“But I must get to Dugout,” Tom pleaded.
“You won’t try it unless you’re crazy,” Jim retorted. “If you make an attempt to stir from camp this afternoon, Reade, I’ll call on the men to hold you down until I can tie you. Do you think I’ve waited, Reade, all these years to find a partner like you, and then allow him to go off in a blizzard that would sure finish him?”
“Then, if you’re sure about this, Jim, I won’t attempt to go until the weather moderates.”
“When the time’s right I’ll go,” proposed Ferrers. “A pony is no good on this white stuff. From some of the Swedes we’ve had working out in this country I’ve learned how to make a pair of skis. You can travel on skis where a pony would cut his legs in two against the snow crust.”
“Then, if I’m not going to Dugout, I’ll go out and swing an axe for a while,” Tom suggested. “I want to be of some use, and I can’t sit still anyway.”
“Oh, sit down,” urged Ferrers, almost impatiently, as he filled his pipe and lighted it. “I’ll amuse you with some stories about blizzards on this Range in years past.”
Outside they could hear axes ringing against the trees. Then the dinner-horn called the men in. Soon after the meal was over all the horses in camp were hitched and employed in bringing in the wood. Harry was out again to superintend the men.
By half-past two the first big flakes began to come down. There was still no wind to speak of.
Tom had lain down in a bunk, leaving Jim to brighten the fire.
Ferrers, too, nodded in his chair. It was the howling of the wind that awoke Tom.
“Where’s Harry?” he asked, sitting up.
“Eh?” queried! Ferrers, opening his eyes.
“Where’s Harry! Is he out in this storm?”
“I’ve been dozing,” Jim confessed. “I don’t know where he is.”
“Hear the wind howl,” cried Tom, leaping from his bunk and pulling on his shoes. Then he rapidly finished dressing, Jim, in the meantime, lighting the reflector lamp.
“Where on earth can Harry be?” Tom again demanded.
“Maybe in one of the other shacks, with some of the men.”
Tom threw open the door. The snow-laden gale, sweeping in on him, nearly took away his breath. Then, after filling his lungs, he started resolutely for the nearest shack.
“Mr. Hazelton in here?” Tom called, swinging open the door.
“No, sir; thought he was with you.”
Tom fought his way through the gale to the next shack. Here Tim Walsh had news.
“We came in, sir, when the blizzard got too bad,” Walsh explained, “but we found we’d left one of the teams behind in the woods. Mr. Hazelton said he’d go back and get the team. Half an hour later one of the boys here noticed that the team was standing up against the door of the stable shack. So I went out and put up the team.”
“Didn’t it occur to you to wonder where Mr. Hazelton was?” Tom asked, rather sharply.