“When are you expecting Mrs. Horn and the boys back?” asked Doctor Joe.
“This evenin’ or to-morrow whatever,” said Lem. “They’ve been away these five days gettin’ the winter outfit at Fort Pelican.”
If Indian Jake were guilty, it was highly probable that he would take prompt steps to flee the country. He could not dispose of the silver fox skin in the Bay, for all the local traders had already seen and appraised it, and they would undoubtedly recognize it if it were offered them. Indian Jake would probably plunge into the interior, spend the winter hunting, and in the spring make his way to the St. Lawrence, where he would be safe from detection.
Doctor Joe made these calculations while he sat by the bedside, and his patient dozed. He was sorry now that he had not sent the boys back to The Jug with a letter to Thomas explaining what had occurred. All the evidence pointed to Indian Jake’s guilt, and there could be little doubt of it if it should prove that the half-breed carried a thirty-eight fifty-five rifle. Thomas would know, and he would take prompt action to prevent Indian Jake’s escape with the silver fox skin. Should it prove, however, that Indian Jake’s rifle was of different calibre, he should be freed from suspicion.
It was dusk that evening when the boat bearing Eli and Mark and Mrs. Horn rounded the island. Doctor Joe met them. They had seen the boys and had received from them a detailed account of what had happened, and Mrs. Horn was greatly excited. Her first thought was for Lem, and she was vastly relieved when she saw him, as he declared he did not feel “so bad,” and Doctor Joe assured her he would soon be around again and as well as ever.
Then there fell upon the family a full realization of their loss. The silver fox skin that had been stolen was their whole fortune. The proceeds of its sale was to have been their bulwark against need. It was to have given them a degree of independence, and above all else the little hoard that its sale would have brought them was to have lightened Lem’s burden of labour during his declining years.
Eli Horn was a big, broad-shouldered, swarthy young man of few words. For an hour after he heard his father’s detailed story of Indian Jake’s visit to the cabin, he sat in sullen silence by the stove. Suddenly he arose, lifted his rifle from the pegs upon which it rested against the wall, dropped some ammunition into his cartridge bag, and swinging it over his shoulder strode toward the door.
“Where you goin’, Eli?” asked Lem from his bunk.
“To hunt Indian Jake,” said Eli as he closed the door behind him and passed out into the night.
THE TRACKS IN THE SAND
A smart south-west breeze had sprung up. White caps were dotting the Bay, and with all sails set the boat bowled along at a good speed.