Pathfinders of the West eBook

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

In September the bodies of the victims were carried to Fort St. Charles, and interred in the chapel.  Eight hundred Crees besought M. de la Verendrye to let them avenge the murder; but the veteran of Malplaquet exhorted them not to war.  Meanwhile, Fort St. Charles awaited the coming of supplies from Lake Superior.



A week passed, and on the 17th of June the canoe loads of ammunition and supplies for which the murdered voyageurs had been sent arrived at Fort St. Charles.  In June the Indian hunters came in with the winter’s hunt; and on the 20th thirty Sautaux hurried to Fort St. Charles, to report that they had found the mangled bodies of the massacred Frenchmen on an island seven leagues from the fort.  Again La Verendrye had to choose whether to abandon his cherished dreams, or follow them at the risk of ruin and death.  As before, when his men had mutinied, he determined to advance.

Jean, the eldest son, was dead.  Pierre and Francois were with their father.  Louis, the youngest, now seventeen years of age, had come up with the supplies.  Pierre at once went to Lake Winnipeg, to prepare Fort Maurepas for the reception of all the forces.  Winter set in.  Snow lay twelve feet deep in the forests now known as the Minnesota Borderlands.  On February 8, 1737, in the face of a biting north wind, with the thermometer at forty degrees below zero, M. de la Verendrye left Fort St. Charles, Francois carrying the French flag, with ten soldiers, wearing snow-shoes, in line behind, and two or three hundred Crees swathed in furs bringing up a ragged rear.  The bright uniforms of the soldiers were patches of red among the snowy everglades.  Bivouac was made on beds of pine boughs,—­feet to the camp-fire, the night frost snapping like a whiplash, the stars flashing with a steely clearness known only in northern climes.  The march was at a swift pace, for three weeks by canoe is short enough time to traverse the Minnesota and Manitoba Borderlands northwest to Lake Winnipeg; and in seventeen days M. de la Verendrye was at Fort Maurepas.

Fort Maurepas (in the region of the modern Alexander) lay on a tongue of sand extending into the lake a few miles beyond the entrance of Red River.  Tamarack and poplar fringe the shore; and in windy weather the lake is lashed into a roughness that resembles the flux of ocean tides.  I remember once going on a steamer towards the site of Maurepas.  The ship drew lightest of draft.  While we were anchored the breeze fell, and the ship was stranded as if by ebb tide for twenty-four hours.  The action of the wind explained the Indian tales of an ocean tide, which had misled La Verendrye into expecting to find the Western Sea at this point.  He found a magnificent body of fresh water, but not the ocean.  The fort was the usual pioneer fur post—­a barracks of unbarked logs, chinked up with frozen clay and

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Pathfinders of the West from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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