Jack Chanty


Jack Chanty

Jack Chanty had to guide an expedition through North and different camps (Sapi Indians, Camp Trangmar, up to fort Sheever and on).

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JACK was subsequently engaged as chief guide to Sir Bryson's party. Days of strenuous preparation succeeded. For one thing the stores of the expedition had to undergo a rigid weeding-out process; the oil-stove, the bedsteads, the white flannels, and the parasols, etc., were left behind.

There was a shortage of flour and bacon, which the store at Fort Cheever was in poor shape to supply. Last winter's grub was almost exhausted, and this winter's supply had not arrived. The Indians, who are the store's only customers, live off the land during the summer. Cranston stripped himself of what he had, and sent a messenger down the river with an urgent order for more to be sent up by the next boat.

Jack was hampered by a lack of support from, his own party. Vassall and Baldwin Ferrie were willing enough but incapable. Garrod blew hot and cold, and altogether acted in a manner inexplicable to Jack.

Only the man's obvious suffering prevented the two from coming to an open quarrel. Jack dismissed him with a contemptuous shrug. The little governor issued and countermanded his orders bewilderingly and any malcontent was always sure of a hearing from him.

But Jean Paul Ascota, from whom Jack had most reason to expect mischief-making, gave him no trouble at all. This in itself might have warned him of danger, but he had too many other things to think about.

It cannot be said that Jack bore all his hindrances with exemplary patience. However, he had an effective weapon in his unconcern. When matters came to a deadlock he laughed, and, retiring to his own little camp, occupied himself with his banjo until some one came after him with an olive branch. They were absolutely dependent on him.

On the eighth day they finally got away. Mounting his horse, Jack took up a position on a little mound by the trail, and watched his company file past. For himself he had neglected none of the stage-trappings dear to the artistic sense of a young man. His horse was the best in the company and the best accoutred.

He had secured a pair of shaggy bearskin chaps and from his belt hung a gigantic .44 in a holster.

He wore a dashing broad-brimmed "Stetson," and a gay silk handkerchief knotted loosely around his throat. The sight of him sitting there, hand on hip, with his scornful air, affected little Linda Trangmar like a slight stab. She bit her lip, called herself a fool, and spurred ahead.

Jean Paul Ascota rode at the head of the procession. Jack had seen the wisdom of propitiating him with this empty honour. The Indian had likewise seen to it that he obtained a good horse, and he rode like a careless Centaur. Passing Jack, his face was as blank as paper, but out of Jack's range of vision the black eyes narrowed balefully, the wide nostrils dilated, and the lips were tightly compressed.

Sir Bryson's party followed the spruce little governor, an incongruous figure on his sorry cayuse; the two ladies, Garrod, Vassall, and Baldwin Ferrie. At the very start Sir Bryson objected to riding at the tail of Jean Paul's horse, and Jack was obliged to explain to him that there are certain rules of the trail which even a lieutenant-governor may not override. The place at the head belongs to him who can best follow or make a trail.

The two ladies wore khaki divided skirts that they had been obliged to contrive for themselves, since side-saddles are unknown in the country. In regard to Miss Trangmar and Mrs. Worsley, Jack had strongly urged that they be left at Fort Cheever, and in this matter Garrod had almost desperately supported him, volunteering to stay behind to look after them.

His activity booted him nothing with his little mistress. When she heard of the suggestion she merely smiled and waited until she got her father alone. As a result here they were.

There was one more white member of the expedition of whom some explanation must be given: this was Thomas Jull, lately cook on the steamboat, and now transferred to the position of camp cook. The whole design of the journey had been threatened with extinction at Fort Cheever by the discovery that a cook had been forgotten.

There was of course nothing of that kind to be obtained at the fort. JuU's cooking had all been done on stoves, but Jack, promising to initiate him into the mysteries of campfires, had tempted him to forsake his snug berth.

He was a fat, pale, and puffy creature of indeterminate age, who looked as if his growth had been forced in a cellar, but he was of a simple, willing nature, and he had conceived an enormous admiration for Jack, who was so different from himself. He had already acquired a nickname in the country from his habit of carrying his big head as if in momentary expectation of a blow. Humpy Jull he was to be henceforth.

Four Indian lads completed the party. This was barely sufficient to pack the horses and make camp, but as Jack had explained to Sir Bryson the best he could get were a poor lot, totally unaccustomed to any discipline, and a larger number of them would only have invited trouble.

They must be worked hard, and kept under close subjection to the whites, he said. There were twenty laden horses, and five spare animals.

They climbed the steep high hill behind Fort Cheever and Jack, watching the train wind up before him, thrilled a little with satisfaction under his mask of careless hardihood. Notwithstanding all his preliminary difficulties, it was a businesslike-looking outfit. Besides, it is not given to many young men in their twenties to command a lieutenant-governor.

This was not really a hill, but the river-bank proper. From the top of it the prairie stretched back as far as the eye could reach, green as an emerald sea at this season, and starred with flowers. Here and there in the broad expanse grew coverts of poplar saplings and wolf-willow, making a parklike effect. The well-beaten trail mounted the smooth billows, and dipped into the troughs of the grassy sea like an endless brown ribbon spreading before them.

The progress of such a party is very slow. The laden pack-horses cannot be induced to travel above a slow, slow walk. Twice a day they must be unladen and turned out to forage; then caught and carefully packed again.

On the first day a good deal of confusion attended these operations. Little by little Jack brought order out of chaos.