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Title: The Promise - A Tale of the Great Northwest
Author: Hendryx, James B. (James Beardsley), 1880-1963
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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THE PROMISE

A Tale of the Great Northwest



By

JAMES B. HENDRYX



A. L. BURT COMPANY
Publishers    New York

Published by Arrangements with G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS

COPYRIGHT, 1915
BY
JAMES B. HENDRYX

Seventh Impression



BY JAMES B. HENDRYX

The Promise
The Gun Brand
Connie Morgan in Alaska
Connie Morgan with the Northwest Mounted



This edition is issued under arrangement with the publishers
G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS, NEW YORK AND LONDON

The Knickerbocker Press, New York



CONTENTS


CHAPTER                                                   PAGE

      I.--THE PACE                                           1

     II.--"BROADWAY BILL"                                    8

    III.--THE FINAL KICK                                    17

     IV.--LOVE OR HATE                                      26

      V.--"THIEF!"                                          34

     VI.--THE CROOKED GAME                                  39

    VII.--THE WRECK                                         47

   VIII.--NEW FRIENDS                                       53

     IX.--BILL GETS A JOB                                   59

      X.--NORTHWARD, HO!                                    65

     XI.--BILL HITS THE TRAIL                               72

    XII.--THE TEST                                          83

   XIII.--ON THE TOTE-ROAD                                  90

    XIV.--AT BAY                                            99

     XV.--THE WERWOLF                                      106

    XVI.--MONCROSSEN                                       116

   XVII.--A TWO-FISTED MAN                                 125

  XVIII.--"BIRD'S-EYE" AND PHILOSOPHY                      133

    XIX.--A FRAME-UP                                       138

     XX.--A FIRE IN THE NIGHT                              147

    XXI.--DADDY DUNNIGAN                                   161

   XXII.--CREED SEES A GHOST                               169

  XXIII.--HEAD-LINES                                       178

   XXIV.--THE LOG JAM                                      187

    XXV.--"THE-MAN-WHO-CANNOT-DIE"                         196

   XXVI.--MAN OR TOY MAN?                                  209

  XXVII.--JEANNE                                           217

 XXVIII.--A PROPHECY                                       222

   XXIX.--A BUCKSKIN HUNTING-SHIRT                         230

    XXX.--CREED                                            235

   XXXI.--THE ROBE OF DIABLESSE                            246

  XXXII.--THE ONE GOOD WHITE MAN                           253

 XXXIII.--THE PROMISE                                      259

  XXXIV.--THE NEW BOSS                                     263

   XXXV.--A HUNTING PARTY                                  274

  XXXVI.--TOLD ON THE TRAIL                                282

 XXXVII.--IN THE OFFICE                                    287

XXXVIII.--CHARLIE FINDS A FRIEND                           296

  XXXIX.--BILL'S WAY                                       306

     XL.--CHARLIE GOES HUNTING                             314

    XLI.--THE BLIZZARD                                     319

   XLII.--BUCKING THE STORM                                326

  XLIII.--IN CAMP AGAIN                                    338

   XLIV.--THE MISSING BONDS                                347

    XLV.--SNOW-BOUND                                       358

   XLVI.--AN ANNOUNCEMENT                                  366

  XLVII.--MONCROSSEN PAYS A VISIT                          374

 XLVIII.--THE WEDDING                                      382

   XLIX.--ON THE RIVER                                     391

      L.--FACE TO FACE                                     399

     LI.--THE PROMISE FULFILLED                            406

    LII.--THE BIG MAN                                      415



THE PROMISE



CHAPTER I

THE PACE


Young Carmody awoke to the realization of another day.

The sun of mid-forenoon cast a golden rhombus on the thick carpet, and
through the open windows the autumnal air, stirred by just the
suspicion of a breeze, was wafted deliciously cool against his burning
cheeks and throbbing temples.

He gazed about the familiar confines of the room in puffy-eyed
stupidity.

There was a burning thirst at his throat, and he moistened his dry lips
with a bitter-coated tongue. His mouth was lined with a brown slime of
dead liquor, which nauseated him and sent the dull ache to his head in
great throbbing waves.

Upon a beautifully done mahogany table near the door stood a silver
pitcher filled to the brim with clear, cold ice-water. It seemed miles
away, and, despite the horrible thirst that gnawed at his throat, he
lay for many minutes in dull contemplation of its burnished coolness.

The sodden condition of his imagination distorted his sense of
proportion. The journey across the room loomed large in the scheme of
things. It was a move of moment, to be undertaken not lightly, but
after due and proper deliberation.

He threw off the covers and placed a tentative foot upon the floor.

A groan escaped him as his right hand brushed the counterpane. Gingerly
he brought the member within range of his vision--it was swollen to the
wrist and smeared with dried blood, which had oozed from an ugly split
in the tight-drawn skin. Slowly he worked the fingers and frowned--more
in perplexity than distress--at the sharp pain of the stiffened
knuckles.

He crossed to the table and, springing the silver catch of a tiny door,
cunningly empaneled in the wall, selected from the cellaret a
long-necked, cut-glass decanter, from which he poured a liberal drink.
The sight of it sickened him, and for an instant he stood contemplating
the little beads that rushed upward and ranged themselves in a
sparkling semicircle along the curve of the liquor-line.

"The hair of the dog is good for the bite," he muttered, and with an
effort closed his eyes and conveyed the stuff jerkily to his lips. Part
of the contents spilled over his fingers and splashed upon the polished
table-top. As the diffused odor reached his nostrils a wave of nausea
swept over him. With a shudder he drained the glass at a gulp and
groped blindly for the water-pitcher, from which he greedily swallowed
great quantities of ice-water.

He paused before a tall pier-glass and surveyed himself through
bloodshot eyes. The telephone upon the opposite wall emitted a
peremptory ring. Young Carmody turned with a frown of annoyance. He
ignored the summons and carefully scrutinized his damaged hand.

His brain was rapidly clearing and, from out the tangled maze of
dancing girls, popping corks, and hilarious, dress-suited men, loomed
large the picture of a policeman. Just how it all happened he could not
recollect. He must see the boys and get the straight of it.

His mirrored image grinned at the recollection of the officer, the
quick, hard-struck blow, and the hysterical screams and laughter of the
girls as they were seized in the strong arms of their companions,
rushed across the sidewalk, and swung bodily into the waiting taxis.

_B-r-r-r-r-r. B-r-r-r-r-r-r. B-r-r-r-r-r!_ Again the telephone bell cut
short his musing. There was a compelling insistency in the sound and,
with a muttered imprecation, he jerked the receiver from the hook.

"Well?" he growled. "Yes, this is William Carmody. Oh, hello, governor!
I will be right down. I overslept this morning. Stay where I am! Why?
All right, I'll wait."

"Now what?" he murmured. "The old gentleman seems peeved."

After a cold bath and a vigorous rub he began leisurely to dress. His
eyes cleared and he noted with satisfaction that aside from a slight
pouchiness, and the faint mottling of red that blotched his cheeks, all
traces of the previous night's orgy had disappeared. True his hand
pained him, but he had neatly mended the split with plaster and the
swelling had, in a great measure, yielded to the cold water.

"Getting fat," he grunted, as he noticed the increasing heaviness at
his girth. "Fat and soft," he added, as a huge muscle yielded under the
grip of his strong fingers.

In college this man had pulled the stroke oar of his crew, and on the
gridiron had become a half-back of national renown. By the end of his
second year no amateur could be found who would willingly face him with
the gloves, and upon several occasions, under a carefully guarded
sobriquet, he had given a good account of himself against some of the
foremost professionals of the squared circle. He was a man of mighty
muscles, of red blood, and of iron, to whom the strain and sweat of
physical encounter were the breath of life.

He wondered as he carefully selected a tie, at the strange request he
had received at the telephone. He glanced at the French clock on the
mantel. His father, he knew, had been at his desk these two hours.

They had little in common--these two. After the death of his young
wife, years before, Hiram Carmody had surrounded himself with a barrier
of imperturbability beyond which even his son never ventured. Cold and
unyielding, men called him--a twentieth century automaton of big
business. Rarely, outside of banking hours, did the two meet. Never but
once did they hold extended conversation. It was upon the occasion of
the younger man's return from a year's Continental travel that his
father summoned him and, with an air of impersonal finality, laid out
his life work. The time had come for him to settle down to business. In
regard to the nature of this business, or any choice he might have in
the matter, William was not consulted. As a matter of course, being a
Carmody, he was to enter the bank. His official position was that of
messenger. His salary, six dollars a week, his private allowance, one
hundred. And thus he was dismissed.

It cannot be chronicled that young Carmody was either surprised or
disappointed at thus being assigned to a career. In truth, up to that
time he had thought very little of the future and made no plans. He
realized in a vague sort of way that some time he would engage in
business; therefore, upon receipt of the paternal edict he merely
looked bored, shrugged, and with a perfunctory, "Yes, sir," quit the
room without comment.

He entered upon his duties stoically and without enthusiasm. At the end
of a year his salary had increased to twelve dollars a week, and his
sphere of usefulness enlarged to embrace the opening and sorting of
mail. The monotony of the life palled upon him. He attended to his
duties with dogged persistence and in the evenings haunted the
gymnasiums. His athletic superiority was soon demonstrated and after a
time, neither in the ring nor on the mat could he find an opponent
worthy the name.

More and more he turned for diversion toward the white lights of
Broadway. Here was amusement, excitement--life! He became immensely
popular among certain of the faster set and all unconsciously found
himself pitted against the most relentless foeman of them all--John
Barleycorn.

Gradually the personnel of his friends changed. Less and less
frequently did he appear at the various social functions of the Avenue,
and more and more did he enter into the spirit of the Great White Way.
On every hand he was hailed as "Bill Carmody," and by the great force
of his personality maintained his universal popularity. Many smiled at
the rumors of his wild escapades--some even envied--a few frowned. If
his father knew he kept his own council--it was his way.

Only one warned him. Ethel Manton, beautiful, imperious, and altogether
desirable, with just the suspicion of a challenge in her daringly
flashing eyes, was the one person in all the world that Bill Carmody
loved. And loving her, he set her high upon a pedestal and entered the
lists with all the ardor of his being. His was the love of desire--the
love of a strong man for his mate, bringing out by turns all that was
best and worst in him.

Yet she remained cold--this girl of his golden dreams. Only at rare
intervals did she unbend and allow him a fleeting glimpse of her very
soul. At such times her eyes grew tender and she seemed very near to
him--and very dear. And then he would tell her of his great love, and
always her answer was the same: She would marry no man who was content
to live upon an allowance. He must make good--must win to the fore in
the business world as he had won in the athletic. And above all he must
forswear the pace!

In vain he explained that business held no interest for him; that it
was no man's game, but a sordid struggle of wits for the amassing of
unneeded gold. In vain he argued that his father, already rich, would,
in the event of their marriage, settle a large amount upon them in
their own right. In answer to her reference to his habits he would
laugh. He was not afraid; _there_ was a man's game!

Of course, once married, all that would be changed. But, pshaw; it is
all in a lifetime! And then he would lightly promise to mend his
ways--a promise that was forgotten within the hour. What do women know
of a strong man's play?

But one woman did know, and, knowing, cared.



CHAPTER II

"BROADWAY BILL"


William Carmody had scarcely completed his careful grooming when, with
a tap at the door, his father entered, closely followed by a rather
burly individual in citizen's clothing, whose jaw was correctly and
artistically swathed in bandages.

The two advanced a few paces into the room and paused. Father and son
regarded each other in silence. At length the older man spoke:

"Where were you last night?"

William flushed at the tone and cast an inquiring glance at the man in
bandages, who awkwardly shifted his weight from one foot to the other.
His father motioned him to proceed.

"I was out with a bunch from Philly. Chesterton, '05; Burke, '03;
little Hammond, '06; and old Busk Brater, star guard of the
naughty-naughts."

"Drunk, were you?" The words sounded coldly impersonal, and the tone
showed no surprise.

"Why, no, that is, I wouldn't exactly say----" his father silenced him
with a gesture.

"Did you ever see this man before?"

William scrutinized the other carefully.

"I think not."

"Oh, you hain't, eh?"

The man's awkwardness disappeared, he advanced a step and it was
evident that he spoke with difficulty.

"How about last night in front of Shanley's? Guess you wasn't there,
eh? Guess I just dreamt about a bunch of souses turkey-trottin' along
the sidewalk? I'd of stood for it, at that, but the girls got to
pullin' it too raw even for Broadway.

"I know'd you by sight an' started in to give you the tip to put the
soft pedal on the wiggle stuff, when, zowie! I guess you didn't reach
out an' soak me--a cop!" He tapped the bandage upon the aggressively
advanced jaw.

"Maybe the Times Building just tangoed across the square an' fell on
me!" he went on with ponderous sarcasm. "An' that ain't all; when I
gathers myself up, here's the tail-lights of a couple of taxis
disappearin' into Forty-fourth Street, an' the crowd laughin' an'
joshin' me somethin' fierce. I guess I dreamt that, too, eh?

"An' that ain't the worst of it. Down to headquarters I draws a
thirty-day space--without! An' then, again, I guess they'll shove me
right along for promotion on top of this. Not! I tell you I'm in bad
all the ways around, with the whole force passin' me the grin an'
askin' me have I saw Broadway Bill lately? An' in comes the inspector
this mornin' with an order when I came back on, to report to McClusky,
up in Harlem, an' help shoo the goats away from eatin' up the new
sidewalks in front of the five-dollar-instalment lots.

"Nice kettle of fish for me, that was in line for a lieut. I ain't
layin' it up again' you so much for the jolt; you're sure there with
the punch, nor for the thirty-day space, neither, though with my family
I can't afford that none. But, damn it, kid, you've broke me! With this
here again' me I'll never be a lieut in a thousand years. I'm done!"

During the recital, the officer's voice lost its belligerent tone. He
spoke as man to man, with no hint of self-pity. Young Carmody was
honestly sorry. Here was a man who, in the act of giving him a friendly
warning, had been felled by a brutal and unexpected blow. A hot blush
of shame reddened his cheeks. He was about to speak but was interrupted
by the voice of his father.

The old man seemed suddenly to have aged. His fine features, always
pallid, appeared a shade paler. Gone was the arrogant poise of the head
which for forty years had dominated boards of directors. The square-set
shoulders drooped wearily, and in the eyes was the tired, dumb look of
a beaten man.

"Officer, it seems hardly necessary for me to express my thanks for the
consideration you have shown in coming directly to me with this
matter," he said at last. "Had you been so inclined you could have
stirred up a nasty mess of it, and no one would have blamed you."

He stepped to a small table and, seating himself, produced check-book
and pen.

"I trust this will reimburse you for any financial loss you may have
incurred by reason of this most unfortunate affair," he went on; "and
as for the rest, leave that to me. I have, I believe, some little
influence at headquarters, and I shall personally call upon the
inspector."

The officer glanced at the slip of paper which the other thrust into
his hand. It was written in four figures. He looked up. Something in
the old man's attitude--the unspoken pain in the eyes--the pathetic
droop of the shoulders, struck a responsive chord in the heart of the
officer.

Impulsively he extended the hand in which the check remained unfolded.

"Here, Mr. Carmody, I can't take your money. You didn't get me right. I
start out to knife you for what I can get, an' you wind up by treatin'
me white. It wasn't your fault, nohow, an' I didn't know how you felt
about--things."

There may have been just the shadow of a smile at the corners of Hiram
Carmody's mouth as he waved a dismissal.

"We will consider the incident closed," he said.

At the door the officer turned to the younger man, who had been a
silent listener.

"It's a pity to waste yourself that way. It's a punk game, kid, take it
from me--they don't last! Where's your Broadway Bills of ten years ago?
Stop an' think, kid. Where are they at?"

"My God," he muttered, as he passed down the broad stairway, "how many
old fathers in New York is hidin' their feelin's behind a bold front,
an' at the same time eatin' their hearts out with worry for their boys!
An' folks callin' _them_ good fellows!

"Money ain't everything in this here world, after all," he added, as
his gaze traveled over the paintings and tapestries that lined the
great hall.

Above stairs an uncomfortable atmosphere of constraint settled upon
father and son. Both felt the awkwardness of the situation.

Young Carmody was a man with a heart as warm as his ways were wild. His
was an impulsive nature which acted upon first impressions. Loving
alike a fight or a frolic, he entered into either with a zest that made
of them events to be remembered. He glanced across to where his father
stood beside the table toying with a jade ink-well, and noted the
unwonted droop of the shoulders and the unfamiliar gaze of the gray
eyes in which the look of arrogance had dulled almost to softness--a
pathetic figure, standing there in his own house--alone--unloved--a
stranger to his only son.

The boy saw for the first time, not the banker, the dictator of high
finance--but the _man_. Could it be that here was something he had
missed? That through the long years since the death of his wife, the
sweet-faced mother whom the boy remembered so vividly, this strange,
inscrutable old man had craved the companionship of his son--had loved
him?

At that moment, had the elder man spoken the word--weakened, he would
have called it--the course of lives would have been changed. But the
moment passed. Hiram Carmody's shoulders squared to their accustomed
set, and his eyes hardened as he regarded his son.

"Well?" The word rang harsh, with a rising inflection that stung. The
younger man made no reply and favored the speaker with a level stare.

"And _you_ a Carmody!"

"Yes, I am a Carmody! But, thank God, I am only half Carmody! It is no
fault of mine that I bear the Carmody name! At heart I am a McKim!"

The young man's eyes narrowed, and the words flashed defiantly from his
lips. The shaft struck home. It was true. From the boy's babyhood the
father had realized it with fear in his heart.

The beautiful, dashing girl he had wooed so long ago; had married, and
had loved more deeply than she ever knew, was Eily McKim, descendant of
the long line of Fighting McKims, whose men-children for five hundred
years had loomed large in the world-wars of nations. Men of red blood
and indomitable courage--these, who pursued war for the very love of
the game, and who tasted blood in every clime, and under the flag of
every nation. Hard-riding, hard-drinking, hard-fighting cavaliers, upon
whose deeds and adventures the staid, circumspect Carmodys looked
aghast. And this girl-wife, whose soft eyes and gentle nature had won
his love, had borne him a son, and by some freak of atavism had
transmitted to him the turbulent spirit of the Fighting McKims.

Again the old man spoke, and his voice was the voice that Wall Street
knew--and feared.

"I suppose you are well pleased with yourself. You are referred to as
one of 'a bunch of souses.' You were 'pulling it too raw even for
Broadway.' You are known to fame as 'Broadway Bill.' You are a sport!
You, and your college friends. And last night you achieved the crowning
success of your career--you 'soaked a cop'! You, the last of a line of
men, who for a hundred years have dominated the finances of a nation!
You, the last of the Carmodys, are Broadway Bill, _the sport!_"

The biting scorn of his father's tone was not lost upon the younger
man, who paled to the lips.

"Where are the securities you were supposed to have delivered to
Strang, Liebhardt & Co.?"

"Here, in my desk. I intended to deliver them on my way to the bank
this morning. The boys blew in yesterday and it was up to me to show
them around a bit."

"I will relieve you of the securities. The deal with Strang, Liebhardt
& Co. is off. It depended upon the delivery of those bonds during
banking hours yesterday."

Without a word William crossed to the desk and, withdrawing a packet
sealed in a heavy manila envelope, handed it to his father.

"The bank no longer requires your services," went on the old man
coldly. "That a Carmody should prove himself absolutely untrustworthy
and unreliable is beyond my ken. I do not intend to take you to task
for your manner of living. It is a course many have chosen with varying
results. You have made your bed--now lie in it. I need only say that I
am bitterly disappointed in my son. Henceforth we are strangers.

"Here is my personal check for ten thousand dollars. That is the last
cent of Carmody money you will receive. Properly invested it will yield
you a competence. Many men have builded fortunes upon less. As pocket
money for a Broadway Bill it will soon be squandered."

Mechanically the younger man picked up the check from the table.

"I think, sir," he answered, "that you have succeeded in making
yourself perfectly clear. As a Carmody, I am a failure. You spoke of an
investment. I am about to make one of which any McKim would approve."

With slow, deliberate movements he tore the check into tiny pieces and
scattered them upon the carpet. "I shall leave your house," he
continued, meeting the other's gaze squarely, "without a dollar of
Carmody money, but with ten thousand dollars' worth of McKim
self-respect. Good-by."

There was a note of cold finality in those last two words and the elder
Carmody involuntarily extended his hand. He quitted the room abruptly
as the boy, ignoring the civility, turned away.

An hour later William walked hurriedly down the steps of the Carmody
mansion and, with never a backward glance, hailed a taxi and was
whirled rapidly uptown.



CHAPTER III

THE FINAL KICK


It was Saturday, and Ethel Manton was lunching early that she might
accompany her fifteen-year-old brother on a ride through the park.

A certain story in the morning paper arrested her attention, and she
reread it with flushed face and tightening lips. It was well done, as
newspaper stories go, this account of a lurid night on Broadway which
wound up in a crescendo of brilliance with the flooring of a policeman.
No names were mentioned, but the initiated who read between the lines
knew that only one man could have pulled off the stunt and gotten by
with it.

"For goodness' sake, Eth, aren't you ever going to finish? You'll waste
the whole afternoon over that old paper!"

Young Charlie had bolted his luncheon and waited impatiently in a deep
window-seat overlooking the park. His sister laid down the paper with a
sigh.

"Are the horses ready?" She asked the question in a dull, listless
tone, so unlike her usual self that even Charlie noticed.

"Gee! You don't seem very keen about it. And look what a day! You look
like you were going to a funeral."

Before the girl could reply he turned again to the window: "Look, a
taxi is stopping and somebody is getting out. Oh, it's Bill Carmody!
Ain't he a crackerjack, though? Say, Eth, why don't you marry Bill?
He's just crazy about you--everybody says so, and----"

"Charlie!" The word was jerked out hysterically, and the boy was
puzzled at the crimson of her face.

"Well, I don't care, it's so! And then I'd be a brother-in-law to Bill
Carmody! Why, he can lick everybody down to the gym. He put on the
gloves with _me_ once," he boasted, swelling visibly, "just sparring,
you know; but he promised to teach me the game. And football! There
never was a half-back like Bill Carmody! Why he----"

"Do hush! He might hear you. Run along, now. You ride on and I will
overtake you. I--I must see Mr. Carmody alone."

"_Mr._ Carmody! So you two have had a scrap! Well, if I was a girl, and
Bill Carmody wanted to marry _me_, you bet, I'd marry him before he got
a chance to change his mind. You bet, when I grow up I'm going to be
just like him--so there!"

The boy flounced defiantly out of the room, leaving the girl alone with
a new fear.

Since the death of her parents she had bravely and capably undertaken
the management of the household, and her chief care was this impulsive
boy who was so dear to her heart.

"Look after Charlie as long as he shall need you." The words of her
dying mother came to her vividly. "He is really a noble little
fellow--but hard to manage."

And now, added to the sorrow that already seemed crushing her, was this
new anxiety.

Charlie had set up an idol--and the fact that his idol was also her
idol--although she never admitted it--struck fear to her heart. For the
undiscerning eyes of the boy were blind to the feet of clay.

In the library across the hall, William Carmody paced nervously up and
down, pausing at each turn to gaze abstractedly out of the window.

After what seemed an interminable wait, the portières parted and the
girl stepped into the room. In her hand she carried a carefully folded
newspaper. She crossed to the table and, regarding the man with a cold,
disconcerting stare, waited for him to speak.

"Hello, Ethel! No, thank you, I have had luncheon. I----" His gaze
encountered the unwavering blue eyes, and he suddenly dropped the air
of flippant assurance. "Er, I came to see you," he added lamely.

"Yes?" There was little of encouragement in the word with its
accompanying inflection.

"You see, I am leaving New York."

"Indeed?"

"Yes, I am going away." He paused, but receiving no answer, continued,
"I am going away to--to make good. And I came to say good-by. When I
return, if--if you are still free, I will have something to tell
you--something I have often told you before, but--well, things will be
different, then."

"I suppose you said good-by to your _other_ friends last night?" Her
glance rested for a moment on the folded newspaper, and the silky sneer
of her retort was brutal--with the studied brutality of the female of
the species who would inflict pain. The man winced under its sting.

"Last night cannot be recalled," he replied gravely. "Whatever happened
then is past and gone. You are right; figuratively speaking, I _have_
said good-by to the others--to Broadway, and all it stands for. You
alone know of my going. I am making no promises. If I fail no one will
know--nor care. When I make good I will return--and then----"

The girl looked up. Their glances met, and in the depths of the steady
gray eyes the soft blue ones read purpose--unflinching purpose to fight
and win for the glory of an infinite love.

Her eyes dropped. She felt the hot blood mount to her face under the
compelling magnetism of his gaze. She loved this man. In all the world
no other could so move her. She loved--yet feared him. The very
strength of him--the overmastering force of his personality--his
barbaric disregard of conventionality at once attracted and frightened
her.

In that moment she knew, deep down in her heart, that if this man
should take her in his arms and hold her close against the throbbing of
his great heart, his lips find hers, and should he pour into her ears
the pent-up torrent of his love, her surrender would be complete.

His was the master mind, and in all the years to come that mind would
rule, and she, the weaker one, would be forced under the yoke of its
supremacy. She prayed for strength.

Let those who believe that once the living flesh has turned to clay the
spirit dies, ascribe to a trick of memory the vision of her dying
mother that flashed before the eyes of the girl, and the whispered
words: "Look after Charlie as long as he shall need you."

But those there are who know that in that momentary vision spoke in
faint memory-whispers the gentle spirit-mother, who--ranking high in
that vast army which, in the words of the immortal Persian,

    "Before us passed the door of Darkness through,"

--would guide the footsteps of her loved ones.

Thus strength came and steeled the heart of one great little woman who
battled alone against love for her right to rule and shape the destiny
of lives. The momentary flush receded from her face, and when her eyes
again sought the man's, their glance was coldly repellent. She even
forced a smile.

"Is it so amusing, then--my going?" he asked a little grimly.

"Yes, rather amusing to consider where a man would go and what he would
do. A man, I mean, whose sole recommendation seems to be that he can
'lick' most anybody, and can 'drink more and stay soberer than any of
the sports he travels with.'"

The dull red flooded the man's face at her words. Unconsciously he
squared his shoulders and there was an unwonted dignity in his reply:

"I am well aware that my accomplishments are more in the nature of
liabilities than assets. In spite of this I will make good--somewhere."

He stepped closer to the girl, and his voice grew harsh, almost rasping
in its intensity. "I _can_ beat the game. And I will beat it--now! Just
to show you and your kind what a _man_ can do--a man, I mean," he
added, "'whose sole recommendation seems to be that he can lick most
anybody--and can drink more and stay soberer than any of the sports he
travels with.' Incidentally, I am glad to know your real opinion of me.
I once believed that you were different from the others--that in you I
had found a woman who possessed a real soul."

He laughed, a short, grating laugh--deep down, as though rude fingers
drew a protest from raw heart-strings--a laugh that is not good to
hear.

"I even thought," he went on, "that you cared for me--a little. That
you were the one woman who, at the last of things, would give a man a
helping hand, a little word of encouragement and hope, perhaps, instead
of the final kick."

He bowed stiffly and turned toward the door. "Good-by!" he said, and
the heavy portières closed behind him.

In the room the girl, white as marble, heard the click of the front
door, the roar of a newly cranked motor, and the dying _chug, chug_ of
the retreating taxi.

That afternoon Charlie Manton rode alone, and when he returned, hungry
as a young wolf, to be told that his sister had retired with a sick
headache, he drew his own conclusions, nodding sagely over his solitary
dinner.

Later, as he passed her door on the way to his room, he placed his ear
at the keyhole and listened a long time to her half-muffled sobs.

"Gee!" he muttered as he passed down the hall, "they must have had an
awful scrap!" He turned and quietly retraced his steps. In the library
he switched on the lights and crossed to the telephone.

"There isn't any sense in that," he said, speaking to himself. "Bill
loves Eth--that's a cinch. And she does love him, too, even if she
won't let on.

"She wouldn't stick up in her room all day bawling her eyes out if she
didn't. I'll call Bill up and tell him so, then he'll come and they'll
make up. I bet he's sorry, too, by now."

At the Carmody residence he was told that Bill was not in. He received
the same answer from several clubs, at each of which he left explicit
instructions for Mr. Carmody to call him up at the first possible
moment.

Thereafter Charlie frequented the gymnasiums and made industrious
inquiry, but it was many a day before he again saw his idol. Bill
Carmody was missing from his accustomed haunts, and none could tell
whither he had gone.

Those were days fraught with anxiety for the boy. Ethel, to whom he was
devoted, went about the house listless and preoccupied, in spite of her
efforts to appear cheerful. When he attempted to reason with her she
burst into tears and forbade him to mention Bill Carmody's name in her
hearing as long as he lived. Whereupon the youngster retired
disconsolately to his room to think things over.

"Love's a bum thing," he told himself. "If they do get married they die
or get a divorce or something; and if they don't--well, Bill has
prob'ly committed suicide and Eth is moping around, and most likely now
she'll marry that dang St. Ledger." He made a wry face as he thought of
St. Ledger.

"Runty little mollycoddle! Couldn't lick a chicken--him and his
monocle. And that day the wind took his hat and rolled it through the
mud, and he said: 'Oh, pshaw!' instead of damn it! Oh--_slush!_ And I
promised mother I'd take care of Eth."

He burrowed his face deep into the pillow, as, in spite of himself,
tears came to his eyes.



CHAPTER IV

LOVE OR HATE


Thus a week passed, in the course of which the heart of the girl was
torn by conflicting emotions. Love clashed with hate and self-pity with
self-reproach. Was it true--what he had said? Had she administered the
final kick to a man who was down--who, loving her--and deep down in her
heart she knew that he did love her--had come to her in the extremity
of his need for a word of encouragement?

Now that he was gone she realized how much he had meant to her. How, in
spite of his reckless disregard of life's serious side, she loved him.
Try as she would she could not forget the look of deep hurt that dulled
his eyes at her words.

Had she not been justified? Had he not needed just that to bring him to
a realization of his responsibilities? Had she not, at the sacrifice of
her own love, spurred and strengthened his purpose to make good? Or,
had she, by raising a barrier between them, removed his one incentive
to great effort?

Over and over the girl pondered these things. One moment her heart
cried out for his return, and the next she reiterated her undying hate
for the man in whose power it was so sorely to wound her with a word.

And so she sat one evening before an open fire in the library which had
been the scene of their parting. Mechanically she turned the pages of a
novel, but her mind was elsewhere, and her eyes lingered upon the
details of the room.

"He stood there," she mused, "and I here--and then--those awful words.
And, oh! the look in his eyes that day as the portières closed between
us--and he was gone. Where?"

Somehow the idea obsessed her that he had gone to sea. She pictured him
big and strong and brave, battling before the mast on some wallowing,
storm-hectored trading ship outbound, bearing him away into the
melting-pot of strange world-ways.

Would he come clean through the moil, winning honor and his place among
men? And thus would he some day return--to _her_? Or would the sea
claim him for her own, roughen him, and buffet him about through the
long years among queer Far Eastern hell-ports where, jostling shoulder
to shoulder with brutish men and the women who do not care, he would
drink deep and laugh loud among the flesh-pots of society's discards?

The uncertainty was terrible to the girl, and she forced her thoughts
into the one channel in which there was a ray of comfort.

"At least," she murmured, "he has ceased to be a menace to Charlie."

"Mr. Hiram Carmody, miss."

The old manservant who had been with the Mantons always, stood framed
in the inverted V of the parted portières.

Ethel started. Why had he called? During the lifetime of her father the
elder Carmody had been a frequent visitor in the Manton home.

Was it about Bill? Was he sick? Had there been an accident, and was he
hurt--possibly dead? There was an icy grip at her heart, though her
voice was quite firm as she replied:

"I will see Mr. Carmody at once, Craddon."

As the man silently withdrew from the doorway a new thought came to
her.

Could it be that Bill was still in New York? That his going away had
been an empty threat? And was he now trying to bring about a
reconciliation through the medium of his father? How she could despise
him for that!

Her lips thinned, and there was a hint of formality in her greeting as
she offered her hand to the tall, gray-haired man who advanced toward
her.

"Well, well! Miss Ethel," he began, "all alone with a book and a cozy
fire. That is what I call solid comfort." He crossed the room and
extended his hands to the blaze.

"It is a long time since you have called, Mr. Carmody."

"Yes. We old fellows rarely drift outside the groove of our fixed orbit.
One by one we drop out, and as each one passes beyond it shortens the
orbit of the others. The circle is always contracting--never expanding.
The last one of us will be found in his dotage never venturing beyond
the circle of his own fireside until he, too, shall answer the call."

The voice held a note of sadness which touched the girl deeply, and she
suddenly noted that the fine patrician face had aged.

"You should not speak of being old," she said gently. "Why, you are
called the Wizard of Wall Street."

"A man is only as old as he feels. Until recently I have considered
myself a young man. But of late I feel that I am losing my grip."

"Isn't that a dangerous admission? If it should become known on the
Street----"

"Ha!"--the heavy gray eyebrows met with a ferocity which belied the
smile that curved the thin lips--"if it were but whispered upon the
Street the wolves would be at my throat before morning. But they would
have a fight on their hands! However, all that is beside the purpose. I
suppose you are wondering why I called?"

The girl was momentarily at a loss for a reply. "Why, I--You know you
are always welcome here."

"Yes, yes. But, as you must have surmised, I called with a definite
object in view. A matter that concerns you and--er, my son."

The girl turned a shade paler.

"I do not understand," she replied.

"Nor do I. I have come to you at the risk of being thought a meddling
old fool! But the fact is, I have several times lately heard your name
mentioned in connection with William's, and recently there came into my
possession this packet of letters addressed to my son in a feminine
hand and bearing the Manton crest."

The girl's face flushed as she took the proffered packet and waited for
him to continue.

"Fred Manton was my best friend," went on the old man, "and I won't see
harm come to his daughter, if I can prevent it. You two may be just
friends; you may be engaged--or married, for all I know. My son never
deemed it worth while to take me into his confidence. In either case, I
am here--and I will have my say. I shall put myself in the place of
your father and speak as, I believe, he would have spoken. I may seem
harsh and bitter toward my own son, but remember, Miss Ethel, I have
had vastly more experience in the ways of the world than you have--and
I know whereof I speak.

"Slight as is the difference between your ages, you are but an
inexperienced girl, as the world knows experience, and William is a
man--and a man, I am sorry to say, who is no fit associate for a woman
like you."

Surprised and perplexed the girl felt her anger rise against this man.
Instinctively she rallied to Bill's defense:

"He is not bad at heart!" she said resentfully.

"What worse can you say?" returned Carmody with a harsh laugh. "Of all
expressions coined to damn a man with faint praise, there is only one
more effective: 'He means well.'"

Ethel was thoroughly angry now. She drew herself up, and her blue eyes
darkened as she faced him.

"That is not so!" she cried. "Bill is _not_ bad at heart! And he _does_
mean well! Whose fault is it that he has grown up reckless and wild?
Who is to blame? What chance has he had? What have you done for him?
Filled his pockets with money and packed him off to school. Filled his
pockets with money and sent him to college. Filled his pockets with
money and shipped him abroad.

"Then, without consulting his taste or desire, you peremptorily thrust
him into a business which he loathes--on an office boy's salary and an
allowance out of all proportion to his requirements.

"You say he has never taken you into his confidence. Have you ever
invited that confidence? Have you ever sought his companionship--even
his acquaintance?"

The man was astonished at her vehemence. Uncomfortably he found himself
forced to the defensive.

"He had his chance. I placed him in the bank that he might learn the
business as I learned it. If he had had the right stuff in him he would
have made good. As it was, he attended to his duties in the most
perfunctory and superficial manner. He showed not the slightest
interest in the business. In fact, his position could have been ably
filled by the veriest gutter-snipe. And _he_ is the man who one day, in
all probability, would have come into control of the Carmody millions!
And he would have scattered them in a riot of dissipation the length
and breadth of Broadway.

"But I have forestalled him. He is foot-loose--gone, God knows where,
to follow the fortune of adventure, perhaps, at the ends of the earth.
For in him, transmitted in some unaccountable manner through the blood
of the gentlest, sweetest little woman who ever warmed a heart, is the
restless spirit of the roistering, fighting McKims."

"Is it the boy's fault that he is a McKim?" returned the girl a little
sharply. "Who chose his mother? Of all men you should be the last to
speak disparagingly of a McKim. Turn the pages of history and you will
find written large in the story of the upbuilding of nations the name
of McKim. Carmody gold is the cabala of Carmody suzerainty. But the
McKim name has been carved deep in the annals of nations by sheer force
of the personalities behind blades of naked steel.

"Even now the crying world-need for men--big men--is as great as in the
days when the fighting McKims deserted their hearthstones to answer the
call of the falchion's clash or the cannon's roar. And some day you
will realize this--when your bank messenger makes good!"

The old man regarded her with a look of admiration.

"You love him!" he said quietly.

The girl started. Her eyes flashed and the play of the firelight gave
an added touch of crimson to her cheeks.

"I do not love him! I--I _hate him!_" Her voice faltered, and the man
saw that she was very near to tears.

"A strange hate, this, Miss Ethel. A strange and a most dangerous hate
for a girl to hold against a man who is a _thief_."



CHAPTER V

"THIEF!"


"A man who is a thief!" The words fell distinctly from Carmody's lips
with the studied quiet of desperation. Ethel stared wild-eyed at the
speaker, and in the frozen silence of the room her tiny fists doubled
until the knuckles whitened.

Noting the effect upon the girl, he continued, speaking more rapidly
now that the dreaded word had been uttered.

"I had no wish to tell you this thing. It is a secret I would gladly
have kept locked within my own breast. But I came here this evening
with a purpose--to save, in spite of herself, if need be, the daughter
of my dead friend from a life of suffering which would inevitably fall
to the lot of any pure-hearted woman who linked her life with that of
an unscrupulous scoundrel, in whom even common decency is dead, if,
indeed, it ever lived."

"He is _not_ a thief! He----" began Ethel vehemently, but the man
interrupted her.

"Wait until you have heard the facts. Last week, on Friday, there was
entrusted to my son's care for delivery a heavy manila envelope
containing fifty thousand dollars' worth of negotiable bonds. It was a
matter of vital importance that these be delivered within a specified
time. Ignoring this fact, he pocketed the bonds, and, in company with a
number of his acquaintances, indulged in a drunken spree which
culminated after midnight in a disgraceful street scene in the Broadway
theatre district.

"The following morning, when I confronted him, he flouted me to my
face, whereupon I virtually disinherited him. Not wishing to turn him
away penniless, I handed him a check for a considerable amount which he
saw fit to destroy melodramatically in my presence. Upon my request for
the return of the securities, he handed me an envelope identical with
that in which the bonds had been placed. I carried the packet to the
bank where it was opened and found to contain not the bonds--but those
letters.

"To avoid a scandal I made good the loss. I learned later, through
investigation, that upon leaving home he came directly to this house,
where he remained for upward of a half-hour.

"Further than this I know nothing of his movements except that he
reëntered the taxi and proceeded down-town. At Thirty-Fourth Street,
where the chauffeur slowed down for instructions, he found the cab
empty."

"And _these_ are the facts upon which you base your accusation?" asked
the girl coldly. "You, his own father!"

"To an unbiased mind the evidence allows but one interpretation."

"But his eyes! Oh, can't you see there has been some mistake? His eyes
are not the eyes of a thief!"

"There has been no mistake. A most thorough search of the premises has
failed to disclose a trace of the missing securities. In his desk from
which he took the substituted packet were found several similar
envelopes, but these contained only worthless rubbish--newspaper
clippings of sporting events and the like.

"No, Miss Ethel, when William Carmody left my house that morning he
carried with him those bonds. And he came here, knowing that he was a
thief, with his pocket bulging with plunder!

"As I told you, I know nothing of the relations existing between you
and my son. I only hope that he has gone forever out of your life, as
he has gone out of mine."

The light died out of the girl's eyes and her voice sounded strangely
dull as she replied:

"Yes, he has gone out of my life--maybe forever. He came to me here, to
tell me that he was going away to make good. And I--I was not big
enough to see it. I sent him away with a sneer. Bill is no thief. For
what he has been you are to blame--you and the Carmody money. For the
first time in his life he has a fair chance. He has left New York the
man you made him. He will return the man he makes himself. Oh! If--if I
only----"

"There, there, Miss Ethel, your loyalty is admirable, if misplaced----"

"Don't speak to me of loyalty! I have been as narrow and as _mean_
as--as _you_ have!"

"My dear girl, you are overwrought. The sooner we learn that William
Carmody has ceased to exist the better it will be for both of us. I bid
you good-night."

The girl sank into the depths of her big chair and watched the
sputtering little jet-flames lick futilely at the artificial logs of
the fireplace. Believing herself alone, she was startled by the sound
of footsteps hurrying noisily across the room. The next instant a
tousle-headed boy with eyes ablaze was at her side working her hands
like pump-handles.

"By Jimmy, Eth, you're a brick--the way you gave it to him! You bet
I'll tell Bill how you stuck up for him."

"Charlie Manton! You were listening--eavesdropping."

"I didn't! I wasn't! I mean I couldn't help hearing! The door of the
den was open and I was in there studying. Old man Carmody is an old
liar!"

"Charlie!"

"Well, he is, and you know it! I hate him! You bet he wouldn't dare
call Bill a thief to his face! Bill could lick forty-seven like him
with one hand tied behind his back. Bill is square. He wouldn't swipe a
million dollars--let alone a rotten, measly fifty thousand!"

"Charlie Manton! What kind of talk is that? You ought to be ashamed!"

"Well, I ain't--so there! And I'm Bill's friend, and I ain't afraid to
say so, either. You do love Bill--and you know it! You can claim you
hate him till you're black in the face, but you can't fool _me_! What
did you stick up for him for if you hated him? I bet old man Carmody
swiped the bonds himself!"

"Stop right there! Aren't you ashamed to speak so disrespectfully of
Mr. Carmody? He was an old friend of father's."

"I don't care if he was. I'm an old friend of Bill's, too. And Bill
_ain't_ a thief, no matter what he says!"

"You go to bed this minute. I am surprised and mortified to think that
you would be so contemptible as to listen to other people's affairs."

"'Taint any worse than lying!"

The boy stamped angrily from the room, and the girl sat long by the
fire and, one by one, fed letters to the flames.



CHAPTER VI

THE CROOKED GAME


"Clickity-click, clickity-click, clickity-click," the monotonous song
of the rails told off the miles as the heavy train rushed westward
between the endless cornfields of a flat middle State. To the
well-built athletic young man who was one of the four occupants of the
little end-room, smoking compartment, the outlook was anything but
cheerful.

As far as the eye could reach long rows of shriveled husks, from which
the season's crop of yellow ears had been torn, flapped dejectedly
against their dried and broken stalks. Here and there a square of rich,
black loam, freshly turned, bespoke the forehanded farmer; while in the
fields of his neighbors straggling groups of cattle and hogs gleaned
half-heartedly in the standing roughage.

"Not much for scenery, is it?" The offensively garrulous passenger
directed his remarks to the young man, who abstractedly surveyed the
landscape. "No, sir," he continued, "you've got to go West for Scenery.
Ever been West?"

The young man nodded without removing his gaze from the window.

"I live in Colo_ray_do," the other persisted. "Went out there for my
health--and I stayed. Johnson's my name. I'm in the mining business."

His eyes swept the compartment to include the others in the too evident
geniality of their glance.

"Now that we're all acquainted," he ventured--"how about a little game
of seven-up, just to pass away the time? How about you, dad?"

Thus flippantly he addressed the ruddy-faced, middle-aged gentleman in
gray tweeds, whose attention was apparently concentrated upon the
lengthening ash of his cigar.

With enthusiasm undampened by the curtness of the latter's refusal, he
turned to the remaining passenger--a youth upon whose lip sprouted a
tenderly pruned mustache, so obviously new that it looked itchy.

"How about you, captain?" The top-heavy youth closed his magazine and
unlocked a brain-cell.

"I don't mind." He ostentatiously consulted a very gold watch. "Must be
in Chicago this evening," he muttered quite audibly, pulling a ten,
twent, thirt frown that caused his labial foliage to rustle with
importance.

He drew from his pocket a card upon which the ink was scarcely dry and
handed it to the effervescent Johnson, who read aloud:

    Mr. LINCOLN S. TARBEL
                   Municipal Investigator

"You see," explained its owner, "it has reached the ears of the
managing editor of my paper in South Bend that vice in various forms
flourishes in Chicago! Thereupon he immediately sent for me and ordered
a sweeping investigation."

Further information was forestalled by the entrance of a suave-mannered
individual who introduced himself as a cigar salesman, and who was
readily induced to take a hand in the game.

The lightning-like glances that passed between the newcomer and the
Western Mr. Johnson, while entirely unnoted by the investigator of
municipal vice, aroused the interest of the athletic young man to the
point of assenting to make the fourth. Here, evidently, was something
about to be pulled off, and he decided to be actively among those
present.

The game progressed through several uneventful deals. Suddenly Johnson,
scrutinizing a hand dealt him by the cigar salesman, emitted a low
whistle.

"If we were playing poker now I'd have something to say!"

"Oh, I don't know! I've got some poker hand myself," opined the dealer.
"Discard one, to make a five-card hand, and I bet you five dollars I
beat you."

"You're on!" Each produced a bill which he handed to the athletic young
man to hold.

"Three eights and a pair of deuces," boasted the Westerner, exposing
the full hand upon the board.

"Beats three kings," admitted the other, ruefully laying down his hand.
The winner pocketed the money with an exaggerated wink in the direction
of the newspaper youth who had been an interested spectator.

The game progressed, and before many deals another challenge was passed
and accepted between the two. This time it was the salesman who
profited to the extent of twenty-five dollars which he received from
the stakeholder with the remark that he would bet his whole roll on a
jack full any old day.

The elderly gentleman smoked in silence and amused himself by mentally
cataloguing the players. Suddenly his attention became riveted.

What he saw jarred harshly upon his estimate of the athletic young man
who, at the conclusion of his deal, dexterously slipped some cards
beneath the table from his pile of tricks, then, bunching the pack,
passed it to the Westerner for the next deal.

He was on the point of exposing this cheap bit of knavery when the
young man glanced in his direction. Something in the steady gaze of the
gray eyes, though for the life of him he could not have told what,
stayed his purpose, and he settled into his seat, more puzzled than
before.

"If it had been any one of the others," he thought to himself; "and
then to think that he turns around and with a look virtually makes me a
party to his tuppenny trickery!"

His reflections were cut short by a sharp exclamation from the
investigator of vice who, in spite of his desire to appear composed,
was evidently laboring under great excitement.

"I'll bet twenty-five dollars I've got the best poker hand this time!"
He was staring at his tight-gripped cards. Johnson looked his hand
over--and with a careless:

"Here's where I get even," tossed the amount to the athletic young man,
who laid his cards upon the table. The cigar salesman broke in:

"Hold on! I'm in on this, too! Got a pretty fair hand myself. And just
to show you sports I'm game, I'll make it a hundred."

He passed a handful of bills to the stakeholder and glared defiantly at
the newspaper person who was in the act of returning a bill-fold to his
pocket.

"Why, that is all I've got!" he gasped, "and it's expense-money!"

"Well, of course," the other replied, "if you don't care to see my
hand, and I don't mind telling you it's more than a middling good
one----"

"I'll bet"--the hand that extracted the neatly folded bills from the
leather case shook and the voice rose to a ludicrous falsetto--"I've
got you beat, and if I had any more money with me I'd come back at
you."

"You've got a watch there," remarked Mr. Johnson. "Let's see it. I
ain't going to stay for the raise. My three sevens don't look as good
as they did."

"I paid fifty dollars for it!" piped the youth, passing the watch
across the board. Both men examined it.

"Oh, well, I don't know anything about watches, but I'll take your word
for it. Stick her up--here's the fifty."

"I've got _four_ aces!" squealed the reporter as he spread them out
face upward. He stared wildly at the other, and his hands made wet
marks where they touched the board.

"No good," remarked his opponent blandly. "Mine's hearts--all in a row,
with the jack at the top." One by one he laid them down--a straight
flush. South Bend stared incredulously at the cards.

"All right, Mr. Stakeholder," laughed the salesman, "pass over the
kale. Just slip out a five for your trouble."

"Just a minute." The voice of the stakeholder was quiet and his lips
smiled. The two across the board bristled aggressively and the plucked
one sniffled.

"Well"--there was an ugly note in the cigar salesman's voice--"a
straight flush beats four aces, don't it?"

"Oh, yes, there is no question as to that. Are these the same cards we
have been using?"

"Of course they are! What do you mean?" asked the dealer.

"Oh, nothing. I just wanted to know. Our friend here has the right to
know that he got a square deal. Count the cards." The look of
apprehension on the faces of the two men faded into smiles.

"Sure thing. That's fair enough," acquiesced the dealer, proceeding to
gather the cards from the board. Slowly and deliberately he counted;
"fifty, fifty-one, fifty-two," he finished. "Here, captain, count them
yourself." He handed them to the youth, who mechanically ran them
through.

"They are all here," he admitted.

"Now, that is funny," smiled the stakeholder, "because last deal I
dropped several cards onto the floor. This gentleman saw me do it."

He nodded toward the elderly gentleman, who was now keenly interested,
and reached under the table.

"See--here they are. And, by the way, the nine and ten of hearts are
among them. And now, you cheap crooks," he added as he flung a handful
of bills onto the board, "take your money and beat it!"

The two men opposite looked for an instant into the narrowing gray
eyes, noted a certain tightening of the square jaw and the clenching of
a pair of very capable fists, and tarried not upon further orders.
Sweeping the money into their pockets they quit the compartment,
casting venomous back glances toward the young man whose lips could
smile while his eyes threatened.

"Here is yours, kid. And let me put you wise to something. The first
thing you do when you strike Chicago, buy a ticket to South Bend. They
are waiting for you in the wicked town--they can see you coming. The
next ones will spring a real live game, green goods, or wire tapping.
They will roll you before you can locate a rescue mission. About the
only form of vice they will give you time to investigate will be what
the taxi boy does to you.

"The cold-deck stunt you just fell for, sonny, is so old it totters. It
is the identical trick that started the coolness between Brutus and
Julius Cæsar."



CHAPTER VII

THE WRECK


The early darkness of late autumn settled over the flat country. Tiny
lights twinkled from distant farmhouses as the Limited plowed through
the night.

The athletic young man continued to stare moodily out of the window.

The black expanse of country became more thickly studded with lights.
They flashed in the foreground in regular constellations as the train
whizzed with undiminished speed past tall block towers and tiny
suburban stations.

Long parallel rows, narrowing to a point under a distant hazy nimbus,
marked the course of the outreaching arteries of a great city. Warning
bells clanged peremptorily at the lowered gates of grade crossings.

The car wheels crashed noisily over an ever-increasing number of frogs
and switch points, an occasional brilliantly illuminated trolley car
crept slowly over its rails, and the hundreds of green and red and
yellow lights of the widening railroad yards lent a variety of color to
the scene.

That infallible harbinger of an approaching terminal, the colored
porter, had appeared in the doorway, whisk-broom in hand,
when--suddenly--there was a grinding jar; the heavy coach trembled
through its length, and from forward came a muffled roar followed by
the tearing crash of riven metal.

The car reared upward--higher and higher it climbed to the
accompaniment of the terrible crunching grind that proclaims undirected
power and benumbs the brain with the horrid possibilities of energy
uncontrolled. When almost perpendicular the sleeper toppled and crashed
sidewise across other tracks at right angles to its course.

New sounds supplanted the mighty noise of tearing and rending--little
sounds--the sharp jangle of smashing glass, and the thin wail of an
infant. These were borne to the young man's ears as from a distance.

It was very dark and he was conscious of a great weight which seemed to
be crushing the breath from his body. He raised his arms and tore at
the thing on his chest. It yielded slightly to the pressure of his
hands but remained immovable. He reached above it and encountered
metal--a large iron cylinder with projecting pipes twisted and bent.
Frantically he tore at the weight, exerting to the utmost the mighty
strength of his shoulders. Inch by inch he worked it sidewise, using
the pipes as levers until at length it rolled free and settled with a
crash among the wreckage at his side. The other--the thing that
yielded--he lifted easily and sat up, filling his exhausted lungs with
great drafts of cool air.

His head ached terribly. He passed his hand across his forehead and
withdrew it wet and dripping. He struck a match and as the tiny flame
flickered and went out he struck another and another.

At his side lay the torso of the young reporter, his head mashed by the
heavy water-cooler. He shuddered as he realized that this was the thing
he had lifted from his chest.

In the opposite corner the elderly man struggled to release his arm
from the grip of a wedging timber. The body of the porter, doubled
grotesquely, partially protruded from under a seat.

His last match died out and he crept to the side of the imprisoned man.
A heave at the timber satisfied him as to the futility of accomplishing
anything in the darkness and without tools.

He stood erect and groped for the door of the compartment which he
located in the ceiling almost directly above him. Drawing himself
through the aperture, he made the narrow passage, but such was the
position of the car that it was only with the greatest difficulty he
succeeded in worming his way along, using the dividing wall as a floor.

He gained the body of the coach, and from the darkness about him came
groans and curses mingled with great gasping sobs, and that most
terrible of all sounds, the shriek of a woman in the night-time.

He located a window and, smashing the glass with his elbow, crawled
through.

From every direction men were running toward the scene of the wreck,
calling to each other in hoarse, throaty bellows, while here and there
in the darkness lanterns flashed.

Sick and dizzy he lowered himself to the ground and staggered across
some tracks. He snatched a lantern from the hand of a bewildered
switchman and stumbled again toward the overturned car.

Others swarmed upon it. He heard the blows of axes and the smashing of
glass. Already an army of men were engaged in the work of rescue.

Inert forms were passed through windows into waiting arms to be
deposited in long, ghastly rows upon the cinders of the road-bed, under
the flaring torches. A cold, drizzling rain was falling and the smell
of smoke was in the air.

A group of firemen hurried past carrying hand-extinguishers. The
lantern-light gleamed wetly upon their black rubber coats and metal
helmets, from under the brims of which their set faces showed grimly
white. Far up the track an ambulance gong clanged frantically.

The young man reëntered the coach through a window and made his way
slowly toward the smoking compartment, pushing his lantern before him.
Reaching the door, he peered over the edge.

Some one was kneeling beside the elderly man, working swiftly by the
narrow light of an electric pocket lamp. As his eyes became accustomed
to the dim light of the interior, he realized that the elderly man
seemed to be resisting the efforts of the other who knelt upon his
unpinioned arm. From between the lips, which were forced wide apart,
protruded the ends of a handkerchief--he was gagged!

The hands of the kneeling man worked rapidly, but not in the prying
loose of the timber which lay across the other's arm. From the side
pocket of his coat, where it evidently had been hurriedly thrust,
dangled a watch chain which the young man recognized as belonging to
the dead reporter.

Suddenly the atrocity of the situation dawned upon him. He had heard of
such things, of the ghouls who haunt the scenes of great disaster,
preying upon the bodies of the dead--robbing the helpless.

With a curse he seized the wirebound railway lantern. At the sound the
man looked up--it was the cigar salesman. The young man swung the
weapon with all his might. It cut the air in a descending arc, but the
other avoided the blow and the heavy lantern crashed against the wall
and went out.

Without an instant's hesitation he dived through the opening and met
the fiend as he was rising to his feet. Together they rolled among the
wreckage. While no match for his antagonist in size, the pickpocket was
tough and wiry and apparently uninjured. He fought viciously, with the
violence of desperation.

The athlete could hear the voice of the elderly man, who with his free
hand had torn the gag from his mouth, roaring encouragement. He
received a stinging blow on the cheek from which the warm blood gushed
instantly. Knucks, he thought, the cur!

Suddenly his groping hand came in contact with the other's throat just
above the rim of his collar. Instantly his fingers closed about
yielding flesh, their ends biting deep between the muscles.

As the clutch tightened the man redoubled his efforts. His body writhed
and he lashed out furiously with hands and feet. Blows rained upon the
young man's head but he burrowed close, shielding his face--and always
his grip tightened--the finger ends drawing closer and closer together.

He was only half-conscious now and the blows ceased to hurt. He
experienced a sense of falling from a great height. His subconscious
mind concentrated upon one idea--to maintain his hold. He must grip
tighter and ever tighter.

The other ceased to struggle and lay limp beneath his body, but of this
he knew nothing. The muscles of his arms were rigid, the clamped
fingers, nearly together now, were locked, and all the world was a
blank.



CHAPTER VIII

NEW FRIENDS


William Carmody opened his eyes to a sense of drowsy contentment and
well-being. That the elegantly appointed room over which his glance
traveled was not his room, disturbed him not at all.

He realized that his head was heavily bandaged and that the
white-capped, linen-clad young woman at the window was a nurse. He
watched her fingers move swiftly and surely in the fashioning of a
small round of needlework.

Her face was turned from him but somehow he knew that she was young
and, in a dreamy sort of way, hoped she was pretty. He thought of
attracting her attention but decided to prolong the suspense--the
chances were against it--so many girls are not.

He closed his eyes and tried to think. The fact that he was in a
strange room with his head swathed in bandages, and that a young and
possibly pretty nurse sat at the window, evidently for the purpose of
ministering to him, suggested a hospital.

Young Carmody had never been in a hospital, but the atmosphere of this
room did not in any way conform to his rather vague notion of what a
hospital should be. There was no long row of white beds all just alike,
nor white walls, nor tiled floors over which people tip-toed to and fro
and talked in hurried, low-voiced tones; nor was the air laden with the
smell of drugs which he had always associated in his mind with such
places. He must ask the nurse.

He was so drowsily comfortable that it was with an effort he opened his
eyes. A rebellious lock of hair strayed from under her cap as she
leaned over her work. The sunlight caught it and through the rich
threads of its length shot tiny glints of gold.

"Ethel!" The name sprang involuntarily from his lips and even as he
spoke he smiled at the thought. The girl laid aside her work and
crossed to the bed.

"You called?" she asked, and the man realized vaguely that her voice
was low and very pleasant.

"Yes--that is, no--I mean, you _are_ pretty, aren't you?" He smiled
frankly up at her, and somehow the smile was contagious--she even
blushed slightly.

"You must excuse me this time," he continued, "I must have been
thinking out loud."

"You seem to be a--well, a rather abrupt young man," she smiled. "But
you must not try to think--yet. And my name is not Ethel."

"Oh, that's all right. You can't help that, you know--I mean, I think
your name is very pretty--whatever it is," he floundered. "The truth
is, I don't seem to be able to say what I do mean. But really I am not
a fool, although I don't suppose you will ever believe it."

"There, you have talked quite enough. The doctor said you must rest and
not get excited." She smoothed the covers with little pats of her soft
hands.

"But what I want to know," he persisted, with a frown of perplexity,
"is, where am I?"

"You are all right," she soothed. "You are here."

"But why am I here?"

"Because. Now go to sleep like a good boy. The doctor will be here
before long and he will hold me responsible for your condition."

Oddly enough her answers seemed eminently sufficient and satisfactory,
and he closed his eyes and slept contentedly.

Hours later he was awakened by the opening of a door.

A tall, dark man, with a brown beard neatly trimmed to a point, entered
closely followed by an elderly man who carried his arm in a sling, and
whom young Carmody recognized as his fellow-passenger of the smoker.

At once the whole train of recent events flashed through his brain: the
wild escapade on Broadway, the scene with his father, his parting with
Ethel Manton, the wreck, and his fight in the dark--each in its proper
sequence.

He was very wide awake now and watched the brown-bearded man eagerly as
he picked up a chart from the table and scrutinized it minutely.

"How is the head?" the man asked, with his fingers on the pulse.

"Fine, doctor. Wouldn't know I had one if it were not for these
bandages. And your arm, sir?" he added, with a smile of recognition
toward the elderly man.

"Doing fairly, thank you. It is broken, but our friend here thinks it
will come along all right."

The doctor, with a nod of approval returned the watch to his pocket and
was preparing to leave when his patient detained him with a question.

"I have not been able to locate myself. This is not a hospital, is it?"

"Hardly," smiled the other, "although it answers the purpose admirably.
This is the Brownstone Hotel."

"With rooms at twenty per!" gasped the invalid. "Doctor, some one has
blundered. After buying my railroad ticket I had just four dollars
left, and no chance in the world of getting hold of any more until I
connect with a job."

The men laughed.

"I must be going," said the doctor. "You two can chat for a while.
Don't tire yourself out, young man, and in a day or two you will be fit
as a fiddle. Wish I had your physique! That system of yours is a
natural shock absorber. We run across them once in a long
while--half-killed one day and back the next hunting for more on the
rebound."

At the door he paused: "Take care of yourself, eat anything that looks
good to you, smoke if you want to, talk, read, sleep, and in the
morning we will let you get up and stretch your legs. Good by!"

"Some doctor, that," laughed the patient. "Does a man good just to hear
him talk. Most of them go away leaving the patient guessing whether the
next visit will be from them or the undertaker--and rather hoping for
the latter. But with this fellow the professional man is swallowed up
in the human being--he fairly radiates life."

The other smiled as he settled himself into the chair near the bedside,
vacated by the physician.

"Yes, he is a great doctor. Stands well toward the head of his
profession. We have no finer in the Northwest." Young Carmody's face
clouded.

"But how am I to pay for all this? It is all well enough for you to
laugh, but to me it is a serious matter. I----"

"Young man, you are my guest. I don't know who you are, nor where you
came from, but, by gad, I know a man when I see one! From the time you
sat in that game to save that poor young fool from being fleeced until
you dove into that black hole and throttled that skunk----"

"They caught him, did they?"

"Caught him! They had to pry him loose! You have got the grip of the
devil himself. The police surgeon told me they would have to put a
whole new set of plumbing in his throat. Said he wouldn't have believed
that any living thing, short of a gorilla, could have clamped down that
hard with one hand.

"And there I had to lie pinned down and watch him go through a dead
man's pockets--it was our friend the reporter. And then he turned
around and calmly went through mine. Gad! If I'd had a gun! All the
time he kept up a run of talk, joking about the wreck and the easy
pickings it gave him.

"He was disappointed when he failed to find you--said he owed you
something for gumming his game. Well, he found you all right--and when
he gets out of the hospital he is slated for twenty years in Joliet."
The man paused and glanced at his watch.

"Bless my soul! It is after two o'clock! We will have luncheon served
here."

"It is a peculiar situation," mused the invalid. "The last thing I
remember is being in the thick of a railroad wreck, and here I wake up
in bed, with a trained nurse in the room, to find myself the guest of a
man whose name I do not even know."

"Appleton--H. D. Appleton, of Minneapolis. I am a lumberman--just
returning from the National Lumberman's Convention in Buffalo. And
yours?"

He was interrupted by a tap at the door and a couple of waiters entered
bearing trays.



CHAPTER IX

BILL GETS A JOB


After luncheon, over cigars, the conversation again became personal.
Appleton regarded the younger man thoughtfully.

"You spoke of being temporarily out of funds. Allow me to loan you what
you require."

"Thank you, sir, but I could not think of it. I am already deeply
indebted to you. If it were only a temporary embarrassment I wouldn't
mind. But I have no definite plans. I must find work, and I freely
confess I don't know exactly how to go about it. It might be a long
time before I could repay the loan. Then, too, if a man is broke he
will tackle the first job that comes along, whereas if he had money in
his pocket he would be tempted to wait for something better, no matter
what was offered."

"If you work it right you can easily get a couple of thousand out of
the railroad company--damages, you know."

The younger man looked up quickly. "Not me," he smiled. "I have not
sustained any loss to speak of. That crack on the head when the coach
tipped over didn't even knock me out. And as for the pummeling I got
afterward with the knucks--that was my own lookout--the railroad
company is not to blame for that. No. Getting something for nothing is
not playing the game--it savors too strongly of the methods of our
friend the pickpocket."

As he talked the elder man subjected him to a careful scrutiny. He
noted the deep-set, unwavering eyes, the smiling lips, and the firm,
square set of the jaw.

"So you are really in earnest about going to work?"

"In earnest! Mr. Appleton, you have just witnessed a fair demonstration
of the demands of my appetite," with a nod toward the array of empty
dishes. "I am subject to those attacks on an average of three times a
day. In my pocket are just four one-dollar bills. Can you guess the
answer?"

The lumberman smiled.

"What kind of position were you thinking of? What is your business?"

"Haven't any. And I am not thinking of a position--what I want is a
_job_."

"Know anything about lumber?"

"No."

The two smoked in silence while the waiters removed the remains of the
luncheon. When the door closed behind them the lumberman spoke. He
dropped the conversational tone and his words cut crisp and to the
point:

"Young man, I can use you. If you are foot-loose and are willing to
work, I will give you your chance. I am going to put it up to you
straight and let you decide for yourself.

"I can use you in my office at a very fair salary. In two or three
years you will, in all probability, become a valuable clerk--later, a
lumber salesman at a good salary and better commissions.

"Your duties will not be strenuous, and as you enlarge your
acquaintance you will naturally assume the social position to which you
are entitled.

"Or I can use you in the woods. Send you into a logging camp to learn
the business where it starts. Up there the work is not easy. Instead of
a salary you will receive wages--and you will earn them--every cent of
them. There are no snap jobs in a logging camp. Everybody, from the
boss down, works--and works hard. Instead of roast lamb and green peas
you will eat salt pork and baked beans.

"You will be called a lumberjack--a social pariah. Your associates will
be big men--some good and some bad--bad as they make them--and all
rough. Good and bad, they would rather fight than eat, and they would
rather watch others fight than fight.

"In summer you can loaf and blow in your wages, or you can go into the
mills and learn how lumber is made--learn to tell at a glance whether a
log will saw to the best profit into bridge timber or lath.

"It is no sinecure--the life of the logging camp. A hundred times you
will be called upon to face battle, murder, and sudden death, and it
will be up to you to make good.

"In the office I have clerks who will be found at the same desk twenty
years from now. And in the woods I have hundreds of swampers, skidders,
and sawyers who will always be swampers, skidders and sawyers. I have
camp bosses who will always be camp bosses, and a few who will become
lumbermen.

"But the man who comes up through that school is the man who learns the
game--the man who eventually will sit behind locked doors and talk in
millions, while the office-made salesman is out on the road dickering
in car-loads."

He paused and relighted his cigar.

"And you are offering me the choice of these jobs?"

"Just so. Take your time. Think it over carefully and give me your
answer in the morning."

"I have already made up my mind. If it is just the same to you I will
go to the woods. I need the exercise," he grinned.

"By the way, you have not told me your name."

"Bill," he answered, and watched the blue smoke curl upward from the
end of his cigar.

"Bill what?" Appleton regarded him through narrowing lids.

"Bill," he repeated. "Just Bill, for the present--and no references.
Sometime--if I make good, perhaps--but surely Bill ought to be name
enough for a lumberjack."

"Well, Bill, you are hired! Most men would call me a fool! Maybe I
am--but it's got to be proven. I came up through the woods myself and I
know men. It is my business to know men. A name is nothing to me--nor
references. Both are easy to get. I hire men--not names. And as for
references--I don't pay for past performances. It is up to you to make
good!

"I like your eyes. There is honesty in those eyes--and purpose. Your
mother's eyes, I should say." The young man turned his face away and
the blood surged upward, reddening the skin below the white bandages.

Thoughts of his mother crowded his brain--the beautiful, gentle
girl-mother, who used to snatch him up and hold him close--way back in
the curly-locks days.

He remembered her eyes--deep, soft blue eyes that shone bright and
mysterious with love for the little boy--so often such a bad,
self-willed little boy--and he thought of the hurt in those eyes. It
was his very worst punishment in the long ago--to read the pain and
sorrow in those eyes.

"No, no, no!" he murmured. "Not her eyes--not mother's! Oh, I am glad
that she did not live to know--" He stopped abruptly and faced the
other, speaking quietly:

"Mr. Appleton, I am not a criminal--not a fugitive from justice--as you
may have guessed. But I have been an--an awful fool!" The older man
arose and extended his hand:

"Good-by, Bill. You better sleep now. I will see you in the morning."

As the door closed behind Appleton, the pleasant-voiced nurse appeared
at the bedside. She straightened the covers, patted the pillows into
shape, and fed the patient medicine out of a spoon. She hesitated when
she finished and smiled down at him.

"Would you like to send any messages," she asked--"telegrams, to let
your people know you are safe?"

Young Carmody returned the smile. The nurse looked into his face and
knew that behind the smile was sadness rather than mirth.

"No," he said; "there is no one to tell." She leaned over and laid soft
fingers on his bandaged brow.

"Isn't--isn't there a real Ethel--somewhere?" He did not resent the
question of the sweet-faced nurse.

"Yes," he answered, "there _is_ a real Ethel--but she would not care.
Nobody cares."



CHAPTER X

NORTHWARD, HO!


Buck Moncrossen was a big man with a shrunken, maggoty soul, and no
conscience.

He had learned logging as his horses learned it--by repetition of
unreasoning routine, and after fifteen years' experience in the woods
Appleton had made him a camp boss.

His camps varied from year to year in no slightest detail. He made no
suggestions for facilitating or systematizing the work, nor would he
listen to any. He roared mightily at the substitution of horses for
oxen; he openly scoffed at donkey engines, and would have none of them.

During his years as a sawyer, by the very brute strength and doggedness
of him, he had established new records for laying down timber. And now,
as boss, he bullied the sawyers who could not equal those records--and
hated those who could.

Arbitrary, jealous, malignant, he ruled his camps with the bluff and
bluster of the born coward.

Among the lumber-jacks, he was known and hated as a hard driver of men
and a savage fighter. In the quick, brutish fights of the camps, men
went down under the smashing blows of his huge fists as they would go
down to the swing of a derrick-boom, and, once down, would be jumped
upon with calked boots and spiked into submission.

It was told in the woods that whisky flowed unchallenged in Buck
Moncrossen's camps. His crews were known as hard crews; they "hired out
for tough hands, and it was up to them to play their string out."

At the first cry of "gillon" (stormy days when the crews cannot work)
flat flasks and round black bottles circulated freely in the
bunk-house, and the day started, before breakfast, in a wild orgy of
rough horse-play, poker, and profanity.

But woe betide the man who allowed overindulgence to interfere with the
morrow's work. Evil things were whispered of Moncrossen's man-handling
of "hold-overs."

In the office, back in Minneapolis, if these things were known they
were winked at. For Moncrossen was a boss who "got out the logs," and
the details of his discipline were unquestioned.

On the Appleton holdings along Blood River the pine stood tall and
straight and uncut.

In the years of plenty--those wasteful years of frenzied logging, when
white pine lumber brought from twelve to twenty dollars a thousand and
rival concerns were laying down only the choicest of logs--Appleton's
crews were ordered to clean up as they went.

Toothpick logging it was called then, and H. D. Appleton was
contemptuously referred to as "the toothpicker."

Twenty years later, with the market clamoring for white pine at any
price, Appleton was selling white pine, while in the denuded forest the
crews of his rivals were getting out cull timber and Norway.

And this fall Appleton sent Buck Moncrossen into the Blood River
country with orders to put ten million feet of logs into the river by
spring.

So it was that the few remaining inhabitants of Hilarity were aroused
from their habitual apathy one early fall evening by the shrill shrieks
of an engine whistle as Moncrossen's ten-car train, carrying crew and
supplies for the new camp, came to a stop at the rusty switch. There
was something reminiscent in this whistle-sound. It came as a voice
from the past.

Time was, some eight or ten years before, when the old No. 9 and her
companion engine, No. 11, whistled daily and importantly into Hilarity,
pushing long strings of "flats" onto the spurs; and then whistled out
again with each car groaning and creaking under its towering pyramid of
logs.

But that was in the days of Hilarity's prosperity--in the days when the
little town was the chief loading point for two thousand square miles
of timber.

It had been a live town then--work and wages and the spirit to
spend--quick, hot life, and quick, cold death danced hand in hand to
the clink of glasses.

Everything ran wide open, and all night long rough men sinned abysmally
in their hell-envied play, and, crowding the saloons, laughed and
fought and drank red liquor in front of long pine bars, where the
rattle of chips and the click of pool-balls, mingled with lurid
profanity, floated out through the open doors and blended with the
incessant tintinnabulation of the dance-hall pianos.

These were the days of Hilarity's prosperity, when twenty train-loads
of logs were jerked from her spurs by day, and the nights rang loud
with false laughter.

A vanished prosperity--for now the little town stood all but deserted
in its clearing, with the encircling hills denuded of all vegetation
save a tangle of underbrush and a straggling growth of stunted jack
pine.

Even the "pig-iron loggers"--the hardwood men--had gleaned the last
stick from the ridges, and Hilarity had become but a name on the map.

Only those remained who were old or crippled, and a few--a very
few--who had undertaken to grub out tiny farms among the stumps.

Each evening these forlorn remnants were wont to forsake their
stolid-faced wives and yammering offspring and pick their way through
the solitary stump-dotted street, past windowless, deserted buildings
which were the saloons and dance-halls of better days, to foregather
around the huge stove in the rear of Hod Burrage's general store, which
was decrepit Hilarity's sole remaining enterprise, and there to brag
and maunder over the dead town's former glory.

The fact that certain of Hod's jugs never tilted to the filling of the
vinegar bottles or molasses pails of the women, not only served to
insure unflagging attendance, but the sale of their contents afforded
the storekeeper a small but steady income which more than offset any
loss incident to the preoccupied inroads upon his cracker barrel.

The sound of the once familiar whistle brought the men tumbling from
Burrage's door, while up and down the deserted street aproned forms
stood framed in the doorways, beflanked by tousled heads which gazed
wonder-eyed from behind tight-gripped skirts.

Not a person in town, except the very newest citizens, and they were
too young to care--for nobody ever came to Hilarity except by the stork
route--but recognized old No. 9's whistle.

Strange, almost apologetic, it sounded after its years of silence; not
at all like the throaty bellow of derision with which the long,
vestibuled coast trains thundered through the forsaken village.

A brakeman leaped from the cab and ran ahead. Stooping, he cursed the
corroded lock of the unused switch which creaked and jarred to the pull
of the lever as old No. 9 headed wheezily onto the rust-eaten rails of
the rotting spur.

An hour later she puffed noisily away, leaving Moncrossen's crew
encamped in the deserted cabins and dilapidated saloons of the worn-out
town.

Moncrossen, by making use of old tote-roads, saved about forty of the
eighty miles of road building which lay between Hilarity and the Blood
River.

Toward the end of October the work was completed, the camp buildings
erected, and a brush and log dam thrown across the river at the narrows
of a white water rapid.

Swampers and axe-men set to work building skidways and cross-hauls, and
the banks of the river were cleared for the roll-ways. The ground was
still bare of snow, but the sawyers were "laying them down," and the
logs were banked at the skidways.

Then one morning the snow came.

Quietly it fell, in big, downy flakes that floated lazily to earth from
the even gray of the cloud-spread sky, tracing aimless, zigzag patterns
against the dark green background of the pines, and covering the brown
needles of the forest floor and the torn mold of the skidways with a
soft blanket of white.

The men sprang eagerly to their work--heartened by the feel of the
snow. The tingling air was filled with familiar man-sounds--the
resonant stroke of axes, and the long crash of falling trees, the
metallic rattle of chains, the harsh rasp of saws, and the good-natured
calls of men in rude banter; sounds that rang little and thin through
the mighty silence of the forest.

Gradually the flakes hardened and the zigzag patterns resolved
themselves into long, threadlike lines which slanted earthward with a
soft, hissing sound.

Fast it fell, and faster, until the background disappeared, and all the
world was a swift-moving riot of white.

It was a real snow now--a snow of value which buried the soft blanket
of the feathery flakes under a stable covering which would pack hard
under the heavy runners of the wide log sleds.

It lodged in thick masses in the trees whose limbs bent under the
weight, and the woods rang to the cries of the sawyers when the
tottering of a mighty pine sent a small avalanche hurtling through the
lower branches, half-burying them in its white smother.

As the early darkness of the North country settled about them the men
plowed heavily to the bunk-house through a foot and a half of
fresh-fallen snow--and still it snowed.



CHAPTER XI

BILL HITS THE TRAIL


In a long-abandoned shack midway between Moncrossen's Blood River camp
and Hilarity, Bill Carmody hugged close the rusty, broken stove.

All day he had tramped northward, guided through the maze of abandoned
roads by the frozen ruts of Moncrossen's tote wagons, and it was long
after dark when he camped in the northernmost of the old shacks with
civilization, as represented by Hilarity's deserted buildings and the
jug-tilting, barrel-head conclave of Hod Burrage's store, forty miles
to the southward.

It had been a hard day--this first day of his new life in the
Northland. And now, foot-sore, dog-tired, and dispirited, he sat close
and fed sticks to his guttering fire which burned sullenly and flared
red for want of draft.

The chinking had long since fallen from between the logs and the night
wind whipped the smoke in stinging volleys from gaping holes in the
rust-eaten jacket of the dilapidated air-tight.

Tears streamed from the man's smoke-tortured eyes, every muscle of his
body ached horribly from the unaccustomed trail-strain, and his feet,
unused to the coarse woolen socks beneath heavy boots, were galled and
blistered until the skin hung in rolls from the edges of raw scalds.

He removed his foot-gear and the feel of the cold wind was good to his
burning feet. He scowled resentfully at the galling newness of his
high-laced boots and with a tentative finger explored his hurts.

Unbuckling his pack, he drew forth the ready prepared food with which
he had supplied himself at the store. The pack had seemed trifling when
he swung lightly into the trail that morning, but twelve hours later,
when he stumbled painfully into the disused shack, it had borne upon
his aching shoulders as the burden of Atlas.

Hungry as he was, he glared disgustedly at the flaunting label of the
salmon can and the unappetizing loaf of coarse bread dried hard, rather
than baked, from sodden dough, by Hod Burrage's slovenly spouse.

And as he glared he pondered the words of advice offered by the old man
with the twisted leg who sat upon Burrage's counter and punctuated his
remarks with quick, jerky stabs of his stout, home-made crutch.

"Tha' cann't fish ben't no good f'r trail grub, son. Ye're a greener,
you be. Better ye lay in what'll stay by ye--a bit o' bacon, like, or
some bologny--an' a little tin coffee-pot yonder.

"Ye'll be thinkin' o' steppin' out the door wi' ye're new boots an'
ye're pack an' trippin' up to Blood River in maybe it's two walks, wi'
naught in ye're belly but a can o' cold fish an' a stun weight o' Mary
Burrage's bread, which there ain't no more raisin' into it nor a
toggle-chain.

"'Tis plain ye're a greener, son; but take an old fool's advice an' get
ye a pair o' the shoe-packs yonder to spell off the boots. Bran' new,
they be, an' they'll gald ye're feet till ye'll be walkin' ankle-deep
in hell again' night. F'r Oi'll be tellin' ye Blood River lays a fine
two walks f'r a _good_ man, an' his boots broke in to the wear."

Now Bill Carmody was, by environment, undemocratic, and he resented
being called a greener. Also the emphasis which old Daddy Dunnigan had
placed upon the words "good man," in evident contrast to himself,
rankled.

How he wished, as he sat in the cold discomfort of the shack, that he
had heeded the timely and well-meant advice. His was not an arrogant
nature, nor a surly--but the change in his environment had been
painfully abrupt. All his life he had chosen for companions men whom he
looked upon as his social equals, and he knew no others except as paid
hirelings to do his bidding. And all his life money had removed from
his pathway the physical discomforts incident to existence.

But all this was in the past. Unconsciously he was learning a lesson
and this first lesson would be hard--but very thorough, and the next
time he met Daddy Dunnigan he would take him by the hand. For here was
a man--a good man--in the making. But a man new to his surroundings. A
man who would learn hard--but quickly--and who would fight hard against
the very conditions which were to make him.

His perspective must first be broken on the wheel of experience, that
he might know human nature, and the relative worth of men. His
unplastic nature would one day be his chief bulwark; as now, it was his
chief stumbling block. For in his chosen life-work he must take
men--many men--rough men--of diverse codes and warring creeds, and with
them build an efficient unit for the conquering of nature in her own
fastnesses. And this thing requires not only knowledge and strength,
but courage, and the will to do or die.

Alighting from the caboose of the local freight train on the previous
evening, he entered Hod Burrage's door as he had entered the doors of
trades-places all his life. To him, Hod Burrage was not a personality,
but a menial existing for the sole purpose of waiting upon and
attending to the wants of him, Bill Carmody. The others--the old men,
and the crippled ones, and the hard-handed grubbers of stumps, who sat
about in faded mackinaws and patched overalls--he regarded not at all.

He deposited his pack-sack on the floor where its canvas sides,
outbulging with blankets and duffel, fairly shrieked their newness.

After some minutes of silence--a silence neither friendly nor hostile,
during which Bill was conscious that all eyes were turned upon him in
frank curiosity, he spoke--and in speaking, inadvertently antagonized
the entire male population of Hilarity. For in his speech was no word
of greeting.

He addressed no one in particular, but called peremptorily, and with a
trace of irritation, for a salesman.

Now, Hod Burrage was anything but a salesman. His goods either sold
themselves or remained on their shelves, and to Mr. Burrage it was a
matter of supreme indifference which. He was wont to remark to
hesitating or undecided customers that "if folks didn't know what they
wanted when they come into the store, they better keep away till they
find out."

So, in answer to the newcomer's demand, Hod shifted his quid and, with
exasperating deliberation, spat in the direction of a sawdust-filled
box near which the other was standing.

Without rising from his seat in the one undamaged chair, he answered:
"If it's the storekeeper you mean, I'm him." Then, as an after-thought.
"Was they somethin' you wanted?"

Bill resented the implied rebuke in the storekeeper's words even more
than he resented the bombardment of tobacco juice which barely missed
his boots. Take it all in all he was having a rather rough time of it.

The railway people had refused to stop their fast train at Hilarity for
his special benefit, and he had been compelled to get off at the
nearest division point, some forty miles to the westward, and continue
his journey in the evil-smelling caboose of the local freight-train
which crawled jerkily over the rails, and stopped to shunt cars at
every siding.

Nearly the whole day had been consumed for the trip, during which time
he had sat in the stuffy, superheated car, whose foul air reeked of
cheap tobacco and drying garments, and listened to the guffaws of the
train-crew as they regaled each other with vile stories and long
accounts of revolting personal experiences among the dives of cities.

So now, tired, grimy, and with his head aching dully from the long
breathing of foul air, he was in no humor for comprehensive amiability.

He made his few purchases and replied curtly to the questions of the
storekeeper. It is doubtful if he would have replied at all but for the
fact that he must have information in regard to the whereabouts of
Moncrossen's Blood River camp.

There was a roar of merriment, which he answered with a scowl, when he
inquired the location of the hotel.

"Jest help yourself, stranger," said Burrage, with a generous sweep of
the arm which included all Hilarity not within the confines of the
room. "They's about fifty buildin's, cabins, an' shacks along the
street, an' you can take your pick. Rent's the cheapest thing they is
in Hilarity--jest kick out the rats an' spread your blankets."

It was when Bill stooped to add the gaudy-labeled cans to his pack that
Daddy Dunnigan, of the twisted leg, volunteered the bit of advice that
fell upon his ears unheeded.

He was openly resentful now, having detected certain smiles, winks, and
nudgings with which the assembled men called each other's attention to
various details of his clothing and pack.

During the storekeeper's temporary cessation of vigilance while waiting
upon his customer, the others had seized the opportunity to refresh
themselves at his expense.

A thick, heavy tumbler, so cloudy and begrimed as to be almost opaque,
was filled from a large jug placed conveniently upon a sack of
potatoes, and passed from one to the other, each absorbing little or
much as the thirst was upon him, and passing it on to his neighbor.

Daddy Dunnigan offered it to Bill along with the advice; but the latter
ungraciously refused and, turning abruptly away, shouldered his pack
and proceeded to select his "hotel."

"Wonder who's he?" remarked Hod Burrage as he lazily resumed his seat.

"Too damned upity to suit me!" vociferated Creed, Hilarity's
self-alleged bad man, with a fierce exhalation that dislodged a thin
volley of cracker-crumbs from his overhanging mustache. "A heap too
damned upity for this camp, says I."

He shook a hairy fist menacingly toward the door through which the man
had departed. "It's lucky for him it was old Daddy there 'stead of me
he wouldn't drink with or I'd of went to the floor with him an' teached
him his manners."

"Naw ye wouldn't, Creed," said the old man. "Ye'd done jest loike ye
done--set there atop yer barr'l an' blinked. An' when he'd went out
ye'd blowed an' bragged an' blustered, an' then fizzled out like a wet
fuse. 'Stead of which Oi predic' that the young feller's a real
man--once he gets strung out. Anyways, Oi bet he does his foightin'
whiles the other feller's there 'stead of settin' 'round an' snortin'
folks' whisky full o' cracker-crumbs."

He gazed ruefully into his half-filled glass.

"Throw it out, Daddy, an' have one on me," offered Burrage, reaching
for the jug.

With a sly wink toward the others, the old man drained the glass at a
gulp and passed it innocently to be refilled.

"I'll let him go this time," rumbled Creed with a frown. "He's headin'
for Buck Moncrossen's camp--Moncrossen'll break him!"

"Or he'll break Moncrossen!" interrupted Daddy, bringing his crutch
down upon the floor. "The one camp'll not hold the two o' thim f'r
long. Heed ye now, Oi predic' there'll be hell a poppin' on Blood
River, an' be this time a year fr' now one o' thim two'll be broke f'r
good an' all, an', not to mention no names, it won't be yon stranger."

The strong liquor had loosened the tongue of the ordinarily silent old
man and he continued:

"Oi catched his eye fair; an' 'tis the eye of a foightin' man--an eye,
the loike o' which Oi ain't seen since Oi looked f'r the last time in
the dead eyes o' Captain Fronte McKim, in the second outbreak o' the
wild Boh, Hira Kal, in the brown hills o' the Punjab."

The men listened expectantly, for when the liquor was right the old man
could tell of strange wars in far climes.

"One night the little hillmen sneaked up on Captain Barkley's flyin'
battery. They left his head an' his men's stickin' atop a row o' stakes
an' dragged the guns to a hilltop overlookin' the pass. An' in the
mornin' they unlimbered, sweepin' our left wing.

"Fronte McKim was captain o' the Lights an' Oi was a corp'l. All that
mornin' the Boh kep' pepperin' away, wi' 'Miss Fanny,' the colonel he
was, an' his parade-groun' staff o' book sogers, wi' tables o' figgers
an' the book o' rules an' maps an' a pair o' dividers, tryin' to figger
out how to chase a bad Boh offen a hilltop wi'out clim'in' the same.

"An' he lived a long time after, did Miss Fanny, to die in his bed o'
some nice, fine disease, wi' his fambly an' his Scotch an' sody
gathered about him.

"An' he was put in a foine, big coffin wi' a bran' new flag spread atop
to keep off the dust, an' carried back to Englan' in a war-ship, wi'
the harbor guns firin' salutes--the whiles Fronte McKim lays back among
the hills o' Punjab, wropped in his powder-burnt, shot-tore blanket.

"The hillmen an' their women an' the shiny hill kids give wide berth in
passin', an' make low salaams to the grave o' the terrible fightin'
_sahib_ that put the fear o' God in the heart o' the wild Boh. An' it's
as Captain Fronte would wished--Oi know'd um well.

"But, as Oi was sayin', the whiles Miss Fanny was tryin'--by nine times
six is forty-seven an' traject'ry an' muzzle v'locity an' fours right
an' holler squares--to wish the Boh offen the hilltop so he could march
us through the pass accordin' to Hoyle, Fronte McKim was off ahead
among the rocks, layin' on his belly behint a ant-hill studyin' the
hillside through his spyglass.

"Well, 'long 'bout noon he come gallopin' up, wi' his big black horse
all a lather, to where we was layin' in the scrub cursin' the flies an'
the department an' the outbreaks o' Bohs.

"'Come on, boys!' he hollers, wi' the glitter in his eye; 'Oi found the
way! All together now, an' we'll see the top o' yon hill or we'll see
hell this day!'

"Wi' that he tears loose a yell 'twould strike a chill to the heart o'
an iceberg, an' wheels his horse into the open--an' us in the saddle
an' follerin', all yellin' like a hellful o' devils turned loose for
recess."

The old man shifted his crutch and sipped at his liquor.

"Most o' us seen the top o' the hill," he resumed, "an' the brown
hillmen, what of 'em wasn't layin' limp by the guns, a skitterin'
through the scrub after a Boh who'd took off on a stray cavalry horse.

"But they was a many o' us as didn't--layin' sprawled among the rocks
o' the bare hillside, an' their horses runnin' wild to keep up wi' the
charge. We found Captain Fronte wi' his whole front blow'd out by a
shell an' his shoulders kind o' tumbled in where his lungs
belonged--but thim eyes was lookin' straight at the hilltop.

"An' Oi looked in 'em long--for Oi loved him--an' was glad. 'Cause Oi
know'd Captain Fronte McKim was seein' hell--an' enjoyin' it."

He set down the empty glass and favored Creed with a cold stare: "An'
his eyes is like _that_--the stranger's--an' yours ain't, nor
Moncrossen's."



CHAPTER XII

THE TEST


With only one-half of his journey behind him and the chill night-wind
whipping through the unchinked crevices of the deserted shack; with the
prospect of an unsavory supper of soggy sock-eye and a lump of frozen
bread, Bill Carmody fervently wished himself elsewhere.

His mind lingered upon the long row of squat, fat-footed shoe-packs
which the old man had indicated with his gnarled crutch. How good they
would feel after the grinding newness of his boots! And coffee--he
could see the row of tin pots hanging from their wires, and the long,
flat slabs of bacon suspended from the roof-logs of the store.

He found himself, for the first time in his life, absolutely dependent
upon his own resources. He cut the top from a can of salmon and thawed
out his bread on the top of the dirty stove. He had no cup, so he used
the salmon-can, limping in stockinged feet to the spring near the door,
whose black waters splashed coldly in a tiny rivulet that found its way
under the frozen surface of a small creek. The water was clear and
cold, but tasted disgustingly fishy from its contact with the can.

As he entered the shack and closed the sagging door, his glance was
arrested by an object half concealed in the cobwebbed niche between the
lintel and the sloping roof-logs--an object that gleamed shiny and
black in the dull play of the firelight. He reached up and withdrew
from its hiding-place a round quart bottle, across whose top was pasted
a familiar green stamp which proclaimed that the contents had been
bottled in bond.

He carried it to the fire and with the sleeve of his mackinaw removed
the accumulated dust from the label. "Old Morden Rye," he read aloud,
holding it close to the firelight. And as he read his thoughts flew
backward to past delights. Here was an old friend come to cheer him in
the wilderness.

He was no longer cold nor hungry, and before his eyes danced the
bright, white lights of the man-made night of Broadway. His shoulders
straightened and the sparkle came into his eyes. Forgotten was his
determination to make good, and the future was a remote thing of no
present moment nor concern. Once again he was Broadway Bill, the sport!

Carefully and deliberately he broke the seal and removed the
cork-rimmed glass stopper, which he flung to a far corner of the
room--for that was Bill's way--to throw away the cork. There was
nothing small in his make-up; and for why is whisky, but to drink while
it lasts? And one cannot drink through a cork-rimmed stopper. So he
threw it away.

Only that day as he had laboriously stepped off the long miles he had
thought with virtuous complacence of the completeness of his
reformation.

He thought how he had refused to drink with Daddy Dunnigan from the
smeared and cloudy glass half-filled with the raw, rank liquor, across
the surface of which had trailed the tobacco-stained mustaches of the
half-dozen unkempt men.

A week before he had refused to drink good whisky with Appleton--but
that was amid surroundings against which he had fortified himself;
surroundings made familiar by a little veneered table in the corner of
the tile-floored bar of a well-known hotel, and while the spirit of his
determination to quit was strong upon him. Besides, it was good policy.

Therefore, he ordered ginger ale; but Appleton drank whisky and noted
that the other eyed the liquor as the little beads rose to the top, and
that as he looked he unconsciously moistened his lips with his
tongue--just that little thing--as he looked at the whisky in
Appleton's glass. By that swift movement Appleton understood, for he
knew men--it was his business to know men--and then and there he
decided to send Bill to Moncrossen's camp, where it was whispered
whisky flowed freely.

Appleton had no son, and he felt strangely drawn toward the young man
whose eyes had held him from the time of their first meeting. But he
must prove his worth, and the test should be hard--and very thorough.

Appleton realized that to place him in any one of the other camps,
where the ban was on whisky, and where each smuggled bottle was
ferreted out and smashed, would be no test. It is no credit to a man to
refrain from whisky where no whisky is.

But place a man who has created an appetite for whisky among men who
drink daily and openly, and enjoy it; who urge and encourage him to do
likewise; where whisky is continually before his eyes, and the rich
bouquet of it in his nostrils, and that _is_ a test.

Appleton knew this, and knowing, he sent Bill to Moncrossen, and smiled
as he bet with himself on the outcome. But there is one other test--the
supreme test of all, of which even Appleton did not know.

Place this same man alone, tired out, hungry, thirsty, and cold, with
every muscle of his body crying its protest of aches against the
overstrain of a long day's work; surround him with every attribute of
physical discomfort; with the future stretching away in a dull gray
vista of uncertainty, and the memory strong upon him that the girl--the
one girl in all the world--has ceased to believe in him--has ceased to
care; add to this the recollection of good times gone--times when good
liquor flowed freely among good fellows, and at this particular
psychological moment let him come suddenly and unexpectedly upon a
bottle of whisky--good whisky, of a brand of which he has always
approved--_that_ is the acid test--and in writing this I know whereof I
write.

And that is why Bill Carmody carefully and deliberately broke the seal
and threw the cork away, and shook the bottle gently, and breathed deep
of its fragrance, and smiled in anticipation as the little beads flew
upward.

The fire had died down, and he set the bottle on the floor beside him
and reached for the firewood. As he did so a long, sealed envelope, to
the outside of which was tightly bound a photograph, fell to the floor
from the inner pocket of his mackinaw.

As he stooped to recover it his eyes encountered those of the picture
gazing upward through the half-light. A flickering tongue of flame
flared brightly for a moment and illumined the features, bringing out
their expression with startling distinctness.

It was the face of the girl. The flame died out, leaving the pictured
likeness half concealed in the soft semi-darkness of the dying embers.

It seemed hours that the man sat motionless, staring into the upturned
eyes--those eyes into which he had so often gazed, but which were now
lost to him forever. And as he looked, other thoughts crowded his
brain; thoughts of his father, and the scorn of their parting; thoughts
of the girl, of her words, and of his own boast: "_I_ can beat the
game! And I will beat it--now!... And some day you will know."

His anger rose against the man whose own flesh and blood he was, who
had driven him from home with words of bitter sarcasm, and against the
girl and her sneering repudiation of him. He leaped to his feet and
shook a clenched fist to the southward:

"I told you I would make good!" he roared, "and, by God, I will! I am a
McKim--do you hear? I am a McKim--and I shall make good!"

He reached for the bottle and placed it beside him on the pine table.
He did not pour out the whisky, for he did not fear it--only if he
drank it need he fear.

Just one little drink, and he was lost--and he knew this. And now he
knew that he would never take that drink--and he looked at the bottle
and laughed--laughed as the girl had laughed when she sent him from her
forever.

"It's no go, old boy," he smiled, apostrophizing John Barleycorn. "I
served you long--and well. But I quit. You would not believe that I
quit, and came out here to get me. And you almost got me. Almost, but
not quite, John, for I have quit for good and all. We can still be
friends, only now I am the master and you are the servant, and to start
out with, I am going to pour half of you over my blistered feet."

He recovered the packet from the floor and looked long at the picture.
"And some day you will know," he repeated, as he returned it to his
pocket.

Thus did the lonely girl in a far distant city unconsciously win a
silent victory for the man she loved--and who loved her.



CHAPTER XIII

ON THE TOTE-ROAD


Very early in the morning on the day of the storm which had been
welcomed by the lumber-jacks of the Blood River camp, old Wabishke
started over his trap-line.

The air was heavy with the promise of snow, and one by one the Indian
took up his traps and hung them in saplings that they might not be
buried.

After the storm, with the Northland lying silent under its mantle of
white, and the comings and goings of the fur-bearers recorded in
patterns of curious tracery, Wabishke would again fare forth upon the
trap-line.

With wise eyes and the cunning of long practice, he would read the sign
in the snow, and by means of craftily concealed iron jaws and innocent
appearing deadfalls, renew with increased confidence in his "winter
set," the world-old battle of skill against instinct.

On the crest of a low ridge at the edge of the old chopping where
Moncrossen's new Blood River tote-road made a narrow lane in the
forest, the Indian paused.

In the stump-dotted clearing, indistinct in the sullen dimness of the
overcast dawn, rotted the buildings of the abandoned log-camp. From one
of these smoke rose. Wabishke decided to investigate, for in the
Northland no smallest detail may pass unaccounted for. Swiftly he
descended the ridge and, gliding silently into the aftergrowth of
spindling saplings that reared their sickly heads among the stumps,
gained the rear of the shack. Noiselessly he advanced, and, peering
between the unchinked logs, surveyed the interior.

A man sat upon the floor near the stove and laboriously applied
bandages to his blistered feet. Near by was a new pack-sack against
which leaned a pair of new high-laced boots toward which the man shot
wrathful glances as he worked.

"_Chechako_," muttered the Indian, and passed around to the door.

A popular-fiction Indian would have glided stealthily into the shack
and, with becoming dignity, have remarked "How."

But Wabishke was just a common Indian--one of the everyday kind, that
may be seen any time hanging about the trading-posts of the
North-country--unimaginative, undignified--dirty. So he knocked loudly
upon the door and waited.

"Come in!" called Carmody, and gazed in surprise at the newcomer, who
stared back at him without speaking. Wabishke advanced to the stove,
and, fumbling in the pocket of his disreputable mackinaw, produced a
very old and black cob-pipe, which he gravely extended toward the
other.

"No, thanks!" said Bill hastily. "Got one of my own."

He eyed with disfavor the short, thick stem, about the end of which was
wound a bit of filthy rag, which served as a mouthpiece for the grip of
the yellow fangs which angled crookedly at the place where a portion of
the lip had been torn away in some long-forgotten combat of the wilds.

"T'bacco," grunted the visitor, with a greasy distortion of the
features which passed for a smile.

"Oh, that's it? Well, here you are."

Carmody produced a bright-colored tin box, which he handed to the
Indian, who squatted upon his heels and regarded its exterior in
thoughtful silence for many minutes, turning it over and over in his
hand and subjecting every mark and detail of its lettered surface to a
minute scrutiny.

Finally with a grunt he raised the lid and contemplated the tobacco,
which was packed evenly in thin slices.

He stared long and curiously at his own distorted image, which was
reflected from the unpainted tin of the inside of the cover, felt
cautiously of the paraffined paper, and, raising the box to his nose,
sniffed noisily at the contents.

Apparently satisfied, he removed a dozen or more of the slices and
ground them slowly between the palms of his hands. This done, he rammed
possibly one-tenth of the mass into the bowl of his ancient pipe and
carefully conveyed the remainder to his pocket.

"Match?" he asked. And Bill passed over his monogrammed silver
match-box, which received its share of careful examination, evidently,
however, not meeting the approval accorded the gaudy tobacco-box.

The Indian abstracted about one-half of the matches, which he
transferred to the pocket containing the tobacco. Then, calmly
selecting a dry twig from the pile of firewood, thrust the end through
a hole in the broken stove, and after much noisy puffing at length
succeeded in igniting the tightly tamped tobacco in his pipe-bowl.

"Thank you," said Bill, contemplating his few remaining matches.
"You're a bashful soul, aren't you? Did you ever serve a term in the
Legislature?"

The Indian's command of English did not include a word Bill had
uttered; nevertheless, his mangled lip writhed about the pipe-stem in
grotesque grin.

"Boots!" he grunted, eying the bandaged feet. "No good!" and he
complacently wriggled the toes in his own soft moccasins. Bill noted
the movement, and a sudden desire obsessed him to possess at any cost
those same soft moccasins.

Wabishke, like most Indians, was a born trader, and he was quick to
note the covetous glance that the white _chechako_ cast toward his
footgear.

"Will you sell those?" asked Bill, pointing toward the moccasins. The
Indian regarded them thoughtfully, and again the toes wriggled
comfortably beneath the pliable moose-skin covering. Bill tried again.

"How much?" he asked, touching the moccasins with his finger.

The Indian pondered the question through many puffs of his short pipe.
He pointed to the new boots, and when Bill handed them to him he
carefully studied every stitch and nail of each. Finally he laid them
aside and pointed to the tobacco-box, which he again scrutinized and
laid with the boots.

"Match," he said.

"Get a light from the fire like you did before, you old fraud! I only
have a few left."

"Match," repeated the Indian, and Bill passed over his match-box, which
was placed with the other items. Wabishke pointed toward the pack-sack.

"Look here, you red Yankee!" exclaimed Bill. "Do you want my whole
outfit for those things?"

The other merely shrugged and pointed first at the bandaged feet, and
then at the boots. One by one, a can of salmon, a sheath-knife, and a
blue flannel shirt were added to the pile, and still Wabishke seemed
unsatisfied.

While the Indian pawed over the various articles of his pack, Bill
found time to put the finished touches on his bandages, and, reaching
under the table, drew forth the whisky bottle and poured part of its
contents upon the strips of cloth.

At the sight of the bottle the Indian's eyes brightened, and he reached
for it quickly. Bill shook his head and set the bottle well out of his
reach.

"Me drink," the other insisted, and again Bill shook his head. The
Indian seemed puzzled.

"No like?" he asked.

"No like," repeated Bill, and smiled grimly.

Wabishke regarded him in wondering silence. In his life he had seen
many strange things, but never a thing like this--a white man who of
his own choice drank spring-water from a fish-can and poured good
whisky upon his feet!

The Indian's eyes wandered from the pile of goods to the bottle, in
which about one-fourth of the contents remained, and realized that he
was at a disadvantage, for he knew by experience that a white man and
his whisky are hard to part.

Selecting the can of salmon from the pile, he shoved it toward the man,
who again shook his head. Then followed the match-box, the
sheath-knife, and the shirt, until only the tobacco-box and the boots
remained, and still the man shook his head.

Slowly the tobacco-box was handed back, and the Indian was eying the
boots. Bill laughed.

"No. You'll need those. Just hand over the moccasins, and you are
welcome to the boots and the booze."

The Indian hastily untied the thongs, and the white man thrust his
bandaged feet into the soft comfort of the mooseskin moccasins. A few
minutes later he took the trail, following the windings of Moncrossen's
new tote-road into the North.

The air was filled with a light, feathery snow, and, in spite of the
ache of his stiffened muscles, he laughed.

"The first bottle of whisky _I_ ever entered on the right side of the
ledger," he said aloud--and again he laughed.

He was in the big timber now. The tall, straight pines of the Appleton
holdings stretched away for a hundred miles, and formed a high wall on
either side of the tote-road, which bent to the contour of ridge and
swamp and crossed small creeks on rough log bridges or corduroy
causeways.

Gradually the stiffness left him, and his aching muscles limbered to
their work. His moccasins sank noiselessly into the soft snow as mile
after mile he traversed the broad ribbon of white.

At noon he camped, and over a tiny fire thawed out his bread and warmed
his salmon, which he washed down with copious drafts of snow-water.
Then he filled his pipe and blew great lungfuls of fragrant smoke into
the air as he rested with his back against a giant pine and watched the
fall of the snow.

During the last hour the character of the storm had changed. Cold, dry
pellets, hissing earthward had replaced the aimless dance of the
feathery flakes, and he could make out but dimly the opposite wall of
the rod-wide tote-road.

He returned the remains of his luncheon to his pack, eying with disgust
the heel of the loaf of hard bread and the soggy, red mass of sock-eye
that remained in the can.

"The first man that mentions canned salmon to me," he growled, "is
going to get _hurt_!"

The snow was ankle-deep when he again took the trail and lowered his
head to the sting of the wind-driven particles. On and on he plodded,
lifting his feet higher as the snow deepened. As yet, in his ignorance
of woodcraft, no thought of danger entered his mind. "It is harder
work, that is all," he thought; but, had he known it, his was a
situation that no woodsman wise in the ways of the winter trails would
have cared to face.

During the morning he had covered but fifteen of the forty miles which
lay between the old shack and Moncrossen's camp. Each minute added to
the difficulties of the journey, which, in the words of Daddy Dunnigan
was "a fine two walks for a good man," and, with the added hardship of
a heavy snowfall, would have been a man's-sized job for the best of
them equipped, as they would have been, with good grub and snowshoes.

Bill was forced to rest frequently. Not only were his softened muscles
feeling the strain--it was getting his wind, this steady bucking the
snow--but each time he again faced the storm and plowed doggedly
northward.

Darkness found him struggling knee-deep in the cold whiteness, and, as
he paused to rest in the shelter of a pile of tops left by the axe-men,
the foremost of the gray shadows that for the last two hours had dogged
his footsteps, phantom-like, resolved itself into a very tangible pair
of wicked eyes which smoldered in greenish points of hate above a very
sharp, fang-studded muzzle, from which a long, red tongue licked
suggestively at back-curled lips.



CHAPTER XIV

AT BAY


Bill Carmody was no coward; but neither was he a fool, and for the
first time the seriousness of his position dawned upon him. Other
shapes appeared and ranged themselves beside their leader, and as the
man looked upon their gaunt, sinewy leanness, the slavering jaws, and
blazing eyes, he shuddered. Here, indeed, was a very real danger.

He decided to camp. Fire, he remembered to have read, would hold the
brutes at bay. Wood there was in plenty, and, quickly clearing a space
in the snow, he soon had the satisfaction of seeing tiny tongues of
flame crackle in a pile of dry branches.

He unslung his light axe and attacked the limbs of a dead pine that lay
at the edge of the road.

After an hour's work his cleared space was flanked on either side by
piles of dry firewood, and at his back the great pile of tops afforded
shelter from the wind which swept down the roadway, driving before it
stinging volleys of snow.

He spread his blanket and drew from his pack the unappetizing food. He
warmed the remaining half-can of salmon and whittled at his nubbin of
bread.

"Dinner is served, sir," he announced to himself, "dead fish with
formaldehyde dressing, petrified dough, and _aqua nivis_." The storm
continued, and as he smoked the gravity of his plight forced itself
upon him.

The laggards had caught up, and at the edge of the arc of firelight a
wide semicircle of insanely glaring eyeballs and gleaming fangs told
where the wolf-pack waited.

There was a terrifying sense of certainty in their method. They took no
chance of open attack, wasted no breath in needless howling or
snarling, but merely sat upon their haunches beyond the circle of the
firelight--waiting.

Again the man shuddered. Before him, he knew, lay at least fifteen
miles of trail knee-deep with snow, and he had left but one small
ration of unpalatable and unnutritious food.

"I seem to be up against a tough proposition," he mused. "What was it
Appleton said about battle, murder, and sudden death? It looks from
here as if the old boy knew what he was talking about. But it is kind
of rough on a man to roll them all up into one bundle and hand it to
him right on the kick-off."

He had heard of men who became lost in the woods and died horribly of
cold and starvation, or went down to the rush of the wolf-pack.

"As long as I stick to this road I won't get lost," he thought. "I may
freeze to death, or starve, or furnish a cozy meal for the wolves
yonder, but even at that I still have the edge on those others--I'm
damned if I'm _lost_!"

And, strange as it may seem, the thought gave him much comfort.

He tossed more wood on the fire and watched the shower of sparks which
shot high above the flames.

"To-morrow will be my busy day," he remarked, addressing the wolves.
"Good night, you hell-hounds! Just stick around and see that nothing
sneaks up and bites me."

He hurled a blazing firebrand among the foremost of the hungry hoard,
but these did not retreat--merely leaped back, snarling, to lurk in the
outer shadows.

Bill's sleep was fitful. The snow ceased to fall during the early hours
of the night, and the pair of blankets with which he had provided
himself proved entirely inadequate protection against the steadily
increasing cold.

Time and again he awoke and replenished the fire, for, no matter in
what position he lay, one side of his body seemed freezing, while the
other toasted uncomfortably in the hot glare of the flames. And
always--just at the rim of the fire-light--sat the wolves, waiting in
their ominous circle of silence.

But in the interims between these awakenings he slept profoundly,
oblivious alike to discomfort and danger--as the dead sleep.

At the first hint of dawn Bill hastily consumed the last of his
unpalatable food and resumed his journey.

Hour after hour he toiled through the snow, and always the wolf-pack
followed, haunting his trail in the open roadway and flanking him in
the deep shade of the evergreen forest, moving tirelessly through the
loose snow in long, slow leaps.

Seventeen of them he counted--seventeen murderous, ill-visaged curs of
the savage kill! And the leader of the pack was a very demon wolf. A
monstrous female, almost pure white, huge, misshapen, hideous--the
ultimate harridan of the wolf-breed--she stood a full two hands above
the tallest of the rank and file of her evil clan.

The foot and half of a foreleg had been left between iron jaws where
she had gnawed herself out of a trap, and the shrunken stub, depending
from a withered shoulder, dragged over the surface of the snow, leaving
a curious mark like the trail of a snake.

The remaining foreleg was strong and thick and, from redistribution of
balance, slanted inward from the massive shoulder, which was developed
out of all proportion to its mate, giving the great white brute a
repulsive, lopsided appearance.

The long, stiff hair stood out upon her neck in a great ruff, which
accentuated the fiendish ferocity of her, adding a hyena-like slope to
her ungainly body. But it was in the expression of her face that she
reached the climax of hideous malevolence.

One pointed ear stood erect upon her head, while the other, mangled and
torn into a serried red excrescence, formed the termination of a broad,
ragged scar which began at the corner of her mouth, giving her face the
expression of a fiendish grin that belied the green glare of her
venomous, opalescent eyes.

The loss of the leg seemed in nowise to hamper her freedom of action.
She moved ceaselessly among the pack with a peculiar bounding gallop,
fawning in subtle cajolery upon those in the forefront, slashing right
and left among the laggards with vicious clicks of her long, white
fangs; and always she watched the tiring man who found his own gaze
fixed upon her in horrid fascination.

There was something sinister in the wolf-pack's noiseless pursuit. The
brutes drew nearer as the man's pace slowed to the wearying of his
muscles.

Instinctively he knew that at the last there would be no waiting--no
delay. The very minute he sank exhausted into the snow they would be
upon him--the great white leader and her rapacious horde--and in his
imagination he could feel the viselike clench of iron jaws and the
tearing rip with which the quivering flesh would be stripped from his
bones.

At midday the man placed the sheath-knife in his belt and threw away
the pack. Relieved of the burden, his shoulders felt strangely light.
There was a new buoyancy in his stride.

But the relief was temporary, and as the sun sank early behind the
pines his brain was again driving his wearied muscles to their work.

The wolves were following close in now, and the silence of their
relentless persistence filled the man with a dumb terror which no
pandemonium of howling could have inspired.

His advance was halting. Each step was a separate and conscious
undertaking, and it was with difficulty that he lifted his moccasins
clear of the snow.

Suddenly he stumbled. The leaders were almost upon him as he recovered
and faced them there in the white reach of the tote-road. They halted
just out of reach of the swing of his axe, and as the man looked into
their glaring eyes a frenzy of unreasoning fury seized him.

His nerves could no longer stand the strain. Something seemed to snap
in his brain, and through his veins surged the spirit of his fighting
ancestors.

A sudden memory flash, as of deeds forgotten through long ages, and
with it came strength--the very abandon of fierce, brute strength of a
man with the mind to kill.

"Come on!" he cried. "Fight it out, you fiends! I may die, but I'll be
damned if I'll be hounded to death! You may get me, but you'll _fight_!
When a McKim goes down some one pays! And if it is die--By God!
There'll be fun in the dying!"

With a weird primordial scream, as the first man might have screamed in
the face of the first saber-tooth, he hurled his axe among them and
sprang forward, flashing the cold, gray blade of his sheath-knife!



CHAPTER XV

THE WERWOLF


Now, as all men know, Bill Carmody had done a most foolish and insane
thing.

But the very audacity of his act--and the god of chance--favored him,
for as the axe whizzed through the air the keen edge of the whirling
bit caught one of the larger wolves full on the side of the head.

There followed the peculiar, dull scrunching sound that stands alone
among all other sounds, being produced by no other thing than the
sudden crush of a living skull.

The front and side of the skull lifted and turned backward upon its
hinge of raw scalp and the wolf went down, clawing and biting, and over
the snow flowed thick red blood, and a thicker mucus of soft, wet
brains.

At the sight and scent of the warm blood, the companions of the
stricken brute--the gaunt, tireless leaders, who had traveled beside
him in the van, and the rag-tag and bobtail alike--fell upon him tooth
and nail, and the silence of the forest was shattered by the blood-cry
of the meat-getters.

Not so the great she-wolf, who despised these others that fought among
themselves, intent only upon the satisfaction of their hunger.

Her purpose in trailing this man to destruction was of deep vengeance:
the assuagement of an abysmal hatred that smoldered in her heart
against every individual of the terrible man kind, whose cruel traps of
iron, blades of steel, and leaden bullets had made her a monstrous,
sexless thing, feared and unsought by mating males, hated of her own
breed.

And now, at the moment she had by the cunning of her generalship
delivered this man an easy prey to her followers, they deserted her and
fell in swinish greed upon the first meat at hand.

So that at the last she faced her enemy alone, and the smoldering fury
of her heart blazed green from her wicked eyes. She stood tense as a
pointer, every hair of her long white coat bristlingly aquiver.

Suddenly she threw back her head, pointed her sharp muzzle to the sky,
and gave voice to the long-drawn ululation which is the battle-cry of
wolves.

Yet it was not the wolf-cry, for long ago the malformation of a healing
throat-wound had distorted the bell-like cry into a hideous scream like
the shriek of a soul foredamned, which quavered loud and shrill upon
the keen air and ended in a series of quick jerks, like stabs of
horrible laughter.

And then, with tight-drawn lips and jaws agape, she hurled herself
straight at the throat of the stumbling man.

                     *      *      *      *      *

Darkness was gathering when, a mile to the northward, Jake LaFranz and
Irish Fallon, who were laboring with six big horses and a rough log
drag to break out the trail, suddenly paused to listen.

Through the thin, cold air rang a sound the like of which neither had
ever heard. And then, as if in echo, the long-drawn wail of the great
white wolf.

They stared at each other white-lipped; for that last cry was a thing
men talked about of nights with bated breath and deep curses. Neither
had heard it before--nor would either hear it again--but each
recognized the sound instinctively, as he would recognize the sound of
Gabriel's trump.

"It's _her_!" gasped LaFranz. "God save us! It's Diablesse--the
_loup-garou_!"

"'Tis none other--that last. But, man! Man! The first wan! Was it a
human cry or from the throat of another of her hell-begotten breed?"

Without waiting to reply the Frenchman swung the big six-team in their
tracks and headed them toward camp. But Irish Fallon reached for him as
he fumbled at the clevis.

"Howld on, ye frog-eater! Be a man! If 'twas human tore loose that yell
he'll be the bether fer help, notwithstandin' there was more av foight
nor fear in th' sound."

"No, no, no! It's _her_! It's Diablesse!" He crossed himself.

"Sure, an' ut is; bad cess to her altogether. But Oi got a hear-rt in
me ribs o'good rid blood that takes relish now an' agin in a bit av a
foight. An', man or baste, Oi ain't particular, so 'tis a good wan.
Oi'll be goin' down th' thrail a piece an' see phwat's to see. Oi ain't
axin' ye to go 'long. Ye poor prayer-dhrivlin' haythen, wid yer limon
av a hear-rt ye've got a yallar shtripe that raches to th' length an'
width av ye. Ye'd be no good nohow.

"But 'tis mesilf ain't fearin' th' evil eye av th' werwolf--an' she is
called be the name av th' divil's own.

"But listen ye here, ye pea-soup Frinchy! Ye'll not go shnakin' off wid
thim harses. Ye'll bide here till Oi come back."

The other made a whimper of protest, but Irish Fallon reached out a
great hairy hand and shook him roughly.

"Yez moind now, an' Oi mane ut! Here ye shtay. An' av ye ain't here,
ye'd bether kape on goin'. F'r th' nixt toime Oi lay eyes on ye Oi'll
br-reak ye in two! An' don't ye fergit ut!"

The big Irishman turned and swung down the tote-road, the webs of his
rackets leaving a broad trail in the snow. LaFranz cowered upon the
snow-plow and sought refuge in craven prayer and curses the while he
shot frightened glances into the darkening forest.

He thought of cutting the horses loose and starting them for camp at a
run. But, much as he feared the werwolf, he feared Irish Fallon more;
for many were the tales of Fallon's man-fights when his "Irish was up."

                     *      *      *      *      *

When the white wolf sprang the man had nearly reached the snarling
pack. Before him, scarcely six feet away, lay his axe, the blade
smeared with blood and brains, to which clung stiff gray hairs.

Instinctively he ducked and, as the huge form flashed past, his right
arm shot out straight from the shoulder. The long, clean blade entered
just at the point of the brisket and, ranging upward, was buried to the
haft as the knife was torn from his grasp.

One step and the man's fingers closed about the helve of his axe, and
he whirled to meet the second onslaught.

But there was small need. The great brute stood still in her tracks
and, with lowered head, snapped and wrenched at the thing that bit into
her very lungs.

The stag-horn plates of the protruding hilt were splintered under the
clamp of the mighty jaws, and the long, gleaming teeth made deep dents
in the brass beneath. Her lips reddened, and before her the snow was
flecked with blood.

All this the man took in at a glance without conscious impression. He
gripped his weapon and sprang among the fighting pack, which ripped and
dragged at the carcass of the dead wolf.

Right and left he struck in a reckless fume of ferocity, which spoke of
unreasoning fights in worlds of savage firstlings. And under the
smashing blows of the axe wolves went down--skulls split, spines
crushed, ribs caved in--a side at a stroke, and shoulders were cloven
clean and deep to pink sponge lungs.

As if realizing that her hurt was mortal, the great she-wolf abandoned
her attack on the knife-haft and, summoning her strength for a supreme
effort, sprang straight into the midst of the red shambles.

The man, caught unawares, went down under the impact of her body. For
one fleeting second he stared upward into blazing eyes. From between
wide-sprung rows of flashing fangs the blood-dripping tongue seemed to
writhe from the cavernous throat, and the foul breath blew hot against
his face. Instantly his strong fingers buried themselves in the shaggy
fur close under the hinge of the jaw, while his other hand closed about
the dented brass of the protruding knife-hilt.

With the whole strength of his arm he held the savage jaws from his
face as he wrenched and twisted at the firmly embedded knife. Finally
it loosened, and as the thick-backed blade was withdrawn from the wound
it was followed by spurt after spurt of blood--bright, frothy blood,
straight from the lungs, which gushed hot and wet over him.

Blindly he struck; stabbing, thrusting, slashing at the great form
which was pressing him deeper and deeper into the snow. Again and again
the knife was turned against rib and shoulder-blade, inflicting only
shallow surface wounds.

At length a heavy, straight upthrust encountered no obstacle of bone,
and the blade bit deep and deeper into living flesh.

As with a final effort the knife was driven home, a convulsive shiver
racked the body of the great white wolf, and with a low, gurgling moan
of agony her jaws set rigid, her muscles stiffened, and she toppled
sidewise into the snow, where she lay twitching spasmodically with
glazing eyes.

Bill staggered weakly to his feet.

The uninjured wolves had vanished, leaving their dead upon the snow,
while the wounded left flat, red trails as they sought to drag their
broken bodies to the cover of the forest.

Irish Fallon rounded a turn of the tote-road. He brought up sharply and
stared open-mouthed at the man who, sheath-knife in hand, stood looking
down at an indistinct object which lay upon the blood-trampled snow.

Carmody turned and shouted a greeting, but without a word the Irishman
advanced to his side until he, too, stood looking down at the thing in
the snow. Suddenly Bill's hand was seized in a mighty grip.

"Man! 'Tis _her_, an' no mistake! She's done for at lasht--an' blade to
fang, in open foight ye've knoifed her! Sure, 'tis a gr-rand toime
ye've had altogether," he said, glancing at the carcasses, "wid six
dead besides her an' three more as good as."

Bill laughed: "This wolf--the big white one--seems to enjoy a
reputation, then?"

"R-r-reputation! R-r-reputation, is ut? Good Lord, man! Don't ye know
her? 'Tis th' werwolf! D'ablish, th' _loup-garou_, the Frinchies call
her; an' the white divil, the Injuns--an' good rayson, f'r to me own
knowledge she's kilt foive folks, big an' shmall, an' some Injuns
besides. They claim she's a divil, an' phwin she howls, 'tis because
some sowl has missed th' happy huntin' grounds in th' dyin', an' she's
laughin'."

"I don't know that I blame them," said Bill. "She favored me with a
vocal selection. And, believe me, she was no mocking-bird."

"Well, she looks dead, now," grinned Fallon; "but we'd besht make sure.
Owld man Frontenelle kilt her wunst. Seven year back, ut was over on
Monish.

"He shot her clean t'rough th' neck an' dhrug her to his cabin be th'
tail. He was for skinnin' her flat f'r th' robe she'd make. He had her
stretched out phwin wid a flash an' a growl, she was at um, an' wid wan
clap av th' jaws she ripped away face an' half th' scalp.

"They found um wanderin' blind on th' lake ice an' carried um to
Skelly's phwere he died in tin days' toime av hydrophoby, shnarlin' an'
bitin' at folks till they had to chain um in th' shtoreroom."

As he spoke, Fallon picked up the axe, and with several well-directed
blows shattered the skull of the werwolf against any possibility of a
repetition of the Frontenelle incident.

"But come, man, get yer rackets an' we'll be hittin' the thrail f'r
camp. Sure, Frinchy'll be scairt shtiff av we lave um longer."

"Rackets?" asked Bill, with a look of perplexity.

"Yer shnow shoes, av coorse."

"Haven't got any. And I don't suppose I could use them if I had." The
other stared at him incredulously.

"Not got any! Thin how'd ye git here?"

"Walked--or rather, stumbled along."

"Phwere from?"

"It started to snow as I left the old shack--the last one this way, I
don't know how far back. It was there I traded my boots to an Indian
for these." He extended a moccasined foot.

"'Tis a good job ye traded. But even at that--thirty-foive moile
t'rough th' snow widout webs!" The Irishman looked at him in open
admiration. "An' on top av that, killin' th' werwolf wid a knoife, an'
choppin' her pack loike so much kindlin's! Green, ye may be--an'
ignorant. But, frind, ye've done a man's job this day, an' Oi'm pr-roud
to know yez."

Again he extended his hand and Bill seized it in a strong grip.
Somehow, he did not resent being called green, and ignorant--he was
learning the North.

"Fallon's me name," the other continued, "an' be an accident av birth,
Oi'm called Oirish, f'r short."

"Mine is Bill, which is shorter," replied Carmody, smiling.

For just a second Irish hesitated as if expecting further
enlightenment, but, receiving none, reached down and grasped the tail
of the white wolf.

"'Tis a foine robe she'll make, Bill, an' in th' North, among white min
an' Injuns, 'twill give ye place an' shtandin'--but not wid
Moncrossen," he added with a frown.

"Come on along. Foller yez in behint, f'r th' thrail'll be fair
br-roke. Phwat wid two thrips wid th' rackets an' th' dhrag av th'
wolf, 'twill not be bad. 'Tis only a mather av twinty minutes to phwere
Frinchy'll bether be waitin' wid th' harses."



CHAPTER XVI

MONCROSSEN


They found LaFranz waiting in fear and trembling. The heavy snow-plow
was left in readiness for the morrow's trail-breaking, and the horses
hitched to a rough sled and headed for camp.

"An' ye say Misther Appleton sint ye up to wor-rk in Moncrossen's
camp?" The two were seated on the log bunk at the back of the sled
while the Frenchman drove, keeping a fearful eye on the white wolf. For
old man Frontenelle had been his uncle.

"Yes, he told me to report here."

"D'ye know Moncrossen?"

"No."

"Well, ye will, ag'in' shpring," Irish replied dryly.

"What do you mean?" asked Bill.

Irish shrugged. "Oi mane this," he answered. "Moncrossen is a har-rd
man altogether. He hates a greener. He thinks no wan but an owld hand
has any business in th' woods, an' 'tis his boast that in wan season
he'll make a lumberjack or a corpse out av any greener.

"An' comin' from Appleton hisself he'll hate ye worse'n ever, f'r he'll
think ye'll be afther crimpin' his bird's-eye game. Take advice, Bill,
an' kape on th' good side av um av ye can. He'll t'row ut into ye wid
all manner av dhirty thricks, but howld ye're timper, an' maybe ye'll
winter ut out--an' maybe ye won't."

"What is a bird's-eye game?"

Fallon glanced at him sharply. "D'ye mane ye don't know about th'
bird's-eye?" he asked.

"Not a thing," replied Bill.

"Thin listen to me. Don't ye niver say bird's-eye in this camp av ye
expect to winter ut out."

Bill was anxious to hear more about the mysterious bird's-eye, but the
sled suddenly emerged into a wide clearing and Irish was pointing out
the various buildings of the log camp.

Bright squares of light showed from the windows of the bunk-house,
office, and grub-shack, with its adjoining cook-shack, from the iron
stovepipe of which sparks shot skyward in a continuous shower.

Fallon shouldered the wolf and, accompanied by Bill, made toward the
bunk-house, while the Frenchman turned the team toward the stable.

"Ag'in' we git washed up, supper'll be ready," announced Irish, as he
deposited the wolf carcass beside the door and entered.

Inside the long, low room, lined on either side by a double row of
bunks, were gathered upward of a hundred men waiting the supper call.

They were big men, for the most part, rough clad and unshaven. Many
were seated upon the edges of the bunks smoking and talking, others
grouped about the three big stoves, and the tobacco-reeking air was
laden with the rumble of throaty conversation, broken here and there by
the sharp scratch of a match, a loud laugh, or a deep-growled,
good-natured curse.

Into this assembly stepped Irish Fallon, closely followed by Bill, the
sight of whose blood-stained face attracted grinning attention. The two
men passed the length of the room to the wash-bench, where a few
loiterers still splashed noisily at their ablutions.

"I heard it plain, I'm tellin' you," some one was saying. "'Way off to
the south it sounded."

"That ain't no lie," broke in another, "I hearn it myself--jest before
dark, it was. An' I know! Didn't I hear it that night over on Ten Fork?
The time she got Jack Kane's woman, four year ago, come Chris'mus. Yes,
sir! I tell you the werwolf's nigh about this camp, an' it's me in off
the edges afore dark!"

"They say she never laughs but she makes a kill," said one.

"God! I was at Skelly's when they brought old man Frontenelle in,"
added a big man, whose heavy beard was shot with gray, as he turned
from the stove with a shudder.

"They's some Injuns trappin' below; she might of got one of them,"
opined a short, stockily built man who, catching sight of the
newcomers, addressed Fallon:

"Hey, Irish, you was down on the tote-road; did you hear Diablesse?"

Fallon finished drying his face upon the coarse roller-towel and turned
toward the group who waited expectantly. "Yis, Oi hear-rd her, all
roight," he replied lightly. "An' thin Oi _see'd_ her."

Others crowded about, hanging upon his words. "An' thin, be way av
showin' me contimpt," he added, "Oi dhrug her a moile or more t'rough
th' woods be th' tail."

Loud laughter followed this assertion; but not a few, especially among
the older men, shook their heads in open disapproval, and muttered
curses at his levity.

"But me frind Bill, here," Irish continued, "c'n tell ye more about
her'n phwat Oi kin. He's new in th' woods, Bill is; an' so damned green
he know'd nayther th' manein' nor use av th' rackets. So, be gad, he
come widout 'em. Mushed two whole days t'rough th' shnow.

"But, listen; no mather how ignorant, nor how much he don't know, a
good man's a man--an' to pr-rove ut he jumps wid his axe roight into
th' middle av th' werwolf's own an' kills noine, countin' th' three
cripples Oi finished.

"But wid D'ablish herself, moind, he t'row'd away his axe an' goes to a
clinch wid his knoife in his fisht. An' phwin 'tis over an' he picks
himsilf up out av th' shnow an' wipes th' blood from his eyes--her
blood--f'r he comes out av ut widout scratch nor scar--D'ablish lays at
his feet dead as a nit."

Fallon gazed triumphantly into the incredulous faces of the men, and,
with a smile, added, "'Twas thin Oi dhrug her be th' tail to th' sled,
afther shmashin' her head wid th' axe to make sure."

"An' where is she now, Irish?" mocked one. "Did she jump off the sled
an' make a get-away?"

Over at the grub-shack the cook's half-breed helper beat lustily upon
the discarded saw-blade that hung suspended by a wire, and the men
crowded noisily out of the doors.

"Oi'll show ye afther supper, ye damned shpalpeen, how much av her got
away!" shouted Irish, who waited for Bill to remove the evidence of his
fight before piloting him to the grub-shack.

A single table of rough lumber covered with brown oilcoth extended the
full length of the center of the room. Above this table six huge
"Chicago burners" lighted the interior, which, as the two men entered,
was a hive of noisy activity.

Men scuffled for places upon the stationary benches arranged along
either side of the table. Heavy porcelain thumped the board, and the
air was filled with the metallic din of steel knives and forks being
gathered into bearlike hands.

Up and down the wide alleys behind the benches hurried flunkies bearing
huge tin pots of steaming coffee, and the incessant returning of thick
cups to their saucers was like the rattle of musketry.

But the thing that impressed the half-famished Bill was the profusion
of food; never in his life, he thought, had he beheld so tempting an
array of things to eat. Great trenchers of fried pork, swimming in its
own grease, alternated the full length of the table with huge pans of
baked beans.

Mountains of light, snowy bread rose at short intervals from among
foot-hills of baked potatoes, steaming dishes of macaroni and stewed
tomatoes, canned corn, peas, and apple sauce, and great yellow rolls of
butter into which the knives of the men skived deeply.

The two passed behind the benches in search of vacant places when
suddenly an undersized flunky stumbled awkwardly, dropping the
coffee-pot, which sent a wash of steaming brown liquid over the floor.

Instantly a great, hulking man with a wide, flat face and low forehead
surmounted by a thick thatch of black hair, below which two swinish
eyes scintillated unevenly, paused in the act of raising a great
calk-booted foot over the bench.

The thick, pendulous lips under his ragged mustache curled backward,
exposing a crenate row of jagged brown teeth. He stepped directly in
front of the two men and, reaching out a thick hand caught the
unfortunate flunky by the scruff as he regained his balance.

From his lips poured an unbroken stream of vile epithets and
soul-searing curses while he shook the whimpering wretch with a
violence that threatened serious results, and ended by pinning him
against the log wall and drawing back his huge arm for a terrific
shoulder blow.

The vicious brutality of the attack following so trivial an offense
aroused Bill Carmody's anger. The man's back was toward him, and Bill
grasped the back-drawn arm at the wrist and with an ungentle jerk
whirled the other in his tracks.

The man released the flunky and faced him with a snarl. "Who done
that?" he roared.

"I did. Hit me. I tripped him."

Bill's voice was dead level and low, but it carried to the farthest
reaches of the room, over which had fallen a silence of expectation.
Men saw that the hard gray eyes of the stranger narrowed ominously.

"An' who the hell are _you_?" The words whistled through the bared
teeth and a flush of fury flooded the man's face.

"What do you care? I tripped him. Hit me!" and the low, level tone
blended into silence. It seemed a _thing_--that uncanny silence when
noise should have been.

There were sounds--sounds that no one heeded nor heard--the heavy
breathing of a hundred men waiting for something to happen--the thin
creak of the table boards as men leaned forward upon hands whose
knuckles whitened under the red skin, and stared, fascinated, at the
two big men who faced each other in the broad aisle.

The swinish eyes of the brutish man glared malignantly into the gray
eyes of the stranger, in which there appeared no slightest flicker of
rage nor hate, nor any other emotion.

Only a cold, hard stare which held something of terrible intensity,
accentuated by the little fans of whitening wrinkles which radiated
from their corners.

In that instant the other's gaze wavered. He knew that this man had
lied; and he knew that every man in the room knew that he had lied.
That he had deliberately lied into the row and then, without raising
his guard, had dared him to strike.

It was inconceivable.

Had the man loudly shouted his challenge or thrown up his guard when he
dared him to strike, or had his eye twitched or burned with anger, he
would have unhesitatingly lunged into a fight to the finish.

But he found himself at a disadvantage. He was up against something he
did not understand. The calm assurance of the stranger--his fists were
not doubled and his lips smiled--disconcerted him.

A strange, prickly chill tingled at the back of his neck, and in his
heart he knew that for the first time in his life he dared not strike a
man. He cast about craftily to save his face and took his cue from the
other's smile. With an effort his loose, thick lips twisted into a
grin.

"G'wan with yer jokin', stranger," he laughed.

"Y'u damn near made me mad--fer a minute," and he turned to the table.

Instantly a clatter of noise broke forth. Men rattled dishes nervously
in relief or disappointment, and the room was filled with the rumble of
voices in unmeaning chatter. But in the quick glances which passed from
man to man there was much of meaning.

"God, man, that was Moncrossen!" whispered Fallon, when the two found
themselves seated near the end of the table. Bill smiled.

"Was it?" he asked. "I don't like him."



CHAPTER XVII

A TWO-FISTED MAN


A half-hour later when Bill sought out the boss in the little office,
the latter received him in surly silence; and as he read Appleton's
note his lip curled.

"So you think you'll make a lumberjack, do you?"

"Yes." There was no hesitation; nothing of doubt in the reply.

"My crew's full," the boss growled. "I don't need no men, let alone a
greener that don't know a peavey from a bark spud. Wha'd the old man
send you up here for, anyhow?"

"That, I presume, is _his_ business."

"Oh, it is, is it? Well, let me tell you first off--I'm boss of this
here camp!" Moncrossen paused and glared at the younger man. "You get
that, do you? Just you remember that what I say goes, an' I don't take
no guff offen no man, not even one of the old man's pets--an' that's
_my_ business--see?"

Bill smiled as the scowling man crushed the note in his hand and
slammed it viciously into the wood-box.

"Wants you broke in, does he? All right; I'll break you! Ag'in' spring
you'll know a little somethin' about logs, or you'll be so damn sick of
the woods you'll run every time you hear a log chain rattle; an' either
way, you'll learn who's boss of this here camp."

Moncrossen sank his yellow teeth into a thick plug of tobacco and tore
off the corner with a jerk.

"Throw yer blankets into an empty bunk an' be ready fer work in the
mornin'. I'll put you swampin' fer the big Swede--I guess that 'll hold
you. Yer wages is forty-five a month--an' I'm right here to see that
you earn 'em."

"Can I buy blankets here? I threw mine away coming out."

"Comin' out! Comin' in, you mean! Men come _in_ to the woods. In the
spring they go _out_--if they're lucky. Get what you want over to the
van; it'll be charged ag'in' yer wages." Bill turned toward the door.

"By the way," the boss growled, "what's yer name--back where you come
from?"

"Bill."

"Bill what?"

"No. Just Bill--with a period for a full stop. And that's _my_
business--see?" As Moncrossen encountered the level stare of the gray
eyes he leered knowingly.

"Oh, that's it, eh? All right, _Bill_! 'Curiosity killed the cat,' as
the feller says. An' just don't forget to remember that what a man
don't know don't hurt him none. Loggin' is learned _in_ the choppin's.
Accidents happens; an' dead men tells no tales. Them that keeps their
eyes to the front an' minds their own business gen'ally winters
through. That's all."

Bill wondered at the seemingly irrelevant utterances of the boss, but
left the office without comment.

On the floor of the bunk-house Irish Fallon, assisted by several of the
men, was removing the skin from Diablesse, while others looked on.

The awkward hush that fell upon them as he entered told Bill that he
had been the subject of their conversation. Men glanced at him
covertly, as though taking his measure, and he soon found himself
relating the adventures of the trail to an appreciative audience, which
grinned approval and tendered flasks, which he declined.

Later, as he helped Fallon nail the wolfskin to the end of the
bunk-house he told him of the interview with Moncrossen. The Irishman
listened, frowning.

"Ye've made a bad shtar-rt wid um," he said, shaking his head. "Ye eyed
'im down in th' grub-shack, an' he hates ye fer ut. How ye got by wid
ut Oi don't know, fer he's a scr-rapper from away back, an' av he'd
sailed into ye Oi'm thinkin' he'd knocked th' divil out av ye, fer he's
had experience, which ye ain't. But he didn't dast to, an' he knows ut,
an' he knows that the men knows ut. An' now he'll lay fer a chanst to
git aven. Ut's th' besht ye c'n do--loike he says, kape th' two eyes av
ye to th' front an' moind yer own business--only kape wan eye behint ye
to look out fer throuble. Phwat fer job did he give yez?"

"I am to start swamping, whatever that is, for the big Swede."

The Irishman grinned.

"Oi thoucht so; an' may God have mercy on yer sowl."

"What is the matter with the Swede?"

"Mather enough. Bein' hand an' glove wid Moncrossen is good rayson to
suspicion any man. Fer t'is be the help av Shtromberg that Moncrossen
kapes a loine on th' men an' gits by wid his crooked wor-rk.

"He ain't long on brains nohow, Moncrossen ain't, an' he ain't a good
camp-boss nayther, fer all he gits out th' logs.

"Be bluff an' bullyin' he gits th' wor-rk out av th' crew; but av ut
wasn't that Misther Appleton lets um pay a bit over goin' wages, he'd
have no crew, fer th' men hate um fer all they're afraid av um.

"Th' rayson he puts ye shwampin' fer th' big Swede is so's he'll kape
an eye on yez. As long as ye do yer wor-rk an' moind yer own business
ye'll get along wid him as well as another. But, moind ye, phwin th'
bird's-eye shtar-rts movin' ye don't notice nothin,' or some foine
avenin' ye'll turn up missin'."

"What is this bird's-eye thing?" asked Bill. "What has it got to do
with Moncrossen--and me?"

The Irishman considered the question and, without answering, walked to
the corner of the bunk-house near which they were standing and peered
into the black shadow of the wall. Apparently satisfied, he returned
again to where Bill was standing.

"Come on in th' bunk-house, now," he said. "I want to locate Shtromberg
an' wan or two more. We'll sit around an' shmoke a bit, an' phwin they
begin rollin' in ye'll ask me phwere is th' van, fer ye must have
blankets an' phwat not. Oi'll go along to show ye, an' we'll take a
turn down th' tote-road phwere we c'n talk widout its gittin' to th'
ears av th' boss."

Wondering at the man's precautions for secrecy, he followed, and for a
half-hour listened to the fireside gossip of the camp. He noticed that
Fallon's glance traveled over the various groups as if seeking some
one, and he wondered which of the men was Stromberg.

Suddenly the door was flung open and a huge, yellow-bearded man stamped
noisily to the stove, disregarding the curses that issued from the
bunks of those who had already turned in.

This man was larger even than Moncrossen, with protruding eyes of china
blue, which stared weakly from beneath heavy, straw-colored eyebrows.
Two hundred and fifty pounds, thought Bill, as the man, snorting
disagreeably, paused before him and fixed him with an insolent stare.

"Hey, you! Boss says you swamp for me," he snorted. Bill nodded
indifferently.

"You know how to swamp good?" he asked. Bill studied the toes of his
moccasins and, without looking up, replied with a negative shake of his
head.

"I learn you, all right. In couple days you swamp good, or I fix you."

Bill looked up, encountered the watery glare of the blue eyes, and
returned his gaze to the points of his moccasins. The voice of the
Swede grew more aggressive. He snorted importantly as the men looked
on, and smote his palm with a ponderous fist.

"First thing, I duck you in waterhole. Then I slap you to peak an'
break off the peak." The men snickered, and Stromberg, emboldened by
the silence of his new swamper, continued:

"It's time boys was in bed. To-morrow I make you earn your wages."

Bill rose slowly from his seat, and as he looked again into the face of
the big Swede his lips smiled. But Fallon noticed, and others, that in
the steely glint of the gray eyes was no hint of smile, and they
watched curiously while he removed his mackinaw and tossed it
carelessly onto the edge of a near-by bunk from where it slipped
unnoticed to the floor.

Stromberg produced a bottle, drank deep, and returned the flask to his
pocket. He rasped the fire from his throat with a harsh, grating sound,
drew the back of his hand across his mouth, and kicked contemptuously
at the mackinaw which lay almost at his feet.

As he did so a long, thick envelope, to which was tightly bound the
photograph of a girl, slipped from the inner pocket. Instantly he
stooped and seized it.

"Haw, haw!" he roared, "the greener's got a woman. Look, she's a----"

"Drop that!" The voice was low, almost soft in tone, but the words cut
quick and clear, with no hint of gentleness.

"Come get it, greener!" The man taunted as he doubled a huge fist, and
held the photograph high that the others might see.

Bill came. He covered the intervening space at a bound, springing
swiftly and straight--as panthers spring; and as his moccasined feet
touched the floor he struck. Once, twice, thrice--and all so quickly
that the onlookers received no sense of repeated effort.

The terrific force of the well-placed blows, and their deadly accuracy,
seemed to be consecutive parts of a single, continuous, smoothly
flowing movement.

In the tense silence sounds rang sharp--the peculiar smack of living
flesh hard hit, as the first blow landed just below the ear, the dull
thump of a heavy body blow, and the clash of teeth driven against teeth
as the sagging jaw of the big Swede snapped shut to the impact of the
long swing that landed full on his chin's point.

The huge form stiffened, spun half-way around, and toppled sidewise
against a rack of drying garments, which fell with a crash to the
floor.

Without so much as a glance at the ludicrously sprawled figure, Bill
picked up his mackinaw and returned the envelope to the pocket.

"Irish," he asked, "where is the van? I must get some blankets. My
nurse, there, says it's time to turn in."

"Oi'll go wid ye," said Fallon, and a roar of laughter followed them
out into the night.



CHAPTER XVIII

"BIRD'S-EYE" AND PHILOSOPHY


Bill quickly made his purchases, and shouldering the roll of blankets,
followed Irish to the head of a rollway, where the two seated
themselves on the bunk of a log sled.

"Oi don't know how ye done ut," Fallon began. "'Twas th' handiest bit
av two-fisted wor-rk Oi iver see'd. 'Tis well ye've had ut out wid
Shtromberg. Fer all his crookedness, he's a bether man thin th' boss,
an' he'll not be layin' that lickin' up ag'in yez. 'Twas a foight av
his own pickin', an' he knows ye've got him faded.

"Aven av he w'ud of befoor, he'll see to ut that no har-rm comes to ye
now t'rough fault av his own, fer well he knows the men 'ud think 'twas
done to pay ye back, an' he'll have no wish to play th' title rôle at a
hangin'.

"From now on, 'tis only Moncrossen ye'll have to watch, fer ye're in
good wid th' men. We undershtand ye now. Ye see, in th' woods we don't
loike myshtery an', whiles we most av us know that Moncrossen's givin'
Appleton th' double cross, 'tis none av our business, an' phwin we
thoucht ye'd come into th' woods undher false pretinces to catch um at
ut, they was more or less talk.

"Mesilf was beginnin' to think ye'd come into th' woods fer th' rist
cure, ye read about in th' papers, seein' ye'd loafed about fer maybe
it's foive hours an' done nothin' besides carve up th' werwolf an' her
pack, eye down th' boss in his own grub-shack, an' thin top off th'
avenin' be knockin' th' big Swede cold, which some claims he c'ud put
th' boss himself to th' brush, wunst he got shtar-rted. But now we know
phy ye're here. We're pr-roud ye're wan av us."

"What do you mean--you know why I am here? I am here because I needed a
job, and Appleton hired me."

"Sure, lad. But, ye moind th' picture in yer pocket. 'Twas a woman."

"But----"

"'Tis none av our business, an' 'tis nayther here nor there. Av there's
a woman at th' bottom av ut, 'tis rayson enough--phwativer happens."

Bill laughed.

"You were going to tell me about the bird's-eye," he reminded.

"Ut's loike this: Here an' yon in th' timber there's a bird's-eye
tree--bird's-eye maple, ye know. 'Tis scarce enough, wid only a tree
now an' again, an' ut takes an expert to spot ut.

"Well, th' bird's-eye brings around a hundred dollars a thousan', an'
divil a bit av ut gits to Appleton's mills.

"Moncrossen's got a gang--Shtromberg's in ut, an' a Frinch cruiser
named Lebolt, an' a boot-leggin' tree-spotter named Creed, that lives
in Hilarity, an' a couple av worthless divils av sawyers that's too
lazy fer honest wor-rk, but camps t'rough th' winter, trappin' an
sawin' bird's-eye an calico ash on other men's land.

"Shtromberg'll skid till along toward sphring phwin he'll go to
teamin'. Be that toime th' bird's-eye logs'll be down, here an' there
in th' woods beyant th' choppin's, an' Shtromberg'll haul um an' bank
um on some river; thin in th' summer, Moncrossen an' his men'll slip
up, toggle um to light logs so they'll float, an' raft um to th'
railroad phwere there'll be a buyer from th' Eastern vaneer mills
waitin'.

"Ut's a crooked game, shtealin' Appleton's logs, an' haulin' um wid
Appleton's teams, an' drawin' Appleton's wages fer doin' ut.

"Now, bechune man an' man, th' big Swede's th' brains av th' gang. He's
a whole lot shmar-rter'n phwat he lets on. Such ain't th' nature av
men, but 'tis th' way av women."

Irish thoughtfully tamped his pipe-bowl, and the flare of the match
between his cupped palms brought out his honest features distinctly in
the darkness. Bill felt a strong liking for this homely philosopher,
and he listened as the other eyed him knowingly and continued:

"'Tis be experience we lear-rn. An' th' sooner a man lear-rns, th'
bether ut is fer um, that all women know more thin they let on--an'
they've always an ace fer a hole car-rd bekase av ut.

"Fer women run men, an' men politics, an' politics armies, an' armies
th' wor-rld--an' at th' bottom av ut all is th' wisdom an' schemin' av
women.

"Phwin a man fools a woman, he's a fool--fer she ain't fooled at all.
But, she ain't fool enough to let on she ain't fooled, fer well she
knows that as long as she knows more thin he thinks she knows, she
holds th' edge--an' th' divil av ut is, she does.

"Take a man, now; phwin ye know um, ye know um. He's always willin' to
admit he's as shmar-rt as he is, or a damn soight shmar-rter, which
don't fool no wan, fer 'tis phwat they expect.

"A man c'n brag an' lie about phwat he knows, an' phwere he's been, an'
phwat he's done; an' noine toimes out av tin, ye cud trust him to th'
inds av th' earth wid ye're lasht dollar.

"But wanst let um go out av his way to belittle himsilf an' phwat he
knows, an' Oi w'udn't trust him wid a bent penny as far as Oi cud t'row
a bull be th' tail fer 'tis done wid a purpose. 'Tis so wid
Shtromberg."

Fallon arose, consulted his watch, and led the way toward the
bunk-house.

"So now ye know fer phwy Moncrossen hates ye," he continued. "He knows
ye're a greener in th' woods, but he knows be this toime ye'll be a
har-rd man to handle, an' he fears ye. Oi've put ye wise to th'
bird's-eye game so ye c'n steer clear av ut, an' not be gittin' mixed
up in ut wan way or another."

"I am much obliged, Fallon, for what you have told me," replied Bill
quietly; "but inasmuch as I am working for Appleton, I will just make
it my business to look after his interests in whatever way possible. I
guess I will take a hand in the bird's-eye game myself. I am not afraid
of Moncrossen and his gang of thieves. Anyway, I will give them a run
for their money."

Fallon shrugged.

"D'ye know, Oi thoucht ye'd say that. Well, 'tis ye're own funeral.
Tellin' ye about me, Oi ain't lost no bird's-eye trees, mesilf, but av
ye need help--Be th' way, th' bunk above mine's empty; ye moight t'row
ye're blankets in there."



CHAPTER XIX

A FRAME-UP


In the days that followed Bill threw himself into the work with a vigor
that won the approval of the men. A "top" lumber crew is a
smooth-running machine of nice balance whose working units are
interdependent one upon another for efficiency. One shirking or
inexperienced man may appreciably curtail the output of an entire camp
and breed discontent and dissatisfaction among the crew. But with Bill
there was no soldiering. He performed a man's work from the
start--awkwardly at first, but, with the mastery of detail acquired
under the able tutelage of Stromberg, he became known as the best
swamper on the job.

Between him and the big Swede existed a condition of armed neutrality.
Neither ever referred to the incident of the bunk-house, nor did either
show hint of ill-feeling toward the other. The efficiency of each
depended upon the efforts of the other, and neither found cause for
complaint.

With the crew working to capacity to supply Appleton's demand for ten
million feet of logs, there was little time for recreation.
Nevertheless, Bill bought a pair of snowshoes from a passing Indian
and, in spite of rough weather and aching muscles, utilized stormy days
and moonlight nights in perfecting himself in their use.

He and Fallon had become great chums and contrary to the Irishman's
prediction, instead of hectoring the new man, Moncrossen left him
severely alone.

And so the routine of the camp went on until well into February. The
clearing widened, the timber line receded, and tier upon tier of logs
was pyramided upon the rollways. As yet Bill had made no
progress--formulated no definite plan for the detection and ultimate
exposure of the gang of bird's-eye thieves.

Occasionally men put up at the camp for a short stay. Creed and Lebolt
were the most frequent visitors, but neither gave evidence of being
other than he appeared to be--Creed a hunter seeking to dispose of
venison taken out of season, and Lebolt a company cruiser engaged in
estimating timber to the northward.

It was about this time that Bad Luck, that gaunt specter that lurks
unseen in the shadows and hovers over the little lives of men for the
working of harm, swooped down upon the camp and in a series of untoward
happenings impaired its efficiency and impregnated the atmosphere with
the blight of discontent.

An unprecedented thaw set in, ruining the skidways and reducing the
snow of the forest to a sodden slush that chilled men to the bone as
they floundered heavily about their work.

Reed and Kantochy, two sawyers, were caught by a "kick-back." One of
the best horses was sweenied. A teamster who fell asleep on the top of
his load awoke in the bottom of a ravine with a shattered arm, a dead
horse, and a ruined log-sled. Bill's foot was mashed by a rolling log;
and last, and most far-reaching in its effect, the cook contracted
spotted fever and died in a reverse curve.

Moncrossen raged. From a steady eighty thousand feet a day the output
dropped to seventy, sixty, fifty thousand--and the end was not in
sight. Good-natured banter and friendly tussles among the men gave
place to surly bickering and ugly fist-fighting, and in spite of the
best efforts of the second cook the crew growled sullenly or openly
cursed the grub.

Then it was that Moncrossen knew that something must be done--and that
something quickly. He shifted Stromberg and Fallon to the sawing crew,
made a skidder out of a swamper, and filled his place with a grub-shack
flunky.

Then one afternoon he dropped in upon Bill in the bunk-house, where
that young man sat fuming at his inaction with his foot propped up on
the edge of a bunk.

"How's the foot?" growled the boss.

"Pretty sore," answered Bill, laying aside a magazine. "Swelling is
going down a bit."

"Ever handle horses?"

"Yes, a few."

The boss cleared his throat and proceeded awkwardly.

"I don't like to ask no crippled man to work before he's able," he
began grudgingly. "But things is goin' bad. What with them two pilgrims
that called theirselves sawyers not bein' able to dodge a kick-back,
an' Gibson pickin' a down-hill pull on an iced skidway for to go to
sleep on his load, an' your gettin' pinched, an' the cook curlin' up
an' dyin' on us, an' the whole damned outfit roarin' about the grub,
there's hell to pay all around."

He paused and, receiving no answer, shot a crafty look at the man
before him.

"Now, if you was able," he went on, "you c'd take the tote-sled down to
Hilarity an' fetch us a cook. It seems like that's the onliest way;
there ain't nary 'nother man I c'n spare--an' he's a good cook, old
Daddy Dunnigan is, if he'll come. He's a independent old cuss--work if
he damn good an' feels like it, an' if he don't he won't.

"If you think you c'n tackle it, I'll have the blacksmith whittle you
out a crutch, an' you c'n take that long-geared tote team an' make
Hilarity in two days. They's double time in it for you," he added, as a
matter of special inducement.

Bill did not hesitate over his decision.

"All right; I think I can manage," he said. "When do I start?"

"The team'll be ready early in the mornin'. If you start about four
o'clock you c'n make Melton's old No. 8 Camp by night without crowdin'
'em too hard. It's the first one of them old camps you strike, and you
c'n stable the horses without unharnessin'; just slip off the bridles
an' feed 'em."

Bill nodded. At the door Moncrossen halted and glanced at him
peculiarly.

"I'm obliged to you," he said. "For a greener, you've made a good hand.
I'll have things got ready."

Bill was surprised that the boss had paid him even this grudging
compliment, and as he sat beside the big stove, puzzled over the
peculiar glance that had accompanied it.

In a few minutes, however, he dismissed the matter and turned again to,
his six-months-old magazine. Could he have followed Moncrossen and
overheard the hurried conversation which took place in the little
office, he would have found food for further reflection, but of this he
remained in ignorance; and, all unknown to him, a man left the office,
slipped swiftly and noiselessly into the forest, and headed southward.

"'Tis a foine va-acation ye're havin' playin' nurse fer a pinched toe,
an' me tearin' out th' bone fer to git out th' logs on salt-horse an'
dough-gods 't w'd sink a battle-ship. 'Tis a lucky divil ye ar-re
altogither," railed Fallon good-naturedly as he returned from supper
and found Bill engaged in the task of swashing arnica on his bruised
foot.

"Oh, I don't know. I'll be back in the game to-morrow."

"To-morry!" exclaimed Irish, eying the swollen and discolored member
with a grin. "Yis; ut'll be to-morry, all right. But 'tis a shame to
waste so much toime. Av ye c'd git th' boss to put ye on noight shift
icin' th' skidways, ye wudn't have to wait so long."

"It's a fact, Irish," laughed Bill. "I go on at 4 A.M. to-morrow."

"Fure A.M., is ut? An' phwat'll ye be doin'? Peelin' praties fer that
dommed pisener in th' kitchen. Ye've only been laid up t'ree days an'
talk av goin' to wor-rk. Man! Av Oi was lucky enough to git squose
loike that, Oi'd make ut lasht a month av Oi had to pour ink on me foot
to kape up th' color."

"I'm going to Hilarity for a cook," insisted Bill. "Moncrossen says
there is a real one down there--Daddy Dunnigan, he called him."

"Sure, Dunnigan'll not come into th' woods. An' phy shud he? Wid money
in th' bank, an' her majesty's--Oi mane, his nibs's pension comin' in
ivery month, an' his insides broke in to Hod Burrage's whisky--phwat
more c'd a man want?"

"The boss thinks maybe he'll come. Anyway, I am going after him."

"Ye shud av towld um to go to hell! Wor-rkin' a man wid a foot loike
that is croolty to animals; av ye was a harse he'd be arrested."

"He didn't tell me to go. He is crowded for men; the grub is rotten;
something has to be done; and he asked me if I thought I could make
it."

Irish pulled thoughtfully at his pipe, and slowly his brows drew
together in a frown.

"He said ye c'd make ut in two days?" he inquired.

"Yes. The tote-road is well broken, and forty miles traveling light
with that rangy team is not such an awful pull."

"An' he towld ye phwere to camp. It'll be Melton's awld No. 8, where ye
camped comin' in?"

"Yes."

Fallon nodded thoughtfully, and Bill wondered what was passing in his
mind. For a long time he was silent, and the injured man responded to
the hearty greetings and inquiries of the men returning from the
grub-shack.

When these later had disposed themselves for the evening, the Irishman
hunched his chair closer to the bunk upon which Bill was sitting.

"At Melton's No. 8, Oi moind, th' shtables is a good bit av a way from
th' rist av th' buildin's, an' hid from soight be a knowl av ground."

"I don't remember the stables, but they can't be very far; they are in
the clearing, and Moncrossen had the blacksmith make me a crutch."

"A crutch, is ut? A crutch! Well, a man ud play hell makin' foorty
moiles on a crutch in th' winter--no mather how good th' thrail was
broke."

"Forty miles! Look here, Irish--what are you talking about? I thought
your bottle had been empty for a week."

"Impty ut is--which me head ain't. Listen: S'posin'--just s'posin',
moind yez Oi'm sayin'--a man wid a bum leg was camped in th' shack av
Melton's No. 8, an' th' harses in th' shtable. An' s'posin' some one
shnaked in in th' noight an' stole th' harses on um an' druv 'em to
Hilarity, an' waited f'r th' boss to sind f'r 'em. An' s'posin' a wake
wint by befoor th' boss c'd sind a man down to look up th' team he'd
sint f'r a cook, wid orders to hurry back. An' s'posin' he found th'
bum-legged driver froze shtiff on th' tote-road phwere he'd made out to
hobble a few moiles on his crutch--phwat thin? Why, th' man was a
greener, an', not knowin' how to handle th' team, they'd got away from
um."

Bill followed the Irishman closely, and knew that he spoke with a
purpose. His eyes narrowed, and his lips bent into that cold smile
which the men of the camp had come to know was no smile at all, but a
battle alarm, the more ominous for its silence.

"Do you mean that it is a frame-up? That Moncrossen----" Fallon silenced
him with a motion.

"Whist!" he whispered and glanced sharply about him, then leaned over
and dug a stiffened forefinger into the other's ribs. "Oi don't mane
nothin'. But 'tis about toime they begun bankin' their bird's-eye.

"Creed et dinner in camp, but he never et supper. Him an' th' boss made
medicine in th' office _afther_ th' boss talked to ye. Put two an' two
togither an' Oi've towld ye nothin' at all; but av ye fergit ut Oi'll
see that phwat th' wolves lave av th' bum-legged teamster is buried
proper an' buried deep, an' Oi'll blow in tin dollars f'r a mass f'r
his sowl.

"Av ye _don't_ fergit ut, ye moight fetch back a gallon jug av Hod
Burrage's embalmin' flooid, f'r me inwards is that petrified be th'
grub we've been havin' av late, they moight mishtake ut f'r rale
liquor. Good-by, an' good luck--'tis toime to roll in."



CHAPTER XX

A FIRE IN THE NIGHT


The sledding was good on the tote-road.

The thaw that ruined the iced surface of the skid-ways was followed by
several days of freezing weather that put a hard, smooth finish on the
deep snow of the longer road, over which the runners of the box-bodied
tote-sled slipped with scarcely any resistance to the pull of the
sharp-shod team.

Bill Carmody, snugly bundled in robes in the bottom of the sled, idly
watched the panorama of tree-trunks between which the road twisted in
an endless succession of tortuous windings.

It was not yet daylight when he rounded the bend which was the scene of
his fight with the werwolf.

But by the thin, cold starlight and the pale luminosity of the fading
aurora, he recognized each surrounding detail, and wondered at the
accuracy with which the trivialities of the setting had been
subconsciously impressed upon his memory.

It was here he had first met Fallon, and he remembered the undisguised
approval in the Irishman's voice and the firm grip of the hand that
welcomed him into the comradery of the North-men as he stood, faint
from hunger and weary from exertion, staring dully down at the
misshapen carcass of Diablesse.

"Good old Irish," he muttered, and smiled as he thought of himself,
Bill Carmody, proud of the friendship of a lumberjack.

He had come to know that in the ceaseless whirl of society the heavier
timbers--the real men are thrown outward--forced to the very edges of
the bowl, where they toil among big things upon the outskirts of
civilization.

He pulled off his heavy mitten and fumbled for his pipe. In the
side-pocket of his mackinaw his hand encountered an object--hard and
cold and unfamiliar to his touch.

He withdrew it and looked at the wicked, blue-black outlines of an
automatic pistol. Idly he examined the clip, crowded with shiny, yellow
cartridges. He recognized the gun as Fallon's, and smiled as he
returned it to his pocket.

"Only in case of a pinch," he grinned, and glanced approvingly at the
fist that doubled hard to the strong clinch of his fingers.

Hour after hour he slipped smoothly southward, relieving the monotony
of the journey by formulating his plan of action in case the
forebodings of Fallon should be realized.

Personally he apprehended no trouble, but he made up his mind that
trouble coming should not find him unprepared.

When at last the team swung into the clearing of Melton's old No. 8,
the stars winked in cold brilliance above the surrounding pines, and
the deserted buildings stood lifeless and dim in the deepening gloom.

Bill headed the horses for the stable which he found, as Irish had told
him, located at some distance from the other buildings and cut off from
sight by a knoll and a heavy tangle of scrub that had sprung up in the
clearing.

He climbed stiffly and painfully from the sled-box, and with the aid of
his crutch, hobbled about the task of unhitching the horses. He watered
them where a plume of thin vapor disclosed the whereabouts of a
never-freezing spring which burbled softly between its low,
ice-encrusted banks.

It proved a difficult matter, crippled as he was, to handle the horses,
but at length he got them into the stable, chinked the broken
feed-boxes as best he could, and removed the bridles, hanging them upon
the hames.

He closed the door and, securing his lantern, blankets, and
lunch-basket, made his way toward the old shack where he had spent his
first night in the timber land.

The sagging door swung half open, and upon the rough floor the
snow-water from the recent thaw had collected in puddles and frozen,
rendering the footing precarious.

Bill noted with satisfaction that there still remained a goodly portion
of the firewood which he had cut and carried in upon his previous
visit, and he soon had a fire roaring in the rusty stove.

He was in no hurry. He knew that any attempt to make away with the team
would be delayed until the thief believed him to be asleep, and his
plans were laid to the minutest detail.

Setting the lantern upon the table, he proceeded to eat his lunch,
after which he lighted his pipe, and for an hour smoked at the
fireside. In spite of the pain of his injured foot his mind wandered
back to the events of his first visit to the shack.

There, in the black shadow of the pile of firewood, lay the empty
whisky bottle where the Indian had tossed it after drinking the last
drop of its contents.

Carmody stared a long time at this silent reminder of his first serious
brush with King Alcohol, then, from the inner pocket of his mackinaw,
he drew the sealed packet and gazed for many minutes at the likeness of
the girl--dimming now from the rub of the coarse cloth of the pocket.

Suddenly a great longing came over him--a longing to see this girl, to
hear the soft accents of her voice and, above all, to tell her of his
great love for her, that in all the world there was no woman but her,
and that each day, and a hundred times each day, her dear face was
before his eyes, and in his ears, ringing above the mighty sounds of a
falling forest, was the soft, sweet sound of her voice.

He could not speak to her, but she could speak to him, even if it were
but a repetition of the words of the letters he already knew by heart,
but which had remained sealed in the envelope ever since the day he bid
farewell to Broadway--and to _her_.

His fingers fumbled at the flap of the heavy envelope. He could at
least feast his eyes upon the lines traced by her pen and press his
lips to the page where her little hand had rested.

His foot throbbed with dull persistence. He was conscious of being
tired, but he must not sleep this night. Rough work possibly, at any
rate, a man's work, awaited him there in the gloom of the silent
clearing.

Again his eye sought the whisky bottle and held. His fingers ceased to
toy with the flap, for in that moment the thought came to him that had
the bottle not been empty, had it been filled with liquor--strong
liquor--with the pain in his foot and the stiffness of his tired
muscles and the work ahead--well, he might--for the old desire was
strong upon him--he might take a drink.

"Not yet," he muttered, and returned the packet to his pocket unopened.
"I told her I would beat the game. I've bucked old John Barleycorn's
line and scored a touchdown; the hardest of the fighting is past, but
there is just a chance that I might miss goal."

Bill looked at his watch; it was eight o'clock. He stood up, wincing as
his injured foot touched the floor, and hobbled across the room where
he wrenched a rough, split shelf from the wall. This, together with
some sticks of firewood, he rolled in a blanket, placing it near the
stove. He added more wood until the bundle was about the size and shape
of a man, and covered it with his other two blankets. Filling the
broken stove with wood he blew out the lantern and limped silently out
into the night.

Two hours later Creed, bird's-eye spotter and bad man of the worn-out
little town of Hilarity, knocked the ashes from his pipe and held a
glowing brand to the dial of his watch.

"The greener should be asleep by now," he muttered, and, rolling his
blanket, kicked snow over the remnant of his camp-fire, picked up his
rifle, and ascended the steep side of a deep ravine lying some two
hundred yards to the westward of the clearing where Bill Carmody had
encamped for the night.

After leaving Moncrossen's office on the previous afternoon he had
traveled all night, and reached Melton's old No. 8 in the early
morning.

All day he had slept by the side of his fire in the bottom of the
ravine, and in the evening had lain in the cover of the scrub and
watched the greener stable the horses and limp to the deserted shack.

At heart Creed was a craven, a bullying swashbuckler, who bragged and
blustered among the rheumy-eyed down-and-outers who nightly
foregathered about Burrage's stove, but who was servile and cringing as
a starved puppy toward Moncrossen and Stromberg, who openly despised
him.

They made good use of his ability to "spot" a bird's-eye tree as far as
he could see one, however, an ability shared by few woodsmen, and which
in Creed amounted almost to genius.

The man had never been known to turn his hand to honest work, but as a
timber pirate and peddler of rotgut whisky among the Indians, he had
arisen to comparative affluence.

His hate for the greener was abysmal and unreasoning, and had been
carefully fostered by Moncrossen who, instinctively fearing that the
new man would eventually expose his nefarious double-dealing with his
employer, realized that at the proper time Creed could be induced to do
away with the greener under circumstances that would leave him,
Moncrossen, free from suspicion.

In the framing of Bill Carmody, Stromberg had no part. Moncrossen could
not fathom the big Swede, upon whose judgment and acumen he had come to
rely in the matter of handling and disposing of the stolen timber.

Several times during the winter he had tentatively broached plans and
insinuated means whereby the Swede could "accidentally" remove his
swamper from their path.

The reversing of a hook which would cause a log to roll just at the
right time on a hillside; the filing of a link; the snapping of a
weakened bunk-pin, any one of these common accidents would render them
safe from possible interference.

But to all these suggestions Stromberg turned a deaf ear. The boss even
taunted him with the knock-out he had received at the hands of the
greener.

"That's all right, Moncrossen," he replied; "I picked the fight purpose
to beat him up. It didn't work. He's a better man than me--or you
either--an' you know it. Only he had to lick me to prove it. He chilled
your heart with a look an' a grin--an' the whole crew lookin' on.

"But beatin' up a man is one thing an' murder is another. Appleton's
rich, besides he's a softwood man an' ain't fixed for handlin' veneer,
so I might's well get in on the bird's-eye as let you an' Creed an'
Lebolt steal it all. But I ain't got to the point where I'd murder a
good man to cover up my dirty tracks--an' I never will!"

And so, without consulting Stromberg, Moncrossen bided his time and
laid his plans. And now the time had come. The plan had been gone over
in detail in the little office, and Creed in the edge of the timber
stood ready to carry it out.

Stealthily he slipped into the dense shadows of the scrub and made his
way toward the shack where a thin banner of smoke, shot with an
occasional yellow spark, floated from the dilapidated stovepipe that
protruded from the roof.

The hard crust rendered snowshoes unnecessary, and his soft moccasins
made no sound upon the surface of the snow.

Gaining the side of the shack, he peered between the unchinked logs.
The play of the firelight that shone through the holes of the broken
stove sent flickering shadows dancing over the floor and walls of the
rough interior.

Near the fire, stretched long and silent beneath its blankets, lay the
form of a man. Creed shifted his position for a better view of the
sleeper. His foot caught in the loop of a piece of discarded wire whose
ends were firmly frozen into the snow, and he crashed heavily backward
into a pile of dry brushwood.

It seemed to the frightened man as if the accompanying noise must wake
the dead. He lay for a moment where he had fallen, listening for sounds
from within. He clutched his rifle nervously, but the deathlike silence
was unbroken save for his own heavy breathing and the tiny snapping of
the fire in the stove.

Cautiously he extricated himself from the brush-heap, his heart
pounding wildly at the snapping of each dry twig. It was incredible
that the man could sleep through such a racket in a country where life
and death may hang upon the rustle of a leaf.

But the silence remained unbroken, and, after what seemed to the
cowering man an eternity of expectant waiting, he crawled again to the
wall and glanced furtively into the interior. The form by the fire was
motionless as before--it had not stirred.

Then, as he looked, a ray of firelight fell upon the white label of the
black whisky bottle that lay an easy arm's reach from the head of the
sleeper. A smile of comprehension twisted the lips of his evil face as
he leered through the crevice at the helpless form by the fireside.

"Soused to the guards," he sneered, "an' me with ten years scairt offen
my life fer fear I'd wake him." He stood erect and, with no attempt at
the stealth with which he had approached the shack, proceeded rapidly
in the direction of the stable.

It was but the work of a few moment to bridle the horses, lead them
out, and hitch them to the sled.

Tossing the horse-blankets on top of the big tarpaulin which lay in the
rear of the sled-box ready for use in the covering of supplies, he
settled himself in front and pulled the robes about him.

He turned the team slowly onto the tote-road and glanced again toward
the shack. A spark, larger than the others, shot out of the stovepipe
and lodged upon the bark roof, where it glowed for a moment before
going out. The man watched it in sudden fascination.

He halted the team and stared long at the spot where the spark had
vanished in blackness, but which in the brain of the man appeared as an
ever-widening circle of red, which spread until it included the whole
roof in its fiery embrace, and crept slowly down the log walls.

So realistic was the picture that he seemed to hear the crackle and
roar of the leaping flames. He drew a trembling hand across his eyes,
and when he looked again the shack stood silent and black in the
half-light of the starlit clearing.

"God!" he mumbled aloud. "If it had only happened thataway----" He
passed his tongue over his dry, thick lips. "Why not?" he argued
querulously. "Moncrossen said 'twa'nt safe to bushwhack him like I
wanted to--said how I ain't got nerve nor brains to stand no
investigation.

"But if he'd git burnt up in the shack, that's safer yet. He got that
booze somewhere--some one knows he had it. He got spiflicated, built a
roarin' fire in the old stove--an' there y'are, plain as daylight. No
brains! I'll show him who's got brains--an' there won't be no
investigation, neither."

He drew the team to the side of the tote-road and, slipping the halters
over the bridles, tied them to a stout sapling and made his way toward
the shack.

One look satisfied him that the sleeper had not stirred, and
noiselessly he slipped the heavy hasp of the door over the staple and
secured it with the wooden pin.

He collected dry branches, piling them directly beneath the small,
square window which yawned high in the wall. Higher and higher the pile
grew until its top was almost on a level with the sill.

His hands trembled as he applied the match. Tiny tongues of flame
struggled upward through the branches, lengthening and widening as
fresh twigs ignited, and in his ears the crackle and snap of the dry
wood sounded as the rattle of musketry.

His first impulse as the flames gained headway was to fly--to place
distance between himself and the scene of his crime. But he dared not
go. His knees shook, and he stared with blanched face in horrid
fascination as the flames roared and crackled through the brushwood.

They were curling about the window now, and the whole clearing was
light as day. He slunk around the corner and gained the shadow of the
opposite wall. Fearfully he applied his eye to a crevice--the form by
the stove had not moved.

The air of the interior was heavy with smoke and tiny flames were
eating their way between the logs. The smoke thickened, blurring and
blotting out the prostrate figure. He glanced across at the window. Its
aperture was a solid sheet of flame--he was safe!

With a low, animal-like cry Creed sprang away and dashed in the
direction of the team. With shaking fingers he clawed at the knots and
slipped the halters.

Leaping into the sled, he grabbed up the lines and headed the horses
southward at a run. Behind him the sky reddened as the flames licked
hungrily at the dry logs of the shack.

"It's his own fault! It's his own fault!" he mumbled over and over
again. "Serves him right fer gittin' soused an' buildin' up a big fire
in a busted stove. 'Twasn't no fault of his that spark didn't catch the
roof. Serves him right! Maybe it did catch--maybe it did. 'Taint my
fault no-how--it must 'a' caught--I seen it thataway so plain! Oh, my
God! Oh, my God," he babbled, "if they git to askin' me!

"It was thisaway, mister; yes, sir; listen: I was camped in the ravine,
an' all to wunst I seen the flare of the fire an' I run over there; but
'twas too late--the roof had fell in an' the pore feller must 'a' been
cooked alive. It was turrible, mister--turrible!

"An' I run an' hitched up the team an' druv to Hilarity hell bent fer a
potlatch--that's the way of it--s'elp me God it is! If you don't
b'lieve it ask Moncrossen--ask Moncrossen, I mean, if he didn't have no
booze along--he must 'a' been drunk--an' him crippled thataway!

"Oh, Lordy, Lord! I ain't supposed to know it was the greener, let
alone he was crippled! I'm all mixed up a'ready! They better not go
askin' me questions lessen they want to git me hung--Goda'mi'ty! I'd
ort to done like Moncrossen said!"

So he raved in a frenzy of terror as the horses sped southward at a
pace that sent the steam rising in clouds from their heaving sides.

And under the big tarpaulin in the rear of the sled-box the greener
grinned as he listened, and eyed the gibbering man through a narrow
slit in the heavy canvas.



CHAPTER XXI

DADDY DUNNIGAN


It was broad daylight when Creed pulled the team up before a
tumbled-down stable in the rear of one of the outstraggling cabins at
the end of Hilarity's single street. Hastily he unhitched and led the
horses through the door.

As he disappeared Bill slipped from under the canvas and limped stiffly
around the corner of the stable, and none too soon, for as Creed
returned to the sled for the oats and blankets the cabin door opened,
and a tall, angular woman appeared, carrying an empty water-pail.

"So ye've come back, hev ye?" she inquired in a shrewish voice. "Well,
ye're jest in time to fetch the water an' wood. Where d'ye git that
rig?" she added sharply, eying the sled.

"None o' yer damn business! An' you hurry up an' cook breakfast ag'in'
I git back from Burrage's, er I'll rig you!"

"Yeh, is that _so_? Jest you lay a finger on me, you damn timber-thievin'
boot-legger, an' I'll bust you one over the head with the peaked end of
a flatiron! Where ye goin' ter hide when the owner of them team comes a
huntin' of 'em? Ha, ha, ha!"

"Shet up!" growled the man so shortly that the woman, eying him
narrowly, turned toward the rickety pump, which burbled and wheezed as
she worked the handle, filling the pail in spasmodic splashes.

"One of Moncrossen's teamsters got burnt up in the shack at Melton's
No. 8, an' I found the team in the stable an' druv 'em in," he
vouchsafed as he brushed by the woman on his way to the street.
"'Twouldn't look right if I shet up about it; I'll be back when I tell
Burrage."

"Fetch some bacon with ye," called the woman as she filled her dirty
apron with chips. She paused before lifting the pail from the spout of
the wooden pump and gazed speculatively at the tote-sled.

"He's lyin'," she said aloud. "He's up to some fresh devilment, an'
'pears like he's scairt. Trouble with Creed is, he ain't got no
nerve--he's all mouth. I sure was hard up fer a man when I tuk
_him_--but he treats me middlin' kind, an' I'd kind of hate to see him
git caught--'cause he ain't no good a liar, an' a man anyways smart'd
mix him up in a minit."

She lifted the pail and pushed through the door of the cabin.

"Nice people," muttered Bill as he cast about for an exit.

Keeping the stable in line with the window of the cabin, he made his
way through a litter of tin cans and rubbish, gaining the shelter of
the scrub, where he bent a course parallel with the street.

He was stiff and sore from his cramped position in the sled, and his
foot pained sharply. His progress was slow, and he paused to rest on
the edge of a small clearing, in the center of which, well back from
the highway, stood a tiny cabin.

In the doorway an old man, with a short cutty-pipe between his lips,
leaned upon a crutch and surveyed the sky with weatherwise eyes.

Bill instantly recognized him as the old man with the twisted leg who
tendered the well-meant advice upon the night of his first arrival in
the little town, and his face reddened as he remembered the
supercilious disregard with which he had received it.

For a moment he hesitated, then advanced toward the door. The old man
removed his cutty-pipe and regarded him curiously.

"Good morning!" called Bill with just a shade of embarrassment.

"Good marnin' yersilf!" grinned the other, a twinkle in his little
eyes.

"May I ask where I will find a man called Daddy Dunnigan?"

"In about foive minutes ye'll foind um atein' breakfust wid a
shtrappin' young hearty wid a sore fut. Come an in. Oi'm me own
housekaper, cook, an' bottle-washer; but, av Oi do say ut mesilf, Oi've
seen wor-rse!"

"So you are Daddy Dunnigan?" asked Bill as he gazed hungrily upon the
steaming saucers of oatmeal, the sizzling ham, and the yellow globes of
fresh eggs fried "sunny side up."

"Ye'll take a wee nip befoor ye eat?" asked his host, reaching to the
chimney-shelf for a squat, black bottle.

"No, thanks," smiled Bill. "I don't use it."

"Me, nayther," replied the other with a chuckle; "Oi misuse ut," and,
pouring himself a good half tin cupful, swallowed it neat at a gulp.

The meal over, the men lighted their pipes, and Bill broached the
object of his visit. The old man listened and, when Bill finished, spat
reflectively into the wood-box.

"So Buck Moncrossen sint ye afther me, did he?"

"Yes. He said you were a good cook, and I can certainly bear him out in
that; but he said that you would only work if you damn good and felt
like it, and if you didn't you wouldn't." The old man grinned.

"He's roight agin, an' Oi'll be tellin' ye now Oi damn good an' don't
feel loike wor-rkin' f'r Moncrossen, th' dirthy pirate, takin' a man's
pay wid wan hand an' shtealin' his timber wid th' other. He'd cut th'
throat av his own mither f'r th' price av a dhrink.

"An' did he sind ye down afoot an' expict me to shtroll back wi' ye,
th' both av us on crutches?"

"No, I have a team here," laughed Bill. "They are in Creed's stable."

"Creed's!" The old man glanced at him sharply. "Phwat ar-re they doin'
at Creed's?"

"Well, that is a long story; but it sums up about like this: I see you
know Moncrossen--so do I. And Moncrossen is afraid I will crab his
bird's-eye game--and I will, too, when the proper time comes.

"But he saw a chance to get rid of me, so he sent me after you,
probably knowing that you would not come; but it offered an excuse to
get me where he wanted me. Then he framed it up with Creed to steal the
team in the night while I was camped at Melton's No. 8, and leave me to
die bushed.

"I built a fire in the shack, ate my supper, rigged up a dummy near the
fire, and then went out to the sled and crawled under the tarp. After
making sure that I was asleep Creed stole the team as per schedule, but
he did not stop at that. He decided to make sure of me, so he locked
the door on the outside and fired the shack. I remained under the tarp,
and as Creed was going my way I let him do the driving. While he put up
the team I slipped out the back way, and here I am."

"Th' dirthy, murdherin' hound!" exclaimed the old man, chuckling and
weaving his body from side to side in evident enjoyment of the tale.

"An' phwat'll ye do wid um now ye're here?" The old man sat erect and
stared into the face of his guest, whose eyes had narrowed and whose
lips had curved into an icy smile.

"First, I'll give him the damnedest licking with my two fists that he
ever got in his life; then I'll turn him over to the authorities."

Daddy Dunnigan leaned forward and, laying a gnarled hand upon his
shoulder, shook him roughly in his excitement:

"Yer name, b'y? Phwat is yer name?" His voice quavered, and the little
eyes glittered between the red-rimmed lids, bright as an eagle's. The
younger man was astonished at his excitement.

"Why, Bill," he replied.

"Bill or Moike or Pat--wurrah! Oi mane yer rale name--th' whole av ut?"

"That I have not told. I am called Bill."

"Lord av hiven! I thocht ut th' fir-rst toime Oi seen ye--but now! Man!
B'y. Wid thim eyes an' that shmile on yer face, d'ye think ye c'd fool
owld Daddy Dunnigan, that was fir-rst corp'l t'rough two campaigns an'
a scourge av peace f'r Captain Fronte McKim?

"Who lucked afther um loike a brother--an' loved um more--an' who
fought an' swore an' laughed an' dhrank wid um trough all th'
plague-ridden counthry from Kashmir to th' say--an' who wropped um in
his blanket f'r th' lasht toime an' helped burry um wid his eyes
open--f'r he'd wished ut so--on th' long, brown slope av a rock-pocked
Punjab hill, ranged round tin deep wid th' dead naygers av Hira Kal?"

Bill stared at the man wide-eyed.

"Fronte McKim?" he cried.

"Aye, Fronte McKim! As sh'u'd 'a' been gineral av all Oirland, England,
an' Injia. Av he'd 'a' been let go he'd licked th' naygers fir-rst an'
diplomated phwat was lift av um. He'd made um shwim off th' field to
kape from dhroundin' in their own blood--an' kep' 'em good aftherward
wid th' buckle ind av a surcingle.

"My toime was up phwin he was kilt, an' Oi quit. F'r Oi niver 'listed
to rot in barracks. Oi wint back to Kerry an' told his mither, th'
pale, sad Lady Constance--God rist her sowl!--that sint foor b'ys to
th' wars that niver come back--an' wud sint foor more if she'd had 'em.

"She give me char-rge av th' owld eshtate, wid th' big house, an th'
lawn as wide an' as grane as th' angel pastures av hiven--an' little
Eily--his sisther--th' purtiest gur-rl owld Oirland iver bred, who was
niver tired av listhenin' to tales av her big brother.

"Oi shtayed till th' Lady Constance died an' little Eily married a rich
man from Noo Yor-rk--Car-rson, or meby Carmen, his name was; an' he
carried her off to Amur-rica. 'Twas not th' same in Kerry afther that,
an' Oi shtrayed from th' gold camps av Australia to th' woods av
Canada."

The far-away look that had crept into the old man's eyes vanished, and
his voice became gruff and hard.

"Oi've hear-rd av yer doin's in th' timber--av yer killin' th' werwolf
in th' midst av her pack--an yer lickin' Moncrossen wid a luk an' a
grin--av yer knockin' out Shtromberg wid t'ree blows av yer fisht.

"Ye might carry th' name av a Noo York money-grubber, but yer hear-rt
is th' hear-rt av a foightin' McKim--an' yer eyes, an' that smile--th'
McKim smile--that's as much a laugh as th' growl av a grizzly--an' more
dangerous thin a cocked gun."

The old man paused and filled his pipe, muttering and chuckling to
himself. Bill grasped his hand, wringing it in a mighty grip.

"You have guessed it," he said huskily. "My name does not matter. I am
a McKim. She was my mother--Eily McKim--and she used to tell me of my
uncle--and of you."

"Did she, now? Did she remember me?" he exclaimed. "God bless th'
little gur-rl. An' she is dead?" Bill nodded, and Daddy Dunnigan drew a
coarse sleeve across his eyes and puffed hard at his short pipe.

"And will you go back with me and work the rest of the winter for
Moncrossen?"

The old man remained silent so long that Bill thought he had not heard.
He was about to repeat the question when the other laid a hand upon his
knee.

"Oi don't have to wor-rk f'r no man, an' Oi'll not wor-rk f'r
Moncrossen. But Oi'd cross hell on thin ice in July to folly a McKim
wanst more, an' if to do ut Oi must cook f'r Appleton's camp, thin so
ut is. Git ye some shleep now whilst Oi loaf down to Burrage's."



CHAPTER XXII

CREED SEES A GHOST


When Bill awoke, yellow lamplight flooded the room and Daddy Dunnigan
was busy about the stove, from the direction of which came a cheerful
sizzling and the appetizing odor of frying meat and strong coffee.

For several minutes he lay in a delicious drowse, idly watching the old
man as he hobbled deftly from stove to cupboard, and from cupboard to
table.

So this was the man, he mused, of whom his mother had so often spoken
when, as a little boy, he had listened with bated breath to her tales
of the fighting McKims.

He remembered how her soft eyes would glow, and her lips curve with
pride as she recounted the deeds of her warrior kin.

But, most of all, she loved to tell of Captain Fronte, the big,
fighting, devil-may-care brother who was her childish idol; and of one,
James Dunnigan, the corporal, who had followed Captain Fronte through
all the wars, and to whose coolness and courage her soldier brother
owed his life on more than one occasion, and whose devotion and loyalty
to the name of McKim was a byword throughout the regiment, and in
Kerry.

"And now," thought Bill, "that I have found him, I will never lose
sight of him. He needs someone to look after him in his old age."

Over the little flat-topped stove the leathern old world-rover muttered
and chuckled to himself as he prodded a fork into the browning
pork-chops, shooting now and then an affectionate glance toward the
bunk.

"Saints be praised!" he muttered. "Oi'd av know'd um in hiven or hell,
or Hong-Kong. Captain Fronte's own silf, he is, as loike as two peas.
An' the age av Captain Fronte befure he was kilt, phwin he was th'
besht officer in all th' British ar-rmy--or an-ny ar-rmy.

"Him that c'd lay down th' naygers in windrows all day, an' dhrink, an'
play car-rds, an' make love all noight--an' at 'em agin in th' marnin'!
An' now Oi've found um Oi'll shtay by um till wan av us burries th'
other. For whilst a McKim roams th' earth James Dunnigan's place is to
folly um.

"An', Lord be praised, he's a foightin' man--but a McKim that don't
dhrink! Wurrah! Maybe he wasn't failin' roight, or th' liquor didn't
look good enough fer um. Oi'll thry um agin."

Bill threw off the blankets and sat up on the edge of the bunk.

"That grub smells good, Daddy," he sniffed.

"Aye, an 'twill tashte good, too, av ye fly at ut befure ut gits cold.
Ye've had shleep enough fer two min--Captain Fronte'd git along fer
wakes at a toime on foorty winks in th' saddle."

"I am afraid I will have a hard time living up to Captain Fronte's
standard," laughed Bill, as he adjusted his bandages.

"Well, thin, Oi'll tell yez th' fir-rst thing Captain Fronte'd done
phwin his two feet hit th' flure: he'd roar fer a dhrink av good
liquor. An' thin he'd ate a dozen or two av thim pork-chops, an' wash
'em down wid a gallon av black coffee--an' he'd be roight fer
an-nything from a carouse wid th' brown dancin' Nautch gir-rls, to a
brush in th' hills wid their fightin' brown brothers.

"Th' liquor's waitin'--ut moightn't be as good as ye're used, but Oi've
seen Captain Fronte himself shmack his lips over worse. An' as fer th'
tin cup--he'd dhrink from a batthered tomaty can or a lady's shlipper,
an' rasp th' dhregs from his t'roat wid a cur-rse or a song, as besht
fitted th' toime or th' place he was in."

The old man began to pour out the liquor: "Say phwin," he cried, "an'
Oi've yit to see th' McKim 'twud hurry th' wor-rd."

Bill crossed to the old man, who, propped against the table, watched
the contents of the bottle gurgle and splash into the huge tin cup, and
laid a hand upon his arm.

"That will do, Daddy," he said.

The man ceased to pour and peered inquisitively into the cup. "'Taint
half full yit!" he protested, passing it to Bill, who set it before him
upon the table, where the rich fumes reached his nostrils as he spoke:

"This whisky," he began, "smells good--plenty good enough for any man.
But, you don't seem to understand. I don't drink whisky--good whisky,
or bad whisky, or old whisky, or new whisky, or red, white, and blue
whisky--or any other kind of booze.

"I have drunk it--bottles of it--kegs of it--barrels of it, I suppose,
for I played the game from Harlem to the Battery. And then I quit."

"Ye ain't tellin' me ye're timperence?" The old man inquired with
concern as he would have inquired after an ailment.

"No; that is, if you mean am I one of those who would vote the world
sober by prohibiting the sale of liquor. It is a personal question
which every man must meet squarely--for himself--not for his neighbor.
I am not afraid of whisky. I am not opposed to it, as an issue. In
fact, I respect it, for, personally, it has given me one peach of a
scrap--and we are quits."

The old man listened with interest.

"Ye c'n no more kape a McKim from foightin' thin ye c'n kape a dacoit
from staylin," he chuckled. "So ye tur-rned in an' give th' crayther
himsilf a foight--an' ye win ut? An' phwat does th' gir-rl think av
ut?"

"What!"

"Th' gir-rl. Is she proud av ye? Or is she wan av thim that thinks ut
aisy to quit be just lavin' ut alone? For, sure, ut niver intered th'
head av man--let alone a McKim, to tur-rn ag'in' liquor, lessen they
was a gir-rl at th' bottom av ut. An' phwin ar-re ye goin' to be
marrit? For, av she's proud av ye, ye'll marry her--but av she takes ut
as a mather av coorse--let some wan ilse git stung."

Bill regarded the old man sharply, but in his bearing was no hint of
jesting nor raillery, and the little eyes were serious.

"Yes, there _was_ a girl," said Bill slowly; "but she--she does not
know."

"So ye've had a scrap wid her, too! But, tell me ye didn't run away
from ut--ye're goin' back?" Bill made no reply, and the old man
conveyed the food to the table, muttering to himself the while:

"Sure they's more foightin' goin' on thin Oi iver thought to see ag'in.
Ut ain't rid war, but ut ain't so bad--werwolves, Moncrossen, booze,
Creed, a bit av a gir-rl somewheres, Shtromberg--th' wor-rld is growin'
bether afther all, an' Oi'm goin' to be in th' thick av ut!"

Supper over, Bill donned mackinaw, cap, and mittens.

"Phwere ye goin'?" asked Dunnigan.

"To find Creed."

"Wait a bit, 'tis early yit. In half an hour he'll be clost around
Burrage's shtove, tellin' th' b'ys about th' bur-rnt shack at
Melton's."

Bill resumed his chair.

"Oi've been thinkin' ut out," continued Daddy, between short puffs at
his cutty-pipe. "Ye'll have no fun lickin' Creed--'tis shmall
satisfaction foightin' a man that won't foight back. An-ny-how, a black
eye or a bloody nose is soon minded. An' av ye tur-rn um over to th'
authorities ye ain't got much on um, an' ye can't pr-rove phwat ye have
got.

"But listen: Creed's a dhrivlin' jobbernowl that orders his comin's be
th' hang av th' moon, an' his goin's be th' dhreams av his head. He
thinks y're dead. Now, av ye shtroll into Burrage's loike nothin' out
av th' oordinary has happened, he'll think ye're a ghost--an' th' fear
in his heart will shtay by um.

"Oi'll loaf down there now, same as ivery noight. In about a half an
hour ye'll come limpin' in an' ask fer Dunnigan, an' will he cook out
th' sayson fer Moncrossen? 'Twill be fun to watch Creed. He'll be
scairt shtiff an' white as a biled shirt, or he'll melt down an'
dhribble out t'rough a crack av th' flure."

And so, a half-hour later, Bill Carmody for the second time pushed open
Hod Burrage's door and made his way to the stove.

The scene in no wise differed from the time of his previous visit.
Slabs of bacon still hung from the roof logs beside the row of tin
coffee-pots; the sawdust-filled box was still the object of
intermittent bombardment by the tobacco-chewers, the uncertainty of
whose aim was mutely attested by the generous circumference of
brown-stained floor of which the box was the center.

Grouped about the stove, upon counter, barrel-head, and up-ended goods
box, were the same decaying remnants of the moldering town's vanishing
population.

The thick, cloudy glass with its sticky edges still circulated for the
common good, and above the heads of the unkempt men the air reeked gray
with the fumes of rank tobacco.

Only the man who entered had changed. In his bearing was no hint of
superiority nor intolerance; he advanced heartily, hailing these men as
equals and friends. Near the stove he halted, leaning upon his crutch,
and swept the group with a glance.

"Good evening! Do any one of you men happen to be named Dunnigan?"

From the moment the tap of Bill's crutch sounded upon the wooden floor,
Creed, who had paused in the middle of a sentence of his highly colored
narrative, stared at the newcomer as one would ordinarily stare when a
person known to be dead casually steps up and bids one good evening.

His mouth did not open, his lower jaw merely sagged away from his face,
exposing his tongue lying thick and flabby upon yellow teeth. His
out-bulging eyes fixed the features of the man before him with a
glassy, unwinking stare, like the stare of a fish.

Into his brain, at first, came no thought at all merely a dumb sense of
unreasoning terror under which his muscles went flaccid, and out of
control, so that his body shrank limp and heavy against its backing of
bolt-goods.

Then, suddenly a rush of thoughts crowded his brain, tangled thoughts,
and weird--of deep significance, but without sequence nor reason.

What had they told of this man in the woods? How he had battled hand to
claw with the werwolf and received no hurt. How he had cowed the boss
with a look, and laid the mighty Stromberg cold in the batting of an
eye.

He himself had, but twenty hours since, seen this man lying helpless
upon the floor of a locked shack, ringed round with roaring flames,
beyond any human possibility of escape.

And here he stood, crippled beyond peradventure of trail-travel, yet
fresh and unfatigued, forty miles from the scene of his burning! A thin
trickle of ice crept downward along his spine and, overmastering all
other emotions, came the desire to be elsewhere.

He slid from the counter and, as his feet touched the floor, his knees
crumpled and he sprawled his length almost at the feet of the man who
could not die.

As a matter of fact, Creed aged materially during his journey to the
door, but to the onlookers his exit seemed a miracle of frantic haste
as he clawed and scrambled the length of the room on hands and knees in
a maudlin panic of terror.

And out into the night, as he ran in the first direction he faced, the
upper most thought in his mind was a blind rage against Moncrossen.

The boss himself was afraid of this man, yet he had sent him, Creed, to
make away with him--alone--in the night! The quavering breath left his
throat in long moans as he ran on and on and on.

"Your friend seems to have been in something of a hurry," ventured
Bill, as Burrage gave a final twist to the old newspaper in which he
was wrapping Fallon's jug.

The storekeeper regarded his customer quizzically and spat with
surprising accuracy into the box.

"Yes," he replied dryly, "Creed, he's mostly in a hurry when they's
strangers about. But to-night he seemed right down _anxious_ thataway."



CHAPTER XXIII

HEAD-LINES


The brute in Moncrossen held subservient the more human emotions, else
he must surely have betrayed his surprise when, twelve hours ahead of
schedule, the greener swung the long-geared tote team to a stand in
front of the office door.

Not only had he made the trip without mishap, but accomplished the
seemingly impossible in persuading Daddy Dunnigan to cook for a log
camp, when in all reason the old man should have scorned the
proposition in a torrent of Irish profanity.

Moncrossen dealt only in facts. Speculation as to cause and effect
found no place in his mental economy. His plan had miscarried. For that
Creed must answer later. The fact that concerned him now was that the
greener continued to be a menace to his scheme.

Had Creed in some manner bungled the job? Or had he passed it up? He
must find out how much the greener knew. The boss guessed that if the
other had unearthed the plot, he would force an immediate crisis.

And so he watched narrowly, but with apparent unconcern, while Bill
climbed from the sled, followed by Daddy Dunnigan. On the hard-packed
snow of the clearing the two big men faced each other, and the
expression of each was a perfect mask to his true emotions.

But the greener knew that the boss was masking, while Moncrossen
accepted the other's guileless expression at its face value, and his
pendulous lips widened into a grin of genuine relief as he greeted the
arrivals.

"Hullo! You back a'ready? Hullo, Dunnigan! I'm sure glad you come;
we'll have some real grub fer a change.

"Hey, LaFranz!" he called to the passing Frenchman. "Put up this team
an' pack the gear to the bunk-house."

As the man drove away in the direction of the stable, Moncrossen
regarded the others largely.

"Come on in an' have a drink, boys," he invited, throwing wide the
door. "How's the foot?"

"Better," replied Bill. "It will be as good as ever in a week."

"I'm glad of that, 'cause I sure am cramped fer hands. I'll let Fallon
break you into sawin' an put Stromberg to teamin'; he's too pot-gutted
fer a sawyer."

Moncrossen produced a bottle as the others seated themselves.

"What--don't drink?" he exclaimed, as Bill passed the bottle to
Dunnigan. "That's so; b'lieve I did hear some one say you didn't use no
booze. Well, every man to his own likin'. Me--about three good, stiff
jolts a day, an' a big drunk in the spring an' fall, is about my gait.
Have a _see_gar." Bill accepted the proffered weed and bit off the end.

"How!" he said, with a short sweep of the arm; then, scratching a match
on the rung of his chair, lighted the unsavory stogie.

Thus each man took measure of the other, and Daddy Dunnigan tilted the
bottle and drank deep, the while he took shrewd measure of both.

                     *      *      *      *      *

It was in the early afternoon of the following day that Bill Carmody
tossed aside his magazine and yawned drowsily. Alone in the bunk-house,
his glance roved idly over the room, with its tiers of empty bunks and
racks of drying garments.

It rested for a moment upon his bandaged foot propped comfortably upon
Fallon's bunk, directly beneath his own, and strayed to the floor where
just under its edge, still wrapped in the soiled newspaper, sat the
gallon jug that Fallon suggested in case the greener saw fit to heed
his warning.

Bill smiled dreamily. Unconsciously his lips spelled out the words of
some head-lines that stared at him from the rounded surface of the jug:

    POPULAR MEMBERS OF NEW YORK'S FOUR HUNDRED TO WED.

"Wonder who?" thought Bill. Reaching for his crutch, he slipped the end
through the handle of the jug and drew it toward him. He raised it to
his lap and the words of the succeeding line struck upon his brain like
an electric shock:

    _Engagement of Miss Ethel Manton and Gregory St. Ledger Soon to
    be Announced._

Feverishly his eyes devoured the following lines of the extended
heading:

    _Time of Wedding Not Set. Will Not Take Place Immediately, 'Tis
    Said. Prospective Bridegroom to Sail for Europe in Spring._

And then the two lines of the story that appeared at the very bottom,
where the paper folded under the edge of the jug:

    NEW YORK, February 1. (Special to _Tribune_.)--As a distinct
    surprise in élite circles will come the announcement of the
    engage

He tilted the jug in frenzied eagerness to absorb every detail of the
bitter news, and was confronted by the rough, stone bottom which had
worn through the covering, leaving mangled shreds of paper, whose
rolled and mutilated edges were undecipherable.

Vainly he tried to restore the tattered remnants, but soon abandoned
the hopeless task and sat staring at the head-lines.

Over and over again he read them as if to grasp their significance, and
then, with a full realization of their import, he closed his eyes and
sat long amid the crumbled ruin of his hopes.

For he had hoped. In spite of the scorn in her voice as she dismissed
him, and the bitter resentment of his own parting words, he loved her;
and upon the foundation of this love he had builded the hope of its
fulfillment.

A hope that one day he would return to her, clean and strong in the
strength of achievement, and that his great passion would beat down the
barrier and he would claim her as of right.

Suddenly he realized that as much as upon the solid foundation of his
own great love, the hope depended upon the false substructure of her
love for him.

And the false substructure had crumbled at the test. She loved another;
had suddenly become as unattainable as the stars--and was lost to him
forever.

The discovery brought no poignant pain, no stabbing agony of a fresh
heart-wound; but worse--the dull, deep, soul-hurt of annihilation; the
hurt that damns men's lives.

He smiled with bitter cynicism as his thoughts dwelt upon the little
love of women, the shifting love, that rests but lightly on the heart,
to change with the changing moon. And upon the constancy of such love
he had dared to build his future!

"Fool!" he cried, and laughed aloud, a short, hard laugh--the laugh
that makes God frown. From the water-pail at his side he drew the
long-handled dipper and removed the cork from the jug and tilted the
jug, and watched the red liquor splash noisily from its wide mouth.

From that moment he would play a man's game; would smash Moncrossen and
his bird's-eye men; would learn logs and run camps, and among the big
men of the rough places would win to the fore by the very force and
abandon of him.

He had beaten the whisky game; had demonstrated his ability to best
John Barleycorn on his own terms and in his own fastnesses.

And now he would drink whisky--much whisky or little whisky as he saw
fit, for there was none to gainsay him--and in his life henceforth no
woman could cause him pain.

He raised the dipper to his lips, and the next instant it rang upon the
floor, and over the whole front of him splashed the raw liquor, and in
his nostrils was the fume and reek of it.

Unmindful of his injury, he leaped to his feet and turned to face Daddy
Dunnigan, who was returning his crutch to his armpit.

"Toimes Oi've yanked Captain Fronte from th' road av harm," the old man
was saying, and the red-rimmed, rheumy eyes shone bright; "wanst from
in front av a char-rge av the hillmen an' wanst beyant Khybar. But Oi'm
thinkin' niver befoor was Oi closter to th' roight place at th' roight
toime thin a minit agone.

"Whisky is made to be dhrank fer a pastime av enj'ymint--not alone--wid
a laugh loike that. Ye've got th' crayther on th' run, but ye must give
no quarter. Battles is won not in th' thruse, but in th' foightin'.

"No McKim iver yit raised th' white flag, an' none iver died wid his
back to th' front. Set ye down, lad, an' think it over."

He finished speaking and hobbled toward the door, and, passing out,
closed it behind him. Alone in the bunk-house Bill Carmody turned again
to the jug and fitted the cork to its mouth, and with his crutch pushed
it under the edge of Fallon's bunk.

Hours later, when the men stamped in noisily to the wash-bench, he was
sitting there in the dark--thinking.

                     *      *      *      *      *

The results of Daddy Dunnigan's cooking were soon evident in the Blood
River camp. Men no longer returned to the bunk-house growling and
cursing the grub, and Moncrossen noted with satisfaction that the daily
cut was steadily climbing toward the eighty-thousand mark.

The boss added a substantial bonus for each day's "top cut," and in the
lengthening days an intense rivalry sprang up between the sawyers; not
infrequently Bill and Fallon were "in on the money."

It was nearly two weeks after the incident, that Creed came to
Moncrossen with his own story of what happened that night at Melton's
No. 8, and the boss knew that he lied.

As they talked in the little office the greener, accompanied by Fallon,
passed close to the window.

At the sight of the man the spotter's face became pasty, and he shrank
trembling and wide-eyed, as from the sight of a ghost, and Moncrossen
knew that his abject terror was not engendered by physical fear.

He flew into a rage, cursing and bullying the craven, but failed
utterly to dispel the unwholesome fear or to shake the other's repeated
statement that at a few minutes past ten o'clock that night he had seen
the greener lying hopelessly drunk upon the floor of the shack with the
flames roaring about him, and at six o'clock the next evening had seen
him hobble into Burrage's store, forty miles to the southward, fresh
and apparently unharmed save for his injured foot.

Moncrossen's hatred of the greener rested primarily upon the fear that
one day he would expose him to Appleton; added to this was a mighty
jealousy of his rapid rise to proficiency and the rankling memory of
the scene of their first meeting in the grub-shack.

But his fear of him was a physical fear--a fear born of the certain
knowledge that, measured by his own standards, the greener was the
better man.

And now came the perplexing question as to how the man had reached
Hilarity when Creed was known to have arrived there with the team eight
hours after the burning of the shack.

The boss had carefully verified so much of Creed's story by a guarded
pumping of Dunnigan, and the crafty old Irishman took keen delight in
so wording his answers, and interspersing them with knowing winks and
quirks of the head, as to add nothing to the boss's peace of mind.

While not sharing Creed's belief in the greener's possession of uncanny
powers, nevertheless he knew that, whatever happened that night, the
greener knew more than he chose to tell, and as his apprehension
deepened his rage increased.

Hate smoldered in the swinish eyes as, in the seclusion of the office,
he glowered and planned and rumbled his throaty threats.

"The drive," he muttered. "My Bucko Bill, you're right now picked for
the drive, an' I'll see to it myself that you git yourn in the river."



CHAPTER XXIV

THE LOG JAM


The feel of spring filled the air; the sun swung higher and higher; and
the snow turned dark and lay soggy with water. With the increasing
warmth of the longer days, men's thoughts turned to the drive.

They talked of water-front streets, with their calk-riddled plank
sidewalks and low-fronted bars; of squalid back wine-rooms, where for a
week they would be allowed to bask, sodden, in the smiles of the
painted women--then, drugged, beaten, and robbed, would wake up in a
filthy alley and hunt up a job in the mills.

It was all in a lifetime, this annual spring debauch. The men accepted
it as part of the ordered routine of their lives; accepted it without
shame or regret, boasting and laughing unblushingly over past
episodes--facing the future gladly and without disgust.

"You mind Jake Sonto's place, where big Myrtle hangs out? They frisked
Joe Manning fer sixty bucks last year. I seen 'em do it. What! Me? I
was too sleepy to give a cuss--they got mine, too."

And so the talk drifted among them. Revolting details of abysmal
man-failings, brutal reminiscences of knock-out drops, robbery, and
even murder, furnished the themes for jest and gibe which drew forth
roars of laughter.

And none sought to avoid the inevitable; rather, they looked forward to
it in brutish anticipation, accepting it as a matter of course.

For so had lumber-jacks been drugged, beaten, and robbed since the
first pine fell--and so will they continue to be drugged, beaten, and
robbed until the last log is jerked, dripping, from the river and the
last white board is sawed.

On the night of the 8th of April the cut was complete, and on the
morning of the 9th ten million feet of logs towered on the rollways
along the river, ready for the breaking up of the ice.

Stromberg had banked the bird's-eye to his own satisfaction, and
Moncrossen selected his crew for the drive--white-water men, whose
boast it was that they never had walked a foot from the timber to the
mills; bateau men, who laughed in the face of death as they swarmed
over a jam; key-log men, who scorned dynamite; bend watchers, whose
duty it is to stay awake through the long, warm days and prevent the
formation of jams as the drive shoots by--each selected with an eye to
previous experience and physical fitness.

For, among all occupations of men, log driving stands unique for its
hardships of peril, discomfort, and bone-racking toil.

From the breaking out of the rollways until the last log slips smoothly
into its place in the boom-raft, no man's life is safe.

Yet men fight for a place on the drive--for the privilege of being
soaked to the bone for days at a time in ice-cold water; of being
crushed to a pulp between grinding logs; of being drowned in
white-water rapids, where a man must stand, his log moving at the speed
of an express train, time and again shooting half out of water to meet
the spray of the next rock-tossed wave; of making hair-trigger
decisions, when an instant's hesitation means death, as his log rushes
under the low-hanging branches of a "sweeper."

For pure love of adventure they fight--and that a few more dollars may
find their way into the tills of the Jake Sontos of the water-front
dives. For among these men the baiting of death is the excitement of
life, and their pleasures are the savage pleasures of firstlings.

Those who were not of the drive were handed their vouchers and hauled
to Hilarity, while those who remained busied themselves in the packing
and storing of gear; for, in the fall, the crew would return to renew
the attack on the timber.

Followed, then, days of waiting.

The two bateaux--the cook's bateau, with its camp stove and store of
supplies; and the big bateau, with its thousand feet of inch and a half
manila line coiled for instant use, whose thick, flaring sides and
floor of selected timber were built to override the shock and battering
of a thousand pitching logs--were carried to the bank ready for
launching.

The sodden snow settled heavily, and around the base of stumps and the
trunks of standing trees appeared rings of bare ground, while the
course of the skidways and cross-hauls stood out sharp and black, like
great veins in the clearing.

Each sag and depression became a pond, and countless rills and rivulets
gurgled riverward, bank-full with sparkling snow-water.

Over the frozen surface of the river it flowed and wore at the
shore-bound ice-floor. And then, one night, the ice went out.

Titanically it went, and noisily, with the crash and grind of broken
cakes; and in the morning the river rushed black, and deep, and
swollen, its roiled waters tearing sullenly at crumbling banks, while
upon its muddy surface heaved belated ice-cakes and uprooted trees.

At daylight men crowded the bank, the bend watchers strung out and took
up their positions, and white-water men stood by with sharp axes to
break out the rollways.

The first rollway broke badly.

A thick-butted log slanted and met the others head-on as they thundered
down the bank, tossing them high in the air whence they fell splashing
into the river, or crashed backward among the tumbling logs, upending,
and hurling them about like jack-straws.

The air was filled with the heavy rumble of rolling logs as other
rollways tore loose at the swift blows of the axes, where, at the crack
of toggle-pins, men leaped from in front of the rolling, crushing
death; and the surface of the river became black with bucking, pitching
logs which shot to the opposite bank.

Coincident with the snapping of the first toggle-pin, the branches of a
gigantic, storm-blasted pine, whose earth-laded butt dragged heavily
along the bottom of the river, became firmly entangled in the
low-hanging limbs of a sweeper, and swung sluggishly across the
current.

Against this obstruction crashed the leaping, upending logs of the
wrecked rollway. Other logs swept in and wedged, forcing the heavy butt
and the riven trunk of the huge tree firmly against the rocks at the
head of the rapid.

Rollway after rollway tore loose and the released logs, swept downward
by the resistless push of the current, climbed one upon another and
lodged. Higher and higher the jam towered, the interlocking logs piling
in hopeless tangle.

Moncrossen was beside himself. Up and down the bank he rushed,
bellowing orders and hurling curses at the men who, gripping their
peaveys, swarmed over the heaving jam like flies.

The bateau men, forty of them, lifted the heavy boat bodily, and
working it out to the very forefront of the jam, lowered it into the
water, while other men made the heavy cable fast to the trunk of a
tree. Close under the towering pile the bateau was snubbed with a
short, light line, and the men clambered shoreward, leaving only
Moncrossen, Stromberg, Fallon, and one other to search for the key-log.

It was a comparatively simple jam, the key to which was instantly
apparent to the experienced rivermen, in two large logs wedged in the
form of an inverted V. The quick twist of a peavey inserted at the
vertex of the angle, and the drive should move.

Fallon and Stromberg, past masters both of the drive made ready while
the other stood by to cast off the light line and allow the bateau to
swing free on the main cable.

Moncrossen clambered to the top to shout warning to those who swarmed
over the body of the jam and along the edges of the river.

At the first bellowed orders of the boss, Bill Carmody had leaped onto
the heaving jam and, following in the wake of others, began picking his
way to the opposite shore.

New to the game, he had no definite idea of what was expected of him,
so, with an eye upon those nearest him, he determined to follow their
example.

To watch from the bank and see men whose boast it is that they "c'd
ride a bubble if their calks wouldn't prick it," leap lightly from log
to rolling log; hesitate, run its length, and leap to another as it
sinks under them, nothing looks simpler.

But the greener who confidently tries it for the first time instantly
finds himself in a position uncomfortably precarious, if not actually
dangerous.

Bill found, to his disgust, that the others had gained the opposite
bank before he had reached the middle, where he paused, balancing
uncertainly and hesitating whether to go ahead or return.

The log upon which he stood oscillated dizzily, and as he sprang for
another, his foot slipped and he fell heavily, his peavey clattering
downward among the promiscuously tangled logs, to come to rest some six
feet beneath him, where the white-water curled foaming among the logs
of the lower tier.

Bill glanced hastily about him, expecting the shouts of laughter and
good-natured chaffing which is the inevitable aftermath of the clumsy
misadventure of a riverman. The bateau men were just gaining the shore
and the attention of the others was engaged elsewhere, so that none
noticed the accident, and, with a grin of relief, Bill clambered down
to recover his peavey.

And Moncrossen, peering over the top of the jam, took in the situation
at a glance--the river apparently clear of men, and the greener,
invisible to those on shore, crawling about among the logs in the
center of the pile.

It was the moment for which he had waited. Even the most careful
planning could not have created a situation more to his liking. At last
the greener was "his."

"There she goes!" he roared, and turning, slid hastily from the top and
leaped into the waiting bateau.

"Let 'er go!" he shouted.

Fallon and Stromberg leaped forward and simultaneously their peaveys
bit into the smaller of the two key-logs.

Both big men heaved and strained, once, twice, thrice, and the log
turned slowly, allowing the end of the other to pass.

The logs trembled for an instant, then, forced by the enormous weight
behind them, shot sidewise, crossed each other, and pressed the
tree-trunk deep under the boiling water.

A mighty quiver ran through the whole mass of the jam, it balanced for
a shuddering instant, then with a mighty rush, let go.

Over the side of the bateau tumbled Fallon and Stromberg, sprawling on
the bottom at the feet of the boss, while the man in the bow cast off
the light line.

The next instant the heavy boat leaped clear of the water, overriding,
climbing to the very summit of the pounding, plunging logs which
threatened each moment to crush and batter through her sides and
bottom.

The strong, new line was singing taut to the pull of the heavy bateau
which was being gradually crowded shoreward by the sweep of the
down-rushing logs.

Suddenly a mighty shout went up from those on the bank. The men in the
bateau looked, and there, almost in the middle of the stream, was the
greener leaping from log to log of the wildly pitching jam.

They stared horror-stricken, with tense, blanched faces. Each instant
seemed as if it must be his last, for they knew that no man alive could
hope to keep his feet in the mad rush and sweep of the tumbling,
tossing drive.

Yet the greener was keeping his feet. Time and again he recovered his
balance when death seemed imminent, and amid wild shouts and yells of
encouragement, climbing, leaping, running, stumbling, he worked his way
shoreward.

He was almost opposite the bateau now, and Stromberg, hastily coiling
the light line, leaped into the bow. Then, just when it seemed possible
the greener might make it, a huge log shot upward from the depths and
fell with a crash squarely across the log upon which he was riding.

A cry of horror went up from half a hundred throats as the man was
thrown high in the air and fell back into the foaming white-water that
showed here and here through the thinning tangle of logs.

The next instant a hundred logs passed over the spot, drawn down by the
suck of the rapid.



CHAPTER XXV

"THE-MAN-WHO-CANNOT-DIE"


During the infinitesimal interim between the shock which hurled him
into the air, and the closing of the waters of Blood River over his
head, Bill Carmody's brain received a confusion of flashlike
impressions: The futile shouting and waving of arms upon the
man-crowded bank of the river; the sudden roar of the rapid; the tense
face of Fallon; the set jaw of big Stromberg as he stood ready to shoot
out the line; and, above all, the leering eyes and sneering lips of
Moncrossen.

The accident happened a scant sixty feet from the side of the straining
bateau, and the features of its occupants were brought out strongly in
the clear morning light.

As he disappeared beneath the surface Bill drew a long breath and,
opening his eyes, looked upward. A couple of swift strokes and his head
emerged where a small patch of light showed an open space.

Reaching out he grasped the rough bark of a log, shook the icy water
from his eyes, and reviewed his situation. His first thought was of the
bateau, but a shoreward glance revealed only the swiftly gliding trunks
of the forest wall with the bateau and the gesticulating crowd but a
blur in the distance.

Near him floated smoothly a huge forked trunk from whose prongs
protruded the stubs of lopped limbs. Releasing his hold, he swam toward
the big log which floated butt foremost among its lesser neighbors,
and, diving, came up between the forks and gripped firmly a limb stub.

On every hand thousands of logs floated quietly, seemingly motionless
as logs on the bosom of a mill-pond. Only the rushing walls of pine on
either side of the narrow river-aisle spoke of the terrific speed of
the drive.

Suddenly, as the great forked log swept around a bend, the peril of his
situation dawned upon him in all its horror. The dull roar changed to a
mighty bellow where the high-tossed white-water leaped high among the
submerged rocks of the rapid, and above its thunder sounded the heavy
rumble of the shock and grind of thousands of wildly pitching logs.

Only for a moment did he gaze out over the heaving forefront of the
drive. His log shot forward with the speed of a bullet as it was seized
in the grip of the current; the next moment it leaped clear of the
water and plunged blindly into the whirling tossing pandemonium of the
white-water gut.

Bill clung desperately to the stub, expecting each moment to be his
last. Close in the fork he was protected on either side from the
hammering blows of the caroming timber. All about him the air was
filled with flying logs which ripped the bark from each other's sides,
while the shock and batter of the wild stampede threatened momentarily
to tear loose his grip.

It seemed to the desperate man that hours passed as he clung doggedly
to the huge trunk which trembled and shivered and plunged wildly at the
pounding impact, when suddenly it brought up against a half-submerged
rock, stopped dead, grated and jarred at the crash of following logs,
poised for an instant, and then slanted into deeper water, while up the
man's leg shot a twisting, wrenching pain, sickening--nerve-killing in
its intensity.

His grasp relaxed and his whole body went limp and lifeless as the big
log overrode the last rock barrier and was caught in the placid, slowly
revolving water of a shore eddy.

                     *      *      *      *      *

Half concealed by the naked tangle of underbrush on the verge of a low
bluff where the rock-ribbed rapid broke suddenly into smooth water, an
old Indian woman and a beautiful half-breed girl of twenty crouched
close, watching the logs plunge through the seething white-water.

The dark eyes of the girl shone with excitement, but this was no new
sight to the eyes of the older woman who in times past had watched
other drives on other rivers. As she looked her frown deepened and the
hundred little weather wrinkles in the tight-drawn smoke-darkened skin
showed thin and plain, like the crisscross cracks in old leather.

The shriveled lips pressed tight against the hard, snag-studded gums,
and in the narrow, lashless black eyes glowed the spark of undying
hate.

The sight of the rushing logs brought bitter memories. These were
things of the white man--and, among white men, only Lacombie was
good--and Lacombie was dead.

Young Lacombie, who came into the North with a song on his lips to work
for the great company whose word is law, and whose long arm is destiny.
Lacombie, who, in the long ago had won her, Wa-ha-ta-na-ta, the
daughter of Kas-ka-tan, the chief, who was called the most beautiful
maiden among all the tribes of the rivers.

The old crone drew her blanket about her and shuddered slightly as she
glanced from her own withered, clawlike hands, upon which dark veins
stood out like the cords of a freight bale, to the fresh beauty of the
young girl at her side who gazed in awed fascination upon the rush of
the pounding logs.

Lacombie was dead, and Pierre, his son, who was her first-born, was
dead also; and his blood was upon the head of the men of the logs. For
he had left the post and gone among white men, and she, the mother who
bore him, and Lacombie, his father, had seen him no more.

Years slipped by, bringing other children; Jacques, in whom the white
blood of Lacombie was lost in the blending, and the girl who crouched
at her side.

Long after, from the lips of a passing _Bois brûlé_, she heard the
story of Pierre's death--how, crazed by whisky and the taunts of a
drunken companion, he had leaped upon a passing log and plunged into
the foaming white chute of the dreaded Saw Tooth rapid through which no
man had passed and lived.

_Sacré._ He was brave! For he came nearly to the end of the rapid,
standing upon his log--but, only nearly to the end--for there he was
dashed and broken upon the rocks in the swirl of the leaping
white-water, and here was she, his mother, gazing at other logs in the
rush of other rapids.

She started at the sudden clutch at her blanket and glanced sharply at
the girl who strained forward upon the very edge of the bluff and
stared, not at the rapid, but straight downward where a few logs
revolved lazily in the grip of the shore eddy.

The girl was pointing excitedly with a tapering white-brown finger to
the fork of a great log where, caught on a sharp limb stub, was the
striped sleeve of a mackinaw, from the end of which protruded a hand,
while after the log, trailing sluggishly in the V of the fork, was the
lifeless body of a man.

As she looked a light of exultation gleamed in the sharp old eyes. Here
was vengeance! For the life of her son--the life of a white man.

She noted with satisfaction that the body was that of a large man. It
was fitting so. For her Pierre had been tall, and broad, and
strong--she would have been disappointed in the meaner price of a small
man's life.

Suddenly she leaped to her feet and ran swiftly along the bluff seeking
a place to descend.

Even among the men of the logs, who are bad, one man stands alone as
the archfiend of them all.

And now--it is possible, for he is a big man--she, Wa-ha-ta-na-ta, the
mother of Pierre and of Jeanne, maybe is permitted to stoop close and
breathe upon the dead face of this man the weird curse of the barren
lands--almost forgotten, now, even among her own people--the blighting
curse of the "Yaga Tah!"

In the telling, the _Bois brûlé_ had mentioned the name of the drunken
lumber-jack who had baited her Pierre to his death, and in the old
woman's brain the name of Moncrossen was the symbol of all black
deviltry.

After the death of Lacombie, Wa-ha-ta-na-ta had stolen Jeanne from the
mission that she might forget the ways of the white man, and returned
to her people.

Jeanne, whose soft skin, beneath the sun tan, was the white skin of
Lacombie, and who was the most beautiful among all the women of the
North, with her straight, lithe body, and dark, mysterious eyes--eyes
which, in color, were the eyes of the wood folk, but in whose baffling,
compelling depths slumbered the secrets of an alien race.

Jacques, she could understand, for in thought and deed and body he was
Indian--a whelp of her own breed. But the girl, she did not understand,
and her love for her was the idolatrous love with which she had loved
Lacombie.

Through many lean years they lived among the tepees of the Indians,
but, of late, they had come to the lodge of Jacques, who had become a
trapper and guide.

His lodge, of necessity, must be pitched not too far from the lumber
camps of the white men, whose laws make killing deer in winter a
crime--and pay liberally for fresh venison.

Swiftly she descended a short slope of the bluff, uttering quick, low
whines of anticipation. For Jacques, Blood River Jack he was called by
the white men, had told her that Moncrossen was boss of the camp at the
head of the rapid.

All through the winter she had kept the girl continually within her
sight, for she remembered the previous winter when this same Moncrossen
had accidentally come upon their lodge on the south fork of Broken
Knee, and the look in his eyes as he gazed upon the beauty of Jeanne.

She remembered the events that followed when Jacques was paid liberally
by the boss to make a midwinter journey to the railroad, and the low
sound in the night when she awakened to find the girl struggling in the
bear-like grasp of the huge lumberjack, and how she fought him off in
the darkness with a hatchet while Jeanne fled shrieking into the
timber.

Now she stood upon the brink, and beside her stood the girl in whose
dark eyes flashed a primitive tiger-hate--for she, too, remembered the
terror of that night on the south fork of Broken Knee.

And, although she knew nothing of the wild death-curse of the Yaga Tah,
she could at least stoop and spit upon the dead face of the one worst
white man.

Almost touching their feet lapped the brown, bubble-dotted waters of
the river, and close in, at a hand's reach from the bank, the logs
passed sluggishly in the slow swing of the shore eddy.

The eyes of the pair focused in intense eagerness upon the great forked
log which poised uncertainly at the outer edge of the whirl.

For a breathless moment they watched while it seemed that the great log
with its gruesome freight must be swept out into the main current of
the stream. Sluggishly it revolved, as upon an axis, and then, in the
grip of a random cross-current, swung heavily shoreward.

The form of the old woman bent forward and, as the log drifted slowly
past, a talon-like hand shot out and fastened upon the bit of striped
cloth, and the next moment the two were tugging and hauling in their
efforts to drag the limp body clear of the brown waters.

Seizing upon the heavy calked boots they worked the body inch by inch
up the steep slope, and the dry lips of the old squaw curled in a
snaggy grin as she noted the shattered leg and the toe of the boot
twisted backward--a grin that deepened into a grimace of sardonic
cruelty at the feel of the grating rasp of the shattered bone ends.

After frequent pauses they returned to their task, and at each jerk
water gushed from the man's wide-sprung jaws.

At last, panting with exertion, they gained the top of the bank. With
glittering eyes the old squaw stooped swiftly and turned the body upon
its back. The unseeing eyes stared upward, water ceased to gush from
the open mouth, and the lolling tongue settled flabbily between the
mud-smeared lips.

A cry of savage disappointment escaped her, for the face into which she
looked was not the face of Moncrossen!

The curse of the Yaga Tah died upon her lips, for this curse may be
breathed but once in a lifetime, and if, as Father Magnus said, "God is
good," she might yet live to gaze into the dead face of the one worst
white man, and chant the curse of the Yaga Tah.

So she stifled the curse and contented herself with gloating over the
battered body of the man of logs which the churning white-water of the
Blood River rapid had tossed at her feet, even as the seething
white-water of the Saw Tooth had tossed the body of her Pierre at the
feet of the white men.

At her side the girl gazed curiously at the exanimate form. In her
heart was no bitterness against the people of her father--no damning of
the breed for the sins of the individual.

Lacombie, she knew, was good--the one good white man--old
Wa-ha-ta-na-ta called him. And Moncrossen was bad.

Between these two extremes were the unnumbered millions of whom
Lacombie used to tell her in the long Northern twilight, when, as a
little girl, she would creep upon his knees as he sat before the door
of the log trading-post, and his arms would steal about her, and a
far-away look would creep into his blue eyes.

Often he spoke of beautiful women; of mighty tepees of stone; of
bridges of iron, and of trains which rushed along the iron trails at
the speed of the flight of a bird, and spat fire and smoke, and whose
voice shrieked louder than the mate-call of the _loup-cervier_.

And she would listen, round-eyed, until the little head would droop
slowly against the great chest, and the words would rumble softly and
blend bewilderingly with the wheezing of the black pipe and the strong
smell of rank tobacco.

Sometimes she would wake up with a start to hear more, and it would be
morning, and she would be between the blankets in her own little bunk,
and Wa-ha-ta-na-ta would come and laugh, and pinch her fat legs, and
croon strange Indian songs in low minor keys.

There were stories, too; stories of Kas-ka-tan, the chief; of the Crazy
Man of the Berry Moon; of Zuk, the lost hunter; of the Maiden of the
Snows, whose heart was of ice, and whose voice was the splashing of
tiny waters, and of the mighty Fire God, whose breath alone could move
the heart of the Maiden of the Snows, so that in the springtime when he
spoke to her of love, her laughter was heard in the tiny rills of the
woodland.

But it was of Lacombie's tales she thought most. Only she could never
stay awake to hear the end, and the next night there would be other
tales of other wonders, and all without end.

So in her heart grew a strange unrest, a wild, irrepressible longing to
see these things in the wonderful country of the white men, to whom, in
time of sickness and death, came smiling, round-faced priests, with
long black clothes and many buttons; instead of hideous medicine-men,
with painted faces and strings of teeth and shriveled claws.

As she gazed upon the form of the white man, a soft wistfulness stole
into her eyes. Unconsciously, she drew closer, and the next instant
threw herself upon the body, tearing frantically at the shirt-front.

Sounded the tiny popping of buttons and the smooth rip of flannel, and
a small, white-brown hand slipped beneath the tattered cloth and
pressed tight against the white skin of the mighty chest.

For a long moment it rested there while the old woman looked on in
wonder. Then the girl faced her, speaking rapidly, with shining eyes:

"He is not dead!" she gasped. "There is life in the heart that moves!
See! It is not the face of Moncrossen, but of the great _chechako_ of
whom Jacques told us. The man who is hated of Moncrossen. Who killed
Diablesse, the _loup-garou_, with a knife.

"The man whom Creed fears, and of whom he spoke the night he came
whining to the tepee with his heart turned to water within him, and
told Jacques of how this man lay helpless in the flames of the burning
shack, and the next day walked unscorched into the store at Hilarity.

"He is The-Man-Who-Cannot-Die. Quick! Help me, and together we will
bring him to life!"

The old squaw held aloof, scowling.

"Lacombie is dead," she muttered. "There is no good white man. The men
of the logs are bad. Where is Pierre, thy brother? And where are the
fathers of the light-skinned breeds of the rivers?

"Who bring sorrow and death among the women of my people? Whence comes
the whisky that is the curse of the red men of the North? Would you
warm the rattlesnake in your bosom, to die from its poisoned tooth? All
men die! Lacombie, who was good, is dead. And this one who, being a man
of logs, is bad, will die also. Come away while yet there is time!"

The girl sprang to her feet and, with uplifted hand, faced
Wa-ha-ta-na-ta, and in her eyes was the compelling light of prophecy.

"Is it not enough, O Wa-ha-ta-na-ta," she cried, "that Moncrossen, the
evil one, hates this man? He is M's'u Bill, The-Man-Who-Cannot-Die.
Neither by wolves nor fire nor water can he die, nor will he be killed
in the fighting of men. But one day he will kill Moncrossen, that thou
mayest lay upon the head of the evil one the black curse of the Yaga
Tah! And then will the blood of Pierre, thy son, be avenged."

At the words, the smoldering black eyes of the old squaw wavered, they
swept the limp form upon the ground, and returned a long, searching
gaze into the blazing eyes of the girl. With a low guttural
throat-sound, she dropped to her knees, and together they bent to their
task. At the end of an hour the breath fluttered irregularly between
the bearded lips and the gray eyes closed of their own accord.

As the two women rested, the sound of shouting voices was borne to
their ears. The old woman started, listening.

"Back from the river!" she cried, "soon will come men who, with long,
sharp poles, will push out the logs from the eddies, and from the still
waters of the bends, and, should the men of Moncrossen find this man
they will kill him--for all men die! Did not Lacombie die?"



CHAPTER XXVI

MAN OR TOY MAN?


The newspaper prediction of the forthcoming announcement of the
engagement of Miss Ethel Manton and Gregory St. Ledger was published,
not without color of authority, nor was it entirely out of keeping with
appearances.

As the gay calendar of society's romp and rout drew toward its close,
the names of these two became more and more intimately associated. It
was an association assiduously cultivated by young St. Ledger, and
earnestly fostered and abetted by the St. Ledger sisters who,
fluttering uncertainly upon the outermost rim of the circle immediately
surrounding society's innermost shrine, realized that the linking of
the Manton name with the newer name of St. Ledger, would prove an open
sesame to the half-closed doors of the Knickerbockers.

Despite two years' residence in the most expensive suite of a most
expensive hotel, nobody seemed to know much about the St. Ledgers. It
was an accepted fact that they were islanders from somewhere, variously
stated to be Jamaica, The Isle of Pines, and Barbadoes, whose wealth
was founded upon sugar, and appeared limitless.

St. Ledger _père_, tall and saturnine, divided his time about equally
between New York and "the islands."

The two girls, ravishingly beautiful in their dark, semi-mysterious
way, had been brought from some out-of-the-way French convent to the
life of the great city, where to gain entrée into society's holy of
holies became a fetish above their gods.

There was no _mère_ St. Ledger, and vague whisperings passed back and
forth between certain bleached out, flat-chested virgins, whose
forgotten youth and beauty were things long past, but whose tenure upon
society was as firm and unassailable as Plymouth Rock and the silver
leg of Peter Stuyvesant could make it.

It was hinted that the high-piled tresses of the sisters matched too
closely the hue of the raven's wing, and that the much admired "waves"
if left to themselves would resolve into decided "kinks."

They were guarded whisperings, however, non-committal, and so worded
that a triumphantly blazoned "I told you so!" or a depreciatory and
horrified: "You misunderstood me, _dear_," hung upon the pending
verdict of the powers that be.

Gregory St. Ledger, in so far as any one knew, was neither liked nor
disliked among men; being of the sort who enjoy watching games of
tennis and, during the later hours of the afternoon, drive pampered
Pekingese about the streets in silver-mounted electrics.

He enjoyed, also, a baby-blue reputation which successfully cloaked
certain spots of pale cerise in his rather negligible character.

He smoked innumerable scented cigarettes, gold as to tip and monogram,
which he selected with ostentatious unostentation from a heavy gold
case liberally bestudded with rubies and diamonds.

He viewed events calmly through a life-size monocle, was London
tailored, Paris shod, and New York manicured; and carried an embossed
leather check-book, whose detachable pink slips proved a potent safety
factor against undue increment of the St. Ledger exchequer.

Thus equipped, and for reasons of family, young St. Ledger decided to
marry Ethel Manton; and to this end he devoted himself persistently and
insidiously, but with the inborn patience and diplomacy of the South
Islander.

Bill Carmody he hated with the snakelike hate of little men, but
shrewdly perceiving that the girl held more than a friendly regard for
him, enthusiastically sang his praises in her ears; praises that,
somehow, always left her with a strange smothering sensation about the
heart and a dull resentment of the fact that she cared.

With the disappearance of young Carmody, St. Ledger redoubled his
attentions. The young man found it much easier than did his sisters to
be numbered "among those present" at the smart functions of the élite.

When New York shivered in the first throes of winter, a well-planned
cruise in mild waters under soft skies on board the lavishly appointed
and bountifully supplied St. Ledger yacht, whose sailing list included
a carefully selected and undeniably congenial party of guests, worked
wonders in the matter of St. Ledger's social aspirations.

At the clubs, substantial and easily forgotten loans to members of the
embarrassed elect, coupled with vague hints, rarely failed to pay
dividends in the form of invitations to ultra-exclusive _affaires_.

At the hostelry the St. Ledger _soirées_, if so glitteringly bizarre as
to draw high-browed frowns from the more reserved and staid of the
thinning old guard of ancestor-worshipers, nevertheless, were
enthusiastically hailed and eagerly attended by the younger set, and
played no small part in the insinuation of "those St. Ledgers" into the
realms of the anointed.

Thus the winter wore away, and, at all times and in all places Gregory
St. Ledger appeared as the devoted satellite of Ethel Manton, who
entered the social mêlée without enthusiasm, but with dogged
determination to let the world see that the disappearance of Bill
Carmody affected her not at all.

She tolerated St. Ledger, even encouraged him, for he amused and
offered a welcome diversion for her thoughts.

She was a girl of moods whose imagination carried her into far places
in the picturing of a man--her man--big, and strong, and clean;
fighting bare-fisted among men for his place in the world, and alone
conquering the secret devil of desire that he might claim the right to
her love.

Then it was, curled up in the big armchair in the library, the blue
eyes would glow softly and tenderly in the flare of the flickering
firelight, and between parted lips the warm breath would come and go in
short stabbing whispers to the quick rise and fall of the rounded
bosom, and the little fists would clench white in the tense gladness of
it.

But there were other times--times when the dancing wall-shadows were
dark specters of ill-omen gloating ghoulishly before her horror-widened
eyes as her brain conjured the picture of the man--battered, broken,
helpless, with bloated, sottish features, and bleared eyes--a beaten
man drifting heedlessly, hopelessly, furtive-eyed, away from his
standards--and from her.

At such times the breath would flutter uncertainly between cold,
bloodless lips, and the marble whiteness of her face became a pallid
death mask of despair.

Always in extremes she pictured him, for, knowing the man as she knew
him--the bigness of him--the relentless dynamic man-power of his being,
she knew that with him there would be no half-way measure--no median
line of indifferent achievement which should stand for neither the good
nor the bad among men.

Here was no Tomlinson whose little sins and passive virtues became the
jest of the gods; but a man who in the final accounting would stand
four-square upon the merit of his works, and in the might of their
right or wrong, accept fearlessly his reward.

The days dragged into weeks and the weeks into months--empty months to
the heart of the girl who waited, dreading, yet hoping for word from
the man she loved. Yet knowing, deep down in her heart, she would hear
no word.

He would come to her--would answer the call of her great love--would
beat down the barriers and in the flush of victory would claim her as
his own; or, in the everlasting silence of the weird realm of missing
men, be lost to her forever.

Daily she scanned the newspapers. Not front pages whose glaring
headlines flaunted world-rumblings, politics, and the illness of rich
men's dogs, but tiny cable-whispers from places far from the beaten
track, places forgotten or unknown, whose very names breathed mystery;
whispers that hinted briefly of life-tragedies, of action and the
unsung deeds of men.

And as she read, she mused.

A tramp steamer dashed upon the saw-tooth rocks off Sarawak. Thirty
perish--seven saved--no names. "Where is Sarawak? Is it possible that
_he_----?"

Four sailors killed in the rescue of a girl from a dive in Singapore.
Investigation ordered--no names. "_He_ would have done that."

The rum-sodden body of a man, presumably a derelict American, picked up
on the bund at Papiete; no marks of identification save the tightly
clutched photograph of a well-dressed young woman. "Had _he_ given up
the fight? And was this the end?"

Eight revolutionist prisoners taken by General Orotho in yesterday's
battle were shot at sunrise this morning before the prison wall of
Managua.

One, an American, faced the firing squad with a laugh, and the next
instant pitched forward, his body riddled with bullets. "_He_ would
have laughed! Would have played gladly the game with death and,
losing--laughed!"

Each day she read the little lines of the doings of men; unnamed
adventurers whose deeds were virile deeds; rough men, from whose
contaminating touch society gathers up her silken skirts and passes by
upon the other side; unlovely men, rolled-sleeved and open-throated,
deep-seamed of face, and richly weather-tanned of arm, who tread
roughshod the laws of little right and wrong; who drink red liquor and
swear lurid oaths and loud; but who, shoulder to shoulder, redden the
gutters of Singapore with their hearts' blood in the snatching of a
young girl from danger.

And in the reading there grew up in her heart a mighty respect for
these men, for, in the analysis of their deeds, the beam swayed
strongly against the measure of the world in its balance of good and
harm.

Many times her feet carried her into strange streets among strange
people, where the reek of shipping became incense to her nostrils, and
hairy-chested men of many ports stared boldly into her face and,
reading her aright, made room with deference.

Upon an evening just before the annual surcease of frivolity, Gregory
St. Ledger called at the Manton home and, finding Ethel alone in the
library, asked her to be his wife.

Because it was an evening of her blackest mood she neither refused nor
accepted him, but put him off for a year on the ground that she did not
know her mind.

In vain he protested, arguing the power and prestige of the St. Ledger
millions, and in the end departed to seek out an acquaintance who had
to do with a blatant Sunday newspaper.

During the interview that followed, in the course of which the reporter
ordered and St. Ledger paid for many tall drinks of intricate
concoction, the gilded youth made no statement of fact, but the
impression he managed to convey furnished the theme for the news story
whose headlines seared into Bill Carmody's soul to the crashing of his
tenets and gods.

In the library the girl sat far into the night and thought of the man
who had won her heart and of the toy man who would buy her hand.



CHAPTER XXVII

JEANNE


Bill Carmody opened his eyes. A weird darkness surrounded him through
which dancing half-lights played upon a close-thrown screen. Dully he
watched the grotesque flickering of lights and shadows. He was not
surprised--not even curious. Nothing mattered--nothing save the
terrible pain in his head and the racking ache of the muscles of his
body. His skin felt hot and drawn and he gasped for air. A great weight
seemed pressing upon him, and when he tried to fill his bursting lungs
instead of great drafts of cooling air, hot, stabbing pains shot
through his chest and he groaned aloud at the hurt of it.

He turned his aching body, wincing at the movement, and stared dully
through a low aperture in the encircling screen. Beyond, in another
world, it seemed, a tiny fire flickered under a suspended iron kettle.

Near the fire a blanketed form sat motionless with knees tight-hugged
against shrunken breast. Upon the blanket-covered knees rested the
angular chin of a dark-skinned, leathern face, upon which the firelight
played fitfully, and beneath a tangled mop of graying hair two eyes
flashed and dulled like black opals.

He glanced upward and realized that the close-thrown screen, upon which
danced the lights and shadows, was the smoke-blackened canvas of a
tepee, loosely stretched upon its slanting lodge-poles.

Again he attempted to fill his congested lungs with cool, sweet air,
and again the attempt ended in a groan and he relaxed, gasping, while
upon his forehead the cold sweat stood in clammy beads.

Yet his head was burning hot, and the blankets which covered him were
blankets of fire. Suddenly it dawned upon him that this was a hideous
nightmare.

The blackened lodge with its terrifying shadow-pictures that flickered
and faded and flickered again; the old crone by the fire; the pain in
his head, and the hot aches of his body, were horrid brain fancies.

With a mighty effort he would break the spell, and from the bunk below
the rich brogue of Fallon would "bawl him out" for his restlessness--good
old Fallon!

Vainly he attempted to marshal his scattered wits, and break the spell
of the torturing brain picture. The shadows above him took on weird
shapes; grinning faces with tangled gray locks; long snakelike bodies,
and tails of red and yellow light twined and writhed sinuously about
the beautiful face of a girl.

How real--how distinct in the half-light, was the face beneath the mass
of gleaming black hair. And eyes! Dark, serious eyes, into which one
might gaze far into mysterious depths--soft, restful eyes, thought the
man as he stared upward into the phantom face.

From the curve of the parted red lips the perfect teeth flashed
whitely, and from the delicately turned chin the soft full-throated
neck swept beneath the open throat of the loose-fitting buckskin
hunting shirt whose deep fringed trimmings only half-concealed the rich
lines of a rounded bosom.

The man remained motionless, fearing to move lest the vision fade and
the harsh voice of Fallon blare out from below. "Damn Fallon!" he
muttered, and then the pictured lips moved and in his ears was the
soft, sweet sound of a voice.

The writhing snakes with the shining tails resolved into flickering
wall-shadows which danced lightly among the slanting lodge-poles. But
the dream-face did not fade, the dream-eyes gazed softly into his, the
dream-lips moved, and the low sound of the dream-voice was music to his
ears.

"You are sick," the voice said; "you are in pain." Bill's throat was
dry with a burning thirst.

"Water!" he gasped, and the word rasped harsh.

The girl reached into the shadows and a tiny white-brown hand appeared
holding a dripping tin cup. She bent closer and the next instant the
man's burning cheek was pillowed against the soft coolness of her bared
arm and his head was raised from the blanket while the tiny white-brown
hand held the tin cup to his lips.

With the life-giving draft the man's brain cleared and he smiled into
the eyes of his dream-girl. Her lips returned the smile and there was a
movement of the rounded arm that pillowed his head.

"No! No!" he whispered, and pressed his cheek closer against the soft,
bare flesh. The arm was not withdrawn, the liquid eyes gazed for a
moment into his and were veiled by the swift downsweep of the long,
dark lashes.

In the silence, a little white-brown hand strayed over his face and
rested with delicious coolness upon the fevered brow. Bill's eyes
closed and for blissful eons he lay, while in all the world was no such
thing as pain--only the sweet, restful peace of Dreamland.

Unconsciously his lips pressed close against the softness of her arm,
and at their touch the arm trembled, and from far away came the quick,
sibilant gasp of an indrawn breath.

The arm pressed closer, the tapering fingers of the little hand strayed
caressingly through the tangled curls of his hair, and Bill Carmody
slipped silently into the quiet of oblivion.

The fire under the iron kettle died down, and the shadows faded from
the walls of the tepee. Inside, the girl sat far into the night, and
the mystery of the dark eyes deepened as they gazed into the bearded
face close pillowed against her arm.

By the dying fire the old crone drew her blanket more closely about her
and glowered into the red embers as her beady, black eyes shot keen
glances toward the motionless forms in the blackness beyond the open
flap of the tepee.

On Blood River the logs floated steadily millward, the bateau followed
the drive, and the men of the logs passed noisily out of the North.



CHAPTER XXVIII

A PROPHECY


In the gray of the morning Jacques Lacombie returned to his lodge to
find Wa-ha-ta-na-ta seated in front of the tepee staring into the dead
ashes of the fire.

In answer to his rough questioning she arose stiffly, stalked to the
open flap of the lodge and, standing aside, pointed mutely to the
silent figures within.

Both slept. The fever-flushed face of the man pillowed upon the bare
arm of the girl, whose body had settled wearily forward until her head,
with its mass of black tresses, rested upon his breast, where it rose
and fell to the heave of his labored breathing.

Long the half-breed looked, uttering no word, while the old squaw
searched his face which remained as expressionless as a face of stone.

"Make a fire," he commanded gruffly, and slung his pack upon the
ground. She obeyed, muttering the while, and Jacques watched her as he
filled and lighted his pipe.

"The man is M's'u' Bill," he observed, apparently talking to himself,
"The-Man-Who-Cannot-Die."

The old woman shot him a keen glance as she hovered over the tiny flame
that licked at the twigs of dry larchwood. "All men die," she muttered
dully. "Did not Lacombie die?"

"At midnight I passed through the deserted camp of Moncrossen," the man
continued, paying no heed to her remark. "Creed did not go out with the
drive, but stayed behind to guard the camp, and he told me of the death
of this man; how he himself saw him sink beneath the waters of the
river and saw the logs of the jam rush over him.

"As we talked, and because he had been drinking much whisky, he told me
that it was he who locked this man in the shack last winter and then
set fire to the shack. He told me also Moncrossen desired this man's
death above any other thing, and had ordered the breaking of the jam at
a moment when he knew the _chechako_ could not escape, so that he was
hurled into the water and killed."

The old woman interrupted him. "I drew him upon the bank, thinking he
was Moncrossen, and that I might breathe upon him the curse. Because
his heart is bad, being a man of logs, I would have returned him to the
river whence he came; but Jeanne prevented." Jacques smiled at the
bitter disappointment in her voice.

"It is well," he returned. "See to it that he lives. Moncrossen is
great among the white men--and his heart is bad. But the heart of the
_chechako_ is good, and one day will come a reckoning, and in that day
the curse of the Yaga Tah shall fall from thy lips upon the dead face
of Moncrossen."

"All white men are bad," grumbled the squaw. "There is no good white
man."

Jacques silenced her with a gesture of impatience. "What is that to
you, oh, Wa-ha-ta-na-ta, good or bad, if he kills Moncrossen?"

The old woman leaped to her feet and pointed a sharp skinny finger
toward the tepee, her eyes flashed, and the cracked voice rang thin
with anger.

"The girl!" she cried. "Jeanne, thy sister!"

Her son stepped close to her side and spoke low with the quiet voice of
assurance:

"No harm will come to the girl. I have many times talked with this man
as he worked in the timber. His heart is good--and his lips do not lie.
I, who have looked into his eyes, have spoken. And, that you shall know
my words are true, if harm befall the girl at the hand of the white
_chechako_, with this knife shall you kill me as I sleep."

He withdrew a long, keen blade from its sheath and handed it to the
squaw, who took it.

"And not only you will I kill, but him also," she answered, testing its
edge upon her thumb. "For the moon has spoken, and blood will flow.
Last night, in the wet red moon, I saw it--dripping tears of
blood--twelve, besides one small one, and they were swallowed up in the
mist of the river. I, Wa-ha-ta-na-ta, the daughter of Kas-ka-tan, the
chief, who know the signs, have spoken.

"Before the full of the thirteenth moon blood will flow upon the bank
of the river. But whose blood I know not, for a great cloud came and
covered the face of the moon, and when it was gone the tears of blood
were no more and the mist had returned to the river--and the meaning of
this I know not."

She ceased speaking abruptly at a sound from the tepee as the girl
emerged and stepped quickly to the fire.

"I am glad you have come," said Jeanne hurriedly to her brother. "You,
who are skilled in the mending of bones. The man's leg is broken; it is
swollen and gives him much pain."

Jacques followed her into the tepee and, after a careful examination,
removed the unconscious man.

The setting of the bones required no small amount of labor and
ingenuity. Carmody was placed between two trees, to one of which his
body was firmly bound at the shoulders.

A portion of the bark was removed from the other tree and the smooth
surface rubbed with fat. Around this was passed a stout line, one end
of which was made fast to the injured leg at the ankle.

A trimmed sapling served as a capstan bar, against which the two women
threw their weight, while Jacques fitted the bone ends neatly together
and applied the splints.

The Indians, schooled in the treatment of wounds and broken bones, were
helpless as babes before the ravages of the dreaded pneumonia which
racked the great body of the sick man.

Bill Carmody's recollection of the following days was confined to a
hopeless confusion of distorted brain pictures in which the beautiful
face of the girl, the repulsive features of the old crone, and the
swart countenance of the half-breed were inextricably blended.

For two weeks he lay, interspersing long periods of unconsciousness
with hours of wild, delirious raving. Then the disease wore itself out,
and Jeanne Lacombie, entering the tepee one morning, encountered the
steady gaze of the sunken eyes.

With a short exclamation of pleasure she crossed the intervening space
and knelt at his side. The two regarded each other in silence. At
length Bill's lips moved and he started slightly at the weak, toneless
sound of his own voice.

"So you are real, after all," he smiled.

The girl returned the smile frankly.

"M's'u' has been very sick," she imparted, speaking slowly, as though
selecting her words.

Bill nodded; he felt dizzy and helplessly weak.

"How long have I been here?" he asked.

"Since the turning of the moon."

"I'm afraid that is not very definite. You see I didn't even know the
moon had been turned. Who turned it? And is it really turned to cheese
or just turned around?"

The girl regarded him gravely, a puzzled expression puckering her face.
Bill laughed.

"Forgive me," he begged. "I was talking nonsense. Can you tell me how
many days I have been here?"

"It is fifteen days since we drew you from the river."

"Who's _we_?"

Again the girl seemed perplexed.

"I mean, who helped you pull me out of the drink?"

"Wa-ha-ta-na-ta. She is my mother. She is an Indian, and very old."

"Are _you_ an Indian?" asked the man in such evident surprise that the
girl laughed.

"My father was white. I am a breed," she answered; then with a quick
lifting of the chin, hastened to add: "But not like the breeds of the
rivers! My father was Lacombie, the factor at Crossette, and
Wa-ha-ta-na-ta was the daughter of Kas-ka-tan, the chief, and they were
married by a priest at the mission.

"That was very long ago, and now Lacombie is dead and the priest also,
Wa-ha-ta-na-ta has a paper; also it is written in the book at the
mission that men may read it and know."

Carmody was amused at her eagerness and watched the changing expression
of her face as she continued more slowly:

"My father was good. But he is dead and, until you came, there has been
no good white man."

Bill smiled at the naïve frankness of her.

"Why do you think that I am good?" he inquired.

"In your eyes I have read it. That night, before the wild fever-spirit
entered your body, I looked long into your eyes. And has not Jacques
told me of how you killed the _loup-garou_; of how you are hated by
Moncrossen, and feared by Creed?

"Do I not know that fire cannot burn you nor water drown? Did you not
beat down the greatest of Moncrossen's fighting men? And has not
Wabishke told in the woods, to the wonder of all, how you drink no
whisky, but pour it upon your feet?"

The girl spoke softly and rapidly, her face flushing.

"Do I not know all your thoughts?" she continued. "I who have sat at
your side through the long days of your sickness and listened to the
voice of the fever-spirit? At such times the heart cannot lie, and the
lips speak the truth."

She leaned closer, and unconsciously a slender, white-brown hand fell
upon his, and the soft, tapering fingers closed upon his own. A
delicious thrill passed through his body at the touch.

As he looked into the beautiful face so close to his, with the white
flash of pearly teeth in the play of the red lips, the eyes luminous,
like twin stars, a strange, numbing loneliness overcame him.

She was speaking in a voice that sounded soothing and far away, so that
he could not make out the words. Slowly his eyelids closed, blotting
out the face--and he slept.



CHAPTER XXIX

A BUCKSKIN HUNTING-SHIRT


The days of his convalescence in the camp of the Lacombies were days
fraught with mingled emotions in the heart of Bill Carmody.

Old Wa-ha-ta-na-ta treated him with cold deference, anticipating his
needs with a sagacity that was almost uncanny. She appeared hardly to
be aware of his presence, yet many times the man felt, without seeing,
the deep, burning gaze of the undimmed, black eyes.

Jacques, whom he had known in the logging-camp as Blood River Jack,
treated him with open friendliness, and as he became able to move about
the camp, taught him much of the lore of the forest, of the building of
nets and traps, the smoke-tanning of buckskin, and the taking and
drying of salmon.

During the long evenings the two sat close to the smudge of the
camp-fire and talked of many things, while the women listened.

But of the three it was the girl who most interested him. She was his
almost constant companion, silent and subtle at times, and with the
inborn subtlety of women she defied his most skilful attempts to share
her thoughts.

At other times her naïve frankness and innocent brutality of expression
surprised and amused him. Baffling, revealing--she remained at all
times an enigma.

By the middle of June Bill was able to make short excursions to the
river with the aid of the crutches which Blood River Jack crudely
fashioned from young saplings.

With his increased freedom of movement his restlessness increased.
Somewhere along the river, he knew, the bird's-eye logs were banked,
awaiting the arrival of Moncrossen and Stromberg to raft them to the
railway, and he surmised that their coming would not be long delayed.

Over and over in his mind he turned schemes for outwitting the boss.
The strength was rapidly returning to his injured leg and he discarded
one crutch, using the other only to help him over the rough places.

He was in no condition to undertake a journey to the railway, and in
spite of Blood River Jack's expressed hatred of Moncrossen and
friendship for himself, he hesitated about taking the half-breed into
his confidence.

At length he could stand the suspense no longer. Each day's delay
lessened his chance of success. He decided to act--to lay the matter
before Blood River Jack and ask his coöperation, and if he refused, to
play the game alone.

He came to this decision one afternoon while seated upon a great log
overlooking the rushing rapid. Beside him sat Jeanne, apparently deeply
engrossed in the embroidering of a buckskin hunting-shirt.

After a long silence Bill knocked the dead ashes from his pipe, and his
jaw squared as he looked out over the foaming white-water. He turned
toward the girl and encountered the intense gaze of her dark eyes.

The neglected needlework lay across her knees, the small hands were
folded, and the shining needle glinted in the sun where it had been
deftly caught into the yellow buckskin at the turning of an unfinished
scroll.

"The logs which you seek," she said quietly, "are piled upon the bank
of the river, half a mile below the rapids." The man regarded her with
a startled glance.

"What do you know about these logs--and of what I was thinking?"

She answered him with a curious, baffling smile, and, ignoring his
question, continued:

"You need help. I am but a girl and know naught of logs nor why these
logs did not go down the river with the others. But in your face as you
pondered from day to day I have read it. Is it not that you would
prevent Moncrossen from taking these logs? But you know not how to do
it, for the logs must go down the river and Moncrossen must come up the
river?"

"You are a wonder!" he exclaimed in admiration. "That's exactly what's
been bothering me." She blushed furiously under his gaze and, with
lowering eyes, continued:

"I do not know how it can be managed, but Jacques will know. You may
trust Jacques as you trust me. For we are your friends, and his hatred
of Moncrossen is a real hatred."

She raised her eyes to his.

"Do you know why Jacques hates Moncrossen, and why Wa-ha-ta-na-ta hates
all white men?" she asked. Bill shook his head and listened as the
girl, with blazing eyes, told him of the death of Pierre, and then, of
the horror of that night on Broken Knee.

At her words Bill Carmody's face darkened, and his great fists clenched
until the nails bit deep into his palms. The steel-gray eyes narrowed
to slits and, as the girl finished, he arose and gently lifted one of
the little hands between his own.

"I, too, could kill Moncrossen for _that_," he said, and the tone of
his voice was low, and soft, with a tense, even softness that sounded
in the ears of the girl more terrible than a thousand loud hurled
threats.

She looked up quickly into the face of the glinting eyes, her tiny hand
trembled in his, and a sudden flush deepened the warm color of her
neck.

"For me?" she faltered. "_Me?_" And, with a half-smothered, frightened
gasp, tore her hand free and fled swiftly into the forest.

Bill stared a long time at the place where she disappeared, and,
smiling, stooped and picked up her needlework where it had fallen at
his feet.

He examined it idly for a moment and then more closely as a puzzled
look crept into his eyes. The garment he held in his hand was never
designed for a covering for the girl's own lithe body, nor was it small
enough even for Jacques.

"She's worked on it every day for a month," he murmured, as he glanced
from the intricate embroidered design to his own shirt of ragged
flannel, and again he smiled--bitterly.

"She's a queer kid," he said softly, as he recovered his crutch; "and a
mighty good kid, too."



CHAPTER XXX

CREED


That night the four sat late about the campfire.

Old Wa-ha-ta-na-ta, silent and forbidding, as usual, but with a sharp
ear for all that was said, listened as they laid their plans.

At their conclusion the others sought their blankets, while Jacques
took the trail for the camp of old Wabishke whose help was needed in
the undertaking which was to involve no small amount of labor.

As the two women finished the preparation of breakfast the following
morning, the half-breed appeared, followed closely by the old Indian
trapper whose scarred lips broke into a hideous grin at the sight of
Bill.

"This is Wabishke, of whom I spoke," said Jacques, indicating the
Indian. Bill laughingly extended his hand, which the other took.

"Well! If it isn't my friend, the Yankee!" he exclaimed. "Wabishke and
I are old friends. He is the first man I met in the woods." The Indian
nodded, grunted, and pointed to his feet which were encased in a very
serviceable pair of boots.

"Oh, I remember, perfectly," laughed Bill. "Have you still got my
matches?" Wabishke grinned.

"You keel _loup-garou_ with knife?" he asked, as if seeking
corroboration for an unbelievable story.

"I sure did," Bill answered. "The old gal tried to bite me."

The Indian regarded him with grave approval and, stepping to his side,
favored him with another greasy hand-shake, after which ceremony he
squatted by the fire and removing a half-dozen pieces of bacon from the
frying-pan proceeded to devour them with evident relish.

Breakfast over, the three men accompanied by Jeanne set out for the
river, leaving to old Wa-ha-ta-na-ta the work of the camp. Sliding a
canoe into the water, they took their places, Jacques and Wabishke at
the paddles, with Jeanne and Bill seated on the bottom amidships.

Close to the opposite bank the canoe was headed down-stream and, under
the swift, strong strokes of the paddles, glided noiselessly in the
shadows. A few minutes later, at a sign from Jacques who was in the
bow, Wabishke, with a deft twist of his paddle, slanted the canoe
bankward.

With a soft, rustling sound the light craft parted the low hanging
branches of killikinick and diamond willow, and buried its nose in the
soft mud.

Peering through the tangle of underbrush the occupants of the canoe
made out, some fifty yards below their position, a small clearing in
the center of which, just above the high-water mark of the river, was a
small pyramid of logs.

Seated beside the pile, with his back resting against the ends of the
logs, sat a man holding a rifle across his knees.

Bill Carmody's fighting spirit thrilled at the sight. Here at last was
action. Here were the stolen logs of bird's-eye, and guarding them was
Creed!

While the others steadied the canoe he stepped noiselessly onto the
bank, where he sank to his ankles in the mud, and, seizing hold of the
bow shot the canoe out into the current.

Creed had been left in the woods by Moncrossen, ostensibly to guard the
Blood River camp against pilfering Indians and chance forest fires, but
his real mission was to keep watch on the bird's-eye until it could be
safely rafted to the railway.

Moncrossen promised to return about the middle of June, and ten
mornings Creed had skulked the three miles from the lumber camp to the
logs, and ten evenings he had skulked fearfully back again, muttering
futile curses at the boss's delay.

Creed was uneasy. Not since the evening the greener had walked into Hod
Burrage's store at the very moment when he, Creed, was recounting to
the interested listeners the circumstances attending his demise, had he
been entirely free from a haunting, nameless fear.

True, as he told Blood River Jack, he had afterward seen with his own
eyes, the greener go down under the rushing jam where no man could
possibly go down and live.

But, nevertheless, deep in his heart was the _terror_--nameless,
unreasoning, haunting,--that clung to him night and day. So that a
hundred times a day, alone in the timber, he would start and cast
quick, jerky glances over his shoulder and jump, white-faced and
trembling, at the snapping of a twig.

As the days went by the nameless terror grew, dogging his footsteps,
phantomlike by day, and haunting him at night, as he lay shaking in his
bunk in the double-locked little office.

With the single exception of Blood River Jack, he had seen no human
being since the drive, and his frenzied desire for companionship would
have been pitiful, had it been less craven.

He slept fitfully with his rifle loaded and often cocked in his bunk
beside him, while during the day it was never out of reach of his hand.

In his daily excursions to the bird's-eye rollway he never took the
same route twice, but skulked, peering fearfully about in the
underbrush, avoiding even the game trails.

And always he détoured widely the place where he had seen the greener
disappear beneath the muddy, log-ridden waters.

And so it was that upon this particular morning Creed sat close against
the pyramid of logs--waiting.

At a sound from the river he jerked his rifle into readiness for
immediate action and sat nervously alert, his thumb twitching on the
hammer. Approaching down-stream came a canoe.

Creed leaped to his feet with a maudlin grin of relief as he recognized
the three occupants. Apparently they had not seen him, and he stepped
to the bank fearful lest they pass.

"Hey! You, Jack!" he called, waving his cap.

The bow-man ceased paddling and gazed shoreward in evident surprise;
the man on the bank was motioning them in with wide sweeps of the arm.
The half-breed called a few hasty words over his shoulder and the canoe
shot toward shore.

"Where y' goin'?" asked Creed, as the three stepped onto the bank.
Blood River Jack replied with an indefinite sweep of his arm to the
southward.

"Well, y' ain't in no hurry. Never seen a Injun yet cudn't stop long
'nough to take a drink o' licker. Har, har, har!"

He laughed foolishly, with an exaggerated wink toward the old Indian.

"How 'bout it, Wabishke; leetle fire-water make yer belt fit better?
'Tain't a goin' to cost y' nawthin'."

The Indian grinned and grunted acquiescence, and Creed inserted his arm
between two logs and withdrew a squat, black bottle.

"Here's some reg'lar ol' 'rig'nal red-eye. An' here's lookin' at ye,"
he said, as he removed the cork and sucked greedily at the contents.
"Jest tuk a taste fust, 'cause I don't like to give vis'tors whisky I
wudn't drink m'self, har, har, har! Anyways, the way I figger, it's
white men fust, then half white, then Injuns." He passed the bottle to
Jacques.

"'Fraid's little too strong fer ladies," he smirked, at Jeanne, and,
reaching out quickly, jerked the upturned bottle from Wabishke's lips.

"Hey, y' ol' pirate! Y' don't need fer to empty it all to wunst. Set
roun' a while, an' bimeby we'll have 'nother. 'S all on me to-day; this
here's my party."

They seated themselves on the ground and engaged in conversation, in
which Creed did most of the talking.

"Trade rifles?" asked Blood River Jack, idly picking up Creed's gun and
examining it minutely.

"Beats all how a Injun allus wants to be a tradin'," grinned Creed.
"Don't know but what I mought, though, at that. What's yourn?"

"Winchester, 30-40," replied Jacques, handing it over for inspection.

"Mine, too," said Creed; "only mine's newer. What'll y' give to boot?"
Jacques did not hurry his answer, being engaged in removing the
cartridges for the better inspection of magazine and chamber.

"Mine's better kep'," he opined after a careful squinting down the
muzzle.

"Kep' nawthin'! 'S all nicked up. An', besides, it pulls hard."

Jacques was deliberately refilling the magazine, but so intent was
Creed in picking out fancied defects in the other's weapon that he
failed to notice that the cartridges which were being placed in his own
rifle had had their bullets carefully drawn, while his original
cartridges reposed snugly in the pocket of the half-breed's mackinaw.

"Tell y' what I'll do," said Creed, speaking in a tone of the utmost
generosity. "Give me ten dollars to boot, an' we'll call it a trade."

Jacques laughed loudly and, handing the other his rifle, picked up his
own.

"We must be goin'," he observed, and rose to his feet.

"Better have 'nother drink 'fore y' go," said Creed, tendering the
bottle. They drank around and Creed returned the bottle to its cache,
while the others took their places in the canoe.

"Make it five, then," Creed extended the rifle as though giving it
away.

Jacques shook his head, and pushed the canoe out into the stream.

The man on shore eyed the widening strip of water between the bank and
the canoe.

"I'll make it three, seein' ye're so hell-bent on a trade," he called.
But his only answer was a loud laugh as the canoe disappeared around a
sharp bend of the river.

Creed resumed his position with his back against the ends of the logs.

At a point some fifty feet up-stream from the diminutive rollway, and
about the same distance from the shore, a blackened snag thrust its
ugly head above the surface of the water, and against this snag
brushwood and drift had collected and was held by the push of the
stream which gurgled merrily among its interstices.

Creed's gaze, resting momentarily upon this miniature island, failed
entirely to note that it concealed a man who stood immersed in the
river from his neck down, and eyed him keenly through narrowed gray
eyes; and that also this man was doing a most peculiar thing.

Reaching into the pocket of his water-soaked shirt he withdrew several
long, steel-jacketed bullets and, holding them in the palm of his hand,
grinned broadly.

Then, one by one, he placed them in his mouth, drew a long breath, and
dived. The water at this point was about four feet in depth and the man
swam rapidly, close to the bottom.

Creed's glance, roving idly over the river, was arrested by a quick
commotion upon the surface of the water almost directly in front of
him.

He seized his rifle and leaped to his feet, hoping for a shot at a
stray otter. The next instant the rifle slipped from his nerveless
fingers and struck upon the ground with a muffled thud.

Instead of an otter he was looking directly into the face of a man.

"God A'mi'ty," he gurgled, "it's the greener!" He leaned heavily
against the logs, plucking foolishly at the bark. His scalp tingled
from fright.

His mouth sagged open and the lolling, flabby tongue drooled thickly.
His face became a dull, bloodless gray, glistening glaireously with
clammy sweat, and his eyes dilated until they seemed bulging from their
sockets.

It seemed ages he stood there, staring in horrible fascination at the
man in the river--and then the man moved!

He was advancing slowly shoreward, with a curious limp, as he had
entered Burrage's store. Creed's ashen lips moved stiffly, and his
tongue seemed to fill his mouth.

"I've got 'em! I've got 'em," he maundered. "'S the booze, an' I'm
seein' things!"

His groping brain grasped at the idea, and it gave him strength--better
the "snakes" than _that_! But he must do something, the man was coming
toward him--only hip-deep now--

"Go 'way! Go 'way!" he shrieked in a sudden frenzy of action. "Damn
you! Y're dead! D'ye hear me! Go 'way from here!"

Suddenly his weakening knees stiffened under him, and he reached
swiftly for the rifle on the ground at his feet.

Slowly and deliberately he raised it, cocked it, rested it across a
log, and took deliberate aim at the center of the man's face--twenty
paces away.

"Bang!" The crack of the rifle sounded loud and sharp in the tense
stillness.

The apparition, at the water's edge, raised its hand slowly to its
lips, and from between its teeth took a small object which it tossed
toward the other. The object struck lightly against Creed's breast and
dropped to the ground.

He looked, downward--it was a 30-40 bullet--his own! He stared dumbly
at the thing on the ground. Then, automatically, he fired again, taking
careful aim.

Again the ghost's hand moved slowly toward its mouth, and again the
light tap upon his chest--and two bullets lay upon the ground at his
feet.

His head felt strange and large, and inside his skull things were
moving--long, gray maggots that twisted, and writhed, and squirmed,
like fishing worms in a can.

He laughed flatly, a senile, cackling laugh. He did not want to laugh,
but laughed again and, stooping, reached for the bullets. He stared at
his fingers, bewildered; they groped helplessly at a spot a foot from
the place where lay the two bullets with their shining steel jackets.

He must move his fingers to the right--this way. Again he
stared--puzzled; they were moving farther and farther toward the
left--away from the bullets. Again the dry, cackling laugh. He would
fool his fingers. He would move them _away_ from the bullets.

He tried, and the next instant the groping fingers closed unerringly
upon the little cylinders. The laugh became an inarticulate babble of
satisfaction, his knees collapsed, and he pitched forward and lay still
with wide, staring eyes, while upon the corners of his mouth appeared
little flecks of white foam.

A shadow fell across his face--he was staring straight into the eyes of
the greener, who stood, dripping wet with the water of the river into
which he had fallen more than two months before.

The man leaped from the ground in a sudden frenzy of terror, and fled
screaming into the forest, crashing, wallowing, tearing through the
underbrush, he plunged, shrieking like a demon.

The greener stood alone in the clearing and listened to the diminishing
sounds.

At length they ceased and, in the silence, the greener turned toward
the sparkling river, and as he looked there came to his ear faint and
far, one last, thin scream.



CHAPTER XXXI

THE ROBE OF DIABLESSE


It required three days of hard labor to remove the fifty-two bird's-eye
maple logs to a position of safety. Jacques made a trip to the log
camp, returning with a stout rope and an armload of baling wire which
he collected from the vicinity of the stables.

The fact that bird's-eye maple logs, when green, will sink in water,
rendered necessary the use of two large pine logs as floats. These were
connected at the ends and in the middle with rope sufficiently long to
permit four of the heavier logs to rest upon the ropes between the
floats.

The raft thus formed was laboriously towed up-stream to the eddy where
the bird's-eye logs were wired together, weighted with stones, and
allowed to sink.

During the whole time Jeanne worked tirelessly by the side of the men,
and when the last log rested safely upon the bottom of the river, and
the scars were carefully removed from the bank, Bill surveyed the
result with satisfaction.

"I think that will keep Moncrossen guessing," he laughed. "He won't
know whether Creed ate the logs or an air-ship made away with them."

"But, he will know they are _somewhere_," said Jeanne gravely, "and he
will search for them far and wide."

"He will not find them," Jacques interrupted. "No man would search
up-stream for logs, even though he believed them to be upon the bottom
of the river."

"But, in the searching, he may come upon the lodge, and in his rage,
who can tell what he would do?" Bill's eyes narrowed, and he answered
the girl with a smile.

"I will remain, and if Moncrossen comes----"

The girl laid a small hand upon his arm and looked into his eyes.

"I am but a girl and know nothing of logs, but, is it not better that
he return down the river without searching?"

Carmody smiled into the serious dark eyes. "Go on, Jeanne," he said,
"tell us what you would do."

"It is simple--only to build a big fire upon the spot where the logs
were piled, and when Moncrossen finds the ashes he will seek no farther
for his logs."

"Great!" cried Bill, in undisguised admiration and, with the help of
the others, proceeded to carry the plan into effect. All night they
piled fuel upon the fire, and in the morning their efforts were
rewarded by a pile of ashes that would easily be mistaken for the ruins
of the bird's-eye rollway.

With the passing of the long, hot days of summer, Bill Carmody regained
his strength, and yet he lingered in the camp of the Lacombies.

Creed was seen no more upon Blood River, and Bill assumed the
responsibility of guarding the log camp, making for the purpose almost
daily excursions with Jeanne or Jacques.

August mellowed into smoky September--September gave place to the red
and gold of October, and the blood of the forest folk quickened to the
tang of the North.

At the conclusion of one of these tours of inspection, Bill came
suddenly upon the girl standing in awe before the skin of Diablesse,
which remained where he and Fallon had nailed it on the wall of the
bunk-house. Bill carefully removed the nails and laid the dry pelt at
the feet of the girl.

"See," he said, "the skin of the werwolf--it is yours."

"Mine!" she cried, with shining eyes. "You would give me _this_!"

Bill smiled. "Yes, that is all I have, here in the woods. But when I
return I will bring you many things from the land of the white men."

"The robe of Diablesse!" she breathed softly, as she gazed down upon
the peculiar silvery sheen of the great white wolfskin. "I had rather
you gave me this than anything else in the world."

She stopped in sudden confusion.

"And why?" questioned Bill, pleased at her evident delight.

"It is," she hesitated, and a slender hand clutched at her breast. "It
is as you spoke of the hunting shirt--that you would always keep it
because it is the work of my hands. Only the robe means much more, for,
among men but one man could have slain the _loup-garou_, and in all the
North there is none like it--the robe of Diablesse! and it shall bring
us luck--and--and happiness?" she added, the rich voice melting to
softness.

At the words the man glanced quickly into the face of the girl and
encountered the shy, questioning gaze of the mysterious dark eyes. The
gaze did not falter, and the deep, lustrous eyes held the man
enthralled in their liquid depths. She advanced a step, and stood her
lithe young body almost touching his own, holding him fascinated in the
compelling gaze of the limpid eyes.

"And happiness?" The words were a whispered breath; the bronzed face of
the man paled and, with an effort, he turned swiftly away.

"Luck! Happiness!" he repeated dully, with bowed head. "For me there
can be no happiness."

With a low cry the girl was at his side and two tiny, white-brown hands
clutched at the fringed arm of his buckskin shirt. The beautiful face
was flushed, the bosom heaved, and from between the red lips poured a
torrent of words:

"You _shall_ find happiness! You, who are great and strong and brave
above all men! You, who are good, and whom the Great Spirit sent to me
from the waters of the river!

"You, The-Man-Who-Cannot-Die, shall turn from your own kind, and shall
find your happiness beside the rivers, and in the forests of my people!
Together we will journey to some far place, and in our lodge will dwell
love and great happiness.

"And you shall become a mighty hunter, and in all the North you shall
be feared and loved."

The girl paused and gazed wildly into the eyes of the man. His face was
drawn and pale, and in his eyes she read deep pain. Gently his hand
closed over the slender fingers that gripped his sleeve, and at the
touch the girl trembled and leaned closer, until her warm body rested
lightly against his arm. Bill's lips moved and the words of his
toneless voice fell upon her ears like the dry rustle of dead husks.

"Jeanne--little girl--you do not understand. These things cannot be.
Only unhappiness would come to us. There is nothing in the world I
would not do for you.

"To you I owe my life--to you and Wa-ha-ta-na-ta. But, love cannot be
ordered. It is written--and, far away, in the great city of the white
men, is a girl--a woman of my own people----"

The girl sprang from his side and faced him with blazing eyes.

"A woman of your people!" she almost hissed. "In your sleep you talked
of her, while the fever-spirit was upon you. I _hate_ her--this Ethel!
She does not love you, for she will marry another! Ah, in the darkness
I have listened, and listening, have learned to _hate_! She sent you
away from her--for, in your eyes she could not read the goodness of
your heart!"

Bill raised his hand.

"You do not understand," he repeated, patiently. "I was not good--I was
a bad man!"

"Who, then, among white men is good? The men of the logs, who drink
whisky, and fight among themselves, and kill one another? Is it these
men that are good in the sight of your woman? And are you, who scorn
these things--are you bad?"

"I, too, drank whisky--and for that reason she sent me away."

"But, you cannot return to her! She is the wife of another! Over and
over again you said it, in the voice of the fever-spirit."

"No," replied the man softly. "To her I cannot return. But, listen; I
start to-morrow for the white man's country. To find the man for whom I
work, and tell him of the bird's-eye.

"Soon I shall come again into the woods. I cannot marry you, for only
evil would come of it. I will bring you many presents, and always we
shall be friends--and more than friends, for you shall be to me a
sister and I shall be your brother, and shall keep you from harm.

"To-morrow I go, and you shall promise me that whenever you are in
trouble of whatsoever kind you will send for me--and I shall come to
you--be it far or near, in the night-time or in the daytime, I will
come--Jeanne, look into my eyes--will you promise?"

The girl looked up, and a ray of hope lightened the pain in her eyes.

"You will surely return into the North?"

"I will surely return."

"I will promise," she whispered, and, side by side, in the silence of
the twilight, they left the clearing.



CHAPTER XXXII

THE ONE GOOD WHITE MAN


The following morning Bill parted from his friends. As he was about to
step into the canoe Jeanne appeared at the water's edge bearing the
mackinaw which he had worn when they drew him from the river.

Without meeting his glance she extended it toward him, speaking in a
low, tense voice.

"In the lining I have sewed them--the papers that fell dripping from
your pocket--and the picture. Many times I have looked upon the face of
this woman, who has caused you pain. And I have hated! Oh, how I have
hated! So that I could have torn her in pieces.

"And many times I would have burned them, that you might forget. But,
instead, I sewed them from sight in the lining of the coat--and here is
the coat."

Bill tossed the mackinaw into the bottom of the canoe.

"Thank you, Jeanne," he said. "And until we meet again, good-by!"

With a push of the paddle he shot the light canoe far out into the
current of the stream.

Bill paddled leisurely, camping early and sitting late over his
camp-fire smoking many pipefuls of tobacco. And, as he smoked, his
thoughts drifted over the events of the past year, and the people who
comprised his little world.

Appleton, who had offered him the chance to make good; whole-hearted
Fallon; devoted old Daddy Dunnigan; Stromberg, in whom was much to
admire; Creed, the craven tool of Moncrossen; the boss himself,
crooked, brutal, vicious; Blood River Jack, his friend; Wa-ha-ta-na-ta,
the sinister old squaw, who believed all white men to be bad; and
Jeanne, the beautiful, half-wild girl, within whose breast a great soul
fluttered against the restraint of her environment.

To this girl he owed his life, and he had repaid the debt by trampling
roughshod upon her heart. Bitterly he reproached himself for not seeing
how things were going. For not until the day she told him in the
clearing had he guessed that she loved him.

And yet now as he looked backward he could remember a hundred little
things that ought to have warned him--a word here, a look, a touch of
the hand--little things, insignificant in themselves, but in the light
of his present understanding, looming large as the danger signals of a
well-ordered block system--signals he had blindly disregarded, to the
wrecking of a heart. Well, he would make all amends in his power; would
look after her as best he could, and in time she would forget.

"They _all_ forget," he muttered aloud with a short, bitter laugh, as
the memory of certain staring head-lines flashed through his brain. "I
wish to God I could forget--_her!_"

But the old wound would not heal, and far into the night he sat staring
into the fire.

"It's a man's game," he murmured as he spread his blankets, "and I will
win out; but why?"

Beyond the fire came the sound of a snapping twig. The man started,
staring into the gloom, when suddenly into the soft light of the dying
embers stepped Jeanne Lacombie. He stared at her speechless.

There, in the uncertain glow, she stood, a Diana of flesh and blood,
whose open hunting-shirt fell away from her rounded throat in soft,
fringed folds. Her short skirt of heavy drilling came only to her
knees; she wore no stockings, and her tiny feet were incased in heavily
beaded moccasins.

And so she stood there in the midnight, smiling down upon the man who
gazed speechless from his blanket upon the opposite side of the dying
fire; and then she spoke:

"I have come," she said simply.

"Jeanne!" cried the man, "why have you done this thing?"

"I love you, and I will go with you."

"But, girl, don't you realize what it means? This is the third night
since I left the camp of Jacques----" The girl interrupted him with a
laugh:

"And I, too, have been gone three nights; have struck straight through
the forest, and because the river makes a great bend of many miles I
came to this place before you, and have waited for you here a night and
a day.

"And now I'm hungry. I will eat first, and then we will sleep, and
to-morrow we will start together for the land of the white men."

The man's mind worked rapidly as he watched in silence while the girl
removed some bacon and bannock from his pack-sack and set the
coffee-pot upon the coals. When she had finished her meal he spoke,
slowly but firmly.

"Jeanne, you have waited here a night and a day; you are rested, you
have eaten. I will now make up the pack, and we will take the trail."

"To-night?"

"Yes, to-night--now. The back trail for the lodge of Jacques." The girl
regarded him in amazement, and then smiled sadly, as a mother smiles on
an erring child.

"We cannot return," she said, speaking softly. "Wa-ha-ta-na-ta would
kill me. She thinks we came away together. Wa-ha-ta-na-ta was married;
we are not married; we cannot go back." The man rolled the blankets and
buckled the straps of his pack-sack. He was about to swing it to his
shoulders when the girl grasped his arm.

"I love you," she repeated, "and I will go with you."

"But, Jeanne," the man cried, "this cannot be. I cannot marry you. In
my life I have loved but one woman----"

"And she is the wife of another!" cried the girl.

Bill winced as from a blow, and she continued, speaking rapidly:

"I do not ask that you marry me--not even that you love me. It is
enough that I am at your side. You will treat me kindly, for you are
good. Marriage is nothing--empty words--if the heart loves; nothing
else matters, and some day you will love me."

The man slowly shook his head:

"No, Jeanne, it is impossible. Come, we will return to the lodge of
Jacques. I myself will tell Wa-ha-ta-na-ta that no harm has befallen
you, and----"

"Do you think she will believe _you_? Wa-ha-ta-na-ta, who hates all
white men and, next to Moncrossen, you most of all, for she has seen
that I love you. We have been gone three nights. She will not believe
you. If you will not take me I will go alone to the land of the white
men; I have no place else to go."

The man's jaw squared, his eyes narrowed, and the low, level tones of
his voice cut upon the silence in words of cold authority:

"We are going back to-night. Wa-ha-ta-na-ta will believe me. She is
very old and very wise; and she will know that I speak the truth."

The words ceased abruptly, and the two drew closer together, their eyes
fixed upon the blanketed form which, silent as a shadow, glided from
the bushes and stood motionless before them.

Within an arm's reach, in the dull, red glow, the somber figure stood
contemplating the pair through beady, black eyes, that glowed ominously
in the half-light.

Slowly, deliberately, a clawlike hand was withdrawn from a fold of the
blanket, and the feeble rays of the fire glinted weakly upon the cold,
gray steel of a polished blade.



CHAPTER XXXIII

THE PROMISE


The silent, shadowy figure swayed toward Bill Carmody, who met the
stabbing glare of the black eyes with the steady gaze of his gray ones.
For long, tense moments their eyes held, while the girl watched
breathlessly.

Raising the blade high above her head, the old squaw brought it
crashing upon a rock at Carmody's feet. There was the sharp ring of
tempered steel, and upon the pine-needles lay the broken blade, and
beyond the rock the hilt, with a scant inch of blade protruding at the
guard.

Stooping, the old woman picked up the two pieces of the broken
sheath-knife, and, handing the hilt gravely to the astonished man
carefully returned the blade to her blanket. She pointed a long, skinny
finger at Bill, and the withered lips moved.

"You are the one good white man," she said. "I, Wa-ha-ta-na-ta, the
daughter of Kas-ka-tan, the chief, have spoken. I--who, since the death
of Lacombie, have said 'there is no good white man'--was wrong, and the
words were a lie in my mouth. In your eyes I have read it. You have the
good eye--the eye of Lacombie, who is dead.

"I have followed upon the trail of my daughter, thinking it was in your
heart to meet her here and carry her to her ruin in the land of the
white man. With this blade I would have killed you--for all men
die--would have followed and killed you in the land of your people. But
now I know that your heart is good. I have broken the knife.

"You will keep the hilt, and when you are in trouble, in need, in want
of a friend, you will send me this hilt, and I, Wa-ha-ta-na-ta, the
daughter of Kas-ka-tan, the chief, will come to you."

Her eyes rolled upward as though seeking among the tiny, far-winking
stars the words of some half-forgotten ritual, and her voice rose in a
weird, hesitating chant:

    "Through the snows of Winter,
    Through the heat of Summer,
    Across high Mountains,
    Over broad Waters,
    Braving lean Want,
    Scorning fat Plenty,
    Nor turning aside
    From the fang of Wolf,
    From the forked arrows of Lightning,
    From the mighty voice of Thunder,
    From the hot breath of Fire,
    From the rush of Waters,
    From the sting of Frost.
    Nor lingering to the call of Love,
    Nor heeding the words of Hate.
    In the face of Sickness,
    In defiance of Death
    Will I come
    That you may know I am your Friend.
    Hear all ye Spirits and Devils that rule the World,
    And sit upon the High Places of the Great World,
    This is my Vow!
    Should my feet lag upon the Trail,
    Should my heart turn to Water,
    Should I forget--
    So that in the time of my friend's need
    I answer not his call;
    Then, upon my head--upon the heads of my children--and
        their children
    Shall descend the Curse--the Great Curse of the Yaga Tah!
    The Man-Who-Lies-Hid-in-the-Sky!"

The quavering chant ceased, and the undimmed old eyes looked again into
the face of the man.

"And because you are good," she went on, "and because you have heard
the vow, when this broken blade comes to your hand you will know that
Wa-ha-ta-na-ta, the daughter of Kas-ka-tan, the chief, in the last
extremity of her need, is calling you.

"And because you are strong and brave and have the good eye--you will
come. And no people of the earth, and nothing that is upon the earth,
nor of the earth, shall prevent you. I have spoken."

Bill Carmody listened in awed silence until the old woman finished.

"I, whom you choose to regard as the one good white man," he replied
with a dignity matching her own, "will one day prove my friendship.
Upon sight of the fragment of blade I will come.

"No people of the earth, and nothing that is upon the earth, nor of the
earth, shall prevent me--and one day you will know that my words are
true."

He raised his hand and, gazing upward, repeated the words of the
strange chant. At their conclusion he gazed steadily into the face of
the old squaw.

"This is _the promise_," he said gravely. "I have spoken."



CHAPTER XXXIV

THE NEW BOSS


The twilight of late autumn darkened the landscape as Bill Carmody
found himself once again at the edge of the tiny clearing surrounding
the cabin of Daddy Dunnigan.

Through the window, in the yellow lamplight of the interior, he could
see the form of the old man as he hobbled back and forth between the
stove and the table.

Remembering Creed, Bill feared the effect upon the old man should he
present himself suddenly at the door. Advancing into the clearing, he
whistled. Daddy Dunnigan paused, frying-pan in hand, and peered
futilely out of the window. Again Bill whistled and watched as the
other returned the pan to the stove and opened the door.

"Come on in out av that, ye shpalpeen!" called Dunnigan. "Ut's toime ye
be comin' back to let th' owld man know how ye're farin'!"

Bill grasped the extended hand and peered into the twinkling eyes of
the old Irishman.

"Well, Daddy, you don't seem much surprised."

"Oi know'd ye'd be along wan av these days, but ye tuk yer own toime
about ut."

"How did you know I wasn't drowned in the river?"

"Sur-re, Oi know'd ye _wuz_--didn't Oi see ye go undher th' logs wid me
own eyes? An' didn't th' jam go rippin' an' tearin' into th' rapids?
An' c'd on-ny man live t'rough th' loike av that? Oi _know'd_ ye wuz
dead--till Oi seed Creed. Thin Oi know'd ye wuzn't. But Moncrossen
don't know ut--nor on-ny wan ilse, ondly me. Oi'd 'a' gone to hunt ye,
ondly Oi know'd phwin th' toime suited ye ye'd come here; so Oi waited.

"Set by now er th' grub'll be cowld. They'll be toime fer palaverin'
afther."

When the dishes had been washed and returned to their shelves the two
seated themselves and lighted their pipes.

"You say Creed returned to Hilarity and told of having seen me?" asked
Bill.

"Well, he did--an' he didn't," replied the old man slowly. "Ut's loike
this: Along in July, ut wuz, Moncrossen an' his gang av bur-rd's-eye
pirates come roarin' out av th' woods huntin' fer Creed. They'd wint in
be th' river, but come out be th' tote-road, an' mad clean t'rough to
th' gizzard. No wan hadn't seed um, an' they clum aboord th' thrain,
cursin' an' swearin' vingince on Creed phwin they caught um.

"Thin, maybe it's two wakes afther, we wuz settin' in Burrage's phwin
th' dure bust open, an' in come Rad Cranston loike th' divil wuz afther
um.

"'They's a woild man,' he yells, 'come out av th' woods, an' he's
tearin' things up in Creed's cabin!'

"Hod picks up a cleaver an' makes fer th' dure, wid us follyin' um,
afther providin' oursilves wid what utinsils wuz layin' handy--a scythe
here an' an axe there, an' some wan ilse wid a pitchfork. Rad brung up
lasht wid a sixteen-pound posht-maul, bein' in no hurry at all fer
another luk.

"Trut' is, none av us wuz in no great hurry--Creed's woman havin'
cashed his pay-check an' skipped out--but at lasht we come to phwere we
c'd see th' place, an' sure enough th' dure shtood open an' insoide
come a racket av shmashin' furniture an' yellin' 'tw'd done proud to
camp-meetin' salvation.

"Thin come a foine loud rattle av glass, an' out t'rough a windie come
th' half av a chair, follyed be a len'th av shtovepoipe an' a grane
glass wather-pitcher.

"Fer me own part, Oi'd seed such loike brick-a-brack befoor, an'
besides Oi remimbered a dhrink Oi hadn't tuk earlier in th' evenin', so
Oi shtarted workin' me way to th' back av th' crowd, th' bether some
wan ilse c'd see.

"Oi'd no more thin tur-rned around phwin wid a whoop, 'tw'd wake th'
dead, out t'rough th' windie come th' domnedest-lukin' cryther this
side av Borneo, a wavin' over his head wan av th' owld lady Creed's rid
cotton table-cloths--an' niver another stitch to his name but a leather
belt wid about six inches av pants a hangin' onto ut, an' a pair av
corked boots.

"Phwin Oi shtar-rted from Burrage's Oi laid holt av a man's-size
crowbar, but at that minit th' thing Oi helt in me hand luked about th'
heft av a tinpinny nail. Be that toime all th' others wuz av loike
moind to me. They wuz considerable crowdin', an', bein' crippled, Oi
dhropped me crowbar an' laid a good holt on th' tail av Hod's coat.

"Th' shtore wuz clost by, an' we had a good shtart; but th' thing that
wuz afther us wuz thravelin' loight an' in foorty-fut leps.

"'Twuz a good race, an' wan Oi wanted to win; but, owin' to th'
unyversal willin'ness av th' crowd to get into th' shtore, we plugged
up th' dureway, an' befoor we c'd get unstuck th' thing wuz onto us,
gibberin' an' jabberin' an' screamin' an' laughin' all to wunst.

"Ut tuk eight av us to howld um whilst Burrage toied um hand an' fut,
an' phwin we'd dhrug um into th' shtore we seed 'twuz Creed hissilf.
Twuz two days befoor th' sheriff come fer um, an' in th' mane toime
he'd gabble an' yell about th' greener comin' afther um, an' how he
come out av th' wather, an' so on.

"Th' rist think ut's th' shtayin' alone made um loony, but Oi put two
an' two togither--here's Moncrossen losht his bur-rd's-eye an' Creed
scairt witless be th' soight av th' greener--phwat's th' answer?

"Phy, th' b'y ain't dead at all. Some ways he got out av th' river,
scairt th' dayloights out av Creed, an' made off wid th' bur-rd's-eye.
Am Oi roight?"

"Exactly!" exclaimed Bill.

"Oi know'd ut! Ye've th' luck av Captain Fronte's own silf! That come
out av ivery shcrape wid his loife, save th' lasht wan, an' he w'd thin
av a domned nayger shell hadn't bust ag'in' his ribs--but that's toimes
gone."

"I wonder where Moncrossen is now?"

"Right here in Hilarity; him an' his crew unloaded yisterday fer to
shtar-rt fer th' camp in th' marnin'."

"I think I'll just let the boss believe I'm still in the river until
after I have had a talk with Appleton. By the way, Daddy, how are you
fixed for money?"

"Sure, Oi got more money thin a man ought to have--money in th' bank
an' money in me pocket--take ut an' welcome"--he tossed a thick wallet
onto the table--"ondly ye won't have to go to Minneapolis.

"Owld man Appleton's over to Creighton, eighty moiles wesht av here,
sooperintindin' a new camp on Blood River, wan hundred an' tin moiles
above Moncrossen's. Fallon's wid um, an' Shtromberg, an' a lot more av
th' good min that's toired av worrkin' undher Moncrossen."

"He is not bossing the camp himself!" exclaimed Bill.

"No, but he's got to kape an eye on't. Fallon'll be a kind av shtraw
boss an' luk afther th' wor-rk, but th' owld man'll have to figger th'
toime an' th' scale--Fallon ain't got no aggicatin'.

"'Tis roight glad Oi'm thinkin' th' owld man'll be to lay eyes on ye.
They say he wuz all bruk up phwin he heerd ye wuz dhr-rounded."

Bill's visit to Hilarity was known to no one except Daddy Dunnigan, and
the following evening after Moncrossen's departure for the woods, the
two proceeded to the railway by a circuitous route.

Unobserved, he swung aboard the caboose of the local freight-train
which stood at the tiny platform, discharging goods.

"He'll be afther makin' ye boss av th' new camp," opined the old man
from his position beside a pile of ties. "An' av ye nade a cook just
dhrop me a loine an' Oi'll come."

"I haven't got the job yet," laughed Bill.

"But ye will. Owld Appleton'll be glad enough not havin' to come
thrapsin' into th' woods ivery month or so durin' th' winther." The old
man leaned forward upon his crutch, and with pathetic eagerness scanned
the face of the younger man.

"Me b'y," he said, "av yer plans is changed--wor-rd from th' gir-rl, or
what not, that'll be takin' ye back to Noo Yor-rk--ye'll take me wid
ye?

"Oi may be a bit owld, but Oi'm as good as iver Oi wuz. Oi c'd lear-rn
to run yer otymobile er take care av th' harses, er moind th' babies,
ut makes no difference; for whilst a McKim lives owld Dunnigan belongs
to luk afther um."

"Never fear, Daddy!" cried Bill, as the train jerked into motion. "Now
that we've found each other, we'll stick together until the end." And
he stood silent upon the steps of the caboose until the figure of the
old Irishman blended into the background.

In the front room of the one-story building with its undeceptive
two-story front, where Appleton had established his headquarters in the
little town of Creighton, the lumber magnate sat talking with Irish
Fallon.

The tote-road leading to the new camp had been pushed to completion,
and Appleton was giving Fallon some final instructions.

"I must leave for Minneapolis in the morning," he said. "Do the best
you can, and I will run up as often as possible."

"Oi'll do ut, sorr," replied Irish. "Oi c'n lay down th' logs all
roight; th' throuble'll be wid th' figgers. If ondly me frind, Bill,
wuz here--sure, there wuz th' foine lad!"

Appleton pulled at his gray mustache and regarded the other
thoughtfully.

"You knew him well--this Bill?" he asked.

"Oi wuz th' fur-rst whoite man he seen in th' woods th' day he stud
knee-dape in th' shnow av th' tote-road, lukin' down at th' carcass av
D'ablish. An' from that toime on till he wint down undher th' logs we
wuz loike two brothers--ondly more so."

"Pretty good man, was he?"

"A-a-h, there wuz a man!" Fallon's big fist banged noisily upon the
table, and his blue eyes lighted as he faced his employer. "Misther
Appleton, ye losht a _man_ phwin th' greener wint undher. Fearin'
nayther God, man, nor th' divil, he come into th' woods, an' in wan
sayson lear-rnt more about logs thin th' most av us'll iver know."

"Moncrossen liked him--spoke very highly of him, and that is unusual
with Moncrossen." Fallon's breath whistled through his teeth at the
words.

"Loiked um, did he? Sure he loiked um--loike a rabbit loikes a wolf!"

He leaned forward in his chair, punctuating his remarks with stabs of a
huge forefinger upon the other's knee.

"Misther Appleton, Moncrossen _hated um_! An' ivery man along th' river
that day knows that av ut wuzn't fer Moncrossen, th' greener'd be
livin' this minit--ondly we can't pr-roove ut. Th' boss hated um
because he wuz a bether man--because he know'd he wuz a clane man, wid
a foightin' hear-rt an' two fists an' th' guts to carry um t'rough. He
chilled th' har-rt av th' boss th' fur-rst noight he seen um, an' from
thin on th' fear wuz upon um fer th' bird's-eye."

"The bird's-eye?" inquired Appleton. "What do you mean?"

Fallon hesitated; his enthusiasm had carried him further than he had
intended. He gazed out of the window, wondering how to proceed, when
his eyes fastened upon a large, heavily bearded man who approached
rapidly down the wooden sidewalk, a folded mackinaw swung carelessly
across the fringed arm of his buckskin shirt.

The iron latch rattled; the man entered, closed the door behind him,
and, turning, faced the two with a smile. For a long moment the men
gazed at the newcomer in silence; then Fallon's chair crashed backward
upon the floor as the Irishman leaped to his feet.

"Thim _eyes_!" he cried, throwing a huge arm across the man's shoulders
and shaking him violently in his excitement. "Bill! Bill! Fer th' love
av God, tell me 'tis yersilf! Ye damn' shcoundril, ain't ye dhrounded
at all, at all? An' phwere ye ben kapin' yersilf?"

Bill laughed aloud and wrung Appleton's hand.

The lumberman had risen to his feet, staring incredulously into the
other's face while he repeated over and over again: "My boy! My boy!"

Fallon danced about, waving his arms and shouting: "Th' new camp'll go
t'rough hell a whoopin'! Bill'll be boss, an' th' min'll tear out th'
bone to bate Moncrossen!"

Order was finally restored, and the three seated themselves while Bill
recounted his adventures. Appleton's brow clouded as he learned the
details of the bird's-eye plot.

"So that's the way he worked it?" he exclaimed. "I knew that there was
some bird's-eye in the timber, and that I was not getting it. But I
laid it to outside thieves--never supposed one of my own foremen was
double-crossing me.

"That is Moncrossen's finish!" he added grimly. "I need him this
winter. Too many contracts to afford to do without him. In the spring,
though, there will be an accounting; and mark my words, he will get
what is coming to him!"

"What next--for me?" asked Bill.

Appleton smiled.

"I think Fallon has disposed of your case," he replied. "My boy, I want
you to take this new camp and _get out logs_. I won't set any specific
amount, I will tell you this: I _must_ have twenty-five million feet
out of the Blood River country this winter. You are the first
inexperienced man I have ever placed in charge of a camp. I don't know
what you can do. I'll take the chance. It's up to you.

"My camps are run without interference from the office. Results count
with me--not methods. Feed your crew all they can eat--of the best you
can get. Knock a man down first and argue with him afterward. Let them
know who is boss, and you will have no trouble. Don't be afraid to
spend money, but _get out the logs_!"

The following morning the new foreman stood upon the platform of the
station as the heavy, vestibuled Imperial Limited ground to a stop,
under special orders to take on the great lumberman.

"So-long, Bill!" Appleton called. "See you next month. Bringing a party
into the woods for a deer-hunt. May put up at your camp for a couple of
weeks."

The train pulled out for the East, leaving Bill Carmody gazing, just a
shade wistfully, perhaps, at the contented-looking men and women who
flashed past upon the rich plush cushions.

But as the last coach passed he squared his shoulders with a jerk and
turned quickly away.



CHAPTER XXXV

A HUNTING PARTY


H. D. Appleton, millionaire lumberman, sighed contentedly as he added
cream to his after-dinner coffee. He glanced toward his wife, who was
smiling at him across the table.

"Oh, you can drink yours black if you want to, little girl," he
grinned; "but, remember 'way back when we were first married and I was
bossing camps for old Jimmie Ferguson, and we lived in log shacks 'way
up in the big woods, I used to say if we ever got where we could have
cream for our coffee, I'd have nothing else to ask for?

"Well, to this day, drinking cream in my coffee is my idea of the
height of luxury. This is all right, and I enjoy it, too, I suppose."
He indicated with a wave of his black cigar the rich furnishings, the
heavy plate and cut-glass that adorned the dining-room. "But, somehow,
nothing makes me feel _successful_ like pouring real cream into my
coffee."

The gray-haired "little girl" laughed happily.

"You never have quite grown up, Hubert," she replied. "Did you have a
hard trip, dear? The three weeks you have been away have seemed like
three months to me."

"No, no! I had a good trip. It looked rather hopeless at first, trying
to establish a new camp, with no one really capable of running it; but
just at the last minute--You remember the man I told you about last
fall--the young fellow who throttled that scoundrel after the wreck in
the Chicago railroad yards, and who refused to tell me his name until
after he had made good?"

"Yes--he was drowned last spring, wasn't he? Poor boy, I have often
wondered who he was--a gentleman, you said?"

"By gad, he's more than a gentlemen--he's a _man_! And he wasn't
drowned at all. Got rescued somehow by an old squaw and her daughter.
His leg was broken, and when he got well he stayed in the woods and
looked after the camp all summer; and not only that, he recovered
fifty-two bird's-eye maple logs that had been stolen by some of my own
men.

"He found me in Creighton, and I made him boss of the new camp. He's a
winner, and the men will work for him till they drop."

"Oh, by the way, Hubert," said Mrs. Appleton. "Mr. Sheridan called up a
day or two ago and wanted to know when you would return. He said you
and he had planned a deer-hunt this fall."

"Yes; we'll go about the first of the month. It's been a good while
since Ross Sheridan and I have had a hunt together; not since the old
days on the Crow Wing. Remember the time Ross and I got lost, and
nearly scared you womenfolks to death?"

"Indeed I do. I never will forget that blizzard, and those three awful
days--we had been married only six months, and Mary Sheridan and I were
the only women in the camp.

"I remember how good all the men were to us--telling us you were in no
danger, and not to worry--and all during the storm they were searching
the woods in squads. Oh, it was awful! And yet----" Her voice trailed
into silence, and she stared a long time into the open fire that blazed
in the huge fireplace.

"And yet, what, little girl," asked Appleton, smiling fondly upon
her--"what are you thinking about? Come, tell me."

She turned her eyes toward him, and the man detected a wistful look in
them.

"I was thinking, dear, of how happy we were those three years we spent
'way up in the timber while you were getting your start. Not that we
haven't always been happy," she hastened to add, "because we have. We
couldn't have been happier unless--unless--some children had come. But,
dear, those days when we were so poor and had to work so hard, and
every dollar counted--and we had to do without things we both wanted,
and sometimes things we really needed.

"And, oh, Hubert dear, do you remember the organ? And how long it took
us to save up the sixty dollars? And how I cried half the night for
pure joy when you brought it home on the ox-sled? And how I used to
play in the evenings, and the Sheridans were there, and the men would
come and listen, and their big voices would join in the singing, and
how sometimes a man would draw a rough sleeve across his eyes when he
thought no one was looking--do you remember?"

"Yes, yes, yes--of course I remember!" The lumberman's voice was
suspiciously gruff. "Seems almost like another world." His wife
suddenly stretched her arms towards the open fire:

"Oh, Hubert, I want to go back!"

"What?"

"Yes, dear, just once more." Appleton saw the tears in her eyes. "I
want to smell the fragrance of the pine woods--and sit on the thick
pine-needles--and cook over an open fire! Bacon and trout and
coffee--yes, and no _real cream_, either!" She smiled at him through
her tears. "Canned milk, and maybe some venison steaks.

"I want to borrow your pocket-knife and dig out spruce gum and chew it,
with the little bits of bark in it," she went on, "and I won't promise
not to 'pry,' with it, either. I hope I do break the blade! Do you
remember that day, and how mad you were?

"I want to see the men crowd into the grub-shack, and hear the sound of
the axes and saws and the rattle of chains and the crashing of big
trees. I want to see the logs on the rollways; and, Hubert, you won't
think I'm awful, will you, dear, but I want to--just once more in my
life--I want to hear a big man _swear_!"

H. D. Appleton stared at his wife in blank amazement, and then,
throwing back his head, roared with laughter.

"Well, you sure will, little girl, if you try to slip any canned milk
into _my_ coffee!"

His wife regarded him gravely.

"I am not joking, Hubert. Oh, can't you see? Just once more I _must_
have a taste of the old, hard, happy days--can't I?"

"Why, Margaret, you don't really mean that you want to go into the
woods--seriously?"

"Yes, I do mean just exactly that--seriously!"

Appleton tugged at his mustache and puckered his forehead.

"We might make up a party," he mused. "I'll speak to Ross in the
morning."

The little gray-haired woman stepped lightly around the table, and,
seating herself on his lap, captured his big fingers in her own.

"How many times must I tell you not to pull your mustache, dear? Now,
listen; I have a plan. There will be Mary Sheridan and Ross and Ethel
Manton--you know she promised us a visit this fall, and I expect her
any day now. A trip into the woods will do her a world of good, poor
girl. She has had lots of responsibility thrust upon her since brother
Fred died, with young Charlie to look out for, and the care of that big
house.

"Mrs. Potter, you know she lives next door to Ethel, writes me that she
does not believe the girl is happy--that this St. Ledger, or whatever
his name is, that she is reported engaged to, is not the kind of a man
for Ethel at all--and, that she hasn't seemed herself for a year--some
unhappy love affair--the man was a scamp, or something--so this trip
will be just what she needs. Charlie will be with her, of course, and
we can invite that young Mr. Holbrooke; you have met him, that nice
young man--the VanNesses' nephew.

"We will go away up into the big woods where you men can hunt to your
heart's delight; and we women will stay around the camp and do the
cooking and smell the woods and chew spruce gum. Oh, Hubert, won't it
be just _grand_?"

Appleton caught something of his wife's enthusiasm.

"It sure will, little girl! But what's _he_ for?"

"What is who for?"

"This Holbrooke person. Where does he come in on this?"

"Why, for Ethel, of course! Goose! Don't you see that if Ethel is not
happy--if she is not really in love with this St. Ledger--and she
spends two or three weeks in the same camp with a nice young man like
Mr. Holbrooke--well, there's no place like the woods for romance, dear;
you see, I know. And he has money, too," she added.

Appleton suddenly lifted his wife to her feet and began pacing up and
down the room.

"Money!" he exclaimed. "He never earned a cent in his life."

"But he is the VanNess heir!"

"Old VanNess made his money selling corsets and ribbons."

"Why, dear, what difference does that make? I am sure the VanNesses are
among----"

"I don't care who they're among, or what they're among!" interrupted
her husband. "We don't want any niece of ours marrying ribbons. Hold on
a minute, let me think. By gad, I've got a scheme!"

He continued to pace up and down the length of the room, puffing
shortly upon his cigar and emitting emphatic grunts of satisfaction.

"I've got it!" he exclaimed. "If you're bound to marry Ethel off we
will give her the chance to marry a _man_. Go ahead and make up the
party, but leave ribbons out of it. We will let Ethel rest up for a few
days and then we will start--straight for the new camp. There is a
_man_ there."

"But," objected his wife, "you know nothing about him. You don't know
even his name."

"What difference does that make? I know a good man when I see one. I
know enough about him to know that he is good enough for Ethel or any
other woman. And, if he hasn't got a name now, by gad, he is making
one--up there in the big country!"

"But he has no money."

"No money! How much did we have when we were married? Why, little girl,
you just got through saying that the happiest days we ever spent were
up there in the woods when money was so scarce that we knew the date on
every dollar we owned--and every scratch and nick on them--and the
dimes and pennies too."

The little woman smiled. "That is true, Hubert, but somehow----"

"Somehow nothing! If we did it, these two can do it. They've got a
better chance than we had. I'm not going to live forever. I need a
partner. I'm getting old enough to begin to take things easier--to step
aside and let a younger man shoulder the burden."

He threw his arm lovingly about his wife's shoulders, and drew her
close. "We never had a son, sweetheart," he said gravely, "but if we
had I'd want him to be just like that boy. He is making good."

Margaret Appleton looked up into her husband's eyes.

"You haven't made many mistakes, dear," she whispered. "I hope he will
make good--for your sake and--maybe for Ethel's."



CHAPTER XXXVI

TOLD ON THE TRAIL


It was a merry party that clambered into the big tote-wagon in the
little town of Creighton one morning in early November. Upon request of
Appleton and Sheridan, two of the road's heaviest lumber shippers, a
private car had been coupled to the rear of the Imperial Limited at
Winnipeg.

Later the big train hesitated at Hilarity long enough to permit a
half-breed guide in full hunting regalia to step proudly aboard, to the
envy of the dead little town's assembled inhabitants. And later still
the Limited stopped at Creighton and shunted the private car onto a
spur.

Appleton promptly impressed one of his own tote-wagons which had been
sent to town for supplies; and before noon the four-horse team was
swung into the tote-road carrying the hunting party into the woods.

Tents, blankets, and robes had been ranged into more or less
comfortable seats for the accommodation of the party, while young
Charlie Manton insisted upon climbing onto the high driver's seat,
where he wedged himself uncomfortably between the teamster and Blood
River Jack, the guide.

From the time the latter had joined the party at Hilarity the boy had
stuck close to his side, asking innumerable questions and listening
with bated breath to the half-breed's highly colored narratives in
which wolves, bears, and Indians played the important parts.

In the evening, when they camped beside the tote-road, and he was
permitted to help with the tents and the fire-wood, the youngster
fairly bristled with importance, and after supper when the whole party
drew about the great camp-fire the boy seated himself close by the side
of the guide.

"You never told me your name," he ventured.

"Blood River Jack," the man replied.

"That's a funny kind of a name," puzzled the boy. "Why did they name
you that?"

"Jacques--that is my name. Blood River--that is where I live. It is
that my lodge is near the bank of the river and in the Blood River
country I hunt and lay my trap lines, and in the waters of the river I
fish. What is your name?"

"New York Charlie," unhesitatingly replied the boy and flushed deeply
at the roar of laughter with which the others of the party greeted his
answer. But the long-haired, dark-skinned guide, noting the angry flash
of the wide, blue eyes, refrained from laughter.

"That is a good name," he said gravely. "In the land of the white man
men are called by the name of their fathers. In the woods it is not
often so, except when it be written upon papers. The best man in the
North is one of whom men know only his first name. He is M's'u'
Bill--The-Man-Who-Cannot-Die."

"Why can't he die?" asked the youngster eagerly.

Jacques shook his head.

"Wa-ha-ta-na-ta says 'all men die,'" he replied; "but--did not the
_chechako_ come into the North in the time of a great snow, and without
rackets mush forty miles in two days? Did he not kill with a knife
Diablesse, the werwolf, whom all men feared, and with an axe chop in
pieces the wolves of her pack?

"Did he not strike fear to the heart of the great Moncrossen with a
look of his eye? And, with three blows of his fist, lay the mighty
Stromberg upon the floor like a wet rag? Did he not come without hurt
through the fire when Creed locked him in the burning shack? And did he
not go down through the terrible Blood River rapids, riding upon a log,
and live, when Moncrossen ordered the breaking out of the jam that he
might be killed among the pounding logs? These are the things that kill
men--yet the _chechako_ lives."

"Gee, Eth, think of that!" exclaimed the boy, turning toward his
sister, who from her place by the side of her Aunt Margaret had been an
interested listener. "He must be _some man_! Where does he live? Will
we see him?"

Before the half-breed could reply Appleton broke in.

"He sure is _some man_!" he exclaimed enthusiastically. "And you will
see him about day after to-morrow night, if we have good luck. I don't
know about all the adventures Blood River Jack mentioned, but I have
heard of some of them, and I can add the story of the outwitting of a
couple of card-sharps and a fight in the dark, in the cramped quarters
of an overturned railway coach, in which he all but choked the life out
of a human fiend who was robbing the dead and injured.

"And I might tell of another fight--the gamest fight of all--but, wait
till you know him. He is foreman of the camp which will be our
headquarters for the next two or three weeks."

"To hear them talk," said Mrs. Appleton to her niece, "one would
imagine this man a huge, bloodthirsty ruffian; but he isn't. Hubert
says that he is in every respect a gentleman."

"Yes," agreed her husband, "but one who is not afraid to get out and
work with his two hands--and work hard--and who has never learned the
meaning of fear. I took a chance on him, and he has made good."

The phrase fell upon the ears of the girl with a shock. They were the
words _he_ had used, she remembered. Was _he_ making good--somewhere?
She felt her heart go out with a rush to this big man she had never
seen, and she found herself eagerly looking forward to their meeting.

"Oh, he must be splendid!" she exclaimed impulsively, and her face
glowed in the play of the firelight--a glow that faded almost to pallor
at the words of the half-breed.

"He has come again into the woods?" he asked quickly. "It is well. For
now Jeanne need have no fear. He promised her that he would return
again into the North--and to her."

"What?" cried Appleton in surprise. "Who is this Jeanne? And why should
he return to her?"

"She is my sister," Jacques replied simply. "Her skin is white like the
skin of my father. She is beautiful, and she loves him. She helped
Wa-ha-ta-na-ta to draw him from the river, and through all the long
days and nights of his sickness she took care of him. When he went out
of the woods she accompanied him for three days and three nights upon
the trail to the land of the white man, and he promised her that he
would come again into the woods and protect her from harm."

At a hurried glance from his wife Appleton changed the subject
abruptly. "I wish to thunder it would snow!" he exclaimed. "Hunting
deer without snow is like fishing without bait. You might accidentally
hook one, but it's a long chance."

Blood River Jack sniffed the air and shrugged, glancing upward.

"Plenty of snow in a few days," he said. "Maybe too much."



CHAPTER XXXVII

IN THE OFFICE


The setting sun shone weak and coppery above the pines as the big
four-horse tote-team dashed with a flourish into the wide clearing of
the new camp on upper Blood River. The men had not yet "knocked off,"
and from the impenetrable depths of the forest came the ring of axes
and the roar of crashing trees.

In the little blacksmith-shop a grimy-faced, leather-aproned man bent
over a piece of glowing iron which he held in long tongs, and the red
sparks radiated in showers as the hammer thumped dully on the soft
metal--thumps sharply punctuated by the clean ring of steel as the
polished face of the tool bounced merrily upon the chilled surface of
the anvil.

The feel of snow was in the air and over by the cook-shack men were
hauling fire-wood on a pole-drag. The team brought up sharply before
the door of the office which was located at one end of a long, low
building of logs, the two other rooms of which contained stoves,
chairs, and a few rough deal-tables.

Appleton leaped from the wagon and swung the ladies lightly to the
ground, while the teamster and Blood River Jack, assisted by Charlie,
proceeded to unload the outfit. The lumberman pushed open the door of
the office and glanced within. It was empty. He called one of the men
from the cook-shack and bade him build a fire in the little air-tight.

"Well, H. D., your man ain't an office foreman, anyhow," grinned
Sheridan, with a nod of approval toward the cold stove.

Sheridan was a bluff man with a bristling red mustache--the kind that
invariably chew upon their cigars as they talk.

Appleton turned to the ladies.

"Make yourselves at home," he said as the fire roared up the
stove-pipe. "Ross and I will look over the works a bit. Where is the
boss?" he asked of the man who was returning to the wood-pile.

"Out in the cuttin' somewheres; er me'be over to the rollways," replied
the man, laughing. "Big Bill he's out among 'em _all_ the time."

"By Glory! H. D., we've all got to hand it to you when it comes to
picking out men. I'd like to catch one of _my_ foremen out on the works
some time--I wouldn't know whether to fire him or double his wages!"

Sheridan mouthed his cigar, and the two turned into a skidway.

Appleton smiled. He raised a finger and touched his eyelid.

"It's the eye," he said. "Look in a man's eye, Ross. I don't give a
damn what a man's record is--what he's done or what he hasn't done. Let
me get a good look into his eye when he talks and in half a minute I'll
know whether to hire him or pass him on to you fellows. Here he comes
now."

Bill took keen delight in showing the two lumbermen about the camp.

"What's the idea of the ell on the bunk-house?" asked Appleton.

"Teamster's bunk-house," replied the foreman. "You see, I know how it
feels to be waked up at four in the morning by the teamsters piling out
of their bunks; so I built a separate bunk-house for them. The men work
too hard to have their sleep broken into that way. And another thing--I
built a couple of big rooms onto the office where the men can play
cards and smoke in the evening. I ordered a phonograph, too. I expect
it in on the tote-wagon."

Sheridan grinned skeptically and spat out part of his cigar. Appleton
made no comment.

"Come over to the office, Bill," he said. "I want you to meet the
ladies--my wife and niece and Mrs. Sheridan."

"I am afraid I am not very presentable," replied Bill dubiously as they
crossed the clearing in the lengthening shadows; but he went with them
without hesitation.

They were met at the door by a plump-faced lady of ample proportions
who was evidently fighting a losing battle with a tendency toward
_embonpoint_; and a slight, gray-haired one who stood poised upon the
split puncheon that served as a door-step.

"Ladies, this is Bill, the foreman of this camp. Mrs. Sheridan, Bill,
and my wife."

The ladies bowed formally, and secretly approved of the grace with
which the foreman removed his cap and returned their salute.
Nevertheless, there was an icy note in Mrs. Appleton's voice as she
said:

"My niece begs to be excused. She is very tired after her rather hard
trip." If Bill noticed the frigidity in the tone he gave no sign.

"I imagine it has been a very trying trip for you all. However, I will
offer you the best accommodations the camp affords. If you will kindly
choose which of those two rooms you prefer I will have your belongings
moved in at once."

"I suppose you brought cots," he added, turning to Appleton.

"Yes, everything necessary for a tenderfoot outfit."

"When the ladies have selected their room I will have your gear moved
into the other," said Bill; and, with a bow to the ladies, moved off in
the direction of the cook-shack.

Alone in the office, Ethel Manton gazed about upon the meager
furnishings; a desk, the little air-tight stove with its huge wood-box;
three wooden chairs, a trunk secured by a padlock, and a bunk neatly
laid with heavy blankets.

Several pairs of boots, moccasins, and heavy mittens were ranged along
the floor next to the wall, while from pegs above them hung a faded
mackinaw, a slicker, and several pairs of corduroy trousers.

Tacked to the wall above the desk was a large, highly colored calendar,
while upon the opposite wall hung a rifle and a belt of yellow
cartridges. Her woman's eye took in the scrupulous neatness of the room
and the orderly disposition of the various articles.

For the first time in her life she was in a man's room, and she felt a
keen thrill of interest in her surroundings. Upon the top of the desk
beside the little bracket-lamp was a short row of books.

"It is too bad," she muttered, "that he couldn't have been _nice_. How
I would have enjoyed talking with him and telling him how splendid it
is that he is _making good_!

"Maybe somewhere a girl is wondering where he is--and waiting day after
day for word from him--and worrying her very heart out. Oh, I hope she
will never know about this Jeanne--ugh! An Indian--and Uncle Appleton
said he is a _gentleman_!"

She paused before the desk and idly read the titles of the books; there
were a logger's manual, a few text-books on surveying and timber
estimating, several of the latest novels, apparently unread and a
well-thumbed copy of Browning.

"Browning! Of all things--in a log camp! Now I know there is a
girl--poor thing!" Open, face downward upon the surface of the desk
where it had been pushed aside to make room for a rough sketch of the
camp with its outreaching skidways and cross-hauls, lay a small volume.

"And Southey!" she exclaimed under her breath, and picked up the book.
It was "Madoc," and three lines, heavily underscored, stood boldly out
upon the page:

    "Three things a wise man will not trust,
    The wind, the sunshine of an April day,
    And woman's plighted faith."

Over and over she read the lines, and, returning the book to its place,
pondered, as she allowed her glance to rove again over the little room
whose every detail bespoke intense masculinity.

"I might at least be nice to him," she murmured. "Maybe the girl _was_
horrid. And he is 'way up here, trying to forget!" Unconsciously she
repeated the words of her Uncle Appleton: "He _has_ made good."

And then there flashed through her mind the words of the guide: "She is
beautiful, and she loves him. She accompanied him for three days and
three nights on the trail to the land of the white man, and he promised
that he would come again into the woods and protect her from harm."

"This Indian girl," she whispered--"she loves him, and he persuaded her
to accompany him, and when they drew near to civilization he sent her
back--with a promise!"

Her lips thinned and the hot blood mounted to her cheeks. No matter
what conditions sent this man into the woods, there could be no
justification for _that_. She shuddered as she drew her skirts away
where they brushed lightly against the blankets of his bunk, and turned
toward the door.

And just at that moment the door opened, and in the gathering darkness
a man stood framed in the doorway. She drew back, startled, and with
the swiftness of light her glance swept him from the top of his cap to
the soles of his heavy boots.

He was a large man whose features were concealed by a thick beard. His
fringed and beautifully embroidered shirt of buckskin was open at the
throat, as if to allow free play to the mighty muscles of his
well-formed neck.

Only a few seconds he stood thus, and with a swift movement removed the
cap from his head.

"You will pardon me," he said, and his eyes sought hers; "I did not
know any one was here."

At the first sound of his voice the girl started. One quick step, and
she stood before him, staring into his eyes. She felt her flesh grow
cold, and her heart seemed gripped between the jaws of a mighty vise.

"_You!_" she gasped, and swayed unsteadily as her hand sought her
throat. Her voice came dry and hard and choking as she repeated the
word: "_You!_" And in that moment the man saw her face in the deepening
gloom of the room.

"_Ethel!_" he cried, springing toward her with outstretched arms. Then,
when she was almost within their grasp, the arms dropped, for the girl
shrank from his touch and her eyes blazed.

Thus for a moment they stood facing each other, the girl--white,
tense--with blazing eyes, and the big man, who fought for control of
himself. Finally he spoke, and his voice was steady and very low.

"Forgive me, Ethel," he said. "For the moment I forgot that I have not
the right--that there is another----"

With a low, moaning cry the girl covered her face with her hands. Even
since she faced him there the thought had flashed through her brain
that there might be some mistake--that the man might even yet be as he
appeared to be--big and brave and _clean_.

But now--from his own lips she had heard it--"there is another"--and
that other--an _Indian_!

A convulsive shudder shook her whole body, the room seemed to reel; she
pressed her hands more tightly to her eyes, as if to shut out the sight
of him, and the next instant all was dark, and she pitched heavily
forward into the arms of the man.

For one brief moment he held her, straining her limp body to his. The
hands relaxed and fell away from her pallid face, and the bearded lips
bent close above the soft lips of the unconscious girl--but _only_ for
a moment.

Without touching the lips, the man straightened up and, crossing to the
bunk, laid the still form upon the blankets. With never a backward
glance, he passed out through the door.

It was dark in the clearing, and a couple of steps brought him face to
face with Appleton, who was coming to tell his niece that the ladies'
quarters were ready.

The foreman paused and looked squarely into the face of his employer.
He slowly raised an arm and pointed to the open door of the office.

"Miss Manton," he said, "has fainted." And without waiting for a reply,
passed on into the night.



CHAPTER XXXVIII

CHARLIE FINDS A FRIEND


The following morning the camp looked out upon a white world. The
threatened snow which began during the night was still falling, and
from the windows the dark walls of the clearing could be seen but dimly
through the riot of dancing flakes.

It was a constrained and rather glum party that sat down to breakfast
shortly after daylight in the room adjoining the office, where two deal
tables had been drawn together and spread with a new, white oilcloth.

Ethel Manton had entirely recovered from her syncope of the previous
evening, and had offered no elucidation other than that of fatigue.
Nevertheless, not a person in the room but felt that there had been
another and more immediate cause for the girl's collapse.

Charlie had begged to be allowed to "eat with the men," and the foreman
had courteously declined Appleton's invitation to join the party during
their stay in camp.

The dismal and sporadic attempts at conversation had slumped into an
awkward silence, in the midst of which the door burst open and young
Charlie catapulted into the room.

"Oh, Eth! Guess who he is!" he cried. "Guess who's the boss--the man
the Indians call The-Man-Who-Cannot-Die'! It's _Bill Carmody_! And I
knew him the minute I saw him, if he _has_ got whiskers all over his
face and a buckskin shirt.

"And he knew _me_! And he shook hands with me right before all the
men--and you ought to seen 'em look! And he's going to teach me how to
walk on snowshoes! Oh, ain't you _glad_! 'Cause now you and Bill
can----"

"_Charlie!_" The girl's face flamed, and the word seemed wrung from her
very heart. The boy paused for a moment in the midst of his breathless
harangue and eyed his sister with disgust.

"You know you _do_ love him," he continued, his eyes flashing
defiantly, "even if you did have a scrap--and he loves you, too! And
that dang St. Ledger's just nothing but a--a--a _squirt_--that's what
he is--and if I was Bill Carmody I'd punch his head for him if he even
_spoke_ to you again--if you was _my_ girl!

"And I'm going to tell him we _know_ he never swiped those bonds, and
you stuck up for him when old man Carmody told you he did."

The last words of the boy's remarks were addressed to an empty chair,
for the girl, white and trembling, had fled into the other room and
banged the door after her.

Mrs. Appleton, with an unintelligibly muttered excuse, hurriedly
followed, leaving her husband gazing from her retreating back to the
excited face of the youngster, and muttering: "Bless my soul! Bless my
soul!" between the gulps of his coffee, which for once in his life he
swallowed with never a growl at the canned milk. A moment later he
abruptly left the table and, motioning the boy to follow, led the way
to the office.

A half-hour passed, and Charlie left the building under the strictest
kind of orders not to mention to Bill Carmody either Ethel or the
bonds.

Puzzling his small head over the inexplicable doings of grown-up
people, he wandered toward the cook-shack to hunt up Daddy Dunnigan,
with whom he had already struck up a great friendship.

"She loves him and he loves her," he muttered to himself as he scuffed
his brand-new moccasins through the soft snow, "and each one tries to
let on they don't. And Uncle Appleton won't let me tell Bill _she_ does
so he'd go and tell her _he_ does; and then old man Carmody and his
bonds could go to the _devil_!

"You bet, I hope I never get in love and act like a couple of fools.
Now, I bet she'll marry that _sniffit_, and he'll marry Blood River
Jack's sister." The boy paused and glanced speculatively at the falling
snow. "I wonder if he wants to? Anyhow, I can ask him that much."

Later, in the office, Mrs. Appleton broke in upon her husband's third
black cigar. There was no doorway connecting the office with the other
two rooms, and the lumberman watched the snowflakes melt on his wife's
hair as she seated herself directly in front of him.

"Well, Hubert Appleton, this is a nice mess you have got us into, I
must say!"

"_Me!_" grinned the man. "Why, little girl, this is your party."

"I wish you would tell me who it was that suggested leaving out young
Mr. Holbrooke, and coming here so that Ethel could meet this _man_?"

"She--er--met him--didn't she?"

"You needn't try to be facetious! What are you going to do about it?"

"Who--me? Oh, just stick around and watch the fun."

"Fun! Fun! Hubert Appleton, aren't you _ashamed_ of yourself? And that
poor girl in there crying her eyes out! Fun, indeed--it's _tragedy_!"

"There, there, little woman; don't let's get excited. It's up to us to
kind of figure things out a bit; but the young folks themselves will be
the real actors.

"Now, just how much--or, how little did she tell you?"

"She told me _everything_. Poor dear, it did her good. She has had
nobody to tell--nobody to cry with her and sympathize with her."

When his wife concluded, H. D. Appleton had received a very accurate
chronicle of the doings of Bill Carmody from the time of his boyhood
until chance threw them together in the smoking-compartment of the
west-bound sleeper.

The lumberman listened attentively, without interrupting, until his
wife finished.

"Does she think Bill took those bonds?" he asked.

"No. She does not. Even with everything else against him, she cannot
bring herself to believe that he is a thief."

"Do _you_ think he took them?"

"Why--I--I don't know," she hesitated.

"Do you _think_ he took them?"

The little woman looked into her husband's eyes as she purposely
delayed her reply.

"No," she said at length. "I do not. But his own father accused him."

Appleton leaned forward in his chair and brought his fist down upon the
desk-top.

"I don't give a damn _who_ accused him!" he cried. "That boy never
stole a bond, or any other thing, and I'll stake my last cent on it!"

"Oh, it isn't the bonds. Ethel does not believe he stole them. But--the
other--you heard what the guide said--and Ethel heard it. She never
_can_ get over _that_! He may be honest--but he is a perfect
_villain_!"

"Hold on, now. Let's go easy. Maybe it isn't so bad as it sounds."

"Not so bad! Hubert Appleton, do you mean to tell me that you would,
for a minute, think of allowing your niece to _marry_ such a man?"

Appleton smiled into the outraged eyes of his wife.

"Yup. I think I would," he replied, and then hastened to add:

"Wait here and I will fetch Blood River Jack. He may have told more
than he knows, or he may not have told all he knows. When you come to
think of it, from what he _did_ tell, we only jumped at conclusions."

He hurried from the office, returning a few minutes later with the
half-breed, who seated himself and lighted the proffered cigar with
evident enjoyment.

"Now, Jack," Appleton began, speaking with his accustomed brevity,
"tell us about Monsieur Bill and this sister of yours. Did you say he
was going to marry her?"

The guide looked from one to the other as if silently taking their
measure. Finally he seemed satisfied.

"No," he said gravely, "he will not marry Jeanne."

The lumberman cleared his throat and waited while the man looked out
upon the whirling snow, for well he knew that the half-breed must be
allowed to take his own time--he could not be "pumped." And Mrs.
Appleton, taking her cue from her husband, curbed her impatience, and
waited with apparent unconcern.

"It is," the guide began, as if carefully weighing his words, "that you
are the good friends of M's'u' Bill. Also I have seen that you know the
men of the logs.

"Wa-ha-ta-na-ta, my mother, who is old and very wise, knows the men of
the logs, and, knowing them, hated M's'u' Bill, and would have returned
him to the river, but Jeanne prevented. For Wa-ha-ta-na-ta, knowing of
the fatherless breeds of the rivers, hated all white men, and a great
fear was in her heart for the girl, who is her daughter, and the
daughter of Lacombie whom, she says, was the one good white man; but
Lacombie is dead.

"So always in the days of the summer, when these two would leave the
lodge to visit the deserted camp of Moncrossen, Wa-ha-ta-na-ta followed
them. Stealthily and unknown she crept upon their trail, and always her
sharp eyes were upon them, and in the fold of her blanket was concealed
a long, keen blade, and behind the unfailing gaze of the black eyes was
the mind to kill.

"Thus passed the days of the summer, and the hand of Wa-ha-ta-na-ta was
stayed, but her vigilance remained unrelenting. For deep in her heart
is seared the memory of two winters ago, when Moncrossen gazed upon the
beauty of Jeanne, and came to the tepee in the night, knowing I was
away, and Wa-ha-ta-na-ta fought him in the darkness until he fled,
cursing and swearing vengeance.

"Never since that night has the girl been safe, for Moncrossen, with
the cunning of the wolf, is waiting his time--and some day he will
strike!

"But I shared not the fear of my mother that harm would come to Jeanne
at the hand of the great _chechako_, for I have looked into his eyes,
and I know that his heart is good.

"Upon the day before his departure for the land of the white man he
gave to the girl the skin of Diablesse, and then she told him she loved
him, and begged him to remain with her in the country of the Indians.

"But he would not, for he does not love Jeanne, but another--a woman of
his own people, who lives in the great city of the white man. And even
though this woman sent him from her, he loves her, and will marry no
other.

"Listening, Wa-ha-ta-na-ta heard him tell this to Jeanne; but of this
woman the girl knew, for he talked incessantly of her, and cried out
that she would marry another--in the voice of the fever-spirit, in the
time of his great sickness.

"The following day he departed in a canoe, and as he pushed from the
shore, Jeanne handed him his mackinaw, and words passed between them
that Wa-ha-ta-na-ta could not hear from her position behind a log.

"But, as the canoe passed from sight around a bend in the river, the
girl plunged into the woods, and Wa-ha-ta-na-ta returned to the tepee
and made up a light pack and slipped silently upon her trail. The girl
cut through the forest and came again to the river, and for a night and
a day awaited the coming of the canoe.

"The third evening it came and the man camped, and Jeanne crept close
and watched him across the blaze of his little fire as he smoked and
stared into the embers. While Wa-ha-ta-na-ta also crept stealthily to
the fire, making no sound, and she came to within an arm's reach of the
man's back, and in her hand was clutched tightly the sheath-knife with
its long, keen blade.

"At the midnight the man unrolled his blankets and laid down to sleep,
and then it was that Jeanne stepped into the firelight. And in the deep
shadow, Wa-ha-ta-na-ta gripped more tightly the knife and made ready to
strike."

The half-breed paused while the others waited breathlessly for him to
resume.

"Think not that Jeanne is bad. She is good, and her heart is the pure
heart of a maiden. But, such is the love of woman--to face gladly the
sneers of the world, and the wrath of her people--for she did not ask
him to marry her--only to take her.

"But the man would not, and commanded her to return to the lodge. She
told him that she could not return--that three days and three nights
had passed since they had departed together, and that, if he would not
take her, she would go alone to the land of the white man.

"Then M's'u' Bill arose and folded his blankets and made up his pack,
and when he spoke to her again it was in the voice of the terrible
softness--the softness that causes men first to wonder, and then to
obey, though they know not why. He said that he himself would take her
back, and that Wa-ha-ta-na-ta, who is old and very wise, would know
that his words were true.

"Wa-ha-ta-na-ta, lurking there in the deep shadow, in that moment knew
that the man's heart was good. And she stepped into the firelight, and
looked long into his eyes--and she broke the knife--and between them
there passed the _promise_."

Jacques puffed slowly upon his cigar, arose to his feet, and stood
looking down upon the two who had listened to his words.

"It is well," he said, and his dark eyes flashed, "for the heart of
Moncrossen is bad, and the beauty of Jeanne has inflamed the evil
passions of him, and he will stop at nothing in the fulfillment of his
desire.

"But, into the North has come a greater than Moncrossen. And terrible
will be the vengeance of this man if harm falls upon Jeanne. For he is
her friend, his word has passed, his heart is strong and good, and he
knows not fear.

"Upon Moncrossen will fall the day of the Great Reckoning. And, in that
day, justice will be done, for he will stand face to face with M's'u'
Bill--The-Man-Who-Cannot-Die--the man whom Wa-ha-ta-na-ta has named
'The One Good White Man'!"



CHAPTER XXXIX

BILL'S WAY


"And, to think," whispered Mrs. Appleton as she wiped a tear from her
eye, after the half-breed's departure, "that in New York this same man
had earned the name of 'Broadway Bill, the sport'!"

"Yes," answered her husband; "but Broadway Bill has passed, and in his
place, out here in the big country, is Broadgauge Bill, the _man_! I
knew I was right, Margaret, by gad, I knew it! Look in his eye!"

Followed, then, in the little office, an hour of intimate conversation,
at the conclusion of which the two arose.

"Not a word to Ethel, remember," admonished the woman, and laughed
knowingly as her husband stooped and kissed her.

During the days that followed, Appleton and Sheridan, accompanied by
Blood River Jack, hunted from early morning until late evening, when
they would return, trail-weary and happy, to spend hours over the
cleaning and oiling of guns and the overhauling of gear.

Young Charlie was allowed to go on some of the shorter expeditions, but
for the most part he was to be found dogging the heels of Bill Carmody;
or perched upon a flour-barrel in the cook-shack, listening to the
tales of Daddy Dunnigan.

The ladies busied themselves with the care of the two rooms, with
useless needlework, and with dummy auction, varying the monotony with
daily excursions into the near-by forest in quest of spruce-gum and
pine-cones.

Since the morning Charlie had broken in so incontinently upon their
breakfast no reference had been made to Bill Carmody by any member of
the party; while the foreman pursued the even tenor of his way,
apparently as unconcerned by their existence as they were by his.

One afternoon as the ladies were starting upon one of their tramps they
came face to face with the foreman, who tipped his cap, bowed coldly,
and passed into the office, closing the door behind him.

Mrs. Appleton halted suddenly, glanced toward the building, and
retraced her steps. It was but a short distance, and Ethel walked back,
waiting at the door while her aunt entered their own apartment.

The girl watched abstractedly, thinking the older woman had returned
for something she had forgotten.

Suddenly she became all attention, and a hot flush of anger mounted to
her face as she saw her aunt walk to the table, pick up her purse and
several rings which she had left, and with a glance at the thick, log
wall which separated the room from the office, deliberately walk to her
trunk and place the articles under lock and key.

Apparently Mrs. Appleton had not noticed the girl's presence, but more
than once during the afternoon the corners of her mouth twitched when,
in response to some question or remark of hers, the shortness of the
girl's replies bordered upon absolute rudeness.

And late that night she smiled broadly in the darkness when the low
sound of stifled sobs came from the direction of the girl's cot.

Immediately after breakfast the following morning, Ethel put on her
wraps and started out alone. Arriving, after a long, aimless ramble, at
the outermost end of a skidway, she sat upon a log to rest and watch a
huge swamper who, unaware of her presence, was engaged in slashing the
underbrush from in front of a group of large logs.

Finally, tiring of the sight, she arose and started for the clearing,
and then suddenly drew back and stepped behind the bole of a great
pine, for, striding rapidly toward her on the skidway was Bill Carmody,
and she pressed still closer to the tree-trunk that he might pass
without observing her.

He was very close now, and the girl noticed the peculiar expression of
his face--an expression she had seen there once before--his lips were
smiling, and his gray eyes were narrowed almost to slits.

The man halted scarcely fifty feet from her, at the place where the
swamper, with wide blows of his axe, was laying the small saplings and
brushwood low. She started at the cold softness of the tones of his
voice.

"Leduc," he said, "just a minute--it will hardly take longer."

The man turned quickly at the sound of the voice at his side, and for
the space of seconds the two big men faced each other on the packed
snow of the skidway.

Then, with a motion of incredible swiftness, and without apparent
effort, the foreman's right arm shot out and his fist landed squarely
upon the nose of the huge swamper.

The girl heard the wicked spat, and the peculiar, frightened grunt as
the man reeled backward, and saw the quick gush of red blood that
splashed down his front and squirted out over the snow.

Before the man had time to recover, the foreman advanced a step and
struck again. This time it was his left hand that clove the air in a
long, clean swing, and the man went down into the snow without a sound
as the fist thudded against his neck just below the ear.

Without so much as a glance at the man in the snow, Bill Carmody turned
on his heel and started back down the skidway.

Few seconds had elapsed, and a strange, barbaric thrill ran through the
girl's body as she looked out upon the scene, quickly followed by a
wave of sickening pity for the poor wretch who lay sprawled in the
snow.

And, then, a great anger surged into her heart against the man who had
felled him. She dashed from her hiding-place, and in a moment stood
facing him, her blue eyes flashing.

"You _brute_!" she cried, "what right had you? Why did you strike him?"
The man regarded her gravely, lifting his cap politely as if answering
a most commonplace question.

"Because," he replied, "I wanted to," and, with a curt bow, stepped
into the timber and disappeared, leaving her alone in the skidway with
the bloody, unconscious form in the snow.

Never in her life had Ethel Manton been so furiously angry--not because
a man had been felled by a blow--she had forgotten that--but because,
in demanding an explanation, in attempting to call Bill Carmody to
account, she had laid herself open to his stinging rebuff.

Without pretense of defense or justification, the man had quietly told
her that he knocked the swamper down "because he wanted to"; and
without waiting for comment--as if the fact that "he wanted to" was
sufficient in itself--had gone about his business without giving the
matter a second thought.

The flash of anger, which in the first place had prompted her to speak
to the man, was but an impulsive protest against what she considered an
act of brutality; but that quickly passed.

The anger that surged through her heart as she gazed, white-faced, at
the spot where the big man disappeared, was the bitter anger of
outraged dignity and injured pride.

He had not taken the trouble to find out what she thought, for the very
obvious reason that he had not cared what she thought--and so he left
her. And when he had gone the girl plodded wrathfully back to camp and
spoke to no one of what she had seen. But, deep down in her heart, she
knew there had been a reason for Bill's act--and she knew that the
reason was good.

That same evening Appleton pushed his chair back from the table and
glanced toward Ethel, who had got out a bit of crochet-work. Then, with
a sidewise glance at his wife, he remarked thoughtfully:

"I'm afraid I'll have to get rid of Bill. A Canuck swamper named Leduc
complained to me that the boss slipped up on him and knocked him
insensible with a club. I can't stand for that--not even from Bill."

At the mention of the foreman's name the girl looked up quickly.

"He _didn't_ hit him with a club! He hit him with his fist! And there
_was_ a reason----" The girl stopped abruptly, and a wave of crimson
suffused her face. She could have bitten her tongue off for speaking--for
defending this man.

"How do _you_ know?" asked her uncle in surprise.

"I saw him do it," she replied; realizing that, having gone so far, she
must answer.

"Why did he strike him?" persisted Appleton.

"You might ask _him_ that," she said and, with a defiant toss of her
head, quitted the room and closed the door behind her.

The Sheridans had been taken into confidence, and when the four found
themselves alone they smiled knowingly.

As the days slipped into the second week of their stay, the carcasses
of many deer hung from poles in the clearing, and the outside walls of
the log building were adorned with the skins of numerous wolves and
bobcats.

Hardly a day passed but some one, by word or look, or covert sneer,
expressed disapproval of the boss; and Ethel, entirely ignorant of the
fact that these expressions of disapproval were made only in her
presence, and for her special benefit, was conscious of a feeling of
great pity for the lonely man.

The indescribable restlessness of a great longing took possession of
her; she found herself, time and again, watching from the window, and
from places of concealment behind the trunks of trees, while the big
foreman went stolidly about his work.

The fact that she should hate Bill Carmody was logical and proper; but
she bitterly resented the distrust and criticism of the others. She
wished now with all her heart that she had not confided in her aunt,
and a dozen times she caught herself on the point of rushing to his
defense.

Not since that morning on the skidway had the two met. Bill deviated
not one whit from the regular routine of his duties, and the girl
purposely avoided him.

She hated him. Over and over again she told herself that she hated and
despised him, and yet, on two or three occasions when she knew he had
gone to the farthest reaches of the cutting, she had slipped unobserved
into the office and read from his books--not the uncut novels--but the
well-thumbed copies of Browning and Southey; and as she read she
pondered.

She came upon many marked passages; and in her heart the unrest
continued, and she allowed her hands to stray over the coarse cloth of
his mackinaw, and once she threw herself upon his bunk and buried her
face in his blankets, and sobbed the dry, racking sobs of her deep
soul-hurt.

Then she had leaped to her feet and smoothed out the wrinkles in the
blankets, and stooped and straightened the row of boots and moccasins
along the base-log--and quickly disarranged them again for fear he
might remember how he left them--and rushed from the office.

Of these secret visits the members of the party knew nothing, but Daddy
Dunnigan, from the window of the cook-shack, took note of the girl's
comings and goings, and nodded sagely and chuckled to himself. For
Daddy Dunnigan, wise in the ways of women, had gathered much from the
talk of the impetuous youngster.



CHAPTER XL

CHARLIE GOES HUNTING


Blood River Jack halted suddenly in his journey from the bunk-house to
the grub-shack and sniffed the air.

He dropped the butt of his rifle to the hard-packed snow of the
clearing and glanced upward, where a thin sprinkling of stars winked
feebly in the first blush of morning.

The dark sky was cloudless, and the trees stood motionless in the
gloom, which slowly dissipated where the first faint light of
approaching day grayed the east. The air was dry and cold, but with no
sting of crispness. The chill of it was the uncomfortable, penetrating
chill that renders clothing inadequate, yet brings no tingle to the
exposed portions of the body.

Again the man sniffed the dead air and, swinging the rifle into the
crook of his elbow, continued toward the grub-shack.

Appleton and Sheridan accepted without remonstrance the guide's
prediction of a storm and retired to the "house," as the rooms in which
the party was quartered had come to be known--not entirely unthankful
for a day of rest.

The crew went into the timber, as usual; the guide retired to his bunk
for a good snooze; and young Charlie Manton, tiring of listening to
Daddy Dunnigan's yarns, prowled about the camp in search of amusement.

Entering the bunk-house, his attention was attracted by the loud
snoring of Blood River Jack, and his eye fell upon the half-breed's
rifle and cartridge-belt, which reposed upon the floor just beneath the
edge of his bunk.

The boy crept close, his soft moccasins making no sound, until he was
within reach of the gun, when he dropped to the floor and lifted it in
his hands. For many minutes he sat upon the floor examining the rifle,
turning it over and over.

At length he reached for the cartridge-belt, and buckling it about his
waist, left the room as noiselessly as he had entered and, keeping the
bunk-house in line with the window of the cook-shack, slipped
unobserved into the timber.

Upon his hunting expeditions with the others, Charlie had not been
allowed to carry a high-power rifle. It was a sore blow to his pride
that his armament had consisted of a light, twenty-gauge shotgun, whose
possibilities for slaughter were limited to rabbits, spruce-hens, and
ptarmigan.

Farther and farther into the timber he went, avoiding the outreaching
skidways and the sound of axes. Broad-webbed snow-shoe rabbits leaped
from under foot and scurried away in the timber, and the whir of an
occasional ptarmigan or spruce-hen passed unheeded.

He was after big game. He would show Uncle Appleton that he _could_
handle a rifle; and maybe, if he killed a buck or a wolf or a bobcat,
the next time he went with them he would be allowed to carry a
man's-size weapon.

An hour's tramp carried him to the bank of the river at a point several
miles below the camp, where he seated himself upon a rotten log.

"Blood River Jack just wanted to sleep to-day, so he told 'em it was
going to storm," he soliloquized as he surveyed the narrow stretch of
sky which appeared above the snow-covered ice of the river.

But somehow the sky did not look as blue as it had; it was a sickly
yellow color now, like the after-glow of a sunset, and in the center of
it hung the sun--a dull, copper sun, with uneven, red edges which lost
themselves in a hazy aureola of yellowish light.

The boy glanced uneasily about him. The woods seemed uncannily silent,
and the air thick and heavy, so that the white aisle of the river
blurred into dusk at its farther reaches.

It grew darker, a peculiar fuliginous darkness, which was not of the
gloom of the forest. Yet no smell of smoke was in the air, and in the
sky were no clouds.

"Looks kind of funny," thought the boy, and glanced toward the river.
Suddenly all thought of the unfamiliar-looking world fled from his
brain, for there on the snow, not twenty yards distant, half crouched a
long, gray body with the claws of an uplifted forefoot extended, and
cruel, catlike lips drawn into a hideous snarl.

The other forefoot rested upon the limp, furry body of a rabbit, and
the great, yellow-green eyes glowed and waned in the dimming light,
while the sharply tufted ears worked forward and back in quick, nervous
twitches.

"A _loup-cervier_," whispered the boy, and slowly raised Blood River
Jack's rifle until the sights lined exactly between the glowing eyes.
He pulled the trigger and, at the sharp metallic click with which the
hammer descended upon the firing-pin, the brute seized the rabbit
between its wide, blunt jaws and bounded away in long leaps.

Hot tears of disappointment blurred the youngster's eyes and trickled
down his cheeks--he had forgotten to load the rifle, and his hands
trembled as he hurriedly jammed the long, flask-shaped cartridges into
the magazine and followed down to the river on the trail of the big
cat.

He remembered as he mushed along on his small rackets that Bill had
told him of a rocky ledge some five or six miles below camp, and had
promised to take him to this place where the _loup-cerviers_ had their
dens among the rocks.

The trail held to the river, whose banks rose more abruptly as he
proceeded, and at length, as he rounded a sharp bend, he could make out
dimly through the thickening air the outline of a high rocky bluff; but
even as he looked, the ledge was blotted out by a quick flurry of snow,
and from high among the tree-tops came a long, wailing moan of wind.

The trees pitched wildly in the icy blast; the moan increased to a
mighty roar, and the air was thick with flying snow. Not the soft,
flaky snow of the previous storm, but particles fine as frozen fog,
that bit and stung as they whirled against his face in the eddying
gusts that came from no direction at all and every direction at once.

The boy bowed his head to the storm and pushed steadily forward--he
_must_ kill the _loup-cervier_, whose trail was growing momentarily
more indistinct.

His eyes could penetrate but a few yards into the white smother, and
suddenly the dark wall of the rock ledge loomed in front of him, and
the trail, almost obliterated now, turned sharply and disappeared
between two huge, upstanding bowlders.



CHAPTER XLI

THE BLIZZARD


At eleven o'clock in the morning Bill Carmody ordered his teams to the
stables.

At twelve o'clock, when the men crowded into the grub-shack, the air
was filled with fine particles of flinty snow, and the roar of the wind
through the pine-tops was the mighty roar of the surf of a pounding
sea.

At one o'clock the boss called "gillon," and with loud shouts and rough
horse-play, the men made a rush for the bunk-house.

At two o'clock Daddy Dunnigan thrust his head through the doorway of
the shop where Bill, under the blacksmith's approving eye, was
completing a lesson in the proper welding of the broken link of a log
chain.

With a mysterious quirk of the head he motioned the foreman to follow,
and led the way to the cook-shack, where Blood River Jack waited with
lowering brow.

"D'yez happin to know is th' b'y up yonder?" asked the old Irishman,
with a jerk of his thumb in the direction of the house. Bill beat the
dry snow from his clothing as he stared from one to the other.

"The boy!" he cried. "What do you mean? Come--out with it--_quick_!"

"It is that my rifle and belt have gone from under the bunk," Blood
River Jack answered. "They were taken while I slept. The boy did not
come to dinner in the grub-shack. Is it that he eats to-day with his
people?"

"Good Lord! I don't know! Haven't you seen him, Daddy?"

"Not since mebbe it's noine o'clock in th' marnin', an' he wint to th'
bunk-house. I thoucht he wuz wid Jack." Bill thought rapidly and turned
to the old man.

"Here, you, Daddy--get a move on now!" he ordered. "That ginger cake of
yours that the kid likes, hustle some of it into a pail or a basket or
something, and carry it up to the house. Tell them it's for Charlie,
and you'll find out if he's there. If not, get out by saying that he's
probably in the bunk-house, and get back here as quick as you can make
it. There is no use in alarming the people up there--yet."

"Here you, Jack, go help the old man along. It's a tough job bucking
that storm even for a short distance. Come now, beat it!"

After ten minutes the two returned, breathless from their short battle
with the storm.

"He ain't there," gasped the old man and sank down upon the wood-box
with his head in his hands. "God help um, he's out in ut!"

"I'm going to the office," said the foreman and stepped out into the
whirling snow.

"Man! Man!" called Daddy, springing to his feet; "ye ain't a goin' to
thry----" The door banged upon his words and he sagged slowly onto his
rough seat.

A few minutes later Appleton stamped into the cook-shack. "Did you find
him, Daddy?" he asked.

The old man shook his head. "He ain't in th' camp," he muttered. "He
tuk Jack's gun whilst he slep' an' ut's huntin' he's gone--Lard hilp
um!"

"Where is Bill?" the lumberman inquired.

"Av ye're quick, ye may catch um in th' office--av ye ain't Oi'm
thinkin' ye niver will foind um. Be th' luk in his eye, he's gone
afther th' b'y."

The lumberman plunged again into the storm and made his way to the
office. It was empty. As he turned heavily away the door opened and
Ethel Manton flung herself into the room, gasping with exertion. Giving
no heed to her uncle's presence, the girl's glance hurriedly swept the
interior.

Her hand clutched at the bosom of her snow-powdered coat as she noted
that the faded mackinaw was gone from its accustomed peg and the
snowshoes from their corner behind the door.

Instantly the truth flashed through her brain--Charlie was lost in the
seething blizzard and somewhere out in the timber Bill Carmody was
searching for him.

With a smothered moan she flung herself onto the bunk and buried her
face in the blankets.

                     *      *      *      *      *

The situation the foreman faced when he plunged into the whirling
blizzard in search of the boy, while calling for the utmost in man's
woodsmanship and endurance, was not so entirely hopeless as would
appear. He remembered the intense interest evinced by the boy a few
days before, when he had listened to the description of the rocky ledge
which was the home of the _loup-cerviers_, and the eagerness with which
he begged to visit the place.

What was more natural, he argued, than that the youngster, finding
himself in unexpected possession of a rifle and ammunition, had decided
to explore the spot and do a little hunting on his own account?

The full fury of the storm had not broken until noon, and he figured
that the boy would have had ample time to reach the bluff where he
could find temporary shelter among the numerous caves of its rocky
formation.

Upon leaving the office, the boss headed straight for the rollway, and
the mere holding his direction taxed his brain to the exclusion of all
other thoughts.

The air was literally filled with flying snow fine as dust, which
formed an opaque screen through which his gaze penetrated scarcely an
arm's reach.

Time and again he strayed from the skidway and brought up sharply
against a tree, but each time he altered his course and floundered
ahead until he found himself suddenly upon the steep slope where the
bank inclined to the river.

When Bill Carmody turned down-stream the gravity of his undertaking
forced itself upon him. The fury of the storm was like nothing he had
ever experienced.

The wind-whipped particles cut and seared his face like a shower of
red-hot needles, and the air about him was filled with a dull roar,
mighty in volume but strangely muffled by the very denseness of the
snow.

It took all his strength to push himself forward against the terrific
force of the wind which seemed to sweep from every quarter at once into
a whirling vortex of which he himself was the center.

One moment the air was sucked from his lungs by a mighty vacuum, and
the next the terrible compression upon his chest caused him to gasp for
breath.

The fine snow that he inhaled with each breath stung his lungs and he
tied his heavy woolen muffler across his mouth. He stumbled frequently
and floundered about to regain his balance. He lost all sense of
direction and fought blindly on, each bend of the river bringing him
blunderingly against one or the other of its brush-grown banks.

The only thought of his benumbed brain was to make the rock ledge
somewhere ahead. It grew dark, and the blackness, laden with the
blinding, stinging particles, added horror to his bewilderment.

Suddenly his snowshoe struck against a hard object, and he pitched
heavily forward upon his face and lay still. He realized then that he
was tired.

Never in his life had he been so utterly body-weary, and the snow was
soft--soft and warm--and the pelting ceased.

He thrust his arm forward into a more comfortable position and
encountered a rock, and sluggishly through his benumbed faculties
passed a train of associated ideas--rock, rock ledge, _loup-cerviers_,
the boy! With a mighty effort he roused himself from the growing
lethargy and staggered blindly to his feet.

He filled his lungs, tore the ice-incrusted muffler from his lips and,
summoning all his strength, gave voice to the long call of the woods:

"Who-o-o-p-e-e-e!"

But the cry was cut off at his lips. The terrific force of the shifting
gusts hurled the sound back into his throat so that it came to his own
ears faint and far. Again and again he called, and each time the feeble
effort was drowned in the dull roar of the storm.

An unreasoning rage at the futility of it overcame him and he plunged
blindly ahead, unheeding, stumbling, falling, rising to his feet and
staggering among the tumbled rocks at the foot of the bluff--and then
almost in his ear came the sharp, quick sound of a rifle-shot and
another and another, at a second apart--the distress signal of the
Northland.



CHAPTER XLII

BUCKING THE STORM


Bill Carmody wheeled against the solid rock wall and frantically felt
his way along its broken surface. His groping hands encountered a cleft
barely wide enough to admit the passage of a man's body.

With a final effort he called again; instantly the high, clear tones of
the boy's voice rang in his ears from the depths of the rock cavern,
and the next moment small hands were tugging at his armpits.

"Oh! Bill, I knew you would come!" a small voice cried close to his
ear. "It was my last three shots. I've been shooting every little while
for hours and hours. Hold on! We've got to take off your snowshoes;
they won't come through the door."

A few minutes later the man sat upon the hard floor of the cave which
reeked of the rank animal odor of a long-used den. The place was bare
of snow and he leaned back against a soft, furry body while the boy
rattled on:

"I killed the _loup-cervier_! I chased him in here and shot him right
square through the head. And he never kicked--just slunked down in a
heap and dropped his rabbit. And now, if we had some matches, we could
build a fire--if we had some wood--and cook him. I'm hungry--aren't
you?"

The boy's utter disregard of the real seriousness of their plight, and
the naïve way in which he accepted the coming of his friend as a matter
of course, irritated the man, who listened in scowling silence.

"Blood River Jack _was_ right," Charlie went on. "I thought he just
wanted a chance to sleep for a day. Pretty good storm, isn't it? Say,
Bill, how did he know it was going to snow?"

"Look here, young man," Bill replied wrathfully, "do you realize that
we are in a mighty bad fix, right this minute? And that it is your
fault? And that there was only about one chance in a thousand that I
would find you? And that if we ever get out of this, and your Uncle
Appleton don't give you a darn good whaling, I _will_?" The man felt a
small body press close against him in the darkness.

"Honest, Bill, I'm sorry," a subdued voice answered. "I thought Jack
was fooling, and I _did_ want to show 'em I could kill something bigger
than a rabbit. You aren't mad, are you, Bill? I hope Eth won't worry;
we'll prob'ly have to stay here all night, won't we?"

"All night! Won't worry! Don't you know that this is a _regular_
blizzard--the kind that kills men at their own doors--and that it may
last for a week? And here we are with no fire-wood, and nothing to eat!
The chances are mighty good that we'll never see camp again--and you
pipe up and hope your sister won't worry!"

Charlie leaned over closer against Carmody's body.

"Why, we've _got_ to get back, Bill!" he said, and his voice was very
earnest now. "We're all Eth's got--you and me--and she _needs_ us."

The boy felt a sudden tightening of the muscles beneath the heavy
mackinaw, and the quick gasp of an indrawn breath. A big arm stole
about his shoulders. The harshness was gone from Bill's voice, and when
he spoke the sound fell softly upon the culprit's ears.

"Sure, kid, we'll get back. Buck up! We've got a fighting chance, and
that's all we need--men like you and me. Life up here is a hard game,
kid, but we're no quitters! This is just one of the rough places in the
long, long trail.

"And, say, kid--just man to man--I want you always to remember
_that_--she needs you--and some day she may need you _bad_. This St.
Ledger may be all right, but----"

"St. Ledger!" The voice of the boy cut sharply upon the darkness. "Say,
Bill, you aren't going to marry Blood River Jack's sister, are you?"

"What!"

"Why, Blood River Jack's sister, you know, that helped fish you out of
the river."

"Lord! _No!_ What ever put that into your head?"

"Blood River Jack told us when we were coming out about you--only we
didn't know it was _you_, then. And he said that his sister was pretty,
and she loved you, and she went down the river with you for three or
four days, or something. And Eth thinks you love this half-breed girl.
And, maybe, if you did marry her, Eth would marry St. Ledger; but she
don't love him."

Bill sat suddenly erect, and the arm about the boy's shoulder tightened
and shook him roughly.

"Look here! How do you know? I read an account of their engagement 'way
along last winter."

"That was a _dang lie_! 'Cause I was in the den when she called St.
Ledger up about it. She gave him the darndest talking to he ever got,
and she told him she never would marry him as long as she lived. And
Eth _does_ love you! And you ought to heard her stick up for you when
old----"

The boy stopped abruptly, suddenly remembering his uncle's injunction
of silence. "There's an old dead tree right close to the door of the
cave," he added hastily. "We might get some wood off that."

"What were you saying?" inquired Bill. "Never mind the wood."

"Nothing--I forget, I mean. Come on, let's get some wood--I'm hungry."

And in spite of his most persistent efforts, not another word could
Bill Carmody get out of the youngster, except the mournful soliloquy
that:

"I bet Uncle Appleton _will_ whale me--anyway, he couldn't whale as
hard as you."

In the thick blackness of the storm the man groped blindly near the
snow-choked entrance to the den, guided in his search for the dead tree
by the voice of the boy from the interior.

It was no easy task to twist off the dead limbs and carry them one by
one to the cavern where the boy piled them against the wall. At length,
however, it was accomplished, and Bill crept in and whittled a pile of
fine shavings.

A few minutes later the flicker of a tiny flame flashed up, the
shavings ignited, and the narrow cavity lighted to the crackle of the
fire. Together they skinned the rabbit which the dead lynx had dropped,
and soon they were busily engaged in roasting it over the flames.

The two were far from comfortable. Despite the fact that the fire had
been built as near as possible to the entrance, the smoke whipped back
into their faces. The air became blue and heavy, they coughed, and
tears streamed from their eyes at the sting of it.

"I'm thirsty," said the boy, as he finished his portion of the rabbit.
"I guess we'll have to eat snow; there's nothing to melt it in."

"Never eat snow," the man cautioned as his eyes swept the barren
interior.

"Why not?"

"It will burn you out. I don't know why, but when a man starts eating
snow, it's all off."

Directly in front of him, in the rock floor, was a slight depression,
and with a stick Bill scraped the fire close to this natural basin and
filled it with dry snow. At the end of ten minutes the snow had melted,
leaving a pool of filthy, black water.

"It's the best we can do," laughed the man as the boy made a wry face
as he gulped down a swallow of the bitter floor-washing.

They set about skinning the _loup-cervier_, and spread the pelt upon
the floor for a robe.

"We'll have to tackle the cat for breakfast," grinned Bill.

"Oh, this is fun!" cried the boy. "It's like getting cast away and
living in a cave, like you read about." But the humor of the situation
failed to enthuse Bill, who lighted his pipe and stared moodily into
the tiny fire.

The two spent a most uncomfortable night, their brief snatches of sleep
being interrupted by long hours of wakefulness when they huddled close
to the small blaze.

The scarcity of wood and the danger of suffocation precluded the
building of an adequate fire, and the miserable night wore interminably
upon the nerves of the imprisoned pair.

At last the dull gray light of morning dispersed the gloom, and the two
crept to the snow-choked door.

The storm raged unabated, and their eyes could not penetrate the opaque
whiteness of the powdery snow. Bill gathered more firewood, cut up the
lynx, and roasted the hams, shoulders, and back.

The meat was dry and stringy, with a disagreeable, strong flavor that
savored intimately of the rancid odor of the den. Nevertheless, they
devoured a great quantity of the tough, unpalatable food, washing it
down with bitter drafts from the pool of dirty snow-water, thick with
ashes and the pungent animal reek.

Again the man filled his pipe and sat gazing out upon the whirling
void.

"Bill, let's try it," said a voice at his elbow. "She's waiting for
us--and worrying."

Carmody glanced quickly into the determined little face. The boy had
voiced his own thoughts to the letter, and he remained long without
speaking, carefully weighing the chances.

"It's better than staying here," pursued the youngster; "'Cause, if we
don't snufficate, we'll starve to death, or freeze. We can tie us to
each other so we won't get lost, and all we got to do is stick to the
river. I can make it if you can," he added naïvely.

Bill grinned, and then his eyes became serious and he began
methodically to stow the remains of the roast cat into his pockets.

"It's going to be an awful pull, kid. You are a man, now, and I'll give
it to you straight--maybe we'll make it, and maybe we won't. But I'd
hate to 'snufficate'--and she _is_ worrying. We'll try it--and God help
us, if we don't keep the river."

The skin of the lynx was cut into strips and fashioned into a rawhide
line which Bill made fast to their belts, leaving plenty of slack to
allow free use of the rackets. The rifle was left in the cave, and,
muffled to the ears, the two stepped out into the storm.

Bill judged it to be well after noon when a sudden tightening of the
line brought him to an abrupt halt.

Many times during the long hours in which they forged slowly ahead had
the line gone taut as the boy fell in the snow, but each time it was
followed by a wriggling and tugging, and the youngster scrambled gamely
to his feet and floundered on in the wake of his big friend.

But this time Carmody waited in vain for the movement of the line that
would tell him that the boy was regaining his feet--the line remained
taut, and Bill turned and groped in the snow. He lifted the boy to his
feet, but the small body sagged limply against his own, and the head
rolled weakly.

He shook him roughly and, with his lips close to the boy's ear, shouted
words of encouragement. But his only answer was a dull look from the
half-closed eyes, and a sleepily muttered jumble of words, in which he
made out: "Can't make it--all in--go on--she does love you."

Again and again he tried to rouse him, but all to no purpose; the boy
had battled bravely to the end of his endurance, and now only wanted to
be let alone. Bill sat beside him in the snow and, sheltering him as
best he could from the sting of the wind-driven particles, produced a
piece of the meat from his pocket.

The boy gnawed it feebly, and the food revived him somewhat, so that
for a few rods he staggered on, but the line again tightened, and this
time the man knew that it was useless to attempt to arouse his little
companion.

Hurriedly removing his mackinaw, he wrapped it around the body of the
boy and, by means of a "squaw hitch" sling, swung him to his back. The
boy's dangling rackets hindered his movement, and he slashed the thongs
and left them in the snow.

Then, straining the last atom of his vitality, he plunged ahead.

The early darkness of the North country settled about the staggering
man. His progress was painfully slow and, without sense of direction,
he wallowed forward, stumbling, falling, struggling to his feet only to
fall again a few rods farther on.

The weight of the boy seemed to crush him into the snow, and each time
it became harder and harder to regain his feet against the merciless
rush of the blizzard.

He lost all hope of making camp. He did not know whether it was near or
far, he only knew that he was upon the river, and that he must push on
and on.

He realized dully that he might easily have passed the rollways hours
ago. He even considered doubling back; but what was the use? If he
passed them once, he would pass them again.

Every drop of his fighting blood was up. He would push on to the end.
He would die, of course; but he wouldn't die _yet_! And when he did
die, he would _fall_ to die--he would never _lie down_ to die!

It was not far off, he knew--that fall, when he would never get up. He
wondered who would find them; Blood River Jack, probably. As he leaned
into the whirling, cutting wind, he thought of Jeanne and of his
promise to Wa-ha-ta-na-ta.

His fists clenched, and a few more rods were gained. He thought of
Ethel, and of what Charlie had told him in the cave:

"_She needs us; we're all she's got--you and me._"

Again the fists in the heavy mittens clenched, and more rods were
covered. It was growing black; the white smother of snow ceased to
dance before his eyes. His advance now was hesitating, dogged; each
step became a measure of time.

He reeled suddenly against an unyielding object. A tree, he thought,
and grasped it for support as he struggled to get his bearings. He was
off the river; yet, when had he ascended the bank?

The tree felt smooth to the touch, and he moved his mittens up and down
the trunk. Suddenly he realized that it was no tree, but a skinned
pole. His numbed brain groped dully as his hands traveled up and down
its smooth length.

At the height of his waist he encountered a rope, and at the feel of
the heavy line the blood surged to his head, clearing his brain.

"The _water-hole_!" he cried thickly. "They've roped off the
water-hole!" Frantically he pulled himself along, hand over hand. The
rope seemed endless, stretching from stake to stake.

He was ascending the bank now at the foot of the rollways--and, at the
top was the camp!

He exerted his strength to the uttermost ounce, heaving and lifting
with the huge muscles of his legs, and pulling with his arms until it
seemed they must be torn from his shoulders, inching himself along,
gasping, sweating, straining.

The incline grew steeper, his frozen mittens slipped, the guide-rope
tore from his grasp, and he pitched heavily backward into the soft
smother.

He struggled helplessly. Something seemed pressing him down, down--at
last he was _home_. He had won out against the terrible odds, and the
boy was safe.

He had brought him back to her, and now he must sleep. How warm and
comfortable it was in the bunk. He did not know a man could be so
sleepy.

What was it the girl was singing as he passed her window only a few
nights ago--when he paused in the darkness of the clearing to listen?

Dreamily the words floated through his brain:

    "And the women are weeping and wringing their hands
    For those who will never come back to the town."

But he had come back. He smiled vaguely; they needn't wring their hands
and weep--and the rest of it:

    "For men must work, and women must weep,
    And the sooner it's over the sooner to sleep,
    And good-by to the bar and its moaning."

Sleep! That's what he needed--sleep. He could sleep forever and ever,
here in his warm, warm bunk. And the moaning of the bar--he liked that;
he could hear it moaning now--roaring and moaning.

Bill Carmody closed his eyes. The fine, sifting snow came and covered
his body and the smaller body of the boy who was lashed firmly to his
broad back--and all about him the blizzard howled and roared and
moaned.

And it was night!



CHAPTER XLIII

IN CAMP AGAIN


The violence of the storm precluded the use of horses about the camp,
and the trail that slanted from the clearing to the water-hole was soon
drifted high with snow, rendering useless the heavy tank-sled. Fallon,
who had been placed in temporary charge of the camp, told the men into
water-shifts; barrels were lashed to strong sleds and man-hauled to the
top of the bank, where the guide-rope had been run to the water-hole.

The men of the shift formed a long line reaching from the sled to the
river, and the water dipped from the hole cut in the ice was passed
from man to man in buckets to be dumped into the barrels and
distributed between the stables, cook-shack, bunk-house, and "house."

Darkness had fallen when the men of the afternoon shift wallowed toward
the river upon the last trip of the second day of the great blizzard.
The roar of the wind as it hurled the frozen particles against their
cold-benumbed faces drowned their muttered curses as, thirty strong,
they pushed and hauled the cumbersome sled to the top of the bank.
Seizing the buckets, they strung out, making their way down the steep
slope with one hand on the guide-rope.

Suddenly the foremost man stumbled and fell. He scrambled profanely to
his knees and began feeling about in the thick darkness for his bucket.
His mittened hand came into contact with the object which, protruding
from the snow, had tripped him, and with a vicious wrench he endeavored
to remove it from the trail. It yielded a little, but remained firmly
imbedded.

With a wild yell he forgot his bucket and began digging and clawing in
the snow, for the object he grasped was the bent ash edge of a
snowshoe, and firmly lashed in the center of the webbing was the
moccasined foot of a man.

Other men came, floundering and sprawling over each other in the
darkness, and the word was bellowed from lips to listening ear that a
man lay buried beneath the drift.

"Dig! Ye tarriers!" roared Fallon as his heavy mittens gouged into the
snow. "Dig! Ut's th' boss!" he yelled into the ear of the nearest man.
"Oi know thim rackets!"

And from lip to bearded lip the word passed, and the big men of the
logs redoubled their efforts; but the fine snow had packed hard around
the prostrate form, and it was many minutes before they had uncovered
him sufficiently to note the smaller body lashed tightly upon his back.
The frozen lash was soon severed and the two exanimate bodies lifted in
eager hands.

Buckets were left to snow under as the men crowded up the bank, howling
into each other's ears. Big Stromberg, who bore the boss in his arms,
was propelled up the steep slope by the men who crowded about him,
pushing, pulling, hauling--the ground-gaining, revolving wedge of the
old days of mass formation in football.

"To th' office wid um!" roared Fallon in Stromberg's ear as they milled
across the clearing. "Th' b'ys'll crowd th' bunk-house till they
hindher more thin hilp!"

The boy responded quickly to vigorous treatment and stimulants and was
removed to his own bunk and placed under the able care of his Aunt
Margaret and Mrs. Sheridan.

In the office Ethel Manton, white-faced and silent, watched
breathlessly the efforts of Appleton and Blood River Jack to revive the
exhausted and half-frozen foreman. The lumber magnate unscrewed the
silver cap from a morocco-covered flask and poured out a generous dose
of liquor; but before it reached the unconscious man's lips the
half-breed stayed his hand.

"M's'u' Bill drinks no whisky," he said. "Even in the time of his great
sickness would he drink no whisky; and if you give him whisky he will
be very angry."

Appleton paused and glanced curiously from the face of the half-breed
to the still form upon the bunk, and the other continued:

"It is strange--I do not know--but he told it to Jeanne one day--that,
in the great city of the white man is a girl he loves. He used to drink
much whisky, and for that reason she sent him from her--and now he
drinks no whisky--even though this girl has married another."

Ethel stared at the speaker, wide-eyed, and the pallor of her face
increased.

"Married another!" she gasped.

Jacques regarded her gravely. "I know nothing except it was told me by
Jeanne," he returned--"how he talked in the voice of the fever-spirit,
that this girl would marry another. In the paper he read it--but even
so, will he drink no whisky. One week ago did he not hear how one night
in the bunk-house Leduc tried to make the little boy drink whisky? And
did he not hunt up Leduc the next morning, and, upon the skidway, smash
the nose of him and knock four teeth from his jaw?"

The guide paused, and Appleton slowly screwed the silver top to his
flask and returned it to his pocket.

"Upon the stove is a pot of very strong coffee which Daddy Dunnigan
told me to bring," Jacques went on; "and he is even now making broth in
the cook-shack. M's'u' Bill cannot die. The strong coffee and the good
broth will bring him back to life; for he is called in the woods
The-Man-Who-Cannot-Die.

"If he could die he would die in the blizzard. For, since blizzards
were known, has no man done a thing like this--to search for two days
and a night for one boy lost in the snow, and carry him home in
safety."

The half-breed finished, and the girl, with a low cry, sank into a
chair and, leaning forward upon the desk, buried her face in her arms
while her shoulders shook with the violence of her sobbing.

Appleton crossed to her side and laid a hand gently upon her shoulder.

"Come, Ethel," he said; "this has been too much for you. Let me take
you to the house."

But the girl shook her head. She raised her eyes, wet with tears, and
with an effort controlled her voice.

"My place is here--with _him_," she said softly as she arose, and,
walking to the side of the cot, looked down at the set face of the
unconscious man. "Leave me alone now. There is nothing you can do. I
will stay with him while you sleep. Draw your cot close to the wall,
and if I need you I will knock. Jacques will go to the cook-shack," she
added, turning to the half-breed, "and when the broth is ready bring it
to me."

The men obeyed without question, and as the office door closed behind
them the girl dropped to her knees beside the bunk and, throwing her
arms about the man's neck, pressed her soft cheek close against his
bearded face.

The little tin lamp in its bracket beside the row of books on the top
of the desk was turned low and its yellow light illuminated dimly the
interior of the rough room. She slipped into an easier position and,
seated upon the floor at the edge of the low bunk, drew his head close
against her breast. At the touch--the feel of this strong man lying
helpless in her arms--the long-pent yearning of her soul burst the
studied bonds of its restraint and through her whole body swept the
torrent of a mighty love.

Resistlessly it engulfed every nerve and fiber of her--wave upon wave
of wild, primitive passion surged through her veins until her heart
seemed bursting with the sweet, intense pain of it. Fiercely, in the
hot, quick flame of passion, she strained him to her breast and her
lips sought his in an abandon of feverish kisses.

And in that moment she knew that, in all the world of men, this man was
_her_ man. Always he had dominated her life--always she had known this
great love, had fought against it, and feared it--and always she had
held it in check.

But now, alone in the night, with the man lying helpless in her arms,
this mighty passion welled to the bursting of restraint.

Her heart, subservient no longer to the will of her brain nor to creeds
nor the tenets of convention, had this night come into its own, and she
loved with the hot, savage mate-love of her pristine forebears.

The man's lips moved feebly upon hers and the closed eyelids fluttered.
The girl sprang to the stove and returned a second later bearing a
thick porcelain cup steaming with strong, black coffee.

She raised his head upon her arm and, holding the cup, let part of its
contents trickle between his lips. He strangled weakly and swallowed.

Again she tilted the cup and again he swallowed. "My darling! My
darling!" she sobbed as the fluttering eyelids half opened and the lips
moved, and then leaned close to catch their faintest murmur.

"Jeanne," he whispered, "Jeanne, little girl----" and then the lips
ceased to move, he shuddered slightly through the length of him, his
eyes closed, and he slept.

The thick cup thudded heavily upon the floor and its contents splashed
unheeded over her gown, as the girl sat motionless, staring past the
bunk at the blank wall of logs.

The little nickel-plated alarm-clock ticked loudly in sharp, insistent
threes, as she sat, white of face, with set lips and unwinking eyes
staring stonily at the parallel logs of the wall.

Centuries of supercultivation and the refinement of breeding were
concentrated in that white-lipped, cold-eyed stare, which is the
heart-mask of the _recherché_ woman of empire. And then--the mask
dropped.

The inevitable artificiality of years of unconscious eugenic selection
melted in a breath before the fierce onrush of savage emotion. The girl
sprang to her feet as the hot blood surged to her face and paced
frantically back and forth in a fume of primordial hate. Her small
fists clenched till pink nails bit deep into soft, pink palms. Her
nostrils dilated, quivering; her eyes flashed, and the breath hissed
through her lips in deep sobs of impotent rage against the woman who
had robbed her of this man's love and whose name was upon his lips in
the first moment of his awakening.

She paused and gazed into the face of the man who was the hero of her
fondest dreams--the man who had overcome obstacles, who defied danger
and death, and had won, with his two hands and the great force of his
personality, the respect and devotion of the big men of the rough
country.

And he was hers--never had he been aught else but hers--and she had
lost him! Wildly she resumed her restless pacing, while the words of
the half-breed rang in her ears: "She is beautiful, and she loves him."

She halted abruptly, and in her eye flashed a momentary ray of hope;
the man had said, not "He loves her," but, "She loves him." Could it
be--but, no, there were his own words, spoken at the time of their
first meeting in the gloom of this very room: "I forgot that I have not
the right--that there is another."

And was it not _her_ name that sprang to his lips in the
half-consciousness of a few moments ago? In her mind she pictured the
wild, dark beauty of the other girl, and in the jealous fury of her
heart could have torn her in pieces with her two hands.

"M's'u' Bill drinks no whisky"--the dream of her life had been
realized, but in the realization she had been beaten--all her hopes and
prayers, the long, bitter hours of her soul-anguish, which burned and
gnawed beneath the stoicism and apathy her environment demanded, had
gone for naught, and she, who had borne the brunt of the long battle,
was brushed aside and forgotten.

The spoils belonged to another--and that other, an _Indian_!



CHAPTER XLIV

THE MISSING BONDS


The walls of the room seemed the restraining bars of a prison, shutting
her apart from life and the right to love. She lifted the latch and
flung open the door, standing upon the threshold amid the seething
inrush of the storm.

The fine snow felt good against her throbbing temples, and she stared
into the blackness whose whirling chaos voiced the violence of the
heart-storm that raged within her breast. _He_ had conquered the storm!

She shivered as an icy blast sent the snow-powder flying half across
the room, closed the door, and resumed her tireless journey to and fro,
to and fro, and at each turn she glanced at the sleeping man.

She dropped to her knees beside the bunk and looked long into his
rugged face. He, too, had suffered. She remembered the deep hurt in his
eyes at their parting. Yet he was not beaten.

She had sent him from her, heartsick and alone into the great world,
and he had fought and conquered and earned a place among men.

And as the girl looked, her eyes grew tender and the pain in her heart
seemed more than she could bear. When she rose to her feet the savage
hatred was gone from her heart, and in its place was determination--the
determination to win back the love of this man.

She, too, would fight, even as he had fought--and win. He had not been
discouraged and beaten. She remembered the look upon his face as he
strode toward her that morning on the skidway in search of Leduc.

Unconsciously her tiny fists doubled, her delicate white jaw squared,
and her eyes narrowed to slits, even as his had narrowed--but her lips
did not smile.

He was _her_ man! She could give him more than this half-breed girl
could give him, and she would fight to win back her own--that which had
been her own from the first.

Almost at her feet upon the floor, just under the edge of the bunk
where it had been carelessly tossed, lay his mackinaw of coarse,
striped cloth. The girl stooped, drew it forth, and smoothed it out.

"His coat," she breathed almost reverently as she patted its rough
folds. "He took it off and wrapped it around Charlie. Oh, it must have
been terrible--_terrible_!"

She was about to hang it upon its peg when something fell to the floor
with a sharp slap--a long, heavy envelope that had dropped from a
ragged tear in the lining where the men had ripped it from the body of
the boy.

She hung the garment upon its peg and stooped to recover the packet.
The envelope was old, and had evidently been exposed to the action of
water, for the flap gaped open and the edges were worn through at the
ends. Upon one side was tightly bound a photograph, dim and indistinct
from the rub of the coarse cloth.

Her lips tightened at the corners as she stepped to the desk and turned
up the lamp. She would see what manner of girl it was who had scored so
heavily against her in this battle of hearts. She held the picture
close to the yellow flame and stared unbelievingly at the nearly
effaced features.

With a swift movement she tore the encircling cord from the packet and
examined it more closely. Her heart beat wildly, and the blood surged
through her veins in great, joyous waves. For the photograph showed,
not the dark features of the Indian girl, but--_her own_!

Worn almost beyond recognition it was, with corners peeled and rolled
back from the warped and water-thickened mounting--but unmistakably
_her picture_.

"He cares! He does care!" she repeated over and over. "Oh, my boy! My
boy!" And then her eyes fell upon the thick envelope with its worn
edges and open flap which lay unheeded upon the desk-top.

Mechanically she reached for it, and her hand came in contact with its
thick, heavily engraved contents. She raised the papers to the light
and stared; there were five in all, neatly folded, lying one upon
another.

The green background of the topmost one was faded and streaked, and a
thin, green wash had trickled over the edges of the others, staining
them.

A yellow slip of paper fluttered to the desk. She picked it up and read
the almost illegible, typewritten lines. It was a memorandum addressed
to Strang, Liebhardt & Co., and bearing the faded signature of Hiram
Carmody.

A sudden numbness overcame the girl. She sank slowly into the chair in
front of the desk and stared dully from the yellowed slip of paper to
the faded green bonds.

The room seemed suddenly cold, and she stared, unseeing, at her
bloodless finger-tips. She tried to think--to concentrate her mind upon
the present--but her brain refused to act, and she muttered helplessly:

"The bonds--the bonds--he took the bonds!"

Like one in a dream, she arose and replenished the fire in the little
air-tight. It had burned almost to ashes.

She watched the yellow flames lick hungrily at the bubbling pitch of
the knot she had thrown upon the coals, and glanced from the flaring
flames to the little pile of green papers--and back again at the little
flames that climbed higher about the resinous chunk.

"Why not?" she muttered. "They can never prove he took them, and he
would think that they were lost." For a long time she sat, thinking,
and then she closed the stove and returned to the desk.

"I stood by him when his father accused him," she murmured, "when I
thought he was innocent. And now--oh, I can't! I can't give him up!"
Her voice quavered pitifully, and she clutched at the hurt in her
throat.

"I can't!" she gasped again. "He needs me now. He is mine! _Mine!_" she
cried fiercely. "We will work it out together. He was weak then--but
now he is strong. I will tell him that I know, and persuade him to
return them. And then he will be clean--brave and strong and _clean_!"

She started nervously at the sound of a fumbling at the latch. Hastily
catching up the bonds, she thrust them into the bosom of her gown and
turned to face Blood River Jack, who entered, bearing a steaming pail
of broth and a larger pail covered with a clean white cloth.

Behind him Daddy Dunnigan noisily stamped the snow from his feet. The
old man hobbled to the side of the bunk and looked intently into the
face of the sleeper, and, stooping, held his ear close to the man's
heart.

With a satisfied nod he turned to the girl, who stood close by his
side.

"He's shlaypin' foine," he said, and the little red-rimmed eyes looked
straight into the eyes of blue. "But, miss, hear-rt-hunger has kilt
more good min thin belly-hunger--ye'll foind th' _broth_ in yon
buckut."

He joined the half-breed, who waited in silence. At the door he turned
and again addressed the girl.

"In th' big buckut's ye're oun snack. Ate ut befoor ut gits cowld.
Phwin ye're done, wake um up an' make um dhrink some coffee an' all he
c'n howld av th' broth. He's th' bist man in th' woods, an' ut's up to
you to pull um t'rough."

Before the girl could reply the door closed and the two men were
swallowed up in the storm.

Ethel was surprised to find that she was hungry, and the appetizing
luncheon which old Daddy Dunnigan had carefully prepared and packed for
her was soon disposed of.

The hands of the little alarm-clock pointed to two as she crossed and
knelt at the side of the sleeping man. She leaned over and kissed his
forehead--his lips--and whispered softly into his ear.

"Bill--Bill, _dear_."

She blushed at the sound of the word, and glanced hurriedly about the
room, but there was no one to hear, and the man slept on undisturbed by
the tiny whisper. She laid a hand upon his shoulder and shook him
gently.

"Bill--wake up!" He stirred slightly, and a sigh escaped him.

"Come, wake up, dear, you must eat."

This time she did not blush at the word, and the shaking became more
vigorous. Carmody moved uneasily, grunted, and opened his eyes. Ethel
started at the steady gaze of the grey eyes so close to her own. The
grey eyes closed and he passed a hand slowly across them.

"A dream," he muttered, and the girl leaned closer.

"No, Bill," she whispered, "it is not a dream. I am here--Ethel--don't
you know me?"

"Ethel," he repeated, and the name seemed to linger on his lips. "We
must get back to her, kid, she is worrying--come--mush, kid--mush!" The
girl laid a soft hand on his forehead and smoothed back the tangled
hair.

"Bill, dear," she whispered, with her lips close to his, "Charlie is
safe. And you are safe, here in the office--with me."

Bill seemed suddenly to grasp the situation.

"Ethel!" he exclaimed. And then, in a dull, tired voice, "I--I brought
him back to you." His eyes closed, and he turned his face toward the
wall.

Ethel poured a cup of coffee from the pot on the stove, and returning,
seated herself upon the edge of the bunk. Deftly her arm slipped under
his head, and she held the cup to his lips. Bill drank greedily to the
last drop, and the girl filled another cup with broth.

This time he helped a little, and she raised him higher and pillowed
his head against her breast. He sipped the broth hungrily, but very
slowly, pausing a long time between sips.

Ethel's body thrilled at the touch of him, the little hand that held
the cup trembled, and the man, close-pressed against her soft breast,
heard the wild pounding of her heart.

Suddenly he looked up into her eyes. Her face flushed crimson, and the
swift down-sweep of the long lashes hid the soft, blue eyes from the
intense, burning gaze of the hard grey ones. In confusion she averted
her face.

There was a swift movement beside her, and the next instant strong arms
were about her, and she heard, as from afar, the heavy thud as the
porcelain cup struck the floor.

Vainly she struggled in a sudden frenzy of panic to free herself from
the embrace of the encircling arms, and her heart was filled with a
great, passionate gladness at the futility of her tiny efforts as she
felt herself drawn closer and ever closer against the mighty chest of
the big man whom, in spite of herself, and of his own shortcomings and
weaknesses, she loved with the savage abandon that is the wonder-love
of woman. She knew, too, that the deep music in her ears was the sound
of his voice which came in short, stabbing, half-sentences.

"Ethel! Ethel! Little girl--you are mine, mine, _mine_! You _do_ love
me! Darling, better than life itself, I love you. I have always loved
you! Tell me, dear, it was all a lie--about St. Ledger. Tell me you
love me, dearest!"

The bearded lips found hers, and for answer, her struggles ceased, her
body relaxed against his body, her soft arms stole timidly about his
neck, and there was a wild singing in her heart.

"And there has never been another?" she whispered a few minutes later
as she sat close beside him and watched him sip hot broth from the
thick cup. The grey eyes twinkled.

"Don't you _know_, sweetheart, that there has never been another? Why,
you have known me all my life!" But the blue eyes were serious.

"I mean, since--since you went away?" For answer the man raised his arm
and pointed toward the opposite wall.

"Hand me that mackinaw," he said. Ethel gasped and stared at him wide
eyed. "The _mackinaw_--that old striped coat next to the slicker," he
smiled.

"But----" she stifled the protest, and the man wondered at the sudden
pallor of her face.

"Hand it here," he repeated, "there is something I want to show you."

Without a word the girl crossed the room and, removing the mackinaw
from its peg, laid it upon the blanket within reach of his hand. He
drew it to him, and the girl watched in silence while he ran his
fingers over the lining.

He plunged his arm to the elbow into the ragged hole and explored to
the very corners the space between the lining and the cloth. With a
blank expression of disappointment he looked up at her.

"They are gone," he said in a low voice. "My letters and my picture.
_Your_ letters, dear--and _your_ picture----"

"Letters!" the girl gasped, leaning forward and staring into his eyes.

"Why, yes, darling. There were only a few. You wrote them when I was in
Europe. They were all I had--those few little letters, and the
photograph. You remember--the one you gave me----"

"But--I don't understand----"

"I always kept it on my desk at home," he continued, ignoring the
interruption. "And your letters, too--all sealed in a big envelope. And
the morning I went away I bound the picture to the envelope and put it
in my pocket, and I have always kept it with me.

"A thousand times, dear, I have looked at the picture. It has been my
fetish--the little amulet that keeps a man from harm. And whether or
not it has succeeded, dear heart, you must judge for yourself."

"But, the letters--you never took them out--never read them?" The man
was surprised at the intense eagerness of her tone.

"No," he answered, "I never read them. You see, it got to be a sort of
game with me. It was a big game that I played against myself, and when
I was sure I had won I was going to open the letters."

He paused and looked into the girl's eyes. "And then, one day I
happened to read in an old newspaper the account of your engagement to
St. Ledger. I almost lost the game, then--but I didn't. And--after
that--the letters never were the same, and I--I just played the game to
_win_."

There were tears in the girl's eyes, and she clutched at his hand.

"But the bonds?" she cried. The man regarded her with a puzzled look.

"Bonds--bonds--what bonds?"

"Why, the bonds you were to have delivered to Strang, Liebhardt & Co.
Securities, or something."

Bill stared uncomprehendingly, then suddenly he laughed.

"Oh! Those! Why, I handed them over to father. You see, Dad handed it
to me pretty straight that morning. In fact, he--er--fired me. So I
gave him the bonds and----"

The sentence was never finished. With a glad cry the girl flung herself
upon him, and to his unutterable wonder sobbed and sobbed.



CHAPTER XLV

SNOW-BOUND


Late in the following afternoon Ethel awoke and lay for a long time
revelling in her new-found happiness, and thinking of the big man who
had come once more into her life, this time bringing her only gladness
and the joy of an infinite love.

Her heart glowed with pride as she thought of the strength and the fine
courage of him, and she flushed as she wondered how, even with the
bonds in her hands, she could have doubted his innocence. Ah, well, she
would never doubt him again.

She smiled fondly, but the smile slowly faded, for in her mind at that
moment was a doubt--a vague, elusive doubt, that rested upon the
slender fabric of a half-breed's fireside tale.

Somewhere in the wild country was another girl--a girl who was
beautiful and who loved this man--_her_ man.

In the small hours of the morning as they talked he had not mentioned
this girl, and Ethel forbore to question him, hoping that he would tell
her of his own accord. But whether or not he purposely avoided the
subject she did not know.

She believed in him--believed in his great love for her, in his
absolute honesty and the new-found strength in him. Yet, hovering like
a specter, intangible, elusive, menacing--the one disturbing element in
her otherwise perfect happiness--was the other girl.

Who was she? What was she? What had she been to him? What had been
their relations? And why had she accompanied him on his journey out of
the woods? The phantom girl took on a sinister form as the question
tantalized her brain.

This wild woman had helped to draw him from the river, had nursed him
through a long sickness. He was under obligations to her, and--was that
the _only obligation_?

The girl flushed hotly, and with an impatient movement flung the
blankets from her, and proceeded to dress.

"I will never, never ask him," she decided, as she sat upon the thick
bearskin in front of the stove and drew on her stockings. "He loves me
and I love him.

"If he tells me it will be of his own free will; he shall not know that
I ever heard of this girl. What is past, is past. There are sealed
chapters in the lives of most men--why should I care?

"He is mine--mine!" she cried aloud, "and I love him!"

But deep down in her heart she knew that she did care--and that she
would always care. And the knowledge hurt.

Her toilet completed, the girl passed into the other room, where
Appleton and Sheridan were engaged in a lively discussion with the
ladies.

"How is he?" She addressed her uncle, who answered with twinkling eyes.

"Bill? Oh, he's all right. Feeling fit as a fiddle. Wanted to get out
on the job, but I wouldn't let him. He was going anyhow, and the only
way I could make him stay in was to threaten to wake you up to give him
his orders straight from headquarters."

Ethel blushed furiously as the smiles of the others were directed
toward her. "Yup, he wouldn't stand for that," went on Appleton. "Said
he'd rather lie in bed for a week than have you puttering around."

With a disdainful toss of her head the girl seated herself at the
table.

"Now, Hubert Appleton, you stop teasing that poor girl!" Aunt Margaret
rallied in her defence. "Don't pay any attention to him, honey. Bill is
doing nicely, and we're all crazy to congratulate you. We think he is
just _grand_!"

Dinner had been kept piping hot, and Ethel hid her confusion behind an
appetizing array of steaming dishes.

"And what do you think?" continued her aunt, who hovered about the
table with fussy little pats and arrangement of dishes, "we have to
stay here all winter!"

"What?" cried the girl in dismay.

"That is just what we both said--Mary and I. But there is no help for
it. The tote-road is drifted twenty feet deep. Hubert and Mr. Sheridan
are going to make the trip on snowshoes; they must get back to
business. The supplies will have to be brought in on dog-sleds, and we
have got to stay."

"I'll bet Ethel could think of a worse predicament," grinned Appleton.
"She'll be a regular sourdough before spring; won't want to come out."

"But I have nothing to wear!"

"Nothing to wear!" scoffed her uncle. "Tell me, please, what in time
you women have got packed in those half a dozen trunks, then? It's not
grub. I'll bet there's clothes enough in those trunks to last three
women fourteen years! Still, if you really get cold, you might ask Bill
to lend you a pair of his----"

"Hubert Appleton!" The lumberman glanced at his wife in surprise. "A
pair of his moccasins--they'll keep your toes warm."

The girl finished her belated dinner, and throwing a coat over her
shoulders stepped out into the clear, crisp air. Immediately in front
of the building the wind had swept the ground almost bare of snow, but
Ethel gasped with surprise as her eyes sought the other buildings of
the camp.

The blacksmith's shop was entirely buried under a huge drift; only one
half of the cook-shack roof was visible, and the bunk-house was buried
to the eaves. A twenty-foot drift cut off the view of the stables, and
the whole crew was busy digging paths and breaking out skidways.

The storm had ceased as suddenly as it had come, and the sun shone with
dazzling whiteness upon the mystic, snow-buried world.

In the office she found Bill fully dressed, propped against his
pillows, a villainous black pipe between his lips, reading. He laid
aside his book and pipe and stretched his arms toward her.

She crossed, blushing, to his side, and for a long time sat with her
head resting upon his shoulder, while his great arms held her close
against his beating heart.

And under the spell of his presence and his gently murmured words of
love, the disquieting fear vanished, and she knew that he was all hers.
And she laughed at her fear, and drove it from her in the foolish
belief that it could never return.

"Dear," she said later when their conversation assumed an intelligible
form, "you must send those bonds back by Uncle Appleton. Just
think--your father thinks you _stole_ them!"

The man smiled:

"Yes, poor old dad. It must be kind of rough on him to think his son is
a thief. He was sore that morning, and so was I, and we didn't part the
best of friends. But I would rather return the bonds myself. Darling,
we will take them to him, you and I, next summer, when we go back to
the old town."

"Go back!" exclaimed the girl.

"Sure. When we go back on our honeymoon. Now that I have you I am
never, never going to let you go, and when next you see the big burg,
you will be Mrs. Bill Carmody."

He kissed the serious blue eyes that looked up into his.

"But, dear, we are coming back here?"

"Back here!" he exclaimed in surprise. "You! Back here! In the woods!"

The girl nodded.

"I love the woods; I will always love them. It was in the woods that
you found _yourself_ and your place among men. And it was in the woods
that I found you--the _real_ you--the _you_ I have always loved!"

"But, dear heart, it is a rough life up here. It is new to you now, and
you are enchanted; but there is so much you would miss. I have to come
back, of course--will have to for several years to come. We could have
a house in Minneapolis, and Charlie could go to school."

"What! And only have you for five or six months in the year? No, _sir_!
Charlie could live with Uncle and Aunt Margaret and go to school, but
you and I are coming into the woods.

"Aunt Margaret lived in camps for years when she was first married, and
they were as poor as church mice. She told me all about it. Of course,
there is hard work; but it is all so big, and grand, and free, and
there is lots of fun, too, and you will have to teach me to shoot and
walk on snowshoes and fish through holes cut in the ice.

"I can cook and sew, and we will have a victrola, and lots of books and
things--anyway, that is the way it is going to be, so there is no use
arguing about it." And the boss smiled as he realized what Appleton
meant when he said: "Orders straight from headquarters."

The two lumbermen took their departure the following morning amid the
hearty farewells of the snow-bound camp. They were accompanied by Blood
River Jack, who reluctantly agreed to see the dog-team tote service
established before returning to his lodge at the foot of the rapid.

"We'll come up for you in the spring," called Appleton, "and we'll
follow the drive in a bateau. You got a bigger taste of the old life
than you bargained for, little girl," he smiled at his wife; "but the
tote-road is ruined for this winter and you'll have to make the best of
it."

"H. D. and I will sure think of you girls while we're sitting in the
baldheaded pews at the Gaiety this winter gloating over the grand opera
we're missing!" called Sheridan, rolling his cigar juicily between his
grinning lips.

"Men of your age----" began Mrs. Sheridan.

"Hubert Appleton! If I hear----" But the protests of the "girls" fell
upon deaf ears as the men disappeared in the wake of the guide,
slapping each other upon the back in high glee.

The question of grand opera was a joke of long standing between them,
and up to the present had been on the husbands, who, despite their
protests, had manfully endured their annual week of martyrdom.

"Cheer up, ladies," smiled Bill, "the graphophone is a very good one,
and in the office is a whole box of records of my own selection. If we
are snow-bound we will not have to entirely forego even grand opera."



CHAPTER XLVI

AN ANNOUNCEMENT


Despite the handicap of the deep snow, results in the new camp were
highly satisfactory to Bill Carmody.

Not a man in the crew but swore by the boss, and each day threw himself
into the work with a will that made for success. And each night, as he
rolled into his bunk, not a man but knew that the boss himself had that
day worked harder than he.

"Niver wuz such a crew in th' woods, miss," boasted Daddy Dunnigan one
afternoon as Ethel stood in the door of the cook-shack and watched the
old man's preparation of the gigantic supper.

"Oi've logged a bit, here an' there, an' always Oi've be'n where min
wuz--but niver Oi've seed 'em buckle down an' tear out th' bone, wan
day wid another, save in th' so'gerin' days av Captain Fronte McKim.

"Th' same wuz th' boss's uncle, an' he's a McKim fr' th' sole av his
feet to th' peak av his head, barrin' th' licker, an' th' min'll go
t'rough hell an' hoigh wather fer um, beggin' ye're pardon--an' he
ain't no dommed angel, nayther, beggin' ut ag'in, miss.

"Ye sh'd see th' hand av poker he plays, an' th' beautiful swearin' av
um, phwin things goes wrong! An' ye sh'd see um foight wanst! An' now
he's gone an' poshted a foive per cint bonus av they bate Moncrossen's
cut, an' uts loike handin' ut to 'em, 'cause he knows th' b'ys is
already doin' their dommedest, beggin' ye're pardon, miss.

"Oi'll bet me winther's wages, come shpr-ring, we'll have Moncrossen
shnowed undher dayper thin' yon smithy, an' they had to tunnel to foind
ut."

The girl laughed happily and passed on with a great love in her heart
for Daddy Dunnigan and the big, rough men out in the timber who were
"tearing out the bone" that _her_ man might make good.

Day by day the black pyramids of the rollways lengthened, and the
skidways were pushed farther and farther into the timber. And, of all
the men in the crew, none worked harder nor to better purpose than
Stromberg, the big hulking Swede, whom Fallon had warned Bill was the
brains of Moncrossen's bird's-eye gang.

Neither Bill nor the big swamper had ever alluded to that affair in the
bunk-house upon the night of their first meeting, and it was with a
feeling of surprise that the foreman looked up one evening as he sat
alone in the little office to see Stromberg enter and cross to his
side.

The man lost no time in coming to the point.

"Bill," he began, "I went up with Buck Moncrossen this summer to bring
down the bird's-eye. We found a pile of ashes where the logs should
have been. Moncrossen thinks Creed burned them--or let someone do it.

"It was a crooked game, and I was in it as deep as any one. I ain't
trying to beg off--but, I'd rather be square than crooked--and that's
the truth. I ain't spent most of my life in the woods not to be able to
tell hardwood ashes from soft-wood, and I know you slipped one over on
us.

"You're going to make good in the woods. You'll be the big boss, some
day. I expect to do time for my part in the bird's-eye game, and I'll
take all that's coming to me. And I won't snitch on the rest to get a
lighter sentence, either.

"I know Appleton, and I know we'll get ours in the spring, but what I
want to know is: when I get out, can I come to you for a job?"

Bill rose from his chair and thrust a big hand toward the other.

"Stromberg," he said, "you are no more a crook than I am. You threw in
with a bad bunch--that's all. Suppose we just forget the bird's-eye
business. You and Fallon are the two best men I've got.

"We are going to beat Moncrossen this year, and every man in the crew
has got to help do it--and next winter--well, Mr. Appleton will have an
eye peeled for a man to take Moncrossen's job--see?"

The two big men shook hands, and as he made his way to the bunk-house,
Stromberg wondered at the peculiar smile on the boss's lips as he said:

"There are a hell of a lot of good men wasted because of a bad start.
So-long."

The weeks slipped rapidly by. The weather settled, keen and cold, with
the crew keyed to the highest pitch of efficiency.

"Beat Buck Moncrossen!" became the slogan of the camp, and with the
lengthening days it became apparent that a record cut was being banked
on the rollways.

It was a wonderful winter for Ethel Manton. The spirit of the big
country entered her blood. More and more she loved the woods, and
learned to respect and admire the rough loyalty of the big men of the
logs.

She had come to call most of them by name, as with a smile and a nod,
or a wave of the hand, she passed them in the timber on her daily
excursions in search of rabbits and ptarmigan. And not a man in the
crew but would gladly have fought to the last breath for "the boss's
girl."

And now the feel of spring was in the air. Each day the sun climbed
higher and higher, and the wind lost its sting. The surface of the snow
softened by day, and high-piled white drifts settled slowly into soggy
masses of saturated, gray slush.

Bill figured that he had nearly fifteen million feet down when he
called off his sawyers and ordered the clean-up. The nights remained
cold, freezing the surface of the sodden snow into a crust of excellent
footing, so that the day's work began at midnight and continued until
the crust softened under the rays of the morning sun.

The men laughed and sang and talked of the drive, and of the waterfront
dives of cities, whose calk-pocked floors spoke the shame of the men of
the logs.

But most of all they talked of the wedding. For as they sat at the
supper-table on the day the last tree fell, the boss entered,
accompanied by the girl.

In a few brief words he told them that he was proud of every man jack
of them; that they were the best crew that ever came into the woods,
and that they had more than earned the bonus.

He told them that he realized he was a greener, and thanked them for
their loyalty and coöperation, without which his first season as camp
foreman must have been doomed to failure.

Cheer after cheer interrupted his words, and when he took Ethel by the
hand and announced that they were soon to be married in that very room
and invited all hands to the wedding, their cheers drowned his voice
completely.

But when the girl tried to speak to them, choked in confusion, and with
her eyes brimming with tears, extended both hands and gasped: "Oh, I--I
love you all!" the wild storm of applause threatened to tear the roof
from the log walls.

It was Ethel's idea that they should be married in the woods. Her love
for the wild country grew deeper with the passing days. She loved it
all--the silent snow-bound forest, the virile life of the big camp with
its moments of tense excitement, the mighty crash with which tall trees
tore through the branches of lesser trees to measure their length on
the scarred snow, the thrill of hunting wild things, and the long
evenings when the rich tones of the graphophone fell upon her ears amid
rough surroundings, like a voice from the past.

But most of all she loved the long walks in the forest, in the deep
gloom of moonlit nights with the weird, mysterious shadows all about
them as the big man at her side told her of his great love while they
planned and dreamed of the future; and then returned to the little
office where she listened while he read aloud, pausing now and then to
light his black pipe and blow clouds of blue smoke toward the low
ceiling.

He had grown very close to her, and very dear, this big, impetuous boy,
who had suddenly become a masterful man, and in whom she found each day
some new depth of feeling--some entirely unsuspected and unexplored
nook of his character.

Her doubts and fears had long since been thrust aside, and even the
existence of the Indian girl had been forgotten. And so it was that
when Ethel told Bill one evening she wished their wedding to take place
in the camp, amid the scenes of their future hardships and happiness,
he acquiesced gladly, and to the laughing outrage of her dignity picked
her up in his two hands and tossed her high in the air as he would have
tossed a baby.

And now the time of the wedding was very near. The clean-up was
finished, and day by day they awaited the coming of Appleton and
Sheridan, and of Father Lapre, of the Rice Lake Mission.

The men of the crew set about to make the event one long to be
remembered in the Northland. Flowers were unobtainable, but a frame in
the form of a giant horseshoe was constructed and covered over with
pine-cones.

A raid was made upon the oat-bin, and the oats sifted between the
scales of the cones and moistened. The structure was placed near the
stove in the bunk-house, and when the tiny, green shoots began to
appear, woe to him who procrastinated in the closing of the door or
neglected to tend fire when it was his turn!

The walls of the grub-shack were completely hidden behind
pine-branches, and festoons of brilliant red _bakneesh_ encircled the
room and depended from the chains of the big, swinging lamps.

In the bunk-house the men busied themselves in the polishing of
buck-horns for the fashioning of a wonderful chair in whose make-up
would be found neither nails nor glue, its parts being bound together
by means of sinews and untanned buckskin thongs.

The bateaux were set up and waiting at the head of the rollways. The
snow of the forest slumped lower and lower, and innumerable icy rills
found their way to the river over the surface of whose darkened,
honeycombed ice flowed a shallow, slushy stream.

Father Lapre arrived one morning, pink, smiling, and wet to the middle,
having blundered onto thin ice in the darkness. The following morning
Sheridan and Appleton appeared with mysteriously bulging packs, and
weary from their three nights' battle with the slippery, ice-crusted
tote-road.



CHAPTER XLVII

MONCROSSEN PAYS A VISIT


In the filthy office of the camp on the Lower Blood River, Buck
Moncrossen sat at his desk and glowered over his report sheets. The
ill-trimmed lamp smoked luridly, and the light that filtered through
its blackened chimney illumined dimly the interior of the little room.

The man pawed over his papers with bearlike clumsiness, pausing now and
then to wet a begrimed thumb and to curse his luck, his crew, his
employer, and any and everything that had to do with logs and logging.

It had been a bad season for Buck Moncrossen. The spring break-up was
at hand, and the best he could figure was a scant nine million feet,
where Appleton had expected the heavy end of a twenty-five-million-foot
cut.

Many of his best men had gone to the new camp to work, as they
supposed, under Fallon. The previous winter's bird's-eye cut was lost;
Creed was gone; Stromberg was gone, and he trusted none of his men
sufficiently to continue the game. The boss rose with a growl, and spat
copiously in the direction of the stove.

"Damn Appleton! And damn the crew! Nine million feet! At that, though,
I bet I've laid down half agin as much as the new camp. Fallon never
run a crew, an' he had his camp to build to boot."

He resumed his seat, and reaching to the top of the desk drew down a
quart bottle, from which he drank in long, deep gurgles. He stared a
long time at the bottle, drank again, and stooping, began to unlace his
boots.

"I'll start the clean-up in the mornin', an' then I'll find time to pay
a little visit I be'n aimin' to pay all winter. Creed said she was
somewheres below the foot of the rapids. It's anyways ten days to the
break-up; an' I ain't worryin' a damn if I do happen to foul Fallon's
drive."

Jacques Lacombie had so arranged his trap-lines that on his longest
circle he should be absent only one night from the lodge where old
Wa-ha-ta-na-ta kept an ever-vigilant eye upon the comings and goings of
Jeanne.

Since his return after the great blizzard the half-breed had made
numerous trips to the camp of Moncrossen, carrying fresh venison, and
he did not like the shifting glances the boss bent toward him, nor the
leering smile with which he inquired after Jeanne.

As the freezing nights hardened the crust upon the surface of the
sodden snow, Jacques discarded his rackets and, spending his days in
the lodge, attended his traps at night by the light of a lantern.

Daylight found him one morning headed homeward on a course paralleling
the river and nearly opposite Moncrossen's camp. Steadily he plodded
onward, and a smile came to his lips as he formulated his plans for the
summer, which included the removal of Jeanne from her dangerous
proximity to Moncrossen.

He would change his hunting-ground, move his lodge up the river, and
next season he would supply the camp of M's'u' Bill, whose heart was
good, and who would see that no harm came to the girl.

He swung onto the marshy arm of a small lake, whose surface was
profusely dotted with conical muskrat houses which reared their brown
domes above the broken rice-straw and cattail stalks.

He had nearly reached the center when suddenly he halted, whirled half
around, and clutched frantically at the breast of his shirt. It was as
though some unseen hand had dealt him a sharp blow, and a dull,
scorching pain shot through his chest.

He drew away his hand, red and dripping, glanced wildly about,
staggered a few steps, and crashed headlong, with a rustling sound,
into the thick growth of dry cattail stalks.

On the bank of the marsh a thin puff of vapory smoke drifted across the
face of a blackened stump and dissolved in the crisp air, and the sharp
crack of a high-power rifle of small caliber raised scarcely an echo
against the wall of the opposite shore.

A man stepped from behind the stump, glanced sharply about him, and
grinned as he leisurely pumped another cartridge into the chamber.

He bit the corner from a thick plug of tobacco, and gazed out over the
marsh, which showed only the light yellow of the dry stalks and the
brown domes of the rat-houses.

"That ain't so bad fer two hundred yards--plugged him square in the
middle, too. God! I'd hate to die!" he muttered, and, turning, followed
the shore of the lake and struck into the timber in the direction in
which the other had been going.

An hour later he slipped silently behind the trunk of a tree at the
edge of a tiny clearing in the center of which stood a single,
smoke-blackened tepee.

The blue smoke from a small fire in front of the opening floated lazily
upward in the still air, and beside the blaze a leathern-faced crone
squatted and stirred the contents of a black pot which simmered from a
cross-piece supported at the ends by crotched sticks driven into the
ground.

The old squaw fitted the lid to the pot, hung the long-handled spoon
upon a projection of a forked upright, and, picking up a tin pail,
disappeared down the well-worn path to the river. With an evil leer the
man stepped boldly into the clearing and crossed to the opening of the
tepee.

Stooping, he suddenly looked within, where Jeanne Lacombie knelt upon
one knee as she fastened the thongs of her moccasin. The man grinned as
he recognized the silvery hairs of the great white wolf skin which the
girl had thrown across her shoulders.

"So you swiped the greener's wolf-hide, did you? I seen it was gone
offen the end of the bunk-house."

At the sound the girl looked up, and the blood froze in her veins at
the sight of the glittering eyes and sneering lips of Moncrossen. He
spoke again:

"You thought I was done with you, did you? Thought I'd forgot you, an'
the fight the old she-tiger put up that night on Broken Knee? But that
was in the dark, or there'd been a different story to tell."

The words came in a horrible nasal snarl, and the little eyes glowed
lustfully as they drank in the rich curves of the girl who had sprung
to her feet, her muscles tense with terror.

"Come along, now--an' come peaceable. You're _my_ woman now. I'm
willin' to let bygones be bygones, an' I'll treat you right long as you
don't try none of your tricks. You'll learn who's boss, an' as long as
you stay by me you'll get plenty to eat an' white folks clothes to
wear--that's a heap better'n livin' like a damned Injun--you'll soon
fergit all this."

His promises terrified the girl even more than the angry snarl, and
with a loud cry she tried to spring past him, but his arms closed about
her and he laughed a hard, brutal laugh of contempt for her puny
struggles.

A shadow fell upon them, and the man whirled, dodging quickly as the
sharp bit of an axe grazed his shoulder and tore through the wall of
the tepee. He released the girl and lunged toward the old squaw, who
was reaching for the pot with its scalding contents.

Seizing her by the arm, he threw her heavily to the ground, where she
lay while the girl fled to the edge of the clearing and paused, for she
knew that in the forest she could easily elude the heavy-footed lumber
boss. Moncrossen, too, realized that pursuit would be useless, and in
his rage leveled his rifle at the figure upon the ground.

"Come back here!" he cried. "Come back, or by God I'll plug her like I
plugged----" He stopped abruptly and glanced along the sights.

The girl hesitated, and the voice of Wa-ha-ta-na-ta fell sharply upon
her ear:

"No! No! Do not come! He will not shoot! Even now his finger flutters
upon the trigger! He is afraid to shoot!" And she glared defiantly into
the glittering eyes that squinted above the gun-barrel. Slowly the
muzzle lowered and the man laughed--a hard, dry laugh.

"You're right!" he sneered. "I won't shoot. But if she don't come back
you'll wish to God I had shot!"

He turned to the girl: "I ain't goin' to chase you. I'm goin' to stand
pat. When you git ready you c'n come to me--up to the camp. Meanwhile
I'll put the old hag where the dogs won't bite her, an' while you stay
away she don't eat--see? She ain't nothin' but a rack o' bones nohow,
an' a few days'll fix her clock."

"Go find Jacques!" cried the old woman, fumbling at her blanket.

The man laughed. "Sure, go find him!" he taunted.

A skinny hand was withdrawn from the blanket and the clawlike fingers
clutched a fragment of broken knife-blade. She held it before the man
and the shrunken lips mumbled unintelligible words; then, with a swift
movement, she flung it from her and it rang upon the ice at the feet of
the girl, who stooped swiftly and seized it.

"Go!" cried the old woman. "Far up the river to the camp of the
One-Good-White-Man!"

Again Moncrossen laughed harshly.

"You can't work none of your damned charms on me!" he sneered. "G'wan
up the river. There ain't no one up there but Fallon's camp, an' you
might better stick with me. Only don't stay too long. This here old
leather image can't live without eatin', an' when you come we'll have
heap big potlatch."

The wigwam of old Wabishke, the Indian trapper, was pitched in a dense
thicket on the shore of the little muskrat lake. In the early gray of
the morning the old Indian was startled by the sound of a shot.

He peered cautiously through the branches and saw a man pitch forward
among the rice-stalks. Five minutes later another man carrying a rifle
passed within a hundred feet of him and disappeared in the timber in
the direction of Blood River Rapids. When he was gone Wabishke ran
swiftly to the fallen man and conveyed him to the wigwam, where he
plugged the bullet-hole with fat and bound up the wound.

Two hours later the bushes parted and Jeanne Lacombie burst panting
into the wigwam. The girl uttered a wild cry at the sight of her
brother lying motionless upon the robe and dropped to her knees at his
side.

"Moncrossen," grunted the Indian, and watched in silent wonder as the
girl leaped to her feet and, seizing an empty pack-sack, began stuffing
it with food. Snatching a light blanket from the floor, she swung the
pack to her shoulders and without a word dashed again into the forest.



CHAPTER XLVIII

THE WEDDING


The events incident to the wedding of Bill Carmody and Ethel Manton are
indelibly stamped upon the memory of every person present. The day was
warmer than any preceding one, with a lowering, overcast sky. The dark,
soggy snow melted rapidly, and the swollen surface stream gnawed and
tore at the honeycombed ice of the river.

In the cook-shack Daddy Dunnigan superintended the labors of half a
dozen flunkies in the preparation of the Gargantuan wedding feast which
was to follow the ceremony, and each man of the crew worked feverishly
in the staging of the great event.

The table, which extended the full length of the grub-shack, was
scrubbed until it shone and was moved to one side to make room for the
heavy benches arranged transversely, one behind the other.

The wide aisle between the table and the ends of the benches, leading
from the door to the improvised altar at the farther end of the room,
was carpeted with blankets from the bunk-house, and suspended from the
ceiling immediately in front of the altar swung the massive horseshoe,
fresh and green with sprouting grain.

During the afternoon a warm drizzle set in and the men completed the
preparations amid a muttered cursing of the weather.

An ominous booming and cracking now and then reached their ears from
the direction of the river where the sullen, pent-up waters threatened
momentarily to break their ice bonds, and the men knew that the logs
must go out on the flood though the heavens fell.

The drizzle continued, the gray daylight wore into darkness, and with
the darkness came the return of good cheer. For rollways must be broken
out in the light of day, and the air rang with loud laughter and the
rhythmic swing of roaring chanteys, as the men realized that they were
not to be robbed of their gala day with its long night of feasting.

The phonograph, with its high-piled box of records, occupied a
conspicuous place upon the dais, and upon the long table was displayed
an enormous collection of gifts, chief among which was the ingeniously
constructed chair with its broad back of flaring moose antlers.

At seven-thirty the men filed in from the bunk-house and found places
upon the benches where they sat awkwardly, conversing in loud whispers.

Father Lapre, book in hand, took his place at the altar, and a few
minutes later Bill Carmody entered with Sheridan and strode rapidly up
the aisle. At the sight of the boss the crew rose as one man and the
room rang with a loud, spontaneous cheer.

The little priest held up his hand for silence. At a signal someone
started the graphophone, and to the sweet strains of a march the bride
appeared, leaning upon the arm of her uncle.

Slowly, with bowed head, in the midst of a strained silence, she
traversed the length of the long room, the cynosure of all eyes. When
almost at the altar she raised her eyes to the man who awaited her
there.

Her quick, indrawn breath was almost a gasp, and Appleton felt her arm
tremble upon his.

He stood waiting for her--this man into whose keeping she was giving
her life--exactly as she had seen him at the time of their first
meeting in the North country when he stood, big and bearded, in the
gathering dusk, framed in the doorway of the little office.

In one swift glance she saw that every detail was the same, from the
high-laced boots to the embroidered hunting-shirt open at the
throat--only his eyes were different--there was no pain, now, in the
gray eyes that blazed eagerly into her own--only happiness, and the
burning passion of love.

And then her uncle retired, and she stood alone with the man, facing
the priest. She could hear the voice of the little pink priest and of
the big man at her side, and as in a dream she found herself repeating
the words of the ritual.

She knew that a ring was being placed upon her finger, and she was a
wife. And that the priest, in solemn voice, with outstretched hands,
was extending them his blessing.

The voice hesitated--stopped.

In the rear of the room the door was thrown violently open and banged
loudly against the log wall. There was a confused scuffling of feet and
a scraping of heavy benches as the men craned their necks toward the
entrance.

Involuntarily Ethel turned, and there, gliding swiftly toward her up
the blanket-carpeted aisle, was the most picturesquely beautiful woman
she had ever seen.

Wide-eyed she stared at the newcomer. Her face went deathly white, and
the heart within her breast turned to ice, for instinctively she knew,
by the wild, intense beauty of the woman, that she stood face to face
with the Indian girl--the Jeanne of Bill Carmody's whispered words!

Her brain took in the details with incredible rapidity; and the girl
was still coming toward her as she noted the dazzling brightness of the
great silvery wolf-skin that was flung about her shoulders and caught
together at her soft throat; the mass of black hair, upon which the
mist-beads sparkled like a million diamonds; the dark, liquid eyes, and
the even, white teeth that glistened between the curving red lips.

The girl was at her side now, and with a low cry threw herself upon her
knees before the man, and stretched her arms toward him gropingly.

"M's'u' Bill!" she cried, and the voice was sweet and soft; the words
uttered with imploring intensity. And then in Ethel's ears was the
voice of her husband.

"Jeanne, Jeanne," he said; "why have you come? Speak, girl; why have
you come to me?"

At the sound of the name, the thought that at the very altar this
woman's name was upon the lips of her husband, the hot blood surged to
her face and the tiny fists clenched. She was about to speak, but was
forestalled by the half-breed girl who had leaped to her feet and
thrown her arms about Bill's neck and was speaking in short, stabbing
words:

"Come! Come now--with me! Oh, do not wait! Come--even now it may be too
late!"

The low voice quivered with excitement, and the man's hand patted her
shoulder soothingly as he endeavored to quiet her. Ethel took a quick
step forward, and the hard tone of her voice cut upon the air like the
ring of tempered steel.

"Who are you?" she cried. "Speak! What is this man to you?"

The Indian girl turned and faced her, seeming for the first time aware
of her presence. The dark, liquid eyes flashed as she drew herself to
her full height.

"To me, he is _everything_! I would die for him! _I love him!_"

The tense tones rang through the long room where a hundred and fifty
big men sat silent--hypnotized by the intense drama of the scene.

With a lithe, swift movement the half-breed girl raised her hands to
her bosom and tore at the fastenings of her hunting-shirt. There was
the sound of popping buttons, the heavily embroidered shirt flew open,
and there, gleaming cold and gray in the lamplight, upon the warm ivory
of her bared breast lay a naked blade--the broken blade of a sheath
knife!

She broke the cord that held it suspended about her neck and extended
the blade toward the man, uttering but a single word:

"Come!"

And as Bill's eyes fell upon the bit of metal his form stiffened and
his fists clenched.

"I will come--lead on!" he answered For in his mind rang the words of
his solemn promise: "No people of the earth, and nothing that is upon
the earth, nor of the earth, shall prevent me--and one day you will
know that my words are true."

The half-breed girl had already turned away when the man's eyes sought
the eyes of his wife. She was regarding him with a strange, frightened
stare. Her face had turned marble white at his words, and she gasped
uncertainly for breath.

Her pallor alarmed Bill, who stepped toward her with outstretched arms;
but she shrank from his touch and her blue eyes fixed him with their
cold, frightened stare.

"Ethel!" he cried. "Darling--my wife! _I must go!_ It is _The
Promise_!" Unconsciously he repeated the words of the old squaw.
"Wa-ha-ta-na-ta, in the last extremity of her need, is calling--and I
must go to her.

"Oh, can't you see?" he cried suddenly, as the look of horror deepened
upon the face of his wife. "Darling--only long enough to give her
aid--then I will return! Surely, surely, dear, you trust me! You will
believe in me--just this once! When I return to you I will explain
all--I can't wait, now--good-by!"

He turned to follow the Indian girl, but before he could take a step
his wife's arms were about his neck and her words came in great choking
sobs:

"No! No! No! You are _mine_! You cannot go! You will not leave me at
the altar! Oh, if you loved me--if you loved me, you could not go!"

Bill's arms were about her, and the words rushed from his lips: "Love
you! I love you more than life itself--I live for _you_! But I
promised--my word has passed--_I must go!_ In a day--two days--a
week--you shall know and understand."

With a low, moaning cry Ethel tore herself from his embrace and reeled,
fainting into the arms of the priest, while her husband, white lipped,
followed swiftly after the Indian girl who had already gained the end
of the aisle.

But a few moments had elapsed since Jeanne Lacombie had burst into the
room. Moments so tense--so laden with terrible portent--that, although
every person in the room heard each spoken word, brains failed to grasp
their significance; and Appleton, from his bench near the door, as he
saw Bill Carmody turn from his fainting wife, for the first time
doubted his sincerity.

Men were on their feet now, gazing incredulously at the boss, who,
looking neither to the left nor to the right, strode rapidly down the
aisle.

Scarcely knowing what he did, with the one thought uppermost in his
mind, to stop the foreman and bring him to his senses, Appleton leaped
the intervening benches and, slamming the heavy door, shot the stout
bar.

With a roar of anger Bill seized a heavy split log bench, sending a
couple of lumber-jacks tumbling among the feet of their fellows, and
whirling it high above his head, drove it crashing through the door.

The bar snapped like a toothpick, the heavy panel split in half and
dropped sidewise, and without a moment's hesitation Bill grasped the
half-breed girl about the waist and swung her through the splintered
aperture.

Turning, he swept the room with a glare of defiance. For a moment men
looked into the narrowed eyes; and then, as the eyes of the boss rested
for an instant upon the inert form of his wife, they saw the defiant
glare melt into a look of compassion and misery such as none had ever
seen in human eyes.

Then his shoulders stiffened, his jaw squared, and without a word he
stepped through the shattered door and disappeared in the black
drizzle.



CHAPTER XLIX

ON THE RIVER


That Blood River Jack's fear for the safety of Jeanne was well founded
was borne home to Bill Carmody in the story the girl poured into his
ears as they pushed on in the direction of Moncrossen's camp.

The night was jet black, and Bill marveled at the endurance of the girl
and the unfailing sagacity with which she led the way.

The honeycombed river ice sagged toward the middle of the stream, and
the water from the melting snow followed this depression, leaving the
higher edges comparatively dry and free from snow.

The drizzling rain continued as the two stumbled forward, slipping and
splashing through deep pools of icy water. Each moment they were in
danger of plunging through some hole in the rotting ice; but the girl
pushed unhesitatingly onward, and the man followed.

Between them and the camp of Moncrossen lay upward of a hundred miles
of precarious river trail, and with no crust on the water-soaked snow
of the forest they could not take advantage of the short cuts which
would have stricken many miles from their journey.

It was broad daylight when Bill called a halt, and after many
unsuccessful attempts succeeded in kindling a sickly blaze in the
shelter of a clay-streaked cut-bank.

He unslung the pack which he had taken from the shoulders of the girl,
and removed some bacon and sodden bannock. As they toasted the bacon
and dried the bannock at the smoky fire the girl hardly removed her
gaze from the face of the big, silent man who, during the whole long
night, had scarcely spoken a word.

Her eyes flashed as they traveled over the mighty breadth of him and
noted the great muscular arms, the tight-clamped jaw, and the steely
glint of the narrowed gray eyes.

Her face glowed with the pride of his strength as she recalled the
parting scene in the bunk-house when he had hurled the heavy bench,
crashing through the door, and defied the men of the logs.

He had done this thing for _her_, she reflected--for her, and that he
might keep his promise to old Wa-ha-ta-na-ta. She wondered at his
silence. Why did he not speak? And why did he sit gazing with
tight-pressed lips into the flaring, spitting little fire?

Her breath came faster, and she laid a timid hand upon the man's arm.

"The woman?" she asked abruptly. "Who is this woman with the hair of
gold and the eyes of the summer sky?" The slender fingers gripped his
arm convulsively. "She is the woman of the picture!" she cried, and her
eyes sought his.

Bill Carmody nodded slowly and continued to stare into the fire.

"She is my--my wife," he groaned.

"Your--_wife_!"

The girl repeated the words dully, as if seeking to grasp their import.
Her fingers relaxed, her eyes closed, and she lay heavily back upon the
blanket. A long time she remained thus while Bill stared stolidly into
the fire.

At length he aroused himself and glanced toward Jeanne, who lay at his
side, breathing the long, regular breaths of the deep sleep of utter
weariness; and he noted the deep lines of the beautiful face and the
hollow circles beneath the closed eyes that told of the terrible
trail-strain.

"Sixty straight hours of _that_!" he exclaimed as his glance traveled
over the precarious river trail. Curbing his patience, he waited an
hour and then gently awoke the sleeping girl.

"Jeanne," he said as she gazed at him in bewilderment, "you need sleep.
I will go alone to the camp of Moncrossen." At the words she sprang to
her feet.

"No! No!" she cried; "I have slept. I am not tired. Come--to-day, and
to-night--and in the morning we come to the camp."

"We must go then," said Bill, and added more to himself than to Jeanne:
"I wonder if he would _dare_?"

"He would dare _anything_--that is not good!" the girl answered
quickly. "He has the bad heart. But Wa-ha-ta-na-ta will not starve
quickly. She is old and tough, and can go for many days without food;
as in the time of the famine when she refused to eat that we, her
children, might live.

"Even in times of plenty she eats but little, for she lives in the long
ago with Lacombie--in the days of her youth and--and happiness. For she
loved Lacombie, and--Lacombie--loved--her."

The girl's voice broke throatily, and she turned abruptly toward the
river.

The fine, drizzling rain, which had fallen steadily all through the
night, changed to a steady downpour that chilled them to the bone.

The stream of shallow water that flowed over the surface of the ice
swelled to a torrent, forcing them again and again to abandon the river
and slosh knee-deep through the saturated snow of the forest.

Broken ice cakes began to drift past--thick, black cakes which scraped
and ground together as they swung heavily in the current.

"The ice is going out!" cried the girl in dismay. "We can no longer
keep to the river!"

Bill's teeth clenched. "The breakup!" he groaned. "Moncrossen will go
out on the flood, and Wa-ha-ta-na-ta----"

He redoubled his efforts, fairly dragging the girl through the deep
slush. The rain was carrying off the snow with a rush. The gullies and
ravines were running bankful, and time and again the two were forced to
plunge shoulder-deep into the icy waters.

At noon they halted, and in the dripping shelter of a dense thicket
wolfed down a quantity of sodden bannock and raw bacon. The river rose
hourly, and the crash and grind of the moving ice thundered
continuously upon their ears.

Progress was slow and grueling. By the middle of the afternoon they had
covered about forty miles. The water from the rising river began to set
back into the ravines, forcing them to make long detours before daring
to chance a ford.

Darkness came as an added hardship, and as they toiled doggedly around
an abrupt bend they saw on a tiny plateau, high above the dark waters
of the river, a faint flicker of light.

The girl paused and regarded it curiously; then, hurrying to the point,
she peered up and down the river, striving for landmarks in the
gathering gloom.

"Vic Chenault's cabin!" she cried. "I missed it coming up. I knew it
was somewhere up the river. He is a friend of Jacques, and his father
was the good friend of Lacombie."

Drenched and weary, the two pushed toward the light, crossing
swift-rushing gullies whose icy waters threatened each moment to sweep
them from their feet.

Slipping and stumbling through the muck and slush, crashing through
dripping underbrush, they stood at length before the door of the
low-roofed log cabin.

Their knock was answered by a tousled-headed man who stood, lamp in
hand, and blinked owlishly at them from the shelter of the doorway.

"You are Vic Chenault?" asked the girl, and, without waiting for his
grunted assent, continued: "I am Jeanne Lacombie, and this is M's'u'
Bill, The-Man-Who-Cannot-Die."

At the mention of the names the door swung wide and the man smiled a
welcome. They entered amid a rabble of sled-dogs and puppies, which
rolled about the floor in a seemingly inextricable tangle, with
numerous dusky youngsters of various ages and conditions of nudity.

Chenault's Indian wife sat upon the edge of the bunk, a blackened
cob-pipe between her teeth, industriously beading a moccasin; and
seemed in no wise disturbed by the arrival of visitors, nor by the
babel of hubbub that arose from the floor, where dogs and babies howled
their protest against the cold draft from the open door and the pools
of ice-cold water that drained from the clothing of the strangers.

Chenault pronounced a few guttural syllables, and the stolid squaw
reached behind her and, removing a single garment of flaming red calico
from a nail, extended it toward Jeanne.

The girl accepted it with thanks, and her eyes roved about the cabin,
which, being a one-roomed affair, offered scant privacy. The woman
caught the corner of a blanket upon a projecting nail and another
corner upon a similar nail in the upright of the bunk, and motioned the
girl behind the screen with a short wave of her pipe.

The man offered Bill a pair of faded blue overalls and a much-bepatched
shirt of blue flannel, and when Jeanne emerged, clad in the best dress
of her hostess, Bill took his turn in the dressing-room.

"Can't be too pedicular in a pinch," he grinned as he wriggled
dubiously into the dry garments, and in a few minutes he was seated
beside the girl upon a rough bench drawn close to the fire.

Chenault, being a half-breed, was more inclined toward garrulity than
his Indian spouse.

"How you come?" he asked with evident interest. Jeanne answered him,
speaking rapidly, and at the end of a half-hour the man was in full
possession of the details of their plight. He slowly shook his head.

"Moncrossen camp ver' far--feefty--seexty mile," he said. "You no
mak'."

Bill looked up suddenly. "Have you a canoe?" he inquired.

The other looked at him in surprise. "Canoe, she no good!" he grunted.
"Too mooch ice. Bre'k all to hell in one minute!"

With an exclamation he leaped to his feet. "By gar! De flat boat!" he
cried triumphantly.

"She is all build for tak' de fur. De riv', she run ver' swift. In de
morning you go--in de evening you come on de camp!"

"I will pay you well for the boat," said Bill eagerly. "I have no money
here. Give me a pencil; I will write an order on Monsieur Appleton, the
man who owns the woods."

At the words the half-breed shrugged.

"You no got for mak' write," he said. "You tell Wa-ha-ta-na-ta you
come--by gar! You come! You tell me you pay--you pay. You no got for
mak' write."

Bill smiled.

"That is all right, providing I get through. What if the boat gets
tipped over or smashed in the ice?"

Chenault shrugged again. "You De-Man-Who-Cannot-Die," he said. "You got
de good heart. In de woods all peoples know. You no mak' write. I got
no penzil."



CHAPTER L

FACE TO FACE


Before daylight next morning the two men dragged the little flat boat
to the water's edge. The river had risen to full flood during the night
and out of the darkness came the crash and grind of ice, the dull roar
and splash of undermined banks, and the purling rumble of swift moving
water.

After breakfast Bill and Jeanne, armed with light spruce poles, took
their places; Chenault pushed the boat into the current and it shot
downstream, whirling in the grip of the flood.

There was no need for oars. Both Bill and the girl had their work cut
out warding off from drifting ice cakes and the thrashing branches of
uprooted trees.

Time and again they came within a hair's-breadth of destruction. The
eddying, seething surface of the swift rushing river seemed to hurl its
débris toward their little craft in fiendish malevolence. Ice cakes
crashed together on every hand, water-logged tree-butts snagged them
bow and stern, and the low-hanging limbs of "sweepers" clawed and tore
at them like the teeth of a giant rake as they swept beneath, lying
flat upon the bottom of the boat.

Bill grinned at the thought of a canoe. In the suck and swirl of the
current the odds were heavily against even the stout flat boat's
winning through.

He estimated their speed to be about eight miles an hour and devoted
his whole attention to preventing the boat from fouling the drift. They
were riding the "run out," and he knew that Moncrossen would wait for
the river to become comparatively free of drift before breaking out his
rollways.

The rain ceased, but the sky remained heavily overcast and darkness
overtook them while yet some distance above the log camp and skirting
the opposite shore.

Eager as he was to meet Moncrossen, Bill decided not to risk crossing
the river in the fast gathering darkness. Gradually the boat was worked
toward shore and poled into the backwater of submerged beaver meadow.

Landing upon a slope a couple of hundred yards back from the river,
they tilted the boat on edge, and, inclining it forward, rested it upon
the tops of stakes thrust into the ground. The blanket was spread, and
with the roaring fire directly in front the uptilted boat made an
excellent shelter.

An awkward constraint, broken only by necessary monosyllables, had
settled upon the two. On the river each had been too busy with the
workin hand to give the other more than a passing thought, but now, in
the intimacy of the campfire, each felt uneasily self-conscious.

Supper over, Bill lighted his pipe and stared moodily into the flames
with set face and brooding eye. From her position at his side Jeanne
covertly watched the silent man.

Of what was he thinking? Surely not of the girl--his wife! She winced
at the word--but the tense, almost fierce expression of his face, the
occasional spasmodic clenching of the great fists, could scarcely
accompany a man's thoughts of his wife of an hour.

Of Moncrossen? she wondered. Of the shooting of Jacques? Of the attack
upon her? Of Wa-ha-ta-na-ta? But, no--the gray eyes were staring into
the fire calmly, and in their depths she could see no gleam of hate nor
steely glitter of rage.

What was it he said the day she told him of the affair on Broken Knee?
"I, too, could kill him for that." The girl gave it up, and fell to
wondering what the morrow would bring forth.

At daylight, when they poled the boat into the river, Bill gazed in
surprise at the surface of the stream. A few belated ice cakes floated
lazily in the current, and many uprooted snags reared their scraggly
heads as they rolled sluggishly in the water.

But what riveted his attention were the logs. Hundreds and hundreds of
smoothly floating logs dotted the river, and as far as the eye could
reach more logs were coming.

He leaped to his feet and stood, shading his eyes with his hand. Far up
the stream the surface seemed solid with logs, and here and there he
could make out moving figures--tiny and frail they looked, like
strange, misshapen insects, as they leaped from log to rolling log--the
white-water men of the North.

"It's the drive!" he cried excitedly. "_My_ drive! Come, pole for your
life--we've got to work her across!"

A mile farther down they swept around a wide bend, and before them
loomed the cleared rollways of Moncrossen's camp, and on top of the
slope, for all the world like fortifications commanding the river, were
pile after pile of pyramided logs.

The little flat boat was rapidly approaching, and men could be seen
swarming about the rollways. One man with a shirt of flaming red rushed
among them, gesticulating wildly, and faintly to their ears came the
raucous bellowing of his voice. At the sight of him Jeanne paled
visibly. The man was Moncrossen.

Even as they looked the first rollway tore loose; the logs, rolling and
tumbling down the steep slope, leaped into the river with a roar and a
splash that sent a fountain of white spray flying skyward. Bill set his
pole and fairly hurled the boat into the bank well above the rollways.

"Good God!" he cried. "Can't he see the drive? They'll jam and my men
will be killed!" He leaped ashore and crashed through the intervening
underbrush in great bounds, closely followed by the light-footed
Jeanne.

They gained the top, and while rushing along the rollways could hear
Moncrossen roaring his orders--could catch the words that foamed from
his lips amid volleys of crashing oaths.

"Cut them toggles! Let 'em go! Let 'em go! Damn you! Foul that drive!
I'll show 'em if they c'n slip a drive through me!"

And then--face to face between two high-piled pyramids--they met. The
words died in a horrible, throaty gurgle; and Moncrossen's face, livid
with rage, turned chalky as his eyes roved vacantly from Bill Carmody's
face to the face of the girl beyond. His jaw wagged weakly, his flabby
lips sagged open, exposing the jagged, brown teeth, and he passed his
hand uncertainly across his eyes.

"It's the greener," he mumbled thickly. "It's the greener hisself."

Another rollway rumbled into the river, and Bill leaped into the open.
"Stop!" he cried. "It's murder! There are men on that drive!"

The two lumber-jacks who stood almost at his side turned at the sound
of his voice. For one moment they stared into his face, and then with a
wild yell dropped their peavies and fled toward the bunk-house. Other
men looked, and from lip to lip flashed the word, "The greener!" Men
stared at him dumbly, or turned and dashed for the clearing in a panic
of fear.

"He come up out of the river!" shrilled one as he ran. "I seen him! An'
I seen him go under a year back! He come hell a rippin' up through the
bushes--an' a she one a follerin'!"

Men crowded about--the bolder spirits, the matter of fact, and the
unsuperstitious among the crew--and Bill turned again to Moncrossen,
who stood rooted in his tracks.

"Where is she?" he asked in a low voice that cut distinctly upon the
silence. "The mother of this girl?" Moncrossen started. With a visible
effort he strove for control of himself.

"Who are you?" he blurted, and the words rasped hollow and dry.

Bill turned to the men.

"Do _you_ know?" he asked. "An old Indian woman--did he bring her to
this camp?"

The men stared blankly from the speaker to Moncrossen and into each
other's faces. Suddenly, one stepped forward.

"Look in the storeroom!" he cried. "A little while back--it was at
night--I seen 'em drag somethin' in--him an' Larson of the van." At the
words, Moncrossen sprang toward the speaker with an inarticulate growl
of rage.

"You lie!" he screamed; but before he reached the man, who shrank back
into the crowd, Bill stepped in front of him. He raised his arm and
pointed toward the clearing.

"To the storehouse," he said in the same low voice. For a fleeting
second Moncrossen glared into his eyes, and without a word, turned and
led the way, closely followed by Bill and Jeanne, while the crowd of
wondering lumber-jacks brought up the rear.

At the storehouse Moncrossen paused. "I'll fetch the key from the
office," he leered; but Bill turned to a man who stood leaning upon his
axe.

"Smash that door!" he commanded; and a half-dozen men sprang to the
task. The next instant the door flew inward, and the men crowded into
the building to return a few moments later bearing the old squaw,
gagged, bound, and wrapped tightly in a blanket, but with the undimmed
black eyes glaring upon them like a hawk's.

The cords were cut and the gag removed by willing hands. Someone held a
bottle to her lips, and she drank greedily. Jeanne dropped to her knees
by the old woman's side.

"He has come," she whispered. "M's'u' Bill, The-Man-Who-Cannot-Die, has
come to you." Wa-ha-ta-na-ta nodded her understanding, and her beady
black eyes flashed.

"She must have water!" cried the girl; "and food!"

At the words a half-dozen men rushed toward the cook-shack, returning a
few minutes later laden as to victual a regiment.



CHAPTER LI

THE PROMISE FULFILLED


Again the interest centered upon the two big men who faced each other
on the trodden ground of the clearing. Other men came--the ones who had
fled from the rollway, their curiosity conquering their fear at the
sight of the dead man.

And now the greener was speaking, and the tone of his voice was gentle
in its velvety softness. His lips smiled, and his gray eyes, narrowed
to slits, shone cold--with a terrible, steely coldness, so that men
looked once, and shuddered as they looked.

"And, now, Moncrossen," he was saying, "_we will fight_. It is a long
score that you and I have to settle. It starts with your dirty schemes
that Stromberg wouldn't touch.

"Then, the well-laid plan to have Creed bump me off that night at
Melton's No. 9; and the incident of the river, when you broke the jam.
You thought you had me, then, Moncrossen. You thought I was done for
good and all, when I disappeared under the water.

"There are other things, too--little acts of yours, that we will figure
in as we go. The affair on Broken Knee, when you attacked this young
girl; the shooting of Blood River Jack, from ambush; the second attack
on the girl at the foot of the rapid--and the brutal starving of
Wa-ha-ta-na-ta.

"Oh, yes; and the little matter of the bird's-eye. I have the logs,
Moncrossen, all safely cached--the pile of ashes you found was a blind.
Quite a long score, take it first and last, isn't it, Moncrossen?"

The silence, save for the sound of the voice, was almost painful. Men
strained to listen, looking from one to the other of the two big men,
with white, tense faces.

At the words, the blood rushed to the boss's face. His little, swinish
eyes fairly blazed in their sockets. He was speechless with fury. The
cords knotted in his neck, and a great blue vein stood out upon his
forehead. The breath hissed through his clenched teeth as the goading
words fell in the voice of purring softness.

"But it has come to a show-down at last, between you and me," the
greener went on as he slowly and methodically turned the sleeves of his
shirt back from his mighty forearms. "They tell me you are a fighting
man, Moncrossen. They tell me you have licked men--here in the
woods--good men, too. And they tell me you have knocked down drunken
men, and stamped on their faces with your steel-calked boots.

"Maybe--if you last well--I will save a couple of punches for those
poor devils' account. I think you will last, Moncrossen. You are big,
and strong, and you are mad enough, in your blind, bull-headed way.

"But I am not going to knock you out. I am going to make you _lie
down_--to make you show your yellow, and quit cold; for this is going
to be your last fight. When I am through, Moncrossen, you won't be
worth licking--no ten-year-old boy will think it worth his while to
step out of his way to slap your dirty face."

With a hoarse bellow, Moncrossen launched himself at the speaker. And
just at that moment--swarming over the bank at the rollways--came the
men of the upper drive. The leaders paused, and sizing up the
situation, came on at a run.

"A fight!" they yelled. "A fight! H-o-o-r-a-y!"

Then came Appleton and Sheridan with their wives, and beside them
walked a slender, girlish figure, whose shoulders drooped wearily, and
whose face was concealed by a heavy, dark-blue veil.

The two lumbermen guided the ladies hurriedly in the direction of the
office, when suddenly the shrill voice of Charlie Manton broke upon
their ears.

"Whoo-p-e-e! It's _Bill_! Go to it, Bill! Swing on him! Give him your
left, Bill! Give him your left!"

They halted, and obeying some strange impulse, the girlish figure
turned and made straight for the wildly yelling men, who stood in the
form of a great circle in the center of which two men weaved and milled
about each other in a blur of motion.

Old Daddy Dunnigan was the first to see her hovering uncertainly upon
the edge of the crowd. Brandishing his crutch he howled into the ears
of those nearest him:

"Give th' lady a chanst! Come on, miss! He's _her_ man, an' God be
praised! she wants to see 'um foight!"

The men made a lane, and scarcely knowing what she did, Ethel found
herself standing beside the old Irishman, who had wormed his way to the
very front rank of the crowding circle. She stared in fascinated
terror, throwing back her veil for a clearer view, regardless of the
men who stared at _her_ in surprise and wondered at the whiteness of
her face.

Bill Carmody met Moncrossen's first rush with a quick, short jab that
reached the corner of his eye. With an almost imperceptible movement he
leaned to one side, and the flail-like swing of the huge boss's arm
passed harmlessly within an inch of his ear.

Moncrossen lost no time. Pivoting, he swung a terrific body blow which
glanced lightly against Bill's lowered shoulder, and the greener came
back with two stiff raps to the ear.

Again and again Moncrossen rushed his antagonist, lashing out with both
fists, but always the blows failed by a barely perceptible margin, and
Bill--always smiling, and without appreciable effort--stung him with
short, swift punches to the face.

And always he talked. Low and smooth his voice sounded between the thud
of blows and the heavy breathing of the big boss.

"Poor business, Moncrossen--poor judgment--for a fighting man. Save
your wind--take it easy, and you'll last longer--this is a _long_
fight, Moncrossen--take it slow--slow and steady."

The taunting voice was always in the boss's ears, goading him to blind
fury. He paused for breath, with guard uplifted, and in that moment
Bill Carmody saw for the first time the figure of his wife. For an
instant their eyes met, and then Moncrossen was at him again. But
Bill's low, taunting voice did not waver.

"That's better," he said, and moved his head to one side as a vicious
blow passed close. "And now, Moncrossen, I'm going to hit you on the
nose--I haven't hit you yet--those others were just to feel you out."

With an incredibly swift movement he swung clear from the shoulder.
There was the wicked, smashing sound of living flesh hard struck. The
big boss staggered backward, pawing the air, and the red blood spurted
from his flattened nose.

"That one is for trying to get Stromberg to file a link." Bill ducked a
lunging blow without raising his guard. "And now your ear, Moncrossen;
I won't knock it off, but it will never be pretty again."

Another long swing landed with a glancing twist that split the ear in
half. "That is for the Creed item--and this one is for the river."

The boss's head snapped backward to the impact of a smashing blow;
again he staggered, and, turning, spat a mouthful of blood which seeped
into the ground, leaving upon the surface several brownish, misshapen
nuggets.

"God!" breathed a man, and turned away. "It's his teeth!"

The yelling had ceased and men stared white faced. This was not the
fighting they were used to; they understood only the quick, frenzied
fighting of fury, where men pummel each other in blind rage, fighting
close--as tigers fight--gouging and biting one another as they roll
upon the ground locked in each other's grip.

The men gazed in awe, with a strange, unspoken terror creeping into
their hearts, upon the vicious battering blows, the coldly gleaming
eyes and smiling lips of the man who fought, not in any fume of
passion, but deliberately, smoothly, placing his terrific blows at will
with a cold, deadly accuracy that smashed and tore.

Moncrossen rushed again.

"And now for the other things," Bill continued; "the attacks upon the
defenseless girl--the attempted murder from ambush--and the starving of
an old woman."

Blow followed blow, until in the crowd men cried out sharply, and those
who had watched a hundred fights turned away white lipped.

Moncrossen fought blindly now. His eyes were closed and his face one
solid mass of blood. And still the blows fell. Smash! Smash! Smash! It
was horrible--those deliberate, tearing blows, and the lips that smiled
in cold, savage cruelty.

No blow landed on the point of the jaw, on the neck, on the heart, or
the pit of the stomach--blows that bring the quiet of oblivion; but
each landed with a cutting twist that ground into the flesh.

At last, with his face beaten to a crimson pulp, Moncrossen sagged to
his knees, tried to rise, and crashed limp and lifeless to the ground.
And over him stood Bill Carmody, smiling down at the broken and
battered wreck of the bad man of the logs.

Gradually the circle that surrounded the fighters broke into little
groups of white-faced, silent men who shot nervous, inquiring glances
into each other's faces and swore softly under their breath--the
foolish, meaningless oaths of excitement.

Minutes passed as Ethel stood gazing in terrible fascination from the
big man to the thing on the ground at his feet. And as she looked, a
hideous old squaw, apparently too weak to stand, struggled from her
place of vantage among the feet of the men, and crawled to the limp,
sprawled form.

Leaning close she peered into the shapeless features, crooning and
gurgling, and emitting short, sharp whines of delight. Her beady eyes
glittered wickedly, like the eyes of a snake, and the withered lips
curled into a horrid grin, exposing the purple snag-toothed gums.

Suddenly the bent form knelt upright, the skeleton arms raised high
above the tangle of gray-black hair, the thin, high-pitched voice
quavered the words of a weird chant, the clawlike fingers twitched in
short, jerky spasms, and the emaciated body swayed and weaved to the
wild, barbaric rhythm of the chanted curse.

Terrible, blighting, the words were borne to the ears of the girl.
Bearded men looked, listened, and turned away, shuddering. The sun
burst suddenly through a rift in the flying clouds, and his golden
radiance fell incongruously upon the scene.

Ethel gazed as at some horrid phantasm--the rough men with gaudy shirts
of red and blue and multicolored checks, standing in groups with tense,
set faces--the other man--_her_ man--standing alone, silent and
smiling, by the side of his blood-bathed victim, and the old crone,
whose marcid form writhed in the swing of the thin-shrieked chant.

And then before she sensed that he had moved he stood before her. She
raised her eyes to his in which the hard, cold gleam had given place to
a look of intense longing, of infinite love, and the long-pent yearning
of a soul.

He stretched his arms toward her and she saw that the bruised and
swollen hands were stained with blood. Suddenly she realized that this
man was her _husband_. A sickening fear overcame her, and she shrank,
shuddering, from the touch of the blood-smeared hands.

A look of terror came into her face; she covered her eyes with her
hands as if to shut out the horror of it all, and, turning, fled
blindly--she knew not where.

As she ran there still sounded in her ears the words of the high, thin
chant--the blighting curse of Yaga Tah.



CHAPTER LII

THE BIG MAN


Darkness settled over the North country. The sky had cleared, the wind
gone down, and the air was soft and balmy with the feel of spring. A
million stars sparkled overhead and above the intense blackness of the
pines the moon rose, flooding the timberland with the mystery of her
soft radiance.

Ethel tossed uneasily in her cot and glanced across to where her aunt
and Mrs. Sheridan slumbered heavily. Then she arose and stood at the
window gazing out on the moonlit clearing with its low, silent
buildings, and clean-cut, black shadows.

Noiselessly she dressed and stole into the silvery world. Utterly
wretched, dispirited, heartsick, she wandered aimlessly, neither
knowing nor caring whither her slow, dragging steps carried her.

Somewhere in the distance, sounding faint and far, came the shouts of
men. Unconsciously she wandered toward the river. On the edge of a high
bluff overlooking the rollways and the rushing waters she paused,
leaning wearily against the bole of a giant birch.

Thanks to the quick action of Bill Carmody Moncrossen's scheme of
fouling the upper drive had taken no toll of human life. The few
rollways that were broken out, however, were sufficient to cause a
nasty jam, and far below where the girl stood the men of both crews
worked furiously among the high-piled logs.

Weird and unreal it seemed to Ethel as she gazed down upon the flare of
huge fires built upon the bank, the tiny flash of lanterns and the
flicker of torches, where the men swarmed out upon the uncertain
footing.

Rough calls of rough men sounded above the crash and pound of logs and
the roar of the rushing waters. Now and then a scrap of rude chantey
reached her ears, a hoarse oath, or a loud, clear order in a voice she
knew so well.

It was like some eery fantasy, born of an overwrought brain. And yet
she knew it was real--intensely real. Down there among the flashing
lights men played with death--big, rough men who laughed loud as they
played, and swore mighty oaths, and sang wild, full-throated songs.

From the shadow almost at her side came the sound of a half-stifled
sob. She started. There was a soft footfall on the leaf-mold, and
before her stood Jeanne Lacombie. The soft moonlight touched with
silvery sheen the long hairs of the great, white wolf-skin which the
girl wore thrown loosely across her shoulders.

As Ethel gazed upon the wild, dark beauty of the Indian girl her tiny
fists clenched, and her breath came in short, quick gasps.

Why was she here? Had she followed to taunt her to her face? A mighty
rage welled up within her, her shoulders stiffened, and as she faced
the girl her blue eyes flashed.

And then the Indian girl spoke, and at the first words of the soft,
rich voice, the rage died in her heart. She looked closely, and in the
dark, liquid eyes was a look the white girl will never forget.

She listened, and with few words and all the dramatic eloquence of the
pure Indian the half-breed girl told of the rescue from the river; of
her own love for M's'u' Bill, "The-Man-Who-Cannot-Die"; of his firm
rejection of that love; of her pursuit of him when he started for the
land of the white man; of the scene at the camp-fire when old
Wa-ha-ta-na-ta called him "The One Good White Man"; of the broken
knife; of The Promise; of her peril at the hand of Moncrossen, and of
the cold-blooded shooting of her brother.

And then she told of Bill's all-absorbing love for her, Ethel. And of
how he always loved her, even when he believed she hated and despised
him; of his deep hurt and the misery of his soul when he believed that
she was to marry another.

Until suddenly there in the moonlight the girl of the city saw for the
first time the bigness of the man--_her man_. She saw him as he was now
and as he had been in the making--the man who had been dubbed "Broadway
Bill, the sport"; the "souse," who had "soaked a cop" and then "beat it
in a taxi."

And then the man who, without name or explanation, had won the regard
of such a keen judge of men as Appleton, and who, under the stigma of
theft, held that regard without question; the man who beat the booze
game after he had lost his heart's desire, and had been sneered at as a
coward and a quitter; the man who having gained his heart's desire, in
the very bigness of him, had unhesitatingly risked wrecking his whole
life's happiness to keep his promise to an old, toothless, savage
crone; and who, in brute fashion, bare-fisted, had all but pounded the
life from the body of the hulking Moncrossen in defense of a woman's
honor.

And _this_ was the man who, eighteen short months before, had
turkey-trotted upon the sidewalk in front of a gay resort, and had
"pulled it too raw even for Broadway!"

The flood-gates of her soul opened, as is the way of women in all the
world. The great sobs came, and with them tears, and in the
tree-filtered moonlight the two girls--the tutored white girl and the
half-savage Indian--women both--wept in each other's arms.

                     *      *      *      *      *

Up the trail from the river, almost at their feet, wearily climbed a
man, dog-tired from physical exertion; and worn out with responsibility
and heart-rack he toiled slowly up the steep ascent.

At the top he paused and removed his cap to let the cool air blow
against his throbbing temples. At the sight of the two forms he drew
back; but at the same moment they saw him.

With one last, long look, and no word of farewell save a dry, choking
sob, the Indian girl glided silently into the darkness of the forest,
which was her home, and the home of her people.

On the edge of the bluff the other stood silhouetted against the
star-flecked sky. She, too, gazed at the man who stood motionless in
the moonlight. Then with a lithe, quick movement she opened her arms to
him, her lips parted, and in the blue eyes blazed the love of all the
ages.

As her body poised to meet his the man sprang toward her. His arms
closed about her, their lips met; and for a long, long time they looked
deep into each other's eyes.

Then slowly the tiny fingers closed about his, the girl raised them
reverently to her lips and covered with kisses the great, bruised, and
swollen hands.


THE END





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enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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