Pathfinders of the West eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 313 pages of information about Pathfinders of the West.

For his achievements Hearne received prompt promotion.  Within a year of his return to the fort, Governor Norton, the Indian bully, fell deadly ill.  In the agony of death throes, he called for his wives.  The great keys to the apartments of the women were taken from his pillow, and the wives were brought in.  Norton lay convulsed with pain.  One of the younger women began to sob.  An officer of the garrison took her hand to comfort her grief.  Norton’s rolling eyes caught sight of the innocent conference between the officer and the young wife.  With a roar the dying bully hurled himself up in bed:—­

“I’ll burn you alive!  I’ll burn you alive,” he shrieked.  With oaths on his lips he fell back dead.

[Illustration:  Fort Prince of Wales (Churchill), from Hearne’s Account, 1799 Edition.]

Samuel Hearne became governor of the fort.  For ten years nothing disturbed the calm of his rule.  Marie, Norton’s daughter, still lived in the shelter of the fort; the wives found consolation in other husbands; and Matonabbee continued the ambassador of the company to strange tribes.  One afternoon of August, 1782, the sleepy calm of the fort was upset by the sentry dashing in breathlessly with news that three great vessels of war with full-blown sails and carrying many guns were ploughing straight for Prince of Wales.  At sundown the ships swung at anchor six miles from the fort.  From their masts fluttered a foreign flag—­the French ensign.  Gig boat and pinnace began sounding the harbor.  Hearne had less than forty men to defend the fort.  In the morning four hundred French troopers lined up on Churchill River, and the admiral, La Perouse, sent a messenger with demand of surrender.  Hearne did not feel justified in exposing his men to the attack of three warships carrying from seventy to a hundred guns apiece, and to assault by land of four hundred troopers.  He surrendered without a blow.

[Illustration:  Beaver Coin of Hudson’s Bay Company, melted from Old Tea Chests, one Coin representing one Beaver.]

The furs were quickly transferred to the French ships, and the soldiers were turned loose to loot the fort.  The Indians fled, among them Moses Norton’s gentle daughter, now in her twenty-second year.  She could not revert to the loathsome habits of savage life; she dared not go to the fort filled with lawless foreign soldiers; and she perished of starvation outside the walls.  Matonabbee had been absent when the French came.  He returned to find the fort where he had spent his life in ruins.  The English whom he thought invincible were defeated and prisoners of war.  Hearne, whom the dauntless old chief had led through untold perils, was a captive.  Matonabbee’s proud spirit was broken.  The grief was greater than he could bear.  All that living stood for had been lost.  Drawing off from observation, Matonabbee blew his brains out.

[1] I have purposely avoided bringing up the dispute as to a mistake of some few degrees made by Hearne in his calculations—­the point really being finical.

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Pathfinders of the West from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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