THE LURE OF THE LABRADOR WILD
The Story of the Exploring Expedition Conducted by Leonidas Hubbard, Jr.
Here, b'y, is the issue of our plighted troth. Why I am the scribe and not you, God knows: and you have his secret.
"There's no sense in going further—it's the edge of cultivation," So they said, and I believed it... Till a voice, as bad as Conscience, rang interminable changes On one everlasting Whisper day and night repeated—so: "Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges— Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!" —Kipling's "The Explorer."
PREFACE TO THE SIXTH EDITION
Three years have passed since Hubbard and I began that fateful journey into Labrador of which this volume is a record. A little more than a year has elapsed since the first edition of our record made its appearance from the press. Meanwhile I have looked behind the ranges. Grand Lake has again borne me upon the bosom of her broad, deep waters into the great lonely wilderness that lured Hubbard to his death.
It was a day in June last year that found me again at the point where some inexplicable fate had led Hubbard and me to pass unexplored the bay that here extends northward to receive the Nascaupee River, along which lay the trail for which we were searching, and induced us to take, instead, that other course that carried us into the dreadful Susan Valley. How vividly I saw it all again—Hubbard resting on his paddle, and then rising up for a better view, as he said, "Oh, that's just a bay and it isn't worth while to take time to explore it. The river comes in up here at the end of the lake. They all said it was at the end of the lake." And we said, "Yes, it is at the end of the lake; they all said so," and went on, for that was before we knew—Hubbard never knew. A perceptible current, a questioning word, the turn of a paddle would have set us right. No current was noticed, no word was spoken, and the paddle sent us straight toward those blue hills yonder, where Suffering and Starvation and Death were hidden and waiting for us. How little we expected to meet these grim strangers then. That July day came back to me as if it had been but the day before. I believe I never missed Hubbard so much as at that moment. I never felt his loss so keenly as then. An almost irresistible impulse seized me to go on into our old trail and hurry to the camp where we had left him that stormy October day and find if he were not after all still there and waiting for me to come back to him.
Reluctantly I thrust the impulse aside. Armed with the experience gained upon the former expedition, and information gleaned from the Indians, I turned into the northern trail, through the valley of the Nascaupee, and began a journey that carried me eight hundred miles to the storm-swept shores of Ungava Bay, and two thousand miles with dog sledge over endless reaches of ice and snow.
While I struggled northward with new companions, Hubbard was always with me to inspire and urge me on. Often and often at night as I sat, disheartened and alone, by the camp-fire while the rain beat down and the wind soughed drearily through the firtops, he would come and sit by me as of old, and as of old I would hear his gentle voice and his words of encouragement. Then I would go to my blankets with new courage, resolved to fight the battle to the end.
One day our camp was pitched upon the shores of Lake Michikamau, and as I looked for the first time upon the waters of the lake which Hubbard had so longed to reach, I lived over again that day when he returned from his climb to the summit of the great grey mountain which now bears his name, with the joyful news that there just behind the ridge lay Michikamau; then the weary wind-bound days that followed and the race down the trail with all its horrors; our kiss and embrace; and my final glimpse of the little white tent in which he lay.
And so with the remembrance of his example as an inspiration the work was finished by me, the survivor, but to Hubbard and to his memory belong the credit and the honour, for it was only through my training with him and this inspiration received from him that I was able to carry to successful completion what he had so well planned.
My publishers inform me that five editions of our story have found their way into the hearts and homes of those who cannot visit the great northern wilds, but who love to hear about them. I shall avail myself of this opportunity to thank these readers for the kindly manner in which they have received the book. This reception of it has been especially gratifying to me because of the lack of confidence I had in my ability to tell the story of Hubbard's life and glorious death as I felt it should be told.
The writing of the story was a work of love. I wished not only to fulfil my last promise to my friend to write the narrative of his expedition, but I wished also to create a sort of memorial to him. I wanted the world to know Hubbard as he was, his noble character, his devotion to duty, and his faith, so strong that not even the severe hardships he endured in the desolate north, ending only with death, could make him for a moment forget the simple truths that he learned from his mother on the farm in old Michigan. I wanted the young men to know these things, for they could not fail to be the better for having learned them; and I wanted the mothers to know what men mothers can make of their sons.
An unknown friend writes me, "To dare and die so divinely and leave such a record is to be transfigured on a mountain top, a master symbol to all men of cloud-robed human victory, angel-attended by reverence and peace...a gospel of nobleness and faith." And another, "How truly 'God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform.' Mr. Hubbard went to find Lake Michikamau; he failed, but God spelled 'Success' of 'Failure,' and you brought back a message which should be an inspiration to every soul to whom it comes. The life given up in the wilds of Labrador was not in vain." Space will not permit me to quote further from the many letters of this kind that have come to me from all over the United States and Canada, but they tell me that others have learned to know Hubbard as he was and as his friends knew him, and that our book has not failed of its purpose.
The storms of two winters have held in their icy grasp the bleak land in which he yielded up his life for a principle, and the flowers of two summers have blossomed upon his grave, overlooking the Hudson. But it was only his body that we buried there. His spirit still lives, for his was a spirit too big and noble to be bound by the narrow confines of a grave. His life is an example of religious faith, strong principle, and daring bravery that will not be forgotten by the young men of our land.
New York, June 1, 1906. D. W.
PREFACE TO ELEVENTH EDITION
As the eleventh edition of this book goes to press, the opportunity is given for a brief prefatory description of a pilgrimage to Hubbard's death-place in the Labrador Wilderness from which I have just returned.
For many years it had been my wish to re-visit the scene of those tragic experiences, and to permanently and appropriately mark the spot where Hubbard so heroically gave up his life a decade ago. Judge William J. Malone, of Bristol, Connecticut, one of the many men who have received inspiration from Hubbard's noble example, was my companion, and at Northwest River we were joined by Gilbert Blake, who was a member of the party of four trappers who rescued me in 1903. We carried with us a beautiful bronze tablet, which was designed to be placed upon the boulder before which Hubbard's tent was pitched when he died. Wrapped with the tablet was a little silk flag and Hubbard's college pennant, lovingly contributed by his sister, Mrs. Arthur C. Williams, of Detroit, Michigan. These were to be draped upon the tablet when erected and left with it in the wilderness. Our plan was to ascend and explore the lower Beaver River to the point where Hubbard discovered it, and where, in 1903, we abandoned our canoe to re-cross to the Susan River Valley a few days before his death. Here it was our expectation to follow the old Hubbard portage trail to Goose Creek and thence down Goose Creek to the Susan River.
Of our journey up the Beaver River suffice it to say that we met with many adventures, but proceeded without serious accident until one day our canoe was submerged in heavy rapids, the lashings gave way, and to our consternation the precious tablet, together with the flag and pennant, was lost in the flood. After two days' vain effort to recover the tablet and flags we continued on the river until at length further ascent seemed unpractical. From this point, with packs on our backs, we made a difficult foot journey of several days to the Susan River valley.
I shall not attempt to describe my feelings when at last we came into the valley where Hubbard died and where we had suffered so much. Man changes with the fleeting years and a civilized world changes, but the untrod wilderness never changes. Before us lay the same rushing river I remembered so well, the same starved forest of spruce with its pungent odor, and there was the clump of spruce trees in which our last camp was pitched just as I had seen it last. Malone and Blake remained by the river bank while I approached alone what to me was sacred ground. Time fell away, and I believe that I expected, when I stepped beside the boulder before which his tent was pitched when we said our last farewell on that dismal October morning ten years ago, to hear Hubbard's voice welcome me as of old. The charred wood of his camp fire might, from all appearances, have but just grown cold. The boughs, which I had broken and arranged for his couch, and upon which he slept and died, were withered but undisturbed, and I could identify exactly the spot where he lay. There were his worn old moccasins, and one of the leather mittens, which, in his last entry in his diary he said he might eat if need be. Near the dead fire were some spoons and other small articles, as we had left them, and scattered about were remnants of our tent.
Lovingly we put ourselves to our task. Judge Malone, with a brush improvised from Blake's stiff hair, and with white lead intended for canoe repairs, lettered upon the boulder this inscription:
Leonidas Hubbard, Jr., Intrepid Explorer And Practical Christian Died Here Oct. 18, 1903. "Whither I go ye know, and the way ye know." John XIV.—4.
Then with hammer and chisel I cut the inscription deep into the rock, and we filled the letters with white lead to counteract the effect of the elements.
It was dark when the work was finished, and by candlelight, beneath the stars, I read, from the same Testament I used in 1903, the fourteenth of John and the thirteenth of First Corinthians, the chapters which I read to Hubbard on the morning of our parting. Judge Malone read the Fiftieth Psalm. We sang some hymns and then knelt about the withered couch of boughs, each of us three with the feeling that Hubbard was very close to us.
In early morning we shouldered our packs again, and with a final look at Hubbard's last camp, turned back to the valley of the Beaver and new adventures.
Beacon-on-the-Hudson, November eighteenth, 1913.
I. The Object of the Expedition II. Off at Last III. On the Edge of the Wilderness IV. The Plunge into the Wild V. Still in the Awful Valley VI. Searching for a Trail VII. On a Real River at Last VIII. "Michikamau or Bust!" IX. And There was Michikamau! X. Prisoners of the Wind XI. We Give It Up XII. The Beginning of the Retreat XIII. Hubbard's Grit XIV. Back Through the Ranges XV. George's Dream XVI. At the Last Camp XVII. The Parting XVIII. Wandering Alone XIX. The Kindness of the Breeds XX. How Hubbard Went to Sleep XXI. From Out the Wild XXII. A Strange Funeral Procession XXIII. Over the Ice XXIV. Hubbard's Message
Acknowledgment is due Mr. Frank Barkley Copley, a personal and literary friend of Mr. Hubbard, for assistance rendered in the preparation of this volume.
New York, January, 1905.
THE LURE OF THE LABRADOR WILD
I. THE OBJECT OF THE EXPEDITION
"How would you like to go to Labrador, Wallace?" It was a snowy night in late November, 1901, that my friend, Leonidas Hubbard, Jr., asked me this question. All day he and I had been tramping through the snow among the Shawangunk Mountains in southern New York, and when the shades of evening fell we had built a lean-to of boughs to shelter us from the storm. Now that we had eaten our supper of bread and bacon, washed down with tea, we lay before our roaring campfire, luxuriating in its glow and warmth.
Hubbard's question was put to me so abruptly that it rather startled me.
"Labrador!" I exclaimed. "Now where in the world is Labrador?"
Of course I knew it was somewhere in the north-eastern part of the continent; but so many years had passed since I laid away my old school geography that its exact situation had escaped my memory, and the only other knowledge I had retained of the country was a confused sense of its being a sort of Arctic wilderness. Hubbard proceeded to enlighten me, by tracing with his pencil, on the fly-leaf of his notebook, an outline map of the peninsula.
"Very interesting," I commented. "But why do you wish to go there?"
"Man," he replied, "don't you realise it's about the only part of the continent that hasn't been explored? As a matter of fact, there isn't much more known of the interior of Labrador now than when Cabot discovered the coast more than four hundred years ago." He jumped up to throw more wood on the fire. "Think of it, Wallace!" he went on, "A great unknown land right near home, as wild and primitive to-day as it has always been! I want to see it. I want to get into a really wild country and have some of the experiences of the old fellows who explored and opened up the country where we are now."
Resuming his place by the blazing logs, Hubbard unfolded to me his plan, then vague and in the rough, of exploring a part of the unknown eastern end of the peninsula. Of trips such as this he had been dreaming since childhood. When a mere boy on his father's farm in Michigan, he had lain for hours out under the trees in the orchard poring over a map of Canada and making imaginary journeys into the unexplored. Boone and Crockett were his heroes, and sometimes he was so affected by the tales of their adventures that he must needs himself steal away to the woods and camp out for two or three days.
It was at this period that he resolved to head some day an exploring expedition of his own, and this resolution he forgot neither while a student nor while serving as a newspaper man in Detroit and New York. At length, through a connection he made with a magazine devoted to out-of-door life, he was able to make several long trips into the wild. Among other places, he visited the Hudson Bay region, and once penetrated to the winter hunting ground of the Mountaineer Indians, north of Lake St. John, in southern Labrador. These trips, however, failed to satisfy him; his ambition was to reach a region where no white man had preceded him. Now, at the age of twenty-nine, he believed that his ambition was about to be realised.
"It's always the way, Wallace," he said; "when a fellow starts on a long trail, he's never willing to quit. It'll be the same with you if you go with me to Labrador. You'll say each trip will be the last, but when you come home you'll hear the voice of the wilderness calling you to return, and it will lure you away again and again. I thought my Lake St. John trip was something, but while there I stood at the portals of the unknown, and it brought back stronger than ever the old longing to make discoveries, so that now the walls of the city seem to me a prison and I simply must get away."
My friend's enthusiasm was contagious. It had never previously occurred to me to undertake the game of exploration; but, like most American boys, I had had youthful dreams of going into a great wild country, even as my forefathers had gone, and Hubbard's talk brought back the old juvenile love of adventure. That night before we lay down to sleep I said: "Hubbard, I'll go with you." And so the thing was settled—that was how Hubbard's expedition had its birth.
More than a year passed, however, before Hubbard was able to make definite arrangements to get away. I believe it was in February, 1903, that the telephone bell in my law office rang, and Hubbard's voice at the other end of the wire conveyed to me the information that he had "bully news."
"Is that so?" I said. "What's up?
"The Labrador trip is all fixed for this summer," was the excited reply. "Come out to Congers to-night without fail, and we'll talk it over."
In accordance with his invitation, I went out that evening to visit my friend in his suburban home. I shall never forget the exuberance of his joy. You would have thought he was a boy about to be released from school. By this time he had become the associate editor of the magazine for which he had been writing, but he had finally been able to induce his employers to consent to the project upon which he had set his heart and grant him a leave of absence.
"It will be a big thing, Wallace," he said in closing; "it ought to make my reputation."
Into the project of penetrating the vast solitudes of desolate Labrador, over which still brooded the fascinating twilight of the mysterious unknown, Hubbard, with characteristic zeal, threw his whole heart and soul. Systematically and thoroughly he went about planning, in the minutest detail, our outfit and entire journey. Every possible contingency received the most careful consideration.
In order to make plain just what he hoped to accomplish and the conditions against which he had to provide, the reader's patience is asked for a few minutes while something is told of what was known of Labrador at the time Hubbard was making preparations for his expedition.
The interior of the peninsula of Labrador is a rolling plateau, the land rising more or less abruptly from the coast to a height of two thousand or more feet above the level of the sea. Scattered over this plateau are numerous lakes and marshes. The rivers and streams discharging the waters of the lakes into the sea flow to the four points of the compass—into the Atlantic and its inlets on the east, into Ungava Bay on the north, Hudson Bay and James Bay on the west, and the Gulf of St. Lawrence on the south. Owing to the abrupt rise of the land from the coast these rivers and streams are very swift and are filled with a constant succession of falls and rapids; consequently, their navigation in canoes—the only possible way, generally speaking, to navigate them—is most difficult and dangerous. In this, to a large extent, lies the explanation as to why only a few daring white men have ever penetrated to the interior plateau; the condition of the rivers, if nothing else, makes it impossible to transport sufficient food to sustain a party for any considerable period, and it is absolutely necessary to run the risk of obtaining supplies from a country that may be plentiful with game one year and destitute of it the next, and in which the vegetation is the scantiest.
The western part of the peninsula, although it, too, contains vast tracts in which no white man has set foot, is somewhat better known than the eastern, most of the rivers that flow into Hudson and James Bays having been explored and correctly mapped. Hubbard's objective was the eastern and northern part of the peninsula, and it is with this section that we shall hereafter deal. Such parts of this territory as might be called settled lie in the region of Hamilton Inlet and along the coast.
Hamilton Inlet is an arm of the Atlantic extending inland about one hundred and fifty miles in a southwesterly direction. At its entrance, which is two hundred miles north of Cape Charles, the inlet is some forty miles wide. Fifty miles inland from the settlement of Indian Harbour (which is situated on one of the White Bear Islands, near the north coast of the inlet at its entrance), is the Rigolet Post of the Hudson's Bay Company—the "Old Company," as its agents love to call it—and here the inlet narrows down to a mere channel; but during the next eighty miles of its course inland it again widens, this section of it being known as Groswater Bay or Lake Melville.
The extreme western end of the inlet is called Goose Bay. Into this bay flows the Grand or Hamilton River, one of the largest in Labrador. From its source among the lakes on the interior plateau, the Grand River first sweeps down in a southeasterly direction and then bends northeasterly to reach the end of Hamilton Inlet. The tributaries of the lakes forming the headwaters of the Grand River connect it indirectly with Lake Michikamau (Big Water). This, the largest lake in eastern Labrador, is between eighty and ninety miles in length, with a width varying from six to twenty-five miles.
The Grand River, as well as a portion of Lake Michikamau, some years ago was explored and correctly mapped; but the other rivers that flow to the eastward have either been mapped only from hearsay or not at all. Of the several rivers flowing into Ungava Bay, the Koksoak alone has been explored. This river, which is the largest of those flowing north, rises in lakes to the westward of Lake Michikamau. Next to the Koksoak, the George is the best known of the rivers emptying into Ungava Bay, as well as the second largest; but while it has been learned that its source is among the lakes to the northward of Michikamau, it has been mapped only from hearsay.
Now if the reader will turn to the accompanying map of Labrador made by Mr. A. P. Low of the Canadian Geological Survey, he will see that the body of water known as Grand Lake is represented thereon merely as the widening out of a large river, called the Northwest, which flows from Lake Michikamau to Groswater Bay or Hamilton Inlet, after being joined about twenty miles above Grand Lake by a river called the Nascaupee. Relying upon this map, Hubbard planned to reach early in the summer the Northwest River Post of the Hudson's Bay Company, which is situated at the mouth of the Northwest River, ascend the river to Lake Michikamau, and then, from the northern end of that lake, beat across the country to the George River.
The Geological Survey map is the best of Labrador extant, but its representation as to the Northwest River (made from hearsay) proved to be wholly incorrect, and the mistake it led us into cost us dear. After the rescue, I thoroughly explored Grand Lake, and, as will be seen from my map, I discovered that no less than five rivers flow into it, which are known to the natives as the Nascaupee, the Beaver, the Susan, the Crooked, and the Cape Corbeau. The Nascaupee is the largest, and as the inquiries I made among the Indians satisfied me that it is the outlet of Lake Michikamau, it is undoubtedly the river that figures on the Geological Survey map as the Northwest, while as for the river called on the map the Nascaupee, it is in all likelihood non-existent. There is a stream known to the natives as Northwest River, but it is merely the strait, one hundred yards wide and three hundred yards long, which, as shown on my map, connects Groswater Bay with what the natives call the Little Lake, this being the small body of water that lies at the lower end of Grand Lake, the waters of which it receives through a rapid.
Hubbard hoped to reach the George River in season to meet the Nenenot or Nascaupee Indians, who, according to an old tradition, gather on its banks in late August or early September to attack with spears the herds of caribou that migrate at that time, passing eastward to the sea coast. It is reported that while the caribou are swimming the river the Indians each year kill great numbers of them, drying the flesh for winter provisions and using the skins to make clothing and wigwam-covering. Hubbard wished not only to get a good story of the yearly slaughter, but to spend some little time studying the habits of the Indians, who are the most primitive on the North American continent.
Strange as it may seem to some, the temperature in the interior of Labrador in midsummer sometimes rises as high as 90 degrees or more, although at sunset it almost invariably drops to near the freezing point and frost is liable at any time. But the summer, of course, is very short. It may be said to begin early in July, by which time the snow and ice are all gone, and to end late in August. There is just a hint of spring and autumn. Winter glides into summer, and summer into winter, almost imperceptibly, and the winter is the bitter winter of the Arctic.
If the season were not too far advanced when he finished studying the Indians, Hubbard expected to cross the country to the St. Lawrence and civilisation; otherwise to retrace his steps over his upward trail. In the event of our failure to discover the Indian encampment, and our finding ourselves on the George short of provisions, Hubbard planned to run down the swift-flowing river in our canoe to the George River Post at its mouth, and there procure passage on some fishing vessel for Newfoundland; or, if that were impossible, to outfit for winter, and when the ice formed and the snow came, return overland with dogs.
Hubbard knew that by ascending the Grand River he would be taking a surer, if longer, route to Lake Michikamau; but it was a part of his project to explore the unknown country along the river mapped as the Northwest. I have called this country unknown. It is true that in the winter of 1838 John McLean, then the agent of the Hudson's Bay Company at Fort Chimo, a post situated on the Koksoak River about twenty miles above its mouth, passed through a portion of this country in the course of a journey he made with dogs from his post to Northwest River Post. His route was up the Koksoak and across country to the northern end of Lake Michikamau, which he followed for some little distance. After leaving the lake he again travelled eastward across country until at length he came upon the "Northwest" or Nascaupee River at a point probably not far above Grand Lake, from which it was easy travelling over the ice to the post. The record left by him of the journey, however, is very incomplete, and the exact route he took is by no means certain.
Whatever route it was, he returned over it the same winter to Fort Chimo. His sufferings during this trip were extreme. He and his party had to eat their dogs to save themselves from starvation, and even then they would surely all have perished had it not been for an Indian who left the party fifty miles out of Chimo and fortunately had strength enough to reach the post and send back relief. Later McLean made several summer trips with a canoe up the George River from Ungava Bay and down the Grand River to Hamilton Inlet; but never again did he attempt to penetrate the country lying between Lake Michikamau and Hamilton Inlet to the north of Grand River. The fact was that he found his Grand River trips bad enough; the record he has left of them is a story of a continuous struggle against heartbreaking hardships and of narrow escapes from starvation.
It is asserted that a priest once crossed with the Indians from Northwest River Post to Ungava Bay by the Nascaupee route; but the result of my inquiries in Labrador convinced me that the priest in question travelled by way of the Grand River, making it certain that previous to Hubbard's expedition no white man other than McLean had ever crossed the wilderness between Hamilton Inlet and Lake Michikamau by any route other than the aforesaid Grand River. As has been pointed out, McLean made but a very incomplete record of his journey that took him through the country north of the Grand River, so that Hubbard's project called for his plunge into a region where no footsteps would be found to guide him. Not only this, but the George River country, which it was his ultimate purpose to reach, was, and still remains, terra incognita; for although McLean made several trips up and down this river, he neither mapped it nor left any definite descriptions concerning it.
Here, then, was an enterprise fully worthy of an ambitious and venturesome spirit like Hubbard. Here was a great, unknown wilderness into which even the half-breed native trappers who lived on its outskirts were afraid to penetrate, knowing that the wandering bands of Indians who occasionally traversed its fastnesses themselves frequently starved to death in that inhospitable, barren country. There was danger to be faced and good "copy" to be obtained.
And so it was ho for the land of "bared boughs and grieving winds"!
II. OFF AT LAST
Labrador's uncertain game supply presented more than one vexed problem for Hubbard to solve. Naturally it would be desirable to take with us sufficient provisions to guard against all contingencies; but such were the conditions of the country for which we were bound, that if the expedition were at all heavily loaded it would be impossible for it to make any headway. Hubbard, therefore, decided to travel light. Then arose the question as to how many men to take with us. If the party were large—that is, up to a certain limit—more food might possibly be carried for each member than if the party were small; but if game proved plentiful, there would be no danger from starvation whether the party were large or small; for then short stops could be made to kill animals, dry the flesh and make caches, after the manner of the Indians, as supply bases to fall back upon should we be overtaken by an early winter. And if the game should prove scarce, a small party could kill, on a forced march, nearly, if not quite, as much as a large party; and requiring a proportionately smaller amount of food to maintain it, would consequently have a better chance of success. Taking all things into consideration, Hubbard decided that the party should be small.
To guard against possible disappointment in the way of getting men, Hubbard wrote to the agent of the Hudson's Bay Company at Rigolet, asking whether any could be obtained for a trip into the interior either at that post or at Northwest River. The agent replied that such a thing was highly improbable, as the visits of the Indians to these posts had become infrequent and the other natives were afraid to venture far inland. Hubbard then engaged through the kind offices of Mr. S. A. King, who was in charge of the Hudson's Bay Company Post at Missanabie, Ontario, the services of a Cree Indian named Jerry, that we might have at least one man upon whom we could depend. Jerry was to have come on to New York City to meet us. At next to the last moment, however, a letter from Mr. King informed us that Jerry had backed down. The Indian was not afraid of Labrador, it appeared, but he had heard of the dangers and pitfalls of New York, and when he learned that he should have to pass through that city, his courage failed him; he positively refused to come, saying he did not "want to die so soon."
We never had occasion to regret Jerry's faint-heartedness. Mr. King engaged for us another man who, he wrote, was an expert canoeman and woodsman and a good cook. The man proved to be all that he was represented to be—and more. I do not believe that in all the north country we could have found a better woodsman. But he was something more than a woodsman—he was a hero. Under the most trying circumstances he was calm, cheerful, companionable, faithful. Not only did he turn out to be a man of intelligence, quick of perception and resourceful, but he turned out to be a man of character, and I am proud to introduce him to the reader as my friend George Elson, a half-breed Cree Indian from down on James Bay.
The first instance of George's resourcefulness that we noted occurred upon his arrival in New York. Hubbard and I were to have taken him in charge at the Grand Central Station, but we were detained and George found no one to meet him. Despite the fact that he had never been in a city before, and all was new to him, his quick eye discovered that the long line of cabs in front of the station were there to hire. He promptly engaged one, was driven to Hubbard's office and awaited his employer's arrival as calm and unruffled as though his surroundings were perfectly familiar.
Our canoe and our entire outfit were purchased in New York, with the exception of a gill net, which, alas! we decided to defer selecting until we reached Labrador. Our preparations for the expedition were made with a view of sailing from St. Johns, Newfoundland, for Rigolet, when the steamer Virginia Lake, which regularly plies during the summer between the former port and points on the Labrador coast, should make her first trip north of the year. A letter from the Reid-Newfoundland Company, which operates the steamer, informed us that she would probably make her first trip to Labrador in the last week in June, and in order to connect with her, we made arrangements to sail from New York to St. Johns on June 20th, 1903, on the Red Cross Line steamer Silvia. On the 19th Hubbard personally superintended the placing of our outfit on board ship, that nothing might be overlooked.
As the Silvia slowly got under way at ten o'clock the next morning, we waved a last farewell to the little knot of friends who had gathered on the Brooklyn pier to see us off. We were all very light-hearted and gay that morning; it was a relief to be off at last and have the worry of the preparation over. Mrs. Hubbard was a member of the party; she was to accompany her husband as far as Battle Harbour, the first point on the Labrador coast touched by the Virginia Lake.
June 24th was my birthday, and early that morning, before we sailed from Halifax, at which port we lay over for a day, Hubbard came into my stateroom with a pair of camp blankets that he had been commissioned by my sisters to present to me. He had told me he had enough blankets in his outfit and to take none with me. How strangely things sometimes turn out! Those blankets which Hubbard had withheld in order that I might be agreeably surprised, were destined to fulfil an office, up there in the wilds for which we were bound, such as we little suspected. We reached St. Johns on the morning of Friday, the 26th, and promptly upon our arrival were introduced to the mysterious ways of the Reid-Newfoundland Company. The Virginia Lake, we were told, already had gone north to Labrador, was overdue on her return trip and might not be in for several days. Hubbard, however, set immediately to work purchasing the provisions for his expedition and supervising their packing. The following day, on the advice of the general passenger agent of the Reid-Newfoundland Company, we took the evening train on their little narrow-gauge railroad to Whitbourne, en route to Broad Cove, where we were informed we should find excellent trout fishing and could pleasantly pass the time while awaiting the steamer.
The Reid-Newfoundland Company failed to carry out its agreement as to our transportation to Broad Cove, and we had considerable trouble in reaching there, but we found that no misrepresentation had been made as to the fishing; during the two days we were at Broad Cove we caught all the trout we cared for. Having received word that the Virginia Lake had returned to St. Johns, and would again sail north on Tuesday, June 30th, Hubbard and Mrs. Hubbard on the morning of that day took the train to St. Johns, to board the steamer there and see that nothing of our outfit was left behind. George and I broke camp in time to take the evening train on the branch road to Harbour Grace, where, it was agreed, we should rejoin the others, the steamer being scheduled to put in there on its way north.
When I had our camp baggage transferred next morning to the wharf, and George and I had arrived there ourselves, we found also waiting for the steamer several prospectors who were going to "The Labrador," as the country is known to the Newfoundlanders, to look for gold, copper, and mica. All of them apparently were dreaming of fabulous wealth. None, I was told, was going farther than the lower coast; they did not attempt to disguise the fact that they feared to venture far into the interior.
Around the wharves little boats were unloading caplin, a small fish about the size of a smelt. I was informed that these fish sold for ten cents a barrel, and were used for bait and fertiliser. My astonishment may be imagined, therefore, when I discovered that on the Virginia Lake they charged thirty-five cents for three of these little fish fried.
At ten o'clock our boat came in, and a little after noon we steamed out of the harbour, Hubbard and I feeling that now we were fairly on our way to the scene of our work. Soon after rejoining Hubbard, I learned something more of the mysterious ways of the Reid-Newfoundland Company. The company's general passenger agent, avowing deep interest in our enterprise, had presented Hubbard with passes to Rigolet for his party. Hubbard accepted them gratefully, but upon boarding the steamer he was informed that the passes did not include meals. Now such were the prices charged for the wretchedly-cooked food served on the Virginia Lake that a moderately hungry man could scarcely have his appetite killed at a less expense than six dollars a day. So Hubbard returned the passes to the general passenger agent with thanks, and purchased tickets, which did include meals, and which reduced the cost considerably.
The Virginia Lake is a steamer of some seven hundred tons burden. She is subsidised by the Newfoundland Government to carry the mails during the fishing season to points on the Labrador coast as far north as Nain. She is also one of the sealing fleet that goes to "the ice" each tenth of March. When she brings back her cargo of seals to St. Johns, she takes up her summer work of carrying mail, passengers, and freight to The Labrador—always a welcome visitor to the exiled fishermen in that lonely land, the one link that binds them to home and the outside world. She has on board a physician to set broken bones and deal out drugs to the sick, and a customs officer to see that not a dime's worth of merchandise of any kind or nature is landed until a good round percentage of duty is paid to him as the representative of the Newfoundland Government, which holds dominion over all the east coast of Labrador. This customs officer is also a magistrate, a secret service officer, a constable, and what not I do not know—pretty much the whole Labrador Government, I imagine.
The accommodations on the Virginia Lake were quite inadequate for the number of passengers she carried. The stuffy little saloon was so crowded that comfort was out of the question. I had to use some rather impressive language to the steward to induce him to assign to me a stateroom. Finally, he surrendered his own room. The ventilation was poor and the atmosphere vile, but we managed to pull through. Our fellow-passengers were all either prospectors or owners of fishing schooners.
There was much ice to be seen when the heavy veil of grey fog lifted sufficiently for us to see anything, and until we had crossed the Strait of Belle Isle our passage was a rough one. It was on the Fourth of July that we saw for the first time the bleak, rock-bound coast of Labrador. In all the earth there is no coast so barren, so desolate, so brutally inhospitable as the Labrador coast from Cape Charles, at the Strait of Belle Isle on the south, to Cape Chidley on the north. Along these eight hundred miles it is a constant succession of bare rocks scoured clean and smooth by the ice and storms of centuries, with not a green thing to be seen, save now and then a bunch of stunted shrubs that have found a foothold in some sheltered nook in the rocks, and perchance, on some distant hill, a glimpse of struggling spruce or fir trees. It is a fog-ridden, dangerous coast, with never a lighthouse or signal of any kind at any point in its entire length to warn or guide the mariner.
The evening was well upon us when we saw the rocks off Cape Charles rising from the water, dismal, and dark, and forbidding. All day the rain had been falling, and all day the wind had been blowing a gale, lashing the sea into a fury. Our little ship was tossed about like a cork, with the seas constantly breaking over her decks. Decidedly our introduction to Labrador was not auspicious. Battle Harbour, twelve miles north of Cape Charles, was to have been our first stop; but there are treacherous hidden reefs at the entrance, and with that sea the captain did not care to trust his ship near them. So he ran on to Spear Harbour, just beyond, where we lay to for the night. The next day I made the following entry in my diary:
"Early this morning we moved down to Battle Harbour, where Mrs. Hubbard left us to return home. It was a most dismal time and place for her to part from her husband, but she was very brave. It was not yet six o'clock, and we had had no breakfast, when she stepped into the small boat to go ashore. A cold, drizzling rain was falling, and the place was in appearance particularly dreary; no foliage nor green thing to be seen—nothing but rocks, cold and high and bleak, with here and there patches of snow. They pointed out to us a little house clinging to the rocks high up. There she is to stay until the steamer comes to take her home, to spend a summer of doubts and hopes and misgivings. Poor little woman! It is so hard for those we leave behind. I stood aside with a big lump in my throat as they said their farewell." Up there in the dark wilderness for which we were bound Hubbard talked with me frequently of that parting.
On July 6th, the day after we left Battle Harbour, the captain informed us for the first time that the boat would not go to Rigolet on the way up, and gave us the option of getting off at Indian Harbour at the entrance to Hamilton Inlet or going on to Nain with him and getting off at Rigolet on the way back. Hubbard chose the former alternative, hearing which the customs officer came to us and hinted that nothing could be landed until we had had an interview with him. The result of the interview was that Hubbard paid duty on our entire outfit.
The next morning, Tuesday, July 7th, we reached Indian Harbour. Amid a chorus of "Good-bye, boys, and good luck!" we went ashore, to set foot for the first time on Labrador soil, where we were destined to encounter a series of misadventures that should call for the exercise of all our fortitude and manhood.
III. ON THE EDGE OF THE WILDERNESS
The island of the White Bear group upon which is situated the settlement of Indian Harbour is rocky and barren. The settlement consists of a trader's hut and a few fishermen's huts built of frame plastered over with earth or moss, and the buildings of the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen, a non-sectarian institution that maintains two stations on the Labrador coast and one at St. Anthony in Newfoundland, each with a hospital attached. The work of the mission is under the general supervision of Dr. Wilfred T. Grenfell, who, in summer, patrols the coast from Newfoundland to Cape Chidley in the little floating hospital, the steamer Strathcona, and during the winter months, by dog team, visits the people of these inhospitable shores. The main station in Labrador is at Battle Harbour, and at this time Dr. Cluny Macpherson was the resident physician.
Dr. Simpson, a young English physician and lay missionary, was in charge of the station at Indian Harbour. This station, being maintained primarily for the benefit of the summer fishermen from Newfoundland, is closed from October until July. Dr. Simpson had a little steamer, the Julia Sheridan, which carried him on his visits to his patients among the coast folk. We were told by the captain of the Virginia Lake that the Julia Sheridan would arrive at Indian Harbour on the afternoon of the day we reached there; that she would immediately steam to Rigolet and Northwest River with the mails, and that we undoubtedly could arrange for a passage on her. This was the reason that Hubbard elected to get off at Indian Harbour.
The trained nurse, the cook, and the maid-of-all-work connected with the Indian Harbour hospital ("sisters," they call them, although they do not belong to any order) boarded the Virginia Lake at Battle Harbour and went ashore with me in the ship's boat, when I landed with the baggage. Hubbard and George went ashore in our canoe. A line of Newfoundlanders and "livyeres" stood ready to greet us upon our arrival. "Livyeres" is a contraction of live-heres, and is applied to the people who live permanently on the coast. The coast people who occasionally trade in a small way are known as "planters." In Hamilton Inlet, west of Rigolet, all of the trappers and fishermen are called planters. There the word livyere is never heard, it having originated with with the Newfoundland fishermen, who do not go far into the inlet.
The "sisters" who landed with us had difficulty in opening their hospital, as the locks had become so rusted and corroded that the keys would not turn. We offered our assistance, and after removing the boards that had been nailed over the windows to protect them from the winter storms, we found it necessary to take out a pane of glass in order that Hubbard might unlatch a window, crawl through and take the lock off the door. The sisters then told us that Dr. Simpson might not arrive with the Julia Sheridan until the following day, and extended to us the hospitality of the station, which we thankfully accepted, taking up our temporary abode in one of the vacant wards of the hospital.
Our first afternoon on Labrador soil we spent in assorting and packing our outfit, while the Newfoundlanders and livyeres stood around and admired our things, particularly the canoe, guns, and sheath-knives. Their curiosity was insatiable; they inquired the cost of every conceivable thing.
The next afternoon (Wednesday) Dr. Simpson arrived on his steamer, and, to our great disappointment, we learned that the Julia would not start on the trip down the inlet until after the return of the Virginia Lake from the north, which would probably be on Friday or Saturday. The Labrador summer being woefully short, Hubbard felt that every hour was precious, and he chafed under our enforced detention. We were necessarily going into the interior wholly unprepared for winter travel, and hence must complete our work and make our way out of the wilderness before the rivers and lakes froze and canoe travel became impossible. Hubbard felt the responsibility he had assumed, and could imagine the difficulties that awaited us should his plans miscarry. Accordingly, he began to look around immediately among the fishermen and livyeres for someone with a small boat willing to take us down the fifty miles to Rigolet. Finally, after much persuasion and an offer of fifteen dollars, he induced a young livyere, Steve Newell by name, to undertake the task.
Steve was a characteristic livyere, shiftless and ambitionless. He lived a few miles down the inlet with his widowed mother and his younger brothers and sisters. For a week he would work hard and conscientiously to support the family, and then take a month's rest. We had happened upon him in one of his resting periods, but as soon as Hubbard had pinned him down to an agreement he put in an immediate plea for money.
"I'se huntin' grub, sir," he begged. "I has t' hunt grub all th' time, sir. Could 'un spare a dollar t' buy grub, sir?"
Hubbard gave him the dollar, and he forthwith proceeded to the trader's hut to purchase flour and molasses, which, with fat salt pork, are the great staples of the Labrador natives, although the coast livyeres seldom can afford the latter dainty. While we were preparing to start, Hubbard asked Steve what he generally did for a living.
"I hunts in winter an' fishes in summer, sir," was the reply.
"What do you hunt?
"Fur an' partridges, sir. I trades the fur for flour and molasses, sir, an' us eats th' partridges."
"What kind of fur do you find here?"
"Foxes is about all, sir, an' them's scarce; only a chance one, sir."
"Do you catch enough fur to keep you in flour and molasses?"
"Not always, sir. Sometimes us has only partridges t' eat, sir."
We started at five o'clock in the evening in Steve's boat, the Mayflower, a leaky little craft that kept one man pretty busy bailing out the water. She carried one ragged sail, and Steve sculled and steered with a rough oar about eighteen feet long. An hour after we got under way a blanket of grey fog, thick and damp, enveloped us; but so long are the Labrador summer days that there still was light to guide us when at eleven o'clock Steve said:
"Us better land yere, sir. I lives yere, an' 'tis a good spot t' stop for th' night, sir."
I wondered what sort of an establishment Steve maintained, and drawing an inference from his personal appearance, I had misgivings as to its cleanliness. However, anything seemed better than chilling fog, and land we did—in a shallow cove where we bumped over a partly submerged rock and manoeuvred with difficulty among others, that raised their heads ominously above the water. As we approached, we made out through the fog the dim outlines, close to the shore, of a hut partially covered with sod. Our welcome was tumultuous—a combination of the barking of dogs and the shrill screams of women demanding to know who we were and what we wanted. There were two women, tall, scrawny, brown, with hair flying at random. The younger one had a baby in her arms. She was Steve's married sister. The other woman was his mother. Each was loosely clad in a dirty calico gown. Behind them clustered a group of dirty, half-clad children.
Steve ushered us into the hut, which proved to have two rooms, the larger about eight by ten feet. The roof was so low that none of us could stand erect except in the centre, where it came to a peak. In the outer room were two rough wooden benches, and on a rickety table a dirty kerosene lamp without a chimney shed gloom rather than light. An old stove, the sides of which were bolstered up with rocks, filled the hut with smoke to the point of suffocation when a fire was started. The floor and everything else in the room were innocent of soap and water.
George made coffee, which he passed around with hardtack to everybody. Then all but Steve and our party retired to the inner room, one of the women standing a loose door against the aperture. Steve curled up in an old quilt on one of the benches, while Hubbard, George and I spread a tarpaulin on the floor and rolled in our blankets upon it.
We were up betimes the next morning after a fair night's sleep on the floor. We again served hardtack and coffee to all, and at five o'clock were once more on our way. A thick mantle of mist obscured the shore, and Hubbard offered Steve a chart and compass. "Ain't got no learnin', sir; I can't read, sir," said the young livyere. So Hubbard directed the course in the mist while Steve steered. Later in the day the wind freshened and blew the mist away, and at length developed into a gale. Finally the sea rose so high that Steve thought it well to seek the protection of a harbour, and we landed in a sheltered cove on one of the numerous islands that strew Hamilton Inlet, where we then were—Big Black Island, it is called.
George had arisen that morning with a lame back, and when we reached the island he could scarcely move. The place was so barren of timber we could not find a stick long enough to act as a centre pole for our tent, and it was useless to try to pitch it. However, the moss, being thick and soft, made a comfortable bed, and after we had put a mustard plaster on George's back to relieve his lumbago, we rolled him in two of our blankets under the lee of a bush and let him sleep. Then, as evening came on, Hubbard and I started for a stroll along the shore. The sun was still high in the heavens, and the temperature mildly cool.
A walk of a mile or so brought us to the cabin of one Joe Lloyd, a livyere. Lloyd proved to be an intelligent old Englishman who had gone to Labrador as a sailor lad on a fishing schooner to serve a three-years' apprenticeship. He did not go home with his ship, and year after year postponed his return, until at last he married an Eskimo and bound himself fast to the cold rocks of Labrador, where he will spend the remainder of his life, eking out a miserable existence, a lonely exile from his native England.
After he had greeted us, Lloyd asked: "Is all the world at peace, sir?" He had heard of the Boer war, and was pleased when we told him that it had ended in a victory for the British arms. His hunger for news touched us deeply, and we told him all that we could recall of recent affairs of public interest. I have said that his hunger for news touched us. As a matter of fact, few things have impressed me as being more pathetic than that old man's life up there on that isolated and desolate island, where he spends most of his time wistfully longing to hear something of the great world, and painfully recalling the pleasant memories of his childhood's home and friends, and the green fields and spring blossoms he never will know again. And Lloyd's story is the story of perhaps the majority of the settlers on The Labrador.
The old man had a fresh-caught salmon, and we bought it from him. We then sat for a few minutes in his cabin. This was a miserable affair, not exceeding eight by ten feet, and, like Steve's home, so low we could not stand erect in it. The floor was paved with large, flat stones, and the only vent for the smoke from the wretched fireplace was a hole in the roof. Midway between the fire and the hole hung a trout drying. In this room Lloyd and his Eskimo wife live out their life. During our visit the wife sat there without uttering a word. Her silence was characteristic; for, somewhat unlike our women, the women of Labrador talk but little.
When we had bidden Lloyd farewell, we carried the salmon we had obtained from him back to camp, where Hubbard tried to plank it on a bit of wreckage picked up on the shore. It fell into the fire, and there was great excitement until, by our united efforts, we had rescued it, and had seen part of it safely reposing in the frying pan, while Steve set to work boiling the remainder in our kettle with slices of bacon. As the gale continued to blow, it was decided that we should remain in camp until early morning. Hubbard directed Steve to pull the boat around to a place where it would be near the water at low tide. He and I then threw down the tent, lay on it, pulled a blanket over us and prepared for sleep. It was about eleven o'clock, and darkness was just beginning to fall. Out in the bay a whale was blowing, and in the distance big gulls were screaming. It was our first night out in the open in Labrador, and all was new and entrancing; and as slumber gradually enwrapped us, it seemed to us that we had fallen upon pleasant times.
At one o'clock (Friday morning) we awoke. By the light of the brilliant moon we made coffee, called George and Steve and ate our breakfast of cold salmon and hardtack. George's lumbago was very bad, and he was unable to do any work. The rest of us portaged the outfit two hundred yards to the boat, which, owing to Steve's miscalculations as to the tide, we found high and dry on the rocks. Working in the shallow water, with a cloud of mosquitoes around our heads, it took us until 4.30 o'clock to launch her, by which time daylight long since had returned.
Once more afloat, we found that the wind had entirely died away, and Steve's sculling pushed the boat along but slowly. Grampuses raised their big backs everywhere, and seals, upon which they prey, were numerous. The water was alive with schools of caplin. At eleven o'clock we made Pompey Island, a mossy island of Laurentian rock about thirty-five miles from Indian Harbour. Here we stopped for luncheon, and after much looking around, succeeded in finding enough sticks to build a little fire. I made flapjacks, and Hubbard melted sugar for syrup.
While we were eating, I discovered in the far distance the smoke of a steamer. We supposed it to be the Julia Sheridan. Rushing our things into the boat, we put off as quickly as possible to intercept her. We fired three or four shots from our rifle, but got only a salute in recognition. Then Hubbard and I scramble into the canoe, which we had in tow, and began to paddle with might and main to head her off. As we neared her, we fired again. At that she came about—it was the Virginia Lake. They took us on board, bag, baggage, and canoe, and Steve was dismissed.
In an hour we were in sight of Rigolet, and I saw a Hudson's Bay Company Post for the first time in my life. As our steamer approached, a flag was run up in salute to the top of a tall staff, and when it had been caught by the breeze, the Company's initials, H. B. C., were revealed. The Company's agents say these letters have another significance, namely, "Here Before Christ," for the flag travels ahead of the missionaries.
The reservation of Rigolet is situated upon a projection of land, with a little bay on one side and the channel into which Hamilton Inlet narrows at this point on the other. Long rows of whitewashed buildings, some of frame and some of log, extend along the water front, coming together at the point of the projection so as to form two sides of an irregular triangle. A little back of the row on the bay side, and upon slightly higher ground, stands the residence of the agent, or factor as he is officially called, this building being two stories high and otherwise the most pretentious of the group. It is commonly called the "Big House," and near it is the tall flagstaff. Between the rows of buildings and the shore is a broad board walk, which leads down near the apex of the triangle to a small wharf of logs. It was at this wharf that our little party landed.
Hubbard presented his letter of introduction from Commissioner Chipman of the Hudson's Bay Company to Mr. James Fraser, the factor, and we received a most cordial welcome, being made at home at the Big House. We found the surroundings and people unique and interesting. There were lumbermen, trappers, and fishermen—a motley gathering of Newfoundlanders, Nova Scotians, Eskimos and "breeds," the latter being a comprehensive name for persons whose origin is a mixture in various combinations and proportions of Eskimo, Indian, and European. All were friendly and talkative, and hungry for news of the outside world.
Lying around everywhere, or skulking about the reservation, were big Eskimo dogs that looked for all the world like wolves in subjection. We were warned not to attempt to play with them, as they were extremely treacherous. Only a few days before a little Eskimo boy who stumbled and fell was set upon by a pack and all but killed before the brutes were driven off. The night we arrived at Rigolet the pack killed one of their own number and ate him, only a little piece of fur remaining in the morning to tell the tale.
Within an hour after we reached the post, Dr. Simpson arrived on the Julia Sheridan; but as he had neglected to bring the mail for Northwest River Post that the Virginia Lake had left at Indian Harbour, he had to return at once. Dr. Simpson not being permitted by his principles to run his boat on Sunday, unless in a case of great necessity, we were told not to expect the Julia Sheridan back from Indian Harbour until Monday noon; and so we were compelled to possess our souls in patience and enjoy the hospitality of Mr. Fraser. I must confess that while I was anxious to get on, I was at the same time not so greatly disappointed at our enforced delay; it gave me an opportunity to see something of the novel life of the post.
While at Rigolet we of course tried to get all the information possible about the country to which we were going. No Indians had been to the post for months, and the white men and Eskimos knew absolutely nothing about it. At length Hubbard was referred to "Skipper" Tom Blake, a breed, who had trapped at the upper or western end of Grand Lake. From Blake he learned that Grand Lake was forty miles long, and that canoe travel on it was good to its upper end, where the Nascaupee River flowed into it. Blake believed we could paddle up the Nascaupee some eighteen or twenty miles, where we should find the Red River, a wide, shallow, rapid stream that flowed into the Nascaupee from the south. Above this point he had no personal knowledge of the country, and advised us to see his son Donald, whom he expected to arrive that day from his trapping grounds on Seal Lake. Donald, he said, had been farther inland and knew more about the country than anyone else on the coast.
Donald did arrive a little later, and upon questioning him Hubbard learned that Seal Lake, which, he said, was an expansion of the Nascaupee River, had been the limit of his travels inland. Donald reiterated what his father had told us of Grand Lake and the lower waters of the Nascaupee, adding that for many miles above the point where the Nascaupee was joined by the Red we should find canoe travel impossible, as the Nascaupee "tumbled right down off the mountains." Up the Nascaupee as far as the Red River he had sailed his boat. He had heard from the Indians that the Nascaupee came from Lake Michikamau, and he believed it to be a fact. This convinced us that the Nascaupee was the river A. P. Low, of the Geological Survey, had mapped as the Northwest. The Red River Donald had crossed in winter some twenty miles above its mouth, and while it was wide, it was so shallow and swift that he was sure it would not admit of canoeing. He could not tell its source, and was sure the Indians had never travelled on it. In answer to Hubbard's inquiries as to the probability of our getting fish and game, Donald said there were bears along the Nascaupee, but few other animals. He had never fished the waters above Grand Lake, but believed plenty of fish were there. On Seal Lake there was a "chance" seal, and he had taken an occasional shot at them, but they were very wild and he had never been able to kill any.
Strange as it may seem, none of the men with whom we talked mentioned that more than one river flowed into Grand Lake, although they unquestionably knew that such was the case. Their silence about this important particular was probably due to the fact, that while the Labrador people are friendly to strangers, they are somewhat shy and rarely volunteer information, contenting themselves, for the most part, with simple answers to direct questions. Furthermore, they are seldom able to adopt a point of view different from their own, and thus are unable to realise the amount of guidance a stranger in their country needs. In fact I discovered later that Skipper Blake and his son, who have spent all their lives in the vicinity of Hamilton Inlet, never dreamed anyone could miss the mouth of the Nascaupee River, as they themselves knew so well how to find it.
We were sitting in the office of the post on Sunday, comfortably away from the fog that lay thick outside, when we were startled by a steamship whistle. Out we all ran, and there, in the act of dropping her anchor, was the Pelican, the company's ship from England. In the heavy fog she had stolen in and whistled before the flag was raised, which feat Captain Grey, who commands the Pelican, regarded as a great joke on the post. Once a year the Pelican arrives from England, and the day of her appearance is the Big Day for all the Labrador posts, as she brings the year's supplies together with boxes and letters from home for the agents and the clerks. From Rigolet she goes to Ungava, then returns to Rigolet for the furs there and once more steams for England.
We found Captain Grey to be a jolly, cranky old seadog of the old school. He has been with the Hudson's Bay Company for thirty years, and has sailed the northern seas for fifty. He shook his head pessimistically when he heard about our expedition. "You'll never get back," he said. "But if you happen to be at Ungava when I get there, I'll bring you back." "Sandy" Calder, the owner of lumber mills on Sandwich Bay and the Grand River, who came from Cartwright Post on Sandwich Bay with Captain Grey on the Pelican, also predicted the failure of our enterprise. But Hubbard said to me that he had heard such prophecies before; that they made the work seem all the bigger, and that he could do it and would.
At noon on Monday Dr. Simpson came with the Julia Sheridan, and we said good-bye to Rigolet. The voyage down the inlet to Northwest River Post was without incident, except that the good doctor was much concerned as to the outcome of our venture, saying: "Don't leave your bones up there to whiten, boys, if you can possibly help it." We reached Northwest River at two o'clock on Tuesday afternoon, and found the post to be much the same as Rigolet, except that its whitewashed buildings were all strung out in one long row. The welcome we received from Mr. Thomas Mackenzie, the agent there in charge, was most gratifying in its heartiness. Mr. Mackenzie is a bachelor, tall, lean, high-spirited, and the soul hospitality. Hubbard promptly dubbed him a "bully fellow." Probably this was partly due to the fact that he was the first man in Labrador to give us any encouragement. We had not been there an hour when he became infected with Hubbard's enthusiasm and said he would pack up that night and be ready to start with us in the morning, if he only were free to do so.
To our great disappointment and chagrin, we found that Mackenzie had no fish nets to sell. We had been unable to obtain any at Rigolet, and now we were told that none was to be had anywhere in that part of Labrador. Hubbard realised fully the importance of a gill net as a part of our equipment and had originally intended to purchase one before leaving New York; but he was advised by Mr. A. P. Low of the Canadian Geological Survey that it would be better to defer its purchase until we reached Rigolet Post or Northwest River, where he said we could get a net such as would be best adapted to the country. Hubbard had no reason to doubt the accuracy of this information, as Mr. Low had previously spent several months at these posts when engaged in the work of mapping out the peninsula. Conditions, however, had changed, unfortunately for us, since Mr. Low's visit to Labrador. Seeing the quandary we were in, Mackenzie got out an old three-inch gill net that had been lying in a corner of one of his buildings. He said he was afraid it was worn out, but if we could make any use of it, we might take it. We, too, had our doubts as to its utility; but, as it was the best obtainable, Hubbard accepted it thankfully and Mackenzie had two of his men unravel it and patch it up.
During the afternoon we got our outfit in shape, ready for the start in the morning. Following is a summary of the outfit taken from an inventory made at Indian Harbour: Our canoe was 18 feet long, canvas covered, and weighed about 80 pounds. The tent was of the type known as miner's, 6 1/2 x 7 feet, made of balloon silk and waterproofed. We had three pairs of blankets and one single blanket; two tarpaulins; five duck waterproof bags; one dozen small waterproof bags of balloon silk for note books; two .45-70 Winchester rifles; two 10-inch barrel .22-calibre pistols for shooting grouse and other small game; 200 rounds of .45-70 and 1,000 rounds of .22-calibre cartridges; 3 1/4 x 4 1/4 pocket folding kodak with Turner-Reich Verastigmat lens; thirty rolls of films of one dozen exposures each, in tin cans, waterproofed with electricians' tape; a sextant and artificial horizon; two compasses and our cooking utensils and clothing.
At Indian Harbour we had four 45-pound sacks of flour, but Hubbard gave one sack to the pilot of the Julia Sheridan, and out of another sack he had given the cook on the Julia sufficient flour for one baking of bread, and we had also used some of this bag on our way from Indian Harbour to Rigolet. This left two 45-pound bags and about thirty pounds in the third bag, or 120 pounds in all. There were, perhaps, 25 pounds of bacon, 13 pounds lard, 20 pounds flavoured pea meal, 9 pounds plain pea flour in tins, 10 pounds tea, 5 pounds coffee, 8 pounds hardtack, 10 pounds milk powder, 10 pounds rice, 8 pounds dried apples, 7 pounds salt, 7 or 8 pounds tobacco and 30 pounds sugar.
This outfit, it will be remembered, was designed for three men. Hubbard tried to hire some of the native to accompany us a few miles into the interior and carry additional provisions that we might cache, but failed; they were all "too busy."
Mackenzie treated us royally during the evening we spent at his post, and we enjoyed his hospitality to the utmost, knowing that it was to be our last night under shelter for weeks to come. Now we were on the very edge of the wilderness. To-morrow we should enter the unknown.
IV. THE PLUNGE INTO THE WILD
It was nine o'clock on Wednesday morning, July 15, that we made the start. Our canoe, laden deep with our outfit, was drawn up with its prow resting snugly on the sandy bottom of the little strait that is locally known as the Northwest River. Mackenzie and a group of swarthy natives gathered on the shore to see us off. All but the high-spirited agent were grave and sceptical, and shook their heads at our persistency in going into a country we had been so frequently warned against.
The atmosphere was crisp, pure, and exhilarating. The fir trees and shrubs gave out a delicious perfume, and their waving tops seemed to beckon us on. The sky was deep blue, with here and there a feathery cloud gliding lazily over its surface. The bright sunlight made our hearts bound and filled our bodies with vigour, and as we stood there on the edge of the unknown and silent world we had come so far to see, our hopes were high, and one and all we were eager for the battle with the wild.
"I wish I were going with you; good-bye and Godspeed!" shouted Mackenzie, as we pushed the canoe into deep water and dipped our paddles into the current. In a moment he and the grave men that stood with him were lost to view. Up through the strait into the Little Lake we paddled, thence to the rapid where the waters of Grand Lake pour out. With one end of a tracking line, Hubbard sprang into the shallow water near the shore below the swift-running stream, and with the other end fastened to the bow of the canoe, pulled it through the rapid. A "planter's" family in a cabin near by watched us wonderingly.
Then we were in Grand Lake. Hubbard remarked that it looked like Lake George, save that the hills were lower. For a few miles above its outlet the shores on both sides of the lake are low. Then on the south come bluffs that rise, stern and grand in their nudity, almost perpendicularly from the deep, clear water, while on the north come lower hills, the most part wooded, that retreat more gently from the rocky shore. Heading for the extreme upper of the lake, where Low's map and the natives had led us to expect we should find the Northwest or Nascaupee River, we paddled along the north shore to a point where we stopped among the rocks for a luncheon of flapjacks and syrup.
We were away without waste of time, paddling diagonally across the lake to the south shore. The fleecy clouds had now thickened, and a few drops of rain had fallen. In our course across the lake we passed Cape Corbeau (Raven), but were so far out that the mouth of the river of that name, which is just east of it, escaped our attention. Cape Corbeau, it had been named by a French missionary, because the ravens build their nests on its rocky top, and, perched high up, croak at you warningly from afar. Always the ravens are there. Involuntarily, as one croaked above our heads, "Nevermore" echoed through my mind. "And my soul from out that shadow shall be lifted nevermore." There were dark shadows ahead of us among the rocks and the forests, and—But in a moment the thought was drowned and forgotten in the beauties of the scenery. Beauties?—yes; for bleak and desolate Labrador has a beauty and a charm all its own.
Two hours after passing Cape Corbeau the rain began to pour, and at 7.30 o'clock, when we made camp on the south shore, we were well soaked. We resumed our journey at 5.30 in the morning. A stiff breeze was blowing, but by keeping in the lee of the shore we made good progress. At ten o'clock, when we found it necessary to cross to the north shore so as to shorten the distance, there was a rising sea, and we had to lighten the canoe and ferry the cargo over in two loads.
It was soon after one o'clock that we reached the upper end of the lake, where we found a stream about 125 yards wide that flowed with a swift current from out a little lake. Into this lake after luncheon we paddled, and when we reached its upper end, there was the mouth of a river, which we immediately hailed as the Nascaupee, the stream that was to lead us up to Lake Michikamau. Its mouth was wide, and it seemed to answer so well all the descriptions we had heard of the river for which we were searching that the possibility of our being mistaken never once entered our heads; in fact, we remained under the impression that it was the Nascaupee until the last.
But we were mistaken. We had passed the Nascaupee five miles below, where it empties, together with the Crooked River, into a deep bay extending northward from Grand Lake. At its mouth the Nascaupee is divided by an island into two streams, and this island is so thickly covered with trees, and the streams on either side of it are so narrow, that when we crossed along in front of the bay no break in the line of woods at the mouth of the river was perceptible. Perhaps it will be said we should have explored the bay. I know now myself that should have been done, but in justice to Hubbard it must be remembered that none of us then had any reason to suppose we should find a river at any place other than the extreme upper end of the lake. Time and time again Hubbard had asked the few natives who had been there if the Nascaupee entered Grand Lake at its extreme upper end, and the answer invariably had been: "Yes, sir; he do." Furthermore, it will have to be taken into consideration how hard pressed Hubbard was by the fear that the short summer would end before he had completed his work, and by the consequent necessity of pushing on with all possible speed.
The river up which we started to ascend with light hearts was the Susan, a river which was to introduce us promptly to heart-breaking hardships, a river which is to me associated with the most tragic memories.
On the southerly side of the little lake Porcupine Hill raises its spruce-covered head a thousand feet above the water. Proceeding up the Susan, we found that the river valley was enclosed by low ridges covered with spruce and a few scattering white birch and aspen trees. For the most part the banks of the river were steep and high; where they were low the river formed little pond expansions. For a mile above its mouth we had good canoeing. Up to this point the river was not more than thirty yards wide, and was deep, with little current. Then it began gradually to widen and become shallow and swift, with a boulder-strewn bottom. Soon we had to jump into the water, and with Hubbard at the end of the tracking line, and George and I at either end of the canoe, haul, lift, and push the heavily laden boat up the river, while we floundered over the boulders. Sometimes we would be able to get into the canoe and pole, but never for long. Around the worst places we portaged the whole outfit, canoe and all. It was desperately hard work, and when night came on and we went into camp, we were only two miles above the little lake.
Hard as it was, we should not have minded our work in the rapids so much had it not been for the flies. For the first time we now realised the full form of what had been told us about the fly pest of Labrador. We had considered them annoying at Rigolet and Northwest River, but as soon as we began to buck the rapids they came upon us in clouds. They got into our nostrils, into our ears, into our mouths, into our eyes even, and our faces and hands were streaked with blood from their bites. They were villainous, hellish. Hubbard frequently remarked that the mosquitoes seemed friendly in contrast—and the mosquitoes were by no means considerate of our feelings and comfort either. We had purchased some cheesecloth at Rigolet for face nets, but the trial we had given it during the afternoon had proved that it was too closely woven for us to see through it and do our work, and it was useful only as some measure of protection for our ears and necks. On our faces we also tried some "fly dope" that we had purchased in New York, but it kept the pests away for a few minutes only.
The ordinary Labrador fly is smaller than a pinhead. You do not feel it until after it has had its bite, and then the sensation is like that of a fiery itch. In addition to this kind, we had to withstand the attacks of flies called by the natives "bulldogs." These beasts are about the size of the top joint of one's thumb. They are well named. When they bite, you feel it immediately beyond a doubt. We used to say they bit out pieces of our flesh entire and flew up into the trees to eat them, and we used frequently to beg George to try his luck at shooting the brutes. However, it must be said to the credit of both kinds of flies that they have one good habit—they "knock off" work at the approach of the cool of evening, thus giving you a chance to bathe as well as sleep.
The rain was still pouring when we pitched our tent that first night, but we had a good supper and were reasonably cheerful. There were flapjacks dripping with the syrup of melted sugar, and bacon, and hot bread, and coffee.
"With this sort of work before us," said Hubbard, "we must keep well fed."
"The river," said I, "certainly is the limit. If the Indians have to travel on it much, I feel sorry for them."
"Well," said Hubbard, "we've surely got our work cut out. At this rate we're going to make pretty slow progress."
"Blake told us," I ventured, "we could paddle up the river eighteen or twenty miles, and that he had sailed his boat up that far. I'd be willing to bet he never sailed it up this stream."
"Oh," replied Hubbard, "he was mistaken in the distance. This must be the place where he said the river tumbled off the mountain. What do you say, boys," he added, "to throwing away some of the outfit? We'll never make any progress if we attempt to carry it all."
"Let's stick to it a little longer," suggested George.
However, we decided to abandon some clothing and a pail containing about four pounds of lard; and as George, particularly, was opposed to leaving behind us any provisions, it was decided to eat of them lavishly and pay no attention to the hunt for the present.
All night it continued to rain, and we broke camp and started forward on Friday morning, July 17, in a drenching downpour. George thought this was rather hard. While Hubbard was out of hearing, he told me that the Indians never travelled in the rain, and that he had never been expected to do so before. The fact was that George had never before been on an expedition where there was so much necessity for haste.
We found the river on the second day to be even worse than our worst fears had pictured it, and it kept growing worse as we ascended. The water was so swift and shoal that we could take only a part of the outfit in the canoe, which meant that we had to return at intervals for the rest and track all the way, Hubbard pulling on the line while George and I waded and pushed. Sometimes we were scarcely knee deep in the water, and at other times we would sink up to our armpits. Frequently we were swept off our feet. Once or twice we forced the canoe and outfit through the thick willows and alders that lined the river, and dragged them up the steep bank and attempted to portage; but the country here had been burned and fallen trees were piled high in every direction, so that we were compelled to return to the river and resume our efforts in the raging torrent.
The work was awful, it was heartrending; and though we exerted ourselves to the utmost from six o'clock in the morning until eight at night, we advanced our camp only two miles that day. And when we gathered around the fire at night, how we did "cuss" that river! None of us, however, was discouraged, nor flinched at the prospect. Our oil-tanned, cowhide moccasins and woollen trousers were beginning to show the result of the attacks of bush, rock, and water, but our blue flannel shirts and soft felt hats were still quite respectable. Our coats we had left behind us as an unnecessary encumbrance.
While George was cooking breakfast on Saturday morning (July 18), a red squirrel barked at us from a near-by tree. Drawing his pistol from its holster, Hubbard said:
"Wallace, let's see who shall have the honour of bringing to George the first game of the trip."
I acquiesced, and walking around the tree, caught the first glimpse of the squirrel. At it I carefully aimed my pistol, and down it came. It made a tiny morsel for three men, but as the "first game of the trip," we hugely enjoyed it when George served it in a pot of soup.
At six o'clock we broke camp and laboured on, facing the same desperate conditions that we had met the day before. It is true that the rain had ceased to fall, but the good weather brought out the flies in increasing swarms. We fairly breathed flies, and we dreaded them far more than the hard work. Since they attacked us first, we had left our faces unwashed so as to retain the "dope," and they were streaming with a mixture of grease, dirt, blood, and perspiration.
The return of the sun also sent the mercury soaring. At noon that Saturday it registered 90 degrees in the shade. Always at sunset, however, the temperature dropped with startling suddenness, and a variation of from fifty to sixty degrees between the maximum and minimum record for one day was not an unusual thing as long as summer lasted.
Floundering up the boulder-strewn river that Saturday, we found the heat so oppressive that it seemed to us we had got into the torrid zone instead of up to within a few hundred miles of the Arctic Circle. We resolved, however, that the obstacles interposed against our advance by the unfeeling wild should make us fight only the harder, George and I receiving much inspiration from Hubbard, to whom difficulties were a blessing and whose spirit remained indomitable up to the very end. And when we sat down to our evening meal by a cosey fire, we had the satisfaction of knowing that we had doubled our previous day's record and were four miles further up the river.
On our first Sunday out we remained in camp to rest. We were all pretty tired, and enjoyed the long sleep in the morning. The day was fine, but very warm. In the morning Hubbard caught about twenty small trout, and after luncheon he and George went up the river on a scouting trip. When they returned in the evening, they reported important discoveries. First they had come upon a small, rocky stream flowing into our river from the south, which stream Hubbard felt sure must be the Red River the Blakes had told us about, and a mile above that a two-mile stretch of good water. But the discovery that pleased Hubbard the most was some old cuttings that apparently had been made by Indians; he was of the opinion, as were all of us, that they indicated we really were on the Mountaineer Indian trail to Michikamau, and that we undoubtedly soon should come upon lakes and other good water that would carry us through; and the discoveries of the scouting trip buoyed up our spirits wonderfully.
On Monday morning (July 20) George took an axe and cut us a portage route from our camp through a swamp a mile and a half to the foot of a hill. This route we covered three times. It was impossible for one man alone to carry the canoe through the swamp, and in addition to it and the firearms we had at this period to transport about five hundred pounds of baggage made up into packs of about seventy-five pounds each. At first Hubbard and I found seventy-five pounds a pretty good load to carry, and neither of us could get even that on his back without help from George; but later on we learned to back and carry with comparative ease a hundred pounds or more. In packing we never used either shoulder or chest straps, relying solely upon the head strap, which passes across the forehead.
When, after much groaning and sweating, we finally arrived with all of our outfit at the foot of the hill, it took the combined efforts of all three of us to get the canoe to the top, whence we followed an old caribou trail for a mile along the summit, camping just above the smooth water that Hubbard and George had seen on Sunday. We were all completely exhausted when we reached camp. While staggering along with the canoe a hundred yards from the tent, I became so weak that I suddenly sank to the ground and the others had to come to my rescue and bring in the canoe. But the night was cool and starry, and we sat long by our fire and talked and drank pea soup and tea, and when it came time for us to turn in to our soft bed of fragrant spruce boughs, our troubles had been quite forgotten.
The good water that Hubbard and George thought was two miles long shortened down, when we actually came to it the next morning, to less than half a mile, affording us only a meagre opportunity to make use of the canoe. For a little distance we again bucked the rapids, and then left the river for a rough portage of a mile and a half over the hills on the shore. Again at night we were exhausted, but again we had a fine camp on a point overlooking the river. The crisp air came laden with the perfume of spruce and balsam. On the surrounding hills the fir trees were darkly silhouetted against the sky, radiant with its myriads of stars. The roar of the river could be heard dying away into a mere murmur among the hills below.
"Boys," said Hubbard, after we had made a good supper of a mess of trout I had caught at midday, "this pays for all the hard work."
Undoubtedly Hubbard was in fine fettle that evening, and as we lay before the fire with that delicious feeling of languor which comes from conscientious toil, he entertained George and me with quotations from his favourite author, Kipling, while we puffed comfortably upon our pipes. One verse he dwelt upon, as it seemed particularly appropriate to our position. It was:
When first under fire, if you're wishful to duck, Don't look or take heed of the man that is struck; Be thankful you're living and trust to your luck, And march to your front like a soldier."
V. STILL IN THE AWFUL VALLEY
The next day (Wednesday, July 22) was by far the most disheartening of our journey up the valley of the Susan. We portaged all day through gullies and swamps and over rough ridges, covering in all about two miles and a half. All of us were overcome by the hard work in the burning sun and the poisonous bites of the flies. I was the most susceptible to the attacks of the flies; for ten days I was fairly sick from the poison they instilled. The faces, bands, and wrists of all of us were badly swollen and very sore. My face was so swollen I could scarcely see.
In the morning when we started forward the temperature was down to thirty-three degrees, but at noon it had risen to ninety-two. Hubbard was attacked with diarrhoea, and I with vomiting. We were all too exhausted to eat when we stopped for luncheon, and lay on the moss for an hour's rest, with the tent drawn over us to protect us from the flies.
On a low, barren knoll we cached that day eighty rounds of .45-70 cartridges and 300 rounds of .22's, George marking the spot with a circle of stakes. That left us 120 rounds of .45-70's and 500 rounds of .22's. It had become strictly necessary to lighten our packs, and we had begun to drop odds and ends every day.
In the afternoon Hubbard shot with his pistol a spruce partridge (grouse); it was the first seen by us on the trip. Together with a yellowlegs George had shot, it seasoned a pot of pea soup. We camped that night on a bluff, barren point, and Hubbard named it "Partridge Point" in bonour of our first bird.
On Thursday (July 23) Hubbard lay in the tent all day sick. All he was able to eat was some hardtack dipped in tea. At his request George and I scouted for trails. Each of us carried a rifle and wore at his belt a pistol and a cup in addition to the sheath knife we never were without. In our pockets we placed a half-pound package of pea meal. George started westward up the river, and I put for a high, barren bill two miles to the north. As I climbed the hill I heard gulls on the other side, which told me water lay in that direction, and when I reached the top, there at my feet, like a silver setting in the dark green forest, lay a beautiful little shoe-shaped lake. For miles and miles beyond the ridge I was on, the country was flat and covered with a thick spruce growth.
To the northeast of the lake at my feet I could see the glimmer of other water among the trees, and I decided to go on and investigate. In doing so, I managed to get myself lost. Descending the hill to the lake, I made my way through the thick spruce growth in the swamp along the shore. A splash in the water startled me, and soon I found the fresh tracks of a caribou. As he had winded me, I knew it was useless to try to follow him. Pressing my way on to the northeast, I came upon another small lake and several small creeks. At midday I built a fire and made a cup of pea meal porridge. While waiting for my meal to cook, I read a letter that a friend had given me in New York, "to be opened after one week's canoeing in Labrador." It was like a letter just received from home.
In the afternoon the sun became obscured by gathering clouds, and in the thick underbrush through which my course led me I could see scarcely twenty yards ahead. I attempted to get my direction with the compass, but the needle would not respond. Trusting, however, to my ability to find my course without it, I made my way on past two more lakes. A grouse fluttered up before me, and I brought it down with a pistol shot. After tying it to my belt, I decided it was time to turn back home, as we called our camp, and struck off by what I hoped would be a short cut through the swamp. Then it was that I lost my bearings, and at dusk, when I hoped to reach the first lake I had seen in the morning, I found myself on the shore of a lake I had never seen before.
Too weary to cook the grouse, or even build a fire and make a cup of porridge, I threw myself on a flat rock, pillowed my head on the trunk of a fallen spruce tree, drew a handkerchief over my face to keep away the clouds of mosquitoes, and slept soundly. At dawn I arose, built a fire, repaired my compass, and ate a cup of porridge. I was not frightened, because with my compass again in working order I knew I should have no difficulty in finding the river, which must be somewhere to the south and which must lead me back to camp. So to the southward I took my course, pushing my way through thick brush and over marshes where the ground under my feet went up and down like the waves of the sea.
Towards noon I reached a barren hill, and from its summit saw the river just beyond and the site of one of our old camping places that I knew was eighteen miles below our last camp. Down to the shore of the river I hurried, and built a fire for luncheon. The partridge at my belt had been torn into shreds by the bushes, and again a cup of porridge had to serve me for a meal. It was dark when I reached camp, to find Hubbard greatly worried and George away looking for me.
There had been some good-natured arguments between Hubbard and me as to the merits of our respective compasses, and as he now appeared to have the better of it, he took advantage of the occasion to chaff me unmercifully. Then when George returned they both had fun with me for getting lost.
"That's all right," I said, "your turn, Hubbard, will come later. You haven't been lost yet, because you haven't been out of sight of camp alone. Anyway, I just stayed out for a quiet evening by myself."
My absence on Friday did not delay our progress any; for Hubbard was still unable to travel. On Saturday (July 25) he had not yet fully recovered, but he decided to push forward. A drizzling rain was falling as we started. Each of us carried a load some four miles up the valley and returned; and then Hubbard, with a second load, went ahead to make camp, while George and I, with the remainder of the baggage, endeavoured to drag the canoe upstream. Darkness came on when we were two miles below camp. While fording the river, I was carried off my feet by the current and nearly swept over the fall with a pack around my neck.
Then George and I left the canoe on the bank for the night, and each with his pack proceeded to push his way through the thick willows and alders and over the rocks. It was so dark we could not see each other. Falling down constantly and struggling to our feet again, we stumbled on through the pitchy blackness and down-pouring rain, until suddenly we discerned the glowing light of our campfire and came upon Hubbard frying bacon. George and I were too tired to eat; we were glad to lie down in our wet clothes on the bed of spruce boughs that was ready for us and forget our troubles in sleep.