قراءة كتاب South from Hudson Bay An Adventure and Mystery Story for Boys

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‏اللغة: English
South from Hudson Bay
An Adventure and Mystery Story for Boys

South from Hudson Bay An Adventure and Mystery Story for Boys

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 6

of protection for his colonists. Failing to get satisfaction from a government whose sympathies were with the Northwest rather than with the Hudson Bay company, he had hired, to guard his colony, one hundred men from two regiments of mercenary soldiers that had been disbanded after the War of 1812. While he was traversing Lake Superior on his way west with these men, he met canoes bringing word of the disastrous fight of Seven Oaks, the death of Governor Semple, and the capture of Fort Douglas. Skirting the shores of the lake, Lord Selkirk went to Fort William, the headquarters of the Northwest Company on Thunder Bay. There he demanded the release of the prisoners who had been brought from the Red River. The controversy that followed finally led to his taking possession of the fort. The fact that he had been appointed a magistrate for the Indian country and sought the arrest of the Northwesters who had taken part in or instigated the troubles at Fort Douglas, gave his action some color of legal right. From Fort William he went on to his disordered and devastated colony, and gathered together all the settlers who were willing to remain.

In spite of all the settlement had been through, Lord Selkirk had no intention of giving up his plans. So many of the colonists had been driven or enticed away and would not return, that he sought to find others to take their places. It was then that he hit upon the idea of bringing over the steady, hard-working Swiss, who would, he believed, make the very best of settlers.

Captain Mai or May,—the English spelling of his name,—a Swiss who had served as a mercenary soldier in the British army, and other agents were sent to Switzerland to secure settlers. Throughout the cantons of Neuchatel, Vaud, Geneva, and Berne, they traveled, explaining the advantages of emigration to the Red River country. The pamphlets they distributed, printed in French and German, gave a highly colored and alluring description of that country with its many miles of fertile soil to be had for the asking. Like all emigration agents, Captain Mai and his assistants told all the good things about both country and colony and left out the bad. About the civil war between the fur companies and the troubles it had led to, they said nothing.

Early in May 1821, about one hundred and sixty emigrants were gathered together at a small village on the Rhine near Basel. In great barges they were taken down the Rhine, a delightful trip on that famous river with its beautiful and striking scenery, to Dordrecht in Holland. There they embarked on the Lord Wellington for the trip to Hudson Bay. The voyage took far longer than they had realized it would take, the food provided was inferior to what they were used to, the drinking water became bad, and storms and ice caused delay. At Hudson Straits the Lord Wellington overtook the two Hudson Bay Company supply ships, and the three were held for three weeks in the ice with which the Straits were filled. The heavy swell coming in from the open ocean and rushing between the icebergs, caused rapid tides and currents in which sailing ships were almost helpless. Luckily the Lord Wellington escaped serious injury, but one of the supply ships was nearly wrecked and badly damaged by collision with a berg. Not far away were two other vessels also caught in the ice, the Fury and the Hecla carrying Captain Parry and his Arctic exploring expedition. The Hecla had one of her anchors broken and several hawsers carried away.

The Swiss emigrants were a hopeful, cheerful folk. They had been together so long they had become like a large family party, and they made the best of their hardships. When it was safe to do so, the young and active climbed down from the ship to the solid ice field, ran races, and even held a dance on a particularly smooth stretch. At last the ships succeeded in entering the bay. Skirting the barren shores, the three vessels destined for the Hudson Bay post reached anchorage off York Factory in safety.


Finding transport for so large a party of settlers taxed the resources of the Hudson Bay Company. Several new boats had to be built, and every one of the immigrants who could handle wood-working tools was called upon to help.

The boats were to be despatched in two divisions or brigades. Walter had taken for granted that he would travel with the Periers, but he found himself assigned to the first division, the Periers to the second. He asked to be transferred to their boat, but Captain Mai declared the change could not be made. Only young people were to go in the first brigade which was expected to make the best possible speed. Walter was young and strong and without family. The boy protested that he was one of the Perier family, he had come with them, and was to live with them in the settlement, but his protest was of no avail. Elise and Max were as much distressed as he was at the arrangement, and he had to comfort them with the assurance that they would all be together soon at the Red River.

It was well after noon on the day appointed for departure, when the start was made. The boat carrying the guide, who was really the commanding officer of the brigade, was propelled by oars out into the stream, and the square sail raised. With shouts, cheers, and farewells, the long, open craft, well laden with settlers, supplies, and goods, was away up the river.

When Walter took his place he was pleased to find himself in the same boat with Louis Brabant. In spite of his disappointment at not traveling with the Periers, the Swiss boy was in high spirits to be away at last, headed for the wonderful Red River country where his fortune, he felt sure, awaited him. He waved his hat and shouted himself hoarse in farewells to those on shore.

It was a picturesque crowd massed on the dock and fringing the river bank. Mingled with the Swiss were brown-skinned, long-haired post employees and voyageurs with bright colored sashes, beaded garters tied below the knees of their deerskin or homespun trousers, caps of fur or cloth, or gaudy handkerchiefs bound about their heads. A little to one side stood a group of Indians from the wigwams, in buckskin, bright calicos, blankets, feathers, and beadwork. One old Cree was proudly clad in a discarded army coat of scarlet with gold lace and a tall black hat adorned with feathers. The dress of the Swiss, though in general more sober, was brightened by the gay colors of shawls, aprons, and kerchiefs, of short jackets or long-tailed coats with metal buttons, and of home-knit stockings. As various as the costumes were the shouts and farewells and words of advice exchanged between boats and shore in a babel of tongues, English, Scots English, Swiss French, Canadian French, German, Gaelic, and Cree.

The sail was raised and caught the breeze. Sitting at his ease, Walter turned his attention to what lay ahead. The surrounding country was not very pleasing in appearance. Scantily wooded with a scrub of willow, poplar, tamarack, and swamp spruce, it was low and flat, especially on the west, where the York Factory stood between the Hayes and the Nelson rivers. The Nelson, Louis said, was the larger stream, but the Hayes was supposed to afford a better route into the interior. Certainly the latter river was not attractive, with its raw, ragged looking, clay banks, embedded with stones, its muddy islands, and frequent bars and shallows that interfered with navigation.

The immigrants were not suffered to sit in idleness all that afternoon. There were two or more experienced rivermen in each boat, but the new colonists were required to help. When the wind went down before sunset, Walter expected to be called upon to wield an oar. But