October 29, 2009
To read Part 1 of this article, click here
It was in June of 1845 that Robert hit the road, bound once more for Norway House. The below letter is a peek into Ballantyne's superiors' perspective on his work and character, written the day before his departure for Norway House.
Mr Ballantyne is just about starting for Norway House. . . In reply to your enquiry regarding that young gentleman[']s habits and character I feel bound to speak of both in favorable terms. He came very young to the country and was at first stationed where he had comparatively little work to do; and, in consequence, had made little progress in a knowledge of business when he was sent to this place. - Since he came under my orders I have every reason to speak well of his application, improvement and docility. - He is not yet fitted to take charge of any important trust in business or accounts; but under a superintendant, who would set him a good example, I am certain that he would give satisfaction. - The worst feature in his character, that I have observed, is youthful thoughtlessness which time & reflection are sure to remedy. - At first there was also about him a little of what characterises most town bred boys forwardness and flippancy. - York discipline however I believe has withered all such; - and on the whole, I beg to speak of him as a young man well fitted to become useful in the service under proper tuition and a bourgeois who would take pains to render him so.
Yours most faithfully
J[ames] Hargrave 
It's nice to find an unbiased, honest report of Ballantyne's character, as displayed in these early years. At this time he appears to be entering the stage of manhood, as more responsibility is placed on his shoulders. He was a very sturdy lad who enjoyed a good romp, but could buckle down to business.
Ballantyne did not stay here long. Instead, he began a trip in August across nearly 2,300 miles of Canadian wilderness, bound for the town of Lachine. The average canoe at that time, which Ballantyne would have used, was an amazing vessel capable of holding a number of men, along with many pieces of cargo, while being light enough to be carried on a few men's shoulders. This was often necessary, as portages, (going overland from one river or lake to another) were often. The journey was arduous, but he made it at last and arrived on October 25, sixty-six days later.
Winter came, and with it a new assignment. It was in January of 1846, Ballantyne's fifth year in Rupert's Land, when he was assigned yet another excursion. This time he was to travel to Tadousac, one of a series of places known as "King's Posts." It seems that his entire time with the Hudson's Bay Company was one of constant motion, partly due to the small number of men covering such a vast area.
He arrived at Tadousac on February 7, but not much of interest occurred, and Ballantyne was sent sixty miles further in March, to Isle Jeremie. He spent some time here, and used Isle Jeremie as a base for a few short journeys as well. In April he spent some time at a post called Seven Islands, and in August he journeyed back to Tadousac. It was during Ballantyne's fifth year in Canada, June 1, 1846, to be exact, that his contract expired. He notified the company of his wish to return to England. To his great surprise, he learned that he could not leave for another year! A certain clause in his contract stated that he must give a year's notice before leaving the company, thus providing time to send out a replacement.
The clause, which cost Ballantyne a year's extra service, is below:
. . . he shall omit to give notice to the Governor or Officers of the said Company in North America one year [and] upwards before the expiration of the said Term of Five Years of his intention to [unintelligable] services and return to Europe, than that he hereby promises and engages to remain one year longer . . . 
The company was willing to forgive Ballantyne's oversight, and to allow him to return to England, but not until a replacement arrived. Due to inconducive travelling conditions, it turned out to be an extra year of service, anyway. The below letter relates to the issue.
Dunn. Finlayson Esq. London August 18th 1846
I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 27th . . .
There is no wish on the part of the Governor and Committee to enforce the rule of the service against Robert Ballantyne. They will send out an apprenctice Clerk to take his place and as soon as he shall arrive, or sooner if his services can be dispensed with, Mr Ballantyne may be allowed to retire . . .
Your obedt. Servt.
A[rchibald] B[arclay] Secy. 
In this case, you might say, the moral of the story is to read the fine print. Make sure you understand the entirety of a contract before putting pen to paper and giving your word of honor. If Ballantyne had done this, he would have returned to England before the death of his failing father, who passed away days previous to Robert's belated arrival.
On the 25th of May, 1847, Ballantyne boarded a ship for England, thus ending his Hudson's Bay era. He had faithfully sent letters to his mother, in addition to journalizing his experiences, and it was with the help of these that he published Hudson Bay in 1848. Although this book was never incredibly successful, it did introduce his name into the world of authors, and attracted some notice. Ballantyne was approached about writing a boys' novel set in Canada, which produced The Young Furtraders, elements of which were shaped by the young author's own experiences.
The years that Ballantyne spent at Hudson Bay helped to weld together his character, his love for outdoor exercise and his tremendous work ethic. The countless miles he covered in Rupert's Land are a demonstration of the vast, unexplored space that existed in Canada at that time. To better display his various travels, I have collated a short catalogue of his journeyings while in North America. They are as follows:
- June 6, 1841 - sailed
- August 21, 1841 - landed at York Factory
- August 31, 1841 - departed by boat for Red River
- Spring, 1842 - departed for Norway House
- June 4, 1843 - departed for York Factory
- June 23, 1845 -started by canoe for Norway House
- July 4, 1845 - arrived at Norway House
- August 20, 1845 - departed for Lachine - distance of nearly 2300 miles!
- October 25, 1845 - arrived at Lachine
- January, 1846 - departure for Tadousac
- February 7, 1846 - arrived at Tadousac
- March, 1846 - departure for Isle Jeremie
- March 16, 1846- arrived at Isle Jeremie
- Six weeks later - sent back to Tadousac
- Soon after - back to Isle Jeremie
- April, 1846 - departure for Seven Islands
- August 25, 1846 - departure for Tadousac
- May 25, 1847 - departure for England!
I have been able to peruse a significant amount of material regarding R. M. Ballantyne's time in the Hudson Bay area thanks to Ballantyne's autobiographical works, Personal Reminiscences in Book-Making, and Hudson Bay, as well as Eric Quayle's biography Ballantyne the Brave. I would also like to thank the staff of the H.B.C. Archives, located in Canda, who provided me with copies of letters and journal entries related to and by R. M. Ballantyne.
What were Ballantyne's religous feelings at this time? I will let him answer in his own words.
"During all the six years that I spent in Rupert's Land I was 'without God.' He was around me and within me, guarding me, bestowing upon me the physical and mental health by which alone I could fully enjoy a life in the wilderness, and furnishing me with much of the material that was to serve as my stock-in-trade during my subsequent career; yet--I confess it with shame--I did not recognise or think of, or care for, Him. It was not until after I had returned home that He opened my eyes to see myself a lost soul, and Jesus Christ--'God with us'--an all-sufficient Redeemer, able and willing to save me from sin, as He is to save all sinners--even the chief." 
It is not until the next era of his life, during his early literary endeavors, that the seeds of the gospel begin to root in Ballantyne's heart. My next article in this series will speak of this time.
Tutela ex Vulnero,
 Hudson's Bay Company Archives, Governor George Simpson loose inward correspondence, D.5/13, fo. 371,
 Hudson's Bay Company Archives, Servants' contracts - Ba-BI, A.32/21, fo. 77,
 Hudson's Bay Company Archives, London Outward Letter-book copy, A. 6/27, pp. 85 and 86
 Personal Reminiscences in Book Making by R. M. Ballantyne