Snow Shoes and Canoes - The Early Days of a Fur-Trader in the Hudson Bay Territory
by William H. G. Kingston
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"I feel very sure that you have, my friend," I observed; "and I'll get you to repeat your account to my brother." Copper-Snake willingly accompanied me, and I introduced him to Alick, who, after he had offered him some food and a pipe, requested him to repeat all he had said to me. He gave also further particulars which induced us fully to believe that he spoke the truth.

Alick invited him to remain during the night, as he looked thin and fatigued. He gladly accepted the invitation, and was greatly delighted when Alick presented him with a musket and some ammunition.

"I shall have no more fear of starving," he exclaimed, as he eyed the weapon. "I can now kill buffalo and deer, and defend myself too against all my enemies."

Altogether, Alick was satisfied that the Copper-Snake, though his name was not significant of good qualities, was an honest man, and he consequently advised him to come with his family and settle near the fort.

The Indian replied "that he would think about the matter, but that though some of the pale-faces he had met with were good men, there were among them many bad ones, and that he had hitherto preferred keeping at a distance from them."

He showed, however, no suspicion of us, and lay down to sleep in a corner of the hall, making himself perfectly at home.

The next morning at daybreak, after he had received as much as he could carry, with his newly-acquired gun in his hand he took his departure.

Alick and I considered that Copper-Snake's warning should be attended too, and that every necessary precaution should be taken to avoid surprise. Sandy, however, was of opinion that he had come with a cock-and-bull story for the sake of gaining credit for the information, and thus getting something out of us, as he had succeeded in doing.

Some days passed by, and as no enemy appeared, nor did we hear of one being in the neighbourhood, we began to think that Sandy was right, and gradually our vigilance decreased, till we no longer took any unusual precautions against a sudden attack.

I must continue Robin's narrative, though, as I said, I only picked it up piecemeal, as he was in the humour to talk about past events. He had not been so long among the Indians without acquiring somewhat of their manner and reticence. I had, indeed, to pump him to draw out what I wanted to know. He was more communicative generally to Martin, to whom he had taken a great liking from the first.

"Did you ever expect to become like an Indian, and to be contented with your lot?" I asked.

"No," he answered, "I did not. I always remembered that I was an Englishman, and resolved to make my escape if I could. I had won the confidence of Netnokwa, and the young men respected me for my skill in hunting. At length my powder and shot came to an end, and I could no longer use my gun. I tried to shoot with a bow and arrows, but it was long before I attained anything like the skill possessed by the Indians, who are accustomed to practise with a bow from their earliest days. I sank, consequently, in the estimation of the tribe. My great wish was to obtain some more ammunition; but the Indians always prevented me from communicating with any white men, from whom alone I could have got it.

"We continued moving farther and farther west, till we met a tribe of Indians with whom we had never before come in contact. They were far better mounted than our people, and looked much more savage. They were Sioux, and from several articles I saw among them I knew that they must have been in communication with the fur-traders.

"They appeared to be on friendly terms, however, with Netnokwa's people. I had soon cause to be sorry for this, as I found that one of their chiefs, Shegaw by name, was bargaining to purchase me for his wife, who had lost a son, as Netnokwa had done. He offered some blankets, tobacco, beads, and knives; but Netnokwa would not accept them.

"'No,' I heard her say; 'I have lost one son, but I will not willingly lose another.'

"Shegaw, however, persevered, and at length appeared at our wigwam followed by several men carrying a ten-gallon keg of whisky, besides the blankets and other things he had offered. This was more than Netnokwa could withstand, especially when old Wamegon came in and declared that he would kill me if she refused it.

"The exchange was at once made. I was handed over to Shegaw, and the whole of Wamegon's tribe set to work to drink up the spirits. They were not long in doing that. When last I saw my Indian mother and tyrannical old father, they both lay on the ground helplessly tipsy. It was not a very edifying spectacle, but I was very well aware that my new owners would, should an opportunity occur, reduce themselves to the same condition.

"I made all the inquiries I could respecting the country and the rivers running through it, that I might know in what direction to go should I effect my escape.

"How my new mother would treat me it was impossible to say, but I thought from Shegaw's appearance that I should not be much better off under him than I had been while living with old Wamegon.

"The tribes now separated, my new owners moving westward, while the others returned towards the east. It was considered a wonderful thing that they should have met without coming to blows. The farther west they went, the less hope I had of making my escape, because, even should I get away from my present masters, I should in all probability fall into the hands of those who had sold me.

"After travelling several days we reached Shegaw's lodges. Making me dismount, he led me by the hand to his own dwelling, where he presented me in due form to his wife, Kezha. She was much younger and better-looking than my former mother, and, I thought, had a more amiable expression of countenance. Thus far I had changed for the better.

"I soon found, however, that I was not to eat the bread of idleness; for I was employed in cutting wood, attending to the fires, and bringing water to the camp. Though Kezha herself did not beat me, she could not prevent others from doing so.

"The tribe with whom I was now living were great hunters; as they were constantly engaged in the sport, food was plentiful among us, and we did not suffer from the extremes of famine which many others are doomed to bear, in consequence of their neglecting to cultivate the ground. They also preserved and laid by a store of provisions for the time when deer or buffalo might become scarce.

"The abundance in which they lived made them despise other people and indulge in many vices. Whenever liquor could be procured, they took it to excess, and I had good reason to be afraid that in some of their drunken fits they would take it into their heads to kill me. They were also greatly addicted to gambling. They had a variety of games; one was that of the moccasin. It is played by a number of persons, divided into two parties. In one of four moccasins a little stick or small piece of cloth is concealed. The moccasins are then laid down by the side of each other in a row, and one of the adverse party touches two of the moccasins.

"If the one he first touches has the thing hidden in it, the player loses eight to the opposite party; if it is not in the second, but in one of the two passed over, he loses two; if it is not in the one he touches first, and is in the last, he wins eight. The articles staked are valued by agreement. A beaver-skin or a blanket is valued at ten; sometimes a horse at one hundred.

"There is another game played with circular counters, one side of them being plain, while the other is painted black. Generally nine are used, but never fewer. They are put together on a large wooden bowl, which is placed upon a blanket, when the two parties playing, numbering perhaps thirty people, sit down in a circle. The game consists in striking the edge of the bowl so as to throw all the counters into the air, and on the manner in which they fall upon the blanket or into the bowl depends the player's gain or loss. If the player is fortunate in the first instance, he strikes again and again until he misses, when it is passed on to the next. So excited do the Indians become that they often quarrel desperately. They will play on at this game for hours together, till they have staked everything they possess.

"On one occasion Shegaw, who considered me as one of his goods and chattels, staked me, and I was lost to a Cree chief.

"My Indian mother, on hearing that I had been staked and lost with other property, cried very much, and declared that she would not agree to my being given up. On this Shegaw, who was afraid of offending her, agreed to challenge the other Indians to a fresh game, and to stake several packs of peltries, the whole of our remaining property.

"I stood by, watching the game with some anxiety; not that it signified very much to me who became my master. Our party won, and I was restored to Kezha. It was only for a short time, however. She was as fond of the fire-water as are many other Indian women, and when once she began to drink she would give everything she possessed to obtain more liquor. For a short time she made more of me than she had hitherto done.

"I managed to regain, too, my credit with the young men of the tribe. I had obtained a bow and arrows, and by constantly practising, became tolerably expert. During the winter I was allowed to go out by myself, for the Indians could always trace me, and they knew well that I could not travel far should I attempt to make my escape.

"I was one day crossing a small meadow, an open space encircled by trees, when I unexpectedly fell up to the middle into the snow. I easily extricated myself and walked on; but remembering that I had heard the Indians speak of killing bears in their holes, it occurred to me that it might be a bear's hole into which I had fallen. I accordingly returned, and looking down into it, I saw the head of a bear lying close to the bottom of the hole. Had I gone down farther I should have fallen into his very jaws.

"He did not appear to be inclined to move, so fixing an arrow in my bow, I shot it with all my force into the animal's head between the eyes. Immediately I had done so I got another arrow ready, but on looking down I saw that the bear did not move. I ran to the wood and cut a long stick, and returning with it thrust it into the bear's eyes. As the creature still remained perfectly quiet, I was convinced that it was dead, and stooping down, endeavoured to lift it out of the hole.

"Being unable to do this, I returned home, following the track I had made in coming out. As I neared the tent I saw a fire burning and a pot boiling on it.

"'Here, my son, is some beaver meat which we have obtained since you went out in the morning,' said my mother.

"Having eaten some, for I was very hungry, I whispered to Kezha, 'I have killed a bear.'

"'What do you say, my son?' she asked.

"'I have killed a bear,' I replied.

"'Are you sure that it is dead?'

"'Yes,' I answered, 'it is quite dead.'

"On this my so-called mother seized me in her arms, and began hugging and kissing me.

"The bear was sent for, and as it was the first I had killed, it was cooked, and the hunters of the whole band invited to feast with us, according to Indian custom.

"The next day another bear and a moose were killed, and for some time we had an abundance of food. Old Kezha had another adopted son, Muskgo. He and I used to go out hunting together. I suspect that he was set to watch over me, though we were on very friendly terms.

"We frequently hunted two or three days' distance from the camp, but were very often unsuccessful, when we were almost starved. On one of our hunting-paths we had formed a hut of cedar boughs, in which we had kindled fire so often that at length it became very dry. We were lying down at night, after an unsuccessful day's hunt, when we lighted a fire to keep ourselves warm, for the weather was intensely cold. We had just dropped off to sleep when some of the sparks blown by the wind caught the cedar, which immediately flew up like powder. Happily we scampered out without suffering much, but we were left till daylight without any protection.

"At dawn we set off towards the camp, hoping that some of the other hunters would have been more successful than we were. So intense was the cold that the trees as we passed were constantly cracking with frost. We had soon to cross a river which appeared to be frozen over hard, but when we had got a little distance from the shore the ice gave way, and I fell in. At the same moment Muskgo broke through in the same manner.

"I kept upright, and only wetted my feet and legs; but he threw himself down, and was wetted nearly all over. Our hands being benumbed with the cold, it was some time before we could get off our snow-shoes, and we were no sooner out of the water than our moccasins and leggings were frozen stiff. Our spunk wood got wetted by the water, and when we at last reached the shore we were unable to light a fire. Our clothes also were so completely frozen that we could scarcely move.

"Muskgo was in such pain that he at once gave in and declared that he should die. I held out, for though I had no enjoyment in the existence I was enduring, I still hoped some day to make my escape. I therefore kept moving about as well as I was able, and at length reaching the forest, found some rotten wood which I used as a substitute for spunk, and was able, greatly to my satisfaction, to raise a fire.

"We immediately set to work to thaw and dry our moccasins, and having put them on, we had strength to collect more fuel for a larger fire. Lying close to this, we completely dried our clothes; and though we had nothing to eat we did not complain, since we had the enjoyment of warmth.

"Next morning again setting out we proceeded towards the lodges. We were still some way from them when we met old Kezha bringing us some food and dry clothes. She said that 'knowing we should have the river to cross, as we did not appear she was convinced that we had fallen through the ice.' It will thus be seen that the old woman had a kind heart, though her temper was very uncertain.

"Sometimes we had an abundance of food in the camp; at others for many days together we were almost starved, and had only nuts or berries to feed on. I cannot describe one-tenth part of the incidents of my life at this period.

"We had again accumulated several packages of peltries, which it was intended to exchange with the fur-traders for blankets and numerous other articles of which the tribe were in want.

"One day, however, another party of Indians, under a chief called 'Peshauba,' or the 'Crooked Lightning,' came and encamped near us. He had been trading successfully with the white men, and had a large supply of blankets, beads, knives, and several casks of fire-water.

"He came into our camp bringing with him a bottle full of the fire-water. He offered some to Kezha. She at first refused, but at length was induced to take a cupful. I watched her as she swallowed it, when her eyes began to roll, and, stretching out her hand with the cup, she begged to have it refilled. This Peshauba willingly did, and cup after cup was swallowed till not a drop remained. She begged to have some more; but Peshauba replied that he could not give it without payment, and that he would only sell a whole cask. She at once offered him all the beaver-skins and a large quantity of buffalo-robes.

"Still he was not content, and insisted on having me and several other articles. She cried with vexation, but at last, finding she could not obtain the fire-water, she exclaimed, 'Take them all, but only bring me the rum.'

"Peshauba got up and, without saying a word, returned to his own camp. He was not long absent, and came back with a party of his young men, who carried the cask of rum. On depositing it they lifted up the bales and other property which they had taken in exchange, and walked off with them, Peshauba leading me by the hand. I knew that there was no use in making any resistance, though I felt very indignant at being thus bought and sold.

"I was sorry, too, at leaving old Kezha, who, although now presenting a very melancholy spectacle as she lay rolling helplessly on the ground, had yet been kind to me on many occasions, and I was not likely to be better treated by any one else.

"It is not the custom of the Indians, however, to trade in slaves; indeed, I was not looked upon as one exactly, but rather as a new member of the family. The idea of making slaves of their fellow-creatures is entirely contrary to the nature of the Indians. They will either kill their enemies or let them go, or, if they wish it, receive them into their tribe on equal terms. I had to obey Peshauba as a son obeys his father. He and his wife treated me with considerable kindness.

"We moved away westward when my former friends turned back towards the Red River. I was allowed as much freedom as before, and as I had become a tolerably good hunter, was sent out by myself. On one occasion Peshauba sent me out to bring in the meat of an elk which he had killed, accompanied by two girls. Finding the animal large and fat, they determined on remaining to dry the meat, that they might have the less weight to carry. I, knowing it would be wiser to obey the order I had received, took up my load and started for home.

"Observing several elk as I went along, I resolved to try and kill one of them. Hiding myself in a bush, therefore, I imitated the call of the female elk. Presently a large buck came bounding so furiously towards the spot where I was concealed that, seeing he would break through the bush, I dropped my load and took to flight. No sooner did he observe me, however, than he turned round and fled in the opposite direction.

"As I should have been laughed at for my fright, I returned, wishing to kill an elk. I again imitated the cry, and after some time another animal came towards me, so cautiously that I was able to shoot him dead. As I could now make my appearance at the camp with some credit, I took up my load and proceeded homewards, intending to return with others for the flesh of the elk I had killed.

"I had gone some distance when I saw what I took to be a bear. At first I believed it to be a common black bear, and prepared to try and shoot it. When, however, the creature continued to advance, I supposed that it must be a grizzly, as a common bear would have fled. I therefore turned, and began to run from the beast; but the more swiftly I ran, the more closely it followed.

"Though much frightened, I remembered the advice Peshauba had given me— never to attempt shooting one of these animals unless trees were near into which I could climb; also, in case of being pursued, never to shoot until the creature was close to me.

"Three times I turned and prepared to let fly an arrow, but each time the bear was still too far off, so I again turned and ran on. Thus I continued till I got close to the lodges, when what was my surprise, on looking back, to see old Peshauba himself! He had on a bearskin cloak, the hood of which he had thrown over his head, thus making himself, aided by the dusk and my fright, resemble a real bear. He laughed heartily at my alarm, but commended me for having obeyed his instructions. My conduct, though I had not exhibited any great amount of bravery, greatly raised me in his estimation. Supposing that I had become reconciled to my lot, he allowed me even greater liberty than at first, and many months passed by spent in hunting, and sometimes by the young warriors in going on the war-path against their enemies. We had moved a long way to the westward, when, being encamped on the plain, I went out with several companions on a hunting expedition towards the north. At the extreme limit of our excursion we found a stream which I learned ran down into a larger river, and I was told that that river flowed on for hundreds of miles towards the ocean.

"On hearing this, the thought seized me that I might possibly by its means make my escape. We had several times been encamped in the neighbourhood of rivers and lakes, on which I had learned how to manage a canoe.

"A long time elapsed, however, before I could carry my plan into execution. Though I several times visited the river on my hunting excursions, I could not find a canoe; though I might have built one, I should to a certainty have been overtaken before I could finish it. I cannot describe all the events which occurred in the meantime. I was often ill-treated, both by Peshauba and other members of the tribe, and often, when game was scarce, almost starved.

"At last I managed to get away from the camp with a small supply of meat which I had secreted, and making a wide circuit, proceeded towards the river. I hoped that I was not pursued, and that it would be supposed I had only gone out with the intention of hunting. Reaching the stream, I continued down it, examining both banks in the hopes of finding a canoe of some description.

"I cannot express the delight I felt when I discovered a small one hauled up on the shore. It belonged, I concluded, to some Crees we had met with. As I could find no traces of the owners, I at once launched it, and seizing the paddle, shoved off from the bank. The current carried me swiftly along. I had got to some distance when I heard a voice calling to me; but I could not have returned against the current, even had I wished it. I continued my course, therefore, till darkness came on, when I landed, and, hauling up my canoe, slipped under it.

"The next morning, as soon as there was a gleam of light, I started off again, stopping only to eat some of the small supply of food I had brought with me. I had my bow and arrows, and I hoped to replenish the stock on my way.

"Not wishing to exhaust all the food I possessed before I had obtained some to supply its place, I one day landed, with the intention of trying to shoot some birds or animals. Seeing no signs of any one having visited the spot, I hauled up the canoe on the bank, and went off into the wood.

"What was my dismay, on returning, to find my canoe gone! I saw tracks on the ground which puzzled me exceedingly, as I was nearly certain that they were not those of an Indian, though I could not surmise who had formed them. I was almost in despair, believing that I should have perhaps hundreds of miles to travel on foot, and might be unable to kill sufficient game to support existence; still, plucking up courage, I resolved to persevere, and was making my way, as far as I could calculate, to the north-east, when I saw a person approaching the spot in which I was hiding myself.

"I could see through the bushes, and great was my joy to discover that he was a white man. On this I immediately showed myself. Though I had great difficulty in understanding what he said, so long a time had passed since I had heard English spoken, yet I quickly made out that he wished to conduct me to a place where I should find my own countrymen.

"As you may have guessed, my new friend was Sandy McTavish."

Such is a brief outline of Robin's narrative. He told us several other events of his life, and observed that there were many more which he had not mentioned, and which we only heard at intervals afterwards. He became very much attached to us all, and he himself was a great favourite with every one in the fort; indeed Alick and I looked upon Martin and him as brothers, and few brothers could have regarded each other with greater affection than we did.

Still Robin was anxious to set out, in the hopes of rejoining his parents and assuring them of his existence. They might have supposed that he had been killed, or perhaps, as was the case, that he had merely been kept in captivity.

His great fear was that his father might have lost his life in attempting his recovery, and should such have happened, he thought of all the sorrow his poor mother must have endured for their sakes. Still some time went by, but no opportunity occurred of sending him on to Fort Garry, the nearest place from which he would be able to make his way in safety to the States. As he did not remember the name of the town in which his mother was living, he would still have great difficulty in finding her.

"I must beg my way through the country till I can do so, but while I live I will not abandon the search," he exclaimed.

"You shall not have to do that," observed Alick. "All the means I possess shall be at your disposal, and I feel sure that others when they hear your history will gladly subscribe to assist you."

"But I may never be able to repay you," said Robin.

"I shall not expect repayment," answered Alick. "What I have shall be freely yours, and if you ever have the power of returning the money, and I happen to want it, I will trust to you to do so."

The spring was advancing; the snow disappeared as the sun got hotter and hotter, and the ice broke up in the river and went rushing downwards, huge masses tumbling over each other, grinding together till they became small pieces and quickly melted away.

The grass grew up, the wild flowers bloomed—no others are to be seen in that region—the leaves burst forth, and the forests once more assumed their mantle of green.

We were all actively engaged—some in cultivating a field of Indian corn, another of potatoes, and a kitchen garden in a sheltered spot near the fort. Our chief business, however, was hunting; for though some animals are killed in the winter, many more are shot in the spring and summer. We have a spring, though vegetation proceeds so rapidly, when once the winter has taken its departure, that it is a very short one, and rushes, as it were, rapidly into summer.

The trappers were away with their traps to catch beaver. Nearly all other animals are of value—bears, badgers, squirrels, foxes, hares, rabbits, opossums, otters, minks, martens, raccoons, skunks, musk rats, and weasels—but the beaver is one of the most valuable. We one evening had returned after a shooting excursion to the fort, when an Indian, followed by two squaws carrying a couple of packs of skins, was seen approaching. Alick went out to meet him, and invited him in, with the intention of purchasing the peltries, supposing that his object in coming was to sell them.

He declined allowing the squaws to enter the fort, but when invited came willingly himself. Though he spoke the Cree language, he had more the appearance of a Sioux.

Sandy, who was within at the time, warned Alick not to trust him. He set a high price on his peltries, and said that he would only sell them for arms and ammunition, as he had blankets and cloth enough in his lodge for all his wants; he required six muskets and a large stock of powder and shot.

We were not absolutely prohibited from selling muskets to the Indians, but our instructions were to try to induce them to take blankets, cloth, tobacco, beads, and cutlery.

"But you are alone, my friend, and can require but one gun for yourself," said Alick.

On this the Indian got up and made a long speech. I should have said that he had announced himself as Opoihgun, "a pipe;" on hearing which Sandy at once dubbed him "Jack Pipe."

"Opoihgun is not alone," he began; "he has many young men who follow him, who desire guns to supply themselves and their squaws and children with buffalo meat and venison. They know how to clothe themselves with the skins of the animals they kill, and despise those people who wear blankets and cloth garments. What Opoihgun has said he intends to keep to. If his pale-face friends have no guns or ammunition, they cannot hope to obtain his peltries. He has spoken, and is like those mountains in the far west, not to be moved. Lift them up and bring them here, and he will part with his skins for nothing."

He went on talking for some time in the same strain.

"Well, Mr Pipe, but suppose you take three guns and the remainder of the price either in blankets or in tobacco, will that not content you?" asked Alick.

Opoihgun, who was smoking, puffed a cloud from his mouth, and pointing to the west said, "Bring those mountains here."

We knew by this that he did not intend to change his mind. Had Alick consented to do what is done too often—produce some bottles of whisky— he would very probably have obtained the peltries on his own terms. To do this was entirely contrary to his principles. We had some whisky in the fort, but it was dealt out in small quantities only to those who required it.

Though the company instructed their factors not on any account to sell whisky to the Indians, it somehow or other found its way into the forts, and by the same unaccountable means the Indians very frequently got drunk, and parted with the produce of their long days and nights of hunting, receiving very small value in return.

Mr Meredith and Alick had never fallen into the abominable practice of making those with whom they were about to trade drunk, but always gave fair value for the peltries they received; consequently the more soberly disposed Indians resorted to our fort in preference to others which they might in many cases have more easily reached.

Mr Pipe, though he first only asked for the guns and ammunition, now increased his demands, and begged to have some tobacco, and ornaments for his squaws. Alick promised the latter, and advised him to trust to his generosity about other things. At length the bargain was concluded, and the packs being brought in and found to contain the skins the Indian had stated, the guns, powder, and shot were handed to him. Doing them up into two packages, he placed them on the backs of the two women, and ordered them to march, promising soon to overtake them. Alick suggested that it was imprudent to send them without protection. On this Mr Pipe laughed, grimly observing "that they knew how to take care of themselves, and that no one would venture to molest them."

He then returned into the fort, and after smoking another pipe, got up and went round the place, carefully examining every portion, looking into the stores and the huts and round the walls. We had at the time no suspicion of his object, but thought that he was only prompted by curiosity. At length, as evening was approaching, he bade us farewell, saying that he should overtake his squaws by the time they had encamped for the night.

The next morning Martin, Robin, and I had agreed to go out on a shooting expedition! in order to obtain some wild-fowl, which had assembled in great numbers on a lagoon, a short distance from the fort, near the river. We had concealed ourselves in some bushes, hoping that the wild-fowl would come in the course of their flight sufficiently near to enable us to shoot them. We had remained in ambush for some time, and were feeling somewhat disappointed at our want of success, when who should we see but Opoihgun stealing by out of a wood. He had taken off most of his clothes, and his black hair was streaming over his back. He looked about cautiously, as if he expected some one to meet him.

Just at that moment up flew a covey of wild-fowl, when Martin, forgetting that it might be of importance to ascertain what Mr Pipe was about, fired at one of the birds, which, however, flew off uninjured.

The Indian looked round with a startled expression of countenance, supposing apparently that the shot was fired at him, and ran off fleet as a deer towards the narrow part of the lagoon, across which it was evident he intended to make his way. We started up from our ambush; but though he again looked round, and saw us, he only fled the faster.

"I say, David, I believe that fellow came here with no good intentions," observed Martin. "I vote we give chase and make him tell us what he was about."

"You know more about the Indian customs than I do, Robin. What do you say?" I asked.

"He was here for some bad purpose," answered Robin; "but I would advise you not to follow him. He has friends in the neighbourhood. We may depend on that, and they may set upon us if we go far from the fort. As I was watching his countenance yesterday, it struck me that I had seen him before, and I am nearly certain that he's a friend of Peshauba's from whom I made my escape. As I saw him again to-day I felt more certain than ever, and I suspect that one of his objects was to get me back, though, as I do not think he recognised me yesterday, perhaps he fancied that I was not at the fort."

Robin was so positive on the matter that we thought it advisable not to follow the Indian. We accordingly retreated towards the fort, though very unwilling to return without some ducks for dinner.

When we told Alick what had occurred, he approved of our conduct.

"There was something not altogether canny about Mr Pipe," observed Sandy, "and I am very glad no harm happened to you boys."

"I didn't like the man's countenance, and suspected his intentions from the first," said Alick; "however, I could not refuse to trade with him, though it's more than probable that he stole the peltries he brought us. We'll send out and try to find out more about him."

Besides the old Scotchman there were fortunately six hunters at the fort, who were immediately dispatched, well armed, under Sandy's command, to follow the trail of Opoihgun, and to ascertain where he had gone and what he was about.

Alick would not let any of us accompany the party, considering that it would be useless to expose us to the danger we might have to encounter.

While they were away we caught sight of a small band of men in the distance coming towards the fort from the south-west. As they got nearer we saw that there were six persons.

"They are Indians, and seem in a great hurry from the way they come along," observed Martin, who was with Robin and me on the top of the tower.

"They do not appear to me to be Indians from the way they run," said Robin. "I should say that most of them are half-breeds, though there is one of them who looks like an Indian."

I thought that they were all Indians, though they had no war-plumes, and I saw no ornaments glittering in the sun.

"Whatever they are, they seem very anxious to reach the fort," said Martin. "We'll soon know the truth of the matter, for they must be here before long."

As the strangers approached, we caught sight in the far distance of another party far more numerous, who appeared to be coming on as fast as the others were; still the latter were certain to reach the fort some time before them.

Upon informing Alick, who was in his room, he said at once that the smaller party were flying from the others, evidently hoping to obtain refuge within the fort.

"We must give it them, whoever they are, whether Indians or half-breeds," he added; and immediately calling the few men who remained in the fort under arms, he and I, with four or five others, went to the gate to receive the fugitives. They soon got up to us, and we found that Robin was right—five of them being half-breeds, with one Chippewa Indian.

They were all panting for breath, having evidently had a long run.

As soon as they could speak, they told us that they had been out hunting buffalo, and had already collected a large quantity of meat, with which they intended to load their horses, when they were surprised by a body of Sioux, far outnumbering them, who had carried off their horses. Believing that to attempt the recovery of their animals would be hopeless, they had been compelled to leave their property behind them, and make their escape from their camp, which they expected would be attacked the next morning.

It was not till daylight, they supposed, that the Sioux had discovered their flight. They had already made good a considerable distance before, from the top of a hill they were crossing, they saw their enemies in the far distance coming after them. They now discovered, from the number of those who were following, that if they wished to save their lives they must increase their speed, and not stop till they had got safe into the fort.

Alick bade them banish their fears, and promised to protect them.

Though our garrison was greatly reduced by the absence of Sandy and the men who had accompanied him, we lost no time in making preparations for the expected attack.

Unless the wily Indians were very numerous, they would scarcely venture, we concluded, to assault the fort in the daytime, and would probably, on discovering that those they were chasing had got safe within the walls, halt at a distance till they could form their plans.

Our first care was to send out Pat with the other men to bring in the horses and cattle feeding in the neighbourhood, which the Indians to a certainty would otherwise have taken the liberty of lifting, as would be said in Scotland.

There was time to do this—at all events to save the greater number. Those at a distance would have to take care of themselves, and their sagacity would induce them to scamper off on perceiving the approach of the Indians.

We had a well to supply us with water, and abundance of provisions, with arms sufficient for six times the number of our present garrison. These we had loaded, and placed some in each of the four towers, and others at different spots near the walls, so that one man might fire several in succession. A lookout was also stationed at the top of each of the towers, to give due notice of the approach of the enemy, as we could not tell on which side they might attack us.

We were well aware of the cunning they would exercise, and that they would employ every trick and stratagem to take us by surprise. Possibly they would creep along the bank of the river during the hours of darkness and try to scale the walls on that side, or one party might come boldly to the fort to attract our attention, while another might be stealthily approaching from an opposite direction. We had at all events, we knew, to keep very wide awake.

The hunters who had been pursued, overcome with fatigue, were not likely to be of much use in keeping guard, so Alick told them to lie down and rest till they were wanted for the protection of the fort. We anxiously looked out for the return of Sandy and his party, and our fear was that they might be discovered before they could reach us, and be attacked by the Sioux.

The enemy were now seen drawing nearer and nearer, coming over the hill in the distance. We could distinguish even the war-plumes of the chiefs waving in the wind, and the glitter of their arms and ornaments. They formed a large band; indeed, we knew that no Sioux, except in considerable numbers, would venture to cross the Cree country—feeling themselves strong enough to fight their way back, should they be attacked, as they might expect to be, by their hereditary enemies. There is no peace between the Sioux and the Crees.

These we knew from their plumes and war-paint to be Blackfeet, the most savage and warlike of the northern tribes.

They approached till they reached a spot just beyond musket range. They there began forming a camp, so that we knew they intended regularly to besiege the fort. None of our little garrison, however, were in the slightest degree daunted. We had all the requisites for standing a siege—water, provisions, and an abundance of arms and ammunition. A few small field-pieces in our towers would have been of use, but it had not been thought fit to provide the fort with them, and we had our muskets alone to depend on, with some pikes and swords.

Night now came on, and hid the enemy from view, and a short time afterwards their camp-fires blazed up, and we could see dark figures moving about in considerable numbers. Still, Alick suspected that they might have dispatched a party to come round and try to surprise us on the opposite side. When Robin heard this he offered to go out and watch the camp, so that he might track any body of men who might have set out with this purpose in view.

"I cannot let you do that," answered Alick. "You may know the Indian ways very well, but were you to be caught they would to a certainty kill you, and we can spare no one from the fort at present."

"But I will, if you'll allow me, try to find Sandy, and warn him that the Sioux are in the neighbourhood," said Robin. "I want to prove to you how grateful I am for all the kindness you have shown me. I might be the means of saving Sandy from falling into the hands of the enemy."

Alick did not answer immediately.

"Your proposal to warn Sandy is an important one," he said at length; "still I am very unwilling to accede to it. You would run a very great risk of being tracked and discovered by the Sioux, and I should never forgive myself if any harm were to happen to you."

"Let me go then," I said; "I would rather run the risk than expose Robin to it. As I am older and stronger, and know the country better than he does, there will be less danger of my being caught."

"I cannot agree that you know the country better than I do," said Robin. "During the different excursions we have made I noted every leading object we passed, in the mode I learned to do while I was with the Indians; and though I do not wish to disparage your knowledge, I suspect that I could with more certainty find my way on a dark night than you could."

I could not help acknowledging that Robin was right, for I had often remarked how perfectly he knew every spot he had but once passed, and that often he could find his way when the rest of us were in doubts about the matter.

Alick was so convinced of the importance of warning Sandy that an enemy was near at hand, that he at last consented to allow Robin to set out on his proposed hazardous expedition. No one in the fort was so likely to succeed as he was. Martin did not know the country as well, and Pat would probably have made some mistake, and been caught by the enemy. The rest of the men were more accustomed to the river, or to conduct the sleighs or beasts of burden between the different posts. Robin having taken a good supper, and examined his gun and ammunition, declared himself ready to start. The night was dark, and unless any of the Sioux should have crept up to the fort for the purpose of watching us, he was not likely to be discovered on leaving it. Alick, Martin, and I accompanied him to the gate, and each of us warmly wrung his hand.

"May Heaven protect you," said Alick. "Be cautious, my boy, and don't run any unnecessary risk."

We concealed our lanterns, lest the enemy might perceive the light as the gate was opened, and suspect that some one was leaving the fort. We stood for some moments watching our young friend till he disappeared in the darkness, when the gate was again carefully closed.

I believed that Alick half repented allowing him to go now he had set out, for he had endeared himself to us all, and we felt how deeply we should grieve should any harm happen to him.



There was to be no sleep for us that night. Alick and I were continually going our rounds, to see that all the men were on the alert.

As soon as Robin had set out I went to the tower nearest to the gate, and watched anxiously for any sign which would show that he had been discovered by the Sioux. I stayed as long as I could venture to do, but all remained perfectly quiet in the direction I supposed he had taken. So far this was satisfactory; I knew how well acquainted he was with the ways of the Indians, and that he was not likely to be surprised. His ear would be quick to detect the sound of their approach; his keen eye would be able to pierce far through the gloom of night. Should any parties, therefore, be moving about, I trusted that he would manage to avoid them.

Midnight came at last, and so tranquil did all remain around that, had we not seen the Indian camp-fires blazing up in the distance, we should not have supposed that the enemy was near us.

Our guests were still asleep with their arms by their sides, ready for instant use. For one thing I was glad that Rose and Letty were safe at Fort Ross, though I had no doubt that they would have behaved as courageously as any girls under the circumstances could have done, and if they had not fired the muskets, would have helped to load them, and would have tended any who were wounded.

We showed no lights from the fort, which might have let the Indians know that we were on the watch. We spoke also in low voices, that, should any of them be skulking round the fort, they might not hear us.

It was about two hours past midnight; though I confess that I was beginning to get somewhat tired, neither Alick nor I had relaxed in our vigilance. Martin was also doing his part in watching from the tower at the south-west angle.

It was agreed that even should we see the Indians approaching we should give no sign that we were awake, so that our fire, when once we opened it, might have greater effect. If one side only was attacked, the whole garrison was to go over to defend it, leaving only a single man at the other angles to watch lest another party might assault it on that side.

I had just gone into the tower where Martin was keeping watch, when, turning round as he heard me enter, he whispered, "They are coming!" and he drew me to a loophole. I looked through, and could distinguish a mass of dark forms just issuing from the gloom, crouching low down, and trailing their arms so as to escape observation. Having satisfied myself that they were really our enemies coming on to attack the fort, I hurried down to tell Alick, and to summon the men for the defence of the side on which I supposed the assault would be made.

"Remember, lads," said Alick, "don't fire a shot till I tell you, and the moment you have fired get another musket ready for a second discharge."

The men sprang to their posts at the loopholes, some going to the upper part of the tower, and some to the lower story. We were all at our posts, when suddenly a most terrific war-whoop burst upon our ears. I never heard so awful a noise, though I had fancied I knew what it was like. So fearful is the sound of the Indian war-whoop that even the most savage beasts have often been frightened out of their wits. Buffaloes have, it is said, been known to fall down on their knees, unable either to run or make any resistance; and the bear has been so terror-stricken as to quit his hold, and fall from the tree in utter amazement and helplessness.

Again that fearful war-whoop arose, piercing our very brains; though neither Martin nor I had ever heard it before it did not intimidate us, nor did it the rest of the garrison.

We waited, as ordered, till we heard Alick shout "Fire!" when each man discharged his musket, and immediately, as directed, grasped another.

The Indians, supposing that some time would elapse before we had reloaded; sprang forward; but ere they could reach the walls another volley laid many of them low, and we were prepared to pour in a third upon them before they had again moved forward.

The shrieks and cries of the wounded rang through the air, for they were so completely taken by surprise that for the time they forgot their usual stoicism, and gave way to the impulse of human nature to cry out with pain.

"Reload!" cried Alick, who had watched all their movements. "Fire the moment one of them advances." Instead of approaching nearer, however, the whole band drew back, when several muskets were discharged from among them—the bullets being accompanied by a cloud of arrows; but striking the palisades or flying over our heads, they did no harm.

"Those are the very arms we sold to the Indian the other day, I suspect," observed Martin. "Sandy at the time said he was sure Mr Pipe had some sinister object in view. He has managed to hand them over to these rascals."

As soon as the Indians began to fire, Alick ordered us to fire in return, he himself setting the example. As we had managed to reload all the pieces we had already fired, and had several others still unused, our bullets produced a fearful effect among the Indians, who retreated farther and farther from the fort, till darkness hid them from view.

We sent another volley after them, when Alick ordered us to cease firing, hoping that the enemy would not again venture to approach.

Immediately silence reigned throughout the fort. Not a shout was raised, not a word above a whisper uttered, except when Alick in a stern voice exclaimed, "Fire!"

The Indians had discovered that they could have no hope of taking us by surprise; but, at the same time, we knew that they might again venture to attack the fort, and that we must keep as much on the alert as before. We felt confident that as long as they should assault the fort in the same manner as at first we could drive them back, but should they change their tactics the case might be different.

If the chiefs could restore the courage of their followers, they might completely surround the fort; and should they venture to climb over the palisades on all sides at once, we might have great difficulty in driving them back.

Suspecting that they might make an attempt to get in in the way I have last mentioned, Alick sent men to each of the other angles to be ready should the Indians appear.

The remainder of the night went by. It was one of the most anxious times I ever passed in my life. When morning dawned the Indians could be seen in the far distance in as great numbers as before, but none of their bands were visible near the fort. We had little fear of their renewing the attack during the daytime, and Alick gave orders to all the garrison, except a few men at a time required to keep watch, to lie down and get some sleep. He directed me to do the same, promising to summon me when he required to be relieved.

After I had rested about three hours he called me up, and I was very glad to get some breakfast before going on watch. I spent all the morning in one of the towers, keeping a constant lookout on the enemy, who seemed in no way inclined to move, while I frequently turned an anxious eye in other directions, hoping to see Robin with Sandy and his companions returning to the fort.

In vain, however, I looked. No human being could I distinguish, either on the more open prairie or among the trees in the distance. The day drew on; perhaps, if our friends had discovered the vicinity of the Indians, they might wait under cover till dark, but if they had not seen them they would make at once for the fort. Still they did not come, and darkness closed in upon us. We had another night before us of anxiety and watchfulness. The same arrangements were made as on the previous night, and Alick and I, assisted by Martin, were continually making the round of the fort. At any moment we might have the whole horde of savages upon us; yet, in the meantime, we could do nothing to defend ourselves, except to keep our muskets loaded and ready for action. Even though we could tell the direction in which the Indians had retreated, there was no use in firing into the empty air.

The silence we maintained would, however, we knew, have greater effect on our enemies than the loudest shouts we could have raised.

"I wish they would come on," exclaimed Martin; "the fellows, after all, are but arrant cowards. They make noise enough when they fancy that they are going to have things all their own way. I suspect they are far enough off by this time."

"We must not depend too much upon that," I observed. "If they think that they can surprise us they will try again. Perhaps they fancy that we suppose we have driven them away, and will turn in and go to sleep, and they are waiting till our eyes are fast closed."

"I wonder what o'clock it is," said Martin.

"Not many minutes to dawn," I answered. "We shall ere long see the light breaking in the eastern sky."

Scarcely had I uttered the words when Martin, who had gone back to his loophole, whispered, "There they are again, but coming on very differently to the first time."

I looked out, and could see a dark line extending round the whole front and side of the fort. I hurried down to Alick, warning the men in a low voice to be on the alert. We went over to the opposite side. From this also we saw the same dark line slowly approaching nearer and nearer.

It was very evident that the Indians had surrounded the fort, and intended to attack us simultaneously on every side. Alick immediately distributed the men in equal parties round the stockade, and directed them as before to await his order to fire. The war-whoop the enemy had before uttered was terrific enough. Suddenly the air was rent by the loudest and most fearful shrieks rising from every side of us, and the next instant showers of arrows, and a few bullets, came whistling above our heads, and directly afterwards the Indians appeared emerging from the gloom.

Alick waited till they were near enough for every bullet to take effect. Most of our men were tolerable shots, but the Indians, instead of rushing straight forward, kept leaping from side to side, and thus many escaped. Though we had our second muskets in readiness, urged on by their former failure, they sprang forward at so rapid a rate that before we could fire a large number had reached the walls, against which they placed long pieces of light timber, with notches in them to serve as ladders. The most active of our people were engaged in throwing these down as fast as they were placed against the palisades, while the rest by Alick's orders kept firing rapidly away, taking up musket after musket.

Active as we were, several of the enemy climbed to the top of the palisades, but were hurled backwards, or, being shot as they appeared, fell down into the fort. In spite of the fate which had overtaken their comrades, others made most daring attempts to get in. Should two or three succeed, they, with their tomahawks, might keep a space clear for a sufficient time to enable others to follow them, and the fort might be taken. Now they made a desperate assault on one side, now on another, but were each time repulsed. We had the advantage of possessing a platform on which we could run rapidly from place to place as we were required, while the enemy had the ditch to pass and the high palisade to climb before they could reach the top. This enabled us to defend ourselves in a way we could not otherwise have done; still the Indians vastly outnumbered us, and seemed determined not to abandon their enterprise. Several of our men had been wounded, but not severely, while numbers of the enemy had fallen.

Pat Casey was among the most active of the garrison—now firing his musket, now pronging at an Indian who had climbed to the top of the palisade, now using a broadsword which he had secured to his side, all the time shouting out, "Erin go bragh! Down with the spalpeens. Arrah! now you're coming in, are you? Just take that thin, and find out that you've made a mistake."

The last sentence he uttered as he ran an Indian through the shoulder and hurled him back into the ditch.

Each man of our party knew that he was fighting for his life. No mercy could be expected should the fort be taken; still, in spite of the courage and activity displayed by our people, there seemed too much probability that the enemy would succeed. It was not thought likely that they would attack the towers, but Alick considered it necessary to keep a man in each, who was ordered to fire away, while he watched to give notice should the enemy attempt to attack that part of the fort.

The darkness prevented us from observing the movements of the Indians, but I fancied as I was looking out that I saw a considerable number retreating, and I could hear no voices coming from that side; still the rest continued the attack, though perhaps with less energy than before.

Some time elapsed without any effort being made to climb up the palisades. Flights of arrows were continually shot at us, and our ears were assailed with the most fearful shouts and shrieks. Presently, as I was looking out on the west side, I saw a dense mass appear out of the gloom, and to my dismay I discovered that it was composed of men carrying large fagots.

I told Alick what I had seen, and he immediately summoned six of our best men to that side of the fort, for its defence.

It was clearly the intention of our enemies to throw the fagots down against the walls, so as to fill up the ditch and form a path up which they could climb, or to set them on fire and burn down the stockades. Alick, supported by Pat with half a dozen men, stood ready to receive them; while others in the towers, which enfiladed the walls, kept up a hot fire which struck down several of the Indians as they rushed up to place their fagots.

It being necessary, of course, to defend the walls on the other side, Martin and I were hurrying here and there as we saw the enemy approaching.

"Here they come," I heard Alick shout out.

At the same moment a terrific war-whoop sounded in our ears.

"Fire steadily at them, my lads," cried Alick; "and if they get within reach of our bayonets, let them feel the points."

"Shure! that's what we'll be afther doing," cried Pat.—"Won't we, boys? Erin go bragh!" and a well-directed volley drove back the first body of Indians who were attempting to mount. They had been sent apparently as a forlorn hope, for the next instant another party still more numerous appeared, while, as I hurried over to the other side, I saw a third band, advancing evidently with the intention of making a separate attack.

At the same instant the entire body of our enemies, uniting their voices, uttered another of those dreadful war-whoops. Though we had hitherto kept up our courage, but few among us believed that we should be able to offer an effectual resistance. The next instant, however, ere the shrieks of our enemies had died away, they were answered by other cries which came from the forest. Could a fresh body of Indians be about to attack us? Should such be the case our doom was sealed.

Such were the thoughts that passed through my mind.

Again that war-whoop sounded through the night air. "Hurrah!" cried Pat, "those are friendly Indians. I know it by the sound."

Pat's assertion was corroborated by several of the other men. Our well-nigh exhausted strength and courage were restored.

The Indians had heard these cries, and the formidable party which had been mounting the fagots hurried back, while the last who had been seen approaching retreated. We plied them more rapidly than ever with our musketry. We could hear their chiefs issuing their orders, and in another minute the whole line scampered off and disappeared in the darkness.

Not many minutes afterwards we heard Sandy's voice shouting out, "We have brought some Indian friends to your assistance."

We now, without hesitation, threw open the gate, and the next instant Robin sprang forward and shook our hands, while Sandy with his six men appeared directly afterwards.

"No time to stop," exclaimed Sandy. "The youngster found us, and we fell in with some friends in time of need, who agreed to come along with us. There they are; but they're afraid to come near, lest you should mistake them for the foe, and pepper them. They and we must be after the rascals who have been attacking you. Can't stop to ask questions; only hope you are all safe. Keep Robin fast, or he'll be running after us, and there is no need to let the lad run his nose into unnecessary danger. I hope you are all right, though?"

"Yes, thank you; none of us hurt badly," answered Alick.

"That's well," exclaimed Sandy; and without more ado he and his men hurried after the Indians, who were already cautiously moving on in the direction our late assailants had taken.

"Don't pursue them too far, or you may fall in with fresh bands, and may have a hard matter to fight your way back," shouted Alick.

"Ay, ay!" answered Sandy; "trust me and the Indians for that," and he and his men were soon lost to sight in the gloom.

Several of our men eagerly begged for leave to go out and join Sandy's party. Alick would, however, only allow six of them, including three of the hunters to whom we had given refuge, to go. All being well armed, we had no doubt that they would drive back the Sioux, and probably kill or capture a number of them.

Robin, as Sandy had supposed he would, wanted to go also; but Martin and I held him fast till the gate was closed.

"Now go and lie down, my boy," said Alick. "You have been on your legs a good many hours, and have done us service enough for one day, or for many days for that matter."

Robin somewhat unwillingly obeyed, having first taken some food, of which he stood in need; and as he dropped off to sleep immediately, it was evident that he was pretty well worn out.

We had now to wait for the return of our friends. In the meantime we did our best to dress the hurts of the men who had been wounded. In many cases they could help each other, in their own rough fashion, for they were generally in so healthy a state that injuries which might have proved fatal to people living what is called a civilised life, compelled them scarcely to lay up for more than a day or two.

Three of our guests had been wounded, but they made light of the matter, and declared that they should at once be able to proceed on their journey.

Martin and I amused ourselves by collecting all the arrows which had been shot into the fort, and a fine number we had of them. We agreed to ornament the walls of one of the rooms with the arrows, and to send others to our friends. We could not find the bullets which had been fired, and concluded that they had all been shot over the fort, and often into the ground on the opposite side, perhaps killing our foes instead of us.

Considering the vast number of the enemy, and the desperate courage they had displayed in attacking the fort, we had great reason to be thankful that we had been preserved. I believe, indeed, that we ought to be thankful every day of our existence, for we know not how many unseen dangers we escape in our walk through life. I know that I did not think so seriously of such matters as I do now; but I am sure that the earlier we begin to think of God's protecting providence, the more anxious we shall be to serve Him, and to refrain from offending One so kind and merciful.

Another day broke, but still neither Sandy's party nor his Indian allies had reappeared, and Alick began to fear that they had followed the enemy further than was prudent. Should the Sioux have turned upon them with the same bravery they had displayed when attacking the fort, our friends would have run a fearful risk of being cut off, while we should probably be again attacked with less prospect than before of success.

Though pretty well tired with our long watching and our desperate exertions in defence of the fort, we were in good spirits. Alick however who was prudent, had the arms reloaded, and made as much preparation for defence as he considered necessary.

The Sioux, I should have said, when retreating, had carried off their dead and wounded, to save them from the ignominy of being scalped, which would to a certainty have been their fate had our Indian allies found them on the ground. We were thus saved the horror of witnessing the spectacle, as also the trouble of burying the dead. The Indians would probably also have killed all the wounded, in spite of the efforts we should have made to save them.

At length, about noon the watchman in the tower shouted out that he saw a party approaching from the south-west—the direction the Sioux had probably taken. We were for some time in doubt whether they were friends or foes. At length Martin, who was on the lookout with me, exclaimed: "Hurrah! I'm sure that's old Sandy marching ahead, with an Indian chief by his side; and there come the men. They have thrashed the Sioux—no doubt about that—and it will be a long time before the rascals venture to pay us another visit."

I was not quite certain that Martin was right, and feared that his imagination had deceived him. While we were discussing the matter, we were joined by Robin, whose eyes were sharper than either of ours. He had at once declared that Martin was not mistaken. We accordingly announced the fact to Alick and the few men who were awake. The sleepers were quickly roused by the shout of satisfaction which was uttered, and there being no longer any apprehension of danger, we hurried out to meet our friends, accompanied by Bouncer and a whole tribe of smaller dogs, which lived under his rule.

"We've given the Sioux a lesson they'll not forget in a hurry," exclaimed Sandy, as we met. "We came upon them while they were encamped, not dreaming that we were near, and before they could stand to their arms we had shot down a dozen or more, including all the fellows who had muskets, which the others in their fright, as they jumped up to fly, left behind them. We took possession of the muskets, and followed up the enemy for an hour or more. How many were killed it would have been hard to say, as we did not stop to count those we shot down; but our redskin friends have got thirty scalps, which would be about the tally, as they looked out for all who fell. I don't approve of the custom, for they are not very particular in seeing whether a man's alive or dead before they lift the hair from the crown of his head."

Alick would gladly have prevented the slaughter which had occurred. It struck us that probably the Sioux in their flight had thrown down the men who had been killed or wounded in the attack on the fort, and that these were included in the number Sandy spoke of.

Our Indian allies, after enjoying a scalp-dance outside the fort—not a very edifying spectacle, but an amusement in which they seemed to take an especial delight—were invited to partake of a feast which had been in the meantime preparing. All our cooks had been engaged on it, and though not of a very refined description, it suited the taste of our guests.

We had buffalo meat and venison, boiled, roasted, and stewed, with flour cakes, and potatoes the produce of our garden. A small amount of whisky was served out; but Alick was careful not to give the Indians enough to make them lose their wits. The chiefs, however, who asked for more, got sufficient to make them loquacious, and some wonderfully long speeches were uttered, expressing the affection they felt for us, their pale-face brothers.

When night came on they encamped outside, as it was a rule never to allow any large body of Indians, whoever they were, to sleep inside the fort. As they were aware of this, they were not offended. The weather being warm they had no great hardship to endure, though unable to put up wigwams for their protection. Before lying down they had another scalp-dance, which they kept up to a late hour.

We were in hopes that they would go the next day, but they showed no inclination to move as long as they could obtain an abundant supply of food. We, of course, were obliged to serve it out from our stores, and should have been considered very ungrateful had we given them a hint to take their departure. They thus consumed nearly the whole of the substantial provisions we had in the fort, including flour and potatoes; and not till Alick told them that we had but little more to offer did they express an intention of going away.

Before doing so they invited us to accompany them on a hunting expedition, which they proposed making in a few days, after they had returned to their own lodges and obtained horses for the purpose. Martin and I were eager to go, as was Robin; and we persuaded Alick to accompany us, as he required a change after the arduous work he had gone through. At first he was very doubtful about the matter; but he consented at length to leave Sandy in charge, which he often had done when compelled to be absent from the fort.

We started from home with our guns, intending to shoot on the way, directing our horses to be brought after us. We were accompanied by Bouncer, who was always our attendant on such occasions; and very useful he often made himself, being expert in attacking all animals, but especially cautious when he met with those with whose prowess he was well acquainted. We had bagged two or three small animals and a few birds, when, forgetting our usual custom of keeping together, we each took a different path, which led us to some distance apart. Martin was nearest to me; I could still see him between the trees, when I heard a shot. I looked towards him; but as I saw no smoke, I concluded that he had not fired. Directly afterwards he shouted, "Come on, David! I heard Robin cry out; something must have happened."

I ran as fast as I could, shouting to Alick, who I hoped might hear me. The ground being tolerably open in the direction I had taken, I quickly overtook Martin.

"It was there I heard his voice," he exclaimed. "Yes; he's still crying out. I can't understand it, but I hope nothing terrible has happened to him."

Guided by Robin's voice, we at last got near him. At the same moment Alick appeared in another direction between the trees.

Instead of being alarmed, we burst into a fit of laughter, for there was Robin holding on to the bushy tail of an animal which with might and main was making towards a hole near at hand. "Help me! help me!" cried Robin, "or the beast will get away."

Robin pulled in one direction, and the beast, which I saw was an unusually large badger, was endeavouring to scramble off in another, dragging Robin after it. Before Bouncer, who had followed Alick, could spring forward to Robin's assistance the badger had reached its hole, down which it was struggling with might and main to descend; but Robin, who had now no fears of being bitten, held on stoutly, while Bouncer flew at the hinder quarters of the beast, of which he took a firm grip.

"Pull away, Robin, pull away," I shouted. "You can have the honour of killing him yourself, with the help of Bouncer."

Robin hauled away, and so did the dog; but for some time it seemed doubtful which party would gain the victory. At last Robin, by a desperate effort, hauled the unfortunate badger out of the hole; and as he did so he fell backwards, still holding on, and drawing the creature almost over him. On this Bouncer seized it by the neck, and Martin, taking up a thick stick which lay at hand, stunned it with a blow, when it was quickly dispatched. We took off the skin, as we had those of the other animals we had shot, and did them up to be sent back by the men who brought our horses.

I mention the circumstance as it afforded us much amusement; and though it will not appear a very important one, it showed Robin's determination not to be defeated in anything he undertook. After that we used frequently to observe, "Stick to it as Robin did to the badger's tail, and you'll get it out of the hole at last."

It is what I would advise others to do when they have difficulties to contend with, whether great or small.

The horses overtook us in the afternoon, when we rode on and camped by ourselves for the night, intending to join our Indian friends the next day. We had brought with us a small supply of provisions, in addition to the game which we had shot on our way, expecting that the Indians would be able to furnish us with buffalo meat, on which we had no objection to live for a few days.

Next morning, having breakfasted and caught our horses, we rode on; but it was not till nearly evening that we reached the Cree camp. We slept in a skin-covered wigwam which they appropriated to our use, and the following morning started for the southward in search of buffalo, which were supposed to be in considerable numbers in that direction. We rode on all day, stopping only to take a meal about noon, but not a buffalo did we see. We had exhausted all our provisions, and regretted that we had not brought more with us for our own private use.

Small fires only were formed, around which we lay down to sleep. It was nearly dawn when the Cree chief, touching my arm, awoke me.

"Listen!" he said, putting his head close down to the ground.

I did so, and could hear a low, dull sound, as if numberless feet were beating the soil.

"That is the tramp of buffaloes," he observed.

When, however, I sat up I could hear nothing. The chief told me to call my brother and other friends, and proposed, as soon as we had had something to eat, that we should set off in the direction from whence the sounds we had heard proceeded.

I roused up my companions, and when they put their ears down to the ground and listened, they also could hear the same tramping sound.

I was not yet perfectly convinced that the chief was right, but he asserted that there was no mistake about the matter.

When we told the chief that we had no food, he looked rather blank, and shortly returned with some dried venison, which we were fain to cook as best we could before the fire. We had a small supply of biscuit, and a stream at hand furnished us with water. Thus fortified, we mounted our horses and rode to the top of a hill near at hand, from which we could command an extensive view of the prairie.

Not a sign, however, of a buffalo could be seen; still the chief was confident that he was not mistaken, and we pushed our horses in the direction of the sounds we had heard for at least ten miles. When we had gone about another ten miles we could just distinguish a black line crossing the prairie.

"I told you so," said the chief; "there they are, and we shall in less than another hour be up to them."

All we could as yet see was the mere margin of the herd, looking, as I have said, like a black line thrown along the edge of the sky, or a low shore just visible across a lake.

We calculated that the place where we first heard the sounds of the animals' feet could not have been less than twenty miles off. As we drew near we observed that the herd was in the wildest state of commotion. The bulls every now and then rushing at each other and fighting desperately, the sounds produced by the knocking together of their hoofs as they raised their feet from the ground, their incessant tramping and loud and furious roars as they engaged in their terrific conflicts, created an uproar which it seemed surprising our horses took so quietly; but we had chosen animals well accustomed to hunting the buffalo, and they were as eager as we were for the chase. Under other circumstances it would have required great caution to approach the herd; but engaged as they now were they were not easily alarmed, and the Cree chief giving the word we rode directly at them.

"Let the bulls alone," cried the chief, as we galloped forward. "Single out the cows; they alone are worth eating. Don't stop to ram down your charges after you have fired, but pour in the powder, and drop down the bullet upon it. 'Twill serve your purpose, for you must not draw trigger till you're close to the animal, or you will fail to bring it to the ground."

We, of course, promised to follow his instructions, and dashed forward. As we got nearer we saw that the herd was so densely packed that we should have the greatest difficulty in making our way into their midst without having our horses injured by their horns; not that the buffaloes would have run at them, but in consequence of the rapid way in which they moved them about, in their frantic rage, in all directions. We therefore galloped along in front of the herd with the intention of getting on their flanks, or finding some opening through which we might reach the cows.

At last the chief proposed that we should dismount, and, leaving the horses under the care of some of the men, try to make our way in on foot. I thought this a very hazardous experiment, and made some remark to that effect.

"Not so hazardous as you may suppose," answered the chief. "The animals will not see you, and you have only to leap out of their way should any come rushing in the direction where you are standing."

"I have often shot buffalo in that way," exclaimed Robin. "Keep with me, David, and we'll see what we can do."

I preferred trusting him to the chief, whom Alick and Martin followed.

Robin and I were soon in the midst of the surging sea of horns. His boldness gave me courage; but it was necessary to keep our eyes round us on all sides, and to be ready to leap here and there, to get out of the way of the animals, which were constantly on the move. The part we had entered was of course far more open than that where we first made the attempt.

Robin's coolness was wonderful. He was the first to shoot a cow.

"Let it alone," he said; "I see some more out there."

As we made our way onwards and were trying to get at the cows, a whole mass of the bulls came surging around us, and presently several, putting their heads to the ground, dashed forward, directly towards the place where we were standing.

"Here! here!" cried Robin; "we shall be safe," and he pointed to a deep hollow which in the rainy season had held water, but was now perfectly dry.

We both leaped in; when the bulls came rushing by us but again stopped, and others joining them, the whole began to fight with the greatest desperation. The only chance we had of getting out of our disagreeable position was to kill the bulls and make our way through them. We fired and loaded as fast as we could, and seven lay stretched on the ground.

"Now," cried Robin, "is our time to escape."

We sprang up and dashed through the herd; but greatly to our disappointment, when we looked out for the cows, we found that our firing had alarmed them, and that they had all run off. Not quite liking this sort of work, we regained our horses and galloped on to where we saw a party of our Indian friends, who had just killed a cow.

Most of the herd had moved away from the spot; but one enormous bull on seeing what had happened, bellowing furiously, came dashing towards us, ploughing up the ground with his horns. The Indians, unwilling to stand his charge, turned and fled; when the animal seeing me rushed forward, determined, it seemed, to wreak his vengeance on my steed.

My well-trained animal, however, bounded out of the way, when I, having my gun loaded, fired at the bull, which was not three yards from me. The ball penetrating his chest, he fell dead. The Indians now returned, and began cutting up the cow. While they were so engaged, another cow, which they supposed to be the mother of the one they had killed, galloped towards us, bellowing loudly. They, not having their arms in their hands, took to flight, declaring that the cow was resolved on revenging herself for the slaughter of her daughter.

I was much inclined to follow them; but Robin asking me to hold the horse, slipped from the saddle, and throwing himself by the body of the dead cow, rested his rifle so that he could take steady aim, and as the raging cow came near he fired. She turned, gave one or two jumps, and fell dead.

We had now an ample supply of meat. Several other cows had been killed, and the Indians employed themselves in cutting them up into pieces fit for transporting to their lodges. We had crossed no rivers on our way, and when we came to encamp at night it was found that no water had been brought, nor were we likely to get any till we reached the encampment.

We all suffered much from thirst. I do not recollect, indeed, having ever endured so much torture as I did during the next day's ride back. The Indians, perhaps, bore the want of water better than we did. It seemed as if we should drink the stream dry which bubbled up out of the hillside near the camp. It took us a whole day to recover.

We had intended returning to the fort; but as we required a large supply of buffalo meat, Alick engaged the chief to hunt for us, and consented to accompany him on another excursion.

Martin, Robin, and I were of course perfectly ready, and set out again with as much glee as at first. The buffaloes had, however, by this time retired a long way to the south, and it took us three days to come up with them. I need not describe another hunt. On this occasion the herd was more scattered. We galloped in among them, firing right and left. Each man, when he shot an animal, dropped some article upon the carcass to show by whose prowess it had been killed.

Full thirty fat animals were killed, and as the meat in its present condition could not be carried so far, we formed a camp, and the Indians cut the flesh up in long strips, which were dried in the sun; a considerable portion also being beaten up into almost a paste, was mixed with the fat to form pemmican. This was then pressed into bags of skin, and done up into packages ready for transport.

The process is a simple one, but much labour must be expended on it.

All this time we had scouts out, not to look after the buffalo, but to watch lest any enemies might be in the neighbourhood. Several horses having been sent for, the pemmican and fresh meat were packed on them, and we set off on our return to the Cree camp.

On our arrival there the chief informed us that he had notice of a large herd of moose being in the neighbourhood; and Alick was very anxious to obtain some, as the flesh is excellent. From their wary nature the moose are, however, very difficult to kill. We accordingly, having dispatched the laden animals with some of our own men, accompanied the chief with another party in the direction where we expected to fall in with the moose.

The moose is also called the elk. It is the largest of all the deer tribe, sometimes attaining the height of seven feet at the shoulders, being thus as tall as many ordinary elephants; the horns are enormous, their extremities widely palmated, and so heavy are they that it seems a wonder how the animal can carry them. It has a large muzzle, extremely elongated, which gives it a curious expression of countenance which is far from attractive. When it moves it goes at a long, swinging trot, which enables it to get over the ground at great speed, and it is surprising how the creature with its enormous horns can manage to pass through the woods in the way it does. It then throws back its horns on its shoulders, and calculates the measurement exactly, as it rarely if ever is caught by them in the branches. It can swim capitally, and often takes to the water in the summer months for its own amusement. Over hard ground it is difficult to keep up with it. When the snow is deep the heavy feet of the moose sink into it at every step, so that it is easily captured during the winter. Its colour is a dark brown, with a yellowish hue thrown over parts of it.

As it is as wary as most of the deer tribe, it is difficult to stalk. At the same time, if the hunter knows what he is about, and keeps well to leeward and under cover, he can frequently get near enough for a shot; but his powder must be strong and his gun true, or his bullet will not penetrate the animal's thick skin.

We killed three elk in as many different ways: one by stalking up to it, another by lying hid behind some bushes till it came near enough to receive the fatal shot, and a third by following it up on horseback. The last chase was the most exciting, and had we not got on to some swampy ground, I believe that after all the elk would have escaped us; but heading it we got a fair shot at its chest, which brought it to the ground.

The next day Robin and I again accompanied the Indian chief on foot, in chase of moose. We caught sight of a large animal feeding in the open, but could not for a long time get near it. At last it moved off, and we followed till it approached a small pond with a reedy island towards one end of it. The moose plunged into the pond and swam towards the reeds, among which it disappeared. There was apparently no firm footing for it, and it must have remained almost if not entirely under water.

The chief declared that it was hiding itself beneath the surface, and that if we would wait patiently we should see it again come up, when we should to a certainty kill it. We, accordingly, moving cautiously round the pond, hid ourselves among the reeds in a spot from whence we could see the place where the moose disappeared. We must have remained upwards of an hour, when at length the moose rose to the surface, and, swimming a short distance, began to wade towards where we were concealed. We were afraid of moving, even to get our guns pointed at it, lest we should startle it—as these animals are very sharp of hearing—and it should swim off in the opposite direction.

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