These new people, particularly the women, who wore trousers and carried babies in large hoods hanging on their backs, did not dress like any Eskimos that Bob had ever seen before. Nor had he ever before seen the snow houses, though he had heard of them and knew what they were. The dogs, too, were large, and more like wolves in appearance than those the Bay folk used, and the komatik was narrower but much longer and heavier than those he was accustomed to. He was surely in a new and strange land.
More igloos were seen during the afternoon, but they were passed as the first had been, and at night the party bivouacked in the open as they had done the night before.
On the morning of the third day they passed into a stretch of barren, treeless, rolling country, and before midday turned upon a well-beaten komatik trail, which they followed for a couple of miles, when it swung sharply to the left towards the river, and as they turned around a ledge of rocks at the top of a low ridge a view met Bob that made him shout with joy, and hasten his pace.
At his feet, in the field of snow, lay a post of the Hudson’s Bay Company.
A MISSION OF TRUST
As Bob looked down upon the whitewashed buildings of the Post, his sensation was very much like that of a shipwrecked sailor who has for a long time been drifting hopelessly about upon a trackless sea in a rudderless boat, and suddenly finds himself safe in harbour. The lad had never seen anything in his whole life that looked so comfortable as that little cluster of log buildings with the smoke curling from the chimney tops, and the general air of civilization that surrounded them. He did not know where he was, nor how far from home; but he did know that this was the habitation of white men, and the cloud of utter helplessness that had hung over him for so long was suddenly swept away and his sky was clear and bright again.
A man clad in a white adikey and white moleskin trousers emerged from one of the buildings, paused for a moment to gaze at Bob and his companions as they approached, and then reentered the building.
As they descended the hill the Indians turned to an isolated cabin which stood somewhat apart from the main group of buildings and to the eastward of them, but Bob ran down to the one into which the man had disappeared. His heart was all aflutter with excitement and expectancy. As he approached the door, it suddenly opened, and there appeared before him a tall, middle-aged man with full, sandy beard and a kindly face. Bob felt intuitively that this was the factor of the Post, and he said very respectfully,
“Good day, sir.”
“Good day, good day,” said the man. “I thought at first you were an Indian. Come in.”
Bob entered and found himself in the trader’s office. At one side were two tables that served as desks, and on a shelf against the wall behind them rested a row of musty ledgers and account books. Benches in lieu of chairs surrounded a large stove in the centre.