“‘Twere a rare pretty sight watchin’ th’ shore slippin’ past, an’ I forgets as ‘tis a piece o’ ice I’m ridin’ till I happens t’ look around an’ finds th’ cake o’ ice, likewise myself, in th’ middle o’ th’ river, an’ no way o’ gettin’ ashore. The’s nothin’ t’ do but hang on, an’ I hangs.
“Then I sees th’ Gull Island Rapids an’ I ’most loses my nerve. ’Tis a fearsome torrent at best, as un knows, but now wi’ high flood ’tis like ten o’ unself at low water. Th’ waves beats up twenty foot high.”
Ed paused here to light his pipe which had a way of always going out when he reached the most dramatic point in his stories. When it was finally going again, he continued:
“Lucky ‘twere for me th’ rocks were all covered. In we goes, me an’ th’ ice, an’ I hangs on an’ shuts my eyes. When I opens un we’re floatin’ peaceful an’ steady below th’ rapids, an’ I feels like breathin’ agin.
“Then we runs th’ Porcupine Rapids, an’ I begins t’ think I has th’ Muskrat Falls t’ run too which would be th’ endin’ o’ me, sure. But I ain’t. I uses my pole, an’ works up t’ shore, an’ just as we gets th’ rush o’ th’ water above th’ falls, I lands.
“That were how I rid th’ river on a’ ice cake.”
“Where’d ye land, now?” asked Dick. “This side o’ th’ river or t’ other?”
“This side o’ un,” answered Ed, complacently.
“‘Tis sheer rock this side, an’ no holt t’ land on,” said Dick, triumphantly.
“‘Th’ water were t’ th’ top o’ th’ rock,” explained Ed.
“Then,” said Dick, with the air of one who has trapped another, “th’ hull country were flooded an’ there were no falls.”
Ed looked at him for a moment disdainfully.
“I were on th’ ice six days, an’ I knows.”
The men were held in waiting for several days after the storm ceased for the river to clear of debris and sink again to something like its normal volume, before it was considered safe for them to begin the voyage out. Then on a fair June morning the boat was laden with the outfit and fur.
“Poor Bob,” said Dick, as Bob’s things were placed in the boat. “Th’ poor lad were so hopeful when we were comin’ in t’ th’ trails, an’ now un’s gone. ‘Twill be hard t’ meet his mother an Richard.”
“Aye, ‘twill be hard,” assented Ed. “She’ll be takin’ un rare hard. Our comin’ home’ll be bringin’ his goin’ away plain t’ she again.”
“An’ Emily, too,” spoke up Bill. “They were thinkin’ so much o’ each other.”
Then the journey was begun, full of danger and excitement as they shot through rushing rapids and on down the river towards Eskimo Bay, where great and unexpected tidings awaited them.
BACK AT WOLF BIGHT
Bob’s apparent death was a sore shock to Richard Gray. When Douglas found him on the trail and broke the news to him as gently as possible, he seemed at first hardly to comprehend it. He was stunned. He said little, but followed Douglas back to the cabin like one in a mesmeric sleep. A few days before he had gone away happy and buoyant, now he shuffled back like an old man.