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The Men of the Last Frontier
Chapter II. The Land of Shadows

SIDE BY SIDE WITH THE MODERN CANADA THERE LIES the last battle-ground in the long-drawn-out, bitter struggle between the primeval and civilization. I speak not of those picturesque territories, within easy reach of transport facilities, where a sportsman may penetrate with a moccasined taciturn Indian, or a weatherbeaten and equally reticent white man, and get his deer, or his fishing; places where, in inaccessible spots, lone white pines, one-time kings of all the forest, gaze in brooding melancholy out over the land that once was theirs. In such districts, traversed by accurately mapped water routes and well-cut portages, all the necessities and most of the luxuries of civilization may be transported with little difficulty.

But to those on whom the magic lure of far horizons has cast its spell, such places lack the thrill of the uncharted regions. Far beyond the fringe of burnt and lumbered wastes adjacent to the railroads, there lies another Canada little known, unvisited except by the few who are willing to submit to the hardships, loneliness, and toil of long journeys in a land where civilization has left no mark and opened no trails, and where there are no means of subsistence other than those provided by Nature.

Large areas of this section are barren of game, no small consideration to the adventurer caught by the exigencies of travel, for an extended period, in such a district. The greater part, however, is a veritable sportsman’s paradise, untouched except by the passing hunter, or explorer; those hardy spirits for whom no privation is too severe, and no labour so arduous as to prevent them from assuaging the wanderlust that grips them and drives them out into the remaining waste places, where the devastating axe has not yet commenced its deadly work, out beyond the Height of Land, over the Great Divide.

This “Backbone of Canada” so called, sometimes known as the Haute Terre, stretches across the full breadth of the continent, East and West, dividing the waters that run south from those that run north to the Arctic Sea. In like manner it forms a line of demarcation between the prosaic realities of a land of everyday affairs, and the enchantment of a realm of high adventure, unconquered, almost unknown, and unpeopled except by a few scattered bands of Indians and wandering trappers.

This hinterland yet remains a virgin wilderness lying spread out over half a continent; a dark, forbidding panorama of continuous forest, with here and there a glistening lake set like a splash of quicksilver amongst the tumbled hills. A harsher, sterner land, this, than the smiling Southland; where manhood and experience are put to the supreme test, where the age-old law of the survival of the fittest holds sway, and where strength without cunning is of no avail. A region of illimitable distance, unknown lakes, hidden rivers, and unrecorded happenings; and changed in no marked way since the white man discovered America.

Here, even in these modern days, lies a land of Romance, gripping the imagination with its immensity, its boundless possibilities and its magic of untried adventure. Thus it has Iain since the world was young, enveloped in a mystery beyond understanding, and immersed in silence, absolute, unbroken, and all-embracing; a silence intensified rather than relieved by the muted whisperings of occasional light forest airs in the tree-tops far overhead.

Should the traveller in these solitudes happen to arrive at the edge of one of those high granite cliffs common to the country and look around him, he will see, not the familiar deciduous trees of the south, but will find that he is surrounded, hemmed in on all sides, by apparently endless 3° black forests of spruce, stately trees, cathedral-like with their tall spires above, and their gloomy aisles below. He will see them as far as the eye can reach, covering hill, valley, and ridge, spreading in a green carpet over the face of the earth. Paraded in mass formation, standing stiffly, yet gracefully, to attention, and opposing a wellnigh impenetrable barrier to the further encroachments of civilization, until they too shall fall before the axe, a burnt-offering on the altar of the God of Mammon.

In places this mighty close-packed host divides to sweep in huge undulating waves along the borders of vast inland seas, the far shores of which show only as a thin, dark line shimmering and dancing in the summer heat. These large lakes on the Northern watershed are shallow for the most part, and on that account dangerous to navigate. But in spots are deep holes, places where cliffs hundreds of feet high run sheer down to the water’s edge, and on to unfathomed depths below. Riven from the lofty crags by the frosts of centuries, fallen rocks, some of them of stupendous size, lie on some submerged ledge like piles of broken masonry, faintly visible in the clear water, far below. And from out the dark fissures and shadowy caverns among them, slide long, grey, monstrous forms; for here is the home of the great lake trout of die region, taken sometimes as high as forty pounds in weight.

In places long low stretches of flat rock reach up out of the water, entering the wall of forest at a gentle incline. Their smooth surface is studded with a scattered growth of jackpines, fashioned into weird shapes by the wind, and, because standing apart, wide and spreading of limb, affording a grateful shade after long heats at the paddle on the glaring expanse of lake. These are the summer camping grounds of the floating caravans, and off these points a man may catch enough fish for a meal in the time it takes another to make the preparations to cook them.

In the spring time, in sheltered bays, lean and sinuous pike of inordinate size, hungry-looking and rapacious,_ lie like submarines awash, basking in the sunlight. Shooting them at this season is exciting sport, as only the large ones have this habit, and fish up to fifty inches in length are common.

Here and there, too, the sable carpet of evergreen tree-tops is gashed by long shining ribbons of white, as mighty rivers tumble and roar their way to Hudson’s Bay, walled in on either side by their palisades of spruce trees, whose lofty arches give back the clatter of rapids or echo to the thunder of the falls.

Far beneath the steeple tops, below the fanlike layers of interlaced limbs that form a vaulted roof through which the sunlight never penetrates, lies a land of shadows. Darkened aisles and corridors lead on to nowhere. A gloomy labyrinth of smooth, grey columns stretches in every direction into the dimness until the view is shut off by the wall of trees that seems to forbid the further progress of the intruder. This barrier opens up before him, as he goes forward, but closes down behind him as though, having committed himself to advance he may not now retire; it hems him in on either side at a given distance as he proceeds, a mute, but ever-present escort. Here, in the endless mazes of these halls of silence, is neither time nor distance, nor direction.

Here exists a phantom world of unreality, where obstacles crumble beneath the touch and formless unde-finable objects loom up vaguely in the middle distance, fading to nothingness on near approach. Elusive creatures whose every movement is furtive, light of foot, springy, effortless of gait, go their soundless ways; grey ghosts that materialize and vanish on the instant, melting into the shadows at the sight of man, to stand observing him from skilfully selected cover.

Above, below, and on all sides is moss; moss in a carpet, deadening the footfall of the traveller, giving beneath his step, and baffling by its very lack of opposition his efforts to progress. Moss stands in waist-high hummocks, around which detours must be made. Moss in festoons hangs from the dead lower limbs of the trees, like the hangings in some ancient and deserted temple. And a temple it is, raised to the god of silence, of a stillness that so dominates the consciousness that the wanderer who threads its deserted naves treads warily, lest he break unnecessarily a hush that has held sway since time began.

In places the dense growth of spruce gives way to sandy plains, where, more open but still a heavy enough forest, are stretches of jackpine. Here the gnarled and uncouth limbs, and the ragged grotesquely twisted tops of these deformed hybrids, throw fantastic shadows at the full of the moon on the floor of this devil’s dance had— shadows in and out of which flit the Puck-wah-jeesh in their goblin dances, as they hold high revel to the tune of their soundless drums, and plot fresh mischief against the Indian.

Not all the wild lands gloom in sullen shadow. There are vistas, unbelievably beautiful, to be seen beyond the boles of giant trees edging some declivity, of sun-drenched valleys, or wide expanse of plain, blue with its luscious carpet of berries. Occasional grassy glades, oases in the sameness of the sunless grottos surrounding them, refresh the mind and eye, seeming intimate and friendly after the aloofness of the stately forest.

Huge burns, of ancient time and unknown origin, lie like scars, across the landscape. Here all the foundation and structure of the earth’s surface, hitherto jealously hidden, lies naked and exposed. Smooth round mountains bare of vegetation, upthrust of Keewaydin, [An Indian word meaning land of the N.W. Wind, or the wind itself. The name is applied generally to the North Country beyond the Height of Land, and is also the name of this rock (Keewatin) in mineralogy.] the oldest known rock, rear themselves above the arid waste, monuments to the mighty upheaval that belched them forth from the bowels of the earth. High broken cliffs and precipitous crags of red granite flank the boulder-strewn gulleys, and dried-out stream beds. Immense masses of rock, cracked open by the intense heat of forgotten fires, lie fallen apart, choking the valleys. No movement of a living beast, no sound of a bird, relieves the staring desolation. This is the world as it was after the age of ice, the scratches and gouges of its slow passage still visible on the now solid rocks. Here, a prospector, skilled in the science of metals, may find his Eldorado.

The culminating reward of the fruitless labour of a lifetime may stand out freely for all to see in one of those white bands of quartz that shine so glassily on the mountain side, and indication of untold riches may lie beneath the surface of a handful of gravel, to be exposed by some careless movement of a foot, or perhaps by the lighting of a fire.

There are ridges, becoming rarer as one journeys towards the Arctic Circle, of birch and poplar, cheerful with their bright trunks, and sun-spotted leafy floor, so familiar below the Height of Land. Here are singing birds and partridges, and also the main routes of moose and bears in summer; their trail, as well beaten as any portage, affording a never-failing guide to a lake or river. These are the Hills of the Whispering Leaves of the Indians, so called because of the continuous rustling flutter of the poplar leaves, shivering and trembling in the lightest current of air, in contrast to the motionless foliage of the conifers which so monopolise the landscape.

It is in such places, near a pleasant, sunny lake, or by a cheerful, shouting brook, that the red men spend the lazy days of the short north-country summer, resting from the arduous toil of the long winter. Nor are they idle, for now they are already preparing equipment for next winter’s hunt; tanning hides for clothing and making their cunningly devised snowshoes and toboggans, against the time when the Hunting Winds hold sway. And during the long afterglow which precedes the coming of darkness in these high latitudes, they sit by smoky fires and listen to some white-haired teller of the tales of ancient days, when in one lift of traps a man might half-fill a canoe with beaver, or spear sufficient sturgeon for his winter needs in a single night.

In places the forest dwindles down to small trees which, giving way to moss and sage brush, thin out and eventually disappear altogether, and the country opens out into one of those immense muskegs or swamps which make overland travel in whole sections of this territory impossible in the summer time. These consist mostly of stretches composed of deep, thin mud, covered with slushy moss, and perhaps sparsely dotted with stunted, twisted trees. Bright green, inviting-looking fields show up in places, luring the inexperienced into their maw with their deceptive promise of good footing. These last are seemingly bottomless, and constitute a real danger to man or beast, excepting the lordly moose, who, by some unknown means is able to walk over, or swim through, such places unscathed. There are holes between hummocks that are filled with noisome stagnant water, which would engulf a man. The whole thing is practically a floating bog, yet the only good water to be found, perhaps for miles around, is in just such places, to be obtained in the small pitcher plants which grow thickly, with about as much as an egg-cup will hold in each.

But the main part of the country is clothed in its dark-green robe of spruce trees. They stand in serried rows around every lake, and wall in every river to the banks, darkening them with their shadows, still sentinels on guard from everlasting.

IN THE FASTNESSES OF THIS RAPIDLY FADING FRONTIER, the last on this continent, reigns the Spirit of the North Land. Enthroned behind the distant mountains with the cohorts and legions of his last grand army massed about him, he sallies forth, brooding over the length and breadth of the land, seeking whom he may destroy, ever devising new means for the elimination of the invaders of his chosen realm. His is not the spectacular kill by the shedding of blood, not the shock of honest battle in the open, but by devious ways and subtle methods he obtains his ends. Securely entrenched behind the bristling ramparts of the forest, with all the unleashed forces of the primeval at his command, he primes his deadly weapons, and spreads his entanglements, his obstacles, and his snares; nor are they always vainly set.

Through them the invader must pick his way with the delicacy and assurance of one who walks barefoot amongst naked knives. Some of his weapons are merely annoyances, irritating but bearable; others are harassing to the point of obsession, wearing out the body and mind, and lessening the resisting power of a man; others, yet, bring swift death, or the long slow agonies of those who would die but cannot.

A stiff, wiry growth of sage brush, knee-deep and tangled, cumbers the ground over large_ areas. Mosquitoes, black flies, moose flies, and sand flies in relentless swarms make the forest almost uninhabitable for three months of the four of which the summer consists. The immense inland seas, shallow and exposed, are frequently whipped to fury on short notice, or none at all, by terrific storms, which, gathering force over the Height of Land, lash these northern latitudes with unbelievable fury. Forest fires, irresistible, all-devouring, sweep at times through the close-set resinous timber at railroad speed, leaving in their wake a devastation of bare hills and smoking stumps; desperate indeed is the plight of the voyageur so trapped far from water. Frequently miles of rapids have to be negotiated, where only the greatest skill and courage, coupled with days at a time of heart-breaking and exhausting labour, can gain the objective. In winter snow often lies six feet deep in the woods and at the railroad, a hundred or so miles to the south, sixty-five degrees below zero (Fahr.) is no uncommon temperature. A rise in temperature often precipitates a blizzard, and these winter storms are so violent as to destroy whole areas of timber by sheer weight alone; the solitary trapper caught on the trail by one of these tempests, with little or no warning, especially if crossing any large lake, is in grave danger. His dogs, blinded and half-choked by the wind-driven masses of snow, cannot face the storm. Himself unable to break trail through the mounting drifts, or to keep his direction through the whirling white wall that surrounds him at the distance of a few feet, he may, if far from land5 perish miserably.

Perhaps, wisely relying on his dogs to lead him ashore, he may, if lucky, find wood and shelter enough for his protection. A broken axe handle under these conditions would be not only an inconvenience, but a disaster with probably fatal results. Here, with his toboggan sheet for a windbreak, a bed of hastily laid brush, and a pile of wood sufficient to do all night, gathered with infinite labour, he can make some kind of a stand to live out the storm.

The howling wind fills his shelter with blinding smoke, and the fire only serves to melt the snow as it accumulates on blankets, food and clothing, wetting everything; cooking is impossible, and content with a pail of tea and perhaps some thawed-out fish intended for dog feed, he and his shivering huskies crouch by the fire all the long night. And often enough the cold light of morning breaks on a shelter half-filled with drifting snow, a fire long since extinguished, and a pack of whining wolf-dogs waiting in vain to be harnessed up, later to run wild with the wolves.

The waterways that form a network over large sections are the lines of travel of not only man, but of mink, otter, and other animals, who go their rounds as regularly as any man. Further back in the hills range fisher, marten and wolves, in their never-ceasing hunt for meat to abate their continuous hunger. In sheltered spots among heavy timber, the giant moose yards up in small herds. Although they are six feet high at the shoulder the snow lies at times so deep in the forest that they are unable to navigate, moving only a few yards daily, eating and sleeping alternately. As they move they plough a trench through the snow about three feet wide, and maybe five feet deep, a pitfall for those who travel at night. Here they stay until spring thaws leave them free to wander back to their favourite haunts of lily ponds and marshes.

These animals grow, in the season between June and September, sets of horns of from thirty to sixty or seventy inches’ spread, losing them again in January. They put up terrific battles among themselves in the fall, and dead moose are a common sight in the woods at that season, with at least one bear in attendance on the feast so provided, fattening up for the long winter sleep.

Back off main routes in lonely ponds, or on dammed-up streams in hidden gullies, communities of beaver work all summer against the coming of winter, passing the cold dead months of the year, as a reward for their prodigious labour, well fed and in comfort and warmth. The shores of lakes, swamps and the edges of the frozen fen lands, are the hunting grounds of lynxes and foxes, for in such places abound the snowshoe rabbits, their prey.

In a wilderness apparently without life there is a teeming population continuously on the move, yet a man may travel for days at a time and see nothing but the trees around him, and hear nothing save the sounds he himself makes. For here man is the only alien, the arch-enemy from whom all the dwellers in this sanctuary flee, as from pollution. Apprised of his approach by senses trained to register the least discordant note in the symmetry of their surroundings, they disappear long before he arrives in the vicinity. All along his line of travel this is going on and hardly ever is he permitted to see or hear the living creatures that surround him on every side.

Animals seem to be able to distinguish instantly the slightest noise made by man, from that of any other forest dweller. The laughing owls may hoot in uncouth cackling whoops; a beaver may waken the echoes with a resounding smack of his tail on the water; a tree may fall with a crash, or a moose walk carelessly along rattling the underbrush, or smashing dry sticks underfoot, and cause no more commotion than the shake of an ear or the flick of a tail. But let a man so much as break a twig or rustle the dry grass of a beaver meadow, and all living creatures within earshot will, each according to his kind, sink beneath the surface of the water without a ripple, fade soundlessly into the shadows, leap with astonishing bounds to cover, or freeze into immobility, if their colour scheme harmonizes sufficiently well with the immediate background.

There are two notable exceptions to this, however; the skunk and the porcupine. The latter beast is dumb cousin to the beaver, whom he resembles very closely except for the tail, the webbed hind feet, and his bristles. But it seems that when the brains were handed out between the two of them, the porcupine was absent and the beaver got them all. With no regard for personal safety, to him strange noises or the smell of cooking, are as music and ambrosia; and a camp will not be very long pitched, in a country where they abound, before a “porky” will be over to make his inspection. Save for an insatiable appetite for canoe gunwales, paddles, leather goods, provisions of all kinds, anything made of wood, canvas, paper,—or perhaps it were easier to say everything not made of iron or steel,—and for a bad habit he has of leaving barbed quills lying around carelessly, he is a harmless enough beast. Skunks are also friendly, and if undisturbed are as goodnatured as a cat. They also have the community spirit, but this can be carried too far, as in the instance when I awoke one morning to find a number one extra large specimen curled up on my blankets. I made several attempts to rise and on each occasion he became very agitated, so I had to lie in bed until he was pleased to go.

To the majority of the dwellers in the centres of civilization the animals inhabiting the waste places are nothing more than savage creatures, wandering aimlessly about, with no thought beyond the satisfaction of one or two animal appetites. But closer observation reveals the fact that nearly all of them have more native intelligence than those animals that have spent many generations dependent on man, and amongst the higher orders among them their “personal” relations are such that the word “brute” as term of contempt is somewhat of a misnomer. Ferocious as many of them undoubtedly are when in pursuit of their prey, they all have their lighter moments, and their lives are almost as well regulated as those of human beings living under the same conditions.

They form strong attachments amongst themselves. Beaver work in shifts, keep a clean house, and hold rapid fire conversations together; coons wash their food before eating it. Most of them keep trails, especially beaver, deer, and bears, and in the case of the latter animal they blaze the boundaries of their territories in places by biting and tearing bark off trees, and it is known that they do not encroach on each other. They will climb a tree for the express purpose of sliding down again, doing this repeatedly for no other reason than the kick they get out of it. Otter also play together, and will climb a steep bank and slide down into the water uttering sharp barks of enjoyment, climb up, and slide again, much after the fashion of human beings on a toboggan slide; they, too, travel in well-defined territories, passing certain spots every eight or nine days with the regularity of clockwork. Crows, gulls and eagles will fly into the wind during a gale, and then turning, allow themselves to be blown down wind at dizzy speed, flying back upwind and repeating the performance until satisfied. Wolves when hunting exhibit team work similar to that employed by football players, send out scouts, obey the orders of a leader, and will gambol and play on the ice precisely as do pedigreed collies on a lawn.

Man is not the only trapper in the wilderness. There are insects that dig holes into which their prey falls and is captured before he can get out. Water spiders set nets shaped like saxophones, the large end facing upstream, to catch anything floating down, and round the curve, in the small end, waits the spider. Wolves divide their forces to capture deer, and I saw one of them drive a deer across a stream, whilst another waited in the brush on the other side for him to land. I know of another occasion on which three wolves cornered a caribou on a fair-sized lake. In the timber the snow was too soft for either wolves or caribou to make much headway. It was April and the ice was clear of snow and slippery as glass. A caribou’s hoof is hollowed out in such a way that it grips the ice, but the wolves had difficulty in making any speed. The caribou ran round and round the lake, a distance of several miles each trip, thinking, no doubt, to tire the wolves; but two would rest whilst one chased the caribou, taking each his turn until the deer dropped from exhaustion.

Of the creatures that inhabit the woods, by far the lesser number are of a predatory nature. The majority consists of the varieties of deer, the rodents, and the smaller birds. Nature is cruel, and the flesh-eating animals and birds kill their prey in the most bloodthirsty manner, tearing off and eating portions of meat before the unfortunate animal is dead. The thought of this considerably lessens the compunction one might feel in trapping carnivorous animals, as they are only getting a dose of their own medicine and do not undergo a tithe of the sufferings they inflict on their victims, often hastening their own end by paroxysms of fury.

Although this country offers such resistances to overland travel during the short summer of the region, with the coming of winter, with its ice and snow, which are apt to cause stagnation in settled areas, all these difficulties cease. Once the freeze-up comes, and the woods are in the grip of winter, and snowshoes can be used, usually early in November, a man may go where he will without let or hindrance. Moss, sage-brush and muskeg no longer retard progress.

The one-time gloomy forest becomes cheerful in its bright mantle of snow, the weight of which bears down the fanlike foliage of the evergreens, letting in the sunlight, and what once were shadowed crypts become avenues of light. Swift dog-teams race down the snowy highways between the trees, where in summer men plodded wearily over the insecure footing at the rate of perhaps a mile an hour. Once snow commences to fall no creature may move without leaving the signs of his passage. All the goings, the comings, the joys, and the tragedies of the forest folk are printed there for the experienced eye to read. Nothing intrigues the imagination of a hunter so much as the sight of fresh tracks. There in the snow is a story; but, although the characters are so plainly written, he must needs be an expert who would interpret them.

Easily distinguishable to the initiated are the tracks of each variety of beast, say, the peculiar trail of an otter; three or four hops and a slide, more short hops and another slide, sometimes yards in length. The lynx leaves tracks which in point of size might well pass for those of a small lion; the leaping progression of Wapoose the white rabbit, whose exaggerated hind feet have gained for him the title of “snowshoe” rabbit, shows everywhere. These feet are partially webbed, and have a large spread, enabling him to pass without sinking over the softest snow, and where a single track shows plainly, it much resembles that of some gigantic bird of prey.

Very common are the delicate, paired footprints of the ermine; and similar, but larger, and not so numerous, are those of the fisher, and marten; common too are the neat, mincing footmarks of the fox, spaced, like those of the lynx, exactly in line, and as regularly as the “tuck” of a drum. Often can be seen where an owl has swooped down on a skurrying rabbit, his imprint plainly showing where he missed his stroke and landed in the snow, the rabbit doubling, twisting, racing, screeching with mortal fear, and the owl, in muffled deadly silence, following every twist and turn, but unable to strike. Here and there the drag of a wing, the scrape of wicked claws, show plainly the progress of the struggle. For fifty yards or so this may go on, and at the end, a torn skin, the heavier bones, and the entrails. For your owl is fastidious and skins his victims, alive, taking only the best of the meat.

From now on the trapper, with the tell-tale tracks to guide him, can place his snares to greater advantage at the various crossings and routes, now easily discovered, which animals as well as human beings devise to facilitate their ceaseless travels.

Soon comes the time of the Dead Days. The wind no longer whispers and sighs through the tree-tops, deadened by their load of snow, and the silence, intense enough before the coming of winter, now becomes the dominating feature of the landscape. In these padded corridors sound has no penetration, and the stillness becomes almost opaque. It is as though one walked through an endless vaulted chamber, walled, roofed and paved with silence. Unconsciously one listens, waiting, straining to hear some sound which seems imminent, but never actually occurs, and all Nature seems to stand with bated breath, waiting momentarily for the occurrence of some long-threatened incident. The swish of the snowshoes, and the light rustle of garments are thrown back thinly to the ear, and the crack of a rifle is chopped off short in a dull thud.

Storm after storm piles the snow higher and higher on the stratified limbs of the spruce, until the mounting roll of snow meets the burdened limb next above it. Other storms smooth off the irregularities with a finishing blanket of snow, and the trees become transformed into immense pointed columns of white. Those of smaller growth, completely covered, show only as squat pillars and mounds, fantastically sculptured by the keen-edged winds into the semblance of weird statuary.

Beautiful as this Arctic forest appears in the daytime, it is only by moonlight, when much travelling is done to avoid the cutting winds of the daylight hours, that the true witchery of the winter wilderness grips the imagination. Seen by the eerie light of the moon, the motionless, snow-shrouded trees that line the trail, loom on either hand like grim spectres, gruesomely arrayed, each in his winding-sheet, staring sardonically down on the hurrying wayfarer. In the diffused uncertain light the freakish artistry of the wind appears like the work of some demented sculptor, and the trail becomes a gallery of grinning masks and uncouth featureless forms, as of dwellers in a world of goblins turned suddenly to stone.

Athwart the shafts of moonlight, from out the shadows, move soundless forms with baleful gleaming eyes, wraiths that flicker before the vision for a moment and are gone. The Canada lynx, great grey ghost of the Northland; the huge white Labrador wolf; white rabbits, white weasels, the silvery ptarmigan: pale phantoms of the white silence. A phantasy in white in a world that is dead.

And in the moonlight, too, is death. The full of the moon is the period of most intense cold, and there have been men who, already exhausted by a day s travel, and carrying on by night, half-asleep as they walked, their senses lulled by the treacherous glow, decided to sleep for just a little while on a warm-looking snow bank, and so slept on forever. So Muji-Manito, the Evil Genius of the North, cold and pitiless, malignantly triumphant, adds another victim to his gruesome tally.

Then later, when the moon has set, in that stark still hour between the darkness and the dawn, the snow gives back the pale sepulchral glare of the Northern Lights; and by their unearthly illumination, those who dance^ the Dance of the Deadmen perform their ghostly evolutions, before the vast and solemn audience of spruce.

And then the stillness is broken by the music of the wolves, whose unerring instinct senses tragedy. It comes, a low moaning, stealing through the thin and brittle air, swelling in crescendo to a volume of sound, then dying away in a sobbing wail across the empty solitudes; echoing from hill to hill in fading repetition, until the reiteration of sound is lost in the immensity of immeasurable distance.

And as the last dying echo fades to nothing, the silence settles down layer by layer, pouring across the vast deserted auditorium in billow after billow, until all sound is completely choked beyond apparent possibility of repetition. And the wolves move on to their ghastly feast, and the frozen wastes resume their endless waiting; the Deadmen dance their grisly dance on high, and the glittering spruce stand silently and watch.

This then is the Canada that lies back of your civilization, the wild, fierce land of desperate struggle and untold hardship, where Romance holds sway as it did when Canada was one vast hunting ground. This is the last stronghold of the Red Gods, the heritage of the born adventurer. In this austere and savage region men are sometimes broken, or aged beyond their years; yet to Indian name for the Northern Lights.

Up beyond the wavering line of the Last Frontier lies not merely a region of trees, rocks and water, but a rich treasure-house, open to all who dare the ordeal of entry, and transformed by the cosmic sorcery of the infinite into a land of magic glades and spirit-haunted lakes, of undiscovered fortunes, and sunset dreams come true.

This is the face of Nature, unchanged since it left the hands of its Maker, a soundless, endless river, flowing forever onward in the perpetual cycle which is the immutable law of the universe.

Not much longer can the forest hope to stem the tide of progress; change is on every hand. Every year those who follow the receding Border further and further back, see one by one the links with the old days being severed, as the demands of a teeming civilization reach tentacles into the very heart of the Wild Lands. And we who stand regretfully and watch, must either adapt ourselves to the new conditions, or, preferably, follow the ever-thinning line of last defence into the shadows, where soon will vanish every last one of the Dwellers amongst the Leaves.

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