Marriage by H. G. Wells, is part of the HackerNoon Books Series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here . The Pilgrimage to Lonely Hut The Pilgrimage to Lonely Hut § 1 Marjorie was surprised to find how easy it was at last to part from her children and go with Trafford. -431- "I am not sorry," she said, "not a bit sorry—but I am fearfully afraid. I shall dream they are ill.... Apart from that, it's strange how you grip me and they don't...." In the train to Liverpool she watched Trafford with the queer feeling which comes to all husbands and wives at times that that other partner is indeed an undiscovered stranger, just beginning to show perplexing traits,—full of inconceivable possibilities. For some reason his tearing her up by the roots in this fashion had fascinated her imagination. She felt a strange new wonder at him that had in it just a pleasant faint flavour of fear. Always before she had felt a curious aversion and contempt for those servile women who are said to seek a master, to want to be mastered, to be eager even for the physical subjugations of brute force. Now she could at least understand, sympathize even with them. Not only Trafford surprised her but herself. She found she was in an unwonted perplexing series of moods. All her feelings struck her now as being incorrect as well as unexpected; not only had life become suddenly full of novelty but she was making novel responses. She felt that she ought to be resentful and tragically sorry for her home and children. She felt this departure ought to have the quality of an immense sacrifice, a desperate and heroic undertaking for Trafford's sake. Instead she could detect little beyond an adventurous exhilaration when presently she walked the deck of the steamer that was to take her to St. John's. She had visited her cabin, seen her luggage stowed away, and now she surveyed the Mersey and its shipping with a renewed freshness of mind. She was reminded of the day, now nearly nine years ago, when she had crossed the sea for the first time—to Italy. Then, too, Trafford had seemed a being of infinitely wonderful possibilities.... What were the children doing?—that ought to have been her preoccupation. She didn't know; she didn't care! Trafford came and stood beside her, pointed out this and that upon the landing stage, no longer heavily sullen, but alert, interested, almost gay.... -432- Neither of them could find any way to the great discussion they had set out upon, in this voyage to St. John's. But there was plenty of time before them. Plenty of time! They were both the prey of that uneasy distraction which seems the inevitable quality of a passenger steamship. They surveyed and criticized their fellow travellers, and prowled up and down through the long swaying days and the cold dark nights. They slept uneasily amidst fog-horn hootings and the startling sounds of waves swirling against the ports. Marjorie had never had a long sea voyage before; for the first time in her life she saw all the world, through a succession of days, as a circle of endless blue waters, with the stars and planets and sun and moon rising sharply from its rim. Until one has had a voyage no one really understands that old Earth is a watery globe.... They ran into thirty hours of storm, which subsided, and then came a slow time among icebergs, and a hooting, dreary passage through fog. The first three icebergs were marvels, the rest bores; a passing collier out of her course and pitching heavily, a lonely black and dirty ship with a manner almost derelict, filled their thoughts for half a day. Their minds were in a state of tedious inactivity, eager for such small interests and only capable of such small interests. There was no hurry to talk, they agreed, no hurry at all, until they were settled away ahead there among the snows. "There we shall have plenty of time for everything...." -433- Came the landfall and then St. John's, and they found themselves side by side watching the town draw near. The thought of landing and transference to another ship refreshed them both.... They were going, Trafford said, in search of God, but it was far more like two children starting out upon a holiday. § 2 There was trouble and procrastination about the half-breed guides that Trafford had arranged should meet them at St. John's, and it was three weeks from their reaching Newfoundland before they got themselves and their guides and equipment and general stores aboard the boat for Port Dupré. Thence he had planned they should go in the Gibson schooner to Manivikovik, the Marconi station at the mouth of the Green River, and thence past the new pulp-mills up river to the wilderness. There were delays and a few trivial, troublesome complications in carrying out this scheme, but at last a day came when Trafford could wave good-bye to the seven people and eleven dogs which constituted the population of Peter Hammond's, that last rude outpost of civilization twenty miles above the pulp-mill, and turn his face in good earnest towards the wilderness. Neither he nor Marjorie looked back at the headland for a last glimpse of the little settlement they were leaving. Each stared ahead over the broad, smooth sweep of water, broken by one transverse bar of foaming shallows, and scanned the low, tree-clad hills beyond that drew together at last in the distant gorge out of which the river came. The morning was warm and full of the promise of a hot noon, so that the veils they wore against the assaults of sand-flies and mosquitoes were already a little inconvenient. It seemed incredible in this morning glow that the wooded slopes along the shore of the lake were the border of a land in which nearly half the inhabitants die of starvation. The deep-laden canoes swept almost noiselessly through the water with a rhythmic alternation of rush and pause as the dripping paddles drove and returned. Altogether there were four long canoes and five Indian breeds in their party, and when they came to pass through shallows both Marjorie and Trafford took a paddle. -434- They came to the throat of the gorge towards noon, and found strong flowing deep water between its high purple cliffs. All hands had to paddle again, and it was only when they came to rest in a pool to eat a mid-day meal and afterwards to land upon a mossy corner for a stretch and a smoke, that Marjorie discovered the peculiar beauty of the rock about them. On the dull purplish-grey surfaces played the most extraordinary mist of luminous iridescence. It fascinated her. Here was a land whose common substance had this gemlike opalescence. But her attention was very soon withdrawn from these glancing splendours. She had had to put aside her veil to eat, and presently she felt the vividly painful stabs of the black-fly and discovered blood upon her face. A bigger fly, the size and something of the appearance of a small wasp, with an evil buzz, also assailed her and Trafford. It was a bad corner for flies; the breeds even were slapping their wrists and swearing under the torment, and every one was glad to embark and push on up the winding gorge. It opened out for a time, and then the wooded shores crept in again, and in another half-hour they saw ahead of them a long rush of foaming waters among tumbled rocks that poured down from a brimming, splashing line of light against the sky. They crossed the river, ran the canoes into an eddy under the shelter of a big stone and began to unload. They had reached their first portage. -435- The rest of the first day was spent in packing and lugging first the cargoes and then the canoes up through thickets and over boulders and across stretches of reindeer moss for the better part of two miles to a camping ground about half-way up the rapids. Marjorie and Trafford tried to help with the carrying, but this evidently shocked and distressed the men too much, so they desisted and set to work cutting wood and gathering moss for the fires and bedding for the camp. When the iron stove was brought up the man who had carried it showed them how to put it up on stakes and start a fire in it, and then Trafford went to the river to get water, and Marjorie made a kind of flour cake in the frying-pan in the manner an American woman from the wilderness had once shown her, and boiled water for tea. The twilight had deepened to night while the men were still stumbling up the trail with the last two canoes. It gave Marjorie a curiously homeless feeling to stand there in the open with the sunset dying away below the black scrubby outlines of the treetops uphill to the northwest, and to realize the nearest roof was already a day's toilsome journey away. The cool night breeze blew upon her bare face and arms—for now the insects had ceased from troubling and she had cast aside gloves and veil and turned up her sleeves to cook—and the air was full of the tumult of the rapids tearing seaward over the rocks below. Struggling through the bushes towards her was an immense, headless quadruped with unsteady legs and hesitating paces, two of the men carrying the last canoe. Two others were now assisting Trafford to put up the little tent that was to shelter her, and the fifth was kneeling beside her very solemnly and respectfully cutting slices of bacon for her to fry. The air was very sweet, and she wished she could sleep not in the tent but under the open sky. -436- It was queer, she thought, how much of the wrappings of civilization had slipped from them already. Every day of the journey from London had released them or deprived them—she hardly knew which—of a multitude of petty comforts and easy accessibilities. The afternoon toil uphill intensified the effect of having clambered up out of things—to this loneliness, this twilight openness, this simplicity. The men ate apart at a fire they made for themselves, and after Trafford and Marjorie had supped on damper, bacon and tea, he smoked. They were both too healthily tired to talk very much. There was no moon but a frosty brilliance of stars, the air which had been hot and sultry at mid-day grew keen and penetrating, and after she had made him tell her the names of constellations she had forgotten, she suddenly perceived the wisdom of the tent, went into it—it was sweet and wonderful with sprigs of the Labrador tea-shrub—undressed, and had hardly rolled herself up into a cocoon of blankets before she was fast asleep. She was awakened by a blaze of sunshine pouring into the tent, a smell of fried bacon and Trafford's voice telling her to get up. "They've gone on with the first loads," he said. "Get up, wrap yourself in a blanket, and come and bathe in the river. It's as cold as ice." -437- She blinked at him. "Aren't you stiff?" she asked. "I was stiffer before I bathed," he said. She took the tin he offered her. (They weren't to see china cups again for a year.) "It's woman's work getting tea," she said as she drank. "You can't be a squaw all at once," said Trafford. § 3 After Marjorie had taken her dip, dried roughly behind a bush, twisted her hair into a pigtail and coiled it under her hat, she amused herself and Trafford as they clambered up through rocks and willows to the tent again by cataloguing her apparatus of bath and toilette at Sussex Square and tracing just when and how she had parted from each item on the way to this place. "But I say!" she cried, with a sudden, sharp note of dismay, "we haven't soap! This is our last cake almost. I never thought of soap." "Nor I," said Trafford. He spoke again presently. "We don't turn back for soap," he said. "We don't turn back for anything," said Marjorie. "Still—I didn't count on a soapless winter." "I'll manage something," said Trafford, a little doubtfully. "Trust a chemist...." That day they finished the portage and came out upon a wide lake with sloping shores and a distant view of snow-topped mountains, a lake so shallow that at times their loaded canoes scraped on the glaciated rock below and they had to alter their course. They camped in a lurid sunset; the night was warm and mosquitoes were troublesome, and towards morning came a thunderstorm and wind and rain. -438- The dawn broke upon a tearing race of waves and a wild drift of slanting rain sweeping across the lake before a gale. Marjorie peered out at this as one peers out under the edge of an umbrella. It was manifestly impossible to go on, and they did nothing that day but run up a canvas shelter for the men and shift the tent behind a thicket of trees out of the full force of the wind. The men squatted stoically, and smoked and yarned. Everything got coldly wet, and for the most part the Traffords sat under the tent and stared blankly at this summer day in Labrador. "Now," said Trafford, "we ought to begin talking." "There's nothing much to do else," said Marjorie. "Only one can't begin," said Trafford. He was silent for a time. "We're getting out of things," he said.... The next day began with a fine drizzle through which the sun broke suddenly about ten o'clock. They made a start at once, and got a good dozen miles up the lake before it was necessary to camp again. Both Marjorie and Trafford felt stiff and weary and uncomfortable all day, and secretly a little doubtful now of their own endurance. They camped on an island on turf amidst slippery rocks, and the next day were in a foaming difficult river again, with glittering shallows that obliged every one to get out at times to wade and push. All through the afternoon they were greatly beset by flies. And so they worked their way on through a third days' journey towards the silent inland of Labrador. -439- Day followed day of toilsome and often tedious travel; they fought rapids, they waited while the men stumbled up long portages under vast loads, going and returning, they camped and discussed difficulties and alternatives. The flies sustained an unrelenting persecution, until faces were scarred in spite of veils and smoke fires, until wrists and necks were swollen and the blood in a fever. As they got higher and higher towards the central plateau, the mid-day heat increased and the nights grew colder, until they would find themselves toiling, wet with perspiration, over rocks that sheltered a fringe of ice beneath their shadows. The first fatigues and lassitudes, the shrinking from cold water, the ache of muscular effort, gave place to a tougher and tougher endurance; skin seemed to have lost half its capacity for pain without losing a tithe of its discrimination, muscles attained a steely resilience; they were getting seasoned. "I don't feel philosophical," said Trafford, "but I feel well." "We're getting out of things." "Suppose we are getting out of our problems!..." One day as they paddled across a mile-long pool, they saw three bears prowling in single file high up on the hillside. "Look," said the man, and pointed with his paddle at the big, soft, furry black shapes, magnified and startling in the clear air. All the canoes rippled to a stop, the men, at first still, whispered softly. One passed a gun to Trafford, who hesitated and looked at Marjorie. The air of tranquil assurance about these three huge loafing monsters had a queer effect on Marjorie's mind. They made her feel that they were at home and that she was an intruder. She had never in her life seen any big wild animals except in a menagerie. She had developed a sort of unconscious belief that all big wild animals were in menageries nowadays, and this spectacle of beasts entirely at large startled her. There was never a bar between these creatures, she felt, and her sleeping self. They might, she thought, do any desperate thing to feeble men and women who came their way. -440- "Shall I take a shot?" asked Trafford. "No," said Marjorie, pervaded by the desire for mutual toleration. "Let them be." The big brutes disappeared in a gully, reappeared, came out against the skyline one by one and vanished. "Too long a shot," said Trafford, handing back the gun.... Their journey lasted altogether a month. Never once did they come upon any human being save themselves, though in one place they passed the poles—for the most part overthrown—of an old Indian encampment. But this desolation was by no means lifeless. They saw great quantities of waterbirds, geese, divers, Arctic partridge and the like, they became familiar with the banshee cry of the loon. They lived very largely on geese and partridge. Then for a time about a string of lakes, the country was alive with migrating deer going south, and the men found traces of a wolf. They killed six caribou, and stayed to skin and cut them up and dry the meat to replace the bacon they had consumed, caught, fried and ate great quantities of trout, and became accustomed to the mysterious dance of the northern lights as the sunset afterglow faded. Everywhere, except in the river gorges, the country displayed the low hummocky lines and tarn-like pools of intensely glaciated land; everywhere it was carpeted with reindeer moss growing upon peat and variegated by bushes of flowering, sweet-smelling Labrador tea. In places this was starred with little harebells and diversified by tussocks of heather and rough grass, and over the rocks trailed delicate dwarf shrubs and a very pretty and fragrant pink-flowered plant of which neither she nor Trafford knew the name. There was an astonishing amount of wild fruit, raspberries, cranberries, and a white kind of strawberry that was very delightful. The weather, after its first outbreak, remained brightly serene.... -441- And at last it seemed fit to Trafford to halt and choose his winter quarters. He chose a place on the side of a low, razor-hacked rocky mountain ridge, about fifty feet above the river—which had now dwindled to a thirty-foot stream. His site was near a tributary rivulet that gave convenient water, in a kind of lap that sheltered between two rocky knees, each bearing thickets of willow and balsam. Not a dozen miles away from them now they reckoned was the Height of Land, the low watershed between the waters that go to the Atlantic and those that go to Hudson's Bay. Close beside the site he had chosen a shelf of rock ran out and gave a glimpse up the narrow rocky valley of the Green River's upper waters and a broad prospect of hill and tarn towards the south-east. North and north-east of them the country rose to a line of low crests, with here and there a yellowing patch of last year's snow, and across the valley were slopes covered in places by woods of stunted pine. It had an empty spaciousness of effect; the one continually living thing seemed to be the Green River, hurrying headlong, noisily, perpetually, in an eternal flight from this high desolation. Birds were rare here, and the insects that buzzed and shrilled and tormented among the rocks and willows in the gorge came but sparingly up the slopes to them. -442- "Here presently," said Trafford, "we shall be in peace." "It is very lonely," said Marjorie. "The nearer to God." "Think! Not one of these hills has ever had a name." "Well?" "It might be in some other planet." "Oh!—we'll christen them. That shall be Marjorie Ridge, and that Rag Valley. This space shall be—oh! Bayswater! Before we've done with it, this place and every feature of it will be as familiar as Sussex Square. More so,—for half the houses there would be stranger to us, if we could see inside them, than anything in this wilderness.... As familiar, say—as your drawing-room. That's better." Marjorie made no answer, but her eyes went from the reindeer moss and scrub and thickets of the foreground to the low rocky ridges that bounded the view north and east of them. The scattered boulders, the tangles of wood, the barren upper slopes, the dust-soiled survivals of the winter's snowfall, all contributed to an effect at once carelessly desert and hopelessly untidy. She looked westward, and her memory was full of interminable streaming rapids, wastes of ice-striated rocks, tiresome struggles through woods and wild, wide stretches of tundra and tarn, trackless and treeless, infinitely desolate. It seemed to her that the sea coast was but a step from London and ten thousand miles away from her. § 4 The men had engaged to build the framework of hut and store shed before returning, and to this under Trafford's direction they now set themselves. They were all half-breeds, mingling with Indian with Scottish or French blood, sober and experienced men. Three were named Mackenzie, two brothers and a cousin, and another, Raymond Noyes, was a relation and acquaintance of that George Elson who was with Wallace and Leonidas Hubbard, and afterwards guided Mrs. Hubbard in her crossing of Labrador. The fifth was a boy of eighteen named Lean. They were all familiar with the idea of summer travel in this country; quite a number, a score or so that is to say, of adventurous people, including three or four women, had ventured far in the wake of the Hubbards into these great wildernesses during the decade that followed that first tragic experiment in which Hubbard died. But that any one not of Indian or Esquimaux blood should propose to face out the Labrador winter was a new thing to them. They were really very sceptical at the outset whether these two highly civilized-looking people would ever get up to the Height of Land at all, and it was still with manifest incredulity that they set about the building of the hut and the construction of the sleeping bunks for which they had brought up planking. A stream of speculative talk had flowed along beside Marjorie and Trafford ever since they had entered the Green River; and it didn't so much come to an end as get cut off at last by the necessity of their departure. -443- Noyes would stand, holding a hammer and staring at the narrow little berth he was fixing together. "You'll not sleep in this," he said. "I will," replied Marjorie. "You'll come back with us." "Not me." "There'll be wolves come and howl." "Let 'em." "They'll come right up to the door here. Winter makes 'em hidjus bold." -444- Marjorie shrugged her shoulders. "It's that cold I've known a man have his nose froze while he lay in bed," said Noyes. "Up here?" "Down the coast. But they say it's 'most as cold up here. Many's the man it's starved and froze."... He and his companions told stories,—very circumstantial and pitiful stories, of Indian disasters. They were all tales of weariness and starvation, of the cessation of food, because the fishing gave out, because the caribou did not migrate by the customary route, because the man of a family group broke his wrist, and then of the start of all or some of the party to the coast to get help and provisions, of the straining, starving fugitives caught by blizzards, losing the track, devouring small vermin raw, gnawing their own skin garments until they toiled half-naked in the snow,—becoming cannibals, becoming delirious, lying down to die. Once there was an epidemic of influenza, and three families of seven and twenty people just gave up and starved and died in their lodges, and were found, still partly frozen, a patient, pitiful company, by trappers in the spring.... Such they said, were the common things that happened in a Labrador winter. Did the Traffords wish to run such risks? A sort of propagandist enthusiasm grew up in the men. They felt it incumbent upon them to persuade the Traffords to return. They reasoned with them rather as one does with wilful children. They tried to remind them of the delights and securities of the world they were deserting. Noyes drew fancy pictures of the pleasures of London by way of contrast to the bitter days before them. "You've got everything there, everything. Suppose you feel a bit ill, you go out, and every block there's a drug store got everything—all the new rem'dies—p'raps twenty, thirty sorts of rem'dy. Lit up, nice. And chaps in collars—like gentlemen. Or you feel a bit dully and you go into the streets and there's people. Why! when I was in New York I used to spend hours looking at the people. Hours! And everything lit up, too. Sky signs! Readin' everywhere. You can spend hours and hours in New York——" -445- "London," said Marjorie. "Well, London—just going about and reading the things they stick up. Every blamed sort of thing. Or you say, let's go somewhere. Let's go out and be a bit lively. See? Up you get on a car and there you are! Great big restaurants, blazing with lights, and you can't think of a thing to eat they haven't got. Waiters all round you, dressed tremendous, fair asking you to have more. Or you say, let's go to a theatre. Very likely," said Noyes, letting his imagination soar, "you order up one of these automobillies." "By telephone," helped Trafford. "By telephone," confirmed Noyes. "When I was in New York there was a telephone in each room in the hotel. Each room. I didn't use it ever, except once when they didn't answer—but there it was. I know about telephones all right...." Why had they come here? None of the men were clear about that. Marjorie and Trafford would overhear them discussing this question at their fire night after night; they seemed to talk of nothing else. They indulged in the boldest hypotheses, even in the theory that Trafford knew of deposits of diamonds and gold, and would trust no one but his wife with the secret. They seemed also attracted by the idea that our two young people had "done something." Lean, with memories of some tattered sixpenny novel that had drifted into his hands from England, had even some notion of an elopement, of a pursuing husband or a vindictive wife. He was young and romantic, but it seemed incredible he should suggest that Marjorie was a royal princess. Yet there were moments when his manner betrayed a more than personal respect.... -446- One night after a hard day's portage Mackenzie was inspired by a brilliant idea. "They got no children," he said, in a hoarse, exceptionally audible whisper. "It worries them. Them as is Catholics goes pilgrimages, but these ain't Catholics. See?" "I can't stand that," said Marjorie. "It touches my pride. I've stood a good deal. Mr. Mackenzie!... Mr.... Mackenzie." The voice at the men's fire stopped and a black head turned around. "What is it, Mrs. Trafford?" asked Mackenzie. She held up four fingers. "Four!" she said. "Eh?" "Three sons and a daughter," said Marjorie. Mackenzie did not take it in until his younger brother had repeated her words. "And you've come from them to this.... Sir, what have you come for?" "We want to be here," shouted Trafford to their listening pause. Their silence was incredulous. "We wanted to be alone together. There was too much—over there—too much everything." Mackenzie, in silhouette against the fire, shook his head, entirely dissatisfied. He could not understand how there could be too much of anything. It was beyond a trapper's philosophy. "Come back with us sir," said Noyes. "You'll weary of it...." -447- Noyes clung to the idea of dissuasion to the end. "I don't care to leave ye," he said, and made a sort of byword of it that served when there was nothing else to say. He made it almost his last words. He turned back for another handclasp as the others under their light returning packs were filing down the hill. "I don't care to leave ye," he said. "Good luck!" said Trafford. "You'll need it," said Noyes, and looked at Marjorie very gravely and intently before he turned about and marched off after his fellows.... Both Marjorie and Trafford felt a queer emotion, a sense of loss and desertion, a swelling in the throat, as that file of men receded over the rocky slopes, went down into a dip, reappeared presently small and remote cresting another spur, going on towards the little wood that hid the head of the rapids. They halted for a moment on the edge of the wood and looked back, then turned again one by one and melted stride by stride into the trees. Noyes was the last to go. He stood, in an attitude that spoke as plainly as words, "I don't care to leave ye." Something white waved and flickered; he had whipped out the letters they had given him for England, and he was waving them. Then, as if by an effort, he set himself to follow the others, and the two still watchers on the height above saw him no more. About HackerNoon Book Series: We bring you the most important technical, scientific, and insightful public domain books. This book is part of the public domain. H. G. Wells (2011). Marriage. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved October 2022, https://www.gutenberg.org/files/35338/35338-h/35338-h.htm This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org, located at https://www.gutenberg.org/policy/license.html.