William Byron Mowery
A LITTLE thrill went through his numbed body. Maybe it was Poleon out yonder in that dark drogue. Some time later—he had dozed off without knowing it—he stirred out of a feverish sleep. He was clammy with sweat, his throat felt parched, his broken nose pained him intolerably. ^ “Bring me water,” he asked the vigilant César in French. “To drink, and for a cool cloth on my face.” “Go to sleep,” César growled. “It is night. Sleep.” Craig lashed out savagely
“Beast, you! When your brother lay gasping for life’s breath, I saved him; and now you refuse me a tin of water. Don’t, then, carcajou-hearted !”
A little ashamed, César got up, reached for a pan behind the stove, and went out.
Craig heard him scoop the pan full of snow and start back for the door. Then, aH suddenly, he heard a surprised grunt from the ’breed—a grunt cut short by a hard Ihupp, as of a man being smashed over the head.
Then came the sound of a body sprawling heavily in the snow.
Bewildered, Craig twisted painfully in his ropes till he could see the door. A few moments later a dark figure appeared there, looked cautiously inside. Then the man stepped in, and the candle shone on him.
Craig started to cry out, “Sam !” but his voice choked in his throat. The shack, the door and Sam’s figure went all blurry. He closed his eyes a moment, opened them again, stared spellbound—in the dazed stupefaction of a man suddenly confronted with a reprieve from death.
“Shhh-sh!” Honeywell warned. “We socked one of ’em plenty, but they’s four more right near, sleeping with one eye open; and we ain’t got any guns, Poleon and me.” In through the doorway came Poleon, carrying the limp, unconscious form of César Chiwaughimi. He threw the halfbreed down, hurried to the bunk, bent over Craig. The huge grin on his face faded away as he saw Craig’s broken nose, battered features, puffed-up hands.
“Oh, gee, poor feller! Oh, dose dirty carcajous ! But you brace op, Craig. Everyt’ing’s fine-dandy now. Sam and me, we’re here! Dat was smart headwork out of you—sending dat Chiwaughimi outside w’ere we could sock heem. I knew you’d hear my hoot-hooting, and cotch on.”
“But I—I didn’t—”
XTOT HEEDING Craig’s weak interruption, Poleon drew his skinning knife and began cutting the ropes and babische. “Here, Sam”—he tossed Honeywell the thongs— “Craig don’ need dese any more, so you use ’em on dat son of a blue bull-mink. You hogtie heem proper and gag heem so tight dat he won’ holler none till we get plenty gone.” “Who’s with you?” Craig whispered, as Poleon cut the last rawhide from his swollen ankles.
“Jus’ Sam and me.”
“Where is this place? They blindfolded me on the trip.” “It’s in de Wolf Lairs, ’bout t’ree mile from Kessler Hill. You 'member dat pine drogue we’re we cut dem claim stake? Well, dis camp is in dat. Dese two shack, dey’re w’ere Lovett’s men stayed w’en he sen’ dat party op here in Apreel to do de assessment work on de Kessler gold lode.”
“We’ve got to get out of this shack and away from here,” Craig said. “One of those other Chiwaughimis may step in at any moment, to see that everything’s all right.”
He tried to move, but he could not even rise to his elbow. He was helpless as a baby. His arms and legs were stiff as posts and his whole body was numb.
“Easy, easy,” Poleon gentled him. “I’ll have to give you wan good rub and pummelling ’fore you can stan’ op. Sam, you step outside and get dat Chiwaughimi’s gun. We need dat rifle bad.”
While he worked with Craig, Poleon related how Sam and he haà got there. After discovering the abduction, they had waited till daybreak, then circled the Bay and picked up the telltale tracks of a sled and five men. In the whipping wind the trail was dim when they first found it, and before they had followed more than ten miles it was blotted out altogether. But the Chiwaughimis had plainly been heading ior the Wolf Lairs; and Poleon, remembering about Lovett’s oarty in April and the shacks they had built for their temporary stay, shrewdly guessed that the Chiwaughimis were taking Craig to those shacks in that isolated country.
Afraid of a Chiwaughimi ambush along the back trail, he and Sam had made a wide swing north and had come in
toward Kessler Hill from the northwest. They had covered more than eighty wilderness miles, and both of them were half snow-blinded, for in their haste at the Bay they had forgotten to bring goggles.
Their big swing and the terrific sun glare explained why they had been so long in coming. Late that afternoon they had sighted* the Hill and the pine drogue. Waiting till whippoorwill dusk, they had slipped down valley into the timber, scouted the camp out thoroughly, and then lain for their chance to slug César.
Luck had been with them on their trip at every turn except one; but there it had dealt them a cruel jolt. In crossing a small - upland river that morning they had broken through the rotten “mush ice,” and lost their packs, guns, and almost their lives. After struggling ashore, they had laid a pole walk-way out upon the ice and fished for their rifles; but the water was too swift and deep, and they had come on barehanded.
“But Sam and me have got a substeetoot for guns,” Poleon added, pointing at a canvas-wrapped bundle which Sam had brought in. “Half hour ago, w’en we was nosing ’round dis camp, we ran into a leetle log-and-stone cache, out dere beyon’ dat utter shack. It was de place w’ere Lovett’s party stored deir tools and dynamite. De heavies’ tool's and some odd steecks of dynamite was in dere. We wrap’ op eight steecks, wit’ plenty caps and fuse, and brung ’em along. In a tight peench dem eart’quake steecks might help out.”
Craig asked Sam : “That Chiwaughimi’s gun is loaded, isn’t it?” “Yes. Full clip. But none in the chamber.” “Well, that’s five cartridges. Search his pockets and belt.” Sam made a thorough search, but found no more shells.
VWHTH AN EFFORT Craig managed to sit up. He VV could bend his arms and legs a little now; the paralyzing numbness was slowly leaving him ; and in his unwordable gladness at being snatched back to life he no longer felt his throbbing pains.
“We’ve simply got to clear away from here,” he insisted, working hard to drive that numbness out of his body. “If you lellows will help me walk for a mile or two, I’ll get my legs back again.”
Sam picked up the rifle, Poleon the bundle of dynamite. Poleon glanced at the still-unconscious César Chiwaughimi, saw he was tightly bound and gagged, and then snuffed the candle.
Leaning heavily on the two men, Craig stood up from the bunk, shuffled awkwardly across the floor like a person on stilts, and stumbled out into the dark—out of the shack where half an hour ago he had lain awaiting death.
Their route, arrow-straight toward the Bay, led across a monotonous succession of stony watersheds and timbered valleys. Up one treeless, granite-strewn hill; a pause on the crest for a glance back; down the opposite slope into the first straggly trees; on down into the valley timber, and up the next granite slope—with little variation, that was the story of their trek.
After a week of locked battle between the gods of winter
and of summer—a battle of stormy clashing winds and violently flouncing temperatures—the summer gods had finally triumphed; and they had sent their chinook that day to sweep away the wreckage of winter. In that upland country the break-up came with even a swifter rush than in the lowlands. Under the sun’s fierce glare and the vvttnering breath of the south wind, the snow sank down almost visibly. Yesterday there had been no water anywhere. Today there was live water everywhere.
That, too, slowed down Craig’s party. By seven o’clock they ware sloshing through icy pools, wading little torrents in the valleys, fording waist-deep across the larger streams. Craig’s companions were badly worn down. With no sleep and little to eat, they had foot-slogged almost ninety miles. But the worst was the snow-blindness. Sam especially was hard hit. Within two hours after sunrise his inflamed eyes were nearly closed.
Near eight o’clock Craig paused on a high bare ridge and glanced back across the watersheds, searching the route they had come. With a shock he saw five distant man-figures whip over a rocky crest, swing down the western slope and vanish in the timber. The Chiwaughimis! Following the trail with the ferocity of lean March wolves. Less than five miles away. Travelling almost twice as swiftly as he and his two faltering partners.
WE'VE GOT to keep ahead, got to lay down fast *V tracks,” Craig Tari ton said. He encouraged Poleon and Sam: “We’ve reeled off eleven miles already. A fourth of the way to the Bay. Every mile is a mile for us. If we can keep out of rifle range till late this afternoon, we can make a running fight of it, string out our five shells to the
limit, spin out the fight till dusk and then give ’em the slip. But we don’t dare let ’em close in now.”
He took Sam’s arm and hurried dowrn the slope. He knew that the Chiwaughimis would close in, that a death fight was drawing nearer and nearer. But in him was that bulldog quality which kept him battling aw'ay where lesser men w'ould have wilted; and so he fought stubbornly for the miles.
Each mile was precious. Each mile brought them closer to the Bay and into territory w'here by lucky chance they might run across prospectors or Indians and secure weapons.
To stop and try an ambush was suicide, with their five cartridges. A dynamite mine on the back trail was impossible, for they had no way of timing the explosion as the Chiwaughimis passed. There was nothing to do but struggle on and on, till the métis caught up and started the rifle talk. When that happened—-well, cross that river when they came to it.
Craig and Poleon by themselves could have kept ahead of the Chiwaughimis, at least for several hours longer, but Sam held them back. By nine o’clock Sam’s eyes had swollen shut; he was totally blinded; he had to be led every step of the way.
It was a heavy handicap— leading a blinded man, helping him along, guiding him past boulders and trees, helping him up when he stumbled and fell.
Sam, himself, realized what a drag he was, and he kept pleading with them:
“You fellers ditch me somehow along the trail. That pack might pass me by, not knowing. You could send back for me if you make the Bay. I’m dragging you under. If you don’t leave go of me, we’ll all sink.”
They refused to throw him to the Chiwaughimis.
Steadily and swiftly the métis whittled down the lead. When Craig had first sighted them they had been seven ridges behind. In an hour they were but five. By ten o’clock, only three.
They evidently saw that Sam was snow-blinded, and guessed that the party had only one rifle, César’s missing gun; for they came whipping over the ridges without pausing to scout out possible ambushes.
One of them, swifter or more daring than the others, had drawn away from the pack and was half a mile out in front. Craig thought at first that this mélis was intending to circle around, head them off and hold them till the others caught up. But the man showed no signs of that. Instead of swinging to one side, he kept straight on the trail. Outstripping the other half-breeds, he drew closer and closer till he was within long rifle range.
Whirling on a hilltop for a glance at this lone pursuer, Craig saw him, only two ridges behind, and recognized him by the bright-colored ceinture fléchée, that he wore. The man was César Chiwaughimi.
“We got to stop and peeck him off, Craig,” Poleon panted, as they hurried down the boulder slope and into the trees. “If we don’, in ten meenit more he’ll be sending lead bumblebees our way. Dev’re crack shooter, all dem Chiwaughimis. Le’s stop down here in dis timber—”
"No, not here. We’ll pick him off, but not here,” Craig answered, leading the way across an icy torrent in the little valley. “We’ve got to make it up this slope and over the top. Then, while you hurry on with Sam, I’ll stop just over the ridgeline and wait for him to come whooping across. He’ll run headlong into my ambush that way. I’ll not only
get him but will make sure of his rifle and cartridges, too.” The hill was steep and toilsome. Fairly pulling Sam along, Craig smashed a way through the buckbrush, reached the belt of scraggly timber, climbed through it to the bare slope above and raced for the rocky crest.
It seemed to him they would never get to the top. He knew' that César must have cut the lead in half. He expected at any moment to hear the breed’s rifle start barking, li only they could make that ridgeline . . . They had come within twenty yards of it, when—kr-ii-ng!
.....a sharp-speaking rifle cracked across the valley. A bullet zzinged over their heads, glanced off a granite rock and sang its ricochet song out through the air. “Get on over the ridge,” Craig yelled at Poleon, who whirled to look at the Chiwaughimi. "Sam, you come on now—faster!”
Kr-ii-ng-ring-ng — the rifle sent a stream of steel-jackets across at them. A bullet hit the stock of Craig’s gun and knocked the weapon out of his hand. He grabbed the rifle up again and guided Sam over a strip of slippery, icehard snow. A second bullet burned through his jacket sleeve and seared along his forearm—a red-hot flash*of pain.
He swung Sam around a boulder that barred their way. Only a dozen feet to the top. Poleon was already
there. Kr-ii-ng-ring! Sam stumbled and fell, tearing loose Craig’s grasp. Craig bent and seized his arm. “Sam ! Scramble up ! It’s only a jump—”
He broke off. Sam did not get up or answer. His arm was limp, his whole body had gone limp. He rolled over, blood trickling from his mouth, and lay still.
In horror Craig gazed down at him and saw that he had been shot through the head and instantly killed.
Poleon came running back to help, thinking Sam had merely been wounded. Craig lifted his eyes from the body of his dead partner, and looked across the valley. A quarter way down the opjjosite slope, César Chiwaughimi was kneeling in a patch of grey snow and clipping a fresh magazine into his gun. He was yelling, a taunting, exultant yell, at having killed one of the three white men.
A vengeful fury swept through Craig. He jerked up his rifle, steadied it against the boulder, took quick aim. At the first shot César Chiwaughimi cut short his yelling, leaped up and sprang down the slotje toward a clump of blackish rocks.
Craig’s second bullet hit him, for he lurched and fell to his knees. He scrambled up, panic-stricken, and scurried on toward the rock shelter.
He did reach it—but not alive. For one of Craig’s vengeance-screaming bullets struck him squarely, knocked him off his feet, spun him around. He fell in a sprawling heap, rolled slowly down the steep slope, and lodged against those blackish boulders where he had thought to find safety.
Across Sam’s body Craig and Poleon looked at each other in a daze ol disbelief. Sam was dead. They could not realize it. Poleon bent and shook him by the arm. “Sam - Sam!” Craig touched Poleon’s shoulder.
“Don’t, Poleon. He’s—gone. You leave him; you hurry on. I’m going to whip across and get that Chiwaughimi’s gun and shells.”
“You can’ do it. Dose utters are too dose.” “I’ve got to. Where are those others?”
“Dey’re coming op dat east slope now. I saw ’em—from on top dis ridge, w’ile you was helping Sam. You can’t ever make it.”
Craig groaned at the evil luck. Except for that one fatal bullet which struck Sam down, they would have got across the ridgeline; he would have waylaid César Chiwaughimi, secured the breed’s rifle and precious cartridges.
Poleon stooped, picked up Craig’s empty shells from the snow, and silently held them in his palm, for Craig to see.
“I—I shot five times!'’ Craig jerked out. “I didn’t know, didn’t realize—”
The rifle slipped from his hands to the ground. He let it lie. It was useless. He had shot all their cartridges.
“It's aw-right, Craig,” Poleon said. “You had to keel de man dat keeled Sam.”
After a few moments the two of them turned away from the body of their dead partner and went on. They had no weapon or defense now, but they were thinking less about their own desperate plight than about Sam, lying back there, stark and lifeless . . .
HPHE CHIWAUGHIMIS finally trapped them, late that afternoon, in a little timbered valley twelve miles from the Bay.
The end came a little after six o’clock that evening, when the sun was still three hours high and the purple mantling dusk, which might have saved them, was four hours away.
With the Chiwaughimis only 700 yards behind and occasionally dropping a splatter of bullets around them, they had plunged down into a little valley, waded breast-deep across its rushing torrent, and started up the slo|>e opposite. Before they were out of the timber, the four Chiwaughimis came over the ridge, and ran part way down the west slope. Glancing back, Craig saw them halt there on the hillside and wait, their rifles ready.
He looked up at the slope ahead of him and Poleon. Steep and bare, it was a suicidal gantlet, with those four deadly rifles less than 350 yards distant. The Chiwaughimis were only hoping that Poleon and he would venture out into the open and try to climb that slope.
The métis on the west slope had moved down to timber edge, down to easy rifle range; and now their guns began barking at him and Poleon. Bullets started singing around them, snipping twigs from the spruces, splaating into the tree boles, zzinging murderously close.
Thirty yards ahead Craig saw a little tangle of buckbrush and boulders. He and Poleon might be able to squeeze down among those rocks and be sheltered. They might force the Chiwaughimis to come near enough that he could fling a dynamite stick at them.
He made a break for the shelter, dragging Poleon along.
A bullet hit Poleon, but the huge fellow merely grunted and plowed on, following Craig like a blinded bull moose. Then a screaming steel-jacket hit Craig. He felt a sudden terrific pain-blow in his right ankle, his leg gave way, and he fell to his knees, at the edge of the tangle. He tried to stand up again, but his leg crumpled. Looking down at his shoepack, he saw that his ankle had been hit and shattered.
Groggy from bullet shock, he crawled on hands and knees into the tangle, wedged Poleon into a secure niche between two rocks, and then untied the dynamite bundle.
The Chiwaughimis stopped shooting, moved down through the timber to the valley bottom and started creeping toward the tangle. In a thicket fifty yards away they stopped and wavered, evidently afraid to come on even though they knew their two enemies were wounded and weaponless.
Eyeing the thicket, Craig debated whether to throw one of the short-fused sticks which ne held ready. The Chiwaughimis were close together; if he could land a stick in that little thicket he might get them all. But the distance was too great; he was too weak to throw that far. If he threw and missed they would be warned that he had dynamite with him. His first try had to be good.
Beside Craig reared up a slender aspen, ten feet high and as thick as his wrist. Moving cautiously in his partial shelter of rocks and brush, he bent the sapling over and slashed off four feet of its top, so that the rest would have a stronger whip. Unable to work while he was holding the sapling with one hand, he tied it down with babische from the dynamite bundle. It arched over like a bow, and the babische cord was tight as a bow string.
He heard Lupe crisping out an order for the three to rush the tangle and end the murderous business of that break-up day.
Y\7TTH HALF A DOZEN spruce twigs
* ’ Craig made a little framework to hold the dynamite on the end of his crude catapult. He laid on it not one stick but five. The catapult would scatter them badly, but at least one of the five sticks should land where he wanted it to go.
Kr-ii-ng!—a bullet came zipping into the tangle. Craig paid no attention. Lighting a match, he held it to the fuses, waited a second; then drew his knife across the taut babische cord.
The sapling snapped up with a swish; the sticks went hurtling out through the air. One of them, the first he had lit, exploded halfway to the thicket, tearing the top out of a squatty balsam. Another flew off to one side, struck a tree bole squarely, knocked off the mercury cap, and fell without exploding. Another went spinning clear over the thicket, thirty yards beyond it. The other two fell into the thicket itself.
Craig waited, a sickening moment, afraid that the caps had been knocked off. But then came a terrific bellowing roar. The explosion tore the thicket to bits, whipped the taller trees with its blast, flung a cloud of snow and water and torn deerbush higher than the tallest pines.
After a while Craig stumbled down toward the shattered thicket. There was no danger now, he knew. Two of the métis had escaped. He had seen them crawling away into the valley and then—when they knew they were out of range of the deadly dynamite—they had broken into wild and headlong flight. Their leader, Lupe, and another métis had been blown to pieces.
When Craig returned, in the ghastly silence of the little drogue, he looked down at Poleon.
“Get up,” he stammered thickly. “Lupe is dead. And another. The others have cleared out. They won’t bother us now. We’re going on in.”
Poleon tried to rise but he fell back, weak and powerless, all the strength gone out of his huge frame.
“I can’t make it,” he moaned. “Dey— got me—twice—in de leg, in de heep. I’m —done op, Craig. I can’ go ’long—no more. We can’ go in togedder. I’m terrible seeck, Craig.”
In a daze of pain and sickness himself, Craig dragged his partner from between the rocks, slashed off some spruce branches, made a rough, comfortable pallet for him.
“I’ll send back for you, Poleon,” he mumbled. “I’m going in to the Bay.”
He took off one of Poleon’s shoepacksand used it to help bind up his own shattered ankle. From his jacket he cut strips of leather and bound the ankle firm and hard so that he could bear a little weight on it. Then he cut a five-foot length from the aspen sapling, as a crutch. Even with its help he could not walk; his ankle was shattered too badly. But he could shuffle along, a slow halting progress, each step a jar of pain.
With a last word to the helpless Poleon, he left the tangle, climbed the east slope of the death valley, and turned his face again toward Resurrection.
He felt an exultation within him, a sense of having mastered fate. Destiny was with him. The destiny of many men rested on his shoulders. That destiny had brought him through this doomed and hopeless day alive, and it would take him on to the Bay.
Darkness caught him five miles from his goal. For a little while afterward he was guided by the beautiful orange afterlight of the sun. But then that faded. He was too far gone to look up at the stars and get his direction from them.
As he stood on a high rocky hill, lost and bewildered in the dark upland, he noticed a bright glow far away across the ridges; and as he watched it he saw a great tongue of flame reaching above the trees, a flame visible for miles and miles in the velvety blackness.
“Flames—fire—human beings,” he reasoned gropingly. “Must be Resurrection —no other place—A fire there at Resurrection ...” He fixed the direction of the bright glow
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in mind, and started toward it, stumbling on and on.
So it was that the flames of Patricia's burning community house guided him through the dark Arctic night to Dynamite Bay.
r7"'HERE’S NO evidence !” stormed Corporal Northrup. striding back and forth the length of Patricia's cabin. “Not a 1 shred. I’m just itching to clap the handcuff's on him but I can’t do it. Warren ordered that kidnapping, he is morally responsible for Sam Honeywell’s death—and I can’t do a thing about it.”
Craig, sitting by the window, looked out at the Resurrection break-up. His shoulder, arm and ankle were bandaged; his face was grey. Poleon, whom the rescue party had brought in three days ago. was already hobbling about on crutches, but Craig was not yet on his feet.
"Warren is a shrewd man,” he said slowly. ‘‘Pie has covered up his tracks all along the line. Lupe is dead and can’t give evidence against him. How about the two Chiwaughimis you threw into the butter-tub? Can’t you get anything out of them?”
“Nothing. Warren was smart enough to make all his dealings with Lupe. The j breeds took their orders.” Craig shrugged.
‘‘After all. I’m not looking for revenge. It wouldn’t serve any good purpose to throw Lovett into the penitentiary. But as it stands now. Corporal, he is the big winner. He is going to get out of this field with everything he came after.”
“Not if I know it.” growled Northrup. “If there was only some evidence to tie him up with that kidnapping—” “He knows you brought the Chiwaughimis in this morning?” “Yes.”
Craig reflected for a moment, a plan forming in his mind.
“Warren is a pretty good poker player,” he remarked, “but I’ve sat in a few times myself. I wonder if I can make him believe I’ve got four aces. Will you go across and ask him to come here. Corporal?” “What’s the idea?”
“I’m glad those two Chiwaughimis got clear of the earthquake sticks. They're my two aces now.”
Warren was obviously nervous when Corporal Northrup brought him the summons to the cabin. He had seen the Chiwaughimis brought in that morning. At the door, Northrup halted.
“Craig is in there alone,” he said. “He’s too considerate, I guess, to want Patricia or me or anybody present when he talks to you. I’ll give you just one piece of advice, Lovett. Talk straight with Craig.”
Warren, his face twitching, went into the cabin.
“How d'you do, Warren. Draw up a chair.”
Warren brought a chair, awkwardly, and sat down.
“Sorry to see you bunged up like this, Tarlton.” he mumbled, not knowing how to take this man who was riddled with bullets and yet spoke in friendly tones.
“Hmmpn ! Compared with what Lupe intended doing to me, this is quite nothing. I’m glad to be alive. But let’s forget what’s past and talk about what lies ahead. I suppose you realize, Warren, that I asked Northrup to let me talk to you as a special favor. He wants to arrest you—”
Warren’s face became glacial, contemptuous. “Arrest me!”
“Why, of course. Didn’t you know he caught the two Chiwaughimis? Lupe must have talked plenty to those fellows. You’re all washed up, Warren, and there is only Stony Mountain penitentiary ahead of you if these charges are laid. If!” He spoke confidently and so rapidly that Warren had no chance to interrupt. “For my own part I
don’t want to see you sent down. For a person of your calibre to he stuck in a pen until he’s an old man it’d be a senseless waste. In this struggle between us there’s been enough violence and suffering already. I’d like to call a halt to it. In your case I’d like to see you completely freed of these charges.”
“Freed—charges—what do you mean?” blurted Warren. “I’m not charged with ! anything. You’re crazy. There’s nothing— ! no evidence—
“Don’t act, Warren.” said Craig wearily. “Of course you know you’re through. If only one Chiwaughimi had escaped his evidence wouldn’t have been worth a hoot and you’d be sitting pretty. But two of them, Warren, two of them on the witness stand corroborating each other - they’ll cook your goose. But the point I’m getting at is this. I don’t want to see you sent to the penitentiary. It’s up to me to lay the charges—I’ve got that much as a concession from Northrup— but perhaps we can come to an agreement.” "Lay your charges!” snapped Warren. “I’ll beat the case. Let the 'breeds talk their heads off. I’ve got enough money and influence—”
“In a Canadian court?” enquired Craig sweetly. “Warren, don't be foolish. If you did fight the case and got an acquittal— which you wouldn’t—do you think for a moment that Wellington would keep you in the firm? Your future is ruined in any case. Do you want all the publicity and notoriety of a trial, with a certain conviction, when I’m offering you freedom?”
Warren’s face was grey. Sweat stood out on his forehead. The notoriety of a trial would finish him, of course. Even if he secured an acquittal—and now he was beginning to doubt that possibility. Craig ; seemed astoundingly confident. And those Chiwaughimis . . .
Slowly, he said : “Are you going to have me arrested?”
“I don’t want to send you to the penitentiary. But you’ll have to do your part, Warren. You’ll have to agree to certain things.”
“I find that between the time Patricia burned the community house and I got in to the Bay, you bought out most of these men. Previous to that—last fall and winter —you also bought up a large number of claims. How much of this field do you own?” “About two-thirds, I’d say.”
“That was my estimate. Now, if you’ll turn back all those claims to their original owners and leave the Arctic, I won’t lay charges.”
WARREN DID NOT answer at once, Now that he knew the terms and saw that Craig nursed no vengeance, his courage came back. He looked past Craig, thinking, poker-faced again. He wanted to manoeuvre, haggle, outwit.
“That’s a pretty one-sided bargain, Tarlton,” he said finally.
“One-sided? Sam Honeywell is dead. Rosalie and Straus and Odron you sacrificed their lives, too. And I sit here all shot up. You, the cause of this whole business, you can walk out of it safe and sound and free. One-sided? You’re right. It’s all on your side. You’re getting all the breaks.” “But you ought to let me keep a part of the field. When I return to Chicago I’ve got to have something to show.”
“You must surrender all the holdings that you acquired from these men,” Craig said firmly. “I’ll allow you just one concession —you can keep the Kessler Hill lode. Phil Kessler was a traitor to us, and I wouldn’t want him to get back that property. That mine will recoup you for the expenses of your Arctic venture and return you a big profit1 besides.”. . . / :
“How about-the radium lake —do I have to surrender that, too?”
“You never bought my radium lake, Warren. You merely think so.”
“W-h-a-t? Didn’t buy it? Why, good Lord, man—”
Craig stopped him.
! “Warren, before Poleon and I came back from our prospecting trip, we staked two lakes, twin lakes. One of them has the pitchblende deposit in it; the other has— water. You own the one with the water. I had two sets of claim papers. The papers I signed for you covered the lake with the water in it.”
Warren rose bodily from his chair as he saw how Craig had trapped him. In all his life he had never been so smashingly outwitted.
“And you—you call yourself honest!” he snarled. “I paid you a quarter-million—”
Craig interrupted sternly;
“I told you, that evening in the Den office, that if you dealt square I’d deal likewise. I warned you explicitly that if you tried any shady tricks you’d come a cropper. It was my purpose, if the deal proved square, to give you those bona fide papers. But you had me kidnapped, you told these men that I’d sold ’em out and absconded, you browbeat Patricia, you intended to sit silent and allow Lupe Chiwaughimi to murder me. In consequence you lost a (ive-million-dollar lode !
"That lake is and remains mine. I intend to use it as the springboard for launching my Dynamite Bay Prospectors’ Syndicate. As for your quarter-million, I’ll refund that to you within the year, and on top of it the biggest interest you ever got.”
Warren sank back in his chair, dumbfounded. Into his eyes came something like admiration.
“Lord, man,” he exclaimed, “if you’d start building up a fortune for yourself instead of wasting your abilities on these wilderness tramps, you’d go places, you’d be somebody !”
“Thanks,” Craig said. “I’m not interested in being a big squee-gee, or piling up dollars, or plundering other men. But let’s get back to taw. Do you take my offer or don’t you? Let’s have a straight-out answer.”
Warren got up and paced the cabin.
“I can’t go to the pen! I’m still a young man.” He stopped in front of Craig. His head slowly bowed. “There’s no choice,” he said wearily. “I’ll do what you say. I’ll turn back the claims. I should have taken your terms last New Year’s. But I gambled to get everything, and I’m getting— nothing.”
AWHILE AFTER Warren had left, the group of prospectors who had buried Sam Honeywell came down to the cabin. They crowded the little place, and some had to stand outside the window. The towering redhead was their spokesman.
“We let you down, Craig,” he said humbly, crumpling his battered hat. “After all you’d done for us during four year, all your help and doctoring and everything— we forgot all that and let you down. While you was a-facing death for our sakes, we was a-listening to Lovett’s lies about you. We was a bunch of dirty bums.”
“You were a bunch of poor rock-hogs that didn’t know which way to turn,” Craig replied. “But I’m glad you did let me down. It’ll stand as a lesson to you. You’ll never let Miss Pat and me down again, I don’t think. In the big things up ahead for us all, Miss Pat and I’ll need your help as much as you’ll need ours.”
Half an hour later Patricia came in. Craig had wondered at her long absence and had wanted her, achingly. She had been beside him, nursing him night and day, since the morning he staggered in to the Bay and fell at the door of the Police building. And in other ways than as his nurse he was leaning iupon her heavily. It took strong capable hands to run this Bay. Only he and Patricia could do it.
In her hand Patricia carried a bouquet of purple saxifrage.
“Craig, they’re blooming everywhere! They’re covering the ridges and the granite slopes; and in the woods they’re actually pushing up through the patches of snpw.”
“They have the rugged spirit of the Arctic, sweet.”
She put the flowers in a birchbark vase, and sat down on the arm of his chair.
“What did Warren say, Craig?”
“He gave in. He’s signing back the claims and returning to Chicago. The field is ours.” Patricia’s hand stole down, clasped Craig’s one good hand, and her fingers twined with his. Their mutual struggle, which had brought them together and built up a partnership and laid the solid unshakable foundation for a life together—that long battle was over at last. They had won.
Their handclasp was their silent, wordless realization that they had won.
Through the window Patricia looked out at the haphazard tents of the prospectors, who were living under canvas again, now that the community house was sodden ashes. Out of those ashes, in the weeks to come, would rise a larger Rock-Hog Den, for now she and Craig could build adequately, build right.
Up the river bank a hundred yards Poleon was sitting on a boulder, plucking at his battered “gee-tar” and singing quietly. Patricia could not hear him, but from his attitude she fancied he was singing some Strong-Woods requiem to his lost partner, Sam.
On the window ledge a tiny blue butterfly alighted daintily, and pulsed its gold-flecked wings in the bright warm sun. It was a miracle of life risen like a resurrection after the white frozen months; and though it was no bigger than Patricia’s thumbnail, it was as true a token of summer’s coming as the mighty battle of ice and water yonder.
TN THE OUTER office of Wellington, JParkes & Lovett the whisper flew about, that July morning:
“Patricia Wellington is here ! She and her husband, this Craig Tarlton!”
Everybody stopped work. Through the glass panels of the corridor everybody stared surreptitiously at Patricia Tarlton and at the tall, rangy man who walked beside her, limping a little in spite of his cane.
In the inner suite Patricia stood at the desk of the telephone secretary, as the high and haughty Patricia had stood there on a July morning one year ago.
“Yes, it’s I, Miss Fisher,” she said smilingly, and proffered her hand—to the girl’s utter astonishment. “We’d like to see my father and then Mr. Lovett, if they’re not too busy.”
“I—I’m sorry,” the bewildered girl stuttered, “but they’re h-having an important business con-conference, and they gave instructions—”
“Yes, I know. They gave instructions that they should on no account be disturbed. But won’t you tell them anyway that we’re here? Please do.”
The girl spoke into the voxiphone.
“Mr. Tarlton and Miss Wellington—I mean Mrs. Tarlton—are waiting to see you, please.”
For several moments the voxiphone was silent, a blank, astounded silence. Then came an explosive oath, a spluttering wrathful explosion in which only a few rude words were distinguishable.
But then, a moment afterward, came the voice of Parkes, cool and even:
“Ask them to come in, Miss Fisher.” Followed by the stares of the four private secretaries, Patricia and Craig walked over to the door and entered the sanctum of Jasper Wellington.
At the rosewood table sat Russell Parkes and old Jasper.
As Craig closed the door behind Patricia and himself, the old financier, refusing to acknowledge Craig’s presence by a word or a nod, opened up on his daughter:
“What the devil are you doing here? Get on back where you came from. Didn’t I write you that I never wanted—”
Craig spoke up, sharp and commanding. “What you want doesn’t cut any iceJ. Your wishes are law to everybody around you, but they’re not law with us. You’ve
trampled roughshod over the rights of other people all your life, but you’re not going to trample on Patricia’s rights now. She came down here to visit her family for a few days, and that’s what she’s going to do! Furthermore she’s going to make visits home whenever and as often as she likes.”
Old Jasper turned apoplectic.
“Why, you—you scoundrel, you upstart . . . Telling me what to do !”
As the storm broke, Russell Parkes watched the violent clash between the two men, listening to Craig’s withering indictment. For the first time in his association with the firm, he saw old Jasper Wellington outmatched, saw the man stop thundering and begin to listen, and finally draw back, frightened, as Craig kept rapping out his figures and names and dates.
“Now, you can take your choice,” Craig wound up his philippic. “I oughtn’t to give you any choice. You don’t deserve any. You’ve wrecked more independent miners, you’ve gutted more operating mine companies, you’ve worked more havoc in the Canadian mining industry than any other man in North America. Where did I get these facts and figures? D’you forget that I was on your own staff for two years, and that I’ve been a geologist and mining engineer for twelve years, with my eyes and ears wide open?
“If you weren’t Patricia’s father and an old man, I’d go straight to Ottawa with what I know about your company’s security manipulations in Canada and your wildcat affiliations and your dummy stock set-ups, and I’d blow you clear out of the Dominion ! I’ve been wanting to do that for years, and now I’ve got the money and the backing. What’s it going to be between you and me —peace or war?”
Wellington glared in venomous silence at Craig, and swallowed hard. Silence, from him, meant that he was beaten and knew it.
To save his face he swung on Parkes.
“You handle this,” he barked. “Do whatever you care to. I don’t want to talk to them or see them.” Fie turned away, strode into Russell Parkes’s office and slammed the door.
Russell Parkes was a suave man and a shrewd man. And he knew the innermost recesses of Jasper Wellington’s soul.
He eyed Craig across the table.
“Warren Lovett,” he said, “is no longer with the firm. I speak for myself when I say that there should be peace. And in a little while”—he gestured toward the closed door of the office—“I’m sure you’ll find that Mr. Wellington is also of my way of thinking.”
“Mr. Parkes,” said Craig presently, “you may not realize it, you may think it ridiculous, but this house is dead. Regardless of its millions and its power, its day is over. It belongs to the dead past. It’s a place of ghosts and shadows, not of living men and women.” He gestured around at the dark, heavy furnishings of the office, at the massive cold stone, the dim cool quiet into which the noise of the city sifted as a faint hollow whisper. “It’s a house of the dead, a sepulchre. For Warren Lovett’s sake, wherever he is now, I’m glad he got out of this.”
Russell Parkes smiled acidly. He said nothing.
AT NINE that evening Patricia came ■ down from the North Shore to the Loop hotel where Craig was staying.
“I hud to see you again, husband, before you left for Winnipeg,” she explained breathlessly in their suite. She was radiantly happy over her visit home, the visit that Craig had hammered out for her. “Next Wednesday—oh, it’s so far away, dearest.” “But you’ll be with Haría and your mother, sweet, and I’ll be busy; and maybe, after this week, we won’t ever have to be separated from each othei. Are you running back out to the North Shore right now?” “No. I—I’d like to stay here with you till you leave.”
They sat in a chair at the window, looking out across the lights of the city and the dim moonlit silver of Lake Michigan, thinking of far-away Resurrection and the challeng-
ing work that awaited them on their return.
“Will we be able to make our Barrens trip this summer, Craig?” Patricia whispered, fondling the black waves of his hair.
He kissed her cheek. “Yes, sweet. We’ve got that coming to us.”
“It’ll be wonderful, Craig! It’ll be like— like God’s Lake again.”
“Better, Treeshia. We won’t quarrel, as we did then.”
From across the hotel court came a radio song. It was too indistinct for Patricia to hear the words, but the lilt of it was like the lilt of another song which she once had heard; and her lips began fitting the words of that other song to the music of this one:
Oh, p’titc Oiselet, in the Strong-Woods,
Y our foot is caught in the snare invisible, The cruel babische . . .
As Patricia listened, her memory whipped back to her first day, last summer, in the prospectors’ camp. To Sam, at his tent. To Bill Fomier, and the drum of gasoline. That day, without her knowing it, destiny had reached out its hand and touched her. It had taken away her old dusty world, her old dissatisfied life, and had given her instead a fresh new life, and Craig, and the peace at heart which she had futilely sought through all her girlhood years.
Gold Mines Salted
THE gold mines on the Rand, South Africa, are being salted but not in the old way, which was to mislead a possible purchaser. Salt prevents the hatching of hookworm eggs and kills the larvae.
Some 200,000 blacks and 20,000 whites had become afflicted with hookworm. The damp, warm soil of the mines was a perfect laboratory for the breeding of this tiny worm. The authorities first tried all the old and much thought of disinfectants, such as ill-smelling coal tar. Then somebody remembered that Dr. W. O. Fischer had rediscovered the fact that salt solution, if not
below twenty per cent, would kill the larvae and the eggs of hookworms. Soon all the corridors, buckets, cages and banisters were scoured with salt solution, and all exposed earth and waste were covered with a layer of salt about an inch thick. This layer in dissolving kills all the larvae and eggs beneath it. Salt also has the advantage of being cheap, odorless and in no way injurious to the health of the workers. Since salt has been used the hookworm count has diminished to a point where the disease is no longer a financial drain on the owners or a physical handicap to the workers.—Science Service.