Before leaving New York a magazine
had advanced Hubbard funds for financing his expedition, and had
arranged for other funds to be advanced to meet personal obligations at
home during his absence. In consideration of this Hubbard had
agreed to write for the magazine a serial perspective of the work of
his expedition, and turn over to the magazine all photographs and other
material collected by him in connection with the expedition.
His sense of honesty and upright dealing, and his conscience, demanded
that he fulfill his contract and return value for what he had
received. Under these circumstances he felt obliged to go
farther than safety warranted, and much farther than a less
conscientious man would have gone. He literally sacrificed
his life to duty.
While the editor of the magazine
Hubbard represented would never have countenanced the risks Hubbard
took, and I am sure Hubbard realized this, still he felt it his duty to
take the risks. Even when he decided to retreat, I am
satisfied it was because he could not reasonably ask Elson and me to
continue farther. He feared the material he had collected was
insufficient. He and I discussed the matter over many a
campfire, when I always endeavoured to reassure him on this point.
In the early summer Hubbard had
suffered frequently from a weakening illness. This robbed him
of much vitality, and when the days of severe stress came his strength
failed him rapidly. He never once complained.
Ragged, nearly barefooted, weak and starving, he encouraged Elson and
me with words of hope and comfort. While he staggered
painfully along the wilderness trail he did his utmost to conceal his
suffering that ours might be the less. In later years, when I
have faced discouragements, the remembrance of his sublime courage
during the period of awful retreat has given me strength.
Sixteen pounds of pea meal was the
only provision we possessed when we began the retreat. We
were driven to the direst straits for food. When we reached
the place where we had killed the caribou during the summer, we
gathered the bones to boil for soup, and the other refuse to cook and
When our retreat brought us to the
point where we portaged into it on our inland journey Elson and I
endeavoured to persuade Hubbard to continue down the river in
accordance with the wilderness rules, “Stick to the water as long as it
runs your way.” We were too weak now to carry the canoe
across the portage to Goose Creek, and I questioned whether we had
sufficient strength to make the journey even to Grand Lake without its
assistance. Hubbard, however, decided to return by the same
route that we followed inland, and to take no chances on an unknown
So we abandoned our canoe, and with
light packs set out for the Susan River without it. I have
believed until last summer that had we continued down the river in our
canoe Hubbard’s life would have been spared. Now I am
satisfied that had Hubbard hearkened to Elson and me none of us would
On October 17 Hubbard
collapsed. He had expended the last remnant of his strength,
and could walk no farther. We were at the head of the Susan
River Valley when this calamity occurred, one hundred miles from the
post at Northwest River.
On the shores of Grand Lake, a few
hundred yards from the mouth of the Susan River, and fifty miles from
our camp, there was a trapper’s cabin. This was untenanted
when we entered the country, but natives at the post had informed us
that trappers would occupy it during the winter.
In our weakened condition it was
impossible for Elson and me to carry Hubbard, and after consultation it
was decided that Elson should attempt to reach the cabin, and if he
found men there lead them back to the relief of Hubbard and me.
Early in the summer we had
abandoned, some twenty miles below our camp, a bag containing a few
pounds of wet flour. I was to accompany Elson as far as this,
find the flour if possible, give Elson a portion of it to help him on
his journey, and return to Hubbard to await assistance.
We were encamped at this time on
the north side of the Susan River, just opposite the point where Goose
Creek tumbles into it over a fall. Our campfire was built
against a big rock. Our tent was pitched directly before it,
with the front thrown open to receive the heat which the rock
reflected. I broke boughs for a bed, and that night, while
Hubbard and Elson slept, sat watch to keep the fire ablaze, for the
weather was raw and Hubbard was now sensitive to the cold.
These details have a particular bearing upon our present story.
In the morning the rain was falling accompanied by a cold northeast
wind. Elson and I piled wood for Hubbard to use upon the fire
during my absence. Then we filled our large kettle with water
and placed it, with our cooking utensils, where he could easily reach
it, near the fire. He had a good supply of tea. We
left with him also our oft-boiled caribou bones and a piece of caribou
hide, our only remaining food.
Elson and I were to travel
light. Each of us carried half a blanket, which was to serve
as our only protection at night. The remainder of our outfit
consisted of tea and matches, and slung at each of our belts a cup and
a ten-inch barrel, single shot, .22-calibre pistol. Elson
also had a small tea pail.
At Hubbard’s request, after our
preparations for departure were completed, I sat by his side, as he
reclined in the tent, and read aloud the fourteenth chapter of John and
the thirteenth of First Corinthians.
As Elson and I entered the forest,
a little way below the camp, I turned and looked back. The
tent stood in white silhouette against the dark, dripping fir trees,
and the fire blazed against the big rock, but Hubbard, within he tent,
could not be seen. I was not to see the rock again for ten
years, and I was never again to see Hubbard alive.
At midday we halted in a driving
rain to make tea. I believed we had no food, but Elson
produced a half-pound package of pea meal. Hubbard, he told
me, had reserved it for a vital crisis, and gave it to him that morning
while I was absent from the tent. Where is there another
instance of a starving, dying man giving the last morsel of wholesome
food he possessed to others? It was characteristic of
Hubbard’ self-sacrificing heroism.
That night the rain turned to snow,
but the next morning the weather cleared, and on the second night from
camp—October 19—we found the flour. It had been transformed
into a spongy mass of green and black mold.
At dawn, on October 20, Elson and I
parted in a driving snowstorm. The weather had grown bitterly cold
. Winter had come.
Next: Chapter IV:
A Man's Game