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The day having closed in, the wind began to blow very hard, with hail, sleet and rain. I saw the necessity of being prepared for any attack that might be made on us. The wigwam being of a circular form, a division of the party was stationed on each side of the entrance, so that those on guard could have a full command of it; the door-way was then closed up with a skin, and orders given for no one to go out. The rustling of the trees, and snow falling from them, would have made it easy for an enemy to advance close to us without being heard. I had made an exchange with the Indian for his bow and arrows, and at eleven o'clock laid down to rest; but had not been asleep more than ten minutes, when I was aroused by a dreadful scream, and exclamation of “ O Lord,” uttered by Matthew Hughster; starting up at that instant in his sleep, the Indian gave a horrid yell, and a musket was instantly discharged. I could not at this moment but admire the promptness of the watch, with their arms presented and their swords drawn. This incident, which had like to have proved fatal, was occasioned by John Guienne, a foreigner, going out; he had mentioned it to the watch; in coming in again, the skin covering of the doorway made a rustling noise ; Thomas Taylor, roused by the shriek, fired direct against the entrance, and had not Hughster providentially fallen against him at the moment, which moved the piece from its intended direction, Guienne must inevitably have lost his life. The rest of the night was spent in making covers of deer skins for the locks of the arms.
26th. Wind E.N.E. blowing strong, with sleet and freezing weather. As soon as it was light the crew were put in motion, and placing an equal number of blankets, shirts and tin pots in each of the wigwams, I gave the Indian to understand that those articles were for the individuals residing in them; some more presents were given to him, as also some articles attached to the Red Staff, all which he seemed to comprehend. At 7 A.M. we left the place, intending to return on the Monday following; seeing that the Indian came on, I signified my wish for him to go back, he however continued with us, sometimes running on a little before in a zig-zag direction, keeping his eyes on the ice as having a trace to guide him, and once pointed to the westward, and laughed. Being now about two-thirds of a mile from the wigwam he edged in suddenly, and for an instant halted; then set off in full speed. We observed that for an instant he stopped to look at something lying on the ice; but in another instant we lost sight of him in the haze. On coming up we recognized with horror the bodies of our two unfortunate companions lying about a hundred yards apart; that of the corporal was pierced by an arrow in the back; and three arrows had entered the other : they were laid out straight with the feet towards the river, and backs upwards, their heads were off, and no vestige of garments left; several broken arrows were lying about, and a quantity of bread, which must have been emptied out of the knapsacks; very little blood was visible. This melancholy event naturally much affected all the party, but these feelings soon gave way to sensations of revenge: although I was fully aware of the possibility of finding out the route they had taken, yet prudence called on me to adopt another line of conduct; that all our movements had been watched I could have no doubt; and my mind became seriously alarmed for the safety of those who had been left with the sledges; I conceived it, therefore, of the utmost consequence to lose not a moment in joining our party. Having, therefore, given to the people some little refreshment, I caused them to be formed into a line of march, those having fire-arms being in the front and rear, those with cutlasses remaining in the centre, and all were charged to keep as close together as the intricacies would permit. On opening the first point of the river-head, one of the men said he observed an Indian look round the second point, and fall back; on coming up we perceived that two men had certainly been there, and had retreated; we afterwards saw them at times at a good distance before us; the tracks shewed that they had shoes on; this caused considerable perplexity; the guides, and indeed all the party, were of opinion that the Indians had been to the sledges, and that those two were returning down the river to draw us into a trammel, for they supposed a body of them to be conveniently posted to take advantage of us in some difficult pass. These conjectures were probable; they strongly urged my taking to the woods, as being more safe; although this was certainly true, it would have been attended with great loss of time, as from the depth and softness of the snow, we could not possibly perform it under two days; but as the immediate joining my people was paramount to every other consideration, for our conjectures might be erroneous, and as I was, in this instance, fain to suspect that curiosity had predominated over the obligations of duty, and that want of consideration bad led our men up to view the pond, I therefore continued on by the river side. At noon we arrived at the fire-place, and finding all well I experienced great relief after four hours spent in unutterable anxiety for their fate. The two men who had acted so imprudently were easily discovered by the sweat which still rolled down their faces. Being made acquainted with the uneasiness they had occasioned, contrition for their misconduct was manifest, and I was willing to overlook it. Nothing now remained for us but to make the best of our way down the river; especially as a thaw had set in and the ice of the river was speedily breaking up. We therefore set forward, and after a most painful journey of four days, chiefly through soft snow or water, succeeded in reaching the Adonis on the 30th January.
It will not be expected that I can give much information respecting the Indians of Newfoundland. Of a people so little known, or rather not known at all, any account, however imperfect, must be interesting. It appears then that they are permanent inhabitants, and not occasional visitors. Their wigwams are of two kinds; one of a circular form, and the other octagonal. The first of these consists simply of a few poles supported by a fork, such as are common to various tribes in North America ; but this kind is used only as a summer residence whilst employed in the lakes and rivers procuring food for the winter. Those in which I found them were of the octagonal structure, and were constructed with very considerable pains. The diameter, at the base, was nearly twenty-two feet; to the height of about four feet above the surface was a perpendicular wall or fence of wooden piles and earth ; on this was affixed a wallplate, from which were projected poles forming a conical roof, and terminating at the top in a small circle, sufficient for emitting the smoke and admitting the light; this and the entrance being the only apertures; a right line being drawn to equal distances from each of the angular points towards the centre was fitted neatly with a kind of latticework, forming the fronts of so many recesses which were filled with dressed deer skins. The fire was placed in the centre of the area, around which was formed their places of rest, every one lying with his feet towards the centre, and the head up to the lattice-work partition, somewhat elevated. The whole wigwam was covered in with birch bark, and banked on the outside with earth, as high as the upright wall, by which these abodes, with little fuel, were kept warm even in the inclemency of the winter. Every part was finished in a manner far superior to what might reasonably have been expected. According to the report of William Cull, the storehouses seen by him were built with a ridge pole, and had gable ends; and the frame of the store which we saw on the island, I conceive to be of that description, as it certainly had a ridge pole. · Their canoes were finished with neatness, the hoops and gunnels formed of birch, and covered in with bark cut into sheets, and neatly sewed together and lackered over with gum of the spruce-tree. Their household vessels were all made of
birch or spruce bark, but it did not appear that these were applied to any purpose of cookery : I apprehend they do not boil any part of their diet, but broil or roast the whole; there were two iron boilers, which must have been plundered from some of our settlers; to what purpose they may apply these is uncertain, but they appeared to set a great value on them, for on deserting the wigwam, they had conveyed them out of our sight. They were well supplied with axes, on which a high value is set; these they keep bright and sharp, as also the blades of their arrows, of which we found upwards of an hundred new ones in a case.
The reports of the settlers have always magnified the Newfoundland Indians into a gigantic stature; this, however, is not the case as far as regards the tribe we saw, and the idea may perhaps have originated from the bulkiness of their dress. They are well formed, and appear extremely healthy and athletic, and the average stature of the men may probably reach five feet eight inches. With one exception, their hair was black; their features are more prominent than any of the Indian tribes that I have ever seen, and from what could be discerned through a lacker of oil and red ochre (or red earth) with which they besmear themselves, I was led to conclude them to be fairer than the generality of Indian complexions. The exception with regard to the hair, was in that of a female, bearing all the marks of an European, with light sandy hair, and features strongly resembling the French, apparently about twentytwo years of age; she carried an infant in her cossack; her demeanour differed very materially from the others ; instead of that sudden change from surprise and dismay to acts of familiarity, she never uttered a word, nor did she ever recover from the terror our sudden and unexpected visit had thrown her into. The dress of these Indians consisted of a loose cossack, without sleeves, but puckered at the collar to prevent its falling off the shoulders, and made so long that when fastened up round the haunches