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Title:      Klee Wyck
Author:     Emily Carr (1871-1945)
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0100131.txt
Language:   English
Date first posted: October 2001
Date most recently updated: October 2001

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This etext was produced by Gardner Buchanan, Andrew Sly and Stephen Davies

Production notes: 
This is the text of Klee Wyck, a work of autobiographical non-fiction
by Emily Carr, prepared by Gardner Buchanan, Andrew Sly and Stephen
Davies. The original edition of Klee Wyck was 21 chapters long,
but the commonly available copy of the book, sometimes called the
educational edition, has a chapter excised. It has been re-inserted
as chapter 17.

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A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      Klee Wyck
Author:     Emily Carr (1871-1945)

This is the text of Klee Wyck, a work of autobiographical non-fiction
by Emily Carr, prepared by Gardner Buchanan, Andrew Sly and Stephen
Davies. The original edition of Klee Wyck was 21 chapters long,
but the commonly available copy of the book, sometimes called the
educational edition, has a chapter excised. It has been re-inserted
as chapter 17.


1       Ucluelet
2       Tanoo
3       Skedans
4       Cumshewa
5       Sophie
6       D'Sonoqua
7       The Blouse
8       The Stare
9       Greenville
10      Two Bits and a Wheel-Barrow
11      Sleep
12      Sailing to Yan
13      Cha-atl
14      Wash Mary
15      Juice
16      Friends
17      Martha's Joey
18      Salt Water
19      Century Time
20      Kitwancool
21      Canoe


1 Ucluelet

The lady Missionaries expected me. They sent an enormous Irishman
in a tiny canoe to meet the steamer. We got to the Ucluelet wharf
soon after dawn. Everything was big and cold and strange to me, a
fifteen-year-old school girl. I was the only soul on the wharf.
The Irishman did not have any trouble deciding which was I.

It was low tide, so there was a long, sickening ladder with slimy
rungs to climb down to get to the canoe. The man's big laugh and
the tippiness of the canoe were even more frightening than the
ladder. The paddle in his great arms rushed the canoe through the

We came to Toxis, which was the Indian name for the Mission House.
It stood just above hightide water. The sea was in front of it and
the forest behind.

The house was of wood, unpainted. There were no blinds or curtains.
It looked, as we paddled up to it, as if it were stuffed with black.
When the canoe stuck in the mud, the big Irishman picked me up in
his arms and set me down on the doorstep.

The Missionaries were at the door. Smells of cooking fish jumped
out past them. People lived on fish at Ucluelet.

Both the Missionaries were dignified, but the Greater Missionary
had the most dignity. They had long noses straddled by spectacles,
thin lips, mild eyes, and wore straight, dark dresses buttoned to
the chin.

There was only two of everything in the kitchen, so I had to sit
on a box, drink from a bowl and eat my food out of a tin pie-dish.

After breakfast came a long prayer. Outside the kitchen window,
just a few feet away at the edge of the forest, stood a grand balsam
pine tree. It was very tall and straight.

The Missionaries' "trespasses" jumped me back from the pine tree
to the Lord's Prayer just in time to "Amen". We got up from our
knees to find the house full of Indians. They had come to look at

I felt so young and empty standing there before the Indians and
the two grave Missionaries! The Chief, old Hipi, was held to be a
reader of faces. He perched himself on the top of the Missionaries'
drug cupboard; his brown fists clutched the edge of it, his elbows
taut and shoulders hunched. His crumpled shoes hung loose as if
they dangled from strings and had no feet in them. The stare of
his eyes searched me right through. Suddenly they were done; he
lifted them above me to the window, uttered several terse sentences
in Chinook, jumped off the cupboard and strode back to the village.

I was half afraid to ask the Missionary, "What did he say?"

"Not much. Only that you had no fear, that you were not stuck up,
and that you knew how to laugh."

Toxis sat upon a long, slow lick of sand, but the beach of the
Indian village was short and bit deep into the shoreline. Rocky
points jutted out into the sea at either end of it.

Toxis and the village were a mile apart. The school house was
half-way between the two and, like them, was pinched between sea
and forest.

The school house called itself "church house" on Sundays. It had
a sharp roof, two windows on each side, a door in front, and a
woodshed behind.

The school equipment consisted of a map of the world, a blackboard,
a stove, crude desks and benches and, on a box behind the door,
the pail of drinking-water and a tin dipper.

The Lesser Missionary went to school first and lit the fire. If
the tide were high she had to go over the trail at the forest's
edge. It was full of holes where high seas had undermined the big
tree roots. Huge upturned stumps necessitated detours through
hard-leafed sallal bushes and skunk cabbage bogs. The Lesser
Missionary hated putting her feet on ground which she could not
see, because it was so covered with growing green. She was glad
when she came out of the dark forest and saw the unpainted school
house. The Greater Missionary had no nerves and a long, slow stride.
As she came over the trail she blew blasts on a cow's horn. She
had an amazing wind, the blasts were stunning, but they failed to
call the children to school, because no voice had ever suggested
time or obligation to these Indian children. Then the Greater
Missionary went to the village and hand-picked her scholars from
the huts.

On my first morning in Ucluelet there was a full attendance at
school because visitors were rare. After the Lord's Prayer the
Missionaries duetted a hymn while the children stared at me.

When the Missionary put A, B, C on the board the children began
squirming out of their desks and pattering down to the drinking
bucket. The dipper registered each drink with a clank when they
threw it back.

The door squeaked open and shut all the time, with a second's pause
between opening and closing. Spitting on the floor was forbidden,
so the children went out and spat off the porch. They had not yet
mastered the use of the pocket handkerchief, so not a second elapsed
between sniffs.

Education being well under way, I slipped out to see the village.

When I did not return after the second's time permitted for spitting,
the children began to wriggle from the desks to the drinking bucket,
then to the spitting step, looking for me. Once outside, their
little bare feet never stopped till they had caught me up.

After that I was shut up tight at Toxis until school was well
started; then I went to the village, careful to creep low when
passing under the school windows.

On the point at either end of the bay crouched a huddle of
houses--large, squat houses made of thick, hand-hewn cedar planks,
pegged and slotted together. They had flat, square fronts. The side
walls were made of driftwood. Bark and shakes, weighted with stones
against the wind, were used for roofs. Every house stood separate
from the next. Wind roared through narrow spaces between.

Houses and people were alike. Wind, rain, forest and sea had done
the same things to both--both were soaked through and through with
sunshine, too.

I was shy of the Indians at first. When I knocked at their doors
and received no answer I entered their houses timidly, but I found
a grunt of welcome was always waiting inside and that Indians did
not knock before entering. Usually some old crone was squatted on
the earth floor, weaving cedar fibre or tatters of old cloth into
a mat, her claw-like fingers twining in and out, in and out, among
the strands that were fastened to a crude frame of sticks. Papooses
tumbled around her on the floor for she was papoose-minder as well
as mat-maker.

Each of the large houses was the home of several families. The door
and the smoke-hole were common to all, but each family had its own
fire with its own things round it. That was their own home.

The interiors of the great houses were dim. Smoke teased your eyes
and throat. The earth floors were not clean.

It amused the Indians to see me unfold my camp stool, and my sketch
sack made them curious. When boats, trees, houses, appeared on the
paper, jabbering interest closed me about. I could not understand
their talk. One day, by grin and gesture, I got permission to sketch
an old mat-maker. She nodded and I set to work. Suddenly a cat
jumped in through the smoke-hole and leaped down from a rafter on
to a pile of loose boxes. As the clatter of the topple ceased there
was a bestial roar, a pile of mats and blankets burst upwards, and
a man's head came out of them. He shouted and his black eyes snapped
at me and the old woman's smile dried out.

"Klatawa" (Chinook for "Go") she shouted, and I went. Later, the
old wife called to me across the bay, but I would not heed her

"Why did you not reply when old Mrs. Wynook called you?" the
Missionary asked.

"She was angry and drove me away."

"She was calling, 'Klee Wyck, come back, come back,' when I heard

"What does 'Klee Wyck' mean?"

"I do not know."

The mission house door creaked open and something looking like a
bundle of tired rags tumbled on to the floor and groaned.

"Why, Mrs. Wynook," exclaimed the Missionary, "I thought you could
not walk!"

The tired old woman leaned forward and began to stroke my skirt.

"What does Klee Wyck mean, Mrs. Wynook?" asked the Missionary.

Mrs. Wynook put her thumbs into the corners of her mouth and
stretched them upwards. She pointed at me; there was a long, guttural
jabber in Chinook between her and the Missionary. Finally the
Missionary said, "Klee Wyck is the Indians' name for you. It means
'Laughing One'."

The old woman tried to make the Missionary believe that her husband
thought it was I, not the cat, who had toppled the boxes and woke
him, but the Missionary, scenting a lie, asked for "straight talk".
Then Mrs. Wynook told how the old Indians thought the spirit of a
person got caught in a picture of him, trapped there so that, after
the person died, it had to stay in the picture.

"Tell her that I will not make any more pictures of the old people,"
I said. It must have hurt the Indians dreadfully to have the things
they had always believed trampled on and torn from their hugging.
Down deep we all hug something. The great forest hugs its silence.
The sea and the air hug the spilled cries of sea-birds. The forest
hugs only silence; its birds and even its beasts are mute.

When night came down upon Ucluelet the Indian people folded themselves
into their houses and slept.

At the Mission House candles were lit. After eating fish, and
praying aloud, the Missionaries creaked up the bare stair, each
carrying her own tin candlestick. I had a cot and scrambled quickly
into it. Blindless and carpetless, it was a bleak bedroom even in

The room was deathly still. Outside, the black forest was still,
too, but with a vibrant stillness tense with life. From my bed I
could look one storey higher into the balsam pine. Because of his
closeness to me, the pint towered above his fellows, his top tapering
to heaven.

Every day might have been a Sunday in the Indian village. At Toxis
only the seventh day was the Sabbath. Then the Missionaries conducted
service in the school house which had shifted its job to church as
the cow's horn turned itself into a church bell for the day.

The Indian women with handkerchiefs on their heads, plaid shawls
round their shoulders and full skirts billowing about their legs,
waddled leisurely towards church. It was very hard for them to
squeeze their bodies into the children's desks. They took two whole
seats each, and even then the squeezing must have hurt.

Women sat on one side of the church. The very few men who came sat
on the other. The Missionaries insisted that men come to church
wearing trousers, and that their shirt tails must be tucked inside
the trousers. So the Indian men stayed away.

"Our trespasses" had been dealt with and the hymn, which was
generally pitched too high or too low, had at last hit square, when
the door was swung violently back, slopping the drinking bucket.
In the outside sunlight stood old Tanook, shirt tails flapping and
legs bare. He entered, strode up the middle of the room and took
the front seat.

Quick intakes of horror caught the breath of the women; the Greater
Missionary held on to her note, the Lesser jumped an octave.

A woman in the back seat took off her shawl. From hand to hand it
travelled under the desks to the top of the room, crossed the aisle
and passed into the hand of Jimmy John, old Tanook's nephew, sitting
with the men. Jimmy John squeezed from his seat and laid the shawl
across his uncle's bare knees.

The Missionary's address rolled on in choppy Chinook, undertoned
by a gentle voice from the back of the room which told Tanook in
pure Indian words what he was to do. With a defiant shake of his wild
hair old Tanook got up; twisting the shawl about his middle he marched
down the aisles, paused at the pail to take a loud drink, dashed back
the dipper with a clank, and strode out.

The service was over, the people had gone, but a pink print figure
sat on in the back seat. Her face was sunk down on her chest. She
was waiting till all were away before she slunk home. It is considered
more indecent for an Indian woman to go shawl-less than for an
Indian man to go bare-legged. The woman's heroic gesture had saved
her husband's dignity before the Missionaries but had shamed her
before her own people.

The Greater Missionary patted the pink shoulder as she passed.
"Brave woman!" said the Greater Missionary, smiling.

One day I walked upon a strip of land that belonged to nothing:

The sea soaked it often enough to make it unpalatable to the forest.
Roots of trees refused to thrive in its saltiness.

In this place belonging neither to sea nor to land I came upon an
old man dressed in nothing but a brief shirt. He was sawing the
limbs from a fallen tree. The swish of the sea tried to drown the
purr of his saw. The purr of the saw tried to sneak back into the
forest, but the forest threw it out again into the sea. Sea and
forest were always at this game of toss with noises.

The fallen tree lay crosswise in this "nothing's place"; it blocked
my way. I sat down beside the sawing Indian and we had dumb talk,
pointing to the sun and to the sea, the eagles in the air and the
crows on the beach. Nodding and laughing together I sat and he
sawed. The old man sawed as if aeons of time were before him, and
as if all the years behind him had been leisurely and all the years
in front of him would be equally so. There was strength still in
his back and limbs but his teeth were all worn to the gums. The
shock of hair that fell to his shoulders was grizzled. Life had
sweetened the old man. He was luscious with time like the end
berries of the strawberry season.

With a final grin, I got up and patted his arm--"Goodbye!" He patted
my hand. When he saw me turn to break through the forest so that
I could round his great fallen tree, he ran and pulled me back,
shaking his head and scolding me.

"Swaawa! Hiyu swaawa!" Swaawa were cougar: the forest was full of
these great cats. The Indians forbade their children to go into
the forest, not even into its edge. I was to them a child, ignorant
about the wild things which they knew so well. In these things the
Indian could speak with authority to white people.

2 Tanoo

Jimmie had a good boat. He and his wife, Louisa, agreed to take me
to the old villages of Tanoo, Skedans and Cumshewa, on the southern
island of the Queen Charlotte group. We were to start off at the
Indian's usual "eight o'clock" and got off at the usual "near noon".
The missionary had asked me to take his pretty daughter along.

We chugged and bobbed over all sorts of water and came to Tanoo in
the evening. It looked very solemn as we came nearer. Quite far
out from land Jimmie shut off the engine and plopped the anchor
into the sea. Then he shoved the canoe overboard, and putting my
sheep dog and me into it, nosed it gently through the kelp. The
grating of our canoe on the pebbles warned the silence that we were
come to break it.

The dog and I jumped out and Jimmie and the canoe went back for
the others.

It was so still and solemn on the beach, it would have seemed
irreverent to speak aloud; it was as if everything were waiting
and holding its breath. The dog felt it too; he stood with cocked
ears, trembling. When the others came and moved about and spoke
this feeling went away.

At one side of the Tanoo beach rose a big bluff, black now that
the sun was behind it. It is said that the bluff is haunted. At
its foot was the skeleton of a house; all that was left of it was
the great beams and the corner posts and two carved poles one at
each end of it. Inside, where the people used to live, was stuffed
with elderberry bushes, scrub trees and fireweed. In that part of
the village no other houses were left, but there were lots of totem
poles sticking up. A tall slender one belonged to Louisa's
grandmother. It had a story carved on it; Louisa told it to us in
a loose sort of way as if she had half forgotten it. On the base
of this pole was the figure of a man; he had on a tall, tall hat,
which was made up of sections, and was a hat of great honour. On
the top of the hat perched a raven. Little figures of men were
clinging to every ring of honour all the way up the hat. The story
told that the man had adopted a raven as his son. The raven turned
out to be a wicked trickster and brought a flood upon his foster
parents. When the waters rose the man's nephews and relations
climbed up the rings of his hat of honour and were thus saved from
being drowned. It was a fine pole, bleached of all colour and then
bloomed over again with greeny-yellow mould.

The feelings Jimmie and Louisa had in this old village of their
own people must have been quite different from ours. They must have
made my curiosity seem small. Often Jimmie and Louisa went off hand
in hand by themselves for a little, talking in Indian as they went.

A nose of land ran out into the sea from Tanoo and split the village
into two parts; the parts diverged at a slight angle, so that the
village of Tanoo had a wall-eyed stare out over the sea.

Beyond the little point there were three fine house fronts. A tall
totem pole stood up against each house; in the centre of its front.
When Jimmie cut away the growth around the foot of them, the paint
on the poles was quite bright. The lowest figure of the centre pole
was a great eagle; the other two were beavers with immense teeth--they
held sticks in their hands. All three base figures had a hole
through the pole so that people could enter and leave the house
through the totem.

Our first night in solemn Tanoo was very strange indeed.

When we saw the Indians carrying the little canoe down to the water
we said:

"What are you going out to the boat for?"

"We are going to sleep out there."

"You are going to leave us alone in Tanoo?"

"You can call if anything is wrong," they said.

But we knew the boat was too far out beyond the kelp beds for them
to hear us.

The canoe glided out and then there was nothing but wide black
space. We two girls shivered. I wanted the tent flaps open; it did
not seem quite so bad to me if I could feel the trees close.

Very early in the morning I got to work. The boat lay far out with
no sign of life on her. The Indians did not come ashore; it got
late and we wanted breakfast--we called and called but there was no

"Do you remember what they said about those Indians being asphyxiated
by the fumes from their engine while they slept?"

"I was thinking of that too."

We ran out on the point as far as we could so as to get nearer to
the boat and we called and called both together. There was a horrible
feeling down inside us that neither of us cared to speak about.
After a long while a black head popped up in the boat.

"You must not leave us again like that," we told Jimmie and Louisa.

I met them coming over the sand, Louisa hurrying ahead to get
supper.  Away back I saw Jimmie carrying something dreadful with
long arms trailing behind in the sand, its great round body speared
by the stick on Jimmie's shoulder.

"We've took the missionary's daughter hunting devilfish," chuckled
Louisa, as she passed me.

We ate some of the devilfish for supper, fried in pieces like
sausage. It was sweet like chicken, but very tough. The devilfish
were in the puddles around the rocks at low tide. When they saw
people come, they threw their tentacles around the rocks and stuck
their heads into the rocky creases; the only way to make them let
go was to beat their heads in when you got the chance.

It was long past dinnertime. Louisa could not cook because there
was no water in camp. That was Jimmie's job. The spring was back
in the woods, nobody but Jimmie knew where, and he was far out at
sea tinkering on his boat. Louisa called and called; Jimmie heard,
because his head popped up, but he would not come. Every time she
called the same two Indian words.

"Make it hotter, Louisa; I want to get back to work." She called
the same two words again.

"Are those words swears?"

"No, if I swore I would have to use English words."


"There are no swears in Haida."

"What do you say if you are angry or want to insult anybody?"

"You would say, 'Your father or your mother was a slave,' but I
could not say that to Jimmie."

"Well, say something hot. I want dinner!"

She called the same two words again but her voice was different
this time. Jimmie came.

Pictures of all the poles were in my sketch sack. I strapped it up
and said, "That's that "

Then we went away from Tanoo and left the silence to heal itself--left
the totem poles staring, staring out over the sea.

Almost immediately we were in rough water. Jimmie spread a sail in
the bottom of the boat, and we women all lay flat. Nobody spoke--only
groans. When the boat pitched all our bodies rolled one way and
then rolled back. Under the sail where I was lying something seemed
very slithery.

"Jimmie, what is under me?"

"Only the devilfish we are taking home to Mother--she likes them
very much."

"Ugh!" I said. Sea-sickness on top of devilfish seemed too much.

Jimmie said, "They're dead; it won't hurt them when you roll over."

3 Skedans

Jimmie, the Indian, knew the jagged reefs of Skedans Bay by heart.
He knew where the bobbing kelp nobs grew and that their long,
hose-like tubes were waiting to strangle his propeller. Today the
face of the bay was buttered over with calm and there was a wide
blue sky overhead. Everything looked safe, but Jimmie knew how
treacherous the bottom of Skedans Bay was; that's why he lay across
the bow of his boat, anxiously peering into the water and motioning
to Louise his wife, who was at the wheel.

The engine stopped far out. There was the plop and gurgle of the
anchor striking and settling and then the sigh of the little canoe
being pushed over the edge of the boat, the slap as she struck the
water. Jimmie got the sheep dog and me over to the beach first, so
that I could get to work right away; then he went back for Louisa
and the missionary's daughter.

Skedans was more open than Tanoo. The trees stood farther back from
it. Behind the bay another point bit deeply into the land, so that
light came in across the water from behind the village too.

There was no soil to be seen. Above the beach it was all luxuriant
growth; the earth was so full of vitality that every seed which
blew across her surface germinated and burst. The growing things
jumbled themselves together into a dense thicket; so tensely earnest
were things about growing in Skedans that everything linked with
everything else, hurrying to grow to the limit of its own capacity;
weeds and weaklings alike throve in the rich moistness.

Memories came out of this place to meet the Indians; you saw
remembering in their brightening eyes and heard it in the quick
hushed words they said to each other in Haida.

Skedans Beach was wide. Sea-drift was scattered over it. Behind
the logs the ground sloped up a little to the old village site. It
was smothered now under a green tangle, just one grey roof still
squatted there among the bushes, and a battered row of totem poles
circled the bay; many of them were mortuary poles, high with square
fronts on top. The fronts were carved with totem designs of birds
and beasts. The tops of the poles behind these carved fronts were
hollowed out and the coffins stood, each in its hole on its end,
the square front hiding it. Some of the old mortuary poles were
broken and you saw skulls peeping out through the cracks.

To the right of Skedans were twin cones of earth and rock. They
were covered to the top with trees and scrub. The land ran out
beyond these mounds and met the jagged reefs of the bay.

We broke through growth above our heads to reach the house. It was
of the old type, but had been repaired a little by halibut fishers
who still used it occasionally. The walls were full of cracks and
knotholes. There were stones, blackened by fire, lying on the earth
floor. Above them was a great smoke-hole in the roof; it had a flap
that could be adjusted to the wind. Sleeping benches ran along the
wall and there was a rude table made of driftwood by the halibut
fishers: Indians use the floor for their tables and seats.

When the fire roared, our blankets were spread on the platforms, and
Louisa's stew-pot simmered. The place was grand--we had got close
down to real things. In Skedans there were no shams.

When night came we cuddled into our blankets. The night was still.
Just the waves splashed slow and even along the beach. If your face
was towards the wall, the sea tang seeped in at the cracks and
poured over it; if you turned round and faced in, there was the
lovely smoky smell of our wood fire on the clay floor.

Early in the morning Jimmie stirred the embers; then he went out
and brought us icy water from the spring to wash our faces in. He
cut a little path like a green tunnel from the house to the beach,
so that we could come and go easily. I went out to sketch the poles.

They were in a long straggling row the entire length of the bay
and pointed this way and that; but no matter how drunken their
tilt, the Haida poles never lost their dignity. They looked sadder,
perhaps, when they bowed forward and more stern when they tipped
back. They were bleached to a pinkish silver colour and cracked by
the sun, but nothing could make them mean or poor, because the
Indians had put strong thought into them and had believed sincerely
in what they were trying to express.

The twisted trees and high tossed driftwood hinted that Skedans
could be as thoroughly fierce as she was calm. She was downright
about everything.

4 Cumshew

Tanoo, Skedans and Cumshewa lie fairly close to each other on the
map, yet each is quite unlike the others when you come to it. All
have the West Coast wetness but Cumshewa seems always to drip,
always to be blurred with mist, its foliage always to hang wet-heavy.
Cumshewa rain soaked my paper, Cumshewa rain trickled among my

Only one house was left in the village of Cumshewa, a large, low
and desolately forsaken house that had a carefully padlocked door
and gaping hole in the wall.

We spent a miserable night in this old house. All our bones were
pierced with chill. The rain spat great drops through the smoke-hole
into our fire. In comfortless, damp blankets we got through the

In the morning Jimmie made so hot a fire that the rain splatters
hissed when they dropped into it. I went out to work on the leaky
beach and Jimmie rigged up a sort of shelter over my work so that
the trickles ran down my neck instead of down my picture, but if
I had possessed the arms and legs of a centipede they would not
have been enough to hold my things together to defy the elements'
meanness towards my canopy, materials and temper.

Through the hole in the side of the house I could hear the fretful
mewings of the cat. Indian people and the elements give and take
like brothers, accommodating themselves to each others' ways without
complaint. My Indians never said to me, "Hurry and get this over
so that we may go home and be more comfortable." Indians are
comfortable everywhere.

Not far from the house sat a great wooden raven mounted on a rather
low pole; his wings were flattened to his sides. A few feet from
him stuck up an empty pole. His mate had sat there but she had
rotted away long ago, leaving him moss-grown, dilapidated and alone
to watch dead Indian bones, for these two great birds had been set,
one on either side of the doorway of a big house that had been full
of dead Indians who had died during a smallpox epidemic.

Bursting growth had hidden house and bones long ago. Rain turned
their dust into mud; these strong young trees were richer perhaps
for that Indian dust. They grew up round the dilapidated old raven,
sheltering him from the tearing winds now that he was old and
rotting because the rain seeped through the moss that grew upon
his back and in the hollows of his eye-sockets. The Cumshewa totem
poles were dark and colourless, the wood toneless from pouring

When Jimmie, Louisa, the cat and the missionary's daughter saw me
squeeze back into the house through the hole and heard me say,
"Done", they all jumped up. Curling the cat into her hat, Louisa
set about packing; Jimmie went to prepare his boat. The cat was
peeved. She preferred Louisa's hat near the fire to the outside

The memory of Cumshewa is of a great lonesomeness smothered in a
blur of rain. Our boat headed for the sea. As we rounded the point
Cumshewa was suddenly like something that had not quite happened.

5 Sophie

Sophie knocked gently on my Vancouver studio door.

"Baskets. I got baskets."

They were beautiful, made by her own people, West Coast Indian
baskets. She had big ones in a cloth tied at the four corners and
little ones in a flour-sack.

She had a baby slung on her back in a shawl, a girl child clinging
to her skirts, and a heavy-faced boy plodding behind her.

"I have no money for baskets."

"Money no matter," said Sophie. "Old clo', waum skirt--good fo'

I wanted the big round one. Its price was eight dollars.

"Next month I am going to Victoria. I will bring back some clothes
and get your basket."

I asked her in to rest a while and gave the youngsters bread and
jam. When she tied up her baskets she left the one I coveted on
the floor.

"Take it away," I said. "It will be a month before I can go to
Victoria. Then I will bring clothes back with me and come to get
the basket."

"You keep now. Bymby pay," said Sophie.

"Where do you live?"

"North Vancouver Mission."

"What is your name?"

"Me Sophie Frank. Everybody know me."

Sophie's house was bare but clean. It had three rooms. Later when
it got cold Sophie's Frank would cut out all the partition walls.
Sophie said, "Thlee loom, thlee stobe. One loom, one stobe." The
floor of the house was clean scrubbed. It was chair, table and bed
for the family. There was one chair; the coal-oil lamp sat on that.
Sophie pushed the babies into corners, spread my old clothes on
the floor to appraise them, and was satisfied. So, having tested
each other's trade-straightness, we began a long, long
friendship--forty years. I have seen Sophie glad, sad, sick and
drunk. I have asked her why she did this or that thing--Indian ways
that I did not understand--her answer was invariably "Nice ladies
always do." That was Sophie's ideal--being nice.

Every year Sophie had a new baby. Almost every year she buried one.
Her little graves were dotted all over the cemetery. I never knew
more than three of her twenty-one children to be alive at one time.
By the time she was in her early fifties every child was dead and
Sophie had cried her eyes dry. Then she took to drink.

"I got a new baby. I got a new baby."

Sophie, seated on the floor of her house, saw me coming through
the open door and waved the papoose cradle. Two little girls rolled
round on the floor; the new baby was near her in a basket-cradle.
Sophie took off the cloth tented over the basket and exhibited the
baby, a lean poor thing.

Sophie herself was small and spare. Her black hair sprang thick
and strong on each side of the clean, straight parting and hung in
twin braids across her shoulders. Her eyes were sad and heavy-lidded.
Between prominent, rounded cheekbones her nose lay rather flat,
broadening and snubby at the tip. Her wide upper lip pouted. It
was sharp-edged, puckering over a row of poor teeth--the soothing
pucker of lips trying to ease an aching tooth or to hush a crying
child. She had a soft little body, a back straight as honesty
itself, and the small hands and feet of an Indian.

Sophie's English was good enough, but when Frank, her husband, was
there she became dumb as a plate.

"Why won't you talk before Frank, Sophie?"

"Frank he learn school English. Me, no. Frank laugh my English

When we were alone she chattered to me like a sparrow.

In May, when the village was white with cherry blossom and the blue
water of Burrard Inlet crept almost to Sophie's door just a streak
of grey sand and a plank walk between--and when Vancouver city was
more beautiful to look at across the water than to be in; it was
then I loved to take the ferry to the North Shore and go to Sophie's.

Behind the village stood mountains topped by the grand old "Lions",
twin peaks, very white and blue. The nearer mountains were every
shade of young foliage, tender grey-green, getting greener and
greener till, when they were close, you saw that the village grass
outgreened them all. Hens strutted their broods, papooses and pups
and kittens rolled everywhere--it was good indeed to spend a day on
the Reserve in spring.

Sophie and I went to see her babies' graves first. Sophie took her
best plaid skirt, the one that had three rows of velvet ribbon
round the hem, from a nail on the wall, and bound a yellow silk
handkerchief round her head. No matter what the weather, she always
wore her great shawl, clamping it down with her arms, the fringe
trickling over her fingers. Sophie wore her shoes when she walked
with me, if she remembered. Across the water we could see the city.
The Indian Reserve was a different world--no hurry, no business.

We walked over the twisty, up-and-down road to the cemetery. Casamin,
Tommy, George, Rosie, Maria, Mary, Emily, and all the rest were
there under a tangle of vines. We rambled, seeking out Sophie's
graves. Some had little wooden crosses, some had stones. Two babies
lay outside the cemetery fence: they had not faced life long enough
for baptism.

"See! Me got stone for Rosie now."

"It looks very nice. It must have cost lots of money, Sophie."

"Grave man make cheap for me. He say, 'You got lots, lots stone
from me, Sophie. Maybe bymby you get some more died baby, then you
want more stone. So I make cheap for you.'"

Sophie's kitchen was crammed with excited women. They had come to
see Sophie's brand-new twins. Sophie was on a mattress beside the
cook stove. The twin girls were in small basket papoose cradles,
woven by Sophie herself. The babies were wrapped in cotton wool
which made their dark little faces look darker; they were laced
into their baskets and stuck up at the edge of Sophie's mattress
beside the kitchen stove. Their brown, wrinkled faces were like
potatoes baked in their jackets, their hands no bigger than brown

They were thrilling, those very, very tiny babies. Everybody was
excited over them. I sat down on the floor close to Sophie.

"Sophie, if the baby was a girl it was to have my name. There are
two babies and I have only one name. What are we going to do about

"The biggest and the best is yours," said Sophie.

My Em'ly lived three months. Sophie's Maria lived three weeks. I
bought Em'ly's tombstone. Sophie bought Maria's.

Sophie's "mad" rampaged inside her like a lion roaring in the breast
of a dove.

"Look see," she said, holding a red and yellow handkerchief, caught
together at the corners and chinking with broken glass and bits of
plaster of Paris. "Bad boy bloke my grave flower! Cost five dollar
one, and now boy all bloke fo' me. Bad, bad boy! You come talk me
fo' p'liceman?"

At the City Hall she spread the handkerchief on the table and held
half a plaster of Paris lily and a dove's tail up to the eyes of
the law, while I talked.

"My mad fo' boy bloke my plitty glave flower," she said, forgetting,
in her fury, to be shy of the "English words".

The big man of the law was kind. He said, "It's too bad, Sophie.
What do you want me to do about it?"

"You make boy buy more this plitty kind for my glave."

"The boy has no money but I can make his old grandmother pay a
little every week."

Sophie looked long at the broken pieces and shook her head.

"That ole, ole woman got no money." Sophie's anger was dying,
soothed by sympathy like a child, the woman in her tender towards
old Granny. "My bloke no matter for ole woman," said Sophie,
gathering up the pieces. "You scold boy big, Policeman? No make
glanny pay."

"I sure will, Sophie."

There was a black skirt spread over the top of the packing case in
the centre of Sophie's room. On it stood the small white coffin.
A lighted candle was at the head, another at the foot. The little
dead girl in the coffin held a doll in her arms. It had hardly been
out of them since I had taken it to her a week before. The glassy
eyes of the doll stared out of the coffin, up past the closed
eyelids of the child.

Though Sophie had been through this nineteen times before, the
twentieth time was no easier. Her two friends, Susan and Sara, were
there by the coffin, crying for her.

The outer door opened and a half dozen women came in, their shawls
drawn low across their foreheads, their faces grim. They stepped
over to the coffin and looked in. Then they sat around it on the
floor and began to cry, first with baby whimpers, softly, then
louder, louder still--with violence and strong howling: torrents
of tears burst from their eyes and rolled down their cheeks. Sophie
and Sara and Susan did it too. It sounded horrible--like tortured

Suddenly they stopped. Sophie went to the bucket and got water in
a tin basin. She took a towel in her hand and went to each of the
guests in turn holding the basin while they washed their faces and
dried them on the towel. Then the women all went out except Sophie,
Sara and Susan. This crying had gone on at intervals for three
days--ever since the child had died. Sophie was worn out. There had
been, too, all the long weeks of Rosie's tubercular dying to go

"Sophie, couldn't you lie down and rest?"

She shook her head. "Nobody sleep in Injun house till dead people
go to cemet'ry."

The beds had all been taken away.

"When is the funeral?"

"I dunno. Pliest go Vancouver. He not come two more day."

She laid her hand on the corner of the little coffin.

"See! Coffin-man think box fo' Injun baby no matter."

The seams of the cheap little coffin had burst.

As Sophie and I were coming down the village street we met an Indian
woman whom I did not know. She nodded to Sophie, looked at me and
half paused. Sophie's mouth was set, her bare feet pattered quick,
hurrying me past the woman.

"Go church house now?" she asked me.

The Catholic church had twin towers. Wide steps led up to the front
door which was always open. Inside it was bright, in a misty way,
and still except for the wind and sea-echoes. The windows were gay
coloured glass; when you knelt the wooden footstools and pews
creaked. Hush lurked in every corner. Always a few candles burned.
Everything but those flickers of flame was stone-still.

When we came out of the church we sat on the steps for a little.
I said, "Who was that woman we met, Sophie?"

"Mrs. Chief Joe Capilano."

"Oh! I would like to know Mrs. Chief Joe Capilano. Why did you
hurry by so quick? She wanted to stop." "I don' want you know Mrs.
Chief Joe."

"You fliend for me, not fliend for her."

"My heart has room for more than one friend, Sophie."

"You fliend for me, I not want Mrs. Chief Joe get you."

"You are always my first and best friend, Sophie." She hung her
head, her mouth obstinate. We went to Sara's house.

Sara was Sophie's aunt, a wizened bit of a woman whose eyes, nose,
mouth and wrinkles were all twisted to the perpetual expressing of
pain. Once she had had a merry heart, but pain had trampled out
the merriness. She lay on a bed draped with hangings of clean,
white rags dangling from poles. The wall behind her bed, too, was
padded heavily with newspaper to keep draughts off her "Lumatiz".

"Hello, Sara. How are you?"

"Em'ly! Sophie's Em'ly!"

The pain wrinkles scuttled off to make way for Sara's smile, but
hurried back to twist for her pain.

"I dunno what for I got Lumatiz, Em'ly. I dunno. I dunno."

Everything perplexed poor Sara. Her merry heart and tortured body
were always at odds. She drew a humped wrist across her nose and
said, "I dunno, I dunno", after each remark.

"Goodbye, Sophie's Em'ly; come some more soon. I like that you
come. I dunno why I got pain, lots pain. I dunno--I dunno."

I said to Sophie, "You see! the others know I am your big friend.
They call me 'Sophie's Em'ly'."

She was happy.

Susan lived on one side of Sophie's house and Mrs. Johnson, the
Indian widow of a white man, on the other. The widow's house was
beyond words clean. The cookstove was a mirror, the floor white as
a sheet from scrubbing. Mrs. Johnson's hands were clever and busy.
The row of hard kitchen chairs had each its own antimacassar and
cushion. The crocheted bedspread and embroidered pillowslips, all
the work of Mrs. Johnson's hands, were smoothed taut. Mrs. Johnson's
husband had been a sea captain. She had loved him deeply and remained
a widow though she had had many offers of marriage after he died.
Once the Indian agent came, and said:

"Mrs. Johnson, there is a good man who has a farm and money in the
bank. He is shy, so he sent me to ask if you will marry him."

"Tell that good man, `Thank you', Mr. Agent, but tell him, too,
that Mrs. Johnson only got love for her dead Johnson."

Sophie's other neighbour, Susan, produced and buried babies almost
as fast as Sophie herself. The two women laughed for each other
and cried for each other. With babies on their backs and baskets
on their arms they crossed over on the ferry to Vancouver and sold
their baskets from door to door. When they came to my studio they
rested and drank tea with me. My parrot, sheep dog, the white rats
and the totem pole pictures all interested them. "An' you got Injun
flower, too," said Susan.

"Indian flowers?"

She pointed to ferns and wild things I had brought in from the
woods. Sophie's house was shut up. There was a chain and padlock
on the gate. I went to Susan.

"Where is Sophie?"

"Sophie in sick house. Got sick eye."

I went to the hospital. The little Indian ward had four beds.
I took ice cream and the nurse divided it into four portions.

A homesick little Indian girl cried in the bed in one corner, an
old woman grumbled in another. In a third there was a young mother
with a baby, and in the fourth bed was Sophie.

There were flowers. The room was bright. It seemed to me that the
four brown faces on the four white pillows should be happier and
far more comfortable here than lying on mattresses on the hard
floors in the village, with all the family muddle going on about

"How nice it is here, Sophie."

"Not much good of hospital, Em'ly."

"Oh! What is the matter with it?"

"Bad bed."

"What is wrong with the beds?"

"Move, move, all time shake. 'Spose me move, bed move too."

She rolled herself to show how the springs worked. "Me ole-fashion,
Em'ly. Me like kitchen floor fo' sick."

Susan and Sophie were in my kitchen, rocking their sorrows back
and forth and alternately wagging their heads and giggling with
shut eyes at some small joke.

"You go live Victoria now, Em'ly," wailed Sophie, "and we never
see those babies, never!"

Neither woman had a baby on her back these days. But each had a
little new grave in the cemetery. I had told them about a friend's
twin babies. I went to the telephone.

"Mrs. Dingle, you said I might bring Sophie to see the twins?"

"Surely, any time," came the ready reply.

"Come, Sophie and Susan, we can go and see the babies now."

The mothers of all those little cemetery mounds stood looking and
looking at the thriving white babies, kicking and sprawling on
their bed. The women said, "Oh my!--Oh my!" over and over.

Susan's hand crept from beneath her shawl to touch a baby's leg.
Sophie's hand shot out and slapped Susan's.

The mother of the babies said, "It's all right, Susan; you may
touch my baby."

Sophie's eyes burned Susan for daring to do what she so longed to
do herself. She folded her hands resolutely under her shawl and
whispered to me,

"Nice ladies don' touch, Em'ly."

6 D'Sonoqua

I was sketching in a remote Indian village when I first saw her.
The village was one of those that the Indians use only for a few
months in each year; the rest of the time it stands empty and
desolate. I went there in one of its empty times, in a drizzling

When the Indian agent dumped me on the beach in front of the village,
he said "There is not a soul here. I will come back for you in two
days." Then he went away.

I had a small griffon dog with me, and also a little Indian girl,
who, when she saw the boat go away, clung to my sleeve and wailed,
"I'm 'fraid."

We went up to the old deserted Mission House. At the sound of the
key in the rusty lock, rats scuttled away. The stove was broken,
the wood wet. I had forgotten to bring candles. We spread our
blankets on the floor, and spent a poor night. Perhaps my lack of
sleep played its part in the shock that I got, when I saw her for
the first time.

Water was in the air, half mist, half rain. The stinging nettles,
higher than my head, left their nervy smart on my ears and forehead,
as I beat my way through them, trying all the while to keep my feet
on the plank walk which they hid. Big yellow slugs crawled on the
walk and slimed it. My feet slipped and I shot headlong to her very
base, for she had no feet. The nettles that were above my head
reached only to her knee.

It was not the fall alone that jerked the "Oh's" out of me, for
the great wooden image towering above me was indeed terrifying.

The nettle bed ended a few yards beyond her, and then a rocky bluff
jutted out, with waves battering it below. I scrambled up and went
out on the bluff, so that I could see the creature above the nettles.
The forest was behind her, the sea in front.

Her head and trunk were carved out of, or rather into, the bole of
a great red cedar. She seemed to be part of the tree itself, as if
she had grown there at its heart, and the carver had only chipped
away the outer wood so that you could see her. Her arms were spliced
and socketed to the trunk, and were flung wide in a circling,
compelling movement. Her breasts were two eagle-heads, fiercely
carved. That much, and the column of her great neck, and her strong
chin, I had seen when I slithered to the ground beneath her. Now
I saw her face.

The eyes were two rounds of black, set in wider rounds of white,
and placed in deep sockets under wide, black eyebrows. Their fixed
stare bored into me as if the very life of the old cedar looked
out, and it seemed that the voice of the tree itself might have
burst from that great round cavity, with projecting lips, that was
her mouth: Her ears were round, and stuck out to catch all sounds.
The salt air had not dimmed the heavy red of her trunk and arms
and thighs. Her hands were black, with blunt finger-tips painted
a dazzling white. I stood looking at her for a long, long time.

The rain stopped, and white mist came up from the sea, gradually
paling her back into the forest. It was as if she belonged there,
and the mist were carrying her home. Presently the mist took the
forest too, and, wrapping them both together, hid them away.

"Who is that image?" I asked the little Indian girl, when I got
back to the house.

She knew which one I meant, but to gain time, she said, "What

"The terrible one, out there on the bluff."

"I dunno," she lied.

I never went to that village again, but the fierce wooden image
often came to me, both in my waking and in my sleeping.

Several years passed, and I was once more sketching in an Indian
village. There were Indians in this village, and in a mild backward
way it was "going modern". That is, the Indians had pushed the
forest back a little to let the sun touch the new buildings that
were replacing the old community houses. Small houses, primitive
enough to a white man's thinking, pushed here and there between
the old. Where some of the big community houses had been torn down,
for the sake of the lumber, the great corner posts and massive
roof-beams of the old structure were often left, standing naked
against the sky, and the new little house was built inside, on the
spot where the old one had been.

It was in one of these empty skeletons that I found her again. She
had once been a supporting post for the great centre beam. Her
pole-mate, representing the Raven, stood opposite her, but the beam
that had rested on their heads was gone. The two poles faced in,
and one judged the great size of the house by the distance between
them. The corner posts were still in place, and the earth floor,
once beaten to the hardness of rock by naked feet, was carpeted
now with rich lush grass.

I knew her by the stuck-out ears, shouting mouth, and deep
eye-sockets. These sockets had no eye-balls, but were empty holes,
filled with stare. The stare, though not so fierce as that of the
former image, was more intense. The whole figure expressed power,
weight, domination, rather than ferocity. Her feet were planted
heavily on the head of the squatting bear, carved beneath them.
A man could have sat on either huge shoulder. She was unpainted,
weather-worn, sun-cracked, and the arms and hands seemed to hang
loosely. The fingers were thrust into the carven mouths of two
human heads, held crowns down. From behind, the sun made unfathomable
shadows in eye, cheek and mouth. Horror tumbled out of them.

I saw Indian Tom on the beach, and went to him.

"Who is she?"

The Indian's eyes, coming slowly from across the sea, followed my
pointing finger. Resentment showed in his face, greeny-brown and
wrinkled like a baked apple,--resentment that white folks should
pry into matters wholly Indian.

"Who is that big carved woman?" I repeated.

"D'Sonoqua." No white tongue could have fondled the name as he did.

"Who is D'Sonoqua?"

"She is the wild woman of the woods."

"What does she do?"

"She steals children."

"To eat them?"

"No, she carries them to her caves; that," pointing to a purple
scar on the mountain across the bay, "is one of her caves. When
she cries `OO-oo-oo-oeo', Indian mothers are too frightened to
move. They stand like trees, and the children go with D'Sonoqua."

"Then she is bad?"

"Sometimes bad. . .sometimes good," Tom replied, glancing furtively
at those stuck-out ears. Then he got up and walked away.

I went back, and sitting in front of the image, gave stare for
stare. But her stare so over-powered mine, that I could scarcely
wrench my eyes away from the clutch of those empty sockets. The
power that I felt was not in the thing itself, but in some tremendous
force behind it, that the carver had believed in.

A shadow passed across her hands and their gruesome holdings.
A little bird, with its beak full of nesting material, flew into
the cavity of her mouth, right in the pathway of that terrible
OO-oo-oo-oeo. Then my eye caught something that I had missed--a
tabby cat asleep between her feet.

This was D'Sonoqua, and she was a supernatural being, who belonged
to these Indians.

"Of course," I said to myself, "I do not believe in supernatural
beings. Still--who understands the mysteries behind the forest? What
would one do if one did meet a supernatural being?" Half of me
wished that I could meet her, and half of me hoped I would not.

Chug--chug--the little boat had come into the bay to take me to
another village, more lonely and deserted than this. Who knew what
I should see there? But soon supernatural beings went clean out of
my mind, because I was wholly absorbed in being naturally seasick.

When you have been tossed and wracked and chilled, any wharf looks
good, even a rickety one, with its crooked legs stockinged in
barnacles. Our boat nosed under its clammy darkness, and I crawled
up the straight slimy ladder, wondering which was worse, natural
seasickness, or supernatural "creeps". The trees crowded to the
very edge of the water, and the outer ones, hanging over it, shadowed
the shoreline into a velvet smudge. D'Sonoqua might walk in places
like this. I sat for a long time on the damp, dusky beach, waiting
for the stage. One by one dots of light popped from the scattered
cabins, and made the dark seem darker. Finally the stage came.

We drove through the forest over a long straight road, with black
pine trees marching on both sides. When we came to the wharf the
little gas mail-boat was waiting for us. Smell and blurred light
oozed thickly out of the engine room, and except for one lantern
on the wharf everything else was dark. Clutching my little dog, I
sat on the mail sacks which had been tossed on to the deck.

The ropes were loosed, and we slid out into the oily black water.
The moon that had gone with us through the forest was away now.
Black pine-covered mountains jagged up on both sides of the inlet
like teeth. Every gasp of the engine shook us like a great sob.
There was no rail round the deck, and the edge of the boat lay
level with the black slithering horror below. It was like being
swallowed again and again by some terrible monster, but never going
down. As we slid through the water, hour after hour, I found myself
listening for the OO-oo-oooeo.

Midnight brought us to a knob of land, lapped by the water on three
sides, with the forest threatening to gobble it up on the fourth.
There was a rude landing, a rooming-house, an eating-place, and a
store, all for the convenience of fishermen and loggers. I was
given a room, but after I had blown out my candle, the stillness
and the darkness would not let me sleep. In the brilliant sparkle
of the morning when everything that was not superlatively blue was
superlatively green, I dickered with a man who was taking a party
up the inlet that he should drop me off at the village I was headed

"But," he protested, "there is nobody there."

To myself I said, "There is D'Sonoqua."

From the shore, as we rowed to it, came a thin feminine cry--the
mewing of a cat. The keel of the boat had barely grated in the
pebbles, when the cat sprang aboard, passed the man shipping his
oars, and crouched for a spring into my lap. Leaning forward, the
man seized the creature roughly, and with a cry of "Dirty Indian
vermin!" flung her out into the sea.

I jumped ashore, refusing his help, and with a curt "Call for me
at sun-down," strode up the beach; the cat followed me.

When we had crossed the beach and come to a steep bank, the cat
ran ahead. Then I saw that she was no lean, ill-favoured Indian
cat, but a sleek aristocratic Persian. My snobbish little griffon
dog, who usually refused to let an Indian cat come near me, surprised
me by trudging beside her in comradely fashion.

The village was typical of the villages of these Indians. It had
only one street, and that had only one side, because all the houses
faced the beach. The two community houses were very old, dilapidated
and bleached, and the Landful of other shanties seemed never to
have been young; they had grown so old before they were finished,
that it was then not worth while finishing them.

Rusty padlocks carefully protected the gaping walls. There was the
usual broad plank in front of the houses, the general sitting and
sunning place for Indians. Little streams ran under it, and weeds
poked up through every crack, half hiding the companies of tins,
kettles, and rags, which patiently waited for the next gale and
their next move. In front of the Chief's house was a high, carved
totem pole, surmounted by a large wooden eagle. Storms had robbed
him of both wings, and his head had a resentful twist, as if he
blamed somebody. The heavy wooden heads of two squatting bears
peered over the nettle-tops. The windows were too high for peeping
in or out. "But, save D'Sonoqua, who is there to peep?" I said
aloud, just to break the silence. A fierce sun burned down as if
it wanted to expose every ugliness and forlorness. It drew the
noxious smell out of the skunk cabbages, growing in the rich black
ooze of the stream, scummed the waterbarrels with green slime, and
branded the desolation into my very soul.

The cat kept very close, rubbing and bumping itself and purring
ecstatically; and although I had not seen them come, two more cats
had joined us. When I sat down they curled into my lap, and then
the strangeness of the place did not bite into me so deeply. I got
up, determined to look behind the houses.

Nettles grew in the narrow spaces between the houses. I beat them
down; and made my way over the bruised dark-smelling mass into a
space of low jungle. Long ago the trees had been felled and left
lying. Young forest had burst through the slash, making an impregnable
barrier, and sealing up the secrets which lay behind it. An eagle
flew out of the forest, circled the village, and flew back again.

Once again I broke silence, calling after him, "Tell D'Sonoqua--"
and turning, saw her close, towering above me in the jungle.

Like the D'Sonoqua of the other villages she was carved into the
bole of a red cedar tree. Sun and storm had bleached the wood, moss
here and there softened the crudeness of the modelling; sincerity
underlay every stroke.

She appeared to be neither wooden nor stationary, but a singing
spirit, young and fresh, passing through the jungle. No violence
coarsened her; no power domineered to wither her. She was graciously
feminine. Across her forehead her creator had fashioned the Sistheutl,
or mythical two-headed sea-serpent. One of its heads fell to either
shoulder, hiding the stuck-out ears, and framing her face from a
central parting on her forehead which seemed to increase its

She caught your breath, this D'Sonoqua, alive in the dead bole of
the cedar. She summed up the depth and charm of the whole forest,
driving away its menace.

I sat down to sketch. What was the noise of purring and rubbing
going on about my feet? Cats. I rubbed my eyes to make sure I was
seeing right, and counted a dozen of them. They jumped into my lap
and sprang to my shoulders. They were real--and very feminine.

There we were--D'Sonoqua, the cats and I--the woman who only a few
moments ago had forced herself to come behind the houses in trembling
fear of the "wild woman of the woods"--wild in the sense that
forest-creatures are wild--shy, untouchable.

7 The Blouse

The sound of waves came in at the open door; the smell of the sea
and of the sun-warmed earth came in too. It was expected that very
soon death would enter. A row of women sat outside the hut--they
were waiting to mourn and howl when death came.

The huddle of bones and withered skin on the mattress inside the
hut knew death was coming. Although the woman was childless and
had no husband, she knew that the women of her tribe would make
sorrow-noise for her when death came.

The eyes of the dying woman were glassy and half closed. I knelt
beside her and put my hand over her cold bony one. My blouse touched
her and she opened her eyes wide. Turning her hand, she feebly
clutched the silk of my sleeve.

"Is there something you want, Mary?"

"Good," she whispered, still clutching the sleeve.

I thought that she was dead, holding my sleeve in a death grip.
One of the women came in and tried to free me. Mary's eyes opened
and she spoke in Indian.

"Mary wants your blouse," said the stooping woman to me.

"Wants my blouse?"

"Uh huh--wants for grave."

"To be buried in?"

"No, for grave-house."

I understood. Mary had not many things now but she had been important
once. They would build a little wooden room with a show window in
it over her grave. Here they would display her few poor possessions,
the few hoarded trifles of her strong days. My blouse would be an

The dying woman's eyes were on my face.

I scrambled out of the blouse and into my jacket. I laid the blouse
across Mary. She died with her hands upon it.

8 The Stare

Millie's stare was the biggest thing in the hut. It dimmed for a
moment as we stood in its way--but in us it had no interest. The
moment we moved from its path it tightened again--this tense, living
stare glowing in the sunken eyes of a sick Indian child.

All the life that remained in the emaciated, shrivelled little
creature was concentrated in that stare. It burned a path for itself
right across the sea to the horizon, burning with longing focused
upon the return of her father's whaling-boat.

The missionary bent over the child.


Millie's eyes lifted grudgingly, then hastened back to their

Turning to the old crone who took the place of a mother who was
dead and cared for the little girl, the missionary asked, "How is
she, Granny?"

"I t'ink 'spose boat no come quick, Milly die plitty soon now."

"Is there no word of the boats?"

"No, maybe all Injun-man dead. Whale fishin' heap, heap bad for
make die."

They brought the child food. She struggled to force down enough to
keep the life in her till her father came. Squatted on her mat on
the earth floor, her chin resting on the sharp knees encircled by
her sticks of arms, she sat from dawn till dark, watching. When
light was gone the stare fought its way, helped by Millie's ears,
listening, listening out into black night.

It was in the early morning that the whaling-boats came home. When
the mist lifted, Millie saw eight specks out on the horizon. Taut,
motionless, uttering no word, she watched them grow.

"The boats are coming!" The cry rang through the village. Women
left their bannock-baking, their basketweaving and hurried to the
shore. The old crone who tended Millie hobbled to the beach with
the rest.

"The boats are coming!" Old men warming their stiff bodies in the
sun shaded dull eyes with their hands to look far out to sea,
groaning with joy that their sons were safe.

"The boats are coming!" Quick ears of children heard the cry in
the school house and squeezing from their desks without leave,
pattered down to the shore. The missionary followed. It was the
event of the year, this return of the whaling-boats.

Millie's father was the first to land. His eyes searched among the

"My child?"

His feet followed the women's pointing fingers. Racing up the bank,
his bulk filled the doorway of the hut. The stare enveloped him,
Millie swayed towards him. Her arms fell down. The heavy plaits of
her hair swung forward. Brittle with long watching, the stare had

9 Greenville

The cannery boss said, "Try Sam; he has a gas boat and comes from
Greenville. That's Sam over there--the Indian in the striped shirt."

I came close to where Sam was forking salmon from the scow on to
the cannery chutes.

"Sam, I want to go to Greenville. Could you take me there on Sunday?"

"Uh huh."

"What time Sunday?"

"Eight o'clock."

On Sunday morning I sat on the wharf from eight o'clock till noon.
Sam's gas boat was down below. There was a yellow tarpaulin tented
across her middle. Four bare feet stuck out at one end and two
black heads at the other.

From stir to start it took the Indians four hours. Sam and his son
sauntered up and down getting things as if time did not exist.
Round noon the gas boat's impudent sputter ticked out across the
wide face of the Naas River.

The Indian and his son were silent travellers.

I had a small griffon dog who sat at my feet quivering and alert.
I felt like an open piano that any of the elements could strum on.

The great Naas swept grandly along. The nameless little river that
Greenville was on emptied into the Naas. When our boat turned from
the great into the little river she had no more ambition. Her engine
died after a few puffs. Then we drifted a short way and nosed
alongside a crude plank landing. This was Greenville.

It was between lights, neither day nor dark.

Five or six shadows came limping down the bank to the landing--Indian
dogs--gaunt forsaken creatures. They knew when they heard the engine
it meant man. The dogs looked queer.

"What is the matter with the dogs?"

"Porkpine," grunted the Indian.

The creatures' faces were swollen into wrong shapes. Porcupine
quills festered in the swellings.

"Why don't the Indians take their dogs with them and not leave them
to starve or hunt porcupine?"

"Cannery Boss say no can."

When I went towards the dogs, they backed away growling.

"Him hiyu fierce," warned the Indian.

In the dusk with the bedding and bundles on their shoulders the
two Indians looked monstrous moving up the bank ahead of me.

I held my dog tight because of the fierceness of those skulking
shadow--dogs following us.

Greenville was a large village, low and flat. Its stagnant swamps
and ditches were glory places for the mosquitoes to breed in. Only
the hum of the miserable creatures stirred the heavy murk that
beaded our foreheads with sweat as we pushed our way through it.

Half-built, unpainted houses, old before ever they were finished,
sat hunched irregularly along the grass-grown way. Planks on spindly
trestles bridged the scummed sloughs. Emptiness glared from windows
and shouted up dead chimneys, weighted emptiness, that crushed the
breath back into your lungs and chilled the heart in your sweating

Stumbling over stones and hummocks I hurried after the men who were
anxious to place me and be gone down the Naas to the cannery again.

I asked the Indian, "Is there no one in this village?"

"One ole man, one woman, and one baby stop. Everybody go cannery,"

"Where can I stay?"

"Teacher's house good for you."

"Where is the teacher?"

"Teacher gone too."

We were away from the village street now and making our way through
bracken breast high. The school house was among it crouched on the
edge of the woods. It was school house and living quarters combined.
Trees pressed it close; undergrowth surged up over its windows.

The Indian unlocked the door, pushed us in and slammed the door to
violently, as if something terrible were behind us.

"What was it you shut out, Sam?"


In here the hum of the mosquitoes had stopped, as every other thing
had stopped in the murky grey of this dreadful place, clock,
calendar, even the air--the match the Indian struck refused to live.

We felt our way through the long school room to a room behind that
was darker still. It had a drawn blind and every crevice was sealed.
The air in it felt as solid as the table and the stove. You chewed
rather than breathed it. It tasted of coal-oil after we lit the

I opened a door into the shed. The pungent smell of cut stove-wood
that came in was good.

The Indians were leaving me.

"Stop! The old man and the woman, where are they? Show me."

Before I went I opened all the doors. Mosquitoes were better than
this strangling deadness, and I never could come back alone and
open the door of the big dark room. Then I ran through the bracken
and caught up with the Indians.

They led me to the farthest house in the village. It was cut off
from the school house by space filled with desperate loneliness.

The old man was on the floor; he looked like a shrivelled old bird
there on his mattress, caged about with mosquito netting. He had
lumbago. His wife and grandchild were there too.

The womanliness of the old squaw stayed with me when I came back.
All night long I was glad of that woman in Greenville.

It was dark when I got back to the school and the air was oozing
sluggishly through the room.

I felt like a thief taking possession of another's things without
leave. The school teacher had left everything shipshape. Everything
told the type of woman she was.

Soon I made smoke roll round inside the stove and a tiny flame
wavered. I turned forward the almanac sheets and set the clock
ticking. When the kettle sang things had begun to live.

The night was long and black. As dawn came I watched things slowly
poke out of the black. Each thing was a surprise.

The nights afterwards in this place were not bad like the first
one, because I then had my bearings. All my senses had touched the
objects around me. But it was lying in that smothering darkness
and not knowing what was near me--what I might touch if I reached
out a hand--that made the first night so horrible.

When I opened the school house door in the morning the village dogs
were in the bracken watching. They went frantic over the biscuits
I threw to them. A black one came crouching. She let me pull the
porcupine quills out of her face. When the others saw her fear dry
up, they came closer too. It was people they wanted even more than
food. Wherever I went about the village they followed me.

In the swampy places and ditches of Greenville skunk cabbages
grew--gold and brimming with rank smell--hypocrites of loveliness
peeping from the lush green of their great leaves. The smell of
them was sickening.

I looked through the blindless windows of the Indian houses.
Half-eaten meals littered the tables. Because the tide had been
right to go, bedding had been stripped from the springs, food left
about, water left unemptied to rust the kettles. Indians slip in
and out of their places like animals. Tides and seasons are the
things that rule their lives: domestic arrangements are mere

The houses looked as if they had been shaken out of a dice box on
to the land and stayed just where they lit. The elements dominated
them from the start. As soon as a few boards were put together the
family moved in, and the house went on building around them until
some new interest came along. Then the Indian dropped his tools.
If you asked when he was going to finish building his house he
said, "Nodder day--me too busy now," and after a long pull on his
pipe he would probably lie round in the sun for days doing nothing.

I went often to the last house in the village to gossip with the
woman. She was not as old as you thought at first, but very
weatherbeaten. She was a friendly soul, but she spoke no English.
We conversed like this,--one would point at something, the other
clap her hands and laugh, or moan and shake her head as was right.
Our eyebrows worked too and our shoulders and heads. A great deal
of fun and information passed back and forth between us.

Ginger Pop, my griffon, was a joy to Granny. With a chuckle that
wobbled the fat all over her, she would plant her finger on the
snub of her own broad nose and wrinkle it back towards her forehead
in imitation of the dog's snub, and laugh till the tears poured
out of her eyes. All the while the black eyes of her solemn grandchild

Granny also enjoyed my duck "pantalettes" that came below my skirts
to the soles of my shoes, my duplicate pairs of gloves, and the
cheese-cloth veil with a glass window in front. This was my mosquito
armour. Hers consisted of pair upon pair of heavy wool stockings
handknitted, and worn layer upon layer till they were deeper than
the probes of the mosquitoes, and her legs looked like barrels.

The old man and I had a few Chinook words in common. I went sometimes
to the darkened shed where he was building a boat. He kept a smudge
and the air was stifling. Tears and sweat ran down our faces. He
wiped his face with the bandanna floating under his hat brim to
protect his neck and blew at the mosquitoes and rubbed his lumbago.
Suddenly his eye would catch the comic face of Ginger Pop and he
too would throw down his tools and give himself up to mirth at the
pup's expense. When he laughed, that was the time to ask him things.

"I am sorry that there are no totem poles in Greenville. I like
totem poles," I said.

"Halo totem stick kopa Greenville."

"Old village with totem poles stop up the Naas?"

"Uh huh."

"I would like to see them."

"Uh huh."

"Will you take me in your boat?"

"Uh huh, Halo tillicum kopet."

"I want to see the poles, not people. You take me tomorrow?"

"Uh huh."

So we went to Gittex and Angedar, two old village sites on the Naas
River. His old boat crept through the side-wash meanderings of the
Naas. Suddenly we came out on to its turbulent waters and shot
across them: and there, tipping drunkenly over the top of dense
growth, were the totem poles of Gittex. They looked like mere sticks
in the vast sea of green that had swallowed the old village. Once
they, too, had been forest trees, till the Indian mutilated and
turned them into bare poles. Then he enriched the shorn things with
carvings. He wanted some way of showing people things that were in
his mind, things about the creatures and about himself and their
relation to each other. He cut forms to fit the thoughts that the
birds and animals and fish suggested to him, and to these he added
something of himself. When they were all linked together they made
very strong talk for the people. He grafted this new language on
to the great cedar trunks and called them totem poles and stuck
them up in the villages with great ceremony. Then the cedar and
the creatures and the man all talked together through the totem
poles to the people. The carver did even more--he let his imaginings
rise above the objects that he saw and pictured supernatural beings

The creatures that had flesh and blood like themselves the Indians
understood. They accepted them as their ancestors but the supernatural
things they feared and tried to propitiate.

Every clan took a creature for its particular crest. Individuals
had private crests too, which they earned for themselves often by
privation and torture and fasting. These totem creatures were
believed to help specially those who were of their crest.

When you looked at a man's pole, his crests told you who he was,
whom he might marry and whom he might not marry--for people of the
same crest were forbidden to marry each other.

You knew also by the totem what sort of man he was or at least what
he should be because men tried to be like the creature of their
crest, fierce, or brave, or wise, or strong.

Then the missionaries came and took the Indians away from their
old villages and the totem poles and put them into new places where
life was easier, where they bought things from a store instead of
taking them from nature.

Greenville, which the Indians called "Lakalzap", was one of these
new villages. They took no totem poles with them to hamper their
progress in new ways; the poles were left standing in the old
places. But now there was no one to listen to their talk any more.
By and by they would rot and topple to the earth, unless white men
came and carried them away to museums. There they would be labelled
as exhibits, dumb before the crowds who gaped and laughed and said,
"This is the distorted foolishness of an uncivilized people." And
the poor poles could not talk back because the white man did not
understand their language.

At Gittex there was a wooden bear on top of such a high pole that
he was able still to look over the top of the woods. He was a joke
of a bear--every bit of him was merry. He had one paw up against
his face, he bent forward and his feet clung to the pole. I tried
to circle about so that I could see his face but the monstrous
tangle was impossible to break through.

I did beat my way to the base of another pole only to find myself
drowned under an avalanche of growth sweeping down the valley. The
dog and I were alone in it--just nothings in the overwhelming

My Indian had gone out to mid-river. It seemed an awful thing to
shatter that silence with a shout, but I was hungry and I dared
not raise my veil till I got far out on the Naas. Mosquitoes would
have filled my mouth.

After seven days the Indians came back with their boat and took me
down the Naas again.

I left the old man and woman leisurely busy, the woman at her
wash-tub and the man in his stifling boathouse. Each gave me a
passing grin and a nod when I said goodbye; comings and goings are
as ordinary to Indians as breathing.

I let the clock run down. Flapped the leaves of the calendar back,
and shut the Greenville school house tight.

The dogs followed to the edge of the water, their stomachs and
hearts sore at seeing us go. Perhaps in a way dogs are more domestic
and more responsive than Indians.

10 Two Bits and a Wheel-Barrow

The smallest coin we had in Canada in early days was a dime, worth
ten cents. The Indians called this coin "a Bit". Our next coin,
double in buying power and in size, was a twenty-five cent piece
and this the Indians called "Two Bits".

Two bits was the top price that old Jenny knew. She asked two bits
for everything she had to sell, were it canoe-bailer, eagle's wing,
cedar-bark basket or woven mat. She priced each at "two bits" and
if I had said "How much for your husband or your cat?" she would
have answered "two bits" just the same.

Her old husband did not look worth two bits. He was blind and very
moth-eaten. All day he lay upon a heap of rags in the corner of
their hut. He was quite blind but he had some strength still. Jenny
made him lie there except when he was led, because he fell into
the fire or into the big iron cook-pot and burned himself if he
went alone. There was such a litter over the floor that he could
not help tripping on something if he took even a step. So Jenny
Two-Bits ordered her old blind Tom to stay in his corner till she
was ready. Jenny was getting feeble. She was lame in the hip and
walked with a crooked stick that she had pulled from the sea.

Tommy knew that day had come when he felt Jenny Two-Bits' stick
jab him. The stick stayed in the jab until Tom took hold. Then
still holding the stick Jenny steered him across to where she lay.
When he came close she pulled herself up by hanging on-to his
clothes. When bits of his old rags tore off in her hands she scolded
Tom bitterly for having such poor, weak clothes.

Tom could tell by the cold clammy feel how very new the morning
was when Jenny pushed him out of the door and told him to stand by
the wall and not move while she went for the wheel-barrow. It
screeched down the alley. Jenny backed Tom between the handles and
he took hold of them. Then she tied a rope to each of his arms
above the elbow. She used the ropes for reins and hobbled along,
slapping the barrow with her stick to make Tom go and poking her
stick into his back to make him stop. At that early hour the village
was empty. They always tried to be the first on the beach so that
they could have the pick of what the sea had thrown up.

They went slowly to the far end of the village street where the
bank was low and here they left the barrow.

Jenny Two-Bits led Tom along the quiet shore. She peered this way
and that to see what the waves had brought in. Sometimes the sea
gave them good things, sometimes nothing at all, but there were
always bits of firewood and bark to be had if they got there before
anyone else.

The old woman's eyes were very sharp and the wheel-barrow hardly
ever came back empty. When Jenny found anything worthwhile, first
she peered, then she beat it with her stick and took Tom's hand
and laid it on the wet cast-up thing. Tom would lift it and carry
it to the barrow. Then they came back to their shanty and sat down
in the sun outside the door to rest.

Sometimes Jenny and Tom went in a canoe to fish out in the bay.
Tom held the lines, Jenny paddled.

When they caught a fish or when Jenny sold something for two bits
or when they sat together baking themselves in the sunshine, they
were happy enough.

11 Sleep

When I was a child I was staying at one of Victoria's beaches.

I was down on the point watching a school of porpoises at play off
Trail Island when a canoe came round the headland. She was steering
straight for our beach.

The Government allowed the Indians to use the beaches when they
were travelling, so they made camp and slept wherever the night
happened to fall.

In the canoe were a man and woman, half a dozen children, a dog,
a cat and a coop of fowls, besides all the Indians' things. She
was a West Coast canoe--dug out of a great red cedar tree. She was
long and slim, with a high prow shaped like a wolf's head. She was
painted black with a line of blue running round the top of the
inside. Her stern went straight down into the water. The Indian
mother sat in the stern and steered the canoe with a paddle.

When the canoe was near the shore, the man and the woman drove
their paddles strong and hard, and the canoe shot high up on to
the pebbles with a growling sound. The barefoot children swarmed
over her side and waded ashore.

The man and the woman got out and dragged the canoe high on-to the
beach. There was a baby tucked into the woman's shawl; the shawl
bound the child close to her body. She waddled slowly across the
beach, her bare feet settling in the sand with every step, her
fleshy body squared down on to her feet. All the movements of the
man and the woman were slow and steady; their springless feet padded
flatly; their backs and shoulders were straight. The few words they
said to each other were guttural and low-pitched.

The Indian children did not race up and down the beach, astonished
at strange new things, as we always were. These children belonged
to the beach, and were as much a part of it as the drift-logs and
the stones.

The man gathered a handful of sticks and lit a fire. They took a
big iron pot and their food out of the canoe, and set them by the
fire. The woman sat among the things with her baby--she managed the
shawl and the baby so that she had her arms free, and her hands
moved among the kettles and food.

The man and a boy, about as big as I was, came up the path on the
bank with tin pails. When they saw me, the boy hung back and stared.
The man grinned and pointed to our well. He had coarse hair hanging
to his shoulders; it was unbrushed and his head was bound with a
red band. He had wrinkles everywhere, face, hands and clothing.
His coat and pants were in tatters. He was brown and dirty all
over, but his face was gentle and kind.

Soon I heard the pad-pad of their naked feet on the clay of the
path. The water from the boy's pail slopped in the dust while he
stared back at me.

They made tea and ate stuff out of the iron pot; it was fish, I
could smell it. The man and the woman sat beside the pot, but the
children took pieces and ran up and down eating them.

They had hung a tent from the limb of the old willow tree that
lolled over the sand from the bank. The bundles and blankets had
been tossed into the tent; the flaps were open and I could see
everything lying higgledy-piggledy inside.

Each child ate what he wanted; then he went into the tent and
tumbled, dead with sleep, among the bundles. The man, too, stopped
eating and went into the tent and lay down. The dog and the cat
were curled up among the blankets.

The woman on the beach drew the smouldering logs apart; when she
poured a little water on them they hissed. Last of all she too went
into the tent with her baby.

The tent full of sleep greyed itself into the shadow under the
willow tree. The wolf's head of the canoe stuck up black on the
beach a little longer; then it faded back and back into the night.
The sea kept on going slap-slap-slap over the beach.

12 Sailing to Yan

At the appointed time I sat on the beach waiting for the Indian.
He did not come and there was no sign of his boat.

An Indian woman came down the bank carrying a heavy not-walking-age
child. A slim girl of twelve was with her. She carried a paddle
and going to a light canoe that was high on the sand, she began to
drag it towards the sea.

The woman put the baby into the canoe and she and the girl grunted
and shunted the canoe into the water, then they beckoned to me.

"Go now," said the woman.

"Go where?"

"Yan.--My man tell me come take you go Yan."

"But--the baby--?"

Between Yan and Masset lay ugly waters--I could not--no, I really
could not--a tippy little canoe--a woman with her arms full of
baby--and a girl child--!

The girl was rigging a ragged flour sack in the canoe for a sail.
The pole was already placed, the rag flapped limply around it. The
wind and the waves were crisp and sparkling. They were ready,
waiting to bulge the sack and toss the canoe.

"How can you manage the canoe and the baby?" I asked the woman and
hung back.

Pointing to the bow seat, the woman commanded, "Sit down."

I got in and sat.

The woman waded out holding the canoe and easing it about in the
sand until it was afloat. Then she got in and clamped the child
between her knees. Her paddle worked without noise among the waves.
The wind filled the flour sack beautifully as if it had been a silk

The canoe took the water as a beaver launches himself--with a silent

The straight young girl with--black hair and eyes and the lank print
dress that clung to her childish shape, held the sail rope and
humoured the whimsical little canoe. The sack now bulged with wind
as tight as once it had bulged with flour. The woman's paddle
advised the canoe just how to cut each wave.

We streaked across the water and were at Yan before I remembered
to be frightened. The canoe grumbled over the pebbly beach and we
got out.

We lit a fire on the beach and ate.

The brave old totems stood solemnly round the bay. Behind them were
the old houses of Yan, and behind that again was the forest. All
around was a blaze of rosy pink fireweed, rioting from the rich
black soil and bursting into loose delicate blossoms, each head
pointing straight to the sky.

Nobody lived in Yan. Yan's people had moved to the newer village
of Masset, where there was a store, an Indian agent and a church.

Sometimes Indians came over to Yan to cultivate a few patches of
garden. When they went away again the stare in the empty hollows
of the totem eyes followed them across the sea, as the mournful
eyes of chained dogs follow their retreating masters.

Just one carved face smiled in the village of Yan. It was on a low
mortuary pole and was that of a man wearing a very, very high hat
of honour. The grin showed his every tooth. On the pole which stood
next sat a great wooden eagle. He looked down his nose with a dour
expression as a big sister looks when a little sister laughs in

The first point at the end of Yan beach was low and covered with
coarse rushes. Over it you could see other headlands point after
point. . .jutting out, on and on. . .beyond the wide sweep of
Yan beach to the edge of the world.

There was lots of work for me to do in Yan. I went down the beach
far away from the Indians. At first it was hot, but by and by haze
came creeping over the farther points, blotting them out one after
the other as if it were suddenly aware that you had been allowed
to see too much. The mist came nearer and nearer till it caught
Yan too in its woolly whiteness. It stole my totem poles; only the
closest ones were left and they were just grey streaks in the mist.
I saw myself as a wet rag sticking up in a tub of suds. When the
woolly mist began to thread and fall down in rain I went to find
the woman.

She had opened one of the houses and was sitting on the floor close
to a low fire. The baby was asleep in her lap. Under her shawl she
and the child were one big heap in the half-dark of the house. The
young girl hugged her knees and looked into the fire. I sat in to
warm myself and my clothes steamed. The fire hissed and crackled
at us.

I said to the woman, "How old is your baby?"

"Ten month. He not my baby. That," pointing to the girl, "not my
chile too."

"Whom do they belong to?"

"Me. One woman give to me. All my chiles die--I got lots, lots dead
baby. My fliend solly me 'cause I got no more chile so she give
this an' this for mine."

"Gave her children away? Didn't she love them?" "She love plenty
lots. She cly, cly no eat--no sleep--cly, cly--all time cly."

"Then why did she give her children away?"

"I big fliend for that woman--she solly me--she got lots more baby,
so she give this and this for me."

She folded the sleeping child in her shawl and laid him down. Then
she lifted up some loose boards lying on the earth floor and there
was a pit. She knelt, dipped her hand in and pulled out an axe.
Then she brought wood from the beach and chopped as many sticks as
we had used for our fire. She laid them near the fire stones, and
put the axe in the pit and covered it again. That done, she put
the fire out carefully and padlocked the door.

The girl child guiding the little canoe with the flour-sack sail
slipped us back through the quiet mist to Masset.

13 Cha-atl

While I was staying at the missionary's house, waiting to find
someone to take me to Cha-atl, the missionary got a farm girl, with
no ankles and no sense of humour, to stay there with me. She was
to keep me company, and to avoid scandal, because the missionary's
wife and family were away. The girl had a good enough heart stowed
away in an ox-like body. Her name was Maria.

Jimmie, a Haida Indian, had a good boat, and he agreed to take me
to Cha-atl, so he and his wife Louisa, Maria and I all started off
in the boat. I took my sheep dog and Louisa took her cat.

We made a short stop at a little island where there were a few
totem poles and a great smell because of all the dogfish thrown up
on the beach and putrefying in the sun. Then we went on till we
got to the long narrow Skidegate Inlet.

The tips of the fresh young pines made circles of pale green from
the wide base of each tree to the top. They looked like multitudes
of little ladies in crinolines trooping down the bank.

The day was hot and still. Eagles circled in the sky and porpoises
followed us up the Inlet till we came to the shallows; they leaped
up and down in the water making a great commotion on both sides of
our boat. Their blunt noses came right out of the water and their
tails splashed furiously. It was exciting to watch them.

It took Jimmie all his time in the shallows to keep us in the
channel. Louisa was at the wheel while he lay face down on the edge
of the boat peering into the water and making signals to Louisa
with his arms.

In the late afternoon, Jimmie shut off his engine and said, "Listen."

Then we heard a terrific pounding and roaring. It was the surf-beat
on the west coast of Queen Charlotte Islands. Every minute it got
louder as we came nearer to the mouth of the Inlet. It was as if
you were coming into the jaws of something too big and awful even
to have a name. It never quite got us, because we turned into
Cha-atl, just before we came to the corner, so we did not see the
awfulness of the roaring ocean. Seamen say this is one of the worst
waters in the world and one of the most wicked coasts.

Cha-atl had been abandoned a great many years. The one house standing
was quite uninhabitable. Trees had pushed the roof off and burst
the sides. Under the hot sun the lush growth smelt rank.

Jimmie lowered the canoe and put Billy, the dog, and me ashore. He
left the gas boat anchored far out. When he had put me on the beach,
he went back to get Louisa and Maria and the things. While I stood
there that awful boom, boom, seemed to drown out every other thing.
It made even the forest seem weak and shivery. Perhaps if you could
have seen the breakers and had not had the whole weight of the
noise left entirely to your ears it would not have seemed so
stunning. When the others came ashore the noise seemed more bearable.

There were many fine totem poles in Cha-atl--Haida poles, tragic
and fierce. The wood of them was bleached out, but looked green
from the mosses which grew in the chinks, and the tufts of grass
on the heads of the figures stuck up like coarse hair. The human
faces carved on the totem poles were stern and grim, the animal
faces fierce and strong; supernatural things were pictured on the
poles too.  Everything about Cha-atl was so vast and deep you
shrivelled up.

When it was too dark to work I came back to the others. They were
gathered round a fire on the beach. We did not talk while we ate;
you had to shout to be heard above the surf. The smell of the ocean
was very strong.

Jimmie had hung one end of my tent to a totem pole that leaned far
over the sand. The great carved beaks of the eagle and the raven
nearly touched the canvas.

"Jimmie, don't you think that pole might fall on us in the night?"

"No, it has leaned over like that for many, many years."

Louisa's white cat looked like a ghost with the firelight on her
eyes. We began to talk about ghosts and supernatural things--tomtoms
that beat themselves, animals that spoke like men, bodies of great
chiefs, who had lain in their coffins in the houses of their people
till they stank and there were smallpox epidemics--stories that
Louisa's grandmother had told her.

When we held the face of the clock to the firelight we saw that it
was late. Louisa went to the tent and laughed aloud; she called
out, "Come and see."

The walls of the tent and our beds and blankets were crawling with
great yellow slugs. With sticks we poked them into a pan. They put
in their horns and blunted their noses, puckering the thick lips
which ran along their sides and curving their bodies crossly. We
tossed them into the bush.

Louisa hung the lantern on to the tent pole and said--"Jimmie and
I will go now."


"Yes, to the gas boat."

"Way out there and leave us all alone? Haven't you got a tent?"

Jimmie said he forgot it.

"But. . .Jimmie won't sleep in Cha-atl. . .too many ghosts. . ."

"What about us?"

"There are some bears around, but I don't think they will bother
you. . . . Goodnight."

Their lantern bobbed over the water, then it went out, and there
was not anything out there but roar. If only one could have seen
it pounding!

We lay down upon the bed of rushes that the Indians had made for
us and drew the blanket across us. Maria said, "It's awful. I'm
scared to death." Then she rolled over and snored tremendously.
Our lantern brought in mosquitoes, so I got up and put it out. Then
I went from the tent.

Where the sea had been was mud now, a wide grey stretch of it with
black rocks and their blacker shadows dotted over it here and there.
The moon was rising behind the forest--a bright moon. It threw the
shadows of the totems across the sand; an owl cried, and then a
sea-bird. To be able to hear these close sounds showed that my ears
must be getting used to the breakers. By and by the roar got fainter
and fainter and the silence stronger. The shadows of the totem
poles across the beach seemed as real as the poles themselves.

Dawn and the sea came in together. The moon and the shadows were
gone. The air was crisp and salty. I caught water where it trickled
down a rock and washed myself.

The totem poles stood tranquil in the dawn. The West Coast was
almost quiet; the silence had swallowed up the roar.

And morning had come to Cha-atl.

14 Wash Mary

Mary came to wash for Mother every Monday.

The wash-house was across the yard from the kitchen door--a long
narrow room. The south side of it was of open lattice--when the
steam poured through it looked as if the wash-house was on fire.
There was a stove in the wash-house. A big oval copper boiler stood
on the top of the stove. There was a sink and a pump, and a long
bench on which the wooden tubs sat.

Mary stood on a block of wood while she washed because she was so
little. Her arms went up and down, up and down over the wash-board
and the suds bobbed in the tub. The smell of washing came out
through the lattice with the steam, and the sound of rubbing and
swishing came out too.

The strong colours of Mary's print dress, brown face, and black
hair were paled by the steam that rolled round her from the tubs.
She had splendid braids of hair--the part went clear from her forehead
to her spine. At each side of the part the hair sprang strong and
thick. The plaits began behind each ear. Down at the ends they were
thinner and were tied together with string. They made a loop across
her back that looked like a splendid strong handle to lift little
Mary up by. Her big plaid shawl hung on a nail while she washed.
Mary's face was dark and wrinkled and kind.

Mother said to me, "Go across the yard and say to Mary, 'Chahko
muckamuck, Mary'."

"What does it mean?"

"Come to dinner."

"Mother, is Mary an Indian?"

"Yes child; run along, Mary will be hungry."

"Chahko muckamuck--Chahko muckamuck--" I said over and over as I ran
across the yard.

When I said to Mary, "Chahko muckamuck", the little woman looked
up and laughed at me just as one little girl laughs at another
little girl.

I used to hang round at noon on Mondays so that I could go and say,
"Chahko muckamuck, Mary". I liked to see her stroke the suds from
her arms back into the tub and dry her arms on her wide skirt as
she crossed to the kitchen. Then too I used to watch her lug out
the big basket and tip-toe on her bare feet to hang the wash on
the line, her mouth full of clothes pins--the old straight kind that
had no spring, but round wooden knobs on the top that made them
look like a row of little dolls dancing over the empty flapping

As long as I could remember Mary had always come on Mondays and
then suddenly she did not come any more.

I asked, "Where is Wash Mary?"

Mother said, "You may come with me to see her."

We took things in a basket and went to a funny little house in
Fairfield Road where Mary lived. She did not stay on the Reserve
where the Songhees Indians lived. Perhaps she belonged to a different
tribe--I do not know--but she wanted to live as white people did.
She was a Catholic.

Mary's house was poor but very clean. She was in bed; she was very,
very thin and coughed all the time. The brown was all bleached out
of her skin. Her fingers were like pale yellow claws now, not a
bit like the brown hands that had hung the clothes on our line.
Just her black hair was the same and her kind, tired eyes.

She was very glad to see Mother and me.

Mother said, "Poor Mary", and stroked her hair.

A tall man in a long black dress came into Mary's house. He wore
a string of beads with a cross round his waist. He came to the bed
and spoke to Mary and Mother and I came away.

After we were outside again, Mother said quietly "Poor Mary!"

15 Juice

It was unbelievably hot. We three women came out of the store each
eating a juicy pear. There was ten cents' express on every pound
of freight that came up the Cariboo road. Fruit weighs heavy.
Everything came in by mule-train.

The first bite into those Bartletts was intoxicating. The juice
met your teeth with a gush.

I was considering the most advantageous spot to set my bite next
when I saw Doctor Cabbage's eye over the top of my pear, feasting
on the fruit with unquenched longing.

I was on the store step, so I could look right into his eyes. They
were dry and filmed. The skin of his hands and face was shrivelled,
his clothes nothing but a bunch of tatters hanging on a dry stick.
I believe the wind could have tossed him like a dead leaf, and that
nothing juicy had ever happened in Doctor Cabbage's life.

"Is it a good apple?"

After he had asked, his dry tongue made a slow trip across his lips
and went back into his mouth hotter and dryer for thinking of the

"Would you like it?"

A gleam burst through his filmed eyes. He drew the hot air into
his throat with a gasp, held his hand out for the pear and then
took a deep greedy bite beside mine.

The juice trickled down his chin--his tongue jumped out and caught
it; he sipped the oozing juice from the holes our bites had made.
He licked the drops running down the rind, then with his eyes still
on the pear, he held it out for me to take back.

"No, it's all yours."

"Me eat him every bit?"


His eyes squinted at the fruit as if he could not quite believe
his ears and that all the pear in his hands belonged to him. Then
he took bite after bite, rolling each bite slowly round his mouth,
catching every drop of juice with loud suckings. He ate the core.
He ate the tail, and ticked his fingers over and over like a cat.

"Hyas Klosshe (very good)," he said, and trotted up the hill as
though his joints had been oiled.

Some days later I had occasion to ride through the Indian village.
All the cow ponies were busy--the only mount available was an old,
old mare who resented each step she took, and if you stopped one
instant she went fast asleep.

Indian boys were playing football in the street of their village.
I drew up to ask direction. The ball bounced exactly under my
horse's stomach. The animal had already gone to sleep and did not
notice. Out of a cabin shot a whirl of a little man, riddled with
anger. It was Doctor Cabbage.

He confiscated the ball and scolded the boys so furiously that the
whole team melted away--you'd think there was not a boy left in the

Laying his hand on my sleeping steed, Doctor Cabbage smiled up at me.

"You brave good rider," he said, "Skookum tumtum (good heart)!"

I thanked Doctor Cabbage for the compliment and for his gallant

I woke my horse with great difficulty, and decided that honour for
conspicuous bravery was sometimes very easily won.

16 Friends

"We have a good house now. We would like you to stay with us when
you come. My third stepfather gave me the house when he was dead.
He was a good man."

I wrote back, "I would like to stay with you in your house."

Louisa met me down on the mud flats. She had to walk out half a
mile because the tide was low. She wore gum boots and carried
another pair in her hand for me. Her two small barefoot sons took
my bags on their backs. Louisa's greetings were gracious and suitable
to the dignity of her third stepfather's house.

It was a nice house, and had a garden and verandah. There was a
large kitchen, a living-room and double parlours. The back parlour
was given to me. It had a handsome brass bed with spread and
pillow-slips heavily embroidered, and an eiderdown. There was also
a fine dresser in the room; on it stood a candle in a beer bottle
and a tin pie-plate to hold hairpins. There was lots of light and
air in the room because the blind would not draw down and the window
would not shut up.

A big chest in the centre of the room held the best clothes of all
the family. Everyone was due to dress there for church on Sunday

Between my parlour and the front parlour was an archway hung with
skimpy purple curtains of plush. If any visitors came for music in
the evenings and stayed too long, Louisa said,

"You must go now, my friend wants to go to bed."

The outer parlour ran to music. It had a player-piano--an immense
instrument with a volume that rocked the house--an organ, a flute
and some harmonicas. When the cabinet for the player rolls, the
bench, a big sofa, a stand-lamp with shade, and some rocking chairs
got into the room, there was scarcely any space for people.

In the living-room stood a glass case and in it were Louisa's and
Jimmie's wedding presents and all their anniversary presents. They
had been married a long time, so the case was quite full.

The kitchen was comfortable, with a fine cook-stove, a sink, and
a round table to eat off. Louisa had been cook in a cannery and
cooked well. Visitors often came in to watch us eat. They just
slipped in and sat in chairs against the wall and we went on eating.
Mrs. Green, Louisa's mother, dropped in very often. Louisa's house
was the best in the village.

At night Louisa's boys, Jim and Joe, opened a funny little door in
the living-room wall and disappeared. Their footsteps sounded up
and more up, a creak on each step, then there was silence. By and
by Jimmie and Louisa disappeared through the little door too. Only
they made louder creaks as they stepped. The house was then quite
quiet just the waves sighing on the shore.

Louisa's mother, Mrs. Green, was a remarkable woman. She clung
vigorously to the old Indian ways, which sometimes embarrassed
Louisa. In the middle of talking, the old lady would spit on to
the wood-pile behind the stove. When Louisa saw she was going to,
she ran with a newspaper, but she seldom got there in time. She
was a little ashamed, too, of her mother's smoking a pipe; but
Louisa was most respectful to her mother--she never scolded her.

One day I was passing the cabin in the village where Mrs. Green
lived. I saw the old lady standing barefoot in a trunk which was
filled with thick brown kelp leaves dried hard. They were covered
with tiny grey eggs. Louisa told me it was fish roe and was much
relished by the Japanese. Mrs. Green knew where the fish put their
eggs in the beds of kelp, and she went out in her canoe and got
them. After she had dried them she sent them to the store in Prince
Rupert and the store shipped them to Japan, giving Mrs. Green value
in goods.

When Mrs. Green had tramped the kelp flat, Louisa and I sat on the
trunk and she roped it and did up the clasps. Then we put the trunk
on the boys' little wagon and between us trundled it to the wharf.
They came home then to write a letter to the store man at Prince
Rupert. Louisa got the pen and ink, and her black head and her
mother's grey one bent over the kitchen table. They had the store
catalogue: it was worn soft and black. Mrs. Green had been deciding
all the year what to get with the money from the fish roe. Louisa's
tongue kept lolling out of the corner of her mouth as she worried
over the words; she found them harder to write than to say in
English. It seemed as if the lolling tongue made it easier to put
them on the paper.

"Can I help you?" I asked.

Louisa shoved the paper across the table to me with a glad sigh,
crushing up her scrawled sheet. They referred over and over to the
catalogue, telling me what to write. "One plaid shawl with fringe,
a piece of pink print, a yellow silk handkerchief, groceries" were
all written down, but the old woman kept turning back the catalogue
and Louisa kept turning it forward again and saying firmly, "That
is all you need, Mother!" Still the old woman's fingers kept
stealthily slipping back the pages with longing.

I ended the letter and left room for something else on the list.

"Was there anything more that you wanted, Mrs. Green?"

"Yes, me like that!" she said with a defiant glance at Louisa.

It was a patent tobacco pipe with a little tin lid. Louisa looked

"What a fine pipe, Mrs. Green, you ought to have that," I said.

"Me like little smoke," said Mrs. Green, looking slyly at Louisa.

That night, old Mother Green sat by the stove puffing happily on
her old clay pipe. She leaned forward and poked my knee. "That lid
good," she said. "When me small, small girl me mama tell me go
fetch pipe often; I put in my mouth to keep the fire; that way me
begin like smoke." She had a longish face scribbled all over with
wrinkles. When she talked English the big wrinkles round her eyes
and mouth were seams deep and tight and little wrinkles, like
stitches, crossed them.

The candle in my room gave just enough light to show off the
darkness. Morning made clear the picture that was opposite my bed.
It was of three very young infants. How they could stick up so
straight with no support at that age was surprising. They had
embroidered robes three times as long as themselves, and the most
amazing expressions on their faces. Their six eyes were shut as
tight as licked envelopes--the infants, clearly, had tremendous
wills, and had determined never to open their eyes. Their little
faces were like those of very old people; their fierce wrinkles
seemed to catch and pinch my stare, so that I could not get it
away.  I stared and stared. Louisa found me staring.

I said, "Whose babies are those?"

"Mother's tripples," she replied grandly.

"You mean they were Mrs. Green's babies?"

"Yes, the only tripples ever born on Queen Charlotte Islands."

"Did they die?"

"One died and the other two never lived. We kept the dead ones till
the live one died, then we pictured them all together."

Whenever I saw that remarkable old woman, with her hoe and spade,
starting off in her canoe to cultivate the potatoes she grew wherever
she could find a pocket of earth on the little islands round about,
I thought of the "tripples". If they had lived and had inherited
her strength and determination, they could have rocked the Queen
Charlotte Islands.

17 Martha's Joey

One day our father and his three girls were going over James Bay
Bridge in Victoria. We met a jolly-faced old Indian woman with a
little fair-haired white boy about as old as I was.

Father said, "Hello, Joey!", and to the woman he said:  "How are
you getting on, Martha?"

Father had given each of us a big flat chocolate in silver paper
done up like a dollar piece. We were saving them to eat when we
got home.

Father said, "Who will give her chocolate to Joey?"

We were all willing. Father took mine because I was the smallest
and the greediest of his little girls.

The boy took it from my hand shyly, but Martha beamed so wide all
over me that I felt very generous.

After we had passed on I said, "Father, who is Joey?"

"Joey," said my father, "was left when he was a tiny baby at Indian
Martha's house. One very dark stormy night a man and woman knocked
at her door. They asked if she would take the child in out of the
wet, while they went on an errand. They would soon be back, they
said, but they never came again, though Martha went on expecting
them and caring for the child. She washed the fine clothes he had
been dressed in and took them to the priest; but nobody could find
out anything about the couple who had forsaken the baby."

"Martha had no children and she got to love the boy very much. She
dressed him in Indian clothes and took him for her own. She called
him Joey."

I often thought about what Father had told us about Joey.

One day Mother said I could go with her, and we went to a little
hut in a green field where somebody's cows grazed. That was where
Martha lived.

We knocked at the door but there was no answer. As we stood there
we could hear someone inside the house crying and crying. Mother
opened the door and we went in.

Martha was sitting on the floor. Her hair was sticking out wildly,
and her face was all swollen with crying.  Things were thrown about
the floor as if she did not care about anything any more. She could
only sit swaying back and forth crying out, "Joey--my Joey--my

Mother put some nice things on the floor beside her, but she did
not look at them. She just went on crying and moaning.

Mother bent over Martha and stroked her shoulder; but it was no
good saying anything, she was sobbing too hard to hear. I don't
think she even knew we were there. The cat came and cried and begged
for food. The house was cold.

Mother was crying a little when we came away.

"Is Joey dead, Mother?"

"No, the priests have taken him from Martha and sent him away to

"Why couldn't he stay with Martha and go to school like other Indian

"Joey is not an Indian; he is a white boy. Martha is not his mother."

"But Joey's mother did not want him; she gave him away to Martha
and that made him her boy. He's hers. It's beastly of the priest
to steal him from Martha."

Martha cried till she had no more tears and then she died.

18 Salt Water

At five o'clock that July morning the sea, sky, and beach of
Skidegate were rosily smoothed into one. There was neither horizon,
cloud, nor sound; of that pink, spread silence even I had become
part, belonging as much to sky as to earth, as much to sleeping as
waking as I went stumbling over the Skidegate sands.

At the edge of the shrunken sea some Indians were waiting for me,
a man and his young nephew and niece. They stood beside the little
go-between canoe which was to carry us to a phantom gas boat floating
far out in the Bay.

We were going to three old forsaken villages of the British Columbia
Indians, going that I might sketch. We were to be away five days.

"The morning is good," I said to the Indian.

"Uh huh," he nodded.

The boy and the girl shrank back shyly, grinning, whispering guttural
comments upon my Ginger Pop, the little griffon dog who trotted by
my side.

In obedience to a grunt and a pointing finger, I took my place in
the canoe and was rowed out to the gas boat. She tipped peevishly
as I boarded, circling a great round "O" upon the glassy water; I
watched the "O" flatten back into smoothness. The man went to fetch
the girl and boy, the food and blankets.

I had once before visited these three villages, Skedans, Tanoo and
Cumshewa. The bitter-sweet of their overwhelming loneliness created
a longing to return to them. The Indian had never thwarted the
growth-force springing up so terrifically in them. He had but homed
himself there awhile, making use of what he needed, leaving the
rest as it always was. Civilization crept nearer and the Indian
went to meet it, abandoning his old haunts. Then the rush of wild
growth swooped and gobbled up all that was foreign to it. Rapidly
it was obliterating every trace of man. Now only a few hand-hewn
cedar planks and roof beams remained, moss-grown and sagging--a
few totem poles, greyed and split.

We had been scarcely an hour on the sea when the rosiness turned
to lead, grey mist wrapped us about and the sea puckered into
sullen, green bulges.

The Indians went into the boat's cabin. I preferred the open.
Sitting upon a box, braced against the cabin wall, I felt very ill
indeed. There was no deck rail, the waves grew bigger and bigger
licking hungrily towards me. I put the dog in his travelling box
and sent him below.

Soon we began dipping into green valleys, and tearing up erupting
hills. I could scarcely retain my grip on the box. It seemed as if
my veins were filled with sea water rather than blood, and that my
head was full of emptiness.

After seven hours of this misery our engine shut off outside Skedans
Bay. The Indian tossed the anchor overboard. My heart seemed to go
with it in its gurgling plop to find bottom, for mist had turned
to rain and Skedans skulked dim and uninviting.

"Can the boat not go nearer?"

The Indian shook his head. "No can, water floor welly wicked, make
boat bloke." I knew that there were kelp beds and reefs which could
rip the bottoms from boats down in Skedans Bay.

"Eat now?" asked the man.

"No, I want to land."

The canoe sighed across our deck. The waves met her with an angry
spank. The Indian juggled her through the kelp. Kelpie heads bobbed
around us like drowning Aunt Sallies, flat brown streamers growing
from their crowns and floating out on the waves like long tresses.
The sea battered our canoe roughly. Again and again we experienced
nightmare drownings, which worked up and up to a point but never
reached there. When we finally beached, the land was scarcely less
wet than the sea. The rain water lacked the sting of salt but it
soaked deeper.

The Indian lit a great fire for me on the beach; then he went back
to his gas boat, and a wall of mist and rain cut me off from all
human beings.

Skedans on a stormy day looked menacing. To the right of the Bay
immediately behind the reef, rose a pair of uncouth cone-like
hills, their heads bonneted in lowering clouds. The clumsy hills
were heavily treed save where deep bare scars ran down their sides,
as if some monster cruelty had ripped them from crown to base.
Behind these two hills the sea bit into the shoreline so deeply as
to leave only a narrow neck of land, and the bedlam of waves pounding
on the shores back and front of the village site pinched the silence
out of forsaken old Skedans.

Wind raced across the breast-high growth around the meagre ruins
more poignantly desolate for having once known man.

A row of crazily tipped totem poles straggled along the low bank
skirting Skedans Bay. The poles were deep planted to defy storms.
In their bleached and hollow upper ends stood coffin-boxes, boarded
endwise into the pole by heavy cedar planks boldly carved with the
crest of the little huddle of bones inside the box, bones which
had once been a chief of Eagle, Bear or Whale Clan.

Out in the anchored gas boat the Indian girl became seasick, so
they brought her ashore. Leaving her by the fire I wandered to the
far end of the Bay. Ginger Pop was still on the gas boat and I
missed him at my heels for the place was very desolate, awash with
rain, and the sea pounding and snatching all it could reach, hurling
great waves only to snatch them back to increase the volume of its
next blow.

Suddenly above the din rose a human cry. The girl was beckoning to
me wildly. "Uncle's boat," she cried. "It is driving for the reef!"

I saw the gas boat scudding towards her doom, saw the Indian in
the small canoe battling to make shore with our bedding and food.

"Listen!" screamed the girl, "it is my brother."

Terrified shrieks from the gas boat pierced the tumult, "Uncle,

The man hurled the food and blankets ashore without beaching the
canoe, then he stepped into the waves, holding the frantic thing
like a dog straining on leash. He beckoned me as near as the waves
would let me go.

"Water heap wicked maybe no come back--take care my girl," he said,
and was gone.

Rushing out to the point above the reef, we watched the conflict
between canoe and sea. When the man reached the gas boat, the
screams of the boy stopped. With great risk they loaded the canoe
till she began to take water. The boy bailed furiously. The long
dogged pull of the man's oars challenged death inch by inch, wave
by wave. There were spells like eternity, when the fury out there
seemed empty when the girl hid her face on my shoulder and screeched.
I stared and stared, watching to tell the Indians in the home
village what the sea had done to their man and boy. How it had
sucked them again and again into awful hollows, walled them about
with waves, churned so madly that the boat did not budge in spite
of those desperate pulling oars.

Then some sea demon tossed her upon a crest and another plunged
her back again. The hugging sea wanted her, but inch by inch she
won. Then a great breaker dashed her on the beach with the smashing
hurl of a spoiled child returning some coveted toy.

The boy jumped out and made fast. The man struggled a few paces
through the foam and fell face down. We dragged him in. His face
was purple. "He is dying!"--No, life came back with tearing sobs.

Among our sodden stuff was a can of milk, another of beans; we
heated them, they put new life into us. Night was coming. We made
what preparation we could, spreading a tent-fly over a great log
and drying out our blankets. There was no lack of driftwood for
the fire.

The Indian's heart was sore for his boat; it looked as if nothing
could save her. She was drifting more slowly now, her propeller
fouled in kelp.

Mine was sore for my Ginger Pop in his box on the doomed boat. We
each took our trouble to an opposite end of the bay. . .brooding.

Suddenly the mournful little group on the farther point galvanized
into life. I heard a chorus of yells, saw the man strip off his
oilskin pants, tie them to a pole and beat the air. I hurried across
but found the Indians limp and despairing again.

"Boat see we was Indian, no stop," said the man bitterly.

Fish boats were hurrying to shelter, few came our way, sanctuary
was not to be found in Skedans Bay. I could not help hoping none
would see our distress signal. The thought of going out on that
awful sea appalled me.

A Norwegian seine boat did see us however. She stood by and sent
two small boats ashore. One went to the rescue of the drifting gas
boat and the other beached for us.

"Please, please leave us here on the land," I begged. The Indians
began rushing our things into the boat and the big Norwegian sailors
with long beards like brigands said, "Hurry! Hurry!" I stood where
land and sea wrangled ferociously over the overlap. The tea kettle
was in my hand. "Wait!" I roared above the din of the waves, seeing
I was about to be seized like a bale of goods and hurled into the
boat. "Wait!"--plunging a hand into my pocket I took out a box of
"Mothersill's Seasick Remedy", unwrapped a pill, put it on my tongue
and took a gulp from the kettle's spout; then I let them put me
into the maniac boat. She was wide and flat-bottomed. It was like
riding through bedlam on a shovel. "Mothersill" was useless; her
failure climaxed as we reached the seiner, which at that particular
moment was standing on her nose. When she sat down again they tied
the rescued gas boat to her tail and dragged us aboard the seiner.
When they set me on the heaving deck, I flopped on top of the fish
hatch and lay there sprawling like a star fish.

Rooting among my things the Indian girl got a yellow parasol and
a large tin cup; but the parasol flew overboard and the cup was
too late--it went clanking down the deck. Being now beyond decency
I made no effort to retrieve it. The waves did better than the cup
anyway, gurgling and sloshing around the hatch which was a foot
higher than the deck. Spray washed over me. The taste of the sea
was on my lips.

The Captain ordered "all below"; everyone rushed to obey save me.
I lay among the turmoil with everything rattling and smashing around
and in my head no more sense than a jelly fish.

Then the Captain strode across the deck, picked me up like a baby
and dumped me into the berth in his own cabin. I am sure it must
have been right on top of the boiler for I never felt so hot in my
life. One by one my senses clicked off as if the cigarette ladies
jazzing over every inch of the cabin walls had pressed buttons.

When I awoke it hardly seemed possible that this was the same boat
or the same sea or that this was the same me lying flat and still
above an engine that purred soft and contented as an old cat. Then
I saw that the Indian girl was beside me.

"Where are we?"

"I dunno."

"Where are they taking us?"

"I dunno."

"What time is it?"

"I dunno."

"Is Ginger Pop safe?"

"I dunno."

I turned my attention to the Captain's cabin, lit vaguely from the
deck lantern. The cigarette ladies now sat steady and demure. From
the window I could see dark shore close to us. Suddenly there was
no more light in the room because the Captain stood in the doorway,
and said, as casually as if he picked up castaways off beaches most
nights, "Wants a few minutes to midnight--then I shall put you off
at the scows."

"The scows?"

"Yep, scows tied up in Cumshewa Inlet for the fish boats to dump
their catches in."

"What shall I do there?"

"When the scows are full; packers come and tow them to the canneries."

"And must I sit among the fish and wait for a packer?"

"That's the idea."

"How long before one will come?"

"Ask the fish."

"I suppose the Indians will be there too?"

"No, we tow them on farther, their engine's broke."

Solitary, uncounted hours in one of those hideous square-snouted
pits of fish smell! Already I could feel the cold brutes slithering
around me for aeons and aeons of time before the tow ropes went
taut, and we set out for the cannery. There, men with spiked poles
would swarm into the scow, hook each fish under the gills. The
creatures would hurtle through the air like silver streaks, landing
into the cannery chutes with slithery thumps, and pass on to the
ripping knives. . . . The Captain's voice roused me from loathsome

"Here we are!"

He looked at me--scratched his head--frowned. "We're here," he
repeated, "and now what the dickens--? There is a small cabin on
the house scow--that's the one anchored here permanently--but the
two men who live on it will have been completely out these many
hours. Doubt if sirens, blows, nor nothin' could rouse 'em. Well,
see what I can do. . . ."

He disappeared as the engine bell rang. The Indian girl, without
goodbye, went to join her uncle.

Captain returned jubilant.

"There is a Jap fishboat tied to the scows. Her Captain will go
below with his men and let you have his berth till four A.M.; you'll
have to clear out then--that's lookin' far into the future tho'.
Come on."

I followed his bobbing lantern along a succession of narrow planks
mounted on trestles, giddy, vague as walking a tight rope across
night. We passed three cavernous squares of black. Fish smell darted
at us from their depths. When the planks ended the Captain said,
"Jump," I obeyed wildly, landing on a floored pit filled with the
most terrifying growls.

"Snores," said the captain. ". . .House scow."

We tumbled over strange objects, the door knob of the cabin looked
like a pupil-less eye as the lantern light caught its dead stare.

We scrambled up the far side of the scow pit and so on to the Jap
boat; three steps higher and we were in the wheel-house. There was
a short narrow bench behind the wheel--this was to be my bed. On it
was my roll of damp blankets, my sketch sack, and Ginger Pop's box
with a mad-for-joy Ginger inside it, who transformed me immediately
back from a bale of goods to his own special divinity.

The new day beat itself into my consciousness under the knuckles
of the Japanese captain. I thanked my host for the uncomfortable
night which, but for his kindness, would have been far worse, and
biddably leapt from the boat to the scow. It seemed that now I had
no more voice in the disposal of my own person than a salmon. I
was goods--I made no arrangements, possessed neither ticket, pass,
nor postage stamp--a pick-up that somebody asked someone else to
dump somewhere.

At the sound of my landing in the scow bottom, the door of the
cabin opened, and yellow lamplight trickled over a miscellany of
objects on the deck. Two men peered from the doorway; someone had
warned them I was coming. Their beds were made, the cabin was
tidied, and there were hot biscuits and coffee on the table.

"Good morning, I am afraid I am a nuisance. . . . I'm sorry"

"Not at all, not at all, quite a--quite er--" he gave up before he
came to what I was and said, "Breakfast's ready. . .crockery scant
. . .but plenty grub, plenty grub;. . .cute nipper," pointing to
Ginger Pop. "Name?"

"Ginger Pop."

"Ha! Ha!" He had a big round laugh. "Some name, some pup, eh?"

The little room was of rough lumber. It contained two of each bare
necessity--crockery, chairs, beds, two men, a stove, a table.

"Us'll have first go," said the wider, the more conversational of
the two. He waved me into one of the chairs and took the other.

"This here," thumbing back at the dour man by the stove; "is Jones;
he's cook, I'm Smith."

I told them who I was but they already knew all about us. News
travels quickly over the sea top. Once submerged and it is locked
in secrecy. The hot food tasted splendid. At last we yielded the
crockery to Jones.

"Now," said Smith, "you've et well; how'd you like a sleep?"

"I should like a sleep very much indeed," I replied, and without
more ado, hat, gum boots and all climbed up to Smith's bed. Ginger
Pop threw himself across my chest with his nose tucked under my
chin. I pulled my hat far over my face. The dog instantly began to
snore. Smith thought it was I. "Pore soul's dead beat," he whispered
to Jones, and was answered by a "serves-'er-right" grunt.

It was nearly noon when I awoke. I could not place myself underneath
the hat. The cabin was bedlam. Jones stretched upon his bed was
snoring, Smith on the floor with my sketch sack for a pillow
"duetted", Ginger Pop under my chin was doing it too. The walls
took the snores and compounded them into a hodge-podge chorus and
bounced it from wall to wall.

Slipping off the bed and stepping gingerly over Smith I went out
of the cabin into the fullness of a July noon, spread munificently
over the Cumshewa Inlet. The near shores were packed with trees,
trees soaked in sunshine. For all their crowding, there was room
between every tree, every leaf, for limitless mystery.  On many of
their tops sat a bald headed eagle, fish glutted, his white cap
startling against the deep green of the fir trees. No cloud, no
sound, save only the deep thunderous snores coming from the cabin.
The sleeping men were far, far away, no more here than the trouble
of last night's storm was upon the face of the Inlet.

The door of the cabin creaked. Smith's blinky eye peeped out to
see if he had dreamed us. When he saw Ginger and me he beamed,
hoped we were rested, hoped we were hungry, hoped Jones' dinner
would be ready soon; then the door banged, shutting himself and
his hopes into the cabin. He was out again soon, carrying a small
tin basin, a grey towel, and a lump of soap. Placing the things on
a barrel-end, he was just about to dip when the long neck of Jones
twisted around Smith's body and plunged first with loud sputters.
Still dripping he rushed back among the smells of his meat and
dumplings. Smith refilled the basin and washed himself with amazing
thoroughness considering his equipment, engaging me in conversation
all the while. After he had hurled the last remaining sud into the
sea he filled the basin yet again, solemnly handed me the soap and,
polishing his face as if it had been a brass knob, shut Jones and
himself up and left me to it.

We dined in the order we had breakfasted.

"Mr. Smith," I said, "how am I going to get out of here?"

"That is," said Smith with an airy wave of his knife, "in the hands
of the fish."

"They haven't any," I replied a little sulkily. The restriction of
four walls and two teacups was beginning to tell and nobody seemed
to be doing anything about releasing me.

"Pardon, Miss, I were speakin' figurative. Meanin' that if them
fish critters is reasonable there'll be boats; after boats there'll
be packers."

"Easy yourself now," he coaxed, "'Ave another dumpling?"

Ginger and I scrambled over the various scows getting what peeps
of the Inlet we could. It was very beautiful.

By and by we saw the scrawny form of Jones hugging the cabin close
while he eased his way with clinging feet past the scow house to
the far end. Here he leaned from the overhang and like a magician,
produced a little boat from nowhere.

He saw us watching and had a happy thought. He could relieve the
congestion in the scow house. He actually grinned--"Going to the
spring. You and the dog care for a spell ashore?" He helped Ginger
across the ledge and the awkward drop into the boat, but left me
to do the best I could. I was thicker than Jones and the rim of
the boat beyond the cabin was very meagre.

The narrow beach was covered with sea-drift. Silence and heat lay
heavy upon it. Few breezes found their way up the Inlet. The dense
shore growth was impossible to break into. Jones filled his pails
at the spring and returned to the scow, leaving us stranded on the
shore. When the shadows were long he returned for us. As we were
eating supper, night fell.

We sat around the coal-oil lamp which stood upon the table, telling
stories. At the back of each mind was a wonder as to whose lot
would be cast on the floor if no packer came before night. Little
fish boats began to come. We went out to watch them toss their
catch hastily into the scows and rush back like retrieving pups to
fetch more.

There was a great bright moon now. The fish looked alive, shooting
through the air. In the scows they slithered over one another,
skidding, switch-backing across the silver mound till each found
a resting-place only to be bounced out by some weightier fellow.

The busy little boats broke the calm and brought a tang of freshness
from the outside to remind the Inlet that she too was part of the
great salt sea.

So absorbed was I in the fish that I forgot the packer till I heard
the enthusiastic ring in Jones' voice as he cried "Packer!" He ran
to his cupboard and found a bone for Ginger while Smith parleyed
with the packer's Japanese captain. Yes, he was going my way. He
would take me.

Smith led me along the narrow walk and gave me into the Captain's
care. Besides myself there was another passenger, a bad-tempered
Englishman with a cold in his head. As there was nowhere else, we
were obliged to sit side by side on the red plush cushion behind
the Captain and his wheel. All were silent as we slipped through
the flat shiny water bordered on either side by mountainous fir-treed
shores. The tree tops looked like interminable picket fences
silhouetted against the sky, with water shadows as sharp and precise
as themselves.

My fellow passenger coughed, hawked, sneezed and sniffed. Often he
leaned forward and whispered into the Captain's ear. Then the
Captain would turn and say to me, "You wish to sleep now? My man
will show you." I knew it was "sniffer" wanting the entire couch
and I clung to the red plush like a limpet. By and by, however, we
came to open water and began to toss, and then I was glad to be
led away by the most curious little creature. Doubtless he had a
middle because there was a shrivelled little voice pickled away
somewhere in his vitals, but his sou'wester came so low and his
sea-boots so high, the rest of him seemed negligible.

This kind little person navigated me successfully over the deck
gear, holding a lantern and giving little inarticulate clucks
continuously, but my heart struck bottom when he slid back a small
hatch and sank into the pit by jerks till he was all gone but the
crown of his sou'wester.

"Come you please, lady," piped the queer little voice. There was
barely room for our four feet on the floor between the two pair of
short narrow bunks which tapered to a point in the stern of the
boat. To get into a berth you must first horizontal yourself, then
tip and roll. "Sou'wester-Boots" steadied me and held aside
fishermen's gear while I tipped, rolled, and scraped my nose on
the underneath of the top bunk.

"I do wish you good sleep, lady."

My escort and the light were gone. The blackness was intense and
heavy with the smell of fish and tar.

I was under the sea, could feel it rushing by on the other side of
the thin boards, kissing, kissing the boat as it passed. Surely at
any moment it would gush into my ears. At the back of the narrow
berth some live-seeming thing grizzled up my spine, the engine bell
rang and it scuttled back again; then the rudder groaned, and I knew
what the thing was. Soon the mechanics of the boat seemed to be part
of myself. I waited for the sequence--bell, grizzle, groan--bell,
grizzle, groan; they had become part of me.

Several times during the night the hatch slid back, a lantern swung
into my den and shadow hands too enormous for this tiny place
reached for some article.

"I am afraid I am holding up all the sleeping quarters," I said.

"Please, lady, nobody do sleep when at night we go."

I floated in and out of consciousness, and dream fish swam into my
one ear and out of the other.

At three A.M. the rudder cable stopped playing scales on my vertebrae.
The boat still breathed but she did not go. Sou'wester opened my
lid and called, "Please, lady, the Cannery."

I rolled, righted, climbed, followed. He carried my sketch sack
and Ginger's box. We took a few steps and then the pulse of the
engine was no longer under our feet. We stood on some grounded
thing that had such a tilt it pushed against our walking. We came
to the base of an abnormally long perpendicular fish ladder,
stretching up, up into shadow so overwhelmingly deep it seemed as
if a pit had been inverted over our heads. It was the wharf and
the Cannery.

A bulky object mounted the ladder, and was swallowed into the gloom.
After a second a spot of dim light dangled high above. Breaths cold
and deathly came from the inky velvet under the wharf. I could hear
mud sucking sluggishly around the base of piles, the click of
mussels and barnacles, the hiss and squirt of clams. From far above
came a testy voice. . ."Come on, there." There were four sneezes,
the lantern dipping at each sneeze.

"Quick, go!" said Sou'wester, "Man do be mad."

I could not. . .could not mount into that giddy blackness; that
weazened little creature, all hat and boots, was such a tower of
strength to abandon for a vague black ascent into. . .nothingness.

"Couldn't I. . .couldn't I crawl under the wharf round to the
beach?" I begged.

"It is not possible, go!"

"The dog?"

"He. . .you see!" Even as he spoke, Ginger's box swung over my

"What's the matter down there?. . .Hurry!"

I grasped the cold slimy rung. My feet slithered and scrunched on
stranded things. Next rung. . .the next and next. . .endless
horrible rungs, hissing and smells belching from under the wharf.
These things at least were half tangible. Empty nothingness, behind,
around; hanging in the void, clinging to slipperiness, was
horrible--horrible beyond words!. . .

Only one more rung, then the great timber that skirted the wharf
would have to be climbed over and with no rung above to cling to.
. . .

The impact of my body, flung down upon the wharf, jerked my mind
back from nowhere.

"Fool! Why did you let go?" "Sneezer" retrieved the lantern he had
flung down, to grip me as I reeled. . .Six sneezes. . .dying
footsteps. . .dark.

I groped for the dog's box.

Nothing amazed Ginger Pop. Not even that his mistress should
be sitting T-squared against wharf and shed. . .time, three A.M.
. . . place, a far north Cannery of British Columbia.

19 Century Time

You would never guess it was a cemetery. Death had not spoiled it
at all.

It was full of trees and bushes except in one corner where the
graves were. Even they were fast being covered with greenery.

Bushes almost hid the raw, split-log fence and the gate of cedar
strips with a cross above it, which told you that the enclosed
space belonged to the dead. The land about the cemetery might change
owners, but the ownership of the cemetery would not change. It
belonged to the dead for all time.

Persistent growth pushed up through the earth of it--on and on
eternally--growth that was the richer for men's bodies helping to
build it.

The Indian settlement was small. Not many new graves were required
each year. The Indians only cleared a small bit of ground at a
time. When that was full they cleared more. Just as soon as the
grave boxes were covered with earth, vines and brambles began to
creep over the mounds. Nobody cut them away. It was no time at all
before life spread a green blanket over the Indian dead.

It was a quiet place this Indian cemetery, lying a little aloof
from the village. A big stump field, swampy and green, separated
them. Birds called across the field and flew into the quiet tangle
of the cemetery bushes and nested there among foliage so newly
created that it did not know anything about time. There was no road
into the cemetery to be worn dusty by feet, or stirred into gritty
clouds by hearse wheels. The village had no hearse. The dead were
carried by friendly hands across the stump field.

The wooded part of the cemetery dropped steeply to a lake. You
could not see the water of the lake because of the trees, but you
could feel the space between the cemetery and the purple-topped
mountain beyond.

In the late afternoon a great shadow-mountain stepped across the
lake and brooded over the cemetery. It had done this at the end of
every sunny day for centuries, long, long before that piece of land
was a cemetery. Dark came and held the shadow-mountain there all
night, but when morning broke, it was back again inside its mountain,
which pushed its grand purple dome up into the sky and dared the
pines swarming around its base to creep higher than half-way up
its bare rocky sides.

Indians do not hinder the progress of their dead by embalming or
tight coffining. When the spirit has gone they give the body back
to the earth. The earth welcomes the body--coaxes new life and
beauty from it, hurries over what men shudder at. Lovely tender
herbage bursts from the graves, swiftly, exulting over corruption.

Opening the gate I entered and walked among the graves. Pushing
aside the wild roses, bramble blossoms and scarlet honeysuckle
which hugged the crude wooden crosses, I read the lettering on


Even these scant words were an innovation--white men's ways; in
the old days totem signs would have told you who lay there. The
Indian tongue had no written words. In place of the crosses the
things belonging to the dead would have been heaped on the grave:
all his dear treasures, clothes, pots and pans, bracelets--so that
everyone might see what life had given to him in things of his own.

"IPOO" was common to almost every grave. I wrote the four-lettered
word on a piece of paper and took it to a woman in the village.

"What does this mean? It is on the graves."

"Mean die time."

"Die time?"

"Uh huh. Tell when he die."

"But all the graves tell the same."

"Uh huh. Four this kind," (she pointed separately to each of the
four letters, IPOO ) "tell now time."

"But everybody did not die at the same time. Some died long ago
and some die now?"

"Uh huh. Maybe some year just one man die--one baby. Maybe influenza
come--he come two time--one time long far, one time close. He make
lots, lots Injun die."

"But, if it means the time people died, why do they put 'IPOO' on
the old graves as well as on the new?"

Difficult English thoughts furrowed her still forehead. Hard
English words came from her slow tongue in abrupt jerks. Her brown
finger touched the I and the P. "He know," she said, "he tell it.
This one and this one" (pointing to the two O's) "small--he no
matter. He change every year. Just this one and this matter"
(pointing again to I and P). "He tell it."

Time was marked by centuries in this cemetery. Years--little
years--what are they? As insignificant as the fact that reversing
the figure nine turns it into the letter P.

20 Kitwancool

When the Indians told me about the Kitwancool totem poles, I said:

"How can I get to Kitwancool?"

"Dunno," the Indians replied.

White men told me about the Kitwancool poles too, but when I told
them I wanted to go there, they advised me--"Keep out." But the
thought of those old Kitwancool poles pulled at me. I was at
Kitwangak, twenty or so miles from Kitwancool.

Then a halfbreed at Kitwangak said to me, "The young son of the
Kitwancool Chief is going in tomorrow with a load of lumber. I
asked if he would take you; he will."

"How can I get out again?"

"The boy is coming back to Kitwangak after two days."

The Chief's son Aleck was shy, but he spoke good English. He said
I was to be at the Hudson's Bay store at eight the next morning.

I bought enough food and mosquito oil to last me two days; then I
sat in front of the Hudson's Bay store from eight to eleven o'clock,
waiting. I saw Aleck drive past to load his lumber. The wagon had
four wheels and a long pole. He tied the lumber to the pole and a
sack of oats to the lumber; I was to sit on the oats. Rigged up in
front somehow was a place for the driver--no real seat, just a
couple of coal-oil boxes bound to some boards. Three men sat on
the two boxes. The road was terrible. When we bumped, the man on
the down side of the boxes fell off.

A sturdy old man trudged behind the wagon. Sometimes he rode a bit
on the end of the long pole, which tossed him up and down like a
see-saw. The old man carried a gun and walked most of the way.

The noon sun burnt fiercely on our heads. The oat-sack gave no
support to my back, and my feet dangled. I had to clutch the corner
of the oat-sack with one hand to keep from falling off--with the
other I held my small griffon dog. Every minute I thought we would
be pitched off the pole. You could seldom see the old man because
of clouds of yellow dust rolling behind the wagon. The scrub growth
at the road-side smelt red hot.

The scraggy ponies dragged their feet heavily; sweat cut rivers
through the dust that was caked on their sides.

One of the three men on the front seat of the wagon seemed to be
a hero. The other men questioned him all the way, though generally
Indians do not talk as they travel. When one of the men fell off
the seat he ran round the wagon to the high side and jumped up
again and all the while he did not stop asking the hero questions.
There were so many holes in the road and the men fell off so often
that they were always changing places, like birds on a roost in
cold weather.

Suddenly we gave such an enormous bump that we all fell off together,
and the horses stopped. When the wheels were not rattling any more
we could hear water running. Then the old man came out of the clouds
of dust behind us and said there was a stream close by.

We threw ourselves on-to our stomachs, put our lips to the water
and drank like horses. The Indians took the bits out of their
horses' mouths and gave them food. Then the men crawled under the
wagon to eat their lunch in its shade; I sat by the shadiest wheel.
It was splendid to put my legs straight out and have the earth
support them and the wheel support my back. The old man went to

After he woke and after the horses had pulled the wagon out of the
big hole, we rumbled on again.

When the sun began to go down we were in woods, and the clouds of
mosquitoes were as thick as the clouds of dust, but more painful.
We let them eat us because, after bumping for seven hours, we were
too tired to fight.

At last we came to a great dip where the road wound around the edge
of a ravine shaped like an oblong bowl. There were trees growing
in this earth bowl. It seemed to be bottomless. We were level with
the tree-tops as we looked down. The road was narrow--its edges

I was afraid and said, "I want to walk."

Aleck waved his hand across the ravine. "Kitwancool," he said and
I saw some grey roofs on the far side of the hollow. After we had
circled the ravine and climbed the road on the other side we would
be there, unless we were lying dead in that deep bowl.

I said again, "I want to walk."

"Village dogs will kill you and the little dog," said Aleck. But
I did walk around the bend and up the hill, until the village was
near. Then I rode into Kitwancool on the oat-sack.

The dogs rushed out in a pack. The village people came out too.
They made a fuss over the hero-man, clustering about him and
jabbering. They paid no more attention to me than to the oat-sack.
All of them went into the nearest house taking Aleck, the hero,
the old man and the other man with them, and shut the door.

I wanted to cry, sticking alone up there on top of the oats and
lumber, the sagging horses in front and the yapping dogs all round,
nobody to ask about anything and very tired. Aleck had told me I
could sleep on the verandah of his father's house, because I only
had a cot and a tent-fly with me, and bears came into the village
often at night. But how did I know which was his father's house?
The dogs would tear me if I got down and there was no one to ask,

Suddenly something at the other end of the village attracted the
dogs. The pack tore off and the dust hid me from them.

Aleck came out of the house and said, "We are going to have dinner
in this house now." Then he went in again and shut the door.

The wagon was standing in the new part of the village. Below us,
on the right, I could see a row of old houses. They were dim, for
the light was going, but above them, black and clear against the
sky stood the old totem poles of Kitwancool. I jumped down from
the wagon and came to them. That part of the village was quite
dead. Between the river and the poles was a flat of green grass.
Above, stood the houses, grey and broken. They were in a long,
wavering row, with wide, windowless fronts. The totem poles stood
before them there on the top of a little bank above the green flat.
There were a few poles down on the flat too, and some graves that
had fences round them and roofs over the tops.

When it was almost dark I went back to the wagon.

The house of Aleck's father was the last one at the other end of
the new village. It was one great room like a hall and was built
of new logs. It had seven windows and two doors; all the windows
were propped open with blue castor-oil bottles.

I was surprised to find that the old man who had trudged behind
our wagon was Chief Douse--Aleck's father.

Mrs. Douse was more important than Mr. Douse; she was a chieftainess
in her own right, and had great dignity. Neither of them spoke to
me that night. Aleck showed me where to put my bed on the verandah
and I hung the fly over it. I ate a dry scrap of food and turned
into my blankets. I had no netting, and the mosquitoes tormented

My heart said into the thick dark, "Why did I come?" And the dark
answered, "You know."

In the morning the hero-man came to me and said, "My mother-in-law
wishes to speak with you. She does not know English words so she
will talk through my tongue."

I stood before the tall, cold woman. She folded her arms across
her body and her eyes searched my face. They were as expressive as
if she were saying the words herself instead of using the hero's

"My mother-in-law wishes to know why you have come to our village."

"I want to make some pictures of the totem poles."

"What do you want our totem poles for?"

"Because they are beautiful. They are getting old now, and your
people make very few new ones. The young people do not value the
poles as the old ones did. By and by there will be no more poles.
I want to make pictures of them, so that your young people as well
as the white people will see how fine your totem poles used to be."

Mrs. Douse listened when the young man told her this. Her eyes
raked my face to see if I was talking "straight". Then she waved
her hand towards the village.

"Go along," she said through the interpreter, "and I shall see."
She was neither friendly nor angry. Perhaps I was going to be turned
out of this place that had been so difficult to get into.

The air was hot and heavy. I turned towards the old village with
the pup Ginger Pop at my heels. Suddenly there was a roar of
yelpings, and I saw my little dog putting half a dozen big ones to
rout down the village street. Their tails were flat, their tongues
lolled and they yelped. The Douses all rushed out of their house
to see what the noise was about, and we laughed together so hard
that the strain, which before had been between us, broke.

The sun enriched the old poles grandly. They were carved elaborately
and with great sincerity. Several times the, figure of a woman that
held a child was represented. The babies had faces like wise little
old men. The mothers expressed all womanhood--the big wooden hands
holding the child were so full of tenderness they had to be distorted
enormously in order to contain it all. Womanhood was strong in
Kitwancool. Perhaps, after all, Mrs. Douse might let me stay.

I sat in front of a totem mother and began to draw--so full of her
strange, wild beauty that I did not notice the storm that was
coming, till the totem poles went black, flashed vividly white and
then went black again. Bang upon bang, came the claps of thunder.
The hills on one side tossed it to the hills on the other; sheets
of rain washed over me. I was beside a grave down on the green
flat; some of the pickets of its fence were gone, so I crawled
through on to the grave with Ginger Pop in my arms to shelter under
its roof. Stinging nettles grew on top of the grave with mosquitoes
hiding under their leaves. While I was beating down the nettles
with my easel, it struck the head of a big wooden bear squatted on
the grave. He startled me. He was painted red. As I sat down upon
him my foot hit something that made a hollow rattling noise. It
was a shaman's rattle. This then must be a shaman's, a medicine-man's
grave, and this the rattle he had used to scare away evil spirits.
Shamen worked black magic. His body lay here just a few feet below
me in the earth. At the thought I made a dash for the broken
community house on the bank above. All the Indian horses had got
there first and taken for their shelter the only corner of the
house that had any roof over it.

I put my stool near the wall and sat upon it. The water ran down
the wall in rivers. The dog shivered under my coat--both of us were
wet to the skin. My sketch sack was so full of water that when I
emptied it on to the ground it made the pool we sat in bigger.

After two hours the rain stopped suddenly. The horses held their
bones stiff and quivered their skins. It made the rain fly out of
their coats and splash me. One by one they trooped out through a
hole in the wall. When their hooves struck the baseboard there was
a sodden thud. Ginger Pop shook himself too, but I could only drip.
Water poured from the eyes of the totems and from the tips of their
carved noses. New little rivers trickled across the green flat.
The big river was whipped to froth. A blur like boiling mist hung
over it.

When I got back to the new village I found my bed and things in a
corner of the Douses' great room. The hero told me, "My mother-in-law
says you may live in her house. Here is a rocking-chair for you."

Mrs. Douse acknowledged my gratitude stolidly. I gave Mr. Douse a
dollar and asked if I might have a big fire to dry my things and
make tea. There were two stoves the one at their end of the room
was alight. Soon, mine too was roaring and it was cosy. When the
Indians accepted me as one of themselves, I was very grateful.

The people who lived in that big room of the Douses were two married
daughters, their husbands and children, the son Aleck and an orphan
girl called Lizzie. The old couple came and went continually, but
they ate and slept in a shanty at the back of the new house. This
little place had been made round them. The floor was of earth and
the walls were of cedar. The fire on the ground sent its smoke
through a smoke-hole in the roof. Dried salmon hung on racks. The
old people's mattress was on the floor. The place was full of
themselves--they had breathed themselves into it as a bird, with
its head under its wing, breathes itself into its own cosiness.
The Douses were glad for their children to have the big fine house
and be modern but this was the right sort of place for themselves.

Life in the big house was most interesting. A baby swung in its
cradle from the rafters; everyone tossed the cradle as he passed
and the baby cooed and gurgled. There was a crippled child of
six--pinched and white under her brown skin; she sat in a chair
all day. And there was Orphan Lizzie who would slip out into the
wet bushes and come back with a wild strawberry or a flower in her
grubby little hand, and, kneeling by the sick child's chair, would
open her fingers suddenly on the surprise.

There was no rush, no scolding, no roughness in this household.
When anyone was sleepy he slept; when they were hungry they ate;
if they were sorry they cried, and if they were glad they sang.
They enjoyed Ginger Pop's fiery temper, the tilt of his nose and
particularly the way he kept the house free of Indian dogs. It was
Ginger who bridged the gap between their language and mine with
laughter. Ginger's snore was the only sound in that great room at
night. Indians sleep quietly.

Orphan Lizzie was shy as a rabbit but completely unselfconscious.
It was she who set the food on the big table and cleared away the
dishes. There did not seem to be any particular meal-times. Lizzie
always took a long lick at the top of the jam-tin as she passed it.

The first morning I woke at the Douses', I went very early to wash
myself in the creek below the house. I was kneeling on the stones
brushing my teeth. It was very cold. Suddenly I looked up--Lizzie
was close by me watching. When I looked up, she darted away like
a fawn, leaving her water pails behind. Later, Mrs. Douse came to
my corner of the house, carrying a tin basin; behind her was Lizzie
with a tiny glass cream pitcher full of water, and behind Lizzie
was the hero.

"My mother-in-law says the river is too cold for you to wash in.
Here is water and a basin for you." Everyone watched my washing
next morning. The washing of my ears interested them most.

One day after work I found the Douse family all sitting round on
the floor. In the centre of the group was Lizzie. She was beating
something in a pail, beating it with her hands; her arms were
blobbed with pink froth to the elbows. Everyone stuck his hand into
Lizzie's pail and hooked out some of the froth in the crook of his
fingers, then took long delicious licks. They invited me to lick
too. It was "soperlallie", or soap berry. It grows in the woods;
when you beat the berry it froths up and has a queer bitter taste.
The Indians love it.

For two days from dawn till dark I worked down in the old part of
the village. On the third day Aleck was to take me back to Kitwangak.
But that night it started to rain. It rained for three days and
three nights without stopping; the road was impossible. I had only
provisioned for two days, had been here five and had given all the
best bits from my box to the sick child. All the food I had left
for the last three days was hard tack and raisins. I drank hot
water, and rocked my hunger to the tune of the rain beating on the
window. Ginger Pop munched hard tack unconcerned--amusing everybody.

The Indians would have shared the loaf and jam-tin with me, but I
did not tell them that I had no food. The thought of Lizzie's tongue
licking the jam-tin stopped me.

When it rained, the Indians drowsed like flies, heavy as the day

On the sixth day of my stay in Kitwancool the sun shone again, but
we had to wait a bit for the puddles to drain.

I straightened out my obligations and said goodbye to Mr. and Mrs.
Douse. The light wagon that was taking me out seemed luxurious
after the thing I had come in on. I climbed up beside Aleck. He
gathered his reins and "giddapped".

Mrs. Douse, followed by her husband, came out of the house and
waved a halt. She spoke to Aleck.

"My mother wants to see your pictures."

"But I showed her every one before they were packed."

At the time I had thought her stolidly indifferent.

"My mother wishes to see the pictures again."

I clambered over the back of the wagon, unpacked the wet canvases
and opened the sketchbooks. She went through them all. The two best
poles in the village belonged to Mrs. Douse. She argued and discussed
with her husband. I told Aleck to ask if his mother would like to
have me give her pictures of her poles. If so, I would send them
through the Hudson's Bay store at Kitwangak. Mrs. Douse's neck
loosened. Her head nodded violently and I saw her smile for the
first time.

Repacking, I climbed over the back of the seat to Aleck.


The reins flapped: we were off. The dust was laid; everything was
keen and fresh; indeed the appetites of the mosquitoes were very keen.

When I got back to Kitwangak the Mounted Police came to see me.

"You have been in to Kitwancool?"


"How did the Indians treat you?"


"Learned their lesson, eh?" said the man. "We have had no end of
trouble with those people--chased missionaries out and drove
surveyors off with axes--simply won't have whites in their village.
I would never have advised anyone going in--particularly a woman.
No, I would certainly have said, 'Keep out'."

"Then I am glad I did not ask for your advice," I said. "Perhaps
it is because I am a woman that they were so good to me."

"One of the men who went in on the wagon with you was straight from
jail, a fierce, troublesome customer."

Now I knew who the hero was.

21 Canoe

Three red bulls--sluggish bestial creatures with white faces and
morose bloodshot eyes--made me long to get away from the village.
But I could not: there was no boat.

I knew the roof and the ricketiness of every Indian woodshed. This
was the steepest roof of them all, and I was panting a bit. It is
not easy to climb with a little dog in one hand and the hot breath
of three bulls close behind you. Those three detestable white faces
were clustered round my canvas below. They were giving terrible
bellows and hoofing up the sand.

Far across the water there appeared a tiny speck: it grew and grew.
By the time the bulls had decided to move on, it was a sizeable
canoe heading for the mudflats beyond the beach. The tide was very
far out. When the canoe grounded down there on the mud, an Indian
family swarmed over her side, and began plodding heavily across
the sucking ooze towards an Indian hut above the beach. I met them
where the sand and the mud joined.

"Are you going back to Alliford? Will you take me?"

"Uh huh," they were; "Uh huh," they would.

"How soon?"


I ran up the hill to the mission house. Lunch was ready but I did
not wait. I packed my things in a hurry and ran down the hill to
the Indian hut, and sat myself on a beach log where I could watch
the Indians' movements.

The Indians gathered raspberries from a poor little patch at the
back of the house. They borrowed a huge preserving kettle from the
farthest house in the village. Grandpa fetched it; his locomotion
was very slow. The women took pails to the village tap, lit a fire,
heated water; washed clothes--hung out--gathered in; set dough, made
bread, baked bread; boiled jam, bottled jam; cooked meals and ate
meals. Grandpa and the baby took sleeps on the kitchen floor, while
I sat and sat on my log with my little dog in my lap, waiting. When
the bulls came down our way I ran, clutching the dog. When the
bulls had passed, we sat down again. But even when I was running,
I watched the canoe. Sometimes I went to the door and asked,

"When do we go?"

"Bymby," or "Plitty soon," they said.

I suggested going up to the mission house to get something to eat,
but they shook their heads violently, made the motion of swift
running in the direction of the canoe and said, "Big-hully-up-quick."

I found a ship's biscuit and a wizened apple in my sketch sack.
They smelled of turpentine and revolted my appetite. At dusk I ate
them greedily.

It did not get dark. The sun and the moon crossed ways before day
ended. By and by the bulls nodded up the hill and sat in front of
the mission gate to spend the night. In the house the Indians lit
a coal-oil lamp. The tide brought the canoe in. She floated there
before me.

At nine o'clock everything was ready. The Indians waded back and
forth stowing the jam, the hot bread, the wash, and sundry bundles
in the canoe. They beckoned to me. As I waded out, the water was
icy against my naked feet. I was given the bow seat, a small round
stick like a hen roost. I sat down on the floor and rested my back
against the roost, holding the small dog in my lap. Behind me in
the point of the canoe were two Indian dogs, which kept thrusting
mangy muzzles under my arms, sniffing at my griffon dog.

Grandpa took one oar, the small boy of six the other. The mother
in the stern held a sleeping child under her shawl and grasped the
steering paddle. A young girl beside her settled into a shawl-swathed
hump. Children tumbled themselves among the household goods and
immediately slept.

Loosed from her mooring, the big canoe glided forward. The man and
the boy rowed her into the current. When she met it she swerved
like a frightened horse--accepted--gave herself to its guiding,
her wolf's head stuck proud and high above the water.

The child-rower tipped forward in sleep and rolled among the bundles.
The old man, shipping the child's oar and his own, slumped down
among the jam, loaves and washing, resting his bent old back against
the thwart.

The canoe passed shores crammed with trees--trees overhanging stony
beaches, trees held back by rocky cliffs, pointed fir trees climbing
in dark masses up the mountain sides, moonlight silvering their

Our going was imperceptible, the woman's steering paddle the only
thing that moved, its silent cuts stirring phosphorous like white

Time and texture faded. . .ceased to exist. . .day was gone,
yet it was not night. Water was not wet nor deep, just smoothness
spread with light.

As the canoe glided on, her human cargo was as silent as the
cedar-life that once had filled her. She had done with the forest
now; when they shoved her into the sea they had dug out her heart.
Submissively she accepted the new element, going with the tide.
When tide or wind crossed her she became fractious. Some still
element of the forest clung yet to the cedar's hollow rind which
resented the restless push of waves.

Once only during the whole trip were words exchanged in the canoe.
The old man, turning to me, said, "Where you come from?"


"Victorlia? Victorlia good place--still. Vancouver, Seattle, lots,
lots trouble. Victorlia plenty still."

It was midnight when the wolf-like nose of our canoe nuzzled up to
the landing at Alliford. All the village was dark. Our little group
was silhouetted on the landing for one moment while silver passed
from my hand to the Indian's.



One solitary speck and a huddle of specks moved across the beach,
crossed the edge of visibility and plunged into immense night.

Slowly the canoe drifted away from the moonlit landing, till, at
the end of her rope, she lay an empty thing, floating among the
shadows of an inverted forest.


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