THE TIMBER PIRATE
CHARLES CHRISTOPHER JENKINS
CHAPTER XI Captain Carlstone, V. C.
JOSEPHINE STONE did not look back after Acey Smith led her down the lakeshore from the spot where she had parted with Louis Hammond. She knew Hammond would neither attempt to follow them nor spy upon them from a distance. Perhaps too she was preoccupied with the tensity of new sensations she did not quite understand. Had she been inclined to mental analysis she might have contrasted the reactions upon herself the presence of the two men brought about; the one frank, buoyant, purposeful and full of the verve and enthusiasm of youth—the other in the prime of his vigor; masterful, grimly fascinating under his cloak of mystery and conscious power.
“I think I told you,” said Josephine as they strolled to the log seat, “there was a very personal matter concerned outside of the unexplained reason for the head of the North Star Company asking meto come here.
It was this: A man, known as J. C. X., knew """ something of the affairs of my grandfather, Joseph Stone, a mining prospector, who lived and died in this north country somewhere.”
“Then you knew of the existence of J. C. X. before you received this letter?”
“Yes, through the rather vague statements about J. C. X., the North Star Company and my grandfather made in a field hospital during the great war by a Canadian named Captain Carlstone while in a delirium caused by shell-shock.”
“Yes?” If there was a shock of surprise in this disclosure, Acey Smith’s features did not register it.
“The rest was all conjecture,” Josephine Stone went on. “But let me first tell you the story of Captain Carlstone. When you have heard it you will be the better able to understand my curiosity in the matter.”
“It is not a long story,” she began. “The military career of Captain Carlstone was meteoric— he flashed into the thick of things from nobody
knew where and disappeared in the fog of war as mysteriously.
“1 was one of the first ronringent of nurses who accompanied the Canadian forcestotho front,” she continued. ”1 never had the privilege of meeting the wonderful captain, but everybody in the —th division heard of him and his dare-devil exploits. He was not only noted for his bravery but for an almost superhuman cunning and resourcefulness. The men fairly worshipped him. I nursed wounded soldiers who swore they would cheerfully
walk into the mouth of hell behind Captain Carlstone and declared that to die fighting by the side of such a man would be the height of glory.
“With his superior officers, however, he was not so popular. They were jealous of the handsome, dare-devil captain, who seemed himself to devise obstacles against further promotion. At the battle of Vimy Ridge he won the Victoria Cross, and he might have had higher promotion as well but for a sarcastic remark made publicly that he valued the companionship of his boys more than
npHE KAM CITY PULP & PAPER CO., of which Norman T. f Gildersleeve is the head, hold a lease of the Nannabijou limits. They are bound, however, to have a large mill in full operation by Oct. 23, failing which their lease goes to the North Star Towing and Construction Co., which is directed by a mysterious and powerful financial magnate, J. C. X. This company is under contract to supply the Kam City Co. with the raw material which will enable them to run the mill. Louis Hammond, an ex-newspaperman, meets Gildersleeve, ivho suspects treachery on the part of the North Star Company. He engages Hammond's services and instructs him to secure a job with the North. Star Company and to learn anything he can. Hammond applies to Acey Smith, the superintendent of the North Star Co. at the limits, who gives him a nominal position with nothing to do. Hammond discovers that a Miss Josephive Stone is staying at a summer cottage and recognizes her as a girl he had seen on the train when Gildersleeve engaged him. Gildersleeve disappeared trom. this train, and has not been heard of since. Hammond and Josephine fall in love, but Hammond wonders why Josephine frequently meets Acey Smith. We h find Josephine with Acey Smith who has met her just af she has left, Hammond.
any 'dug-out office’ it was possible for them to give him.
‘ Captain Carlstone seemed to bear a charmed life. He was always where the fighting was heaviest and came out unscathed until his last memorable engagement, when with a picked body of men he captured a strategic position in a clump of woods the enemy was holding. He was to have had further honors for that, but they brought him from the wood in a state of coma induced by shell-shock.
“He was conveyed to a base hospital where he came out of the stupor a raving maniac. His complete recovery came with that remarkable suddenness that sometimes characterized such cases; but the morning following the day he became normal he was not in his cot. Not a clue to his whereabouts was ever afterwards discovered. He was one of the unsolved mysteries of the war.
“Now then, Mr. Smith, we come to the point where I became so personally interested in locating J. C. X.,” concluded Josephine Stone. “While in the base hospital Captain Carlstone was under the care of an old chum of mine, Sister Cummings. It was she who afterwards told me of the vivid story he related during his ravings of the death of Joseph Stone, my grandfather, on a northern trail years ago, Alternately, he talked of a mine and a will, most of it incoherent, but—”
Josephine Stone paused. Acey Smith was gazing fixedly beyond her into the thicket above, but at her cognizance of it the alertness in his features relaxed in a whimsical smile and his eyes came back to a level with
“It seemed almost an unbelievable coincidence when I received the letter signed by J. C. X., asking me to come here to learn something of interest to myself,” continued the girl.
Again Acey Smith flashed an apprehensive glance at the woods above. “Come,” he urged, “we’ll go down to the open space on the beach.”
She had heard nothing and could discern no sign of life where his eyes had been focussed. Nevertheless, she accompanied him without question down the beach out of earshot of the woods.
He turned to her. “Your grandfather died when you were a child?” he asked.
“When I was two years of age, yes. He was by hobby a scientific man and a recluse, I believe, but he did considerable prospecting. My father was an only son, and, after the death of my grandmother, he insisted on father leaving the wilds. There followed a heated dispute which led my father to leave never to return. He seldom spoke of grandfather, and mother and I learned only the most fragmentary details of him and his life. Father died before I started to school and mother passed away a few years later, leaving me quite alone in the world, and had it not been for an invention of father’s, purchased on a royalty basis after his death by a manufacturing firm, I might also have been left quite penniless.”
“You never learned definitely just what happened to your grandfather?”
“No. There were rumours reached us that he was killed by Indians in the bush and that rival prospectors had made away with him after he had discovered a gold mine. But none of these stories seemingly were ever confirmed.
“All my life I’ve wanted to learn about grandfather and what happened him,” she went on. “Though I had never known him, it seemed as though he was very near to me—as if actually I had been in his dying thoughts. I had intended to explain all this to you that first night I went to your office, but—I was at first—afraid of you. Since then—”
“Yes?” he urged as she hesitated.
“Since I’ve felt instinctively you knew what I came to seek and you would find a way. I know now I could trust you.”
SHE looked up at him. His eyes did not meet hers and she was unprepared for the answer he gave her: “If you had asked sixty people forty-nine who know me best would have told you you had better put your trust in Mephistopheles himself.”
She caught her breath. “But that—that is because they do not know you intimately.”
“It is because they know me loo intimately— the reputation is not unmerited.”
There was a bitter indifference to his words that chilled her, a drooping sneer at his mouth and a cold gleam in his black eyes as he made frank, unboastful admission of iniquity. It seemed for a space as though the demon he had confessed looked out mockingly from the man at her.
“Yet you made no mistake,” he assured her almost immediately. “Your woman’s intuition told you aright; there is that I must assist you to learn of, even if—if Idid not care.”
“But about Captain Carlstone,” she reminded him. “You have not told me whether he has any connection 'with the matter or not.”
“Captain Carlstone does not matter. He is gone— made away with himself somewhere overseas.”
“Killed himself?” she asked aghast.
Acey Smith gave vent to a soulless, soundless laugh—. “Something like that,” he answered indifferently. “At any rate he never came back to Canada. There were vital reasons why he dare not. But don’t waste pity on him; as I said, he doesn’t matter and lest you may have conceived otherwise, I may tell you there was never anything in common between Captain Carlstone and J. C. X. In fact, they were as dissimilar as it is possible for two individuals to be.”
His utter callousness bruised the sensitive girl—angered her so that she could have wished to have been a man to strike him where he stood.
“Be patient for a little while.” He intercepted the retort that trembled on her lips. “You shall know and you shall understand. You shall be the first person outside myself to meet face to face the mysterious J. C. X. whose power is greater than any other one individual in the Dominion of Canada, who makes and unmakes big business at his will, sways big men as puppets, uses political parties as pawns to his own advantage, advises and the press thunders his words, and yet works as with an unseen hand. You shall be the first to meet J. C. X. and know definitely in whose presence you stand.”
“I don’t think I care to meet him—now,” coldly.
“But you wanted to know about your grandfather.” “You mean he alone can tell me?”
“No; J. C. X. could tell you nothing of that. But it is through your coming meeting with him that you will learn all that you seek to know and more.”
“But why all this intense mystery about it?” Josephine Stone plucked up courage to demand. “I confess I am at a greater loss now then ever to know what all these complications mean—where they lead to.”
There came frank concern into his face. “I only wish it were in my power to tell you—now,” he said. “But it is out of my province to say more. In a week, or likely less, the appointed time will arrive.
“Meanwhile, I have to go east on urgent business,” he added. “I will return as quickly as possible, but before I go I am going to ask you if you will put yourself in my care without question as to the reasons.”
“You mean to leave here—with you?”
“Exactly. Oh, but you may bring your chaperone, Mrs. Johnson, with you.
It will be all perfectly proper. Only, I must ask you to leave without notifying a soul, not even your Indian servants.
There’s a reason.”
“A reason? Another unexplained reason?”
“No, I may tell you, this time. I fear for your safety during the next few days while I am away.”
“But I am not afraid."
“That’s because you do not sense your danger.”
“An enemy?” she echoed. “Who?” “The one who despatched notes to yourself and young Hammond to bring about your first meeting here.”
“Come,” he urged before the exclamation of surprise died on her lips. “Say you will go to-night. I’ll come over in the motorboat this evening and we can make arrangements. It is vital that you should leave here at once and without anyone knowing or I would not ask it.”
“Without notifying my friends?”
She read from his keen answering glance that he knew she was thinking of Hammond. “Without notifying anyone,” he insisted.
“Then I refuse to go.”
“That is final?”
“It is, unless I can be shown a more co-
herent reason for going in such a strange manner.”
The worried look that had come into his face receded and he laughed a queer, bitter, little laugh. “Oh, well, if you will have it so, it is up to me to change my plans,” he said. “And that being so, I must bid you good-bye until I return from Montreal.
“Oh, by the way,” he added, “if you should hear men striking camp up the trail along the lakeshore this evening don’t be alarmed. It will be merely a squad of the mounted police who’ve come to patrol this section of the waterfront during the strike.”
“Strike?” she echoed, perplexed.
He walked up the beach, drew his cached packsack fron a clump of green stuff and returned. “Yes, we’re to have one of those modern luxuries in the camp within the next few days,” he answered.
He lifted his hat, whirled on a heel and was away.
In a maze of doubt as to whether her recent refusal to leave the island as he had requested were a wise decision, she watched Acey Smith go up and over the first hill of the lakeshore trail. When his figure had disappeared she was assailed by a sudden apprehension—an overwhelming apprehension—that she had made a grave mistake There must have been deep, very deep reasons for his asking her to leave the island No doubt she was imperilling not only her own safety but his plans as well
On an impulse she sped forward after him. She felt that she could easily get within call of him before he reached the crown of the second hill. In her close-fitting garments she made fast time, but on the top of the first hill she paused all out of breath. The trail before her down through the valley and up the further rise was silent and empty.
At a tramping sound in the brush to her left she hesitated about proceeding. It might be a wandering bear or moose.
The bushes up the trail parted and a fearsome figure strode out—a figure as forbidding as one might well conceive an evil spirit to be. His face was almost black and on his cheek-bones stood out twm livid red gashes. He wore no head-covering save a band of purple which held a single eagle’s feather in place in his lank, black hair.
Round his neck were hung string upon string of gleaming white wolves’ teeth.
At the girl’s involuntary cry of dismay he whirled, the whites of his evil black eyes showing garishly in his satanic visage. It afterwards recurred to her that he had at first appeared quite as startled as she had been, but he almost immediately straightened, and, folding his arms on his chest, pronounced himself in deep, strangely-vibrating guttural tones.
“Ogima Bush,” he said, “big medicine Man. Him no hurt white lady. Vn-n-n-n—white lady pass.”
But Josephine Stone waited to have no further parley. She turned and fled on her trembling limbs back toward the island. And, as she ran, there fell upon her ears a penetrating, wailing cry, long-drawn out and bloodcurdling in its mixture of mockery and despair—a cry that for subsequent reasons she was destined to remember all the days of her life.
“When All the World Was Young, Lad!”
LOUIS HAMMOND returned to the camp that morning after he had parted with Josephine Stone down on the beach near Amethyst Island in a seventh heaven of ecstatic speculation. It was his first genuine love affair. The thrill of having held the svelt, firm form of that lovely creature yielding in the embrace of his arms was still upon him. He had discovered a new world—mating youth’s own wonder world, where the blue sky, the waving trees and the dancing water take on a new significance and seem to weave out of a sympathetic gladness the song of Eden’s first splendrous dawn.
Already he was looking forward to their next meeting— the very next morning, in fact, he planned to again saunter down to Amethyst Island on a chance of gaining a few hours of her exquisite society.
But always our profoundest dreams are ephemeral when grim Reality stalks in the background. Later, the natural law of moods brought to Hammond the inevitable reaction. He was smitten with a sense of duty unperformed. He could not exactly define it, but he had a feeling of uselessness, a vague notion that he was drifting nowhere.
However, what was the use of trying to analyse situations that seemed to lead to nowhere? Hammond wanted action—■and, he was going to have it.... He would wait till to-morrow, see Josephine Stone in the morning and find out definitely if she felt quite sure of her own safety in this wild place. Then, if everything appealed to him as well, he would stow away on the tug for town in the afternoon. Once off the tug at Kam City he would be a free citizen and he could make a trip back to Ame’hyst Island at his pleasure in a moterboat.
But the way was made easier for Hammond to reach Kam City than he for the moment hoped, with subsequent events seemingly gauged for his further bewilder-
COMING in from a stroll in the bush in the late afternoon, Hammond was considerably surprised to discover patrols of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police pacing the waterfront. Being hungry, he went direct to the dining-camp expecting to learn from Sandy Macdougal the cook just what new crisis had arisen necessitating the presence of the police.
But he had finished the meal before the head cook came striding in. “Say, Hammond,” he opened, “the Big Boss told me to tell you he wanted to see you at his office as soon as you came in. Must be something all-fired important, for he seemed to be fussy about it, which is odd for him.”
Hammond hurried over. The interview was short. The superintendent handed him an envelope bearing his name in firm, Spencerian writing. “It contains a personal pass on any of the North Star tugs for the season,” he announced. “You are at liberty now to use it at your pleasure.” The younger man concealed his amazement in a quiet “Thank you."
“Better take the first tug in the morning,” suggested Acey Smith. “There’s a possibility of the afternoon tugs being off
“Oh, well, the following day will do as well." returned the elated Hammond, “my business in the city is not so pressing that a day’s delay will matter.” .
The Superintendent passed Hammond his cigarette case and lit a cigarette himself. "I’d take the early tug to-morrow if I were you,” he insisted quietly. “There’s no telling what may happen the tug service between here and the city after tomorrow.”
“You’re not thinking of laying up the boats?”
“No - «of its.'’ Smith studied Hammond idly, a curious, not unfriendly frown puckering his brows as he added: “Playing Sir Galahad seems to impair a journalist’s nose for news, doesn’t it, Hammond?
That shot went home under the skin, but before Hammond could frame a rejoinder Acey Smith spoke up again. “I was going to say,” he remarked, “that should the tugs not be running when you are ready to return from the city that pass will be good on any make-shift service the company inaugurates to take the place of the big boats. Incidentally, I am leaving myself tomorrow on a trip to Montreal, and I’ll not be returning to camp for several days or perhaps a week. For the meantime, I have instructed Mr. Mooney, the assistant superintendent, to take care of your wants while our guest.”
Hammond was quite surfeited with all this new show of attention and hospitality. He felt like telling the pulp camp superintendent to go to the devil, but he said “Thanks” again instead.
“Oh, just a minute, Hammond!”
Hammond paused at the door as Acey Smith strode over and passed him a newspaper. “The morning edition of the Star,” he indicated. “There is an item on the front page that may interest you—considerably.”
The wispy, mocking light that came over Acey Smith’s face when he uttered that last word was lost on Hammond for the moment. He walked back to his quarters in a fighting mood, all the more poignant because he had had to suppress it. Smith seemed to take such a fiendish enjoyment out of making him feel like a child he was studying for the sheer fun of the thing. Too, Hammond’s professional pride had been stung by the other’s broad insinuation that he, for a newspaper man, was woefully asleep to what was going on around him. It had gone deeper because it was coupled with that vague hint about his attentions to Josephine Stone—at least that was what Hammond had taken the reference to Sir Galahad to
What was going on at the limits? Why were all these mounted police out here? Why did the workmen, muttering in groups, fall so silent when he came near? Undoubtedly, a crisis of some sort was near at hand and he had missed a big piece of news that was “breaking” right under his nose. He began to concede to himself that he was deserving of the keenest of Acey Smith’s sarcasm. He had needed something like that to bring him down out of the clouds.
At first he was for going down and striking up a conversation with some of the police. On second thought he didn’t—he knew' from experience how absolutely closemouthed Canadian mounted policemen w’ere about their orders. There was little that Sandy Macdougal would not know; he’d ask Sandy first.
But Sandy hadn’t come over from the cook camp when Hammond entered their shack. Hammond had built up the fire in the little heater and lit his pipe when he bethought him of the Star that Acey Smith had passed him.
Under the wall lamp Hammond spread out the paper, then he jumped to his feet as his eyes were caught by a lower corner scare-line heading:—
POLICE LOOKING FOR YOUNG STRANGER
SEEN WITH N. T. GILDERSLEEVE BEFORE
MILLIONAIRE DISAPPEARED FROM TRAIN
Unknown Youth Travelling Alone Was In Pulp Magnate’s Stateroom Colored Porter Tells Authorities—Suspicion of Foul Play?
Mysterious Note Delivered En P,oute
In the body of the article Hammond read a badlygarbled description of himself and an equally highlyelaborated story of his interview with Gildersleeve. The colored porter’s powers of imagination were in excellent working order, for he told of a loud altercation going on inside the stateroom before he entered, and that both men were standing glaring at each other with drawn,
white faces when he was admitted to the stateroom.
It was all very ridiculous to one on the inside as to what really had happened, but quite on a par with most of the wild raft of useless clues brought to surface by the
police dragnet in mystery
fpW®*' cases. Hammond might
^ i ; have laughed outright but
for another thought that occurred to him.
He was under suspicion of having something to do with Gildefsleeve’s disappearance.
But be that as it might be, Hammond’s mind was fully made up. He was how more determined than ever to make the trip to Kam City on the morrow. He quite realized what an ugly position he might be placed in through the erratic evidence of the colored porter, but he was chafing to have the whole thing over with. He could stand continued inaction no longer. If the police arrested him, well and good; he’d take a chance on the trend of events and his own evidence bringing the truth to the surface. True, his contract with Norman T. Gildersleeve called for his keeping secret the fact that he had been engaged by the millionaire to stay on the Nannabijou limits until he received other instructions, but Gildersleeve must truly have disappeared or he would have taken steps of some sort or other to prevent Hammond’s arrest on a false charge. He could find no conscientious reason why he should hold out longer.
He glanced at his watch. It was nearly ten o’clock. He decided not to wait up for Sandy Macdougal, for he would have to arise early to catch the morning tug. To-morrow surely would be an eventful day.
HAMMOND was partially awakened by the cook prowling around with his bottle and a metal cup. Hammond declined Sandy’s invitation to join him in a “night-cap” and turned over to go to sleep again.
“Heard the big news, Hammond?” the cook asked. Hammond rolled over again under the blankets at that. “No, Sandy,” he replied. “What’s taking place on the limits anyway?”
Macdougal tossed down his “three fingers” and gazed
meaningly at the rusty stove-pipe. “There’s going to be something drop around this layout before many days are over,” he said finally.
“Yes?” encouraged Hammond.
"You’ll keep anything I tell you under your hat?” “Sure, if you say so.”
"Strike and blue hell to pay,” informed the cook solemnly. “Whole kiboodle will throw down tools-— tugmen, waterfront men, pole-cutters and all.”
“H’m, so that’s it—that’s why the mounted police are over here,” reflected Hammond. “What’s the grievance?” “More pay and shorter hours. Ain’t that what they always say?”
"But I thought the North Star Company were always ready to consider the demands of the men?”
“Maybe they will this time,” replied Macdougal, “but I got a hunch they won’t. There’s something phoney about this whole business. They’ve let a whole flock of bolsheviks and O B U. agitators into the camps and never even tried to stop them holdin’ meetings, and the foremen have been bullin’ the men the past few days just as if they wanted to egg them on. Besides I mistrust that faraw'ay glint in Acey Smith’s wicked eyes these days. Whenever you see the Big Boss goin’ around like as if he was in a trance and he looks at you with that queer little devil-grin playin’ at the corners of his mouth there’s new hellery on foot, you can bank on that.”
“Then you think the North Star’s out to break the strike?”
“I don’t know,” Macdougal was rapidly divesting himself of mackinaw and shoepacks, “but I’ve a hunch Acey Smith has the dope from the higherups and that it ain’t for a settlement.”
Having so pronounced himself, the cook blew out the light and plunged into his bunk.
HAMMOND awoke to find the little shack flooded with daylight. That meant that it was late—much too late to catch the morning tug. He had neglected to tell Sandy Macdougal to call him, and he w'as not by nature an early riser.
Nevertheless, if he acknowledged the truth to himself, he w'as not as disappointed about it as he should have been under the circumstances. There would surely be another tug in to-day, he reflected —and the delay would give him an opportunity to slip over to Amethyst Island before he left.
After breakfast, he set out along the lakeshore trail in high spirits. At the bridge over the Nannabijou River he was brought up 3hort by a mountie. “Let me see your pass,” requested the young man in uniform.
Hammond had to acknowledge that he hadn’t any, that he hadn’t known one was necessary. “Sorry then,” politely informed the policeman, “but the waterfront beyond here is out of bounds for anyone not holding a pass signed by Major Little and the camp superintendent. That’s orders.”
Considerably abashed, Hammond struck back for the camp. He would try Acey Smith for a waterfront pass. Likely, in view of the superintendent’s previous anxiety to have him leave on the early boat, he would be refused point-blank, but it was worth finding out.
He turned at a shrill tooting out beyond, the field of boomed pulpwood. A tug was just coming in the gap. They must be running wild to-day—and perhaps this would be the last one in before the strike was called. He had better take it over to Kam City, he reflected.
The tug had docked when Hammond reached the camp’s “main street,” and he noted that, along with a number of questionable-looking men in city garb, the dark-eyed girl in the sable furs, known as Yvonne, descended the gang-plank. Acey Smith was not in his office nor anywhere about the docks.
Two members of the mounted force examined the passes of the passengers as they came off the dock. The men dispersed into the upper reaches of the camp, while the girl paused to talk to a tall, black-whiskered man in an over-long rusty black coat who went down to meet her.
Hammond was sure he saw first impatience then anger come into Yvonne’s dark face as the Rev. Nathan Stubbs conversed with her in guarded undertones. Suddenly she swept away from him with a stamp of her little foot and went direct to the office of Acey Smith, where she entered without rapping.
The tug took off little freight and took on less. Its whistle gave a sharp warning blast.
Hammond raced down to the dock. The deck-hands were actually pulling up the gang-plank and unsnubbing the hawsers.
He held out his pass for the mounties to see as he went by, conscious that someone was racing at his heels. A strong hand reached out, and clutched at his shoulder, and he flung it off unceremoniously. The gang-plank was up, but he cleared the space between the edge of the dock and the tug’s low deck in a flying leap.
He turned to see the Rev. Nathan Stubbs being unceremoniously yanked back off the dock by two policemen.
“Them Was Roaring Days!”
AS THE tug swung out with a great churning astern, Hammond caught the eye of the skipper looking out of the wheel-house above. Chuckling over the antics of the chagrined camp preaeher, he jerked his head over Hammond to come up.
“Take a seat.” The genial-faced captain motioned Hammond to the cushioned bench, at the back of the tiny wheel-house. “The sky-pilot seemed to be dead-set on making you miss the boat, didn’t he?”
“Yes,” replied Hammond. “I’m at a loss to know what came over him all of a sudden. As a rule he never appeared to notice I existed around the camp.”
“Oh, I guess he’s harmless, from what I hear,” agreed the captain, “but you can never tell just what’s what about some of those queer birds they let hang around that camp. There’s that old Medicine Man, for instance, I wouldn’t trust my back to him two minutes in the bush.” “Ogima Bush? You think he’s dangerous?”
The skipper yanked at the lever of the steam steering gear and swung the tug due west outside the channel through the pulp booms. “There ain’t any bully in the camp will take chances on crossing him,” he said significantly.
“You’d think the superintendent would have him run off the limits.”
“He daren’t, even if he wanted to,” declared the captain. “It’s long odds that old crock is cahoots with the Big Boss. At least everybody’s got that notion.”
“Speak of the devil,” he exclaimed next minute, “there’s the Big Boss heading for camp now.”
Hammond leaped to his feet and looked in the direction the captain was pointing. Sure enough, he could discern the superintendent’s red racing motorboat tearing over the water from a point the other side of Amethyst Island, bow up in air with a crash of foam under its midships.
“Try the glasses,” suggested the captain. Hammond fitted them to his eyes and adjusted the lenses. Acey Smith, at the wheel, was the only occupant of the tiny cockpit.
“Smith talked of going over to Kam City this afternoon,” suggested Hammond.
“Yes, he told me yesterday he was in a hurry to get things cleaned up so he could get away in time,” replied the other. “He intended to catch the night train for Montreal.
“Suppose you know there’s trouble on among the tugmen?” he queried turning from the steering-lever a mo-
“Yes, and if the tugmen go out it means the pole-cutters and the white-boom-tenders at the limits will down tools in sympathy ty■ ing everything up as tight as a river-jam.”
“Likely Smith’s going to Montreal to talk it over with some of the heads of the company, eh?” Hammond was sparring for more information.
“I dunno.” There came a faraway look in the captain’s blue eyes.
“Hon. J. J. Slack, of Kam City, i« supposed to be top dog of this outfit, and then again some think he’s only a straw boss. But if you asked á lot of people they’d tell you the real head push of this outfit hangs out in a place that’s a lot better than Montreal or Kam City”
Hammond was scarcely paying any attention to the captain’s words. He had the glasses trained on Amethyst Island which they were now passing.
The place had a deserted look. The doors of Josephine Stone’s cot-' tage were closed and there was not a sign of life on the island. That seemed queer—very queer. Perhaps, he conjectured, she had gone over to their meetingplace on the beach and was expecting him to happen
But he swept the beach with the glasses for a glimpse
of her in vain. Presently, two scarlet-coated policemen emerged from the bush on the mainland and walked up the rise to a bell tent that was pitched on the crown of the hill. There one apparently flung an order to his companion, and the latter set off at a loping run in the direction of the pulp camp.
A depressing presentiment swept over Hammond. He would have liked to have asked the captain to turn in and let.him off at Amethyst Island, but he didn’t quite dare to do that.
IT WAS the captain who interrupted his reverie. "We* were talking just now about that camp sky-pilot, the Rev. Nathan Stubbs,” he reminded Hammond. “I was saying that Smith lets Ogima Bush the Medicine Man have the run of the camps because he can use him for his own purposes. Now it’s different with that preacher fellow; it’s always been known that the Big Boss won’t order any kind of a Christian preacher out of camp so long as the preacher sticks to the gospel and his own particular line of trade.”
“Is that a fact?” This to Hammond was an entirely new side light on the character of the pulp camp superintendent.
“True as your’re standing there,” said the skipper. “Why, all of us boat captains have standing orders that any of them chaps with their collars buttoned behind is to travel free back and forth to the camps, whether they have a pass or not. It’s the same in the camp; they ain’t charged anything for grub and bunk and everybody has orders to use-them polite and decent. At the same time, the Big Boss lets the preachers see they’re to steer wide of him. He has a way of doing that, you know, and the wise ones know enough not to try any of their holy groaning on a hard-boiled egg like him.
“There’s been every known kind of soul-saving genius knocking around our camps in my time; Catholic priests, high-faluting English churchers, Methodist missionaries, Salvation Army drum-beaters and the like,” continued the captain. “But I only know of one preaeher who tried mixing it with Acey Smith. He was a bush-camp evangelist they called Holy Henry that used to rant to the lumber-jacks and lead them in psalm-singing all the way from the Soo up to the Rainy and the Lake of the Woods. Holy Henry was a wizened up bit of a man with big, thick glasses and mild-looking blue eyes back of them.
“We were taking out timber in the Dog Bay country when Holy Henry paid us his visit. The North Star camps were wide open in them days; nothing was barred but wild women and promiscuous booze-running. There was every known manner of winning or losing a wad from big wheels-of-fortune, chuck-a-luck, paddle-wheels and stud poker down to nigger craps.
“When this here Holy Henry hits the camps everybody got to speculating just what end of the horn he’d come out at. But what happened wasn’t what any of us had figured on. The first thing that fool preacher did was to go the super’s office and appeal to him to put the lid on.
Acey Smith looks down at the little fellow with the thick glasses and the weak eyes with that sort of good-natured curiosity you see on a big St Bernard dog when a poodle gets in his way. ‘This ain’t any Sunday school we’re running out here, Holy Henry,’ he says, ‘and saving souls isn’t exactly in my line; but if you throw a scare of hell-fire into this outfit of blacklegs so that they’ll thumb hymn-books instead of poker decks, go to it. That’s your particular business and I won’t put any sticks in your way.’ Then he turns away with that little demongrin of his and goes back to his work.
“All went along pretty much as per usual till Sunday came. Sunday was the red-letter gambling day at the North Star camps, because the boys had full time at it with no other worries. Some of ’em used to tip the bull cooks to bring their meals to them so they wouldn’t miss a
“Holy Henry had announced a morning service in a shack that had been turned over to him for that purpose, but not a man-jack turned up to it but an old Injun halfwit who’d been roped in by the Salvation Army and a one-eyed Hunkie who’d got religion at one of the week day meetings. Holy Henry kneels down with his twomen congregation and prays silently for a few minutes. Then he went forth ‘clothed in the wrath of the Lord’ as he called it.
“And believe me, boy, that was some wrath. Somewhere outside he gathered up a piece of a broken handspike, and, brandishing it around his head, he lands into first one camp shack and then another. He couldn’t make any mistake picking them random that way; they were all going full tilt. He’d burst through a door and land in like a little package of greased hurricane. Out would go his foot and over would go a table, chips, cards, money and all. Then he’d swing his club within an inch of the faces of the crowd. ‘Out of here, you bleary-eyed, low-lived, pigeon-toed, white-livered disciples of Baal!’ he’d yell. ‘Out, you sin-corroded, knock-kneed, flannelmouth' desecrators of the Lord’s Day! Out, I say, for the wrath of God Almighty is upon you!’
“Some of the lads with level heads decided to go down and get the super, to interfere and decide what was to be done with the wild-eyed preacher. Smith was reading one of them high-brow books in his office when the delegation bursts in. He didn’t say a word, just got up, slips on his mackinaw and goes out to locate the cause of the disturbance.
“Holy Henry was smashing things about in the sixth shack on his list when the Big Boss poked his head in the door with the gang crowding up at his rear.
“ ‘What in hell does this mean?’ the super, raps out, spearing the preacher with them wicked, snapping black eyes of his. His face was like chalk from the cold anger he was holding back.
“Holy Henry was in the act of dumping a lot of poker chips and cards into the stove. The sweat was running down his face in little creeks and his thick glasses had got all steamed up, which didn’t matter because he was seeing all red up to that time. But the Big Boss’s words hit him like cold hunks of ice that had been shot into his system and the pep seemed to go out of him all at once. I’d seen bigger and stronger men than Holy Henry break down like that in front of Acey Smith, and I almost began to feel sorry for this trembling little bit of whiff of a fellow with that black devil of a man towering over him.
“ ‘It’s the Lord’s Day,’ he stammers. T was just cleaning up these hell parlors.’
“ ‘Hell parlors—hell parlors.’ echoes the super. 'Who in blue blazes gave you license to wreck the camp? Tell me that!’
“The little fellow looked more sorrowful than ever and he says sort of quietlike: T thought you were on our side, Brother Smith; I was doing this in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ.’
Continued on page 42
Continued from page 31
“If you ever saw a change come over the face of a man it was that that came over the superintendent’s. He drew back like as if something had hit him, and the palms of his hands went up to his face as though he was choking. Maybe you’ve seen him do that sometimes? It’s like as if a devil inside him was trying to jump out and was strangling him.
“But the next minute he walks over to the preacher and takes him by the arm. ‘Finish your job, Holy Henry,’ he says, ‘and if anyone so much as lifts a finger at you, well—’
“He didn’t finish, but turns and glowers at the gawping crowd like a lion. ‘Men,’ he orders, ‘the lid’s down tight on Sunday gambling in these camps. You get that straight!’
“He said it, and that meant it was law. And it’s been law in the North Star camps ever since.
“What became of Holy Henry? Now, I don’t know. Anyway he was only a few days in the camp after that incident. At one of his meetings he made some fool remark about the Big Boss seeing a great light suddenly like the Bible says St. Paul did. That settled him for keeps.
“The next morning Acey Smith meets the preacher and stops him. ‘Holy Henry,’ he says, ‘you’ve shot your bolt— you’re through here.’
“ ‘But, Brother Smith,’ expostulates the little fellow, ‘I’ve just barely started my work in the Lord’s vineyard.’
“ ‘You beat it out on the next tug to some other vineyard—and don’t come back!’ cuts in the Big Boss, cold as ice. ‘And listen: I’m not brother to you nor to any other man. Furthermore, I ain’t any St. Paul seeing light; I’m just a fighting he-man who doesn’t pray to God nor the devil either. All I ask both of them to do is to give me a sporting chance to make good at my job.
“ ‘You’ve got me wrong about stopping that Sunday gambling stunt,’ he continues. ‘I did that partly because I can’t help being on the side of the man who’s got the guts to back up his convictions when the whole crowd is against him. But I put the lid down mostly becauseitstruck me it would be good policy for the North Star to make its men take a rest on Sunday. You go pack your turkey—the next tug leaves at noon.’ ”
The skipper paused when he had concluded his story. After a silent moment he turned to Hammond. “Now what do you think of that for a hard-hearted speech?” he asked.
“Just sounds like Acey Smith,’’responded Hammond, “and I take it that what he told Holy Henry was just about the truth about himself.”
“Probably—probably,” reiterated the captain in an absent sort of a way as he fixed his gaze on the city wharves they were nearing. “But at the same time, I
dunno. There’s a strange streak in that Acey Smith.”
The skipper pressed a signal to the engine-room to slow down. They were swinging in to the city wharf.
HAMMOND alighted on the docks of Kam City and walked the streets expecting at any moment a blue-coated policeman or a plain-clothes detective would step forward and take him into custody in connection with the Gildersleeve disappearance. But no such thing happened. The very boldness of his entry must have set the sleuths of the law off guard, for at no time did he even find himself under suspicious scrutiny.
Gold lettering on a window in the second storey of a business block across the street he was travelling reminded him that he had mapped out a definite program for the day and that right here was where he must make his start. The sign marked the quarters of the American consul. There he would find the little grey man, Eulas Daly, who was first on the list he meant to interview. He crossed the street and sought out the consul’s office.
A tall, slim, alert-looking young man rose from his desk and genially inquired of what service he could be.
Hammond passed him his card. “Might I see Mr. Daly?” he asked.
“Mr. Daly?” repeated the other with a puzzled air.
“Yes—Mr. Eulas Daly, American consul.”
“A mere errorinnames, Mr. Hammond. I am the American consul in charge here, but my name is Frank W. Freeman.” “Oh, I see,” surmised Hammond. “There has been a change—Mr. Daly has been recently transferred to another post?”
“Quite a year ago, my friend,” replied Mr. Freeman definitely. “Mr. Daly was transferred to the Buenos Ayres office in October of last year and I have been in charge here since then. Perhaps there’s something I could do for you?”
“At that rate, no. Thank you,” acknowledged Hammond concealing as best he could his amazement and chagrin. “It was a personal matter between myself and Mr. Daly. I have been misinformed as to his location.”
Inured as Hammond was becoming to trickery and mystification, this latest revelation brought about a very poignant disappointment. It seemed the more he probed the incidents following his contract with Norman T. Gildersleeve to go to the Nannabijou Limits the more complicated things became.
He dropped into a hotel down the street whence he telephoned the city offices of the paper company. He was told that Artemus Duff, president and general
in anager, was out at the works and might m,I he back all afternoon. Hammond decided to go out to the works, and as they were located at the extreme easterly limits of the city, he walked down to Front street, which ran along the harbor, to catch a street car. He was standing al a car stop when the face of a man at the wheel of a motor car that whizzed by seemed to him to be startlingly familiar.
The motor car stopped a block up at the corner above the short street leading from the city docks. A man got out, paused a second" on the walk, looked down the street, th« it disappeared into the building n t he corner.
Hammond’s first breathless impression was confirmed. The little grey man who got out of the car was the man who had introduced himself on the train as Kulas Duig. American consul.
The young man lost no time in reaching the spot. The man who had got out of the car was not in the drug store on the corner, so Hammond concluded he must have passed in the double doors just next it and gone up the stairs. Hammond took the steps three at a bound. The first floor up was entirely occupied by law offices. On the double glass doors he read the gilt-lettered legend:—
WINCH, STANTON REID.
He decided to make a try for his man in there. At the rail just beyond the doors he was met by a young woman.
“It is very important that I meet the gentleman who just came in,” he announced to her.
She took his card, passed into one of the glass-partitioned private offices and returned after what to Hammond seemed an unjustifiable delay. “Mr. Winch will see you in ten minutes,” she said. “Just take a seat, please.”
Hammond was forced to cool his heels until the girl, after responding to an office ’phone call, indicated that Mr. Winch was ready to receive him.
HAMMOND at last had struck the right trail. The little grey man gazing up at him from across the desk in the private office was none other than the bogus Eulas Daly. But Winch did not look the least flustered; in fact, there was the barest trace of the geniality he had worn in the rôle of the American consul.
“Mr. Hammond,” he opened quietly, “I have a shrewd notion what questions you have in mind to demand of me. But, before we proceed with that, will you kindly tell me why you have violated your contract with Mr. Gildersleeve by leaving the Nannabijou Limits without notification?”
“Because I’m weary of the whole business,” blurted the young man. “Because I’m not quite ass enough to remain out there on an assignment from a man who’s dropped out of sight. And, in the next instance, I want to know from you why you--”
“Just a moment, just a moment,” pleaded Winch. “We’ll come to that presently. Did you know that your leaving the limits at this particular time may seriously jeopardize the plans Mr. Gildersleeve had in mind?”
“Mr. Gildersleeve has disappeared.” “Even so. That, however, does not prevent his associates carrying on, does it? As I understood it, you agreed with Mr. Gildersleeve to remain at the limits in the capacity he sent you until you received word to return; and he emphasized the injunction that you were to remain no matter what apparently unusual things happened. Is that not a fact, Mr. Hammond?”
It was a fact—Hammond felt the full force of it now. For the moment he was not prepared with a reply. He was in grips with one of the most brilliant crossexaminers in the north country.
“But we will let that pass for the mo~ ment,” the lawyer proceeded. “You haven’t consulted anyone else in the city about this matter?”
“No, but I was on my way to look up President Duff of Kam City Pulp and Paper Mills when I dropped in here.”
‘You acted very wisely in coming here first,” commended Mr. Winch. “I would urge you not to consult Mr. Duff or any others about it, and, I might add, it is of as deep concern to you as it is to us that
Mr. Gildersleeve ’s intimate affairs in this matter should not become public under any consideration.”
“But you haven’t told me why, when you accosted me on the train, you found it necessary to impersonate an American consul who has long since left the city,” insisted the impetuous Hammond.
A wry smile broke faintly over the lawyer’s face. “Gildersleeve was to blame for that,” he replied. "He insisted, for some reason that was never quite clear to me, that I should not disclose my real identity to you. It may have been that, in case you did not feel inclined to consider the suggestion to meet him, he did not wish you to know his legal advisor was acting as go-between. The use of Eulas Daly’s name was almost accidental. An old card of his must have by chance got into my case. It appealed to me that for the interim the rôle of Eulas Daly would do as well as any other. I did not expect to see you again until this business was over with.”
This explanation did not impress Hammond favorably, but it was evident, from the matter-of-fact manner in which he related the deception, that Winch cared little how he took it.
So Hammond feigned as great an indifference as the other when he asked: “Then you really did the preliminary work at Mr. Gildersleeve’s instance?”
Winch plainly did not relish being kept in the position of the cross-examined. “Yes,” he replied with a shrug. “Gildersleeve had selected you as a likely man for the job during the day while you were sitting talking to a companion next table to him in the dining car. He asked me to feel you out about it, and, at the moment you dropped into the smokerthat evening, I was just about to set out in search for
“Öne more question, Mr. Winch,” pursued Hammond. “You spoke a few moments ago about his associates ‘carrying on’ while Mr. Gildersleeve is absent. Am I to take it from that heis still alive?” “We are certain of nothing,” answered the other, “but we have hopes for the best. It is not a point over which you need waste worry; the plans for his enterprises will be carried on as before.”
“Then there is nothing I could do that would assist in clearing up the mystery of Mr. Gildersleeve’s disappearance?” insisted Hammond.
“No—not a thing. Your plan is to return to the Nannabijou Limits this afternoon as quietly as possible,” suggested the legal man. “There you had best resume your former rôle until such time as you are communicated with.”
“That sounds very well,” impatiently commented Hammond, “but, in the event of Mr. Gildersleeve having disappeared permanently, I might remain there for a very long time without any particulai purpose being served.”
“In such a case I will personally take the responsibility of insti ucting you wher to return,” assured Winch. “Furthermore, I will take it upon myself to guarantee that you arepaid for your services according to the verbal contract between yourself and Mr. Gildersleeve.”
Hammond hesitated a moment. Hi was thinking about Josephine Stone anc the possibilities of being near her again otherwise he would not have entertainer any proposal to return to the limits unde: the circumstances.
Before he could reply, however, then came sounds of a lo.ud commotion fronj somewhere on the streets outside; jeers? the shrill cries of young boys and the rusl! of many feet.
WINCH rose from his desk and hurt ried to the window. As he looked out his face went grey with alarm and hi,' lips moved in a single gasp:—
Hammond was at his side in a trice The window overlooked the short stree«: leading up from the city dock, where, in surging crowd of men and street urchins two red-coated policemen of the Cañad ian mounted force were escorting up th street a tall, black-whiskered man in dari baggy clothes.
“Someone has made a tremendou blunder!” •
Winch thus spoke his thoughts with solemnity that betrayed his inward agits tion. At that instant the man between th two mounties looked up toward Winch ; window and gave utterance to a loud, fierce yell.
Continued on page 45
Continued from page 43
Hammond gave a gasp of surprise.
The prisoner was the Rev. Nathan Stubbs, camp preacher at Nannabijou Limits.
CHAPTER XIV “A Beautiful, Pale Devil”
ON THE day that Louis Hammond left the Nannabijou Limits for Kam City, Acey Smith and one other were astir long before the young newspaper man had opened an eye in his comfortable bunk.
Acey Smith, as was his usual custom, shaved before the large mirror opposite the eastern window of his bedroom, his thoughts busy with a problem that had been agitating him since his visit to Amethyst Island the day before.
It was while completing the last few deft touches to his toilet that the Big Boss of the Nannabijou Limits caught momentarily a reflection in the glass of a face and figure moving past the window back of him.
As if the fleeting reflection in the glass had brought him an inspiration, he paused in wiping the talc powder from his chin. Then he smote the little table below with a clenched fist such a blow that the articles thereon went tottering.
He whirled and turned his attention to a packsaek into which he hastily stowed a number of wrapped packages, strapped the flap of the pack and slipped his arms turough the shoulder pieces. He took a swift survey of surroundings from the windows, then stepping outside sauntered down to the bell tent on the water-front occupied by Inspector Little of the Mounted Police.
He was with the inspector perhaps twenty minutes, when he accompanied the latter to the dining camp. They had breakfast and returned to the dock. Soon afterwards the superintendent shot out from the waterfront in his red racing boat, which tore its way out of sight on the rolling expanse of Superior.
THE tug bearing Hammond to Kam City was well out on the lake when Acey Smith returned. He tied the red racer up in its berth on the limit’s docks and immediately made his way to his office. The enthusiasm that had sat upon his face when he had departed earlier in the day was gone. In its place was a tired, worried look.
As he entered the office, a handsome, dark-eyed young woman seated by a window dropped a book to her lap and looked up.
“Waiting long, Yvonne?”
The inquiry was casual but kindly. He whipped open a drawer of his desk, filled a silver cigarette case from a large tin box. Then he fitted a cigarette in an amber holder and lighted it.
“Justr since the tug came in.” There was a suggestion of pique in the girl’s tone that went unnoticed. Her gaze followed his every movement with fascinated intensity. But when he looked her way her eyes fell quickly.
Followed a long pause. Acey Smith stood looking out a window, half turned to her, the while he drew hungrily at the cigarette, his eyes in an abstracted stare.
“Has something happened? Is—is
He turned at the deep anxiety in Yvonne’s tones. “No, nothing wrong, Yvonne—I’m just a bit spent. It's been a trying morning.”
He tossed the cigarette into the stove and drawing a long, sealed manilla envelope from a pocket handed it to her. “Yvonne,” he said, “I want you to go over to Kam City with me in the racer this afternoon. When we land you are to go up to J. J. Slack’s office and deliver this letter from J. C. X. to him. If he asks any questions, tell him the wireless broke down and it was impossible to get in touch with him.”
“Aren’t you going to see Mr. Slack yourself?”
“Likely, but say nothing to him about it. I am leaving for Montreal to-night.” “For Montreal?” She bit her nether lip in the nervous effort it cost her to follow up: “Alone?”
“Yes, alone. Why doyouask, Yvonne?” She toyed with the letter he had handed her, her eyes averted. “Alexander,”—
She pronounced the name softly and with a great diffidence— “who is the girl living on Amethyst Island?”
Acey Smith smiled good-naturedly. “Miss Stone, you mean? She’ll be leaving here shortly.”
He shrugged. “That—depends on
“Did you know her before she came out here?”
“Never saw her before. But why all this catechism, Yvonne?”
Yvonne Kovenay arose. She threw out her hands in an odd gesture. “I want to ask you, Alexander, do you think I work for you as I do for the money you pay me alone?”
His face became suddenly serious. “Why no, Yvonne, such service as yours cannot be bought with a monthly cheque. Love of one’s work alone could inspire it.”
The girl winced as if she had been struck. “Love of my work?” she cried. “Great God, did you think it was love of my work?”
ACEY SMITH receded a step as she came’ forward, a magnificent little creature under stress of her emotions; her bosom heaving, her long lashes dank and her great dark eyes brilliant with the tears that forced themselves.
“Alexander, it has all been for—for love of you\”
She flung herself upon him, her soft arms about his neck, her dusky head with its masses of ebony hair upon his breast.
“Yes, yes,” she cried in sobbing abandon, “a thousand times yes—for you, my Alexander, king of all men, the strongest of the strong!” The tiger soul of her cried out: “All other men are dwarfs
beside you: you crush them with your very smile. Who is there among them all can stand before your might? How could woman help loving you as I do?
“Oh, I have tried hard not to do this! I tried to be patient in the hope that some day you would—would understand. Then, then, she came—that girl on Amethyst Island with her mincing ways and her haughty airs—to ensnare you. I have been mad, mad, mad, at thought of your going to her. Then—then it came to me that I—I was only—your woman spy.” Gently, he endeavored to release himself. “Not my woman spy,” he corrected her. “Remember you came to me and I employed you on behalf of the North Star—for J. C. X!”
“For the North Star—for J. C. X!” She echoed it derisively. “What is the North Star to me? Do you think I would work as I have done; run risks of reputation, even life itself at times, for this J. C. X., a man I have never seen?”
“But haven’t we treated you fairly?” he argued. “Isn’t your salary next only to that of the president himself? Hasn’t the North Star done everything within reason to reward you and show its appreciation of your services? What— what more is it you could ask, girl?”
She whispered it softly with a quick intaking of breath, her eyes opening momentarily in a quick, melting flash under
Acey Smith pushed her from him impatiently, almost roughly. His face became cold and hard, unutterably cruel for an instant. Then that wisp of a devilsneer flickered on his handsome, ruthless features.
“My love!” And he laughed a laugh that was not pleasant to hear. “What foolishness put it into your head that I could love, Yvonne?”
His scorning tones bit the woman to the quick. Her dark eyes flashed dangerously. “It was her! It was her!” she flamed at him. “That baby-faced thing down on Amethyst Island. I thought till she came you were what you seemed to be— a beautiful, pale devil. And as a devil 1 worshipped you, silently and in secret, fondly believing that neither I nor any other woman could claim you. I thought you were more than human—a being of destiny to whom all passions and weaknesses were scornful trivialities. Thenthen she carne—and I saw the change in
“Listen,” she cried, her face chalkwhite from the pent-up emotions surging within her. “Alexander, the thing which that thought awakens within me I tell you makes me mad mad! You may never be mine, but you never, never shall
be hers. I will kill----”
“Don’t say that!”
'-pHEKK came a terrible look into the 1 face of Acey Smith that sent her daggering hack in deadly affright. Only I,y a .supreme effort did the man appear lu gel a grip on himself.
Hut in another instant he was calm and smiling. "Poor, little Yvonne, my poor, little faithful Yvonne,” he soothed. "Child, you’re just a bit over-strung; you have been working too hard lately. Tonight. you are going to Winnipeg, to your father, on a month’s vacation, and 1 am going to pick out a little present for you when we get over to the city -something by which in after days you may remember one who was not what he should have been, but who thought, much of you. Let us forget this little incident for the present. We have work in hand to-day, you and I —big work and you are going to Kam City with me now' to deliver that letter, like a good little girl, aren’t you?”
Like a child that has been chastised then petted, she warmed under the light caress of his hand, the deep, musical persuasive qualities of his voice and the
She looked up at him as of old, tried to meet those soul-searching eyes with their wicked masterfulness, wavered and nodded acquiescence
“I knew you, would Yvonne. This,” he announced, ‘‘will be the beginning of the North Star’s greatest coup—and its last.”
“Its last?” She echoed it apprehensively.
He did not answer, but sprang to the window, a light of sinister amusement breaking over his face. “Look, Yvonne,” he called. “Come and see what is happening to your preacher friend.”
Down by the docks two mounted policemen were half leading, half dragging the handcuffed Rev. Nathan Stubbs into the police motorboat.
The girl gasped. “Why do you say my friend?” she asked, a quaver in her voice.
“He pretended to be your friend, and you told him what you should not have told him.”
“Then you knew?” Her face was scarlet.
“I knew all. The North Star always knows.”
“It was because —because I was crazy with jealousy,” she pleaded. “It was on account of that Stone girl, and I thought he could tell me who she was and why you went to see her. I did not tell him all—not your great secret.”
“My great secret?”
“Yes—that you are not Acey Smith in reality.”
He laughed indulgently. “It would not matter now even if you had, Yvonne,” he discounted, “because neither you nor any other could have told him who Acey Smith really is.
“Only one man knew that secret—and he is dead.”
CHAPTER XV The Fiat of “J. C. X.”
ARTEMUS DUFF, president and T"A general manager of the Kam City Pulp and Paper Mills, paid his promised visit to the office of Hon. J. J. Slack, M. P., president of the North Star Towing and Contracting Company, about the same hour that Hammond went up to see Martin Winch, K. C.
The interview in most respects was inconsequential. As might be surmised, Slack’s quest was for any chance bit of information regarding the rival paper company’s plans that it might be to his advantage to know. His shrewd afterdeductions were that Duff was not in the confidence of his own associates.
Duff, on the other hand, left the office of the wily politician no wiser than when he entered, but considerably reassured regarding the delivery of raw material to the mills from the Nannabijou Limits. Slack had a bland, big way of discussing a thing that put others off their guard.
“There are enough poles boomed in Nannabijou Bay to keep the mill running the better part of the coming year,” he told Duff.
“So our inspectors report,” agreed the
“The poles being there, we are bound to deliver them on time,” reminded Slack.
“But the contract time for the opening of our mill is drawing near,” complained the Kam City Company’s president, “and delivery hasn’t even been started. Even the absence of Norman Gildersleeve
wouldn’t bother me so much if it were under way.”
“There is little for you to lose sleep over on that point, Mr. Duff,” Slack assured him. “Once our present dredging contracts are completed, which I expect will be in a few days’ time, our full complement of tugs, carriers and loading scows will be on the job. Only an act of Providence could prevent the delivery of those poles on contract time.”
“An act of Providence—only an act of Providence?” Duff repeated as he prepared to depart. Just what did Slack mean by dragging that reference in? However, he had uttered it quite casually, Duff remembered, and probably it had no special significance.
Slack had uttered it casually. But a., that moment, even the president of the North Star and Contracting Company had little idea of the real cards that a cunning master mind wasselectingfor him to play.
Something of a revelation came to him that very afternoon.
SHORTLY after the departure of VJ Artemus Duff, a dark, striking-looking young woman was ushered into Slack’s private office. She closed the door cautiously behind her.
“Well, well, if it isn’t Yvonne,” greeted Slack. “I thought you were on business west of here.”
“I was, J. J.,” she replied as familiarly. “But I hurried back yesterday. I have just come over from the limits to deliver this special message to you.”
She tossed a sealed official envelope on the desk.
Slack tore open the envelope, and, as he studied the contents, a worried frown gathered on his brow. “Won’t you be seated a moment, Miss Kovenay?” he requested absently.
Slack worked with a pencil on a pad of paper deciphering the letter, which, as was usual with orders from this source, was in the North Star’s private code. It contained bald instructions, skeletonized of every spare word:—
Instruct North Star newspapers, east and west, drop conjectures re disappearance Gildersleeve. Print nil unless actually found dead or alive; then only barest details on inside pages, without display headings.
Put on double or triple shift, if necessary, on wireless ready any moment for emergency calls from limits stations. File for wireless every day weather probabilities for east and west and full predictions Coster’s Weather Bureauassoon as same come
IMPORTANT. Make no promises re Tugmen’s Union demand for in-_ creases and shorter hours, unless advised. Have papers print articles calculated to foment general seamen’s strike on our own and other great lakes vessels, Hire more socialist agitators to help stir up discontent. Strike MUST materialize before day that dredging contracts are completed.
Sending A. C. Smith to Montreal special business. If time, his instructions to call on you before leaving to confer on matters above mentioned. (Sgd.) J.C. X.
It literally took the breath out of Slack.
That second last paragraph regarding the tugmen’s strike smote him like a club. The carrying out of those instructions, he felt, meant personal calamity for him— his political doom.
With cold sweat breaking at his temples he looked up to meet the questioning stare of Yvonne Kovenay’s dark eyes.
“You know who this is from?” He asked it absently like one who scarcely expects a reply.
“Yes,” she answered. Then leaning forward over the desk she said in a whisper scarcely more than audible: “It is from J. C. X.”
“Yvonne, tell me, have you ever met him?”
“No!” There was a suppressed shudder in the emphasis. “I hope I never do
meet him. If I did--” Her voice
trailed off to incoherency.
Hon. J. J. Slack shrugged his heavy shoulders. “Oh, I know what you think, Yvonne. I know what you think—it’s' what they all think.” But Slack’s indifferent shrug merely disguised the gooseflesh shiver that ran through his own frame.
“Was there anything else, Yvonne?”
“Yes—a personal favor.” She pulled nervously at the fingers of her gloves. “Tell me, what is that girl doing out at Amethyst Island?”
“Good heavens, how should I know? Is there a girl stopping at Amethyst Island?”
“You didn’t know she was there?”
“It’s all news to me, Yvonne. Doesn’t Acey Smith know?”
“She—she seems to be a friend of his.” The woman’s voice bore traces of deep agitation. “He spends a lot of time in her company.”
Yvonne Kovenay had risen. She bade Slack a hurried good-day and whisked out of his office.
Slack, staring speculatively at the door through which she had vanished, muttered to himself: “So Acey Smith has a
flame, and that Kovenay girl he employs as head of his intelligence bureau is wild with jealousy. H’m, there’s real breakers ahead for Smith, or I miss my guess— and, if there’s a nasty fuss at this particular time I can see where I get a crisp order from J. C. X. to forthwith dispense with the services of a certain crafty superintendent. I can see that.”
But it was not possible pitfalls for Acey Smith which weighed heavily on the self-centred J. J. Slack—it was the nightmare of the coming strike of North Shore seamen that hung like a black cloud over him—the strike that he would have to precipitate and take the blame for. Until now he had understood the company’s stand-pat attitude was only meant to be a temporary bluff, and that the grievances of the men would be met before the strike actually came off. The orders he had just received dissipated all such fond illusions. His part in it would invalidate the total labor vote in his constituency. Good heavens, it meant ruin—complete ruin!
For a long period Slack paced the floor of his office. Futilely he tried to devise a way out. Five-thirty passed and the clerks in the outer office departed. Still he walked the floor. Yes—there was one way open. He would fight—bluff it through against this insane policy. Suddenly he came to a mental decision. He flung himself into his swivel chair and buried his face in his hands.
“I won’t do it! I won’t do it!” he spat out savagely. “I’ll see J. C. X. in hell first!”
AT THE mocking tones Slack looked up and into a face whose black, commanding eyes riveted his very soul; whose straight, firm-set mouth was drawn to a hair-line in its wisp of a smile. “Acey Smith!”
The visitor ignored the startled salutation. “I’m not so sure,” he ruminated, “that if you did meet J. C. X. in the regions you just mentioned that you would not change your mind.”
“But Smith, you are aware of the instructions forwarded to me to-day?”
“I have a pretty fair idea of the gist of those instructions.”
“Don’t you think J. C. X. could be prevailed upon to modify them?”
“Modify them? In what way?”
“With regard to precipitating a strike of the tugmen. Such a move would be folly—downright folly.”
“I am certain no such modification could be obtained,” declared Acey Smith. “You know quite as well as I that an order from J. C. X. is a command, and— well, you know what has happened those that failed in carrying on for the North Star.”
“But the North Star has never had a strike in its history. It has been known for its fair and generous treatment of its men,” argued Slack. “Its policy has always been to pay employees the highest wages and a bonus.”
“Correct. But for this once J. C. X. has seen fit to change the policy of the North Star, with the North Star’s own particular ends in view.”
“It spells disaster.”
“For the North Star Company—for all of us. Why—”
“That’s not the point that’s worrying you, Mr. Slack!”
The challenge came swift and sharp like the crack of a whip. Though nominally his subordinate, there were crises in the history of the North Star Company when Slack had to mentallyacknowledge a master in Acey Smith’s presence. That
was perhaps because he knew Smith in some way held the confidence of the directing mind of the firm, and—there was another reason that was not as tangible.
A wan remnant of what was meant th be a patient smile broke over the politician’s fat face. “We’ll be absolutely candid then,” he agreed. “There’s a Dominion election coming—the House may go to the country at any time. Smith, this proposed strike, with us refusing a settlement, would alienate every solitary labor vote in the North. Why, man, I couldn’t run against a yellow dog and win; it would ruin my political future.”
Acey Smith approached the other deliberately. He leaned forward until the tips of his inordinately long, tapering white fingers supported him on the edge of the desk.
“Slack,” he pronounced with cold insolence, ‘‘you have no political future.”
“One moment!” He raised a detaining hand, as Slack, ashen to the throat, opened his mouth in a sort of sickly gasp. “I am merely uttering the judgment of J. C. X., whose spokesman I am for the time being. Your future, as mine, belongs utterly to the North Star. The day you took over the president’s desk you became a pawn, body and soul. You knew that: it was put coldly to you. You accepted in the knowledge that the decisions of the anonymous head of the North Star Towing and Contracting Company must be absolute law, to be obeyed without equivocation of any kind.
“I need not here dilate on how the North Star has lived up to its covenant with you. Your family’s social prominence here and at the capital, the political honors that have been showered upon you all attest the might that was lent you. The North Star has demanded only service in return and cared not whether it had your gratitude or not.
“Think you, Slack, that the power that made you a leader among men has not the will to cast you down again into the depths from which you came—that the unseen arm that reached out and lifted you to wealth and affluence has not the strength to unmake you and brush you from its path into the discard?
“Listen.” The voice beside Slack was terrible in its cold intensity. “The zero hour in the history of the North Star is about to strike. Strong men alone can guide its destinies through that critical hour; the North Star will brook no vacillating weakling at its helm when it heads out into the teeth of the tempest.
“I am authorized to bring you this message: The fiat of J. C. X. is that you accept his recent instructions and carry them out to the letter or immediately vacate the presidency of the North Star.”
ALL THE smug self-confidence had gone out of Slack, leaving him a towering mass of perspiring flabbiness. But there was a mulish streak in him that prevailed in the face of his trepida-
He started to hark back to his primal grievance. “If it wasn’t for this strike—” “Forget the strike!” cut in Acey Smith. “The strike of the tugmen is a side-issue that will be forgotten long before a general election can be got under way. It will last only so long as it serves the ends of the North Star—a couple of weeks at the very most. But it must last until word comes from J. C. X. to settle it. The men will then be reinstated on their own terms with full back pay for the time they have been idle. The North Star wants no hardships to come to its men out of this incident. And, if the Hon. J. J. Slack, M. P., is then still president of the company, he shall have the full credit for making the magnanimous settlement.” Slack’s face brightened. “I begin to see the light,” he acknowledged.
“And the object?”
“Yes. This strike will preclude delivery of the poles at Nannabijou Bay to the Kam City Company’s mills in time for them to live up to their agreement with the government.”
“And they’d thus automatically forfeit their rights on the Nannabijou Limits,” added Acey Smith; but the queer, halfpitying ghost of a smile that flickered at the corners of his mouth escaped the politician.
“I see, I see,” reiterated Slack, “and, by virtue of that rider in the government contract, the limits would be returned to us on the terms of our old tender with an extension of time for the completion of our mill. Great Scott, that would mean too that the Kam City people would have a useless mill on their hands they’d be forced to turn over to the North Star at its own price. That’s strategy for you, with a vengeance!”
“Good!” Acey Smith’s approval came with a sardonic chuckle. “It is to be hoped the International Investment Corporation and the Kam City Pulp and Paper Mills Company make the same wild deductions that you do, Slack.”
Slack blanched under the rebuff. "Why, what do you mean?” he cried.
“.Just this,” replied the other. ‘‘Do you think the North Star would allow this tremendous issue to depend on such an obvious and clumsy piece of trickery? Why, man, the Kam City Company would have legal redress whereby they could force us to settle the strike and live up to our delivery contract in less than a week’s time.”
‘‘Then what on earth is the object of
‘‘It’s a blind-—to hide the real coup." “And the real coup?”
“One individual could answer that question—.!. C. X.”
Slack was silent a moment, then he blurted rather than asked: “Tell me, as man to man, Smith, are you J. C. X.?”
“I have wondered that you did not ask me that before,” returned the superintendent quietly. “I can inform you, as man to man, I am nolJ. C. X. ”
“But come, Mr. Slack,” he urged next moment. “We’re wasting time, and I have yet some things to attend to before I catch the train east. What answer do I send from you to J. C. X. regarding those last instructions?”
“Tell him they will be carried out to the letter,” admonished the president.
Acey Smith extended his hand. “I congratulate you, J. J.,” he offered.
“Hold on. Smith,” called Slack as the other turned to leave. “Wait until I get my coat and hat, and I’ll be with you.”
He went to a locker for the articles of wear. “We’ll slip over to the club and have dinner together,” he suggested. “You’ll have lots of time to-—”
There was an eerie emptiness to the ring of his voice in the room. He whirled with the sentence uncompleted.
Acey Smith was gone.
Slack shrugged uncomfortably. “Vanished,” he muttered. “I can almost fancy a faint smell of brimstone fumes hangs about the place.”
A Hoax That Proved A Boomerang
“'T'\ON’T go away for a moment, Mr. 14 Hammond.”
Hammond, watching the police with Rev. Nathan Stubbs as their captive disappear up the street, turned to see Martin Winch, the lawyer, hurry to his desk telephone.
“One-O-Two-Seven, North,” he called. “Bairdwell and Simms?—Could I speakto Mr. Simms?—Hello, Simms, Martin Winch of Winch, Stanton and Reid speaking—Simms, would you care to handle a police court case for us?—Yes, right away, if we can arrange the preliminary hearing for this afternoon—It’s a client of ours, Rev. Nathan Stubbs— Some trivial charge, yes—What we want is to get bail arranged, but there are reasons why we can’t very well be identified with the case just for the present— Will explain all that when I see you— Could you slip over to the district, police court right now—Hold things until I get there with the bondsmen—That’s very decent of you, Simms, thank you.”
“We’re bound for the police station,” Winch explained as he hustled Hammond down the stairs to the street and into his car at the curb. "It might be essential to have you there, but whatever occurs keep a still mouth unless I tell you. Simms will do all the talking that is necessary.”
On the way Winch stopped opposite the entrance to a business block, and, leaving Hammond in the car, hustled upstairs. Presently, he returned with two other men who jumped into the rear seat of the car and Winch started the machine without taking time to introduce them to Hammond.
Winch led the way into the district magistrate’s office, where Rev. Nathan Stubbs was already arraigned before the magistrate. The two mounted police were swearing out papers for his incarceration on a nominal charge of vagrancy. W inch motioned Hammond to a seat in the rear of the auditorium and sat down
beside him, while the two strangers whom Hammond surmised were the bondsmen, went on up and inside the rail, where they were met by a sleek-looking young man, who,he knew,must be Simms. The prisoner straightened and a distinct look of relief came over his face.
It was all very formal, very monotonous, as preliminary hearings usualjy are. There was very little talking, and most of it in an undertone that didn’t carry to the point where Hammond and W’inch were sitting. The most audible sound was the scratching of the magistrate’s pen. Finally it ceased, hail was put up and the magistrate announced the case adjourned until the following morning.
W'inch asked Hammond to wait a moment and went forward and joined the group around the accused, who was now temporarily a free man on one thousand dollars security put up by the two strangers. Hammond had no doubts it was W’inch that supplied the collateral.
The magistrate arose from his desk and with customary abruptness the courtroom cleared. W’inch, Simms, Rev. Nathan Stubbs and the two bondsmen hurried away through a side door. Hammond found himself alone.
He was about to go in search of W'inch when the latter appeared at the public entrance. “I beg your pardon, Mr. Hammond,” he apologized. “In my haste to get this beastly matter straightened out, I had forgotten about you for the moment. As it happened we did not need you, and I’ve got to leave you to your own resources for a little while.
“Could you come up to my office, say in an hour?” W’inch looked at his watch. “It’s almost five now. Come up at six. You can’t get back to the limits now until to-morrow morning at the earliest, and it is extremely important I should have a talk to you before you go.”
The arrangement did not appeal as any too attractive to the young man, particularly in view of what happened at his afternoon interview with the lawyer, but he promised to abide by it.
AT THE appointed time Hammond went up to the legal offices of Winch, Stanton and Reid. An impatient-looking young male clerk was standing by the outer rail with hat and coat on ready to leave. The balance of the office staff had departed.
“Mr. Winch is engaged just now,” said the clerk, “but he left word for you to wait here. 'He will call you when he is ready.” Having delivered his message, the youth pushed through the double doors and raced downstairs three steps at a time.
The door of W’inch’s office opened, and Winch, poking his head out, called: “Come in, Mr. Hammond.”
Hammond crossed the threshold and drew back in amazement. Standing by Winch’s desk was a tall man, iron-grey of hair with a keen face and deepset, piercing dark eyes.
It was Norman T. Gildersleeve]
“Flow do you do, Mr. Hammond?” Mr. Gildersleeve greeted the young man quietly, extending his hand. “You. weren’t quite prepared to meet me here?” “Scarcely, Mr. Gildersleeve, but—” Hammond was regaining his composure— “I’ve become quite used to running into the unexpected since I parted with you on the night of September the twenty-third.” Gildersleeve smiled. “Quite so, quite so,” he agreed. “However, we’ve decided to acquaint you with some of the missing details that have been baffling you, Mr. Hammond, though I must confess that there are a few things that we would like to know more about ourselves. Later on—”
“Yes, at the club, after dinner,” briskly cut in Martin Winch. “You and Mr. Hammond can get together in a side room and thresh the whole thing out. We’d better hurry over if we don't wish to be locked out of the café.”
They departed in Winch’s car. At the City Club, Norman T. Gildersleeve’s appearance created no sudden sensation among the scattered few that were present. Apparently, the New York capitalist was not readily recognized, though his picture had appeared many times in the papers since his disappearance. Hon. J. J. Slack, M. P., who was a late arrival, alone picked him out. Slack came striding over to the table where Gildersleeve, Winch and Flammond sat awaiting their order.
“As I live,” he cried, “if it isn’t Norman Gildersleeve in the flesh!”
“Hush,” admonished Gildersieeve in an undertone as the other gripped his hand. “I am anxious for this matter to slip over with as little notoriety as possible.”
“But you’ve already got all the notoriety that’s coming to you,” laughed Slack. “The papers have been full of nothing else since you dropped out of sight. Where have you been?”
Gildersieeve ignored the question. “Now that I’m back,” he remarked, “I’m anxious to see the pulp and paper mill get under way in time. By the way, Slack, how is the North Star getting on with the poles?”
“Swimmingly, swimmingly,” repeated the politician. “Nannabijou Bay is jammed almost to the last inch with timber. Away over the contract cut, I believe.”
“That’s fine. How about delivery?” “Starts next week, soon as we get the last of our dredging contracts off our hands,” replied Slack. “We’ll have our whole fleet of equipment on the job.” “Then there's nothing in this talk that is going around of a strike among your tugmen?”
“Absolutely nothing,” emphatically assured Slack. “The North Star never had a strike in its history. The men tried to put up a bluff of going out, at the instigation of a nest of agitators, but they’ll never go out—they know better than to try any of that stuff on us. See you later, Gildersieeve.”
Gildersleeve’s eyes trailed after Slack’s retreating figure in a fixed, hard glitter. “When Ananias quit the job, he never dreamed he would have so illustrious a successor,” he commentedgrimly. “Slack’s one grand qualification for the presidency of the North Star is his magnificent ability as an unmitigated liar.”
The meal progressed in comparative silence. It was after they had retired to the privacy of aside room that Hammond, prompted by curiosity he had until now curbed, asked casually: “By the way,
Mr. Winch, what became of the camp preacher you bailed out this afternoon— the Rev. Nathan Stubbs?”
Winch looked at Gildersieeve and they both smiled cynically. “He has disappeared—vanished in thin air, as you might say,” enlightened Winch.
“And left you in the air with bail?”
“It was cheap to lose him at any price,” spoke up Gildersieeve with a frown. “He was through with his job—and damned good riddance!”
HAMMOND began to see the drift of things. “So the preacher was a detective in your employ?” he surmised.
“Exactly—and you were sent out there as a foil to keep them guessing,” replied Gildersieeve. “He went in the guise of preacher because it was the easiest rôle to get away with without suspicion, every sort of preacher being allowed the run of the camps on account of some eccentric whim of the superintendent.”
“And your disappearance was—also a blind?”
“You’ve got the idea. I told Slack just now I was on a hunting trip, which was true —except that I was hunting inside information, not moose. To make absolutely sure of no leaks, Winch here was the only one in the plot with me. The arrest of the bogus preacher might have been a costly blunder if we hadn’t got him out before his identity was discovered.”
“How did they get the charge of vagrancy against him?”
“The Lord only knows. Smith and the gang of crooks who use him as a crafty, unscrupulous tool in their nefarious enterprises seem to have even the police of the country in their power. At any rate, Stubbs was arrested on a nominal charge of vagrancy, but ostensibly for some unnamed crime he was supposed to have committed on the limits.
" “Now, Mr. Hammond,” continued the head of the International Investment Corporation, “I think I’d better be a little more explicit about matters before I come to a new proposal I have to make to you. You are fairly well acquainted with the facts in connection with the previous struggle between the Kam City Pulp and Paper Mills Company, of which my corporation is the parent, and the North Star Towing and Contracting Company, are you not—how we succeeded in getting the rights on the limits this October, pending the opening of our mill?”
Hammond nodded. “One way and another I have picked up a fairly good notion of the situation,” he affirmed. “What you may not know,” continued
the other, “is that a former Canadian company, of which I was the head, was behind many of the rival enterprises which tried to fight the North Star in this country and failed. In fact, we, the pioneers in development work on the North Shore, were actually driven out by the North Star, whose crafty, underhand methods and strange power over the ruling authorities in government circles made it impossible to meet them in a fair fight. I ■was a heavy loser through those ventures, and, I may tell you that millions are at stake in this present undertaking projected to break the backbone of the slimy North Star outfit.
“But we got the edge on them this time from the start—and we intend to keep it. Nevertheless, I had no illusions as to the intentions of the North Star since the screws were put down tight on them by the new provincial government. I knew if there was a loop-hole through which they could slip to prevent delivery of poles to our mill in time to allow of operation on the date fixed in our agreement with the government that they would take full advantage of it.
“Early last June I placed several secret agents in one guise and another in the North Star’s camps, keeping close tab on operations and sending in regular reports. They could discover no grounds for suspecting trickery, however, except that the superintendent, A. C. Smith, was inaccessible and his comings and goings in the camp were as mysterious as the man himself.
“Then one day, toward the latter end of the summer, all our secret agents, who had secured positions as clerks, cookees and lumberjacks, were summarily dismissed and given twenty-four hours to get off the limits—all with the exception of an expert ex-secret service man from Chicago, who kept his place in the camp as a'Consumptive landscape artist, Arnold by name. Arnold made the discovery that there was some secret rendezvous up in the hill known as the Cup of Nannabijou, to which he was convinced Acey Smith repaired, though he was never able to trace him there. He further had a theory that the unknown powers behind the North Star were kept in touch with affairs through a wireless plant secreted in the Cup.
THAT was the last report we received from Arnold. News afterward appeared in the papers that Arnold’s hat had been found floating in a creek up on the hill, and it was surmised that he had fallen into the rapids of the creek and was dashed to death.
“Arnold, however, eventually turned up, alive, in Chicago, and later came to my office in New York. The truth of the matter was he had been w'aylaid on the banks of the creek, overpowered and drugged while he was endeavoring to find the entrance to the Cup. He recovered consciousness in the room of a waterfront hotel in this city, where he found on the dresser a parcel and a bulky envelope. The parcel contained the loose cash he had in his pockets when attacked, his watch, fountain pen and a new hat similar to the one that fell off his head into the creek during his struggle with unknown assailants. In the envelope were all the pencilled notes he had made and secreted under the floor of his shack, and under the envelope he found a railway time-table with the connections between Kam City and Chicago under-scored. Arnold was quite disconcerted with the way they did things in Canada, and he took the obvious hint and returned to Chicago.
“All this made it the more imperative that I place someone on the limits who could get to the bottom of what coup the North Star was planning. I decided to come North myself to keep in close touch. In order to put our rivals and their spies off the scent and lend them a false notion of security, I planned to suddenly disappear off the train before it reached Kam City. Winch was not to ‘discover’ this until the following morning and then see that my remarkabledisappearancewas given the widest possible publicity in the newspapers.
“It was while on the way to Kam City that I was impressed with the advantages of having a foil for the camp preacher in his work—someonewhose entrance into the camps at about the same time as himself would arouse Acey Smith’s curiosity and suspicion and keep him for a time off the right track. I talked the plan over with Winch, and the result was we engaged you. -
“Now there was no absolute certainty i hat Slack would take any cognizance of my request to find you a job on the limits, and possibly less that Acey Smith would take you on, even if he did, but I built on t heir curiosity being so aroused that they would employ you just to get at the bottom of what you were sent there for. Your entire ignorance of any definite object on the limits would, 1 conjectured, further baffle Smith. In the meantime, while his suspicions were focussed on you, Stubbs was to get in his good work. The result up to the time of your leaving the limits and Stubbs’ arrest was eminently
“You think my leaving precipitated Stubbs into trouble then?” asked Ham-
“No, I wouldn’t say that,” replied Gildersleeve. “Stubbs at the last minute tried to prevent your getting on the tug before it left, but that wasn’t at the bottom of his arrest. However, you both did well to stay out there as long as you did. We discovered the North Star’s plot to prevent delivery of the poles in time to frustrate it, we hope.”
“You’ve guessed it. And the strike, as you have likely further surmised, has been cunningly engineered by the North Star principals themselves; though, mind you, that would be a difficult thing to prove and a dangerous statement to make publicly.”
“But,” contended Hammond, “the North Star must have known that, under the existing circumstances, you could bring government pressure to bear to force them to settle the strike and deliver the poles as per contract.”
‘“T'HUE, but therein lay the very ad-
1 vantage of our knowledge in advance they were bringing this strike on,” explained the other. “We have thus been enabled to get in private touch with the attorney-general, as well as the minister of forests and mines, so that the minute the strike breaks a fiat will come through ordering the North Star to submit their strike to a swift arbitration. We did not suppose the North Star was relying on the strike alone to tie up delivery, but took it as a means to another end, which, undoubtedly was to have the plants in their various tugs blown up and disabled. The blame would be laid at the door of extremists among the strikers and they would thus be so crippled they could not move a pole from the limits to get our mills running on time.
“But we took care of that part of it,” continued Gildersleeve. “We got the mounted police on the job of watching not only the booms at the limits, but the North Star’s waterfront property in this city as well. Incidentally, to make doubly sure of not being trapped, we wired Duluth to have tugs and equip-' ment ready to send over to us on a moment’s notice.”
“You know that Acey Smith is leaving for Montreal tonight?” asked Hammond.
“We do,” said Gildersleeve. “The superintendent took care to have that generally noised about; there’s even an item in both local papers to-night about his trip. It has never been Acey Smith’s habit to advertise his personal movements, so we can discount that as another ‘red herring’ drawn over the trail. Just the same we have two detectives shadowing the pulp camp superintendent’s move-
Hammond had to smile over the idea. “Might as well send two men to shadow a timber wolf,” he observed ironically.
“Or the Devil himself,” agreed Gildersleeve. “However, I don’t think there’s
much to worry about in that direction. Now we’ve come to a matter that I would like to talk overwith you privately, Mr. Hammond—if Mr. Winch doesn’t
“Not the least,” said Winch. "If you think you’ll not be over-long I’ll wait for you in the rotunda, Norman.”
“We’ll not be long, Martin,” he was assured by Gildersleeve.
‘“THERE are two loose ends out at.
A those camps I want to have cleared up right away,” briskly opened Gildersleeve when the door closed behind Winch. “The one is what the North Star has hidden up in the Cup of Nannabijou, and the other is the purpose of that girl staying out on Amethyst Island.”
Hammond started. “You mean Miss Stone?”
“Yes. The fact that you got on intimate terms wdth her should be a very valuable asset to us. I suppose you’ve guessed that Stubbs was the one who so cleverly brought about your meeting wdth her?”
“No, I had not guessed it.”
“H’m—well! Let’s get to the point, Mr. Hammond: W’hat all did you find out from her?”
“Please be a little more explicit, Mr. Gildersleeve: Just what are you driving at?”
“I’m sorry. I may not have made myself quite clear. Just what is her little part in the mystery out at the limits?” Hammond suppressed his irritation. “Miss Stone has absolutely no connection with the North Star’s intrigues; of that I am certain,” he replied emphatically. “She is as much mystified, I am sure, by the strange occurrences at the limits as we have been.”
“She hypnotized you into believing that?” There was a politely shaded sneer in Gildersleeve’s tone. “Now see here, Hammond, you must remember we are dealing with the cleverest eôterie of arch crooks on the American continent. There is nothing in the finer arts of intrigue and blackmail they have not practised in the past to gain their ends. They have never had equals for cunning and resourceful-
“Such precedent alone,” he pointed out, “should warn us that that girl wdth her pretty face has been introduced at this particular juncture with a purpose, if I hadn’t deeper reasons for conviction in the matter. My proposal therefore is that you go back to the limits, further cultivate the acquaintance of Miss Stone and find out as quickly as possible for your own benefit as well as ours aH you can about her in that direction.”
Hammond had risen. “I think we may as well break off all our connection right now, Mr. Gildersleeve,” he said coldly. “I am going back to the limits; but'this time let it be understood I’m going to be responsible to no one but myself.”
Gildersleeve at a glance took in the determination written in the young man’s face. “I see—I see,” he muttered significantly. “Well, in that case, Mr. Hammond—can we expect you to respect our previous confidences?”
“So far as it may be honorable and lawful to do so, yes.”
Somehow Hammond sensed that reply rankled Gildersleeve, but the latter responded, almost suavely: “Very well
then, call around at Winch’s office in the morning and there’ll be a cheque waiting you to cover payment for your services to date according to our contract. Goodnight!”
He held the door for Hammond to pass out.
To be Continued