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THE BEAVER TRAPPERS.

CHAPTER I.

THE FUR MARKET, SAINT LOUIS.

TH
HOSE who are acquainted with the active

life of an English commercial town, where every one is hurrying to and fro, striving to do business and accumulate money, can easily form an idea of American cities in general. But from observation of what goes on in such a town, they would be at a loss to form a correct impression of Saint Louis at the time of the Annual Fur Sales. The continent itself, the position of the town, the people gathered together, and the goods they bring to sell, as well as the mode of conducting the trade—all are so peculiar and different from what we are accustomed to, that only those who have seen them with their own eyes can correctly describe the life and animation which everywhere prevail.

The town of St. Louis is on the Mississippi, in the south-western part of the United States of America. Like all American towns, it is

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restlessly devoted to the pursuit of wealth; but when the season draws near for the annual visit of the trappers (as those Americans are called who hunt wild animals for their skins) and Indians from the tribes on the Mississippi, Missouri, Kansas, and other rivers, to sell the skins and furs which they have been gathering during the year, and merchants from all parts of the Union come with goods to barter for these furs, then St. Louis presents a picture which for variety can scarcely be surpassed by any other city in America, and which cannot be forgotten by those who have once seen it.

One can scarcely conceive of such a diversified and motley crowd of people. There is the restless American, or Yankee, as he is commonly called, with all his acuteness and cunning in the fullest activity, ready to take advantage of everybody through the persuasive power of his tongue and the readiness with which he adapts himself to the various people with whom he deals ; there is

: the reckless trapper, careless and passionate ; the Indian, in his immovable apathy, sitting apparently undisturbed by all the excitement that is going on, and yet observing everything, or creeping about stealthily with noiseless step ; and the vivacious Frenchman, praising all he has to sell with the most surprising fluency of tongue ; in a word, whoever surveys the scene will find there everything new, strange, and attractive, to claim and engross his attention.

Although nearly all the trade is by barter, especially that with the Indians, and often with the trappers, an enormous business is done, and property worth millions changes hands in a comparatively short time. But when the business is over, and the skins and furs are sold, the whole outward appearance of life in St. Louis is changed at once. Not that the town suddenly becomes empty and quiet, as though the stirring life which lately caused every pulse to beat faster had suddenly sunk into a deathlike calm ; on the contrary, each nation now has the opportunity of showing its peculiar characteristics for the first time.

The Yankee packs up, and prepares for starting on his return journey as soon as possible, in order to turn into money the furs which he has obtained in exchange for good and bad manufactures,toys, blankets, guns, powder, lead ; and out of which he hopes to make at least one hundred per cent profit. The Frenchman wishes to enjoy himself a little before going away. The trapper rests himself after the privations and dangers of a whole year, enjoys the company of his fellows, recounts all his adventures, and listens to the tales of others of fights with grizzly bears in the Rocky mountains, and death struggles with the cunning and revengeful Red Indian.

He eats, drinks, and smokes ; rejoices over the new traps which he has bought, and looks admiringly at his new gun, his stock of powder and lead, his new warm blanket, and the pre

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