Please make a donation for the information that you are reading on There is more than a book length of information on this site regarding poetry and the human brain, several bibliographies and it has taken several years of research to find, digest and write the information. This is the only site on the internet where this information may be found. For those accessing the chronic fatigue syndrome information, please feel free to use the information wihtout charge to improve your health. Thank you.


Chapter 1: The Toil of Chinamen

The Steamer Valencia Lost – Victoria Daily Times, Wednesday January 24, 1906

…and when the davits gave way, the first four lifeboats fell like ninepins. In breaking its oars the first was carried back by undertow some thirteen nautical miles into the storm; the next two rose upon the face of waves and turned turtle in the great grey morning, women and crew rolled beneath the treacherous green. The fourth was thrown rowing into the advancing fog some 30 nautical miles and found on Turret Island a week later, its occupants still gripping their bags in their seats where the sea made the headway of their waists. The only lifeboat to make the short passage was tossed by wave toward the Nitinat Bar and lifted with great tenderness over a rock and deposited as neat and with as little suffering in a great long shaft of cave. And there they were found, still sitting, where the high tide drowned them in the dark…

Captain Johnson knows by the second morning that the waves breaking down the shoulders of his vessel will grind apart its seams. When the brigantine rigged, unhandsome as they come, Valencia, settles bow to sea, it is the beginning of the end for his proud little pig of a ship. And he has no choice, having missed Cape Flattery, having erred in the taking of fathoms, having the south east gale press him north through the night until grinding his command on Canadian rock a scant 20 yards from cliff, but to man the Lyle gun and shoot a line to rig up a boatswain’s chair. In his blue jacket with its festal brass buttons and the leather boots on each wrong foot, he stands in the wash of green. The wind in its shriek upon the icy blue metal has made the cartridge soft and when he pounds on the barrel and hits the pin once more it indeed spews forth its harpoon, but also explodes the bolt and takes his first two fingers, and the blood that spurts in his face is his own. And then the sea drowns the dynamos and the lamps go dead, the telephonic receiver receives no message when the magneto is cranked. Wind sings among the rigging that bears the scrambling black bodies, tying themselves against falling out.

What the fingerless heap of a captain does not know is the line uncoils like a snake and the harpoon arcs to the cliff between Pachena and Tsusiat Falls. It buries with a decided thunk in the turf between the two bare brown feet of Nwanemecha in his three pairs of breeches, spindrift stinging his eyes above the grim scene. Upon his head is the carbide pitlamp for his lineman’s duty on his 26 solitary miles of cable strung tree to tree from Bamfield thence to Victoria. Upon his brown back is a thick mariner’s donkey sweater with a tear down its shoulder and he’s wet to the skin with the hair of his fine brown race insinuating rivulets upon his skin, the carbide miners lamp strapped to his forehead.

Like the ends of hair become straw, the rain leaves marks in his face as he wraps the line in his two brown hands. But the slack and the wearing of sea has unbraided the line a few fathoms from his grasp, on the edge of the black rock and he falls backward into the winter-ravaged salal and thorn, the carcasses of trees succumbing to the endless rain and the orange and green and grey fungi that sprout as ornaments of death.

And then his traversing: down the black, pitted spires, down the moss that hangs like scraps of flesh, through logs thrown high above the tide to the black stone beach where the sound of boulders is as thunder that arrives in fields of foam. And then the kegs of whiskey tossed like chips, the broken spar that had taken those thought safe in its rigging and trapped them in the sea. The chair with the missing leg, the tins of salt beef thrown like Christmas balls along the shore. The body without its face, sheared from its base in the skull by hitting and hitting the rock. The limbs and the shorn flesh the wind lifts from the foam and plasters the trees. And above all the distant diaphone of Cape Beale that low, strobing, querulous sound of danger, every 60 seconds.

The field of devastation that is ocean in its hanging fury, the coconuts, canned peaches, sodden salt-riddled biscuits, the remnants of the kedge anchor, hawser, the matches of oars and timber formerly strapped to the deck and the bodies rolling over, first one arm in the air and then the back, then the arm, the stomach. And then the body of the Greek sailor on the end of his line, drowned from being pulled back through buildings of wave. This body Nwanemecha throws between two teeth of rock. He stands on it and jumps and jumps until it is wedged so securely it will not pull free.

Nwanemecha climbs through the tunnels of sea, one minute hanging above the trough and the next the swell crashes over and he holds his breath as it rolls so many feet above him, and when it passes on, he is hanging before the next. And then the red hair spreads out upon the foam as though it is a fragment a mouth might not want to swallow. As the next vertical face comes across him he reaches down into the soap strewn surface and his fingers close. With his two legs around the line his two bare feet in the sky, he reaches his body down and pulls the hair up. Into the air rises the white, drenched, lifeless face of Mary Ellen Louise Victoria Lockwood. Foot over foot he inches back, hair in his hand, back into the wilderness that has shaped him for this moment of strength.

Through the surf Nwanemecha carries this woman, past the bobbing tins of nuts, past the swollen blankets, the life buoys without their bodies, the rolling bodies, past the body with its fingers stretched and wedged into the crevices of rocks that in the night of the sea’s anger has worn through jacket and then shirt and then the breast so that nothing is left of the chest but the 12 pairs of ribs and a face that is the sucked, red, lifeless remains of flesh and the brain nods in its broken cavity. Beyond where he can see, the tugs Salvor and Czar sent from Victoria, the US Steamship Queen city and the City of Topeka steam beyond the breakers unable to come closer. He also does not see Henry Burgoyne Lockwood in the Darling River cabin lift the receiver off the hook and crank the magneto for the crackling entrance to Victoria. Nwanemecha grasps this unknown woman by the shoulders and shakes until her eyes open and then he sinks to his knees among the bodies rolled into nothing by the gravel like sandpaper, the 67 bodies that will never be found.


“We can’t tell the identity of this poor sod,” Henry Lockwood looks down upon the Cable Station dock at the row of bundles stretched out, the odiferous blankets of the bloating bodies. His eyes look up to the great brown cupola on top of the Cable Station, the artifice of it, the ‘vanity’, he thinks, for there is no bell for all its beauty and apparent good use. A small lamp glows in the penthouse window to the left, the end of his suite above the bachelor quarters, they more an afterthought bunkhouse conjoined to the main chateau, entering on the second floor to ruin, to his mind, the aspect of the brown wooden building with its wainscoting under the eaves, its frontispiece that the contractor would not add. He pulls the white mask of cotton gauze intended to protect him from infection. “Phhh.”

Soon at the top, he succeeds in stripping the clothes from his wife’s willess body, notices the nipples with their small ravaged down of red hair puckered as though asking him to bury his face and love them. Into his own pajamas he pulls her as she chatters and clings her arms to her wet, coarsened face. And looks bereft, without will to focus on his face, and he becomes worried. That notion he resolves by pouring a long crystal glass of whiskey and fills her lips until she sputters it out and he wipes her chin and feels calmed. He places her among goose down, as Tlako stokes the fire in the grate in the corner.

Tlako brings more chinks of wood from the box in the hall and places them by the fire and then there is the small sound of her twig broom sweeping up the hearth so large she stands under its mantle. She sits on an ottoman with her knees bent up as far as her great swelling belly will allow.

Lockwood notices only the circle of mud around her heel, how it is white as glass below and then muddied. Here is a dirty, black-haired spirit of the forest sat in the corner a washcloth in her hand and motioning to Mary Ellen Louise. Mary lies with her face to the fire so that its glow invades her features, the straight short nose, the forehead with its ring of soft red down, the chin with its small point. When Tlako stands by her side and takes her face in both her hands, the other woman looks up without comprehension, and shakes as the warmth of the two outstretched hands seeps into her cheeks.

Lockwood clears his throat from the door and motions with his finger for Tlako to follow into the hall. She crosses the floor slowly, heavily, holding her belly, a deliberately careful walk.

“… we won’t be, ah… needing your services anymore.” Henry says and takes from his vest pocket the long slim wallet on its chain. He separates a few thin bills and then, pointing to her belly, a few more and hands them to Tlako. “Thank you ever so much for your display of concern.”

Tlako receives the money into her hand and stands staring at it in the dim light of the hallway. She says nothing but her lips move and her eyebrows form a question, a broken one that soon melts away and she is left with flat, beaten, gratitude across her cheeks. She tries once more to open her mouth for she does not understand his words and she does not understand this money, this man she has known the warmth of and has watched him dress himself, the long stockings he snaps with confidence to the straps behind his calves, and thought herself most blessed and safe within his warm bed.

“…well, I have my wife now. …you understand?” Lockwood gestures toward the door from which a soft golden glow issues. “You understand wife, don’t you.” he turns her by the shoulders and softly leads her down the black hall with her hand of money. At the last he pats her shoulder and when her black eyes turn and catch the light, he smiles in his old way, the way that would rival the sun for its honesty and comfort.

“You turn me…” she says, but cannot not finish the word ‘away’. For he is standing so tall in his long coat, with the turned down collar at his neck so white and commanding. These thoughts she has difficulty putting into words in her head. She feels only the confusion of bat flight that inscribes the dusk.

But Lockwood has already turned and gone back into the warm room and closed the heavy wooden door and flipped the lock. “Oh, she needed to have her baby.” he says though Mary Ellen Louise, Ellie as she is known and called, has not spoken. Her eyes follow him across the room. “Don’t fret,” he says, irritably, “I let her go with money.”

Mary Ellen Louise, with only her head and its tress of hair spread out to dry, does not quite understand him, her face forming a question and then she answers, “We must do more.”

Lockwood is quick to answer though his hands play with the double click button of the telegraphic station below. “I would, believe me I would, but these Indians do not accept charity well. Strong principles on such matters.”

He sits down on the bed and takes her hands and says most encouragingly, “I’d just leave it go, my dear,” he smiles and moves his fingers lightly across her perplexed forehead, smoothing out the wrinkles.

“Well, who is that girl?” his wife persists.

“I don’t know really… whether she has a name or not.”

“She must have a name.”

“Just a bit of a stray really, I’d imagine,” and he tucks the comforter around her chin so that she is contained and warm. Then he looks backward into his mind, moves his eyes as though thinking, recalling. “Oh, I think it means something like thank you…” and shakes his head at the amusement of that. “Isn’t that something? You have to get to know these people, the irony, how they tell you what you want to hear, and slip through your hands because they can’t do an honest day’s work. Obsequious as Chinamen.”


By and by with the great countenance of that being no one ever sees but assures themselves is watching in benevolence, though he refuses to make the bush burn on command, there are the sea waves that wash the western shore. They fall softly now with the sound of new cream on the pebbles of the beach below Kee-hin where one lonely, wet, three-pair-of-pants man sits in the rain that lifted the backs of ocean this morning in easy careless lumps of brassy sun that failed to materialize over Cape Beale. This is a dead zone that in fog fails to warn any of its wide apron of rock and kelp-strewn underwater real estate that a man of Lockwood’s quick temperament would surely purchase for whatever advantage could be wrought – if only the ocean would roll back for ambition.

Another kind of ambition, one dowdy, ancient and wet, courses down the face of Nwanemecha. And if there were juice from the quahmis bulb he harvests in the swampy ground behind his fortress, it would flow down his chin like some great extrusion of liquid mental pain. His white teeth crunch the sweet bulb as his eyes look upon the restless swell that is a mockery to his unhappiness. His eyes have the look of too many seagulls drifted across the wind and among them comes the small wooden craft with its five strokes on one side, then five strokes on the other so that it weaves its zigzag course down Trevor Channel and crosses to the cove where mariners dodge the weather and, not so surprisingly, is known as Dodger’s cove.

Closer now, the figure can be seen bending to one side then bending to the other. But what cannot be perceived are the tears that might stream down her cheeks, for there are none and so, being close enough to witness the whites of her eyes not brimming with salt water she herself would generate, will leave Nwanemecha wondering why not as she leans forward with one hand on her belly, then straight back so that her belly protrudes from the scant gunwales, prodding the small sky, the old canoe with its human teeth pounded in as ornament in the time when prisoners where honoured with having their skulls smashed to the point of rendering up their hard, white, beaky teeth for the use of the living.

Tlako’s canoe now bears off its course as her figure twists forward then back and finally lays down with the rocking that carries its gravid load toward the Sleeping Lady shore, which at this intermediate tide exposes forth the perfect rock image of the lady that sleeps under the sea.

“Not any more. Not one,” Nwanemecha says and kicks the copper pot in which the grubby things he has gathered from the beach now stew. The mussels and manilla clams, the geoduck, the butter, dim white creatures that hold the world out as their only claim to entering life. The cedar planks he wedged from trees and carried up on his back lie in moldy piles. The poles he has set hang like lonely rafters and the silver that coats the beach wood now gives its message to him: no one has come. No one will come. And could he hear the laughter of the spirit within the thing, its ko-uts-ma, that it seems only he remembers, he would lay his only remaining skin for the cedars transit into death, and throw it in the fire.

The wet potato sack he lifted from the corpses on the Bamfield dock is filled with the sacred swan down, matted and saved, for no one, it seems to him. The plucked bird swings upon its rope. The dog salmon is sliced with his new lineman’s knife, a bayonet that in some distant battle are said pushed into the mouths of guns. He will hang the slices and they will harden in the wind into leather like a wind chime made of wood.

Why even he is no longer what he imagines. Could he have been so much like the leaves that are a haze when the sun deigns to swing through spring? Apparently so. For in his wish to hack his way back to the true values and religion, he has left the cedar still rooted in its spot. And the figure of the killer whale, the figure of the frog… and now from them lift small twigs that show the pole has repudiated him.

He pulls from a pocket his box of clammy matches with the image of a sailing ship. “What kind of man am I that I can’t even light a fire?” Below, the waves pass one after the other in endless dumb procession and he chews the fat white root of quahmis. The sea has no answer other than moving forward, driven by wind. The gooseneck barnacles flop one way and then the other. But where is there to go and admit defeat? To Bamfield where his father, Klatsmick, has built upon the shore? Nu-muk-a-mis where the island of retreat and isolation stands on the Tsa-uk estuary? Pachena, where he has helped build with hammers and nails the lifesaving station for the next of the white ships? Or Dodger Cove where the whiskey is shipped?

“I am defeated,” he says, eyes red with the effort of believing the past, as he descends with a pull of ferns in each hand, one after the other. Veins track across his brown forehead, long black hair whips from his eyes. What he means is that we, the Ohiaht are defeated. It is with reluctance that the gravel shore gives up his canoe; it rasps its small disapproval, and his legs make holes in the sea. This beach is where the Clallam people claimed revenge so many generations ago. The rock above is where his grandfather intended his own sacrifice to the resurrection of hope in the eyes of Klatsmick and his son. The former felt diminished and put the bottle to his lips. The latter wrote down his clairvoyance in William Eddy Banfield’s old wood- and iron-clasped writing case. It rests in the bottom of the canoe that moves forward one stroke and then the glide and then one stroke, head and shoulders bent in mist that comes to the eyes like swimming hair.

When his canoe reaches into the distance, Nwanemecha looks into Tlako’s vessel and sees the waxy purple fish that is held within her dress, the splattering of blood that is the price of all living things: the afterbirth like liver over the bottom of the boat. A cedar line he ties to the bow and his back bends, stroking her home. To her home with its two roofs. There the fire speaks softly of its need to grow and the smoke penetrates the sky from within the lumps of grass he throws on.


Mary Ellen Louise Victoria, sitting with her dresses pulled up on her lap, reaches out tentatively to the button on the wall. While her finger suspends itself in midair, her eyes trace the electrical line up the wall, across the ceiling to where it exits to God knows where. Her finger slowly retraces its arc through the air and instead touches the roll of white paper on its brass arm.

“Henry,” she calls out, “what is this light switch that is not a light switch?”

With a handful of crinkly, onion-skin, blue papers in his hand, Henry opens the door of the lavatory and runs his hand through his hair, in a way that has always charmed Mary Louise, its absorption, its distance, its boyishness. “What?”

She points at the little switch in its round wooden stand in which the three screws have received at least a half dozen coats of paint so that it drips in a forever frozen drip off the bottom of the circle.

“Oh, don’t push that,” he cries and then his eyes widen and he laughs. “The grand exalted pooh-bahs at the Transpacific Cable Board, in Ottawa, in their infinite wisdom decided that the Gentlemen on Imperial Service need to depend on the efficient and servile services of the Chinese during their most private movements. I have had to add these to the architectural designs in every loo in the Station.”

This brings only a question to Mary’s eyes as she smoothes her undergarments and smoothes the pleats in her dress as she rises to leave the stuffy little room with its oblong globe lantern on the ceiling.

“If you had pressed that my dear, it would have summoned the Chinamen from the bowels of the building where they labour over our sheets and pillow cases and bloomers.” Henry moves across the British India carpet with its fuzzy woolen roses and curlicues and imperialistic tan leaves that look for all the world like crowns. He kicks off his slippers and slips into his shoes and looks out upon Bamfield Inlet and over the Lifesaving Green on the Mills Peninsula to the surly blue hills that resemble animals forever coming and coming to the black shores that he is sure to purchase.

“I need you to sign something, and read this cable I will be sending this morning.”

When she has read the sheet and a question begins to form in her eyes, he says, “The broohaha engendered over that trifling bit of marble that freshens our bleak little chamber pot room and the most ugly quarry material was sent back, sending that stoat of a man, Digby, against me, and thankfully into a ruinous fury that made him look a right knocker, I ah,” here he considers his words more carefully and steps upon the balcony. He puts his shoe up onto the railing of the balustrade and buttons his vest buttons. “Look,” he says, turning, “it’s quite simple really. I can’t get further government work while I have claims against them for non-payment of the Parliament commission. Toads, a battalion of the warty creatures.”

Henry Burgoyne rubs the first two fingers of his right hand against their thumb and smiles as Mary Louise rolls her eyes and takes the fountain pen from his shirt pocket and dashes her swirling signature upon the paper. He puts his head back and laughs out his great amusement. He has outdistanced the opposition once again. “From our little wilderness abode we have under our feet the very means to contact every business man on God’s good globe. What luck.”

“Serendipity is where you find it,” Mary says and puts her arms around him from behind and closes her eyes.


Henry points down the hill where the marine cable lays affixed to its concrete abutment and then under the shore building, under the dock disappears into the sea for its 3,459 nautical mile trip across the Pacific to Fanning Island. An ocean’s worth of torredo worms work without success on the cable lying on the bottom of the sea.

He forms a circle with his first finger and thumb. “Inside the cable is an 1/8 of an inch copper wire covered with gutta-percha. Then to protect it from those nasty worms a strip of brass tape wound spirally, jute for packing and an armour of steel wires. The shore end there is heavily armoured so ships and tides don’t part it like a strand of hair. Add a copper ground wire going out to sea to neutralize local electrical disturbances and you have 2″ thick wire running from that building just down there out the harbour and many miles past Cape Beale. And the Colonia just chuffed out of sight dropping over the horizon for more than 4000 miles.”

“We truly live in an amazing age.” Still with her eyes closed Mary Lousie contemplates their good fortune, which she feels is due, in a more subterranean level of her mind. In any event it is the sheer excitement of Henry, this confidence that streams from him like an electric current, this warmth and she feels so safe, so alive with his back and its huge inventive heart beating against her breasts.

“I have pre-empted land in the Sarita basin, and purchased Tsa-he-tsa for subdivision into the new Bamfield plan.” He points to the west across the sweet blue inlet to Aguilar Point. Filled with vision and good will, he feels he could breath in and in and never stop filling his lungs with the cool tangy sea that rises and drops before him as though all the laws of the natural universe were laid at his feet for his pleasure. “New Venice. What do you think? Would that be a better name than Bamfield. Sounds like Bumbfield.”

Across the inlet long saws move back and forth like blue lines at the base of the trees. On each end is a Chinaman in his white smock dirtied by the bruising red clay that lies among the roots. Their wooden sandals are long since discarded and gumboots climb up their calves. One pushes the saw with its two-inch teeth one way, then the other pushes it back, and so the forest succumbs. The arbutus, the Sitka, the cedar, the hemlock and the yew each one falling like a man with a bullet, life like a red hose out his head. Yes, progress.

“That hum you hear is the generator. We have the crew buck the extra wood, ferry them across in the lighters, and up the long track here. That reminds me, you may see one that is disfigured on this half of his face. The accumulator batteries supply direct current to the cable. And the Chinamen were hauling them up the long slope beside us. The rows and rows of Leclenche cells. And of course someone slipped and the sal-ammoniac liquid drenched him. He just stood on the wet slope, panting as his smock turned black. I yelled and yelled from up here but by the time these bugs understood – me making this silly pantomime of stripping my clothes and jumping into the sea – the man was in ghastly pain without knowing the course and he ran around in circles trying to get away from what he didn’t know. The foreman trapped him in his arms and threw the by now crazed man from the dock and then jumped himself.”

But Mary Louise has detached herself and gone back into the living room. On his desk and overflowing onto the floors are drawings. What endless energy her husband possesses. There are: a swimming pool with a glass and iron roof so you can look at the sun in the day and stars at night; a squat sandstone building with rows and rows of window, ah, yes, a school, she surmises; The Lake Louise Chateau; the Carnegie Library; the Prince Rupert hotel, a simple wood structure of little character; new designs for the Saskatchewan Parliament buildings and others half sketched and his ruler and his rhinoceros foot hollowed out for his pencils and protractor and rubbers. And over all his neat square bold writing as though creating the whole of this new province of British Columbia and stretching east to encircle the rest of Canada. Then paddle-wheelers for the Yukon, a crumpled letter from Burns in Calgary and the beef to ship north. Yes, Henry needs a filing system and she will set about creating it.

“But you know, I need something more important than this to do.”


The greatest empire that man has ever known, upon which the sun may never set, upon the dining room wall the Mercator Projection of the entire world with every country painted red so imperial pride may swell in the breast of every Gentleman on Imperial Service. And the Fifth Regiment with all their shiny instruments, the drum and clarinet and trumpet and French horn and flugelhorn added for its brassy bass note rhythm. The strains of empire make even Henry Burgoyne Lockwood stand hat in his hand and all the men with their drinks before the autumnal fire. The clatter of dish and platter through the swinging doors to the pantry silences. The tune of Elgar’s that expresses it all in one sharp: G F sharp G A E D. With flugelhorn beating the steady bass four count marching rhythm beneath and behind with its grand incidental C sharp in the third and seventh interval. The incidental F in the eighth emphasized by the queer and throaty French horn descending as the sun might do in all its red glory. And as clarinets will do, given completely to honey, soaring between phrases in linked arpeggios that variously wind their way liquidly from low to high and even higher than the bounds of Empire.

But for a moment, when the strains of Pomp and Circumstance are ended, all in the dining room are hushed and then great applause from the only chests that can swell so loud at such a tune. And to Mary Louise’s right, the station manager, small finger in the corner of his eye, rummages with his papers.

“Does one’s heart good all this exciting wa-wa,” Henry says to her and winks his eye.

“Yes,” she answers, but also wonders: what is it that this man who is my husband may take as dear and without derision and without pulling away that eye that might as well contain within a tool for measuring the wing speed of a humming bird?

Outside the darkened window the glow of the golden lamps casts a pretty dappled bit of sun across the stilled night waters of Bamfield Inlet and even to the shore of Dodger Cove some many miles distant. There, Tlako sits there with her infant within her clothes. She can see the pretty gold fingers stroking the humps of black water and the stars that have been so constant in her sky.

“Oh what name is there for you my man, what name for you born on the waves? Would it be T’she o shaht?” But Tlako cannot remember what the words mean, for there is in her a fading comprehension of her language, the one before Chinook that allowed the trading of dogfish oil, and pelt.

“My grandfather would give his name though we are forbidden to mention it,” replies the desultory Nwanemecha. He breaks a branch over his knee and pokes it in the small fire that flares upon their faces like a kind of understanding. “Perform the oos-im-itch?”

Tlako looks across the fire as she winds her finger around the skull of her new son. She knows the impossibility of performing that which is forgotten, and is ashamed to say this to Nwanemecha’s earnest face brightened by the burst of a small cell within the heart of wood on the fire. So she says nothing and the silence is between them. There is no point persisting, she thinks, but this does not stop the man with three pairs of pants. He looks up to her and reaches within his soil covered and dirtied clothes for the two sovereigns given him that morning for the chopping of the cedar with the dry feet. “These English with their measurements of their own appendages. Four of their feet and eight of their feet and another four.”

All night another story falls around them. It is the season of spiders, the season when the brown many-legged creatures line the paths with nets that catch upon the face and break before the sun has shown the heavy drugging dew that on its thin spindles is a beauty. This is the season of leaves the size of heads that break soundlessly from their twigs and let the air twirl them in circles to the ground. And in the morning the gold that is autumn lays at their feet as beautiful as the All-Red sunrise whose first tendrils bathe the limbs of Nwanemecha. His arms grow into their rhythm and his mouth brings forth a cry and then another as the triangular blade stitches down the channel now known as Trevor. He is heading for the bounty of fall, the small sound within the Tsa-uk River no more than a mouth opening, no more than water passing pin prick teeth and now the gill opening to the slim intelligence and blood rushing through the fanlike rakers, drawn into the three chambered heart that Nwanemecha will see beat on its own, removed from the fleshy body of keta nerka that with its teeth like a dog he will string upon a string.

The late sun with its moon casts its white full glow like the round yellow eye of cormorant, carrying the canoe. Against the mist coming off in pyramids, the black shape of a man wades the shallows in the nervous water that is the fins of dog salmon mouthing the early morning and within their red and yellow and blue barred sides the milt and roe labours heartily to draw the bucks on that first leap that lands it on its flank and then another so that the fish seems suspended above the small pyramids that move along the shore and the black hair swings against the white and the spear is hurled and the line drawn back.

The silent image in the gold-infused mist makes the woman who has come by lighter realize its small woof-chuff two-stroke engine mars the silence of Nu-muk-a-mis. She steps ashore in tiny boots with buttons up the sides, the one at her ankle that always refuses to be hooked. Mary Louise Ellen Victoria cannot help but hold her breath and touch the arm of Henry, “Isn’t that so beautiful,” she says in a whisper as though if she speaks louder the apparition will disappear.

And he, softened by her open display of affection, stirs within his buttoned trousers and thinks it love. He is moved to indulgence. “Yes,” is all he says.

He carries in his hand a rolled-up paper and with his gloved hand helps her step across the wide shore, littered with clam and shell of crab, the Dungeness that is so much favoured and so ill lit with intelligence that at low tide he has but to row along the Port Desire shore and slip the oar under such a delicacy. It will grasp so hard and will not let go that up he lifts it streaming from the water and turns it over in the bucket for her amusement.

The paper is unrolled upon the sand and a stone placed at each corner. “Here,” he says, “on the southern shore, they will build the camp.” And when he lifts his eyes to point out the mountains to the north like a set of molars moving to the interior, “Fine timber, the best of this colony. And all the way back and all the mountains to the south of Sarita. What do you think of that?” And when their eyes behold the tips of mountain with their bases dissolved in mist, the Indian, Nwanemecha, is gone, as though he has never been here. Inside the fog he is humping the carcasses as large as his leg to the fleshing knives, to the air drying racks made from the eternal friend of cedar who in the past had to be propitiated. But now on this subject his mind is growing dim.

“For the father of my own worthless father,” he says, “I am thankful that you have brought your bodies to me and given me my food. I am thankful that you, great dog, will return. I am thankful that your…” here he searches and finally finds the human equivalent, of what remains once the human body is dead: “chee-hah, will go away.” Then he thinks again, “Your Ko-uts-ma that stands within you and then always without, will wish you to come once again.” His arms are coated with the life-giving blood that oozes in its own slow way down his chest and arms and thighs.

Henry Lockwood helps his wife and lady to her seat and pushes the thin craft back before the tide can strand them. He rattles the bucket and its crabs, all on their backs and eight red legs a piece with pincers that can snap his fingers, lying upon their upside down chests. “Up there is the thin vein of copper and the shingle-bolt road the current owner has kindly put down for our convenience.” And he pulls the cord to leave a small puff of smoke in the morning, the blue grey cloud of diatoms that burn and chuff, one deposit and then another along the black and silent shore.


To Chief Commissioner Wells

I hereby notify you that Henry Burgoyne Lockwood variously of Victoria, B.C. has assigned to me, all his claims against the Government of British Columbia, for services rendered as Architect on the Parliament Buildings of British Columbia at Victoria, B.C.

Bamfield, M.L.E.V. Lockwood

To R.G. McLachlan, Victoria

Dip needle survey discloses an anomalous area in the vicinity of Pachena Creek. Capital. Register claim east Cape Beale.

From Bamfield, H.B. Lockwood

To R.G.McLachlan, Victoria

Henderson Lake – sulphide of iron carrying 6 – 20% in copper with some gold.

Tzartus – copper, Sarita – magnetite. As procedure established heretofore. Lat/long to follow.

Bamfield, H.B Lockwood

To R.G McLachlan, Victoria

Sechart – native mercury found in situ in the form of minute globules scattered through a thin seam of cinnabar traversing a greenish felsite. Marble. Procedure as before.

Bamfield, H.B. Lockwood

To R.G. McLachlan

Toquart Bay., Great Expectations claim – copper. Deep water port. Ton of copper ore to be treated by Victoria Metallurgical Works.

Told Anderson busy elsewhere, thus expect price advantage on Lord of the Isle and The Crown Prince claims. Shingle-bolt road access to mine head previously installed. To our benefit.

Bamfield, H.B. Lockwood

To Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, engineer _______(check Reksten)

Sold 11,000 acres Nechako Valley $100,000. Retained 50,000 acres Bulkeley Valley. Felicities. I buy whiskey in Boomerang Saloon.

Bamfield, H.B. Lockwood

To ______ Canadian Pacific Railway

Play non-committal until courted. Opinion of Times reporter secure and so thereby opinion of public. Plans for Amusement Centre, Crystal Gardens and Pool deposited. Handbills to be prepared – 10,000.

Deal: spend not less than $200,000 provided city leases site for one dollar per year; exempt building from taxation for 20 years; provide free water for pool for 20 years; and freeze current taxes paid by Empress Hotel for same period.

In return for $200,000 – Amusement open to public at popular prices and etc., etc. – new concessions needed. Municipal chappies on side when explain it doesn’t actually cost city tuppence.

From Bamfield, H.B. Lockwood


Pity the poor story teller trapped within his story like a bug in sap waiting for the slow yellow layers to wash over and trap him or her forever. It is the complete irrevocable irrelevance of the story teller that galls, of narrators who toil unseen in the margins of pages and whose characters and events push them aside with their chomping ambition and enthusiasm for the thump of their corporeal hearts within their chests for the short duration of their stay upon the stage. Even narrators can be swept away by the audacity and cunning, the duplicity of their spawn. Take Henry Burgoyne Lockwood, for instance, with the blue onion paper he is about to take down to the ‘workings’ for the duplex key transmission along a thin wire that passes from spruce to windblown spruce all the way to Victoria, where if an ear were placed, such as one of Nwanemecha, to the line tacked with a huge spike rusting in the wind, it could not decipher the current marching 90 miles to the capital of British Columbia, province of the only, newly-minted country in the lawful world called Canada.

“Just a simple architect ma’am. That’s what I want people to think, to underestimate me. Then, my dear I’ve got them.” Henry lifts the sheet from Mary Louise’s hand and rushes to the head of the stairs. The sound of his footsteps going down two at a time retreats after the tail of his coat. In his hand the paper flutters under the yellowy globe lights. One bears the symbols that give the Canadian Pacific Railway what it wants for the new Empress Hotel. The other, if the paper could be slowed for a moment, reads:

To Chief Commissioner Wells

I have heard it rumoured that there may be a Competition for this particular Government work at the Lieutenant Governors proposed dwelling site. I sincerely hope, however, that you will not so decide, for I do not think it is a class of building suitable for competition and I think all other architects will agree with me on this.

The charm of a Residence, as you are aware, lies in its harmony with the surroundings, and in broad and picturesque groupings and choice of materials – qualities not particularly observable in geometric drawings.

In a competition a more showy and ornate elevation on paper would most likely be sent in – which whilst more attractive on paper, would in execution look commonplace and tawdry.

Bamfield, H.B. Lockwood

From his desk, amid the drawings, and crumpled paper, the pencil shavings, and the small black bits of rubber, Mary Louise extracts another telegram Henry composed by wavering light, as the steam generator began to hum some hours before the sun lifted its weakened self from the southeast and staggered arthritically across the horizon as though feeling the cold that bunches the space between the thin layers of gauze that all creatures breath and the dark that is everlasting:

To City Council, Victoria

I regret to learn that you propose obtaining designs for the Carnegie library by appointing an architect by secret ballot, opening the way to favoritism, in place of having a competition: giving a fair field to all and no favour.

In a competition each man has a chance of showing the best building he can design. In the ballot system only one man has this chance, and the city does not know what kind of building they are to have, whereas in a competition they do.

In order that the aldermen may select the most competent man to erect this building, it must be assumed that the aldermen are competent themselves to judge the professional abilities of the several architects of the city: but are they?

I cannot see how you can be any more qualified to give an authoritative decision on this point than I am to judge of the professional attainments of musicians, and I should think myself impertinent if I attempted to do so.

I certainly must decline to allow my name to be balloted for in any such manner.

Furthermore, it is generally supposed also that the amount of canvassing that has been going on, and I think you must have all been canvassed, must thwart your judgment. In fact I have heard it said that several aldermen have already pledged themselves, and had done so before this system of secret balloting was adopted.

From Bamfield, H.B. Lockwood

Standing on the balcony watching the slow-moving Chinamen board their fragile boat and sit with their axes on the short row across to the Lifesaving Green and then the quiet shuffle and soon the first timber heard in the still winter air to crack and then the whoosh of its capitulation, Mary does not know what to think. At first a smile crosses her lips and her head is thrown back and the small puffs of her exquisite air appear above her head. And then after staring hard at the paper and rubbing the back of her hand with the other as her lips turn into concentration, she bends over the railing and holds it with the white knuckles of her hand and swings back and forth before the first sifting of flakes slide side to side like innocence itself.

“But you just can’t say this,” Mary Louise implores when Henry returns and closes the French doors. He remains at the windowsill his eyes on one of the last unfortunate flies to find itself on this side of death, bumping a pane of invisibility that is all that stands between itself and the crumpling death that is simple cold.

“You’ve just argued for a competition in the previous telegram. And then you argue against it in this.”

Henry shrugs his shoulders and places his right hand flat upon the sill. Sliding it across, he forms a fist and then turns to his betrothed. “What does that matter?”

“It’s not honest,” she blurts at him. And though fire is in her voice, he is not perturbed. He holds his hand out to her and opens it. From that pink, white, uncalloused hand the fly escapes its bonds, leaving Henry’s and Mary Louise’s eyes locked on one another, and all the words that Louise would say choked in her neck.

Behind him black tendrils grow from Henry’s head and then the windowpanes shudder and the sound of manmade thunder shakes the room. Across the fifty yards of black water, the Chinamen reassemble from behind their trees. Each man approaches a rock the size of his arms and struggles to lift it. Then each one moves clumsily to the water as though now a weight of gravity makes their steps too deliberate. At water’s edge, each rock is dropped and to a man each turns back to the edge of the explosion then bends to another piece of earth separated from itself as surely as the present leaf of paper is separated from the past.

A small, stubby-bowed tug appears with its line curving down and up to a barge behind. Upon the barge, upon its rollers, a building cut in half and shored within its rafters. To distract his wife from her vexation, Henry moves easily to say, “The Life Saving buildings from Pachena. McKay and others, perhaps Ostrom or Cox, or those crazy Russians who are so strong one of them carried an iron stove all the way to the bay, will set it up as a General Store.”

What Mary Louise sees is quite different. Surely there is the quiet braiding of wake, the slackening line, and the building with its fresh orange wood severed from the peak of roof to foundation. But there is also a figure standing on the roof. A man with the soft flakes of snow settling on his feet planted on either side of the crest. A man with his three pairs of pants, and with his broad brown back. With a hand on his hip, he is impatient, bored. And with his other hand he throws a long handled axe into the air. It swings up and its blade glints in the soft cool light of winter, the handle swinging faster in circles than its counter weight. And the hand is held out and the handle smacks the white palm. Then the axe is lofted again. And when this game no longer amuses, with both his arms he swings the axe between his feet and leaves it quivering within the uppermost rafter.

“Don’t these people feel the cold?” is all she says, and pulls her collar ends together. She is spare and repelled, down a tunnel.

“A dark horse that one, an uncontrollable factor, intractable. Not to be trusted.” Henry will give this Nwanemecha, this lost, testy soul one of the new-boy navy blue blazers trimmed with embroidery and red piping, with a red crown emblazoned on the left-hand breast pocket. Yes, these Siwashes are caterwauled by a bit of golden thread.

8,234 Words