The Spike or Victoria University College Review Silver Jubilee 1924
December 16th, 1923.
.... The address given above is my permanent address, but at present I am working among an Indian tribe in Northern British Columbia, which accounts for the length of time required for your letters to reach me. I certainly don't forget my days at V.C., and only wish I could be back there again. Well I remember the good old times, when you and de la Mare were the fathers of the students. I saw de la Mare last time I was home in 1919, and was sorry to miss you.
With regard to the "Spike," I have been wondering what sort of an article you would like. At first I thought of something serious and heavy—latest developments in Polar Exploration or something of that kind. But after all the Pole is a long way off from N.Z., and probably doesn't interest your readers much. So I have just run off what I tried to make a humorous account of a little experience in the Arctic. Perhaps the humour won't take! But apart from the persiflage every detail is absolutely true. I don't know to this day why the wolf let go of my arm, it could easily have chewed me up, for it had a jaw like a bear's.
I hope you won't be disappointed with the paper. I am riding four miles each day to see my Indians, getting home about dark and without books or anything it is not easy to write anything decent in so short a time. If the article does not come up to the mark just believe that the will was not lacking, only the ability.
I hope your anniversary celebrations will be an unprecedented success. V.C. has made wonderful progress, and it reflects the greatest credit on the professors and old students like yourself. We certainly had a fine staff of professors. Good old John Brown—it would be hard to find a better man anywhere; he certainly was a father to me. I was sorry that the College could not reinstate von Zedlitz; he was an excellent professor and a man of the highest honour. I had a great deal to do with him and admired him immensely.
Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help things along. My permanent address is always Victoria Memorial Museum, Ottawa, and I shall be delighted to do what little I may for my old alma mater.
With kindest regards,
P.S.—Please remember me to Prof. Brown and Prof. Hunter, de la Mare, Eichelbaum and the rest. Some day I hope to see you all again.
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A river of many memories is the noble Coppermine, that flows through narrow canons from an unknown source to pour its waters into the Arctic Ocean. This was the river discovered by Hearne, the immortal explorer of Canada's northern wastes, when he made his adventurous journey to the shores of the Polar Sea. It was on this river that his bloodthirsty Indians cruelly mas page 30 sacred a band of unarmed, inoffensive Eskimos, attacking them in their sleep. And on this river, 150 years later, a no less bloodthirsty wolf wrought havoc in a band of white men, whose camp it invaded at the dawn of day.
It was mid-February. The thermometer was somewhere below zero. Inside the little tent on the snow-covered ice of the river slept four white men and an Eskimo; one was an American, the second a Viking from Denmark, the third a Dutchman, and the last a mighty man from V.C. Outside the dogs slumbered peacefully in the lee of the sleds. The Viking turned over in his sleeping bag, struck a match and looked at his watch. It was six o'clock, so with a groan he lit the candle and started a fire in the little camp-stove six inches from his head. An hour later the smell of burning oatmeal and the sizzling of bacon in the pan, with the added scorching of a red-hot stove in a tent 10x8, warned his comrades that breakfast was ready, and one after another they pulled on their caribou-fur breeks and sat up.
Breakfast was ended. They lit their pipes with a sigh, thinking of the long journey ahead of them. The growing light without gave notice that it was time to pack up and commence the day's march.
They were an awe-inspiring spectacle, these five hardy explorers in their lonely tent amid the snow-covered waste. Four of them wore only shoes and breeches; the Viking alone was clad in an ample sleeping-suit, style Buster Brown. There they sat, silently but fearlessly meditating on the perils that lay beyond.
A sudden snarling among the dogs broke the stillness, and the Viking, pushing aside the flaps of the tent, looked out. "Wolf! Wolf!" he cried, rushing headlong towards his sled. In the twinkling of an eye the tent was empty, and five majestic forms were bounding over the snow to meet the foe.
V.C.'s sled, with his rifle lashed on top, lay some little distance away. He looked round for his ice-spear, forgetting that it was holding down the flap of the tent. Memories of a long line of cave-men ancestors rose surging in his brain. He remembered, too, the steep clay banks of the tennis-courts on Kelburn, where heroic men in bygone years laboured with pick and shovel. All these things he remembered in that crisis—and he waited.
Meantime the .great yellow wolf was snapping and snarling among the dogs. The Viking rushed forward to save his team-leader. Even he was attacked by the reckless foe, but dauntlessly he shooed his enemy away with the flap of his sleeping-jacket. Cowed by the perilous weapon, the wolf ran behind a sled, only to encounter as it emerged a mighty rock launched from V.C's giant hand. But the rock was a more familiar foe; with one swift bound the monster sprang aside, and strove to sink its jaws into V.C's naked leg. Fiercely the conflict raged. With powerful right hand the hero grasped his enemy by the neck and held it from him, protecting his nether limb; but the wolf, twisting around its head, buried its fangs in his unguarded arm. Then the left hand shot out and gripped the monster by the throat. So they wrestled.
Monarch of the north had been the wolf. Many a caribou had it butchered in its day, and many a stout rival in the pack had it fought and overcome. But never before had it encountered a graduate from the college on the hill. Beneath that awful glance it quailed, and loosening the arm slunk hopelessly away, page 31 to meet a merciful end from the bullet of the American's rifle.
Ave, mater Salamanca. From Polar wastes thy child salutes up I thee. At earth's four corners thy children hymn thee. Semper te innubilis aether integat, et large diffuso lumine rideas.
D. Jenness (height 5ft. 5in.)