Fine weather had attended the voyageurs thus far but that night the sky clouded heavily and when they emerged from the tent the next morning a thick blanket of snow covered the earth and weighted down the branches of the spruce trees. The storm had spent itself in the night, however, and the day was clear and sparkling. Very beautiful the white world looked when the sun came to light it up; but the snow made tracking less easy, and warned the travellers that no time must be lost in reaching their destination, for it was a harbinger of the winter blasts and blizzards soon to blow.
Early that afternoon they came in view of the rushing waters of the Gull Island Rapids, with their big foam crested waves angrily assailing the rocks that here and there raised their ominous heads above the torrent. The greater length of these rapids can be tracked, with some short portages around the worst places. Before entering them everything was lashed securely into the boat, as at the Porcupine Rapids, and the tracking line fastened a few inches back of the bow leaving enough loose end to run to the stern and this was tied securely there to relieve the unusual strain on the bow fastening. Ed took the position of steersman in the boat, while the other three were to haul upon the line.
When all was made ready and secure, they started forward, bringing the craft into the heavy water, which opposed its progress so vigorously that it seemed as though the rope must surely snap. Stronger and stronger became the strain and harder and harder pulled the men. All of Ed’s skill was required to keep the boat straight in the treacherous cross current eddies where the water swept down past the half-hidden rocks in the river bed.
They were pushing on tediously but surely when suddenly and without warning the fastening at the bow broke loose, the boat swung away into the foam, and in a moment was swallowed up beneath the waves. The rear fastening held however and the boat was thrown in against the bank.
But Ed had disappeared in the fearful flood of rushing white water. The other three stood appalled. It seemed to them that no power on earth could save him. He must certainly be dashed to death upon the rocks or smothered beneath the onrushing foam.
For a moment all were inert, paralyzed. Then Dick, accustomed to act quickly in every emergency, slung the line around a boulder, took a half hitch to secure it and, without stopping to see whether it would hold or not, ran down stream at top speed with Bob and Bill at his heels.
THE TRAILS ARE REACHED
Ed had been cast away in rapids before, and when he found himself in the water, with the wilderness traveller’s quick appreciation of the conditions, he lay limp, without a struggle. If he permitted the current to carry him in its own way on its course, he might be swept past the rocks uninjured to the still water below. If one struggle was made it might throw him out of the current’s course against a boulder, where he would be pounded to death or rendered unconscious and surely drowned. He was swept on much more rapidly than his companions could run and quite hidden from them by the big foam-crested waves.