Dave Porter in the Far North/Chapter 28
A JOYOUS MEETING
Dave had proceeded a distance of fifty yards into the patch of firs when he came to a halt. A peculiar sound to his left had caught his ears. He had never heard such a sound before and he wondered what it was.
"Must have been some bird—or a wild animal," he murmured, after he had listened for some time. "There ought to be many kinds of small wild animals in a place like this."
He proceeded on his way again, but a dozen steps further came to another halt. Something lay in the snow at his feet. It was a fur glove. He picked it up, looked it over, and then, in his agitation, dropped it.
The glove was stained with blood!
"Can that be father's glove?" he thought. "And if it is, how does it happen that it is covered with blood?"
A shiver ran down his backbone that was not caused by the cold, and for the minute he could hardly move. He tried to call once more, but his throat was so dry he could scarcely make a sound.
Again from a distance came that peculiar noise, low and muttering. He now recognized it as a growl, but whether of a dog or a wild beast he could not determine. He brought out the pistol he had placed in his pocket and held it ready for use.
"Footprints!" The word came from his lips involuntarily. He had reached a spot where the snow was only a few inches deep, and here the footprints of a man were plainly to be seen. They led through the belt of firs and then towards the jagged rocks at the base of a high cliff.
Again that suspicious growl reached him, and now Dave saw a dark object just as it disappeared around a corner of rock close to some brushwood.
"Was that a beast or a man crawling in the snow?" he asked himself. "That sound came from an animal, but the thing didn't look like a beast."
He went on, more cautiously than ever. Then he heard a sudden cry that made every nerve in his body tingle:
"Get back there! Get back, you brute!"
It was a man's voice, weak and exhausted, trying to keep off some wild beast. Then came a low growl, followed by the discharge of a pistol, and a few seconds later there came running toward Dave a full-grown bear, growling savagely and wagging its shaggy head from side to side.
The youth was surprised but not taken off his guard, and as the animal came closer he leveled his weapon, took aim, and pulled the trigger. The bear had raised up on its hind legs and the bullet took it straight in the breast, inflicting a bad but not a mortal wound. Then Dave started to fire a second time, but in a twinkling the bear leaped over a low rock and disappeared in the brushwood. Listening, Dave heard it lumbering away, growling with rage and pain as it went.
"Hello!" came a faint voice. "Is that you, Lapham?"
"No, it is somebody else," answered Dave. He could scarcely speak, he was so agitated. "Where are you?"
"Here, near the cliff. I am wounded, and I—I——" The voice died out completely.
"I'm coming!" shouted Dave. "Just let me know where you are."
For a minute there was no answer, and Dave continued to call. Then came what was half call and half moan. With ears on the alert, the boy followed up the sounds and quickly came in sight of a man, wrapped up in a fur overcoat and crouched in a heap between two rocks at the base of the cliff. He held a pistol in his hand, but the weapon was empty.
For the instant man and boy faced each other—the former too weak to speak and the latter too agitated to do so. Dave's heart was beating like a trip-hammer and for the time being his surroundings were completely forgotten.
"Are you—are you——" he began. "Are you David Porter?" he blurted out.
"Yes," was the gasped-out reply. "Yo—you——"
"And you don't know me! Oh, father!"
"Eh? What's that?" asked the man, rising up slightly.
"You don't know me? But of course you don't—if you didn't get the letters and telegrams. I am your son, Dave Porter."
"My son? Wha—what do you mean? I—er—I have no son. I had one, years and years ago, but——" Mr. Porter was too weak to go on. He sat staring at Dave in bewilderment.
"You lost him, I know. He was stolen from you. Well, I am that son. I have been looking for you for months. I found Uncle Dunston first, and then we sent letters and cablegrams to you, but no answer came back. Then I started out to hunt you up—and here I am." Dave was on his knees and holding his father's blood-stained hand in his own. "I see you are hurt; I'll——"
"My son? My son?" queried Mr. Porter, like one in a dream. "Can this be true?" He gazed unsteadily at Dave. Then he closed his eyes and went off into a dead faint.
The youth was startled, for he saw that his parent might be dying. His hand was hurt and he had scratches on his ear, and one knee of his trousers was blood-stained.
"I must help him—he must not die!" thought Dave, and set to work with feverish haste, doing all that was possible under the circumstances. From his shirt he tore off the sleeves and used them as bandages. Then he rubbed his father's face with snow. Presently the man opened his eyes and stared again at Dave.
"Did yo—you say you were my—my son?" he asked, in a weak, incredulous voice.
"If you are David Breslow Porter, a twin brother to Dunston Porter."
"Then I am your son—the one who was stolen from you by the nurse, Polly Margot, and her worthless husband, Sandy."
"It is—is marvellous! I can hardly believe it!" murmured Mr. Porter.
"But it is true—and I can easily prove it, father," answered the youth, in a happy tone. He bent over and kissed his parent. "Oh, I am so glad I have found you!"
"Yes! yes! I am glad too!" Mr. Porter's eyes began to beam. "But I—I—really can't understand It yet! I—my son, my little Dave! Why, it sounds like a fairy tale! I must be dreaming." He caught Dave by the shoulder. "Is it really, really so?"
"It is, father, and I'll explain it all after awhile. But now you are hurt, and you must take it easy. Did you tumble over the cliff, or did that bear——"
"Both, Dave. How queer it sounds to call you Dave, my Dave!" Mr. Porter caught the boy around the neck. "I can't believe it yet—I really can't. Where have you been all these years? And how did you learn——"
"I'll tell you afterwards, father—when we are safe. Then you fell over the cliff?"
"Yes, and while I was trying to crawl away to some spot to rest the bear got after me and scratched me in the ear. I let him have a bullet in his neck and that made him retreat. But then he came at me again, and I don't know what I should have done if it hadn't been for your arrival. The pistol is empty, as you can see."
"You heard my shot and you signaled back, didn't you?"
"Yes, I signaled back and shot at the bear at the same time. But that shot didn't hit him, although it made him keep his distance for awhile."
"I see your pistol is the same size as mine, so I'll load them both—in case the bear comes back." Dave set to work immediately and soon had the work completed. "Now you must have something to eat and to drink, and then you'll feel better."
He unslung his knapsack and brought forth his provisions, and sitting in the shelter of the cliff prepared a meal. Over some lighted brushwood he made a canteen of coffee, of which his father partook with satisfaction, and then ate a sandwich and some crackers and cheese. As he supplied his parent Dave told a good portion of his story, although he went into few details.
"It is queer that I never received any of those letters and cablegrams," said Mr. Porter. "Yet you must remember I thought your uncle was still among the South Sea Islands. He wrote to me that he was going on a trip that might last two years or more and might not be able to write to me for some time. Laura, your sister—how surprised she will be!—and myself traveled down to Rome and through Spain and then came up to Berlin. There I fell in with Hausermann and, later on, with Philip Lapham. They told me of this expedition into Norway, and got me interested financially. Your sister wanted to go to the United States, with some close friends, and I let her go and came up here. We traveled to Norway somewhat in secret, for we did not wish to let the object of our expedition become known. On that account we had some trouble with the police, who took us for political intriguers. After that we left no addresses behind us—which accounts for the non-delivery of the cablegram you sent to me from England."
"But what brought you up into this portion of Norway, father, and at this time of the year?"
"We came to locate a valuable mine, or rather a series of mines, in this section. Hausermann had some information about them, but had no money, and he came to me and then to Philip Lapham, and we 'staked' the expedition, as miners call it. We came up this winter because we heard that three other parties were coming up next spring and next summer, and we wanted to get in ahead."
"And have you done that?" asked Dave, with interest.
"Not as yet. We have found some traces of copper at one point and nickel at another, but not the rich deposits the information we possessed led us to believe could be located."
"Never mind, now we are together, perhaps you'll have better luck, father. I'll help you." Dave smiled broadly. "Tell me about yourself, and about my sister Laura, won't you?"
Both sat in front of the tiny camp-fire, Mr. Porter's bandaged head resting on Dave's shoulder, and a hand clasping that of the boy. They were supremely happy, and for the time being the world around them was forgotten. Mr. Porter told much about himself and of his travels, and Dave related how he had been raised at the poorhouse and taken care of by Caspar Potts and Oliver Wadsworth, and how he had fallen in with Billy Dill, the sailor, and gone to the South Sea Islands and found his Uncle Dunston.
"I know your sister Laura will be overjoyed to learn the news," said Mr. Porter. "She has often said how nice it would be if she had a sister or a brother. Since your mother's death we have been very lonely. Ah, if your mother could only have seen this day!" And the tears stood in Mr. Porter's eyes. Then he drew Dave to his breast, and a warm embrace by both followed.
They had completely forgotten their surroundings when a deep growl close at hand aroused them and caused the boy to leap to his feet. He gazed into the brushwood fronting the jagged rocks and the base of the cliff and uttered a cry of alarm.
"What is it, Dave?" questioned his father.
"Two bears—the one we wounded and another and bigger one."