The poaching got so bad that we took every means in our power to catch the guilty parties. But it was a very difficult thing to do. A dead deer lies quiet, keeps for weeks where he falls in our winter climate, and can be surreptitiously removed by day or night. The little Lapp dogs occasionally scented them beneath the snow, and many tell-tale "paunches" showed where deer had been killed and carried off.
I had been treating the hunchback boy and only child of a fisherman for whom I had very great respect. His was the home where the Methodist minister always boarded, and he was looked upon as a pillar of piety. After a straightening by frame treatment, the boy's spine had been ankylosed by an operation; and as every one felt sorry for the little fellow, we were often able to send him gifts. One day the father came to me, evidently in great trouble, to have what proved to be a most uncommon private talk. To my utter surprise he began: "Doctor, I can no longer live and keep the secret that I shot two of your reindeer. I have brought you ninety dollars, all the cash that I have, and I want to ask your forgiveness, after all you have done for me." Needless to say, it was freely given, but it made me feel more than ever that the deer must be moved to some other country.
It was about this year that the Government for the first time granted us a resident policeman—previously we had had to be our own police. Fortunately the man sent was quite a smart fellow. A dozen or so deer had been killed along the section of our coast, and so skilfully that even though it was done under the noses of the herders no evidence to convict could be obtained. It so happened, however, that while one of the herders was eating a piece of one of the slaughtered animals which he had discovered, and that the thieves had not been able to carry off, his teeth met on a still well-formed rifle bullet of number 22 calibre. This type of rifle we knew was scarcely ever used on our coast, and the policeman at once made a round to take every one. He returned with three, which was really the whole stock.
A piece of meat was now placed at a reasonable distance, also some bags of snow, flour, etc., and a number of bullets fired into them. These bullets were then all privately marked, and shuffled up. Our own deductions were made, and a man from twenty miles away summoned, arrested, and brought up. He brought witnesses and friends, apparently to impress the court—one especially, who most vehemently protested that he knew the owner of the rifle, and that he was never out of his house at the time that the deer would have been killed. In court was a man, for twenty-seven years agent in Labrador for the Hudson Bay Company—a crack shot and a most expert hunter. He was called up, given the big pile of bullets, and told to try and sort them, by the groove marks, into those fired by the three different rifles. We then handed him the control bullet, and he put it instantly on one of the piles. It was the pile that had been fired from the rifle of the accused. This man, in testifying, in order to clear himself, had let out the fact that his rifle had not been kept in his house, but in the house of the vociferous witness—whom we now arrested, convicted, and condemned to jail for six months or two hundred dollars fine—the latter alternative being given only because we knew that he had not the necessary sum. Protesting as loudly as he had previously witnessed, he went to jail; but the rest let out threats that they were coming back with others to set him free. We had only a frame wooden jail, and a rheumatic jailer of over seventy years, hired to hobble around by day and see that the prisoners were fed and kept orderly. We announced, therefore, that our Hudson Bay friend, with his rifle loaded, would be night jailer.
A few days passed by. The prisoner did not like improving the public thoroughfare for our benefit, while those "who were just as bad as he" went free. Our old jailer took good care that he should hear what good times they were having and laughing at him for being caught. Indeed, he liked it so little that he gave the whole plot away—at least what he called the whole. This landed four more of his friends in the same honest and public-spirited occupation which he was himself pursuing; though all escaped shortly afterwards by paying fines to the Government which aggregated some eight hundred dollars—which sum was largely paid by others for them.
There was no way, however, definitely to stop the steady decrease in the numbers of the herd; and though we moved them to new pastures around the coast, and fenced them in such small mobile corrals as we could afford, they were not safe. On several occasions we found dead deer with buckshot in them, which had "fallen over the cliffs." Twice we discovered that deer had even been killed within our own corral. One had been successfully removed, and the other trussed-up carcass had been hidden until a good opportunity offered for it to follow suit. I do not wish to leave the impression on the minds of my readers that every man on this part of the coast is a poacher. Far from it. But the majority of the best men were against the reindeer experiment from the moment that the first trouble arose. A new obligation of social life was introduced. This implied restraint in such trifling things as their having to fence their tiny gardens, protect small stray hay-pooks, and discriminate into what they discharged their ubiquitous blunderbusses.
Meanwhile the steadily increasing demand for meat, especially since the war began, caused outside interest in the experiment; and both the owners of Anticosti Island, and a firm in the West who were commencing reindeer farming on a commercial basis, opened negotiations with us for the purchase of our herd. In the original outlay, however, the Canadian Dominion Government had taken an interest to the amount of five thousand dollars, so it was necessary to get their opinion on the subject. Their Department of Indian Affairs happened to be looking for some satisfactory way of helping out their Labrador Indian population. They sent down and made inquiries, and came to the conclusion that they would themselves take the matter up, as they had done with buffalo, elk, and other animals in the West.
In 1917 all preparations for transferring the deer were made, but war conditions called their steamer away and transport was delayed until 1918. Again their steamer was called off, so we decided to take the deer across ourselves in our splendid three-masted schooner, the George B. Cluett. She, alas, was delayed in America by the submarine scare, and it was the end of September instead of June when she finally arrived. It was a poor season for our dangerous North coast and a very bad time for moving the deer, whose rutting season was just beginning. My herders, too, were now much reduced in numbers. Most of them had gone to the war, and as one had been sick all summer, practically only two were available. To add to the difficulty, many small herds of reindeer were loose in the country outside the corral.
However, we felt that the venture must be attempted at all hazards, even if it delayed our beautiful ship taking a cargo of food to the Allies—as she was scheduled to do as soon as possible—and though it was a serious risk to remain anchored in the shallow open roadstead off the spot where the deer had to be taken aboard. The work was all new to us. The deer, instead of being tame as they had previously been, were wild at best, and wilder still from their breeding season. The days went by, and we succeeded in getting only a few aboard. We were all greenhorns with the lassoes and lariats which we improvised. A gale of wind came on and nothing could be done but lie up.
Then followed a fine Sunday morning. It was intensely interesting to note the attitude which my crew could take toward my decision to work all day after morning prayers. We talked briefly over the emphasis laid by the four Evangelists on Christ's attitude toward the day of rest, and what it might mean, if we allowed a rare fine day to go by, to that long section of coast which we had not yet this year visited, and which might thus miss the opportunity of seeing a doctor before Christmas. As since this war has begun I have felt that the Christ whom I wanted to follow would be in France, so now I felt that the Christ of my ideal would go ashore and get those deer in spite of the great breach of convention which it would mean for a "Mission" doctor to work in any way, except in the many ways he has to work every Sunday of his life. The whole crew followed me when I went ashore, saying that they shared my view—all except the mate, who spent his Sunday in bed. Idleness is not rest to some natures, either to body or mind, and when at night we all turned in at ten o'clock, wet through—for it had rained in the evening—and tired out, we were able to say our prayers with just as light hearts, feeling that we had put sixty-eight deer aboard, as if we had enjoyed that foretaste of what some still believe to be the rest of heaven. Rest for our souls we certainly had, and to some of us that is the rest which God calls His own and intends shall be ours also. When later I spoke to some young men about this, it seemed to them a Chestertonian paradox, that we should actually hold a Sunday service and then go forth to render it. They thought that Sunday prayers had to do only with the escaping the consequences of one's sins.
I still believe that we were absolutely right in our theory of the introduction of the deer into this North country, and that we shall be justified in it by posterity. That these thousands of miles, now useless to men, will be grazed over one day by countless herds of deer affording milk, meat, clothing, transport, and pleasure to the human race, is certain. They do not by any means destroy the land over which they rove. On the contrary, the deep ruts made by their feet, like the ponies' feet in Iceland, serve to drain the surface water and dry the land. The kicking and pawing of the moss-covered ground with their spade-like feet tear it up, level it, and cut off the dense moss and creeping plants, bring the sub-soil to the top, and over the whole the big herd spreads a good covering of manure.
Reindeer-trodden barrens, after a short rest, yield more grass and cattle food than ever before. No domesticated animal can tolerate the cold of this country and find sustenance for itself as can the deer. It can live as far north as the musk-ox. Peary found reindeer in plenty on the shores of the polar sea. The great barren lands of Canada, from Hudson Bay north of Chesterfield Inlet away to the west, carry tens of thousands of wild caribou. Mr. J.B. Tyrrell's photographs show armies of them advancing; the stags with their lordly horns are seen passing close to the camera in serried ranks that seem to have no end.
Our own experiment is far from being a failure. It has been a success, even if only the corpse is left in Newfoundland. We have proved conclusively that the deer can live, thrive, and multiply on the otherwise perfectly valueless areas of this North country, and furnish a rapidly increasing domesticated "raw material" for a food and clothing supply to its people.
THE ICE-PAN ADVENTURE
On Easter Sunday, the 21st of April, 1908, it was still winter with us in northern Newfoundland. Everything was covered with snow and ice. I was returning to the hospital after morning service, when a boy came running over with the news that a large team of dogs had come from sixty miles to the southward to get a doctor to come at once on an urgent case. A fortnight before we had operated on a young man for acute bone disease of the thigh, but when he was sent home the people had allowed the wound to close, and poisoned matter had accumulated. As it seemed probable that we should have to remove the leg, there was no time to be lost, and I therefore started immediately, the messengers following me with their team.
My dogs were especially good ones and had pulled me out of many a previous scrape by their sagacity and endurance. Moody, Watch, Spy, Doc, Brin, Jerry, Sue, and Jack were as beautiful beasts as ever hauled a komatik over our Northern barrens. The messengers had been anxious that their team should travel back with mine, for their animals were slow at best, and moreover were now tired from their long journey. My dogs, however, were so powerful that it was impossible to hold them back, and though I twice managed to wait for the following sledge, I had reached a village twenty miles to the south and had already fed my team when the others caught up.
That night the wind came in from sea, bringing with it both fog and rain, softening the snow and making the travelling very difficult. Besides this a heavy sea began heaving into the bay on the shores of which lay the little hamlet where I spent my first night. Our journey the next day would be over forty miles, the first ten lying on an arm of the sea.
In order not to be separated too long from my friends I sent them ahead of me by two hours, appointing as a rendezvous the log tilt on the other side of the bay. As I started the first rain of the year began to fall, and I was obliged to keep on what we call the "ballicaters," or ice barricades, for a much longer distance up the bay than I had anticipated. The sea, rolling in during the previous night, had smashed the ponderous layer of surface ice right up to the landwash. Between the huge ice-pans were gaping chasms, while half a mile out all was clear water.
Three miles from the shore is a small island situated in the middle of the bay. This had preserved an ice bridge, so that by crossing a few cracks I managed to get to it safely. From that point it was only four miles to the opposite shore, a saving of several miles if one could make it, instead of following the landwash round the bay. Although the ice looked rough, it seemed good, though one could see that it had been smashed up by the incoming sea and packed in tight again by the easterly wind. Therefore, without giving the matter a second thought, I flung myself on the komatik and the dogs started for the rocky promontory some four miles distant.
All went well till we were within about a quarter of a mile of our objective point. Then the wind dropped suddenly, and I noticed simultaneously that we were travelling over "sish" ice. By stabbing down with my whip-handle I could drive it through the thin coating of young ice which had formed on the surface. "Sish" ice is made up of tiny bits formed by the pounding together of the large pans by the heavy seas. So quickly had the wind veered and come offshore, and so rapidly did the packed slob, relieved of the inward pressure of the easterly breeze, "run abroad," that already I could not see any pan larger than ten feet square. The whole field of ice was loosening so rapidly that no retreat was possible.
There was not a moment to lose. I dragged off my oilskins and threw myself on my hands and knees beside the komatik so as to give a larger base to hold, shouting at the same time to my team to make a dash for the shore. We had not gone twenty yards when the dogs scented danger and hesitated, and the komatik sank instantly into the soft slob. Thus the dogs had to pull much harder, causing them to sink also.
It flashed across my mind that earlier in the year a man had been drowned in this same way by his team tangling their traces around him in the slob. I loosened my sheath-knife, scrambled forward and cut the traces, retaining the leader's trace wound securely round my wrist.
As I was in the water I could not discern anything that would bear us up, but I noticed that my leading dog was wallowing about near a piece of snow, packed and frozen together like a huge snowball, some twenty-five yards away. Upon this he had managed to scramble. He shook the ice and water from his shaggy coat and turned around to look for me. Perched up there out of the frigid water he seemed to think the situation the most natural in the world, and the weird black marking of his face made him appear to be grinning with satisfaction. The rest of us were bogged like flies in treacle.
Gradually I succeeded in hauling myself along by the line which was still attached to my wrist, and was nearly up to the snow-raft, when the leader turned adroitly round, slipped out of his harness, and once more leered at me with his grinning face.
There seemed nothing to be done, and I was beginning to feel drowsy with the cold, when I noticed the trace of another dog near by. He had fallen through close to the pan, and was now unable to force his way out. Along his line I hauled myself, using him as a kind of bow anchor—and I soon lay, with my dogs around me, on the little island of slob ice.
The piece of frozen snow on which we lay was so small that it was evident we must all be drowned if we were forced to remain on it as it was driven seaward into open water. Twenty yards away was a larger and firmer pan floating in the sish, and if we could reach it I felt that we might postpone for a time the death which seemed inescapable. To my great satisfaction I now found that my hunting knife was still tied on to the back of one of the dogs, where I had attached it when we first fell through. Soon the sealskin traces hanging on the dogs' harnesses were cut and spliced together to form one long line. I divided this and fastened the ends to the backs of my two leaders, attaching the two other ends to my own wrists. My long sealskin boots, reaching to my hips, were full of ice and water, and I took them off and tied them separately on the dogs' backs. I had already lost my coat, cap, gloves, and overalls.
Nothing seemed to be able to induce the dogs to move, even though I kept throwing them off the ice into the water. Perhaps it was only natural that they should struggle back, for once in the water they could see no other pan to which to swim. It flashed into my mind that my small black spaniel which was with me was as light as a feather and could get across with no difficulty. I showed him the direction and then flung a bit of ice toward the desired goal. Without a second's hesitation he made a dash and reached the pan safely, as the tough layer of sea ice easily carried his weight. As he lay on the white surface looking like a round black fuss ball, my leaders could plainly see him. They now understood what I wanted and fought their way bravely toward the little retriever, carrying with them the line that gave me yet another chance for my life. The other dogs followed them, and all but one succeeded in getting out on the new haven of refuge.
Taking all the run that the length of my little pan would afford, I made a dive, slithering along the surface as far as possible before I once again fell through. This time I had taken the precaution to tie the harnesses under the dogs' bellies so that they could not slip them off, and after a long fight I was able to drag myself onto the new pan.
Though we had been working all the while toward the shore, the offshore wind had driven us a hundred yards farther seaward. On closer examination I found that the pan on which we were resting was not ice at all, but snow-covered slob, frozen into a mass which would certainly eventually break up in the heavy sea, which was momentarily increasing as the ice drove offshore before the wind. The westerly wind kept on rising—a bitter blast with us in winter, coming as it does over the Gulf ice.
Some yards away I could still see my komatik with my thermos bottle and warm clothing on it, as well as matches and wood. In the memory of the oldest inhabitant no one had ever been adrift on the ice in this bay, and unless the team which had gone ahead should happen to come back to look for me, there was not one chance in a thousand of my being seen.
To protect myself from freezing I now cut down my long boots as far as the feet, and made a kind of jacket, which shielded my back from the rising wind.
By midday I had passed the island to which I had crossed on the ice bridge. The bridge was gone, so that if I did succeed in reaching that island I should only be marooned there and die of starvation. Five miles away to the north side of the bay the immense pans of Arctic ice were surging to and fro in the ground seas and thundering against the cliffs. No boat could have lived through such surf, even if I had been seen from that quarter. Though it was hardly, safe to move about on my little pan, I saw that I must have the skins of some of my dogs, if I were to live the night out without freezing. With some difficulty I now succeeded in killing three of my dogs—and I envied those dead beasts whose troubles were over so quickly. I questioned if, once I passed into the open sea, it would not be better to use my trusty knife on myself than to die by inches.
But the necessity for work saved me from undue philosophizing; and night found me ten miles on my seaward voyage, with the three dogs skinned and their fur wrapped around me as a coat. I also frayed a small piece of rope into oakum and mixed it with the fat from the intestines of my dogs. But, alas, I found that the matches in my box, which was always chained to me, were soaked to a pulp and quite useless. Had I been able to make a fire out there at sea, it would have looked so uncanny that I felt sure that the fishermen friends, whose tiny light I could just discern twinkling away in the bay, would see it. The carcasses of my dogs I piled up to make a windbreak, and at intervals I took off my clothes, wrung them out, swung them in the wind, and put on first one and then the other inside, hoping that the heat of my body would thus dry them. My feet gave me the most trouble, as the moccasins were so easily soaked through in the snow. But I remembered the way in which the Lapps who tended our reindeer carried grass with them, to use in their boots in place of dry socks. As soon as I could sit down I began to unravel the ropes from the dogs' harnesses, and although by this time my fingers were more or less frozen, I managed to stuff the oakum into my shoes.
Shortly before I had opened a box containing some old football clothes which I had not seen for twenty years. I was wearing this costume at the time; and though my cap, coat, and gloves were gone, as I stood there in a pair of my old Oxford University running shorts, and red, yellow, and black Richmond football stockings, and a flannel shirt, I remembered involuntarily the little dying girl who asked to be dressed in her Sunday frock so that she might arrive in heaven properly attired.
Forcing my biggest dog to lie down, I cuddled up close to him, drew the improvised dogskin rug over me, and proceeded to go to sleep. One hand being against the dog was warm, but the other was frozen, and about midnight I woke up shivering enough, so I thought, to shatter my frail pan to atoms. The moon was just rising, and the wind was steadily driving me toward the open sea. Suddenly what seemed a miracle happened, for the wind veered, then dropped away entirely leaving it flat calm. I turned over and fell asleep again. I was next awakened by the sudden and persistent thought that I must have a flag, and accordingly set to work to disarticulate the frozen legs of my dead dogs. Cold as it was I determined to sacrifice my shirt to top this rude flagpole as soon as the daylight came. When the legs were at last tied together with bits of old harness rope, they made the crookedest flagstaff that it has ever been my lot to see. Though with the rising of the sun the frost came out of the dogs' legs to some extent, and the friction of waving it made the odd pole almost tie itself in knots, I could raise it three or four feet above my head, which was very important.
Once or twice I thought that I could distinguish men against the distant cliffs—for I had drifted out of the bay into the sea—but the objects turned out to be trees. Once also I thought that I saw a boat appearing and disappearing on the surface of the water, but it proved to be only a small piece of ice bobbing up and down. The rocking of my cradle on the waves had helped me to sleep, and I felt as well as I ever did in my life. I was confident that I could last another twenty-four hours if my boat would only hold out and not rot under the sun's rays. I could not help laughing at my position, standing hour after hour waving my shirt at those barren and lonely cliffs; but I can honestly say that from first to last not a single sensation of fear crossed my mind.
My own faith in the mystery of immortality is so untroubled that it now seemed almost natural to be passing to the portal of death from an ice-pan. Quite unbidden, the words of the old hymn kept running through my head:
"My God, my Father, while I stray Far from my home on life's rough way, Oh, help me from my heart to say, Thy will be done."
I had laid my wooden matches out to dry and was searching about on the pan for a piece of transparent ice which I could use as a burning-glass. I thought that I could make smoke enough to be seen from the land if only I could get some sort of a light. All at once I seemed to see the glitter of an oar, but I gave up the idea because I remembered that it was not water which lay between me and the land, but slob ice, and even if people had seen me, I did not imagine that they could force a boat through. The next time that I went back to my flag-waving, however, the glitter was very distinct, but my snow-glasses having been lost, I was partially snow-blind and distrusted my vision. But at last, besides the glide of an oar I made out the black streak of a boat's hull, and knew that if the pan held out for another hour I should be all right. The boat drew nearer and nearer, and I could make out my rescuers frantically waving. When they got close by they shouted, "Don't get excited. Keep on the pan where you are." They were far more excited than I, and had they only known as I did the sensations of a bath in the icy water, without the chance of drying one's self afterwards, they would not have expected me to wish to follow the example of the Apostle Peter.
As the first man leaped on my pan and grasped my hand, not a word was spoken, but I could see the emotions which he was trying to force back. A swallow of the hot tea which had been thoughtfully sent out in a bottle, the dogs hoisted on board, and we started for home, now forging along in open water, now pushing the pans apart with the oars, and now jumping out on the ice and hauling the boat over the pans.
It seems that the night before four men had been out on the headland cutting up some seals which they had killed in the fall. As they were leaving for home, my ice-raft must have drifted clear of Hare Island, and one of them, with his keen fisherman's eyes, had detected something unusual on the ice. They at once returned to their village, saying that something living was adrift on the floe. The one man on that section of coast who owned a good spy-glass jumped up from his supper on hearing the news and hurried over to the lookout on the cliffs. Dusk though it was, he saw that a man was out on the ice, and noticed him every now and again waving his hands at the shore. He immediately surmised who it must be; so little as I thought it, when night was closing in the men at the village were trying to launch a boat. Miles of ice lay between them and me, and the angry sea was hurling great blocks against the land. While I had considered myself a laughing-stock, bowing with my flag at those unresponsive cliffs, many eyes were watching me.
By daybreak a fine volunteer crew had been organized, and the boat, with such a force behind it, would, I believe, have gone through anything. After seeing the heavy breakers through which we were guided, as at last we ran in at the harbour mouth, I knew well what the wives of that crew had been thinking when they saw their loved ones depart on such an errand.
Every soul in the village was waiting to shake hands as I landed; and even with the grip that one after another gave me, I did not find out that my hands were badly frostburnt—a fact which I have realized since, however. I must have looked a weird object as I stepped ashore, tied up in rags, stuffed out with oakum, and wrapped in the bloody dogskins.
The news had gone over to the hospital that I was lost, so I at once started north for St. Anthony, though I must confess that I did not greatly enjoy the trip, as I had to be hauled like a log, my feet being so frozen that I could not walk. For a few days subsequently I had painful reminders of the adventure in my frozen hands and feet, which forced me to keep to my bed—an unwelcome and unusual interlude in my way of life.
In our hallway stands a bronze tablet:
"To the Memory of Three Noble Dogs Moody Watch Spy Whose lives were given For mine on the ice April 21st, 1908."
The boy whose life I was intent on saving was brought to the hospital a day or so later in a boat, the ice having cleared off the coast temporarily; and he was soon on the highroad to recovery.
We all love life, and I was glad to have a new lease of it before me. As I went to sleep that night there still rang through my ears the same verse of the old hymn which had been my companion on the ice-pan:
"Oh, help me from my heart to say, Thy will be done."
THEY THAT DO BUSINESS IN GREAT WATERS
Contrary to her ungenerous reputation, even if vessels are lost on the Labrador, her almost unequalled series of harbours—so that from the Straits of Belle Isle to those of Hudson Bay there is not ten miles of coast anywhere without one—enables the crew to escape nearly every time.
In 1883, in the North Sea in October, a hurricane destroyed twenty-five of our stout vessels on the Dogger Bank, cost us two hundred and seventy good lives, and left a hundred widows to mourn on the land. In 1889 a storm hit the north coast of Newfoundland, but too late in the season to injure much of the fishing fleet, which had for the most part gone South. But it caused immense damage to property and the loss of a few lives. As one of the testimonials to its fury, I saw the flooring and seats of the church in the mud of the harbour at St. Anthony at low tide even though that church had been founded entirely on a rock. We now concede that it is good economy on our coast to have wire stays to ringbolts leaded into rocky foundations, to anchor small buildings. Our storms are mostly cyclones with wide vortices, and coming largely from the southwest or northwest, are offshore, and therefore less felt.
We were once running along at full speed in a very thick fog, framing a course to just clear some nasty shoals on our port bow. There was nothing outside us and we had seen no ice of late, so I went below for some lunch, telling the mate to report land as soon as he saw any, and instructing the man at the wheel, if he heard a shout, to port his helm hard. The soup was still on the table when a loud shouting made us leap on the deck to see the ship going full tilt into an enormous iceberg, which seemed right at the end of the bowsprit. This unexpected monster was on our starboard bow, and the order to avoid the shoal was putting us headfirst into it. Our only chance was full speed and a starboard helm, and we actually grazed along the side of the berg. It seemed almost ludicrous later to pick up a large island and run into a harbour with grassy, sloping sides, out of which the fog was shut like a wall, and then to go ashore and bargain over buying a couple of cows, which were being sold, as the settler was moving to the mainland.
Among the records of events of importance to us I find in 1908 that of the second real hurricane which I have ever seen. It began on Saturday, July 28, the height of our summer, with flat calm and sunshine alternating with small, fierce squalls. Though we had a falling barometer, this deceived us, and we anchored that evening in a shallow and unsafe open roadstead about twenty miles from Indian Harbour Hospital. Fortunately our suspicions induced us to keep an anchor watch, and his warning made us get steam at midnight, and we brought up at daylight in the excellent narrow harbour in which the hospital stands. The holding ground there is deep mud in four fathoms of water, the best possible for us. Our only trouble was that the heavy tidal current would swing a ship uneasily broadside against an average wind force.
It was blowing so strongly by this time that the hospital yawl Daryl had already been driven ashore from her anchors, but still we were able to keep ours in the water, and getting a line to her, to heave her astern of our vessel with our powerful winch. The fury of the breeze grew worse as the day went on. All the fishing boats in the harbour filled and sank with the driving water. With the increase of violence of the weather we got up steam and steamed to our anchors to ease if possible the strain on our two chains and shore lines—a web which we had been able to weave before it was too late. By Sunday the gale had blown itself entirely away, and Monday morning broke flat calm, with lovely sunshine, and only an enormous sullen ground sea. This is no uncommon game of Dame Nature's; she seemed to be only mocking at the destruction which she had wrought.
Knowing that there must be many comrades in trouble, we were early away, and dancing like a bubble, we ran north, keeping as close inshore as we could, and watching the coast-line with our glasses. The coast was littered with remains. Forty-one vessels had been lost; in one uninhabited roadstead alone, some forty miles away from Indian Harbour, lay sixteen wrecks. The shore here was lined with rude shelters made from the wreckage of spars and sails, and the women were busy cooking meals and "tidying up" the shacks as if they had lived there always.
We soon set to work hauling off such vessels as would float. One, a large hardwood, well-fastened hull, we determined to save. Her name was Pendragon. The owner was aboard—a young man with no experience who had never previously owned a vessel. He was so appalled at the disaster that he decided to have her sold piecemeal and broken up. We attended the auction on the beach and bought each piece as it came to the hammer. Getting her off was the trouble. We adopted tactics of our own invention. Mousing together the two mastheads with a bight of rope, we put on it a large whoop traveller, and to that fastened our stoutest and longest line. Then first backing down to her on the very top of high water, we went "full speed ahead." Over she fell on her side and bumped along on the mud and shingle for a few yards. By repeated jerks she was eventually ours, but leaking so like a basket that we feared we should yet lose her. Pumps inside fortunately kept her free till we passed her topsail under her, and after dropping in sods and peat, we let the pressure from the outside keep them in place. When night fell I was played out, and told the crew they must let her sink. My two volunteer helpers, Albert Gould, of Bowdoin, and Paul Matheson, of Brown, however, volunteered to pump all night.
While hunting for a crew to take her South we came upon the wreck of a brand-new boat, only launched two months previously. She had been the pride of the skipper's life. He was an old friend of mine, and we felt so sorry for him that we not only got him to take our vessel, but we handed it over for him to work out at the cost which we had paid for the pieces. He made a good living out of her for several years, but later she was lost with all hands on some dangerous shoals near St. Anthony on a journey North.
With fifty-odd people aboard, and a long trail of nineteen fishing boats we eventually got back to Indian Harbour, where every one joined in helping our friends in misfortune till the steamer came and took them South. They waved us farewell, and, quite undismayed, wished for better luck for themselves another season.
The case of one skipper is well worth relating as showing their admirable optimism. He was sixty-seven years old, and had by hard saving earned his own schooner—a fine large vessel. He had arranged to sell her on his return trip and live quietly on the proceeds on his potato patch in southern Newfoundland. His vessel had driven on a submerged reef and turned turtle. The crew had jumped for their lives, not even saving their personal clothing, watches, or instruments. We photographed the remains of the capsized hull floating on the surf. Yet this man, in the four days during which he was my guest, never once uttered a word of complaint. He had done all he could, and he "'lowed that t' Lord knew better than he what was best."
"But what will you do now, Skipper?" I asked.
"Why, get another," he replied; "I think them'll trust me."
One of our older vessels started a plank in a gale of wind in the Atlantic and went to the bottom without warning. In an open boat for six days with only a little dry bread and no covering of any sort, the crew fought rough seas and heavy breezes. But they handled her with the sea genius of our race; made land safely at last, and never said a word about the incident. On another occasion two men, who had been a fortnight adrift, had rowed one hundred and fifty miles, and had only the smallest modicum of food, came aboard our vessel. When I said, "You are hungry, aren't you?" they merely replied, "Well, not over-much"—and only laughed when I suggested that perhaps a month in the open boat might have given them a real appetite.
One October, south of St. Anthony, we were lying in the arm of a bay with two anchors and two warps out, one to each side of the narrow channel. The wind piled up the waters, much as it did in Pharaoh's day. We were flung astern yard by yard on the top of the seas, and when it was obvious that we must go ashore, we reversed our engines, slipped our line, and drove up high and dry to escape the bumping on the beach which was inevitable. There we lay for days. Meanwhile I had taken our launch into the river-mouth and was marooned there. For the launch blew right up on the bank in among the trees, and strive as we would, for days we could not even move her out again.
Another spring we had a very close squeak of losing the Strathcona. While we were trying one morning to get out of a harbour, a sudden gale of wind came down upon us and pinned us tight, so that we could not move an inch. The pressure of the ice became more severe moment by moment, and meanwhile the ice between us and the shore seemed to be imperceptibly melting away. Naturally we tried every expedient we could think of to keep enough ice between us and the shore rocks to save the vessel being swept over the rocky headland, toward which the irresistible tidal current was steadily forcing us. To make matters worse, we struck our propeller against a pan of ice and broke off one of the flanges close to the shaft. It became breathlessly exciting as the ship drew nearer and nearer to the rocks. We abandoned our boat when we saw that by trying to hold on to it any longer we should be jeopardizing the steamer. Twisting round helplessly as in a giant's arms, we were swept past the dangerous promontory and to our infinite joy carried out into the open Atlantic where there is room for all. Our boat was subsequently rescued from the shore, and we were able to screw on a new blade to the propeller.
Just after the big gale in 1908 His Excellency, Sir William MacGregor, then Governor, was good enough to come and spend a short time surveying on our north coast. He was an expert in this line, as well as being a gold-medallist in medicine. Later he changed over from the Strathcona to the Government steamer Fiona. I acted as pilot among other capacities on that journey, and was unlucky enough to run her full tilt onto one of the only sandbanks on the coast in a narrow passage between some islands and the mainland! The little Strathcona, following behind, was in time to haul us off again, but the incident made the captain naturally distrust my ability, and as a result he would not approach the shore near enough for us to get the observations which we needed. Although we went round Cape Chidley into Ungava Bay I could not regain his confidence sufficiently to go through the straits which I had myself sounded and surveyed. So we accomplished it in a small boat, getting good observations. Our best work, however, was done when His Excellency was content to be our guest. The hospital on board was used for the necessary instruments—four chronometers, two theodolites, guns, telescopes, camp furniture, and piles of books and printed forms. Mr. Albert Gould of Bowdoin was my secretary on board that year, and was of very great value to us.
Though the work of an amateur, Sir William's surveying was accepted by the Admiralty and the Royal Geographical Society—his survey in Nigeria having proved to have not one single location a mile out of place when an official survey was run later.
Many a time in the middle of a meal, some desired but unlucky star would cross the prime vertical, and all hands had to go up on deck and shiver while rows of figures were accumulated. Sir William told us that he would rather shoot a star any time than all the game ever hunted. One night my secretary, after sitting on a rock at a movable table from 5 P.M. till midnight, came in, his joints almost creaking with cold, and loaded with a pile of figures which he assured us would crush the life out of most men. My mate that year was a stout and very short, plethoric person. When he stated that he preferred surveying to fishing, as it was going to benefit others so much, and that he was familiar with the joys of service, he was taken promptly at his word. It was a hot summer. The theodolite was a nine-inch one and weighed many pounds. We had climbed the face of a very steep mountain called Cape Mugford, some three thousand feet high—every inch of which distance we had to mount from dead sea-level. When at last Israel arrived on the summit, he looked worried. He said that he had always thought surveying meant letting things drop down over the ship's side, and not carrying ballast up precipices. For his part he could now see that providing food for the world was good enough for him. He distinctly failed to grasp where the joy of this kind of service came in—and noting his condition as he lay on the ground and panted I decided to let it go at that.
The Governor was a real MacGregor and a Presbyterian, and was therefore quite a believer in keeping Sunday as a day of rest. But after morning prayers on the first fine day, after nearly a week of fog, he decided that he had had physical rest enough, and to get good observations would bring him the recreation of spirit which he most needed. So he packed up for work, and happened to light on the unhappy Israel to row him a mile or so to the land. "Iz" was taken "all aback." He believed that you should not strain yourself ever—much less on Sundays. So from religious scruples he asked to be excused, though he offered to row any one ashore if he was only going to idle the hours away. After all, however, our Governor represented our King, and I was personally horrified, intending to correct Israel's position with a round turn, and show him that we are especially enjoined to obey "Governors and Rulers"—as better also than the sacrifice of loafing. But the Governor forbade it, quietly unpacked, put his things away, and stayed aboard. Israel subsequently cultivated the habit of remaining in bed on Sundays—thereby escaping being led into temptation, as even Governors would not be likely to go and tempt him in his bunk.
I have had others refuse to help in really necessary work on Sunday. One skipper would not get the Strathcona under way in answer to a wireless appeal to come to a woman in danger of dying from hemorrhage forty miles distant. When we prepared to start without him, he told me that he would go, but that it would be at the price of his soul and we would have to be responsible for that loss. We went all the same.
Our charts, such as they were, were subsequently accepted by the Royal Geographical Society of England, who generously invited me to lecture before them. They were later good enough to award me the Murchison Prize in 1911. Much of the work was really due to Sir William, and as much of it as I could put on him to the Sabbatarian "Iz."
In connection with the scientific work on the coast I well remember the eclipse of October, 1905. All along the land it was perfectly visible. A break in the clouds occurred at exactly the right moment: one fisherman, to console the astronomers, said that he was very sorry, but that he supposed it did not much matter, as there would be another eclipse next week. The scientific explorer, who was devoting his attention to the effect on the earth's magnetism, spent the time of the eclipse in a dark cellar. Most wonderful magnetic disturbances had been occurring almost every night, and the night before the event a far from ordinary storm had upset his instruments, so that the effect of the eclipse on the magnetic indicators was scarcely distinguishable. He had just time after the thing was over to peep out and see the light returning. He had watched his thermometer and found that it fell three degrees during totality.
The year 1908 at the mill we had built a new large schooner in honour of that devoted friend of Labrador, our secretary in Boston, and had named the vessel for her, the Emma E. White. She fetched Lloyd's full bounty for an A 1 ship. This was a feather in our caps, since she was designed and built by one of our own men, who was no "scholard," having never learned to read or write. Will Hopkins can take an axe and a few tools into the green woods in the fall, and sail down the bay in a new schooner in the spring when the ice goes. To see him steaming the planking in the open in his own improvised boxes on the top of six feet of snow made me stand and take off my hat to him. He is no good at speech-making; he does not own a dress-suit, and he cannot dance a tango; but he is quite as useful a citizen as some who can, and his type of education is one which endears him to all. He gave me the great pleasure of having our friend come sailing into St. Anthony in the middle of a fine day, seated on the bow of her namesake, the beautiful and valuable product of his skill, just when we were all ready on the wharf to "sketch them both off," as our people call taking a photograph.
Our increasing buildings being all of wood, and as the two largest were full of either helpless sick people or an ever-increasing batch of children, we wanted something safer than kerosene lamps to illuminate the rooms. The people here had never seen electric light "tamed," as it were, and to us it seemed almost too big a venture to install a plant of our own. Home outfits were not common in those days even in the States, and we feared in any case that we could not run it regularly enough. No one except the head of the machine shop, a Labrador boy and Pratt graduate, knew the first thing about electricity, and he would not always be available.
However, with the help of friends we were able to purchase a hot-head vertical engine to generate our current; for our near-by streams freeze solid in winter. That engine has now been running for over ten years, and has given us electricity in St. Anthony Hospital for operating and X-ray work as well as all our lighting. Until he died, it was run the greater part of the time by an Eskimo boy whom we had brought down from the North Labrador, and who was convalescing from empyema. The installation was efficiently done by a volunteer student from the Pratt Institute, Mr. Hause.
On my lecture trip the previous winter a gentleman at whose house I was a guest told me that when quite a youth he had fought in the Civil War, been invalided home, and advised to take a sea voyage for his health. He therefore took passage with some Gloucester fishermen and set sail for the Labrador. The crew proved to be Southern sympathizers, and one day, while my friend was ashore taking a walk, the skipper slipped out and left him marooned. He had with him neither money, spare clothing, nor anything else; and as British sympathies were also with the South, he had many doubts as to how the settlers would receive a penniless stranger and Northerner. So seeing his schooner bound in an easterly direction, he started literally to run along the shore, hoping that he might find where she went and catch her again. Mile after mile he went, tearing through the "tuckamore" or dense undergrowth of gnarled trees, climbing over high cliffs, swimming or wading the innumerable rivers, skirting bays, and now and again finding a short beach along which he could hurry. At night, wet, dirty, tired, hungry, penniless, he came to a fisherman's cottage and asked shelter and food. He explained that he was an American gentleman taking a holiday, but hadn't a penny of money. It spoke well for the people that they accepted his story. He told me that they both fed and clothed him, and one kind-hearted man actually the next day gave him some oilskin clothing and a sou'wester hat—costly articles "on Labrador" in those days. So on and on and on he went, till at last arriving at Red Bay he found his schooner at anchor calmly fishing. He went aboard at once as if nothing had happened, and stayed there (having enjoyed enough pedestrian exercise for the time being) and no one ever referred to his having been left behind. He was now, however, forty years later, anxious to do something for the people of that section of the shore, and he gave me a thousand dollars toward building a small cottage for a district nurse. Forteau was the village chosen, and Dennison Cottage erected as a nursing station and dispensary. The people at first each gave a week toward its upkeep; and even now every man gives three days annually. The house has a good garden, little wards for in-patients, and is the centre of much useful industrial work, especially the making of artificial flowers. For twelve years now, Miss Florence Bailey, a nurse from the Mildmay Institute in London, has presided over its destinies, endeared herself to the people, and done most unselfish and heroic work in that lonely station, which she has greatly enlarged and improved by her untiring efforts. It forms an admirable halfway house between Battle and Harrington Hospitals, each being about a hundred miles distant. A local trader once wrote me: "Sister Bailey did good work last year. That cottage hospital is a blessing to the people of this part of the shore. Who would think that by a little act of kindness done forty-odd years ago to an old soldier, we would now be reaping the benefit of such an act."
Only one longer journey on foot on the Labrador coast is on record. The traveller started from Quebec and walked to Battle Harbour. There he turned north and walked to Nakvak Bay. The distance as the crow flies is about fourteen hundred miles. But the man had no boat of his own and only in one or two places accepted a passage. One bay on the east coast runs in for some hundred and fifty miles. Over this he got a boat fifty miles from the mouth. Round Kipokak and Makkovik, and the bays south of Hopedale, he walked most of the way, and these run in for forty miles. He carried practically nothing with him, and depended on what boots and clothing the people gave him, eating berries and whatever else he could find while he was in the country. Those who housed him told me that they did not see any signs of madness about him, except his avoidance of men and refusal to go in boats or mix with others if he could in any way avoid it. He carried no gun. No one knew who he was nor why he went on such a "cruise." Long before he reached the North the theory that he was a murderer fleeing from justice got started, and at some places a very careful watch was kept over him. Arrived at Nakvak, he went to the house of everyone's friend, George Ford. That is one of the most inaccessible places in the world. No mail steamer ever goes there, and no schooner ever anchors nearer than a few miles. It is at the bottom of a fjord twenty-five miles long, with very precipitous cliffs two thousand feet high on each side and bottomless water below. It was then thirty miles from the nearest house, with ranges of mountains between, and was the most northerly house on the Labrador. Here this phenomenon celebrated his arrival by climbing up onto the ridge of the house, when lo! most prosaic of accidents, he fell off and broke his neck. The puzzle has always been why he elected to carry an unbroken neck at such cost all that long distance.
Many inexplicable things happen "on Labrador." Thus, one year while visiting at the head of Hamilton Inlet, a Scotch settler came aboard to ask my advice about a large animal that had appeared round his house. Though he had sat up night after night with his gun, he had never seen it. His children had seen it several times disappearing into the trees. The French agent of Revillon Freres, twenty miles away, had come over, and together they had tracked it, measured the footmarks in the mud, and even fenced some of them round. The stride was about eight feet, the marks as of the cloven hoofs of an ox. The children described the creature as looking like a huge hairy man; and several nights the dogs had been driven growling from the house into the water. Twice the whole family had heard the creature prowling around the cottage, and tapping at the doors and windows. The now grown-up children persist in saying that they saw this wild thing. Their house is twenty miles up the large Grand River, and a hundred and fifty miles from the coast.
An old fellow called Harry Howell was one winter night missing from his home. He had been hunting, and only too late, after a blizzard set in, was it discovered that he was absent. In the morning the men gathered to make a search, but at that moment in walked "old Harry"! He told me later that he was coming home in the afternoon when the blizzard began. It was dirty, thick of snow, and cold. Suddenly he heard bells ringing, and knew that it was fairies bidding him follow them—because he had followed them before. So off he went, pushing his way through the driving snow. When at last he reached the foot of a gnarled old tree in the forest, the bells stopped, and he knew that was the place where he must stay for the night. So he laid some of the partridges which he had killed into a hole in the snow close to the trunk, crawled down and used them for a seat, and placed the rest of the frozen birds at his feet. Then he pulled up his dickey, or kossak, over his head, and with his back to the tree, went to sleep while the snow was still driving. There was no persuading that man that the ringing bells were in his own imagination.
Many years ago a Norwegian captain on the Labrador told me the following story. One day the carpenter of his schooner, a man whom he had known for three voyages, and trusted thoroughly, was steering on the course which the mate had given him. All at once the mate came and found the man steering four points out. When he upbraided him, he answered, "He came and told me to." "Nobody did," replied the mate. "Go northwest."
Three times the experience was repeated, and at last the mate reported the matter to the skipper. He immediately suggested, "Well, let us go on running in the direction he insists on taking for a while and see if anything happens." At the end of two hours they came upon a square-rigger with her decks just awash, and six men clinging to her rigging. As they came alongside the sinking vessel the carpenter pointed aghast to one of the rescued crew and cried out, "There's the man who came and told me the skipper said to change the course."
In medicine, too, things happen which we professional men are just as unable to explain. A big-bodied, successful fisherman came aboard my steamer one day, saying that he had toothache. This was probable, for his jaw was swollen, his mouth hard to open, and the offending molar easily visible within. When I produced the forceps he protested most loudly that he would not have it touched for worlds.
"Why, then, did you come to me?" I asked. "You are wasting my time."
"I wanted you to charm her, Doctor," he answered, quite naturally.
"But, my dear friend, I do not know how to charm, and don't think it would do the slightest good. Doctors are not allowed to do such things."
He was evidently very much put out, and turning round to go, said, "I knows why you'se won't charm her. It's because I'm a Roman Catholic."
"Nonsense. If you really think that it would do any good, come along. You'll have to pay twenty-five cents exactly as if you had it pulled out."
"Gladly enough, Doctor. Please go ahead."
He sat on the rail, a burly carcass, the incarnation of materialism, while the doctor, feeling the size of a sandflea, put one finger into his mouth and touched the molar, while he repeated the most mystic nonsense he could think of, "Abracadabra Tiddlywinkum Umslopoga"—and then jumped the finger out lest the patient might close his ponderous jaw. The fisherman took a turn around the deck, pulled out the quarter, and solemnly handed it to me, saying, "All the pain has gone. Many thanks, Doctor." I found myself standing alone in amazement, twiddling a miserable shilling, and wondering how I came to make such a fool of myself.
A month later the patient again came to see me when we happened to be in his harbour. The swelling had gone, the molar was there. "Ne'er an ache out of her since," the patient laughed. I have not reported this end result to the committee of the American College of Surgeons, though much attention is now devoted to the follow-up and end-result department of surgery and medicine.
It was now the fall of 1908, and the time had come for me to visit England again and try and arouse fresh interest in our work; and this motive was combined with the desire to see my old mother, who was now nearing her fourscore years. I decided to leave in November and return via America in the spring to receive the honorary degree of LL.D. from Williams College and of M.A. from Harvard, which I had been generously offered.
My lecture tour this winter was entrusted to an agency. Propaganda is a recognized necessity in human life, though it has little attraction for most men. To me having to ask personally for money even for other people was always a difficulty. Scores of times I have been blamed for not even stating in a lecture that we needed help. The distaste for beating the big drum, which lecturing for your own work always appears to be, makes me quite unable to see any virtue in not doing it, but just asking the Lord to do it. If I really were convinced that He would meet the expenses whether I worked or not, I should believe that neither would He let people suffer and die untended out here or anywhere else. Indeed, it would seem a work of supererogation to have to remind Him of the necessity that existed.
The fact that we have to show pictures of the work which we are doing is tiresome and takes time, but it encourages us to have pictures worth taking and to do deeds which we are not ashamed to narrate. It also stimulates others to give themselves as well as their money to similar kinds of work at their own doorsteps, to see how much like themselves their almoners are. Only to-day my volunteer secretary told me that he honestly expected to meet "a bearded old fogey in spectacles," not a man who can shoot his own dinner from the wing or who enjoys the justifiable pleasures of life.
The religion of Christ never permitted me to accept the idea that there is "nothing to do, only believe." Every man ought to earn his own bread and the means to support his family. Why, then, should you have only to ask the Lord to give unasked the wherewithal to feed other people's families?
Lecturing for philanthropies, only another word for the means to help along the Kingdom of God on earth, is in England usually carried on through the ordinary missionary meetings; and in my previous experience they were not generally much credit to the splendid objects in view. The lectures were often patronized by small audiences largely composed of women and children.
That particular winter in England I had the privilege of addressing all sorts of workmen's clubs and city lecture-course audiences, people who would have "the shivers" almost if one had asked them to attend a "missionary" lecture. The collection, or even the final monetary outcome, is far from being the test of the value of the address. To commend Christ's religion by minimizing in any way the prerogative He gave men of carrying on the work of His kingdom in their human efforts is to sap the very appeal that attracts manhood to Him. I never wanted to sing, "Oh! to be nothing, nothing." I always wished to sing, "Oh! make me something, something"—that shall leave some footprints on the sands of time, and have some record of talents gained to offer a Master whom we believe to be righteous.
When spring came and the lectures were over, a new idea suddenly dawned upon me. If I were going to America to festive gatherings and to have some honours conferred, why leave the mother behind? Seventy-eight years is not old. She was born in India, had lived in England, and suppose anything did happen, why not sleep in America?—she would be just as near God there. The splendid Mauretania not only took us safely over, but gave me also that gift which I firmly believe God designed for me—a real partner to share in my joys and sorrows, to encourage and support in trouble and failures, to inspire and advise in a thousand ways, and in addition to bring into my distant field of work a personal comrade with the culture, wisdom, and enthusiasm of the American life and the training of one of the very best of its Universities.
We met on board the second day out. She was travelling with a Scotch banker of Chicago and his wife, Mr. W.R. Stirling, whose daughter was her best friend. They were returning from a motor tour through Europe and Algeria. The Mauretania takes only four and a half days in crossing, and never before did I realize the drawbacks of "hustle," and yet the extreme need of it on my part. The degrees of longitude slipped by so quickly that I felt personally aggrieved when one day we made over six hundred miles, and the captain told us in triumph that it was a new record. The ship seemed to be paying off some spite against me. My mother kept mostly to her cabin. Though constantly in to see her, I am afraid I did not unduly worry her to join me on the deck. When just on landing I told her that I had asked a fellow passenger to become my wife, I am sure had the opportunity arisen she would have tumbled down the Mauretania's staircase. When she had the joy of meeting the girl, her equanimity was so far upset as to let an unaccustomed tear roll down her cheek. That, at least, is one of the tears which I have cost her which brings no regrets. For she confesses that it often puzzles her to which of our lives the event has meant most.
The constant little activities of my life had so filled every hour of time, and so engrossed my thoughts, that I had never thought to philosophize on the advisability of marriage, nor stopped to compare my life with those of my neighbors. There is no virtue in keeping the Ninth Commandment and not envying your neighbour's condition or goods when it never enters your head or heart to worry about them; and when you are getting what you care about no halo is due you for not falling victim to envy or jealousy of others. I have not been in the habit of praying for special personal providences like fine weather in my section of the earth, or for head wind for the schooners so as to give me a fair wind for my steamer, except so far as one prays for the recognition of God's good hand in everything.
I can honestly protest that nothing in my life ever came more "out of the blue" than my marriage; and beyond that I am increasingly certain each day that it did come out of that blue where God dwells.
I knew neither whence she came nor whither she was going. Indeed, I only found out when the proposition was really put that I did not even know her name—for it was down on the passenger list as one of the daughters of the friends with whom she was travelling. Fortunately it never entered my head that it mattered. For I doubt if I should have had the courage to question the chaperon, whose daughter she presumably was. It certainly was a "poser" to be told, "But you don't even know my name." Had I not been a bit of a seaman, and often compelled on the spur of the moment to act first and think afterwards, what the consequences might have been I cannot say. Fortunately, I remembered that it was not the matter at issue, and explained, without admitting the impeachment, that the only question that interested me in the least was what I hoped that it might become. Incidentally she mentioned that she had only once heard of me. It was the year previous when I had been speaking at Bryn Mawr and she had refused in no measured terms an invitation to attend, as sounding entirely too dull for her predilections. I have wondered whether this was not another "small providence."
A pathological condition of one's internal workings is not unusual even in Britons who "go down to the sea in ships," but such genius as our family has displayed has, so history assures us, shone best on a quarter-deck; and on this occasion it pleased God ultimately to add another naval victory to our credit. It is generally admitted that an abnormal mentality accompanies this not uncommon experience of human life, and I found my lack of appreciation of the rapid voyage paralleled by a wicked satisfaction that my mother preferred the brass four-poster, so thoughtfully provided for her by the Cunard Company, to the risks of the unsteady promenade deck.
When the girl's way and mine parted in that last word in material jostlings, the custom-house shed in Manhattan, after the liner arrived, I realized that it was rather an armistice than a permanent settlement which I had achieved. Though there was no father in the case, I learned that there was a mother and a home in Chicago. These were formidable strongholds for a homeless wanderer to assault, but rendered doubly so by the fact that there was neither brother nor sister to leave behind to mitigate the possible vacancy. The "everlasting yea" not having been forthcoming, under the circumstances it was no easy task for me to keep faith with the many appointments to lecture on Labrador which had been made for me. The inexorable schedule kept me week after week in the East. Fortunately the generous hospitality of many old friends who wanted the pleasure of meeting my mother kept my mind somewhat occupied. But I confess at the back of it the forthcoming venture loomed up more and more momentous as the fateful day drew near for me to start for Chicago.
This visit to my wife's beautiful country home among the trees on the bluff of Lake Michigan in Lake Forest was one long dream. My mother and I were now made acquainted with the family and friends of my fiancee. Her father, Colonel MacClanahan, a man of six feet five inches in height, had been Judge Advocate General on the Staff of Braxton Bragg and had fought under General Robert E. Lee. He was a Southerner of Scotch extraction, having been born and brought up in Tennessee. A lawyer by training, after the war, when everything that belonged to him was destroyed in the "reconstruction period," and being still a very young man, he had gone North to Chicago and begun life again at his profession. There he met and married, in 1884, Miss Rosamond Hill, who was born in Burlington, Vermont, but who, since childhood and the death of her parents, had lived with her married sister, Mrs. Charles Durand, of Chicago. The MacClanahans had two children—the boy, Kinloch, dying at an early age as the result of an accident. Colonel MacClanahan himself died a few months later, leaving a widow and one child, Anna Elizabeth Caldwell MacClanahan. She and her mother had lived the greater part of the time with Mrs. Durand, who died something more than a year before our engagement.
The friends with whom my fiancee had been travelling were almost next-door neighbours in Lake Forest. They made my short stay doubly happy by endless kindnesses; and all through the years, till his death in 1918, Mr. Stirling gave me not only a friendship which meant more to me than I can express, but his loving and invaluable aid and counsel in our work.
In spite of my many years of sailor life, I found that I was expected among other things to ride a horse, my fiancee being devoted to that means of progression. The days when I had ridden to hounds in England as a boy in Cheshire stood me in some little stead, for like swimming, tennis, and other pastimes calling for coordination, riding is never quite forgotten. But remembering Mr. Winkle's experiences, it was not without some misgivings that I found a shellback like myself galloping behind my lady's charger. My last essay at horseback riding had been just eleven years previously in Iceland. Having to wait a few days at Reikkavik, I had hired a whole bevy of ponies with a guide to take myself and the young skipper of our vessel for a three days' ride to see the geysers. He had never been on the back of any animal before, and was nevertheless not surprised or daunted at falling off frequently, though an interlude of being dragged along with one foot in the stirrup over lava beds made no little impression upon him. Fodder of all kinds is very scarce in the volcanic tufa of which all that land consists, and any moment that one stopped was always devoted by our ponies to grubbing for blades of grass in the holes. On our return to the ship the crew could not help noticing that the skipper for many days ceased to patronize the lockers or any other seat, and soon they were rejoicing that for some reason he was unable to sit down at all. He explained it by saying that his ponies ate so much lava that it stuck out under their skins, and I myself recall feeling inclined to agree with him.
The journey from Lake Forest to Labrador would have been a tedious one, but by good fortune a friend from New York had arranged to come and visit the coast in his steam yacht, the Enchantress, and was good enough to pick me up at Bras d'Or. Dr. Alexander Graham Bell, who had previously shown me much kindness, permitted us to rendezvous at his house, and for a second time I enjoyed seeing some of the experiments of his most versatile brain. His aeroplanes, telephones, and other inventions were all intensely interesting, but among his other lines of work the effort to develop a race of sheep, which had litters just as pigs do, interested me most.
Francis Sayre, whom I had heard win the prize at Williams with his valedictory speech, was again to be my summer secretary. On our arrival at St. Anthony we found a great deal going on. The fame as a surgeon of my colleague, Dr. John Mason Little, had spread so widely that St. Anthony Hospital would no longer hold the patients who sought assistance at it. Fifty would arrive on a single mail boat. They were dumped down on the little wharf, having been landed in small punts from the steamer, as in those days we had no proper dock to which the boats could come. The little waiting-room in the hospital at night resembled nothing so much as a newly opened sardine tin; and to cater for the waiting patients was a Sisyphean task without the Hercules. Through the instrumentality of Dr. Little's sister a fund of ten thousand dollars was raised to double the size of the hospital, and the work of building was begun on my return. Although the capacity was greatly increased thereby we have really been unable ever to make our building what it ought to be to meet the problem. The first part, constructed of green lumber hauled from the woods, and other wings added at different periods of growth, the endeavour to blast out suitable heating-plant accommodations—all this has left the hospital building more or less a thing of rags and patches, and most uneconomical to run. We are urgently in need of having it rebuilt entirely of either brick or stone, in order to resist the winter cold, to give more efficiency and comfort to patients and staff and to conserve our fuel, which is the most serious item of expense we have to meet.
But at that time with all its capacity for service the new addition was rising, sounding yet one more note of praise in better ability to meet the demands upon us.
And pari passu came the beautiful offer of my friend, Mr. Sayre, to double the size of our orphanage, putting up the new wing in memory of his father. This meant that instead of twenty we might now accommodate forty children at a pinch. Life is so short that it is the depths of pathos to be hampered in doing one's work for the lack of a few dollars. Of great interest to my fiancee and myself was the selection of a piece of ground adjoining the Mission land, and the erection for ourselves of the home which we had planned and designed together before I had left Lake Forest. We chose some land up on the hillside and overlooking the sea and the harbour, where the view should be as comprehensive as possible. But we feared that even though our new house was very literally "founded upon a rock," the winds might some day remove it bodily from its abiding-place, and therefore we riveted the structure with heavy iron bolts to the solid bedrock.
One excitement of that season was Admiral Peary's return from the North Pole. We were cruising near Indian Harbour when some visitors came aboard to make use of our wireless telegraph, which at that time we had installed on board. It proved to be Mr. Harry Whitney. It was the first intimation that we had had that Peary was returning that year. Whitney had met Cook coming back from the polar sea on the west side of the Gulf, where he had disappeared about eighteen months previously. I had met Dr. Cook several times myself, and indeed I had slept at his house in Brooklyn. He had visited Battle Harbour Hospital in 1893 when he was wrecked in the steamer in which he was conducting a party to visit Greenland. We had again seen him as he went North with Mr. Bradley in the yacht, and he had sent us back some Greenland dogs to mix their blood with our dogs, and so perhaps improve their breed and endurance. These, however, I had later felt it necessary to kill, for the Greenland dogs carry the dangerous tapeworm which is such a menace to man, and of which our Labrador dogs are entirely free so far.
The picture of this meeting on the ice between Cook and Whitney gave us the impression of another Nansen and Jackson at Spitzbergen. Whitney had welcomed Cook warmly, had witnessed his troubles at Etah, and his departure by komatik, and had taken charge of his instruments and records to carry South with him when he came home. But his ship was delayed and delayed, and when Peary in the Roosevelt passed on his way South, fearing to be left another winter Whitney had accepted a passage on her at the cost of leaving Cook's material behind. He had met his own boat farther south and had transferred to her. He left the impression very firmly on all our minds that both he and Dr. Cook really believed that the latter had found the long-sought Pole.
A little later, while cruising in thick weather in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, my wireless operator came in and said: "There can be no harm telling you, Doctor, that Peary is at Battle Harbour. He is wiring to Washington that he has found the Pole, and also he is asking his committee if he may present the Mission with his superfluous supplies, or whether he is to sell them to you." Seeing that it is not easy to know whence wireless messages come if the sender does not own up to his whereabouts, I at once ordered him to wireless to Peary at Battle the simple words: "Give it to them, of course," and sign it "Washington." I knew that the Commander would see the joke, and if the decision turned out later to be incorrect, it could easily be rectified by purchasing the goods. A tin of his brown bread now lies among my curios and one of his sledges is in my barn.
On our arrival at Battle Harbour we found the Roosevelt lying at the wharf repainting and refitting. A whole host of newspaper men and other friends had come North to welcome the explorer home. Battle was quite a gay place; but it was living up to its name, for Peary not only claimed that he had found the Pole, but also that Cook had not; and he was realizing what a hard thing it is to prove a negative. We had a very delightful time with the party, and greatly enjoyed meeting all the members of the expedition. Among them was the ill-fated Borup, destined shortly to be drowned on a simple canoe trip, and the indomitable and athletic Macmillan who subsequently led the Crocker Land expedition, our own schooner George B. Cluett carrying them to Etah.
My secretary, Mr. Sayre, was just about to leave for America, and at Peary's request he transferred to the Roosevelt with his typewriter, to help the Commander with a few of his many notes and records. I dare say that he got an inside view of the question then agitating the world from Washington to Copenhagen; but if so, he has remained forever silent about it. For our part we were glad that some one had found the Pole, for it has been a costly quest in both fine men and valuable time, energy, and money. It has caused lots of trouble and sorrow, and so far at least its practical issues have been few.
Our wedding had been scheduled for November, and for the first time I had found a Labrador summer long. In the late fall I left for Chicago on a mission that had no flavour of the North Pole about it. We were married in Grace Episcopal Church, Chicago, on November 18, 1909. Our wedding was followed by a visit to the Hot Springs of Virginia; and then "heigho," and a flight for the North. We sailed from St. John's, Newfoundland, in January. I had assured my wife, who is an excellent sailor, that she would scarcely notice the motion of the ship on the coastal trip of three hundred miles. Instead of five days, it took nine; and we steamed straight out of the Narrows at St. John's into a head gale and a blizzard of snow. The driving spray froze onto every thing till the ship was sugared like a vast Christmas cake. It made the home which we had built at St. Anthony appear perfectly delightful. My wife had had her furniture sent North during the summer, so that now the "Lares and Penates" with which she had been familiar from childhood seemed to extend a mute but hearty welcome to us from their new setting.
We have three children, all born at St. Anthony. Our elder son, Wilfred Thomason, was born in the fall of 1910; Kinloch Pascoe in the fall of 1912, two years almost to a day behind his brother; and lastly a daughter, Rosamond Loveday, who followed her brothers in 1917. In the case of the two latter children the honours of the name were divided between both sides of the family, Kinloch and Rosamond being old family names on my wife's side, while, on the other hand, there have been Pascoe and Loveday Grenfells from time immemorial.
Nearly ten years have now rolled away since our marriage. The puzzle to me is how I ever got along before; and these last nine years have been so crowded with the activities and worries of the increasing cares of a growing work, that without the love and inspiration and intellectual help of a true comrade, I could never have stood up under them. Every side of life is developed and broadened by companionship. I admit of no separation of life into "secular" and "religious." Religion, if it means anything, means the life and activities of our divine spirit on earth in relation to our Father in heaven. I am convinced from experience of the supreme value to that of a happy marriage, and that "team work" is God's plan for us on this earth.
No human life can be perfect, or even be lived without troubles. Clams have their troubles, I dare say. A queer sort of sinking feeling just like descending in a fast elevator comes over one, as if trouble and the abdominal viscera had a direct connection. Some one has said that it must be because that is where the average mind centres. Thus, when we lost the little steamer Swallow which we were towing, and with it the evidence of a crime and the road to the prevention of its repetition, it absolutely sickened me for two or three days, or, to be more exact, during two or three nights. It was all quite unnecessary, for we can see now that the matter worked out for the best. The fact that troubles hurt most when one is at rest and one's mind unoccupied, and in the night when one's vitality is lowest, is a great comfort, because that shows how it is something physical that is at fault, and no physical troubles are of very great importance.
The summer of 1910 brought me a fine crop of personal worries, and probably deservedly so, for no one should leave his business affairs too much to another, without guarantees, occasionally renewed, that all is well. Few professional men are good at business, and personally I have no liking for it. This, combined with an over-readiness to accept as helpers men whose only qualifications have sometimes been of their own rating, was really spoiling for trouble—and mine came through the series of cooperative stores.
To begin with, none of the stores were incorporated, and their liabilities were therefore unlimited. Though I had always felt it best not to accept a penny of interest, I had been obliged to loan them money, and their agent in St. John's, who was also mine, allowed them considerable latitude in credits. It was, indeed, a bolt from the blue when I was informed that the merchants in St. John's were owed by the stores the sum of twenty-five thousand dollars, and that I was being held responsible for every cent of it—because on the strength of their faith in me, and their knowledge that I was interested in the stores, having brought them into being, they had been willing to let the credits mount up. Even then I still had all my work to carry on and little time to devote to money affairs. Had I accepted, on first entering the Mission, the salary offered me, which was that of my predecessor, I should have been able to meet these liabilities, and very gladly indeed would I have done so. As it was I had to find some way out. All the merchants interested were told of the facts, and asked to meet me at the office of one of them, go over the accounts with my agent, and try and find a plan to settle. One can have little heart in his work if he feels every one who looks at him really thinks that he is a defaulter. The outcome of the inquiry revealed that if the agent could not show which store owed each debt, neither could the merchants; some had made out their bills to separate stores, some all to one store, and some in a general way to myself, though not one single penny of the debt was a personal one of my own.
The next discovery was that the manager of the St. Anthony store, who had been my summer secretary before, and was an exceedingly pious man—whose great zeal for cottage prayer meetings, and that form of religious work, had led me to think far too highly of him—had neglected his books. He had given credit to every one who came along (though it was a cardinal statute under his rules that no credit was to be allowed except at his own personal risk). The St. John's agent claimed that he had made a loss of twelve thousand dollars in a little over a year, in which he professed to have been able to pay ten per cent to shareholders and put by three hundred dollars to reserve. Besides this, the new local store secretary had mixed up affairs by both ordering supplies direct from Canada and sending produce there, which the St. John's agent claimed were owed to the merchants in that city.
These two men, instead of pulling together, were, I found, bitter enemies; and it looked as if the whole pack of cards were tumbling about my ears. I cashed every available personal asset which I could. The beautiful schooner, Emma E. White, also a personal possession, arrived in St. John's while we were there with a full load of lumber, but it and she sailed straight into the melting-pot. The merchants, with one exception, were all as good about the matter as men can be. They were perfectly satisfied when they realized that I meant facing the debt squarely. One was nasty about it, saying that he would not wait—and oddly enough in ordinary life he was a man whom one would not expect to be ungenerous, for he too was a religious man. Whether he gained by it or not it is hard to say. He was paid first, anyhow. The standard of what is really remunerative in life is differently graded. The stores have dealt with him since, and his prices are fair and honest; but he was the only one among some twenty who even appeared to kick a man when he was down. I have nothing but gratitude to all the rest.
I should add that the incident was not the fault of the people of the coast. Often I had been warned by the merchants that the cooperative stores would fail and that the people would rob me. It is true that there was trouble over the badly kept books, and a number of the fishermen disclaimed their debts charged against them; but with one exception no one came and said that he had had things which were not noted on the bills. I am confident, however, that they did not go back on me willingly, and when my merchant friends said, "I told you so," I honestly was able to state that it was the management, not the people or the system, that was at fault. Indeed, subsequent events have proved this. For five of the stores still run, and run splendidly, and pay handsomer dividends by far than any investment our people could possibly make elsewhere.
With the sale of a few investments and some other available property, the liability was so far reduced that, with what the stores paid, only one merchant was not fully indemnified, and he generously told me not to worry about the balance.
This same year, on the other hand, one of our most forward steps, so far as the Mission was concerned, was taken, through the generosity of the late Mr. George B. Cluett, of Troy, New York. He had built specially for our work a magnificent three-masted schooner, fitted with the best of gear including a motor launch. She was constructed of three-inch oak plank, sheathed with hardwood for work in the ice-fields. She was also fitted with an eighty horse-power Wolverine engine. The bronze tablet in her bore the inscription, "This vessel with full equipment was presented to Wilfred T. Grenfell by George B. Cluett." He had previously asked me if I would like any words from the Bible on the plate, and I had suggested, "The sea is His and He made it." The designer unfortunately put the text after the inscription; so that I have been frequently asked why and how I came to make it, seeing that it is believed by all good Christians that in heaven "there shall be no more sea."
To help out with the expenses of getting her running, our loved friend from Chicago, Mr. W.R. Stirling, agreed to come North on the schooner the first season, bringing his two daughters and three friends. Even though he was renting her for a yachting trip, he offered to bring all the cargo free and make the Mission stations his ports of call.
Mr. Cluett's idea was that, as we had big expenses carrying endless freight so far North, and as it got so broken and often lost in transit, and greatly damaged in the many changes involved from rail to steamer, and from steamer to steamer, if she carried our freight in summer, she could in winter earn enough to make it all free, and possibly provide a sinking fund for herself as well. There was also good accommodation in her for doctors, nurses, students, etc., who every summer come from the South to help in various ways in the work of the Mission.
All our freight that year arrived promptly and in good condition, which had never happened before. Later the vessel was chartered to go to Greenland by the Smithsonian. On this occasion her engine, never satisfactory, gave out entirely, which so delayed her that she got frozen in near Etah and was held up a whole twelvemonth. Meanwhile the war had broken out, and when she at last sailed into Boston, we were able to sell her, by the generous permission of Mrs. Cluett, and use the money to purchase the George B. Cluett II.
Illustrating the advantage of getting our freight direct, among the many instances which have occurred, that of the lost searchlight for the Strathcona comes to my mind. As she had often on dark nights to come to anchor among vessels, and to nose her way into unlit harbours, some friends, through the Professor of Geology at Harvard, who had himself cruised all along our coast in a schooner, presented me with a searchlight for the hospital ship and despatched it via Sydney—the normal freight route. Month after month went by, and it never appeared. Year followed year, and still we searched for that searchlight. At length, after two and a half years, it suddenly arrived, having been "delayed on the way." Had it been provisions or clothing or drugs, or almost anything else, of course, it would have been useless. It has proved to us one of the almost de luxe additions to a Mission steamer.
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For a long time I had felt the need of some place in St. John's where work for fishermen could be carried on, and which could be also utilized as a place of safety for girls coming to that city from other parts of the island. My attention was called one day to the fact that liquor was being sent to people in the outports C.O.D., by a barrel of flour which was being lowered over the side of the mail steamer rather too quickly on to the ice. As the hard bump came, the flour in the barrel jingled loudly and leaked rum profusely from the compound fracture. When our sober outport people went to St. John's, as they must every year for supplies, they had only the uncomfortable schooner or the street in which to pass the time. There is no "Foyer des Pecheurs"; no one wanted fishermen straight from a fishing schooner in the home; and in those days there were no Camp Community Clubs. As one man said, "It is easy for the parson to tell us to be good, but it is hard on a wet cold night to be good in the open street" and nowhere to go, and harder still if you have to seek shelter in a brightly lighted room, where music was being played. The boarding-houses for the fishermen, where thousands of our young men flocked in the spring to try for a berth in the seal fishery, were ridiculous, not to say calamitous. Lastly, unsophisticated girls coming from the outports ran terrible risks in the city, having no friends to direct and assist them; and the Institute which we had in mind was to comprise also a girls' lodging department. No provision was made for the accommodation of crews wrecked by accident, and our Institute has already proved invaluable to many in such plights.
Seeing the hundreds of craft and the thousands of fishermen, and the capital and interest vested against us as prohibitionists, it would have been obviously futile to put up a second-rate affair in a back street. It would only be sneered at as a proselytizing job. I had almost forgotten to mention that there was already an Old Seamen's Home, but it had gradually become a roost for boozers, and when with the trustees we made an inspection of it, it proved to be only worthy of immediate closure. This was promptly done, and the money realized from the sale of it, some ten thousand dollars, was kindly donated to the fund for our new building.