. . sunk deep into the earth” &c. II-23-b “The colonists, falling on their knees, returned thanks to God” II-24-a Kalumah and the bear
CONTENTS Part I
I A Soirée at Fort Reliance II The Hudson’s Bay Fur Company III A Savant Thawed IV A Factory V From Fort Reliance to Fort enterprise VI A Wapiti Duel VII The Arctic Circle VIII The Great Bear Lake IX A Storm on the Lake X A Retrospect XI Along the Coast XII The Midnight Sun XIII Fort Hope XIV Some Excursions XV Fifteen Miles from Cape Bathurst XVI Two Shots XVII The Approach of Winter XVIII The Polar Night XIX A Neighbourly Visit XX Mercury Freezes XXI The Large Polar Bears XXII Five Months More XXIII The Eclipse of the 18th June 1860
A SOIRÉE AT FORT RELIANCE.
On the evening of the 17th March 1859, Captain Craventy gave a fête at Fort Reliance. Our readers must not at once imagine a grand entertainment, such as a court ball, or a musical soirée with a fine orchestra. Captain Craventy’s reception was a very simple affair, yet he had spared no pains to give it éclat.
In fact, under the auspices of Corporal Joliffe, the large room on the ground-floor was completely transformed. The rough walls, constructed of roughly-hewn trunks of trees piled up horizontally, were still visible, it is true, but their nakedness was disguised by arms and armour, borrowed from the arsenal of the fort, and by an English tent at each corner of the room. Two lamps suspended by chains, like chandeliers, and provided with tin reflectors, relieved the gloomy appearance of the blackened beams of the ceiling, and sufficiently illuminated the misty atmosphere of the room. The narrow windows, some of them mere loop-holes, were so encrusted with hoar-frost, that it was impossible to look through them; but two or three pieces of red bunting, tastily arranged about them, challenged the admiration of all who entered. The floor, of rough joists of wood laid parallel with each other, had been carefully swept by Corporal Joliffe. No sofas, chairs, or other modern furniture, impeded the free circulation of the guests. Wooden benches half fixed against the walls, huge blocks of wood cut with the axe, and two tables with clumsy legs, were all the appliances of luxury the saloon could boast of. But the partition wall, with a narrow door leading into the next room, was decorated in a style alike costly and picturesque. From the beams hung magnificent furs admirably arranged, the equal of which could not be seen in the more favoured regions of Regent Street or the Perspective-Newski. It seemed as if the whole fauna of the ice-bound North were here represented by their finest skins. The eye wandered from the furs of wolves, grey bears, polar bears, otters, wolverenes, beavers, muskrats, water pole-cats, ermines, and silver foxes; and above this display was an inscription in brilliantly-coloured and artistically shaped cardboard—the motto of the world-famous Hudson’s Bay Company—
“Really, Corporal Joliffe, you have surpassed yourself !” said Captain Craventy to his subordinate.
“I think I have, I think I have !” replied the Corporal; “but honour to whom honour is due, Mrs Joliffe deserves part of your commendation; she assisted me in everything.”
“A wonderful woman, Corporal.”
“Her equal is not to be found, Captain.”
An immense brick and earthenware stove occupied the centre of the room, with a huge iron pipe passing from it through the ceiling, and conducting the dense black smoke into the outer air. This stove contained a roaring fire constantly fed with fresh shovelfuls of coal by the stoker, an old soldier specially appointed to the service. Now and then a gust of wind drove back a volume of smoke into the room, dimming the brightness of the lamps, and adding fresh blackness to the beams of the ceiling, whilst tongues of flame shot forth from the stove.