It was then about 10 a.m. It was still snowing, but less cold-not a bad day to stand about in; and as the Caribou was a fine animal I decided that this was a good opportunity to secure a museum specimen. Therefore I gave up further idea of hunting, got a good fire going near the carcass, and set about comfortably skinning the animal. I got through with my task sometime about 1 p.m., having then the head, limb-bones, and skin complete. I then drank a refreshing brew of tea, for one always carries a pan for that purpose, and prepared to go back to the raft. I had brought my camera out, and food for another day : this weight I discarded for the time and left beside the carcass of the Caribou before I covered it over with a mass of spruce branches to frighten off prowling animals, particularly timber-wolves. The raw hide and limb bones and antlered head were then made into a pack and I started for home from a place I had never seen before and that I had entered with the guidance of Indians. Had it not been snowing my return would have been arrived at simply by following back on my old tracks, but these were covered an hour or two ago. However I had no doubt about the main direction, and about 3 p.m. I was at the narrows. Not knowing the country, I was at fault in meeting obstacles which I lost time in getting round, and, indeed, finally reached the chain of lakes below the narrows, having to work up-shore until I came to them. To my astonishment, when I reached the narrows, I saw that the raft lay across on the opposite shore. The Indians had gone home ! They had not waited for me! Not then, but later I learnt that they had done so to know if they could trust me in bushcraft. It was a test-perhaps a stern test-for think of it if I had been a tenderfoot, and lost, and out at night in bitter cold ; probably they did not even know if I had matches to make fire : if one had not, God help him !
There was nothing for it now but to face the crossing and endure a cold plunge, so, with my pack held high, I waded into the icy water, which I was glad to find came no higher than my chest, and I was able to cross without swimming, which would have been an even more unpleasant experience, with the current and heavy pack to deal with. Thereafter I passed onward to my cabin at a hurried pace to keep up circulation, so that my body and limbs would not be frozen. I reached my destination about 5.§0 p.m., shortly after dark-and none too soon, for by that time the garments that had been under water were frozen stiff and rasped awkwardly against my limbs, while alarming cold was getting at my body.
Later in the evening I tramped through the woods into Fort Du Brochet and the Indians were glad to see me. I noticed, though I then knew not their purpose, that they exchanged furtive glances, but made no remark that might infer that my appearance was other than ordinary.1
At the Post the day's experiences were recounted, and I heard that the total Caribou killed numbered fifteen.
1 I may here say that from that day I went among the Indiana, and hunted and travelled with them, and knew I was henceforth accepted as one of themselves, and was given a Chipewyan name which meant " Caribou Antler "-a thing that was thin, but hard and strong.
My observations of the day record : The wind was from the south and the Caribou were travelling up-wind as is always their custom. . . . Ravens plentiful, following the Caribou. . . . Saw one fox, and heard another barking in thick timber.
Before daylight I was out again next morning back on my tracks of yesterday to biing in the fresh meat of the animal I had killed. At the narrows I took off my clothes before crossing and carried them over on my head. It was bitterly cold while undressing and while in the water, and I was so frightfully numbed and helpless by the time I was again dressed that I hastily kindled a log fire and cowered miserably over it until circulation returned. I had been foolish in undressing, but heated with travelling the trail from the cabin to the narrows I had underestimated the cold, and all but suffered frost-bite for my folly. After careful travelling over the ground hunted over yesterday, I got out to the neighbourhood of yesterday's kill and soon located my cache, though snow had covered it since I had left, and it was well I had blazed a tree or two for guidance. I thereupon made a pack of my camera and as much meat as I could carry, and started homewards again.
About midday I threw down my heavy pack, and made fire for a meal on the margin of a small lake. It was a good place to see Caribou if any were near, and before I was half through my meal I looked up from my seat by the fire to see four animals trotting across the ice. These I at once commenced to approach and succeeded in wounding a young buck. When I came up to him he was not dead, but I thought he was helpless, and was carelessly approaching him when, to my astonishment, he rose and plunged at me. He had only antlers about the size of an adult doe, and I managed to avoid them, though his side brushed heavily against me as he passed. It was an action of despair, however, for the poor brute went no distance before he collapsed again, and I despatched him with a merciful bullet. I killed many Caribou later, but this is the only case when I experienced one of those animals attempting to show fight. It, however, bore out what the Indians had told me, for they said such a thing sometimes happened. After returning to my fire and finishing my meal, I cleaned my kill and left it lying, after covering the carcass with spruce branches as before.
It is strange to you, no doubt, but true of one's ordinary habits in the North, that it was fully two weeks later ere I trailed with dog-team to this lake, uncovered the cache and cut up the frozen carcass with an axe to load it on the sled ; then, moving on to collect another hidden animal at another distant point, finally to carry them back to my cabin for food for my huskies (sled-dogs).