Read CHAPTER EIGHT - SHIFTING WINDS. of Wrecked but not Ruined , free online book, by R.M. Ballantyne, on

Immediately on receipt of the note referred to, vigorous preparations were made to convey relief to Roderick McLeod.  Such provisions as the party at Jenkins Creek could muster were packed into the smallest possible space, because the boat, or cobble, which was to convey them down the gulf was very small-scarcely large enough to hold the party which meant to embark in it.  This party consisted of McLeod senior, Kenneth, and Flora, it being arranged that Ian and Rooney should remain to prosecute, as well as to guard, the works at the Creek.

Seeing that there was so little room to spare in the boat, Reginald Redding decided to hasten down on foot to the Cliff Fort, in order to see to the comfort of the wrecked men who had been sent there.  He, however, offered the rescue party the services of his man, Le Rue, an offer which was accepted all the more readily that the Canadian possessed some knowledge of the coast.

It was very dark when they started, but, fortunately, calm.  McLeod had resolved to travel night and day, if the weather permitted, until he should reach the scene of the wreck, and to take snatches of rest if possible in the boat.

There were only two oars in the boat, so that one of its crew was always idle.  This, however, proved to be rather an advantage, for, by affording frequent relief to each rower, it saved the strength of all, and at the same time enabled them to relieve the tedium of the journey to poor Flora.

At first they proceeded along under the deep shade of the ghost-like cliffs in unbroken silence, the mind of each no doubt being busy with the wreck of their last remnant of fortune, as well as with the dangerous condition in which the youthful Roderick lay; but, as the dawn of day approached, they began to talk a little, and when the sun arose its gladdening beams appeared to carry hope to each breast, inducing an almost cheerful state of mind.  In the case of Francois Le Rue, the influence of sunshine was so powerful that a feeling of sympathy and respect for the McLeods in the calamity which had overtaken them alone restrained him from breaking out into song!

“Father,” said Flora, as her sire, wearied by a long spell at the bow oar, resigned his seat to Kenneth, and sat down beside her, “that glorious light brings to my remembrance a very sweet verse, `Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.’”

“True, true, Flo,” returned her father, “I wish I had the simple faith that you seem to possess, but I haven’t, so there’s no use in pretending to it.  This,” he added bitterly, “seems only a pure and unmitigated disaster.  The last remnant of my fortune is wrecked, I am utterly ruined, and my poor boy is perhaps dying.”

Flora did not reply.  She felt that in his present state of mind nothing she could say would comfort him.

At that moment Le Rue suddenly roused himself, and suggested that it was about time to think of breakfast.

As all the party were of the same mind, the boat was allowed to drift down the gulf with the tide, while the pork and biscuit-bags were opened.  Little time was allowed for the meal, nevertheless the mercurial Canadian managed, between mouthfuls, to keep up a running commentary on things in general.  Among other things he referred to the property which his master had just purchased in Partridge Bay.

“Whereabouts is this property that you talk of?” asked McLeod, becoming interested at the mention of Partridge Bay.

“About la tete of de village near de house of Monsieur Gambart.”

“What like a place is it?” asked McLeod, becoming suddenly much more interested.

“Oh! one place mos bootiful,” replied Le Rue, with enthusiasm; “de house is superb, de grounds splendeed, et prospect magnifique, wid plenty of duck-perhaps sometimes goose, vild vons-in von lac near cliff immense.”

At the mention of the lake and the cliff McLeod’s brow darkened, and he glanced at Flora, who met his glance with a look of surprise.

“Did you happen to hear the name of the place?” asked McLeod.

“Oui, it vas, I tink, Lac Do, or Doo-someting like so.”

“The scoundrel!” muttered McLeod between his teeth, while a gleam of wrath shot from his eyes.

Le Rue looked at him with some surprise, being uncertain as to the person referred to by this pithy remark, and Flora glanced at him with a look of anxiety.

After a brief silence he said to Flora in a low tone, as though he were expressing the continuation of his thoughts, “To think that the fellow should thus abuse my hospitality by inducing me to speak of our fallen fortunes, and of our being obliged to part with the old home we had loved so well, and never to utter a word about his having bought the place.”

“Perhaps,” suggested Flora, “you had not mentioned the name of the place, and so it might not have occurred to him that-”

“Oh yes, I did,” interrupted her father, with increasing anger, as his memory recalled the converse with Redding on the preceding night, “I remember it well, for he asked the name, and I told it him.  It’s not that I care a straw whether the old place was bought by Tom, Dick, or Harry, but I can’t stand his having concealed the fact from me after so much, I may say, confidential conversation about it and our affairs generally.  When I meet him again the young coxcomb shall have a piece of my mind.”

McLeod was, as we have said, an angry man, and, as the intelligent reader well knows, angry men are apt to blind themselves and to become outrageously unreasonable.  He was wrong in supposing that he did not care a straw who should have bought the old place.  Without, perhaps, admitting it to himself, he had entertained a hope that the home which was intimately associated with his wife, and in which some of the happiest years of his life had been spent, would remain unsold until he should manage to scrape together money enough to repurchase it.  If it had been sold to the proverbial Tom, or Dick, or Harry, he would have been bitterly disappointed; the fact that it was sold to one who had, as he thought, deceived him while enjoying his hospitality, only served as a reason for his finding relief to disappointment in indignation.  Flora, who had entertained similar hopes in regard to Loch Dhu, shared the disappointment, but not the indignation, for, although it did seem unaccountable that one so evidently candid and truthful as Redding should conceal the actual state of matters, she felt certain that there was some satisfactory explanation of the mystery, and in that state of mind she determined to remain until time should throw further light on the affair.

Neither she nor her father happened to remember that the truth had broken on Redding at the moment when the Indian entered the hut at Jenkins Creek with the news of the wreck, which created such a sudden excitement there that it banished thoughts of all other things from the minds of every one.

The elder McLeod was a man of very strong and sensitive feelings, so that, although possessed of an amiable and kindly disposition, he found it exceedingly difficult to forget injuries, especially when these were unprovoked.  His native generosity might have prompted him perhaps to find some excuse for the fur-trader’s apparent want of candour, or to believe that there might be some explanation of it, but, as it was, he flung into the other scale not only the supposed injury inflicted by Redding, but all his weighty disappointments at the loss of his old home, and of course generosity kicked the beam!

Acting on these feelings, he turned the bow of the boat inshore without uttering a word, and when her keel grated on the gravelly beach, he looked somewhat sternly at Le Rue, and said:-

“You may jump ashore, and go back to your fort.”

“Monsieur?” exclaimed Le Rue, aghast with surprise.

“Jump ashore,” repeated McLeod, with a steady, quiet look of impassibility.  “Go, tell your master that I do not require further assistance from him.”

The Canadian felt that McLeod’s look and tone admitted of neither question nor delay.  His surprise therefore gave way to a burst of indignation.  He leaped ashore with a degree of energy that sent the little boat violently off the beach, and the shingles spurted from his heels as he strode into the forest, renewing his vows of vengeance against his late friends and old enemies, “de Macklodds!”