Bob led out Bessie, for whom he had always shown a decided preference, and danced like any man of them. Douglas did not dance—not because he was too old, for no man is too old to dance in Labrador, nor because it was beneath his dignity—but because, as he said: “There’s not enough maids for all th’ lads, an’ I’s had my turn a many a time. I’ll smoke an’ look on.”
Neither did Micmac John dance, for he seemed in ill humour, and was silent and morose, nursing his discontent that a mere boy should have been given the Big Hill trail in preference to him, and he sat moody and silent, taking no apparent interest in the fun. The dance was nearly finished when Bob, wheeling around the end, warm with the excitement and pleasure of it all, inadvertently stepped on one of the half-breed’s feet. Micmac John rose like a flash and struck Bob a stinging blow on the face. Bob turned upon him full of the quick anger of the moment, then, remembering his surroundings, restrained the hand that was about to return the blow, simply saying:
“‘Twas an accident, John, an’ you has no right to strike me.”
The half-breed, vicious, sinister and alert, stood glowering for a moment, then deliberately hit Bob again. The others fell back, Bob faced his opponent, and, goaded now beyond the power of self-restraint, struck with all the power of his young arm at Micmac John. The latter was on his guard, however, and warded the blow. Quick as a flash he drew his knife, and before the others realized what he was about to do, made a vicious lunge at Bob’s breast.
OFF TO THE BUSH
On the left breast of Bob’s woollen shirt there was a pocket, and in this pocket was a small metal box of gun caps, which Bob always carried there when he was away from home, for he seldom left home without his gun. It was fortunate for him that it was there now, for the point of the knife struck squarely over the place where the box lay. It was driven with such force by the half-breed’s strong arm that it passed clear through the metal, which, however, so broke the blow that the steel scarcely scratched the skin beneath. Before another plunge could be made with the knife the men sprang in and seized Micmac John, who submitted at once without a struggle to the overpowering force, and permitted himself to be disarmed. Then he was released and stood back, sullen and defiant. For several moments not a word was spoken.
Finally Dick Blake took a threatening step towards the Indian, and shaking his fist in the latter’s face exclaimed:
“Ye dirty coward! Ye’d do murder, would ye? Ye’d kill un, would ye?”
“Hold on,” said Douglas, “’bide a bit. ‘Twill do no good t’ beat un, though he’s deservin’ of it.” Then to the half-breed: “An’ what’s ailin’ of ye th’ evenin’, John? ‘Twas handy t’ doin’ murder ye were.”