Week after week and month after month elapsed, without anything to dispel the painful incertitude that hung over every part of this enterprise. Though a man of resolute spirit, and not easily cast down, the dangers impending over this darling scheme of his ambition, had a gradual effect upon the spirits of Mr. Astor. He was sitting one gloomy evening by his window, revolving over the loss of the Tonquin and the fate of her unfortunate crew, and fearing that some equally tragical calamity might have befallen the adventurers across the mountains, when the evening newspaper was brought to him. The first paragraph that caught his eye, announced the arrival of Mr. Stuart and his party at St. Louis, with intelligence that Mr. Hunt and his companions had effected their perilous expedition to the mouth of the Columbia. This was a gleam of sunshine that for a time dispelled every cloud, and he now looked forward with sanguine hope to the accomplishment of all his plans.
Banks of the Wallah-Wallah.—Departure of David Stuart for the Oakinagan.—Mr. Clarke’s Route Up Lewis River.— Chipunnish, or Pierced-Nose Indians—Their Character, Appearance, and Habits.-Thievish Habits.—Laying Up of the Boats.—Post at Pointed Heart and Spokan Rivers.—M’Kenzie, His Route Up the Camoenum.-Bands of Travelling Indians.— Expedition of Reed to the Caches.—Adventures of Wandering Voyageurs and Trappers.
The course of our narrative now takes us back to the regions beyond the mountains, to dispose of the parties that set out from Astoria, in company with Mr. Robert Stuart, and whom he left on the banks of the Wallah-Wallah. Those parties likewise separated from each other shortly after his departure, proceeding to their respective destinations, but agreeing to meet at the mouth of the Wallah-Wallah about the beginning of June in the following year, with such peltries as they should have collected in the winter, so as to convoy each other through the dangerous passes of the Columbia.
Mr. David Stuart, one of the partners, proceeded with his men to the post already established by him at the mouth of the Oakinagan; having furnished this with goods and ammunition, he proceeded three hundred miles up that river, where he established another post in a good trading neighborhood.
Mr. Clarke, another partner, conducted his little band up Lewis River to the mouth of a small stream coming in from the north, to which the Canadians gave the name of the Pavion. Here he found a village or encampment of forty huts or tents, covered with mats, and inhabited by Nez Perces, or Pierced-nose Indians, as they are called by the traders; but Chipunnish, as they are called by themselves. They are a hardy, laborious, and somewhat knavish race, who lead a precarious life, fishing and digging roots during the summer and autumn, hunting the deer on snow-shoes during the winter, and traversing the Rocky Mountains in the spring, to trade for buffalo skins with the hunting tribes of the Missouri. In these migrations they are liable to be waylaid and attacked by the Blackfeet, and other warlike and predatory tribes, and driven back across the mountains with the loss of their horses, and of many of their comrades.