Our delay at Rigolet was short, and
presently, with all sail set, we were off for Northwest
River. The rain ceased toward evening, and Judge Malone and I
took advantage of the opportunity to remove the keel from the canoe,
which was stowed on deck, and to fill the holes made by the screws
which held the keel in place, with white lead.
We had found it impossible in New
York, at short notice to find such a canoe as we required that was not
fitted with a keel. While a keel attached to a canoe has
advantages when one is paddling or sailing open water, and is always a
protection to the bottom, it is a decided disadvantage in tracking
(hauling the canoe with a rope) upstream, or in running rapids.
Our canoe was a canvas-covered,
eighteen-foot, Old Town Guides Special—identical in size and model with
that used by the Hubbard expedition—one of the best manufactured for
the character of work for which we intended it. I prefer a
canvas-covered canoe, because it will bear more abuse for its weight
than any canoe of which I know. It is easily repaired, too,
with a little white lead, bit of canvas and a few copper tacks; or with
spruce pitch, which is to be found anywhere in the northern forests.
At five o’clock the next evening we
reached Northwest River. The Hudson’s Bay Company Post here
is situated on the north shore, at the mouth of the river, while
Revillon Freres, the great fur house of Paris, maintain a post on the
opposite shore. These settlements form the last fringe of
It was in the factor’s house of the
Hudson’s Bay Company’s post at Northwest River that Hubbard spent his
last night in civilization. It was near the little wharf that
good Tom Mackenzie, the factor, bade him Godspeed and farewell, and it
was here, near the wharf, that Mackenzie welcomed Elson and me after
our return, in the winter after the tragedy. Here I made my
home during the months that followed, and here I began my long sledge
journey to Cape Charles with Hubbard’s remains in April,
1904. In all those years there had been no change.
A gently sloping beach begins at
the mouth of the river, directly in front of the Hudson’s Bay Company
Post, and extends eastward terminating a half-mile below the post in a
sandy point. A hundred yards from the water is the edge of
the spruce forest stretching away in somber and mysterious distances
over low, rolling hills. Between forest and water, and
reaching down from the line of low, white buildings to the point, is an
Scattered over this open space were
many Indian tents. Smoke from the campfires curled lazily
heavenward, Indian women moved about the forest preparing the evening
meal, Indians squatting in groups worked industriously with their
crooked-knives building canoes, and Indian children ran hither and
thither upon the grass, engaged in boisterous play, their shouts and
laughter now and again reaching us across the water. The
clouds had passed. The white post buildings, the Indian tents
and the wilderness beyond were bathed in soft evening sunshine, and a
breath of the fragrance of spruce and balsam was wafted to us from the
The French post, as it is
familiarly called, had grown considerably since my previous visit, and
possessed a new atmosphere of activity and prosperity.
Several storehouses had been erected and behind these and the
servants’quarters a new residence for the factor.
Judge Malone and I launched our
canoe from the Yale, and because I had always made
that my headquarters at Northwest River, paddled to the Hudson’s Bay
Company side. Another canoe, which we had observed crossing
the river, arrived at the beach directly after us, and to my
pleasurable surprise I recognized in its single occupant Mr. D.
Thevenet, who was a factor of Revillon Freres post at Fort Chimo, in
northern Ungava, in the winter of 1905 when I spent several weeks
there. Mr. Thevenet gave us the hearty welcome of the
wilderness, and invited us to accept the hospitality of his post across
the river, and make it our headquarters while at Northwest River.
Mr. E. A. Heath, the Hudson’s Bay
Company factor, also greeted us warmly. I had met
him on the Labrador coast, at Nain, in 1906, and we were not
strangers. My old room at the post was occupied, he
explained, by a woman, an ex-mission nurse, who had been stopping with
him for some time, and Judge Malone and I therefore accepted Mr.
Thevenet’s invitation, though we joined Heath and the nurse at tea.
Mr. Thevenet placed at our disposal
the old post house, formerly the factor’s residence, but at this time
unoccupied though fully furnished. A young native girl was
detailed to prepare our meals and care for our rooms. We
could scarcely, indeed, have enjoyed greater comfort in civilization.
Next: Chapter IX:
A Chief Voyageur