The snow was driving through the forests
and over the plains of the North American wilderness;
the wind was shrieking among the tree-tops, and whirling
the drift in great clouds high up into the frosty air;
and the sun was setting in a glow of fiery red, when,
on the last day of the year, Robin Gore and his followers
came to an abrupt halt, and, with one consent, admitted
that “the thing was impossible.”
“We can’t do it, boys,”
said Robin, resting his rifle against a tree; “so
it’s o’ no use to try. The Fort is
good ten miles off, an’ the children are dead
“No they ain’t,”
interrupted Roy, whose tone and aspect, however, proved
that his father’s statement was true; “at
least I’m not beat yet I’m
game for two or three hours more.”
“Well, lad, p’raps ye
are, but Nelly ain’t; so we’ll camp here,
an’ take ’em by surprise in the morning
Nelly, who had been carried on the
backs of those who had broadest shoulders during the
last dozen miles, smiled faintly when spoken to, and
said she was “ve-y s’eepy!”
So they set to work in the usual style,
and were soon comfortably seated in their snowy encampment.
Next morning before dawn Robin awoke them.
“Ho!” he cried, “get
up, lads, look alive! A happy New Year to ’ee
all, young an’ old, red an’ white.
Kiss me, Nell, dear a shake o’ yer
paw, Roy. An’ it’s a good New Year’s
day, too, in more ways than one, praise the Almighty
The whole party was astir immediately,
and that feeling of kindly brotherhood which usually
pervades the hearts of men on the first day of a new
year, induced them to shake hands heartily all round.
“You’ll eat your New Year’s
dinner at home, after all,” said Walter to Nelly.
“Sure, an’ it’s
a happy ’ooman yer mother’ll be this good
day,” said Larry, as he stirred up the embers
of the fire, and blew them into a flame.
The kettle was boiled, and a good
breakfast eaten, because, although it is usually the
custom for hunters to start on their day’s journey,
and accomplish a good many miles of it before breakfast,
they had consideration for Roy and Nelly, both of
whom were still suffering a little from the fatigue
of the previous day. They hoped to be at Fort
Enterprise in about four hours, and were anxious to
The sun was rising when they reached
the top of a ridge, whence they could obtain a distant
view of the Fort.
“Here we are at home,
Nelly,” said Robin, stooping down to kiss his
child on the forehead.
“Darling, darling mother!”
was all that poor Nelly could say, as she tried in
vain to see the Fort though the tears which sprang
to her eyes.
“Don’t you see it, Nell?”
said Roy, passing his arm round his sister’s
“No, I don’t,” cried
Nelly, brushing the tears away; “oh, do
let us go on!”
Robin patted her on the had, and at
once resumed the march.
That morning Mrs Gore rose from her
bed about the saddest woman in the land. Her
mind flew back to the last New Year’s day, when
her children were lost to her, as she feared, for
ever. The very fact that people are usually
more jocose, and hearty, and happy, on the first day
of the year, was sufficient to make her more sorrowful
than usual; so she got up and sighed, and then, not
being a woman of great self-restraint, she wept.
In a few minutes she dried her eyes,
and took up her Bible, and, as she read its blessed
pages, she felt comfort such as the world
can neither give nor take away gradually
stealing over her soul. When she met her kinsman
and his friends at breakfast she was comparatively
cheerful, and returned their hearty salutation with
some show of a reciprocal spirit.
“Jeff,” said Mrs Gore,
with a slight sigh, “it’s a year, this
day, since my two darlings were lost in the snow.”
“D’ye say so?” observed
Jeff, as he sat down to his morning meal, and commenced
eating with much voracity.
Jeff was not an unkind man, but he
was very stupid. He said nothing more for some
time, but, after consuming nearly a pound of venison
steak, he observed suddenly
“Wall, I guess it wor a bad
business that worn’t it, missus?”
“It was,” responded Mrs
Gore; and, feeling that she had no hope of meeting
with sympathy from Jeff, she relapsed into silence.
After a time, she said
“But we must get up a feast,
Jeff. It won’t do to let New Year’s
day pass without a good dinner.”
“That’s true as gosp’l,”
said Jeff. “Feed up is my motto, always.
It don’t much matter wot turns up, if ye don’t
feed up yer fit for nothin’; but, contrairy-wise,
if ye do feed up, why yer ready for anythin’
or nothin’, as the case may be.”
Having given vent to this sentiment,
Jeff finished his meal with a prolonged draught of
“Wall, now,” said he,
filling his pipe, “we’ve got enough o’
deer’s meat an’ other things to make a
pretty fair feast, missus, but my comrades and we
will go an’ try to git somethin’ fresh
for dinner. If we git nothin’ else we’ll
git a appetite and that’s worth a good long march
any day; so, lads, if ”
Jeff’s speech was interrupted
here by a sudden and tremendous outburst of barking
on the part of the dogs of the establishment.
He sprang up and hastened to the door, followed by
his companions and Mrs Gore.
“Injuns, mayhap; see to your
guns, boys, we can niver be sure o’ the reptiles.”
observed one of Jeff’s friends, as they stood
at the Fort gate; “enemies never come on in
that straightforward fashion.”
“Not so sure o’ that,”
said Jeff. “I’ve seen redskins do
somethin’ o’ that kind when they meant
mischief; but, if my eyes ain’t telling lies,
I’d say there were white men there.”
“Ay, an’ young folk, too,” remarked
one of the others.
“Young folk!” exclaimed
Mrs Gore, as she shaded her eyes from the sun with
her hand, and gazed earnestly at the band which was
Suddenly one of them ran a little
in advance of the rest, and waved a handkerchief.
The figure was a small one. A faint cheer was
heard in the distance. It was followed, or rather
accompanied, by a loud, manly, and well-known shout.
Mrs Gore grew pale, and would have
fallen to the ground had not Jeff caught and supported
“Why, I do declare it’s
Robin an’ eh! if there
beant the children wi’ ’im!”
The advancing party broke into a run
as he spoke, another loud cheer burst forth, and in
a few seconds Nelly was locked once more in her dear