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Rolf in the Woods(Chapter49)

2006-09-08 19:49

  CHAPTER XLIX Marketing the Fur

  If Rolf had been at home with his mother, she would have rubbed his black and swollen ankle with goose grease. The medical man at Stamford would have rubbed it with a carefully prepared and secret ointment. His Indian friend sang a little crooning song and rubbed it with deer's fat. All different, and all good, because each did something to reassure the patient, to prove that big things were doing on his behalf, and each helped the process of nature by frequent massage.

  Three times a day, Quonab rubbed that blackened ankle. The grease saved the skin from injury, and in a week Rolf had thrown his crutches away.

  The month of May was nearly gone; June was at hand; that is, the spring was over.

  In all ages, man has had the impulse, if not the habit, of spring migration. Yielding to it he either migrated or made some radical change in his life. Most of the Adirondack men who trapped in the winter sought work on the log drives in spring; some who had families and a permanent home set about planting potatoes and plying the fish nets. Rolf and Quonab having neither way open, yet feeling the impulse, decided to go out to Warren's with the fur.

  Quonab wanted tobacco —— and a change.

  Rolf wanted a rifle, and to see the Van Trumpers —— and a change.

  So June Ist saw them all aboard, with Quonab steering at the stern, and Skookum bow-wowing at the bow, bound for the great centre of Warren's settlement —— one store and three houses, very wide apart.

  There was a noble flush of water in the streams, and, thanks to their axe work in September, they passed down Jesup's River without a pause, and camped on the Hudson that night, fully twenty-five miles from home.

  Long, stringing flocks of pigeons going north were the most numerous forms of life. But a porcupine on the bank and a bear in the water aroused Skookum to a pitch of frightful enthusiasm and vaulting ambition that he was forced to restrain.

  On the evening of the third day they landed at Warren's and found a hearty welcome from the trader, who left a group of loafers and came forward:

  "Good day to ye, boy. My, how ye have growed."

  So he had. Neither Rolf nor Quonab had remarked it, but now they were much of the same height. "Wall, an' how'd ye make out with yer hunt? —— Ah, that's fine!" as each of them dropped a fur pack on the counter. "Wall, this is fine; we must have a drink on the head of it," and the trader was somewhat nonplussed when both the trappers refused. He was disappointed, too, for that refusal meant that they would get much better prices for their fun But he concealed his chagrin and rattled on: "I reckon I'll sell you the finest rifle in the country this time, "and he knew by Rolf's face that there was business to do in that line.

  Now came the listing of the fur, and naturally the bargaining was between the shrewd Yankee boy and the trader. The Indian stood shyly aside, but he did not fail to help with significant grunts and glances.

  "There, now," said Warren, as the row of martens were laid out side by side, " thirty martens —— a leetle pale —— worth three dollars and fifty cents each, or, to be generous, we'll say four dollars." Rolf glanced at Quonab, who, unseen by the trader shook his head, held his right hand out, open hollow up, then raised it with a jerk for two inches.

  Quickly Rolf caught the idea and said; "No, I don't reckon them pale. I call them prime dark, every one of them." Quonab spread his hand with all five fingers pointed up, and Rolf continued, "They are worth five dollars each, if they're worth a copper."

  "Phew!" said the trader. "you forget fur is an awful risky thing; what with mildew, moth, mice, and markets, we have a lot of risk. But I want to please you, so let her go; five each. There's a fine black fox; that's worth forty dollars."

  "I should think it is," said Rolf, as Quonab, by throwing to his right an imaginary pinch of sand, made the sign "refuse."

  They had talked over the value of that fox skin and Rolf said, "Why, I know of a black fox that sold for two hundred dollars."

  "Where?"

  "Oh, down at Stamford."

  "Why, that's near New York."

  "Of course; don't you send your fur to New York?"

  "Yes, but it costs a lot to get it there.

  "Now," said Warren, "if you'll take it in trade, I'll meet you half-way and call it one hundred dollars."

  "Make it one hundred and twenty-five dollars and I'll take a rifle, anyway."

  "Phew!" whistled the trader. "Where do ye get such notions? "

  "Nothing wrong about the notion; old Si Sylvanne offered me pretty near that, if I'd come out his way with the stuff."

  This had the desired effect of showing that there were other traders. At last the deal was closed. Besides the fox skin, they had three hundred dollars' worth of fur. The exchange for the fox skin was enough to buy all the groceries and dry goods they needed. But Rolf had something else in mind.

  He had picked out some packages of candies, some calico prints and certain bright ribbons, when the trader grasped the idea. "I see; yer goin' visitin'. Who is it? Must be the Van Trumpers! "

  Rolf nodded and now he got some very intelligent guidance. He did not buy Annette's dress, because part of her joy was to be the expedition in person to pick it out; but he stocked up with some gorgeous pieces of jewellery that were ten cents each, and ribbons whose colours were as far beyond expression as were the joys they could create in the backwoods female heart.

  Proudly clutching his new rlile, and carrying in his wallet a memorandum of three hundred dollars for their joint credit, Rolf felt himself a person of no little impor- tance. As he was stepping out of the store, the trader said, "Ye didn't run across Jack Hoag agin, did ye?"

  "Did we? Hmph!" and Rolf told briefly of their experience with that creature.

  "Just like him, just like him; served him right; he was a dirty cuss. But, say; don't you be led into taking your fur out Lyons Falls way. They're a mean lot in there, and it stands to reason I can give you better prices, being a hundred miles nearer New York."

  And that lesson was not forgotten. The nearer New York the better the price; seventy-five dollars at Lyons Falls; one hundred and twenty-five dollars at Warren's; two hundred dollars at New York. Rolf pondered long and the idea was one which grew and bore fruit.

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