The Gun Brand
A Story of the North
James B. Hendryx
Author of Marqi;ard Sa!en~ T~t Prorna~e." etc.
t HAPT ER VI.—Continued.
"INSPECTED and passed! And why? Because they were your goods, and the men of the Mounted have yet to suspect you. The inspection was perfunctorily made. And as for the manifest—I did not say it was your whisky. I said, ‘whisky from your storehouse.’ It was Lapierre’s whisky. And he succeeded in running it in by the boldest, and at the same time the cleverest and safest method-—disguised as your freight. Tell me this: Did you check your pieces upon
their arrival at your storehouse?”
“No; Lapierre did that, or Lefroy.” “And Lapierre. having first ascertained that I was far on the caribou trail, succeeded in slipping the whisky to my Indians, but he—”
“Mr. Lapierre was with me! Accuse him and you accuse me. also. He brought me here because I wished to see for myself the condition of your Indians—the condition of which I had so often heard.” “Was Lefroy. also, with you?”
“Lefroy was away upon a mission, and that mission was to capture two others of your ilk—two whisky-runners!”
MacXair laughed harshly. “Good Lefroy!” he exclaimed in derision. “Great God, you are a fool! You yourself saw Lefroy and his satellites rushing wildly for the shelter of the timber, when I unexpectedly appeared among them." The light of exultation leaped into his eyes. “I killed two of them, but Lefroy escaped. Lapierre timed his work well. And had it not been that one of my Indians, who was a spy in Lapierre’s camp, learned of his plan and followed me acrof? the barrens, Lapierre would have had ample time, after the destruction of n\y fort, to have scattered my Indians to the four winds. When Í learned of his plot I forced the trail as I never had forced a trail, in the hope of arriving in time to prevent the catastrophe. I reached the fort too late to save my Indians from your human wolf-pack, their homes from the flames, and my buildings and my property from destruction. But, thank God. it is not too late to wreak my vengeance upon the enemies of my people! For the trail is hot. and I will follow it if need be. to the end of the earth.”
“Your love for your Indians is. indeed, touching. I witnessed a demonstration of that love last night, when you battered and kicked and hurled them about in their drunken and helpless condition. But, tell me, what will become of them while you are following your trail of blood—the trail you so fondly imagine will terminate in the death of Lapierre. but which will, as surely and inevitably as justice itself, lead you to a prison cell, if not the gallows?”
MacXair regarded the girl almost fiercely. "I must leave my Indians,” he answered, “for the present, to their own devices. For the simple reason that I cannot be in two places at one time.”
“But their supplies were burned! They will starve!” cried the girl. “It would seem that one who really loved his Indians would have his first thought for their welfare. But no; you prefer to take the trail and kill men; men who may at some future time tell their story upon the witness-stand; a story that will not sound pretty in the telling, and that will mark the crash of your reign of tyranny. ‘Safety first’ is your slogan, and your Indians may starve while you murder men.” The girl paused and suddenly became conscious that MacXair was regarding her with a strange look in his eyes. And at his next words she could scarcely believe her ears.
“Will you care for my Indians?”
The question staggered her. “What!" she managed to gasp.
"Just what I said," answered MacXair gruffly. “W ill you care for my Indians until such time as I shall return to them —until I have ridded the north of Lapierre?"
"Do you mean." cried the astonished girl, “will I care for your Indians—the same Indians who attacked my school— who only last night fought like fiends among themselves, and burned their own homes?”
“Just that!’’ answered MacXair. “The Indian who warned me of Lapierre’s plot told me. also, of the arrival of your supplies—sufficient, he said, to feed the whole north. You will not lose by it. Xame your own price, and I shall pav whatever you ask."
“Price!" flashed the girl. “Do you think I would take your gold—the gold that has been wrung from the hearts’ blood of your Indians?"
“On your own terms, then,” answered MacXair. "Will you take them? Surely this arrangement should be to your liking. Did you not tell me yourself* upon the occasion of our first meeting, that you intended to use every means in your power to induce my Indians to attend your school? That you would teach them that they are free? That they mve allegiance and servitude to r.o man? That you would educate, and show them they were being robbed and cheated and forced into serfdom? That you intended to appeal to their better natures, to their manhood and womanhood” I think those were your words. Did you not say that? And did you mean it? Or was it the idle boast of an angry woman?”
Chloc interrupted him. “Yes. I said that, and Í meant it! And I mean it now!”
“You have your chance.” growled MacXair. “I impose no restrictions. 1 shall command them to obey you: even to atSYNOl’SIS. Chloe Elliston, inheriting the love of adventure and ambitums to i muíate her famous grandfather. "Tiger” Elliston, who had played a big part in the civilizing of Malaysia, sets out for the Far Xorth tu i stablish a school and bring the light of education to the Indians and breeds of the Athabasca country, .-trcompanied by a companion, Harrut Penny, and a Swedish maid, Big Lena, she arrives at Athabasca Landing and engages t ra nsportation on one of the scows of Pierre Lapierre, an indepeonlent trader. Vermilion, the boss scowman, decides to kidnap the party and hold thf-m to ransom; but Lapierr,, getting wind of his plans, interrupts them at a ¿ital moment, kills Vermilion, and rescues the girl. Predisposed in his favor, she accepts him as Her mentor in the wilderness, believing all he tells her, especially about one Robert MacXair, another free-trader whom Lapierre saddles with a mostfillianous reputation and the epithef of "Brute.'j^On Lapierre’s advice Chloe estabdTshrs herself at the mouth of thi yftlow Knife River, on Great Slave Lake, and starts to building her school, et cetera. Then Brute MacXair turns up and warns her to leave Aú Indians alone. She dr tieshim, and later starts for his post at Snare Lake. Meeting MacXair just before she gets there, they have an interview, which ends when lapierre, appearing suddenly, shoots MacXair. Chloc, in spite of Lapierre’s protest, takes the wounded man to her place and nurses him. MacXair’s Indians foliote and attack the schoolhouse, defended by Lapierre's Indians. MacXair, though barely recovered from Aú wofind, takes them back to Snare Lake. On the arrival of Lapierre with the winter supplies. Chlor asks him to go with her to MacXair They arrive in time to witness the whole settlement in a drunken uproar deliberately caused b y Lapierre. through whose agency whiskey has been freely distributed. MacXair suddenly arrives on the scene, kicking and shooting the delinquents in an endeavor to restore order. Lapierre turns back, hut the canoe gets badly damaged in the ice, and he ú forced to continue his way on foot, leaving Chloe to camp fot the night. She wakes up to find MacXair before her He tells her his Indians were glutted with whiskey from her storehouse, brought in by Lapierre.
tend your school, if you wish! You will hardly have time to do them much harm. As I told you, the north is not ready for your education. But I know that you are honest. You are a fool, and the time is not far distant when you yourself will realize this; when you will learn that you have become the unwitting dupe of one of. the shrewdest and most diabolical scoundrels that ever drew breath. Again I tell you that some day you and I shall be friends! At this moment you hate me. But I know it is through ignorance you hate. I have small patience with your ignorance; but. also, at this moment you are the only person in all the north with whom I would trust my Indians. Lapierre. from now on, will be past harming them. I shall see to it that he is kept so busy in the matter of saving his own hide that he will have scant time for deviltry."
^ TlI.L ( hloe appeared to hesitate. And ^ through MacXair’s mind flashed the memory of the rapier-blade eyes that stared from out the dull gold frame of the portrait that hung upon the wall of the little cottage—eyes that were the eyes of the girl before him.
“Well,” he asked with evident impatience, “are you afraid of these Indians?” The flashing eyes of the girl told him that the shot had struck home. “No!” she cried. "I am not afraid! Send your Indians to me, if you will; and when'you send them, bid good-by to them forever.” MacNair nodded. “I will send them,” he answered, and, turning abruptly upon his heel, disappeared into the scrub.
THE journey down the Yellow Knife consumed six days, and it was a journey fraught with many hardships for Chloe Elliston, unaccustomed as she was to trail travel. The little-used trail, following closely the bank of the stream, climbed low, rock-ribbed ridges, traversed black spruce swamps, and threaded endlessly in and out of the scrub timber. Nevertheless, the girl held doggedly to the slow pace set by the canoemen.
When at last, foot-sore and weary, with nerves a jangle, and with every muscle in her body protesting with its own devilishly ingenious ache against the overstrain of the long, rough miles and the chill misery of damp blankets, she arrived at the school, Lapierre was nowhere to be found. For the wily quarter-breed, knowing that MacNair would instantly suspect the source of the whisky, had, upon his arrival, removed the remaining casks from the storehouse, and conveyed them with all Haste to his stronghold on Lac du Mort.
Upen her table in the cottage Chloe found a brief note to the effect that Lapierre had been forced to hasten to the eastward to aid Lefroy in dealing with the whisky-runners. The girl had scant time to think of Lapierre, however, for upon the morning after her arrival MacNair appeared, accompanied by a hundred or more dejected and wobegone Indians. Despite the fact that Chloe had known them only as fierce roisterers, she was forced to admit that they looked harmless and peaceful enough, under the" chastening effect of a week of starvation.
MacNair wasted no time, but striding up to Chloe, who stood upon the veranda of her cottage, plunged unceremoniously into the business at hand.
“Do not misunderstand me,” he began gruffly. “I did not bring my Indians here to receive the benefits of your education, nor as a sop to your anger, nor for any other reason than to procure for them food and shelter until such time as I myself can provide for them. If they were trappers this would be unnecessary. But they have long since abandoned the traplines, and in the whole village there could not be found enough traps to supply onetenth of their number with the actual necessities of life. I have sent runners to the young men upon the barren grounds, with orders to continue the caribou kill and bring the meat to you here. I have given my Indians their instructions. They will cause you no trouble, and will be subject absolutely to your commands. And now, I must be on my way. I must pick up the trail of Lapierre. And when I return I shall confront you with evidence that will prove to you beyond a doubt that the words I have spoken are true!”
“And I will confront you,” retorted the girl, “with evidence that will place you behind prison bars for the rest of your life!” Again Chloe saw in the gray eyes the twinkle that held more than the suspicion of a smile.
“I think I would mak& but a poor prisoner,” the man answered. “But if I am to be a prisoner I warn you that I will run the prison. I am MacNair!” Something in the man’s look—he was gazing straight into her eyes with a peculiar intense gaze-—caused the girl to start, while a sudden indescribable feeling of fear, of helplessness before this man, flashed over her. The feeling passed in an instant, and she sneered boldly into MacNair’s face.
“My, how you hate yourself!” she cried. “And how long is it, Mr. Brute MacNair—” was it fancy, or did the man wince at the emphasis of the name? She repeated, with added emphasis, “Mr. Brute MacNair, since you have deemed it worth your while to furnish me with evidence? You told me once, I believe, that you cared nothing for my opinion. Is it possible that you hope at this late day to flatter me with my own importance?”
MACNAIR, in no wise perturbed, regarded her gravely. “No,” he answered. “It is not that, it is—” He paused as if at a loss for ‘words. “I do not know why,” he continued, “unless, perhaps, it is because—because you have no fear of me. That you do not fear to take your life into your hands in defense of what you think is right. It may be that I have learned a certain respect for you. Certainly I do not pity you. At times you have made me very angry with your foolish blundering, until I remember it is honest blundering, and that some day you will know the north, and will know that north of sixty men are not measured by your little rule of thumb. Always I have gone my way, caring no more for the approval of others than I have for their hatred or scoffing. I know the north! Why should I care for the opinion of others? If they do not know, so much the worse for them. The reputation of being a fool injures no one. Had I not been thought a fool by the men of the Hudson Bay Company they would not have sold me the barren grounds whose sands are lo»4ed with gold.”
“And yet yoh said I was a fool,” interrupted Chloe. “According to your theory that fact should redound to my credit” MacNair answered without the suspicion of a smile.
“I did not say that being a fool injured no one. You are a fool. Of your reputation I know nothing, nor care.” He turned abruptly on his heel, walked to the storehouse, leaving the girl, speechless with anger, standing upon the veranda of the cottage, as she watched his swinging shoulders disappear from sight around the corner of the log building.
With flushed face Chloe turned toward the river, and instantly her attention centered upon the figure of a man, tfho swung out of the timber and approached ¿cross the clearing in long, easy strides. She regarded the man closely. Certainly he was no one she had ever seen before. He was very near now, and at the distance of a few feet, paused and bowed, as he swept the Stetson from hi& head. The girl’s heart gave a wild bound of joy. The man wore the uniform of the Mounted !
“Miss Elliston?” he asked.
“Yes,” answered Chloe, as her glance noted the clear-cut, almost boyish lines of the weather-bronzed face. “I am Corporal Ripley, ma’am, at your service. I happened on a Hort Rae Injun—a Dog Rib, a few days since, and he told me some kind of a warn about a band of Yellow Knives that Had attacked your post some time during the summer. I couldn’t get much lout of him because he could speak only a few words of English, and I can’t speak any Dog Rib. Besides, you can’t go much on what an Indian tells you. When wou come to sift down their dope it generally turns out to be nine parts lies anq the other part divided between truth, superstition, and guess-work. Constable Darling, at Fort Resolution, said he’d received no complaint, so I didn’t hurry through.” With a swift glance toward! the storehouse, into which MacNair Had disappeared, Chloe motioned the mam into the cottage. “The—the attack waánothing,” she hastened to assure him. ‘IBut there is something—a complaint that I wish to make against a man who isL and has been for years, doing all in hisl power to debauch and brutalize the Indians of the north.” The girl paced nervously up and down as she spoke, and she noted that the youthful officer leaned forward expectantly, his wide boyish eyes narrowed to slits. - ! *•
“Yes,” he urged eagerly, “who is this man? And have you got the evidence to back your charge? For I take! it from your words you intend to make a charge.” “Yes,” answered Chloe. “I dp intend to make a charge, and I have my évidence. The man is MacNair. Brute MadNair he is called—’’ J
“What! MacNair of Slave Lake—Bob MacNair of the barren grounds!l
“Yes, Bob MacNair of the]barren grounds.” A moment of silence llollowed * her words. A silence during wnich the officer’s face assumed a troubled expression. j
“You are sure there is no minake?*^ he asked at length. j
“There is no mistake!” flashed tne girl. “With my own eyes I have seen enough
to convict a dozen men!” j
Even as she spoke, a form passed the window, and a heavy tread sounsed on the veranda. Stepping quickly to the door, Chloe flung it open, and pointing toward MacNair, who stood, rifle in hand, cried: “Officer, arrest that man!”!
Corporal Ripley, who had risen Ito his feet, stood gazing from one to the other; while MacNair, speechless, $tared straight into the eyes-of the girl.
MACNAIR GOES TO JAIL
THE silence in the little room bekäme almost painful. MacNair utten d no word as his glance strayed from the flushed, excited face of the girl the figure of Corporal Ripley, who hat in hand, gazing from one to the other with eyes plainly troubled by doubt and perplexity.
“Well, why don’t you do something?” cried the girl, at length. “It seems to me if I were a man I could thin! ; of something to do besides stand and ga Corporal Ripley cleared his thioat. “Do I understand,” he began st ffly, “that you intend to prefer certain chai ges against MacNair—that you demand his arrest?”
“I should think you would understand it!” retorted the girl. “I have told you three or four times.”
The officer flushed slightly and shifted the hat from his right to his left hand.
“Just step inside, MacNair,” he said, and then to the girl. “I’ll listen to you now, if you please? You must make specific charges, you know—not just hearsay. Arresting a man in this country is a serious matter, Miss Elliston. We are seven hundred miles from a jail, and the law expects us to use discretion in making an arrest. It don’t do us any good at headquarters to bring in a man unless we can back up our charge with strong evidence, because the item of transportation of witnesses and prisoner can easily run up into big money. On the other hand it’s just as bad if we fail or delay in bringing a guilty man to book. What we want
I’ll hear what you’ve got to say.”
Chloe sank into a chair and motioned the others to be seat e d. “W ë' may as well sit down while we talk. I will try totell you only the facts as I myself have seen them—only such as I could swear to on a witness stand.”
is specific evidence. I don’t tell you this to discourage any just complaint, but only to show’ you that we’ve got to have direct and specific evidence. Now,
The officer bowed, and Chloe plunged directly into the subject.
“In the first place*,” she began, “when I brought my outfit in I noticed in the scows, certain pieces with the name of MacNair painted on the burlap.
The rest of the outfit, I think, consisted wholly of my own freight. I wondered at the time who MacNair was, but «Ädn’t make any inquiries until I happened to
-mention the matter to Mr.
Lapierre. That was on Slave River., Mr. Lapierre seemed very much surprised that any of MacNair’s goods should be in his scows. He examined the pieces and then With an ax smashed them in. They contained whisky.”
“And he destroyed it? Can you swear it was whisky ?” asked the officer.
“Certainly, I can swear it was whisky! I sau; it and smelled it.”
“Can you explain why Lapierre did not know of these pieces, until you called his attention to them?”
Chloe hesitated a moment and tapped nervously on the table with her fingers. “Yes,” she answered, “I can. Mr. Lapierre took charge of the outfit only that morning.”
“Who was the boss scowman? Who took the scows down the Athabasca?” “A man named Vermilion. He was a half-breed, I think. Anyway, he was a horrible creature.” “Where is Vermilion now?”
Again Chloe hesitated. “He is dead,” she answered. “Mr. Lapierre shot him. He shot him in self-defense, after Vermilion had shot another man.”
The officer nodded, and Chloe called upon Big Lena to corroborate the statement that Lapierre had destroyed certain whisky upon the bank of Slave Lake. “Is that all?” asked the officer.
“No, indeed!” answered Chloe. “That isn’t all! Only last week, I went to visit MacNair’s fort on Snare Lake in company with Mr. Lapierre and Lena, and four canoemen. We got there shortly after dark. Fires had been built on the beach—niany of them almost against the walls fof the stockade. As we drew near we heard loud yells and howlings, that sounded like the cries of animals, rather than of human beings. We ap-
approached very close to the shore where the figures of the Indians were, distinctly visible by the light of the leaping flames. It was then we realized that a wild orgy of indescribable debauchery was in progress. The Indians = were raving drunk. Some lay upon the ground in a stupor— others danced and howled and threw firebrands about in reckless abandon.
“We dared not land, but held the, canoe off shore and watched the horrible scene. We had not long to wait before the inevitable happened. ThV^ whirling firebrands falling among the cabins and against the walls of the stockade started a conflagration, w’hich soon spread to the storehouse. And then MacNair appeared on the scene, rushing madly among the Indians, striking, kicking, and hurling them about. A few sought to save themselves by escaping to the timber. And, jerking a rifle from the hand of an Indian, MacNaiç, fired twice at the fleeing men. Two of them fell and the others escaped into the timber.”
Continued on page 67
The Gun Brand
Continued from page 26
“You did not see any whisky in the possession of these Indians?” asked Corporal Ripley. “You merely surmised thev were drunk by their actions?”
Chloe nodded. “Yes,” she admitted, “but certainly there can be no doubt that they were drunk. Men who are not drunk do not—”
MacNair interrupted her. “They were drunk.” he said quietly, “very drunk.”
“You admit that?” asked the officer in surprise. “I must warn you, MacNair, that anything you say may be used against you.” MacNair nodded.
“And, as to the killing of the men,” continued Chloe, “I charge MacNair with their murder.”
“Murder is a ve¿y serious charge. Miss Elliston. Let’s flB over the facts again You say you were in a canoe near the shore—you saw a man you say was MacNair grab a rifle from an Indian and kill two men. Stop and think, now—it was night and you saw all this by firelight— are you sure the man who fired the shots was MacNair?”
“Absolutely!” cried the girl, with a trace of irritation.
“It was I who shot,” interrupted MacNair.
THE officer regarded him curiously and again addressed the girl. “Once more. Miss Elliston, do you know that ■the men you saw fall are dead? Mere shooting won’t sustain a charge of murder.”
Chloe hesitated. “No,” she admitted reluctantly. “I did not examine their dead bodies, if that is what you mean. But MacNair afterward told me that he killed them, and I can swear to having seen them fall.” *
“The men are dead,” said MacNair. j The officer stared in astonishment, j Chloe also was puzzled by the frank adI mission of the man, and she gazed into his face as though striving to pierce its mask and discover an ulterior motive. MacNair returned her gazç unflinchingly. and again the girl felt an indescribable sense of smallness—of helplessness before this man of the north, whose very presence breathed strength and indomitable man-power.
“Was it possible." she wondered, “that he would dare to flaunt this strength in the very face of the law?” She turned to Corporal Ripley, who was making notes with a pencil in a little note-book. “Well,” she asked, “is my evidence specific enough to warrant this man’s arrest?” The officer nodded slowly. “Yes,” he answered gravely. “The evidence warrants an arrest. Very probably several arrests.”
“You mean,” asked the girl, “that you think he may have—an accomplice?”
“No, Miss Elliston. I don’t mean that. In spite of your evidence and his own words, I don’t think MacNair is guilty. There is something queer here. I guess there is no doubt that whisky has been run into the territory, and that it has been supplied to the Indians. You charge MacNair with these crimes, and I’ve got to arrest him.”
Chloe was about to retort when the officer interrupted her with a gesture. “Just a moment, please,” he said quietly, “I’m not sure I can make myself plain to you, but you see, in the north we know something of MacNair’s work. Of what he has done in spite of the odds. We know the north needs men like MacNair. You claim to be a friend of the Indians. Do you realize that up on Snare Lake, right now, are a bunch of Indians who depend on MacNair for their existence? MacNair’s absence will cause suffering among them and even death. If his storehouse has been burned what are they going to eat? On your statements I’ve got to enter charges against MacNair. First and foremost the charge of murder. He will also be charged with importing liquor, having liquor in prohibited territory, smuggling whisky, and supplying liquor to the Indians.
“Now, Miss Elliston, for the good of .those Indians on Snare Lake, I want you to withdraw the charge of murder. The other offences are bailable ones, and in my judgment he should be allowed to return to his Indians. Then, when his trial comes up at the spring assizes, the charge of murder can be placed against him. I’ll bet a year’s pay MacNair isn’t to blame. In the mean time we will get busy and comb the barrens for the real criminals. I’ve got a hunch. And you can take my word that justice shall be done, no matter where the blow falls.”
SUDDENLY, through Chloe’s mind flashed the memory of what Lapierre had told her of the Mounted. She arose to her feet and, drawing herself up haughtily, glared into the face of the officer. When she spoke, her voice rang hard with scorn.
“It is very evident that you don’t want to arrest MacNair. I haveheard that he is a law unto himself—that he would defy arrest—that he has the Mounted subsidized. I did not believe it at the time. I regarded it merely as the exaggerated statement of a man who justly hates him. But it seems this man was right. You need not trouble yourself about MacNair’s Indians. I will stand sponsor, for their welfare. They are my Indians now. I warn you that the day of MacNair is past. I refuse to withdraw a single word of my charges against him, and you will either arrest him. or I shall go straight to Ottawa. And I shall never rest until I have blazoned before the world the whole truth about your rotten system! What will Ganada say, when she learns that the Mounted—the men who have been held up before all the world as models of bravery, efficiency, and honor—are as crooked and grafting as—as the police of New York?”
Corporal Ripley’s face showed red through the tan, and he started to his feet with an exclamation of anger. “Hold on corporal.” The voice of MacNair was the quiet voice with which one soothes a petulant child. He remained seated and pushed the Stetson toward the back of his head. “She really believes it. Don’t hold it against her. It is not her fault. W’hen the smoke has cleared away and she gets her bearings, we’re all going to like her. In fact, I’m thinking that the time is coming when the only one who will hate her will be herself. I like her now; though she is not what you’d call my friend. I mean—not yet.”
Corporal Ripley gazed in astonishment at MacNair and then very frigidly he turned to Chloe. “Then the charge of murder stands?”
“Yes, it does,” answered the girl. “If he were allowed to go free now there would be three murders instead of two by
the time of the spring assizes, or whatever you call them, forvhe is even now upon the trail of a man he has threatened to kill. I can give you his exact words. He said:‘I have taken the man-trail . .
—and at the end of that trial will lie a dead man—myself or Pierre Lapierre!’”
“Lapierre!” exclaimed the officer. “What has he got to do with it?” He turned to MacNair as if expecting an answer. But MacNair remained silent. “Why don’t ydu charge Lapierre with the crimes you to|d me he w’as guilty of?” taunted the girl. Again she saw that baffling twinkle in the gray eyes of the man. Then tHe eyes hardened.
"The last thipg I desire is the arrest of Lapierre,” he Answered. “Lapierre must answer to me.” The w’ords. pronounced slowly and distinctly, rasped hard. In spite of herself Chloe shuddered.
Corporal Ripley shifted uneasily. “We’d better be going, MacNair,” he said. “There’s something queer about this whole business—something I don’t quite understand. It’s up to me to take you up the river; but, believe me. I’m coming back! I’ll get at the bottom of this thing if it takes me five years. Are you ready?”
“I can let you have some Indians,” suggested the girl.
“Why, for a guard, of course; to help you with your prisoner.”
Ripley drew himself up and answered abruptly: “The Mounted is quite capable of managing its own affairs. Mias F.llis«ton. I don’t need your Indians, thank you.”
Chloe glanced wrathfully into the boyish face of the officer. “Suit yourself,” she answered sweetly. “But if I were you. I’d want a whole regiment of Indians. Because if MacNair wants to, -he’ll eat you up”
“He won’t want to,” snapped Ripley. “I don’t Laste good.”
As they passed out of the door. MacNair turned. “Good-by, Miss Flliston.” he said gravely. “Beware of Pierre Lapierre.” Chlóe made no reply, and as MacNair turned to go, he chanced to glance into the wide, expressionless face of Big Lena, who had stood throughout the interview leaning heavily against the jamb of the kitchen door. Something inscrutable in the stare of the fishlike, china-blue eyes clung in his memory, and. try as he would in the days that followed. MacNair could not fathom the meaning of that stare, if indeed it had any meaning. MacNair did not know why, but in some inexplaipable manner the memory of that look eased many a weary mile.
NEWS, of a kind, travels on the wings of the wind across wastes of the farther land. Principalities may fall, nations crash, and kingdoms sink into oblivion, and the north will neither know nor care. Eor the north has its own problems—vital problems, human problems—and therefore big, elemental, portentous problems, having to do with life and the eating of meat.
In the crash and shift of man-made governments; in the redistribution of man-constituted authority, and mangathered surplus of increment, the north has no part. On* the cold side of sixty there is no surplus, and men think in terms of meat, and their possessions are meat-getting possessions. Guns, nets, and traps, even of the best, insure but a bare existence. And in the lean years, which are the seventh years—the years of the rabbit plague—starvation stalks in the teepees, and gaunt, sunken-eyed forms, dry lipped, and with the skin drawn tightly over protruding ribs, stiffen between shoddy blankets. For even the philosophers of the land of God .and the H. B. C. must eat to live—if not this week, at least once next week.
The H. B. C-, taking wise cognizance of the seventh year, extends it credit— “debts” it is called in the outlands—but it puts no more wool in its blankets, and for lack of food the body-fires burn low. But the cold remains inexorable. And with the thermometer, at seventy degrees below* zero, even in the years of plenty, when the philosophers eat almost daily, there is little of comfort. With the thermometer at seventy in the lean years, the suffering is diminished by the passing of many philosophers.
The arrest of Bob MacNair was a matter of sovereign import to the dwellers of the frozen places, and word of it swept'like wildfire through the land of the lakes and rivers. Vet in all the north those upon whom it made the least impression were those most vitally concerned— MacNair’s own Indians. So quietly had the incident passed that not dne of them realized its importance.
With them MacNair was He was the law. He had taught them to work, so that even in the lean years they and their wives and their babies ate twice each day. He had said that they should continue to eat twice each day, and therefore his departure was a matter of no moment. They knew only that he had gone southward with the man of the soldier-police. This was doubtless as he had commanded. They could conceive of MacNair only as commanding. Therefore the soldier-policeman had obeyed and accompanied him to the southward.
With no such - complacency, however, was the arrest of MacNair regarded by the henchmen of l.apierre. To them MacNair was not God. nor was he the law. For these men knew well the long arm of the Mounted and what lay at the end of the trail. I.e;\n forms sped through the woods, and the word passed from lip to lit» in far places. It was whispered upon the Slave, the Mackenzie, and the Athabasca. and it was told in the provinces before MftcNair and Ripley reached Fort Chippewa ran. Along the river men talked excitedly, and impatiently awaited word froip l.apierre, while their eyes snapped with and their thoughts flew to the gold in the sands of the barren grounds.
In the Bastile du Mort, a hundred miles to the eastward, l.apierre heard the news from the lips of a breathless runner, but a scant ten hotïrs after Corporal Riplev and MacNair stepped from the door of the cottage. And within the hour the quarter-breed was upon the trail, traveling light, in company with I.efroy, who. fearing swift vengeance, had also sought safety in the stronghold of the outlaws.
Chloe Elliston stood m the doorway and watched the broad form of Bob MacNair swing across the clearing in in company with Corporal Ripley. v\s the men disappeared in the timber a fierce joy of victory surged through her veins. She had bared the mailed fist! Had wrested a people from the hand of their oppressors! The Snare Lake Indians were henceforth to be her Indians! She had rid the north of MacNair! Every fiber of her sang with the exultation of it as she turned into the room and encountered the fishlikp stare of Big Lena.
The woman leaned, ponderous and silent, against the jamb of the door giving into the kitchen. Her huge arms were folded tightly across her breast, ami for some inexplicable reason. Chloe found the stare disconcerting. The enthusiasm of her victory damped perceptibly. For if the fish-eyed stare held nothing of reproach. it certainly held nothing of approbation. Almost the girl read a condescending pity in the stare of. the chinablue eyes. The thought stilng, and she faced the other wrathfully..
“Well, for Heaven’s sake say something! Don’t stand there and stare like a—a billikin! Can't you talk?”
“Yah. Ay tank Ay kin; but Ay von’t —not yat.”
“What do you mean?” cried the exasperated girl, as she flung herself into a chair. But without deigning to answer, Big Lena turned heavily into the kitchen, and closed the door with a báng that impoverished invective. For volumes may be spoken in the banging of a door; and thus the moment was inauspicious for the entrance of Harriet Penny. At best, Chloe merely endured the little spinster, with her whining, hysterical outbursts, and abject, unreasoning fear of God. man, the devil, and everything elsé. “Oh, my dear, I am so glad!” piped the little woman, rushing to the girl’s side; “we need never fear him again, need we?”
“Nobodv ever did fear him but you,” retorted Chloe.
“But, Mr. Lapierre said—”
The girl arose with a gesture óf impatience, and Miss Penny returned to MacNair. “He is so big. and coarse, and horrible! I am sure even his looks are enough to frighten a person tofleath.”
Chloe sniffed. “I think he is handsome. and he is big and strong. I like big people.”
“But, my dear!” cried the horrified Miss Penny. “He—he kills Indians!”
“So do I !” snapped the girl, and stamped angrily into her own room, where she threw herself upon the bed and gave way to bitter reflections. She hated every one. She hated MacNair. and Big Lena, and Harriet Penny, afnl the officer of the Mounted. She hated Lapierre and the Indians, too. And then, realizing the follv of her blind hatred, she hated herself for hating. With an effort she regained her poise.
“MacNair is out of the way; “and that’s the main thing.” she murmured. She remembered his last words: “Beware of Pierre Lapierre,” and her eyes sought the man’s hastily scribbled note that lay upon the table where he had left it. She reread the note, and crumpling it in her hand, threw it to the floor. “He always manages to be some place else when anything happens!” she exclaimed. “Oh, why couldn’t IT have been.the other way around? Why couldn’t MacNair have been the one to have the interest of the Indians at heart? And why couldn’t Lapierre have been the one to browbeat and bully them?”
She paced angrily up and down the room, and kicked viciously at the little hall of paper that was Lapierre’s note. “He couldn’t browbeat anything!” she exclaimed “He’s—he’a^— sometimes, Î think, he’s almost sneaking, with his bland, courtly manners, and his suave tongue. Oh. how I could hate that mani And how I—” she stopped suddenly, and with clenched fists fixed her gaze upon the portrait of Tiger Elliston, and as she looked the thin features that returned her Mare seemed to resolve into the rugged outlines of the face of Bob MacXair.
"He’s big and strong, and he’s not afraid.” she murmured, and started nervously at the knock with which Big Lena announced supper.
When Chloe appeared at the table five minutes later she was quite her usual self. She even laughed at Harriet Penny’s horrified narrative of the fact that she had
discovered several Indians in the act of affixing runners to the collapsible bathtubs in anticipation of the coming snow.
C'» HLOE spent an almost sleepless night.
J and it was with a feeling of distinct relief that she arose to find Lapierre upon the verandah. She noted a certain intense eagerness in the quarter-breed’s voice as he greeted her.
“Ah, Miss Elliston!” he cried, seizing both her hands. “It seems that during my brief absence-you have accomplished wonders! May 1 ask how you managed to bring about the downfall of that brute of the north, and at the same time win his Indians to your school?”
I nder the enthusiasm of his words the girl’s heart one** more quickened with the sense of victory. She withdrew her hands from his clasp and gave a brief account of all that had happened since their parting on Snare Lake.
“Wonderful,” breathed Lapierre at the conclusion of the recital. “And you are *ure he was duly charged with the murder of the two Indians?”
. Chloe nodded. “Yes. indeed I am sure!” she eclaimed. “The officer. Corporal Ripley, tried to get roe to put off this charge until his other trial came up at the spring asizes. He said McXair could give bail and secure his liberty on the liquor charges, and thus return to the north—and to his Indians.” .
Lapierre nodded eagerly. “Ah. did I not tell you, Miss Elliston. that the men of the Mounted are with him heart and soul” He owns them! You have done well not to withdraw the charge of murder.”
“I offered to furnish him with an escort of Indians, but he refused them. I don’t see how in the world he can expect to take MacXair to j.ail. He’s a mere boy.”
Lapierre laughed. “He’ll take him to jail all right, you may rest assured as to that. He will not dare to allow him to escape, nor will MacXair try to escape. We have nothing to fear now until the trial. It is extremely doubtful if we can make the murder charge stick, but it will serve to hold him during the winter, and I have no doubt when his case comes up in the spring we will be able to produce evidence that will insure conviction on the whiskey charges which will mean at least a year or two in jail and the exaction of a heavy fine.
“In the meantime you will have succeeded in educating the Indians to a realization of the fact that they owe allegiance to no man. MacNair’s power is broken. He will be discredited by the authorities, and hated by his own Indians—a veritable pariah of the wilderness. And now. Miss Elliston, I must hasten at once to the rivers. My interests there have long been neglected. I shall return as soon as possible, but my absence will necessarily be prolonged, for beside my own trading affairs and the getting out of the timber for new scows, I hope to procure such additional evidence as will insure the conviction of MacNair. Lefroy will remain with you here.”
“Did you catch the whisky-runners?” Chloe asked.
Lapierre shook his head. “No,” he answered, “they succeeded in eluding us among the islands at the eastern end of the lake. We were about to push our search to a conclusion when news reached us of MacNair’s arrest, and we returned with all speed to the Yellow Knife.” Somehow, the man’s words sounded unconvincing — the glib reply was too readv—too like the studied answer to an anticipated question. She regarded him searchingly, but the simple directness of his gaze caused her own eyes to falter, and she turned into the house with a deep breath that was very like a sigh.
The sense of elation and self-confidence inspired by Lapierre’s first words ebbed as it had ebbed before the unspoken rebuke of Big Lena, leaving her strangely depressed. With the joy of accomplishment dead within her, she drove herself to work without enthusiasm. In all the world, nothing seemed worth while. She. was unsure—unsure of Lapierre; unsure of herself; unsure of Big Lena—and, worst of all, unbelievable and preposterous as it seemed in the light of what she had witnessed with her own eys, unsure of MacNair—of his villainy !
Before noon the first .snow of the season started in a fall of light, feathery flakes, which gradually resolved themselves into fine, hard particles that were hurled and buffeted about by the blasts of a fitful wind.
FOR three days the blizzard raged — days in which Lapierre contrived to spend much time in Chloe’s company, and during which the girl set about deliberately to study the quarter-breed, in hope of placing definitely the defect in his makeup, the tangible reason for the growing sense of distrust with which she was coming to regard him. But, try as she would, she could find no cause, no justification, for the uncomfortable and indefinable something that was gradually developing into an actual doubt of his sincerity. She knew that the man had himself well in hand, for never by word or look did he express any open avowal of love, although a dozen times a day he managed subtly to show that his love had in no wise abated.
On the morning of the fourth day, with forest and lake and river buried beneath three feet of snow, Lapierre took the trail for the southward. Before leaving, he sought out Lefroy in the storehouse.
“We have things our own way, but we must lie low' for a while, at least. MacNair is not licked yet—by a damn sight! He knows we furnished the booze to his Indians, and he will yell his head off to the Mounted, and we will have them dropping in on us all the winter. In the meantime leave the liquor where it is. Don’t bring a gallon of it into this clearing. It will keep and we can’t take chances with the Mounted. There will be enough in it for us, with what we can knock down here, and what the boys can take out of MacNair’s diggings. They know the gold is there; most of them were in on the stampede when MacNair drove them back a few years ago. And when they find out that MacNair is in jail, there will be another stampede. And we will clean up big all around.’ F
Lefroy, a man of few words, nodded somberly, and Lapierre, who was impatient to be off to the rivers, failed! to note that the nod was far more somber than usual—failed, also, to note the pair of china-blue, fishlike eyes that stared impassively at him from behind the goods piled high upon the huge counter.
Once upon the trail, Lapierre lost no time. He passed the word upon the Mackenzie, where the men who had hears! of the arrest of MacNair waited in a frenzy of impatience for the signal that would send them flying over the snow to Snare Lake. Day and night the man traveled; from the Mackenzie southward the length of Slave and up the Athabasca. And in his wake men, whose eyes fairly bulged with the greed of gold, jammed their outfits into packs and headed into the north.
At Athabasca Landing he sent a crew into the timber, and hastened on to Edmonton. where he purchased a railway ticket for a point that had nothing whatever to do with his destination.! That same night he boarded an east-bound train, and in an early hour of the morning. when the engine paused for water beside a tank that was the most conspicuous building of a little flat town in the heart of a peaceful farming community, he stepped unnoticed from the day coach and proceeded at once to the low, wooden hotel, where he was cautiously admitted through a rear door by the landlord himself, who was incidentally, Lapierre’s shrewdest and most effective whiskyrunner.
It was this Tostoff, Russian by birth, and a crook by nature, whose business it was to disguise the contraband whisky into innocent-looking freight pieces. And it was Tostoff who selected the men and stood responsible for the contraband’s safe conduct over the first stage of its journey into the north.
Tostoff objected strenuously tp the running of a consignment in winter, but Lapierre persisted, covering the ground step by step while the other listened with a scowl.
“It’s this way, Tostoif, for years MacNair has been our chief stumbling block. God knows we have trouble enough running the stuff past the Dominion police and the Mounted. But the danger from the authorities is small in comparison with the danger from MacNair.” Tostoff growled an assent. “And now,” continued Lapierre, "for the first time we have him where we want him.” _
The Russian looked skeptical. “We got MacNair where we want him if he’s dead,” he grunted. “Who killed him?”
Lapierre made a gesture of impatience. “He is not dead. He’s locked up in the Fort Saskatchewan jail.”
For the first time Tostoff showed real interest. “What’s against him?” he asked eagerly.
“Murder, for one thing,” answered Lapierre. “That will hold him without bail until the spring assizes. He will probably get out of that, though. But they are holding him also on four or five liquor charges.”
“Liquor charges!” cried Tostoff, with angry snort. "Oh-o! so that’s his game? That’s why he’s been bucking us—because he’s got a line of his own!”
Lapierre laughed. “Not so fast, Tostoff, not so fast. It is a frame-up. That is, the charges are not, but the evidence is. I attended to that myself. I think we have enough on him to keep hihi out of the cold for a couple of winters to come. But you can’t tell. And while we have him we will put the screws to him for all there is in it. It is the chance of a lifetime. What we want now is evidence.—and more evidence.
"Here is the' scheme: You fix up a
consignment, five or ten gallons, the usual way, and instead of shooting it in by the Athabasca, cut into the old trail on the Beaver and take it across the Methve portage to a cache on the Clearwater.
“Brown’s old cabin will about fill the bill. We ought to be able to cache the stuff by Christmas.
“In the mean time, I will slip up the river and tip it off to the Mounted at Fort McMurrav that I got it straight from down below that MacNair is going to run in a batch over the Methve trail, and that it is to be cached on the bank of the Clearwater on New Year’s Day. That will give your packers a week to make their getaway. And on New Year’s Day the Mounted will find the stuff in the cache. There will be nobody to arrest, but they will have the evidence that will clinch the case against MacNair. And with MacNair behind the bars we will have things our own way north of sixty.”
shook his head dubiously.
“Bad business, Lapierre,” he warned. “Winter trailing is bad business. The snow tells tales. We haven’t been caught yet. Why? Not because we’ve been lucky, but because we’ve been careful. Water leaves no trail. We’ve always run our stuff in the summer. You say you’ve got the goods on MacNair. I say, let well enough alone. The Mounted ain’t fools—they can read the sign in the snow.”
Lapierre arose with a curse. “You white-livered clod!” he cried. "Who is running this scheme? You or I. Who delivers the whisky to the Indians? And who pays you your money? I do the thinking for this outfit. I didn’t come down here to ask you to run this consignment. I came here to tell you to do it. This thing of playing safe is alright. I never told you to run a batch in the winter before, but this time you have got to take the chance.”
Lapierre leaned closer and fixed the heavy-faced Russian with his gleaming black eyes. He spoke slowly so that the words fell distinctly from his lips. “You räche that liquor on the Clearwater on ( hristmas Day. If you fail—well, you will join the others that have been dismissed from my service—see?”
Tostoff’s only reply was a pondeious but expressive shrug, and without a won! Lapierre turned and stepped out into the night.
WHAT HAPPENED AT BROWN'S.
IT was the middle of December. Storni 1 after storm had left the north cold and silent beneath its white covering of snow. A dog-team swung across the surface of the ice-locked Athabasca, and took the steep slope at Fort McMurray
Leaving the dogs in care of the musher, Pierre Lapierre loosened the thongs of his rackets, and, pushing open the door, i stamped noisily into the detachment quarters of the Mounted and| advanced to the stove where two men were mending dog-harness. The men looked up.
J “Speaking of the devil,” grinned Constable Craig, with a glance toward Corporal Ripley, who greeted thei newcomer with a curt nod, “Well, Lapiejrre, where ' d’ you come from?”
Lapierre jerked his thumb toward the i southward. “Up river,” he answered.
I “Getting out timber for my scows.” Removing his cap and mittens, the quarteri breed loosened h-is heavy Trioose-hide j parka, beat the clinging snow from the ; coarse hair, and drew a chair tí) the stove.
I “Come through from the Landing on j the river?” asked Ripley, as He filled a short black pipe with the tpbacco he shaved from a plug. “How’s ^he trail?” “Good and hard, except fori the slush at the Boiler and another stretch just be; low the Cascade.” Lapierre rolled a ciga| rette. “Hear you caught Macpiair with j the goods at last,” he ventured.
“Looks like it.” he admitted. “But ! what do you mean, ‘at last’?” | j The quarter-breed laughed li|ghtly and 1 blew a cloud of cigarette-smoke ceilingward. “I mean he has had things pretty much his own way the last six or eight years.”
“Meanin’ he’s been runnin’ whisky all that time?” asked Craig.
Lapierre nodded. “He has fun boctee enough into the north to float a canoe j from here to Fort ChippewayanT i It was Ripley’s turn to laugh. “If you are so all-fired wise, why haven’t you made a complaint?” he asked. “Seems like I never heard you and MacN such good friends.”
Lapierre shrugged. “I know lot of men who have got their fu because they minded their own business,” j he answered. “I am not in the Mount! ed. That’s what you are paid for.”
Ripley flushed. “We’ll earn our payon this job all right. We’ve got the goods on him this time. And, by (the way, Lapierre, if you’ve pot anything in the way of evidence, we’ll be wanting it at i the trial. Better show up in May. and save somebody goin’ after you. j If you run on to any Indians that know anything, bring them along.”
“I will be there,” smiled thé other. “And since we are on the subjecit, I can put you wise to a little deal that.îwrll net I you some first-hand evidence.” Tjhe offi! cers looked interested, and Lapiefre con! tinued: “You know where Brown’s old ■ cabin is, just this side of th-e Metnye por! tage?” Ripley nodded. “Well, J if you i should happen to be at Brown’s New i Year’s Day, just pull up the puncheons I under the bunk and see what you find.” “What will we find?” asked Cr^ig.
I Lapierre shrugged. “If I wefe you j fellows I wouldn’t overlook any bets,” he answered meaningly.
“Why New Year’s Day any more than Christmas, or any other day?” | j “Because,” answered Lapierrë, “on Christmas Day, or any other day before . New Year’s Day, you won’t find a •„damned thing but an empty hole—that is j why. Well, I must be going.” He fasti ened the throat of his parka and déew on his cap and mittens. “So long! See you in the spring. Shouldn’t wonder if I will run onto some Indians, this winter, who will tell what they know, now that MaeNair is out of the way. I know plenty of them that can talk, if they will.”
“So long!” answered Ripley as Lapierre left the room. “Much obliged for the tip. Hope your hunch is good.”
“Play it and see,” smiled Lapierre. and banged the door behind him.
MOVING slowly northward upon a course that paralleled but stud' iously avoided the Methye trail, twoTnen and a dog team plodded heavily through the snow at the close of a shortening day. Ostensibly, these men were trappers; and, save for a single freight piece bound secuwly upon the sled, their outfit varied in no particular from the outfits of others who each winter fare into the north to engage in the taking of fur. A close observer might have noted that the eyes of these men were hard, and the frequent glances they cast over the backtrail were tense with concern.
The larger and stronger of the two, one Xavier, a sullen riverman of evil countenance, paused at the top of a ridge and pointed across a snow-swept beaver meadow. “T’night we camp on dees side. T’mor’ we cross to de mout’ of de leetle creek, and two pipe beyon' we com’ on de cabin of Baptiste Chambre.” The smaller man frowned. He. too, was a riverman, tough and wiry and small. A man whose pinched, wizened body was a fitting cloister for the warped soul that flashed malignantly from the beady, snakelike eyes.
“Non, non.'" he cried, and the venomous glance of the beady eyes was not unmingled with fear. "We ke’p straight on pas’ de beeg swamp. Me—I’m no Iak’ dees wintaire trail.” He pointed meanindy toward the marks of the sled in the snow.
The other laughed derisively. “Sarre! you leetle man, you DuMont, you ’fraiil !”
The other shruirired. “I’m ’fraid. Oui, I’m lak’ I ke’p out de jail. Tostoff. she say, you com’ on de cabin of Brown de Chrees’mas Day. Uien!. Tostoff. she
sma’t mans. Lapierre, too. Tostoff, she ’fraid fop de wintaire trail, but she ’fraid for Lapierre mor‘.”
Xavier interrupted -him. “Tra la. Chrees’mas Day! Ain’t we got de easy trail? Two days befor’ Chrees’mas we com’ on de cabin of Brown. Baptiste Chambre, she got the beeg jug rum. We mak’ de grand dronk — one day — one night. Den we hit de trail and com’ on de Clearwater Chrees’mas Day sam’ lak’ now. Tostoff, de Russ, she nevair know, Lapierre she nevair know. Voila!”
Still -the other objected. “Mebe so com’ de storm. What den? We was’e de time wit Baptiste Chamber. We no mak' de Clearwater de Chrees’mas Dav — eh?”
Xavier growled. “De Chrees'mas Day, damn! We no mak’ de Chrees’mas Day, we mak’ som' odder day. Lapierre’s damn Injuns com’ for de wheesky on 'Chrees’mas Day, she haf to wait. Me — I’m goin’ to Baptiste Chambre. I’m goin’ for mak’ de beeg dronk. If de snow com’ and de dog can’t pull. I’m tak’ dees leetle piece on ma back to the Clearwater.”
He reached down contemptuously and swung the piece containing ten gallons of whisky to his shoulder with one hand, then lowered it again to the sled.
“You know w’at I’m hear on de revair?” he asked, stepping closer to Du Mont’s side and lowering his voice. “I’m hearin’ McNair ees een de jail. I’m hearin’ Lapierre she pass de word to hit for Snare Lake, for deeg de gol’.”. Ripley, when the two prisoners were seated side by side upon the pole bunk.
“Did Lapierrç tell you to deeg de gol’, or me? Ñon. He say you go to Tostoff.” The snakelike eyes of the smaller man glittered at the mention of gold. He clutched at the other’s arm and cried out sharply :
“MacNair arres’! Sacre! .(’om’, we tak’ de wheesky to de Clearwater an’ go on to Snare Lake.”
This time it was Xavier’s eyes that flashed a hint of fear. "Sun!" he answered quickly. “Lapierre, she-
The other silenced him. speaking rapidly. “Lapierre, she t’ink she mak’ us w’at you call, de double cross!” Xavier noted that the malignant eyes flashed dangerously— “Lapierre, she sma’t but me-—I’m sma’t too. Here’s plent’ men ’Ion de revair lak’ to see de las’ of Pierre Lapierre. And plent’ Injun in de nort’ dey lak’ dat to. But dey ‘fraid to keel him. We do de work—Lapierre she tak’ de money. Sarre! Me—I’m ’fraid too.” He paused and shrugged significantly. “But som’ day I’m git de chance an’ den leetle Du Mont she dismees Lapierre from de serveece. Den me I’m de bos’. Bien !"
The other glanced at him in admiration.
“Me. I’m goin’ ’long to Snare Lake.” he said, “but firs’ we stop on Baptiste Chambre an’ mak’ de beeg dronk, eh!” The smaller man nodded, and the two sought their blankets and were soon sleeping silently beside the blazing fire.
A WEEK later the two rivermen paused at the edge of a thicket that commanded the approach to Brown's cab*n on the Clearwater. The threatened storm had broken while they were still at Baptiste Chambre’s cabin, and the two days’ debauch had lengthened into five.
Chambre's jug had been emptied and several times refilled from the contents of Tostoff’s concealed cask, which had been skilfully tapped and as skilfully replenished as to weight by the addition of snow water.
The effect of their protracted orgy was plainly visible in the bloodshot eyes and heavy movement of both men. And it was more from force of long^abit than from any sense of alertness or premonition of danger that they c rouched in the thicket and watched the smoke curl from the little iron stovepipe that protruded above the roof of the cabin.
“Dem Injun she wait,” growled Xavier. ‘‘Com’ on, me—I’m lak’ for ketch som’ sleep.” The two swurjg boldly into the open and. pausing only long enough to remove their rackets, pushed open the door of the cabin.
An instant later Du Mont, who was in the lead, leaped swiftly backward and, crashing into the heavier and clumsier Xavier, howled him over into the snow, where both wallowed helplessly, held down by Xavier’s heavy pack.
It was but the work of a moment for the wiry Du Mont to free himself, and when he leaped to his feet, cursing like a fiend, it was to look squarely into the muzzle of Corporal Ripley's service revolver, while Constable Craig loosened the pack straps and allowed Xavier to arise.
“Caught with the goods, eh?” grinned . Corporal Ripley was a man of quick decision; with him to decide was to act. Within an hour from the time Du Mont concluded his story the two officers with their prisoners were headed for Fort Saskatchewan. Both Du Mont and Xavier realized that their only hope for clemency lay in the ability to aid the authorities in building up a clear case against Lapierre, and during the ten days of snow-trail that ended at Athabasca Landing, each tried to outdo the other in explaining what he knew of the workings of Lapierre’s intricate system.
The sullen-faced Xavier glowered in surly silence, but the malignant, beady eyes of Du Mont regarded the officer keenlv. “You patrol de Clearwater now, eh?"
Ripley laughed. “When there’s anything doin’, we do."
“How you fin’ dat out? Dem Injur, she squeal? I'm lak’ to know ’bout dat."
“Well, it wasn’t exactly an Indian this time." answered Ripley; “that is, it wasn’t a regular Indian. Pierre Lapierre put us on to this little deal."
“Pierre— I.A PIERRE
The little wizened man fairly shrieked the name and. leaping to his feet, bounded about the room like an animated rubber ball, while from his lips poured a steadv stream of vile epithets, mingled - with every curse of profanity known to two languages.
“That's goin' some." enthused Constable Craig when the other finally paused for breath. "An’ come to think about it. I believe vou're right. I like to hear a man speak his mind, an' from your remarks it seems like vou’re onoommon peeved with this here little deal. It ain’t nothin' to get so worked up over. You’ll serve your time an’ in a couple of years or so they'll turn you loose again."
At the mention of the prison term the burly Xavier moved uneasily upon the bunk. He seemed about to speak, but was forestalled by the quicker witted Du Mont.
“Two vears. eh!" asked the outraged Metis, addressing Ripley. “Mebe so you mak’ w'at you call de deal. Mebe so I’m tell you who’s de boss. Mebe ^o I’m name de man dat run de wheeskev into de nort'. De man dat plans de cattle raids on de border. De man dat keels rfcor’ Injuns dan mos’ men keels deer, eh! W'at den ? Mebe so den you turn us loose, eh?"
Ripley laughed. “You think I’m goin’ to pay you to teW me the name of the man we’ve already got locked up?"
"You got MacNair locked up," Du Mont leered knowingly. “Men! You think MacNair run de wheeskey. But MacNair, she ain’t run no wheeskey. You mak' de deal wit’ me. Ba Gos’! I’m not just tell you de name. I’m tell you so you fin’ wa’t you call de proof! I no fin' de proof—you no turn me loose. Voila !
Corporal Ripley was a keen judge of men, and he knew that the vindictive and outraged Metis was in just the right mood to tell all he knew. Also Ripley believed that the man knew much. Therefore, he made the deal. And it is a tribute to the Mounted that the crafty and suspicious Metis accepted without question the word of the corporal when he promised to do all in his power to secure their liberty in return for the evidence that would convict “the man higher up."
At the landing, Ripley reported to the superintendent commanding N Division, who immediátely sent for the prisoners and submitted them to a cross-examination that lasted far into the night, and the following morning the corporal escorted them to Fort Saskatchewan, where they were to remain in jail to await the verification of their story.
Division commanders are a law unto themselves, and much to his surprise, two days later, Bob MacNair was released upon his own recognizance. Whereupon, without a moment’s delay, he bought the best dog-team obtainable and headed into the north accompanied by Corporal Ripley, who was armed with a warrant for the arrest of Pierre Lapierre.
THE LOUCHOUX GIRL
WINTER laid a heavy hand upon the country of the Great Slave. Blizzard after howling blizzard came out of the. north until the buildings of Chloe Elliston’s school lay drifted to the eaves in the centre of the snow-swept clearing.
With the drifting snows and the bitter, intense cold that isolated the little colony from the great world to the southward, came a sense of peace and quietude that contrasted sharply with the turbulent, surcharged atmosphere with which the girl had been surrounded from the moment she had unwittingly become a factor in the machinations of the warring masters of wolfland.
With MacNair safely, behind the bars of a jail far to the southward, and Lapierre somewhere upon the distant rivers, the Indians for the first time relaxed from the strain of tense expectancy. Of her own original Indians, those who had remained at the school by command of the crafty Lapierre, there remained only Lefroy and a few of the older men who were unfit to go on the trap-lines, together with the women and children.
MacNair’s Indians, who had long since laid down their traps to pick up the white man’s tools, remained at the school. And much to the girl’s surprise, under the direction of the refractory Sotenah, and Old Elk, and Wee Johnnie Tamarack, not only performed with a will the necessary work of the camp—the chopping and storing of firewood, the shovelling of paths through the huge drifts, and the drawing of water from the river—but took upon themselves numerous other labors of their own initiative.
An ice-house was built and filled upon the banks of the river. Trees were failed, and the logs banked upon miniatu» >• rollways, where all through the short days the Indians busied themselves in the rude whip-sawing of lumber.
Continued on page 83
The Gun Brand
Continued from page 80
Their women and children daily attended the school and worked faithfully under the untiring tutelage of Chloe and Harriet Penny, who entered into the work with new enthusiasm engendered by the interest and the aptness of the Snare Lake Indians—absent qualities among the wives and ehildren of Lapierre’s trappers.
Lefroy was kept busy in the storehouse, and with the passing of the days Chloe unV'cd that he rvmaged to spend more and r.iore lime in company with Lig Lena. At first srte gave the matter no thought. But when night after night she heard the voices of the two as they sat about the kitchen-stove long after she had retired, she began to consider the matter seriously.
At first she dismissed it with a laugh. Of all people in the world, she thought, these two, the heavy, unimaginative Swedish woman, and the leathern-skinned. taciturn wood-rover, would be the last to listen to the call of romance.
Chloe was really fond of the huge, silent woman who had followed without question into the unknown wilderness of the northland, even as she had accompanied her without protest through the maze of the far south seas. With all her averseness to speech and her vacuous, fishy stare, the girl had long since learned that Big Lena was both loyal and efficient, and shrewd. But, Big Lena as a wife! Chloe smiled broadly at the thought.
“Poor Lefroy,” shç pitied. “But it would be the best thing in the world for him. ‘The perpetuity of the red race .will be attained only through its amalgamation with the white.’ ” she quoted; the trite banality of one of the numerous theorists she had studied before starting into the north.
Of Lefroy she knew little. He seemed a half-breed of more than average intelligence, and as for the Test—she would leave that to Lena.On the whole, she rather approved of the arrangement, not alone upon the amalgamation theory, but because she entertained not the slightest doubt as to who would rule the prospective family. She could depend upon Big Lena’s loyalty, and her marriage to one of their number would therefore become a very important factor ip the attitude of the Indians toward the school.
GRADUALLY, the women of the
Slave Lake Indians, taking the cue from their northern sister, began to show an appreciation of the girl’s efforts in their behalf. An appreciation that manifested itself in little tokensof friendship, exquisitely beaded moccasins, shyly presented, and a pair of quill-embroidered leggings laid upon her desk by a squaw who slipped hurriedly away. Thus the way was paved for a closer intimacy which quickly grew into an eager willingness among the Indians to help her in the mastering of their own language.
As this intimacy grew, the barrier which is the chief stumbling block of missionaries and teachers who seek to carry enlightenment into the lean lone land, gradually dissolved. The women with whom Chloe came in contact ceased to be Indians en masse, they became people— personalities—each with her own capability and propensity for the working of good or harm. With this realization vanished the last vestige of aloofness and reserve. And, thereafter, many of the women broke bread by invitation at Chloe’s own table.
The one thing that remained incomprehensible to the girl was the idolatrous regard in which MacNair was held by his own Indians. To them he was a superman—the one great man among all white men. His word waá" accepted without question. Upon leaving for the southward MacNair had told the men to work, therefore they worked unceasingly. Also he had told the women and children to obey without question the words of the white klooehman, and therefore they absorbed her teachings with painstaking care.
Time and again the girl tried to obtain ftie admission that MacNair was in the habit of supplying his Indians with whisky, and always she received the same answer. “.MacNair sells no whisky. He hates whisky. And many times has he killed men for selling whisky to his people.”
At first these replies exasperated the girl beyond measure. She set them down as stereotyped answers in which they had been carefully coached. But as time went on and the women, whose word she had come to hold in regard, remained unshaken in her statements, an uncomfortable doubt assailed her — a doubt that, despite herself, she fostered/ A doubt that caused her to ponder long of nights as she lay in her little room listening to i the droning voices of Lefroy and Big Lena as they talked by the stove in the kitchen.
Strange fancies and pictures the girl built up as she lay, half waking, half dreaming between her blankets. .Pictures in which MacNair, misjudged, hated, fighting against fearful odds, came clean through the ruck and muck with which his enemies had endeavored to smother him, and proved himself the man he might have been; fancies and pictures that dulled into a pain that was very like a heart-ache, as the vivid picture—the real picture—which she herself had seen with her own eyes that night on Snare Lake, arose always to her mind.
The tang of the northern air bit into the girl’s blood. She spent much time in the open and became proficient and tireless in the use of snowshoes and skis. Daily her excursions into the surrounding timber grew longer, and she was never so happy as when swinging with strong, wide strides on her fat thong-strung rackets, or sliding with the speed of the wind down some steep slope of the riverbank, on her smoothly polished skis.
IT was upon one of these solitary excursions when her steps had carried . her many miles along the winding course of a small tributary of the Yellow Knife, that the girl became so fascinated in her exploration she failed utterly to note the passage of time until a sharp bend of the little river brought her face to face withthe law-hung winter sun, which was just on the point of disappearing behind the scrub pine of a long, low ridge.
With a start she brought up short and glanced fearfully about her. Darkness was very near, and she had traveled straight into the wilderness almost since early dawn. Without a moment’s delay she turned and retraced her steps. But even as her hurrying |eet carried her over the back-trail she realized that night would overtake her beforej she could hope to reach the larger river.
The thought of a nightl spent alone in the timber at first terrified her. She sought to increase her hace, bub her muscles were tired, her footsteps dragged, and the rackets clung tq her feet like inexorable weights which sought to drag her down, down into the soft whiteness of the snow.
Darkness gathered, and the back-trail dimmed. Twice she fell and regained her feet with an effort. Suddenly rounding a sharp bend, she crashed heavily among the dead branches of a fallen tree. When at length she regained her feet, the last vestige of daylight had vanished. Her own racket tracks were indiscernible upon the white snow. She was off the trail !
Something long and wet trickled along her cheek. She jerked off her mittens and with fingers tingling in ¡the cold, keen air, picked bits of bark from the edges of the ragged wound where the end of a broken branch had snagged (the soft flesh of her face. The wound st|ung, and she held a handful of snow against it until the pain dulled under the nufnbing chill.
Stories of the night-prowling wolfpack, and the sinister, man| eating loup cervier, crowded her brain. ¡ She must build a fire. She felt through her pockets for the glass bottle of matches, only to find that her fingers were too numb to remove the cork. She replaced the vial and, drawing on her mitterts, beat her hands together until the blood tingled to her finger tips. How she wished now that she had heeded the advice of Lefroy, who cautioned against venturing into the woods without a light camp ax slung to her belt
Laboriously she set about gathering bark and light twigs which she piled in the shelter of a cut-bank, and >¡krhen at last a feeble flame flickered weakly among the thin twigs she added larger branches which she broke and twisted from the limbs of the dead trees. Her camp-fire assumed a healthy proportion, and the flare of it upon the snow was encouraging. ,
At the end of an hour, Chlog removed her rackets and dropped wearily onto the snow beside the fire-wood which she Had piled conveniently close to the blaze. Never in her life had she been so utterly weary, but she realized that for her that night there could be no sleep. And no sooner had the realization forced itself upon her than she fell sound asleep with her head upon the pile of fire-wood.
SHE awoke with a start, sitting bolt upright, staring in bewilderment at her fire—and beyond the fire where, only a few feet distant, a hooded shape stood dimly outlined against the snow. Chloe’s garments, dampened by the exertion of the earlier hours, had chilled her through as she slept, and as she stared \^ide-eyed at the apparition beyond the fire, the figure drew closer and the chill of tfie dampened garments seemed to clutch ¡with icy fingers at her heart. She nerved herself for a supreme effort and arose stiffly to her knees, and then suddenly the figure resolved itself into the form of a girl — an Indian girl—but a girl as different, from the «Indians of her school as day is different from night.
As the girl advanced she smiled, and Chloe noted that her teeth were strong and even and white, and that dark eyes glowed softly from a face as light almost as her own.
“Do not ’fraid,” said the girl in a low, rich voice, “I’m not hurt you. I’m see you fire, I’m com’ ’cross to fin’. Den, ver’ queek you com’ ’wake, an’ I’m see you de one I’m want’’
“The one you want!” cried Chloe, edging closer to the fire. "What do you mean? Who are you? And why should you want me?”
“Me—I’m Mary. I’m com' ver’ far. I’m com’ from de people of my modder. De Louchoux on de lower Mackenzie. I’m com’ to fin’ de school. I’m hear about dat school.”
“The lower Mackenzie!” cried Chloe in astonishment. “I should think you have come very far.”
The girl nodded. “Ver’ far,” she repeated. “T’irty-two sleep I’m on de trail.”
“Alone,” she assented. “I’m com’ for learn de ways of de white women.”
Chloe motioned the girl closer, and then, seized by a sudden chill, shivered violently. The girl noticed the paroxysm, and, dropping to her knees by Chloe’s side, spoke hurriedly.
“You col’,” she said. “You got no blanket. You los’.”
Without waiting for a reply, she hurried to a light pack-sled which stood near by upon the snow. A moment later she returned with a heavy pair of blankets which she spread at Chloe’s side, and then, throwing more wood upon the fire, began rapidly to remove the girl’s clothing. Within a very short space of time, Chloe found herself lying warm and comfortable between the blankets, while her damp garments were drying upon sticks thrust close to the blaze. She watched the Indian girl as she moved swiftly and capably about her task, and when the last garment was hung upon its stick she motioned the girl to her side.
“Why did you come so far to my school?” she asked. “Surely you have been to school. You speak English. You are not a full-blood Indian.’*"
The girl’s eyes sought the shadows beyond the firelight, and as her lips framed a reply, Chloe marveled at the weird beauty of her.
“I go to school on de Mission, two years at Fort MacPherson. I learn to speak de Englis’. My fadder, heem Englis’, but I’m never see heem. Many years ago he com’, in dè beeg boat dat com’ for ketch de whale an’ got lock in de ice in de Bufort Sea. In de spring de boat go 'way, an’ my fadder go ’long, too. He tell my modder he com’ back nex’ winter. Dat many years ago—nineteen years. Many boats com’ every year, but my fadder no com’ back. My modder she t’ink he com’ back som’ day, an’ every fall my modder she tak’ me ’way from Fort MacPherson and we go up on de coast an’ build de igloo. An’ every day she set an’ watch while de ships com’ in, but my fadder no com’ back. My modder t’ink he sure com’ back, he fin’ her waitin’ when he com*. She say, mebe so he ketch ’m many whale. Mebe so he get reech so we got plen’ money to buy de grub.”
The girl paused and her brows c«niracted thoughtfully. She threw a fresh stick upon the fire and shook her head slowly. “I don’t know,” she said softly, “mebe so he com’ back — but heem been gone long tarn’.”
"Where is your mother now?” asked C'hloe, when the girl had finished.
“She up on de coast in de little igloo. Many ships com’ into Bufort Sea las’ fall. She say, sure dis winter my fadder com’ back. She got to wait for heem."
Chloe cleared her throat sharply. “And you?” she asked, “why did you come clear to the Yellow Knife? Why did you not go back to school at the Mission?”
A troubled expression crept into the eyes of the Louchoux girl, and she seemed at a loss to explain. “Eet ees,” she answered at length, “dat my man, too, he not com’ back lak my fadder.”
“Your man!” cried Chloe in astonishment. “Do you mean you are married? Why, you are nothing but a child!”
The girl regarded her gravely. “Yes,” she answered, "I’m marry. Two years ago I git marry, up on de Anderson Reever. My man, heem free-trader, an’ all summer we got plent’ to eat. In de fall he tak’ me back to de igloo. He say, he mus’ got to go to de land of de white man to buy supplies. I lak to go, too, to de land of de white man, but he say no, you Injun, you stay in de nort’ an’ by-m-by I com' back again. Den he go up de reever, an’ all winter I stay in de igloo wit’ my modder an’ look out over dev ice-pack at de boats in the Bufort Sea. In de spring my man he don’ com’ back, my fadder he don’ com’ back neider. We not have got much grub to eat dat winter, and den we go to Fort McPherson. I go back to de school, and I’m tell de pries’ my man h.e no com’ back. De pries’ he ver 'angry. He say. I’m not got marry, but he pries’ he ees .a man—he don’ un’-stan’.
"All summer I’m stay on de Mackenzie, an’ I’m watch de canoes an’ I’m wait for my man to com’ back, but ho don’ com’ back. An’ in de fall my modder she go nort’ again to watch de ships in de Bufort Sea. She say, com’ ’long, but I don’ go, so she go ’lone and I’m stay on dc Mackenzie. I’m stay ’til de reever freeze, an’ no more canoe can com’. Den I’m wait for de ?now. Mebe so my man com’ wit’ de dog team. Don I’m hear ’bout de school de white woman build on do Yellow Knife. Always I’m hear ’bout de white women, but I’m never seen none— only de white men. My man, he mos’ white.
“Den I’m say, mebe so my man lak de white women more dan de Injun. He not com’ back dis winter, an’ I’m go to de school and learn de ways of de white women, an’ in de spring when my man com’ back he lak me good, an’ nex’ winter mebe he tak’ me ’long to de land of de white women. But, eet’s a lang trail to de Yellow Knife, an’ I’m gojt no money to buy de grub an’ de outfiti «, I’m go once more to de pries’ an’ I’m tell heem 'bout dat school. An’ I’m say, mebe so I’m learn de ways of de white women, my man tak’ me ’long nex’ tarn.
“De pries’ de t’ink ’bout dat a long tarn. Den he go over to de Hudson Bay Post an’ talk to McTavish, de factor, an’ bym-by he com’ back and tak’ me over to de post store an* give me de outfit so I’m com’ to de school on de Yellow Knife. Plent’ grub an’ warm blankets dey give me. An’ t’irty-two sleep I’m travel de snow-trail. Las’ night I’m mak’ my camp in de scrub cross de reever. I’m go ’sleep, an’ by-rn-hy I’m wake up an’ see you fire an’ I’m coin’ ’long to fin’ out who camp here.”
AS she listened, Chloe’s hand stole from beneath the blankets and closed soft. ly about the fingers of the Louchoux girl. “And so you have come to live with me?” she whispered softly.
The girl’s face lighted up. “Will you let me com’?” she asked eagerly, “an’ will you teach me de ways of de white women, so I ain’t jus’ be Injun girl? So when my man com’ back, he lak me an’ I have plent’ to eat in de winter?”
“Yes, dear,” answered Chloe, “you shall come to live With me always.”
Followed then a long silence which was broken at last by the Indian girl.
“You don’ say lak de pries’,” she asked, “you not marry, you bad?”
“No! No! No! You poor child ” cried Chloe, “of course you are not bad! You are going to live with me. You will learn many things.”
“An’ som’ tam we fin’ my man? she asked eagerly.
' Chloe’s voice sounded suddenly harsh. “Yes, indeed, we will find him!” she cried. “We will find him and bring him back—” she stopped suddenly. “We will speak of that later. And now that my clothes are dry you can help me put them on, and if you have any grub left in your pack let’s eat. I’m starving.”
While Chloe finished dressing, the Louchoux girl boiled a pot of tea and fried some bacon, and an hour later the tw^o girls were fast asleep in each other’s arms, beneath the warm folds of the big Hudson Bay blankets.
The following morning they had proceeded but a short distance upon the backtrail when they were met by a searching party from the school. The return was made without incident, and Chloe, who had taken a great fancy to the Louchoux girl, immediately established her as a member of her own household.
DURING the days which followed, the girl plunged with an intense eagerness into the task of learning the ways of the white women. Nothing was too trivial or unimportant to escape the girl’s attention. She learned to copy with almost pathetic exactness each of Chloe’s little acts and mannerisms, even to the fixing of her hair. With the other two inmates of the cottage the girl became hardly less a favorite than with Chloe herself.
Her progress in learning to speak English, her skill with the needle and the rapidity with which she learned to make her own clothing delighted Harriet Penny. While Big Lena never tired of instructing her in the mysteries of the culinary department. In return the girl looked upon the three women with an adoration that bordered upon idolatry. She would sit by the hour listening ta Chloe’s accounts of the wondrous cities of the white men and of the doings of the white men’s women.
Chloe never mentioned the girl’s secret to either Harriet Penny or Big Lena, and carefully avoided any allusion to the subject to the girl herself. Nothing could be done, she reasoned, until the ice went out of the rivers, and in the meantime she would do all in her power to instil into the girl’s mind an understanding of the white women’s ethics, so that when the time came she would be able to choose intelligently for herself whether she would return to her free-trader lover or prosecute him for his treachery.
Chloe knew that the girl had done no wrong, and in her heart she hoped that she could be brought to a realization of the true character of the man and repudiate him. If not—if she really loved him, and was determine^ to remain his wife—Chloe made up her mind to insist upon a ceremony which should meet the sanction of church and state.
Christmas and New Year’s passed, and Lapierre did not return to the school. Chloe was not surprised at this, for he had told her that his absence would be prolonged; and in her heart of hearts she wa« really glad, for the veiled suspicion of the man’s sincerity had ¡grown into an actual distrust of him—a distrust that would have been increased a thousandfold could she have known that the quarter-breed was even then upon Snare Lake at the head of a gang of outlaws who were thawing out MacNait’s gravel and ïfhpveling it into dumps for an early clean-up ; instead of looking after his “neglected interests” upon the Tivers.
But she did not know that, nor did she know of his midnight visit to Tostoff, nor of what happened at Brown’s cabin, nor of the release of MacNair.
ON THE TRAIL OF PIERRE LAPIERRE
T> OB MACNAIR drove a terrific trail. D He was known throughout the northland as a hard man to follow at any time. His huge muscles were tireless at the paddle, and upon the rackets his long swinging stride ate up the miles of the snow-trails. And when Bob MacNair was in a hurry the man who Undertook to keep up with him had his work cut out.
When he headed northward after his release from the Fort Saskatchewan jail, MacNair was in very much of a hurry. From daylight until far into the dark he urged his to their utmost. And Corporal Ripley, w?ho was by no means a cheehako, found himself taxed to the limit of his endurance, although never by word or sign did he indicate that the pace was other than of his own choosing.
Fort McMurray, a ten to fourteen day trip under good conditions, was reached in seven days. Fort Chippewayan in three days more, and Fort Resolution a week later—seventeen days from Athabasca Landing to Fort Resolution—a record trip for a dog-train!
MacNair was known as a man of few words, but Ripley wondered at the ominous silence with which his every attempt at conversation was met. Dturing the whole seventeen days of the $now-trail, MacNair scarcely addressed $ word to him—seemed almost oblivious to his presence.
Upon the last day, with the log buildings of Fort Resolution in sight, MacNair suddenly halted the dogs and faced Corporal Ripley.
“Well, what’s your program?? he asked shortly. j
“My program,” returned the other, “is to arrest Pierre Lapierre.”
“How are you going to do it??
“I’ve got to locate him firstj the details will work out later. I’ve been counting a lot on your help and judgment in the matter.”
“Don’t do it!” snapped MacNair.
The other gazed at him in astonishment. “What do you mean?”
“I mean that I’m not going to help you arrest Lapierre. He’s mine! I have sworn to get him, and, by God, I will get him! From now on we are working against each other.”
Ripley flushed, and his eyes narrowed. “You mean,” he exclaimed, “that you defy the Mounted ! That you refuse to help when you’re railed on?”
MacNair laughed. “You might put it that way, I suppose, but it don’t sound well. You know me, Ripley. You know when my word has passed—when I’ve once started a thing—I’ll see it through to the limit I’ve sworn to get Lapierre. And I tell you, he’s mine! Unless you get him first You’re a good man, Ripley, and you may do it—but if you do, when you get back with him, youT know you’ve been somewhere.”
The lines of Ripley’s face softened; as a sporting proposition the situation appealed to him. He thrust out his hand. “It’s a go, MacNair,” he said, “and let the best man win !” *
MACNAIR wrung the officer’s hand in a mighty grip, and then just as he WAS on the point of starting his dogs, paused and gazed thoughtfully after the other who was making his way toward the little buildings of Fort Resolution.
“Oh. Ripley,” he called. The officer turned and retraced his steps. “You've heard of Lapierre’s fort to the eastward. Have you ever been there?”
Ripley shook his head. “No, but I’ve heard he has one somewhere around the east end of the lake.”
MacNair laughed. “Yes, and if you hunted the east end of the lake for it you could hunt a year without finding it. If you really want to know where it is come along. I’ll show you. I happen to be going there.”
“What’s the idea?” asked the officer, regarding MacNair quizzically.
“The idea is just this. Lapierre’s no fool. He’s got as good a chance of getting me as I have of getting him. And if anything happens to me you fellows will lose a lot of valuable time before you can locate that fort. I don’t know myself exactly why I’m taking you there, except that—well, if anything should happen to me, Lapierre would—you see, he might— that is— Damn it!” he broke out wrathfully. “Can’t you see he’ll have things his own way with her?”
Ripley grinned broadly. “Oh ! So that’s it, eh? Well, a fellow ought to look out for his friends. She seemed right anxious to have you put where nothing would hurt you.”
“Shut up!” growled MacNair shortly. “And before we start there’s one little condition you must agree to. If we find Lapierre at the fort, in return for my showing you the place, you’ve got to promise to make no attempt to arrest him without first returning to Fort Resolution. If I can’t get him in the meantime I ought to lose.”
“You’re on,” grinned Ripley, “I promise. But, man, if he’s there he won’t be alone! What chance will you have singlehanded against a whole gang of outlaws?”
MacNair smiled grimly. “That’s my lookout. Remember, your word has passed. and when we locate Lapierre, you head back for Fort Resolution.”
The other nodded regretfully, and when MacNair turned away from the fort and headed eastward along the south shore of the lake, the officer fell silently in behind the dogs.
THEY camped late in a thicket on the shore of South Bay, and at daylight headed straight across the vast snowlevel, that stretched for sixty miles in an unbroken surface of white. That night they camped on the ice, and toward noon of the following day drew into the scrub timber directly north of the extremity of Peththenneh Island.
Long after dark they made a fireless camp directly opposite the stronghold of the outlaws on Hie shore of Lac du Mort. Circling the lake next morning, they reconrtöitered the black spruce swamp, and working their way, inch By inch, passed cautiously between the dense evergreens in the direction of the high promontory upon which Lapierre had built his “Bastile du Mort.”
" Silence enveloped the swampAn intense, all-pervading stillness, accentuated by the low-hung snow-weighted branches through which the men moved like dark fantoms in the gray half-light of the dawn. They moved pot with the stealthy, gliding movement of the Indian, but with the slow, caution of trained woodsmen, pausing every few moments to scrutinize their surroundings, and to strain their ears for a sound that would tell them that other lurking forms glided among the silent aisles and vistas of the snowshrouded swamp. But no sounds came to them through the motionless air, and after an hour of stealthy advance, they drew into the shelter of a huge spruce and peered through the interstices of its snowladen branches toward the log stockade that Lapierre had thrown across the neck of his lofty peninsula.
To be continued.