The Killer of Salmon Brook

Do animals think? Mr. Morton has demonstrated the answer of any old trapper or guide, in this absorbing story of the great forests and gleaming lakes of New Brunswick.

GUY MORTON June 15 1925

The Killer of Salmon Brook

Do animals think? Mr. Morton has demonstrated the answer of any old trapper or guide, in this absorbing story of the great forests and gleaming lakes of New Brunswick.

GUY MORTON June 15 1925

The Killer of Salmon Brook

GUY MORTON

Do animals think? Mr. Morton has demonstrated the answer of any old trapper or guide, in this absorbing story of the great forests and gleaming lakes of New Brunswick.

THERE are some guides, like Old Gabe, who gradually grow into a greater respect for the creatures of the wild than for the men who kill them.

Old Gabe could never have claimed to be a thoughtful man. Perhaps he could not have told any man, least of all himself, when pity first entered his heart. But he knew that now, whenever he stood by the bank of the Little Salmon Brook and looked down upon a marten, or any of his furry foes, as he crouched still and wounded beneath the jaws of a trap, there was within him that ■gnawing of resentment towards life which had made of him the killer.

“You’re a Fftirty little cuss, with fur like a kitten,” he would say, “and you’ll look like the jooels of a queen cuddling about some woman’s neck. So it ain’t my fault, little neighbor, and you’ll have to excuse me.”

Yet life was out of proportion when a man of his size, wizened and gnarled though he was, must go on bringing the heel of his boot down upon the bodies of little things like that, just above the heart.

That feeling had been with him, he scarcely knew for how long, even before Two-Bells came up to him out of the water.

Not that he knew the moose calf as Two-Bells in those days, for he was still so young that there were no distinguishing marks about him. He was just an awkward thing, with gangling legs, too large for his body, and with the wide and inquiring eyes which are the legacy of all youth and innocence.

Old Gabe’s tent was pitched upon Green Point, looking down upon Little Salmon Brook Lake, and there was a little rocky path leading up from the rock-strewn shore. The calf, with his fawn hide sleek and dripping, stumbled over the Canoe and up the pathway; and there his wondering eyes met the eyes of Old Gabriel.

‘ There ain’t much difference between us,” said Old Gabe, “for we’re both looking for friends.”

So he reached out a knotted hand, and the calf came forward and muzzled it.

THAT was the beginning of the strange friendship of the wilds. The calf was a stray, sturdy beyond his few brief weeks, or he could never have survived that untold tragedy which robbed him of a mother; and having never before known man, he knew him now only as that anchorage of comradeship which he had found through his days of loneliness. For it was the man who first led him to the lily-pads in the marshy bays of the Salmon Brook; it was the man who tore up their juicy roots and held them before his quivering nostrils until he learned their worth; and it was the man who bent over the tops of the aspen poplars that he might feed upon their tenderest tips.

So the days drifted into weeks, and Old Gabe forgot the thing which had taken him there.

Had there been anyone to ask Old Gabriel why he lingered, he could not have answered. Perhaps it was the appeal of helplessness. It may have been that with his increasing years the silence of the forest was bringing to him a consciousness of the futility of action; but what he said to himself was that he would wait until a cow moose came that way and then he would find for his ward a mother. But for that season the moose had deserted the Little Salmon Brook country, or else Old Gabriel did not look.

So at length the first fingers of fall began to tinge the soft maple along the tips of the ridges; and then, with the need for action upon him, Old Gabe struck camp while the calf moose looked on.

It was then that he first thought of the animal as Two-Bells. .

For the calf’s growth through the summer had been

fugged, his coat had darkened and his legs had lost some of their ungainliness. And there, at his throat, was the first thickening and lumping of the hide which told of his bell for the future. Except that beneath Old Gabe’s hand, there were two thickenings.

“Your maw must have knowed that,” he decided as he stroked the animal’s neck. “She knowed you wasn’t built quite right, and that’s the reason she left you. You’re big and strong now, Two-Bells, and you’ll have to be looking after yourself this winter. But keep an eye out for the wolves, and if you miss them, we’ll pal it around here again next summer.”

IT WAS at the headquarters on the Southwest Miramichi that Old Gabe first saw Sportsman Dalton. The man was of some importance, from the financial standpoint at least, judging from the size of his outfit and the manner in which Chief Guide Akers was hovering about him. For it was not the habit of Akers to hover about any man.

And yet, almost with the first glance, Old Gabe knew that Dalton belonged to that type of humanity which is one curse of the wilds. He was a Killer. Not like himself, through necessity, but merely through the love of death and violence. It was something in the long, lean, nervous alertness of the man, combined perhaps with the cold snapping of narrow eyes, and the manner in which he fondled his guns. Already, with the first odors of the forest, the man’s blood seemed to be ablaze, and yet through it he had that fatal calm of firm eyes which means the deadly shot.

“Here’s Gabe. Where you been all summer?” Akers’ greeting was half impatience. “Mr. Dalton wants to leave in the morning, and I have promised him the best guide in the whole of the Little Salmon Brook country. So you haven’t much time, Gabe. It’s a small party; only two friends with Mr. Dalton, and I have given you some good husky boys for packing and camp work.

Your job is to get moose. . . . That is all right, Mr. Dalton; if there is any man between here and the Matapedia who can make moose walk into camp and coax to be shot, it’s Old Gabe.”

Time showed that Old Gabe’s estimate of sportsman Dalton had been mild. The second day out he stopped thinking of the man as a sportsman, and knew him only as the Killer. There are killers whom guides can forgive; there are others whom they do not try to forgive.

Had Dalton been new to the forests and merely a sudden victim to the stern violence of its life, or had he softened once before the blaze of death, Old Gabe would doubtless have modified his feelings towards the man. But he was not new to the forest, and the wing of any bird upon the air, the passing of a chattering squirrel, the patter of a cottontail, the drumming of a partridge, the coming and the going of the hundred - and - one other small creatures of the forest which are the background of a vast picture spread before the brain of the true sportsman, were but the signal to Dalton for the leaping flame.

And Old Gabe hovered about him now, even more than had Chief Guide Akers.

“You get me a moose, Gabe,” Dalton instructed, the moment their camping outfit was thrown upon the shores of the Salmon Brook Lake, “And remember, I want a big fellow. I came in here to get a head with more than sixty inches spread, and I want it.”

Old Gabe nodded and thrust his canoe into the water; and with Dalton before him, ready rifle acrcss the knees, he began that slow threading of lake and river which was the wine of life to his veins. He paddled from point to point, missing the lily-pad bays where the muskrats played; he circled close to the mocking loons, and when Dalton’s shot leaped out he sighed and knew that for a time at least his creatures would have peace.

AS THE days slipped away, the fire in Dalton’s veins seemed to leap with brighter flame. There was not a thing about Old Gabe to which he could point the finger of suspicion, and yet he did not catch even the remotest glimpse of a moose. There were tracks, wallowing morasses of them; there were animals within calling distance of the camp at night; and there were the two friends of Dalton who had seen moose in plenty, but w'hose quivering nervès had left the animals freedom.

"All right, Gabe, luck’s against us,” Dalton decided impatiently. “I’ll use Burke’s guide to-day, and he can go with you.”

They parted, but not before Old Gabe’s eyes had met the eyes of the younger man; and so Dalton came back to camp night after night with the fury still upon him. And Burke, in the hands of Old Gabe, brought down a young bull. It was the only kill, with antlers in the forties, and the close of the season but one day off.

“Should have stuck to Old Gabe,” Burke worried the Killer. “Saw a big fellow in the forenoon; bet his spread was over sixty. And a shot like you would have made it.” The Killer’s impatience took him out alone on the last day, and Old Gabe was anxious. For the man had gone in the direction of the Little Salmon Brook, and when last seen his canoe was rounding Green Point. There was a shot some time after, and from that moment Old Gabe paddled with a fever upon him.

He came upon Dalton, digging in a swampy bay of lily-pads a half mile from Green Point. The Killer was throwing in the soil hurriedly when Old Gabe reached, him, but there was still the tip of a hoof showing beyond. A small hoof, with long, slender points like that of a moose calf.

The Killer shrank back from the sudden blaze in Old ■Gabe’s eyes; then, when a touch of pain came to the guide’s eyes, he was the Killer once more.

“Well, what of it?” he demanded. “It’s a fool calf. Just saw its head looking over a log, and I thought it was something else. Had to bury it, didn’t I? Couldn’t take a calf into camp.”

But Old Gabe bad dropped upon his knees and his gnarled hands were working at the thin layer of soil which Dalton had thrown over the body. He worked towards the head of the dead calf, pulled it from the dirt and ran one hand down the lifeless neck. When he stood up once more, his hands seemed to be trembling.

“One would think the calf was yours, the fuss you make about it,” the Killer was growing coldly indifferent; but he was startled again by the look he found in the other’s eyes.

“You can thank your Lord that it isn’t,” Old Gabe spoke slowly, “and I am thinking, Mr. Dalton, that you’re not the kind of a man we want in these woods.”

“Going to report me?”

“I wouldn’t be doing my duty to the forests if I didn’t.”

At the Miramichi headquarters once more, Dalton was frankness itself. He found Akers, was very sorry about the calf; but it was, Mr. Akers would understand, one of those inevitable mistakes of the forest which nothing could correct. And Akers, thinking of other outfits such as this for the man Dalton, agreed.

“Didn’t get the head,” was Dalton’s last word, “but I will be around another year. . . . And I want Gabe as guide.”

THE smile of the man as he said it was something which Old Gabe carried with him all through the winter’s trapping; and it was still a memory in the early summer when he hurried once more towards the Salmon Brook country.

Two-Bells was waiting for him, on the little rocky pathway leading up to Green Point; and though he was curious and strange for a time, there was something which rose up quickly from the past to strengthen their friendship. The summer drifted, with the two bells on the calf’s neck showing more plainly now; and then Old Gabriel began his wanderings, taking Two-Bells with him.

“It ain’t right that you should come to think too much of any one place,” he spoke softly to the animal, “for there’s killers come to these woods; and I’m telling you this, little neighbor, which is mabbe more than your daddy would do, that if you see a real killer in your path, there’s only one thing to do. Get him. For when it comes down to you or him, you’re the one that I think was meant to live.”

Yet Dalton did not come back that fall, nor for two more falls, and Old Gabe was hugging the fond fancy that the forest was rid of him; and while he clung to that hope, Two-Bells was growing in friendship and stature. At the age of four, he looked at Two-Bells and knew him for sturdy moosehood; he measured the spread of the antlers and found them reaching well over the fifties; and so strong was the bond between them that he knew the folly of his own training.

. “It isn’t fair, Two-Bells. I’ve played you the traitor,” he addressed the solemn-eyed creature. “I’ve taught you one thing, and that’s the wrong thing for a fellow like you to know in the forests. Critters on two legs ain’t all like me; and I’m wondering how I can make it up to you.”

There were times when he took out his rifle and fondled it as he looked at Two-Bells; and in such moments he was considering whether it would be best to bring home to the moose a new lesson that man is a thing to be feared. A shot, carefully placed, which would bring pain and anger, but not^lasting injury, would break the bond between them, yet it might be better in the end.

But Old Gabe continued to fondle the rifle, and by the time the birches were turned into clouds of ochre the deed was still undone.

Then he put the rifle aside and led the way far from the Salmon Bçook country, past the Southwest Mira¡ michi and far north into the thinning rivulet of the Clearwater where it creeps down from the divide.

.“You and me are parting,” he spoke, as he left Two-Bells among the balsam. “Perhaps we won’t meet up again; and all I’m asking is that you stay up here where I’ve left you.

There ain’t many killers come, this way.”

And when he reached headquarters for the fall guiding, there was Dalton the Killer, once more.

“My old friend, the best guide of the Salmon Brooks.” He spoke with an undertone of relish which told Old

Gabe that the enmity was not forgotten. “You will be glad to know, Gabe, that I have a special permit to bring out both a moose and a caribou.”

Their eyes met and held for a time; and the Killer laughed.

And when they reached the Salmon Brooks it seemed that Dalton had a special license for slaughter. Small things which came his way fell like the leaves, so that the echoes of his rifle ran up and down the lake and brought shrugs to the shoulders of those younger guides who never before had felt the same as Old Gabe.

It was that which robbed the man of his chances for larger game; yet one day, with Gabe at the paddle, he came upon a cow moose swimming the lake.

Gabe drew close, within a few yards, studying the markings and looking for any unusual trait which the animal, sacred from the rifle, might display in this emergency; and then suddenly the Killer whipped the rifle to his shoulder.

Gabe swerved the canoe sharply.

“Murder,” he said solemnly, like a judge; and without a thought for the man or the dead, he paddled directly for the shore.

The Killer watched while he arranged a small pack with slow care, pushed the canoe into the water once more and vanished around the nearest point of the Salmon Brook.

“What’s wrong with the old fool now?” he demanded of the nearest guide; but the man merely shrugged his shoulders and turned away.

Yet for days he could not leave camp without an attentive guide at his shoulder; nor could he get the faintest glimpse of moose or caribou. And then, in four days, Old Gabe returned, and with him was another man, coldly disrespectful, who asked many questions.

“I’m the district game warden,” he announced, in

parting. “There will, of course, be a fine, Mr. Dalton. The matter will be reported to the Department, and the question of future licenses for any part of the woods will depend upon the reports of Gabriel Dubarr. You understand, Mr. Dalton, that there are certain types of men whom we do not want in our forests.”

When Dalton swung away from him, with the angry crimson upon his cheeks, Old Gabe was at the fire, steaming coffee in a tin pail above the coals. His face was expressionless, but his gnarled fingers were opening and closing, slowly.

“So, you win.” The Killer’s voice was thick, but well controlled. “But what do you think you are going to gain by it? Akers wants me; or if he doesn’t, he wants my money, a whole lot more than he wants you. And I fancy, Gabe, that is one fact you will discover before many suns have set. I ask, what do you gain by it?”

“My duty to the forest,” answered Old Gabe, as his glance met the other’s quite freely.

npHEY hunted more moose. At least, the Killer A brought into play all the craft of the woods which he had ever heard; and back in the recesses of his mind there was a growing hatred for this gnarled and wizened figure which was crude and uncouth in its every mode of life, but which in some way seemed to block his every move. They came about the curves of the rivers, they stole down upon the alder swamps, they waited by the drinking pools in the twilight, and though the indications of moose were lavish on every hand, their haunts were bare of moving life. Dalton knew then that it was the brain of Old Gabe which was tricking him, knew that for every craft he showed there was some counter craft on the part of the woodsman which robbed him of all reward. Yet the craft of Old Gabe was a secret thing, for not in sound or act or gesture did he betray its art to the man in the canoe before him.

So the slumbering of anger was within him, and he watched Old Gabe more narrowly now than he watched for the victims of his slaughter. But Gabriel seemed to be totally without habits; he was helpful even through the long evenings, and there was a vague taint of deference in his manner when he took Dalton’s long hunting boots each night for the oiling.

But the Killer did not follow Gabriel Dubarr to his tent beneath the spruce, and he did not see the smiles about the lips of the guides as the gnarled fingers rubbed the oil deep into the leather.

“That bear oil, she good for moose,” Lanky Muir was accustomed to say each night. “She got a good musk, but it ain’t playing fair with the moose, Gabe. You frighten them so they mabbe never come back to the Salmon Brook.”

“I’m thinking it mabbe wouldn’t be bad to frighten one of them like that,” Gabe replied, toward the end of the season. “You give me an idea, Lanky, that’s useful. ... If next summer isn’t too late.”

CO THE season ran to its close, and on the last day ° Dalton tramped the woods, and Old Gabe tramped with him.

They were working their way out through the Salmon Brooks, to the Miramichi, and so in time they came to Green Point. The little rocky pathway was longer now; for it reached backward through the forest, over thé crest of a miniature mountain, and into the lakes beyond.

It was one end of a carry; and as Old Gabe came down through the spruce and the birch and caught the hard glint of the water beyond, a certain horror gripped him.

For there, at the foot of the trail, looking calmly upward, was a bull-moose.

He was like some great tawny monarch of the forests, beautiful to behold with his massive shoulders and his shapely hips, and with that wonderful spread of antlers which must run close to the sixties. He was so close that one could see the quivering of the muzzle; and in his eyes there was none of that savagery of battle which is sometimes a part of his kind.

Instead, there was a familiarity in his manner, such as one sees in a frisking calf. And at first sight of them, he began to move forward with a mooing welcome.

His great head swung aside, and there, at his throat, were his two bells.

“What a beauty!” Dalton cried. “My chance at last!”

The Killer was in front of Old Gabe, two paces or more; and less than a hundred yards distant was Two-Bells, moving calmly and trustingly up the trail towards that creature Man whom he had known through his brief years as a friend.

The rifle whipped to Dalton’s shoulder; and the man, with such an instrument as that in his hand, was deadly.

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Old Gabe leaped from the ground, and he felt that his outstretched hand struck the Killer’s elbow a bare half second before the explosion came.

And then, looking beneath the man’s upraised arm, he saw the quiver of amazement which passed through the frame of Two-Bells. He saw the livid stab of red which cut its way across the animal’s shoulder; he saw the bunching of the legs, and the swift leap which carried Two-Bells beyond the trail into the quick shelter of the forest.

Then he saw the rifle upon the ground, and the white where formerly there had been red in the cheeks of Dalton.

“God!” the man said with thick breath, “I think I could kill you with my bare hands.”

Dalton stood there, with long lean fingers which groped at his side, and the cold blaze of his eyes seemed to feed upon the fury within him. He moved, as though to stoop for the weapon, but Gabe put a foot upon it. Then he seemed to fight for control; or perhaps some latent judgment rose up to measure the strength of the other.

“Yes, we will leave it there.” He came out of the struggle, a poor victor of his anger. “I doubt if I could trust myself; and your poor carcass is not worth it. But this is the end of you, with Akers, and these forests.”

Yet when the matter was placed before Akers in all its details, and the other guides had told the full story of Dalton’s killings, Akers rose above all consideration of finance, and he chose the side of the forest and not that of the Killer. And the authorities reinforced it with a fine for the killing of the cow; and so the enmity was not yet ended.

BUT the following summer there was no moose with two bells on Green Point, nor was there any glimpse of him from end to end of the Salmon Brook country. And roam though be did even to the head of the Clearwater, there was no sign which came to Old Gabe that the tawny calf which had come up to him out of the water was ever again to step into his life, or into his feud with the Killer.

It was that fall, when the hunters packed their way once more into the moose country, that stories began to be whispered about of some giant moose with branching antlers like the limbs of a tree which had risen up from the wilds without cause or reason, to become the scourge of the camps and the trails.

That was a panicky season, from one end of the Salmon Brook country to the other, and long before it was over there was a trail of wrecked camps and injured men which began at the fringe of the moose country and ended only in the far-off Clearwater.

Old Gabe shook his head at the tales of violence, and he thought of that livid welt of red which had leaped to the shoulder of Two-Bells when he stood before the gun of the Killer. Animals had gone that way before; and so Old Gabe fancied he knew something of the fire of anger which had leaped into the soul of Two-Bells when Man, that creature he had learned to trust, rose up and branded him with pain.

“It’s all my fault, Two-Bells,” he would say at times, as he wandered the trails, “and that goes to show that a fellow can’t be too careful about the way he brings up his youngsters. I taught you the wrong things, Two-Bells; but all the same, you’re breaking my heart a bit the way you’re carrying on. It wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t sort of suspect that it’s me you’re looking for.” Dalton was back in the forest that fall, though Old Gabe saw much less of him. He no longer spent his money with Akers, but with a rival outfitter, and his territory just fringed the Salmon Brooks. But that boundary line meant nothing to the Killer, who never yet had respected the unwritten laws of the Gentlemen of The Forest; so from time to time he was found in the Salmon Brooks, and the blaze of his gun still echoed from end to end of the forest.

Old Gabe had a young and nervous

hunter with him that fall, and the man, after his first meeting with Dalton, seemed to favor the other’s company. They worked together at times, and later it seemed to Old Gabe that such an arrangement could not have been all chance.

Then, one day when a sodden fall of rain had taken all the rustling from the leaves and left them as a yielding carpet beneath the feet, they camé upon a cow by the river’s edge. The man was not a killer, but the sudden lash of the moment overwhelmed him.

He shot, almost before Old Gabe was aware of his movements; and the cow toppled forward upon her shoulders. She rose again, slowly, and one shattered leg hung useless. Then she began to leap towards the forest with what limbs were left her.

Old Gabe watched for an instant the beginning of one of those hideous and oft-repeated dramas of the forest where wild life, wounded and shattered, crawls away to die.

“Finish your job,” he lashed out; but in that crisis the man seemed incapable of action.

Then, with only swift seconds in which to act, Old Gabe raised his rifle and the fingers of mercy closed about the wounded beast.

“A pretty shot!” A voice, coldly aloof iand triumphant,-sounded at his back.

Gabe turned, and there stood the Killer.

“Well, Gabriel, my boy,” Dalton mocked, “the long lane turns. I wonder what the warden will say to that?”

WHEN the season was over, the warden had little to say about it, though with the case pressed by an influential man like Dalton and presented in a light not altogether fair, there could be but the one answer.

So Old Gabe became an outcast, with his license stripped from him; and the forests opened up and swallowed him. When the next season came around he was a memory only to those who had envied his craft. Occasionally a wanderer would ask for Old Gabe, but the guides only shook their heads and wondered.

They were concerned too greatly with that new scourge of the forests to think much of either the past or the future; for the avenger lay heavy upon them. The moose was more savage and violent than before, so they knew him now as the Killer. Not that he had yet killed; for he was still like the shadow of the night which swept from end to end of the forest, struck blows of savagery, and then fled.

He was known to the forests as the Killer, but to Old Gabe he was still Two-Bells. And that was the quest now of Old Gabe—the following of Two-Bells. That, and the wonder if it was for him the moose was searching.

It was a late afternoon, with a thin blanket of snow upon the trails, when finally he sighted Two-Bells, with any hope of coming to know him again. He was upon a spruce-clad knoll looking down upon a winding trail; and there, in the center of the trail, moving slowly and warily along, was a giant moose. For a time Old Gabe watched him, and when the animal tossed his massive head aloft as though scenting the air for strange odors, there came the waving of the two bells at his chest.

“Oh, you beauty!” Old Gabe cried in his gladness. “Such horns! You’re over the sixties now, my beauty. But TwoBells, you should never be here at the edge of the Salmon Brooks, for this is the land of the Killer. . . . Killers? Yes, we’re all killers now; you, and me, and him.”

It was a winding trail which Two-Bells was following; and there was one chance, just one in many, that Gabe could come upon him at the foot of the spruce and find an answer to that thing which was tearing at his wonder. For if Two-Bells but followed this crooked trail, then he, Old Gabe, could slip down from his knoll, into a cross-trail, and so come upon the giant at the forks.

As he ran, Gabe wondered what he must do when he came face to face once more with Two-Bells. Should he, through love of his forests, take that punishment which some might say was his due? Or should he give to Two-Bells a merciful end?

He had not found the answer when he rounded a sharp bend in the narrow trail and faced the cross-trail.

INSTANTLY all thought of that A problem was swept from him; for Old Gabe was looking upon the beginning of swift drama, drama which begins, and ends, and brings thought afterwards—or Death.

For even as he looked, a man passed the mouth of his trail, and down through that winding avenue of the forest. He was twenty-five yards distant at the most; and the first glimpse at the man’s back told Old Gabe that it was Dalton, the Killer.

He knew, even before he looked, that Two-Bells must be behind Dalton upon the trail, but it was a shock to find the moose so close upon the man.

He was there, slipping along with his free gliding movement, stepping daintily yet swiftly; and when Gabe first saw him, there was less than a hundred yards between them.

In a moment of crises, man may act more swiftly than thought.

There was death in the pose of TwoBells; there was death in the rifle of the man Dalton.

Old Gabe stepped into the trail between them.

He held out his hand as he had first held it out to the tawny calf by the rocky pathway; and he spoke softly, with a voice which labored for the accents of the past:

“Two-Bells! Two-Bells! Two-Bells!” The moose came straight towards him, stepping daintily and more slowly now; and step by step it seemed that some of the flame died out of his savage eyes.

He came within a yard or two, shook his massive head in a puzzled way, and then stared at the man before him. “Two-Bells! Two-Bells! Two-Bells!” Then the moose stretched out his long neck until the great antlers lay upon his back, and his quivering and pendulant muzzle began to play with the outstretched hand.

“Then it isn’t me you been looking for, Two-Bells?” Old Gabe cried gladly. “You ain’t holding anything against me, and I’m mighty glad to hear it.”

FOR a moment he let his fingers run over the velvet muzzle, as he had done so often in the old days; then from behind came the rasping cry of a human voice. “Out of the way, you old fool!”

Old Gabe glanced over his shoulder. He saw the rifle already raised; and he saw, as well, some of the cold flame of the Killer in Dalton’s eyes.

“Put down that rifle!”

“Out of the way, you fool. I’ve got my head at last.”

But Old Gabe stood there, with arms suddenly outspread, between two Killers. “You can’t touch this animal!”

“Out of the way; I am going to shoot!” Yes, Dalton was going to shoot.

And Old Gabe, who twice now had brought Two-Bells to the point of this man’s rifle, could not shield the whole of the animal’s head and shoulders. Dalton, he saw in that swift flash, was aiming above his shoulder; and that must strike Two-Bells in a vulnerable spot.

So he leaped suddenly, and he threw his arms in the air; and he shouted at the moose like a man for the moment robbed of his senses.

The Killer fired; and Old Gabe felt the knife-like stab of the bullet.

It cut through his forearm and struck somewhere near the shoulder of TwoBells.

The die was cast for all time. Old Gabe sprang aside. Two-Bells leaped forward, his eyes red once more with the flare of battle; his brain stung to madness.

Dalton stood for an instant as the fury crashed down towards him. He half raised the rifle, hesitated, glanced over his shoulder; and in those swift seconds his fate was sealed.'

He glanced back, and Two-Bells was a bare ten yards away. And in that moment he had become huge and formidable.

Swift fright gripped the Killer. He dropped his rifle and leaped for the spruce, a yard too late.

The side swing of the great antlers caught him and sheared the body almost in two.