BC Historical Books

BC Historical Books

BC Historical Books

The curve of time Blanchet, M. Wylie (Muriel Wylie), 1891-1961 1961

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There is no real beginning to this book, and
no logical ending : it is, as the tide implies,
part of a curve of Time; for the narrative
ranges over several years, without paying too
much attention to chronology. Also it
leaves out all the seasons except the summer.
There are adventures, strange ones some
of them; and discoveries, relatively important, depending on how sympathetic the
reader may be. There are dreams which,
alarmingly sometimes, come true, and real
dangers that are passed over with becoming
lightness. There is a strong hint of the
| fey \ among deserted Indian villages—
Red Indians—totem poles, talking ravens
and the gruesome relics of tree-burials.
As to facts—Mrs Blanchet tells of her
summer cruises with her children through
the island-studded waters that lie between
Vancouver Island and the deeply indented
coast of the mainland of British Columbia.
Their boat—a twenty-five foot petrol-driven
cruiser—was their home and their camp.
Sometimes all five children were on board,
and it was overcrowded. Sometimes there
was a dog as well. The Background : tidal
streams, shoal water, f jord-like inlets backed
-hf immense, snow-capped peaks; bears
and cougar ; little fish and whales ; hidden
harbours and shelter from sudden storms,
and a lot of sunshine. Often they follow
in the track of Captain George Vancouver,
R.N., or puzzle over the earlier voyages of
St Jean de Fuca, as recorded by Hakluyt.
Their contacts ashore are fleeting, but
vividly described; they meet loggers and
fishermen, recluses and missionaries; they^
even succeed in finding a Robinson Crua
M. Wylie Blanchet
Foreword vi
The Curve of Time         .        .        .        . . .       3
Lakes      .        .        .        .                .        . . .24
Shiners  . .      28
A Fish We Remember    .        .        .        . . .30
Cougar  ..34
Desolation      .        .        .        .        .        . . .40
Mike  .      48
Indian Villages         .     59
Northward to Seymour Inlet        .        .        .        .      73
Sunday Harbour    .        .        .        . .        .89
Karlukwees Village .93
The Skull 96
Mamalilacula 99
Knight Inlet  107
Fog on the Mountain  115
Speaking of Whales  124
The Nimkish  129
Engines  135
Old Phil         .......        . 142
Coastwise , 145
Of Things Unproved      .        .        .        ... 155
Mistaken Island     .        .        .        ...        . 160
Trouble .        .        .        .        .        .        .        .        . 173
A Whale—Named Henry        .        .        ... 181
Little House         .        . 194
This is neither a story nor a log; it is just an account
of many long sunny summer months, during many
years, when the children were young enough and old
enough to take on camping holidays up the coast of
British Columbia. Time did not exist; or if it did it did
not matter, and perhaps it was not always sunny.
Our world then was both wide and narrow—wide in the
immensity of sea and mountain ; narrow in that the boat
was very small, and we lived and camped, explored and
swam in a little realm of our own making.
At times we longed for a larger boat; for each summer,
as the children grew bigger, the boat seemed to grow
smaller, and it became a problem how to fit everyone in.
She was only twenty-five feet long, with a beam of six and
a half feet, and until later, when the two oldest girls went
East to school, she had to hold six human beings and
sometimes a dog as well.
There were narrow bunks in the cockpit, butting into
what we called the ' back seat' which ran across the
stern. Elizabeth slept in one, over the bedding and
clothes locker. I slept in the other, over the gas-tank and
small food locker. We were quite comfortable. It was
Peter, sleeping on the back seat over the big food locker,
who complained when we slipped down too far in our
bunks and got tangled up with either his head or his feet.
Up in the engine-room, which was separated from the
cockpit by a solid bulkhead with a small door, there was
a wedge-shaped bunk just for'ard of the engine. It
started off with a width of four feet, but tapered to six
inches in the peak. That was where the two smaller girls
slept. There was no head-room in there—we had to
crouch to get through the little door, and we had to crouch
all the time we were in there—unless the hatch was open.
But the children were quite comfortable, and with the
hatch open at night they could lie there tracking down the
different stars they knew, and gradually adding others.
That left John. John slept on a long pad down what
he called the j crack,' which was the eighteen-inch space
between my bunk and Elizabeth's. In the early days no
one could think what to do with John, until he solved the
problem all by himself. We were busy one afternoon,
cleaning up the boat, and nobody was paying any attention
to what he was doing on shore. Once he came back to get
the saw; then he spent the rest of the afternoon on the
beach, very busy over something. Just before supper he
climbed on board—the saw under one arm and a neat
bundle of wood under the other.
V I'm not going to sleep down that old crack any more,"
he announced, as he spread out his bundle of wood and
showed us. He had sawn up twelve twenty-two by three-
inch boards and joined them all together with heavy
fishing-line, like a Venetian blind. It fitted across the
space between the two bunks, and under the two
mattresses. The slats could not slip apart, for the line held
them; yet it could be rolled up in the daytime and
easily stowed away. The long narrow pad still fitted.
He had anticipated all possible objections—there was
nothing we could say. John had thought of a way to get
himself up out of that crack, and was up to stay.
There was a two-by-two-foot steering-seat just for'ard
of Elizabeth's bunk, over a locker that held pots and pans
and everyday stores. The gasolene stove fitted on top of
the steering-seat when in use, and folded up like a suit-case
for stowing away. Its place was between the five-gallon
demijohn of water and my bunk. Everything had to have
its exact place, or no one could move.
We were very comfortable in the daytime with everything stowed away.   The cockpit was covered, and had
 viii foreword
heavy canvas curtains that fastened down or could be
rolled up. There was a folding-table whose legs jammed
tightly between the two bunks to steady it. And it was
camping—hot cruising. We washed our dishes (one plate,
one mug each) over the side of the boat; there was a
little rope-ladder that could be hung over the stern, and
we used that when we went swimming.
We may have grumbled about the accommodation;
not about the boat herself. Lightly built (half-inch cedar)
and well designed, she never hesitated to attempt anything
we wanted her to try. She was uncomfortable in much of
a beam sea, so for all our sakes we humoured her by
working crab-fashion along the coast, first one way and
then the other. But it was a following sea that she loved
best; and after a long, tiring day it was never by her wish
that we would give up and slip in to the sudden calm of a
sheltered anchorage, where she had to lie, all quiet, and
only gently stirring. ! . .
Four of the stories in the book have appeared in
'Blackwood's Magazine.'
M. W. B.
Vancouver Island,
British Columbia.
  The Curve of Time
On board our boat one summer we had a book by
Maurice Maeterlinck called f The Fourth Dimension,' the
fourth dimension being Time—which, according to Dunne,
doesn't exist in itself, but is always relative to the person
who has the idea of Time. Maeterlinck used a curve to
illustrate Dunne's theory. Standing in the Present, on
the highest point of the curve, you can look back and
see the Past, or forward and see the Future, all in the
same instant. Or, if you stand off to one side of this
curve, as I am doing, your eye wanders from one to the
other without any distinction.
In dreams, the mind wanders in and out of the Present,
through the Past and the Future, unable to distinguish
between what has not yet happened and what has already
befallen. Maeterlinck said that if you kept track of your
dreams, writing them down as soon as you woke, you
would find that a certain number were of things that had
already happened; others would be connected with the
present; but a certain number would be about things
that had not yet happened. This was supposed to prove
that Time is just a dimension of Space, and that there is
no difference between the two, except that our consciousness roves along this Curve of Time.
In my mind, I always think of that summer as the
Maeterlinck summer—the year we wrote down our
dreams. The children always called it—the Year of the
Towards the end of June, or it might have been July,
we headed up Jervis Inlet. This inlet cuts through the
Coast Range of British Columbia and extends by winding
reaches in a northerly direction for about sixty miles.
Originally perhaps a fault in the earth's crust, and later
scoured out by a glacier, since retreated, it is roughly a
mile wide, and completely hemmed in on all sides by
stupendous mountains, rising from almost perpendicular
shores to heights of from five to eight thousand feet. All
the soundings on the chart are marked one hundred
fathoms with the no-bottom mark . . . right up to the
cliffs. Stunted pines struggle up some of the ravines, but
their hold on life is short. Sooner or later, a winter storm
or spring avalanche sweeps them out and away ; and next
summer there will be a new cascade in their place.
Once you get through Agamemnon Channel into the
main inlet, you just have to keep going—there is no
shelter, no place to anchor. In summer-time the wind
blows up the inlet in the morning, down the inlet from
five o'clock on. In winter, I am told, the wind blows down
the inlet most of the time—so strong and with such heavy
williwaws that no boat can make against it. I know that
up at the head of the inlet most trappers' cabins are
braced with heavy poles towards the north.
For some reason that I have forgotten, probably the
hope of trout for supper, we decided to anchor in Vancouver
Bay for lunch. Vancouver Bay is about half-way up
Jervis, and only makes a very temporary anchorage good
for a couple of hours on a perfectly calm day. It is a deep
bay between very high mountains, with a valley and three
trout-streams. You can drop your hook on a narrow
mud-bank, but under your stern it falls away to nothing.
After lunch I left the youngsters playing on the beach,
and taking a light fishing-line I worked my way back for
perhaps half a mile. The underbrush was heavy and most
uncomfortable on bare legs, and I had to make wide
detours to avoid the devil's club. Then I had to force
my way across to the stream, as my trail had been one of
least resistance. It was a perfect trout-stream, the water
running along swiftly on a stony bottom ; but with deep
pools beside the overhanging banks, cool shade under
fallen tree-trunks. The sunshine drifted through the alders
and flickered on the surface of the running water. Somewhere deeper in the forest the shy thrushes were calling
their single, abrupt liquid note. Later, when the sun
went down, the single note would change to the ascending
triplets. Except for the thrushes, there was not a sound
—all was still.
I didn't have a rod—you can't cast in this kind of growth,
there is no room. I didn't use worms, I used an unripe
huckleberry. An unripe huckleberry is about the size and
colour of a salmon egg—and trout love salmon eggs.
Almost at once I landed a fair-sized one on the mossy
rocks. Another . . . and then another. I ran a stick
through their gills and moved to another pool.
But suddenly I was seized with a kind of panic. ... I
simply had to get back to my children. I shouldn't be
able to hear them from where I was, if they called. I
listened desperately. . . . There was just no sense to this
blind urge that I felt. Almost frantic, I fought my way
back by the most direct route—through the salmon-berry,
salal, and patches of devil's club.
I Coming—coming ! " I shouted. What was I going to
rescue them from ? I didn't know, but how desperately
urgent it was !
I finally scrambled through to the beach—blood streaming down my legs, face scratched, hands torn—blood
everywhere. Five wondering faces looked at me in horror.
The two youngest burst into tears at the sight of this
remnant of what had once been their Mummy.
I Are you all right ? " I gasped—with a sudden seething
mixture of anger and relief at finding them alive and
After an interval, the three girls took my fish down to
the sea to clean, the two little boys helping me wash off
the blood as I sat with my feet in the stream.   Devil's
club spikes are very poisonous and I knew their scratches
would give me trouble for days.
"There's a man along at the other end of the beach,"
volunteered Peter.   " He's been watching us."
I All day ! " broke in John. " And he's all dressed in
black." I glanced up—a tall figure was standing there,
against the trees, up behind the drift-logs at the top of
the beach. Just standing there, arms hanging down, too
far away to be seen plainly. Peculiar place for a clergyman to be, I thought inanely ; and went back to the more
important business of washing off the blood. Then I put
on the shoes I had washed.
| Mummy ! " called Elizabeth. I glanced up. The
three of them were looking towards the other end of the
I The man is coming over," said Fran.   | He's . . . ! "
" Mummy ! " shrieked Jan.
It didn't take us two minutes to drag the dinghy into
the water, pile in, and push off. The man was coming—
but he was coming on all-fours.
The bear ate the fish that the children had dropped.
Then, as we pulled up the anchor, not thirty feet away,
she looked at us crossly, swung her nose in the air to get
our scent, and grumbled back along the beach to meet
her two cubs. They had suddenly appeared from behind
the logs and were coming along the beach in short runs.
Between runs they would sit down—not quite sure what
their mother was going to think about it. She didn't
think it was a good idea at all. She cuffed them both,
and they ran back whimpering to the logs. She followed,
and then stood up again—tall, black, arms hanging
loosely down, and idly watched us leave the bay.
" Mummy! " demanded the children, when they were
quite sure they were safe. "That bad dream you had last
night that woke us all up that you said you couldn't
remember^—was it about bears ? "
" No ... at least, I don't think so." But even as I
spoke, I could remember how very urgent and terrifying
something had been in that dream. I hesitated—and
then I decided not to tell them about the strange, blind
panic I had felt by the stream—I could have smelt the
bear down-wind. But I knew that the panic and sense of
urgency by the stream, and the feeling in my dream, had
been one and the same.
Marlborough Heights flanks the northern side of Vancouver Bay, swinging boldly out in a ten-mile curve and
making the inlet change its course. It rises straight up
out of the sea, and straight up to six thousand feet. And
nobody knows how deep it goes. The chart just states in
chart language—one hundred fathoms, no bottom, right
off the cliffs. The children always hang over the gunwale
trying to see—they don't know quite what, but it must be
something awful in anything so deep.
Peter and John were still moaning about the trout the
bear had eaten—-so I said I would stop and we would try
to see what mysterious something we could catch. I
stopped the engine, and Elizabeth held us off the cliff with
the pike-pole, while we knotted all our fishing-lines
together. We tied on a two-pound jigger, which is a
flat, rounded piece of lead, with a rigid hook at the lower
end. Then we baited it with bacon, and down . . . down
. . . down . . . and everybody watched and pushed for
better places to see. After a while I thought I could feel
something like bottom—it was so far away that I couldn't
be sure. But I jigged the line up and down—up and down.
Then something caught and held it and jigged back—
somewhat like getting in touch with another planet.
I pulled in, and in, and in. . . . The children watched
breathlessly, but still there was more to come. It was
now definitely something. I told Jan to bring the dinghy
in closer, and I leapt the gap, still pulling.   I didn't know
what might live at that great depth—I'd bring it alongside
the dinghy, have a look at it first and then decide.
Foot after foot . . . after foot. . . . Then " Ah's ! "
from the children. A bright scarlet fish was goggling at me
from beside the dinghy. It was about two feet long and
thick through. It didn't struggle—it just lay there
gasping. I took the gaff and lifted it gently into the boat
by its gills, for water didn't seem to be its proper medium.
Again it didn't struggle. It just lay on the floor-boards
and gasped and goggled as though it would have liked to
tell me something, but couldn't.
Ij Put the poor thing back ! Put it back ! " pleaded the
children, wringing their hands.
But just then, a great inflated tongue-like thing came
out of its mouth and stayed out. Then I remembered
what the fishermen up at the Yucultaw Rapids had told
us about the Red Snappers that were sometimes chased
up from great depths. Without the pressure of the
depths, this sack or bladder inflates, and they have to die.
They can never go back to where they belong—and just
flounder about on the surface until the eagles or seagulls
put them out of their misery. They are very good to eat
—but after seeing this one's goggling eyes and listening to
its pleading gasps, I didn't think any of us would want to.
1 killed it quickly and put it over the side.
The wind hit us as we came opposite Britain River,
just as it usually does. It blows out of the deep valley of
the Britain River, and then escapes out through Vancouver
Bay. After we had slopped ahead out of that, we met the
wind that blows out of Deserted Bay and down the full
length of Princess Royal Reach. So for the next ten
miles or so we battled wind. It is not a nice wind in among
the mountains. It picks you up in its teeth and shakes
you. It hits you first on one side and then on the other.
There is nowhere to go, you just have to take it. But
finally, everybody tired and hungry, we rounded Patrick
Point into the gentle Queen's Reach—and there, there was
no wind at all.
An hour or so later we were at the entrance to little
Princess Louise Inlet. But the tide was still running a turbulent ten knots out the narrow entrance—so we tied up to
the cliff and ate our supper while we waited for slack water.
We were inextricably associated with Captain George
Vancouver, R.N., in our summer-long trips up the coast.
He explored, surveyed and charted the coast of British
Columbia in 1792, and named practically every island, inlet
and channel—names that are still used. Every bay we
anchor in, every beach we land on—Vancouver or his
lieutenants had been there first.
Vancouver of course had no charts—^he was there to
make them. But from old sources he had certain reports
of a great inland sea in those latitudes—and he seemed to
be convinced that it existed. Even when he was confronted with the whole stretch of the snow-capped Coast
Range, he was still sure he was going to find a channel
through the mountains to that mediterranean sea.
In June of that far-off summer of 1792, Vancouver left
his ship, the Discovery, and the armed tender, Chatham, at
anchor down in Birch Bay—just south of what is now the
international boundary. Then, with Archibald Menzies,
the botanist of the expedition, and perhaps four others in
the little yawl, and Mr Puget in charge of the launch,
Vancouver set off to examine the coast to the north.
After exploring part of Burrard Inlet, on which the
present city of Vancouver is built, they sailed up Howe
Sound, just a little north of Burrard Inlet. Captain
Vancouver clearly did not like our high mountains. The
low fertile shores they had seen farther down the coast
near Birch Bay, he says, ' here no longer existed. Their
place was now occupied by the base of a tremendous snowy
barrier, thin wooded and rising abruptly from the sea to
the clouds ; from whose frigid summit the dissolving snow
in foaming torrents rushed down the sides and chasms
of its rugged surface, exhibiting altogether a sublime but
gloomy spectacle which animated nature seemed to have
deserted. Not a bird nor a living creature was to be seen,
and the roaring of the falling cataracts in every direction
precluded their being heard had any been in the neighbourhood.'
Again—\ At noon I considered that we had advanced
some miles within the western boundaries of the snowy
barrier, as some of its rugged mountains were now behind
and to the south of us. This filled my mind with the
pleasing hopes of finding our way to its eastern side.'
Then they proceeded up to the head of the inlet—I Where
all our expectations vanished, in finding it to terminate in
a round basin, encompassed on every side by the dreary
country already described.'
They sailed up the coast for about sixty miles, taking
observations and soundings. Eventually, they entered
Jervis Inlet. Starting off at four a.m. as usual—j The
width of the channel still continuing, again flattered us
with discovering a breach in the eastern range of snowy
mountains, notwithstanding the disappointment we had
met with in Howe Sound ; and although since our arrival
in the Gulf of Georgia, it had proved an impenetrable
barrier to that inland navigation of which we had heard
so much, and had sought with such sanguine hopes and
ardent exertions hitherto in vain to discover.'
Later—\ By the progress we had this morning made,
which comprehended about six leagues, we seemed to have
penetrated considerably into this formidable obstacle,
and as the more lofty mountains were now behind us and
no very distant ones were seen beyond the vallies caused
by the depressed parts of the snowy barrier in the northern
quarters, we had great reason to believe we had passed
this impediment to our wishes, and I was induced to
hope we should find this inlet winding beyond the
After dinner they proceed . . . j Until about five in
the evening, when all our hopes vanished, by finding it
terminate, as others had, in swampy low land.'
Vancouver's whole outlook on these beautiful inlets was
coloured by this desire to find a seaway to the other side
of the mountains. Some of the party must have been
impressed with the beauty and grandeur. Menzies, the
botanist, is more enthusiastic. In his diary he notes,
I Immence cascades dashing down chasms against projecting rocks and cliffs with a furious wildness that beggars
all description.'
Even he doesn't say that the cascades start away up at
four or five thousand feet. That mountains six and seven
thousand feet high flank either side of the inlet beyond
Marlborough Heights, and show great snowfields in the
upper valleys.
Coming back from the head of the inlet that evening,
Vancouver and his party, who had noticed the entrance to
Princess Louise on the way up and decided it was a creek,
found the tide running swiftly out of it. The water was
salt and the entrance shallow. They gave up the idea of
spending the night there and rowed until eleven o'clock
past high cliffs to find shelter behind Patrick Point.
The youngsters were delighted that Vancouver had
missed Princess Louise Inlet—very scornful that he had
thought the entrance shallow.
" He didn't even try the right entrance, he was on the
ledge," said Peter.
"■Well, he couldn't have got in anyway, with the tide
running out," said Jan, defending him.
He certainly couldn't have got in. Even we, who
knew the way, were tied up to a log, eating our supper
while the pent-up waters of Louise poured themselves out
through the narrow entrance in a ten-knot race.
It was also understandable that they should have
mistaken it for a creek. From the outside where we waited,
you can see nothing of the inlet beyond. Two steep four-
thousand-foot mountains, one on each side of the entrance,
completely obscure the inlet and the mountains beyond.
The entrance is a little tricky to get through at low tide
unless you know it, but there is plenty of water. From
water level, the points on one side and the coves on the
other fold into each other, hiding the narrow passage. It
is not until you are rushed through the gap on a rising tide
that the full surprise of the existence and beauty of this
little hidden inlet suddenly bursts on you. It is always an
effort to control the boat as you hold her on the high ridge
of the straight run of water down the middle. Then, as
you race past the last points, the ridge shatters into a
turmoil of a dozen different currents and confusions.
Your boat dashes towards the rocky cliff beyond the
shallow cove on your right; and the cliff, equally delighted,
or so it seems, rushes towards your boat. You wrestle
with the wheel of your straining boat, and finally manage
to drag the two apart ... and you are out of danger in a
The inlet is about five miles long, a third of a mile wide,
and the mountains that flank it on either side are over a
mile high. From inside the entrance you can see right
down to the far end where it takes the short L-turn to
the left. At that distance you can see over the crest to
where all the upper snowfields lie exposed, with their black
peaks breaking through the snow. The scar of a landslide
that runs diagonally for four thousand feet is plainly visible.
At certain times of the day the whole inlet seems choked
with mountains, and there is no apparent line between
where the cliffs enter the sea and where the reflections
Three miles farther down the inlet, the high snowfields
become obscured—the mountains are closing in. You
turn the corner of the great precipice that slightly overhangs—which they say the Indians used to scale with
rocks tied to their backs : the one who reached the
top first was the bravest of the brave, and was made
the chief. . . .
Then suddenly, dramatically, in a couple of boat-
lengths, the whole abrupt end of the inlet comes into sight
—heavily wooded, green, but rising steeply. Your eye is
caught first by a long white scar, up about two thousand
feet, that slashes across . . . and disappears into the dark-
green background. Again, another splash of white, but
farther down. Now you can see that it has movement. It
is moving down and down, in steep rapids. Disappearing
. . . reappearing ... and then in one magnificent leap
plunging off the cliff and into the sea a hundred feet below.
As your boat draws in closer, the roar and the mist come
out to meet you.
We always tied up at Trapper's Rock—well over to the
left of the falls, but not too close to the mile-high, perfectly
vertical cliff. It is a huge piece about twelve by twelve
with a slight incline.
| Did this fall off that cliff too ? " somebody asked, as
they took the bow-line and jumped off the boat onto
Trapper's Rock. I was busy trying to drape a stern-anchor
over a great sloping rock that lay just under water, ten
feet astern, and avoided answering. Dark night was
coming on rapidly and the cliffs were closing in. Night
was a foolish time to answer unanswerable questions. I
was glad we couldn't hear the waterfall too loudly at
Trapper's Rock. That waterfall can laugh and talk, sing
and lull you to sleep. But it can also moan and sob, fill
you with awful apprehensions of you don't know what—
all depending on your mood. . . . My crew soon settled
down to sleep.   On the other side of the falls I could see a
light through the trees. The Man from California, who
had started building a large log-cabin last year, must be
there—in residence. I didn't want to think about him,
for he would spoil much of our freedom in Louise. . . .
Then I started feeling the pressure of the mile-high cliff,
worrying about the two huge rocks we were moored
between, and all the other monstrous rocks that filled
the narrow strip behind us. As you stepped off Trapper's
Rock onto the shore, you stepped into a sort of cave
formed by an enormous slanting rock that spread out over
your head. A little stream of ice-cold spring water ran
on one side, and dropped pool by pool among the maidenhair ferns down to the stony shore. A circle of blackened
stones marked our cooking-fires of other summers. The
back and top of this prehistoric cave were covered with
moss and ferns and small huckleberry bushes. All the
slope behind was filled with enormous rocks. They were
not boulders, worn and rounded by the old glacier. They
had sharp angles and straight-cut facets; in size, anywhere from ten by ten to twenty by twenty—hard, smooth
granite, sometimes piled two or three deep—towering
above us.
They were undoubtedly pieces that had fallen off the
cliff, the cliff that shut off the world and pressed against
me. The first night's question always was—was Trapper's
Rock one of the first to break off and fall, or was it one of
the last, which fell and bounced over the others to where
it now lay ? In back of the rock, the masses are piled one
on top of the other. There are deep crevices between
them that you could fall into—no one knows how many
feet. It would take rope-work to get on top of some of
them.   None of us is allowed to go in there alone.
The stars had filled up the long crack of sky above me.
Brighter stars than you see anywhere else . . . bright
. . . so bright . . .
Somewhere in that uneasy night I dreamt that I was
watching a small black animal on a snowfield, some
distance away. I don't remember why I was so curious
about it, but in my dreams it seemed most important for
me to know what it was. Then I decided, and knew most
certainly, that it was a black fox playing and sliding on
the edge of the snowfield. Then moving closer to it, as
you sometimes do in a dream's mysterious way, I saw
that it wasn't a fox at all, but a small black pony. I
remember that it looked more like a pony that a child
had drawn—low-slung and with a blocky head—sliding on
a most unlikely snowfield.
In the wonderful bright morning the cliffs were all sitting
down again—well back. All the fears and tensions had
gone. We had a swim in the lovely warm water. The sun
wouldn't come over the mountain edge before ten, but a
pot of hot porridge, toast and coffee kept everybody
warm. I made the children laugh about my dream of a
black fox that turned into an ugly black pony. Everyone
decided that it must have been the man in black down in
Vancouver Bay that turned into a bear. I couldn't think
why it hadn't occurred to me before. It's just as well to
have dreams like that in the Past.
Over on the other side of the falls we could see a big
float held out from the shore by two long poles—new since
last year. Somewhere in behind lay the log-cabin and the
intruder. His coming last year had changed many things.
We used to be able to stay in the inlet a couple of weeks
without seeing another boat. Last summer, when the
cabin was being built by skilled axe-men, there were
always a few boats there—coming and going with supplies.
And the men who were building the cabin were there all
the time. We had only just met the Man from California,
and we had stayed for only two days.
On the other side of the inlet, on the right-hand cliff
beyond the falls, which is not as perpendicular and is
sparsely wooded with small pines, there is a great long
scar. You can see where it started as a rock-slide four
thousand feet up. It had carried trees, scrub and loose
stones in front of it—gradually getting wider as it scraped
the rock clean. In rainy weather a torrent races down,
tumbling noisily from pool to pool. But in summer-time
only a thin stream slides over the smooth granite, collecting in an endless series of deep and shallow pools. Heated
by the sun on the rock, the water is lukewarm. We used
to climb up perhaps half a mile, and then slide down the
slippery granite from pool to pool like so many otters. We
found it too hard on the seats of our bathing-suits, and
had got into the habit of parking them at the bottom.
Now, with the coming of the log-cabin, we had to post a
guard or else tie our bathing-suits round our necks.
Boat scrubbed and tidied, sleeping-bags out in the sun
—everybody had their jobs. Then we collected our clothes
for washing, piled into the dinghy and rowed across to
the landslide. There was a green canoe turned over on
the wharf; no sign of the owner. He probably didn't
even know that anyone was in the inlet, for you can't hear
a boat's engine on account of the falls.
The three lowest pools of the landslide were called Big
Wash, Big Rinse, and Little Rinse. All snow-water, all
lukewarm—so washing was easy. And we carry only one
set of clothes, pyjamas, and bathing-suits—so there is
practically nothing to wash anyway. We scrubbed our
clothes—we washed our hair—we washed ourselves. That,
interspersed with sliding, took some time. Then, all clean
and shining bright, we gathered up our things. The three
girls said that they would swim on ahead. Peter wanted
to go too, but he swims with only his nose above water, and
it is hard to see if he is there or not. So I said that he
could help John and me gather huckleberries first.
When we followed later in the dinghy, Peter with his
snorkel up, swimming beside us, there were the three girls
gifting on the wharf, talking to the Man from California.
He said he hadn't had anyone to talk to for a month—
except old Casper down at the entrance, and he always
brought back a flea when he went to visit him. He
asked us to come over and have supper with him that
night and see the new log-cabin. The children held their
breaths . . . waiting for me to say—yes.
After lunch, needing to stretch our legs, we started off
to scramble up through the mighty chaos that lay behind
Trapper's Rock. Peter carried a coil of light rope for
rescue work, and John his bow-and-arrow, ready for you
can never tell what. We had to be pulled and pushed
up some of the biggest barriers. Devil's club made
impenetrable blocks around which we had to detour.
Then suddenly we found ourselves on a well-defined trail
that skirted all the biggest rocks and always seemed to
find the best way.
" Who do you suppose this nice person was ? " asked
" Trapper, I should think," I said, very thankful for it.
Then it ended in a big hole between two great rocks that
overhung our way. The youngsters were intrigued with
the thought of a real cave and wanted to explore it. But
there was a very strong smell coming from it.
" Just like foxes," someone said, f No, like mink,"
said somebody else.
Certainly it was something, and we decided to skip it.
We had to go partly through the entrance to get past. . . for
some reason I could feel the hair standing up along my spine.
The trail led beyond as well. The huckleberries were
ripe and the cave forgotten. Then we could hear the roar
of the river ahead, so we left the trail and cut down towards
the sea. We soon wished we hadn't, for the going was
heavy and we were very vulnerable in bathing-suits.
Finally we broke through to the shore close to the falls ;
and there being no other way, we had to swim and wade
back to our rock.    I waded, with John sitting on my
shoulders, up to my neck at times. The sun was off the
rock, but the cliffs hold the heat so long that we didn't
miss it. Later, each of us dressed up in his one set of
clothes, we rowed leisurely across to the float, probably as
glad to have someone to talk to as the Man from California
The cabin was lovely. The whole thing, inside and out,
was made of peeled cedar-logs—fifteen and twenty inches
in diameter. There was one big room, about forty by
twenty feet, with a great granite fire-place. A stairway
led up to a balcony off which there were two bedrooms and
a bathroom. A kitchen and another bedroom and bathroom led off the living-room. Doors, bookcases, everything
was made of the peeled cedar-logs—even the chesterfield
in front of the fire-place, and the big trestle table. A
bookcase full of books. ... A lot of thought and good
taste, and superb axe-manship, had gone into the construction.
After supper, sitting in front of a blazing log-fire, the
children were telling him of our climb back into the
" And there was a cave, and it smelt of foxes," Peter
burst out.
I Dead foxes," added John.
I asked if there were any foxes around here.
" What on earth made you think of foxes ? " the man
asked.   " There are no foxes in country like this."
Then he asked questions as to just how far back we had
been, and just where. Then he told us—a she-bear and
her cub had been around all spring. One of the loggers
who were building the cabin had followed her trail, and it
crossed the river on a log some distance above the falls.
He had found the den in the cave. Although he had a gun
with him, he had not shot the mother on account of the
Then, of course, the children had to tell about my
dream of the fox that had turned out to be a black pony
. . . shaped much more like a bear than a pony, I now
realised. It all more or. less fitted in. But what about the
man down at Vancouver Bay who had turned out to be
a bear ? Maeterlinck was beginning to spoil our summer
—if the dreams were going to work both ways we would
soon be afraid to get off the boat.
The Man from California, who hardly knew us, was full
of the perils of the surrounding terrain. We were perfectly
willing to say we wouldn't go near the bear's den again—
we knew as well as he did that bears with cubs are
dangerous. But we forbore to tell him that we were
going to climb up four thousand feet the next day to
get some black huckleberries we knew of at the edge of
the tree-line. After all, he was the intruder—probably
attracted the bears. Black bears like hanging around the
edge of civilisation. And this man and his log-cabin
made the first thin wedge of civilisation that had been
driven into our favourite inlet.
Judging by the enormous stumps, at one time there
had been a stand of huge cedars in the narrow steep
valley. Just behind the new log-cabin there is an old
skid-road—small logs laid cross-ways to make a road to
skid the big logs down to the sea, with a donkey-engine
and cables. The skid-road goes up to about six hundred
feet—back the way the old glacier had retreated. Cedar
grows quickly, and in this moist valley, with heat and
rotting ferns, the growth would be rapid.
Six hundred feet high doesn't mean that you get there
by walking six hundred feet. It must have been two
miles back to the little trapper's cabin at the end of the
skid-road. The road slanted at quite an incline, and every
muscle screamed with the punishment before we got there.
We had to stop to get our breath every hundred feet or so
—all except John and Peter who ran around in circles.
At the cabin we dropped exhausted . . . then drank and
bathed our faces in the ice-cold stream.
The skid-road ends there, and we had to follow a trap-
line marked by axe-blazes on the trees. The trap-lines
are only used when the snow is on the ground, so there is
no path to follow—just the blazed or white scars on the
trees. We rested often, as the going was really hard—
soft earth, moss and rolling stones. We had to walk sideways to get any kind of foothold. Then we came to the
cliff. The boys thought it was the end of everything.
But the blazes led off to the right, to the bottom of a
chimney with small junipers for hand-holds. John went
up directly in front of me. If he were going to slip, I would
rather be at the beginning of it, before he gathered
momentum. It had its disadvantages though ; for he
filled me up with earth and stones which trickled down
inside my shirt and out my shorts.
At last—on the edge of a flat near the end of the tree-line
—we reached the huckleberry bushes. Wonderful bushes !
Waist high and loaded with berries twice the size of blackcurrants. Growing where they did, in the sun with the
cliffs behind to hold the heat, and all the streams to water
them—they are sweet and juicy. In no time we had our
pails full—you just milked them off the bushes. And
then we just sat and ate and ate and ate—and our tongues
got bluer and bluer.
It was Peter who started sniffing, swinging his head in
a semi-circle to pick up the direction. ..." I smell foxes
—no, I mean bears," he said. I had smelt them some
time ago—bears like huckleberries too. But I hadn't
climbed four thousand feet to be frightened by a bear.
Also, I was getting tired of Maeterlinck conjuring up bears
in our life.   By now, everybody was sniffing.
I Bang your lids against your tins," I suggested.
I That will frighten them away."
So we all banged and banged. Then, as our tins and
ourselves were full, I eased everybody on down the trail—
just in case. As was perfectly natural, everybody had
dreamt of bears the night before.    Well—Maeterlinck
may have some kind of a plausible Time theory, but the
children are not sure how he manages about the bears. If
they are going to climb onto both ends of the Curve it will
be a little too much.
Going down a mountain is easier on the wind, but much
harder on the legs. The back muscles of your calves,
which get stretched going up, seem to tie themselves in
knots going down—trying to take up the slack.
We tried to sneak past the cabin to our dinghy at the
float, but the Man from California was lying down there
in the sun.
" Where have you been all day ? " he asked. "I've
been worried about you."
" We smelt bears," offered John. " And we banged
and banged our tins at them, and they were all as afraid
as anything."
The man groaned ... his paradise spoiled, I suppose.
But what about ours ? I hastily showed him the huckleberries and asked him to come over and eat huckleberry
pie with us on Trapper's Rock—two hours after the sun
went over the top.
Then we rowed home and fell into the sea to soak our
aches and pains and mud away—around the rock, out of
sight. We couldn't wear our bathing-suits, for now our
only clothes were dirty again, and we had to keep our
bathing-suits for supper.
We made a big fire on top of the rock to sit by; and
cooked our supper on the little camp-fire in the prehistoric
cave. A big corned-beef hash with tomatoes and onions—
our biggest pot full of huckleberry dumplings—and coffee.
I had warned the children not to mention bears again, so
beyond a few groans when he heard where we had got the
berries, we had a pleasant evening.
Clothes had to be washed again—the mountain climb
had certainly ravaged them. So we spent the morning
away up the landslide while our clothes dried. The man
had paddled off in his canoe early, to get mail and pro-
visions that some boat was to leave for him at Casper's—
so we had the inlet to ourselves.
I had snubbed everybody at breakfast-time who tried
to report a bear-dream—and felt that I had things back on
a sane basis again. I had dreamt of climbing all night—
my legs were probably aching. It wouldn't do for me
to write mine down when I had been snubbing the children
for even talking about theirs. By breakfast-time the only
thing I could remember about it at all—was hanging on
to a bush for dear life, while something—water I think—
flowed or slid past me. ... It had been terrifying, I
Later in the day we climbed up beside the falls. The
stream above was very turbulent—you would certainly
be battered to death on the big boulders if you fell in. And
if you escaped that, there were the falls below to finish
you off. Quite a long way farther back there was a large
tree across the stream which made a bridge to the other
side. We crawled across on our hands and knees—no
fooling allowed. I brought up the rear, holding John's
belt in my teeth. . . . The others were across and had
gone on ahead before John and I got safely over. ... I
swear that either the tree or the shore shook with the
force of that raging water.
The others were out of sight and I called to them to
wait. When we caught up, we started to follow them over
a steep slope of heavy moss. They were romping across,
clutching onto the moss and completely ignoring the
torrent sixty feet below at the bottom of the slope.
Suddenly I was sure I felt the sheet of moss under my feet
slip—as moss will on granite. I shouted to the children
not to move, and worked my way up a crack of bare
granite, pushing John ahead of me—then anchored myself
to a bush. I made the children crawl up, one by one, to
where there were some bushes to hang onto. From there
they worked up to a tree.
Elizabeth had to come to our help. Holding onto a
firm bush, she lowered herself down until John could
catch hold of her feet and pull himself up and past her.
Then holding onto Elizabeth's feet, I put one foot on the
moss and sprang forward, clutched a bush and then
somebody's hand. . . . The youngsters were all safely
anchored to a tree and I to a bush—and we sat there
watching in horror as the big sheet of moss, to which I
had just given the final push, gathered momentum and
slid down and over the edge.
" I want to go home," wailed John.
" So do I," echoed Peter, his superior years forgotten.
u Don't be sillies! " I said sharply, recovering my
" How . . . ? " they all moaned.
" How what ? " I snapped.
H Get home . .  . ? " they meekly sniffed.
Well, I wasn't quite sure at that stage. Besides, I was
shaken. As soon as the moss slid, I had recognised the
bush I was hanging on to—it was the bush in my dream.
Straight up seemed to be the only way we could go.
Tree by tree all linked together, we finally got onto quite
a wide ledge.   And there on the ledge was a distinct trail.
| Why, it's that old she-bear's track again ! " cried
| And that must have been her bridge ! " said somebody
I Well, she certainly knows how to choose a good safe
path," I said—wishing I knew which way she and her cub
might come strolling.
I certainly didn't want to go over the trembling bridge
again—so we followed the trail the other way. Going by
the logger's tale, it should lead us to the old skid-road and
then down to the cabin.
| Isn't she a nice old bear to make this nice path," said
John hopefully—tightly clutching my hand.
" Silly ! " said Peter, clutching onto my belt behind.
" Let's sing," I suggested.
So, all singing loudly, we followed the nice bear's
trail. ... A nice bear—whom I fervently hoped didn't
care for singing.
Sometimes during the long summers we would get a
longing to soak the salt out of ourselves. Charts are
concerned only with the sea—they are not interested in
what lies beyond the shores. They mark all the mountains
for a mile inland—the highest ones with the altitude
noted. But they are all aids to navigation. At the
bottom of some charts they even have pictures of how
the mountains rear and fold at the entrance to various
sounds. Navigators approaching strange shores, and
confronted with a solid line of mountains, know from the
pictures that if they approach a mountain of a certain
altitude, with other mountains that fold in a certain way
on to either side—then a certain sound or harbour will
open out as they approach closer.
But it has evidently never occurred to the cartographer
that a small navigator might like to know of a small lake
where he could soak the salt out. Archibald Menzies, the
botanist who accompanied Captain Vancouver on his
first trip up this coast, often made special notes of the
waterfalls they came across. I expect they did use them
for filling up the water-casks as well. But I always have
a mental picture of Captain Vancouver, Archibald Menzies,
the botanist, and the other young gentlemen standing
under the waterfalls—soaking out the salt.
After all, Vancouver's ships were on the coast for four
months in 1792. They took shelter and anchored at night
in the same coves as we did.    They did most of their
exploring in their small boats. Except for trying to make
friends with the Indians, many of whom had not seen
white men before, they lived the same kind of life that we
did, and were concerned with the same kind of problems.
So it is natural to suppose that they, too, liked to get the
salt out at times.
Waterfalls are all right in their way, but they are
usually cold. The lakes that over the years we have
marked on our charts in red are warm. To qualify for
the red mark there must also be a safe place to leave the
boat. The lakes are often some distance inland, and you
can't soak properly if you are worrying about your boat.
It was sometimes fishermen, but usually loggers, who told
us about these lakes. They would mark on the chart the
bay in which to look for the stream—if we couldn't find
or use the old skid-road.
" Just walk up the bed of the stream and you'll come
to the lake. We were in there ten or fifteen years ago—
logging," they would say.
Once, following directions like that, we were lucky to
find the stream. If we hadn't noticed it coming out
through the rocks at low tide it would have been impossible
to find. There was an almost impenetrable fringe of
alders, maples and salmon-berries above the beach—
which we worried and tore at. When we finally broke
through, we were in a mysterious low tunnel of green
growth—all clutching to hold us back. The little stream
eddied and gurgled on its way to the sea.
It was twilight in there, and what with getting scratched
with branches and slipping off the rocks, we one by one
came to the conclusion that fifteen years was a long time
to remember just which bay. At this rate we would never
find the lake. Then, suddenly, it was lighter ahead, and
the sun came through in shafts, making irregular, shimmering patches on the stream. At last we struggled and
broke through onto the shore of the little hidden lake.
I don't know how long that little unnamed lake was—
two miles at least, and perhaps half a mile wide. It was
set down in the centre of pale-green growth—alders and
maples that had rapidly covered the scars the loggers had
left. And above the new growth more high, dark-green
hills, fold on fold. Half-way down the lake a very disturbed loon was calling and calling. ... I don't suppose
anyone had been in here since the loggers had left, and
probably its mother had told it that man never came
We swam and we soaked, then lay in the sun, thoroughly
fagged out for the moment. Fresh water is enervating
compared with salt water, and much harder to swim in.
The youngsters found some little turtles sunning themselves on a log. When the whispering began, I knew that
they were planning to keep them in the boat for the rest of
the summer. How awful to have to face up to a thing
like that, feeling as limp as I did! Then, fortunately,
John's turtle bit his finger. When I heard him say sternly
to it, " You are very rude, you can go right back to your
mother," I knew that the problem was partially solved.
But I would certainly have to keep an eye on Peter, or a
turtle would turn up in the boat later.
Peter and John went exploring along the deer-trail on
the edge of the lake. The two little naked boys suddenly
began dancing up and down on the shore. " We found a
dug-out, we found a dug-out! " Jan ran over to investigate. More shouts, and I ran too. It was long and very
old, but it floated. It didn't take us long with our knives
to fashion paddles out of this and that. Then, lunch-pail
tucked in the bow, we paddled down the lake towards a
low rocky point about a mile away. The dug-out leaked
quite a bit, and finally Peter and John had to take turns
bailing with the lunch-pail. The loon was having hysterics
now. Probably its wife and nest were hidden in the reeds
that filled a little bay.  The water was smooth as a looking-
glass, and our reflection followed along under us as though
we were hinged together. I would have liked to linger
on that lake, but the water in the dug-out was gaining
on us, and it seemed expedient, as Captain Vancouver
would have said, to make the shore.
There were signs that deer had been browsing in behind
the rocky point, where maples overhung the cropped green
grass. They would lie there in the shade on a hot afternoon, and their spotted babies would be hidden in the
bracken beyond. How can a mother deer stand the
constant alert for prowling bears or cougars ? A doe's
ears are always turning this way and that, tuning in on
the slightest sound—smelling the wind for a betraying
scent. I seldom had to tune in for anything worse than a
turtle that might bite.
We turned the dug-out over to dry while we ate our
lunch on the shelving rock. We tried to caulk the crack
with pine-needles and pitch. It was a long, long crack, but
half a crack is better than a whole crack. Paddling back
with the bits of this and that was harder than before—
but bailing was reduced by half.
It was an effort in that limp state to have to squeeze
through the pale-green tunnel again. . . . Then the
children cornered a ten-inch trout by damming up its
escape route. The trout never had a chance against three
pairs of hands. I got tired of waiting while they planned
further strategy. Telling them that I would light a fire
on the beach, and bring the supper things ashore, I
pushed ahead, and finally broke through to the beach,
head first.
I lighted a fire and piled it up with bark—estimating
that in an hour's time there would be a glowing bed of
embers, just right for broiling trout.
It was the sound of their voices that woke me up. All
smiling  broadly . . . they   actually  had  caught   three
U That little one is John's," Peter announced, " because
he can't eat as much."
"I can so—I'm just starved."
" Well, Jan and Peter have to clean them," I said, and
took him out to the boat with me to prevent murder.
We always carried a rack for broiling fish. Soon they
were spluttering and browning over a perfect fire, which
I raked over between two flat stones. We built it up with
more drift-wood, which is always piled high at the top of
the beaches on the British Columbia coast.
No one had any desire to fool around that evening.
John fell asleep before it was even dark. The Northern
Lights were edging this way . . . and that way . . .
across the northern sky—reaching up above us—white
and elusive, then retreating hurriedly down to the horizon.
It wasn't until Jan suddenly said, " Mummy, where's
the dinghy ? " that my spirit returned to its limp body.
I didn't actually have to swim—but very nearly.
Somebody had committed the sin of sins—not tied it
properly. I didn't ask. I didn't probe too deeply within
myself—evidently a certain amount of salt is better than
too little.
I left the children lying on their stomachs on the float,
fishing for shiners with thread and a bent pin. Shiners
are little glittering fishes that like to congregate under
wharfs or floats. They are thin, but almost round in
When I rowed back later the children all started shouting to me as soon as I was within ear-shot.
jjjj Mine did it first! Mine did it first! It did too, Jan."
That was Peter's voice.
I finally made myself heard. " If Peter's did, whatever
it did, first—then let him tell me, whatever it did, first."
 shiners 29
" My fish borned a baby," he brought out triumphantly.
" Mine kept borning and borning them," added John
with scorn.    " I just squeezed it."
" Anyway, it's perfectly true," said Jan, I and they can
swim right away.   We'll show you."
I waited while they baited up their pins with bits of
sea-worm, and lay down to catch more shiners—dangling
the bait in front of the seeking mouths. I sat there full of
superior knowledge. I have several times caught salmon
that have been feeding heavily among the brit, and have
had them regurgitate a minnow that was quite able to
swim away ; pressed it again in getting the hook out—
and another small Jonah has made the world. I would
wait until they showed me, and then I would explain to
them the habits of fish.
They waited until they had each caught a shiner, then
crouched there waiting for the miracle to happen.
" Squeeze them," finally ordered Jan.
They squeezed them. . . . From the vent of each
shiner came forth a perfectly formed silver baby. They
were slim and narrow, not round and deep like their
mothers. The second they were put in the water they
darted to the bottom—to the weeds and safety. John
kept on squeezing his, and his fish went on borning babies
just as he had said. But each next baby was more transparent than the last; and they began to look like vague
little ghosts with all their inner workings showing through.
When you dropped them in the water they seemed all
bewildered—and in seconds the big shiners closed in and
swallowed them at a gulp, and eagerly waited around for
more. I stopped John then, and explained that they were
not ready to be born yet. That their mother probably let
only one out each day, when it was properly finished and
had all its instincts and was able to fend for itself in the big
sea.   Undoubtedly—now that I knew—these shiner babies
were being born all the time, at certain seasons. Perhaps
their mothers were wise and only borned them in the dark
night—then tiny phosphorescent streaks would dart for
the seaweed. Then the awful thought reared its head—
did the mothers know their own babies? Or did the
babies have to elude the tigerish pounce of their own
mothers ?   It didn't bear thinking about.
When we got back to Little House in the fall, I
would find out from the ' Encyclopaedia Britannica
(1885),' just what it had to say about all this. Perhaps,
for a change, I'd be able to tell it something it didn't
know. After all, | Encyclopaedia Britannica (1885) '
states quite calmly, in black print, that malaria comes
from the bad night air. Then I remembered my own little
lecture, which fortunately had never been delivered. I
conceded in my mind that we all make mistakes.
I Encyclopaedia Britannica (1885) '. . . . Yes, it knew
all about viviparous fish—these shiners, as we called
them, are a kind of rock perch. They and many others of
that species are viviparous.
A Fish We Remember
We had tucked into the little cove at the north end of
Denman Island for the night, with no intention of staying
over the next day. We had made a ire onjthe northeast beach, the only place there was any beach left above
a very high tide. It was a still, quiet evening, and when it
was dark the salmon started rising to the light that our
fire cast on the calm water. Peter was feverishly carving
a spear and hardening its point in the fire—just in case a
fish came close enough to the little rocky point.
Off the end of Denman Island there is a great sandy
bar that extends more than half a mile to the north and
more than four miles west, almost to Cape Lazo. Plain
sand would not be such a menace, but all the shallows are
strewn with great boulders, which I think must wander
all over the place in big winds. Just as you can move a
boulder out of your garden by tucking more soil underneath it with the crowbar until it moves slowly but surely
up to the surface, in the same way the big waves and the
sand shift the boulders here and there.
It means going a long way round to Cape Lazo, to get
past this sandy bar. If you try to cut through, you are
suddenly surrounded by a maze of boulders. Every time
you turn to avoid one, another steps directly in front of
you to block your way. In other summers you may have
taken fixes on distant points or trees, and think you have
worked out a passage. But the boulders have anticipated
this—and have spent the intervening time inching their
way into your supposed channel. At low tide there is
perhaps six feet of water over the sand—sometimes more,
sometimes less—but no one ever knows how much over
the boulders.
A salmon rises and splashes in the fire-light, and then
a seal surfaces with a loud snort. Peter, who has been
standing on the rock with his spear poised for the last
half-hour, groans, " Missed, just by inches." We all
laugh, for it had been at least six feet.
Then I hurry everyone off to bed. Peter is crying
because there will never be another chance like this. I
who knew he never had a chance at all, console him by
saying we will tie a heavy fish-line to it next time and he
can cast the spear. A minute later he is laughing about
the seal who had snorted because it had also missed the
fish by inches.
I had planned to leave after breakfast and cut across to
the mainland and up into Desolation Sound. And here
I was gazing out over low tide on the sand-flats—the sea
like glass and not a cloud in the sky, and surely after
lunch would do just as well. . . . The youngsters sat there
watching me anxiously, with deep sighs. . . . Then—
they somehow knew before I did myself that we were
going to stay, and I had to hurry up with the proviso :
" Just until after lunch."
The tide must have been slack as well as low, for not a
ripple nor a current stirred the surface of the water as we
drifted silently over the sandy bottom and the surprised
boulders. I just gave a gentle pull on the oars now and
then . . . trying to blend ourselves in with the life of the
sand-dwellers below.
Big red crabs with enormous claws would sidle across
at an angle—making for the shelter of a boulder. We
didn't know who their enemies were. Perhaps they
didn't know who we were. We must have appeared like
strange two-headed beasts to them—our faces joined nose
to nose with our reflections in the water.
Bands of silvery minnows darted in unison—first here,
then there. Some unknown mass signal seemed to control
them—like sand-pipers flying low over the edge of a
beach—the fluid concerted movement, concave edge
changing to convex, and then vice versa. ... Or crows
at some unknown signal dropping helter-skelter, head over
heels, down through the air towards earth and destruction
. . . then as suddenly resuming their flight on normal
wings like perfectly sane crows. With the minnows we
could see that it was probably a preservation idea—they
and their shadows escaping bigger shadows and threatening dangers. But who gives the signal and how is it
made ?
" Look ! look ! " in whispers, first from one and then
the others. I could see on my side of the dinghy, but not
on John's. Jan up in the bow had a sea of her own—
Peter's end, particularly his.
Suddenly, on my side, suspended perfectly motionless
about four feet down in the shadow cast by the dinghy,
was a strange fish—as though there by intent, waiting
for us.
I Ss-s-s-se-e," I hissed, pointing carefully . . . and
all the crew hung, suspended motionless and precariously,
over the edge—all eyes focused on the fish.
It was about two feet long, shaped rather like a salmon,
but there the resemblance ended. This fish was a pale
cream colour, laced over with half-inch bands of old gold
in a large diamond pattern. Its eyes were dark, large and
oval. Dark folds or eyelids opened and shut, opened and
shut. ... It lay there chewing, or was it the gills like a
jaw-line that gave it the ruminating appearance ?
Something hadn't liked this cream-and-gold fish—one
piece of its tail was gone, and one of its side-fins was torn
and ragged—all rather dishevelled and routed looking.
It just lay there quietly—raising and lowering its large
oval eyelids; we suspended in our dinghy, it suspended
in the safety of our shadow. That of course was probably
why it was there—for protection.
Then a seal broke water and the glassy surface was in
a turmoil. When it was quiet again, our cream-and-gold
fish had gone.
" Probably the same seal that ruined my fish last
night," said Peter.
Then he and Jan slid into the water and tried to see how
many boulders they could touch before they got to shore.
The tide was rising and the water still so glassy that,
when we left after lunch, we cut across the bar of sand and
the boulders with John and Peter lying flat in the bow.
Then we ambled across the twenty-five-mile stretch of
open water towards Savary Island over on the mainland.
We fooled around and tried to find Mystery Reef and
couldn't. Then we moved on up to the Ragged Islands
for supper, and perhaps the night. I think we all felt
groggy with the glare off the water, and it was good to
get in close to the cliffs in the shade.
There seemed to be a slight, hardly noticeable swell as I
cooked supper with one foot up on the steering-seat as
usual. The air was almost oppressively still, and my face
was burning like fire. A tugboat tooted at the entrance
to the cove; he wanted to tie up just where we were
anchored. Why on earth did they want to tie up on an
evening like this ! Then the pieces began to fall into
place, and I snatched Jan's bathing-cap off the barometer
where it had hung all day. The glass was down to 29
and it had been over 31 at breakfast-time.
I told Jan to take over the supper and handed the table
that lived on top of the engine-box to Peter, and told them
to carry on. I waved at the tug, which tooted again, and
I pulled up the anchor. If we were going to ride out a
south-easter, we would do it up in Desolation Sound in the
cove on Mink Island, where there was water and room to
move around—not in a ragged cove with a restless boom.
Before we reached Mink Island, the mares' tails in the
sky were trailing wildly. Then it was dark and the waves
at our heels were throwing the phosphorus out ahead of
The stars only showed now and then, and it was hard to
find the entrance to the cove. I sent Jan up on deck with
the flashlight—and after a little while we made out the
sheltering points and crept thankfully in and round the
turn to drop our hook.
We never started off at the beginning of the summer
expecting trouble or exciting things—at least, not after the
first couple of years. Then, I think, we were looking for
adventures. Later, when we found out what adventures
were like, we tried to avoid them, but they came anyway.
So, after that, except for f exercising due care,' as the
 cougar 35
early explorers said, we neither anticipated them nor
tried to avoid them. We just accepted them as a normal
part of the increasing number of miles we logged every
This summer we had exercised due care by leaving our
Gordon setter at home. Other summers she had always
come with us—enduring it rather than liking it, I think.
She always had to tow behind in the dinghy, unless it was
really rough. If we didn't have the sense to know when
that stage was reached—she always did. Instead of lying
quietly asleep on her sack in the stern-sheets of the dinghy,
she would suddenly sit straight up. Her nose would swing
from side to side, trying to decide what was blowing up,
what the barometer was doing. She would look at the
waves on one side of her, then on the other—turning over
in her mind how long she would wait before she made her
When the first spray from a slightly bigger wave reached
her, she would put on her long-suffering, determined look
and move up into the bow of the dinghy. Then the dinghy
would yaw—first to one side and then to the other—Pam
ageing visibly with each swing. She was completely deaf
to every command to go back to her proper seat.
" Mummy," Peter would plead, " she's terrified ! "
Wily old Pam—salt-water crocodile tears streaming
down her face.
"All right. . . ." I would say grudgingly—knowing
exactly what would happen at the next stage, when the
waves got a little bigger.   " Pull her in."
Everyone sprang to the rope, while I slowed the boat
down. Before they could pull the dinghy to within four
feet, Pam would gather her feet together and, with a
magnificent leap, land lightly on the after-deck—smiling
broadly. Everybody patted her, everybody loved her.
She curled up happily on the coil of rope and went to
Another half-hour and she sat up again—bolt upright.
No need for her to look at the barometer—she knew.
I When are we going to get out of this ? " her eyes and
set of her mouth demanded. I was standing up to steer
now, and the youngsters were playing cards on the little
table that was wedged in between the two bunks. There
was a shriek of " Pam I " One leap had landed her in
the middle of the cards. The next up against the back of
my legs in the only few square inches left on the deck of
the cockpit. She didn't dare smile this time. Nor did
anyone dare pat her.
John climbed up onto the steering-seat beside me.
" She's very bad, isn't she ? " he said. "Is it very
rough ?"
" Oh, no," I said. " Pam is just being silly. See that
point over there—we go in behind that."
1 Where ? " asked Jan, moving up beside me.
" My, it's rough ! " said Peter, pushing in too. " Pam
always knows, doesn't she ? "
" How am I supposed to steer, with a dog lying on my
feet, and my silly crew jamming both my arms ? " I
But all that was not why I decided to leave her at home
this time. It was what happened last summer on our way
north. We had anchored in Melanie Cove off Desolation
Sound for a few days to enjoy the warm swimming. Then
it clouded up and started to rain. The mountains back of
Desolation Sound seem at times to be a favourite rendezvous for clouds that are undecided where to go. They
drape themselves forlornly on all the high peaks, trail
themselves down the gorges, and then unload themselves
as rain on the sea at the mountains' feet.
Pam had either to sleep on shore at night or else in the
dinghy, which she prefers. That night it was so wet that
I moved the boat over against the shore, on the opposite
side from the copper stain on the cliff.   There is an old
shed there raised on short posts that is nice and dry
underneath. Pam had spent wet nights there before, so
she knew the place and raised no objections. The children
rowed her ashore, fixed up a bed of bracken for her, and
left her with a dish of food.
Then we got the Colman stove going and supper on, and
were soon dry and comfortable. It was surprising how
comfortable we could be on a rainy day in that little boat.
With the heavy canvas side-curtains buttoned securely
down, the back curtain stretched open at an angle for
fresh air—the two-burner stove on top of the steering-seat
would soon dry all the inside of the boat and us. We got
the sleeping-bags out early, and everything straightened.
Unless we were sitting round a fire on the beach or rocks
we always turned in before it was quite dark. It was a
dead calm night, with not a sound except the hiss of the
falling rain and the plop of the raindrops as they hit the
sea and made little spurting craters.
I don't know how late it was when something wakened
me. I listened . . . trying to orientate myself . . . trying
to remember just where we were anchored. Then Pam
whined—and there was something desperate in the tone.
I groped for the flashlight and unfastened the curtain
beside me. It was still pouring. I shone the light towards
the shed—but there was no sign of Pam where they had
made her bed. Another whine from somewhere nearer us
than the shed. I swung the beam down the shore to the
edge of the water. Another whine, and I had to lower
it still farther. . . , There, up to her neck in the sea,
was Pam.
1 Pam ! " I said.   " What is the matter ? "
She glanced nervously towards the shore ; then turned
back and whined. Obviously she wanted to come on
board; and obviously there wasn't an inch of room.
The dinghy, where she often slept in fine weather, was
half-full of water—and the sky was giving us all it had.
Pam didn't like bears—but a black bear wouldn't bother
her, tucked under a shed like that. I coaxed and pleaded,
and finally ordered her back to bed. Slowly ... so slowly
. . . she splashed back and got under the shed. There
she sat—glancing first over one shoulder, then the other.
I flashed the light all over the woods. I called. I talked
loudly to scare away any bear that might be around.
Finally, Pam went farther under the shed and curled up
on her bracken bed. I hushed the questioning crew back
to sleep, and went to sleep myself.
It was about six o'clock when I awoke again. The
clouds had broken up and a shafted sun was trying to
disperse the mist. I unfastened the curtain and looked
towards the shed. I needn't have looked so far. There in
the water, up to her neck, was Pam—looking like a sad
seal that had just surfaced. How long she had been there,
we didn't know. We bailed out the dinghy, and two of
the youngsters rowed ashore and took Pam off. I made
them take her across to an island on the other side and
race her up and down to get her warm, while I cooked a
big pot of rolled oats for her. With heaps of sugar and
evaporated milk, that must have been the morning of a
dog's heaven. Then we put her on deck in the sun.
She was warm and dry and happy. But in spite of all the
questioning, she wouldn't tell anyone why she had done
such a foolish thing.
After breakfast we pulled up the anchor and went
round to Laura Cove to get some eggs from Phil, the old
Frenchman who lived there. I told him what had happened in the night, and said I supposed it must have been
a bear.
" Dat weren't no bear," said Phil, emphatically. " A
dog don't act dat way about a bear. Dat were a cougar,
an' I suppose it will be atter my goats next."
Pam got badly spoiled after that. She was a heroine—
she had outwitted a cougar.
On our way south again, six weeks later, we called in
at Phil Lavine's again. As soon as he saw our boat he
hurried down to the float. Hardly waiting to say " Hello,"
he started off excitedly :
" Say, you remember dat night your dog stayed in de
water all night ? Well, de nex' night dat cougar got my
old billy-goat on dat little island where I keep 'im." He
pointed to a small island not very far from where we stood.
He had heard the old goat bleating or screaming at about
four in the morning, and knew that something was wrong.
He grabbed his gun ; ran down to the float and rowed
across. There was a great round boulder on the beach,
and he could see the head and shoulders of the goat sticking
out on one side. The goat was lying on the ground and
he thought it might have broken its leg, for it kept making
this awful noise. He stepped out of the boat and started
towards it—then turned back and picked up his gun.
" Atter dat dog of yours I weren't taking no chances,"
he said. He skirted out and around the boulder. . . .
There, hanging on to the hind-end of the goat, was a full-
sized cougar.
" I got 'im first shot—between de eyes . . . den I 'ad
to shoot de goat."
We followed him up to the woodshed, where he had the
skin pegged out on the wall. It was a big one, eight or
nine feet long. Pam gave one sniff at it and slunk back
to the boat.
" See ! " said Phil; " dat ain't no bear-acting ! "
I realised it wasn't—Pam barks hysterically when she
runs from a bear.
" Don't you let dos kids of yours sleep on shore wid de
dog at night—ever. De cougar would be atter de dog, but
de kids might get hurt too."
Nothing would have induced any of them to sleep on
shore again, with or without the dog—after seeing that
We bucked a strong tide and west wind, and ran for ten
hours that day before we finally turned in by Sarah Point.
From there we set a straight course for Mink Island, where
there is good shelter and fresh water from a small fall.
It was good to be on land again. We made a fire on the
sloping rock, and while waiting for it to burn down to
embers we swam and played around in the warm water.
I had just started to think about supper when a boat we
knew came into the bay and presented us with a chunk of
out-of-season venison. We cut it into steaks and broiled
it, then ate it in our hands on big slices of bread—hoping
that it would look and smell like lamb, if any unfriendly
boat came into the bay.
Vancouver had named this part of the coast Desolation
Sound. On their return from Jervis Inlet—tired, disappointed, and out of food—and when they turned south
to rejoin their ships, they were very surprised to find two
Spanish vessels at anchor off Burrard Inlet. The Sutil,
under command of Senor Don Galeano, and the Mexacano,
under Senor Don Valdes.
Vancouver says : f I had experienced no small degree of
mortification in finding the external shores of the gulf had
already been visited and examined a few miles beyond
where my researches had extended.'
Later, the Discovery and the Chatham and the two
Spanish vessels joined forces and sailed up Malaspina
Strait together. They evidently entered Desolation
Sound after dark and in the rain, and had drifted and
been blown around helplessly, unable to get any soundings.
Finally, they ended up on the north side of an island,
where they all managed to anchor in thirty-two fathoms.
The next morning they found themselves * about half
a mile from the shores of a high rocky island, surrounded
by a detached and broken country, whose general appearance was very inhospitable. Stupendous rocky mountains
rising almost perpendicularly from the sea principally
composed the north-west, north, and east quarters.'
Vancouver mentions that they could not trace the range of
mountains that they had seen stretching far to the northwest of Jervis Inlet. The mountains in Desolation Sound
are just on the edge of that range—as he half supposed.
The morning was fine, and their small boats were sent
off exploring in all directions. But in the afternoon the
wind started to blow from the south-east, attended with
heavy squalls and much rain. Their anchors dragged off
into eighty fathoms, and they had to heave them up and
make for an anchorage and rendezvous that one of the
small boats had been sent to find.
It took them until six o'clock to get the four ships
safely anchored in Teak-earne Arm on Redonda Island.
We cruised around the next morning, and finally found
and identified their rocky island as the present Kinghorn
Island. Then, never having been in Teak-earne Arm, we
ran up there to spend the night. We found it rather a
delightful place: high rocky shores, two and three thousand
feet in height, except over in one bay to the north where a
waterfall leaps seventy feet down into the sea. It comes
from lakes directly behind the falls, and the water is
warm, with a more or less sandy beach at the foot.
The ships were anchored in there for two weeks while
the small boats explored in all directions. Archibald
Menzies, the botanist, says : ' They rowed over to the falls
every day and used it more or less like a resort.'
Captain Vancouver, who seems to have stayed on board
the Discovery making up his notes and maps, was once
more depressed—I suppose after finding that one more
inlet, Toba, did not cut through the mountains.
He says : t Our situation here was an arm of the Sound
leading to the north-west a little more than half a mile
wide, presenting as gloomy and dismal an aspect as nature
could well be supposed to exhibit. Our residence here was
truly forlorn—an awful silence pervaded the gloomy
forest while animated nature seemed to have deserted the
neighbouring country, whose soil afforded only a few wild
onions, some samphire, and here and there some bushes
bearing a scanty crop of indifferent berries. Nor was the
sea more favourable to our wants—the steep shore prevented the use of the seine, and not a fish on the bottom
could be tempted to take the hook.'
Mr Johnstone and his party had gone up to the head of
Toba Inlet. On their way back they explored Prideaux
Haven, a collection of small islands and coves in the
north-east corner of Desolation Sound. There they found
a deserted Indian village. Judging from the number of
shacks they thought it must have held about three hundred
persons. It was built on a high rocky peninsula with
perpendicular rock sides, connected to the mainland by a
narrow neck of land with a plank bridge up to the rock.
The Indians had built a wooden platform on the face of the
rock in front of the houses and projecting out over the
sheer cliff, making it impossible for enemies to climb up.
Examining this site the sailors were suddenly assailed with
legions of ferocious fleas. The fleas were so bad that the
men rushed up to their necks in the water to try to get
rid of them. But it wasn't until they boiled their clothes
that they succeeded. They supposed that the Indians had
abandoned the village on account of the fleas. In all our
summers up the coast we have always found the Indian
villages empty. Most of them are winter villages to which
the Indians come back after being off in their dug-outs all
Captain Vancouver, who had been much puzzled by the
tides in all these regions, as reported by his young gentle-
men, came to the conclusion that they were flooding in
from the north as we|l, which must denote open sea to the
north-west. Accordingly, he sent Mr Johnstone and his
boat up to the north-west to discover where this flood-tide
came from.
Mr Johnstone worked his way through the Yucultaw
Rapids and all the other intricate passages ; and eventually into a narrow, open passage that led him right through
to Alleviation Island, from where he was able to get a
clear view of the Pacific beyond. That being what
he had been sent out to find, he turned back. Now,
instead of all the intricate passages by which he had
come north, he sailed straight down through the narrow,
open passage he had found, until he reached the latitude
of the ships. He cut across to them at the north end of
Quadra Island.
After hearing Mr Johnstone's report, Captain Vancouver
said good-bye to the Spaniards, and with the Discovery
and the Chatham made for Cape Mudge on the south end
of Quadra Island. From there they sailed up the now-
called Johnstone Straits to the open Pacific. On the way
they passed a village in Menzies Bay—twenty canoes filled
with Indians observed to be highly painted, j The faces
of some were entirely white, some red, black, or lead
colour. While others were adorned with several colours.
Most of them had their hair decorated with the down
of young sea-fowl.' (Down in the hair was the sign
of peace.)
Up at the Nimkish River, just before they came out into
the open Pacific, they visited the Indians in a large village.
They were friendly, and well acquainted with white men,
there being a trail from their village across Vancouver
Island to Nootka on the west coast, where there was a
Spanish fort and trading-post. The Indians at Nimkish
had firearms. Vancouver mentions that a number of these
Kwakiutl   Indians  had  heavy  black  beards—proof,   I
should think, that the Spaniards and Russians had been
on the north-west coast, farther north, for many years.
We were not exactly trying to follow Vancouver's route
—we already knew practically all the places he had been
to. But we had a copy of his diary on board and we were
filling in the few gaps in our knowledge. We spent a
couple of nights in Teak-earne Arm—the waterfall and
the lake being a big attraction. Then, wanting to put in
time while we waited for better tides in the Yucultaw
Rapids, we followed the course that Vancouver had taken
with his two ships over to Cape Mudge on Quadra Island.
They went by Sutil Channel, a wide, deep channel that
leads fairly directly to Quadra Island and then south-east
to Cape Mudge.
We followed by a small-boat channel five miles farther
north. The whole area lies between the Yucultaw Rapids
on the north—up against the mainland, and the Seymour
Narrows and Discovery Passage on the south—up against
Vancouver Island, covering roughly four hundred square
miles. It is almost completely filled with large islands
that seem to have split apart from each other like a disintegrating ice-floe, and serve as a great baffle-plate in the
centre of the conflicting tides. The narrow leads in between
the islands have revealing names—Surge Narrows, Hole-
in-the-Wall, Ekisollo Channel. The narrow boat-passage
that we had come through was, as the I Coast Pilot' had
warned us, choked with drying rocks. But we knew that
the local people sometimes used it if they had missed the
tide in Hole-in-the-Wall. Hole-in-the-Wall is a rapid
that runs from eight to ten knots, and with practically no
slack it just slaps round from one direction to the other.
Entrance to it is from the Yucultaw side. Ekisollo
Channel has two rapids, and opens out from Seymour
Narrows side. Surge Narrows, which is south-east of the
other two, is probably the worst.   The channel there turns
abruptly at right angles and forces the stream, which runs
at nine knots, between small islands with dangerous
cross-currents. None of these, the tide-book warns, is
available to other than small local boats.
It seemed to us to be a place of great risks and, probably,
much luck. Yet we knew that in the winter-time the
scattered people from the Yucultaw district would pile
their fish-boats full of people, from the smallest baby to
the oldest grandmother, and work through Hole-in-the-
Wall and Ekisollo with the tide to attend a dance over on
the Seymour Narrows side—a dance that would last until
Sunday afternoon and the turn of a tide. Then, later, the
Yucultaw people would hold a dance in the store at
Stuart Island ; and from all directions, Hole-in-the-Wall,
the Arran Rapids, and the Yucultaws, the fish-boats
would surge into the Stuart Island wharf.
We spent the whole day avoiding drying rocks, or being
pushed by the tides in directions we didn't want to go,
and holing up in little bays until we could move in the
direction we wanted to. It was late when the tide hurried
us out of those lonely waters into Sutil Channel—deep and
wide and free of rocks. We speeded up and headed for
Quadra—the largest of this group of islands that plugged
the channel. It is a big island—twenty miles long, and
the side we were on was to the north, It seemed desolate
and dreary. We turned down towards Cape Mudge where
there was more chance of shelter for the night.
We were passing a very uninviting bay, grey, small firs
dripping moss, a boulder shore with drift-logs at the top,
when . . ..
" Mummy ! " said Jan, in a horrified voice. " What is
that ? "
We crowded over to her side of the boat to see what
she was pointing at. A very large bird with a big wing-
spread, red head and neck, was circling low above the
beach.   As we watched, two more rose slowly and silently
from behind the logs into the air. And then the three of
them, red heads on long red necks, after peering balefully
at our boat, slid silently off into the dark forest.
" There is a horrid smell! " whispered Peter.
There was—the sickly, searching smell of something
very dead . . . not fish.
" What were they ? " whispered Jan.
" Vultures," I whispered.
" What ? " whispered John.
" Vultures! " I shouted, to break the spell that an
unknown horror had cast over us.   " Just vultures."
" I can't bear them ! " said Jan, getting back her voice.
" Why didn't they make any noise ? "
" What's a vulture ? " broke in Peter.
I had never seen a vulture before. I didn't even know
there were any on the coast of British Columbia. I
thought they lived in deserts. Evidently they are things
that don't need any introduction, you just guess, when
you see them.
I speeded up to get away from the smell. We still had
to find an anchorage for the night; we hadn't eaten yet,
and it would soon be dark.
" I see an old home in there," said Peter presently.
I slowed down and took the binoculars from him. It
seemed worth investigating. There was a small island in
the bay to one side of the point where the house was.
There wouldn't be a house in this desolate place unless
there was a shelter for a boat. Jan went up to the bow,
and we drew in towards the little island.
Jan held out her arm and motioned, and I swung towards
the left of the island, then through a narrow opening
between the island and the shore. It opened out into a
little bay with a beach. Both sheltered by the island—
and there was enough water for anchorage. In a southeaster you might have the whole Gulf of Georgia trying
to get in too—but it would do for to-night.
I couldn't let out very much chain—there was not much
room to swing. I could hardly see the brown house, lying
quiet among the trees. There was no light. Was anyone
listening ? If we called out " Is anyone there ? " would
anyone answer ?
I wouldn't let the children land on the beach. They had
to be content with the little island, while I cooked the
I didn't have a very good night—a breeze came up from
the south-east, and we slopped a bit. I wasn't worrying
about it—but a change of any kind in the night always
rouses me. But I kept thinking of the vultures and
wondering what had been behind the log . . . and that
wasn't conducive to sleep. And the brown house I could
no longer see, stood there, listening. . . .
After breakfast we went on shore to explore. Up three
or four wooden steps from the beach ; then along a gravel
path bordered on both sides by lilac bushes. There had
once been lawns, and neglected flower-beds circled the
house. A verandah ran round three sides reached by a
flight of steps. We skirted round to the other side. Here
the lawns sloped steeply to the sea, and there was a
ground-floor room with door and windows. The door
stood open, so we looked in. A kitchen stove stood there,
chairs and a dining-table. On the table, a plate with a
knife and a piece of bread. Had someone taken to the
woods when they heard our boat ?
We backed out cautiously and, with one eye on the
woods, went round the house and up the steps onto the
verandah. There was no glass in any of the windows, but
each one was securely covered with small-mesh chicken-
wire. I first thought that someone must have used the
house for chickens. But looking through a window I
saw that the wire hadn't been for chickens. There were
odds and ends of furniture, and the floor was littered with
torn letters and pamphlets, otherwise quite clean.   I tried
the one door, and it opened. We went in. . . . The
windows at the back of the house were covered with the
wire too. Someone had evidently been trying to keep
something either in or out—but which, or what ?
I picked up a couple of pamphlets from the floor. They
were all about the life of the spirit after death, and how to
get into communication, published by some society of
psychical research. Most of the torn letters were written
by people of education. Then I found some pages from a
diary, written just the last winter. It fooled me at first—
it was rather beautiful, rather like James Joyce in parts.
Then suddenly, some sentence made me realise that the
mind of the writer was on a very, very strange plane. . . .
I had straightened up—thinking that I would take the
pages with me and read them later, away from the 'heavy,
heavy hangs over your head ' atmosphere—when I noticed
a framed picture on the wall, a picture of someone wrapped
in white lying on a couch. Above the wrapped figure
hovered a strange white cloud of vapour. Underneath
was written, S Authentic photograph of spirit leaving body
after death.'
I left, opening the door only a little, and shutting it
quickly behind me. I knew now the reason for the wire—
the diarist had been trying to keep something he had
trapped in there from getting out.
The first time we met Mike must have been the very
first time we anchored in Melanie Cove. It was blowing a
heavy south-easter outside, so we had turned into Desolation Sound and run right up to the eastern end. There
the chart showed some small coves called Prideaux
Haven. The inner one, Melanie Cove, turned out to be
wonderful shelter in any wind.
We anchored over against a long island with a shelving
rock shore. The children tumbled into the dinghy and
rowed ashore to collect wood for the evening bonfire,
while I started the supper. Away in at the end of the
cove we could see what appeared to be fruit-trees of some
kind, climbing up a side hill. It was in August, and our
mouths started watering at the thought of green apple
sauce and dumplings. There was no sign of a house of any
kind, no smoke. It might even be a deserted orchard.
After supper we would go in and reconnoitre.
We were just finishing our supper when a boat came
out of the end of the cove with a man standing up rowing—
facing the bow and pushing forward on the oars. He was
dressed in the usual logger's outfit—heavy grey woollen
undershirt above, heavy black trousers tucked into high
leather boots. As I looked at him when he came closer,
Don Quixote came to mind at once. High pointed forehead and mild blue eyes, a fine long nose that wandered
down his face, and a regular Don Quixote moustache that
drooped down at the ends. When he pulled alongside we
could see the cruel scar that cut in a straight line from the
bridge of his nose—down the nose inside the flare of the
right nostril, and down to the lip.
" Well, well, well," said the old man—putting his open
hand over his face just below the eyes, and drawing it down
over his nose and mouth, closing it off the end of his chin
—a gesture I got to know so well in the summers to come.
" One, two, three, four, five," he counted, looking at the
He wouldn't come on board, but he asked us to come
ashore after supper and pick some apples; there were
lots of windfalls. We could move the boat farther into
the cove, but not beyond the green copper stain on the
cliff. Later, I tossed a couple of magazines in the dinghy
and we rowed towards where we had seen him disappear.
We identified the copper stain for future use, rounded a
small sheltering island, and there, almost out of sight up
the bank, stood a little cabin—covered with honeysuckle
and surrounded by flowers and apple-trees. We walked
with him along the paths, underneath the overhanging
apple-branches. He seemed to know just when each tree
had been planted, and I gathered that it had been a slow
process over the long years he had lived there.
Except for down at the far end, where the little trellis-
covered bridge dripped with grapes, the land all sloped
steeply from the sea and up the hill-side to the forest.
Near the cabin he had terraced it all—stone-walled, and
flower-bordered. Old-fashioned flowers—mignonette and
sweet-williams, bleeding-hearts and bachelor's buttons.
These must have reached back into some past of long ago,
of which at that time I knew nothing. But beauty, which
had certainly been achieved, was not the first purpose of
the terraces—the first purpose was apple-trees.
He had made one terrace behind the house first—piled
stones, carted seaweed and earth until he had enough
soil for the first trees. From there, everything had just
gradually grown. Down at the far end, where terraces were
not necessary, the trees marched up the hill-side in rows
to where the eight-foot sapling fence surrounded the
whole place. " The deer jump anything lower," said
Mike, when I commented on the amount of time and work
it must have taken. Then he added, " Time doesn't mean
anything to me. I just work along with nature, and in
time it is finished."
Mike sent the children off to gather windfalls—all they
could find—while he showed me his cabin. There was a
bookshelf full of books across one end of the main-room,
and an old leather chair. A muddle of stove, dishpan and
pots at the other end, and a table. Then down three steps
into his winter living-room, half below ground level.
i Warmer in winter," he explained. He saw us down to
the boat, and accepted the two magazines.   Then he went
 MIKE 51
back to the cabin to get a book for me, which he said I
might like to read if I were going to be in the cove for a
few days.
I Stoort sent it to me for Christmas," he said. I felt
that I should have known who Stoort was. I couldn't
see the title, but I thanked him. The children were laden
with apples—and full of them, I was sure.
Back in the boat, I looked at the book by flashlight.
It was ' Why be a Mad Turtle,' by Stewart Edward White.
I looked inside—on the fly-leaf was written, ' To my old
friend Andrew Shuttler, who most emphatically is not a
mad turtle.'
During the next couple of days I spent a lot of time
talking to old Mike, or Andrew Shuttler—vouched for by
Stewart Edward White as being, most emphatically, worth
talking to. The children were happy swimming in the
warm water, eating apples, and picking boxes of windfalls
for Mike to take over to the logging camp at Deep Bay.
In between admiring everything he showed me around
the place—I gradually heard the story of some of his past,
and how he first came to Melanie Cove. He had been born
back in Michigan in the States. After very little schooling
he had left school to go to work. When he was big enough
he had worked in the Michigan woods as a logger—a hard,
rough Ufe. I don't know when, or how, he happened to
come to British Columbia. But here again, he had worked
up the coast as a logger.
" We were a wild, bad crowd," mused Mike—looking
back at his old life, a far-away look in his blue eyes. Then
he told of the fight he had had with another logger.
" He was out to get me. ... I didn't have much
The fellow had left him for dead, lying in a pool of his
own blood. Mike wasn't sure how long he had lain there
—out cold. But the blood-soaked mattress had been all
fly-blown when he came to.
" So it must have been quite some few days."
He had dragged himself over to a pail of water in the
corner of the shack and drunk the whole pailful . . . then
lapsed back into unconsciousness. Lying there by himself—slowly recovering.
" I decided then," said Mike, " that if that was all there
was to life, it wasn't worth living ; and I was going off
somewhere by myself to think it out."
So he had bought or probably pre-empted wild little
Melanie Cove—isolated by 7,000-foot mountains to the
north and east, and only accessible by boat. Well, he
hadn't wanted neighbours, and everything else he needed
was there. Some good alder bottom-land and a stream,
and a sheltered harbour. And best of all to a logger, the
south-east side of the cove rose steeply, to perhaps eight
hundred feet, and was covered with virgin timber. So
there, off Desolation Sound, Mike had built himself a
cabin, hand-logged and sold his timber—and thought
about life. . . .
He had been living there for over thirty years when we
first blew into the cove. And we must have known him
for seven or eight years before he died. He had started
planting the apple-trees years before—as soon as he had
realised that neither the trees nor his strength would last
for ever. He had built the terraces, carted the earth, fed
and hand-reared them. That one beside the cabin door
—a man had come ashore from a boat with a pocket full
of apples. Mike had liked the flavour, and heeled in his
core beside the steps.
I Took a bit of nursing for a few years," said Mike.
" Now, look at it.   Almost crowding me out."
He took us up the mountain one day to where he had
cut some of the timber in the early days, and to show us
the huge stumps. He explained how one man alone could
saw the trees by rigging up what he called a ' spring' to
hold the other end of the saw against the cut.   And how
 MIKE 53
if done properly, the big tree would drop onto the smaller
trees you had felled to serve as skids, and would slide
down the slope at a speed that sent it shooting out into the
cove. He could remember the length of some of them,
and how they had been bought for the big drydock down
in Vancouver.
I got to know what books he had in the cabin. Marcus
Aurelius, Epictetus, Plato, Emerson, among many others.
Somebody had talked to him, over the years, and sent him
books to help him in his search. He didn't hold with
religion, but he read and thought and argued with everything he read. One summer I had on board a book by an
East Indian mystic—a book much read down in the
States. I didn't like it—it was much too materialistic to
my way of thinking, using spiritual ways for material
ends. I gave it to Mike to read, not saying what I thought
of it, and wondered what he would make of it. He sat in
his easy-chair out underneath an apple-tree, reading for
hour after hour . . . while I lay on the rocks watching
the children swim, and reading one of his books.
He handed it back the next day—evidently a little
embarrassed in case I might have liked it. He drew his
hand down and over his face, hesitated. . . . Then :
" Just so much dope," he said apologetically. " All
words—not how to think or how to live, but how to get
things with no effort! "
I don't think anyone could have summed up that book
better than the logger from Michigan.
' Atlantic Monthly,' ' Harper's '—he loved them. I
would leave him a pile of them. At the end of the summer,
when we called in again, he would discuss all the articles
with zest and intelligence.
Mike's own Credo, as he called it, was simple. He had
printed it in pencil on a piece of cardboard, and had it
hanging on his wall. He had probably copied it word
for word from some book—because it expressed for him
how he had learnt to think and live. I put it down here
exactly as he had it.
' Look well of to-day—for it is the Life of Life. In its
brief course lie all the variations and realities of your life—
the bliss of growth, the glory of action, the splendour of
beauty. For yesterday is but a dream, and To-morrow
a vision. But To-day well lived makes every Yesterday
a dream of happiness, and every To-morrow a vision of
hope. For Time is but a scene in the eternal drama. So,
look well of to-day, and let that be your resolution as you
awake each morning and salute the New Dawn. Each day
is born by the recurring miracle of Dawn, and each night
reveals the celestial harmony of the stars. Seek not death
in error of your life, and pull not upon yourself destruction
by the work of your hands.'
That was just exactly how Mike lived—day by day,
working with nature. That was really how he had recovered from the fight years ago. And later how he had
pitted the strength of one man against the huge trees—
seven and eight feet in diameter and two hundred or
more feet high. Just the right undercut; just the right
angle of the saw; just the right spots to drive in the
wedges—using nature as his partner. And if sometimes
both he and nature failed, there was always the jack—a
logger's jack of enormous size and strength that could
edge a huge log the last critical inches to start the skid.
He lent his books to anyone who would read them, but
the field was small. For a time there was a logging outfit
in Deep Bay, three miles away. They used to buy his
vegetables and fruit. Some of them borrowed his books.
He talked and tried to explain some of his ideas to the
old Frenchman in Laura Cove—old Phil Lavine, who was
supposed to have killed a man back in Quebec. After
Mike was dead, old Phil commented to me, almost with
satisfaction, "All dem words, and 'e 'ad to die like
all de rest of us ! "
 MIKE 55
But the next year when we called in to see him, old
Phil had built book-shelves on his wall—around and above
his bunk, and on the shelves were all Mike's books. Phil
was standing there proudly, thumbs hooked in his braces,
while some people off a yacht looked at the titles and
commented on his collection. . . . Phil the savant—Phil
who could neither read nor write.
Among Mike's circle of friends—lumbermen, trappers,
fishermen, people from passing boats that anchored in the
cove—not many of them would have stayed long enough,
or been able to appreciate the fine mind old Mike had
developed for himself. And the philosophy he had
acquired from all he had read in his search to find something that made life worth living.
I can't remember from whom I heard that Mike had
died during the winter. When we anchored there the
next year, the cove rang like an empty sea-shell. A great
northern raven, which can carry on a conversation with
all the intonations of the human voice, flew out from
above the cabin, excitedly croaking, 1 Mike's dead!
Mike's dead ! " All the cliffs repeated it, and bandied it
The cabin had been stripped of everything—only a
rusty stove and a litter of letters and cards on the floor.
I picked up a card. On the back was written, ' Apple-
time is here again, and thoughts of ripe apples just naturally make us think of philosophy and you.' It was
signed, ' Betty Stewart Edward White.'
Apple-time was almost here again now, and the trees
were laden. But apples alone were not enough for us.
We needed old Mike to pull his hand down over his face
in the old gesture, and to hear his—1 Well, well, well!
Summer's here, and here you are again ! "
  Indian Villages
I throttled down the engine, lifted John up on the
steering-seat, and left the boat to drift idly under his care,
while the rest of us unrolled the chart and tried to discover
just where we were.
As far as the eye could see, islands, big and little, crowded
all round us—each with its wooded slopes rising to a peak
covered with wind-blown firs; each edged with twisted
junipers, scrub-oak and mosses, and each ready to answer
immediately to any name we thought the chart might
like it to have. To the north-east, the snow-capped
mountains of the coast range reached with their jagged
peaks for the summer sky. And north, south, east and
west, among the maze of islands, winding channels lured
and beckoned. That was what we had been doing all
day—just letting our little boat carry us where she pleased.
But we were looking for old Indian villages, and we had
to find out where we were. So we turned the chart this
way and that way, trying to make it fit what lay before
our eyes.
I We came through there, and along there, and up
there," pointed Peter, whose sense of direction is fairly
So we swung a mountain a few degrees to the west.
But Jan, who is three years older, snorted, took her pencil
and showed us—" This is where we saw the Indians
spearing fish, and that is where we saw the Indian painting
on the cliff."
So we meekly swung the mountain back again, and over
to the east.
Then the channels began to have some definite direction,
and the islands sorted themselves out—the right ones
standing forward bold and green;   the others retiring,
dim and unwanted. We relieved John at the wheel; the
other two climbed up into the bows to watch for reefs;
and we began to make our way cautiously through the
shallow, unknown waters that would eventually bring us
to one of the Indian villages.
We were far north of our usual cruising-ground this
summer : in the waters of the Kwakiutl Indians, one of
the west coast tribes of Canada. Their islands lie among
hundreds of other islands on the edge of Queen Charlotte
Sound, well off the usual ship-courses, and many of them
accessible only through narrow confusing passages. In
summer it is fairly quiet and sheltered ; but in the spring
and fall the big winds from the open Pacific sweep up the
sound and through the islands, stunting and twisting the
trees. And in winter the cold winds blow down the great
fiord that cuts eighty miles through the islands and
mountains to the north-east. And at all times of the
year, without any warning, comes the fog—soft, quiet,
We had found an old stone hammer on our own land the
winter before. It was shaped more like a pestle, which we
thought it was. But trips to the museum, and books from
the library, and a whole winter's reading, had made us
familiar with the history and habits of these Indians. So
we had made up our minds to spend part of the summer
among the old villages with the big community houses,
and try to recapture something of a Past that will soon
be gone for ever.
There is little habitation in those waters, beyond the
occasional logging camp or trading centre hidden in some
sheltered bay. The Indians living among these islands
have the same setting that they have had for hundreds
of years, and cling to many of their old customs. It
seems to give the region a peculiar atmosphere belonging
to the Past. Already we could feel it crowding closer.
And the farther we penetrated into these waters the more
we felt that we were living in a different age—had perhaps
lived there before . . . perhaps dimly remembered it all.
Yesterday, we had passed a slender Indian dug-out.
An Indian was standing up in the bow, holding aloft a
long fish-spear poised, ready to strike. His woman was
crouched in the stern, balancing the canoe with her paddle
—a high, sheer cliff behind them. Cliff, dug-out, primitive
man ; all were mirrored in the still water beneath them.
He struck—tossed the wriggling fish into the dug-out, and
resumed his pose. When was it that we had watched
them ? Yesterday ? a hundred years ago ? or just somewhere on that curve of Time ?
Farther and farther into that Past we slipped. Down
winding tortuous by-ways—strewn with reefs, fringed with
kelp. Now and then, out of pity for our propeller, we poled
our way through the cool, green shallows—slipping over
the pointed groups of great star-fish, all purple and red
and blue; turning aside the rock-cod swimming with
their lazy tails; making the minnows wheel and dart in
among the sea-grapes. In other stretches herons disputed
our right-of-way with raucous cries, and bald-headed eagles
stared silently from their dead-tree perches. Once a mink
shrieked and dropped his fish to flee, but turned to scream
and defy us. Perhaps, as Peter suggested, he was a mother
We turned into more open water, flanked with bigger
islands, higher hills.
" Mummy ! Mummy ! A whale ! " shouted Jan, and
almost directly ahead of us a grey whale blew and dived.
" Two whales ! Two whales ! " shrieked the whole
crew, as a great black killer-whale rose in hot pursuit, his
spar-fin shining in the sun. He smacked the water with
his great flanged tail and dived after his prey—both
heading directly our way.
We were safe behind a reef before they rose again. The
grey whale hardly broke water;   but we could see the
killer's make-believe eye glare, and his real, small, black
eye gleam. Then his four-foot spar-fin rose and sank, the
great fluked tail followed . . . and they were gone,
leaving the cliffs echoing with the commotion. The
Indians believed that if you saw a killer's real eye, you
died.   It seems quite probable.
John recovered first. " I could easily have shot them,
if I'd been closer," he cried, grabbing his bow and arrow.
Nobody else would have wanted to be any closer. Some
tribes believe that if you shoot at a killer, sooner or later
the killer will get you—inland, or wherever you flee.
Other tribes hail him as their animal ancestor and friend,
and use him as their crest. But we were not quite sure of
ourselves yet—we were just feeling our way along. Perhaps in some former life we had belonged to one of these
tribes. But to which one ? We had forgotten, but perhaps
the killer hadn't. We would take no chances in this
forgotten land.
Once more we went our peaceful way, our lines over in
hopes of a fish for supper. The engine was barely turning
—our wake was as gentle as a canoe's. We rounded a
bluff and there, on a rocky point, a shaggy grey wolf lay
watching her cubs tumbling on the grass. She rose to her
feet, eyed us for a second, nosed the cubs—and they were
The distant hills turned violet, then purple. We
anchored in a small sheltered cove, made our fire on the
shingle beach and ate our supper. Then, all too soon, the
night closed in.
About ten the next morning, away off in the distance,
we sighted the white-shell beach. A white-shell beach is
a distinguishing feature of the old Indian villages, and
every old village has one. Its whiteness is not a sign of
good housekeeping but rather the reverse. These Indians
in the old days lived chiefly on sea-foods—among them,
clams.   For hundreds of years they have eaten the clams
and tossed the shells over their shoulders. The result is
that the old villages, which are believed to be the third
successive ones to be built on the same sites, are all
perched high up on ancient middens. Earth, grass, fern
and stinging-nettle have covered them and made them
green, but down by the sea the sun and waves bleach and
scour the shell to a dazzling white. The beach is the
threshold of an Indian village—the place of greeting and
We dropped anchor between a small island and a great
rugged cliff topped with moss-laden firs that bounded
one end of the beach. Then we piled into the dinghy and
rowed ashore. The place was deserted—for it is a winter
village, and every summer the tribe goes off for the fishing.
So, when we landed, no chief came down with greetings,
no one sang the song of welcome, only a great black
wooden figure, standing waist high in the nettles up on
the bank, welcomed us with outstretched arms.
" Is she calling us ? " asked John, anxiously, shrinking
closer to me.
I looked at the huge figure with the fallen breasts, the
pursed-out lips, the greedy arms. It was Dsonoqua, of
Indian folk-lore, who runs whistling through the woods,
calling to the little Indian children so that she can catch
them and carry them off in her basket to devour them.
" No, no ! Not us," I assured him. But he kept a
watchful eye on her until he was well out of grabbing
Behind the black woman, high up on the midden,
sprawled thirteen or fourteen of the old community
houses. The same houses stood there when Cook and
Vancouver visited the coast. When Columbus discovered
America, another group of buildings stood on the same
site—only the midden was lower. Now there are shacks
huddled in the foreground—the remaining members of
the tribe live in them, white men's way.   But they didn't
seem to matter. One was hardly conscious of them—
it was the old community houses that dominated the
Timidly, we mounted the high wooden steps that led
from the beach up towards the village platform. It was
impossible to move anywhere without first beating down
with sticks the stinging-nettle that grew waist-high
throughout the whole village. In the old days the tribe
would harvest it in the fall for its long fibres, from which
they made nets for fishing. We beat . . . beat . . .
beat . . . and rubbed our bare legs.
The village platform made better walking—a great
broad stretch of hand-hewn planks that ran the full
length of the village in front of the old houses. We
tiptoed, as intruders should. A hot sun blazed overhead.
The whole village shimmered. Two serpents, carved ends
of beams, thrust their heads out beneath a roof above our
heads and waited silently. Waited for what ? We didn't
know, but they were waiting. I glanced over my left
shoulder and caught the cold eye of a great wooden raven.
But perhaps I was mistaken; for as long as I watched
him he stared straight ahead, seemingly indifferent.
No one knows definitely where these coast Indians came
from. In appearance, language and customs they are
quite different from the Indians of eastern Canada. They
have broad, flat faces and wide heads. There is evidence
that in earlier times there was another type with narrow
heads and faces—but they have disappeared or merged
with the others. There are as many different languages
on the coast as there are tribes—each of them distinct and
different from any of the others, and with no common
roots 1 and all of them different from any other known
Unlike the eastern Indians who elected their chiefs for
bravery, the coast Indians had a rigid class system. First
the nobility, the smallest class and strictly hereditary;
then a large middle class; and then the slaves, who
were usually captives from other tribes, and their
Some ethnologists think that these Indians came across
from Asia by the Behring Sea, and worked their way
southwards. The Chukchi, who were the aborigines of
Kamchatka, used to tell their Russian masters that the
people across the straits were people like themselves.
Other ethnologists think that they have drifted north
from some tropical island of the Pacific. Many of their
customs and superstitions are the same. Some customs,
whose origin they have forgotten, are similar to those
practised by the Polynesians in their old sun-worship.
But whatever their origin, when discovered they were
a long way back on the road that all civilisations have
travelled—being a simple stone-age people, fighting nature
with stone-age tools and thoughts. In one hundred and
fifty years we have hustled them down a long, long road.
On a recent Indian grave on a burial-island I saw a
cooking-pot and a rusted boat-engine—the owner would
need them in the next world. They hang on to the old
life with the left hand, and clutch the new life with the
The Indians of the interior called the coast Indians
' the people-who-live-in-big-houses.' The big houses at
the end of the village street had lost its roof and walls—
only the skeleton remained. Its main uprights or house-
posts were two great wooden ravens with outstretched
wings. Fourteen feet high, wing-tip touching wing-tip,
great beaks and fierce eyes, they stared across to where,
some sixty feet away, a couple of killer-whales standing
on their tails formed a companion pair of posts. A massive
cedar log connected each pair across the tops of their heads.
At right angles on top of these again, enormous cedar logs
ninety feet long and three feet in diameter, all fluted
lengthwise like Greek pillars, stretched from one pair to
the other, forming with the house-posts the main skeleton
of the house.
The Nimkish tribe have a legend that it was the Raven,
he who made the first man, who showed them how to get
the huge roof-beams in place. It was certainly the first
thing we wondered about. When a chief built his house
it was a custom for him to kill four of his slaves and bury
one under each house-post as it was raised—for strength,
or good luck, or perhaps prestige. They had a curious
habit of destroying their property just to show how great
they were.
The house-posts tell to which crest the related inmates
of the house belong. The crest system runs through all
the coast tribes, even among tribes that have a different
language and no friendly intercourse. There is the crest
of the Raven, of the Grizzly Bear, of the Wolf and others.
The reason why each one is related to, or is the ancestor of,
a particular family or clan is woven into their folk-lore.
For instance, there is a legend that the killer-whale was
created a long time after the other animals. He was made
by an Indian, whittled out of yellow cedar. The Indian
painted him Indian fashion with an extra eye on his
stomach; tried him to see if he would float. Then the
Indian told him to go and look for food—he might eat
anything he found in the water, but he must never touch
man. Unfortunately the killer made a mistake. Two
Indians were upset out of their canoe and the killer ate
them. Ever since then the killer-whale has been related
to the family of the men he ate and has been used as their
Beat . . . beat . . . beat ... we laid the nettles
low. A cicada shrilled in the midday heat. And somewhere in the tall pines that backed the village a northern
raven muttered under its breath. We lifted the long bar
from the great door of a community house, and stood
hesitating to enter.   In the old days a chief would have
greeted us when we stepped inside—a sea-otter robe over
his. shoulder, his head sprinkled with white bird-down,
the peace sign. He would have led us across the upper
platform between the house-posts, down the steps into
the centre well of the house. Then he would have sung
us a little song to let us know that we were welcome, while
the women around the open fires beat out the rhythm with
their sticks. The earth floor would have been covered
with clean sand in our honour and cedar-bark mats
hastily spread for our sitting. Slaves would have brought
us food—perhaps roe nicely rotted and soaked in fish oil,
or perhaps with berries. The house would have been
crowded with people—men, women, children, and slaves.
Three or four fires would have been burning on the earth
floor and the house would have been smoky but dry.
We stepped inside and shivered—the house felt cold and
damp after the heat outside. Mounds of dead ashes, damp
and green, showed where fires had been. A great bumpy
toad hopped slowly across the dirt floor. And one of the
house-posts—a wolf carved in full relief with its head and
shoulders turned, snarled an angry welcome. The only
light came from the open door behind us and from the
smoke-holes in the roof. High above us, resting on the
house-posts, stretched the two fluted beams that served as
ridge-poles. From them long boards, hand-split like
shakes, sloped down to the outer wall-plates. The walls
were covered with the same. Standing in the centre of
the house we were about three feet below the outside
ground level, for warmth in winter, I imagine. The
sleeping-platform was on the lower level and ran round
the entire house; and behind it, three feet higher, was
the platform on which they kept their possessions. In
the early days each family would have had a certain space
on the two platforms allotted to it, partitioned off with
hanging mats. It was a collection of related but separate
families, under a common roof.   But it was not community
living. In that land of winter rains and fog it seems a
natural solution to the problem of trying to keep dry.
In the summer, as they still do, they left the winter village
and went off in their dug-outs up the rivers and inlets.
Sunlight and darkness ; heat and cold ; in and out we
wandered. All the houses were the same size, the same
plan, only the house-posts distinguished them. Some
were without wall-boards, some without roof-boards—
all were slowly rotting, slowly disintegrating, the remains
of a stone age slowly dying. . . .
Searching . . . poking . . . digging. We found old
horn spoons, wooden spoons, all the same shape. Split a
kelp bulb lengthwise, leaving an equal length of split
stalk, and you have the shape of the coast Indian spoons.
Stone hammers, stone chisels. They might have been
used to flute the great beams. And why the flutes ?
Memories of some half-forgotten art, carried across some
forgotten sea ? In some of the early work there seems to
have been a substitution of wood for stone.
In one of the better preserved houses, evidently still in
use, there was a beautifully made dug-out turned upside
down. The Indians still make these dug-outs. They take
a cedar log the required length, and by eye alone they
adze and shape it—keel, bow, stern. When the outside
is finished, they drive in wooden pegs, their length depending on the thickness they want the canoe to be. Then
they adze, or burn and chisel out the inside until they
work down to the wooden pegs. Then comes the work of
shaping the dug-out, which at this stage is too narrow and
high amidships. They fill it up with water and throw
in heated stones until the water boils. The wood is then
pliable and easily stretched, and they set in the thwarts—
spreading and curving the hull to whatever shape they
want. The prows are high and curve forward, the tip
often carved. This one had the head of a wolf, ears laid
back to the wind.
We played with their old boxes-for-the-dead, trying to
see if we could fit in. It is astonishing what you can get
into in the knee-chest position. The owners of these are
not allowed to use them now, tree-burial is forbidden.
The boxes were of bent-cedar work, peculiar to these
coast Indians, I think. They are made of single sheets of
cedar about half an inch in thickness, cut to shape. On
lines, where they want them to bend, they cut V-grooves
on the inside and straight cuts on the outside. Then they
wet the grooves to make the wood pliable, and bend the
box to shape, just as you would a cardboard candy-box.
The edges are sewn together with small roots through
awl-holes made in the wood. That is necessary just at the
last side. The covers are separate, made of a single piece
of heavier cedar; flat except for the front edge which
curves up and out. The boxes are bound with twisted
cedar-bark rope—in a peculiar fashion that leaves a loop
at each corner to hold on the lid. When an Indian was
alive he kept his belongings in his box. When he died, his
friends, always of another crest, put him in his box and
tied it up in a grave-tree.
It was so easy to let the imagination run riot in these
surroundings. All round me, grey and dim, surged and
wavered the ones-of-the-past. I picked up a spear-head ;
smooth brown stone, ground chisel sharp at the edges—
and the men of the tribe crowded close. Naked, black-
haired, their faces daubed with red war-paint, their harsh
voices raised in excitement. They were pointing at the
beach with their spears—the canoes were ready, they were
going on a raid, and they raised their spears and shouted.
I Have you found anything ? " called Peter behind me
. . . and the fierce crowd quivered, hesitated, and were
I Just a spear-head," I murmured, waving him away
. . . but they, the dim-ones, would not come back.
It was harder to imagine the women.    Perhaps they
were shyer. I could only catch glimpses of them; they
would never let me get very close. But later, on a sunny
knoll on a bluff beyond the village, I surprised a group
of the old ones. They were sitting there teasing wool
with their crooked old fingers, their grey heads bent as
they worked and gossiped—warming their old bones in
the last hours of the sun. Then a squirrel scolded above
my head ; I started, and it was all spoiled. On the knoll
where they had sat I picked up a carved affair—on examination, a crude spindle. The village lay below me,
already in the shadows. Beyond, to the west, quiet
islands lay in the path of the sun. And all round me,
perhaps, the old women held their breath until this strange
woman had gone. I wondered, as I left, what they would
do without the spindle that I carried in my hand.
I was tired of Indian villages for the moment—slightly
bewildered by turning over the centuries, like the careless
flip of a page. So I turned away and Avaded through the
shallows with the youngsters towards the high rocky point
with the tall trees, near where our boat was anchored. It
was low tide, and suddenly beside my bare foot, which I
was placing carefully to avoid the barnacles, I saw an old
Indian bracelet of twisted copper. The children were soon
making little darting noises, and in a short time we had
found a dozen of them, caught among the seaweed or
lying in crevices at the edge of the cliff. Some, like the
first, were made of twisted copper ; others of brass were
worked with diagonal lines, and others had the deep
grooves at each end that tell of the number of sons in a
family. I knew that they belonged to a period about one
hundred and fifty years ago, when they first got copper and
brass from the Spaniards. But personal belongings like
that would have been buried with their owners. Suddenly
I remembered the old tree-burials, and glanced above my
head at the great trees that overhung the water. There,
sure enough, swaying in the breeze, hung long strands of
cedar-bark rope that had once bound a box-of-the-dead to
the upper branches.
Our supper on board was punctuated with cries of,
" There's another box ! I see another ! "—the whole,
still, dark wood, on top of the cliff below which we were
anchored, was a burial-wood, each moss-hung tree holding
its grim burden against the evening sky.
My youngsters are tough, they slept as usual—deep,
quiet sleep. I lay awake, lost somewhere down the
centuries. Things that I did not understand were abroad
in the night; and I had forgotten, or never knew, what
charms I should say or what gods I should invoke for
protection against them. There were dull fights in the
deserted villages. Lights that shimmered and shifted,
disappeared and reappeared. Lights that I knew could
not be there. I heard the sound of heavy boards being
disturbed . . . who is it that treads the village platform ?
There was a shuffling and scuffling up among the boxes of
bones in the trees. Low voices were calling and muttering.
Something very confidential was being discussed up in that
dark patch.
" Teh . . . tch . . . tch ! " said a voice in unbelieving
tones. It was repeated in all the trees, on all the branches,
from all the boxes. Perhaps they couldn't believe that we
had taken the bracelets—none of their own people would
have touched the things-of-the-dead.
" Tch . . . tch . . . tch ! " evidently somebody was
telling them all about it.
" O . . . O .. . O .. . O . .. O ! " came low choruses, from
this tree and that tree—perhaps they did believe it now,
and were thinking up curses.
Impossible to explain to them that I was trying to save
their Past for them—a reproving chorus of " Tch . . .
tch . . . tch ! " started up immediately.
1 But, really," I insisted.
" O . . . O . . . O . . . O! " reproved the Dead.
Finally, exhausted, I watched the first faint signs of
dawn. There was soon a more definite stirring in the
trees, and one by one the great northern ravens left their
vigils and flew off with a last mutter. The owls winged
their way deeper into the forest and at last the woods
were quiet—the dead slept. Overhead, an early seagull
floated in the grey light, its wings etched in black and
white—a peaceful, friendly thing.   Then I, too, slept.
We stayed three days in that village; anchored three
nights beneath the trees-of-the-dead. After all, if it were
the whispers and echoes of the past we wanted—here they
But we left on the fourth day on account of a dog—or
rather a kind of dog. There is always the same kind of
peculiar silence about all these old villages—it is hard to
explain unless you have felt it. I say felt, because that
describes it best. Just as you have at some time sensed
somebody hiding in a dark room—so these unseen
presences in an old village hold their breath to watch you
pass. After wandering and digging and sketching there
for three days, without seeing a sign of anything living
except the ravens and owls, a little brown dog suddenly
and silently appeared at my feet. There is only one way
of getting into the village—from the water by the beach.
The forest behind has no trails and is practically impenetrable. Yet, one minute the dog was not, and then, there
it was. I blinked several times and looked awkwardly the
other way . . . but when I looked back it was still there.
I spoke to it—but not a sound or movement did it make
—it was just softly there. I coaxed, but there was no sign
that it had heard. I had a feeling that if I tried to touch
it, my hand might pass right through.
Finally, with a horrible prickling sensation in my spine,
I left it and went down to the beach. As I reached the
dinghy, I glanced over my shoulder to where I had left
the dog—it was gone !   But as I turned to undo the rope—
it was on the beach beside me. Feeling, I am not sure what
—apologetic, I think—I offered it a piece of hard-tack.
It immediately began to eat it, and I was feeling decidedly
more rational, when I suddenly realised that it was making
no noise over it. The hard-tack was being swallowed with
the same strange silence. Hurriedly, I cast off and left.
I didn't look back—I was afraid it mightn't be there.
Later in the morning I said to John—John had been
waiting for me in the dinghy at the time—
" John, about that dog. ..."
" What dog ? " interrupted John, busy with a fishhook.
" That little brown dog that was on the beach."
I Oh, that! " said John, still very busy. " That wasn't
a nusual dog."
I left it at that—that was what I had wanted to know.
Northward to Seymour Inlet
The end of July, we anchored overnight just inside the
western entrance of Well's Pass, in Kingcome Inlet. We
wanted to make an early morning run up the open coast
to Seymour Inlet. The entrance to Seymour Inlet is just
south of Cape Caution, and that would be the farthest
north we had ever been.
We had crept into Kingcome Inlet two days before in
heavy fog—soft, white, insistent fog that shut out all our
known world. Our once friendly trees were now menacing
shadows that would drift suddenly into sight, hesitate for
a moment, then swiftly turn and flee away. Instead of
clear green sea with its colourful, inhabited shallows, there
was a misty void, over which we silently moved. Everything took on the unreal silence of a spirit world. Voices
that were thrown with more than usual force were caught
and divided and muted, reaching us like soft echoes.   We
were in the world of the little brown dog, and there was
no way out.
Northward we slowly faltered, content if we sometimes
saw the ghosts of trees to show that we had not gone too
far west and strayed out into the open Pacific. Once
something loomed up dead ahead—shrouded in swirling
fog—one of the great wooden ravens from the Indian
village, towering above us with outstretched wings ? We
cowered miserably below him, as I swung the wheel to
avoid him. Did he want the bracelets back, or what ?
He could have them . . . anything ! But the huge
figure shrank . . . shrank . . . and it was only a lone
cormorant sitting on a rock, its wings spread out to dry—
magnified by the fog.
Peter had made his own compass—the carving knife,
suspended on a string.
" Too far to port," he would sing out. " Too far to
Every once and a while the knife would swing a full
ninety degrees each way. He put that down to something
he called < searching.' Jan was watching the chart, just
in case we saw anything to identify. I couldn't take my
eyes off our immediate bow and its perils.
" Everybody's doing something but me," said John,
disconsolately.    " What can I do ? "
" You could sound for echoes," I said, explaining how
the captains of the coast ships in fog blow the whistle in
narrow passes or inlets. By counting the number of
seconds that it takes a blast to reach the cliff and come
back they can work out the distance they are from the
cliff. Radar sounds so dull after that. I took my precious
whistle out of my pocket and looped it round John's neck.
" It must be a big blast," I explained, "or it won't
bounce back properly."
He gathered up all the breath he had in his body—and
a mighty blast fared forth into tjie void.   We were all
poised to count the seconds—but we had hardly started
before back it bounced. I was shattered. ... I hastily
kicked the engine into neutral, for it had bounced from
dead ahead. I told John to blow again. Again he threw
it out—shrill and piercing—and again it hit and bounced
back, undoubtedly from straight ahead.
We inched our way towards it—now ahead, now
neutral. I estimated it as perhaps fifty feet. ... I hung
out on one side, Jan on the other. I glanced at the compass
to check our direction—we simply must find out where
we were and hole up in some place for the night. This fog
was not likely to clear unless the wind came up. Jan and
I both shouted at the same instant. I stamped the engine
into reverse to kill her way. There, ten feet ahead, a
straight wall of rock rose out of the sea. I stepped out on
the after-deck to get a better look.
" It's all above us too," called Jan from the forward
It was—it rose straight up out of sight.
It was the sea-pigeons that gave us the clue. " It's full
of birds," cried Peter. " Sea-pigeons," called Jan. " And
cormorants," added John. " One cormorant," corrected
The fog thinned for a moment, and high up on the cliff
we could see ledges and holes in the rocks. Agitated sea-
pigeons and the odd cormorant were poking their heads
out of the holes, or teetering on the ledges ; peering below
at the danger that had suddenly loomed up out of the fog.
" Why, it's Deep Sea Bluff ! " I practically shouted. I
hadn't realised we were so far north.
The fog changed its mind and closed in again—blotting
out the ledges and the holes. But we had seen the sea-
pigeons—it was all we needed. We were just outside
Simoon Sound, which is at the entrance to Kingcome
Inlet proper. In Simoon, which means f Place of the
Winds,' there was a logging camp that had been there for
twenty-five years. We knew the people who owned it and
had tied up there several times before. I got out the
chart and worked out the direction from Deep Sea Bluff to
the entrance to Simoon.
I Hit on the nose," commented Peter, rolling up his
knife and string compass, as the floats and houses loomed
up out of the fog.
As is quite usual on the coast, this small logging company
was built on a series of huge log-rafts, planked over like
wharf-floats and connected with gangways. There were
comfortable houses for the married men ; bunk-houses for
the bachelors; cook-house, workshop and store-house.
Also bath-house with stove and boiler and hot showers.
And a school. If they didn't have enough children of
their own to rate a government teacher, they would board
other isolated children for the school year. The teacher
came and lived on the rafts with the owner's family.
Two small children dressed in life-preservers ran out and
stared at us. Then the owner's wife came down to greet
us—scold us for wandering around in the fog—ask us up
for supper, and offer us the use of the bath-house and
washtubs. We accepted everything. Then we tied a
life-belt on John and wandered around the floats, to
admire all the flowers growing in tubs or window-boxes,
to look at the hens and baby chickens in a wire enclosure
on one of the floats.
In the evening, when they heard our plans, the loggers
told us that there was a deep-water passage inside the
reefs and kelp as far up as Blunden Harbour—if not
farther. They said that the Indians from up there seemed
to use it all the time—with their gas-boats as well as their
dug-outs. Our charts showed nothing. They never do
when they are used only by Indian dug-outs, or us.
" Watch the weather, though," the loggers said. " You
don't want to, get caught in there with a gas-boat if it
The fog was still thick the next morning, so we stayed
over and took advantage of the bath-house, and washed
ourselves and our clothes. The fog cleared in the afternoon, and we said good-bye and ran over to Well's Pass,
anchoring behind an island just inside. That must have
been the island where Captain Vancouver anchored the
Discovery and the Chatham before he went farther north.
Both ships went aground in Queen Charlotte Sound the
next day.
I woke at about four-thirty and poked my head out of
the curtain. The deck was wet with dew—which should
mean a fine day. A mother merganser with her brood
suddenly caught sight of me. In horror, she turned and
fled, her crest streaming out behind her like red hair, her
brood paddling desperately after her—on the surface, as
though it were mud or snow. A kingfisher started shouting
at another one to keep off his territory or he'd split him in
two. ... It was time I was up.
Jan, in the bow bunk, was still asleep. I would leave
her for awhile—we could have breakfast later when we got
near Blunden Harbour. Young Peter was scrambling into
his clothes. He loved to be mate when no one else was
around. I started up the engine, pulled up the anchor, and
nosed out into the Pacific.
It was almost high tide now. It ebbed north here, and
we would have the tide with us most of the morning. We
kept the main shore in sight. Over to the south-west,
where we should have been able to see the north end
of Vancouver Island, it was misty and we could see
The sea was perfectly calm, not a ripple. But when we
rounded the last cape at the outer north point of Well's
Pass we struck our first Pacific swells. They were wide
apart and perfectly gentle. But up we gradually rose
. . . and down we gradually sank. ... Up again . . .
down again. ... A wondering head poked up through
the hatchway and made descriptive motions with its
" Where are we ? " demanded John, from his bunk,
f Why is the sea so funny ? "
" It isn't the sea," explained Peter loftily; " it's the
ocean.   It's been doing it for ages."
The swells had an entirely different feel about them
than the waves. Not dangerous exactly, but relentless—
an all-the-way-from-China kind of feeling about them.
Whatever the sea was doing, I felt that I should like to
locate that inner passage as soon as possible. There were
cliffs at the moment, so it probably started farther along.
I didn't care for the unexpected breaking and spouting of
the breakers on a calm surface—breaking on something
we couldn't see. We rounded another cape with a great
mass of kelp off it. Then I made out a line of kelp extending along the coast as far as the eye could see. From
where we were it looked much too narrow to be the Indian
passage. Jan went up on the bow, and I worked in
closer. It began to look wider and there was evidently a
reef underneath or alongside the kelp. Then we came to
a gap with no kelp and evidently no reef—nothing that
would bother us anyway. We slipped through on top of a
swell . . i and here certainly was the Indian channel.
It seemed deep right up to the shore, and about thirty
feet wide. What low water would show we couldn't tell.
There might be no room for the boat at all—the Indians
might only use it at high tide. ... At least the wide kelp
bed broke up the swell and none was breaking on the
This was no dash we were making—it was a crawl.
There would be no help in these waters if we ran on a
reef. We had a good dinghy, but how humiHating to
have to row away from our wrecked boat, with no
one to blame but ourselves! The tide was dropping
rapidly, still helping us on our way.   The reef outside
of us was now above water in many places; but that
only made our channel more secure. The shore, as we
had hoped, shelved very steeply. Evidently we were
not going to be squeezed between. Around eight o'clock
we came to a small group of islands—the Raynor group.
Tucking in behind them out of the swell we had our
breakfast. We landed on shore for a run, and found
our bodies strangely unstable and hard to adapt to the
solidness of the rock.
We knew that there was an Indian village in Blunden
Harbour and were very tempted. But it would have been
foolish not to take advantage of this sunny, quiet day for
the run up to Seymour. We passed the entrance to
Blunden Harbour—all necks craning. There was no
sign of any habitation. So the Indian village must
be farther in round the bluff. The entrance seemed quite
It was lunch-time when we pushed thankfully into the
Southgate Islands—the end of the open run. We hadn't
had any wind at all, but the rollers were distinctly alarming
at times. Very frightening when they suddenly broke
right ahead of you on a completely hidden rock. They
would throw a mass of spray high into the air. The reef
would show for a moment in the hollow, and it wasn't
hard to see what would have happened to our boat if we
had been there.
The loggers at Simoon had told us that the tugs towing
log-booms were often held up for as long as two weeks in
the Southgates by wind. They would have picked up the
booms in Belize or Seymour Inlets and come down with
the tide to these islands to wait for favourable weather to
make Well's Pass. That is the farthest north from which
they would try to bring booms. Above there, they would
make up Davis rafts—great mounds of logs all tied and
wound together with heavy steel cable. Like an iceberg
they were mostly below water, and waves and rollers
could not wash out the logs—the way they can in a
This circle of the Southgates completely protected the
enclosed water and made a perfect booming ground. And
it was deep right up to the steep sandstone shores. Cables
tied round trees were lying across the slopes, ready for the
booms that would come.
The names of various tugs, and the dates, were painted
in red or white on the low cliffs. Under some of the
shallow caves and overhanging ledges in the sandstone
we found oil-paintings, on wood, of various tugs.
Amateurish, but some of them quite good. Two weeks is
a long time to wait for wind to go down.
The tide was very low now, and we fooled around in the
shallows looking for abalones. I can never quite bring
myself to the point of eating an abalone. These virile
animals, which the Norwegian fishermen tell me should
be beaten with a stick before cooking, probably taste like
beef-steak with a fishy flavour.
Then, calls from the children to come and see. Up on a
dry, grassy point they had found dozens of the abalone
shells of all sizes—cleaned out by the seagulls. They
nested them together in high stacks. Trading was brisk.
Then the air was filled with their unspoken longings. I
ignored it—swirling around me, beating about my head
. . . then I gave in, " All right," I said, " but down the
bilge. If I allowed everything they found, on board, there
would be no room for us.
We had a swim off the smooth rocks. Lay in the sun to
get warm and dry. Then started up the engine and
wandered on up to Alison Harbour. We had been told
that we might get gas there, and somebody else said he
thought there was a store. There was neither. There
was a float, and a cabin up on the bank. From the sign
nailed up on the wall, it was evidently where the fishing
inspector for the district lived.   His boat, a heavily-built
forty-footer with a high bow, was tied up at one end of
the float. He came out on deck when he heard us—then
came over and sat on the wharf with us.
When we said we were going into Seymour he told us
that he had spent most of the last night caught in the
Nakwakto Rapids in the narrow entrance. He explained
that you are only supposed to go through at slack water—
and the slack lasts only six minutes. He had been twenty
minutes late, but thought he could still make it as the
tide would be with him. He had barely got started before
he knew that he should never have tried it. The current
caught his stern and swung him round and rushed his
boat against the shelving cliff. That was the end of his
propeller. For the rest of the night the rapids that run
sixteen knots had played with him. They would rush
him along in a back-current, swing him out into the
through current—then rush him sideways. Then his bow
would hit with a splintering crash against the cliff—and
the back-current would catch him again. Again and
again he hit the cliff, and as the tide fell and the contour
of the cliff changed, each time he hit in a different part of
the stern or bow. Soon he had to pump steadily, three
hours of it, as she began to take water. Then, just before
slack, when the strength of the current let up and the
back-currents were not so fierce, Nakwakto Rapids had let
go of him. He drifted out of the narrow entrance into
Skooner Passage, got out his dinghy and towed his boat
into a cove just round the point to the south—a little bay
with a shelving beach and an empty Indian shack. He
had beached the boat, bow first, which was where the
worst damage was, to keep her from sinking, made a hot
drink and fallen into his bunk. He hadn't wakened until
the sun was high.
A fish-boat had come through Skooner Passage and he
had hailed him. They had patched up the bow a bit, and
the fellow had towed him back to Alison Harbour.
He showed us the splintered bow—a major job to be
repaired. The stern was almost as bad, not to mention
the propeller. Plainly, he himself was badly shaken. He
strongly advised us to keep away from the place. Finally,
he suggested that we spend the night at his wharf, and go
up next morning to the little cove with the shelving beach
and the Indian shack. There, if we climbed the steep
mound to the side of the shack, we would overlook the
rapids. We could watch for a while and see what we
would be up against. Then we could go through with the
flood at lunch-time.
" You'll see the little island in the middle that sprits the
flood-tide in two with its pointed bow—a great wave to
either side. The fellows tell me that if you stay on it for a
tide, the whole rock shakes and trembles with the force
of the waters. Turret Rock, they call it. But don't forget,
slack only lasts six minutes," he warned.
The next morning found us lying on top of the high
mound above the rapids, watching that fearsome roaring
hole in action. Turret Rock was not breasting the current,
but bracing itself against it on its tail. It was hard to tell
whether our mound was trembling, or the island was
trembling, or if it was just the motion of the rushing
water. Probably the air was in motion from so much
turbulence. I am supposed to look calm and collected at
such moments, and my crew watch me furtively to see
that all is well. I was busy, furtively arguing with myself.
It was stupid lying here, holding onto the ground, working
ourselves up into a panic. We were used to all the other
narrows on the coast—Yucultaw, Surge, Seymour, Hole-in-
the-Wall. They were all fearsome, and how flat they were
at slack ! Six minutes slack, I told myself, is not much
worse than twelve minutes. In all the other narrows you
don't worry about twenty minutes either side of slack. We
would be going in on the flood. If all went well we could get
past Turret Rock in six minutes.    We always tow our
dinghy—even if the engine stopped we could tow the
boat past the island in ten minutes and then we would
be through the worst. The fishing inspector had been in
the dark, and he had lost his propeller at the first hit.
Looking at the cliffs below I thought there might be fewer
back-currents on the flood-tide—always supposing you
got past the island. If we hadn't met the inspector I
wouldn't be thinking any of this.
" Come along, youngsters," I said. " Let's get lunch
over, and get things ready."
I Are we really going ? " they asked, as they slid down.
" When it's dead flat," I said.
I left them on the beach and went back to the boat to
get an early lunch ready—preparing for the six minutes.
While waiting for the kettle to boil I cleaned the sparkplugs and checked the gaps. Then I cleaned the points
on the magneto. Then I wished I hadn't touched anything.
Far better to leave an engine alone if it is running well.
What possessed me to touch it ?
Then I called the children out for lunch. I snapped at
everybody. Then someone raised the question whether
our decrepit-looking clock was right. I hadn't the faintest
idea. We usually judged time by the sun. How could
anyone judge slack water in a roaring hole by the sun ?
I should have to go up on top of the mound and watch it.
I pulled up all but the last few feet of the anchor rope, then
rowed ashore, leaving a worried-looking crew behind me.
I started whistling to cheer them up. Usually, if I whistle,
they know that there is nothing to worry about. It was
hard to keep in tune ... a silly, whistling woman,
chmbing up a mound . . . whistling out of tune.
I watched. ... I saw the current hesitating. ... I
threw myself down the mound, I rowed breathlessly to
the boat. I tossed the painter to somebody and told them
to tie her close. I pulled up the crank. The engine started
first pull.    I tried to swallow—for some reason I was
breathless. I yanked up the anchor, and worked out the
bay—stood well out, in case we were pulled in. . . .
There was nothing there to pull us in. A still passage
lay ahead of us. Turret Rock stood in the middle, looking
perfectly quiet and relaxed. We went gently through,
resisting the temptation to speed up. The channel opened
out into a comparatively wide section. Then the swirls
began to form around us—the six minutes must be up.
But we were through. I only speeded up because I didn't
know where those treacherous back-currents might start.
How stupid it had all been ! Just because we had seen a
smashed-up boat, and heard a first-hand account from a
worn-out man who had had a bad experience.
Peter shook his head sagely, " You were scared, too,
weren't you, Mummy ? "
I winked at him.   " Weren't we sillies ! " I said.
The day had turned out dull and grey and the clouds
had settled lower and lower. Whenever I think of Seymour
Inlet, I think of it as being low and flat and uninteresting.
It is really made up of a series of very narrow, very deep
inlets running north-east. These are separated by narrow
ridges of high mountains. The whole inlet must be
spectacular, if you can see it. I was never sure whether
we turned up Nugent Sound and spent the night there,
or were at the beginning of Seymour arm. The first is a
blind arm that runs in about eleven miles—while Seymour
runs in for twenty-five miles, and ends at a river on which
is the winter village of the Wa-watle Indians. Nugent
and Seymour are separated by a great rib of high mountains—to us it all appeared as low hills.
We spotted a white-shell beach in a short time, so we
pulled in near the beach and anchored. There should be a
stream; and there was. There was a high mound on the
north of the beach which thrust out into the sea. From
the top of the mound, on a clear day, you could probably
see for miles both up and down the inlet.   We had settled
on its being the look-out point for the village, which probably lay back of the shell beach—when John fell into the
excavation of what had once been a community house.
It didn't take long to find the remains of the house-posts,
which had formed the doorway and supported the roof-
beams. All very old. . . . How much better to live up
on a mound like that, where you could spot the enemy
dug-out a long way off.
" They probably sneaked up in the fog," said Peter,
spotting a weak point.
We found a few slate spear-heads, made of slate with a
bevelled edge. Farther down the coast they are usually
made of chipped flint. The clouds began to drip now, and
we went back on board. I took a line and sounded round
in a circle. There seemed to be plenty of water if we
didn't swing. I carried out a stern-anchor in the dinghy,
as we might as well stay here for the night. The f Coast
Pilot' had been very discouraging about anchorages
of any kind—there just were none, according to
them. Well, well! It didn't mention the Indian passage
We stuck it out for two more days. It wasn't a downpour, it was just a very wet drizzle, and with no visibility
at all. With the canvas curtains closed, and the Colman
stove going, we could keep warm and dry. I had some
sourdough on board, which old Mike had given us. So I
made bread buns in the iron frying-pan covered with a
plate. Then we made a pail of baked beans. Usually,
we bury the pail in the ashes of our bonfire at night—
leaving them there all night. The ones cooked quickly are
not as good. But with the beans, and the smell of the
fresh bread, we were fairly drooling by the time they were
ready to eat.
Then we had the worry of getting out through the
rapids again. Still not sure of our clock, we waited
around in the swirls at a good safe distance until they
quietened down. Then we judged that that must be the
beginning of the ebb. We were perhaps a few minutes
late but had no trouble.
It had been a long, slow trip down the Indian passage
in the fog and rain to Blunden Harbour. Never quite
sure where we were. Always the possible wind to worry
about. It would be very easy to miss the entrance.
Then, in a kindly way that fog sometimes has, it lifted
long enough for us to identify a headland and the Raynor
group. A few minutes later we slipped inside the entrance
to Blunden Harbour.
The chart showed a store and post office. We worked
our way across to where it was marked on the right of the
entrance. A half-sunken float came out of the fog. We
tied up to the least sunk end of it. Above the bank was a
long, low building, marked store and post office. But
the roof was caved in, and a rotting verandah sagged off
one end of the building. The chart was plainly a little
out of date.
After lunch we piled into the dinghy and, in a dreary
drizzle, started off in search of the Indian village. We
found it after some time tucked away behind some islands
at the north end of the harbour. It looked very small and
very dreary. . . .
We landed on the white-shell beach beside a beautifully
spiralled pole, on top of which sat a comfortable-looking
carved eagle with outstretched wings—looking complacently down on our wet figures. These Indian figures
are always so darned indifferent. They take everything,
and give absolutely nothing—except that stony silence.
Perhaps it was just as well in our case—after a week of
almost steady fog and rain, one gentle look and we would
all have dissolved in tears.
I diffidently shook the rain from my wet shoulders and
followed the youngsters up the steep, hewn steps that led
to the village platform. Two community houses stood
side by side, with heavily barred doors—and padlocks.
Not content with that, a large neatly written notice
proclaimed that | Mr Potladakami George. This chief of
this Nagwadakwa People. It is get away. $265.50.' We
were plainly not welcome. But we ignored Mr Potladakami George and his notices and padlocks. We took the-
way-of-souls, and entered by the two loose boards, round
at the side, that are always left for departing spirits. It
was cold inside, and a strong smell of damp earth rose in
the darkness. Not exactly inviting . . . but the steady
sound of rain on the roof set us to work raking together
the bits of charred wood on the place for fires.
A feeble blaze soon flickered, and lighted up the old
house with creeping light. The heavy pungent smoke
rose and filtered out the smoke-hole in the roof, just as
smokily as it had two hundred years before. The children
crowded closer to me—for as our eyes grew more accustomed to the dim light, the weird carved inmates gradually
ventured out of the shadows. The tall, dark house-posts
took shape ; and like some horrible nightmare seemed to
grow bigger and bigger—and then showed themselves as
great ugly men with hollow cheeks and protruding eyes.
The flickering fire gave them movement and expression,
and they leered and grimaced and reached at us.
The youngsters were uneasy . . . one by one they made
some excuse and scuttled out through the-way-of-souls,
and left me.
I glanced to the rear of the house to find the companion-
posts, but a great sisciatl, a mythical double-headed
serpent, lay stretched across a rear platform. In Indian
folk-lore anyone who is unfortunate enough to meet a
sisciatl shivers and shakes until his limbs drop off. I was
certainly shivering, but I knew it was from the cold.
However, I kicked the fire together.
I found the round, dark shapes on the side platforms to
be great ceremonial dishes carved out of single blocks of
cedar—pairs of animals or birds holding the dish between
their outstretched paws or wings. Food was served in
these when the chief gave a party or potlatch.
Potlatches are forbidden on the coast now—the authorities think it makes the Indians improvident. I think it
probably worked both ways. When a chief gave a blanket
potlatch, after two or three days of feasting, he presented
each guest with a blanket—perhaps a hundred being given
away. After which a very great, very powerful chief sat
shivering with not enough to cover him, having given
away blankets that had taken him years to collect.
But—every guest had to give him a potlatch in return,
at some future time. So, in a sense, it was a form of
In spite of the apparent sophistication of Potladakami
George this house had more beautiful carved things than
we had seen in any other village. There was a great
carved wooden spoon, four feet high, with its bowl as big
as a soup-tureen. Its handle was an eagle with folded
wings, and a human hand supported the bowl. A graceful
flying dove was carved of cedar, but when you turned its
breast towards you it changed to a hideous man with
goggle eyes who stuck his tongue out at you. All rather
mixed metaphor it seemed—but Indian folk-lore is like
I picked up a pair of beautifully carved hands, and
wondered what they had been used for. But striking them
idly together I knew at once.
" Clap . . . clap . . . clap ! " At the sound, the whole
atmosphere of the old house seemed intensified. In just
such a setting they might have been used—smoking fires,
steaming clothes, the bang of the wind-lifted roof-boards,
the splash and drip of the driving rain, and nothing to do
on some dark winter evening.
" Clap , . . clap . . . clap ! " of the old wooden hands.
Out of the room partitioned off at the rear would have
burst the masked Indian dancers, each wearing the mask
and pelt of the animal he represented. He of the wolf-
mask, see him pick his way along—stepping lightly,
slinking, smelling. The bear-mask—lurching clumsily in a
near-sighted roll. The finding of the honey. Horrible
defeat by bees. Ignominious retreat, tail between legs.
Loud laughter of superior wolf and shouts of the delighted
audience. " Clap . . . clap . . . clap ! " of the wooden
" Mummy! " called a voice, outside the loose boards.
" Mummy, are you all right ?   John is crying."
I pushed my way through the boards.
" Why, John, what is the matter ? " I asked.
He wouldn't speak—just clutched me. |tfff|
" He thought you were probably dead," explained
John only glared.
" Well, let's get back to the boat," I suggested.
We swung round the bay as we went. Passed close to
the burial-island. It was very overgrown, but above the
nettles and the salmon-berry bushes the two heads of a
great sisciatl dared us to touch the dead of their tribe.
The rain had stopped before we got back to the boat.
I tapped the glass—it was slowly rising. We would leave
this village of the Nagwadakwa people in the morning.
Sunday Harbour
Next morning we headed south. Great heavy clouds
hung low and white, covering the still sleeping hills and
mountains like a downy comforter. Up we rose on the
long swell, and then the smooth hurried slide as it urged
us on our way. Peter had the wheel and was managing
nicely.   Jan and I pulled out the chart and the well-worn
! Coast Pilot' to look for shelter—in case of possible need,
in view of the probable wind.
" What day is it ? " asked Jan, looking up from the
Sunday, we finally decided, after much thought and
calculation—days get lost or found so easily when you
have been playing with years and centuries in old Indian
| Well, here's a Sunday Harbour all ready for us ! "
I looked over her shoulder—a little ring of islands on the
fringe of Queen Charlotte Sound. But sure enough,
Sunday Harbour was marked with an anchor as shelter
and holding ground. I opened the Pilot book to look
it up . . . British Columbia Coast Waters . . . Queen
Charlotte Sound . . . Fog Island . . . Dusky Cove. Ah !
Sunday Harbour. Pilot book says, ' Small but sheltered anchorage on south side of Crib Island. Affords
refuge for small boats.' I didn't altogether like that word
I refuge,' it sounded like a last extremity. Still, the
name was alluring. So, if we need it, Sunday Harbour
let it be.
The nine o'clock wind was now flicking at our heels.
The mountains had tossed off their comforters and were
sticking up their heads to look about them. It does not
take much wind, on top of the swell, to make a nasty sea
in the sound. I relieved the mate at the wheel—for it
depends on the balance on top of a crest whether you
make the long slide down the other side safely or not.
" I don't quite like the mightn'ts! " said John
8 What mightn'ts ? " I asked, as I spun the wheel.
" The mightn'ts be able to swim," said John, eying the
rough waters that curled at our stern.
But even as we were all about to admit that it was much
too rough for our liking, we were out of it—for Sunday
Harbour opened its arms and we were received into its
quiet sabbatical calm. It was low, low-tide—which means
in this region a drop of twenty-five feet. Islands, rocks
and reefs towered above our quiet lagoon; and only in
the tall trees, way up, did the wind sing of the rising
storm outside.
Low, low-tide—primeval ooze, where all life had its
beginning. Usually it is hidden with four or five feet of
covering water ; but at low, low-tide it is all exposed and
lies naked and defenceless at your feet. Pale-green sea-
anemones, looking like exotic asters, opened soft lips and
gratefully engulfed our offerings of mussel meat. Then
shameful to say, we fed them on stones, which they
promptly spat out. We thought uncomfortably of Mrs
Be-done-by-as-you-did, and wandered on in search of
abalones on their pale-pink mottled rocks.
Then, blessing of blessings, out came the sun! Sun,
whom we hadn't seen for days and days, soothing us,
healing us, blessing us. Sunday Harbour ? Yes—but
it was named for quiet Christian principles and little
white churches; and we were worshipping the old god
of the day because he shone on us. Sun, O Sun. . . .
We slipped off our clothes and joined the sea-beasts in
* the ooze of their pasture-grounds.'
t Sand-strewn caverns, cool and deep, where the winds
are all asleep ; where the spent lights quiver and gleam ;
where the salt-weed sways in the stream. . . f I came
up to breathe—Jan and Peter were having a floating
competition, Jan was sending up tall spouts of water from
her mouth, and the sun was shining on their upturned
faces. I looked around for John . . . there he was doing
a dead-man's float all by himself—face downwards, only
his small behind gleaming on the surface.
Somehow, I mistrusted that work ? refuge' from the
beginning—it was too suggestive of other things, such as
trouble or shipwreck. And then one always forgets that
Pilot books, even if they say small vessels, probably mean
cruisers as opposed to battleships. All day the place was
perfect. We might have been in a land-locked lake, miles
and miles from the sea. But as daylight faded, the tide
rose. And by and by it rose some more—and gone was
our quiet lagoon. We could see the wild ocean over the
tops of our island, and the waves drove through gaps that
we had not even suspected. The wind, which all day had
kept to the tree-tops, now swooped and tore at our refuge
like a wild frenzied thing. . . . And by and by it rose
some more—and the gusts of wind swept our little boat in
wide dizzying semi-circles—first one way and then the
other. I let out more and more rope, but our anchor
started to drag . . . and it dragged, and the wind blew,
and the tide rose ; and finally we were blown out of Sunday
Harbour, and backwards into Monday Harbour.
Monday Harbour was another misnomer—a battleship
might have held its own, but not a little boat with an
uneasy name. I hesitated about staying, then put out two
anchors—for the moon was glorious, full and bright; and
it swung high, swung low, in the swaying branches. But
the wind was making a night of it too. Sleep was impossible with a boat on the prowl; and beauty is only
relative. So somewhere in those cold lost hours of a new
day I damned the gods of Sun and Moon that led poor
sailors from the narrow way, started up my engine and
went and found a cove all of my own. Ignored by charts,
unsung by f Coast Pilots,' it was calm, it was quiet, it was
unnamed.   I dropped the anchor . . . and went to sleep.
Morning revealed a white-shell beach in Tuesday Cove.
My crew, who had kept no tryst with strange gods in the
night, were already swimming when I awoke—their little
naked, brown bodies glistening against the shimmering
white shell. They are used to waking up in strange coves
and accept it without much comment.
" But how did we ever get to this nice place ? " I heard
John ask.
V We just came, silly! " said Peter. " In the night."
His face went under and his feet churned the water to
Karlukwees Village
It was dusk before we dropped anchor in Karlukwees
Bay. It had been slow work feeling our way through the
kelp-choked passages, and now it was too late to explore.
Dimly above its shell beach the village curved in a half-
moon on its high midden. A totem-pole thrust itself up
into the night. Great shadowy figures, cold and implacable, stared through the grey light at two small islands
across the bay. Low white figures were keeping watch
over there. One of them looked like a running animal of
some kind—sinister, watchful. Burial-islands, I guessed
unhappily, as the night and the figures crowded close.
The whispering crew soon hushed to sleep. Somewhere
behind a tall hill a late moon was hesitating to show itself.
But in spite of my foolish tryst with her the night before,
in Monday Harbour, I awaited her coming eagerly, for it
was dark and lonely with the burial-islands and all.
A swift tide thrummed its way through the massed kelp,
and the eddies sucked and swirled over some hidden
reef. If our boat sank in the night, it might be a couple
of months before we were missed.
" That little white boat with the woman and children,"
somebody would suddenly think. " I haven't seen it
around this fall." But by this time the little crabs would
be playing in and out our ribs; those horrible figures
would still be staring over the water, and we wouldn't be
able to tell anybody that we were lying down there below.
We had just started our early breakfast next morning
when a great northern raven discovered us and hurried
down with welcoming shouts.    He perched on a rocky
point not far off and inquired about this, that, and the
other thing. He chuckled over some of our up-coast news,
and regretfully muttered " Tch—tch—tch ! " over other
bits. Then he proceeded to tell us all the winter gossip of
the village as we ate our breakfast. They are the most
extraordinary birds. They can ask a question, express
sorrow or surprise, with all the intonations of the human
voice. The old Indians credit them with unusual powers.
A priest told the story of seeing an old Indian sitting
smoking on the village beach. A raven alighted on the
tree above the old man's head and they carried on a
conversation for some minutes—both apparently talking.
When the raven flew away the priest went down to the
beach and questioned the Indian. . . . The old man was
reluctant, but finally said, " Raven say, dead man come
to village to-night."
The priest rebuked him for such nonsense—the old
Indian shrugged his shoulders and put his pipe back in
his mouth. But that night a canoe brought a dead man
back to the village.
Our raven was trying to tell us so much that we couldn't
understand. Finally, he flew away, " See you again," he
unmistakably croaked—and the place seemed empty with
his going.
Once more we beat and laid the nettles low. Only one
community house was intact in Karlukwees village, but
there were remains of at least half a dozen more. Under
the spell of the surroundings it was easy to see the old
village as it must have been. The house-posts in this one
house were not carved, but were fluted like the big main
beams. Out in front were two fine old carved ravens with
outspread wings, standing on the heads of grizzly bears,
A thunder-bird sat on the edge of the midden and gazed
across the bay.
I left Jan trying to sketch the thunder-bird, and the
other two picking up old blue trading beads ; and worked
my way through the nettles to a burial-tree that I had
spotted right back of the village. It was an immense fir,
seven or eight hundred years old—so old that nothing
could amaze it any more. Streamers of lichen dripped
grey from bark and branches. Century after century it
had stood there watching the fortunes of the little village
at its feet. Had it rejoiced with them in the good times—
times of plenty ? Wept with them in the bad times—
times of battle and famine ? Or had it merely held their
dead more lightly or more tightly, as required ? There
were nine or ten boxes still up there, clasped in its gnarled
branches. Perhaps the old tree's clutch was growing feeble,
or perhaps it was too old to care—for when I stepped
round its base to the other side, three blood-stained skulls
lay there on the ground. I shrank back in horror . . . but
making myself look again, saw that it was only dye off the
burial blankets.
After lunch we rowed across to the burial-islands.
When tree-burial was forbidden by the Government the
natives took to putting their dead on special burial-
islands, piling up the boxes in small log shelters through
which the wind could blow. Each family or crest had its
own island. The first one we landed on belonged to the
wolf crest—a great running wolf, thirty feet long, made
of boards and painted white, with red and blue extra eyes
and signs, stood guard over the dead of his family. On the
other island a killer-whale proclaimed that the dead of his
family lay there.
It was important in the Indian mind to be buried
properly with carefully observed rites. People who were
drowned at sea could not go on to the next world, but
were doomed to haunt the beaches for ever. Sometimes
they were seen at night shivering and moaning, wandering
along at tide-level, seaweed in their straggling hair and
phosphorus shimmering on their dripping bodies. Poor
miserable drowned people. . . .
I decided that I had to leave before nightfall. If
anything happened to us in this Land-of-the-past—and
drowning was the most likely—would we have to wander
the beaches for ever—moaning and moaning ? We were
just visitors in this forgotten land—but how could we
prove it, or who would believe us ?
The sun was setting behind the hills when we left the
old village—still so silent, still so indifferent whether we
came or went. The thunder-bird and the other carved
figures still stared across to the islands-of-the-dead,
where the last rays of the sun fell on wolf and killer-whale.
Silent, implacable, it was they who belonged here—we
were only intruders ; we would tiptoe away.
But as we rounded the last point, escaping, there was a
hurried beat of wings, and our friend the northern raven
flew croaking out of the dark woods and down to the
edge of the cliff.
"What, going? "he chuckled. . . . " Tch—tch—tch ! "
The Skull
It was John who found the skull, or rather the bone
that led to the skull. He was playing on the beach over
in the corner near the water-hole, underneath a great old
fir-tree that grows on the edge of the bank where the
solid rock slopes down lower towards the beach. This old
tree doesn't grow tall and straight the way they do in the
forest. It sends out huge low branches almost as big as
the trunk—as though it were easier to feed its hard-won
nourishment to the parts not too far away from the
source. The great roots that embrace the rocks like an
octopus and anchor the old tree to the bank are now
exposed on the edge of the beach. The waves of the big
winter storms have washed away part of the black earth
mixed with shell, leaving the bare roots burrowing down
into the sand.
" Mummy! " John called, as I came down onto the
beach from the high knoll on the other side of the cove.
"I found a bone." He crawled out from under the
roots that framed a little house for him, waving a long,
white bone.
Deer leg, probably, I thought, as I walked across to
look at it * . . but it was no deer bone.
" I think you have found part of an old Indian."
John dropped it, and wiped his hands on his shorts.
H Where did you find it ? "
H In under that big tree."
I took a piece of drift-wood and poked about cautiously,
close to where he indicated. Whoever it was had been
buried before that tree existed. And the tree must be at
least three hundred years old—the growth is slow on rock.
Then, right up underneath the root-crown I uncovered
something broad and curved. I worked carefully with
my hands, and finally lifted out a yellow skull, which
looked at us wanly out of hollow sockets. . . .
It was a flat-head, the skull having been purposely
deformed in infancy—usually with a board fastened so
as to give continual pressure, or a cedar-bark pad while
the bone is still soft. This one looked as though it had
been bound with something as well, for it had a curious
knob on the end. A flat-head was a sign of nobility among
some of the tribes on this coast, and only the upper class
were allowed to deform their babies' heads like that. I
think this one had been a woman's—it was too small and
delicate for a man's, but judging from the teeth, full-
grown. Who knows how old it was—the coast Indians
didn't usually bury their dead in the ground, but fastened
them up in trees.
Just recently archaeologists digging in the big Fraser
River midden have found proof (by carbon test, I pre-
sume) that Indians lived on this coast eight thousand years
In the last twenty years, on southern Vancouver Island,
every now and then someone finds a roughly carved stone
head or figure. One, just a couple of years ago, was
rescued from a man who was building it into a stone wall
he was making. Another was turned up by a plough. I
saw that one. It was carved out of coarse rough stone :
elongated, pierced ear-lobes, and rather Egyptian features.
Both the stone and the carving called to mind some of
the Toltec carvings in the museum down in Mexico. The
present coast Indians don't know anything about them,
or who made them.
On examination, the land behind the little bay where
we were anchored proved to be all midden—about ten
or twelve feet deep. It lay exposed where a winter stream
cut through. It was quite a small area, and probably just
a summer camp. Across the main big bay, at what we
call the Gap, are clam flats. The Indians most likely
smoked and dried their clams for winter use, close to where
they dug them. I don't suppose they had any ceremonies
in connection with the digging of clams—clams being
immobile creatures, and not temperamental like the
salmon. The salmon were treated with great respect.
Once they started running—big schools on their way to
the rivers to spawn—no venison must be eaten, lest the
fish take offence and go off in another direction. After
eating the salmon, the bones were carefully collected and
thrown back in the sea—so that the souls of the salmon
could return to their own country.
" We're always getting mixed up with Indians and
things, aren't we ? " said Peter, digging furiously.
H Specially me," said John, holding tight on to his piece
of old Indian.
It was far too windy to venture up Knight Inlet that
day. After studying the chart we decided to put in the
time by wandering through the maze of islands over towards
Village Island. There is an old Indian village there,
Mamalilacula, and we had never been in there before.
The village was always, at least, partly, occupied in
summer-time ; for it had a Church of England mission and
a small six-bed hospital for tubercular Indian girls.
The chart marked a cove on the south-west side of the
island as Indian Anchorage. Anchorage is always difficult
to find in the waters off Knight Inlet. A terrific sweep of
wind blows through there from Queen Charlotte Sound,
with all the force of the open Pacific behind it. Also, you
have tides with a range up to twenty-three feet to contend
We found the Indian Anchorage without any trouble—
out of sight of the village, and quite a long way from it.
We anchored in about three and a half fathoms. The
water was not very clear, but I rowed all around and
could see no sign of any reefs, or any kelp to mark anything. And after all—it was marked as an anchorage.
It was too late to explore further that night. Jan said
she had seen the roof of a house or shed in the next bay
to the south—but all that would have to wait until
We woke to an embarrassing situation. We found
ourselves trapped in a little pool—lucky not to be aground
—and surrounded by reefs that we could hardly see over,
unless you stood up on deck.
While we were eating our breakfast, feeling very foolish,
an old Norwegian appeared on top of one of the reefs and,
looking down on us, asked if we were all right. " You
won't get out of there for two or three hours," he said.
" You anchored too far in."
We gave him a cup of coffee and he helped us free our
dinghy, which was balancing on the barnacles. He was
in a punt, and we followed him back to where, just round
the point to the south, was another bay with his float
connected with the shore, and his fish-boat tied up.
He took us up to meet his wife. On the way we passed
a frame-house—a regular cottage with windows, doors,
a verandah and chimney. Just as someone else might
have pointed out another house on their property and
mentioned casually, " This is our guest-house," the old
fisherman said, " this is our hen-house." It was full of
hens—a hundred and fifty White Leghorns occupying a
four-room cottage. They all crowded to the screened
windows to watch us pass.
" Here comes the missus," he said. I turned ... down
the hill came a stout, grey-haired, elderly woman with
an ox-goad in her hand, followed by two oxen pulling a
stone-boat with a water-barrel on it. When she saw us,
she turned and faced the oxen, said something to them
and they stopped.
Only they weren't oxen, they were cows. They were
heavy, thick-set animals. They looked like small oxen
and had rings in their noses. They gave milk, and cream
and butter, and worked four hours a day when needed.
They hauled the barrel to the well for water, carted all
the wood for the winter from the forest, and ploughed and
harrowed the garden. I had never seen cows working like
this before, but the old man said it was quite usual on the
small farms in Norway. They could be worked up to four
hours a day without affecting the milk supply.
His wife was very Scotch and full of energy. They had
a large garden with all kinds of vegetables and about half
an acre of strawberries, protected from the birds with old
fish-nets. The strawberries were just ripening, in the
beginning of August, almost six weeks later than the south
of the Province.   They had a good market for what they
could produce in the summer, as well as eggs and milk all
the year round. I wondered where on earth their customers
lived in this land of apparently no habitation. There was
the Mission, but the rest of the customers lived at distances
from fifteen to twenty miles away—in logging camps, or
the cannery half-way up Knight Inlet, and the store over
in Black-fish Sound. If the customers couldn't get to
them, the old man in the fish-boat would deliver to them on
his way to the fishing-grounds. They always had orders
ahead for strawberries.
We lay at their wharf for three days, waiting for the
wind to drop. We bought milk and cream, vegetables and
eggs ; and helped them pick crates of strawberries in
return for all we could eat ourselves. This was an unheard-
of luxury on board our boat. There were various places
that we hacl got to know, over the summers, where we
could get fresh vegetables—but strawberries and cream !
One afternoon, one of the missionary ladies walked over
the trail from the Indian village and had tea with us. We
all sat under the trees, up on the mound overlooking the
wharf. She was a most interesting woman, and broad-
minded. She had been at the village for years, and was
in charge of the little hospital. She and her companion
were both English—I think the Mission itself was English,
She had many tales—there had been one old woman in
the village who was slowly dying. She kept saying, " Me
want Maley, me want Maley " over and over again. No
one understood what or who it was she wanted. Even
the other Indians didn't seem to know. Suddenly this
missionary had a brainwave. She looked through all the
old books and magazines she had—until she found a
picture of the Virgin Mary. She pasted it on a piece of
cardboard and took it over* to the old Indian.
" You should have seen that old woman's face, as she
whispered f Hail Mary '," said the Protestant missionary-
adding, " I was glad to have made her happy."   As far as
the Mission knew, there had been no Catholic priests in
the district for over eighty years. These Kwakiutl
Indians had resisted missionaries and civilisation much
longer than the other tribes on the coast. The old woman
might have been captured from some other tribe.
" But it's discouraging at times," said the missionary.
For just when, with the help of the nursing and the
religious teaching, they thought they had the feet of the
village well on the road to civilisation, they would come
across something that made them realise that, below the
surface, the Indian trails were still well-trodden. One
winter's day they saw some strange Indians arrive in the
village by dug-out. Ceremonies were held that night in
the big community house. The sounds of long speeches,
singing and the rhythmic beating of drums came down
the wind—all night.   In the morning the strangers left.
Inquiring cautiously, she was told that it was the
ceremony of ' The paying-of-the-tribute-money.' The
visitors came from a little village up on big Gilford Island.
Once it had been a large village, with a powerful chief.
But the Indians of Mamalilacula, forty years before, had
raided it and killed and burnt and plundered. They had
lost many of their own warriors in the raid, and for that,
the little village, which had never recovered, still had
to pay tribute or blood-money to their conquerors—the
village of Mamalilacula.
The missionaries had tried to tell the people in the
village that it wasn't Christian to keep on exacting tribute
all these years. But they could do nothing—the strange
Indians still appeared every winter. She didn't know
how much they had to pay, or what the tribute was. The
old men of the tribe would not talk about it any more.
It was a closed book, as far as she was concerned.
She asked us to walk back over the trail to see the
village and the mission. It was a lovely walk through
the tall hemlock.   The path was wide and well trodden ;
for it led also to the Indian Anchorage, which the Indians
used in winter for their fishing-boats. All the Indians
were away now, only the sick people and the old ones
were left behind in the summer-time. Captain Vancouver
and his officers, in 1792, had never understood all the
deserted villages. They thought the people must have been
killed off by battles or plagues—whereas they were just
following their usual custom of going off for the summer,
as they still do.   These old villages are their winter villages.
Miss B. said she had done her best to have the young
Indian girls learn the ancient arts from the old women of
the tribe, but none of them were interested. She took us
over to a small house to look at some fabric that an old
woman was making. She was the only one left in the
tribe who knew how—and the art would die out with her.
Miss B. did not know what it was called : she had never
seen any like it before.
We didn't see the old Indian working—she was sick that
day—but we did see her work. ... In the Kwakiutl
village of Mamalilacula, on the west coast of British
Columbia, this old, old woman of the tribe was making
South Sea Island tapa cloth out of cedar roots. The cloth
was spread across a heavy wooden table—a wooden mallet
lying on top of it.
I am not quite sure how tapa cloth is made. But I
believe they soak the roots in something to soften them—
lay them in a rough pattern of dark and light roots, and
then pound them with a wooden mallet into paper-thin,
quite tough cloth.
The early explorers used often to winter in the South
Seas, and at times had some of the islanders on board
their boats on these coasts. There must be some kind of
a connection somewhere. Even the liquid sound of the
name of this village, Mamalilacula, is more like the
language of those far-away islands than it is of most of
the Kwakiutl dialects.
  Knight Inlet
It was still blowing too hard for us to start on the long
Knight Inlet trip, but it was time I got my crew back on
camp fare. We had all just finished making up my mind
that, unless the weather changed, we would go on up to
Kingcome Inlet in the morning, when we sighted a ketch
working in towards the Indian Anchorage. The old
fisherman hurried up onto the bluff and waved them
round towards his wharf. The ketch went about, hauled
down her sails, then ' putted ' into the wharf and tied up
beside our boat.
We knew the people, and they were going up Knight in
the morning. Weather that was too windy for our boat
was just perfect for the ketch. Before the evening was
over, it was all settled that we should transfer our sleeping-
bags to the ketch and make the trip together. We could
leave our boat tied up just where it was.
We were under way by eight o'clock—with engine.
Out by Elliott Pass and War Bluff to take advantage of
the tide, which would be quite a consideration for the
first ten miles or so. The ketch was about thirty-seven
feet. With the four youngsters they already had on board,
and my three, we were full up but still comfortable.
We had hardly cleared Battle Point when the morning
wind caught up with us, and with it some quite unexpected
fog—soft and rolling. It would roll down the open
channels in great round masses—hesitate for an island, and
then roll over it and on. It would fill up all the bays—
searching and exploring. It came on board and felt us
all over with soft, damp fingers, and we hoisted our sails
and fled before it. We escaped before we were very far
past Protection Point, and left it rolling up Thomson
Sound to see what it could find up there.
Then the sun came up over the mountains, and the wind
increased until we were making six or seven knots running
before it—quite fast enough if you want to enjoy the
surroundings and not give all your attention to the
sailing. Soon though, it was impossible to forget the
sailing on Knight—which writhes along through the
mountains like a prehistoric monster. With every next
mountain or valley, the wind took a completely different
direction. The big sail would jibe across with a
1 wha-a-am.' We would no sooner get it settled on that
side when j wha-a-am ' back it would go again.
A little farther on, the wind blew harder, but it was
steadier. The mains'l, which had been hauled down, was
hoisted again. The mountains grew higher and higher, and
gossiped together across our heads. And somewhere down
at their feet, on that narrow ribbon of water, our boat
with the white sails flew swiftly along, completely dwarfed
by its surroundings.
We slopped badly in a beam sea when we turned into
Glendale Cove, and some of the crew felt a little squeamish.
But we were soon out of it and tied up to a wharf inside
a boom-log. We intended to spend the night there, for
as far as we knew there would be no other anchorage until
we were near the head. A little later, watching the big
white combers rolling white and wild up the inlet, we
decided that any sailing for pleasure up Knight had better
be done in the morning.
There is a salmon cannery in Glendale. While we were
there a packer came in with a load of fish. The manager
invited us up to watch operations. Most of the operators
were Indian women. We watched the fish leap from the
packer onto the endless belt, onto the moving tables where
the Indian women waited with sharp knives, and then into
the tins, in an unbelievably short time. So fast that you
still seemed to sense some life in the labelled tins. . . . We
rowed up to the little river at the end of the cove, and
had some warm fresh-water swimming. There was
supposed to be a lake, but we couldn't find the trail.
We left Glendale at five-thirty next morning. As we
had hoped, Knight still slept. Great clouds hung low and
white, tucking him in like a great downy comforter—and
we tip-toed past in the quiet, grey dawn.
Knight Inlet averages about one and a half miles in
width. Jervis Inlet about a mile. The mountains are
about the same height in each—but Knight gives you an
entirely different impression. It is bolder, the reaches are
shorter. You no sooner get well started on one reach than
a stupendous mountain, sitting on a great cape, shoulders
you aside without any apology. You stagger across to the
other side, only to be just as rudely shoved back the other
way. The mountains in Knight don't just line your way
—they block it. Perhaps it was because I was on someone
else's boat and not my own, but I have never felt so insignificant, anywhere on the coast, as I did in Knight
Then gradually, one by one, the snowy peaks tossed the
clouds aside and raised their shining heads to watch us
pass, turning, as we did, to show new beauties of some
different facet. Then a light breeze drifted up the inlet
and made varied patterns on the quiet water. We set our
sails, which gradually filled, and helped to carry us gently
forward. Long shafts of sunlight crept through the
valleys to strike the opposite snow-capped peaks. Down
. . . down . . . the shafts slowly dropped and spread
. j . then caught and held our white sails. We stretched
cold, stiff limbs ; the mist rose off our dripping decks and
canvas ; we shouted, and the sleepy crew streamed up on
deck to greet the sun.
We had cups of hot tea to warm us up. Then sat there in
the sun, watching reach after reach unfold, to reveal something still more lovely. When it became apparent that
it was going to be after lunch before we reached Cascade
Point, where we were to look for twin waterfalls, we
cooked our breakfast and ate it on deck.
The great blocky bulk of Tsukolat and Cascade Points
thrust themselves out . . . and out. We were too close
to see the six-thousand-foot mountain that lay behind.
Then just past Cascade Point the Twin Falls leapt into
view, divided from each other by a sharp ridge of rock.
There was no place there to anchor ; but three or four miles
farther on, in Glacier Bay, there was a small logging camp.
We tied up behind their boom. The children spent the
next couple of hours playing in a spur of snow that came
right down to the water's edge. Glacier Peaks lie behind
the bay—two or three miles inland. I think the spur of
snow must be where the old glacier has retreated. Early
records mention it as down to the sea. We could have
stayed where we were for the night, but when we asked
the loggers about possible anchorages, they told us of a
place just beyond Grave Point, on the opposite side of the
inlet where a valley cuts the mountain. It is marked
forty fathoms, no bottom, on the chart; but they told us
that, in the left-hand corner, we would find a little beach
and creek, with anchorage in ten fathoms.
We found everything just as they had said. That evening we built a great beach-fire on the shore of Ah-nu-ha-ti
Valley, and watched the light die off the purple mountains
with the white tops on the opposite shore.
We had decided on another early morning run, unwilling to miss the sight of Knight asleep, and Knight
awaking. ... So we left the shores of Ah-nu-ha-ti Valley
and crept out past Transit Point, with Mount Lang and
Mount Dunbar white and cold in the sky above us. Then,
quite suddenly, we were in glacial water—and we slipped
over a sea as dense as milk, which hid all beneath us.
Captain Vancouver in his diary speaks again and again of
the milky water they encountered at the ends of the inlets.
They made many guesses, but never the right one.   We
slowed down a little . . . gave the capes a little more
room.   There was nothing else we could do.
Then, still surrounded by the early mists, for it was too
soon for the sun to top those sleeping mountains, we
slipped into Wah-shi-las Bay for breakfast. Afterwards
we landed on the wide sand-flats to stretch our legs. A
rather extraordinary place for sand-flats to be. Great
rocky Hatchet Point to the north, and Indian Corner to
the south. Two miles inland, and centred in the middle
of Wah-shi-las Bay, Mount Evans rises up in a perfect
cone to seven thousand feet—the upper three thousand
covered with snow. Although you cannot see it, it is
joined by a narrow hog's-back to another peak directly
behind it—the same shape and same height. The
drainage from that double mountain must sweep the
sand out through the bay, and then drop suddenly into
those milky depths.
To reach the more solid sand we had to wade through
one of those glacial streams—so cold that we were numb
to the knees. We raced to get warm, our bare feet sinking
into the soft damp sand. Suddenly, beside our footprints,
we spied a great webbed footprint. . . . Robinson Crusoelike, we stared—then a great goose, with a loud ' honk-
honk,' flew out of the reeds and flopped down some yards
away. We chased it with outstretched hands-—again and
again it flew and flopped—and again and again we chased
it. . . . All at once it dawned on us that we were doing
exactly what she wanted us to do—and we ran back to
find her brood.
' Honk-honk!' warned the mother goose, and not a
gosling stirred.
There was no hurry—it was only ten or twelve miles
up to Dutchman's Head, which, as far as that deep-keeled
boat was concerned, was the end of the inlet. We could
either stay near Dutchman's Head for the night or come
back to Wah-shi-las Bay to get a good start down the
inlet in the morning. We would be bucking wind the
whole way down.
When we got well out beyond Hatchet Point we could
see the sun shining on the great glaciers that stretched
towards the east. The still larger one to the west was
obscured by high mountains. We could see nothing much
below the surface of the water, and when the look-out in
the bow called out " Dead-head! " we had to slow to a
crawl. Dead-heads are big logs, almost water-logged, that
float straight up and down. Many of them have a couple
of feet showing above water, but just as many are floating
a foot or so below the surface. They can rip a bottom
out, or tear a propeller off. This last reach was full of
them ; and also with great stumps that floated with their
roots all spread out like tentacles.
We ' putted' along, barely moving, with four lookouts
up in the bow, and gradually worked our way across to
Dutchman's Head. It was too deep to anchor, so we tied
on to a dead-head that seemed fairly stationary. We were
at once attacked by starving deer-flies—something like
horse-flies, but bigger, and grey in colour with pointed
wings. You could kill them on your legs at the rate of one
a second. We had to eat our lunch below—on deck there
was not a chance to get a bite in.
We had a parcel for the people who lived near Dutchman's Head—the only white inhabitants of the region.
They had lived there for years and the man was a well-
known guide and trapper. So we landed all the youngsters
on the flats of Ah-ash-na-ski Valley, then rowed over to
the new log-cabin. I could see the children racing round
waving bunches of reeds—evidently the flies were bad in
there too.
The cabin was delightfully dark and cool after the
glare and heat outside, and it was well screened. They
told us that the flies only lasted six weeks, and were
over by the time the hunting season began.    But up
in the mountains there were no flies anyway, just down
in the valley.
The talk turned to hunting, and then naturally to
grizzlies, which abounded and promptly killed any other
animals they tried to keep. The man offered to put us up
a tree later, where we could safely watch them feeding
below. No, he had never heard of grizzlies climbing trees,
their claws were too long. Every afternoon about four
o'clock half a dozen of them and some cubs came down to
the flats to catch fish and feed.
" Funny thing," he said, " they never seem to go for
women or children—they don't pay any attention to my
wife, but as soon as they see me they come straight for me
—they don't like men."
" What flats do they come to at four o'clock ? " we
He pointed.   " Along there, at Ah-ash-na-ski Valley."
We got hurriedly to our feet and looked at watches. It
was now almost half-past three. The boys we had left on
the flats ranged from fourteen down to five. Just when
did a grizzly consider that a boy had reached man's
estate ? Was four o'clock the same on a sunny day as it
was on a dull day ? Or did it just depend on when the
bears felt four-o'clockish, and simply had to have their
tea ? Our reactions were simple and to the point ... we
rowed wildly to the rescue, our shouts drowned in the
roar of the streams. Not a single child paid any attention
to us. I transhipped the others to the ketch to start
the engine and follow—the dinghy would not hold
It wasn't until I ran right up to the children that they
heard me; they were busy examining the huge spoor of
those same chivalrous grizzlies that never touched women
or children, but always made for the men. I explained in
a hurry—and we reached the dinghy all at the same time.
No one would go back for a fine they had left under the
tree, and nobody breathed quite properly until we were
safely on board the ketch.
We made a hurried tea before we faced the dead-heads
and the flies. The tracks of the bears grew longer and
longer as the children told the story and argued.
" Look ! Look ! " they shrieked, and we scrambled up
on deck after them.
There under the tree on the flat were five big bears—
twice the size of black bears—and three small cubs—all
smelling the footprints the children had made under the
trees . . . lifting and swinging their noses high in the
air . . . trying to trace where the intruders had gone.
" Whose been stepping on my sand ? " growled John.
And all the youngsters took up the cry, and the bears came
closer and looked at us.
The trip down Knight was wearing but uneventful as
far as Ah-nu-ha-ti Valley, where we were thankful to
creep into the little bay and get out of the wind. Once
more our fire at night lighted up the surrounding cliffs
and water with its flickering flames. And once more the
sense of humility at the feet of the reaching mountains.
We left at six in the morning, hoping to get to Glendale
before the worst of the wind got up. It always blows up
Knight in the summer, gathered and funnelled in from the
open Pacific. But the wind had similar ideas about an
early start, and before long our small engine could only
push the heavy boat at a poor three knots—pounding into
the seas, the spray flying high. Finally we put up the jib
and mizzen to steady us, losing time but gaining in comfort. Then the engine sputtered . . . and died. There
was little or no room to tack, with every shore a lee-shore
and no possible anchorage. One of us tried to keep the
boat in mid-channel, while we drifted backwards or stood
still under the two little fluttering sails. After a long, long
time the trouble was diagnosed—and once more we fought
our way along.
It was rolling high and white when we reached the more
open stretch off Glendale. After struggling ahead for a
while to get a better slant, we tacked into the bay under
a reefed mainsail. It was three o'clock before a very wet
and weary crew lowered the sail and moved in behind the
Once more we left at six o'clock—the wind too. At eight,
uncertain of our engine which was acting up, we took
shelter behind a log-boom which was also taking shelter
behind an island. At five o'clock in the evening it began to
rain and the wind dropped a little. We started off again
hoping to get to Minstrel Island for the night. But at
dusk, wet and cold, we thankfully crept into Tsa-ko-nu
Cove, in behind Protection Point. We anchored and
stumbled below to get dry and fed, only to hear a shout
that the anchor was dragging.
There were no waves in there—but it was low land
behind, leading through to a bay on another channel, and
the wind blew right through and we dragged right out of
the bay. Twice we dragged—the bottom was evidently
round stones from the creek at the head. Then we put
down the big eighty-pound kedge and got some rest.
It was good to see our own little boat again and to find
her safe, but rather smaller than I remembered. . . .
Knight would have been a little tough in her.
Fog on the Mountain
I suppose it is the confined quarters of a boat and the
usually limited amount of standing room on shore that
makes the idea of walking or climbing so enticing. Which,
being so enticing, makes one completely forget that the
same cramped quarters are hardly good training for
mountain cHmbing.
John, for two or three years, was a complete ball and
chain. I suppose I must have walked miles with him
astride my hip, on more or less level trails. It was the
time in between—when he was too heavy for my hip, but
not big enough to attempt the longer hikes or climbs, that
we were most tied to the beach.
One September we bribed John to stay behind at sea
level with some friends, and five of us set off to climb six
or seven thousand feet up behind Louise Inlet. We
planned to stay on top over one night, so each of us had to
carry a blanket or sleeping-bag, plus a share of the provisions. The last we cut to a minimum—tea, as being
lighter than coffee ; rye-tack lighter than bread ; beans,
cheese, peanut butter—the least for the most. Even
then, half-way up we would all have gladly slept without
blankets and starved until we got back. A pack certainly
takes the joy and spring out of climbing.
A mile, I believe, is 5,280 feet. If you climb 5,280 feet
you are not going to be on top of a mountain of that height.
Our first point was a small trappers' cabin at 600 feet.
It was at the end of a skid-road that sloped up fairly
gradually from sea level. I am sure that it was nine times
600 feet before we sank panting beside the cabin, and it
seemed breathlessly hot there, in the middle of the tall
trees. We drank from a running stream, we bathed our
faces and arms in it, and bathed our feet in it while we
emptied the earth and gravel out of our running-shoes.
j Doc,' who led the party because he knew the way to the
top and had carried by far the heaviest pack, sat there
deploring the idea of our water-logging ourselves. The
man off a yacht, who had come to go half-way with us to
take pictures, spoke longingly of lunch. But Doc pointed
out that lunch-time and the half-way mark was not until
we reached the cliff where the black huckleberry patch
was. That we knew perfectly well. We had all been as
far as the huckleberry patch—but never with packs on
our backs.
We made fresh blazes on some of the trees as we moved
on—double blazes at some of the turns. The man off the
yacht was going back by himself, and it was not good
country to be lost in.
At long last—at 4,000 feet—we climbed the f chimney '
and sank exhausted beside the huckleberry patch. We
boiled a billy for tea, and ate the sandwiches that the
yachtsman had carried for the first meal. There were not
many huckleberries left. A little late in the season, but
I thought, judging by the broken branches, that the bears
had been feeding on them.
Doc warned the man off the yacht against attempting
any short-cuts on the way back—there just were none.
Then we shouldered our packs, said good-bye to him, and
started climbing.
Doc had been up once before, so knew the general
direction we had to take. He was looking out for a
diagonal stretch of red granite—an intrusion in the midst
of the grey granite. If we could find it—and we had to
find it—it would lead us up the next two thousand feet.
After some false starts, and having to retrace our steps,
we spotted a cairn of stones. Doc identified it as the place
where we had to begin angling up towards the beginning
of what he called t Hasting Street.' We could see that
if we didn't angle we would get involved with cliffs
ahead. Once on Hasting Street we would start angling
back in the opposite direction.
It was time for another cup of tea before we finally came
out on Hasting Street. We had spent the last couple of
hours scrambling up and down and over . . . and up
again. Cliffs above us and cliffs not far below us. Then
suddenly, in the midst of the tall mountains, we came out
on an almost civilised highway—a strip of smooth red
granite stretching up at a forty-five degree angle. It was
perhaps thirty feet wide, with a gutter of running water
over on the left side.   The road itself was smooth and dry,
with no obstructions. It was the uniformity of its width
that was its most arresting feature—after you recovered
from the shock of its being there at all.
We drank from the gutter, we bathed our tired feet, we
lay down on the hot rock in the sun. . . . All but Peter,
who ran up and down, sailed scraps of paper in the gutter,
and raced down the smooth granite to intercept them
below. The resiliency of small boys always astonishes
me—they are either awake and in constant motion or else
asleep and unconscious—nothing in between.
The Doc looked at his watch, and remarked that it was
still a long way from the top—and it was now almost five
o'clock. Far down below, the sun would have left the
little inlet. But up here it still shone on our bent backs,
and a blast of hot air came up from the rock as we toiled
along. The calves of our legs stretched and stretched . . .
the soles of our running-shoes got hotter and hotter—and
we could feel the skin on the soles of our feet cracking and
curling. We would stop for any excuse at all . . . and
then trudge, trudge again. . . . Doc started zigzagging,
and we all followed. That cut the angle in half, but
lengthened the distance. However, it did help our
laboured breathing.
Then the peaks of the mountains came into sight ahead
of us . . . then the snow-filled gullies . . . and our tiredness was forgotten. Towards the west, as far as we could
see, there was one vast expanse of snow, dotted with
snowy peaks poking through. We were level with it all,
and couldn't see the valleys and ravines that must cut
down between the peaks. It was easy to imagine putting
on skis and gliding across the snow-field the whole way to
Desolation Sound. But we knew that quite close on that
snow-field it was possible to step off the mile-high cliff and
fall straight down to the inlet below. We knew that, if
we followed the ridge we were now standing on to the
south-east, it would lead us over to Potato Valley and on
down in the Queen's Reach of Jervis Inlet. A prospector
had told us of trips he had had up on the ridges that skirted
the ravines. There were mountain sheep that followed
the ridges from valley to valley—hunting the green leaves
and grass. And the grizzlies followed—hunting the sheep.
He told us of one night, a couple of ridges over from where
we were now, when he had barricaded himself in a cave,
with his rifle across his knees—and two grizzlies had
prowled outside all night, standing up and drumming on
their huge chests, the way gorillas do. He hadn't exactly
enjoyed that night—then he put his hand in his pocket and
pulled out samples of quartz flaked with gold, and pure
white quartz crystals that they use in optical instruments
—it was for these that he followed the ridges.
The peak above us, on which the summer sun shone all
day, was dull, grey granite—but the snow lay about its
feet like a slipped garment. Looking south, we were on
the north side of all the dozens of peaks over towards
Desolation Sound—and the sides towards us were fully
clad in white, without any hope of ever melting. The
autumn snows must already be falling on them at times.
We had a snowball battle but the snow was coarse and
granular and didn't hold together well. The sun left us
suddenly, and we were cold and tired. Doc suggested
that we find a place for the night and get some food
inside us.
It took some time to find a place—among the moss in a
more or less level place. We collected little twigs from
some kind of scrub mountain plant, to try to get warm.
But the twigs didn't have any warmth in them. We were
so thankful that Doc had insisted on adding a primus to
his load. We heated a couple of tins of beans, and a billy
of water for tea.   Food made everyone feel warm again.
But a camp is not a camp without a fire. It was getting
too dark and cold to do any exploring, so we decided to
turn in at once and get up early to do our exploring, and
take pictures when the sun first hit the opposite mountains. It would only take half a day to get back to the
Whatever made us think that one blanket each would
keep us warm ! Doc had the large eiderdown fining of a
sleeping-bag. It opened out full—and he and Peter
decided to double up—Peter's blanket under them, and
the sleeping-bag over them. The two girls found a hollow
and filled it with moss—then curled up there together,
under two blankets. I was left looking at my one blanket.
None of us undressed—we put on all we had. But sweaters,
shirts and shorts are not very much. Everybody except
me seemed to settle down, and the deep breathing of
unconsciousness soon rose from the smaller mound.
I got colder and colder. ... I couldn't feel my feet at
all. I made plans. I waited until heavier breathing from
underneath the eiderdown sleeping-bag indicated that
Doc was finally off; then stealthily I crept closer.
Cautiously I felt for the edge of the sleeping-bag, listening.
. . . Steady deep breathing from Doc. I could count on
Peter not to waken—small boys never do. I pushed him
over against Doc and crept in, dragging my blanket after
me. Oh, the blessed warmth of Peter's small hollow in the
moss . . . the blessed heat of his small back! Nobody
stirred—nobody dreamt that an iceberg had slipped in to
spend the night.
I was wakened in the morning by something dripping
on my face. I put a hand out cautiously, thinking that
someone was playing a joke . . . but the whole sleeping-
bag was soaking wet. I opened my eyes—it was lightish,
so it must be almost morning . . . but I couldn't see a
thing. We were engulfed in a thick, wet blanket of fog—
on a mountain-top, a long way from home. Then I heard
the sound of the primus being pumped, and I called out to
Doc, who certainly wasn't in the sleeping-bag—and neither
was Peter.   Doc's face appeared wreathed in white mist,
looking wet and worried; Peter's bursting with excitement—real adventure, lost on a mountain-top.
Doc, I could see, was really worried. Unless we could
manage to find Hasting Street, we wouldn't be able to get
down off the mountain. We only had enough food for two
meals, and no way of keeping warm. We drank the hot
tea, warming our hands on the hot mugs, and scrunched a
piece of rye-tack. Doc thought it would be better to pack
up at once and start down, then eat later. We rolled up
the dripping blankets and sleeping-bag in long rolls and
hung them round our shrinking necks.
Then, hand in hand, not daring to lose contact with
each other, we inched along hoping we had come that way
when we were looking for a camping spot. We couldn't see
a thing ; there was nothing familiar underfoot. You could
see the person whose hand you held—like some fellow
spirit—but not the one beyond. I thought we were
probably working too far to the right and towards the
peaks—in our fear of bearing too far to the left and the
cliffs. How slow were our uncertain feet; so reluctant,
yet so eager!
Then, suddenly, out of the mist on the right, Jan called
out, " Here is the snow ! " and added a second later with
a shout. " And here are our footprints ! " Doc questioned
us closely on whether any of us had walked in the snow
after the snowball fight—nobody had, we were sure. Then
he said that he knew now just about where Hasting Street
was. We would have to risk bearing farther to the left
or there would be a danger of passing it. Hanging tight
to each other we strung along.
t Here it is, I think ! " shouted Doc. We couldn't see
him, and his voice sounded all woolly and blanketed.
We crawled up to him and cautiously spread out in a
line to the right. There it was . . . we thought. One
end of the line searched for and found the gutter, and
then we were sure.
We had ideas of a quick walk down the next two thousand
feet of altitude in next to no time. Doc was the first to
sit down with a bang before we had even started. Then
my feet shot ahead of me, and I sat there jarred to the
teeth. Dry granite was evidently one thing ; wet granite
was quite another. It might as well have been ice, to
anyone in running-shoes. We had to sit and slide or else
walk in the stream the whole 2,000 feet—of altitude, not
linear feet. It took us over three hours. We still couldn't
see more than three or four feet ahead of us—enough
perhaps to keep us from stepping over a precipice, but not
enough to give us any sense of direction. Then Hasting
Street came to an end.
By far the most difficult part was getting from the end
of Hasting Street to the place of the rock cairn. Coming
up, it had been tough enough, the scrambling up and over
and down—cliffs above us and precipices below us. But
now we couldn't see where the cliffs were, or how close the
drops—it was nerve-racking.
We stopped for ten minutes' rest. Doc broke off a
chunk of cheese for each of us to keep us going. As we
sat there, on boulders, young Peter picked up a stone and
lobbed it into the fog. It disappeared . . . but didn't
land. . . . Seconds later, we heard it land a long way
below. Peter sat down suddenly and held on. We were
not more than ten feet from the edge of that drop. Doc
felt fairly sure that we had either missed the cairn, or
were within a hundred feet of it. There had been only one
sheer drop as deep as the sound of that stone between the
cairn and Hasting Street. We tried it again with stones,
and counted the seconds until they hit. It still didn't tell
us which side of the cairn we were on—but it did tell us
that there was a four-hundred-foot drop.
We couldn't leave each other to scout ahead, but we
tried to estimate the number of feet we covered now.
Also we put stones on top of the rocks so that we could
find our way back to the cliff—if we decided that we had
already passed the cairn where we should make a turn.
" There it is ! " a woolly voice cried. It was six feet to
the right. In shrinking away from the cliffs, we had
almost overshot our marker.
The fog thinned momentarily, as though we had done
our bit so it would help a little. Doc plunged ahead, with
the rest of us like a comet tail behind him, seizing the
chance to locate the huckleberry patch. That would mark
the chimney we had to climb down towards the trap-line
with the blazes. Finally there was a shout from Doc—
there they were, and there was the chimney. The fog
closed down again before we quite got to it. Again we held
hands, and advanced cautiously towards where we had
spotted it. One by one we took off into space, with the
horrible thought that it could be the wrong chimney. We
hung on tooth and nail, dislodging stones and earth in our
urgency. Another shout from Doc—there was a tree . . .
there was a blaze—we were safe.
We got out the primus, and while we were waiting for
the water to boil we wrung out the sleeping-bag and
blankets again. We munched bully-beef and rye-tack,
and finished up with peanut butter. Then we sank as deep
as we could in our mugs of hot tea.
Two thousand perpendicular feet below we came out into
bright sunshine. Two thousand feet more and we were
back at the wharf. Nobody had been worrying about us
at all. It was just another lovely day, down in the inlet.
We made our squishing way to the dinghy and back to
Trapper's Rock. There we fell into the sea—clothes and
all. How warm the water felt, how hot the last rays of
the Louise sun!
We cooked ourselves a great pan of bacon and eggs—
a big pot of coffee, and great spoonfuls of honey on top of
peanut butter and crackers. Enjoyment is always greatest
when you have enough contrast to measure it by.
Speaking of Whales
Where do you come from ? Where are you going ? I
would wave a vague hand behind me. " Oh, from the
south," I would say evasively, or, " Oh, just up north—
nowhere in particular."
What did it matter to anyone where we went ? We
ourselves usually had some idea where we intended to go.
But we seldom stuck to our original intentions—we were
always being lured off to other channels.
Sometimes that wasn't our fault. One summer we
seemed to be beset with whales. Northern waters were a
little strange to us then ; and so were the particular kind
of whale they had up there. We were used to the killer-
whales, which we often saw in southern British Columbia—
they were black with the white oval splash that looked
like an eye, and they were white underneath. They also
had high spar-fins, sometimes four feet in height. You
seldom saw them alone—they went around in packs. They
would go charging through the narrow pass at home—
blowing and smacking their tails. " Killers in the pass,
killers in the pass," the children would shout, from here
and there. And everyone would race down to Little
Point to count them through.
The ones we saw up north were grey, or perhaps a dirty
white—and very big, twice as long as our boat. They
often lazed around on the surface, just awash, and blew
huge spurts of air and water up into the air. You would
see the spurt, and then have to wait until the noise reached
you—something like a pile of bricks falling slowly over—
and the sound would echo from cliff to cliff, until it
whispered itself out.
They would patrol backwards and forwards . . . backwards and forwards . . . across some inlet we wanted to
go  up . . . and we  would meekly  turn back.    They
 speaking of whales 125
didn't appear to be feeding—just pacing the water.
Perhaps they were waiting for their babies to be born—
which is rather a critical proceeding. For when the baby
is born into the water, the mother whale has to put her
flipper round it and rush it to the surface to take its first
breath, or else it will drown. Then it has to be initiated
into the business of nursing. The two nipples are up near
the bow of the whale, just behind the head. The nursing
is probably, in the beginning anyway, a near-the-surface
operation. The baby whale does not exactly suckle. It
takes the nipple in its mouth, and the mother ejects a huge
supply of milk into the baby in one blow—and that is all
for another half-hour, when the procedure is repeated.
That same summer, going back by Johnson Straits on
our way south, we were overtaken by a whole pack of
killer-whales. We didn't hear them coming—they were
just suddenly there, on all sides of us, big ones and little
ones—all just playing. There must have been about
twenty of them—chasing, diving, ducking and rolling with
tremendous slaps of their tails. When you see the spar-fin
of a big killer breaking water, it is like seeing the mast of a
fishing-boat appearing from behind a swell on the sky-line.
The biggest of these were around thirty feet, with a fin
four or five feet in height. When one of them breaks
water the head comes up first; then it submerges and the
spar-fin rolls up. Just as the fin disappears, a flange of
the tail rolls into sight, looking like another fin, but smaller.
Then with a tremendous smack of the tail, the whale
But this pack were not travelling, they were playing—
putting in time. One of the big ones chased or pushed a
smaller one straight up in the air, clear of the water ; and
its chaser followed, out to the shoulders. One of them
surged straight for the shore when chased. He hit the
shallow water with a force that stood him straight up on
his head—a great bleeding gash showing on one side.   He
fell back and somehow managed to struggle back into deep
water. Our fears increased after that. There was nothing
to prevent them coming up underneath our boat—quite
But we couldn't escape from them—they were between
us and the shore, and on all sides of us. We couldn't hurry,
we couldn't lag behind—they either hurried too, or else
waited for us. Mile after mile ... at last, at some unknown signal, they all dived deep at the same moment—
and the sea was quiet and empty, and our ears rang in the
stillness. When next they surfaced they were heading full
speed up a channel which, if they intended to continue
south, would take them through the Green Point Rapids.
" Do you suppose they wait for slack water ? " said
" Perhaps that's why they were just fooling round,"
suggested Peter.
" I didn't like that fooling ! " said John.
I got out the tide-book, and looked up the slack-water
tables. Slack water has not necessarily much to do with
the height of the tide. Yes, it was just half an hour before
slack water in the Green Points. If they hurried, they
could get through the Green Points, the Dent Island, and
the Yucultaws, all in the same slack. That was evidently
just what they intended to do.
I revved up the engine and we chased after them. We
couldn't hope to get the whole way through, for it was a
big run-in. But we could get through the Green Points,
and then cut in behind the Dent Islands and tie up for the
night. The fishermen there would tell us what the killers
had done.
" Don't go too fast," said John, anxiously.
" Oh, I can't catch up with them," I reassured him. We
certainly wouldn't care to be escorted through the rapids
by a school of whales.
The killers are savage things.  They normally hunt in
 speaking of whales 127
packs. But once we saw a savage fight between a lone
killer and a small grey whale—very one-sided, since the
grey whales have no teeth. The killer had chased it into
shallow water. They went round and round—in and out
among the reefs. The killer must have been taking bites
out of the grey one whenever it got close enough—the
water round them was foamy and a bright pink. Then
the grey one made a break for more open water—the killer
hot on its tail.
They turned up a blind channel—so the outcome was
not in much doubt.
Another time, near home, I was wakened in the night by
the loud tail-smacks and blowing of killers in the pass.
I could tell by the direction of the sounds that they must
have turned into the bay. The next morning the children
came running into the house to report that there was a
crowd in the cove on the other side of the bay, all gathered
round something on the beach. I took the binoculars
over to the point, but I couldn't make out what the crowd
were interested in. We piled into the canoe and paddled
Most of the crowd had gone by the time we got there.
But a group of fishermen were still standing talking
beside a small grey whale that lay on its side on the mud.
It was still alive. Every now and then it would let out a
great gusty sigh. There was a big gash in one side, but not
enough to kill it. The fishermen said they had also heard
the killers in the night; and later they had heard the
commotion in the shallows.
" The whole pack of them went ploughing right past
our boats," they said. I Evidently, they had all ganged
up on this little fellow, and chased him right in the bay,
where he got stranded."
The sun was quite hot, and there wouldn't be enough
tide to float the whale until the evening. The men were
throwing the odd pail of water over it to keep it damp.
But the poor whale sighed, as though it didn't think it
would help much. I think they are like porpoises and
have no sweat glands—without the water to keep them
cool, they over-heat. That night the fishermen put a rope
round its tail and towed it a long way out. It was still
alive, but they didn't seem to think it would survive.
Our clock is not very reliable—the tide had not quite
turned when we reached the Green Points but it had no
force left. We played the back currents, and got through
quite easily. Another twenty minutes and we could feel
the push of the current. Once we passed Phillip's Arms,
I struck across over to the north side—the current carrying
us almost as fast to the east as we made north. One of
my nightmares is having the engine stop just above the
rapids. If I didn't get in behind Dent Island we would
be swept into the worst of the rapids. A huge whirlpool
forms in the centre there, and everything is drawn into it
from all sides.
I let out my breath as we edged our way into the bay
at the back of Big Dent. We tied the boat up to a boom-
log and ran across to the other side of the island to watch
the big run-in. A couple of fish-boats were lying inside a
boom, and we went across to ask them about the whales.
" Did the killer-whales go through ? " I asked the
" Sure, about an hour ago—they always wait for slack
But they weren't sure whether they waited because they
didn't like the current, or because it was the best time to
fish. What we really wanted to know was, how the whales
knew when it would be slack water.
We sat on the cliff and watched the whirlpools forming
and moving across ; then the final hole in the middle,
swallowing up the sticks and logs. If you meet a whirlpool,
you are supposed to decide calmly which side to take it on
—one side throws you out, the other draws you in.   I
always forget at the critical moment which is which.
However, there are many local stories of boats that have
been sucked down, or had narrow escapes. One story
the people tell is of a small fish-boat whose engine had
stopped, and which was going round and round in a whirlpool. An Indian, seeing it from the shore, paddled out in
a small dug-out and took the man off—just as the boat
filled and sank.
In the Arran Rapids, which are on the other side of
Stuart Island from the Yucultaws, a Catholic priest was
being paddled through them by four Indians in a dug-out.
The priest was terrified when he saw what they were
proposing to take him through, and began to pray out
"Don't worry!" the Indians told him. "Our gods
will look after us. They always make a straight way for
us through the rapids." The priest said later that, in the
middle of all that awful turbulence, there was a straight
shining path, leading them the whole way through. When
they had safely landed him, he fell on his knees to give
thanks to God, and explained to the Indians what he was
" Uh ! " said the Indians. " We give presents to our
gods first."
The Nimkish
It was up near the Nimkish River that I whistled the
little duck to bed. John must have been very small that
summer, for I had rowed him out to the boat to put him to
bed. Friends had come over from the lumber mill to spend
the evening with us round our fire on the beach, and it
was going to be too late for such a little fellow. John was
full of tears and woe, and threats of what he was going to
do if I left him alone out there.
To divert him, I pointed to a little duck that was floating
around, all alone at dusk.
" Poor little duck—he hasn't got any mummy to put
him to bed."
" I don't care," sniffed John.
" I'll whistle to him, and tell him to come and sleep with
I started a low monotonous whistle—two short, one
long; two short, one long; over and over again. The
lonely little duck started coming slowly over towards us.
John sat up to watch.
" Don't talk," I whispered—my low monotonous
whistle would have hypnotised anything. But how did
the little duck know that it meant, 1 Come to me, come to
me ' ? He came on, right up to the boat. Still whistHng,
I slowly put my hand down and gently picked him up.
He didn't struggle—just kept murmuring his own little
monotonous triplet.
I handed him to John, who wasn't at all sure how to
manage. He had never slept with a duck before—and the
duck didn't like being covered up. John finally sighed
and passed him back to me.
" You better keep it," he suggested, and put his thumb
in his mouth—the crisis was evidently over.
I put the duck in my blazer pocket and rowed ashore.
They had all been watching and everyone was convinced
that I had strange powers. None of us was sure just what
the little duck was. It was like a sea-pigeon or guillemot,
but I don't remember red legs. The youngsters took turns
holding it for the rest of the evening. Later they fixed
it up in the row-boat for the night. In the morning, much
to John's sorrow, the little duck had gone. Jan and
Peter drove me nearly crazy for the rest of the summer
trying to whistle ducks to bed. I refused to try again—I
thought I would rest on my one success.
It was a couple of nights later, coming down below the
Nimkish, that the cougar kept prowling around and howling all night. I don't know just where we were and I
didn't know at the time. We were coming down Johnson
Straits in dense fog and with no compass. It had been
lost overboard—a painful episode, and full of tears; we
won't go into it. The straits are only a mile wide. You
would think that it would be easy to keep straight, for
that short distance, and get across. I tried twice without
success. Usually, by watching your wake, you can keep
a reasonable course. But we couldn't see our wake for
more than a couple of boat-lengths.
The last try, we started off from a fixed light on a point
—it was high and white and conspicuous, which gave us a
good start. Jan and Peter watched the wake and called
out directions, while I kept on some imaginary occult
kind of a straight line. I was just trying to decide what
effect the tide was having on us when Jan called out, " I
see trees ! "   Trees were supposed to be ahead of us.
" I s-s-ssee a lighthouse! " stuttered Peter, trying to
get it out before Jan did.
I kicked the boat out of gear, and stared at the light
looming above us . . . same height, same cliff—there
was no doubt about it, it was the same light.
So we had to give up trying to get across the strait, and
stay on the side we had started from. Later in the day,
we followed the curve of the shore into what I was afraid
might be an unwanted channel. But it turned out to be
a booming-ground, with at least four big booms tied up to
the piles. It seemed a good idea to stay right there until
we could find out where we were.
Booms are very handy, and quite all right to tie up to
for the night. But you must be willing to accept their
disadvantages as well.
Children love booms—but mustn't be allowed to play
on them. The great sections of floating logs look compact
and solid; but any one of the logs, if stepped on, might
roll over and catch you in between. Or open out a gap
and throw you into the water—then close over you again.
A log up to five feet in diameter and fifty or eighty feet
long is not a thing to fool with. Without a peavy and help
of some kind you would be practically powerless to get
a child out, if one had ever gone under the logs. Yet
booms have an irresistible attraction for children.
Wasps love them too—these yellow-and-black-striped,
lethal creatures are wonderful paper-makers. They take
mouthfuls of the wood off the logs and chew it up with their
formic acid (I suppose, I haven't looked it up in the
« Encyclopaedia Britannica,' yet). But anyway, the result
is the thin grey paper material that they build their big
hanging nets with. The queen wasp starts it off—she
being the only one that survives the winter. The start is
just a tiny grey paper thing, not any bigger than a bantam
egg. She carefully makes a certain number of cells in the
prescribed manner inside, and lays an egg in each one.
Then sits down and waits, having done the only stint of
actual labour she has to do in her whole life.
Then from each cell comes forth a worker-wasp, a ready-
made slave for the queen. She claps her hands, or her
feet, and the workers run to groom and feed her. Then
they start chewing more wood to make more cells for the
queen to lay more eggs in. As the workers increase, the
cells increase—round and round and round, and the wasps
on the booms increase. They have to eat as well . . . and
the simplest way is to come on board when they smell our
food cooking and help themselves.
Tugs love booms—they love to collect them in the middle
of the night. You are wakened up by a searchlight and
a shrill ' Toot-toot-toot.' They are just as disgusted to
see you as you are to see them. They have tied a tow-rope
onto a string of sections, each 80 feet wide by perhaps 160
feet long, and may want to take ten of them together.
There is nothing you can do, except climb out on the
slippery logs and try to get your ropes off. You have
suspended your boat half-way between the ends of a
section—the ends being the only place where there are
coupling chains to tie on to. As long as you are beside the
boat, you are all right—you can put one hand on the boat.
But after that you just have to balance, and a boom-log
in the dark seems as narrow as a tight-rope. You have
safely made about fifteen feet of it, when the tugmen
suddenly shine their searchlight on you—and you stand
there teetering—completely blinded. After a few minutes
they realise what they are doing—that it is not modesty
that is making you wave your arms round in front of your
face. The searchlight turns aside, and you make the last
ten feet and grab the ring-bolt—then untie your rope.
Once you manage to get back to the boat with the wet
slimy rope, then you can pull the boat up to where you are
tied at the other end. You just manage to get that untied
when the tug toots again, signifying that it is tired of
waiting. You spring and clamber back onto the deck and
grab a pike-pole to fend off with. They turn the spotlight on you again, and you wave to let them know you
are all clear. The whole boom moves slowly . . . out
past you . . . and you are left forsaken and drifting in
the dark. With a boat full of sleeping children it is easier
to tow the boat than start up the engine. The seat of the
dinghy is very wet, and your feet are clamped tight on a
coil of wet rope. You tow the boat slowly towards the
next boom—if there is one, or perhaps a pile that your
boom was held by.
That night, however, we had no boom troubles. We
rowed into the beach before dark. There were several big
streams and the beach was covered with smooth round
stones—loosely piled, just as they had come down with the
spring freshets. We should have liked to explore a bit,
but the fog was turning to rain; and we soon crowded
back into the boat to get dry.
It was some time during the darkest part of that dark
night that we were all suddenly jolted out of deep sleep
by the most blood-curdling yowls from the beach—like
a cat, but magnified fifty times.
" Mummy ! Mummy 1 What is it ? " called terrified
I Listen. . . ."I shu-ushed. You could hear the knock,
knock of the round stones as some soft foot trod on them.
Then again the long drawn-out yowl of a beast in
sorrow . . . calling for something he couldn't find.
Again we all shivered in terror, and again the stones
tipped and knocked.
"I'm sure it wouldn't yowl like that if it were hunting," I said, but it didn't make us feel much happier.
From one end of the beach to the other it wandered—
every now and then letting off a wail.
" Mummy ! That one was closer ! " called Jan from
her bunk in the bow. It certainly was. ... I grabbed
the flashlight and swung its beam across the boom. Two
yellow eyes . . . definitely nearer than the shore. Then
they disappeared, and once more the stones rattled. After
that I kept turning on the flash whenever the yowls
seemed closer.
I had just swung the fight along the shore when two
shots rang out—there was a strangled sort of snarl—then
the sound of men's voices. We sat for another half-hour,
listening ; and then went back to sleep.
Next morning we saw two men working on the booms
near the shore and rowed round to talk to them. It was
they who had shot the cougar in the night. They had shot
its mate two nights before, when it had killed their dog
right on the porch of their cabin, which was on the high
point at one end of the bay.
" We were glad you kept turning on your flash," they
said.   " That gave us our chance to shoot."
We had just got through Lewis Channel, between
Redonda and the north end of Cortes Island, and had
hardly worked round Bullock Point and got out of the
tide which was bothering us—when the engine stopped.
It was almost dark, nine-thirty, and we were still five
miles from the inlet on the north side of Cortes, and there
was no place else to go. I cranked and cranked, again and
again—evidently there was something really wrong. I
couldn't crank and watch the engine at the same time, so
it was hard to find out just what it was. We couldn't stay
where we were. There was just one continuous cliff and
forty-seven fathoms right off it. There was nothing else
to do but tow the boat the five miles to the inlet.
I helped John into his sleeping-bag, in spite of his pleas
that he was not sleepy ; told Jan to steer and follow the
dinghy—and took Peter with me in the dinghy. There
was a slight current with us, which might increase later if
the tide ebbed that way. It might go either way ; for
we were close to where the tides from the south met the
tides from the north. The tides in these minor channels
could easily vary in direction according to their height.
There was no use trying to hurry—we had a long pull
ahead of us. If it were not blowing at this hour, it was not
likely to later. If it did blow, it would be just too bad.
I settled down to a short steady stroke, trying not to let
the rope slacken. If it did, you took the weight suddenly
on your shoulders and neck. After two hours, I had a rest,
ate some peanut butter, and made Peter go to bed. Then,
with Jan, we looked at the chart again. We decided that
we could probably anchor in a cove where the cliff ended,
about a mile our side of the entrance to the inlet. That
would leave only about one more mile. It had taken two
hours to come less than three miles.
I told Jan to use the flash in half an hour's time to try
to pick out the end of the cliff and the beginning of the
cove. In about three-quarters of an hour she hailed me
and shone the light again for me to see for myself. That
was obviously the end of the cliff, and there was the cove
beyond. I kept on for some distance, and then turned in
at about the centre of the cove. The arms of the cove
gradually folded about us and shut out the wide sea. . . .
I let the boat gradually lose way, and sounded with a
fish-line. Two . . . three . . . four fathoms. I let the
anchor down slowly—worked my way along the side deck,
and stepped on board. Jan was already in her bunk. She
must be tired too—it was a long watch for a small girl, but
I couldn't have managed alone. I crawled into my bag
. . . could anyone as tired as I was possibly recover ?
It was nine the next morning before we woke. I looked
over the engine while I drank my second cup of coffee and
soon found out what was wrong—a pin had come out of
the coupling on the timing-shaft that ran off the magneto.
Another look at the breeze that was coming up, and I
decided that I should have to tow another mile into the
inlet. There we would be completely sheltered ; there was
a stream of fresh water, and I could take my time over the
engine. The missing pin meant that the whole inner
workings of the engine were upset. It might mean quite
a long job.
In the end it was about a two-mile tow, because I
wanted to get in as far as the stream. The tide was
flooding into the inlet, so after I limbered up a little, it
wasn't so bad. Once anchored, we got into our bathing-
suits, put all our clothes into a pool in the stream to soak,
and tumbled into the lukewarm sea water.
After lunch, the children went ashore to tread out their
clothes and get them out to dry. I went reluctantly into
the engine-room and had a tentative look at the engine.
I wasn't in any particular hurry to find out that I didn't
know how to re-time an engine. As long as I thought I
could, I was reasonably cheerful. After all, I knew the
theory of the thing. It would have been sheer madness
to take the trips on the part of the coast where we did
unless I knew something about an engine. After a lot of
thinking I decided to leave it until the next day. I was
stiff and tired with the towing, and I hadn't got to bed
until after two that morning.
We swam and fished, and caught a good-sized salmon.
We lay in the sun. We explored. Jan and Peter rowed
back, all excited, saying that they had found a salt-water
waterfall. So John and I had to row back with them to
see it too. There was about a six-foot fall, and it was
perfectly salt. It must fill at high tide. We climbed up
beside the fall, but it was impossible to explore. It just
disappeared round corners, like a meandering lake, but
salt. I think it must have had another, wider entrance
somewhere. Cortes is a very large island, with many deep
bays and gorges. On the chart, this salt-water lake is just
marked with a circle of unexplored dots. The dots would
have to remain—we couldn't explore it either.
That evening we made a fire on the sloping rocks and
ate our supper on shore. We grilled salmon steaks over
the hot bark embers, and ate without benefit of forks or
knives. It is really the only way I enjoy fish, fresh from
the sea, to the grid, and eaten round a fire on the beach.
The sparks floated up like fireflies in the quiet darkness.
Then I had to tell the children what fireflies were and
describe them. We don't have them on the Pacific coast.
A grouse was drumming on some tree or log. We had a
guessing game on what direction it was coming from.
One moment you could swear it was coming out of the
rocks you were sitting on. Then it would be somewhere
from overhead . . . then back in the woods again. It
was quite unearthly, and vaguely disturbing. When the
granite under our fire exploded with a loud bang, John
said he thought he would like to go to bed. The other
two didn't argue at all . . . we rowed out to the boat,
and the grouse drummed no more.
I lay in my bag, long after the children were asleep,
thinking about the engine. I hoped my subconscious
mind would sort it all out, in the night, better than I
I put the children ashore after breakfast with strict
orders that I was to be left alone and not interrupted.
" We wouldn't even want to," said Peter, sitting down
on a point as close to the boat as he could get—he likes
to hand me wrenches.
Engines were invented and reared by men. They are
used to being sworn at, and just take advantage of you;
if you are polite to them—you get absolutely nowhere.
The children were better on shore. Peter would soon get
tired of sitting there.
I sat on my heels, cursing softly when the wrench
slipped and took a chunk off my knuckle. Finally the
spark-plug co-operated, and came out with the porcelain
still intact. Then I stuck the screwdriver through the hole
and felt around for No. 1 piston. That piston seemed
quite inert . . . but after some turns of the flywheel it
came up on top. No. 1 valve should be either opening or
closing, I wasn't sure which. The only valve I could see
through the small hole was doing either one or the other.
Then I decided that that part of the internal workings
must be coupled together and had probably not been
upset . . . well and good.
Then I turned to the shaft where the pin had come out
of the coupling. \ Hell's bells ! ' all that bother with
No. 1 piston being on top dead centre would be wasted if
it didn't fire at that moment . . . the magneto must be
the key to the whole thing. The engine was an old four-
cylinder Kermath with a low-tension magneto. The
distributor was on the face of the magneto, and the wires
from the spark-plugs led down to the distributor. . . .
(Dots for a very long time.) Then I found that, by turning
the shaft by hand until opening of the points on the
magneto coincided with No. 1 lead, then No. 1 spark-plug
at the end of that wire—fired.
I made myself a cup of coffee and drank it while thinking
that one over—I wasn't quite ready to believe it yet. It
seemed just a little too easy to be true. Then I remembered my subconscious that had worked all night on the
subject, and I rather grudgingly gave it the credit, while
all the glory I had was a bashed knuckle. I finally committed my subconscious and me, put a nail in place of the
errant pin in the coupling, and secured it with some
electric tape. Good ! That hadn't been so hard. Everyone should know how before they go off cruising in a boat.
On the other hand, this had taken years to happen : I
might have been worrying all that time if I had known it
could happen.
I connected the battery, I turned on the switch, I
consulted my subconscious, and I pulled up the crank.
... The most awful back-fire shook the boat from stem
to stern. Looking towards the shore, I could see the
children jumping up and down and could see that they
were shouting, but I couldn't hear them. ... I switched
off and sat down limply—I was completely shattered.
I called to my agitated children to come out and have a
cup of tea. I would have to think it out before I took a
chance with another bang like that. . . . The children
looked a little dubious about coming on board at all.
John asked to see the blood—a bang is not a bang to him
unless there is blood. I showed him my knuckle, which
quite satisfied him.
Then I sorted out the jumble of things I knew about
engines . . . and of course it must have fired on the
exhaust stroke. If I turned the engine over until No. 1
came on top again, perhaps that would be the firing stroke.
No, that would still be firing on exhaust stroke. Out came
the nail again and I redid all that part. Only then did I
remember that the markings on my flywheel would have
told me quite a bit. The subconscious is all very well, but
it is sometimes not very practical.
The children fled to the safety of the shore. I put in
my rubber ear-plugs—switched on—and pulled her up.
At first I wasn't sure if anything had happened—but there
was the fly-wheel whizzing round. Then I remembered the
ear-plugs . . . there she was . . . purring away. Me
and my subconscious solemnly shook hands.
The engine is normally so well checked over in the spring
that nothing very much is likely to happen—I am sure
the pin will never come out of that shaft again. But there
is no accounting for dry batteries. The engine started on
coil ignition from a dry battery, and then I, personally,
had to switch it over to magneto. That was one of Peter's
chief duties as mate—to see that I had made the switch.
He used to get rather bored, as I hardly ever forgot. So
now and again I would pretend to and he would feel most
Then the life of dry batteries seems to vary—or I like
to think it does and so divide the blame.
We had spent two weeks poking into all the unknown
bays and inlets to the north of the approach to Knight
Inlet, checking on all the white-shell beaches, and generally
Then our bread gave out, and the sourdough that old
Mike had given me died (I forgot to feed it) and we had to
find some place for provisions. If we left in time, before
the fishermen got all the fresh provisions, we should be
able to get bread. There were only two trading stores and
gas in half a day's run—one away over off Blackfish
Sound, and the other back on Minstrel Island.
So, we packed up the boat for running.    Peter was
shortening up the dinghy rope, Jan had pulled out the
chart, and John had climbed up on the steering-seat.
" All set ? " I asked, glancing round.
I pulled the rear-starter up sharply. Again—and again
—and again. " If it isn't spark, it's gas, and if it isn't gas
it's spark." I reminded myself. I checked the gas-tank,
and the shut-off valve. I raised the float-level in the
carburettor and enriched the mixture a little. I switched
on and tried again ... so it must be spark. I took a
terminal off the battery and tried the spark . . . the most
sickly, yellow, slow spark.
" You may as well go on shore and play," I said. " The
battery is practically dead."
They looked at each other silently—and faded away.
We were at least thirty miles from where there was
any hope of finding another dry battery. There was
practically no chance of another boat passing our way—
to get a tow. We had purposely gone where we would be
by ourselves.
I put the battery out on deck in the sun. I polished the
terminals. I took out all the spark-plugs and cleaned
them. Knocked their points a little closer, and laid them all
out in the sun with the battery to get hot. I would give
everything another hour really to heat up—including the
engine-room—before I tried again.
I studied the chart—it would have been impossible to
find a more out of the way place, or a more awkward place
to try to tow a boat. By cheating a little in measuring
the course I gained three miles. But in terms of trying to
tow a twenty-five-foot boat—it didn't help much. If I
got the engine started, and made for Blackfish Sound, we
would likely strike wind. We couldn't stop and take
shelter, for I might never get started again. If we headed
for Minstrel we would strike bad tides—but it was the
only possible place to tow to ; so either way, it had better
be Minstrel.
I reached for the tide-book. Tides would have to be
worked out chiefly in relation to towing. I couldn't
possibly tow more than one tide—so there had to be a good
place to hole up for the night at the end of six hours . . .
that meant waiting here until noon. That would be
better, even if the engine started.
I called for someone to come out and get me. Then I
lay on the beach and tried to think how many hours'
rowing it would take to tow the boat thirty miles—even
with the tide. By the time the tide was at the right stage
to try the engine again, I had used up enough energy
thinking about it to have towed the boat there and
We rowed off to the boat. I rechecked everything. I
connected the hot battery—I primed each cylinder with
naphtha gas—I screwed in each hot spark-plug. Then I
pulled up hard on the crank. I Grr-r-r-r-p-p-p,' she
started, and when I hurriedly threw the switch over onto
magneto she settled down with a melodious \ pur-r-r.'
I nursed that throttle for ten minutes before I dared to
leave it long enough to pull up the anchor. If she faltered,
I should never be able to get to the throttle from the
forward deck in time.
We were all singing as we worked our way out of that
god-forsaken little hole. For the moment, I had lost my
taste for places where no one else ever went—a state of
mind begotten of a dead battery.
Old Phil
Phil Lavigne, the old Frenchman in Laura Cove, was full
of calamities when we ran in to see him in July. He had
had a bad winter. In the late fall he had something wrong
with him, and had to go into the hospital at Powel River
for a while.   Then he had to come home sooner than he
should have because the fisherman who was looking after
his place for him wouldn't stay any longer on account of
the cougars.
Then Mike's old place in Melanie Cove had been taken
over by some fellow from Vancouver.
" A city man," said Phil scornfully, " 'e didn' know 'ow
to live in country like dis—'e was scared to deaf all de
In April, fish-boats that tried to anchor close in in
Melanie Cove—the way they did in old Mike's time—
complained that someone was taking pot-shots at them.
No one was hurt, and the police were a little sceptical.
" I knowed it was de trut'," Phil said. " Dat fellow was
gettin' more crazy every day."
The climax came one day when the fellow suddenly
appeared and pushed his way into Phil's cabin, with his
rifle in his arms. Old Phil was sitting in front of the
stove, smoking. The man didn't say anything, but sat
down in a chair opposite Phil with his gun across his
knees, his finger on the trigger.
" 'is eyes were crazy," said Phil. U I fought it was de
end of me." Every time he tried to talk to the man, he
pointed the gun at him. They sat there all afternoon—
Phil smoking, but otherwise afraid to move.
Finally, the man, who had been getting more and
more agitated, said, " Phil, you won't laugh at me,
will you ? "
" My God! " Phil stuttered, " I ain't got nuttin' to
laugh about ! " and then added quietly, | I'll make up
de fire, an' you stay an' 'ave supper wid me."
The man let him get up, and he made up the fire and
put the kettle on. He continued talking quietly to him,
and the man gradually relaxed.
Phil finally decided to risk it ... he put the pot of
stew on the stove, brought an armful of wood in from
outside the door; he filled a tin with grain from a sack
under the table, said he had to feed the hens before it got
dark, and asked the man to watch the fire and stir the
Then, still talking, he opened the door and went out and
over to the hen-house. He didn't dare look back to see
if he were being watched, but once round the end of the
hen-house where he couldn't be seen from the house, he
put the tin down and took the trail to the woods at a run.
" I knowed I 'ad to get out of gun range before 'e
discovered I weren't comin' back."
He had a small mountain to climb before he could get
help from anyone. It was only a rambling goat-trail, and
it was dark when he finally stumbled into the Salter place.
The two old brothers finally interpreted Phil's French,
gasps and signs—he had no English left. The three of
them fell into the old fish-boat and didn't stop until they
reached Bliss Landing four hours later, and got in touch
with the police boat.
" An' we stayed right der until de police take 'im away,
'e was quite crazy, and now 'e's locked up for good," said
Phil, rubbing his hands.
Phil was out of tobacco, and he was drying some green
tobacco leaves over the stove—trying to hurry them up.
Long before tobacco was produced commercially in
Canada, the French habitants or farmers in the country
districts of Quebec all had their own little tobacco patch,
and grew and cured their tobacco for the winter. Phil
had brought this frugal habit with him from Quebec. He
showed us the little drying-shed he had outside, where
bunches of tobacco-leaves hung from poles, drying
A baby goat bunted me suddenly and expertly, and the
children laughed. I bunted him back with my fists and
he jumped straight up in the air and landed with his four
little black hooves bunched together.
" No more cougars, Phil ? " I asked.
He pointed to two skins nailed to the end of the woodshed, and shrugged : " Always de cougar, but worf forty-
dollar bounty."
Someone at Bliss Landing, hearing that we were going
up Toba Inlet, asked if we would leave a message for two
brothers who had a small place on Homphrey Channel,
which was on our way to Toba. We spent a couple of
days in Melanie Cove where old Mike lives, and then set
out along the shore of Homphrey to try to find the place.
The shores were very steep and rocky, and disappeared down
into the sea at the same angle—one of these no-bottom
shores. Then in a bit of a bay we saw a small float, tight
up against the shore, held off with poles. A fish-boat was
tied alongside.
We had just tied up when one of the brothers came
down to the float. I gave him the message, and as
he was very insistent, we followed him up to the hidden
We were quite unprepared for what we found. I had
thought they were probably fishermen, with a small
summer shack. But evidently they lived here all the year
round and only fished occasionally. The cabin was quite
large, and neat. Half a dozen loaves of bread, just out of
the oven, were cooling on the table, and jars there were of
fresh cherry jam. This brother did all the cooking and
kept house. We sat down for tea with him—hot bread,
honey from their own hives, butter from their goats.
Before we were finished, the other brother came bounding in—a regular dynamo of a man. I have never seen so
much seething energy in anyone. And full of what his
brother called his ' schemes.'
They showed us all over the place.   There were acres of
walnut-trees, just beginning to bear and now too big to
transplant. One of his schemes—he had expected to sell
the trees and make thousands of dollars out of them.
Something had gone wrong—too expensive to get them to
the right market or something.
Then there was trench after trench of Cascara saplings,
now five or six feet high and hopelessly crowded. He had
intended to set out a plantation of them, but the price of
Cascara bark had dropped so low that it wasn't worth
bothering with. If he had set them out, the price later
was so high that he would have made his thousands out of
them. He seemed to be a man that conceived and rose to
tremendous crests, but was not capable of being interested in the troughs that surely followed.
They had a wonderful vegetable garden. Water was
piped down from the mountains in three-inch pipes, and
the growth was prodigious. Then we had to climb up to
the spring from which they piped water to the cabin.
There was a small pool at the source, perhaps about four
feet by four, made by a low dam. And in the small pool
lived a fourteen-inch trout. It had been put in the
pool as a fingerling and had lived there for almost five
It rose to the surface as soon as we leant over the pool.
The quiet brother took a crust out of his pocket and
scattered crumbs on the surface. The trout made great
swirls and ate them eagerly. It looked sleek and healthy
but must have missed all the best of a fish's life. If it
were turned loose now in a stream it would have no
instincts of any kind. Any fisherman could catch it in
a landing-net without bothering with a lure.
We returned to the cabin by another path, under trees
laden with cherries. The children were turned loose with
a pail to fill with cherries to take back with us, as well as
all they could eat.
Weekly the brothers took a load of fruit and vegetables
to logging camps ten to twenty-five miles away. The quiet
brother canned and bottled all they could eat for the
winter. The rest they gave away or it was wasted.
" There's enough of everything for an army," the quiet
brother groaned. But there was always another plan
ahead for the dynamic dreamer—something that kept him
glowing with vigour.
The quiet grey brother showed me their store-house—
double walled, of logs. In the dark cool interior were
shelves full of bottled venison and salmon—pickled beets
and onions—bottles of fruit. Lastly a root-house all
ready for the fall root-crop.
All that was the quiet brother's achievement—survival
in the wilderness with practically no money. I know of
two couples who tried this living off the country and what
you can produce—as an experiment to see if it could be
done. One was a writer, and he and his wife and two
children tried it for a year. They proved that it could be
done, if you had or could make about thirty-five dollars a
month for clothes, sugar, flour—things you couldn't
produce. However, they owned their own place and
already had a garden. They knew how to fish and hunt
and can the surplus. And the beach in front of their place
was covered with driftwood. I think they had had the idea
of starting a back-to-the-woods campaign for people living
in town on relief. Most city dwellers could not have done
it at all.
We bought all the vegetables the boat would hold from
the brothers, but had to accept the pail of cherries and a
loaf of home-made bread. And also to give a promise that
we would call in again.
At the very last moment, when we were talking on the
wharf, they spoiled our trip up Toba. As soon as I mentioned that we were heading up Toba, they were all
against it. Did I know that there was no anchorage of
any kind, except in Salmon River ?   And Salmon River
at this time of the year was full of cinnamon bears after
the salmon. They were light brown in colour, and more
like the grizzlies in habits. Also, they were very aggressive,
and apt to charge you on sight. We shouldn't be able to
get off the boat. Well, I only half believed it all, but they
had fished up there a good many years, and should know.
I had also been told by others that the head of the inlet
was low and swampy and bad for mosquitoes, and so we
gave up the idea.
Instead, we went on up to the Yucultaws and tied up at
the wharf of people we knew in the big bay half-way up
Stuart Island. You get quite a swirl and strong current
when the rapids are running at their hardest, but it is
perfectly safe. There were two little girls there who were
being brought up by their grandmother. We used to walk
back with them to a lake in the interior of the island to
swim. It was a peculiar little lake in the middle of what I
think must be muskeg. The muskeg was all right if you
kept walking. But if you didn't you began to sink. So
we would change into our bathing-suits while on the move,
hang our clothes on a bush, and ooze into the water, which
was warm and very soft. I don't think the lake was very
deep, we never investigated very closely. We didn't like
that bottom—it was soft and sinking, and full of unknowns.
I left all the children playing together one evening, and
went off with the father and an older boy to watch them
fish with lines at the edge of the whirlpools. We used an
open gas-boat they had, and shot round the S.E. point
that swings out to the edge of the rapids. Then they
worked out of the current and up the back-currents
into the little bay just beyond the point. There they
had an old scow tied up. It was anchored at one end by
a line that went out into the swirls of the current as it
swept round the point. The other end was tied to a tree
on the shore.
We climbed on board, and they slacked off on the shore
line and pulled the scow out on the anchored line until
they were just on the edge of where the whirlpools formed.
They baited the fishing-line by cutting a herring in half and
running a wire lead through the tail half, and then
attaching a hook—no weights, no spoons. The current
was so strong that it carried the line out and down, and
the current kept the herring tail wagging and spinning.
The pull was so hard that I was sure I had a ten-pounder
on from the very start. The scow twisted this way and
that way, and when they saw an extra large whirlpool
approaching, the men would slack off on the anchor end
and rapidly pull us out of reach with the shore line.
You could see right down the whirlpool's throat as it
sucked and reached at us. Then off it would twirl, and
we would pull ourselves out to the edge again.
There was a man fishing off the tip of the point just
beyond us. He was on a high platform that stretched
ten feet out over the water. Suddenly, with a great shout,
he started pulling in his line. You don't play your fish
with this kind of fishing—you use a wire lead and a heavy
line, and haul. That man fought his line for fifteen
minutes before he finally got his fish clear of the water
and up onto the narrow platform. Then, before he could
gaff it, the hook evidently worked out, for with a yell the
man flung himself on the fish and sat there with it clasped
in his arm, laughing and shouting for help. Someone
came out to his rescue and they got the big spring salmon
to shore.
" At least a sixty-pounder," the man with me said.
A minute later he was himself busy trying to land a
thirty-pounder. The boy shouted, and I grabbed the
shore line and helped him pull the scow out of danger. I
think the man would have let us sink rather than lose
his fish.
Then it was too dark to fish any longer and the water
was running too hard—and we walked home through the
Johnson Straits were running white—and it wasn't any
fun. So we turned off into a narrow harbour to wait it
out. We waited for a couple of days, tied up to a long
float that keeled over when the wind hit, and was difficult
to walk on.
It was three in the morning when something woke me
. . . someone calling me. ... I hastily opened the
canvas curtain and looked out. The girl from the house
on the hill was kneeling on the wharf in the grey light—
her hair blowing out behind her. Her mother, who was
rather frail, had been ill all night, with a severe and
continuous nose-bleed. The Columbia, the Coast Mission
boat, with a doctor on board, would be passing early in
the morning. If she could be intercepted they could get
help. We were the only boat in the harbour ; did I think
I could get down to Salmon River where they had a radiotelephone ? We looked at the tide-book with the flashlight, and I said we would try it when the tide turned at
about four o'clock. Salmon River was some ten miles
down the straits, and the water from the river makes a
tide-rip as it hits the heavy tides of Johnson Straits—it
would be easier to get into the basin if I could reach there
near slack water.
I woke up the children and we ate our breakfast and
then pushed off. The tide had not yet turned, but the
wind was behind us and there was not much sea yet. I
ran full-out, and it took us only about an hour to get there.
The entrance is narrow but there is a fair-sized basin
when you get through. There was an adequate wharf
about twenty-five feet above my head, sitting on the edge
of a mud-bank—no water. I anchored the boat and took
the dinghy. There was a slippery ramp over the mud-bank
up which I finally slithered.
It was the trading-store that had the radio-telephone,
and the store-keeper lived above—the girl had told me.
I pounded and shouted for ten minutes before a man's
furious face appeared at an upstairs window. He calmed
down when I explained the emergency, and said he would
contact the Columbia later—not much use trying before
seven. ... I pointed out that at seven I might not have
been able to get there at all.
The girl wrote later to thank me—the Columbia had
come in about nine. The doctor had managed to stop the
haemorrhage and they had taken her off to the mission
The fish-boats used to do a lot of emergency handling of
telegrams and messages. We once had one handed to us
by a fisherman at the Yucultaw Rapids. The telegram
had been telephoned from Victoria to Campbell River up
the island. From there it had been telephoned to Squirrel
Cove on Cortes Island. Then it was handed over to a
fish-boat to take up to Bruce's Landing on Stuart Island,
and for them please to try to locate me.
At Bruce's Landing they told the fisherman that we
had been in two days ago for gas, and that we might still
be tied up at Asman's Bay. So, just by chance it reached
The telegram read—' Motor Launch Caprice, Bruce's
Landing, via Squirrel Cove. Doctor M. advises Plactdn-
dectomy Attendctony.   Wire consent, Love B.'
What was I to consent to ? Whatever Dr M. advised
sounded more like a prehistoric animal of the pre-glacial
period than a disease. Everyone looked at the telegram
and had a guess.* A fisherman said, 11 think I know what
that is.   It's a boy, isn't it ? "
I It's a girl," I said, and I never heard what he suspected.
But I had to get to a telephone even to wire, and the
nearest one was back in Squirrel Cove.   It took us a full
day to get there as the tides at the Yucultaws were wrong.
I telephoned the doctor, for I simply had to know what
awful thing I was consenting to.
The message, relayed by two country telephone operators, had grown in length by gathering strange letters in
its course—he merely wanted to take her appendix out. I
got a stay of execution by promising to be home in three
So, while there were disadvantages to the Coast Emergency Service, how thankful everybody was at times that
they could count on it!
  Of Things Unproved
We scoured the shallows for a month that summer
trying to find a sea-horse. It seems a most unlikely
thing to find in this latitude ; but I read somewhere
that one species had been found as far north as the English
Channel.   If in the English Channel, why not here ?
Last year, after we got home, when we were looking
up something else in the ' Encyclopaedia Britannica,'
Peter pounced oh the picture of a sea-horse and announced,
* I saw one of those last year ! "
I looked incredulous. ..." I did, really, Jan saw it
too." I turned my gaze on Jan. . . . Yes, Jan had seen
it—but no one could remember where, beyond that it had
been in a reedy, sandy place in shallow water. When I
asked why on earth they hadn't called me to look at it,
Peter furnished the last proof.
I Oh, it was just swinging there on a weed, holding on
with its tail, and we were collecting sand-dollars."
Jan said, " We did look for it again, but we couldn't
find it. Peter said it was a greeny-brown just like the weeds."
When I asked if the head really looked like a horse,
Jan said, "Well, it made you think of a horse." And
Peter said, 1 Oh, it did too, Jan, it looked just like the one
in the chess set." So the evidence was all there—everything but the place.
I set them to work trying to think. The sand-dollars
were the best clue, for we didn't often see any. The north
end of Denman Island was the only place they could
think of where they had definitely found sand-dollars1—
and also, we had been there that summer.
To go back through one whole summer, to the beginning
of the summer before that, in a child's life, is just about
a hopeless task.    Sometimes I have chased down the
years on a sure clue, looking for a source—only to find
that it was something I had read to them ; they had
played around with it in their minds, thoroughly mixed
it up with fantasy, and a couple of years later presented
it to me as an actual fact. Which, I suddenly realise, is a
fairly good description of a sea-horse.
Another fantastic thing about sea-horses is the way
they have solved the problem of excess population in the
sea-horse world. Mother produces the eggs, but deposits
them in a pouch on father's abdomen. It is father who
goes around looking incredibly pregnant, for whatever
length of time a sea-horse's pregnancy lasts. They both
look carefully after their young—most unfish-like.
So it ended in our spending a month in the following
summer back-tracking up the Vancouver Island side of
the Gulf, scouring the sandy bottoms and reedy bays—
looking for sea-horses swinging on green weeds.
Whenever I can, I do two things with one effort. If I
have to move rocks or earth when building something, or
gardening, or some like project—it makes me very unhappy just to cart them off anywhere to get rid of them.
If I can take the rocks out from where they are not wanted
and, with practically the same amount of energy that it
takes to throw them away, build them into a rock wall or
incorporate them in cement-work—I am supremely happy.
So, in the month we spent looking for sea-horses, I
carried on a second project at the same time. While the
children paddled for hours in the shallows among the
weeds, very concerned with an unlikely fish for which I
had offered a good reward, I concerned myself largely with
—where had Juan de Fuca actually gone when he was on
this coast in the 1590's ?
Juan de Fuca's story of his trip has reached us in a very
roundabout way. It comes to us first via a seafaring man
named Michael Lok, who wrote of it or told it to Richard
Hakluyt.   Richard Hakluyt, ' by reason of his great know-
ledge of geographic matters,' and his acquaintance with
! the chieftest captains at sea, the greatest merchants,
and the best mariners of our [English] nation,' was
selected to go to Paris in 1583 with the English Ambassador, as Chaplain. It was there, on instructions, that
he occupied himself chiefly in collecting information of
the Spanish and French movements, and i making
diligent inquiries of such things as might yield light unto
our western discovery of America.'
Hakluyt, who was at Christ Church, Oxford, lectured
in that university on geography and j shewed the old
imperfectly composed, and the new lately reformed
mappes, globes, spheres, and other instruments of this
art.' He wrote two or three books, as well as making
translations from the Portuguese.
When he died, in 1616, a number of Hakluyt's manuscripts, enough to form a fourth volume, fell into the
hands of the Rev. Samuel Purchas—another divine
interested in geography and discoveries. These manuscripts he published, in abridged form, in 1622 under the
title f Hakluytus Posthumus, or Purchas his Pilgrimes.'
Until his death Hakluyt was incessantly employed in
the collection, examination and translation of accounts of
voyages and travels, and in correspondence with men
anxious to receive and impart information—among them
Sir Philip Sidney, Sir Francis Walsingham and Sir Francis
Drake ; also the cartographers Ortelius and Mercator.
So Juan de Fuca's account of his voyage up the coast of
British Columbia came down to us through someone who
was used to examining and weighing reports that were
either told to or sent to him.
In 1592, Michael Lok met Juan de Fuca in the Mediterranean. Juan de Fuca was a Greek by birth, but he told
Lok that he had acted as pilot for the Spaniards in the
Caribbean for forty years—so we can assume that Spanish
was his language.   He told Lok that he had been I sent
out in 1592, by the Viceroy of Mexico, with a small
caravela and Pinace, armed with marinars only, to find
the supposed Straits of Anian, and the passage thereof
into the Sea they call the North Sea—which is our
North West Sea.'
He showed Lok the course he took—along the coast of
New Spain (Mexico) and California, and the Indies now
called North America. Lok says, f All of which voyage
he signified to me in a great map or sea-card of mine own,
which I had laid before him.'
Juan de Fuca continued up the coast until, Lok reports,
' He came to a broad Inlet of the sea between 47 and 48
Lat. He entered there into, say ling therein for more than
twenty days and found that land trending still sometimes
N.W. and N.E. and N. and also E. and S.E. and a very
much broader Sea than at the said entrance—and that he
went by divers islands in that sayling.'
If they had rowed and sailed along the north shore of
that broad inlet and by divers islands for twenty days—
where would they likely have got to ? Vancouver with
the Discovery and the Chatham, big ships compared to the
caravel, had followed the south shore right into Puget
Sound, land-locked by all the Puget Sound islands; and
had continued north on the mainland side frantically trying
to find a passage through the mountains.
Juan de Fuca in his smaller ships would likely have
followed the tides on the north shore and turned N.W.
up by San Juan, \ and other divers islands.' Somewhere
close to Nanaimo, he would have emerged \ into a much
broader sea than at the said entrance [Flattery] ' and all
the Gulf of Georgia would suddenly have lain before him.
If he had sailed north, and north-west up the Vancouver
Island side of the Gulf, in twenty days of rowing and
sailing, from where he entered the broad inlet of the sea,
he would have been about at Texada Island. Texada
Island, at the south end, is where the Gulf of Georgia ends
and narrows down into Stevens Pass, or a still narrower
pass inside Denman Island.
Now, Juan de Fuca says, j At the entrance to said
Strait, there is on the north-west coast thereof, a great
headland or island, with an exceeding high pinacle or
spired rock thereon.'
There are really two islands there, although from the
shore of Vancouver Island they appear as one. Lesquiti
Island, about nine miles long and two wide, is close to the
southern end of Texada Island, which is twenty-seven miles
long and four wide.
The I Coast Pilot,' speaking of Texada, says, ' The
south-east extremity of Texada is rugged and precipitous
. . . almost immediately over it rises Mount Dick, a very
remarkable hump-shaped hill 1,130 feet high.' About
Lesquiti, it says, j Mount Trematon, a singular turret-
shaped summit, 1,050 feet high rises nearly at its centre.'
That is what we were looking at as we approached, and
it is what Juan de Fuca and his men would have seen on
the north-west side of the gulf at the entrance to the
Twenty miles from the north end of Texada he would
have entered the south end of Johnson Straits. Averaging
one to one and a half miles in width, they run for one
hundred miles. Beyond mentioning that they had landed
on the shore and found ' Natives clad in skins of beastes,'
Juan next says, ' that being entered thus far into the said
Straits and being come to the North Sea already, and
finding the sea wide enough everywhere, and to be thirty
or forty leagues wide—he thought he had well discharged
his office and done the thing he had been sent to do.' In
other words he thought he had found the supposed Straits
of Anian, and the passage thereof into the North Sea.
Out at Cape Flattery, the entrance to what Captain
Vancouver called the Strait of Juan de Fuca, there is no
such island or headland, nor turret-shaped rock.    And
Juan de Fuca referred to it as a broad inlet of the sea—
not a strait.
Vancouver says : j The entrance which I have called
the supposed Straits of Juan de Fuca, instead of being
between 47 and 48, is between 48 and 49, and leads not
into a far broader sea or Mediterranean Ocean.' Later,
since he couldn't find the turret or pinnacle, he came to
the conclusion that Juan had never been there at all.
Still no sea-horses, and the youngsters' legs were getting
a waterlogged look from so much wading. But it was
not lost time, for they found and learned about many
other things.
John came along the beach to me, grumbling, " Everything I find, they say it isn't—and I think it is."
" Well, never mind," I consoled, f I don't suppose
anyone will believe that what I have found—is what I
think it is."
" Well, then," said John happily, | I can say that I
found a sea-horse—and you can say that you found . . .
what were you looking for anyway, Mummy ? I don't
really know."
Mistaken Island
It was a fisherman who led us through the reefs and
hidden dangers into the little anchorage in the middle of
the Winchelsea Islets. We had been hanging round the
edge of the Gulf of Georgia since seven in the morning,
hoping to make the twenty-five mile crossing to the
mainland. There is no use getting impatient with a gulf—
it just rolls on and on, and takes its own time about
calming down. June is an uncertain month for weather
on the coast of British Columbia. It has not yet established any definite pattern.   The glass had just been sulky
for the last couple of days—doing neither one thing nor
the other, and giving no clues. There had been a medium
south-easter, which might have petered out at any time*
Instead, it was blowing harder than ever.
In July, when the glass has steadied to 31 and the
light westerlies are established, guessing changes to almost
certainty. If the glass drops suddenly to 29 or below, with
a clear sky and a glassy roll starting from the south-east,
you know that you have about two and a half hours to get
across the gulf before it starts blowing. You go, if you
are in a hurry. Otherwise, you do something else for three
days until it blows itself out.
This early June we had got tired of guessing, so had gone
out to have a closer look. But there it was—rolling white
and sullen, and obviously going to be worse. So we
turned back and headed up towards Nanoose. We must
have looked a little lost or forlorn ; for when the fishing-
boat overtook us, the man called out that if we wanted a
good place to hole up in we should follow him.
He led us by a deep, narrow channel, through a maze
of reefs and foul ground, into a little circular haven
protected by two small islands and three little islets.
" Good place to know," he said, when we had our
anchors down. | Safe in any blow." I noticed that he
dropped a stern-anchor as well. There certainly wasn't
very much room to swing, but there was perfect shelter.
We fastened down some curtains and made hot cocoa
and toast to warm ourselves up. The bells on the fish-boat
were tinkling and tinkling . . . and John said it was just
like reindeer.
I don't think they fish commercially in other seas the
way they fish on this coast. The boat anchored beside us
was a troller—about thirty-two feet in length, with a
canoe-stern, a mast amidships, and directly in front of the
mast, a small wheel-house. When you enter the wheel-
house, steps lead directly down below into the cabin.   The
part of the wheel-house not taken up with steps houses the
steering-seat and wheel. The engine is underneath the
wheel-house and the steps. The cabin has a couple of
bunks, a drop-leaf table and a stove—and all the owner's
belongings. The cabin roof is raised, to give head-room,
to within four feet of the bow.
The after-half of the boat is taken up with holds for the
ice and fish. Hatch-covers make it like a flush deck. Two
long rigid fishing-poles are fastened to, and extend some
distance above the mast. These are let down by tackles,
and extend at right angles out from the boat—one on each
side. Each pole has three fishing-lines at, say, four-foot
intervals, running through pulleys and back to the boat.
By varying the amount of lead on each line they are kept
at selected depths.
They use different lures—flashers, wobblers, plugs, with
or without bait. Each pulley on the pole has a small
round bell attached to it, which jingles wildly when a fish
strikes that line. Then the fisherman raises the pole
until he can grab the right line and pull it in by hand.
Fishermen who can afford it now have an arrangement of
cogs, spindles and levers that run off the engine. By
throwing the right lever, the line they want winds in—
making everything easier if there is only one man aboard.
You see the fishing-boats coming in, followed by the seagulls screaming and wheeling, landing in the water to
fight for bits—the men are gutting the fish on the way to
the anchorage or the packer, and putting them in ice down
in the hold.
There is a lot of superstition among the fishermen—
lucky boats, unlucky boats. They all watch the lucky
boat—trail along behind, trying to share a little of whatever it is she has. . . . They will tell you that a certain
woman, on a certain boat, has lucky hands—electricity,
magnetism, or something. She can tend the lines on one
side of the boat, her husband on the other—but she
catches all the fish. Then the propellers. Some propellers
have a certain ring about them that attracts the fish. The
note of others repels them. After a run of bad luck a man
will replace his propeller, if he can, and his luck will
change. All this is probably more rife among the boats
that are out for a whole season. They are out of touch
with everything and everybody except other fishermen in
other boats. They hole up at night in some sheltered
bay, visit each other's boats, drink coffee and swap
yarns. . . . The superstitions grow and spread.
Our fisherman had eaten, and had now turned in to
sleep—he had been out since three in the morning, fishing
around the reefs off Gabriola. A hard life—but now he
slept, and his bells were quiet.
I landed the children and they ran over to the other
side of the island to play where they wouldn't disturb the
fisherman. They were back in about an hour's time, all
grinning and beckoning me to come ashore and see something. I sculled in. They had caught quite a big plaice
or flounder, over a foot long. It had been cut off by the
tide in a sandy pool, and my Red Indians had closed in
for the kill.
" I saw its eyes peeking out of the sand," said John.
" It almost dumped me, when I stepped on it," said
I We took a long board," Jan said, " and crowded it
into the edge."
Now they wanted to make a fire over on the beach and
broil it. I gave them some matches, and they bounded
off; then paused for a second to say that, if I came back
in half an hour, I could have some too.
I can remember catching flounders on the wide tidal
sand-flats of the lower St Lawrence when I was a child.
We used to go out on the flats at low water, armed with
sticks with needles embedded in the end—to spear the
flounders as they came in with the tide.   They were only
about three inches long and the exact colour of the sand.
Unless you saw the little muddy cloud they sent up when
they moved, you could never spot them. " There she
spouts ! " we would yell, and stab at them, only to miss.
Someone must once have stabbed one or we would never
have been so persistent.
The best way to catch them was to trap them under
your bare feet. The white feet must have attracted them.
You would feel a mysterious little tickle under the arch.
If you stooped quickly and put a hand on each side of
your arch—then you would pull out a little browny-grey
flounder. The harpoon-men would call out, " Not fair,"
but one by one they would all change to f feet.'
I don't know whether fish of the kind my youngsters
caught grow up into halibut, or are young plaice. I
believe that all these flat-fish start out as ordinary,
upright minnows. But suddenly the little halibut minnow
starts to sag and twist. Everything in his body sags and
twists, and he begins to lie more and more flat on the sand.
I am glad that fish-mothers are completely lacking in the
maternal instincts; for now, one of the baby's eyes—
the right one—leaves its proper place and gradually
climbs up on top and stays beside the other eye—giving
it a slightly cross-eyed appearance. And worst of all, his
mouth twists and draws up at one corner into a lop-sided,
sardonic smile. Of course there is no accounting for
mothers—his might have preferred him that way.
I carried a billy of tea ashore, and bread, and we ate the
flounder for lunch. Afterwards we wandered over the
islands, picking different specimens of wild-flowers to
press in magazines. We found a row of little drift-wood
huts just above high-water mark, probably built by the
hand-trollers. When the fish are running in July and
August, the hand-trollers go off in row-boats and camp on
the shore. They fish with two or three lines. Like the
big trollers, they use their own pet lures—brass or nickel
spinners or wobblers; sometimes wooden ' plugs' that
resemble some unknown shrimp-like monster, draped all
over with hooks. We wondered what they did for fresh
water on these little islands. Our fisherman told us later
that when the fish are running, the fish-packer from the
cannery comes every evening to collect the fish; and
always carries water and provisions. Hand-trollers of
course had no ice, so their fish had to be collected
sometimes twice a day.
Our fisherman woke up—but he didn't go out. It was
too rough to troll. He sat with us, by our fire on the
beach, for a while. He expected it to blow all night and
drop in the morning.
" But it will still be rolling too high for you to get across
to-morrow. It will probably slam around hard from the
west when this stops, and that will kick up a filthy sea.
Just be patient."
He had gone when we woke up in the morning. I had
heard his engine start up in the very early hours ; and then
the jingle of the little bells. . . . Then the waves of his
going had rocked me back to sleep.
The south-east wind had dropped, as he had predicted,
and high clouds were moving from the west. Perhaps, by
the afternoon, it would have made up its mind what it
was going to do. In the meantime, I decided to run up to
North-West Bay, roughly ten miles farther north. It is
a peculiar coast just there : a deep channel right along the
rocky shore ; then, out beyond that, a foul stretch full of
islets and reefs and rocks. Not shallow water—it is deep,
but filled with these sharp steep points, rising out of
perhaps forty fathoms. At the end of this foul stretch,
where it runs out in a triangle across Ballenas Channel, lies
Ballenas Islands where the lighthouse is. The tide runs
through this channel at three or four knots—and both
inside and outside the island there are horrible tide-rips.
I kept in the deep channel next to the shore.   There was
no perceptible tide—it didn't matter anyway; we were
not going very far. But I should have known that it was
going to blow from the west; for the clouds overhead were
still coming fast from that direction. We were over halfway there when the whole gulf came down on top of us in
one vast squall; with two hundred miles of push behind
it. . . .
We rounded the point of the bay, just this side of North-
West Bay, thinking that we might find shelter in there—
but the whole bay was foaming white, and spray was being
sent dashing up the cliffs. Then the realisation suddenly
hit me—why the next bay was called North-West—the
wind would be piling in there just as it was in the bay
beside us. . . . We had to decide, and decide quickly,
what we were going to do. About in line with the point
of North-West Bay, and about a mile from where we were,
I could see a small, unknown, wooded island. And there
was a patch of calm water off its southern end. It was too
rough even to think of looking at a chart, but that patch
might just enable us to ride out the storm.
We headed towards it. There was a crazy black spar-
buoy, seventy yards to seawards of us. I knew that I
shouldn't be on the inside of it, but I could not possibly go
out into that tide-rip. The wind would swoop down on
top of the buoy and press it flat on the water and the white
spray would foam over it. I had to go fairly close to it,
for there were unmarked dangers off the point inside us.
The glass in front of me was completely obscured with
the spray that struck the bow and dashed over us. On
the shore side of the black buoy the waves were not so
very high—they hadn't had time yet. It was the force of
the wind that made a fine spray, three or four feet high,
all over the face of the water. I had to put my head out
through the canvas curtain to see anything—and my hair
and face streamed water.
" We are almost there, Mummy," Jan called.   She kept
a small patch of glass clear on her side, with a rag. There
was a sheltering wing of heavy kelp shielding the windward side of the little cove we were heading for. I could
see a bit of beach up at the end, so I should be able to
anchor. Every other place was just a rocky shore of
Then the sudden calm—almost breath-taking—and we
were in shelter. I edged in. Jan and Peter went on deck,
and between the two of them managed to slide the anchor-
rope through the chock and ease the anchor down.
" Pheeew ! " echoed John, as I sank down on one of the
bunks and tried to towel some of the wet off me.
| That was pretty rough, wasn't it ? " said Peter, jumping in off the deck.
I pulled the chart out from behind the steering-wheel.
We had been too busy trying to see where we were going
to bother with a chart that tried to tell us where we
should go.
" Jan, just look at all the dangers inside that black buoy
that we practically shook hands with ! " They all had to
see the dangers. Just what was the name of this little
island we had found—a little island I had not even known
was there. Heavens ! there it was, marked quite plainly
—' Mistaken Island.'
" Why | Mistaken' ? " asked Jan, looking over my
" Perhaps it's going to disappear at high tide," I
"I'm going to watch that tide like anything!" said John.
" Sillies ! " said Peter.   % Look at the trees."
I looked round the little cove we were in, and asked Jan
what depth she got when she anchored.
" Only about six feet."
I stared at her . . . there was going to be a zero tide
in the night. We weren't more than two boat-lengths now
from the edge of the kelp, past which the wind and the
waves roared. . . . The cove was so small that it didn't
even show on the chart. The wind might go down, and
again it mightn't. Well, probably someone knew why
they had called it ' Mistaken'—and probably we would
know why, before we left.
While I got ready some very late lunch the children ran
across to the north-east end of the island to look at the
waves. They came back, blown to bits, and said the waves
were terrific. After lunch I left them to tidy up, and I
went across to have a look myself. They were terrific
. . . and the outlook for the night was dim.
It was when I was on my way back that I discovered
we were not alone on the island. I had climbed up on top
of a rocky rib that flanked the east side of the cove. Some
movement in among the trees caught my eye : I thought
it might be a deer. There again . . . and I saw them.
Standing waist-deep in the salal, surrounded by half a
dozen goats and young kids, stood Robinson Crusoe.
They were all standing up on their tip-toes—peering
through the trees at our boat. . . .
" Hello, there ! " I called.
The man immediately ducked down in the salal, and
they all snaked hurriedly off.
" Come back and see us after supper," I shouted.
No answer. He had to cross an open space there. I
don't think he realised that I could still see him—Robinson
Crusoe had not yet learned to make his clothes out of
goat-skins—he just didn't wear any. He looked awfully
dark, creeping through the jungle. What were we
marooned with ? And what had I asked to come and see
us after supper ?
I told the children about Robinson Crusoe and the goats.
They were intrigued, and kept sweeping the woods with
the binoculars, but they refused to go ashore again unless
I went with them.
I took the pike-pole off the cabin-top, and with Peter
and John rowing I began to sound the cove and plan for
the night which was beginning to look inevitable. The
dinghy was tied-up astern at the end of the long rope—
I don't think anyone could have rowed against that wind ;
at times it swept in withering squalls across the end of the
I had hoped that the bed of the cove might slope
steeply. It didn't—it hardly dropped at all for the first
ten yards. There were only ten feet under the stern of the
boat now. The water might rise another two or three
feet on the end of this tide—but it was going to drop
fourteen feet in the night. . . . I decided on a plan, hauled
in the dinghy, carried a stern-anchor out as far as I dared,
and let it down. There were roughly about fifteen feet of
water there—that left three feet during the night, if the
anchor didn't drag when I pulled the boat out to it.
Then I lifted the bow-anchor into the dinghy, rowed
farther into the cove, and firmly wedged the anchor behind
a big rock. If I pulled the boat between the two anchors
during the night, I should be able to keep her off the
bottom—always supposing I could keep her out of the
After supper I ran the engine for a while. If my plan
for the night didn't work, I could slip both anchors and
work along the rocky shore to our left, as far as the calm
area extended, which wasn't very far. However, with the
engine idling out of gear most of the time, I should be able
to linger there for a couple of hours at low water. The
chart showed quite a big cove just beyond that—but it
was evidently dry at low tide, and some way beyond as
well.   There was certainly no better hole.
We made up the bunks, then went on shore and lighted
a fire.
" Mummy," whispered Peter, " he's there." Crusoe
was standing at the edge of the trees, looking at us.
" Come on down," I said, still not quite sure what was
coming. Very slowly he approached and sat on a rock
near us ; but he didn't say anything until I asked a direct
I What about this cove for the night ? " I said.
I Not very good."
I What about the cove farther round ? " I pointed.
" My cove.    No good."
" Why ? " I asked.
" All mud."    He shook his head sadly.
" You mean the whole island has no shelter ? "
He nodded . . . very, very sadly.
" Is there any fresh water ? "
Evidently not. I finally extracted from him that he
had to row over to North-West Bay for water and provisions once a week. He was looking after a mink ranch
on the north-west end of the island. He caught fish to
feed the mink with. And if he didn't get any fish, he killed
a kid for them.
I offered him a cigarette, and he took it so eagerly that
I gave him the rest of the package and suggested that he
go home now before it got dark. He said " Yes," and got
to his feet. When he reached the top of the cove he gave
a strange little chirruping call, and in seconds the goats
and kids appeared and grouped round him. Then they
all drifted off into the trees.
" Mummy ! " said Jan, " how could you go on talking
to him ?   What is the matter with him ? "
"I'm not sure, perhaps just bushed—too much alone.
Let's get to bed."
The youngsters were soon quietly asleep. I had been
off-hand about the night, and they seemed assured that
there would be no trouble. I didn't undress, and sat there
wearing my sleeping-bag to keep warm. A westerly, in
summer-time, either goes down with the sun—or else
pauses and then blows with renewed vigour. This one
hadn't even bothered with the pause.
The sky was clear, the stars were out, and later there
should be a moon to light things up. At the moment I
couldn't see anything except the night-life in the water
that stirred up the multitudinous phosphorescent specks
of plankton that filled the sea.
I settled down to a routine—up on the deck forward,
sound with the pike-pole ... let out rope if necessary.
Back to the after-deck, sound . . . pull in slack. My
hands dripped luminous jewels from their finger-tips-
jewels that exploded in soft flashes as they hit the sea.
The whole disturbed anchor-rope looked like a shining
serpent, writhing off into the twinkling void. Down below
there, bigger flashes darted after smaller flashes; and
smaller flashes darted after still smaller ones. Then the
moon came up—and the night-life of the fishes and
plankton became obscured.
More line out—more line in. We were getting closer and
closer to the outer edge of the calm area ; and the wind,
but not the waves, was beginning to push us around a
little.   Just how long can one night be ?
We have a book by Dunsany on board—a collection of
stories. In the first one, ' Idling down the River Yan,'
when the hour of prayer sounds, and all the men on deck
fall on their knees to pray to their various gods, he doesn't
quite like to pray to his jealous God, in the midst of all
these strange gods. So he prays to a very old God—one
who hasn't been prayed to for a long time.
I think this ancient idea of having special gods for special
things was very sound. Some religions have special saints
who, I expect, look after the practical end of things.
To-night, for instance, I feel the need of a specialised deity
—one experienced in nautical matters. The west coast
Indians had various gods they prayed to for certain things.
Ha-we-im, for good hunting ; Kwa-yetsim, to cure the
sick—much used by the medicine-men. And in bad or
dangerous weather at sea they prayed to a Queen Hakoom,
who lived above or beyond the seas. They would shout to
her, asking her to cause the waves to calm down. They
probably still shout to her in times of stress . . . like tonight. I don't think I would care to intrude—much less
shout, if that is necessary. But a small prayer to that
very old God—the one that hasn't been prayed to for a
long time—no one could object to that. This old God
must miss the prayers he no longer gets—and might be
glad to lend a hand. I feel a gentle but definite jar through
the boat. I do not need to be told what it is—" Old God,
get busy ! "
I scrambled out on deck and grabbed the pike-pole—my
extra weight up in the bow didn't help. I loosened the
line, then lent on the pole and pushed . . . and fortunately oozed her off.
At least the bottom was either mud or sand. And
we were undoubtedly getting some back-swell. I sounded
at the stern—there were only three feet there now, and
we drew two and a half. I had left it too late to think
of backing out—one rock, and we would be finished. I
couldn't take up any more slack in the stern-line—I would
have to let her bump a bit on the mud, up in the bow. . . .
I wiped my cold wet hands and bundled the sleeping-
bag closer round me. It was one-thirty—the tide must
be low at two or thereabouts. The moon was behind
clouds, and it was dark. Once more the crests of the waves
were throwing the luminous glow on ahead of them.
That old God must have been out of practice—or
perhaps, very wise. For dawn was all about me when I
woke at four o'clock—the eastern sky lighting up in long
streaks of gold. There had been no need for me to keep
awake ; everything was quiet, and the wind had blown
itself out, or else gone to other seas. I hastily slackened
the stern-line, and burrowed back into my bag.
It was one of those sudden unplanned things. I had
called in to see some friends of mine on my way up from
Vancouver, late in September. The weather had been
perfect and I was reluctant to cross the gulf for home and
settle down for the winter. Settling down meant school
every day from nine to one around the dining-room table ;
sawing wood and doing various other outside jobs in the
afternoon. And although it had nothing whatever to do
with settling down, and couldn't possibly be connected
with, nor blamed on it—it meant the beginning of the
rainy weather. British Columbia winters, although mild,
are definitely rainy. Most of the year's rain falls in the
four winter months. So if September was fine, we deliberately stayed on the other side of the gulf. We knew from
past experience that once on our own side the pull of Little
House would be too strong for us—we would just rush to
the settling down.
So we sat on the beach with these friends, happy and
contented, telling them all about our summer trip. Then
we talked about Princess Louise, and they said that some
day they must see it. And I said, how about taking a
quick trip up there now ? I had only the two boys on
board then, so there was plenty of room. It took them
just ten minutes to decide, and by lunch-time they and
their two children were on board with us and we were off.
Some friends are so satisfactory. You may not agree with
them in everything or anything, but it doesn't matter.
You like each other just as you are. It is the contact and
rubbing up against other ideas that is stimulating and
We had left too late in the day to get the whole way up
Jervis that night. But we found a little corner in Goliath
Bay, just out of Agamemnon Channel, where they could
put up their tent.
The weather was still sunny the next morning, but we
could see the clouds massing round the peaks to the northeast. There was no wind, which was very nice, but the
farther we pushed our way into the mountains, the lower
the clouds settled.
By the time we reached the entrance to Louise it had
begun to drizzle, and we had to tie up for a while until the
tide turned to let us through.
As we sat with the mountains all glooming round us, I
told them of the effect that Louise Inlet had on some
people : such a strong feeling of claustrophobia that they
would not stay in over night. Fishermen have told me
that nothing would induce them to tie up in Louise in the
winter-time, on account of the rock-slides and avalanches.
One man told a tale of going through the entrance just
before dark one winter's afternoon, to get out of the wind
that was blowing hard down from the head of Jervis. In
the inlet you can't anchor out in the middle, it is too deep.
So you can't avoid being near the cliffs. He had tied his
boat to a snag on the shore of the rock-flat just inside the
entrance. Then he put out a stern-anchor to hold him
off the shore.
Around ten o'clock the wind rose to a gale—accompanied at times by thunder and lightning. He was
reasonably protected from the wind where he was, until
the williwaws started blowing down on him from above.
These winds can blow over and down from the tops of the
mountains with enough force to break a deck in.
He was settling down for a night's watch, not attempting
to go to bed, when the first avalanche came, soon followed
by others. He could hear the great shock and splash of
them above the roar of the wind. Then the lightning got
brighter and showed up what before he had not been able
to see. . . .
An avalanche of mixed snow and rock fell right beside
him, covering the boat with salt spray and snow.   Giving
his boat up for lost, he turned to his own survival. Frantically, he pulled the boat closer to the shore by the bowline.
He jumped . . . missed by a couple of feet. Waist deep
in the freezing water he clawed his way up the slippery
rocks, losing his flashlight somewhere in the effort.
Now in the pitch dark, by each flash of lightning, head
down into the wind, he made his way in spurts across the
rock-flat to the Jervis Inlet end of the rapids, where an
old German had a cabin. Finally he made his pounding
heard above the noise of the storm, and stumbled into old
Casper's cabin. Old Casper stood there holding up a
candle, his hair standing straight up on end ; his ten cats
crowding around him—equally electrified. The candle
blew out, and the fishermen said you could see the
electricity playing all round them. In the morning they
found the boat adrift, but still floating, with her cabin
completely flat under a fall of rock and snow.
I was eying the cliffs too, when I finished the story.
Then the tide turned and we went through. I had wanted
them to see Louise at its best, and all I could show them
was the dim outline of where the high lip of the cliffs ended
and the sky began. But extra waterfalls had started up
all along the mile-high cliffs, and hung like white ribbons
trailing in the water.
We rounded the overhanging cliff, and there were the
big falls throwing themselves twice the distance usual in
the summer. And the roar came out to meet us soon after
we turned the cape.
It was raining harder now and the whole place was
closing in. Trapper's Rock was out of the question. I
didn't know if the Man from California would still be there.
But even if he weren't, he had a big woodshed that would
hold the overflow from the boat for one night.
He was there—and there had been no boats in for two
weeks. If we waited an extra day and gave him a chance to
pack up for the winter, he would go down with us.   He
insisted on our all staying up at the cabin with him, so we
carted up our sleeping-bags and our box of provisions and
settled down happily in front of the big fireplace. The
great fall shouted and moaned. Every now and then
there would be a heavy thud, which our host said was
when the waterfall threw boulders out ahead of it.
It was the next day after lunch that John fell over the
balcony that ran across in front of the upstairs bedrooms,
above the fireplace. We were busy washing-up in the
kitchen, so nobody knows just what did happen. He and
the other children were playing around upstairs and
generally fooling. He probably fell on the floor as someone
chased him, and slid through under the one high rail down
onto the floor below.
There was that horrible soft thud, and a shout from
above. We all knew exactly what it was. ... I suppose
we all had the same desperate selfish wish, " Oh, not
mine ? " as we crowded into the room.
John lay on the floor gasping for breath. . . . He had
just missed the heavy log arm of the end of the chesterfield. A minute later, while I was still not daring to move
him, he sat up and moved each arm. " Not broken," he
gasped. Then he looked up at the antlers above the fireplace, " Lucky I missed those ! " Then he was violently
sick . . . bringing up a certain amount of blood as well.
We carried him upstairs and got him into bed. He
continued to be sick every half-hour—and always there
were traces of blood. Then I suddenly realised that the
vomiting could very well be just from shock with a highly
strung child. So I started filling him up with corn syrup.
In a couple of hours that took effect and he fell asleep.
I began to wonder then if he had really landed on his head
and had a slight concussion. . . .
I tiptoed out and crept downstairs. I drank a good stiff
drink, and then we discussed what it was best to do. It
was pouring rain outside and blowing hard—and the falls
were roaring and prophesying doom. We were sixty miles
from a doctor and help, and in this wind it would be a
very rough trip down.
They said it was up to me—and I decided that it would
be better just to keep him in bed for another day. If more
serious symptoms appeared, and the wind did not abate,
then we would have to think of fighting our way down,
or one of the men might go in my boat and come back
with the doctor in a bigger boat. We could always change
our minds, but now we would wait and see.
I crept up every half-hour to look at John, and still he
slept—moaning a little whenever he moved. He woke
up later and I gave him more syrup. One thing that
worried me was the way he kept his head turned sideways,
and pressed hard against his right shoulder.
At ten o'clock he was feverish. . . . He had a restless
night, moaning and talking in his sleep. I was up every
hour with him—bathing his hands and face, coaxing down
a little more syrup, worrying about his head on his shoulder.
Then about four in the morning he must have slept more
quietly, for I fell asleep too and it was eight o'clock before
we woke up. He no longer seemed to be feverish and I
breathed more easily. I persuaded him to try to eat some
breakfast.   But he wanted very little.
It was still blowing and raining, and I could see no
reason for changing the plan of waiting until the next day.
He felt better after eating some lunch, and was interested
in my reading to him. Then everybody came up to see
him and look at his crooked head against his shoulder. He
wouldn't let anyone touch it, and all we could get out of
him was that he liked it that way.
We had everything packed and ready to leave the next
day, though with John obviously better we decided to
wait until the wind dropped. The tide at the entrance
would be slack at nine.
There was no wind in the morning, and although it was
dull, the rain had stopped. John ate his breakfast, and
we carried him down to the boat and rolled him up in
blankets on one of the bunks. We were relieved on rounding Patrick Point to find that all was quiet in the main part
of the inlet. No one was anxious to face a rough sea all
day with a sick child.
There is a little hospital at Pender Harbour, and we
made straight for it as soon as we anchored, only to find
that the doctor was away and would not be back for
a week.
So we parted with the Man from California and went on
down to Thormanby Island, where a doctor I knew had a
summer cottage. The doctor's wife was there, but he was
down in Vancouver.
It blew again the next day and I couldn't get my friends
back to their home—twenty-five miles farther down the
coast. ... It was hard to keep John quiet on a crowded
boat, and our food was running short. The caretaker on
the island said that he could flag the weekly boat, which
should be in at five o'clock, though we couldn't count on
the time. Our friends decided that it would be better for
them to go home by the boat and leave me free to cross
the gulf as soon as the weather cleared.
The boat didn't whistle until after seven—we piled into
the dinghy and rowed out in the dark. The great menacing
steamer lurched up against the anchored float—all the
bay had as a wharf. They threw a rope down to us—and
a gang-plank was finally fixed at a precarious angle and
my friends clambered on board. It was not until the men
at the boat end of the rope yelled at me two or three times
that I realised I was supposed to cast off the steamer. I
finally managed to free her and she faded away, leaving
me alone on a spinning raft with all my sense of direction
I waited until the raft settled down in its normal
position and groped my way to the dinghy.   I had left my
flashlight on board with the boys, in case they might be
nervous alone there.
I tried to get straight back to the boat—but it was so
dark I might have been going in circles. Then I saw the
blink-blink-blink of a little light off in the distance. It
could be in quite the wrong direction, but I thought it was
probably Peter trying to see if I were coming—so I rowed
towards it. After ten minutes more rowing, I hailed . . .
and Peter shouted in reply.
" Did you see our SOS?" they asked when I got
within talking distance.   " We didn't like being marooned."
It was blowing again the next day, and I felt that we
were never going to get home. The day after, it was too
unsettled to start in the morning. But after lunch it was
quiet. I decided to start and get as far as Lesquiti Island
for the night. It was a longer way, but at least we should
be half-way across the gulf.
The little hole on the south-east end of Lesquiti is very
small and sometimes quite hard to find. There is a small
float to tie up to, but no room to anchor. There were two
fish-boats already there when we arrived. They made
room for us and helped us tie up. They thought if we left
at six in the morning we could get across before anything
very much blew up.
If I hadn't been so anxious to get home to find out why
John's head was on crooked, I don't suppose I would have
left. It wasn't actually blowing at six, but it looked as
though it was going to. A west wind doesn't usually start
up until around nine or later. This one began at seven.
It waited until we were half-way across. The tide was
flooding, and in the stretch between the Ballenas and
Lesquiti, wind against tide creates a nasty tide-rip which
gets worse as you near the other side. So I had to turn
down the gulf with the wind more on our tail, steering for
the little group of islands where the fishermen had showed
us the emergency anchorage.
A following sea is the most upsetting to be in. John was
sick again, and all my fears came crowding back. I
couldn't have put his life-jacket on over that head either.
Peter, I could see, didn't like it much, and I couldn't
produce a whistle to calm their fears. I couldn't leave the
wheel to help John, and it wasn't safe to let him lean over
the edge. Peter gave him a tin and he had to manage by
In about another hour we were out of the rip. It was
blowing harder, but with a different kind of wave. Then
down the narrow passage, and finally into that blessed
little haven.
The wind shimmered across the water in sudden sweeps,
but there was no sea. We anchored and made ourselves
a good breakfast, and with the heat from the stove got
all warm and dry again. John felt better and the sun came
It was blowing very hard now from the west, and there
was no question of going on until the wind dropped. We
landed on one of the low islands that compose the group—
very low with such a high tide. The whole gulf was one
vast expanse of white-caps—racing and galloping along.
We were so close to the surface that it made you feel that
the island was doing the rocking.
We got home the next day after lunch and I raced John
right over to the doctor before we even changed. The
doctor asked a lot of questions and looked at his head and
felt around his shoulder. Then said to John, " It's all
right, old chap, you can lift your head up now — it
won't hurt any more."
John warily lifted his head up straight. " Why it's all
better," he smiled. " It doesn't hurt now, isn't that good! "
" He had a broken collar-bone," the doctor explained,
" and he has been holding himself the only way it didn't
hurt—a doctor couldn't have done any more for him."
Then he made me feel the ridge of bone that had already
built up round the fracture. No need now for even a sling.
The blood, he explained, had probably been a broken
blood-vessel. The vomiting, certainly shock, and I had
done the right thing to stop it.
Well . . . ! We were not used to those kind of troubles.
If we had had more of them, I suppose I wouldn't have
been so upset.
A Whale—Named Henry
The * Coast Pilot' at times either terrifies us or else gets
us into trouble. Quite naturally, I suppose ; for they have
big vessels in mind—and what does or doesn't do for a big
vessel isn't always right for the little boat. That is where
the local inhabitants are a help. One of them says to us:
" Oh, you don't have to do that—you can take a short-cut.
See that island ? Follow it down until you come to the
old sawmill. Then line the sawmill up with the three
maples on the low point, about a mile down on the opposite
shore. Follow that line—and it will lead you through the
reefs and kelp. After you reach the maples, it's all clear.
Save you about five miles, and you won't have to wait for
slack at the narrows."
We follow instructions—it doesn't look anything like a
mill, but there are squared timbers on the ground and the
remains of a roof. Then we look along the far shore, until
off in the distance we spot the three maples. We steer
across on the long angle. . . . Someone shouts " Rocks! "
but they are to one side and not on the line. If we follow
instructions and don't question them, we never get into
trouble in using the local short-cuts.
The I Coast Pilot,' speaking of Seechelt Inlet, says:
* Three miles within its entrance, it contracts to a breadth
of less than one-third of a mile, and is partially choked
with rocks and small islands which prevent in great
measure the free ingress and egress of the tide, causing the
most furious and dangerous rapids, the roar of which can
be heard for several miles.' These rapids, whose maximum
velocity is from ten to twelve knots, ( prevent any boat
from entering the inlet except for very short periods at
slack water.' Then it adds that I It would be hazardous
for any boat, except a very small one, to enter at any time.'
Well, we were a very small boat, thoroughly terrified by
the Pilot book, and we were creeping cautiously along on
the far side—listening for the roar. When we heard it, we
supposed that we should have to wait for it to stop, and
then we would get through.
" Just like Henry," breathed Peter and John, all excited.
Someone, three or four years ago, had told me a true story
about a black-fish or killer-whale that had gone through
Skookum-Chuck Rapids into the inlet, and couldn't find
his way out again. He was evidently in there for a couple
of years. All the tugboat men knew him. When they
tooted their whistles the whale always appeared, hoping
they would show him the way out.
Only last winter Peter and John and I had been sitting
in front of the big fireplace trying to think of a book to
read aloud. Books to read aloud are much harder to find
than just books to read. Finally, I suggested that if the
three of us put our heads together, we should be able to
write one for ourselves. Peter and John took this literally
and their heads came bang—against mine. Peter shouted,
1 Contact! " and John said, " Sparks ! " and up came,
of all things, a black-fish.
I sat there holding my head. What on earth had made
me think of a black-fish, which is just a local name for a
killer-whale ? The only one I had ever given a second
thought to was of course the one that had gone through
the Skookum-Chuck and couldn't find his way out again
—it always rather intrigued me. But who would ever try
to write a story about a whale !
I had to stop thinking. Peter kept asking, " What
have you got ? " And John, very eagerly, " What did
you see ? " and I was feeling more and more reluctant to
tell them. I finally suggested that we try it again, just to
make sure, and then I would tell them.
" Well, we'll do it harder this time," warned Peter.
And they did.
" Contact! " cried Peter, expectantly.
" Sparks ! " said John, in a very deep voice, as though
he thought the stronger the sparks, the better the results.
And there again—only worse—much more definite. In
words — "Up the coast there lived a whale — named
So, in despair, I had to tell them. There was a pause,
and John, always ready to make the best of a thing like
that, cried excitedly, "And he could be sick and throw
up ' ambergrease ' and we could find it! "
And Peter said scornfully, I Don't be silly, he wouldn't
do that. And anyway, this is to be a story, and he's going
to have a'ventures."
Peter and John finally went to bed, and I sat there
alone—perfectly miserable, with a whale—named Henry—
on my hands. I thought of trying to get rid of him, but
it was too late for that—I even knew what he looked
like. Beyond that I knew nothing; and I stuck at that
point for ages. Then, one night, when there was still
nothing to read, John started to cry. ..." Well, put
the period at the end," he sobbed; "that will be
something anyway."
So, for some time there was a big, round, black period,
patiently waiting on the last page—and John felt a little
I had never even been in Seechelt Inlet—but with the
aid of a chart, the \ Coast Pilot,' and a good deal of imagination, Henry finally reached the big black period—and
the tale was ended.   And it was after that that we decided
to go into the inlet ourselves, and see all the places and
things that Henry had.
So now, just like Henry, we were trying to find the
roar. Suddenly, we heard it—and then we saw the water
boiling out from behind the farthest island. The Indian
name ' Skookum-Chuck ' means ' Strong Waters.' How
smoothly the translation flows, and how the Indian name
boils, swirls and roars! We hastily tied up to a private
float against the shore. I should have liked to ask some
of the local people about it—before we tried it, even at
slack. But the house on the hill was empty, and no boat
lay at the wharf.
We ate our lunch while waiting for the roar to stop.
We had just finished, when ahead of us, on our side, we
could hear the whine of an approaching outboard engine.
The sea there seemed completely choked with kelp and
small islands, but out from behind an island came a row-
boat with an outboard and one man—without a doubt, a
local inhabitant. No one else could have wound through
that kelp with his sure feeling. Then into the open he
came—straight our way—and tied up at the float.
We were round him in an instant, asking questions. He
first asked how much our boat drew. Then told us that
we could get through where he had come, at any time and
any tide. There was a passage through the kelp, about
eight feet wide and four feet deep. We couldn't mistake
it—it showed clearly when you got closer. It led right
through into the inlet, and nowhere near the rapids.
I But we've got to go through the rapids," broke in
John, " because Henry did."
p Who is Henry ? " the man asked him.
I Henry was a whale," Peter answered. " He went in
there, and he couldn't find his way out again."
The man laughed. " I knew that whale, young fellows,
but I never thought to ask him what his name was."
We thanked the man, and took off for the kelp-bed—
where the ribbon of kelp-free water showed perfectly
clearly, just as he had said. Across on the other side the
Skookum-Chuck was still roaring furiously and dangerously—while we slipped in easily through the back
entrance. Peter and John were still glooming, because
we hadn't gone through where Henry did.
I think it is a mistake to go back to revisit places you
have known as a child. They are all changed and shrunken
—and you feel lost and lonely. And, I was beginning to
suspect—also a mistake to visit a place you knew only
from a book. Peter and John were expecting to find this
inlet just as they had imagined it—which came to them
second-hand from what I had imagined. So each of us
was going to be disappointed in his own way. A couple
of years ago I discovered that Peter thought the Government was three men sitting on a green bench. He preferred
his version to anything I told him—probably still does
for all I know.
I got out the chart and gave Jan the wheel. ..." Keep
to the left, close along the cliff," I said.
" Why ? " she asked, as she turned in closer.
" Jan ! " said Peter ; " don't you know that Henry
always stuck to his left cliff ? "
" There's the little island where he stopped to think,"
I pointed out. The island satisfied all of us—just about
what we had all imagined it to be like. There were the
twisted juniper at the edge, the stunted pines on the
crest, the moss and stone-crop above the high-water mark.
As Henry said, I Just the place for a think."
One woman editor I sent the story to wrote back to
say that \ All children don't like personalised animals '—
that she herself found it hard to come to grips with Henry.
She was quite mistaken—it was the other way round.
I had always imagined that I was inside Henry. Now
that I was in the inlet I found that I was looking at it
entirely from Henry's point of view.   If an editor can't
get inside a whale, if called upon—it's her own loss—she
doesn't have to put if off on the children. Children can
imagine anything, and come to grips with it. They have
no difficulty whatever in getting inside frogs, rabbits, ducks
or anything else—they just take a whale in their stride.
We turned into Narrows Arm, still keeping the cliffs
on our left. We could go very close, for there were thirty-
five fathoms right off the sheer drop of the cliff. Then the
two sides of the arm squeezed together until the cliffs
were only about two hundred feet apart. Five-thousand-
foot mountains on either side made it seem much narrower.
Quite a strong current was swirling through and rushing
us along. No wonder Henry thought he had found the
way out at this point.
The chart showed the end of the inlet as merging into
the Tzoonie River, with four outlets. So I had surmised
that it would be shallow with mud-flats, and enough fresh
water to have a lot of dead jelly-fish around—and that was
just what we found.
Seagulls were wheeling overhead and screaming at our
intrusion. There were lovely, sheer cliffs going up and up
and up, in terraces, to over six thousand feet. But boats,
like whales, have to think of the water under them. This
would be no place to spend the night in—what with
mud-flats, and the mosquitoes and no-see-ums that the
low land behind would breed. So we just took a turn
round, with Jan sitting astride the bow as look-out, and
got out again as fast as we could . . . and the seagulls
jeered and laughed, and settled down on the water again.
There was a little island in the bay just past the narrows
—through which we had to fight our way against the
current. But the island was steep-to and there was no
anchorage. Anyway, we really wanted to spend the
night in Storm Bay—where Henry had dropped in for
breakfast. So we ate some hard-tack and settled for
another two hours.
Storm Bay was not really a very good place to spend
the night. It was completely open to the west. The wind
that blew down Jervis Inlet in the late afternoon and
evening was perfectly likely to follow the mountains on
into Seechelt Inlet. We had not been in there before, so
we didn't know what to expect. There were two little
islands just inside the entrance to the bay. By putting
out a stern-anchor, I strung the boat in between and hoped
for a quiet night.
The day had been hot; but now the sun had sunk
behind the mountains to the north-west and the air was
just pleasantly warm. Slowly the lower hills were taking
on that violet hue that would deepen into purple at a later
Dinner over, and the bunks made up, we rowed slowly
into the end of the bay. From the cool, dark woods behind,
the thrushes called and called with their ringing mounting notes. Back of the beach we found a wooden tub
that some fisherman or trapper had sunk into the bank
to catch a stream of water trickling over the rock and
through the ferns. I leant over and shaded my eyes to
see if I could see the bottom of the tub. There on the
bottom was a little brown lizard. . . . The lizard, and
the water smelling of wet barrel-staves, moss and balsam,
sent me hurtling back through the years—to a similar
though larger barrel, on the cliff-path on the way down to
the beach at Cacouna, on the lower St Lawrence below
Quebec. There, you had to raise yourself on tiptoes on
the wet slippery stones, to drink deep of the cold water
that welled over the edge of the barrel. . . | Exactly the
same smell to the water—wet wood, moss and fern and
balsam. And if you shaded your eyes and looked down
at the bottom you almost always saw a little lizard—just
like the one at the bottom of this tub in Storm Bay-
thousands of miles away.
I told the children about the other barrel, when I was
a little girl—so they had to smell the water too, and look
at the lizard. John was fascinated by the idea that I
could ever have been as little as they were. . . .
" Some day, when you are big, you will find another
barrel with a smell like this—and a lizard—and it will
bring you right back to Storm Bay," I told them.
Down at Cacouna, as here—the thrushes in the cool
woods called and called. Down there, there was another
variety as well, that rang down and down—dropping,
dropping. . . .
On Sunday mornings, all through the church service in
the little white church in the middle of the pine-woods—
a little church that smelt of scrubbed pine and had hard
pine benches to sit on, but little red carpet-pads to kneel
on—all through the service I listened to the thrushes
ringing up—mounting and mounting . . . ringing down
. . . dropping and dropping . . . and never heard the
service at all.
The water in the bay was quite warm. When it got
dark we went in swimming off the boat, so that we could
make flying angels. When the water is full of plankton,
if you lie on your back and float, and move your arms
through the water—first down to your sides, and then up
against your head—you make great shining wings.
I climbed back on board with John to watch the other
two. Jan started taking big mouthfuls of water and
spouting them up in the air—liquid fire that broke and
shattered in the air, and fell and splashed. Peter tried
it too, but he laughed so much that I had to haul him
on board and thump his back—then subdue him with
I finally threatened to pull up the ladder if Jan didn't
come out. " I don't care if you do," she said. " I'd like to
stay in all night."
Just then a heron let off a shattering 5 Caaawk' as it-
swerved over our heads.    That was too much for our
angel of the spouts, and she climbed up the ladder in a
hurry—all wet and shivering.
It was quiet all night. I woke at times to check. Any
bay open to a prevailing wind is always an uneasy anchorage. The constellations were slowly wheeling round the
Pole star. They had almost made a semi-circle, the last
time I woke—and grey light was showing in the east.
Then I pulled my sleeping-bag over my head, and really
I was wakened by Peter and John arguing whether
there had been any fish left in the bay at all—after Henry
dropped in for breakfast. I shoo'd them off in the row-
boat to look for some, while I had a swim. Even breakfast
didn't stop the argument. I pulled the chart out and
showed them the island where Henry had found the goat.
fjf Will the goat still be there ? " they demanded.
" Probably," I foolishly said.
In the story, Henry, after following his left cliff on from
Storm Bay, forgets his cliff for a moment and takes a long,
deep dive. Suddenly remembering, he rushes for the
surface, and is very relieved to find his cliff still there.
He doesn't know—but it is not his cliff at all—he has
surfaced beside a rocky island.
Round and round he goes. A white goat comes down
onto a point to see who it is—and makes the kind of
friendly noises that a goat makes. Henry didn't like it
much—a goat was something outside his experience—and
he starts going faster to get rid of it—the goat bawling
after him. Faster and faster . . . another point, with
another goat! . . . another goat! He gets dizzier and
dizzier, and finally has to stop to get unwound. Eventually, of course, he finds out that it is an island ; and gets
back to his cliff and goes on once more, trying to find the
way out.
Darn Henry anyway! Why on earth had I said that
the goat would probably still be there.    Peter had the
binoculars, and was watching the island—and John
fought him for them every time Peter took his eyes from
I slowed down a little ... no use hurrying to meet
trouble. Who ever heard of a goat on an island, miles from
anywhere—please, oh please, let there be a goat. . . .
II see it! " shrieked Peter, pointing. I grabbed the
glasses from him. There, on a point, was a white goat
waiting for us.
I sat down. I felt exactly like Saint Theresa—all weak
in the knees. Challenged by a guard when she was
smuggling forbidden food to starving prisoners, and
asked what she had in her basket—" Roses," she said.
He pulled off the cloth that covered the basket—and it
was full of roses.
That silly goat! It was a wonder we ever got any
farther at all that day. It did all the silly things that
goats do ; and said all the silly things that goats say ; and
stuck to the children like a leech. It was a young billy,
and must have been brought up with children. When
they came on board to lunch, it stood on the point,
bawling. . . .
It was the middle of the afternoon when, tired of feeling
eternally grateful, I tooted my little whistle and started
pulling up the anchor. The youngsters did their best to
get back quickly—realising that my patience was finally
at an end—but the goat jumped into the dinghy too, and
they couldn't get him out.
% What will we do ? " they wailed, desperate eyes on
the anchor. I gave some advice, as well as I could for
laughing, and they went on shore again. The goat of
course followed. They picked a pile of green leaves for it,
and Jan sat beside it while Peter and John got in the
dinghy and pushed off a little way. Then, when the goat
had a mouthful of green leaves, Jan got a head start—
giving a mighty push as she jumped in.   Peter pulled on
the oars and they were safe. But how that goat bawled,
and how the children worried about it!
" How would you like to be a goat, all alone on an
island ? " demanded Peter. But he didn't take up my
offer to leave him behind to keep the goat company. It
is bad enough, sometimes, to be cruising with a boat full of
children without being pestered with stray characters out
of a book.
It is ten miles from Goat Island up to the end of Salmon
Arm, which runs off to the north-east from Seechelt Inlet.
We fished for our supper on the way, and caught a five-
pound salmon—which relieved the tension caused by the
lonely goat. Late in the afternoon we made our way
slowly alongside the cliff where Henry had waited for so
long. Peter and John showed very little interest—they
were still discussing the goat. It was I, in spite of myself,
who kept looking for the white vein of quartz and the
green copper stain—by which Henry had gauged the rise
and fall of the tide while he was waiting for the roar of the
falls to stop—thinking it was the roar of the Skookum-
Chuck, and the way out. And it was I who kept expecting,
and was disappointed not to find, the old Indian village
by the falls—| Old-village-by-the-water-that-never-stops.'
The end of the arm was not quite as I had expected.
I had thought there would be one large, roaring waterfall.
It roared all right, but at this season there were three
smaller ones, spilling over a wide sweep of smooth sandstone terraces. There were the remains of an old shingle
mill, and the flume that had carried water down to turn
a generator. Big logs stranded on the sandstone slopes
showed what a tremendous volume of water must come
over the falls at times. We climbed up the dry sandstone
and to our surprise found a large lake—the chart had just
shown an unexplored blank.
In the morning we rowed across to the other side of the
bay, where we could see a small float held out from the
cliff by poles. There was a steep trail leading up through
the woods, and high up at the lake level we found a small
cabin and an elderly man and his wife. They were caretakers for some fishing-club—which kept the lakes stocked
with trout—fishing for members only. There were two
lakes, the second one much bigger than the first. He
said he had an old boat tied up on the lake. We could use
it if we would like to row up to the next lake and swim.
We rowed up as far as the second lake, which was about
three or four miles long and a mile wide. The two lakes
lay in a deep cleft between very high mountains, and must
have collected all the drainage from their slopes. The
boat was too old and waterlogged to row very far.
We drifted along in the shade of the trees, and watched
the trout rising to some kind of fly that kept dancing just
above the water. I had stooped down to bail the boat
again, when I spied a sealed glass jar underneath the j back
seat.' I picked it up—it was bottled salmon-eggs! Illegal!
That old caretaker i What would the fishing-club think
of that! What did we have on us that we could be illegal
with, too ? Peter produced a piece of minnow-line from
his pocket. Jan had a very small safety-pin, and I had a
lucky ten-cent piece with a hole in it. And John, who at
first thought he had nothing at all—cut a stick for us.
The ten-cent piece made a good lure, although it twisted
the line up a bit. An unripe huckleberry looked like a
salmon-egg and was not nearly as smelly as those under
the seat. We found that you had to have a very quick
technique or else these ten-inch trout either bent the pin
or slipped off it.
We stopped at four fish. Then wrapped them in cool
green fern. When we got back to the landing, I sent the
youngsters back by the sandstone terraces with the fish—
while I went back by the cabin to thank them for the
% I could have lent you a line," he said, " and you could
have caught yourselves a mess of trout. We hardly ever
see anyone up here, except the members."
How much more fun we had pirating them !
I insisted on hugging the left cliff on the way out too—
although the children insisted that Henry hadn't. He
hadn't—he had fiiiished with cliffs for life when he found
they had only led him to the roar of the falls, instead of to
the way out. But this left cliff was two miles distant from
the island with the goat. I might, or might not be finished
with goats—roses were easier.
So we hugged the left cliff, and that led us into Porpoise
Bay, where Seechelt Inlet is separated from the Gulf of
Georgia by only fifty yards of nice, soft sand. That was
where Timothy, the young grey seagull, had taken Henry
to show him the way out.
In the garden at home there is a little grave—with a
grave-stone. On it is laboriously carved, ' Here lies
Timothy—dead.' It was supposed to say ' dead of a
broken wing,' but there wasn't room, and the stone had
been very hard. We had found him in the garden one day
—very bright eyes looking at us out of a clump of long
grass. He had a broken wing, which someone had evidently tried to fix with a couple of matches and a piece of
fiShing-twine. We tried to fix it again, but he always
pecked it off. We called him Timothy, because his toes
were pink. But he wouldn't eat, and after a week—
though surrounded by much love—he died. So they had a
sorrowful funeral for him—and Peter carved his stone.
That was last fall—and Timothy had just naturally
wandered into the story of Henry.
Porpoise Bay was very shallow as you got in farther,
and the weeds tickled the bottom of the boat, just as they
had tickled Henry's tummy. It was too shallow at that
stage of the tide to get into the float; but the children
landed and raced across the fifty yards of nice soft sand,
to look at the Gulf of Georgia.
I sat in the boat, looking at the nice soft sand. That
was where Timothy had stood, his broken wing trailing,
looking over his shoulder in a bewildered kind of way,
asking, " Henry, aren't you coming too ? "
" I can't swim in sand ! " roared Henry.
" Oh," said Timothy, trying to shield himself with his
good wing from Henry's furious splashes, " I didn't think
of that."
" You wouldn't! " said Henry; and added, " Get out
of here."
And Timothy got . . . pad . . . pad . . , pad and
faded away in the darkness. . . .
" Poor Timothy," said John, in his very saddest voice,
as he climbed on board. " It was quite a long way, with
a broken wing."
"I carved that grave-stone, you know, John," said
" I know," said John, " but he wasn't only yours."
" Most of it was just a story," said Jan, firmly, as she
sat down astride the bow.   " And Mummy wrote it." fam
" I know," said Peter. " But we all helped; I said
' Contact,' you remember."
" And I said j Sparks '," reminded John.
Bumping heads together may be a good way to produce
unusual characters—but not if you ever want to get rid
of them again.
Little House
You just said suddenly, " We'll probably leave for home
to-morrow."   You started off . . . and you arrived.
It wasn't really quite as simple as that. You probably
decided suddenly because the weather was unexpectedly
good for the moment and the glass had steadied. Calm,
fine weather the last week in September is like a gift—
something to be thankful for, but not expected.   Nor do
you refuse it, for it mightn't be offered again.
Even if you had decided, the weather never definitely
decided what it was going to do until ten or eleven the
next morning. Once it had committed itself, it didn't
often change.
But there was always the gulf between us and home.
The weather on the home side of the gulf could be quite
different from the side we were on. So in spite of it being
fine and calm on the mainland side, we would take the
binoculars and look across to beyond Texada Island. If
you could see a long dark line on the sea extending south
—then you knew that it was blowing hard from the west,
the whole way down from Johnstone Strait. With our
little boat, it would be foolish even to think of starting.
It is a good twelve hours' run from Secret Cove near
Welcome Pass to home. With a favourable tide we have
sometimes made it in a day. But usually, we got about
two-thirds of the way there and then had to hole up for
the night. By the end of September in this latitude it is
almost dark by six o'clock.
Once more in sheltered waters, we could start off for
the last third of the trip at any time in the morning we
liked. But no one had any desire to linger—home was
only forty miles away. We, who had not given Little
House a thought all summer, were now straining every
nerve to complete the journey far faster than our boat
could run.
We had come up through these waters at the beginning
of June when everything was a fresh pulsing green. The
small islets and points had been covered with grass and
stone-crop, pink sea-thrift and small blue flowers. Everything was going somewhere . . . towards some fulfilment, and was shouting out all about it. Now, in the
last week in September, the hills and points were dry and
brown.    Green leaves were on the trees, some with a
N 2
touch of yellow or a shade of pink, but they were stiff
and dry and quiet. There was a stillness about everything
... it was all spent and finished with—nothing, now,
had anything to say at all.
We rushed along past them—straining for our known
end. The rocky points, which like prehistoric beasts had
thrust out menacing jaws to stop us on our way north,
now shrank back before our urgency to let us pass.
Then somebody said, " Do you remember ? " and the
memories poured forth, one on top of the other. . . . The
humming-bird that built her nest in the rose-bush just
outside the window, and hatched out the black-skinned
babies. The quail whose mate had been snatched up by
a hawk, and who went round all spring calling, " Oh,
Richard ! Oh, Richard ! " and Richard never answered
at all. The frogs in the pond that stop singing the moment
they hear a footstep, even twenty feet away, and make
perfect watch-dogs—but are very frustrating because you
can never get near them. We never thought of Little
House all summer—and now we were remembering. . . .
I remember when we first found Little House, lying all
by itself in the middle of the forest. It was June-time.
Everything was covered with roses in bloom—on the
paths—in the porch—over the house—up the roof ...
roses were everywhere. They formed a cordon round the
house—we couldn't get near it. They caught at our legs
and tugged at our clothes. " It's ours, it's ours ! " they
cried, and did their best to keep us out.
It was the first time we had ever found a little fairy-tale
house in the middle of a forest, and we didn't know quite
what to do. So we called out, " Little House, Little House,
who lives in Little House ? " and nobody answered.
So we called louder, " Little House, Little House, who
lives in Little House ? "   And still nobody answered.
" Well, then," we said, " we'll live here ourselves," and
we crept in through the window and settled ourselves in
Little House.
That was the tale the children used to tell on winter
evenings, in front of the roaring fire in the big stone fireplace, about how we came to live in Little House. Just
when everybody was feeling happy and contented about
it, Peter always broke the peace by saying, % You're not
in this, John, you weren't here at all." And John always
said, I Well, I came along suddenly, and when you all
answered, I said, ' I'm Mr Bear-squash-you-all-flat,' and
I squashed you all as flat as anything."
You would understand all this better if you had read
our favourite book of the moment, \ Russian Picture
Tales.' In one of the stories, a mouse finds a big earthen
water-jar lying in a field, and thinks what a nice house it
would make to live in. So he says, " Little House, Little
House, who lives in Little House ? " and nobody answers.
So he calls louder . . . and when still nobody answers,
he says, " Well then, I shall live here myself." So he
settles himself in Little House. Then a frog comes along
and asks the same question, and when Mr Mouse answers
that he, Mr Mouse, does, they decide to live together.
Several other animals join them, the last being Mr Bear-
squash-you-all-flat, who comes along suddenly and spoils
everything by sitting down.
Anyway, our Little House looked just like a fairy-tale
house. It was built of half-logs with the rough bark still
on, all up on end. The casement windows, in groups of
three, had leaded panes. The roof was very steep, also of
bark, with a great stone chimney breaking through on
one side of it and a gable window on the other. There
was a porch at the front of the house, and beside the porch
grew a great rose-bush with a trunk as big as a man's
arm. It climbed up over the steep porch roof and peeked
in through the leaded-paned windows of the upper room.
Then, since nobody would let it in there, it scrambled up
under the wide eaves and tried to find cracks into the
attic, or pry the bark off the logs on the roof—for it was a
very strong rose-bush and had no shame.
After we had called out and asked who lived in Little
House and crawled in through the unlatched window, we
lost our hearts to it. For inside was a great square living-
room with a big stone fireplace across one corner, and a
winding staircase in another. Long groups of windows
with diamond panes looked deep into the green forest that
crowded close. As you shrank back—a little dismayed
at such dangerous living—the low dark ceiling spread
itself over you, and you at once felt all right again.
Then we tiptoed through the echoing dining-room;
looked into the silent kitchen ; crept up the winding
staircase to the bedrooms, where the wooden walls sloped
steeply and made the ceilings seem on strangely intimate
terms with the floor.
Anyway, there it all was—fireplace, latticed windows,
winding stairs, low dark ceilings and of course roses . . .
one was rather helpless against them all.
When we crawled out through the window again, there
on the ground right underneath the window was a round
silver dollar. We considered that a very good omen, and
spent it on ice-cream and salve for the thorns.
Seven acres of its own land surrounded Little House.
On three sides was the sea, and on the fourth side the big
forest. If you hold out your right arm and hand, palm
up and slightly cupping the hand, thumb close in—you
have a relief map of Seven Acres. You approached, as
though along your arm, through half a mile of forest with
the sea on your right. Seven Acres began just before you
reached the hollow that your wrist makes with the joint
of your thumb as it swings out. This hollow was called
Big Cove:—a sandy cove that cleft the high cliff for no
apparent reason.
The ball of your thumb and the thumb itself was the
same rugged cliff which rose two hundred feet up from
the sea and sloped abruptly to your palm. The drive-way
skirted the inner base of the cliff or ball of your thumb,
along where your Life Line and Line of Destiny run.
And where your lines of Life and Destiny meet your Heart
Line, there nestled Little House.
It faced south and slightly east, and a garden ran from
the house to Little Cove—which was where the big cliff
Except for the little fertile garden, Seven Acres was
mostly trees, rocks and cliffs. If you went up the hill to
the east there was a ridge and the house disappeared, all
but the pointed roof. If you climbed the big cliff to the
south-east and looked back, you saw nothing but tree-
tops and sky, and you thought " Oh, dear! What has
happened to Little House ? " But if you remembered to
look down at your feet, then you found it again—for 'way
down a thin thread of smoke was rising up through the
Most of the trees that grew on Seven Acres were Douglas
firs, that went up and up—great bare trunks. But far up
at the top, if you held your head back, you could see
the branches sprawled against the sky. Here and there
among the firs were arbutus-trees. They were green all
the year round, shedding their old leaves as the new leaves
came. They also shed their red bark and stood there cold
and naked-looking, their satin-smooth skin now the palest
of pinks and greens. They are versatile trees, for they
also bloom in the spring, holding up what at a distance
look like little bunches of lily-of-the-valley. Not content
with that, the flowers become bright red berries in the
When we first lived there, the big firs and balsams grew
very close to the house.   So close that they could lean
across and whisper to each other at night. Sometimes
they would keep you awake and you would forget and say
sharply, "Hush, trees, go to sleep ! " At first there would
be an astonished silence . . . then a rush of low laughter
. . . and they would whisper louder than ever, until you
had to put your head under the blankets.
The coast of British Columbia is what is called a sinking
coast. At some time, long past, there had been a great
upheaval, and then subsidence. Seven Acres did not
escape. Some awful force picked it up, held-it at arm's
length, and then let it drop sideways in an untidy muddle.
Some of it held together, and the rest of it lay here and
there. You could never go out for a straight stroll—you
were always climbing up something, or clambering down
something, making a detour. When you wanted to get to
the top of the big cliff it took you ages to get there. First
you had to go along the drive-way. Then cut down to the
left through the little copse of wild cherry and cedar. That
brought you through to half a dozen rough stone steps
that led up and round a great block of stone onto a straight
path. But just as you thought this might be leading
somewhere, you found yourself on a long winding serpent
of stepping-stones that writhed in and out, and up and
down—but always higher and higher until finally you
sank down breathless on the very tip-top of the big cliff.
If you peered cautiously over . . . you could see great
blocks of rock that had broken off the cliff at some past
time. You would step back from the edge and look
anxiously round for signs of more cracks. There was a
dry reef a little way off shore, and on it the cormorants
sat and spread out their wings to dry between dives.
Sometimes the seagulls passing would stop and gossip
for a while with the cormorants; or a seal haul his fish
out on the lower ledge and enjoy it in the sun. On calm
days you could lie and watch the little hell-divers dive
down . . . down . . . down in the clear green water—
and follow the quick turns and kick of their little pink
feet, and the line of bubbles that drifted to the surface.
The smaller cliff to the east had been left on its end by
the long past upheaval. All the strata, instead of lying
horizontally, ran up and down and bent into groaning
curves. The rock was soft, and wind and waves had worn
it away until the top of the cliff was overhanging. Sixty
feet above the sea, at the very edge and nonchalantly
stepping off into space, poised a stunted fir-tree. Time
and the weather had worried and worn it—but there it
persisted, sharp and simple as a Japanese print with the
sea and snow-peaked Mount Baker in the background.
Island after island lay to the east and north of us. The
tides in this area have a normal rise and fall of fifteen feet,
though with a high wind they pile up two or three feet
higher. Twice a day, these tides came and struggled
through the narrow passes, pushed past the blocking
islands and up the deep bays and inlets. And twice a day
they gave it up and ran exhausted back to the wide
The islands sheltered us fairly well from the cold north
winds, but we were open and exposed to those from the
south-east. The big winter winds from that direction
would drive in from Puget Sound and Juan de Fuca
Straits. Higher and higher would rise the tide and the
seas. With great booming roars the waves would fling
themselves against the cliffs, dashing and battering them
in blind fury. The coves would be a seething mass of
swirling logs smashing themselves into futile splinters and
scouring the beaches out of all recognition.
Salt spray from the crests of the big waves were caught
up by the wind and blown a hundred yards inland—right
np to Little House itself. Branches hurtled through the
air and landed with deep crashes. Nobody dared go out of
doors. In the worst gusts a whole tree would fall with a
mighty thud that jarred the whole house.
Then driving rain . . , dying wind . . . and finally
peace. Seven Acres, stripped of everything weak or
unsound, would shake the wet from its strong sound
branches ; run the water off its steep rocks and cliffs, and
stand steaming in the misty sunlight.
. . . Yes, yes!   We all remember. . . . Hurry! Hurry!
known to its friends the world over as \ Maga'—
was first published in 1817.    Since then it has
never increased its price of half-a-crown, or missed
a publication date.   It has always been edited by
a Blackwood.   Throughout its long history \ Maga'
has been renowned for stories of work and play,
war and peace, humour and thrills—infinite variety
and unfailing entertainment.
A gift of a year's subscription (£1, 15s., which
includes postage) is a compliment to good taste
and a reminder of regard and friendship twelve
times during the year.   Write to 45 George Street,
Edinburgh, for a free specimen copy.


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