Imágenes de páginas

partridge, the ptarmigan, woodpeckers, and gulls; the trees in general stunted, and only represented by the birch, spruce, larch, and Banksian pine; flowers almost arctic in their character, and in place of rich and nutritious grasses, lichens and mosses grow over the rocks and swamps, covering everything with green, grey, yellow, purple, or black.

Leaving the Burnt Portage on July 1, they descended eighteen feet, and came into a lake in the burnt country. "What desolation!" Mr. Hind exclaims. "What dreadful ruin all around! Not ruin from fire only, but ruin exposed by fire."

Close on the banks of the lakes and their connecting rivers lies the burnt country. Sand conceals the rocks beneath and hides what lies below from view; but ascending a slight eminence away from the immediate banks of the river, the true character of the country becomes apparent. Conceive marching for miles over charcoal, the burnt remains and ashes of moss once two feet deep; imagine your steps arrested by blackened trees, or dead trees with bark fallen off, and the trunks bleached white, in singular contrast to the black ground. Suppose that you pass through this level waste and reach the foot of a hill, a hill of boulders or erratics, all water-worn and smooth, without moss or lichen on them, and piled two and three deep, and, for aught you know, twenty deep. You peer between the interstices of the first layer, and see the second layer; and sometimes through spaces between the boulders of the second layer, and find a third layer visible. The well-worn masses of all sizes, from one foot to twenty feet in diameter, and from one ton to ten thousand tons in weight, are washed clean. Mosses, ever green and bright, once covered them, filling the spaces between, and changing their harsh and unyielding outlines into a level green plain or a gently sloping hill, fair to look at, but dangerous to trust. Lying at full length on a giant erratic, and looking over its well-worn edge, I could without difficulty see three tiers of these "travelled rocks," and in the crevices the charred roots of trees which had grown in the mosses and lichens which formerly clothed them with perennial beauty.

The men who had to carry the canoes and baggage across the portage were now nearly as black as the ground they walked on. Embarking again, they paddled slowly against the stream; but it was now dispiriting work. The river reflected the black banks, the dead spruce stretched their bare arms wildly in the air; huge blocks of gneiss, twenty feet in diameter, lay in the channel, or on the rocks, which here and there pierced the sandy tract through which the river flowed; while on the summits of mountains, and along the crests of hill-ranges, they seemed as if they had been dropped like hail. Again, at a little lake they came to farther on, called Caribou Lake, no language, says our explorer, could adequately express the utter desolation of the scenery. The dead trees were blanched white; the sand was blown into low dunes; the surrounding hills were covered with millions of erratics, most of them white. Both birds and beasts seemed to shun so dreary a scene, and only here and there did the mosses and willows appear to be making feeble efforts to rise again in greenness and life, and cover the terrible nakedness of the land.

An attempt was made from Caribou Lake to ascend a hill, which appeared to be about four miles off, and which was this time attended with


The view far exceeded our expectations; it was one possessing a sublimity of character which could only be found among such extraordinary elements as those which composed it. The first striking feature was the number of lakes, Jan.-VOL. CXXX. NO. DXVII.


occupying distinct valleys, which seemed to lie between low ranges of hills projecting from a table-land. A shallow depression in the horizon instantly struck us as the Dividing Ridge, separating the waters of Ashwanipi from those of the Moisie, the waters which flow into the North Atlantic from those which flow into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The large lake below the Dividing Ridge was the one which the Nasquapee said we should see, where he had wintered with Domenique and his tribe, and from which he had departed scarcely a month before. Far to the north-east was a very high range of mountains, on whose top the snow, glistening in the sun, could easily be distinguished with a glass. We were on the edge of the burnt country, which extended to the north-northwest and south, while towards the east forests of stunted trees bordered the lakes, and crept a little way up the sides of the hills. The whole country appeared to consist of a succession of low mountains, few of them exceeding in height the one which formed our point of view.

I counted twenty-two large lakes, besides numerous small sheets of water, which evidently merged into swamps, and are probably more or less connected in the spring of the year. A countless number of erratics were scattered in every direction, best seen, however, towards the south and west in the burnt country. The hill-sides appeared to be covered with them, and many were of very large dimensions. Those on the bare rock where we stood were well water-worn, lichen-covered, and appeared to consist of gneiss, to the exclusion of every other variety of rock. I looked for glacial striæ, but saw none; I searched carefully for moraines, but could not distinguish any, unless every valley could be said to possess its own moraine—an idea which the absence of glacial striæ for a time dispelled. The striæ may long since have disappeared under the singular atmospheric influences of the climate of this elevated region. The entire peninsula was perhaps once covered with ice as Greenland now is. The erratics appeared to be uniformly distributed; but it must be observed, that in the valleys the caribou moss covered them, so that their number or the manner of their distribution could not be well discerned.

Long and anxiously I looked round in every direction to see if I could distinguish any signs of animal life, but without success. No sound was audible except the sighing of the wind. A marshy lake lay at the foot of the hill, which we had ascended with the greatest caution on the opposite side, but no waterfowl were visible, or even fish seen to rise. Not a bird, or butterfly, or beetle appeared to inhabit this desolate wilderness. Behind us lay the burnt country, built up of erratics. Yet what a history did it unfold! A history of continental glacial ice, wearing down rocks and grinding out lake basins-a history of deep seas, bearing boulder-ladened floes of ice, dropping their burdens as they floated over-a history of stranded icebergs and irresistible currents-a history of gradually emerging land, of changing coast lines, and of continual change in the position of the travelled rocks—a history of frosts, snows, swollen lakes and rivers-of long dreary winters, short scorching summers-and, finally, a dreadful conflagration.

The country which the explorers had now reached was on the borders of the table-land of the Labrador Peninsula, through which the great river Ashwanipi flows towards the Atlantic. The portage, indeed, which separated them from the lake before them, from the first tributary to the Ashwanipi, was short and low. Having arrived, then, at the great dividing ridge of Labrador, at an elevation of some two thousand two hundred and forty feet above the level of the sea, Mr. Hind became convinced that it was wholly useless attempting to proceed any farther on foot, and it would be impossible for them, with their small supply of provisions, to go round the shores of the lakes and through swamps which separated them for many miles. Had there been any hope of procuring caribou, rabbits, ducks, porcupine, or even a sufficient supply of fish, they would not have hesitated; but to attempt to penetrate into

such a country wholly dependent upon the provisions which they could carry on their backs, was out of the question. Even," says Mr. Hind, "if I had been sufficiently selfish to insist on the men subjecting themselves to the mere fatigue of journeying over barren rocks, surrounded by treacherous moss-covered boulders and succeeded by deep swamps, it is not improbable that the mosquitoes and black flies would soon have settled the question. The only way in which we could advance was by dragging the canoes through the river, whose bed was so much obstructed by large stones and boulders, that we might endanger the safety of our frail craft, already, with one exception, much shattered: To lose our canoes would be almost equivalent to losing the lives of the whole party, for it would have been almost impossible for some of us in summer-time to have reached the coast on foot." In winter most of the difficulties of such a journey disappear, for the road then lies over frozen lakes. Caribou are more plentiful, and far more easily tracked and taken; there are no tormenting flies, and rapid progress can be made.

It was wisely determined, then, to descend the river without further delay; the bows of the canoes were turned down stream, and it can be imagined how soon, aided by a swift current, the horrors of the burnt country were left behind them. It is true that they had shallows and boulders to contend with, and the shooting of the rapids were by no means unattended by danger, but these difficulties seemed trifling in comparison with the tedious labours that had attended upon passing the same by portage. Sometimes, however, and especially in the lower part of the river, the rapids were so bad that the same system had to be had recourse to as on the ascent, and canoes and baggage had to be transported by land.

The fisheries upon the coast of Labrador are of the highest commercial importance. First in rank comes the cod, and a Mr. Tétu, we are told, has invented a deep-sea fishing apparatus, by which he has been enabled to take one hundred and fifty thousand fish in a fortnight. His mesh is smaller than is allowed by law, but the profits of his fishery enable him to pay the fines. The shoals of herring and mackerel which approach the shores at certain seasons are also immense, and apparently inexhaustible. Salmon and trout abound in all the rivers, and sea trout, haddock, halibut, eels, caplin, and lobsters, furnish the settlers along the coast with abundance of excellent food. The refuse of these productive fisheries might also be made available as fish manure. There are also the whale fisheries and the seal fisheries, which are mainly carried on from Newfoundland. But with these exceptions it must be admitted that the interior of Labrador presents little to invite the settler. Maybe some mineral resources or other natural productions may be yet discovered that may attach the utmost importance to this vast territory, which has never been thoroughly explored in a strictly scientific point of view. It is impossible to read Mr. Hind's long and elaborate history of this little-known country, as given in his second volume, and not to think that it is impossible that such a country exists in vain. Labrador, desolate as it is in the present day, may yet have a future in store for it. Cryolite abounds most amid the snows and ices of Greenland, and no mineral is so rich in the valuable metal aluminium. What number of chemical and mineralogical secrets and buried treasures may lie uncared for and unsought for in the land of the "flashing fire-rocks?"








THE gay soirée, however, from which Bertha had hoped so much, did not seem to have made any impression upon Rudolph von Feldheim. He looked as grave the next day as if their last meeting had been at a funeral. The fact was, he was reflecting on the task which had been laid upon him. He hardly knew how to set about converting Bertha, for she studiously avoided all mention of their respective forms of worship, and never expressed the slightest disapprobation of his religion. Her beauty, to which he could not be blind, the sweetness of her manners, and her evident regard for him, won upon him daily, and he felt sorry to disturb the serenity of her mind. Yet was not hers a false peace? Was she not living in error of the true faith? And should he be so careless of her best interests as not to endeavour to rescue her soul from perdition?

After a long and somewhat awkward silence, as they sat alone, the day after the ball, he said:

"Bertha, I know that theology is not exactly a subject to propound to young ladies, yet I cannot believe that you are so frivolous as many of your sex, and care for nothing but the evanescent pleasures of society. You have mind and intellect-these noblest gifts of God; have you ever thought of employing them on seriously reflecting on matters of high import ?"

"To what matters do you allude, Rudolph? I certainly hope that I am not quite such a fool as to care for nothing but dress and dancing.” "Dress and dancing are harmless in themselves, if they do not occupy too much time," he replied, with a smile. "There is no reason that you should debar yourself from them. It is not of these trifles that I was thinking. I would speak of the state of your heart—your feelings— your

[ocr errors]

He stopped abruptly, and gazed intently on her.

Bertha felt her heart, which he had just mentioned, flutter and beat fast.

"This is a solemn beginning," she thought; "but he is peculiar in everything." She only answered him, however, by an inquiring look. "Do not be offended, dear Bertha," he continued; "I was going to say-your faith."

"My faith!" she repeated, without the slightest surprise, and in a tone that showed him she was not thinking of what he had said.


"Your religious faith. Daughter of my benefactor!" he exclaimed, fervently. Oh, believe me, there is no salvation without the pale of the Church! And can I see you—you, Bertha, in whom I take so warm

an interest-drifting on like a bark to destruction, to be finally engulphed in a sea of error ?"

The young countess turned pale.

"Rudolph," she said, as the tears started to her eyes, "accept my grateful thanks for the interest you take in me. You cannot think how precious it is to the poor orphan, who has scarcely any one to care what becomes of her."


This answer sent a pang to Rudolph's heart; he had expected to see eyes flashing fire, and to be haughtily reminded that she was the best judge of her own conduct, and desired no interference with her opinions.

"The father of the fatherless will care for you, sweet Bertha," he replied, gently and kindly. "And oh! cast not from you that divine protection! Let me, the friend of your childhood, lead you 'forth beside the waters of comfort,' and to the 'green pasture.' Oh! that your soul could be converted, and that you could be brought into the paths of righteousness!" He clasped his hands, and looked imploringly at her. "I know that every being who walks this earth is sinful in the sight of God," she replied, in a low voice, "and I have many, many faults to be forgiven. But, Rudolph, you speak as if I were steeped in guilt; what have I done, that you should have formed such an opinion of me?" "You have done nothing but follow, in contented ignorance and supineness, the unfortunate path of error on which you were launched by those who were themselves blinded to the truth. Oh, Bertha! will you listen to me?"

He took her hand for one moment, and pressed it to his heart.

"I will, Rudolph. What do you wish-what do you ask of me?" "That you will not allow your judgment to be obscured by the clouds of prejudice, that you will think and act for yourself, that you will not permit your cousin's influence to erect a barrier between you and what is for your own real interest and happiness."

[ocr errors]

My cousin's influence? Ah, Rudolph! you little know how small that is compared to-to your own. If she tried, she could not prejudice me against you; but, to do her justice, she has never attempted anything of the kind."

"Then I have less to contend with than I thought. Tell me, Bertha, do you believe that the faith you profess is infallible ?"

"Faith again!" thought Bertha. "I wish he would come straight to the point." But she replied, "No, I do not believe anything with which human nature has to do can be infallible."

"You are right," said he. "Therefore a Church founded by erring mortals cannot be the true one; the Church of Christ alone is infallible."

"All Christians claim to belong to the Church of Christ," said the


"Do you think that the many sects who are constantly springing up -persons who embrace and inculcate the wildest tenets, the worst principles-principles in utter opposition to all religious and moral law—are Christians and members of the Church of Christ because they arrogate that name to themselves ?"

"No, certainly I do not."

« AnteriorContinuar »