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The Best Works of Dillon Wallace Left on the LabradorThe Gaunt Gray WolfThe Long Labrador TrailThe Lure of the Labrador WildThe Story of Grenfell of the LabradorTroop One of the LabradorUngava Bob
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The Best Collection of Dillon Wallace
Left on the Labrador
The Gaunt Gray Wolf
The Long Labrador Trail
The Lure of the Labrador Wild
The Story of Grenfell of the Labrador
Troop One of the Labrador
Left on the Labrador, by Dillon Wallace
To Her Whose Never Failing Loyalty and Devotion is My Fount of Inspiration My Wife
This life is not all sunshine, Nor is it yet all showers; But storms and calms alternate, As thorns among the flowers, And while we seek the roses, The thorns full oft we scan, Still let us, though they wound us, Be happy as we can.
This life has heavy crosses, As well as joys to share, And griefs and disappointments, Which you and I must bear. And if we may not follow The path our hearts would plan, Let us make all around us As happy as we can.
I. THE LOST PASSENGER 9 II. THE TWIGS OF PINCH-IN TICKLE 19 III. SKIPPER ZEB FIXES MATTERS 25 IV. MISSING 34 V. WRECKED 43 VI. THE CAMP AT THE DUCK'S HEAD 53 VII. A SNUG BERTH 64 VIII. THE TRAIL OF A LYNX 77 IX. THE FAR WILDERNESS 86 X. SKIPPER ZEB'S TRAPPING PATH 99 XI. THE WORST FIX OF ALL 112 XII. THE PANGS OF STARVATION 126 XIII. THE GREAT SNOWY OWL 141 XIV. THE BAY FASTENS 146 XV. LOST IN THE BARRENS 156 XVI. A WALL OF SNOW 171 XVII. SKIPPER ZEB'S DOGS 176 XVIII. THE FIGHT WITH THE WOLVES 188 XIX. CHARLEY'S NEW RIFLE 198 XX. THE REBELLION OF THE DOGS 213 XXI. THE CARIBOU HUNT 223 XXII. THE STRANGER 240 XXIII. THE LOST FUR 255 XXIV. THE VENGEANCE OF THE PACK 266 XXV. AMISHKU AND MAIGEN, THE INDIANS 273 XXVI. THE END OF THE FIX 281
ILLUSTRATIONS Facing Page
HE HELD THE AX READY TO STRIKE THE FIRST ATTACKING ANIMAL title
"SHE'S GONE! THE SHIP HAS GONE!" CRIED CHARLEY IN SUDDEN FRIGHT 18
SKIPPER ZEB'S OAR BROKE, AND THE BOAT WAS DRIVEN UPON A ROCK 154
THE GREAT PAW SENT TOBY SPRAWLING 214
THE LOST PASSENGER
Charley Norton was bored and unhappy. He stood at the starboard rail of the mail boat gazing out at the cold, bleak rocks of the Labrador coast, dimly visible through fitful gusts of driving snow.
Charley Norton and his father's secretary, Hugh Wise, had boarded the ship at St. John's ten days before for the round trip voyage to Hopedale, and during the voyage there had not been one pleasant day. Biting blasts swept the deck, heralding the winter near at hand, and there was no protecting nook where one could escape them and sit in any degree of comfort. The cabin was close and stuffy, and its atmosphere was heavy with that indescribable odor that rises from the bowels of old ships. The smoking room, bare and dismal and reeking with stale tobacco smoke, was deserted, save when the mail boat doctor and Hugh Wise were occasionally discovered there in a silent game of checkers.
Charley had tried every corner of the ship to which he was admitted, and had decided that, as uncomfortable as it was, he preferred the deck to cabin or smoking room.
It was the middle of October, and the last voyage the mail boat was to make until the end of the following June, when the winter's ice would clear from the coast, and navigation would open for another short summer. The last fishing schooner had already hurried southward to escape the autumn gales and the blockade of ice, and the sea was deserted save by the lonely mail boat, which was picking up the last of the Newfoundlanders' cod fishing gear at the little harbours of the coast.
"A swell time I'm having!" Charley muttered. "Not even a decent place on the old ship where I can sit and read!"
"Not having a good time, eh?"
Charley looked up into the smiling face of Barney MacFarland, the second engineer.
"Hello!" he exclaimed. "I didn't know anybody was around. I didn't hear you."
"Having a rotten time?" Barney grinned good-naturedly.
"The worst I've ever had!" said Charley. "It's too cold to stay on deck and too close and smelly inside, and there's no one to talk with. Mr. Wise sprawls in his bunk reading silly novels he brought with him, when he isn't playing checkers with the Doctor."
"'Tis a bad season to be coming down to The Labrador," suggested Barney. "Though there's fog enough in July and August, we're having fine weather too, with plenty of sunshine. 'Tis then the passengers are with us, with now and again sightseers from the States. And the fishing places are busy, with enough to see. Then's the time to come."
"I didn't pick the time," explained Charley, glad to have an opportunity to talk into sympathetic ears. "Dad was going hunting in Newfoundland, and he took me to St. John's with him. I thought I was going along, but after we got to St. John's he said I was too young to hike through the country, and that this trip on the mail boat would be more interesting for me while he hunted. He sent Mr. Wise along to keep me company. He's Dad's secretary. He's left me alone most of the time. Dad said I would see Indians and Eskimos and loads of interesting things, but I've been on the ship ever since we left, except at Hopedale when the Captain took me ashore for an hour while we were lying there before we turned back. That was dandy! I saw Eskimos, and Eskimo dogs, and I bought some souvenirs at the Moravian Mission for Mother and some of the boys. But I wasn't there half long enough to see everything. They never let me go ashore in the boat at the harbours where we stop."
"Well, well, now! That is hard on you, b'y," agreed Barney sympathetically. "Where is your home?"
"In New York. But Dad is so busy at his office that I don't see him often. I thought I was going to have a dandy time with him!"
Charley choked back tears, which he felt it would be unmanly to shed, and gazed out over the sea.
"Lad, when you gets lonesome to talk come down to the engine room when it's my watch on," Barney invited heartily. "I'll show you the big engines, and we'll chum up a bit. I'm off watch now, but I'll be on at eight bells. That's four o'clock, land reckoning. I'll come and get you, b'y, and show you the way."
"Thank you! Thank you ever so much!" Charley acknowledged gratefully, as Barney left him.
The ship which had been standing off from the shore was now edging in toward the land. Suddenly there came a long blast of the whistle. There was activity upon the deck at once. Sailors were swinging a boat out upon the davits. Charley hastened to join the sailors, and asked:
"Are we going to make a port?"
"Aye, lad," answered one of them good-naturedly.
"What place is it?" asked Charley.
"Will it be a long stop?"
"Now I'm not knowin' how long or how short. We stop inside the Tickle to take on fish and gear. I'm thinkin' 'twill be a half hour's stop, or thereabouts."
"May I go ashore in the boat?"
"Ask the mate. I'm doubtin' there'll be room. The boat comes back with full cargo at this harbour."
Charley turned his inquiry to the mate, who was directing the men.
"No, lad. I'm sorry," he answered, "but there'll be no room for passengers."
It was always that way! Charley left them to return to his old place at the rail. The ship had slowed to half speed, and was already picking her way cautiously into the tickle, where the cliffs, nearly as high as the masthead, were so close on either side that Charley believed he might have touched them with a ten-foot pole.
At the end of two hundred yards the narrow tickle opened up into a beautiful, sheltered harbour. Perched upon the rocks at the north side of the harbour were some rude cabins. Opposite these the ship swung about, the boat was lowered, and manned by four sailors, pulled to the rocks that formed a natural pier for the fishing station.
There was some bitterness in Charley's heart as he watched the retreating boat, and so occupied was he that he failed to observe, until it was quite near, another boat pulling toward the ship. It was a small, dilapidated old boat, with a boy of fourteen or thereabouts at the oars.
Charley leaned over the rail, and with much interest watched the boy make the painter fast to the ladder, and then, like a squirrel, mount the ladder to the deck.
The visitor was dressed much like the other natives that Charley had seen. An Eskimo adikey, made of white moleskin cloth, with the hood thrown back, served as a coat. His trousers were also of white moleskin, and were tucked into knee-high sealskin boots with moccasined feet. From under a muskrat fur cap appeared a round, smiling face, tanned a dark brown, and a pair of bright, pleasant eyes.
"Hello!" said Charley. "Looking for some one?"
"No," answered the boy, "I'm just pullin' over to look at the ship."
Charley was seized by a sudden impulse, and acted on it instantly.
"Will you take me ashore? The ship will be here for half an hour, and maybe longer. I'll give you a dollar if you'll take me ashore and bring me back."
"And you wants to go I'll pull you ashore," agreed the boy cheerfully. "I'll be goin' down and holdin' the boat up so you can get into she easy."
Without parley he slipped over the side and down the ladder into the boat, which he drew broadside to the ladder and there held it until Charley, who followed, was seated astern.
"Where you wantin' to go now?" asked the boy. "To the boat landin'?"
"Just anywhere ashore," directed Charley. "Let's land over where I can climb that hill and have a look around."
He indicated a low hill midway between the tickle and the cabins, and the boy soon made a landing on a shelving rock, above which the hill rose abruptly. Charley helped him pull the boat to a safe place, and waited while he made the painter fast. Then the two began the ascent of the hill.
"What's your name?" asked Charley.
"Toby Twig," answered the boy.
"My name is Charley Norton, and I'm from New York. I'm taking a cruise in the mail boat."
"I'm wishin' every time I sees she come in that I could be takin' a cruise in she! It must be wonderful fine."
"I don't think it is. It's too cold on deck and too smelly in the cabin. It must get pretty cold here in winter. Where I live we hardly ever have snow until the end of December."
"Aye, it does get wonderful cold," agreed Toby. "'Twill not be long now till the harbour freezes and the sea too."
"Can't you use boats in winter?"
"No, we can't use un much longer now. We cruises with dogs in winter, after the harbour and the sea freezes."
"It must be dreadfully lonesome with no boats coming in."
"I don't find un lonesome. There's aplenty to do. We hunts in winter, and 'tis fine fun."
"Did you ever shoot a wolf?" asked Charley in some awe.
"No, but I sees un. Last winter I sees five wolves, but they keeps too far away to shoot un."
"My, but I'd like to see a wild wolf! Did you ever see a bear?"
"Yes, I sees bears, black and white. Dad killed a black bear last week."
The two had crossed the crest of the hill, as they talked, wholly oblivious of the passage of time, until Toby suggested:
"I'm thinkin' now we'd better be goin' back. The mail boat never bides long here."
"She was to be here half an hour," said Charley, as they retraced their steps. "We haven't been half an hour."
A moment later they reached the top of the hill. Both boys stopped and looked below them and in consternation into the empty harbour.
"She's gone! The ship has gone!" cried Charley in sudden fright.
"She's gone!" echoed Toby. "She's goin' and leavin' you!"
"Oh, catch her! Signal her! Do something!" Charley plead helplessly.
"We can't catch she or signal she! She's too far," and Toby pointed to a long black line of smoke rising above the rocks beyond Pinch-In Tickle, and more than a mile distant.
"What shall I do? Oh, what shall I do?" wailed Charley in wild despair.
What indeed could he do? Here he was, left upon the bleak rocks of the Labrador coast, at the edge of an Arctic winter, a lad of thirteen, a stranger in a strange and desolate land.
[Illustration: "SHE'S GONE! THE SHIP HAS GONE!" CRIED CHARLEY IN SUDDEN FRIGHT.]
THE TWIGS OF PINCH-IN TICKLE
"You'll be comin' along with me," suggested Toby. "Dad'll be knowin' what to do."
"But the boat has gone! How can I get home?" Charley almost sobbed, quite beside himself with despair and terror.
"Don't be takin' on like that now!" Toby placed his hand soothingly upon Charley's arm. "Dad says a man can get out of most fixes, and he keeps his head and don't get scared. Dad knows. He's wonderful fine about gettin' out of fixes. Dad'll know what to do. He'll be gettin' you out of your fix easy as a swile slips off a rock. You'll see!"
Helpless to do otherwise, Charley submitted, and Toby led him down to the boat, and when Charley was seated astern, and Toby was pulling for the huts, a half mile away, with the strong, sure stroke of an expert boatman, Toby counselled:
"Don't be lettin' yourself get worked up with worry, now. Dad says worry and frettin' never makes a bad job better."
"It's terrible! It's terrible!" exclaimed Charley in agony. "I've been left behind! I've no place to go, and I'll starve and freeze!"
"'Tisn't so bad, now," Toby argued. "You be safe and sound and well. Maybe the mail boat folk'll be missin' you and come back."
"Do you think they will?" asked Charley, ready to grasp at a straw of hope.
"I'm not knowin'," answered Toby cautiously, "but leastways you'll be safe enough."
Toby's assurance gave little comfort to Charley. The snow was now falling so heavily that he could scarcely see the huts perched upon the rocky hillside, and there was no other indication of human life in the great wide, bleak wilderness that surrounded them. The bare rocks, the falling snow, and the sound of the sea beating upon the cliffs beyond Pinch-In Tickle filled his heart with hopelessness and helplessness. As uncomfortable and unhappy as he had been upon the ship, he now thought of it as a haven of refuge and luxury. If it would only come back for him! Why had he gone ashore! He had dreamed of adventures, but never an adventure like this.
"Here's the landin'."
Toby had drawn the boat alongside a great flat rock that formed a natural wharf. He sprang nimbly out, painter in hand, and while he steadied the boat Charley followed.
Above the landing were three unpainted and dilapidated cabins. Smoke was issuing from a stovepipe that protruded through the roof of the smallest of these, and toward this Toby led the way.
"This is our fishin' place," Toby volunteered. "We fishes here in summer, and lives in the house where you sees the smoke. The other houses belongs to Mr. McClung from Newfoundland. The mail boat were takin' he and three men that fishes with he, and their gear, and they takes Dad's fish, too."
"You stay here, don't you? You'll stay here till the ship comes back for me, won't you?" asked Charley pleadingly.
"We goes up the bay to-morrow marnin' to our tilt, our winter house at Double Up Cove," said Toby, "but I'm thinkin' that if the ship's comin' back she'll be back before night. Nobody stays out here in winter. 'Tis wonderful cold here when the wind blows down over the hills and in from the sea, with no trees to break un, and 'tis a poor place for huntin', and no wood is handy for the fire."
"What'll I do when you go?" asked Charley in fresh dismay.
"You'll not be stoppin' here whatever," assured Toby. "Dad'll know what to do. He'll get you out of this fix! Don't you worry now."
Toby opened the door of the cabin, and the two boys entered. A tall, broad-shouldered, bearded man stood by one of the two windows cleaning a gun. A round-faced, plump little woman was at the stove, transferring from a kettle to a large earthen bowl something that filled the room with a most delicious odour, and a girl of twelve years or thereabouts was placing dishes upon the table.
"Dad," said Toby addressing the man, "I brings with me Charley Norton who was a passenger on the mail boat, and while he's ashore the mail boat goes off and leaves he."
"That's a fix now! That's a fix to be in! I calls that a mean trick for the mail boat to be playin'!" He spoke in a big voice that quite suited his size, but which startled Charley, and did not reassure him. "What's to be done about un now? What be you thinkin' to do?"
"I don't know. I don't know what to do," answered Charley timidly.
Toby's Dad put down the gun he was cleaning and wiped his hand on a cloth.
"Leastways we'll make the best of un," he said, taking Charley's hand in a bear-like clasp. "Besides bein' Toby's Dad, I'm Skipper Zebulon Twig of Double Up Cove, and this is Mrs. Twig and this is Vi'let, the smartest little maid on The Labrador."
Skipper Zebulon Twig laughed so heartily that Charley forgot his difficulty for a moment, and laughed too, while he shook hands with Mrs. Twig, who had, Charley thought, a nice motherly way, and with Violet, who took his hand shyly.
"Now," said Skipper Zeb, "you're in a fix. You're cast away. The worst fix a man can get in, to my thinkin', is to be cast away on a rock, or on the ice, without grub. But you're cast away with grub, and that's not so bad. There's a pot of stewed bear's meat with dumplin' just ready. We'll set in and eat, and then talk about your fix. 'Tis hard to think a way out of fixes with an empty belly, and we'll fill ours. Then we'll get to the bottom of this fix. We'll find a way out of un. You'll see!"
SKIPPER ZEB FIXES MATTERS
Mrs. Twig placed the big earthen bowl with the appetizing odour in the center of the table, together with a plate heaped high with slices of white bread and a bowl of molasses. Then she poured tea.
"Dinner's ready this minute," boomed Skipper Zeb. "Set in, and we'll eat."
There was no cover upon the home-made table, but its top had been scoured clean and white with sand and water. The cabin boasted no chairs, and chests were drawn up by Skipper Zeb and Toby to the ends of the table, and a bench on each side, to serve as seats.
Accepting the invitation, Charley took a place beside Toby on one of the benches, Violet sat on the bench opposite them, while the Skipper and Mrs. Twig each took an end. When all were seated, Skipper Zeb, in so big a voice Charley was sure the Lord could not fail to hear, asked a devout blessing upon the family, the stranger within their home, and upon the food.
"Turn to, now, and eat hearty," Skipper Zeb invited, indicating the earthen bowl. "'Tisn't much we has, but 'tis good. Mrs. Twig makes the finest dumplin' on The Labrador. I knows for I eats un. I shoots the bear last week, and 'twere as fine and fat a bear as ever I sees. He were just prime to curl up for his winter sleep."
"It looks good, and I'm hungry," said Charley, transferring, with a big serving spoon, a portion of the stewed bear's meat and dumpling to his plate. "I never ate bear's meat, and I've always wished I could."
"Never ate bear's meat!" exclaimed Skipper Zeb. "Well, now! And we gets a bear most every year. What kind of meat does you eat where you comes from? 'Tis likely you gets plenty of deer's meat?"
"Beef, and lamb, and veal, and pork, but I don't care much for pork, except bacon," said Charley.
"Well, now! In all my days I never tastes beef or lamb or veal! We gets pickled pork at the post, and 'tis wonderful fine meat I thinks. If beef and lamb and veal be better than pork, I'd like to try un once. They must be a rare treat." Skipper Zeb smacked his lips. "Yes, sir, I'd like to try un once! And does you hunt un?"
"No," Charley smiled, "the animals are raised on farms and the meat is sold at stores."
"Well, now! What wonderful things goes on in the world, and we never knows about un down here on The Labrador." Skipper Zeb shook his head in astonishment. "Does you mark that, Sophia? They raises the animals and then kills un, and sells the meat at the tradin' stores!"
"'Tis a queer way," admitted Mrs. Twig.
"'Tis a fine way!" enthused Skipper Twig. "Twould be fine if we could raise deer and kill un when we wants un."
"Here's sweetenin' for your tea," and Toby, observing that Charley had not helped himself, passed the molasses.
"Thank you," Charley accepted, putting a spoonful of the molasses into his tea, and wondering why it was used instead of sugar, but venturing no question. Had he asked, Skipper Zeb would have told him that it was much less expensive than sugar, and that sugar was a luxury they could not afford.
There were no vegetables, for on the Labrador coast the summers are too short and too cold to grow them, and not one of the Twig family had ever so much as tasted a potato or an onion or a tomato, or, indeed, any of the wholesome vegetables that we, in our kindlier land, have so plentifully, and accept as a matter of course. But Charley and the Twigs, old and young, found the stewed bear's meat, with Mrs. Twig's light, fluffy dumplings and the good bread and molasses, both satisfying and appetizing; and when Charley declined a third helping, urged upon him by Skipper Zeb, he declared that he was as full as though he had eaten a Christmas dinner.
When all were finished, Skipper Zeb bowed his head and gave thanks for the bountiful meal; and then, with Toby's assistance, drew the benches and chests back to the wall.
"Set down, now, and when I lights my pipe we'll talk over this fix you're gettin' in," said Skipper Zeb. Drawing a pipe and a plug of black tobacco and a jack-knife from his pocket, he shaved some of the plug into the palm of his left hand, rolled it between his palms, and filled the pipe. Then, with some deliberation, he selected a long, slender sliver from the wood box, ignited it at the stove, lighted his pipe and carefully extinguished the burning sliver.
"This is a fix, now! Well, now, 'tis a fix!" Skipper Zeb sat down upon a bench by Charley's side, and for a minute or two puffed his pipe in silence, sending up a cloud of smoke. Then, turning to Charley, he boomed: "But 'tis not such a bad fix we can't get out of un! No, sir! We'll see about this fix! We'll see!"
"Thank you," said Charley gratefully, and with hope that there might be a way out of his trouble after all.
"Now, to start in the beginning, and that's where most things have to start," said Skipper Zeb, "we won't worry about un. Worry is bad for the insides of a man's head, and what's bad for the insides of a man's head is bad for all of his insides, and if he worries, and keeps un up, he gets sick. To-day is to-day and to-morrow is to-morrow. 'Tis but sense for a man to provide for to-morrow, and do his best to do un, but if he can't there's no use his worryin' about un. That's how I figgers. You're feelin' well and hearty to-day?"
"Yes," admitted Charley.
"You just had a good snack of vittles?"
"You're warm and snug?"
"There you be! The worst of un's took care of to start with! Feelin' well, a belly full of good vittles, warm and snug! Now keep feelin' contented, and right as if this was your own home. Nothin' to worry over. No, sir, not a thing! Now we've headed off the worst of un.
"You're in a fix, but 'twon't trouble us any. Not us! Life is full of fixes, first and last. 'Twouldn't be much fun livin' if we didn't get in fixes now and again! 'Tis a fine bit of sport figgerin' the way out of fixes. Fixes gives us a change and somethin' to think about. There's a way out of most fixes I finds, even the worst of un."
"Do you think the ship will come back for me?" asked Charley anxiously.
"Well, now," Skipper Zeb wrinkled his forehead as though he were pondering the question deeply, "if she comes back she'll come in through the tickle and come to in the offing and blow her whistle, and we'll hear un, and be ready for she. If she don't come back, she'll not blow her whistle, and we'll not hear un. We'll be stayin' here as snug as a bear in his den and listen for that whistle."
"But do you think she'll come back?" insisted Charley, with a suspicion that Skipper Zeb's answer had been evasive.
"That's a question! That's a fair and square question, now," admitted Skipper Zeb. "You asks un fair and I'll answer un fair. The folk on the mail boat misses you. They looks up and down and don't find you. You're not on the boat, and how can they find you? Captain Barcus of the mail boat says, 'Well, he's gone, that's sure. If he leaves the mail boat at Pinch-In Tickle, he's with Skipper Zeb Twig by now, and safe enough and well took care of. If he falls overboard, that's the last of he.' And sayin' this, and knowin' Captain Barcus the way I knows he, he keeps right on to St. John's, and don't come back till next June or July month."
"If the ship don't come," broke in Charley, suddenly startled into his old fear, "what can I do? What will become of me?"
"Well, now!" and Skipper Zeb broke into a hearty laugh. "'Tis just what I says in the beginnin' about no worry, and about to-day bein' to-day and to-morrow bein' to-morrow. You're cast away with shelter and grub. That's not so bad, considerin'. Not the best of shelter and not the best of grub, but not so bad either. You does your best to get out of this fix, and the best way you finds is to bide right where you finds the shelter and grub. If the mail boat don't come to-day, and I says fair and square, I'm not expectin' she, you goes to Double Up Cove in the marnin' with us. Whilst you're on The Labrador our home is your home, and I hopes you'll like un."
"But Daddy! Poor Daddy! He'll be broken-hearted when he thinks I've been lost at sea, and so will Mother!" Charley gulped hard to keep back the tears.
"'Twill be a bit hard for un, but you can't help un," Skipper Zeb consoled. "What's past is past, and there's no use worryin' about un. You're busy tryin' to get out of a fix. They'll be so glad to see you when you gets home, 'twill more than make up to un for the mournin' they does now. Your feelin' bad and worryin' about un won't help your father and mother any, and it'll get your insides upset, as I were sayin'. You're gettin' out of a fix. You stick by the grub and shelter, such as 'tis, and make the best of un, and be happy."
"Oh, thank you!" and tears came into Charley's eyes in spite of his effort to keep them back. "Daddy will make it right with you. He'll pay you for being good to me. He'll pay you all you ask."
"I asks nothing," said Skipper Zeb. "'Tis the right thing to do. Here on The Labrador we stands shoulder to shoulder, and when a man's cast away we takes him to our home till he can get to his own home. We all be wonderful glad to have you. Ask Mrs. Twig, now."
"'Twill be wonderful fine to have you bide with us," and Mrs. Twig's smile left no doubt of her sincerity. "You and Toby will be havin' rare good times together."
"That we will, now!" broke in Toby quite excited at the prospect.
FOOTNOTE:  Seal.
Mr. Henry Wise, Mr. Bruce Norton's secretary, was enjoying himself. The mail boat did not offer the luxuries to which he was accustomed, to be sure, but it was much more to his liking than a hunting camp in the wilderness, particularly in frosty weather and flying snow. He could not keep his shoes properly polished, nor creases in his trousers, nor a spotless collar tramping upon rough trails through underbrush, and the very thought of sleeping in a tent, and upon the ground, was horrible.
When he had suggested to Mr. Norton that Charley was too young to follow his father on the trail, he had done so with the hope that he might be permitted to remain at St. John's in charge of Charley, and there enjoy the comfort of a hotel in idleness. That the hunting trip might prove too strenuous for Charley had not occurred to Mr. Norton until the suggestion came from Mr. Wise after their arrival in St. John's. Mr. Wise amplified his suggestion with the argument that it was quite too great a physical undertaking for any boy of thirteen, and might therefore create in Charley a distaste for future camping in the wilds.
This appealed to Mr. Norton as reasonable. He wished his boy to love the wilds as he loved them. Perhaps, he admitted, Mr. Wise was right, and if he took Charley with him, and Charley found the trails too hard, not only his own holiday would be spoiled, but Charley would have anything but a pleasant time.
In expectation that he would take him on his hunting expedition, Mr. Norton had promised Charley a unique and enjoyable experience. Now that he had decided against it, he cast about for a substitute. Mr. Norton was a man of his word. Charley had looked forward with keen anticipation to the hunting trip with his father, and had asked innumerable questions concerning it, and talked of little else since leaving New York. The prospect of camping in a real wilderness with his father,--the association with his father in camp, rather than the camp itself,--was the source of Charley's anticipated pleasure.
Not realizing this, and believing that any unusual experience would please Charley quite as well, whether or not he was to take part in it himself, Mr. Norton received with satisfaction the suggestion that Charley be sent upon the Labrador cruise. This, he was satisfied, was a solution of his difficulty. A cruise on the mail boat would be an experience to be remembered, and he had no doubt would prove much more interesting to Charley than the hunting expedition.
This settled, he engaged passage on the mail boat for Charley and Mr. Wise, to the chagrin and disappointment of the latter gentleman, who was forced, however, to accept the situation with good grace. Mr. Wise had no love of the sea.
He was to be Charley's companion on the voyage. He was to learn the interesting features of the coast along which the mail boat cruised, and to explain them and point them out to Charley. In general, he was to do his utmost to make the voyage one which Charley would remember with pleasure.
But as Mr. Wise expressed himself to the mail boat doctor, he was "employed as secretary and not as nurse maid." He had no intention of shivering around in the cold. He was going to make this voyage, which had been thrust upon him, as pleasant for himself as circumstances would permit. He pleaded sickness, and, as Charley had complained to Barney MacFarland, lay in his bunk reading novels, or sat in the smoking room playing checkers with the mail boat doctor, while Charley was left to his own resources.
It was eleven o'clock in the morning when the mail boat departed from Pinch-In Tickle. Mr. Wise was engrossed in a particularly interesting novel, and was so deeply buried in it that he failed to hear or respond to the noonday call to dinner. When, an hour later, hunger called his attention to the fact that he had not eaten, he rang for the steward, and a liberal tip brought a satisfactory luncheon to his stateroom. Thus it came to pass that he did not observe Charley's absence from the dinner table.
It was four o'clock in the afternoon when, the novel at last finished, Mr. Wise left his room to challenge the doctor to a game in the smoking room. It was not until the six o'clock evening meal that his attention was called to the fact that Charley, who was usually prompt at meals, was not present.
He had no doubt Charley had gone to his room and fallen asleep. If his ward chose to sleep at meal time it was no fault of his. He ate leisurely, and when he was through lighted a cigar, and, prompted by compunction perhaps, looked into Charley's room. It was vacant. A sudden anxiety seized him, and nervously and excitedly he searched the deck and the smoking room. Charley was nowhere to be found, and in a state of panic he reported the disappearance to Captain Barcus.
The Captain immediately instituted an investigation, and a minute search of the ship was made, but nowhere was Charley to be found, and with every moment Mr. Hugh Wise grew more excited.
Members of the crew were called before the Captain and Mr. Wise and quizzed. The sailor to whom Charley had spoken and of whom he had requested a passage ashore, recalled the incident. The mate stated that Charley had also come to him and asked permission to go ashore in the ship's boat at Pinch-In Tickle, but as there was no room in the boat, permission had been denied. The men who manned the boat were then questioned, and all were agreed that he had not been in the boat and had not gone ashore, and they were equally positive that he had not gone ashore at any other harbour where the vessel had stopped during the day.
Barney MacFarland recalled his conversation with Charley, when he was going off watch. He stated that the lad had seemed most unhappy and lonesome, and complained that Mr. Wise had done little to make the voyage a pleasant one for him, or to help him find entertainment. He was not on deck when Barney went on duty at eight bells.
So fertile is the imagination that two of the sailors were quite positive they had seen Charley leaning at the rail during the afternoon, and after the ship's departure from Pinch-In Tickle.
The steward was quite sure Charley had not eaten the midday meal. As there was some sea running, he had supposed that Charley had a touch of seasickness and had preferred not to eat. He had not seen Charley since breakfast, and had not been in his stateroom since early morning.
"What can we do?" asked Mr. Wise, now in complete panic. "Will you turn back?" he plead in a voice trembling with apprehension and fear. "Will you look for him, Captain? You'll turn the ship back and look for him! You must! You must at once! We must find him!"
"Where would we look?" asked Captain Barcus.
"At the harbours where we stopped! At Pinch-In Tickle, or whatever you call it! Everywhere! Everywhere!" plead Mr. Wise.
"'Twould be a waste of time and fuel, and a fool's chase," said Captain Barcus quietly. "There was no way for the lad to go ashore but by the ship's boat, and 'tis plain he didn't go ashore in the boat at any port we stops at to-day. Some one would have seen him if he had, and every man of the crew says he didn't."
"Then he's on the ship somewhere!" shouted Mr. Wise excitedly, springing to his feet. "He's hiding! He's hiding somewhere on the ship!"
"He's not on the ship," said Captain Barcus gravely. "She've been searched from masthead to hold, and he's not on the ship. There's no doubting the poor lad has fallen overboard."
"Do you mean he's been--lost--at--sea?" and the terrified Wise sank limply into a seat.
"Aye," admitted Captain Barcus, "lost at sea."
"Then turn back! Turn back and look for him!" demanded Mr. Wise, again on his feet in a frenzy of excitement. "Why don't you turn back and look for him?"
"Keep your senses, man," admonished Captain Barcus. "As I said before, 'twould be a fool's job to look for him in the sea. No man knows where or when he went overboard. 'Tis likely 'twere hours ago."
Mr. Wise slouched into a seat, and with his elbows upon his knees held his head in his hands for a full minute before he spoke.
"What can I tell his father? What can I tell him? He'll discharge me! He'll think I didn't look after the boy!" and Mr. Wise's dejection was complete. "What can I tell him!"
"Tell him the truth. He'll discharge you likely. I would," said the Captain in blunt disgust.
"You can fix it up! You can tell him it happened through no fault of mine! Tell him something that will clear me of any charge of neglecting the boy!" Mr. Wise raised his head and looked wistfully and pleadingly at the Captain.
"You seem to be thinking more of your job than of the poor lad that's lost," and Captain Barcus, who had risen to his feet, looked down in contempt upon the cringing man. "My log will say he was last seen leaning over the starb'rd rail. That he was not at dinner nor at tea, and that you didn't miss him till after tea and long after dark, though 'tis likely he was lost overboard before dinner. And I'll put in the testimony of the last to talk with him, the mate, and the seaman, and what he said to Barney MacFarland. I'm going now to write my log while 'tis all fresh in my mind."
And leaving Mr. Wise, Captain Barcus went to his room to write in his log a true report of what apparently had happened, and the account that was finally to be given Mr. Bruce Norton upon the arrival of the steamer in St. John's.
There was much to be done in Pinch-In Tickle that everything in and about Skipper Zeb's cabin, which they were to leave the following morning, should be snug and tight and tidy for the winter. There were boats to be hauled out of the water and covered, that they might be protected from the ice and snow, fishing gear and boat equipment to stow, and much cleaning to be done about the fish stage and cabin. Then there was Skipper Zeb's big trap boat to make ready for the voyage up the bay. A mast step had to be repaired, sails mended, and no end of tinkering before it met with Skipper Zeb's approval.
"I never says a thing's good enough unless 'tis right," declared Skipper Zeb. "I likes to have my boats, and fishin' gear and dog trappin's ship shape before I starts to use un. When I stops usin' they I leaves un as right as I can so they'll be ready to use when I needs un again."
For a little while Charley, the picture of gloom, watched Skipper Zeb and Toby stowing gear. Presently Skipper Zeb, who had been observing Charley out of the corner of his eye, suggested:
"Come on, lad, and lend a hand. Toby and I needs help to haul the boats up. Work's a wonderful fine medicin' for folks that's feelin' homesick. Lend Toby and me a hand, and you'll be forgettin' all about this fix you're in. I were thinkin' we'd taken all the kinks out o' that fix, and that we made out 'twere no fix at all."
"I guess I would like to help, if you'll let me," Charley admitted. "It isn't much fun standing around and doing nothing. What can I do?"
"We'll pull this un up first, she's heaviest," and Skipper Zeb indicated one of two boats that were moored at the landing. "You take the port side of un along with Toby, and I'll take the starb'rd side, and when I bawls 'Heave ho!' we'll all heave on her together."
Charley did as he was directed, and while he did not believe that he was lending much assistance, he did his best with each "heave ho!" boomed by Skipper Zeb, and in due time the two boats were removed to a desirable distance from high tide level. Timbers were now placed under them to elevate them from the ground, and a roofing of heavy planking built over them.
It was all novel and interesting to Charley. He lent a hand here and there, and as they worked Skipper Zeb and Toby talked of the fishing season just ended, and of the winter hunting and trapping, and of journeys on snowshoes and with dogs and sledge, and related many exciting adventures, until Charley quite forgot that he was marooned in a strange land among strangers.
Before candles were lighted that evening, Charley had placed Skipper Zeb and Toby in the category of the heroes of his favourite books of adventure. Here he was in a wilderness as remote as any of which he had ever read, and here he was with folk who were living the life and doing the deeds and meeting the adventures of which he had often read with breathless interest. When he went to sleep that night in a bunk with Toby he would have been glad that the mail boat had not returned for him, had it not been for the regret he felt for the grief he knew that his mother and father would suffer when Mr. Wise would report to them that he had been lost.
They ate breakfast by candle-light the following morning, and daybreak was still two hours away when Charley embarked with Skipper Zeb and the family for the voyage to Double Up Cove.
Skipper Zeb and Toby hoisted leg-o'-mutton sails on the foremast and mainmast under the lee of the land though the sails did not fill to Skipper Zeb's satisfaction, and he and Toby each shipped a big oar and pulled for a little until they were in the open bay and beyond the shelter of the hills. Then they stowed the oars, and Skipper Zeb took the tiller.
A good breeze now bellied the sails, and almost immediately the morning darkness swallowed up the outline of the cabins. No star, no light, no land was to be seen, and Charley was only conscious of the swishing waters that surrounded them. He wondered how Skipper Zeb could know the direction with no landmarks to guide him. How vast and mysterious this new world was! How far away and unreal the land from which he had come! He tried to visualize home, and the city streets with crowded traffic and jostling people; and crouching down in the boat a thought of the luxury and comfort of his snug bed, in which he would now have been cozily tucked were he there, came to him, and he drew the collar of his ulster more closely around his ears, and thrust his hands into its deep pockets.
For a long time no one spoke, and a sense of great loneliness was stealing upon him, when Skipper Zeb, lighting his pipe, remarked:
"'Tis a good sailin' breeze, and come day 'twill be smarter, with more sea, and I'm thinkin' more snow."
"How long a trip is it?" asked Charley.
"'Tis a short cruise. With a fair wind like we has now we makes un in five or six hours, whatever," explained Skipper Zeb. "We never bides here so late in the year. 'Tis wonderful late for us. We always goes before the end of September month. This year I stays to help Mr. McClung."
"It's a fine, big boat," said Charley.
"She's a wonderful fine boat!" boasted Skipper Zeb. "Twenty-eight foot over all. I buys she last year from a schooner crew, south bound after the fishin' ends. They wants to sell she bad, because they has no room to stow she on deck, and in the rough sea that were runnin' they couldn't tow she. I buys she for thirty dollars!"
"That was cheap, I should think," said Charley.
"'Twere, now!" and there was pride in Skipper Zeb's voice. "I'll tell you how 'twere. We needs a trap boat wonderful bad for our cruisin', and I says to Mrs. Twig, 'We'll skimp and save till we gets enough saved to buy un.' So each year we saves a bit, sometimes more and sometimes less, goin' without this and that, and not mindin', because when we goes without somethin' we thinks about what a fine boat 'tis goin' to help us get. And so we keeps savin' and savin' and skimpin' and skimpin'. We were savin' for un for four years----"
"Five years, Zeb," Mrs. Twig corrected.
"You're right, Sophia, 'twere five years, and we has thirty dollars saved. Then along comes the schooner with the boat, and the skipper says to me, 'Skipper Zeb, you wants a trap boat. I'll sell you this un.' 'How much does you want for un?' says I. 'You can have she for fifty dollars,' says he, 'and that's givin' she to you.' 'All I has is thirty dollars,' says I. 'Give me the thirty dollars and take un,' says he. 'I'd have to leave un behind whatever.' And so I gets un."
"You were lucky!" said Charley.
"Lucky! Not that!" objected Skipper Zeb. "'Twere the Lard's doin's. He knows how bad I wants un, and how we skimps to get un, and He says to that skipper, 'You just sell that trap boat to Skipper Zeb Twig for thirty dollars,' and the skipper just ups and sells un to me. I says the Lard were good, and I thanks He for un, and not luck."
The northeast wind was rising. Charley huddled down in the bottom of the boat, where he found some protection. A gray dawn was breaking, and this is the coldest and bleakest hour of the day. With dawn both wind and cold increased, until by mid-forenoon half a gale was blowing.
"We're makin' fine headway," said Toby. "We'll be getting to Double Up Cove by twelve o'clock, whatever."
"I'm wishin' 'twere a bit calmer," observed Skipper Zeb, looking critically at the sky, "but there's no signs of un."
"Can't we make a landin' somewhere, and wait for un to calm down?" asked Mrs. Twig solicitously. "I fears cruisin' when 'tis so rough."
"They's no fair shore to land on this side o' the Duck's Head," answers Skipper Zeb.
White horses were chasing each other over the surrounding sea. A half hour later the wind had developed into a gale. Skipper Zeb reefed the mainsail. Then taking a long oar from the boat, he dropped it between two pegs astern, and while he used this as a sculling oar to steer the boat, Toby unshipped the rudder and dragged it aboard.
"She's makin' leeway," Skipper Zeb explained, "and I can hold she up to the wind better with the oar than the tiller."
A roller broke over the boat, and left a foot of water in the bottom. Toby seized a bucket, and began to bail it out. Charley was now thoroughly frightened, but with a bucket thrust into his hand by Mrs. Twig, he assisted Toby.
The boat was on her beam ends, even with shortened sail. The air was filled with flying spray, and now came the snow that Skipper Zeb had predicted.
"We'll make a landin' in the lee of the Duck's Head," shouted Skipper Zeb, his voice booming above the tumult of sea and wind.
Violet was crying, and clinging to her mother.
"Don't be scared, now!" Skipper Zeb reassured, though he was plainly anxious. "There'll be a fine lee above the Duck's Head!"
"There's the Duck's Head!" Toby's voice suddenly came in warning.
"I sees un!" Skipper Zeb shouted back in confirmation.
"Take care the reef! She's straight ahead!" yelled Toby.
"She's makin' leeway the best I can do," came back from Skipper Zeb. "Lend me a hand, Toby!"
Toby sprang to his assistance. The long oar bent under the superhuman effort that the two put forth, but the boat was coming up. Charley saw, in dim outline through the snow, a high, black mass of rock jutting out in a long point. It bore a strong resemblance to a duck's neck and head, and as though to form the duck's bill a reef extended for several yards beyond into the water and over this the sea with boom and roar heaved in mighty breakers, sending the spray a hundred feet into the air. If they failed to pass that awful boiling caldron they would be lost. It was a terrifying spectacle, and Charley's heart stood still.
They were close upon the reef. Skipper Zeb's face was tense. He was working like a giant, and Toby, too, was putting all the strength he possessed upon the sculling oar. With a scant margin to spare, they were at last shooting past the outer rocks, when the oar snapped with a report that was heard above the boom of the breakers.
An instant later came a crash, Violet screamed in terror, and Charley felt the bottom of the boat rise beneath his feet.
THE CAMP AT THE DUCK'S HEAD
When Skipper Zeb's oar broke, the boat, now at the mercy of the wind, was driven upon a submerged rock at the tip end of the reef extending some twenty yards out from the cliff known as the Duck's Head. Here it stuck for what seemed to Charley a long time, reeling in the surf until he was quite certain it would roll over and they would all be drowned. Mrs. Twig, clinging with Violet to the mainmast, gave a shrill cry of despair, and Violet screamed in terror. Then a mighty sea lifted them like a chip from the rock, and swept the boat onward and beyond the reef.
Rolling and wallowing in the angry sea, which threatened every moment to swallow it up, the boat still floated to the astonishment of all, and Skipper Zeb and Toby, with feverish zeal shipping a fresh oar, began sculling toward the sheltered and calm waters under the lee of the Duck's Head.
The wind in their quarter helped them, and with a few mighty strokes of the oar the boat was carried beyond the reach of the rollers, and a few minutes later, submerged to her gunwale, grounded upon a narrow strip of gravelly beach on the western side of the Duck's Head, and Skipper Zeb carried Violet ashore, while the other half drowned and half frozen voyageurs followed.
A quantity of driftwood lined the base of the cliff. With an ax, which Skipper Zeb recovered from the boat, he quickly split some sticks, whittled shavings with his jack-knife from the dry hearts of the split sticks, lighted these with a match from a supply which he carried in a small corked bottle, and which were thus protected from the water, and in an incredibly short time a cheerful fire was blazing.
"Well, now!" Skipper Zeb exclaimed, genially, warming his hands before the fire. "Here we are safe and sound and none of us lost, as I were fearin' when we strikes the rock we might be! All of us saved by the mercy of the Lard! How is you feelin' now, Vi'let?"
"I feels fine, with the fire," answered Violet, who was snuggling close to her mother.
"That's pluck; now! And wet as a muskrat!" exclaimed Skipper Zeb, laughing heartily, and quite as though it were an ordinary occurrence, and they had not, a few minutes before, been in peril of their lives. Turning to Charley, he asked: "And how be you, lad?"
"I'm all right now, thank you," said Charley shivering still with the cold. "But I never was so wet and cold in my life, and I'm sure I'd have frozen stiff if you hadn't made a fire in a hurry. It's lucky you had some matches in a bottle, for that's all that kept them dry."
"No, no, 'twaren't luck!" objected Skipper Zeb. "'Twere just sense! I never goes cruisin' without dry matches corked tight in a bottle handy in my pocket, and I never uses un unless my other matches gets wet. There's times when it's the only way to get a fire, and without un to-day I'm not doubtin' some of us would have perished."
"I always carries un too," said Toby.
"Aye, a man that cruises in this land must always be ready to put a fire on," commended Skipper Zeb.
"I'll remember that," said Charley.
"'Twere a narrow shave we has," remarked Toby, "but you always gets out of fixes, Dad. When I looks through the snow and sees the white water rollin' over the reef right handy ahead, and the wind drivin' us on to un, I thinks, now here's a fix! 'Tis a wonderful bad fix! Dad can't be gettin' us out of this fix, whatever! I'll be just watchin' now, and see! Dad can't get us out of this un! And then you gets the oar and pulls us up into the wind, and we has room to pass fine, and then I says, Dad's doin' it! Dad's gettin' us out of the fix! Then the oar breaks, and I says that's the end of us! But you gets out of un, whatever! You're wonderful fine at gettin' out of fixes, Dad!"
"'Tweren't me," objected Skipper Zeb, "'twere the Lard. We does the best we can, and when the Lard sees we does our best, He steps in and helps. He says, 'These folk does the best they can to get out of this fix, and I'll just step in and do what they can't do, and help un out of it,' and that's what He does, and here we be, safe and sound."
"Is the boat wrecked?" asked Mrs. Twig. "Can't you fix un and use un any more?"
"Well now, I'm not knowin' rightly yet, but I'm fearin' her bottom's knocked out of she," answered Skipper Zeb. "If 'tis, 'twill be the end of she, but we'll be makin' out as fine as can be without she."
"'Tis too bad to lose she after all our skimpin' and savin' to buy she," mourned Mrs. Twig. "You were wantin' she so bad, and we were savin' and skimpin' for five years, and when you got she you were so pleased over she, and she were helpin' you so in the fishin'."
"Aye, she were a fine help," admitted Skipper Zeb cheerfully. "But I were thinkin' maybe she were a bit too big to be handy. Leastways to-day is to-day and to-morrow is to-morrow, and if she's wrecked she's wrecked, and that's the end of she. We won't worry and fuss about what's gone and can't be helped, and maybe some day we'll be gettin' a better boat. We'll just thank the Lard we're safe and sound."
Skipper Zeb put some fresh wood upon the fire, and then, pausing to rub his hands over the blaze, he chuckled audibly.
"I'm feelin' wonderful glad to be thinkin' how all of us be alive and safe," he said in explanation. "The Lard were wonderful good to us to be bringin' us all ashore. Now we'll get snug. Toby, lad, we'll try to get the things out of the boat, and we'll put up the tent and the stove, and before night comes we'll be as dry and tight as ever we were in our lives."
It was no easy matter to transfer the cargo from the submerged boat. It was snowing hard, and the water was icy cold, and Skipper Zeb would not permit Charley to go into the boat with himself and Toby.
"You be stayin' ashore," he directed, "and keep the fire up for Mrs. Twig and Vi'let."
"But I want to help! I want to do my part!" protested Charley. "Perhaps I can't do much, but I can do something. You've been so kind to me and took me in when I had no place to go! Now I want to do what I can, and not have you do everything for me."
"That's fine now! That's spirit! You'll be makin' a real Labradorman before you leaves us. But not bein' used to un," Skipper Zeb explained, "you'd be findin' the water a bit coolish. We're used to un. We're wet at the fishin' all summer. 'Tis best you stays by the fire and gets warmed up, and gets your clothes dry."
But when Charley insisted that he do something to help, Skipper Zeb agreed that he might carry the things back from the shore, as they were brought from the boat, and pile them near the fire.
"Then they'll be handy for us to get at and dry out, and the work'll be keepin' you warm and free from chill," said Skipper Zeb, "and 'twill be better than gettin' in the water with Toby and me."
Skipper Zeb and Toby, waist deep in the boat, rescued the various articles of the cargo and passed them to Charley, who worked with a will until everything was salvaged. A tent was then quickly set up in the lee of the cliff, a tent stove placed in the tent, a fire lighted in the stove, and in fifteen minutes the tent was warm and snug and cozy.
A bag of flour was now opened, and it was found that while the outside was wet, the greater part of the center was dry, and in a jiffy Mrs. Twig was mixing dough bread, a kettle was over for tea, and Skipper Zeb had some bear's meat sizzling in the pan and sending forth a most delicious and appetizing odour.
"Well, now!" exclaimed Skipper Zeb when they were all gathered in the warm tent, and Mrs. Twig had piled their plates with meat and hot bread and passed each of them a cup of steaming hot tea, "here we are in as snug a berth as can be, safe and sound, with nothin' to worry about even if we be a bit wet."
"It is cozy," agreed Charley, with a mouthful of the hot bread, "and I never tasted anything so good!"
"Hunger be a wonderful fine spice for vittles," remarked Skipper Zeb. "Are you all warmed up, now?"
Everybody was warm, and wet clothing was steaming in the overheated tent.
"I'm wonderful thankful you makes the cruise to the Post early," said Mrs. Twig. "'Twere fine to get our winter outfit in September month, and get un safe up to Double Up Cove whilst fair weather held. If we'd had un to-day all the flour and tea and hard bread would be spoiled. As 'tis, we loses the boat and so much else it makes my heart sick to think of un."
"Well, now!" exclaimed Skipper Zeb. "Worryin' when we has everything to be thankful for! We has the boat for the cruise in September month, just when we needs un most. Now we don't need un this year again. The things we loses we'll make out without. Everything works fine for us, and here we be, snug as a bear in his den, eatin' good vittles, even if we be a bit wet."
"I can't help worryin' about the boat," insisted Mrs. Twig. "I'm 'tis feelin' bad for you not havin' she."
"Don't feel bad about un, Mother," and there was a tenderness in Skipper Twig's voice that Charley noted. "'Twere the Lard's doin's."
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