Le Petit Nord or, Annals of a Labrador Harbour

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Language: English
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Dear Joan

The Far North calls and I am on my way:—
There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail.
There gloom the dark broad seas.
      *       *       *       *       *
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks.

Why write as if I had taken a lifelong vow of separation from the British Isles and all things civilized, when after all it is only one short year out of my allotted span of life that I have promised to Mission work? Your steamer letter, with its Machiavellian arguments for returning immediately and directly from St. John's, was duly received. Of my unfitness for the work there is no possible doubt, no shadow of doubt whatever, and therein you and I are at one. But you will do me the justice to admit that I put very forcibly before those in charge of the Mission the delusion under which they were labouring; the responsibility now lies with them, and I "go to prove my soul." What awaits me I know not, but except when the mighty billows rocked me, not soothingly with gentle motion, but harshly and immoderately. I have never wavered in my decision; and even at such times it was to the bottom of Father Neptune that I aspired to travel rather than to the shores of "Merrie England."

The voyage so far has been uneventful, and we are now swaying luxuriously at anchor in a dense fog. This I believe is the usual welcome accorded to travellers to the island of Newfoundland. There is no chart for icebergs, and "growlers" are formidable opponents to encounter at any time. Therefore it behoves us to possess our souls in patience, and only to indulge at intervals in the right to grumble which is by virtue of tradition ours. We have already been here a day and a half, and we know not how much longer it will be before the curtain rises and the first act of the drama can begin.

These boats are far from large and none too comfortable. We have taken ten days to come from Liverpool. Think of that, you who disdain to cross the water in anything but an ocean greyhound! What hardships we poor missionaries endure! Incidentally I want to tell you that my fellow passengers arch their eyebrows and look politely amused when I tell them to what place I am bound. I ventured to ask my room-mate if she had ever been on Le Petit Nord. I wish you could have seen her face. I might as well have asked if she had ever been exiled to Siberia! I therefore judge it prudent not to thirst too lustily for information, lest I be supplied with more than I desire or can assimilate at this stage. I shall write you again when I board the coastal steamer, which I am credibly informed makes the journey to St. Antoine once every fortnight during the summer months. Till then, au revoir.

Run-by-Guess, June 15

I landed on the wharf at St. John's to be met with the cheering information that the steamer had left for the north two days before. This necessitated a delay of twelve days at least. Will all the babies at the Orphanage be dead before I arrive on the scene of action?...