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Title: The Bungalow Boys North of Fifty-Three
Author: Forrester, Dexter J.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: The two Dacre boys succeeding in rescuing their chum from
his unfortunate position.]



                           THE BUNGALOW BOYS
                          NORTH OF FIFTY-THREE

                                   BY
                          DEXTER J. FORRESTER

       Author of “The Bungalow Boys,” “The Bungalow Boys Marooned
      in the Tropics,” “The Bungalow Boys in the Great Northwest,”
              “The Bungalow Boys on the Great Lakes,” “The
               Bungalow Boys Along the Yukon,” etc., etc.

                        WITH FOUR ILLUSTRATIONS
                          BY CHARLES L. WRENN

                                NEW YORK
                            HURST & COMPANY
                               PUBLISHERS



                            Copyright, 1914,
                                   by
                            HURST & COMPANY



                           Table of Contents

                  I. IN THE WHITE SILENCES.
                  II. THE RESCUE OF SANDY.
                  III. THE THIEF IN THE NIGHT.
                  IV. THE TRACKS IN THE SNOW.
                  V. THE WILDERNESS TRAIL.
                  VI. STOPPING TO REST.
                  VII. IN THE TRAPPER’S HUT.
                  VIII. THE GHOSTLY CRY.
                  IX. TOM CALMS JACK’S FEARS.
                  X. THE MYSTERY SOLVED.
                  XI. THE NEW-FOUND FRIEND.
                  XII. THE FRIENDLY INDIAN.
                  XIII. THE INDIAN’S PREDICTION.
                  XIV. SWAPPING STORIES.
                  XV. TOM ON “THE DOGS OF THE NORTH.”
                  XVI. COMING STORM.
                  XVII. THE LOUPS GALOUPS.
                  XVIII. TOM PLAYS DETECTIVE.
                  XIX. OLD JOE’S THREAT.
                  XX. THE END OF THE TRAIL.
                  XXI. THE LITTLE GRAY MAN.
                  XXII. “THE WOLF’S” TEETH.
                  XXIII. SANDY ALONE.
                  XXIV. THE PACK.
                  XXV. HEMMED IN BY WOLVES.
                  XXVI. THE BACK TRAIL.
                  XXVII. FACING DEATH.
                  XXVIII. THE TRAP.
                  XXIX. SANDY HAS A NIGHTMARE.
                  XXX. THE LAW OF THE NORTH.
                  XXXI. A BOLT FROM THE BLUE.
                  XXXII. A PROVIDENTIAL MEAL.
                  XXXIII. OVER THE CREVASSE!
                  XXXIV. A BATTLE ROYAL.
                  XXXV. THE DEATH OF “THE WOLF.”



                THE BUNGALOW BOYS NORTH OF FIFTY-THREE.



                    CHAPTER I—IN THE WHITE SILENCES.


The air in the valley was still as death. Not a wandering puff of wind
swept the white, snow-covered slopes that shot up steeply from either
side of its wide, flat floor; nor had any stirred for several days. The
land was chained and fettered in icy bonds, and would be for many long
weeks.

The river—the Porcupine—that, when the Bungalow Boys had first come to
this valley in the Frying Pan Range, had dashed and sometimes raged
along its shoaly course, was ice-fast. Occasionally from an overburdened
birch or hemlock branch the accumulated snow would fall with a dull
crash.

These miniature avalanches alone broke the white silence. In the dead
stillness they sounded quite loud and startling when they occurred.
There was no twittering of birds nor were there traces of any larger
animals than field mice and small rodents. In the snow, as if it had
been a white drawing-board, these tiny animals had etched their tracks
everywhere as they drove their tunnels or skittered over the surface.

But from round a bend in the river’s course a column of blue smoke could
be seen sagging and wavering almost straight up in the windless air
toward the leaden sky.

The smoke came from an odd-looking craft tied up to the bank of the
river. The boat in question was a small steamer with a single black
smokestack. At her stern was a big cylindrical paddle-wheel to drive her
over the shallows and shoals. For the rest she was homely in the
extreme. In fact, she might not inaptly have been compared to a big
floating dry goods box pierced with windows, and with a pilot house,
like a smaller box, say a pill box, perched on top.

The _Yukon Rover_, which was the name she bore painted on her sides in
big black letters, was of a type common enough along the navigable
waters of Alaska, although she was smaller than most such steamers. Red
curtains hung in the windows of this queer-looking specimen of the
shipbuilder’s art, and the smoke, already mentioned, curled from a fat
stovepipe, suggesting warmth and comfort within.

At the bow, lashed fast to a small flagstaff, was a strange-looking
figure. This was Sandy MacTavish’s Mascot of the White North, the famous
totem pole that the Scotch youth had purchased as a good-luck bringer
when the lads, as described in the “Bungalow Boys Along the Yukon,” were
on their way northward from Seattle.

A door in the forward part of the box-like superstructure suddenly
opened, and out into the frozen, keen air there burst three laughing,
jolly lads. All were bundled up and carried skates. However depressing
the Alaskan winter might have been to many of our readers, it was plain
that these healthy, happy lads were enjoying themselves to the full.
They slipped and slid across the frozen decks, and then made their way
down a steeply inclined sort of gangway leading to the frozen surface of
the river.

Their passage down this runway was not without incident. Sandy MacTavish
was behind his two chums, Tom and Jack Dacre. All were laughing and
talking at a great rate, their spirits bubbling over under the stimulus
of the keen air and the thought of the fun they were going to have, when
a sudden yell from Sandy came as the forerunner to calamity.

“Whoop! Ow-wow! Hoot, mon!” shrilly cried the Scotch youth, as he felt
his feet slide from under him on the slippery, inclined plane leading to
the ice.

“What in the world——!” began Jack Dacre, the younger of the Dacre
brothers, when he felt himself cannonaded from behind by the yelling
Sandy.

His exclamation was echoed an instant later by Tom Dacre, who was in
advance. He had half turned at the almost simultaneous outcries of his
brother and Sandy.

“Gracious!” he had just time to exclaim, when it was his turn to give a
shout.

As Jack had been bumped into by Sandy, so he in turn shot helplessly
against his brother.

In a flash all three Bungalow Boys were shooting down the slippery
gangway. They fetched up in a snow pile at the bottom, a fact which
saved them a hard bump on the frozen surface of the river.

“Whoopee! Talk about shooting the chutes!” puffed Tom, scrambling to his
feet and shaking the powdery snow from his garments.

“Beats the time Sandy went sky-hooting down that old glacier on the
Yukon!” chimed in Jack, half angrily. “What’s the matter with you,
anyhow, you red-headed son of Scotland?”

“I’m thinking I’m loocky to be alive,” muttered Sandy, feeling himself
all over as if to ascertain if he had sustained any mortal injuries.

“I guess we’re the lucky ones,” laughed Tom.

“Yes, we formed a human cushion for your freckled countenance to land
on,” pursued Jack, as Sandy rubbed his nose affectionately. The organ in
question was of the snub variety and decorated with freckles like spots
on the sun.

“Aweel, mon, dinna ye ken that you saved my beauty?” chuckled Sandy
gleefully. “You ought to be glad of that.”

“I’ll fix your fatal beauty, all right!” cried Jack, and he rushed at
Sandy with a whoop.

But the Scotch lad was too swift for him. He dashed off, and at a safe
distance proceeded to adjust his skates.

“I’ll get you yet!” cried Jack, shaking his fist, and then he and Tom
Dacre sat down at the foot of the disastrous gangway and put on their
ice-skimmers.

Jack looked up from his task to perceive Sandy making derisive gestures
at him.

“Hoot, mon, gie me a bit chase!” yelled Sandy, hopping about nimbly and
executing some gliding figures with a taunting air.

“If it’s a chase you’re looking for, that is my middle name!” exclaimed
Jack, and with a shout and a whoop he was off after the other lad. The
steel rang merrily on the smooth ice as Tom swung off after the other
two.

The blood of all three boys tingled pleasantly in the sharp air. Their
faces glowed and their eyes shone.

“You look out when I get hold of you!” exclaimed Jack, as Sandy, for the
'steenth time, eluded his grasp and swung dashingly off, skimming the
ice as gracefully as the swallows soared above the river in the summer
months.

“Yah-h-h-h-h-h!” called Sandy tauntingly, “want a tow-line?”

Sandy gave a loud laugh as, elated at his easy escape from his irritated
chum, he gave a fancy exhibition of figure-making, and at its conclusion
skimmed off again just as Jack’s fingers seemed about to close on his
tormentor’s shoulder.

“I’ll wash your face in the snow when I catch you! Just you see if I
don’t!” shrilly threatened Jack.

A laugh from Sandy was the only answer as he shot off under full steam.
He turned his head to show his perfect command of the fine points of
skating. A broad grin was on his freckled countenance.

“Catch me first, Jack! I’ll bet you——”

“Hi! Look out!” roared Tom.

But his warning came just about the same instant that Sandy, skimming at
full speed over the ice near the _Yukon Rover’s_ hull, gave a howl of
dismay as he felt the ice give way under him.

The next instant he vanished from view as the thin ice—merely a
skimming over the hole chopped early that day to get drinking water out
of the river—broke under his weight.

Jack, close on his heels, had just enough warning to swing aside. The
last they saw of Sandy MacTavish was two hands upheld above the water as
he vanished from view.

Then he disappeared totally.

“Tom! Quick! Help! He’ll be drowned,” yelled Jack at the top of his
voice.



                    CHAPTER II—THE RESCUE OF SANDY.


On the edge of the thin ice that had formed over the top of the water
hole was a bucket. It was used to draw the supply of drinking water, and
to its handle was attached a long rope. Jack, half beside himself with
fright at the sight of Sandy’s plunge and his own narrow escape, stood
as if in a trance as he watched Tom swoop down on the pail.

He had hardly done this when Sandy’s face, blue with cold, appeared
above the water at the edge of the hole.

“Ouch! Ow-w-w-w-w! Fellows, canna ye get me oot of this before I freeze
to death?”

“All right, Sandy old man. Hold on! We’ll get you out!” cried Tom
encouragingly.

“It’s cuc-cuc-cold!” stuttered the Scotch youth, his teeth clicking like
a running fish reel as he clung desperately to the solid ice at the edge
of the hole.

Tom’s answer was a reassuring shout, and, aided by Jack, who had quickly
recovered from his temporary paralysis, he came swiftly toward Sandy
with the rope from the bucket in his hands. As he skated toward the
unfortunate Caledonian youth his hands nimbly made a loop in the rope.
He flung this over Sandy’s head and then, with a mighty heave and yank,
the two Dacre boys succeeded in rescuing their chum from his unfortunate
position.

“Now you get back to the boat as fast as you can,” ordered Tom, half
angry and half amused at Sandy’s plight.

“It was Jer-Jer-Jack’s fault!” chattered the unfortunate one.

“Why didn’t you look where you were going?” demanded Jack. “You gave us
the scare of our lives!”

Sandy appeared to be about to make an indignant reply, but Tom checked
him.

“You two fellows fight this out another time,” he ordered sharply.
“Sandy, get into the cabin right away. There’s some hot tea on the
stove. While you’re getting into dry things I’ll fix something up for
you. Get a move on now.”

Sandy, without a backward glance, took his way up the gangway, followed
by the others. Both Mr. Chisholm Dacre, uncle of Tom and Jack, and his
partner in the enterprise that had brought the party north, were away
back over the snowy mountains on a trip to a distant post for
provisions. The boys were not sorry for this, under the circumstances.

And now let us leave them for a time while Sandy is being half scalded
to death with hot tea and vigorously rubbed with rough, scratchy towels,
and explain in some detail, to those who do not already know them, who
the Bungalow Boys are, and what they are doing in the frozen north in
the dead of winter not long before Christmas time.

We first met the lads in the “Bungalow Boys,” a volume devoted to their
doings and adventures, grave and gay, in the Sawmill Valley in Maine,
where, by a series of strange events, they fell “heirs” to a cozy
bungalow, which fact resulted in their being known as the Bungalow Boys.
It was a name bestowed upon them after they had routed a band of
counterfeiters who made their haunt in the valley and caused all sorts
of trouble for the boys, whom the gang viewed as interlopers.

Adventures came thick and fast to the boys and their companion, a
certain wise and lovable, though eccentric, professor. The latter, by
accident, stumbled on the counterfeiters’ den, an odd, cavern-like place
cunningly concealed on a cliff summit above a small lake opposite to the
bungalow. The boys, too, had many thrilling experiences, the memory of
one of which lingers particularly. Our readers will have no trouble in
recalling Tom’s adventure in the flooded cave following his battle with
the enraged moose, and his subsequent adventures with the Trulliber
gang. In this volume, also, Mr. Chisholm Dacre, the Bungalow Boys’
uncle, appeared after a mysterious absence, the cause of which was fully
explained in the unraveling of events.

We next encountered our fun and adventure-loving heroes down in
equatorial seas. In the “Bungalow Boys Marooned in the Tropics” their
experiences in search of sunken treasure were set forth in full. In an
exciting narrative, warm with the color and life of the tropics, the
tale of their adventures and perils below, as well as above, the ocean
was told. How Tom saved Mr. Dacre’s life from a huge devilfish far under
the surface of the sea was but one of the experiences that occurred on
that expedition. Jack and Sandy, too, came in for stirring times, not
the least of which was the incident of the haunted cabin on the desert
island and their “laying of the ghost.”

The “Bungalow Boys in the Great North West” dealt with very different
scenes. In this book we made the acquaintance of Mr. Colton
Chillingworth, the sturdy, sterling-hearted ranchman and friend of Mr.
Dacre. How the boys incurred the enmity of a band of Chinese smugglers
and how they acquitted themselves in several trying situations may all
be read there, together with much information about that wonderful
section of our country.

The great bodies of fresh water lying on our northern boundary line
provided the setting for yet another volume which was called “The
Bungalow Boys on the Great Lakes.” In a Lake Huron “hummer” the boys
began a series of remarkable experiences. Setting out for a pleasure
cruise, they found that they were once more called upon to face
difficulties and dangers. Doubtless the hardened muscles and
self-reliance developed in them by their other adventures helped them to
meet these with fortitude and success. The secret of Castle Rock Island
was one well worth finding out, as those who have read the book in
question know.

Then came a succeeding volume, “The Bungalow Boys on the Yukon.” The
“Golden River” of Alaska, that vast territory “North of Fifty-three,”
was traveled by the lads and their elders in the stout little craft, the
_Yukon Rover_, which we have already encountered in “winter quarters” in
the present volume. Sandy, as usual, got into many scrapes, and Tom and
Jack met with an extraordinary experience at the hands of two demented
gold miners, who imagined that they had discovered a new El Dorado. From
these two victims of the mad lust for gold they finally made their
escape with the aid of a good-hearted, though comical, negro.

Their object in navigating the Yukon was to establish winter quarters
for an unique industry, namely, the trapping and breeding of the rare
and expensive silver fox and black fox. The animals were to be taken
alive in specially designed box-traps, and when enough had been captured
they were to be shipped to Mr. Chillingworth’s ranch in the state of
Washington and set at liberty to breed in a climate believed to be
excellently suited to them.

Perhaps some of our young readers may think this a very queer form of
enterprise. To these it must be explained that the project in which Mr.
Dacre, the Bungalow Boys’ uncle, and Colton Chillingworth, the rancher,
were partners was by no means a chimerical one. Good silver fox pelts
bring in the open market from fifteen hundred to twenty-five hundred
dollars each, and black fox pelts even more than that. If it was
possible, therefore, to raise them in numbers, there would be almost
literally a “gold mine” in the business. At any rate, both the partners
thought well enough of the idea to sink considerable capital in
perfecting their plans.

An important part of their scheme was to preserve its secrecy, for
rivals might prove troublesome. With this object a steamer had been
chartered and the _Yukon Rover_, in sections, transported to the
northland. She was put together at St. Michaels, near the mouth of the
Yukon River, and loaded with “duffle,” traps and material for
constructing a well-equipped “trapping-line,” had climbed the swift,
shallow river to its junction with the Porcupine.

In the “Bungalow Boys Along the Yukon” we saw them in the earlier stages
of the enterprise, which was now in active operation. The trapping
season had opened, and already in several specially constructed cages
close by the _Yukon Rover_ were some choice specimens of silver and
black foxes. But many more would be needed before the spring came, and
the adventurers with their valuable living cargo could “go out,” as
returning to civilization is called in Alaska. The enterprise had
succeeded so far in a manner very gratifying to both the partners. As
for the boys, they were enjoying themselves to the full. But it was not
all play. They had been brought along to “make themselves useful,” as
well as to have fun. Already they had become hardy snow travelers and
experienced trappers, and so, when this story of their doings opens, we
find them well content with their situation and delighted at the
successful way in which the trapping had so far gone forward.

But already there were signs that what Mr. Dacre and Mr. Chillingworth
had feared, namely, the enmity of the professional trappers of the
country had been aroused. As small clouds precede a mighty storm, so
slight signs may indicate coming trouble. Mr. Chillingworth had himself
been a trapper when younger and he knew the wild, half-savage traits of
most of this class of men well.

Jealous of intrusion on what they deem their rights to the wild lands,
distrustful as wild animals and vengeful, and experienced in the ways of
the silent places, they make enemies not to be despised. This fact the
boys were closer than they thought to discovering, and that before many
hours had elapsed.



                  CHAPTER III—THE THIEF IN THE NIGHT.


“_Say, Tom!_”

The elder of the Dacre boys awakened with a start from a sound sleep to
find his brother Jack bending over him. That is, he knew it was Jack
from the lad’s voice, but, as for seeing him, that was impossible, for
the cabin of the _Yukon Rover_ was pitchy dark.

“What’s up, Jack? What’s the trouble?” “It’s something over by the fox
cages.” Jack’s voice was vibrant with anxiety. As for Tom, he was up in
a jiffy. In the cages, as has been mentioned, were some half dozen
silver foxes and one black one. In all, about seventy-five hundred
dollars’ worth of pelts “on the hoof,” as it were, were confined in the
big wooden cribs.

That night before they had turned in, Tom and Jack, leaving Sandy in his
bunk recuperating from his ducking of the afternoon, had visited the
cages and fed their valuable charges with the fish which formed their
main article of diet.

“It is really like being left as watchmen in a bank,” Tom had laughingly
remarked as they saw to it that all was secure for the night.

“Well, I don’t think it is likely that anyone would care to tackle
valuables like these foxes,” Jack had rejoined, as the animals sprang
snapping and snarling viciously at the fish, “that is, unless they were
like the Spartan boy in the old reader come to life again.”

“I’m not so sure about that,” had been Tom’s grave reply. “Before Uncle
Dacre and Mr. Chillingworth left, they warned me to be constantly on the
lookout for trouble, and to spare no pains in watching the foxes at
every possible opportunity.”

“But who in the world can they be afraid of up here in this desolate,
uninhabited part of the world?” Jack had asked, gazing about at the
solitary, snow-covered slopes, the drooping balsams and the long stretch
of empty, frozen valley.

“As for its being uninhabited, I’m not so sure of that,” Tom had
replied. “You remember those two miners 'way back in the hills where we
thought no human being had penetrated; and at this time of year, Mr.
Chillingworth said the trappers are ranging all through this part of the
country.”

“You mean that you imagine they thought there would be danger of
somebody bothering our foxes?” Jack had inquired anxiously.

“That is just what I mean,” Tom had said. “Of course they didn’t say so
in so many words, but I’ll bet that was what was on their minds. To lots
of trappers there’s a fortune right here in these cages.”

This was food for reflection, and Jack had been in a wakeful mood all
that night. What the hour was he could not imagine, but a short time
before he aroused Tom, he had heard a soft crunching on the snow outside
in the direction of the fox cages, followed by a sound as if the pens
themselves were being tampered with.

He had leaped from his bunk with a bound and made for his brother’s, Tom
being the accepted leader of the Bungalow Boys.

“Close the shutters!” were the first orders Tom gave.

“What for?” Jack could not refrain from asking.

“So that no light can get outside” was Tom’s reply, “while we jump into
some clothes and see what’s up.”

The shutters he referred to were used when an unusually heavy wind came
up. They were felt lined and excluded every bitter draft. At such times
ventilation was obtained from a device in the roof of the cabin. Jack
soon had the solid blinds closed and fastened, and then he struck a
match and lit the hanging lamp. The next task was to arouse Sandy while
they hastily dressed. The Scotch lad was hard to awaken, but at length
he sat up blinking and drowsy, and Tom rapidly informed him of what Jack
had heard.

“Huh! I’ll bet it was nothing but just a wolverine,” spoke Sandy
scornfully.

Wolverines, the gluttons of the northland, had assailed the fox pens
quite frequently, being attracted by the odor of fish. In one instance
the black fox’s pen had been almost demolished by the steel-clawed,
truculent robber of the northern woods.

“Maybe that’s what it was,” said Jack anxiously, inwardly much relieved.
As a matter of fact he had not much relished the notion of creeping out
into the night upon possible human intruders.

“Well, if it is wolverines, we’ll have a chance to nail them
red-handed,” said Tom, “so get a move on and jump into your ‘parkee’.”

Sandy saw from Tom’s face that there was no use delaying any longer and
he lost no time in obeying. Then, armed with rifles, having carefully
extinguished the light, the boys crept softly out into the night.

It was bitterly cold, but to the north the famous “Lights” flashed and
burned against the sky, shedding a softly luminous radiance on the white
covering of the earth.

“Ugh!” shivered Jack under his breath, “isn’t it cold, though!”

“Hoot!” grunted Sandy disgustedly, “if it hadna’ been for you and your
false alarms, we might ha’ been in our beds the noo’ instead of trapsing
around oot here like a lot of gloom-croons.”

“Hush!” breathed Tom impatiently; “what’s the matter with you fellows?
Can’t you move quietly?”

“Oh, aye!” rejoined Sandy. “In my opeenion, yon noise was nought but a
pack o’ bogles.”

“Then they’re the first ghosts I ever heard of that carried hatchets,”
retorted Tom sharply, although in a low whisper. “Hark at that!”

They all paused just within the doorway of the _Yukon Rover’s_
deck-house, into which they had withdrawn, and listened intently.

Over against the hill there could be made out in the faint glow of the
Northern Lights a number of dark blotches sharply outlined by their
white background. These blotches they knew were the fox cages. In other
words, the “safes” containing the four-footed wealth they had been set
to guard.

“Can you see anything?” asked Jack under his breath.

“I’m not sure,—just a minute,—yes! Look there!”

“Where?” demanded Jack, his eyes burning and his heart giving a violent
thump.

“Right by the last cage.”

“The one that the black fox is in?”

“Yes.”

“By hookey, I do! It’s—it’s———”

“A man!”

“Holy smoke! What’ll we do now?”

“Get after him, of course. Come on!”

Clutching his rifle in his gloved hands Tom started forward, but before
he could move another step he stopped short. From over by the black
fox’s cage there came a shot and a blinding flash.

“He’s shooting!” cried Sandy in real alarm.

“Yes, but not at us,” rejoined Tom excitedly, springing forward once
more, “it’s the black fox he is after. We’ve got to head him off in that
little game.”



                   CHAPTER IV—THE TRACKS IN THE SNOW.


As they ran across the bridge of planks connecting the _Yukon Rover_
with the shore, the boys saw something else. Standing by the cages in
such a position that they had not seen it before was a dog-sled.

Even as they were still on the gangway the form of a man glided through
the darkness toward the sled. In his arms he held a bundle of some sort.

“Stop where you are!” cried Tom, guessing with a catch at the heart what
it was the man was carrying.

There was no reply. The man had reached the sled and bent swiftly over
it an instant.

Crack!

Jack gave a jump. The man was not shooting. It was the sharp crack of
his dog-whip, sounding like the report of a pistol on the frozen air,
that had startled the boy.

The dogs started forward. The sled creaked on the hard, packed snow. It
began to glide off through the night like a phantom.

“Stop or we’ll fire!” shouted Jack excitedly.

He raised his rifle but Tom sternly grasped his arm.

“None of that,” ordered the elder Dacre boy sternly.

“But—but he’s a robber, or at least attempted to be one,” sputtered
Jack indignantly.

“That makes no difference. We don’t want any shooting.”

“Hoosh!” exclaimed Sandy disgustedly, “you’re going to let him get clear
away.”

Before Tom could check him, the Scotch boy had leveled his rifle and
fired in the direction of the sled, which could now only be made out as
a dark object gliding swiftly off over the snow.

From that direction there floated back to them a laugh. It was a
derisive sound that made Tom’s blood boil, but he kept his head.

“You do anything like that again, Sandy,” he said, turning on the Scotch
lad, “and you’ll have me to settle with.”

“But we can’t let him get away like that without raising a
finger,—hoosh!” exclaimed Sandy indignantly.

“Let’s first see if he has really done any harm,” said Tom, “he may have
only intended it and we have frightened him off.”

But although he spoke hopefully, Tom’s inner senses told him that the
daring marauder had done more than merely alarm them. In the first
place, there was the shot coming from the direction of the black fox’s
cage. To Tom that could mean only one thing and that was that the
intruder had killed the occupant of the cage. In fact, that was the only
way that he could have secured his prey, for the foxes were wild and
savage to a degree, and it would have been impossible for anyone to
abstract them alive.

All these thoughts and conclusions flitted through his mind while Jack
and Sandy, at his orders, were getting a lantern. When it arrived, the
three boys in any but enviable frames of mind made their way as quickly
as possible to the fox cages.

The animals were excited and frightened, and through the darkness their
anxious eyes glowed like jewels as the lantern light struck them. This
showed Tom that at least six of the cages still held their occupants.
But the seventh, the one that had been used to hold the black fox, was
apparently empty.

When they reached the pen in question even Tom could not refrain from
exclamations of anger, for the cage had been ripped open and the black
fox was indeed gone.

On the snow were blood-stains in plenty, and enough mute evidence of the
slaying and theft to enable them to reconstruct everything that had
happened as well as if they had seen it all.

“Oh! wow! Fifteen hundred dollars gone ker-plunk!” wailed Jack.

“Hoots-toots,” clucked Sandy, clicking his tongue indignantly, “the
bonny black fox killed and taken by that gloomerin’ thief!”

Tom alone was silent. The suddenness and completeness of the catastrophe
had overwhelmed him. What could they say to Mr. Dacre and his partner
when they returned from the settlement? What explanation could they make
that would excuse their seeming carelessness?

As Tom stood there beside the empty cage with the blood-stained snow at
his feet, he passed through some of the bitterest moments of his life.
He was fairly at a standstill. In the dark it would be impossible to
overtake the bold thief, and there was no means, of course, of sending
out a warning as might have been done in a civilized region.

No; the thief had vanished and there appeared to be not the remotest
chance of ever catching him. Any trader would be glad to buy the black
fox skin, and with the proceeds the marauder could easily leave the
country, leaving no trace behind him.

“What will Uncle Dacre say?”

It was Jack who voiced Tom’s gloomy thoughts. With his younger brother’s
words a sudden resolution came into Tom’s mind. Undoubtedly he, as the
one in charge of the camp, was responsible for the loss of the black
fox. It would never be seen alive again, of that he was sure.

But its skin? That was valuable. If he could only recover that, it would
at least be partial restoration for what he, perhaps unjustly, felt was
a neglect of his duty.

He came out of his reverie. Swiftly he set about examining the remainder
of the cages. They had not been tampered with. No doubt the thief knew
that he was not likely to have time to rob more than one cage
undisturbed after the noise of his gun had aroused those who were
undoubtedly on watch. With this in mind he had taken the most valuable
of the lot.

Tom’s eyes fell on the tracks of the dog-sled on the hardly frozen snow.
They lay there in the yellow lantern light as clean cut and conspicuous
almost as parallel lines of a railroad.

The boy knew that the sled must be packed heavily, probably with all the
paraphernalia of a traveling trapper. The question of how the man had
come to find out about the valuable collection of foxes on the bank of
the Porcupine River, Tom, of course, could not guess. But one thing he
did know—that the thief had left behind him a valuable trail which it
would be as easy to follow as the red line on a map indicating a
transcontinental railroad.

And that track Tom meant to follow before it grew cold. They had no dog
sleds, but they knew that the man with his heavy load could not make
very fast time. Before daylight, long before the first glimmerings of
the brief winter’s day of the north, the boys’ arrangements had been
completed.

Snow-shoes were looked over and thongs inspected, tea and provisions
packed into provision bags secured with “tump-lines,” and everything put
into readiness for the long trail that Tom and Jack (for his younger
brother was to be his companion) were to strike. As the boys had been in
the habit of going thus equipped over the long trap-line, and had become
adepts on snow-shoes, these preparations did not take long.

Sandy was almost in tears when it was decided that he was to be left
behind. But it was necessary for someone to be there to feed and guard
the foxes, and to be on hand to meet Mr. Dacre and his partner on their
return from the settlements and explain matters to them. Tom was not
certain just when their elders would get back, but he entertained a
vague hope that it might be possible to overtake the thief and secure
the black fox pelt before that time.

As the two lads glided off in the dim gray light, moving swiftly along
the thief’s trail on their snow-shoes, Sandy stood and watched them till
they were almost out of ear-shot.

“Good-luck!” he shouted and saw them turn and wave, and then, feeling
very depressed and alone, he turned back to the _Yukon Rover_ and to the
foxes which were already barking and whining for their fish.



                    CHAPTER V—THE WILDERNESS TRAIL.


It is a peculiarity of the wilderness, be it in the frozen north or
under the blazing sun of the southwest, that it breeds in its dwellers
and sojourners a stout and hardy independence and self-reliance that no
other life can. In the midst of primitive solitudes, where man has to
battle with nature for his means of life, every quality of hardiness and
ingenuity that may have been dormant in civilization is called forth by
that stern task-mistress, necessity.

Thus it was that, though only boys so far as years were concerned, their
many adventures had made of Tom and Jack Dacre two woodsmen of unusual
competence, considering that they had not been born and bred to the
life. Brown as berries, with muscles like spring-steel, and in the pink
of condition, the lads were as well equipped almost as veteran woodsmen
to fight the battle of the wilds which lay before them.

As they glided along over the hard crust of the snow, always with the
trail of the sled stretching before them, a sort of feeling that was
almost exultation came over them. Both boys possessed a love of
adventure, a delight in meeting with and conquering difficulties and
asserting their manliness and grit, and surely if ever they had an
opportunity before them for the exercise of these faculties they had it
now.

Along with their heavy garments and thick hoods, the lads carried packs
and their rifles, besides ammunition. In his belt each lad had a stout
hunting knife and a serviceable hatchet. Stoutly laced leather boots
encased their legs as far as the knees, and altogether, to anyone
encountering them, they would have looked to the full the part of
efficiency and capability demanded by the problems of the north woods.

As they ascended the valley and the tracks they were following began to
leave the side of the river, they found themselves gliding through open
woods of spruce and balsam. In these woods signs of animal life began to
be plentiful. Everywhere the parallel lines of the thief’s sled were
criss-crossed with tracks of martens, and scored deep with the runways
of the big hares.

Sometimes they came on a spot where a pitiful little pile of bedraggled
fur and scattered splashes of scarlet showed that a weasel or an ermine
had made a banquet on some small woods creature.

It was when within a short distance of one of these mute evidences of a
woodland feast that Tom, who was in advance, came to a stop. Jack also
made a quick halt. Running parallel to the trail of the sled was another
track,—that of an animal.

Tom dropped his rifle butt on the ground and looked at Jack with
quizzical eyes.

“One of our old friends!” he said with a short laugh.

The trail, which was somewhat like that of a small bear but much
narrower in the feet, was a thoroughly familiar one to them. It was that
of the most cunning creature to be found north of fifty-three, and one
that is pretty well distributed throughout the wild regions of the
north.

It was, in fact, the track of a wolverine, carcajou, or, to give him the
trapper’s and woodsman’s expressive title, “the Glutton.” No animal is
so detested by the trappers. The wolverine’s hide is of little value,
but one of his banquets, made invariably at some luckless trapper’s
lure, may destroy a skin worth a hundred dollars or more.

Among his other talents, the Glutton is possessed of a sense of smell
and wariness keener than that of a fox. No bait has yet been devised
that will lure him into a trap, no poisoned meat, no matter how
skillfully set out, has, except on rare occasions, been known to tempt
him. And so the wolverine, low, black and snakey-eyed, with ferocious
teeth and claws, roams the northern woods seeking what, of other’s
capture, it may devour. Nor does it confine its depredations to the
trap-lines.

Many a trapper on reaching one of his huts where he has carefully cached
away his flour and bacon to serve in an emergency, has found that it has
been raided in his absence by wolverines, who have spoiled what they
could not destroy. The camp of our friends on the Porcupine River had
been visited on several occasions by wolverines, but they had merely
contented themselves with prowling about the fox-kennels and on one
occasion ripping open a fish-pound and devouring all the supply of fox
food contained therein.

“I’ll bet that fellow has smelled the blood of the black fox on that
rascal’s sled and is on his track,” exclaimed Tom, as the boys stood
looking at the often anathemized footprints.

“In that case he may get to the carcass before we do,” remarked Jack.

“Not very probable,” said Tom; “you can be sure that a man carrying a
valuable skin like that would guard it day and night, and——”

He stopped short and his brown face grew confused. It had just occurred
to him that to guard the black fox day and night was just what they
ought to have done. Jack noticed his confusion.

“Cheer up, old fellow,” he struck in consolingly, “it couldn’t be
helped, and——”

“But don’t you see that that is just what we can’t explain to Uncle
Dacre and Mr. Chillingworth?” demanded Tom. “How are we to get them to
see that it couldn’t be helped?”

Jack looked rather helpless.

“But we’ll get it back,—at least we’ll get the skin,—if we ever catch
up with this chap,” he insisted.

“Yes, and that ‘if’ looks as big as the Washington Monument to me right
now,” responded Tom, “but come on. Hit up the trail again. I wonder how
much ahead of us he is, anyhow?”

“Funny we haven’t struck any of his camps yet. He must have stopped to
eat.”

“The very fact that he hasn’t shows what a hurry he is in, but if he
keeps on at this rate his dogs will give out.”

“And that will give us our chance?”

“Exactly. He must guess that we are on his track and is going to drive
ahead like fury.”

“But he can get fresh dogs.”

“Not without entering a settlement, and I guess he wouldn’t take a
chance on doing that just yet.”

“If only we could get another dog team and a good guide, we could run
him down without trouble.”

“I’m not so certain of that, but anyhow I’d rather have the dogs than
the guide. A blind man could follow this trail.”

After this they pushed on in silence, watching as they went the stealthy
tracks of the wolverine following, like themselves, the unknown marauder
of the night.



                      CHAPTER VI—STOPPING TO REST.


Large natures are apt to take heavy blows more calmly, at any rate so
far as outward appearances are concerned, than smaller ones. The Dacre
boys, broadened and deepened by their adventurous lives, were not as
cast down over the disaster that had befallen them as might have been
many lads less used to meeting hardships and difficulties and fighting
them as American boys should.

Therefore it was that, keen as was their interest in the stake that lay
ahead of them, they yet found time to notice the sights about them and
to talk as they moved along over the snow much as they might have done
under quite ordinary circumstances.

If anything, Jack had shown his anger and chagrin more perceptibly than
Tom when the blow had first fallen. But now he was in as perfect command
of his faculties as his elder brother. He was able even to crack a joke
now and then with seeming indifference to the object of their journey
and the perils that might lie in front of them, perhaps just around the
next turn of the trail, for all that they knew.

As for Tom, following the calm, almost stoical way with which he had met
the discovery of their loss, he had become possessed of an unconquerable
desire to find the man who had robbed them and if possible hand him over
to the authorities. Failing this, Tom found himself possessed of a grim,
bulldog determination to make the man give up the spoils. As for the man
himself, he felt no wish to punish him under those circumstances. That
was for the law to do. The main thing was to get back the black fox’s
skin, for he was sure the creature had been killed.

At about noontime Tom called a halt. Jack was for pressing right on
without stopping to eat, but Tom would not allow this.

“It’s no use two fellows wearing themselves out,” he said; “we shall
work all the better for having stopped to ‘fire up.’”

“Well, it looks to me like so much lost time,” observed Jack, siting
down, however, at the foot of a tree and loosening his snowshoe thongs.
This was in itself a sign of weariness, but Tom pretended not to notice
it.

He set Jack to work hacking fragments from a dead hemlock which was
still upstanding, for, although there were plenty of fallen trees about,
timber that has been lying on the ground is never such good kindling as
upstanding deadwood, because it is almost sure to be damp. While Jack
was about this task, Tom cleared a space in the snow, and then he drew
from his pack a blackened pot, which had boiled tea on many a trail.

When Jack had the kindling and some stouter bits of wood for the
permanency of the fire, Tom filled the pot with snow and then set a
match to the pile of shavings. They had been raked together lightly and
the heavier wood set up in somewhat the form of an Indian’s tepee.

The dry kindling caught as if it had been soaked in kerosene. Up shot
the cheery red flames, and the blue smoke curled merrily away as the
wood crackled joyously. There is magic in a fire in the woods. In a
trice a match and dry timber can convert a cheerless camp into a place
fit for human habitation and happiness.

The snow was melted by the time the kindling had died down and Tom could
make a bed of red coals. In these he set the pot once more, this time
with tea added to the boiling water. It was sweetened with some of a
precious store of molasses, carried in a bottle and used as a special
luxury. As for milk, even of the condensed variety, the Bungalow Boys on
their trips along the trap line had long since learned to do without it.

With jerked deer meat, prepared the week before, and some soggy
flapjacks baked in an aluminum oven, they made a satisfactory meal. By
way of dessert, each boy stuffed some dried apricots into his mouth to
chew as they moved along. Thus refreshed, thongs were tightened, duffle
packed, and they were once more ready for the trail.

All that afternoon they followed along the man of mystery’s track, but
in no place could they find a spot where he had paused to camp. He must
have eaten whatever refreshment he had while riding on his sled or while
on foot, for no traces of a fire or a resting place could the boys’ eyes
discover.

One clew alone the thief had left behind him, and that was in the form
of numerous stubs of cigarettes which had been rolled by hand out of
coarse yellow paper. But outside of this sign there was nothing but the
sled marks to guide them. One thing about the trail that has not yet
been mentioned is that the man was back-trailing. That is to say that,
on leaving the boys’ camp, he had followed the same path by which he had
come, and in places the two tracks could be seen where the sled had
swung out a little.

After a time they found that a snow storm, which must have fallen in the
vicinity during the night, had entirely wiped out the “coming” track,
leaving only the fresh marks of the “going” trail.

From this fact the boys deduced that the man might have turned off
somewhere on his journey to their camp, but they cared little for this.
It was his fresh trail that they were following hot upon, like hounds
upon the scent.

All the way, too, went the trail of the wolverine, and, judging from the
tracks, the boys guessed that the animal had been traveling fast. This
looked ominous, for the wolverine is not, as a rule, an energetic
animal, and proved at least to Tom’s mind that the robber must be
traveling very quickly.

He pointed this out to Jack, who agreed with him. But neither of the
boys said a word about turning back. They were far too nervy for that,
and, having started out, such an idea as quitting did not once enter
their heads. All that afternoon they kept grimly on.

At about three o’clock, or shortly thereafter, the sun grew dim and low.
Half an hour later only a pale twilight lingered about them, for at that
time of year in the northern wilds the evening sets in early.

Above their heads, from the darkening canopy of the sky, the stars, a
million pin points of light, began to shine. The snow turned a dull,
steely blue as the light shut in. A slight breeze stirred in the
hemlocks and spruces. It began to grow noticeably colder, too.

But as the daylight died another light, a wonderful mystic glory of
radiance, began to glow in the northern sky. Against its wavering,
shimmering, unearthly splendor every twig on every tree stood out as
though carved in blackest ebony. The brush was shrouded in deepest
sable, and the shadows lay upon the snow as black as a crow’s wing.

Everywhere was a deep, breathless hush, except where the light wind
caused a huddled mass of snow on an interlaced branch to slip
ground-ward. The great solitudes appeared to be composing themselves for
sleep. On the hard, frozen surface the boys’ snowshoes creaked almost
metallically as they pressed on, following in the dimming light the two
parallel lines that had begun to burn themselves into their brains.

They knew when they set out that it was going to prove a stern chase;
now they saw that unquestionably it was likewise to be a long one. How
long they could not guess. They passed a small stream. In the silence
they could hear the ice “crack-cracking!” with that startling sound that
is one of the most mystic of the voices of the woods. It grew bitterly
cold. Tom began to look anxiously about him. They must find a lodging
for the night. The question of sleeping in the open did not bother him.
Timber was plenty, and they could make an evergreen shelter and soon
have a roaring fire to warm their blood. He was merely prospecting for a
place that looked a likely one.

And then, suddenly, something happened that sent an involuntary chill
running up and down the spines of both boys.

From the westward, through the long, melancholy aisles of
straight-trunked trees, the sound had come. Out of the silence it was
borne with a chilling forboding to them. It was a long-flung,
indescribably forlorn sound, and seemed to fill the silences, coming
from no definite spot after an instant’s listening.

It deepened and swelled, died away and rose like the sound of distant
church bells. Then, while they stood listening, involuntarily brought to
a swift, startled halt, it died out uncannily, sinkingly, and the
silence shut down again.

“It’s the wolves!” said Tom in a low, rather awestruck voice.

The boy was right. The gray rangers of the big timbers were abroad
seeking their meat from God.



                   CHAPTER VII—IN THE TRAPPER’S HUT.


Now, to a reader who has never been a woodsman, who has never penetrated
the silences that lie north of Fifty-three, the word “wolves” conveys a
distinct impression of uneasiness.

The cold fact is that the northern woodsman stands rather in contempt of
wolves. He has no use for them, but he does not fear them; and the
wolves for their part—except in some startling exceptions—leave
mankind alone.

The boys had been long enough in the Northland to share this feeling,
and it was not fear that brought them to a halt at the long, melancholy
ululation that told them of the “gray brothers” wishing each other “good
hunting.” It was quite another feeling: the sense of their isolation,
that the moaning cry had brought sharply home to them, the loneliness of
the solitudes about them, the possibly dangerous nature of their quest.

“Wow! but that sound always makes me shiver,” said Jack, glancing about
him, as if he expected to see a gray head pop out from behind the trees
at any moment.

“Yes, it never sounded very good to me, even when we were lying snugly
in our bunks on the good old _Yukon Rover_,” agreed Tom. “I wish we
could find some trapper’s shack or hut hereabouts. I wouldn’t mind
making a good camp with some company around, for to-night anyhow.”

“Why, you talk as if we might be a long time in the woods,” said Jack,
in rather dismayed tones.

“And so we may be, for it is up to us now to keep on that trail till we
find the man that made it, or else run it out.”

Jack did not make any reply to this. His spirits had been good all day,
and he had looked upon the chase rather in the light of an enjoyable
adventure than anything else.

But now the twilight desolation, the fading line of light in the west
and the long howl of hunting wolves, which ever and anon swelled and
died out in the distance as they stood there, combined to give him a
sense of forboding and creepiness.

Tom’s cheery voice aroused him.

“We can push on a way yet, anyhow,” his elder brother was saying; “even
half a mile farther will be better than nothing, and who knows that we
may not come on some Indian camp or trapper’s shack, where we can get a
hot supper and find, maybe, some news of our visitor.”

Jack, thus admonished, roused himself. By an effort he put aside his
gloomy thoughts. Side by side through the trees the two young
adventurers forged ahead. But Jack soon began to sag behind. It was
plain that he was beginning to get fagged. It was small wonder. They had
come thirty-five miles that day, as Tom’s speedometer showed, which is a
fair journey for a grown man, let alone boys. A seasoned woodsman can
make fifty miles a day on snowshoes and pull up with no feeling but a
huge appetite. But, although the boys were well muscled and used to
following the trail, they could not hope to compete with the lifelong
rangers of the forest in endurance.

Tom was just thinking of making camp right where they then were, in a
grove of hemlocks and stunted spruces, when he gave a sudden cry of joy.

“Hurray! Jack, old boy! Talk about luck!”

“What’s up?”

“Don’t you know yet?”

“I do not.”

“Then you are a worse woodsman than I thought you.”

“You might explain. Have you gone crazy?”

“Not just yet. Don’t you smell anything?”

“Um—a-h-h-h! Yes, I do. Smoke.”

“Wood smoke, Jack, and wood smoke means a fire, and fire means a human
being.”

“Yes, and a human being may—mean—may mean——”

“Well?”

“A human being that may make us a lot of trouble; for instance, the man
who stole that skin!”

“Cracky! It may be he! Wait right here till I creep ahead a little.”

Dodging here and there behind tree trunks, Tom stole cautiously forward.
He made not a sound as he went except when now and again the snow
creaked under his feet. As he moved, he was doing some rapid thinking.

All day long they had been striving with all their strength to get near
the man of the long trail who had stolen their black fox skin. Yet now
that he might be at hand, almost within earshot of them, Tom found his
heart pounding in a most uncomfortable way. What kind of a man might he
be? Perhaps some desperado who could easily overpower them. Perhaps
there were even a gang of them.

All these discomforting thoughts kept popping into Tom’s mind as he made
his way onward as cautiously as a scout. But suddenly, as he bent
forward, his rifle that he carried slung by a bandolier over his
shoulders bumped his back. It was like a dose of magic elixir and
brought his courage back in a flash.

“Well,” he thought, “if that rascal wants trouble, he can——”

He came to a quick halt.

“Here’s the end of the trail!” he gasped.

Before him, not ten rods away and just over a slight rise, which had
prevented his seeing it before, was a small log hut.

It stood on the brink of a little lake, the latter, of course, frozen
many inches thick. About it was a clearing where the logs to build it
had been felled. But what brought Tom up with a round turn was the sight
of sleigh tracks leading up to the door.

From the chimney a thin wisp of bluish smoke was curling, undoubtedly
the subtle aroma they had sensed at a distance. Tom stood as still as a
graven image for a minute, listening intently. Over everything about him
hung the hush of the wilderness at nightfall.

For a space he stood thus, and then, giving his rifle a quick hitch so
that it would be in readiness to his hand, he strode forward on his
snowshoes with long, certain strides.



                     CHAPTER VIII—THE GHOSTLY CRY.


There was a big wood pile at one side of the hut, from which the owner
evidently drew for his fuel supply. Tom used this as a sort of screen to
conceal his advance, and, slipping behind it, gained a place where,
through a chink in the logs, he could gaze into the interior. It was
deserted. Of that he was sure immediately after his first glance, for
the shack consisted only of the one room.

Having made sure of this, he continued his way around to the front of
the place, and then discovered to his astonishment that the sled tracks
went straight onward through the snow. It was easy for him to guess that
the man they were pursuing had camped for a short time in the hut,
cooked himself a meal and left the fire in the stove burning. When he
saw several brown-paper cigarette butts lying scattered on the snow in
front of the place, the identity of the visitor to the lonely hut became
a certainty.

The problem of a place to pass the night was thus solved, for it is the
rule of the waste places that the benighted traveler may make himself at
home whenever he happens to come across a shelter. Tom gave a loud
“Hullo!” and there came back an answering hail from Jack. In a few
minutes the younger of the Bungalow Boys was at Tom’s side.

“Well, here’s our hotel, all ready and fixed up for us, even the fire
lighted in readiness for us,” laughed Tom as Jack came up.

“But what does the owner say about it?”

“Not being at home just at present, he hasn’t anything to say; however,
our friend of the black fox skin stopped here, rested his bones, fed his
dogs, to judge from all the litter around, and then passed on.”

“But isn’t there a chance that he may come back?”

Jack spoke rather timidly. He was tired and a little nervous, and the
thought that the fellow who had robbed them might be prowling about
somewhere rather scared him.

“No danger of that. I wish he would. Then we could end this thing up
right here.”

“Been inside yet?” asked Jack, by way of changing the subject.

“No; I waited for you. Come on, let’s go in and see what sort of a place
it is and who lives in it. I guess it belongs to a trapper, all right,
from the looks of it.”

An inspection of the big room inside proved the correctness of Tom’s
surmise. Traps of all sorts and sizes were littered about the room or
hanging on nails. A rough table, chairs formed out of boxes, the stove,
whose smoke had first caught their attention, and some pots, pans and
other equipment completed the furnishings. In one corner was a rough
bunk containing dirty bedding.

One thing caught Tom’s eye immediately, and that was a barrel in one
corner of the place. All about it several small skins such as beaver,
marten and weasel were scattered on the floor. Closer inspection showed
that the barrel contained some more of the same kind of pelts. It looked
as if somebody had hastily rummaged through the barrel of skins and
selected what he wanted.

“I’ll bet that rascal who stole the black fox has been on a raiding
expedition here, too,” cried Tom indignantly. “What a shame!”

“Yes, looks as if he’d helped himself,” agreed Jack, unstrapping his
pack and taking off his snowshoes.

They spread their provisions out on the table, got in plenty of wood and
water, and lighted a coal-oil lamp which they found on a shelf. When the
door was shut and secured by a big wooden bar which was adjusted from
within, they set about getting supper. In the yellow lamplight, with the
kettle singing on the stove and some jerked meat bubbling in a sort of
stew Tom had fixed up, the place looked quite cosy and homelike.

“Wonder how poor old Sandy is getting along?” said Jack, as they sat
down to eat.

“Oh, he’ll be all right,” replied Tom. “Of course, he’ll be lonesome and
all that, but he’s quite safe unless some other fellow takes it into his
head to come a-raiding.”

“Well, lightning never strikes twice in the same place,” responded Jack,
“and it is hardly likely that a second thief would come along so soon.”

“Just what I think,” agreed Tom.

Having finished their supper, they washed up the dishes and set about
preparing to make everything snug for the night. From time to time they
could hear the distant howling of the wolves, bur that only made the hut
seem more snug and secure.

“I wonder what the owner would say if he found us making ourselves so
very much at home?” said Jack, as he inspected the none too clean
bedding.

“Oh, he would be glad to see us, I guess,” replied Tom. “Visitors are
welcome in this wilderness, and as for making ourselves at home that is
the right of every traveler in the woods when he needs hospitality and
the host happens to be out.”

“Still, I don’t imagine the hospitality includes helping yourself to
skins, like that rascal we’re trailing did.”

“I hardly should think so,” rejoined Tom dryly. “Fellows like that don’t
have a bed of roses when they are caught. It is as bad as horse stealing
in the West.”

“I know I can think of a good many punishments fitting for the rascal
who stole our black fox.”

“So can I, without straining my imaginative powers, either.”

Both lads were thoroughly exhausted by their labors of the day, and
after a little more talk they made up a good roaring fire to keep the
hut warm through the night, and turned into the bunk. For some little
time they lay awake, listening to the crackling of the blaze and the
sighing of the wind which was stirring outside.

From time to time, too, they could still hear the howling of the wolf
pack, and occasionally the night air would ring with the sharp cry of
some small animal pounced upon by a great snow owl or a weasel. But both
lads were well used to these sounds of the northern night, and it was
not long before their senses began to swim and they dropped off into
sound and refreshing sleep.

Just what time it was when they both awakened together they did not
know, but the cause of their sudden arousing was a startling one. Borne
to their ears there had come a strange sound, a long, low, howling sort
of moan.

“Wow-ow! Ow-hoo-ha-hoo-wow-w-w-w-w-w!”

That is about as nearly as the sound can be indicated in print.

Both boys sat bolt upright, wide-eyed with alarm. Jack felt the skin on
the back of his scalp tighten as he listened. The lamp had been left
alight, although it was turned low, and in the dim light each lad could
read fear and perplexity in the other’s countenance.

“Wh-wh-what is it?” gasped out Jack.

“I der-der-don’t know,” stuttered Tom, equally at a loss and almost as
badly disturbed by the weird nature of the wailing cry.



                   CHAPTER IX—TOM CALMS JACK’S FEARS.


“Wow-yow-wyow-ow-oo-oo-oo!”

Again came the cry, punctuating the night in the same ghastly,
unaccountable manner.

“Is it wer-wer-wer-wolves?” stammered Jack.

Tom shook his head.

“Nothing like them. It beats me what it can be. I never heard such a
sound.”

“It gives me cold shivers,” confessed Jack.

“Maybe it is only a wildcat,” said Tom, regaining his nerve which had
been badly shaken by his sudden awakening and the ghastly cries.

“Doesn’t sound much like one,” objected Jack; “it sounds more like—more
like——”

He broke off short, for now something occurred that made each boy feel
as if his hair was standing on end and ice water being poured in liberal
quantities down his spine.

_“There is death in the snows,
death-death-death-to-all-who-brave-the-trail!”_

“Gracious!” gasped Jack; “it’s a ger-ger-ghost!”

“Nonsense,” said Tom sharply.

Although he was badly scared himself, he kept his nerve better than his
younger brother, but the sepulchral voice made him shudder as he
listened.

The uncanny sound of the wailing chant died out. Then fell a deep
silence, broken only by the sighing of the night wind.

“But if it isn’t a ghost, what is it?” demanded Jack.

“I don’t know, but of one thing I’m certain, it isn’t a ghost. There are
no such things, and only fools and kids believe in them.”

“Well, nobody else would be outside in the snow making such noises,”
declared Jack. “It is a spirit or something, that’s what it is. Maybe
somebody was murdered here and it is his——”

“Say, if you talk any more nonsense, I’ll—I’ll—” burst out Tom
disgustedly, but just then came an interruption.

It was the sepulchral voice again.

“_The-white-death-is-abroad-in-the-land! O-wo-w-ow-oo-oo-oo-oo!_”

The voice broke off in a terrifying scream that brought both boys out of
the bunk and to their feet. Tom picked up his rifle.

“Maybe it is somebody lost in the woods,” suggested Jack, glad of any
theory that might reasonably account for the alarming voice.

“Rubbish! Nobody lost in the snow would make that racket. Besides,
there’s all that stuff about death!” Tom shuddered. “It’s got me
guessing.”

“It’s aw-awful!” stammered poor Jack.

“But I mean to find out what it is.”

Tom compressed his lips and looked very determined. He began examining
the lock of his repeating rifle, and then moved toward the doorway.

“What! You are going out there?” demanded Jack.

“I surely am. I mean to satisfy myself just what it is, or _who_ it is,
that is making that ghostly noise.”

“But it can’t be human,” urged Jack. And then, recollecting some ghost
stories he had read, he continued: “It might ber-ber-blast you, or
something.”

“Rubbish! I’ll blast it, if I can get hold of it!” declared Tom, who
couldn’t help smiling, perplexed though he was, at Jack’s real alarm.

The boy’s hand was on the bar that held the door securely shut, when the
voice arose once more. It was certainly not a little awe-inspiring. The
mere facts that they could not tell with accuracy from just what
direction it came, and also that they were the only living beings in
that part of the country, made it all the more frightful.
“_Be-ware—be-ware-of-the-white-death-of-the-north!_” came the voice.
“_Turn-back. Go-where-you-came-from.
The-trail-leads-to-destruction-swift-and-terrible!_”

Tom waited no longer. He flung open the door and rushed out into the
darkness. Behind him came Jack, also armed, and trying desperately to
keep his teeth from chattering. The Northern Lights were flashing and
splashing the sky with their weird radiance, and the snow lay whitely
all about the hut.

Had there been any man or animals within the cleared space, they must
have been able to see their forms.

But nothing was to be seen.

The two alarmed boys standing there looking this way and that, like
startled deer, were the only living things near the hut. Tom was badly
mystified. The whole thing certainly flavored of the supernatural, and
yet the boy’s better sense told him that it could be no such thing.
There must be some way of accounting for that voice, but for the life of
him Tom could not hit upon a solution of the mystery, try as he would.

At length, after making as thorough an examination of the space
surrounding the hut as they could, the two lads were fain to go back
again into the structure, and at least one of them was heartily and
unfeignedly glad to be able to do so.

Tom felt that, had he been able to account for the strange and
supernatural voice in any imaginable way, he would not have been so
worried over it. It was the very fact that the whole thing was
inexplicable in any ordinary way that made it more alarming.

The bar was secured in place and both boys got back into the bunk. But
sleep did not visit them for a long time. They were under far too great
a strain for that. They lay awake listening nervously for a repetition
of the spectral voice, but none came.

“Perhaps in the morning we may find something that will throw some light
on the matter,” said Tom, after a prolonged silence.

“Yes, I suppose we’ll find a phonograph or something out there,” scoffed
Jack. “It’s no use talking, Tom, I tell you that nothing earthly made
those sounds.”

“What do you think it was, then?”

“Just what I said: a ghostly warning to us not to go farther.”

“Very kind of the ghost, I’m sure. I didn’t know they were such
benevolent creatures.”

“Oh, you needn’t laugh. I’ve read lots about ghosts giving warnings and
so on. That voice was to tell us to beware how we proceed.”

“Rot! As if a ghost would care! I only know of one person who might be
desirous of seeing us turn back.”

“Who is that?”

“The fellow that stole that black fox.”

“Then you think——”

“I don’t think anything. Now try to get to sleep till morning.”

Jack lay awake long after Tom was asleep once more. But the voice did
not come again, and at last his eyelids, too, closed, not to open till
it was broad day.



                     CHAPTER X—THE MYSTERY SOLVED.


“Ah, ha! I fancy that this is a clew to Mr. Ghost!” exclaimed Tom.

He was bending over a sort of megaphone of birch bark, which had been
rolled up into a cone-shaped formation. He held it aloft triumphantly.

“So this is what your spook made those noises with, Jack, old fellow,
and scared you half to death.”

“He did no such thing,” protested Jack, getting very red in the face. “I
did think, though, that there must be something of this kind behind it.”

The two boys had left the hut almost as soon as it was daylight to
prosecute their search for some trace of the cause of the alarm they had
experienced during the night. Tom already had a theory in his head as to
what it was that had made the sounds, and, deducing from the fact that
the thief alone would desire to try to scare them, the first things he
looked for were traces of some prowler in the vicinity of the hut.

He had discovered footprints among some trees on the edge of the
clearing, the prints of a big, soft moccasin-shod man. Then came the
finding of the peculiar woods-made megaphone with which, beyond doubt,
the man who had tried to scare the boys off his trail had uttered the
alarming sounds.

Of this they could be reasonably certain, but it was beyond their power
to make out how the man had come to turn back and put his plan to
frighten them off his tracks into execution. Tom was inclined to think
that he must have turned back soon after he left the hut and discovered
who were the occupants. Then he had secreted himself not far off till
nightfall and improvised his “ghost party.”

“At any rate, he gave us a fine scare,” declared Tom, as they walked
back to breakfast before taking the trail again, “for I’ll admit that I
felt just as creepy as you looked.”

“And that was some creepy,” admitted Jack.

And so the matter was, for the time, dismissed from their minds, and
over their breakfast they fell to discussing further plans when they
should start on again.

The meal had been finished, the dishes hastily wiped and put neatly
away, and a penciled note left by Tom on the table thanking the unknown
owner of the hut for his hospitality, when both boys were startled at
the sound of a dog whip being cracked viciously somewhere in the
vicinity. Then came a voice:

“Allez! Allez vitement! Ha! Pierre! Ha! Victoire!”

Both boys ran to the door. Coming toward them at a good pace was a sled
drawn by four Mameluke dogs. Seated upon it was a strange figure. It was
that of a venerable-looking man with a long white beard, out of which
his sun-browned face looked oddly, as if peering from a bush. He wore a
bright-red “parkee,” deerskin moccasins and a heavy fur cap. In his
mouth was a short clay pipe, at which he was puffing ferociously.

“Father Christmas!” cried Jack. “Santa Claus in real life!”

In fact, the old man on the sled did bear a marked resemblance to that
popular Yuletide saint.

As he saw the boys, he uttered an exclamation of astonishment. He
cracked his whip again, and the Mamelukes, yapping and snarling, drew
the creaking sled up to the door. The old man checked the dogs with a
word, and then turned to the boys.

“Ah! mes garçons,” he cried; “where you come from, eh? You look plantee
young to be out on the trail alone.”

While the old man busied himself in unpacking the goods he had brought
back from the trading post some fifty miles away, Tom told him of how
they had passed the night in the hut. Then the old man told them that he
was the owner of the hut, by name Joe Picquet, an old voyageur of the
wilderness.

When Tom told the old fellow of the raiding of his fur treasury, Joe
Picquet burst into an excitable fury. He shook his fists and swore to
punish the man who had done it with all manner of torments, if he could
catch him. A hasty investigation of the barrel showed, however, that the
thief had only deemed two skins worth taking. One of these was a silver
fox pelt, for which old Joe had counted on getting a thousand dollars,
and perhaps more.

“Ah, he is a mauvais chien!” he burst out, when Tom told him how they,
too, had suffered at the hands of the marauder. “Joe Picquet make it
ver’ hot for him if he get hands on him. Sacre! One silver fox pelt
worth all dese put togeder!”

“Possibly you may have passed him on the trail?” said Tom.

“No, I pass only one man. Li’l old man all same lak me,” said Joe
positively.

“Did he have a sled with four dogs?”

“Oui, certainment. But he was harmless-looking fellow. He no would rob
like the man that was here. Non, it would be impossible to teenk of
eet.”

“I’m not so sure of that,” rejoined Tom dubiously. “Oh, by the way, was
he smoking cigarettes?”

Old Joe knit his bushy eyebrows in deep thought.

“Oui, he was smoke. Certainment. Li’l yellow cigarettes he was smoke!
Bah!”

“Then it was the same man for certain,” said Tom positively. “Look
here.”

He indicated the stumps of yellow cigarettes scattered all about.

“Ah! You are right, mon garçon. Boosh! What a bad mans he must be! So
you are follow him, eh? You teenk you catch him?”

“We certainly hope to, or at any rate to get close enough to him to put
the authorities on the trail,” said Tom.

“But you are only two li’l boys.”

“Not so very little,” rejoined Tom, while he could not restrain a smile,
for Joe Picquet himself was shorter than either of the Dacre boys.

The little old man kept his eyes on his dogs in a speculative mood for a
few seconds. The boys did not disturb him. At last he broke out with an
exclamation.

“Boosh! How you lak it I go long wid you hunt dees bad man?”

“Why, it would be the very thing! But are your dogs fit for a long
journey?”

Old Joe laughed scornfully.

“Mon garçon, attendez. Dey are the finest team of malukes in whole Yukon
country. Old Joe is poor, but he wouldn’t tak one, two, t’ree hundred
dollar for one of dem. I feed dem, den we start back again. The man I
passed go slowly. Maybe he teenk he scare you away. Ha! ha! He badly
fooled. Boosh! I go feed dem now.”

He made a peculiar sound with his lips, and instantly the dogs began
jumping about in great excitement.

“Attendez, mes gallons,” said the old man, holding up a forefinger
impressively; “do not touch dem now. Dey are good dogs, but all malukes
plenty mean. You got beat, beat them all time or dey teenk dey boss and
bite you plentee hard, I bet you.”

The boys had heard before of the savage, intractable natures of mameluke
dogs and how they can be kept submissive to their owners only by harsh
treatment. A mameluke is practically a wild beast broken to harness.
They are swift and sure over the frozen lands, but there their
association with man ends. They do not wish to be petted, and are likely
to retaliate with their teeth on anyone who attempts friendly relations
with them.

Muttering angrily to himself, old Joe pottered off to a barrel in the
rear of his hut where he kept a plentiful provision of fish for the
dogs. Presently he reappeared, and began throwing it among them,
cracking his big black-snake whip in a regular fusillade as the dogs
fought and snarled furiously over their food.

“Ah, Pierre! mauvais chien! Allez! Hey, Victoire! Wha’ for you bite ole
Pete, hey! Boosh! Take your time!”

But the old man’s cries as he darted here and there among them had no
effect on the dogs, who finished their meal with frenzied snappings and
one or two fights which had to be broken up by main force.

“Now, I go get few teengs an’ we start,” said old Joe, when the animals
had lain down in the snow to digest their not over-plentiful meal.

“Boosh! We geev that feller warm reception when we find him, I bet you.”

When old Joe reappeared from the hut, he carried with him a long,
wicked-looking old squirrel gun. Its barrel was almost six feet long and
it was of a dark, well-worn brown color.

“What are you going to do with that?” asked Tom, as the old man tenderly
fumbled with the lock.

“Maybe have use heem. Boosh! No can tell,” he replied oracularly.

“Jiminy!” whispered Jack to Tom, as with their new ally they set out
once more along the trail, “old Santa Claus can look positively
ferocious when he wants to, can’t he?”

“Yes, but I’ve got a notion that he carries that funny old shooting iron
more for effect than anything else. Still, I’m glad we have him along;
he may prove a valuable ally,” surmised Tom.

“Well, with Santa Claus on our side we ought to have better luck along
the trouble trail,” agreed Jack.

[Illustration: The dogs sprang forward, and Tom and Jack sped after them
on rapidly moving snow-shoes.]

Crack! crack! went the dog whip.

“Boosh!” cried the old man, with whom the exclamation appeared to serve
all purposes.

The dogs sprang forward, and Tom and Jack, relieved of their burdens
which now lay on the sled, sped after them on rapidly moving snowshoes.
Their chase of the unknown thief now began to look like business.



                    CHAPTER XI—THE NEW-FOUND FRIEND.


Old Joe Picquet came to an abrupt halt. All that morning they had
followed the trail of the thief and had now arrived at a small lake,
Dead Rabbit Lake.

“Boosh!” exclaimed the old man angrily, “I am one fool. Someteeng I jus’
see I nevaire notice before.”

He pointed down at the trail of the man they were pursuing.

“You look! You see something funny 'bout dat snowshoe?” he asked.

Both Tom and Jack examined the footmarks without seeing anything odd in
them. It was then that Joe gave them an exhibition of his skill in
trailing.

“His toe turn oop,” he said. “Dese snowshoes mooch broader, too, than
dose we wear here. Dese shoes made in some factory. See! They no good.”

“Like the man that wears them,” sniffed Jack. “Then you think, Joe, that
he must be a stranger up here?”

“I not know,” rejoined Joe with a shrug, “no can tell. But dose
snowshoes no made oop here. Come from south, maybe. Boosh!”

“If he is a stranger, he is a good traveler anyhow,” was Tom’s comment.

Not long after, they came upon a spot where the man had halted and built
a fire. Joe Picquet felt the ashes, running them slowly through his
gnarled fingers.

“Boosh! He still long way in front of us,” he said disgustedly. “Dis
fire been cold long time. He keel his dogs, he no look out. Boosh!
Allez, Pete! Hey, Dubois!”

On they went again on the monotonous grind of the chase. They passed
small lakes, sections of muskegs, swamps, rocky hillsides and deep
valleys. But all lay deep under snow and ice. The sun beat down, and the
glare from the snow began to affect Jack’s eyes.

“I soon feex that,” said old Joe.

“How?” asked Jack, winking and blinking, for everything looked blurred
and distorted.

“I get you pair of snow-glasses. Boosh.”

“Snow-glasses. Have you got some with you?” asked Tom.

Old Joe shook his head.

“Non. But I get some vitement. Very quickly.”

“Are we near to a store, then?” asked Jack.

“No, Otter Creek is twenty miles away.”

“Then I don’t see——”

“One second, mon ami. You shall see. Old Joe live long in the woods. He
can do many teeng. You watch.”

Near the trail they were still following with the same pertinacity stood
a white birch clump. Old Joe called a halt, and with his knife stripped
off a big slice of bark from one of them. This he fashioned into a kind
of mask. But instead of cutting the eye-holes all round, he left part to
stick out like shelves under the orifices. These were to prevent the
light being reflected from the snow directly into Jack’s eyes. A bit of
beaver skin from the load formed a string to tie the odd-looking
contrivance on, and from that moment Jack was not bothered with his
eyes.

“In wilderness men do widout many teengs; except what dey make for
demself,” quoth old Joe, as they took up the trail once more.

Soon after noon they stopped to eat. It was a hasty meal, for they felt
that they could ill afford to waste any of the daylight. Then on again
they went, old Joe urging his dogs along remorselessly.

“They look pretty tired,” suggested Tom once.

Old Joe gave one of his shrugs and took his pipe from his mouth.

“Dey what you call beeg bluff,” said he. “All time dey play tired.
Boosh! Dey no can fool me. Allez!”

Crack went the whip, and the cavalcade moved on as briskly as before.

It was twilight when, on rounding a turn in the trail in a deep valley,
they suddenly heard the barking of dogs. Those of their own team
answered vociferously, old man Picquet yelling frantically at them above
the din.

The cause of the noise ahead of them was soon apparent. From the midst
of a clump of second growth Jack-pine proceeded a glow of firelight. It
was a camp. They soon saw that it consisted of one tepee. From the
opening in the roof of this, sparks were pouring and smoke rolling out
at a great rate, telling of a good fire within.

The barking dogs rushed at them savagely, and old Joe had all he could
do to keep his own from attacking the strangers. In the melee that would
have been sure to follow such an attack, the sled would certainly have
been upset even if one or two of the dogs had not been killed; for when
mamelukes fight, they fight to the death.

In the midst of the uproar, the flap of the tepee was thrust aside and a
figure came toward them. It was an Indian. He called to his dogs, who
instantly crept back toward the tent, growling and snarling and casting
backward glances at the invaders.

“Boosh!” exclaimed old Joe as he saw the Indian coming toward them, “dat
Indian my fren’ long time! Bon jour, Pegic. How you do to-day?” Then
followed some words in the Indian dialect which, of course, the boys did
not understand.

The Indian invited them into his tepee. He was camping alone and had
killed a small deer that morning. The meat hung in the tepee, and as
soon as his guests were seated, he set about cutting steaks and frying
them over the fire.

Then, on tin plates, he handed each of the boys and old Joe a portion,
accompanied by a hunk of baking powder bread. The long day’s journey in
the cold, nipping air had made them ravenously hungry. They fell to with
wolfish appetites on Pegic’s fare. The Indian, his jaws working
stolidly, watched them eat. He was a small man and rather
intelligent-looking.

After the meal, the dogs were fed and old Joe told the boys that they
would stay with Pegic for the night. As both lads were just about tired
out, this arrangement suited them down to the ground, and in the glow of
Pegic’s fire they lay down and were soon asleep.

Then old Joe began to ask the Indian questions. Indians must be dealt
with calmly and above all slowly, and in a roundabout way. Haste or
undue curiosity upsets them. To ask an Indian a brief question is in all
probability to have it unanswered. Hence old Joe proceeded with caution.
The conversation was carried on in Pegic’s dialect, which the old
French-Canadian understood perfectly.

First of all he asked the Indian how long he had been camped there.

“Two days,” was the reply.

“To-day a man passed here?”

The Indian nodded gravely, staring into the fire.

“It is even so. Just as you say, my friend.”



                    CHAPTER XII—THE FRIENDLY INDIAN.


“I am teenking dat perhaps he stopped at your tepee. Is dat so?”
inquired old Joe, wise in the way of Indians.

Pegic nodded gravely.

“It is even so, my white brother.”

“Bon. And he was a small man and gray?”

“He was.”

“And carried skins on his sled?”

“Yes. Many skins and one he showed to me. It was the skin of a black
fox. Truly a fine pelt, my brother. You are wise in the ways of
trapping, but your eyes would have glittered and your fingers itched had
you beheld it.”

Old Joe nodded his satisfaction. Clearly, then, they were on the right
trail and the man had the skin with him.

“So de man showed you de skins? Yes?”

“He did. He was swollen with pride. But to Pegic he looked like a man
who is sick.”

“Seeck?”

“Yes, my brother. His eyes were overbright and his skin was flushed. He
was sick.”

“Boosh! He’ll be seecker yet when we find him, myself and de two
garçons. Pegic, dose skins were stolen!”

“Stolen, do you say, my brother?”

“Yes, Pegic, it is even so. And how long ago was he here?”

“About two hours before the dropping of the sun. I urged him to stay,
but he would not. He said he was in much haste, and truly his dogs
showed signs of being hard pressed.”

Old Joe chuckled grimly.

“Bon, so we close up the gap. Boosh! Mon ami, we shall meet before very
long. Voila!”

“It was while I was cutting up the deer,” volunteered Pegic, his reserve
now thawed by old Joe’s skillful way of leading him on. “I sat on my
blanket—so. My dogs barked, and, going to the door of the tepee, I saw
this white man coming. He wished food for himself and his dogs. I gave
to him, and then he asked the way to the nearest trading post. I told
him, and then he inquired for the one even beyond that.”

“For which he had good reason,” muttered old Joe. “He wished to gain on
us a good distance before he traded in his furs—bien!”

“His talk was smooth and without stoppage, like a deep stream,” went on
the Indian, “but he would ever and anon arise and go to the door of the
tepee and look back along his trail. Then I wondered much at this, but
now I know why this was so. Then he left, after pressing some silver
upon me which I would not have taken but for owing Jumping Rabbit much
money, which I lost when we did last play at ‘chuckstones.’ After he had
left I lay on my blankets, thinking of many things. But chiefly of how
my brother, Walking Deer, was killed at Old Squaw Rapids when his paddle
did break and left him to the mercy of the waters. If you like, I will
tell the tale to you. I am thinking that it is a story that would
delight you much.”

But old Joe, who well knew how an Indian can drag out a story to
interminable lengths, diplomatically pleaded fatigue and sought his
blankets. Long after he slept the Indian sat motionless, squatting on
his haunches, smoking without ceasing and gazing into the fire. Then he,
too, curled himself up, and the firelight in the tepee glowed upon four
slumberers.

Bright and early the next morning they took up the trail. Old Joe was in
high spirits. He flourished his aged rifle vindictively. He belabored
his dogs without mercy.

“Courage, mes camarades!” he kept crying to the boys. “Before long we
catch up by dis robber, for he is seeck and his dogs are weary. Bien.
Before long, we shall have a reckoning.”

At noon they stopped and ate a hasty lunch. A few miles back they had
passed the ashes of a cooking fire. Old Joe declared that the embers
were not more than a few hours cold. They were gaining on the man. The
boys began to feel the excitement of the chase gripping them more and
more every instant. The meal was eaten almost in silence. Then—on
again.

The day died out; but allowing only a halt for supper and to rest the
dogs, old Joe insisted on pressing on. It was a brilliant, starry night,
and onward over the creaking snow under the twinkling luminaries of the
sky the relentless pursuers of the man with the black fox skin pressed
steadily on. Had their excitement been less, or their frames more unused
to hardship and long “treks,” the boys might have felt the pace. As it
was, they hardly noticed the fatigue that was slowly but surely creeping
over them till it was almost midnight.

Old Joe was quick to notice the first signs of flagging. He called a
halt.

“Mes enfants, you are très fatiguè,” he exclaimed, “we must rest and
sleep.”

“We’re all right,” protested Tom, but his objections were feeble and
were not seconded by Jack, who, now that they had actually stopped, felt
about ready to drop in his tracks.

“Non, we will stop and camp here and you must get some sleep,” insisted
old Joe. “Let me see. We are now near end of Spoon Island. Bien! Just
below is Hawk Island. Many times have I camped dere, and dere I have a
petit cache in a tree. We will go on as far as dat and den rest and
eat.”

Two or three miles below the end of Spoon Island lay Hawk Island. They
took to the frozen surface of the river and soon reached it. It was a
small, rocky speck of land thickly wooded with balsam, spruce and
poplar.

“Long time ago many t’ous’and hare live here,” said Joe, “now not so
good. But I like camp here. Boosh! So now we will stop.”

While the old voyageur unharnessed his ravenous dogs and fed them, the
boys looked about them. Sticking up from the snow they could see the
ends of some poles set in a quadrangular form. This marked the site of
one of Joe’s former camps. Having unharnessed the dogs and left them to
fight and snarl over their supper, old Joe next set about making a camp.

The boys watched him with interest. It was the first camp of the kind
they had ever seen.

“Come help me dig,” admonished the old trapper. “Do like I do. Soon we
have fine camp. Warm and snug—bien!”

He set to work digging with a snowshoe, and the boys followed his
example, working under his directions. Before long they had excavated a
square hole some four feet deep in the snow. By the time they had banked
and patted it smooth they stood in a pit which reached about to their
shoulders.

This done, old Joe wetted his finger and held it up. The side to the
wind immediately grew cold and indicated to him from which direction the
light breeze came.

“Bien!” he exclaimed, when he had done this, “now four poles from dose
trees, mes amis, and we are snug lak zee bug in zee rug,—n’est-ce pas?”



                 CHAPTER XIII—THE INDIAN’S PREDICTION.


When the four poles had been obtained, old Joe erected them in the snow
to windward of the excavation. Then from his sled he got an oblong of
canvas which he stretched over them.

“Boosh! So now we get firewood and start a blaze and den everyteeng is
fine,” he exclaimed, briskly stepping back to admire his handiwork.
Although the boys did not know it, this camp which Joe had just erected
is a favorite form of temporary resting place in the frozen North. The
canvas stretched above the poles serves a double purpose, to keep out
the wind and to act as a reflector to the fire in front so that those
down in the pit are kept delightfully snug and warm.

The boys next set about getting wood for the fire. This did not take
long. Then branches stripped from the balsam boughs were thrown into the
snow pit to a depth of several inches, to form a soft, springy mattress
for their blankets. The fire was lighted and plenty of wood heaped near
by to keep it going.

Finally the kettle was filled with snow, which was set by the fire to
melt. From the sled old Joe got some deer meat, by this time frozen
hard, which he had obtained from Pegic. While the meat was thawing the
boys helped spread their beds in the warm, fire-lighted pit, and then
old Joe cooked supper.

The boys were certainly learning woodcraft from the old French Canadian.
They would hardly have thought it possible, an hour before, that such a
cozy camp could have been made in the snow with such simple means. But
the wilderness traveler has had to learn by many hard experiences how to
make the best of things, and the experiments of successive travelers
have resulted in a score or more of makeshift devices for comfort and
safety.

While the party of adventurers ate their supper with hearty appetites,
washing it down with big drafts of scalding tea, the dogs outside made
their own camp in their peculiar fashion. The mamelukes make themselves
comfortable very easily. Having gorged themselves on fish, they burrowed
into the snow and slept the sleep of the faithful sled dog.

In their improvised camp the travelers slept till daylight, which to the
boys, at least, seemed to be an interval of not more than five minutes.
Breakfast, consisting of the remains of supper and more tea, having been
consumed, the dogs, which had been routed out and fed, were harnessed up
once more. Then, trail sore and stiff after their sleep, the boys
resumed their travels.

They followed the river and, of course, the track of the runners of the
thief’s sled, which still lay clear and sharp on the snow. About two
hours after the start they came upon another of his camps. Clearly he
had allowed his dogs to sleep, for there were the marks of their
burrowings to be observed in the snow.

“Aha, dey are tiring, mes enfants!” cried old Joe. “Not veree long now.
Courage! Boosh!”

At the expiration of another period of travel, and not long before noon,
on rounding a bend in the river they sighted another party coming toward
them. There were three figures and a dog sled. The figures speedily
resolved themselves into a Black River Indian and two squaws.

“Bien! Now we get news, maybe!” chuckled old Joe.

Then, as they neared the other party, which had come to a halt awaiting
them, old Joe breathed a caution.

“Let me do zee talking. Boosh! Indians are hard to talk unless you know
dem, and den—not always easy. Tiens!”

Old Joe did not drive right up to the Indians, who were squatting down
on their sled. Instead, he halted at some little distance. There
followed an exchange of greetings in the Black River dialect, and then
pipes were produced and both sides, squaws and all, smoked gravely for a
time. The boys looked on, much amused at all this ceremony, which,
however, as old Joe knew, was necessary. To quote an old proverb, “The
longest way round is the shortest way home,” with an Indian.

The Indian was a short, squat fellow with straight black hair. He was
very dirty, but otherwise very like Pegic in appearance. One of the
squaws was old and very hideous. The other was a younger woman and not
uncomely in a way. She was evidently considered a belle, for she was
hung lavishly with beadwork, while the homely old squaw did not display
any ornaments.

Old Joe was the first to speak, addressing the man in his own dialect.
We will translate the conversation that followed into “the King’s
English.”

“It is very fine weather. The traveling is very pleasant and the wind
gods sleep.”

The Indian nodded gravely.

“It is even so, my white friend,” said he. “The sky is soft as the cheek
of a baby and the storm slumbers like an old man by the fire. But there
will come a change before long. Early to-day the river smoked, the frost
was low on the trees and the wind stirred in its dreams. Before long we
shall get much snow and the wind, too, will awake and set out upon the
trail.”

“What you say may well be true,” rejoined old Joe. “The same signs have
I noticed. But who are we that we should control the winds or the
snows?”

Old Joe paused. The Indian did not reply, and for some moments they both
smoked on in silence. Blue wreaths rose almost straight from their pipes
in the still air. The cracking of the ice on the river alone broke the
silence.

Then the Indian removed his pipe and spoke once more in his slow,
measured tones.

“The owl was abroad in the night and at daybreak my squaw’s mother, the
ill-favored one yonder, did see one with a weasel in its claws. What
think you is the meaning of that sign, my white brother?”

Old Joe shrugged his shoulders expressively.

“No man can read the owl, my friend,” he replied. “Tell me, how do you
interpret the sign?”

“That ere long a white man—the weasel that my squaw’s ill-favored
mother did see—shall be caught by the bearded white man and the two
unbearded boys that do travel with him.”

This was a typically Indian way of stating a conclusion, and old Joe
appeared to feel highly flattered at the comparison of himself to an
owl. He smiled and said:

“It is even so. The owl that is Joe Picquet does pursue the weasel that
is a thieving white man, a robber of trappers, a despoiler of cabins in
the woods.”

“Then ere long you will catch him,” the Indian assured him gravely, “for
so do the signs read and no man may gainsay them.”

The moment in these roundabout negotiations had now arrived when old Joe
deemed he could diplomatically ask a direct question.



                     CHAPTER XIV—SWAPPING STORIES.


“It is as you have said,” rejoined old Joe, “the signs are seldom in the
wrong. But I have been thinking, my friend, that perhaps on your way you
have seen this weasel of a white man whom the owl and the two young
hares pursue?”

But, to Joe’s disappointment, the Indian shook his head.

“I did meet no white man who is as the weasel and whom the owl and the
two young hares pursue,” he rejoined; “neither, till I met you, have I
met any man, either white or Indian, since I left Blue Hare Lake.”

“You do not come from the way of the setting sun, then?” For the trail
of the fleeing thief had so far led west.

Another negative sign was the reply as the Indian said:

“We come from the north. But some half day’s journey back I crossed a
trail which was even as the trail you now follow.”

“I am sorry,” said old Joe. “The weasel must travel as the wind.”

“It may well be even so,” rejoined the Indian. “But hasten, my brother,
if you would still follow the trail, for the snows are awakening and the
wind stirs in its sleep.”

They bade the Indian and his two silent women “Good day,” and pushed on.
Now there was good reason for haste. Indians are rarely or never
mistaken in their weather prophecies, and if the snow came before the
pursuers had caught up with the thief, they stood a fair chance of
losing him altogether, for the snow would infallibly blot out his trail.

That night they came to a small trading post kept by a tall, gangling
American, by name Ephraim Dodge. He had a thin, hatchet face and a
bobbing goatee, and on either side of his prominent bridged nose
twinkled a shrewd, although kind, eye.

Yes, Ephraim had seen the man they were pursuing and “allowed he was
pretty badly tuckered out.” He had stopped at his post and purchased
some canned goods and oatmeal. Then he had pressed straight on. No, he
had not offered any skins for sale, and, according to Ephraim, was an
“ornery-lookin’ cuss, anyhow.”

When he heard their story Ephraim was sympathetic, but he could not
offer much in the way of consolation except to assure them that they
were bound to catch the man, for he appeared to be “right poorly.” There
was no possibility of their pushing on that night, for old Joe, anxious
as he was to continue the pursuit, decided that his dogs must have rest.
So they spent the evening with Ephraim, who brought out an old violin
and amused them by executing jigs and double shuffles while his old
fiddle squeaked out the “Arkansas Traveler” and other lively airs.

After Ephraim had exhausted his repertoire they sat about the big stove
and talked. Ephraim was a lively companion, and was frankly glad of
company. He “allowed it was plum lonesome with nothing but Injuns and
mamelukes fer company.” It was not necessary to attempt to join in his
incessant flow of talk. He talked like a man who has pent up his
thoughts and words for months and lets them go in a flood of
conversation.

The talk turned to California, which Ephraim “’lowed was a white man’s
country, fer sure.” He wished he was back there. What a climate it was!
What wonderful air!

“Why,” declared Ephraim, “that air out thar is so wonderful deceiving
that two fellers who set out fer the mountains from a plains town,
thinking the hills weren’t but two miles away, rode two days without
gettin’ any closer to ’em. Then they come at last to a river. One of ’em
was fer crossing it, but the other, he 'lowed they wouldn’t. ‘It don’t
look to be more’n a few feet across,’ says he, ‘but in this climate it’s
liable ter be Christmas afore we ford it,’ an’ so they come back ag’in,”
he concluded.

“'Nother time I’ve got in mind,” he went on, while his auditors gasped,
“a friend of mine went fishin’. He was known as the most truthful man in
the San Juaquin Valley, so there ain’t no reason ter suppose that his
word wasn’t gospel truth and nothin’ else. Anyhow, he was known as a
mighty good shot and right handy with his shootin’ iron, so nobody ever
was hearn to doubt his word.

“Well, sir, as I’m a-saying, William Bing—that was his name, gents,
William Bing—went a fishin’. He went up in the mountains, where the air
is even clearer than it is on the plains. Bing, he moseyed along,
lookin’ fer a likely place and totin’ his pole, when all at once he
happened ter look down over a bluff, and what do you think he seen?
Right below him thar was a fine hole in a big creek, and right in that
hole, gents, William Bing, he seen hundreds and hundreds of trout and
black bass swimming about so thick they was regularly crowdin’ one
another.

“Bing says he could see their gills pumpin’ an’ their fins wavin’ jes’
like they was a-sayin’, ‘Hello, Bill! We’re waitin’ fer you. Throw us
down a line and a bite ter eat, old sport.’ Waal, Bing, he didn’t lose
no time in lettin’ down his line. He figgered it was erbout a hundred
feet down to that hole, and he had a hundred and fifty feet on his pole.
But he fished and fished all that mornin’ without getting a bite, not
even a nibble. An’ thar below he could see all them fish swimmin’ about
and every now and then looking up at him sort of appealin’ like. Bing
says it looked jes’ as if they wanted to be caught and was reproaching
him fer not doin’ the job an’ doin’ it quick.

“Bing, he reckoned something was wrong, so he changed his bait. But
still nary a bite. Then he changed it again. Not a flicker, and there
was those fish jumping around like peas on a griddle. It was plum
aggervatin’, Bing 'lowed, and he couldn’t figger it out noways.

“He ate his lunch up thar on the top of the bluff, and then he decided
that he’d kinder investigate the mystery of why those fish didn’t bite.
He kind of pussyfoots around on the top of the bluff fer a while, and
then he finds a place whar he reckons he can climb down right by that
pool and dig inter the mystery in due and legal form.

“He sticks his pole in the bluff, leaving his bait on the end of the
line, thinking that maybe he’ll git a bite while he’s carryin’ on his
investigations. Then Bing, he starts to climb down. Waal, sirs, he clumb
and clumb, did William Bing, and at last he got to the bottom. And then
what do you suppose he found out?

“That clear air had fooled him. Made a plum jackass out’n him. Instid of
bein’ a hundred feet high, that bluff was all of three hundred! Then he
looked down in that hole whar the trouts and bass were swimming about.
Gee whillakers, sirs, that thar hole 'peared to be more’n a hundred feet
deep! And thar was all them fish per-ambulatin’ and circumambulatin’
erbout in it an’ looking up at William Bing’s bait that was danglin’ in
the air a good hundred and fifty feet above that thar gosh almighty
hole. Yes, sirs,” concluded Ephraim, “that Californy air is some air.”

“I should say so,” laughed Tom. “I don’t see how they can field a ball
in it without being gone for a week on the journey.”

“Waal, that may hev happened, too,” rejoined Ephraim gravely, “but I
never hearn tell on it. Leastways, not frum any reliable source such as
William Bing.”

“Boosh!” exclaimed old Joe. “Long time 'go I out West. An’ you talk
'bout cleefs! In one part of zee country dere ees beeg cleef. More big
dan Beeng’s cleef. Bien, I had a friend dere. His name Clemente Dubois.
He ver’ fine man, Clemente. But, poor fel’, he dead long time ago.”

“How’d he die?” inquired Ephraim.

“Poor Clemente, he fall off’n dat cleef. Oh, he beeg cleef, more’n
t’ousand feet high!”

“Mashed plum ter mush, I reckon?” queried Ephraim, while the boys, who
had caught a twinkle in old Joe’s eye, listened to see the storekeeper’s
discomfiture.

“No, Clemente, he not mashed to pieces. Leesten, I tell you how Clemente
die. He was miner. Ver’ well. One day Clemente take peek, shofel an’ he
go to aidge of dis cleef. Clemente, he have on one beeg pair rubbaire
boots. Oh, ver’ beeg rubbaire boots. Bien! Clemente, he work an’ teenk
he strike fine colors. Zee colors of gold. He get ver’ excited. He deeg
an’ deeg, an’ bimeby he deeg so hard zee aidge of zee cleef geev way.

“Bang! Clemente, over he go right into zee air. He land on zee ground
below, but den hees rubbaire boots begin to work. Clemente, he bounce
back. Jus’ lak zee rubbaire ball. He bounce up and down, up and down and
no one can stop Clemente. He bounce all zee day, and once in a while
some of zee boys from zee camp zey t’row heem biscuits to keep Clemente
from starving. But Clemente, he no can catch zem. Two days he bounce up
and down and no stop.

“Den zee head man of zee camp, he say: ‘Boys, Clemente, he starve if we
no do someteeng. We have to put heem out of zee misery of die lak dat
way. Somebody have to shoot Clemente.’ Everybody say, ‘No, no,’ but zee
boss, he make dem draw lot. Man name Beeg Terry, he be zee one as draw
lot to shoot Clemente. Everybody feel ver’ bad, but no can be help. Beeg
Terry, he shoot Clemente zee next mornin’. Poor fellow, it was hard on
heem, but it was better dan starving to deat’ in meed-air. After dat,
nobody go near zee cleef wiz rubbaire boots on zeer feet.”

This truly remarkable and pathetic narrative brought the evening to a
close, as a glance at Ephraim’s alarm clock showed that it was almost
eleven o’clock. With old Joe still chuckling triumphantly over the
manner in which he had “capped” Ephraim’s brief and truthful story, they
turned in, sleeping in regular beds for the first time since they had
taken to the trail.



               CHAPTER XV—TOM ON “THE DOGS OF THE NORTH.”


The next morning old Joe was occupied for some time repairing sundry
worn places in harness and sleds. The boys seized the opportunity to
write some letters home.

Both lads penned newsy epistles teeming with facts gleaned by them about
the region in which they were traveling. As a sidelight on their
experiences, we may take a peep over their shoulders while their pens
are flying and learn something of their impressions.

From Tom’s letter to a school chum we can detach some interesting
remarks on the “steeds” of the northern wilds, the faithful mamelukes
upon whom the hunter and trapper’s success and even life may depend.

“There are said to be two seasons in this land,” wrote Tom, “winter and
June-July-and-August. We are now in the midst of the latter, as you, of
course, know.

“During the summer the mamelukes—the Alaskan dogs I told you something
about in a former letter—run wild. They mostly forage for themselves
and become very bold and ferocious.

“But as soon as the winter sets in the canine free-lances are rounded up
and led off into captivity by straps, strings and wires. Sometimes one
owner gets into a dispute with another concerning his four-footed
property, and then there are lively times indeed.

“After their long holiday the dogs, especially the puppies, are very
wild. In some cases they have to be broken into their work all over
again.

“This is no picnic for the dogs, for some of the drivers are very
brutal. But they don’t dare abuse the dogs too much for fear of injuring
their own property.

“The dogs used by the government for transporting the mails—a team of
which will haul this very letter—are splendid looking brutes. They are
called Labrador ‘huskies’ and are very large and heavy-coated.

“Some of them are, without exaggeration, as big as young calves. They
carry the mail over vast, snowy wildernesses, and even sometimes to
Dawson, when the air is not too nippy. That is to say, when the
thermometer is not more than thirty degrees below.

“The dog drivers have almost a language of their own, like the ‘mule
skinners’ of our western plains. When a group of them gets together you
can hear some tall stories of the feats each man’s team has performed.
And, wild as some of these yarns may seem to an ‘outsider,’ they are not
so incredible as they appear.

“The big, well-furred, long-legged Labrador Huskies are the most
powerful, as well as the fiercest, of the sledge dogs. A load of one
hundred and fifty pounds to each dog is the usual burden—and no light
one, when you consider the trails over which they travel.

“As a rule, seven to eight or nine dogs are hitched to a sledge. The
harness is of the type called the 'Labrador.’ It consists of a single
trace. Other traces are attached to it, so that the dogs are spread out
fan-shaped from the sledge. This is done to keep them from interfering
with each other, for they will fight ‘at the drop of a hat.’ And when
they do fight—well, fur flies!

“And here is where the driver’s job comes in. His main care is to keep
his animals—some of them worth more than one hundred dollars each, from
maiming each other. Nor do his troubles end here, for he has to see to
it that the dogs don’t turn on him. You must recall that some of the
‘huskies’ are as savage as wolves, and an iron hand is required to keep
them disciplined.

“Nearly every driver carries a stout club and a ferocious looking whip
of seal-hide. He uses both impartially and unmercifully. If the dogs
thought for a moment that you were afraid of them they would turn on you
like a flash and probably kill you. That is the reason for the driver’s
seeming brutality. He literally dare not be kind, except in some
instances where, as with our present companion, Joe Picquet, he has an
exceptionally gentle team.

“Then, too, the dogs are forever attacking each other. Every once in a
while there will be a desperate battle, which can only be stopped by a
free use of the whip. But in their wolflike fury the dogs sometimes
cannot be quieted even by these means.

“Another curious bit of dog lore is this: In each team—just as in a big
school of boys—there is always one unfortunate that appears to be the
butt of the others. They take every opportunity to steal his food and
make life miserable for him. Sometimes the whole pack will make an
onslaught on the poor beast and, if not stopped in time, will tear his
flesh and rip him open, although they rarely eat him.

“Then, too, some of the dogs are mischievous in the extreme. They will
show an almost human intelligence in making life miserable for their
driver. It is their delight, sometimes, to spill the sledge and the
driver, and gallop madly off, overturning the pack and losing the mail.
I hope that will not happen to this letter, for I am writing it under
some difficulties and want you to get it.

“When this happens it’s tough luck for the driver. It means that he has
to wade miles through the snow, tracking the runaways. He usually finds
them at the next post-house, unless the sledge has become entangled in
brush or trees. When this latter occurs the dogs scoop out snug-holes
for themselves in the snow and go to sleep!

“The class of dog most used by the ordinary traveler is different from
the giant huskies. These are the mamelukes or the native Indian dog.
They are supposed to have wolf blood in them, and they certainly act up
to the supposition!

“The mamelukes are usually harnessed all in a line, one before the
other. They are shorter-haired, more active, faster and ten times meaner
than the husky—and that’s going some, let me tell you.

“Their chief delight is to get into a regular Donnybrook fight. When
this happens there is only one way to stop them, and that is to club
them till they are knocked insensible. Sounds brutal, doesn’t it? but it
is the only way to quell one of these disturbances.

“If they get a chance to they’ll bite through their harness with one nip
of their long teeth. Then, having gained their liberty, off they will
gallop and sometimes not be caught again for days.

“The mameluke is an habitual thief, too. His idea of a nice little
midnight repast is to pull the boots off your feet while you are asleep
and indulge in a hasty lunch. His seal-hide harness, also, appeals to
his epicurean tastes; in fact, he will eat anything, including his best
friend, if he gets a chance!

“Besides the mameluke, the husky is an aristocrat and a highly-bred
gentleman, although his manners are nothing to brag about. Another
accomplishment of the mameluke is opening provision boxes and getting
out the tin cans they contain.

“He carries his own can-opener in the form of his powerful teeth. His
taste is not particular. Canned tomatoes, fruit, vegetables,
sardines—in fact, anything a man can put into a can, a mameluke can get
out of it! Any leather covered goods are also appetizing to the
mameluke. Trunk covers, saddles, and so on. He’ll eat any of them
without sauce, and not leave any bones either!

“It seems strange that these dogs—which are the mainstay of the
traveler in the northern wilds—live through their whole lives without
ever getting a kind word. They have performed wonderful feats of
endurance and, with all their wolfish greed and viciousness, they have
time and time again saved human lives by their wonderful stamina.

“‘A mameluke knows only one law, and that is contained in the end of a
club or whip,’ an old driver told me once; and yet some, like Joe
Picquet, have succeeded in getting them to do much of their work through
kindness. But such cases are so very rare as to prove the rule.

“There is another remarkable difference between the husky’s character
and that of his disreputable relative. Food that he has stolen tastes
sweeter to the mameluke than any other delicacy. The fact that he has
pilfered it from the camp or the sled appears to give it an added zest.

“The husky, however, will go off fishing or hunting for himself if given
a chance. In this he shows his wild origin. Just like a wolf or a bear,
he will take his place in a stream and seize any fish that may be cast
up on the shallows.

“The average speed of a dog team in good condition is ten miles an hour,
and, as you know, in the States we call that good ‘reading’ even for a
blooded horse. The dogs travel various distances daily, depending on the
state of the trail they are following. I have heard of dogs that made
seventy miles a day. Such animals are very valuable and carefully
watched, for there are plenty of dog-thieves in this country.

“When the thermometer drops too low for horse travel, what horses there
are in the country are stabled. From then till spring the dog is the
Alaskan locomotive. With the coming of the snows the dogs become the
constant traveling companions of the men of this northland, and do
practically all the transportation work.

“The dogs can travel in weather so terrifically cold that men would not
dare to stir abroad. The lowest temperature recorded so far at Dawson
was eighty-three below zero. No need for an ice-box, then, up here in
the winter.

“But these great falls of temperature only occur occasionally, for which
we are duly thankful. When it gets so very cold the air becomes filled
with a thick fog. It is hard to see even a hundred yards. Nobody stirs
outside, and it is like a dead world.

“One curious thing about the extreme cold is the tendency it has to make
you want to hibernate just like a wood-chuck. We sleep sixteen and
fifteen hours when we are not on the trail, and could do with more.
Wouldn’t it be tough if some time we all overslept and didn’t wake up
till spring! How Jack would eat! He can put away a man’s sized portion
of grub now, anyhow.

“Travel up here is not usually done by a man alone. There is great
danger of his eyelids becoming frozen together, and perhaps ice will
form about his nostrils or mouth, half choking him and keeping him busy
removing the accumulation. There is also the Arctic drowsiness to
contend against, that overpowering desire to sleep that it is almost
impossible to fight off. If this overtook a solitary traveler it would
mean his almost certain death in some drift.

“The freezing of the waters of the rivers comes on very suddenly.
Sometimes in a night. The only warning that you get is the glow of the
sun-dogs—like little suns—scattered all round the central luminary.

“You have to watch out, then, if you are in a canoe or a rowboat. The
water may be free from ice, but as you paddle or handle the oars, you
may notice bubbles and particles of ice bobbing to the surface.

“That’s a danger signal!

“It means that the bottom of the river has begun to freeze. If you don’t
make a quick landing you are soon hemmed in by ice too thick to row or
paddle through, but too thin to walk on. You may be frozen before you
can escape.

“Well, I’ve told you enough to let you see that life up here is not a
bed of roses, but, as my uncle says, ‘it makes men’. At any rate, no
mollycoddle could get along very well in a northern winter. But we are
enjoying all of it—the rough and the smooth. We have each gained in
weight—and eat!—Fatty Dawkins at school was a mere invalid compared to
us!”

So closed Tom’s letter and, by the time it was finished, old Joe was
ready to resume the trail. The storekeeper took charge of the boys’
mail, to be delivered to the dog-teams when the post came by.



                       CHAPTER XVI—COMING STORM.


It was after the noonday halt of the next day that the Indian’s prophecy
of the coming snow was verified. All that morning they had pushed
feverishly along under sullen skies. Signs were not few that the chase
was drawing to a close. Old Joe’s examination of the man’s last
camp-fire convinced him that it was not more than a very short time
since the man had “moved on.”

Ominous slate-colored clouds began to roll up. There was a strange
stillness in the air, like but very different from the hush that
precedes a thunderstorm. They had about finished their noon snack when
the boys noticed the dogs beginning to sniff about uneasily, elevating
their noses and pacing up and down, giving from time to time short
yapping barks.

“Aha!” cried old Joe as he saw this, “zee snow, he come. Beeg snow, I
teenk. Malukes know. Boosh! It weel wipe out zee trail—bah!”

He knocked the ashes from his pipe disgustedly. The boys, in fact, felt
equal disappointment. It appeared that the forces of nature had leagued
themselves with their enemy. They pictured to themselves how the unknown
fugitive must be chuckling as he saw the signs of the approaching storm
which must obliterate his tracks.

“Are we going on?” asked Tom, as old Joe rose to his feet and looked
about him.

“Boosh! Non, mon garçon! It ees not well to travel in the snow. We must
camp. Dat is all dere is for us to do. Maybe he not be bad. But look
plenty bad now.”

“You mean to make camp, then?”

“Yes. Back by dose trees. Eet is good place. Zee wind is from zee nort’.
Zee trees hold zee dreeft, bon. Eet might have come in much worse
place.”

“Is the storm likely to last long?”

Joe Picquet gave one of his expressive shrugs.

“Maybe. Perhaps one day, maybe two, t’ree days. I do not know.”

Feeling rather low in spirits, the boys set about making a camp under
Joe’s directions. It was the same kind as the one in which they had
passed the night on a previous occasion. Great quantities of wood were
chopped, and from the way Joe kept eying the sky, the boys could see
that he was afraid the storm would be on them before they could get
everything in readiness.

The old man himself worked like a beaver. It would have seemed
impossible that a man of his age and apparently feeble frame could
perform so much work. But Old Joe Picquet was capable of doing a day’s
work with men of half his age, and the way he hustled about that camp
showed it.

The dogs were fed, but instead of fighting as usual, they devoured their
food in silence and then began looking about for places to burrow.

“Ah-ha! Mameluke, he know. He ver’ wise, all same one tree full of zee
owl,” declared old Joe, noting this.

At last all was finished and they were ready to face whatever the
weather was preparing to launch upon their heads. About three o’clock
the sky was full of tiny flakes which came through the still, silent air
with a steady, monotonous persistency that presaged a heavy downfall. By
night, which closed in early, the air was white with whirling flakes. It
was impossible to see more than a few feet.

“You see. She get worse before she get better,” declared Joe oracularly
as, after an early supper of jerked meat and hot tea, they sought their
blankets.

When morning came the worst of the storm was over. But what a scene!
Every landmark was obscured. Nothing met their eyes but a broad sheet of
unbroken snow. Every track was obliterated. Only some bumps in the snow,
like the hummocks over graves, showed where the mameluke dogs slept,
securely tucked in by a snowy blanket.

Joe shook his head despondently.

“Boosh! No good, dees!” he grumbled. “That rascal, he moost be most glad
to see. ‘Ha! Ha!’ he teenk to himself, ‘now I get away.’”

“I guess he’s dead right in that, too,” muttered Tom despondently.

“Courage! Mon garçon, we not geev up yet. We come long way get dees
fellow, we get him. Get breakfast, den we open trail. Joe Picquet know
dees country lak he know zee bumps in hees mattress.”

Soon afterward they took to their snowshoes, pressing forward over an
unbroken expanse of white. Both boys now wore old Joe’s bark “snow
glasses.” As for the old trapper himself, he had merely blackened his
eyes underneath with a burned stick to relieve the glare. It gave him an
odd and startling appearance, but it averted the danger of temporary
sightlessness.

“Dat beeg rascal, he have to keep to dees valley,” said Joe as they
pushed along. “No can get out till reach White Otter Lake. Maybe dere we
strike hees trail once more.”

Encouraged by this hope, they made good progress till noon, when old Joe
declared that they were within striking distance of White Otter Lake.

“But there he can take more than one road,” declared Tom, recalling what
Joe had said.

“Dat ees so. Two valley branch off dere, one to zee north, zee ozeer to
zee south.”

“Then it will be like looking for a needle in a haystack,” said Jack
disgustedly.

Old Joe looked up quickly.

“Maybe we find heem, maybe not,” he said; “all we can do is try. No good
get sore, mon garçon. Boosh!”

Jack looked rather abashed, but said nothing, and they went on again in
silence. Late in the afternoon, when near White Otter, they came upon
two Indians fishing through the ice. They had a decoy, one of the oddest
of its kind the boys had ever seen. It was a fish skin blown out like a
bladder and anchored at the edge of the ice. They seemed to have had
good luck, for a big pile of fish lay beside them.

Old Joe bought a good supply of these for the dogs, whose food was
beginning to run low. Then, after the usual palaver, the Indians were
asked about other passers along the trail. But they had not been there
long, they said. Their camp lay to the south. Since they had been
fishing they had seen no one.

The trapper paid for the fish, gave some of it at once to the dogs, and
then they went on again. It was a monotonous journey, trying to the body
and the spirits. A silence, tragic, gloomy and sinister hung over
everything. Although the snow had ceased and the sky was clear, the
going was heavy and tiring, and the uncertainty of picking up the
thief’s trail again added to their depression.

But the silence did not always hang heavy, brooding and unshattered.

From time to time a cry like the scream of a banshee would split the
air, startling the boys, used as they were to it. The cry was that of
the hunters of the north, the gaunt, gray rangers of the wilds—the
wolves.



                    CHAPTER XVII—THE LOUPS GALOUPS.


At such times old Joe would shrug his shoulders and say:

“Zee wolves, hey? Les Loups Galoups? Ever you heard of zee Loups
Galoups, mes enfants?”

“The galloping wolves?” said Tom, more for the sake of breaking the
silence than for any great curiosity he felt. “No, what are they?”

Old Joe looked mysterious.

“We do not lak to talk of zem,” he said. “Dey are not of zee earth,
comprenez vous? Dey are from above.”

He pointed upward at the heavens.

“Above?” repeated Tom, puzzled. “What do you mean?”

“Dat at night, when you hear dem rush tru zee air, howling and crying,
you know dat you hear noteeng dat is of dees eart’. Dey are what you
call zee ghosts, are zee Loups Galoups. Always before a pairson ees to
die you hear dem rush tru zee air ovair zee house.”

“What a queer notion!” laughed Tom, although Jack’s face was long and
serious. “Have you ever heard them?”

Joe Picquet’s face looked serious. Then he spoke slowly.

“Once, long time ago in Quebec Province, I hear zee Loups Galoups,” he
said slowly. “My wife was ver’ seeck. She sit up in zee bed one night
and call to me:

“‘Joe! Oh, Joe! allez vous ici!’

“I run queeck, and she hold oop her fingaire—so—and say to me:

“‘Leesten, Joe!’

“I leesten, an’ pretty soon I hear noise passing ovair zee house. Eet
sound lak zee galloping of someteengs tru zee air. Den I hear zee howl
of zee pack. Den I know dat I have hear zee Loups Galoups. Zee next day
my wife die, and I—I come away. I have nevaire been back. Dat long time
ago, when Joe Picquet, who is old, was yoong man, strong and full of
life. But old Joe nevaire forget zee Loups Galoups. Always when you hear
dem, dey mean death.”

Had the boys listened to such a fantastic bit of superstition in any
other surroundings, they would have laughed at it as ridiculous. But
hearing it as they did in that forlorn, man-forsaken waste, and told so
solemnly by the old trapper, it took a singular hold on their
imaginations. The Loups Galoups legend, which comes from old France, is
one of the most widely spread superstitions of the French Canadians. To
hear the Flying Wolves is to be certain that death or serious misfortune
is at hand.

Not long after Joe had concluded his story a large white Arctic hare
limped across their trail a few rods ahead. As it paused and gazed back
for an instant, Tom’s rifle jerked up to his shoulder, and the next
instant the hare lay kicking in the snow.

“Bon! Good shot, mon garçon!” cried old Joe. “To-night we have fine stew
for suppaire. Dat bettaire dan all zee time eat jerk meat.”

Darkness overtook them that night near to Otter Lake. They made camp in
an abandoned shanty of some gold-seeker or hunter on the banks of the
frozen river. It had once been quite a pretentious cabin, but had fallen
into disrepair. Among other of its unusual features was an open
fireplace set in a big chimney.

They did not light a fire in this, however, preferring to camp outside,
for the cabin was musty and damp and the floor had given way in many
places. Joe declared that it was certain to be infested with rats, and
they could see how the creatures had gnawed the timbers. Instead, they
established comfortable quarters outside the abandoned hut, and sat late
around the fire, talking over their strange quest and the ill fortune of
the snowstorm which had overtaken them.

It was just about as they were getting ready to turn in that Jack, who
was sitting nearest the hut, started and turned pale. He held up one
hand to command attention, and then he cried out:

“Gracious! Hark at that! What is it?”

What was it, indeed? Not the cry of the wolf pack, although that had
come closer. Nor did it resemble anything else earthly. It was a booming
sound like that produced by a giant bass fiddle and appeared to come
from the air.

Old Joe crossed himself as he heard it.

“Sacre!” the boys heard him exclaim.

Again came the booming sound. It appeared to fill the air, to come from
all directions. Mingled with it there burst suddenly on their ears a
series of appalling shrieks, which also seemed to come from above.

Startled beyond power of controlling themselves, the boys jumped to
their feet.

“It’s there! Up in the air!” cried Tom excitedly.

“But what can it——” began Jack, but he broke off suddenly. Into his
mind, as well as into his brother’s, and, to judge by his expression,
old Joe’s, there had burst simultaneously a sudden explanation.

The Flying Wolves!

At almost the same instant old Joe fell on his knees in the snow.

“Les Loups! Les Loups Galoups!” he burst out.

Jack’s teeth fairly chattered. But Tom grabbed him roughly by the
shoulder and shook him vigorously.

“Don’t be a chump!” he remonstrated. “Remember the last scare you had,
and how simply it was explained.”

Jack turned red and rallied his fears.

“Do you think it is the thief trying to scare us again?” he asked in
rather quavery tones.

“I don’t know. But, by hookey! I’ll find out and——”

Over their heads came a rush like the sweeping of a hundred wings. A big
white form flew downward, almost striking the old guide in the face.
With a howl he rolled over, scattering the ashes of the fire right and
left.

Jack also uttered a shout.

“Ow-ow! Did you see that?” he gasped.

“I did,” said Tom sternly, “and unless you also want to see stars you
had better dry up, Jack Dacre. There’s some excuse for old Joe, but none
for you.”

“Ber-ber-but these woods seem full of ghosts!” complained poor Jack.

“And cowards,” supplemented Tom dryly.

Old Joe got to his feet. A strong smell of scorching pervaded the camp.
Some coals, too, had lodged in his white whiskers, singeing those
venerable appendages. In spite of the scare he had got, Jack couldn’t
help laughing at the old man’s woebegone appearance.

“Oh, mes enfants!” wailed the old trapper, “les Loups Galoups have
passed ovair us!”

“Rot!” snapped Tom. “Your Loop of Glue was only an old white owl. As for
the other noises, I have a theory which I will prove in the morning. Now
let’s turn in.”



                   CHAPTER XVIII—TOM PLAYS DETECTIVE.


While the others were getting things in readiness for resuming the march
the next day Tom began an investigation. He had at first thought that
the mysterious noises of the night had been caused by their old enemy,
but some reflection made him believe that he was mistaken.

In the first place the thief, having had the good fortune to have his
trail wiped out by the snow, was not likely to be foolish enough to come
back and leave a fresh one. In the second, he was probably aware that
his first attempt had failed to scare the boys off his track. At any
rate, his continued haste along the trail appeared to conduce to such a
belief.

Tom had noticed that the white object which swooped down on old Joe,
scaring him almost into a fit, was a big white owl, in all probability
bewildered and blinded by the fire glow. He had observed, also, that the
mysterious noises appeared to come from the old hut, and the strange
“booming” sounds, as nearly as he could make out, had also emanated from
the same quarter.

The hut, then, appeared to be the logical place in which to look for the
origin of the series of happenings that had so alarmed the venerable and
superstitious Joe Picquet.

The first thing that Tom noticed when he entered the hut was something
white lying on the hearthstone of the chimney. On closer inspection this
proved to be the body of an Arctic hare. It was badly mangled and torn,
as if something had been eating it. Tom stooped and peered up the
chimney.

“Who-oo-oo-oo!” he shouted, at the same time beating the sides of the
smoke shaft with a stick that he had selected from a pile of firewood
laid in by the former occupant of the ruined hut.

His voice rang up the chimney like the noise of a train in a tunnel. At
the same instant there came a thunderous booming sound and the rush and
roar of wings. Tom had just time to dodge back before there came
flopping and scratching and squeaking down the chimney the body of a
huge white owl.

Tom fell upon it, but before he could secure the bird it had dug into
his arm with beak and talons, and then, with a weird shriek, blundered
across the hut and out through an unglazed window into the open air.

“Gone!” exclaimed Tom as he saw this. “And,” regretfully, “it would have
made a bully trophy stuffed, too. However, the mystery of the Flying
Wolves is explained. That booming sound was made by the flapping of the
owl’s wings in the wide chimney as it flew down there with that white
hare it had caught. I’ve heard that chimney swallows make the same
booming in chimneys at home as they enter and leave their nests.

“As for the screams and shrieks, the cries of that poor hare explains
that easily enough. Naturally, they sounded louder and as if they were
up in the air, proceeding as they did from the top of the chimney. The
rest of the mystery must be laid to old Joe’s imagination, which appears
to be in first-class working order.”

Tom couldn’t help giving mischievous glances at Joe as, over their
breakfast, he told the others the result of his investigations. But the
old man’s face was scornful as Tom proceeded. When the boy had
concluded, Joe, who had patiently heard him out, had his say. It was
brief and to the point.

“You only theenk. Joe Picquet _know_. Many men know ’bout Loups
Galoups—c’est sufficient.”

Tom saw that the old man was not in the least convinced that the noises
were not of supernatural origin. So hard is it to shake superstitious
beliefs, especially in the case of a man like old Joe, who had been born
and brought up in the wilds, and who rarely came into contact with
cities or life as it was beyond the wilderness.

They came to Otter Lake a few hours after their early start. On the
banks of the lake they found a party consisting of two families of
Indians. They were having a sort of carouse. The bucks had had the good
fortune to kill three deer the day before. As is the custom with the
Indians, the occasion was being observed by a celebration.

The Indians would not move on again till all the meat had been eaten or
wasted. They greeted the newcomers with unusual cordiality, and the
squaws threw big lumps of raw meat to the dogs, which the mamelukes
gulped down in great swallows and then yapped and barked for more.

They insisted on the party halting to eat with them and partake of the
unaccustomed plenty of the camp. This Joe was the more willing to do as
he guessed that from the Indians he might get some news of the fugitive.
But in their present mood the Indians were giving all their time to
jollity of a decidedly rough character, and Joe knew better than to
offend them by talking business until the time was ripe.

While they waited to eat, the squaws bustled about collecting wood. The
boys hated to see women thus employed, but they knew that they dare not
offer to do it; so they sat silent while old Joe and the Indians smoked
and talked. The Indians were telling of the great hunt of the three
deer, enlarging, as is their custom, every little detail till the story
stretched out to endless lengths.

Then they discussed dogs, a topic of endless interest in the North,
where dogs are infinitely more valuable than horses, and where
oftentimes a life, or many lives, may depend on their gameness and
reliability. This topic exhausted, they turned to the weather.

In a land where so much depends upon its moods, the weather is a subject
of vital interest. The Indians told of the big snows they had seen, and
old Joe Picquet related his similar experiences, and so the chat ran
along till the squaws announced that everything was ready for them to
eat.

They sat about the fire in the drafty tepee, eating off bits of birch
bark. That is, the white men did. The Indians used their fingers. At
last the meal was finished, pipes lighted, and old Joe felt at liberty
to ask the questions he was dying to put.

At first the Indians shook their heads. They had seen no white man. But
then one of the squaws interjected a remark. Wild Bird, another of the
squaws, had seen that very morning, while gathering wood to the north,
the trail of a sled. She had examined it and had found by it an odd
object. She had brought that object into camp. Would she produce it? She
would.

From a corner of the tepee the squaw shyly produced her find. The boys
could have uttered a cry of joy as they saw what it was.

The fag end of a yellow cigarette! Assuredly, then, the trail Wild Bird
had seen was that of the fugitive. It began about two miles to the north
by a tall “Rampick” (dead tree), near which he had camped, judging by
the remains of a fire, and from which he had hacked off some dead limbs.
And then Wild Bird herself gave another bit of evidence to clinch the
identification. She had remarked the man’s funny snowshoes. Never had
she seen any like them.

“Boosh! Mes garçons! We have found zee trail once more! Bien!”

Old Joe’s face beamed. But although they were anxious to hurry on, they
could not leave the friendly Indians hastily without a severe breach of
etiquette. But at length the social code of the tribe was satisfied,
and, with well-fed dogs in the traces, they got under way once more.
Wild Bird and another Indian went with them part of the way, so as to be
sure that they would not miss the spot at which they were to pick up the
trail.

At last they reached the gaunt “Rampick,” good-byes were said, and they
had the satisfaction once more of following the two familiar parallel
lines in the snow and beside them the tracks of the odd-shaped
snowshoes. The sky was gloomy and gray, but the Indians had said there
would be no more snow.

They journeyed on through a melancholy land all that afternoon. That
fall there had been a forest fire, and the blackened stumps of the trees
that had not fallen stood out, etched in ebony black, against the dreary
gray sky.

It was a pensive and melancholy land. But through it all, to brighten
the trail like a streak of vivid scarlet, was the track of the sled, the
sled on which reposed the stolen black fox skin. And beside it, as if to
assure them they were on the right track, lay at intervals little
yellow-wrapped rolls of tobacco.

“Zee time ees not long now,” declared old Joe, when they camped that
night on the edge of a gloomy little lake tucked away between two rocky
ridges.



                     CHAPTER XIX—OLD JOE’S THREAT.


The following morning, when they rose, the sky was cloudless. The night
before the stars had shone like diamond pin points in the sky. The
Northern Lights had whirled in a mad dance of shimmering radiance.

Beyond the camp stretched the white smoothness of the frozen river
leading from the sad little lake. The heaped masses of piled mountains
showed to the north and west, savage boundaries, bristling with defiance
toward the intruders into a frozen world.

The morning was very cold and very still. It was that brooding stillness
that hangs over the land of the frost-bitten suns and seems to convey a
sense of something alert with enmity to mankind, hovering like a
sinister cloud over the frozen snow fields. But of all this, although
keen enough to such impressions at other times, the boys noticed little
as they bustled about preparing for the day’s work.

It was reasonably certain now that before very long they must catch up
with the thief. The dogs were fed with deer meat purchased in exchange
for tobacco from the friendly Indians of the day before. The boiling hot
tea and the fried cakes and deer meat put new heart into the
adventurers. As for the dogs, they frisked and capered in the snow with
unaccustomed playfulness after their full meal, till old Joe summoned
them to the harness. Then they resumed the hang-dog air of the mameluke,
which is an odd sort of blend, suggesting obstinacy and defiance and
cringing servility.

Tom noticed that old Joe carefully oiled the lock of his old squirrel
rifle before they started. On the benevolent face of the old man there
was a new expression. It partook almost of ferocity, and Tom began to
fear that in the event of their coming up with the thief they might have
some difficulty in restraining the old man from violence.

As he oiled his rifle and caressed the aged weapon lovingly the boys
noticed that the old trapper was humming to himself.

“You seem happy,” said Tom, as the old man knocked the ashes out of his
pipe and tightened the thongs of his snowshoes, straightening up again
with a grunt.

“Eh bien! I am happy. To-day I teenk the owl catch the weasel, mon
enfant. Boosh! Let us be going.”

The whip cracked, the dogs yapped, the harness creaked as it tightened
under the stout pull of the meat-stuffed mamelukes, and the little
cavalcade dashed forward. Once more they were remorselessly upon the
trail of the thief; but to-day there was a difference in their bearing.
By some intuition which he would have been at a loss to explain, Tom
felt that the morning’s start was the beginning of the end. Before
night, if fortune favored them, they would come face to face with the
man to whose track they had clung for so long.

Old Joe capered about like a boy. He sang snatches of wild
French-Canadian boat songs, he snapped his fingers, and once he cut from
the trail-side a thick branch, which he trimmed down like a
walking-stick and then swung like a cudgel. The boys guessed that in
imagination he was bestowing a sound beating upon the thief.

But Tom had resolved that there must be no work of that sort when they
came up with the man, if they ever did. It was plain to see that old Joe
was prepared to carry out to the letter the law of “an eye for an eye,”
the only law that woodsmen North of Fifty-three know or care much about.
He did not blame old Joe for his desire to bestow at least a good
beating on the thief, considering the old trapper’s surroundings for
many years; but he did determine firmly that there was to be nothing of
the sort that old Joe too evidently contemplated.

At noon that day they overhauled the ashes of the thief’s cooking fire.
They were still warm. Old Joe’s saint-like face grew grimmer than ever.
His white whiskers fairly bristled.

“We are not far behind heem now, mes amis,” he chuckled. “Boosh! Before
long we shall see what we will see.”

Tom was wise enough to make no comments then. Time enough for that when
they came up with the man. For the present he allowed old Joe to indulge
himself in all sorts of sanguinary threats. Their midday meal was
despatched with what haste may be imagined. Then the dogs were urged
forward at a still brisker pace than they had followed during the
morning. The snowshoes flew creakingly over the hard snow.

The boys found their minds busy with conjectures as they forged forward.
What manner of man was this they were overhauling? Was he some ruffian
of the wilds who would put up a stiff fight that might necessitate the
use of firearms in self-defense, or would he yield to the superior force
opposed to him and give up peacefully his ill-gained spoils?

As the day waned and the west began to crimson, Tom decided to speak his
mind out to old Joe.

“See here, Joe, what do you mean to do when we catch up with this
fellow?”

“Eh? Dat man? Why, make him geev up the skeens, of course.”

“But if he won’t? If he opposes us?”

“In dat case——”

Joe said no more but patted the stock of his old squirrel rifle with a
gesture that spoke volumes.

“No, we can’t have any of that sort of thing,” said Tom decisively. “If
he won’t give up the skins without making trouble, we shall have to make
him prisoner somehow and one of us stand guard over him while the others
get some of the authorities.”

Old Joe shrugged his shoulders and looked at Tom with inexpressible
astonishment. He couldn’t make out this at all. In his rough creed
offenders against the code of the woods must be summarily dealt with.
Rifle or rope, it was all one to him, but the idea of calling in outside
forces to aid him had never entered the rough old woodsman’s head.

“Zee police?” he inquired. “You want call zee police, or zee sheriff?
Pourquoi? You leave heem to me. Old Joe Picquet feex heem—bien.”

He raised his old rifle to his shoulder and squinted down the sights as
if to make sure that everything was in perfect order.



                    CHAPTER XX—THE END OF THE TRAIL.


It was about four o’clock when, from a thick clump of young balsam trees
about a hundred yards ahead of our party, there came the sharp barking
of dogs. The boys thrilled. At last the big moment had arrived; the end
of their pursuit was at hand. There could be no doubt that the camp they
had come upon was the camp of the thief.

If any doubt remained it was speedily removed by the sight of the roof
of a small tent standing amid the dark green trees. It was a white man’s
tent of the wall type, a variety that an Indian would scorn to use. From
the top of it stuck a small stove-pipe, an unwonted sight in wilderness
travel. A stream of smoke coming from the pipe showed that the tent was
occupied.

From the camp the four dogs who had heralded the arrival of the boys and
their old guide came prancing and snuffing, their tails curled and teeth
shown in a snarl. But from the tent itself, beyond the smoke that curled
up from the stovepipe, there came no sign of life.

They halted and held a council of war.

“Let’s go right up to the tent and demand the man to surrender to us,”
suggested Jack.

But old Joe negatived this with a shake of the head.

“He is ver’ bad man,” said he, “maybe so he hide in the trees and shoot.
Moost be ver’ careful.”

“He may be peering out at us now,” breathed Tom, glancing about him
uneasily.

“Oui; maybe so he have us covered weez hees rifle at dees moment,”
agreed old Joe, without the flicker of an eyelash. With amazing coolness
he squatted down and filled his pipe.

“Moost hav’ smoke to teenk,” he explained.

For some seconds, while the boys were in an agony of suspense and the
strange dogs stood with bristling hackles and snarling teeth at a
respectful distance from old Joe’s team, the veteran of the northern
wilds drew placidly at his old brier. To look at him no one would have
imagined that the venerable-looking old man was revolving in his mind
the capture of a desperate rascal, who even at that moment might have
him covered from some point of vantage.

The suspense was a cruel test of the boys’ nerves. Remember that they
were out in the open, affording an easy mark for anyone lurking within
the shadows of the dark balsams that screened the tent with its smoking
stove-pipe. For all they knew, in fact, the man might not be alone. He
might be one of a gang regularly organized to raid traps and skin
stores. Such organizations were not rare in that part of the country, as
the boys well knew.

At length old Joe rose, knocked the ashes out of his pipe, and faced the
boys. They knew that he had at last decided upon a plan. It was a simple
one. The wonder was that he had taken so long to arrive at a conclusion.

“I am going to call out to dees man,” said Joe. “I tell heem if he ees
fool he will fight us; if he ees wise man he weel do what we say.”

Before they could stop him the old man had stepped forward, using the
trunk of a balsam tree as a shield between himself and the door of the
tent. A minute later someone stirred within the tent; then came a voice:

“Who’s there?”

Joe gave a little laugh.

“Someone to see you,” he said. “I ask you, please shove outside any
weapon you have weez you. It ees no good for you to fight. We have
caught you at last.”

There was a silence inside the tent. Then the boys saw the flap raised
and a rifle thrust out. Old Joe’s face beamed. This was going to be
easier than he had imagined. He beckoned to the boys, and, as they
joined him, he flung open the flap and stepped inside the tent.

Stretched out on the ground right across the doorway was a small,
wizened looking man covered with a shabby blanket made of mangy-looking
skins. His head and shoulders were propped up on a couple of filled
packs.

Even in the dim light within the tent it could be seen that his cheeks
were drawn and gray and that pain had etched lines of suffering on them.
The boys stood amazed just at old Joe’s elbow.

Was it possible that this little gray man with the look of pain on his
face was the robber whom they had pictured during the long days and
nights of the pursuit as a savage, truculent fellow ready to give them a
fight rather than yield up the stolen skins? They actually felt pity as
they looked at the little wasted form on the ground.

As for Joe, he appeared to be equally dumfounded, but he soon recovered
his faculties.

“And so, mon ami, we have found you at zee last, eh?”

“Real pleased you come, too! Real pleased,” was the answer the little
gray man gave in a high, piping treble.

The boys took in the details of the tent. The small sheet-iron stove
with its pipe going through the roof, the queer-looking snowshoes, and
the pile of duffle left in a corner just as it had been thrown from the
sled. Old Joe looked more taken aback than ever. He had come prepared to
fight some rascal who would put up a desperate resistance. Instead, he
found a little wasted man who had nothing to say but that he was glad to
see them.

There was a pause while Joe reconstructed things. It was broken in upon
by another piping up of the thin voice of the man on the ground.

“See that sack over thar, stranger?” said the little man, indicating a
partially filled pack-bag in one corner of the tent.

“Oui! I see heem,” rejoined Joe in a dazed voice.

“Wa’al, thar’s fish in thar. I’d take it real kind in yer ef yer’d jes’
feed my dorgs, mister. They ain’t hed much ter sot their teeth in
lately, me being hurried like along the trail.”

The boys exchanged glances. They had met with many strange experiences,
but this appeared to be the cap-sheaf of them all. Old Joe simply
shrugged his shoulders; he was bereft of speech. In the face of this
astonishing end to their long, grim chase, he was, for the time being,
incapable of finding words.

He crossed over to the sack and began pulling out fish, but in the midst
of the operation he found his voice again.

“Say, you, what’s zee matter weez you, anyhow?”

“I’m sick,” responded the man under the shabby blanket, “right sick.”

“I see you seeck, all right,” said Joe, “but what ails you? Boosh!” he
concluded, puffing out his sun-burned cheeks.

“I don’t rightly know,” rejoined the other; “it’s a sorter pain all
over.”

He moved uneasily under the shabby blanket and the boys saw his hands,
which lay outside the covering, clench and unclench, as if he were
suffering a sudden spasm of pain.

Outside the tent there came a sound of plaintive yapping and howling.
The little man’s mamelukes had smelled the fish.

“Reckon they’re hungry, poor beasts,” said the little man.

Joe did not reply, but moved to the door of the tent. He threw out the
fish. The dogs sprang upon it ravenously, tearing it as if they had
fasted for days. Joe watched them for a minute with an odd look on his
bearded face. Then he turned to the man again.

“What your name, anyhow?”

“Dolittle—Peabody Dolittle,” said the man, “but somehow folks mostly
call me Pod.”

Pod! The boys, despite the situation, could almost have laughed at the
name.

Here was a bold thief who, by all the rules of fiction, should have
borne some name that would fit with his supposedly desperate character,
and instead of that he told them that he was “mostly called Pod.”

As for Joe, he could only gasp and shrug his shoulders helplessly.

“Boosh!” he exclaimed after an interval. “Pod, you an’ me and dese
garçon got to have some talk, Pod.”

“Go right ahead, mister,” said Pod.



                    CHAPTER XXI—THE LITTLE GRAY MAN.


Old Joe was fairly stumped. So were the boys. The little gray man was
sick, feeble and apologetic, and yet they knew that he had stolen those
furs and he must be made to give them up.

“Guess we’ll leave this thing to Joe,” whispered Jack to Tom.

“The only thing to do. I don’t like this at all. I’d almost rather he’d
put up a fight.”

“Say, there’s no more wood by that stove,” said Jack; “guess he was too
sick to cut any more. We’d better go and get some ourselves. What do you
say?”

“All right. Let Joe do the talking. I’d feel like a ruffian myself to
cross-question a sick man, even if he is a thief.”

The two boys drew Joe aside. Then they left the tent. As they went,
their talk ran upon the strangeness of the twist of circumstances that
had made them become ministers to the comfort of a man who had wronged
them and led them a long, hard chase through the frozen lands to recover
their own.

As they chopped wood, they stopped every now and then and looked at each
other.

“This beats our experience with the two crazy miners,” said Tom, during
one of these pauses.

“Beats it! I should say so. I thought that was about the limit of queer
adventures, but this is an odder one still.”

“How a sick man could have gone through all that Pod has, I can’t
imagine,” said Tom.

“And he’s pretty sick, too, I guess,” commented Jack. “Well, let’s get
ahead with our wood chopping and go back and find out what Joe has
learned.”

In the meantime old Joe was almost equally at a loss. He needed time to
adjust himself to circumstances so utterly different from those that he
had imagined would await them at the end of the long trail. At last,
however, he found words:

“Say you, Pod, or what’ev’ yo’ name ees,” he began, “you know what for
me, Joe Picquet, an’ zee two garçons come here, eh?”

“I kin guess,” was the response, accompanied by a mild smile.

Old Joe smoked furiously. Here was a man he had come prepared to fight
over the stolen skins, and the man smiled at him.

“Ah ha! You can guess!” he burst out at last. “You bet my life you
guess. You guess bien dat you one beeg teef, eh? You guess dat? Boosh!”

There was no answer from the man lying under the shabby skin rug.

Old Joe began to find his task becoming more and more difficult. If only
the man would say something, make some aggressive move, he would have no
difficulty in letting loose his long bottled-up rage. But as it was, he
felt almost as helpless as the recumbent figure on the ground.

“Why you no answer, you—you Pod!” he exclaimed. “I want know.
_Comprenez-vous?_ Joe Picquet wan’ know wha’ for you break in his skeen
keg an’ take _un-deux-trois_ nice skeen?”

Again there was silence. Old Joe rose and came close to the man. This
time he shook a finger in his face.

“Attendez, you leetle coyote! You do worse as zees. You steal from two
garçons one black fox skeen. Where dose skeens? We come to get dem.”

The little man blinked as the finger was shaken in his face, but he made
no other sign that he had heard. Old Joe’s eyes began to blaze. This was
sheer obstinacy.

“You answer pret’ queeck or we load you on sled an’ take you Red Fox
trading pos’. Have you give up to zee jail. Now you talk.”

The little man made a peevish face and waved his arms about feebly. “I
dunno nuthin’ 'bout yer skins,” he said. “What’s the matter with you?”

This time it was Joe who did not answer. Near the head of the man, half
under the sacks that served him as pillows, Joe had seen some skins
sticking out. With scant regard for “Pod’s” comfort, he began pulling at
these.

For the first time, Pod began to grow restless.

“Them’s all mine,” he insisted, “t’aint no use your lookin’. Ain’t none
of yours thar, mister.”

“Where are dey, den? Where is dat black fox skeen you take from _les
garçons_ on zee Porc’pine Riviere?”

“I dunno, I’m telling you. I ain’t never been near the Porcupine River.
Dunno whar’ it is.”

“You don’t, eh? Boosh! Let me tell you, _mon ami_, you tell one beeg
story! Zee two garçons, dey trail you all zee way from dere, you beeg
teef. You’ snowshoes make different track, an’ see zee cigareette
stumps!” Several of the yellow paper wrappings were littered about the
tent. “Now do you say you are not zee same man?”

“Stranger, honest to mackerel, I dunno what yer talkin’ erbout.”

Joe turned to the pile of skins once more.

“We search every corner dees tent, den,” he said, with finality.

But as he was stooping over the skins, throwing them out one by one, and
scanning the pile the while with eager eyes for his own and the boys’
property, some subtle sixth sense made him suddenly wheel.

Out of the corner of his eye he had seen the little man’s hands make a
sudden move. He was on him with a bound. In a flash he had both the
little gray man’s hands pinioned in his own powerful grip, one over and
one under the shabby covering.

Then, with a swift movement, he yanked the skin blanket down. He
disclosed a hand holding a wicked looking revolver of heavy caliber. It
was fully loaded and cocked.

Pod was not the harmless individual he had appeared to be.



                    CHAPTER XXII—“THE WOLF’S” TEETH.


“Boosh! So you would try keel me, eh, mon brave?” puffed old Joe,
wresting the weapon from the hand of the little gray man and hurling it
across the room. “Vous etes one fine fellow, n’est-ce pas?”

Leaving him for an instant, old Joe fairly slid across the tent and did
something which, but for his excitement, he would have accomplished in
the first place. He “broke” the pistol and extracted the six cartridges.

The little man under the tattered blanket watched with glittering eyes.
Then Joe Picquet turned to him once more.

“Where ees zee black fox skeen, you beeg rascal?”

The old trapper felt like pouncing upon the other and shaking the truth
out of him, especially following his discovery of the little man’s
weapon. But the fellow appeared to be genuinely sick and he throttled
down his anger.

The man remained silent. Old Joe thought he resembled a little
glittering-eyed weasel as he lay there watching the old trapper with
furtive eyes, that though they appeared averted followed old Joe’s every
move. But he did not speak in rejoinder to Joe’s direct command. He
merely grinned in a sickly fashion, showing a double row of yellow,
uneven teeth. Seen thus, he looked more like some little wicked animal
than ever. The sympathy that Joe had felt for him began to evaporate.

“See here, you, you no play ’possum weez old Joe Picquet,” he said
roughly, putting on an appearance of ferocity. “He no stand for
monkey-doodle business. Non, mon ami.”

The man lay in silence for a space. Then he moved and spoke.

“Look in that sack yonder,” he said, indicating a bulging gunny-bag in a
corner near the sled.

Old Joe lost no time in ripping open the deerskin fastenings of the bag
and dragging out its contents. These he dumped in a heap on the floor.
There were marten skins, ermine skins and weasel skins galore, but none
of his skins nor so much as a hair of a black fox pelt.

Joe turned angrily on the other.

“I geev you one chance,” he said; “you fool me no more. You tell me
where dat skeen ees or les garçons go to Red Fox for zee autarkies.”

The sick man grinned again, showing his yellow molars, that looked like
stumps protruding from the sands at low tide.

“I tole yer, yer wouldn’t find it, Frenchy,” said he, “an’ I reckon you
won’t. I ain’t got it, an’ that’s the truth.”

Joe’s jaw closed with a click. His teeth clenched and his old eyes
flashed.

“Ver’ well den, mon ami. I search your blankets.”

It might have been fancy, but Joe thought that he saw the man on the
ground turn a shade paler. Old Joe approached the bed. In the dim light
his face looked as ferocious as the countenance of a wolf. Perhaps
something warned Peabody Dolittle that it was no use to evade the
question of his guilt any longer.

“It’s under the lower blanket,” he said weakly.

Old Joe thrust his hand under and then, for the second time, he looked
up just in the nick of opportunity. As he stooped low, the sick man had
raised himself on his bed, and now had a knife poised above the old
French-Canadian’s back.

With a shout of rage, the trapper struck the upraised arm and sent the
blade halfway across the tent. It fell ringingly to the ground. At the
same instant, the boys, who had heard Joe’s shout, came running into the
tent, their arms full of wood.

“Aloons, mes enfants!” cried the angry old man. “Do not give good wood
to such as dis man. Twice he try to keel me. Once weez pistol, once weez
knife. Let heem freeze in zee snows if he weel. We weel help heem no
more.”

He thrust a hand under the man’s blankets where the latter had
indicated. Then, with a shout of triumph, he drew out a beautiful skin.
A black fox pelt, shimmering, glossy, beautiful!

The boys gave a cry. It was theirs beyond a doubt, the skin of the fine
black fox that they had last seen barking and howling for his liberty,
and whom the two partners in the fox-raising enterprise had set such
store by. They were still looking at the skin, petrified, when old Joe
uttered another cry of triumph.

This time, from beneath the blankets he drew out the skins the thief had
filched from his own cabin. His rage knew no bounds. He appeared angrier
now that he had found the skins than he was before. He shook his fist at
the sick man and upbraided him unmercifully.

“You are one skunk! One homme mechant!” he roared. “You first rob and
den try to keel. Above all, you lie. Boosh! I have for you no use.”

“Well, you’ve got yer skins now, ain’t ye?” asked the man on the ground,
in a feeble voice. “What more d’ye want?”

“A good deal more,” struck in Tom. “How did you come to know of the
foxes on the Porcupine River?”

“I overhearn two fellers at the tradin’ post talkin’ about ’em,”
whimpered the crest-fallen Pod.

“You did, eh?” exclaimed Jack. “What sort of looking fellows?”

The man lying stretched out there with an abject, fawning look on his
face turned a beseeching glance on them. But they knew of the cowardly
crime he had tried to perpetrate and hardened themselves toward him. In
his high-pitched, plaintive voice, Pod gave a description of the two men
he had declared were responsible for his knowledge of the fox kennels on
the Porcupine.

When he concluded his description Tom and Jack exchanged astonished
glances.

“Uncle Dacre!” cried Jack.

“Mr. Chillingworth!” cried Tom. “I’ll bet they were talking business and
this fellow here crept up and listened.”

Although they were both very angry, somehow the thought that they had
succeeded in the hard task they had set out to accomplish, made them
less disturbed than they might have been.

“What did you do it for?” asked Tom.

“I can’t tell yer now,” was the rejoinder. “It was fer many reasons.
Some day perhaps you’ll know. Now I can’t say nothin’.”

“At least, tell us if it was you that tried to frighten us by howling
through a birch-bark megaphone?” asked Tom.

The little man grinned.

“Yes, I did it, all right,” he said, with the same soft, foolish smile.
“I calcerlated to shake you off’n my trail. But I didn’t do it. It was
jes’ a plum foolish joke, that’s all, and——”

“Stand right where you are!”

The order came from a voice behind the boys and old Joe, who had been
bending over the stricken little gray fellow.

They all wheeled like a flash. In the doorway stood three figures—tall,
rough-looking men dressed in the ordinary garb of the trail. All three
were armed and each had assigned himself to “take care of” one of our
adventurers.

The “sick” man broke into a shrill laugh.

“He! he! he! Thought you’d fooled Wolf Ericsen, didn’t you? Well, by the
eternal, you’ve got another guess coming, I reckon. Dick! Sarsen! Flem!
keep ’em covered while I get up.”



                       CHAPTER XXIII—SANDY ALONE.


The day following the departure of Tom and Jack from the camp of the
_Yukon Rover_, Sandy decided that he would take a stroll along the trap
line for some little distance to see if any of the smaller traps,
interspersed with the big box traps for catching the live foxes, had
caught anything. Before he departed he carefully fed the animals in the
“kennels.”

This done, he wrapped himself up as warmly as possible in a thick
parkee, heavy lumbermen’s boots and a cap that came down over his ears.
Before leaving he took care to write a note and leave it on the table in
the cabin, informing the two partners briefly where he had gone and what
had taken place during their absence, in case they should return before
he got back again.

When all this had been attended to, Sandy filled a haversack with food
and packed a small aluminum kettle and set out on snowshoes on his
solitary travels. He wondered what his companions were doing and what
success they had had in their pursuit of the thief. The boy felt
lonesome without his chums, but as he made his way over the crunching
snow the keen air brightened him up and raised his spirits considerably.

Since Tom and Jack had left, nothing to cause alarm had occurred, and
although Sandy had passed an anxious night, he had seen nothing to
indicate that any further harm was meditated to the valuable live things
now left in his sole care.

The traps were strung in a regular line, whose general direction was
marked by blazed trees and here and there some piled rocks. Near to the
_Yukon Rover’s_ mooring place there were no box traps. These were
stationed far back in the remoter districts, for the valuable foxes they
were after were wild, shy creatures, seldom coming within miles of a
spot where they could detect the presence of human kind.

At the first trap Sandy found a white weasel. The bait, the head of a
hare, was intact. The luckless weasel had not even had the satisfaction
of a meal.

Sandy placed the little creature in his pocket, not without
disappointment. The Bungalow Boys’ traps, the steel ones, that is, were
set for food, such as hares and rabbits. They did not care to capture
weasels and ermine particularly, although red foxes, which have a habit
of scaring away the more valuable varieties, were welcome to their
traps.

Tom and Jack, as we know, had already encountered the track of a
wolverine. It was now Sandy’s turn to come across the funny, bear-like
imprints of one of these destructive creatures.

“Whist!” he exclaimed, as he saw it, “no more animals in the traps the
noo! A wolverine has a bigger appetite than a cormorant. They’re the
real game hogs, all right.”

As he had expected, the next trap showed plentiful evidences of the
wolverine’s visit. All that was left of the marten that had been caught
in it was some bits of skin and about an inch of the tail. Bloodstains
on the snow around the trap showed where the wolverine had enjoyed a
meal at the expense of the young trappers.

“Pretty expensive feeder,” mused Sandy to himself. “So far this
glutton’s meals have cost about thirty dollars in the value of skins
destroyed. Nothing cheap about him.”

The boy trudged along over the snow, the creaking of his shoes as he
advanced being the only sound that broke the oppressive stillness of the
frozen wilderness. In spite of himself the boy felt the vast silence and
loneliness like a weight laid upon his mind. So far as he knew, he was
the only human being within miles. It made him feel very tiny, almost
ant-like, to think of the minute speck his body must make as he toiled
onward amidst the white desolation spread all about him.

At noon he paused, and seating himself under a tall “Rampick” that
upreared its gaunt form blackly against the snow, he ate the lunch he
had brought with him. Then he resumed his journey, intending to turn
back again and make for camp after about an hour’s more travel. He
figured that this would bring him back to the camp by nightfall.

As he followed up the traps he noticed that beside the ravages of the
wolverine other tracks began to appear in the snow, telling of the
presence of animals only less welcome.

Tracks that the boy recognized as the footprints of wolves were
plentiful about the traps devastated by the wolverine, or perhaps by the
wolves themselves.

The sight sent a thrill through him in spite of himself. Sandy had never
gotten over his dread of wolves. He would never forget his first sight
of the gaunt, gray creatures that he had seen hunting in a pack some
weeks before. Even in dreams he could still see their foamy fangs, gaunt
flanks and lean, active bodies with their sharp, avid heads and blazing
yellow eyes.

At the sight of the tracks, which were apparently recent, an uneasy
feeling possessed him. The wolves were abroad, possibly in his immediate
vicinity. He glanced around him. About half a mile away, at the summit
of a snow-covered rise, was a big pile of rocks heaped up as if they had
been some giant’s playthings left in jumbled confusion. Beyond lay a
dark little wood of balsam and fir. Sandy was still looking at this
latter and meditating whether or not to visit the traps he knew were set
in under the shadows of the somber-looking trees, when his ear was
arrested by a sudden sound.

It rang through the silence like a clarion. He recognized it instantly
and his nerves thrilled as he heard.

It was the cry of a wolf pack coming from the timber patch. Sandy half
turned, uncertain whether to keep on or make a retreat.

As he hesitated, from the wood there issued several lean-flanked, gray
creatures, whose forms he knew only too well.

They were the leaders of the pack. Behind them, helter-skelter, came a
tumbling, racing-mass of open-fanged creatures.

The leaders spied the boy, halted an instant and then, with fierce,
short barks, headed straight for him.



                         CHAPTER XXIV—THE PACK.


Sandy’s first impulse was to run. Then he recalled what he had heard an
old woodsman say, that to flee from a wolf pack is to invite almost
certainly pursuit. Yet what other course was there for him to pursue? He
had his rifle and some cartridges, but the pack was a large one and
there was something in their appearance, even at that distance, that was
strikingly sinister in its suggestion of unloosed savagery.

Behind the hesitating boy lay stretched a level snowfield without a tree
or a rock showing above its surface for some distance. Ahead of him, and
a little to his right, was the big rock pile already mentioned. The
wolves were racing diagonally across the snow. If he did not act quickly
the only refuge in sight, the heaped up pile of rocks, would be lost to
him.

Hesitating no longer, Sandy put out every effort that was in him and
started for the rocks. But as he flew over the snow with his heart
beating as if it would burst his sides, he knew that if he won the race
it would be only by a very narrow margin.

His feet felt leaden. Although he put forth every ounce of strength he
possessed, it appeared to him that he hardly moved. He had experienced
the same sensation in nightmares, when he seemed to be in the grip of
peril without the power of crying out or moving a limb.

“I must make it! I must!” he kept saying to himself as he pushed
forward.

But the space between himself and the wolves, who had seen his move and
apparently divined the object of it, was growing terribly small. Racing
at an angle to his line of progress, the creatures were swiftly closing
up the gap which gave the boy his margin of safety.

The rocks, which he must reach to have even a fighting chance against
the famished pack, appeared to his bursting eyes to be almost as far off
as they had been when he started on his race for life. He saw that they
were immense boulders with big, snow-filled crevasses between them. If
only he could reach them he did not doubt but that there were
innumerable natural fortresses among them from which he could safely
defy the wolves.

But could he make it?

Life and death hinged on that question now, for there could be no doubt
remaining but that he was the wolves’ quarry, the prey that they sought
with dripping fangs and eager, blazing eyes.

The thought flashed through Sandy’s mind that the hunting must have been
bad for the pack to make them pursue a human being, something which the
savage but cowardly creatures rarely do unless driven to desperation by
ferocious pangs of appetite. Hunger, as with most animals, will convert
wolves, ordinarily despised by the northern woodsman, into beasts as
dangerous as tigers.

Sandy had heard tales of the northern wolves when feed is scarce and the
snow lies on the land. He was under no delusions as to his danger. But,
strange to say, as he ran onward a sort of fierce pleasure in the race
came over him.

At school Sandy had made some notable records on the track. But never
had he had such an incentive to speed as now confronted him. He felt a
savage determination to beat out those gray-flanked, drip-fanged
creatures, if the life within him held out in the cruel test of speed
and staying power.

The rocks loomed larger. He had crossed the line the pack was pursuing.
A savage chorus of yelps arose as the leaders saw what had happened and
swung their cohorts on a new tack.

And now the haven of refuge he was struggling for loomed up larger and
closer. Only a few feet more and——

A rock concealed under the snow, an outcropping no doubt of the large,
castle-like pile, caught Sandy’s foot. He plunged headlong into the
snow. As he fell he could hear behind him the yelps of the pack. They
thought that now the race was over beyond a doubt; that in a few seconds
more their teeth would be tearing the helpless boy.

But Sandy, half stunned by the violence of his fall, managed to struggle
to his feet in the nick of time. He could almost feel the breath of the
leaders of the yapping pack at his neck when he found himself, he hardly
knew how, on his legs once more and struggling with the last remaining
ounces of his strength to reach the rocky cliffs, which alone held out a
promise of safety.

Many things raced through his mind as he drove on. Thoughts of Tom and
Jack, of his old school fellows and of his parents far away in Scotland,
memories of old grudges and repented wrongs. Sandy had read of drowning
people whose whole lives race before them in a dazzling film of realism
in their last moments. He wondered if it was his end that was presaged
by the vivid panorama of his career that was mirrored in his mind as he
ran.

Behind him there arose a savage howl of disappointment. Cheated of their
prey just when it appeared certain that it was within their grasp, the
pack was giving vent to its feelings. The big, gaunt leaders gave forth
a baying note, the hunting call of the pack.

Sandy set his teeth.

“I’ll beat you yet, you gloomeroons!” he muttered savagely.

He stumbled again; recovered his balance; went plunging half blindly on.
His mind was now a blank to all but one thought: those rocks in front of
him. He must reach them, he must, he must.

He stretched out his arms as if to try to grasp with his finger tips the
rough surface of the foremost of the huge boulders. The wolves’ howls
sounded more loudly behind him. His strength began to falter at their
cries.

But by an effort he rallied his nerve and put forth another burst of
speed.

The next instant he felt his hands touch the rocks in front of him.
Almost simultaneously the leader of the wolves, a great, gaunt beast,
fully shoulder high among his brethren, leaped at the boy.

But the jump fell short. With a savage snarl of disappointment, the
great gray wolf fell back, while Sandy, with the strength of
desperation, clambered upward among the rocks.

[Illustration: The leader of the wolves, a great, gaunt beast, leaped at
the boy.]



                    CHAPTER XXV—HEMMED IN BY WOLVES.


Panting, almost at the limit of his strength, with torn hands and rent
garments, the lad clambered upward among the rocks. They had seemed
large at a distance. Now they appeared to be veritable mountains of
boulders. But they were rough and afforded a fair foothold, except where
windblown snow had obscured their surfaces and made them slippery and
treacherous.

After five minutes of climbing, Sandy rested for a time and paused to
look down below him. The wolves were apparently taken aback by his
successful evasion of their fangs. The leaders were seated on their
gaunt haunches gazing hungrily up at him, while behind them the rest of
the pack moved uneasily about. The boy could see the steam of their hot
breaths as they panted, their red tongues lolling far out and their
sharp, tiger-like teeth exposed.

Their wicked little yellow eyes were fixed steadfastly upon the boy, who
looked down upon them from the shoulder of a great rock. He was safe for
the time being, and Sandy took advantage of the respite to rally his
faculties.

Although he was temporarily secure from the pack, his position was still
about as bad as it could be. He was practically marooned on the rocky
island in the snows until the pack should see fit to withdraw, or until
some other game drew their attention from him.

Without letting his eyes stray from the wolves for more than a second at
a time, Sandy took stock. He had his rifle, hunting knife and some
twenty cartridges, besides those in the magazine of his rifle, twelve in
number. Of his lunch there was left some baking powder bread, a small
quantity of cold deer meat and some salt and pepper.

It was little enough for the protracted siege that he might have to
stand on the rocky pile, but scanty though the provision was, he was
glad of the foresight that had made him save it for a snack on his way
home. Besides the articles mentioned, the boy had his matches and a
compass, and that was all.

But the next minute he realized that even his matches were gone. In his
frantic climb, the nickel, water-proof case in which the precious
lucifers were carried had dropped from his pocket. Looking down after
the discovery of his loss, he saw the glint of the little metal cylinder
lying on the snow at the foot of his haven of refuge.

To recover it was out of the question. The wolves grimly stood guard
over it as if fully understanding its value to the human creature on the
rocks. As Sandy looked at the wolves, the great snow rangers stared
straight back at him with an uncanny steadiness. He seemed to read their
message in their flaming yellow orbs.

“There is no hurry. We can wait. As well to-morrow as now.”

Sandy clambered yet higher. At his first move the leaders, as if by
concerted action, flung themselves tooth and nail at the rocky
escarpment confronting them.

The pack, snarling and yapping with chagrin, were hurled back from the
stony fortress like waves from a pier. Sandy observed this with
satisfaction. His place of refuge appeared to be impregnable. The
wolves’ only chance lay in starving him out. And with a bitter pang
Sandy realized that unless help arrived or he was able to frighten them
off, the creatures stood a good chance of accomplishing this.

It was odd that the emergency which might have unmanned much stronger
minds than Sandy’s should not have had the effect of reducing him to
despair. But this was not so. The Scotch lad possessed in him a strain
of indomitable blood. Like his ancestors, who sought refuge in the rocks
and caves of the highlands during the stormy periods of Scotland’s
history, the boy, terrible though his position was and fraught with
menace, yet kept up his sturdy courage.

In fact, the danger of his position appeared to lend him nerve which he
might have lacked under less trying conditions. It is often so. Human
nature has a habit of rising to emergencies. Dangers and difficulties
are often the anvils upon which men and boys are tried to see if they be
of the true metal.

The wolves, with supernatural patience, resumed their positions of
waiting, following their futile attack on the rocky wall that faced
them. But Sandy saw that although they appeared indifferent to him, they
yet had an eye to his every movement.

He tried the experiment of raising an arm or swinging a leg as if he
were about to move again. Instantly every sharp-nosed head was raised in
an attitude of deep attention. To those wolves there was but one
interesting object in the whole of that dreary expanse of snow, and that
was Sandy McTavish.

“I’ve got to do something,” thought Sandy desperately. “Before long it
will be getting dusk.”

He couldn’t help giving a shudder as he thought of this. The idea of
spending a night in the freezing cold with those silent, tireless
watchers below him shook his courage badly. He concluded to try the
effect of a few shots among the pack. Possibly, if he could kill the
leaders, the rest might become alarmed and leave him.

He raised his rifle and singled out the great, gray wolf that appeared
to be commander-in-chief of the creatures. This was a huge animal with
bristling hackles who was covered with wounds and scars received no
doubt in defending his title of leader of the pack.

Sandy took careful aim between the wolf’s blazing yellow eyes that shone
in the gathering dusk like signal lamps. He pulled the trigger and a
blaze and a sharp crack followed. Mingled with them was the death cry of
the big gray wolf.

He leaped fully four feet into the air and came down with a crash.
Before the breath was out of his gaunt body the pack was upon him,
tearing, rending and fighting. When the mass of struggling,
famine-stricken wolves surged apart again, Sandy saw that a few
bloodstains on the snow and some bones in the mouths of the stronger of
the wolves were all that remained of the leader of the pack.

A king among them when alive, the dead wolf had been to his followers
nothing more than so much meat. Their cannibal feast being disposed of,
except that here and there a wolf crunched a bone, the animals resumed
their vigil.

Twice, three times more, did Sandy fire; but each time with the same
result.

He dared not waste more ammunition. He must conserve what he had left
for emergencies, in case it came down to a fight for his very life.

For the first time since he had gained a place of comparative safety the
boy gave way utterly. He sank his head in his hands and despair rushed
over him like a wave.



                      CHAPTER XXVI—THE BACK TRAIL.


It is now time to return to Tom, Jack and their companion, old Joe
Picquet. It will be recalled that we left them in a most precarious and
startling situation.

From a man apparently sick unto death, the gray, pitiable figure on the
cot had been suddenly changed to a vicious, spiteful enemy, as
vindictive and apparently as dangerous as a rattlesnake. The very
swiftness of the change had taken them so utterly by surprise that, as
the rifles of his three followers were trained upon them, our trio of
friends were deprived of speech.

Old Joe was the first to recover his faculties. With his eyes blazing
furiously from his weather-beaten face, he emitted a roar of rage.

The vials of his wrath were directed against the small gray man—Peabody
Dolittle, as he had called himself.

“Boosh! You beeg ras-cal!” he cried. “You beeg liar as well as teef, eh?
What you wan’ us do now—eh?”

“Nothing but to give up those skins you took from me and then vamoose,”
came the quiet rejoinder from the little gray man, who had lost his
Yankee dialect and drawl and who was now on his feet fully dressed
except for a coat.

“And if we won’t?” exclaimed Tom, retaining a firm grip on the black fox
skin.

He was resolved to keep it at all hazards.

“Why, then,” rejoined the other, with a vindictive snarl, “we shall have
to adopt harsh measures. You may consider yourselves my prisoners.”

“Non! Not by a whole lot!”

The angry, half choked cry was from old Joe Picquet. Beside himself with
fury at the thought of the cunning fraud the man had worked upon them,
he flung himself forward as if he meant to tear him to pieces.

Tom’s arm jerked him back.

“Don’t do anything like that, Joe,” he counseled; and then to the gray
man, “I suppose your sickness was just a dodge to keep us here till your
companions could arrive.”

“Just what it was, my young friend,” amiably agreed the rascal. “As a
guesser of motives you are very good—very good, indeed.”

One of the new arrivals stepped forward and whispered something to his
leader, who nodded. Then he spoke:

“Of course, I shall have to ask you to give up your weapons,” he said.

Old Joe Picquet fumed and fussed, but there was nothing for it but to
obey. In the presence of such a force, and with the disadvantage under
which they labored, there was nothing else to be done. With the best
grace they could, they gave up their weapons, which the little gray man,
with a smile of satisfaction, took into his possession.

“Pity you didn’t heed the ghostly warning I gave you,” said he to the
boys, with a grin, “you’d be in a better position than you are now. But
after all, it will teach you never again to interfere with the Wolf.”

They had nothing to reply to this speech; but at the rascal’s next words
their anger broke out afresh.

“Are you going to give up those skins, or do we have to take them from
you?”

As he spoke he did a significant thing. He lightly tapped with his
finger tips the rifle stock of the man next to him. It was a quiet hint,
yet a sufficient one.

“We are in your power right now; but perhaps before long the tables will
be turned,” said Tom. “Take the skin that you stole, and——”

“Say no more, my young friend. You are wise beyond your years. Flem,”
this to a squat-figured, evil-looking fellow with a shack of sandy hair,
who was one of the trio whose arrival had caused our friends so much
trouble, “Flem, hand me that black fox skin. I went to some trouble to
secure it. I propose to keep it.”

“As long as you can, you ought to add,” muttered Jack, under his breath.

As for Picquet, he, like Tom, remained silent. There was really nothing
to be said. Without a word he booted the skins he had recovered from the
fur robber’s loot across the floor. One of the Wolf’s men picked them
up.

By this time it was almost dark within the tent. But from the red-hot
stove there emanated quite a glow which showed up the evil countenances
of the boys’ captors in striking relief. Except for their leader, the
Wolf, whose soft tones and retiring manners would have made anyone pick
him out for anything but what he was, they were a repulsive looking
crew.

It was clear enough to Tom now that they were in the power of men who
made a regular business of fur robbing, and a thoroughly prosperous one,
too. He felt an intense disgust for them. Knowing as he did the
hardships of a trapper’s life, the long tramps through the freezing
snows, the isolation and the loneliness of the existence, he thought,
with angry contempt, of the meanness of men who would rob the rightful
owners of such hard-earned trophies.

“Feel pretty sore at me, don’t you?” asked the Wolf, who had been eying
the boy narrowly.

“Not so sore as disgusted,” shot out Tom. “I’ve seen some mean wretches
in my time, but a man who will deliberately——”

“Be careful there, young fellow. Don’t get too fresh,” warned one of the
Wolf’s men.

“I consider that you have got off pretty easily,” rejoined the Wolf,
seemingly unruffled. His tones were as calm and retiring as ever. “I
might have sent your dog team scurrying off into the wilderness without
you, and then left you to get back as best you could without provisions
or blankets. Instead of that, I’m going to do you a kindness. I shall
set you free with your sled.”

“And our rifles?” asked old Joe.

“I’m afraid I must keep them. You are altogether too capable to be
trusted with such weapons.”

“I know who I’d like to make a target of,” muttered Jack.

“So I shall have to retain your rifles. They are fine weapons and I am
glad to have them. And now, gentlemen, under those terms we shall bid
you good night.”

“We’ll see you again some time—Boosh!—an’ when we do—nom d’un nom
d’un chien!” exclaimed Joe, shaking his fist toward the heavens.

“I hardly think it likely that you will ever see me again,” was the
little gray man’s rejoinder. “We have made enough to leave the Yukon for
good and all——”

“For the good of all, I guess you mean,” muttered the sharp-tongued Jack
under his breath.

Luckily for him, perhaps, the other did not hear him, or appeared not
to. Half an hour later, inwardly raging, but without the means to act on
their impulses, the two boys and the old man were out on the snow crust
harnessing up the dog-team.

Over them stood the Wolf’s henchmen. As they “hit the trail” in the same
direction as that whence they had come, they heard a harsh laugh and a
shouted good night.

Both sounds came from the Wolf’s tent, the Wolf who had tricked and
trapped them as a climax to their long pursuit.



                      CHAPTER XXVII—FACING DEATH.


As the shades of night began to close in upon him, Sandy found himself
still in the same position. From time to time one or another of the pack
would hurl itself against the rocky islet in the snow waste, only to be
remorselessly thrown back by the impact.

But for the most part the creatures sat silent and motionless, content
to watch and wait for the harvest that they seemed sure would come to
them in time.

After his fit of despair Sandy had once more rallied his energies and
devoted his really active and brave mind to devising some means of
passing the night, that it now appeared certain he must spend on the
great rock pile.

Above him, growing in a rift, were the remains of some stunted balsams,
the seeds of which had probably blown thither from the woods whence the
wolves had issued. He stared at the melancholy, twisted, dried-up stumps
of vegetation for some time before any idea concerning them came into
his head. Then all at once he realized that here at least was the means
for fire and warmth.

But hardly had this idea occurred to him, when he recollected something
that made his heart sink to a lower level than before. He had no
matches. The little nickeled box that held them lay at the foot of the
rocks too well guarded by the wolves for him to make an effort to reach
it. And yet he knew that he must have fire in the night or perish.

It was quite a while before a retentive memory helped him out. Then he
recalled having heard some time before from an old trapper a method of
fire-making without matches. The operation was simplicity itself and yet
Sandy doubted if he could make it succeed.

The plan was simply this: to remove from a cartridge the bullet and part
of the powder; then to place the cartridge in the gun as usual and fire
into a pile of dry kindling. The sparks and flame from the powder were
supposed to furnish the necessary start to the blaze, which could then
be enlarged by blowing.

“At any rate, I might try it,” thought Sandy. “If I don’t make it go I
stand a good chance of freezing. But if I do——”

He stopped short. While he had been turning these matters over in his
mind he had climbed up to the ridge on which grew the withered, dead
balsams.

Now that he had gained it, he saw that beyond the gnarled, wind-twisted
stumps was a considerable rift in the rocks. How far in it went he did
not, of course, know. But it appeared that it ought to make a snug
refuge from the rigors of the almost arctic cold.

Further exploration showed that the rift was quite a cave. It was not
very high, but appeared to run back a considerable distance. Sandy
hailed its discovery with joy. If he could light a fire back within the
rift it would be practicable to keep it warm.

The thought of warmth, light and a good fire was comforting, even though
for the present it existed only in the imagination. Sandy set to work on
the withered balsams with his hunting knife. The wood was dry and dead
and cut easily. Soon he had quite a pile of it dragged back into the
rift.

As he worked he almost forgot the perils of his situation. For the
present the biting cold which, as the sun grew lower, was more and more
penetrating, turned his thoughts from his present miseries to the
delights to come of warmth and comfort.

Having collected his pile and stacked it till it almost reached the roof
of the rift, Sandy thought it was time to see if there was any merit in
the old trapper’s recipe for starting a fire in the wilderness without
matches. With his blade he stripped off patches of dry bark from the
dead timber and shredded it until it was an easily inflammable mass,
like excelsior.

Having done this, he collected his kindling and then piled the sticks
crosswise in the form of a tower, so that when his fire was started he
would be sure of a good draft. Then, with his knife, he extracted a
bullet from a cartridge, poured a little of the powder upon the kindling
and then slipped the half emptied shell into his rifle.

When this much of his preparations had been completed he was ready for
the final test. He aimed the rifle carefully at his kindling pile,
selecting a place where he had previously sprinkled the grains of
powder. Then he pulled the trigger.

A muffled report and a shower of sparks from the muzzle followed, but to
the boy’s disappointment, the kindling did not catch fire. The only
result of his experiment, so far, was a suffocating smell of gunpowder.

But Sandy did not come of a stock that gives in easily.

“I must try it again,” he said to himself, thinking of his great
countryman, Robert Bruce, and perhaps likening himself in the cave
besieged by his enemies to that national hero.

Only in Sandy’s case there was no spider, as in the legend, to give him
an example of perseverance. It was far too cold for spiders, as the boy
reflected, with a rueful grin; and then he doubted if even Bruce’s foes
were more remorseless or deadly than the ones awaiting him outside the
rock masses, piled in the snow desert like an island in a vast ocean of
white.

He prepared another cartridge, sprinkling more powder on his kindling.
This time there arose a puff of flame and smoke from the pile as soon as
he fired the rifle. Casting his weapon aside, Sandy threw himself down
on his knees by the fire.

He began puffing vigorously at the smoldering place where the burning
powder had landed.

A tiny flame crept up, licked at the kindling, grew brighter and seized
upon some of the larger sticks piled above.

Five minutes later Sandy was warming himself at a satisfying blaze. As
the smoke rolled out of the rift and upward in the darkening gloom the
patient watchers outside set up a savage howl.

“Ah, howl away, you gloomeroons,” muttered Sandy, in the cheerful glow
inside the rift. “I’ve got you beaten for a time, anyhow. And noo let’s
hae a bite o’ supper.”

With a plucky grimace, as though to defy fate, Sandy spread out on the
rock floor his stock of food. It looked scanty, pitifully so, when
considered as the sole provision against starvation that the boy had
with him in his rock prison—for such it might be fitly called.

“'Tis nae banquet,” and the Scotch lad wagged his head solemnly. “It
would make a grand feed for a canary bird.”

He paused a minute, and then:

“But be glad you hae it, Sandy McTavish, you ungrateful carlin. You’re
lucky not to have to make a supper off scenery; and, after all, you are
nae sae hungry as yon wolves, judging by their voices.”



                        CHAPTER XXVIII—THE TRAP.


It was a dispirited enough party that, under the stars, retraced its way
from the camp of the little gray man, who at first, seeming so harmless
and helpless, had turned out to be so venomous and vindictive. Tom and
Jack had little to say.

The case was different with old Joe Picquet. He cried out aloud to the
stars for vengeance on the Wolf. He abused his name in English, French
and every one of half a dozen Indian dialects.

“Oh, what’s the use,” said Tom at length, interrupting a diatribe. “The
fellow had the whip hand of us from the moment we let ourselves be taken
in by believing he really was sick and helpless.”

“Think of that wood we chopped,” muttered Jack, with a groan.

Jack was not a lover of that form of exercise which is taken with the
assistance of an axe. He felt like joining old Joe’s lamentations as he
thought of the vigor with which he had worked to relieve the seemingly
sick man’s necessities.

“It is a good lesson to us,” went on Tom, “although it has been a mighty
costly one. If we hadn’t shilly-shallied about that tent we would have
been well on our way with the stolen skins by this time.”

“No use crying over spilt milk,” counseled Jack. “It is done now and
can’t be undone. Wonder if we will ever see those rascals again?”

“Impossible to say. If only we could get to a trading post or a station
we might raise a posse and take after them. In this part of the country
it is a mighty bad offense to steal skins.”

“What do they do with such fellows?” asked Jack.

“Hang dem!” burst out old Joe.

“Oh, not quite as bad as that!” exclaimed Tom.

“Boosh! To hang, it ees too good for dem.”

They journeyed on for some time in silence. Then Joe told them that he
was building his hopes on finding some of his Indian friends, from whom
they could get meat of some kind. For they had no rifles and no means of
procuring food, and their supply, except for flour and salt, was running
low.

He hoped, he said, to make an Indian encampment, possibly the one where
they had last stopped, before the next night. About midnight they paused
near one of the numerous, small, unnamed lakes that are frequent in that
part of the country. At one place in it was a hole which the Indians had
chopped to spear fish. This was skimmed over with ice which, however,
Joe surmised could be easily broken through.

The old trapper had in one of his numerous pockets the head of a fish
spear. Cutting a stick, he soon fitted a handle to this head and Jack,
with the lantern to act as a lure and make the fish rise, was despatched
to the ice hole to catch all he could. It was important that the dogs
should be fed without delay, for they were getting hungry, the fish at
the Wolf’s camp having been sufficient only for his own mamelukes.

Spearing fish is work that calls for an adept hand. But the boys had had
plenty of practice at their own camp, for the silver foxes had not lost
their appetites with captivity and would greedily eat all that they
could get. This had kept the boys busy securing fish and they were all
experts at the work. Jack, especially, liked it, and was exceptionally
good at it.

After he had fished less than half an hour he had speared a good number
of fine fresh fish. The dogs, who appeared to guess what was going
forward, barked shrilly and appealingly as he started back toward the
spot where the sled had been halted.

“Got any?” hailed Tom, as he saw the lantern Jack carried come bobbing
toward him.

“I should say I had.”

“Good ones?”

“They’ll stuff the dogs full and give us a meal besides.”

“That’s the stuff, the mamelukes are very hungry.”

“So they are saying.”

“We’ll have to hurry up and feed them while Joe gets something to eat.”

“I guess we are as famished as they are. I know I——”

Jack, who had been hurrying forward with his fish, uttered a sharp cry
of pain and fell to the ground.

At the same time Tom heard a clicking sound not unlike the sliding back
of a rifle magazine, only louder. He rushed forward to where Jack lay
upon the ground.

The boy was writhing with pain and Tom could not make out what had
happened.

“Jack! Jack, old fellow, what is it?” he cried.

“I—I don’t know. Something gripped my foot—as I was hurrying back.”

“It’s got hold of it now?”

“Yes.” Jack’s voice was very faint. It was apparent that he was
suffering great pain. But he tried to bear up manfully and steady his
voice while Tom bent over him.

“Can’t you move?”

“No, I’m caught fast.”

“Let me look. Great Scott, no wonder!”

Tom’s voice was vibrant with sympathy. The next instant he set up a
shout.

“Joe! Oh, Joe!”

“Oui, mon garçon! What ees mattaire?” came Joe’s voice.

“Come here, quick. It’s Jack!”

“Wha’s happen heem?” cried old Joe, dropping what he was doing and
running through the snow toward the boys.

“His foot. It’s—it’s caught in an old trap, and—and, Joe, I’m afraid
that it has bitten to the bone!”

“Sacre nom!”

But of all this Jack heard nothing. He had fainted under the
excruciating pain of the pressure of the steel jaws that gripped him
fast like a helpless animal.



                  CHAPTER XXIX—SANDY HAS A NIGHTMARE.


As the ruddy glow of the flames lighted up the rift in Sandy’s rock
castle, the boy looked about him curiously before he began work on his
scant stock of food. The place was about forty feet in length and not
more than five in height, sloping down at each end like the roof in an
old-fashioned farm bedroom.

He noted with some satisfaction that near the entrance there were masses
of dead and dried up bushes, from which he thought he could contrive a
mattress later on. But for the present he devoted himself to his meal.

Luckily, he had brought along a pannikin, and in this, when he had
melted some snow for water, he made tea, without a small package of
which the true adventurer of the northern wilds never travels. The hot
liquid did him almost as much good as the food, and, as Sandy remarked
as he gulped it down, it was “main filling.”

His supper disposed of, Sandy sat for some little time in front of the
fire.

“Heaven be praised, there are no dishes to wash,” he said to himself in
his whimsical way.

The time was a favorable one for thinking, and many thoughts ran through
Sandy’s mind as he sat watching the flames. His chums, what were they
doing? How little they imagined his predicament at that particular
moment. Sandy found himself wondering whether he would ever see them
again. The warmth of the fire circulated pleasantly through his veins. A
delightful glow crept over him.

He was just about dozing off when a noise near the cave mouth startled
him.

He looked up, but could see nothing. He thought, however, that in the
darkness he could detect the sound of a furtive footfall.

It was creeping away as if in fear of him.

Sandy came back into the warmth and fire-glow of the rift and lay down
at full length in front of the blaze. How long he lay there before he
was again disturbed he had no means of knowing.

But suddenly he was attracted to the mouth of the rift once more by a
recurrence of the noise. Once more he hastened to investigate, but with
the same results as before.

He began to grow nervous. Although he could see nothing, he was sure
that he had heard some mysterious sounds out there in the darkness. But
when he got up to look nothing was to be seen. It was very perplexing
and, considering his situation, not a little alarming. Lying down again
by his fire, the boy made a determined effort to compose his nerves. But
try as he would, he found his mind focused upon one subject, and one
only: the wolves.

From time to time the night was tortured by their howls. It was as if
they were trying to show the boy that although he was in hiding they had
not forgotten him; that they would wait until he was forced to come off
the rocks and make a final dash for freedom before they devoured him.

The soft footfalls that he was sure he had heard outside the rift, he
was now almost certain had been made by the wolves. Some of the stronger
of the pack had scrambled up on the rocks and were waiting outside his
place of refuge till a favorable moment presented itself for an attack.

Sandy clutched his rifle nervously. He was determined when the moment
came to sell his life as dearly as possible. How many in number his foes
would be he had no means of telling. But he knew full well that his
cartridges were all too few.

With his weapon gripped ready for instant action, Sandy waited the next
move on the part of his implacable foes. But minute succeeded minute and
the sounds from without the rift were not repeated.

The boy began to think that he might have been mistaken. Perhaps, after
all, it was his excited imagination that had conjured up the sounds.

He rose and looked outside once more. It was a clear, starlit night. The
rocks towered up blackly like some giant’s castle amidst the
bluish-whiteness of surrounding snow wastes. A sensation of terrible
loneliness ran through Sandy as he reflected that he was the only human
being for miles and miles in that immense solitude. Probably the party
in search of the thief were the nearest of his own kind within a great
distance.

It was small wonder that the boy trembled a little as out there under
the stars he revolved the situation. There was no use evading it, if
help did not arrive, or the wolves retreat, he was doomed either to die
by starvation on the rocks, or be rent by the teeth of the pack in the
event of his attempting to escape.

Seasoned men of the northland might well have been dazed by such a
prospect. There did not appear to be one chance in a hundred for the
boy. Sandy looked the question fairly and squarely in the face. It is to
his credit that by a supreme effort of pluck and grit he averted a
second breakdown and retained a grip upon his nerves and courage.

As he stood there, the pack below him rent the air with their wild
hunting cry. The sound chilled him to the marrow, and trembling despite
himself, he crept back into the rift and sought the companionship of the
fire.

About five minutes later there came a sort of scraping noise from the
mouth of the rift. Sandy gazed up, and there, confronting him, with
hungrily gaping jaws, and great, yellow, signal-lamps of eyes that
flashed evilly in the firelight, were three huge wolves—the leaders of
the pack. With a wild cry, Sandy sprang up with his rifle in his hand.
He was ready for the fight.

The wolves dashed forward, and as he aimed and fired——!

The rifle turned into a stick of firewood. The wolves into three black
rocks piled at the mouth of the rift.

Sandy had been dreaming. But it was a dream that might come true, as he
realized with a sensation of helplessness.



                   CHAPTER XXX—THE LAW OF THE NORTH.


Jack lay upon the snow with the ground about him dyed red from a badly
crushed ankle. Tom and old Joe Picquet bent over him doing what they
could to ease his pain, for he had now regained consciousness.

It was a wolf trap that the boy had blundered into; a cruel, ponderous
affair with massive steel jaws, from whose grip it had been hard to
release him.

“Is the ankle broken, do you think?” asked Tom of old Joe.

“Tiens! I can no say now. But I teenk not. Zee trap was old, zee spring
was weak. Dat is good. Eef eet had been new, eet would have broken zee
bone lak you break zee pipe stem. Voila!”

“How do you feel now, Jack?” asked Tom.

Jack made a brave effort to disguise his pain.

“I’ll soon be all right, I guess,” he said, “but, Tom, I’ll tell you one
thing.”

“What is that?”

“I’ll never set another trap for a wild animal as long as I live. I know
now how they must suffer.”

After a brief consultation, Tom and old Joe lifted the suffering boy and
carried him back to the sled. A “snow-camp” had already been devised and
Jack was made as comfortable as possible in this.

By the firelight old Joe examined his injury. The flesh was badly
crushed and bruised, but so far as the old trapper could see there were
no bones broken.

“Sacre! I weesh dat eet was summer!” breathed the old man. “In summer
grow many herbs are good for heal. Zee Indians teach me many. But in
winter dere ees notheeng lak dat. Moost use what we can.”

With bandages made out of a flour sack, which, luckily, was almost
empty, old Joe dressed Jack’s injury after carefully bathing it. The boy
declared that he felt better almost at once after Joe had completed his
woodland surgery.

“It’s too bad that I should be giving all this trouble, especially right
now,” muttered Jack as he lay back.

“Say, if you say anything like that again, I’ll forget you are sick and
punch your head,” said Tom, with a look of affection, however, that
belied his words.

After supper old Joe announced that he had decided on a plan that he
thought would fit the exigencies of the situation. About ten miles from
where they then were a friend of his, Pierre La Roche, like himself a
trapper, had a hut. They must make their way there as quickly as
possible and leave Jack in La Roche’s care till he was fit to travel,
which might not be for some time. This done, they would go back to the
camp of the _Yukon Rover_, tell what had happened, and seek the advice
of Mr. Dacre and Mr. Chillingworth.

Tom felt that this was the best plan that could be evolved. After all,
they had done all they could to recover the skins, and if he was blamed
for not maintaining a better watch on the fox kennels, why he must face
the music. Jack, too, thought the plan a good one, so that they were all
satisfied, and, despite Jack’s injury, he slept as well that night as
his two companions.

The next morning dawned bright and clear. They were up and about early,
and Tom caught a good meal of fish for the dogs through the hole in the
ice. When he returned to the camp he carried with him the old rusty trap
that had caused Jack’s injury.

“Thought you might like this bit of jewelry for a souvenir,” he said
dryly.

“So far as I am concerned you can throw it into the next county,” was
the rejoinder.

No time was lost in despatching breakfast and getting an early start.
The way to La Roche’s cabin was what is known as a “bad trail.” In fact,
it would be necessary to break a path for a great part of the way. Jack
was made as snug as possible on the top of the sled, and when old Joe’s
whip cracked, he declared that he felt as luxurious as if he were riding
in his own automobile.

Not long after leaving the night camp the party found themselves
beginning to climb a steep and stony trail. It lay on the weather side
of a small range of hills remarkable for their ruggedness, and in places
where the wind had swept the snow clear, jagged masses of rock peeped
blackly out of the prevailing whiteness.

It was rough traveling, with a vengeance. From time to time they had to
stop and rest the dogs. By noon they had hardly made five miles and,
according to old Joe, the worst still lay before them. However, bad as
the trail was, it was preferable to taking Jack all the way back to
_Yukon Rover_ camp. That, in fact, would have been impossible, for the
extra weight on the sled was already telling on the mamelukes. They went
forward with drooping tails and sagging flanks.

But over that cruel road they showed how well old Joe’s faith in them
was justified. Fagged as they were, they did not falter, and when they
slacked pace a little the crack of old Joe’s whip in the frosty air
never failed to send them forward once more at their ordinary pace.

Tom began to have an immense respect for the mameluke. He understood how
it was that men paid large sums for such capable beasts. Savage,
intractable, and, as a rule, responding to none but the harshest
treatment, the mameluke dog is faithful unto death in only too many
instances. A halt was made at midday to eat a hasty snack and to feed
and rest the dogs. Then the journey was resumed once more.

It was not so cold as it had been, and in places the snow had softened,
affording only a treacherous foothold for the animals. Now and then,
too, the boys observed old Joe glancing upward at the precipitous walls
that began to tower above the trail.

At length his observations grew so frequent that Tom had to ask him what
it was that interested him so on the precipitous heights that overhung
their path.

Old Joe shook his head.

“Zee snow, he soft. Dat plenty bad. Snow soften, rocks loosen. Bimeby
maybe, one beeg rock come toomble down.”

“Gracious, one of those big fellows up there?” And Tom’s eyes roved
upward to where huge black rocks, shaped in some instances like
monstrous animals, could be seen sticking out of the snow field.

“Yes; eef no watch, one of dem might heet us when zee soft snow loosens
zee earth,” declared Joe, without any more concern in his voice than if
he were speaking of what they would have for supper.

“Well, if one of those ever struck this outfit, it would be the last of
it,” declared Tom, alarmed at the prospect.

“Weezout doubt,” rejoined old Joe, with a shrug of his shoulders, “but
for dat we moost watch all zee time. Dat ees zee law of zee north, to
watch always.”



                   CHAPTER XXXI—A BOLT FROM THE BLUE.


“To watch always!”

Old Joe’s words echoed in Tom’s mind. Yes, that was the law of the
northland, and in some parts of it all the law that there was. Constant
watchfulness was necessary to life itself in the frozen regions.

Tom’s cheeks flushed as he thought that if constant watchfulness had
been observed at Camp _Yukon Rover_ there would have been no necessity
for their journey and all that it had led to.

The trail wound upward into country that grew more and more gloomy and
dispiriting. There was something about the great rock masses poised
above the trail, the slaty, leaden sky and the occasional gusts of
wind-blown snow that struck a chill to Tom’s heart.

There was little to break the monotony of precipice and sky on the one
side, while beside the trail on the other was a deep crevasse, and
beyond another wall of rock. Tom peered over into the depths from time
to time and thought, with a shudder, of the consequences of a fall. And
that possibility was by no means remote. One slip on the treacherous
foothold of the path that hung on the mountainside like an eyebrow on a
face, and the victim of the accident would go sliding and plunging down
the slippery slopes into that forbidding pit.

It was not a thought to inspire cheerfulness, and Tom refrained from
speaking of it to his companions. But it might have been noticed that he
kept to the inside of the trail. The mameluke dogs, too, by instinct
avoided the outer edge and kept hugging the inside wall of the trail as
far as possible from the gaping chasm.

It must have been toward mid-afternoon, as time is reckoned in those
latitudes, that old Joe paused with a worried look on his face.

“Attendez!” he cried, holding up one finger.

The mamelukes stopped, their red tongues lolling out and their breath
coming in long heaves. They were glad of the respite, whatever had
caused it.

Tom halted behind the sled, and Jack turned his eyes on old Joe, whose
face betokened the most eager attention. His body was tense with
concentrated energy, as if he were putting every fiber of his being into
what he was doing, which was listening.

Tom thought of the old man’s watchword, “To watch always.”

For some minutes they stood like this, and then old Joe signified that
all was well and they went forward again. But ever and anon the old man
cast an uneasy eye about him. It was plain that he was worried and
wished the long trail were at an end.

In that gloomy canyon between the beetling walls that rose on either
side seemingly straight up to the gray sky, the old trapper’s voice rang
stridently as he called to his dogs or cracked his whip with loud words
of encouragement.

“Courage, mes enfants!” he would cry to his struggling team. “Soon we be
at Pierre La Roche’s; den plentee feesh for you—bien—Boosh! En avant!”

His words always had a magical effect on the drooping mamelukes. With
stubborn determination they bent again to their task, their flagging
spirits revivified by the cries of their owner.

Jack turned to Tom after one of these intervals.

“Gee whiz! but I feel like a useless log,” he exclaimed, “lolling here
on a pile of soft blankets while those poor beasts are pulling me along
at the expense of almost all their strength.”

“It can’t be helped,” rejoined Tom briefly. “No one supposes that you
walked into that trap deliberately.”

“It’s just one of those accidents that have been happening to us right
along,” rejoined Jack irritably. “We have had nothing but bad luck so
far on this trip. It is too bad.”

“I agree with you,” rejoined Tom, “but, after all, whose fault is it?”

“Nobody’s, that I can see.”

“Think again.”

“What’s on your mind?”

“Just this, that it all comes from our not having forced ourselves, to
use Joe’s words, ‘to watch always.’”

“Great Scott! we couldn’t have sat up all night to watch those foxes!”

“One of us could. We might have taken it in turns. However, it is too
late to worry about that now. But we will have to face the music when we
meet Uncle Chisholm and Mr. Chillingworth. I fancy they will have
something to say on the subject.”

“Ouch! The thought of that hurts me worse than my foot,” exclaimed Jack.
“I don’t much care about the idea of the explanations that will be up to
us to make.”

“Yet they have to be made.”

“Er-huh,” gloomily.

“I fancy that is just the usual result of neglected duty,” responded
Tom. “It is part of the price you have to pay for not being on the job.”

“Goodness, are you turning into a moralizer?”

“No. I’ve just been thinking things over. Somehow this canyon——”

Above them there was a sudden sharp crackling sound, like the trampling
of a thicket full of twigs. It was followed, or rather accompanied, by a
yell from old Joe.

“Back! Get back!”

The next instant Tom echoed his cry.

Simultaneously old Joe sprang forward and tried to turn the mamelukes,
but they, maddened by fright, plunged forward.

From above, loosened from its foundation by the softened snow, a huge
rock was bounding down upon them. Had the mamelukes stopped where they
were they might have been saved. As it was, their plunge forward had
brought them directly in the path of the great boulder. The destruction
of the sled appeared certain.

And on the sled was Jack, crippled and unable to make a move to save
himself from the impending doom.



                   CHAPTER XXXII—A PROVIDENTIAL MEAL.


Sandy’s nightmare had the effect of keeping him awake, save for spells
of uneasy dozing, for the remainder of the night. It was one that he
never forgot. There were times when he sank into a half waking stupor
and allowed the fire to die low. Then, waking up, he would see crouching
in the dark corners of the rift all sorts of fantastic shapes. At such
times he hastened to hurl on more wood, and then, as the bright flames
crackled up, the shadows fled away and he breathed more freely again.

Sometimes he would creep to the mouth of the rift and gaze down upon the
snowy flat beneath. Each time he had a faint hope in his heart that the
dark shapes that he knew were the watching wolves might have abandoned
the siege and gone away.

But every time he was disappointed. Every fresh inspection showed him
the dark forms massed beneath him. They were gazing upward at the glow
of fire proceeding from the rift. Once Sandy hurled down a red-hot brand
among them. With yelps and cries those whom it touched loped away from
the main body, but they soon joined them again. As for the others, they
never moved. There was something uncanny in this immobility. It
expressed a calm determination to see the matter through to the bitter
end, be that what it might, which was far from comforting to one in
Sandy’s predicament.

At last, somehow, the night wore itself out. In the east, on one of his
visits to the entrance of his hiding place, Sandy descried a faint gray
light.

The coming of the day inspired him with a fresh hope. Perhaps with the
light of day the wolves would betake themselves elsewhere. Night is
their favorite hunting time and they do not usually go much abroad till
at least the afternoon.

But as the light grew stronger, Sandy saw that hope, too, fade away. Far
from expressing any intentions of deserting their posts, the wolves
greeted the slow rise of the sun with a howl that echoed up to the
heavens. It sent a shudder through Sandy as he stood there looking down
upon the massed gray backs and the hungry upturned faces.

“Is this the end?” he found himself thinking.

But just then something occurred to divert his thoughts. Across the snow
came winging, in full flight, a flock of fine, plump snow-grouse. The
plumage of these birds changes in winter from its summer russet and
brown to a snowy white. Except when in flight it is almost impossible to
distinguish them against a white background.

The flight of the birds inspired Sandy with a sudden interest. And it
was no wonder that it did, for grouse are excellent food and not wild or
hard to shoot. If they landed upon his rocky fortress he was reasonably
sure of being able to get one or two of them.

The wolves, too, saw the coming of the grouse, and watched them with
almost equal interest. Wolves by no means despise grouse, and sometimes
stalk a flock miles in the snowy wastes, seeking a chance to pounce on
them. And so, as the flight came on, they were watched by the boy and
his besiegers with equal interest.

Sandy ran within his shelter so as not to frighten the birds from
alighting on the rocks, which appeared to be their intention. Some
stunted bushes, covered with a sort of hard, red berry must have
attracted them, so Sandy guessed, or perhaps the rocks were a regular
feeding ground on account of these same berries. From the mouth of his
rift Sandy could command a view of a patch of the berry-bearing bushes.
If only the grouse would alight in that particular patch he would be
sure of a good shot or two. But would they?

He watched their maneuvers with feverish interest. His very life might
depend upon their actions within the next few minutes. On came the
flock, and at last they were above the rock fort in which the boy had
taken refuge. With burning eyes and rifle in hand, Sandy watched them
from his place of concealment.

But they flew on over the mouth of the rift to alight in some other
feeding place. Sandy might have risked a shot as they passed over him.
But to hit a bird on the wing with a rifle is a feat so seldom performed
as to be noteworthy, and Sandy did not dare risk frightening them away
altogether by sending a useless shot among them.

After all, he conjectured, they would probably come to the patch he was
watching in the course of their wanderings about their feeding grounds.
Throughout a great part of the morning he watched for the birds, but
none appeared. Below, the wolves from time to time gave tongue. Sandy
would have liked to creep out and try the effect of a shot among them,
but he did not dare to risk showing himself for fear of alarming any of
the grouse that might be approaching.

All at once he noticed among the brush patch some white moving objects.
He knew that these must be the grouse. They had wandered around below
him without his seeing them and were now feeding in the patch upon which
he had his rifle sights trained.

But there was a long wait, severely trying to the patience, before the
grouse began to move upward, making their way toward the rift and
approaching a position in which it would be possible to fire at them
with a reasonable prospect of success. Sandy’s hands trembled with
excitement as the grouse fluttered and stepped daintily among the
berries, pecking them off right and left.

At last one of them, a fine, fat fellow, came into full view. Against
the dark brown of the dead brush his body made a splendid target. Sandy
set his teeth, steadied his aim and fired.

The grouse fluttered into the air and then fell back upon the snow,
dead. The boy had time for one more shot before the flock took wing.

He could not refrain from a cry of joy as he dashed down the rocks to
secure his game. For a time at least he could sustain life, even pent-up
as he was in his rocky prison.

[Illustration: With a hideous roar, the boulder crashed downward and
upon the trail.]



                   CHAPTER XXXIII—OVER THE CREVASSE!


For one moment Tom beheld the tableau that had his helpless brother for
its central figure.

Then with a hideous roar, like that of an express train rushing at top
speed through a tunnel, the boulder crashed downward and upon the trail.
Like figures that are wiped from a slate the mamelukes vanished, their
lives crushed out in a flash under the huge rock.

“Jack!” shrieked Tom, as he saw.

“Sacre nom!” roared old Joe. “See!”

As the boulder flashed downward, rumbling into the crevasse at the side
of the trail, the sled followed it!

In a small avalanche of snow and loosened shale Tom beheld his brother
being swept over the brink to what appeared certain annihilation.

Tom reeled back against the inner wall of the trail. He felt sick and
dizzy. For some moments he knew nothing. The world swam in a dizzy
merry-go-round before his eyes.

Then he was conscious of somebody plucking at his sleeve. It was old
Joe.

“Courage, mon enfant!” the old man was saying. “Eet may not be zee end.
Wait here. Do not move. I weell go see. Whatever eet ees, I weell tell
you zee truth.”

Tom could say nothing in reply. All he could see or think of was that
terrible picture. The downward rush of the loosened boulder, the sight
of the obliterated mamelukes and then the last glimpse of the sled as,
with Jack clinging helplessly to it, it had plunged over the brink in a
swirl of loosened snow! The injured boy had not even had time to cry out
or to utter a word. He had been carried to his doom in absolute silence.
In fact, the whole thing had happened so quickly that only the horror of
the sight had etched its every detail indelibly upon Tom’s mind.

Old Joe cautiously approached the edge of the crevasse. He did not know
but that there might be a treacherous “lip” of snow overhanging the
brink. In that case, if he went incautiously he might share Jack’s fate.
For, although he had tried to instill courage into Tom, the old trapper
hardly entertained a doubt but that Jack’s dead body lay at the foot of
the precipice.

As he made sure of his ground and then thrust his head over the edge, he
received a joyful shock. Below him, in a deep snow, lay Jack and what
was left of the sled.

Joe’s voice stuck in his throat, but at length he mustered up his
courage and hailed the boy lying beside the crushed and broken sled.

“Hullo! mon ami!”

He paused while his heart beat thickly. And then a yell of joy burst
from his lips.

The figure lying below him moved painfully and the boy waved an arm.
Then, as if the effort had been too much, he collapsed again.

But Joe was jubilant. He sang and shouted his delight and hailed Tom in
stentorian tones.

“He lives! Le garçon, he lives!”

Tom, his face as white as a sheet, came to Joe’s side. Together they
gazed downward at the form of the boy on the snow bank below. It was a
spot where the drifting snow, forced up the narrow canyon by some wild
wind, had been piled within fifty feet of the trail. It was to this fact
undoubtedly that Jack owed his life.

Beside him, and not very far away, was a huge hole in the snow like the
crater of a volcano. It showed where the great boulder had bored its way
into the soft snow with the velocity of a bullet. That hole gave them
some idea of the mighty force that had wiped out the lives of the
mamelukes.

Till the moment that Joe knew that Jack was alive he had given no
thought to his precious dogs. But now he ran toward their mangled bodies
and bent over them, the tears running down his old cheeks and his voice
uplifted in lamentation.

He called to each dead beast by name and dwelt upon its particular
virtues. His grief was so genuine and so heartfelt that Tom, urgent
though the occasion was, yet felt some hesitancy in disturbing him until
some minutes had passed.

Then the boy drew the old trapper’s attention to the necessity of
devising some means of rescuing Jack from the snow bank below the trail.
As Tom addressed him the old man sprang to his feet. The tears still
streamed down his cheeks and his face was working with grief. But he
burst into a flood of self-reproach.

“Ah! I was forget zee enfant, zee brave garçon who lies below. Forgive
me, please. My heart ees veree seeck. I love my malukes lak I love my
children. Now eet ees ovaire. We must work. Afterward I bury my dog. En
avant! Vitement! Courage!”

The old man smote himself upon the chest with each word as if to instill
action and courage into his breast.

“We must have a rope,” he said at length.

“Of course. We can do nothing without one. But where can we obtain one?”

They looked at each other despairingly. Without a rope they could do
nothing. Yet Jack lay there below them, possibly in instant need of
attention, and they were compelled to stand there helpless, unable to
aid him.

It was one of the most trying moments of Tom’s life.



                     CHAPTER XXXIV—A BATTLE ROYAL.


Sandy cooked and ate one of his grouse and resumed his watching. The
cooking, thanks to his training in the ways of woodcraft, was an easy
matter for him. He had a small, telescopic cleaning rod with him for his
rifle. Having plucked and split the grouse, he impaled it on this and
cooked it over the embers.

He would have liked bread and salt, but was in no mood to grumble over
his meal. He was only too thankful to have secured it at all. He noted
with delight that the wolves were beginning to get uneasy. The hunger
that was gnawing at them was beginning to work upon their patience. As
soon as they saw Sandy they set up a chorus of howls and yapping barks
and once more tried to scale the rocks. One almost succeeded in doing
this, but Sandy shot it before it had gained a foothold. It shared the
fate of the dead leader, the ravenous pack leaving absolutely nothing of
its remains.

It was well on in the day when the pack began to raise their nostrils
and sniff the wind. Plainly something was in the air that Sandy knew
nothing about. The wolves, however, appeared greatly excited. They got
on their feet and began to mill about, barking and yapping in
bewildering discord.

“I wonder what is the matter with them,” thought Sandy, as he watched,
and then it began to dawn upon him that something that either alarmed or
excited the wolves must be approaching the rocks.

“Perhaps it is a man,” thought Sandy, with a thrill of pleasurable
anticipation. The next minute he almost began to hope that no human
being was near unless there were several of them in a large party, for a
lone hunter or trapper would be able to make only a feeble stand against
the pack.

At length, far out on the snow fields, he made out a dark form lumbering
along toward the rocks. For some time he could not think what it was,
but at last he made out the nature of the creature.

It was a bear, and a big one, too. It was probably one of those surly
old fellows that refuse to hibernate like most of their kind and stay
out the winter through, hunting what they can and maintaining a scanty
living till spring comes again.

A sensation by no means pleasurable possessed Sandy at the idea of such
company on the rocks. The wolves were bad enough; but a bear! However,
he reflected, his rifle was of good heavy caliber and he had plenty of
ammunition left to dispatch the bear if it should prove troublesome.
Moreover, as Sandy knew, bear meat is good meat when one is hungry; and
although the bear now approaching the rocks was undoubtedly poor and
thin, its carcass would have at least some meat upon it.

But now his attention was distracted from the bear by the actions of the
pack. They set up their hunting cry, which differs from their ordinary
yapping accents very widely. In fact, wolves appear to have a
rudimentary language of their own.

The constant milling round and round and up and out ceased. A sudden
hush settled down over the pack and then, like one wolf, they were off.
Sandy saw, with a thrill, what was coming. Their game was the bear! A
battle royal hung upon the issue.

With an interest which swallowed up all other considerations, Sandy
watched as the pack swept down on the bear. The big, clumsy creature had
already seen them coming and had quickened his pace to a lumbering
gallop, which yet brought him over the snow at a good speed. He was
heading directly for the rocks, where he could make a stand. His
instinct must have told him that out in the open he would have but a
poor chance against his savage opponents.

Sandy felt a flash of sympathy for the great bear as the pack made a
detour and were on his heels. He saw one chisel-clawed foot shoot out
and a big wolf leap high and fall down, rent from shoulder to thigh. The
killing gave the bear a breathing space, for the pack fell on their
comrade with hideous yelps. Their cannibal feast gave the bear time to
increase the distance between himself and his swarming foes.

He reached the rocks with the pack close on his heels, and then seeing
that he could not scale the rocks, the huge creature upreared himself
against the boulders and prepared to battle for his life.

With a yelp the leader of the pack flung himself at the great hairy
animal’s throat. With one glancing sweep of his huge paw the bear
disposed of him. One after another the wolves attacked their foe, only
to be felled, wounded and bleeding, and to become victims to their own
hunting mates.

“Good boy!” Sandy found himself saying. “Hit ’em again!”

His sympathies were all with the bear, making the fight of his life.

The wolves fell back. But the bear was not deceived. He maintained his
stand against the rocks. The wolves crouched, glaring hatred and
defiance at him. The ground about the battlefield was red now. Ten
wolves had given up their lives. But the bear, too, showed marks of the
combat. More than one pair of gleaming white fangs had met in his skin.

Sandy watched with the interest of someone who has a personal stake in a
battle royal.

The wolves did not long remain quiescent This time they tried new
tactics. They attacked _en masse_. Like a swarm of bees they flung
themselves on the great monarch of the northern forests. His steel-shod
paws swept right and left. Yelping and howling the wolves fell before
him. But as fast as some fell, others took their places.

The bear was bleeding now. Wounded in a score of places, he fought on
against his overwhelming foes with royal courage. To the boy watching
from the rocks above, there was something almost sublime in the fight
for life that the great creature was making against such overwhelming
odds. But plainly the contest could not last much longer.

Like great waves of gray the wolves were hurling themselves forward.
They fought blindly and desperately and the bear’s blows were growing
weaker.

“I’ll help you, old fellow!” breathed Sandy. “I’ll take a hand in this
myself. I’ve no more reason to love your enemies than you have.”

He reached out to the rocks and secured his rifle. When he turned back
he was just in time to see a gray form at the bear’s throat. The wolf
hung on while the big animal beat the air helplessly with his paws.

Bang!

Sandy’s rifle cracked and the wolf dropped to the ground. But the others
hardly seemed to notice the intervention of the bear’s ally. So numerous
were they, that their ranks appeared to be hardly thinned by their
losses.

Again and again, unbaffled by the tremendous courage and the sweeping
blows of their adversary, they returned to the attack. Again and again,
too, did Sandy’s rifle crack, and each time a wolf drew his last breath.
The battle was beginning to tell on the wolves as well as on the bear.
Their leaders were gone. The pack began to fight in desultory fashion.

The bear’s blows were feebler, but since that desperate assault on his
throat, the wolves had not had the courage to close with him. Sandy’s
rifle completed their rout. At last they appeared to realize that they
were pitted against the terrible fire tube of the white man as well as
the steel-shod paws of the bear. They wavered, broke ranks and then, as
if by a concerted resolution, they turned tail.

Straight for the forest they sped, while the bear, flinging his big bulk
down on the snow began licking his wounds. Sandy looked down upon him.
The big creature was an easy shot, pitifully easy, and his skin would
make a fine trophy. Sandy raised his rifle to his shoulder and aimed it.
He put it down and raised it again. But again his resolution failed him.
“No, old fellow,” he exclaimed aloud, “you helped me fight those gray
demons and for all of me, you shall go where you like unharmed.”

It was late afternoon before the wounded bear rose slowly to his feet,
and without a backward glance shuffled off toward the south. Sandy
watched him going across the snows for a long time. He was glad he had
not shot him.

He turned from the trail of the wounded bear toward the north once more,
and as he did so a shout burst from his lips.

Coming toward him over the snow were the figures of two men. With them
was a dog sleigh, and they were traveling fast on a course that would
bring them past the rocks.

Ten minutes later Sandy recognized in the travelers his uncle and the
latter’s partner, Mr. Colton Chillingworth.



                 CHAPTER XXXV—THE DEATH OF “THE WOLF.”


Old Joe looked about him with despair in his eyes. When the sled had
gone over the edge of the cliff, the ropes that bound the load to it and
the harness of the dogs had gone with it. There was not so much as a
foot of rope left by which they might devise a means of reaching Jack.

Tom groaned.

“What are we to do?” he demanded.

“We moost keep on and get help from La Roche. Eet ees not far now, mon
garçon.”

“But by the time we get back, Jack may be—may be——”

Tom could not complete the sentence.

For lack of something to say, old Joe gazed about him. Suddenly he gave
a cry of delight. On a ledge not far above the trail there were growing
a thick clump of cedar trees.

“Bien! I get rope queeck! Watch, mon garçon!” he cried.

“But how in the world!” began Tom.

“Nevaire min’. Len’ me you’ hunting knife. Eet ees bettaire dan mine.
Bien! Now ole Joe, he get rope vitement.”

The old trapper stuck Tom’s knife in his belt and clambered up to the
steep plateau where grew the cedar trees. He ascended one after the
other, peeling off long strips of bark from each. At length he had a big
pile of long, pliant, tough strips collected on the ground. He brought
these down to where Tom stood watching him with puzzled interest,
although he had an idea of the object of Joe’s labors.

“Voila! Behold, mon ami! Now we soon have rope.”

“You mean to make one out of these?”

“Oui! Many a time have I make rope lak dat.”

“A strong rope?”

“A rope dat would hold a wild buffalo. Oui!”

“It was fortunate that those cedars were there, then.”

“Mon garçon,” solemnly spoke old Joe, “le bon Dieu put dem dere to
remain till dere appointed time came.”

The old trapper set Tom to work plaiting the ropes in strands of three
lengths of bark. These were knotted together till they made a strong,
pliable rope of the required length.

Then they went to the edge of the crevasse. Jack was sitting up with one
of the blankets from the sled drawn about him for warmth. He looked up
as they shouted down to him.

“Jack,” hailed Tom, “do you feel all right now?”

“Sound as a bell, but I wish you could get me out of here.”

“We are going to try to. Can you fasten this rope around you?”

As he spoke, Tom held up the bark rope.

“Easily. Lower it away. If it wasn’t for this ankle of mine I might have
tried climbing out, but I have had to cross that sort of exercise off my
list.”

The rope was sent snaking down to Jack, and was found to be amply long,
for the steep bank was not more than forty feet high instead of the
fifty they had estimated.

As its end came within his grasp, Jack seized the improvised rope and
made a loop in it which he knotted under his arm-pits.

“All ready?” hailed Tom.

“All ready.”

“Then hold tight and help yourself all you can.”

“I sure will. But please don’t let go!”

“Not if we have to go over ourselves,” Tom assured him.

A stunted “rampick” grew close to the edge of the trail. The rope was
passed around this, one turn being taken so that they could rest and
still keep their grip on the rope if they desired. Then the long haul
began.

Inch by inch, resting at times when they were out of breath, the two,
the boy and the old trapper, hauled Jack up to a point where they were
able to knot the rope about the “rampick” and lift their comrade up to
safety with their hands.

Thanks to the softness of the snow bank into which he had been hurled,
Jack had not received additional injury, except for a few bruises. They
rested for a time and then old Joe and Tom resumed the tramp to La
Roche’s place. Carrying Jack between them and making frequent stops, it
was dark when they reached there and found a warm welcome.

Tom promised La Roche liberal pay to take them back to Camp _Yukon
Rover_, and after some demur the trapper consented. The next day he
hitched up his dog sled for Jack’s convenience, and they started on
again under his guidance. They paused on the homeward trail to bury old
Joe’s faithful mamelukes, who had proven themselves, as have many others
of the kind, faithful unto death.

Then the journey was resumed, for old Joe had promised to accompany the
boys to their camp. Tom wanted his uncle and Mr. Chillingworth to meet
the old man who had been such a good friend to them and helped them over
so many stumbling blocks.

On their second day on the trail they espied an Indian coming toward
them. It proved to be Pegic, the friendly Indian with whom they had
camped. He set up a shout on seeing them.

“That Injun sure has suth’in on his mind,” said La Roche, noticing such
unusual signs of excitement in the son of a stoical race.

A few moments later the mystery was explained. Pegic, with some others
of his tribe, had the day before found a white man with a broken neck at
the foot of a precipice.

It had proved to be the “little gray man,” whom they all had seen and of
whose flight and theft they knew. Pegic, recalling the story of his
friend, Joe Picquet, had searched among the dead man’s effects, which
lay scattered about him. Among them were a black fox skin of shimmering
beauty, which the Indian gravely handed to the delighted Tom, and many
other skins, including those nicked from old Joe.

How the Wolf had met his death was never discovered, nor did his
companions ever appear to explain the mystery. One explanation was that
he fell from the precipice during a fight, a theory which some marks on
his body served to support.

With frontier justice, old Joe Picquet awarded to Pegic for his honesty
the skins unclaimed by himself or by the boys. They amounted in value to
a considerable sum, and the Indian was delighted with the gifts of his
white friends.

The next day they reached the camp of the _Yukon Rover_, where they
found Mr. Dacre, Mr. Chillingworth and Sandy. How much they all had to
tell each other and how many hours of the night were consumed in the
telling, you may imagine. Tom and Jack did not receive the scolding they
had contemplated getting for the loss of the black fox. Their recovery
of the skin and the hardships they had undergone on the trail, in the
opinion of both their elders, more than counterbalanced any carelessness
they might have shown.

The remainder of the winter was spent in trapping with old Joe Picquet,
who was retained at a good salary as chief trapper. The old man, too,
not long afterward, bought himself a new team of mamelukes, but fine as
they are he declares that no sledge animals will ever be seen in the
north country to equal his lost team, for which he mourned for many
months.

When Jack’s ankle healed, he took as active a part as any in the work
and play of the _Yukon Rover_ camp. In due course, spring came over the
icy regions North of Fifty-three. The rivers were opened, and one fine
day the _Yukon Rover_ slipped her moorings and with a valuable cargo of
live foxes—destined to start the first enterprise of its kind in the
United States—she dropped down the Porcupine to the Yukon. On the bank
a sorrowful figure stood waving goodbye. It was Joe Picquet. Long after
a bend of the river shut him out from view, the boys could see him in
their mind’s eyes standing there, motionless as a figure of stone,
calling:

“Good-bye! Come back some day!”

“I wonder if we ever will?” mused Sandy as they stood on the foredeck
beneath the “Totem of the Frozen North.”

“Who can tell?” rejoined Tom. “But whatever happens, we shall never
forget our adventures up here.”

“I shan’t for one,” said Jack with conviction.

“Nor I,” echoed Sandy. “I feel different, somehow, bigger and older for
it all.”

“And so say we all!” cried Jack.

And here we must bid good-bye to the Bungalow Boys, leaving them, as
Sandy expressed it, “bigger and older” and better equipped to meet
life’s trials and battles for the experiences that they had faced “North
of Fifty-three.”

                                The End



                          BOY AVIATORS’ SERIES

                        By Captain Wilbur Lawton

                   Absolutely Modern Stories for Boys

                              Cloth Bound
                         Price, 50c per volume

THE BOY AVIATORS IN NICARAGUA; or, Leagued With Insurgents

The launching of this Twentieth Century series marks the inauguration of
a new era in boys’ books—the “wonders of modern science” epoch. Frank
and Harry Chester, the boy aviators, are the heroes of this exciting,
red-blooded tale of adventure by air and land in the turbulent Central
American republic. The two brothers with their $10,000 prize aeroplane,
the Golden Eagle, rescue a chum from death in the clutches of the
Nicaraguans, discover a lost treasure valley of the ancient Toltec race,
and in so doing almost lose their own lives in the Abyss of the White
Serpents, and have many other exciting experiences, including being
blown far out to sea in their air-skimmer in a tropical storm. It would
be unfair to divulge the part that wireless plays in rescuing them from
their predicament. In a brand new field of fiction for boys the Chester
brothers and their aeroplane seem destined to fill a top-notch place,
These books are technically correct, wholesomely thrilling and geared up
to third speed.

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                          BOY AVIATORS’ SERIES

                        By Captain Wilbur Lawton

                  Absolutely modern. Stories for Boys
                              Cloth Bound
                         Price, 50c per volume

THE BOY AVIATORS ON SECRET SERVICE; or, Working With Wireless

In this live-wire narrative of peril and adventure, laid in the
Everglades of Florida, the spunky Chester Boys and their interesting
chums, including Ben Stubbs, the maroon, encounter exciting experiences
on Uncle Sam’s service in a novel field. One must read this vivid,
enthralling story of incident, hardship and pluck to get an idea of the
almost limitless possibilities of the two greatest inventions of modern
times—the aeroplane and wireless telegraphy. While gripping and holding
the reader’s breathless attention from the opening words to the finish,
this swift-moving story is at the same time instructive and uplifting.
As those readers who have already made friends with Frank and Harry
Chester and their “bunch” know, there are few difficulties, no matter
how insurmountable they may seem at first blush, that these up-to-date
gritty youths cannot overcome with flying colors. A clean-cut, real
boys’ book of high voltage.

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                          BOY AVIATORS’ SERIES

                        BY CAPTAIN WILBUR LAWTON

                   Absolutely Modern Stories for Boys
                              Cloth Bound
                          Price 50c per volume

THE BOY AVIATORS IN AFRICA; or, An Aerial Ivory Trail

In this absorbing book we meet, on a Continent made famous by the
American explorer Stanley, and ex-President Roosevelt, our old friends,
the Chester Boys and their stalwart chums. In Africa—the Dark
Continent—the author follows in exciting detail his young heroes, their
voyage in the first aeroplane to fly above the mysterious forests and
unexplored ranges of the mystic land. In this book, too, for the first
time, we entertain Luther Barr, the old New York millionaire, who proved
later such an implacable enemy of the boys. The story of his defeated
schemes, of the astonishing things the boys discovered in the Mountains
of the Moon, of the pathetic fate of George Desmond, the emulator of
Stanley, the adventure of the Flying Men and the discovery of the
Arabian Ivory cache,—this is not the place to speak. It would be
spoiling the zest of an exciting tale to reveal the outcome of all these
episodes here. It may be said, however, without “giving away” any of the
thrilling chapters of this narrative, that Captain Wilbur Lawton, the
author, is in it in his best vein, and from his personal experiences in
Africa has been able to supply a striking background for the adventures
of his young heroes. As one newspaper says of this book: “Here is
adventure in good measure, pressed down and running over.”

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                          BOY AVIATORS’ SERIES

                        BY CAPTAIN WILBUR LAWTON

                   Absolutely Modern Stories for Boys
                              Cloth Bound
                          Price 50c per volume

THE BOY AVIATORS TREASURE QUEST; or, The Golden Galleon

Everybody is a boy once more when it comes to the question of hidden
treasure. In this book, Captain Lawton has set forth a hunt for gold
that is concealed neither under the sea nor beneath the earth, but is
well hidden for all that. A garrulous old sailor, who holds the key to
the mystery of the Golden Galleon, plays a large part in the development
of the plot of this fascinating narrative of treasure hunting in the
region of the Gulf Stream and the Sargasso Sea. An aeroplane fitted with
efficient pontoons—enabling her to skim the water successfully—has
long been a dream of aviators. The Chester Boys seem to have solved the
problem. The Sargasso, that strange drifting ocean within an ocean,
holding ships of a dozen nations and a score of ages, in its relentless
grip, has been the subject of many books of adventure and mystery, but
in none has the secret of the ever shifting mass of treacherous currents
been penetrated as it has in the BOY AVIATORS TREASURE QUEST. Luther
Barr, whom it seemed the boys had shaken off, is still on their trail,
in this absorbing book and with a dirigible balloon, essays to beat them
out in their search for the Golden Galleon. Every boy, every man—and
woman and girl—who has ever felt the stirring summons of adventure in
their souls, had better get hold of this book. Once obtained, it will be
read and re-read till it falls to rags.

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                          BOY AVIATORS’ SERIES

                        BY CAPTAIN WILBUR LAWTON

                   Absolutely Modern Stories for Boys
                              Cloth Bound
                          Price 50c per volume

THE BOY AVIATORS IN RECORD FLIGHT; or, The Rival Aeroplane

The Chester Boys in new field of endeavor—an attempt to capture a
newspaper prize for a trans-continental flight. By the time these lines
are read, exactly such an offer will have been spread broadcast by one
of the foremost newspapers of the country. In the Golden Eagle, the
boys, accompanied by a trail-blazing party in an automobile, make the
dash. But they are not alone in their aspirations. Their rivals for the
rich prize at stake try in every way that they can to circumvent the
lads and gain the valuable trophy and monetary award. In this they stop
short at nothing, and it takes all the wits and resources of the Boy
Aviators to defeat their devices. Among the adventures encountered in
their cross-country flight, the boys fall in with a band of rollicking
cow-boys—who momentarily threaten serious trouble—are attacked by
Indians, strike the most remarkable town of the desert—the “dry” town
of “Gow Wells,” encounter a sandstorm which blows them into strange
lands far to the south of their course, and meet with several amusing
mishaps beside. A thoroughly readable book. The sort to take out behind
the barn on the sunny side of the haystack, and, with a pocketful of
juicy apples and your heels kicking the air, pass happy hours with
Captain Lawton’s young heroes.

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                          BOY AVIATORS’ SERIES

                        BY CAPTAIN WILBUR LAWTON

                   Absolutely Modern Stories for Boys
                              Cloth Bound
                          Price 50c per volume

THE BOY AVIATORS POLAR DASH; or, Facing Death in the Antarctic

If you were to hear that two boys, accompanying a South Polar expedition
in charge of the aeronautic department, were to penetrate the Antarctic
regions—hitherto only attained by a few daring explorers—you would
feel interested, wouldn’t you? Well, in Captain Lawton’s latest book,
concerning his Boy Aviators, you can not only read absorbing adventure
in the regions south of the eightieth parallel, but absorb much useful
information as well. Captain Lawton introduces—besides the original
characters of the heroes—a new creation in the person of Professor
Simeon Sandburr, a patient seeker for polar insects. The professor’s
adventures in his quest are the cause of much merriment, and lead once
or twice to serious predicaments. In a volume so packed with incident
and peril from cover to cover—relieved with laughable mishaps to the
professor—it is difficult to single out any one feature; still, a
recent reader of it wrote the publishers an enthusiastic letter the
other day, saying: “The episodes above the Great Barrier are thrilling,
the attack of the condors in Patagonia made me hold my breath, the—but
what’s the use? The Polar Dash, to my mind, is an even more entrancing
book than Captain Lawton’s previous efforts, and that’s saying a good
deal. The aviation features and their technical correctness are by no
means the least attractive features of this up-to-date creditable
volume.”

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                         OAKDALE ACADEMY SERIES

                    Stories of Modern School Sports

                            By MORGAN SCOTT.

                       Cloth Bound. Illustrated.
                     Price, 60c. per vol., postpaid

BEN STONE AT OAKDALE.

Under peculiarly trying circumstances Ben Stone wins his way at Oakdale
Academy, and at the same time enlists our sympathy, interest and
respect. Through the enmity of Bern Hayden, the loyalty of Roger Eliot
and the clever work of the “Sleuth,” Ben is falsely accused, championed
and vindicated.

BOYS OF OAKDALE ACADEMY.

“One thing I will claim, and that is that all Grants fight open and
square and there never was a sneak among them.” It was Rodney Grant, of
Texas, who made the claim to his friend, Ben Stone, and this story shows
how he proved the truth of this statement in the face of apparent
evidence to the contrary.

RIVAL PITCHERS OF OAKDALE.

Baseball is the main theme of this interesting narrative, and that means
not only clear and clever descriptions of thrilling games, but an
intimate acquaintance with the members of the teams who played them. The
Oakdale Boys were ambitious and loyal, and some were even disgruntled
and jealous, but earnest, persistent work won out.

OAKDALE BOYS IN CAMP.

The typical vacation is the one that means much freedom, little
restriction, and immediate contact with “all outdoors.” These conditions
prevailed in the summer camp of the Oakdale Boys and made it a scene of
lively interest.

THE GREAT OAKDALE MYSTERY.

The “Sleuth” scents a mystery! He “follows his nose.” The plot thickens!
He makes deductions. There are surprises for the reader—and for the
“Sleuth,” as well.

NEW BOYS AT OAKDALE.

A new element creeps into Oakdale with another year’s registration of
students. The old and the new standards of conduct in and out of school
meet, battle, and cause sweeping changes in the lives of several of the
boys.

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                          BOY INVENTORS SERIES

                     Stories of Skill and Ingenuity

                           By RICHARD BONNER

                       Cloth Bound, Illustrated.
                     Price, 50c. per vol., postpaid

THE BOY INVENTORS’ WIRELESS TELEGRAPH.

Blest with natural curiosity,—sometimes called the instinct of
investigation,—favored with golden opportunity, and gifted with
creative ability, the Boy Inventors meet emergencies and contrive
mechanical wonders that interest and convince the reader because they
always “work” when put to the test.

THE BOY INVENTORS’ VANISHING GUN

A thought, a belief, an experiment; discouragement, hope, effort and
final success—this is the history of many an invention; a history in
which excitement, competition, danger, despair and persistence figure.
This merely suggests the circumstances which draw the daring Boy
Inventors into strange experiences and startling adventures, and which
demonstrate the practical use of their vanishing gun.

THE BOY INVENTORS’ DIVING TORPEDO BOAT.

As in the previous stories of the Boy Inventors, new and interesting
triumphs of mechanism are produced which become immediately valuable,
and the stage for their proving and testing is again the water. On the
surface and below it, the boys have jolly, contagious fun, and the story
of their serious, purposeful inventions challenge the reader’s deepest
attention.

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                           BORDER BOYS SERIES

                  Mexican and Canadian Frontier Series

                         By FREMONT B. DEERING.

                       Cloth. Bound. Illustrated.
                     Price, 50c. per vol., postpaid

THE BORDER BOYS ON THE TRAIL.

What it meant to make an enemy of Black Ramon De Barios—that is the
problem that Jack Merrill and his friends, including Coyote Pete, face
in this exciting tale.

THE BORDER BOYS ACROSS THE FRONTIER.

Read of the Haunted Mesa and its mysteries, of the Subterranean River
and its strange uses, of the value of gasolene and steam “in running the
gauntlet,” and you will feel that not even the ancient splendors of the
Old World can furnish a better setting for romantic action than the
Border of the New.

THE BORDER BOYS WITH THE MEXICAN RANGERS.

As every day is making history—faster, it is said, than ever before—so
books that keep pace with the changes are full of rapid action and
accurate facts. This book deals with lively times on the Mexican border.

THE BORDER BOYS WITH THE TEXAS RANGERS.

The Border Boys have already had much excitement and adventure in their
lives, but all this has served to prepare them for the experiences
related in this volume. They are stronger, braver and more resourceful
than ever, and the exigencies of their life in connection with the Texas
Rangers demand all their trained ability.

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                          BUNGALOW BOYS SERIES

                      Live Stories of Outdoor Life

                        By DEXTER J. FORRESTER.

                       Cloth Bound. Illustrated.
                     Price, 50c. per vol., postpaid

THE BUNGALOW BOYS.

How the Bungalow Boys received their title and how they retained the
right to it in spite of much opposition makes a lively narrative for
lively boys.

THE BUNGALOW BOYS MAROONED IN THE TROPICS.

A real treasure hunt of the most thrilling kind, with a sunken Spanish
galleon as its object, makes a subject of intense interest at any time,
but add to that a band of desperate men, a dark plot and a devil fish,
and you have the combination that brings strange adventures into the
lives of the Bungalow Boys.

THE BUNGALOW BOYS IN THE GREAT NORTHWEST.

The clever assistance of a young detective saves the boys from the
clutches of Chinese smugglers, of whose nefarious trade they know too
much. How the Professor’s invention relieves a critical situation is
also an exciting incident of this book

THE BUNGALOW BOYS ON THE GREAT LAKES.

The Bungalow Boys start out for a quiet cruise on the Great Lakes and a
visit to an island. A storm and a band of wreckers interfere with the
serenity of their trip, and a submarine adds zest and adventure to it.

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                        DREADNOUGHT BOYS SERIES

                         Tales of the New Navy

                         By CAPT. WILBUR LAWTON
                    Author of “BOY AVIATORS SERIES.”

                       Cloth Bound. Illustrated.
                     Price, 50c. per vol., postpaid

THE DREADNOUGHT BOYS ON BATTLE PRACTICE.

Especially interesting and timely is this book which introduces the
reader with its heroes, Ned and Here, to the great ships of modern
warfare and to the intimate life and surprising adventures of Uncle
Sam’s sailors.

THE DREADNOUGHT BOYS ABOARD A DESTROYER.

In this story real dangers threaten and the boys’ patriotism is tested
in a peculiar international tangle. The scene is laid on the South
American coast.

THE DREADNOUGHT BOYS ON A SUBMARINE.

To the inventive genius—trade-school boy or mechanic—this story has
special charm, perhaps, but to every reader its mystery and clever
action are fascinating.

THE DREADNOUGHT BOYS ON AERO SERVICE.

Among the volunteers accepted for Aero Service are Ned and Here. Their
perilous adventures are not confined to the air, however, although they
make daring and notable flights in the name of the Government; nor are
they always able to fly beyond the reach of their old “enemies,” who are
also airmen.

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                         FRANK ARMSTRONG SERIES

                   Twentieth Century Athletic Stories

                          By MATHEW M. COLTON.

                       Cloth Bound. Illustrated.
                     Price, 60c. per vol., postpaid

FRANK ARMSTRONG’S VACATION.

How Frank’s summer experience with his boy friends make him into a
sturdy young athlete through swimming, boating, and baseball contests,
and a tramp through the Everglades, is the subject of this splendid
story.

FRANK ARMSTRONG AT QUEENS.

We find among the jolly boys at Queen’s School, Frank, the
student-athlete, Jimmy, the baseball enthusiast, and Lewis, the
unconsciously-funny youth who furnishes comedy for every page that bears
his name. Fall and winter sports between intensely rival school teams
are expertly described.

FRANK ARMSTRONG’S SECOND TERM.

The gymnasium, the track and the field make the background for the
stirring events of this volume, in which David, Jimmy, Lewis, the “Wee
One” and the “Codfish” figure, while Frank “saves the day.”

FRANK ARMSTRONG, DROP KICKER.

With the same persistent determination that won him success in swimming,
running and baseball playing, Frank Armstrong acquired the art of “drop
kicking,” and the Queen’s football team profits thereby.

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                          MOTOR RANGERS SERIES

                        High Speed Motor Stories

                            By MARVIN WEST.

                       Cloth Bound. Illustrated.
                     Price, 50c. per vol., postpaid

THE MOTOR RANGERS’ LOST MINE.

This is an absorbing story of the continuous adventures of a motor car
in the hands of Nat Trevor and his friends. It does seemingly impossible
“stunts,” and yet everything happens “in the nick of time.”

THE MOTOR RANGERS THROUGH THE SIERRAS.

Enemies in ambush, the peril of fire, and the guarding of treasure make
exciting times for the Motor Rangers—yet there is a strong flavor of
fun and freedom, with a typical Western mountaineer for spice.

THE MOTOR RANGERS ON BLUE WATER; or, The Secret of the Derelict.

The strange adventures of the sturdy craft “Nomad” and the stranger
experiences of the Rangers themselves with Morello’s schooner and a
mysterious derelict form the basis of this well-spun yarn of the sea.

THE MOTOR RANGERS’ CLOUD CRUISER.

From the “Nomad” to the “Discoverer,” from the sea to the sky, the scene
changes in which the Motor Rangers figure. They have experiences “that
never were on land or sea,” in heat and cold and storm, over mountain
peak and lost city, with savages and reptiles; their ship of the air is
attacked by huge birds of the air; they survive explosion and
earthquake; they even live to tell the tale!

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                           MOLLY BROWN SERIES

                     College Life Stories for Girls

                             By NELL SPEED.

                       Cloth Bound. Illustrated.
                     Price, 60c. per vol., postpaid

MOLLY BROWN’S FRESHMAN DAYS.

Would you like to admit to your circle of friends the most charming of
college girls—the typical college girl for whom we are always looking
but not always finding; the type that contains so many delightful
characteristics, yet without unpleasant perfection in any; the natural,
unaffected, sweet-tempered girl, loved because she is lovable? Then seek
an introduction to Molly Brown. You will find the baggage-master, the
cook, the Professor of English Literature, and the College President in
the same company.

HOLLY BROWN’S SOPHOMORE DAYS.

What is more delightful than a re-union of college girls after the
summer vacation? Certainly nothing that precedes it in their
experience—at least, if all class-mates are as happy together as the
Wellington girls of this story. Among Molly’s interesting friends of the
second year is a young Japanese girl, who ingratiates her “humbly” self
into everybody’s affections speedily and permanently.

MOLLY BROWN’S JUNIOR DAYS.

Financial stumbling blocks are not the only things that hinder the ease
and increase the strength of college girls. Their troubles and their
triumphs are their own, often peculiar to their environment. How
Wellington students meet the experiences outside the classrooms is worth
the doing, the telling and the reading.

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                           MOTOR MAIDS SERIES

                     Wholesome Stories of Adventure

                          By KATHERINE STOKES.

                       Cloth Bound. Illustrated.
                     Price, 50c. per vol., postpaid

THE MOTOR MAIDS’ SCHOOLDAYS.

Billie Campbell was just the type of a straightforward, athletic girl to
be successful as a practical Motor Maid. She took her car, as she did
her class-mates, to her heart, and many a grand good time did they have
all together. The road over which she ran her red machine had many an
unexpected turning,—now it led her into peculiar danger; now into
contact with strange travelers; and again into experiences by fire and
water. But, best of all, “The Comet” never failed its brave girl owner.

THE MOTOR MAIDS BY PALM AND PINE.

Wherever the Motor Maids went there were lively times, for these were
companionable girls who looked upon the world as a vastly interesting
place full of unique adventures—and so, of course, they found them.

THE MOTOR MAIDS ACROSS THE CONTINENT.

It is always interesting to travel, and it is wonderfully entertaining
to see old scenes through fresh eyes. It is that privilege, therefore,
that makes it worth while to join the Motor Maids in their first
'cross-country run.

THE MOTOR MAIDS BY ROSE, SHAMROCK AND HEATHER.

South and West had the Motor Maids motored, nor could their education by
travel have been more wisely begun. But now a speaking acquaintance with
their own country enriched their anticipation of an introduction to the
British Isles. How they made their polite American bow and how they were
received on the other side is tale of interest and inspiration.

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                          GIRL AVIATORS SERIES

                         Clean Aviation Stories

                          By MARGARET BURNHAM.

                       Cloth Bound. Illustrated.
                     Price, 50c. per vol., postpaid

THE GIRL AVIATORS AND THE PHANTOM AIRSHIP.

Roy Prescott was fortunate in having a sister so clever and devoted to
him and his interests that they could share work and play with mutual
pleasure and to mutual advantage. This proved especially true in
relation to the manufacture and manipulation of their aeroplane, and
Peggy won well deserved fame for her skill and good sense as an aviator.
There were many stumbling-blocks in their terrestrial path, but they
soared above them all to ultimate success.

THE GIRL AVIATORS ON GOLDEN WINGS.

That there is a peculiar fascination about aviation that wins and holds
girl enthusiasts as well as boys is proved by this tale. On golden wings
the girl aviators rose for many an exciting flight, and met strange and
unexpected experiences.

THE GIRL AVIATORS’ SKY CRUISE.

To most girls a coaching or yachting trip is an adventure. How much more
perilous an adventure a “sky cruise” might be is suggested by the title
and proved by the story itself.

THE GIRL AVIATORS’ MOTOR BUTTERFLY.

The delicacy of flight suggested by the word “butterfly,” the mechanical
power implied by “motor,” the ability to control assured in the title
“aviator,” all combined with the personality and enthusiasm of girls
themselves, make this story one for any girl or other reader “to go
crazy over.”

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