London: SPCK, 1929.
Chapter II. Fort Simpson
(September, 1874—June, 1876)
FORT SIMPSON, MACKENZIE RIVER,
October 9, 1874.
MY OWN DEAREST SISTER,
You will see by the date that we have at last reached the end of our long journey. This we did September 24—a day bright and beautiful, with clear bracing air (after the months of cruel heat), and preceded by a moonlit night and exquisite aurora borealis. I had felt latterly very tired of the journey and on the point of knocking up. We went through the same constant monotony of lake and river and portage over and over again, the only variety being that the weather became ever more damp and chilly in the evenings and nights. We had some severe storms, which were not agreeable in our open boat.
We had a good deal of trouble with our sailors after parting with our nice Red River crew; sometimes they were most difficult to procure at any price. Our men gave William a great deal of trouble, and at one time I feared a complete mutiny.
Another difficulty we had was the shortage of provisions. We could only get small supplies at each Fort to help us on to the next, and if detained by contrary winds or rebellious Indians, we had some difficulty to eke them out among ourselves with servants and sailors. However, by God's great mercy we were helped on day by day, and supplies never did fail, though at one time we ate our last piece of meat for dinner, without the slightest knowledge of where we should find supper.
On Monday, September 21 (dear St. Matthew's Day), we entered the great Mackenzie River. We had been some days crossing Great Slave Lake, which is very beautiful, dotted with little islands. We encountered on this lake one of the stiffest gales on the whole of our journey, so that we had to put in at Fort Resolution, where we were detained five days. Then we got on to Hay River, stopping a few hours at Fort Providence, after which we entered the Mackenzie River. It is so beautiful from the first—its curves so graceful; and one remarkable feature is the strong current in the midst of the stream—so strong that we could dispense with oar and sail, and simply drift down, night and day, while our men wrapped themselves in their blankets and went to sleep.
Well, at last, after two nights' drifting, we drew near Fort Simpson. There was a curve in the river and a pretty little island ahead, and William said: "After that we shall see Fort Simpson." It was very exciting to catch sight of it at last—this great goal which we had so toiled after and suffered so much to attain! There it was! First, the Fort on a high embankment, some houses and tents clustering near, and, about a quarter of a mile distant, the cathedral! A pretty, really pretty, little church with spire all complete, of wood, of course, and native built. As we drew near we saw that our boat was observed, and immediately the red flag was hoisted on the flagstaff, and all the Fort officers and their wives, and all the rest of the colony, including the carpenter, blacksmith, and schoolmaster, etc., mustered on the beach to receive us. They all seemed pleased, and gave me a kind welcome to Fort Simpson. Our house is shared with Mr. and Mrs. Reeve and three children.
[Later, referring to their arrival, Mrs. Bompas wrote:]
Last autumn the stock provisions in the stores was lower than ever before—i.e., only sufficient for one week. Most of the men had to be sent away to hunt for themselves, and there was great difficulty in collecting scraps of meat for the wives and children. It came at last to the point when there was not another meal left. But on the evening of that very day two Indians came in bringing fresh meat. From that moment the supplies have never failed. As surely as they got low, so surely would sledges appear unexpectedly bringing fresh supplies. It was when matters were at the worst last autumn that we and our party arrived, bringing six extra mouths to be fed besides the boat's crew. Yet the Company's officers received us with the utmost courtesy and good temper, and although we could see that they were in great depression of spirits, they did their best to look and speak cheerfully and hopefully on the matter.
I have been here nearly five weeks and begin to feel more settled, though our house is not as comfortable as I hope to make it. All my provision stores I have arranged up in the attic (no cupboards). Alas, they are not so much as one could wish, owing to our having had to open our flour bag in the boat to satisfy the men; also our bag of rice got wet, and a great part has had to be thrown away, and the rest is injured, and I must confess—very nasty! Also, by mistake, our chief grocery box was left behind, and we shall not get it till next fall, so we want many things I should have been thankful for. We have no coffee or cocoa, only a little arrowroot given me by a friend. No cornflour or starch. It is very vexatious, but one must cheer up and make the best of it. In the meantime God is very merciful to us, and sends us so many little helps through the kindness of friends. One has given us 12 lbs. of good rice, another a little coffee, another some candles, and one day, to my delight, there came a small keg of butter. We only allow ourselves to bake once a week, using about 5 lbs. of flour. This gives William and me a small piece of bread once a day, and all our party—i.e., schoolmaster, catechist, and servants—a good-sized piece twice a week. Besides this we have a few biscuits, of which William makes me take one a day. We have a chest of tea and a keg of sugar, so, after all, we are fairly off for provisions. The Hudson Bay Co. provides the missionaries with meat and fish (at pretty high prices), on condition that we never trade in fur with the Indians. It seems hard not to be able to get anything for myself or to send home. Only the other day I had in my hand a lovely black fox skin which I could have got for a few beads or half a pound of tea, and I might not! Twice a week a great bell is rung at the Fort, and all the Colony get their "prey."
Our ''prey'' has hitherto (five weeks!) been only dried moose-deer meat. It looks for all the world like a heap of dirty, rough shoe leather. This we have boiled for breakfast, dinner, and tea. However, I am thankful to say we are promised a good supply of rabbits through the winter. It is wonderful how one's capacity for food increases in this climate, especially the craving for fat or grease. I used to watch the Indians in our boat with such amaze and disgust—eating a piece of bread with a lump of moose-deer fat like lard! I believe I could now do the same with great satisfaction.
Now a little about our mission work. Near the Fort are some tents inhabited by Indians—just skins sewn together, opening at top for smoke—warm but dirty. The Indians all speak Slave, a dialect akin to Chippewyan. They wear skins or leather dresses, ornamented with beads and fringe. The men are good-looking, the women coarse and mostly plain. Besides these, there are constantly Indians coming and going, and they all sooner or later turn up at the Mission House. William talks so nicely and earnestly to all, and tries to get the children to school and all to church. Just now we have a class of Indians in the afternoon, and I go in and make them sing and do calisthenic exercises. Before this I preside over an ablutionary department, and then send them outside with a comb by which their black shaggy manes are reduced to order. They call me "Yalti Betzani" (Bishop's wife).
The Athabasca Diocese extends both in length and breadth to a distance about equal to the length of the two provinces of Quebec and Ontario together, the length of the diocese being from end to end 3,000 miles and containing 750,000 square miles. The distance from London to Constantinople will represent to a European the length and breadth of the diocese. The length and tediousness of travel in this country may be compared to a voyage in a canal barge up and down the Rhine and Danube from England to Turkey. If all the populations between London and Constantinople were to disappear except a few tents of Indian or gipsy encampments, and were all the cities and towns obliterated except a few log huts on the site of the chief capitals—such is the solitary waste of this land. Again, were all the diversity of landscape changed into an unbroken line of pines and willows—such is this country!
The Cathedral Church of St. David, Fort Simpson, Diocese of Athabasca
The first Confirmation held in this church took place on Sunday, November 22, 1874. There were only four candidates, three Indians and one half-breed. The service was very simple, quiet, and impressive; the little church was well filled. The Bishop gave a very touching address, taking as his text the first verse of the morning Lesson (Eccles. xii): "Remember now, etc.'' The snow lay several feet thick upon the ground, and the thermometer stood at about twenty degrees below zero. The outer world was cold and wintry enough, but there was warmth within.
The first Ordination in this church took place on Advent Sunday, 1874, when the Rev. H. D. Reeve was admitted to Priest's Orders. The Bishop preached from the First Epistle of St. Peter i.5. Much interest was shown in the service by the little congregation, to whom such a thing was entirely new. The Holy Communion was celebrated, and the nine communicants included three of the newly confirmed.
EXTRACTS FROM MRS. BOMPAS'S JOURNAL. FORT SIMPSON, MACKENZIE RIVER, NORTH-WEST CANADA, DECEMBER, 1874—MARCH, 1875.
December 27, 1874.
I am beginning a journal as a sequel to the one I kept on the journey. [This one never reached England.] I must lessen, if possible, the great distance which separates us by putting you au courant with my life here. Thoughts and feelings will go down, as well as the details of daily occupations.
I am leading now a solitary, widowed life, and find it hard, at times, to realize that I am really married! Dear William left me on December 8 for Fort Rae. He will remain there probably about three weeks, visiting the Indians around, and holding services for the white men residing at the Fort. From thence he will proceed to Salt River and Slave Lake, and so on to Athabasca, where he will probably stay to hold a confirmation and then return North, D.V., with the winter Packet the middle or end of March. That Packet! Oh, how I long for it! It will bring me, I trust, my dear home letters. Eight months have passed since I left them all, and as yet no line has reached me, except those few from Selina, written a few days after we started. It has been a long, weary waiting. I know not how I could have borne the thought of it had I foreseen the possibility of such a long, long time of silence—such a blank in one's life. One hope after another has failed me. My last was that a chance Packet might come in December. This has happened for the last two years, but alas! this month has almost ended and there is no sound of the Packet. God's love and mercy are great in sustaining me through this trial. As the time draws near I begin almost to dread my letters. What changes will not six months have brought?
By-the-by, I never described William's equipment, etc., when he started. I must try to do so.
It was about nine o'clock a.m. that the party were to assemble at the Fort, outside of which, before that time, were collected pretty nearly our whole colony. It was a clear, beautiful morning, November 27, 1874. The great frozen river glittering in the sunshine—not a smooth glassy surface, as you might fancy, but all covered with huge boulders of ice, and these again thickly covered with snow. Some of these boulders assume grotesque forms, you might imagine them great monsters come up from the river depths. Others look like birds, and some again like a beautiful foamy wave caught by the ice just in the act of curling.
Here are our "trippers," as they are called, all ready to start, and my Bishop in his fur cap and warm wraps which I have made him. Large mittens made of deer-skin and fur, suspended from his neck as is the custom here, thick dark flannel leggings, moccasins with two pairs of duffel socks, etc., while for the night a splendid deer-skin robe—that is, two skins sewn together and lined with a blanket. This will be his bed and covering, with a warm woollen cap which I have made in crochet. I trust thus he will defy the weather, though the thermometer be down to sixteen below zero. The other travellers are all accoutred more or less in the same way. William takes with him Allan Hardisty, an Indian, who is being trained as a catechist. He packed the sledges last evening with their bags of clothing and provisions for the way, blankets, cooking implements, etc. There are the three sledges, and the dogs ready harnessed. I am rather proud of my tapis which, amid sundry difficulties, I contrived to get finished (with some help) in time. Now comes the word, "Off! all ready!" and our farewells are said, the drivers smack their whips—the dogs cry out and start in full scamper, the trippers running by the side of the sledges at such a pace that all are soon out of sight. They are to cross the river a little higher up, and then make for the Horn Mountains where they hope to find plenty of deer.
On Christmas Day we had a congregation of twenty-three Indians, which was above the average, and then I had planned a Christmas dinner for twelve old Indian wives. Dear old things! They did their best to get themselves up for the occasion, and some of their leather dresses were quite smart, profusely ornamented with beads, with fringes of leather and tin tassels. I had dinner prepared in the schoolroom, the cloth spread and knives and forks, etc. But these proved useless, for though some of the women did try to use them to please me, their efforts were quite ineffectual, and they were soon forced to lay them down and take to Nature's implements. The dinner consisted of moose meat and rabbits, and then I surprised them with—actually—a plum-pudding. This latter produced a great effect; I heard of it afterwards; no one had ever shown them a pudding before. Then there was a plentiful supply of tea, which is the favourite beverage of the Indians. The conversation was not very animated, but as the chief object was to ply them well with food, there was riot much talk required. As they rose from the table after I had said Grace, one old woman rushed up to me and grasped my hand exclaiming, " Merci! Merci!" and, indeed, they all seemed delighted, more especially when I signalled to them on going out that they might light their pipes. My next grand effort was a Christmas-tree for the children of the colony. Such a thing had not only not been seen, but never heard of before, and as whispers of it went abroad the excitement and curiosity it awakened were past description. I set my heart on giving a present to every child, both white and Indian. The whites are chiefly the children of the officers at the Fort, and to them I could not, of course, offer clothes, so I had to manufacture toys and other small gifts out of no materials. Years ago in my childhood, when my busy fingers accomplished things of this kind, my dear mother used to tell me I should one day be the head of a toy-shop. How little did she then dream in what way her words would be fulfilled! I actually made a lamb, "Mackenzie River breed," all horned and woolly, with sparkling black eyes. Also dolls, painted and dressed. One infant in a moss bag like the babies here. Some dancing men moved by strings, one sailor, which was my best. Also I produced, though not made by me, only under my direction, a whip with carved handle, and a drum, also balls, work-cases, etc. Then I had aprons and leggings for the servant girls, and some that were left of the beautiful gifts from England for the Indians. In all I have above forty presents on the tree. The chief difficulty was, first, candles to light it up (as all our grease had failed). I petitioned Mr. Hardisty, the head officer at the Fort, for "just a little grease," and he kindly sent me his very last bladderful containing some six or eight pounds. Then I set our good-natured little blacksmith (an Orkney man) to work to make me some pretty little tin moulds, by means of which I was able to manufacture some small candles, large enough to burn about half an hour. The second difficulty was the tree itself, for which I sent out the men to search. Plenty of trees there were, pretty dark firs, but so thickly laden with snow that the branches were bent down to the very ground, and as for approaching the roots—it was out of the question. However, even this difficulty was met; a fine young tree was found, and the snow shaken off its branches, after which they resumed their natural shape. The tree was cut down as near the ground as possible, and we found an old milking tub which was deep enough to hold it and give a good broad margin round the stem. We were nearly all day dressing the tree, which I had placed in the kitchen. Mr. Hodgson, the schoolmaster, who was most helpful to me, made a beautiful text for one end of the room: ''Peace on earth and goodwill towards men." He also made me some clever little stands for the candles, and some flags, etc. We dressed the rooms as well as we could with fir as our only evergreen.
At four o'clock the great bell sounded, which announced that the guests were to arrive. The whole neighbourhood had been on the tiptoe of expectation; new dresses had been made, and the most elaborate toilettes invented for "Mrs. Bompas's Christmas-tree," which meant—no one knew what! I received my guests, parents and children, in the drawing-room, and in a few minutes marshalled the whole company into the kitchen. Do you remember the burst of rapture from the children at Bishop's Tawton in 1868 at our memorable Christmas-tree, and how it repaid us for all our toil and trouble? The delight and enthusiasm were no less manifest here, though the children in these frozen regions are usually less demonstrative than with us. I made them join hands and form a circle round the tree, the little ones inside, and the parents forming an outer ring. The poor Indian mothers, black and grimy as ever, squatted down in a bunch on the floor, with faces radiant from astonishment and delight. Then I began to strip the tree and to distribute the presents, all of which, I am glad to say, gave great satisfaction. Then I gave them tea and biscuits all round, and we sang some carols which I had taught the schoolchildren, and so the evening ended, and I must confess it was a very happy one.
How little did I dream this time last year of what was before me! We have an early service to-morrow in our little church. I am thankful for it. "As soon as it is light," Mr. Reeve said, and that is not before nine o'clock. The dark mornings are a sore trial to me just now. I rise soon after six o'clock. Jacob lights my stove in the adjoining room a little before, so the room is tolerably warm by the time I go into it. Then I have a quiet time of one hour or more, and then grope my way back into my bedroom where there is not one spark of light to help me dress! And why this want of candles, do you ask? Well, you see, we have no grease to make any, nor are we likely to have any until more Indians come in. They say the Fort has never been so short of grease before, and we are wanting it for soap as well as candles. The deer, at this time of the year, are generally very thin, poor creatures! How you would smile to see my jealous care over every particle of grease! How I save every small piece from my own candlestick and keep them in a little box which, at the end of some days, makes just enough to place in a saucer with a piece of wick, and this forms my ''two wax candles'' for dressing. I fear there is no chance of any more grease before spring, when, of course, the days are longer and we need it less.
A number of Indians are expected in to-day to keep New Year's Day, which is observed here with great festivity. From time to time the merry jingle of sledge bells is heard coming over the snow, and then appear the sledges laden with deer or rabbits. They are drawn by three or four dogs prettily harnessed with gay coloured ''tapis'' or saddle cloths and ribbon streamers. The bells are fastened on to these tapis, and the dogs seem to like them and to be inspirited by them as much as a Highland regiment is by its pipers.
January 4, 1875.
I am hoping for a letter from William by some Indians from Fort Rae who are expected with deer's meat. It will be a great comfort to hear from him. I feel so lonely and desolate at times. Still, I have a definite aim in life—a work, I trust, given me to do for the dear Master. I long to be more fully occupied with the real mission work. The Slave language is always a difficulty. My servants are Crees, so I get little help from them in learning this language, which is Slavé. Still, I hope by degrees I am picking it up, and I already understand a great deal of the Indian service on Sundays. It sounds very pretty in some of their hymns.
January 15, 1875.
I have been irregular in my journal of late, in fact, I find but little time for writing by daylight. Oh, for a few pounds of English composites or a little oil for my small lamp! It is hoped the Indians will bring us grease in the spring; till then we have to spend the long evenings in darkness. The weather is now unusually mild, only two or three degrees below zero yesterday and to-day. Last Saturday it was down to thirty-four degrees below, and I confess to feeling then almost paralysed. On that day some Dogrib Indians came in from Fort Rae. They had been expected for some days, and I had counted on their bringing me a letter from William, but to my intense disappointment they said they had no letter for the Bishop's wife. So I came home with my hope of weeks past crushed, and expecting only the long waiting until March before I can either hear from him or see him. But God was more gracious to me than my fears. On Sunday morning two more Dogribs came in bringing me my longed-for letter, so I was comforted, and yet the account made my heart ache. They had been short of provisions before reaching the Indian camp. They had counted upon falling in with some deer on the third or fourth day, but the east wind had set in and driven them away. They had taken provisions for only eight days, and it was ten before they could reach the camp. They got well supplied at the camp, but walking twenty miles a day with the thermometer ten or twelve degrees below zero and with scant food is not pleasant to dwell upon.
January 16, 1875.
A bad headache yesterday put an end to my writing. Household worries have inclined me of late to much headache. This week's Collect (First Sunday after Epiphany) helps me now as it has done so often before in troublous times.
February 2, 1875.
Feast of the Purification. Sunday last, January 31, was, I think, one of the happiest days of my life. I arose at six o'clock and had my sweet, quiet time by firelight. Then I had to see to the tubbing and dressing of two children. (I had taken charge of the two "mitherless bairns" of Brown, the carpenter, for a few weeks while he was from home.) We were all assembled at the breakfast-table when suddenly came the sound of sledge bells. A bright, merry sound it is at all times, nor at all an unusual one on Sunday morning, a favourite day for arriving at a fort among the Indians. ''But these are not Indians,'' said the schoolmaster, who was in the room. "These dogs have such smart tapis, they must be strangers." He had scarcely finished speaking when the door opened and William was before me. He had left me on December 8, nearly two months before, and I had no expectation of seeing him until the middle of March. Judge, then, of my amazement and delight. There he stood, looking quite handsome, with white, snowy beard fringed with icicles, in a deer-skin coat and beaver hat and mittens—a present from Fort Rae. He had come with one of the Hudson Bay sledges from Fort Rae, having changed his plan of going on to Athabasca at present. He came by Hay River, having left Fort Rae on January 5, so they had been three weeks coming, and that morning had been walking for four hours. But half my joy was yet to come. The Company's sledge meant an extra mail, and it had brought letters—dear, precious English letters for which I had so longed and prayed and wept for eight months past. I do not think that ever in my life I felt such a thrill of joy and gladness as when William poured them down upon my lap. How I cried and laughed and kissed my treasures and thanked God that my long night of waiting was over—that ''joy had indeed come in the morning''! But there—I was forced to stop in the midst of my ecstasies, for there sounded the school bell, and my Sunday class had to be attended to, and then our church bell sounded, and we all started walking through the crisp snow, two and two, under the bright sunshine, towards the dear little church. How thankful one was at last to kneel down in peace and quiet and thank God for all His overflowing goodness to me. Then came the rest of our Sunday duties—a hurried dinner—the Indian afternoon service and English Evensong. At the Indian service I stood sponsor to a mother and her two sons who came to be baptized. Mr. Reeve, the chaplain, read the service solemnly, and I was very thankful as I led the three up to the font. Poor little lads! The mother had done her best to make them, as well as herself, neat and presentable, but Indian faces have a perverse habit of griminess, and Indian hair is ever thick and shaggy and rough, especially in times like the present when grease is scarce. The font looked pretty with the heap of snow in it, so pure and foamy, put to melt during the service, and it was only melted just in time for the baptism. It is only a temporary font, for, strange to say, our cathedral has never yet been provided with a proper one, though we hope it will soon be forthcoming. Now, our three services ended, we return home, and I may think of my letters. They had been with me all day, and now I might open and read them. Thank God! I had no misgiving now, as I had had so much of late, as to the tidings they might bring me. My heart was too full of joy and thankfulness to find room for any other feeling, and so one after another of my treasures was opened and devoured.
February 9, 1875.
We are getting on through this month, which here is wonderfully bright and cheerful. People are beginning to talk of spring as if it were really at hand, and the days are lengthening rapidly. How little I have suffered from this my first winter of intense cold compared with what I endured from the heat and the mosquitoes! I shudder even now to look upon those three summer months of suffering. I have had peaceful days since William's return home. These Indians, like all savage tribes, despise women. They call them among themselves "the creatures," and will not submit to a woman's sway, so my household was disorganised, and Jacob was growing more and more insubordinate. It was time for the master to return, and he has put things to rights, and the peace and quiet is most refreshing.
February 12, 1875.
The chief event of the past week has been the arrival of a number of Dogrib Indians from Fort Rae, bringing sledges of moose meat and deer, and—oh, joy!—some grease. The men have been constantly in and out from early morning to between ten and eleven o'clock at night. One evening came the Chief with three or four others. He was a very nice-looking man, and remarkably friendly and sociable. They walk straight in without knocking, and extend their hand for you to shake. I was just going to have some tea, having been suffering all day with a bad headache. We made the men welcome, and then all sat down—some on the benches, some on the floor—and I gave them tea and a barley cake all round. This made me immensely popular, and the next day one and another brought me bladders of grease and marrow—the former for candles and soap, the latter for cooking purposes. I paid them—some in tea, some in pieces of coloured braid. I got also one small bladder of pounded meat. They promise next time to bring me more meat and a deer-skin for shoes. Old Martha came in this morning just as we were going into school for prayers. I must try and draw this dear old Indian for you. Her quaint leather dress coming not much below the knee, and fringed all round. Her dark, grimy face and black tangled hair. The blanket-wrap is discarded now, for it is pronounced very warm—that is, two or three degrees above zero. Dear old thing! She squatted down on the ground while we had prayers, and then proffered her petition for some medicine for face-ache. William gave her some, and she went away satisfied.
February 15, 1875.
My Sundays are now fully occupied with first the Sunday school and then the three services—one English and two Indian—at all of which I play. The harmonium is at the west end of the church. I have the elder girls close to me, and find all their places, which requires quick work to be also in time with the music. A small Indian boy, "Mission Ned," stands by me to turn over. I feel tolerably spent by the time evening comes, and only fit to simmer over a book by firelight.
February 18, 1875.
We had a nice little lecture last night from Mr. Hardisty on our cause for thankfulness for God's merciful provision for us. Truly His mercy has been very great.
Mr. Hardisty said that in order to increase our thankfulness to God for His merciful supply of our needs, we must realize what is the meaning of famine in this country. In India and elsewhere, as soon as such a calamity is made known, subscriptions are raised and supplies sent off as soon as possible, but here months and months must elapse before the tidings could even reach our friends in England, and in the meantime, to what extremities might we not be reduced! One shudders to think what men are driven to do by the pangs of hunger. There is an old Indian even now pointed out here who is said to have eaten his wife and children.
February 24, 1875.
I walked to an Indian camp to see the wife of our Indian "Moses" who has a bad throat. I thought it looked like quinsy, but she is better. She promises to send her boys, Frank and François, to school. They are my godsons. Another Indian wife came yesterday and brought me five of the sweet snow-white partridges. Pretty things! I do love to see them cowering down in the snow, only to be detected by their pretty black eyes. These partridges form a pleasant variety to our perpetual deer's meat. I am always glad to get any.
Our Sunday school, which I started as soon as I came here, is a great success. The numbers still keep up, and the children enjoy coming. Mr. Hardisty came yesterday (Sunday) to take a class both morning and afternoon. The Bishop takes the Indian children after the Indian service in church. I have a nice class of little ones about five years old. My elder classes I have now in the week for Prayer-Book, reading, etc.
March 11, 1875.
No sign of the Packet as yet. Everyone is on the qui vive, and at the faintest sound of bells we rush to the window. Everyone records their experience of the various times at which the sledges have arrived during the past six or eight years.
March 15, 1875.
The sledge Packets are beginning to arrive. On Friday evening, about eight o'clock, came the sound of sledge bells. Everyone rushed out. It proved to be Mr. McDougall from Fort Liard. Yesterday came another from Fort Nelson. We are on the lookout now for the Fort Norman Packet, with which is to come W. Horn, one of the native catechists, and then, and then, we hope for the outside Mail Packet from Athabasca, which brings our English letters. Oh, how long it seems in coming! Mr. McDougall called on us on Saturday, an agreeable, gentlemanly man, with all the northern calm and quiet fully developed. He has been over here since 1862.
March 18, 1875.
The glare of the bright sun upon the snow begins to be most painful to the eyes. I have to draw down the blinds in the sitting-room, as we used to do in Naples in the summer days.
March 19, 1875.
Good news this morning! A cow has calved, and two more are expected to do so this month, which means that I may soon hope for a little milk, a luxury which I have scarcely yet learned to dispense with altogether, and yet my allowance has been gradually dwindling away to nothing.
The Mail Packet comes not. Mr. McDougall, who arrived this day week, is weary of waiting for it, and returns to Fort Liard on Monday or Tuesday.
I went a charming walk yesterday through the woods, and discovered a new camp. You find this first by seeing the smoke curling through the trees. Then you come to sledges fastened up in the branches, and bundles of clothing, and pieces of deer's meat, etc. At last you come upon the "Lodge" itself, as it is called, which is just a cluster of long poles fixed in the ground with a number of skins sewn together all over them, leaving only an opening at the top for the smoke. The aperture for the door is on the side, covered usually with a blanket. These tents or lodges are really very warm, for a good wood fire is kept up in the middle. In the one we visited yesterday there sat an old Indian woman as shrivelled and grimy as it is possible to be. She was wrapped in rabbit-skins, with nothing on her head, her grey, frizzled hair flying about in all directions; you could not fancy that it had ever seen a comb! The old witch was fondling a small puppy, otherwise quite alone. She seemed pleased to see us. I talked to her a little and asked her to come to church, but she said she had to stay and watch her tent or the dogs would steal all her goods. The poor dogs are dreadful depredators here. They get but scanty provision of food at the best, and work hard, drawing great sledges of wood each day, so it is not wonderful if they are rather given to thieving. They steal and eat our moccasins and any leather article they can lay hold of. Their scent for food is so keen that I have to be most careful where I keep the butter, etc., as they soon find out and make their way to any cupboard or shelf. A gentleman told me that once he had just had three fine Stilton cheeses out from England, but losing sight of them for a moment, they were gone, and for ever! The dogs had devoured every crumb.
Easter Monday, March 29, 1875.
The Mail Packet arrived on Good Friday—joy of joys, I had twenty letters! I must write all my answers now, so Goodbye Journal!
[This previous part of the Journal was sent from Fort Simpson in March, 1875, and was received at Babbacombe, August 30, 1875.]
April 15, 1875.
We have had some return of winter during the past few days; a heavy fall of snow and keen north wind. Before that it was beginning to thaw rapidly and the ground looked more black. I had not seen the face of Mother Earth since last November; it was all snow, snow, snow on the ground and houses. A pure surplice for the cathedral spire, and weighing heavily down the boughs of the pine trees. Even beasts and birds all take their colour from the snow. We have white bears, white wolves, white rabbits—which are sometimes brought to me six or eight on a stick, and all frozen as hard as a stone—white partridges also. Either of these latter I am thankful to receive. The dried moose-deer, exactly like shoe leather, is to me a great trial. I have already broken two teeth over it, and with all one's craving for food in this cold climate I often get up from dinner nearly as hungry as I sat down to it. We can have but very little flour, and therefore get only about a taste of bread every other day. I feel, too, never having any kind of vegetable. I was actually dreaming of a dish of potatoes a few nights since! If we are spared to another year I trust we shall do better in this respect, for there is no reason why we should not raise enough to last us the whole winter. Indeed, it is a shame to complain of anything when our wants are so mercifully supplied. It is really disgraceful to think how I prize any little luxury—a pot of marmalade which lasted us from December to March, and a half-pound of butter, which, to my shame, I nearly cried over when it was stolen by the dogs. Poor creatures! Their only food is two fish a day.
Mr. Reeve left a few days before the Packet came for Fort Rae, where William has decided to form a new mission station in preference to Hay River, which he at first thought of.
April 19, 1875.
A number of Indians continue to arrive with deer and moose meat, and we have now a good supply of grease and tongues, which are most acceptable.
There have been two sad accidents during the past week. One, the death of Maggie's baby—my little godson, old Martha's grandson and the brother of poor little Tommy, who died last winter. The cause of death was, we think, in the first instance, a fall from his sister's lap. He was very ill and seemed to suffer a great deal. The helplessness of these poor Indians in case of any illness is distressing. They will watch and kiss and fondle and cry out in agony, but not stir to provide the least remedy, and if you give them medicine, the chances are they will not use it. I went down late one evening and applied hot fomentations to the little body, which seemed to soothe it somewhat, but he drooped and died after only two days' illness. We buried him on Sunday evening (the custom here is always to bury the day after death). It was a touching sight. About thirty people attended. First came a number of the workmen, who carried the little coffin each in turn; then almost all our schoolchildren, four of whom held the corners of the white pall I had thrown over the coffin. These were followed by a number of Indian women, and among them poor old Martha, whose grief at the death of another grandson is very real and deep. Our walk to the church was easily effected, as it was along the beaten track, but on leaving the church to proceed to the little grave our difficulties commenced. The graveyard is some way from the church, and the snow lay thick and untrodden, in many parts three or four feet deep. It was a grievous scramble, and it took us some time to reach the grave. From time to time I saw the Bishop's white surplice in front of me, then came a plunge and I lost sight of all but his head, the rest being buried in snow. At last, however, the spot was reached, the little coffin laid in the grave, and the beautiful service concluded. After which one of the Indians presented a long pole, and Martha affixed to it some long streamers of scarlet cloth and stuck it into the ground to mark the spot in true Indian fashion. We then dispersed and scrambled home as best we might, being both frozen and starved, for it was nearly seven o'clock and we had had a hard day's work. We had taken the three full services besides two classes of Indians, and then the funeral.
The other sad incident was the death of a young Indian woman. She was a widow with one child. One morning she went out taking a piece of dried meat with her, and it was supposed she must have choked herself, as she was heard to utter a kind of cry and then ran round a few paces and fell. They sent up directly for the Bishop, but she was dead before he could reach the camp. I went down a few hours later and heard the Indian wail, which is truly pitiful. There was the tent of poles with fir boughs interlaced and a blanket hung at the entrance. On the ground lay the body of the young woman, dressed as usual, and only a piece of flannel thrown over her face. By her side, crouching near the fire, was her mother, a very witch to look upon, from time to time uttering a most piercing, thrilling wail of grief, " My child, my child!" etc. Then would come a pause, and she would turn to the corpse and apparently harangue it, speaking so low and fast that it was quite impossible to understand a word she uttered. After this the poor old thing would turn to the fire, light her pipe and smoke in apparent calmness for some time, when the wail was resumed. In the meantime the father, sisters, or any friend who came in sat round the fire and moaned in sad, subdued tones. Poor creature! I am wondering who will take care of her little girl whom she has so often brought up to me. They say it was deliberately discussed at her birth whether, being a girl, she should not at once be made away with, but the grandfather interposed to save her. A few years ago a great number of female children were put an end to as soon as born, and even now there are women about the Fort who are suspected of having done so to one or two of their infants.
April 23, 1875.
. . . My loneliness sometimes seems very great. I tell myself to work harder and not to brood or despond. I want to live a higher, more spiritual life, and then I should not feel lonely. The early, warm days of spring make one feel languid and much depressed.
Yesterday I resolved to give my Sunday School children the treat which I had been promising them since Easter, but had postponed for various reasons. I made them all assemble at 2.30, about sixteen in number, and then we started for the hillside beyond the river. The track was very good in most places, though here and there rather soft. Allan, our catechist, came with the sledge drawn by four dogs to carry the provisions, kettles, and hatchets to cut: down wood, etc. After a good walk we reached the top of the hill close to a pretty fir wood. Allan soon cut enough brushwood for me to sit upon, and then lighted a good fire, round which all gathered and sang , some rounds and songs which I had taught them. Then the children wandered about until the kettle! boiled. Query: How did we get the water? Why, a large piece of pure snow was stuck on to a pole before the fire, and so left to drop into the kettle. It was nearly an hour before the snow melted and the kettle boiled. The feast I had prepared was pounded meat with lumps of grease (when I speak of grease you will remember it is just like English lard when very white), also barley biscuits and jam which I had made from the wild berries, and tea and milk. The children all ate and enjoyed it very much, and I think it was a success. Then we sang "Praise God from whom all blessings flow," which sounded beautiful through the wood. After this we started homewards, some of the little ones going by turns in the sledge.
May 1, 1875.
To-day, May 1, we have had hard snow all day. The spring occupations here are violent wood-hauling for the summer consumption, as the river, which they cross to reach the wood, will soon be thawing and impassable for the sledges. The pleasant jingle of the sleigh bells is heard at all hours of the day, and great stacks of wood rise up before our house. Another object of interest is looking out for the wild geese, as a few flocks fly this way on their journey south. Our sportsmen are busy preparing their guns.
May 10, 1875.
Last week was to me one of much sad suffering from headaches, of which I had three severe ones in succession. I began at last to fear I was in for an attack of illness, my poor brain was in such a state. The worry was that on Monday we had asked Mr. Hardisty and another of the Hudson Bay officers to come in for the evening, and I had prepared a nice little repast, and then could not be present, but had to spend my evening groaning and moaning. My sufferings have been great, and I feel now very weak and shaken—better soon, I trust, D.V.
There has been great excitement, for the first geese have been seen. The whole Fort turned out, and everywhere you hear imitations of the geese's cry in order to attract them. They are later than usual this year. It is so refreshing to see the face of Mother Earth again, and young leaves, wild geraniums and violets and lovely mosses. I am told there are lovely wild flowers here, which is a pleasure I hardly dared look for. The long evenings now are most enjoyable. I seldom light the candles until nine o'clock. The days lengthen three and a half hours in three months. It is quite wonderful how the sun seems to make up for lost time. Everyone is busy and active, and the early mornings are so bright and lovely.
A touching incident occurred last week which I must relate.
There has been a little Indian girl about the neighbourhood of the Fort who has often attracted my interest and admiration. She came here last autumn, and was once or twice at my Indian singing class. Jeannie de Nord is an unusually pretty specimen of an Indian child—her age about ten years—her complexion scarcely darker than that of an English gipsy, with healthy-looking rosy cheeks, and the brightest of bright eyes. A rogue she looks, and a rogue she is, up to all sorts of fun and mischief, a specimen of which she exhibited last week. Jeannie's father is in camp some distance from here, and the child herself was sent to stay with an aunt who is encamped not far off. This aunt is rather a hard woman, and does not seem to have been very kind to little Jeannie. At all events, the child was neither happy nor contented, and last Friday morning she started from her aunt's camp, pretending she was only going for wood.
That day Jeannie never came back, nor the next day either. Neither the aunt nor her husband seemed to concern themselves much about her, although they must have known that the child had not a morsel of food with her, nor even her blanket for a covering at night. Moreover, at this time of year wolves are often wandering about in a state of starvation, and if the little girl had fallen in with one of them, there would have been but a poor chance for Jeannie. On this Saturday morning I heard the story of the escapade from some Indians whom I went to visit on the occasion of the death of Bob's wife. I immediately reported it to the Bishop, who determined to send someone at once after the child. Not feeling quite satisfied in his messenger, he afterwards started himself in pursuit. I waited until one o'clock for supper, expecting the Bishop's return, and then the truth began to dawn upon me. It is true he had come in for his snowshoes and some fresh duffle socks, but otherwise he was in no way accoutred for such an expedition. However, one could only earnestly commend him to God's protecting care, and wait in patience and faith. After all, it did seem right that the shepherd should go and seek for the little straying lamb and bring her back, as I trusted, to more kind and loving care than she had known hitherto. So I retired to bed and fell asleep.
Between three and four o'clock in the morning (Sunday) I started up, hearing a noise at the front door. There was William, to my great relief, but in such agonies from cramp that it was frightful to see him. He had been obliged to wade through snow streams and walk for miles with his clothes soaking wet; the wonder is that he got home at all! It was a fearful risk to run without even his warm cloth leggings or any single wrap. And what about the little truant? Had they found her? Yes, indeed, after a walk of about twelve miles. Fortunately Jeannie had taken her snowshoes, so there was her track to follow the whole way.
She had walked on the river for ten or twelve miles, and then turned into the wood and found an old deserted tent of her father's. Groping about with her wonderful far-seeing Indian eyes she came upon a gun belonging to him, but which he had hidden in a tree. The child got it down, and by means of it made a fire for herself, and then collected brushwood on which she lay down to sleep, not having tasted food since the morning. The next day Jeannie rose and started breakfastless in search of her father, who, she felt sure, could not be far off. But in vain she wandered and called, the old man was many miles away. Having walked the whole day in pursuit of him, the little girl returned, most happily for William, to the same old tent to sleep. That night, between ten and eleven o'clock, she was roused from her sleep by the sound of guns fired by the Indians who accompanied the Bishop, and who fired to attract Jeannie's notice. But being fired towards the mountains, the sound was driven back, and came upon the child's ear as from the opposite direction—the one towards which she was seeking her father. Making sure, therefore, that he was at hand and would soon find her out, the trustful little maiden settled herself down again to sleep, and when our weary travellers looked into the tent and called her by name, she only gave a sleepy, unconscious answer, and turned herself on her brushwood, little knowing the painful efforts that had been made on her behalf. William says that she did seem pleased to see them, not altogether averse to food, having been for two days and a night without any—a fair specimen of Indian endurance!
They brought her back to Fort Simpson, and I have my eye upon little Jeannie, and hope to get her here to teach and train, though I fear so independent a young maiden will not take kindly to the restraints of indoor life.
[N.B.—Jeannie de Nord died four years after this under sad circumstances. Her father required very hard work of her. One day, returning from the woods with dogs and sledge, bringing in a deer her father had killed, she was taken ill. She lay down on her bed of brushwood, and died the next day.]
The Bishop heard that there were a great many Indians encamped about twenty miles distant from us, and as a number of the Fort hunters were going off in that direction, he resolved to take advantage of their escort and visit these Indians in their camps. I did not at the time realize that there was any difficulty or danger in his doing so. He is accustomed to take winter trips, and I am always afraid of hindering him in his work. However, it is clear, under the circumstances, that he ought not to have gone. The weather was intensely cold—on some nights lately the thermometer has stood at 50° below zero; on the morning he started it must have been at 30°. Moreover, now, our dogs cannot be spared for the sledge, as they are required daily for hauling wood; and accompanying sledges on foot is a most exhausting business. Still, on the morning of February 15 he started—a cold, blowing, snowing day. I got up at five o'clock to secure him a good warm breakfast, and to see him well equipped. He always looks so handsome in his "tripper's " dress—that is, a coat of deer-skin, thick cloth leggings, and beaver cap, etc. Soon the sledge bells were heard, and one of the men came for the Bishop. His blankets and cooking implements were fastened on one of the sledges, and off they all went in good spirits.
I had felt somewhat anxious the evening before, and I sent a message to one of the Indians whom I knew, begging that he would look well after the Bishop and take good care of him, and I would make him a present when he came home. His answer was very characteristic: "Tell Yalti Betzani—is he not Bishop—and are we not men?"
For some miles, about ten or twelve, the Bishop kept up with the sledges and trippers; then he seems to have become exhausted, and one of the men urged his getting on his sledge for awhile, and this he was persuaded to do, but being in a great heat from exercise, driving in that frozen atmosphere chilled him too rapidly, and he got out and walked again. He was soon lost sight of and left far behind, so far that at last the trappers began to feel uneasy, and it was resolved that one of them should be sent back to look after the wanderer. My good friend "Natsel," who sent me the message, was the one to go in search. He walked some distance without seeing any trace of the Bishop. At last he discovered his track, but with footsteps turned back towards the Fort! Natsel then thought there was something wrong, and he continued following the track. After long search my dear husband was discovered—helpless, powerless in the agonies of cramp. He appears to have felt it coming on, and so to have turned back, hoping to reach home. He had taken off his deer-skin and thick comforter, and tied them round his poor frozen limbs, but it was useless. I have seen him in one of these attacks of cramp, and they are indeed fearful to witness. At the time Natsel found him his condition was such that, I am told, a quarter of an hour more must have ended his life.
The good Natsel at once acted wisely. He gathered sticks and made a large fire, then rubbed and warmed the poor sufferer, and gave him hot water to drink. I think William had quite given himself up, and never expected to see wife or home again. It was very hard work to get him back, and only to be done by easy stages. Late in the afternoon of that day two men were seen coming across the river slowly and with great difficulty, one appearing to be a very old man, so that people pondered and speculated as to who it could be.
I was greatly startled to see William appear before me when I fancied him many miles away. I could not get him to bed that night; he could only He on the ground by the stove fire, and was terribly restless and uneasy. It has taken him a fortnight to recover, and one of his poor, frozen arms seemed at one time on the very point of festering, but this, I hope, we have conquered.
My Indian choir goes on famously. I quite enjoy the practices. I have just taught them their first anthem in Indian; "I will arise and go to my Father.''
We hope to have it in church to-morrow. I have just sent off Julie to clean out ''her church''; this is her and my business every Saturday, and we glory in it. How I wish I could show you my little Indian handmaiden. She is becoming such a comfort to me, and I have trained and taught her very carefully. I am very thankful for her. She now reads and speaks English very fairly. Some of her ways and original expressions are most amusing. I am preparing her and two other Indian girls for Confirmation, and she introduces portions of the Church Catechism, especially "My duty towards my neighbours every one," while she is doing her housework, in an extraordinary way. Her thoughtfulness for me is so pretty: "Now you go away and have your quiet, and I sweep and clean well; you rest the head and not pother me," etc.
Tuesday in Easter Week.
Holy Week has come and gone, with all its solemn thoughts and services. We had very good congregations on Good Friday, and I practised both my choirs—English and Indian—diligently for Easter Day. I had my Sunday school class as often as the children could come in Holy Week, and we read and talked over the services of each day, singing "Lord, in this Thy mercy's day" on our knees.
We had a number of Dogrib Indians at the Fort in Holy Week, eighteen or twenty sledges, with a full complement of men and dogs. They brought us marrow and deers' tongues in abundance, so that our store has never been so well supplied. Some of the men came in to prayers, and seemed much interested. Most of them went into the Bishop's study, where he talked and read and prayed with them. The day of their departure we went to the top of the bank to see them start on their return. It was worth seeing, for they mustered in large numbers close to our home; then off they went at full speed, shouting to their dogs at the top of their voices, the dogs seeming quite to enjoy the fun. As they passed the Bishop and myself, they one by one pulled up, drew off their gloves, as any English gentleman, and extended their hands for a final shake. Then off again down the bank full pelt, and on to the great broad, ice-bound river, where we watched them as far as eye could reach, losing sound of shouts and pretty sledge bells long before they vanished from our sight.
I always feel so very thankful for one's work here; without it existence in this country would be scarcely tolerable. Still, one is often depressed concerning the mission work, the disappointments are so great, and there is so much that is painful and unsatisfactory to contend with. One sad thing is that those Indians who live round the Hudson Bay Forts are always the worst specimens—-that is, the greatest thieves and often gamblers.
We are getting our Indian services in church far more earnest and hearty. The Bishop gives them the prayers only, without any sermon. They behave much better—less like savages—than they used to do. They all stand now during the psalms and say out the creed nicely together, and they always chant the Gloria: "E Tah Chu be Yazi chu Edaric nezo chu Mesaniti Goli de."
Dzekete, a small Indian girl, is seated on the floor of my room learning to work. Koa, another maiden, is sewing in another part of the room, and Baby Jeannie, my wee Indian charge, is asleep in her swing, so I may say a few words to my Journal.
The rapidity with which the summer comes on here is quite wonderful. The ice only began to give way on May 13, and at that time, of course, snow lay thick everywhere, and by the end of the month the small gooseberry bushes were in blossom. All nature seems glad to doff her pretty white robes and to array herself in green, and the tender green of the larches is so delicious to look upon, varied with so little besides as they are here. Every bush round seems to bear promise of berries, and we walk on a carpet of wild strawberry blossoms. At a quarter to ten p.m. the sun sinks down almost in the same place where it rises, then follows our long beautiful twilight (there is really no night even now), and at two a.m. the dawn begins and birds chirp—one very like a thrush.
A great trouble and disappointment has come to me concerning my Indian servant Julie, in whom I have taken great interest for the last sixteen or eighteen months that she has been with me. She was becoming an excellent servant, and I thought very well of her in most points, but she left me a week or two since without any warning of her intention, and the worst of all is that she took with her many of my things, in true Indian fashion. I was greatly startled and grieved when this came out, as I hoped better things of my little maiden, but one has to remember that these are savages—wild Indian girls—who like their camps and wild camp life, in spite of all its miseries and privations, far better than the white man's home with its comparative luxuries and restraints. The Indian infirmities, too, are not easily overcome and uprooted. Imagine my visiting her old mother's camp one day and seeing her brother decked out in some of my own things! I believe Julie will ere long become ashamed and penitent and ask me to take her back, which I do not mean to do. I think we ought to show our poor Indians that untruthfulness and dishonesty are not to be so lightly regarded as they fancy.
Meanwhile I am left in a servantless condition except for our two men, Jemmy the Louchou, our wood hauler, and Natsel, the man who rescued the Bishop in that perilous condition of cramp. It is the more perplexing as I have the three little Indian children, and Jeannie, the wee baby, demands very much care and attention, as she is a fragile little thing, albeit a sweet bairnie. But God gives me strength for the day, and I am often surprised when bedtime comes to think how much I have been enabled to get through.
The Bishop has resolved on moving his headquarters from Fort Simpson to Athabasca. He thinks this is desirable for many reasons, and it holds out some advantages to me, but the undertaking is a formidable one, as it involves for me a canoe journey of some weeks without my husband. He must go to Peel River and the Yukon this summer, where Archdeacon Macdonald has more than fifty candidates awaiting confirmation, and he will not be able to return until late in the autumn. This, I feel, is the greatest trial of our mission life. The hardships and roughness weigh lighter far than these doleful separations, when we must necessarily be for months without a line of intercourse, and which make me feel more than ever the immense distance which involves the long, dreary silence of my dear ones at home.
The Bishop will start for the north a week or ten days before I proceed south. He is doing all that can be done to provide for my welfare and comfort.
June 19, 1876.
I should be more troubled about my letters than I am, but that I really hope to be able to write in the boats, in which we shall be for three weeks or a month on our way to Athabasca. And now you partly see what makes me so busy; all the house here to be packed, as a great many of our things and all the furniture we leave behind. Probably William will bring them next year. Then other packing to be got through, and a heap of needlework, besides plenty of Indians sick and others wanting looking after. With all this, my dearie, I am in the happy condition of no maidservant, only one man—Jemmy the Louchou—to cook and draw water for us. For some time I had no help at all, and as I have a little baby to attend to, it did come rather hard, and Bishop's wife—"Yatte Dzeke"—had to be general servant to the mission.
Well, my dearest, I seem to be sinking into the general uninteresting topic of servants, which I do not intend to do, only I must answer you a little by the account of my charwomen—i.e., I did, after much trouble, persuade Feneba's wife to spare Clintso, her second daughter, about nine years old, for a few hours each day. Picture to yourself a small, rough-headed maiden, clad in deer-skin dress, shoes, etc. She suddenly appears at the window and taps for me to tie up Tutsi, my small dog, who objects to her, then in she comes and assures me she is hungry, so I sit her down on the floor and ply her with deer's meat, and perhaps a barley biscuit. When she is satisfied, which is not for a considerable time, I sign to her (for my Indian consists mostly of signs) to take Baby Jean, which she does, holding the poor child in the most extraordinary positions, and insisting on following me wherever I may be going. Clintso will stand the nursing part of her duties for a short time, but when Baby gets tired of her wonderful attitudes and begins to cry, she—Clintso—brings her to me, and, holding her out, says: "Na take," with a loud voice, and if I take her, she disappears like a shot and does not return till she feels inclined. What a queer creature it is! When she does return she will have her hands full of dragonflies, which she has seized and killed for my benefit. She will detect the smallest insect, and never rest until she has secured it. Clintso seldom comes alone. Two or three or four small creatures are her almost constant attendants, and these, too, have to be fed and looked after, so that I sometimes fancy the small helper brings more work than she saves me. Well, my other "charwoman" is Koa, a nice, rosy-faced girl of about seventeen. She consented to come to me for three weeks, as I was so in want of help, on my agreeing to pay her eight skins. So, glad enough I was to get her, and she appears (a maiden of dignity, I assure you) at eight or nine or ten o'clock as the fancy takes her. Yesterday the fancy did not take her till very late—nearly eleven—so in spite of my two helpers, I have to do most of the work myself. "Now, Koa, go sweep my room chittie, chittie, quick." But Koa stirs not. Try another task, think I. "Please, Koa, wash cups, plates, etc." Still Koa remains immovable, with a very sulky expression on her face. At last, after considerable time, there slowly issues the word "Tewdi"—I am hungry, which means to imply "I'll do nothing till you feed me." So off I go again for deers' meat and tea, and am only too thankful when Koa has eaten herself into good humour, and sets to work with a will to sweep and dust and sew, all of which she does capitally when she has a mind.
It is about 500 miles, you know, to Athabasca, so I suppose we shall be three weeks or a month getting there. The trial is having to take this journey without William, but he was obliged to go up to the Yukon, and could not possibly get back before our boats start, so he will have to come on in a canoe in the fall, as there are no boats after these leave. Mr. Garrioch, however, a deacon, comes with me; he is very kind and brotherly. We shall be about twelve boats altogether, carrying as our chief cargo all the splendid collection of furs which the Indians have been bringing in all winter. These they have been hanging out to air before my windows for some days. Splendid great bear-skins, black and red fox, marten—i.e., sable, and lynx, and mink, and beaver. One looks at them with interest, wishing that they could write their history. How many of these will be driving in Rotten Row, or sauntering through the Jardin des Plantes? How few who wear them will ever give a thought to the poor Indian and his life of misery and privation—to him who with stealthy footsteps tracked the marten, or with courage faced the danger of the great bear's hug in order to wrap dainty shoulders or languid limbs of fair West-end ladies!