“Dane! Dane!” she murmured. “How did you find me? Thank God, you came in time.”
Like a tired child she rested in his sheltering arms, and gave herself up completely to his protecting care. The wind continued to roar, and the great trees rocked and swayed. But the reunited lovers paid no heed to the raging of the elements. They were together again, and nothing else mattered.
Owing to the severity of the storm all the mast-cutters of Big Lake camp suspended work, and sought refuge within their log cabins. The latter were poor affairs, inhabited as a rule by two or three men. One, however, contained twelve cutters, and here, while the tempest raged outside, they were cosy and contented. Some sat before the bright open fire, smoking and talking. Others played cards, while a few spent their time in mending their clothes.
They were a sturdy, rollicking band of men, tucked away in the depths of the forest. In the summer they did a little farming along the St. John River and its tributaries. But the inducement of good wages lured them to the camps during the long winter months. They enjoyed the life, too, tinged as it was with the spice of adventure, for they never knew when the slashers would cause trouble. They were well supplied with fire-arms and ammunition, which had been sent up river the previous summer by Major Studholme. A scrap with the rebels would have given them much satisfaction, for they were anxious to wipe out numerous old scores with their base and elusive enemy. The probability of an attack formed the main topic of conversation during the winter evenings, and many were the battles fought and won. They also discussed the mast-business, how many masts, spars, bowsprits and other timber would be taken out during the winter and floated down the river in the spring. They knew how many pieces had been stored in the mast-pond at Portland Point the previous year, and the number of vessels which had arrived to carry the sticks to England. They could also tell the dimensions of the largest masts ever cut, ranging from ninety to one hundred and twenty-five feet in length, and from thirty to forty inches in diameter, and valued at five hundred dollars and upwards apiece. There seemed to be no limit to the knowledge these men possessed of the masting-business, and they vied with one another in telling what they knew.
The arrival of the Loyalists furnished them with a new subject of conversation. But it was the abduction of Colonel Sterling’s daughter which stirred them most intensely. Many of them had daughters of their own, and they sympathised with the bereaved colonel. That the slashers were responsible for the cowardly deed, they had not the slightest doubt, and they often wondered what had become of the girl.
The short afternoon was wearing away, with the storm showing no sign of abatement. The snow piled up around the cabin, and so blocked up the little windows that the men sitting at the table were compelled to light several dip-candles in order to see the cards. Only the two men who attended the oxen in the near-by stable ventured outside, and their report of the storm made their comrades glad that they could remain indoors on such a day.