Brothers of Peril: A Story of old Newfoundland

Brothers of Peril: A Story of old Newfoundland

Author:
Theodore Goodridge Roberts
Author:
Theodore Goodridge Roberts
Format:
epub
language:
English

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Author: Goodridge Roberts, Theodore, 1877-1953
Newfoundland and Labrador — Fiction
Brothers of Peril: A Story of old Newfoundland


BROTHERS OF PERIL
A Story of Old Newfoundland


WORKS OF
THEODORE ROBERTS

The Red Feathers $1.50
Brothers of Peril $1.50
Hemming the Adventurer $1.50

L. C. PAGE & COMPANY
New England Building, Boston, Mass.


“A VIVID CIRCLE OF RED ON THE SNOW OF THAT
NAMELESS WILDERNESS”



Brothers of Peril

A Story of Old Newfoundland
By
Theodore Roberts
Author of “Hemming, the Adventurer”
Illustrated by H. C. Edwards
Boston L. C. Page &
Company Mdccccv


Copyright, 1905
By L. C. Page & Company
(INCORPORATED)


All rights reserved
Published June, 1905
Second Impression, March, 1908
COLONIAL PRESS
Electrotyped and Printed by C. H. Simonds & Co.
Boston, Mass., U.S.A.


Preface


During the three centuries directly following John Cabot’s discovery of Newfoundland, that unfortunate island was the sport of careless kings, selfish adventurers, and diligent pirates. While England, France, Spain, and Portugal were busy with courts and kings, and with spectacular battles, their fishermen and adventurers toiled together and fought together about the misty headlands of that far island. Fish, not glory, was their quest! Full cargoes, sweetly cured, was their desire—and let fame go hang!
The merchants of England undertook the guardianship of the “Newfounde Land.” In greed, in valour, and in achievement they won their mastery. Their greed was a two-edged sword which cut all ’round. It hounded the aborigines; it bullied the men of France and Spain; it discouraged the settlement of the land by stout hearts of whatever nationality. It was the dream of those merchant adventurers of Devon to have the place remain for ever nothing but a fishing-station. They faced the pirates, the foreign fishers, the would-be settlers, and the natural hardships with equal fortitude and insolence. When some philosopher dreamed of founding plantations in the king’s name and to the glory of God, England, and himself, then would the greedy merchants slay or cripple the philosopher’s dream in the very palace of the king. Ay, they were powerful enough at court, though so little remarked in the histories of the times! But, ever and anon, some gentleman adventurer, or humble fisherman from the ships, would escape their vigilance and strike a blow at the inscrutable wilderness.
The fishing admirals loom large in the history of the island. They were the hands and eyes of the wealthy merchants. The master of the first vessel to enter any harbour at the opening of the season was, for a greater or lesser period of time, admiral and judge of that harbour. It was his duty to parcel out anchorage, and land on which to dry fish, to each ship in the harbour; to see that no sailors from the fleet escaped into the woods; to discourage any visions of settlement which sight of the rugged forests might raise in the romantic heads of the gentlemen of the fleet; to see that all foreigners were hustled on every occasion, and to take the best of everything for himself. Needless to say, it was a popular position with the hard-fisted skippers.
In the narratives of the early explorers frequent mention is made of the peaceful nature of the aborigines. At first they displayed unmistakable signs of friendly feeling. They were all willingness to trade with the loud-mouthed strangers from over the eastern horizon. They helped at the fishing, and at the hunting of seals and caribou. They bartered priceless pelts for iron hatchets and glass trinkets. Later, however, we read of treachery and murder on the parts of both the visitors and the natives. The itch of slave-dealing led some of the more daring shipmasters and adventurers to capture, and carry back to England, Beothic braves and maidens. Many of the kidnapped savages were kindly treated and made companions of by English noblemen and gentlefolk. It is recorded that more than one Beothic brave sported a sword at his hip in fashionable places of London Town before Death cut the silken bonds of his motley captivity.
Master John Guy, an alderman of Bristol, who obtained a Royal Charter in 1610, to settle and develop Newfoundland, wrote of the Beothics as a kindly and mild-mannered race. Of their physical characteristics he says: “They are of middle size, broad-chested, and very erect…. Their hair is diverse, some black, some brown, and some yellow.”
As to the ultimate fate of the Beothics there are several suppositions. An aged Micmac squaw, who lives on Hall’s Bay, Notre Dame Bay, says that her father, in his youth, knew the last of the Beothics. At that time—something over a hundred years ago—the race numbered between one and two hundred souls. They made periodical excursions to the salt water to fish, and to trade with a few friendly whites and Nova Scotian Micmacs. But, for the most part, they avoided the settlements. They had reason enough for so doing, for many of the settlers considered a lurking Beothic as fair a target for his buckshot as a bear or caribou. One November day a party of Micmac hunters tried to follow the remnant of the broken race on their return trip to the great wilderness of the interior. The trail was lost in a fall of snow on the night of the first day of the journey. And there, with the obliterated trail, ends the world’s knowledge of the original inhabitants of Newfoundland; save of one woman of the race named Mary March, who died, a self-ordained fugitive about the outskirts of civilization, some ninety years ago.
To-day there are a few bones in the museum at St. John’s. One hears stories of grassy circles beside the lakes and rivers, where wigwams once stood. Flint knives and arrow-heads are brought to light with the turning of the farmer’s furrow. But the language of the lost tribe is forgotten, and the history of it is unrecorded.
In the following tale I have drawn the wilderness of that far time in the likeness of the wilderness as I knew it, and loved it, a few short years ago. The seasons bring their oft-repeated changes to brown barren, shaggy wood, and empurpled hill; but the centuries pass and leave no mark. I have dared to resurrect an extinct tribe for the purposes of fiction. I have drawn inspiration from the spirit of history rather than the letter! But the heart of the wilderness, and the hearts of men and women, I have pictured, in this romance of olden time, as I know them to-day.
T. R.
November, 1904.


CONTENTS


CHAPTER PAGE
I.   A Boy Wins His Man-Name 1
II.   The Old Craftsman by the Salt Water 9
III.   The Fight in the Meadow 16
IV.   Ouenwa Sets Out on a Vague Quest 24
V.   The Admiral of the Harbour 34
VI.   The Fangs of the Wolf Slayer 43
VII.   The Silent Village 56
VIII.   A Letter for Ouenwa 65
IX.   An Unchartered Plantation 73
X.   Gentry at Fort Beatrix 83
XI.   The Setting-in of Winter 94
XII.   Meditation and Action 104
XIII.   Signs of a Divided House 116
XIV.   A Trick of Play-Acting 126
XV.   The Hidden Menace 133
XVI.   The Cloven Hoof 140
XVII.   The Confidence of Youth 148
XVIII.   Events and Reflections 156
XIX.   Two of a Kind 164
XX.   By Advice of Black Feather 174
XXI.   The Seeking of the Tribesmen 183
XXII.   Brave Days for Young Hearts 190
XXIII.   Betrothed 200
XXIV.   A Fire-lit Battle. Ouenwa’s Return 207
XXV.   Fate Deals Cards of Both Colours in the Little Fort 217
XXVI.   Pierre d’Antons Parries Another Thrust 227
XXVII.   A Grim Turn of March Madness 233
XXVIII.   The Running of the Ice 241
XXIX.   Wolf Slayer Comes and Goes; and Trowley Receives a Visitor 252
XXX.   Maggie Stone Takes Much Upon Herself 264
XXXI.   While the Spars Are Scraped 273
XXXII.   The First Stage of the Homeward Voyage Is Bravely Accomplished 279
XXXIII.   In the Merry City 287
XXXIV.   Pierre d’Antons Signals His Old Comrades, and Again Puts to Sea 294
XXXV.   The Bridegroom Attends to Other Matters Than Love 306
XXXVI.   Over the Side 317
XXXVII.   The Mother 323

BROTHERS OF PERIL
A Story of Old Newfoundland


CHAPTER I. A BOY WINS HIS MAN-NAME

The boy struck again with his flint knife, and again the great wolf tore at his shoulder. The eyes of the boy were fierce as those of the beast. Neither wavered. Neither showed any sign of pain. The dark spruces stood above them, with the first shadows of night in their branches; and the western sky was stained red where the sun had been. Twice the wolf dropped his antagonist’s shoulder, in a vain attempt to grip the throat. The boy, pressed to the ground, flung himself about like a dog, and repeatedly drove his clumsy weapon into the wolf’s shaggy side.
At last the fight ended. The great timber-wolf lay stretched dead in awful passiveness. His fangs gleamed like ivory between the scarlet jaws and black lips. A shimmer of white menaced the quiet wilderness from the recesses of the half-shut eyelids.
For a few minutes the boy lay still, with the fingers of his left hand buried in the wolf’s mane, and his right hand a blot of red against the beast’s side. Presently, staggering on bent legs, he went down to the river and washed his mangled arm and shoulder in the cool water. The shock of it cleared his brain and steadied his eyes. He waded into the current to his middle, stooped to the racing surface, and drank unstintingly. Strength flooded back to blood and muscle, and the slender limbs regained their lightness.
By this time a few pale stars gleamed on the paler background of the eastern sky. A long finger-streak of red, low down on the hilltops, still lightened the west. A purple band hung above it like a belt of magic wampum—the war-belt of some mighty god. Above that, Night, the silent hunter, set up the walls of his lodge of darkness.
The boy saw nothing of the changing beauty of the sky. He might read it, knowingly enough, for the morrow’s rain or frost; but beyond that he gave it no heed. He returned to the dead wolf, and set about the skinning of it with his rude blade. He worked with skill and speed. Soon head and pelt were clear of the red carcass. After collecting his arrows and bow, he flung the prize across his shoulder and started along a faint trail through the spruces.
The trail which the boy followed seemed to lead away from the river by hummock and hollow; and yet it cunningly held to the course of the stream. Now the night was fallen. A soft wind brushed over in the tree-tops. The voices of the rapids smote across the air with a deeper note. As the boy moved quietly along, sharp eyes flamed at him, and sharp ears were pricked to listen. Forms silent as shadows faded away from his path, and questioning heads were turned back over sinewy shoulders, sniffing silently. They smelt the wolf and they smelt the man. They knew that there had been another violent death in the valley of the River of Three Fires.
After walking swiftly for nearly an hour, following a path which less primitive eyes could not have found, the boy came out on a small meadow bright with fires. Nineteen or twenty conical wigwams, made of birch poles, bark, and caribou hides, stood about the meadow. In front of each wigwam burned a cooking-fire, for this was a land of much wood. The meadow was almost an island, having the river on two sides and a shallow lagoon cutting in behind, leaving only a narrow strip of alder-grown “bottom” by which one might cross dry-shod. The whole meadow, including the alders and a clump of spruces, was not more than five acres in extent.
The boy halted in front of the largest lodge, and threw the wolfskin down before the fire. There he stood, straight and motionless, with an air of vast achievement about him. Two women, who were broiling meat at the fire, looked from the shaggy, blood-stained pelt to the stalwart stripling. They cried out to him, softly, in tones of love and admiration. Jaws and fangs and half-shut eyes appeared frightful enough in the red firelight, even in death.
“Ah! ah!” they cried, “what warrior has done this deed?”
“Now give me my man-name,” demanded the boy.
The older of the two women, his mother, tried to tend his wounded arm; but he shook her roughly away. She seemed accustomed to the treatment. Still clinging to him, she called him by a score of great names. A stalwart man, the chief of the village, strode from the dark interior of the nearest wigwam, and glanced from his son to the untidy mass of hair and skin. His eyes gleamed at sight of his boy’s torn arm and the white teeth of the wolf.
“Wolf Slayer,” he cried. He turned to the women. “Wolf Slayer,” he repeated; “let this be his man-name—Wolf Slayer.”
So this boy, son of Panounia the chief, became, at the age of fourteen years, a warrior among his father’s people.
The inhabitants of that great island were all of one race. In history they are known as Beothics. At the time of this tale they were divided into two nations or tribes. Hate had set them apart from one another, breaking the old bond of blood. Each tribe was divided into numerous villages. The island was shared pretty evenly between the nations. Soft Hand was king of the Northerners. It was of one of his camps that the father of Wolf Slayer was chief.
Soft Hand was a great chief, and wise beyond his generation. For more than fifty years he had held the richest hunting-grounds in the island against the enemy. His strength had been of both head and hand. Now he was stiff with great age. Now his hair was gray and scanty, and unadorned by flaming feathers of hawk and sea-bird. The snows of eighty winters had drifted against the walls of his perishable but ever defiant lodges, and the suns of eighty summers had faded the pigments of his totem of the great Black Bear. Though he was slow of anger, and fair in judgment, his people feared him as they feared no other. Though he was gentle with the weak and young, and had honoured his parents in their old age and loved the wife of his youth, still the strongest warrior dared not sneer.
The village of this mighty chief was situated at the head of Wind Lake. On the night of Wolf Slayer’s adventure, Soft Hand and his grandson arrived at the lesser village on the River of Three Fires. They travelled in bark canoes and were accompanied by a dozen braves. The grandson of the old chief was a lad of about Wolf Slayer’s age. He was slight of figure and dark of skin. His name was Ouenwa. He was a dreamer of strange things, and a maker of songs. He and Wolf Slayer sat together by the fire. Wolf Slayer held his wounded arm ever under the visitor’s eyes, and talked endlessly of his deed. For a long time Ouenwa listened attentively, smiling and polite, as was his usual way with strangers. But at last he grew weary of his companion’s talk. He wanted to listen, in peace, to the song of the river. How could he understand what the rapids were saying with all this babbling of “knife” and “wolf” in his ears?
“All this wind,” he said, “would kill a pack of wolves, or even the black cave-devil himself.”
“There is no wind to-night,” replied Wolf Slayer, glancing up at the trees.
“There is a mighty wind blowing about this fire,” said Ouenwa, “and it whistles altogether of a great warrior who slew a wolf.”
“At least that is not work for a dreamer,” retorted the other, sullenly. Ouenwa’s answer was a smile as soft and fleeting as the light-shadows of the fire.
At an early hour of the next morning the great chief’s party started up-stream in their canoes, on the return journey to Wind Lake. For hours Soft Hand brooded in silence, deaf to his grandson’s hundred questions. He had grown somewhat moody in the last year. He gazed away to the forest-clad, mist-wreathed capes ahead, and heeded not the high piping of his dead son’s child. His mind was busy with thoughts of the events of the past night. He recalled the tones of Panounia’s voice with a shake of the head. He recalled the sullen smouldering of that stalwart chief’s eyes. He sighed, and glanced at the lad in the forging craft beside him.
“I grow old,” he murmured. “The voice of my power is breaking to its last echo. My command over my people slips like a frozen thong of raw leather. And Panounia! What lurks in the dull brain of him?”
The sun rose above the forest spires, clear and warm. The mists drew skyward and melted in the gold-tinted azure. Twillegs flew, piping, across the brown current of the river. Sandpipers, on down-bent wings, skimmed the pebbly shore. A kingfisher flashed his burnished feathers and screamed his strident challenge, ever an arrow-flight ahead of the voyagers. He warned the furtive folk of the great chief’s approach.
“Kingfisher would be a fitting name for the boy who killed the wolf,” said Ouenwa.
The old man glanced at him sh

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