WASHINGTON IRVING'S ASTORIA.
WE have been agreeably surprised by these volumes. Instead of a novel, which the title, on its first announcement, seemed to pro- mise, Astoria is the history of as grand and comprehensive a commercial enterprise as ever was planned with any well-grounded prospect of success; and which was prosecuted amongst scenes as vast and nations as wild—gave rise to incidents as ludicrous, as interesting, as appalling, and developed characters and man- ners as marked and striking—as any thing on record respecting the adventurous explorers of the middle ages, or the hardy disco- verers of more modern days. Astoria is (or rather was, for on its capture the English called it Fort George) the name of an American settlement founded at the mouth of the Columbia river, which falls into the Pacific Ocean on the Western coast of North America in latitude 46" 19' N. It was christened after its founder, Mr. ASTOR, a German by birth, an American citizen by naturalization, and a fur-merchant by trade ; who had risen by economy, indefatigable industry, and natural aptitude for commerce, from a humble condition to very considerable wealth and influence. Having observed the large commercial profits mode by two British Fur Companies, (the Hud- indispensable in many of the principals and c!erks ; and this The principal sources from which the materials of the volumes qualification could only be obtained by engaging servants of the are drawn, are the journals, correspondence, books, and other two British Companies ; whose national feelings and esprit de archives relating to the enterprise, in the possession of Mr. corps naturally inclined them to their old masters, when, as was ASTOR; almost the sole return he received for years of exertion often the case towards the close of the expedition, the rivals came and anxious thought, and for the expenditure of we know not how into collision. The inferior hands were a motley group of half- many thousand pounds. In addition to these authorities, Mr. breeds, hunters, and Canadian voyageurs, men who united to the IRVING has communicated with some of the survivors, and en- physical capabilities of the Indian much of his caprice, and whose tithed these original materials by having occasional recourse to half-civilization only gave them more power to effect their pur- the books of travellers who have gone over the same or nearly poses. Very few of such persons could comprehend the plan of similar ground. The author also has peculiar advantages Mr. ASTOR ; not anyone appears to have taken in its whole scope. of his own. He treats of matters, many of which have fallen When, therefore, his most confidential managers saw large sums under his immediate observat;on. He may not, indeed, have of money totally lost, or laid out without any thing like a proper- known the individuals who formed the cortege of Mr. HUNT, but tionate return, they became alarmed at the charges, and felt he is familiarly acquainted with the classes to which they belong. coldly towards the whole thing, as an unprofitable speculation— The identical scenes which they beheld, lie never saw ; but he not to mention the depression that must have affected them from has studied landscapes of a similar kind. Even the generic cha- hardships, solitude, and anxiety. Still, these obstructions might racteristics of the remoter Indian tribes, are perhaps better known all have been got the better of, but for the rivalry of the North- to WASHINGTON IRVING than they are to the persons who wander west Company, and the breaking out of the war between England amongst them ; for Indian character and Icdian history seem to and America. At the very report of Mr. ASTOR'S enterprise, the have been his hobby from boyhood. rival Company had pushed forward, and established a post on a The result is, the production of the most finished narrative of branch of the Columbia : as soon as war was declared, they stimu- such a series of adventures that ever was written, whether with lated our Government to send ships to attack Astoria ; which, regard to plan or execution. The arrangement has all the art of however, owing to the causes just indicated, peaceably surren- a fiction, yet without any apparent sacrifice of truth or exactness. dered; the wily Mr. M'TAvisii, a partner in the North-west, The composition we are inclined to rate as the chef d'oeuvre of having previously purchased all the furs collected by the Asto- WASHINGTON IRVING. It has all the minute fulness and enough rians, and, by thus converting them into British property, choused of the polished and elaborate elegance of his other works, with the naval gentlemen out of the prize-money the Company had more of closeness, pith, and substance. In the introductory pas-
buoyed them up to expect. sages, the labour is perhaps disproportioned to the materials ; but
All this, however, though forming the subject of the book, is as be proceeds in his narratives, this old peculiarity of the writer pbordinate in the treatment ; pervading the whole, but not stand- is no longer observed, or only in the lighter parts, where it affords mg prominently furth, and rather felt as a combining power than a relief and a variety. Nor should the character of the whole be perceived as a thing of itself. Adventure is the principal and passed without praise. The book in its better parts does not ap-
son'a Bay and its rival the North-west,) as well as the national palpable characteristic of the work ; and the main narratives are importance of the trade which they created, he conceived the idea two. The first tells of the original voyage from New York to of establishing an American company upon a similar plan, but on a Astoria, and is full of pleasant humour, from the contrast afforded larger scale, and with ulterior political objects. His project was by the naval and civil dignitaries. The commander, an honest, to found an emporium on the shores of the Pacific, which should blunt seaman, trained in a man-of-war, full of quarter-deck keep up a direct and regular communication with the United States notions of his own importance and of the discipline of the service, by a line of posts established right across the entire continent of expected implicit obedience to his word, and was only bent upon America. For the convenience of water-carriage and other obvious getting quickly to his destination. The managing partners or advantages, they were to be placed along the Missouri and agents, on the contra' y, were flushed with their new-blown ho- Columbia rivers, as far as was practicable : they would of course nours, and accustomed to the Nabob-like state in which the heads extend by land across the Rocky Mountains, for the comparatively of the great Hudson's Bay Company then indulged in Montreal, small distance between the heads of these streams, which flow and to the utmost legal sway u hich they exercised. These Asto- in opposite directions from the same range. Independent of their rian leaders therefore wished to ruffle it on sea, as their quondam Uses as houses of rest and refuge for Indian traders and servants superiors did on shore; and, as soon as they could control their of the Company, and as petty garrisons to keep the natives in stomachs, and their legs, were constantly interfering with the check, the posts would have served, where needful, as minor corn- Captain, wishing ta land Ime, mid to anchor there, and fooling mercial depots, especially in the then unrifled and still rich districts him to the top of his bent when they arrived at the Sandwich on the further side of the Rocky Mountains. Smaller stations Islands. by their diplomatic visits to the chieftain TAMAAHMAAH, would have ramified from them in all directions ; either perma- dressed out in scarlet uniforms or Highland kilts, and by a nent, for trading with remote tribes of Indians, or temporary, for pilgrimage, clerks and all, to the spot where Coos was slain. the sojourn during the season of hunters employed by the Corn- In short, the whole voyage, though not differing in incident from pany. The peltries thus collected would have been sent down the other voyages of discovery, is very attractive, from the deep yet Columbia to the emporium of Astoria at its mouth, where they easy manner of its telling. It is KNICKERBOCKER with more would have been shipped direct across the Pacific for China and matter, compression, and reality.
other Eastern markets. The vessels having disposed of their furs. The second narrative, which describes the laud journey across would have laid in Indian goods, and then steered for New York the continent, is of a more interesting and massy nature, with by the Cape of Good Hope ; performing, in fact, a circumnaviga- much greater variety of parts. Mr. HUNT, the leader of the ex- tion, for the ships that went for cargoes of furs would have sup. pediiion, had considerab'e difficulty in collecting his followers; and plied the Astorians, from New York, with creature comforts and could only meet with fitting ones at the border towns, where men- the commodities necessary fir their traffic with the natives. It grel classes of all kinds congregate, from the Kentucky hunter, was also conceived, and not wildly, that the different establish. and the outlaw, down to the debased Indian of the lowest stamp : rnents of the Company would serve as arteries of emigrations and and all these are painted to the life. The rival traders did all they as nucleii for colonizing the Western part of North America. could to thwart the undertaking, and several ludicrous schemes and Such was the large scheme of Mr. ASTOR; which, though incidents are consequently thrown up. When fairly started, the nominally a company concern, was undertaken and carried on en- characters forming the motley caravan are mostly of new species, tirely at that gentleman's expense, for the Government gave and are drawn with life and spirited elegance. The scenes and merely good wishes. It failed ; not from any inherent impractica- adventures along the Missouri and across the Prairies and plains bility, or any insuperable difficulties connected with itself, but from to the foot of the Rocky Mountains, are described with animation ; a succession of unlucky events, and the necessarily inferior charac- whilst the art of the author, and the fact of much of the journey ter of many of the agents employed. The first adventurers arrived being made by water, prevent any considerable resemblance to his in safety, both those who voyaged by sea and those who crossed the previous work, or to that of his nephew on a somewhat similar continent ; and though much time was consumed and tremendous subject. With the ascent of the mountains, however, begins a hardships were endured by the latter class, yet their experience narrative of deep interest, from the grandeur of the scenery, the taught others how to avoid much that they suffered, and the esta- natural difficulties with which the adventurers had to struggle, blishrnent of posts would, in a few years, have reduced the privations the hardships they had to endure from hunger, cold, and fatigue, of the people to the average lot of fur-hunters. In despite of the and the suspense which hangs over the fate of several parties, difficulties of a new undertaking, a valuable and extensive cargo when the doubt of extrication from the chaos of mountains, the of furs was collected, and the observation of the most intelligent difficulty of finding food, and the inutility of keeping together, persons appeared to bear out the sanguine expectations of its broke up the hardy band into several sections, some to pass the founder. But a fatality seemed to impend over the working of the winter in hunting and to live as they might, and the others to plan. The vessel that carried out the first settlers was intended push on for the mouth of Columbia river, as best they could, were as a coasting trader and explorer ; hut, on her first voyage, the they lucky enough to 1' strike" the river itself. crew were massacred by Indians, whom the foolhardiness of the These are the main matters; but there are many collateral and captain allowed to come on board in too great numbers, and with- subordinate subjects. The work is introduced by a brief historical out precaution. A second vessel, after reaching Astoria safely, view of the history of the North American fur trade, and by encountered a tremendous gale during a voyage to the Russian WASHINGTON IRVING'S own reminiscences of the hospitalities fur settlements; and either prudence or timidity decided upon and grandeur of the Hudson Bay Directors in their palmy days. steering for the Sandwich Islands to refit. A third vessel was The narratives are varied by the episodical expeditions of several totally wrecked before she reached her destination : all which of the agents and servants of the Company ; by characteristic events alarmed and dispirited the Astorians, and threw them upon accounts of the different Indian tribes, and of incidents amongst their own mental resources, which seem to have been inadequate them ; as well as by sketches of natural scenery, pictures of enough. Then, as we have said, the necessary character of the ,animated nature, and singular characters, who fell in the way or agents clogged the enterprise. A knowledge of the fur-trade was into the ranks of the expedition.
pea rlike a reproduction from other writings, Iota eti a °restive* ef genius from the original observation of things themselves. The author, with a peculiar felicity, has retained the raciness of his authorities. He displays the acuteness, distinctness, and reality of men of business and action, without their necessary minuteness and tedious expansion. He has extracted the spirit from the Astorian archives, and thrown off their dregs and dry matter.
Did space and propriety permit, we might take up the volumes, and set specimens of their various points, till we bad half filled a paper. As it is, we must content ourselves with taking as many quotations as we can; and without regard to any methodical order, except to begin with the beginning. And first, let us . notice an important arm of the expedition—the voyageurs, of wbom mention is often made in the overland Northern expedi- tions.
The "voyageurs" form a kind of confraternity in the Canada, like the arrie- ros, or carriers of Spain, and, like them, are employed in long internal expeditions of travel and traffic ; with this difference, that the arrieros travel by land, the voyageurs by water ; the former with mules and horses, the litter with batteaux and canoes. The voyageurs may be said to have sprung up out of the fur trade, having originally been employed by the early: French merchants in their trading.expeditions through the labyrinth of tivers and lakes of the boundless interior. They were coeval with the coureurs des beds, or rangers of the woods, already noticed ; and, like them, in the intervals of their long, arduous, and laborious expeditions, were prone to pass their time in idleness and revelry about the trading posts or settlements, squandering their hard earnings in heed- less conviviality, and rivalling their neighbours, the Indians, in indolent indul-
gence and an imprudent disregard of the morrow. * * • The dress of these people is generally half-civilized, half-savage. They wear a capot, or surcout, made of a blanket, a striped cotton shirt, cloth trousers, or leathern legging, moccasins of deer-skin, and a belt of variegated worsted, from which are suspended the knife, tobacco-pouch, and other implements. Their language is of the same piebald character, being a French patois, embroidered with Indian and English words and phrases.
The lives of the voyageurs are passed in wild and extensive rovings in the service of individuals, but more especially of the fur traders. They are gene- rally of French descent, and inherit much of the gayety and lightness of heart of their ancestors, being full of anecdote and song, and ever really for the dance. They inherit, too, a fund of civility and complaisance; and, instead of that hardness and grossness which men in laborious life are apt to indulge towards each other, they are mutually obliging and accommodating; interchanging kind offices, yielding each other assistance and comfort in every emergency, and using the familiar appellations of " cousin "and " brother" when there is in fact no relationship. Their natural good-will is probably heightened by a community of adventure and hardship in their precarious and wandering life. No men are more submissive to their leaders and employers, more capable of enduring hardships, or more good-humoured under privations. Never are they so happy as when on long and rough expeditions, toiling up rivers, or coasting lakes; encamping at night on the borders, gossiping round their fires, and bivouacking in the open air. They are dextrous boatmen, vigorous and adroit with the oar and paddle, and will row from morning unto night without a murmur. The steersman often sings an old traditionary French song, with some regular burden in which they all join, keeping time with their oars; if at any time they flag in spirits or relax in exertion, it is but necessary to strike up a song of the kind to put them all in fresh spirits and activity. The Cana- dian waters are vocal with these little French Chansons, that have been echoed from mouth to mouth and transmitted from father to son, from the earliest days of the colony ; and it has a pleasing effect, in a still, golden summer even- ing, to see a batteau gliding across the bosom of a lake and dipping its oars to the cadence of these quaint old ditties, or sweeping along, in full chorus on a bright sunny morning, down the transparent current of one of the Canadian rivers.
Here is the place where the expedition had to engage its bunters,—Mackinaw in the olden time, that is some five-and- twenty years ago.
Mackinaw, at that time, was a mere village, stretching along a small bay, with a fine broad beach in front of its principal row of houses, and dominated by the old fort, which crowned an impending height. The beach was a kind of public promenade, where were displayed all the vagaries of a seaport on the arrival of a fleet from a long cruize. Here voyageurs frolicked away their wages, fiddling and dancing in the booths and cabins, buying all kinds of knickknacks, dressing themselves out finely, and parading up and down like arrant braggarts and coxcombs. Sometimes they met with rival coxcornbs in the young Indians from the opposite shore, who would appear on the beach painted and decorated in fantastic style, and would saunter up and down to be gazed at and admired, perfectly satisfied that they eclipsed their pale-faced competitors.
Now and then a chance party of " North-westers" appeared at Mackinaw from the rendezvous at Fort William. These held themselves up as the chi- ve/1.y of the fur trade. They were men of iron; proof against cold weather, bard fare, and perils of all kinds. Some would wear the north-west button and a formidable dirk, and assume something of a military air. They gene- rally wore feathers in their hats, and affected the " brave." " Je sins un homme du Nord !"—" I am a man of the North," one of these swelling fellows would exclaim, sticking his arms a-kimbo and ruffling by the South-westers; whom lie regarded with great contempt, as men softened by mild climates and the luxurious fare of bread and bacon, and whom lie stigmatized with the inglorious name of pork-eaters. The superiority assumed by these vain- glorious swaggerers was, in general, tacitly admitted. Indeed, some of them had acquired great notoriety for deeds of hardihood and courage; for the fur trade bad its heroes, whose names resounded throughout the wilderness.
Such was Mackinaw at the time of which we are treating. It now, doubt- less, presents a totally different aspect. The Fur Companies no longer assemble there, the navigation of the lakes is carried on by steam-boats and various shipping, and the race of traders, and trappers, and voyageurs, and Indian dandies, have vapoured out their brief hour, and disappeared. Such changes does the lapse of a handful of years make in this ever-changing country.
ASCENDING THE MISSOURI.
In this way they set out from St. Louis, in buoyant spirits, and soon arrived at the mouth of the Missouri. This vast river' three thousand miles in length, and which, with its tributary streams, drains such an immense extent of country, was as yet but casually and imperfectly navigated by the adventurous bark of the fur trader. A steam-boat had never yet stemmed its turbulent current. Sails were but of casual assistance, for it required a strong wind to conquer the force of the stream. The main dependence was on bodily strength and manual dexterity. The boats, in general, had to be propelled by oars and set- tog-poles, or drawn by the hand and by grappling-hooks from one root or over- hanging tree to another ; or towed by the long cordelle, or towing-line, where he shores were sufficiently clear of woods and thickets to permit the men to ass along the banks. During this long and tedious progress, the boat would be exposed to frequent danger from floating trees and great mimeses of drift-wood, or to be eumaled upon eases and sawyers ; that is to say, sunken trees, presenting a jagged or pointed end above the surface of the water. As the channel of the river fre- quently shifted from side to side, according to the bends and sand-banks, the boat had, in the same way, to advance in a zigzag course. Often a part of the crew would have to leap into the water at the shallows, and wade along with the towing-line, while their comrades on board toilfully assisted with oar and setting-pole. Sometimes the boat would seem to be retained motionless, as if spell-bound, opposite some point round which the current set with violence, and where the utmost labour scarce effected any visible progress. On these occasions it was that the merits of the Canadian voyageurs came into full action. Patient of toil, not to be disheartened by impediments and disappointments, fertile in expedients, and versed in every mode of humouring and conquering the wayward current, they would ply every exertion, sometimes in the boat, sometimes on shore, sometimes in the water, however cold, always alert, always in good-humour ; and, should they at any time flag or grow weary, one of their popular boat songs, chanted by a veteran oarsman and responded to in chorus, acted as a never-failing restorative.
The different episodical incidents have been alluded to, and here is one. COLTER has fallen in with the party as he was descending the river alone— Colter, with the hardihood of a regular trapper, had east himself loose front the party of Lewis and Clarke in the very heart of the wilderness, and had re- mained to trap beaver alone on the head waters of the Missouri. Here he fell in with another lonely trapper, like himself, named Putts ; and they agreed to keep together. They were in the very region of the terrible Blackfeet, at that time thirsting to revenge the death of their companion, and knew that they had to expect no mercy at their hands. They were obliged to keep concealed all day in the woody margins of the rivers, setting their traps after nightfall and taking them up before daybreak. It was running a fearful risk for the sake of a few beaver-skins ; but such is the life of the trapper. They were on a branch of the Missouri called Jefferson's Fork, and had set their traps at night about six miles up a small river that emptied itself into the fork. Early in the morning they ascended the river in a canoe, to examine the traps. The banks on each side were high and perpendicular, and cast a shade over the stream. As they were softly paddling along, they heard the trampling of many feet upon the banks. Colter immediately gave the alarm of " Indians!' and was for instant retreat. Potts scoffed at him for being frightened by the trampling of a herd of buffaloes. Colter checked his uneasiness, and paddled forward. They had not gone much further when frightful whoops and yells burst forth from each side of the river, and several hundred Indians appeared on either bank. Signs were made to the unfortunate trappers to come on shore. They were obliged to comply. Before they could get out of their canoe, a savage seized the rifle belonging to Potts. Colter sprang on shore, wrested the wea- pon from the hands of the Indian, and restored it to his companion, who was still in the canoe, and immediately pushed into the stream. There was the sharp twang of a bow, and Potts cried out that he was wounded. Colter urged him to come on shore and submit, as his only chance for life; but the other knew there was no prospect of mercy, and determined to die game. Levelling his rifle, he shot one of the savages dead on the spot. The next moment he fell himself, pierced with innumerable arrows. The vengeance of the savages now turned upon Colter. He was stripped naked, and, having some knowledge of the Blackfoot language, overheard a con- sultation as to the mode of despatching him, so as to derive the greatest amuse- ment from his death. Some were for setting him up as a mark, and having _a trial of skill at his expense. The chief, however, was for nobler sport. He seized Colter by the shoulder, and demanded if he could run fast. The unfor- tunate trapper was too well acquainted with Indian customs not to comprehend the drift of the question. He knew he was to run for his life, to furnish a kind of human hunt to his persecutors. Though in reality be was noted among his- brother hunters for swiftness of foot, he assured the chief that he WU a very bad runner. His stratagem gained him some vantage-ground. He was led by the chief into the prairie, about four hundred yards from the main body of savages, and then turned loose, to save himself if he could. A tremendous yell let him know that the whole pack of bloodhounds were off in full cry. Colter flew, rather than ran; he was astonished at his own speed : but be had six miles of prairie to traverse before he should reach the Jefferson fork of the Missouri; how could he hope to hold out such a distance with the fearful odds. of several hundred to one against him ? The plain, too, abounded with the prickly pear, which wounded his naked feet. Still he fled on, dreading each moment to hear the twang of a bow and to feel an arrow quivering at his heart. He did not even dare to look round, lest he should lose an inch of that distance on which his life depended. Ile had run nearly half way across the plain when the sound of pursuit grew somewhat fainter, and he ventured to. turn his head. The main body of his pursuers were a considerable distance behind ; several of the faster runners were scattered in the advance ; while a swift-footed warrior, armed with a spear, was not more than a hundred yards behind him.
Inspired with new hope, Colter redoubled his exertions, but strained himself to such a degree that the blood gushed from his mouth and nostrils, and streamed down his breast. He arrived within a mile of the river. The sound of footsteps gathered upon him. A glance behind showed his pursuer within twenty yards, and preparing to launch hi, spear. Stopping short, he turned round and spread out his arms. The savage, confounded by this sudden action, attempted to stop and to hurl his spear, but fell in the very act. His spear stuck in the ground, and the shaft broke in his hand. Colter plucked up the pointed part, pinned the savaise to the earth, and continued his flight. The Indians, as they arrived at their slaughtered companion, stopped to howl over him. Colter made the most of this precious delay, gained the skirt of cotton-wood bordering the river, dashed through it, and plunged into the stream. He swam to a neighbouring island, against the upper end of which the drift-wood had lodged in such quantities as to form a natural raft : under this he dived, and swam below water until he succeeded in getting a breathing-place between the floating trunks of trees, whose branches and bushes formed a covert several feet above the level of the water. He had scarcely drawn breath after all his toils, when he heard his pursuers on the river-bank, whooping anti yelling like so many fiends. They plunged in the river, and swam to the raft. The heart of Colter almost died within him as he saw them, through the chinks of his MI. cealment, passing and repassing, and seeking for him in all directions. They at length gave up the search, and he began to rejoice in his escape, when the idea presented itself that they might set the raft on fire. Here was a new source of horrible apprehension, in which he remained until nightfall. Fortunately the idea did not suggest itself to the Indians. As soon as it was dark, finding by the silence around that his pursuers had departed, Colter dived again, and came up beyond the raft. He then swam silently down the river for a considerable distance; when he landed, and kept on all night, to get as far off as possible from this dangerous neighbourhood.
THE AMERICAN DESERT.
While Mr. Hunt was diligently preparing for his arduous journey, some of his men began to lose heart at the perilous prospect before them. But before we accuse them of want of spirit, it is proper to consider the nature of the wilderness into which they were about to adventure. It was a region almost as vast and trackless as the ocean, and, at the time of which we treat, but little known, excepting through the vague accounts of Indian hunters. A part of their route would lie across an immenae tract sti etching north and south for hundreds of miles along the foot of the Rocky Mountains, and drained by the tributary btreams of the Missouri and the 'Mississippi. This region, which resembles one of the immeasurable steppes of Asia, has not inaptly been tanned " the great American Desert." It spreads forth into undulating. and treeless plains and desolate sandy wastes, wearisome to the eye from their extent and monotony, and which are supposed by geologists to have formed the ancient floor of the ocean, countless ages since, when its primwval waves beat against the granite bases of the Rocky Mountains.
It is a land where no man permanently abides ; for, in certain seasons of the year, there is no food either for the hunter or his steed. The herbage is parched and withered, the brooks and streams are dried up: the buffalo, the elk, and deer, have wandered to distant parts, keeping within the verge of expiring ver- dure, and leaving behind them a vast uninhabited solitude, seamed by ravines the beds of former torrents, but now serving only to tantalize and increase the thirst of the traveller.
Occasionally the monotony of this vast wilderness is interrupted by moun- tainous belts of sand and limestone, broken into confused masses, with precipi- tous cliffs and yawning ravines, looking like the ruins of a woad ; or is tra- versed by lofty and barren ridges of rock, almost impassable, like those deno• =Mated the Black Hills. Beyond these rise the stern Larne's of the Rocky Mountains, the limits, as it were, of the Atlantic world. The rugged defiles and deep vallies of this vast chain form sheltering-places for restless and fero- cious bands of savage-,, many of them the remnants of tribes once inhabitants of the praines, but broken up by war and violence, and who carry into their mountain haunts the fierce passions and reckless habits of desperadoes.
To rightly understand the following passages, it should be observed that M'LELLAN had separated himself from his party,- and proceeded alone by what he thought an easier way. The main body had been for days without any regular food.
In the most starving mood they kept for several miles further along the bank of the river, seeking for " beaver signs." Finding sonic, they encamped in the vicinity ; and Ben Jones immediately proceeded to set the trap. They had scarce come to a halt, when they perceived a large smoke at sonic distance to the South-west. The sight was hailed with joy, for they trusted it might rise from some Indian camp, where they could procure something to eat, and the dread of starvation had now overcome even the terror of the Blackfeet. Le Clerc, one of the Canadians, was instantly despatched by 31r. Stuart to reconnoitre; and the travellers sat up till a late hour, watching and listening for his return, hoping he might bring them food. :Midnight arrived, but Le Clerc did not make his appearance; and they lay down once more supperless to sleep, comforting themselves with the hopes that their old beaver. trap might furnish them with a breakfast.
At daybieak they hastened with famished eagerness to the trap : they found in it the fore-paw of a beaver, the sight of which tantalized their hunger and added to their dejection. They resumed their journey with flagging spirits, but had not gone far when they perceived Le Clere approaching at a distance. They hastened to meet him, in hopes of tidings of good cheer. Ile had none such to give them, but news of that strange wanderer M'Lellan. The smoke had risen from his encampment, which took fire while lie has at a little ills- tance from it fishing. Le Clete found him in forlorn condition. His fishiug had been unsuccessful. During twelve days that he had been wandering alone through these savage mountains, he had found scarce any thing to eat. Ile had been ill, wayworn, sick at heart ; still he had kept forward : but now his
strength and his stubbornness were exhausted. He expressed his satisfaction at hearing that Mr. Stuart and his party were twar ; and said be would wait at his camp for their arrival, in hopes they would give him something to eat, for without food, he declared he should not be able to proceed niuch further. When the party reached the place, they found the poor fellow lying on a parcel of withered grass, wasted to a pen feet skeleton, and so feeble that he could scarce raise his head or speak. The presence of his old comrades seemed to revive him ; but they had no food to give him, for they themselves were almost starving. They urged him to rise arid accompany them, but he shook his Lead. It was all in vain, be said ; there was no prospect of their getting speedy relief, and without it he should perish by the way ; he might as well, thert fore, stay and die where he was. At length, after much persuasion, t!ley got him upon his legs, his rifle and other effects were shared among them, and he was cheered and aided forward. In this way they proceeded for seventeen miles over a level plain of sand, until, seeing a few antelopes in the distance, they encamped on the margin of a small stream. All now that were capable of the exertion turned out to hunt for a meal. Their efforts were fruitless, and after dark they returned to their camp, famished almost to desperation. As they were preparing for the third time to lie down to sleep without a mouthful to eat, Le Clerc, one of the Canadians, gaunt and wild with hunger, approached Mr. Stuart with his gun in his hand. " It was all in vain," he said, "to attempt to proceed any further without food. They had a barren plain before them, three or four d .ys' journey in extent, on which nothing was to be procured. They must all perish before they could get to the end of it. It was better, therefore, that one should die to save the rest." He proposed, therefore, that they should cast lots ; adding, as an inducement for Mr. Stuart to assent to the proposition, that he, as leader of the party, should be exempted.
Mr. Stuart shuddered at the horrible proposition, and endeavoured to reason with the man ; but his words were unavailing. At length, suatdring up his rifle, he 'threatened to shoot him on the spot if he persisted. The Punished wretch dropped on his knees, begged pardon in the most abject terms, and promised never again to offend him with such a suggestion. • Quiet being restored to the forlorn encampnient, each one sought repose. Mr. Stuart, however, was so exhausted by the agitation of the past scene act- ing upon his emaciated frame, that he could scarce crawl to his miserable couch; where, notwithstanding his fatigues, lie passed a sleepless night, re- volving upon their dreary situation and the desperate prospect before them.