With these thoughts flashing through his mind Jamie prayed a silent little prayer:
“Dear Lord, don’t let un kill me! Take me back to The Jug again!”
Many times he repeated this to himself. Then there came to him something Thomas had once said when the mist was clouding his eyes:
“Have plenty o’ grit, lad, and a stout heart like a man.”
This comforted and strengthened him, and, like the prayer, he repeated it over and over again to himself as he lay watching the silent men. For a long time he watched them and the fire beyond, and the falling snow and the black wall of the forest. Finally tired nature came to his relief. His eyes closed and he fell into a troubled sleep.
LOST IN A BLIZZARD
After a time Jamie awoke. The two men were still sitting by the fire and were again drinking from the bottle. He was uncomfortable in his cramped position, but dared not move, and he lay very still and watched the men and the fire and the black wall of the mysterious, trackless forest beyond. Shadows rose and fell and flitted in and out of the circle of firelight. Weird and uncanny they seemed, taking strange forms like dancing spirits. In the darkness outside the firelight and moving shadows Jamie fancied that terrible ghoulish forms were stalking stealthily and grinning maliciously at him.
For a long while Jamie lay awake and watched. Again and again the men drank from the bottle, and when they spoke at intervals their voices sounded unnatural and thick. Once one of them arose to replenish the fire, and he moved unsteadily upon his feet, at which the little lad marvelled, for he was a large, strong man. Presently Jamie’s eyes drooped again, and once more he slept.
When he again awoke dawn was breaking. Snow was falling heavily. The two men were in a deep sleep. The fire had died down to a bed of coals, and Jamie was shivering with the cold.
His arms were numb, and his body and limbs ached from the cramped position in which he lay because of his bound arms and feet. With some effort he turned over, and this brought him some relief, but not for long, and presently he rolled back to his original position that he might see the red coals of the fire.
Jamie tried to move his hands, but his wrists were too firmly tied, and the effort brought only pain. Then he lay still and studied the smouldering fire. Behind it lay the remnants of a back log that had been burned through in the centre. The inner ends of the log, where it was separated, were, like the coals before it, red and glowing, and he thought that if he could push them together they would blaze and give out warmth.
Then, suddenly, an idea flashed into Jamie’s brain. Those red ends of the log would burn the string that bound him, and he could free himself if he could only reach them and press the string against them.