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   Chapter 18 A PLACE TO BIDE

Troop One of the Labrador By Dillon Wallace Characters: 8015

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


Dazed and almost hopeless Jamie stood and gazed about him at the thick falling snow. His body and brain were tired, but some immediate action was imperative or he would be overcome by his weariness and the cold.

"If I were only bringin' an axe, I could fix a place to bide in and cut wood for a fire," he said. "If I were only bringin' an axe!"

He thrust his hands deep into his pocket and felt the big, stout jack-knife that Doctor Joe had given him, and he drew it out.

"Maybe now I can fix un with just this," he said hopefully. "I've got to have grit and I've got to try my best whatever."

He looked up and there, within two feet of the log upon which he had been sitting, were two spruce trees about six feet apart.

"Maybe I can fix un right here," he commented, "and maybe I can lay a fire against the log and if I can get un afire she'll burn a long while and keep un warm."

With much effort he cut and trimmed a stiff, strong pole. The lower limbs of the trees were not above four feet from the ground, and upon these he rested his pole, extending it from tree to tree. This was to form the ridge pole to support the roof of his lean-to, for he was to form a shelter similar to that improvised by the two men the evening before.

Then he cut other poles to form the roof, and resting them upon the ridge pole and the ground at a convenient angle to make a commodious space beneath, he covered them with a thick thatch of boughs, which were easily broken from the overhanging limbs of surrounding trees. This done he enclosed the ends of his shelter in like manner, and laid beneath it a floor of boughs.

Jamie surveyed his work with satisfaction and hope. No snow could reach the cave-like interior; it was as well protected and as comfortable as ever a lean-to could be made, and a very little fire would warm it. Though much smaller, it was quite as good a shelter as that made by the two men, and possessed the added advantage of closed ends, which would render it much easier to heat. He had occupied more than two hours in its construction, and it had called for ingenuity and much hard work.

The opening of the lean-to faced the fallen tree trunk, which lay before it in such a position that it would serve excellently as a backlog.

Though he had no axe with which to cut firewood, he soon discovered upon scouting about that scattered through the forest were many dried and broken limbs that could be had for the gathering, and in a little while he had accumulated a sufficient supply to serve for several hours.

This done he pushed away the snow from before the fallen tree trunk as best he could. Using as tinder a handful of the long hairy moss that hung from the inner limbs of the spruce trees, he lighted it with a match from the tin box salvaged the previous day at the big rock. Placing the burning moss upon the cleared spot next the log he applied small sticks and, as they caught fire, larger ones, until presently a fire was blazing and crackling cheerily in front of his lean-to with the fallen tree as a backlog to reflect the heat.

Utterly weary Jamie stretched himself upon his bed of boughs, and it seemed to him that he had never been in a cosier place in all his life.

"Pop were sayin' right when he says grit will help a man over any tight place," breathed Jamie contentedly. "If I were givin' up I'd sure perished before to-morrow mornin', for 'tis growin' wonderful cold; but I has grit and a stout heart like a man, and I gets a place to bide and a fine warm fire to heat un."

With the first moments of relaxation, Jamie became aware that his wrists were exceedingly painful, and upon examination he discovered that they had been burned much worse than he had realized in his attempts to sever the string that bound them. Large blisters had been raised, and one of the blisters had been broken, doubtless while he was engaged in building his lean-to shelter. The loose skin had been rubbed off, and the angry red wound left unpro

tected.

"I'll have to fix un," he declared. "The sore places'll be gettin' rubbed against things, and be a wonderful lot worse and I leaves un bide as they is."

In the course of the first aid instruction, Doctor Joe had taught Jamie, as well as David and Andy, the art of applying bandages, but now Jamie had no bandages to apply. For a little while he helplessly contemplated his wrists. But for the fact that they were becoming exceedingly painful he would have decided to ignore them, for in his wearied condition it was an effort to do anything.

"I knows how I'll fix un," he said at length. "I'll cut pieces from the bottom o' my shirt to bind un up with. They'll keep un from gettin' rubbed whatever, and when I gets back to camp Doctor Joe'll fix un up right."

This he proceeded to do at once with the aid of his jack-knife, and presently had two serviceable bandages ready to apply.

"Doctor Joe were sayin' how to keep the air away from burns by usin' oil or molasses or flour or somethin'," he hesitated. "And he were sayin' to keep sores from gettin' dirt into un whatever. He says the sores'll be gettin' inflicted or infested or somethin'-I'm not rememberin' just what 'twere, but somethin' bad whatever-if they gets dirt into un. I've been wearin' the shirt three days, and I'm thinkin' 'tis not as clean as Doctor Joe wants the bindin' for sores to be, and I'll cover the sore place where the blisters were rubbin' off with fir sap. That'll keep un clean. Pop says 'tis fine for sores."

Crawling out of his nest Jamie found a young balsam fir tree, and with his sharp jack-knife cut from the bark several of the little sacs in which sap is secreted. He had often seen Thomas cut them and daub the contents upon cuts and bruises, and sometimes even have him and the other boys take the sap as medicine. Returning to the lean-to he pierced the ends of the sacs with the point of his knife, and carefully smeared the contents over his burned wrist where the skin was broken, taking care that all of the exposed flesh was well covered with the sap. Jamie had, indeed, fallen upon the best antiseptic dressing that the surrounding woods supplied.

This done to his satisfaction, he bound his wrists with the improvised bandages, applying them carefully, after the manner in which Doctor Joe had taught him in his lessons in first aid.

"'Tain't so bad," commented Jamie holding the wrists up and surveying them with satisfaction. "They feels a wonderful lot easier, whatever. But I'd never been knowin' how if 'tweren't for Doctor Joe showin' me."

Jamie stretched himself upon the bed of boughs, and for a time lay watching the fire and thickly falling snow and listening to the wind shrieking and howling through the tree tops. Several times he fancied he heard the report of distant rifle shots, and at these times he would start up and listen intently and look cautiously out, half expecting and fearful that he would see the two lumbermen coming to recapture him.

But no one came to disturb him, and he assured himself at length that he had heard only the cracking of dead branches in the storm, and that there had been no rifle shots. Then, at last, his eyes drooped and he slept.

Hours afterward Jamie awoke. He was shivering with the cold. The fire had burned out, save the backlog which still glowed. It was night. The storm had passed and the wind dropped to fitful blasts. The stars were shining brightly, and the sky was clear save for feathery, fast moving cloud patches.

Jamie rebuilt the fire, and lay down to await morning. He was so hungry that he could scarce lie still, but again his eyes drooped and again he slept.

It was near daybreak when Jamie was startled by some unusual noise, and sat up with a jerk. He listened intently, and satisfied that someone was approaching sprang up and looked cautiously out, seized with panic and ready for flight. In the dim starlight he could plainly see two men coming toward him over the marsh.

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