The Gun Brand

A Stirring Romance of the Canadian Far North

James B. Hendryx April 1 1917

The Gun Brand

A Stirring Romance of the Canadian Far North

James B. Hendryx April 1 1917

The Gun Brand

A Stirring Romance of the Canadian Far North

James B. Hendryx

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CL~1APTER 1.

TIlE CALL OF THE RAW.

S EATED upon a thick, burlap-covered bale of freight-a "piece," in the parlance of the North-Chloe Elli ston idly watched the loading of the scowa. The peration was not new to her; a dozen tirnes within the month since the outfit had wung out from Athabasca Landing she had watched from the muddy bank while the half-breeds and Indians unloaded the big scows, ran them light through whirling rock-ribbed rapids, car ried the innumerable pieces of freight upon their shoulders across portages made all but impassable by scrub timber, oozy muskeg, and low sand-mountains, loaded the scowS again at the foot of the rapid and steered them through devious and dangerous miles of swift-moving white.water. to the head of the next rapid.

They are patient men - these water• freighters of :hE far north. For more than two centurfes and a quarter they have sweated the wilderness freight across these ranje portages~ And they are sober men-when civilization is hehind them-far b~hind.

Close beside Chloe Elli8ton, upon the sanw pieQe, Harriet Penny, of vague age. and vaguer puri~ose, also. watched the loading of the :4OrS. Harriet.P~nny was (`hloe Elli~ton's one concessiowto conven tton-exce~'s l~ag~age, beyond the out posts, being a ature of fear. Upon another piece. lug Lena. the gigantic Swedish. Amazn who, in the capacity bf general factottm, had accompanied Chloe Elliston over half the world, stared stolidiv at the river.

Having arri';ed at Athabasca Landing Thur days after the departure of thu Hudson Bay Cor~ipany's annual brigadu., Chloe had engage~I transportation into thu nOrth in the COW9 of an independent. And, when he het.rd of this, the old fac tor at the post sh~ok hi~ head dubiously. hut when the g~iI pressed him for thu rt'ason, he stru led and remained silent. Unly when the cotfit was loaded did thu old man whispei-~ one sentence: "Beware o' r'i~re Lapierre."

A GAIN Chloe questioned him, and again he remained silent So, as the days passed upon, the river trail, the name of Pierre Lapierre was all but forgotten in the menace of rapids and monotony of portages. And icow the last of the great rapids had been run-the rapid of the Slave-and the scows were almost loaded. Vermilion,, the boss scowman, stood upon the running-board of the leading scow and directed the stowing of the freight. He was a picturesque figureVermilion. A squat, thick half-breed. .vith eyes set wide apart beneath a low forehead bound tightly around with a handkerchief of flaming silk.

A heavy-eyed Indian, moving ponder ously up the rough plank with a piece balanced upon his shoulders, missed his footing and fell with a loud splash into the water. The Indian scrambled clum sily ashore, and the piece was rescued. but not before aperfect torrent of French-English-Indian profanity had poured from the lips of the ever-versatile Vermilion. Harriet Penny shrank against •the younger woman and shuddered. "Oh !" she gasped, "he's swearing!" "No!" exclaimed Chloe, in feigned sur prise. "Why. I believe he is!" Miss Penny flushed. "But, it is ter rible! Just listen!" "For Heaven's sake, Hat! If you don't like it, why do you listen?" "But he ought to be stopped. I am sure the poor Indian did not fry to fall in the -river." Chloe made a gesture of impatience. "Very well, hat; just look up the ordi nance against swearing on Slave River. and report him to Ottawa." "But I'm afraid! He-the Hudson Bay Company's maij - told us not to (c II) C.

(`bloc straightened up with a jerk. "See here, Hat Penny! Stop your snivel ing! What do you expict from rivermen? haven't the seven hundred miles of water trail taught you anything! And, as for being afraid_al don't care who toW, us. not to come! I'm an Elliston, and I'll go wherever I want. to go! Thin isn't a pleasure trjp. I came up here for a purpose. Do yd~ think I'm going to be

scared out by the first old man that wags his head and shrugs his shoulders? Or by any other man! Or by any swearing that I can't understand, or any that I can, either, for that matter! Come on, let's get aboard."

C HLOE ELLISTON'S presence in the - far outlands was the culmination of an ideal, spurred by dissuasion and an tagonism into a determination, and de veloped by longing into an obsetsion. Since infancy the girl had been left much to her own devices. Environment, and the `~rescribed course at an expensive hool should have made her pretty much what other girls are, and an able teIlite to her mother, who managed to remain one of the busiest women of the Westeri~ me tropoli~--doing~ absolutely nothing-but,

doing it with erlat.

The girl's father, Blair Elliston, from his desk in a luxurious office suite pre sided over the destiny of the Elliston fleet of yellow-stack tramps that poked their noses into queer pqrts and put to `sea with queer cargoes - cargoes that smelled sweet and spicy, with the øpice of the far south seas. Officer sailor though he was, Blair Elliston commanded the re peet of even the roughest of his pOlyglot crews-a respect not wholly uncommin gled with fear.

For this man was the son ofi old `Tiger" Elliston, founder of the eet: The man who, shoulder to shoulder with Brooke, the elder, put the fear of Gd in the hearts of the pirates, and swept `ide trade-lanes among the island of terro~ infeated Malaysia. And through Chloe Eli jston's veins coursed the blood of her world-roving ancestor. 13cr most trea sured possession' was a blackened alid scaried oil portrait of the old sea-trader and adventurer, which always lay swath ed in many ruppings in the bottom ot her favdrite trun}~. - -

In her heart sh~e loved and admired this grandfather, with a love and ad-

miration that bordered upon idolatry. She loved the lean, hard features, and the cold, rapier-blade eyes'. She loved the name men called him: Tiger Elliston, an earned name — that. The name of ái man who, by his might and the strength and mastery of him, had wor. his place in the world of the men who dare.

Since babyhood she had listened with awe to tales of him; and the red-letter days of her childhood’s calendar were the days upon which her father would take her down to the docks, past great windowless warehouses of concrete and sheetiron, where big glossy horses stood harnessed to high-piled trucks—past great tiers of bales and boxes between which trotted hurrying, sweating men—past the clang and clash of iron truck wheels, the rattle of chajns, the shriek of pulleys, and the loud-bawled orders in strange tongues. Until, at last, they would come to the great dingy hulk of the ship and walk up the gangway and onto the deck, where funny yellow and brown men with their hair braided into curious pigtails, worked with ropes and tackles, and called to other funny men with bright-colored ribbons braided into their beards.

Almost as she learned to walk she learned to pick out the yellow stacks of “papa s boats”—learned their names, and the names of their captains, the bronzed, bearded men who would take her in their laps, ho ding her very awkwardly and very, very carefully, as if she were*something that would break, and tell her stories in deep, rumbly voices. And nearly always they were stories of the Tiger — “yer gran’pap, leetle missey," they would say. And then, by palms, and pearls, and the fires of blazing mountains, they would swear "He wor a man !”

'T'O THE helpless horror of her mother, the genuine wonder of her many friends, and the ill-veiled amusement and approval of her father, a month after the doors of her olma mater closed behind her she took passage on the Cora lilair, the oldest and most disreputable-looking yellaw stack of them all, and hied her for a year’s so ourn among the spicy lotusports of the dreamy southern ocean — there to hear at first hand from the men who knew him, further deeds of Tiger Elliston.

To her, on board the battered tramp, came glad!y the men of power—the men whose spoken word in their polyglot domains was more feared and heeded than decrees of'emperors or edicts of kings. And there, in the time-blackened cabin that had once been hin cabin, these men talked and the girl listened while her eyes glowed with pride as they recounted the exploits of Tiger Elliston. And, as they talked, the hearts of these men warmed, and the years rolled backward, and they swore weird oaths, ánd hammered the thick plar.ks of the chart-table with bangs of approving fists, and invoked the blessings of strange gods upon the soul of the Tiger—and their curses upon the s'ouïs of his enemies.

Nor were these men slow to return hospitality, and Chloe Elliston wus entertained royally in halls of lavish splendor, and plied with costly gifts and rare. And honored by the men, and the sons and daughters of men who had fought side beside with the Tiger in the days when the yellow sands ran red, and tall masts and white sails rose like clouds from the blue fog of the cannon-crashing powder-smoke.

So. from the lips of governors and potentates, native princes, and rajahs, the girl learned of the deeds of her grartdsire, and in their eyes she read approval, and lespeet, and reverence even greater than her own—for these were the men who knew him. But, not alone from the mighty did she learn. For, over ricecakes and poi, in the thatched hovels of Malays, Kayans, and savage Dyaks, -he heard-the tale from the lips of the vanquished men—men who still hated. Vet always respected, the reddened sword of the Tiger.

*T*HE YEAR Chloe Ellistor. spent among the copra-ports of the South Seas was the shaping year of her destiny. Never again were the standards of her compeers to be her standards—never again the measure of the world of convention to lie her measure. For. in her heart the awakened spirit of Tiger Elliston burned ar.d seared like a living flame, calling for other wilds to conquer, other savages to subdue—to crush down, if need be. that it might build up into the very civilization of which the unconquerable spirit is the forerunner, yet which, in realization, palls and deadens it to extinction.

For social triumphs the girl cared nothing. The heart of her felt the irresistible call of the raw. She returned to the land of her birth and deliberately, determinedly, in the face of opposition, ridicule, advice, and command — as Tiger Elliston, himself, would have done—she cast about until she found the raw, upon the rim of the Arctic. And. with the avowed purpose of carrying education and civilization to the Indians of the far north, turned her back upon the world-fashionable, and without fanfare or trumpetry, headed into the land of primal things.

AATHEN the three women had taken ' ’ their places in the head scow, Vermilion gave the order to shove off. and with the swarthy crew straining at the rude .-Weeps, the heavy scows threaded their way into the north.

Once tlrrough the swift watef at the tail of Slave Rapids, the four scows drifted lazily down the river, the scowmen distributed themselves among the pieces in more or less comfortable attitudes, and slept. In the head scow only the bo.-S and the three women remained awake.

"Who is Pierre Lajpiefre?” Chloe asked suddenly.

The man darted her a searching glance and shrugged. “Pierre Lapierre, she free-trader," he answered. "Dees scow, she Pier re Lapierre scow.”

If Chloe was surprised at this bit of. information, she succeeded admirably in disguising her feelings. Not so Harriet Penny, who sank back among the freight pieces to stare fearfully into the face of the younger woman.

"Then you are Pierre Lapierre’» man? You work for him?”

The. man nodded. “On de réevaire I’m run de scow—me—Vermilion! I’m tak’ de reesk. Lapierre, she tak’ de money.” The man’s eyes glinted wickedly.

"Ri-k? What risk?” asked the girl.

Again the man eyed her shrewdly and laughed. "Das plant’ reesk—on de reevaire. De scow—me’be so, she* heet de lock in de rapids—bre’k all to hell— Voila !" Somehow the words did not ring true.

“You hate Lapierre!” • The words, flashed swift, taking the man by surprise.

"Son. Son!” he cried, and Chloe noticed that his glance flashed swiftly o\;er the sprawling forms of the five sleeping scowmen. r'

“And you are afraid of him,” the girl added before he could frame a reply.

A SUDDEN gleam of anger leaped into the eyes of the half-breed. He seemed oir-the point of speaking, but with an unintelligible muttered imprecation he relapsed into sullen silence. Chloe had purposely baited the man, hoping in his anger he would blurt out some bit of information concerning the mysterious Pierre Lapierre. Instead, the mar crouched silent, scowling, with his. gaze fixed upon the forms of the scowmen.

Had the girl been more familiar with the French half-breeds of the outlands she would have been suspicious of the man’s ,-udden taciturnity under stress of anger — suspicious, also, of the gradual shifting that had been’going on for dayamong the crews of the scows. A shifting that indicated Vermilion was selecting the crew of his ovvn scow with an eye to a purpose—a purpose that had no£ altogether to do with the scow’s safe conduct through white-water. But Chloe had taken r.o rote of the personnel of the scow men, nor of the fact that thé freight of the head scow consisted only of pieces that obviously contained provisions, together with her own ter.t and sleeping outfit, and several burlapped pieces marked with the name “MacNair.” Lily she wondered who MacNair wás, but refrained from asking.

*T\HE long-gathering twilight deepened as the scows floated northward. Vermilion'-» face lost its scowl, and he smoked in silence — a sinister figure, thought the girl, as he crouched in the bow. his dark features set off to advantage by his flaming head-band.

Into the stillness crept a sound—the far-otF roar of a rapid. Sullen, and dull, it scarce broke ‘ the monotony of the silence — low, yet ever increasing in volume.

“Another portage?” wearily asked the girl.

Vermilion shook his head. “.Vow. eel ees de Chute. Ten miles of de wild, fast wataire, but safe—eef you know de way. Me—Vermilion—I’m tak’ de scow t’rough a hoodie tam-r-fefen/”.

“But. you can’t make it in the dark!” \ ermilion laughed. “Wo mak' de camp to-night. To-mor’, we run de Chute." He reached for the light pole with which he indicated the channel to the steersman, and beat sharply upon the running boarA that formed the gunwale of the scow. Sleepily the five sprawling forms stirred, and awoke to consciousness. Vermilion spoke a guttural jargon of words tind the men fumbled the rude sweeps against the tholes. The other three scows drifted lazily in the rear and. standing upon .the running-l>oard, Vermilion roared his orders. Figures in the scows stirred, ar.d '■weeps thudded against thole-pins. The roar of the Chute was loud, nowhoarse, and portentous of evil.

The high banks on either side of the river drew closer together, the speed of the drifting scows increased, and upon the dark surface of the water tiny whirlpool-* appeared. Vermilion raised the IX)!e above his head and pointed toward a narrow strip of beach that showed dimly at the foot of the high bank, at a

point only a few hundred yards above ’hé dark gap where the rive r 'plunged between the ups adding rocks of the Chute. !

Looking backward, Chloe watched the three scows with their svvsj-thy crews strainingat ¡the great sweeps. Here* vías action— life! Primitiv«rijan battling against t h » j unbending forces of an i or 'wilderness. The red blood leaped "through the girl’s veins as she realized that this life was to be hei life—this wilderness to be her wilderness. Hers to bring under the book, and its primitive children, hers—to govern by a rule of thumb'

Sudden^’she noticed that the following scows were much nearer shore than her own. and also; that they were being rapidly outdistanced. She gljanced quickly toward shoret -The scow was opposite the strip of beach toward which the others were sloWly but surely drawing. The scow seemed motionless, as upon the surface of a niL-pond. but the l>each. and the high hank beyond, raced past to disappear in the .deepening gloom. The figures in the following scows—the scows themselves—hlunejl into the shore-line. The beach was gone. . Rocks appeared, jagged and high — close upon either hand.

In a sudden panic, Chloe glanced wildly towards Vermilion. who crouched in the bow. pole in hard, and with set face, stared into the gloom ahead. Swiftly her glance traveled over the crew—their faces, álso. were set, and they stood at the sweeps, motionless! but with their eyes fixed jiP°n the pole of the pilot. | Beyond Vermilion, in the forefront, appeared wave after wave of wildly tossing w áter. For just an instant tihe scow hesitated, trembled through its length, and with the leaping w a v e s battering against its bottom ánd sides, plunged straight into the maw of the Chute! !

CHAPTER II.

VERMILION SFjOWS HIS HAND

DOWN, down through the Chute raced the heavily loaded scow, seeming fairly to leap frornj wave to wave in a series of tremendous shocks, as the flat bottom rose high ir the fore and crashed onto the crest of the next wave, sending a spume of stingingSspray high into the air. White water cuf eri over the gunwale and sloshed about in the bottom. The air was chill, and wet—like the dead air of a rock-cavern.

Chloe Elliston knew one moment of swift fear. And then, the mighty roar of

the waters; the mad plunging of the scow between the towering walls of rock; the set, tense face of Vermilion as he stared into the gloom; the labored breathing of the scowmen as they strained at the sweeps, veering the scow to the right, or the left, as the rod of the pilo! indicated; the splendid battle of it; the wild exhilaration of fighting death on death's own stamping ground tlung all thought of fear aside, and in the girl’s heart surged the wild, fierce joy of living, with life itself at stake.

For iust an instant Chloe’s glance rested upon her companions; Big Lena sat scowiing murderously at Vermilion's broad back. Harriet Penny had fainted

and lay with the back of her head awash in the shallow bilge water. A strange alter eyo—elemental — primordial — had taken possession of Chloe. Her eyes* glowed, and her heart thrilled at the sight of the tense, vigilant figure of Vermilion, and the swearing, straining scowuner.. For the helpless form of Tlarriet Penny she fell only contempt—the savage, intolerant contempt of the strong for the weak among firstlings.

The intoxication of a new existence was* upon her. or, better, a world-old existence—an existence that was new when the world was new. In that moment, she was a throw-back of a million years, and Continued on ¡iáye 83. “

The Gun Brand

Continued from paye 21.

thtough her'veins fumed the ferine blood of, her paleolithic forbears. What is life but proof of the fitnes to live? Death, but defeat?!

ON RUSHED the scow, leaping, crashing frpm wave to wave, into the northern nijjfht. And, as it rushed, and leaped, and-crashed it bore two women, their garments touching, but between whom interposed a whole world of creeds and fabrics;

Suddenly,Chloe sensed a change. The scow no logger leaped and crashed, and the roar of• the rapid9 grew faint. No longer the form of Vermilion appeared epufhant, tense; and, among the scowmen, one laiughed. Chloe drew a deep breath, andj-a slight shudder shook her frame. She glanced about her in bewilderment, arad, reaching swiftly down, raised the inert form of Harriet Penny and rested ijt gently against her knees.

The darkness of night had settled upon the river. $tars twinkled ovèrhead. The high, scrub-jtimbered shore loomed formless and blpck, and the flat bottom of the scow raèped harshly on gravel. Vermilion leaped ashore, followed by the scowmen, and Chloe assisted Big Lena with the still unconscious form of Harriet Penny.!'As if by;magic, fires flared out upon shingle, and in an incredibly short time the girl found herself seated upon her bed-roll inside her mosquitobarred tent of balloon silk. The .older woman had revived and lay, a dejected heap, upon her blankets, and out in front Big Lena was stooping over a fire. Beyond, upon the gravel, the fires of the scowmen flamed red, and threw wavering reflections Upon the black water of the river. j

Chloe was seized with a strange unrest The eight of Harriet Penny irritated her. She stepped from the tent and filled her lungs with great drafts of the spruce-ladeq night-breeze that wafted gently out pf the mysterious dark and rippled the surface of the river until little waves slapped softly against the shore in tiny whisperings of the unknown—whisperings thai called, and were understood by the new ¡awakened self within her. Continued on page 88.

In tilt* next instalment of this strong serial story, “Brute” McNair appears on the scene. McNair is the highest figure ill the north ¡country — an independent trader with a tremendous influence over the Indians and trappers. The injerest «juiekens with the appearance of the Brute i and continues fo grow until the climax of the story I is reached.

The Gun Brand

Continued from page 83.

CHE GLANCED toward The fires of the ^ rivermen where the dark-skinned, long-haired sons of the wild squatted close about the flames over which pots boiled, grease fried, and chunks of red meat browned upon the ends of long toastingsticks. The girl’s heart leaped with the wild freedom of it. A sense of might and of power surged through her veins. These men were her men—hers to command. Savages and half-savages whose work it was to do her bidding—and who performed their work well. The night was calling her—the vague, portentous night of the land beyond outposts. Slowly she passed the fires, and on along the margin of the river whose waters, black and forbidding, reached into the north.

“The unconquered north.” she breathed, as she stood upon a water-lapped boulder and gazed into the impenetrable dark. And, as she gazed, before her mind’s eye rose a victim. The scattered teepees of the northland, smoke-blackened, filthy, stinking with the reek of ill-tanned skins, resolved themselves into a village beside a broad, smooth-flowing river.

The teepees faded, and in their place appeared rows of substantial log cabins, each with its yard of trimmed graas, and its beds of gay flowers. Broad streets se-

pirated the rows. The white spire of a church loomed proudly at the Vnd of a street. From the doorways dark, full-bodied women smiled ■; happily—their faces clean, and their long, black hair caught back ; w ith artistic bands of quill embroidery, as ' they called to the clean ! brown children who played light¡ heartedly in the grassed dooryards. ! Tall, lean-shouldered men, whose | swarthy faces glowqd with the love ! of their labor* toiled'gladly in fields of yellow' grain* or sang and called to one another in the forest where the ring of their axes was drowned in the crash of falling trees.

Her vision of the north—the conquered north—her north!

'T'HE GIRL started nervously.

* Her brain-picture resolved into 1 the formless dark. From the black waters, almost at her feet, sounded, raucouf and loud, the voice of the ! great loon. Frenzied, maniacal, hideous rang th* night-shattering laughter. The uncouth mockery of ’ the raw—the defiance of the unconquerable north!

With a shudder, Chloe turned and fled toward the red-flaring fires. In that moment a feelihg of defeat surged over her—of heart-sickening hopelessness. The figures at the fire? were unkempt, dirty, revolt' ing, as they gorged and tore at the half-cooked meat into which their | yellow fangs drove deep as the red blood squirted and trickled from the corners of their mouths to drip unheeded upon the sweat-stiffened : cotton of their shirts. Savages! And she, Çhloe EUiston, at the very gateway of her empire, fled incontinently to the protection of their fires! j

Wide awake upon her blanket, in the smudge-pungent tent where her two companions slept heavily, Chloe sat late into the night staring through the mosquito-barfed entrance toward the narrow strip of beach where the dying fires of the scowmen glowed sullenly in the darkness, pierced now and again by the fitful glare of a wind-whipped brand. Two still forms wrapped in ragged blankets, lay like logs where sleep had overcome them.

A short distance removed from the others, the fire of Vermilion burned brightly. Between this fire and a heavily smoking smudge, four men played cards upon a blanket spread upon tlje ground. Silently, save for an occasional grunt or mumbled word* they played—dealing, tossing into the centre the amount of their bets, leaning forward to rake in a pot, or throwing down their cards in disgust, to await the next deal.

The scene was intrinsically savage. At the end of the day’s work, primitive man followed primitive instinct. Gorged to repletion, they slept, or wasted their substance with the improvidence of jungleleasts. And these were the men EUiston had pictured laboring joyously in the upbuilding of homes! Opee more the feeling of hopelessness came over her—seemed smothering, stifling her. And

a creat wave of longing carried her back to the land of her own peoplè—the land of convention and sophistry.

Could it be that they were right? They who had scoffed, and ridiculed, and forbade her? What could she do in the refashioning of a world-old wild? One woman against the established creeds of an iron wilderness? Where, now, were her dreams of empire, her ideal9, and her castles in Spain? Was she to return, broken on the wheel? Crushed between the adamantine millstones of things as they ought to be?

The resolute lips drooped, a hot salt tear blurred Vermilion’s camp-fire and distorted the figures of the gambling scowmen. She closed her eyes tightly. The writhing green shadow-shapes lost form,' dimmed, and resolved themselves into an image—a lean, lined face with rapier-blade eyes gazed upon her from the blackness—the face of Tiger Elliston!

Instantly, the full force and determination of her surged through the girl’s veins anew. The droopihg lips stiffened. Her heart sang with the joy of conquest The tight-pressed lids flew open,* and for a long time she watched the shadow-dance of the flames on her tent wall. Dim, and elusive, and far away faded the dancing 9hadow-shapes—and she slept

OT SO Vermilion, who, when his * companions tired of their game and sought their blankets, sat and stared into the embers of his dying fire. The halfbreed was troubled. As boss of Pierre Lapierre’s scowmen, a toll of a master mind, a unit of a system, he had prospered. But no longer was he a unit of a system. From the moment Chloe Elliston had bargained with him for the transportation ' of her outfit into the wilderness, the man’s brain had been active in formulating a plan.

This woman was rich. One who is not rich cannot afford to transport thirty-odd tons of outfit into the heart of the wilderness. at the tariff of fifteen cents the pound. So, throughout the days of the journey, the man gazed with avarice upon the piles of burlapped pieces, while his brain devised the scheme. Thereafter in the dead of night, occurred many whispered consultations, as Vermilion won over his men. He chose shrewdly, for these men knew Pierre Lapierre, and well they knew what.portion would be theirs should the scheme «of Vermilion miscarry.

At last, the seiection had been made, and fiv_* r-f Jie most desperate ano darir.g of all the rivermen had. by the lure of much gold,’consented to cast loose from the system and “go it alone.” The first daring move in the undertaking had succeeded1—a move that, in itself, bespoke the desperate character of its perpetrators. for it was no accident that sent the head scow plunging down through the Chute in the darkness.

But, in the breast of Vermilion, as he sat alone beside his camp-fire, was no sense of elation—and in the heart of him was a great fear. For, despite the utmost secrecy among the conspirators, the hRlf-breed knew that even at that moment, somewhere to the northward, Pierre Lapierre had learned of his plot

Eight days had elapsed since the mysterious disappearance of Chenoine—and Chenoine. it was whispered, was halfbrother to Pierre Lapierre. Therefore,

Vermilion crouched beside his camp-fire ánd cursed the slowness of the coming of the day. For well he knew that when a man double-crossed Pierre La pierre, he must get away with it—or die. Many had died. The black eyes flashed dangerously. He — Vermilion — wrould get away with it! He glanced toward the sleeping forms of the five scowmen and shuddered. He, Vermilion, knew thát he was afraid to sleep!

*fyr an instant he thought of abandonné , the plan. It was not too late. The otter scows could be run through in the morning, jttnd, if Pierre Lapierre came, would it hot be plain that Chenoine had lied?; Bu!, even with the thought, the avaricious gleam leaped into the man’s eyes, ; and with a muttered imprecation, he greeted the first faint light of dawn.

HLOE ELLISTON opened her eyes ^ sleepily in answer to a gruff call from without her tent A few minutes later she stepped out into the gray of the morning, followed by her two companions. Vermilion was waiting for her as he watched the scowmen breaking open the freight pieces and making up hurried trail-packs of provisions.

“Tam to’mush!” said the man tersely. “But where are the other scows?” asked Chloe, glancing toward the bank where the scow was being rapidly unloaded. “And what is the meaning of this?” Hcúe, you !" she cried, as a halfbreed ripped the burlap from a bale. “Stop that! That’s mine!” By her side, Vermilion laughed, a short, harsh laugh, and the gifl turned.

“De scow, she not com'. We leave de ri vaine. We tak’ Hong be grub, eh?” The man’s tone was truculent—insulting.

Chloe flushed with anger. “I am not going to leave the river! Why should I leave the river?”

Again the man laughed; there was no need for concealment now. “Me, Vermilion, I’m know de good plac’ back in de hills. We go for stay dere till youpay de money.”

“Money? What money?”

“Un hondre t’ousan’ dojlaire — cash! You pay. Vermilion—he tak’ you back. You no pay-” The man shrugged sig-

nificantly.

The girl stared, dumbfounded. “What do you mean? One hundred thousand dollars! Are you crazy?”

The man stepped close, his eyes gleçm-ing wickedly. “You reech. You pay un hondre t'ousan’ dollaire, or, ba gar, you nevaire com’ out de bush!”

Chloe laughed in derision. “Oh ! I am kidnapped! Is that it? How romantic!” The man scowled. “Don’t be a fool, Vermilion! Do you suppose I came into this country with a hundred thousand dollars in cash—or even a tenth of that amount?”

The man shrugged indifferently. “Non, but you mak’ de write on de pa paire, an’ Menard, h«» ta’ heem to de bank—Edmonton' — Preence Albert He git de money. By-m-by, two mont* me’be, he com’ back. Den, Vermilion, he%T you close to de H. B. post—bien ! You kin go hom’, an’ Vermilion, he go ver’ far away.”

r^HLOE suddenly realized that the man J was in earnest. Her eyes flashed over * the swarthy, villainous faces of the scowmen. and tie seriousness of the situation dawned upon her. She'knew. now. that the separating of the scows was the first

move in a deep-laid scheme. Her brain worked rapidly. It was evident that the men on the other scows were not paçty to the plot, or Vermilion would not have risked running the Chute in the darkness. She glanced up the river. Would the other scows come on? It was her one hope. She must play for time. Harriet Penny sobbed aloud, and Big Lena glowered. Again Chloe laughed into the scowling face of the'half-breed. “What about the Mounted? When they find I am missing there will be an investigation.”

. For answer, Vermilion pointed toward the river-bank, where the men were working with long pole9 in the overturning of the scow. “We shove heem out in de rivaire. W’en dey fin’, dey t’ink she mak’ for teep ovaire in de Chute. Voilà! Dey say; ‘Een de dark she run on de rock’— POM//” he signified eloquently the instantaneous snuffing out of lives. Even as he spoke the scow overturned with a splash, and the scowmen pushed it out into the river, where it floated bottom upward, turning lazily in the grips of an eddy. The girl’s heart sank as her eyes rested upon the overturned scow. Vermilion had plotted cunningly. He drew closer now —leering horribly.

“You mak’ write on de papaire—non?”

A swift anger surged in the girl’s heart

“No!” she cried.. “I will not write! I have no such amount in any bank this side of San Francisco! But if I had a million dollars, you would not get a cent! You can’t bluff me!”

\T ERMILION sprang toward her with * a snarl ; but before he could lay hands upon her Big Lena, with a roar of rage, leaped past the girl and drove a heavy stick of firewood straight at the halfbreed’s head. The man ducked swiftly, and the billet thudded against his shoulder. staggering him. Instantly two of the scowmen threw themselves upon the woman and Itore her to the ground, where she fought, tooth and nail, while they pinioned her arms. Vermilion, his face livid, seized Chloe roughly. The girl shrank in terror from the grip of the thick, grimy fingers and the glare of the envenomed eyes that blazed from the distorted. brutish features.

“Stand back!”

The command came sharp and quick in a low. hard voice — the voice of authority. Vermilion whirled with a snarl. Uttering a loud cry of fear, one of the scowmen dashed into the bush, closely followed by two of his companions. Two men advanced swiftly and noiselessly from the cover of the scrub. Like a flash, the half-breed jerked a revolver from his belt and fired. Chenoine fell dead. Before Vermilion could fire again the other man, with the slightest perceptible movement of his right hand, fired from the hip. The revolver dropped from the half-breed’s hand. He swayed unsteadily for a few seconds, his eyes widening into a foolish, surprised stare. He half-turned and opened his lips to speak. Pink foam reddened the corners of his mouth and spattered in tiny drops upon his chin. He gasped for breath with a spasmodic heave of the shoulders. A wheezing, gurgling sound issued from his throat, and a torrent of blood burst from his lips and splashed upon the ground. With eyes wildly rolling, he clutched Continued on page 92.

frantically at the breast of his cotton shirt and pitched-heavily into the smoldering ashes of the fire at the feet of the stranger.

But few seconds had elapsed since Chloe felt the hand of Vermilion close about her wrist—tense, frenzied seconds, to the mind of the girl, who gazed in bewilderment upon the bodies of the two dead men which lay almost touching each other.

'T'HE MAN who had ordered Vermilion -*■ to release her, and who had fired the shot that had killed him, stood calmly watching four lithe-bodied canoemen securely bind the arm9 of the two scowmen who had attacked Big Lena.

So sudden had been the transition from terror to relief in her heart that the scene held nothing of repugnance to the girl, who wa9 conscious only of a feeling of peace and security. She even smiled into the eyes of her deliverer, who had turned his attention from his canoemen and stood before her, his soft-brimmed Stetson in his hand.

“Oh! I—I thank you!” exclaimed the girl, at a loss for words.

The man bowed low. “It is nothing. I am glad to have been of some slight service.” Something in the tone of the well-modulated voice, the correct speech, the courtly manner, thrilled the girl strangely. It was all so unexpected—so out of place, here in the wild. She felt the warm color mount to her face.

“Who are you?” she asked abruptly.

“I am Pierre Lapierre,” answered the man in the same low voice.

In spite of herself, Chloe startled slightly, and instantly she knew that the man ’had noticed. He smiled, with just an appreciable tightening ht the corners of the mouth, and his eyes narrowed almost imperceptibly. He continued:

“And now. Miss Elliston, if you will retire to your tent for a few moments, I will have these removed.” He indicated the bodies. “You see, I know your name. The good Chenoine told me. He it was who . warped me of Vermilion’s plot in time for me to frustrate il Of course. I should have rescued you later. I hold myself responsible for the safe conduct of all who travel in my scows. But it would have been at the expense of much time and labor, and; very possibly, of human life as well—pn incident regrettable always, but not always avoidable.”

Chloe nodded, and, with her thoughts in a whirl of confusion, turned and entered her tent, where Harriet Penny lay sobbing hysterically, with her blankets drawn over her head.

CHAPTER III.

PIERRE LAPIERRE.

A HALF-HOUR later, when Chloe again ventured from the tent all evidence of the struggle had disappeared. The bodies of the two dead men had been removed, and the canoemen were busily engaged in gathering together and restoring the, freight pieces that had been ripped open by the scowmen.

Lapierre advanced to meet her, his carefully creased Stetson in h¡9 hand.

“I bave sent word for the other scows to come on at once, and in the mean time, while my men attend to the freight, may we not talk?”

Chloe assented, and the two seated

themselves upon a log. It was then, for the first time, that the girl noticed that one side of Lapierre’s face—the side hthad managed to keep turned from herwas battered and disfigured by some recent misadventure. Noticed, too. the really fine features of him — the dark, deep-set eyes that-seemed to smolder in their depths, the thin, aquiline nose, the shapely lips, the clean-cut lines of cheek and jaw.

“You have been hurt!” sta^ried. “You have met with an accidenjj^F

-The man smiled, a smile in wflp cynicism blended with amusement

“Hardly an accident I think, Miss Elliston, and, in any event of small consequence.” He shrugged a dismissal of the subject .and his voice assumed a light gaiety of tone. ,

“May we not become better acquainted, we two, who meet in this far place, where travelers are few and worth the knowing?” • There was no cynicism in his smile now, and without waiting for a reply he continued: “My name you already know. I have only to add that I am an adventurer in the wilds—explorer of hinterlands, free-trader, freighter, sometime prospector — causal cavalier.” He arose, swept the Stetson from his head, and bowed with mock solemnity.

“And now, fair lady, may I presume to inquire your mission in thi9 land of magnificent wastes?” Chloe’s laughter was genuine as it was spontaneous.

Lapierre’s light banter acted as a tonic to the girl’s nerves, harassed as they were by a month’s travel through the fly-bitten wilderness. More—he interested her. He was different As different from the halfbreeds and Indian canoemen with whom she had been thrpwn as his speech was from the throaty guttural by means of which they exchanged their primitive ideas.

“Pray pause. Sir Cavalier,” she smiled, falling easily into the gaiety of the man’s mood. “I have ventured into your wilderness upon a most unpoetic mission. MereljTfhe establishment of a school for the education and betterment of the Indians of the north.”

A MOMENT of silence followed the girl’s words — a moment in which she was sure a hard, hostile gleam leaped into the man’s eyes. A trick of fancy, doubtless, she thought, for the next instant it had vanished. When next he spoke, his air of light raillery was gone, but his lips smiled—a smile that seemed to the girl a trifle forced.

“Ah, yes, Miss Elliston. May I ask at whose instigation this school is to be established—and where?” He was not looking at her now, his eyes sought the river, and his face showed only ». rather finely, moulded chin, smooth-sha\ er—and tl*e lips, with their smile that almost sneered.

Instantly Chloe felt that a barrier hdiT sprung up between herself and this mysterious stranger who had appeared so oppor^unely out of the northern bush. Whc was he? What was the meaning of the old factor’s whispered warning? And why should the mention of her school awake disapproval, or arouse his antagonism? Vaguely she realized that the sudden change in this man’s attitude hurt. The displeasure, and opposition, and ridicule of her own people, and the surly indifference of the rivermen, she had over-

ridden or ignored. This man she could not i ignore. Like herself, he was an adventurer of untrodden ways. ,A man of fancy, of education and light-hearted raillery, and yet, ja strong man, withal—a man of moment evidently.

She reniembered the sharp, quick words of authority—the words that caused the villainousjVermilion to whirl with a snarl of fear. Remembered also, the swift sure shot that had ended Vermilion’s career, his absolute mastery of the situation, Ris lack of excitement or braggadocio, and the expressed regret over the necessity for killing the man. Remembered the abject terrcjr in the eyes of those who fled into the bush at his apearance, and the servility éf the canoemeiu

A S sriE glanced into the half-turned ■ * face! of the man, Chloe saw that the sneering Emile had faded from the thin lips a» hé awaited her answer.

“At mi own instigation.’’ There was an under] ying hardness of defiance in her words, and'the firm, sun-reddened chin unconsciously thrust forward beneath the encircling mosquito net She paused, but the man, Expressionless, continued to gaze out over {he surface of the river.

“I do pot know exactly where," she continued! “but it will be somewhere. Wherever it will do the most good. Upon the bank of seme river, or lake, perhaps, where the people of the wilderness may come and ‘receive that which is theirs of right--t

“Theirs! of right?” The man looked into her face, and Chloe saw that the thin lips agmin: smiled—this time with a quizzical smile that hinted at tolerant amusement. The smile stung.

“Yes, theirs of right!” she flashed. “The education that was freely offered to me, arjd to you—and of which we availed ourselves.”

For a long time the mqn continued to gate in silence, and when at length he spoke, it wps to ask an entirely irrelevant question. !

“Miss Elliaton, you have heard my name before?"

The question came as a surprise, and for a moment Chloe hesitated. Then frankly, and looking straight into his eyes she answered :

“Yes, I have.”

The mart nodded, “I knew you had.” He turned ihiq injured eye quickly from the dazzlej of the sunlight that flashed from the surface of the river, and Chloe saw that itj was discolored and bloodshot. She arose, ¡and stepping to his side laid her hand upon his arm.

“You arp hurt,” she said earnestly, “your eye gives you pain.”

Beneath jher fingers the girl felt the play of strong muscles as the arm pressed against he{ hand. Their, eyes met, and her heart quickened with a strange new thrillv Hastily she averted her glance and then—I— The man’s arm suddenly was withdrawn and Chloe saw' that his fist had clinched.

\AJ IT!! 4 rush the words brought back to hi$ the scene in the trading-room of the po~it1 at Fort Rae. The low, log-

room, piled ¡high with the goods of barter. The great qannbn-stove. The two groups of dark-vispged Indians—his oyn Chippewayans, End MacNair’s Yellow Knives, who stared in stolid indifference. The trembling ebccited clerk. The grim chief trader, and the stern-faced factor who

watched with approving eyes while two men fought in the wide cleared space between the rough counter and the high-piled hales of woolens and strouds.

Chloe Klliston drew hack aghast. The thin lips of the man had twisted into a snarl of tage, and a living, bestial hate seemed fairly to blaze from the smoldering eyes, as Lapierre’s thoughts dwelt uoon the closing moments of that fight, when he felt himself giving ground before the hammering, smashing blows of Bob MacXair’s big fists. Felt the tightening of the huge arms like steel bands about his body when he rushed to a clinch— bands that crushed and burned so that each sobbing breath seemed a blade, white-hot from the furnace, stabbing and searing into his tortured lungs.

Felt the vital force and strength of him ebb and weaken so that the lean, slender fingers that groped for MacNair’s throat closed feebly and dropped limp to dangle impotent!)* from his nerveless arma Felt the sudden release of the torturing bands of steel, the life-giving inrush of cool air, and dull pain as his dizzy body rocked to the shock of a crashing blow upon the jaw, the blazing flash of the blow that closed his eye, and thenmore soul-searing, and of deeper hurt than the blows that battered and marred—the feel of thick fingers twisted into the collar of his soft shirt.

Felt himself shaken with an incredible ferocity that whipped his ankles against floor and counter edge. And, the crowning indignity of all—felt himself dragged like a flayed carcase the full length of the room, out of the .door, and jerked to his feet upon the verge of the steep descent to the lake. Felt the propelling impact o? the heavy boot that sent him crashing headlong into the underbrush through which'he rolled and tumbled like a mealbag, to bring up suddenly in the cold water.

TP HE WHOLE scene passed through his brain as dreams flash — almost within the batting of an eye. Half-consciously, he saw the girl’s sudden start, and the look of alarm upon her face as she drew back from the glare of his hateflashing eyes and the bestial snarl of his lips. With an effort he composed himself:

“Pardon, Miss Elliston, I have frightened you with an uncouth show of savagery. It is a rough, hard country—this land of the wolf and the caribou. Priipal instincts and brutish passions here are unrestrained—a fact responsible for my present battered appearance. For, as I said, it was no accident that marred me thus, unless, perchance, the prowling of the brute cross my path may be attributed to accident—rather, I believe it was timed.”

“The brute! Who, or what is the brute? And why should he harm you?”

“MacNair is his name — Bob MacNair.”. 'There was a certain tense hardness in the man’s tone, and Chloe was conscious that the smoldering eyes were regarding her searchingly.

“MacNair,” said the girl, “why, that is the name on those bales!”

“What hales?”

“The hales in the scow—they are on the river-hank now.”

“My scows carrying MacNair’s freight!” cried the man, and motioning her to accompany him he walked rapidly to the hank where lay the four or five pieces, upon which Chloe had read the

r ame. Lajiierire dropped to his knees and regarded the pieces intently, suddenly he leaped to hjsfieet with a laugh and called in the Indian tongue to one of his canoemen. The pian brought him an axe, and raising it high, Lapierre brought it crashing ujgt;on Tthe innocent-looking freight piece. Thére was a sound of smashing staves, a gurgle of liquid, and the strong odor of whisky assailed their nostrils.

The pietje was a keg, cunningly dis-

guised as to shajie, and covered with burlap. One by one the man attacked the other pieces marked with the name of MacNair, and as each cask was smashed, the whisky gurgled and splashed anil seeped into the ground. Chloe watched breathlessly until Lapierre finished, and with a srmile of grim satisfaction, tossed the axe upon the ground.

“There is one consignment of firewater that will never be delivered,” he said.

To be continued.