The Gun Brand
A Story of the Canadian North
James B. Hendryx
Xuthnr of “Marquard the Silent," “The Promise," etc.
THE MASTER MIND.
AFTER the visit of MacNair, Chloe noticed a marked diminution in the anxiety of Lapierre to resume his interrupted journey. True, he drove the Indians mercilessly from daylight till dark in the erection of the buildings, but his air of tense expectancy was gone, and he ceased to dart short, quick glances into the north, and to scan the upper reach of the river.
The Indians, too, had changed. They toiled more stolidly now with apathetic ears for Lapierre’s urging, where before they had worked in feverish haste, with their eyes upon the edges of the clearing. It was obviously patent that the canoemen shared Lapierre’s fear and hatred of MacNair.
In the late afternoon of the twelfth day after the rolling of the first log into place, Chloe accompanied Lapierre upon a tour of inspection of the completed buildings. The man had done his work well. The school-house and the barrack with the dining-room and kitchen were comfortably and solidly built; entirely sufficient for present needs and requirements. But the girl wondered at the trading post and its appendant storehouse—they were fully twice the size she would have considered necessary and constructed as to withstand a siege. Lapierre had built a fort.
"Excellent buildings; and solid as the Rock of Gibraltar, Miss Elliston,” smiled the quarter-bred, as with a wave of his hand he indicated the interior of the trading room.
“But, they are so big!” exclaimed the girl, as her glance swept the spacious fur lofts, and the ample area for the storing of supplies. She was concerned only
with the size of the buildings. But her wonder would have increased could she have seen the rows of loopholes that pierced the thick walls — loopholes crammed with moss against the cold, and with their openings concealed by cleverly fitted pieces of bark. Lapierre’s smile deepened.
“Remember, you told me you intend to sell to all alike, while your goods last. I know what that will mean. It will mean that you will find yourself called upon to furnish the supplies for the inhabitants of several thousand square miles of territory. Indians will travel far to obtain a bargain. They look only at the price—never at the quality of the goods. That fact enables us free-traders to live. We sell cheaper than the H.B. C. ; but, frankly, our goods are cheaper. The bargains are much more apparent than real. But, if I understand your position, you intend to sell goods that are up to H. B. C. standard at actual cost?”
Chloe nodded: “Certainly.”
“Very well, then you will find that these buildings which look so large and commodious to you now, must be crowded to the ceiling with your goods, while the walls of your fur lofts will fairly bulge with their weight of riches. Fur is the “cash” of the north, and the trader must make ample provision for its storage. There are no banks in the wilderness; and the fur lofts are the vaults of the traders.”
“But I don’t want to deal in fur!” objected the girl, “I—since you have told me of the terrible cruelty of the trappers, I hate fur! I want nothing to do w’ith it. In fact, I shall do everything in my power to discountenance and discourage the trapping.” Lapierre cleared his throat sharply—coughed—
SYNOPSIS.—Chloe Elliston. the
love of adventure and ambitious to Lmuíate her famous grandfather, “Tiger* Eliis ion, who had played a big part in the «rtiinmg of Malaysia, sets out for the Far North tp establish a school and bring the Ught éf education to the Indians and breeds of the A country. Accompanied by a companions, Harriet Penny, and a Sjcedish maid, B\g Lena, she arrives at Athabasca Ijanding and engages transj>ortution on one of the seows on Pierre Lapierre, an independent trader. Yotmthoft, the boss seowman decides to kidnap fA* party and hold them to ransom; but Lapierre, getting wind of his plans, interrupts thmu at a vifal moment, kills Vermilion, and the
girl. Predisposed in his favor, she pçecpf* him as her mentor in the wilderness, believing all he tells her, especially about omo |Rol>erf MacNair, another free-trader, whom Empierre saddles with a most villainous reputation and the epithet of “Brute.” X)n Lapierre’s\advice Chloe establishes herself at the moittA of the Yellow Knife River on Great SlavJ Lake, and starts to building her school, et Vetera. Then Brute MacNair turns up, and k'n the interview that follows Chloe finds m|urA to disturb her peace of mind, though »fc«J meets the free-trader boldly and dares him ^interfere with her or her work.
cleared it again. Discourage trapping— north of sixty! Had he heard aright? He swallowed hard, mumbled an apology anent the inhalation of a gnat, and answered in all seriousness.
*4 A WORTHY object. Miss Ellistjm—a k\. very wrorthy object; bat one that will require time to consummate. Atlpresent the taking of fur is the business if the north. I may say, the only business of thousands of savages whose lives! and the lives of their families, depend upon their skill with the traps. Fur isltheir one source of livelihood. Therefore, you must accept the condition as it ejxists. Think, if you refused to accept fur in exchange for your goods, what it would mean—the certain and absolute failure of your school from the moment of its inception. The Indians could not grasp your point of view. You woulfi be shunned for one demented. Your goods would rot upon your shelves; foil the simple reason that the natives would have no means of buying them. No, Miss Elliston. you must take theiu fur until such time as you succeed in devising some other means by which these people may earn their living." | “You are right,” agreed ChloeJ Of course, I must deal in fur—for the present. Reform is the result of yeatfs of labor. I must be patient. I was thinking only of the cruelty of it." I
“They have never been taught,” said Lapierre with a touch of sadness in his tone. “And, while we are on the subject, allow me to advise you to retain LeFroy as your chief trader. He » an excellent man, is Louis LeFroy, ana has had no little experience."
“Do you think he will stay?” eagerly asked the girl. “I should like to retain, not only LeFroy, but a half-dpzen others.” j
“It shall be as you wish. I shall speak
to LeFroy and select also the pick of the crew. They will be glad of a steady job. The others I shall take with me. I must gather my fur from its various caches and freight it to the railway.” “You are going to the railway! To civilization?”
“ Yr ES, BUT it will take me three -*■ weeks to make ready my outfit. And in this connection I may be of further service to you. I must depart from here tonight. Instruct LeFroy to make out his list of supplies for the winter. Give him a free hand and tell him to fill the storerooms. The goods you have brought with you are by no means sufficient. Three weeks from to-day, if I do not visit you in the meantime, have him meet me at Fort Resolution, and I shall be glad to make your purchases for you, ^Athabasca Landing and Edmonton.”
“You have been very good to me. How can I ever thank you?” cried the Rirl, impulsively extending her hand. Lapierre took the hand, bowed over it, and—was it fancy, or did his lips brush her finger-tips? Chloe withdrew the hand, laughing in slight confusion. To her surprise she realized she was not in the least annoyed. “How can I thank you she repeated, “tyr—for throwing' aside your own work to attend tmmine?” Do not speak of thanking me. Once more the man’s eyes seemed to burn into her soul. “I love you! And one day my work will be your work and your
mÍneU is 1wh;> am indebted to you for bringing a touch of heaven into this drab hell of northern brutish ness. For bringing to me a
breath of the bright world I have not known since Montreal—and the student days, long past. And—ah—more than that—something I have never known— *°veAnd, it is you who are bringing a ray of pure light to lighten the darkness of my people.”
Chloe was deeply touched. “But, I — I thought,” she faltered, “when we were discussing the buildings that day you spoke as if you did not really care for too Indians. And—and you made them work so hard-”
“To learn to work would be their salvation. exclaimed the man. “And I beg you to forget what I said then. I feared for your safety. When you refused to allow me to build thé stockade, I could think only of your being at the mercy of Brute MacNair. I tried to frighten you into allowing me to build
it Even now, if you say the word-”
Chloe interrupted him with a laugh. “No. Iam not afraid of MacNair — really I am not. And you have already neglected your own affairs too long.” The man assented. “If I am to get my furs to the railway, do my own trading, and yours, and return before the lake freezes, I must indeed, be on my way.” You will wait while I write some letters? And you will post them for me?
Lapierre bowed. “As many as you wish,” he said, and together they walked to the girl’s cabin whose quaint rustic verandah overlooked the river. The verandah was an addition of Lapierre’s, and the cabin had five rooms, instead of three.
HP HE quarter-breed waited, whistling * softly a light French air, while Chloe wrote her letters. He breathed deeply of the warm spruce-laden breeze, slapped
lazily at mosquitoes, and gazed! at the setting sun between half-closed lids. Pierre Lapierre was happy.
“Things are coming my way,” he muttered. “With a year's stock in that warehouse—and LeFroy to handle it—I guess the Indians won’t piek up many bargains—my people!—damn them. How I hate them. And as for MacNair—lucky Vermilion thought of painting his name on that booze—I hated to smash it—but it paid. It was the one thing needed to make me solid with her. And I’ve ¿ot time to run in another batch if I hurry—got to get those rifles into the loft, too. When -MacNair hits, he hits hard.” ¡
Chloe appeared at the door with her letters. Lapierre took them, anq again bowed low over her hand. This time the girl was sure his lips touched her finger-tips. He released the hafid and stepped to the ground.
“Good-by,” he said. “I shall tiry my utmost to pay you a visit beforë I depart for the southward, but if I fail, remember to send LeFroy to me at Fort Resolution.”
“I will remember. Good-by — Bon
"Et prompt retour?” The man’s lips smiled, and his eyes flashed the question.
"Et prompt retour — certainementƒ” answered the girl as, with a wide sweep of his hat, the quarter-breed turned and made his way toward the camp of the Indians, which was located in a spruce thicket a short distance above the clearing. As he disappeared in the timber Chloe felt a sudden sinking of the heart; a sträng sense of desertion, of loneliness possessed her as she gazed into the deepening shadows of the wall of the clearing. She turned impatiently.
“Why should I care?” she muttered, “I never laid eyes on him until two weeks ago. and besides, he’s — he’s an Indian! And, yet, — he’s a gentleman. He has been very kind to me — very considerate. He is only a quarter-Indian. Many of the very best families have Indian blood in their veins—even boast of it I—I’m a fool!" she exclaimed, and passed quickly into the house.
PIERRE LAPIERRE was a man, able, shrewd, unscrupulous. The son ¡of a French factor of the Hudson Bay Company and his half-breed wife, he was sent early to school, where he remained to complete his college course; for it .was the desire of his father that the son shpuld engage in some profession for which his education fitted him.
But the blood of the north was in his veins. The call of the north lured him into the north, and he returned to the trading post of his father, where he was given a position as clerk and later appointed trader and assigned to a post of his own far to the northward.
While the wilderness captivated .and entranced him, the hum-drum life of a trader wearied him. He longed for excitement—action.
During the several years of his service with the great fur company he assiduously studied conditions, storing up in his mind a fund of information that later was to stand him in good stead. He studied the trade, the Indians, the country. He studied the men of the Mounted, and smugglers, and whiskyrunners and free-traders. And it was in a brush with these latter that he overstepped0 the bounds beyond which, under
the changed conditions, even the agents of the great company might not go.
Chafing under the loss of trade by reason of an independent post that had been built upon the shore of his lake some ten miles to the southward, his wild Metis blood called for action and. hastily summoning'a small band of Indians, he attacked the independents. Incidentally, the free-traders’ post was burned, one of the traders killed, and the other captured and sent upon the longue tracerse. In some unaccountable manner, after suffering untold hardships the man won through to civilization and promptly had Pierre Lapierre brought to book.
The company stood loyally between their trader and the prison bars; but. the old order had changed in the northland. Young Lapierre’s action was condemned and he was dismissed from the company’s service with a payment of three years’ unearned salary.
Pierre Lapierre promptly turned freetrader, and his knowledge of the methods of the H. B. Co., the Indians, and the country, made largely for success.
The life of the free-trader satisfied his longing for travel and adventure, which his life as a post-trader had not But it did not satisfy his innate craving for excitement Therefore, he cast about to enlarge his field of activity. He became a whisky-runner. His profits increased enormously, and he gradually included smuggling in his repertoire/and even timber thieving, and cattle rustling upon the ranges along the international boundary.
A T THE time of his meeting with ** Chloe Elliston he was at the head of an organized band of criminals whose range of endeavor extended over hundreds of thousands of square miles, and the diversity of whose crimes was limited only by the index of the penal code.
Pierre Lapierre was a Napoleon of organization—a born leader of men. He chose his liegemen shrewdly — outlaws renegades, Indians, breeds, trappers, canoemen, scowmen, packers, claimjumpers, gamblers, smugglers, cattlerustlers, timber thieves—and these he dominated and ruled absolutely.
Without exception, these men feared him—his authority over them was unquestioned. Because they had confidence in his judgment and cunning, and because under his direction they maue more money, and made it easier, and at infinitely less risk, than they ever made by playing a lone hand, they accepted his domination cheerfully. And such was his disposition of the men who were the component parts of his system of criminal efficiency, that few, if any, were there among them who could, even if he so desired, have furnished evidence that would have seriously incriminated the leader.
The men who ran whisky across the line, cached it. Other men, unknown to them, disguised it as innocent freight and delivered it to the scowmen. The scowmen turned it over to others who, for all they knew, were bond fide settlers or free-traders; and from their cache, the canoemen carried it far into the wilderness and either stored it in some inaccessible rendevous or cached it where others w,|u!d come and distribute it among the Indians. Each division undoubtedly suspected the others, but none but the leader kneu-. And, as it was with the whiskyrunning, so was it with each of his vari-
ous undertakings. Religiously, Pierre Lapierre followed the scriptural injunction: “Let not thy left hand know what they right hand doeth.” He confided in no man. And few, indeed, were the defections among his retainers. A few had rebelled, as Vermilion had^rebelled—and with the same result. The man dismissed from Lapierre’s service entered no other.
Moreover, he invariably contrived to implicate one'whom he intended to use, in some crime of a graver nature than he would be called upon to commit in the general run of his duties. This crime he would stage in some fastness where its detection by An officer of the Mounted was exceedingly unlikely; and most commonly consisted in the murder of an Indian, whose weighted body would be -lowered to the bottom of a convenient lake or river. Lapierre witnesses would appear and the man was irrevocably within the toil. Had he chosen, Pierre Lapierre could have lowered a grappline hook unerringly upon a dozen weighted skeletons.
Over the head of the recruit now hung an easily proven charge of murder. If during his future activities as whisky-runner, smuggler, or in whatever particular field of endeavor he was assigned, plans should miscarry— an arre3t be made—this man would take his prison sentence in silence rather than seek to implicate Lapierre, who with a word could summon the witness that would sweàr the hemp about his neck.
The system w’orked. Now’ and again • i plans did miscarry—arrests were made by the Mounted — men were caught “with the goods,” or arrested upon evidence that even Lapierre’s intricate alibi scheme could not refute. But, upon conviction, the unlucky prisoner always accepted his sentence—for at his shoulder stalked a spectre, and in his heart was the fear lest the thin lips of Pierre Lapierre would speak.
With such consummate skill and finesse did Lapierre plot, however, and with such Machiavellian cunning and éclat were his plans carried out, that few failed. And those that did were credited by the authorities to individual or sporadic acts, rather than to the work of an.intricate organization presided over by^ a master mind.
The gang numbered, all told, upward of two hundred of the hardest characters upon the frontier. Only Lapierre knew its exact strength, but each member knew that if he did not “run straight”—if he, by word or act or deed, sought to implicate an accomplice—his life w’ould be worth just exactly the price of “the powder to blow him to hell.”
A few there were outside the organization who suspected Pierre Lapierre—but only a few; an officer or two of the Mounted and a few factors of the H. B. Co. But these could prove nothing. They bided their time. One man knew him for what he was. One, in all the north, as powerful in his way as Lapierre was in his. The one man who had spies in Lapierre’s employ, and who did not fear him. And the one man Pierre Lapierfe feared—Bob MacNair. And he, too, (jided his time.
A SHOT IN THE NIGHT.
AS LAPIERRE made his way to the camp of the Indians he pondered deeply. For Lapierre was troubled. The fact that MacNair had twice come upon him unexpectedly within the space of a month caused him grave concern. He did not know that it was entirely by chance that MacNair had found him, an unwelcome sojourner at Fort Rae. Accusations and recriminations had passed between them, with the result that MacNair, rough, bluff, and ready to fight at any time, had pounded the quarter-breed to within an inch of his life, and then, to the undisguised delight of the men of the H. B. Co., had dragged him out and pitched him ignominiously into the lake.
Either could have killed the other then and there. But each knew that to have done so, as the result of a personal quarrel, would have been the worst move he could possibly have made. And the forebearance with which MacNair fought and Lapierre suffered was each man’s measure of greatness. MacNair went about his business, and to Lapierre came Chenoine with his story of the girl and the plot of Vermilion, and Lapierre forgetting MacNair for the moment, made a dash for the Slave River.
For years Lapierre and MaeNair had been at loggerheads. Each recognized in the other a foe of no mean ability. Each had sworn to drive the other out of the north. And each stood at the head of a
powerful organization which could be depended upon to fight to the list gasp when the time came to “lock hprns” in the final issue. Both leaders realized that the show-down could not be long] delayed —a year, perhaps—two years—It would make no difference. The clash |was inevitable. Neither sought to d; crisis, nor did either seek to But each knew that events w* ing themselves, the stage was the drama of the wilds was w its final scene.
From the moment of his kneeting with Chloe Ellistoa» Lapierre had realized the 'value of an alliance with her against MacNair. And being] a man whose creed it was to turn evéry possible circumstance to his own Account, he set about to win her cooperation. When, during the course of their first conversation, she casually mentioned that she could command mil she wanted them, his immedia est in MacNair cooled app not that MacNair was to be fo —merely that his undoing wi deferred for a season, while Pierre Lapaijje once more of days, played An old game—a ga forgot in the press of sterner 1 one at which he once excelled.
“A game of hearts,” the min had smiled to himself—“a game in|which the risk is nothing and the with millions one may accomplis)! in the wilderness, or retire it respectability—who knows? ing, if worst comes to worst, who can command nfillions. he) soner, should be worth dickerii Ah, yes, dear lady ! By all meai shall be helped to Christiac north! To educate the Indi did she say it? ‘So that they ma* come and receive that which is the|gp of . right’—fah! These women!”
WHILE the scows rushed northward his plans had been laid—plans that included a masterstroke against MacNair and the placing of the girl absolutely within his power in one move. And so Pierre Lapierre had accompanied Chloe to the mouth of the Yellow Knife, s the site for her school, and gene remained upon the ground to di erection of her buildings.
Up to that point his plans had with but two minor frustrations: b disappointed in not being allow* build a stockade, and he had been forced prematurely to show his hand to MacNair. The first was the mere accident of a woman’s whim, and had been Offset to a great extent in the construction of the trading-post and storehouse.
The second, however, was of gra portance and deeper significance, the girl’s faith in him had, appa remained unshaken by her interview MacNair, MacNair himself would his guard. Lapierre ground his with rage at the Scotchman’s comprehension of the situation, an feared that the man’s words might raise a suspicion in Chloe’s mind ; a fear Ithat was in a great measure allayed by! her eager acceptance of his offer of assit in the matter of supplies, and—hgd-h^ already sown the seeds of a deepei gard? Once she had become his •
The black eyes glittered as the, threaded the trail toward the ci
Continued on page 53
The Gun Brand
Continued from page 41
where his own tent showed white amid t^e smoke-blackened teepees of the Indians. A.
The thing, however, tmt caused him the greatest uneasiness wp&ahe suspicion that there was a leak in ííjs^system. How had MacNair known that he would be at Fort Rae? Why had he came down the Yellow Knife? And why had the two Indian scouts failed to report the man’s coming? Only one of the Indians had returned at all, and his report that the other /jfiàd been killed by one of MacNair’s retainers had seemed unconvincing. However, Lapierre had accepted the story, but all through the days of the building he had secretly watched him. The man was one of his trusted Indians—so was the one he reported killed.
UPON the outskirts of the camp Lapierre halted—thinking. LeFroy had also watched—he must see LeFroy. Picking his wray among the teepees, he advanced to his own tent.' Groups of Indians and half-breeds, hunched about their fires, were eating supper. They eyed him respectfully as he passed, and in response to a signal, LeFroy arose and followed him to the tent.
Once inside, Lapierre fixed his eyes upon the bass canoeman.
“Well—you have watched Apaw—what have you found out?” w
“Apaw—I’m t’ink she spik de trut’.” “Speak the truth—hell! Why didn’t
he get down here ahead of MacNair*, then? What have I got spies for—to drag in after MacNair’s gone and tell me he’s been here?”
LeFroy shrugged. “MacNair’s Injuns —dey com’ pret’ near catch Apaw—-dey keel Stamix. Apaw, she got ’wây by com’ roun’ by de Black Fox.”
Lapierre nodded, scowling. He trusted LeFroy; and having recognized in him one as unscrupulous and nearly as resourceful and penetrating as himself, had placed him in charge of the canoemen, the men who, in the words of the leader, “kept cases on the north,” and to whose lot fell the final distribution of the whisky to the Indians. But so, also, had he trusted the 1 boasting, flaunting Vermilion.
“All right; but keep your eye on him,” i he said, smiling sardonically, “and you ¡ may learn a lesson. Now you listen to me. You are to stay here. Miss Ellisi ton wants you for her chief trader. Make i ! >ut your list of supplies—fill that store, nouse up with stuff. She wants you to I j undersell the H. B. C.—and you do it. j Get the trade in here—see? Keep your 1 prices down to iust below company prices, and then skin ’em on the fur— j and—well, I don’t need to tell you how.
! Give ’em plenty of debt and we’ll fix the books. Pick out a half-dozen of your best men and keep ’em here. Tell ’em to obey Miss Elliston’s orders; and whatever you do, keep cases on MacNair. But don’t start anything. Pass the word out and fill up her school. Give her plenty to do, and keep ’em orderly. I’ll handle the canoemen and pick up the fur, and then I’ve got to drop down the river and run in the supplies. I’ll run in some rifles, and some of the stuff, too.”
LeFroy looked at chief in surprise.
“Vermilion — she got ten keg on de scow-” he began.
“Vermilion, eh? Do you know where Vermilion is?*’
LeFroy shook his head.
“He’s in hell-^-that’s where he is—I dismissed him from my service. He didn’t run straight. Some others went along with him—and there are more to follow. Vermilion thought he could double-cross me and get away with it.’’ And again he laughed.
Lefroy shuddered and made no comment. Lapierre continued:
“Make out your list of supplies, and if I don’t show up in the meantime, meet me at the mouth of the Slave three weeks from to-day. I’ve got to count days if I get back before the freeze up. And remember this—you are working for Miss Elliston; we’ve got a big thing if we work it right; we’ve got MacNair where we want him at last. She thinks he’s running in whisky and raising hell with the Indians north of here. Keep her thinking so; and later, when it comes to a show-down—well, she is not only rich, but she’s in good at Ottawa—see?”
LEFROY nodded. He was a man of few words, was LeFroy; dour and taciturn, but a man of brains,and one who stood in wholesome fear of his master.
“And now',” continued Lapierre, “break camp and load the canoes. I must pull out to-night Pick out your men and move ’em at once into the barracks. You understand everything now?”
“Oui,” answered LeFroy, and stepping from the tent, passed swiftly from fire to fire, issuing commands in low guttural. Lapierre rolled a cigarette, and taking a guitar from its case, seated himself upon his blankets and played with the hand of a master as he sang a love-song of old France. All about him sounded the clatter of lodge-poles, the thud of packs, and the splashing of water as the big canoes were pushed into the river and loaded.
Presently LeFroy’s head thrust in at the entrance. He spoke no word; Lapierre sang on, and the head was withdrawn. When the song was finished the sounds from the outside had ceased. Lapierre carefully replaced his guitar in its case, drew a heavy revolver from its holster, threw it open, and twirled the cylinder with his thumb, examining carefully its chambers. His brows drew together, and his lips twisted into a diabolical smile.
Lapierre was a man who took no chances. What was one Indian, more or less, beside the absolute integrity of his organization? He stepped outside, and instantly the guy-ropes of the tent were loosened; the canvas slouched to the ground and was folded into a neat pack. The blankets were made into a compact roll, with the precious guitar in the center and deposited in the head canoe. Lapierfe glanced swiftly about him; nothing but the dying fires and the abandoned lodge-poles indicated the existence of the camp. On the shore the canoemen, leaning on their paddles, awaited the word of command.
HE STEPPED to the water's edge.
where Apaw, the Indian, stood with the others. For just a moment the baleful eyes of Lapierre fixed the silent figure; then his words cut sharply upon thé silence.
“Apaw—Chahcu yahkiva!” The Indian advanced, evidently proud of having been singled out by the chief, and stood before him, paddle in hand. Lapierre spoke no word; seconds passed; the silence grew intense. The hand that gripped the paddle shook suddenly; and then, looking straight into the man’s eyes. Lapierre drew his revolver and fired. There was a quick spurt of red flame— the sound of the shot rang sharp, and rang again as the opposite bank of the river hurled back the sound. The Indian pitched heavily forward and fell across his paddle, snapping it in two.
Lapierre glanced over the impassive faces of the canoemen.
“This man wás a traitor,” he said in their own language. “I have dismissed him from my service. Weight him and shove off!”
Lapierre stepped into his canoe. The canoemen bound heavy stones to the legs of the dead Indian, laid the body upon the camp equipage amidship, and silently took their places.
DURING the evening meal Chloe was unusually silent, answering Miss Penny’s observations and queries in short, detached monosyllables. Later she stole out alone to a high, rocky headland that commanded a sweeping view of the river, and sat with her back against the broad trunk of a twisted banskian.
The long northern twilight hung about her like a pall — seemed enveloping, smothering her. No faintest breath of air stirred the piney needles above her, nor ruffled the surface of the river, whose black waters, far below, flowed broad and deep and silent—smoothly—like a river of oil. Ominously hushed, secretive, it slipped out of the motionless dark. Silently portentous, it faded again into the dark, the mysterious half-dark, where the gradually deepening twilight blended the distance into the enshrouding pall of gloom. Involuntarily the girl shuddered and started nervously at the splash of an otter. A billion mosquitoes droned their unceasing monotone. The low sound was everywhere—among, the branches of the gnarled banskian, above the surface of the river, and on and on and on, to whine thinly between the little stars.
It was not at all the woman who would conquer a wilderness, that huddled i:, a dejected little heap at the foot of the banskian; but a very miserable and depressed little girl, who swallowed hard to keep down the growing lump in her throat, and bit her lip, and stared with wide eyes toward the southward. Hot tears — tears of bitter, heart-sickening loneliness —filled her eyes and trickled unheeded down her cheeks beneath the tightly drawn mosquito-net.
Darkness deepened, imperceptibly, surely foreshortening the horizon, and by just so much increasing the distance that separated her from her people.
“Poor fool moose-calf,” she murmured, “you weren’t satisfied to follow the beaten trails. ^ ou had to find a land of your own—a land that-”
THE whispered words trailed into silence, and to her mind’s eye appeared the. face of the man who hadspoken those words—the face of Brute MacNair. She saw him as he stood that day and faced her among the freshly chopped stumps of the clearing.
“He is rough and bearlike—boorish,”
she thought, as she remembered that the man had not removed his hat in her presence. “He called me names. He is uncouth, cynical, egotistical. He thinks he can scare me into leaving his Indians alone.” Her lips trembled and tightened. “I am a woman, and I’ll show him what a women can do. He has lived among the Indians until he thinks he owns them. He is hard, and domineering, and uncompromising. and skeptical. And yet—” What gave her pause was so intangible, so chaotic, in her own mind as to form itself into no definite idea.
“He is brutish and brutal and bad!” she muttered aloud at the memory of Lapierre’s battered face, and immediately fell to comparing the two men.
Each seemed exactly what the other was not. Lapierre was handsome, debonair, easy of speech, and graceful of movement; deferential, earnest, at times even pensive, and the possessor of ideals; generous and accommodating to a fault, if a trifle cynical; maligned, hated, discredited by the men who ruled the north, yet brave and infinitely capable—she remembered the swift fate of Vermilion.
His was nothing of the rugged candor of MacNair—the bluff straightforwardness that overrides opposition; ignores criticism. MacNair fitted the north—the big, brutal, insatiate north—the north of storms, of cold and fighting things; of foaming, roaring white-water and seething, blinding blizzards.
Chloe’s glance strayed out over the river, where the farther bank showed only the serried sky-line of a wall of jet.
Lapierre was also of the north — the north as it is to-night; soft air, balmy with the incense of growing things; illusive dark, half concealing, half revealing, blurring distant outlines. A placid north, whose black waters flowed silent, smooth, deep. A benign and harmless north, upon its surface; and yet, withal, portentous of things unknown.
The girl shuddered and arose to her feet and, as she did so. from up the river —from the direction of the Indian camp —came the sharp, quick sound of a shot. Then silence—a silence that seemed unending to the girl who waited breathlessly, one hand grasping the rough bark of the gnarled tree, and the other shading her eyes as though to aid them in their effort to pierce the gloom.
A long time she stood thus, peering into the dark, amUhen, a dark form clove the black water of the river, and a long, black body slipped noiselessly toward her. followed by another, and another.
“The canoes!” she cried as she watched the sparkling starlight play upon the long V-shaped ripples that rolled back from their bows.
Once more the sense of loneliness almost overcame her. Pierre Lapierre was going out of the north.
She could see the figures of the paddlers. now—blurred, and indistinct, and unrecognizable—distinguishable more by the spaces that showed between them, than by their own outlines.
They were almost beneath her. Should she call out? One last bon voyage? The sound of a voice floated upward; a hard, rasping voice, unfamiliar, yet strangely familiar. In the leading canoe the Indians ceased paddling. The canoe lost momentum and drifted broadside to the current. The píen were lifting something; something long, and dark. There was a muffled splash, and the dark object
disappeared. The canoemen picked up their paddles, and the canoe swung into its course and disappeared around a point. The other canoes followed; and the river rolled on as before—l^lack — oily—sinister.
ABROAD cloud, black, threatening, which had mounted unnoticed by the girl, blotted out the light of the stars, as if to hide from alien eyes some unlovely secret of the wilds.
The darkness was real, now; and Chloe, in a sudden panic of terror dashed wildly for the clearing — stumbling — crashing through the bush as she ran;, her way lighted at intervals by flashes of distant lightning. She paused upon the verge of the bank at the point where it entered the clearing; at the point where the wilderness crowded menacingly her little outpost of civilization. Panting, she stood and stared out over the smoothflowing. immutable river.
A lightning flash, nearer and more vivid than any preceding, lighted for an instant the whole landscape. Then, the mighty crash of thunder, and the long, hoarse moan of wind, and in the midst of it, that other sound—the horrible sound that once before had sent her dashing breathless from the night—the demonical, mocking laugh of the great loon.
With a low, choking sob, the girl fled toward the little square of llfcht that glowed from the window of her cabin.
ON SNARE LAKE.
WHEN Bob MacNair left Chloe Elliston’s camp, he swung around by the way of Mackay Lake, a detour that required two weeks’ time and added immeasurably to the discomfort of the journey. Day by day, upon lake, river, and portage, Óld Elk and Wee Johnnie Tamarack w;mdered much at his silence and the unwonted hardness of his features.
These two Indians knew MacNair. For ten years, day and night, they had stood at his beck and call; had followed him through all the vast wilderness that lies between the railways and the frozen sea. They had slept with him, had feasted and starved with him, at his shoulder faced death in a hundred guises, and '* they loved him as men love their God. They had followed him during the lean years when, contrary to the wishes of his father, the stern-eyed factor at Jrort Norman, he had refused the offers of the company and devoted his time, winter and summer, to the explorations of rivers and lakes, rock ridges and mountains, and the tundra that lay between, in search of the lost copper mines of the Indians; the mines that lured Hearne into the north in 1771, and which Hearne forgot in the discovery of a fur empire so vast as to stagger belief*
But. as the canoe forged northward. Old Elk and Wee Johnnie Tamarack held their peace, and when they arrived at the fort, MacNair growled an order, and sought his cabin beside the wall of the stockade.
A half hour later, when the Indians had gathered in response to the hurried Word of Old Elk and Wee Johnnie Tamarack, MacNair stepped from his cabin and addressed them in their own language, or rather in the jargon—the compromise language of the north—by means of which the minds of white men and In-
dians meet on common ground. He warned them against Pierre Lapierre, the cultus breed of whom most of them already knew, and he told them of the girl and her school at the mouth of the Yellow Knife. And then, in no uncertain terms, he commanded them to have nothing whatever to do with the school, or with Lapierre^. Whereupon, Sotenah, a leader among the young men, arose, and after a long and flowery harangue in which he lauded and extolled the wisdom of MacNair and -the benefits and advantages that accrued to the Indians by reason of his patronage, vociferously counseled a summary descent upon the fort of the Mesahchee Kloochman.
The proclamation was received with loud acclaim, and it was with no little difficulty that MacNair succeded in quieting the turbulence and restoring order. After which he rebuked Sotenah severely and laid threat upon the Indians that if so much as a hair of the white kloochman was harmed he would kill, with his own hand the man who wrought the harm.
As for Pierre Lapierre and his band, they must be crushed and driven out of the land of the lakes and the rivers, but the time was not yet. He, MacNair, would tell them when to strike, and only if Lapierre’s Indians were found prowling about the vicinity of Snare Lake were thev to be molested.
The Indians dispersed and, slinging a rifle over his shoulder, MacNair swung off alone into the bush.
BOP> MACNAIR knew the north; knew its lakes and its rivers, its forests arid its treeless barrens. He knew its hardships, dangers and limitations, and he knew its gentler moods, its compensations, and its possibilities. Also, he knew its people, its savage primitive children, who call it home, and its invaders—good, and bad. and worse than bad. The men N»-ho infest the last frontier, pushing aí wavs northward for barter, or the saving of souls. #
/lie understood Pierre Lapierre, his motives and his-methods. But the girl lie did not understand, and her presence /on the Yellow Knife disturbed him not a little. Had chance thrown her into the clutches of Lapierre? And had the man set about deliberately to use her school as an excuse for the establishment of a trading post within easy reach of his Indians? MacNair was inclined to believe so—and the matter caused him grave concern. He foresaw trouble ahead, and a trouble that might easily involve the gil'V who, he felt, was entirely innocent of/^rongdoing.
His jaw clamped hard as he swung on and on through the scrub. He had no particular objective, a problem faced him and. where other men would have sat down to work ,its solution, he walked.
In many things was Bob MacNair different from other men. Just and stern beyond his years, with a sternness that was firmness rather than severity; slow to anger, but once his anger was fairly aroused, terrible in meting out his vengeance. Yet. withal, possessed of an understanding and a depth of sympathy, entirely unsuspected by himself, but which enshrined him in the hearts of his Indians, who, in all the world were the men and women who knew him.
Even his own father had not understood this son, who devoured books as ravenously as his dogs devoured salmon. Again
and again he remonstrated with him for wasting his lime when he might be working for the company. Always the younger man listened respectfully, and continued to read his books and to search for the lost mines with a determination and singleness of purpose that aroused the secret approbation of the old Scotchman, and the covert sneers and scoffings of others.
AND THEN, after four years 6f fruitless search, at the base of a ridge that skirted the shore of an unmapped lake, he uncovered the mouth of an ancient tunnel with rough-hewn sides and a floor that sloped from the entrance. Imbedded in the slime on the bottom of a pool of stinking water, he found curious implements, rudely chipped from flint and slate, and a few of bone and walrus ivory. Odd-shaped, half-finished tools of hammered copper were strewn about the floor, and the walls were thickly coated with verdigris. Instead of the sharp ring of steel on stone, a dull thud followed the stroke of his pick, and its scars glowed with a red luster in the flare of the smoking torches.
. Old Elk and Wee Johnnie Tamarack looked on in stolid silence, while the young man, with wildly beating heart, crammed a pack-sack with samples. He had found the ancient mine—the lost mine of the Indians which men said existed only in the fancy of Bob MacNair’s brain ! Carefully sealing the tunnel, the young man headed for Fort Norman ; and never did Old Elk and Wee Johnnie Tamarack face such a trail! Down the raging torrent of the Coppermine, across the long portage to the Dismal Lakes, and then by portage and river to Dease Bay, across the two hundred miles of Great Bear Lake, and down the Bear River to their destination.
Seven hundred long miles they covered, at a man-killing pace that brought them into the fort, hollow-eyed and gaunt, and with their bodies swollen and raw from the sting of black flies and mosquitoes that swarmed through the holes in their tattered garments.
The men wolfed down the food that was set before them by an Indian woman, and then, while Old Elk and Wee Johnnie Tamarack slept, the chief trader led Bob MacNair to the grave of his father.
“Twas his heart, lad, or somethin’ busted inside him,” exclaimed the old man. “After supper it was, two weeks agone. He was sittin’ i’ his chair wi’ his book an’ his pipe, an’ me in anither beside him. He gi’ a deep sigh, like, an’ his book fell to the ground and his pipe. When I got to him his head was leant back ag’in’ -his chair—and he was dead.”
BOB MACNAIR nodded, and the chief trader returned to the store, leaving the young man standing silent beside the fresh-turned mound with its rudely fash-ibned wooden cross, that stood among the other grass-grown mounds whose wooden crosses, with their burned inscriptions, were weather-grayed and old. Tor a long time he stood beside the little crosses that lent a solemn dignity to the rugged heights t>f Fort Norman.
It cannot be said that Bob MacNair had loved his father, in the generally accepted sense of the world. But he had admired and respected him above all other men, and his first thought upon the discovery of the lost mine was to vindicate his course in the eyes of this stem, just
man who had so strongly advised against it.
For the opinion of others he cared not the snap of his fingers. But, to read approval in the deep-set eyes of his father, and to hear the deep, rich voice of him raised, at last, in approbation, rather than reproach, he had defied death and pushed himself and his Indians to the limit of human endurance. And he had arrived too late. The bitterness of the young man’s soul found expression only in a hardening of the jaw and a clenching of the mighty fists. For, in the heart of him, he knew that in the future, no matter what the measure of the world might be, always, deep within him would rankle the bitter disappointment—the realization that this old man had gone to his grave believing that his son was a fool and a wastrel.
Slowly he turned from the spot and, with heavy steps, entered the post-store. He raised the pack that container the samples from the floor, and walking to the verge of the high cliff that overlooked the river, hurled it far out over the wpter, where it fell with a dull splash that was drowned in the roar of the rapid.
“Ye’ll tak’ charge here the noo, 'laddie?” asked McTurk, the grizzled cjhief trader, the following day when MacNair
nad concluded the inspection of his father’s papers. “’Twad be what he'd ha’
“No.” answered the young man shortly, and, without a word as to the finding of the lost mine, hurried Old Elk and Wee Johnnie Tamarack into a canoe and headed southward.
A MONTH later the officers of the Hudson Bay Company in Winnipeg gasped in surprise at the offer of young MacNair to trade the broad acres to which his father had acquired title in the wheat belt of Saskatchewan and Alberta for a vast tract of barren ground in the subarctic. They traded gladly, and when the young man heard that his dicker had earned for him the name of Fool MacNair in the conclave of the mighty, he smiled—and bought more barrens.
All of which had happened eight years before Chloe Elliston defied him among the stumps of her clearing, and in the interim much had transpired. In the heart of his barrens he built a post and collected about him a band of Indians who soon learned that those who worked in the mines had a far greater number of brass tokens of “made beaver” to their credit than those who had trapped fur
To he continued.