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   Chapter 2 PLANS

Troop One of the Labrador By Dillon Wallace Characters: 14318

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


The cabin at The Jug had three rooms. There was a square living-room, entered through an enclosed porch on its western grade. At the end of the living-room opposite the entrance were two doors, one leading to Margaret's room, the other to the room occupied by the boys. Thomas himself slept in a bunk, resembling a ship's bunk, built against the north wall.

The furnishings of the living-room consisted of a home-made table, a big box stove, three home-made chairs and some chests, which served the double purpose of storage places for clothing and seats. A cupboard was built against the wall at the left of the entrance, and between two windows on the south side of the room, which looked out upon The Jug, was a shelf upon which Thomas kept his Bible and Margaret her sewing basket-a little basket which she had woven herself from native grasses. Behind the stove was a bench, upon which stood a bucket of water and the family wash basin, and over the basin hung a towel for general family use.

Pasted upon the walls were pictures from old newspapers and magazines. There were no other decorations but these and snowy muslin curtains at the windows, but the floor, table, chairs-all the woodwork, indeed-were scoured to immaculate whiteness with sand and soap, and everything was spotlessly clean and tidy. Despite the austere simplicity of the room and its furnishings, it possessed an indescribable atmosphere of cosy comfort.

Doctor Joe's bed was spread upon the floor. It was still candle-light when he was awakened by Thomas building a fire in the stove, for in this land of stern living there is no lolling in bed of mornings.

"Good-morning, Thomas," said Doctor Joe, with a yawn and a stretch as he sat up.

"Marnin'," said Thomas.

"How's the morning, Thomas, fair for our trip to Fort Pelican?"

"Aye, 'tis a fine marnin'," announced Thomas, "but I were thinkin' 'twould be better to wait over till to-morrow for the trip. After your long voyage 'twould be a bit trying for you to turn back to-day to Fort Pelican without restin' up, and I'm not doubtin' a day whatever'll do no harm to the potaters and things."

"I believe you're right, Thomas," and Doctor Joe spoke with evident relief. "I thought you'd be getting ready for the trapping and would like to get the Fort Pelican trip out of the way. We'll put the trip off till to-morrow."

Doctor Joe dressed hurriedly, and went out to enjoy the cool, crisp morning. Everything was white with hoarfrost. The air was charged with the perfume of balsam and spruce and other sweet odours of the forest. Doctor Joe took long, deep, delicious breaths as he looked about him at the familiar scene.

The last stars were fading in the growing light. A low mist hung over The Jug, and beyond the haze lay the dark, heaving waters of Eskimo Bay. In the distance beyond the Bay the high peaks of the Mealy Mountains rose out of the gloom, white with snow and looming above the dark forest at their base in cold and silent majesty. Behind the cabin stretched the vast, mysterious, unbounded wilderness which held, hidden in its unmeasured depths, rivers and lakes and mountains that no man, save the wandering Indian, had ever looked upon-great solitudes whose silence had remained unbroken through the ages.

"If some of those Boy Scouts could only see this!" exclaimed Doctor Joe.

"'Twere fashioned by the Almighty for comfortable livin'," said Thomas, who had called Margaret and the boys and come out unobserved by Doctor Joe. "There's no better shelter on the coast, and no better place for seals and salmon, with neighbours handy when we wants to see un, and plenty o' room to stretch. 'Tis the finest I ever saw, whatever."

"Yes, 'tis all of that," agreed Doctor Joe. "But I wasn't thinking now of The Jug alone. I was thinking of the majestic grandeur of the whole scene. I was enjoying the freedom from the noise and scramble, the dirt and smoke and smudge of the city, with its piles upon piles of ugly buildings, and never a breath of such pure air as this to be breathed. I was thinking of these fine young chaps, the Boy Scouts I saw there, who are trying to study God's big out-of-doors and must content themselves with stingy little parks. It's the love of Nature that takes them to the parks, and compared with this they have a poor substitute. This is the world as God made it, with all its primordial beauty. We're fortunate that circumstances placed us here, Thomas, and we should be for ever thankful."

"I'm wonderin' now," observed Thomas, as he and Doctor Joe paced up and down the gravelly beach, "why folks ever lives in such places as you tells about. There's plenty o' room down here on The Labrador, and plenty o' other places, I'm not doubtin', where they'd be free from the crowds and dirt, and have plenty o' room to stretch, and live fine like we lives."

"We're a thousand miles from a railway," said Doctor Joe. "Most of the people in the cities wouldn't live a thousand paces from a railway if they could help themselves. They take a car and ride if they've only half a mile to go. They ride so much they've almost forgotten how to walk. They like crowds. They'd be lonesome if they were away from them."

"'Tis strange, wonderful strange, how some folks lives," remarked Thomas, quite astonished that any could prefer the city to his own big, free Labrador. "When folks has enough to keep un busy they never gets lonesome, and bein' idle is like wastin' a part of life. A man could never be lonesome where there's plenty o' water and woods about. I always finds jobs a-plenty to turn my hand to, and I has no time to feel lonesome. And I never could live where I didn't have room enough to stretch, whatever."

"That's it!" Doctor Joe spoke decisively. "Room enough to stretch mind as well as body. Why, Thomas, I've often heard men say that they had to 'kill time', and didn't know what to do with themselves for hours together!"

"'Tis wicked and against the Lord's will," and Thomas shook his head. "The Lord never wants folks to be idle or kill time. He fixes it so there's a-plenty of useful things for everybody to do all the time, and they wants to do un."

"'Tis the measure of a man's worth," remarked Doctor Joe. "The worth-while man never has an hour to kill. The day hasn't hours enough for him. It's the other kind that kill time-the sort that are not, and never will be, of much account in the world."

They walked a little in silence, each busy with his own thoughts, when Thomas remarked:

"The Lord has been wonderful good to me, Doctor Joe, givin' me three as fine lads and as fine a lass as He ever gave a man. Then He saves the little lad's eyes, when they were goin' blind, by sendin' you to cure un. And when I were breakin' my leg and couldn't work He sends along Indian Jake to go to the trails to hunt with David and Andy, and they makes a fine hunt and keeps us out o' debt. And this summer we has as fine a catch of salmon as ever we has, and we're through with un a fortnight ahead of ever before, with all the barrels filled and the gear stowed, and the salt salmon traded in at the Post, and p

lenty o' flour and pork and molasses and tea t' see us through the winter, whatever."

"Last year at this time things looked pretty blue for us," said Doctor Joe, "but everything worked out well in the end, Thomas."

"Aye," agreed Thomas, "wonderful well. I'm thinkin' that if we does our best t' help ourselves when troubles come the Lord is like t' step in and give us a hand. He wants us to do the best we can t' help ourselves and when He sees we're doin' it He lifts the troubles."

"That's true," agreed Doctor Joe, "and if a man takes advantage of every opportunity that comes to him, and don't waste his time, he's pretty sure to succeed."

"Aye, that he is," said Thomas. "Now I were thinkin' that the lads worked so wonderful hard at the salmon th' summer, I'd let un go with you to Fort Pelican t' manage the boat, and I'll be staying home to make ready for the trail. There's a-plenty to be done yet to make ready without hurry, and a trip to Fort Pelican will be a rare treat for the lads. But I'll go if you wants. I were just askin' if 'twould be suitin' you if I stays home and lets they go?"

"Why, of course! That's great! Simply great!" exclaimed Doctor Joe. "The boys will make a fine crew! Will Jamie go too?"

"Aye, Jamie's been workin' like a man, and he'll be keen for the trip," said Thomas. "And last night I were thinkin' after I goes to bed how fine 'tis that you're to be doctor to the coast. Indian Jake's to be my trappin' pardner th' winter, and the lads'll 'bide home. You'll be needin' dogs and komatik (sledge) to take you about. There'll be little enough for the dogs to do, and you'll be welcome to un. The lads can do the drivin' for you and whatever you wants un to do. Use un all you needs. I wants to do my share to help you do the doctorin'."

"Thank you! Thank you, Thomas!" Doctor Joe accepted gratefully. "This will make it possible for me to see a good many people that I otherwise would not be able to see, and make it easier for me also."

"Aye," said Thomas, "I were thinkin' that too, and the lads will be glad enough to lend you a hand when you needs un."

It was broad daylight. While Thomas and Doctor Joe talked on the beach, the boys had been busily engaged in carrying the day's supply of water from Roaring Brook to a water barrel in the porch. Now Jamie appeared to announce breakfast. While they ate the boys were able to talk of little else than the scout books, and the fact they were to do as boys did in other parts of the world. And they were delighted beyond measure when they learned that they were to make the voyage to Fort Pelican with Doctor Joe. It was an event of vast importance.

"There'll be plenty o' time in the boat to study the scout book things," Andy suggested. "Maybe now we could learn to be scouts before we gets back home."

"I've no doubt you can pass all the tenderfoot tests while we're away," said Doctor Joe. "And since you're to take me about with dogs and komatik this winter when I go to visit sick people, there'll be no end of chances to show what good scouts you are."

"To take you about?" asked Andy excitedly.

Then Thomas must needs explain that they must do their share in looking after the sick folk, and that David and Andy were to be Doctor Joe's dog drivers when winter came.

"'Twill be fine to manage the dogs for you, sir!" exclaimed David, turning to Doctor Joe.

"Wonderful fine!" echoed Andy.

"And will you be goin' outside the Bay?" asked David.

"Aye, outside the Bay and in it, wherever there's need to go," said Doctor Joe.

"'Twill be tryin' and hard work sometimes," suggested Thomas, "travellin' when the weather's nasty, but I'm not doubtin' the lads'll be able t' manage un."

"We'll manage un!" David declared with pride in the confidence placed in him and Andy.

To drive dogs on these sub-arctic trails in fair weather and foul calls for courage and grit, and the lads felt justly proud of the responsibility that had been laid upon them. There would be many a shift to make on the ice, they knew. There would be blinding blizzards and withering arctic winds to face, and no end of hard work. But these lads of The Labrador loved to stand upon their feet like men and face and conquer the elements like hardy men of courage. This is the way of boys the world over-eager for the time when they may assume the responsibility of manhood. Such a time comes earlier to the lads of The Labrador than with us. In that stern land there is no idling and there are no holidays, and every one, the lad as well as his father, must always do his part, which is his best.

Fort Pelican, the nearest port at which the mail boat called, was seventy miles eastward from The Jug. With the uncertainty of wind and tide the boat journey to Fort Pelican usually consumed three days, and with equal time required for return, the voyage could seldom be accomplished in less than six days. Lem Horn and his family lived at Horn's Bight, thirty miles from The Jug, and fifteen miles beyond, at Caribou Arm, was Jerry Snook's cabin. Save an Eskimo settlement of half a dozen huts near Fort Pelican and the families of Lem Horn and Jerry Snook, the country lying between The Jug and Fort Pelican was uninhabited. It was unlikely that evening would find the travellers in the vicinity of either Horn's or Snook's cabins, and therefore it was to be a camping trip, which was quite to the liking of the boys.

The boys washed the old fishing boat and packed the equipment and provisions for the voyage. Margaret baked three big loaves of white bread, and as a special treat a loaf of plum bread. The remaining provisions consisted of tea, a bottle of molasses for sweetening, flour, baking-powder, fat salt pork, lard, margarine, salt and pepper. The equipment included a frying-pan, a basin for mixing dough, a tin kettle for tea, a larger kettle to be used in cooking, one large cooking spoon, four teaspoons and some tin plates. Each of the boys as well as Doctor Joe was provided with a sheath knife carried on the belt. The sheath knife serves the professional hunter as a cooking knife, as well as for eating and general purposes.

For camping use there was a cotton wedge tent, a small sheet-iron tent stove, three camp axes, some candles and matches, a file for sharpening the axes and a sleeping-bag for each. Men in that land do not travel without arms, and it was decided that David should take a carbine and Andy and Doctor Joe each a double-barrel shotgun, for there might be an opportunity to shoot a fat goose or duck.

Thomas's big boat had two light masts rigged with leg-o'-mutton sails. Just forward of the foremast David and Andy placed some flat stones, and covering them with two or three inches of gravel set the tent stove upon the gravel. Here they could cook their meals at midday, and the gravel would protect the bottom of the boat from heat. A sufficient quantity of fire-wood was taken aboard, and the provisions and other equipment stowed under a short deck forward where the things would be protected from storm and all would be in readiness for an early start in the morning.

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