Grand Lake I had long known to be
an exceedingly deep lake, and perhaps the deepest lake known on the
Labrador Peninsula. It had never been sounded below sixty
fathoms, and the bottom had never been found. We were
provided with one thousand feet of copper wire, in two reels of five
hundred feet each, to be used as a sounding line.
While the others were breaking camp
in the morning, Malone and I, with one of the boys to assist us, rowed
the boat a half-mile off shore, and attaching a weight to our line
attempted a sounding. A five hundred foot reel was quickly run out, and
the other reel spliced to it. There was a tremendous strain
on the line at this great depth, for which we had not made proper
calculations, and when ninety-two fathoms had been payed out the line
parted midway of the first five hundred foot reel.
Bottom was not found, and,
unfortunately, we had not sufficient line remaining to complete the
sounding. The experiment, however, demonstrated the
vast depth of the water, and the fact that Grand Lake is, indeed, the
deepest known lake in Labrador.
Rain had continued all night and
all day fell in a drizzle. Fog was not so dense as the
previous day, but sufficiently so to shut out a view of the
lake. There was no wind, and hardly a ripple disturbed the
surface of Grand Lake until mid-afternoon. Then a breeze
sprang up and the wind changed its direction from northeast to north,
and when we were opposite the Nascaupee River a stiff blow out of the
Nascaupee valley raised a disagreeable, choppy sea.
We crossed here to the north shore
of the lake. The head wind gave us some good work at the
paddles, and the man in the boat a good pull on the oars; but once
across, we had the advantage of a lee shore, and in early evening saw
the opening of the little lake, which forms the mouth of the Susan and
Three or four hundred yards to the
south of the entrance to the little lake stands Donald Blake’s old
cabin, and just south of that another cabin. Blake’s cabin
was built in the summer of 1903, after the Hubbard expedition passed
into the country. It was here that Elson found Donald and
Gilbert Blake, when he came out of the Susan River valley in October in
search of assistance. The other cabin had, even then, been standing for
several years. On the night that Elson found them, Donald and
Gilbert rowed a boat twelve miles to another cabin a little way up the
Nascaupee River, where Allen Goudie and Duncan McLean had established
themselves for the winter trapping season, and enlisted Allen and
Duncan in the rescue party. These cabins were occupied only
during the trapping season—from October until June—and are used by the
trappers as winter headquarters and supply bases for the trails.
A sandy flat, a hundred yards wide,
thick-strewn with logs and trees, debris from the freshets of many
springs, lies between the river and the spruce forest. In
small clearings in the edge of the forest, and two or three hundred
yards apart, are the two cabins. Blake’s cabin is the nearer
one to the little lake, and it was to this cabin that my rescuers took
me on a November evening in 1903.
Blake’s cabin was to be our shelter
for the night. We were chilled and wet, and though the cabin
was deserted now, it looked very hospitable and inviting to us,
nestling in its little clearing in the edge of the forest.
We landed on the beach, and as I
walked up the path leading through the tangled debris to the cabin, it
was natural that I should recall my sensations on that other occasion,
when, fresh from the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I first trod the
same path ten years before—my fervent thanks to God for returning me
again to the world and to the comforts of civilization—the thrill of
joy that came with the realization that, after all, I was to be
reunited with the friends at home whom so recently I had resigned hope
of ever seeing again.
And I recalled how, ever present,
and overshadowing these pleasurable sensations with sadness and
heartache, was a picture of Hubbard as I had seen him last, on the
morning of our parting. No pleasure could blot from my
thoughts and vision his lonely death on the bed of boughs, before the
big rock, in the snow-covered wilderness of the Susan River
valley. Ah, how many times since have I seen that picture in
my sleeping and waking dreams!
The cabin and its surroundings had
undergone no change in outward appearance in all these years.
We took possession for the night. Next the window, on the
lake side, was a rough, homemade table. It had stood there
for ten years. I remembered sitting beside it, with a lamp at
my elbow, and reading aloud from the scriptures, and when I had
finished, kneeling with the family, and the trappers who had rescued
me, while Donald offered a prayer of thanks to God for His
mercy. Family worship was an institution in Donald Blake’s
The same box stove stood in the
middle of the room, beside which, sick and weary, I rested on a bed of
skins, spread upon the floor, the night they brought me here.
How luxurious the warm cabin and its furnishings seemed to me
then! And so it was, in contrast to the unsheltered months of
privation in the open wilderness from which I had just
returned. Luxury and contentment are relative terms, measured
always by contrast.
The cabin now, in its deserted
state, presented anything but a cheerful atmosphere. The
table and stove, three chairs, a roughly made bedstead, a few dishes on
some shelves, and an empty kerosene lamp completed the
furnishings. We lighted a fire in the stove, and spread out
our things to dry. Gilbert turned his attention to supper,
and presently, as the warmth asserted itself, accompanied by the odor
of frying bacon, the room assumed a more cheerful face.
While we awaited supper, Judge
Malone stood at one of the windows, contemplating, through gathering
twilight, the dreary aspect of dripping fir trees, tangled debris, and
mist-covered lake, when suddenly he turned, reached for a shotgun, then
disappeared through the door with the exclamation:
A moment later we heard a shot, and
presently the Judge returned with a fine, big snowshoe rabbit—the first
game of our trip—now wearing its summer coat.
Chapter XII: Bread Without Baking Powder Makes Me Sick