Pathfinders of the West eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 313 pages of information about Pathfinders of the West.
to bribe him—­was to keep quiet.  He cared more for the game than the winnings; and the game of sitting still and drawing a pension for doing nothing was altogether too tame for Radisson.  Groseillers gave up the struggle and retired for the time to his family at Three Rivers.  At Quebec, in 1676, Radisson heard of others everywhere reaping where he had sown.  Jolliet and La Salle were preparing to push the fur trade of New France westward of the Great Lakes, where Radisson had penetrated twenty years previously.  Fur traders of Quebec, who organized under the name of the Company of the North, yearly sent their canoes up the Ottawa, St. Maurice, and Saguenay to the forests south of Hudson Bay, which Radisson had traversed.  On the bay itself the English company were entrenched.  North, northwest, and west, Radisson had been the explorer; but the reward of his labor had been snatched by other hands.

[Illustration:  “Skin for Skin,” Coat of Arms and Motto, Hudson’s Bay Company.]

Radisson must have served meritoriously on the fleet, for after the wreck he was offered the command of a man-of-war; but he asked for a commission to New France.  From this request there arose complications.  His wife’s family, the Kirkes, had held claims against New France from the days when the Kirkes of Boston had captured Quebec.  These claims now amounted to 40,000 pounds.  M. Colbert, the great French statesman, hesitated to give a commission to a man allied by marriage with the enemies of New France.  Radisson at last learned why preferment had been denied him.  It was on account of his wife.  Twice Radisson journeyed to London for Mary Kirke.  Those were times of an easy change in faith.  Charles II was playing double with Catholics and Protestants.  The Kirkes were closely attached to the court; and it was, perhaps, not difficult for the Huguenot wife to abjure Protestantism and declare herself a convert to the religion of her husband.  But when Radisson proposed taking her back to France, that was another matter.  Sir John Kirke forbade his daughter’s departure till the claims of the Kirke family against New France had been paid.  When Radisson returned without his wife, he was reproached by M. Colbert for disloyalty.  The government refused its patronage to his plans for the fur trade; but M. Colbert sent him to confer with La Chesnaye, a prominent fur trader and member of the Council in New France, who happened to be in Paris at that time.  La Chesnaye had been sent out to Canada to look after the affairs of a Rouen fur-trading company.  Soon he became a commissioner of the West Indies Company; and when the merchants of Quebec organized the Company of the North, La Chesnaye became a director.  No one knew better than he how bitterly the monopolists of Quebec would oppose Radisson’s plans for a trip to Hudson Bay; but the prospects were alluring.  La Chesnaye was deeply involved in the fur trade and snatched at the chance of profits to stave off the bankruptcy that reduced him to beggary a few years later.  In defiance of the rival companies and independent of those with which he was connected, he offered to furnish ships and share profits with Radisson and Groseillers for a voyage to Hudson Bay.

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Pathfinders of the West from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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