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Troop One of the Labrador By Dillon Wallace Characters: 29516

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

"Doctor Joe! Doctor Joe's comin'! He just turned the p'int!"

Jamie Angus burst into the cabin at The Jug breathlessly shouting this joyful news, and then rushed out again with David and Andy at his heels.

"Oh, Doctor Joe! It can't be Doctor Joe, now! Can it, Pop? It must be some one else Jamie sees! It can't be Doctor Joe, whatever!" exclaimed Margaret in a great flutter of excitement.

"Jamie's keen at seein'! He'd know anybody as far as he can see un!" assured Thomas, no less excited at the news than was Margaret. "But 'tis strange that he's comin' back so soon!"

Of course Margaret, who was laying the table for supper, must needs follow the boys; and Thomas, who was leaning over the wash basin removing the grime of the day's toil, snatched the towel from its peg behind the door and, drying his hands as he ran, sacrificing dignity to haste, followed Margaret, who had joined the three boys at the end of the jetty which served as a boat landing.

A skiff had just entered the narrow channel which connected The Jug, as the bight where the Anguses lived was called, with the wider waters of Eskimo Bay. There could be no doubt, even at that distance, that the tall man standing aft and manipulating the long sculling oar, was Doctor Joe. As the little group gathered on the jetty he took off his hat and waved it high above his head. It was Doctor Joe beyond a doubt! The boys waved their caps and shouted at the top of their lusty young lungs, Margaret, undoing her apron, waved it and added her voice to the chorus, and Thomas, quite carried away by the excitement, waved the towel and in a great bellowing voice shouted a louder welcome than any of them.

There was no happier or better contented family on all The Labrador than the family of Thomas Angus, though they had their trials and ups and downs and worries like any other family in or out of Labrador.

"Everybody must expect a bit o' trouble and worry now and again," Thomas would say when things did not go as they should. "If we never had un, and livin' were always fine and clear, we'd forget to be thankful for our blessin's. We has t' have a share o' trouble in our lives, and here and there a hard knock whatever, t' know how fine the good things are and rightly enjoy un when they come. And in the end troubles never turn out as bad as we're expectin', by half. First and last there's a wonderful sight more good times than bad uns for all of us."

Thomas had reason to be proud and thankful. Jamie could see as well as ever he could, and it was all because of Doctor Joe and his wonderful operation on Jamie's eyes when it seemed certain the lad was to become blind. Through the skill of Doctor Joe, Jamie's eyes were every whit as keen as David's and Andy's, and there were no keener eyes in the Bay than theirs.

David was now nearly seventeen and Andy was fifteen-brawny, broad-shouldered lads who had already faced more hardships and had more adventures to their credit than fall to many a man in a whole lifetime. In that brave land adventures are to be found at every turn. They bob up unexpectedly, and the man or boy who meets them successfully must know the ways of the wilderness and must be self-reliant and resourceful, must have grit a-plenty and a stout heart.

Margaret kept house for the little family, a responsibility that had been thrust upon her, and which she cheerfully accepted, when her mother was laid to rest and she was a wee lass of twelve. Now she was eighteen and as tidy and cheerful a little housekeeper as could be found on the coast, and pretty too, in manner as well as in feature. "'Tis the manner that counts," said Thomas, and he declared that there was no prettier lass to be found on the whole Labrador.

Doctor Joe, whose real name was Joseph Carver, was their nearest neighbour at Break Cove, ten miles down Eskimo Bay. He had come to the coast nine years before, a mysterious stranger, nervous and broken in health. Thomas gave him shelter at The Jug, helped him build his cabin at Break Cove and taught him the ways of the land and how to set his traps. Doctor Joe became a trapper like his neighbours, and in time, with wholesome living in the out-of-doors, regained his health and came to love his adopted country and its rugged life.

No one knew then that Joseph Carver was indeed a doctor, but he was so handy with bandages and medicines that the folk of the Bay recognized his skill and soon fell, by common consent, to calling him "Doctor Joe."

It was a year before our story begins that Jamie had first complained of a mist in his eyes. With passing weeks the mist thickened, and one day Doctor Joe examined the eyes and announced that only a delicate and serious operation could save the lad's sight. This demanded that Jamie be taken to a hospital in New York where a specialist might operate. It was an expensive undertaking. Neither Thomas nor Doctor Joe had the necessary money, but Thomas hoped to realize enough from his winter's trapping in the interior and Doctor Joe was to add the proceeds of his own winter's work to the fund. Then Thomas broke his leg. Doctor Joe must needs remain at The Jug to care for him, and there seemed no hope for Jamie but a life of darkness.

But David was confident that he could take his father's place on the trails, and with some persuasion, for the need was desperate, Thomas consented that David and Andy should spend the winter in the great interior wilderness with no other companion than Indian Jake, a half-breed.

That was an experience needing the stoutest heart. Through long dreary months they faced the sub-arctic cold and fearful blizzards that swept the wilderness, following silent trails over wide white wastes or through the depths of dark forests, and falling upon many a wild adventure that tried their mettle a hundred times. It was a man's job, but they both made good, and that is something to be proud of-to make good at the job you tackle.

Jamie had pluck too, but pluck alone could not save his eyes. The mist thickened more rapidly than Doctor Joe had expected it would, and there came a time when Jamie could scarcely see at all. Then it was that Doctor Joe announced one day before the return of David and Andy from the trails, that the operation could be no longer delayed if Jamie's eyesight was to be saved, and that to attempt to delay it until the ice cleared from the coast and the mail boat came to bear him away to New York would be fatal.

After making this announcement, Doctor Joe revealed the fact that he had once been a great eye surgeon. With Thomas's consent he offered to perform the operation on Jamie's eyes. Thomas had unbounded faith in his friend. Doctor Joe operated and Jamie's sight was saved.

In curing Jamie, Doctor Joe discovered that he himself was cured, and that he was again in possession of all his former skill. It was quite natural, therefore, that he should wish to resume the practice of surgery. He was an indifferent trapper, and the living that he made following the trails amounted to a bare existence. He decided, therefore, that it was his duty to himself to return to the work for which, during long years of study, he had been trained.

Six weeks before Doctor Joe had sailed away on the mail boat from Fort Pelican, bound for New York, that far distant, mysterious, wonderful city of which he had told so many marvellous tales. Thomas had grave doubts that they would ever see him again, though he had said that he would some day return to visit his friends at The Jug and to see his own little deserted cabin at Break Cove, where he had spent so many lonely but profitable years, for it was here that he had rebuilt his broken health. He had good reason to love the place, and he was quite sure he had no better or truer friends in all the world than Thomas Angus and his family.

"Thomas," said he at parting, "if I had the means to support myself I would stay here on The Labrador and be doctor to the people that need me, for there are folk enough that need a doctor's help up and down the coast. But I'm a poor man, and if I stopped here I'd have to make my living as a trapper, and you know how poor a trapper I've been all these years. Back in New York I can do much good, and there I can live as I was reared to live. But I'll not forget you, Thomas, and some day I'll come to see you."

"I'm not doubtin' 'tis best you go and the Lord's will," said Thomas. "But we'll be missin' you sore, Doctor Joe. I scarce knows how we'll get on without you. 'Twill seem strange-almost like you were dead, I'm fearin'."

"Thomas," and Doctor Joe's voice trembled with emotion, "there's no one in the wide world nearer my affections than you and the boys and Margaret. It hurts me to go, but it's best I should. I might scratch along here for a few years, but I was not born to the work and the time would come when I'd be a burden on some one, and it would make me unhappy. I know that I'll wish often enough to be back here with you at The Jug."

"You'd never be a burden, whatever!" Thomas declared, quite shocked at the suggestion. "I feels beholden to you, Doctor Joe. There's nary a thing I could ever do to make up to you for savin' Jamie's eyes. You made un as good as new. He'd ha' been stone blind now if 'tweren't for you-and the mercy o' God."

"The mercy of God," Doctor Joe repeated reverently.

And here at the end of six weeks was Doctor Joe back again. What wonder that Thomas Angus and his family were quite beside themselves with joy, shouting themselves hoarse down there on the jetty.

And presently, when the skiff drew alongside, and Doctor Joe stepped out upon the jetty, he was quite overwhelmed with the welcome he received.

"Well, Thomas," he said as they walked up to the cabin with Jamie clinging to one of his hands and Andy to the other, "here I am back again, as you see. I couldn't stay away from you dear, good people. I may as well confess, I was homesick for you before I reached New York, and I'm back to stay. I found my fortune had been made while I was here, and now I can do as I please."

"Oh, that's fine now!" exclaimed Margaret. "'Tis fine if you're to stay!"

"We were missin' you sore," said Thomas. "'Tis like the Lord's blessin' to have you back at The Jug!"

"And there's good old Roaring Brook!" Doctor Joe stopped for a moment with half closed eyes, to listen to the rush of water over the rocks, where Roaring Brook tumbled down into The Jug. "It's the sweetest music I've heard since I left here! And the smell of the spruce trees! And such a scene! Thomas, my friend, it's a rugged land where we live, but it's God's own land, just as He made it, beautiful, and undefiled by man!"

Doctor Joe turned about and stretched his right arm toward the south. Before them lay the shimmering placid waters of The Jug, reaching away to join the wider, greater waters of Eskimo Bay. In the distance, beyond the Bay, the snow-capped peaks of the Mealy Mountains stood in silent majesty, now reflecting the last brilliant rays of the setting sun. As they tarried, watching them, the light faded and shafts of orange and red rose out of the west. The waters became a throbbing expanse of colour, and the woods on the Point, at the entrance to The Jug, sank into purple.

"'Tis a bit of the light of heaven that the Lord lets out of evenin's for us to see," said Jamie, and perhaps Jamie was right.

"You must be rare hungry, now," observed Thomas, as they entered the cabin. "Margaret were just puttin' supper on when Jamie sights you turnin' the P'int. 'Twill be ready in a jiffy."

"What have you got for us, Margaret?" asked Doctor Joe. "I believe I am hungry for the good things you cook."

"Fried trout, sir," said Margaret.

"Fried trout!" Doctor Joe rolled his eyes in mock ecstasy. "It couldn't have been better!"

"You always says that, whatever," laughed Margaret. "If 'twere just bread and tea I'm thinkin' you'd like un fine."

"But trout!" exclaimed Doctor Joe. "Why, fresh trout are worth five dollars a pound where I've been-and couldn't be had for that!"

"Well, now!" said Margaret in astonishment. "And we has un so plentiful!"

David lighted a lamp and Thomas renewed the fire, which crackled cheerily in the big box stove, while everybody talked excitedly and Margaret set on the table a big dish of smoking fried trout, a heaping plate of bread, and poured the tea.

"Set in! Set in, Doctor Joe!" Thomas invited.

And when they drew up to the table, with Thomas at one end and Margaret at the other, and Doctor Joe and Jamie at Thomas's right, and David and Andy at his left, Thomas devoutly gave thanks for the return of their friend and asked a blessing upon the bounty provided.

"Help yourself, now, and don't be afraid of un," Thomas admonished, passing the dish of trout to Doctor Joe.

"A real banquet," Doctor Joe declared, as he helped himself liberally. "I've eaten in some fine places since I've been away, but I've had no such feast as this! And there's no one in the whole world can fry trout like Margaret!"

"You always says that, sir," and Margaret's face glowed with pleasure at the compliment.

"'Tis true!" declared Doctor Joe. "'Tis true!"

"I'm wonderin' now about the trout," remarked David.

"What are you wondering?" asked Doctor Joe.

"How folks get along with no trout to eat off where you've been, sir."

"There are men who go far out from the city and fish in the streams for trout, just for the sport of catching them," explained Doctor Joe. "They will tramp all day along brooks, and feel lucky if they catch a dozen little fellows so small we'd not look at them here. But it is only the few who do it for sport that ever get any at all, and there are hundreds of people there who never even saw a trout, they catch so very few of them."

"'Twould seem like a waste o' time," remarked Thomas, "if they catches so few. I'd never walk all day for a dozen trout unless I was wonderful hard up for grub. If I were wantin' fish so bad I'd set a net for whitefish or salmon, or if there were cod grounds about I'd gig for cod, though salmon or cod or whitefish would never be takin' the place o' good fresh trout with me."

"It's not altogether for the trout the sportsmen tramp the streams all day," laughed Doctor Joe. "They prize the trout they get as a great delicacy, to be sure, but it's the joy of getting out into the open that pays them for the effort. I've done it myself. They get plenty of sea fish, they buy them at the shops."

"I never were thinkin' o' that," said Thomas. "I'm thinkin', now, that's where all the salmon we salts down and sells to the Post goes."

The boys were vastly intereste

d, and asked many questions, which Doctor Joe answered with infinite patience, concerning the various kinds of fish people bought in the shops, and how the fish were caught and shipped to the shops to be sold fresh.

"And you'll stay now? You'll not be leavin' The Labrador again?" asked Thomas, after supper.

"Aye," said Doctor Joe, "I've elected to be a Labradorman." Then, turning to the boys, he suggested:

"Lads, there are a lot of things in that skiff of mine. I wish you'd bring them in. Will you do it while your father and I visit?"

The boys were not only glad but eager to do it, for there were doubtless many surprises for themselves in the skiff, and with one accord the three hurried out.

"Years ago, Thomas," said Doctor Joe, when the boys were gone, "in my days in New York, I invested a little money in a mining property. Shortly after I made the investment it was said the ore had run out, and I believed my money was lost. When I returned to New York this summer I found that more ore had been found later, and the mine had earned me a lot of money. I invested what was due to me in such a way that it will bring me an income each year sufficient to provide me with all I shall ever need."

"Oh, but that's fine now!" said Thomas.

"Thomas," Doctor Joe continued "I should not have been able to enjoy this had it not been for your kindness to me years ago, when I came first to The Labrador a man of broken health. If you had not offered me your friendship then I should have died an invalid in poverty.

"I've thought of this a thousand times. I believe God sent me here. I only knew then that I came because I sought a secluded spot on the earth where I could find relief from turmoil. Now, I believe He guided me to The Labrador and to The Jug to you. He had something for me to do in the world, and this was His way of saving me.

"When Jamie needed me I was here, and because you had befriended me I was prepared with God's help and with my skill and training to restore Jamie's eyesight. There are others on the coast who need a doctor's skill just as Jamie needed it, and they have no one to help them. I have decided that I shall be doctor to the people. If I can help the folk, as I am sure I can, I'll be happy in the knowledge that I'm making some little return for the great deal that you have done for me."

"I were never doin' much for you, Doctor Joe-just what one man would always do for another," Thomas protested. "But 'twill be a blessin' to the folk of The Labrador to have you doctor un! We all need doctors often enough when there's none to be had, and folks die for the need of un."

"Yes, folks die here for the need of a doctor," Doctor Joe agreed, "and I hope I may be the means of saving lives and giving relief."

The three boys broke in upon them with their arms full of packages.

"There's a lot more!" exclaimed Jamie depositing his load upon the floor.

"Perhaps we had better help them, Thomas," suggested Doctor Joe, rising.

"Oh, no, sir," Jamie protested. "Let us bring un up!"

And so said David and Andy also. They quickly had the contents of the skiff transferred to the cabin, and the exciting process of opening the packages began.

The first to be opened was for Margaret, and it contained many pretty and useful things, including two neat, substantial warm dresses, finer than any Margaret had ever before possessed or seen. Her eyes sparkled as she held them up for inspection, and she exclaimed over and over again:

"Oh, how wonderful pretty they is!"

For the boys there were innumerable gifts dear to boys' hearts, including a compass and a watch for each. For Thomas there was a fine pair of field-glasses, a compass and a very fine watch indeed, and he was as pleased and happy as the others.

"The glasses'll be a wonderful help t' me in huntin'," he declared. "When I climbs hills for a look around I can see deer that I'd sure to be missin' with no glasses. I'm not doubtin' the compass'll come in handy now and again in thick weather."

Then there was a big box of goodies. There were such candies as they had never dreamed of-oranges and big red-cheeked apples. Even Thomas had never before in his life tasted an orange or an apple, and they all declared that they had never imagined that anything could be so good. It was quite astonishing to learn that in the great world from which Doctor Joe had come there were people who ate oranges and apples every day of their lives if they wished them.

"'Tis strange the way the Lord fixes things," observed Thomas. "Here now we never saw the like of oranges and apples before in all our lives, but we has plenty of trout, and there are folks out there that has no trout but they all has oranges and apples. We has so many trout we forgets how fine they is, and what a blessin' 'tis we has un. And I'm thinkin' 'tis the same with them folks about the oranges and apples."

"Yes," agreed Doctor Joe, "it's only when things are taken away from us that we really appreciate them. Jamie, no doubt, appreciates his eyes much more than he would have done had the mist never clouded them."

"Aye, 'tis so," said Thomas.

"I dare say," Doctor Joe suggested, "that you've never eaten potatoes or onions?"

"No," said Thomas, "I've heard of un, but I never eats un. I never had any to eat."

"Well," announced Doctor Joe, "I've had several sacks of potatoes and a sack of onions and two barrels of apples shipped to Fort Pelican with a quantity of other goods. We'll have to go with the big boat for them."

The boys and Margaret were quite beside themselves with the wonder of it all, and Thomas was little less excited.

"We'll go for un to-morrow or the next day whatever," said Thomas.

There was one box still unopened, and the three boys were eyeing it expectantly, when Doctor Joe exclaimed:

"Here we've left till the last the most important thing of all. Get an axe, David, and we'll knock the cover off this box."

David had the axe in a jiffy, and when Doctor Joe removed the cover the box was found to be filled with books.

"O-h-h!" breathed the boys in unison.

"'Tis fine! Oh, I've been wishin' and wishin' for books t' look at and read!" exclaimed Margaret.

Doctor Joe had taught them all to read and write in the years he had been with them, an accomplishment that not every boy and girl on The Labrador possessed, for there were no schools there.

"There are some books to study and some to read. There are story books and books about birds and flowers and animals. And here is something that I know will please the boys," said Doctor Joe, drawing from the box six paper-bound volumes. "There's an interesting story attached to these books that I must tell you before you look at them, and then we'll go through them together.

"One day I was walking in a park in New York.

"Suddenly I heard a crashing noise, and I hurried in the direction in which I heard the noise, and turning a corner saw a motor-car lying on its side. Some boys wearing khaki-coloured uniforms, very much like soldiers' uniforms, had already reached the wreck, and before I came up with them had rescued two injured men. I never saw more efficient or prompt service than those boys were giving the poor men, who were both badly hurt. They had the men stretched out upon the grass. One had a severed artery in his arm, where the arm had been cut upon the broken glass wind shield. The man's blood was pouring in great spurts through the wound, but the boys were already adjusting the tourniquet, for which they used a handkerchief, and in a minute they had the bleeding stopped, as well as I could have done it. I've no doubt they saved the man's life, for without prompt help he'd have bled to death in a short time.

"The other man was cut and bruised, and the boys were making him as comfortable as possible until an ambulance came to take him to a hospital. There was really nothing I could do that the boys had not already done promptly and remarkably well.

"The instant they had discovered the accident two boys had run away to summon an ambulance and to notify the police, and in a little while an ambulance with a surgeon and two policemen came and took the men away.

"The boys were only about Andy's age, and I wondered at their training and efficiency. When the ambulance had gone with the injured men I walked a little way with the boys, and learned that they belonged to a wonderful organization called 'Boy Scouts.' I had heard of Boy Scouts, but I supposed it was one of the ordinary clubs where boys got together just for play.

"I was so much interested that I looked up the head office of the Boy Scouts, and asked questions about them. Then I bought these copies of the Boy Scout's Handbook. They tell about the things the scouts do, and how a boy may become a scout. I knew you chaps would be so interested you would each want a book, so I bought a half-dozen copies. The extra books we can give to other boys up the Bay."

"Could we be scouts?" asked Andy breathlessly.

"Yes, to be sure!" Doctor Joe smiled.

"'Twould be rare fun, now!" exclaimed David.

"All of us scouts, just like the boys in New York?" Jamie asked, his face aglow.

"Yes," answered Doctor Joe. "I knew you chaps would like to be scouts. We'll organize a troop, and we'll call it Troop One of The Labrador. There are Boy Scouts of America, and Boy Scouts of England, and Boy Scouts of nearly every country in the world except The Labrador. We'll be the Boy Scouts of The Labrador, and become a part of the great army of scouts. It'll be something to be proud of."

"How'll we do it?" asked David.

"I'll be leader, or scoutmaster as they call the leader," explained Doctor Joe. "These books explain all about the things we're to do.

"Before you become tenderfoot scouts you'll have to learn some things," Doctor Joe continued, after looking through one of the handbooks, until he found the proper page. "You can tie all the knots already. You do that every day. But there are plenty of boys, and men too, where I came from that can't even tie the ordinary square knot.

"You'll have to learn the oath and law. You live pretty close to the requirements of the law now, but it'll be necessary to learn it, and I'll explain then what each law means. You'll have to learn what the scout badge stands for and how it's made up, and other things."

Doctor Joe carefully marked the necessary pages and references.

"Now about the flag," said Doctor Joe. "You'll have to learn about the formation of the flag and what it stands for. This book is for the Boy Scouts of America, and the flag it refers to is the United States flag. I'm an American, but you chaps are living in British territory and you're British subjects, so you'll have to learn about the British flag or Union Jack, as it's called, for that's your flag.

"The Union Jack is the national flag of the whole British Empire. The English flag was originally a red cross on a white field. This is called the flag of St. George. Three hundred years ago King James the First added to it the banner of Scotland, which was a blue flag with a white cross, called St. Andrew's Cross, lying upon the blue from corner to corner-that is diagonally."

Doctor Joe opened his travelling bag and drew forth two small flags, one the Stars and Stripes and the other the British Union Jack.

"I nearly forgot about these," said he, spreading the flags upon the table. "This is the flag of my country," and he caressed the United States flag affectionately. "I love it as you should love your flag. The Union Jack is the emblem of the great British Empire, of which you are a part. It is one of the greatest and best countries in the world to live in. To be a British subject is something to be proud of indeed."

"Aye," broke in Thomas, "'tis that, now."

"Yes," continued Doctor Joe, "I want you to be as proud of it as I am that I'm a citizen of the United States, and I'm so proud of it I wouldn't change for any other country in the world. When I reached St. John's and saw the American flag flying over the office of the United States Consulate, my eyes filled with tears. I hadn't seen that old flag for years, and I stood in the street for an hour doing nothing but look at it and think of all it represents. It makes my blood tingle just to touch it. You chaps must feel the same toward the British flag, for that's your flag.

"Now let me show you how the flag is made up," and Doctor Joe proceeded to trace St. George's Cross and St. Andrew's Cross, explaining them again as he did so. "In the year 1801 another banner was added. This was the Banner of St. Patrick of Ireland. St. Patrick's Cross was a red diagonal cross on a white field, and here you see it."

Doctor Joe traced it on the flag.

"There," he went on, "you have the British flag complete. No one knows exactly why it is called the 'Jack,' but it may have been because in the old days, the English knights, when they went out to fight their battles, wore a jacket over their armour with the St. George's Cross upon it, so it would be known to what nation they belonged. This jacket was sometimes called a 'jack' for short.

"The Union Jack did not become a complete flag as we have it to-day until the year 1801, when St. Patrick's Cross was added to it. The Stars and Stripes, the flag of my country, was first made in 1776, and on June 14, 1777, it was adopted by the United States Congress as the national emblem, so you see it is even older than the British flag. The flags of all nations in the world have changed since 1777 excepting only the United States flag, and every American is proud of the fact that his flag is older than the flag of any other Christian nation in the world."

The boys, and Thomas and Margaret also, were fascinated with Doctor Joe's brief story of the flags. They were quite excited with the thought that they were to be a part of the great army of Boy Scouts, and to do the same things that other boys in far-away lands were doing, and the other boys that they had never seen seemed suddenly very much nearer to them and more like themselves than they had ever seemed before.

The three buried their noses in the handbook, now and again asking Doctor Joe questions. They were so excited and so interested, indeed, that they could scarcely lay the books aside when Thomas announced that it was time to "turn in," and Andy declared he could hardly wait for morning when they could be at them again.

And so it came about that Troop I, Boy Scouts of The Labrador, was organized, and in the nature of things the troop was destined to meet many adventures and unusual experiences.

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