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(voyage icon)1835

The river now became very serpentine, our course being sometimes W.N.W., and at others S. by W. A black-looking storm was gathering in the west of a serious character; and fearing lest it should continue into the night, and prevent my selecting a good encampment, in a country where the banks of the river were generally low and sedgy, I landed in the best place we could find, but where the wild grass and zizania, mixed up together, were 8 and 10 feet high: this we had to cut down to the ground as close as we could, to make a tolerably even floor; and in doing this we dislodged such myriads of enormous-sized marengues (mosquitoes), as the Canadians call them, that there were one or two moments when they were near overpowering us, getting into our ears, our nostrils, and eyes, in a manner to render us unable to do anything. I was obliged to cover myself up, whilst the men built a damp fire to windward, and working away in the smoke, which is the only thing that conquers these insects, at last succeeded in pitching the tent, and collecting wood enough to cook our evening repast.

They had just handed me the boiling tea-kettle into the tent, when the storm came up with us in the most furious style of a truly American hurricane; but the tent being well pegged down, stood it bravely, and resisted all the attempts of the wind to get in. We had put the butin on the ground to windward, close to the edge of the tent, in the inside, to prevent the catastrophe that such an innovation would have occasioned; for if the furious wind had made an entry, we should probably have never seen the tent again, or many other things that were in it, as they would have been blown into the river close by. Soon the rain came down in torrents, accompanied from time to time with such peals of thunder as are rarely heard in Europe. I heard my Canadians sacré-ing and grumbling occasionally; but how they had disposed of themselves during this demonstration of the elements, I was at a loss to conceive, for they had not had time to get the canoe out of the water to shelter themselves under. In the meantime, having made a not very comfortable dinner, of mere tea and biscuits, and the storm beginning to abate, I prepared to lie down, and had nearly completed my arrangements, when I discovered that I was not alone in the tent by many millions, the inside of it being literally covered with the mosquitoes which we had disturbed, and which had got in whilst the men were tightening the pegs. There they were, quietly remaining on the canvas as long as the light was burning, but with the intention to regale themselves out of my veins, with that liquid animal food they are so fond of, as soon as it was dark. I had had long experience of these persevering and persecuting little creatures, and knew that as soon as the light was out they would all wing their flight to my face, trumpeting forth their triumph on the way. Perhaps there is no greater annoyance to a traveller, than when, preparing to sink to sleep after his day's labour, he finds himself in the dark, and in the power of an enemy it is impossible to subdue whilst he is awake, and to whose insatiable blood-sucking propensities he knows he must serve as a grand banquet if he happens to fall asleep. But happily experience had taught me a remedy for which these tormentors were not prepared, and lighting a wax taper, I brought it in turns close enough behind each of them to make them feel its warmth, when springing back through the flame, they were either burnt up, or singed their wings off and fell to the ground, never more to rise. In about an hour and a half I cleared the tent, as I thought, of them, and being exceedingly fatigued with the operation, I lay down, and was just about falling to sleep, when, to my great surprise, an infant outside the tent set up a fearful squalling close to my head, and the Indian mother, to appease it, commenced to lullaby ten times worse than the noise which the child made. This lasted incessantly for two hours, during which, to complete my discomfort, I heard the war-cry of so many mosquitoes wheeling round my head, and tuning their tiny hostile pipes, that it seemed to me as if I had done little or nothing in the way of their extermination. Worn out with the excitement, and forming determinations never to encamp in tall grass again, I at length fell asleep, and became the unresisting prey of these little demons, who, I found in the morning, had amply revenged on my face the slaughter of their race.

In the morning I found that I had been indebted to our friends the Menominies, with whom we had run the race the preceding day, for the squalling of the mother and the child: they knew very well that where we bivouacked there would be something to eat, and coming quietly to my camp, established the squaws to the leeward of my tent, whilst the men joined my people. They had had nothing to eat the previous evening, and I gave them some pork and biscuits, for which they thanked us.