FICTION

One Day's Work

BURTON L. SPILLER December 15 1938
FICTION

One Day's Work

BURTON L. SPILLER December 15 1938

One Day's Work

FICTION

BURTON L. SPILLER

THE PARK BOAT was making heavy weather of it, for Rossignol had not been idly called the worst lake in the province, but the tarpaulin-wrapped figure sitting in the stern did not seem to mind. Leaning his body against the tiller, he eased her off as a rearing wave crest bore down upon him, ducked his head so that his hat brim turned the shower of spray, then, while the stern was still high in the air, shot a quick look ahead and pulled the wallowing boat back on the course.

A mile away, with the low December sun striking a splash of color on its moss-covered roof, a long squat building stood, its front extending out to the rock-crib pier along which the heavy rollers creamed. It was the Number One camp of the Mercedes Paper Company, a depot where both men and supplies were gathered for shipment to the various logging camps in the interior.

A tough job, this getting out pulpwood in Nova Scotia. Tough for tractors and horses, and esjwcially tough for men. That was why the big, company boat always carried a varying number of passengers in addition to its load of freight, for it takes toll of both body and spirit to feed the rapacious maw of the paper machines, and the human procession is an endless one.

Chet Jordan was thinking some such thoughts as these as he sat with the oaken tiller wedged beneath his armpit, and for the thousandth time he congratulated himself that he had not been drawn into the toils. Luck, he reflected, had certainly been with him that day when he filed his application for a warden’s job, for he had only a faint hope that he would be the favored one and none whatever that they would pin the chief warden’s badge upon his shirt.

In which Chet Jordan, game warden, demonstrates that a man who believes in Christmas is worth two of the other kind

He had thought it a great job then, and four years of it had not changed his mind. To protect the wild life in a territory half the size of a county was certainly a he-man’s job, but it was work eminently to his liking. To be sure, after all that time, he could see a number of things that might be done to improve conditions, not only for himself but for the creatures under his care. A telephone to headquarters at Halifax, for one thing. The nearest one was in Caledonia, twenty-five miles away, and any hot tipfconcerning poachers had to be relayed to him by mail via the company boat. A third man during the moose-hunting and the trapping seasons would help too, for a hundred miles of border was more than two men could effectively patrol. It was all too easy for someone to sneak in and set a dozen traps around a beaver house some night, or pack the meat a1 head and hide of a lordly old bull moose back across the.

It h .ever occurred to Chet that his was a lonely job. He too busy, too engrossed with his work to let the silence get him, but he did wish that he could go home a bit oftener. He hadn’t been out since mid-September, and now the day after tomorrow would be Christmas. It wasn’t so bad in the summer. A warden was supposed to have at least two days off each month, and he could usually pick a time when he didn't have to worry about fires. If only they could have those old-fashioned winters once more, it would make the work a lot easier. A poacher would be kind of leery about moving around when he knew he was leaving a snowshoe trail behind him that a warden could follow in the dark. But the seasons were changing. The Gulf Stream was the reason, some said. There hadn’t been an inch of snow last winter, and it looked as though this one would lx> the same. The lakes hadn’t frozen over yet. and it was almost Christmas.

Christmas! Whatever feeling of guilt he had in leaving the job was now forgotten. At Christmas a fellow owed something to his kids. Husky youngsters. Let’s see, now. Alan was eleven, and Bob nine. He hoped Betty would remember him. She was shy the last time, and had clung to her mother almost to the last. They forget quickly when they are only two.

He hoped Harrison would get along all right. A good warden, the boy was. Kind of tough to lxleft alone on Christmas Day. but well, there weren’t any kids waiting for him. Just a girl down at Yarmouth, and she’d have to keep on waiting. Chet was going home.

.4

THE buildings were nearer now. He*. eased the tiller over SÍ» that he might run down into the fee of the wharf, then began checking off the next few hours as he had planned them, hirst, he must drive the boat up on its slip, and windlass

it out where it couldn’t freeze if the mercury should take a Sudden drop. I le’d have to pump the hull out too, for the same reason. Call it a half hour for both jobs.

Then there were the tires on his car. He hoped there wouldn’t be more than two flats, but he had learned not to expect less than thatHiumber, although for the life of him he could not see wh>revery drunken roustabout who came in. thought letting the air out of his tires the funniest joke in the world.

Reckon another half hour for tires, and still he ought to make Caledonia by dark. A haircut there (he’d have to wait his turn, he would IwO, then over to the hotel to get his suitcase, a bath and a change of clothes, and he’d be ready around eight. If the car held together, and he felt that it would for another trip or two. he should reach Annapolis Royal by ten or a little after. Home! He d shake the kids awake and get acquainted with them all over again.

Working into the quieter waters below the pier, Chet leaned forward and flipjxxi the gas lever open to the last notch, swung dose in and shot the nose of the boat well up on the slip. A tall negro, muflier wrapped against the cutting wind, hailed him from the wharf.

“How long befo’ yo’ goin’ back, boss?”

* “I'm not going back!” Chet almost sang it, but as he dug out the bilge pump and fell to work he wondered why even’ Truro negro always asked that same question. Couldn’t they see that this was a park boat?

“Hi. Jordan!”

That would be Toby Drounds. the clerk, limping out on his crooked leg. his bald head unprotected and reddened

!>y the sun and wind of sixt \ years. C het said. “Hi. 1 oby ! vit hout looking up. moved the pump over as it sucked air, illiri bent anew to Ins task.

“Heard the news?" Toby asked, grasping a piling and bending down after the manner of one who lias something of import anee to tell. The pump sucked again and. deciding (lit boat was dry enough, Chet drainer! the hose, tossed the whole outfit into a linker, vaulted river the rail and seized the windlass crank.

“No,” he said. “What'news?”

“Bandits raised Cain over at Liverpool. Held up the bank and got away with sixty thousand dollars.

CHET’S broad hack straightened, and his eyes were suddenly wide and dark. “When did this happen/ he asked.

“Yesterday forenoon There was four in the bunch. Three of ’em walked right in and held the place up in broad daylight. They didn’t all walk out though.”

“They didn’t?”

“You just bet your life they didn't. They got the money all right, but when they was backin’ out one of the cashiers opened up on ’em with a thirty-thirty. He got two of ’em.” “Did he? Good boy!”

■ “I guess he is.” Toby said. “He’s dead.”

I “They killed him?”

“Deader’n a mackerel. The other one. the one that had the money, got outside and into a car where the fourth one Was waitin’, and they got away.”

Chet swore vigorously, tor he hated to see a killer get hway. “Couldn't anyone stop them?”

“They couldn’t seem to. There was some more shootin . but the best they could do was wing the car. Got it in the radiator or some place. It stopped on 'em at any rate —

cylinders stuck, folks said and the bandits had to leave it and take to the woods.”

"Well, l certainly hope they catch them.” Chet said, and bent to the windlass, for after all. that wasn’t his job. “Which way were they going? Toward Yarmouth?”

“No,” Toby said. “They swung in on route eight.” “Route eight?” Chet flipped the dog over against the ratchet, to hold what he had gained, and straightened once more. “Why, that’s the Caledonia road.”

“Sure. Folks think maybe they was tryin’ to get to Digby. Might have a launch hid there somewhere for a getaway.”

“Too bad there’s no snow.” Chet was the practical woodsman now. “It would make it easy to track them down. Where did they abandon the car?”

“This side the cement bridge. You know. Down by Farley’s.”

"Ilm-m-m!” Chet’s mind was forgetting roads now, and thinking as it thought in the park, where a straight line was the shortest distance between two ixiints. “That isn't, more than fifteen miles from here.”

“No. By golly, I just wish I’d been there with the old mtx)se gun and plenty shells. Well, they’ll get ’em. I guess. They’ll stick pretty close to the road, and try to steal a car. Kill somebody, probably. They’re desperate fellers.” He clapped a hand to his bald head, said "Br-r-r-r!” and started up the wharf, then paused to shout. “Mail for you in the office. Just came in.’’

Chet resumed his cranking, and not until the hull was well above the wash did he pause. Jamming a block in the gears, he hooked the short length of chain around a spoke for safety, and hurried up the bank toward his car. There was only one flat tire. He unlocked the door, got the pump out. gave it fifty strokes, kicked the rubber experimentally, then gave it twrenty-five more for good measure.

The battery was all right, for the motor roared almost at once when he stepped on the starter. Luck w:as certainly with him today. If only he could find the barber’s chair empty, there was a chance that he might get home before the boys went to sleep. He slammed the door, started to back out from under the trees, then, remembering the mail, he turned the switch, slid out from behind the wheel and dashed toward the office.

r"PHE big low room was comfortably warm, and had the pleasantly musty odor of ston'd provisions and stale tobacco smoke. A quick glance told Chet there were no acquaintances among the inevitable ten or a dozen who awaited the company boat.

The tall negro had come back from the wharf to join his three companions, and now they were sprawled on the floor beside the huge box stove, soaking up heat in anticipat ion of the winter which lay before them.

' A Lunenburg fisherman, turned "softie” for a few months, sttxxl looking out a window at the lake, his feel widely planted, a sou’wester pulled down over his ears.

Three youngsters, kids almost, were making their first trip in.

They wouldn’t be so boyishly eager the next time. That chap over there with the duffel bag beside him was an old-timer; and those others were a couple of town chaps, from the look of the clothes they wore and by the leather bags which stood on the floor between them.

They’d probably never even handled an axe or crosscut, or seen a logging camp. 1 le’d give them a week at the longest, and then they would come limping out. It was no job for city men.

Chet got his mail a sporting magazine, a cereal advertisement. and that dirty yellow envelojx' in which Chick always enclosed the telephone messages. As he looked at it he had a swift premonition of coming disaster, and for a moment he considered forgetting it for two days. That was the thing he would have liked to do. but he tore it open, drew out the yellow flimsy, and sttxxi scowling ferociously down at it.

“Bad news?” Toby asked hopefully.

Chet shoved the letter deep into a pocket. “For somebody, yes,” he said. “I’m going back.” He lowered his voice and added, “Poachers.”

“Is that so? Well, I’m sorry. Kind of knocks your Christmas in the head, don’t it?”

Chet did not answer, for already his mind was considering its problem. If Ilarrison were only at the base camp he could go back and send him out on the job. But the kid would be pulling in to Sjxictacle Lake about now, and it would take a day of hard paddling to reach that. The only thing was to attend to it himself. Christmas or no Christmas, he had nursed those beaver through too many winters to let some poaching Micmac come in and clean up a whole colony. He turned on his heel and went back to the wharf.

Unhooking the chain, he kicked the chock from the gears and watched (he handle spin as cradle and boat slid back into the lake. Climbing in. he was checking the gas when someone spoke from near at hand.

“How about a lift across, buddy?”

IT WAS a hard voice, with the clipped inflection of the States, and Chet looked up to see that the two welldressed chaps had followed him out, and now, with coat collars turned up and hats pulled low against the dying wind, were regarding him from the edge of the wharf. Standing there, each grasping a bag in one hand as he held the lapels of his coat tightly about his throat, they looked more like salesmen intent on flagging a taxi than woodsmen. Chet found there was plenty of gas. screwed the cap back on and went to the engine.

“This is a park boat.” he said, his mind still occupied with the task he had to do. “Yours will be along before dark.” He opened the needle valve a trifle, rocked the flywheel and closed the switch.

“We’re in a hurry, buddy.”

Cold, probably, thought Chet. He hoped those bags contained plenty of woollen clothing and something practical in the way of footwear, or the poor guys would freeze to death during the first cold snap. No wonder they were anxious to get in before dark.

“All right,” he said. “Hop in.”

He drove the steel point of a pick pole into a log in the wharf, drew the launch close and held it there while they climbed awkwardly in and found seats amidships, facing him. their bags wedged under the seat beneath them. He pushed off then, started the motor and headed out into the lake.

“What’s your racket, buddy?”

In the back of his mind Chet was beginning to resent that “buddy.” Something about it irritated him. and. for the first time, he really looked at the men. Not the type he’d cotton to, he decided instantly. Shifty-eyed, both of them, and—well—cold. The one on the left sat rigidly and watchfully erect, but the other slumped slackly, his jaw sagged, and a half-smoked cigarette hung pendulously from his drooping lip. Yes, “cold” was the word—or maybe “hard.”

“I’m a park warden.”

“Oh!” The cigarette drooped lower and the half-shut eyes came back to rest upon him from under the hat brim. “A cop. eh?”

"No,” Chet answered. “I’m a game warden,” and his mind spanned the trail which lay before him. trying to plan his campaign. It was hard work to think, though, because they continued to fire questions at him. I f he took the small canoe—what did they care where the trails led? They weren't going any place—he ought to make it by midnight—the lake was sixteen miles long—or one o’clock at the latest. He’d hide close beside a beaver house—which direction was north? Couldn't the dummies see the sun?—and nab the Micmacs when they started to pull the first trap. It wasn't going to be so hard after all. He’d be— Kemptville? Oh, about twenty-fire miles—home by Christmas Eve, anyhow.

Save for the lazy current, the waters were quiet when they came to the mouth of the Shelburne. Ordinarily he would have left the boat there, but he was racing against time, so he picked a low place in the boom and put her over it, butter! through an acre or two of floating pulpwood,

and came at last to the lower falls, at the head of which his base camp stood.

These fellows weren’t woodsmen, he thought, as he listened to them stumbling along behind him. Had it not been for the haste which drove him he would have asked them in for a warming pot of tea when they reached the shack, but instead he pointed out the well-worn trail that led to the tote road in to the Mercedes camps.

“Turn to the right when you come to the road,” he told them. “The first camp is about two miles up. You can’t miss it.”

Ungrateful chaps, he thought, just the least bit resentfully, as he lifted the smallest canoe from the rack and carried it down to the river’s edge. They might at least have said, “Thanks.” He hurried back after paddles and steel-shod pole, and saw that they had stopped in the path and were looking back at him. Hadn’t they ever seen a canoe before, he wondered.

DUSK was beginning to fall as Chet struck off up the river, standing erect to pole up through the head of the fast-water run, then exchanging pole for paddle as he settled down for his night of toil. Across the whispering waters of Sand Lake he drove the tiny craft, guiding it through the darkness as straight as a homing pigeon flies, toward the distant spot where the river boiled down a halfmile run into the lake.

He found the portage instinctively, swung the canoe up on his shoulders, and struck off confidently; and so, by alternately earn ing and paddling, he came, in the wee small hours, to Irving Lake, and what he hoped would be the end of his journey.

Skirting the black-fringed shore, he slid the canoe carefully into a little slough where knee-high water bushes grew, and looked about. A late moon, riding through gathering clouds, cast its momentary reflection upon the water, and by its light he could make out the three rounded houses of the largest beaver colony in the park.

Pulling his mackinaw on again, Chet crouched low and gave himself up to patient waiting, his body inert as it rested from its lalxirs, but his mind alert and active. He hoped he had reasoned this thing out correctly. The beaver hunters would be coming in from Maitland, over Kejimujik Lake and the Peskawa, and this was the natural place for them to strike. They had a whole day’s start on him, and probably there was already a ring of traps encircling the houses. Curse the whole tribe of Micmacs anyway, with an especial anathema on Three Finger Joe and Jim Charley. Twice, to his knowledge, they had eluded him. but their luck couldn't always hold. He’d get them this time if he had to wait a week— only he hoped it wouldn’t be that long. If they would just come now, there would still be time to get home before the kids went to bed. Ho-hum! It must be after four o’clock. Daylight would be breaking in two more hours.

“Boom !”

Somewhere in the distance a beaver slapped the water with its tail, a warning that danger was approaching. Chet crouched lower and strained his eyes to pierce the enveloping gltn.

Presently he was aware that a darker shadow was moving into the slough toward the beaver mounds. He let it pass, waited a moment, then with trailing paddle, followed it soundlessly. He waited as the poachers paused at a house and grappled in the icy waters around it. but when they lifted in the first drowned victim Chet slid the canoe quietly up beside them. The startled brown faces sfixxl out in sharp relief against the inky background as he focused his flashlight upon them, but there was no way to win freedom past him, so they sat quietly, awaiting his will.

"You, Three Finger, and you, Jim Charley,” he said, “I know you,” and was suddenly glad that they were Micmacs, for it made his work much simpler. “I will watch while you pull the rest of the traps, and then we will have an accounting.”

They went about the task stolidly, Chet aiding them with the flashlight and gritting his teeth as each new victim was hauled into the canoe. There were twenty traps in all. and five of them held beaver. When it was over he surveyed the culprits grimly. “Go back the way you came,” he told them, “and travel fast. Today I have much to do and tomorrow 1 will rest, but on Friday I will come to Maitland and we will go together before the judge. Have I spoken clearly?”

They answered “Yes,” and he waved them on their way, for there was magic in the silver shield pinned upon his shirt, and he knew that when he came to Maitland he would find them waiting.

Daylight was breaking when again the hurrying river accepted his canoe, and now he welcomed its turbulent flow, for it was no longer necessary to pit his strength against it. Driving the craft in the stiller reaches, he let the white water have its way, and thus it was that it lacked yet some minutes of the noon hour when he lifted the canoe out before his cabin.

Not until then did he remember that it had been twentyfour hours since he had touched forxi. He had been too busy to think of it, but now he found his stomach clamoring for attention. No time to bother with a regular meal, he reflected. He’d open a can of tomatoes, and then make a run for it lx-fore something else happened to delay him.

He was whistling contentedly as he went up the path, for things weren’t so bad after all. He would lose one day with the wife and kids, but Three Finger wouldn't bother him again for a while. Still whistling, he lifted the wooden latch and stepped inside, and then the tuneful lay ceased abruptly as the breath sucked back into his throat, for there was movement beside him, and something round and hard was jammed against his ribs.

CLOSE beside him a hard voice said.

“Put your hands up!” but it was a waste of breath, for they were already rising, steadily and without undue haste. Chet needed no warning to tell him that any sudden movement on his part would be his last. So strong was the conviction that he did not turn his head as busy hands went over his person in quest of firearms, but stood quietly, his fingers reaching for the rafters, his eyes centred on two well-remembered leather bags that sat on the table before him.

It was queer, he thought, in one enlightening moment, how blind a fellow could be at times. Queer, too, how plainly he could see when once his eyes had been opened. A chap didn’t have to be a mind reader or clairvoyant to know what those bags contained. It wasn’t hard to guess who it was that was prodding him in the ribs with a gun barrel, or whose fingers were feeling under his armpits for a shoulder holster. No, it was all clear enough now. The funny thing was that he had not seen it before it was too late.

“Go over and sit on that bench.”

Chet obeyed, decided that it was safe to lower his hands into his lap, did so. and surveyed his captors shrewdly. What he saw was not reassuring. He had seen trapped animals look like that. Frightened —desperate—ready to strike at anything without warning. He saw the squat black gun which still pointed at his midsection, and noted that the fingers wrapped around it showed white at the knuckles with nervous tension. Probably they had looked like that when the cashier got his. Quite suddenly Chet knew that if he was ever to see the kids again he must needs tread very, very softly.

“Well, what do you want?” he asked, and was surprised to find his voice was steady. He had wondered sometimes how a fellow would feel in a situation like this, and now he knew. Scared? He’d tell the world he was scared. But he could think ! That was the important thing. To be able to think clearly—and fast.

“Listen, feller! We’re in a jam, see?” It was the slack-mouthed one talking, the ITendulous lower lip drawn down at one corner, the eyes mere slits in a bleak grey face. “We’re takin’ it on the lam. We need a guy who knows his way around, and you’re it. You’ll take us where we want to go—or else.”

Chet didn’t ask, “Or else what?” It wasn’t necessary. He asked, “Where do you wish to go?”

“Kemptville. We’ve got another bus planted there.”

It was great to be able to think fast and clear and straight. “I can take you there by canoe,” he told them, “but it will be a tough trip. There are a lot of carries. Hard ones too, some of them. Do you think you can make it?”

“We’ll make it, bo. And just one step behind you.”

“All right,” Chet said, and stood up. He wasn’t afraid any more. But they were. They were ridden by such fear as he would never know, thank Cod. All at once he felt a great and unutterable contempt for them and all their kind. Rats they were, scared panicky because they couldn’t dive back into their holes. They were even afraid of him right now—and doubly afraid of the forest in which they might find safe shelter if they were men instead of cringing rats.

“I’ve got to eat,” he said, then turned his back deliberately on them, walked over to the provision cupboard, took down a can of tomatoes and another of peaches,

opened them and ate hungrily but without undue haste.

It was typical of him that he never once thought of the revolver which lay beneath the pillow in his bunk. In the four years he had been warden he had never once strapped it on, for he had an abiding faith in the badge he wore, as well as in the body and brain which God had given him, and he had yet to meet the man who was his master.

He stood up now, lithe and tall and broad-shouldered, and announced that he was ready. There was little of preparation. Merely a buttoning of coats, a picking up of bags, and a last-minute warning.

“Listen, feller! You’d better play straight. One crooked move and you’ll get yours.”

rT'HEY needn’t have told him that, either. He knew it. Knew, too, that if he led them out where they could look down on Kemptville he would be taking his last look at it. They would take no chances, and another dead man more or less would not matter. He resolved, pretty grimly, that he would make no mistakes.

Shouldering the big canoe, he carried it down to the river and steadied it while they climbed in; the smaller one in the bow, facing forward; the other sitting in the centre, facing him, the leather bag between his knees and the gun cradled in his lap. Chet eased the craft off, stepped in and poled carefully out.

As he swung the bow upstream and bent to the task of pushing up through the remaining bit of fast water, his eyes took on a new alertness, while his body tensed like that of a panther crouching for its spring, for this was the test. The noon sun rcxle unclouded in the heavens, an infallible compass that all might read, but he headed upstream toward the east, rather than downstream toward the west, where Kemptville lay.

He realized at last that he had been holding his breath, and let it out noisily in a great sigh of satisfaction, for the men sat stiffly, their fingers clutching the rails, their minds upon the swirling current. He knew then that his chance of winning was at least an even one.-

For an hour he paddled steadily, then, when they were nearing Sand Lake, he drove the canoe straight past a bend in the river and on into a broad lagoon, where he beached it carefully.

“First carry,” he said, and was satisfied with the casual tone he achieved. Then he added whimsically: “It’s a hard one. The worst you’ll find on the trip.”

They climbed out gingerly, watching him narrowly as he swung the canoe aloft, then followed hard upon his heels. Straight toward the east he led them, through a grove of scrawny maple, then up to higher ground where gnarled old hemlocks grew, balancing the canoe upon his shoulders and travelling with long, space-eating strides.

Presently, because the rounded shell of the craft above him acted as a sounding board, he could hear the rasping sound of their breathing as they panted along in the rear, at which he imperceptibly quickened the pace and held it while they gasped and labored, and tripped upon the roots and vines beneath their feet. But when he heard one of them fall heavily he halted, eased the canoe down, and looked at them appraisingly.

He thought they were tired enough already, for they sagged limply against trees as they paused, but he had to be sure, and so after a moment he started on again, swinging a little to the south as he did so, and did not pause until a gasping voice commanded it.

This time they did not hold the bags, but dropped them to earth and sank down beside them, their faces wet from the unaccustomed effort, their lungs laboring as they drank in great gulps of air. Chet let them rest for a moment, then apologetically explained that haste was necessary if they were to cover the worst of it before dark. It brought them to their feet, whereupon he diffidently suggested that they might lash the bags to thwarts in the canoe. The extra weight would mean nothing to him, and they could make better time. He was not versed in the art of subterfuge, hut he managed to do a very creditable job, giving the words just the right air of humility, so that it appeared he was trying to curry' their favor. They agreed willingly, and watched while he tied the bags securely at bow and stern, and then drew the knots down tight and firm.

He would have liked to rest a moment longer himself, but he knew how bodily fatigue can deaden one’s perception, therefore when he had shouldered the added burden he worked carefully to the westward. and presently was travelling toward the lowering sun.

As they neared the river he felt again that first thrill of apprehension. There were a thousand landmarks which a woodsman would recognize at. a glance, and he knew that if once the suspicions of the pair were aroused they would snuff him out like a candle. He was taking a chance, but he was taking the only one afforded him. and so he kept steadily mi.

npiIEY greeted the river joyously, and ■L tumbled into the canoe with sighs of relief, blind to their surroundings, and lulled to a sense of security by the automatic which lay once more in the looselipped one's lap. while Chet dipped his paddle deep and surged against the blade. He was headed toward home now, and his day’s work was drawing toward its close.

That beaver house on the right! They didn’t notice it. It had been on their left going up. Down there was the Sentinel Rock ! He'd keep over on the farther side so it would be in the shadow. The three white birches, with the maple growing from the same stump! These birds couldn’t even read a signboard.

The long stretch of quiet water, and then the suck of the current at the head of the run above camp. Chet straightened slowly, took a firmer grip on the paddle, and a long, long breath.

They went over easily, quickly, and silently except for twin gasping cries. Chet held to the overturned craft with one hand and raised the paddle aloft with the other. A head emerged, invitingly close, and as frantic fingers grasped at the canoe the paddle descended. Chet hoped, as he reached out and grasped the unconscious man, that he had not struck too hard. He’d prefer to leave that end of it to Jack Ketch.

Above the hissing of the water he heard a frightened cry and, looking about, he saw the loose-lipped one clutching an upthrust bit of rock, his arms wrapped

around it in a desperate grip as the icy current sucked and pulled at his legs, and threatened to tear him from his one hope of salvation.

He would be able to hold on for a minute or two, Chet, thought, and, still holding the unconscious man’s head above water, he managed to kick the canoe ashore. Dumping the fellow at the water’s edge, he righted the craft, leaped in and paddled hack. Driving up to the rock he leaned over, dragged the fellow in and dumped him amidships. Reason told him the man would not try to shoot, even if he had managed to retain a gun, but Chet was taking no chances at this stage of the game. The paddle descended again, heavily.

AS HE hustled into dry clothes by the crackling fire in camp, Chet couldn't help feeling a bit sorry for the poor devils. They didn’t look very dangerous now, shivering there, naked, before the stove. He'd hunt up something dry for them to put on, too, for after all, he couldn't let them freeze in that run across the lake.

He hoped those bags were waterproof, but he guessed the money wouldn’t spoil, even if they weren’t. He was glad there wasn’t any wind. He’d open the old tub up across the lake. Probably have to kill a half hour there, explaining things, hut that would leave him pretty near six hours. He’d get home before midnight—if those cursed tires weren’t down again.