On the 29th January we reached the shore of Pine Island Lake, and saw in our track the birch lodge of an Indian. It was before sunrise, and we stopped the dogs to warm our fingers over the fire of the wigwam. Within sat a very old Indian and two or three women and children. The old man was singing to himself a low monotonous chant; beside him some reeds, marked by the impress of a human form, were spread upon the ground; the fire burned brightly in the centre of the lodge, while the smoke escaped and the light entered through the same round aperture in the top of the conical roof. When we had entered and seated ourselves, the old man still continued his song. “What is he saying?” I asked, although the Indian etiquette forbids abrupt questioning. “He is singing for his son,” a man answered, “who died yesterday, and whose body they have taken to the fort last night.” It was even so. A French Canadian who had dwelt in Indian fashion for some years, marrying the daughter of the old man, had died from the effects of over-exertion in running down a silver fox, and the men from Cumberland had taken away the body a few hours before. Thus the old man mourned, while his daughter the widow, and a child sat moodily looking at the flames. “He hunted for us; he fed us,” the old man said. “I am too old to hunt; I can scarce see the light; I would like to die too.” Those old words which the presence of the great mystery forces from our lips-those words of consolation which some one says are “chaff well meant for grain”—were changed into their Cree equivalents and duly rendered to him, but he he only shook his head, as though the change of language had not altered the value of the commodity. But the name of the dead hunter was a curious anomaly-Joe Miller. What a strange antithesis appeared this name beside the presence of the childless father, the fatherless child, and the mateless woman! One service the death of poor Joe Miller conferred on me—the dog-sled that had carried his body had made a track over the snow-covered lake, and we quickly glided along it to the Fort of Cumberland.
Cumberland—–We bury poor Joe—A
good Train of Dogs—The great
Marsh—Mutiny—Chicag the Sturgeon-fisher—A Night with a Medicine-man—
Lakes Winnipegoosis and Manitoba—Muskeymote eats his Boots—We reach the
Settlement—From the Saskatchewan to the Seine.
Cumberland house, the oldest post of the Company in the interior, stands on the south shore of Pine Island Lake; the waters of which seek the Saskatchewan by two channels—Tearing River and Big-stone River. These two rivers form, together with the Saskatchewan and the lake, a large island, upon which stands Cumberland. Time moves slowly at such places as Cumberland, and change is almost unknown. To-day it is the same as it was 100 years ago. An old list of goods sent to Cumberland,