Especially were the children more bold. In the Far North they were wont to retire, at a white man's approach, to hiding within their teepees, like frightened rabbits to their warrens; here, however, they ventured outdoors to stand in awed groups some distance in the background, gazing in wonderment at the white man and his belongings, the while their eyes, and downcast glances at each other, plainly told their full curiosity.
Two hours before daylight we left the Cree settlement and travelled overland the greater part of the day, thus avoiding the indirect course of the Sturgeonweir River, which we did not again come out on, until late afternoon, when we followed its course until after dark, to camp finally on the north shore of Beaver Lake.
I might here note, since we are travelling longer hours to accomplish a full day's run, that the dog-trains of the Indians now with me are a very mixed lot in breed, and of diminutive size; and far below the standard of the stalwart Du Brochet huskies. It is but another omen of approaching civilisation ; and, had I wanted further evidence, I saw to-day, on passing some cabins, a cow- which, without mistake, brings one near to the old familiar world.
We passed through Beaver Lake when setting out this morning; a lake where gold was discovered late last Fall, but which, I learned at Pelican Narrows, had not so far realised the great things that were hoped for by those who rushed to the claims. Nevertheless shacks had sprung into being, and those and other signs of human occupation invested the lake, even in the dead of winter. And it was here that a husky in John's train, the only pure looking dog in the lot, grew wildly excited as we passed a horse-sled, and strained on the traces to give chase, apparently mistaking the horses for deer. I asked John where the dog had come from, and he replied " Patatawogan," a post on the Lower Churchill River, where Caribou frequent. The dog was a beast of the wild places and yet untamed to civilisation.
Before trailing far to-day, Philip's dogs began to give out, and consequently the loads had to be altered and his sled much lightened.
After leaving Beaver Lake we crossed overland for twenty miles through forest country to Cumberland Lake, which lake we crossed before finally drawing up at Cumberland House. It was then so far into the night that all the inmates of the Fur Post were in bed, but necessity of food and desire for shelter forced me to awake the inmates, who in due course, in spite of my rude intrusion, bid me welcome in by the light of flickering candles.
We had trailed forty-five miles this day and, moreover, had run incessantly behind the sleds on account of the played-out dogs-truly we were ready for food and rest.
Here ended, in memorable fashion, my travels with dogs, 350 miles south of Fort Du Brochet, or 550 miles south of the edge of the Barren Grounds.
I remained at Cumberland House during the day, while arrangements were made for a sled drawn by horses to carry myself and my specimens to the Pas on the morrow.
Cumberland House had lost much of the old character of a Fur Post, and had the appearance of fast becoming a white man's frontier station : a change no doubt aggravated by the discovery of Gold at Beaver Lake, and the consequent invasion of miners and prospectors; while also it is influenced to change by the advent of the new Hudson Bay Railway to the Pas, which brings a measure of civilisation in proximity.
Nevertheless I spent a very pleasant day there, conversing with people of my own kind in my own tongue ; even though I missed the rarer atmosphere of the wilds, and the wild man's ways, that appertain in the Further North.
The remainder of my journey south was of little account and may be briefly told.
Leaving Cumberland House, I travelled all day by horse-sled, and camped for the night in the Saskatchewan Valley about fifteen miles west of the Pas ; and next day completed the distance to the railway terminus.
The following day I boarded the train and, via Prince Albert, reached Regina, my destination, at midnight on January 14.
One or two peculiar and amusing incidents occurred in those first days of my return to civilisation.
I had, of necessity, no European clothing, and was therefore, to my embarrassment, clad in my rude Eskimo costume. I will not readily forget the steward on the dining-car on the train when, in this garb, I first entered for a meal; nor his subsequent astonishment when I requested him to bring me vegetables only-first one course ; then another; and yet another, while his face lengthened in perplexity ; and he finally told me there were no more vegetables on the train. I probably looked a grim customer, but by the time he had finished serving me I felt satisfied that he thought I was mad. Nor die! he look altogether credulous when I told him at the end of the meal that I had not tasted vegetables for nine months, and that prolonged fish and meat diet had given me a tremendous craving for them; and that therefore he had given me the finest meal I had ever enjoyed.
At Prince Albert my clothing afforded me further embarrassment, for I was an odd figure among the city population, but particularly were the dogs in the streets disconcerting, for they scented the strange smell of the Caribou skins (for they retain a peculiar, ineradicable scent of the type one associates with Harris tweed) and would circle behind me to follow curiously, and sometimes to bark alarmingly. At times as many as half a dozen dogs had gathered about me in this way, until I found it expedient to turn down a side street and chase them away.
Still further, my home and worldly belongings of the previous year were at Craven, twenty miles away from Regina, so when I reached the latter city, I had to spend the day in Arctic garb. In the evening I dined with some old friends, who were amused and kind enough to take my Eskimo clothing in good part. Moreover there was a fancy-dress Carnival at the skating-rink that night, and they persisted in persuading me to accompany them there. This, in the end, I consented to do, and on reaching the rink skated on the ice until the costumes were judged, whereupon I was awarded the first prize-and I had not changed an article of my everyday Far North Caribou clothing. . . .
So had I come off the long trail to my own people. Soon was I speeding east, and to England, and to war, but carrying memories that nothing could erase of the wonderful country I had seen in a virgin land of the Wild.
The years of war have passed since then, yet so great is the attraction of that vast lone land that sleeps in the lap of a mighty Destiny, through endless summers of lovely garbing, and winters of drear snow wastes, that I still can repeat, " I've bade 'it' good-bye-but I can't."
Some day, if I live, I will go back.