Lands Forlorn: A Story of an Expedition to Hearne’s Coppermine River.

p. 45-46, on finding two dead bodies, a dirty note-book, and some carbolic acid: The stench was insufferable, worse than any other form of decomposing animal matter, and blended with it was the peculiarly acrid smell of old smoke from spruce fires. One could remain in that loath some atmosphere only a few minutes at a time; the bodies were in a state of decomposition so advance that it was necessary to break the bunks down and carry them out as they lay. Close to the house on that pleasant point we buried them both in one grave, dug as deep as the frozen ground permitted.

In the note-book we were able to make out the following message, written on different pages and evidently at different times.

“Cruel treatment drove me to kill Peat. Everything is wrong he never paid one sent ship everything out pay George Walker $10 … I have been sick a long time I am not Crasey, but sutnly goded to death he thot I had more money than I had and has been trying to find it.

“I tried to get him to go after medison but Cod not he wanted me to die first so good by.”

“I have just killed the man that was killing me so good by and may god bless you all I am one weak bin down since the last of March so thare hant no but Death for me.” [spellings as in the original]

He had shot the other man and then probably ended his own life by a dose of carbolic acid.

p. 90, on the difficult journey up the Dease River to the Coppermine, noting the inadequacy of the maps for the region: Our chief guide was Hanbury’s book, …. It was the most difficult part of all his extraordinary journey and he describes it in detail; we found his account most helpful, accurate, and reliable; only in one place is there a small omission, perfectly excusable.

p. 106: And so indeed it proved; a mile or so farther on we reached a place that answered exactly to Hanbury’s description but Simpson’s as well. We had always supposed from reading their books that they had used different routes, now we could see it had been the same….

p. 156, in a chapter called “A Winter in the Arctic”: We all read at meals; our own stock of literature was very limited, but Hornby had quite a collection, cheap reprints of mostly good novels, which we read and re-read I don’t know how many times.

Among the few books we had brought with us was Michelet’s History of France, which I had borrowed from the Hudson Bay Co.’s factor at Fort Simpson. This served me for “breakfast reading” all the winter. I read that book through several times to my passing interest, but to very little permanent benefit. The Doctor also read it most assiduously. It was in two volumes and he would read one while I pored over the other; then we would exchange and re-exchange them. Whether he knows less about the early history of France than I do I would hesitate to conjecture. I don’t think Lion ever tackled this book; had it been three volumes he might have done so.

At dinner time, in a more relaxed state of mind, I always read some of the lighter literature we had. When we had gone through Hornby’s books several times we tackled a heterogeneous collection of trash left by Hodgson; old magazines and various more or less lurid novels, dirty, torn, and with pages missing. Late in the winter when anything new was a real God-send I found a quite simply and prettily told story called Sunshine and Snows; the front pages were missing and to this day I don’t know the author’s name. [Possibly Hawley Smart: Sunshine and Snow, 1878]

p. 211-12, on Eskimos near the coast: I had written down a number of Eskimo words in my note-book, a kind of a little dictionary that I had made in the winter from a French-Eskimo dictionary by Père Émile Petitôt. They understood very few of these words, no doubt because of my own imperfection of pronunciation, but once in a while I would get out a word that they did know and then their astonishment and delight was most amusing; they would crowd around the book and listen as though they expected to hear something from it. I wrote down a few words that I got from them and this seemed to surprise them no less; they all wanted to try their hands with the pencil; it was delightful to see their joy at being able to make marks that to them probably looked much the same as my own.