Although they had been the aggressors, yet as they had had two men killed and we had not lost any on our side, we thought it our duty to conform to the usage of the country, and abandon to them the remainder of the stolen effects, to cover, according to their expression, the bodies of their two slain compatriots. Besides, we began to find ourselves short of provisions, and it would not have been easy to get at our enemies to punish them, if they had taken refuge in the woods, according to their custom when they feel themselves the weaker party. So we released our prisoner, and gave him a flag, telling him that when he presented it unfurled, we should regard it as a sign of peace and friendship: but if, when we were passing the portage, any one of the natives should have the misfortune to come near the baggage, we would kill him on the spot. We re-embarked on the 19th, and on the 22d reached the fort, where we made a report of our martial expedition. We found Mr. Stuart very ill of his wounds, especially of the one in the side, which was so much swelled that we had every reason to think the arrow had been poisoned.
If we did not do the savages as much harm as we might have done, it was not from timidity but from humanity, and in order not to shed human blood uselessly. For after all, what good would it have done us to have slaughtered some of these barbarians, whose crime was not the effect of depravity and wickedness, but of an ardent and irresistible desire to ameliorate their condition? It must be allowed also that the interest, well-understood, of the partners of the Northwest Company, was opposed to too strongly marked acts of hostility on their part: it behooved them exceedingly not to make irreconciliable enemies of the populations neighboring on the portages of the Columbia, which they would so often be obliged to pass and repass in future. It is also probable that the other natives on the banks, as well as of the river as of the sea, would not have seen with indifference, their countrymen too signally or too rigorously punished by strangers; and that they would have made common cause with the former to resist the latter, and perhaps even to drive them from the country.
I must not omit to state that all the firearms surrendered by the Indians on this occasion, were found loaded with ball, and primed, with a little piece of cotton laid over the priming to keep the powder dry. This shows how soon they would acquire the use of guns, and how careful traders should be in intercourse with strange Indians, not to teach them their use.