The Pagan Boy–Ningwinnena.
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We returned with thankful hearts to our camp. The Bishop was much impressed, and said it reminded him of Cornelius, who was waiting, prepared for the visit of the Apostle Peter; and for my part I thought of Jonadab, the son of Rechab, whose followers carried out to the letter the precepts of their father.
At our meeting for prayer that evening I said to Uhbesekun, “I hear that you belong to these people whom we have been talking to. Will you not join us to-night in our prayers?” So Uhbesekun instead of going away, as had been his custom, remained with us, wrapped in his blanket on the ground near the camp fire, and when we knelt for prayer he also turned over with his face toward the earth.
Oshkahpuhkeda came over in good time the next day according to promise, with his two boys. The younger one was to go with us. His name is Nin-gwin-ne-na, and he is a quiet, gentle lad of thirteen or fourteen. The father repeated his wish that we should take all his children in the event of his death, and took an affectionate leave of his son. “I know I shall lie awake at night and grieve the loss of my boy.” he said, “we Indians cannot bear to be parted from our children, but it is right that he should go. If my heart is too heavy for me to bear, I shall come to Red Rock and get on the Fire Ship and come to see him.” I took the boy by the hand and said, “Ningwinnena shall be my son while he is away from you; I will take great care of him.” The Bishop also said, “We will take good care of your son, and shall hope to come and see you again.” Then Ningwinnena followed me along the portage track.
Arriving once more on the shore of the lake, we found a favourable wind blowing, and put up a blanket for a sail. We had thirty miles to go to bring us to Flat Rock, where we should leave the lake and make our first portage inland. We reached it at five minutes to four, the portage occupied fifty minutes, and soon we were launched once more on Sturgeon Lake. A heavy thunderstorm came on, and continued during the time we wended our way through the narrow, stony creek which connects Sturgeon Lake with the river Neepigon. The Bishop and myself sat in the canoe with our mackintoshes on while the boys waded along knee deep in the water, and twice we had to get out and pick our way along the stepping stones as there was not water enough for the canoe. By-and-bye we emerged on the broad Neepigon river, and its swift current now bore us quickly along upon our course to Long Pine portage, where we were to camp for the night. It had now ceased raining; it was 7.30 p.m., and we had travelled forty miles. The tents were pitched, a fire lighted, supper consumed, prayers round the camp-fire as usual, the new boy Ningwinnena joining with us, and then we retired for the night, three boys and the guide under the canoe, and myself and two boys in the tent.
_August_ 14_th_.–Esquimau came to call up the cook at 4 a.m. He and Uhbesekun were to carry the canoe across the portage, and return here for breakfast before conveying the remainder of the baggage, hence the early start. We had only twenty miles more to go, and expected to reach Reed Rock in the evening, which was according to the programme we had made before starting.
Ningwinnena seems to be a very nice boy, and quick at taking things in. He has that gentleness of disposition peculiar to savage life, and follows me about like a faithful hound. Last night I gave him his first lesson in the alphabet, and I never saw any boy make such rapid progress; he could say the alphabet through in half-an-hour, although at first not knowing A from B, and a little while after he was spelling and reading such short words as dog, cat, man, fish. He must come of a good stock. He was also most handy in putting up my tent last night, and rolling up my camp bed this morning, seeming to take in at once the right way to do things.
The day has passed, and we are once more back at our Neepigon encampment, having arrived in the middle of pouring rain at 5.10 p.m. The three boys were very pleased to see us back, and we went up to Mr. McLellan’s house for supper. He has been most kind in supplying us with milk and fresh butter.
_August_ 16_th_.–The morning opened with a heavy mist, threatening clouds and wind. Hoping for a change for the better, we took down our tents, and by 9 a.m. all was packed on board _The Missionary_,–then, as was our custom, the boys gathered in a semicircle, a hymn was sung, a portion of Scripture read, and prayer offered, Ningwinnena standing beside me and looking curiously at my book as I read. By the time we started, the wind had become favourable and we made a splendid run, getting into Pugwash Bay at 5.30 p.m. Eight or ten birch bark canoes on the shore told us the whereabouts of the Indians, though no wigwams were visible, the bush being so thick; as we neared the shore, the people began to show themselves, men, women, and children starting up one after another from amid the dense foliage and gazing at us with curious eyes. There were about seventy people, though nearly half of them were away. Some had been baptized by the Jesuits, others were pagans. After ascertaining these facts we paddled along the shore a little way to a sandy beach, where we made our camp. Our three tents were pitched in the thick of the bush like the Indians, and a huge fire lighted in the middle as the weather had become autumnal and chilly.
These poor people seem to have nothing to eat as a rule except fish and small animals; and they sat and lay around like half-starved dogs while we partook of our evening meal. Two or three of them brought raspberries for which we gave them bread in exchange, and we invited one man, who seemed to be something of a chief among them, to take supper with the boys. These Indians are of a very low type, and are very dirty, appearing to have no idea of anything beyond pork and flour.
I went to see an old man who had been baptized about a year ago by the Roman Catholics, and read the Bible to him. His wife was still a pagan, but they both listened attentively while I read and seemed glad to be visited.
_August_ 19_th_.–By 8.15 a.m. we were fairly out on the bay. I steered and the boys rowed till the wind being favourable, we hoisted our sails and made a good start, winding our way for some miles among islands, and then coming out on the open lake. The wind fell, and the last part of the way we had to row, which made us late in getting to Pic Island,–and a hard matter indeed it was to get in. In the dim twilight we could see nothing but high, forbidding rocks, with the dark rippling waves lapping their sides. Being on the side of the island exposed to the lake, we could not think of attempting to land until we should find a secure harbour for our boat, for a sudden storm rising in the night would knock her to pieces on such a coast. At length, groping about among the rocks, we espied a crevice into which it appeared _The Missionary_ would just fit. But, oh! what a place for the night! High, slippery rocks, piled about us by some giant hand, no wood for a fire, no grass, no place for a camp–nothing but sharp ledges and points of rocks. The boys clambered about with their shoeless feet like cats, and we heard them shouting,–“This is where I am going to sleep! This is where I shall sleep!” The Bishop groaned and said, “I shall remain on the boat.”
I, for my part, followed the boys, and presently found a sort of small cavern under a ledge of rock, into which I had my camp-bed carried, and having lighted a candle, sent Esquimau to bring the Bishop. It was really most comfortable, and, moreover, in the corner of the cavern we found a dry log, probably washed there by the waves in a storm; and with this log we lighted a fire and made some tea, and so–after all–we had quite a cosy time of it.
_August_ 20_th_.–We all slept sweetly till about 5 a.m., when I think we awoke simultaneously; at any rate we were all on the stir soon after that hour. And now we were hungry, and there was no bread, no fire, and no wood, and fourteen miles to get to the mainland, and a head-wind. What was to be done? By the kindly light of day we discovered that our position was not so distressing as we had at first imagined. A little way over the rocks was a shore with drift-wood lying on it, our cook was despatched with the frying-pan and his bag of flour, and after all we did famously.
Before starting off we joined in repeating the morning psalms. We had a hard pull against a steady head-wind, and could only make two miles an hour, so that it was a little after three when we reached Pic River; and having run the boat on to a sandy shore, carried up our things and prepared our camp.
After eight more day’s sailing, we reached the Shingwauk again, where a warm welcome awaited us.