Read CHAPTER FOUR - TAMING A BULLY of Fort Desolation Red Indians and Fur Traders of Rupert's Land , free online book, by R.M. Ballantyne, on

The morrow came, and Jack Robinson rose with the sun.  Long before his men were astir he had inspected the few books and papers of the establishment, had examined the condition of the fur and goods store, and had otherwise made himself acquainted with the details of the fort; having gone over its general features with Teddy the day before.

When the “lieutenant” arose, he found indications of his new master having been everywhere before him, and noted the fact!  As Teddy was by no means a man of order ­although a good and trustworthy man ­there was enough to be done before breakfast.  Jack purposely put Rollo into the kitchen to prepare the morning meal, this being comparatively light work.  He himself worked with the other men in the stores.  There was necessarily a great deal of lifting and shifting and clearing, in all of which operations he took the heaviest part of the work, and did his work better and more thoroughly than any of the others.  Teddy observed this also, and noted the fact!

At breakfast there was naturally a good deal of talk among the men, and special mention was of course made of the energy of their master.

Breakfast over, Jack assembled the men and apportioned to each his day’s work.

“I myself,” said he, “mean to walk down to the fishery to-day, and I leave O’Donel in charge; I shall be back to-morrow.  Rollo, you will prepare to accompany me.”

“Yes, sir,” answered the man, not knowing very well how to take this.  The others glanced at each other intelligently as they departed to their work.

A few minutes sufficed for preparation, and soon Jack stood with his rifle on his shoulder in front of the house.  Rollo quickly made his appearance with an old trading gun.

“You can leave that, we won’t require it,” said Jack; “besides I want to walk fast, so it is well that you should be as light as possible.”

“No fear but I’ll keep up with you, sir,” said the man, somewhat piqued.

“I do not doubt it,” replied Jack, “but one gun is enough for us, so put yours by, and come along.”

Rollo obeyed, and resolved in his heart that he would give his new master a taste of his powers.

Jack started off at a good rattling pace, somewhat over four miles an hour.  For the first mile Rollo allowed him to lead, keeping about a foot behind.  Then he thought to himself, “Now, my friend, I’ll try you,” and ranged up beside him, keeping a few yards to one side, however, in order to avoid the appearance of racing.  After a few minutes he pushed the pace considerably, and even went ahead of his companion; but, ere long, Jack was alongside and the pace increased to nearly five miles an hour.

Only those who have tried it know, or can fully appreciate, what is meant by adding a mile an hour to one’s pace.  Most active men go at four miles an hour when walking at a good smart pace.  Men never walk at five miles an hour except when in the utmost haste, and then only for a short distance.  Anything beyond that requires a run in order to be sustained.

It was curious to watch the progress of these two men.  The aim of each was to walk at his greatest possible speed, without allowing the slightest evidence of unwonted exertion to appear on his countenance or in his manner.

They walked on the sands of the shore ­there being no roads there ­and at first the walking was good, as the tide was out and the sand hard.  But before they had got half way to the fishery the sea came in and drove them to the soft sand, which, as nearly every one knows, is terribly fatiguing and difficult to walk in.

Up to this point the two men had kept abreast, going at a tremendous pace, yet conversing quietly and keeping down every appearance of distress; affecting, in fact, to be going at their usual and natural pace!  Many a sidelong glance did Rollo cast, however, at his companion, to see if he were likely to give in soon.  But Jack was as cool as a cucumber, and wore a remarkably amiable expression of countenance.  He even hummed snatches of one or two songs, as though he were only sauntering on the beach.  At last he took out his pipe, filled it, and began to smoke, without slackening speed.  This filled Rollo with surprise, and for the first time he began to entertain doubts as to the result of the struggle.

As for Jack, he never doubted it for a moment.  When they were compelled to take to the heavy sand and sank above the ankles at every step, he changed his tactics.  Putting out his pipe, he fell behind a few paces.

“Ha!” thought Rollo, “done up at last; now I’ll give it you.”

The thought that he was sure of victory infused such spirit into the man that he braced himself to renewed exertion.  This was just what Jack wanted.  He kept exactly a foot behind Rollo, yet when the other ventured to slacken his pace, (which was now too great to be kept up), he pushed forward just enough to keep him at it, without disheartening him as to result.  In the midst of this they both came to a full stop on discovering a box made of birch bark, which seemed to have been dropped by some passing Indians.

“Hallo! what have we here?” cried Jack, stooping down to examine it.

“My blessin’ on’t whatever it is,” thought Rollo, to whom the momentary relief from walking was of the greatest consequence.  Jack knew this, and hastened his inspection.  It was a box of bear’s fat.

“Come, not a bad thing in times like these,” observed Jack; “will you carry this or the rifle, my man?  See, the rifle is lighter, take that.”

Again they stepped out, and the sand seemed to grow softer and deeper as they advanced.  They were now five miles from the end of their journey, so Jack began to exert himself.  He pushed on at a pace that caused Rollo to pant and blow audibly.  For some time Jack pretended not to notice this, but at last he turned round and said ­

“You seem to be fatigued, my man, let me carry the rifle.”

Rollo did not object, and Jack went forward with the box and rifle more rapidly than before.  He was perspiring, indeed, at every pore profusely, but wind and limb were as sound as when he started.

He finally left Rollo out of sight, and arrived at the fishery without him!

Half an hour afterwards Rollo arrived.  He was a stout fellow, and by taking a short rest, had recovered sufficiently to come in with some degree of spirit; nevertheless, it was evident to all that he was “used up,” for, “it is not the distance but the pace that kills!” He found the fishermen at dinner, buttering their cakes with the bear’s grease that had been discovered on the way down.  Jack Robinson was sitting in the midst of them, chatting quietly and smoking his pipe beside the fire-place of the hut.

Jack introduced him as one of the new men, but made no reference to the walk from Fort Desolation.  He felt, however, that he had conquered the man, at least for that time, and hoped that further and more violent methods would not be necessary.  In this he was disappointed, as the sequel will show.

That night Jack slept on a bed made of old salmon-nets, with a new salmon-net above him for a blanket.  It was a peculiar and not a particularly comfortable bed; but in his circumstances he could have slept on a bed of thorns.  He gazed up at the stars through the hole in the roof that served for a chimney, and listened to the chirping of the frogs in a neighbouring swamp, to which the snoring of the men around him formed a rough-and-ready bass.  Thus he lay gazing and listening, till stars and strains alike melted away, and left him in the sweet regions of oblivion.