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- The Children's Book of Christmas Stories - 46/46 -


Archer passed him a dark and heavy plug of tobacco.

"Knife?" queried Sacobie.

"Try your own knife on it," answered Archer, grinning.

With a sigh Sacobie produced his sheath-knife.

"You t'ink Sacobie heap big t'ief," he said, accusingly.

"Knives are easily lost--in people's pockets," replied Archer.

The two men talked for hours. Sacobie Bear was a great gossip for one of his race. In fact, he had a Micmac nickname which, translated, meant "the man who deafens his friends with much talk." Archer, however, was pleased with his ready chatter and unforced humour.

But at last they both began to nod. The white man made up a bed on the floor for Sacobie with a couple of caribou skins and a heavy blanket. Then he gathered together a few plugs of tobacco, some tea, flour, and dried fish.

Sacobie watched him with freshly aroused interest.

"More tobac, please," he said. "Squaw, he smoke, too."

Archer added a couple of sticks of the black leaf to the pile.

"Bacum, too," said the Micmac. "Bacum better nor fish, anyhow."

Archer shook his head.

"You'll have to do with the fish," he replied; "but I'll give you a tin of condensed milk for the papoose."

"Ah, ah! Him good stuff!" exclaimed Sacobie.

Archer considered the provisions for a second or two. Then, going over to a dunnage bag near his bunk, he pulled its contents about until he found a bright red silk handkerchief and a red flannel shirt. Their colour was too gaudy for his taste. "These things are for your squaw," he said.

Sacobie was delighted. Archer tied the articles into a neat pack and stood it in the corner, beside his guest's rifle.

"Now you had better turn in," he said, and blew out the light.

In ten minutes both men slept the sleep of the weary. The fire, a great mass of red coals, faded and flushed like some fabulous jewel. The wind washed over the cabin and fingered the eaves, and brushed furtive hands against the door.

It was dawn when Archer awoke. He sat up in his bunk and looked about the quiet, gray-lighted room. Sacobie Bear was nowhere to be seen.

He glanced at the corner by the door. Rifle and pack were both gone. He looked up at the rafter where his slab of bacon was always hung. It, too, was gone.

He jumped out of his bunk and ran to the door. Opening it, he looked out. Not a breath of air stirred. In the east, saffron and scarlet, broke the Christmas morning, and blue on the white surface of the world lay the imprints of Sacobie's round snowshoes.

For a long time the trapper stood in the doorway in silence, looking out at the stillness and beauty.

"Poor Sacobie!" he said, after a while. "Well, he's welcome to the bacon, even if it is all I had."

He turned to light the fire and prepare breakfast. Something at the foot of his bunk caught his eye. He went over and took it up. It was a cured skin --a beautiful specimen of fox. He turned it over, and on the white hide an uncultured hand had written, with a charred stick, "Archer."

"Well, bless that old red-skin! "exclaimed the trapper, huskily. "Bless his puckered eyes! Who'd have thought that I should get a Christmas present?"


The Children's Book of Christmas Stories - 46/46

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