Having described the gathering at Fort Simpson at which Miss Blain, the chief heroine of our story, was present, we now turn our thoughts to Fort Chipewyan, the district fort through which she had passed a few months previously, and where she and Mrs. Donald had received even more attention than a little later was shown them at Fort Simpson; the explanation for this being contained in the fact that at the former place she had met her old admirer, Mr. Thomson, and also her great friend, Mr. Findlay, who, as previously stated, had descended the Liard in spring, and joining the south-going brigade at Fort Simpson, had gone on with it as far as Fort Chipewyan.
The meeting, to these three, was very interesting, and, in fact, to Mr. Thomson it was exciting, for knowing now a little more of the relations between Mr. Findlay and Miss Blain, he was perturbed at the recollection of his former intentions towards the latter; and Miss Blain may have been a little excited too, as she remembered what had happened to these two gentlemen, and with her charming face aglow with pleasure she shook hands with them, saying, "Oh, how good to see you both again!"
The brigade from the south arrived at ten a.m., and did not leave until mid-afternoon. At twelve-thirty the officers and ladies had met by invitation at the house occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Churchill, where they enjoyed a sumptuous luncheon.
By that time Mr. Findlay and Miss Blain had become more drawn to each other than ever, in fact they had been drawn together in an embrace--the sequel to a long and interesting conversation by which they had arrived at a definite understanding.
They had been for a walk--and there are few places on this earth that can excel Fort Chipewyan in providing a lovers' walk. Mr. Findlay chose for himself and his friend, one that led in a north-east direction over a succession of rocks with a gradual ascent, so that when they had walked about a quarter of a mile they were some hundreds of feet above the fort. These rocks were smooth and partly bare, except for a covering, in most places, of lichen and creeping fir; while in other places the detritus washing down these rocks and accumulating in crevices and hollows, had enabled a number of jack pine (cypres) to take root and flourish. Standing under the inviting shelter of one of these cypres, the friends turned their faces southward to view the scenery, which at once drew from Miss Blain the exclamation, "Oh, how beautiful!"
Before them on the gentle slope from the lake shore, was the fort, with its whitewashed houses built in the form of a square of which one side extended westward in a row of smaller buildings comprising the dwelling houses of the hired men. A little beyond the last house in this row was a sandy point, covered with shrubs. Beyond this point was a bay which curved northward and was about half a mile in width, on whose farther side stood a well-equipped Roman Catholic Mission, beyond which the shore of the bay terminated in a bold point or bluff. Between this bluff and some islands not far to the south and east, the Athabasca Lake narrowed down to river-like dimensions before joining the Great Slave and Quatre Fourches Rivers. In the islands referred to there was something suggestive of design, for they were in a row and about equidistant one from the other. All were of a rich green and all were dome-shaped. And beyond the island was the lake's farther shore, its bush because of greater distance showing dark in contrast to that of the islands, and growing darker and lower as the lake grew wider and receded eastward, until somewhere beyond the mouth of the Athabasca River, it dwindled down to a mere dark blue line which finally ended in a number of specks, until the water and sky met and had it all to themselves.
With a face expressive of admiration, Miss Blain exclaimed for at least the third time, "Oh, isn't that beautiful!"
"Well," said Mr. Findlay, "it did look beautiful, when yesterday and on previous days I stood here watching for your boat to appear at the mouth of the Athabasca River; but now that you are here if my subconscious mind chooses to subsist on scenery, well and good; but the conscious ego has found something more satisfying, and you are it, my dearest dear: so as we have but a few hours together, don't you think we had better get on better terms before we part?"
"Why, William, what better terms can there be than 'dear friends?'"
"My dear Nellie, there is a relationship far sweeter and more soul-satisfying."
"Oh! What may that be?"
"Oh thou unsophisticated little dove."
By this time they were both laughing very heartily, and at the suggestion of the man they sat down. Then a red squirrel which had gone up a tree to hang a toadstool for future use looked down on them and scolded, while they, forgetting the things that were behind, looked bravely and hopefully towards the future.
"You dear little thing," said the maiden looking at the squirrel.
"You dear little thing," said the man, pointing at the maiden, and like unsophisticated children they laughed again.
Then said the man, "Nellie, so far as I am concerned, the 'dear friend' camouflage business is a thing of the past. 'Barkis is willin' and you are not merely my dear friend--you are my love. But no doubt this is not a matter to be taken in hand lightly, so I ask you in all seriousness, will you make me a very happy man by consenting to be my wife?"
With that modesty which every pure maiden must feel when a man asks her to become his bosom companion for life, her face was involuntarily diverted for a moment, and then with eyes which looked bravely into his own she said with a smile and with trembling voice, "Yes."
All married people will have had the experience which will enable them to know what would next happen after this stage in the direction of matrimony had been reached; and those who intend to marry, if ever they reach this stage, will likely then know instinctively what they ought to do. Suffice it therefore to remark here that the pleasant informalities connected with "getting engaged" were duly observed and sealed according to the usages which have been in vogue for generations and which will likely continue until the end of time.
That afternoon the engagement of Mr. Findlay and Miss Blain was announced, and Mr. Churchill and Mr. Donald conjointly arranged matters so that their wish to marry in a year's time might be carried out without conflicting with the interests of the Company, or interfering with plans already made. Accordingly Mr. Findlay was to be placed in charge of Fort Dunvegan, and Miss Blain, after spending the winter at Fort Liard, was to return to Fort Chipewyan in spring, availing herself of an opportunity of doing so by accompanying Mrs. Bayard, who would be passing Fort Chipewyan on her way south for a visit to the Red River Settlement. Mr. Findlay was to await his intended at Fort Chipewyan, and there they were to be married.
Among the crews of the four boats which went up the Peace River in Mr. Findlay's charge, and also the brigade which went southward in Mr. Donald's charge, there were a number of men from St. Andrew's parish, Red River Settlement, who were well acquainted with the Findlay and Blain families, and who being proud to claim the popular William Findlay and Nellie Blain as fellow-citizens of theirs, were ever ready to sound their praises in the hearing of their associates, and sometimes--accidentally it may be--the subjects of their eulogies would hear what was said. For instance, one night Mr. Findlay lying awake in his tent, overheard the following remarks about his lady-love: "She is not one bit stuck-up; she was the prettiest girl in the Red River Settlement; she is the nicest young lady that has ever visited the North." As to the nicest young lady, she also heard pleasant things about her intended. One day a steersman who made gore of there being no officer within hearing, informed all others who cared to know that "Mr. Findlay was the best-liked of all the officers in the country," and on another occasion she heard another man say, "Take him any way you like, he is as good as the best of them." It was, of course, most gratifying for them to know that the opinion of those with whom they would have to do, so well agreed with the opinion they had of each other, for they could be cure that what they had heard and overheard were words of honest conviction.
A good many can say from experience in regard to matrimony that anticipation is pleasanter than realization and such being the case, a long-standing engagement would seem to be preferable to a very brief one because it is a lengthening out of enjoyment, while at the same time it affords the engaged a better chance to think wisely before taking the irrevocable step, while even to those who have been long acquainted there is gain in prolonging into months this pleasant period with its golden opportunities for spontaneous confidences and affection.
Having now followed the fortunes of Mr. Findlay and Miss Blain up to the time of their engagement, we take pleasure in stating that this happy period very becomingly lasted a full year, as had been settled, and that at the end of that time they met again, according to arrangement, at Fort Chipewyan.
In the quiet evening on the day of Miss Blain's arrival they once more climbed the Athabasca rocks together. The friendly cypres which had witnessed their betrothal as still there as if awaiting their return, so also was the sweet-smelling ground fir, upon which they were presently seated; and then Mr. Findlay remarked, "My cup runneth over," and Miss Blain, waving her hand towards the lake scenery said, "And this is the gate of heaven." Nevertheless, as the lovers looked upon the pleasant scene which seemed as it were an emblem of what was before them, Mr. Findlay became serious, for he thought of the prospect of the white woman who made her home in the North--loneliness, and likely the perils of motherhood, where medical aid would not be available; and he said to his companion, "I wonder if I have not done a selfish and unmanly thing in asking you to share life with me in a place where your trials will be greater than those of the woman born and bred here. Perhaps I deserve to get what that bird advised when we were saying good-bye on the banks of the Red River," and he shouted, "Whip-poor-will! Whip-poor-will!"
"Oh, that old bird is a humbug. I did not try to take his advice then, and I do not intend to do so now; and, at any rate, Will, don't you think it is a little late? More than that, are not your remarks a reflection on our fathers? You will make no mistake in following their example, nor shall I in following the example of our mothers."
"Well, Nellie, I was just hinting at a chance for you to back out, and I am only too pleased to find that you are not disposed to take it."
"Will, I believe we are both going into this matter very seriously, as we ought to do, and I firmly believe that strength is given to women as well as men according to their need. White women have a mission in this country, and that mission is to encourage and nerve the white man who wants to marry to wait until he can get a white woman. I have been only a year in this country; but I have kept my eyes open, and can see that women such as Jlrs. Churchill and Mrs. Donald are exercising an influence that is helping to keep our white men white; and whatever the risks, surely it is worth while accepting a position in which we can help to do that."
"Good little missionary you," replied Mr. Findlay. "I know right well the force of what you say, for when I approach such women as you or Mrs. Churchill or Mrs. Donald, I feel that your presence amongst us is most wholesome. You encourage us to be men, and when you have become my wife I shall not grudge to less fortunate fellows, and especially our old friend, Mr. Thomson, the benefit of your womanly and motherly influence."
"Oh, poor Thomson," she replied. "How can I ever forget him? You called me a missionary just now, and I can tell you I did my best as a missionary for him. Did he ever tell you of a disappointment in a love affair shortly before you and he came North?"
Miss Blain blushed as she asked the question, and when Mr. Findlay made answer in the affirmative and followed with a hearty laugh, she was not very well pleased, saying, "I assure you it was no laughing matter for us." She then went on to say, "I made love to every one of my sisters in Mr. Thomson's behalf, besides throwing out feelers in other directions; but nothing came of it. Every one was ready enough to admit his many sterling qualities; and strange as it may seem, the worst that the silly things had against him was that he did not know how to court, and when I told them that he would be all the safer as a husband on that account, what answer do you suppose I got? This--'Why don't you marry him yourself?' Ha-ha!"
Mr. Findlay and Miss Blain now discussed their plans for the future, beginning with their wedding which was to take place the following day at the residence of the Churchills. They were all right for a clergyman, as Mr. Snow had arrived with the brigade.
The event passed off pleasantly. The bride was dressed in spotless white and like all brides she looked charming, only a little more so. One of the fair daughters of the local Postmaster, Mr. Smith, was bridesmaid, and Mr. Thomson magnanimously stood by his friend as groomsman, an act that touched both bride and bridegroom, the latter showing it by a lingering handshake after the ceremony was over, and the former by raising her beautiful face to his and giving him a sisterly kiss, which, everything taken into account, was very nice indeed.
In honour of the event a dance was given in the evening in the large reception hall of the clerks' quarters, at which the Churchills and the newly wedded couple were present for a short time, the latter taking part in the opening dance.
The following day being Sunday, Mr. Snow conducted morning and evening services in the hall. In those days when the residents of Fort Chipewyan, or those visiting it from other forts, had an opportunity for attending public worship, they usually did so gladly, some of them no doubt, appreciating the opportunity all the more because of its rarity. On this occasion all the Protestants were present--in all about sixty souls--and helped according to their ability to make the service hearty and encouraging.
Although many of the worshippers came from hundreds of miles away, they had almost all originally come from overseas or from the Red River Settlement, and for the musical part of the service there was no difficulty in selecting hymns familiar to all, such for instance as--"0 God Our Help in Ages Past," "Rock of Ages," "Abide With Me" and other equally world-wide favourites. The responsibility of making the selection fell on Mrs. Churchill and Mrs. Findlay. The former played the accompaniment on a small organ, and the latter, in a voice which pleasingly combined strength and sweetness, led in the soprano, and Mr. Findlay sang a good bass and Mr. Kidd an equally good tenor. It may be said that the members of this congregation did not sing to please themselves, nevertheless, having sung they did please themselves and afterwards very generally acknowledged that they had enjoyed the singing.
Mr. Snow's addresses were of the simplest character conceivable, and must have been well understood by the least educated in his audience, and his simple words carried most weight with those who knew him best, because his preaching was adorned by his manner of living. When he spoke to them of God and righteousness they knew that he was speaking from experience. And it is hardly likely that the sixty people who that day heard him speak of the duties, privileges and blessings of the Christian calling went away without more earnest desire and sincere resolve to live better and more useful lives.
Monday was spent in completing arrangements in connection with the requirements of the Peace River trading posts, which, taking them from east to west, are as follows: Little Red River, Vermillion, Battle River, Dunvegan, St. John's, and Hudson's Hope. It took four boats to transport the goods needed for these six posts. Mr. Stait, who was to continue in charge of Fort Vermillion, took charge of two of the boats; and Mr. Findlay, who was returning to Dunvegan, took charge of the other two.
The brigade left Fort Chipewyan on Tuesday. The first stage of the journey consisted of seven miles of pleasant sailing over the west end of the lake, which brought the travellers to the entrance of the Quatre Fourches River. This remarkable little stream, which forms one side of the Peace River delta and connects the Athabasca Lake with the Peace River, may flow either eastward or westward according to the levels at its two ends. On this occasion it happened that the Athabasca Lake was higher than the Peace River, which produced a current in the Quatre Fourches in the direction in which the travellers were going; but this current was not strong enough to be of much use, and although the wind also was favourable, owing to the narrowness of the stream, and the heavy forests which reached right down to the low banks, sailing was not practicable, and as the beach was too soft for tracking, it was necessary to depend mainly on the oars until reaching the Peace River. On coming to that wider stream, although its stronger current was against instead of with them, owing to the free sweep of the wind, now more in the direction in which they were going, they were able to lay down their oars and hoist sail, and their preference of this easier way of going forward was easily discernible in their speaking, laughing, grinning, smiling and general appearance. However, sailing up the Peace River with their loaded boats was a luxury these voyageurs did not expect to enjoy long--and they did not. All too soon there was a tie between wind and current and the sail had to come down and the tracking line got ready.
Each crew was divided into two relays of four men each, and while one relay was on the line the other rested on the boat. A change of relays was usually made without the boat coming quite ashore, and sometimes without even so much as stopping. To wade from or to the boat was therefore the regular thing, and those who did the latter had to sit on the gunwales long enough to allow the water in their trousers to drain back into the river.
Next to Mr. and Mrs. Findlay no one did more to make this voyage a pleasant one than did Mr. George Kidd. There was certainly no mistake made in his promotion from the position of labourer to that of clerk. With his songs and his performances on the violin, his innocent fun and good nature, he helped the voyageurs to forget the hardships of the way and to laugh when otherwise they might have groaned or even whined.
Tired as the boatmen might be after the day's travel, they were nearly always ready for a brief social time round the camp-fire before turning in for the night. On several occasions Mrs. Findlay greatly delighted them with her singing, especially when she sang some familiar songs in the chorus of which some of them were able to join, and which was rendered the more effective by means of Mr. Kidd's accompaniment on the violin. On another evening someone would tell an interesting story; and there were few days so uneventful as not to furnish subjects for conversation or innocent fun.
For instance, one day the trackers came to the mouth of a small stream, and supposing from its appearance that they could easily ford it, they went right ahead. Fortunately the steersman had his suspicions about its depth and got the men to take their poles and keep the boat going forward independent of the tracking line; and a very timely move it was, for presently the trackers were seen to be, metaphorically speaking, in deep waters, and number one started to swim, then number two, then number three; but number four didn't, for although a Beaver he could not swim, and perhaps he thought he didn't have to, as he was already half way over and still had at least eight inches to the good, as he was that much taller than the others, and thus he continued, chin-deep, mouth-deep, nose-deep, eye-deep until he was all under, excepting his long hair which appeared and disappeared in keeping with some foot-work which he was evidently performing below. Meanwhile amusement had given place to alarm, and the steersman was shouting at the top of his voice, in Cree, "Kipi,kipi,assowaha" (Hasten, hasten, cross over!). Presently the swimmers struck bottom and the head of the Beaver gradually emerged from the water, and still guided by the tracking line which he grasped with his right hand, he staggered on towards the shore, where in answer to a question he said in his own language, "Aha, tu natsutli wosto" (Yes, I drank a little water). The men gave way to hearty laughter, in which the poor Beaver took part only to the extent of a sickly grin; for, as is well known, an exhibition of the kind furnished by him is always much more entertaining to the spectators than to the performer, partly perhaps, because as in this case, he fails to see himself as others see him.
Those who witnessed this incident, not satisfied with laughing heartily when it occurred, went on laughing through the day and laughed again round the camp-fire. Mrs. Findlay, however, with the finer instinct of the gentler sex, sensed the feeling of the Indian and quietly championed his cause at breakfast next morning. The gentlemen admitted the justice of her strictures, although Kidd remarked that it was enough to make anybody laugh to see a beaver almost drowned through being unable to swim. A laugh followed this remark, and another when Mrs. Findlay answered, "He certainly does not live up to his name as well as Mr. Kidd does to his."
It is pleasant to relate that Mr. Kidd did show himself susceptible to kindly impressions in that he showed respect for Mrs. Findlay's opinion and the Indian's feelings by contriving in some manner to prevent any more laughter over the mishap of the latter, at any rate, within his hearing.
On a journey such as the one being described, the responsibility of selecting a suitable camping place usually rests mainly with the guide, and that functionary is sometimes severely criticized for indifference to beautiful scenery, because he may have passed some beauty spot and gone on to some nearby place not nearly so attractive; but investigation would usually make it clear that he had done so in order to secure the important requisites of a good encampment--a good landing place, good shelter and fuel sufficient within easy reach.
James Peranteau was the guide. He was an intelligent French half-breed, who was familiar with the river from its source to its outlet. Finding that Mrs. Findlay greatly admired beautiful scenery, and perhaps having an artistic eye of his own, he usually contrived to select a camping place in which picturesque scenery and the more substantial advantages just named were pleasingly combined.
In this respect he was particularly successful when on the fourth day out from Fort Chipewyan, acting with the approval of Mr. Findlay and Mr. Stait, he brought the trackers to a halt for the night at Fort Providence, otherwise named the Little Rapid, which is ninety-eight miles from Fort Chipewyan. The river above this point flows between high limestone banks. A little lower down there are numerous out-croppings of gypsum. At the point itself the bank is only about fifteen feet high, and at that level there is a grassy terrace, the first in a succession which gradually slope upwards until connecting with the plateau a half mile or so from the river and some hundreds of feet above it.
While the tents were being pitched Mr. Findlay took his gun, and he and Mrs. Findlay started to climb the slope, reaching its upper edge just as the sun was about to sink below the horizon, and was treating the landscape to the finishing touches of a twelve hour sun-bath. First the slope they had climbed, and then the river flowing along its lower edge, then the forest-covered slope beyond, received those parting touches of their sun-bath, and over all were the heavens with arches of feathery clouds beautifully tinted by the artistic hand of nature, speaking soothingly to the travellers of the day that was dying and cheeringly of the days that were yet to come, causing Mrs. Findlay to place her hand on her husband's shoulder and whisper again, "Oh Will, isn't this beautiful?" Then she said, "A scene such as this reminds me of those lines of Bishop Heber:
'O God, O Good beyond compare,
If thus Thy meaner works are fair,
If thus Thy glories gild the sky
Of ruined earth and sinful man,
How glorious must those mansions be
Where Thy redeemed shall dwell with Thee.' "
Then she said, "What a fitness in the names which apply here--the river upon which we are looking is called Peace River, and the spot upon which we stand is called Point Providence."
In the brief silence which followed Mr. Findlay tenderly passed an arm round his fair young wife and said, "I too have an inspiration. As a man having his eyes open, I see along with the things before us now, other things which are soon to be--the things which go along with Christianity and civilization--churches, schools and homesteads. I see herds of cattle. I look over fields of golden grain. I see that our wandering tent--our home for tonight--has given place to substantial buildings which have been quarried out of the rocks which are so handy. Children from various points are making towards this spot, because we happen to be standing on the site of a future school. Now it is another day. It is Sunday and people are entering another building which has tower and spire and bell, because though they dwell in a good land where there is a Providence and a river called Peace, 'They desire a better country, even an heavenly.'"
Just then Mr. Findlay's thoughts were diverted from his prophetic vision by a flutter of wings in a nearby aspen grove. Approaching the spot cautiously he discovered a number of partridges partaking of their supper of dry seeds. He succeeded in bagging three of them, and when he rejoined Mrs. Findlay she expressed satisfaction and then pensively remarked, "Whatever we niay become, so far we are terrestrial and pretty sanguinary at that, aren't we?" And Mr. Findlay laughing replied, "When I heard that flutter in the bush I was moved by a spirit that calls for something more substantial than scenery, and now I have a vision of fried partridges, also fried onions and boiled potatoes, so we had better race down the slope and enjoy realization while we satisfy our wholesome appetites."
Mrs. Findlay took the lead and arrived at the camp some steps ahead of Mr. Findlay, and some of the men-knowing no better--really believed she was the swifter of the two. Perhaps she was.
Once there she entered the tent, threw down her hat, donned a working apron and rolled up her sleeves, and with the aid of Mr. Kidd and the man who regularly waited on them, Mr. Findlay's vision was fulfilled in a wonderfully short time in the meal which was temptingly spread within the tent.
After tea there was something in the nature of a concert around the main camp-fire. Mr. Kidd got out his violin and Mrs. Findlay sang several songs--popular at that time, and for that matter popular still--among them "Annie Laurie," "My Old Kentucky Home," and "Tenting on the Old Camp Ground." Most of the men were able to join in the choruses. Mrs. Findlay proposed that they close in the usual concert style by singing the National Anthem. After that Mr. Kidd suggested that in acknowledgment of the musical treat which Mrs. Findlay had given them, they should sing, "She's a Jolly Good Fellow," and forthwith they did so, lustily. When Mrs. Findlay had thanked them for their appreciation and wished them good-night, one of the voyageurs said to the others, "Boys, you could just hear the beavers clapping their tails every time she sang." And a Scotsman added, "And every time you sang I could hear an owld owl just a-hootin." The last speaker apparently avoided collision with a moccasined foot by hastily disappearing into the darkness.
At the next encampment west of Point Providence, the men spent a good part of the social hour around the evening camp-fire, in giving an entertaining exhibition of their knowledge of the lay of the river. James Peranteau apparently visualized every curve of the river along its entire length of eight hundred miles from the Rockies to Lake Athabasca; and there were others, including Mr. Stait, who had equally accurate knowledge of considerable portions of the river.
It was interesting to watch their manner of demonstration. The demonstrator faced up or down stream as the case might require, and evidently kept his mind's eye rivetted on the river until he had concluded his mental journey. With his right hand open and stretched forward, he worked it and his whole body with a slightly swaying motion, now to right, now to left, in imitation of the curves of the stream, mentioning the names of well-known points, islands and tributaries as he proceeded; and when he reached his objective, which was always a fort, he brought down his right hand edgeways, on the open palm of his left, emphatically mentioning at the same time the name of the fort.
Four days later the brigade arrived at the Little Red River trading post, which is two hundred and twenty-two miles from Fort Chipewyan, and stands at the junction of the Red and Peace Rivers. This post consisted of two ordinary log houses with mud-washed walls and roofs covered with spruce bark, which was the style of roof most common up to that time in the Company's establishments in the North. The bark used for the purpose was obtained by stripping off the jackets from the lower five feet of the standing trees. The sheets thus obtained averaged three feet in width. The difference between a bark covered roof and one of thatch was chiefly one of difference in material, as both called for roof-poles underneath, thickly coated with mud or clay; but whereas thatch was kept in place by means of some more of the same mixture, bark was held in position by means of small cross-poles placed two feet apart, two feet being the exposure to weather of each tier; that is to say, each tier of bark rested on a small cross-pole at its base, and two feet higher another cross-pole held it in place by being securely pegged to the roof-poles underneath.
The Red River is so called because its waters have a slightly reddish tinge, attributed by some to the characteristics of the muskegs where it takes its rise, and by others to the nature of the limestone bed over which it passes.
The brigade stayed at this place only long enough to land the winter outfit required for this post, which consisted of about fifty packages of general merchandise. Then after getting sufficient venison and potatoes to make one good meal it pushed on to the Chute which is four and a half miles farther up the Peace River, and there they encamped for the night.
No one desiring the picturesque in a camping place could condemn the Chute on that score, for it had the scenery which made it a most interesting study; but it was scenery mixed up with noise, and after the curtain went down on the scenery, the noise went on. As things were it had to be, for with the Peace River here spreading itself out to the width of one mile, and here and there dropping down twelve feet perpendicularly, while in other places it rushed violently over or against projecting rocks, resulting noises there were bound to be--and there were--and combined, they amounted to a mighty roar. It was therefore hardly a place to be selected with a view to peaceful slumber, and the experience of a number of the travellers was doubtless similar to that of Mr. Kidd, who declared next morning that he had slept all night with both ears wide open, a statement which, of course, it would have been absurd to dispute.
Next day the goods were carried about one hundred yards above the Chute, whither the boats also were taken, being hauled thither partly on land and partly on water, one at a time, by the combined crews. By two o'clock the boats were loaded and the journey was resumed.
Two days later the brigade arrived at the important trading post, Fort Vermillion, which is forty-seven miles west of the Chute. This brought Mr. Stait to the end of his journey, as he was to continue the officer in charge at this fort. From here westward the brigade consisted of only two boats.
At this fort the Hudson's Bay Company did more in an agricultural way than in any other part of the North. It had a small farm under the management of Michael Lezotte, a French Canadian from the province of Quebec. He was a fine old gentleman and was delighted when informed by Mr. Stait that Mrs. Findlay wished to see his garden and dairy. Later, when they were joined by Mr. Findlay and Mr. Stait, and the latter asked Michael if he thought he could spare the Findlays some butter and vegetables for their nimawin (Cree for provisions to be used on a journey), he answered, "Ahbien oui! Pour le sur. I tell madam alredee she must have all de fresh butter and pitatees she can eat all de way to Dunvegan."
The journey was resumed at ten o'clock, and travelling at the usual rate, Battle River, a third or fourth-rate stream, which is one hundred and fifty-seven miles from Vermillion, was reached in six days. This river flows into the Peace from the north-west, and a little above the point of junction there stood two small mud-washed houses, representing one of the Company's trading-posts. Generally it was occupied only in winter.
Another four and a half days' tracking brought the travellers to the Peace River Landing, one hundred and thirty miles from Battle River, at which point the trail between Lesser Slave Lake and Dunvegan crosses the river. Three miles farther up-stream they came to Smoky River and the next sixty-three miles, which they made in two days, brought them to their destination, Fort Dunvegan.