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Title: Northwest!
Author: Bindloss, Harold, 1866-1945
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Northwest!" ***

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produced from scanned images of public domain material


NORTHWEST!

By HAROLD BINDLOSS

Author of "THE MAN FROM THE WILDS," "LISTER'S GREAT ADVENTURE,"
"WYNDHAM'S PAL," "PARTNERS OF THE OUT-TRAIL," "THE LURE OF THE NORTH,"
ETC.

[Illustration]

           NEW YORK
  FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY
          PUBLISHERS

      Copyright, 1922, by
  FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY

PUBLISHED IN ENGLAND UNDER THE TITLE "THE MOUNTAINEERS"

_All Rights Reserved_

_Printed in the United States of America_



CONTENTS

CHAPTER                                 PAGE
      I  JIMMY SIGNS A NOTE                1
     II  JIMMY'S APOLOGY                   9
    III  THE CAYUSE PONY                  19
     IV  KELSHOPE RANCH                   29
      V  JIMMY HOLDS FAST                 38
     VI  DEERING OWNS A DEBT              47
    VII  AN INSURABLE INTEREST            56
   VIII  JIMMY GETS TO WORK               67
     IX  THE QUIET WOODS                  78
      X  LAURA'S REFUSAL                  87
     XI  THE GAME RESERVE                 98
    XII  STANNARD FRONTS A CRISIS        108
   XIII  THE DESERTED HOMESTEAD          117
    XIV  A SHOT IN THE DARK              126
     XV  TROOPER SIMPSON'S PRISONERS     135
    XVI  THE NECK                        144
   XVII  DILLON MEDITATES                152
  XVIII  THE CARTRIDGE BELT              162
    XIX  USEFUL FRIENDS                  171
     XX  BOB'S DENIAL                    182
    XXI  DEERING'S EXCURSION             190
   XXII  DEERING TAKES COUNSEL           200
  XXIII  MARGARET TAKES A PLUNGE         208
   XXIV  JIMMY RESIGNS HIMSELF           218
    XXV  THE CALL                        227
   XXVI  DEERING TAKES THE TRAIL         236
  XXVII  DEERING'S PROGRESS              245
 XXVIII  A DISSOLVING PICTURE            254
   XXIX  HELD UP                         263
    XXX  THE GULLY                       274
   XXXI  STANNARD'S LINE                 281
  XXXII  BY THE CAMP-FIRE                288
 XXXIII  SIR JAMES APPROVES              297



NORTHWEST!



I

JIMMY SIGNS A NOTE


The small room at the Canadian hotel was hot and smelt of cigar-smoke
and liquor. Stannard put down his cards, shrugged resignedly, and opened
the window. Deering smiled and pulled a pile of paper money across the
table. He was strongly built and belonged to a mountaineering club, but
he was fat and his American dinner jacket looked uncomfortably tight.

Deering's habit was to smile, and Jimmy Leyland had liked his knowing
twinkle. Somehow it hinted that you could not cheat Deering, but if you
were his friend you could trust him, and he would see you out. Now,
however, Jimmy thought he grinned. Jimmy had reckoned on winning the
pool, but Deering had picked up the money he imagined was his.

Jackson wiped a spot of liquor from his white shirt and gave the boy a
sympathetic glance. Jackson was thin, dark-skinned and grave, and
although he did not talk much about himself, Jimmy understood he was
rather an important gentleman in Carolina. Stannard had indicated
something like this. Stannard and Jimmy were frankly English, but Jimmy
was young and the other's hair was touched by white.

Yet Stannard was athletic, and at Parisian clubs and Swiss hotels men
talked about his fencing and his exploits on the rocks. He was not a big
man, but now his thin jacket was open, the moulding of his chest and the
curve to his black silk belt were Greek. All the same, one rather got a
sense of cultivation than strength; Stannard looked thoroughbred, and
Jimmy was proud he was his friend.

Jimmy was not cultivated. He was a careless, frank and muscular English
lad, but he was not altogether raw, because he knew London and Paris and
had for some time enjoyed Stannard's society. His manufacturing
relations in Lancashire thought him an extravagant fool, and perhaps had
grounds for doing so, for since Jimmy had broken their firm control his
prudence was not marked.

"I must brace up. Let's stop for a few minutes," he said and went to the
window.

The room was on the second floor, and the window opening on top of the
veranda, commanded the valley. Across the terrace in front of the hotel,
dark pines rolled down to the river, and the water sparkled in the moon.
On the other side a belt of mist floated about the mountain slope and
dark rocks went up and melted in the snow. The broken white line ran far
North and was lost in the distance. One smelt the sweet resinous scents
the soft Chinook wind blew across the wilderness.

Jimmy's glance rested on the river and the vague blue-white field of ice
from which the green flood sprang. Now the electric elevators had
stopped, the angry current's measured throb rolled across the pines. But
for this, all was very quiet, and the other windows opening on the
veranda were blank. Jimmy remembered the hotel manager himself had some
time since firmly put out the billiard-room lights, when Jimmy was about
ten dollars up at pool. He had afterwards won a much larger sum at
cards, but his luck had begun to turn.

By and by Stannard came out and jumped on the high top rail. The light
from the window touched his face, and his profile, cutting against the
dark, was good and firmly lined. His balance on the narrow rail was like
a boy's.

"If you carried my weight, you wouldn't get up like that. Two hundred
pounds wants some moving," Deering remarked with a noisy laugh.

"I've known you move about an icy slope pretty fast," said Stannard, and
taking his hands from the rail, pulled out his watch. "Two o'clock!" he
resumed and gave Jimmy a smile. "I rather think you ought to go to bed.
You have not got Deering's steadiness and still are a few dollars up. To
stop when your luck is good is a useful plan."

"My legs are steadier than my head," Deering rejoined. "When I played
the ten-spot Jimmy saw my game. Cost me five dollars. I reckon I ought
to go to bed!"

Jimmy frowned. He was persuaded he was sober, and although Stannard was
a very good sort, sometimes his fatherly admonition jarred. Then he had
won a good sum from Stannard and must not be shabby. The strange thing
was he could not remember how much he had won.

"To stop as soon as my luck turns is not my plan," he said. "I feel I
owe you a chance to get your own back."

"Oh, well! If you feel like that, we had better go on; but your
fastidiousness may cost you something," Stannard remarked, and Deering
hit Jimmy's back.

"You're a sport; I like you! Play up and play straight's your rule."

Jimmy was flattered, although he doubted Deering's soberness. He did
play straight, and when he won he did not go off with a walletful of his
friends' money. All the same, Jackson's bored look annoyed him, since it
rather indicated that he was willing to indulge Jimmy than that he noted
his scrupulous fairness. Jimmy resolved to banish the fellow's languor,
and when they went back to the card table demanded that they put up the
stakes. Jackson agreed resignedly, and they resumed the game.

The room got hotter and the cigar-smoke was thick. Sometimes Stannard
went to the ice-pail and mixed a cooling drink. Jimmy meant to use
caution, but his luck had turned, and excitement parched his mouth. By
and by Stannard, who was dealing, stopped.

"Your play is wild, Jimmy," he remarked. "I think you have had enough."

Jimmy turned to the others. His face was red and his gesture boyishly
theatrical.

"I play for sport, not for dollars. I don't want your money, and now
you're getting something back, we'll put up the bets again."

"Then, since your wad is nearly gone, somebody must keep the score,"
said Jackson, and Stannard pulled out his note-book.

Jimmy took another drink and tried to brace up. His luck, like his roll
of bills, was obviously gone, but when he was winning the others had not
stopped, and he did not want them, so to speak, to let him off. When he
lost he could pay. But this was not important, and he must concentrate
on his cards. The cards got worse and as a rule the ace he thought one
antagonist had was played by another. At length Stannard pushed back his
chair from the table.

"Three o'clock and I have had enough," he said, and turned to Jimmy. "Do
you know how much you are down?"

Jimmy did not know, but he imagined the sum was large, and when Stannard
began to reckon he went to the window. Day was breaking and mist rolled
about the pines. The snow was gray and the high rocks were blurred and
dark. Jimmy heard the river and the wind in the trees. The cold braced
him and he vaguely felt the landscape's austerity. His head was getting
steadier, and perhaps it was the contrast, but when he turned and looked
about the room he was conscious of something like disgust. Stannard,
occupied with his pencil, knitted his brows, and now his graceful
carelessness was not marked; Jimmy thought his look hard and
calculating. Yet Stannard was his friend and model. He admitted he was
highly strung and perhaps his imagination cheated him.

He was not cheated about the others. Now a reaction from the excitement
had begun, he saw Deering and Jackson as he had not seen them before.
Deering's grin was sottish, the fellow was grossly fat, and he fixed his
greedy glance on Stannard's note-book. Jackson, standing behind
Stannard, studied the calculations, as if he meant to satisfy himself
the sum was correct. Jimmy thought them impatient to know their share
and their keenness annoyed him. Then Stannard put up his book.

"It looks as if your resolve to play up was rash," he remarked and
stated the sum Jimmy owed. "Can you meet the reckoning?"

"You know I'm broke. You're my banker and must fix it for me."

Stannard nodded. "Very well! What about your bet in the billiard-room?"

"Nothing about it. I made the stroke."

Deering grinned indulgently, and when Jackson shrugged, Jimmy's face got
red.

"If they're not satisfied, give them the lot; I don't dispute about
things like that," he said haughtily. "Write an acknowledgment for all I
owe and I'll sign the note."

Stannard wrote and tore the leaf from his note-book, but he now used a
fountain pen. Jimmy took the pen, signed the acknowledgment and went
off. When he had gone Deering looked at Stannard and laughed.

"Your touch is light, but if the boy begins to feel your hand he'll
kick. Anyhow, I'll take my wad."

Stannard gave him a roll of paper money and turned to Jackson.

"I'll take mine," said Jackson. "In the morning I pull out."

"You stated you meant to stop for a time."

"There's nothing in the game for me, and I don't see what Deering
expects to get," said Jackson in a languid voice. "I doubt if you'll
keep him long; the boys in his home section, on the coast, reckon he
puts up a square deal. Anyhow, you can't have my help."

Stannard gave him a searching glance and Deering straightened his big
body. Jackson's glance was quietly scornful.

"A hundred dollars is a useful sum, but my mark's higher, and I play
with men. Maybe I'll meet up with some rich tourists at the Banff
hotels," he resumed, and giving the others a careless nod, went off.

"A queer fellow, but sometimes his mood is nasty," said Deering. "I
felt I'd like to throw him over the rails."

"As a rule, his sort carry a gun," Stannard remarked.

Deering wiped some liquor from the table, picked up Jimmy's glass, which
was on the floor, and put away the cards.

"In the morning you had better give the China boy two dollars," he said
in a meaning voice, and when he went to the door Stannard put out the
light.



II

JIMMY'S APOLOGY


In the morning Jimmy leaned, rather moodily, against the terrace wall.
There was no garden, for the hotel occupied a narrow shelf on the
hillside, and from the terrace one looked down on the tops of dusky
pines. The building was new, and so far the guests were not numerous,
but the manager claimed that when the charm of the neighborhood was
known, summer tourists and mountaineers would have no use for Banff.

Perhaps his hopefulness was justified, for all round the hotel primeval
forest met untrodden snow, and at the head of the valley a glacier
dropped to a calm green lake. A few miles south was a small
flag-station, and sometimes one heard a heavy freight train rumble in
the woods. When the distant noise died away all was very quiet but for
the throb of falling water.

Jimmy had not enjoyed his breakfast, and when he lighted a cigarette the
tobacco did not taste good. He admitted that he had been carried away,
and now he was cool he reflected that his rashness had cost him a large
sum and he had given Stannard another note. He was young, and had for a
year or two indulged his youthful craving for excitement, but he began
to doubt if he could keep it up. After all, he had inherited more than
he knew from his sternly business-like and rather parsimonious
ancestors. Although the Leyland cotton mills were now famous in
Lancashire, Jimmy's grandfather had earned day wages at the spinning
frame.

Jimmy felt dull and thought a day on the rocks would brace him up. Since
his object for the Canadian excursion was to shoot a mountain-sheep and
climb a peak in the Rockies, he ought to get into trim. Stannard could
play cards all night and start fresh in the morning on an adventure that
tried one's nerve and muscle, but Jimmy admitted he could not. When he
loafed about hotel rotundas and consumed iced drinks he got soft.

After a time, Laura Stannard crossed the veranda and went along the
terrace. Her white dress was fashionable and she wore a big white hat.
Her hair and eyes were black, her figure was gracefully slender, and her
carriage was good. Jimmy thought her strangely attractive, but did not
altogether know if she was his friend, and admitted that he was not
Laura's sort. It was not that she was proud. Something about her
indicated that her proper background was an old-fashioned English
country house; Jimmy felt his was a Lancashire cotton mill. Laura did
not live with Stannard, but she joined him and Jimmy in Switzerland not
long before they started for Canada. Stannard was jealous about his
daughter and had indicated that his friends were not necessarily hers.
Jimmy had grounds to think Stannard's caution justified.

For a minute or two Jimmy left the girl alone. He imagined if Laura were
willing to talk to him she would let him know. She went to the end of
the terrace, and then turning opposite a bench, looked up and smiled.
Jimmy advanced and when he joined her leaned against the low wall. Laura
studied him quietly and he got embarrassed. Somehow he felt she
disapproved; he imagined he did not altogether look as if he had got up
after a night's refreshing sleep.

"You got breakfast early," she remarked.

"That is so," Jimmy agreed. "A fellow at my table argues about our
slowness in the Old Country and sometimes one would sooner be quiet.
Then I thought I'd go off and see if I could reach the ice-fall on the
glacier; after the sun gets hot the snow is treacherous. Anyhow, you
have come down as soon as me."

"I mean to go on the lake and try to catch a trout."

"Then, I hope you'll let me come. You'll want somebody to row the boat
and use the landing-net."

"The hotel guide will row and I doubt if we'll need the landing-net,"
Laura replied and gave him a level glance. "Besides, I shall return for
lunch and I rather think you ought to go for a long climb. When I came
out, you looked moody and slack."

Jimmy colored. Although he was embarrassed, to know Laura had bothered
to remark his moodiness was flattering; the strange thing was, when she
crossed the veranda he had not thought she saw him. Jimmy was raw, but
not altogether a fool. He knew Laura did not mean him to go with her to
the lake.

"Oh, well," he said. "When one loafs about, one does get slack."

"You are young and ought not to loaf."

"I imagine I'm a little older than you," Jimmy rejoined with a twinkle.

Laura let it go. As a rule, she did not take the obvious line, and
although she knew much Jimmy did not, she said, "Are you old enough to
play cards with Jackson and Deering?"

"One must pay for all one gets, and, in a sense, I get much from men
like that," Jimmy replied. "There's something one likes about Jackson,
and Deering's a very good sort."

"Are you ambitious to be Deering's sort?" Laura asked.

Jimmy pondered. It was obvious she knew the men were Stannard's friends,
and she, no doubt, knew Stannard was a keen gambler. The ground was
awkward and he must use some caution.

"Mr. Stannard's my model," he said.

Laura's glance was inscrutable. Since her mother died she had not lived
with Stannard and he puzzled her. Sometimes she was disturbed about him,
and sometimes she was jarred. When she joined him for a few weeks he was
kind, but he did not ask for her confidence and did not give her his.

"It looks as if my father's attraction for you was strong," she said
thoughtfully.

"That is so," Jimmy declared with a touch of enthusiasm Laura saw was
sincere. "Mr. Stannard has all the qualities I'd like to cultivate. My
habit, so to speak, is to shove along laboriously; he gets where he
wants without an effort. On the trains and steamers he gets for nothing
things another couldn't buy, and at the hotel the waiters serve him
first. People trust him and are keen about his society. He's urbane and
polished, but when you go with him on the rocks you note his steely
pluck. When I'm stuck and daunted he smiles, and somehow I get up the
awkward slab. Besides, he stands for much I wanted but couldn't get
until he helped."

"What did you want?"

"Excitement, adventure, and the friendship of clever people; something
like that," said Jimmy awkwardly. "To begin with, I'd better tell you
about my life in Lancashire, but I expect you're bored----"

Laura was not bored; in fact, her curiosity was excited. Stannard's
young friends were numerous, but when he opened his London flat to them
she stopped with her aunts. Now she wondered whether it was important he
had allowed her to join his Canadian excursion.

"I am not at all bored," she said.

"Very well. My father died long since and I went to my uncle's house.
I'd like to draw Ardshaw for you, but I cannot. Inside, it's overcrowded
by clumsy Victorian furniture; outside is a desolation of industrial
ugliness. Smoky fields, fenced by old colliery ropes, a black canal, and
coalpit winding towers. I went to school on board a steam tram, along a
road bordered all the way by miners' cottages."

"The picture's not attractive," Laura remarked. "Was your uncle
satisfied with his house?"

Jimmy smiled. "I think he was altogether satisfied. The Leylands are a
utilitarian lot, and rather like ugliness. Our interests are business,
and religion of a stern Puritanical sort. From my relations' point of
view, grace and beauty are snares. Besides, Dick Leyland got Ardshaw
cheap and I expect this accounts for much. When he went there the
Leyland mills were small; my grandfather had not long started on his
lucky speculation."

"But after a time you went away to school--a public school?"

"I did not. I imagined it was obvious," said Jimmy with a touch of
dryness. "I went to the mill office and sat under a gas-lamp, writing
entries in the stock-books, from nine o'clock until six. Dick Leyland
had no use for university cultivation and my aunt was persuaded Oxford
was a haunt of profligates. Well, because I was forced, I held out until
I was twenty-one. Then I'd had enough and I went to London."

"Were your relations willing for you to go?"

"They were not at all willing, but I inherit a third-part of the Leyland
mills. For all that, unless my trustees approve, I cannot, for another
two or three years, use control, and the sum I may spend is fixed.
Well, perhaps you can picture my launching out in town. I had no rules
to go by; I wore the stamp of the cotton mill and a second-class school.
For five years I'd earned a small clerk's pay, and now, by contrast, I
was rich."

Laura could picture it. The boy's reaction from his uncle's firm and
parsimonious guardianship was natural, and she studied him with fresh
curiosity. He was tall but rather loosely built, and his look was
apologetic, as if he had not yet got a man's strength and confidence.
One noted the stamp of the cotton mill. As a rule Jimmy was generous and
extravagant; but sometimes he was strangely business-like.

"Were you satisfied with your experiment?" she asked.

"I expect you're tired. If you were not kind, you'd have sent me off."

"Not at all," said Laura. "I like to study people, and your story has a
human touch. In a way, it's the revolt of youth."

"Oh, well; I expect one does not often get all one thinks to get. I
wanted the cultivation Oxford might have given me; I wanted to know
people of your sort, who don't bother about business, but hunt and fish
and shoot. Well, I can throw a dry-fly and hold a gun straight; but
after all I'm Jimmy Leyland, from the mills in Lancashire."

Laura liked his honesty, but his voice was now not apologetic. She
rather thought it proud.

"You met my father in Switzerland?" she said.

"At Chamonix, about a year ago. When I met Mr. Stannard my luck was
good. I'd got into the wrong lot; they used me and laughed. Well, your
father showed me where I was going and sent the others off. Perhaps you
know how he does things like that? He's urban, but very firm. Anyhow,
the others went and I've had numerous grounds to trust Mr. Stannard
since."

Jimmy lighted a cigarette. Perhaps he ought to go, but Laura's interest
was flattering and she had not allowed him to talk like this before. In
fact, he rather wondered why she had done so. In the meantime Laura
pondered his artless narrative. His liking her father was not strange,
for Stannard's charm was strong, but Laura imagined to enjoy his society
cost his young friends something. Perhaps it had cost Jimmy something,
for he had stated that one must pay for all one got. He was obviously
willing to pay, but Laura was puzzled. If his uncle's portrait was
accurate, she imagined the sum Jimmy was allowed to spend was not large.

"One ought to have an object and know where one means to go," she
remarked. "When you look ahead, are you satisfied?"

"In the meantime, I'll let Mr. Stannard indicate the way," said Jimmy
with a smile. "On the whole, I expect Dick Leyland would sooner I didn't
meddle at the office, but after a year or two I'll probably go back.
You see, Dick has no children and Jim's not married. To carry on
Leyland's is my job."

"Who is Jim?"

"Sir James Leyland, knight. In Lancashire we have not much use for
titles; the head of the house is Jim and I'm Jimmy. Perhaps the
diminutive is important."

"But suppose your uncles did not approve your carrying on the house?"

"Then, I imagine they could, for a time, force me to leave the mills
alone. However, although Dick is very like a machine, I've some grounds
to think Jim human. All the same, I hardly know him. He's at Bombay; the
house transacts much business in India. But I must have bored you and
you haven't got breakfast. I suppose you really won't let me row the
boat?"

Laura pondered. Her curiosity was not altogether satisfied and she now
was willing for Jimmy to join her on the lake. Yet she had refused, and
after his frank statement, she had better not agree.

"I have engaged the hotel guide, Miss Grant is going, and the boat is
small," she said. "Besides, when one means to catch trout one must
concentrate."

Jimmy went off and Laura knitted her brows. She knew Jimmy's habit was
not to boast, and if she had understood him properly, he would by and by
control the fortunes of the famous manufacturing house. Her father's
plan was rather obvious, and the blood came to Laura's skin. She knew
something about poverty and admitted that when she married her marriage
must be good, but she was not an adventuress. Yet Jimmy was rather a
handsome fellow and had some attractive qualities.



III

THE CAYUSE PONY


The afternoon was hot, the little wineberry bushes were soft, and Jimmy
lay in a big hemlock's shade. A few yards in front, a falling pine had
broken the row of straight red trunks, and in the gap shining snow peaks
cut the serene sky. Below, the trees rolled down the hillside, and at
the bottom a river sparkled. Rivers, however, were numerous, the bush on
the hill-bench Jimmy had crossed was thick, and he frankly did not know
where he had come down. If the hotel was in the valley, he need not
bother, but he doubted, and was not keen about climbing another mountain
spur. In the meantime, he smoked his pipe and mused.

He owed Stannard rather a large sum. They went about to shooting parties
at country houses and lodges by Scottish salmon rivers. Visiting with
Stannard's sporting friends was expensive and he allowed Jimmy to bear
the cost. Jimmy was willing and made Stannard his banker; now and then
they reckoned up and Jimmy gave him an acknowledgment for the debt.
Although Stannard stated he was poor, his habits were extravagant and
somehow he got money.

Yet Jimmy did not think Stannard exploited him. He had found his advice
good and Stannard had saved him from some awkward entanglements. In
fact, Stannard was his friend, and although his friendship was perhaps
expensive, in a year or two Jimmy would be rich. Since his parsimonious
uncle had not let him go to a university, his spending a good sum was
justified, and to go about with Stannard was a liberal education.
Perhaps, for a careless young fellow, Jimmy's argument was strangely
commercial, but he was the son of a keen and frugal business man.

Then he began to muse about Laura. Her beauty and refinement attracted
him, but he imagined Laura knew his drawbacks, and to imagine Stannard
had planned for him to marry her was ridiculous. Stannard was not like
that, and when Laura was with him saw that Jimmy did not get much of her
society. In fact, had she not come down for breakfast before the other
guests, Jimmy imagined he would not have enjoyed a confidential talk
with her. All the same, to loaf in the shade and dwell on Laura's charm
was soothing.

In the meantime, he was hungry, and he had not bothered to carry his
lunch. When he got breakfast he had not much appetite. Since morning he
had scrambled about the rocks, and he thought the hotel was some
distance off. Getting up with something of an effort, he plunged down
hill through the underbrush. At the bottom he stopped and frowned. He
ought not to have lost his breath, but he had done so and his heart
beat. It looked as if he must cut out strong cigars and iced liquor.

A few yards off a trail went up the valley and slanted sunbeams crossed
the narrow opening. Jimmy thought he heard a horse's feet and resolved
to wait and ask about the hotel. He was in the shade, but for a short
distance the spot commanded the trail.

The beat of horse's feet got louder and a girl rode out from the gap in
the dark pine branches. A sunbeam touched her and her hair, and the
steel buckle in her soft felt hat shone. She rode astride and wore
fringed leggings and a jacket of soft deerskin. Her figure was graceful
and she swung easily with the horse's stride. Her hair was like gold and
her eyes were deep blue. Jimmy afterwards thought it strange he noted so
much, but she, so to speak, sprang from the gloom like a picture on a
film, and the picture held him.

He did not know if the girl was beautiful, but in the tangled woods her
charm was keen. Her dress harmonized with the moss on the tall red
trunks, and the ripening fern. Something primitive and strong marked her
easy, confident pose. The horse, an Indian _cayuse_, tossed its head and
glanced about nervously, as if its habit was to scent danger in the
bush. Jimmy sprang from primitive stock and he knew, half instinctively,
the girl's type was his. He must, however, inquire about the hotel, and
he pushed through the raspberries by the trail.

The horse, startled by the noise, stopped and tried to turn. The girl
pulled the bridle and braced herself back. The cayuse jumped like a cat,
plunged forward, and feeling the bit, bucked savagely. Jimmy wondered
how long the girl would stick to the saddle, but after a moment or two
the cayuse started for the bush. Jimmy thought he knew the trick, for
when a cayuse cannot buck off its rider it goes for a tree, and if one
keeps one's foot in the stirrup, one risks a broken leg. He jumped for
its head and seized the links at the bit.

The girl ordered him to let go, but he did not. He had frightened her
horse and must not allow the savage brute to jamb her against a tree.
Its ears were pressed back and he saw its teeth, but so long as he stuck
to the bit, it could not seize his hand. Then it went round in a
semi-circle, the link twisted and pinched his fingers, and he knew he
could not hold on. The animal's head went up, Jimmy got a heavy blow and
fell across the trail. A few moments afterwards he heard a beat of
hoofs, some distance off, and knew the cayuse was gone. The girl,
breathing rather hard, leaned against a trunk.

"Are you hurt?" she asked.

"I don't know yet," Jimmy gasped. "I'll find out when I get up."

He got up and forced a smile. "Anyhow, nothing's broken. Are you hurt?"

"No," she said. "I'm not hurt, but I'm angry. When you butted in I
couldn't use the bridle."

"I'm sorry; I wanted to help. However, it looks as if your horse had run
away. Have you far to go?"

"The ranch is three miles off."

"How far's the hotel?"

"If you go by the trail, about eight miles. Perhaps four miles, if you
cross the range."

Jimmy studied the thick timber and the steep rocky slopes. Pushing
through tangled underbrush has drawbacks, particularly where
devil's-club thorns are numerous. Besides, he had got a nasty knock and
his leg began to hurt. Then he noted a cotton flour bag with straps
attached lying in the trail.

"I think I won't cross the range. I suppose that bag is yours?"

"It is mine. They put our groceries off the train. I reckon the bag
weighs about forty pounds. I carried the thing on the front of the
saddle; but when you----"

Jimmy nodded. "When I butted in you were forced to let it go! Well,
since I frightened your horse, I ought to carry your bag. If I take it
to the ranch, do you think your folks would give me supper?"

"It's possible. Can you carry the bag?"

"I'll try," said Jimmy. "Have you some grounds to doubt?"

"Packing a load over a rough trail is not as easy as it looks," the girl
rejoined with a twinkle. "Then I expect you're a tourist tenderfoot."

Jimmy liked her smile and he liked her voice. Her Western accent was not
marked and her glance was frank. He thought, if he had not meddled, she
would have mastered the frightened horse; her strength and pluck were
obvious. In the meantime his leg hurt and he could not examine the
injury.

"I am a tourist," he agreed. "Since I'm going to your house, perhaps I
ought to state that I'm Jimmy Leyland, from Lancashire in the Old
Country."

"I am Margaret Jardine."

"Then you're a Scot?"

"My father is a Scot," said Margaret. "I'm Canadian."

"Ah," said Jimmy, "I've heard something like that before and begin to
see what it implies. Well, it looks as if you were an independent lot.
Is one allowed to state that in the Old Country we are rather proud of
you?"

"Since I'd like to make Kelshope before dark, perhaps you had better get
going," Margaret remarked.

Jimmy picked up the bag and fastened the deerskin straps, by which it
hung from his shoulders like a rucksack. They started, and for a time he
kept up with Margaret, but he did not talk. The pack was heavy, he had
not had much breakfast and had gone without his lunch. Besides, his leg
was getting very sore. At length he stopped and began to loose the
straps.

"Do you mind if I take a smoke?" he asked.

Margaret looked at him rather hard, but said she did not mind, and
Jimmy, indicating a cedar log, pulled out his cigarette case.

"Do you smoke?"

"I do not. In the bush, we haven't yet copied the girls at the hotels."

"Now I think about it, the girls who smoked at the Montreal hotel were
not numerous," Jimmy remarked. "When I went to the fishing lodge in
Scotland, all smoked, but then Stannard's friends are very much
up-to-date. The strange thing is, we're thought antiquated in the Old
Country----"

He stopped and tried to brace up. What he wanted to state eluded him. He
felt cold and the pines across the trail got indistinct.

"You see, in some of our circles we rather feel our duty is to be
modern," he resumed with an effort. "I think you're not like that.
Canada's a new country, but, in a way, one feels you're really older
than we are. We have got artificial; you are flesh and blood----"

"Don't talk!" said Margaret firmly, but Jimmy thought her voice was
faint, and for a few moments the tall pines melted altogether.

When he looked up Margaret asked: "Have you got a tobacco pouch?"

Jimmy gave her the pouch and she went off. He was puzzled and rather
annoyed, but somehow he could not get on his feet. By and by Margaret
came back, carrying the pouch opened like a double cup. Jimmy drank some
water and the numbness began to go.

"You're very kind. I expect I'm ridiculous," he said.

"I was not kind. I let you carry the pack, although the cayuse knocked
you down."

"Perhaps the knock accounts for something," Jimmy remarked in a languid
voice.

He had got a nasty knock, but he imagined Stannard's cigars and
Deering's iced drinks were really accountable. In the meantime, he noted
that Margaret was wiping his tobacco pouch.

"You mustn't bother," he resumed. "Give me the thing."

"But when it's wet you cannot put in the tobacco."

"I thought you threw away the stuff. I can get another lot at the
hotel."

Margaret brushed the tobacco from a flake of bark, and filled the pouch.

"In the woods, one doesn't throw away expensive tobacco."

"Thanks!" said Jimmy. "Some time since, I lived with people like you."

"Poor and frugal people?"

"No," said Jimmy, with a twinkle. "Dick and his wife were rather rich.
In fact, in England, I think you begin to use economy when you get rich.
Anyhow, it's not important, and you needn't bother about me. As a rule,
philosophizing doesn't knock me out. The cayuse kicked pretty hard.
Well, suppose we start?"

He got up and when Margaret tried to take the pack he pulled it away.

"The job's mine. I undertook to carry the load."

"But you're tired, and I think you're lame."

"We won't dispute," said Jimmy. "You oughtn't to dispute. Perhaps it's
strange, but one feels your word ought to go."

"It looks as if my word did not go."

"Oh, well," said Jimmy, "when you command people, you have got to use
some caution. Much depends on whom you command, and in Lancashire we're
an obstinate lot. Anyhow, I'll take the bag."

He pushed his arms through the straps and Margaret said nothing. She
might have taken the bag from him, but to use force was not dignified
and she knew to let her carry the load would jar. When they set off she
noted that his face was rather white and his step was not even. He had
obviously got a nasty kick, but his pluck was good.

The sun went down behind the woods, the pines got dim and sweet resinous
scents floated about the trail. The hum of insects came out of the
shadow, and Jimmy was forced to rub the mosquitoes from his neck. To put
up his hands was awkward, for the ground was uneven, and he must balance
his load. He could not talk, the important thing was to reach the ranch
before it got dark, and setting his mouth, he pushed ahead.

At length Margaret stopped at a fence, and when she began to pull down
the rails Jimmy leaned against a post. The rails were rudely split, and
the zig-zag fence was locked by crossed supports and not fastened by
nails. On the other side, where timothy grass and oats had grown, was
stubble, dotted by tall stumps and fern. A belt of chopped trees
surrounded the clearing, and behind the tangled belt the forest rose
like a dark wall. An indistinct log house and barns occupied the other
end. An owl swooped noiselessly across the fence, and Jimmy heard the
distant howl of a timber wolf.

"Kelshope ranch," said Margaret. "The path goes to the house. I must put
up the rails."

Jimmy went through the gap. Perhaps it was soothing quietness, but he
felt he liked Kelshope and his curiosity was excited. He knew the big
Canadian hotels, the pullmans and observation-cars. So far, money had
supplied him, as in London, with much that made life smooth. Now he was
to see something of the Canada in which man must labor for all he gets.
The strange thing was, he felt this was the Canada he really ought to
know.



IV

KELSHOPE RANCH


Breakfast was over at Kelshope ranch and Jimmy occupied a log at the
edge of the clearing. Although his muscles were sore, he felt strangely
fresh and somehow satisfied. At the hotel, as a rule, he had not felt
like that. His leg hurt, but his host had doctored the cut with some
American liniment, and Jimmy was content to rest in the shade and look
about. He thought he saw the whole process of clearing a ranch.

In the background, was virgin forest; pine, spruce and hemlock, locking
their dark branches. Then one noted the _slashing_, where chopped trees
had fallen in tangled rows, and an inner belt of ashes and blackened
stumps. Other stumps, surrounded by fern, checkered the oblong of
cultivated soil, and the dew sparkled on the short oat stubble. The oats
were not grown for milling; the heads were small and Jardine cut the
crop for hay. The garden-lot and house occupied a gentle slope. The
walls were built of logs, notched and crossed at the corners; cedar
shingles, split by hand on the spot, covered the roof. Behind the house,
one saw fruit trees and log barns. Nothing was factory-made, and Jimmy
thought all indicated strenuous labor.

A yard or two off, Jardine rubbed his double-bitted axe with a small
round hone. He wore a gray shirt, overalls and long boots, and his skin
was very brown. He was not a big man, but he looked hard and muscular
and his glance was keen.

"Ye need to get the edge good. It pays to keep her sharp," he said and
tried the blade with his thumb.

"I expect that is so," Jimmy agreed. "Did you, yourself, clear the
ranch?"

"I chopped every tree, burned the slashing, and put up the house and
barns. Noo I'm getting things in trim and run a small bunch of stock."

Jimmy thought it a tremendous undertaking; the logs stacked ready to
burn were two or three feet across the butt.

"How long were you occupied?" he asked.

"Twelve years," said Jardine, rather drily. "When the country doon the
Fraser began to open up I sold my other ranch, bought two or three
building lots in a new town, and started for the bush. I liked this
location and I stopped."

"But can you get your stuff to a market?"

"Cows can walk, but when ye clear a bush ranch ye dinna bother much
about selling truck. Ye sit tight until the Government cuts a wagon
trail, or maybe a railroad's built, and the settlements spring up."

"And then you expect to sell for a good price all the stuff you grow?"

Jardine smiled. "Then I expect to sell the ranch and push on again. The
old-time bushman has no use for game-wardens, city sports,
store-keepers and real-estate boomers----"

He stopped and his look got scornful. Jimmy found out afterwards that
the pioneer hates the business man and Jardine sprang from Scottish
Border stock. Perhaps he had inherited his pride and independence from
salmon-poaching ancestors. What he wanted he labored for; to traffic was
not his plan.

"Weel," he resumed, "I'd better get busy. After dinner I'll drive ye to
the hotel."

He went off, and although Jimmy had expected to lunch at the hotel he
was satisfied to wait. He mused about his host. Jardine was not young,
but he carried himself well and Jimmy had known young men who did not
move like him; then the ranch indicated his talent for labor. Yet
muscular strength was obviously not all one needed; to front and remove
daunting obstacles, one must have pluck and imagination. The job was a
man's job, but, in a sense, the qualities it demanded were primitive,
and Jimmy began to see why the ranch attracted him. His grandfather had
labored in another's mill; the house of Leyland's was founded on
stubborn effort and stern frugality.

Jimmy began to wonder where Jardine fed his cattle, because he saw none
in the clearing, but by and by a distant clash of bells rolled across
the trees. Jimmy had heard the noise before; when he went to sleep and
again at daybreak, a faint, elusive chime had broken the quietness that
brooded over Kelshope ranch. It was the clash of cow-bells, ringing as
the stock pushed through the underbrush. When he heard a sharper note
he got up and, for his leg hurt, went cautiously into the woods.

By and by he stopped in the tall fern. Not far off Margaret, holding out
a bunch of corn, occupied the middle of an opening in which little red
wineberries grew. Her pose was graceful, she did not wear a hat, and the
sun was on her hair. Her neck was very white, and then her skin was
delicate pink that deepened to brown. Her dress was dull blue and the
yellow corn forced up the soft color.

"Oh, Bright; oh, Buck!" she called, and Jimmy thought her voice musical
like the chiming bells.

Where the sunbeams pierced the shade long horns gleamed, the bells rang
louder, and a big brown ox looked out, fixed its quiet eyes on the girl,
and vanished noiselessly. Margaret did not move at all. She was still as
the trees in the background, and Jimmy approved her quietness. He got a
hint of balance, strength and calm.

"Oh, Bright!" she called, and a brawny red-and-white animal pushed out
from the fern, shook its massive head, and advanced to smell the corn.

Jimmy now saw Margaret carried a rope in her other hand, but she let the
ox eat the corn and stroked its white forehead before she threw the rope
round its horns. Although she was very quick, her movements were gentle
and the animal stood still. Then she looked up and smiled.

"You can come out, Mr. Leyland."

"You knew I was in the fern?"

"Sure," said Margaret. "I was born in the woods. All the same, you were
quiet. I reckon you can be quiet. In the bush, that's something."

"You imply that I was quiet, for a tenderfoot?"

"Why, yes," Margaret agreed, smiling. "As a rule, a man from the cities
can't keep still. He must talk and move about. You didn't feel you ought
to come and help?"

Jimmy wondered whether she knew he had wanted to study her, but thought
she did not. Anyhow, he was satisfied she, so to speak, had not posed
for him.

"Not at all," he said. "I saw you knew your job, and I reflected that
the ox did not know me. But shall I hold him until you catch the other?"

"Buck will follow his mate," Margaret replied, and when they started a
cow-bell clashed and Buck stole out of the shade.

Jimmy thought stole the proper word. He had expected to hear branches
crack and underbrush rustle, but the powerful oxen moved almost silently
through the wood.

"Now I see why you give them bells," he remarked. "But doesn't the
jangling bother the animals?"

"They like the bells. At night I think they toss their heads to hear the
chime. Then they know the bells are useful. Sometimes when all is quiet
the cattle scatter, but when the timber wolves are about or a cinnamon
bear comes down the rocks the herd rolls up. Bush cattle are clever. Now
Bright feels the rope, he's resigned to go to work."

"You know the woods. Have you always lived at a ranch?"

"For a time I was at Toronto," Margaret replied. "When I was needed at
Kelshope, I came back."

Jimmy felt she baffled him. Margaret had not stated her occupation at
Toronto, but he had remarked that her English was better than the
English one used at the cotton mills. After all, he was not entitled to
satisfy his curiosity.

"One can understand Mr. Jardine's needing you," he said. "I expect a
bush rancher is forced to hustle."

"A bush rancher must hustle all the time," Margaret agreed. "Still, work
one likes goes easily. Have you tried?"

"I have tried work I did not like and admit I've had enough," Jimmy
said, and laughed. "When I started for Canada, my notion was I'd be
content to play about."

Margaret nodded. "We know your sort. You are not, like our tourists,
merchants and manufacturers. You have no use for business. All you think
about is sport, and your sport's extravagant. You stop at our big
hotels, and when you go off to hunt and fish you hire a gang of packers
to carry your camp truck."

"I doubt if I really am that sort," Jimmy rejoined. "After all, my
people are pretty keen business men, and I begin to see that to
cultivate the habits of the other lot is harder than I thought. In
fact, I rather think I'd like to own a ranch."

"For a game?" said Margaret and laughed, a frank laugh. "You must cut it
out, Mr. Leyland. One can't play at ranching, and you don't know all the
bushman is up against."

"It's possible," Jimmy admitted. "Well, I expect I am a loafer, but I
did not altogether joke about the ranch. The strange thing is, after a
time loafing gets monotonous."

Margaret stopped him. "I must get busy and you ought not to walk about.
Sit down in the shade and I'll give you the _Colonist_."

Jimmy sat down, but declared he did not want the newspaper. He thought
he would study ranching, particularly Margaret's part of the job. She
put a heavy wooden yoke on the oxen's necks, fastened a rope to the
hook, and drove the animals to a belt of burned slashing where big
charred logs lay about. Jardine hitched the rope to a log and the team
hauled it slowly to a pile. Jimmy wondered how two people would get the
heavy trunk on top, but when Margaret led the oxen round the pile and
urged them ahead, the log went up in a loop of the rope. For all that,
Jardine was forced to use a handspike and Jimmy saw that to build a
log-pile demanded strength and skill.

Resting in the shade, he felt the picture's quiet charm. The oxen's
movements were slow and rhythmical; Jardine's muscular figure, bent, got
tense, and relaxed; the girl, finely posed, guided the plodding
animals. Behind were stiff, dark branches and rows of straight red
trunks. A woodpecker tapped a hollow tree, and in the distance cow-bells
chimed. The dominant note was effort, but the effort was smooth and
measured. One felt that all went as it ought to go, and Jimmy thought
about the big shining flywheel that spun with a steady throb at the
Leyland cotton mill. Then his head began to nod and his eyes shut, and
when he looked up Margaret called him to dinner.

After dinner Jardine got out his Clover-leaf wagon and drove Jimmy to
the hotel. When they arrived Jimmy took him to his room on the first
floor, and meeting Stannard on the stairs, was rather moved to note his
relief. Stannard declared that he and some others had searched the woods
since daybreak and were about to start for the ranch. By and by Deering
joined them and made an iced drink. Jardine, with tranquil enjoyment,
drained his long glass, and lighting a cigar, began to talk about
hunting in the bush. His clothes were old and his hat was battered, but
his calm was marked and Jimmy thought he studied the others with quiet
curiosity. After a time they went off, and Jardine gave Jimmy a
thoughtful smile.

"Your friends are polite and Mr. Deering can mix a drink better than a
bar-keep."

"Is that all?" Jimmy inquired.

Jardine's eyes twinkled. "Weel, if I was wanting somebody to see me out,
maybe I'd trust the big fellow."

Jimmy thought his remark strange. Stannard was a cultivated gentleman
and Deering was frankly a gambler. Yet Jimmy had grounds to imagine the
old rancher was not a fool. He was puzzled and rather annoyed, but
Jardine said he must not stay and Jimmy let him go.



V

JIMMY HOLDS FAST


The sun had sunk behind the range, and the sky was green. In places the
high white peaks were touched by fading pink; the snow that rolled down
to the timber-line was blue. Mist floated about the pines by the river,
but did not reach the hotel terrace, and the evening was warm. Looking
down at the dark valley, one got a sense of space and height.

At the end of the terrace, a small table carried a coffee service, and
Laura occupied a basket chair. She smoked a cigarette and her look was
thoughtful. Jimmy, sitting opposite, liked her fashionable dinner dress.
He had met Laura in Switzerland, but he felt as if he had not known her
until she went with Stannard to the Canadian hotel. In fact, he imagined
she had very recently begun to allow him to know her. Stannard had gone
off a few minutes since, and Deering was playing pool with a young
American.

"Since you came back from the ranch I've thought you preoccupied," Laura
remarked.

"I expect you thought me dull," said Jimmy with an apologetic smile.
"Well, for some days I've been pondering things, and I'm not much used
to the exercise. In a way, you're accountable. You inquired not long
since if I knew where I went?"

"Then you got some illumination at the ranch?"

"You're keen. I got disturbed."

"Does to stop at a ranch disturb one?" Laura asked in a careless voice.

"I expect it depends on your temperament," Jimmy replied and knitted his
brows. "Kelshope is a model ranch; you feel all goes as it ought to go.
When you leave things alone, they don't go like that. At Jardine's you
get a sense of plan and effort. The old fellow and his daughter are
keenly occupied, and their occupation, so to speak, is fruitful. The
trouble is, mine is not."

Laura saw that when he, some time since, apologized for his loafing, her
remarks had carried weight. Jimmy had begun to ponder where he went, and
she wondered whether he would see he ought to return to the cotton mill.
Still she did not mean to talk about this.

"You stopped Miss Jardine's horse?" she said.

"I did not stop the horse. I tried, but that's another thing. If I had
not meddled, I expect Miss Jardine would have conquered the nervous
brute and I would not have got a nasty kick."

"Oh, well," said Laura. "Sometimes to meddle is rash, but your object
was good."

Then Stannard came to the veranda steps and looked about the terrace.

"Hello, Jimmy! Deering has beaten Frank and we must arrange about our
excursion to-morrow."

Jimmy frowned and hesitated. When he had talked to Laura before,
Stannard had called him away, but he thought she did not mean him to
stay and he went off. When he had gone Laura mused.

She knew Stannard was jealous for her. He did not allow her to join him
when his young friends were about, and she did not want to do so. For
the most part she lived with her mother's relations, who did not approve
of Stannard and were not satisfied about her going to Canada.

To some extent Laura imagined their doubts were justified. She knew
Stannard had squandered much of her mother's fortune, and now that her
trustees guarded the small sum she had inherited, he was poor. Yet he
belonged to good clubs and went to race meeting and shooting parties. It
looked as if sport and gambling paid, and Laura saw what this implied.
Yet her father was kind and when she was with him he indulged her.

She had remarked his calling Jimmy away. As a rule, his touch was very
light, and she wondered whether he had meant to incite the young fellow
by a hint of disapproval; but perhaps it was not his object and she
speculated about Jimmy. He was now not the raw lad she had known in
Switzerland, although he was losing something that at the beginning had
attracted her. She thought he ought not to stay with Stannard and
particularly with Deering, and she had tried to indicate the proper line
for him to take. Well, suppose he resolved to go back to Lancashire?
Laura knew her charm and imagined, if she were willing, she might go
with Jimmy. Although he could not yet use his fortune, he was rich, and
after a time would control the famous manufacturing house. Besides, he
was marked by some qualities she liked. Laura got up with an impatient
shrug, and blushed. She would not think about it yet. She was poor, but
she was not an adventuress.

In the morning, Stannard, Deering and Jimmy started for the rocks. Their
object was to follow the range and look for a line to the top of a peak
they meant to climb another day. They lunched on the mountain, and in
the afternoon stopped at the side of a gully that ran down to the
glacier. The back of the gully was smooth, and the pitch was steep, but
hardly steep enough to bother an athletic man. In places, banks of small
gravel rested, although it looked as if a disturbing foot would send
down the stones.

Some distance above the spot, the top of another pitch cut a background
of broken rocks, streaked by veins of snow. The sun was on the rocks and
some shone like polished steel, but the gully was in shadow and Jimmy
had felt the gloom daunting. Deering pulled out his cigar-case. His face
was red, his shirt was open and his sunburned neck was like a bull's.

"My load's two hundred pounds, and we have shoved along pretty fast
since lunch," he said. "Anyhow, I'm going to stop and take a smoke."

"To lean against a slippery rock won't rest you much," Stannard
remarked. "We'll get on to the shelf at the top of the slab."

"Then, somebody's got to boost me up," Deering declared, and when
Stannard went to help, put his boot on the other's head and crushed his
soft hat down to his ears.

Next moment he was on the shelf and shouted with laughter. Sometimes
Deering's humor was boyishly rude, but his friends were not cheated, and
Jimmy thought the big man keen and resolute. Stannard went up lightly,
as if it did not bother him. He was cool and, by contrast with Deering,
looked fastidiously refined. Jimmy imagined he had an object for leaving
the gully. Stannard knew the mountains; in fact, he knew all a sporting
gentleman ought to know and Jimmy was satisfied with his guide.

"Since you reckon we ought to get from under, why'd you fix on this line
down?" Deering inquired.

"The line's good, but we were longer than I thought, and the sun has
been for some time on the snow."

"Sure," said Deering. "The blamed trough looks like a rubbish shoot."

Jimmy had trusted Stannard's judgment, but now he saw a light; for one
thing, the back of the gully was smooth. The mountain fronted rather
north of west, and so long as the frost at the summit held, the party
did not run much risk, but when the thaw began snow and broken rocks
might roll down. When Deering had nearly smoked his cigar he looked up.

"Something's coming!"

Jimmy heard a rumble and a crash. A big stone leaped down the gully,
struck a rock and vanished. A bank of gravel began to slip away, and
then a gray and white mass swept across the top of the pitch. Snow and
stones poured down tumultuously, and when the avalanche was gone
confused echoes rolled about the rocks.

"That fixes it," said Deering. "I'm going the other way. Had we shoved
along a little faster, we might have made it, but I was soft, and
couldn't hit up the pace." He laughed his boisterous laugh and resumed:
"The trouble is, I played cards with Jimmy when I ought to have gone to
bed. Well, since we didn't bring a rope, what are you going to do about
it?"

"If we can reach the top, I think we can get down along the edge,"
Stannard replied.

After something of a struggle, they got up, and for a time to follow the
top of the gully was not hard. Then they stopped on an awkward pitch
where a big bulging stone, jambed in a crack, cut their view.

"I'll try the stone, but perhaps you had better traverse out across the
face and look for another line," Deering said to Stannard.

Jimmy went with Deering, and when they reached the stone saw a broken
shelf three or four yards below. On one side, the rocks dropped straight
to the gully; in front, the slope beyond the shelf was steep. For a few
moments Deering studied the ground.

"A rope would be useful, but if we can reach the shelf, we ought to get
down," he said. "I'll try to make it. Lie across the stone and give me
your hands."

Jimmy nodded. At an awkward spot the second man helps the leader, who
afterwards steadies him. The rock was rough and a small knob and the
deep crack promised some support. Still, caution was indicated, because
the shelf, on which one must drop, was inclined and narrow. Jimmy lay
across the stone and Deering, slipping over the edge, seized his hands.
He was a big fellow and Jimmy thought the stone moved, but he heard
Deering's boots scrape the rock and the strain on his arms was less.

Then he heard another noise, and snow and rocks and a broken pine rolled
down the gully. The avalanche vanished, the uproar sank, and Deering
gasped, "Hold fast!"

The load on Jimmy's arms got insupportable. He imagined the noise had
startled Deering and his foot had slipped from the knob. It looked as if
he must hold the fellow until he found the crack. Jimmy meant to try,
although the stone rocked, and he knew he could not long bear the
horrible strain. If Deering fell, he would not stop at the shelf; he
might not stop for three or four hundred feet. Jimmy set his mouth and
tried to brace his knees against the rock. The stone was moving, and if
it moved much, Deering would pull him over. Yet in a moment or two
Deering might get his boot in the crack, and to let him fall was
unthinkable.

Jimmy held on until Deering shouted and let go. He had obviously found
some support, and Jimmy tried to get back, but could not. His chest was
across the edge, and the stone rocked. He was slipping off, and saw,
half-consciously, that since he must fall, he must not fall down the
rock front. Pushing himself from the edge, he plunged into the gully,
struck the rock some way down, and knew no more. Deering, on the shelf,
saw him reach the bottom, roll for a distance and stop. He lay face
downwards, with his arms spread out.

A few moments afterwards Stannard reached the spot and looked down.
Deering's big chest heaved, his mouth was slack, and his face was white.
When he indicated Jimmy his hand shook.

"I pulled him over," he said in a hoarse voice.

Stannard gave him a keen, rather scornful glance. "Traverse across the
front for about twenty yards and you'll see a good line down. When you
get down, start for the hotel and bring the two guides, our rope, a
blanket and two poles. Send somebody to telegraph for a doctor."

"Not at all! I'm going to Jimmy. I pulled the kid over."

Stannard frowned. "You are going to the hotel. For one thing, I doubt if
you could reach Jimmy; you're badly jarred and your nerve's gone. Then,
unless you get help, we can't carry Jimmy out."

"You mustn't leave him in the gully," Deering rejoined. "Suppose a fresh
lot of stones comes along?"

"Go for help," said Stannard, pulling out his watch. "Come back up the
gully. If you have a flask, give it to me. I'm going down."

"But if there's another snow-slide, you and Jimmy will get smashed.
Besides, the job is mine."

"The snow and stones come down the middle and they'll stop by and by.
Don't talk. Start!"

Deering hesitated. He was big and muscular, but he admitted that on the
rocks Stannard was the better man. Moreover, to know he was accountable
for Jimmy's plunge had shaken him, and he saw Stannard was very cool.

"Take the flask," he said and went off at a reckless speed.



VI

DEERING OWNS A DEBT


Jimmy saw a pale star, and veins of snow streaking high shadowy rocks.
He thought when he looked up not long before, the sun was on the
mountain, but perhaps it was not. His brain was dull and he was numbed
by cold. He shivered and shut his eyes, but after a few minutes he smelt
cigar-smoke and looked about again. Although it was getting dark, he saw
somebody sitting in the gloom at the bottom of the rocks.

"Where's Deering?" he asked. "Did I let him go?"

"You did not. Take a drink," the other replied and pushed a flask into
Jimmy's hand.

Jimmy drank, gasped, and tried to get up, but found he could not move.

"Where is Deering?" he insisted.

"I expect he's crossing the glacier with the guides from the hotel,"
said the man, who took the flask from him, and Jimmy knew Stannard's
voice.

"Then where am I?"

"You are in the gully. You held on to Deering until he got support for
his foot. Then you slipped off the big stone. Something like that,
anyhow. Do you feel pain at any particular spot?"

"I don't know if one spot hurts worse than another. All hurt; I doubt if
I can get up."

"You mustn't try," said Stannard firmly. "When Deering arrives we'll
help you up."

Jimmy pondered. Since the evening was very cold, he thought it strange
Stannard had pulled off his coat. Then he saw somebody had put over him
a coat that was not his.

"Why have you given me your clothes?" he asked.

"For one thing, I didn't fall about forty feet."

"If I had fallen forty feet, I'd have got smashed. It's obvious!"

"Perhaps you hit the side of the gully and rolled down, but it's not
important. When one gets a jolt like yours the shock's as bad as the
local injury. Are you cold?"

"I'm horribly cold, but although I heard stones not long since I don't
think I got hit."

"The stones run down the middle and I pulled you against the rock."

"You're a good sort," Jimmy remarked. "Deering's a good sort. To know
he's not hurt is some relief."

Stannard said nothing and Jimmy asked for a cigarette. Stannard gave him
a cigarette and a light, but after a few moments he let it drop.

"The tobacco's not good," he said, dully, and began to muse.

He was strangely slack and his body was numb. Perhaps to feel no local
pain was ominous; he knew a man who fell on the rocks and had not
afterwards used his legs. To be wheeled about for all one's life was
horrible. When a doctor arrived he would know his luck, and in the
meantime he dared not dwell on things like that. He studied the rocks.
Stannard had obviously come down by the slanting crack; Jimmy thought he
himself could not have done so. Then Stannard, risking his getting hit
by rebounding stones, had remained with him for some hours. When Jimmy
helped Deering the sun shone, and now the stars were out. The gully was
high on the mountain and after the sun went the cold was keen, but
Stannard had given him his coat. Stannard was like that.

"I expect you sent Deering to the hotel?" Jimmy resumed after a time.

"Yes; I was firm. Deering wanted to go down to you; but I doubted if he
could get down and the important thing was to fetch help. You must be
moved as soon as possible."

Jimmy nodded; Deering was the man he had thought. All the same,
Stannard's was the finer type. Jimmy had long known his pluck, but he
had other qualities. When one must front a crisis he was cool; he saw
and carried out the proper plan. But Jimmy's brain was very dull, and
Stannard's figure melted and the rocks got indistinct.

After a time, he heard a noise. A shout echoed in the gully, nailed
boots rattled on stones and it looked as if men were coming up. Deering,
breathless and gasping, arrived before the others and motioned to
Stannard.

"Not much grounds to be disturbed, I think," said Stannard in a quiet
voice. "He was talking sensibly not long since."

Deering came to Jimmy and touched his arm. "You're not broke up,
partner? You haven't got it against me that I pulled you off the rocks?"

"Certainly not! I slipped off," Jimmy declared. "Anyhow, you're my
friend."

"Sure thing," said Deering quietly. "Take a drink of hot soup. We'll
soon pack you out." He put a vacuum flask in Jimmy's hand and turned to
the others. "Let's get busy, boys."

Jimmy did not know much about their journey down the gully and across
the glacier, but at length he was vaguely conscious of bright lights and
the tramp of feet along an echoing passage. People gently moved him
about; he felt he was in a soft, warm bed, and with languid satisfaction
he went to sleep.

When the others saw Jimmy was asleep they went off quietly, but at the
end of the passage Deering stopped Stannard.

"Let's get a drink," he said. "For four or five hours I've hustled some
and I need a pick-me-up."

Stannard gave him a keen glance. Deering had hustled. To carry Jimmy
down the rocks and across the glacier, in the dark, was a strenuous
undertaking, and where strength was needed the big man had nobly used
his. Yet Stannard imagined the strain that had bothered him was not
physical.

"Oh, well," he said, "I'll go to the bar with you. Waiting for you in
the gully was not a soothing job."

"You knew I'd get back," Deering rejoined. "If I'd had to haul out the
cook and bell-boys I'd have brought help."

"I didn't know how long you'd be and speed was important."

"You're a blamed cool fellow," Deering remarked. "If you had not taken
control, I expect we'd have jolted Jimmy off the stretcher, and maybe
have gone through the snow-bridge the guide didn't spot. Then you stayed
with him, pulled him out of the way of the snow-slides, and kept him
warm. I expect you saved his life."

"To some extent, perhaps that is so," Stannard agreed. "That somebody
must pull Jimmy against the rock was obvious. All the same, I knew the
stones wouldn't bother us after it got cold."

Deering was puzzled. Stannard's habit was not to boast, but it looked as
if he were willing to admit he had saved Jimmy's life. Deering
speculated about his object.

"Well," he said, "I own I was badly rattled. You see, if the kid had not
held fast, I'd have gone right down the rock face and don't know where
I'd have stopped. Perhaps it's strange, but I remembered I'd got five
hundred dollars of his and the thing bothered me. To know I'd played a
straight game didn't comfort me much."

"You're a sentimentalist," Stannard rejoined with a smile. "I don't know
that a crooked game was indicated. But let's get our drinks."

They went to the bar and when Deering picked up his glass he said, "Good
luck to the kid and a quick recovery!" He drained the glass and looked
at Stannard hard. "When Jimmy needs a help out, I'm his man."

Stannard said nothing, but lighted a cigarette.

In the morning a young doctor arrived from Calgary and was some time in
Jimmy's room.

"I reckon your luck was pretty good," he remarked. "After three or four
days you can get up and go about--" He paused and added meaningly: "But
you want to go slow."

Jimmy's face was white, but the blood came to his skin.

"I'd begun to think something like that," he said in a languid voice.

The doctor nodded. "Since you could stand for the knock you got, your
body's pretty sound, but I get a hint of strain and the cure's moral.
You want to cut out hard drinks, strong cigars, and playing cards all
night."

"Do the symptoms indicate that I do play cards all night?"

"I own I was helped by inquiries about your habits," said the doctor,
smiling. "If you like a game, try pool, with boys like yourself, and bet
fifty cents. I don't know about your bank-roll, but your heart and
nerve won't stand for hundred-dollar pots when your antagonists are
men."

"One antagonist risked his life to save mine," Jimmy declared, with an
angry flush, for he thought he saw where the other's remarks led.

"I understand that is so," the doctor agreed. "My job's not to talk
about your friends, but to give you good advice. Cut out unhealthy
excitement and go steady. If you like it, go up on the rocks.
Mountaineering's dangerous, but sometimes one runs worse risks."

He went off and by and by Deering came in.

"The doctor allows you are making pretty good progress. The man who
means to put you out must use a gun," he said with a jolly laugh.
"Anyhow, we were bothered and when we got the bulletin we rushed the bar
for drinks."

"My friends are stanch."

"Oh, shucks!" said Deering. "You're the sort whose friends are stanch.
Say, your holding on until I pulled you over was great!"

"You didn't pull me over. The stone rocked and I came off."

"One mustn't dispute with a sick man," Deering remarked. "All the same I
want to state I owe you much, and I pay my debts. I'd like you to get
that."

Jimmy smiled. "If it's some comfort, I'm willing to be your creditor. I
know you'd meet my bill."

"Sure thing," said Deering, who did not smile. "When you send your bill
along, I'll try to make good. That's all; I guess we'll let it go."

"Very well. I don't see how you were able to stick to the slab."

"My foot slipped from the knob, but for a few moments you held me up,
and bracing my knee against the stone, I swung across for the crack.
Then I was on the shelf and you went over my head. That's all I knew,
until Stannard joined me and took control."

"He sent you off?"

Deering nodded. "I wasn't keen to go, but he saw help was wanted, and he
thought about wiring for a doctor. When I got back with the boys, our
plan was to rush you down to the hotel, but it wasn't Stannard's. I
allow we were rattled; he was cool. We must go slow and not jolt you; at
awkward spots somebody must look for the smoothest line. Crossing the
glacier, he went ahead with the lantern and located a soft snow-bridge
the guide was going to cross."

"Stannard is like that," said Jimmy. "His coolness is very fine."

Deering agreed, but Jimmy thought he hesitated before he resumed: "In
some ways, the fellow's the standard type of highbrow Englishman. He's
urbane and won't dispute; he smiles and lets you down. He wears the
proper clothes and uses the proper talk. If you're his friend, he's
charming; but that's not all the man. Stannard doesn't plunge; he
calculates. He knows just where he wants to go and gets there. I guess
if I was an obstacle, I'd pull out of his way. The man's fine, like
tempered steel, and about as hard-- Well, the doctor stated you wanted
quiet and I'll quit talking."

He went away and Jimmy mused. Deering talked much, but Jimmy imagined he
sometimes had an object. Although he frankly approved Stannard, Jimmy
felt he struck a warning note. Since Jimmy owed much to Stannard's
coolness, he was rather annoyed; but the talk had tired him and he went
to sleep.



VII

AN INSURABLE INTEREST


The sun was hot and Jimmy loafed in an easy chair at the shady end of
the terrace. Laura occupied a chair opposite; the small table between
them carried some new books, and flowers and fruit from the Pacific
coast. In the background, a shining white peak cut the serene sky.

Three or four young men and women were on the veranda steps not far off.
A few minutes since they had bantered Jimmy, but when Laura arrived they
went. Jimmy rather thought she had meant them to go and he gave her a
smile.

"I expect you have inherited some of Mr. Stannard's talents," he
remarked.

"For example?"

Jimmy indicated the rather noisy group. "It looks as if you knew my head
ached and I couldn't stand for Stevens' jokes. When you joined me he and
his friends went off. Your father arranges things like that, without
much obvious effort."

"I knew the doctor stated you must not be bothered," Laura admitted.
"Besides, I engaged to go fishing with Stevens and some others, and
before I get back expect I'll have enough."

"Is Dillon going?"

"Frank planned the excursion," said Laura and Jimmy was satisfied.

Dillon was a young American whom Jimmy rather liked, but to think Laura
liked Frank annoyed him. Now, however, she had admitted that his society
had not much charm.

"Anyhow, you're very kind," he remarked, and indicated the fruit and
flowers. "These things don't grow in the mountains."

"The station is not far off and to send a telegram is not much bother."

"To send up things from Vancouver is expensive."

"Sometimes you talk like a cotton manufacturer," Laura rejoined.

Jimmy colored but gave her a steady glance. "It's possible. My people
are manufacturers; my grandfather was a workman. Not long since, I meant
to cultivate out all that marked me as belonging to the cotton mill. Now
I don't know-- Perhaps I inherited something useful from my grandfather;
but in the meantime it's not important. You _are_ kind."

"Oh, well," said Laura. "You were moody and the doctor declared you had
got a very nasty jolt."

"I was thoughtful. To some extent you're accountable. When one is forced
to loaf one has time to ponder, and when you inquired if I knew where I
went--"

He stopped, for a guide, carrying fishing rods and landing nets, went
down the steps and Stannard came out of the hotel.

"Your party's waiting for you," Stannard remarked to Laura, who got up
and gave Jimmy a smile.

"Get well and then ponder," she said and joined the others.

Jimmy frowned. The others, of course, ought not to wait for Laura, but
Stannard had sent her off like that before. All the same, he was her
father and Jimmy owned he must not dispute his rule. When the party had
gone, Stannard sat down opposite Jimmy and lighted a cigarette.

"I'm glad to note you make good progress."

"In a day or two I'll go about as usual. In fact, if the others go
fishing to-morrow, I'll try to join them. I think I could reach the
lake."

"Some caution's necessary," Stannard remarked. "You got a very nasty
shake and ran worse risks than you knew. When you stopped in the bank of
gravel your luck was remarkably good; I did not expect you to stop until
you reached the glacier. Then, had I not had a thick coat that helped to
keep you warm, you might not have survived the shock. Afterwards much
depended on Deering's speed and his getting men who knew the rocks.
Indeed, when we started I hardly thought we could carry you down in
useful time."

Jimmy was puzzled, because he did not think Stannard meant to imply that
his help was important. The risk Jimmy had run, however, was obvious,
and Stannard's talking about it led him to dwell on something he had
recently weighed.

"Since I was forced to stay in bed I've tried to reckon up and find out
where I am," he said. "You are my banker. How does the account stand?"

"I imagine Laura's advice was good; wait until you get better," Stannard
said carelessly.

"When I start to go about, I'll be occupied by something else. How much
do I owe?"

For a few minutes Stannard studied his note-book, and when he replied
Jimmy set his mouth. He knew he had been extravagant, but his
extravagance was worse than he had thought.

"Until I get my inheritance, it's impossible for me to pay you," he said
with some embarrassment. "I, so to speak, have pawned my allowance for a
long time in advance."

"Something like that is obvious."

"Very well! What am I going to do about it?"

"My plan was to wait until you did get your inheritance; but I see some
disadvantages," said Stannard in a thoughtful voice.

"The trouble is, I might not inherit," Jimmy agreed. "One must front
things, and climbing's a risky hobby. We mean to shoot a mountain sheep
and I understand the big-horn keep the high rocks. Then we have
undertaken to get up a very awkward peak. Well, suppose I did not come
back?"

"You don't expect a fresh accident! Haven't you had enough? However, if
your gloomy forebodings were justified, I expect your relations would
meet my claim."

"After all, mountaineering accidents are numerous, and you don't know
Dick Leyland. You have got a bundle of acknowledgments, but the notes
are not stamped and Dick hates gambling. It's possible he'd dispute my
debts and he's a remarkably keen business man."

"If that is so, it might be awkward," Stannard agreed. "But what about
the other trustee?"

"Sir James is in India; I expect he'd support Dick. During their
lifetime my share is a third of the house's profit, but, unless they're
satisfied, I cannot for some time use much control. In fact, they have
power to fix my allowance."

Stannard's look was thoughtful, as if he had not known; but since Laura
knew, Jimmy wondered why she had not enlightened her father.

"Very well," said Stannard. "My plan might not work. Have you another?"

The other plan was obvious. Jimmy was surprised because Stannard did not
see it.

"You trusted me and I mustn't let you down," he said with a friendly
smile. "If we insure my life, you'll guard against all risk."

"My interest is insurable--" Stannard remarked and stopped. Then he
resumed in a careless voice: "Your caution's ridiculous, but if you are
resolved, I suppose I must agree. In order to satisfy you, we'll look up
an insurance office at Vancouver."

Somehow Jimmy was jarred. Stannard's remark about his insurable interest
indicated that he had weighed the plan before, and Jimmy thought his
pause significant. Then, although he had agreed as if he wanted to
indulge Jimmy, his agreement was prompt. For all that, the plan was
Jimmy's and Stannard's approval was justified.

Then Deering came along the terrace and said to Stannard, "Hello! I
thought you had gone to write some letters, and Jimmy's look is
strangely sober. Have you been weighing something important?"

The glance Stannard gave Jimmy was careless, but Jimmy thought he meant
Deering was not to know.

"Sometimes Jimmy's rash, but sometimes he's keener than one thinks.
Anyhow, he's obstinate and we were disputing about a suggestion of his I
did not at first approve. I wrote the letters I meant to write. Sit down
and take a smoke."

Deering sat down and they talked about the peaks they had planned to
climb.

A week or two afterwards, Stannard and Jimmy went to Vancouver, and when
he had seen the insurance company's doctor Jimmy walked about the
streets. He liked Vancouver. When one fronted an opening in the rows of
ambitious office blocks, one saw the broad Inlet and anchored ships.
Across the shining water, mountains rolled back to the snow in the
North; on the other side, streets of new wooden houses pushed out to
meet the dark pine forest. The city's surroundings were beautiful, but
Jimmy felt that beauty was not its peculiar charm.

At Montreal, for example, one got a hint of cultivation, and to some
extent of leisure, built on long-established prosperity. Notre Dame was
rather like Notre Dame at Paris and St. James's was a glorious
cathedral. Quiet green squares checkered the city, and the streets at
the bottom of the mountain were bordered by fine shade trees. Vancouver
was frankly raw and new; one felt it had not yet reached its proper
growth. All was bustle and keen activity; the clang of locomotive bells
and the rattle of steamboat winches echoed about the streets. Huge
sawmills and stacks of lumber occupied the water-front. Giant trunks
carried electric wires across the high roofs, and, until Jimmy saw the
firs in Stanley Park, he had not thought logs like that grew.

Then he thought the citizens typically Western. Their look was keen and
optimistic; they pushed and jostled along the sidewalks. Jimmy saw an
opera house and numerous pool-rooms, but in the daytime nobody seemed to
loaf. All struck a throbbing note of strenuous business. Jimmy studied
the wharfs and mills and railroad yard, but for the most part he stopped
opposite the land-agents' windows.

The large maps of freshly-opened country called. Up there in the wilds,
hard men drove back the forest and broke virgin soil. Their job was a
man's job and Jimmy pictured the struggle. He had loafed and indulged
his youthful love for pleasure, but the satisfaction he had got was
gone. After all, he had inherited some constructive talent, and he
vaguely realized that his business was to build and not to squander.
Then Laura and the doctor had worked on him. Laura had bidden him study
where he went; the other hinted that he went too fast.

At one office he saw a map of the country behind the hotel and he picked
out the valley in which was Kelshope ranch. There was not another
homestead for some distance and a notice stated that the land was cheap.
Jimmy pondered for a few minutes and then went in.

The agent stated his willingness to supply land of whatever sort Jimmy
needed, but he thought, for an ambitious young man, the proper
investment was a city building lot. In fact, he had a number of useful
lots on a first-class frontage. Jimmy studied the map and remarked that
the town had not got there yet. The agent declared the town would get
there soon, and to wait until the streets were graded and prices went up
was a fool's plan. Jimmy stated he would not speculate; if the price
were suitable, he might buy land in the Kelshope valley on the other
map.

The agent said the valley was not altogether in his hands. Kelshope was
in Alberta, but for a split commission he could negotiate a sale with
the Calgary broker. If one bought a block and paid a small deposit, he
imagined a good sum might stand on mortgage. Jimmy replied that he would
think about it and went off. It was not for nothing he had studied
business methods at the Leyland mill.

In the evening he and Stannard occupied a bench in the hotel rotunda.
Cigar-smoke floated about the pillars; the revolving glass doors went
steadily round, and noisy groups pushed in and out, but Stannard had got
a quiet corner and by and by Jimmy asked: "Have you agreed with the
insurance office?"

"They have not sent the agreement. I expect to get it."

"Then, I'd like you to go back in the morning and insure for a larger
sum. I'll give you a note for five hundred pounds."

"I haven't five hundred pounds," said Stannard with surprise. "Why do
you want the sum?"

"I'm going to buy a ranch near Jardine's," Jimmy replied. "The agent
wants a deposit and I must buy tools. Can you help?"

Stannard looked at him hard and hesitated, but he saw Jimmy was
resolved.

"I might get the money in three or four weeks. It will cost you
something."

"That's understood," Jimmy agreed. "I don't, of course, expect the sum
for which you'll hold my note. Will you get to work?"

"I rather think your plan ridiculous."

"You thought another plan of mine ridiculous, but you helped me carry it
out," Jimmy said quietly.

Stannard looked up with a frown, for Deering crossed the floor.

"I've trailed you!" he shouted. "There's not much use in your stealing
off."

"I didn't know you had business to transact in Vancouver," Stannard
rejoined.

"Dillon had some business and brought me along," said Deering with a
noisy laugh. "Looks as if my job was to guide adventurous youth."

Jimmy smiled, for he imagined the young men Deering guided paid
expensive fees. He did not know if Deering's occupation was altogether
gambling, but he did gamble and his habit was to win. Yet Jimmy liked
the fellow.

"Jimmy's mood is rashly adventurous; he wants to buy a ranch," Stannard
resumed. "I understand he has interviewed a plausible land-agent."

"All land-agents are plausible," said Deering. "Tell us about the
speculation, Jimmy."

Jimmy did so. Stannard's ironical amusement had hurt, and he tried to
justify his experiment.

"Looks like a joke; but I don't know," said Deering. "If you can stand
for holding down a bush block until the neighborhood develops, you ought
to sell for a good price. All the same, the job is dreary. Have you got
the money?"

"I was trying to persuade Stannard to finance me. He doesn't approve,
but thinks he could get the sum."

"That plan's expensive," Deering observed. "What deposit does the agent
want?"

Jimmy told him and he pondered. Stannard said nothing, but Jimmy thought
him annoyed by Deering's meddling. Moreover, Jimmy thought Deering knew.
After a few moments Deering looked up.

"If you mean to buy the block, I'll lend you the deposit and you can pay
me current interest. I expect the agent will take a long-date mortgage
for the rest, but you ought to ask your trustees in England for the
money."

"Have you got the sum?" Stannard inquired.

"Sure," said Deering, with a jolly laugh. "Dillon and I met up with two
or three sporting lumber men who have just put over a big deal. My luck
was pretty good, and I'd have stuffed my wallet had not a sort of
Puritan vigilante blown in. He got after the hotel boss, who stated his
was not a red light house."

Jimmy studied the others, and although Stannard smiled, was somehow
conscious of a puzzling antagonism. On the whole, he liked Deering's
plan; he did not think Dick Leyland would agree, but Sir Jim might do
so.

"Thank you, but Stannard's my banker," he replied. "All the same, in the
morning I'll write to my trustees."

"Oh, well," said Deering. "If you want the money, I'm your man. But
let's get a drink."



VIII

JIMMY GETS TO WORK


On the evening Jimmy returned from Vancouver he went to the dining-room
as soon as the bell rang and waited by Stannard's table. The table
occupied a corner by a window, and commanded the room and a noble view
of rocks and distant snow. Other guests had wanted the corner, but
Stannard had got it for his party. Although he was not rich, Stannard's
habit was to get things like that.

The room was spacious and paneled with cedar and maple. Slender wooden
pillars supported the decorated beams, the tables were furnished with
good china and nickel. The windows were open and the keen smell of the
pines floated in.

After a few moments Jimmy heard Deering's laugh and Stannard's party
crossed the floor. Frank Dillon talked to Laura, whom Jimmy had not seen
since he returned; Frank was rather a handsome, athletic young fellow.
Laura wore a fashionable black dinner dress and her skin, by contrast,
was very white. Her movements were languidly graceful, and Jimmy got a
sense of high cultivation. He was young and to know he belonged to
Laura's party flattered him. Yet he was half embarrassed, because he
waited for other guests and did not know if Laura would like his
friends. When she gave Jimmy her hand Stannard indicated two extra
chairs.

"Hallo!" he said. "I must see the head waiter. This table's ours."

"Two friends of mine are coming," Jimmy replied and turned to Laura
apologetically. "Perhaps I ought to have told you, but I wrote to
Jardine from Vancouver and when I returned and got his letter you were
not about."

"Was it not Miss Jardine you helped when her horse ran away?"

"I doubt if I did help much, but after the horse knocked me down I went
to the homestead and Jardine was kind. Now I want to talk to him; he's a
good rancher."

"Then, ranching really interests you?"

"Jimmy has bought a ranch and I'm going to stay with him," said Deering
with a noisy laugh. "Perhaps to hunt and live the simple life will help
me keep down my weight."

Laura gave Jimmy a keen glance and he thought she frowned. "You a
rancher? It's ridiculous! But Deering likes to joke."

"It is not at all a joke," Deering rejoined. "Jimmy has bought a ranch,
and Stannard and I disputed who should lend him the money. As a rule,
one's friends don't dispute about that sort of privilege; but one trusts
Jimmy. Perhaps his trusting you accounts for it."

"I suppose Miss Jardine comes with her father?" Laura remarked.

Jimmy agreed and looked at Stannard, who had picked up the bill of fare.

"We must wait for your friends," he said carelessly, but Jimmy thought
him annoyed.

Then Jimmy turned and saw Margaret and Jardine. The rancher's clothes
were obviously bought at a small settlement store, but his figure was
good and his glance was keen and cool; somehow Jimmy imagined him
ironically amused. Margaret's blue dress was not fashionable, but she
carried herself like an Indian and was marked by something of the
Indian's calm. In the sunset, her hair was red, her eyes were blue, and
her skin was brown. When Jimmy advanced to meet her she gave him a frank
smile. He presented her to Laura and noted Dillon's admiring glance.

Stannard called a waiter and when dinner was served began to talk. Laura
supported him, but Jimmy rather thought her support too obvious. This
was strange, because Laura was clever and knew where to stop. Now it
looked as if she did not. The Jardines were his friends, but nothing
indicated that for them to dine at a fashionable hotel was embarrassing.
He imagined Margaret studied Laura, and sometimes Laura's glance rested
on the other for a moment and was gone. When Deering had satisfied his
appetite, however, he firmly took the lead and Jimmy let him do so.
Sometimes Deering's humor was rude, but it was kind.

When they went to the terrace others joined them and soon a party
surrounded Stannard's table. After a time the people moved their chairs
about and Jimmy saw Jardine was with Deering and Dillon had joined
Margaret. He fancied Laura had remarked this, but she lighted a
cigarette and gave him a friendly smile.

"Your friends don't want you just now. When you started for Vancouver, I
think you ought to have told me about your ranching experiment."

"I didn't know," said Jimmy in an apologetic voice. "I saw a map in a
land-agent's window and something called. I hesitated for a few minutes
and then went in."

"Then, you didn't go to Vancouver in order to buy a ranch?"

"Not at all--" said Jimmy and stopped, because he did not want to state
why he did go. "Of course, it looks like a rash plunge," he resumed.
"Still I doubt if it really is rash and I imagined you would approve."

Laura smiled. "I don't know much about ranching."

"Not long ago you declared I ought to have an occupation."

"Then, you felt you must get to work because I thought you ought?" said
Laura and gave Jimmy a gentle glance.

Jimmy's heart beat, but he knitted his brows. He was sincere and Laura
was not altogether accountable for his resolve.

"Well," he said in a thoughtful voice, "I was getting slack and loafing
along the easy way, until you pulled me up. I owe you much for that. You
forced me to ponder and I began to see loafing was dangerous. One must
have an object and I looked about--"

He stopped, with some embarrassment, and Laura saw he was moved. Jimmy
did owe her something, for she had meddled at a moment when he was
vaguely dissatisfied and looking for a lead. At the beginning, she was
not selfish; she wanted him to stop and ponder, but he had started off
again and was not going where she wanted him to go.

"You imply you have found an object?" she remarked. "After all, one's
object ought to be worth while, and to chop trees on a ranch will not
carry you far. Perhaps your proper occupation is at the cotton mill."

"I think not; anyhow, not yet. Until I'm twenty-five, Dick Leyland has
control. Dick is a good mill manager, but his school is the old school.
He holds down our work-people and they grumble; the machinery's crowded
and some is not safe; the operatives have not the space and light that
makes work easier. Then the office is dark and cold. One can't persuade
Dick that harshness and parsimony no longer pay. Well, when I go back I
must have power to put things straight. The house is famous, my father
built its fortune, and after all I'm its head."

Laura mused. She was poor, and hating poverty, had begun to weigh
Jimmy's advantages. To marry the head of the famous house was a sound
ambition, and she thought if she used her charm, Jimmy would marry her.
He was young and in some respects argued like a boy; Laura was young,
but she argued like a calculating woman. Yet she hesitated.

"But you have some power," she said and smiled. "Besides, you're
obstinate."

"It's possible. All the same, I haven't tried my power and don't trust
myself. Dick and I would jar, and when I couldn't move him I expect I'd
get savage and turn down the job. When I have done some useful work, for
example, cleared a ranch, got confidence and know my strength, I'll go
back and try to take my proper part."

"Does one get the qualities you feel you want at a bush ranch?"

"Jardine has got a number. At Kelshope all is properly planned and
stubbornly carried out. His labor's rewarded, and the important thing
is, he is satisfied. I'm not, and I admit I haven't much ground to be
satisfied."

"Oh, well," said Laura. "In a few days we start on our excursion to
Puget Sound. I think you agreed to join us."

Jimmy knitted his brows. He wanted to join the party, but saw some
obstacles.

"We talked about it. If I agreed, of course, I'll go."

"Because you agreed?"

"Not altogether. I'd like to go."

"Then why do you hesitate? We want you to join us."

"For one thing, I really don't think I did agree. Anyhow, you'll have
Dillon. His home's on Puget Sound and I expect he's going."

"Frank is rather a good sort, but sometimes he bores one," Laura
remarked carelessly. "Besides, after a time he's going to some friends
in Colorado."

Jimmy's heart beat. Although he was not yet Laura's lover, her charm was
strong. Still he ought to get to work, and if he went to Puget Sound
with Laura, he might not afterwards bother about the ranch. Well,
perhaps the ranch was not important; if he wanted, he could, no doubt,
sell the land.

The clash of a locomotive bell, softened by the distance, echoed across
the bush. A freight train had started from the water tank for the long
climb to the pass and Jimmy felt the faint notes carried a message.
Canada was a land of bells. At Montreal the locomotive bells rang all
night; their tolling rolled across wide belts of wheat, and broke the
silence that broods over the rocks. When all was quiet in the bush, the
cow-bells rang sweet chimes. Perhaps Jimmy was romantic, but he felt the
bells stood for useful effort, and now they called. The strange thing
was, he thought he heard pine branches crack and Margaret's voice. "Oh,
Buck! Oh, Bright!"

"I'm sorry, but I can't go," he said. "I have bought the ranch and must
get to work."

Laura gave him a keen glance and got a jar. He frowned and his mouth
was tight. She had thought she could move Jimmy, but now she doubted,
and because she was proud she dared not try.

"Oh, well," she said, "we have talked for some time, and Deering has
left Jardine."

She sent Jimmy off and looked about. Dillon talked to Margaret, and
although Laura imagined a smile would detach him from the group, she did
not smile. After all, if Frank joined her, Jimmy might occupy the chair
he left. Laura crossed the terrace and joined a young Canadian.

Jimmy sat down by the rancher and inquired: "Do you know the land I
bought?"

"The soil is pretty good, but the timber's thick and until ye work oot
the turpentine, ye'll no' get much crop. Ye'll need to chop and burn off
the trees, grub the stumps, and then plow for oats and timothy. For some
years, the oats will no' grow milling heads; ye cut them for hay."

"Looks like a long job. Suppose I wanted to sell the block after a
time?"

"It depends," said Jardine dryly. "Ye might get your money back."

"You imply it depends on the labor one uses?" Jimmy remarked. "Well, I
know nothing about chopping and I haven't pulled a crosscut saw. Do you
think I can make good?"

Jardine looked about the terrace and his eyes twinkled. He noted the
men's dinner jackets and the women's fashionable clothes. People talked
and laughed and smoked.

"I'm thinking your friends would not make good. Ye canna play at
ranching."

"My object's not to play," said Jimmy in a quiet voice. "Anyhow, before
you start to work you must get proper tools. Suppose you tell me what I
need?"

Jardine did so and added: "Proper tools and stock are a sound
investment, but ye canna get them cheap. Can ye put up the money?"

"I must borrow some," Jimmy admitted, and thought Jardine studied
Stannard, who talked to two or three young men not far off.

"Then, maybe ye had better borrow from Mr. Deering."

Jardine had said something like this before, but Jimmy let it go and the
rancher indicated Margaret. Dillon leaned against a post opposite the
girl and a group of young men and women occupied the surrounding chairs.
A touch of color had come to Margaret's skin; her look was alert and
happy. Jimmy had known her undertake a man's job at the ranch, but on
the hotel veranda she was not at all exotic.

"I must thank ye, Mr. Leyland. Sometimes it's lonesome at the ranch,"
Jardine remarked.

Jimmy said he hoped his guests would stay for some days, but Jardine
refused.

"At Kelshope work's aye waiting and we'll start the morn. If ye come
back wi' us, we'll look ower the block ye bought, and I might advise ye
aboot layin' 't oot. In the meantime, we'll reckon up the tools and
stock ye'll need--"

They began to talk about the ranch, and Stannard joined Laura, who sent
off her companion.

"What do you think about Jimmy's experiment?" Stannard asked.

Laura studied him. On the whole, his look was careless, but she doubted.

"I don't know. Do you think him rash?"

Stannard shrugged. "My notion is, the thing's a rather expensive
caprice, but after all, Jimmy's rich. He's easily moved and perhaps his
bush friends have persuaded him."

"It's possible," Laura agreed. "All the same, Jimmy's keen. He really
means to ranch."

"You have some grounds to know him keen?"

Laura's grounds were good and she wondered whether Stannard knew. Her
father was clever and she saw his look was thoughtful.

"For one thing, he declares he cannot go with us to Puget Sound," she
said.

"You imply he would sooner start for the bush with the Jardines?"
Stannard suggested with a smile.

"After all, it's not important, and I expect Jimmy will go where he
wants," said Laura, and went up the veranda steps.

She thought she had baffled Stannard, but she was hurt. At the
beginning, she knew her advice to Jimmy was good. When he was going the
wrong way she had stopped him. Now, however, it looked as if her power
was gone. She could see herself Jimmy's guide in Lancashire, but to
guide him in the lonely bush was another thing.



IX

THE QUIET WOODS


A warm Chinook wind, blowing from the Pacific, carried the smell of the
pines. The dark branches tossed and a languid murmur, like distant surf,
rolled up the valley. Jimmy had pulled off his coat and his gray
workman's shirt was open at the neck, for he liked to feel the breeze on
his hot skin. He was splitting cedar for roof shingles, but had stopped
in order to sharpen his ax. Since he had not yet cut his leg, he thought
his luck was good.

A few maples, beginning to turn crimson, broke the rows of somber pines.
In the foreground were chopped trunks, blackened by fire, ashes and
white chips. A tent and a half-built house of notched logs occupied the
middle of the small clearing. In the background, one saw high rocks,
streaked at their dark tops by snow. Some of the snow was fresh, and
Jimmy imagined the speed he had used was justified. Yet, so long as the
Chinook blew, gentle Indian summer would brood over the valley.

Jimmy's skin was brown, his mouth was firm, and his look alert. His
hands were blistered and his back was sore, but this was not important.
He could now pull a big saw through gummy logs and, as a rule, drive the
shining ax-head where he wanted it to go. A belt held his overalls
tight at his waist; when he tilted back his head to get his breath his
balance and pose were good.

A plume of aromatic smoke floated across the clearing and Okanagan Bob
squatted by the fire. Bob's hair was black and straight and his eyes
were narrow. His crouching pose was significant, because a white man
sits. Bob's skin was white, but it looked as if some Indian blood ran in
his veins. He was an accurate shot and a clever fisherman. Now he fried
trout for breakfast and Jimmy wondered whether he would leave the fish
long enough in the pan. As a rule, Bob did not cook things much.

"Somebody's coming," he remarked and began to eat. "Take your fish when
you want. I've got to pull out."

For a minute or two Jimmy heard nothing, and then a faint beat of
horse's feet stole across the woods. The noise got louder and by and by
Margaret rode into the clearing. When Jimmy jumped for his jacket she
smiled and the nervous cayuse plunged. In the bush, all goes quietly and
abrupt movement means danger.

Margaret rode astride. Her dress was dull yellow and her leggings were
fringed deerskin. At the hotel, Jimmy had approved her blue clothes,
but he thought he liked her better in the bush. Somehow she harmonized
with the straight trunks. It was not that she was finely built and
beautiful; one got a hint of primitive calm and strength.

"Shall I hold the bridle?" Jimmy asked.

"I think not," said Margaret and soothed the horse. "Another time when
you took the bridle I was forced to walk home and you got a kick."

"On the whole, I think my luck was good," Jimmy rejoined. "When I went
to Kelshope, things, so to speak, began to move."

Margaret got down, took a pack from the saddle, and tied the horse to a
tree. Bob got up from the fire, seized his rifle, and looked at
Margaret.

"I'm going to get a deer," he said and vanished in the wood. The
underbrush was thick, but they did not hear him go.

"When I was at the station the agent gave me your mail and some
groceries," said Margaret. "My father allowed you were busy, and I'd
better take the truck along."

Jimmy said, "Thank you," and gave her a thoughtful look. Margaret's
voice was cultivated, but she talked like a bush girl. At the hotel she
had not.

"I didn't order a fruit pie and a number of bannocks," he said when he
opened the pack.

"Oh, well, I was baking, and I reckoned if Bob was cook, you wouldn't
get much dessert. But have you eaten yet?"

Jimmy said he imagined breakfast was ready and Margaret went to the
fire, glanced at the half-raw trout, and threw a black, doughy cake from
a plate.

"A white man _cooks_ his food," she said meaningly. "Take a smoke while
I fix something fit to eat."

Jimmy pushed two or three letters into his pocket and sat down on a
cedar log. If Margaret meant to cook his breakfast, he imagined she
would do so and he was satisfied to watch her. For one thing, she knew
her job, and Jimmy liked to see all done properly. She did not bother
him for things; she seemed to know where they were. After a time, she
put the trout and some thin light cakes on a slab of bark, and Jimmy
remarked that the fish were an appetizing golden brown.

"I expect you have not got breakfast, and I'll bring you a plate," he
said.

"At a bush ranch the woman gets the plates."

"There's not much use in pretending the bush rules are yours," Jimmy
rejoined. "Anyhow, I'll bring you all you want."

"Wash the plate, please," said Margaret. "I'd sooner you did not rub it
with the towel."

Jimmy laughed. "You take things for granted. I'm not a complete bushman
yet."

He cleaned the plates and knives, and Margaret studied him. Something of
his carelessness and the hint of indulgence she had noted were gone. His
face had got thin and his frank glance was steady. Although he laughed,
his laugh was quiet. The bush was hardening him, and when she looked
about she saw the progress he had made was good. Well, she knew Jimmy
was not a loafer; after the cayuse kicked his leg he carried her heavy
pack to the ranch.

"Now we can get to work," he said.

Margaret allowed him to put a trout and some hot flapjacks on her plate.

"After all, I like it when people bring me things," she remarked. "At
Kelshope, when one wants a thing one goes for it. I reckon your friends
ring a bell."

"Perhaps both plans have some drawbacks. Still I don't see why you
bother to indicate that you do not ring bells."

"It looks as if you're pretty keen," said Margaret.

"Keener than you thought? Well, not long since I'd have admitted I was
something of a fool. Anyhow, I rather think you know the Canadian
cities."

"At Toronto I stopped at a cheap boarding-house. They rang bells for
you. If you were not in right on time for meals, you went without. You
didn't ask for the _menu_; you took what the waitress brought. Now you
ought to be satisfied. I'm not curious about your job in the Old
Country."

"I'm not at all reserved," Jimmy rejoined. "I occupied a desk at a
cotton mill office, and wrote up lists of goods in a big book, until I
couldn't stand for it. Then I quit."

Margaret weighed his statement and imagined he had used some reserve.
For a clerk at a cotton mill to tour about Canada with rich people was
strange.

"You talk about the Old Country, although you stated you were altogether
Canadian," Jimmy resumed.

"My father's a Scot. He came from the Border."

"Your name indicates it. The Jardines and two or three other clans
ruled the Western Border, but were themselves a stubborn, unruly lot.
Your ancestors were famous. I know their haunts in Annandale."

"I reckon my father was a poacher," Margaret observed.

Jimmy laughed. "It's possible the others were something like that.
Anyhow, their main occupation was to drive off English cattle, but we
won't bother--"

He stopped and mused. Sometimes, when he was at the cotton mill, he had
gone for a holiday to the bleak Scottish moors. The country was
romantic, but rather bleak than beautiful, and he had thought a touch of
the old Mosstroopers' spirit marked their descendants. The men were big
and their Scottish soberness hid a vein of reckless humor. They were
keen sportsmen and bold poachers. When one studied them, one noted their
stubbornness and something Jimmy thought was quiet pride. Margaret had
got the puzzling quality; one marked her calm level glance and her
rather haughty carriage. Although she was a bush rancher's daughter,
Jimmy did not think he exaggerated much.

"Your house is going up and you have cleared some ground," she said. "It
looks as if you had not slouched."

"Oh, well," said Jimmy modestly, "your father reckoned I must push ahead
before the frost began; but if we have made some progress, I imagine Bob
is mainly accountable."

"Do you like Okanagan?"

"I don't know," Jimmy replied in a thoughtful voice. "He stays with his
job, and puts it over, but he doesn't talk. Unless he's chopping and you
hear his ax, you don't know where he is. He _steals_ about. In fact, the
fellow puzzles me. What's his proper business?"

"Bob's a trapper. To get valuable skins you must go far North, but the
black bear are pretty numerous and sometimes a cinnamon comes down the
rocks. Then tourists give a good price for a big-horn's head. I reckon
Bob's wad was getting big, until the politicians resolved to see the
game laws were carried out. Now you must buy a license before you shoot
large animals, and you may only shoot one or two. Then reserves are
fixed where you may not shoot at all. The belt across the range is a
reserve and the game-warden made some trouble for Bob. Perhaps this
accounts for his hiring up with you."

"Do you like the fellow?"

Margaret hesitated. She did not like Bob, but she did not mean to
enlighten Jimmy. Sometimes Bob came to Kelshope and when he fixed his
strange glance on her she got disturbed.

"Well," she said, "if I wanted a loghouse put up or the timber wolves
cleared off, I'd send for Okanagan; but I'd stop there. He's not the
sort I'd want for a friend."

"You imply, if you were a rancher, you wouldn't want him for a friend?"

Margaret's eyes twinkled. "Why, of course, I implied something like
that."

"But Bob goes to Kelshope, and Mr. Jardine suggested my hiring him."

"My father's a bushman," said Margaret, rather dryly. "His habit's not
to get stung; but we'll let it go. What about your chickens?"

Jimmy had sent for some poultry, and so long as Margaret was willing to
stop, he was satisfied to talk about his flock. Sometimes the bush was
lonely and to sit opposite Margaret had charm. She banished the
loneliness and gave his rude fireside a homely touch. By and by,
however, she got up.

"I have stopped some time and you ought to get busy."

She would not take his help to mount. She seized the bridle, stroked the
cayuse, and was in the saddle. The horse plunged into the fern, Margaret
waved her hand and vanished, but for a few minutes Jimmy smoked and
pondered.

He thought Margaret harmonized with the quiet, austere woods, but
although she talked like a bush girl, he wondered whether she had not
done so in order to baffle him. Anyhow, he hoped she would come back and
cook his breakfast another time. He could not see Laura Stannard beating
up dough for flapjacks by his fire. Laura's proper background was an
English drawing-room. She had grace and charm, and on the hotel terrace
Jimmy was keen about her society. Then Laura was a good sort and he
owed her much; the strange thing was, although she had stated he ought
to follow a useful occupation, she did not approve his ranching
experiment. In fact, she had urged him to go back to the cotton mill.
Jimmy admitted he was rather hurt because she was willing for him to go.
Now, however, her picture began to get indistinct. The bush called and
Laura did not harmonize with the woods.

Then Jimmy remembered Margaret had brought him some letters and when he
pulled out an envelope with an Indian stamp, his look was anxious. Sir
James, however, stated that his London agents would send a check on a
Canadian bank, and when Jimmy wanted to stock his ranch his bills would
be met. Sir James remarked that to buy cattle was better than to bet on
horses that did not win, and chopping trees was not, by contrast with
some other amusements, very expensive. Moreover, if Jimmy got tired, he
could sell the ranch. He added that he was presently going to Japan and
afterwards to England by the Canadian Pacific line. When he crossed
Canada, he would stop and look his nephew up.

Jimmy liked his uncle's rather dry humor, and admitted that some of his
remarks were justified, for when Jimmy went to the races his luck was
bad, but he put the letter in his pocket and picked up his ax. For some
time he had talked and smoked and, unless he hustled, the shingles he
wanted would not be split by dark.



X

LAURA'S REFUSAL


Smoke rolled about the clearing and dry branches snapped in the flames.
A keen wind fanned the blaze and in places the fire leaped up the trees
and resinous needles fell in sparkling showers. Okanagan Bob went about
with a coal-oil can, and Jimmy drove the red oxen that hauled loads of
brush. Jimmy's face was black, his hand was burned, and his shirt was
marked by dark-edged holes, but his mood was buoyant. The fire had got
firm hold and advanced steadily across the belt of chopped trunks and
branches bushmen call the _slashing_. When it burned out Jimmy thought
only half-consumed logs would be left. A good _burn_ ought to save him
much labor.

Perhaps his keenness was strange. To clear a ranch is a long and arduous
job that he was not forced to undertake; but he was keen. His
occupation, so to speak, had got hold of him. Moreover he felt, rather
vaguely, it was a test of his endurance and pluck. Since he left the
cotton mill he had loafed and squandered; now he had got a man's job,
and when the job was carried out he would know himself a man.

By and by he stopped the oxen in front of the house. A few yards off
Deering notched the end of a log. He wore long boots, overall trousers
and a torn shirt. His face was red, but his big body followed the sweep
of the ax with a measured swing and the shining blade went deep into the
log. Deering had arrived a few days before to arrange about a hunting
excursion.

"You have put up a fresh log since I came along. You chop like a
bushman," Jimmy remarked.

"Two logs," said Deering and dropped his ax. "I reckon I am a bushman.
Anyhow I was born at a small Ontario ranch, and hired up at another in
Michigan."

Jimmy was surprised. Although Deering was not at all like Stannard, his
habits were extravagant and nothing indicated that he had engaged in
bodily labor. He saw Jimmy's surprise and laughed.

"For a few minutes I'll cool off and take a smoke," he resumed.
"Chopping's a healthy occupation, but I soon had enough. I was out for
money and wasn't satisfied to earn two-and-a-half a day. Then in Canada,
and I reckon in Michigan, you don't get two generations to stay on the
land. You clear a ranch, but your son weighs all you're up against and
resolves to quit. He reckons keeping store at a settlement is a softer
job."

"Did you keep a store?"

"I ran a pool room. After a time, a women's reform guild got busy and
the town reeve hinted I'd better get out."

Jimmy laughed. He liked Deering's frankness, but he said, "I suppose
Dillon left Stannard at Puget Sound? He talked about going to Colorado."

"When we had stopped a week or two at the Dillon house, Frank reckoned
he'd come back with us," Deering replied with some dryness. "Frank has
not bought a ranch, but he's steadying up and I imagine Miss Laura has
got after him. Anyhow, he's cut out cards and bets with me. Looks as if
Miss Laura had some talent for steering young men into the proper
track."

The blood came to Jimmy's skin, but Deering's humorous twinkle did not
account for all. Jimmy did not like to think about Laura's steering
Dillon; he felt Laura was his guide and not the other's.

"If you go back to the hotel in the afternoon, I'll come along," he
said. "Perhaps I ought to see Stannard about our hunting trip."

"He stated he wanted to see you," Deering replied with a careless nod
and resumed his chopping.

When the fire had burned out they started for the hotel, but they
arrived after dinner and Laura was engaged with other guests. In the
morning she went off to the lake with Dillon and one or two more whom
Jimmy did not know, and since she did not suggest his joining the party,
he loafed about the hotel. It looked as if she was satisfied with
Dillon's society and did not want his.

Jimmy was hurt, and sitting on the terrace, he smoked and pondered. From
the beginning he had felt Laura's charm, although he had not thought
himself her lover; for one thing, he knew his drawbacks. Yet Laura
liked Dillon, whose drawbacks were as obvious as his. Somehow Jimmy had
taken it for granted he had a particular claim to her friendship, but if
the friendship must be shared with Frank its charm was gone.

After an hour or two his resolution began to harden. Perhaps his asking
Laura to marry him was not as ridiculous as he had thought. At all
events, he would take the plunge. She knew he had stopped loafing and
started on a fresh line, and his having done so because she urged it was
a useful argument. Jimmy admitted he did not see Laura helping at the
ranch, but this was not important. So long as she engaged to marry him
when he made good, he would be resigned. If she hesitated, he must try
to indicate something like that.

In the evening Laura returned from the lake, but for some time after
dinner she was engaged with her party and left Jimmy alone. Jimmy did
not join the group, for the suspense bothered him and the others' light
banter jarred. He thought it strange, but he felt he had nothing to do
with the careless people whose society Laura enjoyed. When he had talked
to Laura he was going back to the quiet woods.

At length Laura came along the terrace and Jimmy braced himself. She
wore a black dinner dress and when a beam from the window touched her
Jimmy thought her skin shone like the snow on the rocks. Then she turned
her head and looked back. The tranquil movement was strangely graceful,
but Jimmy frowned. Dillon had obviously meant to go with Laura, and
although she motioned him back Jimmy knew she smiled. He fetched a chair
and leaned against the terrace wall.

"Well, Jimmy," she said in a careless voice, "you don't look very
bright."

"It's possible. You haven't talked to me for five minutes since I
arrived."

"I was on the terrace. Had you wanted to join us, you could have done
so."

"If you had wanted me, I expect you'd have indicated it."

"Sometimes you're rather keen," Laura remarked. "Still sometimes you are
obstinate. I have known you do things I would sooner you did not."

"I expect I'm dull, for I don't know if you imply that my obstinacy
would not have annoyed you. Anyhow, I left the ranch because I wanted to
see you. I didn't want to stand about with the others and laugh at their
poor jokes. They're a slack and careless lot."

Laura looked up. Jimmy's mouth was firm and she thought him highly
strung. He was thin and hard and his pose was good. In fact, she felt he
was not altogether the raw lad she had known.

"Not long since, you rather cultivated people like that and tried to use
their rules," she said. "I think you made some progress."

"Oh, well, I own I was a fool and I owe you something because you helped
me see my folly. To take the proper line at a ball and a dinner party,
to shoot straight and play a useful game at cards is perhaps a sound
ambition, but I begin to doubt if it's worth the effort it costs. In the
woods, one gets another ambition."

Laura smiled. "You're impulsive. When one indicates the way for you to
go, you go much faster than one thinks, but we won't philosophize. Did
it not cost you something to leave your ranch?"

"I wanted to see you," said Jimmy in a quiet voice. "I'd better state my
object, because in a minute or two I expect your friends will come
along--"

Laura thought not. The end of the terrace was not lighted. She and Jimmy
were in the gloom and the others were not very dull.

"Well?" she said.

"I wanted to ask if you will marry me?"

For a few moments Laura said nothing and Jimmy noted that her pose was
very quiet. Then she looked up.

"You are very young, Jimmy."

"I'm not younger than you. Besides, I don't see what my youth has to do
with it."

"Your youth is a drawback," said Laura thoughtfully. "You will inherit a
large fortune, but I am poor, and if I married you, your trustees would
imagine I, and my father, had planned to capture you."

"Now you are ridiculous!" Jimmy declared. "You have talent, beauty, and
cultivation: I'm raw and know nothing but the cotton mill. You ought to
see, if I can persuade you, the gain is altogether mine."

Laura gently shook her head. "I don't see it, Jimmy, and others would
not."

"Dick Leyland might grumble," Jimmy admitted with a frown. "For all
that, he has nothing to do with my marrying, and Sir Jim is another
type. He'd fall in love with you--"

He stopped and Laura pondered. She must make a good marriage and the
marriage Jimmy urged was good, but she saw some obstacles. For one
thing, she did not love Jimmy. Ambition called, but she calculated. If
he would take the line she thought he ought to take, she might agree.

"If you were at the cotton mill and claimed your proper post, all would
be easier," she said. "Your uncles could not then dispute your right to
marry whom you liked."

Jimmy's laugh was scornful. "My uncles control my fortune for a year or
two; that's all. However, if you hesitate, I won't urge you to marry me
yet. If you engage to do so when I get my inheritance, I'll be
satisfied."

The blood came to Laura's skin. Jimmy's keenness was not remarkable, but
she knew his sincerity and she forced a smile.

"You are philosophical."

"Oh, well," said Jimmy with some embarrassment, "I feel I ought not to
urge you now. I wanted to know you belonged to me, and then I needn't
bother when I'm at the ranch-- The trouble is, if I waited, somebody
might carry you off. So long as you agree--"

Laura's look got rather hard. When she wanted him to go back to England
she was not altogether selfish. Although she did not love him, she liked
Jimmy, and felt he ought not to stay in Canada with Stannard and
Deering.

"Then, you mean to go on at the ranch?" she said.

"Of course. You declare I'm young. I feel I must take a useful job and,
so to speak, make good. Besides, I can't go back to Lancashire to be
ruled by Uncle Dick. When I take my inheritance, it will be another
thing. Then, when you own a ranch, there's something about the woods
that calls. You get keen; to plan and work is not a bother."

"But is the reward for your labor worth while?"

"In money, the reward is not worth while; but that's not important.
Somehow I know Dick Leyland is not carrying on the house's business as
it ought to be carried on. We are getting rich, but we cannot much
longer use his old-fashioned parsimonious rules. Jim's at Bombay, and
there's no use in my making plans for Dick to oppose. You see, I have
nothing to go upon. For five years I was a clerk, like our other clerks;
afterwards I was a careless slacker, and Dick would sternly put me down.
But I've stated something like this before. You ought to see--"

Laura saw he had some grounds for his resolve to remain. Still she did
not see herself helping at the ranch and to wait, for perhaps three or
four years, while he carried out his rash experiment was not her plan.
She imagined his trustees would not approve his marrying her and they
controlled his fortune and were clever business men. Yet had she loved
Jimmy, she might have agreed. In the meantime, he studied her with keen
suspense, and getting up, she gave him a quiet resolute look.

"You must let me go," she said. "I like you, Jimmy, but I am not the
girl for you."

Jimmy tried to brace himself and advanced as if he meant to touch her,
but she stopped him.

"I ought not to return to Lancashire yet; but if that's the obstacle,
I'll start when you like," he said, in rather a hoarse voice.

Laura was moved. In fact, she was moved to generosity. Now she had
conquered, the strange thing was, she knew she must not use her triumph.
Although Jimmy was beaten, she admitted his firmness at the beginning
was justified, and she thought he would after a time repent.

"I see some other obstacles," she replied. "Since you are satisfied that
your proper job is in Canada, you must carry it out. There is no use in
talking, Jimmy. I am not at all the girl for you."

Her resolution was obvious, and Jimmy stepped back. Laura gave him a
friendly smile and went off. Jimmy frowned, for although he had doubted
if he could persuade her, he had got a nasty knock. At the other end of
the terrace Stannard joined Laura and indicated Jimmy.

"Well?" he said.

"Jimmy wanted me to marry him. I refused."

"Ah," said Stannard. "I suppose you had some grounds for your refusal?"

"I imagine he does not love me," Laura replied in a quiet voice.

Stannard studied her. Her color was rather high, but she was calm. In
some respects, she was like her mother and not like him. Stannard was
satisfied it was so.

"Yet he asked you to marry him!"

"Perhaps I am attractive; but now I think about it, he did not urge me
much. For all that, Jimmy is a good sort."

For a few moments Stannard said nothing. Laura imagined he had meant her
to marry Jimmy and her refusal bothered him. Yet his look rather
indicated resignation than anger. She really did not know her father,
but he was kind.

"Jimmy is a good sort," he remarked. "He has some other advantages."

"His advantages are obvious; he's sincere and frank and generous," Laura
agreed with a touch of emotion. "Had he not been like that, I might have
risked it."

Stannard shrugged. "Perhaps you're not altogether logical; but it's done
with."

"I'm sorry, father," said Laura in a gentle voice and went up the steps.

Stannard stopped and his look was sternly thoughtful. He was an
adventurer and his scruples were not numerous, but he had not used his
daughter's beauty as he might have used it. Now he knew he ran some
risks and, for her sake, he had wanted her to marry Jimmy. Well, she had
refused, and Jimmy owed him much, but for some time could not pay.
Stannard lighted a cigar and knitted his brows.



XI

THE GAME RESERVE


At the end of the small open glade the pack-horses dragged about their
ropes. A short distance in front, the thick timber stopped and a
mountain spur went up to the dim white peaks. The sun had gone and the
sky was calm and green. One heard a river brawl and a faint wind in the
trees. Deering lay in the pine needles and rubbed his neck.

"The mosquitoes are fierce. Throw some green stuff on the fire and make
a smoke," he said. "I don't want to get up."

Jimmy, sitting on a log, pushed green branches into the flames, and then
turned his head and looked about. Two Indians were cutting poles and
putting up a tent. In the gaps between the trunks the gloom got deep,
and although the sharp top of the spur was distinct, Jimmy only saw a
few small pines and junipers. Stannard and Okanagan Bob, who had gone up
in the afternoon to look for a line to the high rocks, were not coming
yet. The horses could not go farther and in the morning the hunting
party would leave them behind.

"They recently let me join a highbrow mountain club; but when I start
for the rocks I hesitate," Deering resumed. "To boost two hundred pounds
up crags and glaciers is a strenuous job, and I allow I'd sooner
Stannard had brought the hotel guides. When I camp I like two blankets
and a square meal. A good guide can carry a lot of useful truck."

"Their charges are high and Okanagan claims he knows the big-horn's
haunts."

"Somehow I reckon Bob knows too much," Deering rejoined. "Well, I allow
to let you break your neck wouldn't pay Stannard."

"In one sense, it wouldn't cost him much," said Jimmy, with a laugh.
"You see, I insured my life in his favor some time since."

"Ah," said Deering, thoughtfully. "That was when he took you down to
Vancouver?"

"I went down. The plan was mine. After I fell into the gully, I saw
Stannard ran some risk."

Deering grinned. "I like you, Jimmy! You're sure an honest kid." Then
his glance got keen and he resumed: "Say, are you going to marry Laura?"

"Miss Stannard refused to marry me," Jimmy replied in a quiet voice.
"But we were talking about the insurance. I rather urged Stannard--"

"Exactly! Stannard's a highbrow Englishman," said Deering, but somehow
Jimmy thought his remark ironical. "Well, you urged, and since Stannard
is not rich, he agreed? Perhaps the strange thing is, he was able to
lend you a pretty good sum. Do you know where he gets the money?"

"I don't know. It's not important."

"Oh, well! You have insured your life and Miss Laura has refused you!
She's a charming girl, but since I don't see her helping you run a bush
ranch, perhaps her refusal was justified. However, I think somebody's
coming down the ridge."

Not long afterwards Stannard and Bob reached the camp and Stannard said,
"We have found a line and we'll start at daybreak. Bob now declares he
expects a reward for each good head we get."

"You can promise him his bonus. If we shoot a big-horn, we're lucky; the
tourist sports have scared them back to the North," Deering remarked.

They got supper and went to bed. The spruce twigs were soft and the
Hudson's Bay blankets were warm, but for a time Jimmy did not sleep. The
tent door was hooked back and the night was not dark. He saw the smoke
go up and the mist creep about the trunks. Sometimes a horse broke a
branch and sometimes the river's turmoil got louder, but this was all
and Jimmy missed the cow-bells that chimed at Kelshope ranch.

Perhaps it was strange, but Laura's refusal had not hurt him very much.
In fact, he began to feel that so long as she did not marry Dillon he
would be resigned. Now Jimmy came to think about it, Deering's hint that
she attracted Frank to some extent accounted for his resolve to marry
Laura. Anyhow, Laura was his friend, and Stannard had used tact. He was
quietly sympathetic and soon banished Jimmy's embarrassment. Then the
noise of the river got indistinct and Jimmy thought he heard cow-bells
ring. Branches cracked and somebody called, "Oh, Buck! Oh, Bright!"

At daybreak Bob sent off two Indians to wait for the party at another
spot. He and an Indian carried heavy loads, but all carried as much as
possible, because Bob declared the party was rather large for good
hunting and refused to take another man. When they stopped at noon
Deering's face was very red and Jimmy was satisfied to lie in the stones
while Bob brewed some tea.

After lunch they pushed through a belt of timber. The trees were small,
but some had fallen and blocked the way. Others, broken by the wind, had
not reached the ground and the locked branches held up the slanted
trunks. Where the underbrush below was thick, one must crawl along the
logs.

On the other side of the timber an avalanche had swept the slope,
carrying down soil and stones, and the party was forced to cross steep
rock slabs. Jimmy carried a rifle, a blanket, and a small bag of flour
and admitted that he had got enough. To pitch camp at sunset behind a
few half-dead spruce was a keen relief.

They had not a tent and the cold was keen, but where one can find wood
one can build a shelter. Supper was soon cooked and when they had
satisfied their appetite all were glad to lie about the fire. Some
distance above them, untrodden snow, touched with faint pink by the
sunset, glimmered against the green sky. Below, rocks and gravel went
down to the forest, across which blue mist rolled. Sometimes a belt of
vapor melted and one saw a vast dim gulf and a winding line that was a
river. The austere landscape rather braced than daunted Jimmy. He knew
the Swiss rocks and the high snows called.

Two days afterwards Jimmy, one afternoon, got his first shot at a
mountain-sheep. Until the big-horn moved, it looked like a small gray
stone, but it did move and when it vanished they studied the ground.
There was no use in trying a direct approach, but the rocky slope was
broken and Bob imagined they could climb a gully and come down near the
animal farther on. They must, however, take their loads, because he had
not yet found a spot to pitch camp.

To climb the gully, embarrassed by a heavy pack, and a rifle, was hard,
and for some time afterwards they crawled across the top of a big
buttress. When they reached another gully the sun was gone, but Bob
thought they would find the sheep not far from the bottom. He said two
might go, and when they had spun a coin Stannard and Jimmy took off
their packs.

The gully was very steep and they used some caution. Near the bottom
Jimmy slipped and might have gone down had not Stannard steadied him.
Bob, carrying the glasses, went a short distance in front. At the bottom
he got behind a stone and presently waved his hand.

When Jimmy reached the spot he saw a horseshoe slope of rock and gravel
that fell sharply for five or six hundred feet and then stopped, as if
at the edge of a precipice. He thought if the big-horn went down there,
they must let it go. Then Bob touched his arm and indicated a spot level
with them, but some distance off. Something moved and Jimmy, taking the
glasses, saw it was a sheep.

"Your shot. Use a full sight; it's farther than you think," said
Stannard in a low voice, and when Jimmy had pulled up the slide he
rested the rifle barrel on the rock.

His arm was on the stone; he knew he ought to hold straight, but the
shot was long and the hole in the telescopic sight was small. Perhaps he
was too keen, for although Stannard had got a noble head, he himself had
not yet fired a shot, but when he began to pull the trigger his hand
shook. He stopped and drew his breath, and the sheep moved.

"He's going," said Bob, and Jimmy crooked his finger.

The rifle jerked. In the distance, a small shower of dust leaped up and
the sheep jumped on a stone. In a moment it would vanish and Jimmy
savagely snapped out the cartridge. Then he saw a pale flash and knew
the report of Stannard's English rifle. The sheep plunged from the
stone, struck the ground, and began to roll down the incline. Its speed
got faster and Jimmy thought it went down like a ball. In a few moments
it would reach the top of the precipice, and if it plunged across they
would not find its broken body. Then it struck a rock and stopped, so
far as one could see, a few yards from the edge. Stannard gave Bob his
rifle and picked up the glasses.

"A fine head! Call Deering, Jimmy. I think we can get down."

Jimmy thought not, but he shouted and Deering arrived and studied the
ground.

"Looks awkward, but perhaps we can make it."

"You have got to make it! You don't want to leave a sheep like that
about," said Bob.

Stannard gave him a keen glance, but Deering said, "Let's try; I've
brought the rope. If you'll lead, Stannard, I'll tie on at the top.
We'll leave Jimmy."

"Since I missed my shot, I ought to go," Jimmy objected.

"My weight's a useful anchor and you're not up to Stannard's form,"
Deering rejoined and they put on the rope.

They started and Jimmy lighted his pipe. He had wanted the noble head
and Stannard had got another, but Jimmy was not jealous. Although
Stannard had hardly had a moment before the sheep went off, he had
seized the moment to shoot and hit. In the meantime, however, the others
were getting down the slope and Jimmy used the glasses.

The job was awkward. Sometimes the stones ran down and Stannard
hesitated; Deering stopped and braced himself, ready to hold up his
companions. Bob was at the middle of the rope and, so far as one could
see, was satisfied to follow Stannard. They reached the sheep, and Bob
got on his knees by the animal. His knife shone and after a few minutes
he gave Stannard the head.

Then it looked as if they disputed, but Bob got up and began to drag the
sheep to the edge. Jimmy was puzzled, for stones were plunging down and
it was plain the fellow ran some risk. One could not see his object for
resolving to get rid of the headless body. After a minute or two he
pushed the sheep over the edge and the party began to climb the slope.

They got to the top, and going up the gully, after a time found a corner
in the rocks and pitched camp. Bob and the Indian had carried up a small
quantity of wood and when they cooked supper Stannard remarked: "I
expect you're satisfied nobody in the valley could see our fire?"

"Nobody's in the valley, anyhow," said Bob.

"Then, my seeing smoke was strange," Stannard rejoined.

"But suppose somebody had camped in the trees? Why shouldn't the fellow
see our fire?" Jimmy inquired.

"Perhaps Bob will enlighten you," said Stannard coolly.

"Ah," said Deering, "he didn't mean to leave the sheep around, and
although I didn't get his object for pushing the body off the rocks, I
reckon it went down a thousand feet into the timber--" He stopped and
looking hard at Bob resumed: "What was your object?"

Bob's dark face was inscrutable.

"I saw smoke. When we got busy, I calculated the game-warden had located
at the other end of the range."

"You greedy swine!" said Stannard, and Deering began to laugh.

"Jimmy doesn't get it! Well, Bob meant to earn his bonus, and since he
took us shooting on a government game reserve, I admit his nerve is
pretty good. Anyhow, I won't grumble because I haven't killed a
big-horn. Stannard's may cost him two or three hundred dollars."

"Why did you play us this shabby trick, Bob?" Jimmy asked in a stern
voice.

Bob gave him a rather strange look.

"I sure wanted the bonus and the reserve is new. I allowed I'd beat the
warden and you wouldn't know. He got after me another time and I had to
quit and leave a pile of skins."

"You wanted to get even?" Deering remarked and turned to Stannard. "What
are you going to do about it? In a way, the thing's a joke, but our
duty's obvious. We ought to give up the heads and take Bob along to the
police."

Stannard said nothing, but Jimmy imagined he did not mean to give up the
heads. Bob's calm was not at all disturbed.

"Shucks!" he said. "You're pretty big, Mr. Deering, but I reckon the
city man who could take me where I didn't want to go isn't born. Why,
you can't get off the mountains unless I help you fix camp and pack
your truck!"

"I don't like packing a heavy load," Deering admitted. "We'll talk about
it again, and in the meantime you had better take the frying-pan from
the fire. I hate my bannocks burned."



XII

STANNARD FRONTS A CRISIS


At Kelshope ranch fodder was scarce and so long as the underbrush was
green Jardine let his cattle roam about. The plan had some drawbacks,
and Jardine, needing his plow oxen one afternoon, was forced to search
the tangled woods. Sometimes he heard cow-bells, but when he reached the
spot the animals were gone. A plow ox is cunning and in thick timber
moves much faster than a man.

Jardine, however, was obstinate and for an hour or two he pushed across
soft muskegs and through tangled brushwood. When at length he stopped he
saw he had torn his new overalls and broken an old long boot. Besides,
he hated to be baffled and since he could not catch the oxen he could
not move some logs.

When he got near the ranch he stopped. Somebody was quietly moving about
the house, as if he wanted to find out who was at home, and Jardine,
advancing noiselessly, saw it was Bob. He admitted he had expected
something like that, for Bob's habits were not altogether a white man's.
Jardine imagined he did not know Margaret had gone to the railroad.

Had he found his team, he might have given Bob supper and sent him off
before Margaret arrived, but he had not found the team and Bob's
creeping about the house annoyed him. In the Old Country Jardine was a
poacher, but he sprang from good Scottish stock and he hated to think
Bob bothered Margaret. Moving out of the shadow, he went up the path.

He did not make a noise, but Bob turned, and Jardine thought had the
fellow been altogether a white man he would have started. Bob did not
start. His look was calm, like an Indian's, and his pose was quiet.

"Hello!" he said. "I reckoned you'd gone after your plow team."

"Ye didna reckon I'd come back just yet!"

Bob smiled, but his eyes got narrower and his mouth went straight. He
was a big man and carried himself like an athlete.

"Well," he said, "I allowed Miss Margaret was around and I'd wait a
while."

Jardine wondered whether Bob meant to annoy him. As a rule the fellow
was not frank and now his frankness was insolent.

"If ye come another time, ye'll come when I'm aboot. What have ye in yon
pack?"

"Berries," said Bob, opening a cotton flour bag. "I reckoned Miss
Margaret wanted some. Then I brought a pelt; looked the sort of thing to
go round her winter cap."

In the woods, the Indians dry the large yellow raspberries and Bob had
brought a quantity to the ranch before. Now he pulled out a small dark
skin that Jardine imagined was worth fifty dollars. The value of the
present was significant.

"Ye can tak' them back. We have a' the berries we want."

"Anyhow, I guess Miss Margaret would like the skin."

"She would not. Margaret has nae use for ony pelts ye bring."

For a few moments Bob was quiet. Then he said, "Sometimes I blew in for
supper and you let me stay and smoke. When you put up the barn, you sent
for me to help you raise the logs. The English tenderfoot hadn't located
in the valley then."

The blood came to Jardine's skin. To some extent Bob's rejoinder was
justified; but Jardine had not until recently imagined Margaret
accounted for the fellow's coming to the ranch.

"When we put up the barn ye got stan'ard pay. I allow ye're a useful man
to handle logs, but I'm no' hiring help the noo."

"You reckoned me your hired man?" said Bob in an ominously quiet voice.
"That was all the use you had for me?"

"Just that!" Jardine agreed. "Margaret has nae use for ye ava'."

"Then, if you reckon you're going to get my highbrow English boss for
her, you're surely not very bright. His sort don't marry--"

"Tak' your pack and quit," said Jardine sternly. "Get off the ranch, ye
blasted half-breed!"

Bob was very quiet, but his pose was alert and somehow like a hunting
animal's. Perhaps instinctively, he felt for his knife. Jardine's ax
leaned against a neighboring post. If he jumped, he could reach the
tool, but he did not move. For a moment or two they waited, and then Bob
picked up the flour bag and went down the path. Jardine went to the
kitchen and lighted his pipe. Bob was gone, and Jardine hardly thought
he would come back, but he was not altogether satisfied he had taken the
proper line. Indian blood ran in Bob's veins; an Indian waits long and
does not forget. For all that, Jardine did not see himself warning
Leyland and enlightening Margaret.

A week afterwards, Stannard one evening occupied a chair at his table on
the terrace. He had returned from the mountains with two good big-horn
heads and nothing indicated that the game-warden knew the party had
poached on the reserve. Stannard, however, was not thinking about the
hunting excursion. The English mail had arrived and sometimes he studied
a letter and sometimes looked moodily about.

Laura, Dillon, and two or three young men were on the steps that went
down to the woods. Laura wore her black dinner dress and Stannard
thought she had not another that so harmonized with her beauty. Dillon
obviously felt her charm. He was next to Laura, and since it looked as
if the others were ready to dispute his claim to the spot, Stannard
imagined Frank would not have occupied it unless Laura meant him to
remain.

After a time Stannard pushed the letter into his pocket and gave
himself to gloomy thought, until Deering came along the terrace and
asked him for a match.

"You look as if you were bothered," Deering remarked.

"Sometimes one is bothered when one's mail arrives."

"That is so," said Deering, with a sympathetic nod. "Opening your mail
is like dipping in a lucky bag; your luck's not always good. I got some
bills in my lot."

"I got a demand for a sum I cannot pay. I expect you haven't two
thousand dollars you don't particularly need?"

Deering laughed. "Search me! All I've got above five hundred dollars you
can have for keeps. Looks as if you must put the fellow off."

"He's obstinate and unless I can satisfy him it might be awkward for
me."

"Then, you had better try Dillon. The kid's rich and sometimes
generous," Deering remarked. "In a sense, he's mine, but since you're up
against it, I'll lend him to you."

He went off and Stannard frowned. For him to be fastidious was
ridiculous, but Deering's frankness jarred. Still he needed a large sum,
and although he could borrow for Jimmy, he could not borrow for himself;
the fellow who supplied him was a keen business man. Stannard lived
extravagantly, but the money he used was not his, and unless he
justified the speculation supplies would stop. So far, the speculation
had paid and he owned he ought not to be embarrassed. The trouble was,
he squandered all he got.

He weighed Deering's plan. Dillon's father was rich and indulged the
lad. Stannard had stopped at his ambitious house on Puget Sound, and
imagined the old lumber man approved Laura. In fact, the drawback to
Deering's plan was there. Stannard had not bothered much about Laura and
was willing for his wife's relations to undertake his duty, but he did
not mean to put an obstacle in her way. She must make a good marriage;
after all, her aunts were poor.

By and by the group on the steps broke up and Laura came to Stannard's
table. He noted that her eyes sparkled and her color was rather high. It
looked as if she had triumphed over another girl; Stannard admitted the
others were attractive, but none had Laura's charm.

"You have soon forgotten Jimmy," he remarked.

"No," said Laura, "I have not forgotten Jimmy. Although I did not want
him for a lover, he's my friend. But he really was not my lover. That
accounts for much."

"Yet I imagine, if he had been persuaded to go back to the cotton
mill--"

Laura blushed, but she gave Stannard a steady look. "I liked Jimmy,
Father, and I was not altogether selfish. I felt he ought to go back."

"To lead a young man where he ought to go is rather an attractive part,"
Stannard remarked. "Jimmy wanted to marry you. What about Frank
Dillon?"

"Ah," said Laura. "Frank is not as rash as Jimmy! Jimmy doesn't ponder.
He plunges ahead."

"You imply that Frank uses caution."

"Oh, well," said Laura, smiling, "perhaps I use some reserve."

Stannard thought her voice was gentle, and turning his head, he studied
Dillon. The young fellow stood at the top of the steps as if he wanted
to follow Laura, but waited for her to indicate that he might. Stannard
reflected with dry amusement that Laura kept her lovers in firm control.
Frank was rather a handsome fellow and Stannard knew him sincere and
generous. Perhaps it was strange, but a number of the young men he
admitted to his circle were a pretty good type. Although Stannard was
not bothered by scruples, he was fastidious.

"But I want to know-- It's important," he said. "Suppose Frank is as
rash as Jimmy? Will you refuse him?"

Laura blushed, but after a moment or two she looked up and fronted her
father.

"Why is it important for you to know?"

Stannard hesitated. He had not used his daughter for an innocent
accomplice, and had she married Jimmy he would have tried to free the
lad from his entanglements. Now, if she loved Frank, he must not
embarrass her.

"Well," he said, "I rather think I must give you my confidence. I need
money and it's possible Frank would help."

"Oh, Father, you mustn't use Frank's money!" Laura exclaimed and, since
her disturbance was obvious, Stannard's curiosity was satisfied. "He's
your friend and trusts you," she resumed. "I think you ought to force
Deering to leave him alone."

For a few moments Stannard was quiet. Laura loved Frank; at all events
she was willing to marry him, and it looked as if she knew more about
her father than he had thought. Well, Laura was not a fool.

"Sometimes your tact is rather marked," he said. "I wonder whether you
really think Deering a worse friend for Frank than me? However, we'll
let it go. If you marry the young fellow, he, of course, ought not to be
my creditor."

Laura gave him a grateful look and when she replied her voice was
apologetic. "Perhaps I wasn't justified, but I felt I was forced-- I
mean, I didn't want you to bother Frank, and one cannot trust Deering."

"I imagine I see," Stannard rejoined. "Well, perhaps Deering's a better
sort than you think. He stated, rather generously, that he would lend me
Frank, but if it's some comfort, I'll engage not to bother the young
fellow."

"You're a dear!" said Laura with a touch of emotion.

Stannard shrugged. "I have not carried out my duty and you do not owe me
much, but after all it was for your sake I sent you to your aunts.
Since your father was a bad model, I hoped your mother's sisters would
help you to grow up like her. Well, since I long neglected you, I must
not now put an obstacle in your way."

"You are kind," said Laura. "Perhaps I'm cold and calculating. I know my
shabbiness, but I did not love Jimmy and I think I do love Frank."

She touched Stannard's arm gently and went into the hotel. A few moments
afterwards, Dillon crossed the terrace and went up the steps. Stannard
smiled, but by and by threw away his cigar and knitted his brows. He
thought he need not bother about Laura, but he saw no plan for meeting
his importunate creditor's demands.



XIII

THE DESERTED HOMESTEAD


Stannard and a party from the hotel were in the mountains, and Laura and
Mrs. Dillon one morning occupied a bench on the terrace. Mrs. Dillon had
arrived a few days since, and when Stannard returned Laura was going
back with her to Puget Sound. Dillon, sitting on the steps, tranquilly
smoked a cigarette. Laura had engaged to marry him and he had refused to
join Stannard's rather ambitious excursion to a snow peak that had
recently interested the Canadian Alpine Club. So far as Dillon knew,
nobody had yet got up the mountain, and if its exploration occupied
Stannard and Jimmy for some time, he would be resigned. Jimmy was his
friend, but on the whole Frank would sooner he was not about.

"Two strangers went into the clerk's office some time since," Laura said
presently. "One wore a sort of cavalry uniform. Do you know who they
are?"

"One's a subaltern officer of the Royal North-West Mounted Police,"
Dillon replied. "I expect the other's a small boss in the Canada
forestry department, or something like that. Perhaps a careless tourist
has started a bush fire."

"They are coming out," said Laura, and added with surprise: "I think
they want to see us."

The men crossed the terrace and the young officer gave Laura an
envelope.

"I understand you are Miss Stannard and this is your father's."

Laura nodded agreement and studied the envelope. The address was
Stannard's and at the top was printed, _Sports service. Taxidermy._

"Perhaps you had better open the envelope," the officer resumed.

Laura did so and pulled out a bill. "To preserving and mounting two
big-horn heads-- To packing for shipment--"

The other man took the bill. He was a big brown-skinned fellow and his
steady quiet glance indicated that he knew the woods.

"Sure!" he said. "The charge for packing is pretty steep; but when you
mean to beat the export-prohibition-- Well, I guess this fixes it!"

"What has Mr. Stannard's bill to do with you?" Laura asked in a haughty
voice.

"To begin with, he can't ship those heads out of Canada. Then it looks
as if he killed the big-horn on a government game reserve."

"Your statement's ridiculous," said Laura angrily. "My father is an
English sportsman, not a poacher."

"Anyhow, he killed two mountain sheep not long since."

"You cannot force Miss Stannard to admit it," Dillon interrupted.

"Not at all," the young officer agreed politely. "Still I think some
frankness might pay. My companion is warden Douglas, from the reserve,
and the game laws are strict, but it's possible some allowance would be
made for tourists who did not know the rules. If Miss Stannard does
reply, it might help."

"Very well," said Laura. "My father and a party went shooting and he
brought back two big-horn heads, but I'm satisfied he did not know he
trespassed on a game reserve."

"His partners were Leyland and Deering," warden Douglas remarked. "I
expect they took a guide, although they didn't hire up the men at the
hotel."

"Mr. Leyland's man, Okanagan, went."

Douglas looked at the officer and smiled meaningly. "Now I get it! I
reckon Bob _played_ them fellers."

"Mr. Stannard is again in the mountains?" the officer said to Laura. "I
don't urge you to reply, but although my duty's to find out all I can, I
don't think your frankness will hurt your father."

Laura said Stannard had gone to climb a famous peak and admitted that he
had taken Okanagan.

"They'll hit the range near the head of the reserve and a hefty gang
could get down the Wolf Creek gulch," Douglas observed. "Looks as if Bob
had gone back for another lot! I guess an English sport would put up
fifty dollars for a good head."

"Thank you, Miss Stannard," said the officer. "The department will claim
the heads and perhaps demand a fine, but the sum will depend upon Mr.
Stannard's statements. This, however, is not my business."

He bowed and went off, but he stopped Douglas on the veranda.

"If you want to go after the party, I'll give you trooper Simpson."

"I'm going after Okanagan and I mean to get him," said Douglas grimly.
"I reckon he fooled the tourists, but they've got to pay the fine. Can't
you give me a bushman trooper? Okanagan's a tough proposition and he
doesn't like me."

The officer said he had not another man and must go off to make
inquiries about a forest fire. He sent for his horse and the group on
the terrace saw him ride down the trail.

"I'm sorry for Father and know he'll hate to give up the heads; but I
think the men were satisfied Jimmy's helper cheated him," Laura
remarked.

A few days afterwards, Stannard's party stopped one evening at a small,
empty homestead. Thin forest surrounded the clearing, but on one side
the trees were burned and the bare rampikes shone in the sun. In places
the crooked fence had fallen down, tall fern grew among the stumps, and
willows had run across the cultivated ground. For all that, the loghouse
was good, and since the horses could not go much farther, Stannard
resolved to use the ranch for a supply depot. On the rocks the climbing
party could not carry heavy loads.

When the sun got low they sat on the veranda and smoked. They did not
talk much, and Jimmy felt the brooding calm was melancholy. Somebody,
perhaps with high hope, had cleared the ground the forest now was
taking back. Labor and patience had gone for nothing; the grass was
already smothered by young trees. It looked as if the wilderness
triumphed over human effort.

"How long do you think its owner was chopping out the ranch? And why did
he let it go?" Jimmy asked.

"I reckon nine or ten years," Deering replied. "Maybe he speculated on
somebody's starting a sawmill or a mine. Maybe the block carried a
mortgage and he pulled out to earn the interest. As a rule, the small
homesteader takes any job he can get, and when his wallet's full comes
back to chop, but a railroad construction gang's the usual stunt and
some don't come back. I expect the fellow was blown up by dynamite or a
rock fell on him. Anyhow, when you hit a deserted ranch, the owner's
story is something like that. Canada's not the get-rich country land
boomers state."

Then Deering turned to Stannard. "Did you find a good line to the ridge
from which we reckon to make the peak?"

"I found a line I think will go. You follow the ridge until a big
buttress breaks the top some distance above the snow level. A _col_ goes
down to a glacier and one might get across to another ridge that would
help us up the peak. Still I doubt if our map's accurate, and my notion
is to climb the buttress."

Deering took the map. "Good maps of the back country are not numerous,
but if the _col_'s where you locate it, I reckon the old-time miners
shoved up the glacier when they came in from the plains. Some made the
Caribou diggings from Alberta long before the railroad was built."

"Their road was rough," said Stannard and lighted his pipe.

He was not keen to talk. For one thing, he was tired, and he did not yet
know where to get the sum he needed. The sum, however, must be got. So
long as he belonged to one or two good clubs and visited at fashionable
country houses, the allowance on which he lived would be paid; but if he
did not satisfy his creditor he must give up his clubs and would not be
wanted at shooting parties.

By and by Deering turned to Bob, who was cleaning a rifle.

"We have guns. Have you got a pit-light?"

Bob grinned. "You can't use a pit-light. Some cranks at Ottawa allow
they're going to carry out the law."

"It depends," said Deering dryly. "I wouldn't go still-hunting if I
thought a game-warden was about, but we oughtn't to run up against a
warden in this neighborhood. Anyhow, I see the deer come down to feed on
the fresh brush, and some venison would help out our salt pork. Say,
have you got a light?"

"I've got one," Bob admitted. "We brought some candles, and I guess I
could cut two or three shields from a meat can."

"Then you can get to work," said Deering, and turned to the others. "The
sport's pretty good. You hook a small miner's lamp in your hat and pull
out the brim, but you can use a candle and a bit of tin. Since the
lamp's above the tin shield, the deer can't see you. They see a light
some distance from the ground and, if you're quiet, they come up to find
out what it's doing there. When their eyes reflect the beam, you shoot."

"I don't suppose we'd run much risk, but a still-hunt is poaching and I
doubt if it's worth the bother," Stannard replied carelessly.

"When you start poaching, you don't know where to stop. Not long since
we shot two big-horn on a game reserve," said Deering with a laugh. "The
strange thing is, although I quit ranching for the cities, I want to get
back and play in the woods. Give me an ax and a gun and I'm a boy again.
Say, let's try the still-hunt!"

The others agreed and after supper the party waited for dark. The green
sky faded and the trees were very black. Then their saw-edged tops got
indistinct and gray mist floated about the clearing in belts that
sometimes melted and sometimes got thick. The resinous smell of the
pines was keen and all was very quiet but for the turmoil of the river.
An owl swooped by the house, shrieked mournfully, and vanished in the
gloom.

At length Jimmy fixed his candle in a rude tin shield, felt that his
rifle magazine was full, and waited for Bob to take the others to their
posts. So long as they went away from him, all he saw was a faint
glimmer, but sometimes one turned at an obstacle and a small bright
flame shone in the mist. It looked as if the light floated without
support and Jimmy could picture its exciting the deer's curiosity. One
could not use a pit-lamp in the tangled bush, but the clearing was some
distance across and the deer came to feed on the tender undergrowth that
had sprung up since the trees were chopped.

After a time Bob returned, but now Jimmy must go to his post he admitted
he would sooner go to bed. He was tired and still-hunting with a light
was forbidden; besides, they had not long since poached on a game
reserve. Had not Deering bothered them, Jimmy thought Stannard would not
have gone, but in the woods Deering's mood was a boy's. The packers and
the horses were in a barn some distance back among the trees, and they
had not got a light at the house. Somehow the quiet and gloom were
daunting, but to hesitate was ridiculous and Jimmy went off with Bob.

In North America, trees are not cut off at the ground level and the
clearing was dotted by tall stumps. Fern grew about the roots, and
tangled vines and young willows occupied the open spaces. At a boggy
patch the grass was high, and a ditch went up the middle and into the
bush. The ditch was deep and Jimmy knew something about the labor it had
cost. To see useful effort thrown away disturbed him and he speculated
about the lonely rancher's stubborn fight. The man was gone; perhaps he
knew himself beaten before he went, and the forest reclaimed the
clearing.

They crossed the ditch and Bob stationed Jimmy behind a big stump at the
edge of the trees. He said quietness was important, and if Jimmy left
his post and did not take his light, he might get shot. Moreover, he
must not shoot unless he saw a deer's eyes shine; he must wait until he
thought the animal near enough and then aim between the two bright
spots. He might soon get a shot, but he might wait until daybreak and
see nothing.

Then Bob went off and Jimmy was sorry he could not light his pipe. The
night was cold and waiting behind the stump soon got dreary. Sometimes
the mist was thick and sometimes it melted, but one could not see across
the clearing and nothing indicated that the others were about. Jimmy did
not know their posts; he imagined Bob had put them where they would not
see each other's lights. He wondered whether the deer would soon arrive.
If he did not see one before his candle burned out, he would lie down at
the bottom of the stump and go to sleep.



XIV

A SHOT IN THE DARK


Jimmy imagined he did for a few minutes go to sleep, because he did not
know when the noise began. Branches cracked as if a deer pushed through
the brush a short distance off. Jimmy was not excited; in fact, he was
cold and dull, and he used some effort to wake up.

The noise stopped and then began again. It now looked as if a large
animal plunged across the clearing. Jimmy did not think a deer went
through the brush like that, but for a moment he saw a luminous spot in
the dark. Something reflected the beam from his candle and he threw the
rifle to his shoulder.

His hand shook and he tried to steady the barrel. He felt a jerk and was
dully conscious of the report. As a rule, when one concentrates on a
moving target one does not hear the gun; the strange thing was Jimmy
imagined he heard his a second before the trigger yielded.

The deer did not stop and he pumped in another cartridge. He heard
nothing, but red sparks leaped from the rifle and then all was dark. A
heavy object rolled in the young willows and somebody shouted. Lights
tossed and it looked as if people ran about.

Jimmy shouted to warn the others and left the stump. When he jumped
across the ditch his candle went out, and on the other side his foot
struck something soft. Stooping down, he felt about and then got up and
gasped. His heart beat, for he knew the object he had touched was not a
deer.

After a moment or two Stannard joined him and took a miner's lamp from
his hat. Jimmy shivered, for the light touched a man who lay in the
willows. His arms were thrown out, and as much of his face as Jimmy saw
was very white. The other side was buried in the wet grass.

"Is he dead?" Jimmy gasped.

"Not yet, I think," said Stannard, and Deering, running up, pushed him
back and got on his knees.

Using some effort, he lifted the man's head and partly turned him over.
The others saw a few drops of blood about a very small hole in the
breast of his deerskin jacket.

"A blamed awkward spot!" Deering remarked and gave Jimmy a sympathetic
glance. "Your luck's surely bad, but get hold. We must carry him to the
house."

Stannard got down; he was cooler than Jimmy, but they heard an angry
shout, and Deering jumped for the lamp. When he ran forward the others
saw a young police-trooper crawl from the ditch. Stopping on the bank,
he looked down into the mud, and Bob, a few yards off, studied him with
a grim smile. Jimmy remarked that Okanagan had not a rifle.

"If you try to get your blasted gun, I'll sock my knife to you," said
Bob. "Shove on in front and stop where the light is."

The trooper advanced awkwardly. His Stetson hat was gone and his head
was cut. When he saw the man on the ground he stopped.

"You've killed him," he said. "Put up your hands! You're my prisoners!"

Bob laughed.

"Cut it out! That talk may go at Regina; we've no use for it in the
bush."

"An order from the Royal North-West goes everywhere. Quit fooling with
that knife. My duty is--"

"Oh, shucks!" said Bob, and turned to the others. "The kid fell on his
head and is rattled bad."

"He's hurt; give him a drink, Stannard," said Deering. "We must help the
other fellow. Lift his feet; I'll watch out for his head. Get hold,
Bob."

They carried the man to the house. When they put him down he did not
move, but Jimmy thought he breathed. Deering pushed a folded coat under
his neck and held Stannard's flask to his mouth. His lips were tight and
the liquor ran down his skin.

"A bad job!" said Deering, who opened the man's jacket. "All the same,
his heart has not stopped."

The packers from the barn were now pushing about the door and he
beckoned one.

"Take the best horse and start for the hotel. Get the clerk to wire for
a doctor and bring him along as quick as you can make it."

The packer went off and Deering asked the policeman: "Who's your pal?"

"He's Douglas, the game-warden. Looks as if you'd killed him."

"He's not dead yet," Deering rejoined, and pulled out some cigarettes.
"He may die. I don't know, but we'll give him all the chances we can. In
the meantime, take a smoke and tell us what you were doing at the
clearing."

The trooper lighted a cigarette and leaned against the wall. Somebody
had fixed two candles on the logs and the light touched the faces of the
group. All were quiet but Deering, and Jimmy noted with surprise that
Stannard let him take control. Stannard's look was very thoughtful;
Bob's was keen and grim. The trooper had obviously got a nasty knock. At
the door the packers were half seen in the gloom, but Jimmy felt the
unconscious man on the boards, so to speak, dominated the picture.
Although Jimmy himself was highly strung he was cool.

"My officer sent me to help the warden round you up for poaching on the
reserve," said the trooper. "When we hit the clearing we saw you were
out with the pit-light and Douglas reckoned we'd get Okanagan first; the
rest of you were tourists and wouldn't bother us. Douglas calculated
Okanagan knew the best stand for a shot and would go right there. His
plan was to steal up and get him. I was to watch out and butt in when I
was wanted."

"It didn't go like that!" Bob remarked. "When you saw me by the ditch
had I a gun?"

"So far as I could see you had not. You began to pull your knife."

Stannard motioned Bob to be quiet and the other resumed: "I heard
Douglas shout and I got on a move. In the dark, I ran up against a
stump, pitched over, and went into the ditch. I heard a shot--"

"You heard _one_ shot?" said Deering.

"I don't know--I'd hit my head and was trying to find my rifle. Well, I
guess that's all!"

"I shot twice," said Jimmy, in a quiet voice. "I don't think Bob used a
gun. All the same, when I pulled the trigger I imagined I heard another
report; but perhaps it was my rifle. I really don't know."

"The number of shots is important," Stannard observed.

Deering looked up sharply. "To find out is the police's job. Ours is not
to help."

"We ought to help," Jimmy rejoined. "I thought a deer was coming; I had
no object for shooting the warden, but if my bullet hit him, the police
must not blame Bob." He turned to the others. "How many shots did you
hear?"

Perhaps it was strange, but nobody knew. A packer thought he heard three
shots, although he admitted he might have been cheated because the
reports echoed in the woods. After a few moments they let it go and
Deering glanced at the man on the floor.

"Maybe he knows. I doubt if he will tell!"

The trooper advanced awkwardly. "Give me a light. I'm going across the
clearing; I want to see your stands."

For the most part, the others went with him. Their curiosity was keen
and it looked as if nobody reflected that the lad was their antagonist.
In fact, since they carried in the warden, all antagonism had vanished.
Jimmy, however, remained behind. He was on the floor and did not want to
get up. After the strain, he was bothered by a dull reaction and felt
slack. By and by Stannard returned and sat down on the boards.

"Well?" said Jimmy. "Have you found out much?"

"The trooper found your two cartridges and the posts Bob gave us. You
were at a big stump, Bob a short distance on your left, although he
declares he had not a gun. My stand was on your other side. The warden's
track across the brush was plain. He was going nearly straight for the
stump and the bullet mark is at the middle of his chest."

"It looks as if I shot him," Jimmy said and shivered.

"Then you must brace up and think about the consequences!"

"Somehow I don't want to bother about this yet. Besides, it's plain I
thought I aimed at a deer."

"I doubt," Stannard remarked, with some dryness. "For one thing, the
police know we killed the big-horn on the reserve, and since we took Bob
again, to state he cheated us would not help. The fellow's a notorious
poacher, and when the warden arrived he found us using the pit-light,
which the game laws don't allow. On the whole, I think the police have
grounds to claim Douglas was not shot by accident."

"But he may get better."

"It's possible; I think that's all. But suppose he does get better? Do
you imagine his narrative would clear you?"

Jimmy pondered. Until Stannard began to argue, all he had thought about
was that he had shot the warden, but now he weighed the consequences. He
was young and freedom was good. Moreover, he had seen men, chained by
the leg to a heavy iron ball, engaged making a road. A warden with a
shot-gun superintended their labor, and Jimmy had thought the indignity
horrible. He could not see himself grading roads, perhaps for all his
life, with a gang like that.

"What must I do about it?" he asked.

"I'd put up some food and start for the rocks. Take a rifle and the
Indian packer, and try to get down the east side of the range by the
neck below the buttress. Then you might perhaps push across to the
foothills and the plains. The police will, no doubt, reckon on your
going west for the Pacific coast, and, if you tried, would stop you. As
far as Revelstoke, the railroad follows the only break in the mountains,
and orders will be telegraphed to watch the stations. No; I think you
must steer for the Alberta plains."

Jimmy knitted his brows. If he could reach the coast, he might get into
the United States or on board a ship, but he must cross British
Columbia and, for the most part, the province was a rugged, mountainous
wilderness. The northern railroads were not yet built; the settlements
were along the C. P. R. track and the lake steamboat routes. He dared
not use the railroad; but when he thought about the rocks and broken
mountains he must cross to reach the plains he shrank.

"I could not carry the food I'd need," he said.

"You have a rifle, and must take the packer. So long as deer and grouse
are in the woods, an Indian will not starve," Stannard replied and gave
Jimmy his wallet. "Offer the fellow a large sum and he'll see you out.
But you must start!"

"Thank you; I'll risk it," said Jimmy, and giving Stannard his hand,
went off.

Not long afterwards the others returned and Deering looked about the
room.

"Where's Jimmy?" he asked.

"He went out a few minutes since," Stannard replied in a careless voice
and Deering turned to the trooper.

"Somebody must watch Douglas, but you're knocked out and Mr. Stannard
and I will undertake the job until sun-up. It's obvious our interest is
to keep him alive."

The lad agreed. His head was cut and he had not found his rifle. To
imagine he could control a party of athletic men was ridiculous, and
since they were friendly he must be resigned.

Not long before daybreak Deering woke up and looked about. Bob's
pit-lamp, hanging from a beam, gave a dim light.

"Hello! Jimmy's not back!"

Stannard looked at the others and thought them asleep. Motioning to
Deering to follow, he went to the door. He had pulled off his boots and
Deering trod like a cat.

"Jimmy will not come back. He started for the plains, across the neck."

"You sent the kid across the hardest country in Alberta?"

"I don't know that I did send him; but we'll let it go. Jimmy's a
mountaineer and he took the Indian."

"Shucks!" said Deering. "The Indian's a coast Siwash and not much use on
the rocks. Jimmy's an English tenderfoot and has no _Chinook_. He can't
talk to the Indian. I doubt if he's got a compass or a map."

"He has my map and I imagine an Indian does not need a compass,"
Stannard rejoined. "At all events, I didn't see another plan."

Deering looked at him hard. "Well, perhaps Jimmy's lucky because I was
born and raised in the bush. Fix up a plausible tale for the policeman.
When he wakes I'll be hitting Jimmy's trail."

He turned and his bulky figure melted in the dark. Stannard knew he was
going to the barn to get food, and for a few moments knitted his brows.
Then he shrugged philosophically and went back to the house.



XV

TROOPER SIMPSON'S PRISONERS


Day broke drearily across the clearing. Mist rolled about the dark pines
and when the wind got stronger the dark branches tossed. The loghouse
was cold and trooper Simpson, turning over on the hard boards, shivered.
Then he remarked that although the pit-lamp had gone out the room was
not dark and he was dully conscious that he had slept longer than he
ought. After a few moments, his glance rested on an object covered by
blankets at the other end of the room and he got up with a jerk.

His head hurt and he was dizzy. He now remembered that he had run
against a stump and fallen into the ditch; but he must brace up and with
something of an effort he crossed the floor. So far as he could see, the
warden's eyes were shut and his face was pinched. All the same, Simpson
thought he breathed and when he touched him his skin was not cold.

"Hello!" he said, and Stannard, sitting by Douglas, turned.

"He's very sick," Simpson resumed. "What are we going to do about it?"

"We must try to keep him warm and when he can swallow give him a little
weak liquor and perhaps some hot soup. I expect that's all, but I have
sent for a doctor."

"I see you have given him good blankets," said Simpson, who looked
about. "Leyland's not back; you allowed he had gone out for a few
minutes. Then where's the big man?"

"I stated Leyland went out a few minutes before Deering inquired for
him," Stannard said dryly. "Some time after Leyland went, Deering
started for the bush."

"Then, I've got stung! You knew I'd lost my rifle and you helped my
prisoners get off!"

Stannard smiled. "To talk about your prisoners is ridiculous; I imagine
we are rather your hosts. I am not a policeman, and when my friends
resolved to leave the camp I had no grounds to meddle. However, if it
will give you some satisfaction, I'll lend you a rifle."

"I'm going to get mine," said Simpson and started across the clearing.

He came back before long, carrying a wet rifle. His clothes were muddy
and his mouth was tight.

"I found her in two or three minutes, but when I was in the ditch last
night I felt all about."

"To find an object in the dark is awkward," Stannard remarked.

Simpson gave him an angry glance. "The magazine's broke and the
ejector's jambed. I don't see how she got broke. I didn't hit the stump
with my gun; I hit it with my head."

"The thing is rather obvious. The cut ought to satisfy your officer,"
said Stannard soothingly.

"If you hadn't let your partners go, I wouldn't have had to satisfy my
officer. Now I sure don't see where I am."

"The situation is embarrassing," Stannard agreed. "My friends have been
gone some time and are pretty good mountaineers; it's possible they
could go where you could not. Then, if you went after Deering and
Leyland, I might go off another way. I don't want to persuade you, but
perhaps you ought to stop and take care of Douglas."

Simpson frowned and put down his damaged rifle.

"Looks as if you had got me beat and I've no use for talking. Now the
light's good, I'll take a proper look at your party's tracks."

Stannard let him go and soon afterwards Bob came in. Sitting down on the
boards, he struck a pungent sulphur match and lighted his pipe.
Stannard's glance got hard. He knew the Western hired man's
independence, but he thought Bob truculent.

"The warden's very ill and your tobacco's rank," he said.

"He's sick all right. I doubt if he'll get better," Bob agreed in a
meaning voice, although he did not put away his pipe.

For a few moments Stannard pondered. To baffle the young trooper had
rather amused him, but to dispute with Bob was another thing.

"If Douglas does not get better, it will be awkward," Stannard said.

"It will sure be awkward for Mr. Leyland."

"Or for you!"

"Shucks! You know I was sort of superintending and hadn't a gun."

"I don't know," said Stannard. "You stated you had not a gun. In the
meantime, I imagine Simpson is measuring distances and fixing angles, or
something like that. I can't judge if he knows his job; perhaps you
can."

Bob's glance was a little keener. "Huh!" he said scornfully, "the kid's
from the cities and can't read tracks. All the same, somebody shot
Douglas, and if the police can't fix it on Leyland, they'll get after
me."

"I don't see where I can help. For one thing, Mr. Leyland is my friend.
Then all I can state is, I didn't see you carry a gun. On the whole, I
don't think the police have much grounds to bother you."

"Well, I don't take no chances; the police would sooner I was for it.
They can't claim Leyland meant to kill the warden, but they might claim
I did. Gimme a hundred dollars and I'll quit."

Stannard smiled. "I have not got ten dollars; I gave Jimmy my wallet.
He's your employer."

"Then, if I run up against Mr. Leyland, I'll know he carries a wad and I
guess I can persuade him to see me out," said Bob. "Now I'm going to
take all the grub I want. So long!"

He went off and Stannard shrugged; but a few moments afterwards he
rested his back against the wall and shut his eyes, as if he were tired.
By and by Simpson returned and met Bob near the door. Bob carried a big
pack, a cartridge belt, and a rifle.

"Hello!" said Simpson. "Another for the woods? Well, you got to drop
that pack. You're not going."

"You make me tired. _My_ gun's not broke," Bob rejoined and shoved the
muzzle against Simpson's chest. "Get inside, sonny. Get in quick!"

The Royal North-West Police do not enlist slack-nerved men and Simpson's
pluck was good. For all that, he was lightly built and was hurt, while
Bob was big and muscular. When Simpson seized the rifle barrel Bob
pushed hard on the butt. The trooper staggered back, struck the
doorpost, and plunged into the house. Bob laughed.

"Your job's to help cure your partner. Maybe he knows who shot him," he
remarked, and started across the clearing.

Simpson leaned against the wall and gasped. When he got his breath he
turned to Stannard savagely. "Where's your rifle?"

"In the corner behind you," Stannard replied, and Simpson, seizing the
rifle, jerked open the breech.

"My cartridge shells won't fit."

"It's possible," said Stannard. "I didn't engage to lend you ammunition,
but if you go to the barn, you'll find a brown valise. Bring me the
valise and I may find you a box of cartridges."

"Do you reckon Bob is going to wait until I get all fixed?"

"That's another thing," said Stannard pleasantly.

Simpson put down the rifle. "In about a minute the fellow'll hit the
timber and his sort don't leave much trail. Then you have not pulled out
yet."

"You imagine if you went after Bob and did not find him, you might not
find me when you came back?"

"That's so," Simpson agreed. "Not long since I reckoned I'd got the
gang. Now you're all that's left. The packers don't count."

"Oh, well," said Stannard, smiling. "I'll agree to remain. I expect to
pay a fine for poaching, although I didn't know I was on the reserve.
Since I'm resigned, it doesn't look as if my friends had an object for
shooting Douglas. You see, I killed the big-horn."

"All the same, three have lit out."

"There's the puzzle; the warden was hit by one bullet. I own I don't see
much light; but I think you sketched the clearing."

Simpson pulled out a note-book and Stannard remarked that the plan of
the ground was carefully drawn. He thought the spots the sportsmen had
occupied were accurately marked; distances and the lines of the warden's
and Simpson's advance were indicated.

"The thing's like a map," he said. "How did you fix the positions?"

"I carry a compass and can step off a measurement nearly right. At
Regina they teach us to study tracks, but I was at a surveyor's office
before I joined up."

"Then, you are a surveyor?" said Stannard with keen interest, for he saw
the accuracy of the plan was important.

Simpson smiled. "Surveying's a close profession. I was a clerk, but I
copied plans and sometimes the boss took me out to help pull the
measuring chain. Well, I guess that plan will stand!"

When Stannard gave back the book his look was thoughtful, but he said,
"Until the doctor arrives, we must concentrate on keeping Douglas alive.
To begin with, we'll get the packers to make a branch bed and light a
fire."

Douglas lived, but, so far as the others could see, this was all. He
hardly moved and he did not talk, but sometimes at night his skin got
hot and he raved in a faint broken voice. A packer shot some willow
grouse and they made broth, and Stannard put away the party's small
stock of liquor and canned delicacies for his use. Sometimes he
swallowed a little food, but for the most part he lay like a log in
blank unconsciousness.

Simpson, Stannard, and a packer watched, and before long Stannard knew
the trooper was his man. He had qualities that attracted trustful youth
and used his talent cleverly. For all that, when the doctor and an
officer of the mounted police arrived, Stannard's look was worn and
Simpson's relief was keen. The officer sent Stannard from the room, but
ordered him to wait at the barn.

After some time Simpson came to the barn and Stannard, returning to the
house, saw the officer's brows were knit. The doctor put some
instruments into a case and then turned his head and looked at his
companion. Stannard imagined they had not heard his step and for the
moment had forgotten about him.

"He was obviously hit in front. The bullet mark's near the middle of his
body and indicates he was going for the man who shot him," the officer
remarked.

"The wound at the back does not altogether support your argument," the
doctor replied. "It is not at the middle, and the fellow is lucky
because it is not. The mark's, so to speak, obliquely behind the other."

"The mark where a bullet leaves the body is generally larger?"

"To reckon on its being larger is a pretty safe rule," the doctor
agreed.

Stannard's interest was keen, but the officer saw him and looked at the
doctor, who signed to Stannard to advance.

"I imagine you have used some thought for the sick man," he said. "Sit
down; I want to know--"

In a few minutes Stannard satisfied his curiosity, and the officer then
took him to another room. He used reserve, but he was polite, and
Stannard thought he had examined Simpson and the trooper's narrative had
carried some weight.

"The doctor states Douglas must not be moved," the officer presently
remarked. "In the morning, I must start for the railroad and you will go
with me. I'll try to make things as easy as I can, but if you tried to
get away, you would run some risk. The Royal North-West have powers the
Government does not give municipal police."

"Had I wanted to get away, I would have gone some time since," Stannard
replied.

The other nodded. "Simpson admits your help was worth much. Well, you
will certainly be made accountable for poaching, but this may satisfy my
chiefs--I don't know yet. I expect there's no use in my trying to get
some light about your friends' plans?"

"There is not much use," Stannard agreed. "For one thing, my friends did
not altogether enlighten me."

"Very well," said the officer, smiling. "So long as you do not go off
the ranch, you can go where you like. After breakfast in the morning we
start for the railroad."



XVI

THE NECK


Mist floated about the rocks and the evening was dark. To push on was
rash, but Jimmy hoped he might get down to the trees below the
snow-line. Anyhow, he must if possible get off the broken crest of the
range. Since noon until the sun went west and shadow crept across the
mountain, he and the Indian had crouched behind a shelf and watched snow
and stones plunge to the valley. Now all was quiet and the snow was
firm, but the mist was puzzling and Jimmy could not see where he went.
All he knew was, he followed the neck to lower ground.

Jimmy was tired. In the wilds, if one can shoot straight, fresh meat may
sometimes be got, but one must carry a rifle, flour, and groceries.
Moreover, he now felt the reaction after the strain, and the journey on
which he had started daunted him. He must push across a wilderness of
high rocks and snow. In the mountains one cannot travel fast, and when
he reached the plains the distance to the American frontier was long. He
dared not stop at the settlements and, until he crossed the boundary,
must camp in the grass, although the days got short and the nights were
cold.

The Indian, heavily loaded, went a few yards in front, but he came from
the warm coast and his part was to supply them with game and fish. Jimmy
got some comfort from reflecting that he himself knew the Swiss rocks,
because he rather thought all mountains whose tops were above the
snow-line, so to speak, approximated to a type.

Frost split their ragged pinnacles and great blocks plunged down.
Avalanches ground their shoulders to precipitous slopes, from which
battered crags stuck out. As a rule, the top of the long ridges was
narrow, like a rough saw-edge, but sometimes a bulging snow-cornice
followed the crest. Where the snow-fields dropped to a hollow, a glacier
generally went down in flowing curves. One could follow a glacier, but
at some places the surface wrinkled and broke in tremendous cracks.

By and by the Indian stopped and Jimmy looked about. The neck had got
very steep and the mist was thick. The pitch at the top of the glacier
is awkward and Jimmy knitted his brows. If he balanced properly, pushed
off, and trailed his rifle butt, he would go down like a toboggan; the
trouble was, he might go over a perpendicular fall and into the
_bergschrund_ crack. To climb down and slip meant a furious plunge like
the other, and if there was not a _bergschrund_, he might hit a rock.
Yet, if he meant to go east, he must get down, and for a few minutes he
sat moodily in the snow.

The strange thing was, Stannard had told him to try the neck. Stannard
knew much about rocks and glaciers, but perhaps he had not explored
far. Then, to some extent, Jimmy had started because Stannard urged him.
Now he thought about it, to run away was to admit his guilt. Stannard
ought to have seen this, but obviously had not. All, however, had got a
nasty jolt, and when one was jolted one was not logical. In the
meantime, he must concentrate on getting down.

By and by he heard a shout and steps. Flat lumps of snow like plates
rolled down and Jimmy thrilled. Somebody was coming and he thought he
knew Deering's voice. Then an indistinct object pierced the mist, slid
for some distance and stopped.

"Hello, Jimmy! You haven't got far ahead," Deering shouted, and his
strong voice echoed in the rocks.

Jimmy was moved and comforted. Deering looked very big and his
heartiness was bracing.

"I was forced to stop at the buttress in the afternoon."

"Sure," said Deering. "I reckoned on your getting held up. I was on the
ridge and shoved right along, but I'm going to stop for a few minutes
now. Get off the snow; we'll sit on my pack."

"What about the warden?" Jimmy asked.

"When I started he wasn't conscious. Shock collapse, I guess, but you
could hear his breath and a little color was coming to his skin. On the
whole, I think if they get a doctor quick he'll pull Douglas through.
The trouble is, we won't know-- But we'll talk about this again. The
ground ahead is blamed steep. Looks as if we might hit an awkward
_schrund_ at the top of the glacier. Anyhow, we'll wait a bit. I think
the moon's coming out."

Jimmy agreed. He knew that where a snow-field comes down nearly
perpendicularly to a glacier one generally finds a tremendous crack. By
and by the mist rolled off and a small dim moon came out. Deering got up
and when he strapped on his pack they started down the slope. They used
caution and after a time Deering stopped.

The mist was thinner and one could see for a short distance. Black and
white rock bordered the narrowing neck, and in front the snow fell away,
plunging down rather like a frozen wave. Shreds of mist floated up from
the cloud that filled the valley, and Jimmy, looking down on the vapor's
level top, got a sense of profound depth. All the same, the mist did not
interest him much. Fifty yards off, an uneven dark streak marked the
bottom of the snowy wave. The streak was broad; its opposite edge
sparkled in the moon and then melted into shadow that got deeper until
it was black. Jimmy studied the yawning gap and shivered. Had Deering
not arrived and the moon shone out, he thought he would have gone across
the edge.

"I've no use for fooling around a _schrund_ in the mist and we can't
wait for daybreak," Deering remarked. "We must get back and make the
timber line on the other side before we freeze."

Jimmy doubted if he could get back and shrank from the effort. He
thought the buttress five or six hundred feet above him, and for a
fresh, athletic man to get up in an hour was good climbing. But he was
not fresh; his body was exhausted and he had borne a heavy nervous
strain. All the same, to wait in the snow for daybreak was unthinkable.

They fronted the long climb and Jimmy, breathing hard and sometimes
stumbling, made slow progress. He doubted if he could have got up the
steepest pitch had not Deering helped him, and at another the Indian
took his pack. They reached the top, and Deering studied the white slope
that went down the other side. The moon had gone and thick cloud rolled
about the heights.

"This lot peters out in a gravel bank near the snow-line. I guess we'll
slide it," he said and vanished in the mist.

Jimmy braced his legs, pushed off and let himself go. In Switzerland he
had studied the _glissade_, but when one carries a heavy load to balance
on a precipitous slope is difficult. It looked as if Deering could not
balance, because after a few moments Jimmy shot past an object that
rolled in the snow. Then he himself lost control, his pack pulled him
over, and he went head-foremost down hill. When he stopped the pitch was
easier, and looking back he saw a belt of cloud three or four hundred
feet above. He had gone through the cloud and when he turned his head he
saw dark forest roll up from the valley in front. For all that, the
highest trees were some distance off.

By and by the Indian and Deering arrived and soon afterwards the snow
got thin. Stones covered the mountain-side and now and then a bank their
feet disturbed slipped away and carried them down. At length, Deering,
smashing through some juniper scrub, seized a small dead pine, and when
Jimmy, breathless and rather battered, arrived, declared they had gone
far enough. They had got fuel and water ran in the stones.

Half an hour afterwards, Jimmy sat down on thin branches in a hollow
behind a rock. In front a fire snapped and the rock kept off the wind.
The smell of coffee floated about the camp and the Indian was occupied
with a frying-pan.

When Jimmy had satisfied his appetite he lighted his pipe. He was warm
and the daunting sense of loneliness had gone. By and by Deering began
to talk.

"When Stannard stated you had pulled out for the foothills I thought I'd
better come along. He talked about your shoving across for the boundary,
but I doubted if you could make it. Perhaps an Alpine Club party,
starting from a base camp, with packers to relay supplies, could cross
the rocks, but when your outfit's a little flour and a slab of pork it
sure can't be done. My notion is, we'll get back from the railroad,
pitch camp in a snug valley and hunt."

"But you have no grounds to hide from the police."

"I'm pretty keen on hunting and I like it in the mountains," Deering
replied with a laugh. "To start with horses and packers is expensive,
but our hunting won't cost much. Then I'd a sort of notion I ought to
see you out. We'll let it go at that. For a time the police will watch
the railroad, but they'll get tired."

"You're a very good sort," Jimmy declared and resumed: "The Royal
North-West boast they have never let a man they really wanted get away."

"Police talk!" said Deering. "Reckon it up. They put two troopers to
watch a hundred miles of wilderness. In broken, timbered country a horse
can't go and a man can hardly shove along. I allow the boys are smart,
but they can't do more than's possible for flesh and blood. When we've
put them off our track we'll fix up a scheme."

"Now I think about it, I don't know if I ought to have run away.
Stannard rather persuaded me to start."

"Perhaps he was justified. The forestry department bosses can't allow
their wardens to be shot. Then you belong to a gang that had killed
big-horn on a reserve and engaged a notorious poacher for guide. When
Douglas was shot he was getting after your man. On the whole, I reckon
I'd have pulled out. But I don't see why Stannard suggested your going
for the plains. He ought to know you couldn't make it."

"He didn't know," Jimmy declared.

"Very well! I reckon he knew you could not get down the neck. Anyhow, he
knew the ground; he was up on the range."

Jimmy was vaguely disturbed. Deering's remarks indicated that he was not
satisfied and he thought the fellow studied him.

"Stannard reached the neck, but it's obvious he did not go far enough to
see the ice-fall."

"I didn't see the ice-fall, but I expected to get up against something
of the sort. Stannard's a famous climber."

"After all, we might have got down."

"It's possible," Deering agreed with some dryness. "If we'd had two good
fresh men, a proper rope and ice-picks, I might have tried, after
sun-up. But we hadn't got the proper truck, and I own I wasn't fresh."

"I was exhausted," said Jimmy. "Still an exploit we thought daunting
might not daunt Stannard. I expect that accounts for it."

Deering gave him a keen glance and smiled.

"Oh, well; he's sure a good man on the rocks."

Jimmy knocked out his pipe. So long as he had persuaded Deering that
Stannard had not carelessly allowed him to run a risk he was content. He
did not want to dispute about it. He liked Deering and to see him across
the fire was some comfort. Deering had not Stannard's qualities, but
Jimmy began to see he himself was rather Deering's sort than the
other's. Then in the mountains cultivation had not the importance it
had, for example, at an English country house. Jimmy liked Deering's raw
human force, his big muscular body, and his rather noisy laugh. Anyhow,
Deering had joined him and meant to see him out. He put away his pipe,
pulled up his thick blue blanket and went to sleep.



XVII

DILLON MEDITATES


When Stannard reached the settlements he was again examined by the
police. He knew where frankness paid and was frank, but he owed
something to trooper Simpson's narrative and something to his personal
charm. A magistrate ordered him to pay a rather heavy fine and give up
the big-horn heads, and then let him go, but Stannard doubted if the
police were altogether satisfied. The officer who examined him was
remarkably keen.

On the evening Stannard returned to the hotel, Laura and Dillon occupied
chairs at the table on the terrace. Electric lights burned on the
veranda, for the days got short, but the sunset was not altogether gone.
Dillon saw Laura's face in profile against the fading reflections. She
looked away from him to the north, where pines and rocks and snow were
all deep, soft blue. Her arm was on the table, her body was partly
turned, and Dillon thought her strangely beautiful. All the same, he
wanted her to look round.

"You are quiet," he remarked.

"I'm thinking about Jimmy in the wilds. Do you mind?"

"Not at all," Dillon declared. "When Jimmy was around the hotel, I had
no use for the fellow; now he's in the mountains, I'm bothered about
him. Somehow one likes Jimmy, and if I knew how I could help, I'd
start."

Laura turned her head and gave him a curious glance.

"Why do you like Jimmy? He's English and you're frankly American."

"That is so. To begin with, I've no pick on Jimmy because he loved you;
if he had not loved you, I'd have known his blood wasn't red. Then,
although he's English, in a sense he's our type. He's sincere; we are
sincere, you know, and perhaps, from your point of view, we don't use
much reserve. You can move us and when we're moved we talk and get busy.
Well, Jimmy's like that; he's marked by something generously human, but
I doubt if he got it at London clubs. Maybe it's his inheritance from
the folks who built the cotton mill."

Laura said nothing. She doubted if Frank's willingness to state his
grounds for liking Jimmy altogether accounted for his rather unusual
effort. Indeed, she imagined he labored to get a light on a subject that
puzzled him.

"Well," he resumed, "to know Deering went after Jimmy is some comfort.
If Jimmy gets up against it in the rocks, Deering will see him through."

"Your trust in Deering is remarkable!"

"He's a white man," said Dillon with a smile. "To be his friend cost me
high, but now I've cut out bets and cards, I'd sooner he'd got my money
than another. You see, I got something back. The fellow's big."

Laura was annoyed. She wanted to feel Deering was her antagonist and had
exploited Frank's trust. The trouble was, she could not altogether do
so, but she dared not admit that Stannard shared his guilt and perhaps
his reward. To chastise Deering, so to speak, exculpated her father.

"He is certainly muscular, and rather gross," she remarked.

"He's flesh and blood. I doubt if you quite get us yet. In the West, we
haven't cultivated out rude emotions; we like a fellow who plunges at an
obstacle, sweats and laughs, and sometimes gets mad. We're up against
savage Nature and our job is a man's first job, to satisfy human needs.
Well, you know my father; he's a pretty good Western type. When he
started in, his food was frugal and his clothes were overalls. Now he's
moving forests, and architects come to study the office block he built;
but if things go wrong in the woods, his superintendents know he can use
their talk and handle a cant-pole. His power springs from the primitive
streak."

"We'll let it go," said Laura, and indicated the long rows of pines
melting into the gloom. "Dark now comes soon."

"Before long the frost will come and in the mountains the cold is pretty
fierce. On Puget Sound the soft Chinook blows and the white Olympians
stand between you and the winds from the Rockies. The old man's keen
for me to bring you back. What about our starting?"

Laura blushed, for she had agreed to marry Dillon soon, but she said,
"My father cannot go yet. So long as Jimmy is in the mountains and the
warden cannot tell his story, I think he will remain in Canada. Perhaps
he ought to remain."

"Oh, well; you can reckon on Mr. Stannard's taking the proper line,"
Dillon agreed rather moodily. "You feel the thing's mechanical. Mr.
Stannard is like that."

"Mechanical?" said Laura, lifting her brows.

"His taking the proper line's mechanical. He doesn't bother about it. In
the West, his correctness is somehow exotic."

"If my father is exotic, I expect I am exotic."

"Sure! You are like a bird of paradise or a flower from the tropics. We
are a rude lot of hustlers and your grace and beauty carry us away."

"You're romantic, but sometimes you're rather nice," Laura remarked with
a smile. "All the same, if my father resolves to remain in Canada, it is
not a mechanical resolve but because he feels he ought."

"I expect that is so," Dillon agreed, and lighted a cigarette.

He thought Stannard ought to stay, and since he meant to do so, to doubt
him was not logical; yet Dillon did doubt. For one thing, the fellow was
Jimmy's friend, but when Jimmy started for the rocks Deering, not the
other, went after him. Then Stannard's narrative was puzzling. Jimmy had
run away and his going indicated that he was accountable for the
warden's getting shot. If Jimmy imagined he had shot at a deer, he ought
to have stayed. Moreover, Bob had run away, and if he had hit the
warden, it was obvious that Jimmy had not. Stannard's tale was not
plausible, and since Stannard was clever Dillon imagined he had not told
all he knew.

But Dillon began to see his vague antagonism had another foundation. He
was frankly Western and Stannard's type was new, although some people in
down-East cities cultivated his qualities. On the Pacific slope, men
were highly-strung, optimistic, and rather boyishly keen. They plunged
into big risky undertakings, sweated, and fought. In fact, where Nature
was not yet conquered, their part was protagonist. Dillon owned that he
himself was loafing, but he had not loafed long and would soon return to
his proper occupation.

Stannard had not an occupation and Dillon thought the grounds for his
distrust were there. Moreover, he had not a bank-roll, although he lived
extravagantly and indulged his fastidiousness. His habit was to strike
exactly the proper note, but sometimes its monotonous accuracy jarred.
Fastidious cultivation was for women. Yet Stannard was not at all
womanly; Dillon began to sense in him a hard, calculating vein. For all
that, he must not exaggerate, and Laura was not like her father.

"You could of course join my folk, although Mr. Stannard would sooner
wait," he said.

"I think not. My father planned the excursion to the mountains and led
the party. Until people are satisfied about the shooting accident, I
must not go to your house."

"Now you are ridiculous!" Dillon declared.

"All the same, I will not go," said Laura firmly.

"Then, I'm going to stay with you. I'd like to stay, but if Jimmy wants
me, I'm his man."

"I don't expect Jimmy will need you. Father imagines he's a long way off
and will soon reach the plains," said Laura and began to talk about
something else.

Jimmy was not steering for the plains; he had, in fact, known for some
time that he could not get there. The morning after Deering joined him
was calm and cold. The sun touched the high rocks and in places a pine
branch sparkled with dew, but a thousand feet below the camp the mist
was like a level floor. One could not see the valley, and the turmoil of
a river came up with a faint hoarse throb as if from a long way off.
Jimmy's fatigue and gloom were gone; he felt fresh and to see Deering
fry pork was comforting. He got a rather frugal breakfast and lighted
his pipe.

"What are our plans for to-day?" he asked.

"We must try to get a deer. Fresh venison's most as tough as rawhide,
but, if you put the roasted meat in a bag with salt, after a week or two
you can eat the stuff. How many cartridges have you got?"

"Six," said Jimmy and Deering smiled.

"You started for the plains with six shells! Well, I've got a box of
twenty-five, but somebody has taken out ten or twelve. Looks as if we
want to shoot straight. The pork won't hold up long."

"Where do we go when we have got a deer?"

"I reckon we'll go north," said Deering thoughtfully. "They talk about
new railroads, but so far the only line of communication between the
Rockies and the sea is the C. P. R. track. The settlements follow the
line, and when you pull out of the narrow belt you're in the wilderness.
The police will, no doubt, reckon on your trying to make Vancouver.
We'll stop in the wilds and let them watch the railroad until they get
tired."

"But if they find I haven't gone to Vancouver, won't they try the bush?"

"Look at Stannard's map," said Deering, with a smile. "Note the row of
ranges and valleys running north and south. But the big ridges and
furrows are not even; they're broken by high bench country and cut up by
cross-spurs. Pretty awkward ground to search for two fellows' tracks!
Our trouble's not to hide, but to get supplies. All the food they use in
British Columbia comes in by the C. P. R."

Jimmy studied the map and agreed. Moreover, he was young and the wilds
called. To plunge into the great desolation was something of an
adventure and Deering claimed to know the bush.

"What about your hired man? Did you trust the fellow?" Deering resumed.

"I had no grounds to doubt him," Jimmy replied in a thoughtful voice.
"Bob was rather inscrutable and didn't attract me, but he could chop and
this was all I wanted."

"So far as you can calculate, he hadn't a pick on you?"

"Not at all. I think he was satisfied with his pay, and since I
generally let him plan the work we did not dispute. All the same,
sometimes I imagined he gave me a queer moody look."

"Do you think he was, in any sense, Stannard's man?"

"Certainly not," said Jimmy, with some surprise. "Anyhow, I don't see--"

"I don't see," Deering admitted. "I'm looking for a light, but don't get
much yet. Well, when you have smoked your pipe we'll hit the trail."

They got off a few minutes afterwards, and at noon reached the bottom of
the hill. A high spur blocked the valley behind them, and the echoes of
small avalanches rolled across the rocks. Deering declared the sliding
snow would cover their tracks at the neck, but their line was to some
extent obvious, and until they could break it, they must push on as fast
as possible.

To push on fast was hard. Fallen trees and tangled brush blocked the
gaps in the rows of trunks, but by and by Jimmy, looking through an
opening, saw the woods shine with reflected light. The trees were like
silver trees; they sparkled as if touched by frost, and for a few
moments Jimmy was puzzled. Then he said, "Rampikes?"

Deering nodded. "A big burn! I expect it has cleared some ground for
us."

A short distance farther on, the brushwood vanished. Underfoot was a
soft carpet of ashes from which the trunks rose like columns. Their
branches were gone and the smooth, round logs reflected the light. For a
time to get free from entangling vines and thorns was a relief, but the
ash was soft and when one disturbed it, went up in clouds. The black
dust stuck to Jimmy's hot skin and he labored across the clogging stuff.
Then the desolation began to react on him. The birds were gone and the
feathery ash was not broken by the tracks of animals. It was obvious
they would not find a deer. All was dead, and but for the noise of
falling water the silence was daunting. At length Jimmy stopped and
leaned against a trunk.

"Come off!" said Deering. "Sit down, if you like, although I'd sooner
keep on my feet. You don't want to lean against a rampike."

Jimmy was tired and sat in the ashes.

"How do the fires start?" he asked.

"It's puzzling. The forestry people claim they're not spontaneous,"
Deering replied. "Around the settlements, a fire sometimes starts from a
burned slashing and the police get after the homesteader. All the same,
you hit _brûlés_ in country the Indians and prospectors leave alone.
Anyhow, I guess we're lucky because there's not much wind, and while our
luck is good we'll push along."

They set off and some time afterwards the roar of an avalanche broke the
brooding calm. The noise swelled and rolled about the valley, as if
great rocks were coming down, and then Jimmy heard a near, sharp crash.
He jumped mechanically, and looking back, saw a pillar of dust float up
like smoke from a blasting shot. In the dust, a big rampike slanted,
broke, and plunged. Another went and Deering pushed Jimmy.

"We'll pull out!" he shouted and they began to run.

When Jimmy stopped to get his breath the echoes had died away and all
was quiet, but he felt he had had enough of the burned forest. After
studying the rocks and gravel on the hillside he turned to Deering.

"You talked about breaking our line, and I expect we could get over the
spur in front," he said. "Let's try."



XVIII

THE CARTRIDGE BELT


Jimmy's clothes were torn and he was bothered about his boots. He rather
thought clothes and boots that would long bear the strain of a journey
across the rocks were not made. At all events, one could not buy them at
a Canadian settlement store. Then the things were wet and the morning
was cold.

For all that, he must not grumble. The deer did not like the heavy dew
and their habit was to come out on the rocks and get the sun. The Indian
thought he had found a spot they haunted, and after breakfast led the
others across a small tableland. By and by he stopped and Jimmy got down
in the fern. In front, the timber was thin and a short distance off was
a smooth rock. Jimmy saw the rock and the trees on the other side, but
for a few moments this was all. A deer's soft color harmonizes with
stones and trunks, and, when its outline is broken, to distinguish the
animal is hard.

The Indian frowned and signed, and Jimmy imagined the small patch of
light color cutting a pine trunk was a head. For one thing, it moved,
and the crooked line below it looked like a leg. Jimmy did not see the
deer's back, but the top of the leg indicated where its shoulder was,
and he rested his rifle on a branch. He got the sights where he wanted,
braced his muscles, held his breath, and steadily pulled the trigger.

The deer jumped and a thin streak of smoke floated in front of Jimmy's
eyes. The animal was not on the rock, but after a moment or two he saw
it rise from a thicket and go over some tangled branches a man's height
from the ground. Yet he thought the leap awkward and the deer came down
in the fern before it ought. His heart beat and he waited for another
shot, until he saw Deering a few yards off and remembered that their
cartridges were not numerous. Deering's body was firmly poised, his head
was bent forward and he balanced his rifle half-way to his shoulder as
if it were a gun. Jimmy knew he could use it like a gun.

When the deer broke from the fern at the edge of the tableland Jimmy did
not shoot. The animal's leap carried it across a clump of tall
raspberries, but it would vanish in a moment and the brush in front was
thick. Deering's rifle jerked, and the graceful body, carried by its
speed, plunged into the brush. Jimmy heard a crash and the deer was
gone. He thought it had gone over a rock and putting down his rifle he
ran.

A minute or two afterwards he stopped at the top of a precipitous slope.
A stream, however, cut the mountain-side, and in places small trees were
rooted in the stones. A hundred feet below, the deer lay on a shelf by a
waterfall.

"I think I can reach it," said Jimmy, and went cautiously down.

They needed the venison, but when he had got down a short distance he
knew he was rash, for it looked as if the rocks on the other side of the
waterfall were perpendicular. Then, although he might perhaps reach the
shelf, to carry the deer back was another thing.

Using the small trees for support, he got to a slab above the shelf. The
slab was wet and dotted by greasy moss, but a few cracks and small
stones broke its surface and Jimmy trusted his luck. When he came down
the ground shook and he saw the shelf was not, as he imagined, a solid
block but two or three large stones embedded in boggy soil. At one end
the cascade had scooped out a small basin and the deer's hind quarters
were in the pool. Jimmy seized its fore legs, and bracing his feet
against a stone, began to pull. He pulled hard, but although he felt he
moved, the deer did not. Then his foot went down, and letting go the
animal, he threw himself back.

The deer rolled over and vanished. Water splashed, and Jimmy saw the
stones plunge down the face of the cliff. For a moment or two he was
rather angry than alarmed. They wanted the meat but the deer was gone.
Then he saw he ran some risk of going down the cliff and he began to
study the ground. Scratches on the stone indicated how he had reached
the spot, but he had let himself go because the shelf was in front. The
pitch was very steep and the rock was mossy. Not far off a small tree
grew in a crack, but he could not reach the trunk and rather thought to
try would send him over the precipice.

He heard a shout and nailed boots rattled. Deering was coming down,
although he was not yet in Jimmy's line of view. After a time, Jimmy,
lying against the rock, turned his head and saw Deering had got hold of
the tree.

"I'm anchored," said Deering. "Can you reach my hand?"

The effort was risky, but Jimmy tried and Deering seized his wrist.
Deering pulled him up for a foot or two, and then stopped and gasped.

"Jamb yourself against the slab; I've got to let go."

Jimmy's boots slipped on the smooth stone and his hands were wet; he
could not get a proper hold and the moss was slimy under his knees.
Spreading out his arms, he let himself go slack and trusted his limp
body would not slip back. He could not now see Deering and did not know
what he did. After a moment or two he felt him seize his cartridge belt.

"Use your knees. When I lift grab the tree."

The cartridge belt got tight and Jimmy, using its support, reached the
trunk. His jacket felt slack, as if something were gone, but this was
not important and he heard Deering's labored breath.

"Thanks!" he said, rather dully. "We have lost the deer."

"We have used two shells," said Deering. "Let's get up."

They got up, and at the top Jimmy put his hand to his waist.

"Hello! Where's my belt?"

"Now I think about it, when I held you up I felt something give. I
guess the buckle was pulling out. Well, we ought to see the brown
leather."

They did not see it and Jimmy said, "All the cartridges I had are gone.
How many have you got?"

"Twelve," said Deering, rather grimly. "Anyhow, I'm not going down
again."

Jimmy nodded. He thought the belt had gone over the cliff.

"I brought about six pounds of pork from the camp."

"My load's flour, desiccated fruit, and a few cans of meat. Looks as if
we had got to eat salmon."

"In the Old Country, one doesn't grumble about eating salmon," Jimmy
remarked.

"Oh, well," said Deering, "I was raised in the bush and am not
fastidious, but if we can't get salmon, I'll be resigned. The trouble
is, since food's short we can't push back too far from the settlements.
Well, we must try to hit a creek."

In the evening they came down to a small river and pitched camp on the
bank. The Indian cut and trimmed a straight fir branch, but left a fork
at the thinner end. Then he pulled out two cleverly-carved bone barbs,
which he fitted on the forks and fastened by sinews to the staff.

"You could carry the business part of his outfit in your pocket,"
Deering remarked. "I expect his folks have used barbs like that for a
thousand years. An Indian's tools are standardized, but when he thinks
them good enough he stops. All the same, I reckon he gets most as far
as a man can get alone. He's an artist, but we beat him by cooperating
to make machines. Anyhow, the fellow doesn't want you. Take a smoke and
let him spear a fish."

Jimmy lighted his pipe and looked about. A few yards off, the current
splashed against the stones. The water was green, and the line of
driftwood and dead leaves on the bank indicated that the frost was
stopping the muddy streams from the glaciers. Some distance down the
river, the Indian balanced on a rock in a pool at the tail of a rapid.
For a time he did not move and Jimmy thought his quietness statuesque.
The fellow was like the herons he had studied with his glasses by a pool
on the Scottish border. Then his body bent and the spear went down. The
thrust and recovery were strangely quick and Jimmy rather doubted if the
man had moved.

"It looks as if he missed his stroke," he said.

"He's using a fir branch. An Indian spear is beautifully modeled,"
Deering replied.

A few minutes afterwards, the Indian bent backwards and a shining object
struck the bank. Coming to the fire, he put down the fish and Jimmy's
appetite was blunted. The salmon was lean and battered. Its color was
dull and its tail was broken. Rows of scales were rubbed off; the fins
were worn from the supporting ribs.

"I'm not as hungry as I was. Are all like that?" he said.

"It depends on when you get them," Deering replied. "A June steelhead,
fresh from the sea, is pretty good, but a salmon that has pushed through
to head waters in the fall is another thing. When you think about it,
the salmons' journey inland is remarkable. They bore against the autumn
floods when the melted snow comes down; they force tremendous rapids,
whirlpools, and roaring falls. Where the water's calm in the valleys,
eagles and fish-hawks harry them, and the mink hunts them in the
shallows. But they can't be stopped; they follow Nature's urge and shove
on across all obstacles for the distant gravel banks. Then they spawn,
where they were hatched, and the bears eat their spent carcasses. The
trouble is, I'm not a bear, but I've got to eat salmon."

When the Indian had fried two or three thick steaks, Jimmy sympathized
with Deering. The flesh was soft and its taste was rank. For all that,
he thought if he had not seen the salmon he might have had a better
appetite. At the hotel he had eaten because his food tempted him; now he
ate because he must. By and by he threw down his tin plate.

"I've had enough. If we can find a deer, we must risk another cartridge.
We have got twelve."

"You can't reckon on getting a deer for every shot, and although, as a
rule, the deer are pretty numerous about the small clearings, in some
belts of back country you can't find one. I expect they're attracted by
the crops. In fact, the wild animals and large birds aren't much afraid
of the ranchers; they quit when the automobiles and city sports arrive."

"But if we stop in the neighborhood of a settlement, the police may get
on our trail," Jimmy rejoined.

"The police are smart and I allow they're obstinate. All the same, to
search the rocks from Banff to Revelstoke is a big job. You can give
yourself away by two things, shooting and smoke, but we can fix the
smoke and we're not going to shoot much. As soon as we hit a proper
spot, we'll build a shack."

"By and by our supplies will run out."

"That is so," Deering agreed. "In the meantime, we're baffling the
police. Just now I expect they're busy looking for our tracks, but they
have got other jobs and can't keep it up. Well, when we think they're
forced to quit, we'll find a plan----"

He stopped and the Indian turned his head. A faint, hoarse bark came
from the distance and echoed across the valley. Jimmy jumped up and
looked about. The light was going and the pines were blurred.

"A dog?" he said.

"A timber wolf," said Deering. "He's not alone. I hear another."

A howl, pitched on a high mournful note, pierced the gloom and Jimmy
shivered. The noise was strangely dreary.

"Will the wolves bother us?"

"I think not," said Deering and talked in Chinook to the Indian, who
nodded. "The fellow agrees," he resumed. "In North Ontario we watch out
for wolves when the snow is on the ground, but as a rule in British
Columbia they leave the ranchers alone. Sometimes they take a sheep; I
reckon that's all. The trouble is, they kill deer, and when the wolves
start hunting the deer pull out."

Jimmy got down on his blanket by the fire. He felt the wilds were
daunting and to see the flame leap about the branches was some comfort.
Now and then a wolf howled in the distance, but by and by all was quiet
and he went to sleep.



XIX

USEFUL FRIENDS


Breakfast was over and, although Jimmy would have liked another bannock,
he got up and strapped on his pack. Deering needed the bannock, for
flour was running out. A fire burned on the stone hearth and the little
shack in a corner of the rocks was warm. Jimmy did not want to leave it,
but he knew he must, and the Indian waited for him to start.

They had not killed a deer and although they had shot two or three blue
grouse a blue grouse is not large. Sometimes one can knock down a little
willow grouse with a stick, but the willow grouse had recently vanished
and the Indian had caught nothing in his snares. In fact, it looked as
if all the birds and animals had gone south. Jimmy had eaten salmon
until he loathed the battered fish, but the salmon had begun to die.

"Your load's not big," said Deering, "Have you put up all the food you
need?"

"I've got all the food I'm going to take," Jimmy rejoined. "I can load
up at Kelshope, but you must wait until I get back."

"Oh, well; but since I know the bush and might make better time, you
ought to let me go."

"You're obstinate," said Jimmy. "I know Jardine and we want his help."

"That is so," said Deering and gave him his hand. "Anyhow, you have got
the Indian and I expect he'll hit the shortest line. I wish you luck."

Jimmy pulled up his pack and set off. Speed was important, for he
imagined he had left Deering a larger supply of food than the other
knew. Since he was going to Kelshope, he could get fresh supplies, but
Deering could not. Yet if he was longer than he calculated, it would be
awkward. Jimmy felt lonely and rather daunted. The shack was small and
rude, but the bark walls kept out the wind and in the cold evenings he
had liked to sit by the snapping fire.

Now the trackless wilderness was in front, and he must get across before
his food was gone. He did get across, but he imagined the Indian's
inherited talents accounted for his doing so. Jimmy himself did not know
much about the journey. When he thought about it afterwards, he dully
pictured the fatigue and strain, the sharpening pinch of hunger and the
stern effort to push on.

At length they came down the rocks one morning and saw his clearing in
the distance. Jimmy gave the Indian all the food he had, and telling him
to camp at the ranch, started for Jardine's. He was hungry and for a day
or two his side had hurt. Sometimes he was faint, and when he crossed a
stony belt he stumbled awkwardly. For all that, in the evening he
reached the split-rail fence at Kelshope.

Jimmy knew how one pulled out the bars, but they baffled him and he
knocked down the crossed supports. In front of the house he stopped, for
a flickering light shone from the window and he saw Margaret sewing by
the fire. His broken boots and torn clothes embarrassed him, but he
braced up and went to the door.

Margaret put down her sewing and her look was rather strained. Jimmy
leaned against the table and gave her an apologetic smile. His hair was
long, his beard had begun to grow and his face was pinched. His ragged
clothes looked slack and although he had given the Indian his blanket,
his shoulders were bent from weariness.

"Oh, Mr. Leyland!" Margaret exclaimed in a pitiful voice.

"To my friends, I'm Jimmy," he rejoined. "To know you and your father
are my friends is some comfort, because I'm going to use your
friendship. Besides, I rather think I don't look like Mr. Leyland."

Margaret's voice was gentle and she said, "Very well, Jimmy! But where
have you come from?"

"I started, about a week since, from our bark shack across the range,
but I don't know much about it. The Indian's at my ranch and can hold
out until the morning. I want to borrow some cartridges and food."

"Why of course!" said Margaret and indicated a chair. "I'll get supper
ready. Father's at the depot, but we won't wait for him."

Jimmy got into the chair; for he imagined he did not sit down
gracefully. The deerskin was soft and his head went back against the
rail. Now he was not forced to keep going, he knew he was very tired.
Margaret began to move about and by and by he asked: "Can't I help?"

Margaret looked up with a smile. "No, Jimmy. I have not much use for the
help you could give."

Jimmy was satisfied to rest. He was dull, but he liked to see Margaret
break up the fire and carry about the plates. She was very graceful and
he knew her sympathetic, but this was not all. After the lonely bush,
the ranch kitchen, lighted by the snapping flames, was like home. When
supper was ready it cost him something of an effort to pull around his
chair, and then for a time he tried to conquer his savage appetite. When
one was opposite an attractive girl one did not eat like a wolf.
Margaret knew the bush and smiled.

"Isn't the food good? I really think I can cook."

"My notion is, the best hotel cook in Canada could not serve a supper
like yours."

"Very well," said Margaret "If you are polite, you will annoy me. What
did you eat in the bush?"

"Salmon! When I see a river, I want to go the other way."

"Oh!" said Margaret "You ate salmon now?"

"When they began to float up on the stones, we stopped," Jimmy replied.

Margaret was moved. She knew the trackless bush sometimes was cruel and
all who felt its lure did not return. Sometimes one, crossing a creek,
lost a load of food, and sometimes one's rifle jambed. Then, if the
march to the settlements were long, one starved. Jimmy had not starved,
but he was worn and thin.

"The coffee's very good; may I have some more?" he resumed. "We used
green tea, because it's light and goes far; but I mustn't bother you
about our housekeeping. Do you know if the police have brought back the
game warden?"

"They arrived some time since and put Douglas on the cars. A doctor went
with him----"

"Then he's alive?" said Jimmy, with keen relief.

"He was badly hurt, but that is all I know," Margaret replied. "Nobody
was allowed to see him----" She stopped and resumed with some
hesitation: "Mr. Stannard's packers stated----"

Jimmy gave her a steady glance. "It looks as if I shot Douglas; in the
dark, I thought him a deer. You did not imagine I meant to hurt the
man?"

"I know you did not," said Margaret in a quiet voice.

"Very well. I must tell you all I know, but I'll wait until your father
arrives. Perhaps he'll see a fresh light. Sometimes I'm puzzled----"

"You mustn't bother to talk," said Margaret. "Turn your chair to the
fire and take a smoke."

Jimmy pulled out his tobacco pouch and frowned. Margaret saw the pouch
was flat and took a plug of tobacco from a shelf.

"Wait a moment; don't get up," she said and began to cut the plug.

For a few moments Jimmy watched her with dull satisfaction. She cut the
tobacco in thin, even slices; Jimmy had remarked before that all
Margaret did was properly done. Although it was nearly dark, she had not
got a light, and red and yellow reflections from the logs played about
the room. Sometimes her eyes and hair shone and her face stood out
against a background of shadow. Jimmy thought the picture charming and
when it melted he waited for the flames to leap again, but by and by it
got indistinct.

"Give me your pouch," said Margaret and he tried to push it across.

The pouch fell from the table and his pipe went down. His head leaned to
one side and found the chair rail, and he knew nothing more.

Margaret heard his sigh and was quiet. Now sleep smoothed out the marks
of strain and fatigue, Jimmy's look was boyishly calm. He moved her to
pity, but he moved her to trust. Margaret was not a raw, romantic girl;
she knew the Canadian cities and she had studied men. If Jimmy had,
indeed, shot the agent, a strange blunder accounted for his doing so,
but Margaret doubted. She had some grounds to think the shot another's.
Then she got up quietly and carried off the plates.

Some time afterwards Jardine came in and, seeing Jimmy, stopped and
turned to Margaret. It was typical that he said nothing, but his glance
was keen. Margaret smiled and in a low voice narrated all she knew.
Jardine nodded, and sitting down, waited until Jimmy's head slipped from
the chair rail and the jerk woke him up. He looked about as if he were
puzzled, and then said, "Hello, Mr. Jardine! I didn't understand your
sitting opposite me. I expect I was asleep."

"Sure thing," Jardine agreed with a twinkle. "We have sortit the bit
back room for ye and ye had better go to bed."

"I'm not going yet," said Jimmy. "I want a smoke, but my tobacco's run
out."

Margaret gave him his pouch and he smiled, "The tobacco's yours, sir.
Miss Jardine is very kind. Well, I reckoned on her kindness, because I
want to borrow a quantity of truck, but we'll talk about this again. Do
you know where Stannard is?"

"Stannard and his daughter are at the hotel," Jardine replied and looked
at Jimmy rather hard. "Maybe he feels he ought to stay until the police
have settled who shot warden Douglas."

"But Stannard had nothing to do with it," Jimmy replied.

"He was leader o' your party and, in a way, accountable. Maybe ye ken
Okanagan started for the bush soon after ye went?"

"I didn't know," said Jimmy with some surprise. "Bob claimed he hadn't a
gun and I think he had not. Sometimes I'm puzzled, but I really think
the unlucky shot was mine."

"The packers allood it was yours, although they werena sure how many
shots they heard. Can ye locate the others' stands?"

"I tried, afterwards. In the evenings when we camped in the woods I
speculated about the accident," said Jimmy, and pulling out a few small
objects arranged them to indicate the spots the sportsmen had occupied.
"If you will imagine the table's the clearing, Bob posted us something
like this. Well, I expect the warden was going straight for my stand
behind the stump."

"Ye're thinking aboot the bullet mark in front," said Jardine. "The
packers telt me aboot it. Did ye see the other mark?"

"I did not," said Jimmy with a shiver. "When we carried Douglas to the
house I'd had enough. But I don't see where you lead."

"If the mark at the back was at the middle, he was going straight for
you. Weel, I'll take a smoke----"

He knitted his brows and for some minutes quietly studied Jimmy's plan
of the clearing. Then he said, "It's no' as plain as it looks, but the
packers reckoned two o' the police who went in with the doctor were
pretty good bushmen. We dinna ken what they think. Anyhow, ye're going
to sleep and ought to go to bed."

Jimmy went and Jardine resumed his study. Margaret left him alone. In
Scotland her father was a poacher; in the Canadian woods his rifle
supplied the ranch with meat. One could trust his judgment about
shooting. By and by he looked up.

"If Jimmy has fixed their stands right, it's possible he shot Douglas
and he reckons he did so. That's something; but he has a kind o' notion
he heard another shot. Weel, the lad's a tenderfoot. Maybe he was
excited and did not hold straight."

"_Bob_ would not get excited and he can hit a jumping deer," said
Margaret.

Jardine nodded meaningly. "I've thought aboot Bob! The warden was after
him and he lit oot. There's the puzzle for the police; three o' the
party quit!"

"Mr. Deering went because he is Jimmy's friend," said Margaret.

"Just that! Ye can trust the big fellow," Jardine agreed. "Then, if he
was where Jimmy puts him, he didna shoot. Stannard stopped and it looks
as if he had nothing to do wi' it; but I dinna ken. Stannard's no' a man
ye can reckon up, and a line from his stand would cut the warden's
track."

"But the bullet mark----"

Jardine smiled. "Jimmy, and maybe the trooper lad, would think that
fixed it, but he didna look where the bullet _cam' oot_. I wonder if
Stannard looked."

"Bob is accountable," said Margaret obstinately.

"Verra weel. Bob's in the rocks. Are ye for tracking the man?"

"By and by he must come down for food. When he does come down we'll try
to find him."

"Bob's a good bushman," Jardine remarked. "I alloo the police will not
hit his trail, but maybe he will not bother to watch out for us----" He
stopped and gave Margaret a thoughtful look when he resumed: "Bob would
reckon to find out who shot Douglas is no' our job."

"The job is ours," said Margaret quietly, but Jardine thought the blood
came to her skin. She, however, got up and when she had put out the
plates for breakfast went to bed.

In the morning Jardine gave Jimmy boots and clothes, and two days
afterwards loaded him with all the supplies he would carry. After
breakfast Jimmy strapped on his pack, but when he was ready to go he
hesitated. The loghouse was warm and home-like, and for two days he had
rested and enjoyed Margaret's society. Now he must plunge into the
wilds, he frowned. The snow was creeping down the rocks and a cold wind
wailed in the dark pine-tops. Then Jimmy turned to his hosts and forced
a smile.

"You have given me all I needed; I knew you would see me out."

"Sure thing," said Jardine. "In the bush, your friends' job is to see ye
oot."

"You are useful friends," Jimmy replied with a touch of emotion. "All
the same, I feel I ought not to bother you; I ought to start for the
railroad and give myself up to the police. If Douglas was hurt by my
carelessness, I ought to pay."

"You mustn't go yet," said Margaret firmly. "You don't altogether know
the carelessness was yours, and perhaps it was not. Somehow I think we
will find out."

"Ah," said Jimmy, "if you do find out the shot wasn't mine---- But I
doubt and the doubt weighs on me."

Margaret smiled and gave him her hand. "Brace up and trust your luck!
Stop in the mountains until we send for you. Perhaps we will send for
you sooner than you think."

Jimmy went down the path and joined the waiting Indian. He was
comforted, and when he plunged into the woods his moodiness was gone.
Margaret went back into the house and Jardine said in a thoughtful
voice, "Ye kind o' engaged ye'd send for the lad; but until ye satisfy
the police he's no' their man, he canna come back."

"That is so. The thing is rather obvious," Margaret agreed and smiled.
"However, since I did engage to send for Jimmy, I must try to make
good."



XX

BOB'S DENIAL


Not long after Jimmy's visit to Kelshope, Margaret one evening rode up
the trail from the station. Her cayuse carried a load of groceries, but
when she set off her object was not altogether to bring home supplies.
Wakening before daybreak, she imagined she heard the fence-rails rattle
at the corner farthest from the house. Sometimes a deer jumped the
fence, and when Margaret got up she went to the spot. She saw no tracks,
but some time afterwards found a footmark where the trail left the
clearing. The mark was fresh and she thought it was not made by her
father's boot.

Margaret said nothing to Jardine. Had a stranger come down the valley,
he would have kept the smooth path, because in the dark the belt of
slashing that generally surrounds a forest ranch is an awkward obstacle.
Moreover, to account for a stranger's coming from the mountains was
hard. Had Jimmy returned, he would have stopped at the house; but Bob
would not and Margaret had undertaken to find Bob.

When the Vancouver train rolled into the station nobody got on board,
but a police trooper came from the agent's office, and going along the
line, looked into the cars. Margaret had not remarked him before the
train stopped and thought his curiosity ominous. If Bob had stolen past
the ranch, he, however, had not tried to get on board and was hiding
somewhere about. Margaret was puzzled and resolved to stop at the hotel
and see Stannard. She admitted that her resolve was perhaps not logical,
because if Stannard knew more about the shooting than others, he would
not enlighten her. All the same, she meant to see him.

Getting down where the wagon road went round to the front of the hotel,
she tied her horse to a tree and took a path across the hill. The trees
were thick, but the moon was bright and in places its beams pierced the
wood. In front and some distance above her, she saw illuminated windows
at the top of the hotel; then the terrace wall cut the reflection from
the drawing-room and rotunda. The high wall was in the gloom, but at the
bottom pools of silver light broke the dark shadow of the trees.
Margaret knew the steps to the terrace. Had she gone to the front door,
she must have waited at the office until a page brought Stannard, and
she thought she would sooner find him in the rotunda before he knew she
was about.

She heard music in the drawing-room and somebody on the terrace talking,
but the wall was high and when the music stopped all was quiet. In the
woods one lifts one's feet with mechanical caution and Margaret was a
rancher's daughter. Her advance was noiseless, but at a bend of the path
she stopped.

A few yards off, a man stood under a tree. His back was to Margaret, but
the dark object across his shoulder was a slung rifle and she thought
she knew him. Stannard leaned against a trunk opposite. He wore dinner
dress and a loose light coat. He was in the moonlight, and when he shook
his head Margaret thought his smile ironical. The other's pose was stiff
and his fist was clenched. Margaret put her hand in the pocket of her
deerskin coat and then moved a branch. The man turned and his hand went
to his rifle. Margaret heard the sling rattle.

"You don't want your gun, Bob; I know you. Besides, I've got a pistol,"
she said.

Bob swore softly and Stannard lifted his hat.

"Aren't you rather theatrical, Miss Jardine? I imagined gun pulling was
out of date."

"Bob's theatrical; but he's _slow_," Margaret rejoined, and although her
heart beat her voice was steady. "I haven't yet pulled my gun."

"It looks as if you had better leave yours alone," Stannard remarked to
Bob.

Bob's face got very dark, but Stannard smiled.

"Did you want to see me or the other, Miss Jardine?"

"I want to see Bob first, but you may remain," said Margaret and gave
Bob a searching glance. "Who shot warden Douglas?"

"I did not, anyhow," Bob replied fiercely. "I hadn't a gun and when I'd
fixed the others I put out my lamp. I'd no use for using the pit-light.
The fool plan was Deering's."

"All the same, you quit!"

"I sure quit. Somebody shot Douglas and the police knew he'd got a pick
on me. They'd got to put the shooting on one of the gang."

"Perhaps it's important the police knew you had a pick on Douglas,"
Stannard remarked.

"For all that, I didn't use my gun," Bob rejoined.

Margaret pondered. As a rule, Bob was marked by a rather sinister
quietness, but now he talked with something like passion. He had stepped
forward and a moonbeam touched his face. Margaret thought he knew, but
he did not move out of the light. Somehow she felt she must believe his
statement. Then Stannard turned to her.

"Perhaps it's strange, but I rather think he speaks the truth."

"If you did not use your gun, who did shoot Douglas?" Margaret resumed,
looking at Bob. "I want to know. A trooper's watching the station, and
if I shout, the hotel clerk will call him on the 'phone."

Bob's passion vanished and Margaret thought his calm ominous.

"That's another thing! Looks as if Jimmy plugged the fellow. He sort of
allowed he done it and he started for the rocks."

"I imagine Bob doesn't know," said Stannard. "Before you arrived he
implied that I was accountable and demanded a hundred dollars. In fact,
when he didn't get the sum he was much annoyed."

"I was mad all right," Bob agreed. "My flour and tea's gone, and I can't
hire up about the settlements, but if I'd a hundred dollars, I'd try to
make the coast." He looked hard at Stannard and resumed: "Are you going
to help me get off?"

"Certainly not," said Stannard in a careless voice. "I am not as rich as
you think, and to give you money would be rash, particularly when Miss
Jardine is about."

Margaret pulled out her wallet. "I can give you ten dollars, Bob; but I
can shout to the people at the hotel. You know Mr. Leyland did not shoot
Douglas."

"I sure don't know," said Bob and gave Margaret a haughty glance. "Put
up your wad; I've no use for your money. If you like, shout for them to
'phone the police."

For a moment or two Margaret hesitated. She was persuaded Bob himself
was not accountable, but she thought this was all she would know. She
was hurt and humiliated, for now she had found Bob she had not helped
Jimmy much.

"Shall I shout?" she asked Stannard.

"To choose is your part. I rather think Dillon is on the terrace and two
or three athletic young sportsmen are at the hotel, but unless you are
willing to use your gun, I doubt if Bob would wait until the others
arrive. Then, although I don't know where Jimmy is, perhaps for the
police to search the neighborhood would have some drawbacks."

Margaret turned to Bob. "Get off! If you come back, I'll send the
troopers after you."

Bob went, and when he vanished in the gloom Stannard laughed. "I expect
your arrival disturbed the fellow. At the beginning, he tried to force
me to give him my wallet; then he took another line and hinted that
Leyland was the guilty man. Well, he has gone. Will you come back with
me and talk to Laura?"

Margaret noted that he was not curious about her object for stopping at
the hotel, but she said, "I wanted to see you. What do you know about
the accident?"

"I really don't know much, although I am persuaded accident is the
proper word. Jimmy thought the unlucky shot was his and when he resolved
to go off I agreed."

"But you knew what the police would think about his running away!"

"That is so," said Stannard coolly. "All the same, Jimmy was with me
when I killed the big-horn, and when Douglas found us at the old ranch
we were using pit-lights. One of our party shot him, and since we were
again poaching, it hardly looked as if the shot were accidental. Jimmy
is young and when he saw the risk he ran he was afraid. I thought he did
run some risk, but, if he could cheat the police for a time, we might
find a clue to the puzzle."

Margaret remarked his frankness. Although she thought he did not know
Jimmy had stopped at the ranch, his arguments were the arguments Jimmy
stated he had used. Moreover, she admitted the arguments carried some
weight.

"We have not yet found a clue," she said drearily. "Still, if the
warden gets better---- Do you know where he is?"

For a moment or two Stannard was quiet. Then he said, "We can get no
news about Douglas, and perhaps we ought not to expect much from his
narrative. When you use a pit-lamp your hat-brim shades your face, and I
imagine all Douglas saw was the light. Yet the police's reserve is
strange."

"Perhaps they know something we do not," said Margaret. "Well, my father
is waiting and I must not stop."

She went off and Stannard went up the steps to the hotel. In a corner of
the veranda Dillon talked to Laura, and Stannard remarked the smile she
gave the young man. Stannard knitted his brows and did not stop. In some
respects, the marriage would be good, but it was not the marriage he had
wanted Laura to make. All the same, Jimmy was obviously satisfied with
the bush girl and Stannard thought she loved him. Well, he had done with
Jimmy.

When Margaret got down at the ranch she went to the kitchen and sat by
the fire. For a time she said nothing and Jardine quietly smoked his
pipe. Then she looked up with a frown.

"I found Bob," she said. "He was talking to Mr. Stannard outside the
hotel."

"In the trees, I'm thinking! Did he tell ye much?"

"He declared when they used the pit-lights he had not a gun and somehow
I think he hadn't."

"Maybe!" said Jardine, with some dryness. "Was it all ye got?"

"That was all. I'm not as clever as I thought. Bob wanted Mr. Stannard
to give him a hundred dollars."

"Ah!" said Jardine. "Weel, I expect ye see----"

"Stannard _laughed_. It was plain he was not at all afraid of Bob."

"Stannard's no' a fool," Jardine remarked.

"I thought his carelessness sincere. Besides, Bob soon afterwards
implied that Jimmy hit Douglas. I imagine Bob really doesn't know who
did use his gun."

"It's possible," Jardine agreed. "My notion is, Jimmy had better keep
the woods. In the meantime, I've no use for Bob's hanging round the
ranch."

"Bob will not bother us; I don't think he'll bother Mr. Stannard again,"
said Margaret and got some sewing.



XXI

DEERING'S EXCURSION


Rain beat the bark roof and heavy drops splashed on the floor. Sometimes
a gust of wind swept the window opening and smoke blew about, but on the
whole the shack was dry and warm. Jimmy thought they had made a good
job, and sitting by the fire, he tranquilly smoked his pipe. The Indian,
opposite him, plaited a snare; Deering studied a card problem in an old
newspaper.

"The game's pretty good, but I soon got on to it," he said. "When you
locate the bower---- Come across and I'll show you."

"No, thanks," said Jimmy, smiling. "To know where the bower is, is
useful, but sometimes you don't know and a ten-spot knocks you out.
Things are like that. Anyhow I've not much use for cards."

"You were keen. I reckon your keenness cost you something!"

Jimmy nodded. "That is so; but I really think I wanted to satisfy my
curiosity. I wanted the thrills others seemed to get, and I experimented
with cards and two or three expensive sports. Now I feel I'd sooner
build a shack than win a pot of money on a first-class race. The strange
thing is, when I was at the cotton mill and Dick wanted me to study the
machinery, I was bored."

"I expect he tried to force you," Deering remarked. "When one is young
one doesn't study the things others think one ought----" He frowned and
jerked his head. "Another blamed big drop on the back of my neck!"

"When the rain stops I'll mend the roof," said Jimmy. "The shack's a
pretty good shack and two or three slabs of bark will cure the leak.
Then I must get some green clay and flat stones for the chimney."

"You talk as if you meant to remain in the rocks!"

"It looks as if I might have to stay for some time."

Deering shook his head. "In a proper cold snap you want double windows,
but we have got a hole. Then I've not much use for a blanket door. When
the frost begins we have got to quit."

"But where can we go?"

"I don't know yet; I have thought about your ranch. Jardine stated the
police had searched it, and I reckon they won't come back. However,
we'll talk about this again. I think Miss Jardine gave you a needle and
thread?"

Jimmy said Margaret had done so and inquired why Deering wanted the
thread.

"We can't get out and I guess I'll sew my clothes for you. In the
morning I'm going to use Jardine's."

"But why----" Jimmy began.

Deering indicated his torn shooting-jacket, ragged knickerbockers, and
soil-stained puttees.

"I must start for Vancouver, to look up a fellow who has got some money
of mine. Then I want to find out if the police have cured Douglas and
what they are doing. If I wore my clothes, people would speculate about
the dead-broke sporting guy."

"Jardine's clothes are not very good; I've worn them for some time in
the bush. Then I expect you'll find them tight."

"They're a rancher's clothes and I don't mind looking like a bushman. In
fact, until I make Vancouver, the part will go all right."

Jimmy knitted his brows. Perhaps he had thought too much for himself,
but he owned he did not want Deering to leave him.

"Well," he said, "I mustn't grumble. But will you be long?"

"When I've fixed my business and found out something useful I'll come
right back," Deering replied and threading the needle began to sew. "I
was raised in the bush and the small homesteaders are a pretty frugal
lot. They don't throw away their old clothes."

"When you reach the settlements, won't you run some risk?" Jimmy
inquired.

"I expect the risk will not be altogether mine. So far as I know, the
police are not looking for me. The trouble is, I might put them on your
track; but so long as I'm steering for the coast this needn't bother us.
I don't want them to hit my trail when I'm coming back. Well, I'm pretty
big to hide, but if they are after me, they'll watch out for a city
sport, not a bushman."

In the morning Deering started, and after a strenuous journey reached a
small station some distance from the hotel. He did not buy his ticket
from the agent; the conductor would supply him, and when the long train
rolled in he got aboard. The porter was making up the second-class
berths and when Deering got his he went to bed. So far, his luck was
good, but after he had slept for five or six hours he began to doubt.

A savage jolt threw him against the curtain, and the thin material tore
from the rings. Deering went through, but came down like a cat on the
floor. The brakes jarred and startled passengers ran about. For the most
part, they did not wear their proper clothes, but when Deering went to
bed he wore all his and he pushed through a group that blocked the
vestibule. The train stopped and from the platform he saw a leaping
pillar of flame and reflections on rocks and trees. The white beam from
the locomotive headlamp melted in the strong illumination, and moving
figures cut the dark background. The picture was distinct and vivid like
a scene from a film, until a cloud of steam rolled across the light and
all was blurred.

Deering heard hammers and the clang of rails. A construction gang was
obviously at work and he imagined a trestle had broken or perhaps
another train had jumped the track. When he waited at the station, he
had not tried to hide himself; to do so was risky, since he imagined the
police had warned the agent to study the passengers. If the agent had
remarked him, the delay would be awkward and he wondered whether the
telegraph wires were broken.

Jumping down, he went along the track and stopped in the strong light a
blast-lamp threw across a gap. The road-bed was gone and a great bank of
stones and snow rested on the hillside. Bent rails slanted into the hole
and a broken telegraph pole hung by the tangled wires. Shovels rattled
and a gang of men threw down soil and stones. Deering stopped one.

"How long is it since the land-slide cut the track?"

"About two hours since we got the call."

"Then, they rushed you up pretty quick. I expect you got the call by
wire?"

The other indicated the broken post. "Wires went when the track went.
The section man came for us on a trolley; we're grading for a new bridge
a few miles down the line."

"Are you going to be long filling her up?"

"Three or four hours, I reckon. The boys are loading up the gravel
train. But if the boss spots me talking, I'll get fired."

Deering pondered. If the agent had been warned to look out for him, the
fellow had had time to telegraph before the wires broke, and the police
could arrange to watch the stations or put a trooper on board the train.
Deering did not think they had a warrant for his arrest, but they would
try to use him in order to get on Jimmy's track. There was not much use
in leaving the train, because he would be spotted when he boarded
another. He resolved to go back to his berth and soon after he did so he
went to sleep.

In the morning the train started. Deering got a good breakfast at a meal
station and afterwards occupied a corner of a smoking compartment. Sleep
and food had refreshed him and his mood was cheerful. He admitted he was
perhaps ridiculous, but he had begun to enjoy his excursion; Deering was
marked by a vein of rather boyish humor and to cheat the police amused
him. By and by he speculated about his object for going after Jimmy when
the warden was shot.

Jimmy had plunged into the gully sooner than let him go, but perhaps
this did not account for all. Stannard had urged Jimmy to push for the
plains, although Stannard ought to know the lad could not cross the
mountains. Then he had indicated a line over the neck and Deering had
stopped Jimmy at the top of a pitch that dropped to a horrible crevasse.
The thing was strange and sinister, but Jimmy trusted Stannard. Deering
did not. He was intrigued, and felt he ought to see Jimmy out.

After a time a police trooper came from the vestibule and stopped for a
moment at the door of the smoking compartment. His glance rested
carelessly on Deering, and then he went through into the car. At the
next station the policeman got down and went to the office. When the
train started Deering did not see him get on board, but people moved
about and the end cars were behind the water tank.

In the afternoon, when he leaned back, half asleep, in his corner, the
trooper came in again. Deering did not move, but his eyes were not
altogether shut and he saw the fellow's glance was keen and fixed. In a
moment or two the trooper turned his head, and going into the vestibule,
did not shut the door quietly. Deering's curiosity was satisfied; the
police knew he was on board.

Lighting his pipe, he looked out of the window. The train was speeding
down the lower Fraser valley. Orchards, fields with white snake-fences,
and wooden homesteads rolled by. The sun was near the hilltops and the
shadows of the pines were long. When they reached Vancouver it would be
dark and the trooper's duties would be undertaken by the municipal
police. The Royal North-West had nothing to do with the
British-Columbian cities; their business was in the wilds.

Deering pulled out his watch. A short distance from Vancouver they would
stop at a junction where a line for Washington State branched off, but
his business was not in Washington.

Fast steamers sailed from Vancouver for the ports on Puget Sound, and
since the police would expect him to go on board, he thought he saw a
plan. Some time after dark he went to the platform in front of the car.
A half-moon shone between slow-moving clouds and he saw vague hills and
sparkling water. Then the lights of anchored steamers began to twinkle
and sawmill chimney stacks cut the sky. Lights in rows and clusters
marked the front of a low hill, the cars rolled along the waterside, and
presently stacks of lumber blocked the view. Then the whistle screamed,
the brakes jarred, and the passengers began to push out from the
vestibule.

Deering jumped down and looked about. Freight cars occupied the tracks
and the dazzling beam from a locomotive's headlamp touched piles of
goods and hurrying people. Round the tall electric standards were pools
of light, but smoke and steam blew about the wharf and where the strong
illumination was cut off all was dark. Bells tolled, wheels rattled, and
the clang of the steamer's winches pierced the din. Her double row of
passenger decks towered above the wharf, and Deering joined the crowd at
the slanted gangway. He was willing for the city police to see him board
the steamer.

At the top of the gangway a steward indicated the way to the
second-class deck, but Deering pushed by and went to the saloon. Since
he was playing a bush rancher's part, the police would expect him to
travel second class, and he must for a few minutes put them off his
track. As soon as the luggage was on board, the boat would start.

For the most part, the people were on deck, and the spacious saloon was
quiet. Deering thought he did not look like a first-class passenger. His
hair was long, his hat was battered, and Jardine's rather ragged
clothes were tight on his big body. Searching the room with a keen
glance, he stopped, for a group of three people occupied a seat at the
other end. He wondered whether he ought to steal off, but Dillon jumped
up.

"Why, it's Deering!" he exclaimed.

Laura started and her companion turned. Deering imagined the lady was
Mrs. Dillon and he crossed the floor. Dillon's surprise was obvious, but
he gave Deering his hand.

"We have been bothered about you for some time and it looks as if you
had got up against it. But where's Jimmy?"

"Jimmy's at the shack we built in the rocks. What about the warden?"

"We can get no news. I imagine the police are hiding the fellow."

"Why did you leave Jimmy?" Laura interrupted, and Deering saw she did
not altogether trust him. "Has he food and proper clothes? If he is in
trouble, we must try to help."

"That is so," said Dillon. "If Jimmy wants me, I'll get off the boat."

"Jimmy's clothes are worse than mine, but he doesn't particularly want
your help. I pulled out because I must transact some business, and I've
pretty good grounds to imagine the police are on my track."

"I expect we'll sail in a few minutes," said Dillon. "Do you think the
police know you got on board?"

Deering glanced at the others. He thought Laura imagined he had meant
to join them and she was not yet satisfied. Mrs. Dillon was frankly
annoyed.

"So long as they don't know I got off again, it's not important," he
replied.

"Are you going to get off?"

"Certainly," said Deering and turned to Laura with a twinkle. "The trick
is not remarkably fresh, but since the police reckon I'm bound for the
United States, it ought to work. You see, Jimmy's my friend, and when
I've put across my business I'm going back."

Laura gave him her hand. "I didn't know--I wish you luck! When you think
we can help, you must send us a letter."

The whistle blew, a bell rang, and people began to enter the saloon.

"Thank you, Miss Stannard," said Deering and crossed the floor.

He went along an alley and through the second-class saloon to the deck
in front. The steamer's bows were in the gloom and a number of
wharf-hands hurried down a plank. Deering joined the row and followed
the men to a cargo shed. The shed was dark, but the sliding doors on the
other side were open and he crawled under a freight car and crossed the
track. A minute or two afterwards he stopped. So far as he could see,
nobody but a few train-hands were about; the steamer had swung away from
the wharf and was steering for the Narrows. Deering laughed and went up
the hill behind the water-front.



XXII

DEERING TAKES COUNSEL


A Canadian hotel is something of an inexpensive club. People who sleep
elsewhere come for meals, and a number come to smoke and talk. In
Western towns their manners and clothes are marked by sharp contrasts,
but so long as they observe a few primitive rules, nobody inquires if
they are customers of the house.

In consequence, when Deering stopped in front of an ambitious building
he was not at all embarrassed. The noise he heard indicated that the
rotunda was occupied, but while some of its occupants were, no doubt,
important citizens, he expected to find lumbermen and miners from the
bush whose clothes were like his. Pushing round the revolving doors, he
went in, waited until he saw the clerk was engaged, and then went
upstairs. A noisy electric elevator was running, but Deering thought he
would not bother the boy.

On the second landing he opened a door. An electric lamp threw a strong
light about the room, and a gentleman leaned back in a hardwood chair
and rested his feet on the ornamental radiator. He was dressed like a
prosperous citizen, and he gave Deering a keen glance.

"Hello!" he said. "Have you been in the woods?"

"Looks like that!" said Deering. "I want a razor and a bath; then I
want a suit of clothes, the biggest standard size. I doubt if the clerk
and bell-boys saw a bushman come up, but if they did so, I'd sooner they
didn't see him come down."

"I can fix you," said the other, smiling. "All the same, I expect you
must get a barber to finish the job."

When Deering used a glass he admitted that his friend's remark was
justified, but so long as he looked like a wild man from the woods, to
recline, wrapped in a white sheet, in a barber's front window had
obvious drawbacks. As a rule, a North American barber carries on his
occupation as publicly as possible. He got a bath, and when he returned
to his friend's room Neilson gave him a cigar and they began to talk.

"Very well," said Neilson, "I can get the money for you and will soon
fix up the other matters. I have sent for some clothes and booked your
room. But you look as if you'd hit some adventures in the woods, and I'd
rather like to know----"

"Perhaps you noted something in the newspapers about a game-warden's
getting shot?"

"The _Colonist_ printed a short paragraph; I imagined the police edited
the story. Old man Salter knows his job, although the shooting was on
the Royal North-West's ground. Anyhow, the tale left you to guess. But
were you in it?"

"Sure thing," said Deering, dryly. "I'll tell you----"

When he finished his narrative, Neilson knitted his brows. He was
frankly an adventurer, but he had his code and Deering trusted the
fellow. Moreover, Neilson knew men, and particularly men who lived by
exploiting others' weaknesses.

"I'm not a hunter. We'll cut out the shooting and concentrate on the
gang," he said. "I want to get Stannard right. His occupation's ours?"

"Something like ours," Deering agreed. "We play a straight game, because
we know a straight game pays; I've spotted Stannard using a crook's
cheap trick. But he doesn't bet high at cards. His line's financing
extravagant young suckers."

"Then, he's rich?"

"I think not. Not long since he wanted money. My notion is, he's got a
partner in the Old Country who supplies him. Stannard's something of a
highbrow and a smart clubman. He has qualities---- I rather like the
fellow, although I know him."

"What about the girl? Does Stannard use her?"

"Not at all," said Deering. "Miss Laura's straight; I doubt if she
really knows her father's occupation. Maybe she's ambitious and
calculating, but she's not his sort."

"Is Leyland much in Stannard's debt?"

"Stannard's an expensive friend; but I guess he wanted Jimmy for Laura
and didn't take all he might. Still I expect Jimmy owes a useful sum,
and Laura's going to marry Dillon."

"Ah," said Neilson, "perhaps that's important! I reckon Stannard has got
Leyland insured?"

Deering nodded. He saw where Neilson's remarks led and on the whole
agreed. He had given the fellow his confidence because he wanted to see
the arguments another would use.

"Well," resumed Neilson, "what about Dillon and your guide?"

"Dillon was not in the woods. I don't know much about the guide. Bob's a
queer fellow and is not all white. Then he has a pick on Jimmy. I reckon
he took a shine to the rancher's daughter who is now Jimmy's girl."

"Jealousy bites hard, and I wouldn't trust a breed," Neilson remarked.
"Well, perhaps we have got Bob's object; let's study Stannard's.
Leyland's wanting the ranch girl wasn't in his plan, and when he knew
Miss Stannard meant to marry Dillon he'd make another. Leyland owes him
much, can't pay yet, and is insured. Let it go in the meantime, and
weigh another thing. Leyland doesn't altogether know if he shot the
warden, but if he did shoot him, he thought him a deer. All the same, he
pulled out! Is the boy a fool? Is his nerve weak?"

"Jimmy's clean grit," said Deering. "Still he is a boy."

"Then it's possible he got rattled. Suppose when he was rattled an older
man he trusted put it up to him that he ought to light out? The kid
wouldn't ponder; he'd start."

"That is so," said Deering. "Stannard did talk like that."

Neilson shrugged meaningly. "Very well! I'm through with my argument. If
we could find warden Douglas, he might tell us something useful. I'll
try."

Deering thought the plan good. Neilson was a gambler, but his word went;
in fact, Deering imagined it sometimes went with the police. Neilson
knew the half-world, and now that he had undertaken an awkward job
strange helpers would be put to work.

When he had lighted a fresh cigar he resumed: "I don't see _your_ object
for hiding in the woods."

"Sometimes I'm romantic; you don't know me yet," Deering said, and
laughed. "Jimmy's my pal; when I came near getting a fall that would
have knocked me out, he held me up. Then I was born a bushman and the
bush calls. I like it in the woods and I'm keen about the detective
game----" He stopped and went on in a thoughtful voice: "The strange
thing is, when Jimmy went over the rocks, Stannard went after him. Snow
and stones were coming down, but he stayed with the kid."

"That was when it looked as if Miss Stannard would marry your pal!" said
Neilson meaningly. "Well, I wouldn't bother about the police. _Watch out
for Stannard----_"

Somebody knocked at the door and Neilson, getting up, came back with a
parcel.

"Your clothes," he said.

Deering put on the clothes and packed up Jardine's to be thrown into the
harbor. For a few days he stopped at the hotel, and then Neilson
admitted that his inquiries about Douglas had not carried him far.

"We know where he is and he's very sick, but that's all," he said. "The
police mean to use him and he can't be got at."

"Then, I'll start for the woods," said Deering. "The trouble is to hit
the proper line. It's possible the police are willing to leave me alone,
but I mustn't help them get on to Jimmy."

In the morning he started for New Westminster, although this was not the
line to the mountains. At Westminster he vanished in the meadows along
the Fraser, and after a time turned north into the woods. In order to
rejoin Jimmy, he must follow the great river gorge, and at Mission he
risked getting on board the cars. Nobody bothered him, and at length he
labored one evening up the rugged valley in which was the shack. He had
bought a skin coat and carried a heavy pack, but he was not warm. The
sky was dark and threatening, the ground was hard, and a bitter wind
shook the tops of the stiff pines. Deering thought snow was coming and
pushed on as fast as possible, until he saw a gleam of light.

A big fire threw a cheerful glow about the shack and Jimmy occupied a
pile of branches by the snapping logs. He had pulled a blanket over his
shoulders, but when he heard Deering's step he jumped up. Deering
dropped his load, straightened his back and looked about.

"Where's the Indian?"

"He's gone," said Jimmy. "I expect he had enough. In fact, I'd begun to
feel I'd had enough, and when I heard your step my relief was pretty
keen."

"Oh, well," said Deering. "Let's get supper and then we'll talk."

When he had satisfied his appetite he narrated his adventures and his
meeting Laura and Dillon.

"If you want Frank, he's your man and he might be useful," he remarked.
"Then I reckon Miss Laura's willing for him to help. Your friends are
good."

"That is so," said Jimmy, looking at Deering hard. "My friends are
better than I deserve. But what about Douglas? Did you find out much?"

Deering admitted that he did not, but when he talked about Neilson he
used some caution. Since Jimmy trusted Stannard, there was no use in
trying to warn him; some time he would get enlightenment.

"On the whole, I think the police knew I was at Vancouver," he said.
"Their plan was to hit my trail when I started back. I don't expect they
did so, but it's possible. Anyhow, now the Indian's gone, and a cold
snap threatens, we have got to quit. My plan's to start for your ranch."

"The ranch is not far from the railroad."

"Its being near the track has some advantages. Since the police searched
the spot, I guess they're satisfied. Then we want food, and packing
supplies for a long distance is a strenuous job. The Indian could move a
useful load, but to carry fifty pounds across rocks and fallen trees
makes me tired."

"A rifle, a blanket, and twenty pounds is my load," said Jimmy and
resumed in a thoughtful voice: "Yet I started for the plains----"

Deering used some control and let Jimmy's remark go.

"You could not have made it," he said quietly. "But what about our
jumping off?"

"We'll talk about it again," Jimmy replied. "I suppose we must go, but
now you're back, I don't want to bother. You brace me up. Until I heard
your step, I felt down and out."

He threw fresh wood on the fire, and soon afterwards they went to sleep.
Jimmy's sleep was broken, and when he woke at daybreak he shivered. He
did not want to get up, but he must fetch water. The kettle handle stung
his skin, the pools on the creek were frozen, and he saw the snow had
moved five or six hundred feet down the rocks. Rose-pink light touched
the high peaks and hoar frost sparkled on the pines, but the stern
beauty of the wilds was daunting. Jimmy wanted the deep valleys up which
the soft Chinook blew.

When he went back, Deering was occupied at the fire. He looked up and
remarked with a twinkle: "The cold is pretty fierce. If we're going to
stay, you'll want a skin coat and another blanket."

"When we have got breakfast we'll start for the ranch," Jimmy replied.



XXIII

MARGARET TAKES A PLUNGE


For a time Jimmy was not disturbed at the ranch. On the high rocks the
frost was keen, but in the deep valley a gentle wind from the Pacific
melted the snow. Jimmy dared not order sawed lumber, but Jardine got him
a door and windows and the house was warm. Sometimes he went shooting
and sometimes he went to Kelshope. Jardine was friendly, but when the
rancher had gone to look after his stock Jimmy was resigned. To sit by
the fire and talk to Margaret was a delightful occupation.

At the beginning he had remarked her beauty, but now he knew beauty was
not all her charm. Margaret was clever; she saw his point of view, and
when she did not agree her argument was logical and keen. Then she was
proud and fearless, and he sensed in her something primitive. Margaret
was his sort and sprang from stock like his. Yet he felt her physical
charm. Her eyes were sea-blue, and in the firelight her hair was like
red California gold. She had a bushman's balance, and her unconscious
pose was Greek. Although she was frank, with something of a great lady's
frankness, Jimmy soon knew her fastidious.

But for his part in the shooting accident, his satisfaction would have
been complete. It looked as if the police had resolved to leave him
alone, and Deering had made one or two excursions to the cities, but
Jimmy doubted. He knew the Royal North-West do not forget. Moreover,
somebody shot Douglas, and on the whole he thought he had done so.
Sometimes he wondered whether he ought to go to Kelshope, but all the
same he went.

When Deering was at Calgary, Margaret one afternoon rode home from the
station as fast as possible. At the ranch she took down the load of
groceries but left the horse tied to a post. Jardine was by the fire and
had pulled off his boot. In the morning he had cut his foot with his ax.
He gave Margaret a keen glance and saw she had ridden fast.

"Weel?" he said. "Is something bothering ye?"

"Two troopers and their horses came in on the freight train. I expect
they're looking for Mr. Leyland."

"Ah," said Jardine. "Somebody has given the lad away."

"Bob," said Margaret and her eyes sparkled.

Jardine knitted his brows. "Maybe, but I dinna ken; Bob hasna been
around for long. Did the troopers saddle up?"

"When I left, they were cinching on their camp truck. I thought they'd
soon start. Mr. Leyland can't come down the valley and Deering's not
with him. Where is he to go?"

"If he could make Green Lake, Peter would put him on the Mission
trail."

"He cannot make Green Lake," Margaret rejoined. "He doesn't know the
bench country and must start in the dark."

"Jimmy must start soon. If he stays, the troopers will get him," Jardine
agreed, and indicated his cut foot. "Somebody must warn the lad, but I
canna gang."

Margaret tried to brace up, for she had not reckoned on her father's
lameness. The strange thing was, Jardine had walked some distance to
round up his cattle. She must, however, weigh this again. Speed was
important and Jimmy was her friend; in fact, she had begun to think him
her lover.

"You could ride the cayuse and carry the packs. If Mr. Leyland was not
loaded he could make a good pace."

"The cayuse wouldna carry a weight like mine across the bench belt and
Green Lake's a two-days' hike. I canna walk; I doubt if I could get on
my boot," Jardine replied, and added with philosophical resignation:
"It's a pity o' the lad! I expect the police are noo on the ranch trail,
but I dinna see how we can help."

Margaret clenched her hands. Somebody must warn Jimmy and her father
declared he could not. She looked at him hard and knew he could not be
moved. He gave her an apologetic glance and began to fill his pipe, as
if the thing was done with. Yet it was not done with. Margaret saw,
rather vaguely because she refused to think about it, all her going to
warn Jimmy implied, since if her help was to be useful, she must go
with him to Green Lake. For a few moments she hesitated, but she was
generous and her pluck was good. Then she turned to Jardine, who had
begun to smoke.

"The police shall not get Mr. Leyland. I will go."

"Verra weel," said Jardine. "If ye mean to gang, ye had better start.
Ye'll need to take some food; I'll get the saddle bag."

He crossed the floor and Margaret remarked that for a few steps he went
lightly, as if his foot did not hurt. Then he limped, and when he got to
the door he stopped and leaned against the post. All the same, it was
not important and Margaret began to pack some food and clothes. Ten
minutes afterwards, she untied the horse and gave Jardine her hand.

"Good-bye," she said in a quiet voice. "I don't know when I shall get
back."

Jardine held the stirrup, she seized the bridle, set her mouth and
started the horse. When she vanished in the woods Jardine went back to
the house, rested his foot on a chair, and knitted his brows. He saw he
ran some risk, but he knew his daughter and thought he knew Jimmy. Jimmy
was a white man; Jardine, so to speak, bet all he had on that.

Some time afterwards, Jimmy, cooking his supper, heard a horse's feet
and went to the door. He smiled, because he thought he knew the horse;
but Margaret was obviously riding fast and snapping branches indicated
that she had cut out a bend of the trail. When she got down her color
was high and the horse's coat was white.

"Roll up your blanket and put the sling on your rifle," she said. "Then
I'll help you pack some food."

Jimmy studied her with surprise. Her look was resolute, but he got a
hint of embarrassment. Then he saw a light.

"Ah!" he said. "The police are on my track?"

"Two troopers are riding up the valley. They may stop at Kelshope for a
few minutes. Where do you keep your groceries!"

Jimmy opened a box, and Margaret picked out a number of articles. "Now
make a pack, because you must start at once for my cousin's at Green
Lake. I expect Peter will help you south."

"But I don't know the trail, and it will soon be dark."

"Make your pack! The police will arrive in a few minutes," Margaret
rejoined impatiently and turned her head. "There is not a trail. I am
going with you."

"No!" said Jimmy with some embarrassment. "You're kind, of course, but
you ought to see---- If you start me off, I expect I can find my way."

Margaret turned and fronted him. The blood came to her skin and her look
was strained.

"You can't find the way and I can't go back. The police know I'm not at
the ranch, and if I start for home, I'll meet them in the valley. But we
mustn't talk. We must get off."

Jimmy leaned against the table and frowned. Although his heart beat, he
hesitated. He knew Margaret's pluck and he loved her, but she must not
pay for her rash generosity. One must think for the girl one loved.

"Suppose the police do know you warned me? It's awkward, but perhaps
that's all. Anyhow, I'll go down and meet them. Since I expect I shot
warden Douglas, I must bear the consequences."

"Oh, but you are obstinate!" Margaret exclaimed and used Stannard's
argument. "It looks as if one of your party meant to shoot Douglas and
the police have not caught the man. They must catch somebody and they'll
try to fix the shooting on you. To join the chain-gang would be
horrible."

"The thing has not much charm," Jimmy agreed and was rather surprised by
his coolness, but he was cool. "I don't know much about the police code,
but I rather think they'd stop at----"

He heard a noise and Margaret turned.

"I put up the rails," she said in a sharp voice.

Jimmy went to the window and saw a mounted policeman pull down the
slip-rails at the fence and ride through the gap. Then he heard a quick
step and looked round. Margaret had got his rifle. The butt was at her
shoulder and the barrel rested against the doorpost. Jimmy saw her face
in profile; her mouth was set tight, her glance was fixed and hard. He
jumped for the door, but struck a chair and the collision stopped him.
The rifle jerked and a little smoke floated about the girl.

When Jimmy reached the door he saw the policeman's horse stumble. The
trooper leaned back, tried to pull his foot from the stirrup, and fell
with the animal. Jimmy thought it rolled on him, but after a few moments
he crawled away from its hoofs. The horse was quiet and the man got up.
His movements were awkward and he looked dully at the house.

Margaret pushed Jimmy back and put the rifle to her shoulder. A sharp
report rolled across the clearing, twigs fell from a quivering pine
branch, and the trooper vanished in the woods. Jimmy's hands shook, but
his relief was keen.

"I expect his rifle's in the bucket under the horse and the horse is
dead," Margaret remarked. "I was forced to shoot."

"Ah!" said Jimmy hoarsely. "I thought you had hit the man!"

Margaret's pose was stiff, as if she braced herself, but she smiled.

"He knows I shoot straight. Until his partner comes and helps him get
his rifle, he'll stop in the woods."

"But perhaps the other's not far off."

"He's at the ranch," said Margaret "He'd stop to see if you were about
and try to find out something from father. Father would keep him as long
as possible----" She stopped and turning her head resumed: "But the
first fellow knows a woman shot his horse. When I put up the rifle, he
was riding for the door."

"I expect that is so," said Jimmy. "After all, you must go to your
cousin's. Let's start!"

Margaret said nothing. When Jimmy brought her horse she got up and he
ran by her stirrup. For a time she went up the valley, and then turning
back obliquely through thin timber, pushed up a steep hill. Near the top
she stopped and Jimmy got his breath and looked down across the trees.
Dusk was falling and all was very quiet. Gloom had invaded the clearing,
but he saw a small dark object he knew was the policeman's horse. A thin
plume of smoke went up from his house; his fire was burning, and he
wondered when it would burn again. For a few moments he was moved by a
strange melancholy, and then his heart beat.

"I hate to go away. If you were not with me, I think I'd stay and risk
it all," he said. "I was happy at the ranch; in fact, I soon began to
see I hadn't known real happiness before. At the beginning I was
puzzled, but now I can account for it. You were at Kelshope----"

"Not long since you didn't want me to go with you," Margaret remarked.

"Oh, well," said Jimmy with some awkwardness, "you hadn't yet shot the
policeman's horse."

Margaret said nothing and he seized the bridle, pulled 'round the
cayuse, and forced her to look down.

"Will you marry me at the Mission, Margaret?"

She met his glance and hers was proud. "I think not, Jimmy. You are a
white man and mean to take the proper line. But I will not marry you
because I stopped the trooper."

Jimmy threw back his head and she liked his frank, scornful laugh. "Now,
you're altogether ridiculous! Your stopping the fellow does not account
for my wanting to marry you. Soon after I got to work at the ranch I
knew I loved you, but I went to the mountains with Stannard and the
trouble began. So long as the police were hunting for me I dared not
urge you."

"But now you urge me? It looks as if your scruples had vanished!"

Jimmy let go the bridle and bent his head. "I suppose it does look like
that. All the same, I love you."

Margaret leaned down and touched him gently. "You keep your rules, and
your rules are good. Perhaps it's strange, but I think a woman will
break conventions where a man will not. Still, you see, I'm proud----"

"You are very hard," Jimmy rejoined. "Yet you ran some risk to warn me.
I know your pluck, but if you had not loved me, I think you'd have
stayed at Kelshope."

"We'll let it go," said Margaret in a quiet voice. "There's another
thing; ranching is a game for you, but it's my proper work. Yours is at
the cotton mill. You're rich and your wife must be clever and
cultivated."

"I haven't known a girl with talents, grace and beauty like yours,"
Jimmy declared. "Then I'm not rich yet, the police are on my track, and
I may soon be a prisoner----" He looked up and added in a dreary voice:
"I admit it's not much of an argument for your marrying me."

Margaret smiled "Perhaps you were not logical, but we'll talk about it
again, when we get to Green Lake. You mustn't talk now. I don't know if
the trooper would stop long at the ranch, and we must cross the hill
before the moon is up."

She started her horse and they pushed on. An hour afterwards the moon
rose from behind a broken range, and silver light touched the stiff dark
pines. The high peaks sparkled; a glacier glimmered in the rocks, and
the mists curling up from the valley were faintly luminous. Jimmy smelt
sweet resinous smells and heard a distant river throb. The landscape was
strangely beautiful, but its beauty was austere. All was keen, and cold,
and bracing, and Jimmy, walking by Margaret's bridle, thought her charm
was the charm of the stern and quiet North.



XXIV

JIMMY RESIGNS HIMSELF


The morning was calm and Jimmy, walking by Margaret's horse, turned his
head. Faint, sweet notes stole across the rocks and he knew the distant
chime of cow-bells. As a rule, the elfin music moved him. Where the
cow-bells rang, cornfields and orchards advanced up the valleys and man
drove back the forest, but Jimmy's satisfaction was blunted. For two
days Margaret and he had pushed through the quiet woods. In the cold
evenings they had talked by the snapping fire, but now the romantic
journey was near its end.

After a few minutes Margaret stopped the horse. In front, dark pines
rolled up the hill and the long rows of ragged tops looked like the
waves of an advancing tide that broke against the rocks. Across the
valley, the sun touched the snow, and at the bottom of a broken slope a
lake sparkled. Jimmy saw its surface rippled, for a Chinook wind blew
and the frost was gone. Near the end of the lake a plume of smoke
streaked the trees.

"Green Lake ranch!" said Margaret.

For a few moments Jimmy was quiet. When they reached the valley he
thought the strange charm he had felt in the mountains would vanish; it
was too fine and elusive for him to recapture. Until they started for
Green Lake, he had not known Margaret. Cleverer than himself at
woodcraft, she had a man's strength and pluck. She did not grumble; she
was frank and not embarrassed. Yet a womanly gentleness marked her, and
she did not think for herself. Although her touch was light, Jimmy had
felt her control and took the line she meant him to take. In the
meantime they were not lovers, but partners in romantic adventure.

"For your sake, I'm glad we'll soon reach your cousin's house," he said.
"I don't know if I'm glad for mine."

Margaret smiled but gently shook her head. "You must play up, Jimmy!"

"I have played up. Perhaps it's strange, but in the woods to be content
because we were pals was not hard. Now we'll soon reach your cousin's,
I'm not content, and one is forced to think----"

"For a time you must think about beating the police; that's all," said
Margaret firmly.

"It is not all," Jimmy declared. "When we went up the hill in the
evening, I asked you to marry me and you promised----"

"I promised we would talk about it," said Margaret. "Before you start
from Peter's we will do so; but since you must start soon, we'll go on."

Jimmy saw he could not move her, and they went down the hill. At the
ranch fence a man met them and took them to the house. When they went in
a woman got up, kissed Margaret, and gave Jimmy a smile. So far as he
could see, Mrs. Jardine and her husband did not think it strange he had
arrived with Margaret, and he was somewhat comforted, although he noted
that Margaret's color rose. Margaret knew her relations. They were
primitive, honest folk, and took it for granted Jimmy was her lover.

"Sit right down. Dinner will soon be ready," said Peter Jardine. "How's
the old man? Give us your news."

Jimmy narrated his and Margaret's adventures and, until he stopped, his
hosts said nothing. It did not look as if they were disturbed, but they
were bush folk and the bush is quiet. For all that, Jimmy felt they
owned themselves Margaret's relations and for her sake were willing to
help him out.

"The trapper's old shack is the spot for you," Peter remarked. "After
dinner we'll start. Margaret must stay with us."

Margaret agreed, but Jimmy objected.

"Margaret is going with me to the Mission. The police will soon arrive."

"I reckon they don't know her, and they don't know how many womenfolk
I've got. When she puts on Sadie's clothes, she'll look as if she
belonged to the ranch. Maybe the police haven't found your trail; but we
mustn't bet on that."

Margaret went off with Sadie and Jimmy speculated about their talk. By
and by he turned to his host.

"I'm going to marry your cousin when she is willing."

"Sure," said Peter. "You reckoned to get married at the Mission?"

"That is so. So far, Margaret refuses."

Peter knitted his brows. "Sometimes I don't see what Sadie gets after
and I sure can't calculate Margaret's notion. Women beat me. All the
same, it's plain she thinks you a white man, and Margaret's not a fool.
Now we'll let it go. Say, did you plug the warden?"

"It looks like that," Jimmy replied. "However, if I did hit the fellow,
I didn't know I was shooting at a man."

"Very well! You can't get down the main track to the coast, because the
police will reckon on your going there and watch the stations. I'd make
for the plains and then shove south for Montana."

"That was Stannard's plan."

Peter smiled scornfully. "You were to cross the rocks and carry your
grub and camping truck? Shucks! An old-time prospector might make it;
you could not. You've got to lie up at the trapper's shack until we look
about. Maybe we can fix it to ship you out of the mountains on board a
construction train that sometimes runs down to a station on the Calgary
side. Well, let's make our packs and catch the horse."

They got to work and after the horse was caught, Peter turned back to
the house, but Jimmy stopped. "I must talk to Margaret for a few
minutes," he said.

Margaret came out to him. Her look was quiet but he knew her resolute.

"When dinner's over, Peter and I must start," he said. "You refused to
go to the Mission. I want to know what this implies."

Margaret gave him a level glance. "Isn't it plain, Jimmy? You know my
father, and now you have met my relations. They are not your sort."

"So far as I know, they're a remarkably good sort," Jimmy rejoined.
"Besides, in a way, I am their sort. My grandfather was a mill hand; my
father borrowed a small sum, and started with cheap machinery to spin
cotton at a little old-fashioned mill. He was frugal and laborious; in
fact, he prospered because he had your bushman's qualities. I have
loafed and squandered, but after a time I felt I'd had enough and began
to see I'd inherited something from the people who made Leyland's go.
Then, if we must talk about our relations, you don't know my uncle Dick.
Well, I've stated something like this before, but it's my reply to your
argument."

"But you mean to go back to Lancashire, and when you marry your wife
ought----"

"To begin with, I doubt if the police will allow me to go back. Then, if
I can't get you, I don't want a wife!"

"Yet, not very long since, it looked as if you might be satisfied with
Miss Stannard."

The blood came to Jimmy's skin, and to conquer his embarrassment was
hard.

"I don't think you're kind. Well, I'm young and, until I met Stannard, I
was very raw. All I knew was the cotton mill, and I expect Laura
carried me away. But I was not altogether a fool; Laura Stannard is a
charming girl. The obstacle was, she saw I was not the man for her. Then
I did not know you."

Margaret smiled, but her smile was gentle. "Perhaps I was not kind.
You're stanch and my experiment was shabby."

"Your remark was justified. Anyhow, it's not important. If I can cheat
the police and get back to Lancashire, will you marry me, Margaret?"

For a few moments Margaret was quiet. Then she said in a steady voice:
"Your cheating the police would not persuade me; in fact, somehow I
think they will find out you had nothing to do with the warden's getting
shot. The obstacle's not there. You are young, Jimmy, and you admitted
you were carried away."

"One cannot carry you away," Jimmy rejoined.

"I must think for you and for myself," said Margaret and Jimmy's heart
beat, because he saw her calm was forced. "Suppose your trustees did not
approve your marrying a girl from the bush?"

"Dick Leyland might not approve; his habit's to be nasty, but mine's not
to bother about Dick. Sir Jim is head of the house and he's human. I
can't picture his not being altogether satisfied with you."

"But you don't know!"

Jimmy pondered. Margaret's firmness baffled him, but, from her point of
view, he saw she took the proper line. All the same, it cost her
something; she was highly strung, her color came and went, and her
tight mouth was significant. The trouble was, he dared not urge her very
hard. In the meantime, he must hide from the police and might be sent to
the chain-gang.

"I want you, my dear," he said. "I'm selfish. If you marry me, I run no
risk, but you may run some. My drawbacks are rather numerous,
particularly just now."

"Very well," said Margaret. "When you come back from the mountains, I
may perhaps agree. But your relations must approve and I don't yet
engage----"

Jimmy advanced, but she stepped back and stopped him. Then he turned and
saw Mrs. Jardine wave to them from the stoop.

Dinner was a melancholy function, and Jimmy thought his hosts disturbed.
They were Margaret's relations and for her sake were willing to help,
but he pictured Mrs. Jardine's weighing the risk. Then he was bothered
about Margaret, for Peter's confidence that his wife could bluff the
police if they arrived before he returned did not banish his doubts.

At length Mrs. Jardine got up and Peter and Jimmy went to load the
horse. By and by the rancher ran back for some tobacco and Jimmy moodily
fastened the pack-rope. Stooping by the horse, he thought he heard a
step, but did not look up, and a few moments afterwards he felt a hand
on his shoulder. Then an arm went around his neck and Margaret turned
his head and kissed him. He tried to seize her, but she slipped away
and stopped a yard or two off. Jimmy thrilled and his eyes sparkled.

"Now I know when I come back you won't refuse me."

"You don't know; I don't know," Margaret replied in a trembling voice.
"All the same, I love you, and you're going away----"

Peter and Mrs. Jardine came out. The rancher seized the bridle and
called to the horse. Jimmy lifted his battered hat and they started
across the clearing.

Three days afterwards, they stopped at a small stone hut, built against
the bottom of a great rock. On one side dark pines rolled up to the
walls, and a hundred yards off one could hardly see the pile of stones
was a building. Yet the small room was rudely furnished and the earth
floor was dry. They cut some wood, made a fire, and cooked food, and
after the meal lighted their pipes.

"You have got an ax and a rifle, but if you run out of grub, Graham, the
section-hand on the railroad will put me wise," said Peter. "Tom's a
white man and his post's not far from the spot we crossed the line. The
trapper who lived here is dead and I reckon nobody but Tom and me knows
about the shack."

"I expect I've got all I want, but I'm bothered about Margaret."

"You don't want to bother. In the meantime, Margaret's my wife's sister
from Calgary. That's good enough for the police, and anyhow the Royal
North-West aren't city patrolmen. They reckon they're highbrow frontier
cavalry and I guess the trooper won't allow a girl held him up. You'll
stay put, until we see if we can ship you out with the construction boys
to the Calgary side. If that plan won't go, we'll push across the range
for the big park valley and try to run you south. I think that's all;
but if you want to send a letter to your friends, Graham will mail it
for you."

After a time Peter knocked out his pipe and Jimmy went with him to the
door. When the rancher vanished in the woods and all was quiet Jimmy
leaned against the post and gave himself to gloomy thought.

It began to get dark. The snow-veined rocks melted in the mist and the
pines were vague and black. In the distance a timber wolf howled and the
long mournful note emphasized the dreariness. In the rocks where Jimmy
hid at the beginning he had Deering's society and at the ranch he had
Margaret's and Jardine's. Now he was altogether alone in the savage
wilds. Going back to the fire, he threw on fresh wood, and although he
was not keen about smoking, lighted his pipe.



XXV

THE CALL


Jimmy fastened his skin coat, and going to the door of the section-man's
hut, looked up the track. The railroad and an angry river occupied the
bottom of the gorge, but the water was low and a rapid throbbed on a
dull note. Jimmy knew its slack beat was ominous; the frost had stopped
the streams that not long since leaped out from the glaciers.

He shivered, for the cold was keen and the coat he had got at Green Lake
was old. Besides, he was tired; he had started before daybreak from his
shack, but when he reached the railroad the moon was on the rocks. In
the shadow, the snow that streaked the mountain-side was blue; across
the gorge broken crags shone like polished steel and the small pines
growing in the cracks sparkled with frost. Not far off, a dark hole in a
slanted white bank indicated the mouth of a snow shed, but Jimmy knew
the stones and snow had come down the hill.

When he looked up, his view on one side was cut by the top of a
precipice; it was like looking up from a deep pit. Farther along the
gorge, the rocks got indistinct and melted in the moon's pale
reflections. No track but the railroad pierced the mountains, although
the wide chain was broken by narrow valleys running north and south.
Jimmy had come up the line from the valley he occupied, and by another
some distance off one could reach Green Lake. The nearest station was
twelve miles away, at the end of Graham's section.

Jimmy had arrived half an hour since, but had not found Graham, although
his stove was burning. Peter Jardine had stated he could trust the man,
who had begun to clear a ranch at Green Lake but had stopped when his
money was gone. In the mountains, ranching is a slow and laborious job,
and men whose means are small are forced at times to follow another
occupation.

By and by a lantern twinkled at the mouth of the snow shed and a man
came up the track.

"Hello!" he said. "I've got some news and wondered if you'd blow in, but
I wanted to take a look at the rock-cut before the freight comes
through. Did you make supper?"

Jimmy said he had cooked some flapjacks, although he felt he ought to
wait until his host arrived.

"Shucks!" remarked Graham. "Jardine's my neighbor and he allows you're
his friend. But the cold's fierce. Let's get in."

They sat down by the stove and for a minute or two Jimmy was content to
warm himself and smoke. At the shack he had no light but the fire and
the long evenings were dreary. All the same, he was disturbed and with
something of an effort he said, "Well?"

"Two troopers got off the west-bound at the depot and my partner,
Tellson, allowed they brought a lot of truck. Looks as if they meant to
stop around and search the neighborhood."

"Ah!" said Jimmy. "I expect they know I'm about! Did they bring their
horses?"

"Tellson saw no horses. If the boys were going to Green Lake, they could
ride. Besides, the other outfit went there not long since."

Jimmy nodded. He knew the police had not bothered Margaret and he must
think for himself. The troopers not bringing their horses was ominous,
since it indicated that they were going to push into the mountains. The
valley in which he hid did not open to the track; to reach it one must
climb a mountain spur, but he imagined the police meant to climb. If
they found the mouth of the valley, they might reach the shack before he
knew, and if he got away, he must take the snowy rocks.

"I expect Jardine hasn't yet arranged to send me out on board a train?"
he said.

"Peter was trying to fix it; he had to wait until he met a construction
boss he knows; but he can't fix it now. The police will stop the gangs
and tally up the boys."

"If they come down the line, to find out where I am won't take them
long."

"Your chances don't look very good," Graham agreed. "If you could cross
the range to the park valley, you might get away south, but I doubt if
you could make it."

Jimmy said nothing. He imagined Deering stated the range had been
climbed by some city members of the Canadian Alpine Club; but they, no
doubt, took packers to carry supplies and went when the snow-line was
high. For a lonely man to venture on the icy rocks was ridiculous. After
a few minutes Graham pulled out his watch.

"The freight's making good time and when she's gone I must go up the
track to the piece the boys underpinned," he said. "I reckon I'll be
away an hour and you had better go to bed."

Jimmy heard a rumble and went with Graham to the door. To watch the
great train come down the gorge would for a few minutes banish his
gloomy thoughts. Up the track, a streak of silver light touched the
rocks and trees. The speeding beam got brighter, and by and by dazzling
radiance flooded the gorge. The ground began to shake, harsh, clanging
echoes rolled across the rocks; one heard the big cars jolt and the roar
of wheels. Then black smoke swirled about the hut and the beam was gone.
In the dark, the banging cars rushed by, a blaze touched the snow shed
and went out, and the turmoil died away.

Graham picked up his lantern and Jimmy went back to the stove. Lighting
his pipe, he pulled out Stannard's map and began to ponder. It was
obvious he must not stay long at the trapper's shack. Since the police
watched the neighborhood, he could not get food, and when they found the
way to the valley he would be driven back into the mountains. In fact,
he felt he ought to try for freedom now before his line of retreat was
cut, but he was tired and did not see where he could go.

There was no use in stealing off along the track, because the station
agents were, no doubt, warned to look out for him. If he started before
daybreak, he might perhaps reach the trail to Green Lake, but Peter had
already run some risk for him and Margaret was at her cousin's. To go to
Green Lake would put the police on her track.

Jimmy studied Stannard's map. Across the mountains behind the shack, the
park valley ran southeast and from its other end one could perhaps reach
the plains and the United States. Graham had stated Jimmy could not
cross the range, but Graham was not a mountaineer. Stannard was a
mountaineer and could get supplies and packers. Then Stannard was his
friend and perhaps owed him something.

The adventure was daunting, but Jimmy resolved to try it. He must for a
few days risk stopping at the shack, and pulling out a blank-book, he
wrote a note. Graham would send the note and Stannard would, no doubt,
start soon after it arrived. Then Jimmy thought he ought to let Margaret
know his plans and he wrote another note. Putting the envelopes on a
shelf, he got into Graham's bunk.

When Jimmy's note arrived at the hotel Stannard was at dinner. For the
most part, the guests had gone, but Mrs. Dillon had returned with Frank
and Laura, and a young man had joined the party. Stevens belonged to
the Canadian Alpine Club, and knowing about Stannard's exploits, had
cultivated his society.

Stannard took the soiled envelope from the page and noted it had not a
stamp.

"Who brought the letter?" he asked.

"A freight brakesman gave it to our porter at the station."

Stannard put down the envelope and resumed his dinner, but Laura said,
"The hand is Jimmy's. Aren't you curious?"

"I am curious, anyhow," Dillon declared, and Mrs. Dillon looked up, for
she knew something about Jimmy's adventures.

"If you want to read your letter, do so," she said to Stannard.

Stannard opened the envelope and Laura remarked his thoughtful look. She
took the note from him and after a moment or two gave it Dillon.

"Is it possible for Jimmy to get across?" Dillon asked.

"I frankly don't know," said Stannard and turned to Stevens. "A young
friend of ours wants to try a rather bold exploit; he thinks he can
cross the Cedar Range and I could help. In summer, I wouldn't hesitate.
To venture on the snow-fields now is another thing."

Stevens's eyes sparkled. He was young and enthusiastic, and to climb
with a mountaineer like Stannard was something to talk about.

"Although I haven't long joined the club, sir, I went with Gordon when
he explored the Cascades from Rawden. If you go, I'd like to join you."

"I don't yet know if I'll go or not," said Stannard and resumed his
dinner.

Mrs. Dillon touched Laura. She was a large and rather quiet lady and not
marked by much refinement, but she was kind and sometimes firm.

"I want to see that note," she said.

Laura looked at Stannard and gave her the note.

"The poor young man. He's surely up against it!" she exclaimed. "I like
Jimmy. If I was a mountain clubman, I'd feel I'd got a call."

Stannard said nothing and Laura was quiet. She was disturbed about
Jimmy, but she knew her father. Besides, she thought Stevens curious. By
and by she looked at Dillon, who began to talk about something else.

When dinner was over Mrs. Dillon joined another lady and Stannard went
off. Laura and Dillon remained at the table and Stevens saw they did not
want his society. He went away and Laura asked: "Do you think Jimmy can
escape?"

"If he stops at his hut, I expect the police will get him," Dillon
replied.

Laura frowned and looked about. The table was decorated by flowers from
the coast, and the electric light was reflected by good china and glass.
In the background were polished hardwood panels and carved pillars. The
spacious room was warm; all struck a note of luxurious refinement, but
Laura thought about Jimmy, cut off from his supplies, in the snow.

Had Jimmy gone back to Lancashire, she admitted she might have married
him. He had refused and for a time his obstinacy had hurt, but she was
not revengeful and, since she had rather weighed his advantages than
loved him, she could let it go. She liked Jimmy and was moved by a
gentle sentimental tenderness.

"Are you willing to help Jimmy, Frank?" she asked.

"Why, of course! I thought you knew I mean to help," Dillon declared.
"Perhaps I was jealous about Jimmy, but now I'm sorry for him. All the
same, your father puzzles me. He's not keen."

"I expect he knows the risk," said Laura thoughtfully, for Stannard's
hesitation was obvious. "Since he must lead the party, he feels he ought
not to be rash. Then if Jimmy got away across the mountains, I expect
the police would make you all accountable."

"Oh, well, the job is awkward, although I expect we could put it over.
Suppose we look for Mr. Stannard?"

Stannard was in the rotunda, and when Laura and Dillon advanced he
smiled.

"You are young and romantic, but I am not. When one gets old one uses
caution."

"I doubt if I am romantic, but I think Mrs. Dillon did not exaggerate,"
Laura rejoined. "Jimmy is our friend and trusts us. His note is a call."

"Sometimes deafness is not a drawback. I own I'd sooner not hear the
call."

"But you mean to go?"

"It looks as if I might be forced. Frank's resolve is rather obvious,"
said Stannard with a resigned shrug.

Dillon gave him a keen glance. Somehow he felt Stannard did mean to go,
but wanted to be forced. Frank thought it strange.

"I feel we ought to help, and now Deering is not about, nobody but you
can lead us."

For a few moments Stannard was quiet. Then he said, "Very well, but if
we are going, we must start soon. We want packers to carry food and a
tent as far as possible, and I'd like a good mountaineer to help on the
rocks. The hotel guides are gone, but I expect the clerk knows where to
find them."

"Grant lives at Calgary."

"I think the fellow I want's at Revelstoke and he could get the train
that arrives in the morning," said Stannard, and pulled out his watch.
"We can send a night-letter and needn't use economy. I'll telephone the
station agent and give him the message."

Frank knew Grant of Calgary was a good mountaineer, but he said nothing
and Stannard gave Laura a smile.

"I expect you are satisfied."

"You're as noble as I thought," said Laura. "I knew why you hesitated
and it wasn't for yourself. But I knew you would go."



XXVI

DEERING TAKES THE TRAIL


Stannard was marked by a superficial languidness. Strangers thought him
careless and his humorous tranquillity had charm. For all that, when
speed was important he moved fast and after he telephoned to the station
he got to work. He packed rucksacks for his companions, got ropes and
ice-axes, and arranged with the hotel cook to put up a supply of food.
Then he sent a messenger for two or three half-breeds who carried loads
for fishing parties. Stevens helped and admitted that Stannard knew his
job. All he did was carefully thought about.

After some time Dillon joined them and Stannard said, "It's awkward, but
Willmer at Revelstoke is engaged. However, he states he can send us a
useful man and we are to meet him at the station. He'll come by the
train in the morning and we'll get on board. We ought to reach the
railroad hut Jimmy talks about by dark and if the night is clear we'll
push on."

"If the police are about the station where we get off, they may stop
us."

"It's possible," Stannard agreed. "Still they don't know our object and
we must persuade them we are mountaineering tourists. Boast about your
climbing and the Canadian Alpine Club; Stevens knows their exploits.
All the same, I imagine the police are in the mountains. Well, your sack
is packed, and when you have got your snow-spectacles and the grease for
your skin, we'll stop for a smoke."

In the morning the half-breed packers arrived and soon afterwards all
were ready to start. The hotel servants and three or four guests came to
see them go, but when the others strapped on their loads Stannard joined
Laura on the steps.

"Well, we are going to Jimmy's help," he said with a smile. "Frank is
very keen, but as far as possible I'll try to see he does nothing rash.
To know your marriage is fixed is some comfort."

Laura looked up quickly. Although Stannard's smile was kind, she was
vaguely disturbed.

"When Frank wanted the wedding soon I thought you agreed rather easily.
I was satisfied to stay with you for some time."

"Oh, well," said Stannard. "I'm afraid I haven't carried out my duties.
I'm a careless fellow and feel my daughter does not owe me much.
Although you have grown up beautiful and attractive, Nature and your
aunts are accountable. Then, you see, I'm getting old, and
mountaineering is my hobby. Sometimes one slips on an icy rock--"

"You mustn't talk like that; it hurts," said Laura with a touch of
emotion. "You gave me all I asked for; you have always indulged me. Then
I urged you to go, and now I feel I ought not to urge. To be generous
in my way costs one nothing. I shall not venture on the rocks; I send
you."

Stannard laughed, but Laura, studying him, was moved. Her father was
handsome and wore the stamp of high cultivation. Although he was not
young, he carried himself like an athlete. She knew his strength and
pluck and his gentleness to her. Now she thought him fine and
chivalrous.

"You follow your heart," he said and kissed her. Then he pulled out his
watch. "But I must not be selfish and Frank is waiting."

Dillon advanced and Stannard resumed: "Youth is romantic and sometimes
exaggerates. Laura imagines her generosity and yours accounts for my
starting on our adventure. Well, perhaps I'm slow and cautious, but now
and then one recaptures a touch of one's boyish rashness. However, I
mustn't philosophize. We must get off in a few minutes."

"I'll join you on the trail," said Dillon, who remarked that Stannard
implied that he hesitated to go. Stannard had said something like that
before, as if he wanted others to note that the plan was not his. All
the same, it was not important, and Dillon took Laura's hand.

Five minutes afterwards the party started. The packers carried the heavy
loads, the others the ice-axes, and Stevens and Stannard wore round
their shoulders coils of Alpine rope. Where the trail turned they
stopped for a moment and waved their hats, and then vanished in the
trees.

Some time afterwards Laura saw a plume of black smoke roll across the
pines and stole off to her room. She did not want Mrs. Dillon's comfort.
Her father and her lover had started for the rocks, and if they paid for
their rashness, she was accountable.

In the morning she got a jar, for a sergeant of the Royal North-West
Police arrived at the hotel. He was polite but firm, and Laura saw she
must brace up. Mrs. Dillon had gone with her to the rotunda and to know
she had her help was some comfort.

"Mr. Stannard started for the mountains yesterday," the sergeant
remarked. "He took a quantity of camp truck and two of your friends.
Where did he go?"

"I don't altogether know his line," Laura replied. "When you climb high
mountains you cannot make fixed plans. Much depends on the snow."

"Well, I expect Mr. Stannard stated where he meant to start?"

"Why, of course," said Mrs. Dillon. "He'd get off at the Green River
depot."

The sergeant remarked her frankness, but thought she saw some frankness
was indicated, because for him to find out where the party had got off
was not hard.

"Do you know Mr. Stannard's object? Our clubmen go for the rocks in
summer. His starting now was strange."

Laura lifted her head and her look was proud. She thought she could play
up and the fellow must not imagine Stannard had gone to Jimmy's help.

"My father is not a Canadian clubman. He's a famous Alpine mountaineer
and can go where others cannot."

"Our boys are pretty smart," said the sergeant, smiling. "But are all
Mr. Stannard's party expert mountaineers? Mr. Stevens, for example? And
Mr. Frank Dillon?"

"My son," said Mrs. Dillon, who saw the other had talked to the hotel
clerk. "Frank knows something about the rocks and belongs to a club that
explores the Olympian range. We're Americans."

The sergeant bowed politely, but she resumed: "Mr. Stannard's English,
all the lot are tourists and I sure can't see what the Canadian police
have to do with their going off to climb your rocks. You're not going to
draw strangers to the country if you bother them like that."

"Sometimes the police's duty is awkward," said the sergeant in an
apologetic voice.

"The police have not much grounds to inquire about my father's
excursion," Laura remarked haughtily. "When he killed the big-horn he
did not know he poached on a game reserve, but he paid the fine and it
is done with."

The sergeant saw her eyes sparkled and she was not playing a part. She
did not know all he knew, and he must not enlighten her.

"Not long since Mr. Stannard went shooting with the pit-light, which is
not allowed, and the game-warden was shot."

"My father did not shoot the warden; he stayed and helped the police."

"Three of his party pulled out," the sergeant rejoined. "Maybe Mr.
Leyland could put us wise about the shooting and we reckoned Mr.
Stannard knows where he is."

"Then you must wait for his return. If you found his track, I don't
suppose you could follow him on the rocks."

"In the meantime, you're resolved not to help us hit his track?"

"I don't know his track," Laura replied.

The sergeant went off. He had talked to the hotel clerk, and although he
had not found out much from Laura, he had found out something. The girl
was persuaded Stannard had gone to help Leyland, and the sergeant
thought his plan really was to help the young fellow get away. In fact,
the sergeant thought he saw Stannard's object for doing so.

Laura, however, was disturbed. She was anxious for Jimmy and knew the
risks Stannard ran in the mountains, but she imagined she had baffled
the sergeant and she resigned herself to wait for news.

When the next train for the coast rolled across the pass Deering was on
board a first-class car. He was dressed like a city sportsman, but his
clothes were thick and his shooting jacket was lined with sheepskin, for
Deering knew the wilds. When he went to Vancouver his movements
interested the police, but at Calgary they left him alone, and nothing
indicated that they now bothered where he went. Deering thought it
strange, unless they knew something he did not.

In the meantime, he was occupied by another subject. Although he meant
to see Jimmy out, he had frankly no use for hiding much longer at the
ranch. Jimmy must be smuggled across the boundary to the United States
and Deering weighed a plan.

When he got down at the station he meant to push on for Jardine's, but
Kelshope was some distance off and he resolved to stop at the hotel. He
had been for some time at Calgary and Stannard would perhaps know if
Jimmy was all right. The clerk sent for Laura and by and by she came
down. She gave Deering a cold glance, but he had long known her
antagonism.

"You cannot see my father. He and Frank are in the mountains," she said.

Deering knitted his brows. When winter had begun one did not start for
the rocks for nothing.

"It looks as if the police have found out Jimmy was at his ranch."

"Then, Jimmy was at the ranch? We didn't know; he did not come to see
us. I expect you stopped him!"

"You don't trust me, Miss Laura. Still you ought to see Jimmy dared not
come to the hotel."

"I did not think you a proper friend for Jimmy and Frank."

Deering smiled. He knew he was a better friend of Jimmy's than
Stannard, but he said, "Oh, well; perhaps it's not important. Anyhow,
Jimmy trusts me, and I mustn't let him down. You imply he's not at the
ranch?"

Laura told him about Jimmy's note, and he inquired about Stannard's
plans. When she had satisfied his curiosity his look was thoughtful.

"Stannard will send back the packers at the bottom of the rocks," he
remarked. "Has he got a guide?"

"He could not engage the guide he wanted. Another man about whom I don't
think he knew much was sent."

"Your father needs a useful man. Jimmy's steady on an awkward pitch, but
sometimes he's rash. The others are raw boys. It looks as if I've got to
hit the trail."

"Frank is not a boy, and my father is a famous climber," Laura rejoined.
"If he cannot cross the mountains, do you think it's possible for you?
Then you ought to have started before. The police have followed Jimmy
for some time and I think another party set off yesterday."

Deering thought to embarrass him gave her some satisfaction, but he
smiled.

"I know you're not my friend, Miss Laura, and I must try to be resigned.
All the same, unless you put me wise, it may be awkward for Jimmy. What
about the last lot of police?"

She told him and he bowed. "Thank you! I'll get off."

"But the sergeant is in front of you and there is not a train."

"The police are pretty smart, but I've known them bluffed," Deering
remarked. "Then the station agent and another fellow talked about a
construction train's going up the line. I've traveled on board a
calaboose before."

Laura hesitated, and then gave him her hand. "After all, I think you
want to help, and if you agree to leave Frank alone--"

"I rather think you don't know your power," Deering rejoined with a
twinkle. "Frank is well guarded from all my wiles. In fact, I'm willing
to give you best."

"Oh, well," said Laura, "perhaps I was not just."

He went off and Laura mused. She had not liked Deering. He was a gambler
and exploited the extravagance of rich young men. Yet Frank trusted the
fellow and she began to doubt if her antagonism were altogether
warranted. For one thing, Deering was stanch, and his pluck was rather
fine. Her father had started with a well-equipped party; Deering went
alone, and when he got to Green Lake must baffle the police. Then she
liked his humorous politeness. He knew she doubted him, but he was not
revengeful. On the whole, she thought when she gave him her hand she
took the proper line.



XXVII

DEERING'S PROGRESS


Soon after Deering started from the hotel he met Jardine. Deering knew
the shrewd Canadian Scots and thought the rancher a man to trust.
Moreover he had not yet got all the light he wanted. Jardine was on foot
and Deering said, "Hello! It's a long hike to Kelshope. Where's your
horse?"

"Margaret's got the cayuse at Green Lake. D'ye no' ken?"

"I didn't know," said Deering. "But you're coming from the station. When
do they expect the construction train?"

"She stopped doon the track for the boys to fix some rails. The operator
was grumbling because she'd no' get through till dark and he'd got to
block the line for the Kamloops freight."

"Oh, well," said Deering, "since I want to get on board the calaboose,
perhaps her stopping in the dark is not a drawback. But what about Miss
Margaret's going to Green Lake?"

Jardine looked at him rather hard. "I alloo ye're Mr. Leyland's friend?"

"Sure thing!" said Deering. "Jimmy reckons you his friend. Well, I want
to know how he got away."

Jardine told him and Deering pondered. He had undertaken an awkward
job, and since he saw some obstacles, he resolved to give the rancher
his confidence. Among the trees the frost was not keen and the sun was
on the road. Deering indicated a spruce log and pulled out some cigars.

"Suppose we take a smoke and talk," he said, and when Jardine lighted a
cigar resumed: "Won't Miss Margaret's shooting the fellow's horse make
trouble for her?"

"I reckon not," said Jardine, who had heard the trooper's statement, and
when he got a note from Margaret remarked that the narratives did not
agree. "I'm thinking the boys dinna mean to pit it on Margaret and the
trooper's no' altogether prood."

"It's possible. But why didn't _you_ put Jimmy wise?"

"I'd cut my foot chopping, a day or two before."

Deering rather doubted if Jardine's cutting his foot accounted for all,
but he said, "Let's talk straight! I suppose Miss Margaret is going to
marry Leyland?"

"Maybe, but I dinna ken. Jimmy wanted to marry her."

"Very well," said Deering. "I'll tell you all I know."

He narrated his interview with Laura and Stannard's going to Jimmy's
help. Jardine's look got thoughtful and sometimes he frowned. When
Deering stopped he said, "Ye dinna trust Stannard! Ye'd sooner Jimmy
hadna gone across the rocks wi' him?"

"I would sooner he had not," Deering agreed. "Jimmy trusts Stannard,
the others are tenderfoots, and I understand they have not a first-class
guide."

"The man they've got is no' a mountain guide ava; Gillane's a packer on
the Government surveys. But I dinna see much light yet. Jimmy owes
Stannard a guid sum."

"Leyland insured his life in Stannard's favor and Stannard wants money.
Well, I'm going up the line with the construction gang to follow the
party's trail."

Jardine got up and his look was very grim. "Just that! I'll join ye."

"Not at all," said Deering. "Your part's to go to Green River depot
afterwards and watch out. I expect you're a good bushman, but this is a
job for a first-class mountaineer. Besides, you cut your foot!"

Jardine gave him a keen glance, but Deering resumed. "You see, I must
hit up the pace and can't boost you along. Can I hire a young man, a
prospector if possible, at Green River?"

The other's arguments did not move him and by and by Jardine resigned
himself to stay behind.

"I'm thinking my nephew, Peter, is the man ye want. Whiles he goes to
the depot for his groceries and mail. The storekeeper will ken if he's
aboot. Ye can tell Peter I sent ye to him."

After a few minutes Deering went off, but he went slowly and did not
keep the road to the station. Joining the line two or three miles down
the valley, he found a track-grader's tool hut and went in and smoked.
The hut was cold, but Deering's fur coat was thick and good. When dusk
began to fall he walked along the track and stopped three or four
hundred yards from the station.

By and by a light twinkled like a star in the gloom of the woods. A
steady throb rolled up the valley, and presently Deering distinguished a
locomotive's measured snorts and the rumble of wheels. The star was now
a dazzling moon, and its reflections picked out, far in advance,
glittering rails and frost-spangled trees. When the locomotive was level
with Deering he began to run up the line, and soon after the train
stopped he got behind the last car.

He knew the company's rules, but he knew something about train-gangs,
and he had ready a few dollar bills. Although the station agent did not
see him get on board, when the train rolled up the track he occupied a
box in front of the calaboose stove. The men gave him supper, and when
he had drained a can of strong coffee he pulled out some cards and
showed how an expert puzzled his antagonists.

Cold draughts swept the rocking calaboose, the stove roared, and one
smelt locomotive smoke. Labored snorts echoed in the rocks, couplings
rang, and when the train sped across a bridge the roll of wheels drowned
Deering's voice. Deering smiled and waited for the noise to stop. He had
undertaken a daunting job and was bothered about Jimmy, but in the
meantime he owed something to his hosts and he played up. Although
Deering had some drawbacks, his rule was to play up.

A number of the men had long studied cards and could bluff on a poor
hand. Three or four won regularly some part of their companions' wages,
but they knew a master's touch and for a time Deering held the group.
Then he lighted his pipe and began to talk about something else. He
found out that the train ran between a gravel pit and Green River. The
men were filling up a trestle and cutting out an awkward curve.

"Have they got a hotel at the settlement?" Deering inquired.

"They've no use for a hotel at Green River. Sometimes a rancher comes in
for his mail and a survey party jumps off. I guess that's all. You can
stop at the post office. The man who keeps it runs a small store."

"Nothing much doing yet," Deering remarked. "Do the mounted policemen
come to the settlement?"

A big shovel-man laughed. "They're getting busy around Green River. Two
lots came in not long since and a trooper's there now, but he won't
bother you. Looks as if he was sent to watch out for somebody who wanted
to _get on_ the train."

"Then, you reckon they're after somebody in the rocks?" said Deering
carelessly.

"That's so," another agreed. "I wouldn't bet much on the fellow's
chance! When we ran up with the last load, a police outfit was starting
for the range. Three or four troopers and a pack-horse. They'd loaded up
some truck."

"Oh, well," said Deering. "The Royal North-West are smart boys, but I've
known them beat. However, I've been for some time on the road and think
I'll go to bed. Can somebody give me a bunk?"

They gave him a bunk, and for an hour or two he slept; he knew it might
be long before he slept warm again. When he awoke the locomotive bell
was tolling and the roll of wheels was getting slack. The calaboose was
very cold, and Deering, jumping from his bunk, went to the open door.

In front a fire burned by a water tank and the beam from the headlamp
flickered across a small clearing and touched a wooden house. Farther
off, a big blast-lamp threw up a pillar of flame. The light tossed and
for a few moments all was shadowy. Then the strong illumination leaped
up again, and Deering saw a man who carried a short rifle walk along the
line. He knew the Royal North-West uniform.

Deering picked up his fur coat and hesitated. In the mountains one must
wear proper clothes and the coat was good, but unless he could cheat the
trooper he might not reach the mountains. He touched the man who had
given him the bunk.

"I'll trade my coat and cap for yours."

The fellow's skin coat and cap were old, and he looked at Deering with
surprise.

"Why do you want to trade? A track-grader doesn't buy Revillon furs."

Deering indicated the trooper. "The policeman might calculate something
like that, but I expect he knows you belong to the gang. You are going
to dump some rails and for half an hour I want a job."

"Now I get you!" said the other.

He pulled off his shabby coat, and when the train stopped and Deering
jumped down nothing distinguished him from the construction gang.
Climbing on to a flat car, he joined the men who threw down the rails,
and presently saw the trooper stop the fellow who wore his coat and cap.
He did not know how the railroad man accounted for his wearing good
furs, but he was obviously a track-grader and after a few moments the
trooper let him go. Then the train rolled up the line and Deering stayed
with the men who moved the rails.

By and by the trooper walked past the gang, glanced at the men
carelessly, and, turning back, vanished in the gloom. Deering thought
him satisfied nobody but the track-graders was about, and soon
afterwards he started for the house. So far, he had trusted his luck,
but he wanted help and must get food. Moreover, he must not excite the
storekeeper's curiosity.

A clump of pines cut the illumination up the track. Sometimes when the
blast-lamp's flame leaped up, bright reflections touched the house, but
for the most part, the ground in front was dark. When Deering was near
the door, a man came out and stopped for a few moments. Deering thought
him a rancher and when he went down the steps met him at the bottom.

"Can I buy some flour and groceries?" he asked.

"You might," said the other and looked at Deering as if he thought the
inquiry strange. "Why do you want groceries? Where are you going?"

Deering saw something must be risked and when a risk must be run he did
not hesitate.

"If I can find the trail, I'm going up the valley. Peter Jardine has a
ranch at the lake, I think?"

"That's so," said the other. "I'm Peter Jardine!"

Deering laughed. His luck had not turned and when the reflections from
the blast-lamp touched the rancher's face he thought he had got the
proper man.

"Then, as soon as you can get me some groceries, I'll start for the
rocks. Your uncle sent me along and stated you would help. You see, I'm
Jimmy Leyland's partner and Miss Margaret's friend."

"Ah," said Peter, "you're Deering? Well, the police are after Jimmy. For
some days two troopers hunted for his tracks and then a sergeant and
another came in on the train and started off as if they knew where he
was. In the meantime, a sports outfit hit the trail, but I didn't meet
up with them. I made the station in the afternoon and didn't know what I
ought to do. In fact, when you came along, I was wondering if I'd pull
out for the ranch."

"You're coming with me. I don't want to boast, but I'm a mountain
clubman and on the rocks I reckon I can beat the police."

"But Jimmy's friends got off in front of the troopers."

"There's the trouble; they're not all his friends," Deering rejoined.
"On the whole, I'd sooner the police got him than he crossed the range
with the other lot. But we'll talk about this again. When can you
start?"

"I can start as soon as my horse is loaded up, but we have got to bluff
the policeman. He mustn't see us take the mountain trail. Well, I've
pork and flour and groceries. Have you got all you want?"

"I want a Hudson's Bay blanket and a pack-rope," said Deering and gave
Peter a roll of bills. "Then you had better buy a frying-pan and
grub-hoe."

"Very well. Go ahead up the trail across the clearing and wait for me by
the creek," said Peter and returned to the store.

After a time he rejoined Deering and tied his loaded horse to a branch.

"The storekeeper knows I hit the Green Lake trail, and we don't want the
cayuse. When we have sorted out the truck we need, he'll make the ranch
all right. Light the lantern and we'll fix our packs."

Deering lighted the lantern and after a few minutes strapped a bag of
food on his back. He pushed his folded blanket through the straps, gave
Peter the rope, and picked up the grub-hoe, a Canadian digging tool very
like a mountaineer's ice-ax. Then they put out the light, let the horse
go, and went back quietly to the railroad. Nobody was about, and
stealing across the line, they plunged into the gloom.

"My luck's good," said Deering. "When I think about all we're up
against, I sure want it good."



XXVIII

A DISSOLVING PICTURE


After a time Deering stopped and looked about. The stones on the river
bank were large and sharp, the night was dark, and his load embarrassed
him. In the distance, he saw a small red fire; a dim light marked the
post office, and the reflections from the blast-lamp quivered behind the
trees. Deering got his breath and braced up.

Born in the bush, he had known poverty and stern physical toil. He was a
good mountaineer, but he admitted that his two hundred pounds was
something of a load to carry across icy rocks. Then he had, for the most
part, lived extravagantly at fashionable hotels, and his big muscles
were soft; but this was not all. The distant lights stood for human
society and civilization. Deering was very human and fought against an
atavistic shrinking from the dark and loneliness. Moreover, he knew the
wilds. For all that, he meant to conquer his shrinking.

He admitted that he was perhaps a romantic sentimentalist and his
adventure did not harmonize with his occupation. Sometimes, however, one
was not logical and not long since he would have plunged down the rocks
but for Jimmy's pluck. Besides he saw Stannard had used him to entangle
the lad. Deering had his rude code, but Stannard had none. He was cold
and calculating, and Deering thought he meant to carry out the plan he
tried before when he sent Jimmy over the neck. Although Deering did not
like the job, he meant to baffle him.

In the meantime, all was quiet but for the turmoil of the river a few
yards off. Dark pines occupied the narrow level belt by the track, and
on the other side vague blurred rocks went up. Thin mist drifted about,
and the line, running downhill, melted into the gloom. The trooper was
at the station and Deering imagined nobody was about.

"The stones are sharp and slippery," he said. "We'll take the track and
push on for the section-hut."

They got on the line, but did not progress fast. The gravel ballast was
large and hurt their feet; the ties were not evenly spaced. Sometimes
Deering stepped on the timber and sometimes on the loose stones. Then
numerous ravines pierced the rocks, and although the construction gangs
had begun to fill up the chasms, for the most part wooden trestles
spanned the gaps. To cross an open-work trestle in the dark is awkward,
and when Deering balanced on a narrow tie and looked for the next, he
sweated and breathed hard. On one trestle he stopped. Sixty feet below
him, he saw the foam of an angry torrent; the next tie was some distance
off, and the wood sparkled with frost.

In a sense, his adventure was ridiculous. When he used the railroad he
went on board a first-class car and checked his baggage. Now he stumbled
over the ballast and carried on his back all he could not go without. In
the meantime, however, he must cross the trestle, and he trusted his
luck and jumped.

He got across and after three or four hours they reached the
section-shack. Graham was in bed, but he got up and told them all they
wanted to know. Three policemen with an Indian and a pack-horse had come
down the track and Graham imagined they had found the entrance to
Jimmy's valley. He reckoned they would send back the Indian and the
horse when they took the rocks, but the fellow had not yet returned.
Peter was puzzled about the Indian.

"They didn't hire him up at the station," he remarked. "Looks as if
they'd fixed it for him to meet them."

"It looks as if they'd made their plans and their plans were pretty
good," said Deering. "However, since they've got a loaded horse, they
can't shove on fast. How long was the other outfit in front?"

Graham told him and for a few moments Deering pondered. Then he said,
"It's awkward! Stannard knows where Jimmy is, and he'll hit up the pace.
I reckon the police don't know and must look for his tracks. If we
hustle, we'll run up against the gang."

The difficulty was obvious and Peter frowned.

"We might get by their camp in the dark. We'd see the fire."

"I doubt," Deering rejoined. "If the boys make a fire, they'll make it
where the light is hid. They don't want to put Jimmy wise."

"Well?" said Peter. "What is your plan?"

Deering laughed, a noisy laugh, for now he had started, his hesitation
vanished.

"We'll trust our luck and shove ahead. In the morning we'll get up the
rocks and look about. I've brought my glasses. Let's get going."

Graham gave them directions and when they climbed a steep hill they
found the valley. The ground was broken and in places covered by tangled
brush, but they made progress and at daybreak labored across the snow to
the top of a spur. Deering sat on his pack and used his prismatic
glasses.

Gray cloud floated about the mountain slopes, but the high peaks were
sharp and began to shine in the rising sun. Some were rose-pink and some
were yellow; the hollows between their broken tops were gray and blue. A
map of the mountains occupied a wall of the hotel rotunda, and Deering,
using his glasses, imagined it roughly accurate.

"I expect the blue gap is the head of the valley," he remarked and when
Peter nodded resumed: "We'll allow Stannard joined Jimmy ahead of the
police and took him along. We have got to hit their line and this is not
as hard as it looks. They can't steer for the shoulder of the big peak;
the rocks won't go and I see an ugly ice-fall on the glacier. I reckon
I'd head back, obliquely, for the _col_, up the long _arrête_."

"I don't use no _habitant_ French," Peter observed.

"Oh, well. Our clubmen have begun to use the tourists' talk," said
Deering and gave Peter the glasses. "Anyway, you see the ridge that runs
up to the neck?"

Peter studied the ridge. He had hunted mountain sheep and imagined sun
and frost had worn the rocks to something like a knife-edge. In places,
sharp pinnacles broke the top, and he thought it significant that for
the most part the snow did not lie. The shadow behind the top, no doubt,
marked a great precipitous gulf, but the farther end of the ridge
touched a white hollow between two peaks. If one could get across, one
might find a glacier going down the other side.

"I reckon your friends couldn't make it between sun-up and dark," he
said. "Anyhow, the police would see them on the rocks."

"Stannard might hit a line a few yards below the top, but I imagine the
clouds will soon roll up. Give me the glasses. I want to locate a gully
that goes for some distance up the ridge."

Peter saw his object. The long ridge ran back obliquely from farther up
the valley and to get up by the line Deering marked would cut out the
corner. Moreover Peter imagined the police had reached Jimmy's hut, and
if they found the tracks of Stannard's party, they would climb the ridge
from the other end. In consequence, Deering's going up the gully would
put him in front.

"I guess we'll start. When we noon we'll be nearer, and if the mist's
not thick, you can look for the line you want."

They went down the hill, and by and by the cloud rolled up the slope,
and rocks and peaks were lost in gloom. Then Deering began to get tired,
for although there was no snow at the bottom of the valley, the ground
was rough. After an hour or two he pushed into the timber and stopped.

"Perhaps it's risky, but I've got to eat and take a rest," he said. "The
trees are pretty thick, and if the smoke goes up, the hill's a good
background."

They cooked some food and then sat by the fire. Not far off the belt of
trees was broken, and presently Deering saw the cloud had got thin and
begun to roll back, up the mountains. Vague rocks pierced the vapor and
grew distinct; the mist trailed away from battered trees and slanted
fields of snow. For a time it clung about the high dark precipices, and
then one saw the snow-packed gullies seam the crags like marble veins. A
faint light pierced the vapor, and the broken top of the ridge began to
cut the background.

Deering pulled out his glasses and went to the opening in the wood. The
light was getting stronger, but he did not think the cloud would
altogether melt and he must search the rocks while search was possible.
By and by a beam touched the ridge and the snow glimmered like pale gold
against blue shadow. Above the shadow were broken peaks, but the belt of
dark blue indicated a gap and Deering, noting the strong color, thought
the gap profound.

The landscape, lighted by the unsteady beam, was strangely beautiful.
The pale illumination did not travel far and the rocks outside its reach
owed something of their mysterious grandeur to the contrast. Deering,
however, was not romantic and thought he saw a line, across a steep,
white slope and up a buttress, to the ridge. If he could get up, he
would cut Stannard's track and imagined he would not be much behind the
party.

He concentrated on the ridge. The slope along the top was not even but
went up, rather like a terraced walk. Rocky buttresses supported the
terraces, and, for the most part, the stones were free from snow;
Deering knew this indicated a very steep pitch. One buttress was marked
by a broad white band, and when he rubbed the glasses he thought he saw
on the snow a small object he had not remarked before. The object moved,
and calling Peter, he gave him the glasses.

"What's that? A cinnamon?"

"The bears have come down," said Peter. "The big-horn have gone for the
low benches. I guess the thing's a man."

Deering agreed and waited. Perhaps it was strange, but of all the
animals, civilized man alone was willing to front the cold on the
daunting heights. The ridge, outlined against a vague background of
majestic peaks, looked as remote as another world. To imagine flesh and
blood could reach it was hard, but Deering meant to try and knew
Stannard's calculating steadiness. If one went carefully, studying the
obstacles, and using the ax and rope--

"It's a man all right. I see another," said Jardine and gave Deering the
glasses. Deering saw three men. They advanced very slowly, and he
pictured their cutting steps before they moved. One crossed the
snow-belt and vanished. When he was anchored in the rocks he would
steady his companions. Deering knew it was Stannard, for Stannard would
not trust a poor guide at a spot like that. The others, perhaps, were
Dillon and Stevens. Then he saw two more; Gillane, the packer, and
Jimmy. Anyhow, Stannard had started with three companions and now he had
four. Deering knew all he wanted to know.

He watched the party, strung out at even distances, move across the
white band; and then the figures melted. They had not reached the other
side, but when he rubbed his glasses they were gone. The peaks in the
background vanished, the ridge got indistinct, and the black pines on
the lower snow-fields faded, as if a curtain were drawn across the
picture.

Deering shut his glasses and went for his pack. The mist was not thick
and he knew his line to the buttress.

"Put out the fire and let's get off," he said.

"You can't cross the ridge in the dark and the cold's going to be
fierce," Peter remarked.

"That is so. I doubt if Stannard can make the neck, but if he gets
there, he must wait for morning. Maybe we'll find a hole in the rocks."

Peter said nothing. He had engaged to go where the other went and must
try to make good, although the road was daunting. In thick timber, a
bushman can front biting cold; but on the high, icy rocks one could not
make camp and light a fire. If their luck were very good, they might
find a hole behind a stone, in which they must wait for daybreak and try
not to freeze.

He put out the fire and when they went through the wood pondered
gloomily. To reach the neck would cost them much; but to get there was
not all. They must get down on the other side, and, for the most part,
the mountain tops were tremendous precipices. Peter rather thought the
neck opened on a glacier, but sometimes a glacier is broken by awkward
ice-falls.

All the same, Peter set his mouth and pushed ahead. In the valley, he
could hit up the pace for Deering, but he imagined to follow the big
fellow on the rocks was another thing. When a bushman took the rocks he
went to shoot big-horn and bear. The mountain clubmen studied climbing
as one studies the ball-game.



XXIX

HELD UP


A few pale stars were in the sky and the moon was over a vague, gray
peak. Deering shivered, beat his numbed hands, and looked about. The
frost was keen and he had not thought he could sleep, but when he looked
about before the stars were bright and the moon was not above the peak.
In front, the buttress cut the sky, and although the rocks were
indistinct, he saw the belt of snow Stannard had crossed. Since Stannard
had got his party up the buttress, Deering imagined he could get up; but
the rocks were awkward.

Deering wore the railroad man's skin coat and a thick Hudson's Bay
blanket. For climbing their weight was an embarrassment, but he would
sooner carry the load than freeze. Although he lay with his shoulders
against Jardine, he was numb, and the outside of the blanket sparkled
with frost. A tilted slab partly covered them, but the gravel in the
hole was frozen and Deering's hip-joint hurt. The worst trouble was,
when he was very cold his brain got dull and he hated to use effort. Yet
effort was needed, for day had begun to break and he must cross the neck
by dark. To stop another night on the high rocks was unthinkable and he
knew his luck might turn. If thick snow fell or a strong wind blew, he
and Peter would stay on the rocks for good.

Moreover, Jimmy was in front, and Deering thought Jimmy ran a daunting
risk. He ought to get up and start, but he shrank from the frost, and
for a minute or two he weighed his grounds for doubting Stannard. Jimmy
owed Stannard a large sum and had insured his life. If he went over a
precipice, the company would pay Stannard. Deering admitted the argument
looked ridiculous; Stannard was highly cultivated, rather extravagant
than greedy, and not at all the man to plan a revolting crime. Yet he
had not engaged a proper guide and his companions were trustful young
fellows whom he could mislead. Moreover, he had gone down into a
snow-swept gully to help Leyland and knew this would weigh. Stannard had
then expected Jimmy to marry Laura.

Deering pushed Peter, who woke up and grumbled. Deering open his pack
awkwardly and pulled out a bannock and some canned meat.

"Day is breaking. When you have had your breakfast we must start."

"Unless I get a hot drink, I've not much use for breakfast," Peter
replied. "When do you reckon we'll get down to the timber? When I camp I
like a fire."

"Depends on our luck," said Deering, dryly. "I doubt if you'll make a
fire to-night."

"If I wasn't a fool, I'd go right back. Stannard's most a day's hike
ahead. Then if the police have hit his trail, they're not far behind
us."

"We cut out some ground and on the rocks two men go faster than five.
Stannard must find a line for his gang and us. Then I expect he'll be
held up for a time at the neck. I don't know where the police are."

Peter ate the bannock and put on his pack. "Well, let's get going!"

The light was not yet good. Their muscles were stiff, physical fatigue
reacted on their nervous strength, and at the belt of snow they stopped.
The belt was perhaps ten yards across and occupied a channel in the
rocks. The surface was smooth and hard, and Deering imagined if one
slipped one would not stop until one reached the valley. A row of small
holes, however, indicated that Stannard's party had gone across and up
the dark, forbidding buttress on the other side. Deering frankly shrank
from the labor and risk of crossing, but he dared not turn back.

"Where the boys have gone we mustn't stop," he said. "Tie on the rope
and give me the grub-hoe."

Peter gave him the hoe. The blade was curved, like a carpenter's adze,
and at its head was a short pick. The tool, although rather heavy, was a
good ice-ax. In soft snow, one can kick holes, but the snow was hard and
Deering doubted if the notches Stannard had cut would carry him. He used
the pick, balancing in a hole while he chipped out the next, and when
they got across he sent Peter in front. Their hands were numb and where
the snow had melted veins of ice filled the cracks in the rocks. The
hold was bad and Peter stopped at the bottom of a slab Deering had
remarked when he sent him in front.

"I sure don't know how we're going to get up."

"Stannard got up," said Deering and looked about.

Thirty feet below him the belt of snow pierced the rocks. It looked
nearly perpendicular and the snow-field at its foot was horribly steep.
In the shadow, the surface was gray and dark patches marked where rocks
pushed through. A very long way down, across a sharp but broken line,
the color was blue, and Deering thought the line the top of a precipice.
He turned and looked up. The slab was upright and about ten feet high;
he could not see a crack or knob, but he noted two or three fresh
scratches.

"Lean against the rock and spread your arms," he said, and when Peter
did so climbed up his back.

Standing on the other's shoulders, he could reach the top of the slab.
The top was nearly flat and went back for some distance, but the snow
was hard. Deering dared not trust his numbed hands and he tried the
pick. The blade got hold, but he could not see farther than the handle.
If he had caught a small lump of ice that would not support him, the
rope would pull Jardine off the rock. All the same, something must be
risked.

"Brace up good," he said and trusted the pick.

The tool held and he got his chest on the top, but now the blade was
near his body, his reach was short and when he used his hand his stiff
fingers slipped across the snow. It was obvious he must move the pick,
but the tool was his main support and the effort to push it forward
might send him down. Still, if he could get three or four inches higher,
he might, perhaps, balance on the edge.

His boots got no grip on the smooth slab, but when he used his knee his
clothes stuck to the stone. When his waist was nearly level with the top
he pulled out the pick and moved it forward. For a moment or two the
blade came back and he began to go down; then it held and after a stern
effort he was up. The rock above the ledge was broken, and throwing the
rope across a knob, he helped Peter.

Half an hour afterwards, they reached the ridge behind the buttress.
Deering's hands were bleeding and he was not cold. His skin was wet and
he breathed by labored gasps. In front, the ridge went up, unevenly, to
the neck. The narrow, broken top, for the most part, was supported by
precipitous rocks. One must use caution and could not go fast, but after
a time a snow cornice began on one side. The top, leveled by the wind,
was smooth, and, so far as it rested on the stone, was firm. As a rule,
a snow cornice is widest above, and Deering knew if he crossed the line
where it overhung its base he might break through, but the marks in
front indicated where Stannard had gone.

Stannard knew much about snow cornices and Deering wondered whether he
could not have found some grounds for throwing off the rope and letting
Jimmy venture on the dangerous overhang. He had obviously not done so;
moreover he had brought his companions up the buttress. If Deering
himself had meant to let somebody fall, he thought he would have tried
at the awkward slab. In fact, he admitted that to picture Stannard's
weighing a plan like that was theatrically extravagant. Yet he knew
Stannard, who was not the man people thought. He was very clever and if
he plotted to get rid of Jimmy, he would not do so soon after he had
taken him into the mountains. He would wait until he had nearly carried
out his job and was bringing his party down from the rocks. Anyhow,
Deering's business was to overtake the party. To wonder whether he
exaggerated Jimmy's danger would not help.

For a time he made good progress along the cornice, and in the afternoon
he reached the neck. At the end of the ridge Stannard's tracks forked.
One row of footmarks crossed a steep snow-bank running up a peak; the
other went along the hollow neck.

"All the outfit went up the neck and then two or three turned back,"
Peter remarked after examining the trampled snow.

Deering nodded. "Stannard sent them back and pushed ahead with Gillane
to look for a line down the other side. When we get across we'll see
what he was up against."

At the end of the neck they stopped and Deering frowned. He had been
longer than he thought and a pale illumination behind a peak indicated
that the sun was low. In the valley below, he saw a frozen lake and a
dark, winding band he knew was timber on a river bank. He had food, and
if he could reach the trees he need not bother about the frost. A
Canadian grub-hoe, made for cutting roots, is a useful tool, and he
could build a wall of bark and branches, light a fire and brew hot tea.
The trouble was, to get down to the friendly pines.

In front of him, a snow-field sloped to a spot at which two uneven,
converging rows of dark rocks ought to have met. The rocks were the tops
of precipices, but the point of their intersection was cut out, and a
glacier began at the gap. Deering could see for a short distance down
the glacier, until it plunged across the top of a steeper pitch, and
when he used his glasses he noted its surface was crumpled, as if it
broke in angry waves. In fact, it was rather like a rapid suddenly
frozen at the top of a fall. Deering knew it was an ice-fall and the
waves were giant blocks. The rocks at the side were very steep and
veined by snow.

"Nothing's doing there!" he remarked. "I don't see Stannard, but he
won't find a useful line. Let's look for the boys."

They turned and, following the tracks along the neck, after some time
went round a buttress that broke the front of the range. On the other
side three people occupied a little hollow in the rock. One got up
awkwardly.

"It's Peter!" he shouted. "Why, Deering, you grand old sport!"

Deering gave Jimmy his hand and noted that his look was strained and his
face was pinched.

"Miss Laura put me on your track and Mr. Jardine wanted to come along,"
he said and studied the others, who did not get up.

"They've had enough," said Jimmy. "We were two nights on the rocks and
the cold was keen. Stannard's gone to see if we can get down the
glacier, but I don't think he's hopeful. Anyhow, let's go back into our
hole. When you wriggle down under a blanket, it's a little warmer than
outside."

Deering joined the others. A jambed stone partly covered the hole, and
the boys' packs, fur coats and blankets kept them from freezing, but he
saw their pluck was nearly gone.

"What about the police?" he asked, when he had lighted his pipe.

"We don't know where they are," Jimmy replied. "Stannard brought us up
the ridge, but from my shack you see another way up at the head of the
valley. I went over to study the ground and thought the climb harder
than it looks. All the same, I imagine the police have tried it. Of
course, when they got to the snow they wouldn't find our tracks, but
they know we're in the mountains--"

"Then, they're south of us?"

Jimmy nodded. "On this side of the range; they'd reckon on our pushing
south and expect to cut us off. Now you see why Stannard's keen about
getting down the glacier!"

"We can't get down; the ice-fall won't go," said Stevens moodily. "I
doubt if I could get down a ladder. My notion is, Stannard knows his
plan's a forlorn hope and Gillane is badly rattled."

"The fellow's a common packer; Stannard ought not to have hired him,"
Dillon agreed. "Still we couldn't wait and when the Revelstoke man sent
Gillane we were forced to start. Anyhow, I'd trust Stannard where I
wouldn't trust a guide."

"He hasn't hit a useful line yet," Stevens rejoined. "We're held up, and
I doubt if we can stand for another night in the frost."

"I'm willing to go back and risk the police," said Jimmy. "Still, we
couldn't start until daybreak and would be forced to camp again on the
ridge. The valley's not far off; if we can make it."

"We must wait for Stannard's report," said Deering soothingly. "When I
was at the hotel the clerk gave me a letter for you."

Jimmy beat his numbed hands and opened the envelope. Then he laughed, a
dreary laugh.

"In a way, the thing's a joke! Leyland's has something to do with a
Japanese cotton mill and Sir Jim writes from Tokio. He's going to
England by Vancouver and sails on board the first C.P.R. boat. He means
to stop for a few days and look me up--" Jimmy studied the postmark and
resumed: "I expect he's at Vancouver now."

"Your luck is certainly bad," Deering remarked in a sympathetic voice.

"Jim's the head of the house; Dick owns him boss," Jimmy went on. "His
letter's kind, and if he'd arrived before, when I was making good, I
might have got his support. I wanted to persuade him I was not a
careless fool; but when he gets to know my recent exploits--"

Deering imagined Jimmy had wanted his uncle to agree about his marrying
Margaret. Since Sir James was a sober business man, the lad had not much
grounds to hope he would approve his nephew's romantic adventures.

"After all, I rather think we'll cheat the police," he said. "They don't
know where we are and when we make the valley we'll hit up the pace.
I've friends who'll help you across the frontier and you can sail for
England from New York."

"The drawback is, we can't make the valley. Stannard can't lead us
down," Stevens interrupted gloomily.

Deering looked up. "We'll know soon. I hear steps."

Stannard came round the corner, saw Deering, and stopped, rather
quickly.

"Hello! We did not expect you. Were you at the hotel? Have you got some
news?"

"I was at the hotel," Deering replied. "The morning before I got there a
police sergeant arrived. I understand he was curious about your
excursion."

Stannard's glance was keen and Deering thought him disturbed.

"You imply the fellow knew I'd gone to join Jimmy?"

"Miss Laura imagined something like that. But what about the glacier?"

Stannard hesitated and knitted his brows. "I think we'll risk it in the
morning. You see, if we pushed along the range, we might meet the
police. Besides, we must get down to the timber soon."

"You sure can't get down," remarked Gillane, the packer, who had
followed Stannard.

"We'll try," said Stannard, and turning to the others, forced a smile.
"Well, I want some food and Frank might light the spirit lamp. You must
brace up for another night on the mountain, but we're lucky because we
have got a corner where we shan't freeze."



XXX

THE GULLY


Day broke drearily. The sky was dark and snow clouds rolled about the
peaks. In the hollow behind the rock Stannard's party crowded round the
spirit lamp. One could get no warmth, but in the snowy wilds the small
blue flame and steaming kettle called. Moreover, each would soon receive
a measured draught of strong hot tea.

All were numb and their faces were pinched. Stevens was frankly
despondent, and when Dillon broke his hard bannock his stiff hands
shook. Gillane was apathetic, but when Stannard measured out the tea he
joked and Deering laughed. To laugh cost the big man something, but he
knew he must. Stern effort was needed and human effort does not
altogether depend on muscular strength. The packer's mood was daunting
and it was obvious they would not get much help from him.

Jimmy was quiet. He must concentrate on holding out and could not force
a laugh. He admitted he had not pluck like Stannard's. Stannard was
indomitable, and now his gay carelessness was very fine. Although he was
the oldest of the party and his face was haggard, he joked and his jokes
were good. When the meal was over he got up and beat his hands.

"We must get down before dark and I think I know a line," he said. "If
our luck is good, we'll camp in the trees by a splendid fire."

To start was hard, but they got off and the snow was firm. The steep
slope below the neck was smooth and for a time they made progress. Jimmy
remarked the thickening snow cloud and knew Stannard thought it ominous,
for he pushed on as fast as possible. So far, one could use some speed;
the obstacles were in front.

The snow-field stopped at the top of a chain of precipices. The rocks
were broken by the deep gap through which the glacier went, but Jimmy
noted smaller breaks he thought were gullies filled by snow. He could
not see the front of the precipices, but he pictured their falling for
six or seven hundred feet. At the bottom, no doubt, were steep spurs and
long ridges, across which one might reach the trees rolling up from the
valley. The precipice was the main obstacle, but Jimmy did not think the
rocks were perpendicular. Anyhow, the glacier was not, and if one could
cross the ice-falls, it would carry them down. The trouble was, the
cloud was getting thick.

After a time, they stopped at the head of the glacier, and Stannard,
Jimmy and Deering climbed to a shelf that commanded the ice-fall. Mist
rolled about, but for some distance one saw the broad white belt curve
down between the rocks. Then Jimmy saw the fall and set his mouth. The
snowy ice was piled in tremendous blocks and split by yawning cracks.
It looked as if the cracks went to the bottom, and one imagined others,
hidden by fresh snow. Stannard turned to Deering, who shook his head.

"The boys can't make it; I doubt if you can. Nothing's doing!"

"Very well," said Stannard. "I marked a gully about two miles south. I
don't know if you'll like it, but we must get down."

Deering pulled out his watch. "You have got to hustle. The boys can't
stand for another night on the mountain."

When they rejoined the others, it looked as if his remark was justified.
Gillane declared if they could not cross the ice-fall they must stop and
freeze; Stevens owned he was exhausted and doubted if he could reach the
gully. Jimmy would sooner have risked the fall, since he was persuaded
the other line would not carry them down, but if Stannard thought the
line might go, he was willing to try it.

They fronted the laborious climb to the snow-field, and soon after they
got there mist blew across the slope. The party was now drawn out in a
straggling row and by and by Deering stopped and looked about. He knew
two or three were behind him, but he saw nobody.

"Where are the boys?" he shouted.

Peter said he had not seen Stevens and Dillon for some time, but they
were no doubt pushing along and the party's track was plain.

"I'm going back," said Deering. "Watch out for Jimmy."

He plunged into the mist and presently found Stevens sitting in the
snow. Dillon was with the lad and when Deering arrived urged him to get
up. Stevens dully refused and said there was no use in the others
bothering; he could go no farther. Deering pulled him up and shoved him
along.

"You're going to the gully, anyhow," he shouted with a jolly laugh.
"When we get you there, you can sit down and slide."

Dillon helped and some time afterwards they came up with Peter.

"Where's Jimmy?" Deering asked in a sharp voice.

"Stannard reckoned he was near the spot he'd marked. He took a rope, and
Gillane and Jimmy went along. They allowed I must stop to watch out for
you."

"You let Jimmy go!"

"Sure I did," said Peter, with sullen quietness. "I reckon you needn't
bother about Jimmy. Something's bitten you. Stannard's all right. If he
can't help us, we have got to freeze."

Deering said nothing. Stannard's charm was strong, and cold and fatigue
had dulled Peter's brain. There was no use in arguing and he followed
the others' track. He could not see much, for the mist was thick. The
ground got steeper and rocks pierced the snow. It looked as if he were
near the top of the precipice, but so long as the marks in front were
plain he need not hesitate. After a few minutes he saw Gillane. The
packer leaned against a massy block, round which he had thrown the rope;
the end was over the top of the rocks.

"Hello!" said Deering. "What's your job?"

"I'm standing by to steady Mr. Stannard. Top of the gully's blocked, and
he calculated to get in by a traverse across the front. There's a kind
of ledge, but we didn't see a good anchor hold."

Deering remarked that the fellow's grasp was slack and a single turn of
the rope was round the stone. If a heavy strain came on the end, he
thought the rope would run and Gillane would not have time to throw on
another loop. Cold and fatigue had made him careless.

"Get a good hold and stiffen up," said Deering. "I'm going after
Stannard."

The rocks were not as steep as he had thought and the ledge was wide
enough to carry him, but a yard or two in front it turned a corner.
Although the mist was puzzling, Deering thought it melted. In the
meantime, he must reach the corner. Sometimes Jimmy was rash, and if
Stannard allowed him to run a risk he ought not to run, nobody would
know.

When Deering got to the corner, the mist rolled off the mountain top. He
saw a tremendous slope of rock, pierced by a narrow white hollow. For
four or five hundred feet the gully went down and gradually melted in a
fresh wave of mist. Deering noted the sharpness of the pitch and then
fixed his glance on Stannard, who leaned back against the rock. Jimmy,
holding on by Stannard's shoulder, was trying to get past on the outside
of the ledge.

Deering stopped and his heart beat. The others did not see him and he
dared not shout, but if Stannard moved, it was obvious Jimmy would fall.
Stannard did not move, and Jimmy, crossing in front of him, stopped and
looked down.

"The stretch is awkward and you can't steady me," he said. "Still I
think I could reach the slab and slide into the gully. Before we bring
the others, perhaps I ought to try."

"You have a longer reach than mine and you are younger," Stannard
replied.

Deering could not see the slab, but he imagined Stannard had noted
something about it that Jimmy had not. Now Jimmy fronted the other way,
Stannard's hand was at his waist and Deering thought he loosed the knot
on the rope.

"Hold on, Jimmy," he said in a quiet voice.

Jimmy stopped. Stannard turned, and although his look was cool Deering
thought his coolness forced. He leaned against the rock, but Deering saw
his hands were occupied behind his back.

"I thought you went for Stevens," he remarked.

"The kid wasn't far back," Deering replied and laughed. "Gillane's
rattled and half frozen. I reckon he might let you go, but my two
hundred pounds is a pretty good anchor. Slip off the rope and I'll help
Jimmy; he won't pull me off."

Stannard awkwardly pulled out the knot, and Deering, who had thought to
see the rope fall, was baffled. For all that, he knew Stannard's
cleverness and imagined the fellow knew he had experimented.

"I'm going in front of you," he resumed. "Wait until I tie on, Jimmy.
You can't trust the slab."

When he had tied on he braced himself against the rock. Jimmy vanished
across the edge and the rope got tight. After a few minutes he came up.

"So far as I can see, we can get down by cutting steps, but I couldn't
see very far," he said. "Your tip about the slab was useful, Deering.
The top was rotten and a lump came off. I was lucky because I put on the
rope."

"On the rocks caution pays," Deering remarked. "Well, let's get up and
go for the others. Cutting steps for four or five hundred feet is a
pretty long job."

They went back along the ledge, but Deering felt slack and his big hands
shook. He had borne some strain and rather thought that had he arrived a
few moments later Jimmy, and perhaps Gillane, would have gone down the
rocks. Yet he did not know. In fact, he admitted that he might not
altogether know.



XXXI

STANNARD'S LINE


A wave of mist rolled across the rocks, but the vapor was faintly
luminous, as if a light shone through. Deering, Stannard, Jardine and
Jimmy waited on the steep bank above the ledge; Gillane had gone back
for the others. When he arrived the party would start.

Deering knew the venture was rash and the labor heavy. They would use
two ropes and the leader must kick and cut steps in the snow; the others
behind would then occupy the holes and hold him up until he cut another
lot. Cutting steps, however, soon tired one's arms, and when the leader
was exhausted to pull him up and tie on a fresh man might be dangerous.
Then nobody knew what was at the bottom and the gully might break off on
the front of an icy cliff.

All the same, some rashness was justified. Nothing indicated that the
mist would altogether roll away, and in two or three hours it would be
dark. If they stopped for another night on the high rocks, all would
freeze; an effort to reach the timber and camp by a fire was, so to
speak, their forlorn hope. Besides, Stannard was persuaded they could
get down, and Deering admitted his judgment was good. By and by
Stannard gave him a careless glance.

"I'll lead on the first rope and take Gillane and Stevens. Jimmy and the
others will go with you."

Deering wondered. He was resolved Jimmy should use his rope, but
Stannard's proposing it was significant. If Stannard knew why he had
joined them on the ledge, it looked as if he were resigned to let Jimmy
go. Then Stannard pulled out his watch.

"We must get off. Shout for Gillane. Your voice carries well."

Deering shouted and fixed his glance on the slope behind the group.
After a few minutes, two or three indistinct objects loomed in the mist.

"The boys are coming," he said, and resumed in a puzzled voice: "Gillane
went for Stevens and Dillon; but I see _four_."

"There are four," said Jimmy, and Deering's mouth got tight.

He thought the first man did not belong to Stannard's party, and now he
saw two others behind the advancing group.

"The police!" said Stannard, and shrugged resignedly.

Jimmy turned. His face was pinched and his pose was slack, but his look
was calm.

"You have played up nobly, but we're beaten and I've had enough. In
fact, to know I'm beaten is rather a relief."

Deering nodded gloomily. There was no use in trying to get away; the
Royal North-West are empowered to shoot, and, as a rule, shoot straight.
He waited and noted mechanically that Stannard was a few yards nearer
the top of the rocks. By and by a police sergeant stopped opposite the
group.

"We have got you! Don't move until you get my orders," he said, and
signing a trooper, indicated Gillane's party. "Hold that lot off!"

"We are not looking for trouble and the boys won't bother you," said
Deering. "What's your business?"

He turned and glanced at Stannard, who said nothing. The mist was
getting thin and Deering thought his look strained. Gillane had stopped
behind the police, and the sergeant advanced, pulling at his belt.

"I have a warrant, but my hands are frozen and I can't get inside my
coat."

"You can show us the warrant later," said Jimmy. "I'm James Leyland, the
man you want."

"We _don't want you_," the sergeant replied.

Jimmy's legs shook and he sat down in the snow. After the long strain,
his relief was poignant and reacted on his exhausted body. He gave the
sergeant a dull, puzzled look.

"Then whom do you want?"

"Harvey Stannard," said the other, and Stannard turned.

His figure cut the misty background and he carried himself as if he were
not disturbed. In fact, Jimmy imagined he had expected something like
this.

"I am Stannard. Why do you want me?"

"When I can loose my belt I'll read you the warrant. The charge is
killing game-warden Douglas."

"Then Douglas is dead?" said Stannard in a quiet voice.

"He died four or five days since," the sergeant replied.

"Ah!" said Stannard, and braced himself. "Well, I have nothing to state.
I reserve my defense----"

"Stop him!" shouted the sergeant, and leaped across the snow.

Stannard stepped back, stumbled on the steep bank and vanished.

For a moment Jimmy, numbed by horror, wondered whether his imagination
had cheated him. Then he saw Stannard was really gone and he ran for the
ledge. The others joined him, but Stannard was not on the ledge. Two or
three hundred feet below a dark object rolled down a long slab and at
the bottom plunged into a gulf where the gray mist tossed.

"He's gone," Deering remarked to the sergeant. "Perhaps you'll find him
when the snow melts."

They went back to the spot where they had left their packs and ropes.
For a time all were quiet, and then the sergeant said to Deering: "He
beat me, but I don't get it yet. I didn't reckon on his going over; he
stated he reserved his defense."

"Perhaps he was rash," Deering remarked in a thoughtful voice. "In the
meantime, however, we must let it go and think about getting down to
the bush. How did you find us?"

"We went for a neck behind Mr. Leyland's shack. When we saw no tracks we
pushed along the main range. We reckoned you'd gone by the long ridge
and we might cut your trail. We were three nights in the rocks and are
all played out."

"Then you had better join us. We are going to try Stannard's line down
the gully. I don't engage to make the woods, but I don't see another
plan."

The sergeant hesitated. "Stannard hit the line?"

"He declared the line would go," said Deering quietly. "Perhaps you have
not much grounds to trust him, but he was a great mountaineer."

Jimmy turned and threw Deering the end of the rope.

"Don't talk!" he said to the sergeant. "If you mean to join us, tie on.
We must start."

A few minutes afterwards, they crossed the shelf. Deering led, and
Jimmy, going first on the second rope, rather doubted if they would
reach the trees. In summer the long straight crack was obviously the
mountain's rubbish shoot and its sides were ground smooth by rolling
stones; now it was packed by hard, firm snow. To slip would mean a
savage _glissade_, and then perhaps a plunge----

Much depended on the leader's nerve. Reaching down, held by the rope, he
must chip out holes; and then, when the man behind him occupied the
notches, move a foot or two and cut another. Sometimes Deering used his
boots and sometimes the ice-pick; but, for the most part, when his party
had gone across, the holes were broken and Jimmy was forced to cut. The
labor was exhausting and by and by Deering owned he had had enough. The
trouble was to help him back and put another in his place, but Gillane
got into the loop and brought them down some distance. Then he stopped
and for a few minutes all lay in the snow. Mist hid the bottom of the
gully and none dared hope their labor would be lightened much when they
got there. For all they knew they were painfully crawling down to the
top of a precipice. In fact nobody was willing to brace up for the
effort to change the leaders.

After a time Jimmy turned his head. The mist was lifting. It went up in
torn shreds and the bottom of the gully began to get distinct. Where the
dark trough ran out from the rocks a smooth snow-field went down. The
vapor steadily rolled off the slope, until Jimmy saw a vague, dark belt
he thought was timber. His heart beat and he got back his pluck.

"Stannard hit the proper line," he said. "We'll pitch camp in the
woods."

Dillon took Gillane's post, the sergeant took Jimmy's, and they pushed
on. By and by the mist rolled down and hid the pitches below, but, now
all knew where they went, the gloom vanished and slack muscles were
braced. For all that, when they reached the snow-field Deering looked
to the west and frowned.

"The light's going and the trees are a long way off," he said. "Mush
along, boys. You have got to get there!"

In places the snow was loose and to get forward was hard. Jimmy pushed
Stevens for some distance and they were forced to stop for a young
police trooper. On some pitches the snow was hard and slippery, and
rocks with icy tops broke the surface. Dark crept up from the valley and
the trees were behind the ground in front. Yet from the daunting gully
they had looked down across the vast white slope and the picture that
melted like the mist led them on. Ahead were rest and food and warmth.
At length, two or three hours after dark, Dillon stumbled and rolled in
the snow.

"Watch out for the juniper I ran up against," he shouted. "Keep going!
This trail's for the woods!"

Half an hour afterwards Jimmy threw off his pack and leaned against a
spruce. The ground was steep and stony, but rows of small trunks cut the
glimmering snow. All round was fuel and one could build a shelter and
eat hot food. He thrilled and the blood came to his frozen skin. They
had run daunting risks and borne all flesh and blood could bear, but the
strain was done with. They had made it!



XXXII

BY THE CAMP-FIRE


In the timber the cold was not very keen and the tired men braced
themselves for the effort to pitch camp. Peter and the sergeant took
control and soon a big fire burned behind a wall of branches. Against
the wall twigs and thin branches were packed for beds. Where the bushman
can find fuel and material for building he does not bother about the
frost, and in winter the Royal North-West patrols sleep by their
camp-fires far out on the snowy wilds.

A trooper fried pork and doughy bannocks, Deering brewed a kettle of
strong tea, and when all had eaten like famished animals the men, for
the most part, went to sleep. For a time, however, Deering, the
sergeant, and Jimmy sat by the fire and smoked.

On the mountains, they were absorbed by the stern physical effort, and
concentrated mechanically on getting down. Animal instinct urged them
forward, but now the risk of freezing was gone, they began to think like
men. The sergeant and Jimmy were puzzled and imagined they might get
some light from Deering. Jimmy's brows were knit and when he looked
about he frowned. Although he was warm and the hot tea had revived him,
he felt his brain was dull.

Sparks leaped up from the fire; smoke tossed about the camp. One heard
the wind in the pine-tops and the trunks reflected gleams of flickering
light. The mist had blown away, and Jimmy saw far off a dim white ridge
cut the sky. Then he turned his head and shivered, for he knew
Stannard's broken body was somewhere in the rocks and perhaps nobody
would find the spot. Stannard was his friend, a cultivated gentleman and
a famous mountaineer; but he had slipped and gone down the precipice
like a raw tourist. Moreover, although it looked as if he had killed the
game warden, he had said nothing. In fact, it looked as if he were
willing for Jimmy to pay. Yet Jimmy was not persuaded; for Stannard to
use treachery like that was unthinkable.

"You're satisfied I'm not accountable for the shooting accident?" he
said to the sergeant.

"I guess my chiefs are satisfied. Our orders were to leave you alone."

For a few moments Jimmy was quiet. He had carried a heavy load and now
the load was gone. He could urge Margaret to marry him and get on with
his ranching. Perhaps, if she agreed, he might go back to Lancashire,
but he must not yet dwell on this.

"When did your officers find out I had nothing to do with it?" he
resumed.

"Not long since; the day before warden Douglas died. All the time he was
at the hospital we waited for his statement, but got nothing. Although
I've seen men shot, Douglas puzzled me and I reckon he puzzled the
doctors. Sometimes he was sensible, but he didn't talk, and when we
asked him about the shooting he looked at us as if he'd plumb forgot.
Then, one day, it all came back and he gave us his story."

"The night was dark and Douglas could not see much," Deering remarked.
"I expect you had something to go on that helped you fill out his
statement."

The sergeant smiled. "The trooper who measured up the distances and made
a plan of the clearing was a surveyor's clerk. Then Douglas was shot in
the center of his chest, but the mark at the back was to one side.
Besides, we had got Mr. Leyland's hired man; Miss Jardine put us on his
track. He sure doesn't like Mr. Leyland but his tale was useful."

"In fact, if Mr. Leyland had not pulled out, you would not have bothered
him?"

"I expect that is so. When Stannard sent Mr. Leyland off, he reckoned to
give us a useful clue. Our duty was to try the clue."

Jimmy looked up sharply, but Deering said, "Stannard's plan was good,
but your officers are not fools. Then another thing is obvious; if you
had tried very hard, you might have hit Mr. Leyland's trail before."

"It's possible," the sergeant agreed with a touch of dryness. "Maybe the
bosses were after Stannard. But I don't get it all yet. Stannard was not
a fool. I guess he knew we couldn't put it on him that he meant to
shoot Douglas. Since he was using the pit-light, he'd have gone to the
pen, but I guess he could have stood for all he got. Yet when he saw he
was corralled, he stepped back off the rocks!"

"Stannard was an English highbrow. A year or two in a penitentiary would
have knocked him out. Perhaps this accounts for it."

"Oh, well," said the sergeant, "I guess we'll let it go. For three
nights I've shivered on the rocks and I want to sleep."

He lay down on the branches and Jimmy waited. The smoke was gone, the
fire was clear, and red reflections played about the quiet figures at
the bottom of the rude wall. After a time Jimmy thought all slept and he
turned to Deering.

"I don't know if the sergeant was satisfied, but I am not. You imply
that when Stannard stepped back he knew where he went?"

Deering pondered. He saw Jimmy was disturbed and puzzled, but he doubted
if there was much use in enlightening him. Stannard was gone. Jimmy had
trusted the fellow and had already got a nasty knock. Yet if he had
begun to see a light, Deering did not mean to cheat him. He was not
Stannard's champion.

"Well," he said, "it certainly looks like that."

"But why? The sergeant thinks they would not have tried Stannard for
shooting with intent to kill; he declares Stannard could have stood for
all he got."

"I expect that is so. Sometimes, however, people are not logical. For
example, when you thought you had shot Douglas, you pulled out."

"I ought to have stayed. Now I think about it, Stannard rather persuaded
me to go," Jimmy agreed and looked at Deering hard. "When you recently
found out Stannard had gone to my help, why did you go after him?"

"For one thing, I knew he had not got a proper guide. I thought the job
a man's job, and Stevens and Dillon are boys."

"Somehow I feel that's not all," said Jimmy and for a moment or two was
very quiet. Then he resumed: "When Stannard and I were on the ledge you
were at the corner. I was going to jump on the slab, but you shouted."

"Sometimes you're rash. When you jump on a rock, you want to know the
rock is sound."

"The slab was not sound," said Jimmy in a hoarse voice. "Still I was on
the rope and Stannard knew, if I went down, I might pull him off the
ledge----"

He stopped and Deering saw he did not want to solve the puzzle. "It's
done with and you're a stanch friend," he resumed. "Well, I'm very
tired."

Deering gave him a sympathetic nod, and pulling his blanket round him,
got down on a pile of twigs. Jimmy sat with his back against a log and
looked into the gloom behind the black pine-tops. High up on the lonely
rocks a rotten slab dropped to the gully, and, but for Deering's
stanchness, he might have taken an awful plunge. In the meantime, the
cold was keen, his body was exhausted and his brain was dull. He did not
know much and did not want to know all. The thing was done with and he
resolved to let it go. By and by he got down on the twigs by Deering,
stretched his legs to the fire and went to sleep.

In the morning after breakfast the sergeant lighted his pipe and stopped
the troopers, who had begun to roll up their packs.

"We won't break camp yet, boys," he said and turned to Deering. "Mr.
Stevens can't stand for a long hike and my orders were to bring Stannard
back."

"Sometimes the police orders do not go," said Deering dryly. "Until the
snow melts nobody will bring Stannard back. He has cheated you."

"I've got to try and want your help."

"You can reckon on mine," said Dillon and looked at Jimmy. "Laura must
be satisfied----"

"That is so; I'm going to stay," said Jimmy; and when Deering agreed,
the sergeant ordered a trooper and Gillane to start for the railroad.

He stated he must send a report, and Jimmy and Dillon gave the packer
some telegrams. The men set off and soon afterwards the others, leaving
Stevens to watch the fire, began to climb the long steep ridge behind
the camp.

The effort cost them much. All were slack and tired and knew their labor
would not be rewarded. Yet for some hours they struggled across the
snow-fields and searched the rocks with the glasses. In the afternoon
they went back, and lying about the fire, talked and smoked.

At daybreak they started again and reached higher ground. The day was
bright and the rocks and gullies were distinct, but when the sun sank
behind the range, they had found nothing. All the same, Jimmy saw that
when Stannard resolved to try the gully his judgment was strangely good.
There was not another line down the rocks and nowhere but at the bottom
could the party have reached a slope leading to the trees. At length
Deering gave the sergeant his glasses.

"Nothing's on the big gravel bank and we can't get up the cliff," he
said. "I have had enough and I expect you are satisfied. Maybe you'll
find Stannard after the thaw, but when he stepped off the rocks I think
he went for good."

"I've tried," said the sergeant. "Let's get down. At sun-up we'll pull
out for the railroad."

They went back, but after supper nobody talked much. Somehow the camp
was gloomy and Jimmy fought against a vague sense of horror. To know
they would take the trail in the morning was some relief.

At daybreak they broke camp and started downhill. All were glad to go,
but when they reached the valley Jimmy stopped and looked up at the
distant white streak in the rocks. Now he was on level ground, to
picture his crawling down the awful gully was hard, and at the top was
the snow-bank where Stannard vanished.

Jimmy shivered, but after a few moments turned and ran to join the
others. He was young, the sun was on the mountains and the doubts and
horror he had known melted like the dark. The thing was done with, the
load he had carried was gone, and he was free.

Perhaps it was strange, but he began to perceive that the freedom he
thought he enjoyed with Stannard was an illusion. Stannard's light touch
was very firm and he had led Jimmy where he did not mean to go. Laura,
not knowing all she did, had helped him to resist, and when he knew
Margaret, Stannard's control was broken. It looked as if Stannard had
not meant to let him go; but Jimmy refused to speculate about the
other's plans.

At length, so to speak, he was his own man. He had paid for his
extravagance and extravagance had lost its charm. Now he knew no
obstacle to his marrying Margaret, and if she were willing, he resolved
to resume his proper job at the cotton mill. When he thought about it
his heart beat, but Margaret was not yet persuaded, and unless she knew
his relations approved, to persuade her might be hard. Well, Sir James
was at Vancouver; in fact, he was perhaps at the hotel, and Jimmy was
keen to meet him.

Progress, however, was slow. Broken trees and rocks from the mountain
blocked the way, fresh snow had fallen, and Stevens was lame. He had
slept with his wet boots on and his foot was frostbitten. Then Dillon
was slack and moody. His fatigue was not gone, and if Gillane had sent
the telegrams, when the party reached the settlement Laura would be
waiting. Dillon shrank from enlightening her and Jimmy sympathized.



XXXIII

SIR JAMES APPROVES


The sun was low but the light was good, and Jimmy's party, crossing a
hillside, saw a long plume of smoke. The smoke moved and when it melted
the rumble of a distant freight train rolled up the valley. After a
time, they saw telegraph posts, a break in the rocks, and two or three
small houses. Then their fatigue vanished and all went fast, but Jimmy
was sorry for Dillon, whose mouth was tight. Jimmy thought Laura waited
at the railroad and Frank must tell her Stannard would not come back.
Moreover, she must soon know Stannard had shot the game warden and was
willing for Jimmy to pay. When they reached the bottom of the hill he
stopped Dillon.

"I expect Laura has got a cruel knock, but perhaps we can save her some
extra pain. If you take the line you think will hurt her least, I'll
play up, and you can trust Deering."

Dillon said nothing, but gave Jimmy a grateful look. Half an hour
afterwards they pushed through a belt of trees and saw a party waiting
by the railroad. It was obvious the telegrams had arrived. Although the
people were some distance off, Jimmy picked out Margaret, who stood by
a man he did not think was Jardine; the bush ranchers did not wear furs
like his. By and by he distinguished Mrs. Dillon and Mrs. Jardine,
Graham, the section hand, and a police trooper, but they were not
important and he speculated about the stranger, until, when the track
was not far off, he saw a light. Margaret's companion was Sir James
Leyland.

Jimmy frowned. His uncle's arrival was awkward, for he had rather hoped
to work on Margaret's emotion and carry her away. In fact, he had
wondered whether to take her boldly in his arms might not be a useful
plan. Now the plan would not work; although when he stopped in front of
Margaret he saw she was moved. The blood came to her skin and her glance
was very kind. She wore an old fur cap and a soft deerskin jacket; in
fact, her clothes were a rancher's daughter's clothes, but somehow she
was marked by a touch of dignity. She gave Jimmy her hand and he turned
to his uncle.

"You know Miss Jardine, sir?"

"It looks like that," Sir James replied with a smile. "Since you are my
nephew, I felt I ought to know your friends. Then Miss Jardine was kind,
and seeing my curiosity, helped to throw some light upon your romantic
adventures."

Jimmy gave Margaret a grateful look and laughed. "I expect you were
puzzled, sir?"

"To some extent, I was puzzled," Sir James agreed. "I'm a sober and
perhaps old-fashioned business man. The golden days when I was young
and rash are gone, but one recaptures a reflection of their vanished
charm."

"Ah," said Jimmy, "I knew you were human! No days were golden for Uncle
Dick. I expect you know we jarred?"

"Dick indicated something like that, but he has a number of useful
qualities. Perhaps they're inherited qualities, because I think one or
two are yours. For example, I went to see your ranch. You have made good
progress, on sound business lines, although chopping trees is obviously
a strenuous job."

"Do you know much about ranching?" Jimmy inquired.

"I do not. Miss Jardine thought I ought to see the ranch and her father
enlightened me."

Margaret blushed and Sir James smiled. "Friends are useful, Jimmy, so
long as one's friends are good; but we mustn't philosophize. They are
cooking some food for you at the post office and the station agent has
agreed to stop the Vancouver express. He imagines the train will arrive
before very long."

They went to the post office and soon afterwards the train rolled down
the gorge. Jimmy helped Margaret up the steps, gave Peter his awkward
thanks, and jumped on board. By and by the cars sped past a small stone
hut and he wondered whether he was the man who had not long since stolen
down at night to meet the section hand.

When they reached the hotel the guests Jimmy had known were gone, and a
lonely stranger occupied a room. The clerk stated they would shut down
for the winter as soon as the party went, but dinner would be served as
usual in the big dining-room.

Jimmy, refreshed by a hot bath, dressed with luxurious satisfaction. To
wear clean, dry clothes and know others would cook his food was
something new. When he went downstairs Sir James was in the rotunda.

"Now you are the fashionable young fellow I expected to meet," he
remarked with a twinkle. "You see, Dick drew your portrait."

"Oh, well," said Jimmy, "I expect I bothered Dick and perhaps he was a
better friend than I thought. All the same, I hope to persuade you the
portrait was something of a caricature."

Sir James gave him a thoughtful glance. "It is possible. When you came
down the hill at Green River, carrying your heavy pack, your mouth tight
and your eyes fixed, I knew my nephew. Sometimes when the cheap mill
engine stopped and your father put down his pen and took off his coat he
looked like that. Well, it's long since and I have got a title I did not
particularly want; but after all we are new arrivals and the primitive
vein is not yet run out----" He stopped and resumed: "Mrs. Dillon is in
the drawing-room, but we must wait for Miss Jardine. She and her father
are my guests."

"You are kind, but I thought them my guests, sir!"

Sir James smiled. "You are rather dull, Jimmy. After all, I am the head
of your house."

They went to the dining-room and at the door Jimmy stopped. Margaret and
Jardine crossed the belt of polished wood between the pillars, but now
Margaret was not dressed like a bush girl. The deerskin jacket was gone,
her clothes were fashionable and her skin shone against the fine
dark-colored material. Yet she was marked by the grace and balance one
gets in the woods, and Jimmy thought her step like a mountain deer's.
Then he saw his uncle studied him and he crossed the floor.

Mrs. Dillon, Frank and Deering came in, but although Sir James was an
urbane host sometimes the talk got slack. Laura had not come down and
another occupied Stannard's chair.

The stranger Jimmy had remarked dined alone some distance off, but when
Mrs. Dillon got up he joined the group.

"You agreed to give me an interview," he said to Sir James.

"That is so," Sir James replied. "You wanted to see my nephew, I think,
and since we may talk about Stannard, I would like Mr. Deering to join
us."

They went to the rotunda and the stranger pulled out some documents. He
was old and rather fat, but his clothes were fastidiously neat and his
glance was keen.

"You know I'm Mayson, and my London address is on my card," he said.
"The card does not state my occupation, but I lend money."

"I imagined something like that," said Sir James. "Stannard was your
partner?"

"He was my agent. Stannard belonged to exclusive sporting clubs I could
not join; but perhaps this is not important. I understand you are
satisfied he is dead?"

Deering nodded. "Nothing made of flesh and blood could stand for his
plunge down the rocks."

"Since he was a famous mountaineer, I expect you thought his
carelessness strange."

"I have some grounds to think you could account for it," said Deering
dryly.

"We will talk about this again," said Mayson and turned to Sir James.
"Mr. Leyland owes me a large sum; I have brought his notes."

Sir James studied the documents and gave them to Jimmy, who admitted the
account was accurate.

"Very well," said Sir James. "My nephew meets his bills. The interest is
high, but he must pay for his extravagance. Before I write you a check,
I want to see your agreement with Stannard and would like some
particulars."

Mayson gave him a document, and when Jimmy stated that he knew
Stannard's hand, resumed: "Stannard joined me some years since, at a
time when he was awkwardly embarrassed. The combine had advantages.
Stannard had qualities I had not; his friends were fashionable sporting
people. For all that, he was bankrupt and I supplied him with money."

"Exactly," said Sir James. "Still, perhaps Stannard's agreeing to tout
for you was strange. My nephew thought him a fastidious gentleman.
There's another thing: since he was willing to exploit his friends, did
you not imagine he might cheat you?"

Mayson smiled. "Stannard dared not cheat me, and perhaps I can give Mr.
Deering the light he wants. I knew something about Stannard that, had
others known, would have broken him. When we made our agreement, he
declared the person he had injured was recently dead and the risk he ran
was gone. Perhaps he was sincere, but sometimes I doubt. Not long since,
when he began to keep back sums I ought to have got, I made inquiries
and found out that another knew. In fact, it looked as if Stannard were
buying the fellow's silence with my money. Had he been frank, I might
have broken the extortioner, but he was not frank. I think he knew he
had deceived me about the agreement and was afraid. Anyhow, he tried to
meet the demands, until----"

"I think I see," said Deering. "You do not yet know all Stannard's plans
and now they're not important. I expect we can take it for granted that
he imagined the demands could not long be met. Then he saw the police
had found out his part in the shooting accident and he went down the
rocks."

"It looks like that," Mayson agreed.

Deering turned to Jimmy. Jimmy's look was stern and his brows were knit.
Deering thought he saw a light, but he said nothing and Sir James got
up.

"If you will go with me to the office, Mr. Mayson, I will write you a
check."

They went off and soon afterwards Dillon joined Jimmy.

"Laura wants to see you," he said in a disturbed voice. "She knows
Stannard shot Douglas, and it's now obvious he meant you to pay; but I
rather think that's not all. She talks about her not being justified in
marrying me. The thing's ridiculous; if Stannard was a crook, she's not
accountable, but my arguments don't carry much weight. Perhaps you can
help. You agreed to play up."

"I'll try," said Jimmy, and went to the drawing-room.

Nobody but Laura was about and her forlorn look moved him. Her face was
pinched and all her color was gone, but she gave Jimmy a level glance.

"You know I'm sorry," he said, and taking her cold hand, resumed with
some embarrassment: "Frank's my friend and you were very kind. Not long
since I thought----"

"You thought you were my lover?" said Laura in a quiet voice. "You were
lucky because you were not, but had you agreed to go back to the cotton
mill, I might have married you. Now you know my shabbiness."

"I know nothing like that," Jimmy declared. "I do, however, know I owe
you much. You were the first to warn me where my extravagance led. Now I
want to help----"

"Ah," said Laura, "you are generous! I was willing to cheat you and it's
plain my father was not your friend."

Jimmy studied her and thought her afraid. In fact, he began to see why
she had sent for him. Laura was keen; she knew something, but he
imagined she did not know all. Anyhow, he was not going to enlighten
her.

"You mustn't exaggerate the importance of the shooting accident," he
said. "I and Mr. Stannard used our rifles. The night was dark and I
imagined I had hit the warden. I expect Mr. Stannard had no grounds to
think the unlucky shot was his. Until recently, the police believed the
shot was mine."

Laura was quiet for a few moments, and then with an effort looked up.

"My father knew the rocks; he was a famous mountaineer. Yet when the
police sergeant ordered him to stop he went down the bank----"

"After all, his carelessness was not very strange," Jimmy replied. "Mr.
Stannard was leader and had borne a heavy strain; in fact, we were all
exhausted and our nerve was gone. Then the police came out of the mist,
the sergeant shouted, and Mr. Stannard knew they claimed he had shot the
warden. He was startled and, so to speak, mechanically stepped
back----"

He stopped, for although his object was good, he knew Laura's
cleverness. He did not know if he had altogether banished her doubts,
but she gave him a grateful look.

"Frank is your friend," she said in a quiet voice. "He wants me to marry
him. Are you satisfied I ought not to refuse?"

"Why, of course I'm satisfied," Jimmy declared. "You had nothing to do
with the shooting accident; you were my friend before Frank was. I hope
we're friends for good. To refuse to marry Frank is ridiculous. Since
I'm persuaded, you ought not to doubt."

Laura gave him her hand.

"You are stanch, Jimmy, but I'm tired," she said, and let him go.

In the hall Jimmy met Sir James, who said, "I am going for a quiet
smoke. Will you join me?"

"Not for a time, sir. Since I arrived I've been strenuously occupied
doing things I ought. Now I'm going to do something I want to do."

"For example?" Sir James inquired.

"I'm going to talk to Margaret. I hope to persuade her to marry me."

"When I suggested our taking a smoke, my object was to inquire about
your friendship for Miss Jardine. After all, I am your trustee."

"I hope you approve my plan, sir," Jimmy rejoined.

"You know where to stop," Sir James remarked with a twinkle. "Perhaps my
approval carries more weight than you think; because had I not approved,
Miss Jardine would not have agreed."

"Then you have talked to her about it?" said Jimmy with keen surprise.

"Not at all; Miss Jardine is not dull. I soon saw she understood my
importance, but did not mean to use her charm. Her friendliness was
marked by some reserve. In fact, it was plain she acknowledged my
business was to judge if she were the girl for you and she would not
persuade me. Well, I liked her pride, and although we did not talk about
it, I rather think she knew I did approve."

"Thank you, sir," said Jimmy with a grateful look.

Sir James put his hand on Jimmy's arm.

"When I started from Bombay I was bothered about you. Dick had found out
something about Stannard and he imagined that Miss Stannard was his
accomplice."

"Miss Stannard didn't know Stannard's occupation. She is not accountable
for her father."

"That is so," Sir James agreed. "I think Miss Stannard a charming girl,
but she was not the girl for you. Leylands are manufacturers and your
job is to control a big industry; Miss Stannard's is to cultivate her
social talents and amuse herself. Margaret Jardine, however, is our
sort. She's stanch and sincere; you know her pluck and all she risked
for you. You want a wife like that, and I wish you luck!"

Jimmy found Margaret in the drawing-room. Mrs. Dillon had gone off with
Laura, and Jimmy advanced resolutely.

"At Green Lake I asked you to marry me and you refused. Yet you knew I
loved you and perhaps I had some grounds to think----"

The blood came to Margaret's skin. "I did know, Jimmy; but to marry you
because I stopped the trooper was another thing."

"Now you're ridiculous! All the same, in some respects your refusal was
justified. My drawbacks were plain. For all you knew, I was an
extravagant wastrel, and the police were on my track. Since I mustn't
urge you, I was forced to be resigned."

"Sometimes you are rather dull," Margaret remarked and smiled.

"Well, I'm not forced to try for resignation now. I was something of an
extravagant fool, but the police will leave me alone."

"The police were not the obstacle," said Margaret in a quiet voice.

Jimmy laughed. "It looks like that; the trooper who tried to catch us
did not bother you long. If Sir James was the obstacle, he's, so to
speak, removed. You have conquered him and he declared a few minutes
since you were the girl for me. He's a kind old fellow. Don't you think
you ought to indulge him?"

He reached down and took her hands. "I want you, Margaret. My
extravagance is done with. I'm going back to undertake my proper job and
I need your help."

"Then I must try to help," said Margaret, and Jimmy took her in his
arms.


THE END.



_BY THE SAME AUTHOR_

NORTHWEST!
THE MAN FROM THE WILDS
KIT MUSGRAVE'S LUCK
LISTER'S GREAT ADVENTURE
THE WILDERNESS MINE
WYNDHAM'S PAL
PARTNERS OF THE OUT-TRAIL
THE BUCCANEER FARMER
THE LURE OF THE NORTH
THE GIRL FROM KELLER'S
CARMEN'S MESSENGER
JOHNSTONE OF THE BORDER
THE COAST OF ADVENTURE
HARDING OF ALLENWOOD
THE SECRET OF THE REEF
FOR THE ALLISON HONOR
THE INTRIGUERS
PRESCOTT OF SASKATCHEWAN
RANCHING FOR SYLVIA
THE LONG PORTAGE
A PRAIRIE COURTSHIP
SYDNEY CARTERET, RANCHER
THE GREATER POWER
THRICE ARMED
LORIMER OF THE NORTHWEST
DELILAH OF THE SNOWS
FOR JACINTA
WINSTON OF THE PRAIRIE
THE DUST OF CONFLICT
THE CATTLE BARON'S DAUGHTER



Transcriber's Note: The following typographical errors present in the
original text have been corrected.

In Chapter III, a period was changed to a question mark after "do you
think your folks would give me supper".

In Chapter IV, "The oldtime bush-man has no use for game-wardens" was
changed to "The old-time bushman has no use for game-wardens".

In Chapter IX, "her leggings were fringed deer-skin" was changed to "her
leggings were fringed deerskin".

In Chapter XII, "Sometimes he heard cowbells" was changed to "Sometimes
he heard cow-bells".

In Chapter XV, "struck the door-post" was changed to "struck the
doorpost".

In Chapter XIX, a single quotation mark (') was changed to a double
quotation mark (") before "My notion is".

In Chapter XXV, "the snow that streaked the mountainside" was changed to
"the snow that streaked the mountain-side".

In Chapter XXXI, "when they reached the snowfield" was changed to "when
they reached the snow-field".

In Chapter XXXII, "One heard the wind in the pinetops" was changed to
"One heard the wind in the pine-tops".

Also, the list of other novels by Harold Bindloss was moved from the
front of the book to the back.





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