But to recount the deeds of blood enacted around the wooden walls of Edmonton Would be to fill a volume. Edmonton and Fort Pitt both stand within the war country of the Crees and Blackfeet, and are consequently the scenes of many conflicts between these fierce and implacable enemies. Hitherto my route has led through the Cree country, hitherto we have seen only the prairies and woods through which the Crees hunt and camp; but my wanderings are yet far from their end. To the south-west, for many and many a mile, lie the wide regions of the Blackfeet and the mountain Assineboines; and into these regions I am about to push my way. It is a wild, lone land guarded by the giant peaks of mountains whose snow-capped summits lift themselves 17,000 feet above the sea level. It is the birth-place of waters which seek in four mighty streams the four distant oceans—the Polar Sea, the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Pacific.
A few miles north-west of Edmonton a settlement composed exclusively of French half-breeds is situated on the shores of a rather extensive lake which bears the name of the Grand Lac, or St. Albert. This settlement is presided over by a mission of French Roman Catholic clergymen of the order of Oblates, headed by a bishop of the same order and nationality. It is a curious contrast to find in this distant and strange land men of culture and high mental excellence devoting their lives to the task of civilizing the wild Indians of the forest and the prairie—going far in advance of the settler, whose advent they have but too much cause to dread. I care not what may be the form of belief which the on-looker may hold—whether it be in unison or in antagonism with that faith preached by these men; but he is only a poor semblance of a man who can behold such a sight through the narrow glass of sectarian feeling, holding' opinions foreign to his own. He who has travelled through the vast colonial empire of Britain—that empire which covers one third of the entire habitable surface of the globe and probably half of the lone lands of the world must often have met with men dwelling in the midst of wild, savage peoples whom they tended with a strange and mother-like devotion. If you asked who was this stranger who dwelt thus among wild men in these Lone places, you were told he was the French missionary; and if you sought him in his lonely hut, you found ever the same surroundings, the same simple evidences of a faith which seemed more than human. I do not speak from hearsay or book-knowledge. I have myself witnessed the scenes I now try to recall. And it has ever been the same, East and West, far in advance of trader or merchant, of sailor or soldier, has gone this dark-haired, fragile man, whose earliest memories are thick with sunny scenes by bank of Loire or vine-clad slope of Rhone or Garonne, and whose vision in this life, at least, is never destined to rest again upon these oft-remembered places. Glancing through a pamphlet one day at Edmonton, a pamphlet which recorded the progress of a Canadian Wesleyan Missionary Society, I read the following extract from the letter of a Western missionary:—"These representatives of the Man of Sin, these priests, are hard-workers; summer and winter they follow the camps, suffering great privations. They are indefatigable in their efforts to make converts, but their converts," he adds, "have never heard of the Holy Ghost." "The man of sin "—which of us is without it? To these French missionaries at Grand Lac I was the bearer of terrible tidings. I carried to them the story of Sedan, the overwhelming rush of armed Germany into the heart of France, the closing of the high-schooled hordes of Teuton savagery around Paris; all that was hard home news to: hear. Fate had leant heavily upon their little congregation; out of 900 souls more than 300 had perished of small-pox up to the date of my arrival, and others were still sick in the huts along the lake. Well might the bishop and his priests bow their heads in the midst of such manifold tribulations of death and disaster.
By the last day of November my preparations for further travel into the regions lying west of Edmonton were completed, and at midday on the 1st December I set out for the Rocky Mountain House. This station, the most Western and southern held by the Hudson Bay Company in the Saskatchewan, is distant from Edmonton about 180 miles by horse trail, and 211 miles by river. I was provided with five fresh horses, two good guides, and I carried letters to merchants in the United States, should fortune permit me to push through the great stretch of Blackfoot country lying on the northern borders of the American territory; for it was my intention to leave the Mountain House as soon as possible, and to endeavour to cross by rapid marches the 400 miles of plains to some of the mining cities of Montana or Idaho; the principal difficulty lay, however, in the reluctance of men to come with me into the country of the Blackfeet. At Edmonton only one man spoke the Blackfoot tongue, and the offer of high wages failed to induce him to attempt the journey. He was a splendid specimen of a half-breed; he had married a Blackfoot squaw, and spoke the difficult language with fluency; but he had lost nearly all his relations in the fatal plague, and his answer was full of quiet thought when asked to be my guide.
"It is a work of peril," he said, "to pass the Blackfoot country all' pitching along the foot of the mountains; they will see our trail in the snow, follow it, and steal our horses, or perhaps worse still. At another time I would attempt it, but death has been too heavy upon my friends, and I don't feel that I can go."
It was still possible, however, that at the Mountain House I might find a guide ready to attempt the journey, and my kind host at Edmonton provided me with letters to facilitate my procuring all supplies from his subordinate officer at that station. Thus fully accoutred and prepared to meet the now rapidly increasing severity of the winter, I started on the 1st December for the mountains. It-was a bright, beautiful day. I was alone with my two retainers; before me lay an uncertain future, but so many curious scenes had been passed in safety during the last six months of my life, that I recked little of what was before me, drawing a kind of blind confidence from the thought that so much could not have been in vain. Crossing the now fast-frozen Saskatchewan, we ascended the southern bank and entered upon a rich country watered with many streams and wooded with park-like clumps of aspen and pine. My two retainers were first-rate fellows. One spoke English very fairly: he was a brother of the bright-eyed little beauty at Fort Pitt. The other, Paul Foyale, was a thick, stout-set man, a good voyageur, and excellent-in camp. Both were noted travellers, and both had suffered severely in the epidemic of the small-pox. Paul had lost his wife and child, and Rowland's children had all had the disease, but had recovered. As for any idea about taking infection from men coming out of places where that infection existed, that would have been the merest foolishness; at least, Paul and Rowland thought so, and as they were destined to be my close companions for some days, cooking for me, tying up my blankets, and sleeping beside me, it was just as well to put a good face upon the matter and trust once more to the glorious doctrine of chance. Besides, they were really such good fellows, princes among voyayeurs, that, small-pox or no small-pox, they were first-rate company for any ordinary mortal. For two days we jogged merrily along. The Musquashis or Bears Hill rose before us and faded away into blue distance behind us. After sundown on the 2nd we camped in a thicket of large aspens by the high bank of the Battle River, the same stream at whose mouth nearly 400 miles away I had found the Crees a fortnight before. On the 3rd December we crossed this river, and, quitting the Blackfeet trail, struck in a south-westerly direction through a succession of grassy hills with partially wooded valleys and small frozen lakes. A glorious country to ride over—a country in which the eye ranged across miles and miles of fair-lying hill and long-stretching valley; a silent, beautiful land upon which summer had stamped so many traces, that December had so far been powerless to efface their beauty. Close by to the south lay the country of the great Blackfeet nation—that wild, restless tribe whose name has been a terror to other tribes and to trader and trapper for many and many a year. Who and what are these wild dusky men who have held their own against all comers, sweeping like a whirlwind over the sand deserts of the central continent? They speak a tongue distinct from all other Indian tribes; they have ceremonies and feasts wholly different, too, from the feasts and ceremonies of other nations; they are at war with every nation that touches the wide circle of their boundaries; the Crows, the Flatheads, the Kootenies, the Rocky Mountain Assineboines, the Crees, the Plain Assineboines, the Minnitarrees, all are and have been the inveterate enemies of the five confederate nations which form together the great Blackfeet tribe. Long years ago, when their great forefather crossed the Mountains of the Setting Sun and settled along the sources of the Missouri and the South Saskatchewan, so runs the legend of their old chiefs, it came to pass that a chief had three sons, Kenna, or The Blood, Peaginou, or The Wealth, and a third who was nameless. The two first were great hunters, they brought to their father's lodge rich store of moose and elk meat, and the buffalo fell before their unerring arrows; but the third, or nameless one, ever returned empty-handed from the chase, until his brothers mocked him for his want of skill. One day the old chief said to this unsuccessful hunter, "My son, you cannot kill the moose, your arrows shun the buffalo, the elk is too fleet for your footsteps, and your brothers mock you because you bring no meat into the lodge; but see, I will make you a great hunter." And the old chief took from the lodge-fire a piece of burnt stick, and, wetting it, he rubbed the feet of his son with the blackened charcoal, and he named him Sat-Sia-qua, or The Blackfeet, and evermore Sat-Sia-qua was a mighty hunter, and his arrows flew straight to the buffalo, and his feet moved swift in the chase. From these three sons are descended the three tribes of Blood, Peaginou, and Blackfeet, but in addition, for many generations, two other tribes or portions of tribes have been admitted into the confederacy; These are the Sircies, on the north, a branch, or offshoot from the Chipwayans of the Athabasca; and the Gros Ventres, or Atsinas, on the southeast, a branch from the Arrapahoe nation who dwelt along the sources of the Platte. How these branches became detached from the parent stocks has never been determined, but to this day they speak the languages of their original tribe in addition to that of the adopted one. The parent tongue of the Sircies is harsh and guttural, that of the Blackfeet is rich and musical; and while the Sircies always speak Blackfeet in addition to their own tongue, the Blackfeet rarely master the language of the Sircies.
War, as we have already said, is the sole toil and thought of the red man's life. He has three great causes of fight: to steal a horse, take a scalp, or get a wife. I regret to have to write that the possession of a horse is valued before that of a wife-and this has been the case for many years. "A horse," writes McKenzie, "is valued at ten guns, a woman is only worth one gun;" but at that time horses were scarcer than at present. Horses have been a late importation, comparatively speaking, into the Indian country. They travelled rapidly north from Mexico, and the prairies soon became covered with the Spanish mustang, for whose possession the red man killed his brother with singular pertinacity. The Indian to-day believes that the horse has ever dwelt with him on the Western deserts, but that such is not the case his own language undoubtedly tells. It is curious to compare the different names which the wild men gave the new-comer who was destined to work such evil among them. In Cree, a dog is called "Atim," and a horse, "Mistatim," or the "Big Dog." In the Assineboine tongue the horse is called "Sho-a-th-in-ga," "Thongatch shonga," a great dog. In Blackfeet, "Po-no-ka-mi-taa" signifies the horse; and "Po-no-ko" means red deer, and "Emita," a dog—the "Red-deer Dog." But the Sircies made the best name of all for the new-comer; they called him the "Chistli" "Chis," seven, "Li," dogs "Seven Dogs." Thus we have him called the big dog, the great dog, the red-deer dog, the seven dogs, and the red dog, or "It-shou-ma-shungu," by the Gros Ventres. The dog was their universal beast of burthen, and so they multiplied the name in many ways to enable it to define the Superior powers of the new beast.
But a far more formidable enemy than Crow or Cree has lately come in contact with the Blackfeet—an enemy before whom all his stratagem, all his skill with lance or arrow, all his dexterity of horsemanship is of no avail. The "Moka-manus" (the Big-knives), the white men, have pushed up the great Missouri River into the heart of the Blackfeet country, the fire-canoes have forced their way along the muddy waters, and behind them a long chain of armed posts have arisen to hold in check the wild roving races of Dakota and the Montana. It is a useless struggle that which these Indians wage against their latest and most deadly enemy, but nevertheless it is one in which the sympathy of any brave heart must lie on the side of the savage. Here, at the head-waters of the great River Missouri which finds its outlet into the Gulf of Mexico-here, pent up against the barriers of the "Mountains of the Setting Sun," the Blackfeet offer a last despairing struggle to the ever-increasing tide that hems them in. It is not yet two years since a certain citizen soldier of the United States made a famous raid against a portion of this tribe at the head-waters of the Missouri. It so happened that I had the opportunity of hearing this raid described from the rival points of view of the Indian and the white man, and, if possible, the brutality of the latter—brutality which was gloried in—exceeded the relation of the former. Here is the story of the raid as told me by a miner whose "pal" was present in the scene. "It was a little afore day when the boys came upon two redskins in a gulch near-away to the Sun River" (the Sun River flows into the Missouri, and the forks lie below Benton). "They caught the darned red devils and strapped them on a horse, and swore that if they didn't just lead the way to their camp that they'd blow their b—— brains out; and Jim Baker wasn't the coon to go under if he said he'd do it—no, you bet he wasn't. So the red devils showed the trail, and soon the boys came out on a wide gulch, and saw down below the lodges of the Pagans. Baker just says, 'Now, boys, says he, 'thar's the devils, and just you go in and clear them out. No darned prisoners, you know; Uncle Sam ain't agoin' to keep prisoners, I guess. No darned squaws or young uns, but just kill'em all, squaws and all; it's them squaws what breeds'em, and them young uns will only be horse-thieves or hair-lifters when they grows up; so just make a clean shave of the hull brood. Wall, mister, ye see, the boys jist rode in among the lodges afore daylight, and they killed every thing that was able to come out of the tents, for, you see, the redskins had the small-pox bad, they had, and a heap of them couldn't come out nohow; so the boys jist turned over the lodges and fixed them as they lay on the ground. Thar was up to 170 of them Pagans wiped out that mornin', and thar was only one of the boys sent under by a redskin firing out at him from inside a lodge. I say, mister, that Baker's a bell-ox among sodgers, you bet."
One month after this slaughter on the Sun River a band of Peagins were met on the Bow River by a French missionary priest, the only missionary whose daring spirit has carried him into the country of these redoubled tribes. They told him of the cruel loss their tribe had suffered at the hands of the "Long-knives;" but they spoke of it as the fortune of war, as a thing to be deplored, but to be also revenged: it was after the manner of their own war, and it did not strike them as brutal or cowardly; for, alas! they knew no better. But what shall be said of these heroes—the outscourings of Europe—who, under the congenial guidance of that "bell-ox" soldier Jim Baker, "wiped out them Pagan redskins"? This meeting of the missionary with the Indians was in: its way singular. The priest, thinking that the loss of so many lives would teach the tribe how useless must be a war carried on against-the Americans, and how its end must inevitably be the complete destruction of the Indians, asked the chief to assemble his band to listen to his counsel and advice. They met together in the council-tent, and then the priest began. He told them that "their recent loss was only the beginning of their destruction, that the Long knives had countless braves, guns and rifles beyond number, fleet steeds, and huge war-canoes, and that it was useless for the poor wild man to attempt to stop their progress through the great Western solitudes." He asked them "why were their faces black and their hearts heavy? was it not for their relatives and friends so lately killed, and would it not be better to make peace while yet they could do it, and thus save the lives of their remaining friends?"
While thus he spoke there reigned a deep silence through the council-tent, each one looked fixedly at the ground before him; but when the address was over the chief rose quietly, and, casting around a look full of dignity, he asked, "My brother, have you done, or is there aught you would like yet to say to us?"
To this the priest made answer that he had no more to say.
"It is well," answered the Indian; "and listen now to what I say to you; but first," he said, turning to his men, "you, my brethren, you, my sons, who sit around me, if there should be aught in my words from which you differ, if I say one word that you would not say yourselves, stop me, and say to this black-robe I speak with a forked tongue." Then, turning again to the priest, he continued, "You have spoken true, your words come straight; the Long-knives are too many and too strong for us; their guns shoot farther than ours, their big guns shoot twice" (alluding to shells which exploded after they fell); "their numbers are as the buffalo were in the days of our fathers. But what of all that? do you want us to starve on the land which is ours? to lie down as slaves to the white man, to die away one by one in misery and hunger? It is true that the long-knives must kill us, but I say still, to my children and to my tribe, fight on, fight on, fight on! go on fighting to the very last man; and let that last man go on fighting too, for it is better to die thus, as a brave man should die, than to live a little time and then die like a coward. So now, my brethren, I tell you, as I have told you before, keep fighting still. When you see these men coming along the river, digging holes in the ground and looking for the little bright sand" (gold), "kill them, for they mean to kill you; fight, and if it must be, die, for you can only die once, and it is better to die than to starve."
He ceased, and a universal hum of approval running through the dusky warriors told how truly the chief had spoken the thoughts of his followers; Again he said, "What does the white man want in our land? You tell us he is rich and strong, and has plenty of food to eat; for what then does he come to our land? We have only the buffalo, and he takes that from us. See the buffalo, how they dwell with us; they care not for the closeness of our lodges, the smoke of our camp-fires does not fright them, the shouts of our young men will not drive them away; but behold how they flee from the sight, the sound, and the smell of the white man! Why does he take the land from us? who sent him here? He puts up sticks, and he calls the land his land, the river his river, the trees his trees. Who gave him the ground, and the water, and the trees? was it the Great Spirit? No; for the Great Spirit gave to us the beasts and the fish, and the white man comes to take the waters and the ground where these fishes and these beasts live—why does he not take the sky as well as the ground? We who have dwelt on these prairies ever since the stars fell" (an epoch from which the Blackfeet are fond of dating, their antiquity) "do not put sticks over the land and say, Between these sticks this land is mine; you shall not come here or go there."
Fortunate is it for these Blackfeet tribes that their hunting grounds lie partly on British territory—from where our midday camp was made on the 2nd December to the boundary-line at the 49th parallel, fully 180 miles of plain knows only the domination of the Blackfeet tribes. Here, around this midday camp, lies spread a fair and fertile land; but close by, scarce half a day's journey to the south, the sandy plains begin to supplant the rich grass-covered hills, and that immense central desert commences to spread out those ocean-like expanses which find their southern limits far down by the waters of the Canadian River,1200 miles due south of the Saskatchewan. This immense central sandy plateau is the true home of the bison. Here were raised for countless ages these huge herds whose hollow tramp shook the solid roof of America during the countless cycles which it remained unknown to man. Here, too, was the true home of the Indian: the Commanche, the Apache, the Kio-wa, the Arapahoe, the Shienne, the Crow, the Sioux, the Pawnee, the Omahaw, the Mandan, the Manatarree, the Blackfeet, the Cree, and the Assineboine divided between them the immense region, warring and wandering through the vast expanses until the white race from the East pushed their way into the land, and carved out states and territories from the Mississippi to the Rocky Mountains. How it came to pass in the building of the world that to the north of that great region of sand and waste should spread out suddenly the fair country of the Saskatchewan, I must leave to the guess-work of other and more scientific writers; but the fact remains, that alone, from Texas to the sub-Arctic forest, the Saskatchewan Valley lays its fair length for 800 miles in mixed fertility.
But we must resume our Western way. The evening of the 3rd December found us crossing a succession of wooded hills which divide the water system of the North from that of the South Saskatchewan. These systems come so close together at this region, that while my midday kettle was filled with water which finds its way through Battle River into the North Saskatchewan, that of my evening meal was taken from the ice of the Pas-co-pee, or Blindman's; River, whose waters seek through Red Deer River the South Saskatchewan.
It was near sunset when we rode by the lonely shores of the Gull Lake, whose frozen surface stretched beyond the horizon to the north. Before us, at a distance of some ten miles, lay the abrupt line of the Three Medicine Hills, from whose gorges the first view of the great range of the Rocky Mountains was destined to burst upon my sight; But not on this day was I to behold that long-looked-for vision. Night came quickly down upon the silent wilderness; and it was long after dark when we made our camps by the bank of the Pas-co-pee, or Blindman's River, and turned adrift the weary horses to graze in a well-grassed meadow lying in one of the curves of the river. We had ridden more than sixty miles that day.
About midnight a heavy storm of snow burst upon us, and daybreak revealed the whole camp buried deep in snow. As I threw back the blankets from my head (one always lies covered up completely), the wet, cold mass struck chillily upon my face. The snow was wet and sticky, and therefore things were much more wretched than if the temperature had been lower; but the hot tea made matters seem brighter, and about breakfast-time the snow ceased to fall and the clouds began to clear away. Packing our wet blankets together, we set out for the three Medicine Hills, through whose defiles our course lay; the snow was deep in the narrow valleys, making travelling slower and more laborious than before. It was midday when, having rounded the highest of the three hills, we entered a narrow gorge fringed with a fire-ravaged forest. This gorge wound through the hills, preventing a far-reaching view ahead; but at length its western termination was reached, and there lay before me a sight to be long remembered. The great chain of the Rocky Mountains rose their snow-clad sierras in endless succession. Climbing one of the eminences, I gained a vantage-point on the summit from which some by-gone fire had swept the trees. Then, looking west, I beheld the great range in unclouded glory. The snow had cleared the atmosphere, the sky was coldly bright. An immense plain stretched from my feet to the mountain—a plain so vast that every object of hill and wood and lake lay dwarfed into one continuous level, and at the back of this level, beyond the pines and the lakes and the river-courses, rose the giant range, solid, impassable, silent—a mighty barrier rising-midst an immense land, standing sentinel over the plains and prairies of America, over the measureless solitudes of this Great Lone Land. Here, at last, lay the Rocky Mountains.
Leaving behind the Medicine Hills, we descended into the plain and held our way until sunset towards the west. It was a calm and beautiful evening; far away objects stood out sharp and distinct in the pure atmosphere of these elevated regions. For some hours we had lost sight of the mountains, but shortly before sunset the summit of a long ridge was gained, and they burst suddenly into view in greater magnificence than at midday. Telling my men to go on and make the camp at the Medicine River, I rode through some fire-wasted forest to a lofty grass-covered height which the declining sun was bathing in floods of glory. I cannot hope to put into the compass of words the scene which lay rolled beneath from this sunset-lighted eminence; for, as I looked over the immense plain and watched the slow descent of the evening sun upon the frosted crest of these lone mountains, it seemed as if the varied scenes of my long journey had woven themselves into the landscape, filling with the music of memory the earth, the sky, and the mighty panorama of mountains. Here at length lay the barrier to my onward wanderings, here lay the boundary to that 4000 miles of unceasing travel which had carried me by so many varied scenes so far into the lone-land; and other thoughts were not wanting. The peaks on which I gazed were no pigmies; they stood the culminating monarchs of the mighty range of the Rocky Mountains. From the estuary of the Mackenzie to the Lake of Mexico no point of the American continent reaches higher to the skies. That eternal crust of snow seeks in summer widely-severed oceans. The Mackenzie, the Columbia, and the Saskatchewan spring from the peaks whose teeth-like summits lie grouped from this spot into the compass of a single glance. The clouds that cast their moisture upon this long line of upheaven rocks seek again the ocean which gave them birth in its far-separated divisions of Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic. The sun sank slowly behind the range and darkness began to fall on the immense plain, but aloft on the topmost edge the pure white of the jagged crest-line glowed for an instant in many-coloured silver, and then the lonely peaks grew dark and dim.
As thus I watched from the silent hill-top this great mountain-chain, whose summits slept in the glory of the sunset, it seemed no stretch of fancy which made the red man place his paradise beyond their golden peaks. The "Mountains of the Setting Sun," the "Bridge of the World," Thus he has named them, and beyond them the soul first catches a glimpse of that mystical land where the tents are pitched midst everlasting verdure and countless herds and the music of ceaseless streams.
That night there came a frost, the first of real severity that had fallen upon us. At daybreak next morning, the 5th December, my thermometer showed 22 degrees below zero, and, in spite of buffalo boots and moose "mittaines," the saddle proved a freezing affair; many a time I got down and trotted on in front of my horse until feet and hands, cased as they were, began to be felt again. But the morning, though piercingly cold, was bright with sunshine, and the snowy range was lighted up in many a fair hue, and the contrasts of pine wood and snow and towering wind-swept cliff showed in rich beauty. As the day wore on we entered the pine forest which stretches to the base of the mountains, and emerged suddenly upon the high banks of the Saskatchewan. The river here ran in a deep, wooded valley, over the western extremity of which rose the Rocky Mountains; the windings of the river showed distinctly from the height on which we stood; and in mid-distance the light blue smoke of the Mountain House curled in fair contrast from amidst a mass of dark green pines.
Leaving my little party to get my baggage across the Clear Water River, I rode on ahead to the fort. While yet a long way off we had been descried by the watchful eyes of some Rocky Mountain Assineboines, and our arrival had been duly telegraphed to the officer in charge. As usual, the excitement was intense to know what the strange party could mean. The denizens of the place looked upon themselves as closed up for the winter, and the arrival of a party with a baggage-cart at such a time betokened something unusual. Nor was this excitement at all lessened when in answer to a summons from the opposite bank of the Saskatchewan I announced my name and place of departure. The river was still open, its rushing waters had resisted so far the efforts of the winter to cover them up, but the ice projected a considerable distance from either shore; the open water in the centre was, however, shallow, and when the rotten ice had been cut away on each side I was able to force my horse into it. In he went with a great splash, but he kept his feet nevertheless; then at the other side the people of the fort had cut away the ice too, and again the horse scrambled safely up. The long ride to the West was over; exactly forty-one days earlier I had left Red River, and in twenty-seven days of actual travel I had ridden 1180 miles.
The Rocky Mountain House of the Hudson Bay Company stands in a level meadow which is clear of trees, although dense forest lies around it at some little distance. It is indifferently situated with regard to the Indian trade, being too far from the Plain Indians, who seek in the American posts along the Missouri a nearer and more profitable exchange for their goods; while the wooded district in which it lies produces furs of a second-class quality, and has for years been deficient in game. The neighbouring forest, however, supplies a rich store of the white spruce for boat-building, and several full-sized Hudson Bay boats are built annually at the fort. Coal of very fair quality is also plentiful along the river banks, and the forge glows with the ruddy light of a real coal fire—a friendly sight when one has not seen it during many months. The Mountain House stands within the limits of the Rocky Mountain Assineboines, a branch of-the once famous Assineboines of the Plains whose wars in times not very remote made them the terror of the prairies which lie between the middle Missouri and the Saskatchewan. The Assineboines derive their name, which signifies "stone-heaters," from a custom in vogue among them before the advent of the traders into their country. Their manner of boiling meat was as follows: a round hole was scooped in the earth, and into the hole was sunk a piece of raw hide; this was filled with water, and the buffalo meat placed in it, then a fire was lighted close by and a number of round stones made red hot; in this state they were dropped into, or held in, the water, which was thus raised to boiling temperature and the meat cooked. When the white man came he sold his kettle to the stone-heaters, and henceforth the practice disappeared, while the name it had given rise to remained—a name which long after the final extinction of the tribe will still exist in the River Assineboine and its surroundings. Nothing testifies more conclusively to the varied changes and vicissitude's Indian tribes than the presence of this branch of the Assineboine nation in the pine forests of the Rocky Mountains. It is not yet a hundred years since the "Ossinepoilles" were found by one of the earliest traders inhabiting the country between the head of the Pasquayah or Saskatchewan and the country of the Sioux, a stretch of territory fully 900 miles in length.
Twenty years later they still were numerous along the whole line of the North Saskatchewan, and their lodges were at intervals seen along a river line of 800 miles in length, but even then a great change had come upon them. In 1780 the first epidemic of small-pox swept over the Western plains, and almost annihilated the powerful Assineboines. The whole central portion of the tribe was destroyed, but the outskirting portions drew together and again made themselves a terror to trapper and trader. In 1821 they were noted for their desperate forays, and for many years later a fierce conflict raged between them and the Blackfeet; under the leadership of a chief still famous in Indian story—Tehatka, or the "Left-handed;" they for a long time more than held their own against these redoubtable warriors. Tehatka was a medicine-man of the first order, and by the exercise of his superior cunning and dream power he was implicitly relied on by his followers; at length fortune deserted him, and he fell in a bloody battle with the Gros Ventres near the Knife River, a branch of the Missouri, in 1837. About the same date small-pox again swept the tribe, and they almost disappeared from the prairies. The Crees too pressed down from the North and East, and occupied a great-portion of their territory; the Blackfeet smote them hard on the south-west frontier; and thus, between foes and disease, the Assineboines of to-day have dwindled down into far-scattered remnants of tribes. Warned by the tradition of the frightful losses of earlier times from the ravages of small-pox, the Assineboines this year kept far out in the great central prairie along the coteau, and escaped the infection altogether, but their cousins, the Rocky Mountain Stonies, were not so fortunate, they lost some of their bravest men during the pre ceding summer and autumn. Even under the changed circumstances of their present lives, dwelling amidst the forests and rocks instead of in the plains and open country, these Assineboines of the Mountains retain many of the better characteristics of their race; they are brave and skilful men, good hunters of red deer, moose, and big horn, and are still held in dread by the Blackfeet, who rarely venture into their country. They are well acquainted with the valleys and passes through the mountains, and will probably take a horse over as rough ground as any men in the creation.
At the ford on the Clear Water River, half a mile from the Mountain House, a small clump of old pine-trees stands on the north side of the stream. A few years ago a large band of Blood Indians camped round this clump of pines during a trading expedition to the Mountain House. They were under the leadership of two young chiefs, brothers. One evening a dispute about some trifling matter arose, words ran high, there was a flash of a scalping-knife, a plunge, and one brother reeled back with a fearful gash in his side, the other stalked slowly to his tent, and sat down silent and impassive. The wounded man loaded his gun, and keeping the fatal wound closed together with one hand walked steadily to his brothers tent; pulling back the door-casing, he placed the muzzle of his gun to the heart of the man who sat immovable all the time, and shot him dead, then, removing his hand from his own mortal wound, he fell lifeless beside his brother's body. They buried the two brothers in the same grave by the shadow of the dark pine-trees. The band to which the chiefs belonged broke up and moved away into the great plains—the reckoning of blood had been paid, and the account was closed. Many tales of Indian war and revenge could I tell—tales gleaned from trader and missionary and voyageur, and told by camp-fire or distant trading post, but there is no time to recount them now, a long period of travel lies before me and I must away to enter upon it; the scattered thread must be gathered up and tied together too quickly, perhaps, for the success of this wandering story, but not an hour too soon for the success of another expedition into a still farther and more friendless region. Eight days passed pleasantly at the Mountain House; rambles by day into the neighbouring hills, stories of Indian life and prairie scenes at the evening fire filled up the time, and it was near mid-December before I thought of moving my quarters.
The Mountain House is perhaps the most singular specimen of an Indian trading post to be found in the wide territory of the Hudson Bay Company. Every precaution known to the traders has been put in force to prevent the possibility of surprise during "a trade." Bars and bolts and places to fire down at the Indians who are trading abound in every direction; so dreaded is the name borne by the Black feet, that it is thus their trading post has been constructed. Some fifty years ago the Company had a post far south on the Bow River in the very heart of the Blackfeet country. Despite of all precautions it was frequently plundered And at last burnt down by the Blackfeet, and since that date no attempt has ever been made to erect another fort in their country.
Still, I believe the Blackfeet and their confederates are not nearly so bad as they have been painted, those among the Hudson Bay Company who are best acquainted with them are of the same opinion, and, to use the words of Pe to-pee, or the Perched Eagle, to Dr. Hector in 1857, "We see but little of the white man," he said, "and our young men do not know how to behave; but if you come among us, the chiefs will restrain the young men, for we have power over them. But look at the Crees, they have long lived in the company of white men, and nevertheless they are just like dogs, they try to bite when your head is turned—they have no manners; but the Blackfeet have large hearts and they love to show hospitality." Without going the length of Pe-to-pee in this estimate of the virtues of his tribe, I am still of opinion that under proper management these wild wandering men might be made trusty friends. We have been too much inclined to believe all the bad things said of them by other tribes, and, as they are at war with every nation around them, the wickedness of the Blackfeet'has grown into a proverb among men. But to go back to the trading house. When the Blackfeet arrive on a trading visit to the Mountain House they usually come in large numbers, prepared for a brush with either Crees or Stonies. The camp is formed at some distance from the fort, and the braves, having piled their robes, leather, and provisions on the backs of their wives or their horses, approach in long cavalcade. The officer goes out to meet them, and the gates are closed. Many speeches are made, and the chief, to show his "big heart," usually piles on top of a horse a heterogeneous mass of buffalo robes, pemmican, and dried meat, and hands horse and all he carries over to the trader. After such a present no man can possibly enter tain for a moment a doubt upon the subject of the big-heartedness of the donor, but if, in the trade which ensues: after this present has been made, it should happen that fifty horses are bought by the Company, not one of all the band will cost so dear as that which demonstrates the large heartedness of the brave.
Money-values are entirely unknown in these trades. The values of articles are computed by "skins;" for instance, a horse will be reckoned at 60 skins; and these 60 skins will be given thus: a gun, 15 skins; a capote, 10 skins; a blanket, 10 skins; ball and powder, 10 skins; tobacco, 15 skins total, 60 skins. The Bull Ermine, or the Four Bears, or the Red Daybreak, or whatever may be the brave's name, hands over the horse, and gets in return a blanket, a gun, a capote, ball and powder, and tobacco. The term "skin" is a very old one in the fur trade; the original standard, the beaver skin or, as it was called, "the made beaver" was the medium of exchange, and every other skin and article of trade was graduated upon the scale of the beaver; thus a beaver, or a skin, was reckoned equivalent to 1 mink skin, one marten was equal to 2 skins, one black fox 20 skins, and so on; in the same manner, a blanket, a capote, a gun, or a kettle had their different values in skins. This being explained, we will now proceed with the trade.
Sapoomaxica, or the Big Crow's Foot, having demonstrated the bigness of his heart, and received in return a tangible proof of the corresponding size of the trader's, addresses his braves, cautioning them against violence or rough behaviour. The braves, standing ready with their peltries, are in a high state of excitement to begin the trade. Within the fort all the preparations have been completed, communication cut off between the Indian room and the rest of the buildings, guns placed up in the loft overhead, and men all get ready for any thing that might turn up; then the outer gate is thrown open, and a large throng enters the Indian room. Three or four of the first-comers are now admitted through a narrow passage into the trading-shop, from the shelves of which most of the blankets, red cloth, and beads have been removed, for the red man brought into the presence of so much finery would unfortunately behave very much after the manner of a hungry boy put in immediate juxtaposition to bath-buns, cream-cakes, and jam-fritters, to the complete collapse of profit upon the trade to the Hudson Bay Company. The first Indians admitted hand in their peltries through a wooden grating, and receive in exchange so many blankets, beads, or strouds. Out they go to the large hall where their comrades are anxiously awaiting their turn, and in rush another batch, and the doors are locked again. The reappearance of the fortunate braves with the much-coveted articles of finery adds immensely to the excitement. What did they see inside? "Oh, not much, only a few dozen blankets and a few guns, and a little tea and sugar;" this is terrible news for the outsiders, and the crush to getin increases tenfold, under the belief that the good things will all be gone. So the trade progresses, until at last all the peltries and provisions have changed hands, and there is nothing more to be traded; but some times things do not run quite so smoothly. Sometimes, when the stock of pemmican or robes is small, the braves object to see their "pile" go for a little parcel of tea or sugar. The steelyard and weighing-balance are their especial objects of dislike. "What for you put on one side tea or sugar, and on the other a little bit of iron?" they say; "we don't know what that medicine is-but, look here, put on one side of that thing that swings a bag of pemmican, and put on the other side blankets and tea and sugar, and then, when the two sides stop swinging, you take the bag of pemmican and we will take the blankets and the tea: that would be fair, for one side will be as big as the other." This is a very bright idea on the part of the Four Bears, and elicits universal satisfaction all round. Four Bears and his brethren are, however, a little bit put out of conceit when the trader observes, "Well, let be as you say. We will make the balance swing level between the bag of pemmican and the blankets, but we will carry out the idea still further. You will put your marten skins and your otter and fisher skins on one side, I will put against them on the other my blankets, and my gun and ball and powder; then, when both sides are level, you will take the ball and powder and the blankets, and I will take the marten and the rest of the fine furs." This proposition throws a new light upon the question of weighing-machines and steelyards, and, after some little deliberation, it is resolved to abide by the old plan of letting the white trader decide the weight himself in his own way, for it is clear that the steelyard is a great medicine which no brave can understand, and which can only be manipulated by a white medicine-man.
This white medicine-man was in olden times a terrible demon in the eyes' of the Indian. His power reached far into the plains; he possessed three medicines of the very highest order: his heart could sing, demons sprung from the light of his candle, and he had a little box stronger than the strongest Indian. When a large band of the Blackfeet would assemble at Edmonton, years ago, the Chief Factor would-win-dup his musical box, get his magic lantern ready, and take out his galvanic battery. Imparting with the last-named article a terrific shock to the frame of the Indian chief, he would warn him that far out in the plains he could at will inflict the same medicine upon him if he ever behaved badly. "Look," he would say, "now my heart beats for you," then the spring of the little musical box concealed under his coat would be touched, and lo! the heart of the white trader would sing with the strength of his love for the Blackfeet. "To-morrow I start to cross the mountains against the Nez Perces," a chief would say, "what says my white brother, don't he dream that my arm will be strong in battle, and that the scalps and horses of the Nez Perces will be ours?" "I have dreamt that you are to draw one of these two little sticks which I hold in my hand. If you draw the right one, your arm will be strong, your eye keen, the horses of the Nez Perces will be yours; but, listen, the fleetest horse must come to me; you will have to give me the best steed in the band of the Nez Perces. Woe betide you if you should draw the wrong stick!" Trembling with fear, the Blackfoot would approach and draw the bit of wood. "My brother, you are a great chief, you have drawn the right stick—your fortune is assured, go." Three weeks later a magnificent horse, the pride of some Nez Perce chief on the lower Columbia, would be led into the fort on the Saskatchewan, and when next the Blackfoot chief came to visit the white medicine-man a couple of freshly taken scalps would dangle from his spear shaft.
In former times, when rum was used in the trade, the most frightful scenes were in the habit of occurring in the Indian room. The fire-water, although freely diluted with water soon reduced the assemblage to a state of wild hilarity, quickly followed by stupidity and sleep. The fire-water for the Crees was composed of three parts of water to one of spirit, that of the Blackfeet, seven of water to one of spirit, but so potent is the power which alcohol in any shape his well-diluted liquor, was wont to become helplessly intoxicated. The trade usually began with a present of-fire water all round—then the business went on apace. 'Horses, robes, tents, provisions, all would be proffered for one more drink at the beloved poison. Nothing could exceed the excitement inside the tent, except it was the excitement outside. There the anxious crowd could only learn by hearsay what was going on within. Now and then a brave, with an amount of self-abnegation worthy of a better cause, would issue from the tent with his cheeks distended and his mouth full of the fire-water, and going along the ranks of his friends he would squirt a little of the liquor into the open mouths of his less fortunate brethren.
But things did not always go so smoothly. Knives were wont to flash, shots to be fired—even-now the walls of the Indian rooms at Fort Pitt and Edmonton show many traces of bullet marks and knife hacking done in the wild fury of the intoxicated savage. Some ten years ago this most baneful distribution was stopped by the Hudson Bay Company in the Saskatchewan district, but the free traders still continued to employ alcohol as a means of acquiring the furs belonging to the Indians. I was the bearer of an Order in Council from the Lieutenant-Governor prohibiting, under heavy penalties, the sale, distribution, or possession of alcohol, and this law, if hereafter enforced, will do much to remove at least one leading source of Indian demoralization.
The universal passion for dress is strangely illustrated in the Western Indian. His ideal of perfection is the English costume of some forty years ago. The tall chimney-pot hat with round narrow brim, the coat with high collar going up over the neck, sleeves tight-fitting, waist narrow. All this is perfection, and the chief who can array himself in this ancient garb struts out of the fort the envy and admiration of all beholders. Sometimes the tall felt chimney-pot is graced by a large feather which has done duty in the turban of a dowager thirty years ago in England. The addition of a little gold tinsel to the coat collar is of considerable consequence, but the presence of a nether garment is not at all requisite to the completeness of the general get-up. For this most ridiculous-looking costume a Blackfeet chief will readily exchange his beautifully-dressed deerskin Indian shirt embroidered with porcupine quills and ornamented with the raven locks of his enemies—his head-dress of ermine skins, his flowing buffalo robe: a dress in which he looks every inch a savage king for one in which he looks every inch a foolish savage. But the new dress does not long survive—bit by bit it is found unsuited to the wild work which its: owner has to perform; and although it never loses the high estimate originally set upon it, it, nevertheless, is discarded by virtue of the many inconveniences arising out of running buffalo in'a tall beaver,-or fighting in a tail coat against Crees.
During the days spent in the Mountain House I enjoyed the society of the most enterprising and best informed missionary in the Indian countries-M. la Combe. This gentleman, a native of Lower Canada, has devoted himself for more than twenty years to the Blackfeet and Crees of the far-West, sharing their sufferings, their hunts, their summer journeys, and their winter camps—sharing even, unwillingly, their war forays and night assaults. The devotion which he has evinced towards these poor wild warriors has not been thrown away upon them, and Peere la Combe is the only man who can pass and repass from Blackfoot camp to Cree camp with perfect impunity when these long-lasting enemies are at war. On one occasion he was camped with a small party of Blackfeet south of the. Red Deer River. It was night, and the lodges were silent and dark, all save one, the lodge of the chief, who had invited the black-robe to his tent for the night and was conversing with him as they lay on the buffalo robes, while the fire in the centre of the lodge burned clear and bright. Every thing was quiet, and no thought of war-party or lurking enemy was entertained. Suddenly a small dog put his head into the lodge. A dog is such an ordinary and inevitable nuisance in the camp of the Indians, that the missionary never even noticed the partial intrusion. Not so the Indian; he hissed out, "It is a Cree dog. We are surprised! run!" then, catching his gun in one hand and dragging his wife by the other, he darted from his tent into the darkness. Not one second too soon, for instantly there crashed through the leather lodge some score of bullets, and the wild war-whoop of the Crees broke forth through the sharp and rapid detonation of many muskets. The Crees were upon them in force. Darkness, and the want of a dashing leader on the part of the Crees, Saved the Blackfeet from total destruction, for nothing could have helped them had their enemies charged home; but as soon as the priest had reached the open which he did when he saw how matters stood-he called loudly to the Blackfeet not to run, but to stand and return the fire of their attackers. This timely advice checked the onslaught of the Crees, who were in numbers nmore than sufficient to make an end of the Blackfeet party in a few minutes. Mean time, the Blackfeet Women delved busily in the earth with knife and finger, while the men fired at random into the darkness. The lighted, semi-transparent tent of the chief had given a mark for the guns of the Crees; but that was quickly overturned, riddled' with balls and although the Crees continued to fire without intermission, their shots generally went high. Sometimes the Crees would charge boldly up to within a few feet of their enemies, then fire and rush back again, yelling all the time, and taunting their enemies. The pere spent the night in attending to the wounded Blackfeet. When day dawned the Crees drew off to count their losses; but it was afterwards ascertained that eighteen of their braves had been killed or wounded, and of the small party of Blackfeet twenty had fallen—but who cared? Both sides kept their scalps, and that was every thing.
This battle served not a little to increase the reputation in which the missionary was held as a "great medicine-man." The Blackfeet ascribed to his "medicine" what was really due to his pluck; and the Crees, when they learnt that he had been with their enemies during the fight, at once found in that fact a satisfactory explanation for the want of courage they had displayed.
But it is time to quit the Mountain House, for winter has run on into mid-December, and 1500 miles have yet to be travelled, but not travelled towards the South. The most trusty guide, Piscan Munro, was away on the plains; and as day after day passed by, making the snow a little deeper and the cold a little colder, it was evident that the passage of the 400 miles intervening between the Mountain House and the nearest American Fort had become almost an impossibility.
Eastward—A beautiful Light.
On the 12th of December I said "Good-bye" to my friends at the Mountain House, and, crossing the now ice-bound torrent of the Saskatchewan, turned my steps, for the first time during many months towards the East. With the same two men, and eight horses, I passed quickly through the snow-covered country. One day later I looked my last look at the far-stretching range of the Rocky Mountains from the lonely ridges of the Medicine Hills. Henceforth there would be no mountains. That immense region through which I had traveled—from Quebec to these Three Medicine Hills—has not a single mountain ridge in its long 3000 miles; woods, streams, and mighty rivers, ocean-lakes, rocks, hills, and prairies, but no mountains, no rough cloud-seeking summit on which to rest the eye that loves the bold outlined of peak and precipice.
"Ah! doctor, dear," Said an old Highland woman, dying in the Red River Settlement long years after she had left her Highland home—"Ah! doctor, dear, if I could but see a wee bit of hill I thinking I might get well again."
Camped that night near a beaver lodge on the Pas-co-pe, the conversation turned upon the mountains we had just left.
"Are they the greatest mountains in the world?" asked Paul Foyale.
"No, there are others nearly as big again."
"Is the Company there, too?" again inquired the faithful Paul.
I was obliged to admit that the Company did not exist in the country of these very big mountains, and I rather fear that the admission somewhat detracted from the altitude of the Himalayas in the estimation of my hearers.
About an hour before daybreak on the 16th of December a Very remarkable light was visible for some time in the zenith, A central orb, or heart of red and crimson light, became suddenly visible a little to the north of the zenith; around this most luminous centre was a great ring, or circle of bright light, and from this outer band there flashed innumerable rays far-into the surrounding darkness. As I looked at it, my thoughts traveled far away to the proud city by the Seine. Was she holding herself bravely against the German hordes? In olden times these weird lights of the sky were supposed only to flash forth when "kings or heroes" fell. Did the sky mirror the earth, even as the ocean mirrors the sky? While I looked at the gorgeous spectacle blazing above me, the great heart of France was red with the blood of her sons, and from the circles of the German league there flashed the glare of cannon round the doomed but defiant city.
I start from Edmonton with Dogs—Dog-travelling—The Cabri Sack—A Cold Day—Victoria—"Sent to Rome"—Reach Fort Pitt—The blind Cree—A Feast or a Famine—Death of Pe-na-koam the Blackfoot.
I was now making my way back to Edmonton, with the intention of there exchanging my horses for dogs, and then endeavouring to make the return journey to Red River upon the ice of the River Saskatchewan. Dog travelling was a novelty. The cold had more than reached the limit at which the saddle is a safe mode of travel, and the horses suffered so much in pawing away the snow to get within reach of the grass lying underneath, that I longed to exchange them for the train of dogs, the painted cariole, and little baggage-sled. It took me four days to complete the arrangements necessary for my new journey; and, on the afternoon of the 20th December, I set out upon a long journey, with dogs, down the valley of the Saskatchewan. I little thought then of the distance before me; of the intense cold through which I was destined to travel during two entire months of most rigorous winter; how day by day the frost was to harden, the snow to deepen, all nature to sink more completely under the breath of the ice-king. And it was well that all this was hidden from me at the time, or perhaps I should have been tempted to remain during the winter at Edmonton, until the spring had set free once more the rushing waters of the Saskatchewan.
Behold me then on the 20th of December starting from Edmonton with three trains of dogs—one to carry myself, the other two to drag provisions, baggage, and blankets and all the usual paraphernalia of winter travel. The cold which, with the exception of a few nights severe frost, had been so long-delayed now seemed determined to atone for lost time by becoming suddenly intense. On the night of the 21st December we reached, just at dusk, a magnificent clump of large pine-trees on the right bank of the river. During the afternoon the temperature had fallen below zero; a keen wind blew along-the frozen river, and the dogs and men were glad to clamber up the steep clayey bank into the thick shelter of the pine bluff', amidst whose dark-green recesses a huge fire was quickly alight. While here we sit in the ruddy blaze: of immense dry pine logs it will be well to say a few words on dogs and dog driving.
Dogs in the territories of the North-west have but one function—to haul. Pointer, setter, lurcher, foxhound, greyhound, Indian mongrel, miserable cur or beautiful Esquimaux, all alike are destined to pull a sled of some kind or other during, the months of snow and ice: all are destined to howl under the driver's lash; to tug wildly at the moose-skin collar; to drag until they can drag no more, and then to die. At what age a dog is put to haul I could never satisfactorily ascertain, but I have seen dogs doing some kind of hauling long be fore the peculiar expression of the puppy had left their countenances. Speaking now with the experience of nearly fifty days of dog travelling, and the knowledge of some twenty different trains of dogs of all sizes, ages, and degrees, watching them closely on the track and in the camp during 1300 miles of travel, I may claim, I think, some right to assert that I possess no inconsiderable insight into the habits, customs, and thoughts (for a dog thinks far better than many of his masters) of the hauling dog. When I look back again upon the long list of "Whiskies," "Brandies," "Chocolats," "Corbeaus," "Tigres," "Tete Noirs," "Cerf Volants," "Pilots," "Capitaines," "Cariboos," "muskymotes," "Coffees," and "Nichinassis" who individually and collectively did their best to haul me and my baggage over that immense waste of snow and ice, what a host of sadly resigned faces rises up in the dusky light of the fire! faces seared by whip-mark and blow of stick, faces mutely conscious that that master for whom the dog gives up every thing in this life was treating him in a most brutal manner. I do not for an instant mean to assert that these dogs were not, many of them, great rascals and rank imposters; but Just as slavery produces certain vices in the slave which it would be unfair to hold him accountable for, so does this perversion of the dog from his true use to that of a beast of burthen produce in endless variety traits of cunning and deception in the hauling-dog. To be a thorough expert in dog-training a man must be able to imprecate freely and with considerable variety in at least three different languages. But whatever number of tongues the driver may speak, one is indispensable to perfection in the art, and that is French: curses seem useful adjuncts in any language, but curses delivered in French will get a train of dogs through or over any thing. There is a good story told which illustrates this peculiar feature in dog-training. It is said that a high dignitary of the Church was once making a winter tour through his missions in the North-west. The driver, out of deference for his freight's profession, abstained from the use of forcible language to his dogs, and the hauling was very indifferently performed. Soon the train came to the foot of a hill, and notwithstanding all the efforts of the driver with whip and stick the dogs were unable to draw the cariole to the summit.
"Oh," said the Church dignitary, "this is not at all as good a train of dogs as the one you drove last year; why, they are unable to pull me up this hill!"
"No, monseigneur," replied the owner of the dogs, "but I am driving them differently; if you will only permit me to drive them in the old way you will see how easily they will pull the cariole to the top of this hill; they do not understand my new method."
"By all means," said the bishop; "drive them then in the usual manner."
Instantly there rang out a long string of "sacre chien," "sacre diable," and still more unmentionable phrases. The effect-upon the dogs was magical; the cariole flew to the summit; the progress of the episcopal tour was undeniably expedited, and a-practical exposition was given of the poet's thought, "From seeming evil still aducing good."
Dogs in the Hudson Bay territories haul in various ways. The Esquimaux in the far North run their dogs abreast. The natives of Labrador and along the shores of Hudson Bay harness their dogs by many separate lines in a kind of band or pack, while in the Saskatchewan, and Mackenzie River territories the dogs are put one after the other, in tandem fashion. The usual number allowed to a complete train is four, but three, and sometimes even two are used. The train of four dogs is harnessed to the 'cariole, or sled, by means of two long traces; between these traces the dogs stand one after the other, the head of one dog being about a foot behind the tail of the dog in front of him. They are attached to the traces by a round collar which slips on over the head and ears and then lies close on the swell of the neck; this collar buckles on each side to the traces, which are kept from touching the ground by a back-band of leather buttoned under the dog's ribs or stomach. This back band is generally covered with little brass bells; the collar is also hung with larger bells, and tufts of gay-coloured ribbons or fox-tails are put upon it. Great pride is taken in turning out a train of dogs in good style. Beads, bells, and embroidery are freely used to bedizen the poor brutes, and a most comical effect is produced by the appearance of so much finery upon the woefully frightened dog, who, when he is first put into his harness, usually looks the picture of fear. The fact is patent that in hauling the dog is put to a work from which his whole nature revolts, that is to say the ordinary dog; with the beautiful dog of the Esquimaux breed the case is very different. To haul is as natural to him as to point is natural to the pointer. He alone looks jolly over the work and takes to it kindly, and consequently he alone of all dogs is the best and most lasting hauler; longer than any other dog will his clean firm feet hold tough over the trying ice, and although other dogs will surpass him in the speed which they will maintain for a few days, he alone can travel his many hundreds of miles and finish fresh and hearty after all. It is a pleasure to sit behind such a train of dogs; it is a pain to watch the other poor brutes toiling at their traces. But, after all it is the same with dog-driving as with every other thing; there are dogs and there -are dogs, and the distance from one to the other is as, great as that between a Thames barge and a Cowes schooner.
The hauling-dogs day is a long tissue of trial. While yet the night is in its small hours, and the aurora is beginning to think of hiding its trembling lustre in the earliest dawn, the hauling-dog has his slumber rudely broken by the summons of his driver. Poor beast! All night long he has lain curled up in the roundest of round balls hard by the camp; there, in the lea of tree-stumps or snow-drift, he has dreamt the dreams of peace and comfort. If the night has been one of storm, the fast-falling flakes have added to his sense of warmth by covering him completely beneath them. Perhaps, too, he will remain unseen by the driver when the fatal moment comes for harnessing-up. Not a bit of it. He lies ever so quiet under the snow, but the rounded hillock betrays his hiding place; and he is dragged forth to the gaudy gear of bells and moose-skin lying ready to receive him. Then comes the start. The pine or aspen bluff is left behind, and under the grey starlight we plod along through the snow. Day dawns, sun rises, morning wears into midday, and it is time to halt for dinner; then on again in Indian file, as before. If there is no track in the snow a man goes in front on snow-shoes, and the leading dog, or "foregoer," as he is called, trots close behind him. If there should be a track, however faint, the dog-will follow it himself; and when sight fails to show it, or storm has hidden it beneath drifts, his sense of smell will enable him to keep straight. Thus through the long waste we journey on, by frozen lakelet, by willow copse, through pine forest, or over treeless prairie, until the winter's day draws to its close and the darkening landscape bids us seek some resting-place for the night. Then the hauling-dog is taken out of the harness, and his day's work is at an end; his whip-marked face begins to look less rueful, he stretches and rolls in the dry powdery snow, and finally twists himself a bed and goes fast asleep. But the real moment of pleasure is still in store for him When our supper is over the chopping of the axe, on the block of pemmican, or the unloading of the frozen white-fish from the provision-sled, tells him that his is about to begin. He springs lightly up and watches eagerly these preparations for his supper. On the plains he receives a daily ration of 2 lbs. of pemmican. In the forest and lake country, where fish is the staple food, he gets two large white-fish raw. He prefers fish to meat, and will work better on it too. His supper is soon over; there is a short after-piece of growling and snapping at hungry comrade, and then he lies down out in the snow to dream that whips have been abolished and hauling is discarded for ever, sleeping peacefully until morning, unless indeed some band of wolves should prowl around and, scenting campfire, howl their long chorus to the midnight skies.
And now, with this introductory digression on dogs, let us return to our camp in the thick pine-bluff on the river bank.
The night fell very cold. Between supper and bed there is not much time when present cold and perspective early-rising are the chief features of the night and morning. I laid down my buffalo robe with more care than usual, and got into my sack of deer-skins with a notion that the night was going to be one of unusual severity. My sack of deer-skins—so far it has been scarcely mentioned in this journal, and yet it played no insignificant part in the nightly programme. Its origin and construction were simply these. Before leaving Red River I had received from a gentleman, well known in the Hudson Bay Company, some most useful suggestions as to winter travel. His residence of many years in the coldest parts of Labrador, and his long journey into the interior of that most wild and sterile land, had made him acquainted with all the vicissitudes of northern travel. Under his direction I had procured a number of the skins of the common cabri, or small deer, had them made into a large sack of some seven feet in length and three in diameter. The skin of this deer is very light, but possesses, for some reason with which I am unacquainted, a power of giving great warmth to the person it covers. The sack was made with the hair turned inside, and was covered on the outside with canvass. To make my bed, therefore, became a very simple operation: lay down a buffalo robe, unroll the sack, and the thing was done. To get into bed was simply to get into the sack, pull the hood over one's head, and go to sleep. Remember, there was no tent, no outer covering of any kind, nothing but the trees—sometimes not many of them—the clouds, or the stars.
During the journey with horses I had generally found the bag too warm, and had for the most part slept on it, not in it; but now its time was about to begin, and this night in the pine-bluff was to record a signal triumph for the sack principle applied to shake-downs.
About three o'clock in the morning the men got up, unable to sleep on account of the cold, and set the fire going. The noise soon awoke me, but I lay quiet inside the bag, knowing what was going on outside. Now, amongst its other advantages, the sack possessed one of no small value. It enabled me to tell at once on awaking what the cold was doing outside; if it was cold in the sack, or if the hood was fastened down by frozen breath to the opening, then it must be a howler outside; then it was time to get ready the greasiest breakfast and put on the thickest duffel-socks and mittens. On the morning of the 22nd all these symptoms were manifest; the bag was not warm, the hood was frozen fast against the opening, and one or two smooth-haired dogs were shivering close beside my feet and on top of the bag. Tearing under the frozen mouth of the sack, I got out into the open. Beyond a doubt it was cold; I don't mean cold in the ordinary manner, cold such as you can localize to your feet, or your fingers, or your nose, but cold all over, crushing cold. Putting on coat and moccassins as close to the fire as possible, I ran to the tree on which I had hung the thermometer on the previous evening; it stood at 37 below zero at 3:30 in the morning. I had slept well; the cabri sack was a very Ajax among roosts; it defied the elements. Having eaten a tolerably fat breakfast and swallowed a good many cups of hot tea, we packed the sleds, harnessed the dogs, and got away from the pine bluff two hours before daybreak. Oh, how biting cold it was! On in the grey snow light with a terrible wind sweeping up the long reaches of the river; nothing spoken, for such cold makes men silent, morose, and savage. After four hours travelling, we stopped to dine. It was only 9:30, but we had breakfasted six hours before. We were some time before we could make fire, but at length it was set going, and we piled the dry driftwood fast upon the flames. Then I set up my thermometer again; it registered 39 below zero, 71 degrees of frost. What it must have been at day break I cannot say; but it was sensibly colder than at ten o'clock, and I do not doubt must have been 45 below zero. I had never been exposed to any thing like this cold before. Set full in the sun at eleven o'clock, the thermometer rose only to 26 below zero, the sun seemed to have lost all power of warmth; it was very low in the heavens, the day being the shortest in the year; in fact, in the centre of the river the sun did not show above the steep south bank, while the wind had full sweep from the north-east. This portion of the Saskatchewan is the farthest north reached by the river in its entire course. It here runs for some distance a little north of the 51th parallel of north latitude, and its elevation above the sea is about 1801 feet. During the whole day we journeyed on, the wind still kept dead against us, and at times it was impossible to face its terrible keenness. The dogs began to tire out; the ice cut their feet, and the white surface was often speckled with the crimson icicles that fell from their wounded toes. Out of the twelve dogs composing my cavalcade, it would have been impossible to select four good ones. Coffee, Tete Noir, Michinass, and another whose name I forget, underwent repeated whalings at the hands of my driver, a half-breed from Edmonnton named Frazer. Early in the afternoon the head of Tete Noir was reduced to shapeless pulp from tremendous thrashings. Michinass, or the "Spotted One," had one eye wherewith to watch the dreaded driver, and coffee had devoted so much strength to wild lurches and sudden springs in order to dodge the descending whip, that he had none whatever to bestow upon his legitimate toil of hauling me. At length, so useless did he become, that he had to be taken out altogether from the harness and left to his fate on the river. "And this," I said to myself, "is dog-driving; this inhuman thrashing and varied cursing, this frantic howling of dogs, this bitter, terrible cold is the long-talked of mode of winter travel!" To say that I was disgusted and stunned by the prospect of such work for hundreds of Miles would be-only to speak a portion of what I felt. Was the cold always to be so crushing? were the dogs always to be the same wretched creatures? Fortunately, no; but it was only when I reached Victoria that night, long after dark, that I learned that the day had been very exceptionally severe, and that my dogs were unusually miserable ones.
As at Edmonton so in the fort at Victoria the small-pox had again broken out; in spite of cold and frost the infection still lurked in many places, and in none more fatally than in this little settlement where, during the autumn, it had wrought so much havoc among the scanty community. In this distant settlement I spent the few days of Christmas; the weather had become suddenly milder, although the thermometer still stood below zero.
Small-pox had not been the only evil from which Victoria had suffered during the year which was about to close; the Sircies had made many raids upon it during the summer, stealing-down the sheltering banks of a small creek which entered the Saskatchewan at the opposite side, and then swimming the broad river during the night and lying hidden at day in the high corn-fields of the mission. Incredible though it may appear, they continued this practice at a time when they were being; swept away by the small-pox; their bodies were found in one instance dead upon the bank of the river they had crossed by swimming when the fever of the disease had been at its height. Those who live their lives quietly at home, who sleep in beds, and lay up when sickness comes upon them, know but little of what the human frame is capable of enduring if put to the test. With us, to be ill is to lie down; not so with the Indian; he is never ill with the casual illnesses of our civilization: when he lies down it is to sleep for a few hours, or-for ever. Thus these Sircies had literally kept the war-trail till they died. When the corn-fields were being cut around the mission, the reapers found unmistakable traces of how these wild men had kept the field undaunted by disease. Long black hair was found where it had fallen from the head of some brave in the lairs from which he had watched the horses of his enemies; the ruling passion had been strong in death. In the end, the much-coveted horses were carried off by the few survivors, and the mission had to bewail the loss of some of its best steeds. One, a mare belonging to the missionary himself, had returned to her home after an absence of a few days, but she carried in her flank a couple of Sircie arrows. She had broken away from the band, and the braves had sent their arrows after her in an attempt to kill what they could not keep. To add to the-misfortunes of the settlement, the buffalo were far out in the great plains; so between disease, war, and famine, Victoria had had a hard time of it.
In the farmyard of the mission-house there lay-a curious block of metal of immense weight'; it was ringed,-deeply indented, and polished on the outer edges of the indentations by the wear and friction of many years. Its history was a curious one. Longer than any man could say, it had lain on the summit of a hill far out in the southern prairies. It had been a medicine-stone of surpassing virtue among the Indians over a vast territory. No tribe or portion of a tribe would pass in the vicinity without paying a visit to this great-medicine: it was said to be increasing yearly in weight. Old men remembered having heard old men say that they had once lifted it easily from the ground. Now no single man could carry it. And it was no wonder that this metallic stone should be a Manito-stone and an object of intense veneration to the Indian; it had come down from heaven; it did not belong to the earth, but had descended out of the sky; it was, in fact an aerolite. Not very long before my, visit this curious stone had been removed from the hill upon which it had so long rested and brought to the Mission of Victoria by some person from that place: When the Indians found that it had been taken away, they were loud in the expression of their regret. The old medicine men declared that its removal would lead to great misfortunes and that war, disease, and dearth of buffalo would afflict the tribes of the Saskatchewan. This was not a prophecy made after the occurrence of the plague of small-pox, for in a magazine published by the Wesleyan Society in Canada there appears a letter from the missionary, setting forth the predictions of the medicine-men a year prior to my visit. The letter concludes with an expression of thanks that their evil prognostications had not been attended with success. But a few months later brought all the three evils upon the Indians; and never, probably, since the first trader had reached the country had so many afflictions of war, famine, and plague fallen upon the _Crees and the Blackfeet as during the year which succeeded the useless removal of their Manito-stone from the lone hill-top upon which the skies had cast it.
I spent the evening of Christmas Day in the house of the missionary. Two of his daughters sang very sweetly to the music of a small melodian. Both song and strain were sad—sadder, perhaps, than the words or music could make them; for the recollection of the two absent ones, whose newly-made graves, covered with their first snow, lay close outside, mingled with the hymn and deepened the melancholy of the music.
On the day after Christmas Day I left Victoria, with three trains of dogs, bound for Fort Pitt. This time the drivers were all English half-breeds, and that tongue was chiefly used to accelerate the dogs. The temperature had risen considerably, and the snow was soft and clammy, making the "hauling" heavy upon the dogs. For my own use I had a very excellent train, but the other two were of the useless class.' As before, the beatings were incessant, and I witnessed the first example of a very common occurrence in dog-driving—I beheld the operation known as "sending a dog to Rome." This consists simply of striking him over the head with a large stick until he falls perfectly senseless to the ground; after a little he revives, and, with memory of the awful blows that took his consciousness away full upon him, he pulls franticly at his load. Oftentimes a dog is "sent to Rome" because he will not allow the driver to arrange some hitch in the harness; then, while he is insensible, the necessary alteration is carried out, and when the dog recovers he receives a terrible lash of the whip to set him going again. The half-breeds are a race easily offended, prone to sulk if reproved; but at the risk of causing delay and inconvenience I had to interfere' with a peremptory order that "sending to Rome" should be at once discontinued in my trains. The wretched "Whisky," after his voyage to the Eternal City, appeared quite overcome with what he had there seen, and continued to stagger along the trail, making feeble efforts to keep straight. This tendency to wobble caused the half-breeds to indulge in funny remarks, one of them calling the track a "drunken trail." Eventually, "Whisky" was abandoned to his fate. I had never been a believer in the pluck and courage of the men who are the descendants of mixed European and Indian parents. Admirable as guides, unequalled as voyageurs, trappers, and hunters, they nevertheless are wanting in those qualities which give courage or true manhood. "Tell me your friends and I will tell you what you are ": is a sound proverb, and in no sense more true than when the bounds of man's friendships are stretched Wide. enough to admit those dumb companions, the horse and the dog. I never knew a man yet, or for that matter a woman, worth much who did not like dogs and horses, and I would always feel inclined to suspect a man who was shunned by a dog. The cruelty so systematically practised upon dogs by their half-breed drivers is utterly unwarrantable. In winter the poor brutes become more than ever the benefactors of man, uniting in themselves all the services of horse and dog—by day they work, by night they watch, and the man must be a very cur in nature who would inflict, at such a time, needless cruelty upon the animal that renders him so much assistance. On this day, the 29th December, we made a night march in the hope of reaching Fort Pitt. For four hours we walked on through the dark until the trail led us suddenly into the midst of an immense band of animals, which commenced to dash around us in a high state of alarm. At first we fancied in the indistinct moonlight that they were buffalo, but another instant sufficed to prove them horses. We had, in fact, struck into the middle of the Fort Pitt band of horses, numbering some ninety or a hundred head. We were, however, still a long way from the fort, and as the trail was utterly lost in the confused medley of tracks all round us, we were compelled to halt for the night near midnight. In a small clump of willows we made a hasty camp and lay down to sleep. Daylight next morning showed that conspicuous landmark called the Frenchman's Knoll rising north-east; and lying in the snow close beside us was poor "Whisky." He had followed on during the night from the place where he had been abandoned on the previous day, and had come up again with his persecutors while they lay asleep; for, after all, there was one fate worse than being "sent to Rome," and that was being left to starve. After a few hours run we reached Fort Pitt, having travelled about 150 miles in three days and a half.
Fort Pitt was destitute of fresh dogs or drivers, and consequently a delay of some days became necessary before my onward journey could be resumed. In the absence of dogs and drivers Fort Pitt, however, offered small-pox to its visitors. A case had broken out a few days previous to my arrival impossible to trace in any way, but probably the result of some infection conveyed into the fort during the terrible visitation of the autumn. I have already spoken of the power which the Indian possesses of continuing the ordinary avocations of his life in the presence of disease. This power he also possesses under that most terrible affliction-the loss of sight. Blindness is by no means an uncommon occurrence among the tribes of the Saskatchewan. The blinding glare of the snow-covered plains, the sand in summer, and, above all, the dense smoke of the tents, where the fire of wood, lighted in the centre, fills the whole lodge with a smoke which is peculiarly trying to the sight-all these causes render ophthalmic affections among the Indians a common misfortune. Here is the story of a blind Cree who arrived at Fort Pitt one day weak with starvation: From a distant camp he had started five days before, in company with his wife. They had some skins to trade, so they loaded their dog and set out on the march—the woman led the way, the blind man followed next, and the dog brought up the rear. Soon they approached a plain upon which buffalo were feeding. The dog, seeing the buffalo, left the trail, and, carrying the furs with him, gave chase. Away out of sight he went, until there was nothing for it but to set out in pursuit of him. Telling her husband to wait in this spot until she returned, the woman now started after the dog. Time passed,—it was growing late, and the wind swept coldly over the snow. The blind man began to grow uneasy; "She has lost her way," he said to himself; "I will go on, and we may meet." He walked on—he called aloud, but there was no answer; go back he could not; he knew by the coldness of the air that night had fallen on the plain, but day and night were alike to him. He was alone—he was lost. Suddenly he felt against his feet the rustle of long sedgy grass—he stooped down and found that he had reached the margin of a frozen lake. He was tired, and it was time to rest; so with his knife he cut a quantity of long dry grass, and, making a bed for himself on the margin of the lake, lay down and slept. Let us go back to the woman. The dog had led her a long chase, and it was very late when she got back to the spot where she had left her husband-he was gone, but his tracks in the snow were visible, and she hurried after him. Suddenly the wind arose, the light powdery snow began to drift in clouds over the surface of the plain, the track was speedily obliterated and night was coming on. Still she followed the general direction of the footprints, and at last came to the border of the same lake by which her husband was lying asleep, but it was at some distance from the spot. She too was tired, and, making a fire in a thicket, she lay down to sleep. About the middle of the night the man awoke and set out again on his solitary way. It snowed all night: the morning came, the day passed, the night closed again—again the morning dawned, and still he wandered on. For three days he travelled thus over an immense plain, without food, and having only the snow wherewith to quench his thirst. On the third day he walked into a thicket; he felt around, and found that the timber was dry; with his axe he cut down some wood, then struck a light and made a fire. When the fire was alight he laid his gun down beside it, and went to gather more wood; but fate was heavy against him, he was unable to find the fire which he had lighted, and by which he had left his gun. He made another fire, and again the same result. A third time he set to work; and now, to make certain of his getting back, again, he tied a line to a tree close beside his fire, and then set on to gather wood. Again the fates smote him-his line broke, and he had to grope his way in weary search. But chance, tired of ill-treating him so long, now stood his friend—he found the first fire, and with it his gun and blanket. Again he travelled on, but now his strength began to fail, and for the first time his heart sank within him—blind, starving, and utterly lost, there seemed no hope on earth for him. "Then," he said, "I thought of the Great Spirit of whom the white men speak, and I called aloud to him, 'O Great Spirit! have pity on me, and show me the path! and as I said it I heard close by the calling of a crow, and I knew that the road was not far off. I followed the call; soon I felt the crusted snow of a path under my feet, and the next day reached the fort." He had been five days without food.