looking night it is ! ” said the account
ant, as he led the way along the wooden platform towards
the gate of the fort.
“ Very !” replied Hamilton, with an involuntary shud
der.
“ Keep up your heart,” said Harry, in a cheerful voice,
“ you’ve no notion how your mind will change on that
point when you have walked a mile or so, and got into a
comfortable heat. I must confess, however, that a little
moonshine would be an improvement,” he added, on
stumbling, for the third time, off the platform into the
deep snow.
“ It is full moon just now,” said the accountant, “ and


FROM THE PAR NORTH.
241
I think the clouds look as if they would break soon. At
any rate, I’ve been at North River so often that I believe
I could walk out there blindfold.”
As he spoke they passed the gate, and diverging to the
right, proceeded, as well as the imperfect light permitted,
along the footpath that led to the forest.
15


242
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
CHAPTER XVffi.
THE WALK CONTINUED; FROZEN TOES; AN ENCAMPMENT IN THE
SNOW.
A FTER quitting York Fort, the three friends fol
lowed the track leading to the spot where the win
ter’s firewood was cut. Snow was still falling thickly,
and it was with some difficulty that the accountant kept
in the right direction. The night was excessively dark?
while the dense fir forest, through which the narrow road
ran, rendered the gloom, if possible, more intense.
When they had proceeded about a mile, their leader
suddenly came to a stand.
“ We must quit the track now,” said he, “ so get on
your snow-shoes as fast as you can.”
Hitherto they had carried their snow-shoes under their
arms, as the beaten track along which they travelled
rendered them unnecessary; but now, having to leave the
path and pursue the remainder of their journey through
deep snow, they availed themselves of those useful ma
chines, by means of which the inhabitants of this part of
North America are enabled to journey over many miles
of trackless wilderness, with nearly as much ease as a
sportsman can traverse the moors in autumn, and that
over snow so deep that one hour’s walk through it with
out such aids would completely exhaust the stoutest trap
per, and advance him only a mile or so on his journey.
In other words, to walk without snow-shoes would be ut-


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
243
terly impossible, while to walk with them is easy and
agreeable. They are not used after the manner of
skates, with a sliding, but a stepping action, and their sole
use is to support the wearer on the top of snow, into
which, without them, he would sink up to the waist.
When we say that they support the wearer on the top of
the snow, of course we do not mean that they literally do
not break the surface at all. But the depth to which
they sink is comparatively trifling, and varies according
to the state of the snow and the season of the year. In
the woods, they sink frequently about six inches, some
times more, sometimes less, while on frozen rivers, where
the snow is packed solid by the action of the wind, they
sink only two or three inches, and sometimes so little as
to render it preferable to walk without them altogether.
Snow-shoes are made of a light, strong framework of
wood, varying from three to six feet long by eighteen
and twenty inches broad, tapering to a point before and
behind, and turning up in front. Different tribes of
Indians modify the form a little, but in all essential points
they are the same. The framework is filled up with a
netting of deerskin threads, which unites lightness with
great strength, and permits any snow that may chance to
fall upon the netting to pass through it like a sieve.
On the present occasion, the snow, having recently
fallen, was soft, and the walking,' consequently, what is
called heavy.
“ Come on,” shouted the accountant, as he came to a
stand for the third time within half an hour, to await the
coming up of poor Hamilton, who, being rather awkward
in snow-shoe walking, even in daylight, found it nearly
impossible in the dark.
“ Wait a little, please,” replied a faint voice in the dis-


244
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
tance; “ I’ve got among a quantity of willows, and find it
very difficult to get on. I’ve been down twice al ”
The sudden cessation of the voice, and a loud crasli as
of breaking branches, proved too clearly that our friend
had accomplished his third fall.
“ There he goes again,” exclaimed Harry Somerville,
who came up at the moment. u I’ve helped him up once
already. We’ll never get to North River at this rate.
What is to be done ? ”
“ Let’s see what has become of him this time, how
ever,” said the accountant, as he began to retrace his
steps. “ If I mistake not, he made rather a heavy
plunge that time, judging from the sound.”
At that moment the clouds overhead broke, and a
moonbeam shot down into the forest, throwing a pale
light over the cold scene. A few steps brought'Harry
and the accountant to the spot whence the sound had pro
ceeded, and a loud, startling laugh rang through the night
air, as the latter suddenly beheld poor Hamilton strug
gling, with his arms, head, and shoulders stuck into the
snow, his snow-shoes twisted and sticking with the heels
up and awry, in a sort of rampant confusion, and his gun
buried to the locks beside him. Regaining one’s perpen
dicular after a fall in deep snow, when the feet are en
cumbered by a pair of long snow-shoes, is by no means
an easy thing to accomplish, in consequence of the im
possibility of getting hold of anything solid, on which to
rest the hands. The depth is so great that the out
stretched arms cannot find bottom, and every successive
struggle only sinks the unhappy victim deeper down.
Should no assistance be near, he will soon beat the snow
to a solidity that will enable him to rise, but not in a
very enviable or comfortable oondition.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
245
“ Give me a hand, Harry,” gasped Hamilton, as he
managed to twist his head upwards for a moment.
“ Here you are,” cried Harry, holding out his hand and
endeavoring to suppress his desire to laugh, “ up with
you,” and in another moment the poor youth -was upon
his legs, with every fold and crevice about his person
stuffed to repletion with snow.
“ Come, cheer up,” cried the accountant, giving the
youth a slap on the back, “ there’s nothing like experience,
-—the proverb says that it even teaches fools, so you need
not despair.”
Hamilton smiled as he endeavored to shake off some
of his white coating.
“ We’ll be all right immediately,” added Harry; “Isee
that the country ahead is more open, so the walking will
be easier.”
“ Oh ! I wish that I had not come,” said Hamilton, sor
rowfully, “ because I am only detaining you. But perhaps
I shall do better as we get on. At any rate I cannot go
back now, as I could never find the' way.”
“ Go back! of course not,” said the accountant; “in a
short time we shall get into the old woodcutters’ track
of last year, and although it’s not beaten at all, yet
it is pretty level and open, so that we shall get on
famously.”
“ Go on, then,” sighed Hamilton.
“ Drive ahead,” laughed Harry, and -without farther
delay they resumed their march, which was soon rendered
more cheerful as the clouds rolled away, the snow ceased
to fall, and the bright, full moon poured.^, its rays down
upon their path.
For a long time they proceeded in silence; the
muffled sound of the snow, as it sank beneath their


246
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
regular footsteps, being the only interruption to the
universal stillness around. There is something very
solemnizing in a scene such as we are now describing.
The calm tranquillity of the arctic night; the pure
whiteness of the snowy carpet, which rendered the dark
firs inky black by contrast; the clear, cold, starry sky,
that glimmered behind the dark clouds, whose heavy
masses, now rolling across the moon, partially obscured
the landscape, and anon, passing slowly away, let a flood
of light down upon the forest, which, penetrating be
tween the thick branches, scattered the surface of the
snow, as it were, with flakes of silver. Sleep has often
been applied as a simile to nature in repose, but in
this case death seemed more appropriate. So silent, so
cold, so still was the scene, that it filled the mind with an
indefinable feeling of dread, as if there was some mys
terious danger near. Once or twice during their walk
the three travellers paused to rest, but they spoke little,
and in subdued voices, as if they feared to break the
silenee of the night.
“It is strange,” said Harry,in a low tone, as he walked
beside Hamilton, “that such a scene as this always makes
me think more than usual of home.”
“ And yet it is natural,” replied the other, “ because it
reminds us more forcibly than any other that we are in a
foreign land — in the lonely wilderness—far away from
home.”
Both Harry and Hamilton hacT been trained in families
where the Almighty was feared and loved ; and where
their minds had been early led to reflect upon the Creator
when regarding the works of his hand; their thoughts,
therefore, naturally reverted to another home, com
pared with which, this world is indeed a cold, lonely


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
247
wilderness ; but on such subjects they feared to converse,
partly from a dread of the ridicule of reckless compan
ions, partly from ignorance of each other’s feelings on
religious matters, and, although their minds were busy,
their tongues were silent.
The ground over which the greater part of their
path lay was a swamp, which, being now frozen, was a
beautiful white plain, so that their advance was more
rapid, until they approached the belt of woodland that
skirts North River. Here they again encountered the
heavy snow, which had been such a source of diffi
culty to Hamilton at setting out. He had profited by
his former experience, however, and, by the exercise
of an excessive degree of caution, managed to scram
ble through the woods tolerably well, emerging at last,,
along with his companions, on the bleak margin of
what appeared to be the frozen sea.
North River, at this pl'ace, is several miles broad, and’
the opposite shore is so low. that the snow causes it to>
app'ear but a slight undulation of the frozen bed of the-
river. Indeed, it would not be distinguishable at all, were-
it not for the willow bushes and dwarf pines, whose -tops,
rising above the white garb of winter, indicate that terra'
firma lies below.
“ What a cold, desolate looking place I ” said Hamilton^,
as the party stood still to recover breath before taking
their way over the plain to the spot where the account
ant’s traps were set. “ It looks much more like the
frozen sea than a river.”
“ It can scarcely be called a river at this place,” re-:
marked the accountant, “ seeing that the water hereabouts
is brackish, and the tides ebb and flow a good way up.
In fact, this is the extreme mouth, of North River,


248 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
and if you turn your eyes a little to the right, towards
yonder ice-hummock in the plain, you behold the frozen
sea itself.”
“ Where are your traps set ? ” inquired Harry.
“ Down in the hollow behind yon point covered with
brushwood.”
“Oh, we shall soon get to them then; come along,”
cried Harry.
Harry was mistaken, however. He had not yet
learned by experience the extreme difficulty of judg
ing of distance in the uncertain light of night; a dif
ficulty that was increased by his ignorance of the
locality, and by the gleams of moonshine that shot
through the driving clouds, and threw confused, fan
tastic shadows over the plain. The point which he
had at first supposed was covered with low bushes,
and about a hundred yards off, proved to be clad in
reality with large bushes and small trees, and lay at a
distance of two miles.
“ I think you have been mistaken in supposing the
point so near, Hai’ry,” said Hamilton, as he trudged on
beside his friend.
“A fact, evident to the naked eye,” replied Harry.
“How do your feet stand it, eh? Beginning to lose
bark yet ? ”
Hamilton did not feel quite sure. “ I think,” said he,
softly, “ that there is a blister under the big toe of my
left foot. It feels very painful.”
“ If you feel at all uncertain about it, you may rest
assured that there is a blister. These things don’t give
.much pain at first. I’m sorry to tell you, my dear fel
low, that you’ll b§ painfully aware of the fact to-mor
row. However, don’t distress yourself. It’s a part of


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
249
the experience that every one goes through in this coun
try. Besides,” said Harry, smiling, “ we can send to the
fort for medical advice.”
“ Don’t bother the poor fellow, and hold your tongue,
Hari’y,” said the accountant, who now began to tread
more' cautiously as he approached the place where the
traps were set.
“ How many traps have you ? ” inquired Harry, in a
low tone.
“ Three,” replied the accountant.
“ Do you know I have a very strange feeling about
my heels, — or, rather, a want of feeling,” said Hamilton,
smiling dubiously.
“A want of feeling! what do you mean?” cried the
accountant, stopping suddenly and confronting his young
friend.
“Oh! I daresay it’s nothing,” he exclaimed, looking
as if ashamed of having spoken of it, “ only I feel exactly
as if both my heels were cut off, and I were walking on
tiptoe! ”
“Say you "so? then right-about wheel. Your heels
are frozen, man, and you’ll lose them if you don’t look
sharp.”
“ Frozen! ” cried Hamilton, with a look of incre
dulity.
“ Ay, frozen ; and it’s lucky you told me. I’ve a place
up in the woods here, which I call my winter camp,
where we can get you put to rights; but step out; the
longer we are about it, the worse for you.”
Harry Somerville was at first disposed to think that
the accountant jested, but seeing that he turned his back
towards his traps, and made for the nearest point of the
thick woods, with a stride that betokened thorough sin-


250
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
cerity, he became anxious too, and followed as fast as
possible.
The place to which the accountant led his young
friends was a group of fir-trees which grew on a little
knoll that rose a few feet above the surrounding level
country. At the foot of this hillock, a small rivulet or
burn ran in summer, but the only evidence of its pres
ence now was the absence of willow bushes all along its
covered narrow bed. A level track was thus formed
by nature, free from all underwood, and running inland
about the distance of a mile, where it was lost in the
swamp whence the stream issued. The wooded knoll, or
hillock, lay at the mouth of this brook, and, being the
only elevated spot in the neighborhood, besides having
the largest trees growing on it, v had been selected by
th£ accountant as a convenient place for “ camping out
on, when he visited his traps in winter, and happened to
be either too late, or disinclined, to return home. More
over, the spreading fir branches afforded an excellent
shelter alike from wind and snow in the centre of the
clump ; while from the margin was obtained a partial view
of the river and the sea beyond. Indeed, from this look
out there was a very fine prospect on clear winter nights
of the white landscape, enlivened occasionally by groups
of arctic foxes, which might be seen scampering about in
sport, and gambolling among the hummocks of ice like
young kittens.
“ Now we shall turn up here,” said the accountant, as
he walked a short way up the brook before mentioned,
and halted in front of what appeared to be an impene
trable mass of bushes.
“We shall have to cut our way then,” said Harry,
looking to the right and left, in the vain hope of discov-


FKOM THE EAR NORTH.
251
ering a place where, the hushes being less dense, they
might effect an entrance into the knoll or grove.
“ Not so. I have taken care to make a passage into
my winter camp, although it was only a whim after all to
make a concealed entrance; seeing that no one ever passes
this way, except wolves and foxes, whose noses render
the use of their eyes in most cases unnecessary.”
So saying, the accountant turned aside a thick branch,
and disclosed a narrow track, into which he entered, fol
lowed by his two companions.
A few minutes brought them to the centre of the knoll.
Here they found a clear space of about twenty feet in
diameter, around which the trees circled so thickly, that
in daylight nothing could be seen but tree stems as far
as the eye could penetrate, while overhead the broad, flat
branches of the firs, with their evergreen verdure, spread
out and interlaced so thickly, that very little light pene
trated into the space below. Of course at night, even in
moonlight, the place was pitch dark. Into this retreat
the accountant led his companions, and, bidding them
stand still for a minute lest they should tumble into the
fireplace, he proceeded to strike a light.
Those who have never travelled in the wild parts of
this world can form but a faint conception of the extraor
dinary and sudden change that is produced, not only in
the scene, but in the mind of the beholder, when a blaz-
■ingfire is lighted in a dark night. Before the fire is
kindled, and you stand, perhaps, (as Iiarry and his friend
did on the present occasion,) shivering in the cold, the
heart sinks, and sad, gloomy thoughts arise, while your
eye endeavors to pierce the thick darkness, which, if it
succeed in doing so, only adds to the effect by disclosing
the pallid snow, the cold, chilling beams of the moon, the


252
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
wide vistas of savage scenery, the awe-inspiring solitudes
that tell of your isolated condition, or stir up sad-memo
ries of other and far distant scenes. But the moment
the first spark of fire sends a fitful gleam of light up
wards, these thoughts and feelings take wing and vanish.
The indistinct scenery is rendered utterly invisible by the
red light, which attracts and rivets the eye as if by a
species of fascination. The deep shadows of the woods
immediately around you grow deeper and blacker as the
flames leap and sparkle upwards, causing the stems of
the surrounding trees, and the foliage of the overhanging
branches, to stand out in bold relief, bathed in a ruddy
glow, which converts the forest chamber into a snug
home-like place, and fills the mind with agreeable, home
like feelings and meditations. It seems as if the spirit,
in the one case, were set loose and etherealized to enable
it to spread itself over the plains of cold, cheerless, illim
itable space, and left to dwell upon objects too wide to
grasp, too indistinct to comprehend; — while, in the other,
it is recalled and concentrated upon matters circumscribed
and congenial, things of which it has long been cognizant,
and which it can appreciate and enjoy without the effort
of a thought.
Some such thoughts and feelings passed rapidly through
the minds of Harry and Hamilton, while the accountant
struck a light and kindled a roaring fire of logs, which
he had cut and arranged there on a previous occasion. ‘
In the middle of the space thus brilliantly illuminated,
the snow had been cleared away till the moss was uncov
ered, thus leaving a hole of about ten feet in diameter.
As the snow was quite four feet deep, the hole was sur
rounded with a pure white wall, whose height was fur
ther increased by the masses, thrown out in the process


FKOM THE FAE NOBTH.
253
of digging, to a height of nearly six feet. At one end
of this space was the large fire which had just been kin
dled, and which, owing to the intense cold, only melted a
very little of the snow in its immediate neighborhood. At
the other end lay a mass of flat pine branches, which were
piled up so thickly as to form a pleasant, elastic couch,
the upper end being slightly raised so as to form a kind
of bolster, while the lower extended almost into the fire.
Indeed, the branches at the extremity were burnt quite
brown, and some of them charred. Beside the bolster
lay a small wooden box, a round tin kettle, an iron tea
kettle, two tin mugs, a hatchet, and a large bundle tied
up in a green blanket. There were thus, as it were, two
apartments, one within the other ; namely, the outer one,
whose walls were formed of tree-stems and thick dark
ness, and 'the ceiling of green boughs ; and then the
inner one with walls of snow, that sparkled in the fire
light as if set with precious stones, and a carpet of ever
green branches. '
Within this latter our three friends were soon actively
employed. Poor Hamilton’s moccasons were speedily
removed, and his friends, going down on their knees,
began to rub his feet with a degree of energy that in
duced him to beg for mercy.
“ Mercy! ” exclaimed the accountant, without pausing
for an instant, “ faith, it’s little mercy there would be in
stopping just now. Rub away, Harry. Don’t give in.
-They’re coming right at last.”
After a very severe rubbing, the heels began to show
symptoms of returning vitality. They were then wrap
ped up in the folds of a thick blanket, and held suffi
ciently near to the fire to prevent any chance of the frost
getting at them again.


254
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
“ Now, my boy,” said the accountant, as lie sat down
to enjoy a pipe and rest himself on a blanket, which,
along with the one wrapped round Hamilton’s feet, had
been extracted from the green bundle before mentioned,
— “ Now, my boy, you’ll have to enjoy yourself here as
you best can for an hour or two, while Harry and I visit
the traps. Would you like supper before, we go, or shall
we have it on our return ? ”
“ Oh, I’ll wait for it, by all means, till you return. I
don’t feel a bit hungry just now, and it will be much
more cheerful to have it after all your work is over.
Besides, I feel my feet too painful to enjoy it just
now.”
“ My poor fellow,” said Harry, whose heart smote
him for having been disposed at first to treat the thing
lightly, “ I’m really sorry for you. Would you not like
me to stay with you ? ”
“ By no means,” replied Hamilton, quickly. ‘-'You can
do nothing more for me, Harry ; and I should be very
son •y if you missed seeing the traps.”
“ Oh, never mind the traps. I’ve seen traps, and set
them too, fifty times before now. I’ll stop with you, old
boy, I will,” said Harry, doggedly, while he made ar
rangements to settle down for the evening.
“ Well, if you won’t go, I will,” said Hamilton, coolly,
as he unwound the blanket from his feet and began to
pull on his socks.
“ Bravo, my lad ! ” exclaimed the accountant, patting
him approvingly on the back; “ I didn’t think you had
half so much pluck in you. But it won’t do, old fellow.
You’re in my castle just now, and must obey orders.
You couldn’t walk half a mile for your life ; so just be
pleased to pull oil your socks again. Besides, I want


FEOM THE FAR NORTH.
255
Harry to help me to carry up my foxes, if there are any;
so get ready, sirrah ! ”
“ Ay, ay, captain,” cried Harry, with a laugh, while
he sprang up and put on his snow-shoes.
“You needn’t. bring your gun,” said the accountant,
shaking the ashes from his pipe as he prepared to de
part ; “ but you may as well Shove that axe into your
belt; you may want it. Now, mind, don’t roast your
feet,” he added, turning to Hamilton.
“ Adieu ! ” cried Harry, with a nod and a smile, as he
turned to go. “ Take care the bears don’t find you out.”
“ No fear; good-by, Harry,” replied Hamilton, as his
two friends disappeared in the wood and left him to his
solitary meditations.


256
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
CHAPTER XIX. '
SHOWS HOW THE ACCOUNTANT AND HARRY SET THEIR TRAPS,
AND WHAT CAME OF IT.
T HE moon was still up, and the sky less overcast,
when our amateur trappers quitted the encampment,
and, descending to the mouth of the little brook, took
their way over North River in the direction of the
accountant’s traps. Being somewhat fatigued both in
mind and body by the unusual exertions of the night,
neither of them spoke for some time, but continued to
walk in silence, contemplatively gazing at their long
shadows.
“ Did you ever trap a fox, Harry ? ” said the account
ant, at length.
“Yes, I used to set traps at Red River; but the foxes
there are not numerous, and are so closely watched by
the dogs, that they have become suspicious. I caught
but few.”
“ Then you know how to set a trap ? ”
“ Oh, yes ! I’ve set both steel and snow traps often.
You’ve heard of old Labonte, who used to carry one of
the winter packets from Red River until within a few
years hack ? ”
“ Yes, I’ve heard of him ; his name is in my leger,
at least if you mean Pierre Labonte, who came down
last fall with the brigade.”
“ The same. Well, he was a great friend of mine. His


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
257
little cabin lay about two miles from Fort Garry, and
after work was over in the office, I used to go down to sit
and chat with, him by the fire ; and many a time I have
sat.up half the night listening to him as he recounted his
adventures. The old man never tired of relating them,
and of smoking twist tobacco. Among other things, he
set my mind upon trapping, by giving me an account of
an expedition he made, when quite a youth, to the Rocky
Mountains; so I got him to go into the woods and teach
me how to set traps and snares, and I flatter myself he
found me an apt pupil.”
“ Humph! ” ejaculated the accountant; “ I have no
doubt you do flatter yourself. But here .we are. The
traps are just beyond that mound; so look out, and don’t
stick your feet into them.”
“ Hist! ” exclaimed Harry, laying his hand suddenly
on his companion’s arm. “ Do you see that f ” pointing
towards the place where the traps were said to be.
“ You have sharp eyes, younker; I do see it, now that
you point it out. It’s a fox, and caught, too, as I’m a
scrivener.”
“You’re in luck to-night,” exclaimed Harry, eagerly.
“ It’s a silver fox. I see the white tip on its tail.”
“ Nonsense,” cried the accountant, hastening forward; .
“ but we’ll soon settle the point.”
Harry proved to be right. On reaching the spot they
found a beautiful black fox, caught by the fore leg in a
steel trap, and gazing at them with a look of terror.
The skin of the silver fox — so called from a slight
sprinkling of pure white hairs covering its otherwise jet
black body — is the most valuable fur obtained by the
fur traders, and fetches an enormous price in the British
market — so much as thirty pounds sterling being fre-
17


258
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
quently obtained for a single skin. The foxes vary in
color from jet black, which is the most valuable, to a
light silvery hue, and are hailed as great prizes by the
Indians and trappers when they are so fortunate as to
catch them. They are not numerous, however, and be
ing exceedingly wary and suspicious, are difficult to
catch. It may be supposed, therefore, that our friend
the accountant ran to secure his prize with some eager
ness.
“ Now then, my beauty, don’t shrink,” he said, as the
poor fox backed, at his approach, as far as the chain
which fastened the trap to a log of wood would permit;
and then, standing at bay, showed a formidable row of
teeth. That grin was its last; another moment, and the
handle of the accountant’s axe stretched it lifeless on the
snow.
“Isn’t it a beauty!” cried he, surveying the animal,
with a look of triumphant pleasure : and then, feeling as
if he had compromised his dignity a little by betraying
so much glee, he added, “ But come now, Harry, we
must see to the other traps. It’s getting late.”
The others were soon visited; but no more foxes were
caught. However, the accountant set them both off to
see that all was right; and then readjusting one himself,
told Harry to set the other, in order to clear himself of
the charge of boasting.
Harry, nothing loath, went down on his knees to do so.
The steel trap used for catching foxes is of exactly the
same form as the ordinary rat-trap, with this difference,
that it has two springs instead of one, is considerably
larger, and has no teeth, as these latter would only tend
to spoil the skin. Owing to the strength of the springs,
a pretty strong effort is required to set the trap, and


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
259
clumsy fellows frequently catch the tails of their coats or
the ends of their belts, and, not unfrequently, the ends of
their fingers, -in their awkward attempts. Having set it
without any of the above untoward accidents occurring,
Harry placed it gently on a hole which he had previously
scraped; placing it in such a manner that the jaws and
plate, or trigger, were a hair’s breadth below the level of
the snowi After this he spread over it a very thin sheet
of paper, observing as "he did so that, hay or grass was
preferable; but as there was none at hand, paper would
do. Over this he sprinkled snow very lightly, until every
vestige of the trap was concealed from view, and the
whole was made quite level with the surrounding plain,
so that even the accountant himself, after he had once
removed his eyes from it, could not tell where it lay.
Some chips of a frozen ptarmigan were then scattered
around the spot, and a piece of wood left to mark its
whereabouts. The bait is always' scattered round and
nol; on the trap, as the fox, in running from one piece to
another, is almost certain to set liis foot on it, and so get
caught by the leg; whereas, were the bait placed upon
the trap, the fox would be apt to get caught while in the
act of eating, by the snout, which, being wedge-like in
form, is easily dragged out of its gripe.
“ Now then, what say you to going farther out on the*
river, .and making a snow-trap for white foxes ? ” said
the accountant. “We shall still have time to do so be
fore the moon sets.”
“ Agreed,” cried Harry. “ Come along.”
Without further parley, they left the spot and stretched
out towards the sea.
The snow on the river was quite hard on its surface,
so that snow-shoes being unnecessary, they carried them


260
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
over their shoulders, and advanced much more rapidly.
It is true that their road was a good deal broken,
and jagged pieces of ice protruded their sharp corners
so as to render a little attention necessary in walking;
but one or two severe bumps on their toes made our
friends sensitively alive to these minor dangers of the
way.
“ There goes a pack of them! ” exclaimed Harry,
as a troop of white foxes scampered past, gambolling,
as they went, and, coming suddenly to a halt at a
short distance, wheeled about and sat down on their
haunches, apparently resolved to have a good look
at the strangers who dared to venture into their wild
domain.
“ Oh ! they are the most stupid brutes alive,” said the
accountant, as he regarded the pack with a look of con
tempt. “ I’ve seen one of them sit down and look at me
while I set a trap right before his eyes; and I had not
got a hundred yards from the spot when a yell informed
me that the gentleman’s curiosity had led him to put his
foot right into it.”
“ Indeed! ” exclaimed Harry. “ I had no idea that
they were so tame. Certainly, no other kind of fox
would do that.”
“ Ho, that’s certain. But these fellows have done it to
me again and again. I shouldn’t wonder if we got one
to-night in the very same way. I’m sure, by the look of
these rascals, that they would do anything of a reckless,
stupid nature just now.”
“ Had we not better make our trap here, then ? There
is a point, not fifty yards off, with'trees on it large enough
for our purpose.”
“ Yes, it will do very well here ; now, then, to work.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
261
Go to the wood, Harry, and fetch a log or two, while I
cut out the slabs.” So saying, the accountant drew the
axe which he always carried in his belt; and, while
Harry entered the wood and began to hew off the branch
of a tree, he proceeded, as he had said, to “ cut out the
slabs.” With the point of his knife he first of all marked
out an oblong in the snow, then cut down three or four
inches with the axe, and, putting the handle under the
cut, after the manner of a lever, detached a thick solid slab
of about three inches thick, which, although not so hard
as ice, was quite hard enough for the purpose for which
it was intended. He then cut two similar slabs, and a
smaller one, the same in thickness and breadth, but only
half the length. Having accomplished this, he raised
himself to rest a little, and observed that Harry ap
proached, staggering under a load of wood, and that the
foxes were still sitting 011 their haunches, gazing at him
with a look of deep interest.
“ If I only had my gun here ! ” thought he. But
not having it, he merely shook his fist at them, stooped
down again and resumed his work. With Harry’s as
sistance the slabs were placed in such a way as to form a
sort of box or house, having one end of it open. This
was further plastered with soft snow at the joinings, and
banked up in such a way that no animal could break
into it easily, — at least such an attempt would be so
difficult as to make an entrance into the interior by
the open side much more probable. When this was
finished, they took the logs that Harry had cut and
carried with so much difficulty from the wood, and
began to lop off the smaller branches and twigs. One
large log was placed across the opening of the trap,
while the others were piled on one end of it so as to


262
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
press it down with their weight. Three small pieces
of stick were now prepared ; two of them being about
half a foot long, and the other about a foot. On the long
piece of stick the breast of a ptarmigan was fixed as a
bait, and two notches cut, the one at the end of it, the
other about four or five inches further down. All w,as
now ready to set the trap.
“ Raise the log now while I place the trigger,” said
Harry, kneeling down in front of the door, while the
accountant, as directed, lifted up the log on which the
others lay so as to allow his companion to introduce the
bait-stick, in such a manner as to support it, while the
slightest pull on the bait would set the stick with the
notches free, and thus permit the log to fall on the back
of the fox, whose effort to reach the bait would necessarily
place him under it.
While Harry was thus engaged, the accountant stood
up and looked towards the foxes. They had approached
so near in their curiosity, that he was induced to throw
his axe frantically at the foremost of the pack. This set
them galloping off, but they soon halted and sat down as
before.
“ What aggravating brutes they are, to be sure ! ” said
Harry, with a laugh, as his companion returned with the
hatchet.
“ Humph! yes, but we’ll be upsides with them yet.
Come along into the wood, and I wager that in ten min
utes we shall have one.”
They immediately hurried towai’ds the wood, but had
not walked fifty paces, when they were startled by a loud
yell behind them.
“ Dear me ! ” exclaimed the accountant, while he and
Harry turned round with a start. “ It cannot surely be


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
263
possible that they-have gone in already.” A loud howl
followed the remark, and the whole pack fled over the
plain like snowdrift and disappeared.
“ Ah ! that’s a pity, something must have scared them,
to make them take wing like that. However, we’ll get
one to-morrow for certain; so come along, lad, let us
make for the camp.”
“ Not so fast,” replied the other ; “ if you hadn’t pored
over the big leger till you were blind, you would see
that there is one prisoner already.”
This proved to be the case. On returning to the
spot they found an arctic fox in his last gasp, lying
flat on the snow, with the heavy log across his back,
which' seemed to be broken. A slight tap on the snout
with the accountant’s deadly axe-handle completed his
destruction.
“ We’re in luck to-night,” cried Harry, as he kneeled
again to reset the trap. “But after all, these white
brutes are worth very little; I fancy a hundred of
their skins would not be worth the black one you got
first.”
“ Be quick, Harry. The moon is almost down, and
poor Hamilton will think that the polar bears have got
hold of us.”
“ All right! now then, step outand, glancing once
more at the trap to see that all was properly arranged,
the two friends once more turned their faces homewards,
and travelled over the snow with rapid strides.
The moon had just set, leaving the desolate scene in
deep gloom, so that they could scarcely find their way to
the forest; and, when they did at last reach its shelter,
the night became so intensely dark that they had almost
to grope their way, and would certainly have lost it


264
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
altogether were it not for the accountant’s thorough
knowledge of the locality. To add to their discom
fort, as they stumbled on, snow began to fall; and,
ere long, a pretty steady breeze of wind drove it sharply
in their faces. However, this mattered but little, as
they penetrated deeper in among the trees, which proved
a complete shelter both from wind and snow. An,
hour’s march brought them to the mouth of the brook,
although half that time would have been sufficient
had it been daylight, and, a few minutes later, they
had the satisfaction of hearing Hamilton’s voice hail
ing them as they pushed aside the bushes, and sprang*
into the cheerful light of their encampment.
- “ Hurrah! ” shouted Harry, as he leaped into the
space before the fire, and flung the two foxes at Ham-'
ilton’s feet. “ What do you think of that, old fellow ?
How are the heels ? Rather sore ? eh ! Now for the
kettle. ‘ Polly, put the kettle on, we’ll all have —■—’
My eye! where’s the kettle, Hamilton ? Have you
eaten it?”
“ If you compose yourself a little, Harry, and look at
the fire, you’ll see it boiling there.”
“ Man, what a chap you are for making unnecessary
speeches. Couldn’t you tell me to look at the fire, with
out the preliminary piece of advice to compose myself?
Besides, you talk nonsense, for I’m composed already, of
blood, bones, flesh, sinews, fat, and ”
“ Humbug,” interrupted the accountant. “ Lend a
hand to get supper, you young goose ! ”
“ And so,” continued Harry, not noticing the inter
ruption, “ I cannot be expected, nor is it necessary, to
compose myself over again. But, to be serious,” he added,
“ it was very kind and considerate of you, Hammy, to


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
265
put on the kettle, when your heels were in a manner
uppermost.”
“ Oh! it was nothing at all; my heels are much bet
ter, thank you, and it kept me from wearying.”
“Poor fellow,” said the accountant, while he busied
himself in preparing their evening meal, “you must be
quite ravenous by this time, at least I am, which is the
same thing.”
Supper was soon ready. It consisted of a large ket
tle of tea, a lump of pemmican, a handful of broken bis
cuit, and three ptarmigan; all of which were produced
from the small wooden box which the accountant was
wont to call his camp-larder. The ptarmigan had been
shot two weeks before, and carefully laid up for future
use, the intense frost being a sufficient guarantee for
their preservation for many months, had that been de
sired.
It would have done you good, reader, (supposing you
to be possessed of sympathetic feelings,) to have wit
nessed those three nor’westers enjoying their supper in
the snowy camp. The fire had been replenished with
logs till it roared and crackled again, as if it were en
dued with a vicious spirit, and wished to set the very
snow in flames. The walls .shone like alabaster studded
with diamonds, while the green boughs overhead and the
stems around were of a deep red color, in the light of
the fierce blaze. The tea-kettle hissed, fumed, and boiled
over into the fire. A mass of pemmican simmered in
the lid in front of it. Three pannikins of tea reposed on
the green branches, their refreshing contents sending up
little clouds of steam, while the ptarmigan, now split up,
skewered, and roasted, were being heartily devoured by
our three hungry friends.


266 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
The pleasures that fall to the lot of man are tran
sient. Doubtless they are numerous and oft-recurring.
—still they are transient, and so — supper came to an
end. 1
“Now for a pipe,” said the accountant, disposing his
limbs at full length on a green blanket. “ O thou pre
cious weed, what should we do without thee ! ”
“ Smoke tea, to be sure,” answered Harry.
“ Ah! true, it is possible to exist on a pipe of tea-
leaves for a time, but only for a time. I tried it myself
once, in desperation, when I ran short of tobacco on a
journey, and found it execrable,. but better than noth
ing.”
“Pity we can’t join you in that,” remarked Harry.
“True, but perhaps since you cannot pipe, it might
prove an agreeable diversification to dance.”
“ Thank you, I’d rather not,” said Harry; “ and as for
Hamilton, I’m convinced that his mind is made up on
the subject. How go the heels now ? ”
“Thank you, pretty well,” he replied, reclining his
head on the pine branches, and extending his smitten
members towards the fire.. “ I think they will be quite
well in the morning.”
“ It is a curious thing,” remarked the accountant, in a
soliloquizing tone, “ that soft fellows never smoke! ”
“I beg your pardon,” said Harry; “I’ve often seen
hot loaves smoke, and they’re soft enough fellows, in all
conscience! ”
“ Ah! ” sighed the accountant, “ that reminds me of
poor Peterkin, who was so soft that he went by the name
of ‘ Butter.’ Did you ever hear of what he did the
summer before last with an Indian’s head ? ”
“ No, never; what was it ? ”


FROM THE FAR NORTH. ' 267
“ I’ll tell you the story,” replied the accountant, draw
ing a few vigorous whiffs of smoke, to prevent his pipe
going out while he spoke.
As the story in question, however, depicts a new
phase of society in the woods, it deserves a chapter to
itself.


268 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
CHAPTER XX.
THE ACCOUNTANT’S STORY.
S PRING had passed away; and York Fort was filled
with all the bustle and activity of summer. Brig
ades came pouring in upon us with furs from the interior,
and as every boat brought a C. T. or a clerk, our mess-
table began to overflow.
“ You’ve not seen the summer mess-room filled yet,
Hamilton. That’s a treat in store for you.”
“ It was pretty full last autumn, I think,” suggested
Hamilton, “ at the time I arrived from England.”
“ Full! why, man, it was getting to feel quite lonely at
that time. I’ve seen more than fifty sit down to table
there, and it was worth going fifty miles to hear the row
they kicked up. Telling stories without end (and some
times without foundation) about their wild doings in the
interior, where every man-jack of them, having spent at
least eight months almost in perfect solitude, they hadn’t
had a chance of letting their tongues go till they came
down here. But to proceed. When the ship came out
in the fall, she brought a batch of new clerks, and among
them was this miserable chap Peterkin, whom we soon
nicknamed Butter. He was the softest fellow I ever
knew, (far worse than you, Hamilton,) and he hadn’t
been here a week before the wild blades from the inte
rior, who were bursting with fun and mischief, began to


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
269
play off all kinds of practical jokes upon him. The
very first day he sat down at the mess-table, our. worthy
governor (who, you are aware, detests practical jokes)
played him a trick, quite unintentionally, which raised a
laugh against him for many a day. You know that old
Mr. Rogan is rather absent at times; well, the first day
that Peterkin came to mess, (it was breakfast,) the old
governor asked him, in a patronizing sort of way, to sit
at his right hand. Accordingly, down he sat; and having
never, I fancy, been away from his mother’s apron-string
before, he seemed to feel very uncomfortable, especially
as he was regarded as a sort of novelty. The first thing
he did was to capsize his plate into his lap, which set the
youngsters at the lower end of the table into suppressed
fits of laughter. However, he was eating the leg of a
dry grouse at the time, so it didn’t make much of a mess.
“ ‘ Try some fish, Peterkin,’ said Mr. Rogan, kindly,
seeing that the youth was ill at ease. ‘ That old grouse
is tough enough to break your knife.’
“ ‘A very rough passage,’ replied the youngster, whose
mind was quite confused by hearing the captain of the
ship, who sat next to him, giving to his next neighbor
a graphic account of the voyage in a very loud key, —
‘I mean, if you please, no, thank you,’ he stammered,
endeavoring to correct himself.
“ ‘Ah! a cup of tea, perhaps. Here, Anderson,’ (turn
ing to the butler,) ‘a cup of tea to Mr. Peterkin.’
“ The butler obeyed the order.
“ ‘And, here, fill my cup,’ said old Rogan, interrupt
ing himself in an earnest conversation, into which he
had plunged with the gentleman on his left hand. As
he said this, he lifted his cup to empty the slops, but
without paying attention to what he was doing. As


270 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
luck would have it, the slop-basin was not at hand, and
Peterkin’s cup was, so he emptied it innocently into that.
Peterkin hadn’t courage to arrest his hand; and when
the deed was done, he looked timidly round to see if the
action had been observed. Nearly half the table had
seen it, but they pretended ignorance of the thing so
well, that he thought no one had observed, and so went
quietly on with his breakfast, and drank the tea ! But
I am wandering from my story. Well, about this time
there was a young Indian who shot himself accidentally
in the woods, and was brought to the fort to see if any
thing could be done for him. The doctor examined his
wound, and found that the ball had passed through the
upper part of his right arm, and the middle of his right
thigh, breaking the bone of the latter in its passage. It
was an extraordinary shot for a man to put into himself,
for it would have been next to impossible even for an
other man to have done it, unless the Indian had been
creeping on all fours. When he was able to speak,
however, he explained the mystery. While running
through a rough part of the wood after a wounded bird,
he stumbled, and fell on all fours. The gun, which he
was carrying over his shoulder, holding it, as the Indians
usually do, by the muzzle, flew forward, and turned right
round as he fell, so that the mouth of it was presented
towards him. Striking against the stem of a tree, it
exploded, and shot him through the arm and leg, as
described, ere he had time to rise. A comrade carried
him to his lodge, and his wife brought him in a canoe to
the fort. For three or four days the doctor had hopes of
him, but at last he began to sink, and died on the sixth
day after his arrival. His wife, and one or two friends,
buried him in our graveyard, which lies, as you know,


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
271
on that lonely looking point just below the powder mag
azine. For several months previous to this, our worthy
doctor had been making strenuous efforts to get an In
dian skull to send home to one of his medical friends,
but without success. The Indians could not be prevailed
upon to cut off the head of one of their dead countrymen
for love or money, and the doctor' had a dislike to the
idea (I suppose) of killing one for himself; but now,
here was a golden opportunity. The Indian was buried
near to the fort, and his relatives had gone away to their
tents again. What was to prevent his being dug up ?
The doctor brooded over the thing for one hour and a
half, (being exactly the length of time required to smoke
out his large Turkey pipe,) and then sauntered into
Wilson’s room. Wilson was busy, as usual, at some of
his mechanical contrivances.
“ Thrusting his hands deep into his breeches-pockets,
and seating himself on an old sea-chest, he began, —•
“ ‘ I say, Wilson, will you do me a favor ? ’
“ ‘ That depends entirely on what the favor is,’ he
replied, without raising his head from his work.
“ ‘ I want you to help me to cut off an Indian’s head! ’
“ ‘ Then I won't do you the favor; but, pray, don’t
humbug me just now, I’m busy.’
“‘jSTo; but I’m serious, and I can’t get it done with
out help, and I know you’re an obliging fellow. Besides,
the savage is dead, and has no manner of use for his
head now.’
“ Wilson turned round with a look of intelligence on
hearing this.
“ ‘ Ha! ’ he exclaimed, ‘I see what you’re up to; but
I don’t half like it. In the first place, his friends would
be terribly cut up if they heard of it; and then, I’ve no


272 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
sort of aptitude for the work of a resurrectionist; and
then, if it got wind, we should never hear the last of it;
and then ’
“ c And then/ interrupted the doctor, 1 it would he
adding to the light of medical science, you unaspiring
monster.’
“ ‘ A light/ retorted Wilson, ‘ which, in passing
through some members of the medical profession, is to
tally absorbed, and reproduced in the shape of impene
trable darkness.’
“ ‘ Now, don’t object, my dear fellow; you know you’re
going to do it, so don’t coquette with me, but agree at
once.’ '
“ ‘ Well, I consent, upon one condition.’
“ ‘ And what is that ? ’
“ ‘ That you do not play any practical jokes on me with
the head when you have got it.’
‘‘‘Agreed!’ cried the doctor, laughing; ‘I give you
my word of honor. Now, he has been buried three days
already, so we must set about it at once. Fortunately
the graveyard is composed of a sandy soil, so he’ll keep
for some time yet.’
“ The two worthies then entered into a deep consul
tation as to how they were to set about this deed of dark
ness. It was arranged that Wilson should take his gun,
and sally forth a little before dark, as if he were bent on
an hour’s sport, and, not forgetting his game-bag, pro
ceed to the graveyard, where the doctor engaged to meet
him with a couple of spades and a dark lantern. Accord
ingly, next evening, Mr. Wilson, true to his promise,
shouldered his gun, and sallied forth.
“ It soon became an intensely dark night. Not a sin
gle star shone forth to illumine the track along which he


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
273
stumbled. Everything around was silent and dark, and
congenial with the work on which he was bent. But
Wilson’s heart beat a little more rapidly than usual. He
is a bold enough man, as you know, but boldness goes for
nothing when superstition comes into play. However, he
trudged along fearlessly enough till he came to the thick
woods just below the fort, into which he entered with
something of a qualm. Scarcely had he set foot on the
narrow track that leads to the graveyard, when he ran
slap against the post that stands there, but which, in his
trepidation, he had entirely forgotten. This quite upset
the small amount of courage that remained, and he has
since confessed that if he had not had the hope of meet
ing with the doctor in a few minutes, he would have
turned round and fled at that moment.
*“ Recovering a little from this accident, he hurried
forward, but with more caution, for, although the night
seemed as dark as could possibly be while he was cross
ing the open counti-y, it became speedily evident that
there were several shades of darkness which he had not
yet conceived. In a few minutes he came to the creek
that runs past the graveyard, and here again his nerves
got another shake, for, slipping his foot while in the act
of commencing the descent, he fell and rolled heavily to
the bottom, making noise enough in his fall to scare away
all the ghosts in the country. With a palpitating heart,
poor Wilson gathered himself up, and searched for his
gun which fortunately had not been injured, and then
commenced to climb the, opposite bank, starting at every
twig that snapped under his feet. On reaching the level
ground again, he breathed a little more freely, and hur
ried forward with more speed than caution. Suddenly


274:
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
lie came into violent contact with a figure, which uttered
a loud growl as Wilson reeled backwards.
“ ‘ Back, you monster,’ he cried, with a hysterical yell,
‘ or I’ll blow your brains out.’
“ ‘ It’s little good that would do ye,’ cried the doctor, as
he came forward; ‘ why, what the deuse did you take me
for ? You’ve nearly knocked out my brains as it is,’ and
.the doctor rubbed his forehead ruefully.
“ ‘ Oh ! it’s you, doctor,’ said Wilson, feeling as if a ton
weight had been lifted off his heart; ‘ I verily thought it
was the ghost of the poor fellow weTe going to disturb.
I -do think you had better give it up. Mischief will come
of it, you’ll see.’
“ ‘ Nonsense,’ cried the doctor, ‘ don’t be a goose, but
let’s to work at once. Why, I’ve got half the thing dug
up already.’ So saying, he led the way to the grave,'in
which there was a large opening. Setting the lantern-
down by the side of it, the two seized their spades and
began to dig as if in earnest.
“ The fact is that the doctor was nearly as frightened
as Wilson, and he afterwards confessed to me that it was
an immense relief to him when he heard him fall down
the bank of the creek, and knew by the growl he gave
that it was he.
“ In about half an hour the doctor’s spade struck upon
the eoffin-lid, which gave forth a hollow sound.
“ ‘ Now, then, we’re about done with it,’ said he, stand
ing up to wipe away the perspiration that trickled down
his face. £ Take the axe and force up the lid, it’s only
fixed with common nails, while I ’ He did not finish
the sentence, but drew a large scalping-knife from a
sheath which hung at his belt.
“ Wilson shuddered and obeyed. A good wrench


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
275
caused the lid to start, and while he held it partially
open, the doctor inserted the knife. For five minutes he
continued to twist and work his arms, muttering between
his teeth, every now and then, that he was a ‘ tough
subject,’ while the crackling of bones and other disagree
able ' sounds struck upon the horrified ears of his com
panion. • ' • .
“ £ All right,’ he exclaimed at last, as he dragged a •
round object from the coffin and let down the lid with a
bang, at the same time placing the savage’s head with its
ghastly features full in the blaze of the lantern.
“ ‘Now, then, close up,’ said he, jumping out of the
hole, and shovelling in the earth.
“ In a few minutes they had filled the grave up and
smoothed it down on the surface, and then, throwing the
head into the game-bag, retraced their steps to the fort.
Their nerves were by this time worked up to such a pitch
of excitement, and their minds filled with such a degree
of supernatural horror, that they tripped'and stumbled
over stumps and branches innumerable in their double-
quick march. Neither would confess to the other, how
ever, that he was afraid. They even attempted to pass a
few facetious remarks as they hurried along, but it would
not do, so they relapsed into silence till they came to the
hollow beside the powder-magazine. Here the doctor’s
foot happening to slip, he suddenly grasped Wilson by the
shoulder, to support himself, — a movement which, being
unexpected, made his friend leap, as he afterwards ex
pressed it, nearly out of his skin. This was almost too
.much for them. For a moment they looked at each other
as well as the darkness would permit, when all at once
• a large stone, which the doctor’s slip had overbalanced,
fell down the bank and through the bushes with a loud


276 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
crash. Nothing more was wanting. All further effort
to disguise their feelings was dropped. Leaping the rail
of the open field in a twinkling, they gave a simultaneous
yell of consternation and fled to the fort like autumn
leaves before the wind, never drawing breath till they
were safe within the pickets.”
“ But what has all this to do with Peterkin ? ” asked
Harry, as the accountant paused to relight his pipe and
toss a fresh log on the fire.
“ Have patience, lad; you shall hear.”
The accountant stirred the logs with his toe, drew a
few whiffs to see-that the pipe was properly ignited, and
proceeded.
“ For a day or two after this, the doctor was observed
to be often mysteriously engaged in an outhouse, of which
he kept the key. By some means or other, the skipper,
who is always up to mischief, managed to discover the
secret. Watching where the doctor hid the key, he pos
sessed himself of it one day, and sallied forth, bent on a
lark of some kind or other, but without very well know
ing what. Passing the kitchen, he observed Anderson,
the butler, raking the fire out of the large oven which
stands in the back-yard.
“ ‘ Baking again, Anderson ? ’ said he in passing.
‘You get soon through with a heavy cargo of bread, just
now.’
“‘Yes, sir; many mouths to feed, sir,’ replied the but
ler, proceeding with his work.
“ The skipper sauntered on, and took the track which
leads to the boat-house, where he stood for some time in
meditation. Casting up his eyes, he saw Peterkin in the
distance, looking as if he didn’t very well know what
to do.


FROM THIS FAR NORTH.
277
“A sudden thought struck him. Pulling off his coat,
he seized a mallet and a caulking-chisel, and began to
belabor the side of a boat, as if his life depended on it.
All at once he stopped and stood up, blowing with the
exertion.
“‘ ITallo, Peterkin ! ’ he shouted, and waved his hand.
“ Peterkin hastened towards him.
“ ‘ Well, sir,’ said he, ‘ do you wish to speak to me ? ’
“ ‘ Yes,’ replied the skipper, scratching his head, as if
in great perplexity. ‘ I wish you to do me a favor, Peter
kin, but I don’t know very well how to ask you.’
“ ‘ Oh, I shall be most happy,’ said poor Butter, eagerly,
‘if I can be of any use to you.’
“ ‘ I don’t doubt your willingness,’ replied the other;
‘but then—the doctor, you see—the fact is, Peterkin,
the doctor being called away to see a sick Indian, has
intrusted me with a delicate piece of business—rather
a nasty piece of business, I may say — which I promised
to do for him. You must know that; the Surgical Society
of London has written to him, begging, as a great favor,
that he would, if possible, procure them the skull of a
native. After much trouble he lias succeeded in getting
one, but is obliged to keep it a great secret, even from
his fellow-clerks, lest it should get wind; for if the In
dians heard of it, they would be sure to kill him, and per
haps burn the fort too. Now, I suppose you are aware
that it is necessary to boil an Indian’s head, in order to
get the flesh clean off the skull ?’
“ ‘ Yes, I have heard something of that sort from the
students at college, who say that boiling brings flesh more
easily away from the bone; but I don’t know much about
it,’ replied Peterkin.
“‘Well,’ continued the skipper, ‘the doctor, who is


278 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
fond of experiments, wishes to try whether baking won’t
do better than boiling, and ordered the oven to be heated
for that purpose this morning; but being called suddenly
away, as I have said, he begged me to put the head into
it as soon as it was ready. I agreed, quite forgetting at
the time that I had to get this precious boat ready for sea
this very afternoon. Now, the oven is prepared, and I
dare not leave my work ; indeed, I doubt whether I shall
have it quite ready and taut after all, and there’s the oven
cooling ; so, if you don’t help me I’m a lost man.’
“ Having said this, the skipper looked as miserable as
his jolly visage would permit, and rubbed his nose.
“ ‘ Oh, I’ll be happy to do it for you, although it is not
an agreeable job,’ replied Butter.
“ ‘ That’s right — that’s friendly now ! ’ exclaimed the
skipper, as if greatly relieved. ‘ Give us your dipper,
my lad ; ’ and seizing Peterkin’s hand, he wrung it af
fectionately. ‘ Now, here is the key of the outhouse ; do
it as quickly as you can, and don’t let any one see you.
It’s in a good cause, you know ; but the results might be
terrible, if discovered.’
“ So saying, the skipper fell to hammering the boat
again with surprising vigor till Butter was out of sight,
and then, resuming his coat, returned to the house.
“ An hour after this, Anderson went to take his loaves
out of the oven ; but he had no sooner taken down the
door than a rich odor of cooked meat greeted his nostrils.
Uttering a deep growl, the butler shouted out— ‘ Sprat! ’
“ Upon this, a very thin boy, with arms and legs like
pipe-stems, issued from the kitchen, and came timidly to
wards his master.
“ ‘ Didn’t I tell you, you young blackguard, that the
gronse-pie was to be kept for Sunday, and there you’ve
gone and put it to fire to-day.’


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
279
“ ‘ The grouse-pie! ’ said the boy, in amazement.
“ ‘ Yes, the grouse-pie,’ retorted the indignant butler ;
and seizing the urchin by the neck, he held his head
down to the mouth of the oven.
“ ‘ Smell that, you villain ! What did you mean by it?
eh?’-
“ ‘ Oh, murder ! ’ shouted the boy, as, with a violent ef
fort, he freed himself, and ran shrieking into the house.
“ ‘ Murder! ’ repeated Anderson, in astonishment, while
he stooped to look into the oven, where the first thing
that met his gaze was a human head, whose ghastly vis
age and staring eyeballs worked and moved about under
the influence of the heat as if it were alive.
“With a yell that rung through the whole fort, the
horrified butler rushed through the kitchen, and out at
the front door, where, as ill-luck would have it, Mr. Ro-
gan happened to be standing at the moment. Pitching
head first into the small of the old gentleman’s back, he
threw him off the platform, and fell into his arms. Start
ing up in a moment, the governor dealt Anderson a cuff
that sent him reeling towards the kitchen-door again, on
the steps of which he sat down, and began to sing out,
‘ Oh ! murder, murder! the oven, the oven ! ’ and not
another wmrd, bad, good, or indifferent, could be got out
of him for the next half hour, as he swayed himself to
and fro, and wrung his hands.
“ To make a long story short, Mr. Rogan went himself
to the oven, and fished out the head, along with the loaves,
which were, of course, all spoiled.”
“ And what was the result ? ” inquired Harry.
“ Oh ! there was a long investigation, and the skipper
got a blowing-up, and the doctor a warning to let Indians’
skulls lie at peace in their graves for the future, and poor


280
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
Butter was sent to M’Kenzie’s River as a punishment,
for old Rogan could never be brought to believe that he
hadn’t been a willing tool in the skipper’s hands ; and
Anderson lost his batch of bread and his oven, for it had
to be pulled down, 'and a new one built.”
“ Humph ! and I’ve no doubt the governor read you a
pretty stiff lecture on practical joking.”
“ He did,” replied the accountant, laying aside his pipe,
and drawing the green blanket over him, while Harry
piled several large logs on the fire.
“ Good night,” said the accountant.
“Good night,” replied his companions ; and in a few
minutes more they were sound asleep in their snowy
camp, while the huge fire continued, during the greater
part of the night, to cast its light on their slumbering
forms.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
281
CHAPTER XXL
PTARMIGAN HUNTING; HAMILTON’S SHOOTING POWERS SEVERELY
TESTED; A SNOW-STORM.
A T about four o’clock on the following morning, the
sleepers were awakened by the cold, which had
become very intense. The fire had burned down to a
few embers, which merely emitted enough light to make
darkness visible. Harry, being the most active of the
party, was the first to bestir himself. Raising himself
on his elbow, while his teeth chattered, and his limbs
trembled with cold, lie cast a woebegone and excessively
sleepy glance towards the place where the fire had been;
then he scratched his head slowly ; then he stared at
the fire again; then he languidly glanced at Hamilton’s
sleeping visage; and then he yawned. The accountant
observed all this ; for although he appeared to be buried
in the depths of slumber, he was wide awake in reality,
and, moreover, intensely cold. The accountant, how
ever, was sly — deep — as he would have said himself,
and knew that Harry’s active habits would induce him
to rise, on awaking, and rekindle the fire, — an event
which the accountant earnestly desired to see accom
plished, but which lie as earnestly resolved should not be
performed by him. Indeed, it was with this end in view
that he had given vent to the terrific snore which had
aroused his young companion, a little sooner than would
have otherwise been the case.


282.
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
“ My eye,” exclaimed Harry, in an undertone, “ how
precious cold it is! ”
His eye .making no reply to this remark, he arose,
and, going down on his hands and knees, began to coax
the charcoal into a flame. By dint of severe blowing,
he soon succeeded, and, heaping on a quantity of small
twigs, the fitful flame sprang up into a steady blaze.
He then threw several heavy logs on the fire, and in a
very short space of time restored it almost to its original
vigor.
“ What an abominable row you are kicking up,”
growled the accountant; “ why, you would waken the
seven sleepers. Oh ! mending the fire,” he added, in an
altered tone ; “ ah ! I’ll excuse you, my boy, since that’s
what you’re at.”
The accountant hereupon got up, along with Hamilton,
who was now also awake, and the three spread their
hands, over the bright fire, and revolved their bodies be
fore it, until they imbibed a satisfactory amount of heat.
They were much too sleepy to converse, however, and
contented themselves with a very brief inquiry as to the
state of Hamilton’s heels, which elicited the sleepy reply,
“ They feel quite well, thank you.” In a short time,
having become agreeably warm, they gave a simultaneous
yawn, and, lying down again, fell into a sleep, from which
they did not awaken until the red winter sun shot its
early rays over the arctic scenery.
Once more Harry sprang up, and let his hand fall
heavily on Hamilton’s shoulder. Thus rudely assailed,
that youth also sprang up, giving a shout, at the same
time, that brought the accountant to his feet in an instant;
and so, as if by an electric spark, the sleepers were
simultaneously roused into a state of wide-awake activity.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
283
“How excessively hungry I feel; isn’t it strange?”
said Hamilton, as he assisted in rekindling the fire, while
the accountant filled his pipe, and Hai’ry stuffed the tea
kettle full of snow.
“ Strange! ” cried Harry, as he placed the kettle on
the fire, — “ strange ! to be hungi’y after a five miles’
walk, and a night in the snow? I would rather say
it was strange if you were not hungry. Throw on that
billet, like" a good fellow, and spit those grouse, while I
cut some pemmican and prepare the tea.”
“ How are the heels now, Hamilton ? ” asked the ac
countant, who divided his attention between his pipe
and his snow-shoes, the lines of which required to be re
adjusted.
“They appear to be as well as if nothing had hap
pened to them,” replied Hamilton ; “ I’ve been looking at
them, and there is no mai’k whatever. They do not even
feel tender.”
“ Lucky for you, old boy, that they were taken in time,
else you’d have had another story to tell.”
“ Do you mean to say that people’s heels really freeze
and fall off ? ” inquired the other, with a look of incre
dulity.
“ Soft, very soft, and green,” murmured Harry, in a
low voice, while he continued his work of adding fresh
snow to the kettle, as the process of melting reduced its
bulk.
“ I mean to say,” replied the accountant, tapping the
ashes out of his pipe, “ that not only heels, but hands,
feet, noses, and ears, frequently freeze, and often fall off
in this country, as you will find by sad experience, if you
don’t look after yourself a little better than you have
done hitherto.”


284-
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
One of the evil effects of the perpetual jesting that
prevailed at York Fort was, that “soft” (in other words,
straightforward, unsuspecting) youths had to undergo a
long process of learning-by-experience ;' first, believing
everything, and then doubting everything, ere they ar
rived at that degree of sophistication which enabled them
to distinguish between truth and falsehood.
Having reached the doubting period in his training,
Hamilton looked down and said nothing, at least with his
mouth, though his eyes evidently remarked, “ I don’t be
lieve you.” In future years, however, the evidence of
these same eyes convinced him that what the accountant
said upon this occasion w T as but too true.
Breakfast was a repetition of the supper of the pre
vious evening. During its discussion they planned pro
ceedings for the day.
“ My notion is,” said the accountant, interrupting the
flow of words ever and anon to chew the morsel with
which his mouth was filled, “ my notion is, that, as it’s
a fine clear day, we should travel five miles through the
country parallel with North River. I know the ground,
and can guide you easily to the spots where there are lots
of willows, and, therefore, plenty of ptarmigan, seeing
that they feed on willow tops; and the snow that fell last
night will help us a little.”
“ How will |he snow help us ? ” inquired Hamilton.
“ By covering up all the old tracks, to be sure, and
showing only the new ones.”
“Well, captain,” said Harry, as he raised a can of tea
to his lips, and nodded to Hamilton, as if drinking his
health, “ go on with your proposals for the day. Five
miles up the river to begin with, then ”
“ Then, w T e’ll pull up,” continued the accountant ;


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
285
“make a fir.e, rest a bit, and eat a mouthful of pemmi-
ean ; after which we’ll strike across country for the south
ern woodcutters’ track, and so home.”
“ And how much will that be ? ”
“ About fifteen miles.”
“ Ha ! ” exclaimed Harry ; “ pass the kettle, please.
Thanks. Do you think you’re up to that, Hammy ? ”
“ I will try what I can do,” replied Hamilton. “ If
the snow-shoes don’t cause me to fall often, I think I
shall stand the fatigue very well.”
“ That’s right,” said the accountant; “ ‘ faint heart,’
&c., you know. If you go on as you’ve begun, you’ll
be chosen. to head the next expedition to the north
pole.”
“Well,” replied Hamilton, good-humoredly, “pray
head the present expedition, and let us be gone.”
“ Right! ” ejaculated the accountant, rising. “ I’ll
just put my odds and ends out of the reach of the foxes,
and then we shall be off.”
In a few minutes everything was placed in security,
guns loaded, snow-shoes put on, and the winter camp
deserted. At first the walking was fatiguing, and poor
Hamilton more than once took a sudden and eccentric
plunge; but, after getting beyond the wooded country,
they found the snow much more compact, and their
march, therefore, much more agreeable. On coming to
the place where it was probable that they might fall in
with ptarmigan,. Hamilton became rather excited, and
apt to imagine that little lumps of snow, which hung
upon the bushes here and there, were birds.
“ There now,” he cried, in an energetic and slightly
positive tone^ as another of these masses of snow sud
denly met his eager eye, — “ that’s one, I’m .quite sure.”


286
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
The accountant and Harry both stopped short on hear
ing this, and looked in the direction indicated.
“ Fire away, then, Hammy,” said the former, endeavor
ing to suppress a smile.
“ But do you think it really is one ? ” asked Hamilton,
anxiously.
“ Well, I don’t see it, exactly, but then, you know, I’m
near-sighted.”
“ Don’t give him a chance of escape,” cried Harry,
seeing that his friend was undecided. “ If you really do
see a bird, you’d better shoot it, for they’ve got a strong
propensity to take wing when disturbed.”
Thus admonished, Hamilton raised his gun and took
aim. Suddenly, he lowered his piece again, and looking
round at Harry, said, in a low whisper,—
“ Oh ! I should like so much to shoot it while flying.
Would it not be better to set it up first ? ”
“ By 110 means,” answered the accountant. “ ‘ A bird
in the hand,’ &c. Take him as you find him, — look
sharp ; lie’ll be off in a second.” ■
Again the gun was pointed, and after some difficulty
in taking aim, fired.
“ Ah! what a pity you’ve missed him,” shouted Harry;
“ but see, he’s not off yet; how tame he is, to be sure;
give him the other barrel, Hammy.”
This piece of advice proved to be unnecessary. In
his anxiety to get the bird, Hamilton had cocked both
barrels, and while gazing, half in disappointment, half in
surprise, at the supposed bird, his finger unintentionally
pressed the second trigger. In a moment the piece ex
ploded. Being accidentally aimed in the right direction,
it blew the lump of snow to atoms, and at the same time
hitting its owner on the chest with the butt, knocked him
over flat upon his back.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
287
“ What a gun it is, to be sure! ” said Harry, with a
roguish laugh, as he assisted the discomfited sportsman
to rise; “ it knocks over game with butt and muzzle at
once.”
“ Quite a rare instance of one butt knocking another
down,” added the accountant.
'At'this moment a large flock of ptarmigan, startled by
the double report, rose with a loud, whirring noise about
a hundred yards in advance, and after flying a short dis
tance, alighted.
“There’s real game at last, though,” cried the account
ant, as he hurried after the birds, followed closely by his
young friends.
They soon reached the spot where the flock had
alighted, and after following up the tracks for a few
yards further, set them up again. As the birds rose, the
accountant fired and brought down two ; Iiarry shot one
and missed another, Hamilton being so nervously inter
ested in the success of his comrades that he forgot to
fire at all.
“ How stupid of me! ” he exclaimed, while the others
loaded their guns.
“ Never mind ; better luck next time,” said Harry, as
they resumed their walk. “ I saw the flock settle down
about half a mile in advance of us; so step out.”
Another short walk brought the sportsmen again with
in range.
“ Go to the front, Hammy,” said the accountant, “ and
take the first shot this time.”
Hamilton obeyed. He had scarcely made ten steps in
advance, when a single bird that seemed to have been
separated from the others, ran suddenly out from under
a bush, and stood stock still, at a distance of a few yards,


288
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
with its neck stretched out and its black eye wide open,
as if in astonishment.
“ Now, then, you can’t miss that.”
Hamilton was quite taken aback by the suddenness of
this necessity for instantaneous action. Instead, there
fore, of taking aim leisurely, (seeing that he had abun
dant time to do so,) he flew entirely to the opposite ex
treme, took no aim at all, and fired- off both barrels at
once, without putting the gun to his shoulder. The re
sult of this was that the affrighted bird flew away un
harmed, while Harry and the accountant burst spontane
ously into fits of laughter.
“ How very provoking! ” said the poor youth, with a
dejected look.
“Never mind—never say die — try-again,” said the
accountant, on recovering his gravity. Having reloaded,
they continued the pursuit.
“ Dear me ! ” exclaimed Harry, suddenly, “ here are
three dead birds;. I verily believe, Hamilton, that you
have killed them all at one shot by accident.”
“ Can it be possible?” exclaimed his friend, as, with
a look of amazement, he regarded the birds.
There was no doubt about the fact. There they lay,
plump and still warm, with one or two drops of bright
red blood upon their white plumage. ' Ptarmigan are
almost pure white, so that.it requires a practised eye to
detect them, even at the distance of a few yards; and it
would be almost impossible to hunt them without dogs,
but for the telltale snow in which their tracks are dis
tinctly marked, enabling the sportsman to follow them up
with unerring certainty. When Hamilton made his bad
shot, neither he nor his companions observed a group of
ptarmigan not more than fifty yards before them, their


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
289
attention being rivetted at the time on the solitary bird,
and the gun happening to be directed towards them when
it was fired, three were instantly and unwittingly placed
hors de combat, while the others ran away. This the sur
vivors frequently do when very tame, instead of taking
wing. Thus it was that Hamilton, to his immense de
light, made such a successful shot without being aware
of it.
Having bagged their game, the party proceeded on
their way. Several large flocks of birds were raised,
and the game-bags nearly filled, before reaching the spot
where they intended to turn, and bend their steps home
wards. This induced them to give up the idea of going
further; and it was fortunate they came to this resolution*
for a storm was brewing, which, in the eagerness of pursuit
after game, they had not noticed. Dark masses of leaden-
colored clouds were gathering in the sky overhead, and
faint sighs of wind came, ever and anon, in fitful gusts
from the northwest.
Hurrying forward as quickly as possible, they now
pursued their course in a direction which would enable
them to cross the wood-cutters’ track. This they soon
reached, and finding it pretty well beaten, were enabled
to make more rapid progress. Fortunately the wind was
blowing on their backs, otherwise they would have had to
contend not only with its violence, but also with the snow
drift which now whirled in bitter fury among the trees,
or scoured like driving clouds over the plain. Under this
aspect, the flat country over which they travelled seemed
the perfection of bleak desolation. Their way, however,
did not lie in a direct line. The track was somewhat ton-
tuous, and gradually edged towards the north, until the
wind blew nearly in their teetb. At this point, too, they
19


290
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
came to the stretch of open ground, which they had
crossed at a point some miles further to the northward,
in their night march. Here the storm raged in all its
fury, and as they looked out upon the plain, before quit
ting the shelter of the wood, they paused to tighten their
belts and readjust their snow-shoe lines. The gale was
so violent that the. whole plain seemed tossed about like
billows of the sea, as the drift rose and fell, curled, eddied,
and dashed along, so that it was impossible to see more
than half a dozen yards in advance.
“ Heaven preserve us from ever being caught in an
exposed place on such a night as this,” said the account
ant, as he surveyed the prospect before him. “ Luckily
the open country here is not more than a quarter of a
mile broad, and even that little bit will try our wind
somewhat.”
Hamilton and Harry seemed by their looks to say,
“ We could easily face even a stiffer breeze than that, if
need be.”
“What should we do,” inquired the-former, “if the
plain were five or six miles broad ? ”
“ Do ? why we should have to camp in the woods till
it blew over, that’s all,” replied the accountant; “ but,
seeing that we are not reduced to such a necessity just
now, and that the day is drawing to a close, let us face it
. at once. I’ll lead the way, and see that you follow close
at my heels. Don’t lose sight of me for a moment, and
if you do, by chance, give a shout; d’ye hear ? ”
The two lads replied in the affirmative; and then brac
ing themselves up as if for a great effort, stepped vigor
ously out upon the plain, and were instantly swallowed
up in clouds of snow. For half an hour or more, they
battled slowly against the howling storm ; pressing for-


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
291
ward, for some minutes, with heads down, as if boring
through it, — then turning their hacks to the blast for
a few seconds’ relief, ■— but always keeping as close to
each other as possible. At length the woods were gained;
on entering which it was discovered that Hamilton was
missing.
“ Hallo ! where’s Hamilton ? ” exclaimed Harry ; “ I
saw him beside me not five minutes ago.”
The accountant gave a loud shout, but there was no
reply. Indeed, nothing short of his own stentorian voice
could have been heard at all amid the storm.
“ There’s nothing for it,” said Harry, “ but to search
at once, else he’ll wander about and get lost.” Saying
this, he began to retrace his steps, just as a brief lull in
the gale took place.
“ Hallo ! don’t you hear a cry, Harry ? ”
At this moment, there was another lull; the drift fell,
and for an instant, cleared away, revealing the bewil
dered Hamilton, not twenty yards off, standing, like a
pillar of snow, in mute despair.
Profiting by the glimpse, Harry rushed forward, caught
him by the arm, and led him into the partial shelter of
the forest.
Nothing further befell them after this. Their route
lay in shelter all the way to the fort. Poor Hamilton,
it is true, took one or two of his occasional plunges by
the way, but without any serious result, — not even to
the extent of stuffing his nose, ears, neck, mittens, pock
ets, gun-barrels, and everything else with snow, because,
these being quite full and hard packed already, there
was no room left for the addition of another particle.


292 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
CHAPTER XXII.
THE WINTER PACKET; HARRY HEARS FROM OLD FRIENDS, AND
WISHES THAT HE WAS WITH THEM.
ETTERS from home ! What a burst of sudden
emotion — what a riot of conflicting feelings, of
dread and joy, expectation and anxiety — what a flood
of old memories — what stirring up of . almost forgotten-
associations, these three words create in the hearts of
those who dwell in distant regions of this earth, far, far
away from kith and kin — from friends and acquaint
ances — from the much-loved scenes of childhood, and
from home ! Letters from home! How gratefully the
sound falls upon ears that have been long unaccustomed
to sounds and things connected with home, and so
long accustomed to wild, savage sounds, that these have
at length lost their novelty, and become every-day and
commonplace, while the first have gradually grown
strange and unwonted. For many long months, home
and all connected with it has become a dream of other
days, and savage-land a present reality. The mind has
by degrees become absorbed by surrounding objects —
objects so utterly unassociated with, or unsuggestive
of any other land, that it involuntarily ceases to think
of the scenes of childhood with the same feelings that
it once did. As time rolls- on, home assumes a misty,
undefined character, as if it were not only distant- in re-


from the far north.
293
ality, but were also slowly retreating further and further
away — growing gradually faint and dream-like, though
not less dear, to the mental view.
“Letters from home!” shouted Mr. Wilson, and the
doctor, and the skipper, simultaneously, as the sports
men, after dashing through the wild storm, at last
reached the fort, and stumbled tumultuously into Bach
elors’ Hall.
“ What! — Where! — How! — You don’t mean it! ”
they exclaimed, coming to a sudden stand, like three pil
lars of snow-clad astonishment.
“ Ay,” replied the doctor, — who affected to be quite
cool upon all occasions, and rather cooler than usual if
the occasion was more than ordinarily exciting, — “ ay, we
do mean it. Old Bogan has got the packet, and is even
now disembowelling it.”
“ More than that,” interrupted the skipper, who sat
smoking as usual by the stove, with his hands in his
breeches pockets, — “ more than that, I saw him dissect
ing into the very marrow of the thing; so, if we don’t
storm the old admiral in his cabin, he’ll go to sleep over
these prosy yarns that the governor-in-chief writes to
him, and we’ll have to whistle for our letters till mid
night.”
The skipper’s remark was interrupted by the opening
of the outer door and the entrance of the butler. “ Mr.
Bogan wishes to see you, sir,” said that worthy to the
accountant.
“ I’ll be with him in a minute,” he replied, as he threw
off his capote and proceeded to unwind himself as quickly
as his multitudinous haps would permit.
By this time Harry Somerville and Hamilton were
busily occupied in a similar manner, while a running fire


294:
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
of question and answer, jesting remark and bantering
reply, was kept up between the young men, from their
various apartments and the hall. The doctor was cool,
as usual, and impudent. He had a habit of walking
up and down while he smoked, and was thus enabled to
look in upon the inmates of the several sleeping rooms,
and make his remarks in a quiet, sarcastic manner,
the galling effect of which was heightened by his habit
of pausing at the end of every two or three words, to
emit a few puffs, of smoke. Having exhausted a good
deal of small talk in this way, and having, moreover,
finished his pipe, the doctor went to the stove to re
fill and relight. ' ' ,
“ What a deal of trouble you do take to make your
self comfortable,” said he to the skipper, who sat with
his chair tilted on its hind legs, and a pillow at his
back.
“ No harm in that, doctor,” replied the skipper, with a
/ smile.
“ No harm, certainly; but it looks uncommonly lazy-
like.”
“ What does ? ”
“ Why, putting a pillow at your back, to be sure.”
The doctor was a full-fleshed, muscular man, and,
owing to this fact, it mattered little to him whether
his chair happened to be an easy one or not. As the
skipper sometimes remai'ked, he carried padding always
about with him ; he was, therefore, a little apt to sneer
at the attempts of his brethren to render the ill-shaped
wooden-bottomed chairs, with which the hall w r as orna
mented, bearable.
“Well, doctor,” said the skipper, “I cannot see how
you make me out lazy. Surely it is not an evidence of


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
295
laziness my endeavoring to render these instruments of
torture less tormenting ? Seeking to he comfortable, if
it does not inconvenience any one else, is not laziness.
Why, what is comfort? The skipper began to wax
philosophical at this point, and took the pipe from his
mouth as he gravely propounded the momentous ques
tion. “ What is comfort ? If I go out to camp in the
woods, and, after turning in, find a sharp stump sticking
into my ribs on one side, and a pine root driving in the
small of my back on the other side, is that comfort?
Certainly not. And if I get up, seize a hatchet, level
the stump, cut away the root, and spread pine brush
over the place, am I to be called lazy for doing so ? Or
if I sit down on a chair, and, on trying to lean back to.
r,est myself, find that the stupid lubber who made it has
so constructed it, that four small hard points alone touch
my person, — two being at the hip-joints, and two at the
shoulder-blades; and if, to relieve such physical agony, I
jump up and clap a pillow at my^ back, am I to be called
lazy for doing that ? ”
“ What a glorious entry that would make in the log! ”
said the doctor, in a low tone, soliloquizingly, as if he
made the remark merely for his own satisfaction, while
he tapped the ashes out of his pipe.
The skipper looked as if he meditated a sharp re
ply ; but his intentions, whatever they might have been,
were interrupted by the opening of the door, and the en
trance of the accountant, bearing under his arm a packet
of letters.
A general rush was made upon him, and in a few
minutes a dead silence reigned in the hall, broken only
at intervals by an exclamation of surprise or pathos, as
the inmates, in the retirement of their separate apart-


296 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
ments, perused letters from friends in the interior of the
country, and friends at home, — letters that were old, —
some of them bearing dates many months back — and
travel-stained, but new, and fresh, and cheering, neverthe
less, to their owners, as the clear bright sun in winter, or
the verdant leaves in spring.
Harry Somerville’s letters were numerous and long.
He had several from friends in Red River, besides one
or two from other parts of the Indian country, and one
— it was very thick and heavy — that bore the post
marks of Britain. It was late that night ere the last
candle was extinguished in the hall, and it was late too
before Harry Somerville ceased to peruse and re-peruse
the long letter from home, and found time or inclination
to devote to his other correspondents. Among the rest
was a letter from his old friend and companion, Charley
Kennedy, which*ran as follows : —
Mr dear Harry, — It really seems more than an
age since I saw you. Your last epistle, written in the
perturbation of mind consequent upon being doomed to
spend another winter at York Fort, reached me only a
few days ago, and filled me with pleasant recollections of
other days. Oh ! man, how much I wish that you were
with me in this beautiful country ! You are aware that
I have been what they call “ roughing it ” since you and
I parted on the shores of Lake Winnipeg; but, my dear
fellow, the idea that most people have of what that phrase
means, is a very erroneous one indeed. “ Roughing it,”
I certainly have been, inasmuch as I have been living on
rough fare, associating with rough men, and sleeping
on rough beds under the starry sky ; but I assure you,
that all this is not half so rough upon the constitution


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
297
as what they call leading an easy life; which is simply
a life that makes a poor fellow stagnate, body and spirit,
till the one comes to be unable to digest its food, and
the other incompetent to jump at so much as half an
idea. Anything but an easy life, to my mind. Ah!
there’s nothing like roughing it, Harry, my boy. Why,
I am thriving on it; growing like a young walrus; eat
ing like a Canadian voyageur, and sleeping like a top.
This is a splendid country for sport, and, as -our bour
geois * has taken it into his head that I am a good hand
at making friends with the Indians, he has sent me out
on several expeditions, and afforded me some famous
opportunities of seeing life among the redskins. There
is a talk just now of establishing a new outpost in this
district, so, if I succeed in persuading the governor to let
me accompany the party, I shall have something inter
esting to write about in my next letter. By the way, I
wrote to you a month ago, by two Indians who said
they were going to the missionary station at Norway
House. Did you ever get it ? There is a hunter here
just now, who goes by the name of Jacques Caradoc.
He is a firstrater — can do anything, in a wild way,
that lies within the power of mortal man, and is an in
exhaustible anecdote-teller, in a quiet way. He and I
have been out buffalo-hunting two or three times, and
it would have done your heart good, Harry, my dear
boy, to have seen us scouring over the prairie together
on two big-boned Indian horses;—regular trained buf
falo runners, that didn’t need the spur to urge, nor the
rein to guide them, when once they caught sight of the
black cattle, and kept a sharp look-out for badger holes,
* The gentleman in charge of an establishment is always desig
nated the Bourgeois.


298
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
just as if they had been reasonable creatures. The first
time I went out I had several rather ugly falls, owing
to my inexperience. The fact is, that if a man has never
run buffaloes before, he’s sure to get one or two upsets,
no matter how good a horseman he may be. And that
monster, Jacques, although he’s the best fellow I ever
met with for a hunting companion, always took occasion
to grin at my mishaps, and gravely to read me a lecture
to the effect that they were all owing to my own clumsi
ness or stupidity; which, you will acknowledge, was not
calculated to restore my equanimity.
The very first run we had cost me the entire skin of
my nose, and converted that feature into a superb Roman
for the next three weeks. It happened thus. Jacques
and I -were riding over the prairie in search of buffaloes.
The place was interspersed with sundry knolls covered
with trees, slips, and belts of woodland, with ponds scat
tered among them, and open sweeps of the plain here and
there ; altogether a delightful country to ride through.
It was a clear early morning, so that our horses were
fresh and full of spirit. They knew, as well as we our
selves did, what we were out for, and it was no easy
matter to restrain them. The one I rode was a great
long-legged beast, as like as possible to that abominable
kangaroo that nearly killed me at Red River; as for
Jacques, he was mounted on a firstrate charger. I don’t
know how it is, but,.somehow or other, everything about
Jacques, or belonging to 'him, or in the remotest degree
connected with him, is always firstrate ! He generally
owns a firstrate horse, and if he happens by any un
lucky chance to be compelled to mount a bad one, it
immediately becomes another animal. He seems to in
fuse some of his own wonderful spirit into it! Well, as
I


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
299
Jacques and I curvetted along, skirting the low bushes at
the edge of a wood, out burst a whole herd of buffaloes.
Bang went Jacques’s gun, almost before I had winked to
make sure that I saw rightly, and down fell the fattest
of them all, while the rest tossed up their tails, heels,
and heads, in one grand whirl of indignant amazement,
and scoured away like the wind. In a moment our
horses were at full stretch after them, on .their own ac
count entirely, and without any reference to us. When
I recovered my self-possession a little, I threw forward
my gun and fired, but, owing to my endeavoring to hold
the reins at the same time, I nearly blew off one of my
horse’s ears, and only knocked up the dust about six
yards ahead of us ! Of course Jacques could not let
this pass unnoticed. He was sitting quietly loading his
gun, as cool as a cucumber, while his horse was dashing
forward at full stretch, with the reins hanging loosely on
his neck.
“Ah! Mister Charles,” said he, with the least possible
grin on his leathern visage, “ that was not well done.
You should never hold the reins when you fire, nor try
to put the gun to your shoulder. It a’n’t needful. The
beast ’11 look arter itself, if it’s a riglar buffalo runner;
anyways holdin’ the reins is of no manner of use. I once
know’d a gentleman that came out here to see the buffalo
huntin’. He was a good enough shot in his way, an’ a
firstrate rider. But he Was full o’ queer notions, he
would load his gun with the ramrod in the riglar way,
instead o’ doin’ as we do, tumblin’ in a drop powder,
spiffin’ a ball out your mouth down the muzzle, and hit-
tin’ the stock bn the pommel of the saddle to send it
home. And he had them miserable things—the some
thin? ’cussion-caps, and used to fiddle away with them,


300
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
while we were knockin’ over the cattle in all directions.
Moreover he had a notion that it was altogether wrong
to let go his reins even for a moment, and so, what be
tween the ramrod, and the ’cussion-caps, and the reins, he
Avas worse than the greenest clerk that ever came to the
country. lie gave it up in despair at last, after lamin’
two horses, and finished off by runnin’ after a big bull,
that turned on him all of a suddent, crammed its head
and horns into the side of his horse, and sent the poor
fellow head over heels on the green grass. He wasn’t
much the worse for it, but his fine double-barrelled gun
was twisted into a shape that would almost have puzzled
an Injin to tell what it was.” Well, Harry, all the time
that Jacques was telling me this we were gaining on the
buffaloes, and at last we got quite close to them, and as
luck would have it, the very thing that happened to the
amateur sportsman happened to me. I went madly after a
big bull in spite of Jacques’- remonstrances, and, just as
I got alongside of him, up went his tail, (a sure sign that
his anger was roused,) and round he came, head to the
front, stiff as a rock, my poor charger’s chest went right
between his horns, and, as a matter of course, I continued
the race upon nothing, head first, for a 1 distance of about
thirty yards, and brought up on the bridge of my nose.
My poor dear father used to say I was a bull-headed
rascal, and, upon my word, I believe he was more liter
ally correct than he imagined, for, although I fell -with
a fearful crash, head first, on the hard plain, I rose up
immediately, and in a few minutes was able to resume
the chase again. My horse was equally fortunate, for,
although thus brought to a sudden stand while at full
gallop, he wheeled about, gave a contemptuous flourish
with his heels, and cantered after .Jacques, who soon


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
301
caught him again. My head bothered me a good deal
for some time after this accident, and swelled up till my
eyes became almost undistinguishable ; but a few weeks
put me all right again. And who do you think this man
Jacques is ? You’d never guess. He’s the trapper whom
Kedfeather told us of long ago, and wdiose wife was killed
by the Indians. He and Kedfeather have met and are
very fond of each other. How often in the midst of
these wild excursions have my thoughts wandered to
you, Harry ! The fellows I meet with here are all kind-
hearted, merry companions, but none like yourself. I
sometimes say to Jacques, when we become communica
tive to each other beside the camp-fire, that my earthly
felicity would be perfect if I had Harry Somerville here,
and then I think of Kate, my sweet, loving-sister Kate,
and feel that, even although I had you with me, there
would still be something wanting to make things perfect.
Talking of Kate, by the way, I have received a letter
.from her, the first sheet of which, as it speaks of mutual
Red River friends, I herewith enclose. Pray keep it
safe, and return per first opportunity. We’ve loads of
furs here and plenty of deer-stalking,—not to mention
galloping on horseback on the plains in summer, and
dog-sledging in winter. Alas ! my poor friend, I fear
that it is rather selfish in me to write so feelingly about
my agreeable circumstances, when I know you are slowly
dragging out your existence at that melancholy place,
York Fort; but, believe me, I sympathize with you, and
I hope earnestly that you will soon be appointed-to more
genial scenes. I have much, very much to tell you yet,
but am compelled to reserve it for a future epistle, as
the packet which is to convey this is on the point of
being closed.


302
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
Adieu, my dear Harry, and wherever you may hap
pen to pitch your tent, always bear in kindly remem
brance your old friend, Charles Kennedy.
The letter was finished, but Harry did not cease to
hold intercourse with his friend. With his head resting
on his two hands and his elbows on the table, he sat long,
silently gazing on the signature, while his mind revelled
in the past, the present, and the future. He bounded
over the wilderness that lay between him and the beau
tiful plains of the Saskatchewan. He seized Charley
round the neck, and hugged and ivrestled with him as in
days of yore. He mounted an imaginary charger and
swept across the plains along with him; — listened to
anecdotes innumerable from Jacques, attacked thousands
of buffaloes, singled out scores of wild bulls, pitched over
horses’ heads and alighted precisely on the bridge of his
nose, always in close proximity to his old friend. Grad
ually his mind returned to its prison-house, and his eye
fell on Kate’s letter, which he picked up and began to
read. It ran thus : —
My dear, dear, darling Charley, — I cannot tell
you how much my heart has yearned to see you, or hear
from you, for many long, long months past. Your last
delightful letter, which I treasure up as the most precious
object I possess, has indeed explained to me how utterly
impossible it was to have written a day sooner than you
did; but that does not comfort me a bit, or make those
weary packets more rapid and frequent in their move
ments, or the time that passes between the periods of
hearing from you less dreary and anxious. God bless
' and protect you, my darling, iu the midst of all the dan-


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
303
gers that surround you. But I did not intend to begin
this letter by murmuring, so pray forgive me, and I shall
try to atone for it by giving you a minute account of
everybody here, about whom you are interested. Our
beloved father and mother, I am thankful to say, are
quite well. Papa has taken more than ever to smoking
since you went away. He is seldom out of the summer
house in the garden now, where I very frequently go and
spend hours together in reading to and talking with him.
He very often speaks of you, and I am certain that he
misses you far more than we expected, although I think
he cannot miss you nearly so much as I do. For some
weeks past, indeed ever since we got your last letter, papa
was engaged all the forenoon in some mysterious work,
for he used to lock himself up in the summer-house, — a
thing he never did before. One day I went there at my
usual time, and instead of having to wait till he should
unlock the door, I found it already open and entered the
room, which was so full of, smoke, that I could hardly
see. I found papa writing at a small table, and the mo
ment he heard my footstep, he jumped up with a tierce
frown, and shouted, “ Who’s there ? ” in that terrible voice
that he used to speak in long ago when angry with his
men, but which he has almost quite given up for some
time past. He never speaks to me, as you know very
well, but in the kindest tones, so you may imagine what
a dreadful fright I got for a moment, but it was only for
a moment, because the instant he saw that it was me, his
dear face changed, and he folded me in his.arms, saying,
“ Ah! Kate, forgive me, my darling! I did not know it was
you, and I thought I had locked the door, and was 'angry
at being so unceremoniously interrupted.” He then told
me he was just finishing a letter of advice to you, and,


304
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
going up to the table, pushed the papers hurriedly into a
drawer. As he did so, I guessed what had been his
mysterious occupation, fob he seemed to have covered
quires of paper with the closest writing. Ah ! Charley,
you’re a lucky fellow to he able to extort such long let
ters from our dear father. You know how difficult he
finds it to write even the shortest note, and you remem
ber his old favorite expression, “ I would rather skin a
wild buffalo bull alive than write a long letter.” He
deserves long ones in return, Charley; but I need not
urge you on that score, — you are an excellent corre
spondent. Mamma is able to go out every day now for a
drive in the prairie. She was confined to the house for
nearly three weeks last month, with some sort of illness
that the doctor did not seem to understand, and at one
time I was much frightened, and very, very anxious
about her, she became so weak. It would have made
your heart glad to have seen the tender way in which
papa nursed her through the illness. I had fancied that
he was the very last man in the world to make a sick-
nurse, so bold and quick in his movements, and with such
a loud, gruff voice, — for it is gruff, although very sweet
at the same. time. But the moment he began to tend
mamma he spoke more softly even than dear Mr. Addi
son does, and he began to walk about the house on tiptoe,
and persevered so long in this latter that all his mocca-
sons began to be worn out at the toes, while the heels
remained quite strong. I begged of him often not to
take so much trouble, as I was naturally the proper nurse
for mamma, but he wouldn’t hear of it, and insisted on
carrying bi’eakfast, dinner, and tea to her, besides giving
her all her medicine. He was forever making mistakes,
however, much to his own sorrow, the darling man; and


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
305
I had to watch him pretty closely, for more than once he
has been on the point of giving mamma a glass of lauda
num in mistake for a glass of port wine. I was a good
deal frightened for him at first., as, before he became
accustomed to the work, he tumbled over the chairs and
tripped on the carpets while carrying trays with dinners
and breakfasts, till I thought he would really injure him
self at last, and then he was so terribly angry with him
self at making such a noise and breaking the dishes, — I
think he has broken nearly an entire dinner and tea-set of
crockery. Poor George, the cook, has suffered most from
these mishaps, for you know that dear papa cannot get
angry without letting a little of it out upon somebody; and
whenever he broke a dish or let a tray fall, he used to
rush into the kitchen, shake his fist in George’s face, and
ask him, in a fierce voice, what he meant by it. But he
always got better in a few seconds, and finished off by
telling him never to mind, that he was a good servant
on the whole, and he wouldn’t say any more about it
just now, but he had better look sharp out and not do it
again. I must say, in praise of George, that on such
occasions he looked very sorry indeed, and said he hoped
that he would always do his best to give him satisfaction.
This was only proper in him, for he ought to be very
thankful that our father restrains his anger so much ; for
you know he was rather violent once, and. you’ve no idea,
Charley, how great a restraint he now lays on himself.
He seems to me quite like a lamb,, and, I am beginning to
feel somehow as if we had been; mistaken, and that he
never was a passionate man at all. I think it is partly
owing to dear Mr. Addison, wliO' visits us very fre
quently now, and papa and he are often shut up together
for many hours in the smoking-house.. I was sure that
20


306 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
papa would soon come to like him, for his religion is so
free from everything like severity or affected solemnity.
The cook, and Rosa, and my dog that you named Twist,
are all quite well. The last has grown into a very large
and beautiful animal, something like the stag-hound in
the picture-book we used to study together long ago. He
is exceedingly fond of me, and I feel him to be quite a
protector. The cocks and hens, the cow and the old
mare, are also in perfect health; so now, having told you
a good deal about ourselves, I will give you a short ac
count of the doings in the colony.
First of all, your old friend Mr. Ripples is still alive
and .well, and so are all our old companions in the school.
One or two of the latter have left, and young Naysmith
has joined the Company’s service. Betty Peters comes
very often to see us, and she always asks for you with
great earnestness. I think you have stolen the old wom
an’s heart, Charley, for she speaks of you with great
affection. Old Mr. Seaforth is still as vigorous as ever,
dashing about the settlement on a high-mettled steed,
just as if he were one of the youngest men in the colony.
He nearly poisoned himself, poor man! a month ago, by
faking a dose of some kind of medicine by mistake. I
did not hear what it was, but I am told that the treatment
was rather severe. Fortunately the doctor happened to
be at home when he was sent for, else our old friend
would, I fear, have died. As it was, the doctor cured him
with great difficulty. He first gave him an emetic, then
put mustard blisters to the soles of his feet, and afterwards
lifted him into one of his own carts, without springs, in
which he drove him for along time over all the ploughed
fields in the neighborhood. If this is not an exaggerated
account, Mr. Seaforth is certainly made of sterner stuff


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
307
than most men. I was told a funny anecdote of him a
few days ago, which I am sure you have never heard,
otherwise you would have, told it to me, for there used to
be no secrets between us, Charley, — alas ! I have no one
to confide in, or advise with, now that you are gone. You
have often heard of the great flood ; — not Noah’s one —
but the flood that nearly swept away our settlement, and
did so much damage before you and I were born. ' Well,
you recollect that people used to tell of the way in which
the river rose after the breaking up of the ice, and how it
soon overflowed all the low points, sweeping off every
thing in its course. Old Mr. Seaforth’s house stood at
that time on the little point, just beyond the curve of the
river, at the foot of which our own house stands, and as
the river continued to rise, Mr. Seaforth went about ac-.
tively securing his property. At first he only thought of
his boat and’canoes, which, with the help of his son Peter
and a Canadian, who happened at the time to be em
ployed about the place, he dragged up'and secured to an
iron staple in the side of his house. 'Soon, however, he
found that the danger was greater than at first he im-’
agined. The point became completely covered with
water, which brought down great numbers of half-
drowned and quite-drowned cattle, pigs, and poultry;
and stranded them at the garden fence, so that in a short
time poor Mr. Seaforth could scarcely move about his
overcrowded domains. On seeing this, he drove his own
cattle to the highest land in his neighborhood and has
tened back to the house, intending to carry as much of the
furniture as possible to the same place. But during his
short absence^ the river had risen so rapidly, that he was
obliged to^give up all thoughts of this, and think only of
securing a few of his valuables. The bit of land round


308 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
his dwelling was so thickly covered with the poor cows,
sheep, and other animals, that he conld scarcely make his
way to the house, and you may fancy his consternation
on reaching it, to find that the water was more than knee-
deep round the walls, while a few of the coavs and a
whole herd of pigs had burst open the door (no doubt ac
cidentally) and coolly entered the dining-room, Avhere
they stood Avith drooping heads, very wet, and apparently
very miserable. The Canadian was busy at the back of
the house, loading the boat and canoes Avith everything he
could lay hands on, and Avas not aware of the foreign in
vasion in front. Mr. Seaforth cared little for this, hoAV-
ever, and began to collect all the things he held most
valuable, and threAv them to the man, Avho stowed .them
aAvay in the boat. Peter had been left in charge of the
cattle, so they had to Avork hard. While thus employed
the water continued to rise with fearful rapidity, and
rushed against the house like a mill-race, so that ft soon
became evident that the whole Avould ere long be swept
away. Just as they finished loading the boat and canoes,
■the staple which held them gave Avay ;,in a moment they
were swept into the middle of the river, and carried out
of sight. The Canadian Avas in the boat at the time the
staple broke, so that Mr. Seaforth was now left in a
dAvelling that bid fair to emulate Noah’s ark in an hour
or tAvo, without a chance of escape, and with no better
company than five black oxen, in the dining-room, besides
three sheep that were now scarcely able to keep their
heads above water, and three little pigs that were already
drowned. The poor old man did his best to push out the
intruders, but only succeeded in ejecting two sheep and
an ox. All the others positively refused to go,, so he was
fain to let them stay. By shutting the outer door, he sue-


!
FROM THE FAR NORTH. 309
ceeded in keeping out a great deal of water. Then he
waded into the parlor, where he found some more little
pigs floating about and quite dead. Two, however, more
adventurous than their comrades, had saved their lives by
mounting first on a chair and then upon the table, where ^ ^
they were comfortably seated, gazing languidly at their |
mother, a very heavy fat sow, which sat, with what I 1
seemed an expression of settled despair, on the sofa. In s
a fit of wrath, Mr. Seaforth seized the young pigs and
tossed them out of the window, whereupon the old one j i
jumped down, and half walking, half swimming, made her
way to her companions in the dining-room. The old l \
gentleman now ascended to the garret, where, from a ji
small window, he looked out upon the scene of devasta- i;
tion. His chief anxiety was about the foundation of the j
â– house, which, being made of a wooden framework, like
almost all the others in the colony, would certainly float ij
if the water rose much higher. His, fears were better j
founded than the house. As he looked up the river, h
which had by this time overflowed all its banks and
was 'spreading over the plains, he saw a fresh burst 1 (
of water coming down, which, when it dashed against
his dwelling, forced it about two yards from its foun
dation. Suddenly he remembered that there was a
large anchor and chain in the kitchen, both of which s
he had brought there one day, to serve as a sort of j
anvil, when he wanted to do some blacksmith work. (
Hastening down, he fastened one end of the chain to the |
sofa, and cast the anchor out of the window. A few
minutes afterwards another rush of water struck the
building, which yielded to pressure, and swung slowly J,
down until the anchor arrested its further progress.
This was only for a few seconds, however. The chain
i


310 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
was a slight one. It snapped, and the house swept ma
jestically down the stream, while its terrified owner
scrambled to the roof, which he found already in posses
sion of his favorite cat. Here he had a clear view of his
situation. The plains were converted into a lake, above
whose surface rose trees and houses, several of which, like
his own, were floating on the stream or stranded among
shallows. Settlers were rowing about in boats and canoes
in all directions, but, although some of them noticed the
poor man sitting beside his cat on the house-top, they
were either too far off or had no time to render him
assistance.
For two days nothing was heard of old Mr. Seaforth.
Indeed the settlers had too much to do in saving them
selves and their families to think of others ; and it was
not until the third day that people began to inquire about,
him. His son Peter had taken a canoe and made dili
gent search in all directions; but although he found the
house sticking on a shallow point, neither his father nor
the cat were on, or in it. At last he was brought to the
island, on which nearly half the colony had collected, by
. an Indian who had passed the house and brought him
away in his canoe along with the old cat. Is he not a'
wonderful man, to have come through so much in his old
age? and he is still so active and hearty ! Mr. Swan of
the mill is dead. He died of fever last week. Poor old
Mr. Cordon is also gone. His end was very sad. About
a month ago he ordered his horse and rode off, intending
to visit Fort Garry. At the turn of the road, just above
Grant’s House, the horse suddenly swerved, and its rider
was thrown to the ground. He did not live more than
half an hour after it. Alas! how very sad to see a man,
after escaping all the countless dangers of a long life in


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
311
the woods, (and his, you know, was a very adventurous
one,) thus cut violently down in his old age ! 0 Char
ley, how little we know what is before us! How need
ful to have our peace made with G-od through Jesus
Christ, so that we may be ready at any moment when
our Father calls us away. There are many events of
great interest that have occurred here since you left.
You will be glad to hear that Jane Patterson is married
to our excellent friend Mr. Cameron, who has taken up a
store near to us, and intends to run a boat to York Fort
next summer. There has been another marriage here,
which will cause you astonishment at least, if not plea
sure. Old Mr. Peters has married Marie Peltier! What
could have possessed her to take such a husband ? I can-
. not understand it. Just think of her, Charley, a girl of
eighteen, with a husband of seventy-five !
At this point the writing, which was very close, and
very small, terminated. Harry laid it down with a deep
sigh; wishing much that Charley had thought it advisa
ble to send him the second sheet also. As wishes and
regrets on this point were equally unavailing, he en
deavored to continue it in imagination, and was soon
as deeply absorbed in following Kate through the well-
remembered scenes of Red River, as he had been, a
short time before, in roaming with her brother over the
wide prairies of the Saskatchewan. The increasing cold,
however, soon warned him that the night was far spent.
He rose and went to the stove, but the fire had gone out,
and the almost irresistible frost of these regions was al
ready cooling everything in Bachelors’ Hall down to the
freezing point. All his companions had put out their
' candles, and were busy, doubtless, dreaming of the friends


312
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
whose letters had struck and reawakened the long dor
mant chords that used to echo to the tones and scenes of
other days. With a slight shiver, Harry returned to his
apartment, and kneeled to. thank God for protecting and
preserving his absent friends, and especially for sending
him “ good news from a far land.” The letter with the
British postmarks on it was placed under his pillow.
It occupied his waking and sleeping thoughts that night,
and it was the first thing he thought of and re-read on
the following morning, and for many mornings after
wards. Only those can fully estimate the value of such
lettei’s, who live in distant lands, where letters are few —
very, very few—and far between.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
313
CHAPTER XXIII.
CHANGES; HARRY AND HAMILTON EIND THAT VARIETY IS INDEED
CHARMING; THE LATTER ASTONISHES THE EORMER CONSIDERA
BLY.
T HREE months passed away, but the snow still lay
deep, and white, and undiminished around York
Fort. Winter — cold, silent, unyielding winter — still
drew its white mantle closely round the lonely 1 dwelling
of tlfe fur traders of the far north.
Icicles hung, as they had done for mpnths before,
from the eaves of every house, from the tall black scaf
fold on which the great bell hung, and from the still
taller erection that had been put up as an outlook for
“ the ship ” in summer. At the present time it com
manded a bleak view of the frozen sea. Snow covered
every house-top, and hung in ponderous masses from their
edges, as if it were about to fall; but it never fell, it
hung there in the same position day after day, unmelted,
unchanged. Snow covered the whole land, and the
frozen river, the swamps, the sea-beach and the sea itself,
as far as the eye could reach, seemed like a pure white
cai'pet. Snow lined the upper edge of every paling,
filled up the keyhole of every door, embanked about half
of every window, stuck in little knobs on the top of every
picket, and clung in masses on every drooping branch of
the pine-trees in the forest. Frost — sharp, biting frost
— solidified, surrounded, and pervaded everything. Mer-


314
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
cury was congealed by it; vapor was condensed by it;
iron was cooled by it until it could scarcely be touched
without (as the men expressed it) “burning” the fingers.
The water-jugs in Bachelors’ Hall and the water-buckets
were frozen by it, nearly to the bottom ; though there
was a good stove there, and the Hall was not usually a
cold place by any means. The breath of the inhabitants
was congealed by it on the window-panes, until they had
become coated with ice an inch thick. The breath of
the men was rendered white and opaque by it, as they
panted and hurried to and fro about their ordinary avo
cations ; beating their gloved hands together,, and stamp
ing their well wrapped-up feet on the hard beaten snow
to keep them warm. Old Bobin’s nose seemed to be
entirely shrivelled up into his face by it, as he drove his
ox-cart to the river, to fetch his daily supply of water.
The only things that were not affected by it were the
fires, which crackled and roared as if in laughter, and
twisted and leapt as if in uncontrollable glee at the bare
idea of John Frost acquiring, by any artifice whatever,
the smallest possible influence over them ! Three months
had elapsed, but frost and snow, instead of abating, had
gone on increasing- and intensifying, deepening and ex
tending its work, and riveting its chains. Winter—cold,
silent, unyielding winter — still reigned at York Fort, as
though it had made it a sine qua non of its existence at
all that it should reign there forever !
But although everything was thus wintry and cold, it
was by no means cheerless or dreary. A bright sun
shone in the blue heavens with an intenseness of bril
liancy that was quite dazzling to the eyes, that elated the
spirits, and caused man and beast to tread with a more
elastic step than usual. Although the sun looked down


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
315
Upon the scene with an unclouded face, and found a
mirror in every icicle, and in every gem of hoarfrost
with which the objects of nature were loaded, there
was, however, no perceptible heat in his rays. They
fell on the white earth with all the brightness of mid-
sumrnei', but they fell powerless as moonbeams in the
dead of winter.
On the frozen river, just in front of the gate of the
fort, a group of men and dogs were assembled. The
dogs were four in number, harnessed to a small flat
sledge of the slender kind used by Indians to drag their
furs and provisions 'over the snow. The group of
men was composed of Mr. Rogan, and the inmates of
Bachelors’ Hall, one or two men who happened to be
engaged there at the time in cutting a new water-hole
in the ice, and an Indian, who, to judge from his
carefully adjusted costume, the snow-shoes on his feet,
and the short whip in his hand, was the driver of the
sledge, and was about to start on a journey. Harry
Somerville and young Hamilton were also wrapped up
more carefully than usual.
“ Good-bye, then, good-bye,” said Mr. Rogan, advanc
ing towards the Indian, who stood beside the leading dog,
ready to start. “ Take care of our young friends; they’ve
not had much experience in travelling yet; and don’t
overdrive your dogs. Treat them well and they’ll do
more work. They’re like men in that respect.” Mr.
Rogan shook the Indian by the hand, and the latter im
mediately flourished the whip and gave a shout, which
the dogs no sooner heard than they uttered a simultane
ous yell, sprang forward with a jerk, and scampered up
the river, closely followed by their dark-skinned driver.
“ How, lads, farewell,” said the old gentleman, turning


316 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
with a kindly smile to our two friends, who were shaking
hands for the last time with their comrades. “ I’m sorry
you’re going to leave us, my boys. You’ve done your
duty well while here, and I would willingly have kept
you a little longer with me, hut our governor wills it other
wise. However, I trust that you’ll be happy wherever
you may he sent. Don’t forget to write to me — God
bless you — farewell.”
Mr. Hogan shook them heartily by the hand, turned
short round, and walked slowly up to his house, with
an expression of sadness on his mild face, while Harry
and Hamilton, having once more waved farewell to
their friends, marched up the river side Jby side in
silence. They followed the track left by the dog-sledge,
w r hich guided them with unerring certainty, although
their Indian leader and his team were out of sight in
advance.
A week previous to this time, an Indian arrived from
the interior, bearing a letter from head-quarters, which
directed that Messrs. Somerville and Hamilton should be
forthwith despatched on snow-shoes to Norway House.
As this establishment is about three hundred miles from
the sea-coast, the order involved a journey of nearly two
weeks’ duration, through a .country that was utterly
destitute of inhabitants. On receiving a command from
Mr. Hogan to prepare for an early- start, Harry retired
precipitately to his own room, and there, after cutting
unheard-of capers, and giving vent to sudden incompre
hensible shouts, all indicative of the highest state of
delight, he condescended to tell his companions of his
good fortune, and set about preparations without delay.
Hamilton, on the contrary, gave his usual quiet smile on
being informed of his destination, and, returning some-


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
317
what pensively to Bachelors’ Hall, proceeded leisurely to
make the becessary arrangements for departure. As the
time drew on, however, a perpetual flush on his counte
nance, and an unusual brilliancy about his eye, showed
that he was not quite insensible to the pleasures of a
change, and relished the idea more than he got credit for.
The Indian who had brought the letter was ordered to
hold himself in readiness to retrace his steps and conduct
the young men through the woods to Norway House,
where they were to await further orders. A few days
later, the three travellers, as already related, set out on
their journey.
After walking a mile up the river, they passed a point
of land which shut out the fort from view. Here they
paused to take a last look, and then pressed forward in
silence, the thoughts of each being busy with mingled
recollections of their late home, and anticipations of the
future. After an hour’s sharp walking they came in sight
of the guide, and slackened their pace.
“ Well, Hamilton,” said Harry, throwing off his reveriS
with a deep sigh, “ are you glad to leave York Fort, or
sorry ? ”
“ Glad, undoubtedly,” replied Hamilton, “ but sorry to
part from our old companions there. I had no idea,
Harry, that I loved them all so much ; I feel as if I
should be glad were the order for us to leave them coun
termanded even now.”
“ That’s the very thought,” said Harry, “ that was
passing through my own brain when I spoke to you.
Yet, somehow, I think I should be uncommonly sorry,
after all, if we were really sent back. There’s a queer
contradiction, Plammy ; we’re sorry and happy at the
same time ! If I were the skipper, now, I would found
a philosophical argument upon it.”


SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
“ Which the skipper would carry on with untiring
vigor,” said Hamilton, smiling, “ and afterwards make an'
entry of in his log. But I think, Harry, that to feel the
emotion of sorrow and joy at the same time is not such a
contradiction as it at first appears.”
“ Perhaps not,” replied Harry; “ but it seems very
contradictory to me, and yet, it’s an evident fact, — for I’m
very sorry to leave them, and I’m very happy to have you
for my companion here.”
a So am I, so am I,” said the other, heartily. “ I
would rather travel with you, Harry, than with any of
our late companions, — although I like them all very
much.”
The two friends had grown, almost imperceptibly, in.
each other’s esteem during their residence under the same
roof, more than either of them would have believed pos
sible. The gay,, reckless hilarity of the one did not at
first accord with the quiet gravity, and, as his comrades
styled it, softness, of the other. But character is, fre
quently misjudged at first sight, — and sometimes men,
who, on a first acquaintance, have felt repelled from each
other, have, on coming to know each other better, dis
covered traits and good qualities that, ere long, formed
enduring bonds of sympathy, and have learned to love
those whom at first they felt disposed to dislike or de
spise. Thus, Harry soon came to know that what he at’
first thought, and along with his companions, called, soft
ness in Hamilton, was in reality gentleness of disposition,
and thorough good-nature, united in one who happened
to be utterly unacquainted with-the knowing ways of this
peculiarly sharp and clever world ; while, in the course
of time, new qualities showed themselves in a quiet, un
obtrusive way that won upon his affections and raised


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
319
his esteem. On the other hand, Hamilton found that,
although Harry was volatile, and possessed of an irre
sistible tendency to fun and mischief, he never by any
chance gave way to anger, or allowed malice to enter
into his practical jokes. Indeed, he often observed him
restrain his natural tendencies when they were at all
likely to give pain, — though Harry never dreamed that
such efforts were known to any one but himself. Besides
this, Harry was peculiarly unselfish ; and when a man is
possessed of this inestimable disposition, he is not quite,
but very nearly, perfect!
After another pause, during which the party had left
the open river and directed their course through the
woods, where the depth of the snow obliged them to
tread in each other’s footsteps, Harry resumed the con
versation.
“ You have not yet told me, by the by, what old Mr.
Bogan said to you just before we started. Did he give
you any hint as to where you might be sent to after
reaching Norway House ? ” •
“ No, he merely said he knew that clerks were wanted
both for Mackenzie River and the Saskatchewan districts,
but he did not know which I was destined for.”
“Hum! exactly what he said to me, with the slight
addition that he strongly suspected that Mackenzie River
would be my doom. Are you aware, Hammy, my boy,
that the Saskatchewan district is a sort of terrestrial
paradise, and Mackenzie River equivalent to Botany
Bay?”
“ I have heard as much during our conversations in
Bachelors’ Hall, but Stop a bit, Harry, these snow-
shoe lines of mine have got loosened with tearing through
this deep snow, and these shockingly thick bushes. There


320
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
— they are right now ; go on, I was going to say that I
don’t oh ! ”
This last exclamation was elicited from Hamilton by a
sharp blow, caused by a branch which, catching on part
of Harry’s dress,'as he plodded on in front, suddenly
rebounded and struck him- across the face. This is of
common occurrence in travelling through the woods, es
pecially to those who, from inexperience, walk too closely
on the heels of their companions.
“ "What’s wrong now, Hammy ? ” inquired his friend,
looking over his shoulder.
“ Oh, nothing worth mentioning, — rather a sharp blow
from a branch, that’s all.”
“ Well, proceed you’ve interrupted yourself twice in
what you w r ere going to say ; — perhaps it’ll come out if
you try it a third time.”
“ I was merely going to say, that I don’t much care
where I am sent to, so long as it is not to an outpost
where I shall be all alone.”
“ All very well, my friend; but seeing that outposts
are, in comparison with principal forts, about a hundred
to one, your chance of avoiding them is rather slight.
However, our youth and want of experience is in our
favor, as they like to send men who have seen some
service to outposts. But I fear that, with such brilliant
characters as you and I, Hammy, youth will only be an
additional recommendation, and inexperience won’t last
long. -—Hallo ! what’s going on yonder ? ”
Harry pointed as he spoke to an open spot in the
woods, about a quarter of a mile in advance, where a
dark object was seen lying on the snow, writhing about,
now coiling into a lump, and anon extending itself like a
huge snake in agony.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
321
As tlie two friends looked, a prolonged howl floated
towards them.
“ Something wrong with the dogs, I declare! ” cried
Harry.
“No doubt of it,” replied his friend, hurrying forward,
as they saw their Indian guide rise from the ground and
flourish his whip energetically, while the howls rapidly
increased.
A few minutes brought them to the scene of action,
• where they found the dogs engaged in a fight among
themselves; and the driver in a state of vehement pas
sion, alternately belaboring and trying to separate them.
Dogs in these regions, like the dogs of all other regions,
we suppose, are very much addicted . to fighting ; a pro
pensity which becomes extremely unpleasant, if indulged
while the animals are in harness, as they then become
peculiarly savage, probably from their being unable, like
an ill-assorted pair in wedlock, to cut or break the ties
that bind them. Moreover, they twist the traces into
such an ingeniously complicated mass, that it renders dis
entanglement almost impossible, even after exhaustion
has reduced them to obedience. Besides this, they ar.e
so absorbed in worrying each other, that, for the time,
they are utterly regardless of their driver’s lash or voice.
* This naturally makes the driver angry ; and sometimes
irascible men practice shameful cruelties on the poor
dogs. When the two friends came up, they found the
Indian glaring at the animals, as they fought and writhed
in the snow, with every lineament of his swarthy face
distorted with passion, and panting from the late exer
tions. Suddenly he threw himself on the dogs again,
and lashed them furiously with the whip. Finding that
this had no effect, he twined the lash round his hand and


322
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
struck them violently over their heads and snouts with
the handle; then falling down on his knees, he caught
the most savage of the animals by the throat, and seizing
its nose between his teeth, almost bit it off. The appal
ling yell that followed this cruel act seemed to subdue
the dogs, for they ceased to fight, and crouched, whining,
in the snow.
With a bound like a tiger, young- Hamilton sprang
upon the guide, and seizing him by the throat, hurled
him violently to the ground. “ Scoundrel! ” he cried,
standing over the crestfallen Indian with flushed face
and flashing eyes, “ how dare you thus treat the creatures
of God ? ”
The young man would have spoken more, but his in
dignation was so fierce that it could not find vent in words.
For a moment he raised his fist, as if he meditated dash
ing the Indian again to the ground as he slowly arose;
then, as if changing his mind, he seized him by the back
of the neck, thrust him towards the panting dogs, and
stood in silence over him with the whip grasped firmly in
his hand, while he disentangled the traces.
This accomplished, Hamilton ordered him, in a voice
of suppressed anger, to “ go forward ” — an order which
the cowed guide promptly obeyed — and, in a few min
utes more, the two friends were again alone.
“ Hamilton, my boy,” exclaimed Harry, who, up to this
moment, seemed to have been petrified, “ you have per
fectly amazed me! I’m utterly bewildered.”
“ Indeed, I fear that I have been very violent,” said
Hamilton, blushing deeply.
“ Violent! ” exclaimed his friend. “ Why, man, I’ve
completely mistaken your character. I, I ”
“ I hope not, Harry,” said Hamilton, in a subdued


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
323
tone; “I hope not. Believe me, I am not naturally
violent; I should he very sorry were you to think so.
Indeed, I never felt thus before, and, now that it is over,
I am amazed at myself; but surely you’ll admit that
there was great provocation. Such terrible cruelty
to — ; —”
“ My dear fellow, you quite misunderstand me. I’m
amazed at your pluck, your energy. Soft, indeed! we
have been most egregiously mistaken. Provocation ! I
just think you had; my only sorrow is, that you didn’t
give him a little more.”
“ Come, come, Harry; I see you would be as cruel to
him, as he was to the pqpr dog. But let us press for
ward ; it is already growing dark, and we must not let
the fellow out of sight ahead of us.”
“Allons done” cried Harry ; and, hastening their steps,
they travelled silently and rapidly among the stems of
the trees, while the shades of night gathered slowly round
them.
That night, the three travellers encamped in the snow,
under the shelter of a spreading pine. The encampment
was formed almost exactly in a similar manner to that in
which they had slept on the night of their exploits at
North River. They talked less, however, than on that
occasion, and slept more soundly. Before retiring to rest,
and while Harry was extended, half asleep and half
awake, on his green blanket, enjoying the delightful
repose that follows a hard day’s march and a good sup
per, Hamilton drew near to the Indian, who sat, sullenly
smoking, a little apart from the young men. Sitting
down beside him, he administered a long rebuke, in a
low, grave tone of voice. Like rebukes generally, it had
the effect of making the visage of the Indian still more


324
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
sullen. But the young man did not appear to notice
this ; he still continued to talk. As he went on, the look
grew less and less sullen, until it faded entirely away,
and was succeeded by the grave, quiet, respectful expres
sion peculiar to the face of the North American Indian.
Day succeeded day, night followed night, and still
found them plodding laboriously through the weary waste
of snow, or encamping under the trees of the forest. The
two friends went through all the varied stages of experi
ence which are included in what is called “ becoming
used to the work,” which is sometimes a modified mean
ing of the expression “ used up.” They started with a
degree of vigor that one would have thought no amount
of hard work could possibly abate. They became aware
of the melancholy fact, that fatigue unstrings the youngest
and toughest sinews. They pressed oh, however, from
stern necessity, and found, to their delight, that young
muscles recover their elasticity, even in the midst of
severe exertion. They still pressed on, and discovered,
to their dismay, that this recovery was only temporary,
and that the second state of exhaustion was infinitely
worse than the first. Still they pressed on, and x'aised
blisters on their feet and toes, that caused them to limp
wofully; then they learned that blisters break, and take
a long time to heal, and are much worse to walk upon
during the healing process than they are at the com
mencement, — at which time they innocently fancied that
nothing could be more dreadful. Still they pressed on,
day after day, and found, to their satisfaction, that such
things can be endured and overcome, — that feet and
toes can become hard like leather, that muscles can grow
tough as India-rubber, and that spirits and energy can
attain to a pitch of endurance which nothing within the


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
325
compass of a day’s march can by any possibility overcome.
They found also, from experience, that their conversation
changed, both in manner and subject, as they progressed
on their journey. At first they conversed frequently,
and on various topics, chiefly on the probability of their
being sent to pleasant places, or the reverse. Then they
spoke less frequently, and growled occasionally, as they
advanced in the painful process of training. After that,
as they began to get hardy, they talked of the trees, the
snow, the ice, the tracks of wild animals they happened to
cross, and the objects of nature generally that came under
their observation. Then, as their muscles hardened, and
their sinews grew tough, and the day’s march at length
became, first, a matter of indifference, and, ultimately, an
absolute pleasure, they chatted cheerfully on any and
every subject, or sang occasionally, when the sun shone
out, and cast an appearance of warmth across their path.
Thus onward they pressed, Avithout halt or stay, day after
day, through wood and brake, over river and lake, on
ice and on snow, for miles and miles together, through
the great, uninhabited, frozen wilderness.


326
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
CHAPTER XXIV.
HOPES AND PEARS; AN UNEXPECTED MEETING; PHILOSOPHICAL
TALK BETWEEN THE HUNTER AND THE PARSON.
O N arriving at Norway House, Harry Somerville and
his friend Hamilton found that they were to remain
at that establishment during an indefinite period of time,
until it should please those in whose hands their ultimate
destination lay, to direct them how and where to proceed.
This was an unlooked-for trial of their patience ; but,
after the first exclamation of disappointment, they made
up their minds, like wise men, to think no more about it,,
but bide their time, and make the most of present cir
cumstances.
“ You see,” remarked Hamilton, as the two friends,
after having had an audience of the gentleman in charge
of the establishment, sauntered towards the rocks that
overhang the margin of Playgreen Lake, “ you see, it is
of no use to fret about what we cannot possibly help.
Nobody within three hundred miles of us knows where
we are destined to spend next winter. Perhaps orders
may come in a couple of weeks, perhaps in a couple of
months, but they will certainly come at last. Anyhow,
it is of no use thinking about it, so we had better forget
it, and make the best of things as we find them.”
“All!” exclaimed Harry, “your advice is, that we
should by all means be happy, and if we can’t be happy,
be as happy as we can. Is that it ? ”


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
327
“ Just so. That’s it exactly.”
“ Ho! But then, you see, Hammy, you’re a philoso
pher, and I’m not, and that makes all the difference. I’m
not given to anticipating evil, but I cannot help dreading
that they will send me to some lonely, swampy, out-of-
the-way hole, where there will be no society, no shoot
ing; no riding, no work even, to speak of, — nothing,
in fact, but the miserable satisfaction of being styled
‘bourgeois’ by five or six men, wretched outcasts like
myself.”
“ Come, Harry,” cried Hamilton, “ you are taking the
very worst view of it. There certainly are plenty of
such outposts in the country, but you know very well
that young fellows like you are seldom sent to such
places.”
“ I don’t know that,” interrupted Harry ; “ there’s
young M’Andrew ; he was sent to an outpost up the
Mackenzie his second year in the service, where he was
all hut starved, and had to live for about two weeks on
boiled parchment. Then there’s poor Forrester; he was
shipped off to a place — the name of which I never
could remember — somewhere between the head waters
of the Athabasca Lake and the North Pole. To be sure,
he had good shooting, I’m told, but he had only four la
boring men to enjoy it with ; and he has been there ten
years now, and he has more than once had to scrape the
rocks of that detestable stuff called tripe de roche to keep
himself alive. And then there’s ”
“Very true,” interrupted Hamilton; “then there’s
your friend Charles- Kennedy, whom you so often talk
about, and many other young fellows we know, who have
been sent to the Saskatchewan, and to the Columbia, and
to Athabasca, and to a host of other capital places, where


328
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
they have enough of society — male society, at least —
and good sport.”
The young men had climbed a rocky eminence, which
commanded a view of the lake on the one side, and the
fort, with its background of woods, on the other. Here
they sat down on a stone, and continued for some time to
admire the scene in silence.
“ Yes,” said Harry, resuming the thread of discourse,
“ you are right; we have a good chance of seeing some
pleasant parts of the country. But suspense is not
pleasant. Oh, man, if they would only send me up the
Saskatchewan River! I’ve set my heart upon going
there. I’m quite sure it’s the very best place in the
whole country.”
“You’ve told the truth that time, master,” said a deep
voice behind them.
The young men turned quickly round. Close beside
them, and leaning composedly on a long Indian fowling-
piece, stood a tall, broad-shouldered, sunburnt man, ap
parently about forty years of age. He was dressed in
the usual leathern hunting coat, cloth leggins, fur cap,
mittens, and moccasons, that constitute the winter garb
of a hunter; and had a grave, firm, but good-humored
expression of countenance.
“ You’ve told the truth that time, master,” he repeated,
without moving from his place. “ The Saskatchewan is,
to my mind, the best place in the whole country, and
havin’ seen a considerable deal o’ places in my time, I
can speak from experience.”
“ Indeed, friend,” said Harry, “ I’m gla'd to hear you
say so. Come, sit down beside us, and let’s hear some
thing about it.”
Thus invited, the hunter seated himself on a stone,
and laid his gun on the hollow pf his left arm.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
329
“ First of all, friend,” continued Harry, “ do you be
long to the fort here ? ”
“No,” replied the man, “I’m stayin’ here just now,
but I don’t belong to the place.”
“ Where do you come from, then ; and what’s your
name ? ”
“ Why, I’ve corned d’rect from the Saskatchewan with
a packet o’ letters. I’m payin’ a visit to the missionary
village yonder ; ” the hunter pointed, as he spoke, across
the lake; “ and when the ice breaks up I shall get a ca
noe and return again.”
“ And your name ? ”
“ Why I’ve got four or five names. Somehow or
other, people have given me a nickname wherever I ha’
chanced to go. But my true name, and the one I hail
by just now, is Jacques Caradoc.”
“ Jacques Caradoc! ” exclaimed Harry, starting with
surprise. “You knew a Charley Kennedy in the Sas
katchewan, did you ? ”
“ That did I. As fine a lad as ever pulled a trigger.”
“ Give us your hand, friend,” exclaimed Harry, spring
ing forward and seizing the hunter’s large, hard fist in
both hands- “ Why, man, Charley is my dearest friend,
and I had a letter from him some time ago, in which he
speaks of you, and says you’re one of the best fellows he
ever met.”
“ You don’t say so,” replied the hunter, returning
Harry’s grasp warmly, while his eyes sparkled with
pleasure, and a quiet smile played at the corners of
his mouth.
“Yes I do,” said Harry, “ and I’m very nearly as glad
to meet with you, friend Jacques, as I would be to meet
with him. But come. It’s cold work talking here. Let’s


330 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
go to my room. There’s a fire in the stove. Come
along, Hammy,” and taking his new friend by the arm,
he hurried him along to his quarters in the fort.
Just as they were passing under the fort gate, a large
mass of snow became detached from a house-top, and fell
heavily at their feet, passing within an inch of Hamilton’s
nose. The young man started back with an exclamation,
and became very red in the face.
“ Hallo ! ” cried Harry, laughing, “ got a fright, Ham
my? That went so close to your chin, that it almost
saved you the trouble of shaving.”
“Yes, I got a little fright from the suddenness of it,”
said Hamilton, quietly.
“ What do you think of my friend there ? ” said Harry
to Jacques, in a low voice, pointing to Hamilton, who
walked on in advance.
“I’ve not seen much of him, master,” replied the hun
ter. “ Had I been asked the same question about the
same lad twenty years agone, I should ha’ said he was.
soft, and perhaps chicken-hearted. But I’ve learned
from experience to judge better than I used to do. I
niver thinks o’ formin’ an opinion o’ any one till I’ve
seen them called to sudden action. It’s astonishin’ how
some faint-hearted men will come to face a danger, and
• put on an awful look o’ courage, if they only get yarnin’
— but take them by surprise; that’s the way to try
them.”
“Well, Jacques, that is the very reason why I ask
your opinion of Hamilton. He was pretty well taken
by surprise that time, I think.” '
“ True, master, but that kind'o’ start don’t prove much.
Hows’ever, I don’t think he’s easy upset. He does look
uncommon soft, and his face grew red when the snow fell,


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
331
but bis eyebrow and bis under lip showed that it wasn’t
from fear.”
During that afternoon and the greater part of that
night the three friends continued in close conversation,
Harry sitting in front of the stove, with his hands in his
pockets, on a chair tilted as usual on its hind legs, and
pouring out volleys of questions, which were pithily an
swered by the good-humored, loquacious hunter, who sat
behind the- stove, resting his elbows on his knees, and
smoking his much-loved pipe; while Hamilton reclined
on Harry’s bed, and listened with eager avidity to anec
dotes, and stories which seemed, like the narrator’s pipe,
to be inexhaustible.
“ Good night, Jacques, good night,” said Harry, as the
latter rose at last to depart; “ I’m delighted to have had a
talk with you. You must comeback to-morrow. I want
to hear more about your friend Redfeather. Where did
you say you left him ? ”
“ In the Saskatchewan, master. He said that he would
wait there, as he’d heer’d the missionary was cornin’ up
to pay the Injins a visit.”
“ By the bye, you’re going over to the missionary’s
place to-morrow, are you not ? ” -
“ Yes, I am.”
“ Ah ! then, that’ll do. I’ll go over with you. How
far off is it ? ”
“Three miles, or thereabouts.”
“ Very good. Call in here as you pass, and my friend
Hamilton and I will accompany you. Good night.”
Jacques thrust his pipe into his bosom, held out his
horny hand, and giving his young friends a hearty shake,
turned and strode from the room.
On the following day, Jacques called, according to prom-


332 ' SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
ise, and the three friends set off together to visit the
Indian village. This missionary station was under the
management of a Wesleyan clergyman, Pastor Conway
by name, an excellent man, of about forty-five years of
age, with an energetic mind and body, a bald head, a
mild, expressive countenance, and a robust constitution.
He was admirably qualified for his position, having a
natural aptitude for every sort of work that man is usu
ally called on to perform. His chief care was for the
instruction of the Indians, whom he had induced to set
tle around him, in the great and all-important truths
of Christianity. He invented an alphabet, and taught
them to write and read their own language. He com
menced the laborious task . of. translating the Scriptures
into the Cree language ; and, being an excellent musician,
he instructed his converts to sing in parts the psalms and
Wesleyan hymns, many of which are exceedingly beau
tiful. A school was also established, and a church built,
under his superintendence, so that the natives assembled,
in an orderly way, in a commodious sanctuary, every
Sabbath-day, to worship God; while the children were
instructed, not only in the Scriptures, and made familiar
with the narrative of the humiliation and exaltation of
our blessed Saviour, but were also taught the elementary
branches of a secular education. But good Pastor Con
way’s energy did not stop here. Nature had gifted him
with that peculiar genius which is powerfully expressed
in the term, “ a jach-of-all-trades.” He could turn his
hand to anything; and being, as we have said, an ener
getic man, he did turn his hand to almost everything. If
anything happened to get broken, the pastor could either
mend it himself, or direct how it was to be done. If a
house was to be built for a new faifiily of red men, who


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
333
had never handled a saw or hammer in their lives, and
had lived up to that time in tents, the pastor lent a hand
to begin it, drew out the plan, (not a very complicated
thing, certainly,) set them fairly at work, and kept his
eye on it until it was finished. In short, the worthy pastor
was everthing to everybody, “ that by all; means he might
gain some.”
Under such management, the village flourished, as a
matter of course, although it did not increase very rapidly,
owing to the almost unconquerable aversion of North
American Indians to take up a settled habitation.
It was to this little hamlet, then, that our three friends
directed their steps. On arriving, they found Pastor Con
way in a sort of workshop,.giving directions to an Indian,
who stood with a soldering-iron in one hand, and a sheet
of tin in the other, which he was about to apply to a
curious-looking half-finished machine, that bore some re
semblance to a canoe.
“ Ah, my friend Jacques ! ” he exclaimed, as the hunter
approached him, “ the very man I wished to see; but I
beg pardon, gentlemen, — strangers, I perceive. You
are heartily welcome. It is seldom that I have the pleas
ure of seeing new friends in my wild dwelling. Pray
come with me to my house.”
Pastor Conway shook hands with Harry and Hamilton
with a degree of warmth that evinced the sincerity of his
words. The young men thanked him, and accepted the
invitation.
As they turned to quit the workshop, the pastor ob
served Jacques’ eye fixed, with a puzzled expression of
countenance, on his canoe.
“ You have never seen anything like that before, I
dare say,” said he, with a smile.


334 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
“ No, sir; I never did see such a queer machine
afore.”
“ It is a tin canoe, with which I hope to pass through
many miles of country this spring, on my way'to visit a
tribe of Northern Indians; and it was about this very
thing that I wanted to see you; my friend.”
Jacques made no reply, but cast a look savoring very
slightly of contempt on the unfinished canoe as they
turned and went away.
The pastor’s dwelling stood at one end of the village,
a view of which it commanded from the back windows,
while those in front overlooked the lake. It was pleas
antly situated, and pleasantly tenanted, for the pastor’s
wife was a cheerful, active little lady, like-minded with
himself, and delighted to receive and entertain strangers.
To her care Mr. Conway consigned the young men, after
spending a short time in conversation with them; and
then, requesting his wife to show them through the vil
lage,- he took Jacques by the arm, and sauntered out.
“ Come with me, Jacques,” he began, “ I have some
what to say to you. I had not time to broach the subject
when I met you at the Company’s fort, and have been
anxious to see you ever since. You tell me that you
have met with my friend Redfeather ? ”
“Yes, sir; I spent a week or two with him last fall.
I found him stayin’ with his tribe, and we started to come
down here together.”
“Ah! that is the very point,” exclaimed the pastor,
“ that I wished to inquire about. I firmly believe that
God has opened that Indian’s eyes to see the truth ; and
I fully expected, from what he said when we last met,
that he would have made up his mind to come and stay
here.”


\
FROM THE FAR NORTH.
335
“As to what the Almighty has done to him,” said Jac
ques, in a reverential tone of voice, “ I don’t pretend to
know; he did for sartin speak and act too in a way that
I never seed an Irijih do before ; — but, about his cornin’
here, sir, you were quite right; he did mean to come, and
I’ve no doubt, will come yet.”
“ "What prevented him coming with you, as you tell me
lie intended ? ” inquired the pastor.
“ Well, you see, sir, he, and I, and his squaw, as I said,
set off to come here together, but when we got the length
o’ Edmonton House, we heerd that you were cornin’ up
to pay a visit to the tribe to which Redfeather belongs;
and so seein’ that it was o’ no use to come down here
away just to turn about an’ go up agin, he stopped there
to wait for you, for he knew you would want him to
interpret ”
“ Ay,” interrupted the pastor, “ that’s true. I have two
reasons for wishing to have him here. The primary one
is, that he may get good to his immortal soul; and then
he understands English so well, that I want him to be
come my interpreter ; for, although I understand the Cree
language "pretty well now, I find it exceedingly difficult
to explain the doctrines of the Bible to my people in it.
Iffit pardon me, I interrupted you.”
“ I was only going to say,” resumed Jacques, “ that I
made up my mind to stay with him ; but they wanted a
man to bring the winter packet here ; so, as they pressed
me very hard, an’ I had nothin’ particular to do, I ’greed
and came; though I would rather ha’ stopped, for Red-
feather an’ I ha’ struck up a friendship togither, — a
thing that I would niver ha’ thought it poss’ble for me to
do with a red Injin.”
“And why not with a red Indian, friend ? ” inquired


336
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
the pastor, while a shade of sadness passed over.his mild
features, as if unpleasant thoughts had been roused by
the hunter’s speech.
“ Well, it’s not easy to say why,” rejoined the other,
“I’ve no partic’lar objection to the redskins. There’s
only one man among them that I bears a grudge agin,
and even that one I’d rayther avoid than otherwise.”
“But you should forgive him, Jacques; the Bible tells
us not only to bear our enemies no grudge, but to love
them and to do them good.”
The hunter’s brow darkened. “ That’s impossible,
sir,” he said; “ I couldn’t do him a good turn if I was
to try ever so hard. He may bless his stars that I don’t
want to do him mischief; but to love him, it’s jist im-
poss’ble.”
“ With man it is impossible, but with God all things
are possible,” said the pastor, solemnly.
Jacques’ naturally philosophic, though untutored mind,
saw the force of this. He felt that God, who had form
ed his soul, his body, and the wonderfully complicated
machinery and objects of nature, which were patent to
his observant and reflective mind wherever he went,
must, of necessity, be equally able to alter, influence, and
remould them all according to his will. Common sense
was sufficient to teach him this ; and the bold hunter
exhibited no ordinary amount of common sense in admit
ting the fact at once; although, in the case under dis
cussion, (the loving of his enemy,) it seemed utterly
impossible to his feelings and experience. The frown,
therefore, passed from his brow, while he said respect
fully, “ What you say, sir, is true; I believe, though I
can’t feel it. But I s’pose the reason I niver felt much
drawn to the redskins is, that all the time I lived in the


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
337
settlements, I was used to hear them called and treated.
as thievin’ dogs, an’ when I corn’d among them I didn’t
see much to alter my opinion. Here an’ there I have
found one or two honest Injins, an’ Redfeather is as true
as steel; hut the most o’ them are no better than they
should be. I s’pose I. don’t think much o’ them just
because they are redskins.”
“Ah, Jacques, you will excuse me if I say that there
is' not much sense in that reason. An Indian cannot help
being a red man any more than-you can help being a
white one, so that he ought not to be despised on that
account. Besides, God made him what he is, and to de
spise the work of God, or to undervalue it, is to despise
God himself. You may indeed despise, or rather, abhor,
the sins that red men are guilty of; but if you despise
them on this ground, you must much more despise white
men, for they are guilty of greater iniquities than Indians
are. They have more knowledge, and are therefore
more inexcusable when they sin ; and any one who has
travelled much must be aware, that, in regard to gen
eral wickedness, white men are at least quite as bad as
Indians. Depend upon it, Jacques, that there will be
Indians found in heaven at the last day as well as white
men. God is no respecter of persons.”
“ I niver thought much on that subject afore, sir,”
returned the hunter; “ what you say seems reasonable
enough. I’m sure an’ sartin, any way, that if there’s a
redskin in heaven at all, Redfeather will be there, an’ I
only hope that I may be there too to keep him company.”
“ I hope so, my friend,” said the pastor, earnestly ; “ I
hope so too, with all my heart. And if you will accept
of this little book, it will show you how to get there.”
The missionary drew a small, plainly-bound copy of the


338
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
Bible from his pocket, as he spoke, and presented it to
Jacques, who received it with a smile and thanked him;
saying, at the same time, that he “ was not much up to
book-larnin’, but he would read it with pleasure.”
“ Now, Jacques,” said the pastor, after a little farther
conversation on the subject of the Bible, in which he
endeavored to impress upon him the absolute necessity
of being acquainted with the blessed truths which it con
tains, — “ Now, Jacques, about my visit to the Indians. I
intend, if the Almighty spares me, to embark in yon tin
canoe that you found me engaged with, and, with six
men to work it, proceed to the country of the Knisteneux
Indians, visit their chief camp, and preach to them there
as Jong as the weather will permit. When the season is
pretty well advanced and winter threatens to cut off my
retreat, I shall reembark in my canofe and return home.
By this means I hope to be able to sow the good seed of
Christian truth in the hearts of men, who, as they will
not come to this settlement, have no chance of being
brought under the power of the gospel by any other
means.”
Jacques gave one of his quiet smiles on hearing this.
“ Bight, sir, right,” he said, with some energy ; “ I have
always thought, although I niver made bold to say it
before, that there was not enough o’ this sort o’ thing.
It has always seemed to me a kind o’ madness (excuse
my plainness o’ speech, sir) in- you pastors, thinkin’ to
make the redskins come an’ settle round you like so many
squaws, and dig up an’ grub at the ground, when it’s
quite clear that their natur’ and the natur’ o’ things about
them meant them to be hunters. An’ surely, since the
Almighty made them hunters, he intended them to be
hunters, and won’t refuse to make them Christians on that


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
339
account. A redskin’s natur’ is a huntin’ natur’, an’ nothin’
on arth ’11 ever make it anything else.”
“ There is much truth in what you observe, friend,”
rejoined the pastor ; “ but you are not altogether right.
Their nature may be changed, although, certainly, nothing
on earth will change it. Look at that frozen lake.” He
pointed to the wide field of thick snow-covered ice that
stretched out for miles like a sheet of white marble be
fore them. “ Could anything on earth break up or sink
or melt that ? ”
u Nothin’,” replied Jacques, laconically.
“ But the warm beams of yon glorious sun can do it,”
continued the pastor, pointing upwards as he spoke, “ and
do it effectually too ; so that, although you can scarcely
observe the process; it nevertheless turns the hard, thick,
solid ice into limpid water at last. So is it in regard to
man. Nothing on earth can change his heart or alter his
nature; but our Saviour, who is called the Sun of right
eousness, can. When he shines into a man’s soul, it melts.
The old man becomes a little child, — the wild savage a
Christian. But I agree with you in thinking that we
have not been sufficiently alive to the necessity of seeking
to convert the Indians before trying to gather them round
us. The one would follow as a natural consequence, I
think, of the other ; and it is owing to this conviction that
I intend, as I have already said, to make a journey in
spring to visit those who will not or cannot come to visit
me ; and now, what I want to ask is, whether you will
agree to accompany me as steersman and guide on my
expedition ? ”
The hunter slowly shook his head. “ I’m afeerd not,
sir ; I have already promised to take charge of a canoe
for the Company. I would much rather go with you, but
I must keep my word.”


340
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
“ Certainly, Jacques, certainly, that settles the question;
you cannot go with me — unless ” the pastor paused
as if in thought for a moment — “ unless you can per
suade them to let you off.”
“ Well, sir, I can try,” returned Jacques.
“ Do, and I need not say how happy I shall be if you
succeed. Good day, friend, good-bye;” so saying, the
missionary shook hands with the hunter, and returned to
his house, while Jacques wended his way to the village
in search of Harry and Hamilton.
-f


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
341
CHAPTER XXV.
GOOD NEWS AND ROMANTIC SCENERY; BEAR-HUNTING AND ITS
RESULTS.
J ACQUES failed in his attempt to break off his en
gagement with the fur traders. The gentleman in
charge of Norway House, albeit a good-natured, estima
ble man, was one who could not easily brook disappoint
ment, especially in matters that involved the interests of
the Hudson’s Bay Company ; so Jacques was obliged to
hold to his compact, and the pastor had to search for
another guide.
Spring came, and with it the awakening (if we may
use the expression) of the country from the long, lethargic
sleep of winter. The sun burst forthwith irresistible
power, and melted all before it. Ice and snow quickly
dissolved, and set free the waters of swamp and river,
lake and sea, to leap and sparkle in their new-found
liberty. Birds renewed their visits to the regions of the
north; frogs, at last unfrozen, opened their leathern jaws
to croak and whistle in the marshes ; and men began
their preparations for a summer campaign.
At the commencement of the season an express arrived
with letters from head-quarters, which, among other mat
ters of importance, directed that Messrs. Somerville and
Hamilton should be despatched forthwith to the Saskat
chewan district, where, on reaching Fort Bitt, they were


342
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
to place themselves at the disposal of the gentleman
in charge of the district. It need scarcely be added that
the young men were overjoyed on receiving this almost
unhoped-for intelligence, and that Harry expressed his
satisfaction in his usual hilarious manner, asserting some
what profanely, in the excess of his glee, that the gov
ernor-in-chief of Rupert’s Land was a “ regular brick.”
Hamilton agreed to all his friend’s remarks with a quiet x
smile, accompanied by a slight chuckle, and a somewhat
desperate attempt at a caper, which attempt, bordering
as it did on a region of buffoonery into which our quiet
and gentlemanly friend had never dared hitherto to ven
ture, proved an awkward and utter failure. He felt this
and blushed deeply.
It was further arranged and agreed upon that the
young men should accompany Jacques Caradoc in his
canoe. Having become sufficiently expert canoe-men to
handle their paddles well, they scouted the idea of taking
men with them, and resolved to launch boldly forth at
once as bond fide voyageurs. To this arrangement Jac
ques, after one or two trials to test their skill, agreed ;
and very shortly after the arrival of the express, the trio
set out on their voyage, amid the cheers and adieus of
the entire population of Norway House, who were assem
bled on the end of the wooden wharf to witness their
departure, and with whom they had managed, during
their short residence at that place, to become special
favorites. A month later, the pastor of the Indian vil
lage, having procured a trusty guide, embarked in his
tin canoe with a crew of six men, and followed in their
track.
In process of time, spring merged into summer, — a
season chiefly characterized, in those climes, by excessive


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
343
lieat and innumerable clouds of mosquitos, whose vicious
and incessant attacks render life, for the time being, a
burden. Our three voyageurs, meanwhile ascended the
Saskatchewan, penetrating deeper each day into the
heart of the North American continent. On arriving at
Fort Pitt, they were graciously permitted to rest for three
days, after which they were forwarded to another district,
where fresh efforts were being made to extend the fur
trade into lands hitherto almost unvisited. This con
tinuation of their travels was quite x suited to the tastes
and inclinations of Harry and Hamilton, and was hailed
by them as an additional reason for self-gratulation. As
for Jacques, he cared little to what part of the world he
chanced to be sent. To hunt, to toil in rain and in sun
shine, in heat and in cold, at the paddle or on the snow-
shoe, was his vocation ; and it mattered little to the bold
hunter whether lie plied it upon the plains of the Sas
katchewan, or among the woods of Athabasca. Besides,
the companions of his travels were young, active, bold,
adventurous; and, therefoi’e, quite suited to his taste.
Redfeather, too, his best and dearest friend, had been
induced to return to his tribe for the purpose of mediat
ing between some of the turbulent members of it, and the
white men who had gone to settle among them, so that
the prospect of again associating with his red friend was
an additional element in his satisfaction. As Charley
Kennedy was also in this district, the hope of seeing him
once more was a subject of such unbounded delight to
Harry Somerville, and so, sympathetically, to young
Hamilton, that it was with difficulty they could realize
the full amount of their good fortune, or give adequate
expression to their feelings. It is therefore probable that
there never were three happier travellers than Jacques,


344
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
Harry, and Hamilton, as they shouldered their guns and
paddles, shook hands with the inmates of Fort Pitt, and,
with light steps and lighter hearts, launched their canoe,
turned their bronzed faces once more to the summer sun,
and dipped their paddles again in the rippling waters of
the Saskatchewan River.
As their bark was exceedingly small, and burdened
with but little lading, they resolved to abandon the usual
route, and penetrate the wilderness through a maze of
lakes and small rivers well known to their guide. By
this arrangement they hoped to travel more speedily, and
avoid navigating a long sweep of the river by making a
number of portages ; while, at the same time, the change
ful nature of the route was likely to render it more inter
esting. From the fact of its being seldom traversed, it
was also more likely that they should find a supply of
game for the journey.
Towards sunset, one fine day, about two weeks after
their, departure from Fort Pitt, our voyageurs paddled
their canoe round a wooded point of land that jutted out
from, and partially concealed, the mouth of a large river,
down whose stream they had dropped leisurely during
the last three days, and swept out upon the bosom of a
large lake. This was one of those sheets of water which
glitter in hundreds on the green bosom of America’s for
ests, and are so numerous and comparatively insignifi
cant, as to be scarce distinguished by a name, unless
when they lie directly in the accustomed route of the fur
traders. But although, in comparison with the fresh
water oceans of the Far West, this lake was unnoticed
and almost unknown, it would by no means have been
regarded in such a light had it been transported to the
plains of England. In regard to picturesque beauty, it


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
345
was perhaps unsurpassed. It might be about six miles
wide, and so long that the land at the further end of it
was faintly discernible on the horizon. Wooded hills,
sloping gently down to the water’s edge, —jutting prom
ontories, some rocky and barren, others more or less
covered with trees, —deep bays, retreating in some places
into the dark recesses of a savage-looking gorge, in others
into a distant meadow-like plain, bordered with a stripe
of yellow sand, —- beautiful islands of various sizes, scat
tered along the shores as if nestling there for security, or
standing barren and solitary in the centre of the lake,
like bulwarks of the wilderness, some covered with luxu
riant vegetation, others bald and grotesque in outline,
and covered with gulls and other waterfowl, — this was
the scene that broke upon the view of the travellers as
they rounded the point, and ceasing to paddle, gazed
upon it long and in deep silence, their hands raised to
shade their eyes from the sun’s rays, which sparkled in
the water, and fell, here in bright spots and broken
patches, and there in yellow floods, .upon the rocks, the
trees, the forest glades and plains around them.
“ What a glorious scene! ” murmured Hamilton, almost
unconsciously.
“ A perfect paradise ! ” said Harry, with a long-draWn
sigh of satisfaction. “ Why, Jacques, my friend, it’s a
matter of wonder to me that you, a free man, without
relations or friends to curb you, or attract you to other
parts of the world, should go boating and canoeing all
over the country at the beck of the fur traders, when you
might come and pitch your tent here forever !”
“ Forever! ” echoed Jacques.
“Well, I mean as long as you live in this world.”
“ Ah, master,” rejoined the guide, in a sad tone of


346
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
voice, “ it’s just because I have neither kith, nor kin, nor
friends to draw me to any partic’lar spot on arth, that I
don’t care to settle down in this one, beautiful though it
be.”
“ True, true,” muttered Harry, “ man’s a gregarious
animal, there’s no doubt of that.”
“ Anon ? ” exclaimed Jacques.
“ I meant to say that man naturally loves company,”
replied Harry, smiling.
“ An’ yit I’ve seen some as didn’t, master, though to be
sure that was onnat’ral, and there’s not many o’ them, by
good luck. Yes, man’s fond o’ seein’ the face o’ man.”
“ And woman too,” interrupted Harry. ‘ Eh ! Hamil
ton, what say you?-—
‘ 0 worn fin! in our hours of ease,
Uncertain, coy, and hard to please,
When pain and anguish wring the brow
A ministering angel thou! ’
Alas! Hammy, pain and anguish and everything else
may wring our unfortunate brows here long enough be
fore woman, ‘ lovely woman,’ will come to our aid. What
a rare sight it would be, now, to see even an ordinary
house-maid or a cook out here! It would be good for
sore eyes. It seems to me a sort of horrible untruth to
say that I’ve not seen a woman since I left Red River,
and yet it’s a frightful fact, for I don’t count the copper-
colored nondescripts one meets with hereabouts to be
women at all. I suppose they are, but they don’t look
like it.” •
“ Don’t be a goose, Harry,” said Hamilton.
“ Certainly not, my friend. If I were under the dis
agreeable necessity of being anything but what I am, I
should rather be something that is not in the habit of


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
347
being shot,” replied the other, paddling with renewed
vigor in order to get rid of some of the superabundant
spirits that the beautiful' scene and brilliant weather, act
ing on a young and ardent nature, had called forth.
“ Some' of these same redskins,” remarked the guide,
“ are not such bad sort o’ women, for all their ill looks.
I’ve know’d more than one that was a firstrate wife, an’
a good mother; though it’s true they had little edication,
beyond that o’ the woods.”
“ No doubt of it,” replied Harry, laughing gayly.
“ How shall I keep the canoe’s head, Jacques ?”
“ Right away for the pint that lies jist between you
an’ the sun.”
“ Yes; I give them all credit for being excellent wives
and mothers, after a fashion,” resumed Harry ; “ I’ve
no wish to asperse the character of the poor Indians ;
but you must know, Jacques, that they’re very different
from the women that I allude to, and of whom Scott
sung. His heroines were of a very different stamp and
color 1 ”
“Did he sing of niggers?” inquired Jacques, simply.
“ Of niggers ! ” shouted Harry, looking over his shoul
der at Hamilton, with a broad grin; “no, Jacques, not
exactly of niggers ”
“ Hist! ” exclaimed the guide, with that peculiar sub
dued energy that at once indicates an unexpected dis
covery, and enjoins caution, while, at the same moment,
by a deep, powerful back-stroke of his paddle, be sud
denly checked the rapid motion of the canoe.
Harry and his friend glanced quickly over their shoul
ders with a look of surprise.
“ What’s in the wind now ? ” whispered the former.
“Stop paddling, masters, and look ahead.at the rock


348 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
yonder, jist under the tall cliff. There’s a bear a-sittin’
there, an’ if we can only get to shore afore he sees us,
we’re sartin sure of him.”
As the guide spoke, he slowly edged the canoe towards
the shore, while the young men gazed with eager looks in
the direction indicated, where they beheld what appeared
to be the decayed stump of an old tree, or a mass of
brown rock. While they strained their eyes to see it
more clearly, the object altered its form and position.
“ So it is,” they exclaimed simultaneously, in a tone
that was equivalent to y the remark, “Now we believe, be
cause we see it.”
In a few seconds the bow of the canoe touched the
land, so lightly as to be quite inaudible, and Harry, step
ping gently over the side, drew it forward a couple of
feet, while his companions disembarked.
“ Now, Mister Harry,” said the guide, as he slung a
powder-horn and shot-belt over his shoulder, “ we’ve no
need to circumvent the beast, for hifs circumvented his-
self.”
“How so?.” inquired the other, drawing the shot from
his fowling-piece, and substituting in its place a leaden
bullet.
Jacques led the way through the somewhat thinly
scattered underwood, as he replied, “ You see, Mister
Harry, the place where he’s gone to sun hisself is jist at
the foot o’ a sheer precipice, which runs round ahead of
him, and juts out into the water, so that he’s got three
ways to choose betAveen. He must clamber up the preci
pice, which ’11 take him some time, I guess, if he can do it
at all; or he must take to the water, which he don’t like,
and won’t do if he can help it; or he must run out the
way he went in, but as we shall go to meet him by the


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
349
same road, he’ll have to break our ranks before he gains
the woods, an’ that ’11 be no easy job.”
The party soon reached the narrow pass, between the
lake and the near end of the cliff, where they advanced
with greater caution, and, peeping over the low bushes,
beheld bruin, a large brown fellow, sitting on his haunch
es, and rocking himself slowly to and fro, as he gazed
abstractedly at the water. He was scarcely within good
shot-, but the cover was sufficiently thick to admit of a
nearer approach.
“ Now, Hamilton,” said Harry, in a low whisper, “ take
the first shot. I killed the last one, so it’s your turn this
time.”
Hamilton hesitated, but could make no reasonable ob
jection to this, although his unselfish nature prompted
him to let his friend have the first chance. However,
Jacques decided the matter, by saying, in a tone that
savored strongly of command, although it was accom
panied with a good-humored smile,—
“ Go for’ard, young man; but you may as well put in
the primin’ first.”
Poor Hamilton 1 hastily rectified this oversight, with a
deep blush, at the same time muttering that he never
would make a hunter; and then advanced cautiously
through the bushes, slowly followed at a short distance
by his companions.
On reaching a bush within seventj'' yards of the bear,
Hamilton pushed the twigs aside with the muzzle of his
gun; his eye flashed, and his courage mounted, as he
gazed at the truly formidable animal before him, and he
felt more of the hunter’s spirit within him at that mo
ment than he would have believed possible a few min
utes before. Unfortunately, a hunter’s spirit does not


350
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
necessarily imply a hunter’s eye or hand. Having with
much care, and long time, brought his piece to bear ex
actly where he supposed the brute’s heart should he, he
observed that the gun was on half-cock, by nearly break
ing the trigger in his convulsive efforts to fire. By the
time that this error was rectified, bruin, who seemed 'to
feel intuitively that' some imminent danger threatened
him, rose and began to move about uneasily, which so
alarmed the young hunter lest he should lose his shot,
that he took a hasty aim, fired, and missed. Harry as
serted afterwards that he even missed the cliff! On
hearing the loud report, which rolled in echoes along the
precipice, bruin started, and, looking round with an un
decided air, saw Harry step quietly from the bushes, and
fire, sending a ball into his flank. This decided him.
With a fierce growl of pain, he scampered towards the
water; then, changing his mind, he wheeled round, and
dashed at the cliff, up which he scrambled with wonder
ful speed.
“ Come, Mister Hamilton, load again; quick. I’ll
have to do the job myself, I fear,” said Jacques, as he
leaned quietly on his long gun, and, with a half-pitying
smile, watched the young man, who madly essayed to re-
<charge his piece more rapidly than it was possible for
mortal man to do. Meanwhile Harry had reloaded and
fired again; but, owing to the perturbation of his young
spirits, and the frantic efforts of the bear to escape, he
missed. Another moment, and the animal would actually
have reached the top, when Jacques hastily fired, and
brought it tumbling down the precipice. Owing to the
position of the animal at the time he fired, the wound was
not mortal; and, foreseeing that bruin would now become
the aggressor, the hunter began rapidly to reload, at the


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
351
same time retreating with his-companions, who, in their
excitement, had forgotten to recharge their pieces. On
reaching level ground, bruin rose, shook himself, gave a
yell of anger on beholding his enemies, and rushed at
them.
It was a fine sight to behold the bearing of Jacques at „
this critical juncture. Accustomed io bear-hunting from
his youth, and utterly indifferent to consequences when
danger became imminent, he saw at a glance the proba
bilities of the case. He knew exactly how long it would
take him to load his gun, and regulated his pace so as
not to interfere with that operation. His features wore
their usual calm expression. Every motion of his hands
was quick and sudden, yet not hurried, but performed in
a way that led the beholder irresistibly to imagine that
he could have done it even more rapidly if necessary.
On reaching a ledge of rock that overhung the lake a
few feet, he paused, and wheeled about, — click went the
dog-head, just as the bear rose to grapple with him, —
another moment, and a bullet passed through the brute’s
heart, while the bold hunter sprang lightly on one side,
to avoid the dash of the falling animal. As he did so,
young Hamilton, who had stood a little behind him with
an uplifted axe, ready to finish the work should Jacques’
fire prove ineffective,'received bruin in his arms, and
tumbled along with him over the rock, headlong into the
water, from which, however, he speedily arose unhurt,
spluttering and coughing, and dragging the dead bear to
to the shore.
“Well done, Hammy,” shouted Harry, indulging in a
prolonged peal of laughter, when he ascertained that his
friend’s adventure had cost him nothing more than a
ducking ; “that was the pnost amicable, loving plunge I
ever saw.”


352
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
“ Better a cold bath in the arms of a dead bear,
than an embrace on dry land with a live one,” retorted
Hamilton, as he wrung the water out' of his dripping
garments.
“ Most true, O sagacious diver! But the sooner we
get a fire made the better; so come along.”
While the two friends hastened up to the woods to
kindle a fire, Jacques drew his hunting-knife, and, with
doffed coat and upturned sleeves, was soon busily em
ployed in divesting the bear of his natural garment. The
carcass, being valueless in a country where game of a
more palatable kind was plentiful, they left behind as a
feast to the wolves. After this was accomplished, and the
clothes dried, they reembarked, and resumed their jour
ney, plying the paddles energetically in silence, as their
adventure had occasioned a considerable loss of time.
It was late, and the stars had looked down for a full
hour into the profound depths of the now dark lake, ere
the party reached the ground at the other side of the
point, on which Jacques had resolved to encamp. Being
somewhat wearied, they spent but little time in discussing
supper, and partook of that meal with a degree of energy
that implied a sense of duty as well as of pleasure.
Shortly after, they were buried in repose under the
scanty shelter of their canoe.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
353
CHAPTER XXYI.
AN UNEXPECTED MEETING, AND AN UNEXPECTED DEER-HUNT;
ARRIVAL AT TIIE OUTPOST; DISAGREEMENT WITH THE NATIVES;
AN ENEMY DISCOVERED, AND A MURDER.
N EXT morning, they rose with the sun, and, there
fore, also with the birds and beasts.
A wide traverse of the lake now lay before them.
This they crossed in about two hours, during which time
they paddled unremittingly, as the sky looked rather
lowering, and they were well aware of the danger of
being caught in a storm in such an egg-shell craft as an
Indian canoe.
“ We’ll put in here now, Mister ITarry,” exclaimed
Jacques, as the canoe entered the mouth of one of those
small rivulets, which are called in Scotland, burns, and in
America, creeks; “it’s like that your appetite is sharp
ened after a spell like that. Keep her head a little more
to the left, — straight for the pint, — so. It’s likely we’ll
get some fish here if we set the net.”
“ I say, Jacques, is yon a cloud or a wreath, of smoke
above the trees in the creek? ” inquired -Harry;.pointing
with his paddle towards the object referred to*
“It’s smoke, master; I’ve seed it for some time, and
mayhap we’ll find some Injins there who. can give us
news of the traders at Stoney Creek-”
“ And, pray, how far do you think we' may now be
from that place ? ” inquired Harry-


354 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
“ Forty miles, more or less.”
As he spoke, the canoe entered the shallow water of
the creek, and began to ascend the current of the stream,
which at its mouth was so sluggish as to be scarcely
perceptible to the eye. Not so, however, to the arms.
The light bark, which, while floating on the lake, had
glided buoyantly forward as if it were itself consenting
to the motion, had now become apparently imbued with
a spirit of contradiction, bounding convulsively forward
at each stroke of the paddles, and preceptibly losing
speed at each interval. Directing their course towards
a flat rock on the left bank of the stream, they ran the
prow out of the w r ater and leaped ashore. As they did
so, the unexpected figure of a man issued from the
bushes and sauntered towards the spot. Harry and
Hamilton advanced to meet him, while Jacques remained
to unload the canoe. The stranger was , habited in the
usual dress of a hunter, and carried a fowling-piece over
his right shoulder. In general appearance, he looked
like an Indian ; but, though the face was burnt by ex
posure to a hue that nearly equalled the red skins of the
natives, a strong dash of pink in it, and the mass of fair
hair which encircled it, proved that, as Harry paradoxi
cally expressed it, its owner was a white man. He was
young, considerably above the middle height, and appar
ently athletic. His address and language, on approaching
the young men, put the question of his being a white
man beyond a doubt.
“ Good morning, gentlemen,” he began. “ I presume
that you are the party we have been expecting for some
time past to reinforce our staff at Stoney. Creek. Is it
not so ? ”
To this query, young Somerville, who stood in ad-


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
355
vance of Lis friend, made no reply, but, stepping hastily
forward, laid a hand on each, of the stranger’s shoulders,
and gazed earnestly into his face, exclaiming as he did
so —
“ Do my eyes deceive me ? Is Charley Kennedy be
fore me — or his ghost ? ”
“ "What! eh ! ” exclaimed the individual thus address
ed, returning Harry’s gripe and stare with interest, “ is
it possible ! no — it cannot — Harry Somerville, my old,
dear, unexpected friend'!” — and, pouring out broken
sentences, abrupt ejaculations, and incoherent questions, to
which neither vouchsafed replies, the two friends gazed
at and walked round each other, shook hands, partially
embraced, and committed sundry other extravagances,
utterly unconscious of, or indifferent to the fact, that
Hamilton wms gazing at them, open-mouthed, in a species
of stupor, and that Jacques was standing by, regarding
them with a look of mingled amusement and satisfac
tion. The discovery of this latter personage was a source
of renewed delight and astonishment to Charley, who
was so much upset by the commotion of his spirits, in
consequence of this, so to speak, double shot, tl^jt he
became rambling and incoherent in his speech, during
the remainder of that day, and gave vent to frequent and
sudden bursts of smothered enthusiasm, in which it would
appear, from the occasional muttering of the names of
Redfeather and Jacques, that he not only felicitated
himself on his own good fortune, but also anticipated
renewed pleasure in witnessing the joyful meeting of
these two worthies ere long. In fact, this meeting did
take place on the following day, when Redfeather, re
turning from a successful hunt, with part of a deer on
his shoulders, entered Charley’s tent, in which the trav-


356 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
ellers had spent the previous day and night, and dis
covered the guide gravely discussing a venison steak
before the fire.
It would be vain to attempt a description of all that
the reunited friends said and did during the first twenty-
four hours after their meeting; — how they talked of old
times, as they lay extended round the fire, inside of
Charley’s tent, and recounted their adventures by flood
and field since they last met; — how they sometimes
diverged into questions of speculative philosophy, (as
conversations will often diverge, whether we wish it or
not,) and broke short off to make sudden inquiries after
old friends; — how this naturally led them to. talk of
new friends, and new scenes, until they began to forecast
their eyes a little into the future*; and how, on feeling
that this was an uncongenial theme under present cir
cumstances, they reverted again to the past, and, by a
peculiar train of conversation, — to retrace which were
utterly impossible, — they invariably arrived at old times
again. Having in course of the. evening pretty well
exhausted their powers, both mental and physical, they
went..to sleep on it, and resumed the colloquial melange
in the morning.
“And now tell me, Charley, what you are doing in this
uninhabited part of the world, so far from Stoney Creek,”
said Harry Somerville, as they assembled round the fire
to breakfast.
“ That is soon explained,” replied Charley. “ My
good friend and superior, Mr. Whyte, having got him
self comfortably housed at Stoney Creek, thought it advis
able to establish a sort of half outpost, half fishing-station
about twenty miles below the new fort, and, believing
(very justly) that my talents lay a good deal in the way


FROM THE FAR "NORTH.
357
of fishing and shooting, sent me to superintend it during
the. summer months. I am, therefore, at present mon
arch of that notable establishment, which is not yet
dignified with a name. Hearing that there were plenty
of deer' about twenty miles below my palace, I resolved
the other day to gratify my love of sport, and, at the
same time, procure some venison for Stoney Creek ; ac
cordingly, I took Redfeather with me, and — here I
am.”
“Very good,” said Harry; “and can you give us the
least idea of what they are going to do with my friend
Hamilton and me when they get us ? ”
“ Can’t say. One of you at any rate will be kept at
the creek, to assist Mr. Whyte ; the other may, perhaps,
be appointed to relieve me at the fishing for a time, while
I am sent off to push the trade in other quarters, but I’m
only guessing. I don’t know anything definitely, for Mr.
Whyte is by no means communicative.”
“ An’ please, master,” put in Jacques, “ when do you
mean to let us off from this place ? I guess the bourgeois
won’t be over-pleased if we waste time here.”
“We’ll start this forenoon, Jacques. I and Redfeather
shall go along with you, as I intended to take a run up to
the creek about this time at any rate. Have you the
skins and dried meat packed, Redfeather?”
To this the Indian replied in the affirmative, and the
others having finished breakfast, the whole party rose to
prepare for departure, and set about loading their canoes
forthwith. An hour later they were again cleaving the
waters of the lake, with this difference in arrangement,
that Jacques was transferred to Redfeather’s canoe, while
Charley Kennedy took his place in the stern of that
occupied by Harry and Hamilton.


358
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
The establishment of which our friend Charley pro
nounced himself absolute monarch, and at which they
arrived in the course of the same afternoon, consisted of
two small log-houses or huts, constructed in the rudest
fashion, and without any attempt whatever at architec
tural embellishment. It was pleasantly situated on a
small bay, whose northern extremity was sheltered from
the arctic blast by a gentle rising ground "clothed with
wood. A miscellaneous collection of fishing apparatus
lay scattered about in front of the buildings, and two
men in a canoe completed the picture. The said two
men and an Indian woman were the inhabitants of the
place ; the king himself, when present, and his prime
minister, Red feather, being the remainder of the popu
lation.
“ Pleasant little kingdom that of yours, Charley,”
remarked Iiarry Somerville, as they passed the . station.
“ Very,” was the laconic reply.
They had scarcely passed the place above a mile, when
a canoe, containing a solitary Indian, was observed to
shoot out from the shore and paddle hastily towards
them. From this man they learned that a herd of deer
was passing down towards the lake, and would be on its
banks in a few minutes. He had been waiting their
arrival when the canoes came in sight, and induced him
to hurry out so as to give them warning. Having no
time to lose, the whole party now paddled swiftly for
the shore, and reached it just a few minutes before the
branching antlers of the deer came in sight above the
low bushes that skirted the wood. Harry Somerville
embarked in the bow of the strange Indian’s canoe, so as
to lighten the other and enable all parties to have a fair
chance. After snuffing the breeze for a few seconds, the


SPEARING DEER IN TIIE PAR NORTH



FROM THE FAR NORTH.
359
foremost animal took the water and commenced swim
ming towards the opposite shore of the lake, which' at
this particular spot was narrow. It was followed by
seven others. After sufficient time was permitted to
elapse, to render their being cut off, in an attempt to
return, quite certain, the three canoes darted from the
shelter of the overhanging bushes, and sprang lightly
over the Avater in pursuit.
“ Don’t hurry, and strike sure,” cried Jacques, to his
young friends, as they came np with the terrified deer,
that now swam for their lives.
“Ay, ay,” was the reply.
In another moment, they shot in among the struggling
group. Harry Somerville stood up, and seizing the In
dian’s spear, prepared to strike, while his companions
directed their course towards others of the herd. A few
seconds sufficed to bring him up with it. Leaning back
wards a little, so as to give additional force to the blow,
he struck the spear deep into the animal’s back. With a
convulsive struggle, it ceased to swim, its head slowly
sank, and, in another second, it lay dead upon the water.
Without waiting a moment, the Indian immediately di
rected the canoe towards another deer ; while the remain
der of the party, now considerably separated from each
other, despatched the whole herd by means of axes and
knives.
“ Ha ! ” exclaimed Jacques, as they towed their booty
to the shore, “ that’s a good stock o’ meat, Mister Charles.
It will help to furnish the larder for the winter pretty
well.”
“ It was much wanted, Jacques ; we’ve a good many
mouths to feed, besides treating the Indians now and
then. And this fellow, I think, will claim the most of


360
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
our hunt as his own. We should not have got the deer
but for him.”
“ True, true, Mister .Charles. They belong to the red
skin by rights, that’s sartin.”
After this exploit, another night was passed under the
trees ; and at noon, on the day following, they ran their
canoe alongside the wooden wharf, at Stoney Creek.
“ Good day to you, gentlemen,” said Mr. Whyte to
Harry and Hamilton as they landed; “ I’ve been looking
out for you these two weeks past. Glad you’ve come at
last, however. Plenty to do, and no time to lose. You
have despatches, of course. Ah ! that’s right,” (Harry
drew a sealed packet from his bosom, and presented it
with a bow,) “ that’s right. I must peruse these at once.
Mr. Kennedy, you will show these gentlemen their quar
ters. We dine in half an hour.” So saying, Mr. Whyte
thrust the packet into his pocket, and, without further
remark, strode towards his dwelling, while Chaidey, as
instructed, led his friends to their new residence, not for
getting, however, to charge Redfeather to see to the
comfortable lodgment of Jacques Caradoc.
“ How it strikes me,” remarked Harry, as he sat down
<on the edge of Charley’s bed, and thrust his hands dog
gedly down into his pockets, while Hamilton tucked up
his sleeves and assaulted a washhand-basin, which stood
on an unpainted wooden chair in a corner, “ it strikes me
that if that’s his usual style of behavior, old Whyte is a
pleasure that we didn’t anticipate.”
“ Don’t judge from first impressions, they’re often de
ceptive,” spluttered Hamilton, pausing in his ablutions to
look at his friend through a mass of soapsuds, — an act
which afterwards cost him a good deal of pain and a
copious flow of unbidden tears.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
361
“ Right/’ exclaimed Charley, with an approving- nod
to Hamilton. “ You must not judge him prematurely,
Harry. He’s a good-hearted feljow at bottom ; and.if he
once takes a liking for you, he’ll go through fire and
water to serve you, as I know from experience.”
“ lYhich means to say three things,” replied the impla
cable Harry, — “ first, that for all his good-heartedness
at bottom, he never shows any of it at top, and is, there
fore, like unto truth, which is said to lie at the bottom of
a well — so deep, in fact, that it is never got out, and so
is of use to nobody ; secondly, that he is possessed of that
amount of affection which is common to all mankind, (to
a great extent, even to brutes,) — which prompts a man
to be reasonably attentive to his friends ; and, thirdly,
that you, Master Kennedy, enjoy the peculiar privilege of
being the friend of a two-legged polar bear ! ”
“ Were I not certain that you jest,” retorted Kennedy,
“I would compel you to apologize to me for insulting my
friend, you rascal! But see, here’s the cook coming to
tell us that dinner waits. If you don’t wish to see the
teeth of the polar bear, I’d advise to be smart.”
Thus admonished, Harry sprang up, plunged his hands
and face in the basin and dried them, broke Charley’s
comb in attempting to pass it hastily through his hair,
used his fingers savagely as a substitute, and overtook his
companions just as they entered the mess-room.
The establishment of Stoney Creek was comprised
within two acres of ground. It consisted of eight or nine
houses, — three of which, however, alone met the eye on
approaching by the lake. The “ great ” house, as it was
termed on account of its relative proportion to the other
buildings, was a small edifice, built substantially but
roughly of unsquared logs, partially whitewashed, roofed


362
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
with, shingles, and boasting six small windows in front,
with a large door between them. On its east sid6, and
at right angles to it, was a similar edifice, but smaller,
having two doors instead of one, and four windows in
stead of six. This was the trading-shop and provision-
store. Opposite to this was a twin building which con
tained the furs and a variety of miscellaneous stores.
Thus was formed three sides of a square, from the cen
tre of which rose a tall flagstaff. The buildings behind
those just described were smaller and insignificant — the
principal one being the house appropriated to the men ;
the others were mere sheds and workshops. Luxuriant
forests ascended the slopes that rose behind and encircled
this oasis on all sides, excepting in front, where the clear
waters of the lake sparkled like a blue mirror.
On the margin of this lake the new arrivals, left to
enjoy themselves as they best might for a day or two,
sauntered about and chatted to their hearts’ content of
things past, present, and future.
During these wanderings, Harry confessed that his
opinion of Mr. Whyte had somewhat changed; that he
believed a good deal of the first bad impression was at
tributable to his cool, not to say impolite, reception of
them; and that he thought things would go on much
better with the Indians if he woifld only try to let some
of his good qualities be seen through, his exterior.
An expression of sadness passed over Charley’s face as
his friend said this.
“ You are right in the last particular,” he said, with a
sigh,.— “ Mr. Whyte is so rough and overbearing, that the
Indians are beginning to dislike him. Some of the more
clear-sighted among them see that a good deal of this lies
in mere manner, and have penetration enough to observe


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
363
that in all his dealings with them he is straightforward
and liberal; but there are a set of them who either don’t
see this, or are so indignant at the rough speeches he
often. makes, and the rough treatment he sometimes
threatens, that they won’t forgive him, but seem to be
nursing their wrath. I sometimes wish he was sent to a
district where the Indians and traders are, from habitual
intercourse, more accustomed to each other’s ways, and so
less likely to quarrel.”
“ Have the Indians, then, used any open threats ? ”
asked Harry.
“ No, not exactly; but, through an old man of the
tribe, who is well affected towards us, I have learned
that there is a party among them who seem bent on
mischief.”
“ Then we may expect a row, some day or other.
That’s pleasant! what think you, Hammy ? ” said Harry,
turning to his friend.
“ I think that it would be. anything but pleasant,’’ he
replied; “ and I sincerely hope that we shall not have
occasion for a row.”
“You’re not afraid of a fight, are you, Hamilton?”
asked Charley.
The peculiarly bland smile with which Hamilton usually
received any remark that savored of banter, overspread
his features as Charley spoke, but he merely replied, —
“ No, Charley, I’m not afraid.”
“ Do you know any of the Indians who are so anxious
to vent their spleen on our worthy bourgeois ? ” asked
Harry, as he seated himself on a rocky eminence, com
manding a view of the richly wooded slopes, dotted with
huge masses of rock that had fallen from the beetling
cliffs behind the creek.


364
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
“Yes, I do,” replied Charley; “and, by the way, one
of them — the ringleader —is.a man with whom you are
acquainted, — at least by name. You’ve heard of an In
dian called Misconna ? ”
“ What! ” exclaimed Harry, with a look of surprise,
“ you don’t mean the blackguard mentioned by Red-
feather, long ago, when he told us his story on the shore's
of Lake Winnipeg, — the man who killed poor Jacques’
young wife ? ”
“ The same,” replied Charley.
“ And does Jacques know he is here?”
“ He does ; but Jacques is a strange, unaccountable
mortal. You remember that, in the struggle described by
Redfeather, the trapper and Misconna had neither of
them seen each other, Redfeather having felled the latter
before the former reached the scene of action, a scene
which, he has since told me. he witnessed at a distance,
while rushing to the rescue of his wife, — so that Mis
conna is utterly ignorant of the fact that the husband of
his victim is now so near him; indeed, he does not
know that she had a husband at all. On the other hand,
although Jacques is aware that his bitterest enemy is
within rifle-range of him at this moment, he does not
know him by sight; and this morning he came to me,
begging that I would send Misconna on some expedition
or other, just to keep him out of his way.”
“ And do you intend to do so ? ”
“ I shall do my best,” replied Charley; • “ but I cannot
get him out of the way till to-morrow, as there is to be a
gathering of Indians in the hall this very day, to have a
palaver with Mr. Whyte about their grievances, abd Mis
conna wouldn’t miss that for a trifle ; — but Jacques won’t
be likely to recognize him among so many; and, if he


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
365
does, I rely with confidence on his powers, of restraint
and forbearance. By the way,” he continued, glancing up
wards, “it is past noon, and the Indians will have begun
to assemble, so we had better hasten back, as we shall he
expected to help in keeping order.”
So saying, he rose, and the young.-men returned to the
fort. On reaching it, they found the hall crowded with
natives, who sat cross-legged around the walls, or stood in
groups conversing in low tones, and, to judge from ,the
expression of their dark eyes and lowering brows, they
were in extremely bad humor. They became silent and
more respectful, however, in their demeanor when the
young men entered the apartment and walked up to the
fireplace, in which a small fire of wood burned on the
hearth, more as a convenient means of rekindling the
pipes of the Indians when they went out, than as a means
of heating the place. Jacques and Redfeather stood
leaning against the wall near to it engaged in a whis-
pei’ed conversation. Glancing round as he entered,
Charley observed Misconna sitting a little apart by him
self, and apparently buried in deep thought. lie had
scarcely perceived him, and nodded to several of his par
ticular friends among the crowd, when a sifie-door opened,
and Mr. Whyte, with an angry expression on his coun
tenance, strode up to the fireplace, planted himself be
fore it, with his legs apart and his hands behind him,
while he v silently surveyed the group.
. “ So,” he began, “ you have asked to speak with me ;
well — here I am. What have you to say?”
Mr. Whyte addressed the Indians in their native
tongue, having, during a long residence in the country,
learned to speak it as fluently as English.
For some moments there was silence. Then an old


366
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
chief—the same who had officiated at the feast described
in a former chapter — rose, and standing forth into the
middle of the room, made a long and grave oration, in
which, besides a great deal that was bombastic,' much
that was irrelevant, and more that was utterly fabulous
and nonsensical, l\e recounted the sorrows of himself and
his tribe, concluding with a request that the great chief
would take these things into consideration, —the principal
“ things” being, that they did not. get anything in the
shape of gratuities, while it was notorious, that the In
dians in other districts did, and that they did not get
enough of .goods in advance, on credit of their future
hunts.
Mr. Whyte heard the old man to the end in silence;
then, without altering his position, he looked round on
the assembly with a frown, and said, — “ Now, listen to
me: I am a man of few words. I have told you over
and over again, and I now repeat it, that you shall get
no gratuities until you prove yourselves worthy of them ;
I shall not increase your advances by so much as half an
inch of tobacco, till your last year’s debts are scored off,
and you begin to show more activity in hunting and less
disposition to grumble. Hitherto you have not brought
in anything like the quantity of furs that the capabilities
of the country led me to expect. You are lazy. Until
you become better hunters, you shall have no redress
from me.”
As he finished, Mr. Whyte made a step towards the
door by which he had entered, but was arrested by an
other chief, who requested to be heard. Resuming his
place and attitude,'Mr. Whyte listened with an expres
sion of dogged determination, while guttural grunts of
unequivocal dissatisfaction issued from the throats of sev-


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
367
eral of the malcontents. The Indian proceeded to repeat
a few of the remarks made by his predecessor, but more
concisely, and wound up by explaining that the failure in
the hunts of the previous year was owing to the will of
the Great Manito, and not by any means on account of
the supposed laziness of himself-or his tribe.
“ That is false,” said Mr. Whyte; “ you know it is not
true.”
As this was said, a murmur of anger ran round the
apartment, which was interrupted by Misconna, who,
apparently unable to restrain his passion, sprang into the
middle of the room, and, confronting Mr. Whyte, made
a short and pithy speech, accompanied by violent gesticu
lation, in which he insinuated that, if redress was not
granted, the white men would bitterly repent it.
v During his speech, the Indians had risen to their feet
and drawn closer together, while Jacques and the three
young men drew near their superior. Redfeather re
mained apart, motionless, and with his eyes fixed on the'
ground.
“ And, pray, what dog — what miserable thieving cur
are you, who dare to address me thus ? ” cried Mr. Whyte,
as he strode with flashing eyes, up to the enraged Indian.
Misconna clenched his teeth, and his fingers worked
convulsively about the handle of his knife, as he ex
claimed— “I am no dog. The palefaces are dogs. I
am a great chief. My name is known among the braves
of my tribe. It is Misconna ”
As the name fell from his lips, Mr. Whyte and Char
ley were suddenly dashed aside, and Jacques sprang
towards the Indian, his face livid, his eyeballs almost
bursting from their sockets, and his muscles rigid with
passion. For an instant he regarded the savage intently


368
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
as he shrank appalled before him, — then his colossal fist
fell like lightning, with the weight of a sledge-hammer,
on Misconna’s forehead, and drove him against the outer
door, which, giving way before the violent shock, burst
from its fastenings and hinges, and fell, along with the
savage, with a loud crash to the ground.
For an instant every one stood aghast at this precipi
tate termination to the discussion, and then, springing
forward in a body, with drawn knives, the Indians rushed
upon the white men, who, in a close phalanx, with such
weapons as came first to hand, stood to -receive them.
At this moment Redfeather stepped forward unarmed
between the belligerents, and turning to the Indians,
said, —
. “ Listen ! Redfeather does not take the part' of his
white friends against his comrades. You know that he
never failed you in the war-path, and he would not fail
you now if your cause were just. But the eyes of 'his
comrades are shut. Redfeather knows what they do not
know. The white hunter ” (pointing to Jacques) “ is a
friend of Redfeather. He is a friend of the Knisteneux.
He did not strike because you disputed with his bour
geois ; he struck because Misconna is his mortal foe.
But the story is long. Redfeather will tell it at the coun
cil fire.”
“ He is right,” exclaimed Jacques, who had recovered
his usual grave expression of countenance, “ Redfeather
is right. I bear you no ill-will, Injins, and I shall ex
plain the thing myself at your council fire.”
As Jacques spoke, the Indians sheathed their knives,
and stood with frowning brows, as if uncertain what to
do. The unexpected interference of their comrade in
arms, coupled with his address and that of Jacques, had


FBOM THE FAB NOBTH.
369
excited their curiosity. Perhaps the undaunted, deport
ment of their opponents, who stood ready for the en
counter with a look of stern determination, contributed a
little to allay their resentment.
While the two parties stood thus confronting each
other, as if uncertain how to act, a loud report was heard
just outside the doorway. In another moment, Mr.
Whyte fell heavily to the ground, shot through the heart.


370 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
CHAPTER XXVH.
THE CHASE; THE EIGHT; RETRIBUTION; LOW SPIRITS AND GOOD
NEWS.
T HE tragical end of the consultation related in the
last chapter, had the effect of immediately reconcil
ing the disputants. With the exception of four or five of
the most depraved and discontented among them, the
Indians bore no particular ill-will to the unfortunate
principal of Stoney Creek; and, although a good deal
disappointed to find that he was a stern, unyielding
trader, they had, in reality, no intention of coming to a
serious rupture with him, much less of laying violent
hands either upon master or men of the establishment.
When, therefore, they beheld Mr. Whyte weltering in
his blood at their feet, a sacrifice to the ungovernable
passion of Misconna, who was by no means a favorite
among his brethren, their temporary anger was instantly
dissipated, and a feeling of deepest indignation roused
in their bosoms against the miserable assassin who had
perpetrated the base and cowardly murder. It was,
therefore,, with a yell of rage that several of the band,
immediately after the victim fell, sprang into the woods
in hot pursuit of him whom they now counted their
enemy. They were joined by several men belonging to
the fort, who had hastened to the scene of action on hear
ing that the people in the hall were likely to come 'to


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
371
blows. Redfeather was the first who had bounded like a
deer, into the woods in pursuit of the fugitive. Those
who remained assisted Charley and his friends to convey
the body of Mr. Whyte into an adjoining room, where
.they placed him on a bed. He was quite dead; 'the mur
derer’s aim having been terribly true.
Finding that he was past all human aid, the young
men returned to the hall, which they entered just as
Redfeather glided quickly through the open doorway,
and, approaching the group, stood in silence beside them,
with his arms folded on his breast.
“ You have something to tell, Redfeather,” said Jac
ques, in a subdued tone, after regarding him a few sec
onds. “ Is the scoundrel caught ? ”
“ Misconna’s foot is swift,” replied the Indian, “ and the
wood is thick. It is wasting time to follow him through
the bushes.”
“ What would you advise, then ? ” exclaimed Charley,
in a hurried voice. “ I see that you have some plan to
propose.”
“ The wood is thick,” answered Redfeather, “ but the
lake and the river are open. Let one party go by the
lake, and one party by the river.”
“ That’s it, that’s it, Injin,” interrupted Jacques, ener
getically, “ yer wits are always jumpin’. By crossin’ over
to Duck River, we can start at a point five or six miles
above the lower fall, an’ as it’s thereabouts he must cross,
we’ll be time enough to catch him. If he tries the lake,
the other party ’11 fix him there; an’ he’ll be soon poked
up if he tries to hide in the bush.”
“ Come, then, we’ll all give chase at once,” cried Char
ley, feeling a temporary relief in the prospect of ener
getic action, from the depressing effects of the calamity


372
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
that had so suddenly befallen him in the loss of his chief
and friend.
Little time was needed for preparation. Jacques, Char
ley, and Harry proceeded by the river; while Redfeather
and Hamilton, with a couple cf men, launched their canoe
on the lake, and set off in pursuit.
Crossing the country for about a mile, Jacques led his
party to the point on the Duck River to which he had
previously referred. Here they found two canoes, into
one of which the guide stepped with one of the men, a
- Canadian, who had accompanied them ; while Harry and
Charley embarked in the other. In a few minutes they
were rapidly descending the stream.
“ How do you mean to act, Jacques ? ” inquired Char
ley, as he paddled alongside of the guide’s canoe. “ Is
it not likely that Misconna may have crossed the river
already ? In which case we shall have no chance of
catching him.”
“ Niver fear,” returned Jacques. “ He must have
longer legs than most men if he gets to the flat-rock fall
before us, an’ as that’s the spot where he’ll nat’rally cross
the river, being the only straight line for the hills that
escapes the bend o\the bay to the south o’ Stoney Creek,
we’re pretty sartin to stop him there.” 1
“ True ; but that being, as you say, the natural route,
don’t you think it likely he’ll expect that it will be guard
ed, and avoid it accordingly?”
“ He would do so, Mister Charles, if he thought we
were here; but there are two reasons agin this. He
thinks that he’s got the start o’ us, an’ won’t need to
double by way o’ deceivin’ us; an’ then he knows that
the whole tribe is after him, and, consekintly, won’t take
a long road, when there’s a short one, if he can help it.




FROM THE FAR NORTH.
373
But here’s the rock. Look out, Mr. Charles. We’ll have
to run the fall, which isn’t very big just now, and then
hide in the bushes at the foot of it till the blackguard
shows himself. Keep well to the right, an’ don’t mind
the big rock ; the rush o’ water takes you clear o’ that
without trouble.”
With this concluding piece of advice, he pointed to
the fall, which plunged over a ledge of rock about half
a mile ahead of them, and which was distinguishable by
a small column of white spray that rose out of it. As
Charley beheld it, his spirits rose, and forgetting, for a
moment, the circumstances which called him there, he
cried out —
“ I’ll run it before you, Jacques. Hurrah ! Give way,
Harry! ” and, in spite of a remonstrance from the guide,
he shot the canoe ahead, gave vent to another reckless
shout, and flew, rather than glided, down the stream. On
seeing this, the guide held back, so as to give him suf
ficient time to take the plunge ere he followed. A few
strokes brought Charley’s canoe to the brink of the fall,
and Harry wa£ just in the act of raising himself in the
bow to observe the position of the rocks, when a shout
was heard on the bank close beside them. Looking up,
they beheld an Indian emerge from the forest, fit an
arrow to his bow, and discharge it at them. The winged
messenger was truly aimed, it whizzed through the air
and transfixed Harry Somerville’s left shoulder just at
the moment they swept over the fall. The arrow com
pletely incapacitated Harry from using his arm, so that
the canoe, instead of being directed into the bi’oad cur
rent, took a sudden turn, dashed in among a mass of
broken rocks, between which the water foamed with vio
lence, and upset. Here the canoe stuck fast, while its


374:
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
owners stood up to their waists in the water, struggling
to set it free, — an object which they were the more
anxious to accomplish that its stern lay directly in the
spot where Jacques would infallibly descend. The next
instant their fears were realized. The second canoe
glided over the cataract, dashed violently against the
first, and upset, leaving Jacques and his man in a similar
predicament. By their aid, however, the canoes were
more easily righted, and embarking quickly they shot
forth again, just as the Indian, who had been obliged to
make a detour in order to get within range of their posi
tion,-reappeared on the banks above, and sent another
shaft after them, — fortunately, however, without effect.
“This is unfortunate,” muttered Jacques, as the party
landed and endeavored to wring some of the water
from their dripping clothes; “ an’ the worst of it is
that our guns are useless after sich a duckin’,^an’ the
varmint knows that, an’ will he down on us in a twink-
lin’.”
“ But we are four to one,” exclaimed Harry. “ Surely
we don’t need to fear much from a single enemy.”
“ Humph! ” ejaculated the guide, as he examined the
lock of his gun. “ You’ve had little to do with Injins,
that’s plain. You may he sure he’s not alone, an’ the
reptile has a bow with arrows enough to send us all on a
pretty long journey. But we’ve the trees to dodge be
hind. If I only had one dry charge! ” and the discon
certed guide gave a look, half of perplexity, half of con
tempt, at the dripping gun.
“Never mind,” cried Charley, “ we have our paddles.
But I forgot, Harry, in all this confusion, that you are
.wounded, my poor fellow, — we must have it examined
before doing anything farther.”


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
375
“01)! it’s nothing at all — a mere scratch, I think ; at
least I feel very little pain.”
As he spoke the twang of a bow was heard, and an
arrow flew past Jacques’ ear.
“ Ah ! so soon! ” exclaimed that worthy, with a look of
surprise, as if he had unexpectedly met with an old
friend. Stepping behind a tree, he motioned to his
friends to do likewise; an example which they followed
somewhat hastily on beholding the Indian who had
wounded Harry step from the cover of the under
wood and deliberately let fly another arrow, which
passed through the hair of the Canadian they had
brought with them.
From the several trees behind which they had leaped
for shelter, they now perceived that the Indian with the
bow was Misconna, and that he was accompanied by
eight others, who appeared, however, to be totally un
armed ; having, probably, been obliged to leave their
weapons behind them, owing to the abruptness of their
flight. Seeing that the white men were unable to use
their guns, the Indians assembled in a group, and, from
the hasty and violent gesticulations of some of the party,
especially of Misconna, it was evident that a speedy
attack was intended.
Observing this, Jacques coolly left the shelter of his
tree, and, going up to Charley, exclaimed, £ ‘ Now, Mister
Charles, I’m goin’ to run away, so you’d better come
along with me.”
“ That I certainly will not! Why, what do you mean ? ”
inquired the other, in astonishment.
“I mean that these stupid redskins can’t make up
their minds what to do, an’, as I’ve no notion o’ stoppin’
here all day, I want to make them do what will suit us


376
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
best. You see, if they scatter through the wood and
attack us on all sides, they may give us a deal o’ trouble,
and git away after all; whereas, if we run away, they’ll
bolt after us in a body, and then we can take them in
hand all at once, which ’11 be more comfortable like, an’
easier to manage.”
As Jacques spoke, they were joined by Harry and the
Canadian; and, being observed by the Indians thus
grouped together, another arrow was sent among them.
“ Now, follow me,” said Jacques, turning round with a
loud howl, and running away. He was closely followed
by the others. As the guide had predicted, the Indians
no sooner observed this than they rushed after them in a
body, uttering horrible yells.
“ Now, then ; stop here ; down with you.”
Jacques instantly crouched behind a bush, while each
of the party did the same. In a moment the savages
came shouting up, supposing that the white men were
still running on in advance. As the foremost, a tall,
muscular fellow, with the agility of a panther, bounded
over the bush behind which Jacques was concealed', he
was met with a blow from the guide’s fist, so powerfully
delivered into the pit of his stomach, that it sent him
violently back into the bush, where he lay insensible.
This event, of course, put a check upon the head
long pursuit of the others, who suddenly paused, like a
group of infuriated tigers, unexpectedly baulked of their
prey. The hesitation, however, was but for a moment.
Miseonna, who was in advance, suddenly drew his bow
again, and let fly an arrow at Jacques, which the latter
dexterously avoided; and, while his antagonist lowered
his eyes for an instant to fit another arrow to the string,
the guide, making use of his paddle as a sort of javelin,


FROM* THE FAR NORTH.
377
threw it with such force and precision that it struck
Misconna directly between the eyes, and felled him to the
earth. In another instant, the two parties rushed upon
each other and a general melee ensued, in which the white
men, being greatly superior to their adversaries in the
use of their fists, soon proved themselves more than a
match for them all, although inferior in numbers. Char
ley’s first antagonist, making an abortive attempt to grap
ple with him, received two rapid blows, one on the chest
and the other on the nose, which knocked him over the
bank into the river, while his conqueror sprang upon
another Indian. Harry, having unfortunately selected
the biggest savage of the band, as his special property,
rushed upon him and dealt him a vigorous blow on the
head with his paddle.
The weapon, however, was made of light wood, and,
instead of felling him to the ground, broke into shivers.
Springing upon each other, they immediately engaged in
a fierce struggle, in which poor Harry learned, when too
late, that his wounded shoulder was almost powerless.
Meanwhile, the Canadian having been assaulted by three
Indians at once, floored one at the onset, and immediately
began an impromptu war-dance round the other two,
dealing them occasionally a kick or a blow,, which would
speedily have rendered them hors de combat, had they not
succeeded in closing upon him, when all three fell heavily
to the ground. Jacques and. Charley having succeeded in
overcoming their respective opponents, immediately has
tened to his rescue. In the mean time, Harry and his
foe had struggled 'to a considerable distance' from the
others, gradually edging towards the river’s bank. Feel
ing faint from his wound, the former at length sank
under the weight of his powerful antagonist, who endeav-


378
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
ored to thrust him over a kind of cliff, which they had
approached. He was on the point of accomplishing his
purpose, when Charley and his friends perceived Harry’s
imminent danger, and rushed to the rescue. Quickly
though they ran, however, it seemed likely that they
would he too late. Harry’s head already overhung the
bank, and the Indian was endeavoring to loosen the gripe
of the young man’s hand from his throat, preparatory to
tossing him over, when a wild cry rang through the forest,
followed by the reports of a double-barrelled gun, fired in
quick succession. Immediately after, young Hamilton
bounded like a deer down the slope, seized the Indian by
the legs, and tossed him over the cliff, where he turned a
complete summersault in his descent, and fell with a
sounding splash into the water.
“ Well done, cleverly done, lad ! ” cried Jacques, as
he and the rest of the party came up and crowded round
Harry, who lay in a state of partial stupor on the bank.
At this moment Redfeather hastily but silently ap
proached ; his bi’oad chest was heaving heavily, and his
expanded nostrils quivering with the exertions he had
made to reach the scene of action in time to succor his
friends.
“ Thank God,” said Hamilton, softly, as he kneeled
beside Harry, and supported his head, while Charley
bathed his temples, “ thank God that I have been in
time ! Fortunately I was walking by the river consider
ably in advance of Redfeather, who was bringing up the
canoe, when I heard the sounds of the fray, and hastened
to your aid.”
At this moment, Harry opened his eyes, and, saying
faintly that he felt better, allowed himself to be raised to
a sitting posture, while his coat was removed and his


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
379
' wound examined. It was found to be a deep flesh wound
in the shoulder, from which a fragment of the broken
arrow still protruded.
“ It’s a wonder to me, Mister Harry, how ye held on
to that big thief so long,” muttered Jacques, as he drew
out the splinter and bandaged up the shoulder. Having
completed the surgical operation after a rough fashion,
v they collected the defeated Indians. Those of them that
; were able to walk, were bound together by the wrists
and marched off to the fort, under a guard which was
strengthened by the arrival of several of the fur traders,
who had been in pursuit of the fugitives, and were
attracted to the spot by the shouts of the combatants.
Harry, and such of the party as were more or less se
verely injured, were placed in canoes and conveyed to
Stoney Creek by the lake, into which Duck River runs
at the distance of about half a mile from the spot on
which the skirmish had taken place. Misconna was
among the latter.
On arriving at Stoney Creek, the canoe party found a
large assemblage of the natives awaiting them on the
wharf, and, no sooner did Misconna land, than they ad
vanced to seize him.
“ Keep back, friends,” cried Jacques, who perceived
their intentions, and stepped hastily between them. —
■ “ Come here, lads,” he continued, turning to his compan
ions, “ surround Misconna. He is our prisoner, and
must ha’ fair justice done him, accordin’ to white law.”
They fell back in silence on observing the guide’s
determined manner, but as they hurried the wretched
culprit towards the house, one of the Indians pressed
close upon their rear, and, before any one could prevent
him, dashed his tomahawk into Misconna’s brain. See-


380 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
ing that the blow was mortal, the traders ceased to offer
any further opposition, and the Indians rushing upon his
body, bore it away, amid shouts and yells of execration,
to their canoes, to one of which the body was fastened by
a rope, and dragged through the water to a point of land
that jutted out into the lake near at hand. Here they
lighted a fire and burned it to ashes.
* # * * #
There seems to be a period in the history of every
one, when the fair aspect of this world is darkened; when
everything, whether past, present, or future, assumes a
hue of the deepest gloom, — a period when, for the first
time, the sun, which has shone in the mental firmament
with more or less brilliancy from childhood upwards,
entirely disappears behind a cloud of-thick darkness, and
leaves the soul in a state of deep melancholy, — a time
when feelings somewhat akin to despair pervade us, as
we begin gradually to look upon the past as a bright,
happy vision, out of which we have at last awakened to
view the sad realities of the present, and look forward
with sinking hope to the future. Various are the causes
which produce this, and diverse the effects of it on differ
ently constituted minds; but there are few, we apprehend,
who'have not passed through the cloud in one or other of
its phases, and who do not feel that this first period of
prolonged sorrow is darker, and heavier, and worse to
bear, than many of the more truly grievous afflictions
that sooner or later fall to the lot of most men.
Into a state of mind somewhat similar to that which
we have endeavored to describe, our friend Charley Ken
nedy fell immediately after the events just narrated. The
sudden and awful death of his friend Mr. Whyte fell upon
his young spoirit, unaccustomed as he was to scenes of


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
381
bloodshed and violence, with overwhelming power. From
the depression, however, which naturally followed, he
would probably soon have rallied had not Harry Somer
ville’s wound in the shoulder taken an unfavorable turn,
and obliged him to remain for many weeks in bed, under
the influence of a slow fever, so that Charley felt a deso
lation creeping over his soul, that no effort he was capa
ble of making could shake off. It is true, he found both
occupation and pleasure in attending upon his sick friend;
but as Harry’s illness rendered great quiet necessary,
and as Hamilton had been sent to take charge of the fish
ing station mentioned in a former chapter, Charley was
obliged to indulge his gloomy reveries in silence. To
add to his wretchedness, he received a letter from Kate
about a week after Mr. "Whyte’s burial, telling him of the
death of his mother.
Meanwhile, Redfeather and Jacques — both of whom,
at their young master’s earnest solicitation, agreed to
winter at Stoney Creek — cultivated each other’s ac
quaintance sedulously. There were no books of any kind
at the outpost, excepting three Bibles, — one belonging to
Charley, and one to Harry, the third being that which
had been presented to Jacques by Mr. Conway the mis
sionary. This single volume, however, proved to be an
ample library to Jacques and his Indian friend. Neither
of these sons of the forest were much accustomed to read
ing ; and neither of them would have for a moment enter
tained the idea of taking to literature as a pastime ; but
Redfeather loved the Bible for the sake of the great
truths which he discovered in its inspired pages, though
much of what he read was to him mysterious and utterly
incomprehensible. Jacques, on the other hand, read it,
or listened to his friend, with that philosophic gravity of


382 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
countenance, and earnestness of purpose, which he dis
played in regard to everything; and deep, serious, and
protracted were the discussions they plunged into, as,
night after night, they sat on a log, with the Bible spread
out before them, and read by the light of the blazing fire,
in the men’s house at Sloney Creek. Their intercourse,
however, was brought to an abrupt conclusion by the un
expected arrival, one day, of Mr. Conway, the missionary,
in his tin canoe. This gentleman’s appearance was most
welcome to all parties. It was like a bright ray of sun
shine to Charley, to meet with one who could fully sym
pathize with him in his present sorrowful frame of mind.
It was an event of some consequence to Harry Somer
ville, inasmuch as it pi’ovided him with an amateur doc
tor, who really understood somewhat of his physical com
plaint, and was able to pour balm, at once literally and
spiritually, into his wounds. It was an event productive
of the liveliest satisfaction to Redfeather, who now felt
assured that his tribe wo'uld have those mysteries ex
plained, which he only imperfectly understood himself;
and it was an event of much rejoicing to the Indians
themselves, because their curiosity had heen not a little
roused by what they heard of-the doings and sayings of
the white missionary, who lived on the borders of the
great lake. The only person, perhaps, on whom Mr.
Conway’s arrival acted with other than a pleasing influ
ence, was Jacques Caradoc. This worthy, although glad
to meet with a man whom he felt inclined both to love
and respect, was by no means gratified to find that his
friend Redfeather had agreed to go with the missionary
on his visit to the Indian tribe, and thereafter to accom
pany him to the settlement on Playgreen Lake. But,
with the stoicism that was natural to him, Jacques sub-


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
383
mitted to circumstances which lie could not alter, and
contented himself with assuring Redfeather that, if he
lived till next spring, he would most certainly “ make
tracks for the great lake,” and settle down at the mission-
ary’s station along with him. This promise was made at
the end of the wharf of Stoney Creek, the morning on
which Mr. Conway and his party embarked in their tin
canoe, — the same tin canoe at which Jacques had curled
his nose contemptuously when he saw it in process of
being constructed, and at which he did not by any means
curl it the less contemptuously now that he saw it finished.
The little craft answered its purpose marvellously well,
however, and bounded lightly away under the vigorous
strokes of its crew, leaving Charley and Jacques on the
pier gazing wistfully after their friends, and listening
sadly to the echoes of their parting song, as it floated
more and more faintly over the lake.
Winter came; but no ray of sunshine broke through
the dark cloud that hung over Stoney Creek. Harry
Somerville, instead of becoming better, grew worse and
worse every day, so that when Charley despatched the
winter packet, he represented the illness of his friend to
the powers at head-quarters as being of .a nature'that
required serious and immediate attention, and change of
scene. But the word immediate bears a slightly differ
ent signification in the backwoods to what it does in the
lands of railroads and steamboats. The letter containing:
this hint took many weeks to traverse the waste wilder
ness to its destination — months passed before the reply
w r as written, and many weeks more elapsed ere its con
tents were perused by Charley and his friend. When
they did read it, however, the dark cloud that had hung
over them so long' burst at last — a ray of sunshine


384
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
streamed down brightly upon their hearts, and never for
sook them again, although it did lose a little of its bril
liancy after the first flash. It was on a rich, dewy, cheer
ful morning in early spring when the packet arrived, and
Charley led Harry, who was slowly recovering his wont
ed health and spirits, to their favorite rocky resting-place
on the margin of the lake. Here he placed the letter in
bis friend’s hand, with a smile of genuine delight. It
ran as follows: —
Mr dear Sir, — Your letter, containing the account
of Mr. Somerville’s illness, has been forwarded to me;
and I am instructed to inform you that leave of absence,
for a short time, has been granted to him. I have had a
conversation with the doctor here, who advises me to
recommend that, if your friend has no other summer resi
dence in view, he should spend part of his time in Red
River settlement. In the event of his agreeing to this, I
would suggest that he should leave Stoney Creek with the
first brigade in spring, or by express canoe, if you think
it advisable. — I am, &c.
“ Short but sweet, uncommonly sweet! ” said Harry,
.•as a deep flush of joy crimsoned his pale cheeks, while
his own merry smile, that had been absent for many a
•weary day, returned once more to its old haunt, and
■danced round its accustomed dimples like a repentant
wanderer who has been long absent from, and has at last
returned to, his native home.
“ Sweet, indeed ! ” echoed Charley. “ But that’s not
.all; here’s another lump of sugar for you.” So saying,
he pulled a letter from his pocket, unfolded it slowly,
spread it out on his knee, and, looking up at his expect
ant friend, winked.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
385
“ Go on, Charley; pray'don’t tantalize me.”
“ Tantalize you ! My dear fellow, nothing is farther
from my thoughts. Listen to this paragraph in my dear
old father’s letter : —
“ ‘ So you see, my dear Charley, that we have managed
to get you appointed to the charge of Lower Fort Garry,
and as I hear that poor Harry Somerville is to get leave
of absence, you had better bring him along with you. I
need not add that my house is at his service as long as he
may wish to remain in it.’
“ There! what think ye of that, my boy ? ” said
Charley, as he folded the letter, and returned it to his
pocket.
“ I think,” replied Harry, “ that your father is a dear
old gentleman, and I hope that you’ll only be half as
good when you come, to his time of life; and I think I’m
so happy to-day, that I’ll be able to walk without the
assistance of your arm to-morrow ; and I think we had
better go back to the house now, for I feel, oddly enough,
as tired as if I had had a long walk. Ah ! Charley, my
dear fellow, that letter will prove, to be the best doctor
I have had yet. But now tell me what you intend to
do.”
Charley assisted his friend to rise, and led him slowly
back to the house, as he replied, —
“ Do, my boy ? That’s soon said. I’ll make things
square and straight at Stoney Creek; I’ll send for Ham
ilton, and make him interim commandei’-in-chief; I’ll
write two letters, one to the gentleman in charge of the
district, telling him of my movements; the other (con
taining a screed of formal instructions) to the miserable
mortal who shall succeed me hei’e; I’ll take the best
canoe in our store, load it with provisions, put you carefully
25


386 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
in the middle of it, stick Jacques in the bow, and my
self in the stern, and start, two weeks hence, neck and
crop, head over heels, through thick and thin, wet and
dry, over portage, river, fall, and lake, for Red River
settlement! ”


FBOM THE FAK NOETH.
387
. CHAPTER XXYIII.
OLD,FRIENDS AND SCENES; COMING EVENTS CAST THEIR SHADOWS
BEFORE. *
M R. KENNEDY, senior, was seated in his own com
fortable arm-chair before the fire, in his own cheer
ful little parlor, in his own snug house, at Red River;
with his own highly characteristic breakfast of buffalo-
steaks, tea, and pemmican before him, and his ow r n beau
tiful, aifectionate daughter Kate presiding over the tea
pot, and exercising unwarrantably despotic sway over a
large gray cat, whose sole happiness seemed to consist in
subjecting Mr. Kennedy to perpetual annoyance, and
whose main object in life was to catch its master and
mistress otf their guard,-that it might go quietly to the
table, the meat-safe, or the pantry, and there — deliber
ately — steal!
Kate had grown very much since we saw her last.
She was quite a woman now, and well worthy of a
minute description here ; but we never could describe a
woman to our own satisfaction. We have frequently
tried and failed ; so we substitute, in place, the remarks
of Kate’s friends and acquaintances about her, — a crite
rion on which to form a judgment, that is a pretty correct
one, especially wdien the opinion pronounced happens to
be favorable. Pier father said she w r as an angel, and
the only joy of his life. This, latter expression, we may
remark, was false ; for Mr. Kennedy frequently said to


388
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
Kate, confidentially, that Charley was a great happiness
to him ; and we are quite sure that the pijDe had some
thing to do with the felicity of his existence. But the old
gentleman said that Kate was the only joy of his life,
and that is all we have to do with at present. Several
ill-tempered old ladies in the settlement said that Miss
Kennedy was really a quiet modest girl; — testimony
this (considering the source whence it came) that was
quite conclusive. Then, old Mr. Grant remarked to old
Mr. Kennedy, over a confidential pipe, that Kate was
certainly, in his opinion, the most modest and the prettiest
girl in Red River. Her old school companions called
her a darling. Tom Wh} r td said “ he never see’d nothink
like her nowhere.” The clei’ks spoke of her in terms too
glowing to remember; and the last arrival among them,
the youngest, with the slang of the “ old country” fresh
on his lips, called her a stunner ! Even. Mrs. Grant got
up one of her half-expressed remarks about her, which
everybody would have supposed to be quizzical in its na
ture, were it not for the frequent occurrence of the terms
“ good girl,” “ innocent creature,” which seemed to contra
dict that idea. There were also one or two hapless swains
who said nothing, but what they did and looked was, in
itself, unequivocal. They went quietly into a state of
slow, drivelling imbecility whenever they happened to
meet with Kate; looked as if they had become shock
ingly unwell, and were rather pleased than otherwise that
their friends should think so, too ; and, upon all and every
occasion in which Kate was concerned, conducted them
selves with an amount of insane stupidity (although sane
enough at other times,) that nothing could account for,
save the idea that their admiration of her was inexpressi
ble, and that that was the most effective way in which
they could express it.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
889
“ Kate, my darling,” said Mr. Kennedy, as he finished
the last mouthful of tea, “ wouldn’t it he capital to get
another letter from Charley ? ”
“ Yes, dear papa; it would, indeed! But I am quite
sure that the next time we shall hear from him will be
when he arrives here, and makes the house ring with his
own dear voice.”
“ How so, girl ?” said the old trader, with a smile. It
may as well he remarked here that the above opening of
conversation was by no means new. It was stereotyped
now. Ever since Charley had been appointed to the
management of Lower Fort Garry, his father had been
so engrossed by the idea, and spoke of it to Kate so fre
quently, that he had got into a way of feeling as if the
event so much desired would happen in a few days, al
though he knew quite well that it could not, in the course
of ordinary or extra-ordinary circumstances, occur in less
than several months. However, as time rolled on he be
gan regularly, every day or two, to ask Kate questions
about Charley that she could not by any possibility an
swer, but which, lie knew from experience, would lead
her into a confabulation about his son, which helped a
little to allay his impatience.
“ Why, you see, father,” she replied, “ it is three
months since we got his last, and you know there has been
no opportunity of forwarding lgtters from Stoney Creek
since it was despatched. Now, the next opportunity that
occurs ”
“ Mee-aow ! ” interrupted the cat, which had just fin
ished two pats of fresh butter without being detected, and
began, rather recklessly, to exult.
“ Hang that cat! ” cried the old gentleman, angrily,
“ it’ll be the death o’ me yet; ” and, seizing the first thing


390
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
that came to hand, which happened to he the loaf of
bread, discharged it with such violence, and with so cor
rect an aim, that it knocked, not only the cat, but the tea
pot and sugar-bowl also, off the table.
“ 0 dear papa! ” exclaimed Kate.
“ Really, my dear,” cried Mr. Kennedy, half angry
and half ashamed, “ we must get rid of that brute im
mediately. It has scarcely been a week here, and it has
done more mischief already than a score of ordinary cats
would have done in a twelvemonth.”
“ But then, the mice, papa ”
“ Well, but — but — oh! hang the mice! ”
“ Yes ; but how are we to catch them ? ” said Kate.
At this moment, the cook, who had heard the sound of
breaking crockery, and judged it expedient that he should
be present, opened the door.
“ How now, rascal 3 ” exclaimed his master, striding up
to him. “ Did I ring for you ? eh ? ”
“ No, sir; but ”
“But! eh 3 but! no more buts, you scoundrel, else
I’ll ”
The motion of Mr. Kennedy’s fist warned the cook to
make a precipitate retreat, which he did at the same
moment that the cat resolved to run for its life. This
caused them to meet in the doorway, and, making a com
pound entanglement with the mat, they both fell into the
passage with a loud crash. Mr. Kennedy shut the door
gently, and returned to his chair, patting Kate on the
head as he passed.
“ Now, darling, go on with what you were saying;
and don’t mind the teapot — let it lie.”
“ Well,” resumed Kate, with a smile, “I was saying
that the next opportunity Charley can have will be by


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
391
the brigade in spring, which we expect to arrive here,
you know, a month hence, but we won’t get a letter by
that, as I feel convinced that he and Harry will come by
it themselves.”
“ And the express canoe, Kate, — the express canoe,”
said Mr. Kennedy, with a contortion of the left side of
his head that was intended for a wink, — “you know
they got leave to come by express, Kate.”
“ Oh, as to the express, father, I don’t expect them to
come by that, as poor Harry Somerville has been so ill
that they would never think of venturing to subject him
to all the discomforts, not to mention the dangers, of a
canoe voyage.”
“ I don’t know that, lass, — I don’t know that,” said
Mr. Kennedy, giving another contortion with his left
cheek. “ In fact, I shouldn’t wonder if they arrived this
very day, and it’s well to be on the look-out, so I’m off
to the banks of the river, Kate.” Saying this, the old
gentleman threw on an old fur cap with the peak all
awry, thrust his left hand into his right glove, put on the
other with the back to the front and the thumb in the
middle finger, and bustled out of the house, muttering
as he went — “ Yes, its well to be on the look-out for
him.”
Mr. Kennedy, however, was disappointed; Charley
did not arrive that day, nor the next, nor the day after
that. Nevertheless the old gentleman’s faith each day
remained as firm as on the day previous, that Charley
would arrive on that 'day “ for certain.” About a week
after this, Mr. Kennedy put on his hat and gloves as
usual, and sauntered down to the banks of the river,
where his perseverance was rewarded by the sight of a
small canoe rapidly approaching the landing-place. From


392
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
the costume of the three men who propelled it, the cut
of the canoe itself, the precision and energy of its move
ments, and several other minute points about it, only
apparent to the accustomed eye of a nor’wester, he judged
at once that this was a new arrival, and not merely
one of the canoes belonging to the settlers, many of
which might be seen passing up and down the river. As
they drew near, he fixed his eyes eagerly upon them.
“Very odd,” he exclaimed, while a shade of disap
pointment passed over his brow, “it ought to be him,
but it’s not like him — too big — different nose altogether
— don’t know any of the three — humph ! — well, he’s
sure to come to-morrow, at all events.” Having come
to the conclusion that it was not ( Charley’s canoe, he
wheeled sulkily round and sauntered back towards his
house, intending to solace himself with a pipe. At that
moment he heard a shout behind him, and, ere he could
well turn round to see whence it came, a young man
bounded up the bank and seized him in his arms with a
hug that threatened to dislocate his ribs. The old gentle
man’s first impulse was to bestow on his antagonist (for
he verily believed him to be such) one of those vigorous
touches with his clenched first, which, in days of yore,
used to bring some of his disputes to a summary and
effectual close ; but his intention changed when the youth
spoke.
“ Father, dear, dear father! ” said Charley, as he
loosened his grasp, and, still holding him by both hands,
looked earnestly into his face with swimming eyes.
Old Mr. Kennedy seemed to have lost his powers of
speech. He gazed at his son for a few seconds in silence,
then suddenly threw his arms around him and engaged
in a species of wrestle, which he intended for an embrace.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
393
“ 0 Charley, my boy ! ” he exclaimed, “ you’ve come
at last — God bless you! let’s look at you — quite
changed — six feet — no, not quite changed — the old
nose — black as an Indian. 0 Charley, my dear boy !
I’ve been waiting for you for months ; why did you keep
me so long ? eh! Hang it, where’s my handkerchief? ”
At this last exclamation, Mr. Kennedy’s feelings quite
overcame him; his full heart overflowed at his eyes, so
that when he tried to look at his son, Charley appeared
partly magnified and partly broken up into fragments.
Fumbling in his pocket for the missing handkerchief,
which he did not find, he suddenly seized his fur cap, in
a burst of exasperation, and wiped his eyes with that.
Immediately after, forgetting that it was a cap, he thrust
it into his pocket.
“ Come, dear father,” cried Charley, drawing the old
man’s arm through his, “ let us go home. Is Kate there ? ”
“Ay, ay,” cried Mr. Kennedy, waving his hand as he
was dragged away, and bestowing, quite unwittingly, a
back-handed slap on the cheek to Harry Somerville,
which nearly felled that youth to the ground. “ Ay,
ay ! Kate, to be sure, darling ; yes, quite right, Charley;
a pipe,—that’s it my boy, let’s have a pipe!” And
thus, uttering incoherent and broken sentences, he dis
appeared through the doorway with his long lost and now-
recovered son.
Meanwhile Harry and Jacques continued' to pace
quietly before the house, waiting patiently until the first
ebullition of feeling, at the meeting of Charley with his
father and sister, should be over. In a few minutes
Charley ran out.
“ Hallo, Harry! come in, my boy forgive my forget
fulness, but ”


894 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
“ My dear fellow,” interrupted Harry, “ what nonsense
you are talking! Of course you forgot me, and every
body, and everything on earth just now ; but have you
seen Kate? is ”
“Yes, yes,” cried Charley, as he pushed his friend be
fore him, and dragged Jacques after him into the parlor.
“ Here’s Harry, father, and Jacques; you’ve heard of
Jacques, Kate?”
“ Harry, my dear boy,” cried Mr. Kennedy, seizing
his young friend by the hand, “ how are you, lad ? Bet
ter, I hope.” • '
At that moment, Mr. Kennedy’s eye fell on Jacques,
who stood in the doorway, cap in hand, with the usual
quiet smile lighting up his countenance.
“What! Jacques! Jacques Caradoc!”he cried in as
tonishment.
“ The same, sir; you an’ I have know’d each other
afore now in the way o’ trade,” answered the hunter, as
he grasped his old bourgeois by the hand, and wrung it
warmly.
Mr. Kennedy, senior, was so overwhelmed by the com- 1
bination of exciting influences to which he was now sub
jected, that he plunged his hand into his pocket for the
handkerchief again, and pulled out the fur hat instead,
whi<^h he flung angrily at the cat; then, using the sleeve
of his coat as a substitute, he proceeded to put a series
of abrupt questions to Jacques and Charley simultane
ously.
In the mean time, Harry went up to Kate and stared
at her. We do not mean to say that he was intention
ally rude to her. No ! He went towards her, intending
to shake hands, and renew acquaintance with his old
companion; but the moment he caught sight of her, he


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
395
was struck not only dumb, but motionless. The odd
part of it' was that Kate, too, was affected in precisely the
same way, and both of them exclaimed mentally, “ Can
it be possible?” Their lips, however, gave no utterance
to the question. At length Kate recollected herself, and
blushing deeply, held out her hand, as she said, —
“Forgive me, Har — Mr. Somerville, I was so sur
prised at your altered appearance, I could scarcely be
lieve that my old friend stood before me.”
Harry’s cheeks crimsoned, as he seized her hand and
said — “Indeed, Ka — a — Miss — that is, in fact, I’ve
been very ill, and doubtless have changed somewhat; but
the very same thought struck me in regard to yourself,
you are so — so ”
Fortunately for Harry, who was gradually becoming
more and more confused, to the amusement of Charley,
who had closely observed the meeting of his friend and
sister, Mr. Kennedy came up.
“ Eh! what’s that ? What did you say struck you,
Harry, my lad ? ”
“ You did, father, on his arrival,” replied Charley,
with a broad grin, “ and a very neat back-hander it
was.”
“ Nonsense, Charley,” interrupted Harry, with a laugh,
“ I was just saying, sir, that Miss Kennedy is so changed
that I could hardly believe it to be herself.”
“And I had just paid Mr. Somerville the same com
pliment, papa,” cried Kate, laughing and blushing simul
taneously.
Mr. Kennedy thrust his hands into his pockets,
frowned portentously as he looked from the one to the
other, and said, slowly, “ Miss Kennedy, Mr. Somer
ville! ” then turning to his son, remarked — “That’s


396 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
something new, Charley, lad; that girl is Miss Kennedy,
and that youth there is Mr. Somerville! ”
Charley laughed loudly at this sally, especially when
the old gentleman followed it up with a series of contor
tions of the left cheek, meant for violent winking.
“ Kight, father, right, it won’t do here. We don’t
know anybody but Kate and Harry in this house.”
Harry laughed in his own genuine style at this.
“Well, Kate be it, with all my heart,” said he ; “but,
really, at first she seemed so unlike the Kate of former
days, that I could not bring myself to call her so.”
“ Humph! ” said Mr. Kennedy. “But come, boys,
with me to my smoking room, and let’s have a talk over
a pipe, while Kate looks after dinner.” Giving Charley
another squeeze of the hand, and Harry a pat on the
shoulder, the old gentleman put on his cap (with the
peak behind) and led the way to his glass divan in the
gai’den.
It is pei’haps unnecessary for us to say, that Kate
Kennedy and Harry Somerville had, within the last hour,
fallen deeply, hopelessly, utterly, irrevocably, and totally
in love with each other. They did not merely fall up to
the ears in love. To say that they fell over head and
ears in it would be, comparatively speaking, to say noth
ing. In fact, they did not fall into it at all. They went
deliberately backwards, took a long race, sprang high
into the air, turned completely round, and went down
head first into the flood, descending to a depth utterly
beyond the power of any deep-sea-lead to fathom, or of
any human mind adequately to appreciate. , Up to that
day, Kate had thought of Harry as the hilarious youth
who used, to take every opportunity he could of escaping
from the counting-room and hastening to spend the after-


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
397
noon in rambling through the woods with her and Char
ley. But the instant she saw him, a man,—with a
bright, cheerful countenance, on which rough living and
exposure to frequent peril had stamped unmistakable
lines of energy and decision, and to which recent illness
had imparted a captivating touch of sadness, — the mo
ment she beheld this, and the undeniable scrap of whis
ker that graced his cheeks, and the slight shade that
rested on his upper lip, her heart leapt violently into her
throat, where it stuck hard and fast, like a stranded ship
on a lee shore.
In like manner, when Harry beheld his former friend,
a woman — with beaming eyes and clustering ringlets;
and— (there, we won J t attempt it!) —in fact, surrounded
by every nameless and nameable grace that makes woman
exasperatingly delightful, his heart performed the same
eccentric movement, and he felt that his fate was sealed,
that he had been sucked into a rapid which was too
strong even for his expert and powerful arm to contend
against, and that he must drift with the current now,
nolens volens, and run it as he best could.
When Kate retired to her sleeping apartment that
night, she endeavored to comport herself in her usual
manner ; but all her efforts failed. She sat down on her
bed, and remained motionless for half an hour, then she
started and sighed deeply; then she smiled and opened
her Bible, but forgot to read it; then she rose hastily,
sighed again, took off her gown, hung it up on a peg, and,
returning to the dressing table, sat down on her best bon
net ; then she cried a little at which point the candle sud
denly went out, so she gave a slight scream, and at last
went to bed in the dark.
Three hours afterwards, Harry Somerville, who had
been enjoying a cigar and a chat with Charley and his


398
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
father, rose, and, bidding his friends good-night, re
tired to his chamber, where he flung himself down on
a chair, thrust his hands into his pockets, stretched
out his legs, gazed abstractedly before him and ex
claimed — “0 Kate ! my exquisite girl, you’ve floored
me quite flat!”
As he continued to sit in silence, the gaze of affec
tion gradually and slowly changed into a look of in
tense astonishment as he beheld the gray cat sitting
comfortably on the table, and regarding him with a
look of complacent interest, as if it thought Harry’s style
of addressing it was highly satisfactory — though rather
unusual.
“Brute!” exclaimed Harry, springing from his seat,
and darting towards it. But the cat was too well accus
tomed to old Mr. Kennedy’s sudden onsets to be easily
taken by surprise. With a bound it reached the floor,
and took shelter under the bed, whence it was not ejected
until Harry, having first thrown his shoes, soap, clothes-
brush, and razor-strop at it, besides two or three books,
and several miscellaneous articles of toilet — at last
opened the door (a thing, by the way, that people would
do well always to remember before endeavoring to expel
a cat from an impregnable position) and drew the bed
into the middle of the room. Then, but not till then, it
fled, with its back, its tail, its hair, its eyes — in short, its
entire body, bristling in rampant indignation. Having
dislodged the enemy, Harry replaced the bed, threw
oil his coat and waistcoat, untied his neckcloth, sat
dow n on his chair again, and fell into a reverie; from
which, after half an hour, he started, clasped his hands,
stamped his foot, glared up at the ceiling, slapped his
thigh, and exclaimed, in the voice of a hero — “ Yes, I’ll
do it, or die!”


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
399
CHAPTER XXIX.
THE FIRST RAY AT HOME; A GALLOT TN THE PRAIRIE, AND ITS
EXT morning, as the quartette were at breakfast,
Mr. Kennedy, senior, took occasion to propound to
his son the plans he had laid down for them during the*
next week.
“ In the first place, Charley, my boy,” said he, as well
as a large mouthful of buffalo steak and potato would
permit, “you must drive up to the fort and report your
self; Harry and I will go with you, and, after we have
paid our respects to old Grant, (another cup of tea, Kate,
my darling,) you recollect him, Charley don’t you ? ”
_ “ Yes, perfectly.”
“ Well, then, after we’ve been to see him, we’ll drive
down the river, and call on our friends at the mill.
Then ive’ll look in on the Thomsons; and give a call
in passing, on old Neverin,— lie’s always out, so he’ll
he pleased to hear we were there, and it won’t detain us.
Then ”
“ But, dear father, excuse my interrupting you, Harry
and I are very anxious to spend our first day at home en
tirely with you and Kate. Don’t you think it would be:
more pleasant ? and then, to-morrow ”
“ How, Charley, this is too bad of you,” said Mr:.
Kennedy, with a look of affected indignation ; “no sooner
have you come back, than you’re at your old tricks, op
posing and thwarting your father’s wishes.”
CONSEQUENCES.


400
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
“Indeed, I do not wish to do so, father,” replied Char
ley, with a smile; “but I thought that you would like
my plan better yourself, and that it wmuld afford us an
opportunity of having a good, long, satisfactory talk about
all that concerns us, past, present, and future.”
“ What a daring mind you have, Charley,” said Harry,
“ to speak of cramming a satisfactory talk of the past, the
present, and the future all into one day ! ”
“ Harry will take another cup of tea, Kate,” sai4
Charley, with an arch smile, as he went on, —
“ Besides, father, Jacques tells me that he means to go
off immediately, to visit a number of his old voyageur
friends in the settlement, and I cannot part with him
till we have had one more canter together over the
prairies. I want to show him to Kate, for he’s a great
original.”
■ “ Oh! that will be charming! ” cried Kate. “ I should
like of all things to be introduced to the bold hunter ; —
another cup of tea, Mr. S— Harry, I mean ? ”
Harry started on being thus unexpectedly addressed.
•“ Yes, if you please — that is — thank you — no, my cup’s
ifull already, Kate ! ”
“Well, well,” broke in Mr. Kennedy, senior, “ I see
-you’re all leagued against me, so I give in. But I shall
,not accompany you on your ride, as my bones are a little
.stiffer than they used to be,” (the old gentleman sighed
heavily,) “ and riding far knocks me up; — but I’ve got
(business to attend to in my glass house which will occupy
me till dinner-time.”
“ If the business you speak of,” began Charley, “is not
(incompatible with a cigar, I shall be happy to ”
“Why, as to that, the business itself has special refer
ence to tobacco, and, in fact, to nothing else; so come


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
401
along, you young dog,” and the old gentleman’s cheek
went into violent convulsions as he rose, put on his cap,
with the peak very much over one eye, and went out in
company with the young men.
An hour afterwards, four horses stood saddled and
bridled in front of the house. Three belonged to Mr.
Kennedy ; the fourth had been borrowed from a neigh
bor as a mount for Jacques Caradoc. In a few minutes
more, Harry lifted Kate into the saddle, and, having
arranged her dress with a deal of unnecessary care,
mounted his nag.. At the same moment, Charley and
Jacques vaulted into their saddles, and the whole caval
cade galloped down the avenue that led to the prairie,
followed by the admiring gaze of Mr. Kennedy, senior,
who stood in the doorway of his mansion, his hands in
his vest pockets, his head uncovered, and his happy vis
age smiling through a cloud of smoke that issued from
his lips. He seemed the very personification of jovial
good-liumor, and what one might suppose Cupid would
become, were he permitted to grow old, dress recklessly,
and take to smoking !
The prairies were bright that morning, and surpass
ingly beautiful. The grass looked greener than usual,
the dewdrops more brilliant as they sparkled on leaf and
blade and branch in the rays of an unclouded sun.. The
turf felt springy, and the horses, which were firstrate
animals, seemed to dance over it, scarce crushing the
wildfiowers beneath their hoofs, as they galloped lightly
on, imbued with the same joyous feeling that filled the
hearts of their riders. The plains at this place were
more picturesque than in other parts, their uniformity
being broken up by numerous clumps of small trees and
wild shrubbery, intermingled with, lakes and ponds of
26


402
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
all sizes, which filled the hollows for miles around,—
temporary sheets of water these, formed by the melting
snow, that told of winter now past and gone. Additional
animation and life was given to the scene by flocks of
waterfowl, whose busy cry and cackle in the water, or
whirring motion in the air, gave such an idea of joyous
ness in the brute creation, as could not but strike a chord
of sympathy in the heart of man, and create a feeling of
gratitude to the Maker of man and beast. Although
brilliant and warm, the sun, at least during the first part
of their ride, was by no means oppressive; so that the
equestrians stretched out at full gallop for many miles
over the prairie, round the lakes and through the bushes,
ere their steeds showed the smallest symptoms of warmth.
During the ride, Kate took the lead, with Jacques on
her left and Harry on her right, while Charley brought
up the rear, and conversed in a loud key with all three.
At length Kate began to think it was just possible the
horses might be growing wearied with the slapping,pace,
and checked her steed; but this was not an easy matter,
as the horse seemed to hold quite a contrary opinion, and
showed a desire, not only to continue, but to increase its
gallop, — a propensity that induced Harry to lend his aid
by grasping the rein, and compelling the animal to walk.
“ That’s a spirited horse, Kate,” said Charley, as they
ambled along, — “ have you had him long ? ”
“ No,” replied Kate ; “ our father purchased him just
a week before your arrival, thinking that you would
likely want a charger now and then. I have only been
on him once before. Would he make a good buffalo-
runner, Jacques ?”
“ Yes, Miss, he would make an uncommon good run
ner,” answered the hunter, as he regarded the animal
L.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
403
with a critical glance, — “ at least, if he don’t shy at a
gunshot.”
“ I never tried his nerves in that way,” said Kate, with
a smile ; “ perhaps he would shy at that ; he has a good
deal of spirit, — oh, I do dislike a lazy horse, and I do
delight in a spirited one ! ” Kate gave her horse a smart
cut with the whip, half involuntarily, as she spoke. In a
moment it reared almost perpendicularly, and then bounded
forward,—not, however, before Jacques’ quick eye had
observed the danger, and his ever-ready hand arrested
its course.
“ Have a care, Miss Kate,” he said, in a warning voice,
while he gazed in the face of the excited girl with a look
of undisguised admiration. “ It don’t do to wallop a skit
tish beast like that.”
“ Never fear, Jacques,” she replied, bending forward
to pat her charger’s arching neck, — “ see, he is becom
ing quite gentle again.”
“ If he runs away, Kate, we won’t be able to catch you
again, for he’s the best of the four, I think,” said Harry,
with an uneasy glance at the animal’s flashing eye and
expanded nostrils.
“ Ay, its as well to keep the whip off him,” said Jac
ques. “ I know’d a young chap once in St. Louis, who
lost his sweetheart by usin’ his whip too freely.”
“ Indeed,” cried Kate with a merry laugh, as they
emerged from one of the numerous thickets and rode out
upon the open plain at a foot pace, “how was that, Jac
ques ? Pray tell us the story.”
“ As to that, there’s little story about it,” replied the
hunter. “ You see, Tim Roughead took a’rter his name,
an’ was always doin’ some mischief or otliei’, which more
than once nigh cost him his life ; for the young trappers


404
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
that frequent St. Louis are not fellows to stand too mucli
jokin’, I can tell ye. Well, Tim fell in love with a gal
there, who had jilted about a dozen lads afore; and, bein’
an uncommon handsom’, strappin’ fellow, she encouraged
him a good deal. But Tim had a suspicion that Louise
was rayther sweet on a young storekeeper’s clerk there ;
so, bein’ an off-hand sort o’ critter, he went right up to
the gal, and says to her, says he, ‘ Come, Louise, its o’ no
use humbuggin’ with me any longer. If you like me, you
like me; and if you don’t like me, you don’t. There’s
only two ways about it. Now, jist say the word at once,
an’ let’s have an end on’t. If you agree, I’ll squat with
you in whativer bit o’ the States you like to name; if
not, I’ll bid you good-bye this blessed mornin’ an’ make
tracks right away for the Rocky Mountains afore sun
down. Aye, or no, lass ; which is’t to be ? ’
“ Poor Louise was taken all aback by this, but she
knew well that Tim was a man who never threatened in
jest, an’ moreover, she wasn’t quite sure o’ the young
clerk; so she agreed, an’ Tim went off to settle with her
father about the weddin’. Well, the day .came, an’ Tim,
with a lot o’ his comrades, mounted their horses, and rode
off to the bride’s house, which was a mile or two up the
river out of the town. Just as they were startin’, Tim’s
horse gave a plunge that wellnigh pitched him over its
head, an’ Tim came down on him with a cut o’ his heavy
whip that sounded like a pistol-shot. The beast was so
mad at this that it gave a kind o’ squeal an’ another
plunge that burst the girths. Tim brought the whip down
on its flank again, which made it shoot forward like an
arrow out of a bow, leavin’ poor Tim on the ground. So
slick did it fly away, that it didn’t even throw him on his
back, but let him fall sittin’-wise, saddle and all, plump


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
405
on the spot where he sprang from. Tim scratched his
head an’ grinned like a half-worried rattlesnake, as his
comrades almost rolled off their saddles with laughin’.
But it was no laughin’ job, for poor Tim’s leg was doubled
under him, an’ broken across at the thigh. It was long
before he was able to go about again, and when he did
recover, he found that Louise and the young clerk were
spliced an’ away to Kentucky.”
“So you see what are the probable consequences,
Kate, if you use your whip so obstreperously again,”
cried Charley, pressing his horse into a canter.
Just at that moment a rabbit sprang from under a
bush and darted away before them. In an instant Harry
Somerville gave a wild shout, and set off in pursuit.
Whether it was the cry, or the sudden flight of Harry’s
horse, we cannot tell, but the next instant, Kate’s charger
performed an indescribable flourish with its hind legs,
laid back its ears, took the bit between its teeth, and ran
away. Jacques was on its heels instantly, and, a few
seconds afterwards, Charley and Harry joined in the pur
suit, but their utmost efforts failed to do more than enable
them to keep their ground. Kate’s horse was making for
a dense thicket, into which it became evident they must
certainly plunge. Harry and her brother trembled when
they looked at it, and realized her danger; even Jacques’
face showed some symptoms of perturbation for a mo- -
ment, as he glanced before him in indecision. The ex
pression vanished, however, in a few seconds, and his
cheerful, self-possessed look returned, as he cried out, —
“ Pull the left rein hard, Miss Kate; try to edge up
the slope.”'
Kate heard the advice, and, exerting all her strength,
succeeded in turning her horse a little to the. left, which


406
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
caused him to ascend a gentle slope, at the top of which
part of the thicket lay. She was closely followed by
Harry and her brother, who urged their steeds madly
forward in the hope of catching her rein, while Jacques
diverged a little to the right. By this manoeuvre, the
latter hoped to gain on the runaway, as the ground along
which he rode was comparatively level, with a short but
steep ascent at the end of it, while that along which Kate
flew like the wind was a regular ascent, that would prove
very trying to her horse. At the margin of the thicket
grew a row of high bushes, towards which they now gal
loped with frightful speed. As Kate came up to this
natural fence, she observed the trapper approaching on
the other side of it. Springing from his jaded steed,
without attempting to check its pace, he leaped over the
underwood like a stag, just as the young girl cleared the
bushes at a bound. Grasping the reins, and checking
the horse violently with one hand, he extended the other
to Kate, who leaped unhesitatingly into his arms. At
the same instant, Charley cleared the bushes, and pulled
sharply up; while Harry’s horse, unable, owing to its
speed, to take the leap, came crashing through them, and
dashed his rider with stunning violence to the ground.
Fortunately no bones were broken, and a draught of
' clear water, brought by Jacques from a neighboring pond,
speedily restored Harry’s shaken faculties.
“ Now, Kate,” said Charley, leading forward the horse
which he had ridden, “ I have changed saddles, as you
see; this horse will suit you ■ better, and I’ll take the
shine out of your charger on the way home.”
“ Thank you, Charley,” said Kate, with a smile, “ I’ve
quite recovered from my fright, if, indeed, it is worth
calling by that name; but I fear that Harry has ”


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
407
“Oh! I’m all right,” cried Harry, advancing as he
spoke to assist Kate in mounting. “ I am ashamed to
think that my wild cry was the cause of all this.”
In another minute they were again in their saddles,
and, turning their faces homeward, they swept over the
plain at a steady gallop, fearing lest their accident should
be the means of making Mr. Kennedy wait dinner for
them. On arriving, they found the old gentleman en
gaged in an animated discussion with the cook about lay
ing the tablecloth, which duty he had imposed on himself,
in Kate’s absence.
“Ah! Kate, my love,” he cried, as they entered, “ come
here, lass, and mount guard. I’ve almost broke my heart
in trying to convince that thick-headed goose that he can’t
set the table properly. Take it off my hands, like a good
girl. . Charley, my boy, you’ll be pleased to hear that
your old friend Redfeather is here.”
“ Redfeather, father ! ” exclaimed Charley, in surprise.
“Yes ; he and the parson, from the other end of Lake
Winnipeg, arrived an hour ago in a tin kettle, and are
now on their way to the upper fort.”
“ That is, indeed, pleasant new r s ; but I suspect that it
will give much greater pleasure to our friend Jacques,
who, I believe, would be glad to lay down his life for
him, simply to prove his affection.”
“Well, well,” said the old gentleman, knocking the
ashes out of his pipe, and refilling it so as to be ready
for an after-dinner smoke, “Redfeather has come, and
the parson’s come, too, and I look upon it as quite mi
raculous that they have come, considering the thing they
came in. What they’ve come for is more than I can tell,
but I suppose it’s connected with Church affairs. Now,
then, Kate, what’s come o’ the dinner, Kate ? Stir up


408 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
that grampus of a cook! I half expect that he has boiled
the cat for dinner, in his wrath, for it has been badger
ing him and me the whole morning. Hallo, Harry, what’s
wrong ? ”
The last exclamation was in consequence of an expres
sion of pain which crossed Harry’s face for a moment.
“ Nothing, nothing,” replied Harry, “ I’ve had a fall
from my horse, and bruised my arm a little. But I’ll see
to it after dinner.”
“ That you shall not,” cried Mr. Kennedy, energeti
cally, dragging his young friend into his bedroom. “ Off
with your coat, lad. Let’s see it at once. Ay, ay,” he
continued, examining Harry’s left arm, which was very
much discolored, and swelled from the elbow to the
shoulder, “ that’s a severe thump, my boy. But it’s noth
ing to speak of; only you’ll have to submit to a sling
for a day or two.”
“ That’s annoying, certainly, but I’m thankful it’s no
worse,” remarked Harry, as Mr. Kennedy dressed the
arm after his own fashion, and then returned with him to
the dining-room.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
409
CHAPTER XXX.
LOVE OLD MR. KENNEDY PETS HIS EOO.T IN IT.
O NE morning, about two weeks after Charley’s ar
rival at Red River, Harry Somerville found him
self alone in Mr. Kennedy’s parlor. The old gentleman
himself had just galloped away in the direction of the
lower fort, to visit Charley, who was now formally in
stalled there. Kate was busy in the kitchen giving di
rections about dinner, and Jacques was away with Red-
featlier visiting his numerous friends in the settlement;
so that, for the first time since his arrival, Harry found
himself at the hour of ten in the morning utterly lone,
and with nothing very definite to do. Of course, the two
weeks that had elapsed were not without their signs and
symptoms, their minor accidents and incidents, in regard
to the subject that filled his thoughts. Harry had fifty
times been tossed alternately from the height of hope to
the depth of despair, from the extreme of felicity to the
uttermost verge of sorrow, and he began seriously to
reflect, when he remembered his desperate resolution
on the first night of his arrival, that if he did not “ do,”
he certainly would “ die.” This was quite a mistake,
however, on Harry’s part. Nobody ever did die of un
requited love. Doubtless many people have hanged,
drowned, and shot themselves because of it; but, gen
erally speaking, if the patient can be kept from maltreat-


410
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
ing himself long enough, time will prove to be an infalli
ble remedy. O, youthful reader! lay this to heart;
but, pshaw! why do I waste ink on so hopeless a task ?
Every one, we suppose, resolves once in a way to die
of love; so — die away, my young friends — only, make
sure that you don’t kill yourselves, and I’ve no fear of
the result.
But to return. Kate, likewise, was similarly affected.
She behaved like a perfect maniac — mentally, that is —
and plunged herself, metaphorically, into such a succes
sion of hot and cold baths, that it was quite a marvel how
her spiritual constitution could stand it.
But we were wrong in saying that Harry was alone in
the parlor. The gray cat was there. On a chair before
the fire it sat, looking dishevelled and somewhat blase, in
consequence of the ill-treatment and worry to which it
was continually subjected. After looking out of the win
dow for a short time, Harry rose, and sitting down on a
chair beside the cat, patted its head, — a mark of atten
tion it was evidently not averse to, but which it received,
nevertheless, with marked suspicion, and some indications
of being in a condition of armed neutrality. Just then
the door opened and Kate entered.
“ Excuse me, Harry, for leaving you alone,” she said,
“ but I had to attend to several household matters. Do
you feel inclined for a walk ? ”
“ I do, indeed,” replied Harry; “ it is a charming day,
and I am exceedingly anxious to see the bower that you
have spoken to me about once or twice, and which Char
ley told me of long before I came here.”
“ Oh ! I shall take you to it, with pleasure,” replied
Kate ; “ my dear father often goes there with me to
smoke. If you will wait for two minutes, I’ll put on my


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
411
bonnet; ” and she hastened to prepare herself for the walk,
leaving Harry to caress the cat, which he did so energet
ically, when he thought of its young mistress, that it in
stantly declared war and sprang from the chair with a re-
monstrative yell.
On their way down to the bower, which was situated
in a picturesque, retired spot on the river’s bank, about
a mile below the house, Harry and Kate tried to con
verse on ordinary topics, but without success, and were at
last almost reduced to silence. One subject alone filled
their minds — all others were flat. Being sunk, as it
were, in an ocean of love, they no sooner opened their
lips to speak than the waters rushed in, as a natural con
sequence, and nearly choked them. Had they but opened
their mouths wide and boldly, they would have been
pleasantly drowned together ; but as it was, they lacked
the requisite courage, and were fa’in to content them
selves with an occasional frantic struggle to the surface,
where they gasped a few words of uninteresting air, and
sank again instantly.
On arriving at the bower, however, and sitting down,
Harry plucked up heart, and, heaving a deep sigh, said, —
“ Kate, there is a subject about which I have long de
sired to speak to. you ”
Long as he had been desiring it, however, Kate thought
it must have been nothing compared with the time that
elapsed ere he said anything else; so she bent over a
flower, which she held in her hand, and said, in a low
voice, — “ Indeed, Harry ; what is it ? ”
Harry was desperate now. His usually flexible tongue
was stiff as stone, and dry as a bit of leather. He could
no more give utterance to an intelligible idea, than he
could change himself into Mr. Kennedy’s gray cat, — a


412
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
change that he would not have been unwilling to make
at that moment. At last he seized his companion’s hand,
and exclaimed, with a burst of emotion that quite startled
her, —
“ Kate ! Kate! O dearest Kate, I love you ! I adore
you! I ”
At this point poor Harry’s powers of speech again
failed ; so, being utterly unable to express another idea,
he suddenly threw his arms round her, and pressed her
fervently to his bosom.
Kate was taken quite aback by this summary method
of coming to the point. Repulsing him energetically, she
exclaimed, while she blushed crimson,—
, “ Oh, Harry, — Mr. Somerville ! ” and burst into
tears.
Poor Harry stood before her for a moment, his head
hanging down, and a deep blush of shame on his face.
“ Oh, Kate,” said he, in a deep, tremulous voice, “ for
give me! 'Do — do forgive me! I knew not what I
said.' I scarce knew what I did,” (here he seized her
hand.) “I know but one thing, Kate, and tell it you I
will, if it should cost me my life. I love you, Kate, to
distraction, and I- wish you to be my wife. I have been
rude — very rude. Can you forgive me, Kate ? ”
Now, this latter part of Harry’s speech was particu
larly comical, the comicality of it lying in this —
that, while he spoke, he drew Kate gradually towards
him, and, at the very time when he gave utterance to
the penitential remorse for his rudeness, Kate was en
folded in a much more vigorous embrace than at first.;
and, what is more remarkable still, she laid her little head
quietly on his shoulder, as if she had quite changed her
mind in regard to what was and what was not rude, and
rather enjoyed it than otherwise.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
413
While the lovers stood in this interesting position, it
became apparent to Harry’s olfactory nerves that the at
mosphere was impregnated with tobacco smoke. Look
ing hastily up, he beheld an apparition that tended some
what to increase the confusion of his faculties.
In the opening of the bower stood Mr. Kennedy,
senior, in a state of inexpressible amazement. We say
inexpressible advisedly, because the extreme pitch of
feeling which Mr. Kennedy experienced at what he be
held before him, cannot possibly be expressed by human
visage. As far as the countenance of man could do it,
however, we believe the old gentleman’s came pretty
near the mark on this occasion. His hands were in his
coat-pockets, his body bent a little forward, his head
and neck outstretched a little beyond it, his eyes almost
starting from the sockets, and certainly, the most promi
nent feature in his face; his teeth firmly clenched on his
beloved pipe, and his lips expelling a multitude of little
clouds so vigorously, that one might have taken him for a ,
sort of self-acting intelligent steam-gun, that had resolved
utterly to annihilate Kate and Harry at short range in
the course of two minutes.
■; When Kate saw her father, she uttered a slight scream,
covered her face with her hands, rushed from the bower,
and disappeared in. the wood. v
“ So, young gentleman,” began Mr. Kennedy, in a
slow, deliberate tone of voice, while he removed the pipe
from his mouth, clenched his fist, and confronted Harry,
“ you’ve been invited to my house as a guest, sir, and
you seize the opportunity basely to insult my daughter! ”
“ Stay, stay, my dear sir,” interrupted Harry, laying
his hand on the old man’s shouldei', and gazing earnestly
into his face, — “ Oh! do not, even for a moment, imagine


414 SNOWFLAKES'AND SUNBEAMS
that I could be so base as to trifle with the affections of
your daughter. I may have been presumptuous, hasty,
foolish, mad, if you will, but not base. God forbid that
I should treat her with disrespect, even in thought! I
love her, Mr. Kennedy, as I never loved before; I have
asked her to be my wife, and — she ”
“ Whew! ” whistled old Mr. Kennedy, replacing his
pipe between his teeth, gazing abstractedly at the ground,
and emitting clouds innumerable. After standing thus a
few seconds, he turned his back slowly upon Harry, and
smiled outrageously once or twice, winking at the same
time, after his own fashion, at the river. Turning ab
ruptly round, he regarded Harry with a look of affected
dignity, and said, — “ Pray, sir, what did my daughter
say to your very peculiar proposal ?”
“ She said ye — ah ! that is — she didn’t exactly say
anything, but she — indeed I ”
“ Humph ! ” ejaculated the old gentleman, deepening
his frown as he regarded his young friend through the
smoke. “ In short, she said nothing, I suppose, but led
you to infer, perhaps, that she would have said Yes, if I
hadn’t interrupted you.”
Harry blushed, and said nothing.
“ Now, sir,” continued Mr. Kennedy, “ don’t you think
that it would have been a polite piece of attention on
your part to have asked my permission before you ad
dressed my daughter on such a subject ? eh ? ”
“ Indeed,” said Harry, “ I acknowledge that I have
been hasty, but I must disclaim the charge of disrespect
to you, sir; I had no intention whatever of broaching
the subject to-day, but my feelings unhappily carried me
away, and — and : — in fact » ■ •
“Well, well, sir,” interrupted Mr. Kennedy, with a


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
415 '
look of offended dignity, “ your feelings ought to be kept
more under control; but come, sir, to my house. I must
talk further with you on this subject. I must read you a
lesson, sir, — a lesson, humph ! that you won’t forget in a
hurry.”
“ But, my dear sir ” began Harry.
“No more, sir — no more at present,” cried the old
gentleman, smoking violently as he pointed to the foot
path that led to the house; “ lead the way, sir, I’ll fol
low.”
The footpath, although wide enough to allow Kate
and Harry to walk beside each other, did not permit of
two gentlemen doing so, conveniently, — a circumstance
which proved a great relief to Mr. Kennedy, inasmuch'
as it enabled him, while walking behind his companion,
to wink convulsively, smoke furiously, and punch his own
ribs severely, by way of opening a few safety-valves to
his glee, without which there is no saying what might
have happened. He was nearly caught in these eccen
tricities more than once, however, as Harry turned half
round, with the intention of again attempting to excul
pate himself, — attempts which were as often met by a
sudden start, a fierce frown, a burst of smoke, and a com
mand to “ go on.” On approaching the house, the track
became a broad road — affording Mr. Kennedy no excuse
for walking in the rear, so that he was under the neces
sity of laying violent restraint on his feelings, — a re
straint which, it was evident, could not last long. At
that moment, to his great relief, his eye suddenly fell <on
the gray cat, which happened to be reposing innocently
on the door-step.
“ That's it! There’s the whole cause of it at last! ”
cried Mr. Kennedy, in a perfect paroxysm of excitement,


416
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
flinging his pipe violently at the unoffending victim, as
he rushed towards it. The pipe missed the cat, hut went
with a sharp crash through the parlor window, at which
Charley was seated, while his father darted through the
doorway, along the passage, and into the kitchen. Here
the cat, having first capsized a pyramid of pans and ket
tles in its consternation, took refuge in an absolutely
unassailable position. Seeing this, Mr. Kennedy vio
lently discharged a pailful of water at the spot, strode
rapidly to his own apartment, and locked himself in.
“ Dear me, Harry, what’s wrong ? My father seems
unusually excited,” said Charley, in some astonishment,
as Harry entered the room and flung himself on a chair
with a look of chagrin.
“ It’s difficult to say, Charley; the fact is, I’ve asked
your sister Kate to be my wife, and your father seems to
have gone mad with indignation.”
“ Asked Kate to be your wife ! ” cried Charley, start
ing up, and regarding his friend with a look of amaze
ment.
“Yes, I have,” replied Harry, with an air of offended
dignity; “ I know very well that I am unworthy of her,
but I see no reason why you and your father should take
such pains to make me feel it.”
“ Unworthy of her, my dear fellow ! ” exclaimed Char
ley, grasping his hand and wringing - it violently ; “ no
doubt you are, and so is everybody, but you shall have
her for all that, my boy. But tell me, Harry, have you
spoken to Kate herself?”
‘ Yes, I have.”
“ And does she agree ? ”
“ "Well, I think I may say she does.”
“ Have you told my father that she does ?”


FROM THE FAR HORTII.
417
“ Why, as to that,” said Harry, with a perplexed smile,
“ he didn’t need to be told, he made himself pretty well
aware of the facts of the case.”
“ Ah! I’ll soon settle him ” cried Charley; “ keep your
mind easy, old fellow, I’ll very soon bring him round.”
With this assurance, Charley gave his friend’s hand an
other shake that nearly wrenched the arm from his
shoulder, and hastened out of the room in search of his
refractory father.


418 SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
CHAPTER XXXI.
THE COURSE OE TRUE LOVE, CURIOUSLY ENOUGH, RUNS SMOOTH
EOR ONCE ; AND THE CURTAIN EALLS.
T IME rolled on, and with it the sunbeams of summer
went, — the snowflakes of winter came. Needles of
ice began to shoot across the surface of Red River, and
gradually narrowed its bed. Crystalline trees formed upon
the window panes. Icicles depended from the eaves of
the houses. Snow fell in abundance on the plains; liquid
nature began rapidly to solidify, and, not many weeks
after the first frost made its appearance, everything was
(as the settlers expressed it) “ hard and fast.”
Mr. Kennedy, senior, was in his parlor, with his back
to a blazing wood fire that seemed large enough to roast
an ox whole. ITe was standing, moreover, in a semi-
picturesque attitude, with his right hand in his breeches
pocket and his left arm round Kate’s waist. Kate was
dressed in a gown that rivalled the snow itself in white
ness. One little gold clasp shone in her bosom ; it was
the only ornament she wore. Mr. Kennedy, too, had
somewhat altered his style of costume. He wore a sky-
blue swallow-tailed coat, whose maker had flourished in
London half a century before. It had a velvet collar
about five inches deep ; fitted uncommonly tight to the
figure, and had a pair of bright brass buttons, very close
together, situated half a foot above the wearer’s natural
waist. Besides this, he had on a canary-colored vest,


FROM THE FAE NOKTH.
419
and a pair of white duck trowsers, in the fob of which
evidently reposed an immense gold watch of the olden •
time, with a bunch of seals that would have served very
■well as an anchor for a small boat. Although the dress
was, on the whole, slightly comical, its owner — with his
full, fat, broad figure, — looked remarkably well in it
nevertheless.
It was Kate’s marriage-day, or, rather, marriage even
ing, for the sun had set two hours ago, and the moon
was now sailing in the frosty sky, its pale rays causing
the whole country to shine with a clear, cold, silvery
whiteness.
The old gentleman had been for some time gazing in
silent admiration on the fair brow and clustering ringlets
of his daughter, when it suddenly occurred to him that
the company would arrive in half an hour, and there
were several things still to be attended to.
“ Hallo, Kate! ” he exclaimed with a start, “ we’re for
getting ourselves. The candles are yet to light, and lots
of other things to do;” saying this, he began to bustle
about the room in a state of considerable agitation.
“ Oh ! don’t worry yourself, dear father,” cried Kate,
running after him and catching him by the hand. “ Miss
Cookumwell, and good Mrs. Taddipopple, are arranging
everything about tea and supper in the kitchen; and
Tom Whyte has been kindly sent to us by Mr. Grant,
with orders to make himself generally useful, so he can
light the candles in a few minutes, and you’ve nothing
to do hut to kiss me and receive the company.” Kate
pulled her father gently towards the fire again, and re
placed his ai’m round her waist.
“ Receive company ! All! Kate, my love, that’s just
what I know nothing about. If they’d let me receive


420
SNOWFLAKES AND SUNBEAMS
them in my own way, I’d do it well enough; but that
abominable Mrs. Taddi—what’s her name, has quite
addled my brains and driven me distracted with trying
to get me to. understand what she calls etiquette
Kate laughed, and said she didn’t care how he received
them, as she was quite sure that, whichever way he did
it, he would do it pleasantly and well.
At that moment the door opened, and Tom Whyte
entered. He was thinner, if possible, than .he used to be,
and considerably stiffer, and more upright.
“ Please, sir,” said he, with a motion that made you
expect to hear his back creak, (it was intended for a
bow,) — “ please, sir, can I do hanythink for yer ? ”
“Yes, Tom, you can,” replied Mr. Kennedy; “light
these candles, my man, and then go to the stable and
see that everything there is arranged for putting up the
horses. It will be pretty full to-night, Tom, and will
require some management; then, let me see — ah ! yes,
bring me my pipe, Tom, my big meerschaum, I’ll sport
that to-night in honor of you, Kate.”
“ Please, sir,” began Tom, with a slightly disconcerted
air, “ I’m afeer’d, sir, that — um ■”
“ Well, Tom, what would you say ? Go on.”
“ The pipe, sir,” said Tom, growing still more discon
certed ; “ says I to cook, says I, ‘ Cook, wots been an’
done it, d’ye think ? ’ £ Dun know, Tom,’ says he, ‘ but
it’s smashed, that’s sartin. I think the gray cat ’ ”
“ What! ” cried the old trader, in a voice of thunder,
while a frown of the most portentous ferocity darkened
his brow for an instant. It was only for an instant, how
ever. Clearing his brow quickly, he said with a smile,
? c But it’s your wedding-day, Kate, my darling. It won’t
do to blow up anybody to-day, — not even the cat.


FROM THE FAR NORTH.
421
There, be off, Tom, and see to things. Look sharp ! I
hear sleigh-bells already.”
As he spoke, Tom vanished perpendicularly; Kate
hastened to her room, and the old gentleman himself
went to the front door to receive his guests.
The night was of that intensely calm and still charac
ter that invariably accompanies intense frost, so that
the merry jingle of the sleigh-bells that struck on Mr.
Kennedy’s listening ear, continued to sound, and grow
louder as they drew near, for a considerable time ere
the visitors arrived. Presently, the dull, soft tramp of
horses’ hoofs was heard in the snow, and a well-know