Expeditions to the Interior.—Return of Messrs. John Stuart and D. M’Kenzie.—Theft committed by the Natives.—War Party against the Thieves.
On the 3d of January, 1814, two canoes laden with merchandise for the interior, were despatched under the command of Mr. Alexander Stuart and Mr. James Keith, with fifteen men under them. Two of the latter were charged with letters for the posts (of the Northwest Company) east of the mountains, containing instructions to the persons in superintendence there, to have in readiness canoes and the requisite provisions for a large party intending to go east the ensuing spring. I took this opportunity of advising my friends in Canada of my intention to return home that season. It was the third attempt I had made to send news of my existence to my relatives and friends: the first two had miscarried and this was doomed to meet the same fate.
Messrs. J. Stuart and M’Kenzie, who (as was seen in a previous chapter) had been sent to notify the gentlemen in the interior of what had taken place at Astoria, and to transfer the wintering posts to the Northwest Company, returned to Fort George on the morning of the 6th. They stated that they had left Messrs. Clarke and D. Stuart behind, with the loaded canoes, and also that the party had been attacked by the natives above the falls.
As they were descending the river toward evening, between the first and second portages, they had espied a large number of Indians congregated at no great distance in the prairie; which gave them some uneasiness. In fact, some time after they had encamped, and when all the people (tout le monde) were asleep, except Mr. Stuart, who was on guard, these savages had stealthily approached the camp, and discharged some arrows, one of which had penetrated the coverlet of one of the men, who was lying near the baggage, and had pierced the cartilage of his ear; the pain made him utter a sharp cry, which alarmed the whole camp and threw it into an uproar. The natives perceiving it, fled to the woods, howling and yelling like so many demons. In the morning our people picked up eight arrows round the camp: they could yet hear the savages yell and whoop in the woods: but, notwithstanding, the party reached the lower end of the portage unmolested.
The audacity which these barbarians had displayed in attacking a party of from forty to forty-five persons, made us suppose that they would, much more probably, attack the party of Mr. Stuart, which was composed of but seventeen men. Consequently, I received orders to get ready forthwith a canoe and firearms, in order to proceed to their relief. The whole was ready in the short space of two hours, and I embarked immediately with a guide and eight men. Our instructions were to use all possible diligence to overtake Messrs. Stewart and Keith, and to convey them to the upper