Stripped to his underclothing, Eli crouched before the fire beneath the front of the shelter. At intervals he turned his back and sides and chest toward the heat and in the course of an hour succeeded in drying his underclothing to his satisfaction. His moleskin trousers were still damp, but he donned them, and renewing the fire he stretched himself luxuriously for a long and much needed rest.
ELI SURPRISES INDIAN JAKE
When Eli awoke late in the afternoon the rain had ceased, but the wind was blowing a living gale. There was a roar and boom and thunder of breakers down on the point and echoing far away along the coast. The wind shrieked and moaned through the forest.
Under his shelter beneath the thick spruce trees, however, Eli was well enough protected. He renewed the fire, which had burned to embers, and prepared dinner. The storm that prevented him from travelling would also hold Indian Jake a prisoner. This thought yielded him a degree of satisfaction.
He took no advantage of the leisure to reconsider and weigh the circumstantial evidence against Indian Jake. He had accepted it as conclusive proof of the half-breed’s guilt and he had already convicted him of the crime. Once Eli had arrived at a conclusion his mind was closed to any line of reasoning that might tend to controvert that conclusion. He prided himself upon this characteristic as strength of will, while in reality it was a weakness. But Eli was like many another man who has enjoyed greater opportunities in the world than ever fell to Eli’s lot.
Once Eli had set himself upon a trail he never turned his back upon the object he sought or weakened in his determination to attain it. His object now was to overtake Indian Jake and have the matter out with the half-breed once and for all. Well directed, this trait of unyielding determination is an excellent one. It is the foundation of success in life if the object sought is a worthy one. But in this instance Eli’s objective was not alone the recovery of the silver fox skin, though this was the chief incentive. Coupled with it was a desire for vengeance, prompted by hate, and vengeance is the child of the weakest and meanest of human passions.
When Eli had eaten he shouldered his rifle and strolled back into the forest. Presently he flushed a covey of spruce grouse, which rose from the ground and settled in a tree. Flinging his rifle to his shoulder, he fired and a grouse tumbled to the ground. He fired again, and another fell. The living birds, with a great noise of wings, now abandoned the tree and Eli picked up the two victims. He had clipped their heads off neatly. This he observed with satisfaction. His rifle shot true and his aim was steady. What chance could Indian Jake have against such skill as that?
Eli plucked the birds immediately, while they were warm, for delay would set the feathers, and his game being sufficient for his present needs, he returned to his bivouac on the point.