Thursday, 29 November 2012

Samuel Hearne 5. August 1770. Gunpowder Bag.

The person I engaged at Cathawhachaga to carry my canoe proving too weak for the task, another of my crew was obliged to exchange loads with him, which seemed perfectly agreeable to all parties; and as we walked but short days' journies, and deer were very plentiful, all things went on very smoothly. Nothing material happened till the eighth, when we were near losing the quadrant and all our powder from the following circumstance: the fellow who had been released from carrying the canoe proving too weak, as hath been already observed, had, after the exchange, nothing to carry but my powder and his own trifles; the latter were indeed very inconsiderable, not equal in size and weight to a soldier's knapsack. As I intended to have a little sport with the deer, and knowing his load to be much lighter than mine, I gave him the quadrant {42} and stand to carry, which he took without the least hesitation, or seeming ill-will. Having thus eased myself for the present of a heavy and cumbersome part of my load, I set out early in the morning with some of the Indian men; and after walking about eight or nine miles, saw, from the top of a high hill, a great number of deer feeding in a neighbouring valley; on which we laid down our loads and erected a flag, as a signal for the others to pitch their tents there for the night. We then pursued our hunting, which proved very successful. At night, however, when we came to the hill where we had left our baggage, I found that only part of the Indians had arrived, and that the man who had been entrusted with my powder and quadrant, had set off another way, with a small party of Indians that had been in our company that morning. The evening being far advanced, we were obliged to defer going in search of him till the morning, and as his track could not be easily discovered in the Summer, the Southern Indians, as well as myself, were very uneasy, fearing we had lost the powder, which was to provide us with food and raiment the remainder of our journey. The very uncourteous behaviour of the Northern Indians then in[93]company, gave me little hopes of receiving assistance from them, any longer than I had wherewithal to reward them for their trouble and expense; for during the whole time I had been with them, not one of them had offered to give me the least morsel of victuals, without asking something in exchange, which, in general, was three times the value of {43} what they could have got for the same articles, had they carried them to the Factory, though several hundred miles distant.
I got up at daybreak, and, with the two Southern Indians, set out in quest of our deserter. Many hours elapsed in fruitless search after him, as we could not discover a single track in the direction which we were informed he had taken. The day being almost spent without the least appearance of success, I proposed repairing to the place where I had delivered the quadrant to him, in hopes of seeing some track in the moss that might lead to the way the Indians were gone whom our deserter had accompanied. On our arrival at that place, we found they had struck down toward a little river which they had crossed the morning before; and there, to our great joy, we found the quadrant and the bag of powder lying on the top of a high stone, but not a human being was to be seen. On {45} examining the powder, we found that the bag had been opened, and part of it taken out; but, notwithstanding our loss was very considerable, we returned with light hearts to the place at which we had been the night before, where we found our baggage safe, but all the Indians gone; they had, however, been so considerate as to set up marks to direct us what course to steer. By the time we had adjusted our bundles, the day was quite spent; seeing, however, a smoke, or rather a fire, in the direction we were ordered to steer, we bent our way towards it; and a little after ten o'clock at night came up with the main body of the Indians;[95]when, after refreshing ourselves with a plentiful supper, the first morsel we had tasted that day, we retired to rest, which I at least enjoyed with better success than the preceding night.

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