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The Champion

( Originally Published 1905 )



THE Deep-sea Mission is not concerned chiefly with the souls of the folk, nor yet exclusively with their bodies : it endeavours to provide them with religious instruction, to heal their ailments ; but it is quite as much interested, apparently, in improving their material condition. To the starving it gives food, to the naked clothing ; but it must not be supposed that charity is indiscriminately distributed. That is not the case. Far from it. When a man can cut wood for the steamer or hospitals in return for the food he is given, for example, he is required to do so ; but the unhappy truth is that a man can cut very little wood "on a winter's diet" exclusively of flour. " You gets weak all of a suddent, zur," one expressed it to me. In his effort to " help the people help themselves " the doctor has established cooperative stores and various small industries. The result has been twofold : the regeneration of several communities, and an outbreak of hatred and dishonest abuse on the part of the traders, who have too long fattened on the isolation and miseries of the people. The co-operative stores, I believe, are thriving, and the small industries promise well. Thus the mission is at once the hope and comfort of the coast. The man on the Strathcona is the only man, in all the long history of that wretched land, to offer a helping hand to the whole people from year to year without ill temper and without hope of gain.

"But I can't do everything," says he.

And that is true. There is much that the mission-doctor cannot , do—delicate operations, for which the more skilled hand of a specialist is needed. For a time, one season, an eminent surgeon, of Boston, the first of many, it is hoped, cruised on the Strathcona and most generously operated at Battle Harbour. The mission gathered the patients to the hospital from far and near be. fore the surgeon arrived. Folk who had looked forward in dread to a painful death, fast approaching, were of a sudden promised life. There was a man coming, they were told, above the skill of the mission surgeons, who could surely cure them. The deed was as good as the promise : many operations were performed ; all the sick who came for healing were healed ; the hope of not one was disappointed. Folk who had suffered years of pain were restored. Never had such a thing been known on the Labrador. Men marvelled. The surgeon was like a man raising the dead. But there was a woman who is now, perhaps, dead ; she lacked the courage. Day after day for two weeks she waited for the Boston surgeon ; but when he came she fled in terror of the knife. Her ailment was mortal in that land; but she might easily have been cured; and she fled home when she knew that the healer had come. No doubt her children now know what it is to want a mother.

Dr. Grenfell will let no man oppress his people when his arm is strong enough to champion them. There was once a rich man (so I was told before I met the doctor)—a man of influence and wide acquaintance-whose business was in a remote harbour of Newfoundland. He did a great wrong ; and when the news of it came to the ears of the mission-doctor, the anchor of the Strathcona came up in a hurry, and off she steamed to that place.

"Now," said the doctor to this man, "you must make what amends you can, and you must confess your sin."

The man laughed aloud. It seemed to him, no doubt, a joke that the mission-doctor should interfere in the affairs of one so rich who knew the politicians at St. Johns. But the mission-doctor was also a magistrate.

"I say," said he, deliberately, " that you must pay one thousand dollars and confess your sin."

The man cursed the doctor with great laughter, and dared him to do his worst. The joke still had point.

"I warn you," said the doctor, "that I will arrest you if you do not do precisely as I say."

The man pointed out to the doctor that his magisterial district lay elsewhere, and again defied him.

"Very true," said the doctor ; "but I warn you that I have a crew quite capable of taking you into it."

The joke was losing its point. But the man blustered that he, too, had a crew.

" You must make sure," said the doctor, "that they love you well enough to fight for you. On Sunday evening," he continued, "you will appear at the church at seven o'clock and confess your sin before the congregation; and next week you will pay the money as I have said."

"I'll see you in h—11 first ! " replied the man, defiantly.

At the morning service the doctor announced that a sinful man would confess his sin before them all that night. There was great excitement. Other men might be prevailed upon to make so humiliating a confession, the folk said, but not this one—not this rich man, whom they hated and feared, because he had so long pitilessly oppressed them. So they were not surprised when at the evening service the sinful man did not show his face.

" Will you please to keep your seats," said the doctor, " while I go fetch that man."

He found the man in a neighbour's house, on his knees in prayer, with his friends. They were praying fervently, it is said ; but whether or not that the heart of the doctor might be softened I do not know.

"Prayer," said the doctor, "is a good thing in its place, but it doesn't ' go' here. Come with me."

The man meekly went with the doctor ; he was led up the aisle of the church, was placed where all the people could see him ; and then he was asked many questions, after the doctor had described the great sin of which he was guilty.

" Did you do this thing ? "

"I did."

" You are an evil man, of whom the people should beware ? "

" I am."

" You deserve the punishment of man and God ? "

" I do."

There was much more, and at the end of it all the doctor told the man that the good God would forgive him if he should ask in true faith and repentance, but that the people, being human, could not. For a whole year, he charged the people, they must not speak to that man ; but if at the end of that time he had shown an honest disposition to mend his ways, they might take him to their hearts.

The end of the story is that the man paid the money and left the place.

This relentless judge, on a stormy day of last July, carried many bundles ashore at Cartwright, in Sandwich Bay of the Labrador. The wife of the Hudson Bay Company's agent exclaimed with delight when she opened them. They were Christmas gifts from the children of the "States" to the lads and little maids of that coast. With almost all there came a little letter addressed to the unknown child who was to receive the toy; they were filled with loving words —with good wishes, coming in childish sincerity from the warm little hearts. The doctor never forgets the Christmas gifts. He is the St. Nicholas of that coast. If he ever weeps at all, I should think it would be when he hears that despite his care some child has been neglected. The wife of the agent stowed away the gifts against the time to come.

"It makes them very happy," said the agent's wife.

"Not long ago," I chanced to say, "I saw a little girl with a stick of wood for a dolly.

Are they not afraid to play with these pretty things ? "

" They are," she laughed. " They use them for ornaments. But that doesn't mat-ter. It makes them happy just to look at them."

We all laughed.

" And yet," she continued, " they do play with them, sometimes, after all. There is a little girl up the bay who has kissed the paint of her dolly ! "

Thus and all the time, in storm and sun-shine, summer and winter weather, Grenfell of the Deep-sea Mission goes about doing good ; if it's not in a boat, it's in a dog-sled. He is what he likes to call " a Christian man." But he is also a hero—at once the bravest and the most beneficently useful man I know. If he regrets his isolation, if the hardship of the life sometimes oppresses him, no man knows it. He does much, but there is much more to do. If the good people of the world would but give a little more of what they have so abundantly—and if they could but know the need, they would surely do that—joy might be multiplied on that coast; nor would any man be wronged by misguided charity.

"What a man does for the love of God," the doctor once said, "he does differently."



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