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.
Patricia flies with Lovett to the Resurrection River mining area in Northwestern Canada and meets Tarlton there.
Lovell's business is to buy claims cheaply. Patricia resents his efforts to fleece the miners, builds a lodge for them, and advises them not to sell out for a pittance.
This generous action brings her into close contact with Tarlton, and she realizes that it is the latter whom she loves, not Lovett. The latter informs her that Tarlton is married, but Tarlton says his wife is getting a divorce.
Lupe Chiwaughimi, a halfbreed friend of Lovett’s, tries to curry favor with the latter by causing Tarlton to disappear, and in a gun battle a follower of Lupe’s is killed by a bullet which Tarlton fires through a door.
The prospectors, working with Tarlton, stake a group of rich gold claims. They are registered in the name of Kessler, a prospector; and the latter sells out his partners and escapes by airplane.
Some of the miners, discouraged, let Warren have their holdings.
Warren tells Patricia that Tarlton s wife, Rosalie, is coming to the camp; and he urges her to get clear of the local entanglement by returning to Chicago.
:ATRICIA answered without hesitation:
‘‘I can’t take your offer, Warren. I wouldn’t think of deserting Craig and these men.”
"But you’d not be deserting them, dear. You’d be doing the very opposite. You’d be saving them.
This field would be theirs and Tarlton’s. He’d hold them together easily enough if I left. I ’ll even go a step further than I just offered—I’ll buy a part interest in some of these best claim blocks in order that Tarlton can have a bit of immediate working capital.” “No,” Patricia repeated. “But, dear, ever since last August you’ve been fighting for these men. You’ve made a
WILLIAM BYRON MOWERY
moral issue out of the fight; and now when you can say one word and win a complete victory, you refuse to say it. If you really had their interests at heart, wouldn’t you take my bargain?”
Patricia started at his question. She looked away, troubled, an uneasiness seizing her. In her hands lay an undreamed-of chance to save these men and Craig’s epochal programme—and she was turning it down !
Warren pleaded earnestly with her:
‘‘Dear, think of all that my offer means to you. You’d get out of this dreadful country; you’d be free of all this worry, fighting, hardship, and this Rosalie mix-up. You’d be back home, with your mother and Haría and your friends—”
“Don’t!” Patricia stopped him. “Warren, please.” All her unbearable homesickness came welling up at the persuasive picture he was drawing. “Please don’t urge me to take your offer. I can’t. That’s final.”
When Warren spoke again, his voice was distinctly cold.
“My dear, you’re making a bad mistake. You’ll bitterly regret it, maybe before the week is out. Your refusal will force me to stay here. If I have to do that, I’m going to fight Tarlton with every weapon I’ve got. I’m going to smash him and have this field in my pocket when I do go back to Chicago, and the guilt will lie with you.”
That night, while the dark crept into her lonely cabin, Patricia sat by the window, brooding over the fraught decision which she must make. Never of her own volition could she give Craig up. He was her life partner; she thought of him as her husband; she daydreamed of the children that would be his and hers.
Yet the alternative to giving him up was equally dreadful. If Craig went under, if these Resurrection men went under, if Craig’s great project was shattered—“the guilt will lie with you.” As she envisioned all those terrible consequences, the ghostly hand of Duty rose before her, pointing out the path that she ought to take. That path stretched clear and straight—down across the wilderness latitudes to her Chicago home.
T UPE CHIWAUGHIMI stepped into Warren’s cabin late one afternoon.
“Tarlton is back,” he announced. “Heem and dat Poleon.”
Warren was writing a wireless to Russell Parkes about the Federal investigation. He stopped short at Lupe’s news.
“Over in de Den,” Lupe added, “dere’s a lot of oxcited talk ’mong dose men. Dey say Tarlton has made a hiyu beeg radium strike.”
Warren’s pencil dropped from his hand. “Hiyu beeg radium strike”—the words thoroughly jolted him. For weeks he had been deathly afraid that Tarlton would come back from his secret trip with some rich lode in his pocket. The fellow was an uncanny geologist, with a miraculous nose for mineral ; and he knew this Resurrection territory like an open book.
“Maybe this is all a rumor, Lupe,” Warren suggested, snatching at any possibility. “He may have spun this story to hold these men here.”
“I don’ t'ink so.”
“We’ve got to find out,” Warren said, his voice shaky. He pulled himself together, thought for a moment. “You go and tell DeCarie to get across to Tarlton’s place and pick up any information he can. If those men know about the strike, Tarlton’s not trying to keep the thing a secret. He may talk about it to DeCarie, as one geologist to another.”
Lupe hurried away. Waiting, his nerves all on edge, Warren tramped the cabin floor, watching through the window for DeCarie to come back across the river.
It was an hour and a half before DeCarie returned. He rushed in all excited, banged the door shut and burst out: Good Lord, has Tarlton got a radium deposit! Did he locate a concentration ! He didn’t try to keep anything back
from me—he’s got the lode staked, filed, sewed up airtight. We talked about the geology of the lense for a whole hour. He even allowed me to look his specimens over and see his map of the lake !”
As Warren listened to DeCarie’s description of the radium find, his self-control completely deserted him. His face turned grey, his hands twitched. Fumbling for a cigarette, fumbling for a match to light it, he sat down heavily at his desk, staring at the geologist.
He had banked heavily on Patricia’s accepting his “bargain” and going back to Chicago with him; but she had definitely refused. The only recourse left to him now was the plan which he had thought up to smash Tarlton if the latter did come back with a rich strike. But that plan might not work—against Tarlton. Besides, it was dangerous, a criminal step.
Faced now with the necessity of taking that step, he drew back, wavering and afraid.
DeCarie finished his account. For a few moments neither man spoke. DeCarie reached for a cigarette, lit it, held the match to Warren’s.
“Looks as though he’s got us in a bad comer, Warren,” he remarked.
Warren wetted his dry lips.
“Yes—bad,” he mumbled. He tried to fight off the numbing shock and to think. “These figures, these estimates you’ve told me, DeCarie—are you sure about them?”
“If anything, Tarlton has underestimated his discovery.”
Warren asked one last question.
“What’s he planning to do with this lode?”
“Sell it ! He’s whipping out to Edmonton or Winnipeg on the first plane.”
Warren got up unsteadily and walked over to the window and stood looking out, oblivious to DeCarie and to the slanting, beautiful sunshine outside. His crushing advantage of money power, which he had used with heavy hand all that winter, had suddenly vanished.
All in all, he was at a crisis in his career. He was facing nothing less than personal annihilation.
DeCarie broke into his thoughts.
“What’re you going to do about this, Warren? You’ve got to do something, and darned quick! He’s going to dynamite you unless you can dynamite him.”
After a long time Warren turned from the window. He had won back his self-control. His face was hard-set; he had made his decision. His plan might be dangerous, criminal, but he had to use it. This was no time to be squeamish or afraid.
“You’re correct, DeCarie,” he agreed. “I’ve got to dynamite him. All right, I can do it. Find Lupe and tell him to come in here.”
AT OWL DUSK that same evening ’Teeste Chiwaughimi • came to the Den office, where Craig was working. “M’sieu Lovett want to talk wit’ you,” he informed. “Over at hees cabane.”
“That so? What about?”
“I donno. He jus’ say it is eemportant beezness.” “Hmmph!” Craig grunted. He glanced out into the purpling twilight of half-past nine—at the dark river and the dark fringe of woods yonder. To go over there would be like walking into a lion’s den. Just now, when the welfare of
300 men was bound up with his personal safety, he was taking no chances. Wherever he went, Poleon and Sam Honeywell went with him; and they carried rifles.
“Go back and tell him, ’Teeste, that if he wants to see me he'll have to come over here. I’m busy.”
As he started over his list of companies for the tenth time, trying to remember something about their head men and to figure out his best prospects, Warren came across from the en trance-way to the office.
“Come in,” Craig bade. He got up and placed a chair for his visitor.
Warren sat down, laid his hat on the desk.
“DeCarie told me about your radium lode, Tarlton. I can only say I wasn’t exactly glad to hear the news, of course, but I suppose I ought to congratulate you anyway.”
“That’s kind of you. But what did you want to see me about?”
“This lode,” Warren answered without hedging. “You’re going to sell it, I assume, to raise money.”
Craig nodded, but to himself he thought, “I’m going to try to sell it.” Warren drummed on the table. Finally:
“Since you’re going to sell anyway, I wonder whether you might consider negotiating with me, Tarlton. My company is already on the ground. If you and I can work out a deal, it’ll save you time, expense and trouble.”
“ You want to buy the lode?” Craig demanded, surprised. He looked at Warren narrowly. “What’s your game, Warren?”
“There’s no ‘game,’ I assure you. This is purely a business proposition. We can make a mutually advantageous deal. You need money—cash—at once. I need your mine. I’ll give you as good a price or better than you can get anywhere else.”
“Warren, I don’t believe I’d care to deal with you on anything. You’re out for yourself, first, last and always; and sometimes you deal from the bottom of the deck.”
Warren’s cheekbones reddened, but he made no reply to the thrust.
“Tarlton,” he said presently, “you’re quite right in thinking that I'm out for myself in this proposition. 1 am, and I’ll tell you why. I’ve got to get back to Chicago. There’s a Federal investigation on down there; it’s getting ugly, and nobody except myself can handle it. Besides, Parkes is shouldering me out of the firm and I’ve got to fight him. If I stay here in the Arctic any longer, I’m going to lose the position that I worked twelve years to attain.”
CRAIG’S interest picked up. He knew that Warren was talking honestly, so far at least, for Patricia had mentioned Parkes and the investigation.
"I’ve been hanging on and on here for weeks,” Warren continued, “in the hopes that these men would break. But they didn’t, and now you’re back with a valuable property, and—well, I realize that the field is yours. I intend to close out my affairs here to the best advantage I can, and return to Chicago.”
“Where does my pitchblende lake fit into this picture?” Craig enquired.
“I’ve got to take back something to show for the time and money I’ve spent on this venture. Except for the Kessler Hill block, the claims I own now are not a very striking exhibit. Your radium property would be. That’s why I want to buy it.”
Craig decided to string along and see what Warren was up to.
“How much are you offering for the lode?”
“How much are you asking?”
“Two hundred and fifty thousand,” Craig said evenly. In reality he would have sacrificed the lake instantly for a hundred thousand. The personal loss of several millions meant nothing to him. The thing that mattered was to save this field for the men and to drive ahead with his epochal project.
“That’s a steep price,” Warren objected. “That’s a quarter of a million.”
“It’s one twentieth of what the lode is worth. D’you call that a steep price?”
“Well, no, not exactly,” Warren admitted. He picked up one of Patricia’s bobby pins and bent it in his nervous fingers. “Parkes and old Wellington would never go that high on a single claims block. But I can make up the difference, I suppose, out of my own money. The lode’s worth it. All right, I’ll pay you two hundred and fifty thousand.”
Craig was astounded. He had thrown out the quartermillion price merely to call Warren’s bluff, and Warren was taking him up !
“I’ll pay you in cash, of course,” Warren added. “No notes or time payment.”
This offer of spot cash astonished Craig still more. He knew perfectly well that there was a trap for him somewhere in this proffer. Warren was planning to doublecross him somewhere along the line. Though the man was indeed
desperate to get back to Chicago, he was also desperate to take the Resurrection field and Patricia along with him. But this spot cash offer—he seemed to really mean business there !
"Where and how would the money be paid, Warren?”
"Anywhere and anyhow you like. You can write your own ticket. That ought to convince you that I’m playing square. Name your own bank, lawyer, terms. The money will be paid in advance, before you sign anything at all. You’re not trusting me to anything; I'm trusting you to everything. What more, under heaven, can you ask?”
Craig relighted his pipe and smoked thoughtfully, looking at all the angles of this situation. Warren was offering him twice as much as he could get from any other company. And offering him spot cash. That precious money would put him and Patricia and these men definitely out of the woods. Once he had it he could proceed cautiously, watch out for Warren’s hidden move and fight it. There was no shadow of doubt that in this j>oker-faced game he himself was holding the top hand. The superlative deadfall which he and Poleon had built would always be waiting, ready to be sprung. In an emergency he would always have it to fall back upon. Warren knew nothing about that deadfall.
“Suppose you go ahead, Warren," he suggested finally, “and deposit that quartermillion, on the terms we've sketched. II the thing looks all right, to me then, I'll sign the lake over to you. If it doesn’t, I’ll return your money.”
Warren stood up, reached out his hand.
“I’ll do it. You’re making no mistake, Tarlton—”
Craig cut him short.
“Warren, don’t imagine you’re pulling any wool over my eyes. I know and you know that you’ve got a joker up your sleeve. Now listen”he laid his hand on Warren’s arm—“don’t try to play that joker. Here and now I’m warning you —don't! As you said, you’re getting a bargain. A fine one. lie content with that. If you deal square, so will I. But if you try anything shady, you’re going to get the worst trimming of your life. Let that be understood.”
TWO DAYS later, at noon, Craig got a wireless from the Winnipeg bank which he had named. The message stated that the quarter-million had been deposited there for him.
He took no chances on the message being a fake. With the infinite caution which had marked every step of his negotiations with Warren, he wirelessed the bank directly for confirmation, and also wirelessed instructions to an old Winnipeg lawyer who had been his friend and his father’s friend.
Within three hours the bank’s reply came.
Deposit authentic stop money yours without restriction stop deposit made by draft not by cheque therefore no possibility of payment being stopped.
Toward eight o’clock that evening Corporal Northup came down from the Signal Corps Station, bringing Craig the lawyer’s wirelessed reply.
The old attorney stated that he had investigated the deposit from every conceivable angle and that Craig was absolutely safe.
With Sam and Poleon, Craig went across Resurrection to Warren’s cabin, taking along the claim papers which he had been holding ready.
“Well,” Warren demanded, “are you entirely satisfied? Have I carried out my end of the bargain?”
“So far,” Craig said briefly. “And I’m here to carry out mine. Let’s get these papers fixed up.”
It was dark by the time they had completed the transaction. Across the desk Craig handed Warren the last document, signed and witnessed.
“The lake is yours now, Warren,” he said, “provided you remember my warning and don’t play your joker.”
“ ‘Provided?’ ” Warren echoed. “Why—
why, what d’you mean? These papers give me an airtight ownership. You can’t back out of that. There’s no ‘provided’ to it. The lake is mine.”
“You’re right, it is,” Craig grunted. “Provided ...”
He turned on his heel and strode out of the cabin, leaving Warren staring after him dumbfounded.
With his two dependable bodyguards, Craig started back across the river. A fluffy six-inch snow, probably the last of the year, had fallen that day; but the sky had faired off, and on the northwest horizon lingered a beautiful orange afterglow of the sun.
At his cabin he unlocked the door—he kept his place locked up tight now—and turned to his two partners.
“Poleon, you go down and visit Patricia and tell her the news. Stay with her for a cup of tea—she’s having a lonesome time of it these days. Sam, you go down to the Den and send up half a dozen men to watch my cabin while the dark lasts. It’ll only be two or three hours. I want to be guarded every minute till Warren and his outfit have pulled up and left. Don’t tell the men anything about this deal. I’ll tell ’em myself.”
He went inside his cabin, barred the door, stepped across to his table and lit a candle.
As the tiny flame flickered and brightened, he heard a slight noise behind him—a scraping sound like the shuffle of a shoepac on tlie slab floor. Somebody was in his cabin!
His hand shot down to the black automatic in his table drawer. He grabbed out the weapon and whirled around. As he whirled, a heavy stick of stove wood came careening out of the semi-darkness and crashed him full in the face, breaking his nose, breaking out one of his teeth, and stunning him like a hammer blow between the eyes.
From the wood-box behind the stove a dark figure leaped up, swung at him with an iron-tipped ski staff, and dealt him a paralyzing blow on the head. He slumped against the table, reeling, fighting against a horrible blackness that was engulfing him.
Out of the flickering shadows at the far side of his cabin, four other figures came lunging at him like wolves springing upon a kill, and among them were Lupe Chiwaughimi—and ’Teeste.
With his last gasp of strength Craig lifted the automatic, to shoot at those lunging figures. But the man with the ski staff swung again and struck his arm, and the gun went clattering halfway across the cabin. Craig tried to shout, to bring back Poleon and Sam, but he was too far gone. The black waters were sucking him down; the cabin and the figures had all turned dark before his eyes; his whole body was going numb; he seemed to be floating down and down into a soft, merciful oblivion.
For a moment or two he clung to the table, gasping, with blood running from his nose and mouth. Then the leaping figures were upon him, a third murderous blow crashed against his temple, and he pitched forward, face downward, upon the floor.
In the Three Rivers country, where men daily fly over long stretches of wilderness, those words are a call to arms. Whenever a plane leaves a post, a notice is flashed to its post of destination. If the ship fails to arrive, messages start crackling back and forth between the stations of the Royal Signal Corps. All wx>rk is dropped; all effort is concentrated on the rescue.
Sister planes cancel flights, dump passengers and freightage, and whip away on the hunt for the lost craft. Canoe parties, in summer, dog-team parties in winter, jump off from the nearest trading posts and comb through the territory where the plane met mishap.
On the morning after the Chiwaughimis trapped Craig, a prospector came past Patricia’s cabin.
‘Have you heard the news, Miss Pat? They’s a plane down, atween here and Smith. It left Smith yesterday 'round ten
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Continued from page 22—Starts on page 20
and should’ve got here in the afternoon, but it ain’t showed up yet.”
“Who was flying the ship?” Patricia asked. Most of the Northern pilots were good friends of hers and dropped in at her cabin tor a sociable cup of tea whenever they made the Bay.
“Pilot Odron was a-flying it. Him and mechanic Straus. They jest had one passenger. She was this woman that—uh—they say is Craig’s wife.”
“Yeh. Anyhow, that’s what I heard.” Patricia ran up to the Mounted Police
building to find out the truth from Alan Northup.
“It’s so,” he informed her. “Rosalie is with that ship. Four planes out of Smith and two out of Rae are hunting for it. Odron must’ve run into that snowstorm yesterday. He had wireless reports on it and was afraid of it when he left Smith.”
“Why on earth did an experienced pilot like him ever head intoso bad a snowstorm?” “Lovett ordered him to, that’s why!” Northup snapped angrily. “Our wireless man here showed me the messages between
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Continued from page 32
Lovett and Odron. Lovett ordered Odron to get Rosalie to the Bay forthwith. He wanted to put pressure on you, create a bad personal situation for you, and so he overrode a seasoned pilot’s opinion.”
"Maybe Odron managed to get down safe when he hit the storm, Alan. He’s an awf'ly good flyer.”
"Yes, it’s probably just a forced landing. They’ll likely find him somewhere along the line, with a broken ski or something like that. But Lovett ought to have a jacking up for that order."
They talked for a few minutes about the search. Presently Northup asked:
"By the way, Patricia, where’s Craig?” "Why, at his cabin, isn’t he?”
“No, and he’s not down at the Den. D’you have any idea where’s he’s gone?”
"He wasn’t planning to go anywhere that I know about. Do you mean he’s not here at the Bay at all?”
Northup realized that she knew no more than he about Craig’s strange absence. Not wishing to alarm her, when possibly there was no occasion for alarm, he said casually: "He must be up to something or other. I guess he’s kept this move completely to himself.”
Patricia thought no more about Craig’s absence till she was back at her cabin. Alone, then, she got to thinking of it, and became uneasy. If Craig had planned to leave the Bay, surely he would have told her. Through Poleon and Northup, he always kept her fully informed of everything he did.
AT MID-MORNING she stepped across to the community house and made enquiry among the prospectors. None of them had seen Craig since the previous evening. Poleon and Sam were gone also, they said. The two men had left at dawn, without saying where they were going.
This news about Poleon and Sam relieved Patricia considerably. They were with Craig, she reasoned; and so Craig was entirely safe.
The prospectors, however, were badly upset by Craig’s disappearance. From some unknown source a rumor had sprung up that he had come into a big bunch of money from his radium lake; and they were all on edge to know whether the report was true. They were out of supplies, equipment, even food ; they were depending on him and now he had suddenly dropi>ed from sight.
"I hope to goodness he don’t stay three weeks this time," one man remarked. "My license is up and my claims are lapsing—” "He’ll be back right away,” Patricia reassured, though she was more bewildered than the men themselves.
“Did he raise money on that lake or not?” another demanded of her. ’Tve heard so many rumors that 1 dunno what to think about nothing."
While Patricia was stilling the fears of the men, a plane came winging in from the South and lit in the mouth of Resurrection. Somebody called out that the ship was one of the Fort Rae searching planes. Most of the prospectors left the Den and hurried down upon the river.
Patricia went into her office, watched through the window, saw the crowd gather about the ship. Pilot Leo Sneddon opened the cabin door, stepp'd down ujxm a ski strut. His shoulders sagged; he took off his helmet and hung his head as he s]X)ke a few words to the nearest men.
"He’s found Odron!” Patricia cried to herself. Sneddon’s bowed head, the awed silence that came over the crowd, meant that the news he brought was tragic news.
In her cabin, half an hour later, Sneddon told her about his sorrowful discovery, after he had reported it to Northup. Though he had been through a dozen crack-ups himself, Sneddon was badly shaken. "Bing” Odron had long been one of the little band of Northern pilots, and now Odron was dead. One by one, that little company was being picked off by the grim hand ; and every death was a mute reminder to every other flyer.
“I left Rae at four this morning,” Sneddon recounted, "and started north, following the Frances River. That’s the air route we all
take to Great Desolation. I’d reached the lake, I’d come within sight of the Bay and almost stopped hunting, when I looked down at a little wooded island, and there it was.”
The island was a mile offshore, Sneddon said, and only nine miles south of Resurrection. He had landed near by, taken a short look around, and then come on in to report.
“It wasn’t ice that brought Bing down,” he asserted. “I examined a wing that was lying a hundred feet from the wreck, and it hadn’t a trace of sleet or ice on it. Bing must’ve been flying blind in that snowstorm. He knew he was near the Bay, and he was flying low, trying to locate Resurrection. The storm must’ve been so blinding that he couldn’t see fifty feet in front of the prop, or he’d have bounced up over that little island.
"He hit square into the pines, broke off that wing, smashed the fuselage, and then crashed head-on against a little rock wall. I found Straus and Rosalie down under those pines where he first hit, but Bing—Bing was still in the ship when it cracked, and—and the gas tanks caught, and—there wasn’t anything left but the black twisted metalwork !”
Odron dead, Rosalie dead !
A FTER HER FIRST shock over the tragedy, Patricia remembered what Northup had told her that morning about the wireless messages; and a hot anger rose in her against Warren, who had ordered Bing Odron out on that fatal flight. Just to have Rosalie at the Bay, just to use her in his personal battle against Craig, Warren had gambled with the safety of other people, and his gamble had snuffed out three lives.
For those deaths he was morally guilty, but he would go scot-free of any legal guilt.
Near four o’clock that afternoon the sled party which Corporal Northup had dispatched to the wooded island got back to Resurrection, bringing their tarpaulinwrapped burdens.
After the sensation-seekers had cleared away from the Mounted Police building, Patricia forced herself to go up there. She felt she had to go, out of a woman’s respect for another woman, out of atonement for the bitter feelings which she had harbored toward Rosalie Tari ton.
Alan Northup took her into the room and pointed at the smaller of the two biers and silently left her. Patricia moved over to the bier and looked down at the white-shrouded figure. The golden sunlight flooding in through the window, the happy twittering of a flock of snow-buntings outside the building, seemed all out of keeping with this stilled solemnity of death.
With a strange sadness inside of her, she bent down and lifted the sheet away from Rosalie’s face. The girl had been spared disfigurement in the tragedy. She appeared to be lying in a calm, peaceful sleep from which she might wake at any moment, and open her dreamy-lidded eyes, and look up.
With the sun-shalt just touching her golden hair and throwing a warm light across her features, she was hauntingly beautiful—as lovely as the picture of the living girl beside the sundial at her Vancouver home.
As Patricia gazed down, her last trace of ill feeling toward Rosalie vanished. She could not think harshly of anything the girl had done, or judge her shallow life sternly. Instead, she saw Rosalie as a creature of circumstance who had childishly grasped at the shadows of happiness and had found them without substance. Rosalie’s eyes had never been opened to a richer and broader vista. “As mine were never opened,” Patricia thought in humility, "till—till Bill Fomier, and these other men ...” Years and years of her own life had been wasted in pursuing the same flitting shadows, same flitting pleasures, that Rosalie had pursued.
Wasted years, empty and useless years, they had left only a bitter blasé taste in her mouth and a restless dissatisfaction in her heart.
During the few minutes that she stayed there with the girl who had been Craig’s wife, the meaning of her Arctic trip came home to her more clearly than at any time in the months past. That trip had saved her from a loveless marriage. It had shown her Warren’s nature. It had brought her and Craig together again. But over and beyond all this, it had awakened within her a new life, a consciousness of other people, of their happiness. Every one of the bewildered and heartbreaking steps which she had taken at
Dynamite Bay had been a groping but forward step toward this new conscience.
Before turning away she bent down, out of a great pity for Rosalie, and touched her lips to the girl’s forehead . . .
AS SHE WORKED in her office that • evening, the prospectors kept coming to the doorway and enquiring whether she had heard anything from Craig. The question jarred on Patricia every time a man asked it. All that day, as the hours passed and his strange absence lengthened, her uneasiness had grown, and vague suspicions had begun preying on her.
The sun finally sank below the northwest horizon. Under the trees outside her window, the purple shadows deepened. From somewhere up the lake shore came the eleven-noted hooting of a great homed owl.
The weirdly sepulchral call snapped Patricia’s hold upon herself. Flinging her work aside, she hurried out of the office, out of the Den.
Ever since that nightmare evening up Resurrection when the Chiwaughimis had come so near murdering Craig, she had known that a sinister shadow hung over him. Many nights, before going to bed, she had gone up the little hollow and seen the dim candleglow through his blanketed window and had been reassured. Now, in her desperate anxiety, she again slipped back through the dark trees and up toward his cabin, hardly knowing why she was going there or what she intended doing.
As she passed the granite boulder, she was astonished to see the cabin door slightly ajar and a light inside. Her heart leaped with the thought that Craig was back. She flew to the door, looked in.
The person was not Craig, but Alan Northup. Over at Craig’s work table he was bending down, a flashlight in his hand, carefully examining the floor and a stick of wood near the stove.
She stepped inside.
"Alan ! What are you doing here?” Northup whirled around.
“Oh! Why hello, Patricia. Why, I, uh” —he snapped off the flash and sauntered over toward her—-"I was just bringing back a coupla books that Craig lent me.”
"What were you looking for, there on the floor?” Patricia demanded. All her smoldering suspicions burst into flame. Something had happened to Craig! Alan knew it had. He was lying to her, trying to keep her from knowing the truth. "What’re you hunting for, here in Craig’s cabin? Why’re you examining the floor and that wood? What’s there?”
Northup backed up to the table, to head her off as she tried to go around him and see for herself.
"Nothing’s there, Patricia. I, uh, knocked something off of Craig’s table and I was looking to find it. Please, girl—you’re excited, imagining things. I don’t blame you; this has been a hard day for us all. I^t me take you back to your—”
Patricia seized the flash from his hand, snapped it on; and before Northup could stop her she had flipped the spot of light upon the floor where he had been looking. For a horrified moment she stared down ... On the stick of wood and on the floor near the table leg there were two big splotches of dark red.
“All right,” Northup said sharply, taking the only sensible course, “now that you’ve seen a part of it, and the worst part, let’s see it all ! For heaven’s sake don’t jump to any crazy conclusion. Give me the flash. Here’s a coupla small stains on the table. There’s one on the side of the wood-box. And one on the end of that ski staff. I found his automatic lying over there under the edge of the bunk.”
He kept up a rapid fire of talk, to draw her thoughts away from those two splotches. "That’s every scrap and clue I’ve discovered here, and I’ve been over this cabin three times today with a fine-tooth comb. You can look around for yourself. You don’t wish? All right. Want me to tell you what happened here last night? All right, I will.”
To be Continued