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´╗┐Title: Billy Topsail, M.D. - A Tale of Adventure With Doctor Luke of the Labrador
Author: Duncan, Norman
Language: English
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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 "Billy Topsail, M.D. - A Tale of Adventure With Doctor Luke of the Labrador" ***

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_BILLY TOPSAIL, M.D._



_The "Billy Topsail" Books_

By NORMAN DUNCAN

Each Illustrated, 12mo, cloth, net $1.25


_The Adventures of Billy Topsail_

"There was no need to invent conditions or imagine situations. The life
of any lad of Billy Topsail's years up there is sufficiently romantic.
It is this skill in the portrayal of actual conditions that lie ready to
the hand of the intelligent observer that makes Mr. Duncan's
Newfoundland stories so noteworthy."--_Brooklyn Eagle._


_Billy Topsail and Company_

"Another rousing volume of 'The Billy Topsail Books.' Norman Duncan
has the real key to the boy heart and in Labrador he has opened up a
field magnetic in its perils and thrills and endless
excitements."--_Examiner._


_Billy Topsail, M. D._

    A Tale of Adventure with "Doctor Luke of the Labrador."

The further adventures of Billy Topsail and Archie Armstrong on the ice,
in the forest and at sea. In a singular manner the boys fall in with a
doctor of the outposts and are moved to join forces with him. The doctor
is Doctor Luke of the Labrador whose prototype as every one knows is
Doctor Grenfell. Its pages are as crowded with brisk adventures as those
of the preceding books.

[Illustration: "BACK, YOU, CRACKER! BACK, YOU, SMOKE!"]

  (See page 85)



  _BILLY TOPSAIL, M.D._

  _A Tale of Adventure With
  Doctor Luke of the Labrador_

  _By
  NORMAN DUNCAN_

  _ILLUSTRATED_

  [Illustration]

  _New York Chicago Toronto
  Fleming H. Revell Company
  London and Edinburgh_



  Copyright, 1916, by
  FLEMING H. REVELL COMPANY

  New York: 158 Fifth Avenue
  Chicago: 17 North Wabash Ave.
  Toronto: 25 Richmond Street, W.
  London: 21 Paternoster Square
  Edinburgh: 100 Princes Street



_To the Reader_


In this tale of the seas and ice-floes of Newfoundland and Labrador,
Billy Topsail adventures with Doctor Luke of the Labrador. There are
thrilling passages in the book. The author is frank to admit the
hair-raising quality of them. Indeed, they have tickled his own scalp.
Well, it is proper that the hair of the reader should sometimes stand on
end and his eyes pop wide. The author would be a poor teller of tales if
he could not manage as much--a charlatan if he did not. Yet these
thrilling passages are not the work of a saucy imagination, delighting
in shudders, no matter what, but are all decently founded upon fact,
true to the experience of the coast, as many a Newfoundlander, boy and
man, could tell you.

Doctor Luke has often been mistaken for Doctor Wilfred Grenfell of the
Deep Sea Mission. That should not be. No incident in this book is a
transcript from Doctor Grenfell's long and heroic service. What Billy
Topsail and Doctor Luke encounter, however, is precisely what the Deep
Sea Mission workers must encounter. It should be said, too, that as the
tale is told of the spring of the year, when the ice breaks up and the
floes come drifting out of the north with great storms, Newfoundland
presents herself in her worst mood. Yet the sun shines in Newfoundland,
tender enough in summer weather--there are flowers on the hills and warm
winds on the sea; and such as learn to know the land come quickly to
love her for her beauty and for her friendliness.

  N. D.

  _New York, March, 1916._



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER I                                                   15

  In which it is hinted that Teddy Brisk would make a
  nice little morsel o' dog meat, and Billy Topsail begins
  an adventure that eventually causes his hair to stand
  on end and is likely to make the reader's do the same.

  CHAPTER II                                                  24

  In which Timothy Light's team of ten potential outlaws
  is considered, and there is a significant description of
  the career of a blood-guilty, ruined young dog, which
  is in the way of making desperate trouble for somebody.

  CHAPTER III                                                 33

  In which Timothy Light's famished dogs are committed
  to the hands of Billy Topsail and a tap on the snout is
  recommended in the probable case of danger.

  CHAPTER IV                                                  40

  In which the komatik is foundered, the dogs draw their
  own conclusions from the misfortune and prepare to
  take advantage, Cracker attempts a theft and gets a
  clip on the snout, and Billy Topsail and Teddy Brisk
  confront a situation of peril with composure, not knowing
  the ultimate disaster that impends.

  CHAPTER V                                                   50

  In which the wind goes to work, the ice behaves in an
  alarming way, Billy Topsail regrets, for obvious reasons,
  having to do with the dogs, that he had not
  brought an axe, and Teddy Brisk protests that his
  mother knew precisely what she was talking about.

  CHAPTER VI                                                  56

  In which the sudden death of Cracker is contemplated as
  a thing to be desired, Billy Topsail's whip disappears,
  a mutiny is declared and the dogs howl in the
  darkness.

  CHAPTER VII                                                 64

  In which a blazing club plays a salutary part, Teddy
  Brisk declares the ways of his mother, and Billy Topsail
  looks forward to a battle that no man could win.

  CHAPTER VIII                                                70

  In which Teddy Brisk escapes from the wolfskin bag
  and determines to use his crutch and Billy Topsail
  comes to the conclusion that "it looks bad."

  CHAPTER IX                                                  76

  In which attack is threatened and Billy Topsail strips
  stark naked in the wind in pursuit of a desperate expedient
  and with small chance of success.

  CHAPTER X                                                   82

  In which Teddy Brisk confronts the pack alone and
  Cracker leads the assault.

  CHAPTER XI                                                  87

  In which Teddy Brisk gives the strains of a Tight Cove
  ballad to the north wind, Billy Topsail wins the reward
  of daring, Cracker finds himself in the way of the
  evil-doer, and Teddy Brisk's boast makes Doctor Luke
  laugh.

  CHAPTER XII                                                 92

  In which Billy Topsail's agreeable qualities win a warm
  welcome with Doctor Luke at Our Harbour, there is
  an explosion at Ragged Run, Tommy West drops
  through the ice and vanishes, and Doctor Luke is in a
  way never to be warned of the desperate need of his
  services.

  CHAPTER XIII                                               100

  In which Doctor Luke undertakes a feat of daring and
  endurance and Billy Topsail thinks himself the luckiest
  lad in the world.

  CHAPTER XIV                                                104

  In which Billy Topsail and Doctor Luke take to the ice
  in the night and Doctor Luke tells Billy Topsail something
  interesting about Skinflint Sam and Bad-Weather
  Tom West of Ragged Run.

  CHAPTER XV                                                 112

  In which Bad-Weather Tom West's curious financial
  predicament is explained.

  CHAPTER XVI                                                118

  In which Doctor Luke and Billy Topsail proceed to accomplish
  what a cat would never attempt and Doctor
  Luke looks for a broken back whilst Billy Topsail
  shouts, "Can you make it?" and hears no answer.

  CHAPTER XVII                                               126

  In which rubber ice is encountered and Billy Topsail is
  asked a pointed question.

  CHAPTER XVIII                                              134

  In which discretion urges Doctor Luke to lie still in a
  pool of water.

  CHAPTER XIX                                                140

  In which Doctor Luke and Billy Topsail hesitate in fear
  on the brink of Tickle-my-Ribs.

  CHAPTER XX                                                 149

  In which Skinflint Sam of Ragged Run finds himself in
  a desperate predicament and Bad-Weather Tom West
  at last has what Skinflint Sam wants.

  CHAPTER XXI                                                158

  In which a Croesus of Ragged Run drives a hard bargain
  in a gale of wind.

  CHAPTER XXII                                               167

  In which Doctor Luke and Billy Topsail go north, and
  at Candlestick Cove, returning, Doctor Luke finds
  himself just a bit peckish.

  CHAPTER XXIII                                              174

  In which, while Doctor Luke and Billy Topsail rest unsuspecting
  at Candlestick Cove, Tom Lute, the father
  of the Little Fiddler of Amen Island, sharpens an axe
  in the wood-shed, and the reader is left to draw his
  own conclusions respecting the sinister business.

  CHAPTER XXIV                                               184

  In which Bob Likely, the mail-man, interrupts Doctor
  Luke's departure, in the nick of time, with an astonishing
  bit of news, and the ice of Ships' Run begins
  to move to sea in a way to alarm the stout hearted.

  CHAPTER XXV                                                190

  In which a stretch of slush is to be crossed and Billy
  Topsail takes the law in his own hands.

  CHAPTER XXVI                                               196

  In which it seems that an axe and Terry Lute's finger
  are surely to come into injurious contact, and Terry
  Lute is caught and carried bawling to the block, while
  his mother holds the pot of tar.

  CHAPTER XXVII                                              204

  In which Doctor Luke's flesh creeps, Billy Topsail acts
  like a bob-cat, and the Little Fiddler of Amen Island
  tells a secret.

  CHAPTER XXVIII                                             212

  In which Sir Archibald Armstrong's son and heir is presented
  for the reader's inspection, highly complimented
  and recommended by the author, and the thrilling adventure,
  which Archie and Billy are presently to begin,
  has its inception on the departure of Archie from St.
  John's aboard the _Rough and Tumble_.

  CHAPTER XXIX                                               221

  In which the crew of the _Rough and Tumble_ is harshly
  punished, and Archie Armstrong, having pulled the
  wool over the eyes of Cap'n Saul, goes over the side
  to the floe, where he falls in with a timid lad, in whose
  company, with Billy Topsail along, he is some day to
  encounter his most perilous adventure.

  CHAPTER XXX                                                226

  In which a little song-maker of Jolly Harbour enlists the
  affection of the reader.

  CHAPTER XXXI                                               232

  In which a gale of wind almost lays hands on the crew
  of the _Rough and Tumble_, Toby Farr is confronted
  with the suggestion of dead men, piled forward like
  cord-wood, and Archie Armstrong joins Bill o' Burnt
  Bay and old Jonathan in a roar of laughter.

  CHAPTER XXXII                                              240

  In which Archie Armstrong and Billy Topsail say good-bye
  to Toby Farr for the present, and, bound down to
  Our Harbour with Doctor Luke, enter into an arrangement,
  from which issues the discovery of a mysterious
  letter and sixty seconds of cold thrill.

  CHAPTER XXXIII                                             251

  In which the letter is opened, Billy and Archie are confronted
  by a cryptogram, and, having exercised their
  wits, conclude that somebody is in desperate trouble.

  CHAPTER XXXIV                                              257

  In which Archie and Billy resolve upon a deed of their
  own doing, and are challenged by Ha-ha Shallow of
  Rattle Water.

  CHAPTER XXXV                                               265

  In which Billy Topsail takes his life in his hands and
  Ha-ha Shallow lays hold of it with the object of snatching
  it away.

  CHAPTER XXXVI                                              271

  In which Ha-ha Shallow is foiled, Archie Armstrong
  displays swift cunning, of which he is well aware, and
  Billy Topsail, much to his surprise, and not greatly to
  his distaste, is kissed by a lady of Poor Luck Barrens.

  CHAPTER XXXVII                                             279

  In which Archie Armstrong rejoins the _Rough and
  Tumble_, with Billy Topsail for shipmate, and they
  seem likely to be left on the floe, while Toby Farr,
  with the gale blowing cold as death and dark falling,
  promises to make a song about the ghosts of dead men,
  but is entreated not to do so.

  CHAPTER XXXVIII                                            287

  In which the wind blows a tempest, our heroes are lost
  on the floe, Jonathan Farr is encased in snow and
  frozen spindrift, Toby strangely disappears, and an
  heroic fight for life is begun, wrapped in bitter dark.

  CHAPTER XXXIX                                              293

  In which one hundred and seventy-three men of the
  _Rough and Tumble_ are plunged in the gravest peril of
  the coast, wandering like lost beasts, and some drop
  dead, and some are drowned, and some kill themselves
  to be done with the torture they can bear no longer.

  CHAPTER XL                                                 298

  In which Toby Farr falls in the water, and, being
  soaked to the skin, will freeze solid in half an hour, in
  the frosty dusk of the approaching night, unless a shift
  of dry clothes is found, a necessity which sends Jonathan
  Farr and Billy Topsail hunting for dead men.

  CHAPTER XLI                                                305

  In which a dead man is made to order for little Toby
  Farr.

  CHAPTER XLII                                               311

  In which the tale comes to a good end: Archie and
  Billy make ready for dinner, Toby Farr is taken for
  good and all by Sir Archibald, and Billy Topsail, having
  been declared wrong by Archie's father, takes the
  path that leads to a new shingle, after which the author
  asks a small favour of the reader.



  _To
  Elspeth's
  Canadian Cousins
  Russ and Dode, Tom and Kenn,
  Rich and Logan, Mort and
  Fos, Georgie,
  and
  all the girls of the connection
  who will deign
  to read the tale, Mar
  and Buff, Frankie,
  Bettie and Jean
  when the time
  comes,
  with a wink and a challenge
  to
  Kathie Sweet._



CHAPTER I

    _In Which It Is Hinted that Teddy Brisk Would Make a Nice Little
    Morsel o' Dog Meat, and Billy Topsail Begins an Adventure that
    Eventually Causes His Hair to Stand on End and Is Likely to Make the
    Reader's Do the Same_


One dark night in the fall of the year, the trading-schooner _Black
Bat_, of Ruddy Cove, slipped ashore on the rocks of Tight Cove, of the
Labrador. She was frozen fast before she could be floated. And that was
the end of her flitting about. It was the end, too, of Billy Topsail's
rosy expectation of an hilarious return to his home at Ruddy Cove.
Winter fell down next day. A great wind blew with snow and frost; and
when the gale was blown out--the sun out and the sky blue again--it was
out of the question to rip the _Black Bat_ out of her icy berth in Tight
Cove Harbour and put her on the tumbled way to Ruddy.

And that is how it came about that Billy Topsail passed the winter at
Tight Cove, with Teddy Brisk, and in the spring of the year, when the
ice was breaking up, fell in with Doctor Luke of the Labrador in a way
that did not lack the aspects of an adventure of heroic proportions. It
was no great hardship to pass the winter at Tight Cove: there was
something to do all the while--trapping in the back country; and there
was no uneasiness at home in Ruddy Cove--a wireless message from the
station at Red Rock had informed Ruddy Cove of the fate of the _Black
Bat_ and the health and comfort of her crew.

And now for the astonishing tale of how Doctor Luke and Billy Topsail
fell in together----

       *       *       *       *       *

When Doctor Luke made Tight Cove, of the Labrador, in the course of his
return to his little hospital at Our Harbour, it was dusk. His dogs were
famished; he was himself worn lean with near five hundred miles of
winter travel, which measured his northern round, and his komatik (sled)
was occupied by an old dame of Run-by-Guess Harbour and a young man of
Anxious Bight. The destitute old dame of Run-by-Guess Harbour was to
die of her malady in a cleanly peace; the young man of Anxious Bight was
to be relieved of those remnants of a shoulder and good right arm that
an accidental gunshot wound had left to endanger his life.

It was not fit weather for any man to be abroad--a biting wind, a frost
as cold as death, and a black threat of snow; but Doctor Luke, on this
desperate business of healing, was in haste, and the patients on the
komatik were in need too urgent for any dawdling for rest by the way.
Schooner Bay ice was to cross; he would put up for the night--that was
all; he must be off at dawn, said he in his quick, high way.

From this news little Teddy Brisk's mother returned to the lamp-lit
cottage by Jack-in-the-Box. It was with Teddy Brisk's mother that Billy
Topsail was housed for the winter.

"Is I t' go, mum?" said Teddy.

Teddy Brisk's mother trimmed the lamp.

"He've a ol' woman, dear," she replied, "from Run-by-Guess."

Teddy Brisk's inference was decided.

"Then he've room for _me_," he declared; "an' I'm not sorry t' learn
it."

"Ah, well, dear, he've also a poor young feller from Anxious Bight."

Teddy Brisk nodded.

"That's all about _that_," said he positively. "He've _no_ room for me!"

Obviously there was no room for little Teddy Brisk on Doctor Luke's
komatik. Little Teddy Brisk, small as he was, and however ingenious an
arrangement might be devised, and whatever degree of compression might
be attempted, and no matter what generous measure of patience might be
exercised by everybody concerned, including the dogs--little Teddy Brisk
of Tight Cove could not be stowed away with the old dame from
Run-by-Guess Harbour and the young man of Anxious Bight.

There were twenty miles of bay ice ahead; the dogs were footsore and
lean; the komatik was overflowing--it was out of the question. Nor could
Teddy Brisk, going afoot, keep pace with the Doctor's hearty strides and
the speed of the Doctor's team--not though he had the soundest little
legs on the Labrador, and the longest on the Labrador, of his years, and
the sturdiest, anywhere, of his growth.

As a matter of fact, one of Teddy Brisk's legs was as stout and willing
as any ten-year-old leg ever you saw; but the other had gone bad--not so
recently, however, that the keen Doctor Luke was deceived in respect to
the trouble, or so long ago that he was helpless to correct it.

Late that night, in the lamp-lit cottage by Jack-in-the-Box, the Doctor
looked over the bad leg with a severely critical eye; and he popped more
questions at Teddy Brisk, as Teddy Brisk maintained, than had ever
before been exploded on anybody in the same length of time.

"Huh!" said he at last. "I can fix it."

"You can patch un up, sir?" cried Skipper Tom.

This was Thomas Brisk. The father of Teddy Brisk had been cast away,
with the _Brotherly Love_, on the reef by Fly Away Head, in the Year of
the Big Shore Catch. This old Thomas was his grandfather.

"No, no, no!" the Doctor complained. "I tell you I can _fix_ it!"

"Will he be as good as new, sir?" said Teddy.

"Will he?" the Doctor replied. "Aha!" he laughed. "You leave that to the
carpenter."

"As good as Billy Topsail's off shank?"

"I'll scrape that bad bone in there," said the Doctor, rubbing his hands
in a flush of professional expectation; "and if it isn't as good as new
when the job's finished I'll--I'll--why, I'll blush, my son: I'll blush
all red and crimson and scarlet."

Teddy Brisk's mother was uneasy.

"Will you be usin' the knife, sir?"

"The knife? Certainly!"

"I'm not knowin'," said the mother, "what little Teddy will say t'
that."

"What say, son?" the Doctor inquired.

"Will it be you that's t' use the knife?" asked Teddy.

"Mm-m!" said the Doctor. He grinned and twinkled. "I'm the butcher,
sir."

Teddy Brisk laughed. "That suits _me_!" said he.

"That's hearty!" the Doctor exclaimed. He was delighted. The trust was
recompense. God knows it was welcome! "I'll fix you, Teddy boy," said
he, rising. And to Skipper Thomas: "Send the lad over to the hospital as
soon as you can, Skipper Thomas. When the ice goes out we'll be crowded
to the roof at Our Harbour. It's the same way every spring. Egad!
they'll sweep in like the flakes of the first fall of snow! Now's the
time. Make haste! We must have this done while I've a cot to spare."

"I will, sir."

"We're due for a break-up soon, I suppose--any day now; but this wind
and frost will hold the ice in the bay for a while. You can slip the lad
across any day. It must be pretty fair going out there. You can't bring
him yourself, Skipper Thomas. Who can? Somebody here? Timothy Light? Old
Sam's brother, isn't he? I know him. It's all arranged, then. I'll be
looking for the lad in a day or two. You've plenty of dogs in Tight
Cove, haven't you?"

"Oh, aye, sir," Skipper Thomas replied; "we've _dogs_, sir--never you
mind about that!"

"Whose dogs?"

"Timothy Light's dogs."

The Doctor grinned again.

"That pack!" said he.

"A saucy pack o' dogs!" said Teddy's mother. "It's mostly new this
season. I don't like un! I'm fair afraid o' them, sir. That big Cracker,
sir, that Timothy haves for bully an' leader--he've fair spoiled Timothy
Light's whole team. I'm none too fond o' that great dog, sir; an' I'll
have my say about it."

Skipper Thomas laughed--as a man will at a woman's fears.

"No sheep's manners t' that pack," he drawled. "The team's all dawg."

"What isn't wolf!" the woman retorted.

"She've been afraid o' that Cracker," Skipper Thomas explained, "ever
since he fetched a brace o' wolves out o' the timber. 'Twas as queer a
sight, now, as ever you seed, sir. They hung round the harbour for a day
an' a night. You might think, sir, that Cracker was showin' off his new
quarters t' some friends from the back country. They two wolves seemed
t' have knowed Cracker all their lives. I 'low that they _had_
knowed----"

"He's half wolf hisself."

"I 'low he's _all_ wolf," Skipper Thomas admitted. This was not true.
Cracker was not all wolf. "I never heard o' nobody that knowed where
Cracker was born. That dog come in from the timber."

"A wicked crew--the pack o' them!"

"We've had a lean winter at Tight Cove, sir," said Skipper Thomas. "The
dogs have gone marvellous hungry this past month, sir. They're just a
wee bit savage."

"Spare your dog meat if you lack it," the Doctor advised. "I'll feed
that team at Our Harbour."

Teddy Brisk put in:

"Timothy Light haves command o' that pack."

"I'm not so sure that he've command," Teddy Brisk's mother protested.
"I'm not so sure that any man could command a shockin' pack like that.
In case o' accident, now----"

Skipper Thomas chucked his ample, glowing daughter-in-law under the
chin.

"You loves that lad o' yourn!" he bantered.

"I does!"

"You're thinkin' he'd make a nice little morsel o' dog meat?"

"As for me," she laughed, "_I_ could eat him!"

She caught little Teddy Brisk in her arms and kissed him all over his
eager little face. And then Doctor Luke, with a laugh and a boyish "So
long, Teddy Brisk! See you soon, old soldier!" vanished to his lodgings
for the night.



CHAPTER II

    _In Which Timothy Light's Team of Ten Potential Outlaws is
    Considered, and There is a Significant Description of the Career of
    a Blood-Guilty, Ruined Young Dog, Which is in the Way of Making
    Desperate Trouble for Somebody_


Of all this Billy Topsail had been an observer. To a good deal of it he
had listened with an awakened astonishment. It did not appear to him
that he would be concerned in what might grow out of the incident. He
did not for a moment imagine, for example, that he would find himself in
a situation wherein his hair would stand on end--that he would stand
stripped naked in the north wind, confronting Death in a most unpleasant
form. Nor was it that Doctor Luke's personality had stirred him to
admiration--though that was true: for Doctor Luke had a hearty, cheery
twinkling way with him, occasionally mixed with a proper austerity, that
would have won any boy's admiration; but what particularly engaged Billy
Topsail was something else--it was Doctor Luke's confident assertion
that he could cure little Teddy Brisk.

Billy Topsail knew something of doctors, to be sure; but he had never
before quite realized their power; and that a man, being only human,
after all, could take a knife in his hand, which was only a man's hand,
after all, and so employ the knife that the painful, hampering leg of
Teddy Brisk, which had placed a dreadful limitation on the little boy,
would be made whole and useful again, caused Billy Topsail a good deal
of deep reflection. If Doctor Luke could do that, why could not Billy
Topsail learn to do it? It seemed to Billy Topsail to be a more
admirable thing to be able to do than to sail a hundred-tonner in a gale
of wind.

"Who _is_ that man?" he asked.

"That's Doctor Luke," said Teddy's mother. "You know that."

"Well, who's Doctor Luke?"

"I don't know. He's jus' Doctor Luke. He've a wee hospital at Our
Harbour. An' he heals folk. You'll find un go anywhere he's asked t' go
if there's a poor soul in need. An' that's all _I_ know about un."

"What does he do it for?"

"I reckon he wants to. An' anyhow, I'm glad he does do it. An' I reckon
you'd be glad, too, if you had a little boy like Teddy."

"I _am_ glad!" said Billy. "I think 'tis the most wonderful thing ever I
heard of. An' I wish----"

And the course of Billy Topsail's life moved inevitably on towards a
nearing fate that he would have shuddered to contemplate had he foreseen
it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Well, now, there was but one team of dogs in Tight Cove. It was a happy
circumstance. No dogs could have existed as a separate pack in the
neighbourhood of Timothy Light's mob of potential outlaws. It was all
very well for Timothy Light to pleasure his hobby and pride in the
unsavoury collection. Timothy Light had command of his own team. It was
quite another matter for the timid mothers of Tight Cove. Timothy
Light's dogs had a bad name. As neighbours they deserved it, whatever
their quality on the trail--a thieving, snarling crew.

To catch Timothy Light in the act of feeding his team was enough to
establish an antipathy in the beholder--to see the old man beat off the
rush of the pack with a biting walrus whip while he spread the bucket of
frozen fish; to watch him, then, leap away from the ferocious onset; and
to be witness of the ravenous anarchy of the scramble--a free fight,
dwindling, at last, to melancholy yelps and subsiding in the licking of
the small wounds of the encounter. Timothy Light was a fancier of dog
flesh, as a man may be devoted to horse-flesh; and the object of his
selective taste was what he called go-an'-gumption.

"The nearer the wolf," said he, "the better the dog."

It was to accord with this theory--which is a fallacy as a
generalization--that he had evolved the team of ten that he had.

"I'm free t' say," he admitted, "that this here Cracker o' mine is none
too tame. He've the wolf in him--that's so. As a wolf, with the pack in
the timber, he'd be a bad wolf; as a dog in harbour he's a marvellous
wicked rogue. He've a eye as bitter as frost. Did you mark it? He leaves
it fool all over a person in a laughin' sort o' fashion an' never stop
on the spot he really wants t' look at--except jus' once in a while. An'
then it darts t' the throat an' away again; an' Cracker thinks, jus' as
plain as speech:

"'Oh, Lord, wouldn't I like t' fix my teeth in there!'

"Still an' all," the old man concluded, "he yields t' command. A tap on
the snout goes a long way with Cracker. He've a deal o' wolf's
blood--that one has; but he's as big a coward, too, as a wolf, an'
there's no danger in him when he's overmastered. Still an' all"--with a
shrug--"I'd not care t' lose my whip an' stumble an' fall on the trail
in the dusk when he haven't been fed for a while."

       *       *       *       *       *

Cracker had come to Tight Cove in a dog trade of questionable propriety.
Cracker had not at once taken to the customs and dogs of Tight Cove; he
had stood off, sullen, alert, still--head low, king-hairs lifted, eyes
flaring. It was an attitude of distrust, dashed with melancholy, rather
than of challenge. Curiosity alone maintained it through the interval
required for decision. Cracker was deliberating.

There was Tight Cove and a condition of servitude to Timothy Light;
there were the free, wild, famishing spaces of the timber beyond.
Cracker must choose between them.

All at once, then, having brooded himself to a conclusion, Cracker
began to wag and laugh in a fashion the most ingratiating to be
imagined: and thereupon he fought himself to an established leadership
of Timothy Light's pack, as though to dispose, without delay, of that
necessary little preliminary to distinction. And subsequently he
accepted the mastery of Timothy Light and fawned his way into security
from the alarmed abuse of the harbour folk; and eventually he settled
himself comfortably into the routine of Tight Cove life.

There were absences. These were invariably foreshadowed, at first, by
yawning and a wretched depth of boredom. Cracker was ashamed of his
intentions. He would even attempt to conceal his increasing distaste for
the commonplaces of an existence in town by a suspiciously subservient
obedience to all the commands of Timothy Light. It was apparent that he
was preparing for an excursion to the timber; and after a day or two of
whimpering restlessness he would vanish.

It was understood, then, that Cracker was off a-visiting of his cronies.
Sometimes these absences would be prolonged. Cracker had been gone a
month--had been caught, once, in a distant glance, with a pack of
timber wolves, from whom he had fled to hiding, like a boy detected in
bad company. Cracker had never failed, however, to return from his
abandoned course, in reasonable season, as lean and ragged as a prodigal
son, and in a chastened mood, to the respectability and plenty of
civilization, even though it implied an acquiescence in the exigency of
hard labour.

Timothy Light excused the dog.

"He've got t' have his run abroad," said he. "I 'low that blood is
thicker than water."

Cracker had a past. Timothy Light knew something of Cracker's past.
What was respectable he had been told, with a good deal of
elaboration--concerning Cracker's feats of endurance on the long
trail, for example, accomplished with broken shoes, or no shoes at
all, and bloody, frosted feet; and relating, with warm, wide-eyed
detail of a persuasively conscientious description, to Cracker's
cheerful resistance of the incredible pangs of hunger on a certain
celebrated occasion.

Moreover, Cracker was a bully of parts. Cracker could bully a
discouraged team into a forlorn endeavour of an amazing degree of power
and courage. "As clever a dog as ever you seed, sir! No
shirkin'--ecod!--with Cracker t' keep watch on the dogs an' snap at the
heels an' haunches o' the loafers." It was all true: Cracker was a
powerful, clever, masterful, enduring beast in or out of harness, and a
merciless driver of the dogs he led and had mastered.

"Give the devil his due!" Timothy Light insisted.

What was disreputable in Cracker's past--in the course of the dog trade
of questionable propriety referred to--Timothy Light had been left to
exercise his wit in finding out for himself. Cracker was from the
north--from Jolly Cove, by the Hen-an'-Chickens. And what Timothy Light
did not know was this: Cracker had there been concerned in an affair so
doubtful, and of a significance so shocking, that, had the news of it
got abroad in Tight Cove, the folk would have taken the customary
precaution as a defensive measure, in behalf of the children on the
roads after dark, and as a public warning to all the dogs of Tight Cove,
of hanging Cracker by the neck until he was dead.

Long John Wall, of Jolly Cove, on the way to the Post at Little Inlet,
by dog team, in January weather, had been caught by the snow between
Grief Head and the Tall Old Man; and Long John Wall had perished on the
ice--they found his komatik and clean bones in the spring of the year;
but when the gale blew out, Long John Wall's dogs had returned to Jolly
Cove in a fawning humour and a suspiciously well-fed condition.

The Jolly Cove youngster, the other party to the dog trade, neglected to
inform Timothy Light--whose eyes had fallen enviously on the smoky,
taut, splendid brute--that this selfsame Cracker which he coveted had
bullied and led Long John Wall's team on that tragic and indubitably
bloody occasion.

His philosophy was ample to his need.

"In a dog trade," thought he with his teeth bare, when the bargain was
struck, "'tis every man for hisself."

And so this blood-guilty, ruined young dog had come unsuspected to Tight
Cove.



CHAPTER III

    _In Which Timothy Light's Famished Dogs Are Committed to the Hands
    of Billy Topsail and a Tap on the Snout is Recommended in the
    Probable Case of Danger_


It is no great trick to make Tight Cove of the Labrador from the sea.
There is no chart, of course. Nor is any chart of the little harbours
needed for safe sailing, as long as the songs of the coast are preserved
in the heads of the skippers that sail it. And so you may lay with
confidence a bit west of north from the Cape Norman light--and raise and
round the Scotchman's Breakfast of Ginger Head: whereupon a straightaway
across Schooner Bay to the Thimble, and, upon nearer approach to the
harbour water of the Cove--

  When Bill Pott's P'int you is abreast,
  Dane's Rock bears due west;
  An' west-nor'west you must steer,
  'Til Brimstone Head do appear.

  The tickle's narrow, not very wide;
  The deepest water's on the starboard side;
  When in the harbour you is shot,
  Four fathoms you has got--

and there you are: harboured within stone's throw of thirty hospitable
cottages, with their stages and flakes clustered about, like offspring,
and all clinging to the cliffs with the grip of a colony of mussels.
They encircle the quiet, deep water of the Cove, lying in a hollow of
Bill Pott's Point, Dane's Rock, and the little head called Brimstone.

Winter was near done, at Tight Cove, when Doctor Luke made the lights of
the place from the north. Presently the sun and southwesterly winds of
spring would spread the coast with all the balmy, sudden omens of summer
weather, precisely as the first blast from the north, in a single night
of the fall of the year, had blanketed the land with snow, and tucked it
in, with enduring frost, for the winter to come. With these warm winds,
the ice in Schooner Bay would move to sea, with the speed of a thief in
flight. It would break up and vanish in a night, with all that was on it
(including the folk who chanced to be caught on it)--a great, noisy
commotion, and swift clearing out, this removal to the open.

And the ice would drift in, again, with contrary winds, and choke the
bay, accompanied by Arctic ice from the current beyond, and depart and
come once more, and take leave, in a season of its own willful choosing,
for good and all. When Doctor Luke made off across the bay, leaving
Teddy Brisk to follow, by means of Timothy Light's komatik and scrawny
dogs, Schooner Bay had already gone rotten, in a spell of southerly
weather. The final break-up was restrained only by an interval of
unseasonable frost.

A favourable wind would tear the field loose from the cliffs and urge it
to sea.

       *       *       *       *       *

Teddy Brisk could not go at once to Doctor Luke's hospital at Our
Harbour. There came a mild spell--the wind went to the south and west in
the night; a splashing fall of tepid southern rain swept the dry white
coats in gusts and a melting drizzle; and, following on these untimely
showers, a day or two of sunshine and soft breezes set the roofs
smoking, the icicles dissolving, the eaves running little streams of
water, the cliffs dripping a promise of shy spring flowers, and packed
the snow and turned the harbour roads to slush, and gathered pools and
shallow lakes of water on the rotting ice of the bay.

Schooner Bay was impassable; the trail was deep and sticky and
treacherous--a broken, rotten, imminently vanishing course. And
sea-ward, in the lift of the waves, vast fragments of the field were
shaking themselves free and floating off; and the whole wide body of
ice, from Rattle Brook, at the bottom of the bay, to the great heads of
Thimble and the Scotchman's Breakfast, was striving to break away to the
open under the urge of the wind.

Teddy Brisk's adventure to Our Harbour must wait for frost and still
weather; and wait it did--until in a shift of the weather there came a
day when all that was water was frozen stiff overnight, and the wind
fell away to a doubtful calm, and the cliffs of Ginger Head were a loom
in the frosty distance across the bay.

"Pack that lad, mum," said Skipper Thomas then. "'Tis now or never."

"I don't like the look of it," the mother complained.

"I warns you, mum--you're too fond o' that lad."

"I'm anxious. The bay's rotten. You knows that, sir--a man as old as
you. Another southerly wind would shatter----"

"Ecod! You'll coddle that wee lad t' death."

Teddy Brisk's mother laughed.

"Not me!" said she.

A cunning idea occurred to Skipper Thomas.

"Or cowardice!" he grumbled.

Teddy Brisk's mother started. She stared in doubt at old Skipper Thomas.
Her face clouded. She was grim.

"I'd do nothin' so wicked as that, sir," said she. "I'll pack un up."

       *       *       *       *       *

It chanced that Timothy Light was sunk in a melancholy regard of his
physical health when Skipper Thomas went to arrange for the dogs. He was
discovered hugging a red-hot bogie in his bachelor cottage of turf and
rough-hewn timber by the turn to Sunday-School Hill. And a woebegone old
fellow he was: a sight to stir pity and laughter--with his bottles and
plasters, his patent-medicine pamphlets, his drawn, gloomy countenance,
and his determination to "draw off" the indisposition by way of his
lower extremities with a plaster of renowned power.

"Nothin' stronger, Skipper Thomas, knowed t' the science o' medicine an'
the"--Skipper Timothy did not hesitate over the obstacle--"the
prac-t'-tie-on-ers thereof," he groaned; "an' she've begun t' pull too.
Ecod! but she's drawin'! Mm-m-m! There's power for you! An' if she don't
pull the pain out o' the toes o' my two feet"--Skipper Timothy's feet
were swathed in plaster; his pain was elsewhere; the course of its exit
was long--"I'm free t' say that nothin' will budge my complaint. Mm-m!
Ecod! b'y, but she've sure begun t' draw!"

Skipper Timothy bade Skipper Thomas sit himself down, an' brew himself a
cup o' tea, an' make himself t' home, an' feel free o' the place, the
while he should entertain and profit himself with observing the
operation of the plaster of infallible efficacy in the extraction of
pain.

"What's gone wrong along o' you?" Skipper Thomas inquired.

"I been singin' pretty hearty o' late," Skipper Timothy moaned--he was
of a musical turn and given frequently to a vigorous recital of the
Psalms and Paraphrases--"an' I 'low I've strained my stummick."

Possibly Skipper Timothy could not distinguish, with any degree of
scientific accuracy, between the region of his stomach and the region of
his lungs--a lay confusion, perhaps, in the matter of terms and
definite boundaries; he had been known to mistake his liver for his
heart in the indulgence of a habit of pessimistic diagnosis. And whether
he was right in this instance or not, and whatever the strain involved
in his vocal effort, which must have tried all the muscles concerned, he
was now coughing himself purple in the face--a symptom that held its
mortal implication of the approach of what is called the lung trouble
and the decline.

The old man was not fit for the trail--no cruise to Our Harbour for him
next day; he was on the stocks and out of commission. Ah, well, then,
would he trust his dogs? Oh, aye; he would trust his team free an'
willin'. An' might Billy Topsail drive the team? Oh, aye; young Billy
Topsail might drive the team an' he had the spirit for the adventure.
Let Billy Topsail keep un down--_keep the brutes down_, ecod!--and no
trouble would come of it.

"A tap on the snout t' mend their manners," Skipper Timothy advised. "A
child can overcome an' manage a team like that team o' ten."

And so it was arranged that Billy Topsail should drive Teddy Brisk to
Our Harbour next day.



CHAPTER IV

    _In Which the Komatik is Foundered, the Dogs Draw Their Own
    Conclusions from the Misfortune and Prepare to Take Advantage,
    Cracker Attempts a Theft and Gets a Clip on the Snout, and Billy
    Topsail and Teddy Brisk Confront a Situation of Peril with
    Composure, Not Knowing the Ultimate Disaster that Impends_


Billy Topsail was now sixteen years old--near seventeen, to be exact;
and he was a lusty, well-grown lad, who might easily have been mistaken
for a man, not only because of his inches, but because of an assured,
competent glance of the eye. Born at Ruddy Cove of Newfoundland, and the
son of a fisherman, he was a capable chap in his native environment. And
what natural aptitude he possessed for looking after himself in
emergencies had been developed and made more courageous and acute by the
adventurous life he had lived--as anybody may know, indeed, who cares to
peruse the records of those incidents as elsewhere set down. As
assistant to the clerk of the trader _Black Bat_, he had served well;
and it is probable that he would some day have been a clerk himself, and
eventually a trader, had not the adventure upon which he was embarking
with Teddy Brisk interrupted his career by opening a new vista for his
ambition.

       *       *       *       *       *

Billy Topsail and Teddy Brisk set out in blithe spirits for Doctor
Luke's hospital at Our Harbour. A dawn of obscure and disquieting
significance; a hint of milder weather in the growing day; a drear, gray
sky thickening to drab and black, past noon; a puff of southerly wind
and a slosh of rain; a brisk gale, lightly touched with frost, running
westerly, with snow, in a close, encompassing cloud of great wet flakes;
lost landmarks; dusk falling, and a black night imminent, with high
wind--and Billy Topsail's team of ten went scrambling over an unexpected
ridge and foundered the komatik.

It was a halt--no grave damage done; it was nothing to worry a man--not
then.

Young Billy Topsail laughed; and little Teddy Brisk chuckled from the
tumbled depths of his dogskin robes; and the dogs, on their haunches
now, a panting, restless half-circle--the Labrador dogs run in
individual traces--viewed the spill with shamefaced amusement. Yet Billy
Topsail was confused and lost. Snow and dusk were impenetrable; the
barricades and cliffs of Ginger Head, to which he was bound, lay
somewhere in the snow beyond--a mere general direction. It is nothing,
however, to be lost. Daylight and clearing weather infallibly disclose
the lay of the land.

A general direction is good enough; a man proceeds confidently on the
meager advantage.

It was interesting for the dogs--this rowdy pack from Tight Cove. They
were presently curious. It was a break in the routine of the road. The
thing concerned them nearly. What the mischief was the matter? Something
was up! Here was no mere pause for rest. The man was making no
arrangements to move along. And what now? Amusement gave place to an
alert observation of the course of the unusual incident.

The dogs came a little closer. It was not an attitude of menace. They
followed Billy Topsail's least movement with jerks of concern and starts
of surprise; and they reflected--inquiring amazed. Day's work done?
Camp for the night? Food? What next, anyhow? It was snowing. Thick
weather, this! Thick's bags--this palpable dusk! No man could see his
way in a gale like this. A man had his limitations and customs. This man
would camp. There would be food in reward of the day's work. Was there
never to be any food? There must be food! Now--at last! Oh, sure--why,
sure--sure--sure there'd be something to eat when the man went into
camp!

Mm-m? No? Was the new man going to starve 'em all to death!

Big Cracker, of this profane, rowdy crew, sidled to the sled. This was
in small advances--a sly encroachment at a time. His object was plain to
the pack. It was theft. They watched him in a trance of expectant
interest. What would happen to Cracker? Wait and see! Follow Cracker?
Oh, wait and see, first, what happened to Cracker. And Cracker sniffed
at the tumbled robes. The pack lifted its noses and sniffed, too, and
opened its eyes wide, and exchanged opinions, and kept watch, in swift,
scared glances, on Billy Topsail; and came squirming nearer, as though
with some intention altogether remote from the one precisely in mind.

From this intrusion--appearing to be merely an impudent
investigation--Cracker was driven off with a quick, light clip of the
butt of the walrus whip on the snout. "Keep the brutes down! Keep un
down--ecod!--an' no trouble would come of it." And down went Cracker. He
leaped away and bristled, and snarled, and crawled, whimpering then, to
his distance; whereupon the pack took warning. Confound the man!--he was
too quick with the whip. Cracker had intended no mischief, had he?

After that the big Cracker curled up and sulked himself to sleep.

"I 'low we're close t' Ginger Head," said Billy Topsail.

"Ah, no, b'y."

"I seed the nose o' the Scotchman's Breakfast a while back."

"We're t' the south o' that by three mile."

"We isn't."

"We is."

"Ah, well, anyhow we'll stop the night where we is. The snow blinds a
man."

"That's grievous," Teddy Brisk complained. "I wisht we was over the
barricades an' safe ashore. The bay's all rotten. My mother says----"

"You isn't timid, is you?"

"Me? No. My mother says----"

"Ah, you is a bit timid, Teddy."

"Who? Me? I is not. But my mother says the wind would just----"

"Just a wee bit timid!"

"Ah, well, Billy, I isn't never been out overnight afore. An' my mother
says if the wind blows a gale from the west, south or sou'west----"

"Never you mind about that, Skipper Teddy. We've something better t'
think about than the way the wind blows. The wind's full o' notions.
I've no patience t' keep my humour waitin' on what she does. Now you
listen t' me: I got bread, an' I got 'lasses, an' I got tea, an' I got a
kettle. I got birch all split t' hand, t' save the weight of an axe on
the komatik; an' I got birch rind, an' I got matches. 'Twill be a
scoff"--feast--"Skipper Teddy. Mm-m! Ecod! My belly's in a clamour o'
greed. The only thing I isn't got is dog meat. Save for that, Skipper
Teddy, we're complete."

Teddy Brisk renewed his complaint.

"I wisht," said he, "the wind would switch t' sea. Once on a time my
grand----"

"Never you mind about that."

"Once on a time my grandfather was cotched by the snow in a gale o' wind
off----"

"Ah, you watch how clever I is at makin' a fire on the ice! Never you
mind about the will o' the wind. 'Tis a foolish habit t' fall into."

Billy Topsail made the fire. The dogs squatted in the offing. Every eye
was on the operation. It was interesting, of course. Nothing escaped
notice. Attention was keen and inclusive. It would flare high--a thrill
ran through the wide-mouthed, staring circle--and expire in
disappointment. Interesting, to be sure: yet going into camp on the ice
was nothing out of the way. The man would spend the night where he
was--that was all. It portended no extraordinary departure from the
customs--no opportunity. And the man was alert and capable. No; nothing
stimulating in the situation--nothing to be taken advantage of.

Billy Topsail was laughing. Teddy Brisk chattered all the while. Neither
was in difficulty. Nor was either afraid of anything. It was not an
emergency. There was no release of authority. And when the circumstances
of the affair, at last, had turned out to be usual in every respect,
interest lapsed, as a matter of course; and the pack, having presently
exhausted the distraction of backbiting, turned in to sleep, helped to
this good conduct by a crack of the whip.

"Not another word out o' you!" Billy Topsail scolded. "You'll be fed
full the morrow."

Almost at once it fell very dark. The frost increased; the snow turned
to dry powder and the wind jumped to half a gale, veering to the
sou'west. Teddy Brisk, with the bread and tea and molasses stowed away
where bread and tea and molasses best serve such little lads as he, was
propped against the komatik, wrapped up in his dogskin robes as snug as
you like. The fire was roaring, and the circle of the night was safe and
light and all revealed, in its flickering blaze and radiant, warm red
glow.

Billy Topsail fed the fire hot; and Billy Topsail gave Teddy Brisk
riddles to rede; and Billy Topsail piped Teddy Brisk a song or two--such
a familiar song of the coast as this:

  'Way down on Pigeon Pond Island,
  When daddy comes home from swilein'
    Maggoty fish hung up in the air,
    Fried in maggoty butter;
  Cakes an' tea for breakfast,
  Pork an' duff for dinner,
  Cakes an' tea for supper--
  'Way down on Pigeon Pond Island,
  When daddy comes home from swilein'.[1]

Whatever was bitter and inimical in the wind and dark and driving mist
of snow was chased out of mind by the warm fire and companionable
behaviour.

It was comfortable on the ice: it was a picnic--a bright adventure; and
Teddy Brisk was as cozy and dry and content as----

"I likes it, Billy," said he. "I jus' fair loves it here!"

"You does, b'y? I'm proud o' you!"

"'Way out here on the ice. Mm-m! Yes, sirree! I'm havin' a wonderful
happy time, Billy."

"I'm glad o' that now!"

"An' I feels safe----"

"Aye, b'y!"

"An' I'm's warm----"

"Sure, you is!"

"An' I'm's sleepy----"

"You go t' sleep, lad."

"My mother says, if the wind----"

"Never you mind about that. I'll take care o' you--never fear!"

"You would, in a tight place, wouldn't you, Billy, b'y?"

"Well, I 'low I would!"

"Yes, sirree! You'd take care o' me!"

"You go t' sleep, lad, an' show yourself an old hand at stoppin' out
overnight."

"Aye, Billy; but my mother says----"

"Never you mind about that."

"Ah, well, my mother----"

And Teddy Brisk fell asleep.


FOOTNOTE:

[1] Sealing.



CHAPTER V

    _In Which the Wind Goes to Work, the Ice Behaves in an Alarming Way,
    Billy Topsail Regrets, for Obvious Reasons, Having to Do with the
    Dogs, that He Had Not Brought an Axe, and Teddy Brisk Protests that
    His Mother Knew Precisely What She was Talking About_


Well, now, Teddy Brisk fell asleep, and presently, too, Billy Topsail,
in his wolfskin bag, got the better of his anxious watch on the wind and
toppled off. The dogs were already asleep, each covered with a
slow-fashioning blanket of snow--ten round mounds, with neither snout
nor hair to show. The fire failed: it was dark; and the wind blew
up--and higher. A bleak place, this, on Schooner Bay, somewhere between
the Thimble and the Scotchman's Breakfast of Ginger Head; yet there was
no hardship in the night--no shivering, blue agony of cold, but full
measure of healthful comfort. The dogs were warm in their coverings of
snow and Billy Topsail was warm in his wolfskin bag; and Teddy Brisk,
in his dogskin robes, was in a flush and soft sweat of sound sleep, as
in his cot in the cottage by Jack-in-the-Box, at Tight Cove.

It was a gale of wind by this time. The wind came running down the bay
from Rattle Brook; and it tore persistently at the ice, urging it out.
It was a matter of twenty miles from the Thimble, across Schooner Bay,
to the Scotchman's Breakfast of Ginger Head, and a matter of thirty
miles inland to Rattle Brook--wherefrom you may compute the area of the
triangle for yourself and bestir your own imagination, if you can, to
apply the pressure of a forty-mile gale to the vast rough surface of the
bay.

Past midnight the ice yielded to the irresistible urge of the wind.

Crack! The noise of the break zigzagged in the distance and approached,
and shot past near by, and rumbled away like a crash of brittle thunder.
Billy Topsail started awake. There was a crackling confusion--in the
dark, all roundabout, near and far--like the crumpling of an infinitely
gigantic sheet of crisp paper: and then nothing but the sweep and
whimper of the wind--those familiar, unportentous sounds, in their mild
monotony, like dead silence in contrast with the first splitting roar of
the break-up.

Billy Topsail got out of his wolfskin bag. The dogs were up; they were
terrified--growling and bristling; and they fawned close to Billy, as
dogs will to a master in a crisis of ghostly fear. Billy drove them off;
he whipped them into the dark. The ice had broken from the cliffs and
was split in fields and fragments. It would move out and go abroad with
the high southwest wind. That was bad enough, yet not, perhaps, a mortal
predicament--the wind would not run out from the southwest forever; and
an escape ashore from a stranded floe would be no new thing in the
experience of the coast. To be marooned on a pan of ice, however, with
ten famishing dogs of unsavoury reputation, and for God only knew how
long--it taxed a man's courage to contemplate the inevitable adventure!

A man could not corner and kill a dog at a time; a man could not even
catch a dog--not on a roomy pan of ice, with spaces for retreat. Nor
could a man escape from a dog if he could not escape from the pan; nor
could a man endure, in strength and wakefulness, as long as a dog. Billy
Topsail saw himself attempt the death of one of the pack--the pursuit
of Cracker, for example, with a club torn from the komatik. Cracker
would easily keep his distance and paw the ice, head down, eyes alert
and burning; and Cracker would withdraw and dart out of reach, and
swerve away. And Smoke and Tucker and Scrap, and the rest of the pack,
would all the while be creeping close behind, on the lookout for a fair
opportunity.

No; a man could not corner and kill a dog at a time. A man could not
beat a wolf in the open; and these dogs, which roamed the timber and
sprang from it, would maneuver like wolves--a patient waiting for some
lapse from caution or the ultimate moment of weakness; and then an
overwhelming rush. Billy Topsail knew the dogs of his own coast. He knew
his own dogs; all he did not know about his own dogs was that Cracker
had been concerned in a dubious affair on the ice off the Tall Old Man.
These dogs had gone on short rations for a month. When the worst came to
the worst--the pan at sea--they would attack.

Teddy Brisk, too, was wide awake. A thin little plaint broke in on Billy
Topsail's reflections.

"Is you there, Billy?"

"Aye, I'm here. You lie still, Teddy."

"What's the matter with the dogs, Billy?"

"They're jus' a bit restless. Never you mind about the dogs. I'll manage
the dogs."

"You didn't fetch your axe, did you, Billy?"

"Well, no, Skipper Teddy--no; I didn't."

"That's what I thought. Is the ice broke loose?"

"Ah, now, Teddy, never you mind about the ice."

"Is she broke loose?"

"Ah, well--maybe she have broke loose."

"She'll move t' sea in this wind, won't she?"

"Never you mind----"

"Won't she?"

"Ah, well, she may take a bit of a cruise t' sea."

Teddy Brisk said nothing to this. An interval of silence fell. And then
Teddy plaintively again:

"My mother said----"

Billy Topsail's rebuke was gentle:

"You isn't goin' t' cry for your mother, is you?"

"Oh, I isn't goin' t' cry for my mother!"

"Ah, no! You isn't. No growed man would."

"All I want t' say," said Teddy Brisk in a saucy flash of pride, "is
that my mother was right!"



CHAPTER VI

    _In Which the Sudden Death of Cracker is Contemplated as a Thing to
    Be Desired, Billy Topsail's Whip Disappears, a Mutiny is Declared
    and the Dogs Howl in the Darkness_


Past twelve o'clock and the night as black as a wolf's throat, with the
wind blowing a forty-mile gale, thick and stifling with snow, and the
ice broken up in ragged pans of varying, secret area--it was no time for
any man to stir abroad from the safe place he occupied. There were
patches of open water forming near by, and lanes of open water widening
and shifting with the drift and spreading of the ice; and somewhere
between the cliffs and the moving pack, which had broken away from them,
there was a long pitfall of water in the dark. The error of putting the
dogs in the traces and attempting to win the shore in a forlorn dash did
not even present itself to Billy Topsail's experienced wisdom. Billy
Topsail would wait for dawn, to be sure of his path and direction; and
meantime--there being no occasion for action--he got back into his
wolfskin bag and settled himself for sleep.

It was not hard to go to sleep. Peril of this sort was familiar to Billy
Topsail--precarious situations, with life at stake, created by wind,
ice, reefs, fog and the sea. There on the ice the situation was
completely disclosed and beyond control. Nothing was to be manipulated.
Nothing threatened, at any rate, for the moment. Consequently Billy
Topsail was not afraid. Had he discovered himself all at once alone in a
city; had he been required to confront a garter snake--he had never
clapped eyes on a snake----

       *       *       *       *       *

Placidly reflecting on the factors of danger to be dealt with
subsequently, Billy Topsail caught ear, he thought, of a sob and whimper
from the midst of Teddy Brisk's dogskin robes. This was the little
fellow's first full-fledged adventure. He had been in scrapes
before--the little dangers of the harbour and the adjacent rocks and
waters and wilderness; gusts of wind; the lap of the sea; the confusion
of the near-by back country, and the like of that; but he had never been
cast away like the grown men of Tight Cove. And these passages, heroic
as they are, and stimulating as they may be to the ambition of the
little fellows who listen o' winter nights, are drear and terrifying
when first encountered.

Teddy Brisk was doubtless wanting his mother. Perhaps he sobbed. Yet he
had concealed his fear and homesickness from Billy Topsail; and that was
stoicism enough for any lad of his years--even a lad of the Labrador.
Billy Topsail offered him no comfort. It would have shamed the boy to
comfort him openly. Once ashore again Teddy Brisk would want to boast,
like his elders, and to spin his yarn:

"Well now, lads, there we was, ecod! 'way out there on the ice, me 'n'
Billy Topsail; an' the wind was blowin' a gale from the sou'west, an'
the snow was flyin' as thick as ever you seed the snow fly, an' the ice
was goin' out t' sea on the jump. An' I says t' Billy: 'I'm goin' t'
sleep, Billy--an' be blowed t' what comes of it!' An' so I falled asleep
as snug an' warm; an' then----"

Billy Topsail ignored the sob and whimper from the depths of the dogskin
robes.

"The lad haves t' be hardened," he reflected.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dawn was windy. It was still snowing--a frosty mist of snow. Billy
Topsail put the dogs in the traces and stowed Teddy Brisk away in the
komatik. The dogs were uneasy. Something out of the way? What the
mischief was the matter? They came unwillingly. It seemed they must be
sensing a predicament. Billy Topsail whipped them to their work and
presently they bent well enough to the task.

Snow fell all that day. There were glimpses of Ginger Head. In a rift of
the gale Teddy Brisk caught sight of the knob of the Scotchman's
Breakfast.

Always, however, the way ashore was barred by open water. When Billy
Topsail caught sight of the Scotchman's Breakfast for the last time it
was in the southwest. This implied that the floe had got beyond the
heads of the bay and was moving into the waste reaches of the open sea.
At dusk Billy had circled the pan twice--hoping for chance contact with
another pan, to the east, and another, and still another; and thus a
path to shore. It was a big pan--a square mile or more as yet. When the
pinch came, if the pinch should come, Billy thought, the dogs would not
be hampered for room.

Why not kill the dogs? No; not yet. They were another man's dogs. In
the morning, if the wind held offshore----

Wind and snow would fail. There would be no harsher weather. Billy
Topsail made a little fire with his last billets of birchwood. He boiled
the kettle and spread a thick slice of bread with a meager discoloration
of molasses for Teddy Brisk. What chiefly interested Teddy Brisk was the
attitude of the dogs. It was not obedient. There was swagger in it. A
crack of the whip sent them leaping away, to be sure; but they intruded
again at once--and mutinously persisted in the intrusion.

Teddy Brisk put out a diffident hand towards Smoke. Smoke was an
obsequious brute. Ashore he would have been disgustingly grateful for
the caress. Now he would not accept it at all. He snarled and sprang
away. It was a defiant breach of discipline. What was the matter with
the dogs? They had gone saucy all at once. The devil was in the dogs.
Nor would they lie down; they withdrew, at last, in a pack, their hunger
discouraged, and wandered restlessly in the failing light near by.

Teddy Brisk could not account for this singular behaviour.

It alarmed him.

"Ah, well," said Billy Topsail, "they're all savage with hunger."

"Could you manage with nine, Billy?"

Billy Topsail laughed.

"With ease, my son," said he, "an' glad of it!"

"Is you strong enough t' kill a dog?"

"I'll find that out, Teddy, when the time comes."

"I was 'lowin' that one dog would feed the others an' keep un mild till
we gets ashore."

"I've that selfsame thing in mind."

Teddy said eagerly:

"Kill Cracker, Billy!"

"Cracker! Already? 'Twould be sheer murder."

"Aye, kill un now, Billy--ah, kill un right away now, won't you, b'y?
That dog haves a grudge on me. He've been watchin' me all day long."

"Ah, no! Hush now, Teddy!"

"I knows that dog, Billy!"

"Ah, now! The wind'll change afore long. We'll drift ashore--maybe in
the mornin'. An then----"

"He've his eye on me, Billy!"

Billy Topsail rose.

"You see my whip anywhere?"

"She's lyin' for'ard o' the komatik."

"She's not."

"She was."

"She've gone, b'y!"

"Ecod! Billy, Cracker haves her!"

It was not yet dark. Cracker was sitting close. It was an attitude of
jovial expectation. He was on his haunches--head on one side and tail
flapping the snow; and he had the walrus whip in his mouth. Apparently
he was in the mood to pursue a playful exploit. When Billy Topsail
approached he retreated--a little; and when Billy Topsail rushed he
dodged, with ease and increasing delight. When Billy Topsail whistled
him up and patted to him, and called "Hyuh! Hyuh!" and flattered him
with "Good ol' dog!" he yielded nothing more than a deepened attention
to the mischievous pleasure in hand.

Always he was beyond reach--just beyond reach. It was tantalizing.

Billy Topsail lost his temper. This was a blunder. It encouraged the
dog. To recover the whip was an imperative precaution; but Billy could
not accomplish it in a temper. Cracker was willful and agile and
determined; and when he had tired--it seemed--of his taunting game, he
whisked away, with the pack in chase, and was lost to sight in the gale.
It fell dark then; and presently, far away a dog howled, and there was
an answering howl, and a chorus of howls. They were gone for good. It
was a mutiny. Billy knew that his authority had departed with the symbol
of it.

He did not see the whip again.



CHAPTER VII

    _In Which a Blazing Club Plays a Salutary Part, Teddy Brisk Declares
    the Ways of His Mother, and Billy Topsail Looks Forward to a Battle
    that No Man Could Win_


Next night--a starlit time then, and the wind gone flat--Billy Topsail
was burning the fragments of the komatik. All day the dogs had roamed
the pan. They had not ventured near Billy Topsail's authority--not
within reach of Billy's treacherously minded flattery and coaxing. In
the exercise of this new freedom they had run wild and fought among
themselves like a mutinous pirate crew. Now, however, with night down,
they had crept out of its seclusion and were sitting on the edge of the
firelight, staring, silent, pondering.

Teddy Brisk was tied up in the wolfskin bag. It was the best refuge for
the lad. In the event of a rush he would not be torn in the scuffle; and
should the dogs overcome Billy Topsail--which was not yet probable--the
little boy would be none the worse off in the bag.

Had the dogs been a pack of wolves Billy would have been in livid fear
of them; but these beasts were dogs of his own harbour, which he had
commanded at will and beaten at will, and he was awaiting the onset with
grim satisfaction. In the end, as he knew, the dogs would have an
advantage that could not be resisted; but now--Billy Topsail would
"l'arn 'em! Let 'em come!"

Billy's club, torn from the komatik, was lying one end in his little
fire. He nursed it with care.

Cracker fawned up. In the shadows, behind, the pack stared attentive. It
was a pretense at playfulness--Cracker's advance. Cracker pawed the ice,
and wagged his tail, and laughed. This amused Billy. It was transparent
cunning. Billy gripped his club and let the fire freely ignite the end
of it. He was as keen as the dog--as sly and as alert.

He said:

"Good ol' dog!"

Obviously the man was not suspicious. Cracker's confidence increased. He
moved quickly, then, within leaping distance. For a flash he paused,
king-hairs rising. When he rushed, the pack failed him. It started,
quivered, stopped, and cautiously stood still. Billy was up. The lift
of Cracker's crest and the dog's taut pause had amply warned him.

A moment later Cracker was in scared, yelping flight from the pain and
horror of Billy's blazing club, and the pack was in ravenous chase of
him. Billy Topsail listened for the issue of the chase. It came
presently--the confusion of a dog fight; and it was soon over. Cracker
was either dead or master again. Billy hoped the pack had made an end of
him and would be content. He could not be sure of the outcome. Cracker
was a difficult beast.

Released from the wolfskin bag and heartened by Billy's laughter, Teddy
Brisk demanded:

"Was it Cracker?"

"It was."

Teddy grinned.

"Did you fetch un a fatal wallop?"

"I left the dogs t' finish the job. Hark! They're not feastin', is they?
Mm-m? I don't know."

They snuggled up to the little fire. Teddy Brisk was wistful. He talked
now--as often before--of the coming of a skiff from Our Harbour. He had
a child's intimate knowledge of his own mother--and a child's wise and
abounding faith.

"I knows my mother's ways," he declared. "Mark me, Billy, my mother's an
anxious woman an' wonderful fond o' me. When my mother heard that
sou'west wind blow up, 'Skipper Thomas,' says she t' my grandfather,
'them b'ys is goin' out with the ice; an' you get right straight up out
o' bed an' tend t' things.'

"An' my grandfather's a man; an' he says:

"'Go to, woman! They're ashore on Ginger Head long ago!'

"An' my mother says:

"'Ah, well, they mightn't be, you dunder-head!'--for she've a wonderful
temper when she's afeared for my safety.

"An' my grandfather says:

"'They is, though.'

"An' my mother says:

"'You'll be off in the bait skiff t'-morrow, sir, with a flea in your
ear, t' find out at Our Harbour.'

"An' she'd give that man his tea in a mug (scolding) until he got a
Tight Cove crew t'gether an' put out across the bay. Ecod! but they'd
fly across the bay in a gale o' wind like that! Eh, Billy?"

"All in a smother--eh, Teddy?"

"Yep--all in a smother. My grandfather's fit an' able for anything in a
boat. An' they'd send the news up an' down the coast from Our
Harbour--wouldn't they, Billy?"

"'Way up an' down the coast, Teddy."

"Yep--'way up an' down. They must be skiffs from Walk Harbour an'
Skeleton Cove an' Come-Again Bight searchin' this floe for we--eh,
Billy?"

"An' Our Harbour too."

"Yep--an' Our Harbour too. Jus' the way they done when ol' Bad-Weather
West was cast away--eh, Billy? Don't you 'low so?"

"Jus' that clever way, Teddy."

"I reckon my mother'll tend t' that." Teddy's heart failed him then.
"Anyhow, Billy," said he weakly, "you'll take care o' me--won't you--if
the worst comes t' the worst?"

The boy was not too young for a vision of the worst coming to the worst.

"None better!" Billy replied.

"I been thinkin' I isn't very much of a man, Billy. I've not much
courage left."

"Huh!" Billy scoffed. "When we gets ashore, an' I tells my tale o' these
days----"

Teddy started.

"Billy," said he, "you'll not tell what I said?"

"What was that now?"

"Jus' now, Billy--about----"

"I heard no boast. An I was you, Teddy, I wouldn't boast too much. I'd
cling t' modesty."

"I takes it back," said Teddy. He sighed. "An' I'll stand by."

It did not appear to Billy Topsail how this guardianship of the boy was
to be accomplished. Being prolonged, it was a battle, of course, no man
could win. The dogs were beaten off for the time. They would return--not
that night, perhaps, or in the broad light of the next day; but in the
dark of the night to come they would return, and, failing success then,
in the dark of the night after.

That was the way of it.



CHAPTER VIII

    _In Which Teddy Brisk Escapes From the Wolfskin Bag and Determines
    to Use His Crutch and Billy Topsail Comes to the Conclusion that "It
    Looks Bad"_


Next day the dogs hung close. They were now almost desperately ravenous.
It was agony for them to be so near the satisfaction of their hunger and
in inhibitive terror of seizing it. Their mouths dripped. They were in
torture--they whimpered and ran restless circles; but they did not dare.
They would attack when the quarry was weak or unaware. Occasionally
Billy Topsail sallied on them with his club and a loud, intimidating
tongue, to disclose his strength and teach them discretion; and the dogs
were impressed and restrained by this show. If Billy Topsail could catch
and kill a dog he would throw the carcass to the pack and thus stave off
attack. Having been fed, the dogs would be in a mild humour. Billy might
then entice and kill another--for himself and Teddy Brisk.

[Illustration: THE DOGS WERE DESPERATELY RAVENOUS]

Cracker was alive and still masterful. Billy went out in chase of Smoke.
It was futile. Billy cut a ridiculous figure in the pursuit. He could
neither catch the dog nor overreach him with blandishments; and a cry of
alarm from the boy brought him back to his base in haste to drive off
Cracker and Tucker and Sling, who were up to the wolf's trick of
flanking. The dogs had reverted. They were wolves again--as nearly as
harbour dogs may be. Billy perceived that they could no longer be dealt
with as the bond dogs of Tight Cove.

In the afternoon Billy slept. He would need to keep watch through the
night.

Billy Topsail had husbanded the fragments of the komatik. A fire burned
all that night--a mere glow and flicker of light. It was the last of the
wood. All that remained was the man's club and the boy's crutch. Now,
too, the last of the food went. There was nothing to eat. What Billy had
brought, the abundant provision of a picnic, with something for
emergencies--the bread and tea and molasses--had been conserved, to be
sure, and even attenuated. There was neither a crumb nor a drop of it
left.

What confronted Billy Topsail now, however, and alarmed his hope and
courage, was neither wind nor frost, nor so much the inevitable pangs of
starvation, which were not immediate, as a swift abatement of his
strength. A starved man cannot long continue at bay with a club. Billy
could beat off the dogs that night perhaps--after all, they were the
dogs of Tight Cove, Cracker and Smoke and Tucker and Sling; but
to-morrow night--he would not be so strong to-morrow night.

The dogs did not attack that night. Billy heard them close--the sniffing
and whining and restless movement in the dark that lay beyond the light
of his feeble fire and was accentuated by it. But that was all.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was now clear weather and the dark of the moon. The day was bright
and warm. When night fell again it was starlight--every star of them all
twinkling its measure of pale light to the floe. The dogs were plain as
shifting, shadowy creatures against the white field of ice. Billy
Topsail fought twice that night. This was between midnight and dawn.
There was no maneuvering. The dogs gathered openly, viciously, and
delivered a direct attack. Billy beat them off. He was gasping and
discouraged, though, at the end of the encounter. They would surely come
again--and they did. They waited--an hour, it may have been; and then
they came.

There was a division of the pack. Six dogs--Spunk and Biscuit and Hero
in advance--rushed Billy Topsail. It was a reluctant assault. Billy
disposed of the six--after all, they were dogs of Tight Cove, not wolves
from the rigours of the timber; and Billy was then attracted to the
rescue of Teddy Brisk, who was tied up in the wolfskin bag, by the boy's
muffled screams. Cracker and Smoke and Tucker and Sling were worrying
the wolfskin bag and dragging it off. They dropped it and took flight
when Billy came roaring at them with a club.

When Billy released him from the wolfskin bag the boy was still
screaming. He was not quieted--his cries and sobbing--until the day was
broad.

"Gimme my crutch!" said he. "I'll never go in that bag no more!"

"Might as well wield your crutch," Billy agreed.

To survive another night was out of the question. Another night came in
due course, however, and was to be faced.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a gray day. Sky and ice and fields of ruffled water had no warmth
of colour. All the world was both cold and drear. A breeze was stirring
down from the north and would be bitter in the dusk. It cut and
disheartened the castaways. It portended, moreover, a black night.

Teddy cried a good deal that day--a little whimper, with tears. He was
cold and hungry--the first agony of starvation--and frightened and
homesick. Billy fancied that his spirit was broken. As for Billy
himself, he watched the dogs, which watched him patiently near by--a
hopeless vigil for the man, for the dogs were fast approaching a pass of
need in which hunger would dominate the fear of a man with a club. And
Billy was acutely aware of this much--that nothing but the habitual fear
of a man with a club had hitherto restrained the full fury and strength
of the pack.

That fury, breaking with determination, would be irresistible. No man
could beat off the attack of ten dogs that were not, in the beginning,
already defeated and overcome by awe of him. In the dark--in the dark
of that night Billy could easily be dragged down; and the dogs were
manifestly waiting for the dark to fall.

It was to be the end.

"It looks bad--it do so, indeed!" Billy Topsail thought.

That was the full extent of his admission.



CHAPTER IX

    _In Which Attack is Threatened and Billy Topsail Strips Stark Naked
    in the Wind in Pursuit of a Desperate Expedient and with Small
    Chance of Success_


Teddy Brisk kept watch for a skiff from Our Harbour or Come-Again Bight.
He depended for the inspiration of this rescue on his mother's anxious
love and sagacity. She would leave nothing to the indifferent dealings
and cold issue of chance; it was never "more by good luck than good
conduct" with her, ecod!

"I knows my mother's ways!" he sobbed, and he repeated this many times
as the gray day drew on and began to fail. "I tells you, Billy, I knows
my mother's ways!"

And they were not yet beyond sight of the coast. Scotchman's Breakfast
of Ginger Head was a wee white peak against the drab of the sky in the
southwest; and the ragged line of cliffs running south and east was a
long, thin ridge on the horizon where the cottages of Walk Harbour and
Our Harbour were.

No sail fluttered between--a sail might be confused with the colour of
the ice, however, or not yet risen into view; but by and by, when the
misty white circle of the sun was dropping low, the boy gave up hope,
without yielding altogether to despair. There would be no skiff along
that day, said he; but there would surely be a sail to-morrow, never
fear--Skipper Thomas and a Tight Cove crew.

In the light airs the floe had spread. There was more open water than
there had been. Fragments of ice had broken from the first vast pans
into which Schooner Bay ice had been split in the break-up. These
lesser, lighter pans moved faster than the greater ones; and the wind
from the north--blown up to a steady breeze by this time--was driving
them slowly south against the windward edge of the more sluggish fields
in that direction.

At sunset--the west was white and frosty--a small pan caught Billy
Topsail's eye and instantly absorbed his attention. It had broken from
the field on which they were marooned and was under way on a diagonal
across a quiet lane of black water, towards a second great field lying
fifty fathoms or somewhat less to the south.

Were Billy Topsail and the boy aboard that pan the wind would ferry them
away from the horrible menace of the dogs. It was a small pan--an area
of about four hundred square feet; yet it would serve. It was not more
than fifteen fathoms distant. Billy could swim that far--he was pretty
sure he could swim that far, the endeavour being unencumbered; but the
boy--a little fellow and a cripple--could not swim at all.

Billy jumped up.

"We've got t' leave this pan," said he, "an' forthwith too."

"Have you a notion, b'y?"

Billy laid off his seal-hide overjacket. He gathered up the dogs'
traces--long strips of seal leather by means of which the dogs had drawn
the komatik, a strip to a dog; and he began to knot them
together--talking fast the while to distract the boy from the incident
of peculiar peril in the plan.

The little pan in the lane--said he--would be a clever ferry. He would
swim out and crawl aboard. It would be no trick at all. He would carry
one end of the seal-leather line. Teddy Brisk would retain the other.
Billy pointed out a ridge of ice against which Teddy Brisk could brace
his sound leg. They would pull, then--each against the other; and
presently the little pan would approach and lie alongside the big
pan--there was none too much wind for that--and they would board the
little pan and push off, and drift away with the wind, and leave the
dogs to make the best of a bad job.

It would be a slow affair, though--hauling in a pan like that; the light
was failing too--flickering out like a candle end--and there must be
courage and haste--or failure.

Teddy Brisk at once discovered the interval of danger to himself.

"I'll be left alone with the dogs!" he objected.

"Sure, b'y," Billy coaxed; "but then you see----"

"I won't stay alone!" the boy sobbed. He shrank from the direction of
the dogs towards Billy. At once the dogs attended. "I'm afeared t' stay
alone!" he screamed. "No, no!"

"An we don't leave this pan," Billy scolded, "we'll be gobbled up in the
night."

That was not the immediate danger. What confronted the boy was an
immediate attack, which he must deal with alone.

"No! No! No!" the boy persisted.

"Ah, come now----"

"That Cracker knows I'm a cripple, Billy. He'll turn at me. I can't keep
un off."

Billy changed front.

"Who's skipper here?" he demanded.

"You is, sir."

"Is you takin' orders or isn't you?"

The effect of this was immediate. The boy stopped his clamour.

"I is, sir," said he.

"Then stand by!"

"Aye, sir!"--a sob and a sigh.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was to be bitter cold work in the wind and water. Billy Topsail
completed his preparations before he began to strip. He lashed the end
of the seal-leather line round the boy's waist and put the club in his
hand.

All this while he gave directions: The boy was to face the dogs; he was
not to turn round for hints of Billy's progress or to be concerned at
all with that; he was not to lose courage; he was to feint and scold;
he was to let no shadow of fear cross his face--no tremor of fear must
touch his voice; he was not to yield an inch; he was not to sob and
cover his eyes with his hands--in short, he was to mind his own task of
keeping the dogs away and leave Billy to accomplish his.

And the boy answered: "Yes, sir!" and "Aye, sir!" and "Very well,
sir!"--like an old hand of the coast.

It was stimulating. Billy Topsail was heartened. He determined privately
that he would not turn to look back--that if the worst came to the
worst, and he could manage to do so, he would jerk the lad into the
water and let him drown. The snarling tumult of the onset would warn him
when the worst had come to the worst.

And then he stripped stark naked, quickly stowed away his clothes in the
midst of the boy's dogskin robes, tied the end of the seal-leather line
round his waist, and ran to the edge of the pan.

"If you drowns--" the boy began.

"Keep them dogs off!" Billy Topsail roared. "I'll not drown!"

He slipped into the water and struck out.



CHAPTER X

    _In Which Teddy Brisk Confronts the Pack Alone and Cracker Leads the
    Assault_


By this time the sun was touching the cliffs of shore. It was a patch of
struggling white light in the drear gray colour of the west. It would
drop fast. In his punt, in summer weather, wondering all the while at
the acceleration of this last descent, Teddy Brisk had often paused to
watch the sun fall and flicker out of sight. It had seemed to fall
beyond the rim of the world, like a ball.

"She tumbles through the last foot or two!" he had determined.

In a little while the sun would be gone. Now the sky was overcast and
scowling. In the east it was already dusk. The cloudy black sky in the
east caught no light from the feeble sun. Presently everywhere it would
be dark. It had turned colder too. The wind from the north was still
blowing up--a nipping gray wind which would sweep the floe and hamper
the manipulation of the little pan towards which the naked Billy
Topsail was striving.

And the wind lifted the dry snow and drove it past Teddy Brisk's feet in
swirling wreaths. The floe was smoking, the boy thought. Before long the
snow would rise higher and envelop him. And he thought that when Billy
reached the little pan, and stood exposed and dripping in the blast, he
would be very cold. It would take a long time, too, to haul the little
pan across the lane of water.

It will be recalled that Teddy Brisk was ten years old. He stood alone.
He knew the temper of the dogs. Billy Topsail was out of reach. The
burden of fear had fallen on the boy--not on Billy. The boy had been in
a panic; yet he was not now even afraid. Duty occupied him. He had no
time for reflection. The hazard of the quarter of an hour to come,
however, was clear to him. Should he fail to keep off the dogs through
every moment of that time, he would be torn to death before Billy could
return to his rescue.

Should Billy Topsail fail to reach the pan--should Billy go down
midway--he would surely be devoured.

And Billy Topsail was no swimmer to boast of. Teddy knew that. He had
heard Billy tell of it. Billy could keep afloat--could achieve a slow,
splashing progress.

That was true. Billy's chance of winning the pan was small. But Teddy
was Labrador born and bred. What now commanded his fear was Billy's
orders to duty. Obedience to a skipper was laid on all men. It must be
instant and unfailing in an emergency. Billy was in command. He was
responsible. It was for the boy to obey. That was the teaching of his
habitat.

Consequently Teddy Brisk's terror yielded and he stood fast.

When Billy began to strip, the dogs were disturbed. What was the man up
to? What was this? Queer proceeding this! It was a trick. When he stood
naked in the wind the dogs were uneasy. When he went into the water they
were alarmed. They withdrew. Cracker and Smoke ran to the water's edge
and stared at Billy--keeping half an eye on the boy meantime. It
troubles a dog to see a man in the water. Smoke whined. Cracker growled
and crouched to leap after Billy. He could easily overtake and drown
Billy.

Teddy went at Cracker and Smoke with his club.

He screamed at them:

"Back, you, Cracker! Back, you, Smoke!"

The dogs responded to this furious authority. They scurried away and
rejoined the others. Teddy taunted them. He laughed at the pack,
challenged it--crutch under his left arm and club swinging in his right
hand. He taunted the dogs by name--Cracker and Smoke and Tucker. This
bewildered the dogs. They were infinitely suspicious. The boy hobbled at
them in a rage, a few feet forth--the seal-leather line round his waist
limited him--and defied them. They retreated.

When Teddy returned to the edge of the field they sat regarding him in
amazement and renewed suspicion. In this way for a time the boy kept the
dogs at a distance--by exciting their surprise and suspicion. It
sufficed for a space. The dogs were curious. They were entertained. What
was strange in the behaviour of the quarry, moreover, was fearsome to
the dogs. It indicated unknown resources. The dogs waited.

Presently Teddy could devise no new startling gestures. He was never
silent--he was never still; but his fantastic antics, growing familiar
and proving innocuous, began to fail of effect. Something
else--something out of the way and unexpected--must be done to distract
and employ the attention of the dogs. They were aware of Billy Topsail's
absence--they were cunning cowards and they would take advantage of the
opportunity.

The dogs began to move--to whine and circle and toss their heads. Teddy
could see the concerted purpose take form. It was as though they were
conspiring together. He was fully aware of what impended. They were
coming! he thought; and they were coming in a moment. It was an attack
agreed on. They were to act as a pack.

They advanced. It was tentative and slow. They paused.

They came closer. Teddy brandished his club and reviled them in shrill
screams. The dogs paused again. They crouched then. Cracker was in the
lead. The boy hated Cracker. Cracker's white breast was touching the
ice.

His head was thrust forward. His crest began to rise.



CHAPTER XI

    _In Which Teddy Brisk Gives the Strains of a Tight Cove Ballad to
    the North Wind, Billy Topsail Wins the Reward of Daring, Cracker
    Finds Himself in the Way of the Evil-Doer, and Teddy Brisk's Boast
    Makes Doctor Luke Laugh_


Stripped down, at first, on the field, Billy Topsail would not yield to
the cold. He did not shrink from the wind. He moved like a man all
clothed. Nor would he yield to the shock of the water. He ignored it. It
was heroic self-command. But he was the man for that--a Newfoundlander.
He struck out precisely as though he had gone into the summer water of
Ruddy Cove. If he relapsed from this attitude the cold would strike
through him. A chill would momentarily paralyze his strength.

He was neither a strong nor a cunning swimmer. In this lapse he would go
down and be choked beyond further effort before he could recover the use
of his arms and legs. It was icy cold. He would not think of the cold.
His best protection against it was the sufficient will to ignore it.
The power would not long endure. It must endure until he had clambered
out of the water to the little pan towards which he floundered. He was
slow in the water. It seemed to him that his progress was mysteriously
prolonged--that the wind was driving the pan away.

The wind could not rise to this pitch in a minute; but when he was
midway of the lane he thought half an hour had elapsed--an hour--that he
must have left the field and the boy far behind.

The boy was not much more than fifteen yards away.

A word of advice occurred to Billy. He did not turn. He was then within
a dozen strokes of the little pan.

He shouted:

"Give un a tune!"

Teddy Brisk dropped his crutch, fumbled in his waistcoat pocket, whipped
out his mouth organ, clapped it to his lips, and blew a lively air:

  Lukie's boat was painted green,
  The finest boat that ever was seen;
  Lukie's boat had cotton sails,
  A juniper rudder and galvanized nails.

And he so profoundly astonished the dogs with these sudden, harmonious
sounds, accompanied by the jerky movement of a crippled leg, designed to
resemble a dance, and in itself shockingly suspicious--so profoundly
astonished the dogs that they paused to reconsider the matter in hand.

It was startling. They sat up. Aha! What was this? What did it portend?

And the little boy wheezed away:

  Lukie sailed her out one day,
  A fine spell o' weather in the month o' May;
  She leaked so bad when he put about,
  He drove her ashore on the Tailor's Snout.

And he kept on blowing that famous jig-time ballad of Tight Cove for
dear life until a tug at the line round his waist warned him to brace
himself against the steady pull to follow.

Teddy was still giving the strains of Lukie's adventure to the north
wind when the little pan came alongside.

"Carry on!" Billy Topsail chattered behind him.

Teddy interrupted himself to answer:

"Aye, sir!"

"I'll get my clothes an' the skins aboard. Ecod! It's awful cold!"

Presently they pushed out from the field. It had not taken long. The
patch of white light that was the sun had not yet dropped out of sight
behind the cliffs of the shore.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a bad night on the field to the south. The boys were hungry. It
was cold. Billy Topsail suffered from the cold. In the morning the
northerly wind had turned the heap of dogskin robes into a snowdrift.
The sun shone. Billy was still cold. He shivered and chattered. He
despaired. Rescue came, however, in the afternoon. It was the Tight Cove
skiff, hailing now from Our Harbour, with Doctor Luke aboard.

The skiff from Come-Again Bight found the dogs. The dogs were wild--the
men said--and would not come aboard, but ran off in a pack to the
farthest limits of the field and were not seen again--save only Cracker,
who fawned and jumped into the skiff without so much as a by-your-leave.
And Cracker, in due course and according to custom, they hanged by the
neck at Tight Cove until he was dead.

That day, however--the afternoon of the rescue--when the Tight Cove
skiff came near, Teddy Brisk put his hands to his mouth and
shouted--none too lustily:

"Ahoy!"

"Aye?" Skipper Thomas answered.

"Did my mother send you?"

"She did."

Teddy Brisk turned to Billy Topsail.

"Didn't I tell you," he sobbed, his eyes blazing, "that I knowed my
mother's ways?"

And Doctor Luke laughed.



CHAPTER XII

    _In Which Billy Topsail's Agreeable Qualities Win a Warm Welcome
    with Doctor Luke at Our Harbour, There is an Explosion at Ragged
    Run, Tommy West Drops Through the Ice and Vanishes, and Doctor Luke
    is in a Way Never to Be Warned of the Desperate Need of His
    Services_


In Doctor Luke's little hospital at Our Harbour, Billy Topsail fell in
with a charming group--Doctor Luke and his friends; and being himself a
boy of a good many attractive qualities, and of natural good manners,
which association with his friend Archie Armstrong, of St. John's, Sir
Archibald's son, had helped to fashion--being a manly, good-mannered,
humorous fellow, he was very soon warmly accepted. There was no mystery
about Doctor Luke. He was an Englishman--a well-bred, cultured man; and
having been wrecked on the coast, and having perceived the great need of
a physician in those parts, he had thrown in his lot for good and all
with the Labrador folk. And he was obviously happy--both busy and
happy. That he regretted his determination was a preposterous thing to
assume; on the contrary, he positively did not regret it--he whistled
and sang and laughed and laboured, and Billy Topsail was convinced that
he was not only the most useful man in the world, but the most
delightful and best, and the happiest, too.

That Doctor Luke was useful was very soon evident to an astonishing
degree. Teddy Brisk's leg was scraped--it was eventually healed and
became quite as sound as Billy Topsail's "off shank." But there was a
period of convalescence, during which Billy Topsail had all the
opportunity in the world to observe just how mightily useful Doctor Luke
was. The demands upon him were extraordinary; and his response to
them--his ready, cheerful, skillful, brave response--was more
extraordinary still.

Winter was not yet done with: summer delayed--there was more snow, more
frost; and the ice drifted in and out with the variable winds: so that
travelling in those parts was at its most dangerous period. Yet Doctor
Luke went about with small regard for what might happen--afoot, with the
dogs, and in a punt, when the ice, having temporarily drifted away,
left open water. Up and down the coast, near and far, always on the
wing: that was Doctor Luke--the busiest, happiest, most useful man Billy
Topsail had ever known.

And Billy Topsail was profoundly affected by all this beneficent
activity. He wished to emulate it. This was a secret, to be sure; there
was no reason for Billy Topsail to think that a fisherman's son like
himself would ever be presented with the opportunity to "wield a knife"
and be made master of the arts of healing--and consequently he said
nothing about the growing ambition. But the ambition flourished.

When Doctor Luke returned from his professional calls with tales of
illness cured and distress alleviated, and when Billy Topsail reflected
that there would have been neither cure nor alleviation had it not been
for Doctor Luke's skill and kindly heart, Billy Topsail wanted with all
his strength to be about that selfsame business. And there was a good
deal in the performance of it to appeal to a lad like Billy Topsail--the
adventure of the thing: for Doctor Luke seldom counted the chances, when
they seemed not too unreasonably against him, and when the need was
urgent he did not count them at all.

Billy Topsail was just a little bit puzzled at first. Why should Doctor
Luke do these things? There was no gain--no material gain worth
considering; but it did not take Billy Topsail long to perceive that
there was in fact great gain--far exceeding material gain: the
satisfaction in doing a good deed for what Doctor Luke called "the love
of God" and nothing else whatsoever. Doctor Luke was not attached to any
Mission. His work was his own: his field was his own--nobody contributed
to his activities; nobody helped him in any way. Yet his work was done
in the spirit of the missionary; and that was what Billy Topsail liked
about it--the masterful, generous, high-minded quality of it.

Being an honest, healthy lad, Billy Topsail set Doctor Luke in the
hero's seat and began to worship, as no good boy could very well help
doing; it was not long, indeed, before Doctor Luke had grown to be as
great a hero as Sir Archibald Armstrong, Archie's father--and that is
saying a good deal. In the lap of the future there lay some adventures
in which Billy Topsail and Archie Armstrong were to be concerned; but
Billy Topsail was not aware of that.

Billy Topsail was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet. Sometimes,
however, he sighed:

"I wish Archie was here!"

And that wish was to come true.

       *       *       *       *       *

Before Teddy Brisk was well enough to be sent home, something happened
at Ragged Run Cove, which lay across Anxious Bight, near by the hospital
at Our Harbour; and Doctor Luke and Billy Topsail were at once drawn
into the consequences of the accident. It was March weather. There was
sunshine and thaw. Anxious Bight was caught over with rotten ice from
Ragged Run Cove to the heads of Our Harbour. A rumour of seals--a herd
on the Arctic drift-ice offshore--had come in from the Spotted Horses.
It inspired instant haste in all the cottages of Ragged Run--an eager,
stumbling haste.

In Bad-Weather Tom West's wife's kitchen, somewhat after ten o'clock in
the morning, in the midst of this hilarious scramble to be off to the
floe, there was a flash and spit of fire, pale in the sunshine, and the
clap of an explosion and the clatter of a sealing gun on the bare floor;
and in the breathless, dead little interval, enduring between the
appalling detonation and a man's groan of dismay and a woman's choke and
scream of terror--in this shocked silence, Dolly West, Bad-Weather Tom's
small maid, and Joe West's niece, stood swaying, wreathed in gray smoke,
her little hands pressed tight to her eyes.

She was a pretty little creature--she had been a pretty little creature:
there had been yellow curls, in the Labrador way--and rosy cheeks and
grave blue eyes; but now of all this shy, fair loveliness----

"You've killed her!"

"Dear Lord--no!" cried Uncle Joe West, whose gun had exploded.

Dolly dropped her hands. She reached out, then, for something to grasp.

And she plainted:

"I ithn't dead, mother. I juth'--I juth' can't thee."

She extended her red hands.

"They're all wet!" she complained.

By this time the mother had the little girl gathered close in her arms.

She moaned:

"Doctor Luke--quick!"

Tommy West caught up his cap and mittens and sprang to the door.

"Not by the Bight!" Joe West shouted.

"No, sir."

Dolly West whimpered:

"It thmart-th, mother!"

"By Mad Harry an' Thank-the-Lord!"

"Ay, sir."

Dolly screamed--now:

"It hurt-th! Oh, oh, it hurt-th!"

"An' haste, lad!"

"Ay, sir."

There was of course no doctor at Ragged Run; there was a doctor, Doctor
Luke, at Our Harbour, however--across Anxious Bight. Tommy West avoided
the rotten ice of the Bight, which he dared not cross, and took the
'longshore trail by way of Mad Harry and Thank-the-Lord. At noon he was
past Mad Harry, his little legs wearing well and his breath coming
easily through his expanded nostrils--he had not paused; and at four
o'clock--still on a dog-trot--he had hauled down the chimney smoke of
Thank-the-Lord and was bearing up for Our Harbour. Early dusk caught him
short-cutting the doubtful ice of Thank-the-Lord Cove; and half an hour
later, midway of the passage to Our Harbour, with two miles left to
accomplish--dusk falling thick and cold, then, and a frosty wind
blowing--the heads of Our Harbour looming black and solid in the wintry
night beyond--he dropped through the ice and vanished. There was not a
sign of him left--some bubbles, perhaps: nothing more.



CHAPTER XIII

    _In Which Doctor Luke Undertakes a Feat of Daring and Endurance and
    Billy Topsail Thinks Himself the Luckiest Lad in the World_


Returning from a call at Tumble Tickle, in clean, sunlit weather, with
nothing more tedious than eighteen miles of wilderness trail and rough
floe ice behind him, Doctor Luke was chagrined to discover himself a bit
fagged. He had come heartily down the trail from Tumble Tickle in the
early hours of that fine, windy morning, fit and eager for the
trudge--as a matter of course; but on the ice, in the shank of the
day--there had been eleven miles of the floe--he had lagged. A man
cannot practice medicine out of a Labrador outport harbour and not know
what it means to stomach a physical exhaustion. Doctor Luke had been
tired before. He was not disturbed by that. But being human, he looked
forward to rest; and in the drear, frosty dusk, when he rounded the
heads of Home, opened the lights of Our Harbour, and caught the warm,
yellow gleam of the lamp in the surgery window, he was glad to be near
his supper and his bed.

And so he told Billy Topsail, whom he found in the surgery, replenishing
the fire.

"Ha, Billy!" said he. "I'm glad to be home."

Afterwards, when supper had been disposed of, and Doctor Luke was with
Billy in the surgery, the rest of the family being elsewhere occupied,
there was a tap on the surgery door. Doctor Luke called: "Come
in!"--with some wonder as to the event. It was no night to be abroad on
the ice. Yet the tap on the surgery door could mean but one
thing--somebody was in trouble; and as he called "Come in!" and while he
waited for the door to open, Doctor Luke considered the night and
wondered what strength he had left.

A youngster--he had been dripping wet and was now sparkling all over
with frost and ice in the light of the surgery lamp--intruded.

"Thank-the-Lord Cove?"

"No, sir."

"Mad Harry?"

"Ragged Run, sir."

"Bad-Weather West's lad?"

"Yes, sir."

"Been in the water?"

The boy grinned. He was ashamed of himself. "Yes, sir. I falled through
the ice, sir."

"Come across the Bight?"

The boy stared. "No, sir. A cat couldn't cross the Bight the night, sir.
'Tis all rotten. I come alongshore by Mad Harry an' Thank-the-Lord. I
dropped through all of a sudden, sir, in Thank-the Lord Cove."

"Who's sick?"

"Uncle Joe's gun went off, sir."

Doctor Luke rose. "Uncle Joe's gun went off! Who was in the way?"

"Dolly, sir."

"And Dolly in the way! And Dolly----"

"She've gone blind, sir. An' her cheek, sir--an' one ear, sir----"

"What's the night?"

"Blowin' up, sir. There's a scud. An' the moon----"

"You didn't cross the Bight? Why not?"

"'Tis rotten from shore t' shore. I'd not try the Bight, sir, the
night."

"No?"

"No, sir." The boy was very grave.

"Mm-m."

All this while Doctor Luke had been moving about the surgery in sure
haste--packing a waterproof case with little instruments and vials and
what-not. And now he got quickly into his boots and jacket, pulled down
his coonskin cap, pulled up his sealskin gloves, handed Bad-Weather
West's boy over to the family for supper and bed, and was about to close
the surgery door upon himself when Billy Topsail interrupted him.

"I say, sir!"

Doctor Luke halted.

"Well, Billy?"

"Take me, sir! Won't you?"

"What for?"

"I wants t' go."

"I go the short way, Billy."

"Sure, you does! I knows _you_, sir!"

Doctor Luke laughed.

"Come on!" said he.

Billy Topsail thought himself the luckiest lad in the world. And perhaps
he was.



CHAPTER XIV

    _In Which Billy Topsail and Doctor Luke Take to the Ice in the Night
    and Doctor Luke Tells Billy Topsail Something Interesting About
    Skinflint Sam and Bad-Weather Tom West of Ragged Run_


Doctor Luke and Billy Topsail took to the harbour ice and drove head
down into the gale. There were ten miles to go. It was to be a night's
work. They settled themselves doggedly to the miles. It was a mile and a
half to the Head, where the Tickle led a narrow way from the shelter of
Our Harbour to Anxious Bight and the open sea; and from the lee of the
Head--a straightaway across Anxious Bight--it was nine miles to
Blow-me-Down Dick of Ragged Run Cove. Doctor Luke had rested but three
hours. It was but a taste. Legs and feet were bitterly unwilling to
forego a sufficient rest. They complained of the interruption. They were
stiff and sore and sullen. It was hard to warm them to their labour.
Impatient to revive the accustomed comfort and glow of strength, Doctor
Luke began to run.

Presently they slowed up. Doctor Luke told Billy Topsail, as they pushed
on, something about the Ragged Run family they were to visit. "There is
a small trader at Ragged Run," said he. "A strange mixture of conscience
and greed he is. Skinflint Sam--they call him. Conscience? Oh, yes, he
has a conscience! And his conscience--as he calls it--has made him rich
as riches go in these parts. No, of course not! You wouldn't expect a
north-coast trader to have a conscience; and you wouldn't expect a
north-coast trader with a conscience to be rich!"

Billy Topsail agreed with this.

"Ah, well," Doctor Luke went on, "conscience is much like the wind. It
blows every which way (as they say); and if a man does but trim his
sails to suit, he can bowl along in any direction without much wear and
tear of the spirit. Skinflint Sam bowled along, paddle-punt fisherman to
Ragged Run merchant. Skinflint went where he was bound for,
wing-and-wing to the breeze behind, and got there with his peace of mind
showing never a sign of the weather. It is said that the old man has an
easy conscience and ten thousand dollars!

"This Bad-Weather West vowed long ago that he would even scores with
Skinflint Sam before he could pass to his last harbour with any
satisfaction.

"'With me, Tom?' said Sam. 'That's a saucy notion for a hook-an'-line
man.'

"'Ten more years o' life,' said Tom, 'an' I'll square scores.'

"'Afore you evens scores with me, Tom,' said Sam, 'you'll have t' have
what I wants.'

"'I may have it.'

"'An' also,' said Sam, 'what I can't get.'

"'There's times,' said Tom, 'when a man stands in sore need o' what he
never thought he'd want.'

"'When you haves what I needs,' said Sam, 'I'll pay what you asks.'

"'If 'tis for sale,' said Tom.

"'Money talks,' said Sam.

"'Ah, well,' said Tom, 'maybe it don't speak my language.'

"Of course, Skinflint Sam's conscience is just as busy as any other
man's conscience. I think it troubles Sam. It doesn't trouble him to be
honest, perhaps; it troubles him only to be rich. And possibly it gives
him no rest. When trade is dull--no fish coming into Sam's storehouses
and no goods going out of Sam's shop--Sam's conscience makes him
grumble and groan. They say a man never was so tortured by conscience
before.

"And to ease his conscience Sam goes over his ledgers by night; and he
will jot down a gallon of molasses here, and a pound of tea there, until
he has made a good day's trade of a bad one. 'Tis simple enough, too:
for Sam gives out no accounts, but just strikes his balances to please
his greed, at the end of the season, and tells his dealers how much they
owe him or how little he owes them."

Doctor Luke paused.

"Ay," said Billy Topsail. "I've seed that way o' doin' business."

"We all have, Billy," said Doctor Luke. And resumed: "In dull times
Sam's conscience irks him into overhauling his ledgers. 'Tis otherwise
in seasons of plenty. But Sam's conscience apparently keeps pricking
away just the same--aggravating Sam into getting richer and richer.
There is no rest for Skinflint Sam. Skinflint Sam must have all the
money he can take by hook and crook or suffer the tortures of an evil
conscience. And as any other man, Sam must ease that conscience or lose
sleep o' nights.

"And so in seasons of plenty up goes the price of tea at Skinflint Sam's
shop. And up goes the price of pork. And up goes the price of flour. All
sky high, ecod! Never was such harsh times (says Sam); why, my dear man,
up St. John's way (says he) you couldn't touch tea nor pork nor flour
with a ten-foot sealing-gaff. And no telling what the world is coming
to, with prices soaring like a gull in a gale and all the St. John's
merchants chary of credit!

"''Tis awful times for us poor traders,' says Sam. 'No tellin' who'll
weather this here panic. I'd not be surprised if we got a war out of
it.'

"Well, now, as you know, Billy, on the north-coast in these days it
isn't much like the big world beyond. Folk don't cruise about. They are
too busy. And they are not used to it anyhow. Ragged Run folk are not
born at Ragged Run, raised at Rickity Tickle, married at Seldom-Come-By,
aged at Skeleton Harbour and buried at Run-By-Guess. They are born and
buried at Ragged Run. So what the fathers think at Ragged Run, the sons
think; and what the sons know, has been known by the old men for a good
many years.

"Nobody is used to changes. They are shy of changes. New ways are
fearsome. And so the price of flour is a mystery. _It is, anyhow._ Why
it should go up and down at Ragged Run is beyond any man of Ragged Run
to fathom. When Skinflint Sam says that the price of flour is up--well,
then, it is up; and that's all there is about it. Nobody knows better.
And Skinflint Sam has the flour. You know all about that sort of thing,
don't you, Billy?"

"Ay, sir," Billy replied. "But I been helpin' the clerk of an honest
trader."

"There are honest traders. Of course! Not Sam, though. And, as I was
saying, Sam has the pork, as well as the flour. And he has the sweetness
and the tea. And he has the shoes and the clothes and the patent
medicines. And he has the twine and the salt. And he has almost all the
cash there is at Ragged Run. And he has the schooner that brings in the
supplies and carries away the fish to the St. John's markets.

"He is the only trader at Ragged Run. His storehouses and shop are
jammed with the things that the folk of Ragged Run can't do without and
are able to get nowhere else. So all in all, Skinflint Sam can make
trouble for the folk that make trouble for him. And the folk grumble.
But it is all they have the courage to do. And Skinflint Sam lets them
grumble away. The best cure for grumbling (says he) is to give it free
course. If a man can speak out in meeting (says he) he will work no
mischief in secret.

"'Sea-lawyers, eh?' says Sam. 'Huh! What you fellers want, anyhow? Huh?
You got everything now that any man could expect. Isn't you housed?
Isn't you fed? Isn't you clothed? Isn't you got a parson and a
schoolmaster? I believes you wants a doctor settled in the harbour! A
doctor! An' 'tisn't two years since I got you your schoolmaster! Queer
times we're havin' in the outports these days with every harbour on the
coast wantin' a doctor within hail.

"'You're well enough done by at Ragged Run. None better nowhere. An'
why? Does you ever think o' that? Why? Because I got my trade here. An'
think o' _me_! If ar a one o' you had my brain-labour t' do, you'd soon
find out what harsh labour was like. What with bad debts, an' roguery,
an' failed seasons, an' creditors t' St. John's, I'm hard put to it t'
keep my seven senses. An' small thanks I gets--me that keeps this
harbour alive in famine an' plenty. 'Tis the business I haves that keeps
you. You make trouble for my business, an' you'll come t' starvation!
Now, you mark me!'

"I do not want you to think too harshly of Skinflint Sam. No doubt he
has his good points. Most of us can discover a good point or two in
ourselves and almost everybody else. There are times when Skinflint Sam
will yield an inch. Oh, yes! I've known Skinflint Sam to drop the price
of stick-candy when he had put the price of flour too high for anybody's
comfort."



CHAPTER XV

    _In Which Bad-Weather Tom West's Curious Financial Predicament is
    Explained_


"Well, now," said Doctor Luke, continuing his tale, "Bad-Weather Tom
West, of Ragged Run, has a conscience, too. But 'tis just a common
conscience. Most men have that kind. It is not like Skinflint Sam's
conscience. Nothing 'useful' ever comes of it. It is like yours and
mine, Billy. It troubles Tom West to be honest and it keeps him poor.
All Tom West's conscience ever aggravates him to do"--Doctor Luke was
speaking in gentle irony now--"is just to live along in a religious sort
of fashion, and rear his family, and be decently stowed away in the
graveyard when his time is up if the sea doesn't catch him first.

"But 'tis a busy conscience for all that--and as sharp as a fish-prong.
There is no rest for Tom West if he doesn't fatten his wife and crew of
little lads and maids. There is no peace of mind for Tom if he doesn't
labour! And so Tom labours, and labours, and labours. Dawn to dusk, in
season, his punt is on the grounds off Lack-a-Day Head, taking fish from
the sea to be salted and dried and passed into Skinflint Sam's
storehouses.

"The tale began long ago, Billy. When Tom West was about fourteen years
old, his father died. 'Twas of a Sunday afternoon, Tom says, that they
stowed him away. He remembers the time: spring weather and a fair day,
with the sun low, and the birds twittering in the alders just before
turning in.

"Skinflint Sam caught up with young Tom on the road home from the little
graveyard on Sunset Hill.

"'Well, lad,' said he, 'the old skipper's gone.'

"'Ay, sir, he's dead an' buried.'

"'A fine man,' said Skinflint. 'None finer.'

"With that young Tom broke out crying. 'He were a kind father t' we,'
says he. 'An' now he's dead!'

"'You lacked nothin' in your father's life-time,' said Sam.

"'An' now he's dead!'

"'Well, well, you've no call t' be afeared o' goin' hungry on that
account,' said Sam, putting an arm over the lad's shoulder. 'No; nor
none o' the little crew over t' your house. Take up the fishin' where
your father left it off, lad,' said he, 'an' you'll find small
difference. I'll cross out your father's name on the books an' put down
your own in its stead.'"

Billy Topsail interrupted.

"That was kind!" he snorted, in anger. "What a kind man this Skinflint
is!"

And Doctor Luke continued:

"'I'm fair obliged,' said Tom. 'That's kind, sir.'

"'Nothin' like kindness t' ease sorrow,' said Skinflint Sam. 'Your
father died in debt, lad.'

"'Ay, sir?'

"'Deep.'

"'How much, sir?'

"'I'm not able t' tell offhand,' said Sam. ''Twas deep enough. But never
you care. You'll be able t' square it in course o' time. You're young
an' hearty. An' I'll not be harsh. _I'm_ no skinflint!'

"'That's kind, sir.'

"'You--you--_will_ square it?'

"'I don't know, sir.'

"'_What?_' cried Sam. '_What!_ You're not _knowin'_, eh? That's saucy
talk. Didn't you have them there supplies?'

"'I 'low, sir.'

"'An' you guzzled your share, I'll be bound!'

"'Yes, sir.'

"'An' your mother had her share?'

"'Yes, sir.'

"'An' you're not knowin' whether you'll pay or not! Ecod! What is you? A
scoundrel? A dead beat? A rascal? A thief? A jail-bird?'

"'No, sir.'

"''Tis for the likes o' you that jails was made.'

"'Oh, no, sir!'

"'Doesn't you go t' church? Is that what they learns you there? I'm
thinkin' the parson doesn't earn what I pays un. Isn't you got no
conscience?'

"'Twas just a little too much for young Tom. You see, Tom West _had_ a
conscience--a conscience as fresh and as young as his years. And Tom had
loved his father well. And Tom honoured his father's name. And so when
he had brooded over Skinflint Sam's words for a time--and when he had
lain awake in the night thinking of his father's goodness--he went over
to Skinflint's office and said that he would pay his father's debt.

"Skinflint gave him a clap on the back.

"'You are an honest lad, Tom West!' said he. 'I knowed you was. I'm
proud t' have your name on my books!'

"And after that Tom kept hacking away on his father's debt.

"In good years Skinflint would say:

"'She's comin' down, Tom. I'll just apply the surplus.'

"And in bad he'd say:

"'You isn't quite cotched up with your own self this season, b'y. A
little less pork this season, Tom, an' you'll square this here little
balance afore next. I wisht this whole harbour was as honest as you. No
trouble, then,' said he, 't' do business in a businesslike way.'

"When Tom got over the hill--fifty and more--his father's debt, with
interest, according to Skinflint's figures, which Tom had no learning to
dispute, was more than it ever had been; and his own was as much as he
ever could hope to pay. And by that time Skinflint Sam was rich and
Bad-Weather Tom was gone sour. One of these days--and not long, now--I
shall make it my business to settle with Skinflint Sam. And I should
have done so before, had I known of it."

"When did you find out, sir?"

"Bad-Weather Tom," Doctor Luke replied, "came to consult me about two
months ago. He is in a bad way. I--well, I had to tell him so. And then
he told me what I have told you--all about Skinflint Sam and his
dealings with him. It was an old story, Billy. I have--well, attended to
such matters before, in my own poor way. Bad-Weather Tom did not want me
to take this up. 'You leave it to me,' said he; 'an' I'll fix it
meself.' I wish he might be able to 'fix' it to his satisfaction."

"I hopes he does!" said Billy.

"Well, well," Doctor Luke replied, "it is Bad-Weather Tom's maid who is
in need of us at Ragged Run."

Billy liked that "Us"!



CHAPTER XVI

    _In Which Doctor Luke and Billy Topsail Proceed to Accomplish What a
    Cat Would Never Attempt and Doctor Luke Looks for a Broken Back
    Whilst Billy Topsail Shouts, "Can You Make It?" and Hears No Answer_


When they came to the Head and there paused to survey Anxious Bight in a
flash of the moon Billy Topsail and Doctor Luke were tingling and warm
and limber and eager. Yet they were dismayed by the prospect. No man
could cross from the Head to Blow-me-Down Dick of Ragged Run Cove in the
dark. Doctor Luke considered the light. Communicating masses of ragged
cloud were driving low across Anxious Bight. Offshore there was a
sluggish bank of black cloud. And Doctor Luke was afraid of that bank of
black cloud. The moon was risen and full. It was obscured. The intervals
of light were less than the intervals of shadow. Sometimes a wide,
impenetrable cloud, its edges alight, darkened the moon altogether.
Still--there was light enough. All that was definitely ominous was the
bank of black cloud lying sluggishly offshore.

"I don't like that cloud, Billy," said Doctor Luke.

"No, sir; no more does I."

"It will cover the moon by and by."

"Sure, sir."

"There may be snow in it."

"Sure t' be, sir."

The longer Doctor Luke contemplated that bank of black cloud--its
potentiality for catastrophe--the more he feared it.

"If we were to be overtaken by snow----"

Billy interrupted with a chuckle.

"'Twould be a tidy little fix," said he. "Eh, sir?"

"Well, if that's all you have to say," said Doctor Luke--and he
laughed--"come right along!"

It was blowing high. There was the bite and shiver of frost in the wind.
Half a gale ran in from the open sea. Midway of Anxious Bight it would
be a saucy, hampering, stinging head-wind. And beyond the Head the ice
was in doubtful condition. A man might conjecture: that was all. What
was it Tommy West had said? "A cat couldn't cross!" It was mid-spring.
Freezing weather had of late alternated with periods of thaw and rain.
There had been windy days. Anxious Bight had even once been clear of
ice. A westerly wind had broken the ice and swept it out beyond the
heads; a punt had fluttered over from Ragged Run Cove.

In a gale from the northeast, however, these fragments had returned with
accumulations of Arctic pans and hummocks from the Labrador Current; and
a frosty night had caught them together and sealed them to the cliffs of
the coast. It was a slender attachment--a most delicate attachment: one
pan to the other and the whole to the rocks.

It had yielded somewhat--it must have gone rotten--in the weather of
that day.

What the frost had accomplished since dusk could be determined only upon
trial.

"Soft as cheese!" Doctor Luke concluded.

"Rubber ice," said Billy.

"Air-holes," said the Doctor.

There was another way to Ragged Run--the way by which Tommy West had
come. It skirted the shore of Anxious Bight--Mad Harry and
Thank-the-Lord and Little Harbour Deep--and something more than
multiplied the distance by one and a half. Doctor Luke was completely
aware of the difficulties of Anxious Bight, and so was Billy
Topsail--the way from Our Harbour to Ragged Run: the treacherous reaches
of young ice, bending under the weight of a man, and the veiled black
water, and the labour, the crevices, the snow-crust of the Arctic pans
and hummocks, and the broken field and wash of the sea beyond the lesser
island of the Spotted Horses.

They knew, too, the issue of the disappearance of the moon--the
desperate plight into which the sluggish bank of black cloud might
plunge a man.

Yet they now moved out and shaped a course for the black bulk of the
Spotted Horses.

This was in the direction of Blow-me-Down Dick of Ragged Run and the
open sea.

"Come on!" said Doctor Luke.

"I'm comin', sir," Billy replied.

There was something between a chuckle and a laugh from Billy's
direction.

Doctor Luke started.

"Laughing, Billy?" he inquired.

"I jus' can't help it, sir."

"Nothing much to laugh at."

"No, sir," Billy replied. "I don't _feel_ like laughin', sir. But 'tis
so wonderful dangerous out on the Bight that I jus' can't _help_
laughin'."

       *       *       *       *       *

Doctor Luke and Billy Topsail were used to travelling all sorts of ice
in all sorts of weather. The returning fragments of the ice of Anxious
Bight had been close packed for two miles beyond the entrance to Our
Harbour by the northeast gale that had driven them back from the open.
An alien would have stumbled helplessly and exhausted himself; by and by
he would have begun to crawl--in the end he would have lost his life in
the frost. This was rough ice. In the press of the wind the drifting
floe had buckled. It had been a big gale. Under the whip of it, the ice
had come down with a rush. And when it encountered the coast, the first
great pans had been thrust out of the sea by the weight of the floe
behind.

A slow pressure had even driven them up the cliffs of the Head and
heaped them in a tumble below.

It was thus a folded, crumpled floe--a vast field of broken bergs and
pans at angles.

No Newfoundlander would adventure on the ice without a gaff. A gaff is a
lithe, iron-shod pole, eight or ten feet in length. Doctor Luke was as
cunning and sure with the gaff as any old hand of the sealing fleet; and
Billy Topsail always maintained that he had been born with a little gaff
in his hand instead of a silver spoon in his mouth. They employed the
gaffs now to advantage. They used them like vaulting poles. They walked
less than they leaped. But this was no work for the half-light of an
obscured moon. Sometimes they halted for light. And delay annoyed Doctor
Luke. A peppery humour began to possess him. A pause of ten
minutes--they squatted for rest meantime--threw him into a state of
incautious irritability. At this rate it would be past dawn before they
made the cottages of Ragged Run Cove.

It would be slow beyond--surely slow on the treacherous reaches of green
ice between the floe and the Spotted Horses.

And beyond the Spotted Horses, whence the path to Ragged Run led--the
crossing of Tickle-my-Ribs!

A proverb of Our Harbour maintains that a fool and his life are soon
parted.

Doctor Luke invented the saying.

"'Twould be engraved on my stationery," he would declare, out of temper
with recklessness, "if I had any engraved stationery!"

Yet now, impatient of precaution, when he thought of Dolly West, Doctor
Luke presently chanced a leap. It was error. As the meager light
disclosed the path, a chasm of fifteen feet intervened between the edge
of the upturned pan upon which he and Billy Topsail stood and a
flat-topped hummock of Arctic ice to which he was bound. There was
footing for the tip of his gaff midway below. He felt for this footing
to entertain himself whilst the moon delayed.

It was there. He was tempted. It was an encouragement to rash conduct.
The chasm was critically deep for the length of the gaff. Worse than
that, the hummock was higher than the pan. Doctor Luke peered across. It
was not _much_ higher. Was it too high? No. It would merely be necessary
to lift stoutly at the climax of the leap. And there was need of
haste--a little maid in hard case at Ragged Run and a rising cloud
threatening black weather.

"Ah, sir, don't leap it!" Billy pleaded.

"Tut!" scoffed the Doctor.

"Wait for the moon, sir!"

A slow cloud covered the moon. It was aggravating. How long must a man
wait? A man must take a chance--what? And all at once Doctor Luke gave
way to impatience. He gripped his gaff with angry determination and
projected himself towards the hummock of Arctic ice. In mid-air he was
doubtful. A flash later he had regretted the hazard. It seemed he would
come short of the hummock altogether. He would fall. There would be
broken bones. He perceived now that he had misjudged the height of the
hummock.

Had the gaff been a foot longer Doctor Luke would have cleared the
chasm. It occurred to him that he would break his back and merit the
fate of his callow mistake. Then his toes caught the edge of the
flat-topped hummock. His boots were of soft seal-leather. He gripped the
ice. And now he hung suspended and inert. The slender gaff bent under
the prolonged strain of his weight and shook in response to the shiver
of his arms.

Billy Topsail shouted:

"Can you make it, sir?"

There was no answer.



CHAPTER XVII

    _In Which Rubber Ice is Encountered and Billy Topsail is Asked a
    Pointed Question_


Dolly West's mother, with Dolly in her arms, resting against her soft,
ample bosom, sat by the kitchen fire. It was long after dark. The wind
was up--the cottage shook in the squalls. She had long ago washed
Dolly's eyes and temporarily staunched the terrifying flow of blood; and
now she waited--and had been waiting, with Dolly in her arms, a long,
long time; rocking gently and sometimes crooning a plaintive song of the
coast to the restless child.

Uncle Joe West came in.

"Hush!"

"Is she sleepin' still?"

"Off an' on. She've a deal o' pain. She cries out, poor lamb!"

Dolly stirred and whimpered.

"Any sign of un, Joe?"

"'Tis not time."

"He might----"

"'Twill be hours afore he comes. I'm jus' wonderin'----"

"Hush!"

Dolly moaned.

"Ay, Joe?"

"Tommy's but a wee feller. I'm wonderin' if he----"

The woman was confident. "He'll make it," she whispered.

"Ay; but if he's delayed----"

"He was there afore dusk. An' Doctor Luke got underway across the
Bight----"

"He'll not come by the Bight!"

"He'll come by the Bight. I knows that man. He'll come by the Bight--an'
he'll----"

"Pray not!"

"I pray so."

"If he comes by the Bight, he'll never get here at all. The Bight's
breakin' up. There's rotten ice beyond the Spotted Horses. An'
Tickle-my-Ribs is----"

"He'll come. He'll be here afore----"

"There's a gale o' snow comin' down. 'Twill cloud the moon. A man would
lose hisself----"

"He'll come."

Uncle Joe West went out again. This was to plod once more down the
narrows to the base of Blow-me-Down Dick and search the vague light of
the coast towards Thank-the-Lord and Mad Harry for the first sight of
Doctor Luke. It was not time. He knew that. There would be hours of
waiting. It would be dawn before a man could come by Thank-the-Lord and
Mad Harry if he left Our Harbour even so early as dusk. And as for
crossing the Bight--no man could cross the Bight. It was blowing up,
too--clouds rising and a threat of snow abroad. Uncle Joe West glanced
apprehensively towards the northeast. It would snow before dawn. The
moon was doomed. A dark night would fall.

And the Bight--Doctor Luke would never attempt to cross the Bight----

       *       *       *       *       *

Doctor Luke, hanging between the hummock and the pan, the gaff shivering
under his weight, slowly subsided towards the hummock. It was a slow,
cautious approach. He had no faith in his foothold. A toe slipped. He
paused. It was a grim business. The other foot held. The leg, too, was
equal to the strain. He wriggled his toe back to its grip of the edge of
the ice. It was an improved foothold. He turned then and began to lift
and thrust himself backward. And a last thrust on the gaff set him on
his haunches on the Arctic hummock.

He turned to Billy Topsail.

"Thank God!" said he. And then: "Come on, Billy!"

There was a better light now. Billy Topsail chose a narrower space to
leap. And he leaped it safely. And they went on; and on--and on! There
was a deal of slippery crawling to do--of slow, ticklish climbing.
Doctor Luke and Billy Topsail rounded bergs, scaled perilous inclines,
leaped crevices. Sometimes they were bewildered for a space. When the
moon broke they could glimpse the Spotted Horses from the highest
elevations of the floe. In the depressions of the floe they could not
descry the way at all.

It was as cold as death now. Was it ten below? The gale bit like twenty
below.

"_'Tis_ twenty below!" Billy Topsail insisted.

Doctor Luke ignored this.

"We're near past the rough ice," said he, gravely.

"Rubber ice ahead," said Billy.

Neither laughed.

"Ay," the Doctor observed; and that was all.

When the big northeast wind drove the ice back into Anxious Bight and
heaped it inshore, the pressure had decreased as the mass of the floe
diminished in the direction of the sea. The outermost areas had not felt
the impact. They had not folded--had not "raftered." There had been no
convulsion offshore as inshore when the rocks of Afternoon Coast
interrupted the rush. The pans had come to a standstill and snuggled
close.

When the wind failed they had subsided towards the open. As they say on
the coast, the ice had "gone abroad." It was distributed. And after that
the sea had fallen flat; and a vicious frost had caught the
floe--wide-spread now--and frozen it fast. It was six miles from the
edge of the raftered ice to the first island of the Spotted Horses. The
flat pans were solid enough--safe and easy going; but this new,
connecting ice--the lanes and reaches of it----

Doctor Luke's succinct characterization of the condition of Anxious
Bight was also keen.

These six miles were perilous.

"Soft as cheese!"

All that day the sun had fallen hot on the young ice in which the
scattered pans of the floe were frozen. Doctor Luke recalled that in the
afternoon he had splashed through an occasional pool of shallow water on
the floe between Tumble Tickle and the short-cut trail to Our Harbour.
Certainly some of the wider patches of green ice had been weakened to
the breaking point. Here and there they must have been eaten clear
through. It occurred to Doctor Luke--contemplating an advance with
distaste--that these holes were like open sores.

And by and by the first brief barrier of new ice confronted Doctor Luke
and Billy Topsail. They must cross it. A black film--the colour of water
in that light--bridged the way from one pan to another. Neither Doctor
Luke nor Billy Topsail would touch it. They leaped it easily. A few
fathoms forward a second space halted them. Must they put foot on it?
With a running start a man could--well, they chose not to touch the
second space, but to leap it.

Soon a third interval interrupted them. No man could leap it. Doctor
Luke cast about for another way. There was none. He must run across. A
flush of displeasure ran over him. He scowled. Disinclination increased.

"Green ice!" said he.

"Let me try it, sir!"

"No."

"Ay, sir! I'm lighter."

"No."

Billy Topsail crossed then like a cat before he could be stopped--on
tiptoe and swiftly; and he came to the other side with his heart in a
flutter.

"Whew!"

The ice had yielded without breaking. It had creaked, perhaps--nothing
worse. Doctor Luke crossed the space without accident. It was what is
called "rubber ice." There was more of it--there were miles of it. As
yet the pans were close together. Always however the intervals
increased. The nearer the open sea the more wide-spread was the floe.
Beyond--hauling down the Spotted Horses, which lay in the open--the
proportion of new ice would be vastly greater.

At a trot, for the time, over the pans, which were flat, and in
delicate, mincing little spurts across the bending ice, Doctor Luke and
Billy Topsail proceeded. In a confidence that was somewhat flushed--they
had rested--Doctor Luke went forward. And presently, midway of a lane
of green ice, he heard a gurgle, as the ice bent under his weight. Water
washed his boots. He had been on the lookout for holes. This hole he
heard--the spurt and gurgle of it. He had not seen it.

"Back!" he shouted, in warning.

Billy ran back.

"All right, sir?"

Safe across, Doctor Luke grinned. It was a reaction of relief.

"Whew! _Whew!_" he whistled. "Try below."

Billy crossed below.

"Don't you think, sir," said he, doubtfully, "that we'd best go back?"

"Do you think so?"

Billy reflected.

"No, sir," said he, flushing.

"Neither do I. Come on."



CHAPTER XVIII

    _In Which Discretion Urges Doctor Luke to Lie Still in a Pool of
    Water_


It was a mean light--this intermittent moonlight: with the clouds slow
and thick, and the ominous bank of black cloud rising all the while from
the horizon. A man should go slow in a light like that! But Doctor Luke
and Billy Topsail must make haste. And by and by they caught ear of the
sea breaking under the wind beyond the Little Spotted Horse. They were
nearing the limits of the ice. In full moonlight the whitecaps flashed
news of a tumultuous open. A rumble and splash of breakers came down
with the gale from the point of the island. It indicated that the sea
was working in the passage between the Spotted Horses and Blow-me-Down
Dick of the Ragged Run coast. The waves would run under the ice--would
lift it and break it. In this way the sea would eat its way through the
passage. It would destroy the young ice. It would break the pans to
pieces and rub them to slush.

Doctor Luke and Billy Topsail must make the Little Spotted Horse and
cross the passage between the island and the Ragged Run coast.

"Come on!" said the Doctor again.

Whatever the issue of haste, they must carry on and make the best of a
bad job. Otherwise they would come to Tickle-my-Ribs, between the Little
Spotted Horse and Blow-me-Down Dick of Ragged Run, and be marooned from
the mainshore. And there was another reason. It was immediate and
desperately urgent. As the sea was biting off the ice in Tickle-my-Ribs
so too it was encroaching upon the body of the ice in Anxious Bight.

Anxious Bight was breaking up. The scale of its dissolution was
gigantic. Acres of ice were wrenched from the field at a time and then
broken up by the sea. What was the direction of this swift melting? It
might take any direction. And a survey of the sky troubled Doctor Luke
no less than Billy Topsail. All this while the light had diminished. It
was failing still. It was failing faster. There was less of the moon. By
and by it would be wholly obscured.

"If we're delayed," Doctor Luke declared, "we'll be caught by the
dark."

"Hear that, sir!" Billy exclaimed.

They listened.

"Breaking up fast!" said the Doctor.

Again there was a splitting crash. Another great fragment of the ice had
broken away.

"Come on!" cried Billy, in alarm.

At first prolonged intervals of moonlight had occurred. Masses of cloud
had gone driving across a pale and faintly starlit sky. A new proportion
was disclosed. Now the stars were brilliant in occasional patches of
deep sky. A glimpse of the moon was rare. From the northeast the ominous
bank of black cloud had risen nearly overhead. It would eventually
curtain both stars and moon and make a thick black night of it.

A man would surely lose his life on the ice in thick weather--on one or
other of the reaches of new ice. And thereabouts the areas of young ice
were wider. They were also more tender. Thin ice is a proverb of peril
and daring. To tiptoe across the yielding film of these dimly visible
stretches was instantly and dreadfully dangerous. It was horrifying. A
man took his life in his hand every time he left a pan.

Doctor Luke was not insensitive. Neither was Billy Topsail. They began
to sweat--not with labour, but with fear. When the ice bent under them,
they gasped and held their breath. They were in livid terror of being
dropped through into the sea. They were afraid to proceed--they dared
not stand still; and they came each time to the solid refuge of a pan
with breath drawn, teeth set, faces contorted, hands clenched--a shiver
in the small of the back. This was more exhausting than the labour of
the folded floe. Upon every occasion it was like escaping an abyss.

To achieve safety once, however, was not to win a final relief--it was
merely to confront, in the same circumstances, a precisely similar
peril. Neither Doctor Luke nor Billy Topsail was physically exhausted.
Every muscle that they had was warm and alert. Yet they were weak. A
repetition of suspense had unnerved them. A full hour of this and
sometimes they chattered and shook in a nervous chill.

In the meantime they had approached the rocks of the Little Spotted
Horse.

They rested a moment.

"Now for it, boy!" said the Doctor, then.

"Ay, ay, sir!"

"Sorry you came, Billy?"

Billy was a truthful boy--and no hero of the melodrama.

"I wisht we was across, sir," said he.

"So do I," the Doctor agreed. "Come," he added, heartily; "we'll _go_
across!"

In the lee of the Little Spotted Horse the ice had gathered as in a
back-current. It was close packed alongshore to the point of the island.
Between this solidly frozen press of pans and the dissolving field in
Anxious Bight there had been a lane of ruffled open water before the
frost fell. It measured perhaps fifty yards. It was now black and
still--sheeted with new ice which had been delayed in forming by the
ripple of that exposed situation.

Doctor Luke and Billy Topsail had encountered nothing as doubtful. They
paused on the brink. A long, thin line of solid pan-ice, ghostly white
in the dusk beyond, was attached to the rocks of the Little Spotted
Horse. It led all the way to Tickle-my-Ribs. They must make that line of
solid ice. They must cross the wide lane of black, delicately frozen new
ice that lay between and barred their way. And there was no way out of
it.

Doctor Luke waited for the moon. When the light broke--a thin, transient
gleam--he started.

"Wait," said he, "until I'm across."

A few fathoms forth the ice began to yield. A moment later Doctor Luke
stopped short and recoiled. There was a hole--gaping wide and almost
under his feet. He stopped. The water overflowed and the ice cracked. He
must not stand still. To avoid a second hole he twisted violently to the
right and almost plunged into a third opening. It seemed the ice was
rotten from shore to shore.

And it was a long way across. Doctor Luke danced a zigzag towards the
pan-ice under the cliffs--spurting forward and retreating and swerving.
He did not pause. Had he paused he would have dropped through. When he
was within two fathoms of the pan-ice a foot broke through and tripped
him flat on his face. With his weight thus distributed he was
momentarily held up. Water squirted and gurgled out of the break--an
inch of water, forming a pool.

Doctor Luke lay still and expectant in this pool.



CHAPTER XIX

    _In Which Doctor Luke and Billy Topsail Hesitate in Fear on the
    Brink of Tickle-my-Ribs_


Dolly West's mother still sat rocking by the kitchen fire. It was long
past midnight now. Once more Uncle Joe West tiptoed in from the frosty
night.

"Is she sleepin' still?" he whispered.

"Hush! She've jus' toppled off again. She's havin' a deal o' pain, Joe.
An' she've been bleedin' again."

"Put her down on the bed, dear."

The woman shook her head. "I'm afeared 'twould start the wounds, Joe.
I'm not wantin' t' start un again. Any sign o' Doctor Luke yet, Joe?"

"Not yet."

"He'll come soon."

"No; 'tis not near time. 'Twill be dawn afore he----"

"Soon, Joe."

"He'll be delayed by snow. The moon's near gone. 'Twill be black dark
in half an hour. I felt a flake o' snow as I come in. An' he'll maybe
wait at Mad Harry----"

"He's comin' by the Bight, Joe."

Dolly stirred--cried out--awakened with a start--and lifted her bandaged
head a little.

She did not open her eyes.

"Is that you, Doctor Luke, sir?" she plainted.

"Hush!" the mother whispered. "'Tis not the Doctor yet."

"When----"

"He's comin'."

"I'll take a look," said Joe.

He went out again and stumbled down the path to Blow-me-Down Dick by
Tickle-my-Ribs.

       *       *       *       *       *

Doctor Luke lay still and expectant in the pool of water near the
pan-ice and rocks of the Little Spotted Horse. He waited. Nothing
happened. It was encouraging. But he did not dare stand up. Nor would he
dare to get to his knees and crawl.

There was no help to be had from the agonized Billy Topsail.

Both knew it.

"Shall I come, sir?" Billy called.

"Stay where you are," Doctor Luke replied, "or we'll both drop through.
Don't move."

"Ay, sir."

Presently Doctor Luke ventured delicately to take off a mitten--to
extend his hand, to sink his finger-nails in the ice and attempt to draw
himself forward. He tried again. It was a failure. His finger-nails were
too short. He could merely scratch the ice. He reflected that if he did
not concentrate his weight--that if he kept it distributed--he would not
break through. And once more he tried to make use of his finger-nails.

There was no snow on this ice. It was a smooth, hard surface. It was
dry. It turned out that the nails of the other hand were longer. Doctor
Luke managed to gain half an inch before they slipped.

They slipped again--and again and again. It was hopeless. Doctor Luke
lay still--pondering.

Billy Topsail's agony of anxiety increased.

"Is you safe, sir?"

"Stay where you are!"

"Ay, sir!"

Doctor Luke could not continue to lie still. Presently he would be
frozen in the pool of water. In emergencies he was used to indulging in
a simple philosophical reflection: A man can lose his life but once. Now
he shot his gaff towards the pan-ice, to be rid of the incumbrance of
it, and lifted himself on his palms and toes. By this the distribution
of his weight was not greatly disturbed. It was not concentrated upon
one point. It was divided by four and laid upon four points.

And there were no fearsome consequences. It was a hopeful experiment.
Doctor Luke stepped by inches on his hands towards the pan-ice--dragging
his toes. In this way he came to the line of solid ice under the cliffs
of the Little Spotted Horse and gained the refuge of it. And then he
directed the crossing of Billy Topsail, who was much lighter, and
crossed safely. Whereupon they set out for the point of the Little
Spotted Horse and the passage of Tickle-my-Ribs. And they were
heartened.

       *       *       *       *       *

A country physician might say of a muddy, midnight call, in the wind and
dark of a wet night in the fall of the year, that the roads were bad.
Doctor Luke would have said of the way from Our Harbour to the Little
Spotted Horse that he had been "in a bit of a mess." Thus far there had
been nothing extravagantly uncommon in the night's experience. Doctor
Luke and Billy Topsail had merely encountered and survived the familiar
difficulties of a passage of Anxious Bight in a period of critical
weather in the spring of the year.

A folded floe and six miles of rubber ice were not sufficiently out of
the way to constitute an impressive incident. Doctor Luke had fared
better and worse in his time. So had Billy Topsail. All this was not a
climax. It was something to be forgotten in a confusion of experiences
of the same description. It would not remain very long in the memory of
either. In what lay ahead, however--the passage of Tickle-my-Ribs--there
was doubtless an adventure.

"She'll be heavin' in this wind," Billy Topsail said.

"We'll get across," Doctor Luke replied, confidently. "Come along!"

Tickle-my-Ribs was heaving. The sea had by this time eaten its way clear
through the passage from the open to the first reaches of Anxious Bight
and far and wide beyond. The channel was half a mile long--in width a
quarter of a mile at the narrowest. Doctor Luke's path was determined.
It must lead from the point of the island to the base of Blow-me-Down
Dick and the adjoining fixed and solid ice of the narrows to Ragged Run
Harbour. And ice choked the channel loosely from shore to shore.

It was a thin sheet of fragments--running through from the open. There
was only an occasional considerable pan. A high sea ran outside. Waves
from the open slipped under this field of little pieces and lifted it in
running swells. In motion Tickle-my-Ribs resembled a vigorously shaken
carpet. No single block of ice was at rest. The crossing would have been
hazardous in the most favourable circumstances. And now aloft the moon
and the ominous bank of black cloud had come close together.

Precisely as a country doctor might petulantly regard a stretch of
hub-deep cross-road, Doctor Luke, the outport physician, when he came to
the channel between the Little Spotted Horse and Blow-me-Down Dick of
the Ragged Run coast, regarded the passage of Tickle-my-Ribs. Not many
of the little pans would bear the weight of either himself or Billy
Topsail. They would sustain it momentarily. Then they would tip or sink.
There would be foothold only through the instant required to choose
another foothold and leap towards it.

Always, moreover, the leap would have to be taken from sinking ground.
When they came, by good chance, to a pan that would bear them up for a
moment, they would have instantly to discover another heavy block to
which to shape their agitated course. There would be no rest--no
certainty beyond the impending moment. But leaping thus--alert and agile
and daring--a man might----

Might? Mm-m--a man _might_! And he might _not_! There were
contingencies. A man might leap short and find black water where he had
depended upon a footing of ice--a man might land on the edge of a pan
and fall slowly back for sheer lack of power to obtain a balance--a man
might misjudge the strength of a pan to bear him up--a man might find no
ice near enough for the next immediately imperative leap--a man might
confront the appalling exigency of a lane of open water.

As a matter of fact, a man might be unable either to go forward or
retreat. A man might be submerged and find the shifting floe closed over
his head. A man might easily lose his life in the driving, swelling rush
of the shattered floe through Tickle-my-Ribs. And there was the light to
consider. A man might be caught in the dark. He would be in hopeless
case if caught in the dark. And the light might----

Light was imperative. Doctor Luke glanced aloft.

"Whew!" he whistled. "What do you think, Billy?"

Billy was flat.

"I'd not try it!" said he.

"No?"

"No, sir!"

The moon and the ominous bank of black cloud were very close. There was
snow in the air. A thickening flurry ran past.

       *       *       *       *       *

Uncle Joe West was not on the lookout when Doctor Luke opened the
kitchen door at Ragged Run Cove, and strode in, with Billy Topsail at
his heels, and with the air of a man who had survived difficulties and
was proud of it. Uncle Joe West was sitting by the fire, his face in
his hands; and the mother of Dolly West--with Dolly still restlessly
asleep in her arms--was rocking, rocking, as before. And Doctor Luke set
to work without delay or explanation--in a way so gentle, with a voice
so persuasive, with a hand so tender and sure, with a skill and wisdom
so keen, that little Dolly West, who was brave enough, in any case, as
you know, yielded the additional patience and courage that the simple
means at hand for her relief required. Doctor Luke laved Dolly West's
blue eyes until she could see again, and sewed up her wounds, that
night, so that no scar remained, and in the broad light of the next day
picked out grains of powder until not a single grain was left to
disfigure the child.



CHAPTER XX

    _In Which Skinflint Sam of Ragged Run Finds Himself in a Desperate
    Predicament and Bad-Weather Tom West at Last Has What Skinflint Sam
    Wants_


Well, now, when all this had been accomplished, and when Dolly had gone
to bed with her mother, it occurred to Doctor Luke that he had not
clapped eyes on Dolly's father, Bad-Weather Tom West.

"Where's Tom?" said he.

Joe started.

"Wh-wh-where's Tom?" he stammered.

"Ay."

"Have you not heard about Tom?"

Doctor Luke was puzzled.

"No," said he; "not a word."

Joe commanded himself for the tale he had to tell.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Skipper Tom West," Joe began, "made a wonderful adventure of life in
the end. I doubt if ever a man done such a queer thing afore. 'Twas
queer enough, sir, I'll be bound, an' you'll say so when I tells you;
but 'twas a brave, kind thing, too, though it come perilous close t' the
line o' foul play--but that's how you looks at it. Bad-Weather Tom," he
went on, "come back from seein' you, sir, in a silent mood. An' no
wonder! You told un, sir--well, you told un what you told un, about what
he was to expect in this life; an' the news lay hard on his mood. He
told nobody here what that news was; nor could the gossips gain a word
from his wife.

"'What's the matter with Bad-Weather Tom?' says they.

"'Ask Tom,' says she.

"An' they asked Tom.

"'Tom,' says they, 'what's gone along o' you, anyhow?'

"'Well,' says Tom, 'I found out something I never knowed afore. That's
all that's the matter with me.'

"'Did Doctor Luke tell you?'

"'When I talks with Doctor Luke,' says Tom, 'I _always_ finds out
something I never knowed afore.'

"Whatever you told un, sir--an' I knows what you told un--it made a
changed man o' Bad-Weather Tom. He mooned a deal, an' he would talk no
more o' the future, but dwelt upon the shortness of a man's days an' the
quantity of his sin, an' laboured like mad, an' read the Scriptures by
candle-light, an' sot more store by going to church and prayer-meetin'
than ever afore. Labour? Ecod, how that poor man laboured--after you
told un. While there was light! An' until he fair dropped in his tracks
o' sheer weariness!

"'Twas back in the forest--haulin' fire-wood with the dogs an' storin'
it away back o' this little cottage under Lend-a-Hand Hill.

"'Dear man!' says Skinflint Sam; 'you've fire-wood for half a dozen
winters.'

"'They'll need it,' says Tom.

"'Ay,' says Sam; 'but will you lie idle next winter?'

"'Nex' winter?' says Tom. An' he laughed. 'Oh, nex' winter,' says he,
'I'll have another occupation.'

"'Movin' away, Tom?'

"'Well,' says Tom, 'I is an' I isn't.'

"There come a day not long ago when seals was thick on the floe off
Ragged Run. You mind the time, sir?" Billy Topsail "minded" the time
well enough. And so did Doctor Luke. It was the time when Billy Topsail
and Teddy Brisk were carried to sea with the dogs on the ice. "Well, you
could see the seals with the naked eye from Lack-a-Day Head. A hundred
thousand black specks swarmin' over the ice three miles an' more to sea.
Ragged Run went mad for slaughter--jus' as it did yesterday, sir. 'Twas
a fair time for offshore sealin', too: a blue, still day, with the look
an' feel o' settled weather.

"The ice had come in from the current with a northeasterly gale, a
wonderful mixture o' Arctic bergs and Labrador pans, all blindin' white
in the spring sun; an' 'twas a field so vast, an' jammed so tight
against the coast, that there wasn't much more than a lane or two an' a
Dutchman's breeches of open water within sight from the heads. Nobody
looked for a gale o' offshore wind t' blow that ice t' sea afore dawn o'
the next day.

"'A fine, soft time, lads!' says Skinflint Sam. 'I 'low I'll go out with
the Ragged Run crew.'

"'Skipper Sam,' says Bad-Weather Tom, 'you're too old a man t' be on the
ice.'

"'Ay,' says Sam; 'but I wants t' bludgeon another swile afore I dies.'

"'But you _creaks_, man!'

"'Ah, well,' says Sam; 'I'll show the lads I'm able t' haul a swile
ashore.'

"'Small hope for such as you on a movin' floe!'

"'Last time, Tom,' says Sam.

"'Last time, true enough,' says Tom, 'if that ice starts t' sea with a
breeze o' wind behind!'

"'Oh, well, Tom,' says Sam, 'I'll creak along out an' take my chances.
If the wind comes up I'll be as spry as I'm able.'

"It come on to blow in the afternoon. But 'twas short warnin' o'
offshore weather. A puff o' gray wind come down: a saucier gust went by;
an' then a swirl o' galeish wind jumped off the heads an' come scurrying
over the pans. At the first sign o' wind, Skinflint Sam took for home,
lopin' over the ice as fast as his lungs an' old legs would take un when
pushed, an' nobody worried about _he_ any more. He was in such mad haste
that the lads laughed behind un as he passed.

"Most o' the Ragged Run crew followed, draggin' their swiles; an' them
that started early come safe t' harbour with the fat. But there's
nothin' will master a man's caution like the lust o' slaughter. Give a
Newfoundlander a club, an' show un a swile-pack, an' he'll venture far
from safety. 'Twas not until a flurry o' snow come along of a sudden
that the last o' the crew dropped what they was at an' begun t' jump for
shore like a pack o' jack-rabbits.

"With snow in the wind 'twas every man for himself. An' that means no
mercy an' less help.

"By this time the ice had begun t' feel the wind. 'Twas restless. An' a
bad promise. The pans crunched an' creaked as they settled more at ease.
The ice was goin' abroad. As the farther fields drifted off t' sea, the
floe fell loose inshore. Lanes an' pools opened up. The cake-ice tipped
an' went awash under the weight of a man. Rough goin', ecod! There was
no tellin' when open water would cut a man off where he stood.

"An' the wind was whippin' offshore, an' the snow was like dust in a
man's eyes an' mouth, an' the landmarks o' Ragged Run was nothin' but
shadows in a mist o' snow t' windward.

"Nobody knowed where Skinflint Sam was. Nobody thought about Sam. An'
wherever poor old Skinflint was--whether safe ashore or creakin'
shoreward against the wind on his last legs--he must do for himself.
'Twas no time t' succour rich or poor. Every man for himself an' the
devil take the hindmost!

"Bound out, in the mornin', Bad-Weather Tom had fetched his rodney
through the lanes. By luck an' good conduct he had managed t' get the
wee boat a fairish way out. He had beached her there on the floe--a big
pan, close by a hummock which he marked with care. And 'twas for Tom
West's little rodney that the seven last men o' Ragged Run was jumpin'.
With her afloat--an' the pack loosenin' inshore under the wind--they
could make harbour well enough afore the gale worked up the water in the
lee o' the Ragged Run hills.

"But she was a mean, small boat. There was room for six, with
safety--but room for no more. There was no room for seven. 'Twas a nasty
mess, t' be sure. You couldn't expect nothin' else. But there wasn't no
panic. Ragged Run men is accustomed t' tight places. An' they took this
one easy. Them that got there first launched the boat an' stepped in. No
fight: no fuss.

"It just happened t' be Eleazer Butt that was left. 'Twas Eleazer's
ill-luck. An' Eleazer was up in years an' had fell behind comin' over
the ice.

"'No room for me?' says he.

"'Twas sure death t' be left on the ice. The wind begun t' taste o'
frost. An' 'twas jumpin' up. 'Twould carry the floe far an' scatter it
broadcast.

"'See for yourself, lad,' says Tom.

"'Pshaw!' says Eleazer. 'That's too bad!'

"'You isn't no sorrier than me, b'y.'

"Eleazer tweaked his beard. 'Dang it!' says he. 'I wisht there _was_
room. I'm hungry for my supper.'

"'Let un in,' says one of the lads. ''Tis even chances she'll float it
out.'

"'Well,' says Eleazer, 'I doesn't want t' make no trouble----'

"'Come aboard,' says Tom. 'An' make haste.'

"'If she makes bad weather,' says Eleazer, 'I'll get out.'

"We pushed off from the pan. 'Twas failin' dusk by this time. The wind
blowed black. The frost begun t' bite. Snow come thick--just as if,
ecod, somebody up aloft was shakin' the clouds, like bags, in the gale!
An' the rodney was deep an' ticklish.

"Had the ice not kep' the water flat in the lanes an' pools, either
Eleazer would have had to get out, as he promised, or she would have
swamped like a cup. As it was, handled like dynamite, she done well
enough; an' she might have made harbour within the hour had she not been
hailed by Skinflint Sam from a small pan o' ice midway between."

Doctor Luke and Billy Topsail were intent on the tale.

"Go on," said Doctor Luke.

"A queer finish, sir."

"What happened?"



CHAPTER XXI

    _In Which a Croesus of Ragged Run Drives a Hard Bargain in a Gale
    of Wind_


"An' there the ol' codger was squattin'," Skipper Joe's tale went on,
"his ol' face pinched an' woebegone, his bag o' bones wrapped up in his
coonskin coat, his pan near flush with the sea, with little black waves
already beginnin' t' wash over it.

"A sad sight, believe me! Poor old Skinflint Sam bound out t' sea
without hope on a wee pan o' ice!

"'Got any room for me?' says he.

"We ranged alongside.

"'She's too deep as it is,' says Tom. 'I'm wonderful sorry, Skipper
Sam.'

"An' he was.

"'Ay,' says Sam; 'you isn't got room for no more. She'd sink if I put
foot in her.'

"'Us'll come back,' says Tom.

"'No use, Tom,' says Sam. 'You knows that well enough. 'Tis no place out
here for a Ragged Run punt. Afore you could get t' shore an' back night
will be down an' this here gale will be a blizzard. You'd never be able
t' find me.'

"'I 'low not,' says Tom.

"'Oh, no,' says Sam. 'No use, b'y.'

"'Skipper Sam,' says Tom, 'I'm sorry!'

"'Ay,' says Sam; ''tis a sad death for an ol' man--squattin' out here
all alone on the ice an' shiverin' with the cold until he shakes his
poor damned soul out.'

"'Not damned!' cries Tom. 'Oh, don't say it!'

"'Ah, well!' says Sam; 'sittin' here all alone I been thinkin'.'

"''Tisn't by any man's wish that you're here, poor man!' says Tom.

"'Oh, no,' says Sam. 'No blame t' nobody. My time's come. That's all.
But I wisht I had a seat in your rodney, Tom.'

"An' then Tom chuckled.

"'What you laughin' at?' says Sam.

"'I got a comical idea,' says Tom.

"'Laughin' at me, Tom?'

"'Oh, I'm jus' laughin'.'

'"'Tis neither time nor place, Tom,' says Sam, 't' laugh at an old
man.'

"Tom roared. Ay, he slapped his knee, an' he throwed back his head, an'
he roared! 'Twas enough almost t' swamp the boat.

"'For shame!' says Sam.

"An' more than Skinflint Sam thought so.

"'Skipper Sam,' says Tom, 'you're rich, isn't you?'

"'I got money,' says Sam.

"'Sittin' out here all alone,' says Tom, 'you been thinkin' a deal, you
says?'

"'Well,' says Sam, 'I'll not deny that I been havin' a little spurt o'
sober thought.'

"'You been thinkin' that money wasn't much, after all?'

"'Ay.'

"'An' that all your money in a lump wouldn't buy you passage ashore?'

"'Oh, some few small thoughts on that order,' says Sam. ''Tis perfectly
natural.'

"'Money talks,' says Tom.

"'Tauntin' me again, Tom?'

"'No, I isn't,' says Tom. 'I means it. Money talks. What'll you give for
my seat in the boat?'

"''Tis not for sale, Tom.'

"The lads begun t' grumble. It seemed just as if Bad-Weather Tom West
was makin' game of an ol' man in trouble. 'Twas either that or lunacy.
An' there was no time for nonsense off the Ragged Run coast in a spring
gale of wind. But I knowed what Tom West was about. You sees, sir, I
knowed what you told him. An' as for me, fond as I was o' poor Tom West,
I had no mind t' interrupt his bargain.

"'Hist!' Tom whispered t' the men in the rodney. 'I knows what I'm
doin'.'

"'A mad thing, Tom!'

"'Oh, no!' says Tom. ''Tis the cleverest thing ever I thought of. Well,'
says he to Sam, 'how much?'

"'No man sells his life.'

"'Life or no life, my place in this boat is for sale,' says Tom. 'Money
talks. Come, now. Speak up. Us can't linger here with night comin'
down.'

"'What's the price, Tom?'

"'How much you got, Sam?'

"'Ah, well, I can afford a stiffish price, Tom. Anything you say in
reason will suit me. You name the price, Tom. I'll pay.'

"'Ay, ye crab!' says Tom. 'I'm namin' prices, now. Look you, Sam! You're
seventy-three. I'm fifty-three. Will you grant that I'd live t' be as
old as you?'

"'I'll grant it, Tom.'

"'I'm not sayin' I would,' says Tom. 'You mark that.'

"'Ah, well, I'll grant it, anyhow.'

"'I been an industrious man all my life, Skipper Sam. None knows it
better than you. Will you grant that I'd earn a hundred and fifty
dollars a year if I lived?'

"'Ay, Tom.'

"Down come a gust o' wind.

"'Have done!' says one of the lads. 'Here's the gale come down with the
dark. Us'll all be cast away.'

"'Rodney's mine, isn't she?' says Tom.

"Well, she was. Nobody could say nothin' t' that. An' nobody did.

"'That's three thousand dollars, Sam,' says Tom.
'Three--thousand--dollars!'

"'Ay,' says Sam, 'she calculates that way. But you've forgot t' deduct
your livin' from the total. Not that I minds,' says he. ''Tis just a
business detail.'

"'I'll not be harsh!' says Tom.

"'Another thing, Tom,' says Sam. 'You're askin' me t' pay for twenty
years o' life when I can use but a few. God knows how many!'

"'I got you where I wants you,' says Tom, 'but I isn't got the heart t'
grind you. Will you pay two thousand dollars for my seat in the boat?'

"'If you is fool enough t' take it, Tom.'

"'There's something t' boot,' says Tom. 'I wants t' die out o' debt.'

"'You does, Tom.'

"'An' my father's bill is squared?'

"'Ay.'

"''Tis a bargain!' says Tom. 'God witness!'

"'Lads,' says Skinflint Sam t' the others in the rodney, 'I calls you t'
witness that I didn't ask Tom West for his seat in the boat. I isn't no
coward. I've asked no man t' give up his life for me. This here bargain
is a straight business deal. Business is business. 'Tis not my
proposition. An' I calls you t' witness that I'm willin' t' pay what he
asks. He've something for sale. I wants it. I've the money t' buy it.
The price is his. I'll pay it.'

"Then he turned to Tom.

"'You wants this money paid t' your wife, Tom?' says he.

"'Ay,' says Tom, 't' my wife. She'll know why.'

"'Very good,' says Skinflint. 'You've my word that I'll do it.' An'
then: 'Wind's jumpin' up, Tom.'

"'I wants your oath. The wind will bide for that. Hold up your right
hand.'

"Skinflint shivered in a blast o' the gale.

"'I swears,' says he.

"'Lads,' says Tom, 'you'll shame this man to his grave if he fails t'
pay!'

"'Gettin' dark, Tom,' says Sam.

"'Ay,' says Tom; ''tis growin' wonderful cold an' dark out here. I knows
it well. Put me ashore on the ice, lads,' says he.

"We landed Tom, then, on a near-by pan. He would have it so.

"'Leave me have my way!' says he. 'I've done a good stroke o' business.'

"Presently we took ol' Skinflint aboard in Tom's stead; an' jus' for a
minute we hung off Tom's pan t' say good-bye.

"'I sends my love t' the wife an' the children,' says he. 'You'll not
fail t' remember. She'll know why I done this thing. Tell her 'twas a
grand chance an' I took it.'

"'Ay, Tom.'

"'Fetch in here close,' says Tom. 'I wants t' talk t' the ol' skinflint
you got aboard there. I'll have my say, ecod, at last! Ye crab!' says
he, shakin' his fist in Skinflint's face when the rodney got alongside.
'Ye robber! Ye pinch-a-penny! Ye liar! Ye thief! I _done_ ye! Hear me? I
done ye! I vowed I'd even scores with ye afore I died. An' I've done
it--I've done it! What did ye buy? Twenty years o' my life! What will ye
pay for? Twenty years o' my life!'

"An' Tom laughed. An' then he cut a caper, an' come close t' the edge o'
the pan, an' shook his fist in Skinflint's face again.

"'Know what I found out from Doctor Luke?' says he. 'I seen Doctor Luke,
ye crab! Know what he told me? No, ye don't! Twenty years o' my life
this here ol' skinflint will pay for!' he crowed. 'Two thousand dollars
he'll put in the hands o' my poor wife!'

"Well, well! The rodney was movin' away. An' a swirl o' snow shrouded
poor Tom West. But we heard un laugh once more.

"'My heart has give 'way!' he yelled. '_I didn't have three months t'
live! An' Doctor Luke tol' me so!_'

       *       *       *       *       *

"Well, now, sir," Skipper Joe concluded, "Skinflint done what he said he
would do. He laid the money in the hands o' Tom West's wife last week.
But a queer thing happened next day. Up went the price o' pork at
Skinflint's shop! And up went the price o' tea an' molasses! An' up went
the price o' flour!"



CHAPTER XXII

    _In Which Doctor Luke and Billy Topsail Go North, and at Candlestick
    Cove, Returning, Doctor Luke Finds Himself Just a Bit Peckish_


A rumour came to Our Harbour, by the tongue of a fur-trader, who stopped
over night at Doctor Luke's hospital, on his way to the South, that
there was sickness in the North--some need or other; the fur-trader was
not sure what. Winter still lingered. The mild spell, which had
interrupted the journey of Billy Topsail and Teddy Brisk across Schooner
Bay, had been a mere taste of spring. Hard weather had followed.
Schooner Bay was once more jammed with ice, which had drifted
back--jammed and frozen solid; and the way from Our Harbour to Tight
Cove was secure. Teddy Brisk was ready to be moved; and this being so,
and the lad being homesick for his mother, and the rumour of need in the
North coming down--all this being so, Doctor Luke determined all at once
to revisit the northern outports for the last time that winter.

"Are you ready for home, Teddy?" said he.

"I is that, sir!"

"Well," Doctor Luke concluded, "there is no reason why you should not be
home. I'll harness the dogs to-morrow and take you across Schooner Bay
on the komatik."

"Billy Topsail comin', sir?"

"What say, Billy?"

"May I go, sir?"

"You may."

"All the way, sir?"

"All the way!" cried Doctor Luke. "Why, boy, I'm going north to----"

"Please, sir!"

"Well, well! If you've the mind. Come along, boy. I'll be glad to have
you."

Teddy Brisk was taken across Schooner Bay and restored to his mother's
arms. And Doctor Luke and Billy Topsail drove the dogs north on Doctor
Luke's successful round of visits.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was on the return journey that Doctor Luke and Billy Topsail fell in
with the Little Fiddler of Amen Island. At Candlestick Cove they were to
feed the dogs and put up for the night. It was still treacherous March
weather; and the night threatened foul--a flurry of snow falling and
the sky overcast with a thickening drab scud. Day was done when Doctor
Luke and Billy Topsail crawled out of the timber and scurried down Twist
Hill. In the early dusk the lights were already twinkling yellow and
warm in the cottages below; and from the crest of the long hill, in the
last of the light, Amen Island was visible, an outlying shadow, across
Ships' Run.

There were still sixty miles left of Doctor Luke's round--this second
winter round from Our Harbour to the lonely huts of Laughter Bight,
thirty miles north of Cape Blind, touching all the harbours between, and
by way of Thunder Tickle and Candlestick Cove, which lay midway, back to
the shaded lamp and radiant open fire of the little surgery at Our
Harbour.

As the dogs scurried down Twist Hill, whimpering and snarling, eager to
make an end of a hard day, Doctor Luke visioned those wintry miles and
reflected upon the propriety of omitting a call at Amen Island.

Doctor Luke and Billy Topsail drew up at Mild Jim Cull's.

"Skipper James," said Doctor Luke, in the kitchen, across the lamp-lit,
devastated supper table, an hour later, "what's the health of Amen
Island?"

"They're all well, sir--so far as I knows."

"All well? Just my luck! Then I won't----"

"Amanda," Skipper James admonished his wife, in a grieved whisper, "the
Doctor is wantin' another cup o' tea."

The good woman was astonished.

"He've had----" she began.

Then she blushed--and grasped the pot in a fluster--and----

"Thank you--no more," the Doctor protested.

"Ah, now, sir----"

"No more. Really, you know! I've quite finished. I--well--I--if you
please, Mrs. Cull. Half a cup. No more. Thank you."

"An' Billy Topsail, too," said Skipper James.

Billy was abashed.

"No--really!" he began. "I--well--thank you--half a cup!"

"All fit an' well, sir, as I says," Skipper James repeated, relieved,
now resuming his conversation with Doctor Luke--"so far as I knows."

"Anybody come across Ships' Run lately?"

"Well, no, sir--nobody but ol' Jack Hulk. Another slice o' pork,
Doctor?"

The youngest little Cull tittered, astounded:

"He've had----"

Amanda covered the youngest little Cull's lips just in time with a soft
hand.

"Thank you--no," the Doctor protested again. "I'm quite finished.
Nothing more--really! Well," he yielded--"if you will----"

"You, too, Billy Topsail?" said Skipper James.

"Nothing more, really!" Billy replied, with a grin. And then: "Well--if
you will----"

"No; nobody but ol' Jack Hulk," said Skipper James to Doctor Luke.

"Jack Hulk, you say? Hm-m. When was that?"

"I don't rightly remember, sir. 'Twas less than a fortnight ago. I'll
lay t' that much."

"And all well over there?"

"No report o' sickness, sir. Have another cut o' bread, sir, while
you're about it."

The Doctor lifted his hand.

"No--really," said he, positively. "No more. Well--I--if you please.
Thank you. I seem to be just a bit peckish to-night."

"A cut o' bread, Billy?" said Skipper James.

Billy lifted his hand.

"Not a bite!" he protested. And he winked. "Ah, well," he yielded,
"might as well, I 'low. Really, now, I _is_ jus' a bit peckish the
night."

"No; no report o' sickness on Amen," Skipper James repeated, resuming
his conversation, as before.

"Quite sure about that?"

"Well, sir," Skipper James replied, his gray eyes twinkling, "I asked
ol' Jack Hulk, an' he said, 'All well on Amen Island. The Lord's been
wonderful easy on us this winter. I'd almost go so far as t' say,' says
he, 'that He've been lax. We've had no visitation o' the Lord,' says he,
'since the fall o' the year. We don't deserve this mercy. I'm free t'
say that. We isn't been livin' as we should. There's been more frivolity
on Amen Island this winter than ever afore in my time. It haven't been
noticed so far,' says he. 'That's plain enough. An' so as yet,' says he,
'we're all well on Amen Island.'"

The Doctor grinned.

"What's the ice on Ships' Run?" said he.

"'Tis tumbled, sir. The bread's at your elbow, sir."

"Thank you. Dogs?"

"No, sir. Ships' Run's jammed with floe ice. A man would have t' foot it
across. You bound over, sir?"

Doctor Luke deliberated.

"I think not," said he, then. "No." This was positive. "If they're all
as well as that on Amen Island I'll get away for Our Harbour at noon
to-morrow. No; no more--really. I--well--I'm almost wolfish, I declare.
Thank you--if you please--just a sma-a-all----"

Billy Topsail burst out laughing.

"What's this mirth?" cried the Doctor.

"Well, sir," Billy chuckled, "you _is_ jus' a _bit_ peckish the night,
sir!"

There was a burst of laughter. At that moment, however, in a cottage on
Amen Island, across Ships' Run, nobody was laughing--least of all the
Little Fiddler of Amen Island.



CHAPTER XXIII

    _In Which, While Doctor Luke and Billy Topsail Rest Unsuspecting at
    Candlestick Cove, Tom Lute, the Father of the Little Fiddler of Amen
    Island, Sharpens an Axe in the Wood-Shed, and the Reader is Left to
    Draw His Own Conclusions Respecting the Sinister Business_


It was the boast of the Little Fiddler of Amen Island that he had lamed
many a man and maid. "An' ecod!" said he, his blue eyes alight, his
clean little teeth showing in a mischievous grin, his round cheeks
flushed with delight in the gift of power; "there's no leg between the
Norman Light an' Cape Mugford so sodden it can balk me when I've the
wind in my favour!"--meaning to imply, with more truth than modesty,
that the alluring invitation of his music was altogether irresistible
when he was in the mood to provoke a response.

"Had I the will," said he, "I could draw tears from the figurehead o'
the _Roustabout_. An' one o' these days, when I've the mind t' show my
power," said he, darkly, "maybe I'll do it, too!"

He was young--he was twelve. Terry Lute was his name. To be known as
the Little Fiddler of Amen Island as far north as the world of that
coast sailed was the measure of the celebrity he coveted. And that was a
good deal: it is a long way for fame to carry--north to the uttermost
fishing-berths of the Labrador. Unquestionably the Little Fiddler of
Amen Island was of the proportions of a Master.

It was aboard a trading schooner--a fly-by-night visitor at Amen Island
(not Skinflint Sam's trader from Ragged Run)--that the Little Fiddler of
Amen Island had first clapped eyes on a fiddle and heard the strains of
it. That was long ago--oh, long, long ago! Terry Lute was a mere child,
then, as he recalled, in a wistful amusement with those old days, and
was accustomed to narrate--seven or thereabouts. An' 'twas the month o'
June--sweet weather, ecod! (said he) an' after dark an' the full o' the
moon. And Terry had harkened to the strain--some plaintive imaginings of
the melancholy clerk in the cabin, perhaps; and he had not been able to
bear more--not another wail or sob of it (said he)--but had run full
tilt to his mother's knee to tell her first of all the full wonder of
the adventure.

'Twas called a fiddle (said he)--'twas played with what they called a
bow; an' oh, woman (said he), what music could be made by means of it!
And Terry could play it--he had seen the clerk sawin' away--sawin' an'
sawin' away; an' he had learned how 'twas done jus' by lookin'--in a
mere peep. 'Twas nothin' at all t' do (said he)--not a whit o' bother
for a clever lad. Jus' give un a fiddle an' a bow--he'd show un how
'twas done!

"I got t' have one, mama!" he declared. "Oo-sh! I jus' got t'!"

His mother laughed at this fine fervour.

"Mark me!" he stormed. "I'll have one o' they fiddles afore very long.
An' I'll have folk fair shakin' their legs off t' the music I makes!"

       *       *       *       *       *

When old Bob Likely, the mail-man, travelling afoot, southbound from
Elegant Tickle to Our Harbour and the lesser harbours of Mad Harry and
Thank-the-Lord, a matter of eighty miles--when old Bob Likely, on the
night of Doctor Luke's arrival at Candlestick Cove, rounded Come-Along
Point of Amen Island and searched the shadows ahead for his
entertainment, his lodgings for the night were determined and
disclosed.

It was late--a flurry of snow falling and the moon overcast with a
thickening drab scud; and old Bob Likely's disheartened expectation on
the tumbled ice of Ships' Run, between Point o' Bay of the Harbourless
Shore and Amen Island, had consequently discovered the cottages of his
destination dark--the windows black, the fires dead, the kitchens frosty
and the folk of Amen Island long ago turned in.

Of the thirty cottages of Amen, however, snuggled under thick blankets
of snow, all asleep in the gray night, one was wide awake--lighted up as
though for some festivity; and for the hospitality of its lamps and
smoking chimney old Bob Likely shaped his astonished course.

"'Tis a dance!" he reflected, heartening his step. "I'll shake a foot if
I lame myself!"

Approaching Tom Lute's cottage from the harbour ice, old Bob Likely
cocked his ear for the thump and shuffle of feet and the lively music of
the Little Fiddler of Amen Island. It was the Little Fiddler's way to
boast: "They'll sweat the night! Mark me! I'm feelin' fine. They'll shed
their jackets! I'll have their boots off!"

And old Bob Likely expected surely to discover the Little Fiddler,
perched on the back of a chair, the chair aloft on the kitchen table,
mischievously delighting in the abandoned antics of the dancers, the
while a castaway sealing crew, jackets shed and boots kicked off,
executed a reel with the maids of Amen Island.

But there was no music--no thump or shuffle of feet or lively strain;
the house was still--except for a whizz and metallic squeaking in the
kitchen shed to which old Bob Likely made his way to lay off the sacred
bag of His Majesty's Mail and his own raquets and brush himself clean of
snow.

       *       *       *       *       *

Tom Lute was whirling a grindstone by candle-light in the shed. When Bob
Likely lifted the latch and pushed in he was interrupted and startled.

"Who's that?" he demanded.

"'Tis His Majesty's Mail, Tom."

"That you, Bob?" Tom's drawn face lightened with heartiness. "Well,
well! Come in. You're welcome. We've need of a lusty man in this house
the night. If the thing haves t' be done, Bob, you'll come handy for
holdin'. You come across from Candlestick?"

Bob threw off his pack.

"No," said he, "I come over from Point o' Bay."

"Up from Laughter Bight, Bob?"

"All the way."

"Any word o' Doctor Luke down north?"

"Ay; he's down north somewheres."

"Whereabouts, Bob?"

"I heard of un at Trap Harbour."

"Trap Harbour! Was he workin' north, Bob?"

"There was sickness at Huddle Cove."

"At Huddle Cove? My, my! 'Tis below Cape Blind. He'll not be this way in
a fortnight. Oh, dear me!"

By this time His Majesty's Mail was stamping his feet and brooming the
snow from his seal-hide boots. In answer to his violence the kitchen
door fell ajar. And Bob Likely cocked his ear. Queer sounds--singular
scraps of declaration and pleading--issued to the wood-shed.

There was the tap-tap of a wooden leg. Bob Likely identified the
presence and agitated pacing of the maternal grandfather of the Little
Fiddler of Amen Island. And there was a whimper and a sob. It was the
Little Fiddler.

A woman crooned:

"Hush, dear--ah, hush, now!"

A high-pitched, querulous voice:

"That's what we done when I sailed along o' Small Sam Small aboard the
_Royal Bloodhound_." And repeated, the wooden leg tap-tapping meanwhile:
"That's what we done aboard the _Royal Bloodhound_. Now, mark me! That's
what we done t' Cap'n Small Sam Small."

A young roar, then:

"I'll never have it done t' me!"

And the woman again:

"Ah, hush, dear! Never mind! Ah--hush, now!"

To which there responded a defiant bawl:

"I tells you I won't have it done t' me!"

By all this, to be sure, old Bob Likely, with his ear cocked and his
mouth fallen open in amazement, was deeply mystified.

"Look you, Tom!" said he, suspiciously; "what you doin' out here in the
frost?"

"Who? Me?" Tom was evasive and downcast.

"Ay."

"Nothin' much."

"'Tis a cold place for that, Tom. An' 'tis a poor lie you're tellin'.
'Tis easy t' see, Tom, that you're busy."

"Ah, well, I got a little job on hand."

"What is your job?"

"This here little job I'm doin' now?"

"Ay."

"Nothin' much."

"What _is_ it?"

Tom was reluctant. "I'm puttin' an edge on my axe," he replied.

"What for, Tom?"

Tom hesitated. "Well----" he drawled. And then, abruptly: "Nothin'
much." He was both grieved and agitated.

"But what _for_?"

"I wants it good an' sharp."

"What you want it good an' sharp for?"

"An axe serves best," Tom evaded, "when 'tis sharp."

"Look you, Tom!" said Bob; "you're behavin' in a very queer way, an' I
gives you warnin' o' the fac'. What happens? Here I comes quite
unexpected on you by candle-light in the shed. Who is I? I'm His
Majesty's Mail. Mark that, Tom! An' what does I find you doin'? Puttin'
an edge on an axe. I asks you why you're puttin' an edge on your axe.
An' you won't tell. If I didn't know you for a mild man, Tom, I'd fancy
you was tired o' your wife."

"Tired o' my wife!" Tom exploded, indignantly. "I isn't goin' t' kill my
wife!"

"Who _is_ you goin' t' kill?"

"I isn't goin' t' kill nobody."

"Well, _what_ you goin' t' kill?"

"I isn't goin' t' kill nothin'."

"Well, then," Bob burst out, "what in thunder is you puttin' an edge on
your axe for out here in the frost by candle-light at this time o'
night?"

"Who? Me?"

"Ay--you!"

"I got some doctorin' t' do."

Bob lifted his brows. "Hum!" he coughed. "You usually do your doctorin'
with an axe?" he inquired.

"No," said Tom, uneasily; "not with an axe."

"What you usually use, Tom?"

"What I usually uses, Bob," Tom replied, "is a decoction an' a spoon."

"Somebody recommend an axe for this complaint?"

"'Tisn't that, Bob. 'Tis this way. When I haves a job t' do, Bob, I
always uses what serves best an' lies handy. That's jus' plain common
sense an' cleverness. Well, then, jus' now an axe suits me to a tee. An'
so I'm puttin' a good edge on the only axe I got."

"An axe," Bob observed, "will do quick work."

"That's jus' what I thought!" cried Tom, delighted. "Quick an'
painless."

"There's jus' one trouble about an axe," Bob went on, dryly, "when used
in the practice o' medicine. I never heard it stated--but I fancy 'tis
true. What's done with an axe," he concluded, "is hard t' repair."



CHAPTER XXIV

    _In Which Bob Likely, the Mail-Man, Interrupts Doctor Luke's
    Departure, in the Nick of Time, with an Astonishing Bit of News, and
    the Ice of Ships' Run Begins to Move to Sea in a Way to Alarm the
    Stout Hearted_


Doctor Luke, having finished his professional round of the Candlestick
cottages in good time, harnessed his dogs, with the help of Billy
Topsail, soon after noon next day. Evidently the folk of Amen Island
were well. They had been frivolous, no doubt--but had not been caught at
it. Amen Island was to be omitted. Doctor Luke was ready for the trail
to Poor Luck Harbour on the way south. And he shouted a last good-bye to
the folk of Candlestick Cove, who had gathered to wish him Godspeed, and
laughed in delighted satisfaction with their affection, and waved his
hand, and called to his dogs and cracked his whip; and he would have
been gone south from Candlestick Cove on the way to Poor Luck and Our
Harbour in another instant had he not caught sight of Bob Likely coming
up the harbour ice from the direction of the Arctic floe that was then
beginning to drive through Ships' Run under the impulse of a stiffening
breeze from the north.

It was old Bob Likely with the mail-bag on his back--there was no doubt
about that; the old man's stride and crooked carriage were everywhere
familiar--and as he was doubtless from Amen Island, and as he carried
the gossip of the coast on the tip of his tongue, of which news of
illness and death was not the lest interesting variety, Doctor Luke,
alert for intelligence that might serve the ends of his work--Doctor
Luke halted his team and waited for old Bob Likely to draw near.

"From Amen, Bob?"

"I is, sir. I'm jus' come across the floe."

"Are they all well?"

"Well, no, sir; they isn't. The Little Fiddler is in mortal trouble. I
fears, sir, he's bound Aloft."

"Hut!" the Doctor scoffed. "What's the matter with the Little Fiddler?"

"He've a sore finger, sir."

The Doctor pondered this. He frowned--perplexed. "What sort of a sore
finger?" he inquired, troubled.

"They thinks 'tis mortification, sir."

"Gangrene! What do you think, Bob?"

"It looks like it, sir. I seed a case, sir, when I were off sealin' on
the----"

"Was the finger bruised?"

"No, sir; 'twasn't bruised."

"Was it frost-bitten?"

"No, sir; 'twasn't the frost that done it. I made sure o' that. It come
from a small cut, sir."

"A simple infection, probably. Did you see a line of demarcation?"

"Sir?"

"It was discoloured?"

"Oh, ay, sir! 'Twas some queer sort o' colour."

"What colour?"

"Well, sir," said Bob, cautiously, "I wouldn't say as t' that. I'd jus'
say 'twas some mortal queer sort o' colour an' be content with my
labour."

"Was there a definite line between the discolouration and what seemed to
be sound flesh?"

Bob Likely scratched his head in doubt.

"I don't quite mind," said he, "whether there was or not."

"Then there was not," the Doctor declared, relieved. "You would not have
failed to note that line. 'Tis not gangrene. The lad's all right. That's
good. Everybody else well on Amen Island?"

Bob was troubled.

"They're t' cut that finger off," said he, "jus' as soon as little Terry
will yield. Las' night, sir, we wasn't able t' overcome his objection.
'Tis what he calls one of his fiddle fingers, sir, an' he's holdin'
out----"

"Cut it off? Absurd! They'll not do that."

"Ay; but they will, sir. 'Tis t' be done the night, sir, with the help
o' Sandy Lands an' Black Walt Anderson. They're t' cotch un an' hold un,
sir. They'll wait no longer. They're afeared o' losin' little Terry
altogether."

"Yes; but surely----"

"If 'twere mortification, sir, wouldn't you cut that finger off?"

"At once."

"With an axe?"

"If I had nothing better."

"An' if the lad was obstinate----"

"If an immediate operation seemed to be advisable, Bob, I would have the
lad held."

"Well, sir," said Bob, "they thinks 'tis mortification, sir, an' not
knowin' no better----"

"Thank you," said the Doctor. He turned to Mild Jim Cull. "Skipper
James," said he, "have Timmie take care of the dogs. I'll cross Ships'
Run and lance that finger."

       *       *       *       *       *

Dusk fell on Amen Island. No doctor had happened across the Run. No
saving help--no help of any sort, except the help of Sandy Lands and
Black Walt Anderson, to hold the rebellious subject--had come.

At Candlestick Cove Doctor Luke had been delayed. The great news of his
fortunate passing had spread inland overnight to the tilts of Rattle
River. Before the Doctor could get under way for Amen Island, an old
dame of Serpent Bend, who had come helter-skelter through the timber,
whipping her team, frantic to be in time to command relief before the
Doctor's departure, drove up alone, with four frowsy dogs, and desired
the extraction of a tooth; but so fearful and coy was
she--notwithstanding that she had suffered the tortures of the damned,
as she put it, for three months, having missed the Doctor on his
northern course--that the Doctor was kept waiting on her humour an hour
or more before she would yield to his scoldings and blandishments.

And no sooner had the old dame of Serpent Bend been rejoiced to receive
her recalcitrant tooth in a detached relationship than a lad of
Trapper's Lake trudged in to expose a difficulty that turned out to be
neither more nor less than a pitiable effect of the lack of nourishment;
and when an arrangement had been accomplished to feed the lad well and
strong again, a woman of Silver Fox was driven in--a matter that
occupied Doctor Luke until the day was near spent and the crossing of
Ships' Run was a hazard to be rather gravely debated.

"You'll put it off, sir?" Skipper James advised.

The Doctor surveyed the ice of Ships' Run and the sky beyond Amen
Island.

"I wish I might," said he, frankly.

"I would, sir."

"I--I can't very well."

"The floe's started down the Run, sir."

"Yes-s," the Doctor admitted, uneasily; "but you see, Skipper James,
I--I----"



CHAPTER XXV

    _In Which a Stretch of Slush is to be Crossed and Billy Topsail
    Takes the Law in His Own Hands_


It was falling dusk and blowing up when Doctor Luke and Billy Topsail,
gaffs in hand, left the heads of Candlestick Cove for the ice of Ships'
Run; and a spit of frosty snow--driving in straight lines--was in the
gale. Amen Island, lying nearly in the wind's eye, was hardly
distinguishable, through the misty interval, from the blue-black sky
beyond.

There was more wind in the northeast--more snow and a more penetrating
degree of frost. It was already blowing at the pitch of half a gale: it
would rise to a gale in the night, thick with snow, it might be, and
blowing bitter cold--the wind jumping over the point of Amen Island on a
diagonal and sweeping down the Run.

Somewhere to leeward of Candlestick Cove the jam had yielded to the
rising pressure of the wind. The floe was outward bound from the Run.
It was already moving in the channel, scraping the rocks of both
shores--moving faster as the pans below ran off to open water and
removed their restraint.

As yet the pans and hummocks were in reasonably sure contact all the way
from Candlestick Cove to Come-Along Point of Amen Island; but the ice
was thinning out with accelerating speed--black water disclosing itself
in widening gaps--as the compression was relieved. All the while, thus,
as Doctor Luke and Billy Topsail made across, the path was diminishing.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the slant of the wind the ice in the channel of Ships' Run was blown
lightly against the Candlestick coast. About the urgent business of its
escape to the wide water of Great Yellow Bay the floe rubbed the
Candlestick rocks in passing and crushed around the corner of Dead Man's
Point.

Near Amen Island, where the wind fell with less force, there was a
perilous line of separation. In the lee of the Amen hills--close
inshore--the ice was not disturbed: it hugged the coast as before; but
outward of this--where the wind dropped down--a lane of water was
opening between the inert shore ice and the wind-blown main floe.

As yet the lane was narrow; and there were pans in it--adrift and
sluggishly moving away from the Amen shore. When Doctor Luke and Billy
Topsail came to this widening breach they were delayed--the course was
from pan to pan in a direction determined by the exigency of the moment;
and when they had drawn near the coast of Amen--having advanced in a
general direction as best they could--they were halted altogether.

And they were not then under Come-Along Point, but on a gathering of
heavy Arctic ice, to the north, at the limit of Ships' Run, under that
exposed head of Amen, called Deep Water Head, which thrusts itself into
the open sea.

"We're stopped, sir," Billy Topsail declared. "We'd best turn back, sir,
while there's time."

A way of return was still open. It would be laborious--nothing worse.

"One moment----"

"No chance, sir."

"I'm an agile man, Billy. One moment. I----"

Billy Topsail turned his back to a blast of the gale and patiently
awaited the issue of Doctor Luke's inspection of the path.

"A man can't cross that slush, sir," said he.

Past Deep Water Head the last of the floe was driving. There is a wide
little cove there--it is called Deep Water Cove; and there is deep
water--a drop of ten fathoms (they say)--under Deep Water Cliff. There
was open water in both directions beyond the points of the cove. A
detour was thus interrupted.

Doctor Luke and Billy Topsail confronted the only ice that was still in
contact with the shore. At no time had the floe extended far beyond Deep
Water Head. A high sea, rolling in from the northeast, had played under
the ice; and this had gone on for three days--the seas running in and
subsiding: all the while casting the ice ponderously against the rocks.

Heavy Arctic ice--fragments of many glacial bergs--had caught the
lesser, more brittle drift-pans of the floe against the broken base and
submerged face of Deep Water Cliff and ground them slowly to slush in
the swells. There were six feet of this slush, perhaps--a depth of six
feet and a width of thirty.

It was as coarse as cracked ice in a freezer. It was a quicksand.
Should a man's leg go deep enough he would not be able to withdraw it;
and once fairly caught--both feet gripped--he would inevitably drop
through. It would be a slow and horrible descent--like sinking in a
quicksand.

It was near dark. The snow--falling thicker--was fast narrowing the
circle of vision.

"I might get across," said Doctor Luke.

"You'll not try, sir," Billy Topsail declared, positively. "You'll start
back t' Candlestick Cove."

"I might----"

"You'll not!"

There was something in Billy Topsail's tone to make Doctor Luke lift his
brows and stare.

"What's that?" said he, smiling grimly.

"I says you'll not try."

Doctor Luke laughed uneasily.

"No?"

"No, sir."

Billy Topsail was a big boy. Doctor Luke measured his length and breadth
and power with new interest and recalled that he had always admired the
lusty proportions of the lad. Decidedly--Billy Topsail was a big
fellow! And Billy Topsail's intentions were plain.

"Now----" the Doctor began, argumentatively.

"'Tis no use, sir. I knows you."

Doctor Luke moved off a step. "But Billy, you see, my dear fellow----"

"No, sir!" Billy Topsail moved within reach.

"I'm quite sure----"

"No."

Doctor Luke stared at the breach of slush. He faced away, then,
abruptly. "Wel-ll," he admitted, with a shrug, "no doubt you're right,
Billy. I----"



CHAPTER XXVI

    _In Which it Seems that an Axe and Terry Lute's Finger Are Surely to
    Come into Injurious Contact, and Terry Lute is Caught and Carried
    Bawling to the Block, While His Mother Holds the Pot of Tar_


In Tom Lute's cottage beyond Come-Along Point of Amen Island they were
ready for the operation. There was a thick, round billet of birch,
upended in the middle of the kitchen floor, to serve as a block for the
amputation; and the axe was sharp, at last--at hand, too, but concealed,
for the moment, behind the pantry door--and a pot of tar was warming on
the kitchen stove.

Sandy Lands had reported for duty, whom nothing but a sense of duty had
drawn to a hand in the surgical assistance--a bit perturbed, as he
contemplated the task of restraining the struggles of a violent little
subject, whose temper he knew, but sturdy and resolved, his resolution
substantiated by a sort of religious austerity.

Black Walt Anderson, a gigantic, phlegmatic fellow, who would have
subdivided into half a dozen little Terry Lutes, also awaited the
signal to pounce upon the Little Fiddler of Amen Island, imprison his
arms, confine his legs, subdue all his little struggles, in short, bear
him to the block and flatten his hand and spread his fingers for the
severing blow.

It was to be a simple operation--a swift descent of the axe and a quick
application of hot tar and bandages to stifle the wound. And that was to
be the end of the finger and the trouble.

There had been a good deal of trouble. Terry Lute's sore finger was a
source of brutal agony. There had been many days of this pain--a
throbbing torture in the finger and hand and arm. And Terry had
practiced deception in an heroic degree.

No pain (said he); but, ah, well, a twinge, now an' again--but nothin'
at all t' make a man complain. An' sure (said he), 'twas better all the
while--improvin' every blessed minute, sir. A day more (said he) would
see the boil yield t' mother's poultice; an' a fortnight would see un
all healed up an' the finger able for labour again.

It was in the night that Terry could conceal the agony no longer--deep
in the night, when his mother sat beside the cot; and then he would
crawl out of bed, stow his slender little body away in his mother's
arms, put his head down and cry and moan without shame until he had
exhausted himself and fallen into a fitful sleep.

No; it was no trifling agony for Terry Lute to withstand. And he knew
all the while, moreover, that the cut of an axe--no more, it might be,
than a flash--would eventually relieve him. Terry Lute was not afraid of
the pain of the thing they wanted to do. That was not the inspiration of
his infuriated rebellion.

There was nothing mistaken in the intention of the axe. It was neither
cruel nor blundering.

Amen Island lies remote: the folk do for themselves--they are nearly
sufficient to themselves, indeed, in all the affairs of life; and when
they fail (they say) and sorrow comes of it--well, there is failure
everywhere, too, and life leaves every man when the spirit is finished
with its habitation. "I done the best I could!" It is epitaph honourable
enough. There was no horror on Amen Island--no furious complaint of the
wrongs of a social arrangement--when catastrophe came through lack of
uncommon means to stave it off.

And so when Tom Lute told old Bob Likely that when he had a job to do he
was accustomed to employ the best means at hand--he expressed in simple
terms the lesson of his habitat. This affair of Terry Lute's finger was
of gravest moment; had the finger gangrened--it must come off in haste,
and the sooner the better; and an axe and a pot of tar were the
serviceable instruments according to the teaching of all experience.

Doubtless doctors were better provided and more able; but as there was
no doctor to be had, and as Terry Lute was loved and greatly desired in
the flesh, and as he was apparently in peril of a sudden departure--and
as he was in desperate pain--and as----

But Terry Lute would not have his finger off. From the corner, where he
stood at bay, roaring in a way to silence the very gale that had now
begun to shake the cottage, he ran to his mother's knee, as though for
better harbour.

And there he sobbed his complaint.

"Ah, Terry, lad," his father pleaded; "'tis only a finger!"

"'Tis on my left hand!"

"You're not left-handed, son," Tom Lute argued, patiently. "You've no
real need o' four fingers there. Why, sonny, boy, once I knowed a
man----"

"'Tis one o' my fiddle fingers."

Tom Lute sighed. "Fiddle fingers, son!" said he. "Ah, now, boy! You've
said that so often, an' so foolishly, that I----"

"I'll not have it off!"

"But----"

"Isn't no _use_ in havin' it off," Terry complained, "an' I can't spare
it. This here boil----"

"'Tisn't a boil, son. 'Tis mortification. An'----"

"'Tis not mortification."

Again Tom sighed.

"Is you afeared, Terry?" said he. "Surely you isn't a pullin' little
coward, is you? A finger! 'Tis such a simple little thing t' suffer----"

"I'm not afeared neither!"

"Well, then----"

"You may cut any finger you likes off my right hand," Terry boasted,
"an' I'll not whimper a peep."

"I don't want a finger off your right hand, Terry."

"I won't have it!"

"'Tis no pleasure t' me t'----"

"I won't have a finger off my left hand!"

"I tells you, Terry, you isn't left-handed. I've told you that a
thousand times. What in the name o'----"

"I tells you I won't have it!"

Black Walt Anderson looked to Tom Lute for a signal. Sandy Lands rose.

"Now?" he seemed to inquire.

Tom Lute shook his head.

"That's the way we done aboard the _Royal Bloodhound_," the Little
Fiddler's grandfather put in. He began to pace the floor. The tap-tap of
his wooden leg was furious and his voice was as gusty as the gale
outside. "Now, you mark me!" he ran on. "We chopped Cap'n Sam Small's
foot off with a axe an' plugged it with b'ilin' tar. 'Twas
mortification. I knows mortification when I sees it. An' Sam Small got
well."

He was bawling, by this time, like a skipper in a gale--being deaf, the
old man was accustomed to raise his voice, a gradual _crescendo_, until
he had come as near hearing himself as possible.

"Yes, sir--you mark me! That's what we done aboard the _Royal
Bloodhound_ the year I shipped for the seals along o' Small Sam Small.
We chopped it clean off with a meat axe an' plugged it with b'ilin' tar.
If Small Sam Small had clung t' that member for another day he would
have died. Mark me! Small Sam Small would have been dropped over the
side o' the _Royal Bloodhound_ an' left t' shift for hisself in a sack
an' a Union Jack!"

He paused before Terry Lute and shook a lean finger under the little
boy's nose.

"Now," he roared, "you mark me!"

"I isn't aboard the _Royal Bloodhound_!" Terry sobbed.

"Ah, Terry!" This was Terry's mother. She was crying bitterly. "You'll
die an you don't have that finger off!"

"I'll die an I got to!"

"Oh, Terry, Terry!"

"I isn't afeared t' die."

"Ah, Terry, dear, whatever would I do----"

"I'll die afore I gives up one o' my fiddle fingers."

"But you isn't got----"

"Never you mind about that!"

"If you had----"

"You jus' wait till I grows up!"

Again Sandy Lands inquired for the signal. Tom Lute lifted a hand to
forbid.

"Terry, son," said he, gravely, "once an' for all, now, will you----"

"No!" Terry roared.

"Oh, oh, Terry, dear!" the mother wailed, observing the preparations
that were making behind Terry's back. "If you'd only----"

Terry screamed in a furious passion:

"Have done, woman! I tells you I won't have none o' my fiddle fingers
cut off!"

It was the end. Tom Lute gave the signal. Sandy Lands and Black Walt
Anderson pounced upon little Terry Lute and carried him bawling and
struggling from his mother's knee towards the block of birch in the
middle of the kitchen floor. Tom Lute stood waiting there with the axe.

As for Terry Lute's mother, she flew to the stove, tears streaming from
her eyes, her mouth grim, and fetched the pot of tar. And then all at
once the Little Fiddler of Amen Island wriggled out of the clutches of
his captors--they were too tender with him--and dived under the kitchen
table.



CHAPTER XXVII

    _In Which Doctor Luke's Flesh Creeps, Billy Topsail Acts Like a
    Bob-Cat, and the Little Fiddler of Amen Island Tells a Secret_


Confronting the slush of Deep Water Cove, with the finger of the Little
Fiddler of Amen Island awaiting his ministration beyond, Doctor Luke had
misled the faithful Billy Topsail into the assumption of his
acquiescence. It was not in his mind to return to Candlestick Cove that
night. It was in his mind to gain the shore and proceed upon his
professional call. And there was reason in this. For when the group of
Arctic ice--still rhythmically swinging in and out with the great seas
from the open--drove down upon the broken base of Deep Water Cliff, it
compressed the ice between.

At the moment of greatest compression the slush was reasonably solid
ground. When the Arctic ice subsided with the wave, the slush expanded
in the wider space it was then permitted to occupy. A man could cross--a
light, agile man, daring the depth of the slush, might be able to
cross--when the slush was compressed. No man could run all the way
across. It must be in two advances. Midway he would be caught by the
subsidence of the wave. From this he must preserve himself.

And from this--from dropping through the field of slush and having it
close over his head--he might preserve himself by means of his gaff.

"Wel-ll," Doctor Luke had admitted, apparently resigned, "no doubt
you're right, Billy. I----"

Now the Arctic ice was poised.

"Ay, sir. An' you're more reasonable than ever I knowed you t'----"

A sea was rolling in.

"Wel-ll," the Doctor drawled, "as I grow older----"

Then came the moment of advantage. Doctor Luke ran out on the slush
before Billy Topsail could reach out a hand to restrain him. It was
indiscreet. Doctor Luke had been too eager to escape--he had started too
soon; the sea was not down--the slush was not squeezed tight. A foot
sank to the ankle. Doctor Luke jerked it out The other foot went down to
the calf of the leg. Doctor Luke jerked it--tugged it. It was fast. The
slush, in increasing compression, had caught it. He must wait for the
wave to subside.

His flesh crept with the horror of the thing. He was trapped--caught
fast! A moment later the sea was in retreat from the cliff and the slush
began rapidly to thin. Doctor Luke employed the stratagem that is
familiar to the coast for dealing with such ice as the slush in which he
was entrapped. He waited--alert. There would come a moment when the
consistency of the ice would be so thin that he would drop through.

Precisely before that moment--when his feet were first free--he dropped
flat on his gaff. Having in this way distributed his weight--avoided its
concentration on a small area--he was borne up. And he withdrew his feet
and waited for the sea to fall in again and compress the ice.

When the next wave fell in Billy Topsail started across the ice like a
bob-cat.

Doctor Luke lay inert through two waves. When the third fell he jumped
up and ran towards the base of Deep Water Cliff. Again the sea caught
him unaware. His flesh was creeping again. Horror of the stuff
underfoot--the treacherous insecurity of it--drove him. The shore was
close. He was too eager for the shore--he ran too far; and his foot went
down again--foot and leg to the thigh. As instinctively he tried
violently to extract the leg by stepping up on the other foot--that leg
went down to the knee.

A fall to the arm-pits impended--a drop clean through and overhead. The
drop would inevitably be the result of a flash of hesitation. Doctor
Luke cried out. And as he cried he plunged forward--a swift, conscious
effort to fall prone on his gaff. There was a blank. Nothing seemed to
happen. He was amazed to discover that the gaff upheld him. It occurred
to him, then, that his feet were trapped--that he could not withdraw his
legs from the sucking slush.

Nor could he. They were caught. And he perceived that they were sinking
deeper--that he was slowly slipping through the slush.

He was conscious of the night--the dark and snow and wind; and he
fancied that he heard a voice of warning.

"Cotch hold----"

It was a voice.

"Cotch hold o' the gaff!"

Doctor Luke seized the end of Billy Topsail's gaff and drew himself out
of the grip of the slush. When the sea came in again he jumped up and
joined Billy Topsail on the broken base of Deep Water Cliff. He was
breathing hard. He did not look back. Billy Topsail said that they had
better make haste--that somebody would "cotch a death o' cold" if they
did not make haste. And they made haste.

       *       *       *       *       *

An hour or more later Doctor Luke, with Billy Topsail in his wake,
thrust into Tom Lute's agitated kitchen and interrupted the amputation
of the fiddle finger of the Little Fiddler of Amen Island with a "Well,
well, well! What in the name of----" and stood staring--all dusted with
snow and shivering and fairly gone purple with cold.

They had Terry Lute cornered, then--his back against the wall, his face
horrified, his mouth wide open in a bellow of rage; and Sandy Lands and
Black Walt Anderson were almost upon him--and Tom Lute was grimly ready
with the axe and Terry Lute's mother was standing beside the round birch
block with the pot of tar in her hands and her apron over her head.

Doctor Luke stood staring at all this--his mouth as wide open, because
of a temporary paralysis, due to his amazement, as Terry Lute's mouth
was fallen in anger and terror. And it was not long after that--the
Doctor being warm and dry, then, and the kitchen quiet and expectant,
and Tom Lute and Terry Lute's mother exhibiting relief and the keenest
sort of interest--that the Doctor took Terry Lute's fiddle finger in his
hand.

Then he began to prepare the finger for the healing thrust of a lance.

"I'm going to cure it, Terry," said he.

"That's good, sir. I'm wonderful glad t' save that finger."

"You cherish that finger, Terry?"

"I does that, sir! I've need of it, sir."

The Doctor was not attending. His attention was on the lance and its
object. "Mm-m," he ran on, absently, to make distracting conversation.
"You've need of it, eh?"

"'Tis one o' my fiddle fingers, sir."

"Mm-m? Ah! The Little Fiddler of Amen Island! Well, Terry, lad, you'll
be able to play your fiddle again in a fortnight."

Terry grinned.

"No, sir," said he. "I won't be playin' my fiddle by that time."

The Doctor looked up in astonishment.

"Yes, you will," he flashed, sharply.

"No, sir."

"But I tell you----"

"I isn't got no fiddle."

"What!"

"All I got now," said the Little Fiddler of Amen Island, "is a
jew's-harp. _But jus' you wait till I grows up!_"

       *       *       *       *       *

Billy Topsail had broken into smothered laughter; and Doctor Luke,
laughing, too, had already determined that the Little Fiddler of Amen
Island should not have to wait until he grew up for his first violin
(which came to pass in due course)--this hearty mirth was in progress
when there was a loud knock on the door, a trample of feet in the entry,
a draught of cold air blowing through the open door, and Billy Topsail
had the surprise of his not uneventful career. He stared, helpless with
amazement, incredulity, delight; and for a moment he could do nothing
more worthy of his manners than keep on staring, as though he had
clapped eyes on a ghost.

Archie Armstrong had come in.

"Archie!" Doctor Luke exclaimed.

They shook hands. But Archie Armstrong's eyes were not on Doctor Luke.
Doctor Luke might be met anywhere at any time. It was not surprising to
find him on Amen Island. Archie was staring at Billy Topsail.

"Ye little lobster!" said he, at last, grinning.

"Whoop!" Billy yelled. "'Tis you!"

They flew at each other. It was like a wrestling bout. Each in the
bear-like embrace of the other, they staggered over the floor and
eventually fell down exhausted. And then they got up and shook hands in
what Archie called "the regular" way.



CHAPTER XXVIII

    _In Which Sir Archibald Armstrong's Son and Heir is Presented for
    the Reader's Inspection, Highly Complimented and Recommended by the
    Author, and the Thrilling Adventure, Which Archie and Billy are
    Presently to Begin, Has its Inception on the Departure of Archie
    From St. John's Aboard the "Rough and Tumble"_


As everybody in St. John's knew very well (and a good many folk of the
outports, to say nothing of a large proportion of the sealing fleet),
Archie Armstrong was the son of Sir Archibald Armstrong, who was used to
calling himself a fish-dealer, but was, in fact, a deal more than that.
Directly or indirectly, Sir Archibald's business interests touched every
port in Newfoundland, every cove of the Labrador, the markets of Spain
and Portugal, of the West Indies and the South American Republics.

His fishing schooners went south to the Banks and north to the gray,
cold seas off Cape Chidley; his whalers gave chase in the waters of the
Gulf and the Straits; his trading schooners ran from port to port of all
that rugged coast; his barques carried cod and salmon and oil to all
the markets of the world. And when the ice came down from the north in
the spring of the year, his sealing vessels sailed from St. John's on
the great adventure.

Archie was Sir Archibald's son. There was no doubt about that. He was a
fine, hearty lad--robust, as every young Newfoundlander should be;
straight, agile, alert, with head carried high; merry, quick-minded,
ready-tongued, fearless in wind and high sea, as a good many adventures
with Billy Topsail had proved. His hair was tawny, his eyes as blue as
Billy Topsail's, and as wide and as clear; and his face was broad and
good-humoured.

And (every lad has his amiable weakness) Archie was something of a dandy
in his dress--a tailored, speckless, polished, fashionable person, to
whom the set of his trousers and the knot in his cravat were matters of
concern. All in all, from his soles to his crown, and from his rosy skin
to the innermost recesses of his good red heart, he was very much of a
brave, kindly, self-respecting man.

Billy Topsail liked him. That is putting it mildly. And Archie Armstrong
liked Billy Topsail. That, too, is putting it mildly. The boys had been
through some hard places together, as I have elsewhere recorded; and
they had come through the good and the bad of their undertakings with
mutual respect and liking. Nobody could help liking Billy Topsail--he
was a courageous, decent, jolly, friendly soul; and for the same reasons
nobody could help liking Archie Armstrong. It was a good
partnership--this friendship between the Colonial knight's son and heir
and the outport fisherman's lad. And both had profited.

Billy had gained in manners and knowledge of the world, to describe the
least gain that he won; and Archie had gained in health and courage and
the wisdom of the coast. But that was all. Rich as Archie's prospects
were, and as great the wealth and generosity of his father, Billy
Topsail had never anticipated a material advantage; and had one been
offered him, it would not have been accepted except on terms of a
description not to wound Billy Topsail's self-respect.

Well, what sort of an education had Archie Armstrong had? It is best
described in the incident that sent him off on his first sealing
voyage, as elsewhere set down. It was twilight of a blustering February
day. Sir Archibald Armstrong sat alone in his office, with his chair
drawn close to the low, broad window, which overlooked the wharves and
ice-strewn harbour beyond; and while the fire roared and the wind drove
the snow against the panes, he lost himself in profound meditation.

He stared absently at the swarm of busy men--now almost hidden in the
dusk and storm--and at the lights of the sealing fleet, which lay there
fitting out for the voyage to the drift-ice of the north; but no sound
of the activity on dock or deck could disturb the quiet of the little
office where the fire blazed and crackled and the snow fell softly
against the window panes.

By and by Archie came in.

"Come, son," said Sir Archibald, presently, "let us watch them fitting
out the fleet."

They walked to the window, Sir Archibald with his arm over Archie's
shoulder; and in the dusk outside, the wharves and warehouses and ships
told the story of the wealth of Sir Archibald's firm.

"It will all be yours some day," said Sir Archibald, gravely. After a
pause, he continued: "The firm has had an honourable career through
three generations of our family. My father gave it to me with a spotless
reputation. More than that, with the business he gave me the faith of
every man, woman and child of the outports. The firm has dealt with its
fishermen and sealers as man with man, not as the exploiter with the
exploited. It has never wronged, or oppressed, or despised them.

"In September you are going to an English public school, and thence to
an English University, when the time comes. You will meet with new
ideals. The warehouses and ships, the fish and fat, will not mean so
much to you. You will forget. It may be even--for you are something of a
dandy, you know--that you will be ashamed to acknowledge that your
father is a dealer in fish and seal-oil; and that----"

Archie drew breath to protest.

"But I want you to remember," Sir Archibald went on, lifting his hand.
"I want you to know a man when you meet one, whatever the clothes he
wears. The men upon whom the fortunes of this firm are founded are true
men. They are strong, brave and true. Their work is toilsome and
perilous, and their lives are not unused to deprivation; but they are
cheerful, and independent, and fearless, through it all--stout hearts,
every one of them.

"They deserve respectful and generous treatment at the hands of their
employers. For that reason I want you to know them more intimately--to
know them as shipmates know one another--that you may be in sympathy
with them. I am confident that you will respect them, because I know
that you love all manly qualities. And so for your good, and the good of
the men, and the good of the firm, I have decided that----"

"That I may go sealing?" cried Archie.

"That you may go sealing."

Archie had gone sealing. And the adventure had made of him the man that
he was.

       *       *       *       *       *

Archie Armstrong had gone then to an English public school, having made
the acquaintance of Billy Topsail on that first voyage, where the
friendship had been founded in peril and a narrow escape. And he had
come back unspoiled; and he had adventured with Billy Topsail again, and
he had gone to England and returned to Newfoundland once more. In St.
John's, with an English tutor, because of the illness of his mother,
who had by that time recovered, he pleaded with Sir Archibald to be
permitted once more to sail with the fleet.

There was objection. Archie was importunate. Sir Archibald relented and
gave a reluctant consent. And it was determined that Archie should be
shipped with Cap'n Saul Galt, commanding the _Rough and Tumble_, a stout
ship, well manned, and, in the hands of Cap'n Saul, as safe a berth for
a lad as any ship of the fleet could provide. That Archie was delighted
goes without saying; and that he was all aflame with interest in the
movements of the ice--inquisitive and talkative--goes without saying
too.

As a matter of fact, a man might hear what he liked on the water-front
about the movements of the ice. In the gathering places it was just the
same. There were rumours of the ice all the way from the Straits of
Belle Isle and the Labrador coast to the Funks and Cape Bonavist'. It
was even held by some old sealing dogs that the floes had gone to the
east in a spurt of westerly weather and would be found far to sea in the
southerly drift.

All this while old Cap'n Saul, of the _Rough and Tumble_, with Archie
usually at his elbow, cocked an ear and kept his counsel, putting two
and two together, and arriving at the correct result of four, according
to the old cock's habit.

"The ice is inside the Funks, Archie," said he. "I'll twist the _Rough
and Tumble_ t' the west an' shake off the fleet in the night. Havin'
clung with profit t' my sealin' wisdom these ten sealin' seasons," he
went on, "they'll follow me an they're able, an' pester my fellows an'
steal my panned fat. They're all bit mad by the notion that the ice
drove t' the east with the nor'west puff an' whisper o' wind we had.
I'll fiddle their wits this year--mark me!"

"_Whisper_ of wind?" Archie exclaimed. "'Twas a whole _gale_ of wind!"

"Pt!"

"And the ice _did_ drive to the east."

"Pt!" says Cap'n Saul. "You'll never make a sealin' skipper, Archie. I
smells the ice off the Horse Islands."

It was foul weather all the way from St. John's to the floes. The fleet
sailed into a saucy head-wind and a great slosh of easterly sea. It was
a fair start and no favour, all managed by the law; the fat on the floes
was for the first crews of the fleet to find and slaughter it. And there
was a mighty crowd on the water-front to wish the fleet well; and there
was a vast commotion, too--cheering and waving and the popping of guns.

At sea it was a helter-skelter race for the ice. Cap'n Saul touched up
the _Rough and Tumble_ beyond St. John's Narrows; and the ship settled
to her work, in that rough and tumble of black water, with a big white
bone in her teeth--shook her head and slapped her tail and snouted her
way along to the northeast. A whisp of fog came with the night. It was
thick weather. But Cap'n Saul drove northeast, as before--slap into a
smothering sea; and by this the fleet, tagging behind, was befooled and
misled.

After dark, Cap'n Saul doused the lights and switched full steam to the
west; and when day broke the _Rough and Tumble_ was alone, come what
might of her isolation--and come it did, in due course, being all a-brew
for Cap'n Saul and crew, even then, in the northwest.

As for the fleet, it was off on fools' business in the bare seas to the
east.



CHAPTER XXIX

    _In Which the Crew of the "Rough and Tumble" is Harshly Punished,
    and Archie Armstrong, Having Pulled the Wool Over the Eyes of Cap'n
    Saul, Goes Over the Side to the Floe, Where He Falls in with a Timid
    Lad, in Whose Company, with Billy Topsail Along, He is Some Day to
    Encounter His Most Perilous Adventure_


Well, now, two days later, near dusk, with Archie Armstrong on the
bridge, the _Rough and Tumble_ was crawling northwest through the first
ice of the floe. An hour of drab light was left of the day--no more. And
it was mean ice roundabout--small pans and a naughty mess of slush.
There was a hummock or two, it might be, and a clumper or two, as well;
and a man might travel that ice well enough, sore pinched by need to do
so. But it was foul footing for the weight of a full-grown man, and
tricky for the feet of a lad; and a man must dance a crooked course, and
caper along, or perish--leap from a block that would tip and sink under
his feet to a pan that would bear him up until he had time and the wit
to leap again, and so come, at last, by luck and good conduct, to a pan
stout enough for pause.

It was mean ice, to be sure. Yet there was a fine sign of seals drifting
by. Here and there was an old dog hood on a hummock; and there and here
were a harp and a whitecoat on a flat pan. But the orders of Cap'n Saul
were to "leave the swiles be"--to "keep the mouths o' the guns shut"
until the _Rough and Tumble_ had run up to the herd that was coming down
with the floe.

"I'll have no swiles slaughtered in play," he declared.

A gun popped forward. It was from the midst of a crowd. And Cap'n Saul
leaned over the bridge-rail.

"Who done that?" he demanded.

There was no answer.

"Mm-m?" Cap'n Saul repeated. "Who done that?"

No answer.

"A dog hood lyin' dead off the port bow!" said Cap'n Saul. "Who killed
un?"

Still no answer. And Cap'n Saul didn't ask again. Forthwith he stopped
the ship.

"Mister Knibbs, sir," said he, to the mate, "send the crew after that
dead hood."

The mate jumped.

"Cap'n Saul, sir," he replied, his eyes popping, "the ice----"

"Sir?"

"This here ice, sir----"

"_Sir?_"

"This here----"

"SIR?"

"This----"

"Mister Knibbs, sir," said Cap'n Saul, dryly, "this here ice is fit
enough for any crew that I commands. An' if the crew isn't fit for the
ice, sir, I'll soon have un so, ecod! Put un over the side. We'll waste
no swiles on this v'y'ge."

"All hands, sir?"

"All hands over the side, sir, t' fetch that dead hood aboard."

Archie put in:

"May I go, Cap'n Saul?"

"No!"

"Cap'n Saul," Archie began to wheedle, "I'm so wanting to----"

"No, sir."

"I'm just crazy to----"

"'Tis no fit place for you."

"But----"

Cap'n Saul changed his mind all at once. He sent a call for Archie's old
and well-tried friend, Bill o' Burnt Bay.

"Stand by the lad," said he.

"Ay, sir."

Archie left the bridge with Bill o' Burnt Bay, with whom he had sailed
before. And over the side they went. And over the side went the crew for
punishment. There were more than two hundred men. And not a man was
spared. Cap'n Saul sent the ship's doctor after malingerers, and the
mate and the haft of a sealing gaff after lurkers; and he kept them
capering and balancing for dear life on that dirty floe, sopping and
shivering, all in a perilous way, until dusk was in the way of catching
some of them unaware.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was then that Archie and Bill o' Burnt Bay fell in with old Jonathan
Farr of Jolly Harbour. Bill o' Burnt Bay knew the old man well. And he
was shocked to find him cavorting over that foul, tricky ice, with the
thin blood and dry old bones he had to serve his need--a gray old dog
like Jonathan Farr of Jolly Harbour, past his full labour these years
gone by, gone stiff and all unfit for the labour and chances of the ice.

Still, the old man was blithe enough, as Bill marvelled to see. His eye
was lit up with a flicker of fun, sparkling, somehow, through the rheum
of age; and his words were mixed with laughter. They came to rest on a
pan--the four of them together; old Jonathan Farr and Bill and Archie
and a little lad. And Archie marked this in a glance--that the lad,
whoever he was, was out of heart with the work he was at.

A good deal was to flow from that meeting; and Billy Topsail was to have
a part in it all.



CHAPTER XXX

    _In Which a Little Song-Maker of Jolly Harbour Enlists the Affection
    of the Reader_


"My gran'son, Bill," said Jonathan.

Archie pitied the lad--a white, soft-eyed little chap, all taut and
woeful with anxiety.

"He's young for the ice," Bill observed.

"A young dog," Jonathan replied, "masters his tricks with ease."

Again Archie pitied the little fellow.

"Too young," said Bill, "for man's labour like this."

"He'll l'arn all the better for his youth."

"Time enough," Bill insisted, "two years hence."

"Ah, well, Bill," said Jonathan, then, "I wants t' see my gran'son fit
an' able for his labour afore I goes my way." And he clapped the lad on
the back. "Eh, Toby?" said he, heartily.

The lad was grave and mannerly.

"Ay, gran'pa," said he; "you're wonderful careful o' me, you is!"

"That I is, Toby!"

"Yes, siree!"

"I bet I is careful o' you!" Jonathan declared. "An' I'll keep on bein'
so. Eh, Toby?"

The lad turned to Archie.

"I'm havin' a wonderful bringin' up, sir," said he. "My gran'pa is
wonderful careful o' me. With the wonderful bringin' up I'm havin' I
ought t' turn out a wonderful clever man."

"You will!" Archie replied.

"That ye will!" said Bill o' Burnt Bay.

"Pray God," said the lad, "I'm worthy!"

Jonathan gave the lad a little clap on the back. Archie thought it was
to thank him for the expression of confidence. And it made the lad
squirm and grin like a patted puppie.

"What you think of un, Bill?" Jonathan inquired.

It was a wistful question. Jonathan seemed to want a word of praise. And
Bill gave it with all his heart.

"Big as a whale!" said he.

"He've the hull of a young whale," said Jonathan; "an' afore this v'y'ge
is out he'll have the heart of a bear."

Toby chuckled.

"Ay--maybe!" said he.

"You will!" Archie declared.

Well, now, you must know that it is not uncommon to fall in with a timid
lad on the coast: a lad given a great deal to music and the making of
ballads, and to the telling of tales, too. Such folk are timid when
young. It is no shame. By and by they harden to their labour, the softer
aspiration forgotten. And then they laugh at what they used to do. I
have sometimes thought it a pity. But that's no matter now.

Bill o' Burnt Bay knew this lad--knew his weird, sad songs, and had
bellowed them in the cabin of the _Cash Down_--

  "Oh, the chain 'e parted,
  An' the schooner drove ashore;
  An' the wives of the hands
  Never seed un any more--
    No more:
    Never seed un no mor-or-or-ore!"

It was a song weird and sad enough for a little lad like Toby Farr to
make. Before a bogie-stove in the forecastle of a schooner at anchor,
Toby Farr could yarn of foul weather in a way to set the flesh of a
man's back creeping with fear; but it was told of him at Jolly
Harbour, and laid to the sad songs he made, that in a pother of
northeasterly weather he was no great hand for laughter.

"'Tis Toby's first season at the ice, Bill," said Jonathan. "Eh, Toby?"

"Ay, sir."

"An' gran'pa come along with you, didn't he, Toby? You wanted ol'
gran'pa for company, didn't you? Eh, Toby?"

"Ay, sir."

"Isn't got no father, is you, Toby?"

"No, sir."

"Isn't got nobody but gran'pa t' fetch you up--is you? Eh, Toby?"

"I'm content, sir."

"Hear that, Bill! He's content! An' he've been doin' well out here over
the side on the ice. Isn't you, Toby?"

"Is I, gran'pa?" It was a flash of hope.

"_Is_ you!"

"Ay--is I, sir?" It was eager. "Is I been doin' well, sir--as you'd have
me do?"

"That you is!"

"Is you tellin' me the truth, gran'pa? It isn't jus' t' hearten me, is
it?"

"'Tis the truth! You is doin' better, Toby, than your father done at
your age. I never knowed a lad t' do so well first time on ice like
this. An' you was all on fire t' come t' the ice, wasn't you, Toby?"

"I wanted t' come, sir."

"An' you've not repented, Toby? Mm-m?"

"No, sir." The lad stared about and sighed. "I'm glad I come, sir."

Jonathan turned to Archie with his face all in a pucker of joy.

"There's spirit, sir!" he declared.

"Ay," said Archie; "that's brave enough, God knows!"

"I been cronies with Toby, Bill," Jonathan went on, to Bill o' Burnt
Bay, "ever since he was born. A ol' man like me plays with children.
He've nothin' else t' do. An' I'm enjoyin' it out here at the ice with
Toby. 'Tis a pleasure for a ol' man like me t' teach the young. An' I'm
wonderful fond o' this here gran'son o' mine. Isn't I, Toby? Eh, lad?"

"That you is, gran'pa!" the lad agreed. "You been wonderful good t' me
all my life long."

"Hear that, Bill!" Jonathan exclaimed.

The lad was mannerly and grave.

"I wisht, sir," said he, "that my conduct might win your praise."

And then Cap'n Saul called them aboard with a saucy toot of the whistle,
as though they had been dawdling the day in pranks and play.

[Illustration: CAP'N SAUL CALLED THEM ABOARD]



CHAPTER XXXI

    _In Which a Gale of Wind Almost Lays Hands on the Crew of the "Rough
    and Tumble," Toby Farr is Confronted With the Suggestion of Dead
    Men, Piled Forward Like Cord-Wood, and Archie Armstrong Joins Bill
    o' Burnt Bay and Old Jonathan in a Roar of Laughter_


Archie Armstrong and Toby Farr made friends that night. The elder boy
was established as the patron of the younger. Toby was aware of Archie's
station--son and heir of the great Sir Archibald Armstrong; but being
outport born and bred, Toby was not overawed. Before it was time to turn
in he was chatting on equal terms with Archie, just as Billy Topsail had
chatted, in somewhat similar circumstances, on Archie's first sealing
voyage.

Toby sang songs that night, too--songs for the crew, of his own making;
and he yarned for them--tales of his own invention. It occurred to
Archie more than once that Toby possessed a talent that should not be
lost--that something ought to be done about it, that something _must_
be done about it; and Archie determined that something should be done
about it--Archie was old enough to understand the power of his
prospective wealth and his own responsibility with relation to it.

       *       *       *       *       *

And that night, below, when Toby Farr was curled up asleep, Archie
learned more of this queer matter of Jonathan and the lad. He learned
that it was in the mind of old Jonathan Farr that he would not last long
in the world--that he was wistful to have the lad hardened before the
time of his departure fell. Proper enough: for of all that Jonathan had
to leave the lad, which was much, when you come to think it over, he
could leave him no better fortune than a store of courage and the will
and skill to fend for himself.

But the ice was no fit place for Jonathan Farr--a lean, weary old dog
like Jonathan Farr. Ah, well, said he, what matter? For his time was on
the way, and the lad was heartened and taught in his company; and as for
the frost that might bite his old flesh, and as for the winds that might
chill the marrow of his old bones, it was nothing at all to suffer that
much, said he, in the cause of his own son's son, who was timid, as his
father had been, in youth, and his father's father before him.

"Ay," said Archie; "but the lad's too young for the ice."

"True, Archie--he's tender," said Jonathan; "but I've no certainty o'
years. An' I done well with his father, Archie, at his age."

"'Twould go hard with a tender lad like Toby in time of trouble."

"No, no, Archie----"

"He'd never live it through, Jonathan."

"Ay," Jonathan replied; "but I'm here, Archie--me! An' that's jus' what
I'm here for--t' keep un safe from harm while I teaches un t' fend for
hisself."

"You!" Bill o' Burnt Bay put in, in banter.

"I'm old--true," says Jonathan. "Yet I've a shot left in the locker,
Bill, against a time o' need."

       *       *       *       *       *

Next day Cap'n Saul found the herds--a patch of harps and new-whelped
young. The crew killed all that day. At dusk the men were used to the
slaughter, and could bat a seal and travel the ice without fear or
awkwardness. There was a pretty prospect indeed of making a quick
voyage of it. And this would mean a puff and bouquet of praise for Cap'n
Saul in the St. John's newspapers, and a sixty dollar share in the fat
for every man and lad of the crew: "_Rough and Tumble_, Cap'n Saul Galt,
First Arrival. In With Thirty Thousand!"--all in big, black letters to
startle folks' eyes and set the tongues of the town clacking.

It would be news of a size to make the town chatter for a fortnight; it
would spread to the outports; it would give Cap'n Saul all the sealing
glory of that year. There would be great stir and wonder in Water Street
when Cap'n Saul went by; and there would be a lively gathering for
congratulations in the office of the owners when Cap'n Saul swaggered in
to report what everybody knew, that Saul Galt, of the _Rough and
Tumble_, was the first of the fleet to come in with a load.

Sir Archibald Armstrong himself would be there to clap the skipper on
the back.

"I congratulate you, Cap'n Saul!" he would say. "I'm proud o' ye, sir!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Driving this way and that, and squirming along, nosing and ramming and
blasting a course through the floes, the _Rough and Tumble_ loaded
fifteen thousand seals in a week. It was still gray weather--no wind to
matter; and the sea was flat in the lakes and lanes, and the ice was
abroad, and no great frost fell to scorch the crew. Bill o' Burnt Bay
was master of the Third Watch--the watch of Jonathan Farr and Toby. At
dawn the First Watch filed over the side, every man with a gaff and a
tow-rope and a biscuit or two; and all day long they killed and sculped
and towed and panned the fat--all smothered in blood.

Meanwhile the _Rough and Tumble_ ran away out of sight to land the
Second Watch on another field, and beyond that, then, to land the Third
Watch; and then she made back through the ice to stand by and pick up
the First Watch. And when she had picked up the First Watch, and stowed
away the seals, and had gathered the Second Watch, it was dusk and after
every night, and sometimes long after, when she got back to pick up Bill
o' Burnt Bay's watch, which was the last to leave the floe.

Thus it was labour all day and sweat most of the night--torches on the
pans where the sculped seal lay; and torches on deck--the decks all red
and slippery with blood and fat and ice. And it looked well for them,
every one--a load of fat and the first to port with it.

Toby Farr killed and sculped and towed and panned a lad's full share of
the fat.

"Well, sir," said Archie, one day, "how you getting along?"

"I thrives, sir," Toby replied.

"A cock so soon!" said Bill.

"My gran'pa," says Toby, "is teachin' me."

Archie laughed.

"Is you apt?" Bill inquired.

"I've learned courage," Toby replied, "an' 'tis a hard lesson t' learn."

"God knows!" Bill agreed.

"I'll be jus' 's fit an' able 's anybody, mark me," Toby boasted, "afore
this v'y'ge is out!"

"I believe you!" said Archie.

Foul weather fell with the crews on the floe--a brief northeast gale of
cold wind. The floe went crunching to the southwest--jumping along with
the wind like a drove of scared white rabbits. And the pans packed; and
the lakes began to close--the lanes to close. Bill o' Burnt Bay gathered
his watch in haste. Seals? Drop the seals! It was time for
caution--quick work for crews and ship. Cap'n Saul snatched the other
watches from the ice and footed it back for Bill's watch before the
press nipped the _Rough and Tumble_ and caught her fast; and Bill's
watch was aboard before dusk, leaving the kill to drift where the wind
had the will to drive it.

Cap'n Saul was proud of the smart work--smelling out a swift gale of
northeasterly wind with that old foul-weather nose of his, and picking
his crew from the ice with the loss of not a man. It was a narrow shave,
though--narrow enough to keep a man's heart in his mouth until he got a
mug of hot tea in his stomach. And that night there was talk of it
below--yarns of the ice: the loss of the _Greenland's_ men in a
blizzard--poor, doomed men, cut off from the ship and freezing to
madness and death; and of how the _Greenland_ steamed into St. John's
Harbour with her flag at half-mast and dead men piled forward like
cord-wood.

Tales of frosty wind and sudden death--all told in whispers to saucer
eyes and open mouths.

"A sad fate, Toby!" said Jonathan, to test the lad's courage. "Mm-m?"

Toby shrugged his shoulders.

"Yep," said he.

"All them poor dead men in a heap!"

"Sad enough, sir."

"Cast away in the cold an' all froze stiff!"

"Yep."

"Hard as stone!"

"Yep."

"An' piled for'ard like cord-wood!"

"Sad sight, sir. Yep."

"Oh, dear me!" said Jonathan.

Toby put a hand on the old man's shoulder. It was to hearten his
grandfather's courage. And Toby smiled.

"Cheer up, gran'pa!" said he. "You isn't afeared, is you?"

"Hear that, Bill!" cried Jonathan.

Toby whistled a tune.

"Whistlin'!" said Bill. "Yet afore this v'y'ge is out ye may lie a blue
corpse yourself on the ice!"

And Toby yawned.

"Yep," said he.

It was a cure. Archie and Bill and Jonathan burst into a roar of
laughter. Toby was timid no longer. He could not be frightened by tales
and gruesome suggestions to his imagination.



CHAPTER XXXII

    _In Which Archie Armstrong and Billy Topsail Say Good-bye to Toby
    Farr for the Present, and, Bound Down to Our Harbour with Doctor
    Luke, Enter Into an Arrangement, From Which Issues the Discovery of
    a Mysterious Letter and Sixty Seconds of Cold Thrill_


What happened next was the astonishing meeting of Archie Armstrong and
Billy Topsail in Tom Lute's cottage on Amen Island. The rising blast of
wind that threatened to interrupt Doctor Luke's passage of Ship's Run,
and thus cost Terry Lute the "fiddle finger" he cherished, so dealt with
the floe, at sea, where the men of the _Rough and Tumble_ were at work,
that Archie was cut off from return to the ship. At first the adventure
wore a grave appearance; but Archie knew the coast, and was aware, also,
that the land near which the _Rough and Tumble_ had debarked her crew in
the morning was the land of Amen Island.

That there was an hospitable settlement on Amen Island, Cap'n Saul had
told him. It was towards Amen Island, then, that his endeavour was
directed, when the shifting ice cut him off from the ship and dusk
caught him on the floe. And he had no great difficulty in making the
shore. The floe, in the grip of the wind, drifted towards the land and
came in contact with it before night fell.

Archie had a long, stumbling search for the cottages of Amen. That was
the most trying aspect of his experience. In the end, however, pretty
well worn out, but triumphant, he caught sight of the light in Tom
Lute's cottage; and he knocked on the door and pushed into the kitchen
just when Doctor Luke, having lanced Terry Lute's finger, and having
been informed that Terry Lute's fiddle was a jew's-harp, had joined
Billy Topsail in the hearty laughter that the amazing disclosure
excited.

It was late then. Archie and Billy and Doctor Luke were all feeling the
effect of the physical labour of that stormy night; and when Billy and
Archie had exchanged news in sufficient measure to ease their curiosity,
and when Doctor Luke and Archie, who were old friends, had accomplished
the same satisfying end, and Black Walt and his assistant had departed,
and when Terry Lute and Tom Lute and Terry Lute's mother had recovered
from their delight, the simple household turned in to sleep as best it
could.

In the morning--which means almost immediately after dawn--Archie
Armstrong insisted upon his own way. And his own way was happy and
acceptable. The _Rough and Tumble_ lay offshore. She was within sight
from the window of Tom Lute's cottage. Undoubtedly Cap'n Saul had a
searching party--probably the whole crew-out after Archie Armstrong; and
undoubtedly the old man was in a fever and fury of anxiety--a fury of
anxiety because, no great wind having blown, and the ice having been
driven against the coast, his alarm for Archie's safety need not be
great, whereas the delay caused by Archie's misadventure would surely
arouse a furious impatience.

Consequently Archie sought to relieve both his anxiety and his
impatience; and to this end he set out over the ice, with Billy Topsail
and Doctor Luke, to board the _Rough and Tumble_, where Billy Topsail
was wanting to shake the hand of his old friend, Bill o' Burnt Bay, and
Archie was eager to have Doctor Luke "inspect" Toby Farr and his
grandfather. It was in Archie's mind to "make a man" of Toby.

"Cap'n Saul," said Archie, by and by, "will you be sailing to the
s'uth'ard?"

"A mad question!" Cap'n Saul growled.

"Yes; but, sir----"

"Isn't you got no sense at all? How can I tell where the ice will go?"

Archie grinned.

"It wasn't very bright, sir," he admitted. "Still, Cap'n Saul, is there
any chance----"

"Why?"

"I want to go down with Doctor Luke, sir, to Our Harbour. But I don't
want to be left on the coast until the mail-boat comes north. If you
think you _might_ be in the neighbourhood of Our Harbour, and could send
a boat ashore for me, sir, I'll take a chance."

"I might," Cap'n Saul replied. "An' the way the ice sets, I think I
will. Will that do ye?"

"It will, sir!"

"If the ice goes t' sea----"

"You'll leave me. I understand that."

"I'll leave ye like a rat!"

Archie laughed.

"Billy," said he, gleefully, "I'll go south with you!" And to Cap'n
Saul: "How long will you give me, sir?"

"I'll give you a week."

"Make it ten days, sir?"

"Archie," Cap'n Saul replied, "I thought you was a b'y o' some sense.
How can I say a week or ten days? I'll pick you up if I can. An' that's
all I'll say. What I'm here for is _swiles_. An' swiles I'll have, b'y,
no matter whether you're left on the coast or not."

Archie flushed.

"Cap'n Saul, sir," said he, "I beg pardon. You see, sir, I--I----"

Cap'n Saul clapped him on the back.

"Archie, b'y," said he, putting an arm over the boy's shoulder, "I'll
pick you up if I can. An' if I can't"--Cap'n Saul accomplished a heavy
wink--"there'll be some good reason why I don't. Now, you mark me!"

Upon that understanding Archie packed a seaman's bag and went back to
Amen Island with Doctor Luke and Billy Topsail. First, however, he shook
the hand of Bill o' Burnt Bay, and shook the hand of Toby Farr, and
shook the hand of Jonathan Farr. And Billy Topsail shook hands with
them all, too. Billy Topsail liked the quality of Toby Farr. They were
to go through a gale of wind together--Archie and Billy and Bill and
Jonathan and little Toby Farr. And Billy and Archie were to learn more
of the quality of Toby Farr--to stand awed in the presence of the
courage and nobility of Jonathan Farr.

       *       *       *       *       *

Thus it came about that Doctor Luke, Billy Topsail and Archie Armstrong,
near dusk, two days later, drove Doctor Luke's dogs into
Bread-and-Butter Tickle, on the way south to Doctor Luke's hospital at
Our Harbour. There was sickness near by--at Round Cove and Explosion
Bight; and as Doctor Luke was in haste, he was in something of a
quandary. Doctor Luke's solution and immediate decision were sufficient.

Billy Topsail was to carry medicine and directions, especially
directions, which had a good deal to do with the virtues of fresh air,
to ease the slight trouble at Explosion Bight, and Doctor Luke would
himself attend to the serious case at Round Cove, setting off at once
and returning before noon of the next day, all being well.

Billy's errand was the longer; it might be two or three days before he
could get back--Explosion Bight lay beyond Poor Luck Barrens--but at any
rate a start for Our Harbour would be made as soon as he got back. As
for Archie Armstrong, he was to kick his heels and feed the dogs at
Bread-and-Butter Tickle--a prospect that he did not greatly enjoy, but
was disposed to make the best of. As it turned out, the issue of the
whole arrangement gave him sixty seconds of thrill that he will never
forget.

In the operation of the plan, returning from Explosion Bight, where he
had executed his directions, dusk of a scowling day caught Billy Topsail
on the edge of the woods. And that was a grave matter--Billy Topsail was
in driven haste. As the white wilderness day had drawn on, from a drab
dawn to a blinding noon, and from noon to the drear, frosty approach of
night, the impression of urgency, in the mystery that troubled him, grew
large and whipped him faster.

When he loped from the timber into the wind, high above the sea, he was
dog-tired and breathless. It was offshore weather then; a black night
threatened; it was blowing in tepid gray gusts from the southwest; a
flutter of wet snow was in the gale. In the pool of ghostly, leaden
dark, below Spear Rock, of Yellow Head, the ice of Skeleton Arm was
wrenched from the coast; and with an accumulation of Arctic bergs and
drift-pans, blown in by the last nor'easter, it was sluggishly moving
into the black shadows of the open sea. And having observed the
catastrophe, in a swift, sweeping flash, Billy Topsail stopped dead on
the ridge of Spear Rock, dismayed and confounded.

To camp on Spear Rock was no incident of his dogged intention.

Bread-and-Butter Tickle, to which a persistent, feverish impression of
urgency, divined from the puzzling character of the incident of the
night before, had driven Billy Topsail since the drab dawn of that day,
lay across the darkening reaches of Skeleton Arm. In the snug basin,
beyond the heads of the narrows, the lamps were lighted in the cottages
of the place. It was a twinkling, beckoning hospitality; it invited
Billy Topsail to supper and to bed--to the conclusion of his haste and
to the relief of his mystification.

But on the Labrador coast, as elsewhere, the longest way round is often
the shortest way home. It was two miles across Skeleton Arm to
Bread-and-Butter Tickle, on a direct line from Spear Head; it was four
miles alongshore to Rattle Water Inlet, at the head of Skeleton Arm, and
eight from Rattle Water to the lights of Bread-and-Butter. Billy Topsail
reflected upon the discrepancy--the flurry of snow, too, and the swift
approach and thick quality of the night; and having surveyed the ice,
the fragments of which seemed still to be sufficiently in contact for
crossing, he clambered down Spear Head to the shore of the sea.

"Can I cross?" he wondered.

After further reflection:

"I don't know," he concluded.

What mystified Billy Topsail, and drove and challenged him, as he had
never been mystified and driven and challenged before, was a letter.
Billy Topsail had come through the scrub timber and barrens beyond the
first wild hills of Long-Age Inlet; and having came to the fork in the
trail from Run-By-Guess to Poor Luck Barrens, where he was to camp for
the night, he had been confronted by a new-cut stick, stoutly upright in
the snow of the trail, and a flutter of red flannel rag, and a letter,
snapped in the cleft head of the stick.

That the solitary wilderness of his journey should be so concerned with
the outport world of that coast as to produce a letter was amazing; and
that the letter should present itself, in the nick of time, where,
probably, no other traveller except the mail-man had passed since the
first snow fell, and that a fluttering flannel rag should declare its
whereabouts, as though confidently beseeching instant conveyance to its
destination, was more stimulating to Billy Topsail's reflection than
mere amazement could be.

"Now," thought he, "what's this?"

It was darkly, vitally mysterious.

"'Tis the queerest thing ever I knowed!"

The letter was a folded brown paper, sealed tight, doubtless with a
paste of flour and water; and it was inscribed in an illiterate scrawl:
BREDNBUTR--which Billy Topsail had the wit to decipher at once.
Bread-and-Butter--nobody in particular at Bread-and-Butter; anybody at
all at Bread-and-Butter. Need was signified; haste was besought--a
letter in a cleft stick, left to do its own errand, served by its own
resources, with a fluttering red flannel rag to arrest and entreat the
traveller.

Obviously it was intended for the mail-man. But the mail-man, old Bob
Likely, with his long round--the mail-man, where was he? Billy Topsail
did not open the letter; it was sealed--it was an inviolate mystery.
Fingering it, scrutinizing it, in astonished curiosity, he reflected,
however, upon the coincidence of its immediate discovery--the tracks
were fresh in the snow and the brown paper was not yet weather-stained;
and so remarkable did the coincidence appear that he was presently
obsessed with the impulse to fulfill it.

He pushed back his cap in bewilderment.

"Jus' seems t' me," he reflected, gravely, "as if I was _meant_ t' come
along an' find this letter."

It was, truly, a moving coincidence.

"I ought t' be shot," Billy Topsail determined, "if I doesn't get this
here letter t' Bread-and-Butter the morrow night!"



CHAPTER XXXIII

    _In Which the Letter is Opened, Billy and Archie are Confronted by a
    Cryptogram, and, Having Exercised Their Wits, Conclude that Somebody
    is in Desperate Trouble_


It was a woman's doing. The signs of a woman were like print--little
tracks in the snow--a woman's little foot; and the snow was brushed by a
skirt. What woman? A girl? It was a romantic suggestion. Billy Topsail
was old enough to respond to the appeal of chivalry. A perception of
romance overwhelmed him. He was thrilled. He blushed. Reflecting, thus,
his thought tinged with the fancies of romance, his chivalry was fully
awakened. No; he would not open the letter. It was a woman's letter. An
impulse of delicacy forbade him to intrude. Wrong? Perhaps. Yet it was a
fine impulse. He indulged it. He stowed the letter away. And at dawn,
still in a chivalrous glow, he set out for Bread-and-Butter Tickle,
resolved to deliver the letter that night; and he was caught by dusk on
the ridge of Spear Head, with a flurry of wet snow in the wind and the
night threatening thick.

Having come to the edge of the moving ice, Billy Topsail looked across
to the lights of Bread-and-Butter.

"Might 's well," he decided.

Between Spear Head and Bread-and-Butter Tickle, that night, Billy
Topsail had a nip-and-tuck time of it. It was dark. Snow intermittently
obscured his objective. The ice was fragmentary--driving and revolving
in a slow wind. It was past midnight when he hauled down the heads of
Bread-and-Butter and knocked Archie Armstrong out of bed.

"Archie," said he, "I found a queer thing."

Archie's sleepiness vanished.

"Queer?" he demanded, eagerly. "Something queer? What is it?"

"'Tis a letter."

"A letter! Where is it?"

Billy related the circumstances of the discovery of the letter. Then he
said:

"'Tis a sealed letter. I wants t' show it t' Doctor Luke."

"He's not back."

"Not back? That's queer!"

"Oh, no," said Archie, easily; "the case has turned out to be more
serious than he thought and has detained him. Where's the letter?"

Billy gave the letter to Archie.

"Bread-and-Butter," Archie read. "No other address. That _is_ queer.
What shall we do about it?"

"I don't know," Billy replied. "What do _you_ say?"

"I say open it," said Archie, promptly.

"Would you?"

"There's nothing else to do. Open it, of course! It is addressed to
Bread-and-Butter. Well, we're in Bread-and-Butter. Doctor Luke isn't
here. If he were, he'd open it. There is something in this letter that
somebody ought to know at once. I'm going to open it."

"All right," Billy agreed.

Archie opened the letter and stared and frowned and pursed his lips.

"What does it say?" said Billy.

"I can't make it out. Have a try yourself. Here--read it if you can."

Billy was confronted by a cryptogram:

  _Dokr com quk pops goncras im ferd_

"What do you make of it?" said Archie.

"I'm not much of a hand at readin'," Billy replied; "but I knows that
first word there or I misses my guess."

"What is it?"

"D-O-K-R. That means what it sounds like. It means _Doctor_."

Archie exclaimed.

"That's it!" said he. "And the second word's plain. C-O-M--that's
_Come_."

"'_Doctor, come_,'" said Billy.

"Right. Somebody's in trouble. Deep trouble, too. The third word is
_Quick_. '_Doctor, come quick._' We're right so far. P-O-P-S. What's
that?"

"It means _Father_."

"Right. '_Doctor, come quick. Pop's----_' What now? 'G-O-N-C-R-A-S.'
What in the world is that? It must be a kind of sickness. Can't you
guess it, Billy?"

Billy puzzled.

"G-O-N-C-R-A-S. I don't know what it means."

"Anyhow," Archie put in, "the next word must be _I'm_. Don't you think
so, Billy? No? Looks like that. Hum-m! Look here, Billy--what's F-E-R-D?
What does it sound like?"

"Sounds like _feared_."

"Of course it does! That's right! '_I'm afeared._' Billy, this is a
pretty serious matter. Why should the writer of this be afraid? Eh? You
think a woman wrote the letter? Well, she's afraid of something. And
that something must be the sort of sickness her father has. Shake your
nut, Billy. What sort of sickness could she be afraid of?"

"G-O-N-C-R-A-S. Gon-cras."

"Gon-cras. Gon-cras. Gon-cras."

"_Gone_," Billy suggested.

"_Crazy!_" cried Archie.

"Right!" said Billy.

"We've got it!" Archie exulted. "'_Doctor, come quick. Pop's gone crazy.
I'm afeared._' That's the message. What shall we do?"

"We can't do anything now."

"How's the ice on the Arm, Billy?"

"Movin' out. A man couldn't cross now. I barely made it."

"Will the Arm be free in the morning?"

"No; it will not. The Arm will be fit for neither foot nor punt in the
morning. T' get t' Poor Luck Barrens a man would have t' skirt the Arm
t' Rattle Water an' cross the stream."

"We'll have to do something, Billy. We can't leave that poor girl alone
with a madman."

"We'll tell Doctor Luke----"

"Yes; but what if Doctor Luke isn't back in the morning?"

"We'll go ourselves."

Archie started.

"Go?" he inquired, blankly. "Go _where_? We don't know where this letter
came from. It isn't signed."

"Ah, well," said Billy, "somebody in Bread-and-Butter will know. Let's
turn in, Archie. If we're t' take the trail the morrow, we must have
rest."

And they turned in.



CHAPTER XXXIV

    _In Which Archie and Billy Resolve Upon a Deed of Their Own Doing,
    and are Challenged by Ha-Ha Shallow of Rattle Water_


Neither boy slept very much. In Samuel Jolly's spare bed (it was called
a spare bed)--where they had tumbled in together--they did more talking
than sleeping. And that could not be helped. It was a situation that
appealed to the imagination of two chivalrous boys--a woman all alone on
Poor Luck Barrens with a madman. When morning came they were up with the
first peep of the light; and they were in a nervous condition of such a
sort that neither would hesitate over a reckless chance if it should
confront them in an attempt to help the writer of the letter of the
cleft stick.

"Who is she?" Archie demanded of Samuel Jolly.

"Jinny Tulk, sir--Trapper George's daughter."

"How does she come to be at Poor Luck Barrens?"

"Trapper George has a trappin' tilt there, sir. They're both from this
harbour. They goes trappin' on Poor Luck Barrens in the winter. Jinny
keeps house for her pop."

"All alone?"

"Ay, sir; there's nobody livin' near."

Archie turned to Billy.

"Look here, Billy," said he, anxiously, "we've _got_ to go. I can't bear
it here--with that poor girl all alone----"

"Doctor Luke----"

"We can't wait for Doctor Luke."

"That's jus' what I was goin' t' say," said Billy. "We'll leave word for
Doctor Luke that we've gone. He can follow. An' when we gets there, we
can keep Trapper George quiet until Doctor Luke comes."

"When shall we start?"

"Now!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Outbound from Bread-and-Butter, fortified with instructions, Billy
Topsail and Archie Armstrong made along the shore of Skeleton Arm, by
the long trail, and were halted before noon at Rattle Water. The ice had
gone out of Rattle Water. At the ford the stream was deep, swift, bitter
cold--manifestly impassable; and above, beyond Serpent Bend, the water
of Ha-ha Shallow, which was the alternative crossing, was in a turmoil,
swelling and foaming over the boulders in its wide, shallow bed.

Except where the current eddied, black, flecked with froth, Ha-ha
Shallow was not deep. A man might cross--submerged somewhat above the
knees, no more; but in the clinging grip and tug of the current his
footing would be delicately precarious, and the issue of a misstep, a
stumble, a lost balance, would be a desperate chance, with the wager
heavily on grim Death.

It was perilous water--the noisy, sucking white rush of it, frothing
over the boulders, and running, icy cold, in choppy, crested waves,
where the channel was a bed of stones and gravel. Yet the path to the
tilt at Poor Luck Barrens lay across and beyond Ha-ha Shallow of Rattle
Water.

Billy Topsail and Archie Armstrong surveyed the rapids in a dubious
silence.

"Hum!" Archie coughed.

Billy Topsail chuckled.

"You've no fancy for the passage?" he inquired.

"I have not. Have you?"

"I don't hanker for it, Archie. No, sir--not me!"

"Can it be done?"

"No, b'y."

"No; it can't be done," Archie declared. "You're right."

They stared at the tumultuous stream.

"Come along," said Archie, with decision, his teeth set; "we'll try that
ice below again."

Below Ha-ha Shallow, where the stream dropped into a deep, long pool,
lying between low cliffs, fringed with the spruce of that stunted
wilderness, Rattle Water was bridged with ice. There had been flood
water in the early spring break-up--a rush of broken ice, a jam in Black
Pool, held by the rocks of its narrow exit; and the ice had been caught
and sealed by the frosts of a swift spell of bitter weather.

The subsidence of Rattle Water, when the ice below Black Pool ran off
with the current into the open reaches of Skeleton Arm, had left the jam
suspended. It was a bridge from shore to shore, lifted a little from the
water; but in the sunshine and thaw and warm rain of the subsequent
interval it had gone rotten. Its heavy collapse was imminent.

And of this Billy Topsail and Archie had made sure on the way up-stream
from the impassable ford to the impassable white water of Ha-ha Shallow.
The ice-bridge could not be crossed. It awaited the last straw--a rain,
a squall of wind, another day of sunshine and melting weather. Billy had
ventured, on pussy-feet, and had withdrawn, threatened by a crack, his
hair on end.

A second trial of the bridge had precisely the same result. Archie cast
a stone. It plumped through.

"Soft 's cheese," said Billy.

Another stone was cast.

"Hear that, Billy?"

"Clean through, Archie."

"Yes; clean through. It's all rotten. We can't cross. Give me a hand.
I'll try it."

With a hand from Billy Topsail, Archie let himself slip over the edge of
the cliff to an anxious footing on the ice.

He waited--expectant.

"Cautious, Archie!" Billy warned.

Nothing happened.

"Cautious!" Billy repeated. "You'll drop through, b'y!"

Archie took one step--and dropped, crashing, with a section of the
bridge, which momentarily floated his weight. Billy caught his hand, as
the ice disintegrated under his feet, and dragged him ashore.

"It can't be done," said Archie.

"No, b'y; it can't."

"We'll try Ha-ha Shallow again. We've _got_ to get across."

A moment, however, Archie paused. A startling possibility possessed his
imagination. It was nothing remote, nothing vague; it was real,
concrete, imminent. Standing on the brink of the rock at the point where
the ice-bridge began, he contemplated the chances of Rattle Water. With
a crossing of Ha-ha Shallow immediately in prospect, there was something
for affrighted reflection in the current below. And the suggestion was
vivid and ugly.

There the water was flowing black, spread with creamy puffs of foam; and
it ran swift and deep, in strong, straight lines, as it approached the
Black Pool ice and vanished beneath. There was a space between the ice
and the fallen current--not much: two feet, perhaps; but it occurred to
Archie, with sudden, shocking force, that two feet were too much. And
the deep, oily, adherent flow of the current, and the space between the
ice and the water, and the cavernous shadow beneath the ice, and the
gurgle and lapping of the pool, made the flesh of his back uneasy.

"A nasty fix," he observed.

"What's that, Archie?"

"If a man lost his feet in the current."

"He'd come down like a chip."

"He would. And he'd slip under the ice. Watch these puffs of foam. What
would happen to a man under there, Billy?"

"He'd drown in the pool. He couldn't get out."

"Right, Billy," Archie agreed, shortly. "He'd drown in the pool. He
couldn't get out. The current would hold him in there. Come along."

"Shall we try it, Archie?"

"We'll look it over."

"An' if we think----"

"Then we'll do it!"

Billy laughed.

"Archie," said he, "I--I--I _likes_ you!"

"Shucks!" said Archie.

Archie walked the length of Ha-ha Shallow, from the swift water above
Black Pool to Loon Lake, and returned, still searching the rapid for a
good crossing, to a point near the Black Pool ice, where a choppy ripple
promised a shallow, gravelled bottom. The stream was wide, shelving
slowly from the shore--it was prattling water; but there was a
fearsomely brief leeway of distance between the stretch of choppy ripple
and the deep rush of the current as it swept into the shadows under the
Black Pool ice.

Directly below the ripple, Rattle Water narrowed and deepened; nearing
Black Pool, the banks were steep, and above the rising gorge, which the
banks formed, and running the length of it, the current swelled over a
scattering of slimy boulders and swirled around them. It was a perilous
place to be caught. In the gravel-bottomed ripple, the water was too
swift, too deep, for an overbalanced boy to regain his feet; and in the
foaming, hurrying, deeper water below, the rough drift to Black Pool was
inevitable: for the boulders were water-worn and round, and the surface
was as slippery as grease with slime.

Having stared long enough at the alluring stretch of choppy ripple,
Archie Armstrong came to a conclusion.



CHAPTER XXXV

    _In Which Billy Topsail Takes His Life in His Hands and Ha-Ha
    Shallow Lays Hold of It With the Object of Snatching It Away_


"Well," said Archie, "I'll try it."

"You won't!" said Billy.

"I will!"

"You won't!"

Archie looked Billy in the eye.

"Why not?" he inquired.

"I'm goin' t' try it myself."

"You're not!"

"I am!"

Both boys burst into a laugh. It was an amiable thing to do. And there
could have been no better preparation for the work in hand.

"Look here, Billy----" Archie began.

"No," Billy insisted; "it won't do. You haves your way always, Archie.
An' now I'm goin' t' have my turn at it. I'll try it first. An' if I
gets across you can follow."

"You might stumble."

"I know that."

"Look here, Billy----"

"No, no, b'y! I'm goin' first. I won't make a fool o' myself. We got t'
get across this stream if we can. An' we've got t' get on t' Poor Luck
Barrens. But I won't make a fool o' myself, Archie. I promise you that.
I'll go jus' as far as I can. I'll go with care--jus' as far as I can.
An' if 'tis no use tryin' any more, I'll come back. That's a promise.
I'll come back. An' then----"

"Ay, Billy?"

"I'll try somewhere else."

"Billy," said Archie, "I--I--I _likes_ you!"

"Stop your jawin'!" said Billy.

Then Archie said:

"If you fall in the current I'll pull you out, Billy. You trust _me_."

Billy spoke gravely:

"You'll do no such thing."

"What!" cried Archie. "Not try to save----"

"No."

"Why, Billy," Archie protested, "you're just plain foolish to ask me not
to----"

"No," said Billy, again; "it isn't foolish. I won't have it."

Archie said nothing.

"Now," said Billy, "I'll try my hand at it."

The gravity and untoward chances of the attempt were not ignored. Both
boys were aware of them. A simple thing to splash into the first shallow
inches of Rattle Water and there deliberate an advance--true enough; but
Billy Topsail was in earnest about crossing. He would venture far and
perilously before he turned back--venture to the brink of safety, and
tentatively, definitely into the dragging grip of the deeper current
beyond. A boy who proposes to go as far as he can is in the way of
overreaching himself. Beyond his utmost, whatever his undertaking, lies
a mocking, entreating temptation to his courage--an inch or two more.

"Billy!" said Archie.

"Ay?"

"Do you think that if you fall in the current I'll stand by and----"

"I hopes you will, Archie, If I loses my feet, I goes down-stream.
That's plain. No man could catch his feet in that water. An' if I goes
all the way down-stream, I goes clean under Black Pool ice. An' if I
goes under Black Pool ice, I can't get out, because the current will
hold me there. That's plain, too. You couldn't pull me out o' the
stream. If you could do that, I could get out alone. You'd jus' go down
with me. So you leave me go."

"Billy, I----"

"Oh, I isn't goin' t' fall anyhow, Archie. An' if I does, I'll make a
fight. If I can grab anything on the way down; an' if I can hang in the
stream, we'll talk it over again."

"Billy----"

"That's all, Archie."

With that Billy Topsail, the pack of food on his back (since if he won
the other bank he must have sustenance for the chances of his journey to
Poor Luck Barrens), waded into the water.

       *       *       *       *       *

Presently Billy Topsail was ankle deep in the stream. The water foamed
to his calves. Suspense aggravated him. He splashed on--impatient to
come to the crisis that challenged him. It was a stony bed--loose,
round, slippery stones; and a stone turned--and Billy Topsail tottered
in the deeper suck of the current. It was nothing to regain his balance
in that shallow. And he pushed on. But by and by--time being relative to
suspense, it seemed a long, long time to Archie Armstrong, waiting on
the snowy bank--by and by Billy Topsail was knee deep and anxiously
engaged; and mid-stream, where the ripple was dancing down in
white-capped, choppy waves, was still proportionately far distant.

Billy paused, then, to settle his feet. The footing was treacherous; the
water was white to his thighs--the swift, dizzy, noisy passage was
confusing. For a new advance he halted to make good his grip of the
bottom and to brace and balance himself against the insistent push of
the current.

Archie shouted:

"You're doing fine, Billy!"

In the bawling rush of the stream it was hard to hear Archie. Still,
Billy heard. And he nodded--but did not dare to turn.

"Go slow," Archie called, "and you'll make it!"

Billy thought so too. He was doing well--it seemed a reasonable
expectation. And he ventured his right foot forward and established it.
It was slow, cautious work, thrusting through that advance, feeling over
the bottom and finding a fixed foundation; and dragging the left foot
forward, in resistance to the current, was as slow and as difficult. A
second step, accomplished with effort; a third, achieved at greater
risk; a fourth, with the hazard still more delicate--and Billy Topsail
paused again.

It was deeper. The broken waves washed his thighs; the heavy body of the
water was above his knees; he was wet to the waist with spray; and in
the deeper water, by the law of displacement, he had lost weight. The
water tended to lift him: the impulse was up to the surface--the
pressure down-stream. In this respect the current was like a wrestler
who lifts his opponent off his feet before he flings him down.

And in the meantime the current tightened its hold.



CHAPTER XXXVI

    _In Which Ha-Ha Shallow is Foiled, Archie Armstrong Displays Swift
    Cunning, of Which He is Well Aware, and Billy Topsail, Much to His
    Surprise, and not Greatly to His Distaste, is Kissed by a Lady of
    Poor Luck Barrens_


Another advance of the right foot; an increased depth of two inches; a
sudden, upward thrust of the water; a rolling stone: Billy Topsail
tottered--struggled for balance, like a man on a tight-rope, and caught
and held it; but in the wrenching effort his pack had shifted and
disturbed his natural poise. He faced up-stream, feet spread, body bent,
arms extended; and in this awkward posture, at a disadvantage, he swayed
dangerously, incommoded by the pack, his legs quivering in the current.

Deliberately, then, Billy contorted himself until the pack slipped from
his shoulder to its place on his back; and upright again, established
once more, he dragged his left foot by inches against the current, set
it above the right, forced it into place, and turned to face the
opposite shore. He was fairly mid-stream, now. Another confident,
successful step--a moment more of cool behaviour and intelligent
procedure--and the grip of the current would begin to fail.

All this while the tumbling water had worked its inevitable effect. It
was noisy; it ran swift; it troubled Billy Topsail--the speed and
clatter of it. And he was now confused and dizzy. Now, too, he was
conscious of the roar of the stream below. More clamorously, more
vividly, it asserted itself--reiterated and magnified its suggestion of
disaster. It could not be ignored. Billy Topsail abstracted his
attention. It returned to the menace.

There it was--the roar of the stream below: the deep, narrow rush of it,
swelling over the boulders, curling around them, plunging irresistibly
towards the Black Pool ice, and vanishing into the stifling gloom
beneath, in a swift, black, silent stream, flecked with creamy puffs of
foam. A misstep, a false stone, a lost balance--a man would then drift
fast and helpless, bruised by the bottom, flung against the boulders and
stunned, smothered by the water, cast into Black Pool and left to sink
in still water. It was the logical incident of failure.

Aware of the cumulative effect of fear, conscious of the first creeping
paralysis of it, Billy Topsail instantly determined upon the next step.
It must be taken--it must be taken at once. Already the weakness and
confusion of terror was a crippling factor to be dealt with. He must
act--venture. He moved in haste; there was a misstep, an incautious
faith in the foothold, a blind chance taken--and the current caught him,
lifted him, tugged at him, and he lost his feet, flung his arms in the
air, toppled over, drifted off with the current, submerged, and was
swept like driftwood into the deep rush below.

He rose, gasped, sank--came breathless to the surface; and
self-possessed again, and fighting for life against hope, instinctively,
but yet with determined intelligence, grasping breath when he could and
desperately seeking handhold, foothold--fighting thus he was dragged a
bruising course through the narrowing channel towards Black Pool and at
last momentarily arrested his drift with a failing grip of a boulder.

Archie Armstrong ran down-stream. No expedient was in his horrified
mind. The impulse was to plunge in and rescue Billy if he could.
That was all. But the current was swifter than he; he was
outstripped--stumbling along the rocky, icy shore. When he came
abreast of Billy, who was still clinging to the rock in mid-stream,
he did plunge in; but he came at once to a full stop, not gone a
fathom into the current, and stood staring.

Billy Topsail could not catch the bottom in the lee of the rock. Even
there the current was too strong, the depth of water too great, the lee
too narrow, the rock too small for a wide, sufficient backwater. Black
Pool was within twenty fathoms. Billy's clutch was breaking. In a moment
he would be torn away. Yet there was a moment--a minute or more of
opportunity. And having assured himself of this grace, Archie Armstrong
splashed ashore, without a word or a sign, scaled the bank and ran
down-stream to the bridge of Black Pool ice.

The bridge was rotten. It was rotten from bank to bank. It would not
bear the weight of a man. Archie Armstrong knew it. Its fall was
imminent. It awaited the last straw--a dash of rain, a squall of wind.
The ice was thick; there was a foot of it. And the bridge was heavy; its
attachment to the low cliffs was slight; in a day--next day, perhaps--it
would fall of its own weight, lie inert in the pool, drift slowly away
to the open reaches of Skeleton Arm and drive to sea.

Archie Armstrong, hanging by his hands from the edge of the low cliff,
broke a great fragment from the rock and thus reduced the stability of
the whole; and hanging from the edge of the same low cliff, a few
fathoms below, grasping the roots of the spruce, he broke a second
fragment loose with his weight--a third and a fourth. And the structure
collapsed. It fell in thick, spacious fragments on the quiet water of
the pool, buoyant and dry, and covered the face of the water, held
imprisoned by the rocks of the narrow exit.

When Billy Topsail came drifting down, Archie Armstrong, waiting on the
ice, helped him out and ashore.

"Better build a fire, Archie," said Billy, presently.

"I'm doing that very thing, Billy."

"Thanks, Archie."

"Cold, b'y?"

"I'll take no harm from the wettin'."

"Harm! A hardy kid like you! I laugh!"

Billy grinned.

"When I'm rested," said he, "I'll wring out my clothes. By the time
we've had a snack o' soggy grub I'll be dry. An' then we'll go on."

"On it is!"

Billy looked up.

"Archie," said he, "that was marvellous--clever!"

"Clever?" inquired Archie. "What was clever?"

And Archie Armstrong grinned. He knew well enough what was clever.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nobody was mad at Poor Luck Barrens. But somebody was in a raving
delirium of fever. And that was big George Tulk--Trapper George of
Bread-and-Butter Tickle. It was a tight little tilt on the edge of the
timber--winter quarters: a log shanty, with a turf roof, deep in a drift
of snow, to which a rising cloud of smoke attracted the attention of
Archie and Billy Topsail. No; what was alarming at Poor Luck Barrens was
not a frenzy of insanity--it was the delirium of pneumonia.

Jinny Tulk was glad enough to receive the help of Billy Topsail and
Archie Armstrong.

By and by Billy asked:

"Was it you put the letter in the cleft stick?"

Jinny smiled.

"Ay," said she.

"I found it," said Billy.

With that Jinny Tulk kissed Billy Topsail before he could stop her. She
was old enough for that; and she was so wholesome and pretty that when
Billy had reflected upon the incident he determined that he would not
try to stop her should she attempt it again.

"How'd you like it?" Archie teased him, privately, when Doctor Luke had
arrived and Trapper George was resting.

Billy blushed.

"'Twasn't so awful," was his stout reply.

Archie burst out laughing. Billy blushed again. Then he, too, laughed.

"I 'low I got my reward," said he.

By that time Trapper George was doing well. Doctor Luke was watchfully
at work. And Doctor Luke and Jinny Tulk, with the help of a spell of
frosty weather and an abundance of healing fresh air, and assisted by
the determined constitution of Trapper George Tulk himself, who had
formed the fixed habit of surviving adverse conditions--Doctor Luke and
Jinny Tulk worked an improvement, which passed presently into a state
of convalescence and ultimately became a cure. It was no easy matter.
Trapper George Tulk put one foot over the border--took a long look into
the final shadows. But Doctor Luke was a good fighter. And he happened
to win.



CHAPTER XXXVII

    _In Which Archie Armstrong Rejoins the "Rough and Tumble," With
    Billy Topsail for Shipmate, and They Seem Likely to be Left on the
    Floe, While Toby Farr, With the Gale Blowing Cold as Death and Dark
    Falling, Promises to Make a Song About the Ghosts of Dead Men, but
    is Entreated Not to Do So_


Archie Armstrong and Billy Topsail did not wait with Doctor Luke at Poor
Luck Barrens until the cure of Trapper George was accomplished. In view
of Archie's wish to return to St. John's with Cap'n Saul aboard the
_Rough and Tumble_, it was arranged that the boys should go back to
Bread-and-Butter Tickle alone, and thence down the coast to Our Harbour,
as best they could manage, carrying news of Doctor Luke's detention and
the cause of it. They were sorry to say good-bye to Doctor Luke; and
Doctor Luke was sorry to say good-bye to them. When the time came, Billy
Topsail, who had come to love and respect the man for his warm qualities
and the work that he did, sought for words to express his feeling and
his thanks; but being a simple, robust fellow, not accustomed to the
frank expression of feeling, not used to conventional forms, he could
manage but poorly. Archie Armstrong would have been ready, fluent, and
sincere in the same situation. But Billy Topsail could only stutter and
flush and come to an awkward full stop.

What Billy wanted to say was clear enough in his own mind. He had been
with Doctor Luke a good deal. They had been in tight places together.
But it was not that. "Tight places" are only relative, after all; what
is an adventure in one quarter of the world may be a mild incident in
another. And that Billy Topsail and Doctor Luke had been in danger
together was not particularly impressive: Billy Topsail was used to
danger--to peril of that sort--and had grown to regard it as among the
commonplaces of life.

That aspect of his experience with Doctor Luke to which Billy Topsail
had responded was the habit of service--the instant, willing, efficient
answer to the call of helpless need. Indeed, Doctor Luke appeared to
Billy Topsail to be a very great man--the greatest man, in his
personality and life, Billy Topsail had ever known, not excepting Sir
Archibald Armstrong. And Billy Topsail had come definitely to the
conclusion that what he wanted to do with his life was precisely what
Doctor Luke was doing with his.

It was this that he wanted to tell Doctor Luke; and it was this that he
failed to tell him.

"Good-bye, sir," he said.

"Good-bye, Billy."

"Th-th-thanks, sir."

"Thanks?" cried Doctor Luke. "For what, Billy? _I'm_ the debtor."

"Th-th-thanks, sir."

"Thank _you_, Billy, boy, for your most excellent company."

And so Billy and Archie left Doctor Luke at Poor Luck Barrens--hard at
work and happy in his work. They made Bread-and-Butter Tickle; they
travelled down the coast without incident; they shook hands with Teddy
Brisk, who was still telling his adventures on the ice-floe, his leg as
sound as any leg; and they came safe to Our Harbour, where they waited
until Cap'n Saul put in with the _Rough and Tumble_. And then Archie
would hear of nothing but Billy's company to St. John's--Billy _must_
go to St. John's, and he _would_ go to St. John's on the _Rough and
Tumble_, ecod, or Archie would put him in irons and carry him there!
Billy had no sound objection. From St. John's he could travel easily to
his home at Ruddy Cove and arrive there long before the Labrador
mail-boat would be north on her first voyage.

And so the boys boarded the _Rough and Tumble_ together, fell in with
Bill o' Burnt Bay, Jonathan Farr and little Toby once more, and put to
sea. The _Rough and Tumble_ was not loaded; she had more seals to kill
and stow away, and Cap'n Saul was resolved to "put back loaded"--a
desirable end towards which his active crew, in conjunction with his own
sealing wisdom, was fast approaching.

"I'll load in a week!" he boasted.

And then----

       *       *       *       *       *

Sunday, then--and that a brooding day. It was a dull, dragging time. Not
a gaff was out, not a gun; not a man put foot on the floe. The _Rough
and Tumble_ killed no seals. It was not the custom. All that day she lay
made fast to the ice, fretting for midnight. Cap'n Saul kept to his
cabin. Time and quiet weather went wasting away. Quiet weather--quiet
enough that day: a draught of westerly wind blowing, the sky overcast
and blank, and a flurry of snow in the afternoon, which failed, before
dusk, a black, still midnight drawing on.

On the first stroke of the midnight bell, for which he had waited since
the dawn of that dull day, Cap'n Saul popped out of the cabin, like a
jack-in-the-box, and stamped the bridge, growling and bawling his
orders, in a week-day temper, until he had dropped the First Watch, and
was under way through the floe, a matter of twenty miles, to land the
Second Watch and the Third--feeling a way through the lanes.

Before dawn Bill o' Burnt Bay's watch, with Archie and Billy Topsail,
was on the ice. Cap'n Saul put back to stand by the First Watch. Black
dark yet. It was bleak on the floe! They shivered in the frost and dark.
And the light lagged, as the light will, when it is waited for. It was a
sad dawn. A slow glower and lift of thin, gray light: no warmth of
colour in the east--no rosy flush and glow. When day broke, at last, the
crew made into the herds, mad to be warm, and began to kill. Still, it
was done without heart. There was less blithe slaughter, that day, than
unseemly brooding and weather-gazing. It was a queer thing, too. There
was no alarm of foul weather that any man could see.

A drear, gray day it was, day drawing near noon. Archie and Billy always
remembered that. Yet there was no frost to touch a man's heart, no need
to cower and whine in the wind, no snow to make a man afraid. A scowl in
the northeast--a low, drab, sulky sky, mottled with blue-black and smoky
white. They recalled it afterwards. But that was all. And Bill o' Burnt
Bay fancied, then, with the lives of his crew in mind, that the weather
quarter was doubtless in a temper, but no worse, and was no more than
half-minded to kick up a little pother of trouble before day ran over
the west.

And Bill was at ease about that.

"She'll bide as she is," he thought, "'til Cap'n Saul gets back."

Bill o' Burnt Bay was wrong. It came on to blow. The wind jumped to the
northwest with a nasty notion of misbehaviour. It was all in a moment. A
gust of wind, cold as death, went swirling past. They chilled to the
bones in it. And then a bitter blast of weather came sweeping down. The
floe began to pack and drive. Bill o' Burnt Bay gathered and numbered
his watch. And then they waited for the ship. No sign. And the day
turned thick. Dusk fell before its time. It was not yet midway of the
afternoon. And the wind began to buffet and bite. It began to snow, too.
And it was a frosty cloud of snow. It blinded--it stifled. It was flung
out of the black northwest like flour from a shaken sack.

The men were afraid. They knew that weather. It was a blizzard. There
was a night of mortal peril in it. There might be a night and a day--a
day and two nights. And they knew what would happen to them if Cap'n
Saul failed to find them before the pack nipped him and the night shut
down. It had happened before to lost crews. It would happen again. Men
gone stark mad in the wind--the floe strewn with drifted corpses. They
had heard tales. And now they had visions. Dead men going into
port--ship's flag at half-mast, and dead men going into port, frozen
stiff and blue, and piled forward like cord-wood.

"I'll make a song about this," said Toby Farr.

"A song!" Archie Armstrong exclaimed.

"'Tis about the gray wraiths o' dead men that squirm in the night."

"I'd not do it!" Jonathan protested.

"They drift like snow in the black wind," said Toby.

"Ah, no!" said Jonathan. "I'd make no songs the night about dead men an'
wraiths."

"Ay, but I'm well started----"

"No, lad!"

"I've a bit about cold fingers an' the damp touch----"

"I'd not brood upon that."

"An it please you, sir----"

"No."

"Ah, well," Toby agreed, "I'll wait 'til I'm cozy an' warm aboard ship."

"That's better," said Archie.

Billy Topsail shuddered. Toby's imagination--ghosts and dead men--had
frightened him.

"It is!" he declared.



CHAPTER XXXVIII

    _In Which the Wind Blows a Tempest, Our Heroes are Lost on the Floe,
    Jonathan Farr is Encased in Snow and Frozen Spindrift, Toby
    Strangely Disappears, and an Heroic Fight for Life is Begun, Wrapped
    in Bitter Dark_


It is well known on this coast, from Cape Race to Norman and the
Labrador harbours, what happened to Cap'n Saul that night. It was vast,
flat, heavy ice, thick labour for the ship, at best--square miles of
pans and fields. In the push of the northwest gale, blowing down, all at
once, with vigour and fury, from a new quarter, the big pans shifted and
revolved. The movement was like that of a waltz--slow dancers, revolving
in a waltz. And then the floe closed. And what was a clear course in the
morning was packed ice before dusk.

When the day began to foul, Cap'n Saul snatched up the First Watch,
where he was standing by, and came driving down after Bill o' Burnt
Bay's watch. It was too late. The ice caught him. And there was no
shaking free. The men on the floe glimpsed the ship--the bulk of the
ship and a cloud of smoke; but Cap'n Saul caught no glimpse of them--a
huddle of poor men wrapped in snow and dusk.

A blast of the gale canted the _Rough and Tumble_ until her bare yards
touched the floe and Cap'n Saul had a hard time to save her alive from
the gale. And that was the measure of the wind. It blew a tempest.
Rescue? No rescue. The men knew that. A rescue would walk blind--stray
and blow away like leaves. They must wait for clear weather and dawn.

There had been Newfoundlanders in the same hard case before. The men
knew what to do.

"Keep movin'!"

"No sleep!"

"Stick t'gether!"

"Nobody lie down!"

"Fetch me a buffet, some o' you men, an I gets sleepy."

"I gives any man leave t' beat me."

"Where's Tom Land?"

"Here I is!"

"I say, Tom--Long George gives any man leave t' beat un black an' blue!"

And a laugh at that.

"Mind the blow-holes!"

"An a man gets wet, he'll freeze solid."

"No sleep!"

"Keep movin'!"

They kept moving to keep warm. And even they larked. Tag, whilst they
could see to chase--and a sad leap-frog. And they wrestled and scuffled
until it was black dark and the heart went out of them all. And then
they wandered, with no lee to shelter them--a hundred and seventy-three
men, stamping and stumbling in the wind, clinging to life, hour after
hour, and waiting for the dawn, bitten by frost and near stifled by
snow. It was gnawing cold. Twelve below--it was afterwards said. And
that's bitter weather. It bit through to the bones and heart. And what
they wore to withstand it--no great-coats, to hamper the kill, but only
jackets and caps and mitts.

The floe was flat and bare to the gale. Nobody knows the pitch of the
wind. It was a full tempest. That much is known. And it stung and cut
and strove to wrest them from their feet and whisk them away. And there
they were--in the grip of the wind, stripped to the strength they had,
like lost beasts, and helpless to fend any more. Billy Topsail saw
young Simeon Tutt, of Whoopin' Harbour, trip and stagger and fall at his
feet; and before Billy could lay hands on him to save him, the wind blew
him away, like a leaf, and he was never seen again, but driven into a
lake of water in the dark, it was thought, and there perished.

[Illustration: LIKE LOST BEASTS]

By and by Archie and Billy stumbled on old Jonathan Farr of Jolly
Harbour. It was long past midnight then. And they saw no lad with him.
Where was Toby?

"That you, Jonathan?" said Archie.

"'Tis I, Archie."

"You living yet?"

"No choice. I got t' live."

"Where's Toby?" said Billy.

"The lad's----"

It was hard to hear. The old man's words jumped away with the wind. And
still the boys saw no lad.

"What say?" said Billy. "I don't see Toby. Where is he?"

"In my lee," Jonathan replied. "He's restin'."

There stood old Jonathan Farr, in the writhing gloom of that night,
stiff and still and patient as the dead, with his back to the gale,
plastered with snow and frozen spindrift, his shoulders humped and his
head drawn in like a turtle. It was bitter dark--yet not as black as the
grave. It is never that on the floe. And the wind streamed past, keen as
a blade with frost, thick with crisp snow, and clammy with the spray it
caught up from the open lakes and flung off in sheets and mist.

Dead bodies lying roundabout then--the boys had stumbled over the dead
as they walked. Young men, sprawled stiff, hard as ice to the bones,
lying stark in the drifts--Big Sam Tiller, of Thank-the-Lord, he that
whipped Paddy of Linger Tickle, in White Bay, when the fleet was trapped
by the floe in the Year of the Small Haul, was dead by that time; and
Archie had found little Dickie Ring, of Far-Away Cove, dead in his elder
brother's dead arms--they were pried apart with a crowbar when the time
came.

Yet there stood old Jonathan Farr, cased in snow and ice, with the life
warm in him--making a lee for little Toby. And Toby was snuggled up to
his grandfather, his face close--sheltered and rested from the gale, as
much as might be.

Billy Topsail bent down.

"How does you?" says he.

Toby put his head out from its snug harbour, and spoke, in a passion, as
though Billy had wronged him, and then ducked back from the smother of
wind and snow.

"My gran'pa takes care o' _me_!" he flashed.

"Will you save him, Jonathan?" Archie asked.

"I've a shot in the locker, Archie," Jonathan replied. "I'll save un
alive."

Out flashed Toby's head; and he tugged at his grandfather--and bawled
up.

"Is I doin' well?" he wanted to know.

"You is!"

"Is I doin' as well as my father done at my age?"

"You is! Is you rested?"

"Ay, sir."

"Full steam ahead!" said Jonathan. With that they bore away--playing a
game. And Jonathan was the skipper and Toby was the wheelman and engine.
"Port!" bawled Jonathan. And "Starboard your helm!" And Billy and Archie
lost sight of them in the dark.



CHAPTER XXXIX

    _In Which One Hundred and Seventy-Three Men of the "Rough and
    Tumble" are Plunged in the Gravest Peril of the Coast, Wandering
    Like Lost Beasts, and Some Drop Dead, and Some are Drowned, and Some
    Kill Themselves to be Done With the Torture They Can Bear No Longer_


They kept close, a hundred and seventy-three living men, to start with,
and then God knew how many!--kept close for comfort and safety; and they
walked warily, drunk and stupid in the wind, in dread of lakes and
blow-holes and fissures of water, and in living fear of crusts of snow,
wind-cast over pitfalls. And they died fast in the dark. In Archie
Armstrong's tortured mind childish visions of hell were revived--the
swish and sad complaint of doomed souls, winging round and round and
round in a frozen dark. It was like that, he thought.

Dawn delayed. It was night forever; and the dark was peopled--the throng
stirred, and was not visible; and from the black wraiths of men, moving
roundabout, never still, all driven round and round by the torture of
the night, came cries of pain--sobbing and wailing, rage and prayer, and
screams for help, for God's sake.

Many of the men wore out before dawn and were fordone: hands frozen,
feet frozen, lips and throat frozen--heart frozen. And many a man
dropped in his tracks, limp and spiritless as rags, and lay still, every
man in his own drift of snow; and his soul sped away as though glad to
be gone. Brothers, some, and fathers and sons--the one beating the other
with frozen hands, and calling to him to rouse and stand up lest he die.

Dawn came. It was just a slow, dirty dusk. And day was no better than
dusk. Still they walked blind and tortured in a frosty smother and
driving whirlwind of snow. Hands frozen, feet frozen--and the cold
creeping in upon the heart! They were numb and worn and sleepy. And
there was no rest for them. To pause was to come into living peril--to
rest was to sleep; and to sleep was death. Once more, then, when day was
full broken, Archie and Billy came on Jonathan Farr and Toby.

The old man was sheathed in snow and frozen spindrift. A hairy old
codger he was--icicles of his own frozen breath clinging to his long
white beard and icicles hanging from his bushy brows. And he was beating
Toby without mercy: for the lad would fall down, worn out, and whimper
and squirm; and the old man would jerk and cuff him to his feet, and
drive him on with cuffs from behind, stumbling and whimpering and
bawling.

It was a sad task that he had, done in pity--thus to cuff the little lad
awake and keep him moving; and Billy Topsail fancied that it was waste
pain. It seemed to him that the lad must die in the gale, soon or
late--no doubt about that, with stout men yielding to death roundabout.
Billy thought that it would be better to let him sleep and die and
suffer no more.

"I'm s' sleepy!" Toby complained to his grandfather. "Leave me sleep!"

"Get up!"

"Ah, jus' a minute, gran'pa!"

"Get up!"

"You c'n wake me 's easy----"

"Get up!"

"Ye hurt me, gran'pa!"

"Drive on!"

"You leave me alone!" Toby bawled, angrily. "Ye hurt!"

"Drive on!"

By this time the men had been more than twenty-four hours on the ice.
And they had no food. Hungry? No. They were cold. No man famished in
that gale. And they had yet a night of that gale to win through, though
they knew nothing about that at the time. They began to stray wide. And
they began to go blind. And some men fell in the water and were drowned.
Billy Topsail saw John Temple, of Heart's Island, drop through a crust
of snow and go down for good and all; and he saw Tom Crutch, of
Seldom-Come-By, stumble over the edge of a pan, and heard him screech
for help. They hauled him out--two men of his own harbour; and he was
frozen solid in half an hour.

Some men chose an end of torture and leaped into the water and killed
themselves. And as day drew on, others began to go mad. It was
horrible--like a madhouse. They babbled, stark mad--the harbours they
came from, and their mothers, their wives, their babies. And they had
visions, and were deluded--some saw a blaze of fire and set out to find
the glow, and called to the others, as they went off, to come and be
warm. And one saw the ship's lights, as in clear, dark weather, and
staggered away, bawling that he was coming, with a troop of poor madmen
in his wake.

This is the naked truth about that gale.



CHAPTER XL

    _In Which Toby Farr Falls in the Water, and, Being Soaked to the
    Skin, Will Freeze Solid in Half an Hour, in the Frosty Dusk of the
    Approaching Night, Unless a Shift of Dry Clothes is Found, a
    Necessity Which Sends Jonathan Farr and Billy Topsail Hunting for
    Dead Men_


Through all this black confusion and bitter hardship Billy Topsail and
Archie Armstrong wandered with the others of the men of the _Rough and
Tumble_. They suffered, despaired, hoped, despaired again--but fought
desperately for their lives as partners. When Archie wanted to give way
to his overwhelming desire for sleep, Billy cuffed and beat him into
wakefulness and renewed courage; and when Billy, worn out and numb with
cold, entertained the despair that assaulted him, Archie gathered his
faculties and encouraged him. Had either been alone on the floe, it is
probable that he would have perished; but both together, devoted to each
other, resolved to help each other, each watchful of the other, each
inspired by the other's need--fighting thus as partners in peril, they
were as well off, in point of vitality and determination, as any man on
the floe. Afraid? Yes, they were afraid--that is to say, each perceived
the peril he was in, knew that his life hung in the balance, and wished
with all his might to live; but neither boy whimpered in a cowardly way.

Coming on dusk of that day, the boys fell in for the last time with old
Jonathan Farr. Jonathan had Toby by the scruff of the neck and was just
setting him on his feet by a broken crust of snow. Toby was wide awake
then. And he was dripping wet to the waist--near to the armpits. And he
was frightened.

"I falled in," said he. "I--I stumbled."

In that wind and frost it was death. The lad was doomed. And it was but
a matter of minutes.

"Is you--is you wet through, Toby?" Jonathan asked, blankly.

"I is, sir."

Jonathan drew off a mitt and felt of the lad's clothes from his calves
to his waist.

"Wet through!" said he. "Oh, dear me!"

"I'm soppin' t' the skin."

"Jus' drippin' wet!"

"I'm near froze," Toby complained. And he chilled. And his teeth
clicked. "I wisht I had a shift o' clothes," said he.

"I wisht you had!" said Jonathan.

Billy Topsail got to windward of Jonathan to speak his mind in the old
man's ear. It seemed to Billy that Toby's case was hopeless. The lad
would freeze. There was no help for it. And the sooner his suffering was
over--the better.

"Let un die," Billy pleaded.

Jonathan shook his head and flashed at Billy. Yet Billy had spoken
kindness and plain wisdom. But Jonathan was in a rage with him. Billy
heard his icicles rattle. And Jonathan glared in wrath through the white
fringe of his brows.

"Go to!" he exclaimed.

"My pants is froze stiff!" said Toby in amazement. "That's comical! I
can't move me legs." And then he whimpered with pain and misery and
fear. "I'll freeze stiff!" said he. "I'll die!"

It was coming fast.

"You can't save un," Billy insisted, in Jonathan's ear. "He'll freeze
afore dark. Let un go."

"I'll never give up," Jonathan protested.

"I'm awful mis'able, gran'pa," said Toby. "What'll I do now?"

"Ah, have mercy!" Billy begged. "Let un slip away quick an' be gone."

Jonathan peered around.

"Mus' be some dead men, Billy," said he, "lyin' around here somewheres."

Dead men enough in the drifts!

"More than a hundred," said Archie. "I counted a hundred and nine
through the day."

"I'll find one," said Jonathan.

"No time, Jonathan."

"They're lyin' handy. I fell over Jack Brace somewheres near here."

"Night's closin'," said Billy.

"No time t' lose," Jonathan agreed.

"Speed then!" Billy exclaimed. "He'll freeze fast afore you find one."

"Guard the lad," said Jonathan. "I'll not be long. Try his temper. He'll
fight if you tease un."

With that, then, old Jonathan Farr ran off to dig a dead man from the
drifts. The boys could not see him in the snow. All this while the wind
was biting and pushing and choking them still--the snow was mixed with
the first dusk. Toby was shivering then--cowering from the wind, head
down. And he was dull. His head nodded. He swayed in the wind--caught
his feet; and he jerked himself awake--and nodded and swayed again.
Billy Topsail thought it a pity and a wrong to rouse him. Yet both boys
turned to keep him warm.

Toby must have the life kept in him, they thought, until his grandfather
got back. And they cuffed him and teased him until his temper was hot,
poor lad, and he fought them in a passion--stumbling at them, hampered
by his frozen clothes, and striking at them with his stiff arms and icy
fists.

Jonathan came then.

"I can't find no dead men," he panted. It was hard for him to breast the
wind. He was gasping with haste and fear. "I've hunted," said he, "an' I
can't find no dead men."

"They're lyin' thick hereabouts," said Billy.

"They're all covered up. I can't find un."

"Did you kick the drifts?" Archie asked. "We've strayed wide," said
Jonathan. "I can't find no dead men. An' I can't walk well no more."

"Watch the lad," said Billy. "I'll try my hand."

Toby was lying down. Jonathan caught him up from the ice and held him in
his arms.

"Quick!" he cried. "He've fell asleep. Ah, he's freezin'!"

It was coming dark fast. There was no time to waste in the gale that was
blowing. The frost was putting Toby to sleep. Billy sped. He searched
the drifts like a dog for a dead man. And soon he had luck. He found
Long Jerry Cuff, of Providence Arm, a chunk of ice, poor man!--lying in
a cuddle, arms folded and knees drawn up, like a child snuggled in bed.
Long Jerry had been in the water, soaked to the skin, and he was solid
and useless. And then Billy came on a face and a fur cap in a drift of
snow. It was George Hunt, of Bullet Bight, with whom Billy had once
sailed, in fishing weather, to Thumb-and-Finger of the Labrador.

Long Jerry was lying flat on his back with his arms flung out and his
legs spread. And he was frozen fast to the floe. Billy could not budge
him. No. Billy caught him by the head and lifted--he was stiff as a
plank; and Billy failed. And Billy took him by the foot and pried a leg
loose--and ripped at it with all his might; and again he failed. Solid
as stone! They must all have been solid like that. And then Billy knew
that it was no use to try any more--that they could not strip the
clothes from a dead man if they had a dead man to strip.

And then he went disconsolate to Jonathan.



CHAPTER XLI

    _In Which a Dead Man is Made to Order for Little Toby Farr_


"Couldn't you find none?" cried Jonathan.

"Yes."

"Where is he?"

"No use, Jonathan. He's froze fast t' the ice. I couldn't budge un."

"We'll all----"

Billy shook his head.

"No use, Jonathan," he said again. "He's hard as stone. We couldn't
strip un."

Jonathan said nothing to that. He was in a muse. Presently he looked up.

Then he said:

"It don't matter."

"How's Toby?" Billy asked.

Toby was on his feet.

"I'm all right," he answered for himself. "Isn't I doin' pretty well for
me, gran'pa?"

"You is!"

Billy took Jonathan aside. Jonathan was at ease. Billy marvelled. It was
queer.

"I've warmed un up again," said Jonathan. "Archie an' me done well.
We've got un quite warm."

"Too bad," said Billy. "He've got t' die."

"No," said Jonathan. "I've a shot in the locker, Billy. I've found a
way. Heed me, Billy. An' mark well what I says. I 'low a dead man's
clothes would be cold an' damp anyhow. The lad needs a shift o' warm
clothes. An' I'm warm, Billy. An' my underclothes is dry. I been warm
an' dry all day long, an' wonderful strong an' wakeful, too, with the
fear o' losin' Toby. I'll jus' go away a little piece an' lie down an'
die. I'm tired an' dull. It won't take long. An' you an' Archie will
strip me, Billy, while I'm still warm."

"It might do."

"'Tis the only sensible thing t' do."

It was the only thing to do. Billy Topsail knew that. If Toby Farr's
life were to be saved, he must have dry clothes at once. Billy did not
offer to strip himself for Toby. It would have been mock heroics. Nor
did Archie Armstrong when he learned of what Jonathan was to do. Either
boy would have risked his life in a moment to save the life of Toby
Farr--without a second thought, an instant of hesitation, whatever the
risk. Obviously it was the duty of old Jonathan Farr to make the only
sacrifice that could save the boy. Had Archie or Billy volunteered, the
old man would have thanked them and declined the gift.

As old Jonathan had said, to die was the only sensible thing to do.

"Nothin' else t' do," said Billy.

"No; nothin' else t' do that I can think of right now."

"'Tis hard for you, Jonathan," said Billy.

"Oh, no!" Jonathan replied. "I don't mind."

"Then make haste," Billy advised. "If 'tis t' be done, it must be done
quick."

"Don't waste no heat," said Jonathan. "Fetch Toby alongside, jus' as
soon as I'm gone, an' strip me afore I'm cold."

"Ay," Billy agreed. "That's a good idea."

"An' you keep Toby alive, somehow, Billy," Jonathan went on. "God help
you!"

"I will."

Jonathan moved away.

"Watch where I goes," said he. "Don't lose me. I won't be far."

And then Toby, whom Archie had in hand, keeping him moving, spoke in
alarm:

"Where you goin', gran'pa?" he demanded.

Jonathan stopped dead. He turned. And he made back towards Toby. And
then he stopped dead again.

"I'm jus' goin' t' look for something," said he.

"What you goin' t' look for?"

"I'm goin' t' find a shift o' warm clothes for you."

"A dead man, gran'pa?"

"Ay; a dead man."

"Don't be long," said Toby. "I'll miss you."

"I'm glad o' that," Jonathan replied.

"You might get lost in the snow," said Toby. "Hurry up. I'll wait here
with Billy an' Archie."

"I'll be back jus' as quick as I'm able," Jonathan promised. "You wait
here, Toby, an' mind Billy and Archie, won't you, while I'm gone?"

"Ay, sir. An' I'll keep movin' jus' the same as if you was here. Hurry
up."

By and by, when Billy thought it was time, he went to where Jonathan was
lying.

"Is you dead?" he whispered.

"Not yet," said Jonathan. "Come back in a few minutes."

Pretty soon Billy went back.

"Is you dead?" he asked.

"Not yet," said Jonathan. "I'm makin' poor work of it."

And Billy went once more.

"Is you dead?"

"I'm goin' fast."

And yet again:

"Is you dead?"

And Jonathan was dead.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was worth doing. It saved Toby Farr alive from that gale. It was no
easy thing to clothe him anew in the wind--the little boy weeping for
his dead grandfather and wanting to lie down and die by his side.
Newfoundland born, however, and used to weather, he lived through the
night. And when Cap'n Saul gathered the dead from the ice in the quiet
weather of the next morning, the lad was carried aboard and stowed away,
frost-bitten in a sad way, yet bound to hang on to life.

Toby said never a word about his grandfather then. Nor did he weep any
more. Nor did he ask Billy and Archie any questions. But he brooded. And
the boys wondered what he was thinking so deeply about. And then they
put into port--flag at half-mast and a hundred and twenty-one men piled
forward like cord-wood. And Toby Farr came on deck, clad in his
grandfather's clothes, and watched the dead go ashore, with Archie and
Billy and Sir Archibald, until his grandfather went by, wrapped in a
Union Jack.

"Billy!" said he.

"Ay, Toby?"

"Did my gran'pa gimme his clothes?"

"He did."

"I'll be worthy!" said Toby.

And he has grown up since then. And he is worthy.



CHAPTER XLII

    _In Which the Tale Comes to a Good End: Archie and Billy Make Ready
    for Dinner, Toby Farr is Taken for Good and All by Sir Archibald,
    and Billy Topsail, Having Been Declared Wrong by Archie's Father,
    Takes the Path That Leads to a New Shingle, After Which the Author
    Asks a Small Favour of the Reader_


Well, now, we have come to the end of the tale of Billy Topsail. I need
not describe the grief of the Colony when the tragedy of the ice-floes
was disclosed. Newfoundlanders are warm-hearted folk; they are easily
touched to sympathy--they grieved, indeed, even to the remotest
harbours, when news of the death of the men of the _Rough and Tumble_
was spread forth. It was a catastrophe that impended every sealing
season--rare, perhaps, in its degree, but forever a thing to be
expected. Yet you are not to think of Newfoundland in visions wholly of
wind and snow and ice. Newfoundland is not an Arctic country by any
means. Nor does the wind blow all the while; nor is the sea all the
while in a turmoil. It is a lovely coast after all; and the folk who
live there are simple, self-respecting, cheerful--a lovable, admirable
folk. To be sure they have summer weather. What is written in this book
is of the spring of the year--the tempestuous season, with the ice
breaking up. As a matter of fact, Newfoundland seems to me, in
retrospect, to be far less a land of tempest and frost than of sunlit
hills and a rippling blue sea.

Ashore, at last, and making ready for dinner, in Sir Archibald
Armstrong's great house, while Archie's mother mothered little Toby
Farr, who was to live in the great house thereafter, and be reared by
Sir Archibald, like a brother of Archie's own--alone in Archie's rooms,
Billy and Archie talked a little while.

"Somehow, Archie," said Billy, with a puzzled frown, "it didn't seem
nothin' much t' do at the time."

"What, Billy?"

"What Jonathan done."

"No," Archie agreed.

"Somehow," Billy went on, "it jus' seemed as if everybody was dyin', or
goin' t' die, an' one more wouldn't make no very great difference.
Didn't it seem that way t' you, Archie?"

"Just that way, Billy."

"Queer, isn't it?"

"I didn't care very much, Billy, what happened to me."

"Nor I what happened t' me."

"Sometimes I _wanted_ to die. I just wanted to lie down and----"

"Me too, Archie."

"Looking back, though, it isn't the same. I'm glad I'm alive."

There was a silence.

"Archie," said Billy, "that was a pretty fine thing that Jonathan done."

"It was, Billy."

"An' the way he done it was fine. It was a man's way t' do a thing like
that. No fuss about it. Jus' a quiet way--jus' goin' ahead an' doin'
what he thought he ought t' do, an' sayin' nothin' about it."

"That was the best of it, Billy."

"It was a _great_ thing, Archie. I can't get over it. I thinks of it
again an' again an' again. I'd like t' be big enough t' do a thing like
that in jus' that way."

"And I, Billy."

"I bet you, Archie, Jonathan was _glad_ t' be able t' do it."

"I think he was."

"Yes," Billy repeated; "a big thing like that in a big way like that.
I'd like t' be man enough. An' I knows only one other man in the world
who could do it--in jus' that quiet way."

"Who's that, Billy?"

"Doctor Luke."

"Yes," Archie agreed; "he's big enough for anything."

"I'd like t' be like he!" Billy sighed.

Then the boys went down to dinner. Archie had something in mind of which
Billy Topsail was not aware.

       *       *       *       *       *

After dinner, Toby Farr was put to bed. He was a soft little fellow,
perhaps, and Archie's mother, too, was tender. At any rate, she was
calling Toby "Son" by that time; and Toby didn't mind, and Archie was
delighted, and Sir Archibald was smiling as though he enjoyed it. Toby
was not happy--not by any means; no prospect of luxury, no new love,
could ease the wish for his grandfather's voice and presence. Yet he was
as happy as he very well could be--and as safe as any lad ever was. When
he said good-night, he said it gravely, in the mannerly way he had--a
courteous voice, a serious air, a little bow. Sir Archibald smiled, and
Archie clapped him on the back, and Archie's mother put her arms around
the lad, smiling, too, and led him off to stow him away.

Archie and Billy were then left alone with Sir Archibald.

"Dad," Archie began, "Billy and I have been talking."

"Well, well!" said Sir Archibald.

Billy chuckled.

"I mean _really_ talking, dad."

"What about, son?"

"Well, quite a number of things."

"You surprise me!" said Sir Archibald.

Archie ignored the banter.

"Look here, dad," he said, "I want Billy to do something that he won't
do."

"Then," said Sir Archibald, "I should recommend you to ask him to do
something else."

"But that won't do."

"Must he do this thing?"

"If it's right."

"Is it right?"

"_I_ think so."

"What is it?"

Archie explained the matter in dispute, with all its provisions for
guarding Billy Topsail's self-respect, and Sir Archibald listened.

"I agree with you," said Sir Archibald, promptly, when Archie came to
the end. "I think it right."

       *       *       *       *       *

And that is how Billy Topsail found a proper way to study medicine--that
is how it came about that a new shingle declares to the world of the
north Newfoundland Coast the whereabouts of--

  WILLIAM TOPSAIL, M. D.

You may find Billy Topsail in the surgery (when he happens to be at
home) if you land from the mail-boat and follow the road over
Tinkle-Tinkle Hill to Broad Cove--a hearty, smiling, rather quiet chap,
of a scientific turn, who goes where he is called, and has the
reputation of being the most promising physician and surgeon in
Newfoundland. He has been advised to go to St. John's, of course; but
that he will not do--for reasons of his own, which have to do with the
obligations of service. Well, then, there he is--in the surgery, when he
is at home; and if you _should_ happen to go ashore from the mail-boat,
and if you should take Tinkle-Tinkle Road to Broad Cove, and if your
seeking eye should alight upon a new shingle, inscribed WILLIAM TOPSAIL,
M. D., and if you should knock on the door, and if a stalwart,
fine-looking, rather quiet chap, with a twinkling smile, should open the
door, and if you should tell him that you know me, and that I had
invited you to call--

He'll laugh. And he'll say:

"Come in! Glad t' see you!"

And you go in--don't fail to. You'll have a good time. And give Billy my
compliments and tell him I'll be up to see him one of these summers.
Thanks. I'm much obliged.


_Printed in the United States of America_


       *       *       *       *       *


Transcriber's Notes


Variations in spelling are kept.

Printer errors and punctuation errors are silently corrected.





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