Citation
The fur country;

Material Information

Title:
The fur country; or, Seventy degrees north latitude
Added title page title:
Seventy degrees north latitude
Creator:
Verne, Jules, 1828-1905
D'Anvers, N., d. 1933
Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington
Place of Publication:
London (Crown Buildings, 188 Fleet St.)
Publisher:
Sampson, Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
2 v. in 1 (334 p.) : illus. ; 19 cm.

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Subjects / Keywords:
Children's stories ( lcsh )
Juvenile literature -- 1877 ( rbgenr )
Bldn -- 1877
Genre:
Juvenile literature ( rbgenr )
fiction ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage:
England -- London

Notes

General Note:
Translation of Le pays des fourrures.
Statement of Responsibility:
Tr. from the French ... by N. D'Anvers. With illustrations.

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University of Florida
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This item is presumed to be in the public domain. The University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries respect the intellectual property rights of others and do not claim any copyright interest in this item. Users of this work have responsibility for determining copyright status prior to reusing, publishing or reproducing this item for purposes other than what is allowed by fair use or other copyright exemptions. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions may require permission of the copyright holder. The Smathers Libraries would like to learn more about this item and invite individuals or organizations to contact The Department of Special and Area Studies Collections (special@uflib.ufl.edu) with any additional information they can provide.
Resource Identifier:
023690823 ( ALEPH )
1112955548 ( OCLC )
AHL9096 ( NOTIS )

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University of Florida
Jules Verne

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“Mrs Barnett discharged the contents,” &c.—Page 147.



THE FUR COUNTRY

on

SEVENTY DEGREES NORTH LATITUDE

TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH OF JOULES VERNE

BY

N. D’ANVERS

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS



LONDON
SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON, SEARLE, & RIVINGTON
CROWN BUILDINGS, 188 FLEET STREET
1877
[All rights reserved ]



Ballantyne Preés
BALLANTYNE, HANSON AND CO.
EDINBURGH AND LONDON



CONTENTS.

PART L

CHAP. PAGE

J. A SOIREE AT FORT RELIANCE, . . 8 - . 1

II, THE HUDSON’S BAY FUR COMPANY, . : 7 r , 8
III, A SAVANT THAWED, . . . - r . i4
IV. A FACTORY, . . . . , . - 20
V. FROM FORT RELIANCE TO FORT ENTERPRISE, , - - 26
VI. A WAPITI DUEL, . . . . : . » 33
VII. THE ARCTIC CIRCLE, ° 7 . : . » 41
Vill, THE GREAT BEAR LAKE, . : . . . - 48
IX, ASTORMONTHELAKE, . 7 : , . » 55
X. A RETROSPECT, . . ° . : . - 63
XI, ALONG THE COAST, . © . . ' . : - 69
XII, THE MIDNIGHT SUN, . ‘ A : - - 716
XIII, FORT HOPE, . . . . . ’ - §8
XIV. SOME EXCURSIONS, . . . : . . . 90
XY. FIFTEEN MILES FROM CAPE BATHURST, 7 . . - 7
XVI. TWO SHOTS, . . ° . , > - 103
XVII, THE APPROACH OF WINTER, ‘ . ‘ . - 110
XVIII, THE POLAR NIGHT, . 7 . . o , - 117
XIX, A NEIGHBOURLY VISIT, . 7 ' > , - 126
XX. MERCURY FREEZES, . . » : , » 135
CXXI, THE LARGE POLAR BEARS, » . , . ‘ 2 14h
XXIL FIVE MONTHS MORE, . . ’ . . - 150

XXIM. THE ECLIPSE OF THE 18TH JUNE 1860, ' ‘ ‘ » 158



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS,

“Mrs, Barnett discharged the contents,” &c.,

Lieutenant Hobson and Sergeant Long,

A savant thawed, : .

‘Lieutenant Hobson and the Sergeant led the way,”

A wapiti duel, . . . . .
‘* Hobson uttered a last despairing cry !” .
A hunting party, . . . . .
“A new country was springing into being,” .
‘I'he body was hauled up,” &., . . .

“The bears were walking about on the roof,”

“The ice burst,” &., . . . .

Frontisniece.

PAGE

15
27

61

92
112
127
142
153



TILE: FUR COUNTER Y:

CHAPTER I.
A SOIREE AT FORT. RELIANCE,

N the evening of the 17th March 1859, Captain Craventy gave
a féte at Fort Reliance. Our readers must not at once
imagine a grand entertainment, such as a court ball, or a

musical soirée with a fine orchestra. Captain Craventy’s reception

was a very simple aflair, yet he had spared no pains to give it
éciat.

In fact, under the auspices of Corporal Joliffe, the large room on
the ground-floor was completely transformed. The rough walls,
constructed of roughly-hewn trunks of trees piled up horizontally,
were still visible, it ‘is true, but their nakedness was disguised by
arms and armour, borrowed from the arsenal of the fort, and by an
English tent at each corner of the room. Two lamps suspended
by chains, like chandeliers, and provided with tin reflectors, relieved
the gloomy appearance of the blackened beams of the: ceiling, and
sufficiently illuminated the misty atmosphere of the room. The
narrow windows, some of them mere loop-holes, were so encrusted
with hoar-frost, that it was impossible to look through them ; but
two or three pieces of red bunting, tastily arranged about them,
challenged the admiration of all who entered. The floor, of rough
joists of wood laid parallel with each other, had been carefully
swept by Corporal Joliife. - No sofas, chairs, or other modern furni-
ture, impeded the free circulation of the guests. Wooden benches
half fixed against the walls, huge blocks of wood cut with the axe,
and two tables with clumsy legs, were all the appliances of luxury
the saloon could boast of. But the partition wall, with a narrow
door leading into the next room, was decorated in a style alike





2 THE FUR COUNTRY.

costly and picturesque. From the beams hung magnificent furs
admirably arranged, the equal of which could not be seen in the
more favoured regions of Regent Street or the Perspective-Newski.
It seemed as if the whole fauna of the ice-bound North were here
represented by their finest skins. The eye wandered from the furs
of wolves, grey bears, polar bears, otters, wolverenes, beavers, ‘musk
rats, water pole-cats, ermines, and silver foxes; and above this
display was an inscription in brilliantly-coloured and artistically-
shaped cardboard—the motto of the world-famous Hudson’s Bay
Company—
“ PROPELLE CUTUM.”

“Really, Corporal Joliffe, you have surpassed yourself!” said
Captain Craventy to his subordinate.

“T think I have, I think I have!” replied the Corporal ; “ but
honour to whom honour is due, Mrs Joliffe deserves part of your
commendation ; she assisted me in everything.”

“‘ A wonderful woman, Corporal.”

“ Her equal is not to be found, Captain.”

An immense brick and earthenware stove occupied the centre of
the room, with a huge iron pipe passing from it through the ceiling,
and conducting the dense black smoke into the outer air. This
stove contained a roaring fire constantly fed with fresh shovelfuls
of coal by the stoker, an old soldier specially appointed to the ser-
vice. Now and then a gust of wind drove back a volume of smoke
into the room, dimming the brightness of the lamps, and adding
fresh blackness to the beams of the ceiling, whilst tongues of flame
shot forth from the stove. But the guests of Fort Reliance thought
little of this slight inconvenience ; the stove warmed them, and they
could not pay too dearly for its cheering heat, so terribly cold was
it outside in the cutting north wind.

The storm could be heard raging without, the snow fell fast, be-
coming rapidly solid and coating the already frosted window panes
with fresh ice, The whistling wind made its way through the
cranks and chinks of the doors and windows, and occasionally the
rattling noise drowned every other sound. Presently an awful
silence ensued. Nature seemed to be taking breath; but suddenly
the squall recommenced with terrific fury. The house was shaken
to its foundations, the planks cracked, the beams groaned. A
stranger less accustomed than the habitués of the fort to the war of
the elements, would have asked if the end of the world were come.



A SOIREE AT FORT RELIANCE, 3



But, with two exceptions, Captain Craventy’s guests troubled
themselves little about the weather, and if they had been outside
they would have felt no more fear than the stormy petrels disport-
ing themselves in the midst of the tempest. Two only of the
assembled company did not belong to the ordinary society of the
neighbourhood, two women, whom we shall introduce when we
have enumerated Captain Craventy’s other guests: these were,
Lieutenant Jaspar Hobson, Sergeant Long, Corporal Joliffe, and his
bright active Canadian wife, a certain Mac-Nab and his wife, both
Scotch, John Rae, married to an Indian woman of the country, and
some sixty soldiers or employés of the Hudson’s Bay Company.
The neighbouring forts also furnished their contingent of guests, for
in. these remote lands veople look upon each other as neighbours
although their homes may be a hundred miles apart. A good many
employés or traders came from Fort Providence or Fort Resolution,
of the Great Slave Lake district, and even from Fort Chippeway
and Fort Liard further south. A rare break like this in the
monotony of their secluded lives, in these hyberborean regions,
was joyfully welcomed by all the exiles, and even a few Indian
chiefs, about a dozen, had accepted Captain Craventy’s invi-
tation. They were not, however, accompanied by their wives,
the luckless squaws being still looked upon as little better than
slaves. The presence of these natives is accounted for by the fact
that they are in constant intercourse with the traders, and supply
the greater number of furs which pass through the hands of the
Hudson’s Bay Company, in exchange for other commodities. They
are mostly Chippeway Indians, well grown men with hardy con-
stitutions. Their complexions are of the peculiar reddish black
colour always ascribed in Europe to the evil spirits of fairyland.
They wear very picturesque cloaks of skins and mantles of fur, with
a head-dress of eagle’s feathers spread out like a lady’s: fan, and
quivering with every motion of their thick black hair.

Such was the company to whom the Captain was doing the
honours of Fort Reliance. There was no dancing for want of
music, but the “buffet” admirably supplied the want of the hired
musicians of the Kuropean balls.. On the table rose a pyramidal
pudding made by Mrs Joliffe’s own hands; it was an immense
truncated cone, composed of flour, fat, rein-deer venison, and musk
beef. The eggs, milk, and citron prescribed in recipe books were,
itis true, wanting, but their absence was atoned for by its huge



4 THE FUR COUNTRY.

proportions, Mrs Joliffe served: out slice after slice with liberal
hands, yet there remained enough and to spare. Piles of sandwiches
also figured on the table, in which ship biscuits took the place of
thin slices of English bread and butter, and dainty morsels of corned
beef that of the ham and stuffed veal of the old world. The
sharp teeth of the Chippeway Indians made short work of the
tough biscuits; and for drink there was plenty of whisky and gin
handed round in little pewter pots, not to speak of a great bowl of
punch which was to close the entertainment, and of which the
Indians talked long afterwards in their wigwams.

Endless were the compliments paid to the Joliffes that evening,
but they deserved them ; how zealously they waited on the guests,
with what easy grace they distributed the refreshments! They
did not need prompting, they anticipated the wishes of each one.
The sandwiches were succeeded by slices of the inexhaustible
pudding, the pudding by glasses of gin or whisky,

“No, thank you, Mr Joliffe.”

“You are too good, Corporal ; but let me have time to breathe.”

‘Mrs Joliffe, I assure you, I can eat no more.”

“ Corporal Joliffe, I am at your mercy.”

“No more, Mrs Joliffe, no more, thank you!”

Such were the replies met with on every side by the zealous pair,
but their powers of persuasion were such that tke most reluctant
yielded in the end. The quantities of food and drink consumed
were really euormous, The hubbub of conversation increased. The
soldiers and employés became excited. Here the talk was of hunt-
ing, there of trade. What plans were laid for next season!. The
entire fauna of the Arctic regions would scarcely supply game
enough for these enterprising hunters. They already saw bears,
foxes, and musk oxen, falling beneath their bullets, and pole-cats by
hundreds caught in their traps. Their imagination pictured the
costly furs piled up in the magazines of the Company, which was
this year to realise hitherto unheard of profits. And whilst the
spirits thus freely circulated inflamed. the imagination of the
Europeans, the large doses of Captain Craventy’s “ fire-water ”
imbibed by the Indians had an opposite effect. ‘Too proud to show
admiration, too cautious to make promises, the taciturn chiefs
listened gravely and silently to the babel of voices around them.

The captain enjoying the hurly burly, and pleased to see the
poor people, brought back as it were to the civilised world, enjoying





















































































































































































































































































































































































































































































LIEUTENANT HOBSON AND SERGEANT LONG.—Page de



A SOIREE AT FORT RELIANCE. 5

—————————— OO Oo

themselves so thoroughly, was here, there, and everywhere, answer-
ing all inquiries about the féte with the words—

“ Ask Joliffe, ask Joliffe !”

And they asked Joliffe, who had a gracious word for every-
body.

Some of those employed in the garrison and civil service of
Fort Reliance must here receive a few words of special notice, for
they were presently to go through experiences of a most terrible
nature, which no human perspicacity could possibly have foreseen.
Amongst others we must name Lieutenant Jaspar Hobson, Ser-
geant Long, Corporal and Mrs Joliffe, and the two foreign women
already alluded to, in whose honour Captain Craventy’s féte was
given,

Jaspar Hobson was a man of forty years of age. He was short
and slight, with little muscular power ; but a force of will which
carried him successfully through all trials, and enabled him to rise
superior to adverse circumstances. He was “a child of the Com-
pany.” His father, Major Hobson, an Irishman from Dublin, who
had now been dead for some time, lived for many years at Fort
Assiniboin with his wife. Tiere Jaspar Hobson was born. His
childhood and youth were spent at the foot of the Rocky Moun-
tains. His father brought him up strictly, and he became a mar
in self-control and courage whilst yet a boy in years, Jaspat
Hobson was no mere hunter, but a soldier, a brave and intelligent
officer. During the struggles in Oregon of the Hudson’s Bay Com-
pany with the rival companies of the Union, he distinguished himself
by his zeal and intrepidity, and rapidly rose to the rank of lieutenant.
His well-known merit led to his appointment to the command of an
expedition to the north, the aim of which was to explore the northern
shores of the Great Bear Lake, and to found a fort on the confines
of the American continent. Jaspar Hobson was to set out on his
journey early in April.

If the lieutenant was the type of a good officer, Sergeant Long
was that of a good soldier. He was a man of fifty years of age, with

~a rough beard that looked as if it were made of cocoa-nut fibre.
Constitutionally brave, and disposed to obey rather than to com-
mand, he had no ambition but to obey the orders he received—
never questioning them, however strange they might appear, never
reasoning for himself when on duty for the Company—a true machine
in uniform; but a perfect machine, never wearing out; ever on the



6 THE FUR COUNTRY.



march, yet never showing signs of fatigue. Perhaps Sergeant Long
was rather hard upon his men, as he was upon himself. He would
not tolerate the slightest infraction of discipline, and mercilessly
ordered men into confinement for the slightest neglect, whilst he
himself had never been reprimanded. In a word, he was a man
born to obey, and this self-annihilation suited his passive tempera-
ment, Men such as he are the materials of which a formidable
army is formed. They are the arms of the service, obeying a
single head. Is not this. the only really powerful organisation ?
The two types of fabulous mythology, Briareus with a hundred
arms and Hydra with a hundred heads, well represent the two
kinds of armies; and in a conflict between them, which would be
victorious? Briareus without a doubt !

We have already made acquaintance with Corporal Joliffe. He
was the busy bee of the party, but it was pleasant to hear him hum-
ming. He would have made a better major-domo than a soldier ;
and he was himself aware of this. So he called himself the ‘“ Cor-
poral in charge of details,’ but he would have lost himself a
hundred times amongst these details, had not little Mrs Joliffe
guided him with a firm hand. So it came to pass, that Corporal
Joliffe obeyed his wife without owning it, doubtless thinking to
himself, like the philosopher Sancho, ‘‘ a woman’s advice is no such
great thing, but he must be a fool who does not listen to it.”

It is now time to say a few words of the two foreign women already
alluded to more than once. They were both about forty years
old, and one of them well deserved to take first rank amongst cele-
brated female travellers. The name of Paulina Barnett, the rival
of the Pfeiffers, Tinnis, and Haimaires of Hull, has been several times
honourably mentioned at the meetings of the Royal Geographical
Society. In her journeys up the Brahmaputra, as far as the
mountains of Thibet, across an unknown corner of New Holland,
from Swan Bay to the Gulf of Carpentaria, Paulina Barnett had
given proof of the qualities of a great traveller. She had been a
widow for fifteen years, and her passion for travelling led her con-
stantly to explore new lands, She was tall, and her face, framed
in long braids of hair, already touched with white, was full of
energy. She was near-sighted, and a double eye-glass rested upon
her long straight nose, with its mobile nostrils. We. must confess
that her walk was somewhat masculine, and her whole appearance
‘sas suggestive of moral power, rather than of female grace. She



A SOIREE AT FORT RELIANCE. a.





was an Englishwoman from Yorkshire, possessed of some fortune,
the greater part of which was expended in adventurous expeditions,
and some new scheme of exploration had now brought her to Fort
Reliance. Having crossed the equinoctial regions, she was doubt-
less anxious to penetrate to the extreme limits of the hyperborean.
Her presence at the fort was an event. The governor of the
Company had given her a special letter of recommendation to
Captain Craventy, according to which the latter was to do all in his
power to forward the design of the celebrated traveller to reach the
borders of the Arctic Ocean. A grand enterprise! To follow in
the steps of Hearne, Mackenzie, Rae, Franklin, and others. What
fatigues, what trials, what dangers would have to be gone through
in the conflict with the terrible elements of the Polar climate! How
could a woman dare to venture where so many explorers have drawn
back or perished? But the stranger now shut up in Fort Reliance
was no ordinary woman ; she was Paulina Barnett, a laureate of the
Royal Society.

We must add that the celebrated traveller was accompanied by
a servant named Madge. ‘This faithful creature was not merely a
servant, but a devoted and courageous friend, who lived only for
her mistress. A Scotchwoman of the old type, whom a Caleb
might have married without loss of dignity. Madge was about five
years older than Mrs Barnett, and was tall and strongly built. The
two were on the most intimate terms; Paulina looked upon Madge as
an elder sister, and Madge treated Paulina as her daughter.

It was in honour of Paulina Barnett that Captain Craventy was
this evening treating his employés and the Chippeway Indians, In
fact, the lady traveller was to join the expedition of Jaspar Hobson
for the exploration of the north. It was for Paulina Barnett that
the large saloon of the factory resounded with joyful hurrahs, And
it was no wonder that the stove consumed a hundredweight of coal
on this memorable evening, for the cold outside was twenty-four
degrees Fahrenheit below zero, and Fort Reliance is situated in
61° 47’ N. Lat., at least four degrees from the Polar circle.



(2.0% i
CHAPTER IL
THE HUDSON'S BAY FUR COMPANY.

Hecnoas
rere Craventy 1”
Ge

Qk “ Mrs Barnett ?”
rw “What do you think of your Lieutenant, Jaspar
Hobson ?”

“T think he is an officer who will go far.”

“ What do you mean by the words, Will go far? Do you mean
that he wiil go beyond the Twenty-fourth parallel?”

Captain Craventy could not help smiling at Mrs Patlina Barnett’s
question. They were talking together near the stove, whilst the
guests were passing backwards and forwards between the eating
and drinking tables.

“ Madam,” replied the Captain, “all that a man can do, will be
done by Jaspar Hobson. ‘The Company has charged him to explore
the north of their possessions, and to establish a factory as near as
possible to the confines of the American continent, and he will
establish it.”

“That is a great responsibility for Lieutenant Hobson !” said
the traveller,

“Tt is, madam, but Jaspar Hobson has never yet drawn back
from a task imposed upon him, however formidable it may have
appeared.”

“T can quite believe it, Captain,” replied Mrs Barnett, “and we
shall now see the Lieutenant at work. But what induces the Com-
pany to construct a fort on the shores of the Arctic Ocean ?”

“They have a powerful motive, madam,” replied the Captain.
“T may add a double motive. At no very distant date, Russia will
probably cede her American possessions to the Government of the
United States.1 When this cession has taken place, the Company
will find access to the Pacific Ocean extremely: difficult, unless the
North-west passage discovered by M‘Clure be practicable. Fresh

1 Captain Craventy’s prophecy has since been realised,



THE HUDSON'S BAY FUR COMPANY, 9



explorations will decide this, for the Admiralty is about to send a
vessel which will coast along the North American continent, from
Behring Strait to Coronation Gulf, on the eastern side of which the
new fort is to be established. If the enterprise succeed, this point
will become an important factory, the centre of the northern fur
trade. The transport of furs across the Indian territories involves
a vast expenditure of time and money, whereas, if the new route be
available, steamers will take them from the new fort to the Pacific
Ocean in a few days.” ;

“That would indeed be an important result of the enterprise, if
this North-west passage can really be used,” replied Mrs Paulina
Barnett; “but I think you spoke of a double motive.” —_

“T did, madam,” said the Captain, “‘and I alluded to a matter of
vital interest to the Company. But I must beg of you to allow me
to explain to you in a few words how the present state of things
came about, how it is in fact that the very source of the trade of
this once flourishing Company is in danger of destruction,”

The Captain then proceeded to give a brief sketch of the history
of the famous Hudson’s Bay Company.

In the earliest times men employed the skins and furs of animals
as clothing. The fur trade is therefore of very great antiquity.
Luxury in dress increased to such an extent, that sumptuary laws
were enacted to control too great extravagance, especially in furs, for
which there was a positive passion, Vair and the furs of Siberian
squirrels were prohibited at the middle of the 12th century.

In 15538 Russia founded several establishments in the northern
steppes, and England lost no time in following her example. The
trade in sables, ermines, and beavers, was carried on through the
agency of the Samoiedes ; but during the reign of Elizabeth, a royal
decree restricted the use of costly furs to such an extent, that for
several years this branch of industry was completely paralysed.

On the 2nd May, 1670, a licence to trade in furs in the Hudson’s
Bay Territory was granted to the Company, which numbered several
men of high rank amongst its shareholders : the Duke of York, the
Duke of Albemarle, the Earl of Shaftesbury, &c, Its capital was
then only £8420. Private companies were formidable rivals to its
success; and French agents, making Canada their headquarters,
ventured on hazardous but most lucrative expeditions. ‘The active
competition of these bold hunters threatened the very existence of
the infanteCompany.

a

B



10 THE FUR COUNTRY.



The conquest of Canada, however, somewhat lessened the danger
of its position. Three years after the taking of Quebec, 1776, the
fur trade received a new impulse. English traders became familiar
with the difficulties of trade of this kind; they learned the
customs of the country, the ways of the Indians and their system
of exchange of goods, but for all this the Company as yet made no
profits whatever. Moreover, towards 1784 some merchants of
Montreal combined to explore the fur country, and founded that
powerful North-west Company, which soon became the centre of the
fur trade. In 1798 the new Company shipped furs to the value of
no less than £120,000, and the existence of the Hudson’s Bay
Company was again threatened.

We must add, that the North-west Company shrank from no act,
however iniquitous, if its interests were at stake. Its agents
imposed on their own employés, speculated on the misery of the
Indians, robbed them when they had themselves made ‘them drunk,
setting at defiance the Act of Parliament forbidding : ‘the sale of
spirituous liquors’ on Indian territory ; and consequently realisi se
immense profits, in spite of the competition of the various Russian
and American companies which had sprung up—the American Fur
Company amongst others, founded in 1809, with a capital of a
million of dollars, which was carryitig on Operations on the west
of the Rocky Mountains,

The Hudson’s Bay Company was probably in greater danger of
ruin than any other ; but in 1821, after much discussion, a treaty was
made, in accordance with which its old rival the North-west Company
became amalgamated with it, the two receiving the common title of
‘‘The Hudson’s Bay Fur Company.”

Now the only rival of this important association is the American
St Louis Fur Company. The Hudson’s Bay Company has numerous
establishments scattered over a domain extending over 3,700,000
square miles, Its principal factories are situated on James Bay,
at the mouth of the Severn, in the south, and towards the frontiers
of Upper Canada, on Lakes Athapeskow, Winnipeg, Superior,
Methye, Buffalo, and near the Colombia, Mackenzie, Saskatchewan,
and Assiniboin rivers, &c. Fort York, commanding the course of
the river Nelson, is the headquarters of the Company, and contains
its principal fur depédt. Moreover, in 1842 it took a lease of
all the Russian establishments in North America at an annual
rent of £40,000, so that it is now working on its own account



THE HUDSON'S BAY FUR COMPANY. It



the vast tracts of country between the Mississippi and the Pacific
Ocean. It has sent out intrepid explorers in every direction :
Hearne, towards the Polar Sea, in 1770, to the discovery of the Cop-
permine River; Franklin, in 1819 to 1822, along 5550 miles of the
American coast ; Mackenzie, who, after having discovered the river
to which he gave his name, reached the shores of the Pacific at
52° 24’ N. Lat. The following is a list of the quantities of skins
and furs despatched to Europe by the Hudson’s Bay Company in
1833-34, which will give an exact idea of the extent of its trade -—

Beavers, . . : 7 7 1,074
Skins and young Beavers, . . 92,288
Musk Rais, 3 . ° - 694,092
Badgers, . . . ‘ s 1,069
Bears, . ° ° ‘ . 7,451
Ermines, ° e ‘ . 491
Foxes, . . . . 9,937
Lynxes, . . ‘ . « 14,255
_ Sables, . * ‘ ‘ - 64,490
Polecats, . . ‘ ‘ - 25,100
Otters, - ‘ . « 22,303
Racoons, . : . ‘ 713
Swaps, . - ‘ . ; 7,918
Wolves, . . . . . 8,484
Wolverines, ; . ‘ «. 345574

Such figures ought to bring in a large profit to the Hudson’s
Bay Company, but unfortunately they have not been maintained,
and for the last twenty years have been decreasing.

The cause of this decline was the subject of Captain Craventy’s
explanation to Mrs Paulina Barnett.

“ Until 1839, madam,” said he, “the Company was in a flourish-
ing condition, In that year the number of furs exported was
2,350,000, but since then the trade has gradually declined, and
this number is now reduced by one-half at least.”

“ But what do you suppose is the cause of this extraordinary
decrease in the exportation of furs?” inquired Mrs Barnett.

“The depopulation of the hunting territories, caused by the
activity, and, I must add, the want of foresight of the hunters.
The game was trapped and killed without mercy, These massacres
were conducted in the most reckless and short-sighted fashion.
Even females with young and their little ones did not escape. The
consequence is, that the animals whose fur is valuable have become
extremely rare, The otter has almost entirely disappeared, and is



12. THE FUR COUNTRY,



only to be found near the islands of the North Pacific. Small
colonies of beavers have taken refuge on the shores of the most dis-
tant rivers. It is the same with many other animals, compelled to
flee before the invasion of the hunters. The traps, once crowded
with game, are now empty. The price of skins is rising just when
a great demand exists for furs. Hunters have gone away in disgust,
leaving none but the most intrepid and indefatigable, who now
penetrate to the very confines of the American continent.”

“Yes,” said Mrs Paulina Barnett, “the fact of the fur-bearing
animals having taken refuge beyond the polar. circle, is a sufficient
explanation of the Company’s motive in founding a factory on the
borders of the Arctic Ocean.”

‘‘Not only so, madam,” replied the Captain, “the Company is also
compelled to seek a more northern centre of operations, for an Act
of Parliament has lately greatly reduced its domain.”

«And the motive for this reduction ?” inquired the traveller.

“A very important question of political economy was involved,
madam ; one which could not fail greatly to interest the statesmen
of Great Britain. In a word, the interests of the Company and
those of civilisation are antagonistic. It is to the interest of the
Company to keep the territory belonging to it in a wild unculti.
vated condition. Every attempt at clearing ground was pitilessly
put a stop to, as it drove away the wild animals, so that the mono-
poly enjoyed by the Hudson’s Bay Company was detrimental to
all agricultural enterprise. All questions not immediately relating
to their own particular trade, were relentlessly put aside by the
governors of the association. It was this despotic, and, in a certain
sense, immoral system, which provoked the measures taken by Par-
liament, and, in 1837, a commission appointed by the Colonial
Secretary decided that it was necessary to annex to Canada all the
territories suitable for cultivation, such as the Red River and Sas-
katchewan districts, and to leave to the Company only that portion
of its land which appeared to be incapable of future civilisation.
The next year the Company lost the western slopes of the Rocky
Mountains, which it held direct from the Colonial Office, and you
will now understand, madam, how the agents of the Company, hav-
ing lost their power over their old territories, are determined before
giving up their trade to try to work the little known countries of
the north, and so open a communication with the Pacific by means
of the North-west passage,”



THE HUDSON’S BAY FUR COMPANY. 13



Mrs Paulina Barnett was now well informed as to the ulterior
projects of the celebrated Company. Captain Craventy had given
her a graphic sketch of the situation, and it is probable he would
have entered into further details, had not an incident cut short his
harangue.

Corporal Joliffe announced in a loud voice that, with Mrs Joliffe’s
assistance, he was about to mix the punch. This news was received
as it deserved. The bowl—or rather, the basin—was filled with
the precious liquid. It contained no less than ten pints of coarse
tum, Sugar, measured out by Mrs Joliffe, was piled up at the
bottom, and on the topfloated slices of lemon shrivelled with age.
Nothing remained to be done but to light this alcoholi¢ lake, and
the Corporal, match in hand, awaited the order of his Captain, as if
he were about to spring a mine,

* All right, Joliffe!” at last said Captain Craventy.

The light was applied to the bowl, and in a moment the punch
was in flames, whilst the guests applauded and clapped their hands.
‘Ten minutes afterwards, full glasses of the delightful beverage were
circulating amongst the guests, fresh bidders for them coming for-
ward in endless succession, like speculators on the Stock Exchange.

“ Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah! three cheers for Mrs Barnett! A
cheer for the Captain.”

In the midst of these joyful shouts cries were heard from outside,
Silence immediately fell upon the company assembled.

‘Sergeant Long,” said the Captain, “go and see what is the
matter.”

And at his chief’s order, the Sergeant, leaving his glass unfinished,
left the room.



CHAPTER III.
4 SAVANT THAWED,

SERGEANT LONG hastened to the narrow passage from
sy which opened the outer door of the fort, and heard the
cries redoubled, and combined with violent blows on the
postern gate, surrounded by high walls, which gave access to the
court. The Sergeant pushed open the door, and plunging into the
snow, already a foot deep; he waded through it, although half-
blinded by the cutting sleet, and nipped by the terrible cold.

“What the devil does any one want at this time of night?”
exclaimed the Sergeant to himself, as he mechanically removed the
heavy bars of the gate ; “none but Esquimaux would dare to brave
such a temperature as this!”

“Open! open! open!” they shouted from without.

“T am opening,” replied Sergeant Long, who really seemed to be
a long time about it.

At last the door swung open, and the Sergeant was almost upset
by a sledge, drawn by six dogs, which dashed past him like a flash
of lightning. Worthy Sergeant Long only just escaped being crushed,
but he got up without a murmur, closed the gate, and returned to
the house at his ordinary pace, that is to say, at the rate of seventy-
five strides a minute.

But Captain Craventy, Lieutenant Jaspar Hobson, and Corporal
Joliffe were already outside, braving the intense cold, and staring
at the sledge, white with snow, which had just drawn up in front
of them.

A man completely enveloped in furs now descended from it.

“Fort Reliance?” he inquired.

“The same,” replied the Captain,

* Captain Craventy ?”

“Behold him! Who are you?”

“ A courier of the Company.”

“ Are you alone?”



























.—Page 15.,

A SAVANT THAWED



A SAVANT THAWED. 15



“No, I bring a traveller.”

“ A traveller! And what does he want?”

“He is come to see the moon.”

At this reply, Captain Craventy said to himself the man must be
afool. But there was no time to announce this opinion, for the
courier had taken an inert mass from the sledge, a kind of bag
covered with snow, and was about to carry it into the house, when
the Captain inquired—

“ What is that bag?”

“It is my traveller,” replied the courier.

“ Who is this traveller?”

“ The astronomer, Thomas Black.”

“ But he is frozen.”

“Well, he must be thawed.”

Thomas Black, carried by the Sergeant, the Corporal,’ and the
courier, now made his entrance into the house of the fort, and was
taken to a room on the first floor, the temperature of which was
bearable, thanks to a glowing stove. He was laid upon a bed, and
the Captain took his hand. :

It was literally frozen. The wrappers and furred mantles, in
which Thomas Black was rolled up like a parcel requiring care, were
removed, and revealed a man of about fifty. He was short and
stout, his hair was already touched with grey, his beard was un-
trimmed, his eyes were closed, and his lips pressed together as if
glued to one another. If he breathed at all, it was so slightly that
the frost-work on the windows would not have been affected by it.
Joliffe undressed him, and turned him rapidly on to his face and
back again, with the words—

“Come, come, sir, when do you mean to return to conscious-
ness ?”

But the visitor who had arrived in so strange a manner showed
no signs of returning life, and Corporal Joliffe could think of no
better means to restore the lost vital heat than to give him a bath
in the bowl of hot punch.

Very happily for Thomas Black, however, Lieutenant Jaspar
Hobson had another idea.

“Snow, bring snow!” he cried.

There was plenty of it in the court of Fort Reliance ;—and
whilst the Sergeant went to fetch the snow, Joliffe removed all
the astronomer’s clothes, The body of the unfortunate man was



16 THE FUR COUNTRY.

*



covered with white frost-bitten patches. It was urgently neces-
sary to restore the circulation of the blood in the affected por-
tions. This result Jaspar Hobson hoped to obtain by vigorous
friction with the snow. We know that this is the means generally
employed in the polar countries to set going afresh the circulation
of the blood arrested by the intense cold, even as the rivers are
arrested in their courses by the icy touch of winter. Sergeant
Long soon returned, and he and Joliffe gave the new arrival such
a rubbing as he had probably never before received. It was no
soft and agreeable friction, but a vigorous shampooing most lustily
performed, more like the scratching of a curry-comb than the
caresses of a human hand.

And during the operation the loquacious Corporal continued to
exhort the unconscious traveller.

“Come, come, sir. What do you mean by getting frozen like
this. Now, don’t be so obstinate!”

Probably it was obstinacy which kept Thomas Black from deign-
ing to show a sign of life, At the end of half an hour the rubbers
began to despair, and were about to discontinue their exhausting
efforts, when the poor man sighed several times.

“ He lives ; he is coming to!” cried Jaspar Hobson.

After having warmed the outside of his body, Corporal Joliffe
hurried to do the same for the inside, and hastily fetched a few
glasses of the punch, The traveller really felt much revived by
them ; the colour returned to his cheeks, expression to his eyes, and
words to his lips, so that Captain Craventy began to hope that he
should have an explanation from Thomas Black himself of his strange
arrival at the fort in such a terrible condition.

At last the traveller, well covered with wraps, rose on his elbow,
and said in a voice still faint—

“ Fort Reliance ?”

“The same,” replied the Captain.

“ Captain Graventy 1”

“ He is before you, and is happy to bid you S elcgmie’ But may
T inquire what brings you to Fort Reliance?”

“ He is come to see the moon,” replied the courier, who evidently
thought this a happy answer.

It satisfied Thomas Black too, for he bent his head in assent and
resumed—

“ Lieutenant Hobson ?”



4 SAVANT THAWED, : 17



“JT am here,” replied the Lieutenant.

“ You have not yet started ?”

“Not yet, sir.”

“Then,” replied Thomas Black, “I have only to thank you, and
to go to sleep until to-morrow morning.”

The Captain and his companions retired, leaving their strange
visitor to his repose. Half an hour later the /é¢e was at an end, and
the guests had regained their respective homes, either in the different
rooms of the fort, or the scattered houses outside the enceinte.

The next day Thomas Black was rather better. His vigorous
constitution had thrown off the effects of the terrible chill he had
had. Any one else would have died from it; but he was not like
other men.

And now who was this astronomer? Where did he come from?
Why had he undertaken this journey across the territories of the
Company in the depth of winter? What did the courier’s reply
signify 1—To see the moon! The moon could be seen anywhere ;
there was no need to come to the hyperborean regions to look
at it!

Such were the thoughts which passed through Captain Craventy’s
mind. But the next day, after an hour’s talk with his new guest,
lie had learned all he wished to know. :

Thomas Black was an astronomer attached to the Greenwich
Observatory, so brilliantly presided over by Professor Airy. Mr
Black was no theorist, but a sagacious and intelligent observer ;
and in the twenty years during which he had devoied himself to
astronomy, he had rendered great services to the science of ourano-
graphy. In private life he was a simple nonentity ; he existed only
for astronomy; he lived in the heavens, not upon the earth ; and was
a true descendant of the witty La Fontaine’s savant who fell into
awell. He could talk of nothing but stars and constellations. He
ought to have lived in a telescope. As an observer he had not his
rival; his patience was inexhaustible ; he could watch for months for
a cosmical phenomenon, He had a specialty of his own, too; he
had studied luminous meteors and shooting stars, and his discoveries
in this branch of astronomical science were considerable. When-
ever minute observations or exact measurements and definitions
were required,“Thomas Black was chosen for the service ; for his
clearness of sight was something remarkable. The power of obser
vation is not given to every one, and it will not therefore be surpris-



18 THE FUR COUNTRY.

ing that the Greenwith astronomer should have been chosen for the
mission we are about to describe, which involved results so interest-
ing for selenographic science.

We know that during a total eclipse of the sun the moon is
surrounded by a luminous corona. But what is the origin of this
corona? Is it a real substance ? or isit only an effect of the diffrac-
tion of the sun’s rays near the moon? This isa question which
science has hitherto been unable to answer.

As early as 1706 this luminous halo was scientifically described.
The corona was minutely examined during the total eclipse of
1715 by Lonville and Halley, by Maraldi in 1724, by Antonio de’
Ulloa in 1778, and by Bonditch and Ferrer in 1806; but their
theories were so contradictory that no definite conclusion could be
arrived at. During the total eclipse of 1842, learned men of all
nations—Airy, Arago, Keytal, Langier, Mauvais, Otto, Struve, Petit,
Baily, &c.—endeavoured to solve the mystery of the origin of the
phenomenon ; but in spite of all their efforts, “the disagreement,”
says Arago, “ of the observations taken in different places by skilful
astronomers of one and the same eclipse, have involved the question
in fresh obscurity, so that it is now impossible to come to any certain
conclusion as to the cause of the phenomenon.” Since this was
written, other total eclipses have been studied with no better
results,

Yet the solution of the question is of such vast importance to
selenographic science that no price would be too great to pay for
it. A fresh opportunity was now about to occur to study the
much-discussed corona, A total eclipse of the sun—total, at least,
for the extreme north of America, for Spain and North Africa—
was to take place on July 18th, 1860. It was arranged between the
astronomers of different countries that simultaneous observations
should be taken at the various points of the zone where the eclipse
would be total, Thomas Black was chosen for the expedition to
North America, and was now much in the same situation as the
English astronomers who were transported to Norway and Sweden
on the occasion of the eclipse of 1851.

It will readily be imagined that Thomas Black seized with
avidity the opportunity offered him of studying this luminous halo.
He was also to examine into the nature of the red prominences
which appear on different parts of the edge of the terrestrial
satellite when the totality of the eclipse has commenced; and



A SAVANT THAWED. , Ig





should he be able satisfactorily to establish their origin, he would
be entitled to the applause of the learned men of all Europe.

Thomas Black eagerly prepared for his journey. He obtained
urgent letters of recommendation to the principal agents of the
Hudson’s Bay Company. He ascertained that an expedition was
to go to the extreme north of the continent to found a new fort.
Jt was an opportunity not to be lost; so he set out, crossed the
Atlantic, landed at New York, traversed the lakes to the Red River
settlement, and pressed on from fort to fort in a sledge, under the
escort of a courier of the Company ; in spite of the severity of the
winter, braving all the dangers of a journey across the Arctic
regions, and arriving at Fort Reliance on the 19th March in the
condition we have described.

Such was the explanation given by the astronomer to Captain
Craventy. He at once placed himself entirely at Mr Black’s
service, but could not refrain from inquiring why he had been in
such a great hurry to arrive, when the eclipse was not to take place
until the following year, 1860? —

“But, Captain,” replied the astronomer, “I heard that the Com-
pany was sending an expedition along the northern coast of America,
and I did not wish to. miss the departure of Lieutenant Hobson.”

“Mr Black,” replied the Captain, “if the Lieutenant had already
started, I should have felt it my duty to accompany you myself to
the shores of the Polar Sea.”

And with fresh assurances of his willingness to serve him, the
Captain again bade his new guest welcome to ort Reliance.



aia

CHAPTER IY.

A FACTORY.

NE of the largest of the lakes beyond the 61st parallel is that
called the Great Slave Lake; it is two hundred and fifty
miles long by fifty across, and is situated exactly at 61°

25’ N. lat. and 114° W. long. ‘The surrounding districts slope
down to it, and it completely fills a vast natural hollow. The
position of the lake in the very. centre of the hunting districts,
once swarming with game, early attracted the attention of the
Company. Numerous streams either take their rise from it or
flow into it—the Mackenzie, the Athabasca, é&c.; and several “ix-
portant forts have been constructed on its shores—Fort Providence
on the north, and Fort Resolution on the south. Fort Reliance is
situated on the north-east extremity, and is about three hundred
miles.from the Chesterfield inlet, a long narrow estuary formed by
the waters of Hudson’s Bay.

The Great Slave Lake is dotted with little islands, the granite
and gneiss of which they are formed jutting up in several places.
Its northern banks are clothed with thick woods, shutting out the
barren frozen district beyond, not inaptly called the “ Cursed
Land.” The southern regions, on the other hand, are flat, without
a rise of any kind, and the soil is mostly calcareous. The large
ruminants of the polar districts—the buffaloes or bisons, the flesh
of which forms almost the only food of the Canadian and native
hunters—seldom go further north than the Great Slave Lake.

The trees on the northern shores of the lake form magnificent
forests. We need not be astonished at meeting with such fine vegeta-
tion in this remote district. The Great Slave Lake is not really



‘in a higher latitude than Stockholm or Christiania. We have only

to remember that the isothermal lines, or belts of equal heat, along
which heat is distributed in equal quantities, do not follow the
terrestrial parallels, and that with the same latitude, America is ever
so much colder than Europe. In April the streets of New York



A FACTORY. 21



are still white with snow, yet the latitude of New York is nearly
the same as that of the Azores. The nature of a country, its
position with regard to the oceans, and even the conformation of its
soil, all influence its climate.

In summer Fort Reliance was surrounded with masses of verdure,
refreshing to the sight after the long dreary winter. Timber was
plentiful in these forests, which consisted almost entirely of poplar,
pine, and birch. The islets on the lake produced very fine willows,
Game was abundant in the underwood, even during the bad season.
Further south the hunters from the fort successfully pursued
bisons, elks, and Canadian porcupines, the flesh of which is excellent.
The waters of the Slave Lake were full of fish ; trout in them attained
to an immense size, their weight often exceeding forty pounds. Pikes,
voracious lobes, a sort of charr or grayling called “blue fish,” and
countless legions of tittamegs, the Coregonus of naturalists, disported
themselves in the water, so that the inhabitants of Fort Reliance
were well supplied with food. Nature provided for all their wants ;
and clothed in the skins of foxes, martens, bears, and other Arctic
animals, they were able to brave the rigour of the winter.

The fort, properly so called, consisted of a wooden house with a
ground-floor and one upper storey, In it lived the commandant and
his- officers, The barracks for the soldiers, the magazines of the
Company, and the offices where exchanges were made, surrounded
this house. A little chapel, which wanted nothing but a clergyman,
and a powder-magazine, completed the buildings of the settlement.
The whole was surrounded by palisades twenty-five feet high,
defended by a small bastion with a pointed roof at each of the four
corners of the parallelogram formed by the enceinte. The fort was
thus protected from surprise, a necessary precaution in the days
when the Indians, instead of being the purveyors of the Company,
fought for the independence of their native land, and when the
agents and soldiers of rival associations disputed the possession of
the rich fur country.

At that time the Hudson’s Bay Company employed about a
million men on its territories. It held supreme authority over
them, an authority which could even inflict death, The governors
of the factories could regulate salaries, and arbitrarily fix the price of
provisions and furs; and as a result of this irresponsible power, they
often realised a profit of no less than three hundred per cent.

We sliall see from the following table, taken from the “ Voyage



22 THE FUR COUNTRY.





of Captain Robert Lade,” on what terms exchanges were formerly
made with those Indians who have. since become the best hunters
of the Company. Beavers’ skins were then the currency employed
in buying and selling.

The Indians paid—

For one gun, .
335 half a pound of powder,
3) four pounds of shot,
»» oneaxe, .

. - , 10 beavers? skins.
:
;
:
5) Six knives, . ° ‘;
:
:
3
‘

oa in

3) one pound of glass hea,
», one laced coat,

3) one coat not laced,

3, one laced female dress,

»» one pound of tobacco, . .
3, one box of powder, .

», one comb and one looking-glass,

1
1
1
1
6
2 5 39
6
1
1
2

But afew years ago beaver-skins became so scarce that the cur-
rency had to be changed. Bison-furs are now the medium of trade.
When an Indian presents himself at the fort, the agents of the
Company give him as many pieces of wood as he brings skins, and
he exchanges these pieces of wood for manufactured articles on the
premises ; and as the Company fix the price of the articles they buy
and sell, they cannot fail to realise large profits.

Such was the mode of proceeding in Fort. Reliance and other
factories ; so that Mrs Paulina Barnett was able to watch the work-
ing of the system during her stay, which extended until the 16th
April. Many a long talk did she have with Lieutenant Hobson,
many were the projects they formed, and firmly were they both
determined to allow no obstacle to check their advance. As for
Thomas Black, he never opened his lips except when his own special
mission was discussed. He was wrapped up in the subject. of the
luminous corona and red prominences of the moon; he lived but to
solve the problem, and in the end made Mrs Paulina Barnett nearly
as enthusiastic as himself. How eager the two were to cross the
Arctic Circle, and how far off the 18th July 1860 appeared to
both, but especially to the Bopatiens Greenwich astronomer, can
eaaily be imagined.

The preparations for departure could not be commenced until the
middle of March, and a month passed before they were completed.
In fact, it was a formidable undertaking to organise such an ex-



A FACTORY. 23



pedition for crossing the Polar regions. Everything had to be taken
with them—food, clothes, tools, arms, ammunition, and a nonde-
script collection of various requisites,

The troops, under the command of Lieutenant Jaspar Hobson,
were one chief and two subordinate officers, with ten soldiers, three
of whom took their wives with them. They were all picked men,
chosen by Captain Craventy on account ’of their energy and resolution.
We append a list of the whole party :—

1, Lieutenant Jaspar Hobson. 11. Sabine, soldier.

2, Sergeant Long. 12. Hope, do.

8. Corporal Joliffe. 13. Kellet, do,

4, Petersen, soldier. 14. Mrs Rae.

5. Belcher, do. 15. Mrs Joliffe,

6, Rae, do. 16. Mrs Mac-Nab.

7. Marbre, do. 17. Mrs Paulina Barnett.
8. Garry, do, 18. Madge.

9. Pond, do. - : 19. Thomas Black.

10. Mac-Nab, do.

In all, nineteen persons to be transported several hundreds of miles
through a desert and imperfectly-known country.

With this project in view, however, the Company had collected
everything necessary for the expedition. A dozen sledges, with
their teams of dogs, were in readiness. These primitive vehicles
consisted of*strong but light planks joined together by transverse
bands, was fixed beneath the sledge, enabling it to cleave the snow without
sinking deeply into it. Six swift and intelligent dogs, yoked two
and two, and controlled by the long thong brandished by the driver,
drew the sledges, and could go at a rate of fifteen miles an
hour. g? 3 ;

The wardrobe of the travellers consisted of garments made of
reindeer-skins, lined throughout with thick furs, All wore linen
next the skin as a protection against the sudden changes of tempera-
ture frequent in these latitudes. Each one, officer or soldier, male
or female, wore seal-skin boots sewn with twine, in the manufacture
of which the natives excel. These boots are absolutely impervious,
and are so flexible that they are admirably adapted for walking.
Pine-wood snow-shoes, two or three feet long, capable of supporting
the weight of aman on the most brittle snow, and enabling him

to pass over it with the rapidity of a skater on ice, can be fastened
: c



24 THE FUR COUNTRY.



aero nanocwtnee g

to the soles of the seal-skin boots. Fur caps and deer-skin belts
completed the costumes,

For arms, Lieutenant Hobson had the regulation musketoons
provided by the Company, pistols, ordnance sabres, and plenty of
ammunition ; for tools: axes, saws, adzes, and other instruments
required in carpentering. Then there was the collection of all that
would be needed for setting up a factory in the remote district for
which they were bound: a stove, a smelting furnace, two air-
pumps for ventilation, an india-rubber boat, only inflated when
required, &c., &e.

The party might have relied for provisions on the hunters amongst
them. Some of the soldiers were skilful trackers of game, and
there were plenty of reindeer in the Polar regions, Whole tribes of
Indians or Esquimaux, deprived of bread and all other nourishment,
subsist entirely on this venison, which is both abundant and
palatable. But as delays and difficulties had to be allowed for, a
certain quantity of provisions was taken with them. ‘The flesh of
the bison, elk, and deer, amassed in the large battues on the south of
the lake ; corned beef, which will keep for any length of time ; and
some Indian preparations, in which the flesh of animals, ground
to powder, retains its nutritive properties in a very small bulk,
requiring no cooking, and forming a very nourishing diet, were
amongst the stores provided in case of need.

Lieutenant Hobson likewise took several casks of rum and whisky;
but he was firmly resolved to economise these spirits, so injurious
to the health in cold latitudes, as much as possible. The Company
had placed at his disposal a little portable medicine-chest, con-
taining formidable quantities of lime-juice, lemons, and other simple
remedies necessary to check, or if possible to prevent, the scorbutic
affections which take such a terrible form in these regions.

All the men had been chosen with great care ; none were too stout
or too thin, and all had for years been accustomed to the severity
of the climate, and could therefore more easily endure the fatigues
of an expedition to the Polar Sea. They were all brave, high-spirited
fellows, who had taken service of their own accord. Double pay
had been promised them during their stay at the confines of the
American continent, should they succeed in making a settlement be-
yond the seventieth parallel.

The sledge provided for Mrs Barnett and her faithful Madge
was rather more comfortable than the others, She did not wish to



A FACTORY. 25



be treated better than her travelling companions, but yielded to the
urgent request of Captain Craventy, who was but carrying out the
wishes of the Company.

The vehicle which brought Thomas Black to Fort Reliance also
conveyed him and his scientific apparatus from it. A few astrono-
mical instruments, of which there were not many in those days—a
telescope for his selenographic observations, a sextant for taking the
latitude, a chronometer for determining the longitudes, a few maps,
a few books, were all stored away in this sledge, and Thomas Black
relied upon his faithful dogs to lose nothing by the way.

Of course the food for the various teams was not forgotten. There
were altogether no less than seventy-two dogs, quite a herd to pro-
vide for by the way, and it was the business of the hunters to cater
for them. ‘These strong intelligent animals were bought of the
Chippeway Indians, who know well how to train them for their
arduous calling.

The little company was most skilfully organised. The zeal of
Lieutenant Jaspar Hobson was beyond all praise. Proud of his
mission, and devoted to his task, he neglected nothing which could
insure success. - Corporal Joliffe, always a busybody, exerted himself
without producing any very tangible results ; but his wife was most
useful and devoted; and Mrs Paulina Barnett had already struck up
a great friendship with the brisk little Canadian woman, whose fair
hair and large soft eyes were so pleasant to look at.

We need scarcely add that Captain Craventy did all in his power
to further the enterprise. The instructions he had received from
the Company showed what great importance they attached to the
success of the expedition, and the establishment of a new factory
beyond the seventieth parallel. We may therefore safely affirm that
every human effort likely to insure success which could be made
was made; but who could tell what insurmountable difficulties
nature might place in the path of the brave Lieutenant? who could
tell what awaited him and his devoted little band?



CHAPTER V.
FROM FORT RELIANCE TO FORT ENTERPRISE.

SAH first fine days came at last. The green carpet of the
hills began to appear here and there where the snow had
3 melted. A few migratory birds from the south—such ag
swans, bald-headed eagles, &c.—passed through thé warmer air.
The poplars, birches, and willows began to bud, and the red-
headed ducks, of which there are so many species in North America,
to skim the surface of the numerous pools formed by the melted
snow. Guillemots, puffins, and eider ducks sought colder latitudes ;
and ‘little shrews no bigger than a hazel-nut ventured from their
holes, tracing strange figures on the ground with their tiny-pointed
tails. It was intoxicating once more to breathe the fresh air of
spring, and to bask in the sunbeams, Nature awoke once more
from her heavy sleep in the long winter night, and smiled as she
opened her eyes.

The renovation of creation in spring is perhaps more impressive
in the Arctic regions than in any other portion of the globe, on
account of the greater contrast with what has gone before.

The thaw was not, however, complete. The thermometer, it is
true, marked 41° Fahrenheit above zero; but the mean temperature
of the nights kept. the surface, of the snowy plains solid—a good
thing for the passage of sledges, of which Jaspar Hobson meant to
avail himself before the thaw became complete.

The ice of the lake was still unbroken, During the last month
several successful hunting expeditions had been made across the vast
smooth plains, which were already frequented by game. Mrs
Barnett was astonished at the skill with which the men used their
snow-shoes, scudding along at the pace of a horse in full gallop.
Following Captain Craventy’s advice, the lady herself practised
walking in these contrivances, and she soon became very expert in
sliding over the snow.

During the last few days several bands of Indians had arrived at

























































































































































































































































































































































LIEUTENANT HOBSON AND THE SERGEANT LED THE WAY—Page 27.



FROM FORT RELIANCE TO FORT ENTERPRISE. 27



the fort to exchange the spoils of the winter chase for manufactured
goods. The season had been bad, There were a good many polecats
and sables; but the furs of beavers, otters, lynxes, ermines, and
foxes were scarce. It was therefore a wise step for the Company:
to endeavour to explore a new country, where the wild animals. had
hitherto escaped the rapacity of man.

On the morning of the 16th April Lieutenant i aspar Hobson and
his party were ready to start. The route across the known districts,
between the Slave Lake and that of the Great Bear beyond the
Arctic Circle, was already determined. Jaspar Hobson was to make
for Fort Confidence, on the northern extremity of the latter lake ;
and he was to revictual at Fort Enterprise, a station two hundred
miles further to the north-west, on the shores of the Snare Lake,
By travelling at the rate of fifteen miles a day the Lieutenant
hoped to halt there about the beginning of May.

From this point the expedition was to take the shortest route
to Cape Bathurst, on the North American coast. It was agreed
that in a year Captain Craventy Should send a convoy with provi.
sions to Cape Bathurst, and that a detachment of the Lieutenant’s
men was to go to mect this convoy, to guide it to the spot where
the new fort was to be erected. This plan was a guarantee against
any adverse circumstances, and left a means of communication with
their fellow-creatures open to’ the Lieutenant and his voluntary com-
panions in exile.

On the 16th April dogs and sledges were awaiting the travellers
at the postern gate. Captain Craventy called the men of the party
together and said a few kind words to them. He urged them
above all things to stand by one another in the perils they might
be called upon to meet; reminded them that the enterprise upon
which they were about to enter required self-denial and devotion,
and that submission to their officers was an indispensable condition
of success. Cheers greeted the Captain’s speech, the adieux were
quickly made, and each one took his place in the sledge assigned
to him. Jaspar Hobson and Sergeant Long went first; then Mrs
Paulina Barnett and Madge, the latter dexterously wielding the long
Esquimaux whip, terminating in a stiff thong, Thomas Black and
one of the soldiers, the Canadian, Petersen, occupied the third
sledge ; and the others followed, Corporal and Mrs Joliffe bringing
up the rear. According to the orders of Lieutenant Hobson, each
driver kept as nearly as possible at the same distance from the



28 THE FUR COUNTRY.

a EES

preceding sledge, so as to avoid all confusion—a necessary precau-
tion, as a collision between two sledges going at full speed, might
have had disastrous results.

On leaving Fort Reliance, Jaspar Hobson at once directed his
course towards the north-west, The first thing to be done was to
cross the large river connecting Lakes Slave and Wolmsley, which
was, however, still frozen so hard as to be undistinguishable from the
vast white plains around. A uniform carpet of snow covered the
whole country, and the sledges, drawn by their swift teams, sped
rapidly over the firm smooth surface.

The weather was fine, but still very cold. The sun, scarce above
the horizon, described a lengthened curve ; and its rays, reflected on
the snow, gave more light than heat. Fortunately not a breath of
air stirred, and this lessened the severity of the cold, although the
rapid pace of the sledges through the keen atmosphere must have
been trying to any one not inured to the rigour of a Polar climate.

“ A good beginning,” said Jaspar Hobson to the Sergeant, who
sat motionless beside him as if rooted to his seat; “the journey has
commenced favourably. The sky is cloudless, the temperature pro-
pitious, our equipages shoot along like express trains, and as long
as this fine weather lasts we shall get on capitally. What do you
think, Sergeant Long ?”

“T agree with you, Lieutenant,” replied the Sergeant, who never
differed from his chief.

“Like myself, Sergeant, you are determined to push on as far
north as possible—are you not?” resumed Lieutenant Hobson.

“You have but to command to be obeyed, Lieutenant.”

“T know it, Sergeant ; I know that with you to hear is to obey.
Would that all our men understood as you do the importance of
our mission, and would devote themselves body and soul to the
interests of the Company! Ah, Sergeant Long, I know if I gave
you an impossible order ”

“ Lieutenant, there is no such thing as an impossible order.”

“ What? Suppose now I ordered you to go to the North Pole ?”

“ Lieutenant, I should go !”

‘¢ And to come back !” added Jaspar Hobson with a smile.

‘“‘T should come back,” replied Sergeant Long simply.

During this colloquy between Lieutenant Hobson and his Sergeant
a slight ascent compelled the sledges to slacken speed, and Mrs
Barnett and Madge also exchanged a few sentences. These two





FROM FORT RELIANCE TO FORT ENTERPRISE, 29





intrepid women, in their otter-skin caps and white bear-skin mantles,
gazed in astonishment upon the rugged scenery around them, and at
the white outlines of the huge glaciers standing out against the hori-
zon. They had already left behind them the hills of the northern
banks of the Slave Lake, with their summits crowned with the gaunt
skeletons of trees. The vast plains stretched before them in ap-
parently endless succession. The rapid flight and cries of a few
birds of passage alone broke the monotony of the scene. Now and
then a troop of swans, with plumage so white that the keenest sight
could not distinguish them from the snow when they settled on
the ground, rose into view in the clear blue atmosphere and pur-
sued their journey to the north.

“‘ What an extraordinary country!” exclaimed Mrs Paulina Bar-
nett, ‘ What a difference between these Polar regions and the green
prairies of Australia! You remember, Madge, how we suffered from
the heat on the shores of the Gulf of Carpentaria—you remember
the cloudless sky and the parching sunbeams ?”

‘My dear,” replied Madge, “I have not the gift of remembering
like you. You retain your impressions, I forget mine.”

“What, Madge!” cried Mrs Barnett, “you have forgotten the
tropical heat of India and Australia? You have no recollection of
our agonies when water failed us in the desert, when the pitiless
sun scorched us to the bone, when even the night brought us no
relief from our sufferings !”

“No, Paulina,” replied Madge, wrapping her furs more closely
round her, ‘no, I remember nothing. How could I now recollect
the sufferings to which you allude—the heat, the agonies of thirst
—when we are surrounded on every side by ice, and I have but to
stretch my arm out of this sledge to pick up a handful of snow?
You talk to me of heat when we are freezing beneath our bear-
skins ; you recall the broiling rays of the sun when its April beams
cannot melt the icicles on our lips! No, child, no, don’t try to per-
suade me it’s hot anywhere else ; don’t tell me I ever complained
of being too'warm, for I sha’n’t believe you !”

Mrs Paulina Barnett could not help smiling.

**So, poor Madge,” she said, “ you are very cold!”

“Yes, child, I am cold ; but Irather like this climate. I’ve no
doubt it’s very healthy, and I think North America will agree with
me. It’s really a very fine country !”

“Yes, Madge, it 7s a fine country, and we have as yet seen. none



30 THE FUR COUNTRY.



of the wonders it contains. But wait until we reach the Arctic
Ocean ; wait until the winter shuts us in with its gigantic icebergs
and thick covering of snow; wait till the northern storms break over
us, and the glories of the Aurora Borealis and of the splendid con-
stellations of the Polar skies are spread out above our heads; wait
till we have lived through the strange long six months’ night, and
then indeed you will understand the infinite variety, the infinite
beauty, of our Creator’s handiwork !”

Thus spoke Mrs Paulina Barnett, carried away by her vivid
imagination. She could see nothing but beauty in these deserted
regions, with their rigorous climate. Her enthusiasm got the better
for the time of her judgment. Her sympathy with nature enabled
her to read the touching poetry of the ice-bound north—the poetry
embodied in the Sagas, and sung by the bards of the time of Ossian.
But Madge, more matter of fact than her mistress, disguised from
herself neither the dangers of an expedition to the Arctic Ocean,
nor the sufferings involved in wintering only thirty degrees at the
most from the North Pole,

And indeed the most robust had sometimes succumbed to the
fatigues, privations, and mental and bodily agonies endured in this
severe climate. Jaspar Hobson had not, it is true, to press on to
the very highest latitudes of the globe; he had not to reach the pole
itself, or to follow in the steps of Parry, Ross, M‘Clure, Kean, Morton,
and others. But after once crossing the Arctic Circle, there is little
variation in the temperature ; it does not increase in coldness in
proportion to the elevation reached. Granted that Jaspar Hobson
did not think of going beyond the seventieth parallel, we must still
remember that Franklin and his unfortunate companions died of
cold and hunger before they had penetrated beyond 68° N. lat,

Very different was the talk in the sledge occupied by Mr and
Mrs Joliffe. Perhaps the gallant Corporal had too often drunk to
the success of the expedition on starting ; for, strange to say, he was
disputing with his little wife. Yes, he was actually contradicting
her, which never happened except under extraordinary circum-
stances !

“No, Mrs Joliffe,” he was saying, “no, you have nothing to fear.
A sledge is not more difficult to guide than a pony-carriage, and the
devil take me if I can’t manage a team of dogs !”

I don’t question your skill,” replied Mrs Joliffe; “I only ask
you not to go so fast. You are in front of the whole caravan now,



FROM FORT RELIANCE TO FORT ENTERPRISE, 31

and I hear Lieutenant Hobson calling out to you to resume your
proper place behind.”

“Let him call, Mrs Joliffe, let him call.”

And the Corporal, urging on his dogs with a fresh cut of the
whip, dashed along at still greater speed.

“Take care, Joliffe,” repeated his little wife ; “not so fast, we
are going down hill.”

“ Down hill, Mrs Joliffe; you call that down hill? why, it’s up
hill!”

“T tell you we are going down!” repeated poor Mrs Joliffe.

“And I tell you we are going up ; look how the dogs pull!”

Whoever was right, the dogs became uneasy. The ascent was,
in fact, pretty steep; the sledge dashed along at a reckless pace, and
was already considerably in advance of the rest of the party. Mr
and Mrs Joliffe bumped up and down every instant, the surface of
the snow became more and more uneven, and the pair, flung first to
one side and then to the other, knocked against each other and the
sledge, and were horribly bruised and shaken, But the Corporal
would listen neither to the advice of his wife nor to the shouts of
Lieutenant Hobson. The latter, seeing the danger of this reckless
course, urged on his own animals, and the rest of the caravan fol-
lowed at a rapid pace.

But the Corporal became more and more excited—the speed of his
equipage delighted him. He shouted, he gesticulated, and flour-
ished his long whip like an accomplished sportsman.

‘Wonderful things these whips!” he cried ; “the Esquimaux
wield them with unrivalled skill!”

“But you are not an Esquimaux!” cried Mrs Joliffe, trying in
vain to arrest the arm of her imprudent husband.

“T have heard tell,” resumed the Corporal—“ I’ve heard tell that
the Esquimaux can touch any dog they like in any part, that they
can even cut out a bit of one of their ears with the stiff thong at
the end of the whip. I am going to try.”

“Don’t try, don’t try, Joliffe!” screamed the poor little woman,
frightened out of her wits.

“Don't be afraid, Mrs Joliffe, don’t be afraid ; I know what I can
do. The fifth dog on the right i is misbehaving himself ; I will cor-
rect him a little!”

But Corporal Joliffe was evidently not yet enough of an Esqui-
maux to be able to manage the whip with its thong four feet longer



32 THE FUR COUNTRY,

than the sledge; for it unrolled with an ominous hiss, and rebound-
ing, twisted itself round Corporal Joliffe’s own neck, sending his fur
cap into the air, perhaps with one of his ears in it.

At this moment the dogs flung themselves on one side, the sledge
was overturned, and the pair were flung into the snow. Fortunately
it was thick and soft, so that they escaped unhurt. But what a
disgrace for the Corporal ! how reproachfully his little wife looked
at him, and how stern was the reprimand of Lieutenant Hobson !

The sledge was picked up, but it was decided that henceforth the
reins of the dogs, like those of the household, were to be in the
hands of Mrs Joliffe. The crest-fallen Corporal was obliged to sub-
mit, and the interrupted journey was resumed.

No incident worth mentioning occurred during the next fifteen
days. The weather continued favourable, the cold was not too
severe, and on the Ist May the expedition arrived at Fort Enter-
prise.



CHAPTER YI.
A WAPITI DUEL,

;WO hundred miles had been traversed since the expedition
left Fort Reliance. The travellers, taking advantage of
34 the long twilight, pressed on day and night, and were
literally overcome with fatigue when they reached Fort Enterprise,
near the shores of Lake Snare. .

This fort was no more than a depdt of provisions, of little import-
ance, erected a few years before by the Hudson’s Bay Company.
It served as a resting-place for the men taking the convoys of furs
from the Great Bear Lake, some three hundred miles further to the
north-west, About a dozen soldiers formed the garrison. . The fort
consisted of a wooden house surrounded by palisades. But few as
were the comforts it-offered, Lieutenant Hobson’s companions gladly
took refuge in it and rested there for two days.

The gentle influence of the Arctic spring was beginning to be
felt. Here and there the snow had melted, and the temperature of
the nights was no longer below freezing point. A few delicate
mosses and slender grasses clothed the rugged ground with their soft
verdure ;and from between the stones peeped the moist calices of
tiny, almost colourless, flowers, These faint signs of reawakening
vegetation, after the long night of winter, were refreshing to eyes
weary of the monotonous whiteness of the snow ; and the scattered
specimens of the Flora of the Arctic regions were welcomed with
delight.

Mrs Paulina Barnett and Jaspar Hobson availed themselves of
this leisure time to visit the shores of. the little lake. They were
both students and enthusiastic lovers of nature. Together they
wandered amongst the ice masses, already beginning to break up,
and the waterfalls created by the action of the rays of the sun.
The surface itself of Lake Snare was still intact, not a crack
denoted the approaching thaw; but it was strewn with the ruins of
mighty icebergs, which assumed all manner of picturesque forms, and





34 THE FUR COUNTRY.

the beauty of which was heightened when the light, diffracted by tha
sharp edges of the ice, touched them with all manner of colours.
One might have fancied that a rainbow, crushed in a powerful hand,
had been flung upon the ground, its fragments crossing cach other
as they fell.

“What a beautiful scene!” exclaimed Mrs Paulina Barnett.
“These prismatic effects vary at every change of our position.
Does it not seem as if we were bending over the opening of an
immense kaleidoscope, or are you already weary of a sight so new
and interesting to me?”

“No, madam,” replied the Lieutenant; “although I was born
and bred on this continent, its beauties never pall upon me. But if
your enthusiasm is so great when you see this scenery with the sun
shining upon it, what will it be when you are privileged to behold
the terrible grandeur of the winter? To own the truth, I think
the sun, so much thought of in temperate latitudes, spoils my Arctic
home.”

“Indeed!” exclaimed Mrs Barnett, smiling at the Lieutenant’s
last remark ; “for my part, I think the sun a capital travelling
companion, and I shall not be disposed to grumble at the warmth
it gives even in the Polar regions !”

“Ah, madam,” replied Jaspar Hobson, “I am one of those who
think it best to visit Russia in the winter, and the Sahara Desert
in the summer. You then see their peculiar characteristics to
advantage. The sun isa star of the torrid and temperate zones,
and is out of place thirty degrees from the North Pole. The true
sky of this country is the pure frigid sky of winter, bright with
constellations, and sometimes flushed with the glory of the Aurora
Borealis. This land is the land of the night, not of the day; and
you have yet to make acquaintance with the delights and marvels of
the long Polar night.”

oe Have you ever visited the temperate zones of Europe and
America?” inquired Mrs Barnett.

“Yes, madam; and I admired them as they deserved. But I
returned home with fresh love and enthusiasm for my native land.
Cold is my element, and no merit is due to me for braving it. It
has no power over me; and, like the Esquimaux, I can live for
months together in a snow hut.”

“Really, Lieutenant Hobson, it is quite cheering to hear our
dreaded enemy spoken of in such terms, J hope to prove myself



A WAPITI DUEL. §35



worthy to be your companion, and wherever you venture, we will
venture together.” :

“T agree, madam, I agree; and may all the women and soldiers
accompanying me show themselves as resolute as you. If so, God
helping us, we shall indeed advance far.”

“You have nothing to complain of yet,” observed the lady.
“Not a single accident has occurred, the weather has been
propitious, the cold not too severe—everything has combined to
aid us.”

“Yes, madam; but the sun which you admire so much will
soon create difficulties for us, and strew obstacles in our path.”

‘What do you mean, Lieutenant Hobson?”

“J mean that the heat will soon have changed the aspect of the
country; that the melted ice will impede the sliding of the sledges ,
that the ground will become rough and uneven; that our panting
dogs will no longer carry us along with the speed of an arrow ; that
the rivers and lakes will resume their liquid state, and that we shall
have to ford or go round them. All these changes, madam, due to
the influence of the solar rays, will cause delays, fatigue, and dangers,
the very least of which will be the breaking of the brittle snow
beneath our feet, or the falling of the avalanches from the summits
of the icebergs. For all this we have to thank the gradual rise of
the sun higher and higher above the horizon. Bear this in mind,
madam: of the four elements of the old creation, only one is
necessary to us here, the air; the other three, fire, earth, and water,
are de trop in the Arctic regions,”

Of course the Lieutenant was exaggerating, and Mrs Barnett
could easily have retorted with counter-arguments ; but she liked
to hear his raptures in praise of his beloved country, and she felt
that his enthusiasm was a guarantee that he would shrink from no
obstacle,

Yet Jaspar Hobson was right when he said the sun would
cause difficulties, This was seen when the party set out again on
the 4th May, three days later. The thermometer, even in the coldest
part of the night, marked more than 32° Fahrenheit. A complete
thaw set in, the vast white sheet of snow resolved itself into water.
The irregularities of the rocky soil caused constant jolting of the
sledges, and the passengers were roughly shaken. The roads were
80 heavy that the dogs had to go at a slow trot, and the reins were
therefore again entrusted to the hands of the imprudent Corporal



36 THE FUR COUNTRY.



Joliffe. Neither shouts nor flourishings of the whip had the slightest
effect on the jaded animals.

From time to time the travellers lightened the sledges by walking
a little way. This mode of locomotion suited the hunters, who were
now gradually approaching the best districts for game in the whole
of English America. Mrs Paulina Barnett and Madge took a great
interest in the.chase, whilst Thomas Black professed absolute indiffer-
ence to all athletic exercise. He had not come all this distance to hunt
the polecat or the ermine, but merely to look atthe moon at the mo-
ment when her disc should cover that of the sun, When the‘qucen
of the night rose above the horizon, the impatient astronomer would
gaze at her with eager eyes, and one day the Lieutenant said to hin—

“Tt would be a bad look-out for you, Mr Black, if by any un-
lucky chance the moon should fail to keep her appointment on the
16th July 1860.”

“Lieutenant Hobson,” ee replied the astronomer, “if the
moon were guilty of such a breach of good manners, I should indeed
have cause to complain.”

The chief hunters of the expedition were the soldiers Marbre and
Sabine, both very expert at their business. Their skill was won-
derful; and the cleverest Indians would not have surpassed them
in keenness of sight, precision of aim, or manual address, They
were alike trappers and hunters, and were acquainted with all the
nets and snares for taking sables, otters, wolves, foxes, bears, dc.
No artifice was unknown to them, and Captain Craventy had shown
his wisdom in choosing two such intelligent men to necompany the
little troop.

Whilst on the march, however, Marbre and Sabine: had no time
for setting traps. They could not separate from the others for more
than an hour or two at a time, and were obliged to be content with
the game which passed within range of their rifles. Still they were
fortunate enough to kill two of the large American ruminants,
seldom met with in such elevated latitudes.

On the morning of the 15th May the hunters asked permission
to follow some fresh traces they had found, and the Lieutenant not
only granted it, but himself accompanied them with Mrs Paulina
Barnett, and they went several miles out of their route towards the
east,

The impressions were evidently the result of the passage of about
half-a-dozen large deer. There could be no mistake about it; Marbre





A WAPITI DUEL.—Page 37,,



A WAPITI DUEL, 37

a i a ES

and Sabine were positive on that point, and could even have named
the species to which the animals belonged.

“You seem surprised to have met with traces of these animals
here, Lieutenant,” said Mrs Barnett.

“Well, madam,” replied Hobson, “this species is rarely seen
beyond 57° N. lat. We generally hunt them at the south of the
Slave Lake, where they feed upon the shoots of willows and poplars,
and certain wild roses to which they are very partial.”

“T suppose these creatures, like those with valuable furs, have
fled from the districts scoured by the hunters.”

‘‘T see no other explanation of their presence at 65° N. lat.,”
replied the Lieutenant—“ that is, if the men are not mistaken as to
the origin of the footprints.”

“No, no, sir,” cried Sabine; ‘“Marbre and I are not mistaken.
These traces were left by deer, the deer we hunters call red deer,
and the natives wapitis.”

“He is quite right,” added Marbre ; “old trappers like us are not
to be taken in; besides, don’t you hear that peculiar whistling
sound ?”

The party had now reached the foot of a little hill, and as the
snow had almost disappeared from its sides they were able to climb
it, and hastened to the summit, the peculiar whistling noticed by
Marbre becoming louder, mingled with cries resembling the braying
of an ass, and proving that the two hunters were not mistaken.

Once at the top of the hill, the adventurers looked eagerly towards
the eist. The undulating plains were still white with snow, but its
dazzling surface was here and there relieved with patches of stunted
light green vegetation. A few gaunt shrubs stretched forth their
bare and shrivelled branches, and huge icebergs with precipitous
sides stood out against the grey background of the sky.

“ Wapitis ! wapitis!—there they are!” cried Sabine and Marbre
at once, pointing toa group of animals distinctly visible about a
quarter of a mile to the east,

“‘ What are they doing?” asked Mrs Barnett,

“They are fighting, madam,” replied Hobson ; “they always do
when the heat of the Polar sun inflames their blood—another
deplorable result of the action of the radiant orb of day!”

From where they stood the party could easily watch the group
of wapitis, They were fine specimens of the family of deer known
under the various names of stags with rounded antlers, American



38 THE FUR COUNTRY,

stags, roebucks, grey elks and red elks, dsc, These graceful creatures
have slender legs and brown skins with patches of red hair, the
colour of which becomes darker in the warmer season. ‘The fierce
males are easily distinguished from the females by their fine white
antlers, the latter being entirely without these ornaments. These
wapitis were once very numerous all over North America, and the
United States imported a great many; but clearings were begun on
every side, the forest trees fell beneath the axe of the pioneer of
civilisation, and the wapitis took refuge in the more peaceful dis-
tricts of Canada; but they were soon again disturbed, and wandered
to the shores of Hudson’s Bay. So that although the wapiti thrives
in a cold country, Lieutenant Hobson was right in saying that it
seldom penetrates beyond 57° N. latitude ; and the specimens now
found had doubtless fled before the Chippeway Indians, who hunt
them without mercy.

The wapitis were so engrossed in their desperate struggle that
they were unconscious of the approach of the hunters; but they
would probably not have ceased fighting had they been aware of it.
Marbre and Sabine, aware of their peculiarity in this respect, might
therefore have advanced fearlessly upon them, and have taken aim
at leisure. :

Lieutenant Hobson suggested that they should do so.

“‘ Beg pardon, sir,” replied Marbre; ‘“ but let us spare our pow-
der and shot. These beasts are engaged in a war to the death, and
we shall arrive in plenty of time to pick up the vanquished.”

“ Have these wapitis a commercial value?” asked Mrs Paulina
Barnett.

“Yes, madam,” replied Hobson ; “and their skin, which is not
quite so thick as that of the elk, properly so called, makes very
valuable leather. By rubbing this skin with the fat and brains of
the animal itself, it is rendered flexible, and neither damp nor dry-
ness injures it. The Indians are therefore always eager to procure
the skins of the wapitis.”

“Does not the flesh make admirable venison ?”

“Pretty good, madam; only pretty good. It is tough, and does
not taste very nice; the fat becomes hard directly it is taken from
the fire, and sticks to the teeth. It is certainly inferior as an article
of food to the flesh of other deer ; but when meat is scarce we are
glad enough to eat it, and it supports life as well as anything
else.”



A WAPITI DUEL, 39



Mrs Barnett and Lieutenant Hobson had been chatting together
for some minutes, when, with the exception of two, the wapitis
suddenly ceased fighting. Was their rage satiated? or had they
perceived the hunters, and felt the approach of danger? . Whatever
the cause, all but two fine creatures fled towards the east with
incredible speed; in a few instants they were out of sight, and the
swiftest horse could not have caught them up.

Meanwhile, however, two magnificent specimens remained on the
field of battle. Heads down, antlers to antlers, hind legs stretched
and quivering, they butted at each other without a moment’s
pause. Like two wrestlers struggling for a prize which neither will
yield, they would. not separate, but whirled round and round to-
gether on their front legs as if riveted to one another.

‘* What implacable rage!” exclaimed Mrs Barnett.

“Yes,” replied the Lieutenant; “the wapitis really are most
spiteful beasts. I have no doubt they are fighting out an old
quarrel.”

“Would not this be the time to approach them, when they are
blinded with rage?”

“There’s plenty of time, ma’am,” said Sabine; “they won’t
escape us now. They will not stir from where they are when we
are three steps from them, the rifles at our shoulders, and our
fingers on the triggers!”

“ Indeed ?”

“Yes, madam,” added Hobson, who had carefully examined the
wapitis after the hunter’s remark; “and whether at our hands or
from the teeth of wolves, those wapitis will meet death where they
now stand.” .

“T don’t understand what you mean, Lieutenant,” said Mrs
Barnett.

“Well, go nearer, madam,” he replied; “don’t be afraid of
atartling the animals; for, as our hunter says, they are no longer
capable of flight.”

The four now descended the hill, and in a few minutes gained
the theatre of the struggle. The wapitis had not moved. They
were pushing at each other like a couple of rams, and seemed to be
inseparably glued together,

In fact, in the heat of the combat the antlers of the two creatures
had beeome entangled together to such an extent that they could
no longer separate without breaking them, This often happens in



40 . THE FUR COUNTRY.



the hunting districts. It is not at all uncommon to find antlers
thus connected lying on the ground; the poor encumbered animals
soon die of hunger, or they become an easy prey to wild beasts.

Two bullets put an end to the fight between the wapitis ; and
Marbre and Sabine taking immediate possession, carried off their
skins to be subsequently prepared, leaving their bleeding carcasses
to be devoured by wolves and bears,



CHAPTER VIL
THE ARCTIC CIRCLE.

Bete expedition continued to advance towards the north-
3 WS west; but the great inequalities of the ground made it

hard work for the dogs to get along, and the poor creatures,
who could hardly be held in when they started, were now quiet
enough. Hight or ten miles a day were as much as they could accom-
plish, although Lieutenant Hobson urged them on to the utmost.
He was anxious to get to Fort Confidence, on the further side of the
Great Bear Lake, where he hoped to obtain some useful information.
Had the Indians frequenting the northern banks of the lake been
able to cross the districts on the shores of the sea? was the Arctic
Ocean open at this time of year? These were grave questions, the
reply to which would decide the fate of the new factory.

The country through which the little troop was now passing was
intersected by numerous streams, mostly tributaries of the two
large rivers, the Mackenzie and Coppermine, which flow from the
south to the north, and empty themselves into the Arctic Ocean.
Lakes, lagoons, and numerous pools are formed between these two
principal arteries ; and as they were no longer frozen over, the
sledges could ‘not venture upon them, and were compelled to go
round them, which caused considerable delay. Lieutenant Hobson
was certainly right in saying that winter is the time to visit the
hyperborean regions, for they are then far easier to traverse. Mrs
Paulina Barnett had reason to own the justice of this assertion more
than once. ;

This region, included in the “Cursed Land,” was, besides,
completely deserted, as are the greater portion of the districts of
the extreme north of America, It has been estimated that there is
but one inhabitant to every ten square miles. Besides the scattered
natives, there are some few thousand agents or soldiers of the
different fur-trading companies ; but they mostly congregate in the
southern districts and about the various factories. No human

(oy



42 THE FUR COUNTRY.



footprints gladdened the eyes of the travellers, the only traces on
the sandy soil were those of ruminants and rodents. Now and then
a fierce polar bear was seen, and Mrs Paulina Barnett expressed her
surprise at not meeting more of these terrible carnivorous beasts, of
whose daily attacks on whalers and persons shipwrecked in Baffin’s
Bay and on the coasts of Greenland and Spitzbergen she had read
in the accounts of those who had wintered in the Arctic regions.

“ Wait for the winter, madam,” replied the Lieutenant ; “wait
till the cold makes them hungry, and then you will perhaps see as
many as you care about !”

On the 23d May, after a long and fatiguing journey, the expe-
dition at last reached the Arctic Circle. We know that this lati-
tude 23°27'57" from the North Pole, forms the mathematical limit
beyond which the rays of the sun do not penetrate in the winter,
when the northern districts of the globe are turned away from the
orb of day. Here, then, the travellers entered the true Aretig
region, the northern Frigid Zone.

"The latitude had been very carefully obtained by means of most
accurate instruments, which were handled with equal skill by the
astronomer and by Lieutenant Hobson. Mrs Barnett was present
at the operation, and had the satisfaction of hearing that she was at
last about to cross the Arctic Circle. It was with a feeling of just
pride that she received the intelligence.

“You have already passed through the two Torrid Zones in your
previous journeys,” said the Lieutenant, “‘and now you are on tha
verge of the Arctic Circle. Few explorers have ventured into such
totally different regions. Some, so to speak, have a specialty for
hot countries, and choose Africa or Australia as the field for their
investigations. Such were Barth, Burton, Livingstone, Speke,
Douglas, Stuart, &c. Others, on the contrary, have a passion for
the Arctic regions, still so little known. Mackenzie, Franklin,
Penny, Kane, Parry, Rae, &., preceded us on our present journey ;
but we must congratulate you, Mrs Barnett, on being a more
cosmopolitan traveller than all of them.”.

“IT must see everything, or at least try to see everything,
Lieutenant,” replied Mrs Paulina; “and I think the dangers and
difficulties are about equal everywhere, Although we have not to
dread the fevers of the unhealthy torrid regions, or the attacks of
the fierce black races, in this Frigid Zone, the cold is a no less formid-
able enemy; and I suspect that the white bears we are liable to meet



THE ARCTIC CIRCLE, 43

with here will give us quite as warm a reception as would the
tigers of Thibet or the lions of Africa. In Torrid and Frigid Zones
alike there are vast unexplored tracts which will long defy the
efforts of the boldest adventurers.”

“Yes, madam,” replied Jaspar Hobson; “but I think the
hyperborean regions will longer resist thorough exploration. The
natives are the chief obstacle in tropical regions, and I am well
aware how many travellers have fallen victims to savages. But
civilisation will necessarily subdue the wild races sooner or later ;
whereas in the Arctic and Antarctic Zones it is not the inhabitants
who arrest the progress of the explorer, but Nature herself who
repels those who approach her, and paralyses their energies with the
bitter cold!” *

“ You think, then, that the secrets of the most remote districts of
Africa and Australia will have been fathomed before the Frigid Zone
has been entirely examined ?”

“Yes, madam,” replied the Lieutenant; “and I think my opinion
is founded on facts. The most intrepid discoverers of the Arctic
regions—Parry, Penny, Franklin, M‘Clure, Kane, and Morton—did
not get beyond 83° north latitude, seven degrees from the pole—
whereas Australia has several times been crossed from south to
north by the bold Stuart ; and even Africa, with all its terrors, waa
traversed by Livingstone from the Bay of Loanga to the mouth of
the Zambesi. We are, therefore, nearer to geographical knowledge
of the equatorial countries than of the Polar districts.”

“Do you think that the Pole itself will ever be reached by man?”
inquired Mrs Paulina Barnett.

“Certainly,” replied Hobson, adding with a:smile, “by man or
woman. But I think other means must be tried of reaching this
point, where all the meridians of the globe cross each other, than
those hitherto adopted by travellers. We hear of the open sea, of
which certain explorers are said to have caught a glimpse. But if
such a sea, free from ice, really exist, it is very difficult to get at, and
no one can say positively whether it extends to the North Pole. For
my part, I think an open sea would increase rather than lessen the
difficulties of explorers.. As for me, I would rather count upon firm
footing, whether on ice or rock, all the way. Then I would organise
successive expeditions, establishing depédts of provisions and fuel
nearer and nearer to the Pole;-and so, with plenty of time, plenty of
money, and perhaps the sacrifice of a good many lives, I should in



44 THE FUR COUNTRY.





the end solve the great scientific problem. I should, I think, at last
reach the hitherto inaccessible goal !”

“T think you are right, Lieutenant,” said Mrs Barnett; “and if
ever you try the experiment, I should not be afraid to join you, and
would gladly go to set up the Union Jack at the North Pole. But
that is not our present object.”

“Not our immediate object, madam,” replied Hobson; “but
when once the projects of the Company are realised, when the new
fort has been erected on the confines of the American continent, it
may become the natural starting-point of all expeditions to the
north. Besides, should the fur-yielding animals, too zealously
hunted, take refuge at the Pole, we should have to follow them.”

“Unless costly furs should go out of fashion,” replied Mrs
Barnett.

“( madam,” cried the Lieutenant, “there will always be some
pretty woman whose wish for a sable muff or an ermine tippet
must be gratified !”

“T am afraid so,” said Mrs Barnett, laughing ; ‘and probably the
first discoverer of the Pole will have been led thither in pursuit of a
sable or a silver fox.”

“ That is my firm conviction,” replied Hobson, ‘Such is human
nature, and greed of gain will always carry a man further than zeal
for science.”

“What! do you utter such sentiments?” exclaimed Mrs Barnett.

“Well, madam, what am I but an employé of the Hudson’s Bay
Company ? and does the Company risk its capital and agents with
any other hope than an increase of profits?”

‘Lieutenant Hobson,” said Mrs Barnett, “I think I know you
well enough to assert that on occasion you would be ready to devote
body and soul to science. If a purely geographical question called
you to the Pole, I feel sure you would not hesitate to go. But,”
she added, with a smile, “the solution of this great problem is
still far distant. We have but just reached the verge of the
Arctic Circle, but I hope we may cross it without any very great
difficulty.”

“That I fear is doubtful,” said the Lieutenant, who had been
attentively examining the sky during their conversation. “The
weather has looked threatening for the last few days. ‘Look at the
uniformly grey hue of the heavens. That mist will presently resolve
itself into snow; and if the wind should rise ever so little, we shall



THE ARCTIC CiRCLE. 45



have to battle with a fearful storm. I wish we were at the Great
Bear Lake !”

“Do not let us lose any time, then,” said Mrs Barnett, rising ;
“¢ give the signal to start at once.”

The Lieutenant needed no urging. Had he been alone, or accom-
panied by a few men as energetic as himself, he would have pressed
on day and night ; but he was obliged to make allowance for the
fatigue of others, although he never spared himself. He therefore
granted a few hours of rest to his little party, and it was not until
three in the afternoon that they again set out.

Jaspar Hobson was not mistaken in prophesying a change in the
weather. It came very soon. During the afternoon of the same day
the mist became thicker, and assumed a yellowish and threatening
hue. The Lieutenant, although very uneasy, allowed none of his
anxiety to appear, but had a long consultation with Sergeant Long
whilst the dogs of his sledge were laboriously preparing to start.

Unfortunately, the district now to be traversed was very un-
suitable for sledges. The ground was very uneven ; ravines were of
frequent occurrence; and masses of granite or half-thawed icebergs
blocked up the road, causing constant delay. The poor dogs did
their best, but the drivers’ whips no longer produced any effect
upon them.

And so the Lieutenant and his men were often obliged to walk
to rest the exhausted animals, to push the sledges, or even sometimes
to lift them when the roughness of the ground threatened.to upset
them.- The incessant fatigue was, however, borne by all without a
‘murmur. Thomas Black alone, absorbed in his one idea, never got
out of his sledge, and indeed he was so corpulent that all exertion
was disagreeable to him.

The nature of the soil changed from the moment of entering the
Arctic Circle. Some geological convulsion had evidently upheaved
the enormous blocks strewn upon the surface, The vegetation, too,
was of a more distinctive character. Wherever they were sheltered
from the keen north winds, the flanks of the hills were clothed not
only with shrubs, but with large trees, all of the same species—pines,
willows, and firs—proving by their presence that a certain amount
of vegetative force is retained even in the Frigid Zone, Jaspar
Hobson hoped to find such specimens of the Arctic Flora even on
the verge of the Polar Sea; for these trees would supply him with
wood to build his fort, and fuel to warm its inhabitants, The



46 THE FUR COUNTRY.

er

same thought passed through the minds of his companions, and
they could not help wondering at the contrast between this compara-
tively fertile region, and the long white plains stretching between
the Great Slave Lake and Fort Enterprise.

At night the yellow mist became more opaque; the wind rose,
the snow began to fall in large flakes, and the ground was soon
covered with a thick white carpet. In less than an hour the snow
was a foot deep, and as it did not freeze but remained in a liquid
state, the sledges could only advance with extreme difficulty ; the
curved fronts stuck in the soft substance, and the dogs were obliged
to stop again and again.

Towards eight o’clock in the evening the wind became very
boisterous. The snow, driven before it, was flung upon the ground
or whirled in the air, forming one huge whirlpool. The dogs,
beaten back by the squall and blinded with snow, could
advance no further. The party was then in a narrow gorge between
huge icebergs, over which the storm raged with fearful fury.
Pieces of ice, broken off by the hurricane, were hurled into the pass ;
partial avalanches, any one of which could have crushed the sledges
and their inmates, added to its dangers, and to press on became
impossible. The Lieutenant no longer insisted, and after consulting
with Sergeant Long, gave the order to halt. It was now necessary
to find a shelter from the snow-drift; but this was no difficult
matter to men accustomed to Polar expeditions. Jaspar Hobson
and his men knew well what they had to do under the circumstances.
It was not the first time they had been surprised by a tempest some
hundred miles from the forts of the Company, without so much as
an Esquimaux hut or Indian hovel in which to lay their heads.

“To the icebergs! to the icebergs!” cried Jaspar Hobson.

Every one understood what he meant. Snow houses were to be
hollowed out of the frozen masses, or rather holes were to be dug,
in which each person could cower until the storm was over. Knives
and hatchets were soon at work on the brittle masses of ice, and in
three-quarters of an hour some ten dens had been scooped out large
enough to contain two or three persons each. The dogs were left
to themselves, their own instinct leading them to find sufficient
shelter under the snow.

Before ten o’clock alk the travellers were crouching in the snow
houses, in groups of two or three, each choosing congenial com-
panions, Mrs Barnett, Madge, and Lientenant Hobson occupied



THE ARCTIC CIRCLE. 47

one hut, Thomas Black and Sergeant Long another, and so on.
These retreats were warm, if not comfortable ; and the Esquimaux
and Indians have no other refuge even in the bitterest cold. The
adventurers could therefore fearlessly await the end of the storm
as long as they.took care not to let the openings of their holes
become blocked up with the snow, which they had to shovel away
every half hour. So violent was the storm that even the Lieutenant
and. his soldiers could scarcely set foot outside. Fortunately, all
were provided with sufficient food, and were able to endure their
beaver-like existence without suffering from cold or hunger.

For forty-eight hours the fury of the tempest continued to increase.
The wind roared in the narrow pass, and tore off the tops of the
icebergs. Loud reports, repeated twenty times by the echoes, gave
notice of the fall of avalanches, and Jaspar Hobson began to fear
that his further progress would be barred by the masses of debris
accumulated between the mountains. Other sounds mingled with
these reports, which Lieutenant Hobson knew too well, and he did
not disguise from Mrs Barnett that bears were prowling about the
pass. But fortunately these terrible animals were too much occupied
with their own concerns to discover the retreat of the travellers ;
neither the dogs nor the sledges, buried in the snow, attracted their
attention, and they passed on without doing any harm,

The last night, that of the 25th or 26th May, was even more
terrible. So great was the fury of the hurricane that a general
overthrow of icebergs appeared imminent. A fearful death would
then have awaited the unfortunate travellers beneath the ruins of the
broken masses, The blocks of ice cracked with an awful noise, and
certain oscillations gave warning that breaches had been made
threatening their solidity. However, no great crash occurred, the
huge mountains remained intact, and towards the end of the night
one of those sudden changes so. frequent in the Arctic regions took
place ; the tempest ceased suddenly beneath the influence of intense
cold, and with the first. dawn of day peace was restored.



CHAPTER VIIL
THE GREAT BEAR LAKE,

ous sudden increase of cold was most fortunate. FEven in
ae temperate climes there are generally three or four bitter

days in May; and they were most serviceable now in con-
solidating the freshly-fallen snow, and making it practicable for
sledges. Lieutenant Hobson, therefore, lost no time in resuming
his journey, urging on the dogs to their utmost speed.

The route was, however, slightly changed. Instead of bearing due
north, the expedition advanced towards the west, following, so to
speak, the curve of the Arctic Circle. The Lieutenant was most
anxious to reach Fort Confidence, built on the northern extremity
of the Great Bear Lake. These few cold days were of the greatest
service to him; he advanced rapidly, no obstacle was encountered,
and his little troop arrived at the factory on the 30th May.

At this time Forts Confidence and Good Hope were the most
advanced posts of the Company in the north, Fort Confidence was
a most important position, built on the northern extremity of the
lake, close to its waters, which being frozen over in winter, and
navigable in summer, afforded easy access to Fort Franklin, on
the southern shores, and promoted the coming and going of the
Indian hunters with their daily spoils. Many were the hunting
and fishing expeditions which started from Forts Confidence and
Good Hope, especially from the former. The Great Bear Lake is
quite a Mediterranean Sea, extending over several degrees of latitude
and longitude. Its shape is very irregular: two promontories jut
into it towards the centre, and the upper portion forms a triangle ;
its appearance, as a whole, much resembling the extended skin of a
ruminant without the head.

Fort Confidence was built at the end of the “right paw,” at least
two hundred miles from Coronation Gulf, one of the numerous
estuaries which irregularly indent the coast of North America. I¢



THE GREAT BEAR LAKE. 49



was therefore situated beyond the Arctic Circle, but three degrees
south of the seventieth parallel, north of which the Hudson’s Bay
Company proposed forming a new settlement.

Fort Confidence, as a whole, much resembled other factories
further south, It consisted of a house for the officers, barracks for
the soldiers, and magazines for the furs—all of wood, surrounded
by palisades. The captain in command was then absent. He had
gone towards the east on a hunting expedition with a few Indians
and soldiers. The last season had not been good, costly furs had
been scarce ; but to'make up for this the lake had supplied plenty
of otter-skins. The stock of them had, however, just been sent
to the central factories in the south, so that the magazines of Fort
Confidence were empty on the arrival of our party.

In the absence of the Captain a Sergeant did the honours of the
fort to Jaspar Hobson and his companions, This second officer,
Felton by name, was a brother-in-law of Sergeant Long. He
showed the greatest readiness to assist the views of the Lieutenant,
who being anxious to rest his party, decided on remaining two or
three days at Fort Confidence. In the absence of the little garrison
there was plenty of room, and dogs and men were soon comfortably
installed. The best room in the largest house was of course given
to Mrs Paulina Barnett, who was delighted with the politeness . of
Sergeant Felton.

Jaspar Hobson’s first care was to ask Felton if any Indians from
the north were then. beating the shores of the Great Bear Lake

“Yes, Lieutenant,” replied the Sergeant ; “ we have just received
notice of the encampment of a party of Hare Indians on the other
northern extremity of the lake.”

‘“‘ How far from here?” inquired Hobson.

“ About thirty miles,” replied Sergeant Felton. “Do you wish
to enter into communication with these Indians?”

“Yes,” said Hobson; ‘“ they may be able to give me some valuable
information about the districts bordering on the Arctic Ocean, and
bounded by Cape Bathurst. Should the site be favourable, I pro-
pose constructing our new fort somewhere about there.”

“Well, Lieutenant, nothing is easier than to go to the Hare en-
campment.”

“ Along the shores of the lake?”

“ No, across it ; it is now free from ice, and the wind is favour



50 THE FUR COUNTRY.



able. We will place a cutter and a boatman at your service, and
in a few hours you will be in the Indian settlement.”

“Thank you, Sergeant; to-morrow, then,”

“Whenever you like, Lieutenant.”

The start was fixed for the next morning; and when Mrs Paulina
Barnett heard of the plan, she begged the Lieutenant to allow her to
accompany him, which of course he readily did.

But now to tell how the rest of this firsts day was passed. Mrs
Barnett, Hobson, two or three soldiers, Madge, Mrs Mac-Nab, and
Joliffe explored the shores of the lake under the guidance of Felton.
The neighbourhood was by no means barren of vegetation ; the hills,
now free from snow, were crowned by resinous trees of the Scotch
pine species. These trees, which attain a height of some forty feet,
supply the inhabitants of the forts with plenty of fuel through the
long winter. Their thick trunks and dark gloomy branches form a
striking feature of the landscape ; but the regular clumps of equal
height, sloping down to the very edge of the water, are somewhat
monotonous. Between the groups of trees the soil was clothed with
a sort of whitish weed, which perfumed the air with a sweet thymy
odour. Sergeant Felton informed his guests that this plant was
called the ‘‘ herb of incense” on account of the fragrance it emits
when burnt.

Some hundred steps from the fort the party came to a little
natural harbour shut in by high granite rocks, which formed an
admirable protection from the heavy surf. Here was anchored the
fleet. of Fort Confidence, consisting of a single fishing-boat—the
very one which was to take Mrs Barnett and Hobson to the Indian
encampment the next day. From this harbour an extensive view
was obtained of the lake; its waters slightly agitated by the wind,
with its irregular shores broken by jagged capes and intersected by
creeks. The cwopded heights beyond, with here and there the rugged
outline of a floating iceberg standing out against the clear blue’ alr,
formed the background on the north ; whilst on the south a regular
sea, horizon, a cdecalar line clearly es sky and water, and at this
moment glittering in the sunbeams, bounded the sight.

The whole scene was rich in animal. and vegetable life. The
surface of the water, the shores strewn with flints and blocks of
granite, the slopes with their tapestry of herbs, the tree-crowned
hill-tops, were all-alike frequented by various specimens of the
feathered tribe. Several varieties of ducks, uttering their different



THE GREAT BEAR LAKE, Kl

)

— 5.

cries and calls, eider ducks, whistlers, spotted redshanks, “ old
women,” those loquacious birds whose beak is never closed, skimmed
the surface of the lake. Hundreds of puffins and guillemots with
outspread wings darted about in every direction, and beneath the
trees strutted ospreys two feet high—a kind of hawk with a grey
body, blue beak and claws, and orange-coloured eyes, which build
their huge nests of marine plants in the forked branches of trees.
The hunter Sabine managed to bring down a couple of these gigantic
ospreys, which measured nearly six feet from tip to tip of their wings,
and were therefore magnificent specimens of these migratory birds,
who feed entirely on fish, and take refuge on the shores of the Gulf
of Mexico when winter sets in, only visiting the higher latitudes of
North America during the short summer.

But the most interesting event of the day was the capture of an
otter, the skin of which was worth several hundred roubles.

The furs of these valuable amphibious creatures were once much
sought after in China ; and although the demand for them has con-
siderably decreased in the Celestial Empire, they still command very
high prices in the Russian market. Russian traders, ready to buy
up sea-otter skins, travel all along the coasts of New.Cornwall as
far as the Arctic Ocean ; and of course, thus hunted,‘the animal is
becoming very rare. It has taken refuge further andfurther north,
and the trackers have now to pursue it on the shores of the
Kamtchatka Sea, and in the islands of the Behring Archipelago.

“But,” added Sergeant Felton, after the preceding explanation,
“ American inland otters are not to be despised, and those which
frequent the Great Bear Lake are worth from £50 to £60 each.”

The Sergeant was right; magnificent otters are found in these
waters, and he himself skilfully tracked and killed one in the pre-
sence of his visitors which was scarcely inferior in value to those
from Kamtchatka itself. The creature measured three feet from
the muzzle to the end of its tail ; it had webbed feet, short legs, and
its fur, darker on the upper than on the under part of its body, was
long and silky.

“ A good shot, Sergeant,” said Lieutenant Hobson, who with Mrs
Barnett had been attentively examining the magnificent fur of the
dead animal.

“Yes, Lieutenant,” replied Felton ; “and if each day brought us
such a skin as that, we should have nothing to complain of. But
much time is wasted in watching these animals, who swim and dive

E



52 THE FUR COUNTRY.

with marvellous rapidity. We generally hunt them at night, as they
very seldom venture from their homes in the trunks of trees or the
holes of rocks in the daytime, and even expert hunters find it very
difficult to discover their retreats,” ,

“ And are these otters also becoming scarcer and scarcer?” inquired
Mrs Barnett,

“Yes, madam,” replied the Sergeant; “‘and when this species
becomes extinct, the profits of the Company will sensibly decline.
All the hunters try to obtain its fur, and the Americans in particular
are formidable rivals to us, Did you not meet any American agents
on your journey up, Lieutenant?”

“ Not one,” replied Hobson. “ Do they ever penetrate as far as
this ?”

“Oh yes!” said the Sergeant ; “and when you hear of their
approach, I advise you to be on your guard.”

“Are these agents, then, highway robbers?” asked Mrs Paulina
Barnett.

‘No, madam,” replied the Sergeant ; ‘‘but they are formidable
rivals, and when game is scarce, hunters often come to blows about
it. I daresay that if the Company’s attempt to establish a fort on
the verge of the Arctic Ocean be successful, its example will at once
be followed by these Americans, whom Heaven confound !”

“Bah!” exclaimed the Lieutenant; “ the hunting districts are
vast, and there’s room beneath the sun for everybody. As for us,
let ’s make a start to begin with. Let us press on as long as we have
firm ground beneath our feet, and God be with us!”

After a walk of. three hours the visitors returned to Fort Confi-
dence, where a good meal of fish and fresh venison awaited them.
Sergeant Long did the honours of the table, and after a little
pleasant conversation, all retired to rest to forget their fatigues in a
healthy and refreshing sleep.

The next day, May 3ist, Mrs Barnett and Jaspar Hobson were
on foot at five a.m. The Lieutenant intended to devote this day to
visiting the Indian encampment, and obtaining as much useful
information as possible. He asked Thomas Black to go with him,
but the astronomer preferred to remain on terra firma. He wished to
make a few astronomical observations, and to determine exactly the
latitude and longitude of Fort Confidence ; so that Mrs Barnett and
Jaspar Hobson had to cross the lake alone, under the guidance of an



THE GREAT BEAR LAKE, 53

old boatman named Norman, who had long been in the Company’s
service,

The two travellers were accompanied by Sergeant Long as far as
the little harbour, where they found old Norman ready to embark.
Their little vessel was but an open fishing-boat, six feet long, rigged
like a cutter, which one man could easily manage. The weather
was beautiful, and the slight breeze blowing from the north-east
was favourable to the crossing. Sergeant Felton took leave of his
guests with many apologies for being unable to accompany them in
the absence of his chief. The boat was let loose from its moorings,
and tacking to starboard, shot across the clear waters of the lake.

The little trip passed pleasantly enough. The taciturn old
sailor sat silent in the stern of the boat with the tiller tucked under
his arm. Mrs Barnett and Lieutenant Hobson, seated opposite ta
each other, examined with interest the scenery spread out before
them. The boat skirted the northern shores of the lake at about
three miles’ distance, following a rectilinear direction, so that the
wooded heights sloping gradually to the west were distinctly visible,
From this side the district north of the lake appeared perfectly flat,
and the horizon receded to a considerable distance. The whole
of this coast contrasted strongly with the sharp angle, at the
extremity of which rose Fort Confidence, framed in green pines.
The flag of the Company was still visible floating from the tower
of the fort. .The oblique rays of the sun lit up the surface of the
water, and striking on the floating icebergs, seemed to convert
them into molten silver of dazzling brightness. No trace remained
of the solid ice-mountains of the winter but these moving relics,
which the solar rays could scarcely dissolve, and which seemed, as
it were, to protest against the brilliant but not very powerful Polar
sun, now describing a diurnal are of considerable length.

Mrs Barnett and the Lieutenant, as was their custom, communi-
eated to each other the thoughts suggested by the strange scenes
through which they were passing. They laid up a store of pleasant
recollections for the future whilst the beat floated rapidly along
upon the peaceful waves.

The party started at six in the morning, and at nine they neared
the point on the northern bank at which they were to land. The
Indian encampment was situated at the north-west angle of the
Great Bear Lake. Before ten o’clock old Norman ran the boat
aground on a low bank at the foot of a cliff of moderate height.



54 THE FUR COUNTRY.

Mrs Barnett and the Lieutenant landed at once. Two or three
Indians, with their chief, wearing gorgeous plumes, hastened to
meet them, and addressed them in fairly intelligible English.

These Hare Indians, like the Copper and Beaver Indians, all
belong to the Chippeway race, and differ but little in customs and
costumes from their fellow-tribes, They are in constant communica-
tion with the factories, and have become, so to speak, “ Britainised”
—at least as much so as is possible for savages, They bring
the spoils of the chase to the forts, and there exchange them foz
the necessaries of life, which they no longer provide for them-
selves. They are in the pay of the Company, they live upon
it, and it is not surprising that they have lost all originality. To
find a native race as yet uninfluenced by contact with Europeans
we must go to still higher latitudes, to the ice-bound regions
frequented by the Esquimaux, who, like the Greenlanders, are the
true children of Arctic lands.

Mrs Barnett and Jaspar Hobson accompanied the Indians to
their camp, about half a mile from the shore, and found some thirty
natives there, men, women, and children, who supported themselves
by hunting and fishing on the borders of the lake. These Indians
had just come from the northernmost districts of the American
continent, and were able to give the Lieutenant some valuable,
although necessarily incomplete, information on the actual state of
the sea-coast near the seventieth parallel. The Lieutenant heard with
considerable satisfaction that a party of Americans or Europeans
had been seen on the confines of the Polar Sea, and that it was
open at this time of year. About Cape Bathurst, properly so
called, the point for which he intended to make, the Hare
Indians could tell him nothing. Their chief said, however, that the
district between the Great Bear Lake and Cape Bathurst was very
difficult to cross, being hilly and intersected by streams, at this
season of the year free from ice. He advised the Lieutenant to go
down the Coppermine river, from the north-east of the lake, which
would take him to the coast by the shortest route. Once at the
Arctic Ocean, it would be easy to skirt along its shores and to
choose the best spot at which to halt,

Lieutenant Hobson thanked the Indian chief, and took leave after
giving him a few presents, Then accompanied by Mrs Barnett, he
explored the neighbourhood of the camp, not returning to the boat
until nearly three o’clock in the afternoon.



CHAPTER IX.
A STORM ON THE LAKE,

S| SVE old sailor was impatiently awaiting the return of the
SNES travellers 3 for during the last hour the weather had
changed, and the appearance of the sky was calculated to
render any one accustomed to read the signs of the clouds uneasy.
The sun was obscured by a thick mist, the wind had fallen, but an
ominous moaning was heard from the south of the lake. These
symptoms of an approaching change of temperature were developed
with all the rapidity peculiar to these elevated latitudes.

“Tet us be off, sir! let us be off!” cried old Norman, looking
anxiously at the fog above his head. “ Let us start without losing
an instant. There are terrible signs in the air!”

“Tndeed,” exclaimed the Lieutenant, “the appearance of the sky
is quite changed, and we never noticed it, Mrs Barnett!”

“ Are you afraid of a storm?” inquired the lady of old Norman.

“Yes, madam,” replied the old sailor; ‘and the storms on the
Great Bear Lake are often terrible. The hurricane rages as if
«pon the open Atlantic Ocean. This sudden fog bodes us no good ;
but the tempest may hold back for three or four hours, and by that
time we shall be at Fort Confidence. Let us then start without a
moment’s delay, for the boat would not be safe near these rocks.”

The Lieutenant, feeling that the old man, accustomed as he was
to navigate these waters, was better able to judge than himself,
decided to follow his advice, and embarked at once with Mrs Barnett.

But just as they were pushing. off, old Norman, as if possessed by
some sudden presentiment, murmured—

“Perhaps it would be better to wait.”

Lieutenant Hobson overheard these words, and looked inquiringly
at the old boatman, already seated at the helm. Had he been alone
he would not have hesitated to start, but as Mrs Barnett was with
him caution was necessary. The ladv at once saw and understood
his hesitation.





56 THE FUR COUNTRY.



“Never mind about me, Lieutenant,” she said; “act as if I were
not present. Let us start immediately, as our biave guide suggests,”

“We are off, then,” cried Norman, letting go the moorings, “to
the fort by the shortest route.”

For about an hour the bark made little head. The sail, scarcely
filled by the fitful breeze, flapped against the mast. The fog became
thicker. The waves began to rise and the boat to rock consider-
ably; for the approaching hurricane affected the water sooner than
the atmosphere itself. The two travellers sat still and silent, whilst
the gold sailor peered into the darkness with bloodshot eyes.
Prepared for all contingencies, he awaited the shock of the wind,
ready to pay out rapidly should the attack be very violent. The
conflict of the elements had not, however, as yet commenced ; and all
would have been well if they had been able to advance, but after an
hour’s sail they were still only about two hours’ distance from the
Indian encampment. A few gusts of wind from the shore drove
them out of their course, and the dense fog rendered it impossible
for them to make out the coast-line. Should the wind settle in
the north it would probably go hard with the light boat, which,
unable to hold its own course, would be drifted out into the lake
no one knew where.

“Weare scarcely advancing at all,” said the Lieutenant to old
Norman.

“No, sir,” replied Norman ; “the wind is not strong enough to fill
the sail, and if it were, I fear it comes from the wrong quarter. If
so,” he added, pointing to the south, ‘we may see Fort Franklin
before Fort Confidence.”

“Well,” said Mrs Barnett cheerfully, ‘our trip will have been
all the more complete. This is a magnificent lake, well worth ex-
ploring from north to south. I suppose, Norman, one might get
back even from Fort Franklin?”

“Yes, madam, if we ever reach it,” replied the old man. “But
tempests lasting fifteen days are by no means rare on this lake ; and
if our bad luck should drive us to the south, it may be a month
before Lieutenant Hobson again sees Fort Confidence.”

“Let us be careful, then,” said the Lieutenant ; “for such a delay
would hinder our projects very much. Do the best you can under
the circumstances, and if you think it would be prudent, go back
to the north. I don’t suppose Mrs Barnett would mind a “walk x
twenty or twenty-five miles,”



A STORM ON THE LAKE. 57



“‘T should be glad enough to go back to the north, Lieutenant,”
replied Norman, “if it were still possible. But look, the wind
seems likely to settle against us, All I can attempt is to get to the
cape on the north-east, and if it doesn’t blow too hard, I hope te
succeed,”

But at about half-past four the storm broke. The shrill whistling
of the wind was heard far above their heads, but the state of the
atmosphere prevented it from as yet descending upon the lake ; this
was, however, only delayed for a brief space of time. ‘The cries of
frightened birds flying through the fog mingled with the noise of
the wind. Suddenly the mist was torn open, and revealed low
jagged masses of rain-cloud chased towards the south. The fears
of the old sailor were realised. The wind blew from the north,
and it was not long before the travellers learned the meaning of a
squall upon the lake.

“Look out!” cried old Norman, tightening sail so. as to get his
boat ahead of the wind, whilst keeping her under control of the
helm.

The squall came. It caught the boat upon the flank, and it was
turned over on its side; but recovering itself, it was flung upon
the crest of a wave. The billows surged as if upon an open sea.
The waters of the lake not being very deep, struck against the
bottom and rebounded to an immense height.

“Help! help!” cried old Norman, hurriedly struggling to haul
down his sail.

Mrs Barnett and Hobson endeavoured to come to his assistance,
but without success, for they knew nothing of the management of
a boat. Norman, unable to leave the helm, and the halliards
being entangled at the top of the mast, could not take in the sail.
Every moment the boat threatened to capsize, and heavy seas broke
over its sides. The sky became blacker and blacker, cold rain mingled
with snow fell in torrents, whilst the squall redoubled its fury, lash-
ing the crests of the waves into foam.

“Cut it! cut it!” screamed Norman above the roaring of the
storm.

The Lieutenant, his cap blown away and his eyes blinded by the
spray, seized Norman’s knife and cut the halliard like a harp-string ;
but the wet cordage no longer acted in the grooves of the pulleys, and
the yard remained attached to the top of the mast.

Norman, totally unable to make head against the wind, now



58 THE FUR COUNTRY.



resolved to -tack about for the south, dangerous as it would be to
have the boat before the wind, pursued by waves advancing at
double its speed. Yes, to tack, although this course would probably
bring them all to the southern shores of the lake, far away from
their destination.

The Lieutenant and his brave companion were well aware of the
danger which threatened them. The frail boat could not long resist
the blows of the waves, it would either be crushed or capsized; the
lives of those within it were in the hands of God.

But neither yielded to despair; clinging to the sides of the boat, wet
to the skin, chilled to the bone by the cutting blast, they strove to
gaze through the thick mist and fog. All trace of the land had dis-
appeared, and so great was the obscurity that at a cable’s length from
the boat clouds and waves could not be distinguished from each
other. Now and then the two travellers looked inquiringly into old
Norman’s face, who, with teeth set and hands clutching the tiller,
tried to keep his boat as much as possible under wind.

But the violence of the squall became such that the boat could
not long maintain this course. The waves which struck its bow
would soon have inevitably crushed it; the front planks were
already beginning to separate, and when its whole weight waa
flung into the hollows of the waves it seemed as if it could rise no
more.

“We must tack, we must tack, whatever happens!” murmured
the old sailor.

And pushing the tiller and paying out sail, he turned the head of
the boat to the south. The sail, stretched to the utmost, brought the
boat round with giddy rapidity, and the immense waves, chased by
the wind, threatened to engulf the little bark. This was the
great danger of shifting with the wind right aft. The billows
hurled themselves in rapid succession upon the boat, which could
not evade them. It filled rapidly, and the water had to be baled
out without a moment’s pause, or it must have foundered. As they
got nearer and nearer to the middle of the lake the waves became
rougher. Nothing there broke the fury of the wind; no clumps of
trees, no hills, checked fora moment the headlong course of the hur-
ricane. Now and then momentary glimpses were obtained through
the fog of icebergs dancing like buoys upon the waves, and driven
towards the south of the lake.

Tt was half-past five. Neither Norman nor the Lieutenant had



4 STORM ON THE LAKE, 59

any idea of where they were, or whither they were going. They
had lost all control over the boat, and were at the mercy of the
winds and waves.

And now at about a hundred feet behind the boat a huge wave
upreared its foam-crowned crest, whilst in front a black whirlpool
was formed by the sudden sinking of the water. All surface agita-
tion, crushed by the wind, had disappeared around this awful gulf,
which, growing deeper and blacker every moment, drew the devoted
little vessel towards its fatal embrace. Ever nearer came the
mighty wave, all lesser billows sinking into insignificance before it.
It gained upon the boat, another moment and it would crush it to
atoms, Norman, looking round, saw its approach; and Mrs Barnett
and the Lieutenant, with eyes fixed and staring, awaited in fearful
suspense the blow from which there was no escape. The wave
broke over them with the noise of thunder; it enveloped the stern
of the boat in foam, a fearful crash was heard, and a cry burst from
the lips of the Lieutenant and his companion, smothered beneath the
liquid mass. :

They thought that all was over, and that the boat had sunk; but
no, it rose once more, although more than half filled with water.

The Lieutenant uttered a cry of despair. Where was Norman !?
The poor old sailor had disappeared !

Mrs Paulina Barnett looked inquiringly at Hobson.

“ Norman!” he repeated, pointing to his empty place.

“Unhappy man!” murmured Mrs Barnett; and at the risk of
being flung from the boat rocking on the waves, the two started te
their feet and looked around them. But they could see and hear
nothing. No cry for help broke upon their ears. No dead body
floated in the white foam. The old sailor had met his death in the
element he loved so well.

Mrs Barnett'and Hobson sank back upon their seats, They were
now alone, and must see to their own safety; but neither of them
knew anything of the management of a boat, and even an experi-
enced hand could scarcely have controlled it now. They were at the
mercy of the waves, and the bark, with distended sail, swept along
in mad career. What could the Lieutenant do to check or direct its
course ?

What a terrible situation for our travellers, to be thus overtaken
by a tempest in a frail bark which they could not manage!

“We are lost!” said the Lieutenant,



60 THE FUR COUNTRY.

~
‘

“No, Lieutenant,” replied Mrs Barnett; “let us make another
effort. Heaven helps those who help themselves!”

Lieutenant Hobson now for the first time realised with how in-
trepid a woman fate had thrown him.

The first thing to be done was to get rid of the water which
weighed down the boat. Another wave shipped would have filled
it in a moment, and it must have sunk at once. The vessel light-
ened, it would have a better chance of rising on the waves; and the
two set to work to bale out the water. This was no easy task; for
fresh waves constantly broke over them, and the scoop could not be
laid aside for an instant. Mrs Barnett was indefatigable, and the
Lieutenant, leaving the baling to her, took the helm himself, and
did the best he could to guide the boat with the wind right aft.

To add to the danger, night, or rather darkness, for in these lati-
tudes night only lasts a few hours at this time of year, fell upon
them. Scarce a ray of light penetrated through the heavy clouds
and fog. They could not see two yards before them, and the boat
must have been dashed to pieces had it struck a floating iceberg.
This danger was indeed imminent, for the loose ice-masses advance
with such rapidity that it is impossible to get out of their way.

“You have no control over the helm?” said Mrs Barnett in a
slight lull of the storm.

‘No, madam,” he replied ; “and you must prepare for the worst.”

“T am ready!” replied the courageous woman simply.

As she spoke a loud ripping sound was heard. ‘The sail, torn
away by the wind, disappeared like a white cloud. The boat sped
rapidly along fora few instants, and then stopped suddenly, the
waves buffeting it about like an abandoned wreck. Mrs Barnett
and Hobson, flung to the bottom of the boat, bruised, shaken, and
torn, felt that all was lost. Not a shred of canvas was left to aid in
navigating the craft; and what with the spray, the snow, and the
rain, they could scarcely see each other, whilst the uproar drowned
their voices. Expecting every moment to perish, they remained
for an hour in painful suspense, commending themselyes to God,
who alone could save them.

Neither of them could have said how long they waited when they
were aroused by a violent shock.

The boat had just struck an enormous iceberg, a floating block
with rugged, slippery sides, to which it would be impossible to cling.

































































































































































































** Liobson uttered a last despairing ery !'’— Page 61,



A STORM ON THE LAKE, 61



At this sudden blow, which could not have been parried, the bow
of the boat was split open, and the water poured into it in torrents,
. “We are sinking! we are sinking!” cried Jaspar Hobson.

He was right. The boat was settling down; the water had already
reached the seats,

“Madam, madam, I am here! I will not leave you!” added the
Lieutenant,

“No, no,” cried Mrs Barnett: ‘‘alone, you may save yourself;
together, we should perish. ‘Leave me! leave me!”

“Never!” cried Hobson.

But he had scarcely pronounced this word when the boat, struck
by another wave, filled and sank.

Both were drawn under water by the eddy caused by the sudden
settling down of the boat, but in a few instants they rose to the
surface. Hobson was a strong swimmer, and struck out with one
arm, supporting his companion with the other. But it was evident
that he could not long sustain a conflict with the furious waves, and
that he must perish with her he wished to save.

At this moment a strange sound attracted his attention. It was
not the cry of a frightened bird, but the shout of a human voice!
By one supreme effort Hobson raised himself above the waves and
looked around him,

But he could distinguish nothing in the thick fog, And yet he
again heard cries, this time nearer to him. Some bold men were
coming to his succour! Alas! if it were so, they would arrive too
late. Encumbered by his clothes, the Lieutenant felt himself sink-
ing with the unfortunate lady, whose head he could scarcely keep
above the water. With a last despairing effort he uttered a heart-
rending cry and disappeared beneath the waves,

It was, however, no mistake—he had heard voices. Three men,
wandering about by the lake, had seen the boat in danger, and put
off to its rescue. They were Esquimaux, the only men who could
have hoped to weather such a storm, for theirs are the only boats
constructed to escape destruction in these fearful tempests.

The Esquimaux boat or kayak is a long pirogue raised at each
end, made of a light framework of wood, covered with stretched
seal-skins strongly stitched with the sinews of the Walrus. In
the upper part of the boat, also covered with skins, is an opening
in which the Esquimaux takes his place, fastening his waterproof
jacket to the back of his seat ; so that he is actually joined to his bark,



62 THE FUR COUNTRY.



which not a drop of water can penetrate. This light, easily-managed
kayak, floating, as it does, on the crests of the waves, can never be
submerged ; and if it be sometimes capsized, a blow of the paddle
rights it again directly ; so that it is able to live and make way in
seas in which any other boat would certainly be dashed to pieces,

The three Esquimaux, guided by the Lieutenant’s last despairing
cry, arrived at the scene of the wreck just in time. Hobson and Mrs
Barnett, already half drowned, felt themselves drawn up by power-
ful hands; but in the darkness they were unable to discover who
were their deliverers. One of the men took the Lieutenant and
laid him across his own boat, another did the same for Mrs Barnett,
and the three kayaks, skilfully managed with the paddles, six feet
long, sped. rapidly over the white foam.

Half an hour afterwards, the shipwrecked travellers were lying
on the:sandy beach three miles above Fort Providence,

The old sailor alone was missing !



CHAPTER XX,

A RETROSPECT.

and Lieutenant Hobson knocked at the postern gate of the

fort, Great was the joy on seeing them, for they had been
given up for lost ; but this joy was turned to mourning at the news
of the death of Norman. The brave fellow had been beloved by
all, and his loss was sincerely mourned. The intrepid and devoted.
Esquimaux received phlegmatically the earnest expressions of
gratitude of those they had saved, and could not be persuaded to
come to the fort. What they had done seemed to them only
natural, and these were not the first persons they had rescued ; so
they quietly returned to their wild life of adventure on. the lake,
where they hunted the otters and water-birds day and night.

For the next three nights the party rested. Hobson always
intended to set out on June 2d; and on that day, all having
recovered from their fatigues and the storm having abated, the
order was given to start.

Sergeant Felton had done all in his power to make his guests
comfortable and to aid their enterprise ; some of the jaded dogs
were replaced by fresh animals, and now the Lieutenant found all
his sledges drawn up in good order at the door of the enceinte,
and awaiting the travellers,

The adieux were soon over. Hach one thanked Sergeant Felton
for his hospitality, and Mrs Paulina Barnett was most profuse in
her expressions of gratitude. A hearty shake of the hand between
the Sergeant and his brother-in-law, Long, completed the leave-
taking.

Each pair got into the sledge assigned to them ; but this time
Mrs Barnett and the Lieutenant shared one vehicle, Madge and
Sergeant Long following them.

According to the advice of the Indian chief, Hobson determined
to get +o the coast by the *Vortest route, and to take a north-easterly

ae was about ten o’clock the same night when Mrs Barnett



64 THE FUR COUNTRY.

direction. After consulting his map, which merely gave a rough
outline of the configuration of the country, it seemed best to him
to descend the valley of the Coppermine, a large river which flows
into Coronation Gulf.

The distance between Fort Confidence and the mouth of this
river is only a degree and a half—that is to say, about eighty-five or
ninety miles. The deep hollow formed by the gulf is bounded on
the north by Cape Krusenstein, and from it the coast juts out
towards the north-west, ending in Cape Bathurst, which is above
the seventieth parallel.

The Lieutenant, therefore, now changed the route he had hitherto
followed, directing his course to the east, so as to reach the river in
a few hours.

In the afternoon of the next day, June 3d, the river was gained.
It was now free from ice, and its clear and rapid waters flowed
through a vast valley, intersected by numerous but easily fordable
streams. The sledges advanced pretty rapidly, and as they went
along, Hobson gave his companion some account of the country
through which they were passing. . A sincere friendship, founded on
mutual esteem, had sprung up between these two. Mrs Paulina
Barnett was an earnest student with a special gift for discovery, and
was therefore always glad to converse with travellers and explorers,
Hobson, who knew his beloved North America by heart, was able
to answer all her inquiries fully.

“ About ninety years ago,” he said, “the territory through which
the Coppermine flows was unknown, and we are indebted for its
discovery to the agents of the Hudson’s Bay Company. But as
always happens in scientific matters, in seeking one thing, another
was found. Columbus was trying to find Asia, and discovered
America.”

“ And what were the agents of the Hudson’s Bay Company
seeking? The famous North-West Passage ?”

“No, madam,” replied the young Lieutenant. “ A century ago
the Company had no interest in the opening of a new route, which
would have been more valuable to its rivals than to it. It is even
said that in 1741 a certain Christopher Middleton, sent to explore
these latitudes, was publicly charged with receiving a bribe of
£500 from the Company to say shat) there was not, and could not
be, a sea passage between the oceans,’



A RETROSPECT. 65



“That was not much to the credit of the celebrated Company,”
said Mrs Barnett. ‘

“T do not defend it in the matter,” replied Hobson; “and its
interference was severely censured by Parliament in 1746, when a
reward of £20,000 was offered by the Government for the discovery
of the passage in question. In that year two intrepid explorers,
William Moor and Francis Smith, penetrated as far as Repulse Bay
in the hope of discovering the much-longed-for passage. But they
were unsuccessful, and returned to England after an absence of a
year and a half,”

“But did not other captains follow in their steps, resolved to
conquer where they had failed?” inquired Mrs Barnett.

“No, madam ; and in spite of the large reward offered by Par-
liament, no attempt was made to resume explorations in English
America until thirty years afterwards, when some agents of the
Company took up the unfinished task of Captains Moor and
Smith.”

“The Company had then relinquished the narrow-minded egotis-
tical position it had taken up?”

“No, madam, not yet. Samuel Hearne, the agent, only went to
reconnoitre the position of a copper-mine which native miners had
reported, On November 6, 1769, this agent left Fort Prince of
Wales, on the river Churchill, near the western shores of Hudson’s
Bay. He pressed boldly on to the north-west ; but the excessive
cold and the exhaustion of his provisions compelled him to return
without accomplishing anything. Fortunately he was not easily
discouraged, and on February 23d of the next year he set out
again, this time taking some Indians with him. Great hardships
were endured in this second journey. The fish and game on which
Hearne had relied often failed him ; and he had once nothing to eat
for seven days but wild fruit, bits of old leather, and burnt bones.
He was again compelled to return to the fort a disappointed man.
But he did not even yet despair, and started a third time, December
7th, 1779 ; and after a struggle of nineteen months, he discovered,
the Coppermine river, July 13th, 1772, the course of which he fol-
lowed to its mouth, According to his own account, he saw the open
sca, and in any case he was the first to penetrate to the northern
coast of America.”

“But the North-West Passage—that is to say, the direct com-

EF



66 THE FUR COUNTRY.



munication by sea between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans—waa
not then discovered ?”

“Oh no, madam,” replied the Lieutenant ; “‘and what countless
adventurous sailors have since gone to seek it! Phipps in 1773,
James Cook and Clerke in 1776 to 1779, Kotzebue in 1815 to
1818, Ross, Parry, Franklin, and others have attempted this difii-
cult task; but it was reserved to M‘Clure in our own day to pass
from one ocean to the other across the Polar Sea.”

“Well, Lieutenant, that was a geographical discovery of which
we English may well be proud. But do tell me if the Hudson’s
Bay Company did not adopt more generous views, and send out
some other explorer after the return of Hearne.”

“Tt did, madam; and it was thanks to it that Captain Franklin
was able to accomplish his voyage of 1819 to 1822 between the
river discovered by Hearne and Cape Turnagain, This expedition
endured great fatigue and hardships; provisions often completely
failed, and two Canadians were assassinated and eaten by their
comrades. But in spite of all his sufferings, Captain Franklin
explored no less than five thousand five hundred and fifty miles
of the hitherto unknown coast of North America !”

“He was indeed a man of energy,” added Mrs Barnett; “and he
gave proof of his great qualities in starting on a fresh Polar expedi-
tion after all he had gone through.”

- “Ves.” replied the Lieutenant ; “and he met a terrible death in
the land his own intrepidity had discovered. It has now been
proved, however, that all his companions did not perish with him.
Many are doubtless still wandering about on the vast ice-fields.
I cannot think of their awful condition without a shudder. One
day,” he added earnestly, and with strange emotion—“ one day I
will search the unknown lands where the dreadful catastrophe took
place, and”

“ And,” exclaimed Mrs Barnett, pressing his hand, ‘I will ac-
company you. Yes, this idea has occurred to me more than once,
as it has to you; and my heart beats high when I think that fellow-
countrymen of my own—Englishmen—are awaiting succour”

“Which will come too late for most of them, madam,” said the
Lieutenant ; “but rest assured some will even yet be saved.”

“ God grant it, Lieutenant !” replied Mrs Barnett ; “ and it appeara
to me that the agents of the Company, living as they do close to







A RETROSPECT. 67

the coast, are better fitted than any one else to fulfil this duty of
humanity.”

‘“‘T-agree with you, madam ; they are, as they have often proved,
inured to the rigours of the Arctic climate. Was it not they who
aided Captain Back in his voyage in 1834, when he discovered
King William’s Land, where Franklin met his fate? Was it not
two of us, Dease and Simpson, who were sent by the Governor of
Hudson’s Bay to explore the shores of the Polar Sea in 1838, and
whose courageous efforts first discovered Victoria Land? It is my
opinion that the future reserves for the Hudson’s Bay Company
the final conquest of the Arctic regions. Gradually its factories
are advancing further and further north, following the retreat of the
fur-yielding animals; and one day a fort will be erected on the
Pole itself, that mathematical point where meet all the meridians of
the globe.”

During this and the succeeding journeys Jaspar Hobson related
Lis own adventures since he entered the service of the Company—
his struggles with the agents of rival associations, and his efforts to
explore the unknown districts of the north or west ; and Mrs Barnett,
on her side, told of her travels in the tropics. She spoke of all
she had done, and of all she hoped still to accomplish; so that the
long hours, lightened by pleasant conversation, passed rapidly away.

Meanwhile the dogs advanced at full gallop towards the north.
The Coppermine valley widened sensibly as they neared the Arctic
Ocean, The hills on either side sank lower and lower, and only
scattered clumps of resinous trees broke the monotony of the
landscape. A few blocks of ice, drifted down by the river, stil]
resisted the action of the sun; but each day their number decreased,
and a canoe, or even a good-sized boat, might easily have descended
the stream, the course of which was unimpeded by any natural
barrier or aggregation of rocks. The bed of the Coppermine was
both deep and wide ; its waters were very clear, and being fed by
the melted snow, flowed on at a considerable pace, never, however,
forming dangerous rapids. Its course, at first very sinuous,
became gradually less and less winding, and at last stretched
along in a straight line for several miles. Its banks, composed of
fine firm sand, and clothed in part with short dry herbage, were
wide and level, so that the long train of sledges sped rapidly over
them;

The expedition travelled day and night—if we can speak of the



68 THE FUR COUNTRY.



night, when the sun, describing an almost horizontal circle, scarcely
disappeared at all. The true night only lasted two hours, and the
dawn succeeded the twilight almost immediately, The weather
was fine; the sky clear, although somewhat misty on the horizon ;
and everything combined to favour the travellers.

For two days they kept along the river-banks without meeting
with any difficulties. They saw but few fur-bearing animals ; but
there were plenty of birds, which might have been counted by thou-
sands. The absence of otters, sables, beavers, ermines, foxes, &c.,
did not trouble the Lieutenant much, for he supposed that they had
been driven further north by over-zealous tracking ; and indeed the
marks of encampments, extinguished fires, &c., told of the more or
less recent passage of native hunters. Hobson knew that he would
have to penetrate a good deal further north, and that part only of
his journey would be accomplished when he got to the mouth of the
Coppermine river. He was therefore most eager to reach the limit
of Hearne’s exploration, and pressed on as rapidly as possible.

Every one shared the Lieutenant’s impatience, and resolutely
resisted fatigue in order to reach the Arctic Ocean with the least
possible delay. They were drawn onwards by an indefinable attrac-
tion ; the glory of the unknown dazzled their sight. Probably real
hardships would commence when they did arrive at the much-desired
coast. But no matter, they longed to battle with difficulties, and to
press straight onwards to their aim. The district they were now
traversing could have no direct interest for them; the real explora-
tion would only commence on the shores of the Arctic Ocean. Each
one, then, would gladly hail the arrival in the elevated western dis-
tricts for which they were bound, cut across though they were by
the seventieth parallel of north latitude,

On the 5th June, four days after leaving Fort Confidence, the
river widened considerably. The western banks, curving slightly,
ran almost due north; whilst the eastern rounded off into ‘the coagt=
line, stretching away as far as the eye could reach.

Lieutenant “Hobson paused, and waving his hand to his com-
panions, pointed to the boundless ocean.



CHAPTER XI

ALONG THE COAST.

43 ORONATION GULF, the large estuary dotted with the
Be islands forming the Duke of York Archipelago, which the
we party had now reached, was a sheet of water with irregular
banks, let in, as it were, into the North American continent. At
its western angle opened the mouth of the Coppermine; and on the
east a long narrow creek called Bathurst Inlet.ran into the mainland,
from which stretched the-jagged broken coast with its pointed capes
and rugged promontories, ending in that confusion of straits, sounds,
and channels which gives such a strange appearance to the maps of
North America, On the other side the coast turned abruptly to the
north beyond the mouth of the Coppermine river, and ended in Cape
Krusenstern.

After consulting with Sergeant Long, Lieutenant Hobson decided
to give his party a day’s rest here.

The exploration, properly so called, which was to enable the
Lieutenant to fix upon a suitable site for the establishment of a fort,
was now really about to begin. The Company had advised him to
keep as much as possible above the seventieth parallel, and on the
shores of the Arctic Ocean. To obey his orders Hobson was obliged
to keep to the west; for on the east—with the exception, perhaps, of
the land of Boothia, crossed by the seventieth parallel—the whole
country belongs rather to the Arctic Circle, and the geographical
conformation of Boothia is as yet but imperfectly known.

After carefully ascertaining the latitude and longitude, and veri-
fying his position by the map, the Lieutenant found that he was a
hundred miles below the seventieth degree. But beyond Cape
Krusenstern, the coast-line, running in a north-easterly direction,
abruptly crosses the seventieth parallel at a sharp angle near the
one ‘hundred and thirtieth meridian, and at about the same elevation
as Cape Bathurst, the spot named ag a rendezvous by Captain



70 THE FUR COUNTRY.

Craventy. He must therefore make for that point, and should the
site appear suitable the new fort would be erected there,

“There,” said the Lieutenant to his subordinate, Long, “ we
shall be in the position ordered by the Company. ‘There the sea,
open for a great part of the year, will allow the vessels from Behring
Strait to come right up to the fort, bringing us fresh provisions
and taking away our commodities.”

“ Not to mention,” added Sergeant Long, “that our men will be

‘entitled to double pay all the time they are beyond the seventieth
parallel.”

“Of course that is understood,” replied Hobson ; “and I daresay
they will accept it without a murmur.”

“Well then, Lieutenant,” said Long simply, “we have now only
to start for Cape Bathurst.”

But as a day of rest had been promised, the start did not actually
take place until the next day, June 6th.

The second part of the journey would naturally be very different
from the first. The rules with regard to the sledges keeping their
rank need no longer be enforced, and each couple drove as it pleased
them. Only short distances were traversed at a time; halts were
made at every angle of the coast, and the party often walked.
Lieutenant Hobson only urged two things upon his companions:
not to go further than three miles from the coast, and to rally
their forces twice a day, at twelve o’clock and in the evening. At
night they all encamped in tents.

The weather continued very fine and the temperature moderate
maintaining a mean height of 59° Fahrenheit above zero. ‘Two or
three times sudden snowstorms came on ; but they did not last long,
and exercised no sensible influence upon the temperature.

The whole of the American coast between Capes Krusenstern and
Parry, comprising an extent of more than two-hundred and fifty
miles, was examined with the greatest care between the 6th and
20th of June. Geographical observations were accurately taken,
and Hobson, most effectively aided by Thomas Black, was able to
rectify certain errors in previous marine surveys; whilst the primary
object of the expedition—the examination into the quality and
quantity of the game in the surrounding districts—was not neglected.

Were these lands well stocked with game? Could they count
with certainty not only on a good supply of furs, but also of meat ?
Would the resources of the country provide a fort with provisions in



ALONG THE COAST, 71

the summer months at least? Such were the grave questions which
Lieutenant Hobson had to solve, and which called for immediate atten-
tion. We give a summary of the conclusions at which he arrived.

Game, properly so called, of the kind for which Corporal Joliffe
amongst others had a special predilection, was not abundant. There
were plenty of birds of the duck tribe; but only a few Polar hares
difficult of approach, poorly represented the rodents of the north.
There seemed, however, to be a good many bears about. Marbre
and Sabine had come upon the fresh traces of several. Some were
even seen and tracked; but, as a rule, they kept at a respectful
distance. In the winter, however, driven by famine from higher
latitudes, there would probably be more than enough of these
ravenous beasts prowling about the shores of the Arctic Ocean.

“There is certainly no denying,” said Corporal Joliffe, “that
bear’s flesh is very good eating when once it’s in the larder; but
there is something very problematical about it beforehand, and it’s
always just possible that the hunters themselves may meet the fate
they intended for the bears!”

This was true enough. It was no use counting upon the bears
to provision their fort. Fortunately traces were presently found of
herds of a far more useful animal, the flesh of which is the principal
food of the Indians and Esquimaux. We allude to the reindeer ;
and Corporal Joliffe announced with the greatest satisfaction that
there -were plenty of these ruminants on this coast. The ground
was covered with the lichen to which they are so partial, and which
they cleverly dig out from under the snow.

There could be no mistake as to the footprints left by the rein-
deer, as, like the camel, they have a small nail-like hoof with a con-
vex surface. Large herds, sometimes numbering several thousand
animals, are seen running wild in certain parts of America. Being
easily domesticated, they are employed to draw sledges; and they
also supply the factories with excellent milk, more nourishing than
that of cows. Their dead bodies are not less useful. Their thick
skin provides clothes, their hair makes very good thread, and their
flesh is palatable ; so that they are really the most valuable animals
to be found in these latitudes, and Hobson, being assured of their
presence, was relieved from half his anxiety.

As he advanced he had also reason to be satisfied with regard to
the fur-bearing animals. By the little streams rose many beaver
lodges and musk-rat tunneis. Badgers, lynxes, crmines, wolverenes,



72 THE FUR COUNTRY.



sables, polecats, d&c., frequented these districts, hitherto undisturbed
by hunters. They had thus far come to no trace of the presence of
man, and the animals had chosen their refuge well. Footprints were
also found of the fine blue and silver foxes, which are becoming
more and more rare, and the fur of which is worth its weight in gold.
Sabine and Mac-Nab might many a time have shot a very valuable
animal on this excursion, but the Lieutenant had wisely forbidden all
hunting of the kind. He did not wish to alarm the animals before
the approaching season—that is to say, before the winter months,
when their furs become thicker and more beautiful, It was also
desirable not to overload the sledges. The hunters saw the force of
his reasoning; but for all that, their fingers itched when they came
within shot-range ofa sable or some valuablefox. Their Lieutenant’s
orders were, however, no #9 be disobeyed.

Polar bears and birds were, therefore, all that the hunters had to
practise upon in this second stage of their journey. The former,
however, not yet rendered bold by hunger, soon scampered off, and
no serious struggle with them ensued.

The poor birds suffered for the enforced immunity of the quad-
rupeds. White-headed eagles, huge birds with a harsh screeching
cry; fishing hawks, which build their nests in dead trees and
migrate to the Arctic regions in the summer ; snow buntings with
pure white plumage; wild geese, which afford the best food of all
the Anseres tribe ; ducks with red heads and black breasts ; ash-
coloured crows, a kind of mocking jay of extreme’ ugliness ; eider
ducks ; scoters or black divers, &c. &c., whose mingled cries awake
the echoes of the Arctic regions, fell victims by hundreds to the
unerring aim of Marbre and Sabine. These birds haunt the high
latitudes by millions, and it would be impossible to form an accurate
estimate of their number on the shores of the Arctic Ocean. Their
flesh formed a very pleasant addition to the daily rations of biscuit
and corned beef, and we can understand that the hunters laid up a
good stock of them in the fifteen days during which they were
debarred from attacking more valuable game.

There would then be no lack of animal food; the magazines of
the Company would be well stocked with game, and its offices filled
with furs and traders; but something more was wanted to insure
success to the undertaking. Would it be possible to obtain a
sufficient supply of fuel to contend with the rigour of an Arctic
winter at so elevated a latitude .



ALONG THE COAST. ; 73

Most fortunately the coast was well wooded; the hills which
sloped down towards the sea were crowned with green trees, amongst
which the pine predominated. Some of the woods might even be
called forests, and would constitute an admirable reserve of timber
for the fort. Here and there Hobson noticed isolated groups of
willows, poplars, dwarf birch-trees, and numerous thickets of arbutus,
At this time of the warm season all these trees were covered with
verdure, and were an unexpected and refreshing sight to eyes so
long accustomed to the rugged, barren polar landscape. The
ground at the foot of the hills was carpeted with a short herbage
devoured with avidity by the reindeer, and forming their only sus-
tenance in winter. On the whole, then, the Lieutenant had reason
to congratulate himself on having chosen the north-west of the
American continent for the foundation of a new settlement.

We have said that these territories, so rich in animals, were
apparently deserted by men. The travellers saw neither Esquimaux,
who prefer the districts round Hudson’s Bay, nor Indians, who
seldom venture so far beyond the Arctic Circle. And indeed in these
remote latitudes hunters may be overtaken by storms, or be suddenly
surprised by winter, and cut off from all communication with their
fellow-creatures. We can easily imagine that Lieutenant Hobson
was by no means sorry not to meet any rival explorers. What he
wanted was an unoccupied country, a deserted land, suitable as a
refuge for the fur-bearing animals; and in this matter he had the
full sympathy of Mrs Barnett, who, as the guest of the Company,
naturally took a great interest in the success of its schemes,

Fancy, then, the disappointment of the Lieutenant, when on the
morning of the 20th June he came to an encampment but recently
abandoned.

It was situated at the end of a narrow creek called Darnley Bay,
of which Cape Parry is the westernmost point. There at the foot
of a little hill were the stakes which had served to mark the limits
of the camp, and heaps of cinders, the extinct embers of the fires.

The whole party met at this encampment, and all understood how
great a disappointment it involved for Lieutenant Hobson.

“What a pity!” he exclaimed, “I would rather have met a
whole family of polar bears!”

“ But I daresay the men who encamped here are already far off,”
said'Mrs Barnett; “very likely they have returned to their usual
hunting grounds,”



7A THE FUR COUNTRY.



-“ That is as it may be,” replied the Lieutenant. ‘If these be the
traces of Hsquimaux, they are more likely to have gone on than to
have turned back; and if they be those of Indians, they are pro-
bably, like ourselves, seeking a new hunting district; and in either
case it will be very unfortunate for us.”

“ But,” said Mrs Barnett, “cannot we find out to what race the
travellers do belong? Can’t we ascertain if they be Esquimaux or
Indians from the south? I should think tribes of such a different
origin, and of such dissimilar customs, would not encamp in the
same manner.”

Mrs Barnett was right; they might possibly solve the mystery
after a thorough examination of the ground.

Jaspar Hobson and others set to work, carefully examining every
trace, every object left behind, every mark on the ground; but in
vain, there was nothing to guide them to a decided opinion. The
bones of some animals scattered about told them nothing, and the
Lieutenant, much annoyed, was about to abandon the useless search,
when he heard an exclamation from Mrs Joliffe, who had wandered
a little way to the left.

All hurried towards the young Canadian, who setiisinda fixed to
the spot, looking attentively at the ground before her.

As her companions came up she said—

“ You are looking for traces, Lieutenant; well, here are some,”

And Mrs Joliffe pointed to a good many footprints clearly visible
in the firm clay.

These might reveal something; for the feet of the Indians and
Esquimaux, as well as their boots, are totally different from each
other.

But what chiefly struck Lieutenant Hobson was the strange
arrangement of these impressions. They were evidently made by a
human foot, a shod foot ; but, strange to say, the ball alone appeared
to have touched the ground! The marks were very numerous,
close together, often crossing one another, but confined to a very
small circle.

Jaspar Hobson called the attention of the rest of the party to
this singular circumstance.

“These were not.made by a person walking,” he said.

“Nor by a person jumping,” added Mrs Barnett ; “for there is
no mark of a heel.”

“No,” said Mrs Joliffe; “ these footprints were left by a dancer.”



ALONG THE COAST. 75

She was right, as further examination proved. They were the
marks left by a dancer, and a dancer engaged in some light and
graceful exercise, for they were neither clumsy nor deep.

But who could the light-hearted individual be who had been
impelled to dance in this sprightly fashion some degrees above the
Arctic Circle?

“Tt was certainly not an Esquimaux,” said the Lieutenant.

“ Nor an Indian,” cried Corporal Joliffe.

“No, it was a Frenchman,” said Sergeant Long quietly.

And all agreed that none but a Frenchman could have been
capable of dancing on such a spot !



CHAPTER XIL
THE MIDNIGHT SUN,

ERGEANT LONG’S assertion must appear to have been

founded on insufficient evidence. That there had been
dancing no one could deny, but that the dancer was a
Frenchman, however probable, could not be considered proved.

However, the Lieutenant shared the opinion of his subordinate,
which did not appear: too positive to any of the party, who all
agreed in feeling sure that.some travellers, with at least one
compatriot of Vestris amongst them, had recently encamped on
this spot.

Of course Lieutenant Hobson was by no means pleased at this:
he was afraid of having been preceded by rivals in the north-western
districts of English America; and secret as the Company had kept
its scheme, it had doubtless been divulged in the commercial centres
of Canada and the United States,

The Lieutenant resumed his interrupted march ; but he was full
of care and anxiety, although he would not now have dreamed of
retracing his steps,

“Frenchmen are then sometimes met with in these high lati-
tudes?” was Mrs Barnett’s natural question after this incident,

“Yes, madam,” replied the Lieutenant; “or if not exactly
Frenchmen, the descendants of the masters of Canada when it
belonged to France, which comes to much the same thing. These
men are in fact our most formidable rivals.”

“But I thought,” resumed Mrs Barnett, “that after the absorp-
tion by the Hudson’s Bay Company of the old North-West
Company, that it had no longer any rivals on the American
continent,”

“Although there is no longer any important association for
trading in furs except our own, there are a good many perfectly
independent private companies, mostly American, which have
retained French agents or their descendants in their employ.”





THE MIDNIGHT SUN. 77

“ Are these agents then held in such high esteem?” asked Mrs
Barnett.

“Yes, madam, and with good reason. During the ninety-four
years of French supremacy in Canada, French agents always proved
themselves superior to ours) We must be just even to our
rivals.”

“Especially to our rivals,” added Mrs Barnett.

“Yes, especially. .. At that time French hunters, starting from
Montreal, their headquarters, pressed on to the north with greater
hardihood than any others, They lived for years with the Indian
tribes, sometimes intermarrying with them. The natives called them
the ‘Canadian travellers,’ and were on the most intimate terms
with them. They were bold, clever fellows, expert at navigating
streams, light-hearted and merry, adapting themselves to circum-
stances with the easy flexibility of their race, and always ready to
sing or dance.”

“ And do you suppose that hunting is the only object of the
party whose traces we have just discovered?”

“T don’t think any other hypotheses at all likely,” replied
Hobson. ‘They are sure to be seeking new hunting grounds. But
as we cannot possibly stop them, we must make haste to begin our
own operations, and compete boldly with all rivals.”

Lieutenant Hobson was now prepared for the competition he
could not prevent, and he urged on the march of his party as much
as possible, hoping that his rivals might not follow him beyond
the seventicth parallel.

The expedition now descended towards the south for some twenty
miles, in order the more easily to pass round Franklin Bay, The
country was still covered with verdure, and the quadrupeds and
birds already enumerated were as plentiful as ever; so that they
could reasonably hope that the whole of the north-western coasts
of the American continent were populated in the same manner.

The ocean which bathed these shores stretched away as far as
the eye could reach. Recent atlases give no land beyond the north
American coast-line, and it is only the icebergs which impede the
free navigation of the open sea from Behring Strait to the Pole
itself,

On the 4th July the travellers skirted round another deep bay
eallect Washburn Bay, and reached the furthest point of a little
lake, until then imperfectly known, covering but a small extent of



78 THE FUR COUNTRY.

territory, scarcely two square miles—in fact it was rather a lagoon,
or large pond of sweet water, than a lake.

The sledges went on ensily and rapidly, and the appearance of
the country was most encouraging to the explorers. It seemed
that the extremity of Cape Bathurst would be a most favourable
site for the new fort, as with this lagoon behind them, and the sea
open for four or five months in the warm season, and giving access
to the great highway of Behring Strait, before them, it would be
easy for the exiles to lay in fresh provisions and to ge their
commodities.

On the 5th June, about three o’clock in the afternoon, ‘the party
at last halted at the extremity of Cape Bathurst. It remained to
ascertain the exact position of this cape, which the maps place
above the seventieth parallel. It was, however, impossible to rely
upon the marine surveys of the coast, as they had never yet been
made with exactitude. Jaspar Hobson decided to wait and ascertain
the latitude and longitude.

“ What prevents us from settling here?” asked Corporal Joliffe.
“ You will own, Lieutenant, that it is a very inviting spot.”

“ Tt will seem more inviting still if you get double pay here, my
worthy Corporal,” replied Hobson.

“No doubt,” said Joliffe; ‘and the orders of the Company must
be obeyed.”

“Then wait patiently till to-morrow,” added Hobson ; “ and if we
find that Cape Bathurst is really beyond 70° north latitude, we
will pitch our tent here.”

The site was indeed admirably suited for the fovithtntions of a
new settlement, The wooded heights surrounding the lagoon would
supply plenty of pine, birch, and other woods for the construction
of the fort, and for stocking it with fuel, The Lieutenant and
some of his companions went to the very edge of the cape, and
found that towards the west the coast-line formed a lengthened
curve, beyond which icebergs of a considerable height shut out the
view. The water of the lagoon, instead of being brackish, as they
expected from its close vicinity to the sea, was perfectly sweet ;
but had it not been so, drinkable water would not have failed the
little colony, as a fresh and limpid stream ran a few yards to the
south-east of Cape Bathurst, and emptied itself into the Arctic Ocean
through a narrow inlet, which, protected by a singular accumula-
tion of sand and earth instead of by rocks, would have afforded a



TIE MIDNIGHT SUN. 79

refuge to several vessels from the winds of the offing, and. might be
turned to account for the anchorage of the ships which it was hoped
would come to the new settlement from Behring Strait. Out of
compliment to the lady of the party, and much to her delight,
Lieutenant Hobson named the stream Paulina river, and the little
harbour Port Barnett.

By building the fort a little behind the actual cape, the principal
house and the magazines would be quite sheltered from the sldest
winds.. The elevation of the cape would help to protect them
from the snow-drifts, which sometimes completely bury large build-
ings beneath their heavy avalanches in a few hours. There was
plenty of room between the foot of the promontory and the bank of
the lagoon for all the constructions necessary to a fort. It could
even be surrounded by palisades, which would break the shock of
the icebergs; and the cape itself might be surrounded with a fortified
redoubt, if the vicinity of rivals should render such a purely defen-
give erection necessary ; and the Lieutenant, although with no idea of
commencing anything of the kind as yet, naturally rejoiced at
having met with an easily defensible position.

The weather remained fine, and it was quite warmenough. There
was not a cloud upon the sky ; but, of course, the clear blue air of
temperate and torrid zones could not be expected here, and the
atmosphere was generally charged with a light mist. What would
Cape Bathurst be like in the long winter night of four months, when
the ice-mountains became fixed and rigid, and the hoarse north wind
swept down upon the icebergs in all its fury? None of the party
gave a thought to that time now; for the weather was beautiful, the
verdant landscape smiled, and the waves sparkled in the sunbeams,
whilst the temperature remained warm and pleasant.

A provisional camp, the sledges forming its only material, was
arranged for the night on the banks of the lagoon; and towards
evening Mrs Barnett, the Lieutenant, Sergeant Long, and even
Thomas Black, explored the surrounding district in order to as-
cortain its resources. It appeared to be in every respect suitable ;
and Hobson was eager for the next day, that he might determine
the exact situations, and find out if it fulfilled the conditions im-
posed by the Company.

* Well, Lieutenant,” said the astronomer when the examination
was over, “this is really a charming spot, such as I should not have
imagined could have existed beyond the Arctic Circle.”



80 THE FUR COUNTRY.

“Ah, Mr Black!” cried Hobson, “the finest countries in tho
world are to be found here, and I am impatient to ascertain our
latitude and longitude.”

“Especially the latitude,” said the astronomer, whose eclipse was
never out of his thoughts ; “and I expect your brave companions are
as cager as yourself, ‘Double pay beyond the seventieth parallel !”

“ But, Mr Black,” said Mrs Barnett, “do you not yourself take an
interest, a purely scientific interest, in getting beyond that parallel?”

“Of course, madam, of course I am anxious to get beyond it,
but not so terribly eager. According to our calculations, however,
made with absolute accuracy, the solar eclipse which I am ordered to
watch will only be total to an observer placed beyond the seventieth
degree, and on this account I share the Lieutenant’s impatience to
determine the position of Cape Bathurst.”

~ “But I understand, Mr Black,” said Mrs Barnett, “that this
solar eclipse will not take place until the 18th July 1860?”

“Yes, madam, on the 18th July 1860.”

' “And it is now only the 15th June 1859! So that the pheno-
menon will not be visible for more than a year!”

“Tam quite aware of it, Mrs Barnett,” replied the astronomer ;
“but if I had not started till next year I should have run a risk
of being too late.”

“You would, Mr Black,” said Hobson, “and you did well to start
a year beforehand. You are now quite sure not to miss your eclipse,
I own that our journey from Fort Reliance has been accom-
plished under exceptionally favourable circumstances. We have
had little fatigue and few delays. To tell you the truth, I did not
expect to get to this part of the coast until the middle of August ;
and if the eclipse had been expected this year, instead of next, you
really might have been too late. Moreover, we do not yet know
if we are beyond the seventieth parallel.”

“T do not in the least regret the journey I have taken in your
company, Lieutenant, and I shall patiently wait until next year for
my eclipse The fair Pheebe, I fancy, is a sufficiently grand lady to
be waited for.”

The next day, July 6th, a little after noon, Hobson and the astro-
nomer made their preparations for taking the exact bearings of Cape
Bathurst. The sun shone clearly enough for them to take the out-
lines exactly. At this season of the year, too, it had reached its
maximum height above the horizon ; and consequently its culmina-



THE MIDNIGHT SUN. SI



tion, on its transit across the meridian, would facilitate the work
of the two observers.

: Already the night before, and the same morning, by taking differ-
ent altitudes, and by means of a calculation of right ascensions, the
Lieutenant and the astronomer had ascertained the longitude with
great accuracy. But it was about the latitude that Hobson was
most anxious; for what would the meridian of Cape Bathurs/
matter to him should it not be situated beyond the seventieth
parallel ?

Noon approached, The men of the expedition gathered round
the observers with their sextants ready in their hands. The brave
fellows awaited the result of the observation with an impatience
whiclt will be readily understood. It was now to be decided
whether they had come to the end of their journey, or whether they
must search still further for a spot fulfilling the conditions imposed
by the Company.

Probably no good result would have followed upon further explora-
tions. According to the maps of North America—imperfect, it ia
true—the western coast beyond Cape Bathurst sloped down below
the seventieth parallel, not again rising above it until it entered
Russian America, where the English had as yet no right to settle ;
so that Hobson had shown considerable judgment in directing his
course to Cape Bathurst after a thorough examination of the maps
of these northern regions, This promontory is, in fact, the only one
which juts out beyond the seventieth parallel along the whole of
the North American continent, properly so called—that is to say, in
Hnglish America, It remained to be proved that it really occupied
the position. assigned to it in maps.

At this moment the sun was approaching the culminating-point
of its course, and the two observers pointed the telescopes of their
sextants upon it. By means of inclined mirrors attached to the
instruments, the sun ought apparently to go back to the horizon
itself; and the moment when it seemed to touch it with the lower
side of its disc would be precisely that at which it would occupy
the highest point of the diurnal arc, and consequently the exact.
moment when it would pass the meridian—in other words, it would
be noon at the place where the observation was taken.

All watched in anxious silence

“Noon !” cried Jaspar Hobson and the astronomer at once.

The telescopes were immediately lowered. The Lieutenant and

G



&2 THE FUR COUNTRY.



Thomas Black read on the graduated limbs the value of the angles
they had just obtained, and at once proceeded to note down their
observations. ‘

A few minutes afterwards, Lieutenant Hobson rose and said,
addressing his companions—

“‘ My friends, from this date, July 6th, I promise you double pay
in the name of the Hudson’s Bay Company !”

“Wurrah! hurrah! hurrah for the Company!” shouted the
worthy companions of the Lieutenant with one veice.

Cape Bathurst and its immediate neighbourhood were in very
truth above the seventieth degree of north latitude.

We give the result of these simultaneous observations, which
agreed to a second. ,

Longitude, 127° 36’ 12” west of the meridian of Greenwich.

Latitude, 70° 44'.37” north.

And that. very evening these hardy pioneers, encamped so far
from the inhabited world, watched the mighty luminary of day touch
the edges of the western horizon without dipping beneath it.

For the first time they saw the shining of the midnight sun,



CHAPTER XII
FORT HOPE.

nr site of the new fort was now finally determined on. Tt
“ 53 would be impossible to find a better situation than on the
level ground behind Cape Bathurst, on the eastern bank of
the lagoon, Hobson determined to commence the construction of the
principal house at once. Meanwhile all must accommodate them-
selves as best they could; and the sledges were ingeniously utilised
to form a provisional encampment.
His men being very skilful, the Lieutenant hoped to have the
principal house ready in a month. It was to be large enough to
accommodate for a time the nineteen persons of the party. Later,
and before the excessive cold set in, if there should be time, the
barracks for the soldiers and the magazines for the furs and skins
were to be built, There was not much chance of getting it all done
before the-end of September; and after that date, the winter, with its
first bitter frosts and long nights, would arrest all further progress. |
Of the ten soldiers chosen by Captain Craventy, two—Marbre and
Sabine—were skilful hunters ; the other eight handled the hatchet
with as much address as the musket. Like sailors, they could turn
their hands.to anything, and were now to be treated more like work-
men than soldiers, for they were to build a fort which there was as
yet no enemy toattack, Petersen, Belcher, Rae, Garry, Pond, Hope,
and Kellet formed a body of clever, zealous carpenters, under the
able superintendence of Mac-Nab, a Scotchman from Stirling, who
had had considerable experience in the building both of houses and
boats. The men were well provided with tools—hatchets, centre-
bits, adzes, planes, hand-saws, mallets, hammers, chisels, &c. &c. Rae
was most skilful at blacksmith’s work, and with the aid of a little
portable forge he was able to make all the pins, tenons, bolts, nails,
screws, nuts, dsc., required in carpentry. They had no mason in the
party ;~but none was wanted, as-all the buildings of the factories in
the north are of wood, Fortunately there were plenty of trees about



84. THE FUR COUNTRY.

Cape Bathurst, although, as Hobson had already remarked to Mrs
Barnett, there was not a rock, a stone, not even a flint or a pebble,
to be seen. The shore was strewn with innumerable quantities of
bivalve shells broken by the surf, and with seaweed or zoophytes,
mostly sea-urchins and asteriade; but the soil consisted entirely of
earth and sand, without a morsel of silica or broken granite; and the
cape itself was but an accumulation of soft earth, the particles of
which were scarcely held together by the vegetation with which it
was clothed. -

In the afternoon of the same day, July 6th, Hobson and Mac-Nab
the carpenter went to choose the site of the principal house on the
plateau at the foot of Cape Bathurst. From this point the view
embraced the lagoon and the western districts to a distance of ten
or twelve miles, On the right, about four miles off, towered icebergs
of a considerable height, partly draped in mist; whilst on the left
stretched apparently boundless plains, vast steppes which it would
be impossible to distinguish from the frozen surface of the lagoon
or from the sea itself in the winter.

The spot chosen, Hobson and Mac-Nab set out the outer walls of
the house with the line. This outline formed a rectangle measur-
ing sixty feet on the larger side, and thirty on the smaller. The
facade of the house would therefore have a length of sixty feet:
it was to have a door and three windows on the side of the
promontory, where the inner court was to be situated, and four
windows on the side of the lagoon, The door was to open at the
left corner, instead of in the middle, of the back of the house, for
the sake of warmth. This arrangement would impede the entrance
of the outer air to the further rooms, and add considerably to the
comfort of the inmates of the fort.

According to the simple plan agreed upon by the Lieutenant and
his master-carpenter, there were to. be four compartments in the
house: the first to be an antechamber with a double door to keep
out the wind; the second to serve as a kitchen, that the cooking,
which would generate damp, might be all done quite away from
the living-rooms ; the third, a large hall, where the daily meals were
to be served in common ; and the fourth, to be divided into several
eabins, like the staterooms on board ship.

The soldiers were to occupy the dining-hall provisionally, and a
kind of camp-bed was arranged for them at the end of the room.
The Lieutenant, Mrs Barnett, Thomas Black, Madge, Mrs Joliffe, Mrs



FORT HOPR. 85



Mac-Nab, and Mrs Rae were to lodge in the cabins of the fourth
compartment. They would certainly be packed pretty closely ; but
it was only a temporary state of things, and when the barracks were
constructed, the principal house would be reserved to the officer in
command, his sergeant, Thomas Black, Mrs Barnett, and her faith-
ful Madge, who never left her. Then the fourth compartment
might perhaps be divided into three cabins, instead of four; for to
avoid corners as much as possible is a rule which should never be
forgotten by those who winter in high latitudes, Nooks and corners
are, in fact, so many receptacles of ice. The partitions impede the
ventilation; and the moisture, generated in the air, freezes readily,
and makes the atmosphere of the rooms unhealthy, causing grave
maladies to those who sleep in them.

On this account many navigators who have to winter in the
midst of ice have one large room in the centre of their vessel, which
is shared by officers and sailors in common, For obvious reasons,
however, Hobson could not adopt this plan.

From the preceding description we shall have seen that the future
house was to consist merely of a ground-floor. The roof was to be
high, and its sides to slope considerably, so that water could easily
run off them. The snow would, however, settle upon them; and
when once they were covered with it, the house would be, so to
speak, hermetically closed, and the inside temperature would be
kept at the same mean height. Snow is, in fact, a very bad con-
ductor of heat: it prevents it from entering, it is true; but, what
is more important in an Arctic winter, it also keeps it from getting
out.

The carpenter was to build two chimneys—one above the kitchen,
the other in connection with the stove of the large dining-room,
which was to heat it and the compartment containing the cabins,
The architectural effect of the whole would certainly be poor; but
the house would be as comfortable as possible, and what more could
any one desire ? ,

Certainly an artist who had once seen it would not soon forget
this winter residence, set down in the gloomy Arctic twilight in the
midst of snow-drifts, half hidden by icicles, draped in white from
roof to foundation, its walls encrusted with snow, and the smoke
from its fires assuming strangely-contorted forms in the wind,

But now to tell of the actual construction of this house, as yet
existing only in imagination. This, of course, was the business of



86 THE FUR COUNTRY.

Mac-Nab and his men; and while the carpenters were at work,
the foraging party to whom the commissariat was entrusted would
not be idle. There was plenty for every one to do,

The first step was to choose suitable timber, and a species of
Scotch fir was decided on, which grew conveniently upon the neigh-
bouring hills, and seemed altogether well adapted to the multifarious
uses to which it would be put, Yor in the rough and ready style of
habitation which they were planning, there could be no variety of
material; and every part of the house—outside and inside walls,
flooring, ceiling, partitions, rafters, ridges, framework, and tiling—~
would have to be contrived of planks, beams, and timbers, As may
readily be supposed, finished workmanship was not necessary for
such a description of building, and Mac-Nab was able to proceed
very rapidly without endangering the safety of the building.
About a hundred of these firs were chosen and felled—they were
neither barked nor squared—and formed so many timbers, averag-
ing some twenty feet in length. The axe and the chisel did not
touch them except at the ends, in order to form the tenons and
mortises by which they were to be secured to one another. Very
few days sufficed to complete this part of the work, and the
timbers were brought down by the dogs to the site fixed on for
the principal building. To start with, the site had been carefully
levelled. The soil, a mixture of fine earth and sand, had been
beaten and consolidated with heavy blows. The brushwood with
which it was originally covered was burnt, and the thick layer of
oshes thus produced would prevent the damp from penetrating the
floors. A clean and dry foundation having been thus secured on
which to lay the first joists, upright posts were fixed at each corner
of the site, and at the extremities of the inside walls, to form
the skeleton of the building. The posts were sunk to a depth of
some feet in the ground, after their ends had been hardened in the
fire; and'were slightly hollowed at each side to receive the cross-
beams of the outer wall, between which the openings for the doors
and windows had been arranged for. These posts were held
together at the top by horizontal beams well let into the mortises,
and consolidating the whole building. On these horizontal beams,
which represented the architraves of the two fronts, rested the high’
trusses of the roof, which overhung the walls like the eaves of
a chalet. Above this squared architrave were laid the joists
of the ceiling, and those of the floor upon the layer of ashes,



FORT HOPE. 87



The timbers, both in the inside and outside walis, were only
laid side by side. To insure their being properly joined,
Rae the blacksmith drove strong iron bolts through them at inter-
vals; and when even this contrivance proved insufficient to close the
interstices as hermetically as was necessary, Mac-Nab had recourse to
calking, a process which seamen find invaluable in rendering vessels
water-tight ; only as a substitute for tow he used a sort of dry moss,
with which the eastern side of the cape was covered, driving it into
the crevices with calking-irons and a hammer, filling up each hollow
with layers of hot tar, obtained without difficulty from the pine-trees,
and thus making the walls and boarding impervious to the rain and
damp of the winter season.

The door and windows in the two fronts were roughly but
strongly built, and the small panes of the latter glazed with isinglass,
which, though rough, yellow, and almost opaque, was yet the best
substitute for glass which the resources of the country afforded; and
its imperfections really mattered little, as the windows were sure to
be always open in fine weather; while during the long night of the
Arctic winter they would be useless, and have to be kept closed and
defended by heavy shutters with strong bolts against the violence of the
gales. Meanwhile the house was being quickly fitted up inside. By
means of a double door between the outer and inner halls, a too sudden
change of temperature was avoided, and the wind was prevented
from blowing with unbroken force into the rooms. The air-pumps,
brought from’ Fort Reliance, were so fixed as to let in fresh air
whenever excessive cold prevented the opening of doors or windows
—one being made to eject the impure air from within, the other to
renew the supply; for the Lieutenant had given his whole mind to
this important matter.

The principal cooking utensil was a large iron furnace, which had
been brought piecemeal from Fort Reliance, and which the carpenter
put up without any difficulty. The chimneys for the kitchen and
hall, however, seemed likely to tax the ingenuity of the workmen to
the utmost, as no material within their reach was strong enough for
the purpose, and stone, us we have said before, was nowhere to be
found in the country around Cape Bathurst,

The difficulty appeared insurmountable, when the invincible
Lieutenant suggested that they should utilise the shells with which
the shore was strewed.

Make chimneys of shells!” cried the carpenter,



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The Baldwin Library

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“Mrs Barnett discharged the contents,” &c.—Page 147.
THE FUR COUNTRY

on

SEVENTY DEGREES NORTH LATITUDE

TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH OF JOULES VERNE

BY

N. D’ANVERS

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS



LONDON
SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON, SEARLE, & RIVINGTON
CROWN BUILDINGS, 188 FLEET STREET
1877
[All rights reserved ]
Ballantyne Preés
BALLANTYNE, HANSON AND CO.
EDINBURGH AND LONDON
CONTENTS.

PART L

CHAP. PAGE

J. A SOIREE AT FORT RELIANCE, . . 8 - . 1

II, THE HUDSON’S BAY FUR COMPANY, . : 7 r , 8
III, A SAVANT THAWED, . . . - r . i4
IV. A FACTORY, . . . . , . - 20
V. FROM FORT RELIANCE TO FORT ENTERPRISE, , - - 26
VI. A WAPITI DUEL, . . . . : . » 33
VII. THE ARCTIC CIRCLE, ° 7 . : . » 41
Vill, THE GREAT BEAR LAKE, . : . . . - 48
IX, ASTORMONTHELAKE, . 7 : , . » 55
X. A RETROSPECT, . . ° . : . - 63
XI, ALONG THE COAST, . © . . ' . : - 69
XII, THE MIDNIGHT SUN, . ‘ A : - - 716
XIII, FORT HOPE, . . . . . ’ - §8
XIV. SOME EXCURSIONS, . . . : . . . 90
XY. FIFTEEN MILES FROM CAPE BATHURST, 7 . . - 7
XVI. TWO SHOTS, . . ° . , > - 103
XVII, THE APPROACH OF WINTER, ‘ . ‘ . - 110
XVIII, THE POLAR NIGHT, . 7 . . o , - 117
XIX, A NEIGHBOURLY VISIT, . 7 ' > , - 126
XX. MERCURY FREEZES, . . » : , » 135
CXXI, THE LARGE POLAR BEARS, » . , . ‘ 2 14h
XXIL FIVE MONTHS MORE, . . ’ . . - 150

XXIM. THE ECLIPSE OF THE 18TH JUNE 1860, ' ‘ ‘ » 158
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS,

“Mrs, Barnett discharged the contents,” &c.,

Lieutenant Hobson and Sergeant Long,

A savant thawed, : .

‘Lieutenant Hobson and the Sergeant led the way,”

A wapiti duel, . . . . .
‘* Hobson uttered a last despairing cry !” .
A hunting party, . . . . .
“A new country was springing into being,” .
‘I'he body was hauled up,” &., . . .

“The bears were walking about on the roof,”

“The ice burst,” &., . . . .

Frontisniece.

PAGE

15
27

61

92
112
127
142
153
TILE: FUR COUNTER Y:

CHAPTER I.
A SOIREE AT FORT. RELIANCE,

N the evening of the 17th March 1859, Captain Craventy gave
a féte at Fort Reliance. Our readers must not at once
imagine a grand entertainment, such as a court ball, or a

musical soirée with a fine orchestra. Captain Craventy’s reception

was a very simple aflair, yet he had spared no pains to give it
éciat.

In fact, under the auspices of Corporal Joliffe, the large room on
the ground-floor was completely transformed. The rough walls,
constructed of roughly-hewn trunks of trees piled up horizontally,
were still visible, it ‘is true, but their nakedness was disguised by
arms and armour, borrowed from the arsenal of the fort, and by an
English tent at each corner of the room. Two lamps suspended
by chains, like chandeliers, and provided with tin reflectors, relieved
the gloomy appearance of the blackened beams of the: ceiling, and
sufficiently illuminated the misty atmosphere of the room. The
narrow windows, some of them mere loop-holes, were so encrusted
with hoar-frost, that it was impossible to look through them ; but
two or three pieces of red bunting, tastily arranged about them,
challenged the admiration of all who entered. The floor, of rough
joists of wood laid parallel with each other, had been carefully
swept by Corporal Joliife. - No sofas, chairs, or other modern furni-
ture, impeded the free circulation of the guests. Wooden benches
half fixed against the walls, huge blocks of wood cut with the axe,
and two tables with clumsy legs, were all the appliances of luxury
the saloon could boast of. But the partition wall, with a narrow
door leading into the next room, was decorated in a style alike


2 THE FUR COUNTRY.

costly and picturesque. From the beams hung magnificent furs
admirably arranged, the equal of which could not be seen in the
more favoured regions of Regent Street or the Perspective-Newski.
It seemed as if the whole fauna of the ice-bound North were here
represented by their finest skins. The eye wandered from the furs
of wolves, grey bears, polar bears, otters, wolverenes, beavers, ‘musk
rats, water pole-cats, ermines, and silver foxes; and above this
display was an inscription in brilliantly-coloured and artistically-
shaped cardboard—the motto of the world-famous Hudson’s Bay
Company—
“ PROPELLE CUTUM.”

“Really, Corporal Joliffe, you have surpassed yourself!” said
Captain Craventy to his subordinate.

“T think I have, I think I have!” replied the Corporal ; “ but
honour to whom honour is due, Mrs Joliffe deserves part of your
commendation ; she assisted me in everything.”

“‘ A wonderful woman, Corporal.”

“ Her equal is not to be found, Captain.”

An immense brick and earthenware stove occupied the centre of
the room, with a huge iron pipe passing from it through the ceiling,
and conducting the dense black smoke into the outer air. This
stove contained a roaring fire constantly fed with fresh shovelfuls
of coal by the stoker, an old soldier specially appointed to the ser-
vice. Now and then a gust of wind drove back a volume of smoke
into the room, dimming the brightness of the lamps, and adding
fresh blackness to the beams of the ceiling, whilst tongues of flame
shot forth from the stove. But the guests of Fort Reliance thought
little of this slight inconvenience ; the stove warmed them, and they
could not pay too dearly for its cheering heat, so terribly cold was
it outside in the cutting north wind.

The storm could be heard raging without, the snow fell fast, be-
coming rapidly solid and coating the already frosted window panes
with fresh ice, The whistling wind made its way through the
cranks and chinks of the doors and windows, and occasionally the
rattling noise drowned every other sound. Presently an awful
silence ensued. Nature seemed to be taking breath; but suddenly
the squall recommenced with terrific fury. The house was shaken
to its foundations, the planks cracked, the beams groaned. A
stranger less accustomed than the habitués of the fort to the war of
the elements, would have asked if the end of the world were come.
A SOIREE AT FORT RELIANCE, 3



But, with two exceptions, Captain Craventy’s guests troubled
themselves little about the weather, and if they had been outside
they would have felt no more fear than the stormy petrels disport-
ing themselves in the midst of the tempest. Two only of the
assembled company did not belong to the ordinary society of the
neighbourhood, two women, whom we shall introduce when we
have enumerated Captain Craventy’s other guests: these were,
Lieutenant Jaspar Hobson, Sergeant Long, Corporal Joliffe, and his
bright active Canadian wife, a certain Mac-Nab and his wife, both
Scotch, John Rae, married to an Indian woman of the country, and
some sixty soldiers or employés of the Hudson’s Bay Company.
The neighbouring forts also furnished their contingent of guests, for
in. these remote lands veople look upon each other as neighbours
although their homes may be a hundred miles apart. A good many
employés or traders came from Fort Providence or Fort Resolution,
of the Great Slave Lake district, and even from Fort Chippeway
and Fort Liard further south. A rare break like this in the
monotony of their secluded lives, in these hyberborean regions,
was joyfully welcomed by all the exiles, and even a few Indian
chiefs, about a dozen, had accepted Captain Craventy’s invi-
tation. They were not, however, accompanied by their wives,
the luckless squaws being still looked upon as little better than
slaves. The presence of these natives is accounted for by the fact
that they are in constant intercourse with the traders, and supply
the greater number of furs which pass through the hands of the
Hudson’s Bay Company, in exchange for other commodities. They
are mostly Chippeway Indians, well grown men with hardy con-
stitutions. Their complexions are of the peculiar reddish black
colour always ascribed in Europe to the evil spirits of fairyland.
They wear very picturesque cloaks of skins and mantles of fur, with
a head-dress of eagle’s feathers spread out like a lady’s: fan, and
quivering with every motion of their thick black hair.

Such was the company to whom the Captain was doing the
honours of Fort Reliance. There was no dancing for want of
music, but the “buffet” admirably supplied the want of the hired
musicians of the Kuropean balls.. On the table rose a pyramidal
pudding made by Mrs Joliffe’s own hands; it was an immense
truncated cone, composed of flour, fat, rein-deer venison, and musk
beef. The eggs, milk, and citron prescribed in recipe books were,
itis true, wanting, but their absence was atoned for by its huge
4 THE FUR COUNTRY.

proportions, Mrs Joliffe served: out slice after slice with liberal
hands, yet there remained enough and to spare. Piles of sandwiches
also figured on the table, in which ship biscuits took the place of
thin slices of English bread and butter, and dainty morsels of corned
beef that of the ham and stuffed veal of the old world. The
sharp teeth of the Chippeway Indians made short work of the
tough biscuits; and for drink there was plenty of whisky and gin
handed round in little pewter pots, not to speak of a great bowl of
punch which was to close the entertainment, and of which the
Indians talked long afterwards in their wigwams.

Endless were the compliments paid to the Joliffes that evening,
but they deserved them ; how zealously they waited on the guests,
with what easy grace they distributed the refreshments! They
did not need prompting, they anticipated the wishes of each one.
The sandwiches were succeeded by slices of the inexhaustible
pudding, the pudding by glasses of gin or whisky,

“No, thank you, Mr Joliffe.”

“You are too good, Corporal ; but let me have time to breathe.”

‘Mrs Joliffe, I assure you, I can eat no more.”

“ Corporal Joliffe, I am at your mercy.”

“No more, Mrs Joliffe, no more, thank you!”

Such were the replies met with on every side by the zealous pair,
but their powers of persuasion were such that tke most reluctant
yielded in the end. The quantities of food and drink consumed
were really euormous, The hubbub of conversation increased. The
soldiers and employés became excited. Here the talk was of hunt-
ing, there of trade. What plans were laid for next season!. The
entire fauna of the Arctic regions would scarcely supply game
enough for these enterprising hunters. They already saw bears,
foxes, and musk oxen, falling beneath their bullets, and pole-cats by
hundreds caught in their traps. Their imagination pictured the
costly furs piled up in the magazines of the Company, which was
this year to realise hitherto unheard of profits. And whilst the
spirits thus freely circulated inflamed. the imagination of the
Europeans, the large doses of Captain Craventy’s “ fire-water ”
imbibed by the Indians had an opposite effect. ‘Too proud to show
admiration, too cautious to make promises, the taciturn chiefs
listened gravely and silently to the babel of voices around them.

The captain enjoying the hurly burly, and pleased to see the
poor people, brought back as it were to the civilised world, enjoying


















































































































































































































































































































































































































































































LIEUTENANT HOBSON AND SERGEANT LONG.—Page de
A SOIREE AT FORT RELIANCE. 5

—————————— OO Oo

themselves so thoroughly, was here, there, and everywhere, answer-
ing all inquiries about the féte with the words—

“ Ask Joliffe, ask Joliffe !”

And they asked Joliffe, who had a gracious word for every-
body.

Some of those employed in the garrison and civil service of
Fort Reliance must here receive a few words of special notice, for
they were presently to go through experiences of a most terrible
nature, which no human perspicacity could possibly have foreseen.
Amongst others we must name Lieutenant Jaspar Hobson, Ser-
geant Long, Corporal and Mrs Joliffe, and the two foreign women
already alluded to, in whose honour Captain Craventy’s féte was
given,

Jaspar Hobson was a man of forty years of age. He was short
and slight, with little muscular power ; but a force of will which
carried him successfully through all trials, and enabled him to rise
superior to adverse circumstances. He was “a child of the Com-
pany.” His father, Major Hobson, an Irishman from Dublin, who
had now been dead for some time, lived for many years at Fort
Assiniboin with his wife. Tiere Jaspar Hobson was born. His
childhood and youth were spent at the foot of the Rocky Moun-
tains. His father brought him up strictly, and he became a mar
in self-control and courage whilst yet a boy in years, Jaspat
Hobson was no mere hunter, but a soldier, a brave and intelligent
officer. During the struggles in Oregon of the Hudson’s Bay Com-
pany with the rival companies of the Union, he distinguished himself
by his zeal and intrepidity, and rapidly rose to the rank of lieutenant.
His well-known merit led to his appointment to the command of an
expedition to the north, the aim of which was to explore the northern
shores of the Great Bear Lake, and to found a fort on the confines
of the American continent. Jaspar Hobson was to set out on his
journey early in April.

If the lieutenant was the type of a good officer, Sergeant Long
was that of a good soldier. He was a man of fifty years of age, with

~a rough beard that looked as if it were made of cocoa-nut fibre.
Constitutionally brave, and disposed to obey rather than to com-
mand, he had no ambition but to obey the orders he received—
never questioning them, however strange they might appear, never
reasoning for himself when on duty for the Company—a true machine
in uniform; but a perfect machine, never wearing out; ever on the
6 THE FUR COUNTRY.



march, yet never showing signs of fatigue. Perhaps Sergeant Long
was rather hard upon his men, as he was upon himself. He would
not tolerate the slightest infraction of discipline, and mercilessly
ordered men into confinement for the slightest neglect, whilst he
himself had never been reprimanded. In a word, he was a man
born to obey, and this self-annihilation suited his passive tempera-
ment, Men such as he are the materials of which a formidable
army is formed. They are the arms of the service, obeying a
single head. Is not this. the only really powerful organisation ?
The two types of fabulous mythology, Briareus with a hundred
arms and Hydra with a hundred heads, well represent the two
kinds of armies; and in a conflict between them, which would be
victorious? Briareus without a doubt !

We have already made acquaintance with Corporal Joliffe. He
was the busy bee of the party, but it was pleasant to hear him hum-
ming. He would have made a better major-domo than a soldier ;
and he was himself aware of this. So he called himself the ‘“ Cor-
poral in charge of details,’ but he would have lost himself a
hundred times amongst these details, had not little Mrs Joliffe
guided him with a firm hand. So it came to pass, that Corporal
Joliffe obeyed his wife without owning it, doubtless thinking to
himself, like the philosopher Sancho, ‘‘ a woman’s advice is no such
great thing, but he must be a fool who does not listen to it.”

It is now time to say a few words of the two foreign women already
alluded to more than once. They were both about forty years
old, and one of them well deserved to take first rank amongst cele-
brated female travellers. The name of Paulina Barnett, the rival
of the Pfeiffers, Tinnis, and Haimaires of Hull, has been several times
honourably mentioned at the meetings of the Royal Geographical
Society. In her journeys up the Brahmaputra, as far as the
mountains of Thibet, across an unknown corner of New Holland,
from Swan Bay to the Gulf of Carpentaria, Paulina Barnett had
given proof of the qualities of a great traveller. She had been a
widow for fifteen years, and her passion for travelling led her con-
stantly to explore new lands, She was tall, and her face, framed
in long braids of hair, already touched with white, was full of
energy. She was near-sighted, and a double eye-glass rested upon
her long straight nose, with its mobile nostrils. We. must confess
that her walk was somewhat masculine, and her whole appearance
‘sas suggestive of moral power, rather than of female grace. She
A SOIREE AT FORT RELIANCE. a.





was an Englishwoman from Yorkshire, possessed of some fortune,
the greater part of which was expended in adventurous expeditions,
and some new scheme of exploration had now brought her to Fort
Reliance. Having crossed the equinoctial regions, she was doubt-
less anxious to penetrate to the extreme limits of the hyperborean.
Her presence at the fort was an event. The governor of the
Company had given her a special letter of recommendation to
Captain Craventy, according to which the latter was to do all in his
power to forward the design of the celebrated traveller to reach the
borders of the Arctic Ocean. A grand enterprise! To follow in
the steps of Hearne, Mackenzie, Rae, Franklin, and others. What
fatigues, what trials, what dangers would have to be gone through
in the conflict with the terrible elements of the Polar climate! How
could a woman dare to venture where so many explorers have drawn
back or perished? But the stranger now shut up in Fort Reliance
was no ordinary woman ; she was Paulina Barnett, a laureate of the
Royal Society.

We must add that the celebrated traveller was accompanied by
a servant named Madge. ‘This faithful creature was not merely a
servant, but a devoted and courageous friend, who lived only for
her mistress. A Scotchwoman of the old type, whom a Caleb
might have married without loss of dignity. Madge was about five
years older than Mrs Barnett, and was tall and strongly built. The
two were on the most intimate terms; Paulina looked upon Madge as
an elder sister, and Madge treated Paulina as her daughter.

It was in honour of Paulina Barnett that Captain Craventy was
this evening treating his employés and the Chippeway Indians, In
fact, the lady traveller was to join the expedition of Jaspar Hobson
for the exploration of the north. It was for Paulina Barnett that
the large saloon of the factory resounded with joyful hurrahs, And
it was no wonder that the stove consumed a hundredweight of coal
on this memorable evening, for the cold outside was twenty-four
degrees Fahrenheit below zero, and Fort Reliance is situated in
61° 47’ N. Lat., at least four degrees from the Polar circle.
(2.0% i
CHAPTER IL
THE HUDSON'S BAY FUR COMPANY.

Hecnoas
rere Craventy 1”
Ge

Qk “ Mrs Barnett ?”
rw “What do you think of your Lieutenant, Jaspar
Hobson ?”

“T think he is an officer who will go far.”

“ What do you mean by the words, Will go far? Do you mean
that he wiil go beyond the Twenty-fourth parallel?”

Captain Craventy could not help smiling at Mrs Patlina Barnett’s
question. They were talking together near the stove, whilst the
guests were passing backwards and forwards between the eating
and drinking tables.

“ Madam,” replied the Captain, “all that a man can do, will be
done by Jaspar Hobson. ‘The Company has charged him to explore
the north of their possessions, and to establish a factory as near as
possible to the confines of the American continent, and he will
establish it.”

“That is a great responsibility for Lieutenant Hobson !” said
the traveller,

“Tt is, madam, but Jaspar Hobson has never yet drawn back
from a task imposed upon him, however formidable it may have
appeared.”

“T can quite believe it, Captain,” replied Mrs Barnett, “and we
shall now see the Lieutenant at work. But what induces the Com-
pany to construct a fort on the shores of the Arctic Ocean ?”

“They have a powerful motive, madam,” replied the Captain.
“T may add a double motive. At no very distant date, Russia will
probably cede her American possessions to the Government of the
United States.1 When this cession has taken place, the Company
will find access to the Pacific Ocean extremely: difficult, unless the
North-west passage discovered by M‘Clure be practicable. Fresh

1 Captain Craventy’s prophecy has since been realised,
THE HUDSON'S BAY FUR COMPANY, 9



explorations will decide this, for the Admiralty is about to send a
vessel which will coast along the North American continent, from
Behring Strait to Coronation Gulf, on the eastern side of which the
new fort is to be established. If the enterprise succeed, this point
will become an important factory, the centre of the northern fur
trade. The transport of furs across the Indian territories involves
a vast expenditure of time and money, whereas, if the new route be
available, steamers will take them from the new fort to the Pacific
Ocean in a few days.” ;

“That would indeed be an important result of the enterprise, if
this North-west passage can really be used,” replied Mrs Paulina
Barnett; “but I think you spoke of a double motive.” —_

“T did, madam,” said the Captain, “‘and I alluded to a matter of
vital interest to the Company. But I must beg of you to allow me
to explain to you in a few words how the present state of things
came about, how it is in fact that the very source of the trade of
this once flourishing Company is in danger of destruction,”

The Captain then proceeded to give a brief sketch of the history
of the famous Hudson’s Bay Company.

In the earliest times men employed the skins and furs of animals
as clothing. The fur trade is therefore of very great antiquity.
Luxury in dress increased to such an extent, that sumptuary laws
were enacted to control too great extravagance, especially in furs, for
which there was a positive passion, Vair and the furs of Siberian
squirrels were prohibited at the middle of the 12th century.

In 15538 Russia founded several establishments in the northern
steppes, and England lost no time in following her example. The
trade in sables, ermines, and beavers, was carried on through the
agency of the Samoiedes ; but during the reign of Elizabeth, a royal
decree restricted the use of costly furs to such an extent, that for
several years this branch of industry was completely paralysed.

On the 2nd May, 1670, a licence to trade in furs in the Hudson’s
Bay Territory was granted to the Company, which numbered several
men of high rank amongst its shareholders : the Duke of York, the
Duke of Albemarle, the Earl of Shaftesbury, &c, Its capital was
then only £8420. Private companies were formidable rivals to its
success; and French agents, making Canada their headquarters,
ventured on hazardous but most lucrative expeditions. ‘The active
competition of these bold hunters threatened the very existence of
the infanteCompany.

a

B
10 THE FUR COUNTRY.



The conquest of Canada, however, somewhat lessened the danger
of its position. Three years after the taking of Quebec, 1776, the
fur trade received a new impulse. English traders became familiar
with the difficulties of trade of this kind; they learned the
customs of the country, the ways of the Indians and their system
of exchange of goods, but for all this the Company as yet made no
profits whatever. Moreover, towards 1784 some merchants of
Montreal combined to explore the fur country, and founded that
powerful North-west Company, which soon became the centre of the
fur trade. In 1798 the new Company shipped furs to the value of
no less than £120,000, and the existence of the Hudson’s Bay
Company was again threatened.

We must add, that the North-west Company shrank from no act,
however iniquitous, if its interests were at stake. Its agents
imposed on their own employés, speculated on the misery of the
Indians, robbed them when they had themselves made ‘them drunk,
setting at defiance the Act of Parliament forbidding : ‘the sale of
spirituous liquors’ on Indian territory ; and consequently realisi se
immense profits, in spite of the competition of the various Russian
and American companies which had sprung up—the American Fur
Company amongst others, founded in 1809, with a capital of a
million of dollars, which was carryitig on Operations on the west
of the Rocky Mountains,

The Hudson’s Bay Company was probably in greater danger of
ruin than any other ; but in 1821, after much discussion, a treaty was
made, in accordance with which its old rival the North-west Company
became amalgamated with it, the two receiving the common title of
‘‘The Hudson’s Bay Fur Company.”

Now the only rival of this important association is the American
St Louis Fur Company. The Hudson’s Bay Company has numerous
establishments scattered over a domain extending over 3,700,000
square miles, Its principal factories are situated on James Bay,
at the mouth of the Severn, in the south, and towards the frontiers
of Upper Canada, on Lakes Athapeskow, Winnipeg, Superior,
Methye, Buffalo, and near the Colombia, Mackenzie, Saskatchewan,
and Assiniboin rivers, &c. Fort York, commanding the course of
the river Nelson, is the headquarters of the Company, and contains
its principal fur depédt. Moreover, in 1842 it took a lease of
all the Russian establishments in North America at an annual
rent of £40,000, so that it is now working on its own account
THE HUDSON'S BAY FUR COMPANY. It



the vast tracts of country between the Mississippi and the Pacific
Ocean. It has sent out intrepid explorers in every direction :
Hearne, towards the Polar Sea, in 1770, to the discovery of the Cop-
permine River; Franklin, in 1819 to 1822, along 5550 miles of the
American coast ; Mackenzie, who, after having discovered the river
to which he gave his name, reached the shores of the Pacific at
52° 24’ N. Lat. The following is a list of the quantities of skins
and furs despatched to Europe by the Hudson’s Bay Company in
1833-34, which will give an exact idea of the extent of its trade -—

Beavers, . . : 7 7 1,074
Skins and young Beavers, . . 92,288
Musk Rais, 3 . ° - 694,092
Badgers, . . . ‘ s 1,069
Bears, . ° ° ‘ . 7,451
Ermines, ° e ‘ . 491
Foxes, . . . . 9,937
Lynxes, . . ‘ . « 14,255
_ Sables, . * ‘ ‘ - 64,490
Polecats, . . ‘ ‘ - 25,100
Otters, - ‘ . « 22,303
Racoons, . : . ‘ 713
Swaps, . - ‘ . ; 7,918
Wolves, . . . . . 8,484
Wolverines, ; . ‘ «. 345574

Such figures ought to bring in a large profit to the Hudson’s
Bay Company, but unfortunately they have not been maintained,
and for the last twenty years have been decreasing.

The cause of this decline was the subject of Captain Craventy’s
explanation to Mrs Paulina Barnett.

“ Until 1839, madam,” said he, “the Company was in a flourish-
ing condition, In that year the number of furs exported was
2,350,000, but since then the trade has gradually declined, and
this number is now reduced by one-half at least.”

“ But what do you suppose is the cause of this extraordinary
decrease in the exportation of furs?” inquired Mrs Barnett.

“The depopulation of the hunting territories, caused by the
activity, and, I must add, the want of foresight of the hunters.
The game was trapped and killed without mercy, These massacres
were conducted in the most reckless and short-sighted fashion.
Even females with young and their little ones did not escape. The
consequence is, that the animals whose fur is valuable have become
extremely rare, The otter has almost entirely disappeared, and is
12. THE FUR COUNTRY,



only to be found near the islands of the North Pacific. Small
colonies of beavers have taken refuge on the shores of the most dis-
tant rivers. It is the same with many other animals, compelled to
flee before the invasion of the hunters. The traps, once crowded
with game, are now empty. The price of skins is rising just when
a great demand exists for furs. Hunters have gone away in disgust,
leaving none but the most intrepid and indefatigable, who now
penetrate to the very confines of the American continent.”

“Yes,” said Mrs Paulina Barnett, “the fact of the fur-bearing
animals having taken refuge beyond the polar. circle, is a sufficient
explanation of the Company’s motive in founding a factory on the
borders of the Arctic Ocean.”

‘‘Not only so, madam,” replied the Captain, “the Company is also
compelled to seek a more northern centre of operations, for an Act
of Parliament has lately greatly reduced its domain.”

«And the motive for this reduction ?” inquired the traveller.

“A very important question of political economy was involved,
madam ; one which could not fail greatly to interest the statesmen
of Great Britain. In a word, the interests of the Company and
those of civilisation are antagonistic. It is to the interest of the
Company to keep the territory belonging to it in a wild unculti.
vated condition. Every attempt at clearing ground was pitilessly
put a stop to, as it drove away the wild animals, so that the mono-
poly enjoyed by the Hudson’s Bay Company was detrimental to
all agricultural enterprise. All questions not immediately relating
to their own particular trade, were relentlessly put aside by the
governors of the association. It was this despotic, and, in a certain
sense, immoral system, which provoked the measures taken by Par-
liament, and, in 1837, a commission appointed by the Colonial
Secretary decided that it was necessary to annex to Canada all the
territories suitable for cultivation, such as the Red River and Sas-
katchewan districts, and to leave to the Company only that portion
of its land which appeared to be incapable of future civilisation.
The next year the Company lost the western slopes of the Rocky
Mountains, which it held direct from the Colonial Office, and you
will now understand, madam, how the agents of the Company, hav-
ing lost their power over their old territories, are determined before
giving up their trade to try to work the little known countries of
the north, and so open a communication with the Pacific by means
of the North-west passage,”
THE HUDSON’S BAY FUR COMPANY. 13



Mrs Paulina Barnett was now well informed as to the ulterior
projects of the celebrated Company. Captain Craventy had given
her a graphic sketch of the situation, and it is probable he would
have entered into further details, had not an incident cut short his
harangue.

Corporal Joliffe announced in a loud voice that, with Mrs Joliffe’s
assistance, he was about to mix the punch. This news was received
as it deserved. The bowl—or rather, the basin—was filled with
the precious liquid. It contained no less than ten pints of coarse
tum, Sugar, measured out by Mrs Joliffe, was piled up at the
bottom, and on the topfloated slices of lemon shrivelled with age.
Nothing remained to be done but to light this alcoholi¢ lake, and
the Corporal, match in hand, awaited the order of his Captain, as if
he were about to spring a mine,

* All right, Joliffe!” at last said Captain Craventy.

The light was applied to the bowl, and in a moment the punch
was in flames, whilst the guests applauded and clapped their hands.
‘Ten minutes afterwards, full glasses of the delightful beverage were
circulating amongst the guests, fresh bidders for them coming for-
ward in endless succession, like speculators on the Stock Exchange.

“ Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah! three cheers for Mrs Barnett! A
cheer for the Captain.”

In the midst of these joyful shouts cries were heard from outside,
Silence immediately fell upon the company assembled.

‘Sergeant Long,” said the Captain, “go and see what is the
matter.”

And at his chief’s order, the Sergeant, leaving his glass unfinished,
left the room.
CHAPTER III.
4 SAVANT THAWED,

SERGEANT LONG hastened to the narrow passage from
sy which opened the outer door of the fort, and heard the
cries redoubled, and combined with violent blows on the
postern gate, surrounded by high walls, which gave access to the
court. The Sergeant pushed open the door, and plunging into the
snow, already a foot deep; he waded through it, although half-
blinded by the cutting sleet, and nipped by the terrible cold.

“What the devil does any one want at this time of night?”
exclaimed the Sergeant to himself, as he mechanically removed the
heavy bars of the gate ; “none but Esquimaux would dare to brave
such a temperature as this!”

“Open! open! open!” they shouted from without.

“T am opening,” replied Sergeant Long, who really seemed to be
a long time about it.

At last the door swung open, and the Sergeant was almost upset
by a sledge, drawn by six dogs, which dashed past him like a flash
of lightning. Worthy Sergeant Long only just escaped being crushed,
but he got up without a murmur, closed the gate, and returned to
the house at his ordinary pace, that is to say, at the rate of seventy-
five strides a minute.

But Captain Craventy, Lieutenant Jaspar Hobson, and Corporal
Joliffe were already outside, braving the intense cold, and staring
at the sledge, white with snow, which had just drawn up in front
of them.

A man completely enveloped in furs now descended from it.

“Fort Reliance?” he inquired.

“The same,” replied the Captain,

* Captain Craventy ?”

“Behold him! Who are you?”

“ A courier of the Company.”

“ Are you alone?”
























.—Page 15.,

A SAVANT THAWED
A SAVANT THAWED. 15



“No, I bring a traveller.”

“ A traveller! And what does he want?”

“He is come to see the moon.”

At this reply, Captain Craventy said to himself the man must be
afool. But there was no time to announce this opinion, for the
courier had taken an inert mass from the sledge, a kind of bag
covered with snow, and was about to carry it into the house, when
the Captain inquired—

“ What is that bag?”

“It is my traveller,” replied the courier.

“ Who is this traveller?”

“ The astronomer, Thomas Black.”

“ But he is frozen.”

“Well, he must be thawed.”

Thomas Black, carried by the Sergeant, the Corporal,’ and the
courier, now made his entrance into the house of the fort, and was
taken to a room on the first floor, the temperature of which was
bearable, thanks to a glowing stove. He was laid upon a bed, and
the Captain took his hand. :

It was literally frozen. The wrappers and furred mantles, in
which Thomas Black was rolled up like a parcel requiring care, were
removed, and revealed a man of about fifty. He was short and
stout, his hair was already touched with grey, his beard was un-
trimmed, his eyes were closed, and his lips pressed together as if
glued to one another. If he breathed at all, it was so slightly that
the frost-work on the windows would not have been affected by it.
Joliffe undressed him, and turned him rapidly on to his face and
back again, with the words—

“Come, come, sir, when do you mean to return to conscious-
ness ?”

But the visitor who had arrived in so strange a manner showed
no signs of returning life, and Corporal Joliffe could think of no
better means to restore the lost vital heat than to give him a bath
in the bowl of hot punch.

Very happily for Thomas Black, however, Lieutenant Jaspar
Hobson had another idea.

“Snow, bring snow!” he cried.

There was plenty of it in the court of Fort Reliance ;—and
whilst the Sergeant went to fetch the snow, Joliffe removed all
the astronomer’s clothes, The body of the unfortunate man was
16 THE FUR COUNTRY.

*



covered with white frost-bitten patches. It was urgently neces-
sary to restore the circulation of the blood in the affected por-
tions. This result Jaspar Hobson hoped to obtain by vigorous
friction with the snow. We know that this is the means generally
employed in the polar countries to set going afresh the circulation
of the blood arrested by the intense cold, even as the rivers are
arrested in their courses by the icy touch of winter. Sergeant
Long soon returned, and he and Joliffe gave the new arrival such
a rubbing as he had probably never before received. It was no
soft and agreeable friction, but a vigorous shampooing most lustily
performed, more like the scratching of a curry-comb than the
caresses of a human hand.

And during the operation the loquacious Corporal continued to
exhort the unconscious traveller.

“Come, come, sir. What do you mean by getting frozen like
this. Now, don’t be so obstinate!”

Probably it was obstinacy which kept Thomas Black from deign-
ing to show a sign of life, At the end of half an hour the rubbers
began to despair, and were about to discontinue their exhausting
efforts, when the poor man sighed several times.

“ He lives ; he is coming to!” cried Jaspar Hobson.

After having warmed the outside of his body, Corporal Joliffe
hurried to do the same for the inside, and hastily fetched a few
glasses of the punch, The traveller really felt much revived by
them ; the colour returned to his cheeks, expression to his eyes, and
words to his lips, so that Captain Craventy began to hope that he
should have an explanation from Thomas Black himself of his strange
arrival at the fort in such a terrible condition.

At last the traveller, well covered with wraps, rose on his elbow,
and said in a voice still faint—

“ Fort Reliance ?”

“The same,” replied the Captain.

“ Captain Graventy 1”

“ He is before you, and is happy to bid you S elcgmie’ But may
T inquire what brings you to Fort Reliance?”

“ He is come to see the moon,” replied the courier, who evidently
thought this a happy answer.

It satisfied Thomas Black too, for he bent his head in assent and
resumed—

“ Lieutenant Hobson ?”
4 SAVANT THAWED, : 17



“JT am here,” replied the Lieutenant.

“ You have not yet started ?”

“Not yet, sir.”

“Then,” replied Thomas Black, “I have only to thank you, and
to go to sleep until to-morrow morning.”

The Captain and his companions retired, leaving their strange
visitor to his repose. Half an hour later the /é¢e was at an end, and
the guests had regained their respective homes, either in the different
rooms of the fort, or the scattered houses outside the enceinte.

The next day Thomas Black was rather better. His vigorous
constitution had thrown off the effects of the terrible chill he had
had. Any one else would have died from it; but he was not like
other men.

And now who was this astronomer? Where did he come from?
Why had he undertaken this journey across the territories of the
Company in the depth of winter? What did the courier’s reply
signify 1—To see the moon! The moon could be seen anywhere ;
there was no need to come to the hyperborean regions to look
at it!

Such were the thoughts which passed through Captain Craventy’s
mind. But the next day, after an hour’s talk with his new guest,
lie had learned all he wished to know. :

Thomas Black was an astronomer attached to the Greenwich
Observatory, so brilliantly presided over by Professor Airy. Mr
Black was no theorist, but a sagacious and intelligent observer ;
and in the twenty years during which he had devoied himself to
astronomy, he had rendered great services to the science of ourano-
graphy. In private life he was a simple nonentity ; he existed only
for astronomy; he lived in the heavens, not upon the earth ; and was
a true descendant of the witty La Fontaine’s savant who fell into
awell. He could talk of nothing but stars and constellations. He
ought to have lived in a telescope. As an observer he had not his
rival; his patience was inexhaustible ; he could watch for months for
a cosmical phenomenon, He had a specialty of his own, too; he
had studied luminous meteors and shooting stars, and his discoveries
in this branch of astronomical science were considerable. When-
ever minute observations or exact measurements and definitions
were required,“Thomas Black was chosen for the service ; for his
clearness of sight was something remarkable. The power of obser
vation is not given to every one, and it will not therefore be surpris-
18 THE FUR COUNTRY.

ing that the Greenwith astronomer should have been chosen for the
mission we are about to describe, which involved results so interest-
ing for selenographic science.

We know that during a total eclipse of the sun the moon is
surrounded by a luminous corona. But what is the origin of this
corona? Is it a real substance ? or isit only an effect of the diffrac-
tion of the sun’s rays near the moon? This isa question which
science has hitherto been unable to answer.

As early as 1706 this luminous halo was scientifically described.
The corona was minutely examined during the total eclipse of
1715 by Lonville and Halley, by Maraldi in 1724, by Antonio de’
Ulloa in 1778, and by Bonditch and Ferrer in 1806; but their
theories were so contradictory that no definite conclusion could be
arrived at. During the total eclipse of 1842, learned men of all
nations—Airy, Arago, Keytal, Langier, Mauvais, Otto, Struve, Petit,
Baily, &c.—endeavoured to solve the mystery of the origin of the
phenomenon ; but in spite of all their efforts, “the disagreement,”
says Arago, “ of the observations taken in different places by skilful
astronomers of one and the same eclipse, have involved the question
in fresh obscurity, so that it is now impossible to come to any certain
conclusion as to the cause of the phenomenon.” Since this was
written, other total eclipses have been studied with no better
results,

Yet the solution of the question is of such vast importance to
selenographic science that no price would be too great to pay for
it. A fresh opportunity was now about to occur to study the
much-discussed corona, A total eclipse of the sun—total, at least,
for the extreme north of America, for Spain and North Africa—
was to take place on July 18th, 1860. It was arranged between the
astronomers of different countries that simultaneous observations
should be taken at the various points of the zone where the eclipse
would be total, Thomas Black was chosen for the expedition to
North America, and was now much in the same situation as the
English astronomers who were transported to Norway and Sweden
on the occasion of the eclipse of 1851.

It will readily be imagined that Thomas Black seized with
avidity the opportunity offered him of studying this luminous halo.
He was also to examine into the nature of the red prominences
which appear on different parts of the edge of the terrestrial
satellite when the totality of the eclipse has commenced; and
A SAVANT THAWED. , Ig





should he be able satisfactorily to establish their origin, he would
be entitled to the applause of the learned men of all Europe.

Thomas Black eagerly prepared for his journey. He obtained
urgent letters of recommendation to the principal agents of the
Hudson’s Bay Company. He ascertained that an expedition was
to go to the extreme north of the continent to found a new fort.
Jt was an opportunity not to be lost; so he set out, crossed the
Atlantic, landed at New York, traversed the lakes to the Red River
settlement, and pressed on from fort to fort in a sledge, under the
escort of a courier of the Company ; in spite of the severity of the
winter, braving all the dangers of a journey across the Arctic
regions, and arriving at Fort Reliance on the 19th March in the
condition we have described.

Such was the explanation given by the astronomer to Captain
Craventy. He at once placed himself entirely at Mr Black’s
service, but could not refrain from inquiring why he had been in
such a great hurry to arrive, when the eclipse was not to take place
until the following year, 1860? —

“But, Captain,” replied the astronomer, “I heard that the Com-
pany was sending an expedition along the northern coast of America,
and I did not wish to. miss the departure of Lieutenant Hobson.”

“Mr Black,” replied the Captain, “if the Lieutenant had already
started, I should have felt it my duty to accompany you myself to
the shores of the Polar Sea.”

And with fresh assurances of his willingness to serve him, the
Captain again bade his new guest welcome to ort Reliance.
aia

CHAPTER IY.

A FACTORY.

NE of the largest of the lakes beyond the 61st parallel is that
called the Great Slave Lake; it is two hundred and fifty
miles long by fifty across, and is situated exactly at 61°

25’ N. lat. and 114° W. long. ‘The surrounding districts slope
down to it, and it completely fills a vast natural hollow. The
position of the lake in the very. centre of the hunting districts,
once swarming with game, early attracted the attention of the
Company. Numerous streams either take their rise from it or
flow into it—the Mackenzie, the Athabasca, é&c.; and several “ix-
portant forts have been constructed on its shores—Fort Providence
on the north, and Fort Resolution on the south. Fort Reliance is
situated on the north-east extremity, and is about three hundred
miles.from the Chesterfield inlet, a long narrow estuary formed by
the waters of Hudson’s Bay.

The Great Slave Lake is dotted with little islands, the granite
and gneiss of which they are formed jutting up in several places.
Its northern banks are clothed with thick woods, shutting out the
barren frozen district beyond, not inaptly called the “ Cursed
Land.” The southern regions, on the other hand, are flat, without
a rise of any kind, and the soil is mostly calcareous. The large
ruminants of the polar districts—the buffaloes or bisons, the flesh
of which forms almost the only food of the Canadian and native
hunters—seldom go further north than the Great Slave Lake.

The trees on the northern shores of the lake form magnificent
forests. We need not be astonished at meeting with such fine vegeta-
tion in this remote district. The Great Slave Lake is not really



‘in a higher latitude than Stockholm or Christiania. We have only

to remember that the isothermal lines, or belts of equal heat, along
which heat is distributed in equal quantities, do not follow the
terrestrial parallels, and that with the same latitude, America is ever
so much colder than Europe. In April the streets of New York
A FACTORY. 21



are still white with snow, yet the latitude of New York is nearly
the same as that of the Azores. The nature of a country, its
position with regard to the oceans, and even the conformation of its
soil, all influence its climate.

In summer Fort Reliance was surrounded with masses of verdure,
refreshing to the sight after the long dreary winter. Timber was
plentiful in these forests, which consisted almost entirely of poplar,
pine, and birch. The islets on the lake produced very fine willows,
Game was abundant in the underwood, even during the bad season.
Further south the hunters from the fort successfully pursued
bisons, elks, and Canadian porcupines, the flesh of which is excellent.
The waters of the Slave Lake were full of fish ; trout in them attained
to an immense size, their weight often exceeding forty pounds. Pikes,
voracious lobes, a sort of charr or grayling called “blue fish,” and
countless legions of tittamegs, the Coregonus of naturalists, disported
themselves in the water, so that the inhabitants of Fort Reliance
were well supplied with food. Nature provided for all their wants ;
and clothed in the skins of foxes, martens, bears, and other Arctic
animals, they were able to brave the rigour of the winter.

The fort, properly so called, consisted of a wooden house with a
ground-floor and one upper storey, In it lived the commandant and
his- officers, The barracks for the soldiers, the magazines of the
Company, and the offices where exchanges were made, surrounded
this house. A little chapel, which wanted nothing but a clergyman,
and a powder-magazine, completed the buildings of the settlement.
The whole was surrounded by palisades twenty-five feet high,
defended by a small bastion with a pointed roof at each of the four
corners of the parallelogram formed by the enceinte. The fort was
thus protected from surprise, a necessary precaution in the days
when the Indians, instead of being the purveyors of the Company,
fought for the independence of their native land, and when the
agents and soldiers of rival associations disputed the possession of
the rich fur country.

At that time the Hudson’s Bay Company employed about a
million men on its territories. It held supreme authority over
them, an authority which could even inflict death, The governors
of the factories could regulate salaries, and arbitrarily fix the price of
provisions and furs; and as a result of this irresponsible power, they
often realised a profit of no less than three hundred per cent.

We sliall see from the following table, taken from the “ Voyage
22 THE FUR COUNTRY.





of Captain Robert Lade,” on what terms exchanges were formerly
made with those Indians who have. since become the best hunters
of the Company. Beavers’ skins were then the currency employed
in buying and selling.

The Indians paid—

For one gun, .
335 half a pound of powder,
3) four pounds of shot,
»» oneaxe, .

. - , 10 beavers? skins.
:
;
:
5) Six knives, . ° ‘;
:
:
3
‘

oa in

3) one pound of glass hea,
», one laced coat,

3) one coat not laced,

3, one laced female dress,

»» one pound of tobacco, . .
3, one box of powder, .

», one comb and one looking-glass,

1
1
1
1
6
2 5 39
6
1
1
2

But afew years ago beaver-skins became so scarce that the cur-
rency had to be changed. Bison-furs are now the medium of trade.
When an Indian presents himself at the fort, the agents of the
Company give him as many pieces of wood as he brings skins, and
he exchanges these pieces of wood for manufactured articles on the
premises ; and as the Company fix the price of the articles they buy
and sell, they cannot fail to realise large profits.

Such was the mode of proceeding in Fort. Reliance and other
factories ; so that Mrs Paulina Barnett was able to watch the work-
ing of the system during her stay, which extended until the 16th
April. Many a long talk did she have with Lieutenant Hobson,
many were the projects they formed, and firmly were they both
determined to allow no obstacle to check their advance. As for
Thomas Black, he never opened his lips except when his own special
mission was discussed. He was wrapped up in the subject. of the
luminous corona and red prominences of the moon; he lived but to
solve the problem, and in the end made Mrs Paulina Barnett nearly
as enthusiastic as himself. How eager the two were to cross the
Arctic Circle, and how far off the 18th July 1860 appeared to
both, but especially to the Bopatiens Greenwich astronomer, can
eaaily be imagined.

The preparations for departure could not be commenced until the
middle of March, and a month passed before they were completed.
In fact, it was a formidable undertaking to organise such an ex-
A FACTORY. 23



pedition for crossing the Polar regions. Everything had to be taken
with them—food, clothes, tools, arms, ammunition, and a nonde-
script collection of various requisites,

The troops, under the command of Lieutenant Jaspar Hobson,
were one chief and two subordinate officers, with ten soldiers, three
of whom took their wives with them. They were all picked men,
chosen by Captain Craventy on account ’of their energy and resolution.
We append a list of the whole party :—

1, Lieutenant Jaspar Hobson. 11. Sabine, soldier.

2, Sergeant Long. 12. Hope, do.

8. Corporal Joliffe. 13. Kellet, do,

4, Petersen, soldier. 14. Mrs Rae.

5. Belcher, do. 15. Mrs Joliffe,

6, Rae, do. 16. Mrs Mac-Nab.

7. Marbre, do. 17. Mrs Paulina Barnett.
8. Garry, do, 18. Madge.

9. Pond, do. - : 19. Thomas Black.

10. Mac-Nab, do.

In all, nineteen persons to be transported several hundreds of miles
through a desert and imperfectly-known country.

With this project in view, however, the Company had collected
everything necessary for the expedition. A dozen sledges, with
their teams of dogs, were in readiness. These primitive vehicles
consisted of*strong but light planks joined together by transverse
bands, was fixed beneath the sledge, enabling it to cleave the snow without
sinking deeply into it. Six swift and intelligent dogs, yoked two
and two, and controlled by the long thong brandished by the driver,
drew the sledges, and could go at a rate of fifteen miles an
hour. g? 3 ;

The wardrobe of the travellers consisted of garments made of
reindeer-skins, lined throughout with thick furs, All wore linen
next the skin as a protection against the sudden changes of tempera-
ture frequent in these latitudes. Each one, officer or soldier, male
or female, wore seal-skin boots sewn with twine, in the manufacture
of which the natives excel. These boots are absolutely impervious,
and are so flexible that they are admirably adapted for walking.
Pine-wood snow-shoes, two or three feet long, capable of supporting
the weight of aman on the most brittle snow, and enabling him

to pass over it with the rapidity of a skater on ice, can be fastened
: c
24 THE FUR COUNTRY.



aero nanocwtnee g

to the soles of the seal-skin boots. Fur caps and deer-skin belts
completed the costumes,

For arms, Lieutenant Hobson had the regulation musketoons
provided by the Company, pistols, ordnance sabres, and plenty of
ammunition ; for tools: axes, saws, adzes, and other instruments
required in carpentering. Then there was the collection of all that
would be needed for setting up a factory in the remote district for
which they were bound: a stove, a smelting furnace, two air-
pumps for ventilation, an india-rubber boat, only inflated when
required, &c., &e.

The party might have relied for provisions on the hunters amongst
them. Some of the soldiers were skilful trackers of game, and
there were plenty of reindeer in the Polar regions, Whole tribes of
Indians or Esquimaux, deprived of bread and all other nourishment,
subsist entirely on this venison, which is both abundant and
palatable. But as delays and difficulties had to be allowed for, a
certain quantity of provisions was taken with them. ‘The flesh of
the bison, elk, and deer, amassed in the large battues on the south of
the lake ; corned beef, which will keep for any length of time ; and
some Indian preparations, in which the flesh of animals, ground
to powder, retains its nutritive properties in a very small bulk,
requiring no cooking, and forming a very nourishing diet, were
amongst the stores provided in case of need.

Lieutenant Hobson likewise took several casks of rum and whisky;
but he was firmly resolved to economise these spirits, so injurious
to the health in cold latitudes, as much as possible. The Company
had placed at his disposal a little portable medicine-chest, con-
taining formidable quantities of lime-juice, lemons, and other simple
remedies necessary to check, or if possible to prevent, the scorbutic
affections which take such a terrible form in these regions.

All the men had been chosen with great care ; none were too stout
or too thin, and all had for years been accustomed to the severity
of the climate, and could therefore more easily endure the fatigues
of an expedition to the Polar Sea. They were all brave, high-spirited
fellows, who had taken service of their own accord. Double pay
had been promised them during their stay at the confines of the
American continent, should they succeed in making a settlement be-
yond the seventieth parallel.

The sledge provided for Mrs Barnett and her faithful Madge
was rather more comfortable than the others, She did not wish to
A FACTORY. 25



be treated better than her travelling companions, but yielded to the
urgent request of Captain Craventy, who was but carrying out the
wishes of the Company.

The vehicle which brought Thomas Black to Fort Reliance also
conveyed him and his scientific apparatus from it. A few astrono-
mical instruments, of which there were not many in those days—a
telescope for his selenographic observations, a sextant for taking the
latitude, a chronometer for determining the longitudes, a few maps,
a few books, were all stored away in this sledge, and Thomas Black
relied upon his faithful dogs to lose nothing by the way.

Of course the food for the various teams was not forgotten. There
were altogether no less than seventy-two dogs, quite a herd to pro-
vide for by the way, and it was the business of the hunters to cater
for them. ‘These strong intelligent animals were bought of the
Chippeway Indians, who know well how to train them for their
arduous calling.

The little company was most skilfully organised. The zeal of
Lieutenant Jaspar Hobson was beyond all praise. Proud of his
mission, and devoted to his task, he neglected nothing which could
insure success. - Corporal Joliffe, always a busybody, exerted himself
without producing any very tangible results ; but his wife was most
useful and devoted; and Mrs Paulina Barnett had already struck up
a great friendship with the brisk little Canadian woman, whose fair
hair and large soft eyes were so pleasant to look at.

We need scarcely add that Captain Craventy did all in his power
to further the enterprise. The instructions he had received from
the Company showed what great importance they attached to the
success of the expedition, and the establishment of a new factory
beyond the seventieth parallel. We may therefore safely affirm that
every human effort likely to insure success which could be made
was made; but who could tell what insurmountable difficulties
nature might place in the path of the brave Lieutenant? who could
tell what awaited him and his devoted little band?
CHAPTER V.
FROM FORT RELIANCE TO FORT ENTERPRISE.

SAH first fine days came at last. The green carpet of the
hills began to appear here and there where the snow had
3 melted. A few migratory birds from the south—such ag
swans, bald-headed eagles, &c.—passed through thé warmer air.
The poplars, birches, and willows began to bud, and the red-
headed ducks, of which there are so many species in North America,
to skim the surface of the numerous pools formed by the melted
snow. Guillemots, puffins, and eider ducks sought colder latitudes ;
and ‘little shrews no bigger than a hazel-nut ventured from their
holes, tracing strange figures on the ground with their tiny-pointed
tails. It was intoxicating once more to breathe the fresh air of
spring, and to bask in the sunbeams, Nature awoke once more
from her heavy sleep in the long winter night, and smiled as she
opened her eyes.

The renovation of creation in spring is perhaps more impressive
in the Arctic regions than in any other portion of the globe, on
account of the greater contrast with what has gone before.

The thaw was not, however, complete. The thermometer, it is
true, marked 41° Fahrenheit above zero; but the mean temperature
of the nights kept. the surface, of the snowy plains solid—a good
thing for the passage of sledges, of which Jaspar Hobson meant to
avail himself before the thaw became complete.

The ice of the lake was still unbroken, During the last month
several successful hunting expeditions had been made across the vast
smooth plains, which were already frequented by game. Mrs
Barnett was astonished at the skill with which the men used their
snow-shoes, scudding along at the pace of a horse in full gallop.
Following Captain Craventy’s advice, the lady herself practised
walking in these contrivances, and she soon became very expert in
sliding over the snow.

During the last few days several bands of Indians had arrived at






















































































































































































































































































































































LIEUTENANT HOBSON AND THE SERGEANT LED THE WAY—Page 27.
FROM FORT RELIANCE TO FORT ENTERPRISE. 27



the fort to exchange the spoils of the winter chase for manufactured
goods. The season had been bad, There were a good many polecats
and sables; but the furs of beavers, otters, lynxes, ermines, and
foxes were scarce. It was therefore a wise step for the Company:
to endeavour to explore a new country, where the wild animals. had
hitherto escaped the rapacity of man.

On the morning of the 16th April Lieutenant i aspar Hobson and
his party were ready to start. The route across the known districts,
between the Slave Lake and that of the Great Bear beyond the
Arctic Circle, was already determined. Jaspar Hobson was to make
for Fort Confidence, on the northern extremity of the latter lake ;
and he was to revictual at Fort Enterprise, a station two hundred
miles further to the north-west, on the shores of the Snare Lake,
By travelling at the rate of fifteen miles a day the Lieutenant
hoped to halt there about the beginning of May.

From this point the expedition was to take the shortest route
to Cape Bathurst, on the North American coast. It was agreed
that in a year Captain Craventy Should send a convoy with provi.
sions to Cape Bathurst, and that a detachment of the Lieutenant’s
men was to go to mect this convoy, to guide it to the spot where
the new fort was to be erected. This plan was a guarantee against
any adverse circumstances, and left a means of communication with
their fellow-creatures open to’ the Lieutenant and his voluntary com-
panions in exile.

On the 16th April dogs and sledges were awaiting the travellers
at the postern gate. Captain Craventy called the men of the party
together and said a few kind words to them. He urged them
above all things to stand by one another in the perils they might
be called upon to meet; reminded them that the enterprise upon
which they were about to enter required self-denial and devotion,
and that submission to their officers was an indispensable condition
of success. Cheers greeted the Captain’s speech, the adieux were
quickly made, and each one took his place in the sledge assigned
to him. Jaspar Hobson and Sergeant Long went first; then Mrs
Paulina Barnett and Madge, the latter dexterously wielding the long
Esquimaux whip, terminating in a stiff thong, Thomas Black and
one of the soldiers, the Canadian, Petersen, occupied the third
sledge ; and the others followed, Corporal and Mrs Joliffe bringing
up the rear. According to the orders of Lieutenant Hobson, each
driver kept as nearly as possible at the same distance from the
28 THE FUR COUNTRY.

a EES

preceding sledge, so as to avoid all confusion—a necessary precau-
tion, as a collision between two sledges going at full speed, might
have had disastrous results.

On leaving Fort Reliance, Jaspar Hobson at once directed his
course towards the north-west, The first thing to be done was to
cross the large river connecting Lakes Slave and Wolmsley, which
was, however, still frozen so hard as to be undistinguishable from the
vast white plains around. A uniform carpet of snow covered the
whole country, and the sledges, drawn by their swift teams, sped
rapidly over the firm smooth surface.

The weather was fine, but still very cold. The sun, scarce above
the horizon, described a lengthened curve ; and its rays, reflected on
the snow, gave more light than heat. Fortunately not a breath of
air stirred, and this lessened the severity of the cold, although the
rapid pace of the sledges through the keen atmosphere must have
been trying to any one not inured to the rigour of a Polar climate.

“ A good beginning,” said Jaspar Hobson to the Sergeant, who
sat motionless beside him as if rooted to his seat; “the journey has
commenced favourably. The sky is cloudless, the temperature pro-
pitious, our equipages shoot along like express trains, and as long
as this fine weather lasts we shall get on capitally. What do you
think, Sergeant Long ?”

“T agree with you, Lieutenant,” replied the Sergeant, who never
differed from his chief.

“Like myself, Sergeant, you are determined to push on as far
north as possible—are you not?” resumed Lieutenant Hobson.

“You have but to command to be obeyed, Lieutenant.”

“T know it, Sergeant ; I know that with you to hear is to obey.
Would that all our men understood as you do the importance of
our mission, and would devote themselves body and soul to the
interests of the Company! Ah, Sergeant Long, I know if I gave
you an impossible order ”

“ Lieutenant, there is no such thing as an impossible order.”

“ What? Suppose now I ordered you to go to the North Pole ?”

“ Lieutenant, I should go !”

‘¢ And to come back !” added Jaspar Hobson with a smile.

‘“‘T should come back,” replied Sergeant Long simply.

During this colloquy between Lieutenant Hobson and his Sergeant
a slight ascent compelled the sledges to slacken speed, and Mrs
Barnett and Madge also exchanged a few sentences. These two


FROM FORT RELIANCE TO FORT ENTERPRISE, 29





intrepid women, in their otter-skin caps and white bear-skin mantles,
gazed in astonishment upon the rugged scenery around them, and at
the white outlines of the huge glaciers standing out against the hori-
zon. They had already left behind them the hills of the northern
banks of the Slave Lake, with their summits crowned with the gaunt
skeletons of trees. The vast plains stretched before them in ap-
parently endless succession. The rapid flight and cries of a few
birds of passage alone broke the monotony of the scene. Now and
then a troop of swans, with plumage so white that the keenest sight
could not distinguish them from the snow when they settled on
the ground, rose into view in the clear blue atmosphere and pur-
sued their journey to the north.

“‘ What an extraordinary country!” exclaimed Mrs Paulina Bar-
nett, ‘ What a difference between these Polar regions and the green
prairies of Australia! You remember, Madge, how we suffered from
the heat on the shores of the Gulf of Carpentaria—you remember
the cloudless sky and the parching sunbeams ?”

‘My dear,” replied Madge, “I have not the gift of remembering
like you. You retain your impressions, I forget mine.”

“What, Madge!” cried Mrs Barnett, “you have forgotten the
tropical heat of India and Australia? You have no recollection of
our agonies when water failed us in the desert, when the pitiless
sun scorched us to the bone, when even the night brought us no
relief from our sufferings !”

“No, Paulina,” replied Madge, wrapping her furs more closely
round her, ‘no, I remember nothing. How could I now recollect
the sufferings to which you allude—the heat, the agonies of thirst
—when we are surrounded on every side by ice, and I have but to
stretch my arm out of this sledge to pick up a handful of snow?
You talk to me of heat when we are freezing beneath our bear-
skins ; you recall the broiling rays of the sun when its April beams
cannot melt the icicles on our lips! No, child, no, don’t try to per-
suade me it’s hot anywhere else ; don’t tell me I ever complained
of being too'warm, for I sha’n’t believe you !”

Mrs Paulina Barnett could not help smiling.

**So, poor Madge,” she said, “ you are very cold!”

“Yes, child, I am cold ; but Irather like this climate. I’ve no
doubt it’s very healthy, and I think North America will agree with
me. It’s really a very fine country !”

“Yes, Madge, it 7s a fine country, and we have as yet seen. none
30 THE FUR COUNTRY.



of the wonders it contains. But wait until we reach the Arctic
Ocean ; wait until the winter shuts us in with its gigantic icebergs
and thick covering of snow; wait till the northern storms break over
us, and the glories of the Aurora Borealis and of the splendid con-
stellations of the Polar skies are spread out above our heads; wait
till we have lived through the strange long six months’ night, and
then indeed you will understand the infinite variety, the infinite
beauty, of our Creator’s handiwork !”

Thus spoke Mrs Paulina Barnett, carried away by her vivid
imagination. She could see nothing but beauty in these deserted
regions, with their rigorous climate. Her enthusiasm got the better
for the time of her judgment. Her sympathy with nature enabled
her to read the touching poetry of the ice-bound north—the poetry
embodied in the Sagas, and sung by the bards of the time of Ossian.
But Madge, more matter of fact than her mistress, disguised from
herself neither the dangers of an expedition to the Arctic Ocean,
nor the sufferings involved in wintering only thirty degrees at the
most from the North Pole,

And indeed the most robust had sometimes succumbed to the
fatigues, privations, and mental and bodily agonies endured in this
severe climate. Jaspar Hobson had not, it is true, to press on to
the very highest latitudes of the globe; he had not to reach the pole
itself, or to follow in the steps of Parry, Ross, M‘Clure, Kean, Morton,
and others. But after once crossing the Arctic Circle, there is little
variation in the temperature ; it does not increase in coldness in
proportion to the elevation reached. Granted that Jaspar Hobson
did not think of going beyond the seventieth parallel, we must still
remember that Franklin and his unfortunate companions died of
cold and hunger before they had penetrated beyond 68° N. lat,

Very different was the talk in the sledge occupied by Mr and
Mrs Joliffe. Perhaps the gallant Corporal had too often drunk to
the success of the expedition on starting ; for, strange to say, he was
disputing with his little wife. Yes, he was actually contradicting
her, which never happened except under extraordinary circum-
stances !

“No, Mrs Joliffe,” he was saying, “no, you have nothing to fear.
A sledge is not more difficult to guide than a pony-carriage, and the
devil take me if I can’t manage a team of dogs !”

I don’t question your skill,” replied Mrs Joliffe; “I only ask
you not to go so fast. You are in front of the whole caravan now,
FROM FORT RELIANCE TO FORT ENTERPRISE, 31

and I hear Lieutenant Hobson calling out to you to resume your
proper place behind.”

“Let him call, Mrs Joliffe, let him call.”

And the Corporal, urging on his dogs with a fresh cut of the
whip, dashed along at still greater speed.

“Take care, Joliffe,” repeated his little wife ; “not so fast, we
are going down hill.”

“ Down hill, Mrs Joliffe; you call that down hill? why, it’s up
hill!”

“T tell you we are going down!” repeated poor Mrs Joliffe.

“And I tell you we are going up ; look how the dogs pull!”

Whoever was right, the dogs became uneasy. The ascent was,
in fact, pretty steep; the sledge dashed along at a reckless pace, and
was already considerably in advance of the rest of the party. Mr
and Mrs Joliffe bumped up and down every instant, the surface of
the snow became more and more uneven, and the pair, flung first to
one side and then to the other, knocked against each other and the
sledge, and were horribly bruised and shaken, But the Corporal
would listen neither to the advice of his wife nor to the shouts of
Lieutenant Hobson. The latter, seeing the danger of this reckless
course, urged on his own animals, and the rest of the caravan fol-
lowed at a rapid pace.

But the Corporal became more and more excited—the speed of his
equipage delighted him. He shouted, he gesticulated, and flour-
ished his long whip like an accomplished sportsman.

‘Wonderful things these whips!” he cried ; “the Esquimaux
wield them with unrivalled skill!”

“But you are not an Esquimaux!” cried Mrs Joliffe, trying in
vain to arrest the arm of her imprudent husband.

“T have heard tell,” resumed the Corporal—“ I’ve heard tell that
the Esquimaux can touch any dog they like in any part, that they
can even cut out a bit of one of their ears with the stiff thong at
the end of the whip. I am going to try.”

“Don’t try, don’t try, Joliffe!” screamed the poor little woman,
frightened out of her wits.

“Don't be afraid, Mrs Joliffe, don’t be afraid ; I know what I can
do. The fifth dog on the right i is misbehaving himself ; I will cor-
rect him a little!”

But Corporal Joliffe was evidently not yet enough of an Esqui-
maux to be able to manage the whip with its thong four feet longer
32 THE FUR COUNTRY,

than the sledge; for it unrolled with an ominous hiss, and rebound-
ing, twisted itself round Corporal Joliffe’s own neck, sending his fur
cap into the air, perhaps with one of his ears in it.

At this moment the dogs flung themselves on one side, the sledge
was overturned, and the pair were flung into the snow. Fortunately
it was thick and soft, so that they escaped unhurt. But what a
disgrace for the Corporal ! how reproachfully his little wife looked
at him, and how stern was the reprimand of Lieutenant Hobson !

The sledge was picked up, but it was decided that henceforth the
reins of the dogs, like those of the household, were to be in the
hands of Mrs Joliffe. The crest-fallen Corporal was obliged to sub-
mit, and the interrupted journey was resumed.

No incident worth mentioning occurred during the next fifteen
days. The weather continued favourable, the cold was not too
severe, and on the Ist May the expedition arrived at Fort Enter-
prise.
CHAPTER YI.
A WAPITI DUEL,

;WO hundred miles had been traversed since the expedition
left Fort Reliance. The travellers, taking advantage of
34 the long twilight, pressed on day and night, and were
literally overcome with fatigue when they reached Fort Enterprise,
near the shores of Lake Snare. .

This fort was no more than a depdt of provisions, of little import-
ance, erected a few years before by the Hudson’s Bay Company.
It served as a resting-place for the men taking the convoys of furs
from the Great Bear Lake, some three hundred miles further to the
north-west, About a dozen soldiers formed the garrison. . The fort
consisted of a wooden house surrounded by palisades. But few as
were the comforts it-offered, Lieutenant Hobson’s companions gladly
took refuge in it and rested there for two days.

The gentle influence of the Arctic spring was beginning to be
felt. Here and there the snow had melted, and the temperature of
the nights was no longer below freezing point. A few delicate
mosses and slender grasses clothed the rugged ground with their soft
verdure ;and from between the stones peeped the moist calices of
tiny, almost colourless, flowers, These faint signs of reawakening
vegetation, after the long night of winter, were refreshing to eyes
weary of the monotonous whiteness of the snow ; and the scattered
specimens of the Flora of the Arctic regions were welcomed with
delight.

Mrs Paulina Barnett and Jaspar Hobson availed themselves of
this leisure time to visit the shores of. the little lake. They were
both students and enthusiastic lovers of nature. Together they
wandered amongst the ice masses, already beginning to break up,
and the waterfalls created by the action of the rays of the sun.
The surface itself of Lake Snare was still intact, not a crack
denoted the approaching thaw; but it was strewn with the ruins of
mighty icebergs, which assumed all manner of picturesque forms, and


34 THE FUR COUNTRY.

the beauty of which was heightened when the light, diffracted by tha
sharp edges of the ice, touched them with all manner of colours.
One might have fancied that a rainbow, crushed in a powerful hand,
had been flung upon the ground, its fragments crossing cach other
as they fell.

“What a beautiful scene!” exclaimed Mrs Paulina Barnett.
“These prismatic effects vary at every change of our position.
Does it not seem as if we were bending over the opening of an
immense kaleidoscope, or are you already weary of a sight so new
and interesting to me?”

“No, madam,” replied the Lieutenant; “although I was born
and bred on this continent, its beauties never pall upon me. But if
your enthusiasm is so great when you see this scenery with the sun
shining upon it, what will it be when you are privileged to behold
the terrible grandeur of the winter? To own the truth, I think
the sun, so much thought of in temperate latitudes, spoils my Arctic
home.”

“Indeed!” exclaimed Mrs Barnett, smiling at the Lieutenant’s
last remark ; “for my part, I think the sun a capital travelling
companion, and I shall not be disposed to grumble at the warmth
it gives even in the Polar regions !”

“Ah, madam,” replied Jaspar Hobson, “I am one of those who
think it best to visit Russia in the winter, and the Sahara Desert
in the summer. You then see their peculiar characteristics to
advantage. The sun isa star of the torrid and temperate zones,
and is out of place thirty degrees from the North Pole. The true
sky of this country is the pure frigid sky of winter, bright with
constellations, and sometimes flushed with the glory of the Aurora
Borealis. This land is the land of the night, not of the day; and
you have yet to make acquaintance with the delights and marvels of
the long Polar night.”

oe Have you ever visited the temperate zones of Europe and
America?” inquired Mrs Barnett.

“Yes, madam; and I admired them as they deserved. But I
returned home with fresh love and enthusiasm for my native land.
Cold is my element, and no merit is due to me for braving it. It
has no power over me; and, like the Esquimaux, I can live for
months together in a snow hut.”

“Really, Lieutenant Hobson, it is quite cheering to hear our
dreaded enemy spoken of in such terms, J hope to prove myself
A WAPITI DUEL. §35



worthy to be your companion, and wherever you venture, we will
venture together.” :

“T agree, madam, I agree; and may all the women and soldiers
accompanying me show themselves as resolute as you. If so, God
helping us, we shall indeed advance far.”

“You have nothing to complain of yet,” observed the lady.
“Not a single accident has occurred, the weather has been
propitious, the cold not too severe—everything has combined to
aid us.”

“Yes, madam; but the sun which you admire so much will
soon create difficulties for us, and strew obstacles in our path.”

‘What do you mean, Lieutenant Hobson?”

“J mean that the heat will soon have changed the aspect of the
country; that the melted ice will impede the sliding of the sledges ,
that the ground will become rough and uneven; that our panting
dogs will no longer carry us along with the speed of an arrow ; that
the rivers and lakes will resume their liquid state, and that we shall
have to ford or go round them. All these changes, madam, due to
the influence of the solar rays, will cause delays, fatigue, and dangers,
the very least of which will be the breaking of the brittle snow
beneath our feet, or the falling of the avalanches from the summits
of the icebergs. For all this we have to thank the gradual rise of
the sun higher and higher above the horizon. Bear this in mind,
madam: of the four elements of the old creation, only one is
necessary to us here, the air; the other three, fire, earth, and water,
are de trop in the Arctic regions,”

Of course the Lieutenant was exaggerating, and Mrs Barnett
could easily have retorted with counter-arguments ; but she liked
to hear his raptures in praise of his beloved country, and she felt
that his enthusiasm was a guarantee that he would shrink from no
obstacle,

Yet Jaspar Hobson was right when he said the sun would
cause difficulties, This was seen when the party set out again on
the 4th May, three days later. The thermometer, even in the coldest
part of the night, marked more than 32° Fahrenheit. A complete
thaw set in, the vast white sheet of snow resolved itself into water.
The irregularities of the rocky soil caused constant jolting of the
sledges, and the passengers were roughly shaken. The roads were
80 heavy that the dogs had to go at a slow trot, and the reins were
therefore again entrusted to the hands of the imprudent Corporal
36 THE FUR COUNTRY.



Joliffe. Neither shouts nor flourishings of the whip had the slightest
effect on the jaded animals.

From time to time the travellers lightened the sledges by walking
a little way. This mode of locomotion suited the hunters, who were
now gradually approaching the best districts for game in the whole
of English America. Mrs Paulina Barnett and Madge took a great
interest in the.chase, whilst Thomas Black professed absolute indiffer-
ence to all athletic exercise. He had not come all this distance to hunt
the polecat or the ermine, but merely to look atthe moon at the mo-
ment when her disc should cover that of the sun, When the‘qucen
of the night rose above the horizon, the impatient astronomer would
gaze at her with eager eyes, and one day the Lieutenant said to hin—

“Tt would be a bad look-out for you, Mr Black, if by any un-
lucky chance the moon should fail to keep her appointment on the
16th July 1860.”

“Lieutenant Hobson,” ee replied the astronomer, “if the
moon were guilty of such a breach of good manners, I should indeed
have cause to complain.”

The chief hunters of the expedition were the soldiers Marbre and
Sabine, both very expert at their business. Their skill was won-
derful; and the cleverest Indians would not have surpassed them
in keenness of sight, precision of aim, or manual address, They
were alike trappers and hunters, and were acquainted with all the
nets and snares for taking sables, otters, wolves, foxes, bears, dc.
No artifice was unknown to them, and Captain Craventy had shown
his wisdom in choosing two such intelligent men to necompany the
little troop.

Whilst on the march, however, Marbre and Sabine: had no time
for setting traps. They could not separate from the others for more
than an hour or two at a time, and were obliged to be content with
the game which passed within range of their rifles. Still they were
fortunate enough to kill two of the large American ruminants,
seldom met with in such elevated latitudes.

On the morning of the 15th May the hunters asked permission
to follow some fresh traces they had found, and the Lieutenant not
only granted it, but himself accompanied them with Mrs Paulina
Barnett, and they went several miles out of their route towards the
east,

The impressions were evidently the result of the passage of about
half-a-dozen large deer. There could be no mistake about it; Marbre


A WAPITI DUEL.—Page 37,,
A WAPITI DUEL, 37

a i a ES

and Sabine were positive on that point, and could even have named
the species to which the animals belonged.

“You seem surprised to have met with traces of these animals
here, Lieutenant,” said Mrs Barnett.

“Well, madam,” replied Hobson, “this species is rarely seen
beyond 57° N. lat. We generally hunt them at the south of the
Slave Lake, where they feed upon the shoots of willows and poplars,
and certain wild roses to which they are very partial.”

“T suppose these creatures, like those with valuable furs, have
fled from the districts scoured by the hunters.”

‘‘T see no other explanation of their presence at 65° N. lat.,”
replied the Lieutenant—“ that is, if the men are not mistaken as to
the origin of the footprints.”

“No, no, sir,” cried Sabine; ‘“Marbre and I are not mistaken.
These traces were left by deer, the deer we hunters call red deer,
and the natives wapitis.”

“He is quite right,” added Marbre ; “old trappers like us are not
to be taken in; besides, don’t you hear that peculiar whistling
sound ?”

The party had now reached the foot of a little hill, and as the
snow had almost disappeared from its sides they were able to climb
it, and hastened to the summit, the peculiar whistling noticed by
Marbre becoming louder, mingled with cries resembling the braying
of an ass, and proving that the two hunters were not mistaken.

Once at the top of the hill, the adventurers looked eagerly towards
the eist. The undulating plains were still white with snow, but its
dazzling surface was here and there relieved with patches of stunted
light green vegetation. A few gaunt shrubs stretched forth their
bare and shrivelled branches, and huge icebergs with precipitous
sides stood out against the grey background of the sky.

“ Wapitis ! wapitis!—there they are!” cried Sabine and Marbre
at once, pointing toa group of animals distinctly visible about a
quarter of a mile to the east,

“‘ What are they doing?” asked Mrs Barnett,

“They are fighting, madam,” replied Hobson ; “they always do
when the heat of the Polar sun inflames their blood—another
deplorable result of the action of the radiant orb of day!”

From where they stood the party could easily watch the group
of wapitis, They were fine specimens of the family of deer known
under the various names of stags with rounded antlers, American
38 THE FUR COUNTRY,

stags, roebucks, grey elks and red elks, dsc, These graceful creatures
have slender legs and brown skins with patches of red hair, the
colour of which becomes darker in the warmer season. ‘The fierce
males are easily distinguished from the females by their fine white
antlers, the latter being entirely without these ornaments. These
wapitis were once very numerous all over North America, and the
United States imported a great many; but clearings were begun on
every side, the forest trees fell beneath the axe of the pioneer of
civilisation, and the wapitis took refuge in the more peaceful dis-
tricts of Canada; but they were soon again disturbed, and wandered
to the shores of Hudson’s Bay. So that although the wapiti thrives
in a cold country, Lieutenant Hobson was right in saying that it
seldom penetrates beyond 57° N. latitude ; and the specimens now
found had doubtless fled before the Chippeway Indians, who hunt
them without mercy.

The wapitis were so engrossed in their desperate struggle that
they were unconscious of the approach of the hunters; but they
would probably not have ceased fighting had they been aware of it.
Marbre and Sabine, aware of their peculiarity in this respect, might
therefore have advanced fearlessly upon them, and have taken aim
at leisure. :

Lieutenant Hobson suggested that they should do so.

“‘ Beg pardon, sir,” replied Marbre; ‘“ but let us spare our pow-
der and shot. These beasts are engaged in a war to the death, and
we shall arrive in plenty of time to pick up the vanquished.”

“ Have these wapitis a commercial value?” asked Mrs Paulina
Barnett.

“Yes, madam,” replied Hobson ; “and their skin, which is not
quite so thick as that of the elk, properly so called, makes very
valuable leather. By rubbing this skin with the fat and brains of
the animal itself, it is rendered flexible, and neither damp nor dry-
ness injures it. The Indians are therefore always eager to procure
the skins of the wapitis.”

“Does not the flesh make admirable venison ?”

“Pretty good, madam; only pretty good. It is tough, and does
not taste very nice; the fat becomes hard directly it is taken from
the fire, and sticks to the teeth. It is certainly inferior as an article
of food to the flesh of other deer ; but when meat is scarce we are
glad enough to eat it, and it supports life as well as anything
else.”
A WAPITI DUEL, 39



Mrs Barnett and Lieutenant Hobson had been chatting together
for some minutes, when, with the exception of two, the wapitis
suddenly ceased fighting. Was their rage satiated? or had they
perceived the hunters, and felt the approach of danger? . Whatever
the cause, all but two fine creatures fled towards the east with
incredible speed; in a few instants they were out of sight, and the
swiftest horse could not have caught them up.

Meanwhile, however, two magnificent specimens remained on the
field of battle. Heads down, antlers to antlers, hind legs stretched
and quivering, they butted at each other without a moment’s
pause. Like two wrestlers struggling for a prize which neither will
yield, they would. not separate, but whirled round and round to-
gether on their front legs as if riveted to one another.

‘* What implacable rage!” exclaimed Mrs Barnett.

“Yes,” replied the Lieutenant; “the wapitis really are most
spiteful beasts. I have no doubt they are fighting out an old
quarrel.”

“Would not this be the time to approach them, when they are
blinded with rage?”

“There’s plenty of time, ma’am,” said Sabine; “they won’t
escape us now. They will not stir from where they are when we
are three steps from them, the rifles at our shoulders, and our
fingers on the triggers!”

“ Indeed ?”

“Yes, madam,” added Hobson, who had carefully examined the
wapitis after the hunter’s remark; “and whether at our hands or
from the teeth of wolves, those wapitis will meet death where they
now stand.” .

“T don’t understand what you mean, Lieutenant,” said Mrs
Barnett.

“Well, go nearer, madam,” he replied; “don’t be afraid of
atartling the animals; for, as our hunter says, they are no longer
capable of flight.”

The four now descended the hill, and in a few minutes gained
the theatre of the struggle. The wapitis had not moved. They
were pushing at each other like a couple of rams, and seemed to be
inseparably glued together,

In fact, in the heat of the combat the antlers of the two creatures
had beeome entangled together to such an extent that they could
no longer separate without breaking them, This often happens in
40 . THE FUR COUNTRY.



the hunting districts. It is not at all uncommon to find antlers
thus connected lying on the ground; the poor encumbered animals
soon die of hunger, or they become an easy prey to wild beasts.

Two bullets put an end to the fight between the wapitis ; and
Marbre and Sabine taking immediate possession, carried off their
skins to be subsequently prepared, leaving their bleeding carcasses
to be devoured by wolves and bears,
CHAPTER VIL
THE ARCTIC CIRCLE.

Bete expedition continued to advance towards the north-
3 WS west; but the great inequalities of the ground made it

hard work for the dogs to get along, and the poor creatures,
who could hardly be held in when they started, were now quiet
enough. Hight or ten miles a day were as much as they could accom-
plish, although Lieutenant Hobson urged them on to the utmost.
He was anxious to get to Fort Confidence, on the further side of the
Great Bear Lake, where he hoped to obtain some useful information.
Had the Indians frequenting the northern banks of the lake been
able to cross the districts on the shores of the sea? was the Arctic
Ocean open at this time of year? These were grave questions, the
reply to which would decide the fate of the new factory.

The country through which the little troop was now passing was
intersected by numerous streams, mostly tributaries of the two
large rivers, the Mackenzie and Coppermine, which flow from the
south to the north, and empty themselves into the Arctic Ocean.
Lakes, lagoons, and numerous pools are formed between these two
principal arteries ; and as they were no longer frozen over, the
sledges could ‘not venture upon them, and were compelled to go
round them, which caused considerable delay. Lieutenant Hobson
was certainly right in saying that winter is the time to visit the
hyperborean regions, for they are then far easier to traverse. Mrs
Paulina Barnett had reason to own the justice of this assertion more
than once. ;

This region, included in the “Cursed Land,” was, besides,
completely deserted, as are the greater portion of the districts of
the extreme north of America, It has been estimated that there is
but one inhabitant to every ten square miles. Besides the scattered
natives, there are some few thousand agents or soldiers of the
different fur-trading companies ; but they mostly congregate in the
southern districts and about the various factories. No human

(oy
42 THE FUR COUNTRY.



footprints gladdened the eyes of the travellers, the only traces on
the sandy soil were those of ruminants and rodents. Now and then
a fierce polar bear was seen, and Mrs Paulina Barnett expressed her
surprise at not meeting more of these terrible carnivorous beasts, of
whose daily attacks on whalers and persons shipwrecked in Baffin’s
Bay and on the coasts of Greenland and Spitzbergen she had read
in the accounts of those who had wintered in the Arctic regions.

“ Wait for the winter, madam,” replied the Lieutenant ; “wait
till the cold makes them hungry, and then you will perhaps see as
many as you care about !”

On the 23d May, after a long and fatiguing journey, the expe-
dition at last reached the Arctic Circle. We know that this lati-
tude 23°27'57" from the North Pole, forms the mathematical limit
beyond which the rays of the sun do not penetrate in the winter,
when the northern districts of the globe are turned away from the
orb of day. Here, then, the travellers entered the true Aretig
region, the northern Frigid Zone.

"The latitude had been very carefully obtained by means of most
accurate instruments, which were handled with equal skill by the
astronomer and by Lieutenant Hobson. Mrs Barnett was present
at the operation, and had the satisfaction of hearing that she was at
last about to cross the Arctic Circle. It was with a feeling of just
pride that she received the intelligence.

“You have already passed through the two Torrid Zones in your
previous journeys,” said the Lieutenant, “‘and now you are on tha
verge of the Arctic Circle. Few explorers have ventured into such
totally different regions. Some, so to speak, have a specialty for
hot countries, and choose Africa or Australia as the field for their
investigations. Such were Barth, Burton, Livingstone, Speke,
Douglas, Stuart, &c. Others, on the contrary, have a passion for
the Arctic regions, still so little known. Mackenzie, Franklin,
Penny, Kane, Parry, Rae, &., preceded us on our present journey ;
but we must congratulate you, Mrs Barnett, on being a more
cosmopolitan traveller than all of them.”.

“IT must see everything, or at least try to see everything,
Lieutenant,” replied Mrs Paulina; “and I think the dangers and
difficulties are about equal everywhere, Although we have not to
dread the fevers of the unhealthy torrid regions, or the attacks of
the fierce black races, in this Frigid Zone, the cold is a no less formid-
able enemy; and I suspect that the white bears we are liable to meet
THE ARCTIC CIRCLE, 43

with here will give us quite as warm a reception as would the
tigers of Thibet or the lions of Africa. In Torrid and Frigid Zones
alike there are vast unexplored tracts which will long defy the
efforts of the boldest adventurers.”

“Yes, madam,” replied Jaspar Hobson; “but I think the
hyperborean regions will longer resist thorough exploration. The
natives are the chief obstacle in tropical regions, and I am well
aware how many travellers have fallen victims to savages. But
civilisation will necessarily subdue the wild races sooner or later ;
whereas in the Arctic and Antarctic Zones it is not the inhabitants
who arrest the progress of the explorer, but Nature herself who
repels those who approach her, and paralyses their energies with the
bitter cold!” *

“ You think, then, that the secrets of the most remote districts of
Africa and Australia will have been fathomed before the Frigid Zone
has been entirely examined ?”

“Yes, madam,” replied the Lieutenant; “and I think my opinion
is founded on facts. The most intrepid discoverers of the Arctic
regions—Parry, Penny, Franklin, M‘Clure, Kane, and Morton—did
not get beyond 83° north latitude, seven degrees from the pole—
whereas Australia has several times been crossed from south to
north by the bold Stuart ; and even Africa, with all its terrors, waa
traversed by Livingstone from the Bay of Loanga to the mouth of
the Zambesi. We are, therefore, nearer to geographical knowledge
of the equatorial countries than of the Polar districts.”

“Do you think that the Pole itself will ever be reached by man?”
inquired Mrs Paulina Barnett.

“Certainly,” replied Hobson, adding with a:smile, “by man or
woman. But I think other means must be tried of reaching this
point, where all the meridians of the globe cross each other, than
those hitherto adopted by travellers. We hear of the open sea, of
which certain explorers are said to have caught a glimpse. But if
such a sea, free from ice, really exist, it is very difficult to get at, and
no one can say positively whether it extends to the North Pole. For
my part, I think an open sea would increase rather than lessen the
difficulties of explorers.. As for me, I would rather count upon firm
footing, whether on ice or rock, all the way. Then I would organise
successive expeditions, establishing depédts of provisions and fuel
nearer and nearer to the Pole;-and so, with plenty of time, plenty of
money, and perhaps the sacrifice of a good many lives, I should in
44 THE FUR COUNTRY.





the end solve the great scientific problem. I should, I think, at last
reach the hitherto inaccessible goal !”

“T think you are right, Lieutenant,” said Mrs Barnett; “and if
ever you try the experiment, I should not be afraid to join you, and
would gladly go to set up the Union Jack at the North Pole. But
that is not our present object.”

“Not our immediate object, madam,” replied Hobson; “but
when once the projects of the Company are realised, when the new
fort has been erected on the confines of the American continent, it
may become the natural starting-point of all expeditions to the
north. Besides, should the fur-yielding animals, too zealously
hunted, take refuge at the Pole, we should have to follow them.”

“Unless costly furs should go out of fashion,” replied Mrs
Barnett.

“( madam,” cried the Lieutenant, “there will always be some
pretty woman whose wish for a sable muff or an ermine tippet
must be gratified !”

“T am afraid so,” said Mrs Barnett, laughing ; ‘and probably the
first discoverer of the Pole will have been led thither in pursuit of a
sable or a silver fox.”

“ That is my firm conviction,” replied Hobson, ‘Such is human
nature, and greed of gain will always carry a man further than zeal
for science.”

“What! do you utter such sentiments?” exclaimed Mrs Barnett.

“Well, madam, what am I but an employé of the Hudson’s Bay
Company ? and does the Company risk its capital and agents with
any other hope than an increase of profits?”

‘Lieutenant Hobson,” said Mrs Barnett, “I think I know you
well enough to assert that on occasion you would be ready to devote
body and soul to science. If a purely geographical question called
you to the Pole, I feel sure you would not hesitate to go. But,”
she added, with a smile, “the solution of this great problem is
still far distant. We have but just reached the verge of the
Arctic Circle, but I hope we may cross it without any very great
difficulty.”

“That I fear is doubtful,” said the Lieutenant, who had been
attentively examining the sky during their conversation. “The
weather has looked threatening for the last few days. ‘Look at the
uniformly grey hue of the heavens. That mist will presently resolve
itself into snow; and if the wind should rise ever so little, we shall
THE ARCTIC CiRCLE. 45



have to battle with a fearful storm. I wish we were at the Great
Bear Lake !”

“Do not let us lose any time, then,” said Mrs Barnett, rising ;
“¢ give the signal to start at once.”

The Lieutenant needed no urging. Had he been alone, or accom-
panied by a few men as energetic as himself, he would have pressed
on day and night ; but he was obliged to make allowance for the
fatigue of others, although he never spared himself. He therefore
granted a few hours of rest to his little party, and it was not until
three in the afternoon that they again set out.

Jaspar Hobson was not mistaken in prophesying a change in the
weather. It came very soon. During the afternoon of the same day
the mist became thicker, and assumed a yellowish and threatening
hue. The Lieutenant, although very uneasy, allowed none of his
anxiety to appear, but had a long consultation with Sergeant Long
whilst the dogs of his sledge were laboriously preparing to start.

Unfortunately, the district now to be traversed was very un-
suitable for sledges. The ground was very uneven ; ravines were of
frequent occurrence; and masses of granite or half-thawed icebergs
blocked up the road, causing constant delay. The poor dogs did
their best, but the drivers’ whips no longer produced any effect
upon them.

And so the Lieutenant and his men were often obliged to walk
to rest the exhausted animals, to push the sledges, or even sometimes
to lift them when the roughness of the ground threatened.to upset
them.- The incessant fatigue was, however, borne by all without a
‘murmur. Thomas Black alone, absorbed in his one idea, never got
out of his sledge, and indeed he was so corpulent that all exertion
was disagreeable to him.

The nature of the soil changed from the moment of entering the
Arctic Circle. Some geological convulsion had evidently upheaved
the enormous blocks strewn upon the surface, The vegetation, too,
was of a more distinctive character. Wherever they were sheltered
from the keen north winds, the flanks of the hills were clothed not
only with shrubs, but with large trees, all of the same species—pines,
willows, and firs—proving by their presence that a certain amount
of vegetative force is retained even in the Frigid Zone, Jaspar
Hobson hoped to find such specimens of the Arctic Flora even on
the verge of the Polar Sea; for these trees would supply him with
wood to build his fort, and fuel to warm its inhabitants, The
46 THE FUR COUNTRY.

er

same thought passed through the minds of his companions, and
they could not help wondering at the contrast between this compara-
tively fertile region, and the long white plains stretching between
the Great Slave Lake and Fort Enterprise.

At night the yellow mist became more opaque; the wind rose,
the snow began to fall in large flakes, and the ground was soon
covered with a thick white carpet. In less than an hour the snow
was a foot deep, and as it did not freeze but remained in a liquid
state, the sledges could only advance with extreme difficulty ; the
curved fronts stuck in the soft substance, and the dogs were obliged
to stop again and again.

Towards eight o’clock in the evening the wind became very
boisterous. The snow, driven before it, was flung upon the ground
or whirled in the air, forming one huge whirlpool. The dogs,
beaten back by the squall and blinded with snow, could
advance no further. The party was then in a narrow gorge between
huge icebergs, over which the storm raged with fearful fury.
Pieces of ice, broken off by the hurricane, were hurled into the pass ;
partial avalanches, any one of which could have crushed the sledges
and their inmates, added to its dangers, and to press on became
impossible. The Lieutenant no longer insisted, and after consulting
with Sergeant Long, gave the order to halt. It was now necessary
to find a shelter from the snow-drift; but this was no difficult
matter to men accustomed to Polar expeditions. Jaspar Hobson
and his men knew well what they had to do under the circumstances.
It was not the first time they had been surprised by a tempest some
hundred miles from the forts of the Company, without so much as
an Esquimaux hut or Indian hovel in which to lay their heads.

“To the icebergs! to the icebergs!” cried Jaspar Hobson.

Every one understood what he meant. Snow houses were to be
hollowed out of the frozen masses, or rather holes were to be dug,
in which each person could cower until the storm was over. Knives
and hatchets were soon at work on the brittle masses of ice, and in
three-quarters of an hour some ten dens had been scooped out large
enough to contain two or three persons each. The dogs were left
to themselves, their own instinct leading them to find sufficient
shelter under the snow.

Before ten o’clock alk the travellers were crouching in the snow
houses, in groups of two or three, each choosing congenial com-
panions, Mrs Barnett, Madge, and Lientenant Hobson occupied
THE ARCTIC CIRCLE. 47

one hut, Thomas Black and Sergeant Long another, and so on.
These retreats were warm, if not comfortable ; and the Esquimaux
and Indians have no other refuge even in the bitterest cold. The
adventurers could therefore fearlessly await the end of the storm
as long as they.took care not to let the openings of their holes
become blocked up with the snow, which they had to shovel away
every half hour. So violent was the storm that even the Lieutenant
and. his soldiers could scarcely set foot outside. Fortunately, all
were provided with sufficient food, and were able to endure their
beaver-like existence without suffering from cold or hunger.

For forty-eight hours the fury of the tempest continued to increase.
The wind roared in the narrow pass, and tore off the tops of the
icebergs. Loud reports, repeated twenty times by the echoes, gave
notice of the fall of avalanches, and Jaspar Hobson began to fear
that his further progress would be barred by the masses of debris
accumulated between the mountains. Other sounds mingled with
these reports, which Lieutenant Hobson knew too well, and he did
not disguise from Mrs Barnett that bears were prowling about the
pass. But fortunately these terrible animals were too much occupied
with their own concerns to discover the retreat of the travellers ;
neither the dogs nor the sledges, buried in the snow, attracted their
attention, and they passed on without doing any harm,

The last night, that of the 25th or 26th May, was even more
terrible. So great was the fury of the hurricane that a general
overthrow of icebergs appeared imminent. A fearful death would
then have awaited the unfortunate travellers beneath the ruins of the
broken masses, The blocks of ice cracked with an awful noise, and
certain oscillations gave warning that breaches had been made
threatening their solidity. However, no great crash occurred, the
huge mountains remained intact, and towards the end of the night
one of those sudden changes so. frequent in the Arctic regions took
place ; the tempest ceased suddenly beneath the influence of intense
cold, and with the first. dawn of day peace was restored.
CHAPTER VIIL
THE GREAT BEAR LAKE,

ous sudden increase of cold was most fortunate. FEven in
ae temperate climes there are generally three or four bitter

days in May; and they were most serviceable now in con-
solidating the freshly-fallen snow, and making it practicable for
sledges. Lieutenant Hobson, therefore, lost no time in resuming
his journey, urging on the dogs to their utmost speed.

The route was, however, slightly changed. Instead of bearing due
north, the expedition advanced towards the west, following, so to
speak, the curve of the Arctic Circle. The Lieutenant was most
anxious to reach Fort Confidence, built on the northern extremity
of the Great Bear Lake. These few cold days were of the greatest
service to him; he advanced rapidly, no obstacle was encountered,
and his little troop arrived at the factory on the 30th May.

At this time Forts Confidence and Good Hope were the most
advanced posts of the Company in the north, Fort Confidence was
a most important position, built on the northern extremity of the
lake, close to its waters, which being frozen over in winter, and
navigable in summer, afforded easy access to Fort Franklin, on
the southern shores, and promoted the coming and going of the
Indian hunters with their daily spoils. Many were the hunting
and fishing expeditions which started from Forts Confidence and
Good Hope, especially from the former. The Great Bear Lake is
quite a Mediterranean Sea, extending over several degrees of latitude
and longitude. Its shape is very irregular: two promontories jut
into it towards the centre, and the upper portion forms a triangle ;
its appearance, as a whole, much resembling the extended skin of a
ruminant without the head.

Fort Confidence was built at the end of the “right paw,” at least
two hundred miles from Coronation Gulf, one of the numerous
estuaries which irregularly indent the coast of North America. I¢
THE GREAT BEAR LAKE. 49



was therefore situated beyond the Arctic Circle, but three degrees
south of the seventieth parallel, north of which the Hudson’s Bay
Company proposed forming a new settlement.

Fort Confidence, as a whole, much resembled other factories
further south, It consisted of a house for the officers, barracks for
the soldiers, and magazines for the furs—all of wood, surrounded
by palisades. The captain in command was then absent. He had
gone towards the east on a hunting expedition with a few Indians
and soldiers. The last season had not been good, costly furs had
been scarce ; but to'make up for this the lake had supplied plenty
of otter-skins. The stock of them had, however, just been sent
to the central factories in the south, so that the magazines of Fort
Confidence were empty on the arrival of our party.

In the absence of the Captain a Sergeant did the honours of the
fort to Jaspar Hobson and his companions, This second officer,
Felton by name, was a brother-in-law of Sergeant Long. He
showed the greatest readiness to assist the views of the Lieutenant,
who being anxious to rest his party, decided on remaining two or
three days at Fort Confidence. In the absence of the little garrison
there was plenty of room, and dogs and men were soon comfortably
installed. The best room in the largest house was of course given
to Mrs Paulina Barnett, who was delighted with the politeness . of
Sergeant Felton.

Jaspar Hobson’s first care was to ask Felton if any Indians from
the north were then. beating the shores of the Great Bear Lake

“Yes, Lieutenant,” replied the Sergeant ; “ we have just received
notice of the encampment of a party of Hare Indians on the other
northern extremity of the lake.”

‘“‘ How far from here?” inquired Hobson.

“ About thirty miles,” replied Sergeant Felton. “Do you wish
to enter into communication with these Indians?”

“Yes,” said Hobson; ‘“ they may be able to give me some valuable
information about the districts bordering on the Arctic Ocean, and
bounded by Cape Bathurst. Should the site be favourable, I pro-
pose constructing our new fort somewhere about there.”

“Well, Lieutenant, nothing is easier than to go to the Hare en-
campment.”

“ Along the shores of the lake?”

“ No, across it ; it is now free from ice, and the wind is favour
50 THE FUR COUNTRY.



able. We will place a cutter and a boatman at your service, and
in a few hours you will be in the Indian settlement.”

“Thank you, Sergeant; to-morrow, then,”

“Whenever you like, Lieutenant.”

The start was fixed for the next morning; and when Mrs Paulina
Barnett heard of the plan, she begged the Lieutenant to allow her to
accompany him, which of course he readily did.

But now to tell how the rest of this firsts day was passed. Mrs
Barnett, Hobson, two or three soldiers, Madge, Mrs Mac-Nab, and
Joliffe explored the shores of the lake under the guidance of Felton.
The neighbourhood was by no means barren of vegetation ; the hills,
now free from snow, were crowned by resinous trees of the Scotch
pine species. These trees, which attain a height of some forty feet,
supply the inhabitants of the forts with plenty of fuel through the
long winter. Their thick trunks and dark gloomy branches form a
striking feature of the landscape ; but the regular clumps of equal
height, sloping down to the very edge of the water, are somewhat
monotonous. Between the groups of trees the soil was clothed with
a sort of whitish weed, which perfumed the air with a sweet thymy
odour. Sergeant Felton informed his guests that this plant was
called the ‘‘ herb of incense” on account of the fragrance it emits
when burnt.

Some hundred steps from the fort the party came to a little
natural harbour shut in by high granite rocks, which formed an
admirable protection from the heavy surf. Here was anchored the
fleet. of Fort Confidence, consisting of a single fishing-boat—the
very one which was to take Mrs Barnett and Hobson to the Indian
encampment the next day. From this harbour an extensive view
was obtained of the lake; its waters slightly agitated by the wind,
with its irregular shores broken by jagged capes and intersected by
creeks. The cwopded heights beyond, with here and there the rugged
outline of a floating iceberg standing out against the clear blue’ alr,
formed the background on the north ; whilst on the south a regular
sea, horizon, a cdecalar line clearly es sky and water, and at this
moment glittering in the sunbeams, bounded the sight.

The whole scene was rich in animal. and vegetable life. The
surface of the water, the shores strewn with flints and blocks of
granite, the slopes with their tapestry of herbs, the tree-crowned
hill-tops, were all-alike frequented by various specimens of the
feathered tribe. Several varieties of ducks, uttering their different
THE GREAT BEAR LAKE, Kl

)

— 5.

cries and calls, eider ducks, whistlers, spotted redshanks, “ old
women,” those loquacious birds whose beak is never closed, skimmed
the surface of the lake. Hundreds of puffins and guillemots with
outspread wings darted about in every direction, and beneath the
trees strutted ospreys two feet high—a kind of hawk with a grey
body, blue beak and claws, and orange-coloured eyes, which build
their huge nests of marine plants in the forked branches of trees.
The hunter Sabine managed to bring down a couple of these gigantic
ospreys, which measured nearly six feet from tip to tip of their wings,
and were therefore magnificent specimens of these migratory birds,
who feed entirely on fish, and take refuge on the shores of the Gulf
of Mexico when winter sets in, only visiting the higher latitudes of
North America during the short summer.

But the most interesting event of the day was the capture of an
otter, the skin of which was worth several hundred roubles.

The furs of these valuable amphibious creatures were once much
sought after in China ; and although the demand for them has con-
siderably decreased in the Celestial Empire, they still command very
high prices in the Russian market. Russian traders, ready to buy
up sea-otter skins, travel all along the coasts of New.Cornwall as
far as the Arctic Ocean ; and of course, thus hunted,‘the animal is
becoming very rare. It has taken refuge further andfurther north,
and the trackers have now to pursue it on the shores of the
Kamtchatka Sea, and in the islands of the Behring Archipelago.

“But,” added Sergeant Felton, after the preceding explanation,
“ American inland otters are not to be despised, and those which
frequent the Great Bear Lake are worth from £50 to £60 each.”

The Sergeant was right; magnificent otters are found in these
waters, and he himself skilfully tracked and killed one in the pre-
sence of his visitors which was scarcely inferior in value to those
from Kamtchatka itself. The creature measured three feet from
the muzzle to the end of its tail ; it had webbed feet, short legs, and
its fur, darker on the upper than on the under part of its body, was
long and silky.

“ A good shot, Sergeant,” said Lieutenant Hobson, who with Mrs
Barnett had been attentively examining the magnificent fur of the
dead animal.

“Yes, Lieutenant,” replied Felton ; “and if each day brought us
such a skin as that, we should have nothing to complain of. But
much time is wasted in watching these animals, who swim and dive

E
52 THE FUR COUNTRY.

with marvellous rapidity. We generally hunt them at night, as they
very seldom venture from their homes in the trunks of trees or the
holes of rocks in the daytime, and even expert hunters find it very
difficult to discover their retreats,” ,

“ And are these otters also becoming scarcer and scarcer?” inquired
Mrs Barnett,

“Yes, madam,” replied the Sergeant; “‘and when this species
becomes extinct, the profits of the Company will sensibly decline.
All the hunters try to obtain its fur, and the Americans in particular
are formidable rivals to us, Did you not meet any American agents
on your journey up, Lieutenant?”

“ Not one,” replied Hobson. “ Do they ever penetrate as far as
this ?”

“Oh yes!” said the Sergeant ; “and when you hear of their
approach, I advise you to be on your guard.”

“Are these agents, then, highway robbers?” asked Mrs Paulina
Barnett.

‘No, madam,” replied the Sergeant ; ‘‘but they are formidable
rivals, and when game is scarce, hunters often come to blows about
it. I daresay that if the Company’s attempt to establish a fort on
the verge of the Arctic Ocean be successful, its example will at once
be followed by these Americans, whom Heaven confound !”

“Bah!” exclaimed the Lieutenant; “ the hunting districts are
vast, and there’s room beneath the sun for everybody. As for us,
let ’s make a start to begin with. Let us press on as long as we have
firm ground beneath our feet, and God be with us!”

After a walk of. three hours the visitors returned to Fort Confi-
dence, where a good meal of fish and fresh venison awaited them.
Sergeant Long did the honours of the table, and after a little
pleasant conversation, all retired to rest to forget their fatigues in a
healthy and refreshing sleep.

The next day, May 3ist, Mrs Barnett and Jaspar Hobson were
on foot at five a.m. The Lieutenant intended to devote this day to
visiting the Indian encampment, and obtaining as much useful
information as possible. He asked Thomas Black to go with him,
but the astronomer preferred to remain on terra firma. He wished to
make a few astronomical observations, and to determine exactly the
latitude and longitude of Fort Confidence ; so that Mrs Barnett and
Jaspar Hobson had to cross the lake alone, under the guidance of an
THE GREAT BEAR LAKE, 53

old boatman named Norman, who had long been in the Company’s
service,

The two travellers were accompanied by Sergeant Long as far as
the little harbour, where they found old Norman ready to embark.
Their little vessel was but an open fishing-boat, six feet long, rigged
like a cutter, which one man could easily manage. The weather
was beautiful, and the slight breeze blowing from the north-east
was favourable to the crossing. Sergeant Felton took leave of his
guests with many apologies for being unable to accompany them in
the absence of his chief. The boat was let loose from its moorings,
and tacking to starboard, shot across the clear waters of the lake.

The little trip passed pleasantly enough. The taciturn old
sailor sat silent in the stern of the boat with the tiller tucked under
his arm. Mrs Barnett and Lieutenant Hobson, seated opposite ta
each other, examined with interest the scenery spread out before
them. The boat skirted the northern shores of the lake at about
three miles’ distance, following a rectilinear direction, so that the
wooded heights sloping gradually to the west were distinctly visible,
From this side the district north of the lake appeared perfectly flat,
and the horizon receded to a considerable distance. The whole
of this coast contrasted strongly with the sharp angle, at the
extremity of which rose Fort Confidence, framed in green pines.
The flag of the Company was still visible floating from the tower
of the fort. .The oblique rays of the sun lit up the surface of the
water, and striking on the floating icebergs, seemed to convert
them into molten silver of dazzling brightness. No trace remained
of the solid ice-mountains of the winter but these moving relics,
which the solar rays could scarcely dissolve, and which seemed, as
it were, to protest against the brilliant but not very powerful Polar
sun, now describing a diurnal are of considerable length.

Mrs Barnett and the Lieutenant, as was their custom, communi-
eated to each other the thoughts suggested by the strange scenes
through which they were passing. They laid up a store of pleasant
recollections for the future whilst the beat floated rapidly along
upon the peaceful waves.

The party started at six in the morning, and at nine they neared
the point on the northern bank at which they were to land. The
Indian encampment was situated at the north-west angle of the
Great Bear Lake. Before ten o’clock old Norman ran the boat
aground on a low bank at the foot of a cliff of moderate height.
54 THE FUR COUNTRY.

Mrs Barnett and the Lieutenant landed at once. Two or three
Indians, with their chief, wearing gorgeous plumes, hastened to
meet them, and addressed them in fairly intelligible English.

These Hare Indians, like the Copper and Beaver Indians, all
belong to the Chippeway race, and differ but little in customs and
costumes from their fellow-tribes, They are in constant communica-
tion with the factories, and have become, so to speak, “ Britainised”
—at least as much so as is possible for savages, They bring
the spoils of the chase to the forts, and there exchange them foz
the necessaries of life, which they no longer provide for them-
selves. They are in the pay of the Company, they live upon
it, and it is not surprising that they have lost all originality. To
find a native race as yet uninfluenced by contact with Europeans
we must go to still higher latitudes, to the ice-bound regions
frequented by the Esquimaux, who, like the Greenlanders, are the
true children of Arctic lands.

Mrs Barnett and Jaspar Hobson accompanied the Indians to
their camp, about half a mile from the shore, and found some thirty
natives there, men, women, and children, who supported themselves
by hunting and fishing on the borders of the lake. These Indians
had just come from the northernmost districts of the American
continent, and were able to give the Lieutenant some valuable,
although necessarily incomplete, information on the actual state of
the sea-coast near the seventieth parallel. The Lieutenant heard with
considerable satisfaction that a party of Americans or Europeans
had been seen on the confines of the Polar Sea, and that it was
open at this time of year. About Cape Bathurst, properly so
called, the point for which he intended to make, the Hare
Indians could tell him nothing. Their chief said, however, that the
district between the Great Bear Lake and Cape Bathurst was very
difficult to cross, being hilly and intersected by streams, at this
season of the year free from ice. He advised the Lieutenant to go
down the Coppermine river, from the north-east of the lake, which
would take him to the coast by the shortest route. Once at the
Arctic Ocean, it would be easy to skirt along its shores and to
choose the best spot at which to halt,

Lieutenant Hobson thanked the Indian chief, and took leave after
giving him a few presents, Then accompanied by Mrs Barnett, he
explored the neighbourhood of the camp, not returning to the boat
until nearly three o’clock in the afternoon.
CHAPTER IX.
A STORM ON THE LAKE,

S| SVE old sailor was impatiently awaiting the return of the
SNES travellers 3 for during the last hour the weather had
changed, and the appearance of the sky was calculated to
render any one accustomed to read the signs of the clouds uneasy.
The sun was obscured by a thick mist, the wind had fallen, but an
ominous moaning was heard from the south of the lake. These
symptoms of an approaching change of temperature were developed
with all the rapidity peculiar to these elevated latitudes.

“Tet us be off, sir! let us be off!” cried old Norman, looking
anxiously at the fog above his head. “ Let us start without losing
an instant. There are terrible signs in the air!”

“Tndeed,” exclaimed the Lieutenant, “the appearance of the sky
is quite changed, and we never noticed it, Mrs Barnett!”

“ Are you afraid of a storm?” inquired the lady of old Norman.

“Yes, madam,” replied the old sailor; ‘and the storms on the
Great Bear Lake are often terrible. The hurricane rages as if
«pon the open Atlantic Ocean. This sudden fog bodes us no good ;
but the tempest may hold back for three or four hours, and by that
time we shall be at Fort Confidence. Let us then start without a
moment’s delay, for the boat would not be safe near these rocks.”

The Lieutenant, feeling that the old man, accustomed as he was
to navigate these waters, was better able to judge than himself,
decided to follow his advice, and embarked at once with Mrs Barnett.

But just as they were pushing. off, old Norman, as if possessed by
some sudden presentiment, murmured—

“Perhaps it would be better to wait.”

Lieutenant Hobson overheard these words, and looked inquiringly
at the old boatman, already seated at the helm. Had he been alone
he would not have hesitated to start, but as Mrs Barnett was with
him caution was necessary. The ladv at once saw and understood
his hesitation.


56 THE FUR COUNTRY.



“Never mind about me, Lieutenant,” she said; “act as if I were
not present. Let us start immediately, as our biave guide suggests,”

“We are off, then,” cried Norman, letting go the moorings, “to
the fort by the shortest route.”

For about an hour the bark made little head. The sail, scarcely
filled by the fitful breeze, flapped against the mast. The fog became
thicker. The waves began to rise and the boat to rock consider-
ably; for the approaching hurricane affected the water sooner than
the atmosphere itself. The two travellers sat still and silent, whilst
the gold sailor peered into the darkness with bloodshot eyes.
Prepared for all contingencies, he awaited the shock of the wind,
ready to pay out rapidly should the attack be very violent. The
conflict of the elements had not, however, as yet commenced ; and all
would have been well if they had been able to advance, but after an
hour’s sail they were still only about two hours’ distance from the
Indian encampment. A few gusts of wind from the shore drove
them out of their course, and the dense fog rendered it impossible
for them to make out the coast-line. Should the wind settle in
the north it would probably go hard with the light boat, which,
unable to hold its own course, would be drifted out into the lake
no one knew where.

“Weare scarcely advancing at all,” said the Lieutenant to old
Norman.

“No, sir,” replied Norman ; “the wind is not strong enough to fill
the sail, and if it were, I fear it comes from the wrong quarter. If
so,” he added, pointing to the south, ‘we may see Fort Franklin
before Fort Confidence.”

“Well,” said Mrs Barnett cheerfully, ‘our trip will have been
all the more complete. This is a magnificent lake, well worth ex-
ploring from north to south. I suppose, Norman, one might get
back even from Fort Franklin?”

“Yes, madam, if we ever reach it,” replied the old man. “But
tempests lasting fifteen days are by no means rare on this lake ; and
if our bad luck should drive us to the south, it may be a month
before Lieutenant Hobson again sees Fort Confidence.”

“Let us be careful, then,” said the Lieutenant ; “for such a delay
would hinder our projects very much. Do the best you can under
the circumstances, and if you think it would be prudent, go back
to the north. I don’t suppose Mrs Barnett would mind a “walk x
twenty or twenty-five miles,”
A STORM ON THE LAKE. 57



“‘T should be glad enough to go back to the north, Lieutenant,”
replied Norman, “if it were still possible. But look, the wind
seems likely to settle against us, All I can attempt is to get to the
cape on the north-east, and if it doesn’t blow too hard, I hope te
succeed,”

But at about half-past four the storm broke. The shrill whistling
of the wind was heard far above their heads, but the state of the
atmosphere prevented it from as yet descending upon the lake ; this
was, however, only delayed for a brief space of time. ‘The cries of
frightened birds flying through the fog mingled with the noise of
the wind. Suddenly the mist was torn open, and revealed low
jagged masses of rain-cloud chased towards the south. The fears
of the old sailor were realised. The wind blew from the north,
and it was not long before the travellers learned the meaning of a
squall upon the lake.

“Look out!” cried old Norman, tightening sail so. as to get his
boat ahead of the wind, whilst keeping her under control of the
helm.

The squall came. It caught the boat upon the flank, and it was
turned over on its side; but recovering itself, it was flung upon
the crest of a wave. The billows surged as if upon an open sea.
The waters of the lake not being very deep, struck against the
bottom and rebounded to an immense height.

“Help! help!” cried old Norman, hurriedly struggling to haul
down his sail.

Mrs Barnett and Hobson endeavoured to come to his assistance,
but without success, for they knew nothing of the management of
a boat. Norman, unable to leave the helm, and the halliards
being entangled at the top of the mast, could not take in the sail.
Every moment the boat threatened to capsize, and heavy seas broke
over its sides. The sky became blacker and blacker, cold rain mingled
with snow fell in torrents, whilst the squall redoubled its fury, lash-
ing the crests of the waves into foam.

“Cut it! cut it!” screamed Norman above the roaring of the
storm.

The Lieutenant, his cap blown away and his eyes blinded by the
spray, seized Norman’s knife and cut the halliard like a harp-string ;
but the wet cordage no longer acted in the grooves of the pulleys, and
the yard remained attached to the top of the mast.

Norman, totally unable to make head against the wind, now
58 THE FUR COUNTRY.



resolved to -tack about for the south, dangerous as it would be to
have the boat before the wind, pursued by waves advancing at
double its speed. Yes, to tack, although this course would probably
bring them all to the southern shores of the lake, far away from
their destination.

The Lieutenant and his brave companion were well aware of the
danger which threatened them. The frail boat could not long resist
the blows of the waves, it would either be crushed or capsized; the
lives of those within it were in the hands of God.

But neither yielded to despair; clinging to the sides of the boat, wet
to the skin, chilled to the bone by the cutting blast, they strove to
gaze through the thick mist and fog. All trace of the land had dis-
appeared, and so great was the obscurity that at a cable’s length from
the boat clouds and waves could not be distinguished from each
other. Now and then the two travellers looked inquiringly into old
Norman’s face, who, with teeth set and hands clutching the tiller,
tried to keep his boat as much as possible under wind.

But the violence of the squall became such that the boat could
not long maintain this course. The waves which struck its bow
would soon have inevitably crushed it; the front planks were
already beginning to separate, and when its whole weight waa
flung into the hollows of the waves it seemed as if it could rise no
more.

“We must tack, we must tack, whatever happens!” murmured
the old sailor.

And pushing the tiller and paying out sail, he turned the head of
the boat to the south. The sail, stretched to the utmost, brought the
boat round with giddy rapidity, and the immense waves, chased by
the wind, threatened to engulf the little bark. This was the
great danger of shifting with the wind right aft. The billows
hurled themselves in rapid succession upon the boat, which could
not evade them. It filled rapidly, and the water had to be baled
out without a moment’s pause, or it must have foundered. As they
got nearer and nearer to the middle of the lake the waves became
rougher. Nothing there broke the fury of the wind; no clumps of
trees, no hills, checked fora moment the headlong course of the hur-
ricane. Now and then momentary glimpses were obtained through
the fog of icebergs dancing like buoys upon the waves, and driven
towards the south of the lake.

Tt was half-past five. Neither Norman nor the Lieutenant had
4 STORM ON THE LAKE, 59

any idea of where they were, or whither they were going. They
had lost all control over the boat, and were at the mercy of the
winds and waves.

And now at about a hundred feet behind the boat a huge wave
upreared its foam-crowned crest, whilst in front a black whirlpool
was formed by the sudden sinking of the water. All surface agita-
tion, crushed by the wind, had disappeared around this awful gulf,
which, growing deeper and blacker every moment, drew the devoted
little vessel towards its fatal embrace. Ever nearer came the
mighty wave, all lesser billows sinking into insignificance before it.
It gained upon the boat, another moment and it would crush it to
atoms, Norman, looking round, saw its approach; and Mrs Barnett
and the Lieutenant, with eyes fixed and staring, awaited in fearful
suspense the blow from which there was no escape. The wave
broke over them with the noise of thunder; it enveloped the stern
of the boat in foam, a fearful crash was heard, and a cry burst from
the lips of the Lieutenant and his companion, smothered beneath the
liquid mass. :

They thought that all was over, and that the boat had sunk; but
no, it rose once more, although more than half filled with water.

The Lieutenant uttered a cry of despair. Where was Norman !?
The poor old sailor had disappeared !

Mrs Paulina Barnett looked inquiringly at Hobson.

“ Norman!” he repeated, pointing to his empty place.

“Unhappy man!” murmured Mrs Barnett; and at the risk of
being flung from the boat rocking on the waves, the two started te
their feet and looked around them. But they could see and hear
nothing. No cry for help broke upon their ears. No dead body
floated in the white foam. The old sailor had met his death in the
element he loved so well.

Mrs Barnett'and Hobson sank back upon their seats, They were
now alone, and must see to their own safety; but neither of them
knew anything of the management of a boat, and even an experi-
enced hand could scarcely have controlled it now. They were at the
mercy of the waves, and the bark, with distended sail, swept along
in mad career. What could the Lieutenant do to check or direct its
course ?

What a terrible situation for our travellers, to be thus overtaken
by a tempest in a frail bark which they could not manage!

“We are lost!” said the Lieutenant,
60 THE FUR COUNTRY.

~
‘

“No, Lieutenant,” replied Mrs Barnett; “let us make another
effort. Heaven helps those who help themselves!”

Lieutenant Hobson now for the first time realised with how in-
trepid a woman fate had thrown him.

The first thing to be done was to get rid of the water which
weighed down the boat. Another wave shipped would have filled
it in a moment, and it must have sunk at once. The vessel light-
ened, it would have a better chance of rising on the waves; and the
two set to work to bale out the water. This was no easy task; for
fresh waves constantly broke over them, and the scoop could not be
laid aside for an instant. Mrs Barnett was indefatigable, and the
Lieutenant, leaving the baling to her, took the helm himself, and
did the best he could to guide the boat with the wind right aft.

To add to the danger, night, or rather darkness, for in these lati-
tudes night only lasts a few hours at this time of year, fell upon
them. Scarce a ray of light penetrated through the heavy clouds
and fog. They could not see two yards before them, and the boat
must have been dashed to pieces had it struck a floating iceberg.
This danger was indeed imminent, for the loose ice-masses advance
with such rapidity that it is impossible to get out of their way.

“You have no control over the helm?” said Mrs Barnett in a
slight lull of the storm.

‘No, madam,” he replied ; “and you must prepare for the worst.”

“T am ready!” replied the courageous woman simply.

As she spoke a loud ripping sound was heard. ‘The sail, torn
away by the wind, disappeared like a white cloud. The boat sped
rapidly along fora few instants, and then stopped suddenly, the
waves buffeting it about like an abandoned wreck. Mrs Barnett
and Hobson, flung to the bottom of the boat, bruised, shaken, and
torn, felt that all was lost. Not a shred of canvas was left to aid in
navigating the craft; and what with the spray, the snow, and the
rain, they could scarcely see each other, whilst the uproar drowned
their voices. Expecting every moment to perish, they remained
for an hour in painful suspense, commending themselyes to God,
who alone could save them.

Neither of them could have said how long they waited when they
were aroused by a violent shock.

The boat had just struck an enormous iceberg, a floating block
with rugged, slippery sides, to which it would be impossible to cling.






























































































































































































** Liobson uttered a last despairing ery !'’— Page 61,
A STORM ON THE LAKE, 61



At this sudden blow, which could not have been parried, the bow
of the boat was split open, and the water poured into it in torrents,
. “We are sinking! we are sinking!” cried Jaspar Hobson.

He was right. The boat was settling down; the water had already
reached the seats,

“Madam, madam, I am here! I will not leave you!” added the
Lieutenant,

“No, no,” cried Mrs Barnett: ‘‘alone, you may save yourself;
together, we should perish. ‘Leave me! leave me!”

“Never!” cried Hobson.

But he had scarcely pronounced this word when the boat, struck
by another wave, filled and sank.

Both were drawn under water by the eddy caused by the sudden
settling down of the boat, but in a few instants they rose to the
surface. Hobson was a strong swimmer, and struck out with one
arm, supporting his companion with the other. But it was evident
that he could not long sustain a conflict with the furious waves, and
that he must perish with her he wished to save.

At this moment a strange sound attracted his attention. It was
not the cry of a frightened bird, but the shout of a human voice!
By one supreme effort Hobson raised himself above the waves and
looked around him,

But he could distinguish nothing in the thick fog, And yet he
again heard cries, this time nearer to him. Some bold men were
coming to his succour! Alas! if it were so, they would arrive too
late. Encumbered by his clothes, the Lieutenant felt himself sink-
ing with the unfortunate lady, whose head he could scarcely keep
above the water. With a last despairing effort he uttered a heart-
rending cry and disappeared beneath the waves,

It was, however, no mistake—he had heard voices. Three men,
wandering about by the lake, had seen the boat in danger, and put
off to its rescue. They were Esquimaux, the only men who could
have hoped to weather such a storm, for theirs are the only boats
constructed to escape destruction in these fearful tempests.

The Esquimaux boat or kayak is a long pirogue raised at each
end, made of a light framework of wood, covered with stretched
seal-skins strongly stitched with the sinews of the Walrus. In
the upper part of the boat, also covered with skins, is an opening
in which the Esquimaux takes his place, fastening his waterproof
jacket to the back of his seat ; so that he is actually joined to his bark,
62 THE FUR COUNTRY.



which not a drop of water can penetrate. This light, easily-managed
kayak, floating, as it does, on the crests of the waves, can never be
submerged ; and if it be sometimes capsized, a blow of the paddle
rights it again directly ; so that it is able to live and make way in
seas in which any other boat would certainly be dashed to pieces,

The three Esquimaux, guided by the Lieutenant’s last despairing
cry, arrived at the scene of the wreck just in time. Hobson and Mrs
Barnett, already half drowned, felt themselves drawn up by power-
ful hands; but in the darkness they were unable to discover who
were their deliverers. One of the men took the Lieutenant and
laid him across his own boat, another did the same for Mrs Barnett,
and the three kayaks, skilfully managed with the paddles, six feet
long, sped. rapidly over the white foam.

Half an hour afterwards, the shipwrecked travellers were lying
on the:sandy beach three miles above Fort Providence,

The old sailor alone was missing !
CHAPTER XX,

A RETROSPECT.

and Lieutenant Hobson knocked at the postern gate of the

fort, Great was the joy on seeing them, for they had been
given up for lost ; but this joy was turned to mourning at the news
of the death of Norman. The brave fellow had been beloved by
all, and his loss was sincerely mourned. The intrepid and devoted.
Esquimaux received phlegmatically the earnest expressions of
gratitude of those they had saved, and could not be persuaded to
come to the fort. What they had done seemed to them only
natural, and these were not the first persons they had rescued ; so
they quietly returned to their wild life of adventure on. the lake,
where they hunted the otters and water-birds day and night.

For the next three nights the party rested. Hobson always
intended to set out on June 2d; and on that day, all having
recovered from their fatigues and the storm having abated, the
order was given to start.

Sergeant Felton had done all in his power to make his guests
comfortable and to aid their enterprise ; some of the jaded dogs
were replaced by fresh animals, and now the Lieutenant found all
his sledges drawn up in good order at the door of the enceinte,
and awaiting the travellers,

The adieux were soon over. Hach one thanked Sergeant Felton
for his hospitality, and Mrs Paulina Barnett was most profuse in
her expressions of gratitude. A hearty shake of the hand between
the Sergeant and his brother-in-law, Long, completed the leave-
taking.

Each pair got into the sledge assigned to them ; but this time
Mrs Barnett and the Lieutenant shared one vehicle, Madge and
Sergeant Long following them.

According to the advice of the Indian chief, Hobson determined
to get +o the coast by the *Vortest route, and to take a north-easterly

ae was about ten o’clock the same night when Mrs Barnett
64 THE FUR COUNTRY.

direction. After consulting his map, which merely gave a rough
outline of the configuration of the country, it seemed best to him
to descend the valley of the Coppermine, a large river which flows
into Coronation Gulf.

The distance between Fort Confidence and the mouth of this
river is only a degree and a half—that is to say, about eighty-five or
ninety miles. The deep hollow formed by the gulf is bounded on
the north by Cape Krusenstein, and from it the coast juts out
towards the north-west, ending in Cape Bathurst, which is above
the seventieth parallel.

The Lieutenant, therefore, now changed the route he had hitherto
followed, directing his course to the east, so as to reach the river in
a few hours.

In the afternoon of the next day, June 3d, the river was gained.
It was now free from ice, and its clear and rapid waters flowed
through a vast valley, intersected by numerous but easily fordable
streams. The sledges advanced pretty rapidly, and as they went
along, Hobson gave his companion some account of the country
through which they were passing. . A sincere friendship, founded on
mutual esteem, had sprung up between these two. Mrs Paulina
Barnett was an earnest student with a special gift for discovery, and
was therefore always glad to converse with travellers and explorers,
Hobson, who knew his beloved North America by heart, was able
to answer all her inquiries fully.

“ About ninety years ago,” he said, “the territory through which
the Coppermine flows was unknown, and we are indebted for its
discovery to the agents of the Hudson’s Bay Company. But as
always happens in scientific matters, in seeking one thing, another
was found. Columbus was trying to find Asia, and discovered
America.”

“ And what were the agents of the Hudson’s Bay Company
seeking? The famous North-West Passage ?”

“No, madam,” replied the young Lieutenant. “ A century ago
the Company had no interest in the opening of a new route, which
would have been more valuable to its rivals than to it. It is even
said that in 1741 a certain Christopher Middleton, sent to explore
these latitudes, was publicly charged with receiving a bribe of
£500 from the Company to say shat) there was not, and could not
be, a sea passage between the oceans,’
A RETROSPECT. 65



“That was not much to the credit of the celebrated Company,”
said Mrs Barnett. ‘

“T do not defend it in the matter,” replied Hobson; “and its
interference was severely censured by Parliament in 1746, when a
reward of £20,000 was offered by the Government for the discovery
of the passage in question. In that year two intrepid explorers,
William Moor and Francis Smith, penetrated as far as Repulse Bay
in the hope of discovering the much-longed-for passage. But they
were unsuccessful, and returned to England after an absence of a
year and a half,”

“But did not other captains follow in their steps, resolved to
conquer where they had failed?” inquired Mrs Barnett.

“No, madam ; and in spite of the large reward offered by Par-
liament, no attempt was made to resume explorations in English
America until thirty years afterwards, when some agents of the
Company took up the unfinished task of Captains Moor and
Smith.”

“The Company had then relinquished the narrow-minded egotis-
tical position it had taken up?”

“No, madam, not yet. Samuel Hearne, the agent, only went to
reconnoitre the position of a copper-mine which native miners had
reported, On November 6, 1769, this agent left Fort Prince of
Wales, on the river Churchill, near the western shores of Hudson’s
Bay. He pressed boldly on to the north-west ; but the excessive
cold and the exhaustion of his provisions compelled him to return
without accomplishing anything. Fortunately he was not easily
discouraged, and on February 23d of the next year he set out
again, this time taking some Indians with him. Great hardships
were endured in this second journey. The fish and game on which
Hearne had relied often failed him ; and he had once nothing to eat
for seven days but wild fruit, bits of old leather, and burnt bones.
He was again compelled to return to the fort a disappointed man.
But he did not even yet despair, and started a third time, December
7th, 1779 ; and after a struggle of nineteen months, he discovered,
the Coppermine river, July 13th, 1772, the course of which he fol-
lowed to its mouth, According to his own account, he saw the open
sca, and in any case he was the first to penetrate to the northern
coast of America.”

“But the North-West Passage—that is to say, the direct com-

EF
66 THE FUR COUNTRY.



munication by sea between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans—waa
not then discovered ?”

“Oh no, madam,” replied the Lieutenant ; “‘and what countless
adventurous sailors have since gone to seek it! Phipps in 1773,
James Cook and Clerke in 1776 to 1779, Kotzebue in 1815 to
1818, Ross, Parry, Franklin, and others have attempted this difii-
cult task; but it was reserved to M‘Clure in our own day to pass
from one ocean to the other across the Polar Sea.”

“Well, Lieutenant, that was a geographical discovery of which
we English may well be proud. But do tell me if the Hudson’s
Bay Company did not adopt more generous views, and send out
some other explorer after the return of Hearne.”

“Tt did, madam; and it was thanks to it that Captain Franklin
was able to accomplish his voyage of 1819 to 1822 between the
river discovered by Hearne and Cape Turnagain, This expedition
endured great fatigue and hardships; provisions often completely
failed, and two Canadians were assassinated and eaten by their
comrades. But in spite of all his sufferings, Captain Franklin
explored no less than five thousand five hundred and fifty miles
of the hitherto unknown coast of North America !”

“He was indeed a man of energy,” added Mrs Barnett; “and he
gave proof of his great qualities in starting on a fresh Polar expedi-
tion after all he had gone through.”

- “Ves.” replied the Lieutenant ; “and he met a terrible death in
the land his own intrepidity had discovered. It has now been
proved, however, that all his companions did not perish with him.
Many are doubtless still wandering about on the vast ice-fields.
I cannot think of their awful condition without a shudder. One
day,” he added earnestly, and with strange emotion—“ one day I
will search the unknown lands where the dreadful catastrophe took
place, and”

“ And,” exclaimed Mrs Barnett, pressing his hand, ‘I will ac-
company you. Yes, this idea has occurred to me more than once,
as it has to you; and my heart beats high when I think that fellow-
countrymen of my own—Englishmen—are awaiting succour”

“Which will come too late for most of them, madam,” said the
Lieutenant ; “but rest assured some will even yet be saved.”

“ God grant it, Lieutenant !” replied Mrs Barnett ; “ and it appeara
to me that the agents of the Company, living as they do close to




A RETROSPECT. 67

the coast, are better fitted than any one else to fulfil this duty of
humanity.”

‘“‘T-agree with you, madam ; they are, as they have often proved,
inured to the rigours of the Arctic climate. Was it not they who
aided Captain Back in his voyage in 1834, when he discovered
King William’s Land, where Franklin met his fate? Was it not
two of us, Dease and Simpson, who were sent by the Governor of
Hudson’s Bay to explore the shores of the Polar Sea in 1838, and
whose courageous efforts first discovered Victoria Land? It is my
opinion that the future reserves for the Hudson’s Bay Company
the final conquest of the Arctic regions. Gradually its factories
are advancing further and further north, following the retreat of the
fur-yielding animals; and one day a fort will be erected on the
Pole itself, that mathematical point where meet all the meridians of
the globe.”

During this and the succeeding journeys Jaspar Hobson related
Lis own adventures since he entered the service of the Company—
his struggles with the agents of rival associations, and his efforts to
explore the unknown districts of the north or west ; and Mrs Barnett,
on her side, told of her travels in the tropics. She spoke of all
she had done, and of all she hoped still to accomplish; so that the
long hours, lightened by pleasant conversation, passed rapidly away.

Meanwhile the dogs advanced at full gallop towards the north.
The Coppermine valley widened sensibly as they neared the Arctic
Ocean, The hills on either side sank lower and lower, and only
scattered clumps of resinous trees broke the monotony of the
landscape. A few blocks of ice, drifted down by the river, stil]
resisted the action of the sun; but each day their number decreased,
and a canoe, or even a good-sized boat, might easily have descended
the stream, the course of which was unimpeded by any natural
barrier or aggregation of rocks. The bed of the Coppermine was
both deep and wide ; its waters were very clear, and being fed by
the melted snow, flowed on at a considerable pace, never, however,
forming dangerous rapids. Its course, at first very sinuous,
became gradually less and less winding, and at last stretched
along in a straight line for several miles. Its banks, composed of
fine firm sand, and clothed in part with short dry herbage, were
wide and level, so that the long train of sledges sped rapidly over
them;

The expedition travelled day and night—if we can speak of the
68 THE FUR COUNTRY.



night, when the sun, describing an almost horizontal circle, scarcely
disappeared at all. The true night only lasted two hours, and the
dawn succeeded the twilight almost immediately, The weather
was fine; the sky clear, although somewhat misty on the horizon ;
and everything combined to favour the travellers.

For two days they kept along the river-banks without meeting
with any difficulties. They saw but few fur-bearing animals ; but
there were plenty of birds, which might have been counted by thou-
sands. The absence of otters, sables, beavers, ermines, foxes, &c.,
did not trouble the Lieutenant much, for he supposed that they had
been driven further north by over-zealous tracking ; and indeed the
marks of encampments, extinguished fires, &c., told of the more or
less recent passage of native hunters. Hobson knew that he would
have to penetrate a good deal further north, and that part only of
his journey would be accomplished when he got to the mouth of the
Coppermine river. He was therefore most eager to reach the limit
of Hearne’s exploration, and pressed on as rapidly as possible.

Every one shared the Lieutenant’s impatience, and resolutely
resisted fatigue in order to reach the Arctic Ocean with the least
possible delay. They were drawn onwards by an indefinable attrac-
tion ; the glory of the unknown dazzled their sight. Probably real
hardships would commence when they did arrive at the much-desired
coast. But no matter, they longed to battle with difficulties, and to
press straight onwards to their aim. The district they were now
traversing could have no direct interest for them; the real explora-
tion would only commence on the shores of the Arctic Ocean. Each
one, then, would gladly hail the arrival in the elevated western dis-
tricts for which they were bound, cut across though they were by
the seventieth parallel of north latitude,

On the 5th June, four days after leaving Fort Confidence, the
river widened considerably. The western banks, curving slightly,
ran almost due north; whilst the eastern rounded off into ‘the coagt=
line, stretching away as far as the eye could reach.

Lieutenant “Hobson paused, and waving his hand to his com-
panions, pointed to the boundless ocean.
CHAPTER XI

ALONG THE COAST.

43 ORONATION GULF, the large estuary dotted with the
Be islands forming the Duke of York Archipelago, which the
we party had now reached, was a sheet of water with irregular
banks, let in, as it were, into the North American continent. At
its western angle opened the mouth of the Coppermine; and on the
east a long narrow creek called Bathurst Inlet.ran into the mainland,
from which stretched the-jagged broken coast with its pointed capes
and rugged promontories, ending in that confusion of straits, sounds,
and channels which gives such a strange appearance to the maps of
North America, On the other side the coast turned abruptly to the
north beyond the mouth of the Coppermine river, and ended in Cape
Krusenstern.

After consulting with Sergeant Long, Lieutenant Hobson decided
to give his party a day’s rest here.

The exploration, properly so called, which was to enable the
Lieutenant to fix upon a suitable site for the establishment of a fort,
was now really about to begin. The Company had advised him to
keep as much as possible above the seventieth parallel, and on the
shores of the Arctic Ocean. To obey his orders Hobson was obliged
to keep to the west; for on the east—with the exception, perhaps, of
the land of Boothia, crossed by the seventieth parallel—the whole
country belongs rather to the Arctic Circle, and the geographical
conformation of Boothia is as yet but imperfectly known.

After carefully ascertaining the latitude and longitude, and veri-
fying his position by the map, the Lieutenant found that he was a
hundred miles below the seventieth degree. But beyond Cape
Krusenstern, the coast-line, running in a north-easterly direction,
abruptly crosses the seventieth parallel at a sharp angle near the
one ‘hundred and thirtieth meridian, and at about the same elevation
as Cape Bathurst, the spot named ag a rendezvous by Captain
70 THE FUR COUNTRY.

Craventy. He must therefore make for that point, and should the
site appear suitable the new fort would be erected there,

“There,” said the Lieutenant to his subordinate, Long, “ we
shall be in the position ordered by the Company. ‘There the sea,
open for a great part of the year, will allow the vessels from Behring
Strait to come right up to the fort, bringing us fresh provisions
and taking away our commodities.”

“ Not to mention,” added Sergeant Long, “that our men will be

‘entitled to double pay all the time they are beyond the seventieth
parallel.”

“Of course that is understood,” replied Hobson ; “and I daresay
they will accept it without a murmur.”

“Well then, Lieutenant,” said Long simply, “we have now only
to start for Cape Bathurst.”

But as a day of rest had been promised, the start did not actually
take place until the next day, June 6th.

The second part of the journey would naturally be very different
from the first. The rules with regard to the sledges keeping their
rank need no longer be enforced, and each couple drove as it pleased
them. Only short distances were traversed at a time; halts were
made at every angle of the coast, and the party often walked.
Lieutenant Hobson only urged two things upon his companions:
not to go further than three miles from the coast, and to rally
their forces twice a day, at twelve o’clock and in the evening. At
night they all encamped in tents.

The weather continued very fine and the temperature moderate
maintaining a mean height of 59° Fahrenheit above zero. ‘Two or
three times sudden snowstorms came on ; but they did not last long,
and exercised no sensible influence upon the temperature.

The whole of the American coast between Capes Krusenstern and
Parry, comprising an extent of more than two-hundred and fifty
miles, was examined with the greatest care between the 6th and
20th of June. Geographical observations were accurately taken,
and Hobson, most effectively aided by Thomas Black, was able to
rectify certain errors in previous marine surveys; whilst the primary
object of the expedition—the examination into the quality and
quantity of the game in the surrounding districts—was not neglected.

Were these lands well stocked with game? Could they count
with certainty not only on a good supply of furs, but also of meat ?
Would the resources of the country provide a fort with provisions in
ALONG THE COAST, 71

the summer months at least? Such were the grave questions which
Lieutenant Hobson had to solve, and which called for immediate atten-
tion. We give a summary of the conclusions at which he arrived.

Game, properly so called, of the kind for which Corporal Joliffe
amongst others had a special predilection, was not abundant. There
were plenty of birds of the duck tribe; but only a few Polar hares
difficult of approach, poorly represented the rodents of the north.
There seemed, however, to be a good many bears about. Marbre
and Sabine had come upon the fresh traces of several. Some were
even seen and tracked; but, as a rule, they kept at a respectful
distance. In the winter, however, driven by famine from higher
latitudes, there would probably be more than enough of these
ravenous beasts prowling about the shores of the Arctic Ocean.

“There is certainly no denying,” said Corporal Joliffe, “that
bear’s flesh is very good eating when once it’s in the larder; but
there is something very problematical about it beforehand, and it’s
always just possible that the hunters themselves may meet the fate
they intended for the bears!”

This was true enough. It was no use counting upon the bears
to provision their fort. Fortunately traces were presently found of
herds of a far more useful animal, the flesh of which is the principal
food of the Indians and Esquimaux. We allude to the reindeer ;
and Corporal Joliffe announced with the greatest satisfaction that
there -were plenty of these ruminants on this coast. The ground
was covered with the lichen to which they are so partial, and which
they cleverly dig out from under the snow.

There could be no mistake as to the footprints left by the rein-
deer, as, like the camel, they have a small nail-like hoof with a con-
vex surface. Large herds, sometimes numbering several thousand
animals, are seen running wild in certain parts of America. Being
easily domesticated, they are employed to draw sledges; and they
also supply the factories with excellent milk, more nourishing than
that of cows. Their dead bodies are not less useful. Their thick
skin provides clothes, their hair makes very good thread, and their
flesh is palatable ; so that they are really the most valuable animals
to be found in these latitudes, and Hobson, being assured of their
presence, was relieved from half his anxiety.

As he advanced he had also reason to be satisfied with regard to
the fur-bearing animals. By the little streams rose many beaver
lodges and musk-rat tunneis. Badgers, lynxes, crmines, wolverenes,
72 THE FUR COUNTRY.



sables, polecats, d&c., frequented these districts, hitherto undisturbed
by hunters. They had thus far come to no trace of the presence of
man, and the animals had chosen their refuge well. Footprints were
also found of the fine blue and silver foxes, which are becoming
more and more rare, and the fur of which is worth its weight in gold.
Sabine and Mac-Nab might many a time have shot a very valuable
animal on this excursion, but the Lieutenant had wisely forbidden all
hunting of the kind. He did not wish to alarm the animals before
the approaching season—that is to say, before the winter months,
when their furs become thicker and more beautiful, It was also
desirable not to overload the sledges. The hunters saw the force of
his reasoning; but for all that, their fingers itched when they came
within shot-range ofa sable or some valuablefox. Their Lieutenant’s
orders were, however, no #9 be disobeyed.

Polar bears and birds were, therefore, all that the hunters had to
practise upon in this second stage of their journey. The former,
however, not yet rendered bold by hunger, soon scampered off, and
no serious struggle with them ensued.

The poor birds suffered for the enforced immunity of the quad-
rupeds. White-headed eagles, huge birds with a harsh screeching
cry; fishing hawks, which build their nests in dead trees and
migrate to the Arctic regions in the summer ; snow buntings with
pure white plumage; wild geese, which afford the best food of all
the Anseres tribe ; ducks with red heads and black breasts ; ash-
coloured crows, a kind of mocking jay of extreme’ ugliness ; eider
ducks ; scoters or black divers, &c. &c., whose mingled cries awake
the echoes of the Arctic regions, fell victims by hundreds to the
unerring aim of Marbre and Sabine. These birds haunt the high
latitudes by millions, and it would be impossible to form an accurate
estimate of their number on the shores of the Arctic Ocean. Their
flesh formed a very pleasant addition to the daily rations of biscuit
and corned beef, and we can understand that the hunters laid up a
good stock of them in the fifteen days during which they were
debarred from attacking more valuable game.

There would then be no lack of animal food; the magazines of
the Company would be well stocked with game, and its offices filled
with furs and traders; but something more was wanted to insure
success to the undertaking. Would it be possible to obtain a
sufficient supply of fuel to contend with the rigour of an Arctic
winter at so elevated a latitude .
ALONG THE COAST. ; 73

Most fortunately the coast was well wooded; the hills which
sloped down towards the sea were crowned with green trees, amongst
which the pine predominated. Some of the woods might even be
called forests, and would constitute an admirable reserve of timber
for the fort. Here and there Hobson noticed isolated groups of
willows, poplars, dwarf birch-trees, and numerous thickets of arbutus,
At this time of the warm season all these trees were covered with
verdure, and were an unexpected and refreshing sight to eyes so
long accustomed to the rugged, barren polar landscape. The
ground at the foot of the hills was carpeted with a short herbage
devoured with avidity by the reindeer, and forming their only sus-
tenance in winter. On the whole, then, the Lieutenant had reason
to congratulate himself on having chosen the north-west of the
American continent for the foundation of a new settlement.

We have said that these territories, so rich in animals, were
apparently deserted by men. The travellers saw neither Esquimaux,
who prefer the districts round Hudson’s Bay, nor Indians, who
seldom venture so far beyond the Arctic Circle. And indeed in these
remote latitudes hunters may be overtaken by storms, or be suddenly
surprised by winter, and cut off from all communication with their
fellow-creatures. We can easily imagine that Lieutenant Hobson
was by no means sorry not to meet any rival explorers. What he
wanted was an unoccupied country, a deserted land, suitable as a
refuge for the fur-bearing animals; and in this matter he had the
full sympathy of Mrs Barnett, who, as the guest of the Company,
naturally took a great interest in the success of its schemes,

Fancy, then, the disappointment of the Lieutenant, when on the
morning of the 20th June he came to an encampment but recently
abandoned.

It was situated at the end of a narrow creek called Darnley Bay,
of which Cape Parry is the westernmost point. There at the foot
of a little hill were the stakes which had served to mark the limits
of the camp, and heaps of cinders, the extinct embers of the fires.

The whole party met at this encampment, and all understood how
great a disappointment it involved for Lieutenant Hobson.

“What a pity!” he exclaimed, “I would rather have met a
whole family of polar bears!”

“ But I daresay the men who encamped here are already far off,”
said'Mrs Barnett; “very likely they have returned to their usual
hunting grounds,”
7A THE FUR COUNTRY.



-“ That is as it may be,” replied the Lieutenant. ‘If these be the
traces of Hsquimaux, they are more likely to have gone on than to
have turned back; and if they be those of Indians, they are pro-
bably, like ourselves, seeking a new hunting district; and in either
case it will be very unfortunate for us.”

“ But,” said Mrs Barnett, “cannot we find out to what race the
travellers do belong? Can’t we ascertain if they be Esquimaux or
Indians from the south? I should think tribes of such a different
origin, and of such dissimilar customs, would not encamp in the
same manner.”

Mrs Barnett was right; they might possibly solve the mystery
after a thorough examination of the ground.

Jaspar Hobson and others set to work, carefully examining every
trace, every object left behind, every mark on the ground; but in
vain, there was nothing to guide them to a decided opinion. The
bones of some animals scattered about told them nothing, and the
Lieutenant, much annoyed, was about to abandon the useless search,
when he heard an exclamation from Mrs Joliffe, who had wandered
a little way to the left.

All hurried towards the young Canadian, who setiisinda fixed to
the spot, looking attentively at the ground before her.

As her companions came up she said—

“ You are looking for traces, Lieutenant; well, here are some,”

And Mrs Joliffe pointed to a good many footprints clearly visible
in the firm clay.

These might reveal something; for the feet of the Indians and
Esquimaux, as well as their boots, are totally different from each
other.

But what chiefly struck Lieutenant Hobson was the strange
arrangement of these impressions. They were evidently made by a
human foot, a shod foot ; but, strange to say, the ball alone appeared
to have touched the ground! The marks were very numerous,
close together, often crossing one another, but confined to a very
small circle.

Jaspar Hobson called the attention of the rest of the party to
this singular circumstance.

“These were not.made by a person walking,” he said.

“Nor by a person jumping,” added Mrs Barnett ; “for there is
no mark of a heel.”

“No,” said Mrs Joliffe; “ these footprints were left by a dancer.”
ALONG THE COAST. 75

She was right, as further examination proved. They were the
marks left by a dancer, and a dancer engaged in some light and
graceful exercise, for they were neither clumsy nor deep.

But who could the light-hearted individual be who had been
impelled to dance in this sprightly fashion some degrees above the
Arctic Circle?

“Tt was certainly not an Esquimaux,” said the Lieutenant.

“ Nor an Indian,” cried Corporal Joliffe.

“No, it was a Frenchman,” said Sergeant Long quietly.

And all agreed that none but a Frenchman could have been
capable of dancing on such a spot !
CHAPTER XIL
THE MIDNIGHT SUN,

ERGEANT LONG’S assertion must appear to have been

founded on insufficient evidence. That there had been
dancing no one could deny, but that the dancer was a
Frenchman, however probable, could not be considered proved.

However, the Lieutenant shared the opinion of his subordinate,
which did not appear: too positive to any of the party, who all
agreed in feeling sure that.some travellers, with at least one
compatriot of Vestris amongst them, had recently encamped on
this spot.

Of course Lieutenant Hobson was by no means pleased at this:
he was afraid of having been preceded by rivals in the north-western
districts of English America; and secret as the Company had kept
its scheme, it had doubtless been divulged in the commercial centres
of Canada and the United States,

The Lieutenant resumed his interrupted march ; but he was full
of care and anxiety, although he would not now have dreamed of
retracing his steps,

“Frenchmen are then sometimes met with in these high lati-
tudes?” was Mrs Barnett’s natural question after this incident,

“Yes, madam,” replied the Lieutenant; “or if not exactly
Frenchmen, the descendants of the masters of Canada when it
belonged to France, which comes to much the same thing. These
men are in fact our most formidable rivals.”

“But I thought,” resumed Mrs Barnett, “that after the absorp-
tion by the Hudson’s Bay Company of the old North-West
Company, that it had no longer any rivals on the American
continent,”

“Although there is no longer any important association for
trading in furs except our own, there are a good many perfectly
independent private companies, mostly American, which have
retained French agents or their descendants in their employ.”


THE MIDNIGHT SUN. 77

“ Are these agents then held in such high esteem?” asked Mrs
Barnett.

“Yes, madam, and with good reason. During the ninety-four
years of French supremacy in Canada, French agents always proved
themselves superior to ours) We must be just even to our
rivals.”

“Especially to our rivals,” added Mrs Barnett.

“Yes, especially. .. At that time French hunters, starting from
Montreal, their headquarters, pressed on to the north with greater
hardihood than any others, They lived for years with the Indian
tribes, sometimes intermarrying with them. The natives called them
the ‘Canadian travellers,’ and were on the most intimate terms
with them. They were bold, clever fellows, expert at navigating
streams, light-hearted and merry, adapting themselves to circum-
stances with the easy flexibility of their race, and always ready to
sing or dance.”

“ And do you suppose that hunting is the only object of the
party whose traces we have just discovered?”

“T don’t think any other hypotheses at all likely,” replied
Hobson. ‘They are sure to be seeking new hunting grounds. But
as we cannot possibly stop them, we must make haste to begin our
own operations, and compete boldly with all rivals.”

Lieutenant Hobson was now prepared for the competition he
could not prevent, and he urged on the march of his party as much
as possible, hoping that his rivals might not follow him beyond
the seventicth parallel.

The expedition now descended towards the south for some twenty
miles, in order the more easily to pass round Franklin Bay, The
country was still covered with verdure, and the quadrupeds and
birds already enumerated were as plentiful as ever; so that they
could reasonably hope that the whole of the north-western coasts
of the American continent were populated in the same manner.

The ocean which bathed these shores stretched away as far as
the eye could reach. Recent atlases give no land beyond the north
American coast-line, and it is only the icebergs which impede the
free navigation of the open sea from Behring Strait to the Pole
itself,

On the 4th July the travellers skirted round another deep bay
eallect Washburn Bay, and reached the furthest point of a little
lake, until then imperfectly known, covering but a small extent of
78 THE FUR COUNTRY.

territory, scarcely two square miles—in fact it was rather a lagoon,
or large pond of sweet water, than a lake.

The sledges went on ensily and rapidly, and the appearance of
the country was most encouraging to the explorers. It seemed
that the extremity of Cape Bathurst would be a most favourable
site for the new fort, as with this lagoon behind them, and the sea
open for four or five months in the warm season, and giving access
to the great highway of Behring Strait, before them, it would be
easy for the exiles to lay in fresh provisions and to ge their
commodities.

On the 5th June, about three o’clock in the afternoon, ‘the party
at last halted at the extremity of Cape Bathurst. It remained to
ascertain the exact position of this cape, which the maps place
above the seventieth parallel. It was, however, impossible to rely
upon the marine surveys of the coast, as they had never yet been
made with exactitude. Jaspar Hobson decided to wait and ascertain
the latitude and longitude.

“ What prevents us from settling here?” asked Corporal Joliffe.
“ You will own, Lieutenant, that it is a very inviting spot.”

“ Tt will seem more inviting still if you get double pay here, my
worthy Corporal,” replied Hobson.

“No doubt,” said Joliffe; ‘and the orders of the Company must
be obeyed.”

“Then wait patiently till to-morrow,” added Hobson ; “ and if we
find that Cape Bathurst is really beyond 70° north latitude, we
will pitch our tent here.”

The site was indeed admirably suited for the fovithtntions of a
new settlement, The wooded heights surrounding the lagoon would
supply plenty of pine, birch, and other woods for the construction
of the fort, and for stocking it with fuel, The Lieutenant and
some of his companions went to the very edge of the cape, and
found that towards the west the coast-line formed a lengthened
curve, beyond which icebergs of a considerable height shut out the
view. The water of the lagoon, instead of being brackish, as they
expected from its close vicinity to the sea, was perfectly sweet ;
but had it not been so, drinkable water would not have failed the
little colony, as a fresh and limpid stream ran a few yards to the
south-east of Cape Bathurst, and emptied itself into the Arctic Ocean
through a narrow inlet, which, protected by a singular accumula-
tion of sand and earth instead of by rocks, would have afforded a
TIE MIDNIGHT SUN. 79

refuge to several vessels from the winds of the offing, and. might be
turned to account for the anchorage of the ships which it was hoped
would come to the new settlement from Behring Strait. Out of
compliment to the lady of the party, and much to her delight,
Lieutenant Hobson named the stream Paulina river, and the little
harbour Port Barnett.

By building the fort a little behind the actual cape, the principal
house and the magazines would be quite sheltered from the sldest
winds.. The elevation of the cape would help to protect them
from the snow-drifts, which sometimes completely bury large build-
ings beneath their heavy avalanches in a few hours. There was
plenty of room between the foot of the promontory and the bank of
the lagoon for all the constructions necessary to a fort. It could
even be surrounded by palisades, which would break the shock of
the icebergs; and the cape itself might be surrounded with a fortified
redoubt, if the vicinity of rivals should render such a purely defen-
give erection necessary ; and the Lieutenant, although with no idea of
commencing anything of the kind as yet, naturally rejoiced at
having met with an easily defensible position.

The weather remained fine, and it was quite warmenough. There
was not a cloud upon the sky ; but, of course, the clear blue air of
temperate and torrid zones could not be expected here, and the
atmosphere was generally charged with a light mist. What would
Cape Bathurst be like in the long winter night of four months, when
the ice-mountains became fixed and rigid, and the hoarse north wind
swept down upon the icebergs in all its fury? None of the party
gave a thought to that time now; for the weather was beautiful, the
verdant landscape smiled, and the waves sparkled in the sunbeams,
whilst the temperature remained warm and pleasant.

A provisional camp, the sledges forming its only material, was
arranged for the night on the banks of the lagoon; and towards
evening Mrs Barnett, the Lieutenant, Sergeant Long, and even
Thomas Black, explored the surrounding district in order to as-
cortain its resources. It appeared to be in every respect suitable ;
and Hobson was eager for the next day, that he might determine
the exact situations, and find out if it fulfilled the conditions im-
posed by the Company.

* Well, Lieutenant,” said the astronomer when the examination
was over, “this is really a charming spot, such as I should not have
imagined could have existed beyond the Arctic Circle.”
80 THE FUR COUNTRY.

“Ah, Mr Black!” cried Hobson, “the finest countries in tho
world are to be found here, and I am impatient to ascertain our
latitude and longitude.”

“Especially the latitude,” said the astronomer, whose eclipse was
never out of his thoughts ; “and I expect your brave companions are
as cager as yourself, ‘Double pay beyond the seventieth parallel !”

“ But, Mr Black,” said Mrs Barnett, “do you not yourself take an
interest, a purely scientific interest, in getting beyond that parallel?”

“Of course, madam, of course I am anxious to get beyond it,
but not so terribly eager. According to our calculations, however,
made with absolute accuracy, the solar eclipse which I am ordered to
watch will only be total to an observer placed beyond the seventieth
degree, and on this account I share the Lieutenant’s impatience to
determine the position of Cape Bathurst.”

~ “But I understand, Mr Black,” said Mrs Barnett, “that this
solar eclipse will not take place until the 18th July 1860?”

“Yes, madam, on the 18th July 1860.”

' “And it is now only the 15th June 1859! So that the pheno-
menon will not be visible for more than a year!”

“Tam quite aware of it, Mrs Barnett,” replied the astronomer ;
“but if I had not started till next year I should have run a risk
of being too late.”

“You would, Mr Black,” said Hobson, “and you did well to start
a year beforehand. You are now quite sure not to miss your eclipse,
I own that our journey from Fort Reliance has been accom-
plished under exceptionally favourable circumstances. We have
had little fatigue and few delays. To tell you the truth, I did not
expect to get to this part of the coast until the middle of August ;
and if the eclipse had been expected this year, instead of next, you
really might have been too late. Moreover, we do not yet know
if we are beyond the seventieth parallel.”

“T do not in the least regret the journey I have taken in your
company, Lieutenant, and I shall patiently wait until next year for
my eclipse The fair Pheebe, I fancy, is a sufficiently grand lady to
be waited for.”

The next day, July 6th, a little after noon, Hobson and the astro-
nomer made their preparations for taking the exact bearings of Cape
Bathurst. The sun shone clearly enough for them to take the out-
lines exactly. At this season of the year, too, it had reached its
maximum height above the horizon ; and consequently its culmina-
THE MIDNIGHT SUN. SI



tion, on its transit across the meridian, would facilitate the work
of the two observers.

: Already the night before, and the same morning, by taking differ-
ent altitudes, and by means of a calculation of right ascensions, the
Lieutenant and the astronomer had ascertained the longitude with
great accuracy. But it was about the latitude that Hobson was
most anxious; for what would the meridian of Cape Bathurs/
matter to him should it not be situated beyond the seventieth
parallel ?

Noon approached, The men of the expedition gathered round
the observers with their sextants ready in their hands. The brave
fellows awaited the result of the observation with an impatience
whiclt will be readily understood. It was now to be decided
whether they had come to the end of their journey, or whether they
must search still further for a spot fulfilling the conditions imposed
by the Company.

Probably no good result would have followed upon further explora-
tions. According to the maps of North America—imperfect, it ia
true—the western coast beyond Cape Bathurst sloped down below
the seventieth parallel, not again rising above it until it entered
Russian America, where the English had as yet no right to settle ;
so that Hobson had shown considerable judgment in directing his
course to Cape Bathurst after a thorough examination of the maps
of these northern regions, This promontory is, in fact, the only one
which juts out beyond the seventieth parallel along the whole of
the North American continent, properly so called—that is to say, in
Hnglish America, It remained to be proved that it really occupied
the position. assigned to it in maps.

At this moment the sun was approaching the culminating-point
of its course, and the two observers pointed the telescopes of their
sextants upon it. By means of inclined mirrors attached to the
instruments, the sun ought apparently to go back to the horizon
itself; and the moment when it seemed to touch it with the lower
side of its disc would be precisely that at which it would occupy
the highest point of the diurnal arc, and consequently the exact.
moment when it would pass the meridian—in other words, it would
be noon at the place where the observation was taken.

All watched in anxious silence

“Noon !” cried Jaspar Hobson and the astronomer at once.

The telescopes were immediately lowered. The Lieutenant and

G
&2 THE FUR COUNTRY.



Thomas Black read on the graduated limbs the value of the angles
they had just obtained, and at once proceeded to note down their
observations. ‘

A few minutes afterwards, Lieutenant Hobson rose and said,
addressing his companions—

“‘ My friends, from this date, July 6th, I promise you double pay
in the name of the Hudson’s Bay Company !”

“Wurrah! hurrah! hurrah for the Company!” shouted the
worthy companions of the Lieutenant with one veice.

Cape Bathurst and its immediate neighbourhood were in very
truth above the seventieth degree of north latitude.

We give the result of these simultaneous observations, which
agreed to a second. ,

Longitude, 127° 36’ 12” west of the meridian of Greenwich.

Latitude, 70° 44'.37” north.

And that. very evening these hardy pioneers, encamped so far
from the inhabited world, watched the mighty luminary of day touch
the edges of the western horizon without dipping beneath it.

For the first time they saw the shining of the midnight sun,
CHAPTER XII
FORT HOPE.

nr site of the new fort was now finally determined on. Tt
“ 53 would be impossible to find a better situation than on the
level ground behind Cape Bathurst, on the eastern bank of
the lagoon, Hobson determined to commence the construction of the
principal house at once. Meanwhile all must accommodate them-
selves as best they could; and the sledges were ingeniously utilised
to form a provisional encampment.
His men being very skilful, the Lieutenant hoped to have the
principal house ready in a month. It was to be large enough to
accommodate for a time the nineteen persons of the party. Later,
and before the excessive cold set in, if there should be time, the
barracks for the soldiers and the magazines for the furs and skins
were to be built, There was not much chance of getting it all done
before the-end of September; and after that date, the winter, with its
first bitter frosts and long nights, would arrest all further progress. |
Of the ten soldiers chosen by Captain Craventy, two—Marbre and
Sabine—were skilful hunters ; the other eight handled the hatchet
with as much address as the musket. Like sailors, they could turn
their hands.to anything, and were now to be treated more like work-
men than soldiers, for they were to build a fort which there was as
yet no enemy toattack, Petersen, Belcher, Rae, Garry, Pond, Hope,
and Kellet formed a body of clever, zealous carpenters, under the
able superintendence of Mac-Nab, a Scotchman from Stirling, who
had had considerable experience in the building both of houses and
boats. The men were well provided with tools—hatchets, centre-
bits, adzes, planes, hand-saws, mallets, hammers, chisels, &c. &c. Rae
was most skilful at blacksmith’s work, and with the aid of a little
portable forge he was able to make all the pins, tenons, bolts, nails,
screws, nuts, dsc., required in carpentry. They had no mason in the
party ;~but none was wanted, as-all the buildings of the factories in
the north are of wood, Fortunately there were plenty of trees about
84. THE FUR COUNTRY.

Cape Bathurst, although, as Hobson had already remarked to Mrs
Barnett, there was not a rock, a stone, not even a flint or a pebble,
to be seen. The shore was strewn with innumerable quantities of
bivalve shells broken by the surf, and with seaweed or zoophytes,
mostly sea-urchins and asteriade; but the soil consisted entirely of
earth and sand, without a morsel of silica or broken granite; and the
cape itself was but an accumulation of soft earth, the particles of
which were scarcely held together by the vegetation with which it
was clothed. -

In the afternoon of the same day, July 6th, Hobson and Mac-Nab
the carpenter went to choose the site of the principal house on the
plateau at the foot of Cape Bathurst. From this point the view
embraced the lagoon and the western districts to a distance of ten
or twelve miles, On the right, about four miles off, towered icebergs
of a considerable height, partly draped in mist; whilst on the left
stretched apparently boundless plains, vast steppes which it would
be impossible to distinguish from the frozen surface of the lagoon
or from the sea itself in the winter.

The spot chosen, Hobson and Mac-Nab set out the outer walls of
the house with the line. This outline formed a rectangle measur-
ing sixty feet on the larger side, and thirty on the smaller. The
facade of the house would therefore have a length of sixty feet:
it was to have a door and three windows on the side of the
promontory, where the inner court was to be situated, and four
windows on the side of the lagoon, The door was to open at the
left corner, instead of in the middle, of the back of the house, for
the sake of warmth. This arrangement would impede the entrance
of the outer air to the further rooms, and add considerably to the
comfort of the inmates of the fort.

According to the simple plan agreed upon by the Lieutenant and
his master-carpenter, there were to. be four compartments in the
house: the first to be an antechamber with a double door to keep
out the wind; the second to serve as a kitchen, that the cooking,
which would generate damp, might be all done quite away from
the living-rooms ; the third, a large hall, where the daily meals were
to be served in common ; and the fourth, to be divided into several
eabins, like the staterooms on board ship.

The soldiers were to occupy the dining-hall provisionally, and a
kind of camp-bed was arranged for them at the end of the room.
The Lieutenant, Mrs Barnett, Thomas Black, Madge, Mrs Joliffe, Mrs
FORT HOPR. 85



Mac-Nab, and Mrs Rae were to lodge in the cabins of the fourth
compartment. They would certainly be packed pretty closely ; but
it was only a temporary state of things, and when the barracks were
constructed, the principal house would be reserved to the officer in
command, his sergeant, Thomas Black, Mrs Barnett, and her faith-
ful Madge, who never left her. Then the fourth compartment
might perhaps be divided into three cabins, instead of four; for to
avoid corners as much as possible is a rule which should never be
forgotten by those who winter in high latitudes, Nooks and corners
are, in fact, so many receptacles of ice. The partitions impede the
ventilation; and the moisture, generated in the air, freezes readily,
and makes the atmosphere of the rooms unhealthy, causing grave
maladies to those who sleep in them.

On this account many navigators who have to winter in the
midst of ice have one large room in the centre of their vessel, which
is shared by officers and sailors in common, For obvious reasons,
however, Hobson could not adopt this plan.

From the preceding description we shall have seen that the future
house was to consist merely of a ground-floor. The roof was to be
high, and its sides to slope considerably, so that water could easily
run off them. The snow would, however, settle upon them; and
when once they were covered with it, the house would be, so to
speak, hermetically closed, and the inside temperature would be
kept at the same mean height. Snow is, in fact, a very bad con-
ductor of heat: it prevents it from entering, it is true; but, what
is more important in an Arctic winter, it also keeps it from getting
out.

The carpenter was to build two chimneys—one above the kitchen,
the other in connection with the stove of the large dining-room,
which was to heat it and the compartment containing the cabins,
The architectural effect of the whole would certainly be poor; but
the house would be as comfortable as possible, and what more could
any one desire ? ,

Certainly an artist who had once seen it would not soon forget
this winter residence, set down in the gloomy Arctic twilight in the
midst of snow-drifts, half hidden by icicles, draped in white from
roof to foundation, its walls encrusted with snow, and the smoke
from its fires assuming strangely-contorted forms in the wind,

But now to tell of the actual construction of this house, as yet
existing only in imagination. This, of course, was the business of
86 THE FUR COUNTRY.

Mac-Nab and his men; and while the carpenters were at work,
the foraging party to whom the commissariat was entrusted would
not be idle. There was plenty for every one to do,

The first step was to choose suitable timber, and a species of
Scotch fir was decided on, which grew conveniently upon the neigh-
bouring hills, and seemed altogether well adapted to the multifarious
uses to which it would be put, Yor in the rough and ready style of
habitation which they were planning, there could be no variety of
material; and every part of the house—outside and inside walls,
flooring, ceiling, partitions, rafters, ridges, framework, and tiling—~
would have to be contrived of planks, beams, and timbers, As may
readily be supposed, finished workmanship was not necessary for
such a description of building, and Mac-Nab was able to proceed
very rapidly without endangering the safety of the building.
About a hundred of these firs were chosen and felled—they were
neither barked nor squared—and formed so many timbers, averag-
ing some twenty feet in length. The axe and the chisel did not
touch them except at the ends, in order to form the tenons and
mortises by which they were to be secured to one another. Very
few days sufficed to complete this part of the work, and the
timbers were brought down by the dogs to the site fixed on for
the principal building. To start with, the site had been carefully
levelled. The soil, a mixture of fine earth and sand, had been
beaten and consolidated with heavy blows. The brushwood with
which it was originally covered was burnt, and the thick layer of
oshes thus produced would prevent the damp from penetrating the
floors. A clean and dry foundation having been thus secured on
which to lay the first joists, upright posts were fixed at each corner
of the site, and at the extremities of the inside walls, to form
the skeleton of the building. The posts were sunk to a depth of
some feet in the ground, after their ends had been hardened in the
fire; and'were slightly hollowed at each side to receive the cross-
beams of the outer wall, between which the openings for the doors
and windows had been arranged for. These posts were held
together at the top by horizontal beams well let into the mortises,
and consolidating the whole building. On these horizontal beams,
which represented the architraves of the two fronts, rested the high’
trusses of the roof, which overhung the walls like the eaves of
a chalet. Above this squared architrave were laid the joists
of the ceiling, and those of the floor upon the layer of ashes,
FORT HOPE. 87



The timbers, both in the inside and outside walis, were only
laid side by side. To insure their being properly joined,
Rae the blacksmith drove strong iron bolts through them at inter-
vals; and when even this contrivance proved insufficient to close the
interstices as hermetically as was necessary, Mac-Nab had recourse to
calking, a process which seamen find invaluable in rendering vessels
water-tight ; only as a substitute for tow he used a sort of dry moss,
with which the eastern side of the cape was covered, driving it into
the crevices with calking-irons and a hammer, filling up each hollow
with layers of hot tar, obtained without difficulty from the pine-trees,
and thus making the walls and boarding impervious to the rain and
damp of the winter season.

The door and windows in the two fronts were roughly but
strongly built, and the small panes of the latter glazed with isinglass,
which, though rough, yellow, and almost opaque, was yet the best
substitute for glass which the resources of the country afforded; and
its imperfections really mattered little, as the windows were sure to
be always open in fine weather; while during the long night of the
Arctic winter they would be useless, and have to be kept closed and
defended by heavy shutters with strong bolts against the violence of the
gales. Meanwhile the house was being quickly fitted up inside. By
means of a double door between the outer and inner halls, a too sudden
change of temperature was avoided, and the wind was prevented
from blowing with unbroken force into the rooms. The air-pumps,
brought from’ Fort Reliance, were so fixed as to let in fresh air
whenever excessive cold prevented the opening of doors or windows
—one being made to eject the impure air from within, the other to
renew the supply; for the Lieutenant had given his whole mind to
this important matter.

The principal cooking utensil was a large iron furnace, which had
been brought piecemeal from Fort Reliance, and which the carpenter
put up without any difficulty. The chimneys for the kitchen and
hall, however, seemed likely to tax the ingenuity of the workmen to
the utmost, as no material within their reach was strong enough for
the purpose, and stone, us we have said before, was nowhere to be
found in the country around Cape Bathurst,

The difficulty appeared insurmountable, when the invincible
Lieutenant suggested that they should utilise the shells with which
the shore was strewed.

Make chimneys of shells!” cried the carpenter,
88 THE FUR COUNTRY.

“Ves, Mac-Nab,” replied Hobson; “ we must collect the shells,
grind them, burn them, and make them into lime, then mould the
lime into bricks, and use them in the same way.”

“ Let us try the shells, by all means,” replied the carpenter; and
so the idea was put in practice at once, and many tons collected of
calcareous shells identical with those found in the lowest stratum
of the Tertiary formations.

A furnace was constructed for the decomposition of the carbonate
which is so large an ingredient of these shells, and thus the lime
required was obtained in the space of a few hours. It would
perhaps be too much to say that the substance thus made was as
entirely satisfactory as if it had gone through all the usual processes ;
but it answered its purpose, and strong conical chimneys soon
adorned the roof, tothe great satisfaction of Mrs Paulina Barnett,
who congratulated the originator of the scheme warmly on its
success, only adding laughingly, that she hoped the chimneys would
not smoke.

“ Of course they will smoke, madam,” replied Hobson coolly; “all
chimneys do!”

All this was finished within a month, and on the 6th of August
they were to take possession of the new house.

While Mac-Nab and his men were working so hard, the foraging
party, with the Lieutenant at its head, had been exploring the
environs of Cape Bathurst, and satisfied themselves that there
would be no difficulty in supplying the Company’s demands for fur
and feathers, so soon as they could set about hunting in earnest,
In the meantime they prepared the way for future sport, content-
ing themselves for the present with the capture of a few couples of
reindeer, which they intended to domesticate for the sake of their
milk and their young. They were kept in a paddock about fifty
yards from the house, and entrusted to the care of Mac-Nab’s wife,
an Indian woman, well qualified to take charge of them.

The care of the household fell to Mrs Paulina Barnett, and this
good woman, with Madge’s help, was invaluable in providing for all
the small wants, which would inevitably have escaped the notice of
the men.

After scouring the country within a radius of several miles, the
Lieutenant notified, as the result of his observations, that the terri-
tory on which they had established themselves, and to which he
gave the name of Victoria Land, was a large peninsula about one
FORT HOPE. : 89



hundred and fifty square miles in extent, with very clearly-defined
boundaries, connected with the American continent by an isthmus,
extending from the lower end of Washburn Bay on the east, as far
as the corresponding slope on the opposite coast. The Lieutenant
next proceeded to ascertain what were the resources of the lake and
river, and found great reason to be satisfied with the result of his
examination. The shallow waters of the lake teemed with trout,
pike, and other available fresh-water fish ; and the little river was
a favourite resort of salmon and shoals of whitebait and smelts,
The supply of sea-fish was not so good; and though many a grampus
and whale passed by in the offing, the latter probably flying from
the harpoons of the Behring Strait fishermen, there were no means
of capturing them, unless one by chance happened to get stranded
on the coast; nor would Hobson allow. any of the seals which
abounded on the western shore to be taken until a satisfactory
conclusion should be arrived at as to how to use them to the best
advantage.

The colonists now considered themselves fairly installed in their
new abode, and after due deliberation unanimously agreed to bestow
upon the settlement the name of Fort Good Hope.

Alas ! the auspicious title was never to be inscribed upon a map.
The undertaking, begun so bravely and with such prospects of success,
was destined never to be carried out, and another disaster would
have to be added to the long list of failures in Arctic enterprise,
CHAPTER XIV.
SOME EXCURSIONS.

HLL did not take long to furnish the new abode. A camp-bed
was set up in the hall, and the carpenter Mac-Nab con-
structed a most substantial table, around which were
ranged fixed benches. A few movable seats and two enormous
presses completed the furniture of this apartment. The inner
room, which was also ready, was divided by solid partitions into six
dormitories, the two end ones alone being lighted by windows
looking to the front and back. The only furniture was a bed and
a table. Mrs Paulina Barnett and Madge were installed in one
which looked immediately out upon the lake. Hobson offered
the other with the window in it to Thomas Black, and the astro-
nomer took immediate possession of it. The Lieutenant’s own room
was a dark cell adjoining the hall, with no window but a bull’s eye
pierced through the partition. Mrs Joliffe, Mrs Mac-Nab, and Mrs
Rae, with their husbands, occupied the other dormitories. These
good. people agreed so well together that it would have been a
pity to separate them. Moreover, an addition was expected shortly
to the little colony; and Mac-Nab had already gone so far
as to secure the services of Mrs Barnett as god-mother, an
honour which gave the good woman much satisfaction. The sledges
had been entirely unloaded, and the bedding carried into the
different rooms. All utensils, stores, and provisions which were not
required for immediate use were stowed away in a garret, to which
a ladder gave access. The winter clothing—such as boots, overcoats,
furs, and skins—were also taken there, and protected from the damp
in large chests, As soon as these arrangements were completed,
the Lieutenant began to provide for the heating of the house.
Knowing that’ the most energetic measures were necessary to
combat the severity of the Arctic winter, and that during the weeks
of intensest cold there would be no possibility of leaving the house
to forage for supplies, he ordered a quantity of fuel to be brought


SOME EXCURSIONS. gt



from the wooded hills in the neighbourhood, and took care to
obtain a plentiful store of oil from the seals which abounded on the
shore.

In obedience to his orders, and under his directions, the house was
provided with a condensing apparatus which would receive the
internal moisture, and was so constructed that the ice which would
form in it could easily be removed.

- This question of heating was a very serious one to the Lieutenant.

“T am a native of the Polar regions, madam,” he often said to
Mrs Barnett; “I have some experience in these matters, and
I have read over and over again books written by those who
have wintered in these latitudes. It is impossible to take too many
precautions in preparing to pass a winter in the Arctic regions, and
nothing must be left to chance where a single neglect may prove
fatal to the enterprise.”

“Very true, Mr Hobson,” cesta Mrs Barnett; “and you
have evidently made up your mind to conquer the cold; but there
is the food to be thought of too.”

“Yes, indeed ; I have been thinking of that, and mean to make
all possible use at the produce of the country so as to economise our
stores, As Soon as we can, we will make some foraging expedi-
tions. We need not think about the furs at present, for there will
be plenty of time during the winter to stock the Company’s depdts.
Besides, the furred animals have not got their winter clothing on
yet, and the skins would lose fifty per cent. of their value if taken
now. Let us content ourselves for the present with provisioning
Fort Hope. Reindeer, elk, and any wapitis that may have
ventured so far north are the only game worth our notice just now;
it will be no small undertaking to provide food for twenty people
and sixty dogs.”

The Lieutenant loved order, and determined to do everything in
the most methodical manner, feeling confident that if his com-
panions would help him to the utmost of their power, nothing need
be wanting to the success of the expedition.

The weather at this season was almost always fine, and might be
expected to continue so for five weeks longer, when the snow would
begin to fall. It was very important that the carpenters should make
all possible use of the interval; and as soon as the principal house
was finished, Hobson set them to work to build an enormous kennel
or shed in which to keep the teams of dogs. This doghouse was
92 THE FUR COUNTRY.



built at the very foot of the promontory, against the hill, and about
forty yards to the right of the house. Barracks for the accommoda-
tion of the men were to be built opposite this kennel on the left,
while the store and powder magazines were to occupy the front of
the enclosure.

Hobson determined with almost excessive prudence to have
the Factory enclosed before the winter set in. A strong fence
of pointed stakes, planted firmly in the ground, was set up as a
protection against the inroads of wild animals or the hostilities of
the natives, The Lieutenant had not forgotten an outrage which
had been committed along the coast at no great distance from Fort
Hope, and he well knew how essential it was to be safe from a coup
de main. The factory was therefore entirely encircled, and at each
extremity of the lagoon Mac-Nab undertook to erect a wooden
sentry-box commanding the coast-line, from which a watch could
be kept without any danger. The men worked indefatigably, and
it seemed likely that everything would be finished before the cold
season Set in.

In the meantime hunting parties were organised. The capture
of seals being put off for a more convenient season, the sportsmen
prepared to supply the fort with game, which might be dried and
preserved for consumption during the bad season.

Accordingly Marbre and Sabine, sometimes accompanied by the
Lieutenant and Sergeant Long, whose experience was invaluable,
scoured the country daily for miles round ; and it was no uncommon
sight to see Mrs Paulina Barnett join them and step briskly along,
shouldering her gun bravely, and never allowing herself to be out-
stripped by her companions,

Throughout the month of August these expeditions were con-
tinued .with great success, and the store of provisions increased
rapidly. Marbre and Sabine were skilled in all the artifices which
sportsmen employ in stalking their prey—particularly the reindeer,
which are exceedingly wary. How patiently they would face the
wind lest the creature’s keen sense of smell should warn it of their
approach! and how cunningly they lured it on to its destruction by
displaying the magnificent antlers of some former victim above the
birch-bushes !

They found a useful alley in a certain little traitorous bird to
which the Indians have given the name of “ monitor.” It is a kind
of daylight owl, about the size of a pigeon, and has earned its name






































































































—Page 92

A HUNTING PARTY,
SOME EXCURSIONS, 93



by its habit of calling the attention of hunters to their quarry, by
uttering a sharp note like the ery of a child.

When about fifty reindeer, or, to give them their Indian name,
“caribous,” had been brought down by the guns, the flesh was cut
into long strips for food, the skins being kept to be tanned and used
for shoe-leather.

Besides the caribous, there were also plenty of Polar hares, which
formed an agreeable addition to the larder. They were much less
timorous than the European species, and allowed themselves to be
caught in great numbers. They belong to the rodent family, and
have long ears, brown eyes, and a soft fur resembling swan’s down.
They weigh from ten to fifteen pounds each, and their flesh is
excellent. Hundreds of them were cured for winter use, and the
remainder converted into excellent pies by.the skilful hands of Mrs
Joliffe,

While making provision for future wants, the daily supplies were
not neglected. In addition to the Polar hares, which underwent
every variety of culinary treatment from Mrs Joliffe, and won for
her compliments innumerable from hunters and workmen alike,
many waterfowl figured in the bill of fare. Besides the ducks which
abounded on the shores of the lagoon, large flocks of grouse congre-
gated round the clumps of stunted willows. They belong, as their
zoological name implies, to the partridge family, and might be aptly
described as white partridges with long black-spotted feathers in
the tail, The Indians call them willow-fowl; but to a European
sportsman they are neither more nor less than blackcock (Zetrao
tetrix). When roasted slightly before a quick clear fire they proved
delicious,

Then there were the supplies furnished by lake and stream.
Sergeant Long was a first-rate angler, and nothing could surpass the
skill and patience with which he whipped the water and cast his
line. The faithful Madge, another worthy disciple of Isaak Walton,
was perhaps his only equal. Day after day the two sallied forth
together rod in hand, to spend the day in mute companionship by
the river-side, whence they were sure to return in triumph laden
with some splendid specimens of the salmon tribe.

But to return’ to our sportsmen; they soon found that their
hunting excursions were not to be free from peril. Hobson per-
ceived-with some alarm that bears were very numerous in the neigh-
bourhood, and that scarcely a day passed without one or more of
94 THE FUR COUNTRY.



them being sighted. Sometimes these unwelcome visitors belonged
to the family of brown bears, so common throughout the whole
“Cursed Land ;” but now and then a solitary specimen of the
formidable Polar bear warned the hunters what dangers they might
have to encounter so soon as the first frost should drive great num-
bers of these fearful animals to the neighbourhood of Cape Bathurst.
Every book of Arctic explorations is full of accounts of the frequent
perils to which travellers and whalers are exposed from the ferocity
of these animals.

Now and then, too, a distant pack of wolves was seen, which
receded like a wave at the approach of the hunters, or the sound of
their bark was heard as they followed the trail of a reindeer or
wapiti. These creatures were large grey wolves, about three feet
high, with long tails, whose fur becomes white in.the winter. They
abounded in this part of the country, where food was plentiful; and
frequented wooded-spots, where they lived in holes like foxes. During
the temperate season, when they could get as much as they wanted
to eat, they were scarcely dangerous, and fled with the characteristic
cowardice of their race at the first sign of pursuit ; but when im-
pelled by hunger, their numbers rendered them very formidable;
and from the fact of their lairs being close at hand, they never left
the country even in the depth of winter.

One day the sportsmen returned to Fort Hope, bringing with them
an unpleasant-looking animal, which neither Mrs Paulina Barnett
nor the astronomer, Thomas Black, had ever before seen. It was a
carnivorous creature of the plantigrada family, and greatly resembled
the American glutton, being strongly built, with short legs, and, like
all animals of the feline tribe, a very supple back; its eyes were
small and horny, and it was armed with curved claws and formid-
able jaws.

“What is this horrid creature?” inquired Mrs Paulina Barnett
of Sabine, who replied in his usual sententious manner—

“A Scotchman would call it a ‘quick-hatch, an Indian an
6 okelcoo-haw-gew,’ and a Canadian a ‘ carcajou,’”

“ And what do you call it?”

“ A wolverene, ma’am,” returned Sabine, much delighted with the
elegant way in which he had rounded his sentence.

The wolverene, as this strange quadruped is called by zoologists,
lives in hollow trees or rocky caves, whence it issues at night and
creates great havoc amongst beavers, musk-rats, and other rodents,
SOME EXCURSIONS. 95



sometimes fighting with a fox or a wolf for its spoils. Its chief charac-
teristics are great cunning, immense muscular power, and an acute
sense of smell. It is found in very high latitudes ; and the short fur
with which it is clothed becomes almost black in the winter months,
and forms a large item in the Company’s exports.

During their excursions the settlers paid as much attention to
the Flora of the country as to its Fauna; but in those regions vege-
tation has necessarily a hard struggle for existence, as it must brave
every season of the year, whereas the animals are able to migrate
to a warmer climate during the winter.

The hills on the eastern side of the lake were well covered with
pine and fir trees; and Jaspar also noticed the “ tacamahac,” a species
of poplar which grows to a great height, and shoots forth yellowish
leaves which turn green in the autumn, These trees and larches were,
however, few and sickly looking, as if they found the oblique rays of
the sun insufficient to make them thrive. The black fir, or Norway
spruce fir, throve better, especially when situated in ravines well
sheltered from the north wind. The young shoots of. this tree are
very valuable, yielding a favourite beverage known in North
America as “ spruce-beer.” A good crop of these branchlets was
gathered in and stored in the cellar of Fort Hope. There were also
the dwarf birch, a shrub about two feet high, native to very cold
climates, and whole thickets of cedars, which are so valuable for fuel.

Of vegetables which could be easily grown and used for food, this
barren land yielded but few; and Mrs Joliffe, who took a great
interest in “economic” botany, only met with two plants which
were available in cooking.

One of these, a bulb, very difficult to classify, because its leaves
fall off just at the flowering season, turned out to be a wild leek,
and yielded a good crop of onions, each about the size of an egg.

The other plant was that known throughout North America as
“Labrador tea ;” it grew abundantly on the shores of the lagoon
between the clumps of willow and arbutus, and formed the principal
food of the Polar hares. Steeped in boiling water, and flavoured
with a few drops of brandy or gin, it formed an excellent beverage,
and served to economise the supply of. China tea which the party
had brought from Fort Reliance.

Knowing the scarcity of vegetables, Jaspar Hobson had plenty
of seeds with him, chiefly sorrel and scurvy-grass (Cochlearia), the
&utiscorbutic properties of which are invaluable in these latitudes, In

ad DE SESE ECLA GAB eS
06 THE FUR COUNTRY.



choosing the site of the settlement, such care had been taken to
find a spot sheltered from the keen blasts, which shrivel vegetation
like a fire, that there was every chance of these seeds yielding a
good crop in the ensuing season.

The dispensary of the new fort contained other antiscorbutics,
in the shape of casks of lemon and lime juice, both of which are
absolutely indispensable to an Arctic expedition. Still the greatest
economy was necessary with regard to the stores, as a long period
of bad weather might cut off the communication between Fort Hope
and the southern stations,
CHAPTER XY,
FIFTEEN MILES FROM CAPE BATHURST,

-@x) EPTEMBER had now commenced, and as upon the most
IND) favourable calculation only three more weeks would in-
@ tervene before the bad season set in and interrupted the
labours of the explorers, the greatest haste was necessary in com-
pleting the new buildings, and Mac-Nab and his workmen surpassed
themselves in industry. The dog-house was on the eve of being
finished, and very little remained to be done to the palisading
which was to encircle the fort. An inner court had been con-
structed, in the shape of a half-moon, fenced with tall pointed
stakes, fifteen feet high, to which a postern gave entrance. Jaspar
Hobson favoured the system of an unbroken enclosure with
detached forts (a great improvement upon the tactics of Vauban
and Cormontaigne), and knew that to make his defence complete
the summit of Cape Bathurst, which was the key of the position,
must be fortified; until that could be done, however, he thought
the palisading would be a sufficient protection, at least against
quadrupeds,

The next thing was to lay in a supply of oil and lights, and
accordingly an expedition was organised to a spot about fifteen
miles distant where seals were plentiful, Mrs Paulina Barnett being
invited to accompany the sportsmen, not indeed for the sake of
watching the poor creatures slaughtered, but to satisfy her curiosity
with regard to the country around Cape Bathurst, and to see some
cliffs on that part of the coast which were worthy of notice. The
Lieutenant chose as his other companions, Sergeant Long, and the
soldiers Petersen, Hope, and Kellet, and the party set off at eight
o'clock in the morning in two sledges, each drawn by six dogs, on
which the bodies of the seals were to be brought back. The
weather was fine, but the fog which lay low along the horizon veiled
the rays of the sun, whose yellow disk was now beginning to dis-
98 THE FUR COUNTRY.

appear for some hours during the night, a circumstance which at-
tracted the Lieutenant's attention, for reasons which we will explain.

That part of the shore to the west of Cape Bathurst rises but a
few inches above the level of the sea, and the tides are—or are
said to be—very high in the Arctic Ocean—many navigators, such
as Parry, Franklin, the two Rosses, M’Clure, and M?’Clintock,
having observed that when the sun and moon were in conjunction
the waters were sometimes twenty-five feet above the ordinary level.
How then was it to be explained that the sea did not at high tide
inundate Cape Bathurst, which possessed no- natural defences such
as cliffs or downs? What was it, in fact, which prevented the entire
submersion of the whole district, and the meeting of the waters of
the lake with those. of the Arctic Ocean?

Jaspar Hobson could not refrain from remarking on this peculiarity
to Mrs Barnett, who replied somewhat hastily that she supposed that
there were—in spite of all that had been said to the contrary—no
tides in the Arctic Ocean.

“On the contrary, madam,” said Hobson, “all navigators agree
that the ebb and flow of Polar seas are very distinctly marked, and
it is impossible to believe that they can have been mistaken on
such a subject.”

“ How is it, then,” inquired Mrs Barnett, “that this land is not

flooded when it is scarcely ten feet above the sea level at low
tide?” .
_ “That is just what puzzles me,” said Hobson.; “ for I have been
attentively watching the tides all through this month, and during
that time they have not varied more than a foot, and I feel certain,
that even during the September equinox, they will not rise more
than a foot and a half all along the shores of Cape Bathurst.”

“Can you not explain this phenomenon?” inquired Mrs
Barnett.

“Well, madam,” replied the Lieutenant, “two conclusions are
open to us, either of which I find it difficult to believe ; such men as
Franklin, Parry, Ross, and others, are mistaken, and there are no
tides on this part of the American coast ; or, as in the Mediterranean,
to which the waters of the Atlantic have not free ingress, the straits
are too narrow to be affected by the ocean currents.”

“The latter would appear to be the more reasonable hypothesis,
Mr Hobson.”

“Tt is not, however, thoroughly satisfactory,” said the Lieutenant,
FIFTEEN MILES FROM CAPE BATHURST, 99





“ond I feel sure that if we could but find it, there is some simple
and natural explanation of the phenomenon.”

After a monotonous journey along a flat and sandy shore, the
party reached their destination, and, having unharnessed the teams,
they were left behind lest they should startle the seals,

At the first glance around them, all were equally struck with the
contrast between the appearance of this district and that of Cape
Bathurst.

Here the coast line was broken and fretted, showing manifest
traces of its igneous origin; whereas the site of the fort was of
sedimentary formation and aqueous origin. Stone, so conspicuously
absent at the cape, was here plentiful; the black sand and porous
lava were strewn with huge boulders deeply imbedded in the soil,
and there were large quantities of the aluminium, silica, and felspar
pebbles peculiar to the crystalline strata of one class of igneous
rocks. Glittering Labrador stones, and many other kinds of felspar,
red, green, and blue, were sprinkled on the unfrequented beach,
with grey and yellow pumice-stone, and lustrous variegated
obsidian. Tall cliffs, rising some two hundred feet above the sea,
frowned down upon the bay; and the Lieutenant resolved to
climb them, and obtain a good view of the eastern side of the
country. For this there was plenty of time, as but few of the
creatures they had come to seek were as yet to be seen, and the
proper time for the attack would be when they assembled for the
afternoon siesta in which the amphibious mammalia always indulge.
The Lieutenant, however, quickly discovered that the animals
frequenting this coast were not, as he had been led to suppose, true
seals, although they belonged to the Phocide family, but morses
or walruses,.sometimes called sea-cows. They resemble the seals in
general form, but the canine teeth of the upper jaw curved down-
wards are much more largely developed.

Following the coast line, which curved considerably, and to which
they gave the name of “‘ Walruses’ Bay,” the party soon reached the
foot of the cliff, and Petersen, Hope, and Kellet, took up their
position as sentinels on the little promontory, whilst Mrs Barnett,
Hobson, and Long, after promising not to lose sight of their comrades,
and to be on the look-out for their signal, proceeded to climb the
cliff, the summit of which they reached in about a quarter of an
hour, From this position they were able to survey the whole
surrounding country; at their feet lay the vast sea, stretching
100 THE FUR COUNTRY.

northwards as far as the eye could reach, its expanse so entirely
unbroken by islands or icebergs that the travellers came to the
conclusion, that this portion of the Arctic waters was havigable as
far as Behring Straits, and that during the summer season the North-
West Passage to Cape Bathiirst would be open to the Cotmpany’s
ships. On the west, the aspect of the country explained the presence
of the volcanic débris on the shore; for at a distance of about ten
miles was a chain of granitic hills, of conical form, with blunted
crests, looking as if their summits had been cut off; and-with jagged
tremulous outlines standing out against tle sky. They had
hitherto escaped the notice of our party, as they were concealed by
the cliffs on the Cape Bathurst side, and Jaspar Hobson examined
them in silence, but with great attention, before he proceeded to
sttidy the eastern side, which consisted of a long strip of perfectly
level coast-line stretching away to Cape Bathurst. Any one pro-
vided with a good field-glass would have been able to distinguish
the fort of Good Hope, and perhaps even the cloud of blue smoke,
which was no doubt at that very moment issuing from Mrs Joliffe’s
kitchen chimney.

The country behirid them seemed to possess two entirely distinct
characters ; to the east and south the cape was bounded by a vast
plain, many hundreds of square miles in extent, while behind the
cliff, from “ Walruses’ Bay ” to the mountains metitioned above, the
country had undergone terrible convulsions, showing clearly that it
owed its origin to volcanic eruptions. The Lieutenant was much
struck with this marked contrast, and Sergeant Long asked him
whether he thought the mountains on the western horizon were
volcanoes,

“Undoubtedly,” said Hobson; “all these pumice-stones and
pebbles have been discharged by them to this distance, and if we
were to go two or three miles farther, we should find ourselves
treading upon nothing bit lava and ashes.”

“Do you suppose,” itiquired the Sergeant, “that all these vol-
canoes are still active ?”

“That I cannot tell you yet.”

“But there is no smoke issting from any of them,” added the
Sergeant.

“That proves nothing ; your pipe is not always in your mouth,
and it is just the same with volcanoes, they are not always
smoking.”
FIFTEEN MILES FROM CAPE BATHURST, IoI



“T see,” said the Sergeant ; “but it is a great puzzle to me how
volcanoes can exist at all on Polar continents.”

“‘ Well, there are not many of them!” said Mrs Barnett,

“No, rade * replied Jaspar, “but they are not so very rare
either; they are to be found in Jan Mayen’s Land, the Aletitian
Isles, Kamchatka, Russian America, and Iceland, as well as in the
Antarctic circle, in Tierra del Fuego, and Australasia. They are the
chimneys of the gréat fuitiace in tlie centré of the earth, where
Nature makes her chethical experiments, and it appears to me that
the Creator of all things has taken care to place these safety-valves
wherever they were most needed.”

“T suppose so,” replied the Sergeant ; “and yet it does seem very
strange to find thet j in this icy climate,”

“Why should they not be here as well as anywhere else,
Sergeant? I should say that ventilation holes are likely to be more
numerous at the Poles than at the Equator!” __

“Why sot” asked the Sergeant in much stirprise.

“ Because, if these safety-valves are forced open by the pressurs
of subterranéan gases, it will most likely be at. the spots where the
surfacé of the earth is thinést, and as the globe is flattened at the
poles, it would appear natural that——but Kellet is making signs
to us,” added the Lieutenant, breaking off abruptly ; “will you join
us, Mrs Barnett?”

“No, thank you. I will stay here until we return to the fort. I
don’t care to watch the walrus slaughtered !”
~ “Very well,” replied Hobson, “ only don’t forget to join us in
an hour’s time; meanwhile you can enjoy thé view.”

The beach was soon reached, and some hundred walrus had
collected, either waddling about on their clumsy webbed feet, or
sleeping in family groups. Some few of the larger miales—creatiires
nearly four feet long, clothed with very short reddish fur—kept
guard over the herd.

Great caution was required in approaching these formidable-
looking animals, and the hunters took advantage of every bit of
cover afforded by rocks and inequalities of the ground, so as
to get within easy raige of thein and cut off their retreat to ane
sea,

On land these creatures are clumsy and awkward, moving in
jerks or with creeping motions like huge caterpillars, but in water
—their native element—they are nimble and even graceful ; indeed
102 THE FUR COUNTRY.



their strength is so great, that they have been known to overturn
‘the whalers i in pursuit of them.

As the hunters drew near the sentinels took alarm, and raising
‘heir heads looked searchingly around them; but before they could
warn their companions of danger, Hobson and Kellet rushed upon
them from one side, the Sergeant, Petersen, and Hope from the other,
and after lodging a ball in each of their bodies, despatched them
with their spears, whilst the rest of the herd plunged into the sea.

The victory was an easy one; the five victims were very large
and their tusks, though slightly rough, of the best quality. They
were chiefly valuable, however, on account of the oil; of which—
being in excellent condition—they would yield a large quantity.
The bodies were packed in the sledges, and proved no light weight
for the dogs.

It was now one o'clock, and Mrs Barnett having joined them, the
party sét out on foot—the sledges being full—to return to the fort.
There were but ten miles to be traversed, but ten miles in a straight
line is a weary journey, proving the truth of the adage “It’s a long
lane that has no turning.” They beguiled the tediousness of the
way by chatting pleasantly, and Mrs Barnett was ready to join in
the conversation, or to listen with interest to the accounts the
worthy soldiers gave of former adventures ; but in spite of the brave
struggle against ennui they advanced but slowly, and the poor
dogs found it hard work to drag the heavily-laden sledges over the
rough ground. Had it been covered with frozen snow the distance
would have been accomplished in a couple of hours,

The merciful Lieutenant often ordered a halt to give the teams
breathing-time, and the Sergeant remarked that it would be much
more convenient for the inhabitants of the fort, if the morses would
settle a little nearer Cape Bathurst.

“They could not find a suitable spot,” replied the Lieutenant,
with a melancholy shake of the head.

“Why not?” inquired Mrs Barnett with some surprise.

“Because they only congregate where the slope of the beach is
gradual enough to allow of their creeping up easily from the sea.
Now Cape Bathurst rises abruptly, like a perpendicular wall, from
water three hundred fathoms deep. It is probable that ages ago a
portion of the continent was rent away in some violent volcanic
convulsion, and flung into the Arctic Ocean. Hence the absence
of morses on the beach of our cape,”
CHAPTER XVI.

TWO SHOTS.

HE first half of September ‘passed rapidly away. Had
Aes Fort Hope been situated at the Pole itself, that is to say,
twenty degrees farther north, the Polar night would
have set in on the 21st of that month. But under the seventieth
parallel the sun would be ‘visible above the horizon for another
month. Nevertheless, the temperature was already decidedly colder,
the thermometer fell during the night to 31° Fahrenheit ; and thin
coatings of ice appeared here and there, to be dissolved again in the
day-time.

But the settlers were able to await the coming of winter without
alarm; they had a more than sufficient store of provisions, their
supply of dried venison had largely increased, another score of
morses had been killed, the tame yrein-deer were warmly and com-
fortably housed, and a huge wooden shed behind the house was filled
with fuel. In short, everything was prepared for the Polar night.

And now all the wants of the inhabitants of the fort being pro-
vided for, it was time to think of the interests of the Company.
The Arctic creatures had now assumed their winter furs, and were
therefore of the greatest value, and Hobson organised shooting
parties for the remainder of the fine weather, intending to set traps
when the snow should prevent further excursions.

They would have plenty to do to satisfy the requirements of the
Company, for so far north it was of no use to depend on the
Indians, who are generally the purveyors of the factories,

The first expedition was.to the haunt of a family of beavers,
long since noted by the watchful Lieutenant, on a tributary of the
stream already referred to. It is true, the fur of the beaver is not
now as valuable as when it was used for hats, and fetched £16 per
kilogramme (rather more than 2lb.) ; but it still commands a high
price as the animal is becoming very scarce, in consequence of the
reckle’s way in which it has been hunted.

~
I04. THE FUR COUNTRY.



When the party reached their destination, the Lieutenant called
Mrs Barnett’s attention to the great ingenuity displayed by beavers
in the construction of their submarine city. There were some
hundred animals in the little colony now to be invaded, and they
lived together in pairs in the “holes” or “vaults” they had
hollowed out near the stream. They had already commenced their
preparations for the winter, and were hard at work constructing
their dams and laying up their piles of wood. A dam of admirable
structure had already been built across the stream, which was deep
and rapid enough not to freeze far below the surface, even in the
severest weather. This dam, which was convex towards the current,
consisted of a collection of upright stakes interlaced with branches
and roots, the whole being cemented together and rendered water-
tight with the clayey mud of the river, previously pounded by the
animals’ feet. The beavers use their tails—which are large and
flat, with scales instead of hair at the root—for plastering over their
buildings and beating the clay into shape.

“The object of this dam,” said the Lieutenant to Mrs Barnett,
“is to secure to the beavers a sufficient depth of water at all seasons
of the year, and to enable the engineers of the tribe to build the
round huts called houses or lodges, the tops of which you can just
see. They are extremely solid structures, and the walls made of
stick, clay, roots, &e., are two feet thick. They can only be entered
from below the water, and their owners have therefore to dive
when they go home—an admirable arrangement for their protection.
Each lodge contains two stories ; in the lower the winter stock of
branches, bark, and roots, is laid up, and the upper is the residence
of the householder and his family.”

*‘ There is, however, not a beaver in sight,” said Mrs Barnett ; “is
this a deserted village?” F

“Oh no,” replied the Lieutenant, “the inhabitants are now all
asleep and resting ; they only work in the night, and we mean ta
surprise them in their holes.”

This was, in fact, easily done, and in an hour’s time about a
hundred of the ill-fated rodents had been captured, twenty of which
were of very great value, their fur being black, and therefore
especially esteemed. That of the others was also long, glossy, and
silky, but of a reddish hue mixed with chestnut brown. Beneath
the long fur, the beavers have a second coat of close short hair of a
greyish-white colour.
TWO SHOTS. 105



The hunters returned to the fort much delighted with the result
of their expedition. The beavers’ skins were warehoused and labelled
as “parchments ” or “ young beavers,” according to their value.

Excursions of a similar kind were carried on, throughout the
month of September, and during the first half of October, with
equally happy results.

A few badgers were taken, the skin being used as an ornament
for the collars of draught horses, and the hair for making brushes of
every variety. These carnivorous creatures belong to the bear
family, and the specimens obtained by Hobson were of the genus
peculiar to North America, sometimes called the Taxel badger.

Another animal of the rodent family, nearly as industrious as the
beaver, largly contributed to the stores of the Company. This was
the musk-rat or musquash. Its head and body are about a foot
long, and its tail ten inches. Its fur is in considerable demand.
These creatures, like the rest of their family, multiply with extrema
rapidity, and a great number were easily unearthed.

In the pursuit of lynxes and wolverines or gltttons, fire-arrhs had
to beused. The lynx has all the suppleness and agility of the feline
tribe to which it belongs, and is formidable even to the rein-deer ;
Marbre and Sabine were, however, well up to their work, and
succeeded in killing more than sixty of them. A few wolverines or
gluttons were also despatched, their fur is reddish-brown, and that of
the lynx, light-red with- black spots; both are of considerable value.

Very few ermines or stoats were seen, and Jaspar Hobson
ordered his men to spare any which happened to cross their path
until the winter, when they should have assumed their beautiful
snow-white coats with the one black spot at the tip of the tail. At
present the upper fur was reddish-brown and the under yellowish-
white, so that, as Sabine expressed it, it was desirable to let them
“ yipen,” or, in other words,—to wait for the cold to bleach them.

Their cousins, the polecats, however, which emit so disagreeable
an odour, fell victims in great ntimbers to the hunters, who either
tracked them to their homes in hollow trees, or shot them as they
glided through the branches.

Martens, properly so-called, were hunted with great zeal. Their
fur is in considerable demand; although not so valuablé as that of
the sable, which becomes a dark lustrous brown in the winter. The
latter did not, however, come in the way of our hunters, as it only
frequents the north of Europe and Asia as far as Kamchatka, and
106 THE FUR COUNTRY,

is chiefly hunted by the inhabitants of Siberia. They had to be con-
tent with the polecats and pine-martens, called ‘“‘ Canada-martens,”
which frequent the shores of the Arctic Ocean.

All the weasels and martens are very difficult to catch; they
wriggle their long supple bodies through the smallest apertures with
great ease, and thus elude their pursuers. In the winter, however,
they are easily taken in traps, and Marbre and Sabine looked
forward to make up for lost time then, when, said they, “-there shall
be plenty of their furs in the Company’s stores.”

We have now only to mention the Arctic or blue and silver foxes,
to complete the list of animals which swelled the profits of the
Hudson’s Bay Company.

The furs of these foxes are esteemed in the Russian and
English markets above all others, and that of the blue fox is the
most valuable of all. This pretty creature has a black muzzle, and
the fur is not as one would suppose blue, but whitish-brown ; its
great price—six times that of any other kind—arises from its
superior softness, thickness, and length. A cloak belonging to the
Emperor of Russia, composed entirely of fur from the neck of the
blue fox (the fur from the neck is considered better than that from
any other part), was shown at the London Exhibition of 1851, and
valued at £3400 sterling.

Several of these foxes were sighted at Cape Bathurst, but all
escaped the hunters ; whilst only about a dozen silver foxes fell into
their hands. The fur of the latter—of a lustrous black dotted with
white—is much sought after in England and Russia, although it
does not command so high a price as that of the foxes mentioned
above.

One of the silver foxes captured was a splendid creature, with a
coal-black fur tipped with white at the extreme end of the tail, and
with a dash of the same on the forehead. The circumstances
attending its death deserve relation in detail, as they proved that
Hobson was right in the precautions he had taken,

On the morning of the 24th September, two sledges conveyed
Mrs Barnett, the Lieutenant, Sergeant Long, Marbre, and Sabine,
to Walruses’ Bay. Some traces of foxes had been noticed the evening
before, amongst some rocks clothed with scanty herbage, and the
direction taken by the animals was very clearly indicated. The
hunters followed up the trail of a large animal, and were rewarded
by bringing down a very fine silver fox,
TWO SHOTS, 107



Several other animals of the same species were sighted, and the
hunters divided into two parties—Marbre and Sabine going after
one foe, and Mrs Barnett, Hobson, and the Sergeant, trying to cut
off the retreat of another fine animal hiding behind some rocks.

Great caution and some artifice was necessary to deal with this
crafty animal, which took care not to expose itself to a shot. The
pursuit lasted for half-an-hour without success; but at last the poor
creature, with the sea on one side and its three enemies on the other,
had recourse in its desperation to a flying leap, thinking thus to
escape with its life. But Hobson was too quick for it; and as it
bounded by like a flash of lightning, it was struck by a shot, and to
every one’s surprise, the report of the Lieutenant’s gun was succeeded
by that of another, and a second ball entered the body of the fox,
which fell to the ground mortally wounded.

“ Hurrah! hurrah!” cried Hobson, “it is mine!”

“ And mine!” said another voice, and a stranger stept forward
and placed his foot upon the fox just as the Lieutenant was about to
raise it.

Hobson drew back in-astonishment. He thought the second ball
had been fired by the Sergeant, and found himself face to face with
a stranger whose gun was still:‘smoking,

The rivals gazed at each other in silence.

The rest of the party now approached, and the stranger was
quickly joined by twelve comrades, four of whom were like himself
“ Canadian travellers,” and eight Chippeway Indians.

The leader wasa tall man—a fine specimen of his class—those Cana-
dian trappers described in the romances of Washington Irving, whose
competition’ Hobson had dreaded with such good reason. He wore
the traditional costume ascribed to his fellow-hunters by the great
American writer; a blanket loosely arranged about his person, a
striped cotton shirt, wide cloth trousers, leather gaiters, deerskin
mocassins, and a sash of checked woollen stuff round the waist,
from which were suspended his knife, tobacco-pouch, pipe, and a
few useful tools,

Hobson was right. The man before him was a Frenchman, or at
least a descendant of the French Canadians, perhaps an agent of the
American Company come to act as a spy on the settlers in the fort.
The other four Canadians wore a costume resembling that of their
leader,“but of coarser materials,

The Frenchman bowed politely to Mrs Barnett, and the Lieutenant
108 THE FUR COUNTRY.



was the first to break the silence, during which he had not removed
his eyes from his rival’s face.

“This fox is mine, sir,” he said quietly.

“Tt is if you killed it!” replied the other in good English, but
with a slightly foreign accent.

iepenee me, sir,” replied Hobson rather sharply, ‘it is mine in
any case.’

The stranger smiled scornfully at this lofty reply, so exactly what
he expected from an agent of the Hudson’s Bay Company, which
claims supremacy over all the northern districts, from the Atlantic
to the Pacific.

Do you mean to say,” he said at last, gracefully toying with his
gun, “that you consider the Hudson’s Bay Company mistress of the
whole of North America?”

“Of course Ido,” said Hobaon 3 “and if, as I imagine, you belong
to an American company ”

“To the St Louis Fur Company,” replied the stranger with a
bow.

“T think,” added the Lieutenant, “that you will find it difficult
to show the grants entitling you to any privileges here.”

“Grants! privileges!” cried the Canadian scornfully, “ old world
terms which are out of place in America!”

“You are not now on American but on English ground,” replied
the Lieutenant proudly.

“This is no time for such a discussion,” said the hunter rather
warmly, “We all know the old claims made by the English in
general, and the Hudson’s Bay Company in particular, to these
hunting grounds; but I expect coming events will soon alter this
state of things, and America will be America from the Straits of
Magellan to the North Pole!”

“T do not agree with you,” replied Hobson dryly.

“Well, sir, however that may be,” said the Canadian, “let us
suffer this international question to remain in abeyance for the
present. Whatever rights the Company may arrogate to itself, it is
very clear that in the extreme north of the continent, and especially
on the coast, the territory belongs to whoever occupies it. You
have founded a factory on Cape Bathurst, therefore we will respect
your domain, and you on your side will avoid ours, when the St
Louis fur-traders have established their projected fort at another
point on the northern shore of America,”


TWO SHOTS, 109



The Lieutenant frowned at this speech, for he well knew what
complications would arise in the future when the Hudson’s Bay
Company would be compelled to struggle for supremacy with power-
ful rivals, and that quarrelling and even bloodshed would ensue; he
could not, however, but acknowledge that this was not the time to
begin the discussion, and he was not sorry when the hunter, whose
manners, to tell the truth, were very polite, placed the dispute on
another footing.

“ As for this present matter,” said the Canadian, “it is of minor
importance, and we must settle it according to the rules of the chase.
Our guns are of different calibre, and our balls can be easily dis-
tinguished ; let the fox belong to whichever of us really killed
it.”

The proposition was a fair one, and the. body of the victim was
examined accordingly. One ball had entered at'the side, the other
at the heart; and the latter was from the gun of the Canadian.

“The fox is your property, sir,” said Jaspar Hobson, vainly
endeavouring to conceal his chagrin at seeing this valuable spoil
fall into the enemy’s hands.

The Canadian took it, but instead of throwing it over his shoulder
and carrying it off, he turned to Mrs Barnett, and said—

“ Ladies are fond of beautiful furs, and although, perhaps, if they
knew better what dangers and difficulties have to be surmounted in
order to obtain them, they might not care so much about them, they
are not likely to refuse to wear them on that account, and I hope,
madam, you will favour me by accepting this one in remembrance
of our meeting,”

Mrs Barnett hesitated for a moment, but the gift was offered
with so much courtesy and kindliness of manner, that it would
have seemed churlish to refuse, and she therefore accepted it with
many thanks.

This little ceremony over, the stranger again bowed politely, and,
followed by his comrades, quickly dopeaced behind the rocks,
whilst the Lieutenant and his party returned to Fort Good Hope,
Hobson was very silent and thoughtful all the way ; for he could
not but feel that the existence of a rival company would greatly
compromise the success of his undertaking, and lead to many
future difficulties.
CHAPTER XVII.
THE APPROACH OF WINTER,

T was the 21st of September. The sun was then passing
through the autumnal equinox, that is to say, the day and
night were of equal length all over the world. These

successive alternations of light and darkness were hailed with

delight by the inhabitants of the fort. It is easier to sleep in the

absence of the sun, and darkness refreshes and strengthens the

eyes, weary with the unchanging brightness of several months of
daylight.

We know that during the equinox the tides are generally at
their greatest height ; we “have high water or flood, for the sun and
moon being in cousancuion, their double influence is brought to bear
upon the waters. It was, therefore, necessary to note carefully the
approaching tide at Cape Bathurst. Jaspar Hobson had made bench
marks some days before, so as to estimate. exactly the amount of
vertical displacement of the waters between high and low tide ; he
found, however, that in spite of all the reports of previous observers,
the combined solar and lunar influence was hardly felt in this part
of the Arctic Ocean. There was scarcely any tide at all, and the
statements of navigators on the subject were contradicted.

“There. is certainly something unnatural here!” said Lieutenant
Hobson to himself.

He did not in fact know what to think, but other cares soon
occupied his mind, and he did not long endeavour to get to the
rights of this singular peculiarity.

On the 29th September the state of the atmosphere changed
considerably. The thermometer fell to 41° Fahrenheit, and the sky
became covered with clouds which were soon converted into mene
rain. The bad season was approaching.

Before the ground should be covered with snow, Mrs Joliffe was
busy sowing the seeds of Cochlearta (scurvy gras) and sorrel, in
the hope that as they were very hardy, and would be wel! protected,
THE APPROACH OF WINTER. lit



from the rigour of the winter by the snow itself, they would come up
in the spring. Her garden, consisting of several acres hidden behind
the cliff of the cape, had been prepared beforehand, and it was sown
during the last days of September.

Hobson made his companions assume their winter garments
before the great cold set in, and all were soon suitably clothed in
the linen under vests, deerskin cloaks, sealskin pantaloons, fur
bonnets, and waterproof boots with which they were provided.
We may also say that the rooms were suitably dressed ; the wooden
walls were hung with skins, in order to prevent the formation upon
them of coats of ice in sudden falls of temperature. About this
time, Rae set up his condensers for collecting the vapour suspended
in the air, which were to be emptied twice a week.. The heat of
the stove was regulated according to the variations of the external
temperature, so as to keep the thermometer of the rooms at 50°
Fahrenheit. The house would soon be covered with thick snow,
which would prevent any waste of the internal warmth, and by this
combination of natural and artificial protections they hoped to be
able successfully to contend with their two must formidable enemies,
cold and damp.

On the 2nd October the thermometer fell still lower, and the
firsts snow storm came on; there was but little wind, and there
were therefore none of those violent whirlpools of snow called drifts,
but a vast white carpet of uniform thickness soon clothed the cape,
the enceinie of fort, and the coast. The waters of the lake and sea,
not yet petrified by the icy hand of winter, were of a dull, gloomy,
greyish hue, and on the northern horizon the first icebergs stood out
against the misty sky.. The blockade had not yet commenced, but
nature was collecting her materials, soon to be cemented by the cold
into an impenetrable barrier.

The “ young ice” was rapidly forming on the liquid surfaces of
sea and lake. The lagoon was the first to freeze over; large
whitish-grey patches appeared here and there, signs of a hard frost
setting in, favoured by the calmness of the atmosphere, and after
a night during which the thermometer had remained at 15° Fahren-
heit, the surface of the lake was smooth and firm enough to satisfy
the most fastidious skaters of the Serpentine. On the verge of the
horizon, the sky assumed that peculiar appearance which whalers
call ice-hlink, and which is the result of the glare of light reflected
obliquely from the surface of the ice against the opposite atmos-

: [
112 THE FUR COUNTRY.



phere. Vast tracts of the ocean became gradually solidified, the ice-
fields, formed by the accumulation of icicles, became welded to tho
coast, presenting a surface broken and distorted by the action of the
waves, aud contrasting strongly with the smooth mirror of the lake.
Here and there floated these long pieces, scarcely cemented together
at the edges, known as “ drift ice,” and the “ hummocks,” or pro-
tuberances caused by the squeezing of one piece against another,
were also of frequent occurrence.

In a few days the aspect of Cape Bathurst and the surrounding
districts was completely changed. Mrs Barnett’s delight and
enthusiasm knew no bounds; everything was new to her, and she
would have thought no fatigue or suffering too great to be endured
for the sake of witnessing such a spectacle. She could imagine
nothing more sublime than this invasion of winter with all its
mighty forces, this conquest of the northern regions by the cold.
All trace of the distinctive features of the country had disappeared ;
the land was metamorphosed, a new country was springing into being
before her admiring eyes, a country gifted with a grand and touch-
ing beauty. Details were lost, only the large outlines were given,
scarcely marked out against the misty sky. One transformation
scene followed another with magic rapidity. The ocean, which but
lately lifted up its mighty waves, was hushed and still ; the verdant
soil of various hues was replaced by a carpet of dazzling whiteness ;
the woods of trees of different kinds were converted into groups of
gaunt skeletons draped in hoar-frost; the radiant orb of day had
become a pale disc, languidly running its allotted course in the
thick fog, and visible but for a few hours a day, whilst the sea-
horizon, no longer clearly cut against the sky, was hidden by an end-
less chain of ice-bergs, broken into countless rugged forms, and
building up that impenetrable ice-wall, which Nature has set up
between the Pole and the bold explorers who endeavour to reach
it.

We can well understand to how many discussions and. conversa-
tions the altered appearance of the country gave rise. Thomas
Black was the only one who remained indifferent to the sublime
beauty of the scene. But what could oné expect of an astronomer
so wrapped up in his one idea, that he might be said to be present
in the little colony in the body, but absent in spirit? He lived in
the contemplation of the heavenly bodies, passing from the examina-
tion of one constellation to that of another, roving in imagination








































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































*A new country was springing into being,” &e.—Page 112,
LAL APPROACH OF WINTER. ~ 113
Pees ee Soc WS es

through the vast realms of space, peopled by countless radiant orbs,
and fuming with rage when fogs or clouds hid the objects of his
devotion from his sight, Hobson consoled him by promising him
fine cold nights admirably suited to astronomical observations, when
he could watch the beautiful Aurora Borealis, the lunar halos, and
other phenomena of Polar countries worthy even of his admira-
tion. .

The cold was not at this time too intense ; there was no wind, and
it is the wind which makes the cold so sharp and biting. Hunting
was vigorously carried on for some days. The magazines became
stocked with new furs, and fresh stores of provisions were laid up.
Partridges and ptarmigans on their way to the south passed over
the fort in great numbers, and supplied fresh and wholesome meat.
Polar or Arctic hares were plentiful, and had already assumed their
white winter robes. About a hundred of these rodents formed a
valuable addition to the reserves of the colony.

There were also large flocks of the whistling swan or hooper, one of
the finest species of North America, The hunters killed several couples
of them, handsome birds, four or five feet in entire length, with white
plumage, touched with copper colour on the head and upper part of
neck, They were on their way to a more hospitable zone, where
they could find the aquatic plants and insects they required for
food, and they "sped through the air ata rapid pace, for it is as
much their native element as water. Trumpeter swans, with a cry
like the shrill tone of a clarion, which are about the same size as the
hoopers, but have black feet and beaks, also passed in great numbers,
but neither Marbre nor Sabine were fortunate enough to bring down
any of them. However, they shouted out “aw revoir” in significant
tones, for they knew that they would return with the first breezes of
spring, and that they could then be easily caught. Their skin,
plumage, and down, are all of great value, and they are therefore
eagerly hunted. In some favourable years tens of thousands of
them have been exported, fetching half a guinea a piece.

During these excursions, which only lasted for a few hours, and
were often interrupted by bad weather, packs of wolves were often
met with, There was no need to go far to find them, for, rendered
bold by hunger, they already ventured close to the factory. Their
scent is very keen, and they were attracted by the smell from the
kitcher: During the night they could be heard howling in a threat-
ening manner. Although not dangerous individually, these carnivo-
II4 THE FUR COUNTRY.





rous beasts are formidable in packs, and the hunters therefore toole
care to be well armed when they went beyond the enceinte of the fort,

The bears were still more aggressive. Nota day passed without
several of these animals being seen. Atnight they would come close
up to the enclosure, and some were even wounded with shot, but got
off, staining the snow with their blood, so that up to October 10th
not one had left its warm and valuable fur in the hands of the
hunters, Hobson would not have them molested, rightly judging
that with such formidable creatures it was best to remain on the
defensive, and it was not improbable that, urged on by hunger, they
might attack Fort Hope before very long. Then the little colony
could defend itself, and provision its stores at the same time.

For a few days the weather continued dry and cold, the surface
of the snow was firm and suitable for walking, so that a few
excursions were made without difficulty along the coast on the
south of the fort. . The Lieutenant was anxious to ascertain if tha
agents of the St Louis Fur Company had left the country. No
traces were, however, found of their return march, and it was
therefore concluded that they had gone down to some southern fort
to pass the winter by another route.

The few fine days were soon over, and in the first week of
November the wind veered round to the south, making the tem-
perature warmer, it is true, but also bringing heavy snow-storms.
The ground was soon covered witha soft cushion several feet thick,
which had to be cleared away round the house every day, whilst a
lane was made through it to the postern, the shed, and the stable of
the dogs and rein-deer. Excursions became more and more rare,
and it was impossible to walk without snow-shoes.

When the snow has become hardened by frost, it easily sustains
the weight of a man; but when it is soft and yielding, and the
unfortunate pedestrian sinks into it up to his knees, the snow-shoes
used by Indians are invaluable.

Lieutenant Hobson and his companions were quite accustomed to
walk in them, and could glide about over the snow as rapidly as
skaters on ice; Mrs Barnett had early practised wearing them, and
was quite as expert in their use as the rest of the party. The
frozen lake as well as the coast was scoured by these indefatigable
explorers, who were even able to advance several miles from
the shore on the solid surface of the ocean now covered with ice
several feet thick. . It was, however, very tiring work, for the ice
THE APPROACH OF WINTER. / I15





fields were rugged and uneven, strewn with piled-up ridges of ice
and hummocks which had to be turned. Further out a chain of
icebergs, some five hundred feet high, barred their progress. These
mighty icebergs, broken into fantastic and picturesque forms, were
a truly magnificent spectacle. Here they looked like the whitened
ruins of a town with curtains battered in, and monuments and
columns overthrown; there like some volcanic land torn and
convulsed by earthquakes and eruptions; a confusion of glaciers
and glittering ice-peaks with snowy ramparts and _ buttresses,
valleys, and crevasses, mountains and hillocks, tossed and distorted
like the famous Alps of Switzerland. A few scattered birds,
petrels, guillemots, and puffins, lingering behind their fellows, still
enlivened the vast solitude with their piercing cries; huge white
bears roamed about amongst the hummocks, their dazzling coats
scarcely distinguishable from the shining ice—truly there was
enough to interest and excite our adventurous lady traveller, and
even Madge, the faithful Madge, shared the enthusiasm of her
mistress. How far, how very far, were both from the tropic zones of
India or Australia !

The frozen ocean was firm enough to have allowed of the passage
of a park of artillery, or the erection of a monument, and many
were the excursions on its surface until the sudden lowering of the
temperature rendered all exertion so exhausting that they had to be
discontinued. The pedestrians were out of breath after taking a
few steps, and the dazzling whiteness of the glittering snow could
not be endured by the naked eye; indeed, the reverberation or
flickering glare of the undulatory reflection of the light from the
surface of the snow, has been known to cause several cases of blind-
ness amongst the Esquimaux.

A singular phenomenon due to the refraction of rays of light was
now observed: Distances, depths, and heights lost their true pro-
portions, five or six yards of ice looked like two, and many were
the falls and ludicrous results of this optical illusion.

On October 14th the thermometer marked 3° Fahrenheit below
zero, a severe temperature to endure, especially when the north
wind blows strongly. The air seemed to be made of needles,
and those who ventured out of the house were in great danger
of being frost-bitten, when death or mortification would ensue
if the, suspended circulation of the blood were not restored by
immediate friction with snow. Garry, Belcher, Hope, and other
116 THE FUR COUNTRY.



members of the little community were attacked by frost-bite, but
the parts affected being rubbed in time they escaped without serious
injury. ;

It will readily be understood that all manual labour had now
become impossible. The days were extremely short, the sun was
only above the horizon for a few hours and the actual winter, imply-
ing entire confinement within doors, was about to commence. The
last Arctic birds forsook the gloomy shores of the Polar Sea, only a
few pairs of those speckled quails remained which the Indians
appropriately call “ winter birds,” because they wait in the Arctic
regions until the commencement of the Polar night, but they too
were soon to take their departure,

Lieutenant Hobson, therefore, urged on the setting of the traps
and snares which were to remain in different parts of Cape Bathurst
throughout the winter.

These traps consisted merely of rough joists supported on a square,
formed of three pieces of wood so balanced as to fall on the least
touch—in fact, the same sort of trap as that used for snaring birds
in fields on a large scale. The end of the horizontal piece of wood
was baited with venison, and every animal of a moderate height,
a fox or a marten, for instance, which touched it with its paw, could
not fail to be crushed. Such were the traps set in the winter over
a space of several miles by the famous hunters whose adventurous
life has been so poetically described by Cooper. Some thirty of
these snares were set round Fort Hope, and were to be visited at
pretty frequent intervals.

On the 12th November « new member was born to the little
colony. Mrs Mac-Nab was safely confined of a fine healthy boy, of
whom the head carpenter was extremely proud, Mrs Barnett stood
god-mother to the child, which received the name of Michael Hope.
The ceremony of baptism was performed with considerable
solemnity, anda kind of féte was held in honour of the little
creature which had just come into the world beyond the 70th
degree N. Lat.

A few days afterwards, on November 20th, the sun sunk below
the horizon not to appear again for two months. The Polar night
had commenced !
CHAPTER XVIII

THE POLAR NIGAT,

was perhaps a little less severe, but the air was very damp,

and, in spite of every precaution, the humidity penetrated
into the house, and the condensers, which were emptied every morn-
ing, contained several pounds of ice.

Outside drifts whirled past like waterspouts—the snow seemed
no longer to fall horizontally but vertically, The Lieutenant was
obliged to insist upon the door being kept shut, for had it been
opened the passages would immediately have become blocked up.
The explorers were literally prisoners.

The window shutters were hermetically closed, and the lamps
were kept burning through the long hours of the sleepless night.

But although darknesa reigned without, the noise of the tempest
replaced the silence usually so complete in these high latitudes. The
roaring of the wind between the house and the cliff never ceased
for a moment, the house trembled to its foundations, and had it
not been for the solidity of its construction, must have succumbed
to the violence of the hurricane, Fortunately the accumulation of
snow round the walls broke the force of the squall, and Mac-Nab’s
only fear was for the chimneys, which were liable to be blown over.
However, they remained firm, although they had constantly to
be freed from the snow which blocked up the openings,

In the midst of the whistling of the wind, loud reports were heard,
of which Mrs Barnett could not conjecture the cause. It was the
falling of icebergs in the offing. The echoes caught up the sounds,
which were rolled along like the reverberations of thunder, The
ground shook as the ice-fields split open, crushed by the falling of
these mighty mountains, and none but those thoroughly inured to
the horrors of these wild rugged climates could witness these strange
phenomena without a shudder. Lieutenant Hobson and his com-
panions were accustomed to all these things, and Mrs Barnett and
Madge were gradually becoming so, and were, besides, not altogether

G ( JHE ‘long night was ushered in by a violent storm. The cold
fF
118 THE FUR COUNTRY.

unfamiliar with those terrible winds which move at the rate of forty
miles an hour, and overturn twenty-four pounders. Here, however,
the darkness and the snow aggravated the dread might of the
storm; that which was not crushed was buried and smothered, and,
probably twelve hours after the commencement of the tempest,
house, kennel, shed, and enceinte would have disappeared beneath
a bed of snow of uniform thickness,

The time was not wasted during this long imprisonment. All
these good people agreed together perfectly, and neither ill-humour
nor ennui marred the contentment of the little party shut up in such
a narrow space. They were used to life under similar conditions
at Forts Enterprise and Reliance, and there was nothing to excite
Mrs Barnett’s surprise in their ready accommodation of themselves to
circumstances.

Part of the day was occupied with work, part with reading and
games. Garments had to be made and mended, arms to be kept
bright and in good repair, boots to be manufactured, and the daily
journal to be issued in which Lientenant Hobson recorded the
slightest events of this northern wintering—the weather, the tempera-
ture, the direction of the wind, the appearance of meteors so fre-
quent in the Polar regions, &e., &c. Then the house had to be kept
in order, the rooms must be swept, and the stores of furs must be
visited every day to see if they were free from damp ; the fires and
stoves, too, required constant superintendence, and perpetual vigil-
ance was necessary to prevent the accumulation of particles of mois-
ture in the corners.

* To each one was assigned a task, the duty of each one was laid
down in rules fixed up in the large room, so that without being
oyerworked, the occupants of the fort were never without something
to do. Thomas Black screwed and unscrewed his instruments, and
looked over his astronomical calculations, remaining almost always
shut up in his cabin, fretting and fuming at the storm which pre-
vented him from making nocturnal observations. The three married
women had also plenty to see to : Mrs Mac-Nab busied herself with
her baby who got on wonderfully, whilst Mrs Joliffe, assisted by
Mrs Rae, and with the Corporal always at her heels, presided in the
kitchen.

When work was done the entire party assembled in the large
room, spending the whole of Sunday together. Reading was the chief
amusement. The Bible and some books of travels were the whole
THE POLAR NIGHT. 119





library of the fort; but they were all the good folks required. Mrs
Barnett generally read aloud, and her audience listened with delight.
The Bible and accounts of adventures received a fresh charm when
read out in her clear earnest voice; her gestures were so expressive
that imaginary persons seemed to live when she spoke of them, and
all were glad when she took up the book. She was, in fact, the life
and soul of the little community, eager alike to give and receive
instruction ; she combined the charm and grace of a woman with the
energy of a man, and she consequently became the idol of the rough
soldiers, who would have willingly laid down their lives in her ser-
vice. Mrs Barnett shared everything with her companions, never
holding herself aloof or remaining shut up in her cabin, but working
zealously amongst the others, drawing out the most reticent by her
intelligent questions and warm sympathy. . Good humour and good
health prevailed throughout the little community, and neither hands
nor tongues were idle.

The storm, however, showed no signs of abating. The party had
now been confined to the house for three days, and the snow-drifts
were as wild and furious as ever. Lieutenant Hobson began to get
anxigus. It was becoming imperatively necessary to renew the air
of the rooms, which was too much charged with carbonic acid. The
light of the lamps began to pale in the unhealthy atmosphere, and
the air-pumps would not act, the pipes being choked up with ice;
they were not, in fact, intended to be used when the house was
buried in snow. It was necessary to take counsel ; the Lieutenant
and Sergeant Long put their heads together, and it was decided on
November 23d that, as the wind beat with rather less violence on
the front of. the house, one of the windows at the end of the passage
on that side should be opened,

- This was no light matter. It was easy enough to open the win-
dow from inside, but the shutter outside was encrusted over with thick
lumps of ice, and resisted every effort to move it. It had to be taken
off its hinges, and the hard mass of snow was then attacked with
pickaxe and shovel; it was at least ten feet thick, and it was not
until a kind of channel had been scooped out that the outer air was
admitted,

- Hobson, the Sergeant, several soldiers, and Mrs Barnett herself
ventured to creep through this tunnel or channel, but not without
considerable difficulty, for the wind rushed in with fearful fury.

What a scene was presented by Cape Bathurst and the surrounding
120 THE FUR COUNTRY.



plain, It was mid-day, and but a few faint twilight rays glimmered
upon the southern horizon. The cold was not so intense as one
would have supposed, and the thermometer marked only 15° Fahren-
heit above zero; but the snow-drifts whirled along with terrific
force, and all would inevitably have been thrown to the ground, had
not the snow in which they were standing up to their waists helped
to sustain them against the gusts of wind. Everything around them
was white, the walls of the enceinte, and the'whole of the house
even to the roof were completely covered over, and nothing but a
few blue wreaths of smoke would have betrayed the existence of a
human habitation to a stranger. ;

Under the circumstances the “promenade” was soon over; but
Mrs Barnett had made good use of her time, and would never forget
the awful beauty of the Polar regions in a snow-storm, a beauty
upon which few women had been privileged to look.

A few moments sufficed to renew the atmosphere of the house,
and all unhealthy vapours were quickly dispersed by the introduc-
tion of a pure and refreshing current of air.

The Lieutenant and his companions hurried in, and the window
was again closed; but after that the snow before it was removed
every day for the sake of ventilation.

The entire week passed in a similar manner; fortunately the
rein-deer and dogs had plenty of food, so that there was no need to
visit them. ‘The eight days during which the occupants of the fort
were imprisoned so closely, could not fail to be somewhat irksome
to strong men, soldiers and hunters, accustomed to plenty of ex-
ercise in the open air; and we must own that listening to reading
aloud gradually lost its charm, and even cribbage became uninterest-
ing. The last thought at night was a hope that the tempest might
have ceased in the morning, a hope disappointed every day. Fresh»
snow constantly accumulated upon the windows, the wind roared,
the icebergs burst. with a crash like thunder, the smoke was forced
back into the rooms, and there were no signs of a diminution of the
fury of the storm.

At last, however, on the 28th November the Aneroid barometer
in the large room gave notice of an approaching change in the state
of the atmosphere. It rose rapidly, whilst the thermometer outside
fell almost suddenly to less than four degrees below zero. These were
symptoms which could not be mistaken, and on the 29th November
the silence all around the fort told that the tempest had ceased,
THE POLAR NIGHT. I21I



Every one was eager to get out, the confinement had lasted long
enough. The door could not be opened, and all had to get through the
window, and clear away the fresh accumulation of snow ; this time,
however, it was no soft mass they had to remove, but compact blocks
of ice, which required pick-axes to break them up.

It took about half-an-hour to clear a passage, and then every
one in the fort, except Mrs MacNab, who was not yet up,
hastened into the interior court, glad once more to be able to
walk about.

The cold was still intense, but the wind having gone down it was
possible to endure it, although great care was necessary to escape
serious consequences on leaving the heated rooms for the open air,
the difference between the temperature inside and outside being
some fifty-four degrees.

It was eight o’clock in the morning. Myriads of brilliant con-
stellations studded the sky, and at the zenith shone the Pole star.
Although in both hemispheres there are in reality but 5000 fixed
stars visible to the naked eye, their number appeared to the
observers incalculable. Exclamations of admiration burst involun-
tarily from. the lips of the delighted astronomer as he gazed into
the cloudless heavens, once more undimmed by mists or vapours.
Never had a more beautiful sky been spread out before the eyes of
an astromoner.

Whilst Thomas Black was raving in ecstasy, dead to all terrestrial
matters, his companions had wandered as far as the enceinte. The
snow was as hard as a rock, and so slippery that there were a good
many tumbles, but no serious injuries.

It is needless to state that the court of the fort was completely
filled up. The roof of the house alone appeared above the white
mass, the surface of which had been worn smooth by the action of
the wind ; of the palisade nothing was visible but the top of the
stakes, and the least nimble of the wild animals they dreaded
could easily have climbed over them. But what was to be done?
It was no use to think of clearing away a mass of frozen snow ten
feet thick, extending over so large an extent of ground. All they
could attempt would be to dig away the ice inside the enceinte, so
as to form a kind of moat, the counterscarp of which would protect
the palisade. But alas the winter was only beginning, and a fresh
tempest might at any time fill in the ditch a few hours.

Whilst the Lieutenant was examining the works, which could no
122 THE FUR COUNTRY.

more protect his fort than a single sunbeam could melt the solid
layer of snow, Mrs Joliffe suddenly exclaimed :

“ And our dogs ! ! our reindeer !”

It was indeed time to think about the poor animals, The dog-
house and stable being lower than the house were probably
entirely covered, and the supply of air had perhaps been completely
cut off. Some hurried to the dog-house, others to the reindeer
stable, and all fears were quickly dispelled. The wall of ice, which
connected the northern corner of the house with the cliff, had partly
protected the two buildings, and the snow round them was not
more than four feet thick, so that the apertures left in the walls
had not been closed up. The animals were all well, and when the
door was opened, the dogs rushed out barking with delight.

The cold was so intense, that after an hour's walk every one
began to think of the glowing stove in the large room at home.
There was nothing left to be done outside, the traps buried beneath
ten feet of snow could not be visited, so all returned to the house,
the window was closed, and tue party sat down to the dinner
awaiting them with sharpened appetites.

We can readily imagine that the conversation turned on the
intensity of the cold, which had so rapidly converted the soft snow
into a solid mass. It was no light matter, and might to a certain
extent compromise the safety of the little colony.

“ But, Lieutenant,” said Mrs Barnett, “can we not count upon a
few days’ thaw—will not all this snow be rapidly converted into
water?”

“Oh no, madam,” replied Hobson, “a thaw at this time of year is
not at all likely. Indeed I expect the thermometer will fall still
lower, and it is very much to be regretted that we were unable to
remove the snow when it was soft.”

“What, you think the temperature likely to become much
colder ¢”

“T do most certainly, madam, 4° below zero—what is that at
this latitude ?”

“ What would it be if we were at the Pole itself?”

“The Pole, madam, is probably not the coldest point of the globe,
for most navigators agree that the sea is there open. From
certain peculiarities of its geographical position it would appear that
a certain spot on the shores of North Georgia, 95° longitude and
78° latitude, has the coldest mean temperature in the world: %
THE POLAR NIGHT. , 123



below zero all the year round. It is, therefore, called the ‘ pole
of cold.’”

“But,” said Mrs Barnett, “we are more than 8° further south
than that famous point.”

“Well, I don’t suppose we shall suffer as much at Cape Bathurst
as we might have done in North Georgia. I only tell you of the

‘pole of cold,’ that you may not confouid it with the Pole properly
so-called when the lowness of the temperature is discussed.
Great cold has besides been experienced on other points of the
globe. The difference is, that the low temperature is not there
maintained.”

“To what places do you allude?” inquired Mrs Barnett; “I
assure you I take the greatest interest in this matter of degrees of
cold.”

“As far as I can retmember, madam,” replied the Lieutenant,
“ Arctic explorers state that at Melville Island the temperature fell
to 61° below zero, and at Port Felix td 65°.”

“But Melville Island and Port Felix are some degrees farthet
north latitude than Cape Bathurst, are they not?”

“Yes, madam, but in a certain sense we may say that their
latitude proves nothing. A combination of different atmospheric
conditions is requisite to produce intense cold. Local and other
causes largely modify climate. If I remember rightly in 1845...
Sergeant Long, you were at Fort Reliance at that date ?

- “Yes, sir,” replied Long.

“Well, was it not in January of that year that the cold was se
excessive ?”

“Yes it. was, I remember only too well that the thermometer
marked 70° below zero.”

“What!” exclaimed Mrs Barnett, “at Fort Reliance, on the
Great Slave Lake?”

“Yes, madam,” replied the Lieutenant, “and that was at 65°
north latitude only, which is the same parallel as that of Christiania
and St Petersburg.”

“Then we must be prepared for everything.”

“Yes, indeed, we must when we winter in Arctic countries.”

During the 29th and 30th November, the cold did not decrease,
and it was necessary to keep up huge fires to prevent the freez-
ing in all the corners of the house of the moisture in the
124 THE FUR COUNTRY.



atmosphere. - Fortunately there was plenty of fuel, and it was not
spared. A mean temperature of 52° Fahrenheit was maintained in-
doors in spite of the intensity of the cold without.

Thomas Black was so anxious to take stellar observations, now
that the sky was so clear, that he braved the rigour of the outside
temperature, hoping to be able to examine some of the magnifi-
cent constellations twinkling on the zenith. But he was compelled
to desist—his instruments “burnt” his hands! ‘‘Burnt” is the
only word to express the sensation produced by touching a metallic
body subjected to the influence of intense cold, Exactly similar
results are produced by the sudden introduction of heat into an
animate body, and the sudden withdrawal of the same from it, as
the astronomer found to his cost when he left the skin of his fingers
on his instruments. He had to give up taking observations.

However, the heavens made him the best amends in their power
by displaying the most beautiful and indescribable phenomena of
a lunar halo and-an Aurora Borealis,

. The lunar halo was a white corona with a pale red edge encir-
cling the moon. This luminous meteor was about forty-five degrees
in diameter, and was the result of the diffraction of the lunar rays
through the small prismatic ice-crystals floating in the atmosphere.
The queen of the night shone with renewed splendour and heightened
beauty from the centre of the luminous ring, the colour and
consistency of which resembled the milky transparent lunar rain-
bows which have been so often described by astronomers,

Fifteen hours later the heavens were lit up by a misonitoend
Aurora Borealis, the arch of which extended over more than a
hundred geographical degrees. The vertex of this arch was situated
in the magnetic meridian, and, as is often the case, the rays darted
by the luminous meteor were of all the colours of the rainbow, red
predominating. Here and there the stars seemed to be floating in
blood. Glowing lines of throbbing colour spread from the dark
segment on the horizon, some of them passing the zenith and
quenching the light of the moon in their electric waves, which
oscillated and trembled as if swept by a current of air.

No description could give an adequate idea of the glory which
flushed the northern sky, converting it into a vast dome of fire, but
after the magnificent spectacle had been enjoyed for about half an
hour, it suddenly disappeared—not fading gradually away after a
THE POLAR NIGHT, 125

concentration of its rays, or a diminution of its splendour, but dying
abruptly, as if an invisible hand had cut off the supply of electricity
which gave it life.

It was time it was over, for the sake of Thomas Black, for in
another five minutes he would have been frozen where he stood !
CHAPTER XIx.

A NEIGHBOURLY VISIT.



* N the 2nd December, the intensity of the cold decreased,
& The phenomena of the lunar halo and Aurora Borealis were

symptoms which a meteorologist would have been at no
loss to interpret. They implied the existence of a certain quantity
of watery vapour in the atmosphere, and the barometer fell slightly,
whilst the thermometer rose to 15° above zero,

Although this temperature would have seemed very cold to the in-
habitants of a temperate zone, it was easily endured by the colonists,
The absence of wind made a great difference, and Hobson having
noticed that the upper layers of snow were becoming softer, ordered
his men to clear it away from the outer approaches of the enceinte.
Mac-Nab and his subordinates set to work zealously, and completed
their task in a few days. The traps were now uncovered and re-set,
A good many footprints showed that there were plenty of furred
animals about the cape, and as they could not get any other food,
it was probable that the bait in the snares would soon attract them.
In accordance with the advice of Marbre the hunter, a reindeer trap
was constructed in the Esquimaux style. A trench was dug twelve
feet deep, and of a uniform width of ten feet. A see-saw plank,
which would rebound when lowered, was laid across it. A-bait of
herbs was placed at one end of the plank, and any animal venturing
to take them, was inevitably flung to the bottom of the pit, and
the plank immediately returning to its former position, would allow
of the trapping of another animal in the same manner. Once in,
there was no getting out. The only difficulty Marbre had to contend
with in making his trap, was the extreme hardness of the ground
to be dug out, but both he and the Lieutenant were not a little
surprised at finding beneath some five feet of earth and sand a bed
of snow, as hard as a rock, which appeared to be very thick.

After closely examining the geological structure of the ground,
Hobson observed :






























































































































































































































‘The body was hauled up,”—-Page 127,
A NEIGHBOURLY VISIT. 127



“This part of the coast must have been subjected to intense cold
for a considerable length of time a great many years ago. Probably
the ice rests on a bed of gr ane and the earth and “sand upon it
have accumulated gradually.”

“Well, sir, our trap won’t be any the worse for that, the reindeer
will find a slippery wall, which it will be impossible for. them to
climb.”

Marbre was right, as the event proved.

On the 5th September, he and Sabine were on their way to the
trench, when they heard loud growls, They stood still and
listened.

“Tt’s no reindeer making that noise,” said Marbre, “I know
well enough what creature has fallen into our pit.”

“A bear 1” replied Sabine.

“Yes,” said Marbre, whose eyes glistened with delight,

“Well,” remarked Sabine, ‘‘ we won’t grumble at that, bears’
steaks are as good as reindeers’, and we get the fur in! Come
along.”

The two hunters were armed. They quickly slipped balls into
their guns, which were already loaded with lead, and hurried to the
trap. The see-saw plank had swung back into its place, but the
bait had disappeared, having probably been dragged down into the
trench. The growls became louder and fiercer, and looking down
the hunters saw that it was indeed a bear they had taken. A huge
mass was huddled together in one corner of the pit, looking in the
gloom like a pile of white fur with two glittering eyes. The sides
of the trench had been ploughed up by the creature’s sharp claws, and
had they been made of earth instead of ice, it would certainly have
managed to scramble out, but it could get no hold on the slippery
surface, and.it had only managed to enlarge its prison, not to escape
from it.

Under the circumstances the capture was easy. Two balls
carefully aimed put an end to the bear’s life, and the next thing to
do-was to get it out of the pit. The two hunters returned to the
fort for reinforcements, and ten of the soldiers, provided with ropes,
returned with them. It was not without considerable difficulty
that the body was hauled up. It was a huge creature, six feet long,
weighing six hundred pounds, and must have possessed immense
strength. It belonged to the sub-order of white bears, and had the
flattened head, long neck, short and slightly curved claws, narrow
128 THE FUR COUNTRY.



muzzle, and smooth white fur characteristic of the species. The
edible portions of this valuable animal were confided to Mrs Joliffe,
and by her carefully prepared for the table.

The next week the traps were in full activity. Some twenty
martens were taken, in all the beauty of their winter clothing, but
only two or three foxes. These cunning creatures divined the snare
laid for them, and scratching up the ground near the trap, they
often managed to run off with the bait without being caught. This
made Sabine beside himself with rage; “for,” he said, “such a
subterfuge was unworthy of a respectable fox.”

About the 10th December, the wind having veered round to the
south-west, the snow again began to fall, but not in thick flakes, or
in large quantities. The wind being high, however, the cold was
severely felt, and it was necessary to settle in-doors again, and resume
domestic occupations, Hobson distributed lime lozenges and lime
juice to every one as a precaution against the scorbutic affections,
which damp cold produces. No symptoms of scurvy had fortunately
as yet appeared amongst the occupants of the fort, thanks to the
sanitary precautions taken.

The winter solstice was now approaching, when the darkness of
the Polar night would be most profound, as the sun would’ be at the
lowest maximum point below the horizon of the northern hemi-
sphere. At midnight the southern edges of the long white plains
were touched with a faint glimmer of twilight, that was all, and it
would be impossible to imagine anything more melancholy than the
gloomy stillness and darkness of the vast expanse.

Hobson felt more secure from the attacks of wild beasts, now that
the approaches to the enceinte had been cleared of snow, which was
a fortunate circumstance, as ominous growlings were heard, the
nature of which no one could mistake.

There was no fear of visits from Indian hunters or Canadians at
this time of year, but an incident occurred proving that these dis-
tricts were not altogether depopulated even in the winter, and which
was quite an episode in the long dreary dark months. Some human
beings still lingered on the coast hunting morses and camping under
the snow. They belonged to the race of Esquimaux, “ or eaters of
raw flesh,” which is scattered over the continent of North America,
from Baffin’s Bay to Behring Strait, seldom, however, advancing
farther south than the Great Slave Lake.

On the morning of the 14th December, or rather nine hours
4 NEIGHBOURLY VISIT. 129



before midday, Sergeant Long, on his return from an excursion along
the coast, ended his report to the Lieutenant by saying, that if his
eyes had not deceived him, a tribe of nomads were encamped about
four miles from the fort, near a little cape jutting out from the
coast.

‘What do you suppose these nomads are?” inquired Hobson.

¢ Hither men or morses,” replied the Sergeant. ‘“ There’s no
medium !”

The brave Sergeant would have been considerably surprised if
any one had told him that some naturalists admit the existence of
the “medium,” the idea of which he scouted; and certain savants
have with some humour classed the Esquimaux as an “ intermediate
species” between man and the sea-cow.

Lieutenant Hobson, Mrs Barnett, Madge, and afew others at once
went to ascertain the truth of the report. Well wrapt up, and on
their guard against a sudden chill, their feet cased in furred boots,
and guns and hatchets in their hands, they issued from the postern,
and made their way over the frozen snow along the coast, strewn
with masses of ice.

The moon, already in the last quarter, shed a few faint rays through
the mists which shrouded the ice-fields. After marching for about
an hour, the Lieutenant began to think that the Sergeant had been
mistaken, and that what he had seen were morses, who had returned
to their native element through the holes in the ice which they
always keep open.

But Long, pointing to a grey wreath of smoke curling out of a
conical protuberance on the ice-field some hundred steps off, con-
tented himself with observing quietly—

‘¢ The morses are smoking, then !”

As he spoke some living creatures came out of the hut dragging
themselves along the snow. They were Esquimaux, but whether
male or female none but a native could have said, for their costumes
were all exactly alike.

Indeed, without in the least satiate the opinion of the naturalist
quoted above, any one might have taken the rough shagey figures
for seals or some other amphibious animals, There were six of them
—four full-grown, and two children. Although very short, they
were broad-chested and muscular. They had the flat noses, long
eyelashes, large mouths, thick lips, long black coarse hair, and
beardless chins of their race, Their costume consisted of a round
130 THE FUR COUNTRY.



coat made of the skin of the walrus, a hood, boots, trousers, and
mittens of the same material. They gazed at the Europeans in
silence. : .

“Does any one understand Esquimaux?” inquired the Lieu-
tenant,

No one was acquainted with that idiom, and every one started
when a voice immediately exclaimed in English, “ Welcome ! wel-
come !”

It was an Esquimaux, and, as they learned later, a woman, who,
approaching Mrs Barnett, held out her hand.

The lady, much surprised, replied in a few words, which the native
girl readily understood, and the whole family was invited to follow
the Europeans to the fort.

The Esquimaux looked searchingly at the strangers, and after a
few moments’ hesitation they accompanied the Lieutenant, keeping
close together, however.

Arrived at the enceinte, the native woman, seeing the house, of
the existence of which she had had no idea, exclaimed—

“ House! snow-house !”

She asked if it were made of snow, which was a natural question
enough, for the house was all but hidden beneath the white mass
which covered the ground. She was made to understand that it
was built of wood ; she then turned and said a few words to her
companions, who made signs of acquiescence, and they all passed
through the postern, and were taken to the large room in the chief
building.

They removed their hoods, and it became possible to distinguish
sexes. There were two men, about forty or fifty years old, with
yellowish-red complexions, sharp teeth, and projecting cheek-bones,
which gave them something of the appearance of carnivorous animals ;
two women, still young, whose matted hair was adorned with the
teeth and claws of Polar bears ; and two children, about five or six
years old, poor little creatures with intelligent’ faces, who looked
about them with wide wondering eyes.

“T believe the Esquimaux are always hungry,” said Hobson, “so
I don’t suppose our guests would object to a slice of venison.”

In obedience to the Lieutenant’s order, Joliffe brought some
rcindeer-venison, which the poor creatures devoured with greedy
avidity ; but the young woman who had answered in English
behaved with greater refinement, and watched Mrs Barnett and the
A NEIGHBOURLY VISIT. 131



women of the fort without once removing her eyes from them.
Presently noticing the baby in Mrs Mac-Nab’s arms, she rose and
ran up to it, speaking to it in a soft voice, and caressing it tenderly.

Indeed if not exactly superior, the young girl was certainly more
civilised than her companions, which was especially noticeable when,
being attacked by a slight fit of coughing, she put her hand before.
her mouth in the manner enjoined by the first rules of civilised
society.

This significant gesture did not escape any one, and Mrs Barnett,
who chatted for some time with the Esquimaux woman, learned from
her in a few short sentences that she had been for a year in the
service of the Danish governor of Upper Navik, whose wife was
English, and that she had left Greenland to follow her family to
the hunting grounds. The two men were her brothers ; the other
woman was her sister-in-law, married to one of the men, and mother
of the two children. They were all returning from Melbourne Island,
on the eastern coast of English America, and were making for Point
Barrow, on the western coast of Russian America, the home of
their tribe, and were considerably astonished to find a factory
established on Cape Bathurst. Indeed the two men shook their
heads when they spoke of it. Did they disapprove of the con-
struction of a fort at this particular point of the coast? Did they
think the situation ill-chosen? In spite of all his endeavours,
Hobson could get no satisfactory reply to these questions, or rather
he could not understand the answers he received.

The name of the young girl was Kalumah, and she seemed to
have taken a great fancy to Mrs Barnett. But sociable as she was,
she appeared to feel no regret at having left the governor of Upper
Navik, and to be sincerely attached to her relations.

After refreshing themselves with the reindeer-venison, and
drinking half-a-pint of rum, in which the children had their share,
the Esquimaux took leave of their hosts ; but before saying good-
bye, the young girl invited Mrs Barnett to visit their snow-hut, and
the lady promised to do so the next day, weather permitting.

The next day was fine, and accompanied by Madge, Lieutenant
Hobson, and a few soldiers, well armed in case any bears should be
prowling about, Mrs Barnett set out for “Cape Esquimaux,” as they
had named the spot where the little colony had encamped.

Kalumah hastened forward to meet her friend of yesterday, and
pointed to the hut with an air of pride, It was a large cone of
132 THE FUR COUNTRY.

snow, with an cpening in the summit, through which the smoke
from the fire inside made its way. These snow-houses, called igloos
in the language of the Esquimaux, are constructed with - great
rapidity, and are admirably suited to the climate. In them their
owners can endure a temperature 40° below zero, without fires, and
without suffering much. In the summer the Esquimaux encamp
in tents made of seal and reindeer skins, which are called tupics.

It was no easy matter to get into this hut. The only opening was
a hole close to the ground, and it was necessary to creep through a
kind of passage three or four feet long, which is about the thickness
of the walls of these snow-houses. But a traveller by profession, a
laureate of the Royal Society, could not hesitate, and Mrs Paulina
Barnett did not hesitate! Followed by Madge, she bravely entered
the narrow tunnel in imitation of her guide. Lieutenant Hobson
and his men dispensed with paying their respects inside.

And Mrs Barnett soon discovered that the chief difficulty was not
getting into the hut, but remaining in it when there. The room
was heated by a fire, on which the bones of morses were burning ;
and the air was full of the smell of the fetid oil of a lamp, of greasy
garments, and the flesh of the amphibious animals which form the
chief article of an Esquimaux’s diet. It was suffocating and sick-
ening! Madge could not stand it, and hurried out at once, but
Mrs Barnett, rather than hurt the feelings of the young native,
showed superhuman courage, and extended her visit over five long
minutes !—five centuries! The two children and their mother were
at home, but the men had gone to hunt morses four or five miles
from their camp.

Once out of the hut, Mrs Barnett drew a long sigh of relief, and
the colour returned to her blanched cheeks.

“Well, madam,” inquired the Lieutenant, “ what do you think of
Esquimaux houses ?”

“The ventilation leaves something to be desired!” she replied
simply.

The interesting native family remained encamped near Cape
Esquimaux for eight days. The men passed twelve hours out of
every twenty-four hunting morses. With a patience which none
but sportsmen could understand, they would watch for the
amphibious animals near the holes through which they come up to
the surface of the ice-field to breathe. When the morse appears, a
rope with a running noose is flung round its body a little below the
A NEIGHBOURLY VISIT. 133



head, and it is dragged on to the ice-field, often with considerable
difficulty, and killed with hatchets. It is really more like fishing
than hunting. It is considered a-great treat to drink the warm
blood of the walrus, and the Esquimaux often indulge in it to excess.

Kalumah came to the fort every day in spite of the severity of the
weather. She was never tired of going through the different rooms,
and watching Mrs Joliffe at her cooking or sewing. She asked the
English name of everything, and talked for hours together with
Mrs Barnett, if the term “talking” can be applied to an exchange
of words after long deliberation on both sides. When Mrs Barnett
read aloud, Kalumah listened with great attention, although she
probably understood nothing of what she heard.

The young native girl had a sweet voice, and sometimes sang
some strange melancholy rhythmical songs with a peculiar metre,
and, if we may so express it, a frosty ring about them, peculiarly
characteristic of their origin.

Mrs Barnett had the patience to translate one of these Greenland
sagas, which was sung to a sad air, interspersed with long pauses,
and filled with strange intervals, which produced an indescribabla
effect, We give an English rendering of Mrs Barnett’s translation,
which may give a faint idea of this strange hyperborean poetry :—

GREENLAND SONG.
Dark is the sky,
The sun sinks wearily ;
My trembling heart, with sorrow filled,
Aches drearily !
My sweet child at my songs is smiling still,
While at his tender heart the icicles lie chill,

Child of my dreams !
Thy love doth cheer me ;
The cruel biting frost I brave
But to be near thee!
Ah me, Ah me, could these hot tears of mine
But melt the icicles around that heart of thine !

Could we once more
‘Meet heart to heart,
Thy little hands close clasped in mine,
No more to part.
~ Then on thy chill heart rays from heaven above
Should fall, and softly melt it with the warmth of love!
134 THE FUR COUNTRY.

On the 20th December the Esquimaux family came to take leave
of the occupants of the fort. Kalumah was sorry to part with
Mrs Barnett, who would gladly have retained her in her service, but
the young native could not be persuaded to leave her own
people; she promised, however, to return to Fort Hope in the
summer,

Her farewell was touching. She presented Mrs Barnett with a
copper ring, and received in exchange a necklace of black beads,
which she immediately put on. Hobson gave the poor people a
good stock of provisions, which they packed in their sledge ; and
after a few words of grateful acknowledgment from Kalumah, the
whole party set out towards the west, quickly disappearing in the
thick fogs on the shore,
CHAPTER XX,

MERCURY FREEZES,

air



\U} FEW days of dry calm weather favoured the operations
aN of the hunters, but they did not venture far from the
fort; the abundance of game rendered it unnecessary to
do so, and Lieutenant Hobson could justly congratulate himself on
having chosen so favourable a situation for the new settlement, A
great number of furred animals of all kinds were taken in the traps,
and Sabine and Marbre killed a good many Polar hares, Some
twenty starving wolves were shot. Hunger rendered the latter
animals aggressive, and bands of them gathered about the fort, filling
the air with hoarse howls, and amongst the “hummocks” on the ice-
fields sometimes prowled huge bears, whose movements were watched
with great interest.

On the 25th December all excursions had again to be given up.
The wind veered suddenly to the north, and the cold became
exceedingly severe. It was impossible to remain out of doors with-
out being frost-bitten. The Fahrenheit thermometer fell to 18° below
zero, and the gale roared like a volley of musketry. Hobson took
care to provide the animals with food enough to last several weeks.

Christmas Day, the day of home-gatherings so dear to the heart
of all Englishmen, was kept with due solemnity. The colonists re-
turned thanks to God for preserving them through so many perils ;
and the workmen, who had a holiday in honour of the day, afterwards
assembled with their masters and the ladies round a well-filled board,
on which figured two huge Christmas puddings. .

In the evening a huge bowl of punch flamed in the centre of the
table ; the lamps were put ous, and for a time the room was lighted
only by the livid flames of the spirit, the familiar objects assuming
strange fantastic forms. The spirits of the soldiers rose as they
watched the flickering illumination, and their excitement was not
lessened after imbibing some of the burning liquid.

But now the flames began to pale; bluish tongues still fitfully
136 THE FUR COUNTRY.



licked the plump sides of the national pudding for a few minutes,
and then died away.

Strange to say, although the lamps had not been relit, the room
did not become dark on the extinction of the flames. A bright red
light was streaming through the window, which had passed un-
noticed in the previous illumination.

The revellers started to their feet, and looked at each other in
astonishment.

“A fire!” cried several.

But unless the house itself were burning, there could not be a
fire anywhere near Cape Bathurst.

The Lieutenant rushed to the window, and at once understood
the cause of the phenomenon. It was an eruption.

Indeed, above the western cliffs beyond Walruses’ Bay the horizon
was on fire. The summits of the igneous hills, some miles from
Cape Bathurst, could not be seen; but the sheaf of flame shot up
to a considerable height, lighting up the whole country in a weird,
unearthly manner.

“Tt is more beautiful than the Aurora Borealis!” exclaimed Mrs
Barnett.

Thomas Black indignantly protested against this assertion. A
terrestrial phenomenon more beautiful than a meteor! But no one
was disposed to argue with him about it, for all hurried out, in spite
of the bitter gale and biting cold, to watch the glorious spectacle of
the flashing sheaf of flames standing out against the black back-
ground of the night sky.

Had not the mouths and ears of the party been cased in furs,
they would have been able to hear the rumbling noise of the erup-
tion, an4 to tell each other of the impressions made upon them by
this magnificent sight ; but, as it was, they could neither speak nor
hear. They might well be content, however, with gazing upon such
a glorious scene—a scene which once looked upon could never be
forgotten. The glowing sheets of flames contrasted alike with the
gloomy darkness of the heavens and the dazzling whiteness of
the far-stretching carpet of snow, and produced effects of light
and shade which no pen or pencil could adequately portray. The
throbbing reverberations spread beyond the zenith, gradually
quenching the light of all the stars. The white ground became
dashed with golden tints, the hummocks on the ice-field and the
huge icebergs in the background reflecting the glimmering colours
MERCURY FREEZES. 137
cSt ee he ns ee
like so many glowing mirrors. The rays of light, striking on the
edges or surfaces of the ice, became bent and diffracted ; the angles
aud varying inclinations on which they fell fretting them into
fringes of colour, and reflecting them back with changed and
heightened beauty. It was like a fairy scene in which ice and snow
combined to add éclat to a mélee of rays in which luminous waves
rushed upon each other, breaking into coloured ripples.

But the excessive cold soon drove the admiring spectators back to
their warm dwelling, and many a nose paid dearly for the feast
enjoyed by the eyes.

During the following days the cold became doubly severe, The
mercurial thermometer was of course no longer of any use for mark-
ing degrees, and an alcohol thermometer had to be used. On the
night of the 28th to the 29th December the column fell to 32°
below zero.

The stoves were piled up with fuel, but the temperature in
the house could not be maintained above 20° degrees. The bed-
rooms were exceedingly cold, and ten feet from the stove, in the
large room, its heat could not be felt at all. The little baby had
the warmest corner, and its cradle was rocked in turn by those who
came to the fire. Opening doors or windows was strictly forbidden,
as the vapour in the rooms would immediately have been converted
into snow, and in the passage the breathing of the inmates already
produced that result. Every now and then dull reports were heard,
which startled those unaccustomed to living in such high latitudes,
They were caused by the cracking of the trunks of trees, of which
the walls were composed, under the influence of the intense cold.
The stock. of rum and gin stowed away in the garret had to be
brought down into the sitting-room, as the alcohol was freezing and
sinking to the bottom of the bottles. The spruce-beer made from a
decoction of young fir-branchlets burst the barrels in which it was
kept as it froze, whilst all solid bodies resisted the introduction of
heat as if they were petrified. Wood burnt very slowly, and Hobson
was obliged to sacrifice some of the walrus-oil to quicken its com-
dustion. Fortunately the chimneys drew well, so that there was no
disagreeable smell inside, although for a long distance outside the
air was impregnated with the fetid odour of the smoke from Fort
Hope, which a casual observer might therefore have pronounced an
unhealthy building.

One symptom we must notice was the great thirst from which
138 THE FUR COUNTRY.



every one suffered. ‘To relieve it, different liquids had to be melted
at the fire, for it would have been dangerous to eat ice. Another
effect of the cold was intense drowsiness, which Hobson earnestly
entreated his companions to resist. Some appeared unable to do so ;
but Mrs Barnett was invaluable in setting an example of constant
activity: always brave, she kept herself awake, and encouraged others
by her kindness, brightness, and sympathy. Sometimes she read
aloud accounts of travels, or sang some old familiar English song,
in the chorus of which all joined. These joyous strains roused up
the sleepers whether they would or no, and their voices soon swelled
the chorus. The long days of imprisonment passed wearily by, and.
the Lieutenant, consulting the outside thermometer through the win-
dows, announced that the cold was still on the increase. On the
31st December, the mercury was all frozen hard in the cistern of
the instrument, so that the temperature was 44° below freezing-
point.

The next day, 1st January 1860, Lieutenant Hobson wished
Mrs Barnett a happy new year, and complimented her on the
courage and good temper with which she endured the miseries
of this northern winter. The astronomer was not forgotten in the
universal interchange of good wishes amongst the members of the
little colony; but his only thought on entering another year
was, that it was the beginning of that in which the great eclipse
was to take place. Fortunately the general health still remained
good, and any symptoms of scurvy were promptly checked by the
use of lime-juice and lime-lozenges.

It would not do, however, to rejoice too soon. The winter had
still to last three months, The sun would doubtless reappear above
the horizon in due time ; but there was no reason to think that the
cold had reached its maximum intensity, especially as in most
northern countries February is the month during which the tem-
perature falls lowest. However that might be, there was no decrease
in the severity of the weather during the first days of the new year,
and on the 8th January the alcohol thermometer placed outside the
window of the passage marked 66° below zero. A few degrees
more and the minimum temperature at Fort Reliance in 1835 would
be reached !

Jaspar Hobson grew more and more uneasy at the continued
severity of the cold. He began to fear that the furred animals
would have to seek a less rigorous climate further south, which
MERCURY FREEZES, 139



would of course thwart all his plans for hunting in the early spring.
Moreover, he sometimes heard subterranean rumblings, which were
evidently connected with the volcanic eruption, The western
horizon still glowed with the reflection of the burning lava, and it
was evident that some great convulsion was going on in the bowels
of the earth. Might not the close vicinity of an active volcano
be dangerous to the new fort? Such was the question which the
subterranean rumblings forced upon the mind of the Lieutenant,
but he kept his vague apprehensions to himself.

Of course under these circumstances no one dreamt of leaving
the house. The animals were well provided for, and being accus-
tomed to long fasts in the winter, required no attention from their
masters, so that there really was no necessity for any exposure
out of doors. It was difficult enough to endure the inside tempera-
ture, even with the help of a plentiful combustion of wood and oil;
for, in spite of every precaution, damp crept into the ill-ventilated
rooms, and layers of ice, increasing in thickness every day, were
formed upon the beams. The condensers were choked up, and one
vf them burst from the pressure of the ice.

Lieutenant Hobson did not spare his fuel ; he was, in fact, rather
lavish of it in his anxiety to raise the temperature, which, when the
fires got low—as of course sometimes happened—fell to 15°
Fahrenheit. The men on guard, who relieved each other every
hour, had strict orders to keep up the fires, and great was the
dismay of the Lieutenant when Sergeant Long said to him one
day—

“We shall be out of wood soon !”

“ Out of wood!” exclaimed Hobson.

“T mean our stock is getting low, and we must lay in fresh stores
soon. Of course I know, though, that it will be at the risk of his
life that any one goes out in this cold!”

“Yes,” replied Hobson, “It was a mistake not to build the
wooden shed close to the house, and to make no direct communica-
tion with it. Isee that now itis too late. I ought not to have
forgotten that we were going to winter beyond the seventieth
parallel. But what’s done can’t be undone. How long will the
wood last?”

“There is enough to feed the furnace and stove for another two
or three days,” replied the Sergeant.

“Let us hope by that time that the severity of the cold may

L
140 THE FUR COUNTRY.

have decreased, and that we may venture across the court-of the
fort without danger.”

‘“‘T doubt it, sir,” replied Long, shaking his head. “The atmo-
sphere is very clear, the wind is still in the north, and I shall not
be surprised if this temperature is maintained for another fifteen
days—until the new moon, in fact.”

“Well, my brave fellow,” said the Lieutenant, “we won’t die of
cold if we can help it, and the day we have to brave the outside
air”

“ We will brave it, sir,” said Long.

Hobson pressed his subordinate’s hand, well knowing the poor
fellow’s devotion.

We might fancy that Hobson and the Sergeant were exaggerating
when they alluded to fatal results from sudden exposure to the
open air, but they spoke from experience, gained from long resi-
dence in the rigorous Polar regions. They had seen strong men fall
fainting on the ice under similar circumstances; their breath failed
them, and they were taken up in a state of suffocation. Incredible
as such facts may appear, they have been of frequent occurrence
amongst those who have wintered in the extreme north. In their
journey along the shores of Hudson’s Bay in 1746, Moor and Smith
saw many incidents of this kind,—some of their companions
were killed, struck down by the cold, and there can be no doubt that
sudden death may result from braving a temperature in which
mercury freezes.

Such was the disteeestie state of things at Fort Hope, when a
new danger arose to aggravate the sufferings of the colonists,


e CHAPTER XXL

THE LARGE POLAR BEARS.
q SHE only one of the four windows through which it was
tes possible to look into the court of the fort was that opening
at the end of the entrance passage. The outside shutters
had not been closed ; but before it could be seen through it had to
be washed with boiling water, as the panes were covered with a
thick coating of ice. This was done several times a day by the
Lieutenant’s orders, when the districts surrounding the fort were
carefully examined, and the state of the sky, and of the alcohol
thermometer placed outside, were accurately noted.

On the 6th January, towards eleven o’clock in the morning, Kellet,
whose turn it was to look out, suddenly called the Sergeant, and
pointed to some moving masses indistinctly visible in the gloom,
Long, approaching the window observed quietly—

“ They are bears!” -

In fact half-a-dozen of these formidable animals had succeeded
in getting over the palisades, and, attracted by the smoke from the
chimneys, were advancing upon the house.

On hearing of the approach of the bears, Hobson at once ordered
the window of the passage to be barricaded inside ; it was the only
unprotected opening in the house, and when it was secured it
appeared impossible for the bears to effect an entrance. The window
was, therefore, quickly closed up with bars, which the carpenter
Mac-Nab wedged firmly in, leaving a narrow slit through which to
watch the movements of the unwelcome visitors.

“Now,” observed the head carpenter, “these gentlemen can’t get
in without our permission, and we have time to hold a council of
war.”

“Well, Lieutenant,” exclaimed Mrs Barnett, “ nothing has been
wanting to our northern winter! After the cold esme the bears.”

“Not after,” replied the Lieutenant, “but, which is a serious
matter, with the cold, and a cold so intense that we cannot venture
142 THE FUR COUNTRY.

outside! I really don’t know how we shall get rid of these
tiresome brutes.”

“T suppose they will soon get tired of prowling about,” said the
lady, “‘and return as they came.”

Hobson shook his head as if he had his doubts.

“You don’t know these animals, madam. They are famished
with hunger, and will not go until we make them !”

“ Are you anxious, then?”

“Yes and no,” replied the Lieutenant. “I don’t think the bears
will get in; but neither do I see how we can get out, should it
become necessary for us to do so.”

With these words Hobson turned to the window, and Mrs Barnett
joined the other women, who had gathered round the Sergeant, and
were listening to what he had to say about the bears. He spoke
like a man well up in his subject, for he had had many an encounter
with these formidable carnivorous creatures, which are often met
with even towards the south, where, however, they can be safely
attacked, whilst here the siege would be a regular blockade, for the
cold would quite prevent any attempt at a sortie.

Throughout the whole day the movements of the bears were
attentively watched. Every now and then one of them would lay his
great head against the window-pane and an ominous growl was heard.

The Lieutenant and the Sergeant took counsel together, and it
was agreed that if their enemies showed no sign of beating a retreat,
they would drill a few loopholes in the walls of the house, and fire
at them. But it was decided to put off this desperate measure for
a day or two, as it was desirable to avoid giving access to tke outer
air, the inside temperature being already far too low. The walrus-
oil to be burnt was frozen so hard that it had to be broken up with
hatchets.

The day passed without any incident. The bears went and came,
prowling round the house, but attempting no direct attack. Watch
was kept all night, and at four o'clock in the morning they seemed
to have left the court—at any rate, they were nowhere to be seen.

But about seven o'clock Marbre went up to the loft to fetch
some provisions, and on his return announced that the bears were
walking about on the roof.

Hobson, the Sergeant, Mac-Nab, and two or three soldiers seized
their arms, and rushed to the ladder in the passage, which com-
municated with the loft by a trap-door. The cold was, however, so












































































































































































































































































































































































































‘The bears were walking about on the roof,” &c, —~Page 142,
THE LARGE POLAR BEARS, — 143



intense in the loft that the men could not hold the barrels of their
guns, and their breath froze as it left their lips and floated about
them as snow. ;

Marbre was right; the bears were all on the roof, and the sound
of their feet and their growls could be distinctly heard. Their
great claws caught in the laths of the roof beneath the ice, and there
was some danger that they might have sufficient strength to tear
away the woodwork.

The Lieutenant and his men, becoming giddy and faint from the
intense cold, were soon obliged to go down, and Hobson announced
the state of affairs in as hopeful a tone as he could assume.

“‘The bears,” he said, “‘are now upon the roof. We ourselves
have nothing to fear, as they can’t get into our rooms; but they
may force an entrance to the loft, and devour the furs stowed away
there. Now these furs belong to the Company, and itis our duty to
preserve them from injury. I ask you then, my friends, to aid me
in removing them to a place of safety.”

All eagerly volunteered, and relieving each other in parties of
two or three, for none could have supported the intense severity of
the cold for long at a time, they managed to carry all the furs into
the large room in about an hour.

Whilst the work was proceeding, the bears continued their efforts
to get in, and tried to lift up the rafters of the roof. In some
places the laths became broken by their weight, and poor Mac-Nab
was in despair; he had not reckoned upon such a contingency when
he constructed the roof, and expected to see it give way every
moment.

The day passed, however, without any change in the. situation.
The bears did not get in ; but a no less formidable enemy, the cold,
gradually penetrated into every room. ‘The fires in the stoves
burnt low; the fuel in reserve was almost exhausted ; and before
twelve o’clock, the last piece of wood would be burnt, and the
genial warmth of the stove would no longer cheer the unhappy colo-
nists,

Death would then await them—death in its most fearful form,
from cold. The poor creatures, huddled together round the stove,
felt that their own vital heat must soon become exhausted, but
not a word of complaint passed their lips. The women bore their
sufferings with the greatest heroism, and Mrs Mac-Nab pressed her
baby convulsively to her ice-cold breast. Some of the soldiers
144 THE FUR COUNTRY.



slept, or rather were wrapped in a heavy torpor, which could scarcely
be called sleep.

At three o’clock in the morning, Hobson consulted the thermo-
meter hanging in the large room, about ten feet from the stove.

It marked 4° Fahrenheit below zero.

_ The Lieutenant pressed his hand to his forehead, and looked
mournfully at his silent companions without a word. His half-con-
densed breath shrouded his face in a white cloud, and he was stand-
ing rooted to the spot when a hand was laid upon his shoulder.
He started, and looked round to see Mrs Barnett beside him.

“Something must be done, Lieutenant Hobson!” exclaimed the
energetic woman ; “ we cannot die like this without an effort to save
ourselves ! ”

“Yes,” replied the Lieutenant, feeling revived by the moral
courage of his companion—“ yes, something must be done!” and
he called together Long, Mac-Nab, and Rae the blacksmith, as the
bravest men in his party. All, together with Mrs Barnett, hastened
to the window, and having washed the panes with boiling water,
they consulted the thermometer outside.

“Seventy-two degrees !” cried Hobson. “ My friends, two courses
only are open to us, we can risk our lives to get a fresh supply of
fuel, or we can burn the benches, beds, partition walls, and every-
thing in the house to feed our stoves for a few days longer. A
ilesperate alternative, for the cold may last for some time yet ; thero
is no sign of a change in the weather.”

‘‘Let us risk our lives to get fuel!” said Sergeant Long.

All agreed that it would be the best course, and without another
word each one set to work to prepare for the emergency.

The following were the precautions taken to save the lives of
those who were about to risk themselves for the sake of the general
good :—

The shed in which the wood was stored was about fifty steps
on the left, behind the principal house. It was decided that one of
the men should try and run to the shed. He was to take one rope
wound round his body, and to carry another in his hand, one end
of which was to be held by one of his comrades. Once at the shed,
he was to load one of the sledges there with fuel, and tie one rope
to the front, and the other to the back of the vehicle, so that it
could be dragged backwards and forwards between the house and
the shed without much danger. A tug violently shaking one or the
~~. THE LARGE POLAR BEARS. 145



other cord would be the signal that the sledge was filled with fuel
at the shed, or unloaded at the house.

A very clever plan, certainly ; but two things might defeat it,
The door of the shed might be so blocked up with ice that it would
be very difficult to open it, or the bears might come down from
the roof and prowl about the court. Two risks to be run!

Long, Mac-Nab, and Rae, all three volunteered for the perilous
service ; but the Sergeant reminded the other two that they were
married, and insisted upon being the first to venture.

When the Lieutenant expressed a wish to go himself, Mrs Barnett
said earnestly, “ You are our ener you have no right to expose
yourself. Let Sergeant Long go.”

Hobson could not but realise that his office cnvosell caution, and
being called upon to decide which of his companions should go, he
chose the Sergeant. Mrs Barnett pressed the brave man’s hand
with ill-concealed emotion ; and the rest of the colonists, asleep or
stupefied, knew nothing of the attempt about to be made to save
their lives.

Two long ropes were got ready. The Sergeant wound one round
his body above the warm furs, worth some thousand pounds sterling,
in which he was encased, and tied the other to his belt, on which he
hung a tinder-box and a loaded revolver. Just before starting he
swallowed down half a glass of rum, as he said, “to insure a good
load of wood.”

Hobson, Rae, and Mac-Nab accompanied the brave fellow through
the kitchen, where the fire had just gone out, and into the passage.
Rae climbed up to the trap-door of the loft, and peeping through it,
made sure that the bears were still on the roof. The moment for
action had arrived.

One door of the passage was open, and in spite of the thick furs
in which they were wrapped, all felt chilled to the very marrow of
their bones; and when the second door was pushed open, they re-
coiled for an instant, panting for breath, whilst the moisture held
in suspension in the air of the passage covered the walls and the
floor with fine snow.

The weather outside was extremely dry, and the stars shone with
extraordinary brilliancy. Sergeant Long rushed out without a
moment’s hesitation, dragging the cord behind him, one end of which
was hekl by his companions ; the outer door was pushed to, and
Hobson, Mac-Nab, and Rae went back to the passage and closed
146 THE FUR COUNTRY.

the second door, behind which they waited. If Long did not
return in a few minutes, they might conclude that his enterprise had
succeeded, and that, safe in the shed, he was loading the first train
with fuel. Ten minutes at the most ought to suffice for this opera-
tion, if he had been able to get the door open.

When the Sergeant was fairly off, Hobson and Mac-Nab walked
together towards the end of the passage.

Meanwhile Rae had been watching the bears and the loft. It was
so dark that all hoped Long’s movements would escape the notice of
the hungry animals.

Ten minutes elapsed, and the three watchers went back to the
narrow space between the two doors, waiting for the signal to be
given to drag in the sledge.

Five minutes more. The cord remained motionless in their
hands! Their anxiety can be imagined. It was a quarter of an hour
since the Sergeant had started, plenty of time for all he had to do,
and he had given no signal.

Hobson waited a few minutes longer, and then tightening his hold
ef the end of the rope, he made a sign to his companions to pull with
him, If the load of wood were not quite ready, the Sergeant could
easily stop it from being dragged away.

The rope was pulled vigorously. A heavy object seemed to slide
along the snow. In a few moments it reached the outer door.

It was the body of the Sergeant, with the rope round his waist.
Poor Long had never reached the shed. He had fallen fainting to
the ground, and after twenty minutes’ exposure to such a tempera-
ture there was little hope that he would revive.

A cry of grief and despair burst from the lips of Mac-Nab and Rae.
They lifted their unhappy comrade from the ground, and carried
lim into the passage ; but as the Lieutenant was closing the outer
door, something pushed violently against it, and a horribie growl was
heard. :

“ Help!” cried Hobson.

Mac-Nab and Rae rushed to their officer’s assistance; but Mra
Barnett had been beforehand with them, and was struggling with
all her strength to help Hobson to close the door. In vain; the
monstrous brute, throwing the whole weight of its body against it,
would force its way into the passage in another moment.

Mrs Barnett, whose presence of mind did not forsake her now,
seized one of the pistols in the Lieutenant's belt, and waiting quietly
THE LARGE POLAR BEARS. 147



until the animal shoved its head between the door and the wall,
discharged the contents into its open mouth.

The bear fell backwards, mortally wounded no doubt, and the
door was shut and securely fastened.

The body of the Sergeant was then carried into the large room.
But, alas! the fire was dying out. How was it possible to restore
the vital heat with no means of obtaining warmth ?

“TJ will go—I will go and fetch some wood !” cried the blacksmith
Rae.

“Yes, Rae, we will go together!” exclaimed Mrs Barnett, whose
courage was unabated.

“No, my friends, no!” cried Hobson ; “you would fall victims
to the cold, or the bears, or both. Let us burn all there is to burn
in the house, and leave the rest to God !”

And the poor half-frozen settlers rose and laid about them with
their hatchets like madmen. Benches, tables, and partition walls
were thrown down, broken up, crushed to pieces, and piled up in the
siove of the large room and kitchen furnace. Very soon good fires
were burning, on which a few drops of walrus-oil were poured, so
that the temperature of the rooms quickly rose a dozen degrees.

Every effort was made to restore the Sergeant. He was rubbed
with warm rum, and gradually the circulation of his blood was
restored. The white blotches with which parts of his body were
covered began to disappear; but he had suffered dreadfully, and
several hours elapsed before he could articulate a word. He was laid
in a warm bed, and Mrs Barnett and Madge watched by him until
the next morning.

Meanwhile Hobson, Mac-Nab, and Rae consulted how best to
escape from their terrible situation. It was impossible to shut their
eyes to the fact that in two days this fresh supply of fuel would be
exhausted, and then, if the cold continued, what would become of
them all? The new moon had risen forty-eight hours ago, and there
was no sign of a change in the weather! The north wind still
swept the face of the country with its icy breath; the barometer
remained at “fine dry weather ;” and there was not a vapour to be
seen above the endless succession of ice-fields. There was reason to
fear that the intense cold would lasé a long time yet, but what was
tobe done? Would it do to try once more to get to the wood-shed,
when~the bears had been roused by the shot, and rendered doubly
dangerous? ‘Would it be possible to attack these dreadful creatures
148 THE FUR COUNTRY.

in the open air? No, it would be madness, and certain death for
all!

Fortunately the temperature of the rooms had now become mora
bearable, and in the morning Mrs Joliffe served up a breakfast of
hot meat and tea. Hot grog was served out, and the brave Ser-
geant was able to take his share. The heat from the stoves warmed
the bodies and reanimated the drooping courage of the poor colonists,
who were now ready to attack the bears at a word from Hobson,
But the Lieutenant, thinking the forces unequally matched, would
not risk the attempt; and it appeared likely that the day would
pass without any incident worthy of note, when at about three o’clock
in the afternoon a great noise was heard on the top of the house.

“There they are!” cried two or three soldiers, hastily arming
themselves with hatchets and pistols.

It was evident that the bears had torn away one of the rafters of
the roof, and got into the loft.

“ Let every one remain where he is!” cried the Lieutenant. ‘“ Rae,
the trap !”

The blacksmith rushed into the passage, scaled the ladder, and
shut and securely fastened the trap-door.

A dreadful noise was now heard—growling, stamping of feet, and
tearing of claws. It was doubtful whether the danger of the anxious
listeners was increased, or the reverse. Some were of opinion that if
all the bears were in the loft, it would be easier to attack them,
They would be less formidable in a narrow space, and there would
not be the same risk of suffocation from cold. Of course a conflict
with such fierce creatures must still be very perilous, but it no longer
appeared so desperate as before.

It was now debated whether it would be better to go and attack
the besiegers, or to remain on the defensive. Only one soldicr
could get through the narrow trap-door at a time, and this made
Hobson hesitate, and finally resolve to wait. The Sergeant and
others, whose bravery none could doubt, agreed that he was in the
right, and it might be possible that some new incident would occur
to modify the situation. It was almost impossible for the bears to
break through the beams of the ceiling, as they had the rafters of
the roof, so that there was little fear that they would get on to the
ground-floor.

The day passed by in anxious expectation, and at night no one
could sleep for the uproar made by the furious beasts.
THE LARGE POLAR BEARS. 149

The next day, about nine o'clock, a fresh complication compelled
Hobson to take active steps.

He knew that the pipes of the stove and kitchen furnace ran all
along the loft, and being made of lime-bricks but imperfectly cemented
together, they could not resist great pressure for any length of time.
Now some of the bears scratched at the masonry, whilst others leant
against the pipes for the sake of the warmth from the stove ; so that
the bricks began to give way, and soon the stoves and furnace ceased
to draw.

This really was an irreparable misfortune, which would have dis-
heartened less energetic men. But things were not yet at their worst.
Whilst the fire became lower and lower, a thick, nauseous, acrid
smoke filled the house ; the pipes were broken, and the smoke soon
became so thick that the lamps went out. Hobson now saw that
he must leave the house if he wished to escape suffocation, but tu
leave the house would be to perish with cold, At this fresh misfor-
tune some of the women screamed ; and Hobson, seizing a hatchet,
shouted in a loud voice—

“To the bears ! to the bears, my friends!”

It was the forlorn-hope. These terrible creatures must be
destroyed. All rushed into the passage and made for the ladder,
Hobson, leading the way. The trap-door was opened, and a few
shots were fired into the black whirlpool of smoke. Mingled howls
and screams were heard, and blood began to flow on both sides; but
the fearful conflict was waged in profound darkness,

In the midst of the mélée a terrible rumbling sound suddenly
drowned the tumult, the ground became violently agitated, and the
house rocked as if it were being torn up from its foundations. The
beams of the walls separated, and through the openings Hobson and
his companions saw the terrified bears rushing away into the dark-
ness, howling with rage and fright.
CHAPTER XXIL x
FIVE MONTHS MORE,

» VIOLENT earthquake had shaken Cape Bathurst, Such
convulsions were probably frequent in this volcanic region,
and the connection between them and eruptions was once
more demonstrated.

Hobson well understood the significance of what had occurred,
and waited in anxious suspense. He knew that the earth might
open and swallow up the little colony; but only one shock was felt,
and that was rather a rebound than a vertical upheaval, which made
the house lean over towards the lake, and burst open its walls.
Immediately after this one shock, the ground again became firm and
motionless.

The house, although damaged, was still habitable ; the breaches in
the walls were quickly repaired, and the pipes of the chimneys were
patched together again somehow

Fortunately the wounds the soldiers had received in their struggle
with the bears were slight, and merely required dressing.

Two miserable days ensued, during which the woodwork of the
beds and the planks of the partition walls were burnt, and the most
pressing repairs executed by Mac-Nab and his men. The piles,
well driven into the earth, had not yielded ; but it was evident that
the earthquake had caused a sinking of the level of the coast on
which the fort was built, which might seriously compromise the
safety of the building. Hobson was most anxious to ascertain the
extent of the alteration of elevation, but the pitiless cold rare
him from venturing outside.

But at last there were symptoms of an approaching change in the
weather. The stars shone with rather less brilliancy, and on the
11th January the barometer fell slightly ; hazy vapours floated in
the air, the condensation of which would raise the temperature ; and
on the 12th January the wind veered to the south-west, and snow
fell at irregular intervals,


FIVE MONTHS MORE. Ist



The thermometer outside suddenly rose to 15° above zero, and
to the frozen colonists it was like the beginning of spring.

At eleven o'clock the same morning all were out of doors, They
were like a band of captives unexpectedly set free. They were,
however, absolutely forbidden to go beyond the enceinte of the fort,
in case of awkward meetings.

The sun had not yet reappeared above the horizon, but it
approached it nearly enough to produce a long twilight, during
which objects could be distinctly seen to a distance of two miles ;
and Hobson’s first thought was to ascertain what difference the
earthquake had produced in the appearance of the surrounding
districts.

Certain changes had been effected. The crest of the promontory
of Cape Bathurst had been broken off, and large pieces of the cliff
had been flung upon the beach, The whole mass of the cape
seemed to have been bent towards the lake, altering the elevation
of the plateau on which the fort was built. The soil on the west
appeared to have been depressed, whilst that on the east had been
elevated. One of the results of this change of level would unfor-
tunately be, that when the thaw set in, the waters of the lake and
of Paulina river, in obedience to the law requiring liquids to main-
tain their level, would inundate a portion of the western coast.
The stream would probably scoop out another bed, and the natural
harbour at its mouth would be destroyed. The hills on the eastern
bank seemed to be considerably depressed, but the cliffs on the west
were too far off for any accurate observations to be made. The
important alteration produced by the earthquake may, in fact, be
summed up in a very few words: the horizontal character of the
ground was replaced by a slope from east to west.

“Well, Lieutenant,” said Mrs Barnett, laughing, “you were good
enough to give my name to the port and river, and now there will
be neither Paulina river nor Port Barnett. I must say I have been
hardly used.”

“Well, madam,” replied Hobson, “although the river is gone, the
Jake remains, and we will call it Lake Barnett. I hope that it
at least will remain true to you.”

Mr and Mrs Joliffe, on leaving the house, had hurried, one to the
doghouse, the other to the reindeer-stable. The dogs had not
suffered much from their long confinement, and rushed into the
152 THE FUR COUNTRY.



court barking with delight. One reindeer had died, but the others,
though thin, appeared to be in good health.

“Well, madam,” said the Lieutenant, “ we have got through our
troubles better than we could have expected.”

“T never despaired,” replied the lady. “The miseries of an
Arctic winter would not conquer men like you and your com-
panions.”

“To own the truth, madam,” replied Hobson, “I never experi-
enced. such intense cold before, in all the years I have spent in the
north ; and if it had lasted many days longer we should all have
been lost,

“The earthquake came in the nick of time then, not only to
drive away the bears, but also to modify the extremity of the
cold 2”

“Perhaps so, madam. All natural phenomena influence each
other to a certain extent. But the volcanic structure of the soil
makes me rather uneasy. I cannot but regret the close vicinity of
this active volcano. If the lava from it cannot reach us, the
earthquakes connected with it can, Just look at our house now!”

“ Oh, all that can be put right when the fine weather comes, and
you will make it all the stronger for the painful experience you have
gained,”

“Of course we shall, but meanwhile I am afraid you won’t find
it very comfortable.”

“Are you speaking to me, Lieutenant? to an old traveller like
me? I shall imagine myself one of the crew of a small vessel, and
now that it.does not pitch and toss, I shall have no fear of being
sea-sick.”

“ What you say does not surprise me,” replied Hobson ; “ we all
know your grandeur of character, yoursmoral courage and imper-
turbable good temper. You have done much to help us all to bear
our troubles, and I thank you in my own name and that of my
men,”

“You flatter me, Lieutenant; you flatter me.”

“No, no; I only say what every one thinks. But may I ask you
one question. You know that next June, Captain Craventy is to
send us a convoy with provisions, which will take back our furs to
Fort Reliance. I suppose our friend Thomas Black, after having
seen his eclipse, will return with the Cantain’s men. Do you mean
to accompany him?”
















‘The ice burst,” &c, -- Puge 153,
FIVE MONTHS MORE. 153





“Do you mean to send me back?” asked the lady with a
smile,

“O madam ! ”

“Well, my superior officer,” replied Mrs Barnett, extending her
hand to the Lieutenant, “I shall ask you to allow me to spend
another winter at Fort Hope. Next year one of the Company’s
ships will probably anchor off Cape Bathurst, and I shall return in
it~ Having come overland, I should like to go back by Behring
Strait.”

The Lieutenant was delighted with his companion’s decision.
The two had become sincerely attached to each other, and had
many tastes and qualities in common. The hour of separation
could not fail to be painful to both ; and who could tell what further
trials awaited ‘the colonists, in which their combined influence
might sustain the courage of the rest ?

On the 20th January the sun at last reappeafed, and the Polar
night was at an end. It only remained above the horizon for a
few minutes, and was greeted with joyous hurrahs by the settlers,
From this date the days gradually increased in length.

Throughout the month of February, and until the 15th March,
there were abrupt transitions from fine to bad weather. The fine
days were so cold that the hunters could not go out ; and in the bad
weather snowstorms kept them in, It was only between whiles
that any outdoor work could be done; and long excursions were
out of the question. There was no necessity for them, however, as
the traps were in full activity. In the latter end of the winter,
martens, foxes, ermines, wolverines, and other valuable animals
were taken in large numbers, and the trappers had plenty to do.

In March an excursion was ventured on as faras Walruses’ Bay
and it was noticed that the earthquake had considerably altered the
form of the cliffs, which were much depressed ; whilst the igneous
hills beyond, with their summits wrapped in mist, seemed to look
larger and more threatening than ever.

About the 20th March the hunters sighted the first swans migrat-
ing from the south, and uttering shrill cries as they flew. A few
snow buntings and winter hawks were also seen. But the ground
was still covered with thick layers of frozen snow, and the sun
was powerless ta melt the hard surface of the lake and sea.

The breaking up of the frost did not commence until early in
April, The ice burst with a noise like the discharge of artillery,


154 THE FUR COUNTRY,
Sudden changes took place in the appearance of the icebergs:
broken by collisions, undermined by the action of the water once
more set free, huge masses rolled over with an awful crash, in con-
sequence of the displacement of their centre of gravity, causing
fractures and fissures in the ice-fields which greatly accelerated their
breaking up.

At this time the mean temperature was 382° above zero, so
that the upper layer of ice on the beach rapidly dissolved, whilst
the chain of icebergs, drifted along by the currents of the Polar
Sea, gradually drew back and became lost in the fogs on the
horizon. On the 15th April the sea was open, and a vessel from
the Pacific Ocean coming through Behring Strait, could certainly
have skirted along the American coast, and have anchored off Capa
Bathurst.

Whilst the ice was disappearing from the ocean, Lake Barnett
was also laying ‘aside its slippery armour, much to the delight
of the thousands of ducks and other water-fowl which began to
teem upon its banks. As Hobson had foreseen, however, the level
of the lake was affected by the slope of the soil. That part of the
beach which stretched away from the enceinte of the fort, and
was bounded on the east by wooded hills, had increased considerably
in extent ; and Hobson estimated that the waters of the lake had
receded five hundred paces on the eastern bank. Asa natural con-
sequence, the water on the western side had risen, and if not held
back by some natural barrier, would inundate the country,

On the whole, it was fortunate that the slope was from east to
west ; for had it been from west to east, the factory must have been
submerged. “

The little river dried up as soon as the thaw set free its waters.
Tt might almost be said to have run back to its source, so abrupt
was the slope of its bed from north to south.

“We have now to erase a river from the map of the Arctic
regions,” observed Hobson to his Sergeant, “It would have been
embarrassing if we had been dependent on the truant for drinkable
water. Fortunately we have still Lake Barnett, and I don’t suppose
our thirsty men will drain it quite dry.”

“Yes, we’ve got the lake,” replied the Sergeant; “but do you
think its waters have remained sweet?”

Hobson started and looked at his subordinate with knitted brows.
It had not occurred to him that a fissure in the ground might haya
FIVE MONTHS MORE, : 155



established a communication between the lake and the sea! Should
it be so, ruin must ensue, and the factory would inevitably have to
be abandoned after all.

The Lieutenant and Hobson rushed to the lake and found their
fears groundless. Its waters were still sweet.

Early in May the snow had disappeared in several places, and a
scanty vegetation clothed the soil. ‘Tiny mosses and slender grasses
timidly pushed up their stems above the ground, and the sorrel and
cochlearia seeds which Mrs Joliffe had planted began to sprout,
The carpet of snow had protected them through the bitter winter ;
but they had still to be saved from the beaks of birds and the
teeth of rodents, This arduous and important task was confided to
the worthy Corporal, who acquitted himself of it with the zeal and
devotion of a scarecrow in a kitchen-garden.

The long days had now returned, and hunting was resumed

Hobson was anxious to have a good stock of furs for the agents
from Fort Reliance to take charge of when they arrived, as they
would do in afew weeks. Marbre, Sabine, and the others, therefore,
commenced the campaign. Their excursions were neither long nor
fatiguing: they never went further than two miles from Cape
Bathurst, for they had never before been in a district so well
stocked with game; and they were both surprised and delighted.
Martens, reindeer, hares, caribous, foxes, and ermines passed closo
to their guns. -

One thing, however, excited some regret in the minds of the
colonists, not a trace was to be seen of their old enemies the bears;
and it seemed as if they had taken all their relations with them.
Perhaps the earthquake had frightened them away, for they have a
very delicate nervous organisation, if such “an expression can be
applied to a mere quadruped. It was a pity they were gone, for
vengeance could not be wreaked upon them.

The month of May was very wet. Rain and snow succeeded each
other. The mean temperature was only 41° above zero. Fogs
were of frequent occurrence, and so thick that it would often have
been imprudent to go any distance from the fort. Petersen and
Kellet once caused their companions grave anxiety by disappearing
for forty-eight hours. They had lost their way, and turned to the
south when they thought they were near to Walruses’ Bay. They
came~back exhausted and half dead with hunger.

Jie came at last, and with it really fine warm weather. Tho
156 THE FUR COUNTRY.

colonists were able to leave off their winter clothing. They worked
zealously at repairing the house, the foundations of which had to
be propped up; and Hobson also ordered the construction of a large
magazine at the southern corner of the court. The quantity of
game justified the expenditure of time and labour involved: the
number of furs collécted was already considerable, and it was
necessary to have some place set aside in which to keep them.

The Lieutenant now expected every day the arrival of the
detachment to be sent by Captain Craventy. A good many things
were still required for the new settlement. The stores were getting
low; and if the party had left the fort in the beginning of May, they
ought to reach Cape Bathurst towards the middle of June. It will
be remembered that the Captain and his Lieutenant had fixed upon
the cape as the spot of rendezvous, and Hobson having constructed
his fort on it, there was no fear of the reinforcements failing to find
him.
From the 15th June the districts surrounding the cape were
carefully watched. The British flag waved from the summit of the
cliff, and could be seen at a considerable distance. It was prohable
that the convoy would follow the Lieutenant’s example, and skirt
along the coast from Coronation Gulf. Ifnot exactly the shortest,
it was the surest route, at a time when, the sea being free from ice,
the coast-line could be easily followed.

When the month of June passed without the arrival of the
expected party, Hobson began to feel rather. uneasy, especially as
the country again became wrapped in fogs. He began to fear that
the agents might lose their way, and often talked the matter over
with Mrs Barnett, Mac-Nab, and Rae.

Thomas Black made no attempt to conceal his uneasiness, for he
was anxious to return with the party from Fort Reliance as soon as
he had seen his eclipse ; and should anything keep them back from
coming, he would have to resign himself to another winter, a
prospect which did not please him at all ; and in reply to his eager
questions, Hobson could say little to reassure him.

The 4th July dawned. Nonews! Some men sent to the south-
east to reconnoitre, returned, bringing no tidings.

Either the agents had never started, or they had lost their way.
The latter hypothesis was unfortunately the more probable.
Hobson knew Captain Craventy, and felt confident that he had sent
off the convoy at the time named.
FIVE MONTHS MORE. 157

His increasing anxiety will therefore be readily understood. The
fine season was rapidly passing away. Another two months and
the Arctic winter, with its bitter winds, its whirlpools of snow, and
its long nights, would again set in.

Hobson, as we well know, was not a man to yield to misfortune
without a struggle. Something must be done, and with the ready
concurrence of the astronomer the following plan was decided on.

It was now the 5th July. In another fortnight—July 18th—the
solar eclipse was to take place, antl after that Thomas Black would
be free to leave Fort Hope. It was therefore agreed that if by that
time the agents had not arrived, a convoy of a few men and four or
five sledges should leave the factory, and make for the Great Slave
Lake, taking with them some of the most valuable furs; and if no
accident befell them, they might hope to arrive at Fort Reli-
ance in six weeks at the latest—that is to say, towards the end
of August.

This matter settled, Thomas Black shrank back into his shell, and
became once more the man of one idea, awaiting the moment when
the moon, passing between the orb of day and “himself,” should
totally eclipse the disc of the sun.
CHAPTER XXIIL.
THE ECLIPSE OF THE 18TH FULY 1860,

HE mists did not disperse.. The sun shone feebly through
thick curtains of fog, and the astronomer began to have a
great dread lest the eclipse should not be visible after all.

Sometimes the fog was so dense that the summit of the cape could

not be seen from the court of the fort.

Hobson got more and more uneasy. He had no longer any doubt
that the convoy had gone astray in the strange land; moreover,
vague apprehensions and sad forebodings increased his depression.
He could not look into the future with any confidence—why, he
would have found it impossible to explain. Everything apparently
combined to reassure him, In spite of the great rigour of the winter,
his little colony was in excellent health. No quarrels had arisen
amongst the colonists, and their zeal and enthusiasm was still
unabated. The surrounding districts were well stocked with game,
the harvest of furs had surpassed his expectations, and the Company
might well be satisfied with the result of the enterprise. Even if no
fresh supply of provisions arrived, the resources of the country were
such that the prospect of a second winter need awake no misgivings.
Why, then, was Lieutenant Hobson losing hope and confidence ?

He and Mrs Barnett had many a talk on the subject; and the
latter did all she could to raise the drooping spirits of the command-
ing officer, urging upon him all the considerations enumerated above ;
and one day walking with him along the beach, she pleaded the
cause, of Cape Bathurst and the factory, built at the cost of so much
suffering, with more than usual eloquence.

“Yes, yes, madam, you are right,” replied Hobson; “but we
can’t help our presentiments. I am no visionary. Twenty times in
my soldier’s life I have been in critical circumstances, and have never
lost presence of mind for one instant ; and now for the first time in
my life I am uneasy about the future. If I had to face a positive


THE ECLIPSE. 159



danger, I should have no fear ; but a vague uncertain peril of which
I have only a presentiment”

‘What danger do you mean?” inquired Mrs Barnett ; “a danger
from men, from animals, or the elements?”

“Of animals I have no dread whatever, madam ; it is for them
to tremble before the hunters of Cape Bathurst, nor do I fear men ;
these districts are frequented by none but Esquimaux, and the
Indians seldom venture so far north.”

“ Besides, Lieutenant,” said Mrs Barnett, “ the Canadians, whose
arrival you so much feared in the fine season, have never appeared.”

“T am very sorry for it, madam.”

“ What! you regret the absence of the rivals who are so evidently
hostile to your Company ?”

“Madam, I am both glad and sorry that they have not come;
that will of course puzzle you. But observe that the expected con-
voy from Fort Reliance has not arrived. It is the same with the
agents of the St Louis. Fur Company ; they might have come, and
they have not done so. Not a single Esquimaux has visited this part
of the coast during the summer either ”»——

“And what do you conclude from all this?” inquired Mrs
Barnett.

“T conclude that it is not so easy to get to Cape Bathurst or to
Fort Hope as we could wish.”

The lady looked into the Lieutenant’s anxious face, struck with
the melancholy and significant intonation of the word easy.

“Lieutenant Hobson,” she said earnestly, “if you fear neither
men nor animals, I must conclude that your anxiety has reference
to the elements.”

‘“‘ Madam,” he replied, “I do not know if my spirit be broken,
or if my presentiments blind me, but there seems to me to be
something uncanny about this district. If I had known it better I
should not have settled down in it. I have already called your
attention to certain peculiarities, which to me appear inexplicable ;
the total absence of stones everywhere, and the clear-cut line of the
coast. I can't make out about the primitive formation of this end
of the continent. I know that the vicinity of a volcano may
cause some phenomena ; but you remember what I said to you on
the subject of the tides?”

“Qh yes, perfectly.”

‘Where the sea ought, according to the observations of explorers


160 THE FUR COUNTRY.



in these latitudes, to have risen fifteen or twenty feet, it has scarcely
risen one !”

“Yes; but that you accounted for by the irregular distribution of
land and the narrowness of the straits.”

“T tried to account for it, that is all,” replied Hobson; “but the
day before yesterday I noticed a still more extraordinary pheno-
menon, which I cannot even try to explain, and I doubt if the greatest
savants could do so either.”

Mrs Barnett looked inquiringly at Hobson.

“ What has happened?” she exclaimed. :

“Well, the day before yesterday, madam, when the moon was
full, and according to the almanac the tide ought to have been
very high, the sea did not even rise one foot, as it did before—z did
not rise at all.”

“ Perhaps you may be mistaken,” observed Mrs Barnett.

“T am not mistaken. I-saw it with my own eyes. The day
before yesterday, July 4th, there was positively no tide on the coast
of Cape Bathurst.”

“And what do’ you conclude from that?” inquired Mrs
Barnett.

“T conclude, madam,” replied the Lieutenant, “ either that the
laws of nature are changed, or that this district is very peculiarly
situated... orrather ... I conclude nothing... I explain nothing
... Tam puzzled... Ido not understand it; and therefore...
therefore I am anxious.”

Mrs Barnett asked no more questions. Evidently the total
absence of tides was as unnatural and inexplicable as would be
the absence of the sun from the meridian at noon. Unless the
earthquake had so modified the conformation of the coast of the
Arctic regions as to account for it—but no, such an idea could
not be entertained by any one accustomed to note terrestrial pheno-
mena.

As for supposing that the Lieutenant could be mistaken in his
observations, that was impossible ; and that very day he and Mrs
Barnett, by means of beach-marks made on the beach, ascertained
beyond all doubt that whereas a year before the sea rose a foot, there
was now no tide whatever.

The matter was kept a profound secret, as Hobson was unwilling
to render his companions anxious. But he might often be seen
standing motionless and silent upon the summit of the cape, gazing
THE ECLIPSE, 161

across the sea, which was now open, and stretched away as far as
the eye could reach.

During the month of July hunting the furred animals was dis-
continued, as the martens, foxes, and others had already lost their
winter beauty. No game was brought down but that required for
food, such as caribous, Polar hares, &c., which, strange to say,
instead of being scared away by the guns, continued to multiply
near the fort. Mrs-Barnett did not fail to note this peculiar, and,
as the event proved, significant fact.

No change had taken place in the situation on the 15th July.
No news from Fort Reliance. The expected convoy did not arrive,
and Hobson resolved to execute his project of sending to Captain
Craventy, as Captain Craventy did not come to him.

Of course none but Sergeant Long could be appointed to the
command of the little troop, although the faithful fellow would
rather not have been separated from his Lieutenant. A considerable
time must necessarily elapse before he could get back to Fort Hope.
He would have to pass the winter at Fort Reliance, and return the
next summer, Fight months at least! It is true either Mac-Nab
or Rae could have taken the Sergeant’s place ; but then they were
married, and the one being a master carpenter, and the other the
only blacksmith, the colonists could not well have dispensed with
their services.

Such were the grounds on which the Lieutenant chose Long, and
the Sergeant submitted with military obedience. The four soldiers
elected to accompany him were Belcher, Pond, Petersen, and Kellet,
who declared their readiness to start.

Four sledges and their teams of dogs were told off for the service.
They were to take a good stock of provisions, and the most valuable
of the furs. Foxes, ermines, martens, swans, lynxes, musk-rats,
gluttons, é&ec., all contributed to the precious convoy. The start
was fixed for the morning of the 19th July, the day after the
eclipse. Of course Thomas Black was to accompany the Sergeant,
and one sledge was to convoy his precious person and instruments.

The worthy savant endured agonies of suspense in the few days
preceding the phenomenon which he awaited with so much im-
patience. He might well be anxious; for one day it was fine and
another wet, now mists obscured ‘the sun, or thick fogs hid it
all together ; and the wind veered to every point of the horizon witk
provoking fickleness and uncertainty. What if during the few
162 THE FUR COUNTRY.

moments of the eclipse the queen of the night and the great orb
of day should be wrapped in an opaque cloud at the critical moment,
so that he, the astronomer, Thomas Black, come so far to watch the
phenomenon, should be unable to see the luminous corona or the
red prominences! How terrible would be the disappointment! How
many dangers, how much suffering, how much fatigue, would have
been gone through in vain !

“To have come so far to see the moon, and not to see it!” he
cried in a comically piteous tone.

No, he could not face the thought, and early. of an evening he
would climb to the summit of the cape and gaze into the heavens,
The fair Phoebe was nowhere to be seen ; for it being three days
before new moon, she was accompanying the sun in his daily course,
and her light was quenched in his beams,

Many a time did Thomas Black relieve his over-burdened heart
by pouring out his troubles to Mrs Barnett. The good lady felt
sincerely sorry for him, and one day, anxious to reassure him, she
told him that the barometer showed a certain tendency to rise, and
reminded him that they were in the fine season.

“The fine season!” ‘cried the poor astronomer, shrugging his
shoulders, ‘Who can speak of a fine season in such a country ag
this?”

“* Well, but, Mr Black,” said Mrs Barnett, “suppose, for the sake
of argument, that you miss this eclipse by any unlucky chance, I
suppose there will be another some day. The eclipse of July 18th
will not be the last of this century.”

“No, madam, no,” returned Black ; “ there will be five more total
eclipses of the sun before 1900. One on the 31st December 1861,
which will be total for the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean, and the
Sahara Desert ; a second on the 22d December 1870, total for the
Azores, the south of Spain, Algeria, Sicily, and Turkey; a third on the
19th August 1887, total for the north-east of Germany, the south of
Russia, and Central Asia; a fourth on the 9th April 1896, visible in
Greenland, Lapland, and Siberia ; and lastly, a fifth on the 28th May
1900, which will be total for the United States, Spain, Algeria, and
Egypt.”

_ “Well, Mr Black,” resumed Mrs Barnett, “if you lose the
eclipse of the 18th July 1860, you can console yourself by looking
forward to that of the 3lst December 1861. It will only be seven-
teen months!”
THE ECLIPSE, 163

SSS

‘*T can console myself, madam,” said the astronomer gravely, “ by
looking forward to that of 1896. I shall have to wait not seven-
teen months, but twenty-six years !”

“May I ask why?”

“ Because of all the eclipses, it alone—that of 9th August 1896—.
will be total for places in high latitudes, such as Lapland, Siberia,
or Greenland.”

“But what is the special interest of an observation taken in these
elevated latitudes?”

“What special interest?” cried Thomas Black ; “ why, a scientific
interest of the highest importance. Eclipses have very rarely been
watched near the Pole, where the sun, being very little above the
horizon, is apparéntly considerably increased in size. The disc of
the moon which is to intervene between-us and the sun is -subject
to a similar apparent extension, and therefore it may be that the
yed prominences and the luminous corona can be more thoroughly
examined. This, madam, is why I have travelled all this distance to
watch the eclipse above the seventieth parallel. A similar opportunity
will not occur until 1896, and who can tell if I shall be alive then ?”

To this burst of enthusiasm there was no reply to be made ; and
the astronomer’s anxiety and depression increased, for the inconstant
weather seemed more and more disposed to play him some ill-natured
trick.

& was very fine on the 16th July, but the next day it was cloudy
and misty, and Thomas Black became really iil, The feverish state
he had been in for so long seemed likely to result in a serious
illness. Mrs Barnett and Hobson tried in vain to soothe him, and
Sergeant’ Long and the others could not understand how it was
possible to be so unhappy for “love of the moon.”

At last the great day—the 18th July—dawned. According to
the calculations of astronomers, the total eclipse was to last four
minutes thirty-seven seconds—that is to say, from forty-three
minutes fifteen seconds past eleven to forty-seven minutes fifty-
seven seconds past eleven A.M.

“What do I ask? what do I ask?” moaned the astronomer, tear-
ing his hair. “Only one little corner of the sky free from clouds!
only the small space in which the eclipse is to take place! And
for how long? For four short minutes! After that, let it snow,
let it thunder, let the elements break loose in fury, I should care no
more for it all than a snail for a chronometer !”
164 THE FUR COUNTRY.



It is not to be denied that Thomas Black had some grounds
for his fears. It really seemed likely that observations would
be impossible. At daybreak the horizon was shrouded in mists.
Heavy clouds were coming up from the south, and covering the
very portion of the sky in which the eclipse was to take place,
But doubtless the patron saint of astronomers had pity on poor
Black, for towards eight o’clock a slight wind arose and swept the
mists and clouds from the sky, leaving it bright and clear !

A. ery of gratitude burst from the lips of the astronomer, and
his heart beat high with newly-awakened hope. The sun shone
brightly, and the moon, so soon to darken it, was as yet invisible
in its glorious beams. :

Thomas Black’s instruments were already carefully placed on the
promontory, and having pointed them towards the southern horizon,
he awaited the event with calmness restored, and the coolness
necessary for taking: his observation. What was there left to fear?
Nothing, unless it was that the sky might fall upon his head! At
nine o’clock there was not a cloud, not a vapour left upon the sky
from. the zenith to the horizon. Never were circumstances more
favourable to an astronomical observation.

The whole party were anxious to take part in the observation,
and all gathered round the astronomer on Cape Bathurst. Gradu-
ally the sun rose above the horizon, describing an extended are
above the vast plain stretching away to the south. No one spoke,
but awaited the eclipse in solemn silencé.

Towards half-past nine the eclipse commenced. The disc of the
moon seemed to graze that of the sun. But the moon’s shadow was
not to fall completely on the earth, hiding the sun, until between forty-
three minutes past eleven and forty-seven minutes fifty-seven seconds
past eleven. That was the time fixed in the almanacs, and every one
knows that no error can creep into them, established, verified, and
controlled as they are by the scientific men of all the observatories
in the world.

The astronomer had brought a good many glasses with him, and
he distributed them amongst his companions, that all might watch
the progress of the phenomenon without injury to the eyes.

The brown disc of the moon gradually advanced, and terrestrial
objects began to assume a peculiar orange hue, whilst the atmo-
sphere on the zenith completely changed colour. At a quarter-past
ten half the disc of the sun was darkened, and a few dogs which
THE ECLIPSE. 165

nn

happened to be at liberty showed signs of uneasiness and howled
piteously. The wild ducks, thinking night had come, began to
utter sleepy calls and to seek their nests, and the mothers gathered
their little ones under their wings. The hush of eventide fell upon
all animated nature.

At eleven o’clock two-thirds of the sun were covered, and all
terrestrial objects became a kind of vinous red. A gloomy twilight
set in, to be succeeded during the four minutes of totality by absolute
darkness. A few planets, amongst others Mercury and Venus,
began to appear, and some conatellations—Capella, QU and & of
Taurus, and (P of Orion, The darkness deepened every moment.

Thomas Black remained motionless, with his eye glued to the
glass of his instrument, eagerly watching the progress of the
phenomenon. At forty-three minutes past eleven the discs of the
two luminaries ought to be exactly opposite to each other, that of
the moon completely hiding that of the sun.

“ Forty-three minutes past eleven,” announced Hobson, who war
a tentively watching the minute hand of his chronometer.

Thomas Black remained motionless, stooping over his instrument,
Half a minute passed, and then the astonomer drew himself up,
with eyes distended and eager. Once more he bent over the
telescope, and cried in a choked voice—

“She is going! she is going! The moon, the moon is going
She is disappearing, running away !”

True enough the disc of the moon was gliding away from that of
the sun without having completely covered it !

The astronomer had fallen backwards, completely overcome. The
four minutes were past. The luminous corona had not appeared !

“ What is the matter?” inquired Hobson.

“The matter is,” screamed the poor astronomer, “that the
tclipse was not total—not total for this portion of the globe! Do
you hear? It was not to-t-a-l! I say not to-t-a-l!!”

“Then your almanacs are incorrect.”

“Tneorrect ! Don’t tell that to me, if you risaee, Lieutenant
Hobson !”

“ But what then?” said Hobson, suddenly changing countenance.

“Why,” said Black, “we are not after ail on the seventieth
parallel !”

“Only fancy!” cried Mrs Barnett,

“We can soon prove it,” said the astronomer, whose eyes flashed
166 THE FUR COUNTRY.



with rage and disappointment. “The sun will pass the meridian in
afew minutes... . My sextant—quick ... make haste!”

One of the soldiers rushed to the house and fetched the instru-
ment required,

The astronomer pointed it upon the sun; he watched the orb of
day pass the meridian, and rapidly noted down a few calculations.

“What was the situation of Cape Bathurst a year ago, when we
took the latitude?” he inquired.

“Seventy degrees, forty-four minutes, and thirty-seven seconds,”
replied Hobson.

“Well, sir, it is now seventy-three degrees, seven minutes, and
twenty seconds! Yousee we are not under the seventieth parallel !”

“ Or rather we are no longer there!” muttered Hobson.

A sudden light had broken in upon his mind, all the phenomena
hitherto so inexplicable were now explained.

Cape Bathurst had drifted three degrees farther north since the
arrival of the Lieutenant and his companions !

END OF PART I,

PRINTED BY BALLANTYNE, HANSON AND COs
EBRINBURGH AND LONDON
THE FUR COUNTRY

OR

SEVENTY DEGREES NORTH LATITUDE

TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH OF JULES VERNE

BY

N. D’ANVERS

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS

PART IL.

LONDON
SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON, SEARLE, & RIVINGTON
CROWN BUILDINGS, 188 FLEET STREET

1877
[All rights reserved ]
f
Ballantyne Press
BALLANTYNE, HANSON AND CO.
EDINBURGH AND LONDON
OmAP.
I,
II.
III.
Iv.

VI.
VIL.
VIL.
Ix.
Xe
XL
XII.
XIII.
XIV.
xy.
XVI.
XVII.
XVIII
XIX.
XX.
XXL
XXII
XXIII.
XXIV.

CONTENTS.

PART IL

A FLOATING FORT, « :
WHERE ARE WE? . ‘
ATOUR OF THEISLAND, .
A NIGHT ENCAMPMENT, ,

a

FROM JULY 25TH TO AUGUST 20TH, .

TEN DAYS OF TEMPEST, .
A FIRE AND A CRY, .

MRS PAULINA BARNETY’S EXCURSION,

KALUMAH’S ADVENTURES, .
THE KAMTCHATKA CURRENT,

A COMMUNICATION FROM LIEUTENANT HOBSON,

A CHANCE TO BE TRIED, .

ACROSS THEICE-FIELD, .
THE WINTER MONTHS, .

A LAST EXPLORING EXPEDITION,
THE BREAK-UP OF THE ICE,
THE AVALANCHE, . ‘
ALL AT WORK, ‘ ©
BEHRING SEA, . .

IN THE OFFING, °
THE ISLAND BECOMES AN ISLET,
THE FOUR FOLLOWING DAYS,

ON A PIECE OF ICE, ’
CONCLUSION, ‘ ‘

°

.

c














































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































>A beam... was sunk deep into the earth,” ko.---Puge 329,
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS,

=
‘“‘A’beam .. . was sunk deep into the earth,” . . Frontispiece. pace
** He shook his fist at the sun,” . . . i : 7 172
‘“‘ Keep hold!” . . . . . ° 3 » 195
“Not that way,” : . . . : . . . 217
“*Tt was the young Esquimaux girl Kalumah,” . . ° » 231
‘¢The waves dashed over her kayak,” . . . . . 236
‘““Marbre flung his running noose skilfully,” &¢., . . . . 269
“It was dashed upon the icefield with a fearful crash,” . . . 277
** And a figure appeared,” &c., . . . 7 . . 801
“He escaped with a ducking,” . . . . . . 312
“The colonists, falling on their knees, returned thanks to God,” . 332

Kalumah and the bear, . : . . > ‘ . . 884
= CHAPTER I.
A FLOATING FORT,

Ey VIND so Fort Hope, founded by Lieutenant Hobson on the
fa. 'G borders of the Polar Sea, had drifted! Was the courageous
agent of the Company to blame for this? No; any one
might have been deceived as he. had been. No human prevision
could have foreseen such a calamity. He meant to build upon a
rock, and he had not even built upon sand. The peninsula of
Victoria, which the best maps of English America join to the
American continent, had been torn suddenly away from it, This
peninsula was in fact nothing but an immense piece of ice, five
hundred square miles in extent, converted by successive deposits
of sand and earth into apparently solid ground well clothed with
vegetation. Connected with the mainland for thousands of cen-
turies, the earthquake of the 8th of January had dragged it away
from, its moorings, and it was now a floating island, at the mercy of
the winds and waves, and had been carried along the Arctic Ocean
by powerful currents for the last three months !

Yes, Fort Hope was built upon ice! Hobson at once under-
stood the mysterious change in their latitude. The isthmus—
that is to say, the neck of land which connected the peninsula of
Victoria with the mainland—had been snapped in two by a sub-
terranean convulsion connected with the eruption of the volcano
some months before. As long as the northern winter continued,
the frozen sea maintained things as they were ; but when the thaw
came, when the ice fields, melted beneath the rays of the sun, and
the huge icebergs, driven out into the offing, drew back: to the
farthest limits of the horizon—when the sea at last became open, the
whole peninsula drifted away, with its woods, its cliffs, its pro-
montories, its inland lagoon, and its: coast-line, under the influence
of a current about which nothing was known. For months this
drifting had been going on unnoticed by the colonists, who even
170 THE FUR COUNTRY.



when hunting did nct go far from Fort Hope. Beach-marks, if
they had been made, would have been useless; for heavy mists.
obscured everything at a short distance, the ground remained
apparently firm and motionless, and there was, in short, nothing to
hint to the Lieutenant and his men that they had become islanders.
The position of the new island with regard to the rising and setting
of the sun was the same as before. Had the cardinal points changed
their position, had the island turned round, the Lieutenant, the
astronomer, or Mrs Barnett, would certainly have noticed and
understood the change ; but in its course the island had thus far
followed a parallel of latitude, and its motion, though rapid, had
been imperceptible.

Although Hobson had no doubt of the moral and physical
courage and determination of his companions, he determined not
to acquaint them with the truth. It would be time enough to tell
them of their altered position when it had been thoroughly studied.
Fortunately the good fellows, soldiers or workmen, took little
notice of the astronomical observations, and not being able to see
the consequences involved, they did not trouble themselves about
the change of latitude just announced. :

The Lieutenant determined to conceal his anxiety, and seeing no
remedy for the misfortune, mastered his emotion by a strong effort,
and tried to console Thomas Black, who was lamenting his dis-
appointment and tearing his hair.

The astronomer had no doubt about the misfortune of which
he was the victim. Not having, like the Lieutenant, noticed the
peculiarities of the district, he did not look beyond the one fact in
which he was interested : on the day fixed, at the time named, the
moon had not completely eclipsed the sun. And what could he
conclude but that, to the disgrace of observatories, the almanacs were
false, and that the long desired eclipse, his own eclipse, Thomas
Black’s, which he had come so far and through so many dangers to see,
had not been “total” for this particular district under the seventieth
parallel! No, no, it was impossible to believe it; he could not face
the terrible certainty, and he was overwhelmed with disappointment,
He was soon to learn the truth, however.

Meanwhile Hobson let his men imagine that the failure of the
eclipse could only interest himself and the astronomer, and they
returned to their ordinary occupations ; but as they were leaving,
Corporal Joliffe stopped suddenly and said, touching his cap—
‘A FLOATING FORT. I7!l



“May I ask you one question, sir ?”

“‘ Of course, Corporal ; say on,” replied the Lieutenant, who won-
dered what was coming.

But Joliffe hesitated, and his little wife nudged his elbow.

“ Well, Lieutenant,” resumed the Corporal, “it’s just about the
seventieth degree of latitude—if we are not where we thought we
were.”

The Lieutenant frowned.

“Well,” he replied evasively, “ we made a mistake in our reckon-
ing, ... our first observation was wrong;... but what does
that concern you?”

“Please, sir, it’s because of the pay,” replied Joliffe with a
scowl, “You know well enough that the Company promised us
double pay.”

Hobson drew a sigh of relief. It will be remembered that the
men had been promised higher pay if they succeeded in settling on
or above the seventieth degree north latitude, and Joliffe, who always
had an eye to the main chance, had looked upon the whole matter
from a monetary point of view, and was atraid the bounty would
be withheld,

“You needn’t be afraid,” said Hobson with a smile ; «and you
can tell your brave comrades that our mistake, which is really
inexplicable, will not in the least prejudice your interests, We are
not below, but above the seventieth parallel, and so you will get
your double pay.”

“Thank you, sir, thank you,” replied Joliffe with a beaming face,
“Tt isn’t that we think much about money, but that the money
sticks to us.”

And with this sage remark the men drew off, little dreaming
what a strange and fearful change had taken place in the position
of the country.

Sergeant Long was about to follow the others when Hobson
stopped him with the words—

“ Remain here, Sergeant Long.”

The subordinate officer turned on his heel and waited for the
Lieutenant to address him.

All had now left the cape except Mrs Barnett, Madge, Thomas
Black, and the two officers.

Since the eclipse Mrs Barnett had not uttered a word. She
looked inquiringly at Hobson, who tried to avoid mecting her eyes.
172 THE FUR COUNTRY.

The brave woman seemed rather surprised than uneasy, and it was
doubtful whether or no she understood the significance of what had
occurred. Had the truth flashed upon her as it had upon the
Licutenant? had she, like him, at once seen all the consequences
involved? However it may have been, she said not a word, but
leant upon Madge, whose arm was round her mistress’s waist.

The astronomer hurried to and fro, he could not keep still. His
hair was disordered ; he alternately wrung his hands and let them
drop against his sides. Hjaculations of despair burst from his
lips; he shook his fist.at the sun, and stared at it with distended
eyes.

Presently, however, he grew calmer; he felt able to speak, and
with crossed arms, flashing eyes, flushed face, and frowning brows,
he strode up to the Lieutenant.

“TJ have a score to settle with you!” he cried. ‘“ Yes, with you,
Lieutenant Hobson, agent of the Hudson’s Bay Company !”

The tone, the attitude, the words, were uncommonly like a
challenge; but Hobson felé so truly sorry for the poor man’s dis-
appointment that he could not take offence, and only looked at him
quietly. :

“Mr Hobson,” resumed Black with ill-concealed irritation, “ wil
you be kind enough to inform me what all this means? Have you
anything to do with this mystery? If so, sir, you have struck at
those higher than I, and you may come to repent it!”

“What do you mean, Mr Black?” inquired Hobson calmly.

“T mean, sir,” resumed the astronomer, “that you were ordered
to take your detachment to the seventieth parallel of lati-
tude!”

“Or beyond it,” said Hobson.

“ Beyond it, sir!” cried Black ; “ what have I to do beyond it?
To observe the total eclipse of the sun, I ought not to have crossed
the limits included in the seventieth parallel ; I ought to have remained
in that portion of English America, and here I am three degrees
above it!”

“Well, Mr Black,” replied Hobson, still quietly, ‘we were mis-
taken, that is all!”

“That is all!” screamed the astronomer, exasperated at the Lieu-
tenant’s calmness,

“Let me remind you,” resumed Hobson, “thatif I was mistaken,
you shared my error—yes, you, Mr Black; for on our arrival at






































































































































































































































































































































‘He shook his fist at the sun,” —Page 172,
; A FLOATING FORT. 173



Cape Bathurst we took the latitude of our position together,—you
with your instruments, I with mine. You cannot, then, make me
responsible for a mistake you made yourself,”

At this reply the astronomer was taken aback, and in spite of
his rage had not a word to say. What excuse was there for him ?
If any one was in fault, it was he! And what would the scientific
men of Europe think of hin? ‘What would they say at the Green-
wich Observatory of an astronomer so awkward as to make a mistake
in taking latitude? Thomas Black make an error of two or three
degrees in taking the altitude of the sun! and under what circum-
stances! When the result would be to make him lose the obser-
vation of a total eclipse, under conditions which would not be
reproduced for a very long time. Thomas Black was a dishonoured
savant |

“But how?” he exclaimed, again tearing his hair—* how could I
make such a mistake? Am I no longer fit to handle a sextant? Can
Tnot calculate an angle? I am blind! and if so, nothing remains for
me to do, but to fling myself head foremost from this cape !”

“Mr Black,” said Hobson gravely, ‘“‘do not reproach yourself—
you have made no mistake—you have nothing to regret.”

“Then it’s only you!”

“Tam no more guilty than you are, Listen to me, I beg of you,
and you too,” he added, turning to Mrs Barnett, “and you, and you,
Madge, and Sergeant Long, but keep what I tell you.a profound
secret. There is no need to frighten and dishearten our comrades,”

The four drew near to the Lieutenant without a word, but there
was a tacit agreement to keep the secret about to’ be revealed te
them. ;

“My friends,” said Hobson, “a year ago, on our arrival at Cape
Bathurst, we took our bearings, and found that we were on the
seventieth degree of latitude, and if we are now. beyond that degree
it is because Cape Bathurst has drifted !”

“ Drifted!” cried Thomas Black. “Tell that to those who will
believe it! When was a large cape known to drift before?”

“Tt is true, though, Mr Black,” replied Hobson gravely. “The
whole of the peninsula of Victoria is nothing more than an island
of ice. The earthquake separated it from the American continent,
and now one of the great Arctic currents is bearing it along.”

“Where?” asked Sergeant Long.

Where it pleases God for it to go,” replied. the Lieutenant,
174 _ DHE FUR COUNTRY.

For some time not another word was spoken. All involuntarily
turned towards the south, where the broken isthmus was situated ;
but from their position they could only see the sea horizon on the
north, Had Cape Bathurst been situated a few hundred feet more
above the level of the ocean, they would have been able at a glance
to ascertain the limits of their island home.

All were deeply moved at the sight of Fort Hope and all its
occupants borne away from all solid ground, and floating at the
mercy of winds and waves.

“Then, Lieutenant,” said Mrs Barnett at last, “all the strange
phenomena you observed are now explained !”

“Yes, madam,” he replied, “everything is explained. The
peninsula of Victoria, now an island, which we thought firm ground
with an immovable foundation, is nothing more than a vast sheet of
ice welded for centuries to the American continent, Gradually the
wind has strewn it with earth and sand, and scattered over them
the seeds from which have.sprung the trees and mosses with which
it is clothed. Rain-water filled the lagoon, and produced the little
river ; vegetation transformed the appearance of the ground; but
beneath the lake, beneath the soil of earth and sand—in a word,
beneath our feet is a foundation of ice, which floats upon the water
by reason of its being specifically lighter than it. Yes, it is a sheet
of ice which bears us up, and is carrying us away ; and this is why we
have not found asingle flint or stone upon its surface! This is why
its shores are perpendicular, this is why we found ice ten feet below
the surface when we dug the reindeer pit—this, in short, is why the
tide was not noticeable on the peninsula, which rose and sank with
the ebb and flow of the waves!”

“‘ Everything is indeed explained,” said Mrs Barnett, “and your
presentiments did not deceive you; but can you explain why the
tides, which do not affect us at all now, were to a slight extent per-
ceptible on our arrival?” -

“ Simply because, madam, on our arrival the peninsula was still
connected by means of its flexible isthmus with the American
continent. It offered a certain resistance to the current, and on its
northern shores the tide rose two feet beyond low-water mark, instead
of the twenty we reasonably expected. . But from the moment when
the earthquake broke the connecting link, from the moment when
the peninsula became. an island free from all control, it rose and sank
with the ebb and flow of the tide; and, as we noticed together
A FLOATING FORT. 175



at full moon afew days ago, no sensible difference was produced on
our shores.”

In spite of his despair, Thomas Black listened attentively to Hob-
son’s explanations, and could not but see the reasonableness of his
deductions ; but he was furious at such a rare, unexpected, and, as he
said, “ridiculous” phenomenon occurring just so as to make him
miss the eclipse, and he said not a word, but maintained a gloomy,
even haughty silence.

“Poor Mr Black,” said Mrs Barnett, “it must be owned that an
astronomer was never more hardly used than you since the world
began !”

“Tn any case, however,” said Hobson, turning to her, “‘ we have
neither of us anything to reproach ourselves with. No one can find
fault with us, Nature alone isto blame. The earthquake cut off
our communication with the mainland, and converted our peninsula
into a floating island ; and this explains why the furred and other
animals, imprisoned like ourselves, have become so numerous round
the fort!” .

“This, too, is why the rivals you so much dreaded have not visited
us, Lieutenant!” exclaimed Madge.

“And this,” added the Sergeant, “accounts for the non-arrival
of the convoy sent to Cape Bathurst by Captain Craventy !”

“ And this is why,” said Mrs Barnett, looking at the Lieutenant,
“I must give up all hope of returning to Europe this year at
least |”

The tone of voice in which the lady made this last remark showed
that she resigned herself to her fate more readily:than could have
been expected. She seemed suddenly to have madeiup her mind
to make the best of the situation, which would-no doubt give her
an- opportunity of making a great many interesting observations,
And after all, what good would grumbling have done? Recrimina-
tions were worse than useless, They could not have altered their
position, or have checked the course of the wandering island, and
there was no means of reuniting it to a continent. No; God alone
could decide the future of Fort Hope. They must bow to His
will,
OUAPTER If.
WHERE ARE WE?

3YT was necessary carefully to study the unexpected and novel
- situation in which the agents of the Company now found
themselves, and Hobson did so with his chart before him.
He could not ascertain the longitude of Victoria Island—the ori-
ginal name being retained—until the next day, and the latitude had
already been taken. or the longitude, the altitude of the sun
must be ascertained before and after noon, and two hour angles
must be measured.

At two o’clock p.m. Hobson and Black took the height of the
sun above the horizon with the sextant, and they hoped to recom-
mence the same operation the next morning towards ten o’clock A.M.,
so as to be able to infer from the two altitudes obtained the exact
point of the Arctic Ocean then occupied by their island.

The party did not, however, at once return to the fort, but
remained talking together for some little time on the promontory.
Madge declared she was quite resigned, and evidently thought only
of her mistress, at whom she could not look without emotion ; she
could not bear to think of the sufferings and trials her “dear girl”
might have to go through in the future. She was ready to lay down
her life for “Paulina,” but what good could that do now? She
knew, however, that Mrs Barnett was not a woman to sink under
her misfortunes, and indeed at present there was really no need ao
any one to despair.

There was no immediate danger to be dreaded, and a catastrophe
might even yet be avoided.. This Hobson carefully explained to
his companions.

Two dangers threatened the island floating along. the coast of
North America, only two.

It would be drawn by the currents of the open sea to the high
Polar latitudes, from which there is no return,


WHERE ARE WE? 177





Or the current would take it to the south, perhaps through
Behring Strait into the Pacific Ocean.

In the former contingency, the colonists, shut in by ice and sur-
rounded by impassable icebergs, would have no means of communi-
cation with their fellow-creatures, and would die of cold and hunger
in the solitudes of the north.

In the latter contingency, Victoria Island, driven by the currents
to the western waters of the Pacific, would gradually melt and go to
piecés beneath the feet of its inhabitants.

In either case death would await the Lieutenant and his com-
panions, and the fort, erected at the cost of so much labour and suf-
fering, would be destroyed.

But it was scarcely probable that either of these events would
happen. The season was already considerably advanced, and in less
than three months the sea would again be rendered motionless by
the icy hand of the Polar winter. The ocean would again be con-
verted into an ice-field, and by means of sledges they might get to
the nearest land—the coast of Russian America if the island re-
mained in the east, or the coast of Asia if it were driven to the west.

“For,” added Hobson, ‘we have absolutely no control over our
floating island. Having no sail to hoist, as in a boat, we cannot
guide it in the least. Where it takes us we must go.”

All that Hobson said was clear, concise, and to the point. There
could be no doubt that the bitter cold of winter would solder Victoria
Island to the vast ice-field, and it was highly probable that it would
drift neither too far north nor too far south. To have to cross a
few hundred miles of ice was no such terrible prospect for brave
and resolute men accustomed to long excursions in the Arctic
regions. It would be necessary, it was true, to abandon Fort
Hope—the object of so many hopes, and to lose the benefit of all
their exertions, but what of that? The factory, built upon a
shifting soil, could be of no further use to the Company. Sooner
or later it would be swallowed up by the ocean, and what was the
good of useless regrets? It must, therefore, be deserted as soon as
circumstances should permit.

The only thing against the safety of the colonists was—and the
Lieutenant dwelt long on this point—that during the eight or nine
weeks which must elapse before the solidification of the Arctic
Ocean, Victoria Island might be dragged too far north or south.

0
178 THE FUR COUNTRY.

Arctic explorers had often told of pieces of ice being drifted an
immense distance without any possibility of stopping them.

Everything then depended on the force and direction of the
currents from the opening of Behring Strait; and it would be
necessary carefully to ascertain all that a chart of the Arctic Ocean
could tell, Hobson had such a chart, and invited all who were
with him on the cape to come to his room and look at it; but
before going down to the fort he once more urged upon them the
necessity of keeping their situation a secret.

“Tt is not yet desperate,” he said, “and it is therefore quite
unnecessary to damp the spirits of our comrades, who will perhaps
not be able to understand, as we do, all the chances in our
favour.”

“Would it not be prudent to build a boat large enough to hold
us all, and strong enough to carry us a few hundred miles over the
sea?” observed Mrs Barnett.

“ Tt would be prudent certainly,” said Hobson, “and we will do it.
I must think of some pretext for beginning the work at once, and
give the necessary orders to the head carpenter. But taking to a
boat can only be a forlorn hope when everything else has failed.
We must try all we can to avoid being on the island when the ice
breaks up, and we must make for the mainland as soon as ever the
sea is frozen over.”

Hobson was right. It would take about three months to build
a thirty or thirty-five ton vessel, and the sea would not be open
when it was finished. It would be very dangerous to embark the
whole party when the ice was breaking up all round, and he would
be well out of his difficulties if he could get across the ice to firm
ground before the next thaw set in. This was why Hobson thought
a boat a forlorn hope, a desperate makeshift, and every one agreed
with him. '

Secrecy was once more promised, for it was felt that Hobson
was the best judge of the matter, and a few minutes later the five
conspirators were seated together in the large room of Fort Hope,
which was then deserted, eagerly examining an excellent map of the
oceanic and atmospheric currents of the Arctic Ocean, special atten-
tion being naturally given to that part of the Polar Sea between
Cape Bathurst and Behring Strait.

Two principal currents divide the dangerous latitudes compre-
hended between the Polar Circle and the imperfectly known zone,
WHERE ARE WE ? 179





called the North-West Passage since M‘Clure’s daring discovery—at
least only two have been hitherto noticed by marine surveyors.

One is called the Kamtchatka Current. It takes its rise in the
offing outside the peninsula of that name, follows the coast of Asia,
and passes through Behring Strait, touching Cape Hast, a promon-
tory of Siberia. After running due north for about six hundred
miles from the strait, it turns suddenly to the east, pretty nearly
following the same parallel.as: M‘Clure’s Passage, and probably
doing much to keep that communication open for a few months in
the warm season.

The other current, called Behring Current, flows just the other
way. After running from east to west at about a hundred miles at
the most from the coast, is comes into collision, so to speak, with
the Kamtchatka Current at the opening of the strait, and turning to
the south approaches the shores of Russian America, crosses Behring
Sea, and finally breaks on the kind of circular dam formed by the
Aleutian Islands.

Hobson’s map gave a very exact summary of the most recent
nautical observations, so that it could be relied on.

The Lieutenant examined it carefully before speaking, and then
‘pressing his hand to his head, as if oppressed by some sad presenti
ment, he observed—

“Tet us hope that fate will not take us to remote northern
latitudes. Our wandering island would run a risk of never return-
ing.” ,

“ Why, Lieutenant ?” broke in Mrs Barnett,

“ Why, madam?” replied Hobson ; “look well at this part of the
Arctic Ocean, and you will readily understand why. Two currents,
both dangerousfor us, run opposite ways. When they meet, the island
must necessarily become stationary, and that at a great distance
from any land. At that point it will have to remain for the winter,
and when the next thaw sets in, it will cither follow the Kamt-
chatka Current to the deserted regions of the north-west, or it will
float down with the Behring Current to be swallowed up by the’
Pacific Qcean.”

“That will not happen, Lieutenant,” said Madge in a tone of
earnest conviction ; ‘ God would never permit that.”

“T can’t make out,” said Mrs Barnett, “whereabouts in the
Polar Sea we are at this moment; for I see but one current from
the offing of Cape Bathurst which bears directly to the north-west,
180 THE FUR COUNTRY.



and that is the dangerous Kamtchatka Current. Are you not afraid
that it has us in its fatal embrace, and is carrying us with it to the
shores of North Georgia ?”

“T think not,” replied Hobson, after a moment's reflection.

“ Why not?”

“ Because it is a very rapid current, madam; and if we had been
following it for three months, we should have had some land in
sight by this time, and there is none, absolutely none!”

“ Where, then, do you suppose we are?” inquired Mrs Barnett.

“ Most likely between the Kamtchatka Current and the coast,
perhaps in some vast eddy unmarked upon the map.”

“‘ That ‘cannot be, Lieutenant,” replied Mrs Barnett, quickly.

“Why not, madam, why not?”

“ Because if Victoria Island were in an eddy, it would have
veered round to a certain extent, and our position with regard to
the cardinal points would have changed in the last three months,
which is certainly not the case,”

“You are right, madam, you are quite right. The only explana-
tion I can think of is, that there is some other current, not marked
on our map. Oh, that to-morrow were here that I might find out
our longitude ; really this uncertainty is terrible !”

“ To-morrow will come,” observed Madge.

There was nothing to do but to wait. The party therefore
separated, all returning to their ordinary occupations. Sergeant
Long informed his comrades that the departure for Fort Reliance,
fixed for the next day, was put off. He gave as reasons that the
season was too far advanced to get to the southern factory before
the great cold set in, that the astronomer was anxious to complete his
meteorological observations, and would therefore submit to another
winter in the north, that game was so plentiful provisions from
Fort Reliance were not needed, &c., &c. But about all these
matters the brave fellows cared little.

Lieutenant Hobson ordered his men to spare the furred animals
in future, and only to kill edible game, so as to lay up fresh stores
for the coming winter ; he also forbade them to go more than two
miles from the fort, not wishing Marbre and Sabine to come
suddenly upon a sea-horizon, where the isthmus connecting the
peninsula of Victoria with the mainland was visible a few months
before. The disappearance of the neck of land would inevitably
have betrayed. everything.

2
WHERE ARE WE? 181

The day appeared endless to Lieutenant Hobson. Again and
again he returned to Cape Bathurst either alone, or accompanied by
Mrs Barnett. The latter, inured to danger, showed no fear ; she
even joked the Lieutenant about his floating island being perhaps,
after all, the proper conveyance for going to the North Pole. “ With
a favourable current might they not reach that hitherto inaccessible
point of the globe?”

Lieutenant Hobson shook his head as he listened to his com-
panion’s fancy, and kept his eyes fixed upon the horizon, hoping to
catch a glimpse of some land, no matter what, in the distance. But
no, sea and sky met in an absolutely unbroken circular line, confirm-
ing Hobson’s opinion that Victoria Island was drifting to the west
rather than in any other direction,

“ Lieutenant,” at last said Mrs Barnett, “don’t you mean to make
a tour of our island as soon as possible?”

“Yes, madam, of course; as soon as I have taken our bearings,
I mean to ascertain the form and extent of our dominions. It
seems, however, that the fracture was made at the isthmus itself, so
that the whole peninsula has become an island.”

“A strange destiny is ours, Lieutenant,’ said Mrs Barnett,
“ Others return from their travels to add new districts to geogra-
phical maps, but we shall have to efface the supposed peninsula of
Victoria!”

The next day, July 18th, the sky was very clear, and at ten
o'clock in the morning Hobson obtained a satisfactory altitude of
the sun, and, comparing it with that of the observation of the day
before, he ascertained exactly the longitude in which they were.

The island was then in 157° 37’ longitude west from Greenwich.

The latitude obtained the day before at noon almost immediately
after the eclipse was, as we know, 73° 7’ 20” north.

The spot was looked out on the map in the’ presence of Mrs
Barnett and Sergeant Long.

It was indeed a most anxious moment, and the following result
was arrived at.

The wandering island was moving in a westerly direction, borne
along by a current unmarked on the chart, and unknown to
hydrographers, which was evidently carrying it towards Behring
Strait. -All the dangers foreseen by Hobson were then imminent,
if Victoria Island did not again touch the mainland before the
winter.
182 THE FUR COUNTRY.

“ But how far are we from the American continent? that is the
most important point just at present,” said Mrs Barnett.

Hobson took his compasses, and carefully measured the narrowest
part of the sea between the coast and the seventieth parallel.

“We are actually more than two hundred and fifty miles from
Point Barrow, the northernmost extremity of Russian America,”
he replied.

“We ought to know, then, how many miles the island has drifted
since it left the mainland,” said Sergeant Long.

“Seven hundred miles at least,” replied Hobson, after having
again consulted the chart.

“ And at about what time do you suppose the drifting com-
menced ?” ,

“Most likely towards the end of April; the ice-field broke up
then, and the icebergs which escaped melting drew back to the
north. We may, therefore, conclude that Victoria Island has been
moving along with the current parallel with the coast at an average
rate of ten miles a day.”

“No very rapid pace after all!” exclaimed Mrs Barnett.

“Too fast, madam, when you think where we may be taken
during the two months in which the sea will remain open in this
part of the Arctic Ocean.”

The three friends remained silent, and looked fixedly at the
chart of the fearful Polar regions, towards which they were being
irresistibly drawn, and which have hitherto successfully resisted
all attempts to explore them.

“There is, then, nothing to be done? Nothing to try?” said Mrs
Barnett after a pause.

“ Nothing, madam,” replied Hobson ; “ nothing whatever. We
must wait; we must all pray for the speedy arrival of the Arctic
winter generally so much dreaded by sailors, but which alone can
save us now. ‘The winter will bring ice, our only anchor of salva-
tion, the only power which can arrest the course of this wandering
island.”
CHAPTER III.
A TOUR OF THE ISLAND,

~ROM that day, July 18th, it was decided that the bearings
should be taken as on board a vessel whenever the state of
the atmosphere rendered the operation possible. _ Was not
the island, in fact, a disabled ship, tossed about without sails or
helm.

The next day after taking the bearings, Hobson announced that
without change of latitude the island had advanced several miles
farther west. Mac-Nab was ordered to commence the construction
of a huge boat, Hobson telling him, in explanation, that he proposed
making a reconnaissance of the coast as far as Russian America
next summer. The carpenter asked no further questions, but pro-
ceeded to choose his wood, and fixed upon the beach at the foot of
Cape Bathurst as his dockyard, so that he might easily be able to
launch his vessel.

Hobson intended to set out the same day on his excursion round
the island in which he and his comrades were imprisoned. Many
changes might take place in the configuration of this sheet of ice,
subject as it was to the influence of the variable temperature of the
waves, and it was important to determine its actual form at the
present time, its area, and its thickness in different parts. The
point of rupture, which was most likely at the isthmus itself, ought
to be examined with special care; the fracture being still fresh,
it might be possible to ascertain the exact arrangement of the
stratified layers of ice and earth of which the soil of the island was
composed.

But in the afternoon the sky clouded over suddenly, and a
violent squall, accompanied with thick mists, swept down upon the
fort. Presently torrents of rain fell, and large hailstones rattled on
the roof, whilst a few distant claps of thunder were heard, a
phenomenon of exceedingly rare occurrence in such elevated
latitudes,


184 THE FUR COUNTRY.

Hobson was obliged to put off his trip, and wait until the fury
of the elements abated, but during the 20th. 21st, and 22d July,
no change occurred. The storm raged, the floods of heaven were
let loose, and the waves broke upon the beach with a deafening
roar. Liquid avalanches were flung with such force upon Cape
Bathurst, that there was reason to dread that it might give way ;
its stability was, in fact, somewhat problematical, as it consisted
merely of an aggregation of sand and earth, without any firm
foundation. Vessels at sea might well be pitied in this fearful
gale, but the floating island was of too vast a bulk to be affected
by the agitation of the waves, and remained indifferent to their
fury. :

During the night of the 22d July the tempest suddenly ceased.
A strong breeze from the north-east dispelled the last mists upon
the horizon. The barometer rose a few degrees, and the weather
appeared likely to favour Hobson’s expedition.

He was to be accompanied by Mrs Barnett and Sergeant Long,
and expected to be absent a day or two. The little party took
some salt meat, biscuits, and a few flasks of rum with them, and
there was nothing in their excursion to suprise the rest of the
colonists. The days were just then very long, the sun only dis-
appearing below the horizon for a few hours.

There were no wild animals to be feared now. The bears seemed
to have fled by instinct from the peninsula whilst it was still
connected. with the mainland, but to neglect no precaution each of
the three explorers was provided with a gun. The Lieutenant and
his subordinate also carried hatchets and ice-chisels, which a
traveller in the Polar regions should never be without.

During the absence of the Lieutenant and the Sergeant, the
command of the fort fell to Corporal Joliffe, or rather to his little wife,
and Hobson knew that he could trust her. Thomas Black could
not be depended on ; he would not even join the exploring party ;
he promised, however, to watch the northern latitudes very carefully,
and to note any change which should take place in the sea or the
position of the cape during the absence of the Lieutenant.

Mrs Barnett had endeavoured to reason with the unfortunate
astronomer, but he would listen to nothing. He felt that Nature
had deceived him, and that he could never forgive her.

After many a hearty farewell, the Lieutenant and his two com-
panions left the fort by the postern gate, and, turning to the west,
4 TOUR OF THE ISLAND. 185

followed the lengthened curve of the coast between Capes Bathurst
and Esquimaux.

It was eight o’clock in the morning ; the oblique rays of the sun
struck upon the beach, and touched it with many a brilliant tint,
the angry billows of the sea were sinking to rest, and the birds,
ptarmigans, guillemots, puffins, and petrels, driven away by the
storm, were returning by thousands. Troops of ducks were
hastening back to Lake Barnett, flying close, although they knew it
not, to Mrs Joliffe’s saucepan. Polar hares, martens, musk-rats,
and ermines rose before the travellers and fled at their approach,
but not with any great appearance of haste or terror. The animals
evidently felt drawn towards their old enemies by a common
danger. im

‘They know well enough that they are hemmed in by the sea
and cannot quit the island,” observed Hobson.

‘‘They are all in the habit of seeking warmer climates in the
south in the winter, are they not?” inquired Mrs Barnett.

“Yes, madam; but unless they are presently able to cross the ice-
field, they will have to remain prisoners like ourselves, and I am
afraid the greater number will die of cold or hunger.

*T hope they will be good enough to supply us with food for a
long time,” observed the Sergeant, “ and I think it is very fortunate
that they had not the sense to run away before the rupture of the
isthmus.”

“The birds will, however, leave us?” added Mrs Barnett,

“Oh yes, madam, everything with wings will go, they can traverse
long distances without fatigue, and, more fortunate than ourselves,
they will regain terra firma.”

“Could we not use them as messengers?” asked Mrs Barnett.

“A good idea, madam, a capital-idea,” said Hobson. “We
might easily catch some hundreds of these birds, and tie a paper
round their necks with our exact situation written upon it: John
Ross in 1848 tried similar means to acquaint the survivors of the
Franklin expedition ‘with the presence of his ships, the Enterprise
and the Investigator in the Polar seas. He caught some hundreds
of white foxes in traps, rivetted a copper collar round the neck
of each with all the necessary information engraved upon it, and
then set them free in every direction,”

“ Perhaps some of the messengers may have fallen into the hands
of the shipwrecked wanderers.”
186 THE FUR COUNTRY,



“ Perhaps so,” replied Hobson; “I know that an old fox was
taken by Captain Hatteras during his voyage of discovery, wearing
a collar half worn away and hidden beneath his thick white fur.
What we cannot do with the quadrupeds, we will do with the
birds.”

Chatting thus and laying plans for the future, the three explorers
continued to follow the coast. They noticed no change ; the abrupt
cliffs covered with earth and sand showed no signs of a recent altera-
tion in the extent of the island. It was, however, to be feared that
the vast sheet of ice would be worn away at the base by the action
of the warm currents, and on this point Hobson was naturally
anxious.

By eleven o’clock in the morning the eight miles between Capes
Bathurst and Esquimaux had been traversed. A few traces of the
encampment of Kalumah’s party still remained ; of course the snow
huts had entirely disappeared, but some cinders and walrus bones
marked the spot.

The three explorers halted here for a short time, they intended to
pass the few short hours of the night at Walruses’ Bay, which they
hoped to reach in afew hours. They breakfasted seated on a slightly
rising ground covered with a scanty and stunted herbage. Before
their eyes lay the ocean bounded by a clearly-defined sea-horizon,
without a sail or an iceberg to break the monotony of the vast ex-
panse of water.

“‘Should.you be very much surprised if some vessel came in sight
now, Lieutenant?” inquired Mrs Barnett.

“T should be very agreeably surprised, madam,” replied Hobson,
“Tt is not at all uncommon for whalers to come as far north as this,
especially now that the Arctic Ocean is frequented by whales and
chacholots, but you must remember that it is the 23rd July, and the
summer is far advanced. The whole fleet of whaling vessels is
probably now in Gulf Kotzebue, at the entrance to the strait,
Whalers shun the sudden changes in the Arctic Ocean, and with
good reason. They dread being shut in the ice ; and the icebergs,
avalanches, and ice-fields they avoid, are the very things for which
we earnestly pray.”

“ They will come, Lieutenant,” said Long ; “ have patience; in an-
other two months the waves will no longer break upon the shores
of Cape Esquimaux.”

“ Cape Esquimaux!” observed Mrs Barnett with asmile, “That
A TOUR OF THE ISLAND. 187

name, like those we gave to the other parts of the peninsula, may
turn out unfortunate too, We have lost Port Barnett and Paulina
River ; who can tell whether Cape Esquimaux and. Walruses’ Bay
may not also disappear in time 2”

“ They too will disappear, madam,” replied Hobson, “and after
them the whole of Victoria Island, for nothing now connects it with
a continent, and it is doomed to destruction, This result is inevit-
able, and our choice of geographical names will be thrown away ;
but fortunately the Royal Society has not yet adopted them,
and Sir Roderick Murchison will have nothing to efface on his
maps,”

“ One name he will,” exclaimed the Sergeant,

‘¢ Which ?” inquired Hobson.

“Cape Bathurst,” replied Long.

“ Ah, yes, you are right. Cape Bathurst must now be removed
from maps of the Polar regions.”

Two hours’ rest were all the explorers cared for, and at one
o’clock they prepared to resume their journey.

Before starting Hobson once more looked round him from the
summit of Cape Esquimaux ; but seeing nothing worthy of notice,
he rejoined Mrs Barnett and Sergeant Long.

“Madam,” he said, addressing the lady, “you have not forgotten
the family ‘of natives we met here last winter ?”

“Oh no, I have always held dear little Kalumah in friendly
remembrance, She promised to come and see us again at Fort
Hope, but she will not be able to do so. But why do you ask me
about the natives now?”

“Because I remember something to which, much to my regret,
I did not at the time attach sufficient importance.”

“ What was that?”

“You remember the uneasy surprise the men manifested at find-
ing a factory at the foot of Cape Bathurst.”

“Oh yes, perfectly.”

“You remember that I tried to make out what the natives
meant, and that I could not do so?”

“Yes, I remember.”

“Well,” added Hobson, “I know now why they shook their
heads. From tradition, experience, or something, the Esquimaux
knew what the peninsula really was, they knew we had not built
on firm ground. But as things had probably remained as they
188 THE FUR COUNTRY.

were for centuries, they thought there was no immediate danger,
and that it was not worth while to explain themselves.”

“Very likely you are right,” replied Mrs Barnett ; “but I feel
sure that Kalumah had no suspicion of her companion’s fears, or
she would have warned us.”

Hobson quite agreed with Mrs Barnett, and Sergeant Long
observed —

“Té really seems to have been by a kind of fatality that we
settled ourselves upon this peninsula just before it was torn away
from the mainland. I suppose, Lieutenant, that it had been con-
nected for a very long time, perhaps for centuries.”

“You might say for thousands and thousands of years, Sergeant,”
replied Hobson. “ Remember that the soil on which we are tread-
ing has been brought here by the wind, little by little, that the
sand has accumulated grain by grain! Think of the time it must
have taken for the seeds of firs, willows, and arbutus to become
shrubs and trees! Perhaps the sheet of ice on which we float was
welded to the continent before the creation of man !”

“Well,” cried Long, ‘‘it really might have waited a few cen-
turies longer before it drifted. How much anxiety and how many
dangers we might then have been spared !”

Sergeant Long’s most sensible remark closed the conversation,
and the journey was resumed.

From Cape Esquimaux to Walruses’ Bay the coast ran almost
due south, following the one hundred and twenty-seventh meridian.
Looking behind them they could see one corner of the lagoon, its
waters sparkling in the sunbeams, and a little beyond the wooded
heights in which it was framed. Large eagles soared above their
heads, their cries and the loud flapping of their wings breaking
the stillness, and furred animals of many kinds, martens,
polecats, ermines, &c., crouching behind some rising ground,
or hiding amongst the stunted bushes and willows, gazed inquir-
ingly at the intruders. They seemed to understand that they
had nothing to fear, Hobson caught a glimpse of a few beavers
wandering about, evidently ill at ease, and puzzled at the disap-
pearance of the little river. With no lodges to shelter them, and no
stream by which to build a new home, they were doomed to die of
cold when the severe frost set in. Sergeant Long also saw a troop
of wolves crossing the plain.

Tt was evident that specimens of the whole Arctic Fauna were
A TOUR OF THE ISLAND. 189





imprisoned on the island, and there was every reason to fear that,
when famished with hunger, all the carnivorous beasts would be
formidable enemies to the occupants of Fort Hope.

Fortunately, however, one race of animals appeared to be quite
unrepresented. Not a single white bear was seen! Once the
Sergeant thought he saw an enormous white mass moving about on
the other side of a clump of willows, but on close examination
decided that he was mistaken.

The coast near Walruses’ Bay was, on the whole, only slightly
elevated above the sea-level, and in the distance the waves broke
into running foam as they do upon a sloping beach. It was to be
feared that the soil had little stability, but there was no means of
judging of the modifications which had taken place since their last
visit, and Hobson much regretted that he had not made bench
marks about Cape Bathurst before he left, that he might judge of
the amount of sinking or depression which took place. He deter-
mined, however, to take this precaution on his return.

It will be understood that, under the circumstances, the party did
not advance very rapidly. A pause was often made.to examine
the soil, or to see if there were any sign of an approaching fracture
on the coast, and sometimes the explorers wandered inland for half
a mile. Here and there the Sergeant planted branches of willow
or birch to serve as landmarks for the future, especially wherever
undermining seemed to be going on rapidly and the solidity of
the ground was doubtful. By this means it would be easy to
ascertain the changes which might take place.

They did advance, however, and ‘at three o’clock in the after-
noon they were only three miles from Walruses’ Bay, and Hobson
called Mrs Barnett’s attention to the important changes which had
been effected by the rupture of the isthmus.

Formerly the south-western horizon was shut in by a long slightly
curved coast-line, formed by the shores of Liverpool Bay. Nowa
sea-line bounded the view, the continent having disappeared.
Victoria Island ended in an abrupt angle where it had broken off,
and all felt sure that on turning round that angle the ocean would
be spread out before them, and that its waves would bathe the
whole of the southern side of the island, which was once the con-
necting-link between Walruses’ Bay and Washburn Bay.

Mrs Barnett could not look at the changed aspect of the scene
without emotion, She had expected it, and yet her heart beat
190 THE FUR COUNTRY.







almost audibly. She gazed across the sea for the missing continent,
which was now left several hundred miles behind, and it rushed
upon her mind with a fresh shock that she would never set foot
on America again. Her agitation was indeed excusable, and it was
shared by the Lieutenant and the Sergeant.

All quickened their steps, eager to reach the abrupt angle in the
south. The ground rose slightly as they advanced, and the layers
of earth and sand became thicker ; this of course was explained by
the former proximity of this part of the coast to the true continent.
The thickness of the crust of ice and of the layer of earth at the point
of junction increasing, as it- probably did, every century, explained
the long resistance of the isthmus, which nothing but some extra-
ordinary convulsion could have overcome. Such a convulsion
was the earthquake of the 8th January, which, although it had only
affected the continent of North America, had sufficed to break the
connecting-link, and to launch Victoria Island upon the wide
ocean.

At four o’clock p.m, the angle was reached. Walruses’ Bay,
formed by an indentation of the firm ground, had disappeared! It
had remained behind with the continent.

“By my faith, madam!” exclaimed the Sergeant, “it’s lucky for
you we didn’t call it Paulina Barnett Bay !”

“Yes,” replied the lady, “I begin to think I am an unlucky go4-
mother for newly-discovered places.”
CHAPTER IV.
A NIGHT ENCAMPMENT,

ND so Hobson had not been mistaken about the point of

Zs rupture. It was the isthmus which liad yielded in the

& shock of the earthquake., Not a trace was to be seen of
the. American continent, not a single cliff, even the voleano on the
west had disappeared. Nothing but the sea everywhere.

The island on this side ended in a cape, coming to an almost
sharp point, and it was evident that the substratum of ice, fretted by
the warmer waters of the current and exposed to all the fury of the
elements, must rapidly dissolve.

The explorers resumed their march, following the course of the
fracture, which ran from west to east in an almost straight line.
Its edges were not jagged or broken, but clear cut, as if the division
had been made with a sharp instrument, and here and there the
conformation of the soil could be easily examined. The banks—
half ice, half sand and earth—rose some ten feet from the water.
They were perfectly perpendicular, without the slightest slope, and
in some places there were traces of recent landslips. Sergeant
Long pointed to several small blocks of ice floating in the offing,
and rapidly melting, which had evidently been broken off from their
island. The action of the warm surf would, of course, soon eat
away the new coast-line, which time had not yet clothed with a
kind of cement of snow and sand, such as covered the rest of the
beach, and altogether the state of things was very far from re-
assuring.

Before taking any rest, Mrs Barnett, Hobson, and Long, were
anxious to finish their examination of the southern edge of the
island. There would be plenty of daylight, for the sun would not
set until eleven o’clock p.m. ‘The briliant orb of day was slowly
advancing along the western horizon, and its oblique rays cast
long shadows af themselves before the explorers, who conversed at
192 THE FUR COUNTRY<«



intervals after long silent pauses, during which they gazed at the
sea and thought of the dark future before them.

Hobson intended to encamp for the night at Washburn Bay.
When there eighteen miles would have been traversed, and, if he
were not mistaken, half his circular journey would be accomplished.
After a few hours’ repose he meant to return to Fort Hope along
the western coast.

No fresh incident marked the exploration of the short distance
between Walruses’ Bay and Washburn Bay, and at seven o’clock in
the evening the spot chosen for the encampment was reached. A
similar change had taken place here. Of Washburn Bay, nothing
remained but the curve formed by the coast-line of the island, and
which was once its northern boundary. It stretched away without
a break for seven miles to the cape they had named Cape Michael.
This side of the island did not appear to have suffered at all in
consequence of therupture. The thickets of pine and birch, massed
a little behind the cape, were in their fullest beauty at this time of
year, and a good many furred animals were disporting themselves
on the plain.

A halt was made at Washburn Bay, and the explorers were able
to enjoy an extended view on the south, although they could not
see any great distance on the north, The sun was so low on the
horizon, that its rays were intercepted by the rising ground on the
west, and did not reach the little bay. It was not, however, yet
night, nor could it be called twilight, as the sun had not set.

“ Lieutenant,” said Long,. “if by some miracle a bell were now
to ring, what do you suppose it would mean?”

“That it was supper-time,” replied Hobson, “Don’t you agree
with me, Mrs Barnett?”

“Indeed I do,” replied the lady addressed, “and as our cloth is
spread for us, let us sit down. This moss, although slightly worn,
will suit us admirably, and was evidently intended for us by
Providence.”

The bag of provisions was opened; some salt meat, a hare paté
from Mrs Joliffe’s larder, with a few biscuits, formed their frugal
supper,

The meal was quickly over, and Hobson returned to the south-
west angle of the island, whilst Mrs Barnett rested at the foot of
a low fir tree, and Sergeant Long made ready the night quarters, -

The Lieutenant was anxious to examine the piece of ice which
4 NIGHT ENCAMPMENT, 193

formed the island, to ascertain, if possible, something of its structure,
A little bank, produced by a landslip, enabled him to step down to
the level of the sea, and from there he was able to look closely at
the steep wall which formed the coast. Where he stood the soil rose
scarcely three feet above the water. The upper part consisted of a
thin layer of earth and sand mixed with crushed shells; and the
lower of hard, compact, and, if we may so express it, “‘ metallic” ice,
strong enough to support the upper soil of the island.

This layer of ice was not more than one foot above the sea-level,
In consequence of the recent fracture, it was easy to see the regular
disposition of the sheets of ice piled up horizontally, and which had
evidently been produced by successive frosts in comparatively
quieter waters.

We know that freezing commences on the surface of liquids, and
as the cold increases, the thickness of the crust becomes greater, the
solidification proceeding from the top downwards, That at least is
the case in waters that are at rest ; it has, however, been observed
that the very reverse is the case in running waters—the ice forming
at the bottom, and subsequently rising to the surface.

It was evident, then, that the floe which formed the foundation
of Victoria Island had been formed in calm waters on the shores
of the North American continent.. The freezing had evidently
commenced on the surface, and the thaw would begin at the bottom,
according to a well-known law; so that the ice-field would gradually
decrease in weight as it became thawed by the warmer waters
through which it was passing, and the general level of the island
would sink in proportion.

This was the great danger. :

As we have just stated, Hobson noticed that the solid ice, the ice-
field properly so called, was only about one foot above the sea-level !
We know that four-fifths of a floating mass of ice are always sub-
merged. For one foot of an iceberg or ice-field above the water,
there are four below it. It must, however, be remarked that the
density, or rather specific weight of floating ice, varies considerably
according to its mode of formation or origin. The ice-masses which
proceed from sea water, porous, opaque, and tinged with blue or
green, according as they are struck by the rays of the sun, are
lighter than ice formed from fresh water. All things considered,
and making due allowance for the weight of the mineral and
vegetable layer above the ice, Hobson concluded it to be about four

P
194 THR FUR COUNTRY,



or five feet thick below the sea-level. The different declivities of
the island, the little hills and rising ground, would of course only
affect the upper soil, and it might reasonably be supposed that the
wandering island was not immersed more than five feet.

This made Hobson very anxious. Only five feet! Setting aside
the causes of dissolution to which the ice-field might be subjected,
would not the slightest shock cause a rupture of the surface? Might
not a rough sea or a gale of wind cause a dislocation of the ice-field,
which would lead to its breaking up into small portions, and to its
final decomposition? Oh for the speedy arrival of the winter, with
its bitter cold! Would that the column of mercury were frozen in
its cistern! Nothing but the rigour of an Arctic winter could con-
solidate and thicken the foundation of their island, and establish a
means of communication between it and the continent.

Hobson returned to the halting-place little cheered by his dis-
coveries, and found Long busy making arrangements for the night ;
for he had no idea of sleeping beneath the open sky, although Mrs
Barnett declared herself quite ready to do so, He told the Lieu-
tenant that he intended to dig a hole in the ice big enough to hold
three persons—in fact to make a kind of snow-hut, in which they
would be protected from the cold night air.

‘In the land of the Esquimaux,” he said, ‘ nothing is wiser than
to do as the Esquimaux do.”

Hobson approved, but advised the Sergeant not to dig too deeply,
as the ice was not more than five feet thick,

Long set to work. With the aid of his hatchet and ice-chisel he
had soon cleared away the earth, and hollowed out a kind of pas-
sage sloping gently down to the crust of ice.

He next attacked the brittle mass, which had been covered over
with sand and earth for so many centuries. It would not take
more than an hour to hollow out a subterranean retreat, or rather a
burrow with walls of ice, which would keep in the heat, and there-
fore serve well for a resting-place during the short night.

Whilst Long was working away like a white ant, Hobson com-
municated the result of his observations to Mrs Barnett. He did
not disguise from her that the construction of Victoria Island ren-
dered him very uneasy. He felt sure that the thinness of the ice
would lead to the opening of ravines on the surface before long;
where, it would be impossible to foresee, and of course it would be
equally impossible to prevent them, The wandering island might
iil
i
|

1 | i

i) HN i
I |

















































































































































































































‘Keep hold.”—Page 195.,
4A NIGHT ENCAMPMENT. 195

at. any moment settle down in consequence of a change in its. speci-
fic gravity, or break up into more or less numerous islets, the duration
of which must necessarily be ephemeral. He judged, therefore, that
it would be best for the members of the colony to keep together as.
much -as possible, and not. to leave the fort, that they might all
share the same chances.

Hobson was proceeding further to unfold his views when cries
for help were heard.

Mrs Barnett started to her feet, and beth looked round in every
direction, but nothing was to be seen.

The cries were now redoubled, and Hobson exclaimed—

“The Sergeant ! the Sergeant!”

And followed by Mrs Barnett, he rushed towards the burrow, and
he had scarcely reached the opening of the snow-house before he
saw Sergeant Long clutching with both hands at his knife, which
he had stuck in the wall of ice, and calling out loudly, although
with the most perfect self-possession.

His head and arms alone were visible. Whilst he was digging,
the ice had given way suddenly beneath him, and he was plunged
into water up to his waist.

_ Hobson merely said—

“ Keep hold!”

And creeping through the passage, he was soon at the edge of the
hole. The poor Sergeant seized his hand, and he was soon rescued
from his perilous position,

“Good God! Sergeant!” exclaimed Mrs Barnett; “what has
happened ?”

“Nothing,” replied Long, shaking himself like a wet spaniel,
“except that the ice gave way under me, and I took a compulsory
bath.”

“You forgot what I told you about not digging too deeply, then,”
said Hobson.

“Beg pardon, sir; I hadn’t cut through fifteen inches of the ice ;
and I expect there was a kind of cavern where I was working—the
ice did not touch the water. It was just like going through a
ceiling. If I hadn’t been able to hang on by my knife, I should
have slipped under the island like a fool, and that would have been
a pity, wouldn’t it, madam 2”

“A very great pity, my brave fellow,” said Mrs Barnett, pressing
his hand.
196 THE FUR COUNTRY.

Long’s explanation was correct; for some reason or another—
most likely from an accumulation of air—the ice had formed a kind
of vault above the water, and of course it soon gave way under the
weight of the Sergeant and the blows of his chisel.

The same thing might happen in other parts of the island, which
was anything but reassuring. Where could they be certain of
treading on firm ground? Might not the earth give way beneath
their feet at any minute? What heart, however brave, would not
have sunk at the thought of the thin partition between them and
the awful gulf of the ocean ?

Sergeant Long, however, thought but little of his bath, and was
ready to begin mining in some other place. This Mrs Barnett
would not allow.
the shelter of the coppice near would be protection enough for them
all; and Sergeant Long was obliged to submit.

The camp was, therefore, moved back some thirty yards from the
beach, to a rising ground on which grew a few clumps of pines and
willows which could scarcely be called a wood. Towards ten
o'clock ‘the disc of the sun began to dip below the horizon, and
before it disappeared for the few hours of the night a crackling
fire of dead branches was blazing at the camp.

Long had now a fine opportunity of drying his legs, of which he
gladly availed himself. He and Hobson talked together earnestly
until twilight set in, and Mrs Barnett occasionally joined in the
conversation, doing the best she could to cheer the disheartened
Lieutenant. The sky was bright with stars, and the holy influence
of the night could not fail to calm his troubled spirit. The wind
murmured softly amongst the pines ; even the sea appeared to be
wrapt in slumber, its bosom slightly heaving with the swell, which
died away upon the beach with a faint rippling sound. All creation
was hushed, not even the wail of a sea-bird broke upon the ear ; the
crisp crackling of the dead branches was exchanged for a steady
flame, and nothing but the voices of the wanderers broke the sub-
lime, the awful silence of the night.

“Who would imagine,” said Mrs Barnett, “that we were floating
on the surface of the ocean! It really requires an effort to realise
it, for the sea which is carrying us along in its fatal grasp appears
to be absolutely motionless !”

“Yes, madam,” replied Hobson ; “and if the oor of our carriage
were solid, if I did not know that sooner or later the keel of our
A NIGHT ENCAMPMENT. 107

boat will be missing, that some day its hull will burst open, and
finally, if I knew where we are going, I should rather enjoy floating
on the ocean like this.”

“Well, Lieutenant,” rejoined Mrs Barnett, “could there be a
pleasanter mode of travelling than ours? We feel no motion.
Our island has exactly the same speed as the current which is bear-
ing it away. Is it not like a balloon voyage in theair? What
could be more delightful than advancing with one’s house, garden,
park, &c.? A wandering island, with a solid insubmersible founda-
tion, would really be the most comfortable and wonderful conveyance
that could possibly be imagined, I have heard of hanging gardens.
Perhaps some day floating parks will be invented which will carry
us all over the globe! Their size will render them insensible to the
action of the waves, they will have nothing to fear from storms,
and perhaps with a favourable wind they might be guided by
means of immense sails! What marvels of vegetation would be
spread before the eyes of the passengers when they passed from
temperate to torrid zones! With skilful pilots, well acquainted
with the currents, it might be possible to remain in one latitude,
and enjoy a perpetual spring.”

Hobson could not help smiling at Mrs Barnett’s fancies. The
brave woman ran on with such an easy flow of words, she talked
with as little effurt as Victoria Island moved. And was she not
right? It would have been a very pleasant mode of travelling if
there had been no danger of their conveyance melting and being
swallowed up by the sea.

The night passed on, and the explorers slept afew hours. At
daybreak they breakfasted, and thoroughly enjoyed their meal.
The warmth and rest had refreshed them, and they resumed their
journey at about six o’clock a.m.

From Cape Michael to the former Port Barnett the coast ran in
an almost straight line from south to north for about eleven miles.
There was nothing worthy of note about it; the shores were low and
pretty even all the way, and seemed to have suffered no alteration
since~ the breaking of the isthmus. Long, in obedience to the
Lieutenant, made bench-marks along the beach, that any future
change might be easily noted.

Hobson was naturally anxious to get back to Fort Hope the same
day, and Mrs Barnett was also eager to return to her friends. It
1098 THE FUR COUNTRY,

was of course desirable under the circumstances that the command-
ing officer should not be long absent from the fort.

All haste was therefore made, and by taking a short cut they
arrived at noon at the little promontory which formerly protected
Port Barnett from the east winds. ;

It was not more than eight miles from this point to Fort Iope,
and before four o’clock p.m. the shouts of Corporal Jolife welcomed
their return to the factory.
CHAPTER V.

FROM FULY 25TH TO AUGUST 20TH.

P04, OBSON’S first care on his return to the fort, was to make
Vy inquiries of Thomas Black as to the situation of the

“> little colony. No change had taken place for the last
ivenertie hours ; but, ‘as subsequently appeared, the island “had
floated one degree of latitude further south, whilst still retaining
its motion towards the west. It was now at the same distance from
the equator as Icy Cape, a little promontory of western Alaska,
and two hundred miles from the American coast. The speed of the
current seemed to be less here than in the eastern part of the
Arctic Ocean ; but the island continued to advance, and, much to
Hobson’s annoyance, towards the dreaded Behring Strait. It was
now only the 24th July, and a current of average speed would

carry it in another month through the strait and into the heated
waves of the Pacific, where it would melt “ like a lump of sugar in
a glass of water,”

“Mis Barnett acquainted Madge with the result of the exploration
of the island. She explained to her the arrangement of the layers
of earth and ice at the part where the isthmus had been broken off ;
told her that the thickness of the ice below the sea-level was
estimated at five feet; related the accident to Sergeant Long—in
short, she made her fully understand the reasons there were to fear
the breaking up or sinking of the ice-field.

The rest of the colony had, however, no suspicion of the truth ;
a feeling of perfect. security prevailed. It never occurred to any of
the brave fellows that Fort Hope was floating above an awful
abyss, and that the lives of all its inhabitants were in danger. All
were in-good health, the weather was fine, and the climate pleasant
and bracing. The baby Michael got on wonderfully; he was
beginning to toddle about between the house and the palisade ; and
Corporal Joliffe, who was extremely fond of him, was already
beginning to teach him to hold a gun, and to understand the first
200 THE FUR COUNTRY.

duties of a soldier. Ob, if Mrs Joliffe would but present him with
such a son! but, alas ! the blessing of children, for which he and his
wife prayed every day, was as yet denied to them,

Meanwhile the soldiers had plenty to do.

Mac-Nab and his men—Petersen, Belcher, Garry, Boni and
Hope—worked zealously at the construction of a boat, a dificult
task, likely to occupy them for several months, But as their
vessel would be of no use until next year after the thaw, they
neglected none of their duties at the factory on its account. Hob-
son let things go on as if the future of the factory were not com-
promised, and persevered in keeping the men in ignorance. This
serious question was often discussed by the officer and his “ staff,”
and Mrs Barnett and Madge differed from their chief on the sub-
ject. They thought it would be better to tell the whole truth ; the
men were brave and energetic, not likely to yield to despair, and
the shock would not be great if they heard of it now, instead of
only when their situation was so hopeless that it could not be con-
cealed. But in spite of the justice of these remarks, Hobson would
not yield, and he was supported by Sergeant Long. Perhaps, after
all, they were right; they were both men of long experience, and
knew the temper of their men.

And so the work of provisioning and strengthening the fort pro-
ceeded. The palisaded enceinte was repaired with new stakes, and
made higher in many places, so that it really formed a very strong forti-
fication. Mac-Nab also put into execution, with his chief’s approval,
a plan he had long had at heart. At the corners abutting on the
lake he built two little pointed sentry-boxes, which completed the
defences ; and Corporal Joliffe anticipated with delight the time
when he should be sent to relieve guard: he felt that they gave
a military look to the buildings, and made them really imposing.

The palisade was now completely finished, and Mac-Nab, remem-
béring the sufferings of the last winter, built a new wood shed-close
up against the house itself, with a door of communication inside, so
that there would be no need to go outside at all. By this contriv-
ance the fuel would always be ready to hand. On the left side: of
the house, opposite the shed, Mac-Nab constructed a large. sleeping-
room for the soldiers, so that the camp-bed could be removed from
the common room. This room was also to be used for meals,
games, and work. The three married couples had private: rooms
walled off, so that the large house was relieved of them as well as
FROM FULY 25TH TO AUGUST 207TH. 201

of.all the other soldiers. A magazine for furs only was also erected
behind the house near the powder-magazine, leaving the loft free
for storés; and the rafters and ribs of the latter were bound with
iron cramps, that they might-be able to resist all attacks.

Mac-Nab also intended to build a little wooden chapel, which
had been included in Hobson’s original plan of the factory ; but
its erection was put off until the next summer.

With what eager interest would the Lieutenant have once watched
the progress of his establishment! Had he been building on firm
ground, with what delight would he have watched the houses, sheds,
and magazines rising around him! He remembered the scheme of
crowning Cape Bathurst with a redoubt for the protection of Fort
Hope with a sigh. The very name of the factory, ‘ Fort Hope,”
made his heart “sink within him ; for should it not more _traly be

called “ Fort Despair?”

These various works took up the whole summer, and there was no
time for ennui, The construction of the boat proceeded rapidly.
Mac-Nab meant it to be of about thirty tons measurement, which
would make it large enough to carry some twenty passengers several
hundred miles in the fine season. The carpenter had been fortunate
enough to find some bent pieces of wood, so that he was able quickly
to form the first ribs of the vessel, and soon the stem and sternpost, °
fixed to the keel, were upon the dockyard at the foot of Cape Bathurst.

Whilst the carpenters were busy with hatchets, saws, and adzes,
the hunters were eagerly hunting the reindeer and Polar hares,
which abounded near the fort. ‘The Lieutenant, however, told Marbre
and Sabine not to go far away, stating as a reason, that until the
buildings were completed he did not wish to attract the notice of
rivals, The truth was, he did not wish the changes which had
taken place to be noticed.

One day Marbre inquired if it was not now time to go to Walruses’
Bay, and get a fresh supply of morse-oil for burning, and Hobson
replied rather hastily—

“No, Marbre ; it would be useless.”

The Lieutenant knew only too well that Walruses’ Bay was two
hundred miles away, and that there were no morses to be hunted on
the island.

* It must not be supposed that Hobson considered the situation
desperate. even now. He often assured Mrs Barnett, Madge, and
Long that he was convinced the island would hold together until the
202 THE FUR COUNTRY.



bitter cold of winter should thicken its foundation and arrest its
course at one and the same time.

After his journey of discovery, Hobson estimated exactly the area
of his new dominions. The island measured more than forty miles
round, from which its superficial arrear would appear. to be about
one hundred and forty miles at the least. By way of comparison, we
may say that Victoria Island was rather larger than St Helena, and
its area was about the same as that of Paris within the line of forti-
fications. If then it should break up into fragments, the separate
parts might still be of sufficient size to be habitable for some
time.

When Mrs Barnett expressed her surprise that a floating icc-
field could be so large, Hobson replied by reminding her of the
observations of Arctic navigators. Parry, Penny, and Franklin had
met with ice-fields in the Polar seas one hundred miles long and
fifty broad. Captain Kellet abandoned his boat on an ice-field
measuring at least three hundred square miles, and what was
Victoria Island compared to it ?

Its size was, however, sufficient to justify a hope that it would
resist the action. of the warm currents until the cold weather set in.
Hobson would not allow himself to doubt ; his despair arose rather
‘from the knowledge that the fruit of all his cares, anxieties, and
dangers must eventually be swallowed up by the deep, and it was
no wonder that he could take no interest in the. works that were
going on.

Mrs Barnett kept up a good heart through it all ; she encouraged
ler comrades in their work, and took her share in ab as if she had
still a future to look forward to. Seeing what an interest Mrs
Joliffe took in her plants, she joined her every day in the garden.
There was now a fine crop of sorrel and scurvy-grass—thanks to the
Corporal’s unwearying exertions to keep off the birds of every kind,
which congregated by hundreds.

The taming of the reindeer had been quite successful ; there were
now a good many young, and little Michael had been partly brought
up on the milk of the mothers, There were now some thirty head
in the herd which grazed near the fort, anda supply of the herbage
on which they feed was dried and laid up for the winter.. These
useful animals, which are easily domesticated, were already quite
familiar with all the colonists, and did not go far from the enceinte.
Some of them were used in sledges to carry timber backwards and
FROM ¥ULY 23TH TO AUGUST 20TH. 203

forwards, A good many reindeer, still wild, now fell into the trap
half way between the fort and Port Barnett. It will be remembered
that a large bear was once taken in it; but nothing of the kind
occurred this season—none fell victims but the reindeer, whose flesh
was salted and laid by for future use. Twenty-at least were taken,
which in the ordinary course of things would have gone down to
the south in the winter.

One day, however, the reindeer-trap suddenly became useless in
consequence of the conformation of the soil. After visiting it as
usual, the hunter Marbre approached Hobson, and said to him in
a significant tone—

“T have just paid my daily visit to the reindeer-trap, sir.”

‘Well, Marbre, I hope you have been as successful to-day as
yesterday, and have caught a couple of reindeer,” replied Hobson.

“No, sir, no,” replied Marbre, with some embarrassment.

“ Your trap has not yielded its ordinary contingent then?”

“No, sir; and if any animal had fallen in, it wgue certainly
have been drowned ! ”

“ Drowned !” cried the Lieutenant, looking at the hunter with
an anxious expression.

“Yes, sir,” replied Marbre, looking attentively at his superior ;
“the pit is full of water.”

- “ Ah!” said Hobson, in the tone of a man who attached no im-
portance to that ; “you know your pit was partly hollowed out of
ice ; its walls have melted with the heat of the sun, and then ”——

“Beg pardon for interrupting you, sir,” said Marbre; “but the
water cannot have been produced by the melting of ice.”

“ Why not, Marbre ?”

“ Because if it came from ice it would be sweet, as you explained
to me once before, Now the water in our pit is salt!”

Master of himself as he was, Hobson could not help changing
countenance slightly, and he had not a word to say.

“ Besides,” added Marbre, “I wanted to sound the trench to
see how deep the water was, and to my great surprise, I can tell you,
I could not find the bottom,”

“Well, Marbre,” replied Hobson hastily, “there is nothing so
wonderful in that. Some fracture of the soil has established a com-
munication between the sea and the trap. So don’t be uneasy
about it, my brave fellow, but leave the trap alone for the present,
and be content with setting snares near the fort.”
204 THE FUR COUNTRY,



Marbre touched his cap respectfully, and turned on his heel, but
not before he had given his chief a searching glance.

Hobson remained very thoughtful for a few moments. Marbre’s
tidings were of grave importance. It was evident that the bottom
of the trench, gradually melted by the warm waters of the sea, had
given way.

Hobson at once called the Sergeant, and having acquainted
him with the incident, they went together, unnoticed by their com-
panions, to the beach at the foot of Cape Bathurst, where they had
made the bench-marks.

They examined them carefully, and found that since they last did
so, the floating island had sunk six inches.

“We are sinking gradually,” murmured Sergeant Long, “The
ice is wearing away.”

“Oh for the winter! the winter!” cried Hobson, stamping his
foot upon the ground.

But as yet, alas! there was no sign of the approach of the cold
season. The thermometer maintained a mean height of 59° Fahren-
heit, and during the few hours of the night the column of mercury
scarcely went down three degrees.

Preparations for the approaching winter went on apace, and there
was really nothing wanting to Fort Hope, although it had not been
revictualled by Captain Craventy’s detachment. The long hours of
the Arctic night might be awaited in perfect security. The- stores
were of course carefully husbanded. There still remained plenty of
spirits, only small quantities having been consumed ;.and there was
a good stock of biscuits, which, once gone, could not be replaced.
Fresh venison and salt meat were to be had in abundance, and
with some antiscorbutic vegetables, the diet was most healthy ; and
all the members of the little colony were well.

A good deal of timber was cut in the woods clothing the eastern
slopes of Lake Barnett. Many were the birch-trees, pines, and firs
which fell beneath the axe of Mac-Nab, and were dragged to the
house by the tamed reindeer. The carpenter did not spare the
little forest, although he cut his wood judiciously ; for he never
dreamt that timber might: fail him, imagining, as he did, Victoria
Island to be a peninsula, and knowing the districts near Cape
Michael to be rich in different species of trees.

Many a time did the unconscious carpenter congratulate his Lieu-
tenant on having chosen a spot so favoured by Heaven. Woods, game,
FROM FULY 25TH TO AUGUST 20TH. 205

furred animals, a lagoon teeming with fish, plenty of herbs for the
animals, and, as Corporal Joliffe would have added, double pay for
the men. Was not Cape Bathurst a corner of a privileged land, the
like of which was not to be found in the whole Arctic regions ?
Truly Hobson was a favourite of Heaven, and ought to return thanks
to Providence every day for the discovery of this unique spot.

Ah, Mac-Nab, you little knew how you wrung the heart of your
master when you talked in that strain !

The manufacture of winter garments was not neglected in the
factory. Mrs Barnett, Madge, Mrs Mac-Nab, Mrs Rae, and Mrs
Joliffe—when she could leave her fires—were alike indefatigable.
Mrs Barnett knew that they would all have to leave the fort in the
depth of winter, and was determined that every one should be
warmly clothed. They would have to face the bitterest cold for a
good many days during the Polar night, if Victoria Island should
halt far from the continent. Boots and clothes ought indeed to be
strong and well made, for crossing some hundreds of miles under
such circumstances. Mrs Barnett and Madge devoted all their ener-
gies to the matter in hand, and the furs, which they knew it would
be impossible to save, were turned to good account, They were
used double, so that the soft hair was both inside and outside of the
clothes ; and when wearing them, the whole party would be as richly
attired as the grandest princesses, or the most wealthy ladies. Those
not in the secret were rather surprised at the free use made of the
Company’s property ; but Hobson’sauthority was not to be questioned,
and really martens, polecats, musk-rats, beavers, and foxes multi-
plied with such rapidity near the fort, that all the furs used could
easily be replaced by a few shots, or the setting of a few traps ;
and when Mrs Mac-Nab saw the beautiful ermine coat which had
been made for her baby, her delight was unbounded, and she no
longer wondered at anything.

So passed the days until the middle of the month of August. The
weather continued fine, and any mists which gathered on the horizon
were quickly dispersed by the sunbeams,

Every day Hobson took the bearings, taking care, however, to go
some distance from the fort, that suspicions might not be aroused ;
and he also visited different parts of the island, and was reassured
by finding that no important changes appeared to be taking place.

On the 16th August Victoria Island was situated in 167° 27’
west longitude, and 70° 49’ north latitude, It had, therefore,
206 THE FUR COUNTRY.



drifted slightly to the south, but without getting any nearer to the
American coast, which curved considerably...

The distance traversed- by the island since the fracture of the
isthmus, or rather since the last thaw, could not be less than eleven
or.twelve hundred miles to the west.

But what was this distance compared to the vast extent of the
ocean? Had not boats been known to be drifted several thousands
of miles by currents? Was not this the case with the English ship
Resolute, the American brig Advance, and with the fox, all of which
were carried along upon ice-fields until the winter arrested their
advance !
CHAPTER VI.

TEN DAYS OF TAME EST

fine, and the temperature moderate. The mists on the

OI Oy horizon were not resolved into clouds, and altogether the

weather was exceptionally beautiful for such an elevated position.

It will be readily understood, however, that Hobson could take no
pleasure in the fineness of the climate.

On the 21st August, however, the barometer gave notice of an
approaching change. The column of mercury suddenly fell con-
siderably, the sun was completely hidden at the moment of culmina
tion, and Hobson was unable to take his bearings.

The next day the wind changed and blew strongly from the
north-west, torrents of rain falling at intervals. Meanwhile, how-
ever, the temperature did not change to any sensible extent, the
thermometer remaining at 54° Fahrenheit.

Fortunately the proposed works were now all finished, and Mac-
Nab had completed the carcass of his boat, which was planked and
ribbed. Hunting might now be neglected a little, as the stores
were complete, which was fortunate, for the weather became very
bad. The wind was high, the rain incessant, and thick fogs rendered
it impossible to go beyond the enceinte of the fort.

“What do you think of this change in the weather, Lieutenant ?”
inquired Mrs Barnett on the. morning of the 27th August ; “might
it not be in our favour?”

“T should not like to be sure of it, madam,” replied Hobson ;
“but anything is better for us than the magnificent weather we
have lately had, during which the sun made the waters warmer and
warmer. Then, too, the wind from the north-west is so very strong
that ifmay perhaps drive us nearer to the American continent.”

“ Unfortunately,” observed Long, “we can’t take our bearings
every day now. It’s impossible to see either sun, moon, or stars
in this fog. Fancy attempting to take an altitude now !”
Q

AS ROM the 17th to the 20th August the waither continued
208 THE FUR COUNTRY.

“We shall see well enough to recognise America, if we get any-
where near it,” said Mrs Barnett. “ Whatever land we approach will
be welcome. Ié will most likely be some part of Russian America
—probably Western Alaska.”

“You are right, madam,” said Hobson ; “for, unfortunately, in
the whole Arctic Ocean there is not an island, an islet, or even a
rock to which we could fasten our vessel !”

“ Well,” rejoined Mrs Barnett, “ why should not our conveyance
take us straight to the coasts of Asia? Might not the currents
carry us past the opening of Behring Strait and land us on the
shores of Siberia?”

“No, madam, no,” replied Hobson ; “our ice-field would soon
meet the Kamtchatka current, and be carried by it to the north-
west, It is more likely, however, that this wind will drive us
towards the shores of Russian America.”

“We must keep watch, then,” said Mrs Barnett, “and ascertain
our position as soon as possible.”

“We shall indeed keep watch,” replied Hobson, “although this
fog is very much against us. If we should be driven on to the coast,
the shock will be felt even if we cannot see. lLet’s hope the island
will not fall to pieces in this storm! That is at present our
principal danger. Well, when it comes we shall see what there is
to be done, and meanwhile we must wait patiently.”

Of course this conversation was not held in the public room,
where the soldiers and women worked together. It was in her
own room, with the window looking out on the court, that Mrs
Barnett received visitors. It was almost impossible to see indoors
even in the daytime, and the wind could be heard rushing by out-
side like an avalanche. Fortunately, Cape Bathurst protected the
house from the north-east winds, but the sand and earth from its
summit were hurled down upon the roof with a noise like the
pattering of hail. Mac-Nab began. to feel fresh uneasiness about
his chimneys, which it was absolutely necessary to keep in good
order. With the roaring of the wind was mingled that of the sea,
as its huge waves broke upon the beach. The storm had become
a hurricane.

In spite of the fury of the gale, Hobson determined on the
morning of the 28th of August to climb to the summit of Cape
Bathurst, in order to examine the state of the horizon, the sea, and
TEN DAYS OF TEMPEST. 209



the sky. He therefore wrapped himself up, taking care to have
nothing about him likely to give hold the wind, and set out.

He got to the foot of the cape without much difficulty. The sand
and earth blinded him, it is true, but protected by the cliff he had
not as yet actually faced the wind. The fatigue began when he
attempted to climb the almost perpendicular sides of the promon-
tory ; but by clutching at the tufts of herbs with which they were
covered, he managed to get to the top, but there the fury of the gale
was such that he could neither remain standing nor seated ; he was
therefore forced to fling himself upon his face behind the little cop-
pice and cling to some shrubs, only raising his head and shoulders
above the ground,

The appearance of sea and sky was indeed terrible. The spray
dashed over the Lieutenant’s head, and half-a-mile from the cape
water and clouds were confounded sogstller ina thick mist. Low
jagged rain-clouds were chased along the heavens with giddy
rapidity, and heavy masses of vapour were piled upon the zenith,
Every now and then an awful stillness fell upon the land, and the
only sounds were the breaking of .the surf upon the beach and the
roaring of the angry billows; but then the tempest recommenced
with redoubled fury, and Hobson felt the cape tremble to its founda-
tions. Sometimes the rain poured down with such violence that it
resembled grape-shot.

It was indeed a terrible hurricane from the very worst quarter of
the heavens, This north-east wind might blow for a long time and
cause all manner of havoc, Yet Hobson, who would generally have
grieved over the destruction around him, did not complain;—on the
contrary, he rejoiced ; for if, as he hoped, the island held together, it
must be driven to the south-west by this wind, so much more
powerful than the currents, And the south-west meant land—hope
—safety! Yes, for his own sake, and for that of all with him, he
hoped that the hurricane would last until it had flung them upon the
land, no matter where. That which would have been fatal to a ship
was the best thing that could happen to the floating island.

For a quarter of an hour Hobson remained crouching upon the
ground, clutching at the shrubs like a drowning man at a spar,
lashed by the wind, drenched by the rain and the spray, struggling
to estimate all the chances of safety the storm might afford: him,
At the end of that time he let himself slide down the cape,.and
fought his way to Fort Hope.
210 THE FUR COUNTRY.



Hobson’s first care was to tell his comrades that the hurricane was
not yet at its height, and that it would probably last a long time
yet. He announced these tidings with the manner of one bringing
good news, and every one looked at him in astonishment. Their chief
officer really seemed to take a delight in the fury of the elements,

On the 30th Hobson again braved the tempest, not this time
climbing the cape, but going down to the beach. What was his
joy at noticing some long weeds floating on the top of the waves, of
a kind which did not grow on Victoria Island. Christopher
Columbus’ delight was not greater when he saw the sea-weed which
told him of the proximity of land.

The Lieutenant hurried back to the fort, and told Mrs Barnett
and Sergeant Long of his discovery. He had a good mind to tell
every one the whole truth now, but a strange presentiment kept
him silent.

The occupants of the fort had plenty to amuse them in the long
days of compulsory confinement. They went on improving the
inside of the various buildings, and dug trenches in the court to
carry away the rain-water, Mac-Nab, a hammer in one hand and a
nail in the other, was always busy at a job in some corner or another,
and nobody took much note of the tempest outside in the daytime ;
but at night it was impossible to sleep, the wind beat upon the
buildings like a battering-ram ; between the house and the cape some-
times whirled a huge waterspout of extraordinary dimensions ; the
planks cracked, the beams seemed about to separate, and there was
danger of the whole structure tumbling down. Mac-Nab and his
men lived in a state of perpetual dread, and had to be continually
on the watch.

Meanwhile, Hobson was uneasy about the stability of the island
itself, rather than that of the house upon it. The tempest
became so violent, and the sea so rough, that there was really a
danger of the dislocation of the ice-field. It seemed impossible for
it to resist much longer, diminished as it was in thickness and
subject to the perpetual action of the waves. It is true that its
inhabitants did not feel any motion, on account of its vast extent,
but it suffered from it none the less. The point at issue was
simply :—Would the island last until it was flung upon the coast,
or would it fall to pieces before it touched firm ground ?

There could be no doubt that thus far it had resisted. As the
Lieutenant explained to Mrs Barnett, had it already been broken,
TEN DAYS OF TEMPEST. 211



had the ice-field already divided into a number of islets, the occu-
pants of the fort must have noticed it, for the different pieces would
have been small enough to be affected by the motion of the sea, and
the people on any one of them would have been pitched about like
passengers on a boat. This was not the case, and in his daily
observations Lieutenant Hobson had noticed no movement what-
ever, not so much as a trembling of the island, which appeared
as firm and motionless as when it was still connected by its
isthmus with the mainland.

But the breaking up, which had not yet taken place, might
happen at any minute.

Hobson was most anxious to ascertain whether Victoria Island,
driven by the north-west wind out of the current, had approached
the continent, Lverything, in fact, depended upon this, which was
their last chance of safety. But without sun, moon, or stars,
instruments were of course useless, as no observations could be
taken, and the exact position of the island could not be deter-
mined. If, then, they were approaching the land, they would only
know it when the land came in sight, and Hobson’s only means of
ascertaining anything in time to be of any service, was to get to
the south of his dangerous dominions. The position of Victoria
Island with regard to the cardinal points had not sensibly altered
all the time. Cape Bathurst still pointed to the north, as it did
when it was the advanced post of North America. It was, there-
fore, evident that if Victoria Island should come alongside of the
continent, it would touch it with its southern ‘side,—the communi-
cation would, in a word, be re-established by means of the broken
isthmus ; it was, therefore, imperative to ascertain what was going
on in that directivu,

Hobson determined to go to Cape Michael, however terrible the
storm might be, but he meant to keep the real motive of. his
reconnaissance a. secret from his companions, Sergeant Long was
to accompany him,

About four o’clock P.M., on the 31st August, Hobson sent for
the Sergeant i in his own room, that they might arrange together for
all eventualities, .

“Sergeant Long,” he began, “it is necessary that we should,
without delay, ascertain the position of Victoria Island, and above
all whether this wind has, as I hope, driven it near to the American
continent,”
212 THE FUR COUNTRY.



“T quite agree with you, sir,” replied Long, “and the sooner we
find out the better.”

“But it will necessitate our going down to the south of the
island.”

“Tam ready, sir.”

“T know, Sergeant, that you are always ready to do your duty ;
but you will not go alone. Two of us ought to go, that we may
be able to let our comrades know if any Jand is in sight; and
besides I must see for myself . . . we will go together.”

‘“‘ When you like, Lieutenant, just when you think best.”

“ We will start this evening at nine o’clock, when everybody else
has gone to bed.”

“Yes, they would all want to come with us,” said Long, “and
they must not know why we go so far from the factory.”

“ No, they must not know,” replied Hobson, “and if I can, I
will keep the knowledge of our awful situation from them until the
end.”

“Tt is agreed then, sir?”

“Yes, You will take a tinder-box and some touchwood! with
you, so that we can make a signal if necessary—if land is in sight
in the south, for instance.”

“ Yes, sir.” :

‘We shall have a rough journey, Sergeant.”

‘What does that matter, sir; but by the way—the lady?”

“TJ don’t think I shall tell her. Ske would want to go with
us.”

“ And she could not,” said the Sergeant, “a woman could not
battle with such a gale. Just see how its fury is increasing at this
moment !”

Indeed the house was rocking to such an extent that it seemed
likely to be torn from its foundations.

“No,” said Hobson, “ courageous as she is, she could not, she
ought not to accompany us. But on second thoughts it will be best
to tell her of our project. She ought to know in case any accident
should befall us” . .

“Yes,” replied Long, “we ought not to keep anything from her,
and if we do not come back” . . .

“ Atinine o’clock then, Sergeant.”

“ At-nine o'clock.”

1 A fungus used as tinder (Folyporous tgniartus),
TEN DAYS OF TEMPEST, 213

And with a military salute Sergeant Long retired.

A few minutes later Hobson. was telling Mrs Barnett of his
scheme. As he expected the brave woman insisted on accompany-
ing him, and was quite ready to face the tempest. Hobson did not
dissuade her by dwelling on the dangers of the expedition, he
merely said that her presence was necessary at the fort during his
absence, and that her remaining would set his mind at ease. If
any accident happened to him it would be a comfort to know that
she would take his place.

Mrs Barnett understood and said no more about going ; but only
urged Hobson not to risk himself unnecessarily, To remember that
he was the chief officer, that his life was not his own, but necessary
to the safety of all. The Lieutenant promised to be as prudent as
possible ; but added that the examination of the south of the island
must be made at once, and he would make it. The next day Mrs
Barnett merely told her companions that the Lieutenant and
the Sergeant had gone to make a final reconnaissance before the
winter set in,
CHAPTER VIL
A FIRE AND A CRY,

JHE Lieutenant and the Sergeant spent the evening in tha
large room of the fort, where all were assembled except

24 the astronomer, who still remained shut up in his cabin.
The men were busy over their various occupations, some cleaning
their arms, others mending or sharpening their tools. The women
were stitching away industriously, and Mrs Paulina Barnett was
reading aloud ; but she was often interrupted not only by the noise
of the wind, which shook the walls of the house like a battering-ram,
but by the cries of the baby. Corporal Joliffe, who had undertaken
to amuse him, had enough to do. The young gentleman had ridden
upon his playmate’s knees until they were worn out, and the
Corporal at last put the indefatigable little cavalier on the large
table, where he rolled about to his heart’s content until he fell
asleep.

At eight o’clock prayers were read as usual, the lamps were
extinguished, and all retired to rest.

When every one was asleep, Hobson and Long crept cautiously
across the large room and gained the passage, where they found
Mrs Barnett, who wahed to press their hands once more,

“Till to-morrow,” she said to the Lieutenant,

“Yes,” replied Hobson, ‘ to-morrow, madam, without fail.”

“But if you are delayed ?”

“You must wait patiently for us,” replied the Lieutenant, “for
if in examining the southern horizon we should see a fire, which is
not unlikely this dark night, we should know that we were near the
coasts of New Georgia, and then it would be desirable for me to as-
certain our position by daylight. In fact, we may be away forty-eight
hours. If, however, we can get to Cape Michael before midnight,
we shall be back at the fort to-morrow evening. So wait patiently,
madam, and believe that we shall incur no unnecessary risk ”


4 FIRE AND A CRY. O16



“ But,” added the lady, *‘ suppose you don’t get back to-morrow,
suppose you are away more than two days ?”

“Then we shall not return at all,” replied Hobson simply.

The door was opened, Mrs Barnett closed it behind the Lieutenant
and his companion and went back to her own room, where Madge
awaited her, feeling anxious and thoughtful.

Hobson and Long made their way ‘across the inner court through
a whirlwind which nearly knocked them down ; but clinging to each
other, and leaning on their iron-bound staffs, they reached the
postern gates, and set out beween the hills and the eastern bank.of
the lagoon.

A faint twilight enabled them to see their way. The moon,
which was new the night before, would not appear above the horizon,
and there was nothing to lessen the gloom of the darkness, which
would, however, last but a few hours longer.

The wind and rain were as violent as ever. The Lieutenant and
his companion wore impervious boots and water-proof cloaks well
pulled in at the waist, and the hood completely covering their heads.
Thus protected they got along at a rapid pace, for the wind was
behind them, and sometimes drove them on rather faster than they
cared to go. Talking was quite-out of the question, and they did
not attempt it, for they were deafened by the hurricane, and out of
breath with the buffeting they received.

Hobson did not mean to follow the coast, the windings of which
would have’ taken him a long way round, and have brought him
face to face with the wind, which swept over the sea with nothing
to break its fury. His idea was to cut across in a straight line
from Cape Bathurst to Cape Michael, and he was provided with a
pocket compass with which to ascertain his bearings. He hoped by
this means to cross the ten or eleven miles between him and his goal,
just before the twilight faded and gave place to the two houwrs of
real darkness,

Bent almost double, with rounded shoulders and stooping heads,
the two pressed on. As long as they kept near the lake they did
not mect the gale full face, the little hills crowned with trees afforded
them some protection, the wind howled fearfully as it bent and
distorted the branches, almost tearing the trunks up by the roots ;
but it partly exhausted its strength, and even the rain when it
reached the explorers was converted into impalpable mist, so that
216 THE FUR COUNTRY.



for. about four miles they did not suffer half as much as they
expected to.

But when they reached the southern skirts of the wood, where
the hills disappeared, and there were neither trees nor rising ground,
the wind swept along with awful force, and involuntarily they
paused fora moment. They were still six miles from Cape
Michael.

“We are going to havea bad time of it,” shouted Lieutenant
Hobson in the Sergeant’s ear.

“ Yes, the wind and rain will conspire to give us a good beating,”
answered Long.

“Tam afraid that now and then we shall have hail as well,”
added Hobson.

“Tt won’t be as deadly as grape-shot,” replied Long coolly, “and
we have both been through that, and so forwards!”

“ Forwards, my brave comrade !”

Tt was then ten o’clock. The twilight was fading away, dying as
if drowned in the mists or quenched by the wind and the rain.
There was still, however, some light, and the Lieutenant struck his
flint, and consulted his compass, passing a piece of burning touchwood
over it, and then, drawing his cloak more closely around him, he
plunged after the Sergeant across the unprotected plain.

At the first step, both were flung violently to the ground, but
they managed to scramble up, and clinging to each other with their
backs bent like two old crippled peasants, ‘they struck into a kind of
ambling trot.

There was a kind of awful grandeur in the storm to which
neither was insensible. Jagged masses of mist and ragged rain-
clouds swept along the ground. The loose earth and sand were
whirled into the air and flung down again like grape-shot, and the
lips of Hobson and his companion were wet with salt spray, although
the sea was two or three miles distant at least.

During the rare brief pauses in the gale, they stopped and took
breath, whilst the Lieutenant ascertained their position as accurately
as posible

The tempest increased as the night advanced, the air and water
seemed to be absolutely confounded together, and low down on the
horizon was formed one of those fearful waterspouts which can
overthrow houses, tear up forests, and which the vessels whose
safety they threaten attack with artillery. It really seemed as if








































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































** Not that way.”—Lage 217,
A FIRE AND A CRY. 217

the ocean itself was being torn from its bed and flung over the
devoted little island.

Hobson could not help wondering how it was that the ice-field
which supported it was not broken in a hundred places in. this
violent convulsion of the sea, the roaring of which could be distinctly
heard where he stood. Presently Long ng, who was afew steps in
advance, stopped suddenly, and turning round managed to make
the Lieutenant hear the broken words—

“ Not that way !” —

“Why not?”

“The sea!”

“What, the sea! ‘We cannot possibly have got-to the south-
east coast !”

* Took, look, Lieutenant !”

It was true, a vast sheet of water was indistinctly visible before
them, and large waves were rolling up and breaking at the Lieu-
tenant’s feet.

Hobson again had recourse to his flint, and with the aid of some
lighted touchwood consulted the needle of his compass very care:
fully.

“No,” he said, “the sea is farther to the left, we have not yet
passed the wood between us and Cape Michael.”

“ Then it is”

“Tt is a fracture of the island!” cried Hobson, as both were
compelled to fling themselves to the ground before the wind ; “ either
a large portion of our land has been broken off and drifted away,
or a gulf has been made, which we can go round. Forwards!”

They struggled to their feet and turned to the right towards the
centre of the island. For about ten minutes they pressed on in
silence, fearing, not without reason, that all communication with the
south of the island would be found to be cut off. Presently, however,
they no longer heard the noise of the breakers.

“Tt is only a gulf.” screamed. Hobson in the Sergeant’ S ear.
* Let us turn round.”

And they resumed their original ‘direction towards the south, but
both knew only too well that they had a fearful danger to facé, for
that portion of the island on which they were was evidently cracked
for a long distance, and might at-any moment separate entirely ;
should it do so under the influence of the waves, they would
inevitably be drifted away, whither they knew not, Yet they did


218 THE FUR COUNTRY,

not hesitate, but plunged into the mist, not even pausing to wonder
if they should ever get back. ,

What anxious forebodings must, however, have pressed upon the
heart of the Lieutenant. Could he now hope that the island would
hold together until the winter? had not the inevitable breaking up
already commenced? If the wind should not drive them on to the
coast, were they not doomed to perish very soon, to be swallowed up
by the deep, leaving no trace behind them? What a fearful prospect
for all the unconscious inhabitants of the fort !

But through it all the two men, upheld by the consciousness of a
duty to perform, bravely struggled on against the gale, which nearly
tore them to pieces, along the new beach,- the foam sometimes
bathing their feet, and presently gained the large wood which shut
in Cape Michael. ‘This they would have to cross to get to the
coast by the shortest route, and. they entered it in complete dark-
ness, the wind thundering among the branches over their heads,
Everything seemed to be breaking to pieces around them, the dis-
located branches intercepted their passage, and every moment they
ran a risk of being crushed beneath a falling tree, or they stumbled
over a stump they had not been able to seein the gloom. The
noise of the waves on the other side of the wood was a sufficient
guide to their steps, and sometimes the furious breakers shook the
weakened ground beneath their feet. . Holding each other’s hands
lest they should lose each other, supporting each other, and the one
helping the other up when he fell over some obstacle, they at last
reached the point for which they were bound.

But the instant they quitted the shelter of the wood a perfect
whirlwind tore them asunder, and flung them upon the ground.

“ Sergeant, Sergeant! Where are you?” cried Hobson with all
the strength of his lungs.

“ Here, here!” roared Long in reply,

And creeping on the ground they struggled to reach each other ;
but it seemed as if a powerful hand rivetted them to the spot on
which they had fallen, and it was only after many futile efforts that
they managed to reach each other. Having done so, they tied their
belts together to prevent another separation, and crept along the
sand to a little rising ground crowned by a small clump of pines.
Once there they were a, little more protected, and they proceeded to
dig themselves a hole, in which they crouched 3 in a state of absolute
exhaustion and prostration,
4A FIRE AND A CRY. 219



It was half-past eleven o'clock p.m.

For some minutes neither spoke. With eyes half closed they lay
ina kind of torpor, whilst the trees above them bent beneath the
wind, and their branches rattled like the bones of a skeleton, But
yet again they roused themselves from this fatal lethargy, and a few
mouthfuls of rum from the Sergeant’s flask revived them.

“Let us hope these trees will hold,” at last observed Hobson.

“ And that our hole will not blow away with them,” added the
Sergeant, crouching in the soft sand.

“Well!” said Hobson, “ here we are at last, a few feet from Cape
Michael, and as we came to make observations, let us make them.
I have a presentiment, Sergeant, only: a presentiment, remember,
that we are not far from firm ground!”

Had the southern horizon been visible the two adventurers
would have been able to see two-thirds of it from their position ;
but it was too dark. to make out anything, and if the hurricane had
indeed driven them within sight of land, they would not be able to
see it until daylight, unless a fire should be lighted on the con-
tinent.

As the Lieutenant had told Mrs Barnett, fishermen often visited
that part of North America, which is called New Georgia, and there
are a good many small native colonies, the members of which
collect the teeth of mammoths, these fossil elephants being
very numerous in these latitudes. A few degrees farther south, on
the island of Sitka, rises New-Archangel, the principal settlement
in Russian America, and the head-quarters of the Russian Fur
Company, whose jurisdiction once extended over the whole of the
Aleutian Islands. The shores of the Arctic Ocean are, however,
the favourite resort of hunters, especially since the Hudson’s Bay
Company took. a lease of the districts formerly in the hands of the
Russians ; and Hobson, although he knew nothing of the country,
was well acquainted with the habits of those who were likely to
visit it at this time of the year, and was justified in thinking that
he might meet fellow-countrymen, perhaps even members of his
own Company, or, failing them, some native Indians, scouring the
coasts.

But could the Lieutenant reasonably hope that Victoria Island
had been driven towards the coast ?

“Yes, a hundred times yes,” he repeated to the Sergeant again
and again. ‘ For seven days a hurricane has been blowing from the
220 THE FUR COUNTRY,

north-east, and although I know ‘that the island is very flat, and
there is not much for the wind to take hold of, still all these little
hills and woods spread out like sails must have felt the influence of
the wind to a certain extent. Moreover, the sea which bears us
along feels its power, and large waves are certainly running in shore.
It is impossible for us to have remained in the current which was
dragging us to the west, we must have been driven out of it, and
towards the south. Last time we took our bearings we were two
hundred miles from the coast, and in seven days”

“ Your reasonings aré very just, Lieutenant,” replied the Sergeant,
“and I feel that whether the wind helps us or not, God will not
forsake us. It cannot be His will that so many unfortunate creatures
should perish, and I put my trust in Him !”

The two talked on in broken sentences, making each other hear
above the roaring of the storm, and struggling to pierce the gloom
which closed them in on every side; but they could see nothing,
not a ray of light broke the thick davies

About half-past one a.m. the hurricane ceased for a few minutes,
whilst the fury of the sea seemed to be redoubled, and the large
waves, lashed into foam, broke over each other with a roar like
thunder.

Suddenly Hobson seizing his companion’s arm shouted—

“ Sergeant, do you hear ?”

“What?”

“The noise of the sea?”

“ Of course I do, sir,” replied Long, listening more attentively,
“and the sound of the breakers seems to me not”? ——

“ Not exactly the same . . . isn’t. it Sergeant; listen, listen, it is
like the sound of surf! . . . it seems as if the waves were breaking
against rocks ! ”

Hobson and the Sergeant now listened intently, the monotonous
sound of the waves dashing against each other in the offing was
certainly exchanged for the regular rolling sound produced by the
breaking of water against a hard body ; they heard the reverberating
echoes which told of the neighbourhood of rocks, and they knew
that along the whole of the coast of their island there was nota
single stone, and nothing more sonorous than the earth and sand of
which it was composed !

Could they have been deceived? The Sergeant tried to rise to
listen better, but he was immediately flung down by the hurricane,


A FIRE AND A CRY. 221

which recommenced with renewed violence. The lull was over, and
again the noise of the waves was drowned in the shrill whistling of
the wind, and the peculiar echo could no longer be made out,

The anxiety of the two explorers will readily be imagined. They
again crouched down in their hole, doubting whether it would not
perhaps be prudent to Jeave even this shelter, for they felt the sand
giving way beneath them, and the pines cracking at their very roots.
They persevered, however, in gazing towards the south, every nerve
strained to the utmost, in the effort to distinguish objects through
the darkness,

The first grey twilight of the dawn might soon be expected to
appear, and a little before half-past two a.m, Long suddenly ex-
claimed :

“T see it!”

“What?”

“ A fire!”

“A fire?”

“Yes, there—over there

And he pointed to the south-west. Was he mistaken? No, for
Hobson also made out a faint glimmer in the direction indicated.

“Yes!” he cried, “ yes, Sergeant, a fire; there is land there!”

“Unless it is a fire on board ship,” replied Long.

“ A ship at sea in this weather !” exclaimed Hobson, “ impossible!
No, no, there is land there, land I tell you, a few miles from
us!” :

“ Weli, let us make a signal!”

“Yes, Sergeant, we will reply to the fire on the mainland by a
fire on our island!”

Of course neither Hobson nor Long had a torch, but above their
heads rose resinous pines distorted by the hurricane.

“ Your flint, Sergeant,” said Hobson,

Long at once struck his flint, lighted the touchwood, and creeping
along the sand climbed to the foot of the thicket of firs, where he
was soon joined by the Lieutenant, There was plenty of deadwood
about, and they piled it up at the stems of the trees, set fire to
it, and soon, the wind helping them, they had the -satisfaction of
seeing the whole thicket in a blaze.

“ Ah!” said Hobson, “as we saw their fire, they will see ours!”

The firs burnt with a lurid glare like a large torch. The dried
resin in the old trunks aided the conflagration, and they were

R

'

id
222 _ THE FUR COUNTRY.



rapidly consumed. At last the crackling ceased, the flames died
away, and all was darkness.

Hobson and Long looked in vain for an answering fire—nothing
was to be seen. For ten minutes they watched, hoping against
hope, and were just beginning to despair, when suddenly a cry was
heard, a distinct cry for help. It was a human voice, and it came
from the sea,

Hobson and Long, wild with eager anxiety, let themselves slide
down to the shore,

The cry was not, however, repeated.

The daylight was now gradually beginning to appear, and the
violence of the tempest seemed to be decreasing. Soon it was light
enough for the horizon to be examined.

But there was no land in sight, sea and sky were still blended in
one unbroken circle.
CHAPTER VIII.

MRS PAULINA BARNETT'S EXCURSION,

@ (SHE whole morning Hobson and Sergeant Long wandered
er i about the coast. The weather was much improved, the

, rain had ceased, and the wind had veered round to the
south-east with extraordinary suddenness, without unfortunately
decreasing in violence, causing fresh anxiety to the Lieutenant, who
could no longer hope to reach the mainland, :

The south-east wind would drive the wandering island farther
from the continent, and fling it into the dangerous currents, which
must drift it to the north of the Arctic Ocean. :

How could they even be sure that they had really approached
the coast during the awful night just over. Might it not have been
merely a fancy of the Lieutenant’s? The air was now clear, and
they could look round a radius of several miles; yet there was
nothing in the least resembling land within sight. Might they not
adopt the Sergeant’s suggestion, that a ship had passed the island
during the night, that the fire and cry were alike signals of sailors
in distress? And if it had been a vessel, must it not have foundered
in such a storm ?

Whatever the explanation there was no sign of a wreck to be
seen either in the offing or on the beach, and the waves, now driven
along by the wind from the land, were large enough to have over-
whelmed any vessel.

“ Well, Lieutenant,” said Sergeant Long, “what is to be done?”

“We must remain upon our island,” replied the Lieutenant,
pressing his hand to his brow ; “ we must remain on our island and
wait for ‘winter ; it alone can save us.”

It was now mid-day, and Hobson, anxious to get back to Fort
Hope before the evening, at once turned towards Cape Bathurst.

The wind, being now on their backs, helped them along as it had
done before. They could not help feeling very uneasy, as they were
naturally afraid that the island might have separated into two

Oy
224 THE FUR COUNTRY.



parts in the storm, The gulf observed the night before might have
spread farther, and if so they would be cut off from their friends,

They soon reached the wood they had crossed the night before.
Numbers of trees wereelying on the ground, some with broken
stems, others torn up by the roots from the soft soil, which had not
afforded them sufficient support. The few which remained erect
were stripped of their leaves, and their naked branches creaked and
moaned as the south-east wind swept over them.

Two miles beyond this desolated forest the wanderers arrived at
the edge of the gulf they had seen the night before without being
able to judge of its extent. They examined it carefully, and found
that it was about fifty feet. wide, cutting the coast line straight
across near Cape Michael and what was formerly Fort Barnett,
forming a kind of estuary running more than a mile and a half
inland. If the sea should again become rough in a fresh storm,
this gulf would widen more and more.

Just as Hobson approached the beach, he saw a large piece of ice
separate from the island and float away !

“Ah!” murmured Long, “that is the danger!”

Both then turned hurriedly to the west, and walked as fast as
they could round the huge gulf, making direct for Fort Hope.

They noticed no other changes by the way, and towards four
o'clock they crossed the court and found all their comrades at their
usual occupations,

Hobson told his men that he had wished once more before the
winter to see if there-were any signs of the approach of Captain
Craventy’s convoy, and that his expedition had been fruitless.

“Then, sir,” observed Marbre, “I suppose we must give up all
idea of sceing our comrades from Fort Reliance for this year at
least 2”

“T think you must,” replied Hobson simply, re-entering the
public room.

Mrs Barnett and Madge were told of the two chief events of the
exploration: the fire and the cry. Hobson was quite sure that
neither he nor the Sergeant were mistaken. The fire had really
been seen, the cry had really been heard; and after a long consul-
tation every one came to the conclusion that a ship in distress had
passed within sight during the night, and that the island had not
approached the American coast,

The south-east wind quickly chased away the clouds and mists,
MRS PAULINA BARNETT’S EXCURSION. 225



so that Hobson hoped to be able to take his bearings the next day.
The night was colder and a fine snow fell, which quickly covered
the ground. This first sign of winter was hailed with delight by
all who knew of the peril of their situation.

On the 2nd September the sky gradually became free from
vapours of all kinds, and the sun again appeared. Patiently the
Lieutenant awaited its culmination ;, at noon he took the latitude,
and two hours later a calculation of hour-angles gave him the
longitude.

The following were the results obtained: Latitude, 70° 57’;
longitude, 170° 30’.

So that, in spite of the violence of the hurricane, the island had
remained in much the same latitude, although it had been drifted
somewhat farther west. They were now abreast of Behring Strait,
but four hundred miles at least north of Capes East and Prince of
Wales, which jut out on either side at the narrowest part of the
passage.

The situation was, therefore, more dangerous than ever, as. the
island was daily getting nearer to the dangerous Kamtchatka
Current, which, if it once seized it in its rapid waters, might carry
it far away to the north. Its fate would now soon be decided. It
would either stop where the two currents met, and there be shut in
by the ice of the approaching winter, or it would be drifted away
and lost in the solitudes of the remote hyperborean regions.

Hobson was painfully moved on ascertaining the true state of
things, and being anxious to conceal his emotion, he shut himself
up in his own room and did not appear again that day. With his
chart before him, he racked his brains to find some way out of the
difficulties with which be was beset.

The temperature fell some degrees farther the same day, and the.
mists, which had collected above the south-eastern horizon the day
before, resolved themselves into snow during the night, so that the
next day the white carpet was two inches thick. Winter was
coming at last.

On September 3rd Mrs Barnett resolved to go a few miles along
the coast towards Cape Esquimaux. She wished to see for herself
the changes lately produced. If she had mentioned her project
to the Lieutenant, he would certainly have offered to accompany
her ; but she did not wish to disturb him, aud decided te go with-
226 THE FUR COUNTRY.

out him, taking Madge with her. There was really nothing to fear,
the only formidable animals, the bears, seemed to have quite de-
serted the island after the earthquake; and two women might, with-
out danger, venture on a walk of a few hours without an escort.

. Madge agreed at once to Mrs Barnett’s proposal, and without a
word to any ‘one they set out at eight o’clock a.m., provided with
an ice-chisel, a flask of spirits, and a wallet of provisions,

After leaving Cape Bathurst they turned to the west. The sun
was already dragging its slow course along the horizon, for at this
time of year it would only be a few degrees above it at its culmina-
tion. But its oblique rays were clear and powerful, and the snow
was already melting here and there beneath their influence.

The coast was alive with flocks of birds of many kinds;
ptarmigans, guillemots, puffins, wild geese, and ducks of every
variety fluttered about, uttering their various cries, skimming the
surface of the sea or of the lagoon, according as their tastes led
them to prefer salt or fresh water.

Mrs Barnett had now a capital opportunity of seeing how many
furred.animals haunted the neighbourhood of Fort Hope. Martens,
ermines, musk-rats, and foxes were numerous, and the magazines
of the factory might easily have been filled with their skins, but
what good would that be now? The inoffensive creatures, knowing
that hunting was suspended, went and came fearlessly, venturing
close up to the palisade, and becoming tamer every day. Their
instinct doubtless told them that they and their old enemies were
alike prisoners on the island, and a common danger bound them
together. It struck Mrs Barnett as strange that the two enthusi-
astic hunters—Marbre and Sabine—should obey the Lieutenant’s
orders to spare the furred animals without remonstrance or com-
plaint, and appeared not even to wish to shoot the valuable game
around them. It was true the foxes and others had not yet assumed
their winter robes, but this was not enough to explain the strange
indifference of the two hunters.

Whilst walking at a good pace and talking over their strange
situation, Mrs Barnett aud Madge carefully noted the peculiarities
of the sandy coast. The ravages recently made by the sea were
distinctly visible. Fresh landslips enabled them to see new fractures
in the ice distinctly. The strand, fretted away in many places, had
sunk to an enormous extent, and the waves washed along a level
oeach where the perpendienlar shores had once checked their ade
MRS PAULINA BARNETT’S EXCURSION. 227

varce. It was evident that parts of the island were now only on a
level with the ocean.

“Q Madge!” exclaimed Mrs Barnett, pointing to the long
smooth tracts on which the curling waves broke in rapid succession,
“our situation has indeed become aggravated by the awful storm!
It is evident that the level of the whole island is gradually becoming
lower. It is now only a question of time. Will the winter come
soon enough to save-us? Everything depends upon that.”

“The winter will come, my dear girl,” replied Madge with her
usual unshaken confidence. “ We have already had two falls of
snow. Ice is begininng to accumulate, and God will send it us in
time, I feel sure.”

“ You are right, Madge, we must have faith!” said Mrs- Barnett.
“We women who do not trouble ourselves about the scientific
reasons for physical phenomena can hope, when men who are better
informed, perhaps, despair. That is one of our blessings, which our
Lieutenant unfortunately does not share. He sees the significance
of facts, he reflects, he calculates, he reckons up the time still remain-
ing to us, and I see that he is beginning to lose all hope.”

“ He is a brave, energetic man, for all that,” replied Madge.

“Yes,” added Mrs Barnett, ‘‘ and if it be in the power of man to
save us, he will do it.”

By nine o’clock the two women had walked four miles. They
were often obliged to go inland for some little distance, to avoid
parts of the coast already invaded by the sea. Here and there the
waves had encroached half-a-mile beyond the former high-water line,
and the thickness of the ice-field had been considerably reduced.
There was danger that it would soon yield in many places, and
that new bays would be formed all along the coast.

As they got farther from the fort Mrs Barnett noticed that the
number of furred animals decreased considerably. The poor crea-
tures evidently felt more secure near a human habitation. The
only formidable animals which had not been led by instinct to
escape in time from the dangerous island were a few wolves, savage
beasts which even a common danger did not conciliate. Mrs Barnett
and Madge saw several wandering about on the plains, but they
did not approach, and soon disappeared behind the hills on the
south of the lagoon.

What will become of all these imprisoned animals,” said Madge,
228 THE FUR COUNTRY.



“ when all food fails them, and they are famished with hunger in
the winter ?”

“ They will not be famished in a hurry, Madge,” replied Mrs
Barnett, “and we shall have nothing to fear from them ; all the
martens, ermines, and Polar hares, which we spare will fall an easy
prey to them. That is not our danger; the brittle ground beneath
our feet, which may at any moment give way, is our real peril.
Only look how the sea is advancing here. It already covers half
the plain, and the waves, still comparatively warm, are eating away
our island above and below at the same time! If the cold does not
stop it very soon, the sea will shortly join the lake, and we shall lose
our lagoon as we lost our river and our port!”

“Well, if that should happen it will indeed be an irreparable
misfortune!” exclaimed Madge.

“Why?” asked Mrs Barnett, looking inquiringly at her com-
panion.

‘* Because we shall have no more fresh water,” replied Madge.

“Oh, we shall not want for fresh water, Madge,” said Mrs
Barnett; “the rain, the snow, the ice, the icebergs of the ocean,
the very ice-field on which we float, will supply us with that; no,
no, that is not our danger.”

About ten o’clock Mrs Barnett and Madge had reached the rising
ground above Cape Esquimaux, but at least two miles inland, for they
had found it impossible to follow the coast, worn away as it was by
the sea, Being rather tired with the many détouwrs they had had to
make, they decided to rest a few minutes before setting off on their
return to Fort Hope. A little hill crowned by a clump of birch
trees and a few shrubs afforded a pleasant shelter, and a bank
covered with yellow moss, from which the snow had melted, served
them as a seat. The little wallet was opened, and they shared their
simple repast like sisters.

Half an hour later, Mrs Barnett proposed that they should climb
along the promontory to the sea, and find out the exact state of
Cape Esquimaux. She was anxious to know if the point of it
had resisted the storm, and Madge declared herself ready to follow
“her dear girl” wherever she went, but at the same time reminded
her that they were eight or nine miles from Cape Bathurst already,
and that they must not make Lieutenant Hobson uneasy by too
long an absence.

But some presentiment made Mrs Barnett insist upon doing as
MRS PAULINA BARNETT’S EXCURSION, 229



she proposed, and she was right, as the event proved. It would
only delay them half an hour after all.

They had not gone'a quarter of a mile before Mrs Barnett stopped
suddenly, and pointed to some clear and regular impressions upon
the snow. These marks must have been made within the last nine
or ten hours, or the last fall of snow would have covered them over.

“What animal has passed along here, I wonder?” said Madge.

“It was not an animal,” said Mrs Barnett, bending down to
examine the marks more closely, “not a quadruped certainly, for
its four feet would have left impressions very different from these,
Look, Madge, they are the footprints of a human person! ”

“ But who could have been here?” inquired Madge ; “none of
the soldiers or women have left the fort, and we are on an island,
remember. You must be mistaken, my dear; but we will follow
the marks, and see where they lead us.”

They did so, and fifty paces farther on both again paused.

“ Look, Madge, look!” cried Mrs Barnett, seizing her companion’s
arm, “and then say if I am mistaken.”

Near the footprints there were marks of a heavy body having been
dragged along the snow, and the impression of ahand,

“Tt is the hand of a woman or a child!” cried Madge.

“Yes!” replied Mrs Barnett ; ‘a woman or a child has fallen
here exhausted, and risen again to stumble farther on; look, the
footprints again, and farther on more falls!”

“Who, who could it have been?” exclaimed Madge.

“How can I tell?” replied Mrs Barnett. ‘Some unfortunate
creature imprisoned like ourselves for three or four months perhaps.
Or some shipwrecked wretch flung upon the coast in the storm.
You remember the fire and the cry of which Sergeant Long and
Lieutenant Hobson spoke. Come, come, Madge, there may be
some one in danger for us to save!

And Mrs Barnett, dragging Madge with her, ran along follow-
ing the traces, and, further on found that they were stained with
blood.

The brave, tender-hearted woman, had spoken of saving some one in
danger ; had she then forgotten that there was no safety for any upon
the island, doomed sooner or later to be swallowed up by the ocean ?

The impressions on the ground led towards Cape Esquimaux.
And the two carefully traced them, but the footprints presently
disappeared, whilst the blood-stains increased, making an irregular
230 THE FUR COUNTRY.

pathway along the snow. It was evident the poor wretch had been
unable to walk farther, and had crept along on hands and knees;
here and there fragments of torn clothes were scattered about, bits
of sealskin and fur.

“ Come, come,” cried Mrs Barnett, whose heart beat violently.

Madge followed her, they were only a few yards from Cape
Esquimaux, which now rose only a few feet upon the sea-level against
the background of the sky, and was quite deserted.

The impressions now led them to the right of the cape, and run-
ning along they soon climbed to the top, but there was still nothing,
absolutely nothing, to be seen. At the foot of the cape, where the
slight ascent began, the traces turned to the right, and led straight
to the sea. ,

Mrs Barnett was turning to the right also, but just as she was
stepping on to the beach, Madge, who had been following her and
looking about uneasily, caught hold of her hand, and exclaimed—

“Stop! stop!”

“No, Madge, no!” cried Mrs Barnett, who was drawn along by
a kind of instinct in spite of herself.

“Stop, stop, and look!” cried Madge, tightening her hold on her
mistress’s hand.

On the beach, about fifty paces from Cape Esquimaus, a large
white mass was moving about and growling angrily.

It was an immense Polar bear, and the two women watched it
with beating hearts. It was pacing round and round a bundle of
fur on the ground, which it smelt at every now and then, lifting it
up and letting it fall again. The bundle of fur looked like the d
body of a walrus.

Mrs Barnett and Madge did not know what to think, whether to
advance or to retreat, but presently as the body was moved about
a kind of hood fell back from the head, and some long locks of
brown hair were thrown over the snow.

“Tt is a woman! a woman!” cried Mrs Barnett, eager to rush to
her assistance and find out if she were dead or alive!

“Stop!” repeated Madge, holding her back ; “the bear won't
harm her.”

And, indeed, the formidable creature merely turned the body over,
and showed no inclination of tearing it with its dreadful claws. It
went away and came back apparently uncertain what to do. It had
not yet perceived the two women who were so anxiously watching it,
































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































“It was the young Esquimaux girl Kalumah! ”—Page 231.
MRS PAULINA BARNETT'S EXCURSION. 231



Suddenly a loud crack was heard. The earth shook, and it
seemed as. if the whole of Cape Esquimaux were about to be
plunged into the sea.

A large piece of the island had broken away, and a huge piece of
ice, the centre of gravity of which had been displaced by the altera-
tion in its specific weight, drifted away, carrying with it the bear
and the body of the woman.

Mrs Barnett screamed, and would have flung herself upon the
broken ice before it floated away, if Madge had not clutched her
hand firmly, saying quietly—

“Stop! stop | \”

At the noise produced by the breaking off of the piece of ice, the
bear started back with a fearful growl, and, leaving the body, rashed
to the side where the fracture Bad taken place ; but he was already
some forty feet from the coast, and in his terror he ran round and
round the islet, tearing up the ground with his claws, and stamping
the sand and snow about him.

Presently he returned to the motionless body, and, to the hurror
of the two women, seized it by the clothes with his teeth, and
carrying it to the edge of the ice, plunged with it into the sea.

Being a powerful swimmer, like the whole race of Arctic bears,
he soon gained the shores of the island. With a great exertion of
strength he managed to climb up the ice, and having reached the
surface of.the island he quietly laid down the body he had
brought with him.

Mrs Barnett could no longer be held back,. and, shaking off
Madge’s hold, she rushed to the beach, never thinking of the
danger she ran in facing a formidable carnivorous creature.

The bear, séeing her approach, reared upon his hind legs, and
came towards her, but at about ten paces off he paused, shook
his great head, and turning round with a low growl, quietly
walked away towards the centre of the island, without once look-
ing behind him. He, too, was evidently affected by the mysterious
fear which had tamed all the wild animals on the island.

Mrs Barnett was soon bending over the body stretched about the
snow.

A. cry of astonishment burst from her lips :

_ Madge, Madge, come!” she exclaimed.

Madge approached and looked long and fixedly at the inanimate

body. It was the young Esquimaux girl Kalumah !
CHAPTER IX

KALUMAH’S ADVENTURES.



? ALUMAH on the floating island, two hundred miles from the
RX American coast. It. was almost incredible !

Oe The first thing to be ascertained was whether the poor
creature still breathed. Was it possible to restore her to life? Mrs
Barnett loosened her clothes, and found that her body was not yet
quite cold. Her heart beat very feebly, but it did beat. The blood
they had seen came from a slight wound in her hand; Madge
bound it up with her handkerchief, and the bleeding soon ceased.

At the same time Mrs Barnett raised the poor girl’s head, and
managed to pour a few drops of rum between her parted lips. She
then bathed her forehead and temples with cold water, and waited.

A few minutes passed by, and neither of the watchers were able
to utter a word, so anxious were they lest the faint spark of life
remaining to the young Esquimaux should be quenched.

But at last Kalumah’s breast heaved with a faint sigh, her hands
moved feebly, and presently she opened her eyes, and recognising
her preserver she murmured—

“Mrs Barnett! Mrs Barnett !”

The lady was nota little surprised at hearing her own name,
Had Kaluniah voluntarily sought the floating island, and did she
expect to find her old European friends on it? If so, how had she
come to know it, and how had she managed to reach the island, two
hundred miles from the mainland ? How could she have guessed that
the ice-field was bearing Mrs Barnett and all the occupants of Fort
Hope away from the American coast? Really it all seemed quite
inexplicable. .

“She lives—she will recover!” exclaimed Madge, who felt the
vital heat and pulsation returning to the poor bruised body.

“Poor child, poor child!” said Mrs Barnett, much affected ; “‘ she
murmured my name when she was at the point of death.”

But now Kalumah again half opened her eyes, and looked about
KALUMAH'S ADVENTURES. 243



her with a dreamy unsatisfied expression, presently, however, seeing
Mrs Barnett, her face brightened, the same name again burst from
her lips, and painfully raising her hand she let it fall on that of
her friend.

The anxious care of the two women soon revived Kalumah,
whose extreme exhaustion arose not only from fatigue but also
from hunger. She had eaten nothing for forty-eight hours. Some
pieces of cold venison and a little rum refreshed her, and she soon
felt able to accompany her newly-found friends to the fort.

Before starting, however, Kalumah, seated on the sand between
Mrs Barnett and Madge, overwhelmed them with thanks and ex-
pressions of attachment. Then she told her story: she had not
forgotten the Europeans of Fort Hope, and the thought of Mrs
Paulina Barnett had been ever present with her. It was not by
chance, as we shall see, that she had come to Victoria Island.

The following is a brief summary of what Kalumah related to
Mrs Barnett :—

Our readers will remember the young Esquimaux’s promise to
come and see her friends at Fort Hope again in the fine season of
the next year, The long Polar night being over, and the month of
May having come round, Kalumah set out to fulfil her pledge.
She left Russian America, where she had wintered, and accompanied
by one of her brothers-in-law, started for the peninsula of Victoria.

Six weeks later, towards the middle of June, she got to that part
of British America which is near Cape Bathurst. She at once
recognised the volcanic mountains shutting in Liverpool Bay, and
twenty miles farther east she came to Walruses’ Bay, where her people
had so often hunted morses and seals.

But beyond the bay on the north, there was nothing to be seen.
The coast suddenly sank to the south-east in an almost straight
line. Cape Esquimaux and Cape Bathurst had alike disappeared.

Kalumah understood what had happened. Lither the whole of
the peninsula had been swallowed up by the waves, or it was float-
ing away as an island, no one knew whither !

Kalumah’s tears flowed fast at the loss of those whom she had
come so far to see.

Her brother-in-law, however, had not appeared surprised at the
catastrophe. A kind of legend or tradition had been handed down
amongst the nomad tribes of North America, that Cape Bathurst
did not form part of the mainland, but had been joined on to it
234 THE FUR COUNTRY.





thousands of years befure, and would sooner or later be torn away
in some convulsion of nature. Hence the surprise at finding the
factory founded by Hobson at the foot of the cape. But with the
unfortunate reserve characteristic of their race, and perhaps also
under the influence of that enmity which all natives feel for those
who settle in their country, they said nothing to the Lieutenant,
whose fort was already finished. Kalumah knew nothing of this
tradition, which after all rested on no trustworthy evidence, and
probably belonged to the many northern legends relating to the
creation, This was how it was that the colonists of Fort Hope
were not warned of the danger they ran in settling on such a spot.

Had a word in season been spoken to Hobson he would certainly
have gone farther in search of some firmer foundation for his fort
than this soil, certain peculiarities of which he had noticed at the
first.

When Kalumah had made quite sure that all trace of Cape
Bathurst was gone, she explored the coast as far as the further side
of Washburn Bay, but without finding any sign of those she sought,
and at last there was nothing left for her to do but to return to the
fisheries of Russian America.

She and her brother-in-law left Walruses’ Bay at the end of June,
and following the coast got back to New Georgia towards the end of
July, after an absolutely fruitless journey.

Kalumah now gave up all hope of again seeing Mrs Barnett and
the other colonists of Fort Hope. She concluded that they had all
been swallowed up by the ocean long ago.

At this part of her tale the young Esquimaux looked at Mrs
Barnett with eyes full of tears, and pressed her hand affectionaly,
and then she murmured her thanks to God for her own preservation
through the means of her friend.

Kalumah on her return home resumed her customary occupa-
tions, and worked with the rest of her tribe at the fisheries near
Icy Cape, a point a little above the seventieth parallel, and more
than six hundred miles from Cape Bathurst.

Nothing worthy of note happened during the first half of the
month of April; but towards the end the storm began which had
caused Hobson so much uneasiness, and which had apparently
extended its ravages over the whole of the Arctic Ocean and
beyond Behring Strait, Tt was equally violent at Icy Cape and on
Victoria Island, and, as the Licutenant ascertained in taking his
KALUMAH’S ADVENTURES. 235



bearings, the latter was then not more than two hundred miles from
the coast.

As Mrs Barnett listened to Kalumah, her previous information
enabled her rapidly to find the key to the strange events which had
taken place, and to account for the arrival of the young native on
the island.

During the first days of the storm the Esquimaux of Icy Cape
were confined to their huts. They could neither get out nor fish.
But during the night of the 31st Augusta kind of presentiment led
Kalumah to venture down to the beach, and, braving the wind and
rain in all their fury, she peered anxiously through the darkness at
the waves rising mountains high.

Presently she thought she saw a huge mass driven along by the
hurricane parallel with the coast. Gifted with extremely keen
sight—as are all these wandering tribes accustomed to the long
dark Polar nights—she felt sure that she was not mistaken.

Something of vast bulk was passing two miles from the coast,
and that something could be neither a whale, a boat, nor, at this
time of the year, even an iceberg.

But Kalumah did not stop to reason. The truth flashed upon
her like a revelation. Before her excited imagination rose the
images of her friends, She saw them all once more, Mrs Barnett,
Madge, Lieutenant Hobson, the baby she had covered with kisses at
Fort Hope. Yes, they were passing, borne along in the storm on a
floating ice-field!

Kalumah did not doubt or hesitate a moment.. She felt that she
must tell the poor shipwrecked people, which she was sure they
were, of the close vicinity of the land. She ran to her hut, seized
a torch of tow and resin, such as the Esquimaux use when fishing
at night, lit it and waved it on the beach at the summit of Icy
Cape. ,

This was the fire which Hobson and Long had seen when crouch-
ing on Cape Michael on the night of the 31st August.

Imagine the delight and excitement of the young Esquimaux
when a signal replied to hers, when she saw the huge fire lit by
Lieutenant Hobson, the reflection of which reached the American
soast, although he did not dream that he was so near it.

But it quickly went out, the lull in the storm only lasted a few
minutes, and the fearful gale, veering round to the south-east, swept

along with redoubled violence,
s
236 THE FUR COUNTRY.

Kalumah feared that her “ prey,” so she called the floating island,
was about to escape her, and that it would not be driven on to the
shore. She saw it fading away, and knew that it would soon dis-
appear in the darkness and be lost to her on the boundless ocean.

It was indeed a terrible moment for the young native, and she
determined at all hazards to let her friends know of their situation,
There might yet be time for them to take some steps for their
deliverance, although every hour took them farther from the con-
tinent,

She did not hesitate a moment, her kayak was at hand, the frail
bark in which she had more ‘than once braved the storms of the
Arctic Ocean, she pushed it down to the sea, hastily laced on the
sealskin jacket fastened to the canoe, and, the long paddle in her
hand, she plunged into the darkness,

Mrs Barnett here pressed the brave child to her heart, and Madge
shed tears of sympathy.

When launched upon the roaring ocean, Kalumah found the change
of wind inher favour. The waves dashed over her kayak, it is true,
but they were powerless to harm the light boat, which floated on
their crests like a straw. It was capsized several times, but a
stroke of the paddle righted it at once.

After about an hour’s hard work, Kalumah could see the wander-
ing island more distinctly, and had no longer any doubt of effecting
her purpose, as she was but a quarter of a mile from the beach.

It was then that she uttered the cry which Hobson and Long
had heard.

But, alas! Kalumah now felt herself being carried away towards
the west by a powerful current, which could take firmer hold of
her kayak than of the floating island !

In vain she struggled to beat back with, her paddle, the light boat
shot along like an arrow. She uttered scream after scream, but
she was unheard, for she was already far away, and when the day
broke the coasts of Alaska and the island she had wished to reach,
were but two distant masses on the horizon.

Did she despair? Not yet. It was impossible to get back to the
American continent in the teeth of the terrible wind which was driv-
ing the island before it at a rapid pace, taking it out two hundred
miles in thirty-six hours, and assisted by the current from the coast.

There was but one thing left to do. To get to the island by
keeping in the same current which was drifting it away.































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































KALUMAH’S ADVENTURES, 237



But, alas! the poor girl’s strength was not equal to her courage,
she was faint from want of food, and, exhausted as she was, she
could no longer wield her paddle.

For some hours she struggled on, and seemed to be approach-
ing the island, although those on it could not see her, as she was
but a speck upon the ocean, She struggled on until her stiffened
arms and bleeding hands fell powerless, and, losing consciousness,
she was floated along in her frail kayak at the mercy of winds ard
waves.

She did not know how long this lasted, she remembered nothing
more, until a sudden shock roused her, her kayak had struck
against something, it opened beneath her, and she was plunged
into cold water, the freshnéss of which revived her. A few moments
later, she was flung upon the sand in a dying state by a large
wave. : .

This had taken place the night before, just before dawn—that is.
to say, about two or three o’clock in the morning. Kalumah had
then been seventy hours at sea since she embarked !

The young native had no idea where she had been thrown,
whether on the continent or on the floating island, which she had
so bravely sought, but she hoped the latter. Yes, hoped that she had
reached her friends, although she knew that the wind and current
had driven them into the open sea, and not towards the coast!

The thought revived her, and, shattered as she was, she struggled
to her feet, and tried to follow the coast.

She had, in fact, been providentially thrown on that portion of
Victoria Island which was formerly the upper corner of Walruses’
Bay. But, worn away as it was by the waves, she did not recognise
the land with which she had once been familiar. —

She tottered on, stopped, and again struggledto advance; the beach
before her appeared endless, she had so often to go round where the
sea had encroached upon the sand. And so dragging herself along,
stumbling and scrambling up again, she at last approached the
little wood where Mrs Barnett and Madge had halted that very
morning. We know that the two women found the footprints left
by Kalumah in the snow not far from this very spot, and it was at
a short distance farther on that the poor girl fell for the last time.
Exhausted by fatigue and hunger, she still managed to creep along
on hands and knees for a few minutes longer.

A great hope kept her from despair, for she had at last recognised


238 THE FUR COUNTRY.

Cape Esquimaux, at the foot of which she and her people had en-
camped the year before. She knew now that she was but eight
miles from the factory, and that she had only to follow the path she
had so often traversed when she went to visit her friends at Fort
Hope.

Yes, this hope sustained her, but she had scarcely reached the
beach when her forces entirely failed her, and she again lost all
consciousness. But for Mrs Barnett she would have died.

“But, dear lady,” she added, “I knew that you would come to
my rescue, and that God would save me by your means.”

We know the rest. We know the providential instinct which led
Mrs Barnett and Madge to explore this part of the coast on this
very day, and the presentiment which made them visit Cape Esqui-
maux after they had rested, and before returning to Fort Hope.
We know too—as Mrs Barnett related to Kalumah—how the piece
of ice had floated away, and how the bear had acted under'the cir-
cumstances,

“ And after all,” added Mrs Barnett with a smile, “it was not I who
saved you, but the good creature without whose aid you would
never have come back to us, and if ever. we see him again we will
treat him with the respect due to your preserver.”

During this long conversation Kalumah was rested and refreshed,
and Mrs Barnett proposed that they should return to the fort at
once, as she had already been too long away. The young girl
immediately rose ready to start.

Mrs Barnett was indeed most anxious to tell the Lieutenant of
all that had happened during the night of the storm, when the
wandering island had neared the American continent, but she urged
Kalumah to keep her adventures secret, and to say nothing about
the situation of the island. She would naturally be supposed to
have come along the coast, in fulfilment of the promise she had
made to visit her friends in the fine season. Her arrival would tend
only to strengthen the belief of the colonists that no changes had
taken place in the country around Cape Bathurst, and to set at rest
the doubts any of them might have entertained.

It was about three o’clock when Madge and Mrs Barnett, with
Kalumah hanging on her arm, set out towards the east, and before
five o’clock in the afternoon they all arrived at the postern of the
fort. ; :
CHAPTER X,
THE KAMTCHATKA CURRENT.

4214 can readily imagine the reception given to Kalumah by all
at the fort. It-seemed to them that the communication
with the outer world was reopened. Mrs Mac-Nab, Mrs
Rae, and Mrs Joliffe overwhelmed her with caresses, but Kalumah’s
first thought was for the little child, she caught sight of him im-
mediately, and running to him covered him with kisses.

The young native was charmed and touched with the hospitality
of her European hosts. A positive féte was held in her honour,
and every one was delighted that she would have to remain at the
fort for the winter, the season being too far advanced for her to get
back to the settlements of Russian America before the cold set in.

But if all the settlers were agreeably surprised at the appearance
of Kalumah, what must Lieutenant Hobson have thought when he
saw her leaning on Mrs Barnett’s arm. A sudden hope flashed
across his mind like lightning, and as quickly died away : perhaps
in spite of the evidence of his daily observations Victoria Island had
run aground somewhere on the continent unnoticed by any of
them.

Mrs Barnett read the Lieutenant’s thoughts in his face, and shook
her head sadly.

He saw that no change had taken place in their situation, and
waited until Mrs Barnett was able to explain Kalumah’s appear-
ance.

A few minutes later he was walking along the beach with the
lady, listening with great interest to her account of Kalumah’s ad-
ventures,

So he had been right in-all his conjectures,’ The north-east
hurricane had driven the island out of the current. The ice-field had
approached within a mile at least of the American continent. It
had not been.a fire on board ship which they had:seen, or the cry
of a shipwrecked mariner which they had heard. The mainland


240 THE FUR COUNTRY.-

had been close at hand, and had the north-east wind blown hard for
another hour Victoria Island would have struck against the coast of
Russian America. And then at this critical moment a fatal, a
terrible wind had driven the island away from the mainland back
to the open sea, and it was again in the grasp of the irresistible
current, and was being carried along with a speed which nothing
could check, the mighty south-east wind aiding its headlong course,
to that terribly dangerous spot where’ it would be exposed to con-
trary attractions, either of which might lead to its destruction and
that of all the unfortunate people dragged along with it,

For the hundredth time the Lieutenant and Mrs Barnett dis-
cussed all the bearings of the case, and then Hobson inquired if any
important changes had taken place in the appearance of the districts
between Cape Bathurst and Walruses’ Bay ?

Mrs Barnett replied that in some places the level of the coast
appeared to be lowered, and that the waves now covered tracts of
sand which were formerly out of their reach. She related what had
happened at Cape Esquimaux, and the important fracture which
had taken place at that part of the coast.

Nothing could have been less satisfactory. It was evident that
the ice-field forming the foundation of the island was breaking up.
What had happened at Cape Esquimaux might at any moment be
reproduced at Cape Bathurst. At any hour of the day or night the
houses of the factory might be swallowed up by the deep, and the
only thing which could save them was the winter, the bitter winter
which was fortunately rapidly approaching.

The next day, September 4th, when Hobson took his bearings, he
found that the position of Victoria Island had not sensibly changed
since the day before. It had remained motionless between the two
contrary currents, which was on the whole the very best thing
that could have happened.

“Tf only the cold would fix us where we are, if the ice-wall
would shut us in, and the sea become petrified around us,”
exclaimed Hobson, “I should feel that our safety was assured. We
are but two hundred miles from the coast at this moment, and by
venturing across the frozen ice-fields we might perhaps reach either
Russian America or Kamtchatka. Winter, winter at any price, let
the winter set in, no matter how rapidly.”

Meanwhile, according to the Lieutenant’s orders, the preparations
for the winter were completed, Enough forage to last the dogs the
THE KAMTCHATKA CURRENT. 241

whole of the Polar night was stored up. They were all in good
health, but getting rather fat with having nothing to do. They
could not be taken too much care of, as they would have to work
terribly hard in the journey across the ice after the abandonment
of Fort Hope. It was most important to keep up their strength,
and they were fed on raw reindeer venison, plenty of which was
easily attainable.

The tame reindeer also prospered, their stable was comfortable,
and a good supply of moss was laid by for them in the magazines
of the fort. The females provided Mrs Joliffe with plenty of milk
for her daily culinary needs. .

The Corporal and his little wife had also sown fresh seeds,
encouraged by the success of the last in the warm season. The
ground had been prepared beforehand for the planting of scurvy-
grass and Labrador Tea. It was important that there should be no
lack of these valuable anti-scorbutics.

The sheds were filled with wood up to the very roof. Winter
might come as soon as it liked now, and freeze the mercury in the
cistern of the thermometer, there was no fear that they would again
be reduced to burn their furniture as they had the year before.
Mac-Nab and his men had become wise by experience, and the
chips left from the boat-building added considerably to their stock of
fuel.

About this time a few animals were taken which had already
assumed their winter furs, such as martens, polecats, blue foxes, and
ermines, Marbre and Sabine had obtained leave from the Lieu-
tenant to set some traps outside the enceinte, He did not like to
refuse them this permission, lest they should become discontented, as
he had really no reason to assign. for putting a stop to the collect-
ing of furs, although he knew full well that the destruction of these
harmless creatures could do nobody any good. Their flesh was, how-
ever, useful for feeding the dogs, and enabled them to economise
the reindeer venison.

All was now prepared for the winter, and the soldiers worked
with an energy which they would certainly not have shown if they
had Been told the secret of their situation.

During the next few days the bearings were taken with the
greatest care, but no change was noticeable in the situation of
Victoria Island; and Hobson, finding that it was motionless, began
to have fresh hope. Although there were as yet no symptoms of
242 THE FUR COUNTRY.

winter in inorganic nature, the temperature maintaining a mean
height of 49° Fahrenheit, some swans flying to the south in search
of a warmer climate was a good omen. Other birds capable of
a long-sustained flight over vast tracts of the ocean began to desert
the island. They knew full well that the continent of America
and of Asia, with their less severe climates and their plentiful
resources of every kind, were not far off, and that their wings were
strong enough to carry them there. A good many of these birds
were caught; and by Mrs Barnett’s advice the Lieutenant tied
round their necks a stiff cloth ticket, on which was inscribed the
position of the wandering island, and the names of its inhabi-
tants. The birds were then set free, and their captors watched them
wing their way to the south with envious eyes.

Of course none were in the secret of the sending forth of these
messengers, except Mrs Barnett, Madge, Kalumah, Hobson, and
Long.

The poor quadrupeds were unable to seek their usual winter
refuges in the south. Under ordinary circumstances the reindeer,
Polar hares, and even the wolves would have left early in September
for the shores of the Great Bear and Slave Lakes, a good many
degrees farther south ; but now the sea was an insurmountable bar-
rier, and they, too, would have to wait until the winter should
render it passable. Led by instinct they had doubtless tried to
leave the island, but, turned back by the water, the instinct of
self-preservation had brought them to the neighbourhood of Fort
Hope, to be near the men who were once their hunters and most
formidable enemies, but were now, like themselves, rendered compa-
ratively inoffensive by their imprisonment.

The observations of the 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th September,
revealed no alteration in the posttion of Victoria Island. The large
eddy between the two currents kept it stationary. Another fifteen
days, another three weeks of this state of things, and. Hobson felt
that they might be saved.

But they were not yet out of danger, and many terrible, almost
supernatural, trials still awaited the inhabitants of Fort Hope.

On the 10th of September observations showed a displacement
of Victoria Island. Only a slight displacement, but in a northerly
direction.

Hobson was in dismay ; the island was finally in the grasp of the
Kamtchatka Current, and was drifting towards the unknown latitudes
THE KAMTCHATKA CURRENT. 243

where the large icebergs come into being; it was on its way to the
vast solitudes of the Arctic Ocean, interdicted to the human Sage
from which there is no return.

Hobson did not hide this new danger from those who were in the
secret of the situation. Mrs Barnett, Madge, Kalumah, and Ser-
geant Long received this fresh blow with courage and resignation.

“ Perhaps,” said Mrs Barnett, “the island may stop even yet.
Perhaps it will move slowly. Let us hope on.... and wait !
The winter is not far off, and we are going to meet it. In any case
God’s will be done !”

“ My friends,” said Hobson earnestly, “ do you not think I ought
now to tell our comrades. You see in what a terrible position we
are and all that may await us! Is it not taking too great a respon-
sibility to keep them in ignorance of the peril they are in?”

“TJ should wait a little longer,” replied Mrs Barnett without
hesitation ; “I would not give them all over to despair until the last
chance is gone.”

“That is my opinion also,” said Long.

Hobson had thought the same, and was glad to find that his
companions agreed with him in the matter.

On the 11th and 12th September, the motion towards the north
was more noticeable. Victoria Island was drifting at a rate of
from twelve to thirteen miles a day, so that each day took them the
same distance farther from the land and nearer to the north. They
were, in short, following the decided course made by the Kamtchatke
Current, and would quickly pass that seventieth degree which once
cut across the extremity of Cape Bathurst, and beyond which no
land of any kind was to be met with in this me of the Arctic
Ocean.

Every day Hobson looked out their position on the map, and saw
only too clearly to what awful solitudes, the wandering island was
drifting.

The only hope left consisted, as Mrs Barnett had said, in the
fact that they were going to meet the winter. In thus drifting
towards the north they would soon encounter those ice-cold waters,
which would consolidate and strengthen the foundations of the
island, But if the danger of being swallowed up by the waves was
decreased, would not the unfortunate colonists have an immense
distance to traverse to get back from these remote northern regions ?
Had the boat been finished, Lieutenant Hobson would not have
244 THE FUR COUNTRY.

hesitated to embark the whole party in it, but in spite of the zealous
efforts of the carpenter it was not nearly ready, and indeed it
taxed Mac-Nab’s powers to the uttermost to construct a vessel
on which to trust the lives of twenty persons in such a dangerous
sea.

By the 16th September Victoria Island was between seventy-
three and eighty miles north of the spot where its course had been
arrested for a few days between the Behring and Kamtchatka Cur-
rents. There were now, however, many signs of the approach of
winter. Snow fell frequently and in large flakes. The column of
mercury fell gradually. The mean temperature was still 44° Fahren-
heit during the day, but at night it fell to 32°. The sun described
an extremely lengthened curve above the horizon, not rising more
than a few degrees even at noon, and disappearing for eleven hours
out of every twenty-four.

At last, on the night of the 16th September, the first signs of
ice appeared upon the sea in the shape of small isolated crystals
like snow, which stained the clear surface of the water. As was
noticed by the famous explorer Scoresby, these crystals immedi-
ately calmed the waves, like the oil which sailors pour upon the
sea to produce a momentary cessation of its agitation. These
crystals showed a tendency to weld themselves together, but they
were broken and separated by the motion of the water as soon as
they had combined to any extent.

Hobson watched the appearance of the “ young ice” with extreme
attention. He knew that twenty-four hours would suffice to make
the ice-crust two or three inches thick, strong enough in fact to
bear the weight of a man. He therefore expected that Victoria
Island would shortly be arrested in its course to the north.

But the day undid the work of the night, and if the speed of the
island slackened during the darkness in consequence of the obstacles
in its path, they were removed in the next twelve hours, and the
island was carried rapidly along again by the powerful current,

The distance from the northern regions became daily less, and
nothing could be done to lessen the evil.

At the autumnal equinox on the 21st of September, the day and
night were of equal length, and from that date the night gradually
became longer and longer. The winter was coming at last, but it
did not set in rapidly or with any rigour. Victoria Island was
now nearly a degree farther north than the seventieth parallel ; and
THE KAMTCHATRA CURRENT. 245





on this 21st September, a rotating motion was for the first time
noticed, a motion estimated by Hobson at about a quarter of the
circumference.

Imagine the anxiety of the unfortunate Lieutenant. The secret
he had so long carefully kept was now about to be betrayed by
nature to the least clear-sighted. Of course the rotation altered the
cardinal points of the island. Cape Bathurst no longer pointed to
the north, but to the east. The sun, moon, and stars rose and
set on a different horizon, and it was impossible that men like
Mac-Nab, Rae, Marbre and others, accustomed to note the signs of
the heavens, could fail to be struck by the change, and understand
its meaning. ©

To Hobson’s great satisfaction, however, the brave soldiers
appeared to notice nothing; the displacement with regard to the
cardinal points was not, it was true, very considerable, and it was
often too foggy for the rising and setting of the heavenly bodies to
be accurately observed. ;

Unfortunately the rotation appeared to be accompanied by an
increase of speed. From that date Victoria Island drifted at the
rate of a mile an hour. It advanced farther and farther north, *
farther and farther away from all land. Hobson did not even yet
despair, for it was not in his nature to do so, but he felt confused
and astray, and longed for the winter with all his heart.

At last the temperature began to fall still lower. Snow fell plenti-
fully on the 23d and 24th September, and increased the thickness
of the coating of ice on the sea. Gradually the vast ice-field was
formed on every side, the island in its advance continually broke
it up, but each day it became firmer and better able to resist, The
sea succumbed to the petrifying hand of winter, and became frozen
as far as the eye could reach, and on September 27th, when the
bearings were taken, it was found that Victoria Island had not
moved since the day before. It was imprisoned in a vast ice-field,
it was motionless. in longitude 177° 22’, and latitude 77° 57’—
more than six hundred miles from any continent.
CHAPTER Xf

4 COMMUNICATION FROM LIEUTENANT HOBSON.

Ree UCH was the situation. To use Sergeant Long’s expression,
CS) the island had “cast anchor,” and was as stationary as

when the isthmus connected it with the mainland. But
six hundred miles now separated it from inhabited countries, six
hundred miles which would have to be traversed in sledges across
the solidified surface of the sea, amongst the icebergs which the co!d
would build up, in the bitterest months of the Arctic winter.

It would be a fearful undertaking, but hesitation was impossible.
The winter, for which Lieutenant Hobson had so ardently longed,
had come at last, and arrested the fatal march of the island to the
north. It would throw a bridge six hundred miles long from their
desolate home to the continents on the south, and the new chances
of safety must not be neglected, every effort must be made to restore
the colonists, so long lost inthe hyperborean regions, to their
friends.

As Hobson explained to his companions, it would be madness to
linger till the spring should again thaw the ice, which would be to
abandon themselves once more to the capricious Behring currents,
They must wait until the sea was quite firmly frozen over, which at
the most would be in another three or four weeks. Meanwhile the
Lieutenant proposed making frequent excursions on the ice-field
encircling the island, in order to ascertain its thickness, its suita-
bility for the passage of sledges, and the best route to take across
it so as to reach the shores of Asia or America.

“Of course,” observed Hobson to Mrs Barnett and Sergeant Long,
‘we would all rather make for Russian America than Asia, if a
choice is open to us.”

“Kalumah will be very useful to us,” said Mrs Barnett, “‘ for as
a native she will be thoroughly acquainted with the whole of
Alaska,”

“Yes, indeed,” replied Hobson, “her arrival was most fortunate
A COMMUNICATION. 247

for us. Thanks to her, we shall be easily able to get to the settle-
ment of Fort Michael on Norton Sound, perhaps even to New Arch-
angel, a good deal farther south, where we can pass the rest of the
winter.”

“Poor Fort Hope!” exclaimed Mrs Barnett, “it goes to my
heart to think of abandoning it on this island. It has been built
at the cost of so much trouble and fatigue, everything about it has
been so admirably arranged by you, Lieutenant! I feel as if my
heart would break when we leave it finally.”

* You will not suffer more than I shall, madam,” replied Hobson,
“and perhaps not so much. It is the chief work of my life ; I have
devoted all my powers to the foundation of Fort Hope, so unfortu-
nately named, and I shall never cease to regret having to leave it.
And what will the Company say which confided this task to me, for
after all I am but its humble agent.”

“Tt will say,” cried Mrs Barnett with enthusiasm, ‘‘it will say
that you have done your duty, that you are not responsible for the
caprices of nature, which is ever more powerful than man. I¢ will
understand that you could not foresee what has happened, for it was
beyond the penetration of the most far-sighted man, and it will know
that it owes the preservation of the whole party to your prudence
and moral courage.”

“Thank you, madam,” replied the Lieutenant, pressing Mrs
Barnett’s hand, “thank you for your warm-hearted words. But I
have had some experience of men, and I know that success is always
admired and failure condemned. But the will of Heaven be
done |”

Sergeant Long, anxious to turn the Lieutenant from his melan-
choly thoughts, now began to talk about the preparations for the
approaching departure, and asked if it was not time to tell his
comrades the truth.

“ Let us wait a little longer,” replied Hobson. ‘ We have saved
the poor fellows much anxiety and worry already, let us keep silent
until the day is fixed for the start, and then we ‘will reveal the
whole truth.”

This point being decided, the ordinary occupations of the factory
went on for a few weeks longer.

How different was the situation of the colonists a year ago, when
they were all looking forward to the future in happy unconscious-
ness |
248 THE FUR COUNTRY,



A year ago the first symptoms of the cold season were appearing,
even as they were now. ‘The “young ice” was gradually forming
along the coast. The lagoon, its waters being quieter than those
of the sea, was the first to freeze over. The temperature remained
about one or two degrees above freezing point in the day, and fell
to three or four degrees below in the night. Hobson again made
his men assume their winter garments, the linen vests and furs before
described. The condensers were again set up inside the house, the
air vessel and air-pumps were cleaned, the traps were set round
the palisades on different parts of Cape Bathurst, and Marbre and
Sabine got plenty of game, and finally the last touches were given
to the inner rooms of the principal house.

Although Fort Hope was now about two degrees farther north
than at ‘the same time the year before, there was no sensible
difference in the state of the temperature. The fact is, the distance
between the seventieth and seventy-second parallels is not great
enough to affect the mean height of the thermometer; on the con-
trary, it really seemed to be less cold than at the beginning of the
Winter before. Perhaps, however, that was because the colonists
were now, to a certain extent, acclimatised.

Certainly the winter did not set in so abruptly as last time.
The weather was very damp, and the atmosphere was always
charged with vapour, which fell now as rain now as snow. In
Lieutenant Hobson’s opinion, at least, it was not nearly cold
enough.

The sea froze all round the island, it is true, but not in a regular
or continuous sheet of ice. Large blackish patches here and there
showed that the icicles were not thoroughly cemented together.
Loud resonant noises were constantly heard, produced by the
breaking of the ice-field when the rain melted the imperfectly
welded edges of the blocks composing it. There was no rapid
accumulation of lump upon lump such as is generally seen in
intense cold. Icebergs and hummocks were few and scattered, and
no ice-wall as yet shut in the horizon.

‘This season would have been just the thing for the explorers of
the North-West Passage, or the seekers of the North Pole,” repeated
Sergeant Long again and again, “ but it is most unfavourable for us,
and very much against our ever getting back to our own land!”

This went on throughout October, and Hobson announced that
the mean temperature was no lower than 32° Fahrenheit, and it is
A COMMUNICATION. 249

well known that several days of cold, 7° or 8° below zero, are re-
quired for the sea to freeze hard.

Had proof been needed that the ice-field was impassable, a fact
noticed by Mrs Barnett and Hobson would have sufficed.

The animals imprisoned in the island, the furred animals, rein-
deer, wolves, &c., would have left the island had it been possible to
cross the sea, but they continued to gather in large numbers round
the factory, and to seek the vicinity of man. ‘The wolves came
actually within musket-range of the enceinte to devour the martens
and Polar hares, which were their only food. The famished reindeer
having neither moss nor herbs on which to browse, roved about
Cape Bathurst in herds.
Mrs Barnett and Kalumah felt they owed a debt of gratitude, often
passed to and fro amongst the trees of the woods, on tlie banks of
the lagoon, and the presence of all these animals, especially of the
ruminants, which require an exclusively vegetable diet, proved that
flight was impossible.

“We have said that the thermometer remained at freezing point,
and Hobson found on consulting his journal that at the same time
the year before, it had already marked 20° Fahrenheit below zero,
proving how unequally cold is distributed in the capricious Polar
regions.

The colonists therefore did not suffer much, and were not confined
to the house at all, It was, however, very damp indeed, rain
mixed with snow fell constantly, and the falling of the barometer
proved that the atmosphere was charged with vapour.

Throughout October the Lieutenant and Long made many
excursions to ascertain the state of the ice-field in the offing ; one
day they went to Cape Michael, another to the edge of the former
Walruses’ Bay, anxious to see if it would be possible to cross to the
continent of America or Asia, or if the start would have-to be put
off,

But the surface of the ice-field was sea with puddles of
water, and in some parts riddled with holes, which would certainly
have been impassable for sledges, It seemed as if it would be
scarcely safe for a single traveller to venture across the half-liquid,
half-solid masses. It was easy to see that the cold had been neither
severe nor equally maintained, for the ice consisted of an accumu-
lation of sharp points, crystals, prisms, polyhedrons, and figures of
every variety, like an aggregation of stalactites. It was more like

£
250 THE FUR COUNTRY.

a glacier than a “ field,” and even if it had been practicable, walking
on it would have been very tiring.

Hobson and Long managed with great difficulty to scramble over
a mile or two towards the south, but at the expense of a vast
amount of time, so that they were compelled to admit that they
must wait some time yet, and they returned to Fort Hope dis-
appointed and disheartened.

The first days of November came, and the temperature fell a little,
but only a very few degrees, which was not nearly enough. Victoria
Island was wrapped in damp fogs, and the lamps had to be lit during
the day. It was necessary, however, to economise the oil as much as
possible, as the supply was running short. No fresh stores had been
brought by Captain Craventy’s promised convoy, and there were
no more walruses to be hunted. Should the dark winter be pro-
longed, the colonists would be compelled to have recourse to the
fat of animals, perhaps even to the resin of the firs, to get a little
light. The days were already very short, and the pale disc of the
sun, yielding no warmth, and deprived of all its brightness, only
appeared above the horizon for a few hours at a time. Yes, winter
had come with its mists, its rain, and its snow, but without the
long-desired cold.

On the 11th November something of a féte was held at Fort
Hope. Mrs Joliffe served up a few extras at dinner, for it was the
anniversary of the birth of little Michael Mac-Nab. He was now
a year old, and was the delight of everybody. He had large blue
eyes and fair curly hair, like his father, the head carpenter, who
was very proud of the resemblance. At dessert the baby was
solemnly weighed. It was worth something to see him struggling
in the scales, and to hear his astonished cries! He actually weighed
thirty-four pounds! The announcement of this wonderful weight
was greeted with loud cheers, and Mrs Mac-Nab was congratulated
by everybody on her fine boy. Why Corporal Joliffe felt that he
ought to share the compliments it is difficult to imagine, unless it
was as a kind of foster-father or nurse to the baby. He had car-
ried the child about, dandled and rocked him so often, that he felt
he had something to do with his specific weight !

The next day, November 12th, the sun did not appear above the
horizon. The long Polar night was beginning nine days sooner
than it had done the year before, in consequence of the difference
in the latitude of Victoria Island then and now.
4 COMMUNICATION. 251



The disappearance of the sun did not, however, produce any
change in the state of the atmosphere. The temperature was as
changeable as ever. The thermometer fell one day and rose the
next. Rain and snow succeeded each other. The wind was soft,
and did not settle in any quarter, but often veered round to every
point of the compass in the course of a single day. ‘The constant
damp was very unhealthy, and likely to lead to scorbutic affections
amongst the colonists, but fortunately, although the lime juice and
lime lozenges were running short, and no fresh stock had been
obtained, the scurvy-grass and sorrel had yielded a very good
crop, and, by the advice of Lieutenant Hobson, a portion of them
was eaten daily.

Every effort must, however, be made to get away from Fort Hope.
Under the circumstances, three months would scarcely be long
enough for them all to get to the nearest continent. It was im-
possible to risk being overtaken by the thaw on the ice-field, and
therefore if they started at all it must be at the end of November.

The journey would have been difficult enough, even if the ice had
been rendered solid everywhere by a severe winter, and in this
uncertain weather it was a most serious matter.

On the 13th November, Hobson, Mrs Barnett, and the Sergeant
met to decide on the day of departure. The Sergeant was of opinion
that they ought to leave the island as soon as possible.

For,” he said, “we must make allowance for all the possible
delays duririg a march of six hundred miles. We ought to reach
the continent before March, or we may be surprised by the thaw,
and then we shall be in a worse perdicament than we are on our
island.”

“But,” said Mrs Barnett, “is the sea firm enough for us to cross
it?”

“T think it is,” said Long, “and the ice gets thicker every day.
The barometer, too, is gradually rising, and by the time our prepara-
tions are completed, which will be in about another week, I:think,
I hope that the really cold weather will have set in.”

“ The winter has begun very badly,” said Hobson, “in fact every-
thing seems to combiné against us. Strange -seasons have often
been experienced on these seas ; I have heard of whalers being able
to navigate in places where, even in the summer at another time
they would not have had an inch of water beneath their keels.
In my opinion there is not a day to be lost, and I cannot sufficiently
252 3 THE FUR COUNTRY.



regret that the ordinary temperature of these regions. does not assist
us.”

“Tt will later,” said Mrs Barnett, ‘and we must be ready to
take advantage of every chance in our favour. When do you pro-
pose starting, Lieutenant ?”

“¢ At the end of November at the latest,” replied Hobson, “ but
if in a week hence our preparations are finished, and the route
appears practicable, we will start then.”

“Very well,” said Long, “we will get ready without losing an
instant.”

“Then,” said Mrs Barnett, “you will now tell our companions
of the situation in which they are placed ?”

“Yes, madam, the moment to speak and the time for action havo
alike arrived.”

“ And when do you propose enlightening them ?”

“At once. Sergeant Long,” he added, turning to his subordinate,
who at once drew himself up in a military attitude, “call all your
men together in the large room to receive a communication.”

Sergeant Long touched his cap, and turning on his heel left the
room without a word.

For some minutes Mrs Barnett and Hobson were left alone, but
neither of them spoke.

The Sergeant quickly returned, and told Hobson that his orders
were executed.

The Lieutenant and the lady at once went into the large room.
All the members of the colony, men and women, were assembled in
the dimly lighted room.

Hobson came forward, and standing in the centre of the group
said very gravely—

“My friends, until to-day I have felt it my duty, in order to.
spare you useless anxiety, to conceal from you the situation of our
fort. An earthquake separated us from the continent. Cape
Bathurst has broken away from the mainland. Our peninsula is but
an island of ice, a. wandering island ”——

At this moment Marbre stepped forward, and said quietly,

. ©We knew it, sir!”
CHAPTER XII.

4 CHANCE TO BE TRIED.

© SHE brave fellows knew it then! And that they might not
G {5 add to the cares of their chief, they had pretended to know
nothing, and had worked away at the preparations for the

winter with the same zeal as the year before.

Tears of emotion stood in Hobson’s eyes, and he made no attempt
to conceal them, but seizing Marbre’s outstretched hand, he pressed
it in his own,

Yes, the soldiers all knew it, for Marbre had guessed it long ago.
The filling of the reindeer trap with salt water, the non-arrival of
the detachment from Fort Reliance, the observations of latitude and
longitude taken every day, which would have been useless on firm
ground, the precautions observed by Hobson to prevent any one
seeing him take the bearings, the fact of the animals remaining on
the island after winter had set in, and the change in the position of
the cardinal points during the last few days, which they had noticed
at once, had all been tokens easily interpreted by the inhabitants of
Fort Hope. The arrival of Kalumah had ‘puzzled them, but they
had concluded that she had been thrown upon the island in the
storm, and they were right, as we are aware.

Marbre, upon whom the truth had first dawned, confided his
suspicions to Mac-Nab the carpenter and Rae the blacksmith. All
three faced the situation calmly enough, and agreed that they ought
to tell their comrades and wives, but decided to let the Lieutenant
think they knew nothing, and to obey him without question as
before.

“You are indeed brave fellows, my friends,” exclaimed Mrs
Barnett, who was much touched by this delicate feeling, “you are
true soldiers !”

“ Our Lieutenant may depend upon us,” said Mac-Nab, “he has
done his duty, and we will do ours,”
254 THE FUR COUNTRY.



“T know you will, dear comrades,” said Hobson, “and if only
Heaven will help and not forsake us, we will help ourselves.”

The Lieutenant then related all that had happened since the
time when the earthquake broke the isthmus, and converted the
districts round Cape Bathurst into an island. He told how, when
the sea became free from ice in the spring, the new island had been
drifted more than two hundred miles away from the coast by an
unknown current, how the hurricane had driven it back within
sight of land, how it had again been carried away in the night of the
31st August, and, lastly, how Kalumah had bravely risked her life
to come to the aid of her European friends. Then he enumerated
the changes the island had undergone, explaining how the warmer
waters had worn it away, and his fear that.it might be carried to
the Pacific, or seized by the Kamtchatka Current, concluding his
narrative by stating that the wandering island had finally stopped on
the 27th of last September. .

The chart of the Arctic seas was then brought, and Hobson
pointed out the position occupied by the island—six hundred miles
from: all land,

-He ended by saying that the situation was extremely dangerous,
that the island would inevitably be crushed when the ice broke up,
and that, before having recourse to the boat—which could not be
used until the next summer—they must try to get back to the
American continent by crossing the ice-field.

“ We shall have six hundred miles to go in the cold and darkness
of the Polar night. It will be hard work, my friends, but you know
as well as I do that there can be no shrinking from the task.”

“When you give the signal to start, Lieutenant, we will follow
you,” said Mac-Nab.

All being of one mind, the preparations for departure were from
that date rapidly pushed forward. The men bravely faced the fact
that they would ‘have six hundred miles to travel under very trying
circumstances. Sergeant Long superintended the works, whilst
Hobson, the two hunters, and Mrs Barnett, often went to test the firm-
ness of the ice-field. Kalumah frequently accompanied them, and
her remarks, founded on experience, might possibly be of great use
to the Lieutenant. Unless they were prevented they were to start
on the 20th November, and there was not a moment to lose.

As Hobson had foreseen, the wind. haying risen, the temperature
fell slightly, and the column of mercury marked 24° Fahrenheit.
A CHANCE TO BE TRIED. 255



Snow, which soon became hardened, replaced the rain of the preced-
ing days. A few more days of such cold and sledges could be
used, The little bay hollowed out of the cliffs of Cape Michael was
partly filled with ice and snow; but it must not be forgotten that
its calmer waters froze more quickly than those of the open sea,
which were not yet-in a satisfactory condition.

The wind continued to blow almost incessantly, and with con.
siderable violence, but the motion of waves interfered with the
regular formation and consolidation of theice. Large pools of water
occurred here and there between the pieces of ice, and it was impos-
sible to attempt to cross it,

“The weather is certainly getting colder,” observed Mrs Barnett
to Lieutenant Hobson, as they were exploring the south of the
island together on the 10th November, “the temperature is becom-
ing lower and lower, and these liquid spaces will soon freeze over.”

“JT think you are right, madam,” replied Hobson, “ but the way
in which they will freeze over will not be very favourable to our
plans. The pieces of ice are small, and their jagged edges will
stick up all over the surface, making it very rough, so that if our
sledges get over it at all, it will only be with very great difficulty.”

“ But,” resumed Mrs Barnett, “if I am not mistaken, a heavy
fall of snow, lasting a few days or even a few hours, would suflice
to level the entire surface !”

“ Yes, yes,” replied Hobson, “but if snow should fall, it will
be because the temperature has risen; and if it rises, the ice-field
will break up again, so that either contingency will be against
us |”

“Tt really would be a strange freak of fortune if we should
experience a temperate instead of an Arctic winter in the midst of
the Polar Sea!” observed Mrs Barnett.

‘‘Tt has happened before, madam, it has happened before. Let
me remind you of the great severity of last cold season; now it has
been noticed that two long bitter winters seldom succeed each other,
and the whalers of the northern seas know it well. A bitter winter
when,we should have been glad of a mild one, and a mild one
when we so sorely need the reverse. It must be owned, we have
been strangely unfortunate thus far! And when I think of six
hundred miles to cross with women anda child!” ...

And Hobson pointed to the vast white plain, with strange irre-
gular markings like guipure work, stretching away into the infinite
256 THE FUR COUNTRY.



distance. Sad and desolate enough it looked, the imperfectly frozen
surface cracking every now and then with an ominous sound. A
pale moon, its light half quenched in the damp mists, rose buta few
degrees above the gloomy horizon and shot a few faint beams upon
the melancholy scene. The half-darkness and the refraction com-
bined doubled the size of every object. Icebergs of moderate
height assumed gigantic proportions, and were in some cases dis-
torted into the forms of fabulous monsters. Birds passed overhead
with loud flapping of wings, and in consequence of this optical
illusion the smallest of them appeared as large as a condor or a vul-
ture. In the midst of the icebergs yawned apparently huge black
tunnels, into which the boldest man would scarcely dare to venture,
and now and then sudden convulsions took place, as the icebergs,
worn away at the base, heeled over with a crash, the sonorous echoes
taking up the sounds and carrying them along. The rapid changes
resembled the transformation scenes of fairyland, and terrible indeed .
must all those phenomena have appeared to the luckless colonists
who were about to venture across the ice-field !

In spite of her moral and physical courage Mrs Barnett could not
control an involuntary shudder. Soul and body alike shrunk from
the awful prospect, and she was tempted to shut her eyes and stop
her ears that she might see and hear no more. When the moon
was for a moment veiled behind a heavy cloud, the gloom of the
Polar landscape became still more awe-inspiring, and before her
mind’s eye rose a vision of the caravan of men and women
struggling across these vast solitudes in the midst of hurricanes,
snow-storms, avalanches, and in the thick darkness of the Arctic
night !

Mrs Barnett, however, forced herself to look ; she wished to accus-
tom her eyes to these scenes, and to teach herself not to shrink from
facing their terrors. But as she gazed a cry suddenly burst from
her lips, and seizing Hobson’s hand, she pointed to a huge object,
of ill-defined dimensions, moving about in the uncertain light, scarcely
a hundred paces from where they stood.

It was a white monster of immense size, more than a hundred
feet high. It was pacing slowly along over the broken ice, bound-
ing from one piece to another, and beating the air with its
huge feet, between which it could have held ten large dogs at least,
It, too, seemed to be seeking a practicable path across the ice—it,
too, seemed anxious to fly from the doomed island. The ice gavo
A CHANCE TO BE TRIED. 257



way beneath its weight, and it had often considerable difficulty in
regaining its feet.

The monster made its way thus for about a quarter of a mile
across the ice, and then, its farther progress being barred, it turned
round and advanced towards the spot where Mrs Barnett and the
Lieutenant stood.

Hobson seized the gun which was slung over his distinee and
presented it at the animal, but almost immediately lowering the
weapon, he said to Mrs Barnett—

“ A bear, madam, only a bear, the size of which has been greatly
magnified by refraction.”

It was, in fact, a Polar bear, and Mrs Barnett drew a long
breath of relief as she understood the optical illusion of which she
had been the victim. Then an idea struck her.

“Tt is my bear!” she exclaimed, “ the bear with the devotion of
a Newfoundland dog! Probably the only one still on the island.
But what is he doing here?”

“ He is trying to get away,” replied Hobson, shaking his head.
“He is trying to escape from this doomed island, and he cannot
do so! He is proving to us that we cannot pass where he has had
to turn back !”

Hobson was right, the imprisoned animal had tried to leave the
island and to get to the continent, and having failed it was return-
ing to the coast. Shaking its head and growlitig, it passed some
twenty paces from the two watchers, and, either not seeing them or
disdaining to take any notice of them, it walked heavily on
towards Cape Michael, and soon disappeared behind the rising
ground.

Lieutenant Hobson and Mrs Barnett returned sadly and silently
to the fort.

The preparations for departure went on as rapidly, however, as if
it were possible to leave the island. . Nothing was neglected to pro-
mote the success of the undertaking, every possible danger had to
be foreseen, and not only had the ordinary difficulties and dangers
of a journey across the ice to be allowed for, but also the sudden
changes of weather peculiar to the Polar regions, which so obstin-
ately resist every attempt to explore them,

The teams of dogs required special attention. They were
allowed to run about near the fort, that they might regain the activity
258 THE FUR COUNTRY.

of which too long a rest had, to some extent, deprived them, and
they were soon in a condition to make a long march.

The sledges were carefully examined and repaired. The rough
surface of the ice-field would give them many violent shocks, and
they were therefore thoroughly overhauled by Mac-Nab and his
men, the inner framework and the curved fronts being carefully
repaired and strengthened.

Two large waggon sledges were built, one for the transport of
provisions, the other for the peltries. These were to be drawn by
the tamed reindeer, which had been well trained for the service.
The peltries or furs were articles of luxury with which it was not
perhaps quite prudent to burden the travellers, but Hobson was
anxious to consider the interests of the Company as much as possible,
although he was resolved to abandon them, en route, if they harassed
or impeded his march. No fresh risk was run of injury of the furs,
for-of course they would have been lost if left at the factory.

It was of course quite another matter with the provisions, of
which a good and plentiful supply was absolutely necessary. It
was of no use to count on the product of the chase this time. As
soon as the passage of the ice-field became practicable, all the edible
game would get on ahead and reach the mainland before the
raravan. One waggon sledge was therefore packed with salt meat,
corned beef, hare patés, dried fish, biscuits—the stock of which was
unfortunately getting lov—and an ample reserve of sorrel, scurvy-
grass, rum, spirits of wine, for making warm drinks, &e. &e.
Hobson would have been glad to take some fuel with him, as he
would not meet with a tree, a shrub, or a bit of moss throughout
the march of six hundred miles, nor could he hope for pieces of
wreck or timber cast up by the sea, but he did not dare to overload
his sledges with wood. Fortunately there was no lack of warm
comfortable garments, and in case of need they could draw upon
the reserve of peltries in the waggon.

Thomas Black, who since his misfortune had altogether retired
from the world, shunning his companions, taking part in none of
the consultations, and remaining shut up in. his own room, re-
appeared as soon as the day of departure was definitely fixed. But
even then he attended to nothing but the sledge which was to carry
lis person, his instruments, and his registers, Always very silent; it
was now impossible to get a word out of-him. He had forgotten
everything, even that he was a scientific man, and since he had
A CHANCE TO BE TRIED. 259

been deceived about the eclipse, since the solution of the problem
of the red prominences of the moon had escaped him, he had taken
no notice of any of the peculiar phenomena of the high latitudes,
such as the Aurora Borealis, halos, parhelia, &c.

During the last few days every one worked so hard that all was
ready for the start on the morning of the 18th November.

But, alas! the ice-field was still impassable. Although the ther-
mometer had fallen slightly, the cold had not been severe enough
to freeze the surface of the sea with any uniformity, and the snow
which fell was fine and intermittent. Hobson, Marbre, and Sabine
went along the coast every day from Cape Michael to what was
once the corner of the old Walruses’ Bay. They even ventured out
about a mile and a half upon the ice-field, but were compelled to
admit that it was broken by rents, crevasses, and fissures in every
direction. Not only would it be impossible for sledges to cross it,
it was dangerous for unencumbered pedestrians. Hobson and his
two men underwent the greatest fatigue in these short excursions,
and more. than once they ran a risk of being unable to get back
to Victoria Island across the ever-changing, ever-moving blocks of
ice. )
Really all nature seemed to be in league against the luckless
colonists,

On the 18th and 19th November, the thermometer rose, whilst
the barometer fell. Fatal results were to be.feared from this
change in the state of the atmosphere. Whilst the cold decreased
the sky became covered with clouds, which presently resolved
themselves into heavy rain instead of the'sadly-needed snow, the
column of mercury standing at 34° Fahrenheit. These showers
of comparatively warm water melted the snow and ice in many
places, and the result can easily be imagined. It really seemed as
if a thaw were setting in, and there were symptoms of a general
breaking up of the ice-field. In spite of the dreadful weather,
however, Hobson went to the south of the island every day, and
every day returned more disheartened than before.

On the 20th, a tempest resembling in violence that of the month
before, broke upon the gloomy Arctic solitudes, compelling the
colonists to give up going out, and to remain shut up in Fort
Hope for two days.
CHAPTER XIIL

ACROSS THE ICE-FIELD.

afew hours the storm suddenly ceased, The wind veered

round to the north, and the thermometer fell several
degrees. A few birds capable of a long-sustained flight took wing
and disappeared. There really seemed to be a likelihood that the
temperature was at last going to become what it ought to be at this
time of the year in such an elevated latitude. The colonists might
well regret that it was not now what it had been during the last
cold season, when the column of mercury fell to 72° Fahrenheit
below zero.

Hobson determined no longer to delay leaving Victoria Island,
and on the morning of the 22d the whole of the little colony was
ready to leave the island, which was now firmly welded to the ice-
field, and by its means connected with the American continent, six
hundred miles away.

At half-past eleven a.m., Hobson gave the signal of departure. The
sky was grey but clear, and lighted up from the horizon to the
zenith by a magnificent Aurora Borealis. The dogs were harnessed
to the sledges, and three couple of reindeer to the waggon sledges,
Silently they wended their way towards Cape Michael, where they
would quit the island, properly so called, for the ice-field.

The caravan at first skirted along the wooded hill on the east of
Lake Barnett, but as they: were rounding the corner all paused to
look round for the last time at Cape Bathurst, which they were
leaving never to return. A few snow-encrusted rafters stood out in
the light of the Aurora Borealis, a few white lines marked the
boundaries of the enceinte of the factory, a white mass here and
there, a few blue wreaths of smoke from the expiring fire never to
be rekindled ; this was all that could be seen of Fort Hope, now

fh ony last, on the 22d of November, the weather moderated. In
HX
.
EXE
ACROSS THE ICE-FIELD. 261



useless and deserted, but erected at the cost of so much labour and
so much anxiety.

“ Farewell, farewell, to our poor Arctic home!” exclaimed Mrs
Barnett, waving her hand for the last time; and all sadly and
silently resumed their journey.

At one o’clock the detachment arrived at Cape Michael, after having
rounded the gulf which the cold had imperfectly frozen over. Thus
far the difficulties of the journey had not been very great, for the
ground of the island was smooth compared to the ice-field, which was
strewn with icebergs, hammocks, and packs, between ‘yiticli practic-
able passes had to be found at: the cost of an immense amount of
fatigue.

Towards the evening of the same day the party had advanced
several miles on.the ice-field, and a halt for the night was ordered ;
the encampment was to be formed by hollowing out snow-houses in
the Esquimaux style. The work was quickly accomplished with the
ice-chisels, and at eight o’clock, after a salt meat supper, every one
had crept into. the holes, which are much warmer than anybody
would imagine.

Before retiring, however, Mrs Barnett asked the Lieutenant how
far he thought they had come.

** Not more than ten miles, I think,” replied Hobson.

“Ten from six hundred !” exclaimed Mrs Barnett. ‘‘ At this rate,
it will take us three months to get to the American continent !”

“ Perhaps more, madam,” replied Hobson, “for we shall not be
able to get on faster than this. We are not travelling as we were
last year over the frozen plains between Fort Reliance and Cape
Bathurst ; but on a distorted ice-field crushed by the pressure of
the icebergs, across which there is no easy route. I expect to meet
with ‘almost insurmountable difficulties on the way; may we be
able to conquer them! It is not of so much importance, however,
to march quickly as to preserve our health, and I shall indeed
¢hink myself fortunate if all my comrades answer to their names in
the roll-call on our arrival at Fort Reliance. Heaven grant we may
hhave all landed at some point, no matter where, of the American
continent in three months time ; if so, we shall never be able to
zeturn thanks enough.

The night passed without incident; but during the long vigil
which he kept, Hobson fancied he noticed certain ill-omened trem-
lings on the spot he had chogen for his encampment, and could
262 THE FUR COUNTRY.



not but fear-that the vast ice-field was insufficiently cemented, and
that there would be numerous rents in the surface which would
greatly impede his progress, and render communication with firm
ground very uncertain. Moreover, before he started, he had
.observed that none of the animals had left the vicinity of the fort,
and they would certainly have sought a warmer climate had not their
instinct warned them of obstacles in their way. Yet the Lieutenant
felt that he had only done his duty in making this attempt to restore
his little colony to an inhabited. land, before the setting in of the
thaw, and whether he succeeded or had to torn back he would have
no reason to reproach himself.

The next day, November 23d, the detachment eae nat ‘even
advance ten miles towards the east, so great were the difficulties
met with. The ice-field was fearfully distorted, and here and
there many layers of ice were piled one upon another, doubtless
driven along by the irresistible force of the ice-wall into the vast
funnel of the Arctic Ocean. Hence a confusion of masses of ice,
which looked asif they had been suddenly dropped by a hand
incapable of holding them, and strewn about in every direction.

It was clear that a caravan of sledges, drawn by dogs and rein-
deer, could not possibly get over these blocks ; and it was equally
clear that a path could not be cut through them with the hatchet or
ice-chisel. Some of the icebergs assumed extraordinary forms, and
there were groups which looked like towns falling into ruins. Some
towered three or four hundred feet above the level of the ice-field,
and were capped with tottering masses of débris, which the slightest
shake or shock or gust of wind would bring down in avalanches.

The greatest precautions were, therefore, necessary in rounding
these ice-mountains, and- orders were given not to speak above a
whisper, and not to excite the dogs by cracking the whips in these
dangerous passes,

But an immense amount of time was lost in looking for practicable
passages, and the travellers were worn out with fatigue, often going
ten miles round before they could advance one in the required direc-
tion towards the east. The only comfort was that the ground still
remained firm beneath their feet.

On the 24th November, however, fresh obstacles. arose, which
Hobson really feared, with considerable reason, would be insurmount-
able. -

After getting over one wall of ice which rose some twenty miles
ACROSS THE ICE-FIELD, 263

from Victoria Island, the party found themselves on a much less
undulating ice-field, the different portions of which had evidently
not been subjected to any great pressure. It was clear that in con-
sequence of the direction of the currents the influence of the masses
of permanent ice in the north had not here been felt, and Hobson
and his comrades soon found that this ice-field was intersected
with wide and deep crevasses not yet frozen over. The temperature
here was comparatively warm, and the thermometer maintained a
mean height of more than 34° Fahrenheit. Salt water, as is
well known, does not freeze so readily as fresh, but requires several
degrees of cold below freezing point before it becomes solidified, and
the sea was therefore still liquid. All the icebergs and floes here had
come from latitudes farther north, and, if we may so express it,
lived upon the cold they had brought with them. The whole of
the southern portion of the Arctic Ocean was most imperfectly
frozen, and a warm rain was falling, which hastened the dissolution
of what ice there was,

On the 24th November the advance of the travellers was abso-
lutely arrested by a crevasse full of rough water strewn with small
icicles—a crevasse not more than a hundred feet wide, it is true, but
probably many miles long.

For two whole hours the party akited along the western edge of
this gap, in the hope of coming to the end of it and getting to the
other side, so as to resume their march to the east, but it was
all in vain, they were obliged to give it up and encamp on the wrong
side.

Hobson and Long, however, proceeded for another quarter of a
mile along the interminable crevasse, mentally cursing the mildness
of the winter which had brought them into such a strait.

“We must pass somehow,” said Long, “for we can’t stay where
we are.”

“ Yes, yes,” replied the Lieutenant, “ and we shall pass it, either by
going up to the north, or down to the south, it must end somewhere.
But after we have got round this we shall come to others, and so
it will go on perhaps for hundred of miles, as long as this uncertain
and most unfortunate weather continues !”

“Well, Lieutenant, we must ascertain the truth once for all before
we resume our journey,” said the Sergeant.

“We must indeed, Sergeant,” replied Hobson firmly, “or we
shall run a risk of not having crossed half the distance between us
264. THE FUR COUNTRY.

and America after travelling five or six hundred miles out of our
way. Yes, before going farther, I must make quite sure of the
state of the ice-field, and that is what I am about to do.”

And without another word Hobson stripped himself, plunged
into the half-frozen water, and being a powerful swimmer a few
strokes soon brought him to the other side of the crevasse, when he
disappeared amongst the icebergs.

A few hours later the Lieutenant reached the encampment, to
which Long had already returned, in an exhausted condition. He
took Mrs Barnett and the Sergeant aside, and told them that the
ice-field was impracticable, adding—

“ Perhaps one man on foot without a sledge or any encumbrances
might get across, but for a caravan it is impossible. The
crevasses increase towards the east, and a boat would really be
of more use than a sledge if we wish to reach the American
coast.”

“Well,” said Long, “if one man could cross, ought not one of
us to attempt it, and go and seek assistance for the rest.”

“T thought of trying it myself,” replied Hobson.

“You, Lieutenant !”

“You, sir!” cried Mrs Barnett and Long in one breath.

These two exclamations showed Hobson how unexpected and
inopportune his proposal appeared. How could he, the chief of the
expedition, think of deserting those confided.to him, even although
it was in their interests and at great risk to himself. It was quite
impossible, and the Lieutenant did not insist upon it,

“Yes,” he said, “I understand how it appears to you, my friends,
and I will not abandon you. It would, indeed, be quite useless
for any one to attempt the passage ; he would not succeed, he would
fall by the way, and find a watery grave when the thaw sets in.
And even suppose he reached New Archangel, how could he come
to our rescue? Would he charter a vessel to seek for us? Suppose
he did, it could not start until after the thaw. And who can tell
where the currents will then have taken Victoria Island, either yet
farther north or to the Behring Sea !

“Yes, Lieutenant, you are right,” replied Long ; “let us remain
together, and if we are to be saved in a boat, there is Mac-Nab’s
on Victoria Island, and for it at least we shall not have to wait!”

Mrs Barnett had listened without saying a word, but she under-
stood that the ice-field being impassable, they had now nothing to
ACROSS THE ICE-FIELD, 265





depend on but the carpenter’s boat, and that they would have to wait
oravely for the thaw.

“What are you going to do, then?” she inquited ' at last,

“Return to Victoria “Island, 2

“ Let us return then, and God be with us!”

The rest of the travellers had now gathered round the Lieutenant,
and he laid his plans before them.

At first all were disposed to rebel, the poor creatures had been
counting on getting back to their homes, and felt absolutely crushed
at the disappointment, but they soon recovered their dejection and
declared themselves ready to obey.

- Hobson then told them the results of the examination he had

just made. They learnt that the obstacles in their way on the east
were so numerous that it would be absolutely impossible to pass
with the sledges and their contents, and as the journey. would last
several months, the provisions, &c., could not be dispensed with.
_ “We are now,” added the Lieutenant, “cutoff from: all com-
munication with the mainland, and by going farther towards the
jeast we run a risk, after enduring great fatigues, of finding it
impossible to get back to the island, now our only refuge. If the
thaw should overtake us on the ice-field, we are lost. I have not
discuised nor have I exaggerated the truth, and I know, my friends,
that I am speaking to men who have found that I am not a man to
tum back from difficulties. But I repeat, the task we have set
ourselves is impossible !”

The men trusted. their chief implicitly. They knew his courage
and energy, and felt as they listened to his words that it was
indeed impossible to cross the ice.

It was decided to start on the return journey to Fort Hope the next
day, and it was accomplished under most distressing circumstances.
The weather was dreadful, squalls swept down upon the ice-field,
and rain fell in torrents, The difficulty of finding the way in the
darkness through the labyrinth of icebergs can well be imagined !

Tt took no less than four days and four nights to get back to the
island. Several teams of dogs with their sledges fell into the
crevasses, but thanks to Hobson’s skill, prudence, and devotion, he
lost not one of his party. But what terrible dangers and fatigues
they had to go through, and how awful was the prospect of another
winter on the wandering island to the unfortunate colonists !

U
CHAPTER XIV.

THE WINTER MONTHS.

id

fs HE party did not arrive at Fort Hope until the 28th, after
5 a most arduous journey. They had now nothing to depend
on but the boat, and that they could not use until the

sea was open, which would not be for six months,

Preparations for another winter were therefore made. The
sledges were unloaded, the provisions put back in the pantry, and
the clothes, arms, furs, &c., in the magazines, The dogs returned
to their dog-house, and the reindeer to their stable.

Great was the despair of Thomas Black at this return to seclu-
sion. The poor astronomer carried his instruments, his books, and
his MSS. back to his room, and more angry than ever with “the
evil fate which pursued him,” he held himself aloof from every-
thing which went on in the factory.

All were again settled at their usual winter avocations the day
after their arrival, and the monotonous winter life once more com-
menced. Needlework, mending the clothes, taking care of the furs,
some of which might yet be saved, the observation of the weather,
the examination of the ice-field, and reading aloud, were the daily
occupations. Mrs Barnett was, as before, the leader in everything,
and her influence was everywhere felt. If, as sometimes happened,
now that all were uneasy about the future, a slight disagreement
occurred between any of the soldiers, a few words from Mrs Barnett
soon set matters straight, for she had acquired wonderful power
over the little world in which she moved, and she always used it
for the good of the community.

Kalumah had become a great favourite with everybody, for she
was always pleasant and obliging. Mrs Barnett had undertaken
her education, and she got on quickly, for she was both intelligent
and eager to learn. She improved her English speaking, and also
taught her to read and write in that language, There were, however,
THE WINTER MONTHS. 267





twelve masters for Kalumah, all eager to assist in this branch of
her education, as the soldiers had all been taught reading, writing,
and arithmetic either in England or in English colonies.

The building of the boat proceeded rapidly, and it was to be
planked and decked before the end of the month. Mac-Nab and
some of his men worked hard in the darkness outside, with no light
but the flames of burning resin, whilst others were busy making the
rigging in the magazines of the factory.. Although the season was
now far advanced, the weather still remained very undecided. The
cold was sometimes intense, but owing to the prevalence of west
winds it never lasted long.

Thus passed the whole of December, rain and intermittent falls
of snow succeeded each other, the temperature meanwhile varying
from 26° to 34° Fahrenheit. The consumption of fuel was moderate,
although there was no need to economise it, the reserves being
considerable. It was otherwise with the oil, upon which they
depended for light, for the stock was getting so low that the
Lieutenant could at last only allow the lamps to be lit for a few
hours every day. He tried using reindeer fat for lighting the house,
but the smell of it was so unbearable that every one preferred being
in the dark, All work had of course to be given up for the time,
and very tedious did the long dark hours appear.

Some Aurore Borealis and two or three lunar halos appeared at
full moon, and Thomas Black might now have minutely observed all
these phenomenon, and have made precise calculations on their inten-
sity, their coloration, connection with the electric state of the atmo-
sphere, and their influence upon the magnetic needle, &c. But the
astronomer did not even leave his room. His spirit was completely
crushed, :

On the 30th December the light of the moon revealed’ a long
circular line of icebergs shutting in the horizon on the north and
east of Victoria Island. This was the ice-wall, the frozen masses of
which were piled up to a height of some three or four hundred
feet. Two-thirds of the island were hemmed in by this mighty
barrier, and it seemed probable that the blockade would become
yet more complete.

The sky was clear for the first week of January. The new year,
1861, opened with very cold weather, and the column of mercury
fell to 8° Fahrenheit, It was the lowest temperature that had yet
268 - THE FUR COUNTRY. ~*



been experienced in this singular winter, although it was anything
but low for such a high latitude.

The Lieutenant felt it his duty once more to take the latitude
and longitude of the island by means of stellar observations, and
found that its position had not changed at all.

About this time, in spite of all their economy, the oil seemed
likely to fail altogether. The sun would not appear above the
horizon before early in February, so that there was a month to wait,
during which there was a danger of the colonists having to remain
in complete darkness, Thanks to the young Esquimaux, however,
a fresh supply of oil-for the lamps was obtained.

On the 3rd January Kalumah walked to Cape Bathurst to
examine the state of the ice. All along the. south of the island
the ice-field was very compact, the icicles of which it was com-
posed were more firmly welded together, there were no liquid spaces
between them, and the surface of the floe, though rough, was per-
fectly firm everywhere. This was no doubt caused by the pressure
of the chain of icebergs on the horizon, which drove the ice towards
the north, and squeezed it against the island.

Although she saw no crevasses or rents, the young native noticed
many circular holes neatly cut in the ice, the use of which she knew
perfectly well. They were the holes kept open by seals imprisoned
beneath the solid crust of ice, and by which they came to the surface
to breathe and look for mosses under the snow. on the coast,

Kalumah knew that in the winter bears will crouch patiently near
these holes, and watching for the moment when the seal comes out
of the water, they rush upon it, hug it to death in their paws, and
carry it off. She knew, too, that the Esquimaux, not less patient
than the bears, also watch for the appearance of these animals, and
throwing a running noose over their heads when they push them up,
drag them to the surface.

What bears and Esquimaux could do might certainly also be done
by skilful hunters, and Kalumah hastened back to the fort to tell
the Lieutenant of what she had seen, feeling sure that where these
holes were seals were not far off.

Hobson sent for the hunters, and the young native described to
them the way in which the Esquimaux capture these animals in the
winter, and begged them to try.

She had not finished speaking before Sabine had a strong rope
with a running noose ready in his hand, and accompanied by Hobson,
oS SSS SSeS











































































































































































































































































































































‘“‘ Marbre flung his running noose skilfully,” &¢.—Page 269.
THE WINTER MONTHS. 269



Mrs Barnett, Kalumah, and two or three soldiers, the hunters
hurried to Cape Bathurst, and whilst the women remained on'the
beach, the men made their way to the holes pointed out by
Kalumah. Each one was provided with a rope, and stationed
himself at a different hole.

A long time of waiting ensued—no sign of the seals, but. at last
the water in the hole Marbre had chosen began to bubble, and a
head with long tusks appeared. It was that of a walrus. Marbre
flung his running noose skilfully over its neck and pulled it tightly.
His comrades rushed to his assistance, and with some difficulty the
huge beast was dragged upon the ice, and despatched with
hatchets. .

It was a great success, and the colonists were delighted with this
novel fishing. Other walruses were taken in the same way, and
furnished plenty of oil, which, though not strictly of the right sort,
did very well for the lamps, and there was no. longer any lack of
light in any of the rooms of Fort Hope.

The cold was even now not very severe, and had the colonists
been on the American mainland they could only have rejoiced in the
mildness of the winter. They were sheltered by the chain of ice-
bergs from the north and west winds, and the month of January
passed on with the thermometer never many degrees below freezing
point, so that the sea round Victoria Island was never frozen hard.
Fissures of more or less extent broke the regularity of the surface
in the offing, as was proved by the continued presence of the rumi-
nants and furred animals near the factory, all of which had become
strangely tame, forming in fact part of the menagerie of the
colony.

According to Hobson’s orders, all these creatures were unmolested.
It would have been useless to kill them, and a reindeer was only
occasionally slaughtered to obtain a fresh supply of venison. Some
of the furred animals even ventured into the enceinte, and they
were not driven away. The martens and foxes were in all the
splendour of their winter clothing, and under ordinary circumstances
would have been of immense value. These rodents found-plenty of
moss under the snow, thanks to the mildness of the season, and did
not therefore live upon the reserves of the factory.

It was with some apprehensions for the future that the end of
the winter was awaited, but Mrs Barnett did all in her power to
brighten the monotonous existence of her companions in exile.
270 THE FUR COUNTRY.



Only one incident occurred in the month of January, and that
one was distressing enough. On the 7th, Michael Mac-Nab was
taken ill—severe headache, great thirst and alternations of shivering
and fever, soon reduced the poor little fellow to a sad state. His
mother and father, and indeed all his friends, were in very great
trouble. No one knew what to do, as it was impossible to say what
his illness was, but Madge, who retained her senses about her, advised
cooling drinks and poultices. Kalumah was indefatigable, remaining
day and night by her favourite’s bedside, and refusing to take any
rest.

About the third day there was no longer any doubt as to the
nature of the malady. A rash came out all over the child’s body,
and it was evident that he had malignant scarlatina, which would
certainly produce internal inflammation.

Children of a year old are rarely attacked with this terrible disease,
but cases do occasionally occur. The medicine-chest of the factory
was necessarily insufficiently stocked, but Madge, who had nursed
several patients through scarlet fever, remembered that tincture
of belladonna was recommended, and administered one or two drops
to the little invalid every day. The greatest care was taken lest he
should catch cold; he was at once removed to his parents’ room,
and the rash soon came out freely. Tiny red points appeared on
his tongue, his lips, and even on the globes of his eyes. ‘Two days
later his skin assumed a violet ane then it became white and fell
off in scales.

It was now that double care was required to combat the great
internal inflammation, which proved the severity of the attack.
Nothing was neglected, the boy was, in fact, admirably nursed, and
on the “20th January, twelve days after he was taken ill, he was
pronounced out of danger.

Great was the joy in the factory. The baby was the child of the
fort, of the regiment! He was born in the terrible northern lati-
tudes, in the colony itself, he had been named Michael Hope, and
he had come to be regarded as a kind of talisman in the dangers
and difficulties around, and all felt sure that God would not take
him from them.

Poor Kalumah would certainly not have survived him had he
died, but he gradually recovered, and fresh hope seemed to come
back when he was restored to the little circle.

The 23d of January was now reached, after all these distressing
THE WINTER MONTHS. 271

alternations of hope and fear. ‘The situation of Victoria Island had
not changed in the least, and it was still wrapped in the gloom of
the apparently interminable Polar night,. Snow fell abundantly for
some days, and was piled up on the ground to the height of two
feet.

On the 27th a somewhat alarming visit was received at the fort,
The soldiers Belcher and Pond, when on guard in front of the
enceinte in the morning, saw a huge bear quietly advancing towards
the fort. They hurried into the large room, and told Mrs Barnett
of the approach of the formidable carnivorous beast.

“Perhaps it is only our bear again,” observed Mrs Barnett to
Hobson, and accompanied by him, and followed by the Sergeant,
Sabine, and some soldiers provided with guns, she fearlessly walked
to the postern.

The bear was now about two hundred paces off, and was walking
along without hesitation, as if he had some settled plan in view.

“T know him!” cried Mrs Barnett, “it is your bear, Kalumah,
your preserver !”

“ Oh, don’t kill my bear !” exclaimed the young Esquimaux.

“ He shall not be killed,” said the Lieutenant ; “ don’t injure him,
my good fellows,” he added to the men, “he will probably return
as he came.”

“ But suppose he intends coming into the enceinte ?” said Long,
who had his doubts as to the friendly propensities of Polar bears,

“ Let him come, Sergeant,” said Mrs Barnett, “he is a prisoner
like ourselves, and you know prisoners ”.

“Don’t eat each other,’ added Hobson. “ True, but only when
they belong to the same species, For your sake, however, we will
spare this fellow-sufferer, and only defend ourselves if he attack us,
I think, however, it will be as prudent to go back to the house,
We must not put too strong a temptation in the way of our carni-
vorous friend !”

This was certainly good advice, and all returned to the large
room, the windows were closed, but not the shutters.

Through the panes the movements of the visitor were watched.
The bear, finding the postern unfastened, quietly pushed open the
door, looked in, carefully examined the premises, and finally entered
the enceinte. Having reached the centre, he examined the buildings
around him, went towards the reindeer stable and dog-house,
listened for a moment to the howlings of the dogs and the uneasy


272 THE FUR COUNTRY,



noises made’ by the reindeer, then continued his walk round the
palisade,-and at last came and leant his great head against one of
the windows of the large room. :

To own the truth everybody started back, several of the soldiers
seized their guns, and Sergeant Long began to fear he had let the
joke go too far.

But Kalumah came forward, and looked through the thin parti-
tion with her sweet eyes. The bear seemed to recognise her, at
least so she thought, and doubtless satisfied with his inspection, he
gave a hearty growl, and turning away left the enceinte, as Hobson
had prophesied, as he entered it.

This was the bear’s first and last visit to the fort, and on his
departure everything went:on-as quietly as before.

The little boy’s recovery progressed favourably, and at the end of
the month he-was.as rosy aud as bright as ever.

At noon on‘the 3rd ‘of February, the northern horizon was touched
with a faint glimmer.of light, which did not fade away for an hour,
and the yellow disc of the sun appeared for an instant for the first
time since the commencement of the long Polar night,
CHAPTER XY.
“A LAST EXPLORING EXPEDITION. ©

ROM this date, February 3rd, the sun rose each day higher
;) above the horizon, the nights were, however, still very
-long, and, as is often the case in February, the cold in-
creased, the thermometer marking only 1° Fahrenheit, the lowest
temperature experienced throughout this extraordinary winter.

“ When does the thaw commence in these northern seas ?” inquired
Mrs Barnett of the Lieutenant,

“Tn ordinary seasons,” replied Hobson, “the ice does not break
up until early in May ; but the winter has been so mild that unless
a very hard frost should now set in, the thaw may commence at the
beginning of April. At least that is my opinion.”