Each lodge contains two stories; in the lower the winter stock of branches, bark, and roots, is laid up, and the upper is the residence of the householder and his family.”
“There is, however, not a beaver in sight,” said Mrs Barnett; “is this a deserted village?”
“Oh no,” replied the Lieutenant, “the inhabitants are now all asleep and resting; they only work in the night, and we mean to surprise them in their holes.”
This was, in fact, easily done, and in an hour’s time about a hundred of the ill-fated rodents had been captured, twenty of which were of very great value, their fur being black, and therefore especially esteemed. That of the others was also long, glossy, and silky, but of a reddish hue mixed with chestnut brown. Beneath the long fur, the beavers have a second coat of close short hair of a greyish-white colour.
The hunters returned to the fort much delighted with the result of their expedition. The beavers’ skins were warehoused and labelled as “parchments” or “young beavers,” according to their value.
Excursions of a similar kind were carried on throughout the month of September, and during the first half of October, with equally happy results.
A few badgers were taken, the skin being used as an ornament for the collars of draught horses, and the hair for making brushes of every variety. These carnivorous creatures belong to the bear family, and the specimens obtained by Hobson were of the genus peculiar to North America, sometimes called the Taxel badger.
Another animal of the rodent family, nearly as industrious as the beaver, largely contributed to the stores of the Company. This was the musk-rat or musquash. Its head and body are about a foot long and its tail ten inches. Its fur is in considerable demand. These creatures, like the rest of their family, multiply with extreme rapidity, and a great number were easily unearthed.
In the pursuit of lynxes and wolverines or gluttons, fire-arms bad to be used. The lynx has all the suppleness and agility of the feline tribe to which it belongs, and is formidable even to the rein-deer; Marbre and Sabine were, however, well up to their work, and succeeded in killing more than sixty of them. A few wolverines or gluttons were also despatched, their fur is reddish-brown, and that of the lynx, light-red with black spots; both are of considerable value.
Very few ermines or stoats were seen, and Jaspar Hobson ordered his men to spare any which happened to cross their path until the winter, when they should have assumed their beautiful snow-white coats with the one black spot at the tip of the tail. At present the upper fur was reddish-brown and the under yellowish white, so that, as Sabine expressed it, it was desirable to let them “ ripen,” or, in other words,-to wait for the cold to bleach them.
Their cousins, the polecats, however, which emit so disagreeable an odour, fell victims in great numbers to the hunters, who either tracked them to their homes in hollow trees, or shot them as they glided through the branches.
Martens, properly so-called, were hunted with great zeal. Their fur is in considerable demand, although not so valuable as that of the sable, which becomes a dark lustrous brown in the winter. The latter did not, however, come in the way of our hunters, as it only frequents the north of Europe and Asia as far as Kamtchatka, and is chiefly hunted by the inhabitants of Siberia. They had to be cone tent with the polecats and pine-martens, called “ Canada- martens,” which frequent the shores of the Arctic Ocean.
All the weasels and martens are very difficult to catch; they wriggle their long supple bodies through the smallest apertures with great ease, and thus elude their pursuers. In the winter, however, they are easily taken in traps, and Marbre and Sabine looked forward to make up for lost time then, when, said they, “there shall be plenty of their furs in the Company’s stores.”
We have now only to mention the Arctic or blue and silver foxes, to complete the list of animals which swelled the profits of the Hudson’s Bay Company.