MoboReader> Literature > Troop One of the Labrador

   Chapter 9 ELI SURPRISES INDIAN JAKE

Troop One of the Labrador By Dillon Wallace Characters: 9300

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


When Eli awoke late in the afternoon the rain had ceased, but the wind was blowing a living gale. There was a roar and boom and thunder of breakers down on the point and echoing far away along the coast. The wind shrieked and moaned through the forest.

Under his shelter beneath the thick spruce trees, however, Eli was well enough protected. He renewed the fire, which had burned to embers, and prepared dinner. The storm that prevented him from travelling would also hold Indian Jake a prisoner. This thought yielded him a degree of satisfaction.

He took no advantage of the leisure to reconsider and weigh the circumstantial evidence against Indian Jake. He had accepted it as conclusive proof of the half-breed's guilt and he had already convicted him of the crime. Once Eli had arrived at a conclusion his mind was closed to any line of reasoning that might tend to controvert that conclusion. He prided himself upon this characteristic as strength of will, while in reality it was a weakness. But Eli was like many another man who has enjoyed greater opportunities in the world than ever fell to Eli's lot.

Once Eli had set himself upon a trail he never turned his back upon the object he sought or weakened in his determination to attain it. His object now was to overtake Indian Jake and have the matter out with the half-breed once and for all. Well directed, this trait of unyielding determination is an excellent one. It is the foundation of success in life if the object sought is a worthy one. But in this instance Eli's objective was not alone the recovery of the silver fox skin, though this was the chief incentive. Coupled with it was a desire for vengeance, prompted by hate, and vengeance is the child of the weakest and meanest of human passions.

When Eli had eaten he shouldered his rifle and strolled back into the forest. Presently he flushed a covey of spruce grouse, which rose from the ground and settled in a tree. Flinging his rifle to his shoulder, he fired and a grouse tumbled to the ground. He fired again, and another fell. The living birds, with a great noise of wings, now abandoned the tree and Eli picked up the two victims. He had clipped their heads off neatly. This he observed with satisfaction. His rifle shot true and his aim was steady. What chance could Indian Jake have against such skill as that?

Eli plucked the birds immediately, while they were warm, for delay would set the feathers, and his game being sufficient for his present needs, he returned to his bivouac on the point.

It was mid-afternoon the following day before the wind and rain had so far subsided as to permit Eli to turn the point and proceed upon his journey. Even then, with all his effort, the progress he made against the north-west breeze was so slow that it was not until the following forenoon that he reached The Jug. Thomas saw him coming and was on the jetty to welcome him.

"How be you, Eli?" Thomas greeted. "I'm wonderful glad to see you. Come right up and have a cup o' tea."

"How be you, Thomas? Is Injun Jake here?"

"He were here," said Thomas, "but he only stops one day to help me get the outfit ready and then he goes on in his canoe to hunt bear up the Nascaupee River whilst he waits there for me to go to the Seal Lake trails. You want to see he?"

"Aye, and I'm goin' to see whatever!"

While Eli had a snack to eat and a cup of tea with Thomas and Margaret he told Thomas of Indian Jake's call upon his father, of the shooting and of the robbery which followed.

"Injun Jake turns back after leavin' and shoots Pop and takes the silver," he concluded, "and I'm goin' to get the silver whatever, even if I has to shoot Injun Jake to get un!"

"Is you sure, now, 'twere Injun Jake does un?" asked Thomas, unwilling to believe his friend and partner capable of such treachery. By disposition Thomas was naturally cautious of passing judgment or of accusing anyone of misdeed without conclusive proof.

"There's no doubtin' that!" insisted Eli. "There was nobody else to do un. 'Twere Injun Jake."

A shift of wind to the southward assisted Eli on his way. Early that evening he reached the Hudson's Bay Company's post, twenty miles west of The Jug. Here he stopped for supper and learned from Zeke Hodge, the Post servant, that Indian Jake had passed up Grand Lake in his canoe two days before. Zeke expressed doubt as to Eli's finding the half-breed at the Nascaupee River. He stated it as his opinion that if Indian Jake were guilty of the crime, as he had no doubt, he was planning an escape and had in all probability immediately plunged into the interior, in which cas

e he was already hopelessly beyond pursuit and had fled the Bay country for good and all. Like Eli, Zeke convicted the half-breed at once.

The Eskimo Bay Post of the Hudson's Bay Company is the last inhabited dwelling as the traveller enters the wilderness; he might go on and on for a thousand miles to Hudson Bay and in the whole vast expanse of distance no other human habitation will he find. His camps will be pitched in the depths of forests or on desolate, naked barrens; and always, in forests or on barrens, he will hear the rush and roar of mighty rivers or the lapping waves of wide, far-reaching lakes. The timber wolf will startle him from sleep in the dead of night with its long, weird howl, rising and falling in dismal cadence, or the silence will be broken perchance by the wild, uncanny laugh of the loon falling upon the darkness as a token of ill omen, but in all the vast land he will hear no human voice and he will find no human companionship.

Indian Jake had told Thomas that he would camp above the mouth of the Nascaupee River, a dozen miles beyond the point where the river enters Grand Lake. It was a journey of sixty miles or more from the Post.

Eli set out at once. Five miles up a short wide river brought him to Grand Lake, which here reached away before him to meet the horizon in the west, and at the foot of the lake he camped to await day, for the lake and the country before him were unfamiliar.

Early in the afternoon of the third day after leaving the Post, Eli's boat turned into the wide mouth of the Nascaupee River, and keeping a sharp look-out, he rowed silently up the river. It was an hour before sundown when his eye caught the white of canvas among the trees a little way from the river.

With much caution Eli drew his boat among the willows that lined the bank and made it fast. Slinging his cartridge bag over his shoulder, and with his rifle resting in the hollow of his arm, ready for instant action, he crept forward toward Indian Jake's camp. Taking advantage of the cover of brush, he moved with extreme caution until he had the tent and surroundings under observation.

There was no movement about the camp and the fire was dead. It was plain Indian Jake had not returned for the evening. Eli crouched and waited, as a cat crouches and waits patiently for its prey.

Presently there was the sound of a breaking twig and a moment later Indian Jake, with his rifle on his arm, appeared out of the forest.

Eli, his rifle levelled at Indian Jake, rose to his feet with the command:

"You stand where you is; drop your gun!"

"Why, how do, Eli? What's up?" Indian Jake greeted. "What's bringin' you to the Nascaupee?"

"You!" Eli's face was hard with hate. "'Tis you brings me here, you thief! I wants the silver you takes when you shoots father, and 'tis well for you Doctor Joe comes and saves he from dyin' or I'd been droppin' a bullet in your heart with nary a warnin'!"

"What you meanin' by that?"

"Be you givin' up the silver?"

"No!"

* * *

"YOU STAND WHERE YOU IS AND DROP YOUR GUN"

* * *

"I say again, give me that silver fox you stole from father!"

Indian Jake's small hawk eyes were narrowing. He made no answer, but slipped his right hand forward toward the trigger of his rifle, though the barrel of the rifle still rested in the hollow of his left arm.

"Drop un!" Eli commanded, observing the movement. "Drop that gun on the ground!"

Indian Jake stood like a statue, eyeing Eli, but he made no movement.

"I said drop un!" Eli's voice was cold and hard as steel. He was in deadly earnest. "If you tries to raise un or don't drop un before I count ten I'll put a bullet in your heart!"

Indian Jake might have been of chiselled stone. He did not move a muscle or wink an eye-lash but his small eyes were centred on every motion Eli made. He still held his rifle, the barrel resting in the hollow of his left arm, his right hand clutching the stock behind the hammer, his finger an inch from the trigger.

For an instant there was a death-like silence. Then Eli began to count:

"One-two-three-four-"

The words fell like strokes of a hammer upon an anvil. Eli intended to shoot. He was a man of his word. He made no threat that he was not prepared to execute, and Indian Jake knew that Eli would shoot on the count of ten.

"Five-six-seven-eight-"

Still Indian Jake made no move save that the little hawk eyes had narrowed to slits. He did not drop his gun. From all the indications, he did not hear Eli's count.

"Nine-ten!"

True to his threat, Eli's rifle rang out with the last word of his count.

* * *

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