Twisting Trails: A Story of the North
ROBERT E. PINKERTON
Author of “Print of the French Heel ”
MRS. LAWRENCE HEATLEY blamed her own plainness of feature for her husband’s interest in pretty girls. And, because she was remarkably generous, broad-minded, and liked pretty girls herself, she generally managed to have some about her. Heatley was amused, she was unperturbed, and the girls always had a good time with the Heatleys.
It was not exactly of Mrs. Heatley’s choosing, however, that Helen Sumner accompanied them on a trip to the Whisky Jack mine. Mrs. Heatley liked pretty girls; but she also demanded loyalty, cheerfulness, and a sense of humor, three of her own chief characteristics. Helen Sumner possessed none of these, but her father owned the Whisky Jack, and it was at Mr. Sumner’s suggestion that the girl accompanied them.
“You’re doing me a great favor in running out to look over that property, Heatley,” the mine owner had said. “ It’s a bigger favor than you know, for your word when you come back means success or failure to me. One week from to-day I’ll be bankrupt unless you find things out there as I have confidently believed they are.
“And Helen. The poor girl is on my mind, too. She’s been hard hit by this young Forbes—you know him—and is still moping around because I can’t see him as a possible son-in-law.”
“ What’sthe matter with Forbes?” Heatley had asked. “ Thought he was a decent sort of young fellow.”
“ I dare say he is, but Helen’s all I’ve got, you know, and I want only the best for her.”
“ Rot! ” was the mining expert’s comment. “ You’re only jealous. But we’ll take her along. Fresh air and exercise and something entirely new can kill a lot of sorrow, especially if it’s young sorrow. Good-bye, old man. I’ll get a wire to you as soon as I can look over the ground and see what’s there. Hope it’s the right
The first two hundred miles west of Toronto Heatley tried to cheer up the girl who was to accompany them into the wilderness. He had seen so much of wilderness travel that he dreaded it without cheerful companions. But at the end of two hundred miles he gave it up and turned the task over to Mrs. Heatley. She tried valiantly until they reached Port Arthur, but with no better success.
As they went on westward, twisting about lake shores, rocking through muskeg, rumbling over rapid-filled streams, Heatley and his wife left Helen alone.
“ Cheerful prospect,” commented the engineer. “ The bush is bad enough when everybody’s happy.”
“ It is too bad,” was the response “ Now, if she were only like that girl in the first section forward. Did you notice her, Lawrie? If you didn’t you are getting old. There is a girl who is prettier than Helen, and I’m willing to risk most anything on her being bright, cheerful and competent. She’s got that business air that the modern girls, some of them, are acquiring. I couldn’t imagine her moping because her father didn’t like her best man. She’s the sort who would marry him anyhow.”
“ Hadn’t noticed her,” said Heatley, and they both laughed.
“ But I’d like to trade Helen for her,” she went on. “ Where’s this jumping off place where we take to the pines? ”
“ Not more than two hours now; Vermillion, they call it. Probably a water tank, telegraph office and section house, though I think Sumner did say there was a hotel. Probably a little store, too, though I got all the provisions in Port Arthur.”
It was seldom that anyone alighted from the westbound passenger at Vermilion, and not one of the nineteen inhabitants remembered ever having seen a party similar to that for which . the porter set down his little step. But their surprise was not equal to that of the Heatleys, for the girl in the forward section had preceded them to the platform, and, when they had gathered their own luggage, was half way across the open space between the tiny station and the little log
“ I always was lucky,” Heatley laughed ; “ but I’ll bet she’s a woman traveler.”
“ Without sample cases,” retorted hiswife. “ Lawrie, your blindness is suspicious.”
When Heatley registered, the girl was just leaving the pine table which Ben Hogan used as a desk.
“ Rea Straine, Toronto,” he read as he wrote the names of his own party.
Business was too urgent to permit conjecture. He needed three guides and three canoes, and all arrangements must be completed for a start in the morning. The mine was more than twenty-five milesfrom the railroad, and two days would be required for the journey by so large a party.
Heatley drew the hotel man aside and' asked about guides and canoemen.
“ Men you want at the store, probably,”' was the reply. “ Everyone’s waiting for the mail there now.”
The meager mail had been distributed!
EDITOR’S NOTE.—Robert E. Pinkerton is one of the most promising of the younger school of Canadian authors and in “Twisting Trails” he will be found at his best. It is a fascinating story of adventure in the open, with a thread of romance running through it and a spice of mystery. It has none of the taint of recent fiction; it is neither neurotic, sexotic nor physchologic — it is purely a story of adventure, strongly and graphically told, with characters that are natural and likable. It has been bought outright by MacLean’s and can be read only through the vages of this magazine. Therefore, don’t miss this opening installment.
when Heatley entered the post office and general store. There were half a dozen men lounging against the single counter, all evidently bushmen.
“ How many of you men have canoes? ” asked the engineer, brusquely.
But the bushmen were not accustomed to doing business with strangers without proper deliberation, and there was no reply-
“Anyone in this place got a canoe and a man to paddle it? ” Heatley demanded of the storekeeper.
“ I guess some of these lads have,” was the answer. “ Sam and Jack here have canoes, and there’s an Indian camped at the river who has two good birches.”
“ Three’s all I want, and three good men to paddle them. Want one who can cook, two to make camp. I have a party of three, two women and myself, and I want to start to-morrow morning. Four dollars a day for each man and his canoe. I have a tent for the men, but they must furnish their own blankets. I have grub and dishes. How about it, fellows? ”
“ How long’s the trip? ” asked one of the men.
“ Ten days. Go to Sumner’s mine first and then loaf around for a week. Don’t be afraid of working too hard.”
“ I guess I can go,” deliberated one. “ How about you, Jack?”
“ Nothing to keep me here, I guess, though I was going up the lakes with Toms in the morning.”
“ Then it’s settled,” exclaimed Heatley. “ Sam, go down and hire the Indian and his best canoe. Jack, take these checks and go to the station for our stuff, six packages, and bring them to the hotel. I’ll be there if you want to see me.”
As Heatley turned toward the door, the girl who had left the train with his party entered.
“ I want to employ a guide,” she began at once, addressing the man behind the counter ; “ a guide with a canoe. The hotel man told me you could get one,” and she turned to look frankly at the man behind her.
“ I’m afraid this gentleman got them all,” apologized the storekeeper.
“ Bill Toms is in town,” offered one of the men. “ He might go.”
“ Toms won’t do it,” declared another. “ He’s hot on the trail of the biggest gold
mine ever discovered, and a thousand dollars won’t keep him away from his prospect.”
“But surely there is someone who can paddle a canoe, and there must be a canoe in a place like this,” exclaimed the girl. ‘‘I’ll pay well.”
“I’m afraid payin’ won’t help, miss,” said the storekeeper. “I know every canoe, and every man, in this district, and this gentleman here has them all.”
The girl turned and looked at Heatley for the first time. Instantly the engineer was all contrition.
“ I’m sorry,” he said. “ I had no idea, when I engaged these men, that I was cornering the labor market of Vermil-
“ I’m sure I can’t hold it against you,” Miss Straine replied.
“ I would gladly give up one of my men, or all of them, were it possible. But I am on a hurry-up mission, and I must get away in the morning. Perhaps someone will show up this evening or to-morrow.” “ Perhaps,” answered the girl thoughtfully.
“ Won’t you come over to the hotel and meet Mrs. Heatley? We can talk it over, and there may be a way out of this.”
“ That is kind of you. I will.”
The girl was surprised by the cordiality of Mrs. Heatley's greeting and by her ready solution of the problem.
“ Come with us, of course,” the engineer’s wife exclaimed. “ We will have room, surely, in three canoes.”
“ You are very good, but perhaps we are not going in the same direction,” smiled Miss Straine.
“After about three days, we can go in any direction, can’t we, Lawrie? We have to go and look at this mine, and then there is a week for nothing but loafing about in the wilderness.”
“ What mine is that? ”
Miss Straine asked the question with casual interest.
“ The Whisky Jack. Mr. Sumner, of Toronto, owns it, and Mr. Heatley is going to look it over and see if it is really a mine or only a hole.”
“ It would be interesting. I never saw a mine, a gold mine, but I can’t impose my troubles upon you.”
W-. “My dear child, I never have any troubles, and I like to share other people’s occasionally. Can’t you tell me?” “Oh, it isn’t that bad,” laughed Miss Straine. “You see, I have a / ’ brother who has tuber-
culosis. The doctor said that he had to get out into the bush somewhere, and suggested this district. I came up to look for a site for a cabin. When it’s built, we are coming up here to live until he is
“ That’s quite an undertaking for a man,” exclaimed Heatley; “ and you don’t seem to be afraid.”
“ I’m accustomed to taking care of myself, and it has been my experience that it is an easier task in the woods than in the city. I’ve done some canoeing and fishing and shooting, you see, though never in so vast a wilderness as this.”
“ Well, you come with us to the Whisky Jack and, after we’ve looked it over, we’ll look up a site for your cabin,” decided Mrs. Heatley, enthusiastically. “ That will be fun, Lawrie, and it will give our wanderings an object.”
“ I can’t tell you how kind you are.” said Miss Straine, “ and I want to go with you. But there is this difficulty. You are going to start in the morning and 1 must wait until noon at least for a tele-
“ Wait a moment and I think I can fix that,” called Heatley, as he hurried from the little hotel office.
In ten minutes he was back.
“ It’s settled,” he cried. “ We start in the morning and make the portage at the north end of Two Island Lake. We will camp at the other end of the portage where, the guides said, there is a good camping place. You wait for your telegram and, when it comes, a prospector named Toms, who is in town with his canoe after supplies, will take you as far as the portage. He is going near there and it will be only a mile out of his way. He’ll drop you there and you have only to walk across and be in camp.”
“ You’re a wonder, Lawrie,” exclaimed Mrs. Heatley. “ Now it’s settled. Have you seen Helen? ”
“ Saw her going up to the station when I came from the store with Miss Straine. I do hope she cheers up.”
The door opened and Miss Sumner came in. The doleful expression was gone and there was suppressed excitement in her eyes. Both Heatley and his wife were so astonished they forgot the necessary introduction.
“ What’s come over you, child? ” asked Mrs. Heatley.
“ Come over me? Nothing. I just got a breath of the pines and a glimpse of the river down there, and I’m impatient to be off.”
As the girls were being introduced, Ben Hogan announced supper by merely opening the dining-room door and the four went in. Helen Sumner immediately assumed charge of the conversation, and the pleasure of Mr. and Mrs. Heatley in acquiring a new member of their party was nearly equalled by their wonder at the sudden change in the spirits of the mine owner's daughter.
The next morning Miss Straine waved good-bye to the three canoes as they turned the first bend in the river and then went back to the hotel. At noon the operator in the station brought her a message, and at one o’clock she was in a canoe with tne prospector, paddling north-
Toms, whose life had been spent searching Canada for gold, knew little of women and nothing of the type represented by Rea Straine. His first surprise came when she took a paddle and swung it effectively from her place in the bow. His surprise increased when he suddenly realized that they were talking as though they were two men, not a man and a woman, and that the girl knew vastly more about canoes and the ways of the wilderness than he thought it possible for anyone except a man to know.
It was with genuine regret that he deposited her on the sand beach at the north end of Two Island Lake.
“ This is where they landed,” he said, pointing with his paddle to the many footprints in the sand. “ There’s the portage trail, and it’s only half a mile and no place to get off it. I must be mooching, as it’s getting late. B’jou,” and he gripped her extended hand heartily.
It was only five o’clock and the sun was still high as the girl turned into the brush along the dim portage trail. She was alone in the forest, but there was no fear for what the forest might hold. She remembered city streets where she had shivered slightly at night, but she could not imagine cause for shivers here. A white throat sang from a jack pine, a whisky jack fluttered silently to a limb above her head and a brown rabbit hurried awkwardly along the path ahead of her. Instinctively her pace quickened and she began to whistle as she strode
The trail dropped into a cedar swamp and she picked her way over the poles laid by early travelers. Then it lifted to a ridge and passed between two walls of rocks. Still whistling, she looked ahead
through the draw. At the other end stood a man, a man with a piece of rope in one hand and a soiled .handkerchief in the
Miss Straine stopped and the man walked toward her. His face was covered with a heavy beard and he wore the rough garments and shoepacs of the woodsman.
“ Good night,” came the girl’s firm greeting as she started on to pass him.
But the man stepped in her way and threw out his arms to stop her.
“ You’re not going any farther,” he said, and he was so near she caught the odor of whisky on his breath. “ Don’t make any racket now and I won’t hurt you none. Start yelling and I’ll jam this down your throat! ” And he held out soiled, red handkerchief.
IF the old prospector had been surprised at the competency of Rea Straine, the man who now confronted her was dumbfounded by her conduct. She did not scream, she did not run, she did not faint, nor did she fall to her knees and beg for mercy. She merely looked steadily and scornfully, straight into his eyes. He found his own wavering.
“ Don’t make a fuss and I won’t hurt you,” he repeated with some confusion.
“ Of course, you won’t,” she exclaimed. “ Get out of my way and let me pass.”
* You’re coming with me,” he replied more steadily and with a determination clearly forced. “ Be quiet about it and you won’t be hurt.”
“ Don’t be ridiculous. I’m not going with you. Get out of my way immediately.”
“ Now, see here, Miss Sumner, I don’t want to be rough; but I’ve got to take you and you’re going with me.”
“ What did you call me? ”
“ Miss Sumner, of course.”
“ But I’m not Miss Sumner.”
The man laughed.
“ Don’t try that. Maybe you think you can make me believe you’re that fellow’s wife. But I saw her across the portage and she’s nearly old enough to be your mother.”
“ But I’m not Miss Sumner. You’ve made a mistake. Let me pass.”
“ I can’t make a mistake. There was only one young woman in the crowd, and that is her. I watched them when they made camp, and I saw you start back across the portage alone.”
“ This is all nonsense. Miss Sumner is over there in camp now.”
“ I ain’t got time to argue with you. Come along peaceful or I’ll use these,” and he held out the rope and handkerchief.
“ Throw those things away.”
“ I don’t want to be rough and this taking you is none of my affair. If I didn’t have to do it, I never would.”
“ None of your affair. What do you mean? ”
“ It isn’t me that wants you and you you out of sight a few days, may be a week, and then you can go as safe as you come.”
“ Who does want me? ”
“ I’m not a tellin’ and you won’t know.”
“ But I’m not Miss Sumner. I tell you there is a mistake.”
The man stepped forward angrily.
“ Come on,” he said gruffly. “ Don’t holler or I’ll slam this in your mouth,” and he again held out the handkerchief.
“ Wait a minute. I won’t make a noise. When were you at the mine last? ”
“ Mine! ” the man exclaimed. “ What
“ The Whisky Jack.”
“ Never was there.”
“ Then you don’t know Fowler? ” And she watched his face closely.
The man stared at her suspiciously before he replied.
“ Fowler? Who’s Fowler? Never heard of him. We can’t wait here any more. Someone’ll see us. Come on.”
He grasped her arm and started through the thick brush, half dragging the girl.
“ Let go and I’ll come,” she cried angrily.
Suspiciously the woodsman turned toward her«
“ Drop those things,” she commanded. “ I won’t make a noise if you throw them away.”
He hesitated and then put the handkerchief in a pocket.
“ See that you don’t,” he grumbled and turned again into the brush.
In ten minutes they came to a little stream. From a clump of spruce the man drew a canoe and launched it. Pointing to the bow with a paddle, he motioned to his captive to step in. She sat down with her back against the thwart, and the woodsman pushed out into the middle and paddled down stream.
For a time Miss Straine studied the man closely. He found little opportunity to look at her, as the narrow, twisting creek kept him occupied with his paddle. At last they turned a bend and emerged into what appeared to be a bay in a lake. The man paddled across this to a sand beach, where he landed.
“ We’ll have a bite to eat here and then go on after dark,” he announced, as he stepped into the water and drew up the craft.
From a pack in the canoe he took a kettle, frying pan and a small axe, and began the preparation of the meal. Miss Straine sat on a boulder and watched him. She tried to make him talk, but the exercise and the excitement of his work had eliminated the effects of the whisky and he became sullen and wordless.
Only when she mentioned the name Fowler did he appear to hear and then he merely looked up suspiciously.
After dusk they again got into the canoe, and the man paddled out into a large lake. For two hours they traveled steadily. Far from shore, with nothing to relieve the monotony of the endless dark wall about them, the girl finally dozed.
The barking of dogs wakened her and she looked up to see dim trees beside her and then a strip of sand beach. There was a sharp command from the shore and the dogs scampered back into the brush. The man beached the canoe and Rea Straine stepped stiffly to the shore.
Silently he led the way up a trail toward a little grove of pines. Behind them she saw the dark shadow of a cabin and the next moment a light shone from the window. The man pushed open the door and the girl entered.
At a table in the center of the room an Indian woman was bending over a smoking lamp. The squaw looked up, surprise in her eyes. And, as Rea watched her, the surprise gave way to suspicion and then quicker hatred. Instinctively the girl felt that in this first woman of another race, with whom she had come in contact, she had made an enemy.
“ You’ll bunk here,” the woodsman said, leading the way to a low door through which Rea saw a small room and a blanket-covered bunk.
He gave her a lighted candle, and, feeling that she was dismissed she entered and closed the door.
Then, for the first time, she heard the Indian wospeak. Her words, in the Ojibway language, were low.
The man made several short, gruff replies. These evidently angered the squaw, for her tones were raised to a higher pitch. At last the woodsman lost his temper.
“You’re crazy,” he shouted in English. “I’m not going to have her or any other white woman. Shut up and go to bed.”
Immediately the dogs began barking again, and Rea heard the woodsman snap a lock on her door and then hurry out and down the trail toward the lake. She heard him swearing at the dogs and beating them back.
Then came the sound of paddle on gunwale and another voice in greeting.
Listening intently at the small window, she did not hear her own door open. As the light streamed into the room, she turned to see the squaw in the doorway.
“Come,” said the squaw in English.
There was no attempt on the part of the red woman to conceal her hatred, and Rea hesitated.
“He my man,” the squaw went on in a whisper. “Me his squaw. You go quick.”
She stepped back and Rea walked into the main room of the cabin. The woman hurried to a rear door and opened it.
“ Go quick,” she commanded. “ Little trail ’cross island. Canoe there. Marchon, be-me-to.”
Rea realized the suffering of the squaw, her dread of the woman of her husband’s race. Then, too, a desire to have one friend in a hostile situation made her turn to the woman.
“ I didn’t come to take your place,” she began. “ I have-”
The light in the squaw’s eyes stopped
her. She saw menace, danger. Slowly she walked past and out of the door.
“ You get hungry,” said the squaw. “ You eat this,” and she handed the girl a small bundle. “ Little trail there. Canoe across island. Go quick.”
She shut the door, leaving Rea in the darkness. For a moment the girl remained where she was, making sure that she was not watched from the rear of the house. Then she turned toward the front of the building, dropping the bundle of food at the corner as she passed.
Making her way carefully toward some brush at the edge of the beach, she soon was within twenty feet of the place where
she had landed. Through the willows she could dimly see two figures at the water’s edge.
“ Have any trouble? ” she heard a voice say, evidently that of the newcomer.
“ No. It was easy. Never made any fuss at all after I told her what I’d do if she did.”
“ I’ve heard she was a little fool and I was afraid she’d have to be knocked down and tied.”
“ I can handle them kind easy.”
“ See that you continue to handle her right, Milford. You keep her here. Keep her hidden. Better have the squaw make a pair of mocassins, so her shoes won’t
hide her somewhere on the island if someone comes along. But you needn’t be afraid. No one will ever suspect her being here.”
“All right, Mr. Fowler. I’ll do the rest as good as I done the first.”
“And keep sober, Pete. Do you understand? You’ve been drinking as it is. Bungle this affair in any way and I’ll have the provincial police up here in a hurry. I guess they’ll be glad to have the proof in that Hanshaw killing.”
“ You needn’t be afraid. I’ll do it right,” replied the woodsman, sulkily. “ But this job evens us up. It’s the last, and I’m to be sent west.”
“ I’ll keep my word,” promised the man called Fowler, as he passed off in the darkness. “And I’ll be back Thursday night and tell you what to do with her.”
Rea turned and hurried to the cabin, ntering at the back door. Before the squaw could spring from her chair she had crossed the room, entered her own door and closed it. The woman rushed forward, but at that moment the woodsman came in.
Remarkably calm as the actions of the girl may have been when she met the man on the portage trail, there was no lessening in her courage when she found herself locked in the little room and listening to the shrill voice of the squaw and the occasional sharp replies of her captor. Theoretically, she should have flung herself on the rough couch, buried her head in her arms and abandoned herself to sobs and tears. But Rea Straine didn’t do any of those things. After she had listened for a moment and made sure that the conversation in the next room was being conducted exclusively in Ojibway and that she could not understand a word of it, she sat down on the bunk and stared at the log wall opposite.
That is when the tears, hopeless, helpless tears, should have come. Rea Straine smiled. It was not a quick smile of amusement, but a slow, increasing smile of pleasure, of pleasure due to triumph. At last the smile gave way to a little giggle, and then she suddenly leaned forward and began to unlace her high bush shoes. In three minutes she was between the blankets, her face to the wall. In five minutes she was asleep.
EG. SUMNER was too busy, too • worried, to be impressed with the incongruity of his surroundings as he
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took his seat in the Toronto office building. His desk was one of those huge table affairs, its broad top covered with all the modern office contrivances of the big, busy man. It fairly bristled with blue prints, blue-covered reports and baskets of correspondence.
Behind him was a smaller desk, with a roll top and innumerable drawers and pigeon holes. His chair was large, simple, stern, rigid, as befitted the work to be done between its solid oak arms.
There was a large fur rug on the floor, a sparkling water cooler in a corner, another hard, competent chair across the wide desk.
Altogether, it was the efficient workshop of the successful man of big business, and yet, had Mr. Sumner’s thoughts had time to turn to comparisons, he would have realized that his available resources would not have met the expense of furnishing another suite like the room he occupied and the two which lay between him and the outside corridor.
The mining man took his seat in much the same manner that a general, fighting in the last ditch, swings into the saddle on the morning of the final engagement. He did not have to sit idly or putter in this and that while he collected himself for the start. A sleepless night had done all that, and, once he was between the strong arms of the chair, he plunged immediately into his task.
First came the mail. On top of the neat pile arranged by his head stenographer was a telegram.
“ Star in the morning. Helen different girl already. Didn’t think the bush could cure everything. Cheer up. You’ll hear from me in two or three
“ LAWRENCE HEATLEY.”
“ That’s a good beginning,” exclaimed Mr. Sumner.
Rapidly he ran through the remaining letters and telegrams. Nothing was of comparative importance, and he called his stenographer. In ten minutes he had dictated the necessary answers.
“ I’ll be gone an hour,” he said he as finished. “ Call up the Howard Agency and ask them when I can have that report. Tell them they needn’t make it if they can’t get it here by eleven o’clock.”
He took his hat and went out. As he shot down in the elevator he felt thankful for the telegram from Heatley. It gave him courage for what he had to do, for the final fight he was about to make in the banks. Faith in his ability had been shaken by a succession of disasters and heavy losses, his credit strained to the last possible bit of elasticity by his efforts to save himself through the one property that remained exclusively in his hands, the Whisky Jack mine; monotonous reports from its superintendent of failure to strike the vein that the owner felt certain was there, the refusal of every bank from which he had borrowed money to extend his notes—these were the factors that made this day critical in the affairs of E. G. Sumner.
The public, to be sure, still considered him a wealthy man. His friends believed him to be such. His daughter, accustomed to his idolatrous care, never gave his business a thought. But those who held his notes, who had stood by him in his last stand, knew his real financial condition, and, because they knew it as well as he did, were suddenly shutting off their support.
His own faith still continued, for he felt as certain of the presence of rich ore in his mine as he did of his own living
and breathing. It couldn’t help but be there, in view of the reports of men he could trust and of what he had seen himself. But a man’s faith, unless backed by facts, is unavailing when the man is submerged to his ears in failure. Not another cent could he borrow to continue the work. The banks considered the mine, as it now stood, entirely insufficient security for the sums they had advanced— and Sumner had nothing else to pledge. His residence, long in his daughter’s name, he never considered.
The mine owner was sufficiently farsighted to see the climax approaching several weeks before. He had waited impatiently for Heatley’s return from the West, for on Heatley’s word he knew he could raise sufficient money to clear himself.
Nor had he taken without question the reports of his superintendent. He was too cautious to permit his success to depend solely on the word or actions of one man, and he had started an investigation of his superintendent. The first reports were disquieting, but did not warrant action. Then nothing had come from the private detective agency, despite his prodding.
The round of the four banks that morning was unavailing. Less than a week remained and, unless he was bringing up ore by that time, nothing would be left. At each bank there had been a decided interest in Heatley’s trip, but it had served no present purpose.
“ If he says O.K., it’s O.K. with us; if not, we’ll have to save what we can,” had been the common expression of opinion, and nothing Sumner could say or do would change that stand. Even his own faith wavered and he found himself arguing feebly and hopelessly.
As Mr. Sumner slipped again into his office chair, his stenographer entered.
“ The Howard man is here, sir.”
“ Send him in.”
The mining man would have considered his caller a preacher, or a gambler, never a detective. Tall, thin, with a somewhat vacant expression, plainly dressed in black, he walked slowly into the inner office and as slowly and unobtrusively took the chair opposite his client.
“ Well,” said Mr. Sumner, impatiently. Why had he ever employed a man like this in so important a matter?
“ Mark Fowler,” the other began, in a sharp, quick tone so unexpected from his manner and appearance that Mr. Sumner did not catch immediately the significance of the first of the quick stream of words that followed, “ has been working every crooked mining game that has been worked from Cobalt to the Klondike and from Galena, Illinois, to Arizona. He is wanted in three states and in B.C. under four names. He first came up here when the Cobalt thing started and he kept straight, which gave him the reputation that got him his job with you.
“ He’s a good mining man, none better ; but he can’t play the game according to the rules. When he had shut himself out of the best districts in the West, he came here, settled down to the honest game until he was established and then framed something on you. What it is, I don’t
know. Maybe you do. I’ve told you enough.”
“All I wanted to know,” snapped Mr. Sumner. “ Have you enough proof to cause his arrest? ”
“ Couldn’t get that. He’s not the kind that leave proofs around. There probably is some, but I can’t get it. I’ve even smelled out a stunt or two he’s pulled here outside the mining game, but there is no trail.”
“ What has been his usual method? ”
“ That’s where he’s strong. He has no usual method. Everything he does is something new. He wins through his unexpectedness. There is hardly a mining game that he didn’t originate. You know them all. He’s got nerve, too, and he doesn’t stop at anything. There are a couple of mysterious disappearance cases I would like to have time to work on. Anything more you want me to do? ”
“ No. That’s enough. I’ll do the rest. Make out a written report, complete as you can, and get it over here so I may have it when I need it.”
Unobtrusively the thin man wandered out of the office. He moved slowly, but, when Sumner looked up he was gone.
For a moment the mining man sat staring at the closed door. Then he reached quickly for the telephone. As he lifted the receiver the stenographer entered with a telegram. She laid it before him as he called the number. Indifferently he glanced down to read as he waited. The the receiver was slammed back into its hook and the yellow sheet was grasped in both hands and read again.
“ Helen has disappeared. Wandered from camp first night. Not seen since. Have searchers at work, but no trace. Think she is lost in woods. Can’t be far and we’ll have her to-night.
Nerve and self-control that could resist the strain to which E. G. Sumner was subjected seldom exist. On top of the struggle of months to rebuild his fortunes, on top of the anxiety as to his future as a successful man, on top of his great distress in refusing to permit his daughter to marry young Forbes, came this. Immediately his imagination pictured the possibilities. Lost, starving, in the forest. Lying dead, cold, unreclaimable, in the deep waters of a northern lake. Hysterical, fear-tortured, running aimlessly through the tearing brush. Exhausted, hopeless, stumbling to a deathbed in the moss of a wilderness swamp !
For a moment Mr. Sumner was hardly
“ • • • Sorry, E. G., but we’ve got to protect ourselves. If there was a chance,
we’d let you have the money, but_”
“ . . . Helen’s a different girl already.” “. . . Fowler has worked every crooked mining game from Cobalt to the Klondike. He wins through his unexpected-
His mind began to clear, to shake off the haze, the effects of the blow.
“ . - . He wins through his unexpected-
Suddenly Mr. Sumner sat up in his chair.
“ . . . his unexpectedness.”
“Fowler!” he cried in a low voice.
“ That’s it. I know every move the man’s made. He knows what the mine’s worth. He is covering it up, has fooled me with his accidents and delays. He knows the shape I’m in, that I can’t hang on another week. I wrote him to expect Heatley, and I mentioned Helen’s going, too. Fowler knows what Helen means to me, what her loss would mean. He knows Heatley is coming, what Heatley will learn. He knows Helen was with Heatley. . . . And he wins through his unexpectedness.”
He turned and pressed a button.
“ Take this message,” he exclaimed as the stenographer entered. “James Stover. (Look up his last letter and find out where he is. Duplicate this if you can’t locate him exactly.) Helen lost in bush between Vermilion and mine. Believe Fowler has kidnapped her. No proof, but I’m sure of it. Go to Vermilion at once and find her.”
“ Now seen if you can find Jim.”
In a minute the stenographer was back.
“ Mr. Stover’s last letter says he will be at the Prince Arthur, in Port Arthur, to-day.”
“ Rush it,” exclaimed Sumner. “ He must catch that afternoon train.”
Stover can do it if anyone can,” he went on to himself. “ He knows every inch of that country, everyone in it. And he’d rather chase a thief than make the biggest strike in the district.”
And then Mr. Sumner suddenly realized what Helen’s disappearance meant, what Fowler had planned. Heatley, active in the search, would not go near the mine. There would be no report. Without a report there would be no extension of rotes, no prevention of the disaster. But without Helen he didn’t care.
D EA STRAINE did not waken until ■ï'she heard the woodsman pounding on her door the next morning.
“ Breakfast,” was the gruff announcement when she made a sleepy reply.
As she opened the door and went into the main room, her captor was sitting at the table, his plate heaped with potatoes and moose steak. Taking the chair to which he pointed with a well laden knife, the girl helped herself. The cooking, she was surprised to learn, was excellent, but the malignant glare of the squaw made a hearty breakfast out of the question and she soon left the table.
Outside, in the bright sunlight, she was joined by the woodsman.
“ You can move about as much as you like, but don’t get out of sight of the shack,” he told her.
As she found a seat on a log at the woodpile, he returned to the cabin, from which soon came the sound of the squaw’s high pitched voice.
But it was not until the middle of the forenoon that the man again appeared. He came from behind the cabin and he carried the bundle of food the girl had dropped at the corner the night before.
“Thought you’d get away, did you?” he accused.
“ I have had no such intention.”
To Be Continued.