• U.S.

Canada: NOVA SCOTIA: Lighthouse Saga

2 minute read

On bleak Nichol Island, off Nova Scotia’s east coast, a lone white house stands above the rocky shoreline. One day last fortnight Lightkeeper James Richard Hutt, 33, picked up his shotgun, set off down the shore to add some ducks and rabbits to the family larder. By dusk he had not returned. His slight, dark-haired wife, Pauline, climbed the steep steps of the lighthouse tower, and lit the twin wicks herself.

As the evening wore on, Pauline Hutt grew frightened. Finally she bundled up her nine-year-old son and together they began a frantic search in the biting zero wind and darkness. When she found her husband, he was trailing blood as he crawled toward home. He mumbled that he had slipped on the ice, struck his gun against a rock and shot himself.

Young Donald ran home for a toboggan. Mother & son strained and tugged to pull Hutt up the icy hill, gave up, exhausted. They carted down blankets, built a fire, heated rocks to keep the wounded man warm. Then, as the boy kept solitary watch, Mrs. Hutt stumbled back to the lighthouse, desperately signaled to the mainland by blacking out the light with a curtain. She sounded the fog alarm, built seven brush fires on the hill. No help came. At 10 o’clock next morning Hutt died.

Three times that day Pauline Hutt tried to launch a 12-ft. boat. Three times the lashing wind and waves smashed it back on shore. Finally, after dark, she and the boy got away. She pulled on the oars, lost one, somehow made the two miles through ice floes to the wharf near her parents’ home. Neighbors brought James Hutt’s body ashore.

Last week, her brother and a cousin took Pauline Hutt back to the lighthouse, to carry on until a man could be found to take her husband’s job. She hoped it would be soon—”I don’t think I can stand it out there very long now.”

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com