The Chutes of the Peace! These will live forever with the Ramparts of the Mackenzie as the two most majestic visions which the whole North Land gave us. We had not been prepared for that wonderful spectacle which met us as we turned a sharp point in the river. The torrent roars for four or five hundred yards of rapid riverway before coming to its great drop. The rock-reef over which the cataract falls extends quite across the mighty Peace, here a river of immense width. Measured in feet and inches, the Chutes of the Peace must take second place to Niagara, yet they impress us as Niagara never did. The awesome silence of this land so pregnant with possibilities, a land which, though it echo now only the quiet foot of the Cree, is so unmistakably a White Man’s Country, intensifies the sense of majesty and power which here takes possession of us. The men talk of the water-power furnished by the great falls, and hazard guesses of the future economic purposes to which it will be put. For our own part, our one wish is to get away from the noise of even these subdued voices and in silence feast our very souls on this manifestation of the power of God. The thoughts that we feel cannot be put into words. Why attempt the impossible?
[Illustration: The Chutes of the Peace]
Our way lies beyond this, and the Chutes have to be overcome. These half-breeds know exactly what to do in every emergency which arises. Only one of the men has traversed this river before, and he gives orders. We strip our little Mee-wah-sin of her temporary masts and canvas awning and take out all our belongings. Everybody works. A purchase is obtained by throwing a pulley and rope over a nearby jack-pine, and the boat is pulled out bodily from the water. Then the crew drag her along the shore well beyond the head of the rapid, and we make camp.
[Illustration: Pulling out the Mee-wah-sin]
These delicious nights within the tent are memories that will remain through all the years to come. It is cool and silent and productive of thought. We are selfishly glad that fifty people went out by Athabasca ways, leaving to us all the mighty reaches and pleasant pastures of the Peace. The midnight is flooded by a glorious moon, and the thoughts born this afternoon of that stupendous fall have driven sleep far away. Opening the tent-flap, I slip through the camp of sleeping Indians to the edge of the fast-flowing stream. The feeling is insistent here which has been ever-present since we entered this valley of the Peace—here is the home prepared and held in waiting for the people who are to follow.
“Listening there, I heard all tremulously
Footfalls of Autumn passing on her way,
And in the mellow silence every tree
Whispered and crooned of hours that are to be.
Then a soft wind like some small thing astray
Comes sighing soothingly.”