June 4, 1917 Some Guiding Work

June 4, 1917

I had to prepare for the guiding work this morning. The guests from Ottawa were coming in on the afternoon train and they wanted to leave immediately. That gave me a few hours to prepare. It was just me as the guide and the two of them, so two canoes were needed: mine and another. Shannon would rent them one.

In the lobby, as I was getting ready, I came across a poetry book left behind by one of the guests. It was a collection of Rudyard Kipling’s poems. As I leafed through the book (I was thinking about taking it along for the trip) I came across the poem, “Secret of the Machines.” The poem was haunting because I remember writing in a letter once that Jackson was in the machine. The War machine. And here was Kipling glorifying these machines that have made the sacrifice of men an automated affair.

Shannon went up to the Station to pick the guests up. They came in on the No. 47 First Class Westbound from Ottawa. Shannon had got the mail which had come in from the Eastbound and when he returned I asked if there were any letters for me.

“Nothing from Winnie,” Shannon replied. I didn’t like his tone. He had that superior air that he knew something that I didn’t.

“Thanks,” I said. “I’d better get the stuff ready for the trip”

The guests seemed like important men. I could tell by their soft-looking hands and clean fingernails. They seemed to preoccupied with something that we weren’t supposed to be privy to. They only offered their first names to us, John and Etienne, and they wanted to get going as soon as possible. I asked them how their paddling was. The reply was rather curt, “We’ll take the one canoe, and you guide us with supplies in the other.”

Annie wanted them to stay for dinner, but they were insistent on going right away, so Shannon helped us get off. I’ve seen this before, from Americans who want to rush into a canoe as soon as they arrive, but these two men were Canadian: Upper and Lower as far as I could gather. A canoe should have been less of novelty to them, and the rush into Nature less urgent.

We got under way shortly after 5pm. It was cool and there was a brisk wind coming in from the west. My canoe, as it was loaded down with supplies was fairly steady in the water, but the guests in the other canoe were clearly unstable and zig-zagging along behind me.

We got onto Smoke Lake and I did some fishing for dinner. They kept the canoe out of my earshot most of the time. That was fine with me. I caught three trout and signalled to them that we’d better set for camp soon.

We landed and set up camp. Or, I set up camp. Again they were out of earshot in intense discussion. My guess it was something about Government business, I just had a sense it was. From Ottawa, and keeping quiet with one another. Putting two and two together, I figured it was Government.

I cleaned the trout and used the reflector oven to cook them by campfire. For dessert, I made some biscuits with raisins which we had with tea. With the shortages, I had trouble getting coffee, but they were tea drinkers so it wasn’t a problem. The whisky came out, they had brought a bottle. That wasn’t a problem, either.

Then the conversation started to come more freely. I learned that they weren’t Government men but Party men. One was with Borden and the other with Laurier. They came on this trip to discuss some differences that they would try to agree on. It was too hard to do in Ottawa so they decided to leave town and go on a canoe trip. I also discovered that the their trip was more than just settling differences, they came here looking for something.

“Where’s Sims Pit?”

“Three minutes east of Joe Lake Station. Two more stops and you would have been there.”

“We don’t want to go there by train. Can you bring us there by another way?”

“Indeed I can. By canoe and by foot. But it will have to wait until tomorrow.”

“Not during the day, we want to go there tomorrow night after dark.”

With that peculiar request, they turned in for the night. They looked tired but they  look guarded. This is certainly not a holiday for them. There is something going on. Some deal to be made or some escapade to be stopped. Whatever it is, it will have to wait for morning.

The camp fire is getting low now. It’s difficult to write as the light is too dim. I did bring some sketching paper but the mood hasn’t touched me to compose anything. The temperature has dropped into the low forties. The wind is still brisk at this late time in the evening. The wind is a blessing because it has kept the black flies at bay. It should be a comfortable sleep tonight.