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A Labrador Doctor - The Autobiography of Wilfred Thomason Grenfell
by Wilfred Thomason Grenfell
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In the fall of 1899 the hull of the Strathcona was completely finished, and I brought her round, an empty shell, to fit her up at our Yarmouth wharf; after which, in company with a young Oxford friend, Alfred Beattie, we left for the Labrador, crossing to Tilt Cove, Newfoundland, direct from Swansea in an empty copper ore tanker, the Kilmorack. On this I was rated as purser at twenty-five cents for the trip. Most tramps can roll, but an empty tanker going west against prevailing winds in the "roaring forties" can certainly give points to the others. Her slippery iron decks and the involuntary sideways excursions into the scuppers still spring into my mind when a certain Psalm comes round in the Church calendar, with its "that thy footsteps slip not." We were a little delayed by what is known as wind-jamming, and we used to kill time by playing tennis in the huge empty hold. This occupation, under the circumstances, supplied every kind of diversion.

The mine at Tilt Cove is situated in a hole in the huge headland which juts out far into the Atlantic, in the northern end of Newfoundland. Communication in these days was very meagre. No vessel would be available for us to get North for a fortnight. It so happened, however, that the Company's doctor had long been waiting a chance to get married, but his contract never allowed him to leave the mine without a medical man while it was working. I therefore found myself welcomed with open arms, and incidentally practising in his place the very next day—he having skipped in a boat after his bride. The exchange had been ratified by the captain of the mine on the assurance that I would not leave before he returned. It was absolutely essential that I should not let the next north-bound steamer go by. The season was already far advanced; and yet when the day on which she was due arrived, there was no sign of the doctor and his wife. It was a kind of Damon and Pythias experience—only Pythias got back late by a few hours in spite of all his efforts, and Damon would have had to pay the piper if the captain of the mine had not permitted me to proceed.



The narrow road around the cavernous basin in the cliffs leaves only just room for the line of houses between the lake in the middle and the precipice behind. Only a few years later an avalanche overwhelmed the house of Captain Williams, and he and his family perished in it. During the days I was at the mine the news travelled by grapevine telegraph that the Mission doctor from England had come to the village, and every one took advantage of it. The plan there was to pay so much per month, well or ill, for the doctor. The work was easy at first, but by the time I left every living being seemed to me to have contracted some disease. For each succeeding day my surgery got fuller, until on the last morning even the yard and road contained waiting patients. Whose fault it was has always been a problem to me; but it added a fresh reason for wishing to leave punctually, so that one might not risk outliving one's reputation.

In October, 1899, I wrote to my mother: "We have just steamed into Battle Harbour and guns and flags gave us a welcome after our three years' absence. The hospital was full and looked splendid. What a change from the day, now seven years ago, that we first landed and had only a partially finished house! What an oasis for patients from the bleak rocks outside! I never thought to remain so long in this country."

Here we boarded the little Mission steamer, but no human agency is perfect, and even the Julia Sheriden had her faults. Her gait on this fall voyage was suggestive of inebriety, and at times gave rise to the anxious sensations one experiences when one sees a poor victim of the saloon returning home along a pavement near much traffic.

While in England we had received letters from the north coast of Newfoundland, begging us to again include their shores in our visits, and especially to establish a definite winter station at St. Anthony. The people claimed, and rightly, to be very poor. One man with a large family, whom I knew well, as he had acted guide for me on hunting expeditions, wrote: "Come and start a station here if you can. My family and I are starving." Dr. Aspland wrote that every one was strongly in favour of our taking up a Mission hospital in North Newfoundland. We felt that we should certainly reach a very large number of people whom we now failed to touch, and that careful inquiries should be made.

Life on the French shore has been a struggle with too many families to keep off actual starvation. For instance, one winter at St. Anthony a man with a large family, and a fine, capable, self-respecting fellow, was nine days without tasting any flour or bread, or anything besides roast seal meat. Others were even worse off, for this man was a keen hunter, and with his rickety old single-barrel, boy's muzzle-loading gun used to wander alone far out over the frozen sea, with an empty stomach as well, trying to get a seal or a bird for his family. At last he shot a square flipper seal and dragged it home. The rumour of his having killed it preceded his arrival, and even while skinning it a crowd of hungry men were waiting for their share of the fat. Not that any was due to them, but here there is a delightful semi-community of goods.

Fish was then only fetching two or three dollars a hundredweight, salted and dried. The price of necessities depended on the conscience of the individual supplier and the ignorance of the people. The truck system was universal; thrift at a discount—and the sin of Ananias an all too common one; that is, taking supplies from one man and returning to him only part of the catch. The people in the north end of Newfoundland and Labrador were very largely illiterate; the sectarian schools split up the grants for teachers—as they still most unfortunately do—and miserable salaries, permitting teachers only for a few months at a time, were the rule.

I had once spent a fortnight at St. Anthony, having taken refuge there in the Princess May when I was supposed to be lost by those who were cut off from communication with us. I had also looked in there each summer to see a few patients. My original idea was to get a winter place established for our Indian Harbour staff, and I proposed opening up there each October when Indian Harbour closed, and closing in June when navigation was reopened, Battle Harbour again accessible, and when the man-of-war doctors are more on this section of the coast.

The snow was deep on the ground long before our voyage ended. There is always a romantic charm about cruising in the fall of the year on the Labrador. The long nights and the heavy gales add to the interest of the day's work. The shelter of the islands becomes a positive joy; the sense of safety in the harbours and fjords is as real a pleasure as the artificial attractions of civilization. The tang of the air, the young ice that makes every night, the fantastic midnight dances of the November auroras in the winter sky, all make one forget the petty worries of the daily round.

As Beattie agreed to stay with me it was with real keenness to sample a sub-arctic winter that in November we disembarked from the Julia Sheriden. We made only the simplest preparations, renting a couple of rooms in the chief trader's house and hiring my former guide as dog-driver.



CHAPTER XI

FIRST WINTER AT ST. ANTHONY

Not one of the many who have wintered with us in the North has failed to love our frozen season. To me it was one long delight. The dog-driving, the intimate relationships with the people on whom one was so often absolutely dependent, the opportunity to use to the real help of good people in distress the thousand and one small things which we had learned—all these made the knowledge that we were shut off from the outside world rather a pleasure than a cause for regret.

Calls for the doctor were constant. I spent but three Sundays at home the whole time, and my records showed fifteen hundred miles covered with dogs.

The Eskimo dog is so strong and enduring that he is the doyen of traction power in the North, when long distances and staying qualities are required. But for short, sharp dashes of twenty to thirty miles the lighter built and more vivacious Straits dog is the speedier and certainly the less wolfish. We have attempted crossbreeding our somewhat squat-legged Eskimo dogs with Kentucky wolf hounds, to combine speed with endurance. The mail-carrier from Fullerton to Winnipeg found that combination very desirable. With us, however, it did not succeed. The pups were lank and weedy and not nearly so capable as the ordinary Straits breed.

The real Labrador dog is a very slightly modified wolf. A good specimen stands two feet six inches, or even two feet eight inches high at the shoulder, measures over six feet six inches from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail, and will scale a hundred pounds. The hair is thick and straight; the ears are pointed and stand directly up. The large, bushy tail curves completely over on to the back, and is always carried erect. The colour is generally tawny, like that of a gray wolf, with no distinctive markings. The general resemblance to wolves is so great that at Davis Inlet, where wolves come out frequently in winter, the factor has seen his team mixed with a pack of wolves on the beach in front of the door, and yet could not shoot, being unable to distinguish one from the other. The Eskimo dog never barks, but howls exactly like a wolf, in sitting posture with the head upturned. The Labrador wolf has never been known to kill a man, but during the years I have spent in that country I have known the dogs to kill two children and one man, and to eat the body of another. Our dogs have little or no fear, and unlike the wolves, will unhesitatingly attack even the largest polar bear.

No amount of dry cold seems to affect the dogs. At 50 deg. F. below zero, a dog will lie out on the ice and sleep without danger of frost-bite. He may climb out of the sea with ice forming all over his fur, but he seems not to mind one iota. I have seen his breath freeze so over his face that he had to rub the coating off his eyes with his paws to enable him to see the track.

The dogs have a wonderful instinct for finding their way under almost insurmountable difficulties, and they have oftentimes been the means of saving the lives of their masters. Once I was driving a distance of seventy miles across country. The path was untravelled for the winter, and was only a direction, not being cut or blazed. The leading dog had been once across the previous year with the doctor. The "going" had then been very bad; with snow and fog the journey had taken three days. A large part of the way lay across wide frozen lakes, and then through woods. As I had never been that way before I had to leave it to the dog. Without a single fault, as far as we knew, he took us across, and we accomplished the whole journey in twelve hours, including one and a half hours for rest and lunch.



The distance travelled and the average speed attained depends largely on other factors than the dog power. We have covered seventy-five miles in a day with comfort; we have done five with difficulty. Ordinary speed would be six miles an hour, but I once did twenty-one miles in two hours and a quarter over level ice. Sails can sometimes be used with advantage on the komatik as an adjunct. The whole charm of dog-team driving lies in its infinite variety of experiences, the personal study of each dog, and the need for one's strength, courage, and resourcefulness.

South and north of the little village of St. Anthony where we had settled were other similar villages; and we decided that we could make a round tour every second month at least. We soon found, however, a great difficulty in getting started, because we always had some patients in houses near about, whom we felt that we could not leave. So we selected a motherly woman, whom we had learned that we could trust to obey orders and not act on her own initiative and judgment, and trained her as best we could to deal with some of these sick people. Then, having borrowed and outfitted a couple of rooms in a friend's house, we left our serious cases under her care, and started for a month's travel with all the optimism of youth.

Weight on your komatik is a vital question, and not knowing for what you may be called upon, makes the outfitting an art. I give the experience of years. The sledge should be eleven feet long. Its runners should be constructed of black spruce grown in the Far North where wood grows slowly and is very tough, and yet quite light. The runners should be an inch thick, eleven inches high, and about twenty-six inches apart, the bottoms rising at the back half an inch, as well as at the front toward the horns. The laths are fastened on with alternate diagonal lashings, are two inches wide, and close together. Such a komatik will "work" like a snake, adapting itself to the inequalities of the ground, and will not spread or "buckle." Long nails are driven up right through the runners, and clinched on the top to prevent splitting. The runners should be shod with spring steel, one inch wide; and a second runner, two and a half inches wide, may be put between the lower one and the wood, to hold up the sledge when the snow is soft. Thus one has on both a skate and a snowshoe at once. The dogs' traces should be of skin and fastened with toggles or buttons to the bowline. Dog food must be distributed along the komatik trail in summer—though the people will make great sacrifices to feed "the Doctor's team."

Clothing must be light; to perspire in cold weather is unpardonable, for it will freeze inside your clothes at night. Fortunately warmth depends only on keeping heat in; and we find an impervious, light, dressed canvas best. The kossak should be made with, so to speak, no neck through which the heat which one produces can leak out. The headpiece must be attached to the tunic, which also clips tight round the wrists and round the waist to retain the heat. The edges may be bound with fur, especially about the hood, so as to be soft and tight about the face, and to keep the air out. The Eskimo cuts his own hair so as to fill that function. Light sealskin boots are best for all weathers, but in very cold, dry seasons, deerskin dressed very soft is warmer. The skin boot should be sewn with sinew which swells in water and thus keeps the stitches water-tight. These skin boots are made by the Eskimo women who chew the edges of the skin to make them soft before sewing them with deer sinew. The little Eskimo girls on the North Labrador coast are proficient in the art of chewing, as they are brought up from childhood to help their mothers in this way, the women having invariably lost their teeth at a very early age.

A light rifle should always be lashed on the komatik, as a rabbit, a partridge, or a deer gives often a light to the eyes with the fresh proteids they afford, like Jonathan's wild honey. In these temperatures, with the muscular exercise required, my strictest of vegetarian friends should permit us to bow in the House of Rimmon. One day while crossing a bay I noticed some seals popping up their heads out of the water beyond the ice edge. I had a fine leading dog bearing the unromantic name of Podge, and pure white in colour. But he was an excellent water dog, trained not only to go for birds, but to dive under water for sunken seals. Owing to their increasing fat in winter, seals as a rule float, though they invariably sink in summer. On this particular occasion, having hitched up the team we crept out to the ice edge, Podge following at my heels. Lying still on the ice, and just occasionally lifting and waggling one's leg when the seal put up his head, he mistook one for a basking brother, and being a very curious animal, he again dived, and came up a few feet away. We shot two, both of which Podge dived after and retrieved, to the unbounded joy both of ourselves and his four-footed chums, who more than gladly shared the carcasses with him later.

A friend, returning from an island, was jogging quietly along on the bay ice, when his team suddenly went wild. A bear had crossed close ahead, and before he could unlash his rifle the komatik had dashed right onto the animal, who, instead of running, stood up and showed fight. The team were all around him, rapidly snarling themselves up in their own traces. He had just time to draw his hunting knife across the traces and so save the dogs, caring much more for them than he did for the prey. Whilst his dogs held the attention of the bear, he was able, though only a few feet away, to unlash his rifle at his leisure, and very soon ended the conflict.

A gun, however, is a temptation, even to a doctor, and nearly cost one of my colleagues his life. He was crossing a big divide, or neck of land, between bays, and was twenty miles from anywhere, when his dogs took the trail of some deer, which were evidently not far off. Being short of fresh food, he hitched up his team, and also his pilot's team, leaving only his boy driver in charge, while the men pursued the caribou. He enjoined the boy very strictly not to move on any account. By an odd freak a sudden snowstorm swept out of a clear sky just after they left. They missed their way, and two days later, starving and tired out, they found their first refuge, a small house many miles from the spot where they had left the sledges. When, however, they sent a relief team to find the komatiks, they discovered the boy still "standing by" his charge.

When crossing wide stretches of country we are often obliged to camp if it comes on dark. It is quite impossible to navigate rough country when one cannot see stumps, windfalls, or snags; and I have more than once, while caught in a forest looking for our tilt, been obliged to walk ahead with a light, and even to search the snow for tracks with the help of matches, when one's torch has carelessly been left at home. On one occasion, having stopped our team in deep snow at nightfall, we left it in the woods to walk out to a village, only five or six miles distant, on our snowshoes. We entirely lost our way, and ended up at the foot of some steep cliffs which we had climbed down, thinking that our destination lay at their feet. The storm of the day had broken the sea ice from the land, and we could not get round the base of the cliffs, though we could see the village lights twinkling away, only a mile or two across the bay. Climbing steep hills through dense woods in deep snow in the dark calls for some endurance, especially as a white snow-bank looks like an open space through the dark trees. I have actually stuck my face into a perpendicular bluff, thinking that I was just coming out into the open. Oddly enough, when after much struggling we had mounted the hill, we heard voices, and suddenly met two men, who had also been astray all day, but now knew the way home. They were "all in" for want of food, and preferred camping for the night. A good fire and some chunks of sweet cake so greatly restored them, however, that we got under way again in a couple of hours, further stimulated to do so by the bitter cold, against which, in the dark, we could not make adequate shelter. Moreover, we had perspired with the violent exercise and our clothes were freezing from the inside out.





You must always carry an axe, not only for firewood, but for getting water—unless you wish to boil snow, which is a slow process, and apt to burn your kettle. Also when you have either lost the trail or there is none, you must have an axe to clear a track as you march ahead of your dogs. Then there is, of course, the unfortunate question of food. Buns baked with chopped pork in them give one fine energy-producing material, and do not freeze. A sweet hard biscuit is made on the coast which is excellent in one's pocket. Cocoa, cooked pork fat, stick chocolate, are all good to have. Our sealers carry dry oatmeal and sugar in their "nonny bags," which, mixed with snow, assuage their thirst and hunger as well. Pork and beans in tins are good, but they freeze badly. I have boiled a tin in our kettle for fifteen minutes, and then found a lump of ice in the middle of the substance when it was turned out into the dish.

Winter travelling on this coast oftentimes involves considerable hardships, as when once our doctor lost the track and he and his men had to spend several nights in the woods. They were so reduced by hunger that they were obliged to chew pieces of green sealskin which they cut from their boots and to broil their skin gloves over a fire which they had kindled.

One great joy which comes with the work is the sympathy one gets with the really poor, whether in intelligence, physical make-up, or worldly assets. One learns how simple needs and simple lives preserve simple virtues that get lost in the crush of advancing civilization. Many and many a time have the poor people by the wayside refused a penny for their trouble. On one occasion I came in the middle of the night to a poor man's house. He was in bed and the lights out, and it was bitter cold. He got out of bed in a trice and went down to his stage carrying an old hurricane lantern to feed my dogs, while his wife, after he had lit a fire in the freezing cold room, busied herself making me some cocoa. Milk and sugar were provided, and not till long afterwards did I know that it was a special little hoard kept for visitors. Later I was sent to bed—quite unaware that the good folk had spent the first part of the night in it, and were now themselves on the neighbouring floor. Nor would a sou's return be asked. "It's the way of t' coast," the good fellow assured me.

Another time my host for the night had gone when I rose for breakfast. I found that he had taken the road which I was intending to travel to the next village, some fourteen miles distant, just to break and mark a trail for us as we did not know the way; and secondly to carry some milk and sugar to "save the face" of my prospective host for the next day, who had "made a bad voyage" that year. Still another time no less than forty men from Conche marched ahead on a twenty-mile track to make it possible for our team to travel quickly to a neighbouring settlement.

Often I have thought how many of these things would I do for my poorer friends. We who speak glibly of the need of love for our neighbours as being before that for ourselves, would we share a bed, a room, or give hospitality to strangers even in our kitchens, after they had awakened us in the middle of the night by slinging snowballs at our bedroom windows?

One day that winter a father of eight children sent in from a neighbouring island for immediate help. His gun had gone off while his hand was on the muzzle, and practically blown it to pieces. To treat him ten miles away on that island was impossible, so we brought him in for operation. To stop the bleeding he had plunged his hand into a flour barrel and then tied it up in a bag, and as a result the wounded arm was poisoned way up above the elbow. He preferred death to losing his right arm. Day and night for weeks our nurse tended him, as he hovered between life and death with general blood poisoning. Slowly his fine constitution brought him through, and at last a secondary operation for repair became possible. We took chances on bone-grafting to form a hand; and he was left with a flipper like a seal's, able, however, to oppose one long index finger and "nip a line" when he fished. But there was no skin for it. So Dr. Beattie and I shared the honours of supplying some. Pat—for that was his name—has been a veritable apostle of the hospital ever since, and has undoubtedly been the means of enabling others to risk the danger of our suspected proselytizing. For though he had English Episcopal skin on the palm of his hand and Scotch Presbyterian skin on the back, the rest of him still remained a devout Roman Catholic.

Another somewhat parallel case occurred the following year, when a dear old Catholic lady was hauled fifty miles over the snow by her two stalwart sons, to have her leg removed for tubercular disease of the ankle. She did exceedingly well, and the only puzzle which we could not solve was where to raise the necessary hundred dollars for a new leg—for her disposition, even more than her necessity, compelled her to move about. While lecturing that winter in America, I asked friends to donate to me any of their old legs which they no longer needed, and soon I found myself the happy possessor of two good wooden limbs, one of which exactly suited my requirements. A departed Methodist had left it, and the wife's clergyman, a Congregationalist, had handed it to me, an Episcopalian, and I had the joy of seeing it a real blessing to as good a Roman Catholic as I know. As the priest says, there is now at least one Protestant leg established in his parish.

We once reached a house at midnight, found a boy with a broken thigh, and had to begin work by thawing out frozen board in order to plane it for splints, then pad and fix it, and finally give chloroform on the kitchen table. On another occasion we had to knock down a partition in a tiny cottage, make a full-length wooden bath, pitching the seams to make it water-tight, in order to treat a severe cellulitis. Now it would be a maternity case, now a dental one, now a gunshot wound or an axe cut with severed tendons to adjust, now pneumonia, when often in solitary and unlearned homes, we would ourselves do the nursing and especially the cooking, as that art for the sick is entirely uncultivated on the coast.

The following winter I lectured in England and then crossed in the early spring to the United States and lectured both there and in Canada, receiving great kindness and much help for the work.

As I have stated in the previous chapter we had raised, largely through the generosity of Lord Strathcona, the money for a suitable little hospital steamer, and she had been built to our design in England. I had steamed her round to our fitting yard at Great Yarmouth, and had her fitted for our work before sailing. While I was in America, my old Newfoundland crew went across and fetched her over, so that June found us once more cruising the Labrador coast.

While working with the large fleet of schooners, which at that time fished in August and September from Cape Mugford to Hudson Bay Straits, I visited as usual the five stations of the Moravian Brethren. They were looking for a new place to put a station, and at their request I took their representative to Cape Chidley in the Strathcona.

This northern end of Labrador is extremely interesting to cruise. The great Appalachian Mountain Range runs out here right to the water edge, and forms a marvellous sea-front of embattled cliffs from two thousand to three thousand feet in height. The narrow passages which here and there run far into the mountains, and represent old valleys scooped out by ice action, are dominated all along by frowning peaks, whose pointed summits betray the fact that they overtopped the ice stream in the glacial age. The sharp precipices and weather-worn sides are picked out by coloured lichens, and tiny cold-proof Arctic plants, and these, with the deep blue water and unknown vistas that keep constantly opening up as one steams along the almost fathomless fjords, afford a fascination beyond measure.

Once before in the Sir Donald we had tried to navigate the narrow run that cuts off the island on which Cape Chidley stands from the mainland of Labrador, but had missed the way among the many openings, and only noted from a hilltop the course we should have taken, by the boiling current which we saw below, whose vicious whirlpools like miniature maelstroms poured like a dashing torrent from Ungava Bay into the Atlantic.

It was, however, with our hearts somewhere near our mouths that we made an attempt to get through this year, for we knew nothing of the depth, except that the Eskimos had told us that large icebergs drove through at times. We could steam nine knots, and we essayed to cover the tide, which we found against us, as we neared the narrowest part, which is scarcely one hundred yards wide. The current carried us bodily astern, however, and glad enough we were to drive stern foremost into a cove on one side and find thirteen fathoms of water to hold on in till the tide should turn. When at last it did turn, and got under way, it fairly took us in its teeth, and we shot through, an impotent plaything on the heaving bosom of the resistless waters. We returned safely, with a site selected and a fair chart of the "Tickle" (Grenfell Tickle).

When winter closed in, I arranged for an old friend, a clerk of the Hudson Bay Company, to stay with me at St. Anthony, and once more we settled down in rooms hired in a cottage. We had a driver, a team of dogs, and an arrangement with a paternal Government to help out by making an allowance of twenty-five cents for medicine for such patients as could not themselves pay that amount, and in those days the number was quite large.

When early spring came the hospital question revived. An expedition into the woods was arranged, and with a hundred men and thrice as many dogs, we camped in the trees, and at the end of the fortnight came home hauling behind us the material for a thirty-six by thirty-six hospital. Being entirely new to us it proved a very happy experience. We were quartermasters and general providers. Our kitchen was dug down in thick woods through six feet of snow, and our main reliance was on boiled "doughboys"—the "sinkers" among which, with a slice of fat pork or a basin of bird soup, were as popular as lobster a la Newburg at Delmonico's or Sherry's.

The next summer we had trouble with a form of selfishness which I have always heartily hated—the liquor traffic. Suppose we do allow that a man has a right to degrade his body with swallowing alcohol, he certainly has no more right to lure others to their destruction for money than a filibuster has a right to spend his money in gunpowder and shoot his fellow countrymen. To our great chagrin we found that an important neighbour near one of our hospitals was selling intoxicants to the people—girls and men. One girl found drunk on the hillside brought home to me the cost of this man's right to "do as he liked." We promptly declared war, and I thanked God who had made "my hands to war, and my fingers to fight"—when that is the only way to resist the Devil successfully and to hasten the kingdom of peace.

This man and I had had several disagreements, and I had been warned not to land on the premises on pain of being "chucked into the sea." But when I tested the matter out by landing quite alone from a row-boat, after a "few wor-r-r-ds" his coast-born hospitality overcame him, and as his bell sounded the dinner call, he promptly invited me to dine with him. I knew that he would not poison the food, and soon we were glowering at one another over his own table—where his painful efforts to convince me that he was right absolutely demonstrated the exact opposite.

My chance came that summer. We were steaming to our Northern hospital from the deep bay which runs in a hundred and fifty miles. About twenty miles from the mouth a boat hailed us out of the darkness, and we stopped and took aboard a wrecked crew of three men. They had struck our friend's well-insured old steam launch on a shoal and she had sunk under them. We took them aboard, boat and all, wrote down carefully their tale of woe, and then put the steamer about, pushed as near the wreck as we dared and anchored. Her skipper came forward and asked me what I intended doing, and I told him I was going to survey the wreck. A little later he again came to ask permission to go aboard the wreck to look for something he had forgotten. I told him certainly not. Just before sunrise the watch called me and said that the wrecked crew had launched their boat, and were rowing toward the steamer. "Launch ours at once, and drive them back" was an order which our boys obeyed with alacrity and zest. It was a very uneasy three men who faced me when they returned. They were full of bluff at what they would do for having their liberties thus interfered with, but obviously uneasy at heart.

With some labour we discovered that the water only entered the wreck at low tide and forward; so by buoying her with casks, tearing up her ballast deck, and using our own pumps as well as buckets—at which all hands of my crew worked with a good will, we at last found the hole. It was round. There were no splinters on the inside. We made a huge bung from a stick of wood, plugged the opening, finished pumping her out, and before dark had her floating alongside us. Late that night we were once more anchored—this time opposite the dwelling-house of my friend the owner. We immediately went ashore and woke him up. There is a great deal in doing things at the psychological moment; and by midnight I had a deed duly drawn up, signed and sealed, selling me the steamer for fifty cents. I still see the look in his eyes as he gave me fifty cents change from a dollar. He was a self-made man, had acquired considerable money, and was keen as a ferret at business. The deed was to me a confession that he was in the plot for barratry, to murder the boat for her insurance.

On our trip South we picked up the small steamer, and towing her to a Hudson Bay Company's Post we put her "on the hard," photographed the hole, with all the splintering on the outside, and had a proper survey of the hull made by the Company's shipwright. The unanimous verdict was "wilful murder." In the fall as her own best witness, we tried to tow her to St. John's, but in a heavy breeze of wind and thick snow we lost her at sea—and with her our own case as well. The law decided that there was no evidence, and my friend, making out that he had lost the boat and the insurance, threatened to sue me for the value.

The sequel of the story may as well be told here. A year or so later I had just returned from Labrador. It used to be said always that our boat "brought up the keel of the Labrador"; but this year our friend had remained until every one else had gone. Just as we were about to leave for England, the papers in St. John's published the news of the loss of a large foreign-going vessel, laden with fish for the Mediterranean, near the very spot where our friend lived. On a visit a little later to the shipping office I found the event described in the graphic words of the skipper and mate. Our friend the consignee had himself been on board at the time the "accident" occurred. After prodigies of valour they had been forced to leave the ship, condemn her, and put her up for sale. Our friend, the only buyer at such a time on the coast, had bought her in for eighty dollars.

It was the end of November, and already a great deal of ice had made. The place was six hundred miles north. The expense of trying to save the ship would be great. But was she really lost? The heroics sounded too good to be true. All life is a venture. Why not take one in the cause of righteousness? That night in a chartered steam trawler, with a trusty diver, we steamed out of the harbour, steering north. Our skipper was the sea rival of the famous Captain Blandford; and the way he drove his little craft, with the ice inches thick from the driving spray all over the bridge and blocking the chart-room windows, made one glad to know that the good sea genius of the English was still so well preserved.

When our distance was run down we hauled in for the land, but had to lay "hove to" (with the ship sugared like a Christmas cake), as we were unable to recognize our position in the drifting snow. At length we located the islands, and never shall I forget as we drew near hearing the watch call out, "A ship's topmasts over the land." It was the wreck we were looking for.

It took some hours to cut through the ice in which she lay, before ever we could get aboard; and even the old skipper showed excitement when at last we stood on her deck. Needless to say, she was not upside down, nor was she damaged in any way, though she was completely stripped of all running gear. The diver reported no damage to her bottom, while the mate reported the fish in her hold dry, and the hatches still tightly clewed, never having been stirred.

With much hearty good-will our crew jettisoned fish enough into our own vessel to float the craft. Fearing that so late in the year we might fail to tow her safely so far, and remembering the outcome of our losing the launch, we opened the stores on the island, and finding both block and sails, neatly labelled and stowed away, we soon had our prize not only refitted for sea, but also stocked with food, water, chart, and compass and all essentials for a voyage across the Atlantic, if she were to break loose and we to lose her. The last orders were to the mate, who was put on board her with a crew, "If not St. John's then Liverpool."

No such expedient, however, proved necessary. Though we had sixty fathoms of anchor chain on each of our wire cables to the ship, we broke one in a seaway and had to haul under the lee of some cliffs and repair damages. Often for hours together the vessel by day and her lights by night would disappear, and our hearts would jump into our mouths for fear we might yet fail. But at last, with all our bunting up, and both ships dressed as if for a holiday, we proudly entered the Narrows of St. John's, the cynosure of all eyes. The skipper and our friend had gone to England, so the Government had them extradited. The captain, who was ill with a fatal disease, made a full confession, and both men were sent to prison.

That was how we "went dry" in our section of Labrador.



CHAPTER XII

THE COOPERATIVE MOVEMENT

Being a professional and not a business man, and having no acquaintance with the ways of trade, the importance of a new economic system as one of the most permanent messages of helpfulness to the coast was not at first obvious to me. But the ubiquitous barter system, which always left the poor men the worst end of the bargain, is as subtle a danger as can face a community—subtle because it impoverishes and enslaves the victims, and then makes them love their chains.

As a magistrate I once heard a case where a poor man paid one hundred dollars in cash to his trader in the fall to get him a new net. The trader could not procure the twine, and when spring arrived the man came to get on credit his usual advance of "tings." From the bill for these the trader deducted the hundred dollars cash, upon which the man actually came to me as a justice of the peace to have him punished!

Lord Strathcona told me that in his day on this coast, when a man had made so good a hunt that he had purchased all he could think of, he would go round to the store again asking how much money was still due him. He would then take up purchases to exceed it by a moderate margin, saying that he liked to keep his name on the Company's books. In those days the people felt that they had the best part of the bargain if they were always a little in debt. The tendency to thrift was thus annihilated. The fishermen simply turned in all their catch to the merchant, and took what was coming to them as a matter of course. Many even were afraid to ask for certain supplies. This fact often became evident when we were trying to order special diets—the patient would reply, "Our trader won't give out that." Naturally the whole system horrified us, as being the nearest possible approach to English slavery, for the poor man was in constant fear that the merchant "will turn me off." On the other hand, the traders took precautions that their "dealers" should not be able to leave them, such as not selling them traps outright for furring, or nets for fishing, but only loaning them, and having them periodically returned. This method insured their securing all the fur caught, because legally a share of the catch belonged to them in return for the loan of the trap. They thus completely minimized the chance for competition, which is "the life of trade."

Soon after my arrival on the coast I saw the old Hudson Bay Company's plan of paying in bone counters of various colours; and a large lumber company paying its wages in tin money, stamped "Only valuable at our store." If, to counteract this handicap, the men sold fish or fur for cash to outsiders, and their suppliers found it out, they would punish them severely.

On another occasion, sitting by me on a gunning point where we were shooting ducks as they flew by on their fall migration, was a friend who had given me much help in building one of our hospitals. I suddenly noticed that he did not fire at a wonderful flock of eiders which went right over our heads. "What's the matter, Jim?" I asked. "I settled with the merchant to-day," he replied, "and he won't give me nothing for powder. A duck or two won't matter. 'Tis the children I'm minding." The fishery had been poor, and not having enough to meet his advances, he had sold a few quintals of fish for cash, so as to get things like milk which he would not be allowed on winter credit, and had been caught doing so. He was a grown man and the father of four children. We went to his trader to find out how much he was in debt. The man's account on the books was shown us, and it read over three thousand dollars against our friend. It had been carried on for many years. A year or two later when the merchant himself went bankrupt with a debt of $686,000 to the bank of which he was a director, the people of that village, some four hundred and eleven souls in all, owed his firm $64,000, an asset returned as value nil. The whole thing seemed a nightmare to any one who cared about these people.

In Labrador no cereals are grown and the summer frosts make potato and turnip crops precarious, so that the tops of the latter are practically all the green food to which we can aspire—except for the few families who remain at the heads of the long bays all summer, far removed from the polar current. Furthermore, until some one invents a way to extract the fishy taste from our fish oils, we must import our edible fats; for the Labrador dogs will not permit cows or even goats to live near them. I have heard only this week that a process has just been discovered in California for making a pleasant tasting butter out of fish oil. Our "sweetness" must all be imported, for none of our native berries are naturally sweet, and we can grow no cultivated fruits. The same fact applies to cotton and wool. Thus nearly all our necessities of life have to be brought to us. Firewood, lumber, fish and game, boots or clothing of skins, are all that we can provide for ourselves. On the other hand, we must export our codfish, salmon, trout, whales, oil, fur, and in fact practically all our products. An exchange medium is therefore imperative; and we must have some gauge like cash by which to measure, or else we shall lose on all transactions; for all the prices of both exports and imports fluctuate very rapidly, and besides this, we had then practically no way to find out what prices were maintaining in our markets.

Government relief had failed to stop the evils of the barter system. In the opinion of thinking men it only made matters worse. We were therefore from every point of view encouraged to start the cooperative plan which had proved so successful in England. I still believe that the people are honest, and that the laziness of indolence, from the stigma of which it is often impossible to clear them, is due to despair and inability to work properly owing to imperfect nourishment.

Things went from bad to worse as the years went by. The fact of the sealing steamers killing the young seals before they could swim greatly impoverished the Labrador inshore seal fishery. The prices of fish were so low that a man could scarcely catch enough to pay for his summer expenses out of it.

With us the matter came to a head in a little fishing village called Red Bay, on the north side of the Straits of Belle Isle. When we ran in there on our last visit one fall, we found some of our good friends packed up and waiting on their stages to see if we would remove them from the coast. A meeting was called that night to consider the problem, and it was decided that the people must try to be their own merchants, accepting the risks and sharing the profits. The fisherman's and trapper's life is a gamble, and naturally, therefore, they like credit advances, for it makes the other man carry the risks. We then and there decided, however, to venture a cooperative store, hiring a schooner to bring our freight and carry our produce straight to market; and if necessary eat grass for a year or so. Alas, after a year's saving the seventeen families could raise only eighty-five dollars among them for capital, and we had to loan them sufficient to obtain the first cargo. A young fisherman was chosen as secretary, and the store worked well from the beginning. That was in 1905. He is still secretary, and to-day in 1918 the five-dollar shares are worth one hundred and four dollars each, by the simple process of accumulation of profits. The loan has been repaid years ago. Not a barrow load of fish leaves the harbour except through the cooperative store. Due to it, the people have been able to tide over a series of bad fisheries; and every family is free of debt.



At the time of the formation one most significant fact was that every shareholder insisted that his name must not be registered, for fear some one might find out that he owned cash. They were even opposed to a label on the building to signify that it was a store. However, I chalked all over its face "Red Bay Cooperative Store."

The whole effort met with very severe criticism, not to say hostility, at the hands of the smaller traders, but the larger merchants were most generous in their attitude, and though doubtful of the possibility of realizing a cash basis, were without exception favourable to the attempt. This store has been an unqualified success, only limited in its blessings by its lack of larger capital. It has enabled its members to live independently, free of debt and without want; while similar villages, both south and east and west, have been gradually deleted by the people being forced to leave through inability to meet their needs.

During my first winter at St. Anthony, the young minister of the little church on more than one occasion happened to be visiting on his rounds in the very house where we were staying on ours, and the subject of cooperation was frequently discussed over the evening pipe with the friends in the place. He had himself been trading, and had so disliked the methods that he had retired. He would certainly help us to organize a store on the Newfoundland side of the Straits.

At last the day arrived for the initial meeting. We gave notice everywhere. The chosen rendezvous was in a village fourteen miles north. The evening before, however, the minister sent word that he could not be present, as he had to go to a place twenty miles to the northwest to hold service. Knowing for how much his opinion counted in the minds of some of the people, this was a heavy blow, especially as the traders had notified me that they would all be on hand. Fortunately an ingenious suggestion was made—"He doesn't know the way. Persuade his driver, after starting out, to gradually work round and end up at the cooperative meeting." This was actually done, and our friend was present willy-nilly. He proved a broken reed, however, for in the face of the traders he went back on cooperation.

As fortune would have it, our own komatik fell through the ice in taking a short cut across a bay, and we arrived late, having had to borrow some dry clothing from a fisherman on the way. Our trader friends had already appeared on the scene, and were joking the parson for being tricked, saying that evidently we had made a mistake and were really at Cape Norman, the place to which he had intended to go.

It was a dark evening, crisp and cold, and hundreds of dogs that had hauled people from all over the countryside to the meeting made night dismal outside. We began our meeting with prayer for guidance, wisdom, and good temper, for we knew that we should need them all—and then we came down to statistics, prices, debts, possibilities, and the story of cooperation elsewhere.

The little house was crammed to overflowing. But the fear of the old regime was heavy on the meeting. The traders occupied the whole time for speaking. Only one old fisherman spoke at all. He had been an overseas sailor in his early days, and he surprised himself by turning orator. His effort elicited great applause. "Doctor—I means Mr. Chairman—if this here copper store buys a bar'l of flour in St. John's for five dollars, be it going to sell it to we fer ten? That's what us wants to know."

Outside, after the meeting, Babel was let loose. The general opinion was that there must be something to it or the traders would not have so much to say against the project. The upshot of the matter was that for a long time no one could be found who would take the managership; but at length the best-beloved fisherman on the shore stepped into the breach. He was not a scholar—in fact could scarcely read, write, and figure—but his pluck, optimism, and unselfishness carried him through.

That little store has been preaching its vital truths ever since. It is a still small text, but it has had vast influences for good. There has proved to be one difficulty. It is the custom on the coast to give all meals to travellers free, both men and dogs, and lodging to boot. Customers came from so far away that they had to stay overnight at least, and of course it was always Harry's house to which they went. The profit on a twenty-five cent purchase was slender under these circumstances, and as cash was scarce in those days, a twenty-five-cent purchase was not so rare as might be supposed. We therefore printed, mounted, framed, and sent to our friend the legend, "No more free meals. Each meal will cost ten cents." Later we received a most grateful reply from him in his merry way, saying that he had hung up the card in his parlour, but begging us not to defer visits if we had not the requisite amount, as he was permitted to give credit to that extent. But when next we suddenly "blew in" to Harry's house, the legend was hanging with its face to the wall.

Our third store was seventy-five miles to the westward at a place called Flowers Cove. Here the parson came in with a will. Being a Church of England man, he was a more permanent resident, and, as he said, "he was a poor man, but he would sell his extra pair of boots to be able to put one more share in the store." What was infinitely more important he put in his brains. Every one in that vicinity who had felt the slavery of the old system joined the venture. One poor Irishman walked several miles around the coast to catch me on my next visit, and secretly give me five dollars. "'Tis all I has in the world, Doctor, saving a bunch of children, but if it was ten times as large, you should have every cent of it for the store." "Thanks, Paddy, that's the talking that tells." For some years afterwards, every time that he knew I was making a visit to that part of the coast, he would come around seeking a private interview, and inquire after the health of "the copper store"; till he triumphantly brought another five dollars for a second share "out of my profits, Doctor."

That store is now a limited liability company with a capital of ten thousand dollars owned entirely by the fishermen, it has paid consistently a ten per cent dividend every year, and is located in fine premises which it bought and owns outright.

A fourth store followed near the lumber mill which we started to give winter labour at logging; but owing to bad management and lack of ability to say "no" to men seeking credit, it fell into debt and we closed it up. Number five almost shared the same fate. Unable to get local talent to manage it, we hired a Canadian whose pretensions proved unequal to his responsibility. He was, however, found out in time to reorganize the store; but the loss which he had caused was heavy, and it was his notice of leaving for Canada which alone betrayed the truth to us. The most serious aspect of the matter was that many of the local fishermen lost confidence in the ability of the store to succeed, and returning to the credit system, they found it modified enough to appear to them a lamb instead of a wolf. However, number five is growing all the time again and will yet be a factor in the people's deliverance.

Numbers six and seven were in poor and remote parts of Labrador, very small, and with insufficient capital and brains. One has closed permanently. They were simply small stores under the care of one settler, who guaranteed to charge the people only a fixed percentage over St. John's prices for goods, as the return for his responsibility. Number eight was the result of a night spent in a miserable shack on a lonely promontory called Adlavik.

God forbid that I should judge traders or doctors or lawyers or priests by their profession or their intellectual attitude. There are noble men in all walks of life. Alas, some are more liable than others to yield to temptation, and the temptations to which they are exposed are more insistent.

Number nine was on the extreme northern edge of the white settlers at Ford's Harbour. The story of it is too long to relate, but the trade there, in spite of many difficulties, still continues to preach a gospel and spell much blessing to poor people. To help out, we have sent north to this station three of our boys from the orphanage, as they grew old enough to go out into the world for themselves.

One disaster, in the form of a shipwreck, overtook the fine fellow in charge of this most northerly venture. For the first time in his life he came south, to seek a wife, his former wife having succumbed to tuberculosis. He brought with him his year's products of fur and skin boots. The mail steamer on which he was travelling struck a rock off Battle Harbour, and most of his goods were lost uninsured, he himself gladly enough escaping with his life.

It remained for our tenth venture to bring the hardest battle, and in a sense the greatest measure of success. Spurred by the benefits of the Red Bay store, the people of a little village about forty miles away determined to combine also. The result was a fine store near our hospital at Battle Harbour—which during the first year did sixty thousand dollars' worth of business. This served to put a match to the explosive wrath of those whose opposition hitherto had been that of rats behind a wainscot. They secured from their friends a Government commission appointed to inquire into the work of the Mission as "a menace to honest trade." The leading petitioner had been the best of helpers to the first venture. When the traders affected by it had first boycotted the fish, he had sent his steamer and purchased it from the company. Now the boot was on the other leg. The Commission and even the lawyers have all told me that they were prejudiced against the whole Mission by hearsay and misinterpretations, before they even began their exhaustive inquiry. Their findings, however, were a complete refutation of all charges, and the best advertisement possible.

It would not be the time to say that the whole cooperative venture has been an unqualified success; but the causes of failure in each case have been perfectly obvious, and no fault of the system. Lack of business ability has been the main trouble, and the lack of courage and unity which everywhere characterizes mankind, but is perhaps more emphasized on a coast where failure means starvation, and where the cooperative spirit has been rendered very difficult to arouse owing to mistrust born of religious sectarianism and denominational schools. These all militate very strongly against that unity which alone can enable labour to come to its own without productive ability.

There is one aspect for which we are particularly grateful. Politics, at any rate, has not been permitted to intrude, and the stress laid on the need of brotherliness, forbearance, and self-development—if ever these producers are to reap the rewards of being their own traders—has been very marked. Only thus can they share in the balance of profit which makes the difference between plenty and poverty on this isolated coast.



CHAPTER XIII

THE MILL AND THE FOX FARM

The argument for cooperation had been that life on the coast was not worth living under the credit system. A short feast and a long famine was the local epigram. If our profits could be maintained on the coast, and spent on the coast, then the next-to-nature life had enough to offer in character as well as in maintenance to attract a permanent population, especially with the furring in winter. For the actual figures showed that good hunters made from a thousand to fifteen hundred dollars in a season, besides the salmon and cod fishery. There was, moreover, game for food, free firewood, water, homes, and no taxation except indirect in duties on their goods.

These same conditions prevailed on the long, narrow slice of land known as the "French shore" in northern Newfoundland. There the people were more densely settled, the hinterland was small, and many therefore could not go furring. Moreover, the polar current, entering the mouth of the Straits of Belle Isle, makes this section of land more liable to summer frosts, with a far worse climate than the Labrador bays, and gardening is less remunerative. We puzzled our brains for some way to add to our earning capacities, some cooperative productive as well as distributive enterprise.

The poverty which I had witnessed in Canada Bay in North Newfoundland, some sixty miles south of St. Anthony Hospital, had left me very keen to do something for that district which might really offer a solution of the problem. I had been told that there was plenty of timber to justify running a mill in the bay; but that no sawmills paid in Newfoundland. This was emphasized in St. John's by my friends who still own the only venture out of the eleven which have operated in that city that has been able to continue. They have succeeded by adopting modern methods and erecting a factory for making furniture, so as to supply finished articles direct to their customers. We knew that in our case labour would be cheaper than ordinarily, for our labour in winter had generally to go begging. It was mainly this fact which finally induced us to make the attempt.



Having talked the matter over with the people we secured from the Government a special grant, as the venture, if it succeeded, would relieve them of the necessity of having poor-relief bills. The whole expense of the enterprise fell upon myself, for the Mission Board considered it outside their sphere; and already we had built St. Anthony Hospital in spite of the fact that they thought that we were undertaking more than they would be able to handle, and had discouraged it from the first.

The people had no money to start a mill, and the circumstances prohibited my asking aid from outside, so it was with considerable anxiety that we ordered a mill, as if it were a pound of chocolates, and arranged with two young friends to come out from England as volunteers, except for their expenses, to help us through with the new effort. At the same time there was three hundred dollars to pay for the necessary survey and line cutting, and supplies of food for the loggers for the winter. Houses must also be erected and furnished.

Ignorance undoubtedly supplied us with the courage to begin. Personally I knew nothing whatever of mills, having never even seen one. Nor had I seen the grant of land, or selected a site for the building. This was left entirely to the people themselves; and as none of them had ever seen a mill either, we all felt a bit uneasy about our capacities. I had left orders with the captain of the Cooperator (our schooner) to fetch the mill and put it where the people told him; but when I heard that there was one piece which included the boiler which weighed three tons, it seemed to me that they could never handle it. We had no wharf ready to receive it and no boat capable of carrying it. I woke many times that summer wondering if it had not gone to the bottom while they were attempting the landing. There was no communication whatever with them as we were six hundred miles farther north on our summer cruise; and we had not the slightest control over the circumstances in which we might become involved.

It was late in the season and the snow was already deep on the ground when eventually we were piloted to the spot selected. It was nine miles up the bay on a well-wooded promontory of a side inlet. The water was deep to the shore and the harbour as safe as a house. The boys from England had arrived, and a small cottage had been erected, tucked away in the trees. It was very small, and very damp, the inside of the walls being white with frost in the morning until the fire had been under way for some time. But it was a merry crowd, emerging from various little hutlets around among the trees, which greeted the Strathcona.

The big boiler, the "bugaboo" of my dreams all summer, lay on the bank. "How did you get it there?" was my first query. "We warped the vessel close to the land, and then hove her close ashore and put skids from the rocks off to her. On these we slid the boiler, all hands hauling it up with our tackles."

Having left the few supplies which we had with us, for the Strathcona has no hold or carrying space, we returned to the hospital, mighty grateful for the successful opening of the venture. The survey had been completed and accepted by the Government, and though unfortunately it was but very poorly marked, and we have had lots of trouble since,—as we have never been able to say exactly where our boundaries lie, nor even to find marks enough to follow over the original survey again,—yet it enabled us to get to work, which was all that we wanted at the moment.

The fresh problems at the hospital, and the constant demands on our energies, made Christmas and New Year go by with our minds quite alienated from the cares of the new enterprise. But when after Christmas the dogs had safely carried us over many miles of snow-covered wastes, and our immediate patients gave us a chance to look farther afield, I began to wonder if we might not pay the mill a visit. By land it was only fifty miles distant to the southward, possibly sixty if we had to go round the bays. The only difficulty about the trip was that there were no trails, and most of the way led through virgin forest, where windfalls and stumps and dense undergrowth mixed with snow made the ordinary obstacle race a sprint in the open in comparison. We knew what it meant, because in our eagerness to begin our dog-driving when the first snow came, we had wandered over small trees crusted with snow, fallen through, and literally floundered about under the crust, unable to climb to the top again. It was the nearest thing to the sensations of a man who cannot swim struggling under the surface of the water. Moreover, on a tramp with the minister, he had gone through his snow racquets and actually lost the bows later, smashing them all up as he repeatedly fell through between logs and tree-trunks and "tuckamore." His summons for help and the idea that there were still eight miles to go still haunted me. On that occasion we had cut down some spruce boughs and improvised some huge webbed feet for ourselves, which had saved the situation; but whether they would have served for twenty or thirty miles, we could not tell. Not so long before a man named Casey, bringing his komatik down the steep hill at Conche, missed his footing and fell headlong by a bush into the snow. The heavy, loaded sledge ran over him and pressed him still farther into the bank. Struggling only made him sink the deeper, and an hour later the poor fellow was discovered smothered to death.

No one knew the way. We could not hear of a single man who had ever gone across in winter, though some said that an old fellow who had lived farther south had once carried the mails that way. At length we could stand it no longer, and arranging with four men and two extra teams, we started off. We hoped to reach the mill in two days, but at the end of that time we were still trying to push through the tangle of these close-grown forests. To steer by compass sounded easy, but the wretched instrument seemed persistently to point to precipitous cliffs or impenetrable thickets. There were no barren hilltops after the first twenty miles. Occasionally we would stop, climb a tree, and try to get a view. But climbing a conifer whose boughs are heavily laden with ice and snow is no joke, and gave very meagre returns. At last, however, we struck a high divide, and from an island in the centre of a lake, occupied only by two lone fir trees, we got a view both ways, showing the Cloudy Hills which towered over the south side of the bay in which the mill stood.

A very high, densely wooded hill lay, however, directly in our path; and which way to get round it best none of us knew. We "tossed up" and went to the eastward—the wrong side, of course. We soon struck a river, and at once surmised that if we followed it, it must bring us to the head of the bay, which meant only three miles of salt water ice to cover. Alas, the stream proved very torrential. It leaped here and there over so many rapid falls that great canyons were left in the ice, and instead of being able to dash along as when first we struck it, we had painfully to pick our way between heavy ice-blocks, which sorely tangled up our traces, and our dogs ran great danger of being injured. Nor could we leave the river, for the banks were precipitous and utterly impassable with undergrowth. At length when we came to a gorge where the boiling torrent was not even frozen, and as prospects of being washed under the ice became only too vivid, we were forced to cut our way out on the sloping sides. The task was great fun, but an exceedingly slow process.

It was altogether an exciting and delightful trip. Now we have a good trail cut and blazed, which after some years of experience we have gradually straightened out, with two tilts by the roadside when the weather makes camping imperative, or when delay is caused by having helpless patients to haul, till now it is only a "joy-ride" to go through that beautiful country "on dogs." There is always a challenge, however, left in that trail—just enough to lend tang to the toil of it. Once, having missed the way in a blizzard, we had to camp on the snow with the thermometer standing at twenty below zero. The problem was all the more interesting as we struck only "taunt" timberwoods with no undergrowth to halt the wind. On another occasion we attempted to cross Hare Bay, and one of the dogs fell through the ice. There was a biting wind blowing, and it was ten degrees below zero. When we were a mile off the land I got off the sledge to try the ice edge, when suddenly it gave way, and in I fell. It did not take me long to get out—the best advice being to "keep cool." I had as hard a mile's running as ever I experienced, for my clothing was fast becoming like the armour of an ancient knight; and though in my youth I had been accustomed to break the ice in the morning to bathe, I had never run in a coat of mail.

Never shall I forget dragging ourselves in among those big trees with our axes, and tumbling to sleep in a grave in the snow, in spite of the elements. In this hole in a sleeping-bag, protected by the light drift which blew in, one rested as comfortably as in a more conventional type of feather bed. Nor, when I think of De Quincey's idea of supreme happiness before the glowing logs, can I forget that gorgeous blaze which the watch kept up by felling trees full length into the fire, so that our Yule logs were twenty feet long, and the ruddy glow and crackling warmth went smashing through the hurtling snowdrift. True, it was cold taking off our dripping clothing, which as it froze on us made progress as difficult as if we were encased in armour. But dancing up and down before a huge fire in the crisp open air under God's blue sky gave as pleasing a reaction as doing the same thing in the dusty, germ-laden atmosphere of a ballroom in the small hours of the night, when one would better be in bed, if the joys of efficiency and accomplishment are the durable pleasure of life.

It was a real picnic which we had at the mill. Our visit was as welcome as it was unexpected, and we celebrated it by the whole day off, when all hands went "rabbiting." When at the end, hot and tired, we gathered round a huge log fire in the woods and discussed boiling cocoa and pork buns, we all agreed that it had been a day worth living for.

Logging had progressed favourably. Logs were close at hand; and the whole enterprise spelled cash coming in that the people had never earned before. The time had also arrived to prepare the machinery for cutting the timber; boxes were being unpacked, and weird iron "parts" revealed to us, that had all the interest of a Chinese puzzle, with the added pleasure of knowing that they stood for much if we solved the problems rightly.

When next we saw the mill it was spring, and the puffing smoke and white heaps of lumber that graced the point and met our vision as we rounded Breakheart Point will not soon be forgotten. Only one trouble had proved insurmountable. The log-hauler would not deliver the goods to the rotary saw. Later, with the knowledge that the whole apparatus was upside down, it did not seem so surprising after all. One accident also marred the year's record. While a party of children had been crossing the ice in the harbour to school, a treacherous rapid had caused it to give way and leave a number of them in the water. One of my English volunteers, being a first-class athlete, had by swimming saved five lives, but two had been lost, and the young fellow himself so badly chilled that it had taken the hot body of one of the fathers of the rescued children, wrapped up in bed with him in lieu of a hot-water bottle, to restore his circulation.

The second fall was our hardest period. The bills for our lumber sold had not been paid in time for us to purchase the absolutely essential stock of food for the winter; and if we could not get a store of food, we knew that our men could not go logging. It was food, not cash, which they needed in the months when their own slender stock of provisions gave out, and when all communication was cut off by the frozen sea.

For a venture which seemed to us problematical in its outcome, we did not dare to borrow money or to induce friends to invest; and of course Mission funds were not available. For the day has not yet arrived when all those who seek by their gifts to hasten the coming of the Kingdom of God on earth recognize that to give the opportunity to men to provide decently for their families and homes is as effective work for the Master, whose first attribute was love, as patching up the unfortunate victims of semi-starvation. The inculcation of the particular intellectual conception which the donor may hold of religion, or as to how, after death, the soul can get into heaven, is, as the result of the Church teaching, still considered far the most important line of effort. The emphasis on hospitals is second, partly at least because, so it has seemed to me as a doctor of medicine, the more obvious personal benefit thereby conferred renders the recipients more impressionable to the views considered desirable to promulgate. Yet only to-day, as I came home from our busy operating-room, I felt how little real gain the additional time on earth often is either to the world outside or even to the poor sufferers themselves. In order to have one's early teachings on these matters profoundly shaken, one has only to work as a surgeon in a country where tuberculosis, beri-beri, and other preventable diseases, and especially the chronic malnutrition of poverty fills your clinic with suffering children, who at least are victims and not responsible spiritually for their "punishment." Of course, the magnitude of service to the world of every act of unselfishness, and much more of whole lives of devotion, such as that of Miss Sullivan, the teacher of Miss Helen Keller, can never be rightly estimated by any purely material conception of human life.

Love is dangerously near to sentimentality when we actually prefer remedial to prophylactic charity—and I personally feel that it is false economy even from the point of view of mission funds. The industrial mission, the educational mission, and the orphanage work at least rank with and should go hand in hand with hospitals in any true interpretation of a gospel of love.

In subsequent years the nearest attempt to finance such commonly called "side issues of the work" has been with us through the medium of a discretionary fund. Into this are put sums of money specially given by personal friends, who are content to leave the allocation of their expenditure in the hands of the worker on the actual field. This fund is, of course, paid out in the same way as other mission funds, and is as strictly supervised by the auditors. While it leaves possibly more responsibility than some of us are worthy of, it enables individuality to play that part in mission business which every one recognizes to be all-important in the ordinary business of the world. No money, however, from this fund has ever gone into the mill or in assisting the cooperative stores.

Sorry as one feels to confess it, I have seen money wasted and lost through red tape in the mission business. And after all is not mission business part of the world's business, and must not the measure of success depend largely on the same factors in the one case as in the other? Has one man more than another the right to be called "missionary," for of what use is any man in the world if he has no mission in it? Christ's life is one long emphasis on the point that in the last analysis, when something has to be done, it is the individual who has to do it. It is, we believe, a fact of paramount importance for efficiency and economy; and the loyalty of God in committing such trust to us, when He presumably knows exactly how unworthy we are of it, is the explanation of life's enigma.

When at last our food and freight were purchased for the loggers for the winter and landed by the mail steamer nine miles from the mill, the whole bay was frozen and five miles of ice already over six inches thick. The hull of the Strathcona was three eighths of an inch soft steel; but there was no other way to transport the goods but on her, excepting by sledges—a very painful and impracticable method.

It was decided that as we could not possibly butt through the ice, we must butt over it. The whole company of some thirty men helped us to move everything, including chains and anchors, to the after end of the ship, and to pile up the barrels of pork, flour, sugar, molasses, etc., together with boats and all heavy weights, so that her fore foot came above the water level and she looked as if she were sinking by the stern. We then proceeded to crash into the ice. Up onto it we ran, and then broke through, doing no damage whatever to her hull. The only trouble was that sometimes she would get caught fast in the trough, and it was exceedingly hard to back her astern for a second drive. To counteract this all hands stood on one rail, each carrying a weight, and then rushed over to the other side, backward and forward at the word of command, thus causing the steamer to roll. It was a very slow process, but we got there, though in true Biblical fashion, literally "reeling to and fro like drunken men."

While the mill was in its cradle, we in the Strathcona were cruising the northern Labrador waters. We witnessed that year, off the mighty Kaumajets, the most remarkable storm of lightning that I have ever seen in those parts. Inky masses hid the hoary heads of those tremendous cliffs. Away to the northwest, over the high land called Saeglek, a lurid light just marked the sharp outline of the mills. Ahead, where we were trying to make the entrance to Hebron Bay, an apparently impenetrable wall persisted. Seaward night had already obscured the horizon; but the moon, hidden behind the curtain of the storm, now and again fitfully illuminated some icebergs lazily heaving on the ocean swell. Almost every second a vivid flash, now on one side, now on the other, would show us a glimpse of the land looming darkly ahead. The powers of darkness seemed at play; while the sea, the ice, the craggy cliffs, and the flashing heavens were advertising man's puny power.

An amusing incident took place in one isolated harbour. A patient came on board for medicine, and after examining him I went below to make it up. When I came on deck again I gave the medicine to one I took to be my man, and then sent him ashore to get the twenty-five cent fee for the Mission which he had forgotten. No sooner had he gone than another man came and asked if his medicine was ready. I had to explain to him that the man just climbing over the rail had it. The odd thing was that the latter, having paid for it, positively refused to give it up. True, he had not said that he was ill, but the medicine looked good (Heaven save the mark!) and he "guessed that it would suit his complaint all right."

At the mill we found that quite a large part of the timberland was over limestone, while near our first dam there was some very white marble. We fully intended to erect a kiln, using our refuse for fuel, for the land is loaded with humic acid, and only plants like blueberries, conifers, and a very limited flora flourish on it. Some friends in England, however, hearing of marble in the bay, which it was later discovered formed an entire mountain, commenced a marble mine near the entrance. The material there is said to be excellent for statuary. Even this small discovery of natural resources encouraged us. For having neither road, telegraph, nor mail service to the mill, we hoped that the development of these things might help in our own enterprise.

For ten years the little mill has run, giving work to the locality, better houses, a new church and school, and indeed created a new village.

The only trouble with this North country's own peculiar winter work, fur-hunting, is that its very nature limits its supply. In my early days in the country, fur in Labrador was very cheap. Seldom did even a silver fox fetch a hundred dollars. Beaver, lynx, wolverine, wolves, bears, and other skins were priced proportionately. Still, some men lived very well out of furring. We came to the conclusion that the only way to improve conditions in this line was to breed some of the animals in captivity. We did not then know of any enterprise of that kind, but I remembered in the zoological gardens at Washington seeing a healthy batch of young fox pups born in captivity.

Life is short. Things have to be crowded into it. So we started that year an experimental fox farm at St. Anthony. A few uprights from the woods and some rolls of wire are a fox farm. We put it close by the hospital, thinking that it would be less trouble. The idea, we rejoice to know, was perfectly right; but we had neither time, study, nor experience to teach us how to manage the animals. Very soon we had a dozen couples, red, white, patch, and one silver pair. Some of the young fox pups were very tame, for I find an old record written by a professor of Harvard University, while he was on board the Strathcona on one trip when we were bringing some of the little creatures to St. Anthony. He describes the state of affairs as follows: "Dr. Grenfell at one time had fifteen little foxes aboard which he was carrying to St. Anthony to start a fox farm there. Some of these little animals had been brought aboard in blubber casks, and their coats were very sticky. After a few days they were very tame and played with the dogs; were all over the deck, fell down the companionway, were always having their tails and feet stepped on, and yelping for pain, when not yelling for food. The long-suffering seaman who took care of them said, 'I been cleaned out that fox box. It do be shockin'. I been in a courageous turmoil my time, but dis be the head smell ever I witnessed.'"

When the farm was erected, every schooner entering the harbour was interested in it, and a deep-cut pathway soon developed as the crews went up to see the animals. The reds and one patch were very tame, and always came out to greet us. One of the reds loved nothing better than to be caught and hugged, and squealed with delight like a child when you took notice of it. The whites, and still more the silvers, were always very shy; and though we never reared a single pup, there were some born and destroyed by the old ones.

As the years passed we decided to close up the little farm, particularly after a certain kind of sickness which resembled strychnine poisoning had attacked and destroyed three of the animals which were especial pets. We then converted the farm into a garden with a glass house for our seedling vegetables.

Meanwhile the industry had been developed by a Mr. Beetz in Quebec Labrador with very marked economic success; and in Prince Edward Island with such tremendous profit that it soon became the most important industry in the Province. Enormous prices were paid for stock. I remembered a schooner in the days of our farm (1907) bringing me in four live young silvers, and asking two hundred dollars for the lot. We had enough animals and refused to buy them. In 1914 one of our distant neighbours, who had caught a live slut in pup, sold her with her little brood for ten thousand dollars. We at once started an agitation to encourage the industry locally, and the Government passed regulations that only foxes bred in the Colony could be exported alive. The last wild one sold was for twenty-five dollars to a buyer, and resold for something like a thousand dollars by him. A large number of farms grew up and met with more or less success, one big one especially in Labrador, which is still running. We saw there this present year some delightful little broods, also some mink and marten (sables), the prettiest little animals to watch possible. For some reason the success of this farm so far has not been what was hoped for it. Indeed, even in Prince Edward Island the furor has somewhat died down owing to the war; though at the close of the war it is anticipated that the industry will go on steadily and profitably. Are not sheep, angora goats, oxen, and other animals just the result of similar efforts? If fox-farming some day should actually supersede the use of the present sharp-toothed leg trap, no small gain would have been effected. A fox now trapped in those horrible teeth remains imprisoned generally till he perishes of cold, exhaustion, or fear. Though the fur trapper as a rule is a most gentle creature, the "quality of mercy is not strained" in furring.



CHAPTER XIV

THE CHILDREN'S HOME

"What's that schooner bound South at this time of year for?" I asked the skipper of a fishing vessel who had come aboard for treatment the second summer I was on the coast.

"I guess, Doctor, that that's the Yankee what's been down North for a load of Huskeymaws. What do they want with them when they gets them?"

"They'll put them in a cage and show them at ten cents a head. They're taking them to the World's Fair in Chicago."

* * * * *

People of every sort crowded to see the popular Eskimo Encampment on the Midway. The most taking attraction among the groups displayed was a little boy, son of a Northern Chieftain, Kaiachououk by name; and many a nickel was thrown into the ring that little Prince Pomiuk might show his dexterity with the thirty-foot lash of his dog whip.

One man alone of all who came to stare at the little people from far-off Labrador took a real interest in the child. It was the Rev. C.C. Carpenter, who had spent many years of his life as a clergyman on the Labrador coast. But one day Mr. Carpenter missed his little friend. Pomiuk was found on a bed of sickness in his dark hut. An injury to his thigh had led to the onset of an insidious hip disease.

The Exhibition closed soon after, and the Eskimos went north. But Pomiuk was not forgotten, and Mr. Carpenter sent him letter after letter, though he never received an answer. The first year the band of Eskimos reached as far north as Ramah, but Pomiuk's increasing sufferings made it impossible for them to take him farther that season.

Meanwhile in June, 1895, we again steamed out through the Narrows of St. John's Harbour, determined to push as far north as the farthest white family. A dark foggy night in August found us at the entrance of that marvellous gorge called Nakvak. We pushed our way cautiously in some twenty miles from the entrance. Suddenly the watch sang out, "Light on the starboard bow!" and the sound of our steamer whistle echoed and reechoed in endless cadences between those mighty cliffs. Three rifle shots answered us, soon a boat bumped our side, and a hearty Englishman sprang over the rail.

It was George Ford, factor of the Hudson Bay Company at that post. During the evening's talk he told me of a group of Eskimos still farther up the fjord having with them a dying boy. Next day I had my first glimpse of little Prince Pomiuk. We found him naked and haggard, lying on the rocks beside the tiny "tubik."

The Eskimos were only too glad to be rid of the responsibility of the sick lad, and, furthermore, he was "no good fishing." So the next day saw us steaming south again, carrying with us the boy and his one treasured possession—a letter from a clergyman at Andover, Massachusetts. It contained a photograph, and when I showed it to Pomiuk he said, "Me even love him."

A letter was sent to the address given, and some weeks later came back an answer. "Keep him," it said. "He must never know cold and loneliness again. I write for a certain magazine, and the children in 'The Corner' will become his guardians." Thus the "Corner Cot" was founded, and occupied by the little Eskimo Prince for the brief remainder of his life.

On my return the following summer the child's joyful laughter greeted me as he said, "Me Gabriel Pomiuk now." A good Moravian Brother had come along during the winter and christened the child by the name of the angel of comfort.

In a sheltered corner of a little graveyard on the Labrador coast rests the tiny body of this true prince. When he died the doctor in charge of the hospital wrote me that the building seemed desolate without his smiling, happy face and unselfish presence. The night that he was buried the mysterious aurora lit up the vault of heaven. The Innuits, children of the Northland, call it "the spirits of the dead at play." But it seemed to us a shining symbol of the joy in the City of the King that another young soldier had won his way home.

* * * * *

The Roman Catholic Church is undoubtedly correct in stating that the first seven years of his life makes the child. Missions have always emphasized the importance of the children from a purely propaganda point of view. But our Children's Home was not begun for any such reason. Like Topsy, "it just grow'd." I had been summoned to a lonely headland, fifty miles from our hospital at Indian Harbour, to see a very sick family. Among the spruce trees in a small hut lived a Scotch salmon fisher, his wife and five little children. When we anchored off the promontory we were surprised to receive no signs of welcome. When we landed and entered the house we found the mother dead on the bed and the father lying on the floor dying. Next morning we improvised two coffins, contributed from the wardrobes of all hands enough black material for a "seemly" funeral, and later, steaming up the bay to a sandy stretch of land, buried the two parents with all the ceremonies of the Church—and found ourselves left with five little mortals in black sitting on the grave mound. We thought that we had done all that could be expected of a doctor, but we now found the difference. It looked as if God expected more. An uncle volunteered to assume one little boy and we sailed away with the remainder of the children. Having no place to keep them, we wrote to a friendly newspaper in New England and advertised for foster parents. One person responded. A young farmer's wife wrote: "I am just married to a farmer in the country, and miss the chance to teach children in Sunday-School, or even to get to church, it is so far away. I think that I can feed two children for the Lord's sake. If you will send them along, I will see that they do not want for anything." We shipped two, and began what developed into our Children's Home with the balance of the stock.

We had everything to learn in the rearing of children, having had only the hygienic side of their development to attend to previously. One of the two which we kept turned out very well, becoming a fully trained nurse. The other failed. Both of those who went to New England did well, the superior discipline of their foster mother being no doubt responsible. The following fall I made a special journey to see the latter. It was a small farm on which they lived, and a little baby had just arrived. Only high ideals could have persuaded the woman to accept the added responsibility. The children were as bright and jolly as possible.

Among the other functions which have fallen to my lot to perform is the ungrateful task of unpaid magistrate, or justice of the peace. In this capacity a little later I was called on to try a mother, who in a Labrador village had become a widow and later married a man with six children who refused to accept her three-year-old little girl. When I happened along, the baby was living alone in the mother's old shack, a mud-walled hut, and she or the neighbours went in and tended it as they could. None of the few neighbours wanted permanently to assume the added expense of the child, so dared not accept it temporarily. It was sitting happily on the floor playing with a broken saucer when I came in. It showed no fear of a stranger; indeed, it made most friendly overtures. I had no right to send the new husband to jail. I could not fine him, for he had no money. There was no jail in Labrador, anyhow. My special constable was a very stout fisherman, a family man, who proposed to nurse the child till I could get it to some place where it could be properly looked after. When we steamed away, we had the baby lashed into a swing cot. It became very rough, and the baby, of course, crawled out and was found in the scuppers. It did everything that it ought not to do, but which we knew that it would. But we got it to the hospital at last and the nurse received it right to her heart.

In various ways my family grew at an alarming rate, once the general principle was established. On my early summer voyage to the east coast of Labrador I found at Indian Harbour Hospital a little girl of four. In the absence of her father, who was hunting, and while her mother lay sick in bed, she had crawled out of the house and when found in the snow had both legs badly frozen. They became gangrenous halfway to the knee, and her father had been obliged to chop them both off. An operation gave her good stumps; but what use was she in Labrador with no legs? So she joined our family, and we gave her such good new limbs that when I brought her into Government House at Halifax, where one of our nurses had taken her to school temporarily, and she ran into the room with two other little girls, the Governor could scarcely tell which was our little cripple Kirkina.

The following fall as we left for the South our good friend, the chief factor of the Hudson Bay Company, told me that on an island in the large inlet known to us as Eskimo Bay a native family, both hungry and naked, were living literally under the open sky. We promised to try and find them and help them with some warm clothing.

Having steamed round the island and seen no signs of life, we were on the point of leaving when a tiny smoke column betrayed the presence of human life—and with my family-man mate we landed as a search party. Against the face of a sheer rock a single sheet of light cotton duck covered the abode of a woman with a nursing baby. They were the only persons at home. The three boys and a father comprised the remainder of the family. We soon found the two small boys. They were practically stark naked, but fat as curlews, being full of wild berries with which their bodies were stained bright blues and reds. They were a jolly little couple, as unconcerned about their environment as Robinson Crusoe after five years on his island. Soon the father came home. I can see him still—the vacant brown face of a very feeble-minded half-breed, ragged and tattered and almost bootless. He was carrying an aged single-barrelled boy's gun in one hand and a belated sea-gull in the other, which bird was destined for the entire evening meal of the family. A half-wild-looking hobbledehoy boy of fifteen years also joined the group.

It was just beginning to snow, a wet sleet. Eight months of winter lay ahead. Yet not one of the family seemed to think a whit about that which was vivid enough to the minds of the mate and myself. We sat down for a regular pow-wow beside the fire sputtering in the open room, from which thick smoke crept up the face of the rock, and hung over us in a material but symbolic cloud. It was naturally cold. The man began with a plea for some "clodin." We began with a plea for some children. How many would he swap for a start in clothing and "tings for his winter"? He picked out and gave us Jimmie. The soft-hearted mate, on whose cheeks the tears were literally standing, grabbed Jimmie—as the latter did his share of the gull. But we were not satisfied. We had to have Willie. It was only when a breaking of diplomatic relations altogether was threatened that Willie was sacrificed on the altar of "tings." I forget the price, but I think that we threw in an axe, which was one of the trifles which the father lacked—and in this of all countries! The word was no sooner spoken than our shellback again excelled himself. He pounced on Willie like a hawk on its prey, and before the treaty was really concluded he was off to our dory with a naked boy kicking violently in the vice of each of his powerful arms. The grasping strength of our men, reared from childhood to haul heavy strains and ponderous anchors, is phenomenal.

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