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   Chapter 15 MISSING!

Troop One of the Labrador By Dillon Wallace Characters: 8147

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

Seth Muggs, intent upon keeping pace with Andy on his right, and not permitting him to get out of sight, quite neglected to be equally cautious as to Jamie on his left. In this Seth was in no wise neglectful. The responsibility in each case, in order to keep the line from breaking, was to keep the neighbour nearer the brook in view. In this Jamie alone had failed.

Jamie had, indeed, been out of line for a considerable time before Seth became aware of the fact. Even then he felt no concern. Doctor Joe had instructed Jamie to return to camp if he became weary, and when he was missed had no doubt he had taken advantage of the suggestion.

Nevertheless, when Doctor Joe passed the word along the line to reassemble, Seth gave several lusty shouts for Jamie. When, after a reasonable time, he received no reply, he was satisfied Jamie was snug in camp with the kettle boiling for tea, and he turned down to join the others at the brook.

"It's a little later than I thought," said Doctor Joe as they came together, "but we'll have plenty of time to reach camp before dark. Now let's count noses."

"Where's Jamie?" asked David. "We're all here but Jamie."

"I'm thinkin' he gets tired and goes back to camp like Doctor Joe were sayin' for he to do," suggested Seth. "I missed he a while back."

"How long has it been since you saw him last, Seth?" asked Doctor Joe.

"I'm not rightly knowin', but a half-hour whatever," said Seth, "and I'm thinkin' 'twere a bit longer."

"He has probably gone back to camp, then," agreed Doctor Joe. "It was a pretty hard tramp for such a little fellow. It is quite natural that he did not like to admit to you that he could not keep up with us, and he just slipped quietly away and returned to camp and said nothing about it. He couldn't well get lost with the brook so near to guide him."

"Jamie'd never be gettin' lost whatever," asserted Andy. "He's wonderful good at findin' his way about."

"'Tis goin' to snow, and 'twill be dark early," suggested David, as the little party turned down the brook to retrace their steps to camp. "There's a bend in the brook here; let's cut across un and save time. If she sets in to snow to-night 'tis like to keep un up all day to-morrow, and we'd better get back as quick as we can to cut plenty of wood and have un on hand."

"Very well," agreed Doctor Joe. "You go ahead and guide us, David."

"'Twill be fine and cosy just bidin' in camp and studyin' up the things in the book," said Obadiah as they followed David in a short cut toward camp. "We'll be havin' a fine time even if it does snow too hard to go about."

"Yes," agreed Doctor Joe, "we can do that and learn a great many things about scouting."

Suddenly David held up his hand for silence, and stooping peered through the trees ahead. The others followed his gaze, and there, not above fifty yards away and looking curiously at them, stood a caribou.

Only David and Doctor Joe had brought rifles. Almost instantly David's rifle rang out, and the caribou turned and disappeared.

"I'm sure I hit he!" exclaimed David running in the direction the caribou had taken. "I couldn't miss he so close, and a fair shot!"

"You hit he!" exclaimed Andy who had dashed ahead. "You hit he, Davy! Here's the mark of blood!"

A trail of blood left no doubt that the caribou had been hard hit, but it was followed for nearly a mile before they came upon the prostrate animal.

"Now we'll have plenty of fresh deer's meat!" burst out Obadiah enthusiastically. "We'll have meat for supper, and I'm wonderful hungry for un!"

"Yes," agreed Doctor Joe, "we had better dress it at once. There are enough of us to carry all the meat back with us to camp, and that will save making a return trip."

"'Twill be a fine surprise for Jamie when we comes back with deer's meat," said Andy enthusiastically.

"'Twill make us a bit late and he'll be thinkin' we finds the cache," suggested David. "I hopes he won't be comin' up the brook again to look for us."

"I hardly think he'll do that," said Doctor Joe,

"but to be sure he does not some of you had better go to the brook and leave a sign to tell him which way we've gone. David and I will skin and dress the caribou."

"Come along, Seth," Andy volunteered. "We'll be goin' over to make the sign."

"Come back here as soon as you've done it," directed Doctor Joe. "We'll need your help in carrying the meat to camp."

"Aye, sir, we'll be comin' right back," agreed Andy as he and Seth hurried away.

Close to the brook, in a place where it could not fail to be seen, the lads set a pole at an angle of forty-five degrees, pointing in the direction in which the caribou had been killed. Against the pole and about a third of the distance from its lower end an upright stick was placed. This was an Indian sign familiar to all the hunters and wilderness folk, indicating that the party had gone in the direction in which the pole sloped, the upright stick a little way from the butt further indicating that the distance was not far.

"Jamie'll know what that means, and if he wearies of bidin' alone in camp and comes to find us he'll not be missin' us now whatever," said Andy with satisfaction, as he and Seth turned back.

"I'm goin' to blaze the trail over, and he won't be like to miss un, then," suggested Seth, taking the axe.

When Andy and Seth rejoined the others Doctor Joe and David had nearly finished skinning the caribou, and in due time they had it ready to cut up. The head was severed with as little of the neck meat as possible that there might be no unnecessary waste, for they could not carry the head with them. Then the tongue was removed, for this was considered a titbit.

The question of how to carry the meat to camp was finally settled by making two litters with poles. The carcass was now cut into two nearly equal parts, one of which was placed on each litter. Doctor Joe took the forward end of one of the litters, and David the forward end of the other. With two boys carrying the rear end of each litter, and the other lads the skin, heart, liver and tongue, and the two rifles and the axe, they at length set out for camp.

Night was falling and the first flakes of the coming snow-storm were felt upon their faces when finally the little white tents came in view.

"There's no light," remarked David, who was in advance. "Jamie's savin' candles. I'm hopin' now he has the kettle boilin'."

"He'll have un boilin'," assured Andy, who was one of the two boys at the rear of David's litter. "He'll be proud to have un boilin' and supper started."

"There's no smoke!" exclaimed David apprehensively as they came closer. "Jamie, b'y!" he shouted. "Where is you? Come out and see what we're gettin'!"

But no Jamie came, and there was no answering call. The stretchers were hastily placed on the ground, and every tent searched for Jamie.

"Jamie's never been comin' back since we leaves!" David declared. "Whatever has been happenin' to he?"

"I can't understand it," said Doctor Joe. "He could not possibly have been lost. Andy, you and Micah run down and look at the boats and see if he has been there."

Andy and Micah ran excitedly to the boats to report a few moments later that there were no indications of Jamie's return.

"David, you and I shall have to go and look for him," said Doctor Joe quietly. "Andy, you and the other lads build a fire outside as a guide. Get your supper, and don't worry until we return."

"What do you think's been happenin' to Jamie?" asked Andy anxiously.

"We took a short cut and did not follow the brook where it makes a wide bend," suggested Doctor Joe. "He may be waiting for us along the brook at that point."

"Oh, I hopes you'll find he there!" said Andy fervently.

"Get your rifle and plenty of cartridges, David," directed Doctor Joe. "I'll carry mine also. When we get up the trail we'll shoot to let Jamie know we're looking for him."

Each with a rifle on his shoulder, Doctor Joe in the lead and David following close behind, the two turned away into the now thickly falling snow and darkness.

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