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Business And Romance

( Originally Published 1921 )



FAREWELL ATHABASCA

THOUGH Wawe Pesim (The Egg Moon), or June, had al-ready brought summer to the Great Northern Forest, the beautiful Athabasca still waited in vain. Son-in-law had not yet appeared. After all was he but a fond parents' dream? I wondered.

Soon the picturesque and romantic Fur Brigade would be sweeping southward on its voyage from the last entrenchments of the Red Gods to the newest outposts of civilization a civilization that has debauched, infected, plundered, and murdered the red man ever since its first onset upon the eastern shores of North America. If you don't believe this, read history, especially the history of the American fur trade.

Meanwhile, canoes laden with furs and in charge of Hudson's Bay traders or clerks from outlying "Flying Posts" had arrived; and among the voyageurs was that amusing character, Old Billy Brass. A little later, too, Chief Factor Thompson arrived from the North. Now in the fur loft many hands were busily engaged in sorting, folding, and packing in collapsible moulds that determined the size and shape of the fur packs a great variety of skins. Also they were energetically weighing, cording, and covering the fur packs with burlap leaving two ears of that material at each end to facilitate handling than, as each pack weighed eighty pounds.

A fur pack of one hundred pounds for the weight varies according to the difficulty of transportation in certain regions contains on an average fourteen bear, sixty otter, seventy beaver, one hundred and ten fox skins, or six hundred muskrat skins. A pack of assorted furs contains about eighty skins and the most valuable ones are placed in the centre.

During the next few days the great "North" or six-fathom canoes made of birch bark and capable of carrying from three to four tons of freight in addition to their crews of from eight to twelve men were brought out of the canoe house, and together with the two new ones, had their bows and sterns painted white in readiness for their finishing touch of decoration in the way of some symbol of the fur trade.

As the principal Indian canoemen, who were to join the Fur Brigade, were already familiar with my ability as an artist, they waited upon the Factor and requested him to solicit my help in the final decorating of those beautiful canoes. So it came to pass that on the bow of one a leaping otter appeared and on the bows of others, a rearing bear, a flying goose, a rampant caribou, a galloping fox, a leaping lynx, a rampant moose, and on still another the coat-of-arms of the Hudson's Bay Company. Each in turn had its admirers, but Oo-koo-hoo, who was to have charge of all the voyageurs, sidled up to Factor Mackenzie and whispered that if Hu-ge-mow—Master —would let him take his choice of the canoes, he would not only give the Factor a dollar in return for the privilege, but he would promise to keep that particular canoe at the very head of the whole brigade, and never once allow another canoe to pass it during the voyage.

The Factor was not only interested in the Indian's appreciation of art, as well as amused over the idea that he would accept a bribe of a dollar, but he was curious to know which canoe the Indian most favoured. It was the one that displayed the Great Company's coat-of-arms; so Oo-koo-hoo, the famous white-water-man, not only won his choice and retained his dollar, but furthermore, he and his crew actually did keep the bow of that canoe ahead of all others no matter where or when the other crews contested for the honour of leading the Fur Brigade.

The next morning, at sunrise, the Fur Brigade was to take its departure. Now it was time I visited Spearhead, to thank my friends, the Free Trader and his family, for all their kindness to me, and to bid them farewell; so I borrowed a small canoe and paddled across the lake. When I arrived they invited me to dine with them. At the table that day there was less talking everyone seemed to be in a thoughtful mood.

The windows and doors were open and the baggy mosquito netting sagged away from the hot sun as the cool breeze whispered through its close-knit mesh. Outside, I could see the heifer and her mother lying in the shade of a tree on the far side of the stump-lot, and near the doorway the ducks and geese were sauntering about the grass and every now and then making sudden little rushes as though they were trying to catch something. There, too, in the pathway, the chickens were scratching about and ruffling their feathers in little dust holes as though they were trying to get rid of something. An unexpected grunt at the doorway attracted my attention and I saw a pig leering at me from the corners of its half-closed eyes the very same pig the Free Trader and his wife had chosen to add to their daughter's wedding dowry then it gave a familiar little nod, as though it recognized me; and I fancied, too, that its ugly chops broke into an insolent smile. What was it thinking about? . . . Was it Son-in-law? I wondered.

I glanced at Athabasca. How beautiful she looked! The reflected sunlight in the room cast a delightful sheen over her lustrous brown hair, and seemed to enhance the beauty of her charmingly sun-browned skin, that added so much to the whiteness of her even teeth, and to the brilliancy of her soft brown eyes. In a dreamy way she was looking far out through the window and away off toward the distant hills. She, too, set me wondering; was she thinking of Son-in-law?

At that moment, however, the pig gave another impatient grunt which startled Athabasca and caused her to look directly at me . . . I blushed scarlet, then; so did she but, of course, only out of sympathy.

"Yes, we'll send her to that finishing school in Toronto," her mother mused, while Free Trader Spear scratched his head once more, and three house flies lazily sat on the sugar bowl and hummed a vulgar tune.

After dinner Mr. Spear invited me into the trading room to see some of the furs he had secured. Among them were four silver fox skins as well as the black one he had bought from Oo-koo-hoo. They were indeed fine skins.

It was now time for me to take my departure, so I returned to the living room, but found no one there. Presently, how-ever, Mrs. Spear entered, and though she sat down opposite me, she never once looked my way. She seemed agitated about something. Clasping her fingers together, she twirled her thumbs about one another, then she twirled them back the other way; later she took to tapping her moccasined toe upon the bare floor. I wondered what was coming. I couldn't make it out. For all the while she was looking at a certain crack in the floor. Once more she renewed the twirling action of her thumbs, and even increased the action of her toe upon the floor.

What did it all mean? Had I done anything to displease her? No; I could think of nothing of the sort, so I felt a little easier. Suddenly, however, she glanced up and, looking straight at me, began:

"Mr. Heming . . . we have only one child and we love her dearly .

But the pause that followed was so long drawn out that I began to lose interest, especially as the flies were once more humming the same old tune. A little later, however, I was almost startled when Mrs. Spear exclaimed :

"But I'll lend you a photograph of Athabasca for six weeks!"

Thereupon Mrs. Spear left her chair and going upstairs presently returned with a photograph wrapped in a silk handkerchief; and as at that very moment the Free Trader and his daughter entered the room, I, without comment, slipped the photograph into my inside pocket, and wished them all good-bye; though they insisted upon walking down to the landing to wave me farewell on my way to Fort Consolation.

MUSTERING THE FUR BRIGADE

Next morning, soon after dawn, the church bells were ringing and everyone was up and astir; and presently all were on their way to one or another of the little log chapels on the hill; where, a little later, they saw the stalwart men of the Fur Brigade kneeling before the altar as they partook of the holy sacrament before starting upon their voyage to the frontier of civilization.

Strange, isn't it, that the writers of northern novels never depict a scene like that? Probably because they have never been inside a northern church.

Next, breakfasts were hurriedly eaten, then the voyageurs assembled upon the beach placed those big, beautifully formed, six-fathom canoes upon the water, and paddled them to the landing. Then Chief Factor Thompson and Factor Mackenzie joined the throng; and that veteran voyageur, Oo-koo-hoo, who was to command the Fur Brigade, touched his hat and conversed with the officers. A few moments later the old guide waved his swarthy men into line. From them he chose the bowmen, calling each by name, and motioning them to rank beside him; then, in turn, each bowman selected a man for his crew; until, for each of the eight canoes, eight men were chosen. Then work began.

Some went off with tump-line in hand to the warehouse, ascended the massive stairs, and entered the fur loft. Tiers of empty shelves circled the room, where the furs were stored during the winter; but upon the floor were stacked packs of valuable pelts the harvest of the fur trade. The old-fashioned scales, the collapsible mould, and the giant fur press told of the work that had been done. Every pack weighed eighty pounds. Loading up, they rapidly carried the fur to the landing. In the storeroom the voyageurs gathered up the " tripping" kit of paddles, tents, axes, tarpaulins, sponges; and a box for each crew containing frying-pans, tea pails, tin plates, and tea-dishes. In the trading room the crews were supplied with provisions of flour, pork, and tea, at the rate of three pounds a day for each man. They were also given tobacco. Most of the voyageurs received "advances" from the clerk in the way of clothing, knives, pipes, and things deemed essential for the voyage. Birch bark, spruce roots, and gum were supplied for repairing the canoes.

All was now in readiness. The loading of freight began, and when each canoe had received its allotted cargo the voyageurs indulged in much handshaking with their friends, a little quiet talking and affectionate kissing with their families and sweet-hearts. Then, paddle in hand, they boarded their canoes and took their places.

In manning a six-fathom canoe the bowman is always the most important; the steersman comes next in rank, while the others are called "midmen."

DEPARTURE OF THE FUR BRIGADE

Factor Mackenzie and his senior officer, sitting in the guide's or chief voyageur's canoe, which, of course, was Oo-koo-hoo's, gave the word; and all together the paddle blades dipped, the water swirled, and on the gunwales the paddle handles thudded as the canoes heaved away.

The going and coming of the Fur Brigade was the one great event of the year to those nomadic people who stood watching and waving to the fast-vanishing flotilla. Were they not bidding farewell to fathers, husbands, brothers, sons, or lovers, chosen as the best men from their village? Had they not lent a hand in the winning of the treasure that was floating away? If only the pelts in those packs could speak, what tales they would unfold

As I looked back the animated picture of the little settlement wherein we figured but a moment before gradually faded into distance. The wild-looking assembly was blotted from the shore. But still above the rapidly dwindling buildings waved the flag of the oldest chartered trading association in the world the Hudson's Bay Company.

Between eleven and twelve o'clock the brigade went ashore for a "snack." The canoes were snubbed to overhanging trees, and upon a rocky flat the fires burned. Hurriedly drinking the hot tea, the men seized pieces of frying pork and, placing them upon their broken bannock, ravenously devoured both as they returned to the canoes. No time was lost. Away we went again. Then the brigade would paddle incessantly for about two hours ; then they would "spell", and paddles were laid aside "one smoke." As the way slackened the steersmen bunched the canoes. The soft, rich voices of the crews blended as they quietly chatted and joked arid laughed together.

Later, a stern wind came along. Nearing an island, some of the men went ashore and cut a mast and sprit-sail boom for each canoe. They lashed the masts to the thwarts with tumplines, and rigged the tarpaulins, used to cover the packs, into sails. Again the paddles were shipped, save those of the steers-men; and the crews lounged about, either smoking or drowsing.

The men were weary. Last night they had danced both hard and long, with dusky maids as all true voyageurs do on the eve of their departure. To voyageurs stern winds are blessings. Mile after mile the wild flotilla swept along. Sunshine danced upon the rippling waves that gurgled and lapped as the bows overreached them. Rugged islands of moss-covered rock and evergreen trees rose on every side. The wind favoured us for about five miles, then shifted. Reluctantly the sails were let down, and masts and booms tossed overboard. At four o'clock the brigade landed on a pretty island, and a hurried afternoon tea was taken; after which we again paddled on, and at sundown halted to pitch camp for the night.

CAMP OF THE FUR BRIGADE

The canoes held off shore so as not to damage them by touching the beach were unloaded by men wading in the water. The fur packs were neatly piled and covered with tarpaulins. Then the canoes were lifted off the water, and carried ashore, and turned upside-down for the night. Tents were erected and campfires lit. Upon a thick carpet of ever-green brush the blankets were spread in the tents. The tired men sat in the smoke at the fires and ate their suppers round which black flies and mosquitoes hovered.

Canadian voyageurs, being well used to both fasting and feasting, display great appetites when savoury food is plentiful, and though I have seen much feasting and heard astonishing tales of great eating, I feel I cannot do better than quote the following, as told by Charles Mair, one of the co-authors of that reliable book "Through the Mackenzie Basin" :

"I have already hinted at those masterpieces of voracity for which the region is renowned; yet the undoubted facts related around our campfires, and otherwise, a few of which follow, almost beggar belief. Mr. Young, of our party, an old Hudson's Bay officer, knew of sixteen trackers who, in a few days, consumed eight bears, two moose, two bags of pemmican, two sacks of flour, and three sacks of potatoes. Bishop Grouard vouched for four men eating a reindeer at a sitting. Our friend, Mr. d'Eschambault, once gave Oskinnegu,--'The Young Man'—six pounds of pemmican. He ate it all at a meal, washing it down with a gallon of tea, and then complained that he had not had enough. Sir George Simpson states that at Athabasca Lake, in 1820, he was one of a party of twelve who ate twenty-two geese and three ducks at a single meal. But, as he says, they had been three whole days without food. The Saskatchewan folk, however, known of old as the Gens de Blaireaux—'The People of the Badger Holes'—were not behind their congeners. That man of weight and might, our old friend Chief Factor Belanger, once served out to thirteen men a sack of pemmican weighing ninety pounds. It was enough for three days; but there and then they sat down and consumed it all at a single meal, not, it must be added, without some subsequent and just pangs of indigestion. Mr. B., having occasion to pass the place of eating, and finding the sack of pemmican, as he supposed, in his path, gave it a kick; but, to his amazement, it bounded aloft several feet, and then lit. It was empty! When it is remembered that in the old buffalo days the daily ration per head at the Company's prairie posts was eight pounds of fresh meat, which was all eaten, its equivalent being two pounds of pemmican, the enormity of this Gargantuan feast may be imagined. But we ourselves were not bad hands at the trencher. In fact, we were always hungry. So I do not reproduce the foregoing facts as a reproach, but rather as a meagre tribute to the prowess of the great of old the men of unbounded stomach ! "

And yet., strange as it may seem, fat men are seldom seen in the northern wilderness. That is something movie directors should remember.

Pemmican, though little used nowadays, was formerly the mainstay of the voyageurs. It was made of the flesh of buffalo, musk-ox, moose, caribou, wapiti, beaver, rabbit, or ptarmigan; and for ordinary use was composed of 66 per cent of dried meat pounded fine to 34 per cent. of hard fat boiled and strained. A finer quality of pemmican for officers or travellers was composed of 60 per cent. of dried meat pounded extra fine and sifted; 33 per cent. of grease taken from marrow bones boiled and strained; 5 per cent. of dried Saskatoon berries; 2 per cent. of dried choke cherries, and sugar according to taste. The pounded meat was placed in a large wooden trough and, being spread out, hot grease was poured over it and then stirred until thoroughly mixed with the meat. Then, after first letting it cool somewhat, the whole was packed into leather bags, and, with the aid of wooden mallets, driven down into a solid mass, when the bags were sewn up and flattened out and left to cool; during the cooling precaution was taken to turn the bags every five minutes to prevent the grease settling too much to one side. Pemmican was packed 50, 80, or 100 1h. in a bag according to the difficulty of transporting it through the country in which it was to be used. The best pemmican was made from buffalo meat, and 2 lb. of buffalo pemmican was considered equal to 2 1/2 lb. of moose or 3 lb. of caribou pemmican.

Later, a cool sunset breeze from over the water blew the little tormentors away, and then it was that those swarthy men enjoyed their rest. After supper some made bannock batter in the mouths of flour-sacks, adding water, salt, and baking powder. This they worked into balls and spread out in sizzling pans arranged obliquely before the fire with a bed of coals at the back of each. It was an enlivening scene. Great roaring fires sent glowing sparks high into the still night air, lighting up the trees with their intense glare, and casting weird shadows upon the surrounding tents and hushes. Picturesque, wild-looking men laughed, talked, and gesticulated at one another. A few with capotes off were sitting close to the fires, and flipping into the air the browning flap-jacks that were to be eaten the following day. Others, with hoods over their heads, lolled back from the fire smoking their pipes and by the way, novelists and movie directors and actors should know that the natives of the northern wilderness, both white and red, do not smoke cigarettes; they smoke pipes and nothing else. Some held their moccasins before the fire to dry, or arranged their blankets for turning in. Others slipped away under cover of darkness to rub pork rinds on the bottom of their canoes, for there was much rivalry as to the speed of the crews. Still more beautiful grows the scene, when the June moon rises above the trees and tips with flickering light the running waves.

Sauntering from one crew's fire to another, I listened for a while to the talking and laughing of the voyageurs, but hearing no thrilling tales or even a humorous story by that noted romancer Old Billy Brass, I went over and sat down at the officers' fire, where Chief Factor Thompson was discussing old days and ways with his brother trader.

THE LONGEST BRIGADE ROUTES

After a little while I asked:

"What was the longest route of the old-time canoe and boat brigades?"

"There were several very long ones," replied Mr. Thompson, "for instance, the one from Montreal to Vancouver, a distance of about three thousand miles; also the one from York Factory on Hudson Bay to the Queen Charlotte Islands, and another from York Factory to the Mackenzie River posts. Some of the portages on the main highway of canoe travel were rather long, for instance, the one at Portage La Loche was twelve miles in length and over it everything had to be carried on man back.

"In winter time, travel was by way of snowshoes, dog-sled, or jumper. A jumper is a low, short, strong sleigh set upon heavy wooden runners and hauled by ox, horse, men, or dogs. The freight load per dog as you know is a hundred pounds; per man, one to two hundred pounds; per horse, four to six hundred pounds; and per ox, five to seven hundred pounds. In summer there were the canoe, York boat, sturgeon-head scow, and Red River cart brigades. A six-fathom canoe carries from twenty to thirty packages; a York boat, seventy-five packages; a Sturgeon-head scow, one hundred packages; and a Red River cart, six hundred pounds. The carts were made entirely of wood and leather and were hauled by horse or ox. With every brigade went the wife of one of the voyageurs to at tend to the mending of the voyageurs' clothing and to look after the comfort of the officer in charge. But the voyageurs always had to do their own cooking and washing.

"In the old days, too, much of their food had to he procured from the country through which they travelled and therefore they relied upon buffalo, moose, wapiti, deer, bear, beaver, rabbit, fish, and water-fowl to keep them in plenty."

Then for a while the Factors sat smoking in silence. The moon had mounted higher and was now out of sight behind the tops of the neighbouring trees, but its reflection was brilliantly rippled upon the water. At one of the fires a French half-breed was singing in a rich barytone one of the old chansons that were so much in vogue among the voyageurs of by-gone days—A la Claire Fontaine. After an encore, silence again held sway, until around another fire hearty laughter began to play.

"The boys over there must be yarning again," remarked, the Chief Factor, as he pointed with his pipe, " let's go over, and listen awhile."

BILLY BRASS TELLS ANOTHER STORY

It was Oo-koo-hoo's fire and among his men was seated that ever-welcome member of another crew—Old Billy Brass.

Evidently he had just finished telling one of his mirth-provoking stories, as the men were good-naturedly questioning him about it; for, as we sat down, he continued:

"Yes, sir, it's true; fire attraks 'em. Why, I've knowed 'em come from miles round when they catched a glimpse of it, an' as long as there's danger o' white bears bein' round you'll never again find Old Billy Brass tryin' to sleep beside a big fire. No, sir, not even if His Royal Highness the Commissioner or His Lordship the Bishop gives the word."

Then he sat there slowly drawing upon his pipe with apparently no intention of adding a single word to what he had already said. Lest something interesting should be lost, I ventured :

"Was it the Bishop or the Commissioner that made the trouble?"

"No, sir, neither; 'twas the Archdeacon," replied the old man as he withdrew his pipe and rubbed his smarting eyes clear of the smoke from the blazing logs. Taking a few short draws at the tobacco, he continued:

"There was three of us, me an' Archdeacon Lofty an' Captain Hawser, who was commandin' one of the Company's boats that was a-goin' to winter in Hudson Bay. It happened in September. The three of us was hoofin' it along the great barren shore o' the bay. In some places the shore was that flat that every time the tide came in she flooded 'bout all the country we could see, an' we had a devil of a time tryin' to keep clear o' the mud. We had a few dogs along to help pack our beddin', but, nevertheless, it was hard work; for we was can-yin' most of our outfit on our backs.

"One evenin' just before sundown we stumbled upon a lot o' driftwood scattered all about the flats. As so much wood was lyin' around handy, we decided to spend the night on a little knoll that rose above high-water mark. For the last few days we had seen so little wood that any of our fires could 'a' been built in a hat. But that night the sight o' so much wood fairly set the Archdeacon crazy with delight, an' nothin' would do but we must have a great roarin' fire to sleep by. I would have enjoyed a good warmin' as well as any one, but I was mighty leary about havin' a big fire. So I cautioned the Archdeacon not to use much wood as there was likely to be bears about, an' that no matter how far off they was, if they saw that fire they would make for it even if they was five or six miles out on the ice floes. He wouldn't listen to me. The Captain backed him up, an' they both set to an' built a fire as big as a tepee.

"We was pretty well tuckered out from the day's walkin'. So after supper we dried our moccasins an' was about to turn in early when lo an' behold! the Archdeacon got up an' piled more wood upon the fire. That made me mad; for unless he was huntin' for trouble he couldn't 'a' done a thing more foolish, an' I says somethin' to that effect. Ile comes back at me as though I was afraid o' me own shadder, an' says : `Billy Brass, I'm s'prised that a man like you doesn't put more faith in prayin' an' trustin' hisself in the hands o' the Almighty.'

"I was so hot over the foolishness of havin' such a big fire that I ups an' says :

"'That may be all right for you, sir, but I prefer to use my wits first, an' trust in Providence afterwards.'

" Nothin' more was said, an' we all turns in. I didn't like the idea of every one goin' to sleep with a fire so big that it was showin' itself for miles aroun', so I kep' myself awake. I wasn't exactly thinkin' that somethin' really serious was goin' to happen, but I was just wishin' it would, just to teach the Archdeacon a lesson. As time went on I must 'a' done a little dozin'; for when I looks up at the Dipper again, I learns from its angle with the North Star that it was already after midnight. An' would you believe it? that fire was still blazin' away nearly as big as ever. The heat seemed to make me drowsy, for I began to doze once more. All at once I heard the dogs blowin' so hard "

"Blowing?"

"Yes, that's right; they were blowin'; for geddies don't bark like other dogs when they're frightened. Well, as I was sayin', they were blowin' so hard that my hair nearly stood on end. Like a shot I throws off me blanket an' jumps to me feet, for I knowed what was comin'. The Captain an' the Archdeacon heard them, too, an' we all grabbed at once for the only gun, a single-barrelled muzzle-loader.

"As ill luck would have it, the Archdeacon was nearest to that gun an' grabbed it, an' by the time we was straightened up we sees a great big white bear rushin' at us. Quick as thought the Archdeacon points the gun at the bear an' pulls the trigger, but the hammer only snaps upon the bare nipple; for the cap had tumbled off in the scramble. There was no time for re-cappin'; so, bein' the nearest to the chargin' bear, the Archdeacon just drops the old gun an' runs for dear life around that fire with me an' the Captin followin' close behind him.

"When I seen the way the Archdeacon an' the Captin went a sailin' round that fire, it fairly took me breath away; for somehow I never had any idea that them two old cripples had so much speed left in 'em. An' you can bet it kep' me unusually busy bringin' up the rear; an', anyway, the feelin' that the bear was for ever snappin' at me coat-tails kep' me from takin' things too easy.

"Well, we tore round an' round an' round that fire so dang many times that we was not only rapidly losin' our wind but we was beginnin' to get dizzy into the bargain. All the time we could hear the great beast thunderin' after us, yet we daren't slacken our pace; no, sir, not even enough to take a single glance behind just to see which was gamin'. It was a sure case of life or death, but principally death; an' you can depend on it we wasn't takin' any chances.

"Me an' the Captin was crowdin' so close upon the Arch-deacon's heels that in his terror lest we should pass him by he ups an' sets the pace at such a tremendous speed that the whole three of us actually catches up to the bear . . . without the brute's knowin' it. If it hadn't been for the Archdeacon steppin' on the sole of the bear's upturned left hind foot as the hungry beast was gallopin' round the fire . . . we'd have been runnin' a good deal longer.

"Well, sir, if you had just seen how foolish that bear looked when he discovered that we was chasm' him instead of him chasm' us, you'd have died laughin'. Why, he was the most bewildered an' crest-fallen animal I ever did see. But he soon regained his wits an'—evidently calculatin' that his only salvation layed in his overhaulin' us lit out at a saprisin' gait in a grand effort to leave us far enough behind for him to catch up to us. But it didn't work; for by that time we had all got our second wind an' he soon realized that we was determined not to be overhauled from the rear. So he set to ponderin' what was really the best thing for him to do; an' then he did it.

"You must understand that we was so close upon his heels that there wasn't room for him to stop an' turn around without us all fallin' on top of him. So what do you think the cunnin' brute did? Why, he just hauled off an' kicked out behind with his right hind foot, an' hit the Archdeacon a smashin' blow square on his stomach, an' knocked him bang against the Captin an' the Captin against me, an' me against the dogs; an' we all went down in a heap beside the fire.

"Well, sir, that old brute had put so much glad an' earnest energy into its kick that it knocked the wind plum out of every one of us, an' for the next few seconds there was a mess of arms an' legs an' tails frantically tryin' to disentangle themselves.

But, as good luck would have it, I went down upon the gun. As I rose to my feet, I slipped a cap on the nipple just as the bear comes cliargin' around the fire facing us. I ups an' lets him have it full in the mouth. The shot nearly stunned him. While he was clawin' the pain in his face I had time to reload, an' lets him have it behind the ear, an' he drops dead without a whimper.

"Then would you believe it? the Archdeacon goes up to the shaggy carcass, puts his foot on the bear's head, an' stands there lookin' for all the world like British Columbia discoverin' America, an' says:

" 'There, now, Billy Brass, I hope you have learned a lesson. Next time you will know where to place your trust.'

"Well, sir, the way he was lettin' on that he had saved the whole outfit made me mad. So I ups an' says:

" 'Yes, sir, an' if I hadn't put me trust in me gun, there would have been another Archdeacon in heaven.'

THE TRUTH ABOUT WOODSMEN

It was now growing late. For a while the smiling Indians, half-breeds, and white men smoked in silence; then one after another, each knocked the ashes from his pipe, arose, stretched himself, and sauntered off to his bed, whether in a tent, under a canoe, or in the open. Walking down to the water's edge I watched the moonlight for a while, then passsd quietly from one smouldering fire to another. Some of the men were still talking together in low tones so as not to disturb those who were already seeking slumber, while others were arranging their bedding; and still others were devoutly kneeling in prayer to The Master of Life.

Thus during the four seasons of the year I had lived with and observed the men of the northern wilderness; and not only had I learned to like and respect them, but to admire their generosity and honesty, their simplicity and skill, their gentleness and prowess; and, above all, to honour their spiritual attitude toward this world and the next. How different they were from the city dwellers' conception of them! But still you may want further proof. You may want first-hand knowledge of those northern men. You may want to study their minds and to look into their hearts. Then may I ask you to read the following letter, written a few years ago by an old Canadian woodsman—Mr. A. B. Carleton-who was born and bred in the northern wilderness. Then you may become better acquainted with at least one of the men I have been trying to picture to you.

"I was born in the heart of the northern forest, and in my wanderings my steps have ever gone most willingly back toward the pine-covered hills and the grassy glades that slope down to cool, deep waters. The wanderlust has carried me far, but the lakes and waterfalls, the bluffs and the bays of the great northern No-Man's Land are my home, and with Mukwa the bear, Mah-en-gin the wolf, Wash-gish the red deer, and Ah-Meek the beaver, I have much consorted and have found their company quite to my liking.

"But the fates have so dealt with me that for two years I have not been able to see the smile of Springtime breaking forth upon the rugged face of my northern No-Man's Land. I have had glimpses of it, merely, among crowded houses, out of hospital windows. Still, my mind is native to the forest, and my thoughts and fancies, breaking captivity, go back, like the free wild things they are, on bright days of springtime to the wild land where the change of season means what it never can mean in the town.

"What does Spring mean to you town folk, anyway? I will tell you. It means lighter clothing, dust instead of sleet, the transfer of your patronage from fuel man to ice man, a few days of slushy streets and baseball instead of hockey.

"What does it mean to the man of the woods? That I will try to tell you. It means that the deep snow which has mantled hill and valley for five months has melted into brooks and rivulets which are plunging and splashing away to find the ocean from whence they came. It means that the thick ice which throughout the long winter has imprisoned the waters of the lakes, is now broken, and the waves, incited by the south wind, are wreaking vengeance by beating it upon the rocks of the northern shore, until, subdued and melted, it returns to be a mere part of the waves again. Instead of the hungry winter howl of the wolf or the whining snarl of the sneaking lynx the air is now filled with happier sounds: ducks are quacking; geese are honking; waveys are cackling as they fly northward; squirrels among the spruce trees chatter noisily; on sandy ridges woodchucks whistle excitedly; back deep in the birch thicket partridges are drumming, and all the woodland is musical with the song of birds.

"The trees, through whose bare branches the wind all winter has whistled and shrieked, are now sending forth leaves of tender green and the voice of the wind caressing them is softened to a tone as musical as the song of birds. Flowers are springing up, not in the rigid rows or precise squares of a mechanically inclined horticulturist, but surprising one by elbowing themselves out of the narrowest crevices, or peeping bashfully out from behind fallen trees, or clinging almost up-side down to the side of an overhanging cliff.

"My camp on Rainy Lake faces the south and in front is a little stunted black ash tree, so dwarfed, gnarled, twisted, and homely that it is almost pretty. I refrained from cutting it down because of its attractive deformity. In the springtime, a few years ago, a pair of robins chose it as their nesting place. One bright Sunday morning, as the nest was in course of construction, I was sitting in my doorway watching the pair. The brisk little husband was hurrying toward the nest with a bit of moss; but the mild sun, the crisp air, the sweet breathing earth, the gently whispering trees seemed to make him so very happy he could not but tell of it. Alighting on a twig he dropped the moss, opened his beak, and poured forth in song the joy his little body could no longer contain. That is the joy of a northern No-Man's Land in the month of May.

"We are so happy in our woodland home that we wish every-one might share it with us. But perhaps some would not enjoy what we enjoy, or see what we see, and some are pre-vented from coming by the duties of other callings, and each must follow the pathway his feet are most fitted to tread. For myself, I only want my little log cabin with the wild vines climbing over its walls and clinging to the mud-chinked crevices, where I can hear the song of wild birds mingled with the sleepy bum of bees moving from blossom to blossom about the doorway; where I can see the timid red deer, as, peeping out of the brush, it hesitates between the fear of man and the temptation of the white clover growing in front of my borne, and where I can watch the endless procession of waves following each other up the bay. Give me the necessity of working for my daily bread so that I will not feel as though I were a useless cumbrance upon the earth; allow me an opportunity now and then of doing a kindly act, even if it be no more than restoring to the shelter of its mother's breast a fledgling that has fallen from its nest in a tree top. If I may have these I will be happy, and happier still if I could know that when the time comes for me to travel the trail, the sands of which show no imprint of re-turning footsteps, that I might be put to rest on the southern slope of the ridge beside my camp, where the sunshine chases the shadows around the birch tree, where the murmur of the waves comes in rhythm to the robin's song, and where the red deer play on moonlight nights. Neither will I fear the snows of winter that come drifting over the bay, driven by the wind that whines through the naked tree tops, nor the howl of the hungry wolf, for what had no terror for me in life need not have afterward. And if the lessons that I learned at my mother's knee be true; if there be that within me that lives on, I am sure that it will be happier in its eternal home if it may look back and know that the body which it had tried to guide through its earthly career was having its long rest in the spot it loved best."

Did you ever meet a character like that in northern fiction? No, of course not; how could you? . . . When the books were written by city-dwelling men. Then, too, is not any production of the creative arts a poem, a story, a play, a painting, or a statue but a reflection of the composer's soul? So . . . when you read a book filled with inhuman characters, you have taken the measure of the man who wrote it, you have seen a reflection of the author's soul. Furthermore, when people exclaim : "What's the matter with the movies?" The answer is: Nothing . . . save that the screens too often reflect the degenerate souls of the movie directors.

But the Indian how he has been slandered for centuries! When in reality it is just as Warren, the Historian of the Ojibways, proclaimed : "There was consequently less theft and Iying, more devotion to the Great Spirit, more obedience to their parents, and more chastity in man and woman, than exists at the present day, since their baneful intercourse with the white race." And Hearne, the northern traveller, ended a similar contention more than a hundred years ago by saying: "It being well known that those who have the least intercourse with white men are by far the happiest."

That night, as I turned in, I had occasion to look through my kit bag, and there I found, wrapped in a silk handkerchief, the photograph lent to me for six weeks of the charming Athabasca. Being alone in my tent, I carefully unfolded its wrapper, and drawing the candle a little nearer, I gazed at her beautiful face. Again I wondered about Son-in-law.

A RACE FOR THE PORTAGE

At three o'clock next morning the camp was astir. In the half light of early day, and while breakfast was being pre-pared, the men "gummed" afresh the big canoes. Whittling handles to dry pinesticks, they split the butts half way down, and placed that end in the fire. After a little burning, the stick opened like a fork; and, placing it over the broken seam, the voyageur blew upon the crotch, thus melting the hardened "gum"; then, spitting upon his palm, he rounded it off and smoothed it down. By the time breakfast was ready the tents were again stowed away in the canoes along with the valuable cargoes of furs.

Paddling up the mist-enshrouded river the canoes rounded a bend. There the eddying of muddy water told that a moose had just left a water-lily bed. The leaves of the forest hid his fleeing form; but on the soft bank the water slowly trickled into his deep hoof-prints, so late was his departure. The tracks of bear and deer continuously marked the shores, for the woods were full of game. From the rushes startled ducks rose up and whirred away. How varied was the scenery. Island--dotted lakes, timber-covered mountains, winding streams and marshy places; bold rocky gorges and mighty cataracts; dense forests of spruce, tamarack, poplar, birch, and pine a region well worthy to be the home of either Nimrod or Diana.

Later in the day, when all the canoes were ranged side by side, their gracefully curved bows came in Iine; dip, swirl, There was now much excitement. Other crews had arrived, and were rapidly unloading. As the landing was over-crowded the portaging began. Each man tied the thin, tapering ends of his tump-line a fifteen-foot leather strap with a broad centre —about a pack, swung it upon his back, and, bending forward, rested its broad loop over his head. Upon the first his companion placed two more packs; then, stooping beneath the weight of 240 pounds, the packers at a jog-trot set off uphill and down, over rugged rocks and fallen timber, through fern-covered marsh and dense underbrush. Coming to an opening in the wood at the far end of the portage, they quickly tossed their burdens aside, and back again they ran. Nowhere could one see more willing workers. You heard no swearing or grumbling about the exceedingly hard task before them. On the contrary, every man vied with the rest as to which could carry the greatest load and most swiftly cross the portage. Rivalry sped the work along. Shirts and trousers reeked with perspiration. The voyageurs puffed and panted as they went by, and no wonder the portage was three quarters of a mile in length.

Then away we went again, and up, up, up, we mounted day by day, toward the height-of-land, where a long portage over low-lying marshy ground brought us to the place where our descent began; then for days we ran with the current until it entered a larger river, and soon we found that endless rapids interrupted our work, and down many of them the canoes were run. The Hudson's Bay Company, however, never allows its men to shoot rapids with fur-laden canoes; so it was on that wild stretch of our trip that the skill of the voyageur was tested most.

FIGHTING WITH DEATH

At the head of one of the great rapids Oo-koo-hoo, seeing that l mated well with one of his crew, invited me to take a paddle and help them through. Tossing in an extra paddle for each canoeman we stepped aboard, and with a gentle shove the current caught the light canoe and carried us out to mid-stream. Long before we sighted white water the roar of the cataract was hamming in our ears. We midmen sat upon dunnage sacks and braced our moccasined feet against the ribbing. Presently the bowman stood up and scanned the river. Dark, ominous water raced ahead for a hundred yards then disappeared, leaving nothing but a great surging mass of white that leaped high and dropped out of sight in the apparently forsaken river-bed. Then the steersman stood up, too, and Indian words passed between them. Every moment we were gaining impetus, and always heading for the highest crest of foam. Waiting for the word to paddle was even worse than waiting for the starter's gun in a sculling race. At last it came, just as we were twenty-five yards from the end of dark water. With a wild shout from the bowman we drove our paddles home. The great canoe trembled a little at first, as our work was somewhat ragged, but a moment later we settled into an even stroke and swept buoyantly among the tossing billows. Now before us ran a strange wild river of seething white, lashing among great, gray-capped, dark greenish boulders that blocked the way. High rocky banks standing close together squeezed the mighty river into a tumult of fury.

Swiftly we glide down the racing torrent and plunge through the boiling waters. Sharp rocks rear above the flying spray while others are barely covered by the foaming flood. It is dangerous work. We midmen paddle hard to force the canoe ahead of the current. The steersman in bow and stern ply and bend their great seven-foot paddles. The bowman with eyes alert keenly watches the whirling waters and signs of hidden rocks below. The roar of seething waters drowns the bowman's orders. The steersman closely watches and follows every move his companion makes. Down we go, riding upon the very back of the river; for here the water forms a great ridge, rising four or five feet above the water-line on either shore. To swerve to either side means sure destruction. With terrific speed we reach the brink of a violent descent. For a moment the canoe pauses, steadies herself, then dips her head as the stern upheaves, and down we plunge among more rocks than ever. Right in our path the angry stream is waging battle with a hoary bowlder that disputes the way. With all its might and fury the frantic river hisses and roars and lashes it. Yet it never moves it only frowns destruction upon all that dares approach it.

How the bowman is working! See his paddle bend! With lightning movements be jabs his great paddle deep into the water and close under the left side of the bow; then with a mighty heave he lifts her head around. The great canoe swings as though upon a pivot; for is not the steersman doing exactly the very opposite at this precise moment P We sheer off. But the next instant the paddles are working on the opposite sides, for the bowman sees signs of a water-covered rock not three yards from the very bow. With a wild lunge he strives to lift the bow around; but the paddle snaps like a rotten twig. Instantly he grabs for another, and a grating sound runs the length of the heaving bottom. The next moment he is working the new paddle. A little water is coming in but she is running true. The rocks now grow fewer, but sa there is another pitch ahead. Again the bow dips as we rush down the incline. Spray rises in clouds that drench us to the skin as we plunge through the "great swell" and then shoot out among a multitude of tumbling billows that threaten to engulf us. The canoe rides upon the backs of the "white horses" and we rise and fall, rise and fall, as they fight beneath us. At last we leave their wild arena, and, entering calmer water, paddle away to the end of the portage trail.

One morning, soon after sunrise, the brigade came to the end of its journey as it rounded a point and headed for a smoking steamboat that rested upon a shimmering lake; and so entirely did the rising mist envelop the craft that it suggested the silhouette of a distant mountain in volcanic eruption. Then the canoes, each in turn, lay alongside the steamer; the fur packs were loaded aboard, and thence by steamboat and railroad they continued their journey to Montreal; where together with the "returns" from many another of the Hudson's Bay Company's thirty-four districts, they were reshipped in ocean-going craft for England where eventually they were sold by auction in London.

A hundred years ago as many as ten brigades, each numbering twenty six-fathom canoes, sometimes swept along those northern highways and awoke those wild solitudes with the rollicking songs and laughter of fifteen or sixteen hundred voyageurs; but alas for those wonderfully picturesque days of bygone times! The steamboats and the railroads have driven them away.

In my youth, however, I was fortunate enough to have travelled with the last of those once-famous fur brigades; and also to have learned from personal experience the daily life of the northern woods the drama of the forests of which in my still earlier youth I had had so many day-dreams; and now if in describing and depicting it to you I have succeeded in imparting at least a fraction of the pleasure it gave me to witness it, I am well repaid. But perhaps you are wondering about the beautiful Athabasca?

ATHABASCA AID SON-IN-LAW

Some years later, while on my second visit to Fort Consolation, I not only found a flourishing town of some four or five thousand inhabitants built on Free Trader Spear's original freehold, but in the handsome brick City Hall standing in the original stump-lot I met the old Free Trader himself, now holding office as the Mayor of Spearhead City. Not only had he become wealthy rumour said he was already a millionaire but he had taken another man into partnership, for now over his big brick storehouse read a huge sign in golden letters "SPEAR AND . . . " For like all day-dreams if only dreamed often enough the ever-present dream of the Free Trader and his wife had really come true.

It was then that I learned that soon after my departure Prince Charming had come up out of the East, fallen in love with the beautiful Athabasca, become the actual Son-in-law, had been taken into partnership by her father, and together the lucky groom and his blushing bride had moved into their newly built log cabin, furnished with the long promised bed, table, and chairs, the cooking stove, blankets, crockery, cutlery, and cooking utensils. Round about their simple little home a heifer, a pig, and some ducks and geese stood guard while their beautiful mistress lived happy ever after at least she did until prosperity inveigled her into a grand new brick mansion; and then, of course, her troubles began, because happiness always prefers a cabin to a castle.

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