Diana Breaks Her Arrows
THE newspapers tagged her “Deadly Diana,” and a lot of folks rated her right along with Osa Munson as a big-game huntress. Some said she was even better. Others just figured it was a movie buildup. Anyway, two or three times a year you could open the rotogravure section of your Sunday paper, and there would be a double-page spread devoted to Diana and her exploits.
Big-game pictures. Native guides. Jungle. Diana Trent regarding you with smiling confidence from beside a dead monster. Very trig and pretty indeed in her tailored whipcords and hush jacket; and, of course, the sepia half tones of newsprint couldn’t give you much more than a hint of her copperish hair or the depth of her eyes, which were bluishgrey. It just didn’t seem possible that such fragile fern minify could have conquered a ponderous rhinoceros or a
rogue elephant, but if you were among the doubters who pronounced it fake stuff—one of those things in which the guides did the gunning and she got the glory
you were wrong. Diana was as deadly as advertised.
At the peak of her career she had accounted for such trophies as a black lion in Tanganyika, a mankilling tiger in Burma, a snow leopard in Tibet and a Cape buffalo, to say nothing of winging an archduke, an Italian ount who had been chased out by Mussolini, and George Lauthorne III, who was virtually a sitting shot. Old Rufus Trent, who calleri her “Red,” was fatuously proud of her. Newsreel shots seemed to make a screen test unnecessary. Her future was pleasantly assured.
Too assured. Perhaps Diana herself would have denied that she was unhappy. But it may have been t$iat her slice of this world’s luck was too thick.
That was before the war, however, and it has become more and more evident that something went awry. There are no obvious reasons why the rotogravures are no longer adorned with her close-ups; what caused the eclipse, the black-out?
That spring of ’39 Diana and Rufus had returned from Indo-China, where she had eliminated My Lord of Darkness, a black panther which had acquired a taste for Moi natives.
“Red,” said her father generously, “you pick the next spot. We could make it Tanganyika. Or how about seladangs in Siam? Mind you, we’ve never taken a jaguar in the Mato Grosso,”
In the grizzly-haunted wilds of the Cassiar she learned an old, old lesson . . . that man is the biggest game of all
Her decision had been grizzlies in the Canadian Cassiar. “Because,” she explained, “the guides will be white. I couldn’t stand another hunt with natives.”
Rufus wagged a proud, admonitory finger at her. “No trophies except the four-footed kind, Red! Probably there aresome mighty handsome Mounties up where we’re going!” He chuckled as a proud parent would, but Diana merely smiled like Mona Lisa.
But she was not smiling that night six weeks later as she snuggled herself in the lee of a deckhouse on the Hazel B while the sturdy river craft thrust its flared prow against the moon-washed current of the Stikine.
It was well past midnight, but from aft there still came muffled voices, the click of poker chips. Her father and some mining men going upriver were playing Seven-Toed Pete. Diana had tried to sleep, but the rhythmic throb of the Diesels kept up a monotonous chant which finally drove her out on deck, a denim parka pulled over dressing gown and pyjamas.
Not long before, the Hazel B had stopped at some lonely landing. Diana had heard men’s voices, the whining of dogs. The skipper had said at dinner that they’d keep going all night instead of tying up at sundown, as was customary on account of changing sand bars and drifting trees uprooted by freshets high in the hills. Likewise there was a full moon to aid navigation.
Diana would have appreciated a cigarette, but she’d left her case in the cabin. She thought of returning for it, then changed her mind. Huddled there she became curiously aware of an unusual mood, a detachment rare in her. “Deadly Diana.” Something frightening about it. How did the kind of men who really mattered regard such a woman? Every man carried in his mental locket the picture of a feminine ideal, perhaps; even the chisellers did that. What they really wanted was a mate who would never forget that she was dependent upon masculine strength, that she must turn instinctively to the sanctuary of male arms. Her nose wrinkled at the thought,yet,even as there were ripples on the golden moon patch across the river, there was misgiving in her soul.
But at that moment she smelled smoke. She hunched her shoulders inside the parka. Somebody was smoking a cigarette on the foredeck, and it would be easier to beg one than to go back to her cabin. Easier and more interesting.
There was a dark mass ahead which stirred and broke apart as she made her way past the piles of camping equipment. An enormous dog, black and white and with ghostly rings about his eyes, sat up and growled. A Malemute, Continued on page 36
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Three other dogs likewise came to life, rumbling. Diana, hesitating, heard a man’s voice say, “Down!” The dogs subsided to the deck; the man stood up, and although she couldn’t see his face clearly, his voice was young.
“They’re bluffers,” he assured her. She saw the shape of him then, tall, bulky in outdoor clothes, against the light which lay on the river. Another man squatted on deck among the dogs, smoking a pipe which tainted the air like a burning shoepack. An Indian.
“Thank you!” she told the tall man. “If those dogs are bluffers, they’re good!” There was the right shade of timidity in her manner. Diana had once used an empty rifle to club a wounded leopard about to spring on her terrified gunbearer in Uganda. “May I borrow a cigarette?”
Their fingers touched as she groped for the pack he offered, and his hand was warm and firm. He flicked a
match head on his thumbnail and cupped the flame—and she decided he was nice-looking, as she had known he would be. She knew, too, that he was regarding her frankly, and her cigarette, as she lifted it, seemed unsteady in her hand. But that might be due to the vibration of the boat’s powerful engines. The same vibrations did things to her pulse, too. Diana had felt calmer when she saw the sinister form of her first tiger rise from the grass beside the bait she had been watching. She moved past him a little until he turned and the moonlight limned his features.
“Thank you!” she said graciously. Now she felt better. “You smoke a lot?” This was a negative opening, but it didn’t matter.
He shook his head. “Not while I’m on the trail. Hard on your wind when you’re packing a load.”
“Oh!” she replied understanding^. “Then you’re one of our—you’re a packer?”
“Guide,” he said. “Going to Glacier Lake tomorrow with a party of dudes.
Big game. This is Johnny Much, who ow*ns the dogs. They’re packers too. Handle 40 pounds each.”
After a moment Diana said, “Then it must be the Trent party you’re going to join. I’m—Diana Trent!”
“And I’m Bill Payne.” He didn’t appear impressed. Was it possible that he had never heard of “Deadly Diana”? Somehow it was imperative that she find out.
“Do—do you read the newspapers much up here?” she ventured finally.
He shrugged. “Not often. Usually too far away from towns.”
This was more than promising. “Somehow,” she said tentatively, “you are different from what I expected the usual guide would be. You seem—well, you could be a college man!”
“University of British Columbia,” he answered. Diana took a pull at her cigarette, thinking, This trip could be more than interesting. He’s not badlooking, and he’s intelligent.
Payne turned to the Indian. “Johnny, you want to turn in? We won’t be there until after daylight. I’ll watch the dogs.” The Indian grunted, '^nocked the dottle out of his pipe and walked away. Payne grinned at Diana.
“I could guess,” he said, “that you weren’t enjoying that cut plug he’s smoking. But it sure keeps flies away on the trail.”
The boat turned in a wide, sweeping curve and the moonlight shifted away from his features. Diana sighed, but not sleepily.
“Tell me,” she said, “about yourself.”
He stared at her in silence for a moment, as if surprised. “Why,” he said presently, “there isn’t much to tell. Maybe I’m too serious about the North. Born here. Going to stay here. Got some placer ground. It’s low-grade gold property, but it can be made to pay with modern machinery. Lots of ground like that up here was passed up by the old-timers. Only I’ve got to get a stake together first.”
He regarded her long and slowly. “You wouldn’t be fooling the help? Girls from ‘outside’ aren’t interested in such things.”
“But,” Diana protested, “I’m really sincere. This north country is so strange. And it’s nice to hear you talk about it. Really, I mean that! You believe me, don’t you?”
Bill Payne shrugged. “Why not? And I’m sorry if I sounded suspicious. What shall I talk about?”
“Anything,” she answered. “This is a magic night! That moon on the river. Those sharp mountains on either side. This old, old wilderness!”
He grinned at her tolerantly. “You’re rather strange, Miss Trent. But I like that sort of thing too. Dreams? We all have them, I guess.”
“And what are yours,” she asked, “aside from gathering all that gold, and making yourself enormously rich?” She was so sure of what was going on in his mind. The old pattern of men’s ideas never changed. He was a nice boy, obviously unspoiled by recent newspaper reading. The situation had promise. Diana was sure of it the next moment when he began to speak.
Because he had imagination beyond anything she had ever encountered in a man. He had ideas. There was a lyrical sweep to his words. Diana had the impulse to wag her head in amazement. Such things as this just didn’t happen. You get away back in the wilderness, expecting primitive simplicity, and you find a college man with the soul of a poet. Yet he works for you as a guide. You began to see the wilderness as he saw it, as sharply as mountain peaks against a still winter sky. A far place, lonely yet rich in
contentment. And a cabin by a still lake . . .
Maybe it was the moon on the river which went to Diana’s head that night. Maybe it was just because she had discovered somebody the like of whom she had never known before. She realized later that she walked right into the trap he set for her. Almost breathlessly she found herself asking, “Is that all you see? Somebody built that cabin. Somebody lives there!”
“Of course,” he rgreed quietly. “Somebody lives in that cabin. Two somebodies, in fact.” His voice took on a haunted, mystic quality.
“I see myself,’’ he went on. She felt that she could hardly wait for the rest of it. “The other?”
Well, now, this was it! Yet as he paused, thé big dog near them snarled abruptly, and out of the gloom aft came the voice of Rufus Trent. “Red? Why aren’t you asleep?”
Diana thought an adequate swearword; several of them, in fact. Yet she replied sweetly enough, “Coming, dad!” To Bill Payne she urged, “Finish it! Who is that other person? What does she look like?”
He seemed surprised for a moment. Then he chuckled. “Who said anything about ‘she’?” he demanded. He laughed outright. “I was thinking of that Indian who was here a moment ago. Johnny Muck. We’re going to work my claim together. There never was a ‘she’ in that picture, and likely never will be. Women get in my hair!” He added softly, “Deadly Diana!”
All successful big game hunters have swift reflexes, else they don’t remain big game hunters long. The ability to react promptly had pulled Diana out of many a tight situation. It is no more than simple instinct; you do what you feel you must do, and you do it swiftly.
She slapped him so suddenly that his cigarette went spinning into the river. The impact of that slap was like a muffled shot; or such a sound as might have been heard if the goddess of the chase, likewise named Diana, had broken herarrowsand given up hunting.
THE incident did not become important until two days later when old Rufus Trent himself, who seldom took gun in hand, wounded the grizzly, a tamanawos beast, said the Indians, because it was a dish-faced silvertip with long claws that were like ivory scimitars.
The Trent camp was 20 miles from the Stikine, a spot of luxury in the wilderness, with good beds, good food, good drinks, and even mosquito netting to keep away winged pests that were as fierce and numerous as those found in a tropical jungle. There was a nearby lake,surrounded by snow-capped peaks, and the country was veined by many streams. This was bear country; as wild a land as Diana had ever seen. She told Rufus that she didn’t care if she never saw it again.
“You do the hunting,” she said. “I’m going to hang around camp and catch up on my knitting—if I had any knitting.”
“But what about the pictures?” he demanded reproachfully. “We’ve never had a spread of a grizzly hunt. I was counting on some color stuff.” He knew there was something wrong with her, had been something wrong ever since they left the river. But he also knew that the poorest way to discover the cause was by asking her.
“Count me out,” said Diana firmly. “I’m retiring. Forever!”
This was better. Rufus calmly poured himself a drink, one for her. He’d heard this declaration before. She had quit in Africa. Likewise in Burma. Then when she got back on her feed, she got over it. She’d be all right in a
day or so. Besides, he knew a line of attack that had never yet failed.
“Okay, Red,” he agreed. “That gives me a chance. I don’t get enough gunning as it is, and I never get in a picture. Think I’ll take Payne and both packers. That young Payne seems to know his way around.” He downed his coffee and waited expectantly.
But Diana merely said, “Good hunting!” and prepared to wash her hair. Rufus presently stamped out of the tent.
That was at noon. Four hours later Diana, trying to concentrate on an exceedingly dull but widely publicized book, heard a sharp rap on the tent pole at the entrance. Suddenly apprehensive, she got up quickly. “So!” she said to Bill Payne, standing there. “The poetic guide!” Yet she didn’t like the look on his face; he was flushed as though he’d been hurrying.
“Been a little trouble,” he began. “Now, look ! Don’t blow your top. It’s your father!”
Of a sudden the world seemed to stand still. She felt that she wanted something to lean on. She put out her hand and caught hold of the tent pole. She felt calm after that first moment. Maybe that admonition of his, “Don’t blow your top!” had something to do with it.
“He’s all right,” Payne assured her. “Not really hurt. Murdock and Johnson are helping him in.”
That was better. At that moment she saw them coming, the packers supporting Rufus, who grinned at her cheerfully. There was a bruise on one side of his face, but no other sign of injury. “Hi, Red!” he called. “You should have been there!” She went to him swiftly then, put her cheek against his, cried a little.
“Sure you’re okay, dad?” she asked anxiously.
“Never surer!” he replied. “That grizzly tried to cuff me, but I dodged just in time. Not really hurt a bit, only mad that 1 didn’t kill the brute. All I need is a breather.”
Her alarm was gone. Instead, anger had come—anger against the bear, perhaps; anger at Bill Payne, who seemed to be looking at her with an expression which hid his thoughts. She ran back to the tent, kicked off her camp moccasins, tugged on hunting boots. When she reappeared she carried her bolt-action rifle. She slipper! a clip of cartridges into the magazine.
“Where’s that bear?” she demanded of the two packers.
“Up in that big saskatoon thicket yonder,” Murdock said. “Isn’t hit hard and he’s plenty mean. Mr. Trent was lucky the bear didn’t stop to maul him.”
She turned to Payne. “You know the place?” she asked.
“Sure,” he replied, “but what of it? He’s holed up in the brush, and there’s nothing to do but wait till he comes out. Nobody but an idiot would go in after him.”
“I’m that idiot,” she retorted. “We don’t leave wounded game. You want to come along?”
“Red!” begged old Rufus in alarm. “You must be crazy. Let the bear go until he’s tired of sulking and comes out of the brush!”
“Tut!” said “Deadly Diana.” Her bluish-grey eyes held a glint like that on frosty peaks at dawn. “He cuffed you, didn’t he? He can’t get away with that! Coming?” she asked Payne.
He said nothing but his lips were drawn to a straight line. Murdock had Rufus Trent’s rifle in a leather sling over one shoulder. Payne slipped it off, worked the action to load it. Then he followed Diana. She was glad, yet his willingness didn’t lessen her hatred of him.
They walked side by side in silence. At the edge of the saskatoon thicket they stopped. Payne said, “There’s 40 acres of the stuff, and we don’t know where he’s hiding in it. We have a rule up here never to go into a thicket after a wounded bear. Too many hunters have made that mistake. I’ll admit you’ve got enough courage to go through with it. I’ll admit anything. But don’t forget the rule!”
“This time,” she said distinctly, “we throw away the book.” She went ahead, following a dim trail marked in the brush as though by the passage of a heavy body. The rifle rested easily in her hands. Never had she felt calmer. She had walked into brush after wounded leopards, more treacherous and cunning than any grizzly.
Payne took two steps, caught hold of her arm. “Look!” he begged. “This is plumb foolishness. Four men with guns wouldn’t be enough for this job.”
She shook him off impatiently. “Will you please mind your own business? If you’re scared, go back. I’m going in!” She moved off again, gun ready, eyes scanning the coverts. She walked silently and she didn’t look back, * concentrating entirely on the ground ahead. Maybe he was following her, maybe not. She didn’t care.
Then it happened.
She could see for 20 to 30 feet along the trail before it twisted out of sight. The wounded grizzly was still ahead, maybe moving cautiously away from her. On her right was a ranker, taller growth of bush. It was instinct rather than reason which impelled a brief glance toward the depths beyond the thicket. And at that instant she saw the bear, heard him—and knew that she had been tricked.
He had circled back to watch his own trail, fully aware that he was being followed. The monstrous size of him sent a flicker of fear through her; the soul-chilling fury of his squealing roar seemed to shake the ground. Yet she was extraordinarily cool as she swung up the gun, its foresight held on his dish-faced mask. As he lunged for her she squeezed the trigger.
The snap of the firing pin, the empty click, was like a clang of doom. Recollection moved faster than lightning. Anger had been her undoing, anger toward Payne for that humiliating moment on the river boat. She had filled the magazine, but had forgotten to slide a cartridge into the breech. Diana, to whom handling a gun was as familiar a routine as powdering her nose, had let emotion upset her—and there was no time now to remedy the error.
Her strong, slender fingers sought to do so, but the bear was too close. She saw his rough coat, his ivory claws, the fearful fangs that studded his broad, opened jaws. His rank smell was in her nostrils. She lifted the empty gun in puny defense, but his powerful left paw brushed it aside. Then lightning struck, and thunder boomed in her ears, and for once “Deadly Diana” stepped out of her role and became a terrified woman.
Just ahead of death, she fainted.
THAT happened back in ’39. Just before the end of the war, the U. S. Army took a newspaper party on a sight-seeing trip over the new Alcan Highway, which was opening some of the wildest and least-known country in the North. The party stopped one day at a spot where a road marker said “Skygak Lake.” Looking down from the highway, the reporter saw a homey little cabin of new logs, with blue smoke pluming from its chimney. Tall, snow-capped peaks surrounding the place seemed to look down jealously on a forest of jade-green spruce in which the lake was set like a gem. A flume for
washing out placer gold was built along a creek which poured into the lake.
“Here’s a feature story for you boys,” announced the public relations lieutenant in charge of the party. “Remarkable woman lives in that cabin. Husband was a sergeant in Special Service Force. Kiska to Italy. He was reported missing, but you never could convince her that he wasn’t coming back some day. They’ve got a little boy. How about a feature story based on faith?
“She was a newspaper name,” the lieutenant went on, “once the world’s greatest woman big game hunter. Fellow she married saved her from a wounded grizzly. She quit hunting forever, quit killing wild things, as though she was trying to make amends. She’s made friends with about all the caribou, foxes, even bears in these parts. But there’s another twist to the yam.
“When we pushed the road as far as this lake we found her and her baby already here. How she discovered this place, or why she had come here, I wouldn’t know. Seems like her husband had already gone overseas before she arrived, so at least he didn’t find it for her. Why did she pick it out, a hundred miles from nowhere, before the Alcan Highway reached it? Famous folks j don’t usually bury themselves in the I wilds.”
“How about the husband?” a reporter asked. “He ever come back?”
“Sure,” said the lieutenant. “That’s him down by the flume. Odd kind of life for a couple—but they seem to like it.”