The Gun Brand
A Romance of the Canadian Northland
James B. Hendry
Author of “Marguard the Silent.” “The Promise." etc.
Illustrated by Harrv Edwards
WHAT does it mean?" asked Chloe, and Lapierre noticed that her eyes were alight with interest. “Who is this MacNair. and—"
For answer Lapierre took her gently by the arm and led her back to the log.
“MacNair,” he began, “is the most atrocious tyrant that ever breathed. Like myself, he is a free-trader—that is, he is not in the employ of the Hudson Bay Company. He is rich, and owns a permanent post of his own, to the northward. on Snare Lake, while I %’end my wares under God’s own canopy, here and there upon the banks of lakes and rivers.”
“But why should he attack you?"
The man shrugged. “Why? Because he hates me. He hates any one who deals fairly with the Indiaas. His own Indians, a band of the YellóW Knives, together with an offseetrring; of Tantsawhoots, Beavers, Dog-ribs, ytrongbows, Hares. Brushwoods. Sheep arid Huskies, he holds in abject peonage. Year in and year out he forces them to dig in his mines for their bare existence. Over on the Athabasca they call him Brute MacNair. and among the Loucheaux and Huskies he is known as The-Bad-Man^of-the-North.
“He pays no cash for labor, nor for N fur, and he sees to it that his Indians are always hopelessly in his debt. He trades them whisky. They are hú. His to work, and to cheat, and to debauch, and to vent his rage upon—for his passions are the wild, unbridled passions of the fighting wolf. He kills! He maims! Or he allows to live! The Indians are his, body and soul. Their wives and their children are his. He owns them. He is the law!
“He warred me out of the north. I ignored that warning. The land is broad and free. There is room for all. therefore. I brought in my goods and traded. And. because I refused to grind the poor savages under the iron heel of oppression, because I offer -a meager trifle over and above what,is necessary for their bare existence. the brute hates me. He came upon me at Fort Rae, and there, in the presence of the factor, his clerk, and his chief trader, he fell upon me and beat me so that for three days I lay unable t< travel.”
“But the others!” interrupted the girl, “the factor and his men! Why did they allow it?”
Again the gleam of hate flashed in the man's eyes. “They allowed it because they are in ¡cague with him. They fear him. They fear his hold upon the Indians. So long as he maintains a permanent post a hundred and seventy-five miles to the northward—more than two hundred and fifty by the water trail— they know that he will not seriously injure the trade at Fort Rae. With me it is different. I trade here, and there, wherever the children of the wilderres-
\ —I hior f.¡listón inheritin'/ *
The lu H of adentur* and ambitious tu emulate her 'am .11« oral ml ' a t h rr. Tu/rr Ellistön. irho hail played a bit part -w the euili;ino ot Malaysia. sets out for the Far Vorth to • »tablish a schwel ami bruto the lujht ot • ducatton to the In ■Imn* a nil hrred* u' the l thahasca roun tro. 1,. compameif ho a companion Harrt't 1‘cnnn. anil a Swedish maul. H a Lena. she arrurs at ithahasca lami na aipl ennaae* transportat ion un one of the s. ou* o' Forre lapirrrt, .in in./» pendent TRAD'T. V''rm>/ion the ho** si oirman, decid'* to kidnap the parta ami hold them ransom : hut Lapierre. netfinij wind *./ hi* plan*, interrupt» the ni at a i ital moment, kills Vermilion, and re»cw t the Predisposed in hi* 'avor. she accepts him ijs hCT mentor in /Ar wildem'**, hehe in«; all he tell» her. especially about one I!-.but UcVuir. an other /ree t ruder whom lapierre saddH* with a most rillainou* reputation ana the epltbrt o' Frute
are to be found. Therefore. I am hated by the men of the Hudson Bay Company who would have been only too glad had MacNair killed me."
CHLOE, who had listened eagerly to every word, leaped up to her feet and looked at Lapierre with shir.ir.g eyes. “Oh! I think it is splendid! You are brave, and you stand for the right of things, for the welfare of the Indians! I see now why the factor warred me against you! He wanted to discredit you.”
Lapierre smiled. “The fartor? What factor? And what did he tell you?"
“The factor at the Landing. “Beware of Pierre Lapierre.’ he said; and when I asked-him who Pierre Lapierre was. ar.d why I should beware of him. he sh.rueged his shoulders and would say nothing."
Lapierre nodded. “Ah. yes—the company men—the factors ar.d traders have no *1 ove for the free-trader. We carnot blame them. It is tradition. For nearly two and ore-half centuries the company has stood for power and authority in the outland-—ard has reap»'d the prbfits of the wild places. Let us be generous. It is an old and respectable institution. It deals fairly enough with the Indians—by its own measure of fairness, it is true but fairly enough. With the company 1 have no ouarrel.
“But wi.th MacNair—" he stopped an ruptly ar.d shrugged. The gleam of hate that flashed in his eyes always at the mention of the name faded. "But whv -peak of him — surely there are more pleasant subjects.” he smiled, "for instance your school — it interests me greatly.”
“Interests you ! I thought it displeased you! Surely a look of annoyance or suspicion leaped from your eyes when I mer tior.ed my mission.”
The man laughed lightly. “Yes? Ar.d can you blame me—when I thought you were in league with Brute MacNair0 For. since his post was established, no independent save myself has dared to en-
eroach upen even the larders of his em pire.”
Chloe Ellistön. flushed deeply. “And YOU thought I would league myself with
a man like that?”
“Only for a moment. Stop and think All my life I have lived in the north, and, except for a few scattered priests and missionaries, r.o one has pushed bevond the outposts for any purpose other than for gain. And the trader’9 gain is the Indian’s loss—for. “few deal fairly. Therefore, when I came upon your big outfit upon the very threshold of MacNair's domain. I thought,'of course, this was some r.ew machination of the brute Even r.ow I do rot understand—the expense, ar.d all. The Indians cannot afford to pay for education.”
IT WAS the girl’s turn to laugh. A
* rippling, light-hearted laugh — the laughter of courage ar.d youth. The barrier that had suddenly loomed between herself ard this mar. of the north vanished in a breath. He had shown her her work Had pointed out to her a foeman worthy of ht-r steel. She darted a swift glance towani Lapierre who sat staring into the fire. • Would r.ot this man prove an invaluable ally in her war of deliverance’
"Do r.ot trouble yourself about the experse," she smiled. “I have money — ‘ood'.t s of it.’ as we used to say in school— millions, if I reed them! And I’m go
• r.g to tight this Brute MacNair until I drive him out of the north! And you? Will you help nie to rid the country of this scourge and free the people from hityrar.r.y? Together we could work won der.-. l or your h« ant iwith the Indian:-. mine is."
Again the girl glar eed into the man's face ar.d saw that the deep-set black eyes îairiy glittered with enthusiasm ard eageir.e-.-an eagerr.es ar.d enthusiasm that a kter.er observer than Chloe Ellist« n might have noticed, sprang into being suspicion-'.v coincident with her mention of the millau s. I.apierr-e did r.ot answer at or.ee. but deftly rolled a cigarette. The erd or the cigarette glowed brightly as be filled his lur.gs arid blew a plume of grav -miike into the air.
"Allow me a little time to think. For fhi-« is a move of importance, and to be undertaken r.ot lightly. It is no easy ask you have set yourself. It is possible vou will r.ot win—highly probable, in fact, for-”
'Hut I shall win! 1 am right—and upon m> winning depends the future of a people! Think ¡t over until to-morrow, if vou will, but—” She paused abruptly, and her soft, hazel eyes peered searching! v into the depths of the restless black ones. “Your sympathies are with the Indians, aren’t they?"
Lapierre tossed the half-smoked cigarette onto the ground. “Can you doubt it?" The man’s eyes were not gleaming now, and into their depths had crept a look of ineffable sadness.
“They are my people,“ he said softly. "Miss Elliston, / anean Indian!"
CHLOE SECT RES AN ALLY.
A SHOUT from the bank heralded the appearance of the first 9COW, which was closely followed by the two others. When they had landed. Lapierre issued a few terse orders, and the scowmen leaped to his bidding. The overturned ¡»cow was righted and loaded, and the remains of the demolished whisky-kegs burred. Lapierre himself assisted the three women to their places, and as.Chloe seated himself near the bow, he smiled into her eyes.
"Vermilion was a good riverman, but so am I. Do you think you can trust your new pilot?"
Somehow, the words seemed to* implymore than the mere steering of a scow. Chloe flushed slightly, hesitated a moment, and then returned the man's smile frankly.
“Yes,” she answered gravely. "1 know I can."
Their eyes met in a long look. Lapierre gave the command to shove off, and when the scows were well in the grip of the current, he turned again to the girl at his side. Their hands touched, and again Chloe was conscious of the strange, new thrill that .quickened her heartbeats. She did not withdraw her hand, and the fingers of Lapierre closed abo'ut her palm. He leaned toward her. “Only quai ter Indian,” he said .softly. "My grandmother was the daughter of a great chief."
The girl felt the hot blood mount to her face and gently withdrew her hand. Somehow, she could not tell why. the words seemed good to hear. She smiled, and Lapierre. who was watching her intently, smiled in return.
"We are approaching quick water; we will cover many miles to-day, and to-night beside the camp-fire we will talk further.”
Chloe’s eyes searched the scows. "Where are the two men who attacked Lena? Your men captured them.”
Lap erre’s smile hardened. “Those who deserted me for Vermilion?
Oh, I — dismissed them from my service."
HOUR after hour, as the scows rushed northward. Chloe watched the shores glide past; watched the .swirling, boiling water of the river; watched th< «»olomn-faced scowmen. and the silent, vigilant pilot; but most of all she watched the pilot, whose quick eye picked out the devious channel, and whose clear, alert brain directed, with a movement of the lancelike pole, the labors of the men at the sweeps.
She contrasted his manner — quiet, graceful, sure—with that of Vermilion, the very swing of whose pole proclaimed the vaunting, arrogant*braggart. And she noted the difference in the attitude of the scowmen toward these two leaders. Their obedience to Vermilion’s orders had been a surly, protesting obedience; while their obedience to Lapierre’s slightest motion was the quiet, alert obedience that proclaimed the master of men, as his own silent vigilance proclaimed him master of the roaring w-aters.
When the sun finally dipped behind the barren, scrub-topped hills, the scows were beached at the mouth of a deep ravine, from whose depths sounded the trickle of a tiny cascade. Lapierre assisted the women from the scow, issued a few short commands, and, as if bymagic, a dozen fires flashed upon the beach, and in an incredibly short space of time Chloe found herself seated upon her blankets inside her mo’sQuito-barred tent.
Supper over. Harriet Penny immediately sought her bed. and Lapierre led Chloe to a brightly Turning camp-fire.
Near by other fires burned, surrounded by dark, savage figures that showed indistinct in the half-light. The girl’s eyes rested for a moment upon La?fierre, whose thin, handsome features, richly tanned by the long exposure to the northern winds and sun, presented a pleasing contrast to the swart, flat faces of the nvermen, who sat in groups about their fires, or lay wrapped in their blankets upon the gravel.
“You have decided?" abruptly asked Chloe, in a voice of ill-concealed eagerness. Lapierre’s face became at once grave, and he gazed somberly into the fire.
"I have pondered deepy. Through the long hours, while the scow rushed into the north, there came to me a vision of my people. In the rocks, in the bush, and thy ragged hills I saw it; and in the swirl of the mighty river. And the vision was good !"
The voice of the man’s Indi a n grandmother spoke from his lips, and the soul of her glowed ir. his deep-set eyes.
“Even now Sahhalre Tyre speaks from the stars of the night sky. My people shall learn the wisdom of the white man. The power of the oppressor shall be broken, and the children of the far places shall come into their own.”
The man’s voice had dropped into the rythmic
intonation of the Indian orator, and his eyes were fixed upon the flames that curled, lean and red, among the dry stick ol^the camp-fire. Chloe gazed in fascination into the wrapt face of this man of many moods. The soul of the girl caught the enthusiasm of his words, and she, too, saw the vision.—saw it as she had seen it upon the wave-lapped rock of the river-bank.
“You will help me?" she cried; “will join forces with me in a war against the ruthless exploitation of a pqpple who should be as free and unfettered as the air they breathe?”
Lapierre bent his gaze upon her face slowly, like one emerging from a trance.
“Yes,” he answered deliberately: “it is of that I wish to speak. Let us consider the obstacles in our path—the matter of official interference. The government will soon learn of your activities, and the government is prone to look askance at any tampering with the Indians by an institution not connected with the church or the state.”
“I have my permit,” Chloe answered, “and many commendatory letters from Ottawa. The men who rule were inclined to think I would accomplish nothing; but they were willing to let me try.”
“That, then, disposes of our most aerious difficulty. Will you tell me now where you intend to locate?”
"There is too . much traffic upon the river.” answered the girl. “The scow brigades pass and repass; and, at least until my little colony is fairly established, it must be located in some place uncontaminated by the presence of so rough, lawless, and drunken an element. As I told you before, I do not know where my ideal site is to be found. I had intended to talk the matter over with the factor at Fort Rae.”
“What!” That devil of a Haldane? The man who is hand-in-glove with Brute MacNair!”
“You forget.” smiled the girl, “that until this day I never even heard of Brute
The man smiled. “\Tery true. I had forgotten. But it is fortunate indeed that chance threw us together. I tremble to think what would have been your fate*, should you have acted upon the advice of Colin Haldane.”
"But surely you know the country* You will advise me.”
“Yes. 1 will advise you. I am with you in this venture; with you to the last gasp; with you heart and soul, until that devil MacNair is dead or driven out of the north, and his Indians scattered to the four winds.”
“Scattered! Why scattered? Why not held together for their education and betterment? And you say you will be with me until MacNair is either dead or driven out of the north. What then—will you desert me then? This MacNair is only an obstacle in our path—an Obstacle to be brushed aside that the reafwork may begin. Yet you spoke as though he were the main issue.”
Lapierre interrupted her, speaking rapidly: “Yes, of course. Bear with me.
I pray you. I spoke hastily, and without thinking. My feelings for the moment carried me away. As you see, the marks of the Brute’s hands are still too fresh upon me for me to regard him impersonally—an obstacle, as it were. To me he is a brute! A fiend! A demon! I hate him!”
T API ERRE shook a clenched fist toward the north, and the words fairly snarled between his lips. With an effort he controlled himself. "1 have in mind the very place for your school, a spot accessible from all directions—the mouth of the Yellow Knife River, upon the northarm of Great Slave Lake. There you will be unmolested by the debauching rivermen. and yet within easy reach of any who may desire to take advantage of your school. The very place above all places! In the whole north you could r.ot have chosen a better! And I shall accompany you, and direct the building of your bouses and stockade.
“MacNair will learn shortly of your fort—everything is a 'fort’ up here—and he will descend upon you like a ramping .lion. When he finds you are a woman, he will do you no violence. He will scent at once a rival trading-post ar.d will hurt your cause in every way possible; will use every means to discredit you among the Indians, and to discourage you. But even he will do a woman r.o physical harm.
“And right here let me caution you— do not temporize with him. He stands in the north for oppression; gain at any cost; for debauchery — everything that you do not. Between you and Brute MacNair there can be no truce. He is powerful. Do not for a moment underrate either his strength or'his sagacity. He is a man of wealth, ar.d his hold upon the Indians is absolute. I cannot remain with you. but through my Indians I shall keep in touch with you. work with you; and together we will accomplish the downfall of this brute of the north."
For a long tim« the two figures sat by the fire""while the camp slept, and talked of many things. And when, well toward midnight, Chloe Elliston retired to her tent, she felt that she had known this man always. For it is the way of life that stress of events, and not duration of time, marks the measure of acquaintance and intimacy. Pierre Lapierre. Chloe Elliston had known but one day. and yet she believed that among all her acquaintances this man she knew best.
By the fire Lapierre’s eyes followed the girl until she disappeared within the tent, and as he looked a huge figure arose from the deep shadows of the scrub, and with a hand grasping the flap of the tent, turned and stared, silent a’r.d grim and forbidding, straight into Lapierre’s eyes. The manTturned away with a frown. The figure was Big Lena.
PLANS AND SPECIFICATIONS.
A T THE mouth of the Slave River the outfit was transferred to twelve large freight canoes, each carrying three tons, and manned by six lear.-shouldered canoemen. in charge of one Louis Lefroy, Lapierre's boss canoeman. Straight across the vast expanse of Great Slave Lake they headed, and skirting the shore of the North Arm. upon the evening of the second day. entered the Yellow Knife River.
The site selected by Piefre Lapierre for Chloe Elliston’s school was. in point of location, as the quarter-breed had said, an excellent one. Upon a level plateau at the top of the high bark that slants steeply to the water of the Yellow Knife River, a short distance above its mouth. Lapierre set the canoemer. to cutting the
timber and brush from a wide area. The girl had come into the north fully prepared” for a long so ourr. and in her thirty-odd tons of outfit were found all tools necessary for the clearing of lar d and the erection of buildings. Brushwood ar.d trees fell before the axes of the halfbreeds and Indians, who worked in a sort of frenzy under the lashing drive of Lapierre’s tongue; and the right skies glowed red in the flare of the flames where the brush ar.d tree-tops burned in the clearing.
Two days later a rectangular clearing three hundred by five hundred feet, wacompleterl. and early in the morning of the third" day Chloe stood beside Lapierre and looked over the cleared oblong with its piles of smoking gray ashes ar.d its groups of logs that lay ready to be roiled into place form the walls of her buildings.
Lapierre seemed ill at ea.-e. Immediatelv upon the arrival of the outfit he had dispatched two of his own Indians northward to soy upon the movements of MacNair. for the man made no secret of his desire to lie well upon his way before the trader should learn of the building of the fort or. the river.
It had been Chloe’s idea to lay out her "village." as she called it, upon a rather elaborate scheme, the plans for which had been drawn by an architect whose clienttastes ran to million-dollar "summer cottages" at Seashore-by-the-Sea.
FIRST, there was to be the school it self, an ornate building of crossed rafters and overhanging eaves.. Then thi dormitories, two long, parallel buildings with halls, individual rooms, and baths— or.e for the women and one for men—the two to be connected by a common dininghall in such a manner as to form threo sides of a hollow square. Connected to the riir.ir.g-hail was to be a commodious kitchen, and back of that a fully equipped carner.ter-shop and a laundry.
There were also to be a trading-post, where the Indians could purchase supplies at cost; a six-room cottage for the accum, modation of Big Lena. Miss Penny, ar.d Chloe; and numerous three-room cabins for the housing of whole families of Inri.ans, which the girl fond y pictured" as flocking in from the wilderness to have the errors of their heathenish religion pointed out to them upon a hrand-r.ew blackboard. ar.d the discomforts of their nomadic lives assuaged by an introduction to collapsible bath-tubs and the multiplication table. For hers was to be a mission as well as a school. Truly the souls north of-sixty ^ere de>tined to owe her much, for they borrow cheerfully, and repay—never.
So much for Chloe Elliston’.-' plan. Lapierre. however, had his owr. eminently more practical, if less Utopian, ideas concerning the erection of a trading-post ; for in the quarter-breed’s mind the planting of an independent tradir.g-po-t upon the very threshold of MacNair’s wilderness empire was of far greater importance than the establishment of a school, or mission. or any other institution —especially when the post w as or e which he himself had set ai»out to control. The man’s eyes gleamed and the thin lips smiled as hi.-. glance restes] momentarily upon the figure of the girl—the unwitting, and therefore the more powerful, weapon that chance had placed in his hands in his battle against MacNair.
H:s idea of a po?t was simplicity it.-elf :
1 »r e long. trading-room with an ell for a storehouse, and a room—two at the most—in the rear for the accommodation of the three women. The whole to he erected in the centre of the clearing, and -urrounded by a fifteen-foot log stockade
Boldly he broached his plan.
"But this ioof a trading-post!" oh Voted the girl. "The store is a side issue and i*s to lie conducted merely to permit those who take the advantage of my school to obtain the necessities of life at a fair ar.d reasonable price."
"Your wordwere well chosen, Elliston. For if you to undersell • iH. B. and more especially the independents. every Indian in the north will proceed to ‘take advantage’ of you' .'chool arid of you also.”
"But they are lieing robbed!”
Lapierre smiled. "They do not know :t ; they are used to it. Let me warn you that to tamper with existing trade -chedules. except l*y one experienced ir the commerce of the north, is to invite disaster. You will lose money!*’
"But you told me that you yourself -ave the Indians, better bargains than . ither the Hudson Bay Company or MacNair,”
"I know the north! And yoiX may be assured the concession.were moré nom mal than, real.”
“Very well, then.” flashed the girl "My concessions will be more real that ’ omina!, ar.d of that i/o» may be assured If my store pays expenses, well and good!” And by the tone of the gir*l’«
\oiee, and the slight, unconscious out thrust of her chin. Pierre Lapierre knew that the time was unpropitious for a fur ther-^discussion of trade principles.
Chloe was speaking again: "But to return to the buildings—”
T APIERRE interrupted her, speaking earnestly: “My dear Miss Elliston. consider the circumstances, the limitations." He tapped lightly the roll of blueprints the girl held in her hand. "Tho>e plans were made by a man who had not the slightest knowledge of conditionathey exi>t here."
"The buildings are to be very simple."
“Undoubtedly. But simplicity is rela tive. A building that would be consider eii .-'implicit\ itself in the States, might well i** intricate beyond the possibility of construction here in the wilderness Do you realize that among our men is rot one who can read a blue-print, or has ever seen one? Do you realize that to erect buildings u accordance with these plans would require a force of skilled méchanos under the supervision of a mas ter builder? Arid do you realize* that time is a rr.o-t important factor in ou' present undertaking? Who can tell at what woment Brute MacNair may swoop down upon us like Attila of old. and strike a fatal blow to our lit tie outpost of civilization? And if he finds me here." His voice trailed into silence and his eyes 'Wept gloomily the northern reach of the river.
hloe appeared unimpressed. "I hard iv think he will resort to violence. There is the law—even here in the wilderness. Slow to act. perhaps, because of the inaccessibility of tne wild country; but once its machinery is in motion, as unbending and U-J Indomitable as justice itself. You see. I have read of vour Mounted Police.”
"The Mounted 1" I.apierre laughed. “Yes —
I see you ha\e read of them !
Had you derived your information in a more direct manner— had you lived among them—if you knew them —your childlike trust i n them would seem as absurd, perhaps, as it does to me !”
“What do you mean?” cried the girl, regarding the quarteroreed with a searching glance. “That the men of the Mounted are — that they m a y ne—influenced?”
Again Lapiorr e laughed — harshly. "Just that, Miss Elliston ! They are -crooked. They may be influ enced!”
"1 cannot believe that!”
“You will — iater.”
“You mean that MacNair nas--"
Til E M A N interrupted with a wave of his hand. “What I have told you of MacNair i> t h e truth. I shall prove this to your own satisfaction at the proper time.
Until then, I ask you to believe me. Admitting, then, that I have spoken the truth, do you suppose for an instant that these facts are not known to the Mounted? If not. then the officers are inefficient fools. If they are known, why don’t the Mounted remedy matters? Because MacNair is rich! Because he buys them, body and soul ! Because he owns them, like he owns the Indians! That’s why!
“Just stop and consider what is ahead of a dollar-a-day policeman. When his five-year term of enlistment has expired, he has his choice of enlisting for another term, or making his living some other way. At the end of the five years he has learned to hate the service with a hatred that is soul-searing. It is the hardest, strictest, most exacting, and most ill-paid service in the world; and the five yjtfirs of the man’s enlistment have practically rendered him unfit for earning a living.
“He has lived in the wild country. He
knows"the wild country. And civilization, with its rapid advance, has left him five years behind the times. Our ex-man of the Mounted is fit for only the commonest labor. ■ And, because there are almost no employers in the north, he cannot turn his knowledge of the wilds to profitable account, unless he turns smuggler, whisky-runner, or fur-poisoner. The men know this. Therefore, when an officer whose patrol takes him into the far “back blocks” is approached by a man like MacNair, with his pockets bulging with gold, what report goes down to Regina, arid on to Ottaw-a?
“Yes. Miss Elliston, in the northland there is law. But the law is a fundamental law—the primitive law of savage might. . The strong devour the weak. Only the fit survive—survive to be ruled, to be trampled, to be owned by the strongest. And the law is the measure of might! Primal instincts—pristine
passions — primordial brutishn e s s permeate the whole north —rule it.
“The wolf and ravage carcajo drag down the hunger-weakened caribou and the deer, and rip the warm, red liesh from their bones before their eyes have glazed. And. in turn, the wolf and carcajo, the unoffending beaver and musquash. the mink, the fisher, the fox. and the otter are trapped by savage man and the pelts ripped from their twitching bodies while life and sensibility r e -main. They are harder to skin when cold. And with the ther mometer at forty o r sixty below zero, th* little bodies chill almost instantly if mercifully killed — therefore, they are not killed but flayed alive and their bleeding bodies tossed upon the snow. They die quickly — then. But—they have lived through the skinning? And that is the»f north!” #
Chloe Elliston shuddered and drew away in horror. “Isis—Í9 this possible?” she faltered. ‘‘I’ °
“They do. The fur business is not a pretty business. Miss Elliston. Bu», neither is the north pretty—nor are its inhabitants. But the traffic in fur Í8 inherently the.business of the north—and its history is written in blood—the blood and the suffering of thousands of men and millions of animals. But the profits are great. Fashion has decreed that My Lady shall be swathed in fur—therefore, men go mad and die in the barrens, and the quivering red bodies of small animals bleed, and curl up. and stiffen upon the hard crust of the snow? No', the north is not gentle. Miss Elliston—”
“Don’t! Don’t !’V faltered the girl. “It is all too—too horrible—too sickeninglv brutal—too—too unbelievable!”
She covered her eye9 with her hand.
Lapierre answered, dryly. “Yes. The north is that way. It has always been so —and it always will—”
Chloe’s hand dropped from her eye Continued on page 83. and she faced him in a sudden burst of passion. Her sensitive lips quivered and her eyes narrowed to the rapierblade eyes, that were the eyes of Tiger Elliston. She tore the roll of blue-prints to bits and ground them into the mould with the heel of her boot.
The Gun Brand
Continued from page 25.
'■It will not!” Her voice cut sharply, and hard. “What dp you know of what the north will be? You know it only as it has been—as it is, perhaps. But, of its future you know nothing. I tell you the north will change! It is a hard land —cruel—elemental—raw! But it is big! And, when it awakens, its very bigness, the virile force and strength of it, will turn against its savagery, its cruelty, its brutishness; arrd above all other lands it will stand for the protection of the weak and for the right of things to live!”
The quarter-breed gazed into her face with a look of undisguised admiration. “Ah, Miss Elliston, you are beautiful, now—beautiful always—but, at this moment—radiant—divine—.” Chloe seemed not to hear him.
“And that is to be my work—to awaken the north! To bring to its people the comforts—the advantages of civilization !”
“The north is too big for you. Miss Elliston. It is too big for men. Pardon, but it is not a woman’s land.”
The girl’s eyes flashed. “Suppose we leave sex out of it, Mr. La pierre. They said of my grandfather that ‘the harder they fought hipi, the better he liked ’em,’ and that ‘he never knew when he was licked.’ Maybe that is the reason he never was licked, but lived to carry civilization into a land that was a thousand vears deeper in savagery than this land is. And to-day civilization—education— Christianity exist where seventy-five years ago the chance visitor was tortured first and eaten afterward.”
Lapierre shrugged. “It is useless to argue. I am in.sympathy with your undertaking. I admire your courage, and the high ideals of your mission. But permit me to remind you that your grandfather. whoever he was, was not a woman. Also, that here, in the north, Christianity and education have failed to civilize— the educatèd ones and the converts are worse than the others.”
' I 'HE girl’s eyes darkened and the man ^ noticed the peculiar outburst of the chin. He hastened to change the subject.
“I am glad you have abandoned those plans. They were useless. May I now proceed with the building?”
Chloe smiled. “Yes,” she answered, “by all means. But, as this is to be my undertaking, I think I shall have it my way. Build the store first, if you please—”
“And the stockade?”
“There will be no stockade.”
“No ' stockade! Are you crazy? If MacNair—”
“I will attend to MacNair, Mr. Lapierre.”
“Do you imagine MacNair will stand quietly by and allow you to build a trading-post here on the Yellow Knife? Do you think he will listen to our explanation that this is a school and that the store is merely a plaything? I tell you he will countenance neither the school nor the po>t. Education for the natives is the last thing MacNair will stand for."
"As I told you, I will attend to Mac Nair. My people will not he armed. The stockade would he silly."
Lapierre smiled; drew closer, and dropped his voice to a confidential whisper. “I can put one hundred rifles and ten thousand cartridge* in the hands of your people in ten days’ time.”
“Thank you. Mr. Lapierre. 1 don’t ne« d your guns.”
The man made a gesture of impatience “If you choose to ignore MacNair, you must. at least. l>e prepared to handle the Indians who will crowd your counter like wolves when they hear you are underselling the H. B. C. When you explain that only those who are members of your school may trade at your post, you will be swamped with enrolments. You cannot teach the whole north.
• “Those that you will be forced to turn away—what will they do? They will not understand. Instead of returning to their teepee*, their nets, and their traplines they will hang about your post, growing gaunter and hungrier with the passing of the days. And the hunger that gnaws at their bellies will arouse the latent lawlessness of their hearts and then—if MacNair has not already struck, he will strike then. For MacNair knows Indians and the workings of the Indian mind. He knows how the sullen hatred of their souls may be fanned into a mighty flame. His Indians will circulate among the hungry horde, and the banks of the Yellow Knife will be swept bare. MacNair will have struck. And with such consummate skill will his hand be disguised, that not the faintest breath of suspicion will point toward himself.”
“I shall sell to all alike, while my goods last, whether they are members of my school or not—”
“That will be even worse than—”
“It seems you always think of the worst thing that could possibly happen," smiled the girl.
“ ‘To fear the worst, oft cures the worst,’ ” quoted Lapierre.
“ ‘Don’t cross a bridge till you get to it’ is not so classic, perhaps, but it saves a lot of needless worry.”
“ ‘Foresight is better than hindsight’ is equally unclassic, and infinitely better generalship. Bridges crossed at the last moment are generally crossed from the wrong end, I have noticed.” The man leaned toward her and looked straight into her eyes. “Oh, Miss Elliston—can’t you see—I am thinking of your -welfare— of your safety, 1 have known you but a short time, as acquaintance is reckoned but already you have become more to me than—”
Chloe interrupted him with a gesture “Don’t—please—I—”
Lapierre ignored the protest, and, seizing her hand in both his own, spoke rapidly. “I will say it! I have known it from the moment of our first meetirg. I love you! And I *hall win you—and together we will—’’
“Oh. don’t—don’t—not—now—please!" The man bowed ar.d released the hand. “I can wait," he said gravely. “But please—for your own good—take my advice. I know the north. I was born in the north, and am of the north. I have sought only to help you. Why do you refuse to profit by my experience? Must you endure what I have endured to learn what I offer freely to tell you? I shudder to think of it. The knowledge gleaned by experience may be the most lasting.' but it is dearly purchased, and at a great loss—always.” The man’s voice was very earnest, and Chloe detected a note of mild reproach. She hastened to reply.
“I hare profited by your advice—have learned much from what you have told i me. I am under obligation to you. I appreciate your interest in—in my work, and am indeed grateful for what you have done to further it. But there are some things. I suppose, one mugt learn 1 by experience. 1 may be silly and headstrong. I may be wrong. But I stand ; ready to pay the price. The loss will be j mine. See!” she cried excitedly, “they are rolling up the logs for the store.” “Yes," answered the man gravely, “I bow to your wishes in the matter of your buildings. If you refuse to build a stockade we may erect a few more buildings— but as few as you can possibly manage ! with. Miss Elliston. I must hasten south| ward.”
Chloe studied for some moments. “The I store"—she checked them off upon her j fingers—“the school-house, two bunk| houses, we can leave off the bathrooms, j the river and the lake will serve until ! winter."
LAPIERRE nodded, and the girl continued. “We can do without the 1 laundry and the carpenter-shop, and the j individual cabins. The Indians can set I up their teepees in the clearing, and build the cabins and the other buildings later. But I icould like a little cottage for myself. and Miss Penny, and Lena. We could make three rooms do. Can we have three rooms?”
Lapierre bowed low. "It shall be as you say." he replied. “And now, if you v will excuse me, I shall see to it that these canaille work. LeFroy they do not fear.” He turned to go, and at that moment Chloe Elliston saw a look of terror flash into his eyes. Saw his fingers clutch and grope uncertainly at the gay scarf at his throat. Saw the muscles of his face work painfully. Saw his color fade from rich tan to sickly yellow. An inarticulate, gurgling sound escaped his lips, and his : eyes stared in horror toward a point beI yond and behind her.
She turned swiftly and gazed into the face of a man who had approached unnoticed from the direction of the river,
and stood a few paces distant with his eyes fixed upon her. As their glances met the man’s gaze continued unflinching, and the soft-brimmed Stetson remained on hi* head, Her slender fingers clenched into her palms and, unconsciously, her „chin thrust forward—for she knew intuiiivtdy that the man was “Brute" MacNair.
BRI TE MACNAIR.
C'STIMATES are formed, in a far greater measure than most of us care to admit, upon first impressions. Manifestly shallow and embryonic though we admit them to be. our first impressions crystalize. in nine cases out of ten. into our fixed or permanent opinions, And. after all. the reason for this absurdity is simple—egotism.
Our opinions, based upop first impressions—and we rarely pause to analyze first impressions—have become our opinion*, the result, as we fondly imagine, of our judgment. _ Our judgment must be right—bee ;use it is our judgment. Therefore, unconsciously or consciously, every subsequent impression is bent to bolster up and sustain that judgment. We hate to be wrong. We hate to admit, even to ourselves, that we are wrong.
Strange, isn’t it? How often we are right (permit the smile) in our estimate of people?
When Chloe Elliston turned to face MacNair among the stumps of the sunlit clearing, her opinion of the man had already been formed. He was Brute MacNair, one to be hated, despised. To be fought, conquered, and driven out of the north—for the good of the north. His influence was a malignant ulcer—a cancerous plague-spot, whose evil tentacles, reaching hidden and unseen, would slowly but surely fasten themselves upon the civilization of the north—sap its vitality—poison its blood.
T N the flash of her first glance the girl’s * eyes took in every particular and detail of him. She noted the huge franfe, broad, yet lean with the gaunt leanness of health, and endurance, and physical strength. The sinew-corded, bronzed hands that clenched slowly as his glance rested for a moment upon the face of La pierre. The weather-tanned neck that rose, columnlike, from the open shirtthroat. The well-poised head. The prominent, high-bridged nose. The lantern jaw, whose rugged outline was but halfconcealed by the roughly trimmed beard of inky blackness. And, the most dominant feature of all, the compelling magnetism of the steel-gray eyes of him— eyes, deep-set beneath heavy black brows that curved and met—eyes that stabbed, and bored, and probed, as if to penetrate to the ultimate motive. Hard eyes they were, whose directness of gaze spoke at once fearlessness and intolerance of opposition; spoke, also, of combat, rather than diplomacy; of the honest smashing of foes, rather than dissimulation.
All this the girl saw in the first moments of their meeting. She saw, too, that the eyes held a hostile gleam, and that she need expect from their owner no sympathy—no deference of sex. If war were to be between them, it would be a man’s war/ waged upon man's terms, in a man’9 cduntry. No quarter would be given—Chloe’s lips pressed tight—nor would any be asked.
The moments lengthened into an appreciable space of time and the man remained motionless, regarding her with that probing, searching stare. Lapierre he ignored after the firét swift glance. Instinctively the girl knew that the man had no intention of being deliberately or studiously rude in standing thus in her presence with head covered, and eyeing her with those steel-gray, steel-hard eyes. Nevertheless, his attitude angered her. the more because she knew he did not intend to. And in this she was right— MacNair stared because he was silently taking her measure, and his hat remained upon his head because he;knew of no reason why it should not remain upon his head.
was the first to speak, and in her voice was more than a trace of annoyance.
“Well, Mr. Mind-Reader, have you figured me out—why I am here, and—” ‘‘NQ*” The word boomed deeply from the man’s throat, smashing the question that was intended to carry the sting of sarcasm. “Except that it is for no good —though you doubtless think it is for great good.”
"Indeed!” The girl laughed a trifle sharply. "And who, then, is the judge?”
“I am.” The calm assurance of the man fanned her rising anger, and when ^he answered. heT voice was low and steady, with the tonelessness of forced control.
“And your name, you Oligarch of the Kar Outland? May I presume to ask your name?”
“Why ask? My name you already know. And, upon the word of yon scum, you have judged. By the glint o’ hate, as you looked into my eyes, I know—for one does not so welcome a stranger beyond the outposts. But, since you have asked. I will tell you; my name is MacNair—Robert MacNair. by my christening—Bob MacNair. in the speech of the country—”
“And. Brute MacNair, upon the Athabasca?"
“Yes. Brute MacNair—upon the Athabasca—and the Slave, and Mackenzie— and in the haunts of the whisky-runners, and T ool’ MacNair—in Winnipeg.”
“And among the oppressed and the down-trodden? Among those whose heritage of freedom you have torn from them? What do they call you—those whom you have forced into serfdom?” For a fleeting instant the girl caught the faintest flicker, a tiny twinkle of amusement. in the steely eyes. But, when the man answered, his eyes were steady.
“They call me friend.”
“Is their ignorance so abysmal?"
“They have scant time to learn from books—my Indians. They work.”
“But, a year from now, when they have begun to learn, what will they call you then—your Indians?”
“A year from now—two years—ten years—my Indians will call me—friend.”
/^HLOE was about to speak, but Mac^ Nair interrupted her. “I have scan' time for parley. I was starting for Mac kay Lake, but when Old Elk reported tw¿ of yon scum’s satellites hanging about, I dropped down the river. By your wordt it’s a school you will be building. If it were a post I would have to take you more seriously—”
“There will be a—” Chloe felt thr warning touch of Lapierre’s fingers at her back and ceased abruptly. MatNair con tinued, as if unmindful of the interruption.
j “Build your school, by all means. Tis a spot well chosen by yon devilV spawn, and for his own ends. By you eyes you are honest in purpose—a fool’s purpose—and a hare-brained carrying out of it. \ou are being used as a tool by Lapierre. You will not believe this—not yet. Later—perhaps, when it is too late —but, that is your affair—not mine. At the proper time I will crush Lapierre and, if you go down in the crash, you will have yourself to thank. I have warned you. ^on snake has poisoned your mind against me. In your eyes I am fore damned — and well damned — which causes me no concern, and you, no doubt, much satisfaction.
I “Build your school, but heed well my words. You’ll not tamper, one way or another, with my Indians. One hundred and seventy mile9 ‘north of here, upon Snare Lake, is my post. My Indians pass up and down the Yellow Knifet They are to pass unquestioned, unmolested, unproselyted. Confine your foolishness to the southward and I shall r.ot interfere —carry it northward, and you shall hear from me.
“Should you find yourself in danger from your enemies—or, your friendx”— he shot a.swift glance toward Lapierre. who had remained a pace behind the girl —“send for me. Good day.”
CHLOE Elliston was furious. She had listened in a sort of dumb rage as the man’s words stung, and stung again. MacNair’s uncouth manner, his blurt brutality of speech,' his scornful, even contemptuous refer nee to her work, and most of all, his utter disregard of her, struck her to the very depths. As MacNair turned to go, she stayed him with a voice trembling with fury.
“Do you imagine, for an instant. I would stoop to seek your protection? 1 would die first! You have had things your own way too long, Mr. Brute MacNair! You think yourself secure, in your smug egotism. But the end is in sight. Your petty despotism is doomed. You have hoodwinked the authorities, bribed the police, connived with the Hudson Bay Company, bullied and browbeaten the Indians, cheated them out of their birthright of land and liberty, and have forced them into a peonage that has filled your pockets with gold.”
She paused in her vehement outburst and glared defiantly at MacNair, as if to challenge a denial. - But the man remained silent, and Chloe felt her face flush as the shadow of a twinkle played for a fleeting instant in the depths of the hard eyes. She fancied, even, that the lips behind the black beard smiled—ever so slightly.
“Oh. you needn’t laugh! You think because I’m a woman you will IK* able to do as you please with me—”
“I did not laugh,” answered the man gravely. "Why should I laugh? You take yourself seriously. You believe, even, that the things you have just spoken are true. They must be true. Has not Pierre Lapierre told you they are true? And, why should the fact that you are a woman cause me to believe I could influence you? If an issue is at stake, as you believe, what has sex to do with it? I have knowri no women, except the squaws and the kloochmert of the natives.
“You said, ‘you think, because I am a woman, you will be able to do as you please with me.’ Are women, then, less honest than men? I do not believe that. In my life I have known no women, but I have read of them in books. I have not been to any school, but was taught by my father, who, I think, was a very wise man. I learned from him, and from the books, of which he left a great number. I have always believed women to be uncommonly like men—very good, or very bad, or very commonplace—becaust they were afraid to be either. But, I have not read that they are les9 honest than men.”
“Thank you? Being a woman, I suppose I should consider myself flattered. A year from this time you will know more about women—at least, about me. You will have learned that I will not be hoodwinked. I cannot be bribed. Nor can my silence, or acquiescence in your villainy, be bought. I will rot connive with you. And you cannot browbeat, nor bully nor cheat me.” “Yes?”
“Yes. And of one thing I am glad,
I shall expect no consideration at your hands because I am a woman.You will fight me as you would fight a man.”
Í “F ight you? Why should I fight you?
I have no quarrel with you. If you choose to build a school here, or even a trading post, I have no disposition—no right to gainsay you. You will soon tire of your experiment, and no harm will J>e done—the north will be unchanged. You are nothing to me. I care nothing for vour opinion of me—considering its source, I am surprised it is not even worse.”
“Impossible! And do not think that i I have not had corroboratove evidence. Ocular evidence of your brutal treatment of Mr. Lapierre—and did I not see with my own eyes' the destruction of your whisky?”
“What nonsense areyou speaking now? My whisky! Woman—never yet have I owned any whisky.”
Chloe sqeered—“and the Indians—do they hot hate you?”
“Yes, those Indians do—and well they may. Most of them have crossed my path at some time or other. And most of them will cross it again—at Lapierre’s instigation. Some of them I shall have to kill.”.
“You speak lightly of murder.”
“Yes, murder! The murder of poor, ignorant savages. It is an ugly word, isn’t it? But why dissimulate? At least, ¡we can call a spade a spade. These men are human beings. Their right to life and happiness is as good as yours or mine, and their souls are as—”
“Black as hell! Woman, from Lefroy down, you have collected about you as pretty a gang of cut-throats and outlaws as could have been found in all the north. Lapierre has seen to that. I do not envy you your school. But as long ¡as you can be turned to their profit your personal safety will be assured. They are too cunning, by far, to kill the goose that lays the golden egg.”
“What a pretty speech! Your polish —your savoir-vivre, does you credit, I am sure.”
“I do not understand what you are saying, but—”
“There are many things you do not understand now that perhaps you will later. F'or instance, in the matter of the Indians—your^Indians, I believe you call them—you have warned, or commanded, possibly, would be the better word-”
“Yes,” interrupted the man, “that is the netter word—”
“Have commanded me not to—what was it you said—molest, question, or proselyte them.”
MacNair nodded. . “I said that.”
*« A ND I say this."' flashed the girl. “I shall use every means in my power to induce your Indians to attend my school. I shall teach them that they are free. That they owe allegiance and servitude to no man. That the land they inhabit is their land. That they are their own masters. I shall offer them education, that they may be able to compete on equal terms with the white men when this land ceases to lie beyond the outposts. I shall show them that they are being robbed, and cheated, and forced into ignominious serfdom. And mark you this : if I can’t reach them upon the river, I shall go to your village, or post, or fort, or whatever you call your Snare Lake rendezvous, and I shall point out to them their wrongs. I shall appeal to their better natures—to their manhood, and womanhood. That’s what I think of your command ! I do not fear you ! I despise you!”
MacNair nodded, gravely.
"I have already learned that women are as honest as men—more so, even than most men. You are honest, and you are earnest. You believe in yourself, too. But you are more of a fool than I thought —more of a fool than I thought any one could be. Lapierre is a great fool—but he is neither honest nor earnest. He is just a fool—a wise fool, with the cunning and vices of the wolf, but with none of the wolf’s lean virtues. You are an honest fool. You are like a young moosecalf, who, because he happens to be bom into the world, thinks the world was made for him to be born into.
“Let us say that the moose-calf was born upon a great mountain—a mountain whose sides are crossed and recrossed by moose-trails—paths that wind in and out among the trees, stamped by the -hoofs of older and wiser moose. Upon these paths the moose-calf tries his wobbly legs, and one day finds himself gazing out upon a plain where grass is. He has no use for grass—does not even know what grass is for. Only he sees no paths out there. The grass covers a quagmire, but of quagmires the moose-calf knows nothing, having been bom upon a mountain.
“Being a fool, the moose-calf soon tires of the beaten paths. He ventures downward toward the plain. A wolf, skulking through the scrub at the foot of the mountain, encounters, by chance, the moose-calf. The calf is fat. But, the wolf is cunning. He dares not harm the moose-calf hard by the trails of the mountain. He becomes friendly, and the fool moose-calf tells the wolf where he is bound. The wolf offers to accompany him. and the moose-calf is glad—here is a friend-Lone who is wiser than the moose-kind, for he fears not to venture into the country of no trails.
“Between the mountain and the plain stands a tree. This tree the wolf hates. Many squirrels work about its roots, and these squirrels are fatter than the squirrels of the scrub, for the tree feeds them. But, when the wolf would pounce upon them, they seek safety in the ti'ee. The moose-calf—the poor fool moose-calf— comes to this tree and, finding no paths curving around its base, becomes enraged because the tree does not step aside and i yield the right of way. He will charge ! the tree! He does not knowv that the tree ¡ has been growing for many years, and has become deeply rooted—immovable. The wolf looks on and smiles. If the moose-calf butts the tree down, the wolf i will get tile squirrels—and the calf. If the calf does not, the wolf will get the ¡ calf.” ,
MacNair ceased speaking and turned | abruptly toward the river.
“My!” Chloe Elliston exclaimed. “Really, you are delightful, Mr. Brute MacNair. During the half-hour or more of our acquaintance you have called me, among other things, a fool, a goose, and a moose-calf. I repeat that you are delightful. and honest, shall I say? No; candid—for 1 know that you are not honest. But do tell me the rest of the story. Don't leave it like ‘The Lady and the Tiger.’ How will it end? Are you a prophet, or merelv an allegorîst?”
MACNAIR, who was again facing her. answered without a smile. “I do not know about the Lady and the Tiger, nor of what happened to either. If they were pitted against each other, my bet would bè laid on the tiger, though my sympathy mmht i** with the lady. I am not a prophet. I cannot tell you the end of the story. Maybe the fool moose-calf will butt its brains out against the trunk of the tree. That would be no fault of the tree. The tree was there first, and was minding its own business. Maybe the calf will butt and get hurt, and scamper for home. Maybe it will succeed in eluding the fangs of the wolf, ano reach the mountain in safety. In such case it will have learned something.
“Maybe it will butt and butt against the tree until it dislodges a limb from high among the branches, and the limb will fall to the ground and crush, shall we say—the waiting wolf? And, mayb«* the calf will butt, learn that the tree is immovable, swallow its hurt, and pass on. giving the tree a wide berth—pass on into tne quagmire, with the wolf licking his chops as he grinning points out the way.”
Chloe, in spite of herself, was intensely interested.
“But,” she asked, “you are quite surf the tree is immovable?”
“Suppose, however, that this particular tree is rotten—rotten to the heart. That the very roots that hold it in place artrotten? And that the moose-calf butt’til he butts down—what then?”
There was a gleam of admiration in MacNair's eyes as he answered:
“If the tree is rotten it will fall. But it will fall to the mighty push o’ the winds o’ God—and not to the puny but! of a moose-calf!” Chloe Elliston was silent. The man was speaking again. “Good day to you, madam, or miss, or whatever one respectfully calls a woman. As I told you. I have known no women I have lived always in the north. Death robbed me of my mother before I wai old enough to remember her. The north, you see, is hard and relentless, even with those who know her—and love her.”
* I* HE girl felt a sudden surge of sym * pathv for this strange, outspoken mar. of the northland. She knew that the man had spoken with no thought of arousing sympathy, óf the dead mother he hac never known. And in his voice was a note, not merely of deep regret, but of sadness.
"I am sorry,” she managed to mur mur.
“ About your mother. I mean.”
The man nodded. “Yes. She was a good woman. My father told me of her often. He loved her.
The simplicity of the man puzzled Chloe. She was at a loss to reply.
“I think—I believe—a moment ago, you asked my name."
“Oh!” The lines about the girl’s mouth tightened. “Then I’ll tell you. I am Chloe Elliston—Miss Chloe Elliston. The name means nothing to you—now. A year hence it will mean much.”
“Aye, maybe. I’ll not say it won’t. More like, though, it will be forgot in J half i;he time. The north has scant use ; for the passing whims o’ women!”
To be continued.