Mrs. Gaudet thinks people rush very much nowadays. “We get a mail every year without fail, and sometimes there is a second mail.” This is to her the height of modernism. That second mail is an interesting one. A letter written in Montreal in winter and addressed to Fort Good Hope crosses Canada by the C.P.R. to Vancouver, by coastwise steamer it travels north and reaches the Yukon. Then some plucky constable of the Mounted Police makes a winter patrol and takes the precious mail-bags by dog-sled across an unmarked map to Fort Macpherson on Peel River. Thence the Montreal-written letter is carried by Indian runner south to Good Hope on the Arctic Circle.
We love to talk with Mrs. Gaudet, she is so dear. Mother-love and devotion to The Company,—these are the two key-notes of her character. Looking back through the years, she tells of a visit she made “outside” to Montreal when she was a young mother—it was just fifty years ago,—measles attacked her three babies and within a week they all died, “Le bon Dieu prit les tous, mes trois jolis enfants!” Some years after this at Macpherson an Eskimo woman stole another of her babies, snatching it from a swing in the fort yard, and not yielding it up until it was torn from her by force.
We wander out into the midnight daylight where with dogs and Indians the whole settlement is still a stirred-up ant-hill. Splendid vegetable gardens are in evidence here,—potatoes, turnips, carrots, cabbages. Should we reach the North Pole itself we would expect there a Hudson’s Bay fort, its Old World courtesy and its potato-patch. As we pass the store of the “free-trader,” he says, “Yes, Mrs. Gaudet is a sweet woman, kindly, and dear, but she doesn’t approve of me. She makes a point of not seeing me as she passes here twice a day on her way to church.”
“Why?” we ask, much surprised.
“Oh,” with a laugh, “you see, I sort of trade in opposition to the H.B. Company, and a fellow who would do this comes mighty near having horns and a tail!”
We step into the “Little Church of the Open Door,” and sit down and think. The quaint altar and pictures, the hand-carved chairs, and the mural decorations all point to the patient work of priests. We see across the lane the home of the R.C. clergy, looking like a transplanted Swiss chalet and carrying on each door-lintel the name of a saint,—St. Matthew, St. Bartholomew, St. John. From the shrubbery outside wafts in the sweet old-world perfume of wild-roses. Our thoughts will often drift back to this restful little sanctuary, “Our Lady of Good Hope,” the mission founded here in the year 1859 by M. Henri Grollier, R.C. missionary priest of Montpelier.
ARCTIC RED RIVER AND ITS ESKIMO
“Behold, I sing a pagan song of old,
And out of my full heart,
Hold forth my hands that so I would enfold
The Infinite thou art.
What matter all the creeds that come and go,
The many gods of men?
My blood outcasts them from its joyous flow.”