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

We regret to be compelled to chronicle the fact, that Jack Robinson lost command of his temper on the occasion referred to in the last chapter.  He and Teddy O’Donel rolled to the very feet of the amazed Ladoc, before the force of their fall was expended.  They sprang up instantly, and Jack dealt the Irishman an open-handed box on the ear that sent him staggering against one of the pillars of the verandah, and resounded in the still night air like a pistol-shot.  Poor Teddy would have fired up under other circumstances, but he felt so deeply ashamed of having caused the undignified mishap to his master, that he pocketed the affront, and quietly retired towards his kitchen.  On his way thither, however, he was arrested by the tremendous tone in which Jack demanded of Ladoc the reason of his appearance at such an untimely hour.

There was a slight dash of insolence in the man’s reply.

“I come up, monsieur,” said he, “to tell you if there be two masters at fishery, I not be one of ’em.  Rollo tink he do vat him please, maïs I say, no; so ve quarrel.”

“And so, you take upon you to desert your post,” thundered Jack.

Vraiment, oui,” coolly replied Ladoc.

Jack clenched his fist and sprang at the man as a bull-terrier might leap on a mastiff.  Almost in the act of striking he changed his mind, and, instead of delivering one of those scientific blows with which he had on more than one occasion in his past history terminated a fight at its very commencement, he seized Ladoc by the throat, tripped up his heels, and hurled him to the ground with such force, that he lay quite still for at least half a minute!  Leaving him there to the care of O’Donel, who had returned, Jack went up to his bedroom, shut the door, thrust his hands into his pockets, and began to pace the floor rapidly, and to shake his head.  Gradually his pace became slower, and the shaking of his head more sedate.  Presently he soliloquised in an undertone.

“This won’t do, John Robinson.  You’ve let off too much steam.  Quite against your principles to be so violent ­shame on you, man.  Yet after all it was very provoking to be made such a fool of before that insolent fellow.  Poor Teddy ­I wish I hadn’t hit you such a slap.  But, after all, you deserved it, you superstitious blockhead.  Well, well, it’s of no use regretting.  Glad I didn’t hit Ladoc, though, it’s too soon for that.  Humph! the time has come for action, however.  Things are drawing to a point.  They shall culminate to-morrow.  Let me see.”

Here Jack’s tones became inaudible, and he began to complete his toilette.  His thoughts were busy ­to judge from his knitted brows and compressed lips.  The decision of his motions at last showed that he had made up his mind to a course of action.

It was with a cleared brow and a self-possessed expression of countenance that he descended, a few minutes later, to the hall, and summoned O’Donel.

That worthy, on making his appearance, looked confused, and began to stammer out ­

“I beg parding, sur, but ­but raally, you know ­it, it was all owin’ to them abominable ghosts.”

Jack smiled, or rather, tried to smile, but owing to conflicting emotions the attempt resulted in a grin.

“Let bygones be bygones,” he said, “and send Ladoc here.”

Ladoc entered with a defiant expression, which was evidently somewhat forced.

Jack was seated at a table, turning over some papers.  Without raising his head, he said ­

“Be prepared to start for the fishery with me in half-an-hour, Ladoc.”

“Monsieur?” exclaimed the man, with a look of surprise.

Jack raised his head and looked at him.  It was one of his peculiar looks.

“Did you not understand me?” he said, jumping up suddenly.

Ladoc vanished with an abrupt, “Oui, monsieur,” and Jack proceeded, with a real smile on his good-humoured face, to equip himself for the road.

In half an hour the two were walking silently side by side at a smart pace towards the fishery, while poor Teddy O’Donel was left, as he afterwards said, “all be his lone wid the ghost and the newly buried ooman,” in a state of mental agony, which may, perhaps, be conceived by those who possess strong imaginations, but which cannot by any possibility be adequately described.