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Title: Le Petit Nord - or, Annals of a Labrador Harbour
Author: Spalding, Katie, -1954, Grenfell, Anne, 1885-1938
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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      | Transcriber's note:                                         |
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      | Inconsistent hyphenation and unusual spelling in the        |
      | original document have been preserved.                      |
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      | The illustration captions, listed only at the front of the  |
      | original text, have been added to the illustrations for     |
      | the benefit of the reader.                                  |
      |                                                             |
      | One obvious typographical error was corrected in this       |
      | text, but not the dialect. For details, please see          |
      | the end of this document.                                   |
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      +-------------------------------------------------------------+



LE PETIT NORD

Or

Annals of a Labrador Harbour

by

ANNE GRENFELL and KATIE SPALDING



[Illustration: AN AWFUL NIGHT FOR A SINNER]


[Illustration]



Boston and New York
Houghton Mifflin Company
The Riverside Press Cambridge
1920
Copyright, 1920, by Houghton Mifflin Company
All Rights Reserved



FOREWORD


A friend from the Hub of the Universe, in a somewhat supercilious
manner, not long ago informed one of our local friends that his own
home was hundreds of miles to the southward. "'Deed, sir, how does you
manage to live so far off?" with a scarcely perceptible twinkle of one
eye, was the answer.

If home is the spot on earth where one spends the larger part of one's
prime, and where one's family comes into being, then for over a
quarter of a century "Le Petit Nord" of this book has been my home.
With the authors I share for it and its people the love which alone
keeps us here. Necessity has compelled me to perform, however
imperfectly, functions usually distributed amongst many and varied
professions, and the resultant intimacy has become unusual. As,
therefore, I read the amusing experiences herein narrated, I feel
that the "other half," who know us not, will love us better even if we
are not exactly as they. That is not our fault. They should not live
"so far off."

The incidents told are all actual, but the name of every single person
and place has been changed to afford any hypersensitive among the
actors the protection which pseudonymity confers. We here who have
been permitted a glimpse of these pages feel that we really owe the
authors another debt beyond the love for the people to which they have
testified by the more substantial offering of long and voluntary
personal service.

  WILFRED T. GRENFELL, M.D.

  _Labrador, 1919_



ILLUSTRATIONS


AN AWFUL NIGHT FOR A SINNER              _Frontispiece_

SAD SEASICK SOULS STREWN AROUND                                  20

THE HERRING OF HIGH ESTATE                                       29

"HAVE YOU A PLUG OF BACCY, SKIPPER?"                             40

RHODA'S RANDY                                                    42

TOPSY'S AMBITION IS TO BECOME LIKE A FAT PIG                     53

TOPSY WAS CREEPING FROM BED TO BED WITH THE CARVING-KNIFE        54

THE PROPHET OF DOOM                                              59

ANANIAS HAS BROKEN YET ANOTHER WINDOW                            61

NOT FAT, BUT FINE AND HEARTY                                     68

DELILAH BAWLING                                                  70

MRS. UNCLE LIFE FOUND THE LEADER OF THE TEAM IN HER BED          92

"TEACHER, I HAVE A PAIN"                                         95

THE YOHO                                                        100

THEY ATE THE ENTIRE BOOT                                        108

HE HAD TAKEN THE STRANGER IN                                    117

HE FROZE HIS TOE IN BED                                         127

A LONG WAY ON THE HEAVENWARD ROAD                               131

THE SEVENTH SON                                                 140

ITS ACTION WAS PROMPT AND POWERFUL                              141

IT WAS HIS LAST BULLET                                          153

A PUFFIN GHETTO                                                 180

THE BEAR BIT HIS LEG OFF                                        189

P.S.                                                            199

_From drawings by Dr. Grenfell_



LE PETIT NORD

OR

ANNALS OF A LABRADOR HARBOUR


  _Off the Narrows, St. John's_

  _June 10_

  DEAR JOAN

    The Far North calls and I am on my way:--
    There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail.
    There gloom the dark broad seas.
           *       *       *       *       *
    The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks.

Why write as if I had taken a lifelong vow of separation from the
British Isles and all things civilized, when after all it is only one
short year out of my allotted span of life that I have promised to
Mission work? Your steamer letter, with its Machiavellian arguments
for returning immediately and directly from St. John's, was duly
received. Of my unfitness for the work there is no possible doubt, no
shadow of doubt whatever, and therein you and I are at one. But you
will do me the justice to admit that I put very forcibly before those
in charge of the Mission the delusion under which they were labouring;
the responsibility now lies with them, and I "go to prove my soul."
What awaits me I know not, but except when the mighty billows rocked
me, not soothingly with gentle motion, but harshly and immoderately. I
have never wavered in my decision; and even at such times it was to
the bottom of Father Neptune that I aspired to travel rather than to
the shores of "Merrie England."

The voyage so far has been uneventful, and we are now swaying
luxuriously at anchor in a dense fog. This I believe is the usual
welcome accorded to travellers to the island of Newfoundland. There is
no chart for icebergs, and "growlers" are formidable opponents to
encounter at any time. Therefore it behoves us to possess our souls in
patience, and only to indulge at intervals in the right to grumble
which is by virtue of tradition ours. We have already been here a day
and a half, and we know not how much longer it will be before the
curtain rises and the first act of the drama can begin.

These boats are far from large and none too comfortable. We have taken
ten days to come from Liverpool. Think of that, you who disdain to
cross the water in anything but an ocean greyhound! What hardships we
poor missionaries endure! Incidentally I want to tell you that my
fellow passengers arch their eyebrows and look politely amused when I
tell them to what place I am bound. I ventured to ask my room-mate if
she had ever been on Le Petit Nord. I wish you could have seen her
face. I might as well have asked if she had ever been exiled to
Siberia! I therefore judge it prudent not to thirst too lustily for
information, lest I be supplied with more than I desire or can
assimilate at this stage. I shall write you again when I board the
coastal steamer, which I am credibly informed makes the journey to St.
Antoine once every fortnight during the summer months. Till then, _au
revoir_.



  _Run-by-Guess, June 15_

I landed on the wharf at St. John's to be met with the cheering
information that the steamer had left for the north two days before.
This necessitated a delay of twelve days at least. Will all the babies
at the Orphanage be dead before I arrive on the scene of action? Shall
I take the next boat back and be in England before the coastal steamer
comes south to claim me? Conflicting emotions disturb my troubled
soul, but "on and always on!"

The island boasts a railroad of which the rural inhabitants are
inordinately proud. Just prior to my arrival a daily service had been
inaugurated. Formerly the passenger trains ran only three times a
week. There are no Sunday trains. As I had so much time to spare, I
decided that I could not do better than spend some of it in going
across the island and thus see the Southern part of the country,
catching my boat at Come-by-Chance Junction on the return journey.
Truth compels me to add that I find myself a sadder and wiser woman. I
left St. John's one evening at six o'clock, being due to arrive at our
destination at eight o'clock the following night. There is no
unpleasant "hustle" on this railway, and you may wait leisurely and
humbly for a solid hour while your very simple meal is prepared. If
you do not happen to be hungry, this is only a delightful interlude in
the incessant rush of modern life, but if perchance Nature has endowed
you with a moderate appetite, that one hour seems incurably long.

All went well the first night, or at least my fellow passengers showed
no signs of there being anything unusual, so like Brer Rabbit, I lay
low and said nothing. At noon the following day a slightly bigger and
more prolonged jolt caused the curious among us to look from the
window. The engine, tender, and luggage van were derailed. As the
speed of the trains never exceeds twenty-five miles an hour, such
little _contretemps_ which occur from time to time do not ruffle the
serenity of those concerned. Resigning myself to a delay of a few
hours, I determined to alight and explore the country. But alas! I had
no mosquito veiling, and to stand for a moment outside without this
protection was to risk disfigurement for life. So I humbly yielded to
adverse circumstances and returned to try and read, the previous
bumping having made this out of the question. But the interior was by
this time a veritable Gehenna, and no ventilation could be obtained,
as the Company had not thought it necessary to provide their windows
with screens. For twenty-five hours we remained in durance vile, until
at last the relief train lumbered to our rescue and conveyed us to
Run-by-Guess, our destination.



  _Northward Bound. On board_
  _June 25_

If you could have been present during the return journey from
Run-by-Guess your worst prophecies would have seemed to you justified.
The railroad is of the genus known as narrow-gauge; the roadbed was
not constructed on the principles laid down by the Romans. In a
country where the bones of Mother Earth protrude so insistently, it is
beating the devil round the stump to mend the bed with fir branches
tucked even ever so solicitously under the ties. That, nevertheless,
was an attempt at "safety first" which I saw.

Towards morning a furious rain and wind storm broke over us. Before
many minutes I noticed that my berth was becoming both cold and damp.
Looking up I made out in the dim dawn a small but persistent stream
pouring down upon me. I had had the upper berth pushed up so as to
get the air! Again the train came to an unscheduled stop. By this time
assorted heads were emerging from behind the curtains, and from each
came forcible protests against the weather. There was nothing to be
done but to sit with my feet tucked up and my arms around my knees,
occupying thus the smallest possible space for one of my proportions,
and wait developments. Ten minutes later, after much shouting outside
my window, a ladder was planted against the car, and two trainmen in
yellow oilskins climbed to the roof. I noted with satisfaction that
they carried hammers, tacks, and strips of tin. A series of resounding
blows and the almost immediate cessation of the descending floods told
how effective their methods had proved. Directly afterwards the
startled squeak of the engine whistle, as if some one had trodden on
its toe, warned us that we were off once more.

We landed (you will note that the nautical phraseology of the country
has already gripped me) in the same storm at Come-by-Chance Junction.
But the next morning broke bright and shining, as if rain and wind
were inhabitants of another planet. It is quite obvious that this land
is a lineal descendant of Albion's Isle. Now I am aboard the coastal
steamer and we are nosing our way gingerly through the packed floe
ice, as we steam slowly north for Cape St. John. Yes, I know it is
Midsummer's Day, but as the captain tersely put it, "the slob is a bit
late."

The storm of two days ago blowing in from the broad Atlantic drove the
great field of leftover pans before it, and packed them tight against
the cliffs. If we had not had that sudden change in the weather's mind
yesterday, we should not be even as far along as we now find
ourselves.

You can form no idea of one's sensations as the steamer pushes her way
through an ice jam. For miles around, as far as the eye can reach,
the sea is covered with huge, glistening blocks. Sometimes the
deep-blue water shows between, and sometimes they are so tightly
massed together that they look like a hummocky white field. How any
one can get a steamer along through it is a never-ending source of
amazement, and my admiration for the captain is unstinted. I stand on
the bridge by the hour, and watch him and listen to the reports of the
man on the cross-trees as to the prospects of "leads" of open water
ahead. Every few minutes we back astern, and then butt the ice. If one
stays below decks the noise of the grinding on the ship's side is so
persistent and so menacing that I prefer the deck in spite of its
barrels and crates and boxes and smells. Here at least one would not
feel like a rat in a hole if a long, gleaming, icy, giant finger
should rip the ship's side open down the length of her. As we grate
and scrape painfully along I look back and see that the ice-pan
channel we leave behind is lined with scarlet. It is the paint off our
hull. The spectacle is all too suggestive for one who has always
regarded the most attractive aspect of the sea to be viewed from the
landwash.

Of course the scenery is beautiful--almost too trite to write--but the
beauty is lonesome and terrifying, and my city-bred soul longs for
some good, homely, human "blot on the landscape." There are no trees
on the cliffs now. I understand, however, that Nature is not
responsible for this oversight. The people are sorely in need of
firewood, and not being far-seeing enough to realize what a menace it
is to the country to denude it so unscientifically, they have razed
every treelet. Nature has done her best to rectify their mistake, and
the rocky hills are covered with jolly bright mosses and lichens.

Naturally, there are compensations for even this kind of voyage, for
no swell can make itself felt through the heavy ice pack. We steam
along for miles on a keel so even that only the throb of our engines,
and the inevitable "ship-py" odour, remind one that the North Atlantic
rolls beneath the staunch little steamer.

The "staunch little steamer's" whistle has just made a noise out of
all proportion to its size. It reminded me of an English sparrow's
blatant personality. We have turned into a "tickle," and around the
bend ahead of us are a handful of tiny whitewashed cottages clinging
to the sides of the rocky shore.

I cannot get used to the quaint language of the people, and from the
helpless way in which they stare at me, my tongue must be equally
unintelligible. A delightful _camaraderie_ exists; every one knows
every one else, or they all act as if they did. As we come to anchor
in the little ports, the men from the shore lash their punts fast to
the bottom of the ship's ladder, and clamber with gazelle-like agility
over our side. If you happen to be leaning curiously over the rail
near by, they jerk their heads and remark, "Good morning," or, "Good
evening," according as it is before or after midday. This is an
afternoon-less country. The day is divided into morning, evening, and
night. Their caps seem to have been born on their heads and to
continue to grow there like their hair, or like the clothing of the
children of Israel, which fitted them just as well when they came out
of the wilderness as when they went in. But no incivility is meant.
You may dissect the meaning and grammar of that paragraph alone. You
have had long practice in such puzzles.



  _Seventy-five miles later_

We are out of the ice field and steaming past Cape St. John. This was
the dividing line between the English and French in the settlement of
their troubles in 1635. North of it is called the French or Treaty
Shore, or as the French themselves so much more quaintly named it, "Le
Petit Nord." It is at the north end of Le Petit Nord that St. Antoine
is located.

The very character of the country and vegetation has changed. It is as
if the great, forbidding fortress of St. John's Cape cut off the
milder influences of southern Newfoundland, and left the northern
peninsula a prey to ice and winds and fog. The people, too, have felt
the influence of this discrimination of Nature. There is a line of
demarcation between those who have been able to enjoy the benefits of
the southern island, and those who have had to cope with the recurrent
problems of the northland. I cannot help thinking of the change this
shore must have been from their beloved and smiling Brittany to those
first eager Frenchmen. The names on the map reveal their pathetic
attempts to stifle their _nostalgie_ by christening the coves and
harbours with the familiar titles of their homeland.

I fear in my former letter I made some rather disparaging remarks
about certain ocean liners, but I want to take them all back. Life is
a series of comparisons and in retrospect the steamer on which I
crossed seems a veritable floating palace. I offer it my humble
apologies. Of one thing only I am certain--I shall never, never have
the courage to face the return journey.

The time for the steamer to make the journey from Come-by-Chance to
St. Antoine is from four to five days, but when there is much ice
these days have been known to stretch to a month. The distance in
mileage is under three hundred, but because of the many harbours into
which the boat has to put to land supplies, it is really a much
greater distance. There are thirty-three ports of call between St.
John's and St. Antoine, most of which are tiny fishing settlements
consisting of a few wooden houses at the water's edge. This coast
possesses scores of the most wonderful natural harbours, which are not
only extremely picturesque, but which alone make the dangerous shore
possible for navigation. As the steamer puts in at Bear Cove, Poverty
Cove, Deadman's Cove, and Seldom-Come-By (this last from the fact
that, although boats pass, they seldom anchor there), out shoot the
little rowboats to fetch their freight. It is certainly a wonderfully
fascinating coast, beautifully green and wooded in the south, and
becoming bleaker and barer the farther north one travels. But the bare
ruggedness and naked strength of the north have perhaps the deeper
appeal. To those who have to sail its waters and wrest a living from
the harvest of the sea, this must be a cruel shore, with its dangers
from rocks and icebergs and fog, and insufficient lighting and
charting.

Apart from the glory of the scenery the journey leaves much to be
desired, and the weather, being exceedingly stormy since we left the
ice field behind, has added greatly to our trials. The accommodations
on the boat are strictly limited, and it is crowded with fishermen
going north to the Labrador, and with patients for the Mission
Hospital. As they come on in shoals at each harbour the refrain
persistently runs through my head, "Will there be beds for all who
come?" But the answer, alas, does not fit the poem. Far from there
being enough and to spare, I know of two at least of my fellow
passengers who took their rest in the hand basins when not otherwise
wanted. Tables as beds were a luxury which only the fortunate could
secure. Almost the entire space on deck is filled with cargo of every
description, from building lumber to live-stock. While the passengers
number nearly three hundred, there are seating accommodations on four
tiny wooden benches without backs, for a dozen, if packed like
sardines. Barrels of flour, kerosene, or molasses provide the rest.
Although somewhat hard for a succession of days, these latter are
saved from the deadly ill of monotony by the fact that as they are
discharged and fresh taken on, such vantage-points have to be secured
anew from day to day; and one learns to regard with equanimity if not
with thankfulness what the gods please to send.

There are many sad, seasick souls strewn around. If cleanliness be
next to godliness, then there is little hope of this steamer making
the Kingdom of Heaven. One habit of the men is disgusting; they
expectorate freely over everything but the ocean. The cold outside is
so intense as to be scarcely endurable, while the closeness of the
atmosphere within is less so. These are a few of the minor
discomforts of travel to a mission station; the rest can be better
imagined than described. If, to the Moslem, to be slain in battle
signifies an immediate entrance into the pleasures of Paradise, what
should be the reward of those who suffer the vagaries of this northern
ocean, and endure to the end?

  [Illustration: SAD SEASICK SOULS STREWN AROUND]

My trunk is lost. In the excitement of carpentering incidental to the
cloudburst, the crew of the train omitted to drop it off at
Come-by-Chance. I am informed that it has returned across the country
to St. John's. If I had not already been travelling for a fortnight,
or if Heaven had endowed me with fewer inches so that my clothing were
not so exclusively my own, the problem of the interim till the next
boat would be simpler.

I have had my first, and I may add my last, experience of "brewis," an
indeterminate concoction much in favour as an article of diet on this
coast. The dish consists of hard bread (ship's biscuit) and codfish
boiled together in a copious basis of what I took to be sea-water. "On
the surface of the waters" float partially disintegrated chunks of fat
salt pork. I am not finicking. I could face any one of these articles
of diet alone; but in combination, boiled, and served up lukewarm in a
soup plate for breakfast, in the hot cabin of a violently rolling
little steamer, they take more than my slender stock of philosophy to
cope with. Yet they save the delicacy for the Holy Sabbath. The only
justification of this policy that I can see is that, being a day of
rest, their stomachs can turn undivided and dogged attention to the
process of digestion.

Did I say "day of rest"? The phrase is utterly inadequate. These
people are the strictest of Sabbatarians. The Puritan fathers, whom we
now look back upon with a shivery thankfulness that our lot did not
fall among them, would, and perhaps do, regard them as kindred
spirits. But they are earnest Christians, with a truly uncomplaining
selflessness of life.

By some twist of my brain that reminds me of a story told me the other
day which brings an old legend very prettily to this country. It is
said that when Joseph of Arimathea was hounded from place to place by
the Jews, he fled to England taking the Grail with him. The spot where
he settled he called Avalon. When Lord Baltimore, a devout Catholic,
was given a huge tract of land in the south of this little island, he
christened it Avalon in commemoration of Joseph of Arimathea's also
distant journey. To the disgrace of the Protestants, the Catholic
exiles arrived in the "land of promise" only to discover that the
spirit of persecution was rampant in this then far-off colony.

Evidently the people of the country think that every man bound for the
Mission is a doctor, and every woman a nurse. If my Puritan conscience
had not blocked the way, I could have made a considerable sum
prescribing for the ailments of my fellow passengers. One little thin
woman on board has just confided to me, "Why, miss, I found myself in
my stomach three times last week"--and looked up for advice. As for
me, I was "taken all aback," and hastened to assure her that nothing
approaching so astonishing an event had ever come within the range of
my experience. I hated to suggest it to her, but I have a lurking
suspicion that the catastrophe had some not too distant connection
with the "brewis." By the way, all right-minded Newfoundlanders and
Labradormen call it "bruse."

Also by the way, it is incorrect to speak of _New_foundland. It is
Newfound_land_. Neither do you go up north if you know what you are
about. You go "down North"; and your friend is not bound for Labrador.
She is going to "the Labrador," or, to be more of a purist still, "the
Larbadore." Having put you right on these rudiments--oh! I forgot
another: "Fish" is always codfish. Other finny sea-dwellers may have
to be designated by their special names, but the unpretentious cod is
"t' fish"; and the salutation of friends is not, "How is your wife?"
or, "How is your health?" But, "How's t' fish, B'y?" I like it. It is
friendly and different--a kind of password to the country.

I am glad that I am not coming here as a mere traveller. The land
looks so reserved that, like people of the same type, you are sure it
is well worth knowing. So when, perhaps, I have been able to discover
a little of its "subliminal self," the tables will be turned, and you
will be eager to make its acquaintance. Then it will be my chance to
offer you sage and unaccepted advice as to your inability to cope with
the climate and its _entourage_. I too shall be able to prophesy
unheeded a shattered constitution and undermined nerves. To be sure,
old Jacques Cartier had such a poor opinion of the coast that he
remarked it ought to have been the land God gave to Cain. But J.C. has
gone to his long rest. After the length of this letter I judge that
you envy him that repose, so I release you with my love.



  _St. Antoine Orphanage at last
  Address for one year
  July 6_


I have at last arrived at the back of beyond. We should have steamed
right past the entrance of our harbour if the navigation had been in
my hands. You make straight for a great headland jutting out into the
Atlantic, when the ship suddenly takes a sharp turn round an abrupt
corner, and before you know it, you are advancing into the most
perfect of landlocked harbours. A great cliff rises on the
left,--Quirpon Point they call it,--and clinging to its base like an
overgrown limpet is a tiny cottage, with its inevitable fish stage.
Farther along are more houses; then a white church with a pointed
spire, and a bright-green building near by, while across the path is a
very pretty square green school. Next are the Mission buildings in a
group. Beyond them come more small houses--"Little Labrador" I
learned later that this group is called, because the people living
there have almost all come over from the other side of the Straits of
Belle Isle.

The ship's ladder was dropped as we came to anchor opposite the small
Mission wharf. The water is too shallow to allow a large steamer to go
into it, but the hospital boat, the Northern Light, with her draft of
only eight feet, can easily make a landing there. We scrambled over
the side and secured a seat in the mail boat. Before we knew it four
hearty sailors were sweeping us along towards the little dock. Here,
absolutely wretched and forlorn, painfully conscious of crumpled and
disordered garments, I turned to face the formidable row of Mission
staff drawn up in solemn array to greet us. As the doctor-in-charge
stepped forward and with a bland smile hoped I had had a "comfortable
journey," and bade me welcome to St. Antoine, with a prodigious effort
I contorted my features into something resembling a grin, and limply
shook his outstretched hand. To-morrow I mean to make enquiries about
retiring pensions for Mission workers!

No one had much sympathy with me over the loss of my trunk. They
laughed and said I would be fortunate if it appeared by the end of the
summer. You had better send me a box by freight with some clothing in
it; I otherwise shall have to live in bed, or seek admission to
hospital as a "chronic."

How perfectly dear of you to have a letter awaiting me at the
Orphanage. Regardless of manners I fell to and devoured it, while all
the "little oysters stood and waited in a row." Like the walrus, with
a few becoming words I introduced myself as their future guardian, but
never a word said they. As, led by a diminutive maid, I passed from
their gaze I heard an awe-struck whisper, "IT'S gone upstairs!"

  [Illustration: THE HERRING OF HIGH ESTATE]

In answer to my questions the little maid informed me that the last
mistress had left by the boat I had just missed, and that since then
the children had been in her charge, with such help and supervision as
the various members of the Mission staff could give. I therefore felt
it was "up to me" to make a start, and I delicately enquired when the
next meal was due. An exhaustive exploration of the larder revealed
two herrings, one undoubtedly of very high estate. As the children
looked fairly plump, I concluded that they had only been on such
meagre diet since the departure of the last "mistress." The barrenness
of the larder suggested a fruitful topic of conversation with which to
win the confidence of these staring, open-mouthed children, and I
therefore tenderly asked what they would most like to eat, supposing
IT were there. One and all affirmed that "swile" meat was a
delicacy such as their souls loved--and repeated questions could
elucidate no further. Subsequently, on making enquiries of one of the
Mission staff, I thought I detected a look which led me to suppose
that I had not yet acquired the correct pronunciation of the word. We
dined off the herring of lowly origin, and consigned the other to the
garbage pail. Nerve as well as skill, I can assure you, is required to
divide one herring into thirty-six equal parts. There is no occasion
for alarm. I have not the slightest intention of starving these
infants. To-morrow I go on a foraging expedition to the Mission
commissariat department (there must be one somewhere), and then the
fat years shall succeed the lean ones.

To-night I am too tired to do more, and there is a quite absurd
longing to see some one's face again. The coming year looks very long
and very dreary, and although I know I shall grow to love these
children, yet, oh, I wish they did not stare so when one has to blink
so hard to keep the tears from falling.



_July 7_


Morning! And the children may stare all they like. I no longer need to
repress youthful emotions. All the same it is a trifle disconcerting.
I had chosen, as I thought, a very impressive portion of Scripture for
Prayers, and the children were as quiet as mice. But they never let
their eyes wander from me for a single moment, until I began to feel I
ought at least to have a smut on the tip of my nose.

The alluring advertisement of Newfoundland, as "the coolest country on
the Atlantic seaboard in the summer," is all too painfully true. It is
very, very cold at present, and the sun, if sun there be, is safely
ensconced behind an impenetrable bank of fog. If this is summer
weather, what will the winter be!

I started to write this to you in the morning, but the day has been
one long series of interruptions. The work is all new to me and not
exactly what I expected, but the spice of variety is not lacking. I
find it very hard to understand these children and it is evident from
their faces that they fail to comprehend my meaning. Yet I have a
lurking suspicion that when it is an order to be obeyed, their desire
to understand is not overwhelming. The children are supposed to do the
work of the Home under my superintendency, the girls undertaking the
housework and the boys the outside "chores." Apparently from all I
hear my predecessor was a strict disciplinarian, an economical
manager, an expert needlewoman, and everything I should be and am not.
The sewing simply appalls me! I confess that stitching for three dozen
children of all sizes had not entered into my calculations as one of
the duties of a "missionary"! Yet of course I realize they must be
clad as well as taught. What a pity that the climate will not allow of
a simple loin cloth and a string of beads. And how infinitely more
becoming. Then, too, how much easier would be the food problem were
we dusky Papuans dwelling in the far-off isles of the sea. This
country produces nothing but fish, and we have to plan our food
supplies for a year in advance. How much corn-meal mush will David eat
in twelve months? And if David eats so much in twelve months, how much
will Noah, two months younger, eat in the same period of time? If one
herring satisfies thirty-six, how many dozen will a herring and a half
feed? Picture me with a cold bandage round my head seeking to emulate
Hoover.

A little mite has just come to the door to inform me that her dress
has "gone abroad." Seeing my mystified look, she enlightened me by
holding up a tattered garment which had all too evidently "gone
abroad" almost beyond recall. Throwing the food problem to the winds I
set myself with a businesslike air to sew together the ragged threads.
A second knock brought me the cheerful tidings that the kitchen fire
had languished from lack of sustenance. Now I had previously in my
most impressive tones commanded one of the elder boys to attend to
this matter, and he had promptly departed, as I thought, to "cleave
the splits." Searching for him I found this industrious youth lying on
his back complacently contemplating the heavens. To my remonstrance he
somewhat indignantly remarked that he was only "taking a spell." A
really magnificent and grandiloquent appeal to the boy's sense of
honour and a homily on the dignity of labour were abruptly terminated
by shrill cries resounding from the house. Rushing in, I was informed
that Noah was "bawling" (which fact was perfectly evident), having
jammed his fingers in trying to "hist" the window. In this country
children never cry; they always "bawl."

I foresee that the life of a Superintendent of an Orphan Asylum is not
a simple one, and that I shall be in no danger of being "carried to
the skies" on a "flowery bed of ease." Certain I am that there will
only be opportunity to write to you at "scattered times"; so for the
present, fare thee well.



  _Sunday, August 4_


You see before you, or you would if my very obvious instead of merely
my astral body were in your presence, a changed and sobered being. I
have made the acquaintance of the Labrador fly, and he has made mine.
The affection is all on his side. Mosquito, black fly, sand fly--they
are all alike cannibals. You have probably heard the old story about
the difference between the Labrador and the New Jersey mosquito? The
Labrador species can be readily distinguished by the black patch
between his eyes about the size of a man's hand. Of the lot I prefer
the mosquito. He at least is open about his evil intentions. The black
fly darts at you quietly, settles down on an un-get-at-able spot, and
sucks your blood. If I did not find my appetite so unimpaired, I
should fancy this morning I was suffering from an acute attack of
mumps.

Mumps is at the moment in our midst, and as is generally the case has
fallen on the poorest of the community. In this instance it is a widow
by the name of Kinsey, who has six children, and lives in a miserable
hovel. More of her anon. Her twelve-year-old boy comes to the Home
daily to get milk for the wretched baby, whom we had heard was down
with the disease. When he came this morning I told him to stay
outdoors while we fetched the milk, because I knew how sketchy are the
precautions of his ilk against carrying infection. "No fear, miss," he
assured me. "The baby was terrible bad last night, but he's all clear
this morning."

But to return to the Kinsey parent. She had eight children. The
Newfoundlanders are a prolific race, and life is consequently doubly
hard on the women. Her husband died last fall, leaving her without a
sou, and no roof over her head. The Mission gave her a sort of shack,
and took two of her kiddies into the Home. The place was too crowded
at the time to take any more. The doctor then wrote to the orphanages
at the capital presenting the problem, and asking that they take a
consignment of children. The Church of England Orphanage, of which
denomination the mother is a member, was full; and the other one,
which has just had a gift of beautiful buildings and grounds,
"regretted they could not take any of the children, as their orphanage
was exclusively for their denomination." The mother did not respond to
the doctor's ironic suggestion that she should "turncoat" under the
press of circumstances.

They tell a story here about Kinsey, the late and unlamented. Last
spring a steamer heading north on Government business sighted a
fishing punt being rowed rapidly towards it, the occupant waving a
flag. The captain ordered, "Stop her," thinking that some acute
emergency had arisen on the land during the long winter. A burly old
chap cased in dirt clambered deliberately over the rail.

"Well, what's up?" asked the captain testily. "Can't you see you're
keeping the steamer?"

  [Illustration: "HAVE YOU A PLUG OF BACCY, SKIPPER?"]

"Have you got a plug or so of baccy you could give me, skipper? I
hasn't had any for nigh a month, and it do be wonderful hard."

The captain's reply was unrepeatable, but for such short acquaintance
it was an accurate résumé of the character of the applicant. _De
mortuis nil nisi bonum_ is all very well, but it depends on the
_mortuis_; and that man's wife and children had been short of food he
had "smoked away."

I have the greatest admiration for the women of this coast. They work
like dogs from morning till nightfall, summer and winter, with "ne'er
a spell," as one of them told me quite cheerfully. The men are out on
the sea in boats, which at least is a life of variety, and in winter
they can go into the woods for firewood. The women hang forever over
the stove or the washtub, go into the stages to split the fish, or
into the gardens to grow "'taties." Yet oddly enough, there is less
illiteracy among the women than among the men.

  [Illustration: RHODA'S RANDY]

Such a nice girl is here from Adlavik as maid in the hospital. Rhoda
Macpherson is her name. She told me the other day that one winter the
doctor of the station near her asked the men to clear a trail down a
very steep hill leading to the village, as the dense trees made the
descent dangerous for the dogs. Weeks went by and the men did nothing.
Finally three girls, with Rhoda as leader, took their axes every
Sunday afternoon and went out and worked clearing that road. In a
month it was done. The doctor now calls it "Rhoda's Randy."

Yesterday afternoon I was out with my camera. (Saturday you will note.
I have learned already that to be seen on Sundays in this Sabbatarian
spot, even walking about with that inconspicuous black box, is
anathema.) A crowd of children in a disjointed procession had
collected in front of the hospital, and the patients on the balconies
were delightedly craning their necks. A biting blast was blowing, but
the children, clad in white garments, looked oblivious to wind and
weather. It was a Sunday-School picnic. A dear old fisherman was with
them, evidently the leader.

"What's it all about?" I asked.

"We've come to serenade the sick, miss. 'Tis little enough pleasure
'em has. Now, children, sing up"; and the "serenade" began. It was
"Asleep in Jesus," and the patients loved it! I got my picture,
"sketched them off," as the old fellow expressed it.

In the many weeks since I saw you--and it seems a lifetime--I have
forgotten to mention one important item of news. Every properly
appointed settlement along this coast has its cemetery. This place
boasts two. With your predilection for epitaphs you would be content.
The prevailing mode appears to be clasped hands under a bristling
crown; but all the same that sort of thing makes a more "cheerful"
graveyard than those gloomily beautiful monuments with their hopeless
"[Greek: chairete]" that you remember in the museum at Athens. There
is one here which reads:

      Memory of John Hill
          who Died
      December 30th. 1889

      Weep not, dear Parents,
      For your loss 'tis
      My etarnal gain May
      Christ you all take up
      the Cross that we
      Should meat again.

The spelling may not always be according to Webster, but the
sentiments portray the love and hope of a God-fearing people
unspoiled by the roughening touch of civilization.

I must to bed. Stupidly enough, this climate gives me insomnia.
Probably it is the mixture of the cold and the long twilight (I can
read at 9.30), and the ridiculous habit of growing light again at
about three in the morning. I am beginning to have a fellow feeling
with the chickens of Norway, poor dears!



  _August 9_


I want to violently controvert your disparaging remarks about this
"insignificant little island." Do you realize that this same
"insignificant little island" is four times bigger than Scotland, and
that it has under its dominion a large section of Labrador? If, as the
local people say, "God made the world in five days, made Labrador on
the sixth, and spent the seventh throwing stones at it," then a goodly
portion of those stones landed by mischance in St. Antoine. Indeed, Le
Petit Nord and Labrador are so much alike in climate, people, and
conditions that this part of the island is often designated locally as
Labrador (never has it been my lot to see a more desolate, bleak, and
barren spot). The traveller who described Newfoundland as a country
composed chiefly of ponds with a little land to divide them from the
sea, at least cannot be impeached for unveracity. In this northern
part even that little is rendered almost impenetrable in the
summer-time by the thick under-brush, known as "tuckamore," and the
formidable swarms of mosquitoes and black flies. All the inhabitants
live on the coast, and the interior is only travelled over in the
winter with komatik and dogs.

No, I am _not_ living in the midst of Indians or Eskimos. Please be
good enough to scatter this information broadcast, for each letter
from England reveals the fear that I am in imminent danger of being
scalped alive or buried in an igloo. There are a few scattered Eskimos
on Le Petit Nord, but for the most part the inhabitants are whites and
half-breeds. The Indians live almost entirely in the interior of
Labrador and the Eskimos around the Moravian stations. I am living
amongst the descendants of the fishermen of Dorset and Devon who came
out about two hundred years ago and settled on this coast for the
cod-fishery. Those who live in the south are comparatively well off,
but many in the north are in great poverty and often on the verge of
starvation.

When I look about me and see this poverty, the ignorance born of lack
of opportunity, the suffering, the dirt, and degradation which are in
so large a measure no fault of these poor folk, I am overwhelmed at
the wealth of opportunities. Here at least every talent one has to
offer counts for double what it would at home.

Thousands of fishermen come from the south each spring to take part in
the summer's fishery. The Labrador "liveyeres," who remain on the
coast all the year round, often have only little one-roomed huts made
of wood and covered with sods. In the winter the northern people move
up the bays and go "furring." Both the Indians and Eskimos are
diminishing in numbers, and the former at the present time do not
amount to more than three or four thousand persons--and of these the
Montagnais tribe make up more than half. The Moravian missionaries
have toiled untiringly amongst the Eskimos, and assuredly not for any
earthly reward. They go out as young men and practically spend their
whole life on the coast, their wives being selected and sent out to
them from home!

The work of this Mission is among the white settlers. In the Home we
have only one pure Eskimo, a few half-breeds (Indians and Eskimo), and
the remainder are of English descent. Almost all are from Labrador.

I often fancy that I must surely have slept the sleep of Rip Van
Winkle. When he woke he found that the world had marched ahead a
hundred years. With me the process is reversed. I am almost inclined
to yield a grudging agreement to the transmigrationalists, and believe
that I am re-living one of my former existences. For the part of the
country in which I have awakened is a generation or so behind the
world in which we live. There is no education worthy of the name, in
many places no schools at all, and in others half-educated teachers
eking out a miserable existence on a mere pittance. This is chiefly
due to the antediluvian custom of dividing the Government educational
grant on a denominational basis. A large proportion of the people can
neither read nor write. There are no roads, no means of communication,
no doctors or hospitals (save the Mission ones), no opportunities for
improvement, no industrial work, practically no domestic animals, and
on Labrador, taxation without representation! There is only one
hospital provided by the Government for the whole of this island, and
that one is at St. John's, which is inaccessible to these northern
people for the greater part of the year. No provision whatever is made
by the Government for hospitals for the Labrador. Again the only ones
are those maintained by this Mission. Lack of education, lack of
opportunity, and abundance of overwhelming poverty make up the lot of
the majority of people in this north part of the country. Little
wonder from their point of view, that one youth, returning to this
land after seeing others, declared that the man he desired above all
others to shoot was John Cabot, the discoverer of Newfoundland.



  _August 15_


You complain that I have told you almost nothing about these children,
and you want to know what they are like. And I wish you to know, so
that you will stop sending dolls to Mary who is sixteen, and cakes of
scented soap to David who hates above all else to be washed. I find
these children very difficult in some ways; many of them are mentally
deficient, but it appears that no provision is made by the Government
for dealing with such cases, and so there is nothing to do but take
them in or let them starve. Some are very wild and none have the
slightest idea of obedience when they first arrive.

  [Illustration: TOPSY'S AMBITION IS TO BECOME LIKE A FAT PIG]

One girl I have christened "Topsy," and I only wish you could see her
when she is in one of her tantrums, which she has at frequent
intervals. With her flashing black eyes, straight, jet-black hair,
square, squat shoulders, she looks the very embodiment of the Evil
One. She is twelve, but shows neither ability nor desire to learn.
Her habits are disgusting, and unless closely watched she will be
found filling her pockets with the contents of the garbage pail--and
this in spite of the fact that we are no longer dining off one
herring. She says that her ambition in life is to become like a fat
pig! Last night, when the children were safely tucked in bed and I
had sat down to write to you, piercing shrieks were heard resounding
through the stillness of the house. A tour of investigation revealed
Topsy creeping from bed to bed in the darkness, pretending to cut the
throats of the girls with a large carving-knife which she had stolen
for this purpose. To-day Topsy is going around with her hands tied
behind her back as a punishment, and in the hope that without the use
of her hands we may have one day of peace at least. Poor Topsy,
kindness and severity alike seem unavailing. She steals and lies with
the greatest readiness, and one wonders what life holds in store for
her.

  [Illustration: TOPSY WAS CREEPING FROM BED TO BED WITH THE
  CARVING-KNIFE]

We have just admitted three children, so we now number more than the
three dozen. One little mite of five was found last winter in a
Labrador hut, deserted, half-starved, and nearly frozen to death. She
was kept by a kindly neighbour until the ice conditions allowed of her
being brought here. The other two, brother and sister, were found, the
girl clothed in a sack, her one and only garment, and the boy in bed,
minus even that covering. This is the type of child who comes to us.

The doctor in charge has just paid me a visit. He says there is an
epidemic of smallpox in the island, and he wants all the children to
be vaccinated. The number of cases of smallpox this year in this
"insignificant little island" is greater _pro rata_ than in any other
country of the world. So two o'clock this afternoon is the time set
apart for the massacre of the innocents.

The laugh is against me! Two of our boys fell ill with a mysterious
sickness, and tenderly and carefully were they nursed by me and fed
with delicate portions from the king's table. I later learned with
much chagrin that "chewing tobacco" (strictly forbidden) was the cause
of this sudden onset. My sense of humour alone saved the situation for
them!



  _The Children's Home
  August 19_


In response to my frantic cables your box reached here safely, but it
has not reached me. Picture if you can my amazed incredulity yesterday
to see an exact replica of myself as I once was, walking on the dock.
I rubbed my eyes and stared. Yes, it _was_ my purple gown. My first
impulse was to jerk it off the culprit, but I decided on more
diplomatic tactics. A very little detective work elucidated the
mystery. You had addressed the box in care of the Mission, thinking
doubtless, in your far-sighted, Scotch way, that if sent to an
individual, the said individual would have duty to pay. Knowing all
too well the chronic state of my pocket-book, you anticipated untoward
complications. Now, none of the Mission staff pay duties. The contents
of the box were mistaken for reinforcements for the charity clothing
store, and to-day my purple chambray gown, "to memory dear," walks
the street on another. _Sic transit_. I should add that one of the
modernists of our harbour has chosen it. The old conservatives regard
our collarless necks and abbreviated skirts with horror. What with the
loss _en route_ of several necessary articles of apparel, and the
discovery of this further depletion of my wardrobe, I regard the
oncoming winter with some misgivings.

One of the crew on the Northern Light, _alias_ the Prophet, so-called
because he is spirit brother to the Prophet of Doom, took a keen
relish in my discomfiture, or I fancied he did. He it was who put the
question in the doctor's Bible class, "Is it religious to wear
overalls to church?" The house officer had carefully saved a pair of
clean khaki trousers to honour the Sunday services, but in the local
judgment they were no fit garment for the Lord's house. Local
judgment, I may add, was not so drastic in its strictures on boudoir
caps. Some very pretty ones came to service on the heads of the choir,
but the verdict was a unanimously favourable one. A nomadic _Ladies'
Home Journal_ was responsible for their origin.

  [Illustration: THE PROPHET OF DOOM]

"Out of the mouths of babes," etc. I have been trying to teach the
little ones the thirteenth chapter of Corinthians. Whilst undressing
Solomon the other night I had occasion, or it seemed to me that I had,
to speak somewhat sharply to one of the others. When I turned my
attention again to Solomon, he enunciated solemnly in his baby tones,
"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not
love, I am become as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal."

You complain most unjustly that I do not give a chronological account
of events. I give you the incidents which punctuate my days, and as
for the background, nothing could be simpler than to fill it in.

To divert your mind from such adverse criticism, let me tell you that
there is a strong suspicion abroad that I am a devout adherent of the
Roman Church. Rumours of this have been coming to me from time to
time, but I determined to withhold the news till its source was less
in question. Now I have it on the undeniable authority of the
Prophet. I have candles, lighted ones, on the dining-room table at
dinner. _Post hoc, propter hoc_--and what further proof is needed!

  [Illustration: ANANIAS HAS BROKEN YET ANOTHER WINDOW]

Ananias has broken yet another window. When I questioned him as to
when the deed had been committed, he replied politely, but mournfully,
that he really could not tell me how many YEARS ago it was,
as if I were seeking to unearth some long undiscovered crime.



  _August 25_


The other day Topsy had the misfortune to fall out of bed and hit her
two front teeth such a violent blow on the iron bar of the cot beside
hers that bits of ivory flew about the dormitory. This necessitated a
prompt matutinal visit to Dr. B., the dentist. As we waited our turn
in the Convalescent Room, I overheard one patient-to-be remark to his
neighbour, "They do be shockin' hard on us poor sailors. They says
I've got to take a bath when I comes into hospital. Why, B'y, I hasn't
had a bath since my mother washed me!"

The ethics of dentistry here are so mixed that one needs a Solomon to
disentangle them. Mrs. "Uncle Life"--her husband is Uncle
Eliphalet--recently had all her teeth pulled out, or, to be more
accurate, all her remaining teeth. As the operation involved
considerable time, labour, and novocaine, she was charged for the
benefit of the hospital. When two shining sets, uppers and lowers,
were ready for her, she was as pleased as a boy with his first
jack-knife; but not so Uncle Life. He considered it a work of
supererogation that not only must one pay to have the old teeth
removed, but for the new ones to replace them.

Did I ever write you about our chambermaid's feet--the new one? Her
name is Asenath, and she is so perfectly spherical that if you were to
start her rolling down a plank she could no more stop than can those
humpty-dumpty weighted dolls. 'Senath's temper is exemplary, and her
intentions of the best; in fact, she will turn into a model maid.

But the process of turning is in progress at the moment. It began with
our cook, a pattern of neatness and all the virtues, coming into my
office and complaining, "One of us'll have to go, miss."

"What? Which?" I enquired, dazed by the abruptness of this decision,
and wondering whether she were referring to me.

"This morning, miss, you know how hot it was? Well, 'Senath comes into
the kitchen and says to me, 'Tryphena, I finds my feet something
wonderful.' 'Wash them, and change your stockings,' I says. 'Wash
them! Why, Tryphena, I'se feared to do that. I might get a chill as
would strike in.'"

In a few well-chosen sentences I have explained to 'Senath the basic
rules of hygiene and of this house regarding water and its uses. She
has decided to stay and accept the inevitable weekly bath, but she
warns me fairly that if she goes "into a decline," I must take the
responsibility with her parents!

With your zeal for gardens, and your attachment to angle-worms--which
you will recall I do not share--you would be interested in our efforts
along these lines--the gardens, not the worms. In this climate a
garden is a lottery, and in ten seasons to one a spiteful summer
frost will fall upon the promising potatoes and kill the lot just as
they are ripening. The Eskimos at the Moravian stations put their
vegetal charges to bed each night with long covers over the rows. The
other day, in an old journal about the country, I came upon this
passage, and it struck me "How history does repeat itself." It runs:
"The soyle along the coast is not deep of earth, but bringing forth
abundantly peason small, peason which our countrymen have sowen have
come up faire, of which our Generall had a present acceptable for the
rarenesse, being the first fruits coming up by art and industrie in
that desolate and dishabited land." I can assure you that the sight of
a "peason," however small, if it did not come out of a tin can, would
be an acceptable offering to your friend. Even in summer we get no
fresh vegetables or fruits with the exception of occasional lettuce or
local berries. The epitome of this spot is a tin! In the same old
journal Whitbourne goes on to say that "Nature had recompensed that
only defect and incommoditie of some sharpe cold by many
benefits--with incredible quantitie and no less varietie of kindes of
fish in the sea and fresh water, of trouts and salmons and other fish
to us unknowen."

I have eaten fish (interspersed liberally with tinned stuff) and
drunken fish and thought and spoken and dreamt fish ever since I
arrived. But don't pity me for imaginary hardships. I like fish better
than I do meat, and for that matter our winter meat supply is walking
past my window this minute. He goes by the name of "Billy the Ox"; and
I am informed that as soon as it begins to freeze, he is to be killed
and frozen _in toto_, for the winter consumption of the staff,
patients, and children. So our winter is not to consist of one long
Friday.



  _August 28_


You already know the worst about my leanings to Papacy; but to-day I
propose to set your mind at rest on an idea with which you have
hypnotized yourself--namely, that I am going to die of malnutrition
during what you are pleased to term the "long Arctic winter." I have
no intention of starving, and as for the "long Arctic winter," I do
not believe there is any such beast, as the farmer said when he looked
at the kangaroo in the circus.

I was sitting by my window quietly sewing the other day (that sentence
alone should reveal to you how many miles I have travelled from your
tutelage) when I overheard one of the children stoutly defending what
I took at first to be my character. The next sentence disabused me--it
was my figure under discussion.

"She's not fat!" averred Topsy. "I'll smack you if you says it
again."

"Well," muttered David, the light of reason being thus forcibly borne
in upon him, "she may not be 'zactly fat, but she's fine and hearty."

  [Illustration: NOT FAT, BUT FINE AND HEARTY]

If this is the case, and my mirror all too plainly confirms the
verdict, and the summer has not waned, what will the "last estate of
that woman be," after the winter has passed over her? They tell me
that every one here puts on fat in the cold weather as a kind of
windproof jacket. I enclose a photograph of me on landing, so you may
remember me as I was.

No, you need not worry either over communications in the winter. You
really ought to have an intimate acquaintance with our telegraph
service, after you have, so to speak, subsidized it during the past
three months. It runs in winter as well as summer; and I see no
prospect of its closing if you keep it on such a sound financial
basis. Moreover, the building is devoted to the administration of the
law in all its branches. One half of it is the post and telegraph
office, while the other serves as the jail. The whole structure is
within a stone's throw of the church and school, as if the corrective
institutions of the place believed in intensive cultivation. But to
return to the jail. The walls are very thin, and every sound from it
can be plainly heard in the telegraph office adjoining. Friday morning
the operator, a capable and long-suffering young woman, came over to
complain to the doctor that she really found it impossible to carry
out the duties of her office, if the feeble-minded Delilah Freak was
to be incarcerated only six inches distant from her ear. It seems
that Delilah spends her days yelling at the top of her lungs, and Miss
Dennis states that she prefers to take telegraphic messages down in
competition with the mail steamer's winch rather than with Delilah's
"bawling."

  [Illustration: DELILAH BAWLING]

I know all about competition in noises after trying to write in this
house. The ceilings are low and thin, and the walls are near and thin,
and the children are omnipresent and not thin, and their wants and
their joys and their quarrels are as numerous as the fishes in the
sea, and there you have the problem in a nutshell.

Now I must "hapse the door," and hie me to bed. As a matter of fact
the people here are far too honest for us to lock the doors. Such a
thing as theft is unheard of. Some may call it uncivilized. I call it
the millennium!



  _August 31_


I believe that the writer who described the climate of this country as
being "nine months snow and three months winter" was not far from the
truth. In June the temperature of our rooms registered just above
freezing point, in July we were enveloped in continuous fog, and in
August we are having snow.

Such a tragic event has occurred. Our lettuce has been eaten by the
Mission cow! You know how hard it is to get anything to grow here.
Well, after having nearly killed ourselves in making a square inch of
ground into something resembling a bed, we had watched this lettuce
grow from day to day as the little green shoots struggled bravely
against the frost and cold. Then a few nights ago I was awakened by
the tinkle of a bell beneath my window. Hastily flinging on wrapper
and shoes I fled to save our one and only ewe lamb. But all the
morning light revealed was a desperate cold in the head, and an empty
bed from which the glory had departed.

Topsy has just been amusing herself by turning on the corridor taps to
watch the water run downstairs! Oh! Topsy,

      "'Tis thine to teach us what dull hearts forget
    How near of kin we are to springing flowers."

News has just reached us that the mail boat from St. Barbe to St.
Antoine has gone ashore on the rocks and is a total wreck. Happily no
lives were lost, but unhappily wrecks are of such frequent occurrence
on this dangerous coast as to excite little comment.

Drusilla, aged five, has been to my door to enquire if the children
may play with their dolls in the house. I believe in open-air
treatment, so I replied with kindness, but firmly withal, that "out of
doors" was the order of the day. I was a little electrified to hear
her return to the playroom and announce that "Teacher says you are to
go out, every darned one of you!" I was equally electrified the other
day to overhear Drusilla enquiring of her fellow philosophers which
they liked the best, "Teacher, the Doctor, or the Lord Jesus Christ."

In the midst of writing to you I was called away to interview a young
man from the other side of the harbour. He wanted me to give him some
of the milk used in the Home, for his baby, as at the hospital they
could only furnish him with canned milk, guaranteed by the label, he
claimed, to give "typhoid, diphtheria, and scarlet fever"!



  _September 7_


It is a windy, rainy night, and I have told Topsy, who has a cold,
that she cannot come with us to church. After a wild outburst of anger
she was heard to mutter that "Teacher wouldn't let her go to church
because she was afraid she would get too good."

The fall of the year is coming on and the evenings are made wonderful
by two phenomena--the departure of the cannibalistic flies, and the
Northern lights. Twice at home I remember seeing an attenuated aurora
and thinking it wonderful. No words can describe this display on these
crisp and lovely nights. There is a tang and snap in the air, and the
earth beneath and the heavens above seem vibrating with unearthly
life. The Eskimos say that the Northern lights are the spirits of the
dead at play, but I like to think of them, too, as the translated
souls of the icebergs which have gone south and met a too warm and
watery death in the Gulf Stream. Certainly all the colours of those
lovely monarchs of the North are reflected dimly in the heavens. The
lights move about so constantly that one fancies that the soul of the
berg, freed at last from its long prison, is showing the astonished
worlds of what it is capable. The odd thing was that when I first saw
them on a clear night, the stars shone through them, only they looked
like Coleridge's "wan stars which danced between."

I can vouch for the truth of another "sidelight," though from only one
experience. One night last week, clear and frosty, I had just gone to
my room at about eleven o'clock when the doctor called me to come out
and "hear the lights." I thought surely I must have misunderstood, but
on reaching the balcony and listening, I could distinctly hear the
swish of the "spirits" as they rushed across the sky. It sounds like a
diminished silk petticoat which has lost its blatancy, but retains
its personality.

Little did I realize at the time my good fortune in arriving here in
daylight. It seems that it is the invariable habit of all coastal
steamers to reach here at night, and dump the dumbly resenting
passengers in the darkness into the tiny punts which cluster around
the ship's side. Since my arrival every single boat has appeared
shortly before midnight, or shortly after. In either case it means
that the men of the Mission must work all night landing patients and
freight, and the next day there is a chastened and sleepy community to
meet the forthcoming tasks. It is especially hard on the hospital
folk, for the steamer only takes about twenty hours to go to the end
of her run and return, and they try and send those cases which do not
have to be admitted back by the same boat on her southern journey.
This means an all-night clinic. But I can say to the credit of the
patients and staff that I have never heard one word of complaint.
That is certainly a charming feature about this life. There are plenty
of things to growl about, but one is so reduced to essentials that the
ones selected are of more importance than those which afford such
fruitful topics in civilization.

I have just overheard Gabriel informing the other children that "Satan
was once an angel, but he got real saucy, so God turned him out of
heaven." Paradise Lost in a sentence!

The night after the audible lights a furious rain and wind storm broke
over us. No wonder the trees have such a struggle for existence, if
these storms are frequent. They do not last long, but they are the
real thing while they are in progress. I used to smile when I was told
that the Home was riveted with iron bolts to the solid bedrock, but
that night when I lay wide awake, combating an incipient feeling of
_mal de mer_ as my bed rocked with the force of the gale, I thanked
the fates for the foresight of the builders. Never before had I
believed in the tale of the church having been blown bodily into the
harbour; but during those wild hours of darkness I was certain at each
succeeding gust that we were going to follow its example.

Dawn--a pale affair looking out suspiciously on the chastened
world--broke at last, and I "histed" my window (to quote the estimable
'Senath). The rain had stopped. The cheated wind was whistling around
the corners of the old wooden buildings, and taking out its spite on
any passers-by who must venture forth to work. The harbour, usually so
peaceful and so sheltered, was lashed into a cauldron of boiling white
foam, and the rocks were swept so clean that they at least had
"shining morning faces."

I dressed quickly and ran down to the wharf to enquire as to the
health of the Northern Light. The first person I met was the Prophet.
He was positively elate. If I were a pantheist I should think him a
relative of the northeast wind. The storm of the previous night had
been exactly to his liking. All his worst prognostications had been
fulfilled, and quite a bit thrown in _par dessus le marché_. He told
me that a tiny, rickety house across the harbour had first been
unroofed, and then one of the walls blown in. It is a real disaster
for the family, for they are poor enough without having Kismet thus
descend upon them.

The hospital boat had held on safely, but several little craft were
driven ashore. Naturally the children love the aftermath of such an
event, for the world is turned for them into one large, entrancing
puddle, bordered with embryo mud pies.

Topsy again! I am informed that she has tried to convert her Sunday
best into a hobble skirt, reducing it in the process to something
hopelessly ludicrous. It can never, never be worn again.

My arm aches and I cannot decide whether it is from much orphan
scrubbing or from much writing, but in either case I must bid you _au
revoir_.



  _September 25_


Last night I was awakened by a terrific noise proceeding from the
lower regions. Armed with my umbrella, the only semblance of a stick
within reach, I descended on a tour of investigation. Opening the
larder door I beheld six huge dogs, and devastation reigning supreme.
These dogs are half wolf in breed, and very destructive, as I can
testify. When I wildly brandished my umbrella, which could not
possibly have harmed them, they jumped through the closed window
leaving not a pane of glass behind. This, I suppose, is merely a
nocturnal interlude to break the monotony of life in a country which
boasts no burglars.

The children attend the Mission school, and yesterday Topsy was sent
home in dire disgrace for lying and cheating. She is not to be
permitted to return until she is willing to confess and apologize. She
thereupon tried to commit suicide by swallowing paper pellets, and in
the night the doctor had to be called in to prescribe. She is white
and wan to-day, but when I went in to bid her good-night I found her
thrilling over a new prayer which she had learned, and which she
repeated to me with deep emotion:

    "Little children, be ye wise,
    Speak the truth and tell no lies.
    The LORD'S portion is to dwell
    Forever in the flames of hell."

I want to tell you something about our babies. They are four in
number. David, aged five, considers himself quite a big boy, and a
leader of the others. His father was frozen to death in Eskimo Bay
some years ago whilst hunting food for his family. Although David is
always boasting of his strength and the superior wisdom of his years,
yet he is really very tiny for his age. He is a delightful little
optimist, who announces cheerfully after each failure to do right that
he is "going to be good all the time now," to which we add the mental
reservation, "until next time." He is the proud possessor of a Teddy
bear. This long-suffering animal was a source of great pleasure until
a short time ago when David started making a first-hand investigation
to find out where the "squeak" came from--an investigation which ended
disastrously for the bear, however it may have furthered the cause of
science.

Last month I went to Nameless Cove to fetch to the Home a little boy
of three, of whom I have already written you. Nameless Cove is about
twelve miles west of St. Antoine. I have never seen such a wretched
hovel--a one-roomed log hut, completely destitute of furniture. The
door was so low I had to bend almost double to enter. A rough shelf
did duty for a bed, upon which lay an old bedridden man, while at the
other end lay a sick woman with a child beside her, and crouched below
was an idiot daughter. Altogether nine persons lived in this hut,
eight adults and this one boy. Ananias is an illegitimate child, and
has lived with these grandparents since his mother lost her reason and
was removed to the asylum at St. John's. The child was almost
destitute of clothing, and covered with vermin. He has the face of a
seraph, and a voice that lisps out curses with the fluency of a
veteran trooper. Ananias is David's shadow; he follows him everywhere,
and echoes all his words as if they were gems of wisdom, far above
rubies. Indeed, when David has ceased speaking, one waits
involuntarily for Ananias to begin in his shrill treble tones. He is a
hopeless child to correct, for when you imagine you are scolding him
very severely, and you look for the tears of penitence to flow, he
puts up his little face with an angelic smile, and lisps, "Tiss me."

Drusilla, whose slight acquaintance you have already made, is three
and comes from Savage Cove. The father has gradually become blind and
the mother is crippled. Drusilla keeps us all on the alert, for we
never know what she will be doing next. On Sunday mornings she is put
to rest with the other little ones while we are at church. On
returning last Sunday I found that she had secured a box of white
ointment (thought to be quite beyond her reach), and with her
toothbrush painted one side of the baby's face white, which with her
other rosy cheek gave her the appearance of a clown. Not content with
portrait painting, Drusilla then turned her energies to house
decoration, the result attained on the wall being entirely to the
satisfaction of the artist, as was evidenced by the proud smile with
which our outcry was greeted.

The real baby is Beulah, just two years, and she exercises her gentle
but despotic sway over all, from the least to the greatest. She is
continually upsetting the standard of neatness which was once the
glory of this Home, by sprawling on the floors, dragging after her a
headless doll with sawdust oozing from every pore. A dilapidated
bunny and several mangled pictures complete the procession. It is
hopeless to protest, for she just looks as if she could not understand
how any one could object to such priceless treasures. She awakens us
at unconscionable hours in the morning, when all reasonable beings are
still sleeping the sleep of the just, and keeps up a perpetual chatter
interspersed with highly dangerous gymnastic feats upon her bed.

Can you find any babies throughout the British Isles to match mine?



  _October 20_


Since last I wrote you we have had a very strenuous time in the Home;
the entire family has been down with measles. Then when that was over
and the children well, the sewing maid, whom I had engaged shortly
after my arrival, gave notice, shook the dust from her feet, and I was
left single-handed. It took the whole of my time to keep these
forty-odd infants fed, clothed, and washed, and I had no leisure to
write to you even at "scattered times." It seemed to me that the
appetites of these _enfants terribles_ grew abnormally, that their
clothes rent asunder with lightning-like rapidity, and that they fell
into mud heaps with even greater facility than usual. It was sometimes
a delicate problem to decide which of many pressing duties had the
prior claim. Whether to try and feed the hungry (the kitchen range
having sprung a leak), to start to repair two hundred odd garments
(the weekly mend), or to resuscitate one of the babies (just rescued
from the reservoir). At such times I would wonder if I were somewhere
near attaining to that state of experience when I should be able to
appreciate your alluring phrase, "the fun of mothering an orphanage."

I must begin and tell you now about the children we have received
since my last letter. Mike, aged eight, came to us from St. Barbe
Hospital, as he had no home to which he could return. Incidentally it
takes the entire staff to keep this boy moderately tidy, for he and
his garments have an unfortunate inclination to part asunder, and we
are kept in constant apprehension for the credit of the Orphanage. But
Mike, whether with his clothes or without, always turns up smiling and
on excellent terms with himself, entirely regardless of the mental
torture we endure as he comes into view. Indeed, the wider apart are
his garments, the broader is his smile. He weeps quietly each night as
we wash him, for that is a work of supererogation for which he has at
present no use.

Deborah and her brother Gabriel were here when I came. Their ages are
eleven and five, and they come from the far north. Deborah was in the
Mission Hospital at Iron Bound Islands for some time as the result of
a burning accident. While trying to lift a pan of dog-food from the
stove she upset the scalding contents over her legs. Her elder brother
had to drive her eighteen miles on a komatik to the hospital, and the
poor child must have suffered greatly. Gabriel is a very naughty, but
equally lovable child. He is never out of mischief, but he is always
very penitent for his misdeeds--afterwards! His bent is towards
theology, and he speaks with the authority of an ancient divine on all
matters pertaining thereto, and with an air of finality which brooks
no argument. When some one was being given the priority in point of
age over me, he was heard to indignantly exclaim that "Jesus and
Teacher are the oldest people in the world." He is no advocate for the
equality of the sexes, and closes all discussion on equal rights by
explaining that "God made the boys and Jesus the girls."

Our fast-coming winter is sending its harbingers, seen and unseen,
into our harbour. Chief among these one notices the assertiveness of
the dogs. All through the summer they slink pariah-like about the
place, eating whatever they can pick up, and seeking to keep their
miserable existence as much in the background as possible. Now the
winter is approaching, and it is "their little day." Mrs. Uncle Life
can testify to the fact that they are not wholly suppressed when it is
not "their little day." Last summer she found no less important a
personage than the leader of the team in her bed. Her newly baked
"loaf" was lying on the pantry shelf before the open window. Whiskey
(this place is strictly prohibition, but every team boasts its
"Whiskey") leaped in, made a satisfying banquet off her bread, and
then forced open the door into her bedroom adjoining the pantry. He
found it a singularly barren field for adventure, but after his
unaccustomed hearty meal the bed looked tempting. He was found there
two hours later placidly asleep.

  [Illustration: MRS. UNCLE LIFE FOUND THE LEADER OF THE TEAM IN HER
  BED]

The children are looking forward to Christmas and are already writing
letters to Santa Claus, which are handed to me with great secrecy to
mail to him. I once watched the little ones playing at Christmas with
an old stump of a bush to which they attached twigs as gifts and
gravely distributed them to one another. When I saw one mite handing a
dead twig to a smaller edition of himself, and announcing in a lordly
fashion that it was a PIANO, I realized what Father Christmas
was expected to be able to produce.



  _November 1_


My world is transformed into fairyland. Light snow has fallen during
the night, and every "starigan," every patch of "tuckamore" is "decked
in sparkling raiment white." As I was dressing I looked out of my
window, and for the first time in my life saw a dog team and komatik
passing.

The day was full of adventure. For the children the snow meant only
rejoicing; but as the highway was as slippery as glass, and the older
folk had not yet got their "winter legs," there were many minor
casualties. Mrs. Uncle Life, aged seventy and small and spherical,
solved the problem of the hills by sitting down and sliding. She
commended the method to me, saying that it served very well on week
days, but was lamentably detrimental to her Sunday best.

Ananias is developing fast and bids fair to rival Topsy. He has a
mania for eating anything and everything, and what he cannot eat, he
destroys. Within the past few weeks he has swallowed the arm of his
Teddy bear, half a cake of soap, and a tube of tooth-paste. He has
also bitten through two new hot-water bottles. During the short time
he has been here he has broken more windows than any other child in
the Home. If he thinks politeness will save the day, he says in the
sweetest way possible, "Excuse me, Teacher, for doing it"; but if he
sees by my face that retribution is swift and sure, he says in the
most pathetic of tones, "Teacher, I have a pain."

  [Illustration: "TEACHER, I HAVE A PAIN"]

I must make you acquainted with our "Yoho." Every well-regulated
fishing village has one, but we have to thank our neighbour, the
Eskimo, for the picturesque name. In our more prosaic parlance it is
plain "ghost." Many years ago when the Mission was in need of a
building in which to accommodate some of its workers, it purchased a
house belonging to a local trader by the name of Isaac Spouseworthy.
This made an admirable Guest House; but it has since fallen into
disuse for its original purpose, and is being employed as a temporary
repository for the clothing sent for the poor, till the fine new
storehouse shall have been built. This old Guest House has been
selected by our local apparition as a place of visitation. It is
affirmed, on the incontrovertible testimony of the Prophet and no
inconsiderable following, that the spirit returns of an evening to the
old house he built forty years ago, to wander through the familiar
rooms. The villagers see lights there nightly; and though all our
investigation has failed to reveal any presence (barring the rats),
bodily or otherwise, the bravest of them would hesitate many a long
minute before he would enter the haunted spot after nightfall. Rumour
has it that the Guest House is built on the site of an old French
cemetery. Our "irrepressible Ike" therefore cannot lack for society,
though how congenial it is cannot be determined. Judging from the
records of the ceaseless rows between the French and English on Le
Petit Nord, there must be some lively nights in ghostland.

The doctor suggested that if a burglar wished to steal the clothing,
this spook would be his most effective accomplice, but such tortuous
psychology has failed to satisfy the fishermen. To them we seem
callous souls, to whom the spirit world is alien. This ghostly
encroachment on our erstwhile quiet domain has had more than one
inconvenient result. The Mission is very short of houses for its
workmen, and was planning to rebuild and put in order a part of this
now haunted domicile for one family. The man for whom it was destined
now refuses to live there, as his children have vetoed the idea. In
this land the word of the rising generation is law, and this refusal
is therefore final.

The children of this North Country are given what they wish and when
and how. Naturally the results of such a policy are serious. There are
many cases of hopeless cripples about here who refused to go to
hospital for treatment when their trouble was so slight that it could
have been rectified. Now the children must look forward to a life of
disability through their parents' short-sightedness. But when I think
of what it means to these poor women to have perhaps ten children to
care for, and all the rest of the work of the house and garden on
their shoulders, I cannot wonder that their motto is "peace at any
price."

Spirits might be called the outstanding feature of our harbour, for
the Piquenais rocks at the very entrance are the abode of another
familiar _revenant_. The Prophet assures me that thirty years ago a
vessel and crew were wrecked there, and on every succeeding stormy
evening since that day, the captain, with creditable perseverance,
waves his light on that wind-and surf-swept rock. In this instance the
prophetical authority is in dispute, for there are those who assert
that the light is shown by fairies to toll boats to their doom on the
foggy point. The more scientifically minded explain the mysterious
light as a defunct animal giving out gas. It must be a persistent gas
which can retain its efficacy for thirty long and adventurous years.

  [Illustration: THE YOHO]

In the course of these researches several interesting points of
natural history and science have been elucidated. Doubtless you do not
know that all cats are related to the devil, but you can readily see
the brimstone in their fur if you have the temerity to rub them on a
dusky evening. Neither has it come to your attention that under no
consideration must you allow the water in which potatoes have been
washed to run over your hands. In the latter event, warts innumerable
will result.

Our cook has just come in with the news that supper is not to be
forthcoming. 'Senath was left in charge while Tryphena went on an
errand for me. Left-over salad was to have formed the basis of the
evening meal, but the said basis has now disintegrated, 'Senath having
placed the dish in a superheated oven. The nature of the resultant
object is indeterminate, but uneatable. I solace myself that
sanctified starvation will be beneficial to my "fine and hearty"
figure.

We have suffered again with the dogs. One of the children's birthdays
fell on Saturday, and we decided to give the whole "crew" ice-cream to
fittingly celebrate the event. It was made in good time and put out to
keep cool in what we took to be a safe spot. The party preceding the
_pièce de résistance_ was in full swing when an ominous disturbance
was detected from the direction of the woodshed. Investigation
revealed two angry dogs alternately snarling at each other and
devouring the last lick of the treat. The catholicity of canine taste
was no solace to the aggrieved assembly.

The children have lately been making excursions into the theological
field. The latest problem brought to me for settlement was, "Does God
live in the Methodist Church?" Truly a two-horned dilemma. If I said
"yes" the anthropomorphic teaching was undoubted; while if the answer
were in the negative I should be guilty of fostering the abominable
denominational spirit which ruins this land. My reply must have been
unconvincing, for I overheard the children later deciding, the
Methodist Church having been barred as a place of residence, that the
attic was the only remaining possibility. It is the one spot in the
Home unvisited by them, and therefore "unseen."

Unseemly altercations have summoned me to the kitchen, and I return to
close this over-long chronicle. I was met there by Tryphena, a large
sheet in her hands, and an accusing expression on her face which
stamped her as a family connection of the Prophet's.

"It's not my fault, miss," she began.

"No, Tryphena? Well, whose is it, and what is it?"

"Look at that sheet, miss, a new one. 'Senath was ironing, and had
folded it just ready to put away. Then she suddenly wants a drink, so
she goes off leaving the iron in the middle of the sheet. Half an hour
later she remembers. When she got back, of course the iron had burnt
its way straight through all the layers."

Aside from destruction, in what direction would you say that 'Senath's
forte did lie?



  _November 17_


I have received your letter with its pointed remarks about the long
delays of the mail-carrier. I consider them both unnecessary and
unkind. But as David would say, "I am going to be good all the time
now."

We have this moment returned from church, to which the children love
to go; it is the great excitement of the week. They sit very quietly,
except Topsy, but how much they understand I cannot say. The people
sing with deliberation, each syllable being made to do duty for three,
to prolong the enjoyment--or the agony--according as your musical
talent decides. Frequently there is no one to play the instrument, and
the hymns are started several times, until something resembling the
right pitch is struck. Sometimes a six-line hymn will be started to a
common metre tune, and all goes swimmingly until the inevitable crash
at the end of the fourth line. But nothing daunted, we try and try
again. I have supplied our smiling-faced cherubs with hymn books in
order that

    "Their voices may in tune be found
    Like David's harp of solemn sound"

--excuse the adaptation. This morning the service was particularly
dreary. Hymn after hymn started to end in conspicuous failure,
followed by an interminable discourse on the sufferings of the damned.
But we ended cheerfully by warbling forth the joys of heaven--

    "Where congregations ne'er break up
      And Sabbaths never end!"

Last week we had a thrilling event; one of the girls formerly in this
Home was married, and we all went to the wedding, even the little tots
who are too young for regular services. They afterwards told me they
would like to go on Sundays, so I imagine they think the marriage
ceremony a regular item of Divine worship. Alas! I almost disgraced
myself when the clergyman solemnly announced to the intending bride
and bridegroom that the holy estate of matrimony had been "ordained of
God for the persecution of children"!

       *       *       *       *       *

How you would have laughed to see me the other night. The steamer
arrived at midnight, and as we were expecting some children I went
down to meet them. There were three little boys, Esau, Joseph, and
Nathan, eight, six, and four years of age. I bore them in triumph to
the bathroom, feeling that even at that late hour cleanliness should
be compulsory. But I soon desisted from my purpose and as quickly as
possible bundled the dirty children into my neat, snowy beds! They
kicked, they fought, they bit, they yelled and they swore! All my
sleeping innocents awoke at the noise and added their voices to the
confusion. I momentarily expected an in-rush of neighbours, and a
summons the following day for cruelty to children.

Uriah has come to inform me that he cannot "cleave the splits," as his
"stomach has capsized." I felt it incumbent to administer a dose of
castor oil, thinking that might be sufficient punishment for what I
had reason to believe was only a dodge to escape work. It was hard for
me to give the oil, but harder still to have the boy look up after it
with a quite cherubic smile, and ask if it were the same oil as Elisha
gave the widow woman!

Whatever can survive in this land of difficulties survives with a zeal
and vitality which only proves the strength of the obstacles overcome.
The flies, the mosquitoes, and the rats are proofs. We have none of
your meek little wharf rats here. Ours are brazen imps, sleek and
shameless, undaunted by cats or men. Their footmarks are as big as
those of young puppies (withal not too well-fed puppies), and their
raids on man and beast alike ally them with the horde Pandora loosed.
Each day the toll mounts. One morning Miss Perrin, the head nurse,
awakened to find one of her prize North Labrador boots gnawed to the
rim. All that remained to tell the tale was the bright tape by which
it was hung up, and the skin groove through which the tape threads.

  [Illustration: THEY ATE THE ENTIRE BOOT]

On the next occasion of their public appearance the night nurse was
summoned by agonized shrieks to the children's ward. A large rodent
had climbed upon Ishimay's bed and bitten her. There were the marks of
his teeth in her hand, and the blood was dripping. Nor do they limit
their depredations to the hospital. The barn man turned over a bale of
hay last week and disclosed no less than twenty-seven rats young and
old, fat and lean, though chiefly fat. I rejoice to record that this
galaxy at least has departed Purgatory-wards. The dentist left a whole
bag of clean linen on the floor of his bedroom. The morning following
he found that the raiders had eaten their way through the sack,
cutting a series of neat round holes in each folded garment as they
progressed. The scuffling and the squealing and the scraping and the
gnawing and the scratching of rats in the walls and cupboards are
worse than any phalanx of "Yohos" ever summoned from spookland! Oh!
Pied Piper of Hamelin, why tarry so long!



  _December 14_


The last boat of the season has come and gone and now we settle down
to the real life of the winter. Plans innumerable are under way for
winter activities, and the children are on tiptoe over the prospect of
approaching Christmastide. Their jubilations fill the house, and
writing is even more difficult than usual.

For days before the last steamer finally reached us there were
speculations as to her coming. Rumour, a healthy customer in these
parts, three times had it that she had gone back, having given up the
unequal contest with the ice. As all our Christmas mail was aboard
her, the atmosphere was tense. Then came the news from Croque that she
was there, busily unloading freight. Six hours later her smoke was
sighted, and from the yells my bairns set up, you would have thought
that the mythical sea serpent was entering port. She butted her way
into the standing harbour ice as far as she could get, and promptly
began discharging cargo. Teams of dogs sprang up seemingly out of the
snow-covered earth, and in a mere twinkling our frozen and silent
harbour was an arena of activity. The freight is dumped on the ice
over the ship's side with the big winch, and each man must hunt for
his own as it descends. Some of the goods are dropped with such a thud
that the packages "burst abroad." This is all very well if the
contents are of a solid and resisting nature; but if butter, or beans,
or such like receive the shock, most regrettable results ensue.

During the hours of waiting here she froze solidly into the ice, and
had to be blasted out before she could commence her journey to the
southward. She has taken the mails with her, and this letter must come
to you by dog team--your first by that method.

In the early part of this summer three little orphan girls came to us
from Mistaken Cove. Their names are Carmen, Selina, and Rachel, and
their ages, ten, seven, and five. Their father has been dead for some
years, and the mother recently died of tuberculosis. They did look
such a pathetic little trio when they first arrived. I went down to
the wharf to meet them, and three quaint little figures stepped from
the hospital boat, with dresses almost to their feet. Carmen held the
hands of her two sisters, and greeted me with "Are you the woman wot's
going to look after we?" I assured her that I hoped to perform that
function to the best of my ability, and then she confided to me that
she had brought with her a box containing her mother's dresses and her
mother's hair. I fancy the responsibility of the entire household must
have rested on Carmen's tiny shoulders; she is like a little old
woman, and even her voice is care-worn. I hunted up some dolls for the
two younger kiddies, but had not the courage to offer one to their
elder sister. She evidently felt that dolls were altogether too
precious for common use, and carefully explained to her charges that
they were only for Sundays! When I next went to the playroom it was to
find the three little sisters sitting solemnly in a row on the locker
with their dolls safely packed away beneath. I persuaded them that
dolls were not too good for "human nature's daily food," and since
then they have been supremely happy with their babies.

Carmen is so devoted to little Rachel that she cannot bear the thought
of her being in trouble. Rachel is very human, and in the brief time
she has been with us has had many falls from the paths of rectitude.

One day shortly after their arrival Rachel had been naughty, and I had
taken her upstairs to explain to her the enormity of her offence,
Carmen standing meanwhile at the bottom of the stairs wringing her
hands. When Rachel reappeared and announced that she had not even been
punished, Carmen was seen to give her a good slap on her own account,
although evidently well pleased that no one else had dared to touch
her child. Carmen is extremely religious, and her prayers at night are
lengthy and devout. She starts off with the Lord's Prayer, the
Apostles' Creed; several collects follow, and she concludes with a
"Hail Mary!"

You have already made the acquaintance of Billy the Ox, the now dear
departed, who constitutes our winter's frozen meat supply. Our
allotted portion of him is hung in the balcony outside my window.
Being on the second floor it was thought to be sanctuary from
marauders. Last night I was awakened by an uneasy feeling of a
presence entering my room. Starting up, I made out in the moonlight
the great tawny form of one of our biggest dogs. He was in the balcony
making so far futile leaps to secure a section of Billy. My shout
discouraged him, and he jumped off the roof to the snow beneath. He
had managed to scale the side of the house--but how? For some time I
was at a loss to discover, till I remembered a ladder which had been
placed perpendicularly against the wall on the other side. One of the
double windows had broken loose in a recent storm of wind, and the
barn man had had to go up and mend it. True to type he had left the
ladder _in statu quo_. Up master dog had climbed straight into the
air, along the slippery rungs of the ladder. When he reached the level
of the tempting odour, he had alighted on the balcony roof. Then,
pursuing the odour to its lair, he had discovered Billy, and me!

At breakfast I told my adventurette, and the story was instantly
capped with others. Only one shall you have. The doctor was away on a
travel last winter, and late one blustersome night came to a little
village. He happened to have a very beautiful leader of which he was
inordinately careful, so he asked his host for the night if he had a
shed into which he could put Spider out of the weather. "Why, to be
sure, just at the left of the door." It was dark and blowing, and the
doctor went outside and thrust the beastie into the only building in
sight. After breakfast he went with his host to get the dogs. When he
started to open the door of the shelter in which Spider was
incarcerated, the fisherman burst out in dismay, "You never put him in
there? That's where I keeps my only sheep." At that second the dog
appeared, a spherical and satisfied specimen. He had taken the
stranger in--completely.

  [Illustration: HE HAD TAKEN THE STRANGER IN]

The cold is intense, and to combat it in these buildings of green
lumber is a task worthy of Hercules. We make futile attempts to keep
the pipes from freezing; but the north wind has a new trump each
night. He squeezes in through every chink and cranny, and once inside
the house goes whistling malignantly through the chilly rooms and
corridors. We keep an oil stove burning in our bathroom at night with
a kettle of water on it ready for our morning ablutions. To-day, when
I went in to dress--one does not dress in one's bedroom, but waits in
bed till the bathroom door's warning slam informs that the coast is
clear--there was the stove still merrily burning, and there was the
kettle of water on it--FROZEN.

Next month there is to be a sale in Nameless Cove, twelve miles to the
westward of us. The doctor has asked me to attend. I accepted
delightedly, as twenty-four hours free from fear of rats and frozen
pipes draws me like a magnet. Moreover, who wouldn't be on edge if it
were one's first dog drive!

I found Gabriel crying bitterly in bed the other night because he had
in a fit of mischief thrown a stone at the Northern lights, which is
regarded as an act of impiety by the Eskimo people. It was some time
before I could pacify the child, or get him to believe that no dire
results would follow his dreadful deed. But at length when "comforting
time" was come for him, he consoled himself by supposing that Teacher
must be "stronger than the devil."



  _December 27_


I certainly was never born to be a teacher and it is something to
discover one's limitations. For several Sundays now I have been
labouring to instruct our little ones in the story of the birth of
Jesus, and I have repeated the details again and again in order to
impress them upon their wandering minds. Last Sunday I questioned
them, and finally asked triumphantly, "Well, David, who was the Babe
in the manger?" With a wild look round the room for inspiration, David
enunciated with swelling pride, "Beulah, Teacher."

We had a lovely time on Christmas. The night before the children hung
up their stockings, but it was midnight before I could get round to
fill them, they were so excited and wakeful. I "hied me softly to my
stilly couch," and was just dropping off into delicious slumber when
at 1 A.M. the strains of musical instruments (which you had
sent) were heard below. Then I appreciated to the full the sentiment
of that poet who sang:

    "Were children silent, we should half believe
    That joy were dead, its lamp would burn so low."

Later in the day we had our Christmas tree, when Topsy was overjoyed
at receiving her first doll. There is something very sweet about the
child in spite of all her wilful ways, and she is a real little mother
to her doll.

We had a great dinner, as you may imagine. I overheard some of the
little boys teasing Solomon, who is only three, to see if he would not
forgo some particular choice morsel upon his plate, to which an
emphatic "no" was always returned. Then by varying gradations of
importance came the question, would he give it to Teacher? The answer
not being considered satisfactory, Gabriel felt that the time had come
for the supreme test, Would Solomon give it to God and the angels? The
reply left so much to be desired that it is better unrecorded.

In our harbour lives a blind Frenchman, François Détier by name. He
came here in his youth to escape conscription. The fisher people have
travelled a long road since the old feuds which scarred the early
history of Le Petit Nord, and François is a much-loved member of the
community. Since the oncoming of the inoperable tumour, which little
by little has deprived him of his sight, the neighbours vie with each
other by helping him. One day a load of wood will find its way to his
door. The next a few fresh "turr," a very "fishy" sea auk, are left
ever so quietly inside his woodshed--and so it goes. It is a constant
marvel to me that these people, who live so perilously near the margin
of want, are always so eager to share up. François is sitting in our
cellar as I write pulling nails from old boxes with my new patent
nail-drawer. A moment ago I could not resist the temptation of putting
the _Marseillaise_ on the gramophone, and I went down to find him
with tears rolling down his cheeks as he hummed,

    "Allons, enfants de la Patrie,
    Le jour de gloire est arrivé."

We've invented a new job for him; he is to "serve" our pipes with
bandages. This means swathing them round and round, and finally adding
an outer covering of newspaper, which has a much-vaunted reputation
for keeping cold out.

Let me tell you the latest epic of the hospital pipes. Those to the
bathroom run through the office. In the last blizzard they burst. The
fire in the fireplace was a conflagration; the steam radiator was
singing a credible song; and as the water trickled down the pipe from
the little fissure, it froze solid before it was three inches on its
way!

A friend sent me for Christmas a charming little poem. One verse runs:

    "May nothing evil cross this door,
    And may ill fortune never pry
    About these Windows; may the roar
    And rains go by.

    "Strengthened by faith, these rafters will
    Withstand the battering of the storm;
    This hearth, though all the world grow chill,
    Will keep us warm."

I am thinking of hanging the card opposite our pipes as a reminder of
the "way they should go."



  _January 15_


The journey to Nameless Cove Fair was all that I had hoped for and a
little more thrown in to make weight. Clear and shining, with
glittering white snow below and sparkling blue sky above, the day
promised fair in spite of a mercury standing at ten below zero, and a
number of komatiks from the Mission started merrily forth. All went
well, and we reached Nameless Cove without adventure, but at sundown
the wind rose. When we left the sale at ten o'clock to return to the
house where I was to spend the night, we had to face the full fury of
a living winter gale. I "caught" both my cheeks on the way, or in
common parlance I froze them. All through that long tug we were
cheered by the thought of a large jug of cream which we had placed on
the stove to thaw when we left the house. Do you fancy that cream had
thawed? Not a bit of it. The fire was doing its best, but old Boreas
was holding our feast prisoner. It had not even begun to disintegrate
around the edges. We cut lumps from the icy mass, dropped them into
our cocoa (which we made by cooking it inside the stove and directly
on top of the coals), hastily popped the mixture into our mouths
before it should have a chance to freeze _en route_, and went promptly
to bed. I draw a veil over that night. I drew everything else I could
find over me in the course of it. A sadder and a wiser and a chillier
woman I rose the morrow morn. Another member of the staff, who had
slept in an adjoining house, froze his toe in bed.

When we reached home, and I left the komatik at the hospital door, I
made out 'Senath dancing in an agitatedly aimless fashion on our
platform. She was also waving her arms about. For a moment it crossed
my mind that she had lost her modicum of wits, but as she was
immediately joined by Tryphena, I gave up the theory as untenable, and
continued to hasten up the hill to the Home. Our boiler had sprung,
not one but many leaks, and the precious hot water destined for the
cleansing of forty was flooding the already spotless kitchen floor. As
it is the middle of the week I had not suspected this calamity, Sunday
being the invariable day selected for all burst pipes, special rat
banquets, broken noses, toothaches, skinned shins, and such
misadventures. The problem now presenting itself for prompt solution
is: 20° below zero, a gale blowing from the northwest, twoscore small,
unwashed orphans, and a burst boiler!

  [Illustration: HE FROZE HIS TOE IN BED]



  _January 21_


The oldest inhabitants, and all the others as well, claim that this is
the most remarkable winter in thirty years. Not that one is deceived.
I suspect them rather of making excuses for the consistently
disconcerting climate of Britain's oldest colony.

All the same, literally the worst storm I ever experienced has been in
progress for the last two days. It began in the morning by the falling
of a few innocent flakes. Then the north wind decided to take a hand.
All night and all day and all night again it shrieked around the
house, driving incredible quantities of snow before it. Half an hour
after it began, you could not see two yards in front of your face. The
man who attends to the hospital heating-plant had to crawl on his
hands and knees in order to reach his destination, taking exactly one
hour to make the distance of two hundred yards.

At this institution it is the time-honoured custom to rise at
five-thirty each morning, which custom, although doubtless good for
our immortal souls, is distinctly trying to our too painfully mortal
flesh. Added to which, in spite of all our efforts, our pipes are
frozen, and in this country the ground does not thaw out completely
until July or August, when we are making preparations for being frozen
in again. Think of what this means for a household of over forty when
every drop of water has to be hauled in barrels by our boys, and the
superintendent has to stand over them to compel them to bring enough.
Cleanliness at such a cost must surely be a long way towards
godliness. I can now appreciate the story of the chaplain from a
whaling ship who is said to have wandered into an encampment of the
Eskimos. He told the people of heaven with all its glories, and it
meant nothing to these children of the North; they were not
interested in his story. But when he changed his theme and spoke of
hell, with its everlasting fires which needed no replenishing, they
cried, "Where is it? Tell us that we may go"; and big and little, they
clambered over him, eager for details.

  [Illustration: A LONG WAY ON THE HEAVENWARD ROAD]

By morning every room on the windward side of our house looked like
the inside of an igloo. The fine drift had silted in through each most
minute cranny and crevice--even though we have double windows all
over the building; and on the night in question we had decided that
sufficient fresh air was entering in spite of us to permit our
disobeying our self-imposed anti-tuberculosis regulations. The wind
and snow are so persistent and so penetrating that the merest slit
gives them entrance, and the accumulations of such a night make one
fancy in the morning that the King of the Golden River has paid an
infuriated visit to our part of the globe. When I went into the
babies' dormitory every little bed was snowed under, and only the
children's dark hair contrasted with the universal whiteness.

The second night I verily thought the house would come about our ears.
The gale had increased in fury, the thermometer stood at thirty below,
and I stayed up to be ready for emergencies. At midnight, thinking one
room must surely be blown in, I carried the sleeping babes into
another wing of the house. If for any reason we had had to leave the
building that night, none of us could have lived to reach a place of
safety. I wish you could have seen us the following morning. The snow
had drifted in so that in places it was over six feet high. I ventured
out and found that every exit but one from the Home was snowed up. We
had therefore to dig ourselves out of the woodshed door and into the
others from the outside. You make a dab with a shovel in the direction
where you think you last saw the desired door before the storm, and
trust the fates for results. Part of our roof has blown off and our
chimney is in a tottering condition.

The greatest menace was the telegraph wires. The drifts in places were
so huge that as one walked along, the wires were liable to trip one
up. The doctor has just taken a picture of the dog team being fed from
the third-story window of the hospital. They are clustered on the snow
just outside and on a level with the bottom of the window. Some of the
fishermen in their tiny cottages had to be dug out by kindly
neighbours, as they were completely snowed under!

The storm will greatly delay travelling and it may be almost spring
before this reaches you. It may interest you to know how my letters
come to you in the winter-time, and then perhaps you will not wonder
so much at the delays. The mail is carried across country to Mistaken
Cove, on the west coast, and then by eight relays of couriers with
their dog teams to Deerlake where the railway touches. It is a slow
method of progress, and there are countless delays owing to the
frequent blizzards. Often the mail men fail to make connections, and
the letters may lie a week or a fortnight at some outlandish station.
At one place the postmaster cannot even read, and the letters have to
be marked with crosses at the previous stopping-places, to indicate
the direction of their destination. Another postmaster, well known for
his dishonesty, failed to get removed by the authorities because he
was the only man in the place who could either read or write, and was
therefore indispensable. Formerly all the letters had to go to St.
John's, a day's extra journey, and be sorted there, sent back across
the island to Run-by-Guess, eight hours across Cabot Straits, and then
across the Atlantic to England. In this way a letter might take nearly
three months to make the journey, and we are sometimes that length of
time without news.

Now a "mild" has set in, and the incessant drip, drip, drip on the
balcony roof outside my window makes me perfectly understand how
lunacy and death follow the persistent falling of a single drop on one
spot on the forehead.



  _February 11_


Last week I had a three days' "cruise" while the doctor considerately
sent a nurse up here to try her hand at my family. This time the
cruise was "on the dogs" instead of the rolling sea. We left for Belvy
(Bellevue) Bay in good time in the morning--"got our anchors early,"
as our "carter" put it. The animation of the dogs, the lovely
snow-covered country, the bright winter's sun pouring down, and doubly
brilliant by reflection from the dazzling snow, the huge bonfire in
the woods where we "cooked the kettle," all make one understand the
call which the gipsy answers. Of course there is another side to the
story, when one is caught out in bitter weather in a blizzard of
driving snow and sleet, and loses the way, or perhaps has to stay out
in the open through the night. For instance, this winter four of the
Mission dogs have perished through frost-bite on these journeys; and
only last week we heard that one of the mail carriers on the west
coast had been frozen to death.

A few years ago one dark and stormy night the Church of England
clergyman was called to the sick-bed of a parishioner. He set out at
once to cross the frozen bay and reached the cottage in safety. After
a visit with the dying man he started on his homeward way. It was cold
but clear, and he covered half the distance without trouble. Then the
weather veered and blinding snow began to drive. The traveller lost
his way battling against it, and finally sank down utterly exhausted.
He was found dead in the morning on the open bay.

A day's trip brought us to Grevigneux, a charming little village
nestling in a great bowl formed by the towering cliffs above and
around it. Every one in the settlement is a Roman Catholic. Never did
I receive such a welcome; the people are so friendly and unspoiled.
The priest is a Frenchman, sensible, hearty, full of humour and love
for his people. Both his ideas and his manner of expressing them are
naïve and appealing. I had been told that in his sermons he admonished
certain members of his flock by name for their shortcomings. When I
questioned him about this he gave me the following explanation: "You
see, miss, when I die I shall stand before the Lord and my people will
be standing behind me. The Lord will look them over and then look at
me, and if any one of them isn't there he will say, 'Cartier, where is
Tom Flannigan?' And I should have to answer, 'Gone to Purgatory for
stealing boots.' And the Lord will say to me, 'Why, didn't he know
better than to steal boots? You ought to have told him.' Whatever
could I say for myself then?"

The next night we spent at Lance au Diable, locally known as "Lancy
Jobble." In this place there is a "medicine man," with methods unique
in science. He is the seventh son of a seventh son, and his healing
powers are reputed to be little short of miraculous. Legend has it
that such must never request payment for services, nor must the
patient ever thank him, lest the efficacy of the cure be nullified. He
is an unselfish man, a thorough believer in his own "gift"; and last
summer, for instance, right in the middle of the fishing season, he
walked thirty miles through swamp and marsh ridden with black flies,
to see a sick woman who desired his aid. Doubtless the spell of his
buoyant personality does bring comfort and relief. In the adjoining
settlement of Bareneed lives an enormously fat old woman of
seventy-odd summers. Life passes over her, and its only effect is to
make her rotund and unwieldy. When the sick come to Brother Luke for
treatment, if any of the few drugs which he has accumulated chance to
have lost their labels--a not uncommon contingency in this land of
mist and fog--he takes down a likely-looking bottle from the shelf,
and tries a dose of the contents on this Mrs. Goochy--and awaits
results. If nothing untoward transpires, he then passes the medicine
on to the patient. Mrs. Goochy has a strong acquisitive bias, and
raises no objections to this vicarious proceeding. She argues: "I
doesn't need 'un now, but there be's no tellin'. I may need 'un when I
can't get 'un."

  [Illustration: THE SEVENTH SON]

Occasionally the sailing is not so smooth. While we were there the
doctor saw a case of a woman from whom this Æsculapius had attempted
to extract an offending molar, his only instrument being a kind of
miniature winch which screws on to the undesired tooth. Its action
proved so prompt and powerful that not only did it remove the tooth
intended, but four others as well, and the entire alveolar process
connected with them.

  [Illustration: ITS ACTION WAS PROMPT AND POWERFUL]

It often made me feel ashamed to find how much some of these people
have made of their meagre opportunities. At one house a mother told me
that she had only been able to go to school for six months when she
was a girl, yet she had taught herself to read, and later her
children also. She showed me most interesting articles which she had
written for a Canadian newspaper describing the life on Le Petit Nord.
She often had to sit up until two in the morning to knit her
children's clothes, and rise again at dawn to prepare breakfast for
the men of the household.

The following day saw us homeward bound, only this time the travelling
was not so romantic, for a "mild" had set in, and the going was
superlatively slushy. The dogs had all they could do to drag the
komatik with the luggage on it. The humans walked, generally in front
of the dogs, and on snow racquets, to make the trail a bit easier for
the animals. This may sound an interesting way to spend a winter's
day, but after twenty minutes of it you would cry "enough." When we
reached Belvy Bay the ice around the shore was broken into great pans,
but in the middle it looked good. To go round is an endless task, so
we risked crossing. It was easy to get off to the centre, for the big
pans at the edge would float a far greater weight than a komatik and
dogs and three people. The ice in the middle, however, which had
looked so sure from the landwash, proved to be "black"--that is, very,
very thin, though being salt-water ice, it was elastic. It was waving
up and down so as almost to make one seasick, but in its elasticity
lay our only chance of safety. We flung ourselves down at full length
on the komatik to give as broad a surface of resistance as possible,
and what encouragement was given the dogs we did with our voices. Four
miles did we drive over that swaying surface, and though at the time
we were too excited to be nervous, we were glad to reach the "_terra
firma_" of the standing ice edge.

At each place we were received with the most cordial welcome, and
scarcely allowed even to express our gratitude. It was always they who
were so eager to thank us for giving them unasked the "pleasure of
our company." Their reception is always very touching. They put the
best they have before you and will take nothing for their hospitality.

In my various letters to you I have so often taken away the characters
of our dogs that I must tell you of one, just to show that I have not
altered in my devotion to our "true first friend." This dog's name was
"Black," and he lived many years ago at Mistaken Cove. The tales of
his beauty, his cleverness at tricks, and his endurance of
difficulties are still told, but chiefly of his devotion to his
master. After years of this companionship the beloved master died and
was buried in the woods near his lonely little house. Black was
inconsolable. He would eat nothing; he started up at every slightest
noise hoping for the familiar whistle; he haunted the well-worn
woodpath where they had had so many happy days together. Finally he
discovered his master's grave and was found frantically tearing at
the hard earth and heavy stones. Nor would he leave the spot. Food
was brought him daily, but it went untouched. For one whole week he
lay in the wind and weather in the hole he had dug on the grave. There
the children found him on the eighth morning curled up and apparently
asleep. His long quest and vigil were ended, for he had reached the
happy hunting grounds. Who shall say that a beloved hand and voice did
not welcome him home?



  _St. Antoine Children's Home (by courtesy)
  February 28_


Of one thing I am certain, we must have a new Home, for this house is
not fit for habitation, and it is not nearly large enough. Even after
my recent return from living in the tiny homes of the people which one
would fancy to be far less comfortable, this is forcibly impressed
upon me. We simply cannot go on refusing to take in children who need
its shelter so badly. So please spread this broadcast among the
friends in England. This Home has been enlarged once since it was
built, and yet it is not nearly big enough for our present needs. We
have no nursery, and I only wish you could see the tiny room which has
to do duty for a sewing-room. It is certainly only called "room" by
courtesy, for there is scarcely space to sit down, much less to use a
needle without risk of injury to one's neighbour. The weekly mend
alone, without the making of new things, means now between two and
three hundred garments in addition to the boots, which the boys
repair. As you can imagine, this is no light task and we are often
driven almost distracted. I think the stockings are the worst,
sometimes a hundred pairs to face at once! I fear we must once have
been led into making some rather pointed remarks on this subject, for
later, on going into the sewing-room, we found a slip of printed
paper, cut from a magazine, and bearing the title of an article:
"DON'T SCOLD THE CHILDREN WHEN THEY TEAR THEIR STOCKINGS."

This building rocks like a ship at sea; the roof continually leaks,
the windows are always "coming abroad," and the panes drop out at
"scattered times," while even when shut, the wind whistles through as
if to show his utter disdain of our inhospitable and paltry efforts to
keep him outside. On stormy nights, in spite of closed windows, the
rooms resemble huge snowdrifts. Seven maids with seven mops sweeping
for half a year could never get it clear. The building heaves so much
with the frost that the doors constantly refuse to work, because the
floors have risen, and if they are planed, when the frost disappears,
a yawning chasm confronts you. Our storeroom is so cold in winter that
we put on Arctic furs to fetch in the food, and in summer it is
flooded so that we swim from barrel to barrel as Alice floated in her
pool of tears. But far above all these minor discomforts is the one
overwhelming desire not to have to refuse "one of these little ones."

One's heart aches when one remembers all the money and effort and love
expended on a single child at home, that he may lack nothing to be
prepared in body and spirit to meet the vicissitudes of his coming
life journey. But in this land are hundreds of children, our own blood
and kin, who must face their crushing problems often with bodies
stunted from insufficient nourishment in childhood, and minds unopened
and undeveloped, not through lack of natural ability, but because
opportunity has never come to them. As one looks ahead one sees
clearly what a contribution these eager children could offer their
"day" if only their cousins at home had "the eyes of their
understanding purged to behold things invisible and unseen."



  _March 10_


The seals are in! That to you doubtless does not seem the most
engrossing item of news that could be communicated, but that merely
proves what a long road you have to travel. Before the break of day
every man capable of carrying a weapon is out on the ice to try and
get his share of the spoils.

They carry every conceivable sort of gun, but the six-foot
muzzle-loaders are the favourites. These ancient weapons have been
handed down from father to son for generations, and locally go by the
somewhat misleading soubriquet of the "little darlints."

The people call the seals "swiles." There is an old story about a
foreigner who once asked, "How do you spell 'swile'?" The answer the
fisherman gave him was, "We don't spell [carry] 'em. We mostly hauls
'em."

Sea-birds have also come in the "swatches" of open water between the
pans. A gale of wind and sea has broken up the ice, and driven it out
of St. Mien's Bay, which is just round the corner from us. Thousands
of "turr" are there, and the men are reaping many a banquet. A man's
wealth is now gauged by the number of birds which are strung around
the eaves of his house. It is a safe spot, for it keeps the birds
thoroughly frozen, and well out of reach, at this time of year, of the
ever-present dog.

Some of the men were prevented from being on the spot for bird
shooting as promptly as they desired by the fact that their boats,
having lain up all winter, were not "plymmed." If you put a dried
apple, for instance, into water it "plymms"; so do beans, and so do
boats. When a boat is not "plymmed," it leaks in all its seams, and is
therefore looked upon as unsafe for these sub-Arctic waters by the
more conservative amongst us. To stop a boat leaking you "chinch" the
seams with oakum. Our fisherman sexton has just told me that "the
church was right chinched last night."

One by one our supplies are giving out or diminishing. Each week as I
send down an order to the store it is returned with some item crossed
off. These articles at home would be considered the indispensables.
Already potatoes have gone the way of all flesh; there is no more
butter (though that is less loss than it sounds, for it was packed on
the schooner directly next the kerosene barrels, and a liberal
quantity of that volatile liquid incorporated itself in each tub of
"oleo"). We are warned that the remaining amount of flour will not
hold out till the spring boat--our first possible chance of getting
reinforcements for our larder--unless we exercise the watchfulness of
the Sphinx. The year before I came the first boat did not reach St.
Antoine till the 28th of June.

More excitement has just been communicated to me by Topsy: much more.
A man from the Baie des Français has killed a huge polar bear. It
took ten men and six dogs to haul the beast home after he had been
finally dispatched. The man fired several shots at him, but did not
hit a vital spot. One bullet only remained to him, and the bear was
coming at him in a very purposeful manner. "Now or never," thought the
fisherman, and fired. The creature fell dead almost at his feet. When
they skinned him they found bullets in his legs and flank, but
searched and searched in vain for the fatal one which had been the
end of him. There was no mark on the skin in any vital spot. At last
they found it. The ball had penetrated exactly through the bear's ear
into his brain. All the countryside is now dining off bear steak; and
there is a splendid skin to be purchased if you are so minded. I have
eaten a bit of the steak, though I confess I did not sit down to the
feast with any pleasurable anticipation, as the men said that they
found the remains of a recently devoured seal in Bruin's "tum." I had
an agreeable surprise. The meat was fibrous and a little tough, but it
was quite good--a vast improvement on the sea-birds which are so
highly valued in the local commissariat.

  [Illustration: IT WAS HIS LAST BULLET]

The Prophet has a vivid idea of the processes going on in the heads of
animals. He says that up to fifteen years ago there were bears
innumerable "in the country." "And one day, miss," he explained, "the
whole crew of them gets their anchors and leaves in a body." To hear
him one would imagine that at a concerted signal the bears came out
of their burrows and shook the dust of the land from their feet.

The Eskimos toll the seals. They lie on the ice and wave their legs in
the air, and the seals, curious animals, approach to discover the
nature of the phenomenon, and are forthwith dispatched. One Eskimo of
a histrionic temperament decided to "go one better." He went out to
the ice edge, climbed into his sealskin sleeping-bag, and waved his
legs, as per stage directions. We are not informed whether the device
would have proved a successful decoy to the seals, for before any had
been lured within range, another Innuit, having seen the sealskin legs
gesticulating on the ice edge, naturally mistook them for the real
thing, fired with regrettable accuracy, and went out to find a dead
cousin.

The story is the only deterrent I have from dressing in my white
Russian hareskin coat, and sitting in the graveyard some dusky
evening. The people claim that the place is haunted. I have never met
a "Yoho" and never expect to, but I would dearly love to see how
others act when they think they have. Only the suspicion that they
would "plump for safety," and fire the inevitable muzzle-loader at my
white garment, keeps me from making the experiment _in corpore vile_.

The birds and the seals and the bears and white foxes coming south on
the moving ice are signs of spring. There is a stir in the air as if
the people as well sensed that the back of the long winter was broken.
How it has flown! You cannot fancy my sensations of lonesomeness when
I think that I shall never spend another in this country. You cannot
describe or analyze the lure of the land and its people, but it is
there, and grips you. I have grown to love it, and you will welcome
home an uncomplimentary homesick comrade when September comes.



  _April 1_


Last minute of Sunday, so here's to you. To-morrow I shall be
cheerfully immersed up to the eyes in work.

Oh! this Home. How little it deserves the name! Our English storms are
nothing but babies compared with the appalling blasts which sweep down
upon us from the north. In summer the furious seas dash against the
cliffs as if to protect them from the desecration of human
encroachment. The fine snow filters in between the roof and ceiling of
this building, and in a "mild," such as we are now experiencing, it
melts, and endless little rivulets trickle down in nearly every room.
The water comes in on my bed, on the kitchen range, and on the
dining-room table. It falls on the sewing-machine in one room, on the
piano and bookcase in another. Its catholicity of taste is plain
disheartening!

You ask whether these kiddies have the stuff in them to repay what
you are pleased to term "such an outlay of effort." My emphatic "yes"
should have been so insistent as to have reached you by telepathy when
the doubt first presented itself. The Home has been established now
long enough to have some of its "graduates" go out into life; and the
splendid manhood and womanhood of these young people are at once a
sufficient reward to us and a silencing response to you. Many of them
have been sent to the States and Canada for further education, and are
now not only writing a successful story for themselves, but helping
their less fortunate neighbours, in a way we from outside never can,
to turn over many a new leaf in their books.

Yesterday I attended the theatre, only it was the operating theatre.
The patient on this occasion was a doll, the surgeon a lad of seven,
himself a victim of infantile paralysis, and the head nurse assisting
was aged nine, and wears a brace on each leg. The stage was the
children's ward of the hospital. Here are several pathetic little
people, orthopedic cases, brought in for treatment during the winter,
and who must stay till the spring boat arrives, as their homes are now
cut off by interminable miles of snow wastes and icy sea. Nothing
escapes their notice. They tear up their Christmas picture books, and
when charged with the enormity of their offence, explain that they
"must have adhesive tape for their operative work." Dick, the surgeon,
was overheard the other day telling Margaret, the head nurse, as
together they amputated the legs of her doll, "This is the way Sir
Robert Jones does it."

Next to operating, the children love music; and they love it with a
repertoire varied to meet every mood, from "Keep the Home Fires
Burning" to "In the Courts of Belshazzar and a Hundred of his Lords."
One three-year-old scrap comes from a Salvation Army household, and
listens to all such melodies with marked disapproval. But when the
others finish, she "pipes up," shutting her eyes, clapping her hands
and swaying back and forth--

    "Baby's left the cradle for the Golden Shore:
    Now he floats, now he floats,
    Happy as before."

Three of the kiddies are Roman Catholics and have taught their
companions to say their prayers properly of an evening. They all cross
themselves devoutly at the close; but this instruction has fallen on
fallow ground in the wee three-year-old. She sits with eyes tightly
screwed together lest she be forced even to witness such heresy and
schism.

Yesterday I was walking with Gabriel when we came upon a tiny bird
essaying his first spring song on a tree-top nearby. Gabriel looked at
the newcomer silently for several minutes, and finally, turning his
luminous brown eyes up to my face, asked, "Do he sing hymns,
Teacher?"



  _April 19_


The village sale was held last week. This has become an annual
occurrence, and the proceeds are devoted to varying good objects. This
time the hospital was the beneficiary. For months the countryside, men
and women, have been making articles, and I can assure you it is a
relief to have it over and such a success to boot, and life's quiet
tone restored. We made large numbers of purchases, and consumed
unbelievable quantities of more than solid nourishment. The people
have shown the greatest ingenuity and diligence, and the display was a
credit to their talent. I was particularly struck with the really
clever carving representing local scenes which the fishermen had done
with no other tools than their jack-knives. The auction was the
keynote of the evening, due largely to the signal ability of the
auctioneer. His methods are effective, but strictly his own. Cakes,
made generally in graded layers and liberally coated with different
coloured sugar, were the favourites. As he held up the last teetering
mountain he "bawled": "What am I bid for this wonderful cake? 'Tis a
bargain at any price. Why, she's so heavy I can't hold her with one
hand." It fetched seven dollars!

The yearly meet for sports was held in the afternoon before the sale,
and was voted by all to be a great success. It is a far cry from the
days when games were introduced here by the Mission. Then the people's
lives were so drab, and they had little idea of the sporting qualities
which every Englishman values so highly. In those early days if in a
game of football one side kicked a goal, they had to wait till the
other had done the same before the game could proceed, or the play
would have been turned into a battle. Now everything in trousers in
the place can be seen of an evening out on the harbour ice kicking a
ball about. The harbour is our very roomy athletic field.

Twenty-two teams had entered for the dog race, and the start, when the
whole number were ranged up in the line, was pandemonium unloosed. The
dogs were barking out threatenings and slaughter to the teams next
them, their masters were shouting unheeded words of command, the crowd
were cheering their favourites, and altogether you would never have
guessed from the racket and confusion that you were north of the
Roaring Forties.

The last event on the sports programme was a scramble for coloured
candies by all the children of the village. Our flock from the Home
participated. The proceeding was as unhygienic as it was alluring, and
our surprise was great when a universally healthy household greeted
the morrow morn.

When I heard the amount the poor folk had raised for charity out of
their meagre pittance, I felt reproached. It is a consistent fact here
that the people give and do more than their means justify, and it
must involve a hard pinch for them in some other quarter.

Coming from the sale at ten at night I looked for our "Yoho" in
passing the churchyard, but was unrewarded, though some of the harbour
people assured me in the morning that they had seen it plainly. Can
there be anything in the current belief that the men of the sea are
more psychic than we case-hardened products of civilization, or is it
merely superstition? There is a story here of a man called Gaulton,
which is vouched for by all the older men who can recall the incident.
It seems that in Savage Cove this old George Gaulton lived till he was
ninety. He died on December 4, 1883. On the 16th he appeared in the
flesh to a former acquaintance at Port au Choix, fifty miles from the
spot at which he had died. This man Shenicks gives the following
account of the curious visitation:

"I was in the woods cutting timber for a day and a half. During the
whole of that time I was sure I heard footsteps near me in the snow,
although I could see nothing. On the evening of the second day, in
consequence of heavy rain, I returned home early. I knew my cattle had
plenty of food, but something forced me to go to the hay-pook. While
there, in a few moments I stood face to face with old George Gaulton.
I was not frightened. We stood in the rain and talked for some time.
In the course of the conversation the old man gave me a message for
his eldest son, and begged me to deliver it to him myself before the
end of March. Immediately afterwards he disappeared, and then I was
terribly afraid."

A few weeks later Shenicks went all the way to Savage Cove and
delivered the message given to him in so strange a fashion.

A word of apology and I close. In an early letter to you I recall
judging harshly a concoction called "brewis." Experience here has
taught me that our own delicacies meet with a similar fate at the
hands of my present fellow countrymen. I offered Carmen on her arrival
a cup of cocoa for Sunday supper. After one sniff, biddable and polite
child though she was, I saw her surreptitiously pour the "hemlock cup"
out of the open window behind her.



  _May 23_


Many miles over the hills from St. Antoine lies one of the wildest and
most beautiful harbours on this coast. Nestling within magnificently
high rocks, the picturesque colouring of which is reflected in the
quiet water beneath, lies the little village of Crémaillière. It is
only a small settlement of tiny cottages beside the edge of the sea,
but it has the unenviable reputation of being the worst village on the
coast. In winter only three families live there, but in the
summer-time a number of men come for the fishing, and they with their
wives and children exist in almost indescribable hovels. Some of these
huts are just rough board affairs, about six feet by ten, and resemble
cow sheds more than houses. If there is a window at all, it is merely
a small square of glass (not made to open) high up on one side of the
wall. In some there is not even the pretence of a window, but in cases
of severe sickness a hole is knocked through for ventilation on
hearing of the near approach of the Mission doctor. The walls have
only one thickness of board with no lining and the roofs are thatched
with sods. There is no flooring whatever. Not one person in
Crémaillière can either read or write.

Yesterday there was a funeral held in one of the little villages, and
the mingling of pathos and humour made one realize more vividly than
ever how "all the world's akin." A young mother had died who could
have been saved if her folk had realized the danger in time and sent
for the doctor. She was lying in a rude board coffin in the bare
kitchen. As space was at a premium the casket had been placed on the
top of the long box which serves as a residence for the family rooster
and chickens. They kept popping their heads, with their round, quick
eyes out through the slats, and emitting startled crows and clucks at
the visitors. The young woman was dressed in all her outdoor
clothing; a cherished lace curtain sought to hide the rough, unplaned
boards of the coffin--for it had been hewn from the forest the day
before. The depth of her husband's grief was evidenced by the fact
that he had spent his last and only two dollars in the purchase, at
the Nameless Cove general store, of the highly flowered hat which
surmounted his wife's young careworn but peaceful face as she lay at
rest.

I saw for the first time an old custom preserved on the coast. Before
the coffin was closed all the family passed by the head of the
deceased and kissed the face of their loved one for the last time,
while all the visitors followed and laid their hands reverently on the
forehead. Only when the master of ceremonies, who is always specially
appointed, had cried out in a sonorous voice, "Any more?" and met with
no response, was the ceremony of closing the lid permitted.

Surely the children are the one and only hope of this country. Through
them we may trust to raise the moral standard of the generations to
come, but it is going to be a very slow process to make any headway
against the ignorance and absence of desire for better things which
prevails so largely here.

I must tell you of the latest addition to our family. On the first
boat in the spring there arrived a family, brought by neighbours, to
say what the Mission could do for them. I think I have never seen a
more forlorn sight than this group presented when they stepped from
the steamer. There was the father (the mother is dead), an elderly
half-witted cripple capable neither of caring for himself nor for his
children, four boys of varying sizes, and a girl of fourteen in the
last stages of tuberculosis. The family were nearly frozen,
half-starved, and completely dazed at the hopelessness of their
situation. The girl was admitted to the hospital, where she has since
died, and the youngest boy, Israel, we took into the Home. Alas, we
had only room for the one. Israel was at first much overawed by the
standard of cleanliness required in this institution, and protested
vigorously when we tried to put him into the bathtub. He explained to
us that he never washed more than his face and hands at home, not even
his neck and ears, the limitation of territory being strictly defined
and scrupulously observed.



  _June 20_


Unlike last year this summer promises to be hot, at least for this
country. I have felt one great lack this year. You have to pass the
long months of what would be lovely spring in England without a sign
of a living blade of flower, though a few little songbirds did their
best bravely to make it up to us. Already we are being driven almost
crazy with the mosquitoes and black flies, songsters of no mean
calibre, especially at night. In desperation our little ones yesterday
succeeded in killing an unusually large specimen, and after burying it
with great solemnity were heard singing around the grave in no
uncheerful tones, "Nearer, my God, to Thee."

I hate to think that these next few weeks will be the last I shall
spend in this country and with these children. The North seems to
weave over one a kind of spell and fascination all its own. I look
back sometimes and smile that I should ever have felt the year long
or dreary; it has passed so quickly that I can scarcely believe it
already time to be thinking of you and England again. I may emulate
the example of Mrs. Lot, but with the certainty that a similar fate to
hers does not await me.

I have just unpacked a barrel of clothing sent from home to the
Orphanage, and find to my disgust that it is almost entirely composed
of muslin blouses and old ladies' bonnets! What am I to do with them?
The blouses I can use as mosquito veiling, but these bonnets are not
the kind our babies wear. I shall present one to Topsy, who will look
adorable in it.

You hint it is hard to get up interest in Labrador because we are
neither heathen nor black. I can imagine your sewing circle of dear
old ladies (perhaps they sent the bonnets) discussing the relative
merits of working to send aeroplanes to the Arabs, bicycles to the
Bedouins, comforters to the Chinese, jumpers to the Japanese,
handkerchiefs to the Hottentots, hair nets to the Hindoos, mouth
organs to the Mohammedans, pinafores to the Parsees, pyjamas to the
Papuans, prayer-books to the Pigmies, sandwiches to the South Sea
Islanders, or zithers to the Zulus. Just wait till I can talk to your
dear old ladies!

A few days ago we had a very narrow escape from fire; indeed, it
seemed for some time as if the whole of the Mission would be wiped
out. It was a half-holiday and our boys had gone fishing to the
Devil's Pond, a favourite spot of theirs, about a mile away.
Unfortunately Noah was seized with the idea of lighting a fire by
which to cook the trout, the matches having been stolen from my room.
It had been dry for several days, there was quite a wind, and the
fire, catching the furze, quickly got beyond the one required for
culinary purposes. The boys first tried to smother it with their
coats, but finding that of no avail ran home to give the alarm. By
the time the men could get to the spot the fire had spread so rapidly
that attention had to be turned towards trying to save the houses. The
doctor's house was the one most directly threatened at first, and we
proceeded to strip it of all furniture, carrying everything to the
fore-shore to be ready to be taken off if necessary. The doctor was
away on a medical call, and you can imagine my feelings when I
expected every moment to see the Northern Light come round the point,
the doctor's house in flames and his household goods scattered to the
winds! Then we dismantled this place--the children having been sent at
the outset to a place of safety--and removed the patients from the
hospital. Every man in the place was hard at work, and there were few
of us who dared to hope that we should have a roof over our heads that
night. Happily the wind suddenly dropped, the fire died down, and late
that night we were able to return and endeavour to sort out babies
and furniture. The goddess of disorder reigned supreme, and it was
only after many weary hours that we were able to find beds for the
babies and babies for the beds. And it was our boys who started the
fire! I am covered with confusion every second when I stop to think of
it, and wonder if this is not the psychological moment to make my exit
from this Mission.



  _July 11_


By invitation of the doctor I am off for a trip on the Northern Light
next week. He offers me thus the chance to see other portions of the
Shore before he drops me at the Iron Bound Islands, where I can
connect with the southern-going coastal steamer. The Prophet has
encouraged me with the observation that "nearly all the female ladies
what comes aboard her do be wonderful sick," but I am not to be
deterred. So:

    "Now, Brothers, for the icebergs of frozen Labrador,
    Floating spectral in the moonshine along the low, black shore.
    Where in the mist the rock is hiding, and the sharp reef lurks below;
    And the white squall smites in summer, and the autumn tempests blow."

This is a mere scrap of a greeting, for the day of departure is so
near that I feel I want to spend every minute with the kiddies. I
count on your forbearance, and your knowledge that though my pen is
quiet, my heart still holds you without rival.



  _On board the Northern Light
  July 16_


Is to-day as lovely in your part of the world as it is in mine, and do
you greet it with a background of as exciting a night as the one that
has just passed over us? I wonder. I came across some old forms of
bills of lading sent out to this country from England. They always
closed with this most appropriate expression, "And so God send the
good ship to her desired port in safety." It has fallen into disuse
long ago, but about break of early day the idea took a very compelling
shape in my mind. We put out from Bonne Espérance just as night was
falling, and there was no moon to aid us. The doctor had decided on
the outside run, and brief as is my acquaintance with the "lonely
Labrador," I knew what that meant. I therefore betook myself betimes
to bed as the best spot for an unseasoned mariner. Twelve o'clock
found us barely holding our own against a furious head wind and
sea--"An awful night for a sinner," as our cheery Prophet remarked as
he lurched past my cabin door. Icebergs were dotted about. Great
combers were pouring over our bow and the floods came sweeping down
the decks sounding like the roar of a thousand cataracts.

The only way one could keep from being hurled out of one's berth was
to cling like a leech to a rope fastened to a ring in the wall, for
the little ship was bouncing back and forth so fast and so far that it
was impossible to compare it with the motion of any other craft. Day
began to dawn about 3 A.M. By the dim light I could make out
mighty mountains of green foaming water. At each roll of the steamer
we seemed to be at the bottom of a huge emerald pit. Suddenly some one
yelled, "There she goes!" and that second the boat was dragged down,
down, down. An immense wave had caught us, rolled us so far over that
our dory in davits had filled with water to the brim. As the ship
righted herself, the weight of the dory snapped off the davit at the
deck, and the boat, still attached by her painter, was dragged
underneath our hull, and threatened to pull us down with it. In two
seconds the men had cut her away, but not before she had nearly banged
herself to matchwood against our side.

Now we are lying under the lea of St. Augustine Island waiting for the
wind to abate. The chief engineer has just offered to row me ashore to
hunt for young puffins. More later.

  [Illustration: A PUFFIN GHETTO]

There were hundreds of them in every family, and so many families that
it resembled nothing so much as a puffin ghetto. I judged from the
turmoil that they were screeching for "a place in the sun." The noise
they made did not in the least accord with their respectable Quaker
appearance. Shall I bring you one as a pet? Its austere presence would
help you to remember your "latter end."

When I wrote you that there was ice about, I did not refer to the
field ice through which we travelled on my way north. This is the real
thing this time--icebergs, and lots of them. They call the little ones
"growlers," and big and little alike are classed as "pieces of ice"!
They are not my idea of a "piece" of anything. I know now what the
Ancient Mariner meant when he said:

    "And ice mast high came floating by
    As green as emerald."

It exactly describes them, only it doesn't wholly describe them, for
no one could. They loom up in every shape and size and variation of
form, pinnacles and towers and battlements, stately palaces of
glittering crystal, triumphal archways more gorgeous than ever
welcomed a conqueror home. Sometimes they are shining white, too
dazzling to look at; and sometimes they are streaked with great vivid
bands of green and azure which are so unearthly and brilliant that I
feel certain some fairy has dipped his brush in the solar spectrum and
dabbed the colours on this gigantic palette.

A sea without these jewels of the Arctic will forever look barren and
unfinished to me after this. Even the sailors, who know too well what
a menace they are to their craft, yield to their beauty a mute and
grudging homage. To sit in the sun or the moonlight, and watch a heavy
sea hurling mountains of water and foam over one of these ocean
monarchs is a never-to-be-forgotten experience. So too it is to listen
to the thunder of one of them "foundering"; for their equilibrium is
very unstable, and the action of the sea, as they travel southwards to
their death in the Gulf Stream, cuts them away at the surface of the
water. Blocks weighing unbelievable tons crash off them, or they will
suddenly, without a second's warning, break into a million pieces. I
can never conquer a creepiness of the spine as I listen to one of
these tragedies. It is a startling, new sensation such as we never
expect to meet again after childhood has shut its doors on us. In the
quiet that follows the gigantic disintegration one half expects to see
a new heaven and a new earth emerge out of the chaos of ice quivering
in the water.

You often warned me in the course of the past year how dull life would
be. You knew how I loved a city. I still do. But the last word on
earth one could apply to the life here is "dull." Nature takes care of
that. I defy you to walk along any street in London and see six
porpoises and a whale! That is what I saw this morning. Oh! of course
you may counter by telling me that neither can I see an automobile or
a fire engine, but I have you, because I can answer that I have seen
them already. How are you going to get out of that corner, except by
saying that you do not want to see the old porpoises and whales and
bergs?--and I know your "Scotch" conscience forbids such distortion of
facts.

I have come to believe in the personality of porpoises. They swam
beside the ship, playing about in the water all the while, rolling
over and diving, and chasing each other just as if they knew they had
a "gallery." We did not reward them very well either, for the Prophet
shot one, and we ate bits of him for lunch--the porpoise, I mean, not
the Prophet. I thought he would make a good companion-piece for the
polar bear, and he was quite edible. He only needed a rasher of bacon
to make you believe he was calf's liver.

So you see that between puffins and porpoises and whales, and
"growlers" and lost dories, I crowded enough into one day to give me
dreams that Alice in Wonderland might covet.

In your secret heart don't you wish that you too were

    "Where the squat-legged Eskimo
    Waddles in the ice and snow,
    And the playful polar bear
    Nips the hunter unaware;
    Where the air is kind o' pure,
    And the snow crop's pretty sure"?



  _July 22_


It has been days since I wrote you, and they have slipped by so
stealthily I must have missed half they held.

Since coming aboard I have taken to rising promptly. It is a necessary
measure if I am to be able to rise at all. One morning I stuck my head
out just in time to see my favourite sweater, which I had counted on
for service on the homeward voyage, disappearing over the
rail--legitimately, so far as concerned the wearer. Last week, by the
merest fluke, I rescued my best boots from a similar fate. The doctor
explained lamely on each occasion that they got mixed with the
clothing sent for distribution to the poor. This may be a literal
statement of fact, but I doubt the manner of the mixing.

We celebrated to-day by running aground on the flats. You can "squeak"
over them if you happen to strike the channel. The difficulty is,
however, that the sandy bottom shifts. To-day it is, and to-morrow it
is not. I was eating one of those large, hearty breakfasts which the
combination of a dead flat calm and a sunshiny brisk air make such a
desideratum. I was, moreover, perched on the top of the wheel house,
and reflecting on the poor taste of the author of the Book of
Revelation when he said that in heaven "there shall be no more sea."
At this moment I came to with a lurch. "She's stuck!" yelled, or as he
himself would put it, "bawled," the Prophet. For once he was
undeniably right. Fortunately the tide was on the flood, and we
floated off a short while after.

In the afternoon we visited an Eskimo Moravian station. They--the
Eskimos, not the Moravians--are a jolly little people, and picturesque
as possible. Not that any aspersions on the Moravians are intended,
for I have the greatest respect for them. My shining leather coat made
a great hit. They fondled it and stroked it, and coo-ed at it as if
it were a new baby. All the women past their very first youth seemed
toothless. I wondered if it could be a characteristic of the
tribe--sort of Manx Eskimo. I asked the Prophet what was the cause of
the universal shortage, and was told that the Eskimo women all chew
the sealskin to soften it for making into boots. You can take this
statement for what it may be worth.

Speaking of which I have just finished reading a ludicrously furious
attack on the Mission in a St. John's paper, for its alleged
misrepresentations. It seems that last year the former superintendent
took down a boy from the Children's Home to give him a chance at
further education. He had a wooden leg, his own having been removed by
an operation for tuberculosis. On his arrival in Montreal the
omnivorous reporter saw in him excellent copy, and forthwith printed
the following purely fictitious account of the cause of his
disability. Little Kommak, so the story ran (the boy is of pure Irish
extraction, and is named Michael Flynn), was one day sitting with his
mother in his igloo when he saw a large polar bear approaching. Having
no weapon, and not desiring the presence of the bear in any capacity
at their midday meal, he stuck his leg out through the small aperture
of the igloo. The bear bit it off on the principle of half a loaf
being better than no bread. The whole thing was a fabric of lies from
beginning to end. The St. John's papers discovered the article,
pounced upon it, and printed the article "_que je viens de finir_."
Of course, if the local editor lacked humour enough to credit the
doctor with such a fairy tale, one could pity the poor soul, but his
diatribe has rather the earmarks of jealousy.

  [Illustration: THE BEAR BIT HIS LEG OFF]

A lovely sunset is lighting up the sea and sky and hills, and turning
the plain little settlement, in the harbour of which we are anchored,
into the Never, Never Land. The scene is so bewitching that I find my
soul purged by it of the bad taste of the attack. I'll leave you to
digest the mixed metaphor undisturbed while I go below and help with
the patients who have begun pouring aboard.


  _Same evening_

An old chap has just climbed over the rail, who looks like an early
patriarch, but his dignity is impaired by the moth-eaten high silk hat
which surmounts his white hair. The people regard him with apparent
deference, due either to the hat or his inherent character. Looking at
his fine old face, one is inclined to believe it is the latter.

The expressions these people use are so nautical and so apt! Every
patient who comes aboard expressed the wish to be "sounded" in some
portion of his or her anatomy for the suspected ailment which has
brought him. One burly fisherman solemnly took off his huge oily
sea-boot, placed a grimy forefinger on his heel, and remarked
sententiously that the doctor "must sound him right there." The
prescription was soap and water--a diagnosis in which I entirely
concurred. The next case was a young girl with a "kink in her glutch."
It has the sound of all too familiar motor trouble, but was dismissed
as psychopathic. I wish that a similarly simple diagnosis accounted
for the mysterious ailments of automobiles. My meditations on modern
science were interrupted by an insistent voice proclaiming that "my
head is like to burst abroad."

If I were a woman on this coast my temper would "burst abroad" to see
the men--some of them--spitting all over the floors of the cottages:
disgusting and particularly dangerous in a country where the
arch-enemy, tuberculosis, is ever on the watch for victims. But the
new era is slowly dawning. Now, instead of hooking "Welcome Home" into
the fireside mat, you find "DONT SPIT" worked in letters of
flame. It is the harbinger of the feminist movement in the land.

Speaking of the feminist movement makes me think of a woman at
Aquaforte Harbour. She deserves a book written about her. In the first
place, Elmira had the courage of her convictions, and did not marry.
Her convictions were that marriage was desirable if you get the right
man who can support you properly, and not otherwise. This is
generations in advance of the local attitude to the holy estate. She
has lived a life of single blessedness to the coast. In every trouble
along her section of the shore it is "routine" to send for "Aunt"
'Mira. She has more sense and unselfishness and native wit than you
would meet in ten products of civilization. For a year she acted as
nurse to the little boy of one of the staff, and never was child
better cared for. They once told 'Mira she really must make baby take
his bottle. (He had the habit of profound slumber at that time.) "Oh!
I does, ma'm," 'Mira replied. "If he dwalls off, I gives him a
scattered jolt." The family took her to England with them, and her
remarks on the trains showed where her ancestry lay. When they backed
she exclaimed, "My happy day! We're goin' astern!" She requested to be
allowed to "open the port"; and at a certain junction where there was
a long delay she asked to go "ashore for a spell."

That "hell is paved with good intentions" is no longer a glib phrase
to me; it is a conviction born of seeing some of the suffering of this
country. The doctor has just been ashore to see a woman with a
five-days old baby. No attempt whatever had been made to get her or
her bed clean or comfortable. She had developed a violent fever, and
the local midwives, with their congenital terror of the use of
water--internal or external--had larded the miserable creature over
from head to foot with butter, and finished off with a liberal coating
of oakum. The doctor said, by the time he had himself scraped and
bathed her, put her in a fresh cool bed with a jug of spring water
beside her to drink, she looked as if she thought the gates of
Paradise had opened.

Mails reached us at the Moravian station, and your most welcome
letters loomed large on the postal horizon. You ask if I have not
found the year long. I will answer by telling you the accepted
derivation of the name "Labrador." It comes from the Portuguese, and
means "the labourer," because those early voyagers intended to send
slaves back to His Majesty. Well-filled time, so the psychologists
tell us, is short in passing, and "down North," before you are half
into the day's tasks, you look up to find that "the embers of the day
are red." You must have guessed, too, that I should not have evinced
such contentment during these months if my fellow workers had not been
congenial. I shall always remember their devotion, and readiness to
serve both one another and the people; and I know that the years to
come will only deepen my appreciation of what their friendship has
meant to me.

How glad I was when the winter came, and I was no longer classed as a
newcomer! I had heard so much about dog driving that I remember
thinking the resultant sensations must be akin to those Elijah
experienced in his chariot. But now I have driven with dogs in summer,
and that is more than most of the older stagers can boast. In a
prosperous little village in the Straits lives the rural dean. He is a
devoted and practical example of what a shepherd and bishop of souls
can be. There is not a good work for the benefit of his flock--and he
is not bound by the conventional and unchristian denominational
prejudices--which does not find in him a leader. His interests range
from coöperation to a skin-boot industry. But the problem of getting
about when you have no Aladdin's carpet is acute. He goes by dog sled
and shanks' pony in winter, and used to go by boat and shanks' pony in
summer. Then one day he had the inspiration of building a two-wheeled
shay, and harnessing in his lusty and idle dog team. Now he drives
about at a rate that "Jehu the son of Nimshi would approve," and is
independent of winds and weather.

Sunday to-morrow. We are running south for the Ragged Islands. If I
were not on the hospital ship, and therefore an involuntary example to
the people, I would fall into my bunk at night with my clothes on, I
am so weary.



  _Ragged Islands
  Sunday night_


Just aboard again after Prayers at the little church. It is a quaint
and crude little edifice, and the people were so kindly and the
service so hearty that one feels "wonderfu' lifted up." To be sure,
during the sermon I was suddenly brought up "all standing" by the
amazing statement that the "Harch Hangels go Hup, Hup, Hup." One felt
in one's bones that this was a misapprehension. The very earnest
clergyman may have noticed my obvious disagreement, for at the close
he announced, "We will now sing the 398th hymn"--

    "Day of Wrath, oh! Day of Mourning,
    See fulfilled the Prophet's warning,
    Heaven and earth in ashes burning."

This goes off into the blue on the chance of its reaching you before I
come myself and share a secret with you; for to-morrow we are due at
the Iron Bound Islands, and there I leave the Northern Light, and end
the chapter of my life as a member of the Mission staff. The
appropriateness of the closing hymn in the little church last night is
borne more than ever forcibly in upon me with the chill light of early
morning, for I verily feel as though my world were tottering about my
ears.

I am still optimist enough to know that life will hold many
experiences which will enrich it, but in my secret heart I cherish the
conviction that this year will always stand out as a keynote, and a
touchstone by which to judge those which succeed it. My greatest
solace in the ache which I feel in taking so long a farewell of a
people and country that I love is that I shall always possess them in
memory--a treasure which no one can take from me. As I look back over
the quickly speeding year I find that I have forgotten those trivial
incidents of discomfort which pricked my hurrying feet. All I can
recall is the rugged beauty of the land, the brave and simple people
with their hardy manhood and more than generous hospitality, and most
of all my little bairns who hold in their tiny hands the future of Le
Petit Nord.

  [Illustration: P.S.]



The Riverside Press
Cambridge · Massachusetts
U.S.A.



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