Maclean's Award Novel

the alien

The Time of Grabbing-Hold

W. O. MITCHELL November 15 1953
Maclean's Award Novel

the alien

The Time of Grabbing-Hold

W. O. MITCHELL November 15 1953

the alien

Maclean's Award Novel

The Time of Grabbing-Hold

W. O. MITCHELL

CHAPTER FIVE

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H IS INDIAN grandmother’s blood, which had secretly nagged Carlyle Sinclair all his life, finally drew him, as teacher and agent, to the Paradise Valley Reservation; perhaps it was this heritage, combined with his white man’s energy and purposefulness, that enabled him to do more for the Indians’ welfare than others had accomplished before. Now their crops no longer rotted unreaped in tae fields; the children no longer stayed away from school as a matter of course and a few were now showing great aptitude; blooded stock ousted the scrub cattle. But, strangely,Carlyle found no lasting sense of accomplishment in his role of guardian to the people with whom he had thrown in his lot. Instead there was deep conflict both in his work and in his private life. Even as he prodded the government to do more for the Indians, their own sometimes aimless fatalism infuriated him; even as he

felt fatefully attracted to his demure, slender pupil Victoria Rider, the sight of his own son Hugh taking part in a wild Indian dance with the other children at recess caused him to lose his temper. “That’s not for you — understand!” he shouted harshly. But as he said it, he knew that he himself did not understand what he meant.

CARLYLE’S OLD FRIEND, the Senator, had managed to visit them. Late into the summer nights they talked with the Senator before the fireplace. The old man told Carlyle he had the makings of a good stock man, judging from the improvement he’d managed in the agency herd and lease. He was pleased to know that the Indian cattle had increased to one hundred and fifty head.

“But it isn’t enough, Dan,” Carlyle explained to him. “Figuring on one third each year—fifty head—that income has to be divided among seventy-five families. It’s better than it was—but these people need more land—a lot more.”

The Senator had agreed. He had asked how much the band fund had grown to in the past four yearn, what possibility was there that the Indians might acquire more lease.

“They have fifty thousand in the band fund and that wouldn’t buy them a tenth of what they need.”

“We’ll have to see what we can do,” the Senator said.

“Another thing,” Carlyle went on, “there might be a small hospital here for them on the reserve. Sanders can’t get them to send their children away for treatment—their wives—into the town hospital or to Hanley.”

“Why?” asked the Senator.

“They miss them. They don’t like to be separated from them and unable to see them. It’s hard on the children too. I guess they’re terrified. But if there was a hospital here with a nurse —someone they knew. If they could have visiting hours and see their parents and family daily, it would work. Way it is now, they’re dying—it’s too late by the time they’ll let themselves be committed. None of them recovers after a stay in the hospital and they think the hospital’s a death house. The few who do let their children go in time change their minds and yank them out in a day or so. It would be different if we had our own hospital—just a few beds.”

“How much would . . .”

“Not so much—Sanders and I think the old agency house could be converted—perhaps ten thousand.”

“I’ll see,” said the Senator.

“Fyfe can’t get anywhere with the department. They simply count heads and say it isn’t economical. They prefer to have an arrangement with the town hospital. They say if anyone’s sick enough he can be sent to Hanley hospital.”

“I’ll look around when I get to Ottawa in the fall,” promised the Senator.

But whatever influence the Senator had, Carlyle received no word of a department requisition for ten thousand dollars toward converting the agency house into a hospital. Early the following summer he had a letter from the Senator asking if it would be all right to bring with him a guest for the first two weeks of August. If it were, could arrangements be made for them to use two rooms in the old Sheridan house during their stay.

The Senator’s guest proved to be a Mr. Gillis, head of the Western Power and Hydro Company. A dapper pleasant man, he joined them before the Sinclair fireplace in the cool mountain evenings when the living room winked and blinked with firelight and the bitter fragrance of burning willow stole through the house. During the days, armed with a Stradivarius of a fly rod, he fished with Carlyle and the Senator, using gossamer tapered leader, selecting his flies from a collection of at least a thousand English patterns: wet, dry,

upright and spent, herí - legged, eggsacked; they ranged in size from almost invisibly wisped midges to fan-winged green drakes and licorice - all - sorts bumble bees.

Mr. Gillis was a pleasantly polite man; he wore a silvery tweed jacket, grey flannels; at meals sat opposite

Grace. His hair was quite white, his glasses sil ver-rimmed. The first evening she had her attention drawn to his bronzed hands and the heavy Masonic ring that twinkled in the lamplight. When he stood with an elbow on the mantelpiece, as he seemed to a great deal during the evenings in the living room, his right hand, casual in his pocket, jingled change. It was an eccentricity that struck her as a rightful part of the man. He had a ready smile and was a wonderful listener; she found him altogether engaging.

Near the end of this visit Carlyle had again brought up the problem of getting the Indians out of canvas and into houses.

“Make it worth their while,” suggested Mr. Gillis.

“Worth their while?” Carlyle looked puzzled.

For a moment Gillis did not answer him; his face was mildly amused as though he were enjoying the bafflement of the others. Finally he lowered his elbow from the fireplace mantel, turned to face them. “Whether you like to think it or not, there’s only one sure

way to get men to do things—Indians included—pay them. There’s no substitute for . . .”

“How the hell can we pay them —what are you driving at?” Gillis’ soft knowing amusement had annoyed Carlyle more than he realized.

“If you want them to build houses —supply them with materials—logs —there’s plenty of good spruce here.”

“They still won’t build houses,” said Carlyle.

“I didn’t imagine they would — but . . .” Gillis paused again . . . “couldn’t you work out an arrangement under which they would get paid for building the houses?”

“For building their own houses!” Grace’s voice was high with disbelief.

Gillis nodded. “Out of their own band funds. I take it there are band funds. The money belongs to them. Say a man put in his foundation with cement supplied by the department —bought of course from their band funds—work it so that when he had completed his foundation he’d be paid a certain amount of cash out of the hand funds to which he is entitled sooner or later. Then when he has

raised his studding and framework —shingled his roof perhaps—pay him another fixed amount for that work —when he finishes the interior—doors —windows the full amount.” Gillis’ head was turned slightly aside as though he were listening to himself, assessing the practicability of his own outlined plan. “I think you’d find that the houses would be built.” He was smiling again. “Make it worth their while. Pay them. You’d find they wouldwork on their houses on that basis probably before they’d go to work for the ranchers.”

Carlyle found himself staring at the Senator, who returned the look with one equally thoughtful, “it might,” said Carlyle. “It might work.”

“It would.” Gillis was quietly convinced; the assurance of his tone allowed not the slightest margin for doubt; he had just taken them through an elementary theorem from the given and axiomatic self-interest of all men —white or red—to the desired construction of frame buildings on the Paradise Valley Reserve.

It was not till the end of Gillis’ two-week stay at Paradise that the

Senator took Carlyle into his confidence. The last day as the two sat by the edge of the river at dusk just before they returned home, the old man explained to Carlyle how he hoped that Mr. Gillis and the power company might help them in their work with the Indians. Western Power and Hydro held the lease on the land that stretched east of the reserve; the Senator had heard in Ottawa the firm was anxious to increase its power reserves and had made preliminary enquiries into the possibilities of creating a reservoir by damming the river. There could be only one place for such a reservoir and it was not on their land east of the reserve; the western end of the valley, where it narrowed to sheer eutbanks on either side of the stream, was the ideal location for the project they had in mind.

“It looks as though we have something they want,” the Senator summed it up, “and they have something we want.”

Carlyle felt a quick tight thrill of excitement. “Then Mr. Gillis . . .”

“I like Gillis,” said the Senator. “1 didn’t bring him up here simply to soften him up—not that —that crudely. This thing isn’t going to come to a head for a few years yet, but it’s in the company’s long-term plans. I know that. So—1 don’t see why we shouldn’t have some long-term plans too. I don’t think we’re going to have to worry too much about extending the reserve or getting a hospital built. It’s a trading deal when it finally comes and I think we’re going to find ourselves the horse gypsies with the most to offer and Western Power and Hydro on the anxious end of the trade. From where T stand I can fault their beast but not ours. Not ours, Carlyle.”

rOOKING back on the August visit JL of the Senator and Mr. Gillis, Carlyle often thought that only the Senator’s confidence and assurance in the future of the Paradise Reserve had carried him through the disappointing and trying period that followed. Hard early frosts had lowered over the valley, blackening the gardens of his people who had come to rely on them; game and work with the ranchers had been scarce. The stores in the town, and the Trading Post, withdrew credit from even the most dependable Indians.

One evening shortly after school had opened Susan Rider visited Grace, sat for several hours in the kitchen with head bowed, unceasingly running a finger tip along the white edge of the oilcloth, speaking with low-voiced hesitation, pausing so long between sentences that Grace often thought she had come to the end of what she wished to say.

She accepted the tea Grace brewed for them finally, drank it but did not touch the bread and butter on her plate. As she got up to go, Grace saw that she held the slices in her hand. “Susan what . . .”

“I’m not so hungry,” Susan said, glancing down at the bread. “Thought I’d take it for the children.”

“Oh just a moment.” She turned away, came back with oranges. “Here Susan — how are you people — has Izaiah been getting any work?”

Susan shook her head.

“Are you all right—what have you . . .”

“I put the calf money into oatmeal. They got porridge. Victoria hasn’t missed a day at school.”

“Is that all you’ve had—porridge!” “Hey-uh. We’ll get through. Now.” When Susan had left, Grace spoke to Carlyle. “They’re having a bad time of it, Car.”

“All of them are.”

“Rut what can we . . .” ‘Tyfe’s promised elk his next visit. The department thinks they might be able to extend the rations to those who need it.”

“Couldn’t they hurry it up a little!

If Susan’s family is—are managing on porridge—I hate to think what the others are getting by on!”

“I’m doing everything I . . .”

“When does the meat . . .”

“His next visit. He’s bringing the truck.”

“And when is he coming—a month?

A couple of weeks?”

“He’s making a special trip—Thursday I think. Sanders is coming with him.”

“He’ll be needed,” Grace said grimly.

But there had been a hitch in the department machinery; the elk meat did not come with Fyfe; the only comfort he could give them was that his recommendation had gone through to Ottawa and he hoped soon to have permission to extend to the needy families. It was plain that the man ‘'was disturbed as he made the announcement to the gathered Indians; iiis eyes were seriously sympathetic as lie watched them turn silently away.

Dr. Sanders, who had come down with him, found many of the older people in their blankets. “They skate so damned close to the edge anyway!” he said to Carlyle. “The ice is going to break through for some of them this time! I wouldn’t give odds on Old John . . . he’s been getting by on bannock and kinnikinnick for three weeks.”

“We can send over . . .”

“It’s all right.” Sanders waved a hand. “Mark—I gave Mark ten dollars—lie’s getting the old man some stuff.”

Nightly now they heard the drum, wondered how any one of them had the energy to go through the Prairie Chicken dance; the drum seemed the answer to all things whether of jubilance or disaster.

By Carlyle’s side Grace listened to the throbbing beat out on the hills. If there were anything they could do! They couldn’t help all of them out of their own supplies! Dear God, if they were rich beyond all—if they had all the money there was to feed them with! And suddenly she hated Ottawa—hated the slowing and insensitive and unknowing routine—the impersonal red tape that had to formalize hunger and sickness and death. God—how she

hated them—it!

But the tide of hunger had turned for the Paradise Valley band; the flights of northern geese and ducks had come; game appeared with the generosity of manna in the wilderness; the department elk came finally to them. Belts were loosed again; the drum bumped the foothills night in celebration of full stomachs and in sorrow for the handful of older ones who had not made it through the famine period.

JUST before Christmas that year Dr. Sanders on one of his visits to the agency confirmed Grace’s hope that she was pregnant; it was high time that Hugh had a brother or a sister. But during spring breakup the mails were disrupted by floods and when their accumulated letters came to them, one from Grace’s mother in Victoria told of her father’s death almost a week before.

Grace and Carlyle’s decision had been made that evening. She would leave for Victoria in the morning, stay with her mother, and have the baby on the island. Just before Carlyle left the house to tell MacLean he must hitch up and take Grace into town in time to catch the noon train for the west, they decided that Hugh would go with her.

Spring came soon after Grace’s departure; the last snow melted from the shallow valley in a matter of days; Toots Powderface went through the thinning ice, was fished out by Mark Baseball and Moses Lefthand and Melvin Doucette. He steamed before the school stove for most of the afternoon, was comparatively dry by the going-home time of three-thirty. As usual some of the older people did not make it through the seasonal change, releasing their slipping grasp on life just as the chinooks were promising days of warmth and arcing blue

sky. Old John was not one of these; his knee bothered him, but he had his remedy for that: a fire roaring from

morning until night, its furnace heat striking right into the heart of the bone. Orville Ear’s mother died, as Sanders had predicted she would over a year ago if she were not sent to the sanitarium. He came back from their tent to make out his death certificate, shaking his head bitterly.

“It’s murder,” he told Carlyle. “Before fall the whole damn family will be wiped out—after they’ve infected a good lot of the rest.”

“We’ve done everything we can.”

“I tried everything short of a court order with Ear after the X-ray showed what it did last spring. You know what he claims now?”

“No.”

“X-ray killed her.”

“He can’t . . .”

“I suppose he’s told everybody. Try to get any of them to submit now. Not much point in bringing in the unit this summer, never was. Elsie and Mary and those two other girls—they’re just about where the mother was last summer. They’ll go—they’ll go.” Sanders dropped his pen, sat for a moment with his elbows on the kitchen table—tips of his fingers at his temples. “When are we going to get our bloody hospital here! I thought you were . . .”

“I’ve told you—in time—the Senator . . .”

“Time—time—there’s five—six—if we’d had the hospital here—got Mrs. Ear in and the girls—we might not have saved them but we’d have got the thing under control. How do you like being alone?” he asked suddenly with one of his lightning changes of conversation.

“All right,” said Carlyle automatically, then with a note of surprise as he realized that what he had just said was perfectly true. “All right.”

“I supposed you would.” Sanders’ cold blue eyes were on Carlyle steadily. “Did you? Why?”

“Oh—I’ve often wondered how you came to be married at all—you didn’t—don’t strike me as the sort of . . .”

“For God’s sakes stick to one topic for a moment! Why did you suppose I . . .”

“It’s what I’m telling you-—I never think of you as a particularly social creature—family man.”

“Well—I am.”

“Yes. Sorry to hear about Grace’s father.” He paused and Carlyle had nothing he could say to that. “Let me know when you and the Senator have something definite on the hospital.”

“1 will.”

“Grace gone long?”

“Till a month or so after the baby’s born—July.”

“You going out for her?”

“No. Can’t afford it —with her going out and the baby . . .” Why the hell was he telling this man the economic intimacies of their married life! “No —I’m not.”

“She won’t have too hard a time with this one.” Sanders had stood up. “See you in a few weeks—fishing.” He bent over his bag. “I wonder why the hell I look forward to opening—it’s a good month before they’re taking a fly and

I hate messing around with bait.” He straightened up again. “How’s that Rider girl —Victoria?”

“Fine.”

“How old is she now?”

“Fifteen —nearly sixteen.”

Sanders’ brows raised. “Any plans for her—aside from getting grabbed off?”

“My God, Sanders, do you take that attitude toward everything?” “Sixteen —she’s pretty—I passed her on my way to liars’—she’s been ready for it almost a year now—I’ve examined them at twelve -eleven . .

“She’s not -her mother will take care of that. Susan has hopes for her. She’ll get her Grade Nine this spring —I hope to get her through Ten—then residential school.”

“What’s she going to do—teach?” “Nurse, I think.” He gave Sanders a look that could have been the doctor’s own in its steady and noncommittal frankness. “Perhaps she may be matron of your new hospital.”

Sanders grinned. “Maybe, Car. God, I hope so! You do that and . . .” “Victoria will do it.”

“Yes - but it will be different fror., this other stuff—including the hospital. She’ll be doing it— not havin:. it done for her. It’ll be something. You’re my kind of dish, Sinclair —you a-social, inhibited, Indian bastard! Have the department send Izaiah Rider a good vicious dog to tie up near the tent door this spring and summer!”

There had of course been the usual number of grabbings-hold-of. Carlyle had worried for Victoria on that score the previous summer, had not thought of it this year until Sanders brought it up. Somehow winter was not the time for rape; spring was. He wasn’t too sure that he understood the phenomenon too well, had never been able to estimate the degree of submission or invitation on the part of the girl at all. Victoria, as far as he knew, had not shown interest in any of the boys or younger men. Of course, he had no way of knowing actually. Perhaps he’d e tt er speak to Izaiah—or better—to Susan. Hell no—she knew; he would be telling her nothing; his warning would have no point beyond his own and her embarrassment. Now if it were Lucille Bear, there was a natural candidate. But Victoria was not Lucille.

IT WAS Lucille’s spring; a large girl of fifteen, she had shown unusual interest in the boys at school, sending them notes, pushing and tussling with them at reces« and on the way home after school. For two weeks Raymond Blaspheme had been loitering at the edge of the school clearing every day. Ezra Shot-Close spoke to Mr. Dingle and to Carlyle about him. He cautioned Mrs. Bear, who in turn had spoken to her husband, Sam. There the matter came to rest; Sam had two interests in life, both of them horses: a black gelding half-thoroughbred and a sorrel mare with silver mane and tail, sired four years before by Mrs. Sheridan’s stallion, Golden Pride, out of a quarter-horse mare, which had taken every stake race in the country. All other matters paled before those contingent to these two horses; it was difficult for Sam Bear to take seriously any threat to the virginity (which lie considered highly trivial and questionable) of any one of his daughters. The threat foreseen by Ezra and Dingle and Mrs. Bear bore fruit on a lovely morning the first week in May.

That morning Mrs Bear as usual was the first of the family to stir; she left the dim interior of the tent to build the fire, carried up water from the river, set the tea kettle on to boil, returned to the tent to rouse Lucille. She found little Eunice sitting up sleepy-eyed in the blankets she shared with her older sister. Matthew at the far end of the tent was pulling on his moccasins. He went outside wordlessly. Mrs. Bear walked over to the other side where Sam lay. She nudged him with her toe. “She’s gone.”

Sam rolled over to his back, slid his hands under his head with elbows out, looked up blinking.

“Lucille’s gone with him,” said Mrs. Bear, “just like we said.”

Sam hawked in his throat.

“She’s gone. Now she won’t get to school this morning.”

Sam felt for his jacket under his head. He went to the tent flap in his stocking feet, called to Matthew squatted before the fire. “You know this happened?”

“What?” Matthew blew on the steaming tea he held up to his mouth. “Raymond and Lucille.”

“Sure.” Matthew sucked in a scalding mouthful.

“You taking them grub—you know where they went to?”

“No.”

“All right.”

Sam let the flap fall, turned back, looked hesitantly at his wife, now dressing Eunice. After an uncertain moment he went to his blankets, lay down.

“Aren’t you going after them?”

Sam locked his fingers behind his head.

“Aren’t you going after them at all?” Motionless he stared up at the ridge pole.

“You got to go after them,” said Mrs. Bear.

“She’s fifteen,” Sam said.

“She’s got to go to school. She’s smart there. You got to go after them.

1 need her round here.”

“She’s fifteen,” Sam said again. “I guess she wanted him.”

“He took her,” Mrs. Bear said. “He’ll rope her to a tree and he’ll starve her.”

“Not these days,” said Sam. “They don’t do that.” He lay quite relaxed in his blankets, his eyes straight up, unconcerned for his wife’s intent gaze directed on him. “She’s fifteen.” He rolled over.

“Everybody knows now,” said Mrs. Bear bitterly; she tugged impatiently at the belt of Eunice’s dress. “Roll out of there. You and Matthew go after her. Go get her!”

Sam shifted his left hip to greater comfort.

“Go get her!”

“She wanted him.” Sam said it J mildly to the tent wall. “She’s fifteen.” “Matthew could trail them!”

Sam closed his eyes.

“You got to go get her! She’s got to go to school some more! You got to go get her!”

“Shut up.”

“You and Matthew saddle up now and go get her!”

“Shut up.”

“Go after her!”

Sam rolled over to his back again. He stared up at his distraught wife. “Hand me that tin fine cut.”

“Get it yourself. Then go get Lucille!” She slipped Eunice’s knotted kerchief under her chin, adjusted the peak. “To the school now winyatia. Don’t be late. If you don’t eat it—bring home the cookie for Lazarus.” When Eunice had left the tent, she turned back to Sam, helpless disgust on her face. “You can’t lie there like that! Go get them!”

“Hand me that tin fine cut, I said.” “I said get it yourself! Get her! You want me to hand you that fine cut! You want me to get her too!”

“I haven’t eat yet. Get me grub.” “You get your own grub! Get your own fine cut! Be what you are! Old woman! I’ll go get her! I am the man!” Brightness fillet^ the tent, was blotted as Matthew entered.

“Matthew!” His mother turned to him. “You got to trail them!”

“Hand me that tin fine cut, Matthew.”

Matthew handed his father the tin of tobacco.

“I married a woman!” shrilled Mrs. Bear. “I married an ugly woman! Now, Matthew,” she turned on him, “you get her! You trail them ! You!” “Raymond took his rifle,” explained Matthew.

“I don’t care!”

“I do. Me. He can shoot.”

“She’s your sister! Lucille! You can’t let him do that to her! MacLean wouldn’t! Mark wouldn’t! Moses wouldn’t let him . . .”

“Shut up,” said Sam.

“No I won’t! I say what I like!

I say it! I say anything 1 want! You don’t tell me!” She spat at Sam. “Any man go get her—but you—look at you —look at you there—Matthew you go now—right now! Before it is too late!” “Too late now,” said Sam. He wiped the spit from his forehead.

“Raymond’s got his gun,” said Matthew.

“She’s your sister . . .”

“Shut up,” said Sam. It was muffled this time as he licked the cigarette he had rolled.

“Women—women!” wailed Mrs. Bear. “Old woman—young woman '—all I got women out of me! Matthew you think you're fine in the Chicken dance—oh, you’re brave in the Chicken dance—scared of Raymond’s gun — took your sister and tied her and ‘ starved her!”

The flap lifted without warning. All turned. Ezra stood in the opening. Mrs. Bear went to him. “Raymond Blaspheme — Lucille — he took her •—grabbed hold . . .”

“I know,” said Ezra. “What you going to do now, Sam?”

“He won’t do anything,” said Mrs. Bear. “I married a woman.”

“You aren’t married,” Ezra contradicted her. “Blanket marriage only. God punished you now. Blanket marriage for Lucille too. Sins of the fathers and mothers.” He turned to Sam. “ There aren’t going to be any more of these. You get up.”

Sam rose reluctantly.

“You go bring them back.”

“She’s fifteen,” said Sam.

“I know how old she is,” said Ezra. “I baptized her. Rolling in the kinnikinnick with Raymond’s sure going to unbaptize her. You bring them back, then I’ll marry them proper. Marry you people too. Double wedding. I been after you people twenty years now and maybe you’ll do what T say . . . God be praised, everybody in this band get married.”

“Maybe she doesn’t want to come back,” said Sam.

“They come back he’s not marrying her,” said Mrs. Bear. “1 don’t want any Blood son-in-law like Raymond.” “You take what you got,” said Ezra. “They’re going to get married whether you like it or not. Eyes of God they are married. Got to make it right quick. These blanket marriages got to quit!”

Sam sat down, legs crossed.

“Sam!” Ezra’s voice filled the tent. Sam lifted his eyes.

“You going?”

“No.” Sam lowered his eyes.

“I told you,” warned Ezra.

“I heard you. I’m not going. She’s fifteen. She’s old enough. He wants her. She wants him. All right.” He lay back again in his blankets. “I’m not going.”

“God will punish you.”

“Hey-uh,” agreed Sam. “Sometime maybe He will.”

“His punishment will be terrible and swift.”

“I’ll take the chance,” said Sam. “He’s got to get to Raymond and Lucille first. Then I come next.” “He will. He will!”

“Hey-uh.”

Silence filled the tent.

“All right,” said Ezra with finality. “I’m going to report this to Mr. Fyfe. In my report I’ll write you wouldn’t do anything at all. I’m going to tell Mr. Sinclair.”

“Hey - uh — hey - uh.” Sam’s voice sounded a little tired. He pursed his lips and whistled a silent jet of smoke.

Ezra turned to Matthew. “All right —you better start after them.”

“Raymond’s got his gun,” protested Matthew.

“Chicken dancer,” cried Mrs. Bear. “Hah—chicken gut! You tell on them! Tell Fyfe—tell Sinclair—tell Ottawa too! Get the Mounties!”

“Have to get the Mounties anyway,” said Ezra. “Need Mounties to recover stolen property.”

“We won’t bother Mounties,” said Sam firmly. “No sense to that. He didn’t steal property. What he took isn’t property.”

“Isn’t it?” said Ezra.

“Just your daughter,” said Mrs. Bear. “Just Lucille.”

“I wasn’t talking about Lucille,” said Ezra. “I was talking about the horses . . .”

“What horses?” Sam sat up.

“He took —horses he took with them Herbert Tailfeather saw them going —Raymond will travel fast on that hot blood gelding and your other . . .” “He didn’t take the horses too!” Sam had leaped to his feet. “He didn’t steal the horses . . .”

“He took them,” said Ezra. There was a note of satisfaction in his voice now.

“Matthew . . .”

“Raymond’s got his gun . . .”

Sam’s hand swept out and knocked Matthew sprawling. “Shut up that gun—go get saddled. Get—go get

Judy’s gun!” He turned on Mrs. Bear. “What you standing there for! Get the blanket roll! Put in some grub! Hurry!” He turned to Ezra. “You tell Sinclair what he did. Tell him he stole my horses! Report to Fyfe —-Ottawa!” He turned back to his wife. “You go up—get Sinclair to get the Mounties out! Quick!”

“Tell them about Lucille?” Mrs. Bear seemed slightly stunned.

“Lucille—hell no—the horses . . .” “God’s punishment is terrible and swift.”

“Look . . .” Sam seemed to gather himself together . . . “Forget that now! God’s no horse thief! I’m not trailing God! But if it was Him took those two horses and He went a thousand miles and He left no tracks I’d trail Him too! This time Raymond! Anci I get my horses back or else Lucille’s a widow!”

He dived from the tent on a full run. One moment later his head poked hack into the tent. “Blanket widow!”

WITH a reluctant Matthew, Sam trailed Raymond and Lucille, caught up with them the fifth day. For three of the days Raymond had known they were being trailed; he looked up from the campfire without surprise as Lucille’s father came into the clearing.

“Matthew’s got you covered,” Sam warned him.

“Hey-uh,” said Sam’s new son-inlaw. “Lucille too. She’s got you covered.”

Then Sam saw the glint of the morning sun along the rifle barrel protruding from the saskatoon bush at the far side of the clearing.

“I want my horses,” said Sam. “I’m going to get them back.”

“What about Lucille?”

“Just the horses,” said Sam.

Raymond nodded his head slowly. He poked at the fire with a stick.

“And getting churched,” added Sam as he sensed compliance in Raymond and an opportunity to make things more pleasant for himself at home with Ezra Shot-Close.

“I’ll deal,” said Raymond. He turned his head and called. Lucille, still with the safety off the rifle, came out of the saskatoon bushes.

Lucille moved in with Raymond; they did not get around to the wedding Ezra wanted; their procrastination was strengthened by Mrs. Bear’s refusal to accept Raymond. Sam displayed little interest in the matter; he had his horses back.

But the Raymond-Lucille affair had unsettled Carlyle more than he cared to admit. There was too much at stake in Victoria Rider. Nothing must happen to her before she had finished her j education with him, before she should j leave Paradise Valley, before she should return to help him lift the primitive load of her own people and the people who carried in their veins the same j blood he had inherited from his mother, j It was as though a dagger were trained upon her heart; he must never let it strike home! Never!