THE GREAT LONE LAND: A NARRATIVE OF TRAVEL AND ADVENTURE IN THE NORT-WEST OF AMERICA.
BY COLONEL W. F. BUTLER, C.B., F.R.G.S. AUTHOR OF "HISTORICAL EVENTS CONNECTED WITH THE SIXTY-NINTH REGIMENT," ETC.
"A full fed river winding slow, By herds-upon an endless plain."
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
"And some one pacing there alone Who paced for ever in a glimmering land, Lit with a low, large moon."
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS AND ROUTE MAP. [Not included in this ebook.]
LONDON SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON & COMPANY Limited St. Dunstan's House FETTER LANE, FLEET STREET,
First Published 1872 (All rights reserved)
PRINTED BY GILBERT AND RIFINGTON, LD., ST. JOHN'S HOUSE, CLERKEMWELL ROAD, E.C.
At York Factory on Hudson Bay there lived, not very long ago, a man who had stored away in his mind one fixed resolution it was to write a book.
"When I put down," he used to say, "all that I have seen, and all that I havn't seen, I will be able to write a good book."
It is probable that had this man carried his intention into effect the negative portion of his vision would have been more successfal than the positive. People are generally more ready to believe what a man hasn't seen'than what he has seen. So, at least, thought Karkakonias the Chippeway Chief at Pembina.
Karkakonias was taken to Washington during the great Southern War, in order that his native mind might be astonished by the grandeur of the United States, and by the strength and power of the army of the Potomac.
Upon his return to his tribe he remained silent and impassive; his days were spent in smoking, his evenings in quiet contemplation; he spoke not of his adventures in the land of the great white medicine-man. But at length the tribe grew discontented; they had expected to hear the recital of the wonders seen by their chief, and lo! he had come-back to them as silent as though his wanderings had ended on the Coteau of the Missouri, or by the borders of the Kitchi-Gami. Their discontent found vent in words.
"Our father, Karkakonias, has come back to us," they said; "why does he not tell his children of the medicine of the white man? Is our father dumb that he does not speak to us of these things?"
Then the old chief took his calumet from his lips, and replied, "'If Karkakonias told his children of the medicines of the white man—of his war-canoes moving by fire, and making thunder as they move, of his warriors more numerous than the buffalo in the days of our fathers, of all the wonderful things he has looked upon-his children would point and say, Behold! Karkakonias has become in his old age a maker of lies! No, my children, Karkakonias has seen many wonderful things, and his tongue is still able to speak; but, until your eyes have travelled as far as has his tongue, he will sit silent and smoke the calumet, thinking only of what he has looked upon."
Perhaps I too should have followed the example of the old Chippeway chief, not because of any wonders I have looked upon; but rather because of that well-known prejudice against travellers tales, and of that terribly terse adjuration-".O that mine enemy might write a book!" Be that as it may, the book has been written; and it only remains to say a few words about its title and its theories.
The "Great Lone Land" is no sensational name. The North-west fulfils, at the present time, every essential of that title. There is no other portion of the globe in which travel is possible where loneliness can be said to live so thoroughly. One may wander 500 miles in a direct line without seeing a human being, or an animal larger than a wolf. And if vastness of plain, and magnitude of lake, mountain, and river can mark a land as great, then no region possesses higher claims to that distinction.
A word upon more personal matters. Some two months since I sent to the firm from whose hands this work has emanated a portion of the unfinished manuscript. I received in reply a communication to the effect that their Reader thought highly of my descriptions of real occurrences, but less of my theories. As it is possible that the general reader may fully endorse at least the latter portion of this opinion, I have only one observation to make.
Almost every page of this book has been written amid the ever-present pressure of those feelings which spring from a sense of unrequited labour, of toil and service theoretically and officially recognized, but practically and professionally denied. However, a personal preface is not my object, nor should these things find allusion here, save to account in some manner, if account be necessary, for peculiarities of language or opinion which may hereafter make themselves apparent to the reader. Let it be.
In the solitudes of the Great Lone Land, whither I am once more about to turn my steps, the trifles that spring from such disappointments will cease to trouble.
April 14th 1872.
CHAPTER ONE. Peace—Rumours of War—Retrenchment—A Cloud in the far West—A Distant Settlement-Personal—The Purchase System—A Cable-gram—Away to the West
CHAPTER TWO. The "Samaria"—Across the Atlantic-Shipmates—The Despot of the Deck—"Keep her Nor'-West"—Democrat versus Republican—A First Glimpse—Boston
CHAPTER THREE. Bunker—New York—Niagara-Toronto-Spring—time in Quebec—A Summons—A Start—In good Company—Stripping a Peg—An Expedition—Poor Canada—An Old Glimpse at a New Land—Rival Routes—Change of Masters—The Red River Revolt—The Halfbreeds—Early Settlers-Bungling—"Eaters of Pemmican-"—M. Louis Riel—The Murder of Scott
CHAPTER FOUR. Chicago—"Who is S. B. D.?"—Milwaukie—The Great Fusion-Wisconsin—The Sleeping-car—The Train Boy-Minnesota—St. Paul—I start for Lake Superior—The Future City—"Bust up" and "Gone on"—The End of the Track
CHAPTER FIVE. Lake Superior—The Dalles of the St. Louis—The North Pacific Railroad—Fond-du-Lac-Duluth—Superior City—The Great Lake—A Plan to dry up Niagara—Stage Driving—Tom's Shanty again—St. Paul and its Neighbourhood.
CHAPTER SIX. Our Cousins—Doing America—Two Lessons—St. Cloud-Sauk Rapids—"Steam Pudding or Pumpkin Pie?"—Trotting him out—Away for the Red River.
CHAPTER SEVEN. North Minnesota—A beautiful Land—Rival Savages-Abercrombie—News from the North-Plans—A Lonely Shanty—The Red River-Prairies-Sunset-Mosquitoes—Going North—A Mosquito Night—A Thunder-storm—A Prussian-Dakota—I ride for it—The Steamer "International "—Pembina.
CHAPTER EIGHT. Retrospective—The North-west Passage—The Bay of Hudson—Rival Claims—The Old French Fur Trade—The North-west Company—How the Half-breeds came—The Highlanders defeated-Progress—Old Feuds.
CHAPTER NINE. Running the Gauntlet—Across the Line—Mischief ahead-Preparations—A Night March—The Steamer captured—The Pursuit-Daylight—The Lower Fort—The Red Indian at last—The Chief's Speech—A Big Feed—Making ready for the Winnipeg—A Delay—I visit Fort Garry—Mr. President Riel—The Final Start-Lake Winnipeg—The First Night out—My Crew.
CHAPTER TEN. The Winnipeg River—The Ojibbeway's House—Rushing a Rapid—A Camp—No Tidings of the Coming Man—Hope in Danger—Rat Portage—A far-fetched Islington—"Like Pemmican".
CHAPTER ELEVEN. The Expedition—The Lake of the Woods—A Night Alarm—A close Shave—Rainy River—A Night Paddle—Fort Francis—A Meeting—The Officer commanding the Expedition—The Rank and File—The 60th Rifles—A Windigo—Ojibbeway Bravery—Canadian Volunteers.
CHAPTER TWELVE. To Fort Garry—Down the Winnipeg—Her Majesty's Royal Mail—Grilling a Mail-bag—Running a Rapid—Up the Red River-A dreary Bivouac—The President bolts—The Rebel Chiefs—Departure of the Regular Troops.
CHAPTER THIRTEEN. Westward—News from the Outside World—I retrace my Steps—An Offer—The West—The Kissaskatchewan—The Inland Ocean—Preparations-Departure—A Terrible Plague—A lonely Grave-Digressive—The Assineboine River—Rossette.
CHAPTER FOURTEEN. The Hudson Bay Company—Furs and Free Trade—Fort Ellice—Quick Travelling-Horses—Little Blackie—Touchwood Hills—A Snow-storm—The South Saskatchewan—Attempt to cross the River—Death of poor Blackie—Carlton.
CHAPTER FIFTEEN. Saskatchewan—Start from Carlton—Wild Mares—Lose our Way—A long Ride—Battle River—Mistawassis the Cree—A Dance.
CHAPTER SIXTEEN. The Red Man—Leave Battle River—The Red Deer Hills—A long Ride—Fort Pitt—The Plague—Hauling by the Tail—A pleasant Companion—An easy Method of Divorce—Reach Edmonton.
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN. Edmonton—The Ruffian Tahakooch—French Missionaries—Westward still—A beautiful Land—The Blackfeet-Horses—A "Bellox" Soldier—A Blackfoot Speech—The Indian Land—First Sight of the Rocky Mountains—The Mountain House—The Mountain Assineboines—An Indian Trade—M. la Combe—Fire-water-A Night Assault.
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN. Eastward—A beautiful Light.
CHAPTER NINETEEN. I start from Edmonton with Dogs—Dog-travelling—The Cabri Sack—A cold Day-Victoria—"Sent to Rome"—Battle Fort Pitt—The blind Cree—A Feast or a Famine—Death of Pe-na-koam the Blackfoot.
CHAPTER TWENTY. The Buffalo—His Limits and favourite Grounds—Modes of Hunting—A Fight—His inevitable End—I become a Medicine-man—Great Cold-Carlton—Family Responsibilities.
CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE. The Great Sub-Arctic Forest—The "Forks" of the Saskatchewan—An Iroquois—Fort-a-la-Corne—News from the outside World—All haste for Home—The solitary Wigwam—Joe Miller's Death.
CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO. Cumberland—-We bury poor Joe—A good Train of Dogs—The great Marsh-Mutiny—Chicag the Sturgeon-fisher—A Night with a Medicine-man—Lakes Winnipegoosis and Manitoba—Muskeymote eats his Boots—We reach the Settlement—From the Saskatchewan to the Seine.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
Map of the Great Lone Land. Working up the Winnipeg. I waved to the leading Canoe. Across the Plains in November. The Rocky Mountains at the Sources of the Saskatchewan. Leaving a cosy Camp at dawn. The "Forks" of the Saskatchewan.
THE GREAT LONE LAND.
Peace—Rumours of War-Retrenchment—A Cloud in the far West—A Distant Settlement-Personal—The Purchase System—A Cable-gram—Away to the West
IT was a period of universal peace over the wide world. There was not a shadow of war in the North, the South, the East, or the West. There was not even a Bashote in South Africa, a Beloochee in Scinde, a Bhoottea, a Burmese, or any other of the many "eses" or "eas" forming the great colonial empire of Britain who seemed capable of kicking up the semblance of a row. Newspapers had never been so dull; illustrated journals had to content themselves with pictorial representations of prize pigs, foundation stones, and provincial civic magnates. Some of the great powers were bent upon disarming; several influential persons of both sexes had decided, at a meeting held for the suppression of vice, to abolish standing armies. But, to be more precise as to the date of this epoch, it will be necessary to state that the time was the close of the year 1869, just twenty-two months ago. Looking back at this most-piping period of peace from the stand-point of today, it is not at all improbable that even at that tranquil moment a great power, now, very much greater, had a firm hold of certain wires carefully concealed; the dexterous pulling of which would cause 100,000,000 of men to rush at each other's throats: nor is this supposition rendered the more unlikely because of the utterance of the most religious sentiments on the part of the great power in question, and because of the well-known Christianity and orthodoxy of its ruler. But this was not the only power that possessed a deeper insight into the future than did its neighbours. It is hardly to be gainsaid that there was, about that period, another great power popularly supposed to dwell amidst darkness-a power which is said also to possess the faculty of making Scriptural quotations to his own advantage. It is not at all unlikely that amidst this scene of universal quietude he too was watching certain little snow-wrapt hamlets, scenes of straw-yard and deep thatched byre in which cattle munched their winter provender-watching them with the perspective scent of death and destruction in his nostrils; gloating over them with the knowledge of what was to be their fate before another snow time had come round. It could not be supposed that amidst such an era of tranquillity the army of England should have been allowed to remain in a very formidable position. When other powers were talking of disarming, was it not necessary that Great Britain should actually disarm? of course there was a slight difference existing between the respective cases, inasmuch as Great Britain had never armed; but that distinction was not taken into account, or was not deemed of sufficient importance to be noticed, except by a few of the opposition journals; and is not every one aware that when a country is governed on the principle of parties, the party which iscalled the opposition must be in the wrong? So it was decreed about this time that the fighting force of the British nation should be reduced. It was useless to speak of the chances of war, said the British tax-payer, speak-ing through the mouths of innumerable members of the British Legislature. Had not the late Prince Consort and the late Mr. Cobden come to the same conclusion from the widely different points of great exhibitions and free trade, that war could never be? And if; in the face of great exhibitions and universal free trade-even if war did become possible, had we not ambassadors, and legations, and consulates all over the world; had we not military attaches at every great court of Europe; and would we not know all about it long before it commenced? No, no, said the tax-payer, speaking through the same medium as before, reduce the army, put the ships of war out of commission, take your largest and most powerful transport steamships, fill them full with your best and most experienced skilled military and naval artisans and labourers, send them across the Atlantic to forge guns, anchors, and material of war in the navy-yards of Norfolk and the arsenals of Springfield and Rock Island; and let us hear no more of war or its alarms. It is true, there were some persons who thought otherwise upon this subject, but many of them were men whose views had become warped and deranged in such out-of-the-way places as Southern Russia, Eastern China, Central Hindoostan, Southern Africa, and Northern America military men, who, in fact, could not be expected to understand questions of grave political economy, astute matters of place.-and party, upon which the very existence of the parliamentary system depended; and who, from the ignorance of these nice distinctions of liberal-conservative and conservative-liberal, had imagined that the strength and power of the empire was not of secondary importance to the strength and power of a party. But the year 1869 did not pass altogether into the bygone without giving a faint echo of disturbance in one far-away region of the earth. It is true, that not the smallest breathing of that strife which was to make: the succeeding year crimson through the centuries had yet sounded on the continent of Europe. No; all was as quiet there as befits the mighty hush which precedes colossal conflicts. But far away in the very farthest West, so far that not one man in fifty could tell its whereabouts, up somewhere between the Rocky Mountains, Hudson Bay, and Lake Superior, along a river called the Red River of the North, a people, of whom nobody could tell who or what they were, had risen in insurrection. Well-informed persons said these insurgents were only Indians; others, who had relations in America, averreed that they were Scotchmen, and one journal, well-known for its clearness upon all subjects connected with the American Continent, asserted that they were Frenchmen. Amongst so much conflicting testimony, it was only natural that the average Englishman should possess no very decided opinions upon the matter; in fact, it came to pass that the average Englishman, having heard that somebody was rebelling against him somewhere or other, looked to his atlas and his journal for information on the subject, and having failed in obtaining any from either source, naturally concluded that the whole thing was something which no fellow could be expected to understand. As, however, they who follow the writer of these pages through such vicissitudes as he may encounter will have to live awhile amongst these people of the Red River of the North, it will be necessary to examine this little cloud of insurrection which the last days of 1869 pushed above the political horizon. Bookmark About the time when Napoleon was carrying half a million of men through the snows of Russia, a Scotch nobleman of somewhat eccentric habits conceived the idea of planting a colony of his countrymen in the very heart of the vast continent of North America. It was by no means an original idea that entered into the brain of Lord Selkirk; other British lords had tried in earlier centuries the same experiment; and they, in turn, were only the imitators of those great Spanish nobles who, in the sixteenth century, had planted on the coast of the Carolinas and along the Gulf of Mexico the first germs of colonization in the New World. But in one respect Lord Selkirk's experiment was wholly different from those that had preceded it. The earlier adventurers had sought the coast-line of the Atlantic upon which to fix their infant colonies. He boldly penetrated into the very centre of the continent and reached a fertile spot which to this day is most difficult of access. But at that time what an oasis in the vast wilderness of America was this Red River of the North! For 1400 miles between it and the Atlantic lay the solitudes that now teem with the cities of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan. Indeed, so distant appeared the nearest outpost of civilization towards the Atlantic that all means of communication in that direction was utterly unthought of. The settlers had entered into the new land by the ice-locked bay of Hudson, and all communication with the outside world should be maintained through the same outlet. No easy task! 300 miles of lake and 400 miles of river, wildly foaming over rocky ledges in its descent of 700 feet, lay between them and the ocean, and then only to reach the stormy waters of the great Bay of Hudson, whose ice-bound outlet to the Atlantic is fast locked save during two short months of latest summer. No wonder that the infant colony had hard times in store for it-hard times, if left to fight its way against winter rigour and summer: inundation, but doubly hard when the hand of a powerful enemy was raised to crush it in the first year of its existence. Of this more before we part. Enough for us now to know: that the little colony, in spite of opposition, increased and multiplied; people lived in it, were married in it, and died in it, undisturbed by the busy rush of the outside world, until, in the last months of 1869, just fifty-seven years after its formation, it rose in insurrection.
And now, my reader, gentle or cruel, whichsoever you may be, the positions we have hitherto occupied in these few preliminary pages must undergo some slight variation. You, if you be gentle, will I trust remain so until the end; if you be cruel, you will perhaps relent; but for me, it will be necessary to come forth in the full glory of the individual "I," and to retain it until we part.
It was about the end of the year 1869 that I became conscious of having experienced a decided check in life. One day I received from a distinguished military functionary an intimation to the effect that a company in Her Majesty's service would be at my disposal, provided I could produce the sum of 1100 pounds. Some dozen years previous to the date of this letter I entered the British army, and by the slow process of existence had reached-a position among the subalterns of the regiment technically known as first for purchase; but now, when the moment arrived to turn that position to account, I found that neither the 1100 pounds of regulation amount nor the 400 pounds of over-regulation items (terms very familiar now, but soon, I trust, to be for ever obsolete) were forthcoming, and so it came about that younger hands began to pass me in the race of life. What was to be done? What course lay open? Serve on; let the dull routine of barrack-life grow duller; go from Canada to the Cape, from the Cape to the Mauritius, from Mauritius to Madras, from Madras goodness knows where, and trust to delirium tremens, yellow fever, or: cholera morbus for promotion and advancement; or, on the other hand, cut the service, become in the lapse of time governor of a penitentiary, secretary to a London club, or adjutant of militia. And yet-here came the rub-when every fibre of one's existence beat in unison with the true spirit of military adventure, when the old feeling which in boyhood had made the study of history a delightful pastime, in late years had grown into a fixed unalterable longing for active service, when the whole current of thought ran in the direction of adventure-no matter in what climate, or under what circumstances-it was hard beyond the measure of words to sever in an instant the link that bound one to a life where such aspirations were still possible of fulfilment; to separate one's destiny for ever from that noble profession of arms; to become an outsider, to admit that the twelve best years of life had been a useless dream, and to bury oneself far away in some Western wilderness out of the reach or sight of red coat or sound of bugle-sights and sounds which old associations would have made unbearable. Surely it could not be done; and so, looking abroad into the future, it was difficult to trace a path Which could turn the flank of this formidable barrier flung thus suddenly into the highway of life.
Thus it was that one, at least, in Great Britain watched with anxious gaze this small speck of revolt rising so far away in the vast wilderness of the North-West; and when, about the beginning of the month of April, 1870, news came of the projected despatch of an armed force from Canada against the malcontents of Red River, there was one who beheld in the approaching expedition the chance of a solution to the difficulties which had beset him in his career. That one was myself.
There was little time to be lost, for already; the cable said, the arrangements were in a forward state; the staff of the little force had been organized, the rough outline of the expedition had been sketched, and with the opening of navigation on the northern lakes the first move would be commenced. Going one morning to the nearest telegraph station, I sent the following message under the Atlantic to America:—"To: Winnipeg Expedition. Please remember me." When words cost at the rate of four shillings each, conversation and correspondence become of necessity limited. In the present instance I was only allowed the use of ten words to convey address, signature, and substance, and the five words of my message were framed both with a view to economy and politeness, as well as in a manner which by calling for no direct answer still left undecided the great question of success. Having despatched my message under the ocean, I determined to seek the Horse Guards in a final effort to procure unattached promotion in the army. It is almost unnecessary to remark that this attempt failed; and as I issued from the audience in which I had been informed of the utter hopelessness of my request, I had at least the satisfaction of having reduced my chances of fortune to the narrow limits of a single throw. Pausing at the gate of the Horse Guards I reviewed in a moment the whole situation; whatever was to be the result there was no time for delay and so, hailing a hansom, I told the cabby to drive to the office of the Cunard Steamship Company, Old Broad Street, City.
"What steamer sails on Wednesday for America?"
"The 'Samaria for Boston, the 'Marathon for New York."
"The 'Samaria broke her shaft, didn't she, last voyage, and was a missing ship for a month?" I asked.
"Yes, sir," answered the clerk.
"Then book me a passage in her," I replied; "she's not likely to play that prank twice in two voyages."
The "Samaria "—Across the Atlantic-Shipmates—The Despot of the Deck—"Keep her Nor'-West"—Democrat versus Republican—A First Glimpse—Boston
POLITICAL economists and newspaper editors for years have dwelt upon the unfortunate fact that Ireland is not a manufacturing nation, and does not export largely the products of her soil. But persons who have lived in the island, or who have visited the ports of its northern or southern shores, or crossed the Atlantic by any of the ocean steamers which sail daily from the United Kingdom, must have arrived at a conclusion totally at variance with these writers; for assuredly there is no nation under the sun which manufactures the material called man so readily as does that grass-covered island. Ireland is not a manufacturing nation, says the political economist. Indeed, my good sir, you are wholly mistaken. She is not only a manufacturing nation, but she manufactures nations. You do not see her broad-cloth, or her soft fabrics, or her steam-engines, but you see the broad shoulder of her sons and the soft cheeks of her daughters in vast states whose names you are utterly ignorant of; and as for the exportation of her products to foreign lands, just come with me on board this ocean steamship "Samaria", and look at them. The good ship has run down the channel during the night and now lies at anchor in Queenstown harbour, waiting for mails and passengers. The latter came, quickly and thickly enough. No poor, ill-fed, miserably dressed crowd, but fresh, and fair, and strong, and well clad, the bone and muscle and rustic beauty of the land; the little steam-tender that plies from the shore to the ship is crowded at every trip, and you can scan them as they come on board in batches of seventy or eighty. Some eyes among the girls are red with crying, but tears dry quickly on young cheeks, and they will be laughing before an hour is over. "Let them go," says the economist; "we have too many mouths to feed in these little islands of ours; their going will give us more room, more cattle, more chance to keep our acres for the few'; let them go." My friend, that is just half the picture, and no more; we may get a peep at the other half before you and I part.
It was about five o'clock in the afternoon of the 4th of May when the "Samaria" steamed slowly between the capes of Camden and Carlisle, and rounding out into Atlantic turned her head towards the western horizon. The ocean lay unruffled along the rocky headlands of Ireland's southmost shore. A long line of smoke hanging suspended between sky and sea marked the unseen course of another steamship farther away to the south. A hill-top, blue and lonely, rose above the rugged coast-line, the far-off summit of some inland mountain; and as evening came down over the still tranquil ocean and the vessel clove her outward way through phosphorescent water, the lights along the iron coast grew fainter in distance till there lay around only the unbroken circle of the sea.
ON BOARD.-A trip across the Atlantic is now-a-days a very ordinary business; in fact, it is no longer a voyage-it is a run, you may almost count its duration to within four hours; and as for fine weather, blue skies, and calm seas, if they come, you may be thankful for them, but don't expect them, and you won't add a sense of disappointment to one of discomfort. Some experience of the Atlantic enables me to affirm that north or south of 35 degrees north and south latitude there exists no such thing as pleasant sailing.
But the usual run of weather, time, and tide outside the ship is not more alike in its characteristics than the usual run of passenger one meets inside. There is the man who has never been sea-sick in his life, and there is the man who has never felt well upon board ship, but who, nevertheless, both manage to consume about fifty meals of solid food in ten days. There is the nautical landsman who tells you that he has been eighteen times across the Atlantic and four times round the Cape of Good Hope, and who is generally such a bore upon marine questions that it is a subject of infinite regret that he should not be performing a fifth voyage round that distant and interesting promontory. Early in the voyage, owing to his superior sailing qualities, he has been able to cultivate a close intimacy with the captain of the ship; but this intimacy has been on the decline for some days, and, as he has committed the unpardonable error of differing in opinion with the captain upon a subject connected with the general direction and termination of the Gulf Stream, he begins to fall quickly in the estimation of that potentate. Then there is the relict of the late Major Fusby, of the Fusiliers, going to or returning from England. Mrs. Fusby has a predilection for port negus and the first Burmese war, in which campaign her late husband received a wound of such a vital description (he died just twenty-two years later), that it has enabled her to provide, at the expense of a grateful nation, for three youthful Fusbies, who now serve their country in various parts of the world. She does not suffer from sea-sickness, but occasionally undergoes periods of nervous depression which require the administration of the stimulant already referred to. It is a singular fact that the present voyage is strangely illustrative of remarkable events in the life of the late Fusby; there has not been a sail or a porpoise in sight that has not called up some reminiscence of the early career of the major; indeed, even the somewhat unusual appearance of an iceberg, has been turned to account as suggestive of the intense suffering undergone by the major during the period of his wound, owing to the scarcity of the article ice in tropical countries. Then on deck we have the inevitable old sailor who is perpetually engaged in scraping the vestiges of paint from your favourite seat, and who, having arrived at the completion of his monotonous task after four days incessant labour, is found on the morning of the fifth engaged in smearing the paint-denuded place of rest with a vilely glutinous compound peculiar to ship-board. He never looks directly at you as you approach, with book and jug, the desired spot, but you can tell by the leer in his eye and the roll of the quid in his immense mouth that the old villain knows all about the discomfort he is causing you, and you fancy you can detect a chuckle, you turn away in a vain quest for a quiet cosy spot. Then there is the captain himself, that most mighty despot. What king ever wielded such power, what czar or kaiser had ever such obedience yielded to their decrees? This man, who on shore is nothing, is here on his deck a very pope; he is infallible. Canute could not stay the tide, but our sea-king regulates the sun. Charles the Fifth could not make half a dozen clocks go in unison, but Captain Smith can make it twelve o'clock any time he pleases; nay, more, when the sun has made it twelve o'clock no tongue of bell or sound of clock can proclaim time's decree until it has been ratified by the fiat of the captain; and even in his misfortunes what gran deur, what absence of excuse or crimination of others in the hour of his disaster! Who has not heard of that captain who sailed away from Liverpool one day bound for America? He had been hard worked on shore, and it was said that when he sought the seclusion of his own cabin he was not unmindful of that comfort which we are told the first navigator of the ocean did not disdain to use. For a little time things went well. The Isle of Man was passed; but unfortunately, on the second day out, the good ship struck the shore of the north-east coast of Ireland and became a total wreck. As the weather was extremely fine, and there appeared to be no reason for the disaster, the subject became matter for investigation by the authorities connected with the Board of Trade. During the inquiry it was deposed that the Calf of Man had been passed at such an hour on such a day, and the circumstance duly reported to the captain, who, it was said, was below. It was also stated that having received the report of the passage of the Calf of Man the captain had ordered the ship to be kept in a north-west course until further orders. About six hours later the vessel went ashore on the coast of Ireland. Such was the evidence of the first officer. The captain was shortly after called and examined.
"It appears, sir," said the president of the court, "that the passing of the Calf of Man was duly reported to you by the first officer. May I ask, sir, what course you ordered to be steered upon receipt of that information?"
"North-west, sir," answered the captain; "I said, 'Keep her north-west."'
"North-west," repeated the president; "a very excellent general course for making the coast of America, but not until you had cleared the channel and were well into the Atlantic. Why, sir, the whole of Ireland lay between you and America on that course."
"Can't help that, sir; can't help that, sir," replied the sea-king in a tone of half-contemptuous pity, that the whole of Ireland should have been so very unreasonable as to intrude itself in such a position.
And yet, with all the despotism of the deck, what kindly spirits are these old sea-captains with the freckled hard knuckled hands and the grim storm-seamed faces! What honest genuine hearts are lying buttoned beneath those rough pea-jackets! If all despots had been of that kind perhaps we shouldn't have known quite as much about Parliamentary Institutions as we do.
And now, while we have been talking thus, the "Samaria" has been getting far out into mid Atlantic, and yet we know not one among our fellow-passengers, although they do not number much above a dozen: a merchant from Maryland, a sea-captain-from Maine, a young doctor from Pennsylvania, a Massachusetts man, a Rhode Islander, a German geologist going to inspect seams in Colorado, a priest's sister from Ireland going to look after some little property left her by her brother, a poor fellow who was always ill, who never appeared at table, and who alluded to the demon sea-sickness that preyed upon him as "it". "It comes on very bad at night. It prevents me touching food. It never leaves me," he would say; and in truth this terrible "it" never did leave him until the harbour of Boston was reached, and even then, I fancy, dwelt in his thoughts during many a day on shore.
The sea-captain from Maine was a violent democrat, the Massachusetts man a rabid republican; and many a fierce battle waged between them on the vexed questions of state rights, negro suffrage, and free trade in liquor. To many Englishmen the terms republican and democrat may seem synonymous; but not between radical and conservative, between outmost Whig and inmost Tory exist more opposite extremes than between these great rival political parties of the United States. As a drop of sea-water possesses the properties of the entire water of the ocean, so these units of American political controversy were microscopic representatives of their respective parties. It was curious to remark what a prominent part their religious convictions played in the war of words. The republican was a member of the Baptist congregation; the democrat held opinions not very easy of description, something of a universalist and semi-unitarian tendency; these opinions became frequently intermixed with their political jargon, forming that curious combination of ideas which to unaccustomed ears sounds slightly blasphemous. I recollect a very earnest American once saying that he considered all religious, political, social, and historical teaching should be reduced to three subjects: the Sermon on the Mount, the Declaration of American Independence, and the Chicago Republican Platform of 1860.
On the present occasion the Massachusetts man was a person whose nerves were as weak as his political convictions were strong, and the democrat being equally gifted with strong opinions, strong nerves, and a tendency towards strong waters, was enabled, particularly after dinner, to obtain an easy victory over his less powerfully gifted antagonist. In fact it was to the weakness of the latter's nervous system that we were indebted for the pleasure of his society on board. Eight weeks before he had been ordered by his medical adviser to leave his wife and office in the little village of Hyde Park to seek change and relaxation on the continent of Europe. He was now returning to his native land filled, he informed us, with the gloomiest forebodings. He had a very powerful presentiment that we were never to see the shores of America. By what agency our destruction was to be accomplished he did not enlighten us, but the ship had not well commenced her voyage before he commenced his evil prognostications. That these were not founded upon any prophetic knowledge of future events will be sufficiently apparent from the fact of this book being written. Indeed, when the mid Atlantic had been passed our Massachusetts acquaintance began to entertain more hopeful expectations of once more pressing his wife to his bosom, although he repeatedly reiterated that if that domestic event was really destined to take place no persuasion on earth, medical or other wise, would ever induce him to place the treacherous billows of the Atlantic between him and the person of that bosom's partner. It was drawing near the end of the voyage when an event occurred which, though in itself of a most trivial nature, had for some time a disturbing effect upon our party. The priest's sister, an elderly maiden lady of placidly weak intellect, announced one morning at breakfast that the sea-captain from Maine had on the previous day addressed her in terms of endearment, and had, in fact, called her his "little duck." This announcement, which was made generally to the table, and which was received in dead silence by every member of the community, had by no means a pleasurable effect upon the countenance of the person most closely concerned. Indeed, amidst the silence which succeeded the revelation, a half-smothered sentence, more forcible than polite, was audible from the lips of the democrat, in which those accustomed to the vernacular of America could plainly distinguish "darned old fool." Meantime, in spite of political discussions, or amorous revelations, or prophetic disaster, in spite of mid-ocean storm and misty-fog-bank, our gigantic screw, unceasing as the whirl of life itself, had wound its way into the waters which wash the rugged shores of New England. To those whose lives are spent in ceaseless movement over the world, who wander from continent to continent, from island to island, who dwell in many cities but are the citizens of no city, who sail away and come back again, whose home is the broad earth itself, to such as these the coming in sight of land is no unusual occurrence, and yet the man has grown old at his trade of wandering who can look utterly uninterested upon the first glimpse of land rising out of the waste of ocean: small as that glimpse may be, only a rock, a cape, a mountain crest, it has the power of localizing an idea, the very vastness Of which prevents its realization on shore. From the deck of an outward-bound vessel one sees rising, faint and blue, a rocky headland or a mountain summit-one does not ask if the mountain be of Maine, or of Mexico, or the Cape be St. Ann's or Hatteras, one only sees America. Behind that strip of blue coast lies a world, and that world the new one. Far away inland lie scattered many landscapes glorious with mountain, lake, river, and forest, all unseen, all unknown to the wanderer who for the first time seeks the American shore; yet instinctively their presence is felt in that faint outline of sea-lapped coast which lifts itself above the ocean; and even if in after-time it becomes the lot of the wanderer, as it became my lot, to look again upon these mountain summits, these immense inland seas; these mighty rivers whose waters seek their mother ocean through 3000 miles of meadow, in none of these glorious parts, vast though they be, will the sense of the still vaster whole be realized as strongly as in that first glimpse of land showing dimly over the western horizon of the Atlantic.
The sunset of a very beautiful evening in May was making bright the shores of Massachusetts as the "Samaria," under her fullest head of steam, ran up the entrance to Plymouth Sound. To save daylight into port was an object of moment to the Captain, for the approach to Boston harbour is as intricate as shoal, sunken rock, and fort-crowned island can make it. If ever that much talked-of conflict between the two great branches of the Anglo-Saxon race is destined to quit the realms of fancy for those of fact, Boston, at least, will rest as safe from the destructive engines of British iron-clads as the city of Omaha on the Missouri River. It was only natural that the Massachusetts man should have been in a fever of excitement at finding himself once more within sight of home; and for once human nature exhibited the unusual spectacle of rejoicing over the falsity of its own predictions. As every revolution of the screw brought out some new feature into prominence, he skipped gleefully about; and, recognizing in my person the stranger element in the assembly, he took particular pains to point out the lions of the landscape. "There, serais Fort Warren, where we kept our rebel prisoners during the war. In a few minutes more, sir, we will be in sight of Bunker's Hill;" and then, in a frenzy of excitement, he skipped away to some post of vantage upon the forecastle.
Night had come down over the harbour, and Boston had lighted all her lamps, before the "Samaria," swinging round in the fast-running tide, lay, with quiet screw and smokeless funnel, alongside the wharf of New England's oldest city.
"Real mean of that darned Baptist pointing you out Bunker's Hill," said the sea-captain from Maine; "just like the ill-mannered republican cuss!" It was useless to tell him that I had felt really obliged for the information given me by his political opponent. "Never mind," he said, "to-morrow I'll show you how these moral Bostonians break their darned liquor law in every hotel in their city."
Boston has a clean, English look about it, peculiar to it alone of all the cities in the United States. Its streets, running in curious curves, as though they had not the least idea where they were going, are full of prettily dressed pretty girls, who look as though they had a very fair idea of where they were going to. Atlantic fogs and French fashions have combined to make Boston belles pink, pretty,-and piquante; while the western states, by drawing fully half their male population from New England, make the preponderance of the female element apparent at a glance. The ladies, thus left at home, have not been idle: their colleges, their clubs, their reading-classes are numerous; like the man in "Hudibras,"
"'Tis known they can speak Greek as naturally as pigs squeak;"
and it is probable that no city in the world can boast so high a standard of female education as Boston: nevertheless, it must be regretted that this standard of mental excellence attributable to the ladies of Boston should not have been found capable of association with the duties of domestic life. Without going deeper into topics which are better understood in America than in England, and which have undergone most eloquent elucidation at the hands of Mr. Hepworth Dixon, but which are nevertheless dlightly nauseating, it may safely be observed, that the inculcation at ladies colleges of that somewhat rude but forcible home truth, enunciated by the first Napoleon in reply to the most illustrious Frenchwoman of her day, when questioned Upon the subject of female excellence, should not be forgotten.
There exists a very generally received idea that strangers are more likely to notice and complain of the short-comings of a social habit or system than are residents who have grown old under that infliction; but I cannot help thinking that there exists a considerable amount of error in this opinion. A stranger will frequently submit to extortion, to insolence, or to inconvenience, because, being a stranger, he believes that extortion, insolence, and inconvenience are the habitual characteristics of the new place in which he finds himself: they do not strike him as things to be objected to, or even wondered at; they are simply to be submitted to and endured. If he were at home, he would die sooner than yield that extra half-dollar; he would leave the house at once in which he was told to get up at an unearthly hour in the morning; but, being in another country, he submits, without even a thought of resistance. In no other way can we account for the strange silence on the part of English writers upon the tyrannical disposition of American social life. A nation everlastingly boasting itself the freest on the earth submits unhesitatingly to more social tyranny than any people in the world. In the United States one is marshalled to every event of the day. Whether you like it or not, you must get up, breakfast, dine, sup, and go to bed at fixed hours. Attached upon the inside of your bedroom-door is a printed document which informs you of all the things you are not to do in the hotel-a list in which, like Mr. J. S. Mill's definition of Christian doctrine, the shall-nots predominate over the shalls. In the event of your disobeying any of the numerous mandates set forth in this document-such as not getting up very early-you will not be sent to the penitentiary or put in the pillory, for that process of punishment would imply a necessity for trouble and exertion on the part of the richly-apparelled gentleman who does you the honour of receiving your petitions and grossly overcharging you at the office-no, you have simply to go without food until dinner-time, or to go to bed by the light of a jet of gas for which you will be charged an exorbitant price in your bill. As in the days of Roman despotism we know that the slaves were occasionally permitted to indulge in the grossest excesses, so, under the rigorous system of the hotel-keeper, the guest is allowed to expectorate profusely over every thing; over the marble with which the hall is paved, over the Brussels carpet which covers the drawing-room, over the bed-room, and over the lobby. Expectoration is apparently the one saving clause which American liberty demands as the price of its submission to the prevailing tyranny of the hotel. Do not imagine-you, who have never yet tasted the sweets of a transatlantic transaction-that this tyranny is confined to the hotel: every person to whom you pay money in the ordinary travelling transactions of life-your omnibus-man, your railway-conductor, your steamboat-clerk-takes your money, it is true, but takes it in a manner which tells you plainly enough that he is conferring a very great favour by so doing. He is in all probability realizing a profit of from three to four hundred-per cent. on whatever the transaction may be; but, all the same, although you are fully aware of this fact, you are nevertheless almost overwhelmed with the sense of the very deep obligation which you owe to the man who thus deigns to receive your money.
It was about ten o'clock at night when the steamer anchored at the wharf at Boston. Not until midday. On the following day were we (the passengers) allowed to leave the vessel. The cause of this delay arose from the fact that the collector of customs of the port of Boston was an individual of great social importance; and as it would have been inconvenient for him to attend at an earlier hour for the purpose of being present at the examination of our baggage, we were detained prisoners until the day was far enough advanced to suit his convenience. From a conversation which subsequently I had with this gentleman at our hotel, I discovered that he was more obliging in his general capacity of politician and prominent citizen than he was in his particular duties of customs collector. Like many other instances of the kind in the United States, his was a case of evident unfitness for the post he held. A. socially smaller man would have made a much better customs official. Unfortunately for the comfort of the public, the remuneration attached to appointments in the postal and customs departments is frequently very large, and these situations are eagerly sought as prizes in the lottery of political life-prizes, too, which can only be held for the short term of four years. As. A consequence, the official who holds his situation by right of political service rendered to the chief of the predominant clique or party in his state does not consider that he owes to the public the service of his office. In theory he is a public servant; in reality he becomes the master of the public. This is, however, the fault of the system and not of the individual.
Bunker—New York—Niagara-Toronto-Spring—time in Quebec—A Summons—A Start—In good Company—Stripping a Peg—An Expedition—Poor Canada—An Old Glimpse at a New Land—Rival Routes—Change of Masters—The Red River Revolt—The Halfbreeds—Early Settlers-Bungling—"Eaters of Pemmican-"-M. Louis Riel—The Murder of Scott
When a city or a nation has but one military memory, it clings to it with all the affectionate tenacity of an old maid for her solitary poodle or parrot. Boston-supreme over any city in the Republic-can boast of possessing one military memento: she has the Hill of Bunker. Bunker has long passed into the bygone; but his hill remains, and is likely to remain for many a long day. It is not improbable that the life, character and habits, sayings, even the writings of Bunker-perhaps he couldn't write!-are familiar to many persons in the United States; but it is in Boston and Massachusetts that Bunker holds highest carnival. They keep in the Senate-chamber of the Capitol, nailed over the entrance doorway in full sight of the Speaker's chair, a drum, a musket, and a mitre-shaped soldier's hat-trophies of the fight fought in front of the low earthwork on Bunker's Hill. Thus the senators of Massachusetts have ever before them visible reminders of the glory of their fathers: and I am not sure that these former belongings of some long-waistcoated redcoat are not as valuable incentives to correct legislation as that historic "bauble" of our own constitution.
Meantime we must away. Boston and New York have had their stories told frequently enough-and, in reality, there is not much to tell about them. The world does not contain a more uninteresting accumulation of men and houses than the great city of New York: it is a place wherein the stranger feels inexplicably lonely. The traveller has no mental property in this city whose enormous growth of life has struck scant roots into the great heart of the past.
Our course, however, lies west. We will trace the onward stream of empire in many portions of its way; we will reach its limits, and pass beyond it into the lone spaces which yet silently await its coming; and farther still, where the solitude knows not of its approach and the Indian still reigns in savage supremacy.
NIAGARA—They have all had their say about Niagara. From Hennipin to Dilke, travellers have written much about this famous cataract, and yet, put all together, they have not said much about it; description depends so much on comparison, and comparison necessitates a something like. If there existed another Niagara on the earth, travellers might compare this one to that one; but as there does not exist a second Niagara, they are generally hard up for a comparison. In the matter of roar, however, comparisons are still open. There is so much noise in the world that analysis of noise becomes easy. One man hears in it the sound of the Battle of the Nile-a statement not likely to be challenged, as the survivors of that celebrated naval action are not numerous, the only one we ever had the pleasure of meeting having been stone-deaf. Another writer compares the roar to the sound of a vast mill; and this similitude, more flowery than poetical, is perhaps as good as that of the one who was in Aboukir Bay. To leave out Niagara when you can possibly bring it in would be as much against the stock-book of travel as to omit the duel, the steeple-chase, or the escape from the mad bull in a thirty-one-and-sixpenny fashionable novel. What the pyramids are to Egypt—what Vesuvius is to Naples—what the field of Waterloo has been for fifty years to Brussels, so is Niagara to the entire continent of North America.
It was early in the month of September, three years prior to the time I now write of, when I first visited this famous spot. The Niagara season was at its height: the monster hotels were ringing with song, music, and dance; tourists were doing the falls, and touts were doing the tourists. Newly-married couples were conducting themselves in that demonstrative manner characteristic of such as responded freely to the invitation contained in their favourite nigger melody. Venders of Indian bead-work; itinerant philosophers; camera-obscura men; imitation squaws; free and enlightened negroes; guides to go under the cataract, who should have been sent over it; spiritualists, phrenologists, and nigger minstrels had made the place their own. Shoddy and petroleum were having "a high old time of it," spending the dollar as though that "almighty article had become the thin end of nothing whittled fine:" altogether, Niagara was a place to be instinctively shunned.
Just four months after this time the month of January was drawing to a close. King Frost, holding dominion over Niagara, had worked strange wonders with the scene. Folly and ruffianism had been frozen up, shoddy and petroleum had betaken themselves to other haunts, the bride strongly demonstrative or weakly reciprocal had vanished, the monster hotels were silent and deserted, the free and enlightened negro had gone back to Buffalo, and the girls of that thriving city no longer danced, as of yore, "under de light of de moon." Well, Niagara was worth seeing then-and the less we say about it, perhaps, the better. "Pat," said an American to a staring Irishman lately landed, "did you ever see such a fall as that in the old country?" "Begarra! I niver did; but look here now, why wouldn't it fall? what's to hinder it from falling?"
When I reached the city of Toronto, capital of the province of Ontario, I found that the Red River Expeditionary Force had already been mustered, previous to its start for the North-West. Making my way to the quarters of the commander of the Expedition, I was greeted every now and again with a "You should have been here last week; every soul wants to get on the Expedition, and you hav'n't a chance. The whole thing is complete; we start to-morrow." Thus I encountered those few friends who on such occasions are as certain to offer their pithy condolences as your neighbour at the dinner-table when you are late is sure to tell you that the soup and fish were delicious. At last I met the commander himself.
"My good fellow, there's not a vacant berth for you," he said; "I got your telegram, but the whole army in Canada wanted to get on the Expedition."
"I think, sir, there is one berth still vacant," I answered.
"What is it?"
"You will want to know what they are doing in Minnesota and along the flank of your march, and you have no one to tell you," I said.
"You are right; we do want a man out there. Look now, start for Montreal by first train to-morrow; by to night's mail I will write to the general, recommending your appointment. If you see him as soon as possible, it may yet be all right."
I thanked him, said "Good-bye," and in little more than twenty-four hours later found myself in Montreal, the commercial capital of Canada.
"Let me see," said the general next morning, when I presented myself before him, "you sent a cable message from the South of Ireland last month, didn't you? and you now want to get out to the West? Well, we will require a man there, but the thing doesn't rest with me; it will have to be referred to Ottawa; and meantime you can remain here, or with your regiment, pending the receipt of an answer."
So I went back to my regiment to wait.
Spring breaks late over the province of Quebec-that portion of America known to our fathers as Lower Canada, and of old to the subjects of the Grand Monarque as the kingdom of New France. But when the young trees begin to open their leafy lids after the long sleep of winter, they do it quickly. The snow is not all gone before the maple-trees are all green; the maple, that most beautiful of trees! Well has Canada made the symbol of her new nationality that tree whose green gives the spring its earliest freshness, whose autumn dying tints are richer than the clouds, sunset, whose life-stream is sweeter than honey, and whose branches are drowsy through the long summer with the scent and the hum of bee and flower! Still the long line of the Canadas admits of a varied spring. When the trees are green at Lake St. Clair, they are scarcely budding at Kingston, they are leafless at Montreal, and Quebec is white with snow. Even between Montreal and Quebec, a short night's steaming, there exists a difference of ten days in the opening of the summer. But late as comes the summer to Quebec, it comes in its loveliest and most enticing form, as though it wished to atone for its long delay in banishing from such a landscape the cold tyranny of winter. And with what loveliness does the whole face of plain, river, lake, and mountain turn from the iron clasp of icy winter to kiss the balmy lips of returning summer, and to welcome his bridal gifts of sun and shower! The trees open their leafy lids to look at the brooks and streamlets break forth into songs of gladness—"the birch-tree," as the old Saxon said, "becomes beautiful in its branches, and rustles sweetly in its leafy summit, moved to and fro by the breath of heaven "—the lakes uncover their sweet faces, and their mimic shores steal down in quiet evenings to bathe themselves in the transparent waters—far into the depths of the great forest speeds the glad message of returning glory, and graceful fern-and soft velvet moss, and-white wax-like lily peep forth to cover rock and fallen tree and wreck of last year's autumn in one great sea of foliage. There are many landscapes which can never be painted, photographed, or described, but which the mind carries away instinctively to look at again And again in after-time-these are the celebrated views of the world, and they are not easy to find. From the Queen's rampart, on the citadel of Quebec, the eye sweeps over a greater diversity of landscape than is probably to be found in any one spot in the universe. Blue mountain, far stretching river, foaming cascade, the white sails of ocean ships, the black trunks of many-sized guns, the pointed roofs, the white village nestling amidst its fields of green, the great isle in mid-channel, the many shades of colour from deep blue pine-wood to yellowing corn-field in what other spot on the earth's broad bosom lie grouped together in a single glance so many of these "things of beauty" which the eye loves to feast on and to place in memory as joys-for ever?
I had been domiciled in Quebec for about a week, when there appeared one morning in General Orders a paragraph commanding my presence in Montreal to receive instructions from the military authorities relative to my further destination. It was the long-looked-for order, and fortune, after many frowns, seemed at length about to smile upon me. It was on the evening of the 8th June, exactly two months after the despatch of my cable message from the South of Ireland, that I turned my face to the West and commenced a long journey towards the setting sun. When the broad curves of the majestic river had shut out the rugged outline of the citadel, and the east was growing coldly dim while the west still glowed with the fires of sunset, I could not help feeling a thrill of exultant thought at the prospect before me. I little knew then the limits of my wanderings-I little thought that for many and many a day my track would lie with almost undeviating precision towards the setting sun, that summer would merge itself into autumn, and autumn darken into winter, and that still the nightly bivouac would be made a little nearer to that west whose golden gleam was suffusing sky and water.
But though all this was of course unknown, enough was still visible in the foreground of the future to make even the swift-moving paddles seem laggards as they beat to foam the long reaches of the darkening Cataraqui. "We must leave matters to yourself, I think," said the General, when I saw him for the last time in Montreal, "you will be best judge of how to get on when you know and see the ground. I will not ask you to visit Fort Garry, but if you find it feasible, it would be well if you could drop down the Red River and join Wolseley before he gets to the place. You know what I want, but how to do it, I will leave altogether to yourself. For the rest, you can draw on us for any money you require. Take care of those northern fellows. Good-bye, and success."
This was on the 12th June, and on the morning of the 13th I started by the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada for the West. On that morning the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada was in a high state of excitement. It was about to attempt, for the first time, the despatch of a Lightning Express for Toronto; and it was to carry from Montreal, on his way to Quebec, one of the Royal Princes of England, whose sojourn in the Canadian capital was drawing to a close. The Lightning Express was not attended with the glowing success predicted for it by its originators. At some thirty or forty miles from Montreal it came heavily to grief, owing to some misfortune having attended the progress of a preceding train over the rough uneven track. A delay of two hours having supervened, the Lightning Express got into motion again, and jolted along with tolerable celerity to Kingston. When darkness set in it worked itself up to a high pitch of fury, and rushed along the low shores of Lake Ontario with a velocity which promised disaster. The car in which I travelled was one belonging to the director of the Northern Railroad of Canada, Mr. Cumberland, and we had in it a minister of fisheries, one of education, a governor of a province, a speaker of a house of commons, and a colonel of a distinguished rifle regiment. Being the last car of the train, the vibration caused by the unusual rate of speed over the very rough rails was excessive; it was, however, consolatory to feel that any little unpleasantness which might occur through the fact of the car leaving the track would be attended with some sense of alleviation. The rook is said to have thought he was paying dear for good company when he was put into the pigeon pie, but it by no means follows that a leap from an embankment, or an upset into a river, would be as disastrous as is usually supposed, if taken in the society of such pillars of the state as those I have already mentioned. Whether a speaker of a house of commons and a governor of a large province, to say nothing of a minister of fisheries, would tend in reality to mitigate the unpleasantness of being "telescoped through colliding," I cannot decide, for we reached Toronto without accident, at midnight, and I saw no more of my distinguished fellow-travellers.
I remained long enough in the city of Toronto to provide myself with a wardrobe suitable to the countries I was about to seek. In one of the principal commercial streets of the flourishing capital of Ontario I found a small tailoring establishment, at the door of which stood an excellent representation of a colonial. The garments be longing to this figure appeared to have been originally designed from the world-famous pattern of the American flag, presenting above a combination of stars, and below having a tendency to stripes. The general groundwork of the whole rig appeared to be shoddy of an inferior-description, and a small card attached to the figure intimated that the entire fit-out was procurable at the very reasonable sum of ten dollars. It was impossible to resist the fascination of this attire. While the bargain was being transacted the tailor looked askance at the garments worn by his customer, which, having only a few months before emanated from the establishment of a well-known London cutter, presented a considerable contrast to the new investment; he even ventured upon some remarks which evidently had for their object the elucidation of the enigma, but a word that such clothes as those worn by me were utterly un suited to the bush repelled all further questioning-indeed, so pleased did the noor fellow appear in a pecuniary point of view, that he insisted upon presenting me gratis with a neck-tie of green and yellow, fully in keeping with the other articles composing the costume. And now, while I am thus arranging these little preliminary matters so essential to the work I was about to engage in, let us examine for a moment the objects and scope of that work, and settle the limits and extent of the first portion of my journey, and sketch the route of the Expedition. It will be recollected that the Expedition destined for the Red River of the North had started some time before for its true base of operations, namely Fort William, on the north-west shore of Lake Superior. The distance intervening between Toronto and Thunder Bay is about 600 miles, 100 being by railroad conveyance and 500 by water. The island-studded expanse of Lake Huron, known as Georgian Bay, receives at the northern extremity the waters of the great Lake Superior, but a difference of level amounting to upwards of thirty feet between the broad bosoms of these two vast expanses of fresh water has rendered necessary the construction of a canal of considerable magnitude. This canal is situated upon American territory-a fact which gives our friendly cousins the exclusive possession of the great northern basin, and which enabled them at the very outset of the Red River affair to cause annoyance and delay to the Canadian Expedition. Poor Canada! when one looks at you along the immense length of your noble river boundary, how vividly become apparent the evils under which your youth has grown to manhood! Looked at from home by every succeeding colonial minister through the particular whig, or tory spectacles of his party, subject to violent and radical alterations of policy because of some party vote in a Legislative Assembly 3000 miles from your nearest coast-line, your own politicians, for years, too timid to grasp the limits of your possible future, parties every where in your provinces, and of every kind, except a national party; no breadth, no depth, no earnest striving to make you great amongst the nations, each one for himself and no-one for the country; men fighting for a sect, for a province, for a nationality, but no one for the nation; and all this while, close alongside, your great rival grew with giant's growth, looking far into the future before him, cutting his cloth with perspective ideas of what his limbs would attain to in after-time,' digging his canals and grading, his railroads, with one eye on the Atlantic and the other on the Pacific, spreading himself, monopolizing, annexing, outmanoeuvring and flanking those colonial bodies who sat in solemn state in Downing Street and wrote windy proclamations and despatches anent boundary-lines, of which they knew next to nothing. Macaulay laughs at poor Newcastle for his childish delight in finding out that Cape Breton was an island, but I strongly suspect there were other and later Newcastles whose geographical knowledge of matters American were not a whit superior. Poor Canada! they muddled you out of Maine, and the open harbour of Portland, out of Rouse's Point, and the command of Lake Champlain, out of many a fair mile far away by the Rocky Mountains. It little matters whether it was the treaty of 1783, or 1818, or '21, or '48, or '71, the worst of every bargain, at all times, fell to you.
I have said that the possession of the canal at the Sault St. Marie enabled the Americans to delay the progress of the Red River Expedition. The embargo put upon the Canadian vessels originated, however, in the State, and not the Federal, authorities; that is to say, the State of Michigan issued the prohibition against the passage of the steam boat, and not the Cabinet of Washington. Finally, Washington overruled the decision of Michigan-a feat far more feasible now than it would have been prior to the Southern war-and the steamers were permitted to pass through into the waters of Lake Superior. From thence to Thunder Bay was only the steaming of four-and-twenty hours through a lake whose vast bosom is the favourite playmate of the wild storm-king of the North. But although full half the total distance from Toronto to the Red River had been traversed when the Expedition reached Thunder Bay, not a twentieth of the time nor one hundredth part of the labour and fatigue had been accomplished. For a distance of 600 miles there stretched away to the northwest a vast tract of rock-fringed lake, swamp, and forest; lying spread in primeval savagery, an untravelled wilderness; the home of the Ojibbeway, who here, entrenched amongst Nature's fastnesses, has long called this land his own. Long before Wolfe had scaled the heights of Abraham, before even Marlborough, and Eugene, and Villers, and V'endome, and Villeroy had commenced to fight their giants fights in divers portions of the low countries, some adventurous subjects of the Grand Monarque were forcing their way, for the first time, along the northern shores of Lake Superior, nor stopping there: away to the north-west there dwelt wild tribes to be sought out by two classes of men-by the black robe, who laboured for souls; by the trader, who sought for skins-and a hard race had these two widely different pioneers who sought at that early day these remote and friendless regions, so hard that it would almost seem as though the great powers of good and of evil had both despatched at this same moment, on rival errands, ambassadors to gain dominion over these distant savages. It was a curious contest: on the one hand, showy robes, shining beads, and maddening fire-water, on the other, the old, old story of peace and brotherhood, of Christ and Calvary—a contest so full of interest, so teeming with adventure, so pregnant with the discovery of mighty rivers and great inland seas, that one would fain ramble away into its depths; but it must not be, or else the journey I have to travel myself would never even begin.
Vast as is the accumulation of fresh water in Lake Superior, the area of the country which it drains is limited enough. Fifty miles from its northern shores the rugged hills which form the backbone or "divide" of the continent raise their barren heads, and the streams carry from thence the vast rainfall of this region into the Bay of Hudson. Thus, when the voyageur has paddled, tracked, poled, and carried his canoe up any of the many rivers which rush like mountain torrents into Lake Superior from the north, he reaches the height of land between the Atlantic Ocean and Hudson Bay. Here, at an elevation of 1500 feet above the sea level, and of 900 above Lake Superior, he launches his canoe upon water flowing north and west; then he has before him hundreds of miles of quiet-lying lake, of wildly rushing river, of rock-broken rapid, of foaming cataract, but through it all runs ever towards the north the ocean-seeking current. As later on we shall see many and many a mile of this wilderness—living in it, eating in it, sleeping in it-although reaching it from a different direction altogether from the one spoken of now, I anticipate, by alluding to it here, only as illustrating the track of the Expedition between Lake Superior and Red River. For myself, my route was to be altogether a different one. I was to follow the lines of railroad which ran-out into the frontier territories of the United States, then, leaving the iron horse, I was to make my way to the settlements on the west shore of Lake Superior, and from thence to work Round to the American boundary-line at Pembina on the Red River; so far through American territory, and with distinct and definite instructions; after that, altogether to my own resources, but with this summary of the general's wishes: "I will not ask you to visit Fort Garry, but however you manage it, try and reach Wolseley-before he gets through from Lake Superior, and let him know what these Red River men are going to do." Thus the military Expedition under Colonel Wolseley was to work its way Across from Lake Superior to Red River, through British territory; I was to pass round by the United States, and, after ascertaining the likelihood of Fenian intervention from the side of Minnesota and Dakota, endeavour to reach Colonel Wolseley beyond Red River, with all tidings as to state of parties and chances of fight. But as the reader has heard only a very brief mention of the state of affairs in Red River, and as he may very naturally be inclined to ask, What is this Expedition going to do—why are these men sent through swamp and wilderness at all? A few explanatory words may not be out of place, serving to make matters now and at a later period much more intelligible. I have said in the opening chapter of this book, that the little community, or rather a portion of the little community, of Red River Settlement had risen in insurrection, protesting vehemently against certain arrangements made between the Governor of Canada and the Hon. Hudson's Bay Company relative to the cession of territorial rights and governing powers. After forcibly expelling the Governor of the country appointed by Canada, from the frontier station at Pembina, the French malcontents had proceeded to other and still more questionable proceedings. Assembling in large numbers, they had fortified portions of the road between Pembina and Fort Garry, and had taken armed possession of the latter place, in which large stores of provisions, clothing, and merchandise of all descriptions had been stored by the Hudson Bay Company. The occupation of this fort, which stands close to the confluence of the Red and Assineboine Rivers, nearly midway between the American boundary-line and the southern shore of Lake Winnipeg, gave the French party the virtual command of the entire settlement. The abundant stores of clothing and provisions were not so important as the arms and ammunition which also fell into their hands—a battery of nine-pound bronze guns, complete in every respect, besides several smaller pieces of ordnance, together with large store of Enfield rifles and old brown-bess smooth bores. The place was, in fact, abundantly supplied with war material of every description. It is almost refreshing to notice the ability, the energy, the determination which up to this point had characterized all the movements of the originator and mainspring of the movement, M. Louis Riel. One hates so much to see a thing bungled, that even resistance, although it borders upon rebellion, becomes respectable when it is carried out with courage, energy, and decision.
And, in truth, up to this point in the little insurrection it is not easy to condemn the wild Metis of the North-west—wild as the bison which he hunted, unreclaimed as the prairies he loved so well, what knew he of State duty or of loyalty? He knew that this land was his, and that strong men were coming to square it into rectangular farms and to push him farther west by the mere pressure of civilization. He had heard of England and the English, but it was in a shadowy, vague, unsubstantial sort of way, unaccompanied by any fixed idea of government or law. The Company—not the Hudson Bay Company, but the Company-represented for him all law, all power, all government. Protection he did not need-his quick ear, his unerring eye, his untiring horse, his trading gun, gave him that; but a market for his taurreau, for his buffalo robe, for his lynx, fox, and wolf skins, for the produce of his summer hunt and winter trade, he did need, and in the forts of the Company he found it. His wants were few-a capote of blue cloth, with shining brass buttons; a cap, with beads and tassel; a blanket; a gun, and ball and powder; a box: of matches, and a knife, these were all he wanted, and at every fort, from the mountain to the banks of his well-loved River Rouge, he found them, too. What were these new people coming to do with him? Who could tell? If they meant him fair, why did they not say so? why did they not come up and tell him what they wanted, and what they were going to do for him, and ask him what he wished for? But, no; they either meant to outwit him, or they held him of so small account that it mattered little what he thought about it; and, with all the pride of his mother's race, that idea of his being slighted hurt him even more than the idea of his being wronged. Did not every thing point to his disappearance under the new order of things? He had only to look round him to verify the fact; for years before this annexation to Canada had been carried into effect stragglers from the east had occasionally reached Red River. It is true that these new-comers found much to foster the worst passions of the Anglo-Saxon settler. They found a few thousand occupants, half-farmers, half-hunters, living under a vast commercial monopoly, which, though it practically rested upon a basis of the most paternal kindness towards its subjects, was theoretically hostile to all opposition. Had these men settled quietly to the usual avocations of farming, clearing the wooded ridges, fencing the rich expanses of prairie, covering the great swamps and plains with herds and flocks, it is probable that all would have gone well between the new-comers and the old proprietors. Over that great western thousand miles of prairie there was room for all. But, no; they came to trade and not to till, and trade on the Red River of the North was conducted upon the most peculiar principles. There was, in fact, but one trade, and that was the fur trade. Now, the fur trade is, for some reason or other, a very curious description of barter. Like some mysterious chemical agency, it pervades and permeates every thing it touches. If a man cuts off legs, cures diseases, draws teeth, sells whiskey, cotton, wool, or any other commodity of civilized or uncivilized life, he will be as sure to do it with a view to furs as any doctor, dentist, or general merchant will be sure to practise his particular calling with a view to the acquisition of gold and silver. Thus, then, in the first instance were the new-comers set in antagonism to the Company, and finally to the inhabitants themselves. Let us try and be just to all parties in this little oasis of the Western wilderness.
The early settlers in a Western country are not by any means persons much given to the study of abstract justice, still less to its practice; and it is as well, perhaps, that they should not be. They have rough work to do, and they generally do it roughly. The very fact of their coming out so far into the wilderness implies the other fact of their not being able to dwell quietly and peaceably at home. They are, as it were, the advanced pioneers of civilization who make smooth the way of the coming race. Obstacles of any kind are their peculiar detestation-if it is a tree, cut it down; if it is a savage, shoot it down; if it is a half-breed, force it down. That is about their creed, and it must be said they act up to their convictions.
'Now, had the country bordering on Red River been an unpeopled wilderness, the plan carried out in effecting the transfer of land in the North-west from the Hudson's Bay Company to the Crown, and from the Crown to the Dominion of Canada, would have been an eminently wise one; but, unfortunately for its wisdom, there were some 15,000 persons living in peaceful possession of the soil thus transferred, and these 15,000 persons very naturally objected to have themselves and possessions signed away without one word of consent or one note of approval. Nay, more than that, these straggling pioneers had on many an occasion taunted the vain half-breed with what would happen when the irresistible march of events had thrown the country into the arms of Canada: then civilization would dawn upon the benighted country, the half-breed would seek some western region, the Company would dis appear, and all the institutions of New World progress would shed-prosperity over the land; prosperity, not to the old dwellers and of the old type, but to the new-comers and of the new order of things. Small wonder, then, if the little community, resenting all this threatened improvement off the face of the earth, got their powder-horns ready, took the covers off their trading flint-guns, and with much gesticulation summarily interfered with several anticipatory surveys of their farms, doubling up the sextants, bundling the surveying parties out of their freeholds, and very peremptorily informing Mr. Governor M'Dougall, just arrived from Canada, that his presence was by no means of the least desirability to Red River or its inhabitants. The man who, with remarkable energy and perseverance, had worked up his fellow-citizens to this pitch of resistance, organizing and directing the whole movement, was a young French half-breed named Louis Riel—a man possessing many of the attributes suited to the leadership of parties, and quite certain to rise to the surface in any time of political disturbances. It has doubtless occurred to any body who has followed me through this brief sketch of the causes which led to the assumption of this attitude on the part of the French half-breeds-it has occurred to them, I say, to ask who then was to blame for the mismanagement of the transfer: was it the Hudson Bay Company who surrendered for 300,000 pounds their territorial rights? was it the Imperial Government who accepted that surrender? or was it the Dominion Government to whom the country was in turn retransferred by the Imperial authorities? I answer that the blame of having bungled the whole business belongs collectively to all the great and puissant bodies. Any ordinary matter-of-fact, sensible man would have managed the whole affair in a few hours; but so many high and potent powers had to consult together, to pen despatches, to speechify, and to lay down the law about it, that the whole affair became hopelessly muddled. Of course, ignorance and carelessness were, as they always are, at the bottom of it all. Nothing would have been easier than to have sent a commissioner from England to Red River, while the negotiations for transfer were pending, who would have ascertained the feelings and wishes of the people of the country relative to' the transfer, and would have guaranteed them the exercise of their rights and liberties under any and every new arrangement that might be entered into. Now, it is no excuse for any Government to plead ignorance upon any matter pertaining to the people it governs, or expects to govern, for a Government has no right to be ignorant on any such matter, and its ignorance must be its condemnation; yet this is the plea put forward by the Dominion Government of Canada, and yet the Dominion Government and the Imperial Government had ample opportunity of arriving at a-correct knowledge of the state of affairs in Red River, if they had only taken the trouble to do so. Nay, more, it is an undoubted fact that warning had been given to the Dominion Government of the state of feeling amongst the half-breeds, and the phrase, "they are only eaters of pemmican," so cutting to the Metis, was then first originated by a distinguished Canadian politician.
And now let us see what the "eaters of pemmican" proceeded to do after their forcible occupation of Fort Garry. Well, it must be admitted they behaved in a very indifferent manner, going steadily from bad to worse, and much befriended in their seditious proceedings by continued and oft repeated bungling on the part of their opponents. Early in the month of December, 1869, Mr. M'Dougall issued two proclamations from his post at Pembina, on the frontier: in one he declared himself Lieutenant-Governor of the territory which Her Majesty had transferred to Canada; and in the other he commissioned an officer of the Canadian militia, under the high-sounding title of "Conservator of the Peace," "to attack, arrest, -disarm, and disperse armed men disturbing the public peace, and to assault, fire upon, and break into houses in which these armed men were to be found." Now, of the first proclamation it will be only necessary to remark, that Her Majesty the Queen had not done any thing of the kind, imputed to her; and of the second it has probably already occurred to the reader that the title of "Conservator of the Peace" was singularly inappropriate to one vested with such sanguinary and destructive powers as was the holder of this commission, who was to "assault, fire upon, and break into houses, and to attack, arrest, disarm, and disperse people," and generally to conduct himself after the manner of Attila, Genshis Khan, the Emperor Theodore, or any other ferocious magnate of ancient or modern times. The officer holding this destructive commission thought he could do nothing better than imitate the tactics of his French adversary, accordingly we find him taking possession of the other rectangular building known as the Lower Fort Garry, situated some twenty miles north of the one in which the French had taken post, but unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, not finding within its walls the same store of warlike material which had existed in the Fort Garry senior.
The Indians, ever ready to have a hand in any fighting which may be "knocking around," came forward in all the glory of paint, feathers, and pow-wow; and to the number of fifty were put as garrison into the place. Some hundreds of English and Scotch half-breeds were enlisted, told off to companies under captains improvised for the occasion, and every thing pointed to a very pretty quarrel before many days had run their course. But, in truth, the hearts of the English and Scotch settlers were not in this business. By nature peaceably disposed, inheriting from their Orkney and Shetland forefathers much of the frugal habits of the Scotchmen, these people only asked to be left in peace. So far the French party had been only fighting the battle of every half-breed, whether his father had hailed from the northern isles, the shires of England, or the snows of Lower Canada; so, after a little time, the Scotch and English volunteers began to melt away, and on the 9th of December the last warrior had disappeared. But the effects of their futile demonstration soon became apparent in the increasing violence and tyranny of Riel and his followers. The threatened attempt to upset his authority by arraying the Scotch and English half-breeds against him served only to add strength to his party. The number of armed malcontents in Fort Garry became very much increased, clergymen of both parties, neglecting their manifest functions, began to take sides in the conflict, and the worst form of religious animosity became apparent in the little community. Emboldened by the presence of some five or six hundred armed followers, Riel determined to strike a blow against the party most obnoxious to him. This was the English-Canadian party, the pioneers of the Western settlement already alluded to as having been previously in antagonism with the people of Red River. Some sixty or seventy of these men, believing in the certain advance of the English force upon Fort Garry, had taken up a position in the little village of Winnipeg, less than a mile distant from the fort, where they awaited the advance of their adherents previous to making a combined assault upon the French. But Riel proved himself more than a match for his antagonists; marching quickly out of his stronghold, he surrounded the buildings in which they were posted, and, planting a gun in a conspicuously commanding position, summoned them all to surrender in the shortest possible space of time. As is usual on such occasions, and in such circumstances, the whole party did as they were ordered, and marching out-with or without side-arms and military honours history does not relate-were forthwith conducted into close confinement within the walls of Fort Garry. Having by this bold coup got possession not only of the most energetic of his opponents, but also of many valuable American Remington Rifles, fourteen shooters and revolvers, Mr. Riel, with all the vanity of the Indian peeping out, began to imagine himself a very great personage, and as very great personages are sometimes supposed to be believers in the idea that to take a man's property is only to confiscate it, and to take his life is merely to execute him, he too commenced to violently sequestrate, annex, and requisition not only divers of his prisoners, but also a considerable share of the goods stored in warehouses of the Hudson Bay Company, having particular regard to some hogsheads of old port wine and very potent Jamaica rum. The proverb which has reference to a mendicant suddenly Placed in an equestrian position had notable exemplification in the case of the Provisional Government, and many of his colleagues; going steadily from bad to worse, from violence to pillage, from pillage to robbery of a very low type, much supplemented by rum-drunkenness and dictatorial debauchery, he and they finally, on the 4th of March, 1870, disregarding some touching appeals for mercy, and with many accessories of needless cruelty, shot to death a helpless Canadian prisoner named Thomas Scott. This act, committed in the coldest of cold blood, bears only one name: the red name of murder-a name which instantly and for ever drew between Riel and his followers, and the outside Canadian world, that impassable gulf which the murderer in all ages digs between himself and society, and which society attempts to bridge by the aid of the gallows. It is needless here to enter into details of this matter; of the second rising which preceded it; of the dead blank which followed it; of the heartless and disgusting cruelty which made the prisoners death a foregone conclusion at his mock trial; or of the deeds worse than butchery which characterized the last scene. Still, before quitting the revolting subject, there is one point that deserves remark, as it seems to illustrate the feeling entertained by the leaders themselves. On the night of the murder the body was interred in a very deep hole which had been dug within the walls of the fort. Two clergymen had asked permission to inter the remains in either of their churches, but this request had been denied. On the anniversary of the murder, namely, the 4th March, 1871, other powers being then predominant in Fort Garry, a large crowd gathered at the spot where the murdered man had been interred, for the purpose of exhuming the body. After digging for some time they came to an oblong box or coffin in which the remains had been placed, but it was empty, the interment within the walls had been a mock ceremony, and the final resting-place of the body lies hidden in mystery. Now there is one thing very evident from the fact, and that is that Riel and his immediate followers were themselves conscious of the enormity of the deed they had committed, for had they believed that the taking of this man's life was really an execution justified upon any grounds of military or political necessity, or a forfeit fairly paid as price for crimes committed, then the hole inside the gateway of Fort Garry would have held its skeleton, and the midnight interment would not have been a senseless lie. The murderer and the law both take life—it is only the murderer who hides under the midnight shadows the body of his victim.