Last Visits to Outlying Stations--An Eskimo Congregation---The Disabilities of Old Age--Still an Active Bishop--A Sunday at Whale River.
BISHOP HORDEN travelled again by way of Canada, and it was like Horden that, upon the railway car in the journey westward, he lectured every day to the people.
He went first to the north-west of his diocese, visiting Oxford House, and then going on to York Factory. "A pleasant week's journey," he called it, although few Europeans at his age would find it so. From York Factory he went on by boat to Churchill.
The weather was beautiful and bright every day, but the nights were very cold, and the sleeping out in the open boat was, in the bishop's words," not always comfortable; but," he adds, "that mattered little, as long as we were proceeding." In five days they were sailing up the Great Churchill River, and landing at the utmost limit of civilisation. The place was full, and the people were just as busy as the myriads of mosquitoes, which in the short summer help to make life hard for man and beast. After a few days he returned to York, and thence went on by schooner to Moose.
It was dark when Horden landed, after his last absence, amongst his people; but they were on the beach in crowds to meet him. Here he was "really at home" and "felt so overjoyed and so thankful." From Moose he went on to Rupert's House. Here Christmas and the spring were spent. It was a time of trial for the natives, for the harvest of geese very largely failed them, and there was much suffering. The goose harvest was always important.
"When," the bishop wrote, "would the first goose be killed? Who would be lucky enough to kill it? Geese stands were made at intervals of about half a mile all down the river. Decoy geese were iii abundance, but the real geese were very shy. They rewarded the hunters' patience and skill but moderately; but, in the poor times we were experiencing, every single goose was a prize, and often a hunter sat in his stand two or three days without securing one. Rupert's House is not noted for geese, the marshes being very limited in extent; and this year the birds can find no food, in consequence of the great depth of snow, and on certain spots hun dreds were found frozen, starved to death.'
The results were often of the saddest. When the bands of Indians came in from outlying districts there were gaps in their ranks. Eighteen had perished in one party.
As summer came the bishop set out once more upon his travels, this time to the north. He visited East Main River, and ministered to a group of Indians who very rarely saw a clergyman. Then he went on to Fort George, and then still farther north to the Great Whale River. It was a wonderful proof of the thorough way in which those desolate lands had been evangelised that, as they journeyed along the coast of the bay they came one morning upon a body of Eskimo who were brethren. The bishop was amongst them at once, and heard them all read from their books. Only one of the flock, a woman, was at all deficient. For her they made apologies; she had only just got her books; but they were teaching her every day. Horden's heart had long yearned over the Eskimo, and few things gave him more joy than their earnest attention.
That Christmas was spent at Moose. The school children were well thought of, for the bishop provided the nearest possible approach to such a "treat" as many enjoy at home in England. The tea was there and cake too, and a Christmas tree filled.
The following summer proved a sickly one. Influenza again broke out, and at Rupert's House the bishop had once more to be doctor, nurse, and pastor. He himself fell ill, and regained his strength but slowly.
August brought an important visitor to Moose. Horden had for some time felt that increasing years and declining strength made it desirable for him to place the work in the hands of some younger man. In the Rev. J. A. Newnham--now Bishop of Moosonee--he believed that he had been directed to the right person. He was happy in this thought, but deferred his own return to England in order that he might see his future successor instructed in the work, and also that he might complete the translation of the Bible into Cree.
Christmas was spent at Albany with Archdeacon Vincent. It is a tiring journey. His first visit there had been made just forty years before. "I was then," he wrote, "young and active, and thought nothing of hardship; I could sleep in the open, bivouac with the cold bright sky overhead, with the thermometer 40 degrees below zero." But those days were gone for ever. "They tell me," he regretfully adds, "that, for the future, winter travelling must not be indulged in." And then he adds: "We must bow to the inevitable; we cannot always be young; the, halting step and the grey head will come, and why should we dread their approach, when we know that 'if the earthly house of our tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens'?"
It was a cruel winter though a mild one, for the dreaded influenza was again amongst the people.
In the following May, the bishop was able to reach the last words of his translation of the Bible into Cree. He still hoped to give it complete and most careful revision, and this was now never long out of his thoughts.
Yet at this time he could still visit his distant flocks. One of his last long journeys was to Whale River. The account of his visit offers a striking illustration of the change which the acceptance of the gospel makes in the native life. He was eagerly welcomed, and at once plunged into work. Here is the list of the Sunday engagements:--The first service was at 6.30 in the morning; that was for the Indians. All were present, some being men whom he had not seen for years. Service over, there was breakfast. After breakfast, the first business was a service for the Eskimo. Now they were not reluctant. "You see before you," wrote Horden, "a goodly number of clean, intelligent looking people, short and stout; you see that they have books in their hands, and notice that they readily find out the places required; they sing very nicely." This is not by any means the popular view of the Eskimo, and the change which has brought this about must be a very real one.
The Eskimo dismissed, it was time for dinner; and dinner over, a second Indian service was held. This must have been rather a group of services than one service, for the bishop married four couples and baptized twelve children. In scattered communities of this kind, people must be ready for services of such a nature just as the opportunity may occur. But it is possible that these Indian brides were not troubled by the necessity of preparing elaborate trousseaux, so that merely a few hours' notice of the ceremony would not occasion them any great alarm.
The services over, the bishop had a little leisure--time indeed for a short walk in the fresh air; a welcome release after breathing an atmosphere which, in his own patient way, he merely describes as "a little close." After the walk, tea; not a very sumptuous repast for a bishop, but welcome enough. On the table were tea, preserved milk, sugar, bread, and, instead of butter, marrow fat.
After tea came yet another service, this time in English. These English services, the mention of which so often occurs in Horden's letters, are a useful reminder of one side of missionary work too rarely remembered. In the desolate, sparsely-peopled lands of the Hudson's Bay Territory, and in many other parts of the world, there are English-speaking people who owe their only opportunities of joining in divine service to the missionaries. Perhaps only those who have been for months at a time cut off from all such advantages can understand the joy of once more realising the pleasure of common worship, though no more than "two or three are gathered together" in the name of Christ.
After the English service came "a little conversation," and then bed. At six the next morning Horden was again at work, taking a final service before bidding good-bye to the people whose faces he could never hope to see again.