An hour before dark on Friday evening they reached the tilt. Dick was the first to enter it, and as he pushed open the door he stopped with the exclamation:
“That rascal Micmac!”
ALONE IN THE WILDERNESS
The stove and stovepipe were gone, and fresh, warm ashes on the floor gave conclusive proof that the theft had been perpetrated that very day. Some one had been occupying the tilt, too, as new boughs spread for a bed made evident.
“More o’ Micmac John’s work,” commented Dick as he kicked the ashes. “He’s been takin’ th’ stove an’ he’ll be takin’ th’ fur too, an’ he gets a chance.”
“Maybe ’twere Mountaineers,” suggested Bill.
“No, ‘twere no Mountaineers—them don’t steal. No un ever heard o’ a Mountaineer takin’ things as belongs to other folks. Injuns be honest—leastways all but half-breeds.”
“Nascaupees might a been here,” offered Bob, having in mind the stories he had heard of them, and feeling now that he was almost amongst them.
“No, Nascaupees ‘d have no use for a stove. They’d ha’ burned th’ tilt. ‘Tis Micmac John, an’ he be here t’ steal fur. ‘Tis t’ steal fur’s what he be after. But let me ketch un, an’ he won’t steal much more fur,” insisted Dick, worked up to a very wrathful pitch.
They looked outside for indications of the course the marauder had taken, and discovered that he had returned to the river, where his canoe had been launched a little way above the tilt, and had either crossed to the opposite side or gone higher up stream. In either case it was useless to attempt to follow him, as, if they caught him at all, it would be after a chase of several days, and they could not well afford the time. There was nothing to do, therefore, but make the best of it. Bob’s tent stove was set up in place of the one that had been stolen. Then everything was stowed away in the tilt.
The next morning came cold and gray, with heavy, low-hanging clouds, threatening an early storm. The boat was hauled well up on the shore, and a log protection built over it to prevent the heavy snows that were soon to come from breaking it down.
Before noon the first flakes of the promised storm fell lazily to the earth and in half an hour it was coming so thickly that the river twenty yards away could not be seen, and the wind was rising. The three cut a supply of dry wood and piled what they could in the tilt, placing the rest within reach of the door. Then armfuls of boughs were broken for their bed. All the time the storm was increasing in power and by nightfall a gale was blowing and a veritable blizzard raging.
When all was made secure, a good fire was started in the stove, a candle lighted, and some partridges that had been killed in the morning put over with a bit of pork to boil for supper. While these were cooking Bill mixed some flour with water, using baking soda for leaven—“risin’” he called it—into a dough which he formed into cakes as large in circumference as the pan would accommodate and a quarter of an inch thick. These cakes he fried in pork grease. This was the sort of bread that they were to eat through the winter.