But they were to be denied many things that winter that the fish they had not caught would have brought them. The little luxuries in which they had always indulged occasionally were not to be thought of; and pork, which is almost a necessity, was to become a rarity and a luxury to them, and there were to be times when even the flour barrel would be empty.
But this was a part of the ups and downs of their life, and one and all they accepted the condition cheerfully, for who, they said, does not have to endure privations now and again? And they had always done very well in other years, and the needs of life are small; and so they had no complaint to make. Comfort and privation are, after all, measured largely by contrast, and what to them would have been comfortable and luxurious living would have seemed to you and me little less than unendurable hardship.
Bobby and Jimmy were as glad, now, to return to the snug cabins as they had been to set out for Itigailit Island in the summer, and as they looked back over the few short weeks, the July day when they had their adventure with the bear seemed to them a long, long while ago.
And when the boats were loaded Bobby ran up to say good-bye for a season to the cairn and the dead man mouldering beneath it, and to the wide open sea, and the misty horizon out of which he had drifted, and then they hoisted sail and were off.
Another long winter with its bitter cold and drifting snow, its joys and its hardships and adventures, was at hand.
MAROONED IN AN ARCTIC BLIZZARD
That was indeed a winter of bitter cold and of almost unexampled severity. It came suddenly, too, and with scant warning, as we shall see, and a full fortnight in advance of the time when it should have come.
Abel and Skipper Ed took Jimmy with them that year upon their autumn seal hunt. It was deemed wise to leave Bobby behind with Mrs. Abel, despite his protest. Though he was willing enough to remain when Mrs. Abel declared that because of her recent illness she wished some one to stay at home and assist her, for she did not feel equal to the task, unassisted, of making things snug for the winter. And of course there was none but Bobby to stay.
And so it came about that Bobby, with many longings and regrets, though cheerful enough withal, stood down on the beach one frosty September morning and watched Abel Zachariah and Skipper Ed and Jimmy sail away for the hunt, while he comforted himself with the thought that another year he, too, would go.
Indeed, he had already taken part in the spring hunt, and though he gave no hint that he had guessed what was in their minds, he knew well enough that the plea that he was needed at home to assist Mrs. Abel at the work was a subterfuge of his foster parents, instigated, he had no doubt, by Skipper Ed. He was also satisfied that the real reason why he was left at home was because they deemed him not yet strong enough, as a result of his own recent illness, to withstand the unavoidable exposure and hardships to which the seal hunters would be subjected on the open and unprotected coast. And he had to confess to himself that he had not indeed recovered the full measure of his activity and hardihood, and that there was reason and justice in their course.