FROM OKAK TO RAMAH.
Wednesday, September 5th.—About ten o'clock this morning a strong breeze sprang up, and we speedily left behind us the friendly red-roofed mission-house at Okak. When we entered the open sea and turned northwards we passed near a grounded iceberg, curiously hollowed out by the action of the waves. The seaward face of Cape Mugford is even grander than its aspect from the heights around Okak. It seems to be a perpendicular precipice of about 2000 feet, with white base, and a middle strata of black rocks surmounted by castellated cliffs. Presently the remarkably jagged peaks on the island of Nennoktuk came out from behind the nearer headland. There's a sail to the right of it! No, she is not another schooner; she is two-masted and square rigged, and therefore the "Gleaner," the only brigantine in these waters. So the two Moravian vessels pass one another within a mile or two, the "Gleaner" on her way southward from Hebron to Okak, whence she will take Mr. Bourquin home to Nain, the "Harmony" pursuing her northward course past Hebron to Ramah. The captains, who are consigns, exchange a salute by running up their flags, but the sea is too rough to put down a boat.
Thursday, September 6th.—We have had a rough night. This morning we are off Hebron, but twenty-five miles out to sea. We have just passed "the Watchman," an island which serves as a waymark for the entrance to that station. I asked the mate, who once spent a winter there, whether the missionaries or the Eskimoes could see us from the heights near it. He replied that there was no doubt of it, but that he had looked out in this direction from those hills, where no drop of water was visible, nothing but an illimitable plain of ice stretching far beyond where we are now sailing.
Sunday, 9th.—Safe at Ramah, thank God, and not out in the fog, which now envelopes sea and land. The last two days have been a trial of patience. We have seen the entrance to this Nullatatok Bay all the time, and longed to reach the desired haven, yet have not been able, owing to calms and contrary currents. This Labrador coast becomes ever bolder and grander as one sails northward. Here the snowy mountains are quite Alpine in appearance. This morning the thick mist hides all but the base of these magnificent hills, but the enormous rocky masses, rising so quickly from the water's edge into the heights veiled from us, give some idea of their grandeur. Our captain is, indeed, well acquainted with their aspect or he would not have ventured to enter this bay under such circumstances.
"RAMARSUK" (NEAT LITTLE RAMAH).
Missionaries all over the world are perhaps too fond of multiplying Scripture names of their stations. In our own fields we have already three Bethanys and three Bethesdas. We should have had three Ramahs too, had not the natives of Australia themselves greatly improved the appellation of theirs by adding to it a syllable meaning "home" or mother's place. It seemed so homelike to the Christian Aborigines, who moved thither from Ebenezer, the older station, that they at once called it Ramahyuck (Ramah, our home). Perhaps as the Ramah on the Moskito Coast is also known as Ramah Key, the northern station in Labrador, founded in 1871 to mark the cenutry of that mission, should abide plain, simple "Ramah," otherwise the above combination would, I understand, have suited the genius of the language, and its significance. "Neat little Ramah" certainly expresses the character of the lonely missionary settlement.
The village, if one may dignify this small group of human dwellings by that name, stands on a little plain evidently won by degrees from the sea for the successive beaches can be traced. The mission premises, the old house, the new house, and the church with its little belfry, are one continuous building facing the bay southward, and exactly one hundred feet in length. Behind are the store buildings, and the low turf huts of the natives stretch westward along the strand. They are so like grassy mounds, that from any distance one would ask, "But where do the Eskimoes live?"
The missionary dwelling is primitive enough, even as enlarged. During our brief stay here, I have the honour of occupying the original house, built about twenty years ago. It is but a room divided by a curtain, but it served the first missionary couple here as dwelling-room, bedroom, church, and everything else. What a grand view there is from the window over the deep land-locked bay, in which the "Harmony" is lying at the only available anchorage. No one would guess that it would take more than half-an-hour to row across the smooth water, or in winter to walk over its frozen surface to the opposite shore, where, as on this side, precipitous bluffs rise almost from the water's edge. All nature around is on a grand scale, and those snow-clad mountains, which look over the shoulders of the nearer cliffs, are quite Alpine in effect. Climb to the dizzy heights, which tower threateningly six or seven hundred feet above the station and you find you are not half way to the summit of the nearest hill. It must, indeed, be a magnificent view from thence towards the great mountains in the interior, whose everlasting snows cover long ridges at least five or six thousand feet in height. Seawards, the Ramah Hill, a remarkable perpendicular rock, surmounts the nearer cliffs. It looks as if, standing on the crag, one could drop a stone into the water at its base, 1000 feet below.
All this is grand, but grander still is the quiet, unconscious devotion of the worthy missionary pair, who live in this lonely bay, tending the little Christian congregation already gathered, and seeking the salvation of the heathen Eskimoes to the north. Of these there are perhaps sixty or seventy dwelling between Ramah and Cape Chudley; the northern point of Labrador. I am heartily glad Mr. and Mrs. Schulze have now a helper in Mr. Eckhardt, and trust the little missionary band will have increasing joy in souls won for the Lord.
It will be remembered that the fourth morning after leaving Okak we entered Nullatatok Bay through a thick mist. Beautiful days followed, showing the Ramah scenery to advantage, but the weather was rather wintry. Snow fell once or twice, though not in sufficient quantities to lie, and one morning we had ice on the bay. Yet at midday the sun was quite hot. The arrival of the "Harmony" at Ramah on Sunday (September 9th, 1888), interfered with the usual morning worship. We passengers came ashore for the afternoon service, Mr. Schulze read the Litany and then Mr. Dam addressed the congregation in Eskimo, centreing nearly all the black eyes in eager attention to the Word preached. The chapel being small, the people were rather near to the benches occupied by the missionary brethren and sisters, and this proximity was evident to the organs of smell. Several being away at their fishing places, there were only about a dozen men and boys and rather more women and girls with an extra sprinkling of lively and healthy-looking babies. Most were characterized by an air of independence amusingly illustrated at the close by the oldest man, who asked aloud when the visitor from London was going to speak to them.
And what of the spiritual life of this little congregation? In reply I will give neither my own impressions, nor the missionary's testimony to his flock, apt sometimes to be influenced by his estimate of what they should be. I will call in a casual witness. Last year Eugenia, a Christian Eskimo from Hopedale, visited all the congregations, travelling to and fro by dog-sledge with the post-sledges. She remarked to her missionary: "The Ramah and Okak people, those are the best in the country. At Ramah I was quite shamed by their desire after truth. They said, 'You know these things; teach us, we are so stupid.'"
AN ESKIMO VILLAGE.
Now for a visit to our Eskimoes in their own dwellings, as the two missionaries are ready to accompany me and interpret for me. It may not be a pleasant expedition in every respect, as within and without there is a pervading fishy smell. Rows of drying fish hang on frames high enough to be out of reach of the dogs, who sniff about everywhere, sometimes climbing into the boats to see if any fish be left. Those red rows are trout, the white ones are cod.
When we arrived here last Sunday, two families were living in skin tents. One has now taken down the temporary abode and removed into the more permanent winter residence, a low turf hut. We will enter the other tent. Frederick, the owner, is not at home, but his wife, Susannah, is there with her two children. Whilst she inquires after her former missionaries and sends a grateful greeting to the widow of the late Samuel Weitz, take the opportunity to glance around the tent. It is more spacious and better furnished than one would think. We can all three stand upright in the middle of it, which is not possible in every house. Deer skins spread on a raised platform at the further end make two beds. In that open box are hymn-book, liturgy-book, and some volumes of the Eskimo Bible. Next it are a set of very fair cups and saucers, but it seems incongruous for the china to stand on the mud floor. Various utensils lie about, but there is neither chair nor table.
We cannot stay long, however, for we are going to visit every house in the place. The first house is Gottlob's. He came hither from Hebron, and has enjoyed a better education than the Ramah people, most of whom grew up in heathenism. His wife's baptismal name is Lydia; as a heathen, she was Auinasuak. This is one of the best huts, but the best are poor inside as well as outside, compared to many log-houses I have seen further south. Through the low porch, without any remonstrance from the dogs, we reach a lower door. It is hot inside. Yes, there is a stove to the left, and it appears to be the only article of furniture in the room entered. Behind the partition is a very different chamber. It is furnished with the usual couches spread with skins, and on the edge of one of these, Lydia is seated. She does not rise to greet her visitors, nor does it occur to her to offer a seat. What shall she offer? A box? As with the rest of those visited, her welcome takes the form of a good-humoured laugh. One or two objects in her room testify to a refinement unusual for this station. A guitar hangs on the wall near a cage with a bird in it, and against the partition stands a piano. Fancy such an instrument in a low turf hut, even though it be but an old square piano! Here, as elsewhere, we speak a few words of kindly greeting and spiritual interest, and then take leave with "Aksunai."
The occupant of the next hut is not at home. This is indicated by two great slabs of slate, one at the entrance to his porch and one over his front (and only) window. These are more for protection against prowling dogs than dishonest men.
Now we come to the dwelling of the oldest couple, William and Hulda, whose heathen names were Nochasak and Aksuana. They are, respectively, fifty-five and fifty, but look older. Two sons live with them, of whom the elder is married. Both parents are at home, and the daughter-in-law with her first baby in her arms. Here first I notice the curious lamp, a sort of dish hollowed out in a soft stone. The wick is a kind of moss which floats in seal-oil, and gives a feeble flame apparently more for warmth than for light, for the houses are not dark.
Next to William's stand the roofless remains of an unoccupied dwelling, which may serve to show how these huts are built. It is a square enclosure three or four feet in height; the back is dug out of the sloping bank, the front wall is built up with turf. Put a roof over this and your house will be made. Two upright posts in the middle, about seven feet in height, will serve as the supports for the frame of your roof, which will also be covered with turf. The low door must be in front, facing the bay, and, both for warmth and as a shelter for the dogs, must invariably be protected by a low covered porch. Whether he be dwelling in his turf hut or sheltering in some snow hut, quickly built for a night away from home, the Eskimo enters his abode by a little tunnel, at the further end of which is the door. Just above this comes the window-frame, sometimes on a slant, better perpendicular. The window of his turf hut is semi-transparent seal bladder unless the owner of the mansion can afford and obtain glass. Now your house is complete, but lacks interior fittings. If you are an Eskimo, you do not want many. Your two poles supporting the roof may help you to partition off the sleeping places, either with boards or with curtains. These are raised about a foot from the ground, and the edge of the bed is the general seat.
Let us continue our visits to the inhabited houses, one next the other, in an irregular row. Outside them the children are playing about and seem to enjoy life. Here and there one may see a sledge, or a kayak, the skin-covered boat such as is used, by the men. The larger umiak, or women's boat, is now scarcely met with in Labrador. There are one or two light wooden skeleton frames of kayaks, but most are tightly covered with white smooth skins, cleverly sewn together by the women. Look at this one lying on the grass; it is about fifteen feet long, but you can lift the end of it quite easily. The owner paddled home in it this morning from his fishing-place at the head of the fjord, and sold fifty-two trout off the top of it to the captain, as he passed the "Harmony." His bone-pointed harpoon and a hook with a long handle are strapped on top of the canoe. Beside it lies his paddle, which the Eskimo wields so deftly and silently that even a seal may fail to detect his swift approach. Its blades at both ends are beautifully finished off with bone. I see his gun is carelessly left in the round man-hole in which he sits when afloat. It may be loaded; I hope the children will let it alone.
Passing Daniel's empty hut, for he and his family are away fishing, we call on Ikkaujak and Sakkearak (now John and Ernestine), and then on Matthew and his wife Verona, who not long ago were known as Swanzi and Akkusane. Matthew is interested to show and explain the weapons of the chase. His racket-shaped snow-shoes are the shortest I ever saw. Longer ones, unless like the Norwegian skydder, would be unpractical among these mountains. His harpoons hang on the wall next his gun. The blunt one, pointed with a walrus tooth, is used in the body of a seal, but the iron-pointed one is needed when the animal's head alone is above the water or the ice. Both are cleverly put together with wood, bone, and thongs, so arranged that when necessary head and haft easily come apart.
Some of these Ramah Eskimoes are perhaps 5 ft. 10 in. in height, and most of them look robust and strong; but little Paul's door is very low, and I must bend double to enter his hut. His heathen name was Simigak and his wife's Ikkinek when they came from Nachvak in 1881. He is not at home, but his Adolfine gives us a welcome in Eskimo fashion. There is a stove in the corner, and on it a pot with some pieces of salmon in it. A few trout are strung up to the roof. I notice a clock in the corner, but am told that it is broken. Perhaps Paul can mend it; at any rate, while I was at Hopedale some Newfoundland fishermen entrusted their ship clock to an Eskimo for repairs.
The last hut in the village is Frederick's. Some of his goods are here, but most are in the tent where we found his wife and family. A few pictures are pasted on his walls. Many houses at other stations are almost papered with pages from the Graphic and Illustrated London News.
What is your impression of Eskimo abodes now you have seen their interiors? Well, they are not prepossessing to a European with the ordinary notions of what belongs to the necessaries of life, yet they are airier and cleaner than I had expected from their exterior aspect. I am assured that there is much Christian life in those queer homes, and that in many a heart there a "candle of the Lord" has been lighted, which shines for the illumination of the dark North. If honoured with an invitation to a meal in some Eskimo hut, I would rather it were not at Ramah. In the southern stations there are some tidy log-houses, where one need not hesitate to sit down to table with Christian Eskimoes, who have learnt cleanly and tidy habits from intercourse with and the example of missionaries. Here there are no tables; the people have scarcely learnt the use of forks, and are apt to handle the knives in eating in a somewhat uncouth fashion. The meat is taken in the teeth and cut off near the mouth, so that the upward motion of the blade seems to endanger the nose at every bite, especially in the case of very small children with a very big knife.
Do my readers want to know about the gardens? There are none. Gardening is no employment for the Eskimoes; the severity of the climate and their migratory habits forbid it. Nor do they seem to have much taste for flowers, though they see them in the missionaries' gardens. They appreciate the vegetables grown there, but they do not care for the trouble of raising them for themselves.
ON THE BEACH AT RAMAH.
Returning along the beach we see Matthew's skin-covered canoe lying upside down on the grass, and we induce him to give us a specimen of kayak navigation. He picks up the end of his light craft, runs round so as to bring it right end foremost to the sea, and pushes it over the beach till three-fourths or more are in the water. Then he steps lightly over the flat top, paddle in hand, sets himself deftly in the man-hole, and in a moment he is afloat, paddling to and fro with quiet powerful strokes. Returning at full speed, he runs his kayak, which only draws a few inches, straight on to the shore; stepping lightly over the front of it, he stands dry shod on the beach and drags his kayak out of the water.
Further along a little group of Eskimoes have just finished unloading a boat, which has brought goods from the ship. Let us join them, for I want to see a whip, such as they use in driving the dog-sledge. My request is interpreted and one of the natives runs to fetch his. Truly it is a formidable instrument. The wooden handle is only a few inches in length, but the lash is more than thirty feet. It is made of many thongs of stout, tough sealskin sown together, and tapering till a single thong goes off almost to a point. The owner gives us a specimen of its powers by cracking it, but I am glad he does not practice on anything living. Stepping backwards from us, he drags the whip out to its full length, so as to be sure he is beyond reach of us, then deftly throws the lash behind him. Now a rapid movement of the hand and arm sends the long lash back towards us, and a quick turn of the wrist makes the end of it crack like a pistol. I have purchased that implement, but I doubt if any amount of practice would enable me to perform the feat of cracking it with safety to myself and the bystanders.
To the east of the mission-house there is a pretty waterfall about ten or twelve feet in depth. It is the last leap of a mountain brook, which in summer flows swiftly down the deep ravine, which it has cut. Higher up, a part of the pure, clear stream is diverted as the water supply for the mission-house and the native huts. As at Hopedale and Zoar, this runs off a trough about a hundred yards from the house. At Nain and Okak it is conducted straight into the kitchen, when desired. In winter every station is liable to the freezing of the ordinary supply, and then water must be fetched from a distance, or if none can be found, snow or ice must be melted. Icicles are hanging from the trough here to-day, for though the sun is warm now, there were four or five degrees of frost last night, and the wind is still keen. In spring, when a thaw sets in, this little stream is a source of danger to Ramah. Its deep channel is filled with snow, and the pent-up torrent, seeking an outlet, is apt to escape from its usual bounds and start an avalanche down the steep declivity. When the thaw becomes general, there is a grand series of leaping cataracts and roaring rapids in that ravine.
A FAITHFUL NATIVE HELPER.
I would that young Gottlob, now living at Ramah, might turn out as good a man as his late namesake. Let me take you to old Gottlob's grave, and there tell you the story of himself and his family. The little "God's acre" is scarcely an acre, and it should be enclosed. Flat slaty stones, suitable for wall, lie around in abundance, brought down by the avalanche, which a year or two ago endangered the station, but happily did no more damage than destroy the powder-house and devastate the burial-ground. Kegs of powder and tombstones were carried far out on to the ice of the bay. Most of the latter were recovered unbroken and replaced, and among them the one of which we are in search. Here it is, a simple square slate tablet of touching interest. The Eskimo inscription informs us that Gottlob was born in 1816. He was the child of heathen parents at Nachvak, and grew up in paganism. Presently he came under the influence of the Gospel and was baptized at Okak, exchanging his heathen name of Nikkartok for the Christian name which his subsequent life adorned.
GOTTLOB. unulilanktok 1816. angerarpok 14 Septbr. 1878.
In 1867 he joined Daniel of Hopedale in an endeavour to evangelize the northern heathen, among whom his childhood had been spent. After this he settled with his family at Hebron, but when Mr. and Mrs. Weitz commenced the station at Ramah in 1871 Gottlob volunteered to accompany them. He and his family proved useful helpers of the missionary effort. His wife Marianna was also born a heathen, and named Nukupjuna. She is now a native helper at Hebron. His daughter was exceedingly valuable as the schoolmistress, and when an organist was needed Nicholina fulfilled the office to the best of her ability by playing the melody with one finger on the very little harmonium, which still does duty at Ramah. That was a simple service rendered in simplicity of spirit, yet in such a climate possibly attended with suffering. A missionary sister lately resident at Hebron told me she had often played the organ there with a blister at the end of each finger, for the intense cold made the touch of the keys like contact with red-hot iron. But to return to Gottlob. For seven years he lived and laboured among his countrymen, from whom he had at times to bear obloquy on account of his Christian fidelity. He died September 14th, 1878, and this is the comprehensive record of him in the Ramah Church book: "In life and death Gottlob placed his whole trust in the crucified Saviour, in whom he found pardon, peace, and joy."
Friday, September 14th.—Came aboard last night for an early start; weighed our anchor about 6 o'clock this morning. The wind was light and several of the natives towed us out of the bay in the ship's boats. Ere we started the resident missionaries brought their last batch of letters for Europe, and bade us farewell. They had been writing most of the night. Now the good folk will rest after the excitement and bustle of shiptime. It will be a year before they have visitors again, unless it be a missionary brother from Hebron or Mr. MacLaren, the Hudsons Bay Company's agent at Nachvak.
It was most interesting to move slowly out of the bay, passing point after point, each headland opening up new vistas of grand, snowy mountains at the heads of the bays southwards, whilst northwards the great cliff of the Ramah Hill looks down upon us. Having brought the "Harmony" round the first point into more open water, where she can better avail herself of the occasional light puffs of wind, our Eskimoes came aboard for their breakfasts and presently rowed away in their boats. They bade us a hearty "Aksunai" and went down the side evidently well pleased with their wages. Nor were they sorry to leave the ship, which was beginning to roll a little. Accustomed as they are to brave high waves in their kayaks or flats, they nevertheless felt the motion of the vessel and were afraid of seasickness. Before starting John had to splice his oar with a strip of seal hide. I watched him put it round the handle, then holding on to the oar with both hands get the rope in his teeth and pull his lashing tight with all the strength of his back. So the teeth served him at each turn.
SUNSET, MOONRISE AND AURORA BOREALIS.
Now we have got fairly out to sea. The light land breeze has ceased and we are lying becalmed. What a sunset there is over that Alpine range of snowy mountains! Yonder dark hills to the north of Ramah are glowing as if they were red hot through and through. True this is a glory that fadeth, yet the cloudless sky long retains the brilliant hues, and the seaward horizon has a broad red band shading off above and below into blue. Still more beautiful is the paler pink reflection, tinting the smooth surface of the water on all sides of us save the west. There the sun has just gone down, and the lingering glories of the sky are reflected on the rippling waves in a wonderful network of bright yellow and deep orange. Look southward again, now that the darkness is beginning to tell on the scene. Over yonder great iceberg the rising moon sends a path of silvery light across the water, now a broad waving band, now innumerable sparks and circlets dancing like fairy lights upon the gently swelling sea.
All this is beautiful, but what follows is a rarer sight.
"Mr. La Trobe, the northern lights."
"Thank you, captain, I will be on deck in a moment."
I have seen many pictures of the Aurora Borealis, and we have already had some fine displays during this voyage, but I never witnessed anything like this. Truly the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament sheweth His handiwork! Undulating bands of bright white light are swiftly scintillating across the sky, now curving upwards from the horizon, now stretching in broad stripes right over the zenith. Sometimes the Aurora is stationary and the smooth surface of the sea reflects the steady light; in the next moment it is moving rapidly all over the heavens. The swifter the motion the more brilliant the red or pink or green, which at times fringes the lower edge of the broad white bands of light.
Monday, September 17th.—Early this morning I went on deck and found we were a considerable distance outside the Kangertluksoak Fjord. We were much nearer the entrance for the greater part of yesterday, but a strong contrary wind kept us tacking to and fro the whole day, till the darkness made it impossible to reach Hebron, which lies in a little side bay to the north of the great fjord. There were many large icebergs around us, and we passed quite close to some floating fragments, which proved to be great lumps of ice, necessitating a turn of the helm to avoid collision with them. It was evident from the number of these, that a berg had recently broken up. I was told that yesterday a large piece fell off one near us with a crack like a cannon shot. I would like to see an iceberg turn over, as they sometimes do, but I do not wish to be too near it in that case. Last night the wind fell and the currents drifted our little vessel perilously near one of the great bergs, which was probably aground. It was an anxious time for those on the watch, but the Lord preserved us.
The headland to the north of us is Cape Uivak. Uivak is simply the Eskimo word for promontory, and the names of Cape Webuck on this coast and Quebec in Canada, are evidently derived from it. There is a board on that little island, and through the glass one can read the betters S.F. What does that stand for? Well, that identifies "Friday Island," so-called after Sophia Freitag, the wife of a worthy missionary. Once the captain of a steamer read it S.E., so he steered north-west, and safely entered Hebron Bay. He afterwards congratulated our captain on having put up so good a way-mark.
To-day the wind has veered round a little to the north, which enables us, at last, to run straight in at the mouth of Kangertluksoak Fjord, past three great icebergs, which stand in a row as if to defend the entrance. The sailors call them "men-of-war." Our rapid progress soon brings us in sight of the mission premises, whose red roofs stand out against the bare rocky background of the steep hillside, tinted a warm red-brown by the autumn hues of the mosses. There is the church with its cupola in a line with the long one-storied mission-house. The store buildings and the boat-house are nearer the landing stage. Some skilful tacks bring us into the Hebron Bay, and ere long the "Harmony" lies at her anchorage, here farther from the station than at any other place on the coast. What a lively scene! Ten or a dozen boats have already came round us—these Eskimoes are bold sailors—and our anchor is scarcely down before we are boarded in friendly fashion by numerous natives. Yonder white boat is the "Harp," and it brings four good gentlemen in sealskin coats. The patriarch of the band is our venerable Mr. Kretschmer, who came to Labrador in 1852. This year he leaves his loved land after thirty-six years of service, during which he has been home once, twenty-seven years ago. He is followed by the missionaries Kahle, Wirth, and Hlawatschek, who report their wives and children all well.
Ere long we visitors, Mr. and Mrs. Dam and myself, are ready to go ashore with them. Landing from the boat, we climb the hill to the mission-house, farther from the shore than any other. The sisters and children welcome us at the door, and for the sixth time I enjoy the hospitality of a Labrador mission family.
The chapter entitled "A busy week at Nain" would serve as a general description of the time spent at this or any of the stations. Conferences with the missionary band, daily services in the Church or the house, the special meeting for my address to the congregation, visits to and from the natives, inspection of the mission premises and their surroundings, pleasant strolls in the intervals of daily duty and the routine of a mission-house, one or two more extensive walks on the hills around, profitable evenings in the mission circle, all these made eight days at Hebron pass very quickly, whilst as ever I was lovingly cared for by my hosts. Hebron is, to use the expressive term of the Newfoundland fishermen, a "blusterous" place. It is beyond the northern limit of trees on this part of the coast, and the wind sweeps down the bare, rocky slopes with great force. This is the reason for the exceptional construction of the mission premises.
THE VISITING MISSIONARIES' LEVEE.
My dear fellow-travellers from Hopedale used to be stationed at Hebron, and it is astonishing to see how affectionately these people gather around them. Their temporary abode here is the schoolroom, and it is just as well that it is a good size and easily accessible. Look in upon them at any hour of the day, and you will probably find that they have Eskimo visitors. Last Sunday they held quite a levee, for men, women, and children flocked in after service to greet them.
Come and make acquaintance with some of these Eskimo brethren and sisters. Several are introduced as relatives of Abraham and Tobias, who visited Germany and France in 1880. In their letters home the poor fellows confessed that there was far more sea between Labrador and Europe than they had any idea of, before they and some heathen from Nachvak were induced by an agent of Hagenbeck's in Hamburg to allow themselves to be brought over and exhibited. They were very home-sick for Labrador, but they never returned, for one after another was taken fatally ill. The last survivors died in Paris early in 1881. The Christians among them did credit to their profession, had their daily worship, exercised a good influence over the heathen members of the party, and died in simple trust in Jesus as their Saviour.
Sarah needs no introduction. I had heard of her before reaching Hebron, and one cannot be in the place long without making her acquaintance. She is a woman of energy and resource. Last year she lost her good husband Hieronymus, the oldest native helper at Hebron. She continues, however, to be a leader in the concerns of the community, and her influence is good. She is a prominent chapel servant, and a leading singer in the choir. To be sure, tact is needed to keep Sarah in good humour, and direct her energies into useful channels. She has a turf house for winter occupation, but when I visited her she was living in her summer abode—a log hut. The interior was very tidy. In the outer room I noticed a harmonium; and in the inner one, besides a table and some chairs, there were pictures and ornaments and a sewing machine, on which she kindly did some work for me.
Seated near us, among the numerous visitors in the schoolroom, are a mother and daughter, whose names are already well known to us. That dark-looking old woman is Marianna, the widow of Gottlob, whose grave we saw at Ramah. She is now a valued native helper here. The younger person is Nicholina, bright and strong in mind and heart though rather bent and crippled in body. Here, as formerly at Ramah, she serves as school mistress, and I am told has considerable capacity both for imparting knowledge and for maintaining discipline. She stands in regular correspondence with several friends of the mission in Europe. She had something to tell them in her last letters, for not long ago she and her mother with eight other Eskimoes were nearly drowned in the bay about where the "Harmony" lies at anchor. A sudden gust of wind capsized the sailing boat, in which they were coming home from their fishing place. One good feature of the Eskimo character is their presence of mind in danger. There was no panic, though the boat sank instantly. Happily she was towing a little flat. One of the men promptly cut the rope, and so all were brought safe to land, some in the flat, others hanging on to its sides. Old Marianna was one of the latter, and when her numbed hands lost their hold, they tied her wrists to the gunwale of the little boat. She has recovered from the shock and exposure, but like the rest has been impoverished, for they lost their all in the boat, which went down.
Thomas, Enoch, and John are the three native helpers. Since the death of Hieronymus, Thomas has been the oldest in the office, but, as he feels, has not yet sufficient influence or force of character to lead his countrymen at critical times. He is, however, a humble child of God, and growing in grace as well as experience. John has a little speech to make, and here is the literal translation of it:—"Sometimes when we are busy, we do not always use the Scriptures daily. Mostly we do. The distress of our body often causes us to seek the Word of God. If the everlasting Gospel were well considered by all, there would be visible love."
A SLEDGE DRIVE.
September 22nd, 1888.—My good friends are determined that I shall see a real sledge and team of dogs start and travel. So after dinner the sledge is brought to the gate of the mission premises. It consists of a couple of iron-bound wooden runners about fifteen feet long and eight inches high, across which many cross-pieces of wood are secured with thongs. Nails would soon be pulled out or broken off on a journey over hummocky ice or uneven ground. First the sledge is laden with everything necessary for a winter journey. A great white bear skin is folded and laid along the front, making a comfortable seat. That bruin must have been an enormous creature. The box comes about the middle; it contains the traveller's traps. Behind it some coats, a gun, a harpoon (we may see a seal if we go on the ice), some wood (we shall want a fire for camping out, and I hope matches have not been forgotten), the coats of the men, a sleeping sack and a pair of sealskin trousers. Those two oval frames like a large lawn tennis bat without handle, are a pair of snow-shoes. All these traps are secured by a sealskin thong passing over the ends of the cross-boards, and pulled tight. It would not do to lose anything on the way.
Now seat yourself there in front of the box. But the dogs are not attached to the sledge. Seat yourself; they are all harnessed. Each has a band of sealskin round his neck and another round his body, and to this simple harness is attached the separate trace or thong by which he does his share in pulling the sledge. In one moment the sledge rope will be passed through the loops of all their traces, and they will be off almost before you can say "Hoo-eet," for they, like the Eskimoes standing round, seem to enjoy the fun. We are supposed to start southward for Okak, and to come home, by way of Ramah. I seat myself and get a good hold, with my back against the box and my feet well off the ground. "Hoo-eet!" The dogs are directed by the voice, and that is the word used to start them. Shout "Owk, Owk," and they will run to the right, or "Ra, Ra, Ra," and you will soon find yourself going to the left. Say, "Ah, Ah," and your dogs will lie down. Now you have all your directions so "Hoo-eet," we are off, gliding easily over the grass, for snow and ice there is none this warm autumn day after a night when there were two or three degrees of frost. So it is rather hard for the dogs, when we turn the corner of the mission enclosure and are going a bit up-hill through the long grass. Thomas, one of the Eskimoes, is running in front of the dogs in his sealskin boots with the fur outside—a handsome pair. Enoch is minding the sledge, now running beside me, now throwing himself down on it in front of me, or lifting the front end of the runners from right to left, or vice versa to turn a corner or avoid a stone. "Owk, Owk," he shouts as we wish to turn the corner to the right. A third Eskimo, who is running between us and the dogs with the whip, takes up the sound and the dogs obey. But as it seems hard for them through the long grass, I get off and run after till we come to the corner by the church. It will go easier along the path to the left. I seat myself again and the driver cries "Ra, Ra, Ra." Away we go. It is well I was wary of the stones, another inch and that rock just passed would have given me a sore foot or a sprained ankle. "Owk, Owk." We leave the path on our left and turn away to the right over rocks and moss. The ground is broken but the long runners of the sledge make it go fairly smoothly. "Ah, Ah," or as Thomas pronounces it long drawn, "Aw, Aw." At this sound the dogs stop and lie down, with their tails curled over their backs. We are supposed to have arrived at a halting place where we shall camp out for the night. The wood is unloaded; to make the fire would be the first thing and then perhaps a snow-house for a shelter. The sleeping sack is ready to be my night's couch on the floor. Meanwhile, the dogs lie quite contentedly, and we use the first opportunity to count them. There are fourteen in harness and two are running beside them of their own accord, entering into the spirit of the thing in spite of their fear of that formidable whip. Nine of these useful animals belong to the mission. Their names are Yauerfritze, Purtzelmutter, Purtzel, Caro, Pius, Fanny (an exceptionally friendly Eskimo dog), Ammi, Kakkortak and Takkolik. The others belong to different natives.
Our imaginary night has been short enough, and we are supposed to be preparing for a new start. "Look, see," says Thomas to me, and pours some water on the iron of the runners, for the sledge has meanwhile been turned upside down. Were it winter, that water would at once freeze on the iron and form a splendid smooth surface for the sledge to run on over ice or snow. "Hoo-eet." The sledge has been turned right again and repacked, and the dogs get up. No, there is nothing left behind. "Hoo-eet;" away we go. It is astonishing how widely the dogs spread themselves in pulling. However, the course of the sledge, as it follows them, depends more on the nimble drivers. See yonder dog is getting to the wrong side of that post, by way of illustrating the difficulties of travelling through a wood. Hebron is beyond the northern limit of trees, but our missionaries at Hopedale have often great trouble in passing through forests of stunted fir-trees. The front dogs also have got their traces foul of the two other posts in our forest of three trees without any branches. So we are brought to a standstill until, all the harness being cleared, we are ready for a fresh start down that slope to the right. "Owk, Owk," is the word, but at the brook our wild career is brought to a sudden stop. Our specimen sledge trip would not be complete without an accident. The bed of the little stream proves just too wide for the sledge to clear it, and the points of the runners have bored into the further bank. The thong of the sledge has broken in two places with the jerk, and the dogs who were pulling with might and main are suddenly released. Four or five have been caught by our nimble Eskimoes, but the majority are off home. Were the station three hours or three days distant and we were left in the snow it would be a bit different to the present situation. The station is about three minutes distant, and we have time for a good laugh before our dogs are caught and brought back. What has become of the passenger? Oh, he is unhurt; the shock did not even unseat him. There he sits on the sledge, which stretches like a little bridge from bank to bank. It is freed from the earth, and the dogs are again attached, after a fierce little quarrel between two or three of them, just to keep up their credit as quarrelsome creatures. Order and obedience restored, "Hoo-eet," away we go homeward, but at a more moderate pace, for it is uphill. By the mission-house the road bends to the left, "Ra, Ra, Ra." At the corner a number of women are standing and laughing, and as the sledge approaches, they ran, according to their usual custom, and throw themselves on to it, so the poor dogs finish their course with an extra load, and are quite willing to lie down in obedience to the final command, "Ah, Ah." If you were on a real journey, you would learn by experience to avoid that interjection in your conversation, for the weary animals would at once take the permission to stop and lie down.
Now the dogs are released from their harness and run away to their respective homes with glee. The sledge is unloaded, and its contents carried off by their owners. "When did you leave Ramah?" says the missionary to Thomas. "Yesterday morning," replies the good fellow, keeping up the joke with thorough appreciation. I give them my hearty thanks, "Nakungmek," for Thomas and Co. have not only given me a great pleasure, but provided interest for young friends at home, to whom I may detail my winter journey on a sunny autumn afternoon at Hebron. A real midwinter Labrador sledge journey, with the thermometer far below zero of Fahrenheit and the wind blowing hard and cold, is not so pleasant, especially if the dogs be quite invisible because of the driving snow. Should the traveller then be pitched off the sledge, and the drivers not perceive his absence at once, they may lose one another for ever. But God has watched over our travellers by sea and land, by ice and snow on many an errand of spiritual import to the settlers, or journey from station to station.
MY LAST SUNDAY IN LABRADOR.
Sunday, September 23rd.—Morning prayers in German with the house-family. Our venerable senior missionary read the texts and the Gospel for the day, and gave out suitable hymns, which were well sung by the company of brethren, and sisters, and children assembled in the dining-room around the long table. Breakfast is enlivened with cheerful, godly converse, and shortly after we join the Eskimo congregation in the first service of the day. I like this church as well as any in the land. It is proportionate, simple, neat and light. Mr. Wirth takes his place behind the table, and, what with residents and visitors, there is a goodly row of missionary brethren and sisters to right and left of him, facing the Eskimo congregation. Among the latter the white faces of a settler family, the Metcalfs from Napartok Bay, are conspicuous. Though the language be strange, I have already grown familiar with the liturgic forms of worship and can follow either the "Church Litany," familiar to one in English and German, or the admirable responsive compilation of tests known as the Catechism Litany. The latter is chosen this morning, and it is quite possible that a negro congregation in Surinam, or a Kaffir congregation in South Africa may be using the same form of sound words, for it exists both in Negro English and in Kaffir.
At 10 we are again summoned to the house of prayer by the bell. Mr. Dam is the preacher, and is evidently moved by the thought that this may be his last sermon in Eskimo for many a day. A hymn and a prayer, fervent and brief, precede the giving out of his text, Rev. i. 12-20. The sermon is listened to attentively by old and young, of whom considerably more than a hundred are present. Old Zippora is, as ever, at her place at the end of the bench. Blind though she is, she often walks miles to church over uneven ground or hummocky ice, when away at the fishing places. She seems to take her part in the worship of the sanctuary thoroughly, whether in response or sacred song, or as listener with animated face and at times an overflowing heart. While I am looking, her fingers seek the corner of her apron, and lifting it she wipes the tears from her sightless eyes.
But the eloquent flow of words, mostly unintelligible to me, comes to a close. A hymn is sung, and the New Testament blessing pronounced. Then the procession from the missionary benches files out through the schoolroom into the mission-house and the people disperse to their homes. Mere mounds they look as I see them from my window. But they are Christian homes, whence rises prayer and praise.
I was mistaken. The congregation had not dispersed, for the choir wished to give me a specimen of their powers. I returned to the church and listened to a fair selection of sacred music, including a long piece (Psalm xcv. 6, 7), well sustained by a choir of about a dozen men and women, and two or three instrumentalists. When they ceased, I spoke a few words of thanks and farewell.
Dinner was as usual very literally "the mid-day meal." Soup was followed by a joint of reindeer venison, which was a treat to me, as beef or mutton would be to my hosts. The vegetables had been grown in the mission garden. After coffee I went over to the ship for the afternoon service aboard, rowed by four Eskimoes, Thomas, Clement, one of the organists, Daniel, and Heinrich. In their endeavour to converse with me they brought out some amusing scraps of English, and little Heinrich informed me his name in my language was "Harry."
Whilst I was preaching to the crew there was an afternoon meeting ashore. I returned for our solemn farewell service with the missionary band. Here, as at each previous station, this was an occasion of deep feeling. My parting word was founded on (2 Corinthians xiii. 11) "Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you." So I took leave of "brethren," who are faithfully serving their Lord in this cold country. Truly here is the patience and the faith of the saints. The God of all grace bless each missionary family, comfort and strengthen them in all their work, and perfect that which concerneth them and their people! How wonderfully He can and does help, I have experienced on this voyage and visit to Labrador, and so at the close of my visitation record my humble praise.
MUSIC ON THE WATER.
After the evening meal we went down to the shore and embarked. The people crowded the pier, and many a hand was stretched out with a hearty "Aksunai." As we rowed away they were singing, and when their voices sounded fainter across the water Thomas began of his own accord the following hymn in his own language:—
"O Lord! lift up thy countenance Upon thy Church, and own us thine; Impart to each thy peace divine, And blessings unto all dispense.
'Tis our desire to follow thee, And from experience to proclaim Salvation in thy blessed name: O bless thy servants' ministry."
The other Eskimoes rowing our boat sang with him, until we reached the "Harmony."
We were having a quiet time of cheerful converse in the cabin, when the sound of singing again called us on deck. A procession of eight or ten boats, the bow of one almost touching the stern of the other, was rowing slowly round and round the ship, and the people in them were singing sweet Christian songs to the measured beat of the oars. Sarah was in the first boat, evidently the leader and director of the proceedings.[C] Hymn after hymn, in well-sustained parts, sounded beautifully over the still water, and not till it was getting quite dark did they row away, singing "Victoria," i.e. "God save the Queen," in honour of the English visitor. Her Majesty has very loyal subjects in that unknown corner of her realm; and, by the way, some of them charged me to bring home an "Aksunai" to her, too.
Tuesday, September 25st.—Yes, "good-bye;" yet, when your vessel is not a steamer, but dependent on the wind, you may have repeated "good-byes," as often happens in Labrador. Not till this afternoon could the "Harmony" hoist her sails and speed away to the broad Atlantic. As soon as the Eskimoes saw our sails being unfurled, they again came around the vessel in their boats, and anew commended us to the Divine protection in their version of a very favourite hymn of Count Zinzendorf's ("Jesu geh voran").
"Jesus, day by day, Guide them on their way."
The story of our homeward voyage must he told in short. We had more stormy days than bright ones, and more contrary winds than fair breezes. We left Hebron on Tuesday, September 25th, and on the following Sunday found ourselves among Greenland icebergs and fogs. So we had to turn southwards and run on that tack for two days. Then a moderate side wind followed the strong contrary gale, and we made good steady progress eastward. This was undoubtedly pleasant after the heavy rolling and pitching of the previous days. For two weeks and more nothing was to be seen but sea and sky, yet both had their interest and beauty. The sunsets were lovely, and the phosphorescent light in the water at night especially so. The wake of the ship was luminous for a long distance, and the crests of the waves shone all around us. Once I was leaning over the taffrail late in the evening, when a shoal of fish passed. There were thousands of them, and each one was a living, moving centre of light. Bottle-nosed whales gambolled around us when we were within a few hundred miles of Labrador, and later on "schools" of porpoises occasionally visited us. The latter often sprang clean out of the water, and seemed to take special delight in crossing the bows of the "Harmony." On October 10th, we sighted the first ship since leaving Labrador, and a day or two later tacked southward near the coast of Ireland to make the entrance of the British Channel. There a trial of patience awaited us. A hard-hearted east wind barred our progress, and with long tacks we seemed to make headway only by inches. Yet the little "Harmony" bravely held on her way, when larger vessels had given up the fight.
Sunday, October 21st.—Up at six, to find the Scilly Isles in sight. The Bishop's rock and St. Agnes lighthouses were plainly visible. But the old east wind is back again. The light, fair breeze of yesterday evening sent us forward fifteen miles in an hour or two, and seventy or eighty miles of tacking to-day has barely secured as much progress. Visited the men in the forecastle, a small gloomy looking place, yet fair as such accommodation goes. The good fellows are cheery and happy there, indeed, they have been pleasant and faithful to duty throughout the entire voyage. God grant them the true blessedness we have told them of in this morning's and previous Sunday services.
Monday, 22nd.—Weathered the Wolf Rock by this tack. Sighted Land's End, with its white houses, and the Longships lighthouse on its lofty rock. A steamer passing us into Penzance answered our signals and will report us we hope.
Tuesday, 23rd.—Four weeks away from Labrador. Four months absent from home. How much longer yet? To windward of the Lizard this morning. That is good, for we could have run for Falmouth harbour had it blown harder from the east. But the wind has died away altogether. The Lizard twin lighthouses and the white walls surrounding them are plainly visible, as we lie becalmed.
Wednesday, 24th.—Got a fair wind yesterday, which carried us forward past the Eddystone Lighthouse. We are now nearing Start Point, and have shown our signals. They will be seen, and reported either at that lighthouse or at Prawle Point, and it is quite a relief to think our presence in the Channel will soon be known in London. What a contrast there is between our own shores and the coast of Labrador. Here one is never out of sight of some guiding light, there not a lighthouse—not a buoy. Such a voyage makes one the more thankful for the experience and faithfulness of our own valued ship's officers, tried servants of the Society for the Furtherance of the Gospel, who have the interests of that society and of the mission at heart, and whose annual voyages to Labrador involve a full share of responsibility and anxiety.
Thursday, 25th.—Passed the Isle of Wight this morning, and Beachy Head in the afternoon. As night came on the long rows of electric lights on the marine parades of Eastbourne, Hastings, and St. Leonard's were very effective across the water. Got our pilot aboard at Dungeness just before midnight.
Friday, 26th.—Home again! How infinitely good is the gracious Lord, who permits one to go on His errands, and meanwhile takes care of all that is so dear! We were off Margate when I went on deck, about 7 A.M., and shortly afterwards secured a powerful little tug, which towed the "Harmony" swiftly up the Thames to London Docks, where she now lies at her usual moorings, awaiting the hundred and twentieth voyage.
"Then, at the vessel's glad return, The absent meet again; At home, our hearts within us burn To trace the cunning pen, Whose strokes, like rays from star to star, Bring happy messages from far, And once a year to Britain's shore Join Christian Labrador."
I lay down the pen which has transcribed those lines of Montgomery's as a fitting close to my chapter, "Homeward Bound." If it has had any "cunning," it has been simply because I have described what I have seen with my own eyes in Christian Labrador. Traversing nearly three hundred miles of that grand, but bleak and desolate-looking coast, I met with scarcely any heathen. Only at Ramah I found one or two who had no Christian names, because they had not yet publicly professed Christ. They were, however, candidates for baptism, and their few heathen countrymen to the north of that station are, from time to time, attracted to the sound of the Gospel. But if the mission in that land be nearing the close of the evangelistic phase, our task is not done, and still we hear the voice of the Divine Spirit saying: Separate me this one and that one for the work whereunto I have called him in Labrador.
Yet I hope and pray for a wider result from these pages than increased interest in the one field so closely connected with Britain by the good ship "Harmony." Labrador in its turn is linked to all the mission provinces in the world-wide parish given to the little Moravian Church, and I trust this glimpse into the life and labours of our devoted missionaries there will quicken the loving intercessions of my readers for their fellow labourers in all our own fields, and for the whole great mission work of the Church of Christ.
I will conclude with a stirring stanza[D] from another poet, who found a theme and an inspiration in contrasting the wretched condition of the people of Labrador, prior to the arrival of missionaries, with the wonderful change wrought among the poor Eskimoes through their noble efforts under the blessing of God.
"When round the great white throne all nations stand, When Jew and Gentile meet at God's right hand, When thousand times ten thousand raise the strain— 'Worthy the Lamb that once for us was slain!' When the bright Seraphim with joy prolong Through all eternity that thrilling song— The heathen's universal jubilee, A music sweet, O Saviour Christ, to Thee— Say, 'mid those happy strains, will not one note,— Sung by a hapless nation once remote, But now led Home by tender cords of love, Rise clear through those majestic courts above? Yes! from amid the tuneful, white-robed choirs, Hymning Jehovah's praise on golden lyres, One Hallelujah shall for evermore Tell of the Saviour's love to LABRADOR."
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G. NORMAN & SON, PRINTERS, HART STREET, COVENT GARDEN.
[Footnote C: For those who may be interested to know what hymns were chosen, and what tunes were sung (without accompaniment), by the natives on this occasion, I will append the numbers in our new English Hymn Book, as far it contains their selection, 646, 788, 755, 834, and 1135. The melodies included our Tunes 132, 26, 69, 205, 166, and 146.]
[Footnote D: Labrador, a Poem in three parts, written to commemorate the centenary of the Moravian Labrador Mission, by B. TRAPP ELLIS.]
Captain: HENRY LINKLATER.
Length (Extreme) 120 ft. Breadth 27-1/2 " Depth 15 " 4 in. Length of Mast 87 " Tonnage 251 tons.
Launched, April 24th, 1861.
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The average duration of the outward voyage with the present vessel has been 41-1/4 days, including a short stay at Stromness in the Orkneys. The homeward voyage has been accomplished on an average in 23 days, including the coarse up channel to the West India Dock. The whole voyage, including the stay on the coast and visit to six stations there, has averaged 117-3/4 days.
THE TEMPERATURE OF LABRADOR.
At Hopedale, the most southerly of our mission stations, thermometrical observations during several years give + 86 deg. Fahrenheit as the greatest heat (July 26, 1871), -104 deg., or 72 deg. below freezing point, Fahrenheit, as the greatest cold (February 2nd, 1873). The average temperature for the year is -5 deg. F. For four years the month of July was the only one in which there was not a fall of snow. The average temperature of Edinburgh, which lies in about the same degree of latitude as Hopedale, is + 47 deg. F. At the Hospice of St. Bernard in the Alps, which is situated at an elevation of 7192 feet above the level of the sea, the average temperature for the year is not quite -3 deg. F. There winter and spring are much less cold, summer and autumn much less warm than in Labrador.
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