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HOME > Short Stories > The Timber Treasure > CHAPTER IX VICTORY
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 The next hours were blank for Tom, or almost blank. He seemed at last to hear a roaring sound like water. He seemed to be rushing at dizzying speed through worlds of darkness. Then he thought he saw the malicious face of McLeod peering into his own, and again blackness and silence covered everything.  
Something aroused him; something was pulling at him. Opening his eyes, he saw strangely an outline of tree-tops sharp against a starry sky. He was being dragged violently by the shoulder.
“Git up, Tom—quick!” a voice penetrated his ears. “They come back soon.”
Tom’s head ached so dizzily that it fell back when he tried to lift it. He could not remember where he was. He did not know who was beside him. He tried feebly to raise his arms, and found that they were roped together; and his legs, too, were tightly bound at the ankles.
“Wait—I see now. I cut you loose,” muttered the hurried voice, which Tom now dimly recognized. A knife-blade flashed, and sawed at the rope. His arms were free, then his legs. He made a feeble effort to get up, and collapsed again.
“No use! Can’t do it!” he murmured thickly.
Charlie seemed to hesitate.
“I carry you,” he said with determination, and, getting his arms around Tom’s body, he sought to heave him on his shoulders. He really might have carried him, for Charlie was used to carrying tremendous loads over canoe portages, but Tom’s faintly reviving spirit rebelled. He slipped down, clung to a tree for several seconds, and tried to steady his whirling head.
“You come,” said Charlie anxiously. “That red-hair man, he be back quick, mebbe. I wait long time.”
Tom had only a vague notion of what the Ojibway meant. He could not remember what had happened; he knew only that some danger hung over him like a nightmare. He let the tree go and attempted to walk. He reeled, and would have fallen but for Charlie’s quick grasp. Then Charlie got an arm around his body, and, half carrying, half leading him, managed to steer him through the woods.
It seemed an endless way to Tom, but it could have been only a few rods, when the Indian uttered a wearied grunt of satisfaction, and Tom saw the shimmer of moonlight on water. Charlie let him go, to sink on the ground, and vanished. In a minute or two he was back, and helped Tom down to the shore. Tom saw a canoe without surprise. He managed to get into it somehow without upsetting it, and settled down into a crumpled heap amidships. Charlie got into the stern, and without a sound the craft glided down the shore, keeping in the shadows of the trees.
By slow degrees the boy’s wits returned, helped by the fresh lake air. Leaning over, he splashed water on his head, which hurt severely. The douche cooled and refreshed him. Memory struggled back.
Painfully he remembered the knock-out he had received—Harrison’s proposal—his scouting at the raft—groping his way back step by step. Of what had taken place after he had been struck senseless he had no idea, nor how much time had passed. From the feeling of the air, it seemed to him that it must now be late in the night.
“Where are we going, Charlie?” he said thickly, over his shoulder.
“By gar, I think you mebbe dead, Tom!” exclaimed the Indian, in excited, though subdued tones. “We go good place. I fix you up all right. Mos’ there now.”
They were going down Little Coboconk now, taking less care to keep out of the moonlight. Just at the lower end of the lake Charlie ran the canoe ashore beside a great log, got out, and helped Tom to disembark. He lifted the canoe out of the water and stowed it somewhere in the dark undergrowth; and then, with an air of being familiar with the place, he grasped Tom’s arm and conducted him among the spruces by several mazy turnings, and at last indicated by a pressure on his shoulder that he was to sit down.
Tom dropped gratefully, finding himself on a thick pile of spruce twigs. Above him he found a rough shelter of bark and boughs.
“I camp here,” said Charlie, “ever since you go ’way. I look down river for you, mos’ every day—think maybe you come back. I see you yesterday when you come.”
“You’re the best friend I ever had, Charlie!” said Tom gratefully. “Maybe you saved my life to-night. How did you find me? Where was I?”
Charlie burst into an explanation, compounded of English and French, which he was apt to use when excited. It made Tom’s head ache, but he gathered that Charlie had slipped out of sight on seeing his friend’s capture, but had stayed close inshore in the canoe. He heard the sound of Tom’s choked-off cry and fall, but had not dared to interfere as Harrison was almost immediately joined by the red-haired man. Between them, they had tied Tom up and carried him several hundred yards farther down the shore, depositing him in a little valley full of evergreens. McLeod remained on guard, while Harrison returned to the camp. Charlie had scouted close up, and thought of shooting the red-haired man, but restrained himself. Finally, McLeod went back to the camp also, to get matches for his pipe, Charlie thought; and the Indian boy seized the opportunity for a rescue.
“We safe here,” he concluded. “Good place—can look up, down—they never find us. Besides, you say your father come.”
“I declare, so he is!” Tom exclaimed with a start. In his confusion and pain he had totally forgotten that fact. Mr. Jackson was coming, was doubtless on the way; and then Tom remembered also Harrison’s statement that his father would be “turned back.”
“We must meet him, Charlie!” he cried. “Those fellows may catch him, murder him perhaps.”
“Plenty time. He not come till daylight,” said Charlie, glancing up at the sky. “Three hours, mebbe. Sleep now.”
And the young Indian stolidly stretched himself on the spruce twigs also, and appeared to fall instantly asleep.
Tom could not rest so easily. It was true, no doubt, that his father would not come in the darkness. Morning would be time enough to look for him. But he felt nervously uneasy, impatient, and alarmed. His head still ached and spun at the slightest movement. Feeling it cautiously, he found it badly swollen on the left side, and blood had dried and caked in his hair. Harrison must have struck him with the revolver butt, he thought.
He tried to compose himself, lay awake for a long time grew drowsy at last and drifted through a series of nightmares, awaking with a painful start. But at last he did sleep, and was disturbed only by hearing Charlie making a fire.
It was daylight, but not yet sunrise. The sleep had done him good. His head ached less, and he felt more in command of his nerve. The Indian boy produced tea, some fragments of pork, and some very hard bread; and the food still further restored Tom’s strength. He was eager to intercept his father, however, and they had no sooner eaten than they took to the canoe again, and dropped down the river to a point where Mr. Jackson would surely pass in coming over the trail from Ormond.
Here, for hour after hour, they waited, watchful alike for friends and for enemies, for Tom more than half expected to espy McLeod scouting down the river shore to prepare some ambush. Tom’s head still ached, but the effects of the blow were fast passing, and under frequent applications of cold water the swelling was going down. They ate a cold lunch, not venturing to light a fire, but it was not until well into the afternoon that Charlie suddenly sat up alertly from the ground where he was lounging.
“Somebody come!” he said in a low voice, staring into the woods.
Tom had heard nothing, and in fact it was nearly ten minutes before he heard trampling and crashing in the undergrowth. The sound instantly reassured him. Harrison’s scouts would not have made so much noise and in fact within a few minutes a party emerged upon the shore a few yards below. In the first two figures Tom recognized his father and “Big Joe” Lynch.
There were four other men with them. Tom burst out from the woods and rushed down to meet the new-comers, followed by Charlie. He was recognized from a distance; there was a waving and a calling of greetings. Tom grasped his father’s hand; then he found himself, being hailed by two others of the party, whom he finally recognized to be Uncle Phil and Cousin Ed.
“Is it all right? We couldn’t—” Mr. Jackson began.
“We missed you yesterday,” put in Ed, a wiry young fellow a year younger than Tom. “But we started out to catch Uncle Matt on the trail this morning.”
“Found him broken down,” said Phil Jackson.
“Yes,” said Tom’s father. “The wagon couldn’t get on very fast. Had to stop and chop the trail. We left three of the men to bring it up, and the rest of us came along on foot. I was getting uneasy about you. How did you find things? Why, what’s the matter with your head?”
“A collision with Mr. Harrison,” said Tom; and he rapidly described his misadventures of the night. Mr. Jackson’s face turned grim as he listened.
“The scoundrel! He was planning to keep you out of the way, I suppose, till he could dispose of some of his loot. He must have planned something to head me off, too. Never mind! his finish is close now. I struck another piece of luck i............
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