Runaway Boys.

One day three boys were missing; nobody could tell what had become of them; the bush was scoured, the roads searched, and messengers despatched to the Sault to try and gain some clue to their whereabouts. After a time it was discovered that some bread and other things were missing, and it became clear that they had decamped. Their home was 300 miles away, and the idea was that they had probably gone to Garden River, about ten miles below us, with the intention of getting on board the first steamboat that might pass, and so get home; so we made up a crew, and late the same evening despatched the schoolmaster and some boys in _The Missionary_ to Garden River. They arrived back the next day, bringing word that a boat had been stolen from one of the Indians there during the night, and that, moreover, an Institution button, with “Shingwauk Home, Sault Ste. Marie” imprinted on it, had been picked up in the sand near the place from which the boat was taken.

Nothing more was heard of these boys for ten days, except that one of the steamboats brought a report that they had seen three boys in an open boat near Bruce Mines, and that they had been hailed by them and asked for bread. Ten or eleven days after these boys decamped, we were preparing to start on an expedition up Lake Superior to Batcheewauning; our four sailor boys were ready, dressed in their new blue serge suits and straw hats from England, _The Missionary_ was well loaded with camp-kettles, tent, and provisions. We got as far as the Sault, when the wind, which had been favourable, suddenly veered round and blew a heavy gale in our faces, accompanied by thunder and heavy rain. As it was already between 3 and 4 p.m., it was plain we could not start that day, And just at the critical moment word came that those three runaway boys were on an island forty miles below. Our informant was a Garden River Indian. The boys, be said, had turned adrift the boat they escaped in, which was a small one, and had taken a larger one belonging to a Sugar Island Indian. This Indian finding his boat gone, pursued the boys in his canoe, overtook them, took his boat away from them, and left them alone to their fate on an island. Shabahgeezhik did not think the boys would be in distress, as there were a few settlers on the island who would feed them if they worked for their board. As soon as we heard this news, we immediately decided to head our boat round and run before the wind down to this island and catch our boys. We just stopped for ten minutes at the Shingwauk in passing, to get a dry coat or two and tell of the change in our plans, and then off we started. It was 5 p.m., and we thought we could make the island that night. Shabahgeezhik went with us as pilot. We ran along at good speed through Hey Lake, across the American channel, in and out among islands. We were soon wet and cold, and it became very dark. Shabahgeezhik steered, and seemed to know well what he was about, but we had some narrow shaves of running into islands, it was so dark. Once or twice we were close upon rocks, but just saved ourselves. We passed through the “Devil’s Gap,” about as narrow as one of the canal locks, and soon came in sight of the dark line of the Bruce Mines Shore. We had run well; it was only 10 o’clock, and we were nearly there. Once or twice we saw a fire on the lonely, uninhabited shore, where fishing or exploring parties were encamping. It looked cheerful, but we did not stop. Now at length we reached our island, and drew along shore to grope for the dock. There were lights shining from two dwellings–one near the shore, the other upon the hill. Securing our boat, we landed and went up to a log hut. A half-breed woman appeared at the door when we knocked, but she seemed scared when she found there were so many of us. We wanted to find Mr. Marks’ house, he being the principal settler on the island. The woman gave us some hurried directions, and then shut and locked the door. We started in search of Mr. Marks’ house, which it would seem was up the hill, about a mile distant. After scouring round a little to find the road, we at length hit on a cattle-track which seemed to go in the right direction. But what a track it was! Every step we took it became worse; it led along the side of the hill through the bushes and tall grass, and under foot slimy sticks and roots spread over a black swamp. For a few steps one would balance one’s self, and then down one would go, knee deep in the mire. Always hoping that the road would improve, we persevered for nearly half a mile. But it only got worse, and reluctantly we had to turn back to our starting-point. Then Shabahgeezhik took a run further up the hill to look for another road. In a few minutes he shouted for us to follow, and the track this time led us out just above Mr. Marks’ house. It was nearly midnight, but Mr. Marks was standing outside. We told him who we were and what our errand, and he immediately gave the satisfactory information that the boys we wanted were with a half-breed in a shanty just below. He showed us which way to go, and we descended the hill-side in quest of them. Arriving at the shanty, we knocked at the door. A man answered in English, and asked what we wanted. At length the door was cautiously opened. We said that Mr. Marks had told us to come here for three boys who had run away. Upon this the man opened the door, and said, “Yes, the boys were there, and we could take them.” A lamp was lighted, and we told the boys, who were, lying on the floor and scarcely awake yet, to get up and come along, and then our sailor boys each took charge of one prisoner, and we marched them down to the boat. The boys got the tent up and went to bed with their prisoners, while we accepted the kind hospitality of Mr. and Mrs. Marks, and slept in their house. It was 1 a.m. when we got to bed, and at 4 a.m. we were astir again, and prepared for the start home. The wind was against us, and we had to pull. At 7.30 we went ashore for breakfast. We were very chilly, our things still being wet, and we lighted a large fire and got everything dry. After breakfast we managed to sail a little, tacking against the wind, and by 12.30 p.m. we had made Sugar Island. Here was the American channel, and we resolved to get dinner, and wait for a tow. In this we were very fortunate, for just as we were finishing dinner a propeller came along. We signalled to her, and she very politely shut off steam and gave us a line from her stern. A storm was getting up, rain beginning to fall, and we had to cross Lake George, and had rather a rough time of it, the propeller dragging us forward mercilessly through the crested waves, the spray and foam dashing all over us, so that we shipped a good deal of water and had to bale. Arriving at length opposite the Shingwauk, we got our masts up, and, giving the propeller a wave of hats and a cheer, the tow-line was let go, up went our sails in a trice, and in a few moments more we had arrived at the shore. All the boys were dancing on the dock, greatly edified to see the return of the runaways.

Missions, Ojibway,

Wilson, Rev. Edward F. Missionary Work Among the Ojebway Indians. London: Society For Promoting Christian Knowledge. 1886.

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