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HOME > Classical Novels > For the Allinson Honor > CHAPTER XXVI A SUSPICIOUS STRANGER
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 Andrew returned to Canada satisfied with his English visit. He had not convinced his relatives that his judgment1 was entirely2 to be trusted, but he knew that he stood higher in their esteem3 than he had done; and that was something to be thankful for. Leonard, he thought, would find it more difficult to prejudice them against his plans. On reaching the Lake of Shadows, he found Graham recovering and learned that the Frobishers had left for their home in Denver. After remaining a few days at the Landing he went up to the mine, where the ore showed no sign of improvement. For all that, he spent a month there, waiting until the thaw5 came and maturing his plans for his second journey to Dream Mine.  
At last the rotting ice began to yield, and Andrew sat outside Watson's shack6 one day, watching an impressive spectacle. The river broke up with violence, the ice ripping and rending7 with a sound like the roar of artillery8, and as the great torn masses swept away, the water pent up in the higher reaches poured into the gorge9, swollen10 with melting snow. It rolled by in savage11 flood, laden12 with tremendous blocks of ice, some of which, cemented together near falls and rapids, were the size of small frame houses. Among them drove huge floes into which the floating cakes had solidified13 during the earlier frosts. Here and there[Pg 270] one stranded14 upon a point, or swung in an eddy15, until another crashed into it and both were shattered amid a bewildering uproar16. Then, for a while, the stream was filled with massive, driving sheets of ice, which ground the banks with a tremendous din4 and scored the tops of projecting boulders17, while waterlogged pines and stumps18 sunk in the river-bed were crushed to pulp19.
Andrew had never seen any display of natural forces to equal this, and when he went into the shack for supper he found that he could not get the recollection of it out of his mind. The lonely North is a savage country, very grim and terrible in some of its moods. Andrew, however, had carefully considered and endeavored to guard against its dangers, and when a canoe which had been especially built for him in Toronto arrived, he set out on his journey with Carnally and Graham. There was now no risk of frostbite and the gray trout20 would help out their food supply, but they knew the trip would cost them much exhausting labor21.
For some days they poled and paddled up the swollen river, spending hours in dragging the canoe and provisions across rocky portages to avoid furious rapids, and often wading22 waist-deep in icy water with the tracking line. At night they slept, generally wet through, among the stones, though there was often sharp frost and the slack along the bank was covered with fresh ice in the morning; but they made steady progress until the stream broke up into small forks and they must cross the height of land. This was singularly toilsome work. In some places they were forced to hew23 a path through scrub spruce bush; in others there were slippery rocks to be scrambled24 across, while two in[Pg 271] turn carried the canoe, borne upside-down upon the shoulders. Then there were the provisions to be brought up, and in relaying them each difficult stage had to be traversed several times, so that once or twice, when they had made only a mile or two in an exhausting day, Andrew almost despaired of getting any farther.
At last, however, they found a creek25 rushing tumultuously down the back of the divide. They followed it, one of them checking the canoe by the tracking line while the others kept her off the rocks with pole and paddle. Their provisions were secured, so far as possible, from damage by water, but there was danger of losing them in a capsize, and boiling eddies26 and roaring rapids made caution needful. For a while the creek led them roughly where they wished to go, and then turned off, and they crossed a high ridge27 in search of another. Lakes and rivers abound28 in those wilds, which are almost impassable on foot during the short summer. As they worked north the sun grew warmer, but the temperature fell sharply at night, and now and then the waste was swept by piercing winds.
One of these was raging when they scudded29 down a lake on a cold and lowering evening. Gray vapor30 blurred31 the rocky shore, but here and there a few dark pines stood out, harshly distinct. The water was leaden-colored between the lines of foam32, and short, slashing33 seas broke angrily about the canoe, which ran before them with a small lugsail set. Carnally knelt astern, holding the steering34 paddle; Andrew lay down amidships, out of the wind; and Graham, crouching35 forward, fixed36 his eyes ahead.
"There seems to be a creek abreast37 of us," Carnally said. "We're in shoaling water; watch out for snags."
[Pg 272]A violent gust38 struck them and the canoe drove on furiously, lifting her bows on a foaming39 ridge while the water lapped level with her stern.
"Shoot her up!" Graham called out sharply. "Log right ahead!"
Andrew seized the sheet and Carnally plied40 the paddle; but the warning had come too late. While the canoe slanted41 over until her lee side was under water as she altered her course, there was a sharp crash. Her speed slackened for a moment or two. Then she lifted as a white wave surged by; and when she drove on again the water poured in through a rent in her side.
"Can't be kept under by baling," Carnally remarked. "We'll have to put her on the wind and make the beach."
He hauled the sheet, but she would not bear the pressure when she brought the wind abeam42, and seeing the water pouring in over her lowered side, Carnally let her fall off again.
"Looks as if we had to keep her running," he said.
"The end of the lake can't be far off and the water's too rough to do much with the paddle."
They scudded on, Andrew and Graham baling as fast as possible, while the rising water gained on them, until blurred trees and rocks began to grow out of the haze43 ahead. Then as a strip of beach became distinguishable they lowered the sail, and soon afterward44 jumped over and carried her out across the jagged driftwood that hammered on the pebbles45. There was a small promontory46 near at hand, and Carnally walked across it while the others made camp. Supper was ready when he returned, and after the meal was finished he lay down near the fire.
[Pg 273]"The canoe wants a patch on her bilge," he said. "Could you sew on a bit of the thin cedar47 with the copper48 wire, Graham? There's some caulking49 gum in the green can."
"It would take me a day to make a neat job."
"No hurry," replied Carnally. "The outlet50 from the lake's just beyond that rise and it looks pretty good. When you have finished the canoe, you and Andrew could take her down and wait for me where the creek runs into the river we're looking for."
"It would be hard work at the portages. But why aren't you coming with us?" Andrew asked.
"I ought to make the creek where Mappin cached the first lot of stores for our other trip in about two days' march."
"We have enough without them."
"That's so. Anyhow, I want to look at the cache. Stores are a consideration on a trip like this; the less you have to pack over the portages, the quicker you can travel. Though we didn't find it, Mappin knows where the cache was made."
"I don't see the drift of this," Andrew said.
Carnally smiled.
"Hasn't it struck you that we might be followed? Sending up the canoe and camp truck would show the people at the Landing that we were ready to start, and Mappin knows our line roughly as far as the cache. You can't make camp and haul across brush portages without leaving a trail."
"Ah! That makes one think. Of course, we would have no legal claim to the lode51 unless we got our stakes in before anybody else."
"It's not enough. You have to get back to a government office and file your record before you're safe.[Pg 274] Well, considering everything, I guess I'll start for the cache at sun-up."
The others agreed to this and after he left the next morning they set to work on the canoe and repaired her satisfactorily. Then they launched her on the outflowing stream and a few days later made camp on the bank of a larger river, where they sat beside their fire late at night. The gorge was filled with the clamor of rushing water, but the night was very still, and they could hear sounds in the bush through the deep-toned roar of the flood. Outside the glow of the fire, which fell on the straight spruce trunks, there was nothing to be seen; but they sat listening, for Carnally had been longer than he expected and Andrew was anxious.
At last, Graham raised his hand.
"I heard something!"
Andrew turned his head, but for a while could hear only the hoarse52 turmoil53 of the river. Then he started as a faint crackle came out of the shadows. It rose again, more clearly, and presently a man's dark shape emerged from the gloom. A few moments later Carnally threw off his pack and sat down by the fire, his boots badly ripped and his clothing tattered54.
"I struck some pretty rough country," he explained. "The creek winds a lot and I came across the range."
"Did you find the cache?" Andrew asked.
"Sure! It had been opened not long before and provisions taken out."
Graham moved abruptly55.
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