William Byron Mowery
THE STORY: Patricia Wellington, spoiled daughter of the wealthy senior partner of a Chicago mining company, is engaged to marry Warren Lovett, the junior partner. Previously she had been engaged to Craig Tarlton, who left her father’s employ after she quarrelled with him.
Patricia flies with Lovett to a rich new mining area in the Canadian Northwest— Resurrection River, close to Great Desolation Lake—and there in the rough camp she meets Tarllon, now a mining engineer. Again they quarrel.
Patricia decides to build a lodge for the tent-living miners. She is opposed by Lovett, who wants them to remain uncomfortable so he can buy up their claims for a fraction of their worth. She sides with the men, and with the aid of a man named Poleon and the miners, completes the lodge. She advises them not to sell out to Lovett and they sign a pledge not to.
Her actions win Tarllon’s admiration. Patricia realizes that she loves him and breaks her engagement to Lovett, only to find that Tarllon is married. Tarllon explains that he and his wife are separated and the latter is getting a divorce.
Lovett warns Tar ¡ton to keep away from Patricia, but Tarllon pays no attention. A halfbreed named Lupe Chiwaughimi, once employed by Patricia's father, wants to protect her by killing Tarllon, but is dissuaded for the time being by Lovett.
A man named Kessler makes a find and forgets the location. Tar Hon and the men relocate this find, and Tarllon negotiates with the Vanguard company for a loan of $100,000 so the men can develop this rich property independently of Lovett.
Lovett tells Patricia that Tarllon's wife is coming to the camp.
A LONE at camp, on the south-
iA west shoulder of Kessler Hill, 1 \ Patricia was sitting tight against
a little fire, writing out claim notices and watching the men at work along the slope.
The morning was bitterly cold—a pitiless, still cold that pierced like a million needles.
With a big graphite pencil she was laboriously printing the claim notices on sixby eight-inch sheets of tin. She had already printed nineteen, and was on the twentieth, her last one. With extra care she wrote the legend:
NO. 1 TRIUMPH PHILLIP KESSLER LICENSE NO. 317
8.30 A.M. MARCH 20
A thousand yards out along the hill, Craig and Kessler were building the southwest post of this "Triumph” claim. They had planted a six-foot length of jackpine in the thin snow, and were heaping a mound of stones around the base of it. Fifteen hundred feet beyond them, Poleon and Sam were erecting the northwest corner post of Triumph.
A misty hoarfrost, hanging in the air like a thin haze, was playing queer tricks with eyes and ears that morning. In the Southern sky there were seven suns, a whole row of suns, all of them so exactly alike that Patricia could not tell the real one from the six sun dogs. Poleon and Sam were entirely out of sight around a curve of the hill, but she could see them nevertheless. By looking at the sky above the place where they were at work, she saw them plainly, up there in the frozen fog—gargantuan figures a hundred feet tall, picking up rocks as big as houses.
Except to finish those two last comers on Triumph and nail the metal notices on all twenty posts, the Kessler Hill job was done. In a couple of hours her party would break camp, with nothing remaining but to record the claims at the Government Land Office.
On the taut frozen air she could distinctly hear Craig and Kessler talking.
"Craig.” She spoke in an ordinary conversational voice.
One of the distant figures straightened up.
“I’ve got the notices printed.”
“That’s fine. Thanks, girl.” He turned to Kessler. “You go and get ’em, Phil. I’ll finish this stake base.”
Kessler knocked off work willingly enough and hurried in to camp. Across the fire from Patricia, he crouched down and spread out his hands to the warmth of the flames.
“How does it feel to be a rich man, Phil?” she asked.
“I wish I was rich. But seems like there’s a joker to everything.”
“Why, what’s the joker to this gold lode? You’ve seen Craig’s assay figures, and you heard him estimate the tonnage at twenty to twenty-five thousand.”
“Yes, but I’m not gitting a red cent out of the hundred thousand bucks that the Vanguard is putting up. Craig’s using it all for these other fellers.”
Patricia thought the remark rather ungrateful. Except for Craig’s work, the lode wouldn’t have been found at all.
She tried to encourage him. “Why, Phil, when the actual mining starts, the money will roll in on you so thick and fast that you’ll think it’s an avalanche. Here, take these claim notices and go stake yourself a couple of million dollars.”
Kessler stepped into the near tent for nails and belt-axe, and went out the slope to join the others.
IT WAS TEN-THIRTY when the four men got back, with the claims all staked and the notices tacked up. Patricia had managed to boil tea, thaw out some caribou jerky, and get a makeshift meal ready.
“Poleon,” Craig instructed, while they were eating, “you take Sam and Phil and hit straight southwest for the Bay. You can make it there in twenty-four hours. Patricia and I are going to head south for Resurrection. We’ll spend the night with Dave Higginson and then come on in. The river’ll be easier going for Patricia than across country.”
As Patricia looked up and met Craig’s eyes, she realized that he was making this arrangement because of her; because he saw how desperately she wanted to spin out the little freedom that remained to them. By taking this roundabout trail to the Bay, he and she would have two whole days with each other. It would be their first real trip together—and perhaps their last.
While the men were striking the tents, Craig put his pack and hers on a little hand toboggan, and gave some final orders to Poleon. Leaving camp, he and she started down the long southern slope of the hill and headed for Resurrection River, fifteen miles to the south.
Hard packed by the Arctic gales, the snqw was firm enough that they could walk on it without using rackets. Since the abysmal still cold of early morning, the temperature had begun rising; a slight wind had started up; the hoarfrost haze had lifted and changed to a light-grey scum of cloud. In an hour they came to the first stance of trees—black spruce in a sheltered valley. Inside the timber, where the gales were broken, the snow was soft; and they had to put on their rackets.
Halfway through the drogue they ran across a trail that stopped Craig short; a trail made by several men wearing snowshoes and walking in single file.
One glance told Craig that the party w'ere not Indians. Their rackets w'ere not Tinneh bearpaws but ordinary trading-store egg-tails.
Suspicious, he scrutinized the trail closely. It had been made yesterday or the day belore. There were six men in the party. They were large men, for their netting sank well into the snow. That was all he could glean.
“Who d’vou suppose they were, Craig?” Patricia asked.
Craig suspected that this trail might have been made by the six Chiwaughimis. The halfbreeds might have followed his party away from Dynamite Bay; might have been hovering around Kessler Hill for the last lew days, watching.
“I don’t know',” he answered. “Probably it’s some prospectors who ran short of meat and are looking up a caribou yard.”
VW HEN THEY REACHED Higgin* * son’s cabin, on the south bank, Craig knocked tw'ice but got no answer. He stepped inside. Nobody was about. From long experience with prospector cabins, he looked on the back of the door for a note. It was there, pinned to the boards by a skinning knife; a note aimed at anybody who might happen past and use the place overnight.
Hep yurself to ennything. Ed got his hand all tore up by a murcury cap, an Zeke an me are takeing him in fer Tari ton to ficks him up. The caribou jerky is up in that rafter box, an don’t fergit to split new kindling w'ud before you go.
Somewhat dismayed, Craig handed the note to Patricia. “They’ve gone in to the Bay ! To see me! I guess we’ll have to drop on dow'n to Hark Dawson’s.”
Patricia glanced at the scrawl, looked up at him. “Why do we have to, Craig?
It’s so far to Dawson’s. I’m tired, it’s
almost night now, and the wind’s blowing so bad. Wh
can’t we stay here?”
Craig shook his head. If the news should get out that I and Patricia had spent a night at a lonely cabin, peop would talk. And then—the Chiwaughimis. He knew almo; positively that the halfbreeds had not followed him, bí still he could not forget those snowshoe tracks in th; drogue of spruce.
Please, Craig—please let’s stay. I’m glad that Higginsc and those other two aren’t here. We can have the evenin all to ourselves.” She pleaded, unashamed: “If I—if wejust this evening, alone...”
Craig took her into his arms, tender and understandinj Ail she was asking was an evening together, a few innocer hours, w'ith the rest of the world shut out. And he was tx grudging her those hours. Because of gossip. Because of danger that probably existed only in his imagination.
He kissed her wind-cold cheek. “All right, we stay her tonight, sweet.”
Craig sat on the bunk edge, leaning over her, one arm under her shoulder, his other hand smoothing her black hair. Talking quietly, he was outlining a huge project which he had been thinking about during the last three months. By the feeble light of the candle, Patricia saw his eyes sparkle w’ith fervor as in the meantime he sketched his ambitious programme. 'T'HEY HAD eaten supper. Craig had unrolled Patricia’s sleeping poke on the bunk, and spread his own on the floor beside the stove. Patricia had crept into hers, tired from the long day and the
sixteen wilderness miles that she and Craig had covered. But she had not gone to sleep. This evening was too precious. She and Craig could talk, as long as they wanted, with no prying eyes to see or question. And at the end of it she would go to sleep knowing that Craig was in the same room w'ith her and that she would be awakenedin the morning by his kiss. As at God’s Lake. It was so sweet to lie there in dreamy comfort, feeling Craig’s arm about her, looking up at his face. She did not wish to think, or plan anything, or look ahead at all, as he was doing. The future loomed so pain-shot that she shrank from even thinking of it.
Listening in dreamy comfort, she caught the general outlines of the big and startling project that Craig was sketching. He intended, he said, to weld those 300 Resurrection men together into a syndicate, a rich and jxnverful company of prospectors. This Vanguard money would hold them till next summer; and by that time he could raise additional money on a radium deposit which he knew about. With that capital, he could bring in machinery and start active mining on several of these richest silver lodes.
When he once had the power of this Dynamite Bay syndicate behind him, he could then launch his real project, his big programme. All along the far-flung Canadian mining frontier and all through the vast sub-Arctic territories there were hundreds and thousands of prospectors like Sam, like Bill Fomier—hard-working, penniless, good-hearted men. They were loping the bush, starving, freezing, fighting the wilderness. They made the mineral discoveries, did the pioneering, cleared the way. They had ojiened up the Flin-Flon, Cobalt and other rich fields. And then had lost them. Poor and helpless men, they had been preyed upon by wildcat promoters and unscrupulous companies who bought them out for a song. As Warren was trying to buy out these Dynamite Bay prospectors for a trip to Edmonton and a few miserable dollars.
“We’ll stop all that injustice, Treeshia, if we win this Resurrection fight. This Dynamite Bay syndicate will be a refuge to all those men. In time we’ll build up a huge confederation of prospectors and honest companies that’ll sweep the wildcatters, the clever fellows and the predatory holding concerns out of existence.”
ACHILL had crept into the cabin. The cherry-red glow had faded from the sides of the little sheet-iron stove. Whistling through the pines outside, the blizzard was spinning the surface snow into sheets and sending them dancing down the wind like wraiths.
Craig stood up, beside the bunk. “I’ll stir a bit more fire, sweet.”
As he turned toward the stove his eyes caught a slight blurry movement at the small window to the right of the door. Only one pane of the four was of glass; over the others Higginson had tacked squares of caribou skin. As Craig glanced at the little glass pane, he saw a human face pressed against it—the leathery-dark countenance of a man who was staring into the cabin at him and Patricia.
The face was gone in an instant, gone before he could recognize the person; and the pane was empty again.
A jolt went through Craig like an electric shock. He did not need to recognize the man. In a flash he knew— The Chiwaughimis! They were out there in the windtom dark.
A moment after the face vanished, he saw a gleam of rifle steel beyond the glass pane. It was a slow gleam— the glint of a rifle being levelled and aimed at him.
His hand shot out and smashed down on the candle, plunging the cabin into darkness.
Patricia sat up hastily, on the bunk. "Craig ! Why’d you do that?”
He stepped across to the door, groped for the wooden bar, found it and slipped it into place so that the Chiwaughimis could not rush him. Something cold was clutching his heart. Lupe had him at last, trapped in a lonely cabin, miles from any help, one rifle against six.
He thought of that hole in the river ice, and shuddered. A quick and effectual way to dispose of an enemy's body.
In a flash he realized what had happened that afternoon. Lupe had seen him and Patricia leave Kessler Hill, had reasoned that they were heading for Hark Dawson’s place and had led his men straight there. Not finding them at
Dawson’s, Lupe had come whipping back up Resurrection, hunting them.
“Get Patricia out of this!” That was his first thought. She mustn't be exposed to danger. She mustn’t get caught in the life-and-death fight that was now quickly closing in upon him.
From the darkness Patricia demanded, in startled tones: “Craig, why’d you smash that candle? And why’d you bar that door?”
He hurried across to the bunk. It was impossible now to keep her from knowing the truth.
“Treeshia, those six Chiwaughimis are outside here. They’ve got us cornered. Rather, they’ve got me cornered—” He broke off abruptly. At the door someone was cautiously trying to gel in. He heard the iron latch go up, heard the squeak of the boards as the person pressed aßainst the dcx>r only to find it barred by the heavy beam inside.
Patricia heard the noise, too. Craig felt her small hand quivering in his.
In a frightened whisper she asked, “What are they trying to do, Craig?” She seemed to understand that some danger threatened, but she did not yet realize that those men out there intended to murder him.
Craig told her the truth, so that she would understand and would get out of the cabin to safety.
“Treeshia, in plain words Lupe is trying to kill me. He knows Pm your dad’s enemy, knows I’m fighting the Company, but the worst is that he considers me a personal menace to you. He’s broken entirely out of Warren’s control. For more than a month he’s been trying to ‘get’ me. This is his first clean chance.”
Patricia’s fingers clasped his, frantically. “Why didn’t you—tell me—this before?” she whispered brokenly, in trembling terror. “This evening you wanted to go on to Hark Dawson’s and I—I kept you—”
“Stop that ! I stayed here of my own accord. But forget it. We’ve got to get out of here. First, I’m going to get you out—”
Again he was interrupted, and again it was by a noise at the door. But this time the noise was a tremendous th-uu-pf) that jarred the whole cabin and nearly burst the door off its hinges.
Craig whirled to the foot of the bunk and grabbed up his rifle. He had to stop those mélis; they were breaking down the door; they had got a log from Higginson’s wood pile and were using it as a ram. One more shattering lunge like that first one, and they would be rushing in upon him.
He levelled his rifle, aimed breast-high at the door, and shot three times through the middle boards.
From the stormy darkness came the short, inarticulate cry of a man hard hit.
A silence fell. He heard nothing more of the métis outside.
He clipped in three fresh cartridges. ”1 guess they'll let that door alone,” he commented grimly to Patricia. “I hope it was Lupe that I winged; but that’d be too much luck."
The silence lengthened—three minutes, five, ten. It was an ominous quiet. He had no idea what to expect or what would break on him out of the dark stillness.
He stepped up near the door.
“Lupe!” he called.
There was no answer from outside.
He called again, louder; but got no reply.
OVER AT THE northwest comer of the cabin he heard a peculiar thudding noise. It sounded as though someone had thrown an armful of chunks against the logs. The noise puzzled him, but just then he paid no attention to it.
Thinking that the Chiwaughimis might not have heard him, he called a third time, from the window—flattening himself against the wall beside it so that he could not be shot.
“Lupe! I'm sending Miss Patricia out. D’you hear? Answer me, man!”
The answer he got was a stony silence. As he stood there, he caught the smell of wood smoke in the cabin. Just a first faint whiff. Fresh-burning wood. Birch and dry pine.
“They’re trying to burn us out,” Craig said. “All right, we’ll go out—but the surprise will be on them.”
He groped to the wall bench; lifted three of the dynamite sticks from their sawdust packing; felt on the shelf above for the box of mercury' caps and the small reel of No. 3 fuse.
The mercury caps were old, corroded ; but evidently they were still "live,” for Ed Davies had got his hand mangled by one of them.
Working swiftly, he press«! the caps solidly into the ends of the three sticks. Then he cut three fuses from the reel—one six inches long, one ten, one eighteen; and affixed them to the caps.
With the “earthquake sticks” in one hand and his knife in the other, he went over to the window, and slashed out one of the squares of caribou skin so that he could throw through the opening.
“Here,” she whispered back.
“Take my rifle—it’s lying on the table— and go over beside the door, where I can grab you and we can get gone. We’ve got to time our getaway to the split second. If we’re too slow we’ll be shot down, and if we’re too fast we’ll be blown to pieces.”
He knelt on the floor, struck a match, touched it to the six-inch fuse, waited till the tiny spluttering started; then held the match to the tenand the eighteen-inch lengths. When all three fuses were spitting out their little fire cracker sparks, he stood up, drew back his arm. . .
The stick with the six-inch fuse went flying through the window, through the opening he had slashed; and hit in a drift twenty feet from the door. The next, flung harder, landed farther down the path. The third, flung as hard as he could throw, went whirring halfway to the river bank.
He sprang over to the door, lifted the heavy wood bar from its notch, and waited, one hand on Patricia’s arm, the other clutching his rifle.
HE HAD ONLY a few seconds to wait.
Came a jarring thunderclap b-o-o-m that stunned and deafened Patricia and him. The whole cabin rocked. The blast smashed out all the panes of the window, and sent the splintered casing flying across the room. It tore the door out of Craig’s grasp, wrenched it off its hinges, crashed it against the table.
Nearly smothered by the tremendous cloud of snow and spume kicked up by the explosion, Craig groped through the doorway, clasping Patricia’s arm, and stumbled blindly ahead. The spume was so thick that he gasped for breath. Débris was falling all around and upon them—lumps of hard snow, pine twigs, tatters of birch paper. In the black welter he banged his head against a sapling, turned aside from it and ran into a rick of wood.
Twenty steps ahead of them the second dynamite stick went off. The blast of air and smothering snow knocked them bodily off their feet. It was like getting hit by a flying snowbank. After a bewildered second Craig got up, fumbled for his rifle, found it. Patricia managed to get to her knees, but the explosion had dazed her and she clutched Craig’s arm to keep from falling.
Craig picked her up, veered aside from the path into the timber, and fought his way through the brush and trees till he got clear of the blinding cloud and thé rain of débris. He put Patricia down then, and they forged on through the snow', holding each other’s hand, on into the timber ánd the oblivion of the storm.
Behind them the third dynamite stick exploded, uselessly, for they had no need of its protection.
Craig glanced back once and saw the bright yellowglow' of the flames that were leaping up the sides and over the root of Higginson’s cabin.
With Patricia, he hit the bank of Resurrection five hundred yards below, angled out into the middle of the river w'here the snow' was hard, and headed down stream.
“I guess it’s Hark Daw'son’s for us tonight, Treeshia, after all.”
THE DEN was all in an uproar that Saturday evening, with eighty-odd prospectors staging a riotous celebration over the Kessler Hill discover.’.
The news about the gold lode had leaked out that afternoon. At the supper hour, when Craig officially announced that the claims were safely recorded at the Land Office, a first-class pandemonium had broken loose.
Foggy with tobacco smoke, the big room seethed with jubilant excitement and rocked with noise. Three gramophones and the loud radio were going full blast. The men were yelling, singing, throwing things at one another. A group of them had made a bullroarer out of a keg, a scantling and some resin; and in the middle of the room they were sawing away on the contraption, taking turn about to see who could get the loudest roar out ot it.
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Compared to its ear-splitting bellow, all the other noises were as nothing. When it opened up, the lights trembled, the windows rattled and all the dog trains in camp started howling.
“By the way, Treeshia,” Craig remarked, “did you know that Battu Chiwaughimi is dead? Thursday evening he broke through the ice at a rapids up Resurrection and was swept under and drowned—according to Lupe’s report to Corporal Northup.” "Thursday? Why, that was the evening when they were trying to kill you.”
“Don’t you understand, girl? Battu didn’t get drowned. Lupe told this story to cover up the truth. D’you remember that I shot through the door when they were breaking it down, and that I hit one of them? I hit and killed Battu. I’m sorry. Young Battu came the nearest of that pack to being human. I hate to think that he got killed in a fight which was all Lupe’sdoing.”
PATRICIA’S first thought was that Warren might tag a murder charge on Craig. But then she realized that he would not. He knew his law too well; knew that the case might boomerang on him. That explained why he and Lupe were keeping the whole affair silent.
But there was another angle, an ugly angle, to Battus death. Craig had killed a Chiwaughimi, and now he had a blood feud on his hands. In the eyes of Lupe and those other four, the fact that they’d been trying to murder him, six men against one, did not matter. He had killed one of their clan, and they would get back at him if all of them hanged for it.
Then, above the uproar in the main room, they heard the pulsing ratt-tt-tatt of an airplane warming up over across Resurrection. After a while it settled into a steady, powerful rhythm. A moment later the door swung open and Corporal Northup strode into the lodge. He spoke tersely to some of the men and suddenly the tumult was hushed. The gramophones and radio, the bull-roarer, the shouting and laughing and singing were quickly silenced.
What had happened? The silence throbbed loudly. Everything had quieted except for a whisper flying from man to man, a whisper that seemed to paralyze everybody who heard it.
Then a prospector spoke up, in the dead quiet. I lis voice was husky with emotion.
“He oughta be shot full of holes, the mangy carcajou ! He oughta be strung up high. Killing’s too good lor a sneak like him.”
Craig called sharply: “Sam! What’s
this—what’s Kessler done? Here, come here! Tell me what’s happened.”
Honeywell left the bull-roarer and came stumbling toward the office. None of the other men seemed able to stir from their tracks. They were paralyzed, waiting— waiting for somebody to break the spell and lead them.
“Kessler’s—sold—us—out, Craig,” Sam blubbered. “Lovett give ’m twenty thousand dollars spot cash for the lode; and he double-crossed us.”
A ROUND THE ROOM an ugly mutter-4X ing started, like a ground swell or the rumbling of a quake. A voice rang out, louder than the muttering:
“Them claims wasn’t his’n at all, by rights. Craig was the man as found that lode. Kessler had give the hunt up cold. And now, the dirty slinker, he sells out on us, grabs his money, and—”
Ralt-tl-lall. Above the angry rumble the thrum of the airplane came drifting into the Den. A huge red-headed prospector leaped upon a table and waved his arms.
“That’s him !” he bellowed. “He’s in that plane. They’re whipping ’m away from here. That’s why that plane’s been warming up. Let’s git ’m afore he gits gone. Let’s nail ’m and them claim papers, both. If we destroy them papers, his deal’ll be no good. Then he’ll deal with us!”
His words were the spark that exploded the men. His last sentence was drowned in a roar that shook the building. As he leaped from the table and made for the entrance way, all eighty of the prospectors surged after him, crowding and jamming into the narrow passage.
Craig shouted an order at the men to stop them, but his voice was lost in the uproar. Northup snatched out his belt gun and shot into the floor to draw their attention and halt the mob rush; but even the bark of his .44 was drowned out.
Craig seized him by the arm.
“Alan! We’ve got to stop ’em! They’re blind mad, crazy mad. They’ll wreck the whole works over there. They might kill Kessler. We’ve got to head ’em off. Here— this way—let’s get out this way.”
He yanked at the office window, flung it up. Northup vaulted through. Craig turned for an instant.
“Treeshia, stay here! Don’t get mixed up in this.”
He sprang through the window and disappeared, joining Northup.
His order went past Patricia unheard. Clambering through the window after Craig, she dropped into the snowdrift beneath, picked herself up and started running as hard as she could down to the river bank and out upon Resurrection.
All around her in the moonlight, men were surging across the river, yelling, brandishing snowshoes or clubs or whatever they had laid hands upon. Somewhere up ahead she heard Craig and Northup shouting, trying to stop the rush or turn it. From beyond them came the staccato roar of the Bellanca. Pilot Odron was stepping up the revv, to start his ship down the smoothedoff fairway.
“Stop that plane !” she kept crying as the prospectors, stronger and swifter than she, began passing her. “The claim papers are in that plane ! With Kessler ! Stop it !” CHE FELT herself a part of the rush; felt ^ the same stampede anger that gripped the men. She wanted them to get Kessler. Traitor! Whining double-crosser! He’d
chiselled his living off these other men for more than a year, and now he’d sold them out. . . Nail him, mob him! Get those claim papers ! Destroy ’em ! Bust up that deal! Don’t let that plane get away—with those papers, those precious papers. We’ll all be sunk—the Den and Craig and me, and these three hundred men—if that lode is snatched away from us. . .
Breathing in jerky gasps, she hit the south bank of Resurrection, struggled through the soft drifts under the trees there, broke out into the open moonlight again and headed down the lake shore.
The main rush had passed her by. Up ahead she heard yells and oaths and the sound of men fighting furiously, and she knew that the five Chiwaughimis, along with Warren’s other men, had thrown themselves in front of the prospectors and were battling them, trying to halt them long enough for the Bellanca to get gone.
The ralt-tl-talt stepped up to a full-lunged roar. Patricia saw the dark ship move out upon the lake, with flames leaping from its exhaust pipes. Brushing Lovett’s party out of their path, the prospectors swept across the landwash and surged out upon the fairway. But they were too late. The ship was picking up speed—bumping faster and faster down the glide. . . One man, outstripping all the others, made a flying lunge for the rudder, grabbed it, was dragged along for a hundred yards, was finally shaken off.
The broad-winged ship grew' rapidly dimmer in the moonlight. It was skimming along, a great night bird, roaring out its triumphant escape. It gradually vanished, but its reddish flames still were visible. By its sudden exultant leap into the air Patricia saw that the plane had jumped up on the “step” and was flying now—gone now. . .
The flames, like a baleful light, travelled lakeward, circled above the rocky islet, came swinging back over the mouth of Resurrection, a thousand feet high; then lined out south.
As the light grew dim and vanished, and the roar dwindled to a low distant drone, Patricia sank down in the snow, too stunned and paralyzed to cry.
ON THE MORNING after Kessler’s treachery, six of the city rushers gave up the fight, walked across the river and sold their claims to Warren.
The next day all the rest of the city rushers, thirteen of them, went over and sold out.
One by one the Northern men began trickling across Resurrection. The red on Warren’s map started growing by leaps and bounds.
The Den was a stricken place. The radio and gramophones were silenced; nobody played games.
It was a despairing struggle that Craig and Patricia waged, those days. Against Warren’s hard cash they had only promises to offer, and the men were burned out on promises.
That was the situation which Craig faced, with Patricia. They fought with their backs to the wall; fought against the massed despair of all those Resurrection men. They argued till they were sick of their own arguments; they pleaded and reasoned till their nerves were jumpy and their tempers worn out. Daily they lost ground, lost men, lost claims. But they refused to give in.
Ten days after the Kessler affair, the Vanguard representatives, a lawyer and three geologists, reached the Bay to close the gold-lode deal. Craig’s interview with them was a painful and humiliating half hour. On his personal assurance they had made an expensive winter trip to the Arctic; and now he had to inform them that the lode belonged to Wellington, Parkes and Lovett.
“Why,” the lawyer demanded, “didn’t you wireless us at Edmonton or Waterways and save us this wild-goose chase?”
“I tried to,” Craig explained, “but the wireless station here was out of order. I’m sorry about this. My apology won't do any good. But I can tell you men something that will do some good. If you'll listen to me, we can tum this ‘wild-goose chase’ of yours into a highly profitable trip.
“About fifty miles southeast of the Bay there’s a pitchblende deposit lying under a shallow upland lake. The stuff runs from fifteen to thirty per cent uranium oxide, according to my rough survey last summer. That’s prize radium ore. I carried some specimens of that pitchblende in my pack for one day and they ruined all my photograph films—the radium’s that strong. I want to make a quick trip back there, explore the deposit, and see how extensive that lense is. Won’t you men stay at Dynamite Bay till I can—?”
'“THE LAWYER interrupted curtly:
“Tariton, you’ve got some personal chestnuts in the fire here and you’re trying to use our company to pull ’em out for you. Go ahead and make your survey. If the lense is extensive, and if the ore is as rich as you say, and if you stake it and file in your name, why, then, bring your figures and claim papers down to us at Winnipeg, and we may talk business with you !”
The four of them left that same afternoon for the south, and Craig went back to his fight at the Den.
Desperate for time, he made a last plea to the prospectors. Calling them all together in the big room that evening, he told them about his radium lake, his plans to survey it and raise money on it.
"There’ll be no slip-up this time,” he swore to them. “I’m going to stake those claims in my own name. They’ll be my claims, to bargain with. That means they’ll be your claims. Are you going to give me a chance or not? If you are, say so now. I don’t dare waste time like I’m doing. McDougle is already gone up Resurrection. Every day is precious, if you men are to keep your holdings. Here I’m wasting day after day plugging to keep you fellows in line and keep you from selling your fortunes to Lovett for a song and a plane ride. Give me a chance ! Agree to stick till the tenth of May.”
They agreed, half-heartedly, to wait till he got back from his field trip.
As Craig thanked them and started for the entrance-wav, he glanced over toward Patricia’s tiny office and saw her there, leaning wearily against the door. She looked so discouraged and lonely. . . He wanted to go over and take her into his arms and tell her what a staunch sweet partner she had been through this crisis. He hated to go away and leave her alone, fighting Warren, holding the men, bearing the whole brunt of the battle.
At the entrance-way he lifted his hand in salute to her, and then hurried out into the darkness.
TT WAS AFTER midnight. In his cabin
up the hollow he and Poleon were hastily packing a komatik, or dog sled, for their trip to the pitchblende lake.
He was taking only Poleon with him on this secret journey. Poleon was the only man whom he could trust as he would trust his own self.
Over the three windows of the cabin he had hung up blankets to shut out any view. Since his fight with the Chiwaughimis up Resurrection he had blanketed the windows every evening at dusk, to guard against a rifle bullet from the dark.
Outside, a light wind was stirring and a heavy April snow was falling. The night was ideal for him and Poleon to get away, for the wind and snow would blot out their trail almost instantly and keep the Chiwaughimis from following.
On the long pliant sled, borrowed from Sam Honeywell, they were lashing grub and camping outfit, dog feed for three weeks, tent and sleeping pokes, two hand drills for boring through ice, and six full cases of dynamite.
“We’ll bring Sam’s pups in here and harness ’em up,” Craig directed, carefully lifting a case of the “earthquake sticks” on to the sled and lashing it in place. “When we finish this, you slip out and get the team, Poleon, while I pack my instruments—” Kr-ii-ng! From the snowy darkness outside came the sharp bark of a rifle, not two dozen steps from the cabin. In the north window a pane of glass shattered to bits and clattered noisily to the floor. The blanket that covered the window gave a little jerk. The dynamite box near Craig’s work table spun half around as a heavy bullet smashed squarely into it and splintered one of its pine boards.
Poleon dropped the sack of dog feed he was carrying.
“Hey! Somebody he shot t’rough dat winner, Craig! Who de devil is out dere?” Craig had grabbed instinctively for his rifle. Reaching out with the barrel of it, he knocked over the two nearest candles, dimming the interior of the cabin.
“It’s Lupe Chiwaughimi, fellow.”
“But—-but w’y he shoot t'rough dat winner for? He couldn’ see us. He wouldn’ jus’ take a pot-shot to hit us, hein?”
“He wasn’t wanting to hit us. He was shooting at that dynamite box.”
Poleon’s tousled hair stood on end. “Mebbe he shoot ag’in, and ’splode dat stuff!” He jumped over the sled, made a flying leap for the dynamite case and dragged it back out of range.
CRAIG LAUGHED at him.
“You needn’t have bothered. I wasn’t bom yesterday. Especially when I’m dealing with anybody as crafty as Lupe Chiwaughimi. I saw Lupe eying that box once when he came in here, and that was warning enough. I took the sticks out of it two months ago—”
Kr-ii-ng, ri-ng-ng—three more of those sharp barks, so fast they sounded like one shot. Three more bullets zzinged murderously through the window and splaaled into the east wall, low down, where the dynamite case had sat.
Poleon seized his heavy caribou rifle, clipped in a magazine, and made for the door. His face was grim. He could be dangerous, the big sunny-hearted fellow, when he got angered.
“Dat carcajou,” he gritted, “he my meat. Allons! Le’s get de devil, Craig.”
"Hold on!” Craig tried to stop him. “Don’t go out there. We don’t dare get mixed up in a shooting scrape, Poleon. Too much depends on you and me, on our trip. He can’t see us or touch us in here.”
“Dat don’ make no matter! Nobody shoot t’rough a winner at me, and me not do plenty ’bout it. Allons!"
Angry enough himself, Craig gave in. Less than a week ago he had saved the life of Teeste Chiwaughimi, Lupe’s younger brother, when ’Teeste lay at the point of death with pneumonia. Now Lupe was trying to kill him. It seemed a bit fantastic.
Easing through the door into the snow and dark, he and Poleon crept around the west side of the cabin, and started worming up the little slope, toward the place where they figured the shots must have come from.
The night was very dark, the snow was swirling and crawling, and in the blackness under the pines they could scarcely see two rifle lengths ahead of them. More by guess than by sight, Craig headed up slope toward a big pine with a nest of boulders beside it. From there, he believed, Lupe must have fired those four shots.
When he could dimly see the pine and boulders, he pointed them out to Poleon. Separating, one to each side, they flattened themselves on the snow, circled around and closed in on the place, edging up inch by cautious inch.
The little ambush was empty.
ONE AFTERNOON, half a month after Poleon and Craig had slipped away on their secret trip, Warren appeared at the Den office. He refused the cigarette and chair that Patricia offered him. He looked extremely nervous and worried.
Patricia surmised that he had got bad news of some sort—a mail plane had come from Smith that morning.
“Care to go for a little walk, dear?” he suggested. “There’s a sun today and no raw wind, for a change.”
Patricia readily agreed. Besides wanting to get outdoors, she wondered what made Warren so nervous. Some news from Chicago, no doubt. Maybe he would tell her about it.
They went up past the Hudson’s Bay station and the Government buildings, and walked on north along the lake shore.
The sun had broken through that day, after a solid month of dismal weather; and it was beating down in a glaring dazzle on the white snow. There was power to it now, for it stood high in the sky. The days were lengthening swiftly. Twilight came at eight, dawn at four; and in another month there would be no night at all.
Snow still covered the land, the waters were all ice-locked as at midwinter, but the break-up was not far off. When it did come, it would come with a leap and a roar that would sweep winter away almost overnight.
Warren remarked: “You might be interested to know that Rosalie Tari ton is at Fort Smith, on her way here. She dawdled around in Edmonton for weeks, but now she’s coming in. Pilot Odron, who’s at Waterways, is to pick her up when he comes north.”
PATRICIA was little interested. Just a few weeks ago the mere mention of Rosalie’s name had suffused her with shame and made her feel like a co-respondent in some dirty triangle mess. But not now. Rosalie was too insignificant. Rosalie was just a bit of froth on the stormy waters.
“What’s worrying you, Warren?” Patricia queried, as she watched him poke nervously at the snow with his cane.
“I’m not worried,” he denied. “I’m merely impatient at being tied up here at Dynamite Bay. I’m needed at Chicago, and I ought to get back there at once.” “Why so?”
“The company is facing a serious Federal investigation—some stock and securities deals made in ’30 and ’31.”
“But Mr. Parkes and father are on the job.”
“Parkes doesn’t know enough about the matter, and besides he’s on the wrong side of the political fence. Your father thinks that this investigation can be bought off or else embalmed and buried in court technicalities, like former investigations. He’s mistaken. These Federal men mean business. I believe that I can pull the firm through all right, if I don’t delay.”
“Then by all means,” Patricia suggested, “you should leave here immediately.”
“My leaving this place depends on you,” Warren answered. He stopped poking patterns in the snow and looked at her squarely. “I’ve got a proposal to make, Patricia. A bargain, if you like. To be blunt and forthright, here it is. Tomorrow morning you and I will get into a plane and go back to Chicago. We will both completely forget Dynamite Bay and everything connected with it. I’ll give up my plans to buy this field. The claims I own already, including the Kessler Hill lode, will eventually make several millions for the company. I promise you that I will not buy another claim, but will leave this field to Tari ton and these men.
“On your part you will give up your plans and your work here, and cut free from Dynamite Bay without reservation. That, by the wav, does not mean that you need resume your engagement to me, unless and until you yourself wish to.”
To be Continued