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of this gorge, supping upon some fine trout caught in the pools. Were it not for the difficulty of reaching it, the See-way-sini-kop Falls (as Mr. Hind calls them) and pools would, he says, "be by far the most attractive salmon-fishing ground it has been my good fortune to see in the wilds of Eastern Canada." Numbers of salmon were indeed seen leaping up the Falls, but not one could they catch with the most gaudy and attractive flies. Even the celebrated fiery-brown failed to decoy them. This pool is, however, one of the favourite Indian resorts for spearing salmon by torchlight.
The scenery on the river continued to be everywhere charming, and sometimes grand above these Falls, and they soon came to a second gorge, perhaps more beautiful than the first, and not so difficult to pass. Rabbits and porcupines formerly existed in great numbers throughout this part of the country, but now none are to be found. The disappearance of the rabbit, Mr. Hind says, must have been largely instrumental in driving Indians from the Moisie. There are now many parts of Eastern Canada which would not sustain even a few families of hunters, if it were not for the rabbits. Large boulders, also, now began to show themselves in the middle of the stream, and it required great care and hard labour to get past them.
Farther on, they came to where Cold-water River joined the Moisie. Trout abounded in it, and they soon caught enough to furnish them with an excellent dinner and supper. There were also remains of old Montagnais lodges, and a well-worn path at this point, showing that it had been once a favourite resting-place. A stupendous land-slide displayed the fact that the rock here was no other than the celebrated Labrador felspar. "A mountain range," writes Mr. Hind, "of Labrador felspar, no doubt the fire-rocks of the Nasquapees, small areas of which, under favourable conditions and aspects, charm the eye with changing lustre, and reflect the most lovely greys, the most delicate blues, and the softest golden yellows."
The ascent of Cold-water River was entered upon by another arduous portage, and while the men were busy transporting the canoes and baggage, the travellers fished, catching some large speckled trout, wandered in the fine forest which filled the narrow valley, and gathered some beautiful and rare species of flowers which grew with singular luxuriance in the moist woods. The evening encampment also lay in a pleasant spot. The next day a flock of merry birds, known as whisky-jacks, followed them up the silent and gloomy river, and did not leave them until they entered the "Lake where the Sand lies," and where they were succeeded by mosquitoes and beach-flies, which now came to torment them.
The quiet lake lay calm and fair as we gently stole upon its waters-smooth as a mirror, and reflecting with perfect fidelity the green and purple mountains on its shores. This is truly a land of contrasts. From a sluggish river coated with slime, with a heavy, damp, dispiriting atmosphere brooding over it, to a bright and limpid lake, full of sunshine and colour, is but a step over which you slip insensibly, but not without insensibly realising the change.
The day is hot, but the shadows of the purple mountains are deep, and the waters of the lake ice-cold. Passing from sunshine into shade, a chill thrills through every limb, and you turn back to the pleasant glow again to enjoy the warm air and brilliant light. Ice lingers on those distant cloud-capped peaks,
but all around, the trees, where trees can grow on the sloping rocks, wear their summer dress. Still, something weighs upon the spirits which you find it impossible to shake off. What is it? All, more or less, are under its influence. The Indians are silent as the grave. The French voyageurs neither laugh, nor talk, nor sing, but move their paddles mechanically, dipping them carefully into the water to make as little noise as possible. What is it that seems to weigh upon the spirits of us all? It is the absence of life, it is the consciousness of being in a desolate wilderness. Rocks and trees and water are as beautiful as they can be imagined, yet there is no bird, or beast, or fish to give animation to this lovely scene.
Labrador may have its charms, and its air may in summer-time be bracing and healthy, but it is certainly not an inviting country, except, perchance, to some enthusiastic angler for a month, and we suspect that before even that time had expired, he, too, would have conjured up wendigoes in such solitudes. Beyond this lake was another, and then a portage. They met here with traces of beaver and of reindeer, but saw none themselves. The Montagnais, like the beaver they hunted, are gone too. "Both caribou and beaver," says Mr. Hind, " will come again and people this desert once more; but there will be no Montagnais or Nasquapees to hunt or disturb them in their secure retreat.”
The Labrador tea-plant is in bloom, and casts a faint but delicious fragrance around. The gneiss, which rises in gigantic terraces, one above the other, is covered with brilliant-coloured lichens in rings, crescents, and ovals of every hue, from the pale cream-coloured "reindeer moss" to the vermilion "cupmoss," growing in bunches, groups, and beds all over the grey gneiss. Larches and birches, branching free from the deep cracks in the rocks, are wonderfully symmetrical. A scented breeze drives insect tormentors away, bringing an evening blessing in these desolate wilds.
From the summit of that peaked mountain in the lofty chain to the north, 1500 to 2000 feet above, the Nasquapee says he has seen ships in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and the level country where Ashwanipi flows, the great river of the Labrador table-land. And, lastly, there looms, on the opposite side of the valley, another great land-slide, as recent as, and more gigantic than, the one passed over a few days ago. The slowly sinking sun reddens the mountain-tops, the black shadows move swiftly across the lake; loons, with wild prophetic cries, fly like arrows towards their nests; the long twilight fades softly into night, and the silence of a beautiful but lifeless wilderness depresses the spirits and saddens the heart.
Beyond this portage with its gneiss-terraces they came to a small lake on the summit of a low dividing ridge, whose waters were enlivened by a saw-bill duck, with a brood of nine little ones. Our travellers had the good taste not to shoot the bird, and they saw it again on their return, but it had been robbed of some of its young by predatory animals or birds. There were no fish in this lake, but the larvae of water-beetlesblood-suckers, as the voyageurs call them-abounded. Beyond the "Top of the Ridge Lake" lay another dreaded mountain portage. The mosquitoes and black flies were also terrible, but trout and carp were thick as leaves in the little rapids at the foot of the portage. They caught one hundred and twenty, sufficient for supper and breakfast all round. The voyageurs have a pretty legend regarding the insect pests of the country:
"They believe that a certain saint was banished from heaven for disobedience
to the commands of one of the higher angels, and condemned to dwell alone for a long period in one of the uninhabited parts of the earth. She found the time hang heavy on her hands, until at length she prayed that even a few flies might be sent to amuse her.
"The mosquito, the black fly, and the brulôt were forthwith created, and during the remaining period of her punishment they gave her more employment than she wanted in resisting their attacks.
"The saint was restored to heaven, but the flies remained behind to keep us in constant remembrance of the folly of seeking for amusement to distract attention from sorrows which we have brought on ourselves by indiscretion or sin."
All parties agreed that the "Top of the Ridge Lake" was by far the most beautiful they had yet seen. The still and bright day, coupled with the excellent sport they enjoyed, and the absence of insect tormentors, no doubt heightened their appreciation of it. The mountains, green, purple, and grey, as the eye wandered higher and higher, were most sublime; and the river rippling over its gravelly bed was "like a child at play!" The brilliant crimson spotted trout, leaping wildly at their gaudy flies, flashed in the evening sunlight. The pure and invigorating air sighed past them, perceptibly perfumed with the fragrant Labrador tea-plant; and being all in excellent condition and in the enjoyment of perfect health, they felt glad and thankful that they possessed the rare opportunity of seeing Nature in these silent and distant solitudes. An attempt was made to ascend one of the nearest mountains from the "Top of the Ridge Portage," but the difficulties and distance were found to be far too great. The more experienced Louis said to them, indeed, on starting:
You go up top of that mountain?'
Yes,' I said, we are going to try.'
"Louis held out his hand, saying, "Good-by for a little.' "Why do you say "good-by," Louis ?'
"You go top that mountain, not see you again for two or three days; want to wish you good-by for a little while." "
Hence they proceeded to Trout Lake, whence Cold-water River took its rise. The dividing ridge is 1556 feet above the sea. The Indians call it the "Height of Land Portage ;" but it really is nothing more than a spur of the great table-land of Labrador coming from the northwest, and separating the waters of the east branch of the Moisie from those of the main river. The lichens and mosses were now becoming more beautiful than ever. They commonly grew in circles, assuming the most fantastic forms and brilliant colours. The caribou or reindeer moss was sixteen inches deep. Other species were of more luxuriant growth still, and in some low and moist places the lovely carpet was two feet thick, and soft as a bed of eider-down. These licheniferous regions may be considered as truly sub-arctic, establishing the transition between a land of snow and ice, with a few flowering plants in summer, and the first brushwood and forests of the northern temperate zone.
The explorers met their first herd of reindeer at this dividing ridge. Hard by the same place was a bear's skull stuck in a dead branch. of the Indians left a piece of tobacco between the jaws: they are very superstitious about the bones of animals. From Trout Lake to Lake Nipisis they descended through four sheets of water and their connecting
rivers, having to carry everything over four portages which separated them. The first of these lakes they called Mosquito Lake, from the extraordinary number of that troublesome insect which tormented them when crossing it and the succeeding portage. The little connecting streamlets swarmed with trout, and they caught a large number with fly. The most ardent sportsman could, however, scarcely stand the attacks of the mosquitoes, even when three fine trout would rise and hook themselves on separate flies at every third or fourth cast. All the men were compelled to wear veils, their faces and necks were becoming much swollen, and as they paddled mournfully across these little lakes they looked like veiled sufferers from snow-blindness, fearing and shunning the light. The foliage of the spruce and Banksian pine was, however, remarkably beautiful round these secluded sheets of water.
"What's that?' said one of the voyageurs at the night-camp, as he was lying at full-length before the fire, listening to the conversation, as a distant howl was distinctly audible.
"A wolf,' answered Pierre. 'Be still, and you will hear it again
"But that is in a different direction; the first noise came from over yonder.'
"One wolf answers another,' said Pierre. 'Be still, perhaps you will hear half a dozen yet; but I don't think there are many wolves here, there is nothing for them to eat.'
Although it was the 28th day in June when the explorers reached Lake Nipisis, ice several feet thick remained in the fissures of a rugged rock at which they lay wind-bound for some time. They found the traces of Indians at the northern extremity of this lake, attesting to the existence of a few roving, hunting beings in these desolate regions. Mr. Hind also appropriated to himself a splendid pair of caribou horns, which had been placed on the branch of a tree during the winter. There were tracks of fresh caribou, bear, beaver, and fox, in the same neighbourhood, showing that the region was more frequented by game than what they had hitherto met with, which accounted also for the recent presence of Indians.
An incident occurred here which had well-nigh cost the explorers their canoes. The day was hot and sultry, the caribou moss dry and brittle, and, notwithstanding every precaution, a fire made to cook dinner caught the moss, and spread with amazing rapidity. It was only by extraordinary exertions that the canoes were saved by dashing them into the river. The baggage was also luckily secured by being removed to a little beach of sand on the edge of the river. The fires thus accidentally brought about are among the most fearful calamities by which Labrador is visited. The mosses burn with such rapidity that there is no escape for a man by flight. His only chance, if at a distance from water, is to scrape a space bare around him and to lie down. The fire communicates to the forests, and immense tracts of vegetation are sometimes thus consumed. A few days later the explorers had painful proof of the awful change in the features of the country produced by wide-spreading conflagrations, and Mr. Hind says that there appears to be little reason to doubt that a very considerable portion of the Labrador Peninsula has from this cause been rendered an uninhabitable wilderness. He also
attributes a very curious phenomenon known as the "dark days of Canada," and which occurred in 1785, and again in 1814, giving rise to all kinds of wild speculations as to distant volcanic action, simply to the combustion of vast tracts in the interior of Labrador. Many thousand square miles are indeed in the present day a burnt country!
A burning forest of spruce and birch is a spectacle of extraordinary sublimity during the night; it is like a magnificent display of fireworks on a stupendous scale, and far surpasses the conflagrations of the heavier forests in more temperate climates. A spruce-tree flashes into flame from the bottom to the top almost instantaneously, with a crackling hissing roar, which, when viewed close at hand, rivets a breathless attention, not unmixed with anxiety and fear. The light which it casts is vivid and red, the noise sharp, quick, and loud, like an infinite number of snaps repeated with just perceptible intervals. The awful but splendid light thrown through the forest casts the blackest shadows wherever its rays cannot reach. The birch-trees flame steadily, pouring . forth huge volumes of dense smoke, which whirling high in the air form an opaque screen above the burning forest, from which a lurid light is reflected; at intervals gusts of wind sweep through the trees, followed by a train of smoke and sparks which, winding through the charred trunks or meeting with violent eddies, rise up in a spiral form to rejoin the black clouds above. When the wind is favourable, a burning spruce forest viewed from an eminence is awfully impressive; from ten, twenty, to fifty trees at a time columns of flame shoot up, wildly twisting and darting high above the trees, and then subside; a few minutes later another outburst illuminates rocks and mountains, which appear indescribably vast, silent, and immovable. Wild-fowl, disturbed and bewildered by the dazzling light, fly in great circles high above the burning forest, and sometimes, descending rapidly in spiral flight, plunge into the fires; others drop from an immense height like a stone into the flames, probably suffocated by the hot air and smoke in which they have been wheeling round and round for hours, fascinated like moths by the fitful glare below them.
Another pretty lake, where they saw bear, beaver, loons, and spruce partridges, led the way to the burnt country in question. It was an awful scene of desolation, far surpassing any they had seen before. "We looked," says Mr. Hind, "upon a burnt country, where the dead standing trees still wore the marks of fire, or were bleached by years of lifeless exposure. We saw myriads of boulders strewed over the hills and mountains, without a green moss or a grey lichen to show that life had ever been there. This, then, was the beginning of the burnt country which the Indians had told us lay near the Height of Land-the great table-land of the Labrador Peninsula." One fact they noticed with delight. On that vast gloomy expanse there were numerous little islands of forests which had escaped the fire, little green oases in a black desert; something that might lead them to picture in their minds' eye the aspect of the country before the fire swept over it and destroyed its summer beauty.
Our observation for latitude showed that we were under the same parallel as the Touchwood Hills in the valley of the Saskatchewan, forty degrees of longitude farther west. What a difference in climate and vegetation at nearly the same height above the sea level! We find in the prairie country luxuriant vegetation, an infinite number of wild-fowl, vast herds of buffalo, and a summer heat sufficiently long to ripen early varieties of Indian corn. In the rocky eastern country, the rivers and lakes are frozen from October to the end of May, the woodland caribou replaces the buffalo, birds are few in number, and their species very limited, consisting of a few varieties of ducks, geese, the spruce