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   Chapter 8 TRAILING THE HALF-BREED

Troop One of the Labrador By Dillon Wallace Characters: 6139

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


Eli Horn paused in the enclosed porch to shoulder his provision pack, left there upon his arrival home earlier in the evening. He was passing from the porch when Doctor Joe opened the door.

"Eli," said Doctor Joe, closing the door behind him, "may I have a word with you?"

"Aye, sir," and Eli stopped.

"I just wished to speak a word of warning," said Doctor Joe quietly. "Be cautious, Eli, and do nothing you'll regret. Don't be too hasty. We suspect Indian Jake, but none of us knows certainly that he shot your father or took the silver fox skin."

"There's no doubtin' he took un! Pop says he took un, and he knows. I'm goin' to get the silver if I has to kill Injun Jake."

Eli spoke in even, quiet tones, but with the dogged determination of the man trained to pit his powers of endurance against Nature and the wilderness. He gave no suggestion of boastfulness, but rather of the man who has an ordinary duty to perform, and is bent upon doing it to the best of his ability.

"Don't you think you had better wait and start in the morning? It's a nasty night to be out," Doctor Joe suggested. "'Twill be hard to make your way to-night with the wind against you as well as the dark. If you wait until morning it will give us time to talk things over."

"I'll not stop till I gets the silver," Eli stubbornly declared, "and I'll get un or kill Injun Jake."

"See here, Eli," Doctor Joe laid his hand on Eli's arm, "your father says he was not shot until sundown. Indian Jake was at our camp at Flat Point within the hour after sundown. He never could have paddled that distance against a down wind in an hour. The boys and I were four hours coming over here from Flat Point Camp, and I know Indian Jake could not have covered the distance in anything like an hour."

"'Twere some trick of his! He shot un and he took the silver!" Eli insisted. "Good-bye, sir. I've got to be goin' or he'll slip away from me."

"Be careful, Eli," Doctor Joe pleaded. "Don't shoot unless you're forced to do so to protect yourself."

"'Twill be Injun Jake'll have to be careful," returned Eli as he strode away in the darkness, and Doctor Joe knew that Eli had it in his heart to do murder.

The night was pitchy black and a drizzling rain was falling, but Eli had often travelled on as dark nights, and he was determined. He chose a light skiff rigged with a leg-o'-mutton sail. The wind was against him and with the sail reefed and the mast unstepped and stowed in the bottom of the boat, he slipped a pair of oars into the locks and with strong, even strokes pulled away, hugging the shore, that he might take advantage of the lee of the land.

Presently the drizzle became a downpour, but Eli, indifferent to wind and weather, rowed tirelessly on. There was a dangerous turn to be made around Flat Point. Here for a time he lost the friendly shelter of the land, and continuous and tremendous effort was called for in the rough seas; but, guided by the roar of the breakers on the shore, he compassed it and presently fell again under the protection of

the land.

With all his effort Eli had not progressed a quarter of the distance toward The Jug when dawn broke. With the first light he made a safe landing, cut a stick of standing dead timber, chopped off the butt, and splitting it that he might get at the dry core, whittled some shavings and lighted a fire. His provision bag was well filled. No Labradorman travels otherwise. A kettle of hot tea sweetened with molasses, a pan of fried fat pork and some hard bread (hardtack) satisfied his hunger.

The wind was rising and the rain was flying in blinding sheets, but the shore still protected him, and the moment his simple breakfast was eaten Eli again set forward. Presently, however, another long point projected out into the Bay to force him into the open. He turned about in his boat and for several minutes studied the white-capped seas beyond the point.

"I'll try un," he muttered, and settled again to his oars.

But try as he would Eli could not force his light craft against the wind, and at length he reluctantly dropped back again under the lee of the land and went ashore.

"There'll be no goin' on to-day," he admitted. "I'll have to make camp whatever."

Under the shelter of the thick spruce forest where he was fended from the gale and drive of the rain, he cut a score of poles. One of them, thicker and stiffer than the others, he lashed between two trees at a height of perhaps four feet. At intervals of three or four inches he rested the remaining poles against the one lashed to the trees, arranging them at an angle of fifty-five degrees and aligning the butts of the poles evenly upon the ground. These he covered with a mass of boughs and marsh grass as a thatching. The roof thatched to his satisfaction, he broke a quantity of boughs and with some care prepared a bed under the lean-to.

His shelter and bed completed, he cut and piled a quantity of dry logs at one end of the lean-to. Then he felled two green trees and cut the trunks into four-foot lengths. Two of these he placed directly in front of the shelter and two feet apart, at right angles to the shelter. Across the ends of the logs farthest from his bed he piled three of the green sticks to serve as a backlog, and in front of these lighted his fire. When it was blazing freely he piled upon it, and in front of the green backlogs, several of the logs of dry wood.

Despite the rain, the fire burned freely, and presently the interior of Eli's lean-to was warm and comfortable. He now removed his rain-soaked jacket and moleskin trousers and suspended them from the ridge-pole, where they would receive the benefit of the heat and gradually dry.

Stripped to his underclothing, Eli crouched before the fire beneath the front of the shelter. At intervals he turned his back and sides and chest toward the heat and in the course of an hour succeeded in drying his underclothing to his satisfaction. His moleskin trousers were still damp, but he donned them, and renewing the fire he stretched himself luxuriously for a long and much needed rest.

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