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Troop One of the Labrador By Dillon Wallace Characters: 12376

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

"Peter! 'Tis Peter Sparks!" exclaimed Andy with vast relief to find it was not a murderous lumberman.

"I'm comin' after Doctor Joe!" gasped Peter, as half frozen he drew off his snow-caked netsek.

"Me rub your nose, Peter. She's froze, and your cheeks too," broke in Andy, vigorously rubbing Peter's whitened nose and cheeks.

Peter was silent perforce while Andy manipulated the frosted parts until circulation and colour were restored.

"Come to the fire now and warm up," directed Andy. "What you wantin' of Doctor Joe?"

"There's been murder done, or clost to un!" Peter, at last free to articulate, continued. "Murder at the lumber camp!"

"Murder!" repeated Jamie, awesomely.

"Aye, nigh to murder whatever!" Peter reiterated.

"Doctor Joe's gone to the Post," said Andy. "Eli Horn came for he. Two of the lumber folk most killed another of un over there. Davy took Doctor Joe over."

"And two of un most killed the boss at the camp," explained Peter. "They comes there from the Post about six o'clock and were packin' a flatsled with things. The boss asks un where they's goin'. They answers some way that makes he mad, and he hits one of un. Then they jumps at he and pounds and kicks he till he's like dead, and he don't come to again. The two men has rifles and they keeps all the lumbermen back, and off they goes with the flatsled, and they gets away."

"Will the boss die then?" asked Jamie in horror.

"With Doctor Joe gone he'll sure be dyin'," declared Peter desperately. "His arm is broke and he's broke somewhere inside, and his face is awful to look at, all pounded and kicked and bleedin'. Me and Lige goes up to sit a bit and hear un tell their stories, and we gets there just after the two men gets away. With Doctor Joe's teachin' we fixes the boss up the best we can, and whilst Lige stays to help look after he, I comes for Doctor Joe. Pop's to the Post with the dogs and I has to walk, and facin' the wind 'twere hard. And now Doctor Joe's gone, the poor man'll sure die!"

"You has wonderful grit to come!" said Jamie admiringly. "'Tis wonderful frosty and nasty outside."

"'Twere to save the boss's life! 'Tis the scout law," Peter asserted stoutly. "I'll be goin' to the Post now for Doctor Joe."

"You're nigh done up, Peter. You'll be stayin' here with Jamie. I'm goin' to the Post for Doctor Joe," declared Andy.

"I am most done up," Peter confessed. "But the wind'll be in your back goin' to the Post. She's just startin' though, and she'll be a wonderful sight worse than she is now before you gets there. 'Twill be terrible nasty."

"I'm goin' too," said Jamie.

"You're not goin'," said Andy. "I'm bigger and I can travel faster if you're not comin'. 'Twould be wrong to leave Peter here alone."

"I'm goin!" repeated Jamie stubbornly.

"Won't you be stayin' with me?" pleaded Peter. "I-I'm afeared to stay here alone with those two men like to come in on me."

"I'll stay," Jamie consented.

A blast of wind shook the cabin.

"I'm fearin' you can't do it, Andy! 'Twill soon be too much for flesh and blood out on the Bay!" said Peter.

"'Tis in my scout oath to do my best," said Andy, adjusting the hood of his sealskin netsek. "I'm goin', now."

Andy closed the door behind him. It was pitchy dark. The snow was driving in blinding clouds, and he stood for a moment to catch his breath. Then he felt his way down across The Jug and out upon the Bay ice. Here the full force of the north-east blizzard met him. He staggered and choked with the first blast, then in a temporary lull forged ahead.

The storm, as Peter predicted, had not reached its height. Each smothering blast of fury was stronger and fiercer than the one before it. Andy took advantage of the lulls, and save when the heavier blasts came and nearly swept him from his feet, maintained a steady trot. In the swirl of snow-clouds he could see nothing a foot from his nose. Once he found himself floundering through pressure ridges formed by the tide near shore. This he calculated was the tip of a long point jutting out into the Bay, half-way between The Jug and the Post. Ten miles of the distance was behind him. He drew farther out upon the ice.

There were times when Andy had to throw himself prone upon the ice with his face down and sheltered by his arms to escape suffocation.

"'Tis gettin' wonderful nasty," he said, "but I'll have plenty o' grit, like Jamie says, and with the Lord's help I'll pull through."

Then he found himself repeating over and over again the prayer:

"Dear Lord, help me through! 'Tis to save a life, and the scout oath! Dear Lord, help me through!"

The gale had now risen to such terrific proportions that often he was compelled to crawl upon his hands and knees. With each momentary lull he would rise and stagger forward. His legs worked at these times without conscious effort. It was strange his legs should be like that. They had never felt like that before.

And so, crawling, staggering upright, crawling again, and lying for minutes at a time with his face in his arms that he might breathe when he was well-nigh overwhelmed and suffocated, Andy kept on.

He could recall little of the last hours on the ice. It was a confused sensation of rising and falling, staggering and crawling until he collided with an obstruction, and recognizing it as the jetty at the Post, his brain roused to a degree of consciousness, and his heart leaped with joy.

With much fumbling he succeeded in donning his snow-shoes, which were slung upon his back, for the twenty yards that lay between the ice and the buildings was covered with deep drift. Once he stepped upon a dog that lay huddled and sleeping under the drift. It sprang out with a snarl and snapped at his legs. A hundred of the savage creatures were lying about in the snow.

Day comes late in Labrador. It was still pitchy dark outside when Andy, at eight o'clock in the morning, lurched into the kitchen at the Post house, and fell sprawling upon the floor. He had been battling the storm for ten hours.

David and Margaret, Eli and Mark and several others were there. Doctor Joe was at breakfast in the Factor's qu

arters, and they called him. Andy's face was covered with a mass of caked snow and ice. His nose and cheeks and chin were white and badly frosted, and upon removing his mittens and moccasins, his hands and feet were found to be in the same condition.

Mr. MacCreary, the factor, placed a bed at Doctor Joe's disposal, and when the frost had been removed and circulation had been restored, Andy was tucked into warm blankets.

"That chap had grit," remarked Mr. MacCreary as he and Doctor Joe left David and Margaret by the bedside and Andy asleep. "The Angus boys are all gritty fellows. They're the sort the Company needs."

"Yes," Doctor Joe agreed heartily, "and they never shirk their duty. Andy is a Boy Scout, and he did what he considered his duty. Now I must go to the lumber camp and fix up that boss, if he isn't beyond fixing up."

With the coming of dawn the wind subsided and the snow ceased to fall. Eli harnessed his dogs when it was light, and with the lumberman who had been stabbed, but whose injuries were not after all serious, he and Doctor Joe set out for Grampus River.

At the lumber camp they found Lige Sparks, Obadiah Button and Micah Dunk installed as volunteer nurses. The man had a broken arm, three broken ribs, and had suffered internal injuries that demanded prompt attention.

"If Andy hadn't come for me, and if I'd been delayed much longer in reaching the camp," said Doctor Joe later, "the man would have died. Thanks to the boys, his life will be saved."

That day and that night Doctor Joe remained with his patient. On the following morning it became necessary for him to return to The Jug for additional dressings and medicines. Eli drove him over.

The sky was clear, and the morning was bitterly cold, with rime hanging like a filmy veil in the air and glistening like flakes of silver in the sunshine. Doctor Joe and Eli ran in turns by the side of the komatik, while the dogs trotted briskly.

"What's that, now?" asked Eli, pointing to a black object far out on the white field of ice, as they approached The Jug.

"I can't make out," said Doctor Joe after a long scrutiny.

"We'll see," and Eli turned the dogs toward the object.

"It looks like a flatsled," said Doctor Joe as they approached.

"'Tis a flatsled," said Eli. "'Tis the men ran away from the lumber camp."

A gruesome sight met them as Eli brought the dogs to a stop. Huddled close and lying by the side of the toboggan, partially covered by drift, were the stiff-frozen bodies of two men.

"They were lost in the storm," said Eli presently. "They must have been wanderin' about till the frost got the best of un."

Doctor Joe and Eli lifted the remains to the komatik, attaching the toboggan to trail behind, and with their ghastly burden they turned in at The Jug.

Jamie and Peter, vastly concerned for Andy's safety, met them, and were as vastly relieved when they learned that Andy would be not much the worse for his experience, and that the lumber boss would live.

The two bodies were carried into the wood-shed and laid side by side upon the floor, to remain there until evening, when Doctor Joe and Eli would return them to Grampus River for burial. It was then that Jamie looked for the first time upon the upturned dead faces, and as he did so he exclaimed, with horror:

"They's the men! They's the men that had the cache and tied me up!"

"They've been hard men in life and probably done much evil in their day, but they're past it now and we'll treat their remains gently and humanly," said Doctor Joe as he covered their faces with a cloth.

Then they undid the flatsled and carried the contents into the cabin, where the things would be safe from the dogs. There were provisions, a bag of clothing, two thirty-eight calibre rifles, a quantity of ammunition and a small bag, which Jamie declared was the bag which had been cached in the tree.

"I'm goin' to look at un," said Eli. "'Twill do no harm."

Eli undid the bag and drew forth a package which proved to contain a large roll of bills, amounting to several hundred dollars. Then followed two marten pelts, a red fox pelt, and the pelt of a beautiful silver fox. Eli shook the silver fox pelt, and holding it up examined it critically.

"'Tis Pop's silver!" he exclaimed.

"Are you sure?" asked Doctor Joe.

"'Tis Pop's silver! I'd know un anywheres!" declared Eli positively.

"Then," said Doctor Joe, "it was not Indian Jake but these men who shot your father and stole the fur."

"And stole our boat!" Jamie broke in excitedly.

"'Twere they stole the silver," Eli admitted, "and the Lord punished un. I'm wonderful glad my bullet went abroad and didn't hurt Indian Jake."

"We all thought Indian Jake guilty," said Doctor Joe. "How easy it is to pass judgment on people, and how often we misjudge them!"

"And knowin' he didn't take un, and after I'd tried to kill he," went on Eli contritely, "he were wonderful good to me, havin' me bide to supper and givin' me deer's meat."

"I'm rememberin'," broke in Jamie, "that the men were talkin' o' somethin' they were takin' from the ship, and fearin' the lumber boss would find out about un. 'Twere the money they means."

There was a howl of arriving dogs outside, and Jamie rushed to the door to meet David and Andy and Margaret, and, to his unbounded delight, Thomas and Indian Jake.

While Thomas was being overwhelmed by Jamie, Indian Jake with a broad grin extended his hand to Eli.

"How do, Eli?"

"How do, Jake?" Eli took Indian Jake's hand. "I got the silver back, Jake, and you never took un. I'm wonderful sorry the way I done."

"I've got your ca'tridges here, Eli," grinned Indian Jake. "You can have un back now."

"But didn't Andy have grit, now!" Jamie's voice rose above the babel. "Didn't he have grit to go out in the night when 'twas that nasty! And a stout heart, too, like a man! Andy's a wonderful fine scout, whatever!"

And so ended the mystery of the shooting and the robbery of Lem Horn, and so the guilty were discovered and punished, as in some manner and at some time all wrong-doers are discovered and punished. It is the immutable law of God.

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