Изображения страниц

consisted of the lady of the house, and three daughters, four men of the family, the five Indians, half-a-dozen dogs, and ourselves. While the men poisoned the confined air each with a pipe of filthy tobacco, the women cooked some brown unsightly mixture in an earthern pan on the stove, from whence arose stifling fumes of garlic. While a number of men such as these were smoking, the floor was naturally not in a state very tempting to lie down upon, but, having got some tea and biscuits out of our stores, we discovered two small islands in the sea of abominable expectorations; on these we spread our buffalo robes, and settled ourselves for the night.

The dogs judiciously followed our example; and, finding the soft fur a very pleasant bed, lay down along with us. We kicked and drove them off as long as we were able, but it was of no use, they were back again the next minute. Their perseverance prevailed, and a huge wolf-like brute and I, made a night of it.

When the men were snoring on the filthy floor, and the lights put out, the ladies, under cover of the darkness, took possession of the beds. I had for my pillow the foot of the house clock, which, unfortunately for me, had been lately repaired, and ticked with the rudest health. This at my ears, the dreadful smells, and the baking heat of the stove, kept me pretty well awake all night, and I fear I disturbed my wolf-like bed-fellow very much by my uneasiness. I believe, however, I had a sort of dream of the room being filled with houseclocks smoking and spitting, and a huge Indian ticking at my head. As for the Captain, he slept in a most soldierlike manner.

At earliest dawn the house was all astir; the ladies re-appeared on the stage, the Indians were packing our camp kettles and provisions on their tobogins, and we were eating our breakfast. I may as well observe that the tobogin is a light sleigh, made of plank scarcely thicker than the bark of a tree, and bent up in front like a prow; this, with a moderate burthen, is dragged by the Indians over the snow by a rope to the shoulder, with but little effort.

These tasks were soon accomplished; and, accompanied by the five horrible Indians and the pack of miserable dogs, we started. These Indians are a remnant of the Huron tribe, settled at Lorette, where they have a church, houses, and farms. They live, during the winter, by hunting, and such excursions as our own, for which they charge exorbitantly; in the summer they labour a little in their fields, make snow shoes and moccasins, and embroider with beads. They are not of pure blood: I believe there is only one of the tribe who is not partly of French-Canadian extraction. It is a sadly degenerate race, cringing, covetous, drunken, dissipated, gluttonous, and filthy. They are even losing their skill in the chace, the only advantage they possess. But little darker than the Canadians in complexion, their hair is much coarser, and they have a savage and sensual expression peculiar to' themselves. Their dress is the blanket coat and coloured sash, blanket leggings, moccasins of mooseskin, and a red or blue woollen cap. They take no other clothing with them into the bush in the coldest weather. With their snow-shoes loosely tied on, and their tobogin dragged from over the shoulder, they can get over a long journey without fatigue.

Our blankets, buffalo robes, and other necessaries, made up rather a heavy burthen; they were left with three of the Indians, to be drawn leisurely after us, while we, with the others, went ahead in our snow shoes. We were very lightly clad for the journey; the exercise keeps the traveller quite warm enough in any weather.

It was a glorious morning! The sun shone out brightly as in midsummer, but clear and cold. Over the open space of the little settlement where we had passed the night, the new white snow lay like silver sand, glittering radiantly; from the wind of the day before, it was in tiny waves, like the sea shore when the rippling waters of the ebb-tide have left it dry. The morning was perfectly still, the snow of yesterday lay thick and heavy on the firs and pines, unstirred by the slightest motion of the wind, and there was not a cloud in the sky. Though one of the extremely cold days, there was nothing painful in the sensation; the air was thin and pure as on a mountain top: everything was bright and cheerful: the fresh snow, crisped by the severe frost, supported the snow shoe on its very surface, while we felt light and vigorous, and capable of unusual exertion.

There was no track, but the Indians steered for a huge old pine tree at the end of the clearing, on the verge of the forest; here all signs of human industry ended. We stopped for a few minutes under its branches to look behind us on the abodes of men. "Now, we are in the 'bush,'" said our guide.

From thence to the North Pole, lay the desert.

We strode on for several hours under the pine trees, on level ground, at length stopping to breathe at the foot of a hill. The Indians trampled down the snow for a resting-place, made a seat of sapins —the tops of fir trees, and brought us deliciously cold and pure water from a stream close by; we heard its murmur distinctly in the silence of the woods, but could not see the little brook for some time; it was bridged over with ice and snow five feet deep, and only here and there, where there was a miniature cascade, was there an opening.

At noon we started again: three more hours of walking over an undulating country brought us to a small river, near which we determined to pass the night. Latterly our progress had been very fatiguing, the underwood was thick and rose over the five feet of snow; being unpractised, we tripped occasionally over the branches and tumbled;—the struggle up again was no easy matter.

In making a caban for the night, the Indians took off their snow shoes and used them to shovel out in the snow a chamber, about twenty feet in length by twelve in width; throwing the contents up so as to build a wall round it. They next cut some young fir trees and arranged them leaning against each other as rafters, to form a roof; cross branches

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »