MoboReader> History > A Woman's Way Through Unknown Labrador

   Chapter 1 LEONIDAS HUBBARD, JR.

A Woman's Way Through Unknown Labrador By Mina Hubbard Characters: 22101

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


There was an unusual excitement and interest in Mr. Hubbard's face when he came home one evening in January of 1903.

We had just seated ourselves at the dinner-table, when leaning forward he handed me a letter to read. It contained the very pleasing information that we were shortly to receive a, for us, rather large sum of money. It was good news, but it did not quite account for Mr. Hubbard's present state of mind, and I looked up enquiringly.

"You see, Wife, it means that I can take my Labrador trip whether anyone sends me or not," he said triumphantly.

His eyes glowed and darkened and in his voice was the ring of a great enthusiasm, for he had seen a Vision, and this trip was a vital part of his dream.

The dream had begun years ago, when a boy lay out under the apple trees of a quiet farm in Southern Michigan with elbows resting on the pages of an old school geography, chin in palms and feet in air. The book was open at the map of Canada, and there on the other page were pictures of Indians dressed in skins with war bonnets on their heads; pictures of white hunters also dressed in skins, paddling bark canoes; winter pictures of dog-teams and sledges, the driver on his snow-shoes, his long whip in hand. The boy would have given all the arrow-heads he had for just one look at what he saw pictured there.

He was born, this boy, of generations of pioneer ancestors, the line of his mother's side running back to Flanders of three hundred years ago, through Michael Paulus Van Der Voort, who came to America from Dendermonde, East Flanders, and whose marriage on 18th November, 1640, to Marie Rappelyea, was the fifth recorded marriage in New Amsterdam, now New York. A branch runs back in England to John Rogers the martyr. It is the boast of this family that none of the blood has ever been known to "show the white feather." Among those ancestors of recent date of whose deeds he was specially proud, were the great-grandfather, Samuel Rogers, a pioneer preacher of the Church of Christ among the early settlers of Kentucky and Missouri, and the Grandfather Hubbard who took his part in the Indian fights of Ohio's early history. On both mother's and father's side is a record of brave, high-hearted, clean-living men and women, strong in Christian faith, lovers of nature, all of them, and thus partakers in rich measure of that which ennobles life.

The father, Leonidas Hubbard, had come "'cross country" from Deerfield, Ohio, with gun on shoulder, when Michigan was still a wilderness, and had chosen this site for his future home. He had taught in a school for a time in his young manhood; but the call of the out-of-doors was too strong, and forth he went again. When the responsibilities of life made it necessary for him to limit his wanderings he had halted here; and here on July 12th, 1872, the son Leonidas Hubbard, Jr., was born.

He began by taking things very much to heart, joys and sorrows alike. In his play he was always setting himself some unaccomplishable task, and then flying into a rage because he could not do it. The first great trouble came with the advent of a baby sister who, some foolish one told him, would steal from him his mother's heart. Passionately he implored a big cousin to "take that little baby out and chop its head off."

Later he found it all a mistake, that his mother's heart was still his own, and so he was reconciled.

From earliest recollection he had listened with wide eyes through winter evenings, while over a pan of baldwin apples his father talked with some neighbour who had dropped in, of the early days when they had hunted deer and wolves and wild turkeys over this country where were now the thrifty Michigan farms. There were, too, his father's stories of his own adventures as hunter and miner in the mountains of the West.

It seemed to him the time would never come when he would be big enough to hunt and trap and travel through the forests as his father had done. He grew so slowly; but the years did pass, and at last one day the boy almost died of gladness when his father told him he was big enough now to learn to trap, and that he should have a lesson tomorrow. It was the first great overwhelming joy.

There was also a first great crime.

While waiting for this happy time to come he had learned to do other things, among them to throw stones. It was necessary, however, to be careful what was aimed at. The birds made tempting marks; but song-birds were sacred things, and temptation had to be resisted.

One day while he played in the yard with his little sister, resentment having turned to devotion, a wren flew down to the wood pile and began its song. It happened at that very moment he had a stone in his hand. He didn't quite have time to think before the stone was gone and the bird dropped dead. Dumb with horror the two gazed at each other. Beyond doubt all he could now expect was to go straight to torment. After one long look they turned and walked silently away in opposite directions. Never afterwards did they mention the incident to each other.

A new life began for him with his trapping. He learned to fish as well, for besides being a hunter, his father was an angler of State-wide reputation. The days on which his father accompanied him along the banks of the St. Joe, or to some more distant stream, were very specially happy ones. His cup was quite filled full when, on the day he was twelve years old, a rifle all his own was placed in his hands. Father and son then hunted together.

While thus growing intimate with the living things of the woods and streams, his question was not so much "What?" as "Why?" As reading came to take a larger part in life and interest to reach out to human beings, again his question was "Why?" So when other heroes took their places beside his father for their share of homage, they were loved and honoured for that which prompted their achievements more than for the deeds themselves.

Passionately fond of history, with its natural accompaniment geography, he revelled, as does every normal boy, in stories of the wars, Indian stories and tales of travel and adventure. His imagination kindled by what he had read, and the oft-repeated tales of frontier life in which the courage, endurance, and high honour of his own pioneer forefathers stood out strong and clear, it was but natural that the boy under the apple trees should feel romance in every bit of forest, every stream; that his thoughts should be reaching towards the out-of-the-way places of the earth where life was still that of the pioneer with the untamed wilderness lying across his path, and on into the wilderness itself.

Though born with all the instincts of the hunter, he was born also with an exquisitely tender and sympathetic nature, which made him do strange things for a boy.

One day a toad hopped into the beeyard and his father was about to kill it. The boy petitioned for its life and carried it away. It came back. Again it was carried away. Again it returned and this time was taken clear to the river.

Once a much loved aunt came to visit at his home bringing the little sister a beautiful, new doll. That night she trotted off to bed hugging the new treasure close. The boy did not love dolls; but when he saw the old, rag baby left lonely and forsaken be quietly picked it up and carried it to bed with him.

Years afterwards, when on a canoe trip on the Moose River, a disconsolate looking little Indian dog came and sat shyly watching us while we broke camp. We learned that the Indian owners had gone to the bush leaving him to fare as he might through the coming winter. When our canoe pushed out into the river there was an extra passenger. We brought him home to Congers, where he immediately carried consternation into the neighbouring chicken yards, convinced that he had found the finest partridge country on earth.

When sixteen the boy went to attend the Angola (Indiana) Normal School. Here his decision for Christ was made. He was baptized and united with the Church of Christ. Three years later his teaching took him to Northern Michigan where be found a wider range than he had yet known, and in the great pine forests of that country he did his first real exploring. Here were clear, cold streams with their trout and grayling, and here, when his work admitted, he hunted and fished and dreamed out his plans, his thoughts turning ever more insistently to the big, outside world where his heroes did their work.

He entered the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1893. High strung and sensitive, with a driving energy and ambition to have part in the larger work of the world, be suffered during the early part of his course all the agonies that come to those of such a nature while they grope in the dark for that which they are fitted to do. He reached out in many directions in his effort to provide the needful money to enable him to take his course, but without a sense of special fitness in any. It came however with his earliest attempts in journalistic work. The discovery with its measure of self-recognition brought a thrill that compensated for all the dark hours. He now felt assured of success.

His life in the University was one of varied and unceasing activity. In his studies history, literature, psychology claimed his special interest. He was an enthusiast in athletics, and found his field in running and boxing. The contest was as the wine of life to him. He was active in the literary and debating societies, and prominent in the Student's Christian Association, attending and taking part in the work of the local branch of the Church of Christ. His first newspaper work was done as an amateur on the college press. Then came assignments from the local dailies and correspondence for the Detroit papers.

He possessed the "news sense" to an unusual degree, delighting to take "beats" from under the very feet of his brother reporters.

In 1897 while he was still in Ann Arbor, just before Dr. James B.

Angell, President of the University, left on his mission to Turkey,

a telegram came from a Detroit evening paper directing him to see

Dr. Angell and ask why he had changed his date of sailing.

Dr. Angell was not in the habit of telling reporters what he did not wish them to know, and when asked the question replied: "Haven't a word to say. I really don't know anything new at all." Then with a smile which he fondly believed to be inscrutable, he remarked: "Why, I don't even know whether I'll go to Turkey or not."

A few minutes later those last words of the President were reported over the wires, without the sarcasm and without the smile. That very evening, in big headlines on the first page, it was announced that there was some hitch, and that President Angell might not go as Minister to the Court of the Sultan.

The correspondents of the morning papers hastened to see President Angell, who insisted that if he had made such a remark it was in fun. But it was unavailing. The

despatch had stirred up the officials in Washington, and the morning papers that printed the President's explanation printed over it the official statement, that the Porte was objecting to Dr. Angell, on account of his close relationship with the Congregational Missionary Board.

After his graduation in 1897, he took a position on the staff of a Detroit evening paper. Much of the two years of his newspaper work there was spent in Lansing covering State politics. In this line of work lay his chief interest, though he by no means confined himself to it.

His work made it possible for him to indulge his bent for dipping into the by-ways of human life. Utterly fearless, resolute, persistent, there was yet in his manner a beautiful simplicity, a gentleness and interest that rarely failed to disarm and win admission where he desired to enter. Added to this equipment were a fine sense of humour, a subtle sympathy, and a passionate tenderness for anyone or anything lonely or neglected or in trouble. So, as only the few do, he learned "Why."

Here amidst the struggles and temptations, the joys and disappointments, the successes and mistakes of his busy life, one hero rose surely to a place above all others, a place that was never usurped-"the man, Christ Jesus," worshipped in the years that were left, not only as the Redeemer of the world, but as his ideal hero.

This was his manliest man, so grandly strong and brave, yet so inexpressibly sweet-spirited and gentle, with a great human heart that, understanding so wholly, was yet so little understood; that in the midst of overwhelming work and care and loneliness hungered for human love and sympathy, giving so generously of its own great store, receiving so little in return. Here he found the strong purpose, the indomitable will, the courage that, accepting the hard things of life, could yet go unfalteringly forward, to the accomplishment of a great work, even though there was ever before Him the consciousness that at the end must come the great sacrifice.

In 1899 he decided to launch out into the wider field, which journalistic work in the East offered, and in the summer of that year he came to New York. Many were the predictions of brother reporters and friends that he would starve in the great city. It was a struggle. He knew no one, had letters to no one, but that was rather as he wished it than otherwise. He liked to test his own fitness. It meant risk, but he knew his own capabilities and believed in his own resourcefulness. He had thoroughly convinced himself that the men who achieve are those who do what other men are afraid to do. The difficulty would be to get an opening. That done, he had no fear of what would follow.

He began his quest with a capital of less than five dollars. There were many disappointments, much weariness, and a long fast which came near to persuading him that his friends' predictions were perhaps about to be fulfilled. But he got his opening.

Staggering with weakness, he had lived for two days in momentary dread of arrest for drunkenness. Then just when it seemed that he could go no farther, a former acquaintance from the West, of whose presence in the city he was aware, met him. Among the first questions was: "Do you need money?" and forthwith a generous fifteen dollars was placed in his hand. That day one of his special stories was accepted, and only a few days later he was taken on the staff of the Daily News, where soon the best assignments of the paper were given him.

Do you know why you are getting the best work to do here?" asked one of the new friends.

"Why?"

"It's because you're white."

This position he retained until May of the following year, meantime contributing to the editorial page of The Saturday Evening Post. Then an attack of typhoid lost him his position; but he had made loyal friends, who delighted to come to his aid. Something of the quality of his own loyalty is expressed in an entry in his diary shortly after leaving the hospital. "Many good lessons in human nature. Learned much about who are the real friends, who may be trusted to a finish, who are not quitters, but it shall not be written." During the period of his convalescence which he spent among the Shawangunk Mountains of Sullivan County, New York, he decided that if it were possible he would not go back to newspaper work. A friend had sent him a letter of introduction to the editor of Outing, which in August he presented, and was asked to bring in an article on the preservation of the Adirondack Park as a national playground. The article proved acceptable, and thenceforth most of his work was done for that magazine.

In September he wrote his friend, Mr. James A. Leroy.

"MY DEAR JIM,-I think that regardless of your frightful neglect I shall be obliged to write you another note expressing sense of under-obligationness to you for that letter. It is the best thing I've run up against so to speak. As a result of it I am to have the pleasure of hastening Detroitward. There I shall register at the House. I shall sit in the window with my feet higher than my head, and wear a one-hundred-and-fifty-dollar-a-week air of nonchalance. When the festive Detroit reporter shys past looking hungrily at the cafe, I'll look at my watch with a wonder-if-it's- time-to-dress-for-dinner air and fill his soul with envy. This has been the dream that has haunted me ever since those childhood days when you and I ate at Spaghetti's and then went to the House to talk it over. I shall carry out the dire scheme and then-well, then, if Fate says for me to hustle across the Great Divide, I'll go with the feeling that life has not been in vain."

Later, January 14th of the following year, to the same friend who was then in Manila as secretary to Dean Worcester.

"You may think it wondrous strange that I should be here in Canada in mid-winter when I could as well be south. There is a mystery, and since you are on the other side of the world I don't mind telling. I am here on a filibustering expedition. I made a firm resolution some months ago that a certain portion of Canada should be annexed to the United States. I am here fostering annexation sentiment, and have succeeded so well that the consent is unanimous, and the annexation will occur just as soon as L. H., junior, is able to pay board for two, which will probably be a matter of a few weeks. So don't be surprised if you receive a square envelope containing an announcement which reads something like this:

Mr. and Mrs. ______

of Bewdley, Ontario,

announce the ________ of their daughter

___________

to

MR. LEONIDAS HUBBARD, JR.

On his return to New York, a short time later, he was assigned a trip through the Southern States. Hence a telegram, on January 29th, to a quiet Canadian town. On January 31st a quiet wedding in a little church in New York, and then five months in the mountains of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and among the forests and cotton plantations of Mississippi.

Besides the work done for the magazine on this trip, he gave the Atlantic Monthly two articles, "The Moonshiner at Home," and "Barataria: The Ruins of a Pirate Kingdom."

During the fall, winter and early spring, our home was in Wurtsboro, Sullivan County, New York, a quaint old village in the beautiful Mamakating valley. Here he hunted and fished and worked, February found him on a snowshoe trip in Northern Quebec with the Montagnais Indian trappers, the outcome of which was his "Children of the Bush."

On April 1st, 1902, he entered the office as assistant editor of Outing. Here was a new field and another opportunity for testing his fitness. He threw himself into the work with characteristic energy and enthusiasm, and his influence on the magazine was marked from the first. He soon succeeded in projecting into it something of his own passionately human personality. In the fall of that year a noted angler commented to him on the change in it and his responsibility.

"When a big salmon comes to the top, there is a great swirl on the water. You don't see the salmon, but you know he is there," he said.

Office work left little time for writing; but in the early autumn of that year a vacation trip to the north shore of Lake Superior gave him two articles, "Where Romance Lingers," and "Off Days on Superior's North Shore."

In January 1903 the trip to Labrador was decided on, and his preparation for it begun. Before the winter was over his plans were made. On May 13th it was arranged with the magazine that it should go as an Outing expedition. The preparation held for him the many difficulties and trials common to such undertakings, but also, perhaps, more than the usual pleasures.

The big map of Labrador looked back from the wall of the little study in Congers. We stood before it a long time discussing plans and possibilities. Then an eager, happy face was turned to me as he told how he would write the story and how he would have grown when he came home again.

On June 20th he sailed from New York with his little party.

In January following came that short message, "Mr. Hubbard died

October 18th in the interior of Labrador."

In March were received the letters containing that final record of his life, which took from the hearts of those who loved him best the intolerable bitterness, because it told that he had not only dreamed his dream-he had attained his Vision.

It was a short, full life journey, and a joyous, undaunted heart that traversed it. Almost the most beautiful of its attributes was the joyousness.

He was "glad of Life because it gave him a chance to love and to work and to play."

He never failed to "look up at the stars."

He thought "every day of Christ."

Sometimes towards evening in dreary November, when the clouds hang heavy and low, covering all the sky, and the hills are solemn and sombre, and the wind is cold, and the lake black and sullen, a break in the dark veil lets through a splash of glorious sunshine. It is so very beautiful as it falls into the gloom that your breath draws in quick and you watch it with a thrill. Then you see that it moves towards you. All at once you are in the midst of it, it is falling round you and seems to have paused as if it meant to stay with you and go no farther.

While you revel in this wonderful light that has stopped to enfold you, suddenly it is not falling round you any more, and you see it moving steadily on again, out over the marsh with its bordering evergreens, touching with beauty every place it falls upon, forward up the valley, unwavering, without pause, till you are holding your breath as it begins to climb the hills away yonder.

It is gone.

The smoke blue clouds hang lower and heavier, the hills stand more grimly solemn and sombre, the wind is cold, the lake darker and more sullen, and the beauty has gone out of the marsh.

Then-then it is night.

But you do not forget the Light.

You know it still shines-somewhere.

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