Hours afterward Jamie awoke. He was shivering with the cold. The fire had burned out, save the backlog which still glowed. It was night. The storm had passed and the wind dropped to fitful blasts. The stars were shining brightly, and the sky was clear save for feathery, fast moving cloud patches.
Jamie rebuilt the fire, and lay down to await morning. He was so hungry that he could scarce lie still, but again his eyes drooped and again he slept.
It was near daybreak when Jamie was startled by some unusual noise, and sat up with a jerk. He listened intently, and satisfied that someone was approaching sprang up and looked cautiously out, seized with panic and ready for flight. In the dim starlight he could plainly see two men coming toward him over the marsh.
SEARCHING THE WHITE WILDERNESS
Nearly three hours passed before Doctor Joe and David returned to camp, disheartened and thoroughly alarmed, to report that they had found no trace of Jamie. In the thick-falling snow and darkness they had been forced to relinquish the search until daylight should come to their assistance.
Andy and the boys were dazed. It could hardly be comprehended or credited that Jamie was, indeed, lost. They ate their belated supper in silence, half expecting that he would, after all, come walking in upon them. Doctor Joe was grave and preoccupied. Several times, now he, now David, went out into the night to stand and listen in the storm, but all they heard was the wail of wind in the tree tops.
At last, with heavy hearts, they went to bed, upon Doctor Joe’s advice. Andy asked that he might pass the night in the tent with Doctor Joe and David, and so it was arranged. Neither Andy nor David, more worried than they had ever been in all their lives before, felt in the least like sleep. Doctor Joe did not lie down with them. For a long while the two lads lay awake and watched him crouching before the stove smoking his pipe, his face grave and thoughtful. He had spoken no word of encouragement, and the lads knew that he was troubled beyond expression.
The wind was rising. In sudden gusts of anger it dashed the snow against the tent in swirling blasts, and moaned dismally through the tree tops. The crackling fire in the stove, usually so cheerful, only served now to increase their sorrow. It offered warmth and comfort and protection from the night and cold and drifting snow, which Jamie, if he had not perished, was denied. They could only think of him as wandering and suffering in the cold and darkness, hungry and miserable, and they condemned themselves.
When sleep finally carried the lads into unconsciousness, Doctor Joe’s tall figure was still crouching before the stove, and when they awoke he was already up and had kindled a fresh fire in the stove, though it was not yet day, and the tent was lighted by the flickering flame of a candle.