The Magic Makers
A Story of Mystery and Adventure in Canada
Author of “The Inner Door,” “Blantyre-Alien,” etc.
FORT CHIMO is in the tree country and not for a hundred miles north of it does there begin the land of little sticks. It is also in the fur country and the Koksoak River is fed by countless tributaries that take their rise on the great backbone of the Laurentian Mountains that dies away towards James Bay on the West and the Atlantic on the East. Spoken of as a good fat post, its yearly shipments carry an unusual percentage of high priced fur, and toward its well stocked store the Huskies travel from the interior of Ungava to barter peltries for marmalade and red shawls and spend a short but luxurious season in the shadow of the post itself. When the Siren dropped anchor abreast of the rough hewn buildings, the tail end of the far-flung line of hunters was still lounging on the wooded shore.
Now it is known in the North that the Hudson Bay factor is something more than king of his own domain. In his hands lies an authority supreme and indisputable; lord of food when elsewhere no food is; arbiter of differences, from whose decision there is no appeal; controller of the only supply of traps and weapons; wise in things that pass the comprehension of men brown and red; owing allegiance only to a mysterious and distant power that annually sends prodigious vessels filled with everything most desirable in life, the person of the factor presents to the mind of both Husky and Indian something entirely without parallel. And since it is the avowed business of every factor to lay hungry hands on every scrap of merchantable fur the country will provide, and to see to it that neither his prices nor his business are interfered with, it will be further understood that he regards with a not unsuspicious eye the advent of others whose game may possibly interfere with his own. And this was exactly what happened when Jock came ashore from the Siren and loomed bulkily in the door of the trading post at Fort Chimo.
“And where might ye be heading to?” was the curt inquiry of the factor after the blunt preliminaries of the North.
Very carefully Jock explained his quest and, as he did so. noted the air of incredulity that spread on the other’s face. “I’m not after fur,” he continued, “but information.” He pulled out the map and went over it painstakingly, conscious all the while of the factor’s scrutinizing glance. "You know these Huskies that come here to trade. How far do they travel?” “Along the shore east and west a hundred miles and from up country may be two hundred. They come down the Larch and Leaf Rivers, but, mind you,” he concluded shrewdly, “they haven’t really much fur. This”—here he waved a hand at the precious bundles that hung on his
rough walls—“is an extra good year. Suppose I were to tell you, just as a friendly matter, that it isn’t worth your while? I’ve got all this year’s catch and given trade for next year.” The last sentence came out with a satisfied grunt.
“Fur be damned,” said Jock crisply, “you’ll either believe me and talk or else I’ll get out.”
The factor grinned contentedly. “Please yourself, it’s good weather for travelling.”
“But before I start,” continued Jock affably, “you might take a squint at this.” He laid his Mounted Police badge on the table. “And also,” he added, “just glance over this letter.”
IN the next few seconds an entirely different atmosphere pervaded the trading post at Fort Chimo. It appeared now that the factor knew all along what Jock was and was only trying him on, but the big man put this grimly aside and succinctly stated his requirements. He wanted first whatever definite information the factor had regarding the Huskies who were trading with him, and second, the names of any individual hunters who could talk English.
As to the first, the factor knew but little, as to the second, he hazarded, after considerable thought, the name of Nanook the Bear. “He’s a tricky beggar,” he went on, “and, mind you, he’ll probably say that he doesn’t understand English, but that’s all rot. He understands it as well “And what else about him?” queried “That’s rather hard to tell. He comes here every year or so but only for a few days. As far as I can make out he doesn’t hunt, for he’s never brought me any fur. He’s got some kind of hold over the rest of them, but what it is I haven’t a notion. Anyway they go and come just as he tells them. I know he’s smart and I think lie’s a liar, but I can’t prove it. He says very little, but when he does talk there’s a
SYNOPSIS.Sergeant MacTier, o) the North-West Mounted Police, accepts a private commission from a wealthy family in Scotland to search in the far Canadian north for Henry Rintoul, who has disappeared. The only clue is an imperfect map which came through the mails which indicates that Rintoul is held a prisoner on an island in Walrus country. MacTier charters the shin “Siren” and its crew with Salty Dill, its owner, in charge, and sets sail for Hudson’s Bay. As they approach the northern end of Labrador the crew, led by Black Matt, the mate, show mutinous symptoms.
curious look in his eyes. For a Husky he's a big man and as strqng as a moose.”
“Is he here now?”
“He was this morning. Shall I send and look for him?”
Jock shook his head. “No, thanking you kindly, but I’ll take a bit stroll along the shore myself. Happen I’ll run into him.”
TT was late in the afternoon when Ser1 géant MacTier, walking along the lowlying bank of the river, noted a tepee close by the water’s edge. In front of it was a small circle of Huskies staring at something at theirfeet. Jock, approaching without a sound, saw a man flat on his face, his arms outstretched, his eyes swollen and bloodshot. Astride of him sat five others rocking with laughter. Stopping on the instant, MacTier heard the prostrate man draw a long gasping breath and simultaneously the muscles on his neck stood out like whipcords. Then, with infinite slowness an arm was drawn in till one shoulder was partially supported by a massive elbow’. Came another gasp, and the other arm was similarly placed. The three front men had thus been raised a matter of six inches, but the lower part of the prone body seemed anchored immovably to the earth-
A dead silence fell on the little group as, by minutest fractions, the great shoulders came slowly up and simultaneously the broad back began to curve itself into a muscular bridge. The light began to show beneath the straining stomach and, in another moment, a shout proclaimed that eight hundred pounds of heaving humanity had been hoisted clear off the earth by the prostrate hunter. • Jock, staring, marvelled within himself. Mighty as he was, such a feat would have been impossible for him. Presently he stepped forw’ard.
“Is Nanook here?” he said quietly. “I would speak to him.”
A dozen pairs of black eyes rolled in their oily sockets, rested curiously on the new comer, and then swerved back to the panting Samson who was breathing fast and stertorously. His whole body was twitching with terrific reaction.
“Me, Nanook,” he said jerkily, after a moment.
Jock nodded. “Nanook is a strong man.
I would talk to him.”
A look of curious blankness stole over the hunter’s face, and he shook his head. “Me no understand English."
FOR answer Jock took out his pipe, filled and lit it very deliberately and handed the plug of tobacco to the Husky. “I think you do understand English, Nanook.
I hope you do because I have something good to tell you.”
Nanook’s strong teeth sheared clean through the plug. He rolled a morsel in
his cheek and seemed about to laugh. Just then something in Sergeant MacTier’s grey eyes caught and held him. There followed an instant during which these two brains, one crafty and suspicious, the other grim and experienced, jockeyed for mastery. Finally Nanook’s jaws began to move steadily and he jerked his chin at a little knoll that lifted a hundred yards from the tepee.
“Too many people here,” he responded smoothly. “Talk over there.”
Jock grunted, but wise in the ways of the people of the North, displayed no surprise. When they gained the knoll, he sat down and, for an appreciable time, stared silently at the broad expense of the river. Nanook waited indifferently. An hour was nothing to him.
“Nanook has travelled far,” began Jock quietly, “even to Hudson Bay. He has seen much and, therefore, he is wise. I look for a wise man now and have no care for children. Therefore I speak to Nanook.” The big man sucked at his pipe and went on : “It is worth something that you should talk as to a friend.” Nanook shot one swift glance. “You know that I talk English because the factor has told you. What is it my friend wants?”
“I seek a man, a white man who, many months ago, came North, and since then we know not of him for he has not returned.”
“There are many white men that never return,” responded the hunter stolidly, “but where did this one go?”
“I have come to seek,” said Jock briefly. The faintest trace of amusement spread for an instant over Nanook’s flat face and
vanished. Behind it Jock thought he caught something else that was almost ridicule.
“So now I ask,” he continued steadily, “that you tell me something of the white men you know in the land of little sticks.” Nanook shook his head. “It is a long story and the summer is nearly gone. Perhaps,” he added cynically, “if you live with me this winter there will be time to talk.”
NOW it came to Jock that while the hunter spoke he was becoming insensibly changed from the everyday casual and impulsive Husky into a man who was curiously on guard lest inadvertently he let slip something which he had no intention of revealing, and it was this suspicion which, gradually taking form in Jock’s brain, shifted him to another tack.
“Where will Nanook winter this season?” he hazarded with a touch of indifference.
The hunter waved a hand towards the north. “There is plenty of room—I do not care.”
“And where did you winter last season?”
“Many days from here. Does it matter?”
“I do not know yet. Would Nanook like to be a rich man?”
THE black eyes stared hungrily. It had been Nanook’s dream to be rich. He had found his way into so many trading posts where incalculable wealth was piled carelessly about that, of late, the secret desire of his soul was to live in just such surroundings as these and be
in a position to treat with just such a similar off-handedness the Indians and Huskies who might come to him with trade. But how did this stranger know it?
“I am not a fool,” he said bluntly.
“Then there is something I would show you.” Jock reached into his pocket and slowly drew forth the chart of Henry Rintoul, and laid^it on the ground between As he did so a strange thing happened. At the sight of the wrinkled hide the slack figure of Nanook stiffened rigidly. A long hand was thrust swiftly forth and drawn as swiftly back, contracted into a talon-like curve. His face, hitherto impassive, flattened into a tense mask and his lids narrowed till between them the black eyes gleamed like pinpoints of ebony fire. In another moment it all passed, leaving him as before listless and indifferent.
Jock drew a long breath. Not by the fraction-of a line had his own countenance changed, but as he watched this transformation it was borne to him without doubt tiiere was locked in the breast of this mysterious hunter that which might unseal the secret he had come to solve.
“Nanook knows this place?” he ventured blandly.
With fingers that trembled in spite of him, the hunter picked up the map and bent over its dim outlines. His face was hidden and all Jock could see was the matted hair that hung low over his forehead and the dark brows that wrinkled nervously. Presently the Husky glanced up.
“No, I do not know such a place.”
“It is a pity,” Jock’s voice was as
smooth as ever, “for there is much wealth waiting for the man who will lead me there.” Once more he stared absently down the grey stretch of water.
Beneath the copper-colored exterior of Nanook, there set up a storm which, had it reached the surface, might have had unforeseen results. He was now at the point where, it seemed, his own trail divided, but nothing of his inward tumult communicated itself to the big man who sat so quietly beside him. Presently he looked up.
“Much wealth?” There was a lift in his voice. “How much?”
“It would be easv to answer if I could see a longer way,” responded Sergeant MacTier. “If I find the man who made this map the wealth of five black foxskins is waiting for him who leads me.”
AT that there fell a silence disturbed otaly by the murmur of babbling voices at the tepee and the whisper of the tide as it slid along the flat shores of the mighty river. The wealth of five foxskins was lomething which almost surpassed Nanook’s imagination; it happened now and
again that a trading post secured three such skins in the course of the season, o r even four, but that any one man should turn in sufficient trade to equal five was unheard of. He had reached the point where his natural craftiness was staggered by the contemplation of something so immense that he had no particular faculty with which to approach it.
“Five black foxskins," he whisp ered, visibly awed.
Jock nodded. “That much wealth to be paid when I return with the man who made this map.”
Nanook blinked and retired again to his inner consciousness. Just then the group around the tepee parted and there hobbled toward them a tall hunter who limped noticeably and was supported on either side by an officious friend. Advancing painfully the cripple gained the knoll and, staring at Nanook, unloosened a rapid and unintelligible stream of words. Touching his stiff legs he pointed now and again to the west and at each new appeal, for appeals they seemed to be, the two others nodded energetically
and, fixing their eyes on their auditor, seemed to demand acquiescence in their petition.
A moment later Jock became conscious of an indefinite change in Nanook. The sudden avarice that had dawned in his eyes left them as before vacant and expressionless. Over his broad face there passed a shadow of deep thought. He was recalled, so to speak, from his new and startling dream to a recognition of something else more insistent and important What was there, Jock wondered, that could so transform the attitude of Hie Then, among the stream of conversation he caught the one word “magic.” This cripple was, it appeared, demanding magic of Nanook, and demanding it, moreover, in a manner that brooked no refusal.
PRESENTLY Nanook looked up. He had resumed his former manner. It seemed that everything that had been said by this strange white man was forgotten. The vision of the wealth of five black foxskins had left behind it , not a trace of that suddenly awakened cupidity.
“I do not know,” he said slowly, “where to look, and it is foolish to try. It is easy to offer five black foxskins when they cannot be earned. As for me, 1 go away for the winter.”
Jock plunged into introspection. An amazing thing had happened. He had offered this penniless Husky riches almost beyond imagination and the offer was declined, and declined, moreover, as the result in an unintelligible appeal from his comrade for magic. He glanced cautiously at Nanook, convinced now more than ever that here, if he could only unearth it, lay a clue that might save him years of fruitless wandering. Then, fearful lest by undue interest he close for ever the door that seemed just about to spring, and knowing, moreover, that to be impetuous about one's business in the North is to violate every ancient principle of trade, he got up and stretched himself stiffly.
“Nanook will think again about this matter, and perhaps we shall talk once more.”
With that he strolled back toward the post
NOW among the unwrit annals of the North is the story of Jock’s second conversation with Nanook and its abrupt termination. The hunter, evasive as ever, disclaimed all knowledge both of the locality of the map and the whereabouts of Henry Rintoul until MacTier, with a grim smile marched him into the factor’s presence and, in front of the latter, explained to the startled Husky that unless he did as he was told and did it
forthwith instant and personal trouble would ensue.
So it came that after two days of languid swaying ubreast of the post at Fort Chimo, the Siren got once more under way and, chugging down stream, steered due north for the tail end of Akpatok Island. And Nanook was aboard.
As the days passed, however, the undisguised nervousness of the Husky gradually disappeared. He used to sit on the tatfrail beside the wheel, swinging his short legs and discoursing amiably about the North. Jock, who regarded him with unmixed suspicion, noted that, whatever he divulged, he never got beyond a certain point. The year before, he admitted, he had heard of a white man who had been taken prisoner by a band of wandering Huskies because, it was stated, the white man made magic and cured a sick hunter. “It was a curious magic,” he continued thoughtfully, “so strange that I could not understand when they told me, but they were a bad people and, therefore, liars. I did not see the white man myself and all I can do is to take you to the place where that tribe is living this winter. Perhaps the white man is dead. I do not know. There are not many white men who can live on seal meat all winter, and not be sick, and I do not know whether a man can heal himself by his own magic.”
To all this Salty Bill listened with frank incredulity. He was quite convinced now that Sergeant MacTier, however sane he looked, was indubitably mad. It worried him that he should have leased not only the Siren, but himself and his crew to a madman, even though he did get a year’s pay in advance, and had the insurance papers safely stowed away at St. John’s. So it happened that, after ohe of Nanook’s inconsequent discourses, he broke in and voiced his own protest.
"Look here, Mr. MacTier, this voyage is your own business and you’ve paid for it, but I’m darned if I like to see the Siren under the orders of a greasy Husky who is just telling you what he sees fit and no more. I’ll bet you a month’s wages that the man is a liar.” He paused and glanced contemptuously at the squat figure on the taifrail. “Where do you reckon on making for after we get through Hudson Strait?”
For answer Jock disappeared into the cabin and came out with a canvas-backed chart. “We’re going inside Charles Island, then round Cape Wolstonholme, and Nanook says that he thinks the place is south-west of that and not far from Coat’s Island.”
“And what else does Nanook say?” Bill’s voice was full of scorn.
“Nothing else,” put in Nanook blandly. “For me I have not promised to find anything or anyone. I will take you to the place of the bad tribe and that is all. You may only find a dead man, but I cannot help that. And yet,” he continued softly, “perhaps he will not be dead, but only very tired.”
Jock’s brows wrinkled. “What do you mean by that?”
Once more the mask fell over Nanook’s face. “I am not wise and I know little.”
IGHT after night there were long discussions, in the course of which Jock, in spite of his doggedness, found it difficult to justify his swift decision. Nanook knew that should deceit be proven against him arrest was certain on their return. But, as Salty Bill bluntly objected, suppose they never returned, what
then? When the argument got thus far, Jock could only fall back upon that unnamable something which, from the first, had been his sole justification. He felt in his bones that at the appointed time Henry Rintoul would be restored to his own, and in spite of every contradictory circumstance, and every unanswerable argument, this absolute belief still survived. He admitted, however, to himself, that when at Nanook’s bidding he had instructed Salty Bill to set the Siren'« blunt stem against the field ice of Hudson Strait, and bunt her way northward around the furthermost end of Ungava, his own courage had wavered for a moment. The thing, as he saw it, was now to watch Nanook.
In these empty days there were long conversations during which Salty Bill, thrown for the first time in years with a companionable comrade, opened his lonely soul. He told Sergeant MacTier tales of strange men and beasts in far corners of the earth, of hairbreadth adventures when the lives of all hung for days by a thread, and showed the big man well-thumbed photographs that his horny fingers touched with almost, reverent affection. And it was on one of the evenings when the Siren lay anchored against the swift thrust of a mighty tide that he produced a small square box. and, handing MacTier two tiny metal cylinders, leaned over and, with a grunt of amusement, pulled sharply at a wooden handle.
The giant twitched convulsively as the sharp tingle of an electric current sped through his nerves, then glanced at the skipper with mild disapproval. “Yon’s a boy’s trick. What’s a grown man doing with a contraption like that?”
Bill looked up cheerfully. “I reckon if you’d been on salt water as long as I have you’d welcome anything that would give you one minute’s amusement in a year. Here, take hold again, I’m going to load her up to the neck this time.” Once again he pulled and a still more vigorous shock flashed through its human circuit. “What about that, pretty hot stuff, eh? I tried it on Black Matt once and he swore for a week.”
JOCK did not answer, for in that moment something more inconceivably swift than the mysterious current itself had flickered through his mind. He sat very quietly, his grev eyes fastened on the two diminutive cylinders that glimmered in his brown palm. Moments passed, but still he did not stir till Bill, mystified by his silence, demanded explosively to know what ailed him.
Sergeant MacTier shook his head. “Nothing. I’ve got an idea, that’s all.” Bill sniffed. “Seems most too much for you, whatever it is. Sure the shock ain’t punctured something?”
MacTier smiled grimly. “Not vet, but it’s just possible that it may. Is there any other way to work this thing without these cylinders being in sight?”
Bill got up delightedly. “Sure.” Then, opening the box. “This is the generator and that round thing is the battery, and. if you want to, you can charge the batterv and run the wires along your sleeves and give a shock through vour fingers. That get’s most anyone. What are you after, anvwav?”
Jock drew a long breath. “An idea,” he said, “just one bit idea. Now I’m going forward and I would ask that you pay particular attention to that Huskv. Nanook. and see if the idea works.” With
that he stowed the battery in a capacious
pocket and slipping the twin wires up his sleeves sauntered towards the waist of the ship where Nanook's squat figure leaned slackly against the gunwale.
The black eyes rested calmly on the big bulk as it approached and the lips of the hunter wore the faintest suggestion of a smile, half supercilious, half derisive, a smile that suggested much. The thing that moved in Nanook’s brain was that the Siren and all aboard her were travelling where he desired them to go, and that which awaited them at the end of the journey was something which he contemplated with apparently serene satisfaction and, just as this began to take on a more attractive aspect than ever, Sergeant MacTier strolled up. With a twinkle in his grey eyes, the Sergeant held out his great hand. In the gesture was something so entirely friendly as well as unexpected that qui'te automatically the hunter extended his own brown oily palm.
In a fraction of a second he leaped into the air and shouted aloud as the current tingled through him. Then, almost ere he touched the deck, came an amazing change. His mouth opened wide and, with protruding eyes, he stared blankly at Jock’s grinning face, and in his own gaze was something which was more than wonder or astonishment. In this moment there streamed from him that which seemed to the closely watching MacTier to have in it a blinding recognition, an overwhelming emotion which swamped the man’s entire consciousness and left hirn impotent Gone was the derisive smile, the supercilious curve to the full lips, the mocking shadow in the dark eyes, and there was left only a trembling pagan confronted with that which, fearful and mysterious, had struck into his very soul. MacTier stood blinking, till, most marvellous of all, Nanook’s knees began to crook and he dropped to the deck with hands outstretched in an attitude of worship and abandoned appeal.
“Magic,” he whispered. “It is the same magic !”
11 ' HE big man did not move but stared -*■ hard as Nanook rose quivering and leaned against the gunwale. Presently he stepped forward. “Once more, Nanook, I would talk with you.”
Instantly the mask dropped over the Husky’s features. “Of what would you talk?”
“Of magic,” said Jock grimly. “You have seen other magic like this?”
The hunter’s broad mouth tightened. “I did not say that I had seen it, or even felt it, but I have heard.”
“Then how did you know it was the same?”
“The man who told me,” replied Nanook blandly, “said that it was like small cold fires that ran in at his fingers, and down through his stomach and into the ground at his feet. One does not forget a story like that. He said also that it was strong magic and this that I have just felt is very strong.”
“And why did you kneel before me?"
“Because,” came the smooth answer, “I have heard that this magic comes from the land of the spirits of the dead who hang the great lights in the sky in winter time. It was also spoken that if these lights came low and touched the earth we should all die, both white man and Husky.”
Continued on page 103.
The Magic Makers
Continued from page 17.
“Once more I would ask,” persisted Jock, “how much is there that you have not told me?”
Nanook smiled ever so slightly. “Is it likely that I should not tell everything when I am offered the wealth of five black foxskins?”
There followed a pause and once more Sergeant MacTier’s grey eyes fastened themselves on the hunter.
“This magic," he demanded, “are you sure it is the same as that of which you were told?”
“Yes,” grunted Nanook, “and now I would say no more lest being anxious to please I should tell you that which is not true. The flame cannot spring from a lamp that is empty of oil, and I am very empty.”
A ND with that he withdrew himself into an unprofitable silence from which neither threat nor promise could rouse him.
The same thought had been moving uncomfortably in the brain of Sergeant MacTier. It was now late in the season, later than he liked to admit. They had rounded Cape Wolstonholme. and, sneaking inside Digges Island, were holding a south-westerly course for Mansel Island. Somewhere south of this, Nanook had as| serted, would be found the tribe amongst I which magic had been wrought, just such magic as had been mysteriously re! created. But, and here Jock’s brows wrinkled, supposing this were a nomadic I tribe whose winter quarters were now hundreds of miles away! Nanook had, in the last twelve months, come clean across Ungava, and there was much that happened in Hudson Bay waters unknown to the dwellers on Hudson Strait. It was borne upon the big man that the next fortnight was of tremendous import, and, I as a result of this ultimate reflection he ¡ lugged out the Government chart and, for | the twentieth time, made Nanook indicate to just what particular point of the sur| rounding immensity he was leading them. Once more the brown finger rested in precisely the same oily spot as before, and once more Jock recited his argument.
“But there is no land marked there.”
“There is land,” said Nanook, quietly.
“I can see only the Sleepers and the Two
Continued on page 110.
The Magic Makers
Contimied from page 103.
Brothers and the Ottawa Islands and nothing between that and where we are.” “You have perhaps been there already?” Nanook’s voice was as smooth as silk.
“What are you talking about?” said Jock, gruTy.
“There is much in the North that is not known to any white man and is not, therefore, marked on his maps. I think sometimes that the white man looks on the Husky as a fool, but,” and here Nanook smiled again, “a fool cannot live and grow fat in the North.”
“How big is this land?”
“So big that it is many days’ journey from one end to the other.”
“And yet it is not on the white man’s map," repeated Jock with renewed suspicion. “For two hundred years now white men haVfe sailed up and down Hudson Bay and they were not asleep while they sailed.”
Nanook nodded indifferently. “That which one sees is where one goes.” And after that not another word could be extracted from him.
IT was well into October when the Siren, abreast of Mansel Island, turned due south, and as her course was laid Salty Bill after a final scrutiny of the chart and an anxious pacing of the deck, lodged his ultimate protest. “We’re heading straight into the worst bit of water in the North, and that black-eyed hunter knows it. All along here and seventy or eighty miles from the coast there’s nothing but reefs as sharp as the teeth of an
old souaw. They’ve ripped the bottom out of many a good ship and they’ll make short work of the Siren if you give them a chance. There’s no land there worth speaking of,” he went on with growing restlessness, “but just enough to make a pile of trouble. There isn’t a vessel that goes up or down this side of the Bav that doesn’t hold either two hundred miles off the coast or else sneak along the shore about/twenty miles out, and it’s rotten water in between.”
But Jock was immovable. Day after day the Siren lurched southward while ever the northern skies grew more grey and hard. A chill came into the air and, simultaneously, beneath the low-lying clouds there appeared long strings and streamers of wild fowl that, marshalling their strong pinioned hosts, were now setting swiftly forth on the great journey to Florida and the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, guided by the uncanny wisdom that lies behind the flat skulls and beady eyes of feathered things. A change seemed to come over the very water itself.
It lost its life and color and, as overnight,
took on an aspect of cold but molten steel. Every morning there were traces of ice under the short bowsprit of the Siren and the halliard block whined with new and significant stiffness.
But all this time trouble had been brewbetween decks. MacTier from the outset had kept a watchful eye on Black Matt, discovering, however, nothing save a surliness which in no way interfered with the man’s work. He was an able seaman. Of the others Jock thought not at all. They were too palpably under their leader’s thumb. Salty Bill, when faced with the fact that weeks had passed without insubordination, only shook his head stubbornly and told the big man to wait. And it was when the sky seemed most cloudless that MacTier made his first definite discovery.
On a night when the Siren was forging steadily southward, the big man, lounging amidships, made out two dark figures that crouched far forward. They were conversing in low tones and, the night being quiet, their voices came back, broken only by the hissing wash from the whaler’s bow. Nanook was talking, and it was not till his companion struck a match and held it, sheltered, to his pipe, that MacTier identified the heavy brows of Black Matt. The talk had apparently lasted some time and was now reaching its conclusion.
“No, that will not do,” the Husky’s tone held a certain level authority. “He is too big, too strong. It is only when both are asleep that it will be safe.”
Jock held his breath, till presently Black Matt struck in. “That’s all right, but what do I get out of it?”
Nanook laughed softly in the gloom. “The ship,” he said evenly. “I do not want anything but the big man. You know why.”
Followed a little pause, then a grunt. “You’ve got to take ’em both, see!”
At this Nanook relapsed into immobility, being apparently faced with some new dilemma. Presently he leaned forward, but strain as he might, Jock could catch no word of the whispered conversation that followed. A few moments afterward Matt’s voice gave a grudging assent.
“All right, I’m agreeable to wait, but you understand you take ’em both, that’s flat.”
Nanook nodded and the two moved slowly aft, while MacTier flattened himself against the foremast till they came abreast Then his huge hands shot out, and, in a flash, he had them both by the throat. Instantly Nanook attempted to drop to the deck and break his deadly grip, but so prodigious was the strength in that clasp that he was held suspended and writhing, while Black Matt clawed desperately at the unyielding clutch that was slowly choking the life out of his treacherous heart. Then, as though impelled irresistibly, the two traitorous faces were pushed hard against each
To be Continued.