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´╗┐Title: Left on the Labrador - A Tale of Adventure Down North
Author: Wallace, Dillon, 1863-1939
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Left on the Labrador - A Tale of Adventure Down North" ***

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The LABRADOR TALES of DILLON WALLACE

Left on the Labrador
A Tale of Adventures Down North. Illustrated $1.75

The Testing of Jim MacLean
A Tale of the Wilds of Labrador. Illustrated $1.75

Troop One of the Labrador
A Tale of Life Out-of-Doors. Illustrated $1.75

The Ragged Inlet Guards
A Story of Adventure in Labrador. Illustrated $1.75

Grit-A-Plenty
A Tale of the Labrador Wild. Illustrated $1.75

The Gaunt Gray Wolf
Fur-Trapping on the Labrador. Illustrated $1.75

Ungava Bob
A Tale of the Fur Trappers. Illustrated $1.75

The Story of Grenfell of the Labrador
A Boy's Life of Wilfred T. Grenfell. Illustrated $1.50

The Lure of the Labrador Wild
The Story of the Exploring Expedition conducted by Leonidas Hubbard, Jr.
Illustrations and Maps. 8vo, cloth $2.50

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[Illustration: HE HELD THE AX READY TO STRIKE THE FIRST ATTACKING
ANIMAL. (See page 189.)]

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LEFT ON THE LABRADOR

A Tale of Adventure Down North

By DILLON WALLACE

Author of "Troop One of the Labrador," "The Testing of Jim MacLean,"
"The Lure of the Labrador Wild," etc., etc.

ILLUSTRATED

NEW YORK--CHICAGO
Fleming H. Revell Company
London and Edinburgh

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Copyright, MCMXXVII, by
FLEMING H. REVELL COMPANY

New York: 158 Fifth Avenue
Chicago: 851 Cass Street
London: 21 Paternoster Square
Edinburgh: 99 George Street

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

To Her
Whose Never Failing
Loyalty and Devotion
is My Fount of Inspiration
My Wife

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This life is not all sunshine,
  Nor is it yet all showers;
But storms and calms alternate,
  As thorns among the flowers,
And while we seek the roses,
  The thorns full oft we scan,
Still let us, though they wound us,
  Be happy as we can.

This life has heavy crosses,
  As well as joys to share,
And griefs and disappointments,
  Which you and I must bear.
And if we may not follow
  The path our hearts would plan,
Let us make all around us
  As happy as we can.

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CONTENTS

       I. THE LOST PASSENGER                     9
      II. THE TWIGS OF PINCH-IN TICKLE          19
     III. SKIPPER ZEB FIXES MATTERS             25
      IV. MISSING                               34
       V. WRECKED                               43
      VI. THE CAMP AT THE DUCK'S HEAD           53
     VII. A SNUG BERTH                          64
    VIII. THE TRAIL OF A LYNX                   77
      IX. THE FAR WILDERNESS                    86
       X. SKIPPER ZEB'S TRAPPING PATH           99
      XI. THE WORST FIX OF ALL                 112
     XII. THE PANGS OF STARVATION              126
    XIII. THE GREAT SNOWY OWL                  141
     XIV. THE BAY FASTENS                      146
      XV. LOST IN THE BARRENS                  156
     XVI. A WALL OF SNOW                       171
    XVII. SKIPPER ZEB'S DOGS                   176
   XVIII. THE FIGHT WITH THE WOLVES            188
     XIX. CHARLEY'S NEW RIFLE                  198
      XX. THE REBELLION OF THE DOGS            213
     XXI. THE CARIBOU HUNT                     223
    XXII. THE STRANGER                         240
   XXIII. THE LOST FUR                         255
    XXIV. THE VENGEANCE OF THE PACK            266
     XXV. AMISHKU AND MAIGEN, THE INDIANS      273
    XXVI. THE END OF THE FIX                   281

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ILLUSTRATIONS
                                          Facing Page

HE HELD THE AX READY TO STRIKE THE FIRST
ATTACKING ANIMAL                                title

"SHE'S GONE! THE SHIP HAS GONE!" CRIED
CHARLEY IN SUDDEN FRIGHT                           18

SKIPPER ZEB'S OAR BROKE, AND THE BOAT WAS
DRIVEN UPON A ROCK                                154

THE GREAT PAW SENT TOBY SPRAWLING                 214

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I

THE LOST PASSENGER


Charley Norton was bored and unhappy. He stood at the starboard rail of
the mail boat gazing out at the cold, bleak rocks of the Labrador coast,
dimly visible through fitful gusts of driving snow.

Charley Norton and his father's secretary, Hugh Wise, had boarded the
ship at St. John's ten days before for the round trip voyage to Hopedale,
and during the voyage there had not been one pleasant day. Biting blasts
swept the deck, heralding the winter near at hand, and there was no
protecting nook where one could escape them and sit in any degree of
comfort. The cabin was close and stuffy, and its atmosphere was heavy
with that indescribable odor that rises from the bowels of old ships.
The smoking room, bare and dismal and reeking with stale tobacco smoke,
was deserted, save when the mail boat doctor and Hugh Wise were
occasionally discovered there in a silent game of checkers.

Charley had tried every corner of the ship to which he was admitted, and
had decided that, as uncomfortable as it was, he preferred the deck to
cabin or smoking room.

It was the middle of October, and the last voyage the mail boat was to
make until the end of the following June, when the winter's ice would
clear from the coast, and navigation would open for another short
summer. The last fishing schooner had already hurried southward to
escape the autumn gales and the blockade of ice, and the sea was
deserted save by the lonely mail boat, which was picking up the last of
the Newfoundlanders' cod fishing gear at the little harbours of the
coast.

"A swell time I'm having!" Charley muttered. "Not even a decent place on
the old ship where I can sit and read!"

"Not having a good time, eh?"

Charley looked up into the smiling face of Barney MacFarland, the second
engineer.

"Hello!" he exclaimed. "I didn't know anybody was around. I didn't hear
you."

"Having a rotten time?" Barney grinned good-naturedly.

"The worst I've ever had!" said Charley. "It's too cold to stay on deck
and too close and smelly inside, and there's no one to talk with. Mr.
Wise sprawls in his bunk reading silly novels he brought with him, when
he isn't playing checkers with the Doctor."

"'Tis a bad season to be coming down to The Labrador," suggested Barney.
"Though there's fog enough in July and August, we're having fine weather
too, with plenty of sunshine. 'Tis then the passengers are with us, with
now and again sightseers from the States. And the fishing places are
busy, with enough to see. Then's the time to come."

"I didn't pick the time," explained Charley, glad to have an opportunity
to talk into sympathetic ears. "Dad was going hunting in Newfoundland,
and he took me to St. John's with him. I thought I was going along, but
after we got to St. John's he said I was too young to hike through the
country, and that this trip on the mail boat would be more interesting
for me while he hunted. He sent Mr. Wise along to keep me company. He's
Dad's secretary. He's left me alone most of the time. Dad said I would
see Indians and Eskimos and loads of interesting things, but I've been
on the ship ever since we left, except at Hopedale when the Captain
took me ashore for an hour while we were lying there before we turned
back. That was dandy! I saw Eskimos, and Eskimo dogs, and I bought some
souvenirs at the Moravian Mission for Mother and some of the boys. But I
wasn't there half long enough to see everything. They never let me go
ashore in the boat at the harbours where we stop."

"Well, well, now! That is hard on you, b'y," agreed Barney
sympathetically. "Where is your home?"

"In New York. But Dad is so busy at his office that I don't see him
often. I thought I was going to have a dandy time with _him_!"

Charley choked back tears, which he felt it would be unmanly to shed,
and gazed out over the sea.

"Lad, when you gets lonesome to talk come down to the engine room when
it's my watch on," Barney invited heartily. "I'll show you the big
engines, and we'll chum up a bit. I'm off watch now, but I'll be on at
eight bells. That's four o'clock, land reckoning. I'll come and get you,
b'y, and show you the way."

"Thank you! Thank you ever so much!" Charley acknowledged gratefully, as
Barney left him.

The ship which had been standing off from the shore was now edging in
toward the land. Suddenly there came a long blast of the whistle. There
was activity upon the deck at once. Sailors were swinging a boat out
upon the davits. Charley hastened to join the sailors, and asked:

"Are we going to make a port?"

"Aye, lad," answered one of them good-naturedly.

"What place is it?" asked Charley.

"Pinch-In Tickle."

"Will it be a long stop?"

"Now I'm not knowin' how long or how short. We stop inside the Tickle to
take on fish and gear. I'm thinkin' 'twill be a half hour's stop, or
thereabouts."

"May I go ashore in the boat?"

"Ask the mate. I'm doubtin' there'll be room. The boat comes back with
full cargo at this harbour."

Charley turned his inquiry to the mate, who was directing the men.

"No, lad. I'm sorry," he answered, "but there'll be no room for
passengers."

It was always that way! Charley left them to return to his old place at
the rail. The ship had slowed to half speed, and was already picking her
way cautiously into the tickle, where the cliffs, nearly as high as the
masthead, were so close on either side that Charley believed he might
have touched them with a ten-foot pole.

At the end of two hundred yards the narrow tickle opened up into a
beautiful, sheltered harbour. Perched upon the rocks at the north side
of the harbour were some rude cabins. Opposite these the ship swung
about, the boat was lowered, and manned by four sailors, pulled to the
rocks that formed a natural pier for the fishing station.

There was some bitterness in Charley's heart as he watched the
retreating boat, and so occupied was he that he failed to observe, until
it was quite near, another boat pulling toward the ship. It was a small,
dilapidated old boat, with a boy of fourteen or thereabouts at the oars.

Charley leaned over the rail, and with much interest watched the boy
make the painter fast to the ladder, and then, like a squirrel, mount
the ladder to the deck.

The visitor was dressed much like the other natives that Charley had
seen. An Eskimo adikey, made of white moleskin cloth, with the hood
thrown back, served as a coat. His trousers were also of white moleskin,
and were tucked into knee-high sealskin boots with moccasined feet. From
under a muskrat fur cap appeared a round, smiling face, tanned a dark
brown, and a pair of bright, pleasant eyes.

"Hello!" said Charley. "Looking for some one?"

"No," answered the boy, "I'm just pullin' over to look at the ship."

Charley was seized by a sudden impulse, and acted on it instantly.

"Will you take me ashore? The ship will be here for half an hour, and
maybe longer. I'll give you a dollar if you'll take me ashore and bring
me back."

"And you wants to go I'll pull you ashore," agreed the boy cheerfully.
"I'll be goin' down and holdin' the boat up so you can get into she
easy."

Without parley he slipped over the side and down the ladder into the
boat, which he drew broadside to the ladder and there held it until
Charley, who followed, was seated astern.

"Where you wantin' to go now?" asked the boy. "To the boat landin'?"

"Just anywhere ashore," directed Charley. "Let's land over where I can
climb that hill and have a look around."

He indicated a low hill midway between the tickle and the cabins, and
the boy soon made a landing on a shelving rock, above which the hill
rose abruptly. Charley helped him pull the boat to a safe place, and
waited while he made the painter fast. Then the two began the ascent of
the hill.

"What's your name?" asked Charley.

"Toby Twig," answered the boy.

"My name is Charley Norton, and I'm from New York. I'm taking a cruise
in the mail boat."

"I'm wishin' every time I sees she come in that I could be takin' a
cruise in she! It must be wonderful fine."

"I don't think it is. It's too cold on deck and too smelly in the cabin.
It must get pretty cold here in winter. Where I live we hardly ever have
snow until the end of December."

"Aye, it does get wonderful cold," agreed Toby. "'Twill not be long now
till the harbour freezes and the sea too."

"Can't you use boats in winter?"

"No, we can't use un much longer now. We cruises with dogs in winter,
after the harbour and the sea freezes."

"It must be dreadfully lonesome with no boats coming in."

"I don't find un lonesome. There's aplenty to do. We hunts in winter,
and 'tis fine fun."

"Did you ever shoot a wolf?" asked Charley in some awe.

"No, but I sees un. Last winter I sees five wolves, but they keeps too
far away to shoot un."

"My, but I'd like to see a wild wolf! Did you ever see a bear?"

"Yes, I sees bears, black and white. Dad killed a black bear last week."

The two had crossed the crest of the hill, as they talked, wholly
oblivious of the passage of time, until Toby suggested:

"I'm thinkin' now we'd better be goin' back. The mail boat never bides
long here."

"She was to be here half an hour," said Charley, as they retraced their
steps. "We haven't been half an hour."

A moment later they reached the top of the hill. Both boys stopped and
looked below them and in consternation into the empty harbour.

"She's gone! The ship has gone!" cried Charley in sudden fright.

"She's gone!" echoed Toby. "She's goin' and leavin' you!"

"Oh, catch her! Signal her! Do something!" Charley plead helplessly.

"We can't catch she or signal she! She's too far," and Toby pointed to a
long black line of smoke rising above the rocks beyond Pinch-In Tickle,
and more than a mile distant.

"What shall I do? Oh, what shall I do?" wailed Charley in wild despair.

What indeed could he do? Here he was, left upon the bleak rocks of the
Labrador coast, at the edge of an Arctic winter, a lad of thirteen, a
stranger in a strange and desolate land.

[Illustration: "SHE'S GONE! THE SHIP HAS GONE!" CRIED CHARLEY IN SUDDEN
FRIGHT.]



II

THE TWIGS OF PINCH-IN TICKLE


"You'll be comin' along with me," suggested Toby. "Dad'll be knowin'
what to do."

"But the boat has gone! How can I get home?" Charley almost sobbed,
quite beside himself with despair and terror.

"Don't be takin' on like that now!" Toby placed his hand soothingly upon
Charley's arm. "Dad says a man can get out of most fixes, and he keeps
his head and don't get scared. Dad knows. He's wonderful fine about
gettin' out of fixes. Dad'll know what to do. He'll be gettin' you out
of your fix easy as a swile[1] slips off a rock. You'll see!"

Helpless to do otherwise, Charley submitted, and Toby led him down to
the boat, and when Charley was seated astern, and Toby was pulling for
the huts, a half mile away, with the strong, sure stroke of an expert
boatman, Toby counselled:

"Don't be lettin' yourself get worked up with worry, now. Dad says
worry and frettin' never makes a bad job better."

"It's terrible! It's terrible!" exclaimed Charley in agony. "I've been
left behind! I've no place to go, and I'll starve and freeze!"

"'Tisn't so bad, now," Toby argued. "You be safe and sound and well.
Maybe the mail boat folk'll be missin' you and come back."

"Do you think they will?" asked Charley, ready to grasp at a straw of
hope.

"I'm not knowin'," answered Toby cautiously, "but leastways you'll be
safe enough."

Toby's assurance gave little comfort to Charley. The snow was now
falling so heavily that he could scarcely see the huts perched upon the
rocky hillside, and there was no other indication of human life in the
great wide, bleak wilderness that surrounded them. The bare rocks, the
falling snow, and the sound of the sea beating upon the cliffs beyond
Pinch-In Tickle filled his heart with hopelessness and helplessness. As
uncomfortable and unhappy as he had been upon the ship, he now thought
of it as a haven of refuge and luxury. If it would only come back for
him! Why had he gone ashore! He had dreamed of adventures, but never an
adventure like this.

"Here's the landin'."

Toby had drawn the boat alongside a great flat rock that formed a
natural wharf. He sprang nimbly out, painter in hand, and while he
steadied the boat Charley followed.

Above the landing were three unpainted and dilapidated cabins. Smoke was
issuing from a stovepipe that protruded through the roof of the smallest
of these, and toward this Toby led the way.

"This is our fishin' place," Toby volunteered. "We fishes here in
summer, and lives in the house where you sees the smoke. The other
houses belongs to Mr. McClung from Newfoundland. The mail boat were
takin' he and three men that fishes with he, and their gear, and they
takes Dad's fish, too."

"You stay here, don't you? You'll stay here till the ship comes back for
me, won't you?" asked Charley pleadingly.

"We goes up the bay to-morrow marnin' to our tilt, our winter house at
Double Up Cove," said Toby, "but I'm thinkin' that if the ship's comin'
back she'll be back before night. Nobody stays out here in winter. 'Tis
wonderful cold here when the wind blows down over the hills and in from
the sea, with no trees to break un, and 'tis a poor place for huntin',
and no wood is handy for the fire."

"What'll I do when you go?" asked Charley in fresh dismay.

"You'll not be stoppin' here _what_ever," assured Toby. "Dad'll know
what to do. He'll get you out of _this_ fix! Don't you worry now."

Toby opened the door of the cabin, and the two boys entered. A tall,
broad-shouldered, bearded man stood by one of the two windows cleaning a
gun. A round-faced, plump little woman was at the stove, transferring
from a kettle to a large earthen bowl something that filled the room
with a most delicious odour, and a girl of twelve years or thereabouts
was placing dishes upon the table.

"Dad," said Toby addressing the man, "I brings with me Charley Norton
who was a passenger on the mail boat, and while he's ashore the mail
boat goes off and leaves he."

"That's a fix now! _That's_ a fix to be in! I calls that a mean trick
for the mail boat to be playin'!" He spoke in a big voice that quite
suited his size, but which startled Charley, and did not reassure him.
"What's to be done about un now? What be _you_ thinkin' to do?"

"I don't know. I don't know what to do," answered Charley timidly.

Toby's Dad put down the gun he was cleaning and wiped his hand on a
cloth.

"Leastways we'll make the best of un," he said, taking Charley's hand in
a bear-like clasp. "Besides bein' Toby's Dad, I'm Skipper Zebulon Twig
of Double Up Cove, and this is Mrs. Twig and this is Vi'let, the
smartest little maid on The Labrador."

Skipper Zebulon Twig laughed so heartily that Charley forgot his
difficulty for a moment, and laughed too, while he shook hands with Mrs.
Twig, who had, Charley thought, a nice motherly way, and with Violet,
who took his hand shyly.

"Now," said Skipper Zeb, "you're in a fix. You're cast away. The worst
fix a man can get in, to my thinkin', is to be cast away on a rock, or
on the ice, without grub. But you're cast away _with_ grub, and that's
not so bad. There's a pot of stewed bear's meat with dumplin' just
ready. We'll set in and eat, and then talk about your fix. 'Tis hard to
think a way out of fixes with an empty belly, and we'll fill ours. Then
we'll get to the bottom of this fix. We'll find a way out of un. You'll
see!"



III

SKIPPER ZEB FIXES MATTERS


Mrs. Twig placed the big earthen bowl with the appetizing odour in the
center of the table, together with a plate heaped high with slices of
white bread and a bowl of molasses. Then she poured tea.

"Dinner's ready this minute," boomed Skipper Zeb. "Set in, and we'll
eat."

There was no cover upon the home-made table, but its top had been
scoured clean and white with sand and water. The cabin boasted no
chairs, and chests were drawn up by Skipper Zeb and Toby to the ends of
the table, and a bench on each side, to serve as seats.

Accepting the invitation, Charley took a place beside Toby on one of the
benches, Violet sat on the bench opposite them, while the Skipper and
Mrs. Twig each took an end. When all were seated, Skipper Zeb, in so big
a voice Charley was sure the Lord could not fail to hear, asked a devout
blessing upon the family, the stranger within their home, and upon the
food.

"Turn to, now, and eat hearty," Skipper Zeb invited, indicating the
earthen bowl. "'Tisn't much we has, but 'tis good. Mrs. Twig makes the
finest dumplin' on The Labrador. I knows for I eats un. I shoots the
bear last week, and 'twere as fine and fat a bear as ever I sees. He
were just prime to curl up for his winter sleep."

"It looks good, and I'm hungry," said Charley, transferring, with a big
serving spoon, a portion of the stewed bear's meat and dumpling to his
plate. "I never ate bear's meat, and I've always wished I could."

"Never ate bear's meat!" exclaimed Skipper Zeb. "Well, now! And we gets
a bear most every year. What kind of meat does you eat where you comes
from? 'Tis likely you gets plenty of deer's meat?"

"Beef, and lamb, and veal, and pork, but I don't care much for pork,
except bacon," said Charley.

"Well, now! In all my days I never tastes beef or lamb or veal! We gets
pickled pork at the post, and 'tis wonderful fine meat _I_ thinks. If
beef and lamb and veal be better than pork, I'd like to try un once.
_They_ must be a rare treat." Skipper Zeb smacked his lips. "Yes, sir,
I'd like to try un once! And does you hunt un?"

"No," Charley smiled, "the animals are raised on farms and the meat is
sold at stores."

"Well, now! What wonderful things goes on in the world, and we never
knows about un down here on The Labrador." Skipper Zeb shook his head in
astonishment. "Does you mark that, Sophia? They raises the animals and
then kills un, and sells the meat at the tradin' stores!"

"'Tis a queer way," admitted Mrs. Twig.

"'Tis a fine way!" enthused Skipper Twig. "Twould be fine if we could
raise deer and kill un when we wants un."

"Here's sweetenin' for your tea," and Toby, observing that Charley had
not helped himself, passed the molasses.

"Thank you," Charley accepted, putting a spoonful of the molasses into
his tea, and wondering why it was used instead of sugar, but venturing
no question. Had he asked, Skipper Zeb would have told him that it was
much less expensive than sugar, and that sugar was a luxury they could
not afford.

There were no vegetables, for on the Labrador coast the summers are too
short and too cold to grow them, and not one of the Twig family had ever
so much as tasted a potato or an onion or a tomato, or, indeed, any of
the wholesome vegetables that we, in our kindlier land, have so
plentifully, and accept as a matter of course. But Charley and the
Twigs, old and young, found the stewed bear's meat, with Mrs. Twig's
light, fluffy dumplings and the good bread and molasses, both satisfying
and appetizing; and when Charley declined a third helping, urged upon
him by Skipper Zeb, he declared that he was as full as though he had
eaten a Christmas dinner.

When all were finished, Skipper Zeb bowed his head and gave thanks for
the bountiful meal; and then, with Toby's assistance, drew the benches
and chests back to the wall.

"Set down, now, and when I lights my pipe we'll talk over this fix
you're gettin' in," said Skipper Zeb. Drawing a pipe and a plug of black
tobacco and a jack-knife from his pocket, he shaved some of the plug
into the palm of his left hand, rolled it between his palms, and filled
the pipe. Then, with some deliberation, he selected a long, slender
sliver from the wood box, ignited it at the stove, lighted his pipe and
carefully extinguished the burning sliver.

"This _is_ a fix, now! Well, now, '_tis_ a fix!" Skipper Zeb sat down
upon a bench by Charley's side, and for a minute or two puffed his pipe
in silence, sending up a cloud of smoke. Then, turning to Charley, he
boomed: "But 'tis not such a bad fix we can't get out of un! No, sir!
We'll see about _this_ fix! We'll see!"

"Thank you," said Charley gratefully, and with hope that there might be
a way out of his trouble after all.

"Now, to start in the beginning, and that's where most things have to
start," said Skipper Zeb, "we won't worry about un. Worry is bad for the
insides of a man's head, and what's bad for the insides of a man's head
is bad for all of his insides, and if he worries, and keeps un up, he
gets sick. To-day is to-day and to-morrow is to-morrow. 'Tis but sense
for a man to provide for to-morrow, and do his best to do un, but if he
can't there's no use his worryin' about un. That's how I figgers. You're
feelin' well and hearty to-day?"

"Yes," admitted Charley.

"You just had a good snack of vittles?"

"Yes."

"You're warm and snug?"

"Yes."

"There you be! The worst of un's took care of to start with! Feelin'
well, a belly full of good vittles, warm and snug! Now keep feelin'
contented, and right as if this was your own home. Nothin' to worry
over. No, sir, not a thing! Now we've headed off the worst of un.

"You're in a fix, but 'twon't trouble us any. Not us! Life is full of
fixes, first and last. 'Twouldn't be much fun livin' if we didn't get in
fixes now and again! 'Tis a fine bit of sport figgerin' the way out of
fixes. Fixes gives us a change and somethin' to think about. There's a
way out of most fixes _I_ finds, even the worst of un."

"Do you think the ship will come back for me?" asked Charley anxiously.

"Well, now," Skipper Zeb wrinkled his forehead as though he were
pondering the question deeply, "if she comes back she'll come in through
the tickle and come to in the offing and blow her whistle, and we'll
hear un, and be ready for she. If she don't come back, she'll not blow
her whistle, and we'll not hear un. We'll be stayin' here as snug as a
bear in his den and listen for that whistle."

"But _do_ you think she'll come back?" insisted Charley, with a
suspicion that Skipper Zeb's answer had been evasive.

"That's a question! That's a fair and square question, now," admitted
Skipper Zeb. "You asks un fair and I'll answer un fair. The folk on the
mail boat misses you. They looks up and down and don't find you. You're
not on the boat, and how can they find you? Captain Barcus of the mail
boat says, 'Well, he's gone, that's sure. If he leaves the mail boat at
Pinch-In Tickle, he's with Skipper Zeb Twig by now, and safe enough and
well took care of. If he falls overboard, that's the last of he.' And
sayin' this, and knowin' Captain Barcus the way I knows he, he keeps
right on to St. John's, and don't come back till next June or July
month."

"If the ship don't come," broke in Charley, suddenly startled into his
old fear, "what _can_ I do? What _will_ become of me?"

"Well, now!" and Skipper Zeb broke into a hearty laugh. "'Tis just what
I says in the beginnin' about no worry, and about to-day bein' to-day
and to-morrow bein' to-morrow. You're cast away with shelter _and_ grub.
That's not so bad, considerin'. Not the best of shelter and not the best
of grub, but not so bad either. You does your best to get out of this
fix, and the best way you finds is to bide right where you finds the
shelter and grub. If the mail boat don't come to-day, and I says fair
and square, I'm not expectin' she, you goes to Double Up Cove in the
marnin' with us. Whilst you're on The Labrador our home is your home,
and I hopes you'll like un."

"But Daddy! Poor Daddy! He'll be broken-hearted when he thinks I've been
lost at sea, and so will Mother!" Charley gulped hard to keep back the
tears.

"'Twill be a bit hard for un, but you can't help un," Skipper Zeb
consoled. "What's past is past, and there's no use worryin' about un.
You're busy tryin' to get out of a fix. They'll be so glad to see you
when you gets home, 'twill more than make up to un for the mournin' they
does now. Your feelin' bad and worryin' about un won't help your father
and mother any, and it'll get your insides upset, as I were sayin'.
You're gettin' out of a fix. You stick by the grub and shelter, such as
'tis, and make the best of un, and be happy."

"Oh, thank you!" and tears came into Charley's eyes in spite of his
effort to keep them back. "Daddy will make it right with you. He'll pay
you for being good to me. He'll pay you all you ask."

"I asks nothing," said Skipper Zeb. "'Tis the right thing to do. Here on
The Labrador we stands shoulder to shoulder, and when a man's cast away
we takes him to our home till he can get to his own home. We all be
wonderful glad to have you. Ask Mrs. Twig, now."

"'Twill be wonderful fine to have you bide with us," and Mrs. Twig's
smile left no doubt of her sincerity. "You and Toby will be havin' rare
good times together."

"That we will, now!" broke in Toby quite excited at the prospect.

FOOTNOTE: [1] Seal.



IV

MISSING


Mr. Henry Wise, Mr. Bruce Norton's secretary, was enjoying himself. The
mail boat did not offer the luxuries to which he was accustomed, to be
sure, but it was much more to his liking than a hunting camp in the
wilderness, particularly in frosty weather and flying snow. He could not
keep his shoes properly polished, nor creases in his trousers, nor a
spotless collar tramping upon rough trails through underbrush, and the
very thought of sleeping in a tent, and upon the ground, was horrible.

When he had suggested to Mr. Norton that Charley was too young to follow
his father on the trail, he had done so with the hope that he might be
permitted to remain at St. John's in charge of Charley, and there enjoy
the comfort of a hotel in idleness. That the hunting trip might prove
too strenuous for Charley had not occurred to Mr. Norton until the
suggestion came from Mr. Wise after their arrival in St. John's. Mr.
Wise amplified his suggestion with the argument that it was quite too
great a physical undertaking for any boy of thirteen, and might
therefore create in Charley a distaste for future camping in the wilds.

This appealed to Mr. Norton as reasonable. He wished his boy to love the
wilds as he loved them. Perhaps, he admitted, Mr. Wise was right, and if
he took Charley with him, and Charley found the trails too hard, not
only his own holiday would be spoiled, but Charley would have anything
but a pleasant time.

In expectation that he would take him on his hunting expedition, Mr.
Norton had promised Charley a unique and enjoyable experience. Now that
he had decided against it, he cast about for a substitute. Mr. Norton
was a man of his word. Charley had looked forward with keen anticipation
to the hunting trip with his father, and had asked innumerable questions
concerning it, and talked of little else since leaving New York. The
prospect of camping in a real wilderness with his father,--the
association with his father in camp, rather than the camp itself,--was
the source of Charley's anticipated pleasure.

Not realizing this, and believing that any unusual experience would
please Charley quite as well, whether or not he was to take part in it
himself, Mr. Norton received with satisfaction the suggestion that
Charley be sent upon the Labrador cruise. This, he was satisfied, was a
solution of his difficulty. A cruise on the mail boat would be an
experience to be remembered, and he had no doubt would prove much more
interesting to Charley than the hunting expedition.

This settled, he engaged passage on the mail boat for Charley and Mr.
Wise, to the chagrin and disappointment of the latter gentleman, who was
forced, however, to accept the situation with good grace. Mr. Wise had
no love of the sea.

He was to be Charley's companion on the voyage. He was to learn the
interesting features of the coast along which the mail boat cruised, and
to explain them and point them out to Charley. In general, he was to do
his utmost to make the voyage one which Charley would remember with
pleasure.

But as Mr. Wise expressed himself to the mail boat doctor, he was
"employed as secretary and not as nurse maid." He had no intention of
shivering around in the cold. He was going to make this voyage, which
had been thrust upon him, as pleasant for himself as circumstances would
permit. He pleaded sickness, and, as Charley had complained to Barney
MacFarland, lay in his bunk reading novels, or sat in the smoking room
playing checkers with the mail boat doctor, while Charley was left to
his own resources.

It was eleven o'clock in the morning when the mail boat departed from
Pinch-In Tickle. Mr. Wise was engrossed in a particularly interesting
novel, and was so deeply buried in it that he failed to hear or respond
to the noonday call to dinner. When, an hour later, hunger called his
attention to the fact that he had not eaten, he rang for the steward,
and a liberal tip brought a satisfactory luncheon to his stateroom. Thus
it came to pass that he did not observe Charley's absence from the
dinner table.

It was four o'clock in the afternoon when, the novel at last finished,
Mr. Wise left his room to challenge the doctor to a game in the smoking
room. It was not until the six o'clock evening meal that his attention
was called to the fact that Charley, who was usually prompt at meals,
was not present.

He had no doubt Charley had gone to his room and fallen asleep. If his
ward chose to sleep at meal time it was no fault of his. He ate
leisurely, and when he was through lighted a cigar, and, prompted by
compunction perhaps, looked into Charley's room. It was vacant. A sudden
anxiety seized him, and nervously and excitedly he searched the deck and
the smoking room. Charley was nowhere to be found, and in a state of
panic he reported the disappearance to Captain Barcus.

The Captain immediately instituted an investigation, and a minute search
of the ship was made, but nowhere was Charley to be found, and with
every moment Mr. Hugh Wise grew more excited.

Members of the crew were called before the Captain and Mr. Wise and
quizzed. The sailor to whom Charley had spoken and of whom he had
requested a passage ashore, recalled the incident. The mate stated that
Charley had also come to him and asked permission to go ashore in the
ship's boat at Pinch-In Tickle, but as there was no room in the boat,
permission had been denied. The men who manned the boat were then
questioned, and all were agreed that he had not been in the boat and had
not gone ashore, and they were equally positive that he had not gone
ashore at any other harbour where the vessel had stopped during the day.

Barney MacFarland recalled his conversation with Charley, when he was
going off watch. He stated that the lad had seemed most unhappy and
lonesome, and complained that Mr. Wise had done little to make the
voyage a pleasant one for him, or to help him find entertainment. He was
not on deck when Barney went on duty at eight bells.

So fertile is the imagination that two of the sailors were quite
positive they had seen Charley leaning at the rail during the afternoon,
and after the ship's departure from Pinch-In Tickle.

The steward was quite sure Charley had not eaten the midday meal. As
there was some sea running, he had supposed that Charley had a touch of
seasickness and had preferred not to eat. He had not seen Charley since
breakfast, and had not been in his stateroom since early morning.

"What can we do?" asked Mr. Wise, now in complete panic. "Will you turn
back?" he plead in a voice trembling with apprehension and fear. "Will
you look for him, Captain? You'll turn the ship back and look for him!
You must! You must at once! We _must_ find him!"

"Where would we look?" asked Captain Barcus.

"At the harbours where we stopped! At Pinch-In Tickle, or whatever you
call it! Everywhere! Everywhere!" plead Mr. Wise.

"'Twould be a waste of time and fuel, and a fool's chase," said Captain
Barcus quietly. "There was no way for the lad to go ashore but by the
ship's boat, and 'tis plain he didn't go ashore in the boat at any port
we stops at to-day. Some one would have seen him if he had, and every
man of the crew says he didn't."

"Then he's on the ship somewhere!" shouted Mr. Wise excitedly, springing
to his feet. "He's hiding! He's hiding somewhere on the ship!"

"He's not on the ship," said Captain Barcus gravely. "She've been
searched from masthead to hold, and he's not on the ship. There's no
doubting the poor lad has fallen overboard."

"Do you mean he's been--lost--at--sea?" and the terrified Wise sank
limply into a seat.

"Aye," admitted Captain Barcus, "lost at sea."

"Then turn back! Turn back and look for him!" demanded Mr. Wise, again
on his feet in a frenzy of excitement. "Why don't you turn back and look
for him?"

"Keep your senses, man," admonished Captain Barcus. "As I said before,
'twould be a fool's job to look for him in the sea. No man knows where
or when he went overboard. 'Tis likely 'twere hours ago."

Mr. Wise slouched into a seat, and with his elbows upon his knees held
his head in his hands for a full minute before he spoke.

"What can I tell his father? What can I tell him? He'll discharge me!
He'll think I didn't look after the boy!" and Mr. Wise's dejection was
complete. "What _can_ I tell him!"

"Tell him the truth. He'll discharge you likely. I would," said the
Captain in blunt disgust.

"You can fix it up! You can tell him it happened through no fault of
mine! Tell him something that will clear me of any charge of neglecting
the boy!" Mr. Wise raised his head and looked wistfully and pleadingly
at the Captain.

"You seem to be thinking more of your job than of the poor lad that's
lost," and Captain Barcus, who had risen to his feet, looked down in
contempt upon the cringing man. "My log will say he was last seen
leaning over the starb'rd rail. That he was not at dinner nor at tea,
and that you didn't miss him till after tea and long after dark, though
'tis likely he was lost overboard before dinner. And I'll put in the
testimony of the last to talk with him, the mate, and the seaman, and
what he said to Barney MacFarland. I'm going now to write my log while
'tis all fresh in my mind."

And leaving Mr. Wise, Captain Barcus went to his room to write in his
log a true report of what apparently had happened, and the account that
was finally to be given Mr. Bruce Norton upon the arrival of the steamer
in St. John's.



V

WRECKED


There was much to be done in Pinch-In Tickle that everything in and
about Skipper Zeb's cabin, which they were to leave the following
morning, should be snug and tight and tidy for the winter. There were
boats to be hauled out of the water and covered, that they might be
protected from the ice and snow, fishing gear and boat equipment to
stow, and much cleaning to be done about the fish stage and cabin. Then
there was Skipper Zeb's big trap boat to make ready for the voyage up
the bay. A mast step had to be repaired, sails mended, and no end of
tinkering before it met with Skipper Zeb's approval.

"I never says a thing's good enough unless 'tis right," declared Skipper
Zeb. "I likes to have my boats, and fishin' gear and dog trappin's ship
shape before I starts to use un. When I stops usin' they I leaves un as
right as I can so they'll be ready to use when I needs un again."

For a little while Charley, the picture of gloom, watched Skipper Zeb
and Toby stowing gear. Presently Skipper Zeb, who had been observing
Charley out of the corner of his eye, suggested:

"Come on, lad, and lend a hand. Toby and I needs help to haul the boats
up. Work's a wonderful fine medicin' for folks that's feelin' homesick.
Lend Toby and me a hand, and you'll be forgettin' all about this fix
you're in. I were thinkin' we'd taken all the kinks out o' that fix, and
that we made out 'twere no fix at all."

"I guess I would like to help, if you'll let me," Charley admitted. "It
isn't much fun standing around and doing nothing. What can I do?"

"We'll pull this un up first, she's heaviest," and Skipper Zeb indicated
one of two boats that were moored at the landing. "You take the port
side of un along with Toby, and I'll take the starb'rd side, and when I
bawls 'Heave ho!' we'll all heave on her together."

Charley did as he was directed, and while he did not believe that he was
lending much assistance, he did his best with each "heave ho!" boomed by
Skipper Zeb, and in due time the two boats were removed to a desirable
distance from high tide level. Timbers were now placed under them to
elevate them from the ground, and a roofing of heavy planking built over
them.

It was all novel and interesting to Charley. He lent a hand here and
there, and as they worked Skipper Zeb and Toby talked of the fishing
season just ended, and of the winter hunting and trapping, and of
journeys on snowshoes and with dogs and sledge, and related many
exciting adventures, until Charley quite forgot that he was marooned in
a strange land among strangers.

Before candles were lighted that evening, Charley had placed Skipper Zeb
and Toby in the category of the heroes of his favourite books of
adventure. Here he was in a wilderness as remote as any of which he had
ever read, and here he was with folk who were living the life and doing
the deeds and meeting the adventures of which he had often read with
breathless interest. When he went to sleep that night in a bunk with
Toby he would have been glad that the mail boat had not returned for
him, had it not been for the regret he felt for the grief he knew that
his mother and father would suffer when Mr. Wise would report to them
that he had been lost.

They ate breakfast by candle-light the following morning, and daybreak
was still two hours away when Charley embarked with Skipper Zeb and the
family for the voyage to Double Up Cove.

Skipper Zeb and Toby hoisted leg-o'-mutton sails on the foremast and
mainmast under the lee of the land though the sails did not fill to
Skipper Zeb's satisfaction, and he and Toby each shipped a big oar and
pulled for a little until they were in the open bay and beyond the
shelter of the hills. Then they stowed the oars, and Skipper Zeb took
the tiller.

A good breeze now bellied the sails, and almost immediately the morning
darkness swallowed up the outline of the cabins. No star, no light, no
land was to be seen, and Charley was only conscious of the swishing
waters that surrounded them. He wondered how Skipper Zeb could know the
direction with no landmarks to guide him. How vast and mysterious this
new world was! How far away and unreal the land from which he had come!
He tried to visualize home, and the city streets with crowded traffic
and jostling people; and crouching down in the boat a thought of the
luxury and comfort of his snug bed, in which he would now have been
cozily tucked were he there, came to him, and he drew the collar of his
ulster more closely around his ears, and thrust his hands into its deep
pockets.

For a long time no one spoke, and a sense of great loneliness was
stealing upon him, when Skipper Zeb, lighting his pipe, remarked:

"'Tis a good sailin' breeze, and come day 'twill be smarter, with more
sea, and I'm thinkin' more snow."

"How long a trip is it?" asked Charley.

"'Tis a short cruise. With a fair wind like we has now we makes un in
five or six hours, whatever," explained Skipper Zeb. "We never bides
here so late in the year. 'Tis wonderful late for us. We always goes
before the end of September month. This year I stays to help Mr.
McClung."

"It's a fine, big boat," said Charley.

"She's a wonderful fine boat!" boasted Skipper Zeb. "Twenty-eight foot
over all. I buys she last year from a schooner crew, south bound after
the fishin' ends. They wants to sell she bad, because they has no room
to stow she on deck, and in the rough sea that were runnin' they
couldn't tow she. I buys she for thirty dollars!"

"That was cheap, I should think," said Charley.

"'Twere, now!" and there was pride in Skipper Zeb's voice. "I'll tell
you how 'twere. We needs a trap boat wonderful bad for our cruisin', and
I says to Mrs. Twig, 'We'll skimp and save till we gets enough saved to
buy un.' So each year we saves a bit, sometimes more and sometimes less,
goin' without this and that, and not mindin', because when we goes
without somethin' we thinks about what a fine boat 'tis goin' to help us
get. And so we keeps savin' and savin' and skimpin' and skimpin'. We
were savin' for un for four years----"

"Five years, Zeb," Mrs. Twig corrected.

"You're right, Sophia, 'twere five years, and we has thirty dollars
saved. Then along comes the schooner with the boat, and the skipper says
to me, 'Skipper Zeb, you wants a trap boat. I'll sell you this un.' 'How
much does you want for un?' says I. 'You can have she for fifty
dollars,' says he, 'and that's givin' she to you.' 'All I has is thirty
dollars,' says I. 'Give me the thirty dollars and take un,' says he.
'I'd have to leave un behind whatever.' And so I gets un."

"You _were_ lucky!" said Charley.

"Lucky! Not that!" objected Skipper Zeb. "'Twere the Lard's doin's. He
knows how bad I wants un, and how we skimps to get un, and He says to
that skipper, 'You just sell that trap boat to Skipper Zeb Twig for
thirty dollars,' and the skipper just ups and sells un to me. _I_ says
the Lard were good, and I thanks _He_ for un, and not luck."

The northeast wind was rising. Charley huddled down in the bottom of the
boat, where he found some protection. A gray dawn was breaking, and this
is the coldest and bleakest hour of the day. With dawn both wind and
cold increased, until by mid-forenoon half a gale was blowing.

"We're makin' fine headway," said Toby. "We'll be getting to Double Up
Cove by twelve o'clock, _what_ever."

"I'm wishin' 'twere a bit calmer," observed Skipper Zeb, looking
critically at the sky, "but there's no signs of un."

"Can't we make a landin' somewhere, and wait for un to calm down?" asked
Mrs. Twig solicitously. "I fears cruisin' when 'tis so rough."

"They's no fair shore to land on this side o' the Duck's Head," answers
Skipper Zeb.

White horses were chasing each other over the surrounding sea. A half
hour later the wind had developed into a gale. Skipper Zeb reefed the
mainsail. Then taking a long oar from the boat, he dropped it between
two pegs astern, and while he used this as a sculling oar to steer the
boat, Toby unshipped the rudder and dragged it aboard.

"She's makin' leeway," Skipper Zeb explained, "and I can hold she up to
the wind better with the oar than the tiller."

A roller broke over the boat, and left a foot of water in the bottom.
Toby seized a bucket, and began to bail it out. Charley was now
thoroughly frightened, but with a bucket thrust into his hand by Mrs.
Twig, he assisted Toby.

The boat was on her beam ends, even with shortened sail. The air was
filled with flying spray, and now came the snow that Skipper Zeb had
predicted.

"We'll make a landin' in the lee of the Duck's Head," shouted Skipper
Zeb, his voice booming above the tumult of sea and wind.

Violet was crying, and clinging to her mother.

"Don't be scared, now!" Skipper Zeb reassured, though he was plainly
anxious. "There'll be a fine lee above the Duck's Head!"

"There's the Duck's Head!" Toby's voice suddenly came in warning.

"I sees un!" Skipper Zeb shouted back in confirmation.

"Take care the reef! She's straight ahead!" yelled Toby.

"She's makin' leeway the best I can do," came back from Skipper Zeb.
"Lend me a hand, Toby!"

Toby sprang to his assistance. The long oar bent under the superhuman
effort that the two put forth, but the boat was coming up. Charley saw,
in dim outline through the snow, a high, black mass of rock jutting out
in a long point. It bore a strong resemblance to a duck's neck and head,
and as though to form the duck's bill a reef extended for several yards
beyond into the water and over this the sea with boom and roar heaved in
mighty breakers, sending the spray a hundred feet into the air. If they
failed to pass that awful boiling caldron they would be lost. It was a
terrifying spectacle, and Charley's heart stood still.

They were close upon the reef. Skipper Zeb's face was tense. He was
working like a giant, and Toby, too, was putting all the strength he
possessed upon the sculling oar. With a scant margin to spare, they were
at last shooting past the outer rocks, when the oar snapped with a
report that was heard above the boom of the breakers.

An instant later came a crash, Violet screamed in terror, and Charley
felt the bottom of the boat rise beneath his feet.



VI

THE CAMP AT THE DUCK'S HEAD


When Skipper Zeb's oar broke, the boat, now at the mercy of the wind,
was driven upon a submerged rock at the tip end of the reef extending
some twenty yards out from the cliff known as the Duck's Head. Here it
stuck for what seemed to Charley a long time, reeling in the surf until
he was quite certain it would roll over and they would all be drowned.
Mrs. Twig, clinging with Violet to the mainmast, gave a shrill cry of
despair, and Violet screamed in terror. Then a mighty sea lifted them
like a chip from the rock, and swept the boat onward and beyond the
reef.

Rolling and wallowing in the angry sea, which threatened every moment to
swallow it up, the boat still floated to the astonishment of all, and
Skipper Zeb and Toby, with feverish zeal shipping a fresh oar, began
sculling toward the sheltered and calm waters under the lee of the
Duck's Head.

The wind in their quarter helped them, and with a few mighty strokes of
the oar the boat was carried beyond the reach of the rollers, and a few
minutes later, submerged to her gunwale, grounded upon a narrow strip of
gravelly beach on the western side of the Duck's Head, and Skipper Zeb
carried Violet ashore, while the other half drowned and half frozen
voyageurs followed.

A quantity of driftwood lined the base of the cliff. With an ax, which
Skipper Zeb recovered from the boat, he quickly split some sticks,
whittled shavings with his jack-knife from the dry hearts of the split
sticks, lighted these with a match from a supply which he carried in a
small corked bottle, and which were thus protected from the water, and
in an incredibly short time a cheerful fire was blazing.

"Well, now!" Skipper Zeb exclaimed, genially, warming his hands before
the fire. "Here we are safe and sound and none of us lost, as I were
fearin' when we strikes the rock we might be! All of us saved by the
mercy of the Lard! How is you feelin' now, Vi'let?"

"I feels fine, with the fire," answered Violet, who was snuggling close
to her mother.

"That's pluck; now! And wet as a muskrat!" exclaimed Skipper Zeb,
laughing heartily, and quite as though it were an ordinary occurrence,
and they had not, a few minutes before, been in peril of their lives.
Turning to Charley, he asked: "And how be you, lad?"

"I'm all right now, thank you," said Charley shivering still with the
cold. "But I never was so wet and cold in my life, and I'm sure I'd have
frozen stiff if you hadn't made a fire in a hurry. It's lucky you had
some matches in a bottle, for that's all that kept them dry."

"No, no, 'twaren't luck!" objected Skipper Zeb. "'Twere just sense! I
never goes cruisin' without dry matches corked tight in a bottle handy
in my pocket, and I never uses un unless my other matches gets wet.
There's times when it's the only way to get a fire, and without un
to-day I'm not doubtin' some of us would have perished."

"I always carries un too," said Toby.

"Aye, a man that cruises in this land must always be ready to put a fire
on," commended Skipper Zeb.

"I'll remember that," said Charley.

"'Twere a narrow shave we has," remarked Toby, "but you always gets out
of fixes, Dad. When I looks through the snow and sees the white water
rollin' over the reef right handy ahead, and the wind drivin' us on to
un, I thinks, now here's a _fix_! 'Tis a wonderful bad fix! Dad can't be
gettin' us out of _this_ fix, whatever! I'll be just watchin' now, and
see! Dad can't get us out of this un! And then you gets the oar and
pulls us up into the wind, and we has room to pass fine, and then I
says, Dad's doin' it! Dad's gettin' us out of the fix! Then the oar
breaks, and I says that's the end of _us_! But you gets out of un,
_what_ever! You're wonderful fine at gettin' out of fixes, Dad!"

"'Tweren't me," objected Skipper Zeb, "'twere the Lard. We does the best
we can, and when the Lard sees we does our best, He steps in and helps.
He says, 'These folk does the best _they_ can to get out of this fix,
and I'll just step in and do what they can't do, and help un out of it,'
and that's what He does, and here we be, safe and sound."

"Is the boat wrecked?" asked Mrs. Twig. "Can't you fix un and use un any
more?"

"Well now, I'm not knowin' rightly yet, but I'm fearin' her bottom's
knocked out of she," answered Skipper Zeb. "If 'tis, 'twill be the end
of she, but we'll be makin' out as fine as can be without she."

"'Tis too bad to lose she after all our skimpin' and savin' to buy she,"
mourned Mrs. Twig. "You were wantin' she so bad, and we were savin' and
skimpin' for five years, and when you got she you were so pleased over
she, and she were helpin' you so in the fishin'."

"Aye, she were a fine help," admitted Skipper Zeb cheerfully. "But I
were thinkin' maybe she were a bit too big to be handy. Leastways to-day
is to-day and to-morrow is to-morrow, and if she's wrecked she's
wrecked, and that's the end of she. We won't worry and fuss about what's
gone and can't be helped, and maybe some day we'll be gettin' a better
boat. We'll just thank the Lard we're safe and sound."

Skipper Zeb put some fresh wood upon the fire, and then, pausing to rub
his hands over the blaze, he chuckled audibly.

"I'm feelin' wonderful glad to be thinkin' how all of us be alive and
safe," he said in explanation. "The Lard were wonderful good to us to be
bringin' us all ashore. Now we'll get snug. Toby, lad, we'll try to get
the things out of the boat, and we'll put up the tent and the stove, and
before night comes we'll be as dry and tight as ever we were in our
lives."

It was no easy matter to transfer the cargo from the submerged boat. It
was snowing hard, and the water was icy cold, and Skipper Zeb would not
permit Charley to go into the boat with himself and Toby.

"You be stayin' ashore," he directed, "and keep the fire up for Mrs.
Twig and Vi'let."

"But I want to help! I want to do my part!" protested Charley. "Perhaps
I can't do much, but I can do something. You've been so kind to me and
took me in when I had no place to go! Now I want to do what I can, and
not have you do everything for me."

"That's fine now! That's spirit! You'll be makin' a real Labradorman
before you leaves us. But not bein' used to un," Skipper Zeb explained,
"you'd be findin' the water a bit coolish. We're used to un. We're wet
at the fishin' all summer. 'Tis best you stays by the fire and gets
warmed up, and gets your clothes dry."

But when Charley insisted that he do something to help, Skipper Zeb
agreed that he might carry the things back from the shore, as they were
brought from the boat, and pile them near the fire.

"Then they'll be handy for us to get at and dry out, and the work'll be
keepin' you warm and free from chill," said Skipper Zeb, "and 'twill be
better than gettin' in the water with Toby and me."

Skipper Zeb and Toby, waist deep in the boat, rescued the various
articles of the cargo and passed them to Charley, who worked with a will
until everything was salvaged. A tent was then quickly set up in the lee
of the cliff, a tent stove placed in the tent, a fire lighted in the
stove, and in fifteen minutes the tent was warm and snug and cozy.

A bag of flour was now opened, and it was found that while the outside
was wet, the greater part of the center was dry, and in a jiffy Mrs.
Twig was mixing dough bread, a kettle was over for tea, and Skipper Zeb
had some bear's meat sizzling in the pan and sending forth a most
delicious and appetizing odour.

"Well, now!" exclaimed Skipper Zeb when they were all gathered in the
warm tent, and Mrs. Twig had piled their plates with meat and hot bread
and passed each of them a cup of steaming hot tea, "here we are in as
snug a berth as can be, safe and sound, with nothin' to worry about even
if we be a bit wet."

"It is cozy," agreed Charley, with a mouthful of the hot bread, "and I
never tasted anything so good!"

"Hunger be a wonderful fine spice for vittles," remarked Skipper Zeb.
"Are you all warmed up, now?"

Everybody was warm, and wet clothing was steaming in the overheated
tent.

"I'm wonderful thankful you makes the cruise to the Post early," said
Mrs. Twig. "'Twere fine to get our winter outfit in September month, and
get un safe up to Double Up Cove whilst fair weather held. If we'd had
un to-day all the flour and tea and hard bread[2] would be spoiled. As
'tis, we loses the boat and so much else it makes my heart sick to think
of un."

"Well, now!" exclaimed Skipper Zeb. "Worryin' when we has everything to
be thankful for! We has the boat for the cruise in September month, just
when we needs un most. Now we don't need un this year again. The things
we loses we'll make out without. Everything works fine for us, and here
we be, snug as a bear in his den, eatin' good vittles, even if we be a
bit wet."

"I can't help worryin' about the boat," insisted Mrs. Twig. "I'm 'tis
feelin' bad for you not havin' she."

"Don't feel bad about un, Mother," and there was a tenderness in Skipper
Twig's voice that Charley noted. "'Twere the Lard's doin's."

When the meal was finished Mrs. Twig and Violet were left in the tent to
dry their clothing, and to hang the blankets from the ridge in an
attempt to dry them also. With one of the sails a lean-to shelter was
made by the open fire outside, and while Skipper Zeb was busy with this,
Toby and Charley broke boughs for a seat, and here the three devoted
themselves to drying their own clothing.

"How can we get from here without a boat?" asked Charley.

"Now that's a fair question!" admitted Skipper Zeb, "but 'tis easy to
answer. We're not so far from Double Up Cove. I can walk un in an hour,
whatever. Toby and I goes in the marnin', if the sea calms down in the
night, and I'll be comin' with another boat. I'm thinkin' 'twill clear
before we turns in, whatever. 'Twere only a squall, and 'tis about
over. To-morrow's like to be a fair day."

Late in the afternoon, as Skipper Zeb predicted, the snow ceased, the
sky cleared and the wind moderated. The campfire outside was so cheerful
Mrs. Twig and Violet came out of the tent to cook their supper there;
and while Mrs. Twig cooked, Skipper Zeb laid a fragrant, springy bed of
boughs within the tent.

They all sat around the fire and ate in the light of its blaze. And when
they were through, Skipper Zeb lighted his pipe, and told stories of his
life at sea as a fisherman and on the winter trail as a trapper and
hunter that were as full of thrills as any Charley had ever read, until
it was time to go to the tent and to bed.

It had been the most exciting and adventurous day of Charley's life. He
was thankful for his escape. Within his heart welled something of the
exultation that one feels who meets and conquers obstacles. True, he had
done little himself to aid in the escape, but he had done something. He
had taken part in the transference of the cargo, and in pitching the
tent, and breaking boughs. He had helped make the camp, and had more
than the passive interest of a visitor in it.

What tales he would have to tell when he returned home! He had not
enjoyed the experience of the day as an experience, but already in
retrospect he was thrilled by it. The fellows would surely envy him!
When he was wet to the skin and chilled to numbness, he had longed again
and again for the warmth of the mail boat, even with its unsavoury
smells, and he had asked himself why he had been so foolish as to go
ashore. Now that he was dry and warm, his regrets passed, and he felt
himself quite a hero.

Within, the tent was warm and cozy. The air was perfumed with the spicy
fragrance of spruce mingled with the pleasant odour of the woodfire, the
incense of the wilderness. Outside he could hear the seas breaking upon
the cliff off the Duck's Head and over the reef, and listening to the
pounding seas outside, and the cheerful crackling of the fire in the
stove, he fell into pleasant dreams.



VII

A SNUG BERTH


It was Charley Norton's first experience in a wilderness camp, but he
slept quite as well as he could have slept in his own bed at home, and
perhaps more soundly. He had lain down wearied with the day's excitement
and exertion, as he had never been wearied before.

The strokes of an ax outside awakened him, and he hurried out to find
Skipper Zeb and Toby preparing breakfast over an open fire. It was
early. The sky was studded with stars, and he stood for a moment to look
out over the starlit and now peaceful waters of the bay. No longer were
the shrieking winds and the booming breakers to be heard, and no sound
broke the silence other than the gentle rhythmic lap of the waters over
the reef.

Rising above the snow-covered foreground, towered the grim cliff of the
Duck's Head. The two figures bending over the brightly burning fire at
its base were pigmies as compared to its great bulk. The romance and
the mystery of the scene thrilled Charley. He breathed deeply of the
crisp, frosty, perfumed air, as he hastened to join Skipper Zeb and
Toby.

"Right on time!" exclaimed Skipper Zeb. "Were you sleepin' warm and snug
the night? I keeps the fire on in the stove to make un warm. The
blankets were a bit damp."

"I never woke up till I heard you chopping wood," said Charley.

"Feelin' good after yesterday's wettin' and chillin'?" asked Skipper Zeb
solicitously.

"Fine and dandy!" Charley answered. "Isn't it great out here!"

"'Tis a fine marnin'," agreed Skipper Zeb. "Toby and I thinks we'll be
makin' an early start, so I'll be comin' early with the boat."

"May I go with you?" asked Charley eagerly.

"Well, now!" and Skipper Zeb looked doubtfully at Charley's leather
shoes and heavy ulster. "You'd be findin' that coat a weary burden, and
you'd be gettin' wonderful cold feet."

"I were dryin' out my other adikey," suggested Toby. "Charley might wear
un. I'll soften up my other skin boots for he, and let him have a pair
of my duffle socks."

"Aye," agreed Skipper Zeb, "he might wear they. Get un, b'y."

In a moment Toby produced from the tent an adikey made of heavy white
woolen cloth, a pair of thick woolen slippers made of heavy blanket
cloth, and a pair of knee-high black sealskin boots with moccasin feet.
The latter were hard as boards, but by rubbing the skin upon the rounded
end of a stick Toby soon had them soft and pliable.

Charley took off his leather shoes, donned the woolen slippers, and over
these pulled the sealskin boots which met his knickers, and with a
buckskin draw string tied the boot tops just below the knees. Then,
removing his ulster, he drew the hooded adikey over his head.

"You looks now like you belong here," commented Toby, much pleased.

"Anyhow," said Charley, "I feel a lot more comfortable, dressed this
way."

"Now we'll eat a bit and get started," suggested Skipper Zeb, passing
the frying-pan which contained fried salt pork, smoking hot. "We'll be
leavin' Mother and Vi'let to rest as long as they wants."

It was a half hour later, and dawn was just breaking, when Skipper Zeb
and Toby picked up their rifles, and with Skipper Zeb in the lead, and
Charley bringing up the rear, they set out for Double Up Cove.

For a little while they followed the shore, single file, making their
way through tangles of willow brush, or over piles of boulders that had
been loosed from the cliffs above by the frosts of untold winters, and
rolled down to the base of the cliff. It was the hardest work Charley
had ever done, and he felt some pride in the fact that he was able to
keep close at Toby's heels, quite unaware that Skipper Zeb was making
what to him and Toby was a slow pace, in order that Charley's
unaccustomed legs might not lag too far behind.

Presently the cliffs receded into sloping hills, covered with a forest
of spruce and tamarack, and here they turned into the forest along the
slopes, where walking proved much easier, though still more difficult
than Charley had expected.

Suddenly some birds arose with a great whir of wings, and alighted in a
tree.

"Spruce pa'tridges!" exclaimed Toby.

In a twinkling Skipper Zeb and Toby had their rifles at their
shoulders, and with the report of the rifles, which was almost
simultaneous, two of the birds fell to the snow below.

To Charley's astonishment, the remaining birds did not fly from the
tree, and still they remained when two more were shot, and in the end
Skipper Zeb and Toby bagged the whole flock of nine. In each case the
head had been neatly clipped off by the bullet, and the body of the bird
was unmarred and uninjured.

"We has two good meals whatever," remarked Skipper Zeb, as they gathered
up the birds. "We'll pluck un whilst they're warm. 'Tis easier to do
than after they gets cold. 'Twill give us a bit of time to rest."

"Why didn't the others fly after you shot the first ones?" asked
Charley. "I expected they'd be frightened and all fly away after the
first shot."

"That's the way with spruce pa'tridges," explained Skipper Zeb. "They
has a wonderful foolish way with un. They don't fly when you shoots.
They're so tame you could almost knock un over with a stick. They flies
in a tree when we comes, thinkin' we're like a fox and can't climb a
tree, and knowin' nothin' about guns there they sets and lets us shoot
un."

To Skipper Zeb and Toby, the shooting of the grouse had meant no more
than a means of securing necessary food. In that land where there are no
domestic animals or birds, men must hunt the wild things to supply their
table, just as a farmer in civilized lands kills chickens from his flock
to supply his table. Charley assisted in plucking the birds, and
silently admiring the marksmanship of his companions, determined that
he, too, would learn to shoot well.

The sun had risen, and the winter forest gleamed and sparkled under its
rays. Through the trees the waters of the bay glinted like molten
silver. The air was redolent with forest fragrance. An impudent Labrador
Jay[3] scolding them in its harsh voice, came so close that Charley
could almost have caught it with his bare hands. Chickadees[4] chirped
in the trees. A three-toed arctic woodpecker hammered industriously upon
a tree trunk. In the distance a red squirrel chattered happily and
noisily.

A thrill of exultation tingled Charley's spine. He was doing the very
thing that his father had believed too hard for him to do, and in a
wilder country than his father had ever seen. How proud and pleased his
father would be when he reached home and told of what he had seen and
done! It would compensate for all the suffering at his supposed loss.

"Plenty of rabbits this year," remarked Toby, calling Charley's
attention to a network of tracks that covered the snow. "We'll be
settin' snares for un. 'Tis great sport."

"Oh, can we snare them?" said Charley. "That will be great."

"Aye," promised Toby, "and we'll be settin' marten traps too. Here's
some marten signs now. There's fine signs of marten this year."

"You catch martens for the fur, don't you?" asked Charley.

"Aye," answered Toby. "They has wonderful fine fur. Weren't you ever
seein' a marten?"

"No," confessed Charley, "I never saw one."

"You'll be seein' they this winter, whatever," promised Toby.

Toby pointed to the tracks of a small animal in the snow.

It was mid-forenoon when they suddenly came upon a cabin in the midst of
a clearing at the edge of the forest, and looking out upon the water.

"Well, now, and here we be safe and sound and in good time!" announced
Skipper Zeb.

He opened a door leading into an enclosed porch, which was built against
one end of the cabin, and through the porch they entered the cabin.
Charley observed that neither the porch door nor the inner door was
locked, and that the latches of both were made of wood, and opened by
pulling a string, which hung outside.

"Not so bad a place to be cast away in!" boomed Skipper Zeb, surveying
the room with pride after depositing his gun upon the beams overhead.
"What does you think of your new home, now? 'Twere easy enough to get
you out o' _that_ fix, says I! Easy enough!"

"It's great!" exclaimed Charley in appreciation. "I'm going to have a
bang-up time with you! I feel at home already!"

"That's fine, now! Fine!" and Skipper Zeb slapped Charley on the
shoulder with his big hand and laughed his hearty laugh. "No worries!
To-day's to-day and to-morrow's to-morrow! Cast away with plenty o' grub
and a snug shelter and berth! Not so bad! Not so bad! That's gettin' out
of a fix, now! Half the time a man worries there's nothin' to worry
about. The worst fix a man ever gets in can't last. There's sure to be
an end to un."

"It seems like a lot to ask of you--taking me into your home this way,"
said Charley appreciatively. "Dad'll make it up to you some day, after I
get home."

"Nothin' to make up, if you means pay me!" broke in Skipper Zeb, rather
resenting the implication that he might expect payment. "'Tis the way of
The Labrador, and the way of the Lard, to share what we has with
castaway folk or folk that's in trouble. 'Tis a pleasure to have you
with us, lad. Mrs. Twig and I'll just be havin' two lads instead of one
the winter, and we were always wishin' we has two. So here you be out o'
your fix, and we're all happy as a swile on a sunny rock."

"I'm wonderful glad to have you, too," added Toby. "I gets wishin' I had
some one to hunt with me, when Dad's away. We'll be huntin' and
cruisin' about together, and have a fine time."

"It's just great to be with you!" and Charley said it with a full and
appreciative heart.

"Now, lads, help me put the boat in the water, and I'll pull over to the
Duck's Head for Mother and Vi'let and the cargo," said Skipper Zeb.
"Whilst I'm gone, Toby, put on a fire and make the house snug."

Charley and Toby helped Skipper Zeb launch a boat, which was drawn up
upon the beach below the cabin, and when he had set out for the Duck's
Head, the boys returned to the cabin, and Toby kindled a fire in a big
oblong box stove.

It was a small cabin, but snug and homelike, and much more comfortable
than the one they had left at Pinch-In Tickle. There was no covering
upon the floor, but the boards were white and clean with much scrubbing.
Sections of old newspapers and picture pages from old magazines were
pasted upon the log walls, and completely covered them. These kept out
no small degree of winter wind and cold, and at the same time did duty
as decorations. Charley observed with interest several guns resting
upon the beams overhead.

There were no chairs in the room, and storage chests served as seats. A
table occupied the center of the room, and this had doubtless been built
by Skipper Zeb himself. Against the side wall was a shelf upon which
stood a silent clock. At one side of the clock was a small Bible, at the
other a candlestick. A bed built against a corner of the room and a dish
closet completed its furnishings.

A partition across the rear of the cabin formed a second room, and built
against the wall, one at each end of this room, were two beds similar to
that in the living-room.

"I sleeps in this un in the big room, and you'll be sleepin' with me,"
Toby advised. "Mother and Dad and Violet sleeps in the beds in the back
room."

The rear of the entrance porch was piled with firewood ready for the
stove, ranked in tiers which reached nearly to the roof, while upon the
walls in front hung dog harness, several pairs of snowshoes, traps and
other gear incident to a hunter's life.

Primitive and crude as was the cabin, it appealed to Charley, doubtless
in contrast to his recent experiences, as most comfortable and
homelike. This feeling of comfort increased when Toby wound the clock,
and it began ticking its welcome.

Toby was quite excited at his return to his winter home. He must needs
see and show Charley everything inside and outside the cabin, and
Charley was interested in all he saw, but most of all in the big, broad
snowshoes and the dog harness.

"Where are the dogs?" Charley asked.

"We leaves un over at Tom Ham's whilst we were at the fishin' in
summer," explained Toby. "Tom Ham lives at Lucky Bight, ten miles to the
nuth'ard from here. We'll be goin' for un soon now."

"It must be fun traveling with dogs," said Charley.

"Aye, 'tis that," agreed Toby, "when the weather's fair and the
travelin' is good. When the weather's nasty with snow or high winds and
frost, or when the goin' is soft, 'tis hard cruisin' with dogs."

When Skipper Zeb returned at one o'clock with Mrs. Twig and Violet, and
the cargo from the wrecked boat, Toby and Charley had a pot of grouse
stewing upon the stove and ready for the dumplings which Mrs. Twig
quickly prepared.

"'Twill be fine for you lads to set some rabbit snares this evenin',"
suggested Skipper Zeb, when dinner was finished. "Rabbit stew would make
fine eatin'. Whilst you're gone, I'll be snuggin' up and makin' things
tidy around the house. Comin' Monday I'll start settin' up the traps on
my path, and I'm thinkin' to take you lads with me on the first round I
makes. When you gets back I'm thinkin' 'twill be well to get the dogs
from Tom Ham's if he don't bring un before. He'll have his wood hauled,
and there'll be good footin' for you lads to take the team and haul our
wood by then."

This was exciting news to Charley. The dogs! How he wanted to see Eskimo
sledge dogs in harness! And to set traps with a real trapper and hunter!
He could scarce wait for the time to come.

FOOTNOTES:
[2] Hardtack.
[3] Similar to the Canada Jay, but with darker upper parts and head.
[4] The Hudsonian Chickadee.



VIII

THE TRAIL OF A LYNX


Evening down on The Labrador begins directly after twelve o'clock, noon,
and therefore by Labrador reckoning it was already evening. It was
Skipper Zeb's intention that the boys set out immediately, and he
emphasized this by bidding them:

"Bide a bit whilst I find some proper twine. The old twine you has last
year Toby, lad, were not strong enough to hold rabbits when you catches
un."

"'Twere wonderful poor twine," agreed Toby, "and I loses half the
rabbits, whatever, that gets in the snares."

Skipper Zeb began rummaging in one of the storage chests, and presently
produced a ball of heavy, smooth, closely wound twine.

"There's the best twine now I ever gets for snares," he declared with
some pride, handing it to Toby. "The rabbits'll not be breakin' _that_
twine, whatever. 'Tis stout as a small cable. I gets un in July month
from Skipper Mudge o' the schooner _Lucky Hand_. I asks he last fall
when he goes home from the fishin' to get un for me in St. John's. That's
_string_, now, _that_ is! 'Twill hold the biggest rabbit on the
Labrador."

"Are rabbits so strong?" asked Charley.

"Strong enough to break string that's not stout enough to hold un,"
laughed Skipper Zeb, explaining good-naturedly: "She has to be rare
stout to hold some of un. The string Toby has last year were rotten,
'twere so old, and he loses a rare lot o' rabbits that gets in the
snares with un breakin' the twine, so I gets new string for this year."

"That'll hold un! 'Tis fine twine," agreed Toby, testing it. "Come on,
Charley! We'll set a rare lot o' snares this evenin', and have rabbit
for dinner to-morrow."

The boys hurried into their adikeys, and Toby carrying his rifle, and
Charley a light ax, which Toby selected from three or four in the shed,
the two set out.

"We can't set snares too handy to the house," advised Toby, turning into
the forest behind the cabin, with Charley following. "The dogs would
find un _too_ handy, when we gets the team home from Skipper Tom's."

A thick bramble of dwarf willows and mooseberry bushes lined the shore
between the water of the bay and the spruce forest, and to avoid this
Toby laid his course through the forest behind the tangle. Charley,
thrilled with a sense of adventure, followed Toby eagerly as he led the
way for some time in silence. This was Charley's first trapping
expedition in a real wilderness! He wondered whether there were wolves
or other wild animals lurking among the shadows, and he was glad that
Toby had his rifle.

Suddenly Toby stopped. The white surface of the snow was covered with a
thick network of tracks, among the forest trees and back among the
bramble.

"They's plenty o' rabbits here," and Toby pointed to the tracks. "I
never sees so much rabbit footin'. I'm thinkin' 'tis far enough so the
dogs'll not be findin' the snares, and we'll start to set un here."

"Are these all rabbit tracks?" asked Charley in amazement. "There must
be thousands of them!"

"Aye, there's a rare fine band of un about," agreed Toby with an
appraising glance. "Here's a fine run, now! We'll be settin' the first
snare on this run."

Toby pointed to a beaten path or runway, indicating that rabbits had
passed back and forth over it many times.

He proceeded at once to cut a spruce sapling. From the middle of one
side of this he trimmed off the branches with his ax, leaving the thick
branches on both ends and on the other side. He then laid the sapling
across the runway where the runway passed between two trees, placing it
in such manner that the branches on each end of the sapling supported it
about eighteen inches above the snow, and the trimmed section of the
sapling left an opening for the runway.

On each side of the runway he now placed an upright stick, and between
the sticks and the trees on each side made a thick network of branches,
that only the gateway between the sticks, with the sapling above, would
be open for the passage of rabbits, and there would be no temptation to
pass around or to jump over the obstruction of branches on the upper
side of the sapling.

This done, he made a slipnoose on one end of a piece of twine. The other
end of the twine he tied to the sapling directly over the runway, and
spreading the noose around the gateway through the barricade, stood up
and surveyed his work.

"There she is, all ready for un to come along and get caught," he said
with pride.

"Don't you bait it with anything?" asked Charley, who had watched the
making of the snare with much interest.

"No, we don't bait un," explained Toby. "'Tis a runway where rabbits
goes, and they'll go right through un without bait, and get caught."

"Rabbits must be chumps to walk right into a contraption like that
without any reason, when they've miles of space to go around," Charley
declared.

"They're wonderful foolish creatures," said Toby. "They never seems to
know enough to go around."

Darkness comes early at this season in that northern latitude, and when
the boys had set six snares they suddenly became aware that it was
nearly sunset. They must set out on their return to the cabin without
delay.

"This _is_ the life!" exclaimed Charley, as they turned back. "Seems to
me an afternoon never flew so fast!"

"When I'm busy workin' I finds the time does go wonderful fast," agreed
Toby. "Havin' you along it went a wonderful lot faster'n when I'm
alone, too. 'Tis fine to have you here, Charley!"

"I'm having a great time, too! It's a peck of fun getting off here in
the woods away from everything, and setting snares."

"Aye, 'tis that."

"When shall we know whether we have caught anything?"

"We'll come and look at un first thing in the marnin'."

"I can't wait to see!"

"'Twill be more fun when we sets marten and fox traps. I'm goin' to ask
Dad to let us have some traps, and we can trap together, and I'm not
doubtin' we'll be gettin' some fur. We'll be partners."

"That'll be great! When can we start setting them?"

"When we comes back from goin' with Dad to his path."

"Where are we going now? We're not going the way we came."

"I'm takin' a short way through the timber. We may see some pa'tridges."

They walked for a few minutes in silence, when Toby, who was in the
lead, suddenly stopped, and examined the snow at his feet.

"What is it?" asked Charley in excitement, as Toby pointed to some
large tracks in the snow.

Toby, looking in the direction in which the tracks led, said nothing for
a moment. They were large tracks--nearly large enough for those of a
bear, and the steps taken by the animal that made them were short steps.

"What tracks are they?" Charley repeated, with bated breath. "Are they
wolf tracks or bear tracks?"

"They looks something like bear tracks, but 'tis not a bear made un,"
answered Toby. "'Tis not heavy enough for a bear, and bear tracks has
nail marks. This un has no nail marks. A bear steps longer, too. 'Tis
the track of a lynx, I'm thinkin'."

"Is a lynx dangerous?" asked Charley, a strange tingle chasing up and
down his spine.

"They're not like to be unless they gets cornered," said Toby. "Anything
fights when 'tis cornered. Even a fox would do that. This track is
fresh. 'Twere just made. I'm thinkin' the lynx is handy by, and we might
get a shot at un. He's around huntin' rabbits. Let's follow he."

"All right, I'm for it!" agreed Charley, quite excited at the prospect
of a lynx hunt.

The two boys set forward in silence, following the well defined trail
left by the animal. They had gone but a short distance when Toby stopped
and pointed at a red-stained and trampled place in the snow, with some
bits of fur lying about.

"He kills a rabbit here," whispered Toby. "See how fresh 'tis. That
stick is fresh wet with the rabbit's blood. 'Tis sure a lynx. 'Tis the
only beast makin' that big track that kills rabbits. I knows now 'tis a
lynx."

"It must be _very_ near!" whispered Charley, his heart beating fast.

"We're like to see he any minute," agreed Toby. "He's right handy. We'll
have to be keepin' wonderful quiet now."

"Will he run when he sees us?" asked Charley anxiously.

"He's not like to run at first. 'Tis the way of the lynx to stop and
look before he goes, but 'twould be easy to lose sight of he and lose a
shot here in the timber."

Never was Charley more excited. They continued on the trail with
increased caution. In every dark shadow Charley fancied he saw the
figure of a crouching beast about to spring upon them. He knew that a
lynx was a big cat, and he could not but wonder if, in spite of Toby's
assurance, it would not attack them from ambush. He had seen fierce
panthers in the zoo at home, and with every step the lynx grew in his
imagination to the proportions of the panther.

He recalled a story he had read of an attack a lynx had made upon a
hunter, and the more he thought of it the surer he was that at any
moment he would feel the lynx upon his back clawing and tearing at his
throat. Afraid, wild eyed, and peering into every shadowy recess as they
advanced, he still had no thought of deserting Toby. Come what might, he
was determined to see the adventure through. In this he was heroic. One
who faces danger without fear or appreciation of the danger displays no
bravery. But he who faces danger, drawn on by duty as Charley felt it
his duty now to stick by the side of Toby, believing himself in great
peril, but still not flinching, is truly brave.

The sun had dropped behind the western hills, and the first hint of
twilight was settling among the trees, when Toby without warning halted
and froze where he stood. Then it was that Charley saw in the shadows
ahead two eyes glowing like balls of fire and the outlines of a great
crouching creature.



IX

THE FAR WILDERNESS


Deliberately Toby raised his rifle to his shoulder, so deliberately that
Charley was sure the lynx would spring upon them before Toby could fire.
Charley held his breath, and then Toby's rifle rang out. The lynx gave a
feeble lunge, and the next instant lay crumpled in a heap.

"We got un! I knocked un over!" cried Toby exultantly as the two ran
forward to the prostrate animal.

"That was a fine shot!" Charley shouted, quite beside himself with
excitement, and now breathing freely again.

"He'll be a fine surprise for Dad!" exclaimed Toby, surveying the
carcass with vast pride. "Won't he and Mother be glad of un! The fur's
not prime, but 'twill be fair, and 'tis the first fur we gets this
year!"

"He won't kill any more of our rabbits!" Charley boasted, touching the
furry coat of the dead animal.

"The one he kills back there where we sees un, were the last un for
he," agreed Toby.

"How'll we carry it?" asked Charley.

"'Twill be easy to carry he," assured Toby. "I'll show you how easy
'tis."

Now that the lynx was harmless to attack, and lay quiet and motionless
at their feet, Charley discovered that it was a much smaller animal than
he had thought when he saw its eyes and its crouching form in the
shadows. Still he had no desire to meet a lynx alone in the forest,
though Toby still insisted that the animal would have made no attack,
and would have slipped away from them had he failed in his aim.

Toby drew the twine from his pocket, and tied together the front legs,
just above the padded feet, wrapping the twine around the legs several
times, and tying it in a secure knot. The hind legs were tied in similar
manner. Then cutting a stiff pole, and trimming off the branches with
the ax, he ran the pole between the front and hind legs, with the two
ends protruding.

"Now," said Toby, "and you takes one end of the pole on your shoulder,
I'll take the other on mine and we'll carry he in between us."

"I never would have thought of doing it that way," said Charley
admiringly. "That's dead easy!"

It was dusk when they reached the cabin, and the lynx was growing heavy
to Charley's unaccustomed shoulder, and both boys were tired and happy
with the day's adventure.

"Well, now!" boomed Skipper Zeb in his biggest voice, when the boys
appeared at the door. "A lynx! And a fine big un, too! And the fur's not
so bad for this early in the season. You're startin' in fine as a
Labradorman!" and he slapped Charley on the shoulder. "Day before
yesterday a castaway! Yesterday shipwrecked! To-day settin' rabbit
snares and helpin' Toby knock over a lynx! Aye, and gettin' the lynx!
That's two bad fixes you gets out of yourself, and one you gets the lynx
in that he don't get out of!"

"Toby shot the lynx," said Charley modestly. "He'd have got away from me
if I'd been alone, or eaten me up."

"Charley helped," Toby broke in. "He helped to trail he, though I did
the shootin', and he helped to carry he home."

"Both of you gets un, though only one does the shootin'," agreed Skipper
Zeb with a hearty "haw! haw! haw!" slapping the two boys on the
shoulder with vast approval. "Only one would be doin' the shootin'
whatever. We'll be makin' a hunter o' you before the ship comes back in
July month, lad! You'll be a true Labradorman by then. Now we'll have
roast lynx for dinner to-morrow, and 'tis a fine fat un too."

Supper was not ready, and while they waited Skipper Zeb and Toby skinned
the lynx, beginning at the hind feet, and drawing the skin whole and
inside out over the carcass. It was then pulled snugly over a board
shaped for the purpose, with the fur next the board and the fleshy side
out, drawn taut and secured. Now, with a sheath knife, Skipper Zeb
scraped it carefully, removing every particle of fat or flesh that
adhered, and when this was completed to his satisfaction he hung the
board with the pelt upon it from a peg to dry.

"It seems like a month instead of three days since I came," said Charley
when supper was eaten and Skipper Zeb had lighted his pipe. "A lot has
happened in three days."

"Things has happened, now! Yes, sir!" observed Skipper Zeb, puffing at
his pipe. "We had a bit of a hard time yesterday, but here we are
to-day all snug and safe and well. Not one of us in a fix, and all goin'
fine."

"I wonder how Mr. Wise felt when he missed me," Charley chuckled. "I can
just see him running around the ship looking for me. I guess he thinks
he's in a fix! Serves him right if he is worried. But," and Charley
sobered, "it makes me feel badly to think of Dad and Mother when they
hear I'm missing."

"Don't be thinkin' o' that now," cautioned Skipper Zeb. "'Twill do you
no good and 'twill do they no good. Just be thinkin' how joyful they'll
be when you goes home in July month. What a fine surprise 'twill be for
un!" And then to change the line of thought, he suggested: "You'll be
needin' a fit out o' clothes for the winter."

"I have some money," volunteered Charley. "I could buy things if there
was a store to go to."

"There's no store this side o' Skipper Blink's shop at Deer Harbour, and
that's a bit down north from Pinch-In Tickle, and we'll not be gettin'
there for two months whatever," explained Skipper Zeb. "Mother, how can
we fit out the lad for clothes?"

"We has a bolt o' moleskin and a bolt o' kersey cloth," said Mrs. Twig.
"I'll make the adikeys from that, and a pair o' moleskin trousers. We're
a bit short o' underclothes. We gets Toby new ones this year, and I can
mend up his old ones to do he for a bit until you goes to Deer Harbour,
and Charley can wear the new ones."

"I'll wear the old ones," objected Charley. "Let Toby have the new ones.
I have the suit I'm wearing, too."

"You have one of the new ones," suggested Toby by way of compromise,
"and with the suit you has 'twill make two. I'll be havin' the other two
suits of new uns, and we'll both be wearin' the old uns if we needs un
till you gets new."

"All right, I'll go you on that," agreed Charley. "That's a good way to
fix it. And when there's a chance to go to the store at Deer Harbour
I'll get some new things there."

"We has some fine skins for boots," said Mrs. Twig. "I gets un all
tanned in the spring, and I'll be makin' up some boots."

"Well, now! We're gettin' out o' that fix easy," and Skipper Zeb beamed
delightedly. "We're gettin' out o' _that_ fix! And has you duffle for
sox? And is there plenty o' deerskin on hand for moccasins?"

"Aye, plenty o' duffle and plenty of deerskins," smiled Mrs. Twig,
amused at the Skipper's enthusiasm. "I'll soon be havin' a plenty o'
sox and moccasins made up."

"The lynx fur the lads gets this evenin' not bein' prime for trade, but
fine for caps, I thinks the lads might have caps made out of un, and the
hoods of their adikeys trimmed with un," suggested Skipper Twig. "Then
both our lads will be dressed alike."

"'_Twould_ be fine, now," assented Mrs. Twig, who usually agreed with
Skipper Zeb's suggestions.

"Now that's settled, and we has you lads togged out to the king's taste
for winter." Skipper Zeb stroked his beard contentedly. "No fix there to
bother, and we'll talk up our plans. First thing, Mother's been fussin'
about the trap boat, and feelin' bad about un ever since we leaves un at
the Duck's Head. She's thinkin' if we pulls un out o' the water, we'll
find the bottom not so bad we can't fix un. I'm not doubtin' myself the
bottom's all stove in, the way she struck. But we'll go over to the
Duck's Head in the marnin' to pull she out and make sure of un, and
'twill make Mother feel better if we tries, whatever."

"That's fine," agreed Toby. "I were thinkin' maybe she's just got a
busted plank, and her timbers are sound."

"Now what does you think o' the plan, Charley?" asked Skipper Zeb.
"You're one o' the partners, and must have a say about un."

"It sounds good to me," agreed Charley, feeling that responsibility was
being thrust upon him, and rather pleased that it was. "I think the boat
should be looked at."

"There, now, that's good judgment," boomed the Skipper. "I were sure you
were a lad o' judgment from the minute I sees you, and that proves un.
We'll go in the marnin' to the Duck's Head to see the trap boat, after
you lads come back from your rabbit snares."

As Toby had planned, Charley and he shared the bed in the living-room,
and so soundly did Charley sleep that Mrs. Twig had breakfast nearly
ready before he awoke the following morning. They ate by candle-light,
and at the first break of dawn the two boys set out eagerly to look at
the rabbit snares, and within an hour returned with three big snowshoe
rabbits.

Skipper Twig was ready with his boat, in which he had stowed block and
fall rigging, hammer, nails, pieces of plank and an ax, and without
delay the three were off for the Duck's Head.

With the block and fall they were able to haul the boat out of the
water, and to their satisfaction, and the amazement of Skipper Zeb,
discovered that no serious damage had been done. A plank had been
broken, but ribs and timbers were uncracked. The boat was soon mended
and the new section of plank caulked with oakum, and shortly after
midday the trap boat was again afloat, and quite as serviceable as
before the accident.

"There she be, fine and shipshape as ever!" Skipper Zeb boomed. "Mother
were worryin' and stewin' herself half sick about she. That's the way
'tis with most worries, when you goes to the bottom of un. Nothin' to
worry about. There's another fix we gets out of."

"Fine and dandy!" exclaimed Charley. "I was sure you'd lost her, and I'm
so glad she's all right after all."

"Well, now," said Skipper Zeb, "this was once Mother was right when she
pesters me to come and look at un. I thinks we'd lost she sure, but I
says, 'That's the way o' things,' and I don't worry. Though we'd have
missed she at the fishin', we'd be gettin' on, and 'twasn't worth a
worry, whatever."

There was great rejoicing when Skipper Zeb and the boys arrived at
Double Up Cove early in the afternoon with the big trap boat, and the
small boat in tow. Mrs. Twig and Violet saw them coming, and were at the
beach to meet them, and Mrs. Twig actually shed tears of joy.

"Snug and tight as ever!" announced Skipper Zeb, as the prow touched the
shore. "We gets she all fixed up, Mother. I'm thinkin' you knows more
about boats than I does."

"I'm _so_ glad!" and Mrs. Twig's round face was wreathed in smiles while
glad tears glistened in her eyes. "Now you and the lads must be
wonderful hungry, for 'tis near two hours after dinner time, and
dinner's been waitin' this long while."

"Aye, hungry as seven bears and as happy and perky as a cock pa'tridge,"
boomed Skipper Zeb. "We'll make the boats fast, and be right up."

What an appetite Charley had! And when he learned that the delicious
roast meat was a cut of the lynx that he and Toby had killed the night
before, his natural prejudice against unaccustomed food did not prevent
him from taking a second helping.

Charley scarce had time to think of home. Skipper Zeb was quite aware
that the best antidote for homesickness is work, with little time to
ruminate, and he kept Charley busy from morning till night with himself
and Toby doing the most interesting things imaginable, and, with all the
other work, the boys visited their rabbit snares each day and set new
ones. The week passed quickly, and on Saturday evening, when they sat
down to supper, Skipper Zeb announced:

"Well, now, here 'tis time to go to the path and set up the traps. We'll
be leavin' Monday marnin', lads."

This was an adventure to which Charley had looked forward with keen
anticipation since Skipper Zeb had first announced that he and Toby were
to accompany him. Reaching away for countless miles in every direction
from the water's edge lay the vast primordial, boundless wilderness.
What unfathomed mysteries it held! There it slept as it had slept
through the silence of unnumbered ages since the world was formed,
untrod by the white man's foot, known only to wild Indian hunters, as
primitive as the wilderness itself. What strange beasts lived in its far
fastnesses! What marvelous lakes, what great rivers, what mountain peaks
waited there to be discovered! What a wonderful sensation it would be to
penetrate the hem of its outer edge beyond the sight and reach of even
Skipper Zeb's frontier cabin.

This was what Charley was thinking, as they talked of the going on
Monday morning, though he could not, perhaps, have put his thoughts or
emotions into words that would express them.

"'Tis a late start," Skipper Zeb continued. "I never goes in quite so
late to set up my path. But I has two fine helpers, whatever, and I
never has they before."

Everything was made ready on Sunday night, and a full two hours before
daybreak on Monday morning Skipper Zeb's small boat was laden with a
cargo of flour, pork, molasses, tea and steel traps, with extra clothing
for the trail. Two pairs of snowshoes were taken for himself, in case of
accident to one of them, and also a pair for Toby and a pair for
Charley.

"'Tis never safe to go without snowshoes at this season," explained
Skipper Zeb. "If snow comes now, there'll be no gettin' about without
un."

"I never had a pair of snowshoes on in my life," said Charley. "I don't
see how you can walk with them, they're so wide and must be clumsy."

"Never has snowshoes on!" explained Skipper Zeb in astonishment. "Well,
now! And how does you ever get about in winter without un?"

"The streets are kept clear of snow," explained Charley, "and we don't
have so much snow anyhow. Even in the country there isn't enough snow to
use them."

"Well, now!" said Skipper Zeb in wonderment. "It must be strange to be
livin' in a place where you're not needin' snowshoes to get about in
winter. You'll learn to use un. 'Twill be easy enough, once you finds
the way o' swingin' your feet."

Mrs. Twig and Violet went down to the landing to see them off, and to
wish them Godspeed as they pulled away with Skipper Zeb and Toby at the
oars and Charley settled snugly in the stern.



X

SKIPPER ZEB'S TRAPPING PATH


The stars shone brightly. The distant shore line stood out in dark
silhouette marking the boundary of the land of silence, where no man
lived. A thousand miles of trackless, unknown wilderness lay beyond that
dark forest boundary. Charley's imagination pictured it as another
world, apart and different from anything he had ever seen. Reared in a
great city, it was difficult for him, even after his experience of the
past week, to visualize it or form any accurate conception of what lay
within its cold, rugged heart.

Listening to the ripple of water, watching the stars, Charley's thoughts
turned from the dark shore line to the brighter home land. What had his
father said when Mr. Wise returned without him? What would his mother
say and feel when his father reached home alone? How grief-stricken they
would be! Tears came into Charley's eyes, and remorse threatened to
dampen the pleasure, and rob him of the ardour, of the adventure, when
Skipper Zeb, in his big, cheery voice, asked:

"Be you snug and warm back there, Charley, lad?"

"Yes, thank you." Charley's voice betrayed his thoughts, perhaps, for
Skipper Zeb asked:

"Not sorry now that the ship left you, be you, lad?"

"N-n-o," hesitated Charley, "I'm having a great time, but I was thinking
of Dad and Mother, and how badly they will feel."

"Don't be thinkin' o' that now. Think how glad you'll make they when you
goes back." Skipper Zeb laughed heartily. "I'm just laughin' at the way
they'll be takin' on _then_! They'll be just maulin' you to pieces,
they'll be so glad! Think o' _that_ now. Think o' the bad fix you gets
out of, and thank the Lard you gets left at Pinch-In Tickle where you
was as welcome as a son, instead of at some harbour where no one was
bidin', as might o' happened. Just be thinkin' of to-day, and thank the
Lard you're well and hearty, and has a snug berth with plenty o' grub.
Nothin' to worry about! Not a thing!"

"May I have a pull at the oars?" Charley asked, the gloom suddenly
dispersed by Skipper Zeb's cheery voice and logical argument.

"Aye, lad, 'twill warm you up," agreed Skipper Zeb heartily. "Take
Toby's oars. Let Charley have a pull at your oars, Toby, lad."

Charley soon wearied of the unaccustomed work, and blisters began to
form in the palms of soft hands; and when Toby suggested it, he was glad
enough to surrender the oars again to Toby, who minded it not a bit.

Daylight came and with it bright sunshine. Charley's heart beat with
gladness and the joy of life. His far away city home seemed farther away
than ever. He remembered it as one remembers a place of dreams--the
subways, the elevated railways, the traffic-clogged streets, the high
buildings, the noise. Here were no chimneys vomiting smoke and soot.
Here were no dirty streets to poison the air with noxious fumes and
germs of disease. He breathed deeply of the pure air bearing the sweet
perfume of the forest and the refreshing smell of the salt sea. It
filled his lungs like a life-giving tonic. How glorious this wild world
was!

"Well, now!" Skipper Zeb announced an hour before midday. "Here's Swile
Island before we knows it! We'll stop for a bit to boil the kettle and
stretch our legs ashore."

Swile Island was a small, nearly round island, containing an area equal
to about that of a city block. Its center rose to a small hill, covered
by a stunted growth of black spruce trees, which somehow clung to its
rocky surface.

Charley was glad to go ashore, and he soon learned that "to boil the
kettle" meant to prepare and eat luncheon. While Toby carried up from
the boat the food and cooking utensils, Skipper Zeb lighted a fire, and
in a little while the kettle was boiling for tea and a pan of salt pork
sizzling over the coals.

Never in his life had Charley eaten fried salt pork, and Skipper Zeb's
pork contained no streak of lean. He would have left the table without
eating had such a meal been served him in his city home. But here he ate
the pork, with his bread sopped into the grease, and tea sweetened with
molasses, hungrily and with a relish, so quickly had exercise in the
pure, clear air of the wilderness had its effect. Indeed, he was always
hungry now, and could scarcely wait for meal time.

"There were lots of things I'd never eat at home," he said as he passed
his plate for a second helping of pork, "but here I like everything."

"As I were sayin' before, hunger's a rare sauce for vittles," remarked
Skipper Zeb.

A light breeze sprang up while they were eating, and when they made
their departure from Swile Island Skipper Zeb hoisted a leg-o'-mutton
sail, and then sat and smoked his pipe and told stories of experiences
and adventures on the trail, while Toby took the rudder.

It was nearly three o'clock when Skipper Zeb pointed out a little log
hut near the mouth of a small river, and announced:

"There's Black River and there's Black River tilt where we bides
to-night."

A few minutes later the prow of the boat grounded upon a gravelly beach,
and while Skipper Zeb unloaded the cargo the boys carried it to the
tilt, laying it upon spruce boughs broken by Toby to protect it from the
snow.

The tilt was built of logs, with a roof thatched with bark. The door was
not more than four feet in height, and when Skipper Zeb opened it the
three were compelled to stoop low to enter. The interior was a room
about eight by ten feet in size. Across the end opposite the door was a
bunk, and, along the right side of the room as they entered, another
bunk extended from that at the far end to the wall behind the door. On
the left side of the room, and midway between the end bunk and the door
was a sheet-iron tent stove, with a pipe dismantled and lying on top of
it. An old pair of snowshoes, and steel traps, pieces of board shaped
for stretching pelts of various sizes and some simple cooking utensils
hung upon wooden pegs against the wall. The floor was of hard-packed
earth.

"Well, now! Here we be safe and sound and ready for work!" boomed
Skipper Zeb. "Everything snug and fine when we gets our beds made and
the stove set up and a fire in she. Whilst you lads gets boughs for the
beds, I'll be puttin' up the stove and stow the cargo inside."

Toby and Charley went to work with a will, and soon had deep springy
beds laid upon the bunks. Upon the bunk at the farther end they spread
Skipper Zeb's sleeping bag, and side by side, upon the other bunk, their
own. Already Skipper Zeb had a crackling fire in the stove and the
cargo carried in and stowed snugly under the berths.

"Now whilst Toby and I tidy up a bit, put over the kettle, Charley lad,
and we'll have a bite to eat," suggested Skipper Zeb.

Charley took the tin pail that served as a kettle, to fill it at the
river. Just as he had dipped it and was about to return, his eye fell
upon a peculiar looking animal perched upon a branch high up in a spruce
tree. With all speed he ran back to the tilt and called excitedly upon
Toby to come and see it.

"'Tis a porcupine!" exclaimed Toby, grabbing his rifle and following
Charley. "I'll shoot he, and we'll have he for supper!"

And so it proved. A shot brought the animal tumbling down. Toby picked
it up gingerly by a leg and carried it back.

"Well, now! Fresh meat the first night!" boomed Skipper Zeb. "Whilst you
lads tidy the tilt, I'll skin he."

In a few minutes Skipper Zeb had the porcupine skinned and dressed, and
after washing the meat in the river and cutting it into convenient
sections he placed it in a kettle of water to stew for supper.

Two Indian flatsleds or toboggans, which were standing on end against
the tilt, were put into repair by Skipper Zeb and made ready for the
journey on the morrow, and before dark all preparations for an early
departure were completed.

It was snug and cozy now in the tilt, with the fire in the little tent
stove cracking and snapping. The air was spicy sweet with the odour of
the spruce and balsam beds, but to the boys a still more delicious and
appealing odour was given out by the kettle of stewing porcupine on the
stove. Presently when supper was served Charley declared that the meal
more than fulfilled his expectations.

"Why, it makes me think of lamb," he said, "only it's a heap better than
any stewed lamb I ever ate. It's just great!"

"'Twere young and fat," said Skipper Zeb. "We likes porcupine wonderful
well. 'Tis a fine treat _we_ thinks."

Before daybreak the following morning loads were lashed upon the two
flatsleds, and all was made ready for the trail. Snow was not deep
enough to require the use of snowshoes, and they were tied securely upon
the tops of the loads.

"All ready!" announced Skipper Zeb, in his big hearty voice, as dawn
was breaking. "I'll be goin' ahead with the heavy flatsled, and you lads
takes turns haulin' the other. Toby b'y, you take the first turn at un."

"Aye," agreed Toby eagerly, "I'll haul un a spell first."

The route for a time followed the course of Black River. Now and again
Skipper Zeb paused and turned aside to set a trap, where the tracks of
martens or minks indicated their presence. At intervals he took bunches
of a dozen or more traps from trees where he had hung them the previous
spring when the trapping season had ended. Charley wondered how it was
possible for him to remember where he had left them, and asked:

"How do you ever find the traps where you left them? The places all look
alike to me."

"Why, 'tis easy enough, lad. This bunch I hangs in the only hackmatack
tree handy about. I just looks up and sees the tree, and there I finds
the traps just where I leaves un."

Even still Charley could not understand how Skipper Zeb could know where
to look for the particular hackmatack tree, standing alone among the
spruces and quaking aspens, for at several points he saw lone
hackmatacks in similar surroundings. Presently he was to learn that the
woodsman by long practice learns to know every tree or bush that is even
slightly out of the ordinary along his trail, and so trained is he in
the art of observation that his subconscious mind records these with no
effort on his part. Thus to the woodsman the trail over which he has
traveled two or three times, and often but once, becomes as familiar to
him as streets to the city dweller.

After two hours on the trail, Skipper Zeb announced that they would
"boil the kettle," and have a "snack" to eat. Already the boys were
ravenously hungry, and Skipper Zeb chuckled merrily as he observed their
keen enjoyment as they ate.

"Settin' up traps makes for hunger," said he. "Fill up now."

"I was just hollow!" confessed Charley.

"And I was hungrier'n a starved wolf!" added Toby.

Their course now left the river valley, and presently came upon a wide
frozen marsh, or "mesh" as Skipper Zeb called it.

"'Tis here on the meshes we finds the best fox footin'," he explained to
Charley.

It was not long until he found tracks that he said were fox tracks, and
in various places on the marsh set three traps, which were considerably
larger than those set for marten or mink, and had two springs instead of
one, and he used much greater care in setting them than in setting those
for marten and mink. With his sheathknife he cut out a square of snow,
and excavated in the snow a place large enough to accommodate the trap.
Over the trap a thin crust of snow was placed, and so carefully fitted
that its location was hardly discernible. In like manner the chain,
which was attached to the root of a scrubby spruce tree, was also
concealed. From a carefully wrapped package on his flatsled Skipper Zeb
produced some ill-smelling meat, and this he scattered upon the snow
over and around the trap.

"They likes meat that smells bad," he explained, "and I'm thinkin' that
smells bad enough for un."

Evening was falling when suddenly through the forest there glinted the
waters of a lake, and here on its shores Skipper Zeb told them they were
to camp for the night. A home-made cotton tent, small but amply large
enough for the three, was quickly pitched and a tent stove set up. Then
while Toby and Charley gathered boughs and laid the bed, Skipper Zeb cut
a supply of wood for the night, and before the boys had finished the bed
he was frying in the pan a delicious supper of partridges, which he and
Toby had shot during the afternoon.

Charley was sure he had never been so tired in his life. It had been a
long day of steady walking, save for the brief stops when Skipper Zeb
halted to set a trap, and the snow and turns at hauling the flatsled had
made it the harder. He lay back upon his sleeping bag chatting with Toby
and watching Skipper Zeb prepare supper. How cozy and luxurious the tent
was! The pleasant fragrance of spruce and balsam would have put him to
sleep at once, had it not been for the pleasanter fragrance of the
frying partridges and a hunger that increased with every minute.

When the meal was eaten Charley's eyes were so heavy that it was little
short of torture to keep them open, and he slipped into his sleeping
bag, and in an instant had fallen into dreamless, restful sleep.

How long he had been sleeping he did not know, when suddenly he found
himself awake and alert. Something had aroused him, and he sat up and
listened. For a time he heard nothing, save the heavy breathing of
Skipper Zeb and Toby, and he was about to lie down again when there came
the sound of footsteps in the slightly crusted snow outside. Some animal
was prowling cautiously about the tent sniffing at its side. The moon
was shining, and suddenly he saw the shadowy outline, against the
canvas, of a great beast that he knew to be a timber wolf.

He was about to reach over to Skipper Zeb to wake him, when all at once
the stillness was broken by a terrifying, heartrending howl, rising and
falling in mournful cadence, and echoing through the forest behind them.
The howling creature was separated from Charley only by the thickness of
the canvas, and Charley's blood ran cold.



XI

THE WORST FIX OF ALL


Skipper Zeb and Toby sat up hurriedly, and without an instant's
hesitation Skipper Zeb slipped on his moccasins, reached for his rifle
and left the tent. A moment later there came the report of his rifle.

The boys awaited eagerly his return, and when presently he reentered the
tent it was to report:

"'Twere an old she wolf, but I misses she. 'Twere just one alone. I'm
thinkin' we may be findin' deer signs up the path. Wolves follow the
deer."

"Will the wolf come back? And is it dangerous?" asked Charley, the
terrifying echo of its howl still in his ears.

"We'll never see _she_ again," said Skipper Zeb, settling in his
sleeping bag to resume his interrupted rest. "That un won't be
dangerous, whatever. If she keeps goin' as smart as she started she'll
be over the height o' land by to-morrow night this time," and he
chuckled with the recollection of the frightened wolf's speed.

Farther and farther into the wilderness they went. It seemed to Charley
that they had left the whole world behind them, and that the forest and
barrens through which they trod had swallowed them up, and he wondered
if they would ever be able to find their way back to Black River tilt
and the boat. Had he been left alone he would not have known in which
direction to turn.

The silence was total. There was never a sound to break it at night, and
during the day none save the harsh voice of the Labrador jay, which came
begging for food whenever they boiled the kettle, and was so fearless it
would almost take crumbs from the hand; or the incessant dee-dee-dee of
the chickadee, a much pleasanter companion of the trail, Charley
thought, than the jay. Once, in the evening, they heard the honk of a
flock of wild geese passing south.

"They're a bit late," observed Skipper Zeb. "They'll be bidin' in a pond
a step to the west'ard from here, and feedin' in the marnin'. I gets
geese there sometimes, and I'm thinkin' I'll take a look at break o' day
and see if I can knock one or two of un over."

Accordingly, the following morning after they had eaten breakfast and
just as dawn was breaking, he left the boys, and a half hour later
returned with three fat geese.

"We'll cache un here," said he, "and when we comes back take un with us,
and you lads can take un home."

On Wednesday night they had the shelter of a tilt, which Skipper Zeb
called "Long Lake tilt," and on Friday evening they reached "Big Lake
tilt" and the end of the trail.

"Here we stops till Monday," Skipper Zeb announced. "'Twill give you
lads a chance to rest up."

"That's great! It's the longest and hardest hike I ever had," said
Charley. "I'll tell Dad about it when I get home, and he'll think I
could have stood the Newfoundland hike he wouldn't take me on. I'll bet
it wasn't half as hard as this one!"

"You'll be gettin' as strong as a young bear, lad, and as toughened up
as a wolvering before you leaves The Labrador," chuckled Skipper Zeb.

"Mother'll be scared when I tell her what I've done here," said Charley,
"but Dad will be proud of it. They never thought I could do _anything_
hard, and never let me do anything much. They'll know now what I can
do!"

"We never knows what we can do till we tries un," commented Skipper Zeb.

The following morning Skipper Zeb did not wake the boys, but left them
to sleep while he slipped away alone to set traps in the forest and
marshes along the lake shore. It was broad day when they awoke, and when
they had eaten Toby suggested:

"We'll be goin' out with my rifle and try shootin' at a mark."

"May I shoot?" asked Charley eagerly. "I never shot a gun in my life and
I'd like to learn!"

"'Tis easy," assured Toby. "I'll be showin' you how, and you'll be
learnin' quick."

Before they left the tilt Toby instructed Charley in how to fill the
magazine and how to manipulate the lever, impressing all the time upon
his pupil the necessity of caution, and telling tales of two or three of
his acquaintances who had been shot through the careless handling of
firearms.

When Charley had learned the rudiments of gun handling to Toby's
satisfaction, they went a little way down the lake shore, and selecting
a bank as a background, in order, Toby told Charley, that bullets that
missed the mark might not go crashing through the forest, but would be
buried in the earth, he fastened a small square of white birchbark upon
a spruce tree, to serve as a target, and retired with Charley to a
distance of about fifty yards from it.

"Now try a shot," Toby directed.

"How do you hold the rifle steady?" asked Charley who found the muzzle
wabbling woefully.

Toby, with much patience, illustrated the method of placing the feet,
the position in which to stand, how to hold the arm, and how to aim
properly.

"Now don't pull un with a jerk. Hold your breath and squeeze the trigger
hand together all at once, so she goes off almost without your knowin'
when she goes."

Charley proved himself an apt pupil, and after a few shots rarely missed
the target.

Skipper Zeb did not return to the tilt for dinner, and after the boys
had eaten Toby suggested that they stroll up the lake shore in the hope
that they might get a shot at some partridges.

"May I carry your rifle and try to shoot them if we see any?" asked
Charley eagerly.

"Aye," agreed Toby, "'twill be fine for you to try un, now you knows how
to shoot."

Charley took the rifle eagerly, and this time took the lead, as the
hunter. They had walked but a short distance when Toby whispered:

"Drop quick!"

"What is it?" whispered Charley, as both dropped to the ground and Toby
crawled up beside him.

"Deer!" whispered Toby. "See un! Right ahead!"

Then for the first time Charley saw a big caribou, nosing in the snow
and feeding leisurely.

"What'll I do?" asked Charley.

"'Tis a fine shot!" answered Toby. "Be wonderful careful o' your aim,
and shoot!"

Charley was all atremble as he brought the rifle to his shoulder for his
first shot at any game. In spite of all he could do, the muzzle of the
rifle would not behave, and before he was aware of it he pulled the
trigger, and the shot went wild.

"Try un again! Try un again before he runs!" plead Toby.

Charley fired again and then again, but with no better success, and the
caribou, now taking alarm, turned and disappeared into the forest.

"You misses that un," said Toby, not in the least perturbed, now that
the caribou had gone. "'Tis hard to hit un the first time you tries."

"Oh, I'm so sorry!" and Charley could scarce control his voice in
excitement and disappointment. "It was nearer than the target we shot
at! How _could_ I miss it?"

"You gets nervous the first time you tries, the way most folks does,"
soothed Toby. "Next time you'll get un."

It was Thursday evening of the following week when they again reached
the tilt at Black River and the boat. Both boys were tired but happy,
and Charley, who had shot his first partridge with Toby's rifle that
morning, told Skipper Zeb that he had had the best time he ever had in
all his life.

"That's the way to talk, lad! That's the way!" and Skipper Zeb slapped
him on the shoulder, his characteristic method of expressing approval.
"You has the makin's in you of a fine trapper and hunter. You fits
yourself to what you has to meet and to do, whether 'tis a bit hard or
whether 'tis easy. 'Twere a long way for young legs that's not used to
un. Bein' on the path settin' up traps is a wonderful sight different
from bein' snug and warm with a good bed o' nights at home. You lads
stands un like old hands at un."

"Thank you, Skipper," and Charley was proud, as was Toby, at the word of
praise. Every one likes to be praised for an act well done, or done to
the best of one's ability, and Skipper Zeb, who in a crude way was a
student of human nature, and carried a gentle, affectionate heart in his
bosom, never failed to speak a word of praise where it was deserved. He
knew that a kindly word of appreciation for a deed well done, often
proved an incentive to greater effort. A little flower handed to the
living is better than a wreath placed upon the casket of the dead.
Skipper Zeb gave his flowers of kindliness to those about him while they
lived and could enjoy them.

"Now, lads," said Skipper Zeb when they had finished their evening meal,
and he was puffing his pipe comfortably by the warm stove, "I has a line
o' traps to set up to the east'ard of the tilt that I weren't settin'
up before we goes in, and two days' work to do about here whatever.
We've been havin' a long spell o' fine weather like we mostly has before
winter sets in hard. The wind is shiftin', and before to-morrow night,
whatever, there'll be snow. Early in the marnin' I thinks you had better
start back with the boat, and be gettin' snug at Double Up Cove before
the snow comes."

"When'll you be gettin' home, Dad?" asked Toby.

"I'll be gettin' home the Saturday or Sunday before Christmas,
whatever," promised Skipper Zeb, "and I'll be stayin' for a fortnight
holiday when I comes."

"Won't you be home before then?" asked Charley in astonishment.

"No, I has to keep tendin' the traps once I sets un," explained Skipper
Zeb. "'Tis the only way to get fur."

"I should think you'd get dreadfully lonesome on the trail alone," said
Charley, "and we'll miss you."

"A busy man's not havin' time to get lonesome. 'Tis only idleness that
makes for lonesomeness."

The sky was heavily clouded the following morning, and a brisk
northeasterly breeze, cold and raw, was blowing. Toby and Charley bade
good-bye to Skipper Zeb, and hoisting the sail departed for Double Up
Cove.

"The breeze'll be helpin' you now," shouted Skipper Zeb from the shore.
"Make the most of un, and don't be takin' too much time to boil the
kettle at Swile Island!"

"Aye," shouted Toby, "we'll be makin' the most of un."

Charley watched Skipper Zeb standing on the shore and looking longingly
after them, and then turn back to his lonely work in the wilderness, and
he, himself, felt suddenly very lonely.

With unexpected suddenness the wind rose to half a gale before they had
spanned two-thirds of the distance to Swile Island. The boat shipped
several seas, and while Charley bailed the water out, all of Toby's
seamanship was required to keep her on her course, until at length, to
their great relief, a landing was made on the lee side of the island.

"I was sure we'd be wrecked again!" exclaimed Charley when he and Toby,
dripping wet, had hauled the prow of the boat upon the sloping rock of
the island shore.

"'Twere a bit rough," admitted Toby. "We'll have to bide here till the
wind goes down, and I'm thinkin' there'll be snow before we gets the
kettle boiled."

"And we haven't any tent!" exclaimed Charley in consternation.

"We'll be makin' a lean-to with the sail," suggested Toby. "We'll not
find un so bad. We'll make un before we boils the kettle."

The boat was unloaded, and under the lee of a big rock, where they were
protected from the wind also by a grove of spruce trees, Toby selected
two trees about seven feet apart, and five feet from the ground and
lashed a pole from tree to tree. He then cut several poles, and arranged
them evenly with one end resting upon the pole which he had lashed to
the tree and the other end sloping back to the ground. To make the
sloping poles secure and hold them in place, he laid another pole
between the trees, and on top of the sloping poles, lashing this also
firmly into place, and then placed a log over the ends of the poles on
the ground to hold them in position.

With Charley's assistance he now spread the boat sail over the poles,
and tied it into place. Then at each end of the lean-to be and Charley
placed a thick barricade of spruce brush. A floor of boughs finished and
made comfortable the shelter, and a fire built against a rock in front
of it, that the rock might serve as a reflector, soon made the lean-to
warm and snug.

There was no abatement of wind, and snow was falling thickly before they
had finished eating, and when they were through, Toby suggested:

"I'm thinkin' we'd better haul the boat up farther and turn she over."

"All right," agreed Charley, "let's do it now. It don't look as though
we'd get off the island to-day."

"Not till the wind stops, whatever," said Toby. "We may have to bide
here two or three days, _I'm_ thinkin'."

This was a new adventure. Charley rather enjoyed the prospect of it, and
Toby perhaps equally as well, and as they walked down to their landing
place they chatted merrily about what they would do, when all at once
both boys stopped and looked at each other aghast. The boat was not
there!

"She's gone!" exclaimed Toby. "The tide were risin' up and floatin' she
off!"

"What shall we do?" asked Charley in dismay. "We can't get off the
island without a boat!"

"'Tis a bad fix," confessed Toby. "They's no way o' gettin' off the
island without the boat. I'm not knowin' rightly what to do. 'Tis the
worst fix I _ever_ were in!"

The snow was now falling heavily, driven in thick, swirling clouds by
the gale. Everywhere they looked along the shore, in the vain hope that
the boat may have drifted in at some other point, and eagerly they
looked out into the drifting clouds of snow in the equally vain hope
that it might be seen floating near enough to the shore to be recovered
by some means. But nowhere was it to be seen, and the two boys,
depressed by a sense of helplessness to extricate themselves from the
small, isolated and nearly barren island that had so suddenly become
their prison, turned back to the partial protection of their improvised
shelter.

Disconsolate, they sat under the lean-to and talked over their dilemma
while the snow beyond the fire grew thicker, and the wind shrieked and
howled dismally through the trees.

"You thinks 'twere bad when the ship leaves you at Pinch-In Tickle,"
said Toby finally, "but we're gettin' in a wonderful sight worse fix!"

"Yes," agreed Charley dejectedly, "of all that's happened, this is the
worst fix of all."

"All we has to eat," continued Toby, "is half a loaf o' bread, a small
bit o' pork and enough tea for one or two days, besides the three geese
Dad were sendin' home to Mother."

"Perhaps we can get some game on the island?" suggested Charley.

"No," said Toby, "they's no game here. 'Tis too small an island."

"Is any one likely to come this way in a boat?" asked Charley hopefully.

"No," answered Toby discouragingly. "We're clost to the head o' the bay,
and nobody ever comes here except Dad. We're sure in a wonderful bad
fix, Charley."



XII

THE PANGS OF STARVATION


When the first shock at the loss of their boat had passed, youthful
buoyancy of spirit asserted itself, and the two castaways looked more
hopefully upon their position. By eating lightly, Toby declared they
could make a goose last them two days, and thus they had six days'
rations of goose. The other food they would consider another day's
rations. Thus, while they would not have as much to eat by any means as
they might wish, they would do fairly well for a week.

"'Tis the comin' o' winter," prognosticated Toby. "'Tis gettin' frostier
all the time, and when the storm clears 'twill settle down to steady
freezin' day and night. If she does, the bay's like to fasten over soon,
and then we'll be walkin' back to Double Up Cove on the ice, and
couldn't use a boat if we had un."

"How long will it likely be before the bay freezes?" asked Charley
anxiously.

"Soon as the wind stops and she calms down. After she begins freezin'
she'll keep freezin' and ice is like to make fast," Toby explained. "The
ice'll hold us in one or two days after she fastens, whatever, and
there'll be fine footin' then to Double Up Cove."

"Then we're not likely to be here very long, and that's a comfort," said
Charley, much relieved.

"Not so long, I'm thinkin'," agreed Toby.

There was a good deal of driftwood on the island shores, and dead wood
scattered over the island, and upon Toby's suggestion they carried a
quantity of this to the lean-to, and piled it at one side of the big
boulder against which the fire was built. A huge pile was collected to
serve as a reserve supply of fuel, that they might have a-plenty on hand
to serve their needs, should the storm continue for two or three days,
as Toby predicted it would, in which case the dead wood scattered over
the island might be buried so deeply beneath the snow that they could
not reach it.

When Toby deemed the supply of dead wood sufficient, even in case of a
greater emergency than he anticipated, he felled some green trees,
trimmed the branches from the trunks, and cut the logs into convenient
lengths for use upon the fire, and these Charley carried to the lean-to
and piled at the opposite side of the boulder, that either dry or green
wood might be had as desired.

"The green wood's slow to get started," said Toby, "but 'twill burn
longer and keeps a fire longer."

Toby's judgment in collecting a reserve supply of fuel proved sound.
Before night came a sudden and decided increase in the fall of snow
rendered it unsafe to move a score of feet from the shelter, and the
boys were thankful for the foresight that had led them to provide for
the emergency.

Comfort and luxury are measured by contrast and comparison. The mail
boat had seemed to Charley bleak and uncomfortable as compared to the
luxurious home he had just left. The cabin at Pinch-In Tickle had
appealed to him as a crude and miserable shelter in contrast to the mail
boat, and he had wondered how the Twigs could exist in a place so barren
of what he had always looked upon as the most necessary conveniences.
But after his experience on the trap boat, and the retreat from the
Duck's Head camp, the Twig home, at Double Up Cove, in all its
simplicity, was accepted by him as possessing every necessary comfort.
Now, in contrast to the buffeting snow and wind which he and Toby had
been fighting all day, even the rough lean-to assumed a cozy atmosphere,
the fire before it blazing cheerily, and the boulder against which the
fire was built reflecting the heat to the farthest corner.

"I never thought a place like this could be so snug," said Charley, when
they had plucked and dressed one of the geese, and after disjointing it
with his sheathknife Toby had put it over the fire to boil in the
kettle, and the two boys lay upon their bough bed basking in the warmth
and sniffing the appetizing odour sent forth from the kettle, while
beyond the fire the snow drifted and the wind whistled.

"'Tis snug now," agreed Toby. "'Tis an easy way o' makin' a place to
bide in when they's no tent."

"Your father always says not to worry," said Charley reflectively. "I
know he's right, and it never helps a fellow any to worry. I'm not going
to worry again. I'm sure the ice will come in time to get us out of
here. When we found the boat was gone I _was_ worried though! I'm
almost glad now we got caught here. When I get home and tell Dad about
it he'll think it was just great!"

"No, as Dad says, 'twill do no good to worry, because worry unsets the
insides of our heads and then that upsets our other insides and we gets
sick," commented Toby. "We're about as well off without the boat as we
would be with un. 'Tis lookin' to me like the start of winter, and if
'tis, I'm thinkin' the bay'll fasten over by the time the storm's over
and before we could be gettin' away with the boat if we had un, and we'd
be havin' to walk whatever."

"Do you mean walk on the ice when it comes?" asked Charley anxiously.
"Won't that take a good while? We won't starve before then, will we?"

"We may be havin' some hungry days, but we'll not be starvin',"
suggested Toby. "Indians has hungry spells when they don't get deer
sometimes, and if Indians can stand un we can."

"Yes," Charley boasted, "if the Indians can stand it we can."

It was long after dark, and the evening well advanced, when they ate a
most satisfying supper of boiled goose. After they had eaten Toby cut a
supply of dry shavings and kindling wood from the hearts of dead sticks,
which he split, and stowed the shavings and kindling wood behind their
sleeping bags where the snow could not reach them to wet them, and they
would be ready for instant use in the morning. Then he piled an extra
supply of dry wood upon the fire, and upon this placed two of the green
logs, remarking:

"The green wood'll not be goin' out so quick when she gets goin', and
the coals are like to keep the fireplace free o' snow longer if she
drifts in whilst we sleeps."

Never had Charley experienced such a storm. The weather had suddenly
grown intensely cold, as he discovered when he stepped beyond the fire's
glow. Now, snuggling down into his sleeping bag, it seemed to him that
all the forces of nature had broken loose in their wildest fury. Above
the shriek of wind was heard the dull thud of pounding seas upon the
rocks, and the hiss of driving snow, combining to fill the air with a
tumult little less than terrifying.

Once, in concern, he spoke to Toby, but there was no response, and he
knew that Toby was asleep. For a time he lay awake and listened to the
roar of the storm and the thunder of the seas, and then, wearied with
the day's labours and adventures, the shriek of wind and hiss of snow
and roar of pounding seas blended into blissful unconsciousness, and he
slept as peacefully as he would have slept in his bed at Double Up Cove.

When the young adventurers awoke the next morning, there was no
abatement in the storm. A huge drift covered the boulder and the place
where their fire had been, and nearly enclosed the front of the lean-to;
and before they could lay a fire, a half hour's hard work was necessary
to clear the snow away, each using a snowshoe in lieu of a shovel.

Then Toby lighted a fire, and soon the lean-to was warm again, and the
kettle boiling merrily, and they ate a light breakfast of goose, a
little of the remaining bread, and one cup each of weak tea sweetened
with molasses.

"We'll have to be a bit careful o' the grub," advised Toby, "and not eat
all we wants. There's no tellin' how long 'twill be before the bay
freezes over. I'm thinkin' if we eats only twice a day 'twill be best."

"That's good sense," agreed Charley. "We'll not be doing anything but
waiting here, and we'll have to make two meals do us."

For four days and four nights the blizzard raged without abatement, and
when the sky cleared on the fifth day, a new intense cold had settled
upon the world. When the boys were able again to venture forth, they
discovered that while the smooth rocks of the island had been swept
clear of snow by the wind, huge drifts had formed against every
obstructing boulder, and among the trees the snow lay a full four feet
deep.

"It's a good time for me to learn to use snowshoes," suggested Charley.
"I'm going to put them on and try them."

"'Tis, now," agreed Toby. "Get un out, and we'll see how you likes un."

Toby adjusted the slings for Charley, and then donning his own the two
set out in the deep snow on the center of the island. At the beginning
Charley stumbled, and falling in the snow could not get upon his feet
without Toby's assistance; but in a little while he discovered that he
could swing along at a good pace, and Toby pronounced him an "easy
larner."

"I'm thinkin' Dad's at Black River tilt yet," said Toby when the
snowshoe lesson was finished and they had returned to their fire. "He'll
be havin' a wonderful bad time settin' up his path again. The marten
traps'll be above the snow, settin' on trees, but the mink and fox
traps'll be deep enough under."

"Our snares will all be covered up," suggested Charley. "We'll never
find them."

"We'll never dig _they_ out, whatever," agreed Toby. "When we gets home
we'll be settin' new ones."

"It seems to me it must be cold enough to freeze the bay," said Charley
wistfully. "We haven't much goose left, and if it doesn't freeze soon
we'll not have any left."

"'_Tis_ cold enough," said Toby, "but the sea'll have to calm down
before she freezes. We'll have to bide here three or four days more,
_what_ever."

Two days later they ate the last of the goose, and that night went to
their sleeping bags with no breakfast in view for the following morning.
Still the waters of the bay gave no promise of freezing when they awoke.
Heavy seas were breaking in from the eastward, though for three days the
sky had been clear.

With scant meals the boys had been hungry for several days, and now with
nothing to eat they became ravenous. They could talk of little else than
the good things they would have to eat when they were safely back at the
cabin at Double Up Cove, and the possibility of the early freezing of
the bay. Every little while during the day they wandered out along the
shore in the hope that they might discover that the sea was calming,
only to return each time with little to encourage them.

"I'm as hollow as a drum," Charley declared when night came and they had
settled in their sleeping bags. "I don't see how I can stand it another
day. Isn't there something we can find to eat?"

"I'm wonderful hungry too," admitted Toby. "I'm as empty as a flour
barrel that's been scraped, and I'm not knowin' anything we could find
to eat, with snow on the ground. If the ground were clear we might be
findin' berries, though I'm doubtin' there's many on Swile Island. But
if there are, they're under the snow and they'll have to bide there, for
we never could be findin' they."

"It seems to me I can't sleep without something to eat," Charley
complained. "I just can't stand it much longer, that's all."

"Try gettin' asleep," counseled Toby, "and when you gets asleep you'll
be forgettin' about bein' hungry."

Charley did get to sleep readily enough, but it was only to dream that
he was hungry, and always in his dreams he was about to get food, but
something happened to keep it from him.

Two more days passed, and still the boys were without food. No one can
know but one who has starved the degree of their hunger and craving for
food during this period. Nothing that might have served as food would
have been rejected by them or have been repugnant to them, but no morsel
could they find. It was on the morning of the third day of their famine,
when hunger pangs were the keenest, that Toby announced:

"I been prayin' the Lard to send the ice, and telling He how we wants to
get away from here but don't know how until ice comes. Has you been
prayin', Charley?"

"No," confessed Charley, "I've been growling around about our hard luck
and about being hungry. All I know is the Lord's prayer anyhow. I never
was taught to pray out of my head. How do you do it?"

"Just talk to the Lard like you talks to anybody," said Toby in
astonishment. "Ask He what you wants He to give you or wants He to do,
just like you asks your Dad."

"You pray for both of us," suggested Charley. "Do it aloud so that I can
hear it, and I'll say it over to myself, and maybe that will help. Don't
forget to tell Him how hungry we are."

"I'm not doubtin' 'twould help," agreed Toby. "We'll be takin' off our
caps. 'Twill be more respectful. Mr. Stuart at the Hudson's Bay Post
makes us take off our caps when we talks to he and asks he anything."

"Yes, and we'd better get on our knees too," suggested Charley.

"Aye, 'twould be respectful," Toby agreed. "Dad says 'tis fine to kneel
when 'tis so we can, though if we can't, to pray standin' up or rowin' a
boat, or any way that's handiest."

Taking off their caps and kneeling upon their sleeping bags under the
lean-to, and bowing their heads reverently, Toby prayed:

"Charley and I are wonderful hungry, Lard. We been bidin' here on this
island, which we calls Swile Island, goin' on ten days. We only has two
meals a day till day before yesterday, and since then we has nothin' and
to-day we has nothin'. Please, Lard, calm the sea and let the bay fasten
over so 'twill be right to walk on, and we'll be goin' to Double Up Cove
where our home is. You know all about it, Lard. We been doin' our best,
Lard, and we don't know anything more to do. We're in a wonderful bad
fix, and we needs help to get out of un. We're wantin' somethin' to eat,
Lard, and we'll be wonderful thankful for un. Amen."

The boys sat down and resumed their caps, and in a moment Charley said:

"That was a bang up prayer, Toby. I couldn't have thought of a thing to
say, except that I was hungry, but you thought of everything."

That evening Toby announced that the sea was calmer, but still too rough
to freeze, and the next morning that the water was much "steadier,"
though yet not enough to freeze.

"If she keeps on steadyin' down I'm thinkin' by to-morrow marnin' she'll
begin to fasten."

"I'm not half so hungry as I was," said Charley, "but I'll be just as
glad to get away from here."

"That's the way I hears the Indians say 'tis," said Toby, "and that's
the way 'tis with me. I wants to eat, but I'm not hankerin' after un the
way I was first."

Another morning brought a calm, though still unfrozen, sea. The boys
were early by the shore to scan eagerly the waters.

"She's smokin'!" exclaimed Toby. "She's smokin'! 'Tis a sure sign!"

"What do you mean?" asked Charley excitedly. "Do you mean that haze that
hangs over the water?"

"Aye," explained Toby, "'tis what we calls the sea smoke."

But this time the sign failed, and another morning dawned with the sea
still free from its wintry shackles. A gentle swell, but quite enough to
prevent the hoped for freezing, was rolling in, and the boys, quite
discouraged, returned to their fire.

"We can't stand it much longer," declared Charley, making no effort to
conceal his discouragement. "I'm getting so weak I don't believe I can
ever walk to Double Up Cove, even if it does freeze. I'm weak and I'm
sleepy all the time. We've been days without eating, and even when it
does freeze you say we'll have to wait a day or two before the ice
outside will be strong enough to bear our weight."

"Don't be talkin' that way now," counseled Toby. "We were prayin' the
Lard, and He'll fix un for us. Keep a stout heart We'll not be givin' up
hopes for another week, _what_ever."

"The Lord don't seem to be answering our prayer," retorted Charley.

And Toby, though he hid his thoughts within his breast, realized, even
better than did Charley, that their position was now desperate, and that
with another day or two without food they might become too weak to make
the journey to Double Up Cove. Even were the bay to freeze that very
night, at least two days must elapse before the water at a distance from
shore would be hard enough frozen to bear their weight, and permit them
to cross to the mainland.



XIII

THE GREAT SNOWY OWL


The cold had become intense, and in their starving condition Charley and
Toby felt it perhaps the more keenly. With the disappointment of another
morning dawning and still no sign of the longed-for ice, Charley, after
making his declaration of discouragement and hopelessness to Toby,
became quiet and morose. He had no inclination to leave the tent and the
fire, and he spent his time sitting under the shelter and brooding over
his troubles.

Toby, no less anxious, made frequent journeys along the shore. On each
return he would endeavour to engage Charley in conversation, but without
result. Charley's replies to questions were "yes" or "no," unless a
statement was necessary, and then it was given in as few words as
possible. He appeared to have suddenly developed a grudge against Toby,
as though Toby were responsible for their unfortunate position, and at
length would not respond to Toby's efforts at conversation, or reply to
him.

This was an attitude that Toby could not in the least understand, and he
finally, when Charley in silence crawled into his sleeping bag, left the
lean-to, doubly depressed because of Charley's bearing toward him, and
set out again to reconnoiter the island.

"'Tis not me he's angry with," he soliloquized, "'tis the hunger, and
'tis gettin' the insides of his head sick, like Dad says worry will."

Toby wandered aimlessly along the shore rocks. He was weak, and walking
was becoming an effort. For two or three days he and Charley had noticed
that when they sat down their knees would unexpectedly give way to let
them down with a shock upon their seat; and when they arose, they were
compelled to stand for a moment to steady themselves lest they would
stagger. Toby's usually brisk walk was now a lounging gait, like that of
one grown old.

He had more than half circled the island, and was returning to the
lean-to, when his eye fell upon something white, perched in a spruce
tree which stood apart from the other trees. He stepped nearer, and his
heart leaped with joy. The object was a great snowy owl.

With the best haste he could make he hurried back to the lean-to.
Charley was asleep in his bag, and without arousing him Toby secured his
rifle, and returned with renewed haste and vigour to the tree.

There still sat the owl taking its daytime rest, and quite unconscious
of impending danger. With greater care than he had ever taken before,
Toby aimed, fired, and the owl came tumbling to the snow below.

As though fearful that it might still escape from him, Toby sprang upon
the dead bird like a ravenous wolf. Tears of joy came into his eyes as
he held it up and stroked its feathers, and hugged it close to his
breast. This would save his own and Charley's life, and how glad Charley
would be!

How he ran back to the lean-to! How he shouted to Charley as he
approached! How the two boys, their eyes wet with tears, stroked the
thing for a moment before plucking it! these were events that neither
ever forgot while he lived.

"The Lard sent un to us! The Good Lard sent un!" declared Toby.

"The Lord surely sent it to save us!" said Charley devoutly. "Toby, I've
been a cad. I was so selfish that I was thinking that nothing mattered
but my having to stay here, and I guess I was blaming you for it. I
don't know why, for you didn't make the storm that stranded us here.
Anyhow, I acted a cad, and I want to tell you how sorry I am."

"'Tweren't your fault," soothed Toby. "Don't think of un. 'Twere like
Dad says, you got to worryin' and worry were makin' the insides of your
head upsot."

"Your father always says not to worry, but the Lord will help us out of
any fix, if we do our best first," said Charley. "He's right. Isn't it
just great, Toby, that you saw it and shot it! I feel like yelling, I
feel so happy!"

"Just get out and yell all you wants to," grinned Toby. "We'll have one
good feed, whatever."

In remarkably short time the owl was plucked, dressed and boiling
merrily over the fire in a kettle that was becoming rusty from disuse.

"We'll be eatin' the broth first, and then the meat a bit at a time, and
often," suggested Toby. "The Indians says if they eats too much when
they first gets un after starvin' 'tis like to make un sick. Sometimes
they gets wonderful sick, too."

"Then we'll be careful," agreed Charley, "though it's mighty hard not to
pitch right in. I feel as though I could eat it all and then want more."

"So does I," grinned Toby, "and I'm not doubtin' you could eat un all,
and I knows 'twould be easy for me to eat un."

How delicious the broth tasted, unsalted and unseasoned as it was! And
when they drank it all, and temptation got the better of them and they
each ate a small portion of the meat.

"'Tis growing calmer on the water," Toby announced when he had covered
the kettle and hidden its contents from their hungry eyes. "I sees un
when I'm out and sees the owl in the tree. The water's smokin' just fine
now. Come and have a look, Charley."

"All right," said Charley reluctantly rising, though cheerfully. "If I
stay here by the kettle, I'll not be able to leave the meat alone, and
one of us mustn't have any more of it than the other."

Down on the sunny side of the island Charley all at once clutched Toby's
arm.

"What's that?" he whispered excitedly, pointing to a dark object lying
upon the rocks just above the water's edge.



XIV

THE BAY FASTENS


"Down!" whispered Toby. "Keep down where you is! Don't move! 'Tis a
swile!"

Charley lay prone upon the snow, scarcely daring to move, and Toby was
gone in a twinkling, moving as silently as a fox. It seemed an age that
Charley lay there before he discovered Toby edging, rifle in hand, to a
rock behind which he might have good vantage ground for a shot.

Charley, tense with excitement lest the seal might take alarm, watched
Toby's every movement as he wormed himself forward, then lay still, then
wormed forward again little by little. On his success might depend their
lives, and Charley realized it fully. The owl would not last long, and
would not go far to renew their wasted strength. The ice had not yet
formed upon the bay, and still many days might pass before it would
form.

At last Toby reached the rock, and Charley held his breath as Toby
slowly and deliberately adjusted the rifle at his shoulder and aimed.
Then the rifle rang out as music to Charley's ears. The seal gave a
spasmodic lurch toward the water, and then lay still. Toby's aim had
been sure, and the bullet had reached its mark in the head, the one
point where it would deal quick and certain death to the seal.

Both boys ran to their game, and fairly shouted with the joy of success.
They touched it with their moccasined toes, and felt it with their
hands.

"'Tis a dotar,"[5] said Toby. "Now we has plenty to eat till the bay
fastens over."

"The Lord is _surely_ helping us!" declared Charley devoutly. "Just when
I gave up all hope of ever getting away from this island you shot the
owl, and now we've got the seal!"

"Let's thank the Lard," suggested Toby. "Dad says 'tis a fine thing to
thank He for what He's givin' us, and tryin' to be doin' somethin' for
_He_ sometimes, and not be always just askin' He for somethin' and
takin' what He's givin' us without ever lettin' He know how much we
likes un."

"You thank Him, Toby. I don't know just how to do it," admitted Charley.
"Dad never says blessing or gives thanks at the table the way your
father does."

"I'll thank He," agreed Toby. "We'll be gettin' on our knees."

The two boys knelt.

"Lard, Charley and I be wonderful thankful for the owl and the swile You
sends us. And we'll be tryin' to think o' things to do for You, and we
has a chanst. Amen."

"That makes me feel better," Charley confessed. "Now what shall we do
with the seal?"

"I'll be gettin' a rope, and we'll haul he over to camp."

"I'll stay here and watch it till you come back," Charley volunteered.

"I'll be comin' right back, and the swile'll not be runnin' away,"
grinned Toby.

"I know it," Charley laughed, "but I just want to enjoy looking at it."

When Toby was gone, Charley stroked the seal caressingly. He was sure
now that all of their worries were at an end. His heart was light again,
and he stood up and looked out over the smoking waters, and breathed
deeply of the frosty air. How lovely the world was! How glorious it was
just to live! What an Odyssey of adventures he would have to relate
when he reached home! And still, he mused, as wonderful as these
adventures appeared to him they were a part of the routine of life in
the country, and not one of them unusual. Toby looked upon them as a
part of the day's work, and experiences that were to be expected.

Lost in retrospection, Charley was surprised by Toby's return with the
rope much sooner than he had expected him. The rope was fastened to the
seal, and the two boys, their hearts light with the certainty of food to
sustain them and end their long fast, hauled the carcass back to their
bivouac.

It was not easy to be abstemious in their eating. The broth from the owl
had aroused the full vigour of the appetite of both boys, which had to
some extent become dormant with long fasting. But they heeded the
warning Toby had borrowed from the Indians, and practicing self-denial
ate sparingly, though often.

Toby busied himself at once in removing the seal's entrails, before the
carcass could freeze, and this he did without skinning it, explaining to
Charley that if the ice formed before they had eaten the flesh, as he
expected it would, they could haul it home over the ice, at the end of
the rope, much more easily than they could carry the dismembered joints.
Extracting the liver, and laying it back under the lean-to on a piece of
bark, Toby remarked:

"We'll be eatin' the liver fried in a bit o' seal fat for breakfast. If
we just eats the owl to-day, I'm thinkin' by marnin' we can stand the
liver, or a piece of un. 'Tis stronger meat than the owl. After the
liver's gone, we'll be tryin' the flippers."

"All right," agreed Charley, happily. "Anything you say goes with me.
I'm going to have a good time here now until we get away."

"So'll I," said Toby, "and we'll not be startin' till the ice is strong
enough, whatever, so's not to be takin' any risk o' breakin' through.
'Tis never as thick outside as 'tis near shore."

When they awoke the next morning, a new and strange silence had fallen
upon the world. Toby sat up excitedly, and shaking Charley into
wakefulness, asked:

"Does you hear un? Does you hear un?"

"Hear what?" asked Charley, sleepily. "I don't hear a thing."

"Hear the stillness!" explained Toby. "The water's not lappin'! The bay
has fastened over! By to-morrow, whatever, we'll be leavin' here for
Double Up Cove!"

"Hurrah!" shouted Charley, now thoroughly awake. "Isn't it great, Toby!
We'll start to-morrow, and to-morrow night we'll be at good old Double
Up Cove again! Hurrah!"

Charley "heard" the silence, the impressive, gravelike silence that had
fallen upon the world. No longer was there a lapping of waters upon the
rocks. No breath of wind murmured through the trees. There was a silence
so complete, so absolute that Charley declared he could actually hear
it.

The boys hurried down to the shore to scan the bay, and sure enough it
lay gray and still under a coating of smooth, dark ice. Toby tried it
with a stick, and already it was tough enough to bear his weight near
shore.

"I'm doubtin' 'tis fast out in the middle yet," said Toby, "but she'll
be freezin' all day, and she'll be fast enough all over by to-morrow,
whatever."

It was a busy day of preparation and excitement. On the morrow they were
surely to be relieved from their island prison and from an experience
that had been most trying and that they would both remember while they
lived. All of the boat gear that they had brought ashore and other
equipment and belongings were gathered together in a pile.

"'Tisn't much," said Toby, "but 'twould make for weariness to pack un on
our backs. I'm thinkin' I'll fix up a riggin' to haul un. 'Twill be
easier than packin'."

He proceeded to lay two of the long boat oars parallel upon the snow,
and about eighteen inches apart. The blade end of the oars he connected
with half a dozen sticks, the end of the sticks lashed firmly to the
oars. The handle end of the oars he connected with a piece of rope,
drawn taut, and securely tied to the handles.

"Now stand betwixt the handles, Charley, and lift un up so's the rope'll
be against your chest," Toby directed.

Charley complied, and Toby tied another piece of rope to the end of one
of the oars, and where the chest rope was tied to it. Then passing the
rope up and in front of the shoulder, then behind the neck and down in
front of the other shoulder, he secured the loose end to the other oar.

"There, now," said Toby, surveying his work, "she'll ride on the ice
and she's right for easy haulin'. The rope up around the back o' your
neck holds she so you won't have to be holdin' she up with your hands,
and you can have un free, and the rope across your chest fixes un so's
you can haul by just walkin'."

"Am I going to haul this rig?" asked Charley.

"We'll be takin' turns at she and the seal," said Toby. "You'll be
haulin' the one you likes to haul best, and I'll be haulin' the other.
But I thinks this un'll be easier to haul than the seal. She'll be
slippin' over the ice wonderful easy. We'll be lashin' the outfit on the
sticks across the oar blades on the other end. 'Twill be light. We
hasn't much of un to take. We'll cache the other pair of oars here for
Dad to pick up next year when he's comin' up with the boat."

"All right," agreed Charley. "This rig will be dead easy to walk with on
the ice, and I think I'll take it and let you drag the seal, if you
don't mind."

"I'll be goin' ahead with the seal, if you likes the rig," planned Toby,
"and I'll take a stick to try the ice, so we'll be keepin' abroad from
any bad ice."

"You're wonderful, Toby!" exclaimed Charley admiringly. "I never would
have thought of fixing up a rig like this."

"'Twill be easier'n packin' the outfit on our backs," remarked Toby.

Under ordinary conditions Charley would have found the fishy flavour of
the seal's liver, and the still more highly flavoured flippers
objectionable, if not offensive, to his taste. But now he pronounced
them delectable, and his revived appetite found no grounds for complaint
or criticism. During the day they consumed the liver, and for the
evening meal a pair of flippers.

With the skin still in place that it might protect the meat and carcass
of the seal in dragging it over the ice, Toby cut some liberal slices of
meat in preparation for the frying pan in the morning, that there might
be no delay. He also prepared an extra portion for the next day's
luncheon, which he said they could eat cold.

Before they retired to their sleeping bags, Toby again led the way to
the ice, and tried it with his ax. It was fully two inches thick.

"She's fine and tough, and she's makin' for thickness fast," Toby
announced delightedly. "She'll be twice as thick by marnin', whatever!
She'd hold us now! Salt water ice is a wonderful sight tougher'n fresh
water ice."

[Illustration: SKIPPER ZEB'S OAR BROKE, AND THE BOAT WAS DRIVEN UPON A
ROCK.]

That night, snug in his sleeping bag, Charley recalled the many
adventures that had befallen him since his arrival at Pinch-In Tickle
nearly a month before. One peril after another had beset him, and now,
the worst of all, threatened starvation upon this desolate island, was
about to end, and he thanked God silently for his deliverance.

To the dwellers in that far, silent land adventures are an incident in
the game of life, and their existence is truly a man's game fashioned
for the sturdy of soul and strong of heart. Everywhere in that bleak
country adventure lurks, ever ready to spring upon the unwary. In the
mysterious and dark depths of the broad forests, in the open wastes of
the bleak barrens, in the breath of the sea winds it is met suddenly and
unexpectedly. And soon enough Charley was to meet it again in a struggle
for his very life, as we shall see.



XV

LOST IN THE BARRENS


Winter, the monarch of the North, had returned to his throne to rule his
kingdom with relentless hand. Never had Charley experienced such cold as
that which met him when he and Toby left their sleeping bags the next
morning. The air was marvelously clear and transparent. The stars shone
with unusual brilliancy, and seemed very near the earth. Frost prisms on
the snow sparkled and glinted in the starlight.

"Our skin boots'll be freezin' stiff as sticks," remarked Toby. "'Tis
time for deerskin moccasins, for the snow'll not be softenin' again.
They'll be steady freezin' all day, and _I_ thinks steady freezin' now
till the end o' winter."

"Oh, boy, but it's cold!" shivered Charley, as he hurriedly drew on his
duffle socks and skin boots.

"Wonderful frosty!" said Toby, as he lighted the fire. "There's no
doubtin' the ice'll be stout enough to hold us now, whatever, and
she'll be makin' thicker all day."

In a few minutes the fire was crackling and snapping cheerily, and the
boys drew close to its genial warmth. A kettle of ice was put over to
melt for water, and some slices of seal meat to fry in the pan.

They were eager to gain release from their island prison, and when their
meal was eaten Toby hurriedly lashed their few belongings, including the
boat sail, which had served so well as a shelter, upon the improvised
travois, for Charley to drag behind him. A rope had been attached to the
now hard-frozen seal the evening before. Snow was thrown upon the fire
to put it out, that there might be no danger of a breeze scattering the
embers among the trees, which covered the center of the island with a
scant growth, and burning them. Then, with cheerful hearts and eager
feet they turned down upon the ice and set forth on their way to Double
Up Cove at last.

Toby, carrying a staff with which to try the ice ahead, and with the
seal in tow, took the lead, while Charley, with the travois followed.
How good it was to be away! How glorious the ice and the starlit
morning!

The surface of the bay, smooth and firm, proved much more solidly frozen
than Toby had expected to find it, and in a little while, when they had
passed the center of ice lying between the island and the mainland, he
discarded his staff as an unnecessary burden.

"She don't bend anywhere," he said delightedly. "We'll not be needin' to
try she now. Past the middle 'tis sure to be tough and thick. We'll be
headin' now for shore, and be keepin' clost inshore where there'll sure
be no bad ice whatever."

"Isn't it glorious!" Charley exploded in exuberance. "I feel like
dancing a jig! Whoopla! Toby, let's yell!"

And together the boys gave a yell that made the forest on the near-by
shore echo.

"Oh, but it's great!" exclaimed Charley a little later. "I'm glad
there's no snow on the ice. This rig I'm harnessed in wouldn't drag half
so easily if there was snow. I don't mind it a little bit. I hardly feel
the difference, it slides so well. How long will it take us?"

"With the early start, we'll be getting there a bit after dinner, and we
may make un by dinner. We were startin' two hours before daylight,
whatever."

The travois continued to prove no appreciable burden to Charley, as Toby
had feared it would. The clear frosty air was an inspiration to fast
walking, and indeed it was necessary for the boys to walk fast in order
that they might keep the blood in circulation and comfortably warm. His
experience on the trail with Skipper Zeb had toughened Charley's
muscles, and improved his powers of endurance greatly, and he had no
difficulty in keeping the quite rapid pace that Toby made.

They had been a full two hours on the trail when daylight came, and
presently the sun peeped over the eastern horizon. In the flood of
glorious sunshine that suddenly bathed the world, every shrub and bush
that lined the shore, thickly coated with hoarfrost and rime, sparkled
and glinted as though encrusted with burnished silver set with countless
diamonds.

"How wonderful!" exclaimed Charley. "Isn't it great, Toby! I never saw
anything like it!"

"Aye, 'tis wonderful fine," said Toby.

Even in the full rays of sunshine the snow along shore did not soften,
and the ice kept dry. Charley declared that it was no warmer at midday
than it had been in the early morning.

It was nearly one o'clock when they rounded the point above Double Up
Cove, and the cabin fell into view. Smoke was curling upward from the
stovepipe which protruded above the roof. How cozy and hospitable it
looked! Both boys gave exclamations of pleasure, and with one accord
broke into a trot.

Mrs. Twig and Violet saw them coming, and putting on the kettle hurried
outside to greet them, and what a welcome they received!

"Set down now, lads, by the stove whilst I gets you something to eat,
and sets a pot o' tea to brew," admonished Mrs. Twig. "You must be rare
hungry, and 'tis wonderful frosty."

While the boys ate a hastily prepared luncheon of bread and molasses and
drank hot tea they related their experiences, interrupted by Mrs. Twig,
who was cooking a substantial dinner of stewed rabbit, with frequent
exclamations of concern or sympathy.

"Vi'let and I were worryin' and worryin' about you lads, when the storm
comes," confessed Mrs. Twig. "We were fearin' you'd be comin' in the
boat. I'm wonderful thankful you gets home safe!"

The borrowed garments that Charley had been wearing were now discarded
for new, and sealskin boots were now replaced by buckskin moccasins and
moleskin leggings.

During their absence Mrs. Twig had made for Charley an adikey of white
woolen kersey, and another to wear over it of white moleskin cloth, the
hood of the latter trimmed with lynx fur. The former was for warmth, and
the latter to break the wind and to shed snow readily. She had also made
him moleskin trousers and leggings, and a fur cap for each of the boys.
The caps were made from the pelt of the lynx that they had shot on that
memorable evening when they first set their rabbit snares. There were
new buckskin moccasins for Charley, with socks of heavy blanket duffle
to wear inside the moccasins; and buckskin mittens, with inner mittens
of duffle that would keep the hands comfortable on the coldest day.

The novelty of the new life, flavoured with his many adventures, had
long since stilled completely the pangs of homesickness that had
insisted upon asserting themselves during Charley's first days at
Double Up Cove, and he was quite as contented as though he had always
lived in a cabin in the wilderness. Home and the old life had melted
into what seemed like a far distant past to him, though his father and
mother were still very real and dear, and he often imagined them as near
at hand, as they were, indeed, in a spiritual sense.

On the day after their return fresh rabbit snares were set, and on the
following morning when they went to look at the snares, Toby took with
him two fox traps.

"I were seein' some footin' o' foxes on the mesh," he explained. "I'm
thinkin' we'll set the traps, and we might get a fox. Dad would be
wonderful glad and we gets a fox. There's a chance we might get a
silver, or a cross, whatever."

"That would be great!" exclaimed Charley. "And can't we set other
traps?"

"Aye, when I gets everything fixed up about home we'll set some marten
traps too. There's fine signs o' martens. Dad don't think we can get un
hereabouts, but I sees the signs and we'll get un!"

Beyond the last rabbit snare, and a quarter mile out upon an open marsh,
Toby set the first fox trap, concealing it, as Skipper Zeb had
concealed his fox traps, with great care, and scattering bits of meat
around the trap and over the snow, and a few drops of liquid from a
bottle which he called "scent," and which had a most unpleasant odour.

"Skipper Tom Ham'll be like to bring the dogs over from Lucky Bight now
any day, with the bay fast," said Toby as they turned homeward. "I wants
to get some more wood cut to haul with un when they comes, but we'll set
some o' the marten traps up to-morrow and more of un later."

"Oh!" exclaimed Charley. "We've been doing so many things I forgot all
about the dogs! Then we can travel with them?"

"Aye, we'll be cruisin' with un. 'Twill be a fine way for you to get
used to un, helpin' me haul in the wood, and you'll be learnin' to drive
un. We hauls in most of our wood in the spring, but they's some left to
haul, and if I cuts more whilst they's a chanst before the snow gets too
deep, we'll be haulin' that too, so there'll be plenty of un."

"How many dogs are there?" Charley asked eagerly.

"Eight of un," answered Toby, "and 'tis the best team on The Labrador,
_I_ thinks. They's the real nu'thern dogs. Dad says the nu'thern dogs
has more wolf in they than others has."

"Do they look like wolves?" Charley asked in some awe.

"Aye, they look so much like un you could scarce tell un from wolves,
only they curls their tails up over their backs and wolves don't."

"Are they cross?" Charley inquired anxiously.

"I wouldn't call un cross," explained Toby. "I calls un sneaky. If they
thinks they could down you, they'd do un quick enough. 'Tis best to
carry a stick when you goes abroad among un, till you gets used to un
and they gets used to you. They're wonderful scared of a stick."

"I'll carry a stick, but I'll make friends with them too. I like dogs."

"They's not like other dogs," warned Toby. "Maybe you won't be likin'
they so much after you sees un."

"I can hardly wait till the dogs come! I've read so much about Eskimo
dogs, but I never saw them pulling a sledge, and I know it's going to be
great sport traveling with them."

"Soon as Tom brings un we'll start haulin' the wood. I'll have to be
workin' wonderful hard cuttin' more, so we'll have un hauled before too
late. The wood gets so deep under, that 'tis hard to dig un out o' the
snow."

"I could look after the snares and fox traps," suggested Charley, "and
you could cut wood. I can set up some more snares, too."

"Aye, now, you could look after un, whilst I cuts more wood. You knows
from the tracks we makes where the traps are set, and you can find un.
I'll be cuttin' no more wood after the next snow comes. 'Twill be
gettin' too deep by then, and I'll not be havin' long to cut un."

"All right," and Charley was quite delighted with the prospect of
responsibility, and the fact that Toby would trust him to go alone.
"I'll start in to-morrow morning. May I carry your shotgun when I go?"

"Aye, carry un. You may be pickin' up some pa'tridges."

In accordance with this arrangement, Charley visited the rabbit snares
and the fox traps alone the next morning, and returned quite elated with
his experience, bringing with him three rabbits that he had found in
snares and four spruce grouse that he had shot. It was dinner time when
he appeared, and he reported to Toby, who had just reached the cabin
after a morning chopping wood, that there was nothing in the fox traps,
and that he had set up three new snares.

"That's fine, now," Toby praised. "I were knowin' you could 'tend the
snares and traps alone. You can do un as well as I can."

"Thank you," said Charley, much elated at Toby's praise. "It was great
fun."

For two more days Charley proudly followed the trail alone, and then
came a morning with a heavily overcast sky, and a keen northeast wind
blowing in from the bay. Toby predicted that it would snow before
midday, and as Charley slipped his feet into his snowshoe slings, and
shouldered Toby's gun preparatory to setting out to make the morning
round of the traps and snares alone, Toby warned:

"If snow starts, 'twill be best to turn about and come home as soon as
you sees un start. If she comes she'll cover the footin' wonderful fast,
and you might be goin' abroad from the trail. The wind'll be risin' a
bit, and if she blows hard 'twill make for nasty traveling and I'm
thinkin' when the snow starts the wind'll come up quick, and be blowin'
wonderful hard before you knows un."

"Oh, I'll be all right," Charley assured confidently. "I ought to know
my way by this time, even if the snow does cover my tracks."

"'Twill be safer to turn back," said Toby. "Don't go to the fox traps.
'Twill do no harm to let un stand over a day."

Charley had reached the last of the rabbit snares before the first
flakes of the threatened storm fell. He had three rabbits in a game bag
slung over his shoulder, and he was hesitating as to whether or not he
should visit the fox traps or heed Toby's warning to turn back, when he
was startled by a flock of ptarmigans, or "white pa'tridges," as Toby
called them, rising at the edge of the marsh.

The partridges flew a short distance out upon the marsh, and alighted
upon the snow. Charley could see them plainly. They offered a good shot,
and it would be a feat to bag some of them.

Quite excited with the prospect, he followed them, and with careful
stalking brought down two, one with each barrel of his gun. Startled by
the shots, the remainder of the flock flew farther into the open marsh,
and elated with his success Charley picked up the two birds he had
killed, and following the flock soon succeeded in bagging two more. The
next flight was much farther, but he overtook them and shot a fifth
bird. They now took a long flight, and were lost in the mist of snow,
which was now falling thickly.

Forgetting all caution, Charley continued to follow in the direction in
which the birds had disappeared. On and on he went without a thought of
danger. He was sure the birds had not gone far, and he must have one
more shot at them before turning back.

All at once, he found himself in a rocky, barren region. He had crossed
the marsh, and was rising upon higher ground. This must certainly, he
concluded, be a barren beyond the marsh of which Toby had told him, and
he suddenly realized that he had gone much farther than he had yet
ventured.

In the brief space of time since he had last flushed the birds the wind
had risen and was fast gaining strength. Already the snow was drifting
so thickly that he could not see the marsh, which lay between the
barrens and the forest. But still he was not alarmed.

"I've got five of them anyway," he said exultantly, looking into his bag
and admiring the beautiful white birds. "Toby said it was some stunt to
shoot ptarmigans. I guess he'll think now that I can shoot most as well
as he can."

With no other thought than that he could find his way to the marsh and
across it to the forest without difficulty, he turned to retrace his
steps.

"Even if I can't see far, I can follow my tracks I made coming in," he
said confidently. "That'll be dead easy."

Every moment the wind was rising, and the storm was increasing in fury.
Before he had reached the marsh, the gale was sweeping the snow before
it in suffocating clouds, and he was forced frequently to turn his back
upon it that he might catch his breath.

Presently Charley realized that he had lost the trail of his snowshoe
prints, but still confident that he could find it he searched first to
the right and then to the left, but nowhere could he discover it.

Then it was that he became anxious, and a vague fear fell upon him, and
he rushed madly about in vain search of some sign that would guide him.
He could scarcely see twenty feet away, and nowhere within his limited
range of vision was a rock or bush or anything that he had ever before
seen. Suddenly he knew that he was lost. The thought fell upon him like
an overwhelming disaster. All at once he was seized by wild terror. He
must find the forest or he would perish! The snow was suffocating him,
and his legs were atremble with the effort he had put forth.

Dazed and uncertain he stood, with the wind swirling the snow about him,
and then, with no sense of direction, like a panic-stricken animal, he
plunged away into the storm.

FOOTNOTE: [5] Old harbour seal.



XVI

A WALL OF SNOW


Several times he fell, and regaining his feet rushed madly and blindly
about in vain hope of finding the lost trail and escaping the doom that
seemed closing in upon him. The snow clouds were like dense walls, and
he, like a child, in puny effort wildly trying to batter them down to
gain his freedom.

Finally exhaustion overtook him, and with it a degree of reason. His
legs were weak and quivering with their effort. He began to realize that
he had been depending upon them to extricate him from the trackless
marsh in which he wandered, instead of using reason. Limp and trembling
as a result of the mad fear that had taken possession of him, and the
tremendous physical exertion he had been putting forth, he stopped and
with wild, still frightened eyes gazed at the walls of snow that
surrounded him like an impassable barrier.

Then his brain began to function and his reason to return. He knew that
he must reach the cover of the forest, where the trees would shelter
him from the blasts that swept the marsh. There he would find some
measure of protection at least, and in any case the forest lay between
him and the cabin at Double Up Cove.

He recalled that time and again Toby had said to him, "Dad's wonderful
fine at gettin' out o' fixes, and he always does un by usin' his head."
And Skipper Zeb himself had said, "When a man gets into a fix 'tis
mostly because he don't use his head, and 'tis his head has to get he
out of un. His legs and his hands won't help he, unless his head tells
un what to do."

That was logical and reasonable. He was now in a "fix," and a worse fix
indeed than that in which he and Toby had found themselves on Swile
Island. Charley crouched with his back to the snow-laden blasts while he
tried to gather his senses and his poise, and these thoughts flashing
through his mind, gave him courage. It was bitterly cold and he knew
that he must soon find shelter or he would perish. In his mad panic, he
had not only lost knowledge of direction, but had expended much of his
strength.

Slowly it occurred to him that the wind blew across the marsh from the
direction of the forest and toward the barrens, and was in his back when
he followed the ptarmigans. This being the case, he reasoned, he must
_face_ the wind to regain the forest.

He was somewhere in the marsh. He knew that. The forest must lie _up_
the wind. It was suffocating and paralyzing work to face it, but in that
direction alone lay the only chance for escape and safety. His very life
depended upon reaching the forest, and reaching it soon, and he turned
boldly to it.

With renewed courage, he fought his way forward step by step. He would
walk but a little way, when dense snow clouds would force him to turn
his back upon them to regain his breath. But he kept going, now and
again stumbling and falling and then getting to his feet again to
stumble on a little farther. The distance seemed interminable, and
several times he was on the point of giving up the struggle in despair.

Then it was that he collided with a tree. An outpost of the forest! His
heart leaped with hope. With renewed vigour he plunged forward into wind
and snow cloud, and a moment later was under the blessed shelter of the
trees.

The wind raged through the tree tops, but the thick growth of the spruce
forest protected him. He did not know where he was, and could see no
familiar thing. Finally, too weary to go farther, he crawled under the
low branches of a tree to rest.

Charley was dozing and half unconscious when a distant crash startled
him into wakefulness. What could it have been? He listened intently.
Then it came again, and he sprang to his feet excitedly. He had no doubt
now. It was the report of a rifle, and some one was within hearing.

Through all his struggle in the marsh, Charley had unconsciously clung
to Toby's shotgun. He fired one barrel, and then the other. An answering
shot rang out above the roar of the wind, and not so far away now. He
ran in the direction from which it came. Then came another shot, now
quite near, and a moment later he saw Toby hurrying toward him.

Charley's heart leaped with joy and relief. How good Toby looked! Dear
Toby, who always seemed to be on hand when he was needed!

"You looks fair scragged!" greeted Toby. "Were you gettin' lost?"

"Lost--I was lost out on the barrens and the marsh!" and Charley was
scarce able to choke back tears of joy and relief.

Toby after the manner of woodsmen had brought his ax. He quickly cut
some wood, and in a few moments had a rousing fire. Then he cut some
poles, and made a lean-to, which he thatched thickly with boughs, and
within it made a couch of boughs where they could sit before the fire
protected from the storm.

While Toby prepared and broiled two of the ptarmigans, Charley told the
story of his experiences.

"I was scared stiff," said Charley in closing. "If I had done as you
told me to do, and gone straight home when the snow began it wouldn't
have happened. But I didn't know a storm could come up like that, or how
bad it could get in a few minutes."

"You were usin' your head when you goes up the wind, and that gets you
out of a wonderful bad fix," said Toby. "Dad says the only way to get
out of fixes is to use your head, and he knows."

There was never a word of reproach from Toby for not having heeded his
advice, and for this Charley was grateful.



XVII

SKIPPER ZEB'S DOGS


Long Tom Ham was glad to have the care of Skipper Zeb's dogs during the
summer. There was always enough food from the sea for them during the
fishing season, and a supply of seal meat from the spring sealing to
feed them in the fall, after the fishing season was ended. And to
compensate him for caring for the dogs, he had them to haul his winter's
wood in from the forest, before returning them to Skipper Zeb, which he
always did after the bay was frozen and his fall hauling was finished.

In summer, with no work to do, and as much to eat as ever they wished,
the dogs were sleek and fat and lazy, and quite harmless. But with the
close of the fishing season they were given but one meal a day, and that
in the evening, and only enough to keep them strong and in good
condition, for fat dogs will not work well.

With frosty weather and less food they roused from their lethargy. Then
it was that they became savage, snapping creatures, with no more
affection for man than has the wild wolf, which was their ancestor. Long
Tom Ham declared that Skipper Zeb's dogs were the most "oncivil team of
dogs he ever knew."

Toby and Charley, a week after the big storm, were returning home at
midday after a morning in the forest setting marten traps, when, just as
they came around the corner of the cabin, and the bay below them came
into view, Toby exclaimed:

"There's Skipper Tom comin' with the dogs and komatik!"[6]

For the first time in his life Charley saw dogs in harness. They were
still a half mile away, the animals spread out in fan-shaped formation,
and trotting leisurely. As they approached nearer the cabin they broke
into a run, as though eager to reach their destination, and with short
yelps swung off of the ice and came charging up to the cabin where
Charley and Toby were awaiting them.

Skipper Tom Ham, his beard encrusted with ice, disembarked from the
komatik, and Charley thought him the tallest man he had ever seen.

"'Ere I ham, and 'ow are you hall?" greeted Skipper Tom through his ice
mask, as he extended a hand to Toby and then to Charley.

"We're all well," said Toby. "Were you gettin' your wood all hauled?"

"Aye, hall my wood is 'auled, and I'm most thankful I 'ad the dogs to
'aul un, and most thankful to be rid of un. So Hi'm twice thankful,"
said Skipper Tom following Toby and Charley into the house to join them
at dinner, picking the ice from his beard as he talked.

"Them's the most honcivil dogs I knows," remarked Skipper Tom, as he
ate. "Hi comes 'ome from my traps last hevenin' and I sees Martha
sittin' hup on the scaffold where I keeps the dog meat, and the dogs
hall haround lookin' at 'er. When she sees me she yells the dogs be
hafter 'er, and I says to 'er that they thinks she his goin' to feed
'em, and she says she thinks they his goin' to heat 'er. Hi tells 'er to
come down, and she comes, and when we gets hinto the 'ouse she says,
'Tom, you take them dogs right hover to Skipper Zeb's,' and so Hi brings
the honcivil beasts hover."

Tom chuckled at the recollection of his wife's fear and her appearance
on the scaffold the evening before. When he was through he said he must
return at once, or Martha would think the dogs had eaten him. Toby
suggested taking Skipper Tom home with dogs and komatik, but Skipper Tom
declined on the ground that it was just a wee bit of a walk, and he
would rather walk and look for partridges along shore as he went. The
ten mile walk to Lucky Bight was no hardship to Skipper Tom.

The coming of the dogs was an exciting incident to Charley. They were
big, handsome creatures, though with a fierce, evil look, and a sneaking
manner that made Charley feel uncomfortable when they were loosed from
harness, and had liberty to prowl about at will.

"'Tis a wonderful team," Toby declared proudly. "They comes from
Nuth'ard dogs, though we raises they all from pups. Some of un has wild
wolves for fathers. Tinker there is one, and so are Rocks and Sampson.
They comes from the same litter. That un over there is Nancy. I names
she from a schooner that calls at Pinch-In Tickle every spring. That un
next she, with the end of his tail gone, is Traps. Whilst he were a pup
he gets the end of his tail in a trap, and loses the end of un. I
remember his howlin' yet! Nancy and Traps be brother and sister. Tucker
and Skipper and Molly are the names of the others. We gets un from the
Post when they's just weaned and are wee pups. They tells us they has
wild wolf fathers too, but I'm not knowin'."

"That man that brought them told me, when I went to pat one of them on
the head, that they were bad, and not to touch them," said Charley.

"You can't trust un," admitted Toby. "I knows un all, and I plays with
un when they's pups, but if I were trippin' and fallin' down among un
now, I'm not doubtin' they's tear me abroad."

"After you raised them from pups, and always had them, and feed them and
everything?" asked Charley, horrified at the suggestion.

"Aye, they has no care for man, and whilst they'll mind me a wonderful
sight better than they'd be mindin' a stranger to un, they'd be tearin'
me abroad if they has the chance just like a band o' wolves," warned
Toby.

"They don't look so terrible, though they do look sneaky, as you told
me the other day they are," said Charley.

"Aye, sneaky, and as I tells you, 'tis never safe to go abroad among un
unless you has a stick in your hand, and if they comes close strike at
un. They're wonderful afraid of a stick. When they gets used to you,
just kick at un, and 'twill keep un off, and then you won't be needin' a
stick."

"I'll look out for them," Charley promised.

"Tinker's the leader in harness," said Toby. "He were always quick to
learn, and I trains he whilst he were a pup when I plays with he before
he's big enough to drive with the other dogs. Sampson's the boss, and
out of harness he has his will of un. He's a bad fighter."

"He's an ugly looking brute," observed Charley.

"With the dogs about you'll be wantin' to learn to use the whip,"
suggested Toby. "They fears un worse than a stick. 'Tis fine sport to
learn to crack un, and you'll soon learn to do that, whatever."

Toby brought forth the dog whip. It was a cruel looking instrument, with
a lash of braided walrus hide, thirty-five feet in length, and a heavy
wooden handle about eighteen inches long. Toby was quite expert in its
use. He could snap it with a report like a pistol shot, and at
twenty-five or thirty feet distance he could, with the tip of the whip,
strike a chip that was no bigger than a half dollar. When he had given
an exhibition of his skill, he passed the whip to Charley.

"Now you try to snap un," said he.

It was great fun learning to handle the long whip, and though in his
first awkward attempts Charley sometimes wound the lash around his own
neck, where it left a red, smarting ring, with much practice he learned,
in the course of two or three days, to snap it fairly well and without
danger to himself.

During the days that followed Toby and Charley used the dogs and sledge,
or komatik, as Toby called it, to haul wood that Toby had cut in the
near-by forest. During this time Charley was gradually becoming familiar
with the dogs, and sometimes Toby would permit him to guide the komatik,
though he himself was always present to exact obedience from the team.

The wood hauling was done in the afternoon, while the mornings were
devoted to a visit to the rabbit snares and several marten traps, which
Toby had set in the woods, and to the two fox traps on the marsh. Five
fine martens had been caught, but no fox had been lured into either
trap, when Toby suggested one morning, three weeks after the arrival of
the dogs, that they drive the team on the coast ice to a point opposite
the marsh, and by a short cut through the forest drive out upon the
marsh.

"I'm thinkin' if we moves the fox traps from the mesh to the barrens
we'd be gettin' a fox there," said he. "'Twould be a long walk out to
the barrens to tend un, but if we takes the dogs and komatik we'd have
good travelin' for un everywhere exceptin' through the short neck of
woods."

"Let's do!" Charley agreed enthusiastically. "It'll be a lot quicker,
and it will give us a fine trip with the dogs every day when we go to
look at the traps."

And so it was arranged, and so it came to pass that on that very day
Charley met with his first adventure with the dogs, and a most unusual
one it was, as Toby declared.

While it was nearly twice as far to the marsh by this roundabout route,
the bay ice was in excellent condition for the dogs, and they traveled
so briskly that they arrived at the point where they were to turn into
the woods much too soon for Charley. Here in the deep snow it was
necessary for them to tramp a trail for the dogs with their snowshoes,
but the distance was short to the marsh, and once there the dogs again
had a good hard bottom to walk upon.

Toby took up the two fox traps, and drove the team to the edge of the
barrens, where the dogs were brought to a stop, and under the threat of
the whip compelled to lie down.

"'Tis rocky and bad travelin' in here, and if we takes the komatik we'll
have to help the dogs pull un some places," said Toby. "The wind sends
the snow abroad from the rocks, and plenty of places they're bare. I'm
thinkin' now if you stays with the dogs and komatik, I'll go and set the
traps. I'll be back in half an hour, whatever."

"All right," agreed Charley. "I'll stay with them."

"If they tries to get up, take the whip and make un lie down," Toby
directed. "Keep un lyin' down."

Toby strode away upon his snowshoes, and quickly disappeared over a low
knoll. For the first time Charley was alone with the dogs, and he felt
some pride in the fact that they were under his direction.

Suddenly Sampson became restless, and he and Tinker rose to their feet.
Charley snapped the whip over them, and reluctantly they lay down.

But it was only for a moment. All of the dogs had their noses in the
air, and before Charley could quiet them they were all on their feet
restlessly sniffing the air. Charley swung the whip, and shouted at them
to lie down, but they were beyond his control, and would not lie down,
but jumped and strained at their traces, giving out short whines and
howls. He struck at Sampson with the butt end of the whip, and Sampson
snapped at him with ugly fangs, and would have sprung upon him had the
dog's trace not held him in leash.

Then the komatik broke loose. Charley threw himself upon it, still
clinging to the whip, as the dogs, at a mad gallop, turned across a neck
of the marsh and toward a low hill that rose at the edge of the barrens
and a quarter of a mile to the westward.

The komatik bounced from side to side with every hummock of ice it
struck, and several times was in imminent danger of overturning.
Charley shouted "Ah! Ah!" at the top of his voice in vain effort to stop
the mad beasts, and then "Ouk! Ouk! Ouk!" and "Rahder! Rahder! Rahder!"
in the hope that they would swing to the right or to the left and return
to the starting point.

But on they went, howling more excitedly and going faster and faster
until, suddenly, at the farther side of the neck of marsh and at the
very edge of the barrens, the komatik struck a rock and with the impact
the bridle, a line of walrus hide which connected the dogs' traces to
the komatik, snapped. The yelping, howling dogs, freed from the komatik,
ran wildly and eagerly on, and soon passed over the lower slopes of the
hill and out of sight.

Charley, dazed at what had happened, watched the dogs disappear. Then,
in sudden realization that they had escaped from him and were gone, he
ran after them calling them excitedly but vainly.

He had not run far when all at once he saw them swing down over the brow
of the hill toward the komatik, and he turned about and ran to the
komatik to intercept them with the whip, which he was still dragging.
The dogs were before him, a snarling, fighting mass. He was sure they
would tear each other to pieces. He was about to lay the whip upon them
when to his amazement he discovered that there were many more than eight
dogs fighting, and that the strangers were even more ferocious creatures
than those of the team, and wore no harness.

He brought down his whip upon the savage mass. Immediately one of the
strange animals turned upon him, showing its gleaming white fangs, and
with short, snapping yelps was about to spring at him, when Sampson,
taking advantage of the animal's diverted attention, snapped his fangs
into its neck.

Then it was that the truth dawned upon Charley. The strange beasts were
not dogs, but a pack of the terrible northern wolves of which he had
heard. It was plain, too, that the dogs were no match for them, and then
the thought came to him that he had no firearms and no means of
protecting himself against them.



XVIII

THE FIGHT WITH THE WOLVES


A Cold sweat broke out upon Charley's body. His knees went limp. He felt
like one receiving the sentence of death. He was sure that he would
presently be torn to pieces by the savage beasts.

The wolves were getting the better of the fight. They were one less in
number than the dogs, but the dogs were hampered by their harness, and
they were not as free to spring aside and snap at their enemy as were
the wolves. Tucker and Traps, bleeding and mangled, were falling back
and trying to escape. The other dogs were fighting valiantly, but they
were fighting a losing fight, and Charley's untrained eyes could see
that there would soon be an end of it, with the wolves victors.

Toby had taken his rifle with him, and Charley was unarmed. There was no
chance for defence, and no escape. There was not a tree nearer than the
farther side of the marsh that he could climb, and long before he could
reach the woods the fight would be over and the wolves would be after
him.

His eyes, as he looked helplessly about, fell upon an ax tucked under
the lashings of the komatik. With nervous hands he drew it forth, and
held it ready to strike at the first attacking animal.

Sampson and a big gray wolf were facing each other, and each maneuvering
for an opening to snap at the other's throat. The wolf's back was toward
Charley, and not two paces away. With a sudden impulse he sprang forward
and brought the ax down upon the creature's head. It fell and lay still.
He had killed it with one blow.

The two wolves that were attacking Tucker and Traps, sensing a new and
more formidable enemy, turned upon Charley. Swinging his ax he held them
at bay, while they crouched, watching for an opening, their lips drawn
back from their ugly fangs, while with ferocious snaps and yelps they
voiced their defiance.

Then came the sharp report of a rifle, and one of the wolves fell. Then
another report, and the other crumpled by the side of its dead mate.

The remainder of the pack, suddenly aware of a new and unknown danger,
broke from the dogs and ran, with bullets from Toby's rifle raising
little spurts of snow around them until they disappeared over a spur of
the hill.

"I hears the fightin'," said Toby, "and I runs as fast as I can. I sees
you knock that un over with the ax. 'Twere wonderful plucky, Charley, to
fight un with an ax."

Charley sank, weak and trembling, upon the komatik.

"I--thought--they'd--kill--me," he said.

"'Twere lucky I hears un." Toby stooped and felt of the fur of one of
those he had shot. "They's prime, and we gets three of un, whatever.
They pays six dollars for wolf skins at the post, and we'll be gettin'
eighteen dollars for un. The dogs gets cut up some, but not so bad, and
they'll get over un."

Charley made no response. He was not interested in the character or
value of the fur. He was too close to the peril from which he had
escaped. He had been face to face with what he had believed to be
certain death. How could Toby treat the incident with so little concern,
and apparently with so little appreciation of the grave danger just
ended? He was giving first thought to the value of the pelts, as though
that mattered in the least.

Toby, on his part, did not in any degree deprecate the peril in which
Charley had been placed, but now that it was ended, why should he talk
about it or even think about it? This was a habit of his life, a life of
unremitting endeavour in a stern land with its own dangers and
adventures which Toby accepted as a matter of course and to be expected.
In his city streets Charley might dodge an automobile at a crossing and
escape with his life by a hair's breadth, but Charley would scarcely
give such an adventure a second thought. But to Toby such would have
been an adventure to think and talk about and to remember with a thrill.

To Toby now, the matter of chief importance was the fact that he and
Charley had earned the trade value of three wolf pelts, which was
eighteen dollars, and that was a good day's wages. The danger was at an
end and behind them, and no longer worth a thought; the reward was
before them, and Toby began immediately, as a habit of life, to enjoy it
in anticipation.

While life warmth was still in the carcasses, the boys turned their
attention to the removal of the pelts, after first securing the dogs and
repairing the broken bridle. As Charley worked his interest in his
trophy grew, and he was as proud of it as he had ever been of anything
in his life. He had killed a wolf at close quarters! It was an
achievement to be proud of, and what normal boy or man would not have
been proud of it?

This was the first pelt that Charley had ever secured by his own effort,
and when they reached home he insisted upon stretching it himself, with
a word or two of advice from Toby. Then, with a sheathknife, and with
much pride, he scraped it free from every particle of clinging flesh and
fat.

None of the dogs, as an examination disclosed, was seriously injured,
though Tucker and Traps had suffered severe lacerations from the wolf
fangs, and these two were relieved from team work for several days.

During the week following the adventure with the wolves, good fortune
smiled upon the young hunters. More martens were captured, increasing
the number of marten pelts to nine, and Toby shot an otter.

But the crowning event of the winter, and, Toby was sure, the big event
of his life, came two days after the fox traps had been removed from the
marsh to the barrens, when Toby found in one of them a silver fox. They
all declared, as did Long Tom Ham, who came over from Lucky Bight to see
the pelt, that it was the blackest, thickest and longest furred, and
glossiest silver fox they had ever seen.

"'Tis rare fine fur," said Mrs. Twig, shaking out the pelt and holding
it up to admire it when it was finally dry and Toby had removed it from
the board that it might be packed carefully and safely away in one of
the chests.

"Aye," boasted Toby, "'tis that. 'Twill be worth five hundred dollars at
the post, or four hundred _what_ever."

"Now we'll not have to skimp so with things," said Mrs. Twig happily.
"The silver'll get us a wonderful lot o' things we needs, and 'twill pay
the debt at the post."

"We has the marten skins, too," said Toby. "They's worth at the post
thirty dollars apiece, good martens like they. Skipper Tom Ham says that
be the price this year for good black martens, and all we has is black.
I'm thinkin' the otter'll be bringin' fifty dollars whatever. 'Tis a
wonderful fine skin o' fur."

"You and Charley were wonderful lucky gettin' fur," said Mrs. Twig in
praise.

In another ten days Skipper Zeb would come home from his trapping
grounds to bring the pelts he had captured, and to take back with him,
after a fortnight's rest, a fresh supply of provisions.

Skipper Zeb's mid-winter return was always an occasion for great
rejoicing, but this winter it would have an added flavour of joy. All of
them were keenly anxious that he see the silver fox pelt, and Toby
declared he could hardly wait to show it to him.

"'Twill be a rare treat for he, now," said Toby.

It was an event, indeed. Even Skipper Zeb had never in all his life
caught a silver fox. Toby and Charley were justly proud, too, of their
success in catching martens. Skipper Zeb had smiled indulgently when
Toby had told him that with Charley's help he would set some marten
traps, and Skipper Zeb's only remark had been, "'Twill be fine practice
for you lads," never expecting that they would get a pelt. Indeed,
Toby's previous winter's trapping had resulted in nothing but rabbits,
but that was due, Toby had complained, to the fact that his mother had
not permitted him to go so far alone into the forest. But this year he
was older, and with Charley's companionship she had made no restrictions
upon bounds.

"And there are the wolf skins," said Toby. "I wants Charley to take un
home with he when he goes next summer on the mail boat. Twere he that
fought for un, and they belongs to he."

"Aye, they belongs to Charley," agreed Mrs. Twig, "and half the martens
too. If 'tweren't for Charley bein' here to go along with you, you
couldn't have got un, with all the work you were havin' to do with the
wood, to make you bide home. If Charley were havin' a rifle when he
meets the wolves he'd have got more of un, and the dogs wouldn't have
got cut up so bad."

"I wish I had a rifle," Charley suggested eagerly. "I've got sixty
dollars my father gave me before I left him. Is there anywhere I could
buy one with that?"

"You'll be needin' that to pay your passage back home," Mrs. Twig
counseled. "You needs some warm underclothes, and I'm thinkin' now you
and Toby might take the dogs and komatik and go to Skipper Cy Blink's
tradin' store at Deer Harbour, and take three of the marten skins and
trade un in for a rifle and what you needs, and Toby can get some things
we're needin' in the house."

"Oh, I wish we could!" Charley exclaimed. "But the skins aren't really
mine," he added more soberly. "I owe you a lot for keeping me here, and
for all you've done for me, but Dad will pay you for that when I get
home."

"You owes us nothing," declared Mrs. Twig, a little out of patience that
Charley should have suggested it. "You pays for all you gets in work,
and half the skins be yours, whatever."

"Thank you," said Charley gratefully, "but I can't help feeling that
you're doing a lot more for me than I deserve, and I'm sure a good deal
more than I've earned."

"You earns all of un, and more than you gets," insisted Mrs. Twig
kindly. "'Tis wonderful fine to have you here with Toby, and we're
gettin' to think so much you belongs to us 'twill be a rare hard thing
to see you go. You lads better be startin' for Deer Harbour in the
marnin'. You'll be reachin' Pinch-In Tickle by noon, whatever, with the
fine footin' for the dogs, and Deer Harbour by night. Comin' back the
next day you can bide the night at Pinch-In Tickle, and fetch back the
fishin' gear that needs mendin', so 'twill be here to work on when
they's time to work on un."

Charley and Toby were as excited as they could be, and that evening all
arrangements were made for an early start in the morning. It was to be
Charley's first long dog journey, and that night he lay awake a long
time thinking of the wonderful journey he was to have, and of the new
rifle he was to buy.

FOOTNOTE: [6] Sledge.



XIX

CHARLEY'S NEW RIFLE


Breakfast was eaten early, and long before daylight, which in that
latitude does not come at this season until nearly ten o'clock. Toby and
Charley brought the komatik box into the cabin that Mrs. Twig might pack
it for them.

In a cotton bag as a protection, the precious marten pelts were stored
in the bottom of the box. Then came the provisions consisting of
hardtack, which would not freeze as would ordinary bread, tea, a bottle
of molasses, a liberal quantity of salt pork, and the necessary cooking
utensils. As a precaution in case of accident some extra duffle socks,
and an extra pair of buckskin moccasins were included for each, and Toby
added some cartridges for his rifle.

The box packed, it was lashed upon the rear of the komatik, and on the
floor of the sledge, in front of the box, Toby spread an untanned
caribou skin, and upon it lashed their sleeping bags, securing his rifle
and an ax under the lashings, and tying to them his own and Charley's
snowshoes.

"Look out for bad ice, and be wonderful careful on the ballicaders,"[7]
cautioned Mrs. Twig, as Toby broke the komatik loose and the dogs dashed
away down the decline to the bay ice.

A big full moon lighted the ice, which stretched before them for miles
in an unbroken white sheet. Rime filled the air, and soon their clothing
was coated with a film of frost. In the silvery moonlight they passed
the black cliff of the Duck's Head. They were well down the bay when
daylight came, and at last the sun rose, and its glorious rays set the
rime-filled air shimmering like a veil of silver.

An hour before noon they reached Pinch-In Tickle, and stopped in the
cabin to boil the kettle and eat a hasty luncheon. What memories it
revived of the day when Charley first entered the door with Toby, and
was first greeted by Skipper Zeb! How miserable a place in which to live
Charley thought it then! How alone and deserted he felt! Now it appealed
to him as not uncomfortable, and here he had found friends and a
welcome; and the thought came to him that when the time to leave The
Labrador came he would feel equally as badly at the leaving as he had at
the entry.

Upon investigation, the ice in the tickle proved unsafe, and in the
center there was some open water, where the tide surging in and out of
the narrow passage had not permitted it to freeze.

In order, therefore, to reach the sea ice outside, it proved necessary
to cross the low ridge of hills to the eastward of the cabin, which
Charley and Toby had climbed on the day that the mail boat deserted
Charley.

The ridge was bare of trees, and there was a hard coating of icy snow
upon its rocky surface. From the cabins to the summit the slope was
gradual, and with some help over the steeper places, the dogs hauled the
komatik to the summit with little difficulty.

The descent to the sea ice on the opposite side was much more abrupt.
Immediately it was begun, the komatik began to coast, and Toby threw a
ring of braided walrus hide over the front end of one of the runners.
This "drag," as he called it, was three feet in diameter and as thick as
his wrist. The lower side of the ring, dragging back under the runner,
was forced into the hard snow, and thus served to retard the komatik,
but even then it gathered such speed that the dogs were forced to turn
aside, lest it should run them down, and to race with it as fast as they
could run. Toby threw himself upon his side upon the komatik, clinging
to it with both hands, and sticking his heels into the snow at the side
and in front of him, and running with the komatik at the same time, put
forth all his strength to hold it back.

This is exceedingly dangerous work, as Charley realized. A single
misstep might result in a broken leg, and even worse injury, and Charley
held his breath in expectation that some such catastrophe would surely
happen before they reached the bottom.

Once a dog's trace caught over a rock. The dog was sent sprawling, and
Charley expected that the speeding komatik would strike and crush the
helpless animal. But fortunately the trace slipped over the top of the
rock just in time for the dog to escape, and in a moment it was on its
feet again, racing with its companions.

They had covered two-thirds of the descent, when to their horror the
boys saw a ribbon of black water, several yards in width, separating
the shore from the sea ice. They were dashing directly toward it at
tremendous speed, and Charley was sure that they could not avoid a
plunge into its cold depths.

"Roll off!" Toby shouted.

Charley rolled clear of the speeding komatik, pitching over and over,
and finally sliding to a stop, dazed and bewildered, but in time to see
the komatik, bottom up, at the very brink of the chasm. Toby was
sprawling just above it. The dogs, with traces taut, stood above him
bracing themselves to hold the sledge from slipping farther.

"Oh!" cried Charley running down to Toby, who was up and righting the
komatik before he could reach him, "I was sure we were going over!"

"We were wonderful close to un!" said Toby. "When you drops off, I jerks
the front of the komatik and that makes she turn over and roll, and when
I does un the dogs stops and holds fast. If 'tweren't for that we'd sure
gone into the water and liker'n not been drowned."

"What'll we do now?" asked Charley. "We can't reach the sea ice."

"Follow the ballicaders," said Toby, indicating a narrow strip of ice
hanging to the shore above the water. "'Twere careless of me not to
think of the open water. This early in winter 'tis always like this
above and below the tickle."

For nearly an hour they traveled upon the ice barricade. Sometimes it
was so narrow that Charley's heart was in his mouth in fear that the
komatik would slip over the brink. But Toby was a good driver, and at
last they came in safety to the end of the water, with the ocean solidly
frozen as far as they could see.

Here they turned upon the sea ice, and presently left the shore behind
them to cross a wide bay. The sun was setting, and they were approaching
land on the opposite shore of the bay, when Toby remarked:

"We're most there. Deer Harbour's just around that p'int you sees
ahead."

Just before dusk they drove up to the little log house and trading store
of Skipper Cyrus Blink, and glad enough they were to be met at the door
by Skipper Blink, who greeted them most heartily, and helped them to
unharness their dogs and unpack their komatik, and when they had fed the
dogs ushered them into the warm cabin, where Mrs. Blink, who had seen
them coming, had a pot of hot tea ready to pour and a "snack" to eat to
"stay their stummiks" till supper would be ready.

Skipper Blink's store, or "shop" as he called it, was in a small room
adjoining the living-room. It was a most primitive emporium of a most
primitive frontier. Its stock of goods was limited to the necessities of
the people, and consisted chiefly of flour, pork, molasses, duffle,
practical clothing, arms and ammunition, with a pail of "sweets," or
hard candies that at some remote date might have laid claim to being
"fresh." It was a small branch shop of the Hudson's Bay Company's
establishment known as the "Post" at Snow Inlet, some twenty miles to
the northward, and Skipper Blink received from the Company a commission
upon the trade which he did.

Charley could scarcely restrain his eagerness to hold in his hands the
new rifle which he was to purchase, and when he and Toby had finished
their "snack," he asked:

"Have you any guns for sale?"

"Aye," said the Skipper, "I has three shotguns in the shop and three
rifles. What kind now would you be wantin'?"

"A rifle," said Charley. "Do you think I might see it now?"

"You can see un," answered the Skipper obligingly. "I'll fetch un right
in here where 'tis warm. I has a forty-four carbine, a forty-five rifle
and a thirty rifle. The forty-five would be a bit heavy for you. The
forty-four is fine and light, and so is the thirty, and that's a
wonderful far shootin' and strong shootin' gun, but the ca'tridges comes
high."

"Thank you," said Charley, "I'd like to look at the rifles."

Accordingly Skipper Cy lighted a candle, and passed through the door
leading to the shop, presently to return with the three rifles.

"Now here be the forty-four," said he, presenting the carbine for
inspection. "'Tis a wonderful light fine gun for a lad."

"It's just like yours, isn't it, Toby?" Charley asked.

"Aye," said Toby, "the one I has is a forty-four carbine, just like this
un."

"'Tis a fine rifle for any shootin'," explained Skipper Blink. "'Tis
strong enough for deer or bear, if you hits un right, and 'tis fine for
pa'tridges if you shoots un in the head. I finds un fine to hunt with,
and 'tis not so costive as the others."

"Let me see the forty-five," suggested Charley. "That looks like a big,
strong gun."

"Here 'tis now," and Skipper Blink handed it to Charley. "'Tis a
wonderful sight stronger shootin' gun than the forty-four, but 'tis a
bit too heavy for a lad like you to pack. 'Twould make for weariness,
packin' she all day."

"It is heavy," agreed Charley, returning it to Skipper Blink, and eyeing
the thirty caliber. "May I see the other one?"

"Aye, and there 'tis now. She's the best, and I keeps she for the last,"
said Skipper Blink proudly, as he delivered it into Charley's hands.
"_She's_ a rifle now. She's the best and strongest shootin' gun I ever
sees."

"This isn't heavy," said Charley. "I like it mighty well. Try it, Toby,
and see what you think of it."

"She is fine and light," said Toby. "I likes un better'n the
forty-four."

"So do I, ever so much," said Charley taking it back from Toby, and
handling it caressingly.

"You knows a good gun when you sees un, lad," flattered Skipper Blink.
"I were thinkin' when you asks to see un that you'd be pickin' that un,
and I were sayin' to myself, 'There's a lad now what knows a gun, and
he'll be wantin' the thirty.' But 'tis the most costive of all of un."

"I'll take it anyhow," agreed Charley, fondling the arm, quite sure that
his happiness depended upon owning it, and recognizing it as the
undoubted aristocrat of the three.

"That's right, lad," beamed the Skipper. "When the bullet from that un
hits a deer, you'll be gettin' the deer, whatever. Let me get a bit o'
rag and wipe the grease off of she. And we'll take the ramrod and wipe
out the barrel. 'Tis clogged full o' grease, and if you shoots she
without cleanin' she out 'tis like to split she."

When Skipper Cy had cleaned the gun to his satisfaction he handed it to
Charley, with the suggestion:

"You'll be needin' some ca'tridges--a hundred, whatever."

"I'll take a hundred and fifty," said Charley proudly.

"They comes twenty in a box," advised the Skipper. "If you takes seven
boxes 'twill do you. 'Tis all I has."

"Very well," agreed Charley.

It was Charley's first gun. He fondled it and handled it, and scarce put
it down until Mrs. Blink announced supper, and they sat down to an
appetizing meal of bruise.[8] Both boys were hungry, and Skipper Cy
urged them to eat.

"Fill up, now," he would say. "Take more of un. You lads have had a long
day cruisin', and I'm not doubtin' you're fair starved."

And they ate and ate of the bruise until they could eat no more, with
all the good Skipper's urging.

When they were through Skipper Cy took them into the store, or "shop" as
he called it, where Charley purchased fresh underwear for himself and
for Toby to take the place of that which Toby had let him use, and Toby
purchased necessities which Mrs. Twig required at home, and still there
was a small balance left to Charley's credit.

"I'd like something for Mrs. Twig," suggested Charley. "Have you
anything you think she'd like?"

"Just the thing! Just the thing!" and Skipper Cy produced a small woolen
shawl. "She'll like un for her shoulders. Mrs. Blink wears one of un,
and she's wonderful proud of un, and says 'tis a rare comfort."

"Mother _would_ like un wonderful well," advised Toby, much pleased at
Charley's thoughtfulness.

"All right," agreed Charley. "And now I want something for Violet."

"I has just the thing for the little maid!" Skipper Cy beamed
delightedly.

Going to a chest he produced a really nice and prettily dressed little
doll.

"Here's a doll I gets at the Moravian Mission. I gets un because 'tis a
pretty trinket, but I has no use for un. Take un to the little maid from
me, and tell she I sends un to she."

"Vi'let never has a doll in her life, but just a bit of cloth tied
around a stick Mother fixes up for she and she calls a doll!" exclaimed
Toby delightedly.

"It is _just_ the thing! But I want to pay for it," insisted Charley. "I
want to give it to her myself."

Finally it was agreed that Charley should pay Skipper Cy the price that
he had paid the Mission folk for it, and he was perhaps quite as happy,
and even more happy, with the thought of the pleasure his gifts would
give Mrs. Twig and Violet than with his new rifle.

This closed Charley's purchases, and still he found that there was a
small balance due him. This balance, he insisted, Toby should use in
selecting something for himself, and Toby acquired some additional
cartridges for his rifle, confessing that his supply was low, and from
the pail of ancient candy a quantity of "sweets" to take home; and
though the candy was hard with age, in this land where luxuries are
scarce, it was hailed as a great treat.

They were up and had their breakfast before daylight, as is the custom
in this country, and with daylight the boys went out to try Charley's
new rifle, which proved to be an accurate and strong shooting gun, and
quite equal to Skipper Cy's recommendation. Charley found, indeed, that
he could make a better target with it than with Toby's rifle. And it was
well that he had taken this early opportunity to become accustomed to
its mechanism, as events proved.

Shortly after sunrise they said good-bye to Skipper and Mrs. Blink, and
were on their way to Pinch-In Tickle, where it was their purpose to
spend the night.

When they passed out and beyond the point and the shelter of land they
met a stiff southeast wind, and looking at the sky, Toby stopped the
dogs.

"'Twill be blowin' hard before noon, and 'tis like to move the ice,"
said Toby. "'Twill take two hours whatever to make land the other side."

"What can we do?" asked Charley. "Can we go around?"

"We'd not make un to-day," said Toby. "I'm thinkin' by hurryin' the dogs
a bit we can make un. The ice'll not go abroad unless the wind blows a
good bit stronger than 'tis blowin' now."

"Hadn't we better go back and wait until we're sure?" asked Charley
anxiously.

"If we goes back and waits we'll not be gettin' home to-morrow," Toby
objected. "We promises Mother we'd be home by to-morrow night whatever."

"Let's take a chance at it," said Charley. "This wind can't move the
ice, and we can get across before it gets blowing much harder."

"Ooisht!"[9] called Toby, breaking the komatik loose, and away went the
dogs.

"Oksuit! Oksuit!"[10] Toby kept calling to the dogs, snapping the whip
over them and urging them ahead.

"What's that?" It was an hour later, and Charley pointed to a great
moving object a half mile seaward.

"A white bear!" exclaimed Toby, after a moment's scrutiny.

"Can't we get it?" Charley excitedly clutched his new rifle.

"We'll try un! Rahder! Rahder! Rahder!"[11] Toby shouted in rapid
command, as rapidly as he could speak the word.

Slowly the dogs turned to the left and toward the bear. Suddenly a sniff
of the animal came down the wind. Immediately the dogs sprang forward in
their traces, and with short, sharp yelps were in wild, unrestrained
pursuit. The komatik swayed from side to side, now on one runner, now on
the other with every ice hummock it struck.

The bear did not run. Either its dignity, its confidence in its own
strength and prowess, or resentment that any should dare invade its
silent domain led it to face about upon its enemies.

FOOTNOTES:
[7] Ice barriers skirting open water.
[8] Hardtack and salt codfish cooked together.
[9] Go on.
[10] Hurry! Hurry!
[11] To the left.



XX

THE REBELLION OF THE DOGS


"He's like to run before we gets to he," shouted Toby, between bumps of
the speeding sledge, "but I'm thinkin' the dogs'll catch he before he
gets to open water if he tries gettin' away."

But the bear did not run. He rose upon his haunches, and looked upon the
advancing dogs with apparent contempt, the monarch of the ice fields.

"He's a whopper!" exclaimed Charley, his heart beating double time, as
Toby by means of the drag cautiously slackened the speed of the team,
and at a safe distance came to a stop, with the dogs, eager to be at the
bear, springing in their traces and emitting snarls and growls and
little impatient yelps.

"Don't shoot till I gets the dogs clear!" warned Toby. "If he comes at
un whilst they's in harness they won't have a chanst to dodge he!"

Toby threw the komatik upon its side, with its nose against an ice
hummock as an anchorage, and observing this maneuver, the bear resumed
all fours and began a retreat with a lumbering, but astonishingly rapid
gait, toward the northward.

"Go after he and shoot!" Toby shouted, at the same time, with feverish
haste, endeavouring to loosen his rifle from its lashings upon the
komatik, and losing no time in unleashing the dogs.

The bear was already fifty yards away when Charley fired. It was not a
long shot, but in his excitement he missed, and the report of the rifle
did not, apparently, in any manner decrease or accelerate the bear's
speed. Again Charley fired, aiming more carefully, and this time the
bear stopped and bit at a wound in its flank. Taking advantage of the
animal's pause, Charley ran toward it, and fired a third shot. Now the
bear bit at its shoulder, and suddenly in mighty rage turned upon
Charley and charged him.

A cold chill ran up and down his spine, and his hair stood upon end,
when he saw the mighty hulk of the enraged beast coming at him. Again he
fired, but on came the bear, and Charley turned and ran.

[Illustration: THE GREAT PAW SENT TOBY SPRAWLING.]

In the meantime, Toby had extricated his rifle and was running to
Charley's assistance. They were taking a direction at right angles to
Toby, which gave him an excellent opening, and with careful aim he fired
upon the bear.

The bear paused to bite at a fresh wound, and discovering a new enemy,
turned upon Toby who fired again, but with no apparent effect. Hoping to
plant a bullet in the bear's head, Toby held his ground. He threw the
lever forward to eject the empty shell, and jerked it back to insert a
fresh cartridge with undue haste, and to his consternation it jammed. He
jerked at the lever, but it would not move. Beads of perspiration broke
out upon his forehead. The bear was less than a dozen feet from him.

Toby dropped his gun and ran, but he knew he could not outdistance the
furious animal at his heels. At that moment Charley's rifle rang out.
The tip of the bear's great paw reached Toby and sent him sprawling, and
as he fell the bear suddenly sank with a grunt like the dying exhaust of
an engine.

"You got un! You got un!" exclaimed Toby, springing to his feet.

"I thought he was going to get you!" said Charley, all atremble.

"He just touched me!" Toby boasted. "'Tis the first white bear killed in
these parts in two years, whatever!"

Toby and Charley gloated over their prize, and when they had examined
the carcass, Toby declared that it was Charley's last shot, just behind
the shoulder, that had killed it.

"My shots takes un too far for'ard, and all your shots hits un too far
back, except one," Toby declared.

Nearly an hour was occupied in skinning the bear, and in packing and
lashing the meat upon the komatik. While they packed the meat, the dogs
were permitted to feast upon the offal, as their reward, and when all
was ready they turned their faces again toward Pinch-In Tickle, quite
elated with their success.

Travel now, with the heavily laden komatik, was slow, and the overfed
dogs required constant urging. Completely engrossed with the capture and
skinning of the bear, both Toby and Charley had quite forgotten about
the unstable condition of the ice. Now they were aware that the wind was
blowing considerably harder than when they had started. Charley was the
first to speak of it.

"The wind has stiffened," said he with some concern. "The bear made us
forget about the ice. Do you think it's all right?"

"That's what I'm thinkin' about." Toby looked worried. "We'll soon be
knowin'. If the ice has gone abroad from the shore, we're in a worse fix
than the bear had us in."

"What'll we do if it has?" asked Charley with a sinking heart.

"'Twill be a bad fix. 'Twill be a wonderful bad fix. I'm not knowin' how
we'd be gettin' out of a fix like that. I'd be wishin' Dad was here to
get us out of un. He's always findin' a way out of fixes. We won't be
thinkin' about un till we finds out. Dad says folk worry more about
things that don't happen than about things that do."

On they went in silence, tense with uncertainty, for another half hour.
Charley was thinking about what Skipper Zeb had said about worry when
they were in the camp at the Duck's Head, and Skipper Zeb's philosophy
helped him to keep his courage.

"Ah!" Toby suddenly shouted to the dogs, and they came to a stop at the
command. "She's gone abroad from the shore!" and he pointed at a long,
black streak of water between the ice and the shore ahead.

"What'll we do?" asked Charley in a frightened voice. "Can't we get to
land?"

"We'll try un to the west'ard," suggested Toby. "The ice'll hold the
shore longer there. 'Tis only half as far from here as we've come from
the p'int this side of Deer Harbour. There's a narrow place in the bay
where I'm thinkin' the ice may clog and hold."

With this he shouted "Ooisht!" to the dogs, and breaking the komatik
loose, "Ouk! Ouk! Ouk!" until they were pointing toward the opposite
shore of the bay, and farther inland.

"And you runs ahead of the dogs now," suggested Toby, "'twill help un to
work faster. I'll push un with the whip. Make toward the Capstan. That's
that round hill you sees over there," and Toby pointed to a lonely
mountain to the westward.

Charley set forth at a trot. His example, aided by Toby's threatening
whip, accelerated the speed of the dogs perceptibly, and the shore began
to loom up. But the sky had clouded, and presently a fine mist of snow
shut out the Capstan, which was Charley's guide, and at last the entire
shore line was clouded from view.

For some time the dogs had persisted in edging toward the right, which
was seaward, though Toby held them to their course with the whip. After
a little while he called to Charley to come back.

"I'm thinkin' you don't go straight since the snow comes and you can't
see the hill," he explained. "I'll be goin' ahead for a bit and you
drive."

"All right," agreed Charley. "I can drive the team, and you'll know the
way better in the snow."

Still the dogs were obstinate. They at once recognized the change in
drivers, and took advantage of Charley's inexperience. Charley used the
whip, but he could not handle it as effectively as a driver should, and
the dogs gave little heed to it. They insisted upon taking an angle to
the right of Toby's trail, and Charley found that he could not
straighten them out upon the trail.

In desperation he ran forward to the side of the team, with the whip
handle clubbed, to compel obedience. Sampson showed his fangs, and
snapped at Charley's legs. This was a signal for open rebellion on the
part of the whole team. They came to a standstill, and faced him,
showing their fangs, and one or two of them sprang at him, but were held
in leash by their traces.

Toby, looking behind, discovered the situation and came running to
Charley's assistance. Taking the whip from Charley he quickly had the
mutinous dogs reduced to sullen submission.

"I'll not be goin' ahead of un again," said Toby. "'Tis not helpin' to
make they go any. The dogs act wonderful queer. They won't follow like
they always has."

Toby urged them forward. They whined and whimpered, and at last some of
them lay down, and Toby was compelled to beat them into action.

It was directly after this that they came to open water. The boys looked
at each other in consternation.

"What'll we do?" asked Charley.

"I'm not knowin'," confessed Toby. "The ice has gone abroad from the
shore, and we're driftin' out to sea."

"Shall we be--lost?" asked Charley in dull terror.

"It may be she's just settled off from shore here," suggested Toby
hopefully. "She may be holdin' fast up the bay above the narrows. We'll
try un whatever."

He commanded the dogs to go on. They sprang to the traces, but turned to
the right. Against their will, and with free use of the whip, he
succeeded in swinging them to the left and up the wind. Reluctantly and
slowly they moved. They seemed aware of their danger. They were
dissatisfied.

At length Tinker, the leader, squat upon his belly. Toby cracked the
whip over him with a command to go on, and he turned upon his back, paws
in air, as though in meek appeal. Toby clipped him with the tip of the
lash, and he sprang up, turning to the right, and Toby lashed him back
into the course to the left. He gave no display of savagery, as did
Sampson, but appeared to be beseeching his young master to do something
his master could not understand.

The cold had grown intense. The wind had become a stiff gale. The air
was filled with a blinding dust of snow, so thick that Tinker, the
leader, could scarcely be seen from the komatik. The wind was in their
face, and Toby and Charley and the dogs struggled against it as against
an unseen wall. The ice was heaving with an under swell. Now the
komatik would be climbing an incline, now dashing down another.

At last the dogs in sullen mutiny rebelled against further action.
Tinker squatted upon the ice, and the other dogs followed his example,
save Sampson, who faced about at Toby, snarling and showing his fangs.
No beating could induce them to move ahead in the direction in which
they had been traveling, though they made several attempts to swing
about to the right.



XXI

THE CARIBOU HUNT


The mutinous dogs eyed Toby's whip. They feared the whip, but no fear of
it could induce them to advance farther, in the face of the storm, upon
the unstable ice.

"What can we do now?" asked Charley in an appealing tone.

"I'm not knowin' what's ailin' the dogs," answered Toby rather
uncertainly. "I can't make un go ahead, and we can't bide here,
whatever. I'm fearin' with the way the ice heaves she's gone abroad at
the narrows. 'Tis no worse to the east'ard than 'tis here, and that's
the way the dogs wants to go. I'm thinkin' to let un go that way."

"But that will be going out to sea!" exclaimed Charley in alarm.

"Aye, but the mouth of the bay is quite a bit out past Deer Harbour, and
we're a good bit inside Deer Harbour P'int now," Toby explained. "Till
we gets beyond the mouth of the bay I'll be hopin' to get ashore. We'll
turn back before we goes too far, unless the ice floats us out."

"Let's get farther from the edge of the ice anyhow," said Charley, as a
great heave of the ice under his feet nearly threw him down.

"Aye, 'tis like to break up here any time. We'll let the dogs have their
will," agreed Toby, but not hopefully.

With that he commanded the dogs to rise, which they did readily, and
breaking the komatik loose he gave them the order to the right, and away
they went with a will, and with apparent satisfaction that they had won
their way in facing toward the eastward.

Now, with the wind nearly behind them, the animals traveled steadily,
and with no urging. It was much less trying, too, for Toby and Charley
as well as for the dogs.

"The ice has about stopped its roll," said Charley presently, and with
fresh hope. "It's a lot steadier."

"She is that," admitted Toby. "I were just thinkin' that the dogs knows
more than we does about un."

And so it proved. Following the ice that bounded the open water along
the north shore of the bay, they observed that the chasm of water
separating the ice from the land was narrowing. Presently, to their
great joy, the open water came to an abrupt end, with the ice firmly
connected with the shore.

"We're just across from the p'int outside Deer Harbour," said Toby. "We
can make un to Deer Harbour now, and bide there till the storm passes.
We'll be findin the Deer Harbour ice fast, I'm not doubtin'."

"But we'll keep close to shore!" suggested Charley cautiously.

"Aye, we'll do that," agreed Toby. "We'll be takin' no more chances with
the ice."

An hour later they again drove up to Skipper Cy Blink's trading store,
and received a hearty welcome from the Skipper.

"I'm wonderful glad to see you! Wonderful glad!" greeted the Skipper.
"I've been blamin' myself ever since you goes for lettin' you start with
the wind the way she were, and fearin' all the time you'd be gettin'
caught in a break up."

Skipper Cy Blink made much of the bear that Charley had killed with his
new rifle, and admitted that such game would surely have made him
forget, quite as readily as it had the boys, about the danger of the
ice going abroad.

"'Twere fine you knocks he over," enthused the Skipper. "I never could
have let a white bear pass without _tryin_' to knock he over, whatever.
You lads bide here in comfort till the storm passes. 'Twill be a short
un. I'm thinkin' 'twill clear in the night, and the wind'll shift
nuth'ard before to-morrow marnin', and before to-morrow evenin' the
ice'll be fast again on the bay."

And, as Skipper Cy had said, so it came to pass, and on the second
morning after their return Toby and Charley turned again toward Pinch-In
Tickle and Double Up Cove, with the ice beneath them as firm and solid
and safe as ever it was.

How glad the boys were to reach Pinch-In Tickle! There would be no more
danger of bad ice to face, and the difficult ballicaders were behind
them, a fact that was particularly appreciated by Charley.

They made a rousing fire in the stove, and fried some bear's meat to
satisfy a hunger that had been accumulating since they had left Deer
Harbour in the morning. Then a fishing net that needed repairs was made
ready to lash upon the komatik with the load in the morning, the dogs
were fed, and they settled for a cozy evening while they talked over
their adventures, and Charley's new rifle.

"'Tis the finest shootin' rifle I _ever_ sees," declared Toby, adding
wistfully: "I wishes I had one like she. Maybe with the silver fox
Dad'll be lettin' me have un."

"When I get home I'll have my Dad send you one, Toby," Charley promised
impulsively. "Don't say a thing to your father about it and I'll send
you one and him one too. I'd let you have mine, only it's the first one
I ever owned, and I shot the bear with it."

"Charley, you're wonderful kind!" and Toby's face beamed with pleasure.
"But," he added seriously, "'twould be too much, Charley. You mustn't
send un."

"No it won't be too much," insisted Charley. "I want to do it. It will
make me feel happy."

It was late the following afternoon when they reached Double Up Cove.
The komatik was laden much more heavily than on the outward journey, and
the dogs, perforce, traveled much more slowly.

When they had unloaded the komatik, and carried the meat and other
cargo into the cabin, they brought in the komatik box, but before they
unpacked it Mrs. Twig and Violet must needs see Charley's new rifle, and
he exhibited it with due pride to be admired with real appreciation.

The komatik box was then opened, and Charley drew forth the shawl and
presented it to Mrs. Twig.

"Oh, Charley, lad!" she exclaimed, holding it up. "I been wantin' a
shawl all my life and never has un, and this un is a _rare fine_ shawl.
'Twere wonderful kind o' you to think o' me and get un!"

Violet was standing wistfully by, and she hugged her mother to show how
deeply she shared her mother's pleasure.

In the meantime Charley was delving into the depths of the komatik box,
and now he brought forth another package, which he presented to Violet,
remarking:

"There's something for you, Violet. I hope you'll like it."

Skipper Blink had packed the doll most carefully in a box, that its
dainty dress might not be soiled. In great eagerness of anticipation
Violet removed the wrappings one by one. When at last the doll was
disclosed, she gasped for a moment, then caught her breath, and then in
a spasm of joy hugged it to her breast with eyes brimming with tears.

"Oh! Oh! Oh! How _pretty!_ How _wonder_ful pretty!" she cried in
ecstasy. "I _loves_ un! I _loves_ un! Oh, _Charley!_" and with one arm
hugging the doll, she flung the other arm around Charley's neck in
unrestrained joy, and kissed his cheek. "Charley, you brings me the
first doll I _ever_ has in my life!"

It was the most sincere exhibition of appreciation and pleasure Charley
had ever witnessed, and the pathos of it made him wink hard to keep back
the tears that threatened to come into his own eyes.

In the kindlier land from which he came, where dolls and other toys are
lavished upon the children, and they accept them as a matter of course,
and soon cast the old ones aside for the new, no such joy as that which
Violet experienced is possible. She was at that moment certainly the
happiest little girl in all The Labrador, and perhaps in all the world.
And for many years to come that doll was to be her most precious
possession. No other could ever take its place. She talked to it and
loved it as though it were human, and alive, and to her it was indeed a
living thing. She told it all her joys, and went to it for comfort in
all her sorrows.

What exclamations of appreciation there were when Toby produced the
ancient "sweets" that he had purchased from Skipper Blink! They were as
hard and ordinary and stale as ever candies could be, and at home
Charley could not have been tempted to taste them. But here even he
pronounced them excellent, and to the others they were indeed a rare
treat.

Just as Mrs. Twig announced supper one evening a week after the boys had
returned from their trip to Deer Harbour and their adventure with the
bear and on the ice, the door unexpectedly opened and there stood
Skipper Zeb in the lamplight, laughing heartily at the fine surprise he
had given them.

Violet ran to him and threw her arms around him, and every one gathered
about him in joyful welcome, while he picked ice from his eyelashes and
his beard, and chuckled contentedly:

"Well, now! Here we be, safe and sound and snug! Everybody well and
happy! 'Tis wonderful fine to be back."

"'Tis wonderful fine to have you back!" Mrs. Twig declared, and
everybody echoed the sentiment.

When he had taken his things off, and properly greeted every one, and
Toby and Charley had unpacked his toboggan and carried into the house
his winter's catch of pelts and his traveling equipment, he turned to
Charley.

"Well, now!" said he. "You looks like a Labradorman! And how does you
like livin' at Double Up Cove? 'Twere a proper way to get out of that
fix you gets in when the mail boat leaves you, I'm thinkin', from the
way you looks! Rugged and well! And everybody happy!"

"I've had the best time this winter I ever had in my life," Charley
declared.

"Well, now! That's the way to talk! That's the way to make the best of a
bad job! 'Twere lookin' like a wonderful bad job you makes of un, and a
wonderful bad fix you gets in, when the mail boat goes and leaves you.
But you gets out of the fix and makes the best of what you finds and
turns trouble into a good time! That's what I calls risin' above
trouble," and Skipper Zeb slapped Charley upon the shoulder in hearty
approval. "Now we'll set in and eat. I'm as hungry as a bear, and I
could eat a bear if I had un to eat."

"'Twill be bear's meat you'll eat," smiled Mrs. Twig, placing a dish of
meat on the table.

"Charley knocks un over, and 'twere a white bear," Toby announced. "And
Charley fights a wolf pack, and knocks one of un over with an ax."

As they ate Skipper Zeb heard from Toby the stories of Charley's fight
with the wolves and of the shooting of the bear, interrupting the
narrative with many delighted exclamations.

"Now I wants wonderful bad to hear how you lads were makin' out to get
back to Double Up Cove after you leaves the Black River tilt," said
Skipper Zeb. "The wind comes to blow a gale before you has time to get
to Swile Island, and I wonders and wonders about un, and I fears you
gets in a wonderful bad fix. But they's no way I can be helpin', so I
says, ''Tis no use to worry. To-day's to-day and to-morrow's to-morrow,
and so I'll trust the Lard and the good sense o' the two lads to get un
out o' any fix they gets in.'"

"Were you findin' the oars we caches on Swile Island?" asked Toby.

"Aye, I finds un, but I'm not findin' the boat," nodded Skipper Zeb, a
puzzled look on his face. "I'm not knowin' what to think o' that. When I
finds the oars this marnin' I says, 'The lads gets to Swile Island,
whatever.' But when I'm not findin' fin or feather o' the boat, I'm not
knowin' what to think about un. I figgers that they's no chanst to get
away from Swile Island with the boat, whatever, with the storm and the
high seas that's runnin' for a week or ten days, and I knows you'll be
gettin' out o' grub."

Then Toby told him of his own and Charley's experiences, and while he
listened admiringly he asked many questions.

"Well, now! With good sense and the Lard's help you pulls out of a
wonderful bad fix. You does all you knows how, and then prays the Lard.
That's the way! 'Tis no use wastin' time prayin' till you does your best
first," and Skipper Zeb nodded his head approvingly. "Well, now!" and
leaning back his head he looked at Charley approvingly. "When you shoots
a deer I'll be namin' you a Labradorman! 'Tis the proudest name I'm
thinkin' of, and _that_ you'll be! There's a fine chance to knock over
some deer right handy. I sees fine footin' this evenin'. A big band of
deer's workin' down this way, and they're like to come out any time.
'Tis a wonderful big band. Some years they comes and some years they
don't. This year they comes."

Skipper Zeb explained to Charley that at this season of the year the
snow became so deep in the wooded interior that the caribou, or wild
reindeer, had a great deal of digging to do with their hoofs to reach
the thick beds of moss which covered the ground beneath the snow, and
upon which the animals chiefly fed.

He also explained that each fall the caribou gathered in great bands or
herds, and when food became hard to get, they would move or migrate to
barren places, where the wind, its force unobstructed by trees, swept
the greater part of the snow from the moss covered ground, and thus it
was much easier for the animals to reach food. Such a barren was that
where the wolf fight had taken place, and where Toby had caught his fox.

"This band, I'm thinkin', is on the barrens to the nuth'ard of the mesh,
where you fights the wolves," said Skipper Zeb. "The footin' goes that
way. We'll have a look in the marnin'."

Not a sign of caribou had Toby or Charley seen the whole winter, and
Skipper Zeb's statement that a large herd was so near was exciting news.
All winter they had been living upon rabbits, partridges and an
occasional porcupine. Caribou venison would be a great treat, and the
boys were keen for the hunt.

The great event of the evening was reserved until after they had eaten.
Then Toby, with much dignity, opened a chest and brought forth the otter
and marten skins, and, as a climax, the silver fox pelt. Skipper Zeb was
quite overcome. His praise of the boys was unstinted.

"I makes a fine winter's hunt myself," said he, "but nary a silver has I
ever caught. I has a rare fine catch of martens and minks, and one cross
fox, three reds and seven whites, but I never catches a silver. 'Tis
worth all the fox skins I gets three times over!"

"And now we'll be havin' a wonderful lot o' things we needs," Mrs. Twig
smiled happily.

"Aye, _that_ we will!" Skipper Zeb boomed heartily. "We can afford un
now without stintin'. We'll have un! We'll have nigh to anything we're
minded to buy!"

Breakfast the following morning was an exciting meal. The boys could
scarce restrain their eagerness to be away to the barrens to look for
caribou, and they could talk of nothing else.

"I'm thinkin'," suggested Skipper Zeb, "that if you lads had done a bit
of huntin' back over the barrens after you sees the wolves that you'd
have found some scatterin' deer there then. Wolves follows deer and
kills un to eat, and there's not like to be wolves when there's no deer
about."

As soon as breakfast was finished the dogs were harnessed, and day was
just breaking when Skipper Zeb and Toby and Charley set forth on their
caribou hunt. They had scarcely reached the marsh below the barrens when
the dogs began to sniff the air, and to show much eagerness to go
forward.

"See un sniff! See un sniff, now!" and Skipper Zeb grinned. "The wind's
down from the barrens, and the dogs smells the caribou. We'll find un
feedin' there, and there'll be aplenty of un."

At the edge of the barrens the komatik was stopped, and the dogs were
secured that they might not interfere with the hunting. Then the three
proceeded cautiously, with their rifles ready, over the slope of a
knoll, Skipper Zeb in advance. On the summit of the knoll Skipper Zeb
halted, and pointed to a moving mass nearly a mile away.

"See un?" said he. "There's hundreds of un! There's not much danger
we'll startle they, with the wind nuth'ard. When deer are in big bands
they don't startle easy. We'll get all we wants of un."

Gently rising knolls punctuated the barren plateau. Skipper Zeb, leading
the way, set forward at an easy but rapid pace. As they approached the
feeding herd, he practiced some caution, until at length he stopped,
crouching behind a rock, until the boys joined him.

For some time, following depressions between the knolls, the caribou had
been hidden from view. Now, peering over the rock, they saw the great
herd directly before them. Hundreds upon hundreds of the sleek, graceful
animals, spreading over the hills and knolls beyond, were pawing away
the hard snow and eating the thick growth of moss that lay beneath it,
with some old bucks strolling among them as sentinels.

"We're in fine shootin' range, and we'll be gettin' all we wants of un,"
said Skipper Zeb. "Go at un now!"

Charley was so excited that he could hardly hold his rifle, but he aimed
and fired. Skipper Zeb and Toby fired at the same time, and the three
continued to shoot into the herd until fourteen of the fine antlered
beasts lay stretched upon the snow.

"That's enough of un!" directed Skipper Zeb. "'Twill be all we wants,
and there'll be enough for Long Tom Ham, too. We'll knock down no more
than we can use handy."

With the report of the rifles the animals had begun to move restlessly
about. Some of the bucks were snorting, but because the wind was blowing
down from the herd toward the hunters, no smell of their enemies reached
the caribou. The sound of shooting and even the view of the hunter will
often fail to startle a herd, unless they get the smell. But something
had happened to some of their number, and the sentinels were on the
alert.

Skipper Zeb, with Toby and Charley, stepped out from cover and
approached their victims. Suddenly panic seized the herd. It is
probable that in their sudden terror the animals did not see or realize
that these were the enemies that had attacked them, but with one accord
they started forward. Slowly at first the great herd moved, and then, in
an instant, were in a wild stampede.

The three hunters stood directly in the pathway of the fear-blinded
animals. On they came, the thousands of hoofs beating upon the frozen
snow with an ominous roar like that of a great wind, and smashing
everything before them.

"Run! Run! They'll trample us down!" yelled Skipper Zeb.

They turned and ran, but they could not run with half the speed of
deer.



XXII

THE STRANGER


On came the caribou like a brigade of charging cavalry, tramping all
before them. Forward they swept in blind panic, as relentlessly
destructive as an avalanche, and no more easily stopped or turned aside.

Skipper Zeb and the two boys ran as they had never run before. Once
Charley slipped and fell, but was on his feet in an instant. It was an
uneven race, and there was no hope of outdistancing the sea of animals
in mad flight.

Skipper Zeb knew this, but he hoped to find refuge for himself and the
boys behind a boulder large enough to protect them in its lee. Such a
boulder caught his eye, and yelling at the boys at the top of his voice,
that he might be heard by them above the roar of the pounding hoofs, he
directed them to follow him. The foremost caribou were at their heels,
when they crouched, breathless with their running, behind the boulder,
and not an instant too soon. Here in safety they watched the herd sweep
past them like ocean waves.

Nearly as quickly as the stampede began it ended. The herd swung to the
northeast, began to slow its pace, and presently the three hunters saw
the rear of the herd in the distance, no longer running, but still
moving around restlessly before the animals resumed their morning
feeding.

Eight of the carcasses of those they had shot were hauled to the cabin
that morning, and while Skipper Zeb busied himself skinning and dressing
them, Toby and Charley, in the afternoon, loaded another on the komatik
and drove over to Long Tom Ham's at Lucky Bight, and in the evening
brought him back with them that he might prepare and take home with him
the meat and hides of those that had been reserved for his use; and for
this purpose Skipper Zeb loaned him the dogs and komatik.

In that land neighbours are neighbours indeed. They never lose an
opportunity to do one another a good turn; and just as Skipper Zeb had
thoughtfully shot the animals for Long Tom, and provided the means for
Long Tom to take them home, others would, he knew, if occasion offered,
do him a similar kindness.

It was no small job to skin the carcasses and prepare the meat. The
sinews were cut from the backs, scraped carefully and hung in the cabin
to dry. Later, as she required them, Mrs. Twig would separate them into
threads with which to sew moccasins, and boots, and other articles of
skin clothing. The tongues were preserved as a delicacy. The livers and
hearts were put aside to serve as a variety in diet. The back fat was
prized as a substitute for lard. The venison was hung up to freeze and
keep sweet for daily consumption.

What a treat that venison was! Charley declared he had never tasted such
delicious meat, and he was sure it was much better than beef.

"Well, now!" said Skipper Zeb. "I never in my life tastes beef, and I
were thinkin' beef might be better than deer's meat, though I thinks
deer's meat is good enough for any man to eat."

Christmas came with plum duff as a special treat, and then the New Year,
and with it Skipper Zeb's departure again for his trapping grounds,
where he was to remain alone, tramping silent, lonely trails until the
middle of April, then to return before the warming sun softened the snow
and in season for the spring seal hunt.

In January the cold increased. With February it became so intense that
even the animals kept close to their lairs, venturing out only when
hunger drove them forth to seek food.

In January Toby and Charley captured two martens and one red fox, and
during February the traps were visited but twice a week, and with no
returns. For their pains, they suffered frost-bitten cheeks and noses,
which peeled in due time, leaving white patches where the frost burn had
been. Then, too, the rabbit snares were sprung and abandoned. There were
rabbits and partridges enough hanging frozen in the porch to serve the
family needs until spring.

During the cold days of January and February Charley and Toby spent much
time in the cabin assisting Mrs. Twig prepare and tan the caribou skins
into soft buckskin, or occupied themselves outside at the woodpile with
a crosscut saw. The woodpile seemed always to require attention, and
though it was a bit tiresome now and again when they wished to do
something more interesting, it supplied excellent exercise.

But they had their share of sport too. On days when there was a fair
breeze it was great fun sailing an old sledge over the bay ice. They
fitted a mast upon it, and with a boat sail had some rare spins, with
occasional spills, which added to the zest of the sport.

Both Charley and Toby enjoyed, perhaps, most of all their excursions
with the dogs. When Skipper Zeb returned to his trapping path after his
holiday, they took him back, with a load of provisions to Black River
tilt. And twice since, on the fortnightly weekend, when they knew he
would be there, they drove over and spent the night with him in the
tilt, and a jolly time they had on each occasion.

Once on a Saturday the whole family paid a visit to Skipper Tom Ham and
his wife at Lucky Bight, spending a Sunday with them. The journey on the
komatik was a great treat for both Mrs. Twig and Violet, and this visit
supplied food for pleasant conversation during the remainder of the
winter.

One day in January Aaron Slade and his wife, neighbours who lived at
Long Run, some forty miles away and to the southward of Pinch-In
Tickle, drove into Double Up Cove with dogs and komatik, and spent two
whole days with the Twigs. And then, the following week, came David
Dyson and his son Joseph, and to all the visitors Toby, with vast pride,
exhibited his wonderful silver fox pelt.

"'Tis a fine silver!" exclaimed Aaron, holding it up and shaking out its
glossy fur that he might admire its sheen. "'Tis the finest silver ever
caught in these parts! You'll be gettin' a fine price for he, Toby."

And so said David Dyson and Joseph, and David, with a wise shake of his
head, added:

"Don't be lettin' the traders have un, now, for what they offers first.
Make un pay the worth of he."

With these excursions of their own, and the pleasant visits from their
neighbours, and with always enough to do, time slipped away quickly, and
the middle of March came with its rapidly lengthening days.

"In another month, whatever, Dad'll be comin' home," said Toby one
morning when they were at breakfast. "We'll go for he with the dogs and
komatik. And then 'twill soon be time for the sealin' and fishin'
again."

"'Twill be nice to have fresh fish again," suggested Mrs. Twig. "We're
not havin' any but salt fish the whole winter. I'm thinkin' 'twould be
fine for you lads to catch some trout. I'm wonderful hungry for trout."

"I can be helpin' too," Violet broke in delightedly.

"'Twill be fine, now," agreed Toby enthusiastically. "We'll catch un
to-day."

"How can you catch trout with everything frozen as tight as a drumhead?"
asked Charley.

"I'll be showin' you when we gets through breakfast," Toby assured. "We
always gets un in winter when we gets hungry for un."

"I'm hungry for trout too," laughed Charley, adding skeptically, "but
you'll have to show me, and I'll have to see them before I'll believe we
can get them with forty below zero."

"I'll be showin' you," Toby promised.

From a box he selected some heavy fishing line and three hooks. On the
shank of the hooks, and just below the eye, was a cone shaped lead
weight, moulded upon the shank. Each line was then attached to the end
of a short, stiff stick about three feet in length, which he obtained
from the woodpile outside. Then the hooks were attached to the lines,
and cutting some pieces of pork rind, Toby announced that the "gear" was
ready.

Violet had her things on, and armed with the equipment, the three set
out expectantly for the ice, Toby picking up an ax to take with them as
he passed through the wood porch.

"Here's where we fishes," said Toby, leading the way to a wide crack in
the ice a few feet from shore and following the shore line, caused by
the rising and falling of tide.

The crack at the point indicated by Toby was eighteen inches wide. With
the ax he cut three holes at intervals of a few feet through a coating
of three or four inches of young, or new ice, which had formed upon the
ice in the crack. Then, baiting the hooks with pork rind, he gave one of
the sticks with line and baited hook to Charley and one to Violet.

"The way you fishes now," he explained to Charley, "you just drops the
hook into the water in a hole, and holdin' the stick keeps un movin' up
and down kind of slow. When you feels somethin' heavy on the hook heave
un out."

"Don't the trout fight after you hook them?" asked Charley. "I always
heard they fought to get away, and you had to play them and tire them
out before you landed them."

"They never fights in winter, and your fishin' pole is strong enough so
she won't be hurt any by heavin' they out soon as you hooks un," grinned
Toby. "'Tis too cold to play with un any. Just heave un up on the ice.
They don't feel much like sportin' about this weather."

Charley had scarcely dropped his line into the water, when Violet gave a
little scream of delight, and cried:

"I gets one! I gets the first un!" and with a mighty yank she flung a
three-pound trout clear of the hole.

A few minutes later Charley, no less excited and thrilled, landed one
that was even larger than the one Violet had caught, and at the end of
half an hour the three had caught forty big fellows, some of which,
Charley declared, were "as big as shad."

It was stinging cold, and even with the up and down movement of the line
it was often caught fast in the newly forming ice. At intervals of a few
minutes it was necessary to use the ax to reopen the holes, and the
lines themselves were thickly encrusted by ice.

"'Tis wonderful cold standin' on the ice," said Violet at length. "I has
to go in to get warm."

"We're gettin' all the trout we can use for a bit," suggested Toby. "If
you wants to go in, Charley, I'll be goin' too."

"I'm ready to quit," Charley admitted. "It's mighty cold standing in one
place so long."

"Wait a bit," said Toby. "I'll be gettin' a box to put the trout in, and
the old komatik to haul un up to the house. Wait and help me."

Charley busied himself throwing the fish from the three piles into one,
while Toby followed Violet to the house, and when he had finished looked
out over the bay. Far down the bay he saw something moving over the ice,
and in a moment recognized it as an approaching dog team.

"Somebody's coming!" he shouted to Toby. "There's a team of dogs coming
up the bay!"

"Who, now, might that be?" puzzled Toby, who ran down to Charley.

"They must be coming here, for we're the last place up the bay,"
reasoned Charley.

"They's sure comin' here!" said Toby. "I'm thinkin' now she may be a
team from the French Post in Eskimo Bay, up south. They comes down north
every year about this time to buy fur, though they never comes here
before."

"Maybe they heard about your silver fox," suggested Charley, "and
they're coming to try to buy it from you. Ask a good price for it. It's
a good one."

"Maybe 'tis that now," admitted Toby. "Aaron and David's been telling
they about un, and they thinks they'll be comin' and buyin' she. But
I'll not sell un. I'll let Dad sell un."

The boys excitedly threw the fish into two boxes that Toby had brought
down on the old sledge that they used for sailing, and hastening to the
cabin announced the approaching visitors to Mrs. Twig.

She was in a flurry at once. She put the kettle over, and told Violet to
set two places at the table, and Toby to clean some trout, and in a
jiffy she had a pan of trout on the stove frying.

"There'll be two of un, whatever," she predicted. "The traders always
has a driver."

But as the komatik approached nearer, the boys discovered that there was
but one man, and, therefore, Toby was certain it could not be the French
trader.

"He'd be havin' a driver, whatever. He never travels without un," Toby
asserted. "I'm not knowin' the team. 'Tis sure not the Company[12]
team."

"We'll soon know now," said Charley, as the dogs swung in from the bay
ice and up the incline toward the cabin.

Toby's dogs had been standing in the background growling ominously as
they watched the approach of the strange team. Now, as one dog, they
moved to the attack and as the two packs came together there was a mass
of snapping, snarling, howling dogs. The stranger with the butt of his
whip, Toby with a club that he grabbed from the woodpile, jumped among
them and beating them indiscriminately presently succeeded in
establishing an armistice between the belligerents, the Twig dogs
retiring, and the visitors, persuaded by their master's whip, lying down
quietly in harness.

"Is this Double Up Cove, and are you Toby Twig?" asked the stranger
through an ice-coated beard, when he was free to speak.

"Aye," admitted Toby, "'tis Double Up Cove, and I'm Toby Twig, sir. Come
into the house and get warmed up and have a cup o' tea. 'Tis a wonderful
cold day to be cruisin', sir."

"Thank you," said the stranger, shaking hands with Toby and Charley. "It
is cold traveling, and I'll come in."

"Charley and I'll be unloadin' your komatik, and puttin' your cargo
inside so the dogs won't get at un," suggested Toby. "You'll bide here
the night, sir?"

"Yes," said the stranger, "I'll spend the night here."

"Come in and have a cup o' tea, and we'll loose your dogs after, sir,"
suggested Toby, leading the way to the cabin.

Mrs. Twig, still flurried with the coming of a stranger, met them at the
door.

"Come right in, sir. 'Tis wonderful cold outside," she invited.

"Thank you," said the man. "That fish you're frying smells appetizing.
My name is Marks. I'm the trader at White Bear Run. I suppose you're
Mrs. Twig and this little maid is your daughter?"

"Aye, sir, I'm Mrs. Twig and this is Vi'let."

"Glad to see you both," and after shaking hands with Mrs. Twig and
Violet, Marks the trader from White Bear Run proceeded to remove his
adikey, and standing over the stove that the heat might assist him, to
remove the mass of ice from his thickly encrusted beard.

"Set in now and have a cup o' tea, sir, and some trout," invited Mrs.
Twig when Marks's beard was cleared to his satisfaction.

"Thank you," and Marks took a seat. "Nippy out. Hot tea is warming.
Trout good too. Regular feast!"

"The lads and Vi'let just catches the trout this morning."

When he was through eating, Marks donned his adikey, and went out of
doors to release his dogs from harness. Toby and Charley had already
unlashed his load, and carried his things into the porch where they
would be safe from the inquisitive and destroying dogs.

One by one Marks loosed his dogs from harness, giving each a vicious
kick as it was freed, and sending it away howling and whining, until he
came to the last one, a big, gray creature. As he approached this
animal, it bared its fangs and snarled at him savagely. With the butt of
his whip he beat the dog mercilessly. Then slipping the harness from the
animal, Marks kicked at it as he had kicked at the others. The dog,
apparently expecting the kick, sprang aside, and Marks losing his
balance went sprawling in the snow. In an instant the savage beast was
upon him.



XXIII

THE LOST FUR


With the release of the stranger's dogs Toby had rather anticipated a
renewal of hostilities between the packs. To be prepared and armed for
such an event he was standing by with his dog whip ready for action.

He had been observing Marks and the dog, and the ill feeling between the
two had caused him to expect, sooner or later, some such accident as
that which had occurred. The gray dog was bolder than is usual with
Eskimo dogs, and Toby had no doubt that it was constantly on the alert
for an opening that might permit it to find its cruel master at a
disadvantage, when it could attack and destroy him safely.

With these thoughts, Toby was an anxious witness of the inhuman
treatment of the dogs by Marks, and when the big wolf dog sprang upon
its victim, he intuitively and instantly brought the butt of his whip
down upon the dog's head using all the force of his young arm. This
unexpected attack from the rear caused the animal to retreat, but not
until it had torn a rent in the man's adikey, and drawn blood from his
shoulder, barely missing the neck and throat, which had been its aim.

Marks was in a white rage when he regained his feet, and the dog would
have had another merciless beating at his hands, had he been able to
approach it, but it wisely kept at a distance, and would not permit
itself to be approached.

"That dog's holdin' a grudge against you," remarked Toby. "He'll be
gettin' you when you're not mindin' he sometime, and he'll sure kill you
if he does. I'd shoot un if 'twere mine."

"No," snapped Marks decisively, "I won't kill him. He won't kill me.
I'll keep him and club him till he cringes and crawls at my feet. I'll
be his master. No dog can make me kill him because he's bad. I'll take
it out of him."

"But that un has a grudge," repeated Toby.

"Just bad! Just bad! Three-quarters wolf! I'll make him a dog and take
the wolf out of him."

The wound in Marks's shoulder proved little more than a scratch. Mrs.
Twig bathed it with Dr. Healum's Liniment, and Marks assured her it
would be all right. Then while Marks smoked, and the boys sat and talked
with him, she repaired his torn adikey.

"I'm buying fur," Marks presently suggested. "Aaron Slade told me you
have some."

"We has some fur," Toby admitted, "but Dad sells the fur and he's away
at his path. He'll not be comin' home till the middle o' April month."

"Too bad, but I'd like to have a look at it. Aaron says you have a
silver fox. I'd like to see that."

"I'll get un," said Toby.

While Toby opened the fur chest, and brought forth the cotton bag in
which he kept the silver fox pelt, Marks watched him closely. As Toby
drew the pelt from the bag and handed it to Marks and the man shook it
out and held it up for inspection, Charley detected a gleam in his eye
of mingled admiration and greed, and it gave Charley a most
uncomfortable feeling.

"I'll give you four hundred cash for it," said Marks without taking his
eyes from the fur.

"No," Toby declined, "I'm not wantin' to sell un."

"That's a good offer," persisted Marks. "It's about what they'll give
you at the post in _trade_. I'll pay _cash_."

"I'll not sell un. I'll keep un till Dad comes home, and let he sell
un."

"Four hundred fifty," said Marks, and he drew forth a roll of bills and
counted out the money. "There's the cash. Take it. I want this fur. It's
a big price."

"I can't take un," Toby declined, unmoved. "I'm not doubtin' 'tis a fair
price, but I'll not sell un. The fur's for Dad to sell when he comes
home."

"You're a stubborn young fool!" blurted the man in a burst of temper.

"I'm not doubtin' that either," grinned Toby. "I'm a bit stubborn
whatever about not sellin' the fur. 'Tis for Dad to sell."

"All right. We'll call you stubborn and not a fool but foolish. That's
what I mean to say. You're turning down the best offer you'll ever get
for that skin, and your father will say so, and he would want you to
sell it if he were here."

The man smiled in an effort to appear agreeable, though Charley thought
there was something sinister and unpleasant in the curl of his lips.

"I'll not sell un whatever without Dad's tellin' me to sell un."

At his request Toby displayed to Marks his other pelts.

"I'll pay you twenty-five dollars apiece for your marten skins, and take
them as they run," Marks offered. "That's cash I'm offering, not trade."

"I can't sell un," Toby declined. "We owes a debt at the Company shop,
and we has to use un to pay the debt. They gives us thirty dollars for
un there."

"But that's trade," said Marks. "I offer cash, and twenty-five in cash
is more than thirty-five in trade."

"Not for us," objected Toby. "If we takes twenty-five dollars in cash we
only buys twenty-five dollars' worth with un. If we trades un in we gets
thirty dollars' worth with un, whatever."

"I can't argue with you, I see," and the man appeared to relinquish his
effort to buy the fur.

Marks made no further reference to the pelts, indeed, until after Mrs.
Twig and Violet had retired that evening to the inner room and to bed.
Then for nearly an hour he sat smoking and telling the boys stories of
adventures up and down the coast, until Charley, yawning, suggested that
he was sleepy, and saying good night retired to the bunk which he and
Toby occupied.

While Toby was spreading a caribou skin upon the floor near the stove as
a protection for Marks's sleeping bag, Marks suggested:

"Let me see that silver again. I'd like another look at it."

Toby obligingly brought it forth, and again Marks held it up for
inspection.

"I'll give you five hundred and fifty in trade for that, and you can
come to my shop at White Bear Run and trade it out any time you like."

"No, I'll not sell un," and there was no doubt that this was Toby's
final and decisive decision.

"All right!" and Marks returned the pelt to Toby. "You have an otter
there you didn't show me. How about that?"

Toby passed the otter pelt over to Marks, who examined it critically,
and finally suggested:

"I'll give you fifty-five dollars in cash for it."

That was a good price. Toby was aware that the best price for otters at
the Hudson's Bay Company's shop was fifty dollars in trade, and he could
see no reason for refusing to sell it to Marks.

"You can have he," he accepted.

"Glad I can buy something," Marks grinned, counting out the money and
handing it to Toby.

"Aye," said Toby, accepting the bills and counting them, "and I'm glad I
can sell that un to you, sir."

"Dream pleasant dreams, and let them be about the silver fox," Marks
smiled his sinister smile. "If you dream right, you'll dream you took me
up on my offer."

"I'll not be dreamin' that, sir, whatever. Good night, and I hopes
you'll rest well," and closing the fur chest, Toby joined Charley, who
was already asleep.

Marks made no further mention of the silver fox the following morning.
Directly breakfast was eaten he packed his sledge, harnessed his dogs,
and drove away, and was soon lost in the distance.

It was after sundown that evening, when Toby and Charley had just fed
the dogs, and were about to return to the cabin, when suddenly there
appeared out of the silent forest a party of six Indians, each hauling a
heavily laden flat sled, or toboggan.

Charley was the first to see them as they emerged in single file from
the shadow of the trees into the clearing--tall, swarthy creatures, with
straight, coarse black hair reaching to their shoulders, and held in
place by red or blue bands of cloth tied around the forehead. They wore
hooded buckskin coats, decorated with painted designs. Two of the
Indians had the hoods of their coats drawn over their heads, showing
them to be of caribou skin with the hairy side out, and with pieces of
skin sewn on each side of the hood to represent ears, and which served
to lend a savage aspect to the wearer. Some of them wore buckskin
leggings, while others wore leggings of bright red cloth reaching from
their buckskin moccasins to the knees.

Straight down they came on their snowshoes to Charley and Toby. Fierce
and wild they looked to Charley, but Toby stepped out to meet them and
to shake the hand of each, greeting them in their own tongue, while they
laughed as they returned the greeting and appeared to be glad to see
Toby.

Then they shook hands with Charley, and when he looked into their faces
he decided that they were not so savage after all, but human enough,
though he could not take his eyes from their strange dress. It spoke of
mystery and of the wild life the men lived in the trackless land from
which they came.

They unpacked their toboggans, and directed by Toby stowed their
belongings in the porch. When everything was stowed, they stood the
toboggans on end, leaning them against the house, and followed Toby into
the living-room.

Mrs. Twig welcomed the Indians with the cordiality of the frontier, and
made a pot of tea for them, which they drank with rare relish until the
pot was drained.

Then spoke Amishku[13] who was the leader, or chief, and Toby, who
understood their language well, interpreted his words:

"We have been far into the land hunting the caribou, the marten and the
fox, and it has been long since we have visited the wigwams of the white
man. This is the first tea we have had in many moons. It is good, and
we are hungry for it. You are our friends."

"Tell un we'll be havin' supper after a bit," said Mrs. Twig, "and then
I'll make more tea."

Upon Toby repeating this, the Indians laughed and two of them went to
the porch, where their belongings had been left, and presently returned
with a quantity of jerked[14] caribou meat, half a dozen caribou tongues
smoked and cured after the Indian manner, and six beautifully tanned
hides of buckskin, all of which they presented to Mrs. Twig.

"Give the poor men each a stick of your father's tobacco," directed Mrs.
Twig, when the Indians had seated themselves upon the floor, with their
backs against the wall, after supper.

Toby went to Skipper Zeb's chest, and fetched a plug for each of them.
When they saw the tobacco their faces beamed, and every man drew a red
stone pipe from his belt, and when they had filled their pipes and were
sending up clouds of smoke they began to laugh and joke.

The conversation inevitably turned to the success of the winter's hunt,
and the fur they had caught, and Toby went proudly to his chest to
produce and exhibit his precious silver fox pelt to the appreciative
eyes of the Indians.

He gave an exclamation of horror, and standing up held in his hand the
empty bag in which he had kept the pelt. Then he wildly rummaged to the
very bottom of the chest, and finally cried out:

"'Tis gone! The silver's gone!"

Madly he looked through the chest again, throwing out every pelt and
every article it contained, but the pelt was not there.

FOOTNOTES:
[12] Hudson's Bay Company.
[13] The Beaver.
[14] Dried.



XXIV

THE VENGEANCE OF THE PACK


Marks was well satisfied with his day's work. He had gone to Double Up
Cove for the silver fox pelt, and he had it. He also had the otter pelt.
He had paid a good price for the otter--more than he would have paid
under ordinary circumstances. Still, it would yield him a fair margin of
profit.

He and Toby had been alone when the bargain was struck. Mrs. Twig and
the little maid had retired and were asleep, and in any case could not
have heard the final bargaining or conversation between himself and
Toby. He was assured, also, by the lad's heavy breathing, that Charley
was asleep. There was no witness. It would be his word against Toby's.
He was a trader with an established reputation, Toby was only a boy.

Marks cringed a little when it occurred to him that contracts made with
minors were not binding, if the minor's parents or guardians chose not
to approve them. But this was Labrador, with no court of justice to
which they might appeal. Possession was the point, and Marks grinned
with satisfaction. He had the pelt in his possession.

No doubt, when the silver fox pelt was missed, he would be accused of
having stolen it. When they came to him, he would simply claim that he
had purchased it from Toby, upon a trade basis, and that the price was
five hundred and fifty dollars. He would stand upon this claim. He was
prepared to supply them with goods to this extent of value at any time
they might choose to come to his shop at White Bear Run and select them.
The price he should put on the goods, he assured himself, would be
sufficiently high to render the deal a highly profitable one for him.

Marks had no doubt that he could establish a plausible case. He assured
himself that he had no intention of stealing the pelt. At most, he had
been guilty only of sharp practice. He would pay for it. From the moment
that Aaron Slade had told him about it, he had set his heart upon
possessing it, and, he told himself, he usually got what he wanted.

"I'm a go-getter," he laughed in self-appreciation.

The sun was climbing in the sky, and the reflection from the great white
field of snow covered ice was intense. At this season it is never safe
to travel in the north with the eyes unprotected by goggles fitted with
smoked or orange-tinted glasses. The penalty for neglect might prove a
serious attack of snow-blindness.

Marks felt in a pocket for his goggles. He could not find them. He felt
in another pocket, and repeated the search, but they were not to be
found. Then he remembered that he had laid them on the shelf beside the
clock, at Double Up Cove, at the time he had taken off his adikey the
previous day, and he had no recollection of having removed them from the
shelf.

It was a risk to proceed without them, but there was a very good reason
why he could not safely return to the cabin at Double Up Cove. He felt
that it was to his advantage, until the Twigs had become accustomed to
the loss of the silver fox skin, to place as many miles as he could
between himself and them, and to do it as quickly as possible. Toby was
stubborn, and nobody knew what he might do in his first anger upon
discovering his loss.

"He might even shoot," he mused. "That other fellow didn't like me, and
the two work together. I'll take a chance without glasses, and won't go
back for them."

He turned about on the komatik and looked toward the cabin, his guilty
conscience prompting him to fear that even now he might be followed. The
cabin was still in view, and to his relief he could discover no
activity, and nothing to alarm him.

He urged the dogs forward, and did not halt until he had passed Pinch-In
Tickle, and early in the afternoon had turned into the next bay to the
southward.

Here he found a grove of spruce trees, and with firewood at hand he
stopped and lighted a fire and put his kettle over to boil for luncheon.

When the fire was burning freely, Marks discovered, upon looking into
it, a painful sensation in his eyeballs. The glare of the snow had
affected them. Before he finished eating, the pain had developed
considerably, and he determined to remain where he was until sunset,
when he would proceed to Aaron Slade's cabin, some five miles farther.
Here he could spend the night, and could borrow a pair of goggles, he
was sure, from Aaron. If he kept his eyes closed in the meantime, he
had no doubt they would be much improved when evening came.

Snapping his long whip over the dogs, he compelled them to lie down. The
big gray dog was slow to obey, and Marks laid the lash upon him two or
three times to enforce authority.

The dogs quieted, he dropped the whip in the snow at the rear of the
komatik, and within reach, and breaking some boughs arranged them to
form a comfortable couch near the fire. He then unlashed his sleeping
bag from the top of the load on his komatik, spread it upon the boughs
and crawled into it.

Marks fell asleep. When he awoke it was nearing sunset, and time to
drive on to Aaron Slade's. But he could only open his eyes to a narrow
slit, and that for a moment, when they would close. The pain was
excruciating. Marks was snowblind.

It was near feeding time, and the dogs were on their feet and restless.
If he could get them started, perhaps they would carry him unguided to
Slade's. At any rate, he determined to try, for he could not remain
where he was.

With much fumbling and groping he succeeded fairly well in securing his
load. He felt for his whip, and found it on the snow at the rear of the
komatik, where he had dropped it after compelling the dogs to lie down.

The restless dogs had swung around in their traces, and were facing him.
Through some mysterious instinct they appeared to have sensed the fact
that there was something wrong with Marks. When he ordered them forward,
and snapped the whip over them in an effort to straighten them out in
the direction in which he wished to go, they replied with snarls, and
refused to obey. Their open defiance of his authority sent Marks into a
rage. He tried to lash them, but in his blinded condition his aim was
poor and his efforts ineffectual.

His anger rose to white heat. If he could not lash them, he could at
least beat them into submission, at close quarters, with the clubbed
handle of the whip. With a volley of curses, he flew at them blindly,
beating right and left, and bringing whines of pain from the unfortunate
dogs that he chanced to strike.

Still they did not move into position. In painful peeps that he had
through narrow eye slits he saw the big gray dog facing him and snarling
at him with a show of its ugly fangs. That dog was the instigator of the
trouble he was having! He hated the creature! He would beat it into
submission!

The gray dog was in the center of the pack, and to reach it Marks was
compelled to step over the traces of some of the other dogs. One of
them, in fear of the whip handle, sprang away as Marks approached, and
in the movement wrapped its trace around the man's foot. Marks stooped
to disentangle his foot, and as he did the dog swung in another
direction in an effort to escape.

This motion jerked the blinded man's feet from under him, and unable to
recover his balance, he fell at full length among the dogs.

In a moment the gray dog, followed by the pack, was upon the prostrate
and helpless man. The trader's team had suddenly become a snarling,
yelping savage pack of wolves.



XXV

AMISHKU AND MAIGEN, THE INDIANS


Every one gathered around Toby and the chest. The Indians were no less
excited than were Charley and Toby. Again the chest was searched, but
with no result, until Charley thrust his hand into the cotton bag in
which Toby had kept the missing pelt, and drew forth a piece of paper.

"Here's something!" he exclaimed. "It's a note that man wrote and left."

"Read un! Read un to me, Charley!" Toby asked, and Charley read:

     "To TOBY TWIG:

     "I forgot to give you credit slip for the silver fox skin before
     you went to bed. I may forget to give it to you in the morning, so
     I will put this in the bag where you will find it. You may use this
     as a credit memorandum. You may have trade goods from my store at
     White Bear Run to the value of $550.00 at any time you wish to take
     the goods.

                                                          "JACOB MARKS."

"I didn't trade he the silver!" Toby protested. "I'm not wantin' his
goods! I sold he the otter, and told he the silver was for Dad to sell
when he comes home from his path!"

"Of course you didn't sell it to him," Charley vouched indignantly.
"He's a crook! I knew it right away! He stole it! He's going to try to
make out that you sold it to him for five hundred and fifty dollars in
trade."

"I wants the silver back," said Toby decisively. "I'll get un, too! Come
on, Charley, we'll go for un now."

"All right, Toby, _I'll_ help you get it! We'll make that fellow hand it
over, if we ever catch him," and Charley meant every word of it.

"What is you lads about?" asked Mrs. Twig anxiously, as Toby and Charley
began to change to their traveling moccasins.

"Charley and I'll be gettin' the silver back," said Toby firmly.
"Marks'll be gettin' no farther than David Dyson's to-day, whatever, and
Charley and I'll be catchin' he by marnin'. If we don't we'll follow he
till we does, won't we, now, Charley? We'll be gettin' the silver."

"I'll stick to you, whatever you do," said Charley.

"You lads can't be goin' alone, whatever," objected Mrs. Twig.

"I'm goin' to get that silver!" persisted Toby.

"Don't be hasty, lads. Ask Amishku what he thinks about un," suggested
Mrs. Twig. "I'm fearin' to have you lads go."

In his excitement Toby had failed to interpret the note to the Indians,
nor had he told them of his purpose of following Marks, and they were
looking curiously on without understanding the conversation.

When Toby now told them in their own language the contents of the note
which Charley had found in the bag, and of his own and Charley's
intention of following Marks and recovering the pelt, and of his
mother's objection, the Indians were interested in behalf of their
friends. They gathered at once in council. Shortly Amishku turned to
Toby, and said:

"You are our friends and you are in trouble. We wish to help you. Your
silver fox skin has been stolen, and we will help you find the man that
stole it, and get it back for you. We are on our way to the Hudson's
Bay Company's Post at Snow Inlet. At Pinch-In Tickle we must turn north.
The man that stole your fur is from White Bear Run. That is south.

"This man left here this morning. He has been traveling all day. We must
go now and travel all night if we overtake him soon. I will go with you
and my brother Maigen[15] will go with you. You will take my things and
my brother's things on your sledge. Our three friends will follow
to-morrow and bring their flat sleds with their loads. At Pinch-In
Tickle they will wait for us if we are not there before them. We will
leave my brother's things and my own things at Pinch-In Tickle and go
south until we find the man that stole your fur. Then we will get the
fur and come back to Pinch-In Tickle where our friends will be waiting.

"Are you ready? We must go, and we must travel fast, that we may not
lose the man's trail."

There was hustle and bustle at once. Toby and Charley brought in the
komatik box that Mrs. Twig might pack in it necessary provisions and
other equipment. The Indians packed their goods upon the komatik,
together with the boys' sleeping bags, and Toby and Charley harnessed
the dogs.

All of these preparations required but a few minutes, and when they were
ready, and as the boys were leaving, Mrs. Twig plead with Toby to
prevent the Indians "hurting the poor man," even if he would not
surrender the fur.

"I'd shoot he myself," said Toby, "if he wouldn't give un up. I would,
I'm that self-willed!"

"Don't be hard on the poor man now," admonished Mrs. Twig as Toby broke
the dogs loose and they dashed away in the starlight.

The ice was firm and with few hummocks, and the snow that covered it was
frozen nearly as hard as the ice beneath it. The dogs made fast
progress, taking a steady trotting gait, with Toby and Charley trotting
beside the komatik and the two Indians ahead following the trail of
Marks to be certain that it did not turn to some other quarter.

This was an adventure indeed for Charley. He had never before seen
Indians other than those exhibited in shows in New York. But these were
different. They had never tasted civilization. They were like the
Indians that Natty Bumpo knew, and of which Charley had read in Cooper's
tales. He thrilled with the thought that he was traveling with Indians
quite as primitive as those which Henry Hudson met when he first sailed
up the river that was named after him. These, indeed, he was happy to
think, might be the descendants of some of those very Indians, still
living the untamed, free life of their primordial ancestors.

It was still dark when the komatik drew up before the cabins at Pinch-In
Tickle, now grown familiar to Charley. Here the Indians quickly unloaded
the komatik, while Toby and Charley lighted a fire in the stove and put
the kettle on to boil; and while Toby fried some fresh caribou steak,
the two Indians ran down the trail to assure themselves that Marks had
turned to the southward instead of to the northward.

Presently they were back to report that the ice was safe through the
tickle, and that Marks had gone, as Toby had expected, southward.

Charley was glad of the opportunity for a short rest, and both boys were
hungry. The moment they had eaten, however, the Indians were on their
feet keen for the chase. The sledge was lightly laden now, and the dogs
traveled so rapidly that Charley and Toby were able to ride much of the
time, though the Indians ran ahead to keep their eye on the trail.

Presently dawn came, and before they turned into the bay to the
southward it was full daylight. It was at this time that Amishku, who
was some distance in advance, held up his hand and signaled Toby to
stop. The two Indians in a moment were lost to view among the boulders
that lined the shore, and into which they crept.

"I wonder what's up?" asked Charley, no little excited by the
occurrence.

"I'm not knowin'. Maybe 'tis some game they sees. 'Tis not like that
Marks would be bidin' hereabouts. He sure went on to Dyson's or Slade's,
whatever," answered Toby, no less mystified than was Charley.

Not more than fifteen minutes had passed, though it seemed to the boys
much longer, when they saw the Indians returning, and when they joined
them at the komatik Amishku held out the silver fox pelt to Toby.

"We got the silver fox skin for our friend, and we are glad," said
Amishku, in high good humour. "The man who stole it will never steal
again."

"You--don't mean--you--killed him?" asked Toby, suddenly sorry that he
had permitted the Indians to come, and so horrified at the thought that
the Indians might have done such a thing for him that he could scarcely
speak.

"No," answered Amishku. "His dogs kill him. The dogs are there. The
sledge is there. Not much of the man is there."

"The gray dog!" exclaimed Toby.

They drove their team nearer to the scene of the tragedy. A horrible
thing met their view, and they quickly turned from it--blood-stained
snow, pieces of torn clothing, and other evidences of the tragedy that
had taken place.

The gray dog and his mates were still held in leash by their harness,
and Toby decided that they should drive on to Aaron Slade's cabin to
tell him what had happened and to ask his assistance. And when they
reached Aaron's and he had listened to their story, he said:

"I'll drive my team over and take care of un, lads. 'Tis no job for lads
like you."



XXVI

THE END OF THE FIX


March, with its sudden blizzards and terrific gales passed. Mid-April
came, and Toby and Charley, with dogs and komatik, met Skipper Zeb at
Black River tilt, when he appeared again out of the silent wilderness
with the harvest of his labours, and his winter's trapping was ended.

How happy they were when Skipper Zeb was home again. It was pleasant to
hear his big voice and his jolly laugh booming about the cabin. He was
always an optimist, and he always made every one feel that everything
was all right.

"Well, now! Here we are all safe and sound and snug! The winter gone,
and nothin' to worry about, but a wonderful lot to be thankful to the
Lard for!"

The days were long now, and with the coming of May the sun began to
assert his strength. The snow softened at midday, and sealskin boots
again took the place of buckskin moccasins.

Toby and Charley, with dogs and komatik, hauled wood that Toby had cut
in the fall, and more wood that Skipper Zeb felled each day, in
preparation for another winter.

"Before we knows un the summer'll be gone and the fishin' over, and
Dad'll be settin' up his traps again, and the winter'll come, and I'll
not be havin' you, Charley," said Toby sadly.

When there was enough wood cut and hauled to the cabin, and the warm
days of June came with their threat of a final break-up of the ice in
the bay, Long Tom Ham appeared to take the dogs to Lucky Bight for the
summer.

A lump came in Charley's throat when he saw Long Tom Ham drive the dogs
away. The going of the dogs marked the end of winter, and the time close
at hand when they should close the little cabin at Double Up Cove, where
he had spent so many happy months, and depart for Pinch-In Tickle, to
await the coming of the mail boat.

But with every wave of regret there followed the happy thought that he
would soon be with his father and his mother again, and the thought
always sent a tingle of joy up and down his spine. What a meeting that
would be! What a welcome he should receive! What tales he would have to
tell! How proud his father would be of him! How his mother would hover
over him and love him! As much as he regretted leaving his good friends,
these thoughts made the time that he must wait for his going seem all
too long.

Near the end of June came a deluge of rain. Miniature rivers poured down
the hillsides into the bay, and the world became a sea of slush. When
the rain ceased and the sky cleared, the sun shone warm and mellow, and
the ice, now broken into pans, began to move out with the tide.

Seals were now basking in the sunshine upon the loosened ice and upon
the shore, and for two weeks Skipper Zeb and the boys devoted their time
to hunting them. The skins were needed for boots, the flesh for dog
food, and the blubber for oil. Sometimes they would themselves eat seal
meat, and though the Twigs were fond of it, and Charley had pronounced
the meat excellent when he and Toby were starving on Swile Island, he
now thought it strong and not as palatable as he would like.

On the last day of June Skipper Zeb's trap boat, calked and made tight,
was launched, and Skipper Zeb announced:

"Well, now! Here we are clear of ice, and I'm thinkin' there'll soon be
signs of fish down at the tickle. To-morrow marnin', and the weather
holds fine, we'll be cruisin' down. In another week, or fortnight,
whatever, the mail boat'll be comin' and blowin' her whistle in the
offing. I tells you, Charley lad, when you comes, and when you wants to
go home so bad, that when the mail boat comes back and blows her whistle
in the offing, we'd be ready and waitin' for she."

And so it came to pass that Charley found himself again with Skipper Zeb
and his family in the little cabin at Pinch-In Tickle. How crude it had
seemed to him that day when Toby led him up the path, and he had first
met Skipper Zeb! How comfortable and hospitable it seemed to him now!
How many memories it held for him!

Early one morning there sounded the long blast of a whistle, and
presently the mail boat appeared in the tickle, and came to in the
offing. There was great excitement in Skipper Zeb's cabin. Charley had
no time to change to the clothes in which he had arrived, but they were
packed in a neat bundle, and in another bundle were the wolf and bear
skins, together with many other souvenirs of the winter. Charley wished
to give his rifle to Toby, but Toby declined:

"Keep un yourself to remember the bear, and our other huntin'."

"I'll send you and your father new ones, as I promised, anyhow," Charley
assured.

"Well, now, and there's the mail boat!" exclaimed Skipper Zeb. "She's
come at last to take Charley away from us! And this is the end of the
fix you gets in! I'm wonderful sorry to have you go, lad! We're thinkin'
of you like one of the family now, and we're not wishin' to lose you."

"We're all wonderful sorry!" and Mrs. Twig brushed away a tear.

"Some day," said Charley, his heart full, "I'll come back to see you,
and perhaps I'll bring Dad with me to show him how good you people are,
and how we live in a real wilderness."

"I'll be puttin' you over in the punt to the mail boat," said Toby,
reluctant to bid Charley farewell.

They all went down to the landing to see him off, Skipper Zeb, Mrs. Twig
and Violet. He sat in the stern of the punt, as he did on the day Toby
took him ashore, while Toby rowed him alongside and helped him on deck
with his baggage, and then the boys grasped each other's hands in
farewell.

"'Twere the finest winter I ever has--with you here," and Toby's choking
voice would permit him to say no more.

"It was the finest winter I ever spent, too," and Charley was little
less moved than Toby.

"The ship's movin'. Good-bye!" and Toby hurried down the ladder and into
his boat.

Charley stood at the rail watching Toby row his old punt back, until the
ship passed into the tickle and shut from view Toby, the rocky hillside,
the clinging cabins and Skipper Zeb with Mrs. Twig and Violet at the
landing still waving their farewell to him.

"Where you going?" the steward's question met Charley as he turned from
the rail.

"To St. John's. Don't you know me? I'm Charley Norton who came down with
you last fall."

It was several minutes before the steward could convince himself that
this upstanding, clear-eyed, bronze-skinned fellow, attired like a
Labradorman, was the pale, listless unhappy lad they had lost the
previous fall. Then he hastened to Captain Barcus with the news, and
Captain Barcus and the whole crew gathered around Charley and welcomed
him as they would have welcomed a returned hero, to his great confusion.

"Now a wireless to your father!" beamed Captain Barcus, when Charley had
been duly greeted.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Bruce Norton was in his private office on William Street, in New
York City, dictating his morning mail, when a boy laid a telegram upon
his desk. He finished the letter he was dictating, before opening the
message, and then he read:

     "Will arrive in St. John's July twentieth, on mail boat from
     Labrador. Had a great winter. Killed a wolf and shot a white bear.
     Wire how you and mother are. Love to you both. Cannot wait to see
     you.

                                                            "CHARLEY."

Mr. Norton was upon his feet before he had read the last line. He
stuffed the message into his pocket, seized his hat, and as he bolted
from his office he shouted to his secretary, who now filled the place
formerly occupied by Mr. Henry Wise:

"Get sleeper reservations for Mrs. Norton and myself to St. John's at
once!"

"For to-day?" asked the secretary.

"Yes! Yes! First train possible!" and Mr. Norton disappeared in an
elevator.

When Mr. Norton broke the good news to Mrs. Norton a half hour later,
the two declared it was the happiest day of their whole life. But when,
a week later, they greeted Charley in St. John's when he disembarked from
the mail boat, and he threw his arms around his mother, perhaps a
greater height of happiness was reached.

Before they left St. John's, Mr. Norton contracted for the best motor
boat that he could buy, to be shipped on the mail boat to Skipper Zeb;
and with it went a host of gifts to Mrs. Twig and Violet from Mrs.
Norton, and new rifles and ammunition to Skipper Zeb and Toby as gifts
from Charley.

And we may be sure that the friendship did not end with this. But our
story has already grown too long, and those happenings of after years
belong to another tale.

FOOTNOTE: [15] The Wolf.

                  Printed in the United States of America

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Transcriber's Notes:
1. Punctuation has been normalized to contemporary standards.
2. In the original, the place name "St. John's" was consistently
   spelled incorrectly as "St. Johns" and has been corrected here.





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