Do our readers remember the two boys mentioned in our second chapter, who, dirty, wild, and ignorant, had been brought by Mr. West to Red River in his own boat'? The simple prayer from their stammering lips had been heard and answered; they were among the four whom Mr. West baptized before his return to England; and both of them gave evidence of being Christians indeed.
John Hope, as one of them was called, had settled at the Indian Village, and was leading a quiet and consistent life; and the other, Henry Budd, was now the person fixed on by the Missionaries to lay the foundation of this new station. After he left the Indian school under Mr. Jones, he had gone into the service of the Hudson's Bay Company, but quitted it, in 1837, intending to settle at the Rapids, where he might have the privilege of a regular ministry. Mr. Jones, however, invited him to take charge of a school at the Upper Settlement, where he evinced a steadfastness of principle and intelligence of mind that marked him out as fitted for a more responsible situation; and it was accordingly arranged that he should be sent to Cumberland. He had, moreover, the advantage of belonging to the same tribe (the Crees), and would not therefore have a new dialect to acquire.
He set out in the summer of 1840, accompanied by his wife and mother, for to him it was given to see a parent brought to Christ, and after a voyage of between 400 and 500 miles, through lakes and rivers, arrived safely at the scene of his future labours.
It would be difficult to convey an idea of the desolation that met their view,--a wide-spread lake, bordered with swamps, and shut in on all sides by a forest of unknown extent. There were, of course, no signs of cultivation, and a few Indian tents were the only human habitations. The banks of the lake afforded no spot on which they could fix their abode, but they found a few patches of dry ground upon an island, on which Mr. Budd pitched the tent, and hastened to provide some more substantial dwelling for the winter.
This was no easy task; there was no wood fit for building within several miles, and he had no cattle to bring it from a distance; nor was there any one to assist him in the erection of a house except the boat's crew who had brought him here, and they must not tarry long, lest the approach of winter should hinder their return. But the once untaught Indian lad had become as diligent and persevering in temporal as in spiritual things; partly by persuasion, and partly by giving some of his own clothes in payment, he at last prevailed on a few of the Indians to assist him, and before the winter set in he had succeeded in erecting a small log-house for his own family, another for his hoped-for school, and a third to serve as a store-house. This last was a very necessary appendage to their dwelling; for, knowing that no food could be procured there but by fishing or shooting, the Missionaries at the Red River had supplied them not only with domestic utensils, tools, &c., but with as much flour and pemican as would, they hoped, be sufficient for them till the rivers should again he open, and they could send them a fresh supply.
Cumberland Lake is a favourite resort of the Crees; the fish is plentiful, and there is a trading-post of the Company on its banks; and though the Indians never remained long stationary, yet a considerable number might at times be collected together. Their reception of Mr. Budd was very friendly, and from the first they showed so much desire for instruction, that when absent from the spot a few of them, who were within reach, would return on the Sunday to attend Divine service; and some of them very soon placed their children under his care.
We have not sufficient details of the next two years to be able to give any connected account of the progress made among these wild people; but it seems that our Catechist had, in the meantime, moved to a more eligible spot, called the Pas, on the banks of the Sasketchewan River, where he had begun to cultivate a piece of land. How far the blessing of God rested on his spiritual labours will be best judged of by the results.
In consequence of the strong desire expressed by Mr. Budd for a visit from one of the Missionaries at Red River, Mr. Smithurst left the Indian Village on May 26, 1842, and proceeded along the western shore of Lake Winnipeg to the mouth of the Saskatchewan River. His boat was manned by ten young men of his own congregation; and those of our readers who remember how his heart was pained and his spirit stirred during his voyage from York Fort to Norway House, will not wonder at his being forcibly struck by the contrast between his former and his present circumstances, surrounded as he now was with intelligent Christians with whom he could hold intercourse, and with whom he could daily unite in worshipping their common God and Saviour, and enjoy the rest and privileges of the Sabbath. He thus describes the scene on one of these occasions:--
"June 3.--At our evening worship I was seated in a small tent on a high bank, looking over the wide expanse of water, dotted here and there with picturesque pine-clad islands: my own men were on the ground by my tent door, and behind me were three heathen Indians beside a small Are, miserably clothed in the remains of an old blanket, contrasting strongly with the well-clad cheerful looking Christians of my own party. We began by singing,
'From all that dwell below the skies,'
when suddenly the whole lake and islands near us appeared enveloped in flame. Almost uninterrupted flashes of brilliant lightning glided along the surface of the lake, and seemed to gather round the tall pines with which the islands are covered. The peculiar locality, the companions by whom I was surrounded--the voice of prayer and praise mingling with the pealing thunder, the roaring of the wind among the trees, and the dashing of the waves against the rocks, conspired to raise feelings I cannot describe. It was probably the first time that prayer and praise had ever ascended from that little island. May they have gone up as incense, acceptable through the Beloved!"
In the hurry of setting off, Mr. Smithurst had omitted to tell his men to bring their books with them, and was not a little pleased to find that they all had, of their own accord, brought their Bibles and prayer-books, and some had also brought their hymn-books, &c. Contrary winds and stormy weather frequently detained them for hours, and sometimes for days, on the same spot; and it was a pleasant sight to see them passing their leisure time in reading and committing to memory a hymn or a passage of Holy Scripture. Mr. Smithurst remarks upon this:--
"Had I been travelling in England with ten young people, their ages varying from seventeen to thirty, I doubt if I should have seen them thus, while halting by the way, refreshing their souls with the words of Eternal Life. Oh that the Lord would pour His Spirit upon Britain, lest in the last great day the poor Indian should be found to have improved his two talents better than she has done her five."
The unfavourable weather made this voyage a very tedious one, and they had some difficulty in ascending the Saskatchewan River. Sunday, June 19, was spent on the shores of Cedar Lake; and Mr. Smithurst writes:--
"This is the third Sunday we have passed in this western wilderness, far from the abodes of civilised men, where day after day passes without the sight of any human being. Here is the wide-spread lake, clothed in verdant foliage--the lofty cedar and towering pine raise their heads towards heaven in majestic grandeur--the pelican, the crane, the swan, the eagle, and the other feathered tribes, show forth the glory of their great Creator; woods and rocks echo back the songs of praise and voice of prayer: but no human tongue unites with us in giving honour, glory, praise, and power to Him who died for us."
The voyage lasted twenty-six days, and it was not till Wednesday, June 22d, that they reached the Pas. The first sight that greeted them was a party of school children, who, as soon as they espied the boat, ran down in the midst of a pouring rain to the bank of the river, to welcome the "white praying-master;" and it was not long before Mr. Smithurst found a shelter and an affectionate greeting beneath the roof of Mr. Budd.
Almost all the Indians were absent deer-hunting or fishing, but on the afternoon of Saturday, Mr. Smithurst was delighted to see a, whole fleet of canoes, containing sixty or seventy persons, making their way down the river. It was a pretty and a joyful sight as the Indians jumped ashore, made their little boats secure for the night, and then, after saluting Mr. Smithurst, proceed to pitch their tents by the side of the Missionary dwelling. "Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as doves to their windows'?"
One of Mr. Smithurst's objects in visiting the station was to baptize any who should be prepared for the sacred rite, but his mind misgave him when he found how large a number presented themselves as candidates. He could not imagine that so many could be properly prepared; and knowing that the Roman Catholic priests had from time to time visited the neighbourhood, and, without giving them any instruction, had baptized all who were willing, tying a metal cross round their necks, and assuring them they were safe, he could not repress the fear that, notwithstanding Mr. Budd's faithful Scriptural instruction, some of the people must have imbibed erroneous views. During Saturday evening and the early part of Sunday morning, he examined them individually and searchingly, and to his grateful satisfaction found, that not only were their minds informed, but their hearts awakened. A deep sense of their own lost state by nature--the necessity of a change of heart by the operation of the Holy Spirit--a dependence on Christ alone for acceptance, and an entire renunciation of all self-dependence, were evident in them all; and many of them, when speaking of their past lives, were greatly affected. Their "hearts," they said, "were so sore they were ready to break in pieces." All had given up their heathen practices, regularly attended every means of grace in their power, and had endured considerable opposition from their heathen neighbours.
The doubts and fears which had harassed the mind of Mr. Smithurst were now changed into gratitude and joy, us, in the afternoon of Sunday, he admitted into the fold of Christ thirty-eight adults with their children,--eighty-seven in the whole,--thus "called out of darkness," and brought into "marvellous light." And it would be vain to attempt to describe the glowing thankfulness with which Mr. Budd must have witnessed this result of his devoted and self-denying labours.
The next day Mr. Smithurst married thirteen couple, and expected the whole party would have immediately returned to their distant hunting-grounds; but they were unwilling to depart, and, though short of food, lingered on till Wednesday, when he was obliged to leave them; and thankful for all he had seen and heard, and bidding a cordial "farewell" to Mr. Budd, he set out on his return. Floating swiftly down the river, and having a fair wind on Lake Winnipeg, he reached his home in seven days by the same route that had taken him nearly a month on his way to Cumberland.
Time passed on, Mr. Budd continued his work of faith among the people; one heathen family after another joined the congregation, the weekly school increased, and on Sundays many adults assembled to learn to read, and to attend Divine service. But the want of an ordained minister was increasingly felt, and many a prayer ascended to God, and urgent entreaties were sent home, that this boon might be conferred upon them; but the difficulties in which, the Society was then placed prevented their acceding to this request till the year 1844.
In the meantime Mr. Budd had been, in the summer of 1843, greatly tried by the arrival of a Romish priest, who came with the undisguised intention of drawing away the people. He erected a large wooden cross, marked out the site of his intended house, and after baptising about twenty of the heathen in the neighbourhood (for all who were in the habit of attending Mr. Budd's instructions stood firm), returned to the Red River, intending to come back in the spring to take up his permanent abode there. But on his way he met with a fearful death, and, thankful as our catechist was that his people were preserved from temptation to error, he could but be greatly shocked at the manner in which his difficulties were removed.
In August 1844, the Rev. R. and Mrs. Hunter arrived at York Fort, and lost no time in proceeding to the Pas. They had a tedious and uncomfortable voyage of thirty-eight days, sometimes covered with fog or frost, some times drenched with rain, and more than once they were in considerable danger from the storms on Lake Winnipeg.
But all the toils, fatigues, and discomforts of the way were forgotten when, on the evening of Sept. 26, their place of destination came in sight, and they saw forty or fifty school children, with their happy faces, running down to the water's edge to give them the same welcome greeting that they had before given to Mr. Smithurst. Presently the men appeared, and as Mr. Hunter contrasted the quiet frankness of their manner and address with the heathen he had seen upon his route, he felt what cause there was for thankfulness and hope. It was more than time for them to have gone to the winter hunting-grounds to get food and procure furs, wherewith to pay for the clothing and ammunition they had purchased from the Company, and many had set off some weeks before. But these had still waited from day to day, hoping, before they went, to sec their own "white praying-master," and to be by him admitted into the visible Church of Christ.
Thirty-one adults and thirty-seven children were baptized on the following Sunday, after an examination as satisfactory to him as a similar one had been to Mr. Smithurst two years before. The candidates came up to the font in families, fathers and mothers giving up themselves and their children to the service of their Lord, while the frequent tear or the loud sob testified to the deep emotion with which they entered into covenant with their God.
A few families found sufficient food in the neighbourhood to allow of their remaining at the Pas through the winter; but the rest set off to their distant haunts, and Mr. Hunter grieved to think how long a time would elapse before they would again be under any regular instruction. But it was pleasant to hear them diligently inquiring the exact time of Christmas Day, and express their hopes of being then within reach of the station; and he found from Mr. Budd, that while absent they never failed to keep holy the Lord's day, besides having frequent prayer-meetings among themselves.
Nothing could be much more comfortless, as to outward things, than the first winter that Mr. and Mrs. Hunter spent at the Pas. Except a few things they had brought in their own boat, they had been obliged to leave all their furniture, baggage, and English stores behind them at Norway House, and there was no possible way of getting them from hence till the following August. Mr. Budd had used every effort to provide a dwelling for them; but without proper timber, and with only inexperienced Indians to assist him, the best habitation he had been able to construct, and which consisted of only two small rooms, was so imperfect that it admitted in their turn "rain, wind, snow, and musquitoes."
The store of provisions from Red River (for though Mr. Budd had brought some land into cultivation, it yielded but a small proportion of what was required), fell short before the winter was half over; the school children lived for five months exclusively on fish, and the Missionary families would have had no other food, had not the gentleman in charge of the nearest fort (above a day's journey off) kindly spared a little pemican and flour from his own winter store.
But, far beyond all those things, was the anxiety they felt on account of Mrs. Hunter's state of health--far as she was from all civilised society, and beyond the reach of the most common comforts. It pleased God, however, to endue them both with a large measure of patience and cheerful contentment; Mrs. Hunter was brought safely through her trial, and Mr. Hunter was able to write:--
"Since our arrival here I have had much to cheer and encourage me. Of difficulties, trials, and privations we have had a full share, these however we were prepared to find in this secluded spot. But when I look at the number of Indians I have been permitted to baptize, their increasing desire for instruction, and the general consistency of their lives; when I think also of the number of Indians from all quarters who come to visit us and send us their children, I cannot but be cheered, and look on all my trials as nothing compared with the abundance of my joy. Most thankful are we for the prayers of our friends in England, they have not been in vain."
[Mrs. Hunter did not long live to share her husband's labours, she died about three years after her arrival in Rupert's Land. Few ladies have been called to suffer the privations to which she was exposed, but none could have borne them with a more uncomplaining cheerfulness. Her end was peace. Taking leave of her husband and her only child, her expression was, "Dearly as I love you, I love my Saviour more." And truly she had shewn that love by her endeavours to bring others to love Hun too. The women and children of the congregation were her peculiar charge, but even the young men would sometimes look to her for advice and instruction. One of the last times she is mentioned was at Christmas 1846, when she made the school girls very happy by a treat of the unwonted luxuries of tea and cake, and by distributing among them some simple presents sent her for the purpose by a lady in England. Mr. Hunter has since married again.]
Several interesting circumstances occur from time to time in the journals of the station at Cumberland Pas, but the only one we shall notice is the baptism of an Indian of the name of Wetus. He was the son of a chief, and himself held some kind of authority in the tribe. His parents had been baptized by a Roman Catholic priest when he was quite a child, but they had suffered him to remain a heathen, and as he grew up he became a noted conjurer.
His attention had been drawn to Christianity from the time of Mr. Budd's first arrival, and he was so far moved by it as to attend at Divine worship, and to lay aside many of his heathen practices. He even encouraged his people to examine into this new religion; he resisted all the persuasions of his heathen and Roman-Catholic relatives to persecute the converts, and often attended their prayer-meetings in the hunting-grounds.
But the world had not quite lost its power; the position he held among the heathen was too dear to him to he as yet relinquished, and he continued to halt between two opinions; till at last, by the grace of God, the snare was broken, and he was enabled to range himself on the Lord's side. On Easter Day, 1847, he was baptized with his wife and children, and received the name of Louis Constant.
From that time he has continued to grow in grace, and his uprightness, intelligence, and piety render him a valuable assistant in the work of religion among his people. He and another chief named Cook are indefatigable in their endeavours to lead others to Christ, and their efforts have been blessed to the bringing in of several heathen.
[Some time since he put into Mr. Hunter's hands the last relic of his former superstition. It is a roll of birch rind, about four feet long and nearly a foot broad, and on the inner surface are scratched with some pointed instrument various hieroglyphic devices, intended to mark out the straight road to long life and happiness. This road is guarded on one side by figures of the sacred goose, and on the other by a corresponding row of the heads and arms of some of their other deities, while the supposed paths of the wicked diverge from the main road and are lost, But the whole is so uncouth, that it is only worthy of attention as a proof of the extravagancies into which the human mind is suffered to fall when it has departed from the living God. And yet it cannot rest satisfied without a guide, real or self created.
[Louis Constant told Mr. Hunter that he used to regard this roll with the same reverence he now felt for his Bible, but that, as might be expected, it had since his conversion been to him a source of shame and sorrow.]
In 1845, Mr. Hunter had paid a visit to the Red River, where not only was his spirit refreshed by intercourse with, his brethren, but the sight of the Indian village, with its little church, its white-washed cottages, and its fields of waving corn, encouraged him to look forward with eager hope to a time when the banks of the Saskatchewan might look as bright and smiling.
Nor was it very long before his hopes began to be realised. Gradually the Indians became willing to exchange their erratic habits for a more quiet and civilised life. Several of them fixed themselves on an island, which was soon covered with wheat, barley, potatoes, turnips, and peas; and five little dwellings were shortly after erected on it. Other cottages were grouped round the Mission House, and some were built on the opposite side of the river, near the spot which Mr. Hunter had fixed upon for his future church.
In 1848 we read, that nearly all the Indians who frequented the Pas had put themselves under Christian instruction; four hundred and twenty-four had been baptized, and though among these there still lingered some prejudices and superstitions, yet they were all more or less adorning their profession by holy and consistent lives.
In summer there were often as many as four hundred at public worship; there were fifty-seven communicants, some of whom, if absent at Christmas or at Easter, would return on foot from a distance of one or two hundred miles, to gather round the table of the Lord. [With their strange-looking snow-shoes.]
A spirit of piety and devotion was cultivated in their families--their social and domestic comforts increased; and could we by some magic power transport ourselves to the shores of the Saskatchewan, we should see that there, as everywhere else, godliness has the promise of the life that now is as well as that which is to come. If our visit were in winter, we would cross the frozen river with our Missionary and his wife, enter some of the cottages, and compare with some dirty Indian tent the scene that would greet us here--the bright fire, the clean and comfortable room, the family gathered round the cheerful hearth, and thankfully rejoicing in their altered circumstances. Or if we made a summer flight, we might stand at the close of some calm day at the door of the Mission House, and listen while we heard on the nearer shore a father conducting the devotions of the family; or, borne across the water from the farther bank, in the stillness of the evening air our ears would catch the sound of many voices mingling in praises to Redeeming Love.
We shall have occasion to refer once more to this station at Cumberland Pas before we close our history.