“’Tis the ghost of Long John!” breathed Jamie. “’Tis sure he!”
SHOT FROM BEHIND
The canoe was coming directly toward them. In a moment it touched the shore, and as its occupant stepped lightly out the boys with one accord exclaimed:
“Injun Jake! ’Tis Injun Jake!”
And so it proved. The greeting he received was hearty enough to leave no doubt in his mind that he was a welcome visitor. Perhaps it was the heartier because of the relief the boys experienced in the discovery that the lone canoeman was not, after all, the wraith of Long John, but was their friend Indian Jake in flesh and blood.
When his packs had been removed, Indian Jake lifted his canoe from the water, turned it upon its side and followed the boys to the fire, where Doctor Joe awaited him.
“Just in time!” welcomed Doctor Joe, as he shook Indian Jake’s hand. “We’ve finished eating, but there’s plenty of stew in the kettle. Andy, pour Jake some tea.”
Indian Jake, grunting his thanks, silently picked up David’s empty plate and heaped it with stew and dumpling from the kettle without the ceremony of waiting to be served.
He was a tall, lithe, muscular half-breed, with small, restless, hawk-like eyes and a beaked nose that was not unlike the beak of a hawk. He had the copper-hued skin and straight black hair of the Indian, but otherwise his features might have been those of a white man. Indian Jake had been the trapping companion of David and Andy the previous winter, and, as previously stated, was this year to be Thomas Angus’s trapping partner on the fur trails.
The boys were vastly fond of Indian Jake, and Thomas and Doctor Joe shared their confidence, but the Bay folk generally looked upon him with distrust and suspicion. Several years before, he had come to the Bay a penniless stranger. He soon earned the reputation of being one of the best trappers in the region. Then, suddenly, he disappeared owing the Hudson’s Bay Company a considerable sum for equipment and provisions sold him on credit. It was well known that in the winter preceding his disappearance Indian Jake had had a most successful hunting season and was in possession of ample means to pay his debts. His failure to apply his means to this purpose was looked upon as highly dishonest—akin, indeed, to theft.
Two years later he reappeared, again penniless. The Company refused him further credit, and he had no means of purchasing the supplies necessary for his support during the trapping season in the interior. It was at this time that Thomas Angus broke his leg, and it became necessary for David and Andy to take his place on the trails. They were too young to endure the long months of isolation without an older and more experienced companion. There was none but Indian Jake to go with them, and he was engaged to hunt on shares a trail adjacent to theirs.