Beelingo.com

English Audio Books

Lure of the Labrador Wild, The

SPONSORED LINKS
<SPAN NAME="chap17"></SPAN> <H3 ALIGN="center"> XVII. THE PARTING </H3> <P> It was a drizzling rain, and the sombre clouds hung low in the sky. The wind appeared to be steadily increasing. The day was Sunday, October 18th. Presently George sat up, rubbed his eyes and gazed about him for a moment in bewilderment. </P> <P> "Mornin', Wallace," he said, when he had collected his senses, "that blamed rain will make the travellin' hard, won't it?" </P> <P> He tied the pieces of blanket to his feet, and started for the river to get a kettle of water with which to reboil the bones. The movement aroused Hubbard, and he, too, sat up. </P> <P> "How's the weather, b'y?" he asked. </P> <P> "It makes me think of Longfellow's 'Rainy Day,"' I replied. "'The day is cold, and dark, and dreary.'" </P> <P> "Yes," he quickly returned; "but </P> <P CLASS="poem"> "'Be still, sad heart, and cease repining;<BR> Behind the clouds is the sun still shining.'"<BR> </P> <P> I looked at him with admiration. </P> <P> "Hubbard," I exclaimed, "you're a wonder! You've a way of making our worst troubles seem light. I've been sitting here imagining all sorts things." </P> <P> "There's no call to worry, by," he smilingly said; "we'll soon have grub now, and then we can rest and sleep&mdash;and get strong." </P> <P> He arose from his blanket, and walked out of the tent to look at the sky. Slowly he returned, and sank wearily down. </P> <P> "I'm feeling stronger and better than I did last night," he said; "but I'm too weak to walk or stand up long." </P> <P> When our breakfast of bones and hide boiled with a yeast cake was ready, he sat up in the tent to receive his share. While drinking the water and chewing the hide, we again carefully considered how long it should take George to reach Grand Lake, and how long it would be before help could arrive, if he were able to obtain any, and how long it would require me to reach the flour and return. It was, roughly speaking, forty miles to Grand Lake, and fifteen miles to the flour. </P> <P> That there was room for doubt as to whether my strength would carry me to the flour and back again, we all recognised; and we fully realised, that if George failed to reach Grand Lake, or, reaching there, failed to find Blake or Blake's cache, our doom would be sealed; but so long had death been staring us in the face that it had ceased to have for us any terror. It was agreed, however, that each man should do his best to live as long as possible. I told Hubbard I should do my utmost to be back in three days, even if I did not find the flour. </P> <P> Hubbard remained seated in the front of the tent while George and I went about gathering a supply of wood that we thought should last him until someone returned. George also brought a kettle of water from the river, and thoughtfully placed it near the fire for Hubbard's use in boiling the bones and hide, all of which we left with him together with the yeast and some tea. I also turned over to him the pair of blankets he had delivered to me at Halifax&mdash;the birthday gift from my sisters. </P> <P> These preparations for Hubbard's comfort completed, George and I returned to the tent to arrange the kits we were to take with us. Hubbard sat in the middle of the tent towards the rear; George and I on either side of him in the front. Hubbard gave George his pistol and compass, and I had my own pistol and compass. The pistols we fastened to our belts along with a sheath knife and tin cup. Having a case for my compass, I wore it also on my belt; George placed his in his pocket. Each of us had half a blanket, this to be our only covering at night. George placed his half, together with a tea pail and some tea, in the waterproof bag he had been using to carry food. This bag he bound with a pack strap, leaving a loop to sling over his shoulder. I also bound my half a blanket with a pack strap, thinking as I did so that I soon might want to eat the strap. And then, when George and I had filled our waterproof boxes with wax taper matches, and placed a handful of pistol cartridges in our pockets, we were ready to start. </P> <P> At this point I suggested it might be well for each man to make a note of such disposition as he desired made of his effects. George made an entry in his note book, and asked Hubbard to write when we were gone a letter to Mr. King, the Hudson's Bay Company's agent at Missanabie, in reference to his (George's) affairs at that post. I then made the last entry in my diary, and with it wrote what I believed might be a last message to my sisters and my friend and associate in business, Mr. Alonzo G. McLaughlin. I put the diary with my other papers in my camp bag, and placed the bag in the rear of the tent, where the note Hubbard was to write for George was also to be placed; we believed that if worst came to worst the tent was more likely to be found than our bodies down on the trail. Hubbard had been watching us silently while we did these things, and now he said: </P> <P> "Wallace, if you get out of this, and I don't, you'll have to write the story of the trip." </P> <P> I expressed some doubt as to my ability, but he made me promise I would do the best I could. I also promised, at his request, that if I survived him I should place his diary in his wife's hands. </P> <P> "Thank you, b'y," he said. "And now before you leave me won't you read to me again?&mdash;I want to hear that fourteenth chapter of John and the thirteenth of First Corinthians. I fell asleep last night while you were reading, I was so tired. I'm sleepy now, very sleepy; but I'll keep awake this time while you read." </P> <P> I got my testament from my camp bag and read both chapters through, noting as I read that the look of happiness and peace was returning to Hubbard's poor, wan face. When I had finished, he said quietly: </P> <P> "Thank you, b'y, thank you very much. Isn't that comforting?&mdash;'Let not your heart be troubled.' It makes me feel good. I've faith that we'll all be saved. I'm not worried. McLean was caught just as we are. He sent a man for help and got out all right. God will send us help, too." </P> <P> "Yes," said I, "and we shall soon be safe home." </P> <P> "We'll soon be safe home" repeated Hubbard&mdash;"safe home. How happy that makes me feel!" </P> <P> It was time for George and me to go. But I could not say good-bye just yet. I turned my back to Hubbard and faced the fire. The tears were welling up into my eyes, and I struggled for self-control. George sat silent, too, and his face was strangely drawn. For a full ten minutes we sat silently gazing into the fire. Finally George arose. </P> <P> "Well, Wallace, we'd better start now." </P> <P> "Yes," I said; "we'd better start." </P> <P> I collected myself as best I could, and, turning to Hubbard, held out my hand. </P> <P> "Good-bye, b'y; I'll be back soon." And then, as I looked into his poor, wistful eyes, I broke down and sobbed. </P> <P> I crawled over to him, and put my arm about him. I kissed his cheek, and he kissed my cheek. We embraced each other, and for a moment held our faces close together. Then I drew away. </P> <P> George was crying, too. The dear fellow went over to Hubbard, stooped and kissed his cheek. </P> <P> "With God's help, I'll save you, Hubbard!" </P> <P> Hubbard kissed his cheek, and they embraced. </P> <P> George slung his bundle on his shoulder, and I took up mine. We turned to go. But I had to return. I stooped and again kissed Hubbard's cheek, and he again kissed mine. He was quite calm&mdash;had been calm throughout. Only his eyes shone with that look of wistful longing. </P> <P> "Good-bye, boys, and God be with you!" </P> <P> "Good-bye!" </P> <P> "Good-bye!" </P> <P> And George and I left him. About twenty yards away I turned for a last look at the tent. Hubbard evidently had immediately lain down; for he was not to be seen. All I saw was the little peak of balloon silk that had been our home for so many weeks, the fire blazing between it and the big rock, the kettle of water by the fire, and the white moss and the dripping wet fir trees all about. </P> <HR ALIGN="center" WIDTH="60%"> <P> Some one hundred and fifty yards farther on George and I forded a brook, after which our course was through closely-grown, diminutive fir trees until we came to a series of low, barren knolls. On these knolls we found some mossberries. Then we pushed on. It was dreadfully slow travelling. The wind was in the east, and was rising. The drizzling rain had become a downpour, and it was dashed into our faces in sheets. The cold was increasing. Our hands were stiff and numb. Somewhat after midday George threw down his pack. "We'll have a spell [rest] and a cup of tea to warm us up," he said. </P> <P> I did not protest. The previous night had been a trying one, and I was very tired. We drew together some wood. With his sheath-knife George whittled some shavings, and a fire was soon blazing. When the kettle had been placed over the fire to boil, George drew out of his bag a package&mdash;yes, it was a half-pound package of pea meal! At first I could not believe my eyes, and I stood stupidly staring as George prepared to stir some of it into the kettle. At length I found my tongue. </P> <P> "George," I cried indignantly, "where did you get that pea meal?" </P> <P> "Hubbard gave it to me this morning while you were gettin' wood," he answered promptly. </P> <P> "But why did you take it? </P> <P> "He made me take it. I didn't want to, but he said I must. He said we'd be workin' hard, and we'd need it, and if we didn't have somethin' to eat, we couldn't travel far and couldn't get help to him. We ought to have it as much for his sake as for ours, he said, and I had to take it from him to make him feel right." </P> <P> Hubbard had evidently reserved that last half-pound of pea meal to be used in a last extremity, and as the argument he had used to force it on George had been at least specious, I could say nothing. George put one-third of the package (one-sixth of a pound) into the kettle, and we each drank a pint of the soup. It was very thin, but it did us good. </P> <P> After a half-hour's rest, we pressed on as rapidly as possible, but when night overtook us we could not have travelled more than six miles from camp. To the storm, as well as our weakness, was due our slow progress. As the afternoon wore on, the storm became furious. The rain descended in drenching sheets, and staggering blasts of wind drove it into our faces. Even if darkness had not stopped us, further progress in the face of the tempest would have been impossible. </P> <P> We selected for our bivouac as sheltered a spot as possible in a spruce growth, hauled together a good supply of small dead trees and made a fire. For supper we had one-half of what remained of the pea meal, reserving the other half (one-sixth of a pound) for breakfast. There was a little comfort to be gained from the fire. The rain still descended upon us in sheets. The blast of wind drove the smoke into our eyes and blinded us. Despite our weariness we could not sleep. George lay down, but I sat crouching before the fire. We tried to keep our pieces of blanket over our heads, but when we did so we nearly suffocated. Now and again one or the other would rise to throw on more wood. Towards midnight the wind shifted, and snow began to fall. It fell as I never saw snow fall before. And the wind never ceased, and the smoke was more blinding than ever, and the night grew colder. </P> <P> There were fully six inches of snow on the ground when the clouds broke just before dawn, and before the first rays of the sun greeted us the wind died away. It was Monday, October 19th. With the return of daylight we ate the rest of the pea meal, and resumed our march down the valley. The daylight proved that my eyes had been greatly affected by the smoke of our night's fire. Everything had a hazy appearance. George complained of the same trouble. Soon after we started, George came upon a grouse track in the fresh snow, and followed it to a clump of bushes a short distance off. He aimed his pistol with great care, but the bullet only knocked a few feathers out of the bird, and it flew away, to George's keen chagrin and my bitter disappointment. </P> <P> The flour bag we were to look for was on the opposite or south side of the river, and it was necessary to cross. Before noon we reached a place at which George said it would be as easy to ford the stream as at any other. The icy water came almost up to our armpits, but we made the other shore without mishap. There we halted to build a fire and thaw ourselves out; for immediately upon emerging from the river our clothing froze hard and stiff. While waiting we had some hot tea, and as quickly as possible pushed on. We must reach the flour bag that night. </P> <P> I found it hard to keep the pace George was setting, and began to lag wofully. Several times he had to wait for me to overtake him. We came upon a caribou trail in the snow, and followed it so long as it kept our direction. To some extent the broken path aided our progress. In the afternoon we came upon another grouse track. George followed it to a clump of trees, where the bird was discovered sitting on a limb. This time his aim was accurate, and the bird fell at his feet. Quickly he plucked the wings, cut them off and handed me one with the remark: "They say raw partridge is good when a fellus' weak." It was delicious. I ate the wing, warm with the bird's life blood, bones and all, and George ate the other wing. </P> <P> I soon found it utterly impossible to keep George's pace, and became so exhausted that I was forced to take short rests. At length I told George he had better go ahead and look for the flour; that I should rest, follow his trail and overtake him later. He went on, but just over the bare knoll we were crossing I found him sitting in the snow waiting for me. </P> <P> "I don't feel right to go ahead and leave you," he said. "Do you see that second knoll?" He pointed to one of a series of round barren knolls about half a mile down the river. </P> <P> "Yes," I answered. </P> <P> "Well, don't you remember it? No? Why, that's where we camped when we threw the flour away, and that's where we'll stop to-night. We'd better eat a mouthful to help us on." </P> <P> He had plucked the head and neck of the grouse, and now proceeded to cut them off near the body. To me he gave the neck, and ate the head himself&mdash;raw, of course. </P> <P> It was just dusk when we reached the knoll George had designated. Straightway he went to a bush, ran his hand under it and pulled out&mdash;the bag we were looking for. We opened it eagerly. As has been said, we left about four pounds of flour in it. Now there was a lump of green and black mould. However, we rejoiced at finding it; for it was something and it might sustain our lives. It might send George to the lard, and keep Hubbard and me until help could arrive. </P> <P> On this side of the Susan the country for some distance had been burned; but, while there were no standing trees, and the place was entirely unsheltered, fallen spruce trees covered the ground in every direction, so we found no difficulty in getting together a good pile of dry wood for our night's fire, and we soon had a rousing big one going. For supper we ate all of the grouse boiled with some of the flour mould stirred in. It was a splendid supper. </P> <P> I had not sat long before the fire when I felt a strange sensation in my eyes. It was as if they had been filled with sharp splinters, and I found it impossible to open them. I was afflicted with smoke-blindness, which is almost identical in its effect to snow-blindness. George filled my pipe with dried tea leaves and just a bit of his precious tobacco; then lit it for me, as I could not see to do it myself. After our smoke we lay down, and I slept heavily; it was practically the first sleep I had had in three days. Some time in the night George awoke me to make me eat a little of a concoction of the mouldy flour and water, cooked thick and a trifle burned after the style of nekapooshet, an Indian dish of which George was very fond. At the first signs of dawn he again roused me, saying: </P> <P> "It's time to be up, Wallace. We're goin' to have more snow to travel in." </P> <P> He was right. The clouds were hanging low and heavy, and the first scattering flakes were falling of a storm that was to last for ten days. I was able to open my eyes in the morning, but everything still looked hazy. We boiled some of the wretched mouldy flour for breakfast, and then divided what remained, George taking the larger share, as he had the most work to do. Looking critically at my share, he asked: </P> <P> "How long can you keep alive on that?" </P> <P> "It will take me two days to reach Hubbard," I replied, "and the two of us might live three days more on it&mdash;on a pinch." </P> <P> "Do you think you can live as long as that?" said George, looking me hard in the eye. </P> <P> "I'll try," I said. </P> <P> "Then in five days I'll have help to you, if there's help to be had at Grand Lake. Day after to-morrow I'll be at Grand Lake. Those fellus'll be strong and can reach camp in two days, so expect 'em." </P> <P> It was time for us to separate. </P> <P> "George," I asked, "have you your Testament with you?" </P> <P> "It's the Book of Common Prayer," he said, drawing it from his pocket; "but it's got the Psalms in it." </P> <P> He handed me the tiny leather-covered book, but I could not see the print; the haze before my eyes was too thick. I returned the book to him, and asked him to read one of the Psalms. Quite at haphazard, I am sure, he turned to the ninety-first, and this is what he read: </P> <P CLASS="noindent"> "Whoso dwelleth under the defence of the Most High; shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. </P> <P CLASS="noindent"> "I will say unto the Lord, Thou art my hope, and my stronghold: my God, in him will I trust. </P> <P CLASS="noindent"> "For he shall deliver thee from the snare of the hunter: and from the noisome pestilence. </P> <P CLASS="noindent"> "He shall defend thee under his wings, and thou shalt be safe under his feathers: his faithfulness and truth shall be thy shield and buckler. </P> <P CLASS="noindent"> "Thou shalt not be afraid for any terror by night: nor for the arrow that flieth by day; </P> <P CLASS="noindent"> "For the pestilence that walketh in darkness: nor for the sickness that destroyeth in the noon-day. </P> <P CLASS="noindent"> "A thousand shall fall beside thee, and ten thousand at thy right hand: but it shall not come nigh thee. </P> <P CLASS="noindent"> "Yea, with thine eyes shalt thou behold: and see the reward of the ungodly. </P> <P CLASS="noindent"> "For thou, Lord, art my hope: thou hast set thine house of defence very high. </P> <P CLASS="noindent"> "There shall be no evil happen unto thee: neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. </P> <P CLASS="noindent"> "For he shall give his angels charge over thee: to keep thee In all thy ways. </P> <P CLASS="noindent"> "They shall bear thee in their hands: that thou hurt not thy foot against a stone. </P> <P CLASS="noindent"> "Thou shalt go upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou tread under thy feet. </P> <P CLASS="noindent"> "Because He hath set His love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him up, because he hath known my name. </P> <P CLASS="noindent"> "He shall call upon me, and I will hear him: yea, I am with him in trouble; I will deliver him and bring him to bonour. </P> <P CLASS="noindent"> "With long life will I satisfy him: and show him my salvation" </P> <BR> <P> The Psalm made a deep impression upon me. "For he shall give his angels charge over thee: to keep thee in all thy ways." How strange it seems, in view of what happened to me, that George should have read that sentence. </P> <P> We arose to go on our separate ways, George twenty-five miles down the valley to Grand Lake, and I fifteen miles up the valley to Hubbard. The snow was falling thick and fast. </P> <P> "You'd better make a cape of your blanket," suggested George. "Let me fix it for you." </P> <P> He placed the blanket around my shoulders, and on either side of the cloth where it came together under my chin made a small hole with his knife. Through these holes he ran a piece of our old trolling line, and tied the ends. Then he similarly arranged his own blanket. </P> <P> I held out my hand to him. </P> <P> "Good-bye, George. Take care of yourself." </P> <P> He clasped my hand warmly. </P> <P> "Good-bye, Wallace. Expect help in five days." </P> <P> Near the top of a knoll I stopped and looked back. With my afflicted eyes I could barely make out George ascending another knoll. He also stopped and looked back. I waved my hand to him, and he waved his hand to me and shouted something unintelligible. Then he disappeared in the snow, and as he disappeared a silence came on the world, to remain unbroken for ten days. </P> <BR><BR><BR>
SPONSORED LINKS