WHILE Mr. Bompas was performing his wonderful journeys in the far North, and enduring so many hardships for the Master's sake, men no less earnest were following his movements and planning and praying for the success of the Church in North-West Canada.
Owing to the statesmanlike plans of Bishop Machray, of Rupert's Land, it was decided to divide the vast district, comprising more than one-half of all Canada, into separate dioceses. The Bishop realized that more effective supervision was needed in the large field, as the distances were too great for one man to think of undertaking. The distance from the Red River to the farthest posts on the Mackenzie River was as great as "from London to Mecca," and it would have taken him two years to visit the northern posts with profit. Crossing to England, the Bishop set forth the proposal for the division of his diocese into four parts, which was accepted by all concerned.
"The reduced Diocese of Rupert's Land would comprise the new province of Manitoba and some adjacent districts; the coasts and environs of Hudson's Bay would form the Diocese of Moosonee; the vast plains of the Saskatchewan, stretching westward to the Rocky Mountains, the Diocese of Saskatchewan; and the whole of the enormous territories watered by the Athabasca and Mackenzie Rivers, and such part of the Yukon basin as was within British territory, the Dioeese of Athabasca."
For Moosonee, the veteran missionary, John Horden, had been consecrated Bishop in 1872; and in the following year John McLean, Archdeacon of Manitoba, and William Carpenter Bompas were summoned home to be consecrated Bishops of the new Dioceses of Saskatchewan and Athabasca.
Mr. Bompas shrank much from the thought of becoming a Bishop, and in July, 1873, he set his face homewards with the express purpose of turning the Church Missionary Society from the idea. It was a long journey that lay ahead of him, fraught with many dangers and difficulties. The clerk at Fort Yukon in charge of the American Fur Company's post kindly supplied him with provisions and with two Indian lads who had volunteered for the trip. Soon all was ready, and then the start was made up the Porcupine River, and after two weeks of hard and persevering labour he reached the Rocky Mountains. Here the Indians left him to return to Fort Yukon, and alone and on foot the missionary began his journey across the mountains. Three days was he in accomplishing the task, and in a furious snow-storm, "which rendered the mountains almost as white as in winter," reached Fort McPherson, Peel Kiver, on August 6.
"The force of the Arctic storm in the mountains," says Mr. Bompas," is greater and less endurable than elsewhere--not because the winter temperature is more severe on the mountain than below, for it is milder on a height, but because the wind is more violent, and the snow is whirled with blinding fury and freezing bitterness in the face of the traveller.
"Happily, in the mountains there is generally some angle or jutting crag where shelter can be had from the blast till the storm is past, and if fuel is found at the same point wherewith to kindle a fire, the voyager is comfortable.
"The effect of the sharp frozen snowdrift, blown from the mountain-top in the traveller's face, is first to make his eyes water, and then effectually to seal these up, through the freezing of the exuding moisture. Frost-bites on the cheeks soon follow, and, if travel is continued, these will be running with blood. It is in such a case that the expression °f the Almighty is recognized, 'Who can stand before His cold?' (Ps. cxlvii. 17).
"When a storm is blowing on the mountains, the appearance of these from the distance is as if they were fringed with hair, the snowdrift blown in heavy clouds from the ridge having such an aspect. . . .
"Though, while earth remains, winter storms will never cease, yet we may well believe that, in heaven above, when there shall be no more night and no more sea, the surging tempest will sink for ever into an unruffled calm; and the storms of our earthly lives are intended to prepare us to enjoy more fully that haven of repose."
Starting again by canoe, with two other Indian lads, Fort Simpson, a distance of 800 miles, was made on September 2, "after three weeks of fatiguing towing." Pushing on his way, after a difficult journey, contending with the cold and swift stream, he reached Portage la Loche on October 8, having travelled 2,600 miles since July, "and all, except about 300 to 400 miles, against a strong current."
Owing to the cold weather he was forced to remain at the Portage for ten days, and when the swamps were sufficiently frozen he "started on foot through the woods to Buffalo Lake in company with two servants of the Hudson Bay Company." Reaching the lake, he travelled with some difficulty on the fresh ice around the margin, and at the farther end found a camp of Indians, who guided him to Isle k la Crosse. Here a stay of ten days was made,j and] then he left with dogs and sledge for Green Lake, with three employes of the Hudson Bay Company. The weather becoming milder, they were forced "to cross one of the intervening rivers on a raft."
From Green Lake they entered "on the plain country of the Saskatchewan," and after a walk of five days reached Fort Carlton. While here Mr. Bompas visited the Prince Albert Settlement on the banks of the North Saskatchewan, and says: "This settlement is the first that has been formed by the immigrants in that neighbourhood, and it bears every sign of increasing prosperity and success."
From Carlton House, Touchwood Hills was reached with a horse and sledge. Here, through the kindness of the postmaster, he was furnished with a carriole and dogs, and, after a journey of 400 or 500 miles, reached the Red River Settlement.
"I enjoyed the kind hospitality of the Bishop of Rupert's Land and Archdeacon Cowley," wrote Mr, Bompas, "and was much interested in seeing the progress of the mission work in the colony. I reached, by G-od's good providence, the first houses of the settlement on the last evening of the old year, and after nearly six months' travel in the wilds, I awoke on New Year's morning to a new life of civilization and society."
It is said that when Mr. Bompas reached the episcopal residence and inquired for Bishop Machray, the servant mistook him for a tramp (in his rough travelling clothes), and told him his master was very busy and could not be disturbed. So insistent was the stranger that the servant went to the Bishop's study and told him a tramp was at the door determined to see him.
"He is hungry, no doubt," replied the Bishop; "take him into the kitchen and give him something to eat."
Accordingly, Mr. Bompas was ushered in, and was soon calmly enjoying a plateful of soup, at the same time urging that he might see the master of the house. Hearing the talking, and wondering who the insistent stranger could be, the Bishop appeared in the doorway, and great was his astonishment to see before him the travel-stained missionary.
"Bompas!" he cried, as he rushed forward, "is it you?"
We can well realize how Mr. Bpmpas must have enjoyed this little scene, and the surprise of the good and noble Bishop of Rupert's Land.
We will let Mr. Bompas describe the rest of the journey:
"From Manitoba the dog-train was exchanged for the stage-coach for Moorhead, the terminus of the American railway towards the North-West. In this the cold was piercing and freezing, even though the travellers were wrapped in buffalo-skins. The poor horses were utterly exhausted in drawing the vehicle about fifteen miles through the snow, and though changed thus often, yet at last the journey had to be suspended during a storm, and in the end the horses, though changed every stage, occupied a week in performing the same distance as that travelled by the dogs in four days, more easily and pleasantly--that is, 160 miles.
"The journey was next continued by railway, but from the fires not being lighted in the cars the cold was intense, and the train was shortly brought to a standstill in a snow-drift. Though two locomotives were tugging at it, no progress could be made till the guards with shovels disengaged the carriage-wheels from the snow which entangled them.
"In Canada the journey by stage-coach was resumed. This was shortly after overturned into a, ditch by the wayside while scaling a snow-drift. The outside passengers were deposited in an adjoining field, where, to be sure, the snow provided them with a sufficiently soft bed to fall on. The inside passengers had a more uncomfortable shaking.
"The journey was next proceeded with by train to Montreal, before approaching which the cars left the rails, causing some apprehension and delay, which might have been increased had not the guard been provided with a powerful winch for the purpose of replacing the carriages on the track.
"In passing through Canada, I was much pleased with the cities of Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal. The first I should consider the pleasantest place of residence, but the Parliament buildings and Government offices at Ottawa are very handsome, and Montreal shows the greatest activity in business. I had the honour of waiting upon the Governor-General of Canada, the Metropolitan of Canada, the Bishop and the Dean of Toronto, the Deputy Minister of the Interior, and others, all of whom received me most affably.
"From Montreal, following the Grand Trunk Railway to Portland, I embarked in the steamship Scandinavian, of the Allan line. At starting, the masts, yards, and deck of the steamer presented a woeful appearance, from being thickly coated and hung with ice, yet 200 miles were made the first day. By the constantly increasing head-wind, however, the daily speed was decreased down to 100 miles per day, at which rate the Captain thought it prudent to shut off half the steam, and diminish the speed to a minimum, for fear that something should give way in the plunging vessel. After thirteen days, under the careful seamanship of Captain Smith, Liverpool was reached on February 13, in the safe keeping of a protecting Providence."
This account is given to show some of the difficulties the traveller experienced in the early days in his trips to and from England. Mr. Bompas, after this journey, decided in favour of the dog-team.
"On the whole," he said, "the dogs may be counted to hold their own in competing with horseflesh or steam, whether on land or water."
At last the soldier was home from the front, the hero among his friends, and after the years of hardships he might have enjoyed a well-earned rest. But his thoughts were far away across the ocean in his vast field of labour, and the voice of the children of the wild was ever urging him to make haste. The restraints, conventionalities, and luxuries of civilized life worried him; the narrowness of the streets was unbearable, and he longed for the smell of the camp-fire, the free, fresh air of the North, the great untamed streams, the snowcapped mountains, and his dusky flock.
During his stay in England Mr. Bompas had many commissions to fulfil, which occupied much of his time. There were purchases to make for people in North-West Canada, including six gold watches for as many female residents, and a pair of corsets for another. Obtaining the latter caused much worry to the missionary. But he was never known to back down, and finally the purchase was made. Is it any wonder that he preferred the life among the Indians, who worried so little concerning the wherewithal they should be clothed?
Mr. Bompas was unsuccessful in dissuading the Church Missionary Society from carrying out their plan, and on May 3 he and John McLean were elevated to the Episcopate. The consecration took place in the parish church of St. Mary's, Lambeth, Dr. Tait, Archbishop of Canterbury, being assisted by Bishop Jackson of London, Bishop Hughes of St. Asaph, and Bishop Anderson, late of Rupert's Land. The sermon was preached by the last-named prelate, who thus referred to the two new Dioceses of Saskatchewan and Athabasca:
"To-day the noble plan will be consummated by the consecration of two more Bishops. One will preside over the Church in the western portion of the land, labouring among the Indians of the plains, and along the valley of that river whose source is in the Rocky Mountains, the River Saskatchewan. The other will have the northern diocese as his own, along yet mightier lakes, and with rivers which roll down an immense volume and discharge themselves into the Arctic Ocean."
After some words addressed to Bishop McLean, the following charge was given to Bishop Bompas:
"In leaving for the more distant sphere of Athabasca, brother, it is to no untried work that you proceed. It is matter of very deep interest to notice the links in the chain of God's providence which has guided you to this heur. Nine years ago to-morrow it was my privilege to preach the anniversary sermon of that noble Society which mainly sends you forth. I had then heard that he who was bearing the standard of the Cross in the most advanced position of Fort Yukon was sinking in rapid decline. I read a touching extract from a letter which I had just received from his nearest fellow-labourer, in which were these words:
"'Oh, plead for us, my lord--plead with God for men and with men for God, that they may come to gather in the harvest here! The time is short, the enemy is active, the Master will soon be here, and then blessed will those servants be who are found working and watching.'
"On this I grounded my appeal, and said: 'Shall the minister fall in the forefront of the battle, in the remotest outpost, and shall no one come forward to take up the standard of the Lord as it drops from his hands, and occupy the ground?' These were the words which commended themselves to your heart. You offered yourself to the Society, and within three weeks of your offer you were on your way to the far North-West. He who was thought to be sick unto death was raised up, restored, to find you by his side, ready to aid and sustain him in his work.
"You have been there for more than eight years, in labours abundant, and your love has not lessened nor your zeal slackened. You have brought home, as the fruit of your labour, portions of Scripture, prayers, and hymns, in seven different dialects or tongues. You are ready to take the precious treasure out with you--the translations printed and prepared by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. You have also one complete Gospel, that of St. Mark, which the British and Foreign Bible Society has enabled you to carry through the press.
"But you left good treasure behind, in souls warmed with the love of Christ and softened by the spirit of Grrace. You have the hearts of the Indians and the Esquimaux."
But Bishop Bompas was not to return alone to his great work, for a few days after his consecration, May 7, he was united in marriage to Miss Charlotte Selina Cox, by Bishop Anderson, assisted by the Rev. John Bobbins, Vicar of St. Peter's, Netting Hill, and the Rev. Henry Gordon, Rector of Harting.
Mrs. Bompas was a woman of much refinement and devotion to the mission cause. Her father, Joseph Cox Cox, M.D., of Montague Square, London, was ordered to Naples for his health. During this trip, in which he was accompanied by his family, his daughter, afterwards Mrs. Bompas, acquired that love for the Italian language which ever after continued to be a great source of pleasure to her. No matter where she went in the northern wilds of Canada she carried her Dante with her, which she studied, with much delight, in the original.
During her stay at Naples she attended her first ball given by the British Ambassador, and met the King of Naples (the notorious King "Bomba"), and often afterwards recalled his remark in Italian, "What have you done to amuse yourself at the carnival?"
When quite young, Mrs. Bompas had little interest in missions, and says: "My brother, who was Vicar of Bishop's Tawton, Devonshire, used to hold missionary meetings at the Vicarage, and I remember thinking them the dullest affairs, and the clergymen who addressed us, and whom my brother, perhaps, would introduce as the distinguished missionary from Japan or Honolulu, I looked upon as the most dismal old slow coaches it was anyone's unhappy fate to attend to."
Her interest at length became aroused, and later, when the martyrdom of Bishop Patteson startled the Christian world, she became much excited, and reached, as she tells us, "the enthusiastic stage when we resolve to become missionaries ourselves, and are all impatient to be off anywhere--to China, Japan, or to the Indians of the Mackenzie River."
Shortly after this she cast in her lot with the Bishop of Athabasca, and became "consecrated to mission work."