At supper we ate the last of
several loaves of bread, baked for us at the post by Gilbert’s wife,
and when the dishes were cleared and the candle lighted, Gilbert
prepared to bake a fresh supply. Joking and laughing with the
boys as he worked, he dished out some flour into the mixing
pan. Then he began untying bag after bag of the outfit and
examining the contents of each. He dropped out of the
conversation presently and his face assumed a troubled
expression. Then followed a re-examination of all the bags he
had just looked through, and he brought in the others from the woodshed
“We forgot the baking powder!” he
finally announced in accents that revealed distress.
“Forgot the baking
powder? Are you sure?” I asked. I had been watching
Gilbert, and already suspected this to be the case.
“Yes,” he answered dolefully.
“Are you quite sure?” asked the
Judge. “Have you looked through all the bags?”
“Yes, I’m sure ‘tisn’t
here. I’ve been through all the bags.”
“Then I suppose we’ll have to do
without it. I fancy baking bread without baking powder won’t
be so bad, will it?” It is characteristic
of the Judge to accept the inevitable good-naturedly, to make the best
of conditions, and to smile at disappointments.
Gilbert said nothing, but looked
“Something like hardtack,” I
volunteered. “It isn’t bad at all. I’ve done
without baking powder more than once.”
“It gives me heartburn when I eats
it that way,” said Gilbert.
“I’ve had it to eat that way
sometimes, but it makes me sick,” said Murdock.
“Whenever I eats breat without
baking powder,” said Henry sadly, “I feels weak and finds it hard to
“Well, “ I asked, “what are we to
do about it? We can’t go back for it now. We
haven’t any baking powder, and it looks as though we shall have to make
the best of the flour without it. We have plenty of
desiccated vegetables. With them and pork and the fish and
game we’ll get we could make out very well even if we had no flour.”
The boys were silent.
Flour, pork and tea are the staples of life with the Labrador
trapper. Flour comes first. Deny him that in a
palatable form, and he feels that half his living is taken from
him. Nothing will answer as a substitute, from his point of
view. He has no vegetables, and being unaccustomed to them it
is quite natural that he does not take them into consideration as
sustaining food. With him flour holds the place that we of
milder climes give to vegetables. Bread in truth is the staff
It is not strange then that our
young men in reckoning that the supply of food we carried gave no
consideration to the vegetables, and looked upon them as a luxury of
little food value. Flour, baked without rising , unless very
thoroughly baked in thin wafers, is deemed more or less
indigestible. To be without good bread, was, therefore, from
the standpoint of the three young men, to be without sufficient
wholesome and sustaining food; and it was not difficult for me to
sympathize with their position, though I was confident they would
presently discover vegetables to be a very good substitute, when used
with the hardtack we could make from the flour.
Stowed away in a little cupboard
Gilbert presently discovered a small tin can partly filled in baking
soda, and using a bit of this in lieu of baking powder, he proceeded
with his baking. The result was by no means a failure, though
naturally the bannocks were very heavy.
The discovery of the soda gave us
the means by which sourdough bread might be made, while the soda
lasted, and if opportunity offered, we might, of course make
salt-raised bread. But necessity for constant traveling would
deny us the time required to regularly make bread by either of these
The men, squatting upon the cabin
floor, smoked their pipes in silence. It was evident deeper
gloom had settled upon our camp than the gloom cast by the sputtering
candle, whose fitful rays dimly lighted the swarthy faces of the young
voyageurs, revealing them in serious contemplation.
Judge Malone broke the silence with a laugh.
“Baking powder or no baking
powder? That is the question,” said the judge.
“Cheer up boys. Is there any way we can get that forgotten
baking powder and not lose too much time doing so?”
To the Judge the incident was
amusing, if annoying.
“How would this arrangement
answer?” I asked. “William leaves to-morrow morning to return
to Northwest River with the boat. Let him as soon as he
reaches the post get the baking powder and return here with
it. You had better get a canoe with which to return, Will,
for it will be faster than the boat. You’ll be light and you
should be able to make the round trip in three days. We’ll go
ahead, and in a couple of days Murdock and Henry can cache their load
and come back here to meet you. If you get here first, cache
the baking powder in the cabin so they can get it, and go
back. If they get here first, they’ll wait for you. We’ll
probably make short days anyhow at first until Judge Malone and I get
hardened to the work, and that will give Murdock and Henry a chance to
overtake us. But you fellows will have to keep going early
and late to do it. We will make out very well with the soda
in the meantime, I’m sure.”
“Fine!” exclaimed the judge,
“Fine! Don’t it strike you so boys?”
It did, and in this way the vexing
problem was solved, mental gloom was for the time was dissipated, and
our camp again assumed its cheerful atmosphere.
During the night the rain
ceased. In the morning the fog had cleared somewhat, but the
sky was still heavily overcast. While Gilbert prepared
breakfast of fried rabbit and bacon, William Montague made ready for
Judge Malone (L) and Gilbert Blake
in camp on the Beaver
XIII: I Never Travels On Sunday