To the necessity of securing ourselves against an attack on the part of the natives, was joined that of obtaining a stock of provisions for the winter: those which we had received from the vessel were very quickly exhausted, and from the commencement of the month of July we were forced to depend upon fish. Not having brought hunters with us, we had to rely for venison, on the precarious hunt of one of the natives who had not abandoned us when the rest of his countrymen retired. This man brought us from time to time, a very lean and very dry doe-elk, for which we had to pay, notwithstanding, very dear. The ordinary price of a stag was a blanket, a knife, some tobacco, powder and ball, besides supplying our hunter with a musket. This dry meat, and smoke-dried fish, constituted our daily food, and that in very insufficient quantity for hardworking men. “We had no bread, and vegetables, of course, were quite out of the question. In a word our fare was not sumptuous. Those who accommodated themselves best to our mode of living were the Sandwich-islanders: salmon and elk were to them exquisite viands.
On the 11th of August a number of Chinooks visited us, bringing a strange Indian, who had, they said, something interesting to communicate. This savage told us, in fact, that he had been engaged with ten more of his countrymen, by a Captain Ayres, to hunt seals on the islands in Sir Francis Drake’s Bay, where these animals are very numerous, with a promise of being taken home and paid for their services; the captain had left them on the islands, to go southwardly and purchase provisions, he said, of the Spaniards of Monterey in California; but he had never returned: and they, believing that he had been wrecked, had embarked in a skiff which he had left them, and had reached the main land, from which they were not far distant; but their skiff was shattered to pieces in the surf, and they had saved themselves by swimming. Believing that they were not far from the river Columbia, they had followed the shore, living, on the way, upon shell-fish and frogs; at last they arrived among strange Indians, who, far from receiving them kindly, had killed eight of them and made the rest prisoners; but the Klemooks, a neighboring tribe to the Clatsops, hearing that they were captives, had ransomed them.
These facts must have occurred in March or April, 1811. The Indian who gave us an account of them, appeared to have a great deal of intelligence and knew some words of the English language. He added that he had been at the Russian trading post at Chitka, that he had visited the coast of California, the Sandwich islands, and even China.
About this time, old Comcomly sent to Astoria for Mr. Stuart and me, to come and cure him of a swelled throat, which, he said, afflicted him sorely. As it was late in the day, we postponed till to-morrow going to cure the chief of the Chinooks; and it was well we did; for, the same evening, the wife of the Indian who had accompanied us in our voyage to the Falls, sent us word that Comcomly was perfectly well, the pretended tonsillitis being only a pretext to get us in his power. This timely advice kept us at home.